A world without jobs

This article is way too long for anyone with a job to read. So here are a few nuggets:

“Work is … how we give our lives meaning when religion, party politics and community fall away.”

Whether you look at a screen all day, or sell other underpaid people goods they can’t afford, more and more work feels pointless or even socially damaging – what the American anthropologist David Graeber called “bullshit jobs”

“I do think there is a fear of freedom – a fear among the powerful that people might find something better to do than create profits for capitalism.”

As all such articles do, this one mentioned UBI (Universal Basic Income). I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not. But I can almost imagine a world in which — for whatever reasons — there are just a whole bunch of people without jobs. And I can only see two options for dealing with them: Let them starve or provide them with food and shelter. Some way, somehow. I’m counting on smarter people to come up with more options.

How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves

James Fallows on the traits very intelligent people:

“They all know it. A lifetime of quietly comparing their ease in handling intellectual challenges—at the chess board, in the classroom, in the debating or writing arena—with the efforts of other people gave them the message.”

“Virtually none of them (need to) say it. There are a few prominent exceptions, of talented people who annoyingly go out of their way to announce that fact. Muhammad Ali is the charming extreme exception illustrating the rule: He said he was The Greatest, and was. Most greats don’t need to say so. It would be like Roger Federer introducing himself with, “You know, I’m quite graceful and gifted.” Or Meryl Streep asking, “Have you seen my awards?”

“They know what they don’t know. This to me is the most consistent marker of real intelligence. The more acute someone’s ability to perceive and assess, the more likely that person is to recognize his or her limits. These include the unevenness of any one person’s talents; the specific areas of weakness—social awkwardness, musical tin ear, being stronger with numbers than with words, or vice versa; and the incomparable vastness of what any individual person can never know. To read books seriously is to be staggered by the knowledge of how many more books will remain beyond your ken. It’s like looking up at the star-filled sky.”

Trust

“There’s plenty of trust out there. It just isn’t where it used to be. Trust, the glue that holds society together, has shifted from institutional trust to a new form of distributed trust. Instead of flowing upwards to institutions, experts, authorities and regulators, it now flows horizontally to peers, friends, colleagues and fellow users. […] And because trust is moving into the hands of the many, there will be more of it around.”

“Distributed trust, combined with technology, also means that within the next decade, we’ll be comfortable trusting well-trained bots, whether they’re driving us around, giving us financial advice, or telling us if we have cancer.”

World Economic Forum: Trust in 2030

Distraction

I’m re-reading Distraction by Bruce Sterling. Published in 1998, it is/was frighteningly prescient.  Here are a few of my favorite excerpts (does that first one remind you of anyone?).

“He’s like a not very bright child who can be deceived and managed, but not reasoned with.”

“The American national character realty wasn’t suited for global police duties. It never had been. Tidy and meticulous people such as the Swiss and Swedes were the types who made good cops. America was far better suited to be the World’s Movie Star. The world’s tequila-addled pro-league bowler. The world’s acerbic, bipolar stand-up comedian. Anything but a somber and tedious nation of socially responsible centurions.”

“It always offended him to hear his fellow Americans discussing the vagaries of “white people.” There was simply no such thing as “white people. That stereotype was an artificial construct, like the ridiculous term “Hispanic.” In all the rest of the world, a Peruvian was a Peruvian and a Brazilian was a Brazilian— it was only in America that people somehow became this multilingual, multinational entity called a “Hispanic.”

“Political reality in modern America was the stark fact that electronic networks had eaten the guts out of the old order, while never finding any native order of their own. The horrific speed of digital communication, the consonant flattening of hierarchies, the rise of net-based civil society, and the decline of the industrial base had simply been too much for the American government to cope with and successfully legitimize.”

“Knowledge is inherently precious even if you can’t sell it. Even if you can’t use it. Knowledge is an absolute good. The search for truth is vital. It’s central to civilization. You need knowledge even when your economy and government are absolutely shot to hell.”

Less white and Christian than ever

Just forty years ago 81 percent of Americans identified as white and Christian, the majority (55 percent) Protestant. Today only 43 percent identity of white Christians, 30 percent claiming Protestantism.

America’s youngest groups are non-Christian: 42 percent of Muslims, 36 percent of Hindus, and 35 percent of Buddhists are under thirty.

While the old guard is aging, the religiously unaffiliated is ticking up. Fifty-eight percent consider themselves secular, with 27 percent claiming to be atheistic or agnostic. Sixteen percent state they’re religious while claiming no particular affiliation

When it comes to education, the three biggest groups of post-graduate degree holders are Unitarian-Universalists (43 percent), Hindus (38 percent), and Jews (34 percent). Researchers note that one-third of Muslims hold a four-year college degree, compared to one-quarter of white evangelical Protestants.

Source: Big Think

“It’s just Nazi”

“I also don’t get when they call them neo-Nazis. What does the “neo” part mean? Something innovative and new? It’s just Nazi. They wear 88 pins, they chant German Nazi slogans. If it sounds and looks like a Nazi, assume it’s a Nazi. One more thing — they call Trump a Nazi-sympathizer. Why be so generous. What distinguishes a sympathizer from an actual Nazi?”

— Dave Winer

An unfunny Woody Allen

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan calls Donald Trump “Woody Allen without humor.” Ouch.

“The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity. Continue reading

Two movies about politicians and politics


The playlist above includes seven clips from two movies: Frank Capra’s 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Steward, jean Arthur, Claude Rains); and Dave (Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella and the brilliant Charles Grodin). I’ve posted all of these clips but thought they’d make a nice, tidy playlist.

PS: the tiny horizontal lines with the pointer in the top-left corner, indicates a playlist of several videos.