robertogreco + legacy   42

The Obamanauts | Dissent Magazine
“What is the defining achievement of Barack Obama? For a time, it seemed it would be his foreign policy: the Paris Agreement, diplomatic relations with Cuba, and getting Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. When Trump got elected and those deals got undone, it seemed it would be the Affordable Care Act. But after plummeting for several years, the uninsured rate among adults has begun to creep back up. Obama did avert a second Great Depression, but history is not kind to averters: with time, what didn’t happen tends to get eclipsed by what did. And what did happen under Obama is a recovery that was slow and weak. Black homeownership rates, which took a major hit during the financial crisis, are the lowest they’ve ever been.

Maybe, then, Obama will be remembered for the fact of his election (though he and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett claim that getting a black man elected was nothing compared to getting the healthcare bill passed) and creating a brand of neoliberal multiculturalism for party elites to use and enjoy in years to come. Yet the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the failure of Kamala Harris to dominate the 2020 campaign threaten that inheritance. So perhaps Obama’s most important legacy will be one of productive disappointment: energizing a multiracial coalition of young voters whose subsequent disaffections with Obamaism and inclinations toward socialism are today remaking the left.

Since the 2016 election, many members of the Obama administration have written their memoirs in the hope of defining that legacy. In addition, more than a hundred men and women who worked in and around the White House have given their reminiscences to Brian Abrams, who has composed a remarkably fluid oral history of the Obama years. We’ve not yet heard from the man himself. While it’s not unprecedented for the president’s men and women to get the first word, the effect of his silence and their volubility is to decenter a presidency that, more than most, was centered on one man and his words. Obama had an uncanny ability to make sense of his place in history, to narrate what it was that he was doing. His politics had its limits, but they were often, and often knowingly, self-imposed. No matter how circumscribed the view, Obama managed to conjure a sense of what lay beyond it. With one exception, none of his people has that sense of time or place. They’re bound by a perimeter that is not of their making and that lies beyond their ken.

At the same time, not only do the Obamanauts wish to salvage Obama’s legacy from Donald Trump; they also believe Obama’s legacy can save us from Donald Trump. “My hope in writing this book,” says Dan Pfeiffer, who ran communications in the White House, is that “if we learn the right lessons” from Obama, “we can ensure that Donald Trump is an aberration.” That puts Obama’s legacy at a double disadvantage: defended by some of its least persuasive advocates and defined by what it is not. Burdened by a future he had a hand in making but no intention of creating, Obama gets reimagined in these memoirs and reminiscenses in light of everything he sought to avoid: the destructiveness of the president who came after him, and the irresponsibility of the Republicans who came before him and dogged him throughout his time in office. Instead of a clear outline of the man, we get the shadow of his enemies. That’s not fair to Obama, but as he’s the one who chose these people to speak for him while he was in office, they are the ones who’ve chosen to speak for him when he’s out. So it will remain, until he writes his memoirs.

The Obamanauts have an argument that they think can be used to defeat the Republicans. It is an argument that sets out what liberals and Democrats should be saying, and how they should be saying it, in the next election and beyond. It is part sense—about economic policy, foreign policy, and so on—and part sensibility: about norms, the presidency, and how our public life should be conducted. Because the sense is so thin in these memoirs, the sensibility winds up mattering more. Which is probably for the best. For it’s that sensibility that gives us the clearest view of what Obamaism, beneath and beyond Obama, was all about. It’s the style of leading sectors in the Democratic Party, currently embattled against the left, though we hear little mention of that battle here. But most of all, it’s that style that answers the question: What is Obama’s legacy? For better or worse, and at least for now, it’s the Obamanauts themselves.

Leftists often dismiss liberals and Democrats as bloodless technocrats and pallid wonks. But that’s not true of the Obamanauts. Theirs is a libidinal attachment. Not to science, reason, or Harvard but to an incongruous sense of history—dopey and epochal, encyclopedic yet uninformed. Obamanauts think of themselves as a “storied band of brothers.” They grill five-year-olds on the facts of presidential history. They speak of history lying in “our hands.” Yet many of them know little of consequence about the past. Pfeiffer thinks the demand for politicians to be authentic is a “new rule,” but Nixon was dogged by the charge of inauthenticity all the time. Virtually all of the Obamanauts are dumbfounded by the Republicans’ hatred of the Affordable Care Act, even though opposition to universal healthcare has been a rallying cry of conservatives since Harry Truman first proposed it in 1945. But Obamanauts do know that, with the exception of Harold Stassen, Obama was the first presidential candidate to campaign outside the United States and that John Kerry’s three-week trip to Vienna was “the longest any secretary of state had ever remained in any single city outside the United States in the history of the country.”

Obamanauts have a passion for office and state, a calling for power distilled of all impurities. Pfeiffer may have wanted to help Obama “achieve his place in history,” but his ultimate intention in the White House was to serve “not just my president but the presidency itself.” Even so, theirs is an agile sense of service that bends to more self-serving claims. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says that after 9/11 he was so compelled by patriotism—and repelled by the New York left’s “preemptive protests against American military intervention” and “reflexive distrust of Bush”—that he made the trek uptown to talk to an Army recruiter under the Queensboro Bridge. After giving the matter some thought, he decided that army life wasn’t for him; he could better serve his country by joining a think tank in DC.

Obamanauts have a range of references to demonstrate their devotion. Hogwarts and St. Elmo’s Fire loom large. The West Wing is clearly the touchstone, however. Gautam Raghavan, who began working for Obama during the 2008 campaign, writes, “Working in Barack Obama’s White House was like watching Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing brought to life. It had all the necessary elements: the brilliant, articulate professor in chief with an unapologetically progressive vision of America; a narrative arc rooted in ongoing themes of idealism and public service; but most importantly, a cast of patriotic Americans who labored every day, as members of the President’s staff, to serve the country they loved.” One collection of testimonials, edited by Raghavan, is called West Wingers; another memoir is called West Winging It.

The Obamanauts live in that sweet spot where Hollywood is history and history is Hollywood, where celebrities are the secret sauce of social policy and producers are aides-de-camp to politicians. A staffer careens, in the very same sentence, from memories of a “world-famous reporter” telling tales of Tiananmen Square to a recollected vision of Anna Wintour sweeping past her desk. Election night in Grant Park is made more magical by the presence of Oprah and Brad Pitt. There’s nothing new about mixing politics and the culture industry. But where Reagan summoned Hollywood to recall the glamor of an older age, the main effect of having these Obamanauts float among the stars is to bring them down to earth. When Rhodes lets slip that UN Ambassador Samantha Power listened to Eminem just before announcing a global treaty on landmines, when Mastromonaco sets out her typical day in the White House, with one hour blocked off for conversations with Pfeiffer about Girls “(seriously),” what they’re telling us is that for all the windy and wince-inducing high-mindedness, Obamanauts really don’t take themselves seriously. They’re just like you and me.”
coreyrobin  2019  barackobama  legacy  obamanauts  elitism  revisionism  progressives  healthcare  affordablecareact  authenticity  inauthenticity  technocrats  us  politics  government  missedopportunities  lefitsm  socialism  democrats 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Gen X Is Having a (Very Gen X) Moment - GEN
“I’m using “millennial” the way boomers do, as a word that means “someone younger than me who is better at Twitter.” I’m using the generational “we” because I’m full of shit. The generational “we” is as misleading a term of art as the American “we.” Ascribing characteristics, an outlook, and an experience of the world to 84 million people isn’t painting with a broad brush. It makes painting with a broad brush seem precise.”



“But the real reason this Gen X moment feels less like an actual moment and more like a period of mourning for the absence of one is that Gen X culture is fundamentally incompatible with the way legacy-making works.”



“Recently a card-carrying member of Generation X entered the race for President of the United States. His name was Beto O’Rourke. He is 46 and a father and a former senator from El Paso, Texas. He was identifiably One Of Us. He’d been part of the hacker collective Cult of the Dead Cow. He’d been in a punk band with guys who went on to play in unassailably credible outfits like At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta. He posed for said punk band’s album cover wearing his girlfriend’s dress, seemingly less as a statement about gender and more as a big Novoselician goof. He was filmed tooling around on a skateboard and quoted about his admiration of Fugazi. He seems bright and eager to make a difference, and also completely doomed — and not just because attempting to ride the wave that swept history’s most racially and ethnically diverse Congress into office is an inherently room-illiterate thing for a handsome young white guy to do. He seemed doomed because every data point that emerged about his X-ness made him seem more like a traitor to that history. If listening to Fugazi inspires you to run for president — let alone to run against Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as a centrist Democrat — you have perhaps not been listening to Fugazi correctly.

It’s somehow perfectly Gen X that Beto has already been kickflipped-over in the polls by a millennial; at this point the race to be the white man who loses the nomination to Joe Biden by the smallest margin appears to belong to Pete Buttigieg, whose earliest entries to the historical record include a mixed Harvard Crimson review of Radiohead’s profoundly antiheroic, fan-base-downsizing and therefore archetypally Gen X art-rock opus Kid A. Barring the possibility of Kamala Harris (born in 1964, just outside the X window) and, like the admittedly very X-presenting Barack Obama (born 1961), we may never get to vote for one of our own as president.

This is totally fine. This is better than fine. We are good at ambivalence, as a generation; when we feel ambivalent about tributizing our legacy, we should listen to that ambivalence and treat it like a lodestar. We were right about a great many things — corporate rock really did suck, misogyny really was pervasive and insidious, global warming really was a huge fucking problem. But let us be the first generation to opt out of building monuments to our rightness. Let’s build no monuments at all. Let’s lord nothing over anyone. Let’s expend no energy explaining ourselves and what we stood for to younger people who could not care less. Let’s fund no biopics of our heroes, compile no box sets, commission no further thinkpieces about how the pundits actually had us all wrong. Let us opt out one more time, from the generational requirement to look dismissively at our successors. Let’s be the first generation in modern history to subsume our specific interests to the greater good instead of insisting that the kids defer to our wisdom and experience just because we gave the world curbside recycling and Lilith Fair and voted for Bill Clinton. What we fought for, or didn’t see as worth fighting for, isn’t important. The only battle that matters is between pre-teen climate-change activists and an entrenched political establishment led by a boomer who believes the world goes away when his eyes close. Let us take whatever energy we might have put toward historical reenactments of the first Lollapalooza and use it to support and amplify and backstop anyone working to cancel the apocalypse on any front. It’s our only chance to ensure that when In Utero turns 50 in 2043, there’ll still be a civilization around to celebrate it.”
generations  apocalypse  genx  momuments  unproduct  2019  politics  2020  elections  civilization  legacy 
september 2019 by robertogreco
William Gibson on Watches | WatchPaper
“William Gibson is famously credited with predicting the internet. Early works like Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive established him as a major voice in science fiction and the worlds he created still serve as a template for how popular culture views the future. If you’ve seen The Matrix or read any cyberpunk, you’ve seen William Gibson’s influence at work. Equally important, but perhaps less famous are his essays, collected recently in Distrust That Particular Flavour. Highly perceptive and suggestive, they span a range of topics from Singapore’s totalitarianism and Tokyo’s futurism, to the Web and technology’s effect on us all. The volume also contains his glosses on those essays, which were written over a span of 30 years. Brief afterwords, they are his reflections on the content, and on the person who wrote that content at a point and time, and what’s happened since. In his 1997 essay, “My Obsession”, William Gibson chronicled his interest in watches for Wired magazine. [See “My Obsession” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/ebay/ ] The essay is as much about the advent of the internet and sites like eBay as it is about watches, and his afterword to the essay reflects:
People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented [in the essay] proved to be “keepers.” Not even close.

Undaunted by his placing this interest squarely in the past, something he got over, I wanted to find out what had survived, physically or intellectually, of his obsession. It turns out, quite a lot. We corresponded via email and William Gibson shared his thoughts on collecting, how he got started, what “keepers” remain in his collection and why. We also talked about the Apple watch and what it means for traditional horology.”

...

"If “old” people, as you mentioned in our recent discussion, are concerned that what they’ve collected will be unwanted, how is that anxiety being manifested? Some watch brands like Patek Philippe use durability, inheritance and legacy as their explicit identity.

I was thinking of someone with dozens of rare military watches. Even if they have children, will the children want their watches? It could be difficult finding the right museum to donate them to, in order to keep the collection intact. I think Patek’s appeal to inheritance and legacy still has some basis, though the wristwatch itself has become a piece of archaic (though still functional) jewelry. You don’t absolutely need one. You do, probably, absolutely need your smartphone, and it also tells the time. Eventually, I assume, virtually everything will also tell the time.

Is there something authentic in collecting we as humans are striving for? What does the impulse represent for you?

I actively enjoy having fewer, preferably better things. So I never deliberately accumulated watches, except as the temporary by-product of a learning curve, as I searched for my own understanding of watches, and for the ones I’d turn out to particularly like. I wanted an education, rather than a collection. But there’s always a residuum: the keepers. (And editing is as satisfying as acquiring, for me.)

Do you think there’s anything intrinsic to watches (their aesthetics, engineering etc.) that make them especially susceptible to our interest?

Mechanical timekeeping devices were among our first complex machines, and became our first ubiquitous complex machines, and the first to be miniaturized. Mechanical wristwatches were utterly commonplace for less than a century. Today, there’s no specific need for a mechanical watch, unless you’re worried about timekeeping in the wake of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. So we have heritage devices, increasingly archaic in the singularity of their function, their lack of connectivity. But it was exactly that lack that once made them heroic: they kept telling accurate time, regardless of what was going on around them. They were accurate because they were unconnected, unitary.

How do you think the notion of collecting has changed since your preoccupation with watches played itself out? Scarcity (but not true rarity) barely exists any more.

The Internet makes it increasingly easy to assemble a big pile of any category of objects, but has also rationalized the market in every sort of rarity. There’s more stuff, and fewer random treasures. When I discovered military watches, I could see that that was already happening to them, but that there was still a window for informed acquisition. That’s mostly closed now. The world’s attic is now that much more thoroughly sorted and priced!"
watches  williamgibson  ebay  horology  fashion  collecting  collections  learning  howwelearn  2015  esoterica  research  researching  deepdives  expertise  obsessions  cv  immersion  posterity  legacy  analog  mechanical  durability  longevity  inheritance  jewelery  smartphones  understanding  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  timekeeping  connectivity  scarcity  objects  possessions  ownership  quality  internet  web  online  wristwatches  things  applewatch  pebble  pebblewatch  smartwatches 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Traditions of the future, by Astra Taylor (Le Monde diplomatique - English edition, May 2019)
"If the dead do not exactly have power or rights, per se, they do still have a seat at the table—Thomas Jefferson among them. In ways obvious and subtle, constructive and destructive, the present is constrained and shaped by the decisions of past generations. A vivid example is the American Constitution, in which a small group of men ratified special kinds of promises intended to be perpetual. Sometimes I imagine the Electoral College, which was devised to increase the influence of the southern states in the new union, as the cold grip of plantation owners strangling the current day. Even Jefferson’s beloved Bill of Rights, intended as protections from government overreach, has had corrosive effects. The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms allows those who plundered native land and patrolled for runaway slaves, who saw themselves in the phrase “a well regulated Militia,” to haunt us. Yet plenty of our ancestors also bequeathed us remarkable gifts, the right to free speech, privacy, and public assembly among them.

Some theorists have framed the problematic sway of the deceased over the affairs of the living as an opposition between tradition and progress. The acerbic Christian critic G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.” Social progress, in Chesterton’s account, can thus be seen as a form of disenfranchisement, the deceased being stripped of their suffrage. Over half a century before Chesterton, Karl Marx expressed sublime horror at the persistent presence of political zombies: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

The most eloquent partisans in this trans-temporal power struggle said their piece at the end of the 18th century. Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine had a furious debate that articulated the dichotomy between past and future, dead and living, tradition and progress. A consummate conservative shaken by the post-revolutionary violence in France, Burke defended the inherited privilege and stability of aristocratic government that radical democrats sought to overthrow: “But one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society.” Any revolution, Burke warned, hazards leaving those who come after “a ruin instead of an habitation” in which men, disconnected from their forerunners, “would become little better than the flies of summer.”

The left-leaning Paine would have none of it. Better to be a buzzing fly than a feudal serf. “Whenever we are planning for posterity we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary,” he quipped. His critique, forcefully expressed in Common Sense and The Rights of Man, was not just an attack on monarchy. Rather, it was addressed to revolutionaries who might exercise undue influence over time by establishing new systems of government. “There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time,’” he protested.

In his pithy style, Paine popularized a commitment both to revolution and to novelty. “A nation, though continually existing, is continually in the state of renewal and succession. It is never stationary. Every day produces new births, carries minors forward to maturity, and old persons from the stage. In this ever-running flood of generations there is no part superior in authority to another.” Given the onslaught of change, a constitution “must be a novelty, and that which is not a novelty must be defective.” Never one for moderation, Paine advocated a decisive break with tradition, rejecting lessons from the past, castigating those who scoured records of ancient Greece and Rome for models or insights. What could the dead teach the living that could possibly be worth knowing?

Every person, whether or not they have children, exists as both a successor and an ancestor. We are all born into a world we did not make, subject to customs and conditions established by prior generations, and then we leave a legacy for others to inherit. Nothing illustrates this duality more profoundly than the problem of climate change, which calls into question the very future of a habitable planet.

Today, I’d guess that most of us are more able to imagine an environmental apocalypse than a green utopia. Nuclear holocaust, cyber warfare, mass extinction, superbugs, fascism’s return, and artificial intelligence turned against its makers—these conclusions we can see, but our minds struggle to conjure an image of a desirable, credible alternative to such bleak finales, to envision habitation rather than ruin.

This incapacity to see the future takes a variety of forms: young people no longer believe their lives will be better than those of their parents and financial forecasts give credence to their gloomy view; political scientists warn that we are becoming squatters in the wreckage of the not-so-distant liberal-democratic past, coining terms such as dedemocratization and postdemocracy to describe the erosion of democratic institutions and norms alongside an ongoing concentration of economic power. Meanwhile, conservative leaders cheer on democratic regression under the cover of nostalgia—“Make America Great Again,” “Take Our Country Back”—and seek to rewind the clock to an imaginary and exclusive past that never really existed."



"Questions of labor and leisure—of free time—have been central to debates about self-government since peasant citizens flooded the Athenian Pnyx. Plato and Aristotle, unapologetic elitists, were aghast that smiths and shoemakers were permitted to rub shoulders with the Assembly’s wellborn. This offense to hierarchical sensibilities was possible only because commoners were compensated for their attendance. Payments sustained the participation of the poor—that’s what held them up—so they could miss a day’s work over hot flames or at the cobbler’s bench to exercise power on equal footing with would-be oligarchs.

For all their disdain, Plato’s and Aristotle’s conviction that leisure facilitates political participation isn’t wrong. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, radical workers agreed. They organized and fought their bosses for more free time, making substantial inroads until a range of factors, including the cult of consumption and a corporate counterattack, overpowered their efforts. A more sustainable, substantive democracy means resuscitating their campaign. Free time is not just a reprieve from the grindstone; it’s an expansion of freedom and a prerequisite of self-rule.

A reduction of work hours would have salutary ecological effects as well, as environmentalists have noted. A fundamental reevaluation of labor would mean assessing which work is superfluous and which essential; which processes can be automated and which should be done by hand; what activities contribute to our alienation and subjugation and which integrate and nourish us. “The kind of work that we’ll need more of in a climate-stable future is work that’s oriented toward sustaining and improving human life as well as the lives of other species who share our world,” environmental journalist and political theorist Alyssa Battistoni has written. “That means teaching, gardening, cooking, and nursing: work that makes people’s lives better without consuming vast amounts of resources, generating significant carbon emissions, or producing huge amounts of stuff.” The time to experiment with more ecologically conscious, personally fulfilling, and democracy-enhancing modes of valuing labor and leisure is upon us, at precisely the moment that time is running out.

With climate calamity on the near horizon, liberal democracies are in a bind. The dominant economic system constrains our relationship to the future, sacrificing humanity’s well-being and the planet’s resources on the altar of endless growth while enriching and empowering the global 1 percent. Meanwhile, in America, the Constitution exacerbates this dynamic, preserving and even intensifying a system of minority rule and lashing the country’s citizens to an aristocratic past.

The fossil fuel and finance industries, alongside the officials they’ve bought off, will fight to the death to maintain the status quo, but our economic arrangements and political agreements don’t have to function the way they do. Should democratic movements manage to mount a successful challenge to the existing order, indigenous precolonial treaty-making processes provide an example of the sort of wisdom a new, sustainable consensus might contain. The Gdoonaaganinaa, or “Dish with One Spoon” treaty, outlines a relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Nishnaabeg people. The dish symbolizes the shared land on which both groups depend and to which all are responsible; in keeping with the Haudenosaunee Great Law of peace, … [more]
astrataylor  ancesors  climatechange  history  2019  democracy  capitalism  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  borders  power  time  future  change  hannaharendt  ecology  sustainability  globalwarming  interconnected  interconnectedness  indigeneity  indigenous  leannebetasamosakesimpson  leisure  plato  aristotle  philosophy  participation  participatory  organizing  labor  work  marxism  karlmarx  socialism  freetime  longnow  bighere  longhere  bignow  annpettifor  economics  growth  degrowth  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  debt  tradition  gkchesterson  thomaspaine  thomasjefferson  us  governance  government  edmundburke  commonsense  postdemocracy  dedemocratization  institutions  artleisure  leisurearts  self-rule  collectivism  alyssanattistoni  legacy  emissions  carbonemissions  ethics  inheritance  technology  technosolutionism  canon  srg  peterthiel  elonmusk  liberalism  feminism  unions  democraticsocialism  pericles  speed  novelty  consumerism  consumption  obsolescence  capital  inequality 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/254533098 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/TopLeftBrick/status/1123865036370468864 ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."



"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
may 2019 by robertogreco
How To Build the Zero-Carbon Economy
"The Green New Deal sets an ambitious goal. Here’s how to get there."



"THE ANISHINAABE PEOPLE HAVE A PROPHECY that a time will come when we have to choose between two paths: one scorched, one green. For those who choose the green path, a more peaceful era will follow—known as the Eighth Fire—in which the Anishinaabeg will return to our teaching of Mino Bimaatisiiwin, the Good Life. Mino Bimaatisiiwin is based on reciprocity, affirmation and reverence for the laws of Nature—quite a different value system from that of the Gross National Product.

How to ensure we make the right choice is the art of now. As Dakota philosopher and poet John Trudell often says, first you have to “keep the beast out of the garden.” I refer to the beast that’s destroying our collective garden as Wiindigo (cannibal) economics—the practice of extracting every last bit of oil just because you’ve got the technology to do it, ecosystems be damned.

Killing Wiindigo economics is doable, but it will be a big job. We must work with the determination of people who actually intend to survive, and we must find the Achilles’ heels of the current system. For inspiration, look to the roughly $8 trillion moving out of the fossil fuel industry thanks to global divestment campaigns. Look to the social movements emerging as water protectors block “Black Snakes”—that is, oil pipelines. Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline is another year behind schedule while renewable energy moves ahead.

So, what’s next?

We need a Green New Deal—or as I prefer to call it, a Sitting Bull Plan. As Sitting Bull once said, “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children.” That’s what’s we need—to put our minds together.

The plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) offers the beginning of a new green path. In the pages that follow, writers from the movement put their minds together to chart that path.

In “How To Bury the Fossil Fuel Industry” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-public-control-of-coal-fossil-fuel-industry.html ], journalist Kate Aronoff tells us how to kill the Black Snakes. Currently, the energy sector makes up around 6 percent of U.S. GDP. Enbridge’s Line 3 is just one $2.9 billion hemorrhage, all for a Canadian corporation to get some filthy tar sands oil to bake the planet. Time to get some control over that sector—being an oil addict is a drag.

In “Electric Companies Won't Go Green Unless the Public Takes Control” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-solar-power-local-control.html ], Johanna Bozuwa and Gar Alperovitz tell us to get local on energy. A study in New Jersey suggests that each megawatt of community solar installed generates around $1.8 million of total economic impact during construction, operation and maintenance. Community solar projects allow families, tribal governments and municipalities to combine their efforts to go solar, which allows people who may not have suitable rooftops, or who face financial or regulatory barriers, to access renewable energy. That’s real energy security.


In “We Produce Too Much Food. The Green New Deal Can Stop This.” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-food-production.html ], Eric Holt-Giménez of Food First reminds us that we have a food overproduction problem. How baffling is it that we waste roughly 40 percent of our food in the United States? A study once found that Chicagoans’ fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table; we also slather them with fossil fuel-based chemicals, from everything ending with -cide to the plastic packaging. In the meantime, Indigenous nations worldwide are adapting to the times. Through the agroecological techniques Holt-Giménez proposes, we could grow less food, nearer to home, and grow it better. Organic agriculture sequesters carbon and rebuilds top soil—might want to stick with ancient, time-tested wisdom. The carbon needs to be in the soil, not the air.

In “Making the Green New Deal Work for Workers” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-worker-transition-jobs-plan.html ], Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability points out that cleaning up this mess will mean jobs. Lots of them. America has a D+ in infrastructure. For every $1 million invested in energy efficiency alone, anywhere from 12 to 20 jobs are created. Restorative economies are full of employment, and a Green New Deal can require fossil fuel companies to invest in them. It’s about making the spoiled children known as American corporations clean up their own messes before they go bankrupt.

In “The Green New Deal Must Have a Zero Waste Policy” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-zero-waste-policy.html ], Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson says it’s time to tame your inner Wiindigo. So much of the stuff we produce ends up in a landfill. No time like the present to change that. We need to move from a production chain to a production cycle based on reuse, and start banning plastic straws, bags and all that stuff. And then we figure out how to do this all, better. No way should we be trying to fill our gullets with so much excess; what we need is to be efficient and elegant.

Finally, in “How Trade Agreements Stand in the Way of an International Green New Deal” [http://inthesetimes.com/features/green-new-deal-trade-deals-emissions.html ], Basav Sen of the Institute for Policy Studies shows we need to look beyond the invisible borders created by colonial powers. I think of this land as Akiing, the land to which the people belong. Those borders make no sense to a storm, a flood or the wind. Climate change is international. We must be, too.

The Anishinaabeg are instructed that in each deliberation, we must consider the impact upon the seventh generation from now. This teaching can guide a life, a social movement and ultimately an economy.

The essential elements of intergenerational equity involve renegotiating and restoring a relationship to ecological systems, to Mother Earth. It’s not just making sure that you can buy a solar cellphone charger from Amazon. It means a restorative and regenerative economy. It also means justice—from a just transition for workers, to an interspecies, intergenerational and international justice.

The time you kill a Wiindigo is in the summer. When the warmth of the sun returns to the north country. There’s a proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” It’s time to plant the seeds."



"WINONA LADUKE is Anishinaabe, a writer, an economist and a hemp farmer, working on a book about the Eighth Fire and the Green New Deal. She is ready for the Green Path, and would prefer not to spend her golden years cleaning up the messes of entitled white men.

LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, where she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project. She is program director of Honor the Earth and a two-time vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket."
zero-carbon  economics  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  greennewdeal  2019  winonaladuke  legacy  inheritance  ancestry  indigeneity  indigenous  politics  policy  sittingbullplan  alexandriaocasio-cortez  edmarkey  katearonoff  johannabozywa  garalperovitz  ericholt-giménez  jeremybrecher  kaliakuno  cooperation  cooperationjackson  basavsen  waste 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud - The New York Times
[using this bookmark as a placeholder for many links on this topic:

"Varsity Blues and the Destructive Myth of Meritocracy"
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/183433523388/varsity-blues-and-the-destructive-myth-of

"Inside the audacious college scheme to get kids of the rich and famous into elite schools"
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-admission-scheme-varsity-blues-20190312-story.html

"The College Bribery Scam Reveals How Rich People Use 'Charity' to Cheat
Anand Giridharadas explains how alleged payoffs to test takers and athletic coaches are part of a larger ecosystem of elite hypocrisy."
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/panw7g/the-college-bribery-scam-shows-how-rich-people-felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-allegedly-use-charity-to-cheat

"All College Admissions Are a Pay-to-Play Scandal"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-bribery-scandal-felicity-huffman-loughlin-analysis-explained.html

"One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent voices for ethical investing is implicated in a college admissions bribery scandal"
https://www.recode.net/2019/3/12/18262003/bill-mcglashan-college-admissions-scandal-tpg-stanford-usc-yale

"What the role of one Silicon Valley entrepreneur reveals about the college admissions scandal"
https://twitter.com/i/events/1105618857320865792

"The unfortunate reality behind meritocracy"
https://dellsystem.me/posts/fragments-71

"College Admission Scam Involved Photoshopping Rich Kids’ Heads Onto Athletes’ Bodies"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-kids-photoshopped-as-athletes.html

"Two CEOs. A wine magnate. A doctor: The Bay Area parents charged in a college bribe scandal"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Two-CEOs-A-wine-magnate-A-doctor-The-Bay-Area-13683029.php

"Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd: For the parents charged in a new FBI investigation, crime was a cheaper and simpler way to get their kids into elite schools than the typical advantages wealthy applicants receive."
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-fbi-targets-wealthy-parents/584695/

"In the college admissions game, even the legal kind, money has always mattered"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/In-the-college-admissions-game-even-the-legal-13683518.php

"Fifty charged in massive college admissions scheme"
https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/fifty-charged-in-massive-college-admissions-scheme-1456907331756

"Bribes to Get Into Yale and Stanford? What Else Is New?: A new college admissions scandal is just the latest proof of a grossly uneven playing field."
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/opinion/college-bribery-admissions.html

"Bribery ringleader said he helped 750 families in admissions scheme"
https://www.axios.com/william-singer-college-bribery-fraud-scheme-d769eb2c-dfb2-4ea0-99f3-8135241c5984.html

"College admission scandal grew out of a system that was ripe for corruption"
https://theconversation.com/college-admission-scandal-grew-out-of-a-system-that-was-ripe-for-corruption-113439

"College Admissions Scandal Exposes Moral Rot at the Heart of US Plutocracy"
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2019/03/13/college-admissions-scandal-exposes-moral-rot-at-the-heart-of-us-plutocracy/



Additional articles and resource predating the scandal, but relevant to the topic.

[syllabus] "Reconsidering Merit(ocracy)In K-12, Higher Education, and Beyond"
https://www.nadirahfarahfoley.com/reconsidering-meritocracy

"guest post: “legacy” admissions vs familial capital and the importance of precision"
https://scatter.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/guest-post-legacy-admissions-vs-familial-capital-and-the-importance-of-precision/

"Against Meritocracy: Culture, power and myths of mobility"
https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317496045

"The Unfulfillable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and their Implications for Justice in Education"
https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6w9rg/

"A Radical Plan to Combat Inequality in College Admissions: It's time universities began to think of themselves as producers of value, not arbiters of merit."
https://psmag.com/education/a-radical-plan-to-combat-inequality-in-college-admissions

"Racial Literacy as a Curricular Requirement: A core curriculum must be institutionalized and mandated for all students, argues Daisy Verduzco Reyes."
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/03/08/colleges-should-have-required-core-curriculum-racial-literacy-opinion

"'I'm Tired Of Justifying My Admissions Letter To People'"
https://www.wbur.org/edify/2019/02/25/affirmative-action-self-advocacy

"White parents are enabling school segregation — if it doesn't hurt their own kids
This is what happens when anti-racism is no longer a major goal of educational policy."
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/white-parents-are-enabling-school-segregation-if-it-doesn-t-ncna978446

"White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege"
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hagerman-white-parents-20180930-story.html

"How Elite Schools Stay So White"
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/affirmative-action-new-york-harvard.html ]
colleges  universities  admissions  privilege  wealth  inequality  operationvarsityblues  scandals  legacy  legacyadmissions  race  racism  power  meritocracy  bribery  elitism  siliconvalley  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  margarethagerman  noahberlatsky  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  education  parenting  economics  class  cheating  sats  testing  standardizedtesting  daisyverduzcoreyes  us  competitiveness  worth  value  merit  competition  motivation 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Joy [Still Processing] - The New York Times
"Inspired by Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” we decide to KonMari Wesley’s Brooklyn apartment. We ask ourselves what sparks joy in our lives and examine whether Marie Kondo’s philosophy extends into the metaphysical realm.

Discussed this week:

“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (Netflix, 2019) https://www.netflix.com/title/80209379

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Marie Kondo, 2014) https://konmari.com/products/the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up

“The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter” (Margareta Magnusson, 2017) https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Gentle-Art-of-Swedish-Death-Cleaning/Margareta-Magnusson/9781501173240 "
jennawortham  wesleymorris  mariekondo  legacy  2019  impermanence  konmarimethod  death  possessions  materialism  decluttering  mindfulness  scandinavia  clutter  tidying  organizing  sweden  cleaning  meaningmaking  joy  gratitude  life  living  self-awareness 
february 2019 by robertogreco
The Future Is Made In China | MISC
"How Chinese Design and Values Are Driving Global Innovation

Like many other children who grew up in Canada with parents who did not, we felt the light embrace of a distant – yet distinctly present – country and culture. We learned what it was like to grow up in China through the stories of our parents and grandparents. The China our families remembered was one defined by a simple life but also underscored by a lack of basic infrastructure. There were no roads or bridges, they told us. Educated youths were sent to the countryside to pursue farm labor, where they would have the best chance of a secure livelihood.

Despite an awareness that things have changed since our parents were children, we have both found ourselves stuck in China’s past. Even when visiting several times in the last decade, we were always surprised and amazed by the country’s modernity each time we arrived. The advancements in technology and the country’s overall progress since the Open Door policy was introduced 40 years ago is even more startling from our parents’ perspective. Ever since then-leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country’s doors through the introduction of free market principles in 1978, China’s GDP has grown at a pace so rapid that the World Bank described it as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Even more significant is that with GDP growth averaging 10% per year – three times the global average – an estimated 800 million people have been raised out of poverty.

Conversations within our social circles, as well as observations of China’s representation in Western popular media, have made it apparent to us that most people in North America share our original assumptions about modern life in the country our parents once called home. What they don’t realize is that China has been working tirelessly to catch up.

Watch, Learn, and Do It Better

The narrative that China is a “copycat” of the US, particularly in terms of its products and services, is a popular one in tech circles. In recent decades, however, this idea gained traction across the international community, and the Chinese government and its people decided they no longer wanted to be seen as imitators. They wanted to rid themselves of the misconception of China as “manufacturer to the world” – only executing others’ ideas, never originating new concepts themselves. This was the catalyst for a 2015 initiative known as Made in China 2025.

This initiative identifies 10 industries within which China aims to be globally competitive by 2025, ranging from robotics, to new materials (such as those used in solar cells), to new-energy vehicles. While these goals may sound familiar, particularly to Westerners, Made in China 2025 stands out because it clearly outlines how the country plans to grow in these industries. The project acts as an extremely public blueprint for shifting the nation from an industrial economy to a service-based economy driven by technology and innovation. As a country, China is unified by a holistic approach and a shared vision rooted in innovation and research, enabling the many public and private actors required for change to work toward a common goal. China’s long tradition of direct government intervention in the economy has enabled it to succeed rapidly and on a massive scale.

China’s tech industry continues to expand rapidly, though the recent trade tariffs introduced by President Trump’s administration highlight the unstable dynamic between China and the US. In addition, it appears that there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding China’s advancements as a leader in the global innovation space. In a recent Wired article, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and current CEO of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures, said:

I think from a logical standpoint the time has come to copy from China … but in practice, it’s not. Chinese entrepreneurs know everything about what’s happening in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley people, a few of them know a lot about China; some of them know a little bit about China; most of them know nothing about China.

Rather than dismissing China or perceiving China’s advancement as a threat, it is time to acknowledge that in some areas, the country’s best-in-class technology has become an example to learn from.

Move Fast and Don’t Break Things

China is a blank canvas, largely due to a lack of legacy technology infrastructure combined with a uniquely enclosed innovation model despite substantial foreign investment. For China, following the common adage that spurs many companies in Silicon Valley – “move fast and break things” – would be a rash move with serious consequences. Freedom is a luxury that must be handled delicately, especially considering the sheer size of China’s population and its relatively nonexistent privacy laws. The following companies have managed to find this balance in their respective industries.

Payments: Alipay and WeChat Pay

At the forefront of the payments space are Alipay, operated by Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, developed by Tencent. With Alibaba and Tencent both making the 2018 Top 10 Risers list in Kantar and WPP’s 2018 “BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands” report, the meteoric rise of mobile payments led by these two companies is proof of China’s remarkable ability to scale. The technology for quick response (QR) codes was originally developed in Japan in 1994 for the automotive industry and was later adapted by Alipay for use with mobile payments. China’s vast market and lack of credit and debit card use has expedited the expansion of mobile payments across the country. This, coupled with the centralized nature of Alibaba’s and Tencent’s ecosystems, quickly proliferated Alipay and WeChat Pay through ecommerce and social media, respectively. This meant that brick-and-mortar stores, from massive chains to the neighborhood food stall, had to follow suit or be left behind. And follow suit they did: Data from iResearch Consulting Group shows that mobile payments in China grew from 1.2 trillion yuan ($187B) in 2013 to 58.8 trillion yuan in 2016. In 2018, QR code settlements are expected to reach 165.9 trillion yuan: more than 90 times the size of the US mobile payments market, as reported by Forrester Research.

According to an article from Knowledge@Wharton, published by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, over the past three years Alipay and WeChat Pay have enabled 98.3% of Chinese consumers – including those in rural areas – to shift directly from cash to smartphone. By contrast, only 5.6% of the surveyed population in the US have used mobile payments. Looking ahead, Alibaba and Tencent are hoping to take their expertise in QR technology and go-to-market strategy to begin scaling in developing countries where consumers have less access to credit cards and other traditional banking services. If innovation is the process of turning ideas into outcomes, China’s nearly cashless transaction model has definitively allowed it to emerge as an innovation economy.

Online-Offline Integration: Hema Fresh

As ecommerce continues to boom and brick-and-mortar retailers find themselves coming up against rising land and labor costs, the question of how to blend digital and physical commerce becomes increasingly important. Many believe that the ideal state for bringing these two worlds together will come in the form of an integrated process that provides consumers with a seamlessly engaging experience while enabling companies to optimize both digital and physical operations. This future seemed elusive until recently.

For most, an important shift occurred when Amazon announced its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 and opened its first Amazon Go location in January of 2018. Unbeknownst to many, however, Alibaba was three years ahead of its North American competitor, debuting its first attempt at “new retail” in 2015 in the form of Hema Fresh. For a first attempt, Hema Fresh is impressive. By connecting product barcodes with a mobile app, Hema Fresh allows consumers to research products during their in-store shopping experience. Shoppers can trace a product’s origin, delivery, and nutritional information, and the app also recommends recipes and other relevant products. The data taken from these cashless transactions enables further personalization of the user’s recommendations. The physical aspect includes an eat-as-you-shop option, where shoppers can hand-pick fresh seafood and have it cooked on-site. The food is soon ready for shoppers to eat in Hema’s dining area. Facial recognition is also used at checkout. Meanwhile, Hema stores act as fulfillment centers for online shoppers, who can have their orders delivered within 30 minutes of placement.

There are now 25 Hema stores across China, and Alibaba has plans to more than double the store’s presence in 2018. In a press release for Alibaba, Hou Yi, CEO of Hema, said that he hopes that “as [the] model becomes more established, it can be shared with other traditional retailers to help them transform in the digital age.”

Mobility: Didi Chuxing

Migration from rural areas in China has led to the ongoing expansion of urban populations over the past few decades, causing urban development to grow at breakneck speeds. Sprawling expressways and superblocks congested with cars now connect cities across the country. Didi Chuxing (“DiDi”), the world’s largest ride-sharing service, was founded with this simple frustration in mind. DiDi aims to “redefine the future of mobility” by leveraging big data and machine learning to help solve this problem, which is characteristic of many Chinese cities. While Uber and Lyft dominate ride-sharing in the US, the sheer scale and size of DiDi sets it apart. According to recent articles from Reuters and Wired, the service has 550 million users in over 400 cities in China, delivering… [more]
samanthalew  ronniepang  china  legacy  infrastructure  change  leapfrogging  2018  technology  design  didichuxing  mobile  phones  smartphones  alibaba  legacysystems  ecommerce  mobilepayments  wechat 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Warnings Along the Drought Line – BLDGBLOG
"Elise Hunchuck, whose project “An Incomplete Atlas of Stones” sought to document warning stones placed along the Japanese coast to indicate safe building limits in case of tsunamis, has called my attention to a somewhat related phenomena in Central Europe.

So-called “hunger stones” have been uncovered by the low-flowing, drought-reduced waters of Czech Republic’s Elbe River, NPR reports. Hunger stones are “carved boulders… that have been used for centuries to commemorate historic droughts—and warn of their consequences.” One stone, we read, has been carved with the phrase, Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine, or “If you see me, weep.”

Although there are apparently extenuating circumstances for the rocks’ newfound visibility—including a modern-day dam constructed on the Elbe River which has affected water levels—I nonetheless remain haunted by the idea of uncovering buried or submerged warnings from our own ancestors stating that, in a sense, if you are reading this, you are already doomed.

Read a bit more over at NPR."
bldgblog  stones  multispecies  morethanhuman  warnings  drought  czechrepublic  elisehunchuck  climatechange  climate  memory  legacy  communication  rivers  europe  2018  history 
october 2018 by robertogreco
The Last Days of Jerry Brown — The California Sunday Magazine
"One of Brown’s favorite sayings is Age quod agis, a Latin phrase he learned while training to be a Jesuit priest. It means: Do what you’re doing. Don’t traffic in nostalgia. Don’t fantasize about what’s next. For a man who has heeded these rules, it is striking how much he has devoted his last days to leaving his mark on California. He, of course, wouldn’t put it that way.

“I’ve probably thought more about this than almost anybody you’ve ever met,” Brown tells me. We’re back to talking about legacy. “It’s a term that journalists use because you can’t say you’re doing this to do good — that sounds too Pollyanna-ish. You can’t say you’re doing it because you’re going to enrich your friends, because that would sound illegal. You can’t say you derive pleasure from it, because that wouldn’t fit the norms of our political culture.” Legacy, to him, is simple. “It’s a way to make people feel they’re a little more important than they are and their life is not as empty as it actually is.”"



"In his first stretch as governor, Brown’s unorthodox approach was viewed less charitably. He was erratic and undisciplined, enthralled with the maxim (coined by the British thinker Gregory Bateson) that the new comes from the random. He kept strange hours, staying up until 3 a.m., and stranger company. His aide-de-camp was Jacques Barzaghi, a French filmmaker who famously said of Brown’s 1992 presidential run: “We are not disorganized. Our campaign transcends understanding.”

Brown preached the virtues of “creative inaction” and would put off decisions until the last moment. Or he would fixate on issues of small importance and leave larger ones to fester. Tony Kline, who served as Brown’s legal affairs secretary in those days, tells the story of a bill landing on Brown’s desk that would ban the sale of meat from a certain species of Caribbean turtle. Kline, who remains good friends with the governor, says Brown spent half a day immersed, researching turtle meat, while other bills went untouched. “It would drive us a little crazy,” Kline says.

Brown succeeded in passing a landmark labor rights law for farmworkers, which remains the only one of its kind in the United States. Yet some argue that his anti-politics helped pave the way for Proposition 13, the most seismic event of the past half-century in California. While he was jetting around the country, posing with Muhammad Ali or hosting all-night debates in his office, discontent over rising property taxes ignited into a grassroots revolt. As governor, Brown could have done more to head it off, his critics argue, but he was above it all, disconnected from the local level, and by the time he got involved, it was too late. Proposition 13 — which slashed property taxes on homes and businesses, curbed rate increases, and required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for any new taxes — passed by a wide margin in 1978, siphoning off a major source of revenue. The state’s public schools, which Pat Brown had helped make the envy of the nation, lost $3 billion — a third of their total funding — almost overnight.

After a decade and a half away from elected office, Brown ran for Oakland mayor in 1998 and won. It was here that friends say his political education began in earnest. He spent the next eight years learning firsthand what it was government did. He read the police reports, spoke at funerals, and wrestled with Oakland’s underperforming public schools, later opening two charter schools of his own. “He’d say that as the governor, you’re flying at 35,000 feet,” Gil Durán, Brown’s former press secretary, says, “but as mayor, you’re right in the street.”

Brown was more focused and strategic when he began his second stint as governor in 2011. He was married now, and friends and family members credit First Lady Anne Gust Brown, his closest adviser and confidante, as a steadying influence. They also point to Nancy McFadden, the governor’s executive secretary and a commanding figure in the halls of the Capitol. A former deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, she brought expertise to the day-to-day running of the administration. “When he was first in office, he was trying to solve all the problems,” says Kathleen Brown, his younger sister and a former state treasurer. “Now, he knows he has so many battles he can fight, and he’s prioritized what he personally puts his weight behind.”

Brown stabilized California’s finances through a combination of steep budget cuts, a tax increase, and a recovering economy. Seen in a certain light, Brown has always been a fiscal conservative. He amassed a $5 billion surplus during his first run as governor. In his second, he persuaded voters to approve his plan to put away billions of dollars as a cushion against the next economic downturn. Both times, he defied progressive members of his own party who wanted to spend more on health care or education. But from a different angle, he’s a Keynesian, a believer in the good that government can do, unafraid to raise taxes at a time when even Democrats are reluctant to do so. That was the case with the infrastructure deal. No governor in decades had suggested increasing the gasoline tax to pay for major statewide repairs. Brown wanted a bill passed before spring recess in April."



"BROWN IS unusual among politicians; he’s a pessimist. He likes to quote physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer: “The world is moving in the direction of hell with a high velocity, and perhaps a positive acceleration and a positive rate of change of acceleration.” Or he’ll just come right out with it: “A lot of politicians like to say how good everything is. I like to say how bad everything is — in the spirit of making it better.” In this way, he is the antithesis of the man who defeated his father and whom he originally succeeded as governor, Ronald Reagan. At his final state budget press conference, Brown told a room full of reporters: “The next governor is going to be on the cliff. What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline, and recession.”

Yet he’s not a fatalist. Nowhere is this more evident than in Brown’s work on climate change. “This is an overarching, existential threat to everything we’re trying to do, to our entire way of life,” he told an audience last year. “Based on that, I believe we have to rise to the occasion.”

Of all the through lines in Brown’s career, the environment is the clearest one. As a teenager, he nurtured a love of the outdoors on camping trips to the Sierras with his father. The start of his political career, in the late 1960s, coincided with the Santa Barbara oil spill, the first Earth Day, and the birth of the modern environmental movement. Brown moved to Los Angeles after law school and experienced the deadly smog that enveloped the city. He watched Reagan establish the California Air Resources Board and President Nixon sign the Clean Air Act. Protecting the environment, he likes to note, wasn’t always thought of as just a Democratic idea.

He ran for governor in 1974 promising “blue skies for California.” Once in office, he embraced the mantra of “small is beautiful” (popularized by the economist E.F. Schumacher) and urged an era of limits. He promoted solar energy, passive-energy buildings, and low-flush toilets. He put his top political adviser in charge of the Air Resources Board and expanded its efforts to regulate tailpipe emissions.

For all this, he was mocked. Jour­nalists chided him for spouting Zen mumbo-jumbo. Syndicated columnist Mike Royko dubbed him “Governor Moonbeam.” Years later, Royko would declare the nickname “null, void, and deceased,” but it — and the persona — proved hard to shake. “Brown was right before it was right to be right,” says historian Jim Newton, who is writing a biography of Brown.

By the time he returned as governor, the politics of climate change had caught up with him. His Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had enacted the state’s first emissions targets and laid the groundwork for a cap-and-trade program. But Brown felt that Schwarzenegger had spent more time promoting California’s environmental goals and less time trying to meet them. “Our initial view,” Ken Alex, a senior adviser to Brown on environmental issues, says, “was that we needed to get our California house in order.”

Cap-and-trade was key to these efforts. It would cut emissions and raise funds for other parts of Brown’s campaign to reduce greenhouse gases, including high-speed rail. During the first six months of 2017, Brown regularly met with Mayes and a small group of Republicans to discuss what it would take for them to support a cap-and-trade bill. Like infrastructure, he wanted a two-thirds vote in both chambers — in this case, to insulate against lawsuits that challenged the bill as a tax in disguise."
jerrybrown  2018  politics  california  history  legacy  process  oakland 
march 2018 by robertogreco
The Mind of John McPhee - The New York Times
"Much of the struggle, for McPhee, has to do with structure. “Structure has preoccupied me in every project,” he writes, which is as true as saying that Ahab, on his nautical adventures, was preoccupied by a certain whale. McPhee is obsessed with structure. He sweats and frets over the arrangement of a composition before he can begin writing. He seems to pour a whole novel’s worth of creative energy just into settling which bits will follow which other bits.

The payoff of that labor is enormous. Structure, in McPhee’s writing, carries as much meaning as the words themselves. What a more ordinary writer might say directly, McPhee will express through the white space between chapters or an odd juxtaposition of sentences. It is like Morse code: a message communicated by gaps."



"“Draft No. 4” is essentially McPhee’s writing course at Princeton, which he has been teaching since 1975. This imposes a rigid structure on his life. During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.

McPhee’s students come to his office frequently, for editing sessions, and as they sit in the hallway waiting for their appointments, they have time to study a poster outside his door. McPhee refers to it as “a portrait of the writer at work.” It is a print in the style of Hieronymus Bosch of sinners, in the afterlife, being elaborately tortured in the nude — a woman with a sword in her back, a small crowd sitting in a vat of liquid pouring out of a giant nose, someone riding a platypus. The poster is so old that its color has faded.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, where McPhee has been a staff writer for more than 50 years, took McPhee’s class in 1981. “There was no fancy discussion of inspiration,” he told me. “You were in the room with a craftsman of the art, rather than a scholar or critic — to the point where I remember him passing around the weird mechanical pencils he used to use. It was all about technique. In the same spirit that a medical student, in gross anatomy, would learn what a spleen is and what it does, we would learn how stuff works in a piece of writing.”

Much of that stuff, of course, was structure. One of Remnick’s enduring memories is of watching Professor McPhee sketch out elaborate shapes on the chalkboard. One looked like a nautilus shell, with thick dots marking points along its swirl. Each of these dots was labeled: “Turtle,” “Stream Channelization,” “Weasel.” Down the side of the chart it said, simply, “ATLANTA.” An arrow next to the words “Rattlesnake, Muskrat, etc.” suggested that the swirl was meant to be read counterclockwise."



"John McPhee lives, and has almost always lived, in Princeton. I met him there in a large parking lot on the edge of campus, next to a lacrosse field, where he stood waiting next to his blue minivan. He wore an L.L. Bean button-down shirt with khaki pants and New Balance sneakers. The top half of his face held glasses, the bottom a short white beard that McPhee first grew, unintentionally, during a canoe trip in the 1970s and has not shaved off since. He is soft-spoken, easy and reserved. Although McPhee possesses intimidating stores of knowledge — he told me, as we walked around campus, the various geological formations that produced the stone used in the buildings — he seems to go out of his way to be unintimidating. Whenever we stepped outside, he put on a floppy hat.

McPhee proceeded to show me every inch of Princeton, campus and city, narrating as we went. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so thoroughly identified with a place. His memories are archaeological, many layers deep. Not 30 seconds into our orienting drive, we passed the empty lot where he used to play tackle football as a child, and where, at age 10, he first tasted alcohol. (“One thing it wasn’t was unpleasant,” he wrote recently.) The lot is no longer empty; it is occupied by a new house, boxy and modern. I asked McPhee if he felt any animosity toward the structure for stomping out his memories.

“No,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stomping grounds stomped out.”

McPhee was born in 1931. His father was the university’s sports doctor, and as a boy McPhee galloped after him to practices and games. By age 8, he was running onto the field alongside Princeton’s football team, wearing a custom-made miniature jersey. He played basketball in the old university gym, down the hall from his father’s office; when the building was locked, he knew which windows to climb in. McPhee was small and scrappy, and he played just about every sport that involved a ball. To this day, he serves as a faculty fellow of men’s lacrosse, observing Princeton’s practices and standing on the sidelines during games.

Every summer growing up, McPhee went to a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin, where his father was the camp doctor. One of his grandsons goes there today. (“I have 200 grandchildren,” McPhee told me; the number is actually 10.) McPhee speaks of Keewaydin as paradise, and his time there established many of the preoccupations of his life and work: canoeing, fishing, hiking. “I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe 20 or 30 years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college,” he writes in “Draft No 4.” “I checked off more than 90 percent.” Keewaydin put McPhee into deep contact with the American land, and introduced him to the challenge of navigation — how the idealized abstractions of plans and maps relate to the fertile mess of the actual world. The camp’s infirmary is now officially named after McPhee’s father. McPhee’s own name still sits in the rafters, an honor for having been the second-most-accomplished camper in 1940, when he was 9."



"McPhee is a homebody who incessantly roams. He inherited Princeton and its Ivy League resources as a kind of birthright, but he comes at the place from an odd angle: He was not the son of a banker or a politician or some glamorous alumnus but of the sports doctor. His view of the university is practical, hands-on — it is, to him, like a big intellectual hardware store from which he can pull geologists and historians and aviators and basketball players, as needed, to teach him something. He is able to run off to Alaska or Maine or Switzerland or Keewaydin because he always knows where he is coming back to.

“I grew up in the middle of town,” McPhee said. “It’s all here.”

McPhee took me to his office in the geology building, in a fake medieval turret that, before he moved in, was crowded with paint cans. Now its walls are full of maps: the Pacific Ocean floor, United States drainage, all the world’s volcanoes. On the carpet in the corner of the room, a box sat stuffed with dozens more, from the center of which protruded, almost shyly, a folded map of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His enormous dictionary, open to the letter P, sat on top of a minifridge. Multiple shelves were loaded with books published by former students, above which stood framed photos of McPhee’s wife, Yolanda, and his four daughters.

McPhee sat down at his computer and clicked around. Green text appeared on a black screen. That was all: green text. No icons, rulers, or scrollbars.

McPhee began to type in command lines.

x coded.*

dir coded.*

x coded-10.tff

x coded-16.tff

Up came portions of his book “The Founding Fish.” He typed in further commands, and hunks of green text went blinking around: a complete inventory of his published articles; his 1990 book, “Looking for a Ship.”

I felt as if I were in a computer museum, watching the curator take his favorite oddity for a spin. McPhee has never used a traditional word processor in his life. He is one of the world’s few remaining users of a program called Kedit, which he writes about, at great length, in “Draft No. 4.” Kedit was created in the 1980s and then tailored, by a friendly Princeton programmer, to fit McPhee’s elaborate writing process.

The process is hellacious. McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called “Structur” arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was “a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.”)

Every writer does some version of this: gathering, assessing, sorting, writing. But McPhee takes it to an almost-superhuman extreme. “If this sounds mechanical,” McPhee writes of his method, “its effect was absolutely the reverse. If the contents of the seventh folder were before me, the contents of twenty-nine other folders were out of sight. Every organizational aspect was behind me. The procedure eliminated nearly all distraction and concentrated just the material I had to deal with in a given day or week. It painted me into a corner, yes, but in doing so it freed me to write.”"



"McPhee’s great theme has always been conservation, in the widest possible sense of the word: the endless tension between presence and absence, staying and leaving, existence … [more]
johmcphee  writing  howwewrite  structure  2017  conservation  princeton  place  humility  process  kedit  organization  belonging  local  gaps  shyness  celebration  nature  geology  time  editing  outlining  naturalhistory  history  maps  mapping  writingprocess  focus  attention  awareness  legacy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — A Crap Futures Manifesto
"Challenge #1: reverse this statement

‘We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture, people must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.’

Paul Mazur, Lehman Brothers, 1927

Challenge #2: reclaim the means - stop obsessing with the ends

‘Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.’

John Carroll

Challenge #3: (as things become increasingly automated) facilitate action not apathy

‘[W]hen it becomes automatic (on the other hand) its function is fulfilled, certainly, but it is also hermetically sealed. Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.’

Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Challenge #4: bring an end to this vacuous celebrity designer BS

‘My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations.’

Philippe Starck

Challenge #5: interrupt legacy thinking and product lineages

‘All inventions and innovations, by definition, represent 
an advance in the art beyond existing base lines. Yet, most advances, particularly in retrospect, appear essentially incremental, evolutionary. If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither it would appear does technology.’

Robert Heilbroner

Challenge #6: rather than feed the illusion of invincibility, work from the reality of uncertainty and transience

‘Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.’

J.G. Ballard, The Miracles of Life

Challenge #7: set aside the easier work of critique and take up the more difficult challenge of proposing viable alternatives

‘It is true that I can better tell you what we don’t do than what we do do.’

William Morris, News from Nowhere

Challenge #8: ask yourself (before putting things in the world): am I qualified to play God?

‘It’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough.’

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Challenge #9: design ecologically

‘One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.’

John Steinbeck, The Sea of Cortez

Challenge #10: adopt a khadi mentality

‘True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.’

Pyotr Kropotkin

Challenge #11: be patient for the quiet days

‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

Arundhati Roy

Challenge #12: start building the future you want, with or without technology

‘People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.’

Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: The People Machines"
manifestos  crapfutures  paulmazur  desires  needs  anthropology  johncarroll  means  ends  jeanbaudrillard  apathy  action  philippestarck  celebrity  legacy  robertheilbroner  invention  innovation  evolution  invincibility  jgballard  uncertainty  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  critique  williammorris  viability  making  ursulaleguin  ecology  environment  johnsteinbeck  khadi  decentralization  function  functionality  arundhatiroy  patience  quiet  raybradbury  future  futurism  technology  utopia  resistance  peterkropotkin 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]

"Cornel West is a different kind of civil rights leader. His below-the-radar presence at racial flash points across America recently, stands in stark contrast to many of the more traditional civil rights leaders and their bright light press conferences.

Some of the new generation of African-American activists seem to be gravitating towards West, a charismatic academic scholar who doesn't lead an organization or have an entourage.

Cornel West has a message about how poor and disadvantaged Americans are being treated today and he can be searingly provocative on matters of race, never more so than when he criticizes President Obama.

Cornel West: When I call the president a black puppet of Wall Street, I was really talking about the degree to which Wall Street had a disproportionate amount of influence on his policies as opposed to poor people and working people.

James Brown: Why use such harsh language with-- showing no respect for the office of the president?

Cornel West: I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, and so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh. In that sense I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. So all of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one not to speak politely sometimes.

Eight years ago, Cornel West was a fervent supporter of candidate Barack Obama. Today, he blames the president for not doing more on issues like income inequality and racial justice. A product of the turbulent sixties, West has joined protests led by civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter. Here in Ferguson, Missouri, he was one of many arrested for civil disobedience.

James Brown: The young people who are leading the Black Lives Matter charge, you're all behind them?

Cornel West: Oh, very much so. I think that's a marvelous new militancy that has to do with courage, vision. The fundamental challenge always is will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice. You got to push 'em toward love and justice.

James Brown: Why do you think you have that kind of currency with young people?

Cornel West: They know that I take their precious lives seriously. When I go to jail in Ferguson and say quite explicitly, "I'm old school, and I want the new school to know that some of us old folk love y'all to death" and they hear that and say, "Well, dang, you know, we might not always-- agree with this brother, but this Negro looks like a fighter for justice."

[March: This is what democracy looks like. Justice!]

Nyle Fort: I think a lot of young people really gravitate towards him not only because he's a giant of an intellectual, he is somebody that you want to be around.

Nyle Fort is a 26-year-old activist and religion PhD student at Princeton. He first saw West speak at a rally four years ago.

James Brown: The manner in which Dr. West has been criticizing the president. Your reaction?

Nyle Fort: I think it's important for us to listen to the substance of his argument. And I think that his critiques not just of President Obama, but of our current state of democracy in this country, the current state of the world, is something that we need to pay attention to.

A favorite on the lecture circuit, we were with him at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, when the crowd of 1,500 broke into applause before he said a word.

Then, for more than an hour, an extemporaneous journey filled with biblical passages and quotes from philosophers and poets about decency and virtue. All in support of West's warning about the dangers of inequality.

Cornel West: I have nothing against rich brothers and sisters. Pray for 'em every day. But callousness and indifference, greed and avarice is something that's shot through all of us.

Cornel West has diverse influences to say the least; crediting jazz giants John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan with helping him understand human suffering. West sees civil rights pioneer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of the great treasures of the 20th century.

Cornel West: It's never a question of skin pigmentation. It's never a question of just culture or sexual orientation or civilization. It's what kind of human being you're going to choose to be from your mama's womb to the tomb and what kind of legacy will you leave.

Cornel West was born 62 years ago in Oklahoma, but grew up in Glen Elder -- a predominantly black neighborhood near Sacramento, California. He is the second of four children. His father, Clifton was a federal administrator and his mother, Irene was a teacher. They were a close-knit, church-going family.

Cornel West: I feel as if I have been blessed to undergo a transformation from gangster to redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.

James Brown: You actually were a thug when you were a youngster?

Cornel West: Oh absolutely, I got kicked out of school when I was seven-- seven years old.

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

Cornel West: I refused to salute the flag because my great uncle had been lynched with the flag wrapped around his body. So I went back to Sacramento and said, "I'm not saluting the flag." And teacher went at me and hit me, and I hit back. And then we had a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali moment right there in the third grade.

Clifton West: He was the only student I ever knew that came home with all As and had to get a whipping.

Clifton West is Cornel's brother, best friend and was his role model growing up. He says behind his little brother's bad behavior, was a relentlessly curious mind.

Clifton West: We had this bookmobile. And we would come out, and check out a book, and go on back in the house and start reading it. So Corn, at one point, I don't know how long it took, he had read every book in the bookmobile.

James Brown: Excuse me?

Clifton West: I don't know it had to be 200 books, easy. And the bookmobile man, who was a white guy, went to all the neighborhoods, little chocolate neighborhoods, saying, "There's this guy in Glen Elder that read every book in here."

Anecdotes like that convinced teachers to give their troubled student an aptitude test. West's recorded IQ: 168.

Cornel West: I got a pretty high score. So they sent me over all the way on the other side of town. Mom used to drive me all the way to school and then drive back to her school where she was teaching first grade.

The new school had a gifted program that challenged his mind and changed his behavior.

James Brown: Was that when you first grabbed hold of the notion that you were smart?

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Dr. Cornel West | Reflections on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela | Official Web Site
[previously on militant tenderness and subversive sweetness: https://twitter.com/search?q=rogre%20militant%20tenderness ]

"The natural death of Nelson Mandela is the end of not only a monumental life but also an historic era. Like any spectacular cultural icon, Mandela was many things to all of us. Yet if we are to be true to his complex life and precious legacy, we must pierce through the superficial surfaces and market-driven fanfares. Mandela was a child of his age and a man who transcended and transformed his times. He was a revolutionary South African nationalist who embraced communists even as he embodied his Christian faith and enacted his democratic temperament. He was a congenial statesman whose prudential style and message of reconciliation saved South Africa from an ugly and bloody civil war.

Mandela the man was rooted in a rich African tradition of soulcraft that put a premium on personal piety, cultural manners and social justice. Ancestor appreciation, gentle embrace of others and fair treatment of all was shot through the "soul-making" of the young Nelson Mandela. The fusion of his royal family background, high Victorian and Edwardian education and anti-imperialist formation yielded a person of immense self-respect, moral integrity and political courage. These life-enhancing qualities pit Mandela against the life-denying realities of the dark underside of European imperialism—realities of pervasive terror, chronic trauma and vicious stigma. Yet though deeply wounded and perennially scarred by these realities, Mandela emerged from such nightmarish circumstances with sterling character—a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness even acknowledged by his foes. To put it bluntly, Mandela the man chose to live a life of wise remembrance, moral reverence and political resistance rather than a life of raw ambition, blind avarice and personal subservience. More pointedly, Mandela refused to be intimidated by the Goliath-like powers of an authoritarian regime.

Mandela the revolutionary movement leader was blessed with a rich South African progressive tradition unmatched anywhere on the globe. Where else can we find so many spiritual giants and political exemplars of courage—from Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Beyers Naudé, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Billy Nair, Allen Boesak, Ronnie Kasrils, Rusty Bernstein, Oliver Tambo and so many others. Mandela the man was deeply shaped by the South African freedom movement. He began as a narrow black nationalist, shifted quickly to a United Front strategy, supported the armed struggle and called off the counter-violent stance only when the government renounced violence. Mandela was designated a dangerous enemy of the South African government—a terrorist, communist, traitor and hater—because he led a movement that saw South African laws as themselves criminal. He was imprisoned for over 27 years, permitted one visit and one letter every six months, forbidden to attend the funerals of his mother and oldest son, often relegated to solitary confinement, and sometimes permitted to read only his Bible because his courageous witness as part of the freedom movement constituted the major threat to the South African government. As international support for Mandela and the movement escalated (including many African leaders, the Soviet Union, and millions of people of all colors around the world) and international support for the South African regime was exposed (including America's Reagan and Britain's Thatcher), old-style apartheid began to crumble. The writing on the wall was clear as the Berlin Wall fell.

Mandela the statesman tried to hold together a fragile emerging multiracial democracy and heal a traumatized society against the backdrop of a possible civil war. This incredible balancing act highlighted the spiritual qualities and moral sentiments of Mandela the man—and made him the democratic saint of our time. Yet this gallant effort also downplayed Mandela the revolutionary movement leader who highlighted targeting wealth inequality, corporate power and sheer corruption and cronyism in high places. Mandela is the undisputed father of South African democracy because the freedom movement he led broke the back of old-style apartheid. Yet his neoliberal policies—much to the delight of corporate elites and new black middle-class beneficiaries—failed to address in a serious manner the massive unemployment, inadequate housing, poor medical facilities and decrepit education. The masses of precious poor people—disproportionately black—have been overlooked by the full-fledge integration of the South African economy into the global capitalist world.

I asked the great Nelson Mandela about this grave situation after I gave the Nelson Mandela lecture in Pretoria a few years ago. I lambasted the Santa-Clausification of Nelson Mandela that turned Mandela the man and the revolutionary leader into an unthreatening, huggable old man with a smile with bags full of toys—especially for cheering oligarchs like the Oppenheimers or newly rich elites like Cyril Ramaphosa. Even global neoliberal figures like Bill Clinton and Richard Stengel of Time Magazine become major caretakers of Mandela's legacy as his revolutionary comrades fade into the dustbin of history. As I approached him, he greeted me with a genuine smile of deep love and respect, expressed in the most elevating and encouraging language his appreciation of my righteous indignation in my speech and told me to be steadfast in my witness.

The most valuable lesson we can draw from the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is to be neither afraid nor intimidated by the neoliberal powers that be. We must create our own deep democratic forms of soulcraft, social movements and statecraft—forms that resist the dominant forces of privatizing, financializing and militarizing that overlook poor and working people. Nelson Mandela met the most pressing challenges of his day with great dignity, decency and integrity. Let us confront the free-market fundamentalism, escalating militarism and insidious xenophobia in our day with his spirit of love, courage and humor.

-- Dr. Cornel West"

[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]
cornelwest  tenderness  sweetness  care  caring  gentleness  radicalism  radicalgentleness  subversivesweetness  militanttenderness  militancy  nelsonmandela  soulcraft  piety  manners  culture  justice  socialjustice  ancestors  appreciation  fairness  imperialism  trauma  terror  stigma  character  democracy  freedom  society  fear  neoliberalism  legacy  statecraft  privatization  finance  militarization  poverty  dignity  decency  integrity  courage  love  humor  canon  xenophobia  militarism  via:ablerism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
A Doll Cabinet in Iowa / Snarkmarket
"To know the future … that’s the dream, right? But it’s a dream that makes sense only if the future is merely revealed, rather than being constructed bit by bit from the traces of the present, which we still have the ability to shape. Let me argue instead for seeking future history — the ability to consider the present through the lens of the future, to find imminent anachronisms hidden in plain sight. What do we take for granted today that will come to seem remarkable tomorrow? What will the history books say about us?

A few months ago, my friends Andy, Amanda, and Amy, and I decided to build a weekend around these questions. And now I’m seeing future history everywhere.

Like all right-thinking people, I’ve been infected with Hamilton fever. The theme of the show that resonates most loudly is the obsession of all the central characters with their place in history. After one recent replay of the score, I found myself tearfully re-reading Washington’s farewell address, a message sent across the ages, to us. Of course, nearly every Presidential farewell has that time-capsule quality — it’s the last best chance for a President to spin his legacy. But fast-forward through more recent ones, and Washington’s stands out all the more. Other Presidents are aware of the watchful eyes of history, but they spend most of their parting speeches dwelling on the recent past — what they saw, what they did, why they did it. Consequently, moments in these speeches can seem parochial or short-sighted, just decades later. “There hasn’t been a failure of an insured bank in nearly 9 years,” Truman says. “The Persian Gulf is no longer a war zone,” Reagan says. We’re “on track to be debt-free by the end of the decade,” Clinton says.

Washington, though, scours his Presidency for lessons that would reverberate across centuries: Cherish your union, he tells us. “It is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”

It’s not just lofty Presidential speeches; tiny gestures can mark a break with the past. When Tom Vilsack ascended to the Iowa governor’s mansion, his wife Christie broke slightly with tradition: she elected to have her doll identified by her own name in the cabinet. “I’ve never called myself ‘Mrs. Tom Vilsack,’ ever,” she said. Iowa’s next first lady echoed Christie Vilsack’s choice; her doll is called “Mrs. Mari Culver.”

In 2012, Christie Vilsack tried to change another longstanding Iowa tradition: she ran for Congress. Not only had a woman never been governor of Iowa in 2012, no woman had ever represented the state in either the House or the Senate. “We really have a wonderful history,” the state’s Democratic Party chair said when Vilsack announced her exploratory committee. “With this one problem.”

Vilsack’s run failed; she was defeated by Steve King in 2012. But then something happened, just last year. A streak unbroken since Iowa entered the union in 1846 — nearly 170 years in which a long succession of men exclusively represented Iowa in Congress — ended. Joni Ernst, the daughter of the same Mrs. Mari Culver whose doll sits in a cabinet in the Iowa statehouse, became Iowa’s first ever Congresswoman.

For a weekend in Baltimore in April, we’re going to look for moments like this, and scour our own experiences for ideas and lessons that will endure. We’ll make a time capsule, and we’ll end with a prom; we couldn’t think of two better ways to bring a far-seeing lens to the present. It will be massive fun and I hope you join us if you can. But most of all, I want to know: What do you see around you today that will come to seem remarkable?"
mattthompson  2016  future  history  anachronisms  futurehistory  futurehistoryfestival  events  perspective  legacy  posterity  georgewashington  iowa  change 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Great Re-Anchoring
"When I joined BuzzFeed just over a year ago, I spent the first few months of my time there setting the Product Design team up so it could scale well. I wrote a roles and responsibilities document, instituted Basecamp as the place for design work and discussion and overhauled our recruiting process. Since then, the design managers and I have set up quarterly peer reviews for the team, written our Design Leadership Principles and initiated weekly small group critiques in addition to our weekly one with the entire team. Each of these changes were made in response to needs we identified and wanted to make sure were met. They started out as experiments, but quickly became an official part of our team and process as each addition proved its usefulness. Progress was made. We felt good.

But recently, we decided to blow it all up.

A couple of months ago, my manager (our publisher) Dao initiated an offsite with senior tech management. The purpose of the offsite, she explained, was to do a close, critical examination of our processes and beliefs as an organization. She described our current processes and beliefs as anchors - things that we do because we’ve always done them and beliefs we have because we’ve always believed them. She told us that in order to evolve and grow our tech team, it was imperative that we reevaluate our anchors, decide whether not they’re still valid, and then re-anchor ourselves somewhere else. We got together and discussed all sorts of topics: why do we tend to lean toward building our own tools rather than buying things off the shelf? Why do we believe so strongly in small, iterative changes over large projects? In a few cases, our thinking was totally validated and we decided to leave our anchor where it was. In many cases, though, the discussion revealed that our current anchors were holding us back, or even that we disagreed on whether or not an anchor was important. It was a super productive day and has already impacted the way we work and communicate as senior management on the team."
design  leadership  management  buzzfeed  anchors  change  howwechange  unschooling  deschooling  process  tools  capwatkins  beliefs  legacy  2016 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Continuations : Why Are We Here?
"We spend a lot of time in tech inventing and building new things. Some people are perfectly happy doing so without needing a deeper reason — some simply want success, others wealth, and many are excited about the potential to make the world a better place. Still I am struck by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction even among people who have accomplished a lot. I attribute that to the lack of a deeper purpose. Few people in tech seem to accept an easy religious answer to the question of why we are here. I have struggled with that myself but feel comfortable with what I believe now.

If you have followed my blog for a while you know that I have written about personal change in the past. Part of that exploration for me has been reading key works in Hinduism and Buddhism. One of the foundational precepts of Buddhism is that everything is ephemeral. Human pain comes from our failure to accept this impermanence. We become attached to people or things and when they inevitably disappear we suffer. I have found this to be a profound insight with powerful consequences for everyday life. Letting go of attachments is the way to overcome most if not all of our fears of the future and regrets of the past.

Yet I also believe that there is an important exception: human knowledge. I have previously argued that knowledge is the information that we as humans choose to replicate over time. It thus includes historical accounts, scientific knowledge and cultural artifacts (including literature, music, art, etc). Knowledge is unique to humans at least here on our planet. Other species don’t have externalized information that outlives them individually (I say externalized to contrast knowledge with DNA).

Human knowledge in principle has the potential to be eternal. It could exist as long as the universe does (and as far as I know we aren’t sure yet whether that will come to an end). Knowledge could even outlive humanity and still be maintained and developed further by some artificial or alien intelligence that succeeds us. Although I would prefer for the contributors to include future generations of humans.

For me the very existence and possibility of human knowledge provides the answer to the question of why we are here and what we should try to accomplish in life. We should endeavor to contribute to knowledge. Given my definition this can mean a great many things, including teaching and making music and taking care of others. Anything that either adds to or reproduces knowledge is, so far, a uniquely human activity and why we are here (“adding” includes questioning or even invalidating existing knowledge).

Once our basic needs are taken care of I believe we should devote much of our time to knowledge. We can still do things like create new products or start new companies (or invest in them). But we shouldn’t be mindless consumers of stuff or information. And we should focus on products or services that either contribute directly to knowledge or help others do so including by helping take care of basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, health, transportation, connectivity). This is also why I support the idea of a universal basic income.

Now at first blush the focus on knowledge sounds value free. What if you are inventing the nuclear bomb or worse? I have written about how values are important to guide what systems we build. I am convinced that many (and maybe all) of the values I believe in can be derived from the foundational value of knowledge, including, for example, conservation of the environment. I will write more on that in future posts.

This view of the meaning of life is what works for me personally and I am sharing it because it might work for others also. In doing so I am being consistent with the very belief I am describing. If these ideas have merit they will get replicated by others and carried forward over time and have a chance to become part of knowledge itself.

It is also likely that others have thought of this approach to the meaning of life before me. Knowledge is far vaster than what any one person can possibly know. And so as always when writing, I look forward to comments that point me to related work and people."
albertwenger  religion  purpose  meaning  via:willrichardson  2015  knowledge  buddhism  hinduism  humans  humanity  universalbasicincome  values  legacy  meaningoflife  satisfaction  ephemeral  ephemerality  attachment  everyday  suffering  presence  ubi 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Gone Home all over again? :: Sunset Discusiones generales
"Publicado originalmente por ToT:
But there is a certain beauty in the way that humans are a part of nature. Their fragility, their lack of control, their weakness are all charming in a way. And they create a strong bond between us all.

Hmm, I thought I had seen the game advertise itself with something along the lines of 'Who will you be? A lover, a traitor, a freedom fighter?', which suggests that the player has clear agency in the direction that the protagonist takes.

But you are right. So many games present the player with choices that will have a great and transparent impact on the game-world, the philosophy being that games should satisfy the human desire to leave a mark. But I now realize how much I yearn for a gaming experience in which things just happen to you, and in which small actions can have great or small consequences, forseen or unforseen. There is certainly a peculier sense of exhileration (and anxiety) in surrendering to the uncontrollable nature of life.

This is also why I am so friggin excited for the remake of Pathologic. :p"

[via: http://notgames.tumblr.com/post/105182523812/but-i-now-realize-how-much-i-yearn-for-a-gaming ]
systems  systemsthinking  2014  games  gaming  videogames  humans  choice  legacy  control  surrender  life  living  unpredictability  weakness  helplessness 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer - NYTimes.com
"A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.”

I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.

Hume continued, “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”

Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
cancer  death  life  neuroscience  living  oliversacks  2015  legacy  individuality  davidhume  health  dying  mortality  audacity  clarity  goodbyes  perspective  humanism  privilege  adventure  consciousness 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Yashica – The New Inquiry
"At certain moments I have the feeling—usually simultaneous with the pressing of the shutter—that this or that image in particular is destined to outlive me, that it will be visible past my speaking. A photograph is an epitaph made of light.

Did you tell me, or did I tell you, of that line from Cixous? “What is interesting when you write is to imagine that your reader is not yet born…”"
2014  tejucole  photography  hélènecixous  epitaphs  light  posteristy  legacy 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Delaware becomes first state to give executors broad digital assets access | Ars Technica
"Delaware has become the first state in the US to enact a law that ensures families’ rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death.
Last week, Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill (HB) 345, “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act,” which gives heirs and executors the same authority to take legal control of a digital account or device, just as they would take control of a physical asset or document.

Earlier this year, the Uniform Law Commission, a non-profit group that lobbies to enact model legislations across all jurisdictions in the United States, adopted its Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). Delaware is the first state to take the UFADAA and turn it into a bona fide law.

While some states, including Idaho and Nevada, have some existing provisions pertaining to limited digital assets for heirs, they are not as broad as the new Delaware law. For now, the state's version of UFADAA only applies to residents of Delaware, one of the smallest states by population and land area. If other states don’t follow suit soon, people creating family trusts could conceivably use this Delaware law to their advantage, even without residing in Delaware. However, even though many tech companies (including Twitter, Facebook, and Google) are incorporated there, they will not be affected by the new law."
delaware  law  legal  digital  death  2014  via:alexismadrigal  legacy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
“the emphatic lives of the long dead” | Public Historian
"But for lovers or friends with no past in common the historic past unrolls like a park, like a ridgy landscape full of buildings and people. To talk of books is, for oppressed shut-in lovers, no way out of themselves; what was written is either dull or too near the heart. But to walk into history is to be free at once, to be at large among people. Art does its work even here in clarifying their faces, but they are dead, immune, their schemes and passions are legacies…. Outside, the street, empty, reeled in the midday sun; the glare was reflected in on the gold-and-brown restaurant wall opposite; side by side in the empty restaurant, they surrounded themselves with wars, treaties, persecutions, strategic marriages, campaigns, reforms, successions and violent deaths. History is unpainful, memory does not cloud it; you join the emphatic lives of the long dead. May we give the future something to talk about."

–Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris
history  art  books  memory  memories  time  past  future  freedom  legacy  elizabethbrown  suzannefischer 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Chapter 4 of An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi
[Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20171227051615/http://www.columbia.edu:80/itc/mealac/pritchett/00litlinks/gandhi/part3/304chapter.html ]

"This sad situation developed after my departure from South Africa, but my idea of having permanent funds for public institutions underwent a change long before this difference arose. And now after considerable experience with the many public institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. In our country we experience this at every step. Some of the so-called religious trusts have ceased to render any accounts. The trustees have become the owners, and are responsible to none. I have no doubt that the ideal is for public institutions to live, like nature, from day to day. The institution that fails to win public support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions that an institution annually receives are a test of its popularity and the honesty of its management, and I am of opinion that every institution should submit to that test. But let no one misunderstand me. My remarks do not apply to the bodies which cannot, by their very nature, be conducted without permanent buildings. What I mean to say it that the current expenditure should be found from subscriptions voluntarily received from year to year."

[Related:
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/12/why-do-universities-have-endowments.html
http://ethicist.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/28/should-you-give-to-harvard/
http://harvardpolitics.com/hprgument-posts/investing-future/
http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/ethics_and_nonprofits ]

[More on endowments:
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/dartmouth-controversy-reflects-quandary-for-endowments/
https://ideas.repec.org/a/ebl/ecbull/eb-11-00531.html
http://www.pgdc.com/pgdc/issues-and-opportunities-endowment-fundraising
http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/05/28/the-problems-with-university-endowments/
http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/endowments-new-questions-new-normal
http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/January-February%202010/full-the-truth.html
http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4428&context=flr (.pdf)]
endowments  money  finance  colleges  universities  nonprofit  gandhi  institutions  power  control  democracy  management  permanent  funds  publicopinion  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  capital  wealth  organizations  permanence  impermanence  ephemeral  ephemerality  legacy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism 
july 2014 by robertogreco
porpentine and preservation (with image, tweets) · anarchivist · Storify
"Discussing Porpentine's game "Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone", preservation, and agency"



"This game will be available for 24 hours and then I am deleting it forever.
You can download it here until then.

What you do with it, whether you distribute, share, or cover it, is up to you.

Suicide is a social problem.

Suicide is a social failure.

This game will live through social means only.

This game will not be around forever because the people you fail will not be around forever.

They are never coming back.

This game’s title:

Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone

This game’s title when you feel uncomfortable with the topic of suicide and would rather indefinitely forestall your inevitable confrontation with reality:



Anyways, this is dedicated to Sasha Menu Courey & all the others.

CW: Rape, suicide, abuse"
death  games  suicide  porpentine  2014  ephemeral  ephemerality  preservation  legacy  forever  mortality 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Let's Stop (re)Inventing The Committee of Ten: Getting Over School
"I often wonder how different school might be had the NEA task force, Committee of Ten, (a group of 90 elite men) determined that observation, reasoning, and judgment could be cultivated through multiple methods and studies as opposed to tying each to a discrete subject. I often wonder how different their recommendations might have been had a few women, some newly arrived immigrants, some people of color, some students, and representatives who hailed from work other than teaching been part of the committee. How might the recommendations have been different? Replacing 90 elite men who served on the Committee of Ten in the 1890s with corporations in the 2010s who are informing the Common Core really isn’t much of a change…

If you take 90 men, hailing from elite schools (college presidents, headmasters, professors) and ask them to name what an excellent education contains—we should not be surprised that their answers (all were in agreement) will reflect their lives, their truths. Habermas told us that without a metalanguage to challenge the given assumption, power tends to serve up itself as the model of excellence. Today it is Achieve, Inc., Pearson, McGraw Hill, ETS, state DOE, federal DOE who are the new Committee of Ten."
committeeoften  maryannreilly  2014  education  unschooling  deschooling  competition  curriculum  ivanillich  johndewey  legacy  alternative  learning  commoncore  standards  standardization  readiness  schooling  schools  policy  measurement  assessment  shrequest1 
april 2014 by robertogreco
6, 6: Asymmetrical information
"I have so little interest in grand pictures of the world with nothing to say about children. This assumption in cultural discussions that people step out of a wall sometime between 18 and 21, well, it’s not good enough; it’s not serious enough. If you want to talk to me about surveillance and censorship, tell me about baby monitors and when you would let kids in your care read 4chan. Your approach to that matters more than your approach to the finer connotations of the word “Orwellian”, e.g., whether the figure of thzzzZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZ[snort]ZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ whistling exhalation ZZZZZZZZ."

(Removed from this point a good deal of grumping about people who use arguments in the form “we should be treated like adults” without saying what that means to them other than “down with bad stuff, up with good stuff”, nor how non-adults should be treated; and then kind of halfheartedly trying to shame people for treating Foucault’s geneological method as if it were The Path And The Way Of Criticism rather than a useful tonic; and getting sad that sometimes children’s experience is treated as if it counts only insofar as it will be remembered by the adult they will become.)

"Something I tell myself: Assume you’re teaching. More often than thinking “Oh, I figured something out, time to share”, ask “What am I teaching right now, and am I doing it well?” Sometimes what I’m teaching is not pretty: “Don’t expect too much from strangers” or “Everyone has their quirks” or worse. All the more reason to think about it.

Like a lot of intrapersonal advice, this is tricky to explain: too obvious, too precious, too odd. The principle comes partly from reflecting that many of the most important things I’ve learned were from incidental actions of people working on something else. (I remember flipping through my mother’s MTW and learning about graphic design, poetry, pedagogy – everything but gravity.) It also comes from an idea put well in XKCD 1053.

(And this gives us one of the distinctive flavors of work made for the internet: layerednes. A blog post about some small issue will carry coded gestures to connections with highfalutin’ academic work; deniable hints of limits and risks might appear when a conscientious engineer is made to work hard-sell PR; and who among us has not seen something on a controversial topic flying a big red herring to distract zealots? And we have art like this [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/for-shame-the-giant-poster-that-shows-drone-pilots-the-people-theyre-bombing/360257/ ], which works entirely by lying about its audience: that isn’t for drone operators at all, but by saying it is, it works on its actual audience: people like me.)"



"One of the things that’s been bringing OODA to mind is what you might call legibility capture. Let’s take it as read that we’re surrounded by giant translucent surfaces, and we’re trying to see inside them, and to understand their shapes and connections, in order that we might discern what their deal is. They meanwhile are examining us, covertly, with consent, obliquely, loudly, by proxy, for unknown future use, and in many other ways, which is worrying.

There are many ways to think about this; for me it’s phrased most naturally as “legibility” in the way that John C. Scott has developed it. His brilliance is perhaps fogged by his prose style, which with time becomes its own painfully funny effect, a kind of Marx Brothers–esque absurdism, as he over and over again, in the same book, with placid deadpan, re-introduces legibility as if for the first time.

(Thinking of this becase a couple friends spent the weekend at some kind of Data Tragicomedy conference – my ignorance of the details is a small pleasure but a sincere one – which it pleased me to believe consisted entirely of artbros in their off-blacks standing up, clearing their throats, smiling, and saying “I’ve discovered – or perhaps invented – something that I like to call ‘legibility’…”.)

One of the things that OODA is concerned with, in its productively unsatisfying way, is initiative. In go, this is sente. Alice has sente in a game with Bob when she’s made a move that Bob must respond to, instead of building his own position. To hold sente is to keep Bob on the defensive, so that he can’t plan or build; he’s always a turn behind. (Every time I think about this stuff I’m startled again by the illumination of psychological violence, from domestic abuse to torture-as-interrogation.) Boyd wants you, the student of OODA, to have initiative, because to have initiative is to have options. (Cough cough Nussbaum’s capability approach cough cough sneeze.) You have initiative because you can read the opponent better than they can read you, and so you can at least partly decide how they read you.

Skip this paragraph if you like me are easily disturbed by violence. This gruesome Amnesty briefing on the violence this year in northern Nigeria and this SSP report on the famous body bags in Kadugli both explain (partly) how they did their satellite imagery analysis to identify or confirm mass graves. This is in an obvious way highly responsible: conclusions should be presented with the evidence that led to them; theories should be falsifiable. It also bears risks, because by showing methods to identify mass graves they necessarily show how to hide from those methods, and even how to play into them by creating fake graves to distract and discredit.

That risk is the thing. It’s what I think about when people are like “Ah ha, I figured out I can look at tail numbers, or shell casing markings, or IP addresses owned by spyware companies; now we know what’s up!” Once they know you know but before you know they know you know, you’re at their mercy; they’re feeding you. Legibility capture.

I don’t know. I keep thinking of XKCD 1053, and the kind of empathy it calls for, and of the epigrams Joe Armstrong throws around about Erlang (e.g., p. 9):

The world is parallel
The world is distributed
Things fail

I said at the beignning of the year that my theme would be scale: communicating the sizes of stuff. I’ve done very little about that. I keep remembering things, little parcels of spacetime. Sleeping on a boat under a Saltillo blanket, listening to a flag’s rope ring against the pole in the wind. With a flu, in a parked Volkswagen Golf, reading Elfwood. When you GPS-track yourself you start to find that a lot of what it tells you is about where you weren’t."
charlieloyd  2014  teaching  learning  xkcd  legibility  scale  allsorts  learningallthetime  howwelearn  howweteach  perspective  understanding  layerdness  datadrama  jamescscott  violence  ooda  johnboyd  competition  initiative  offense  empathy  children  legacy  surveillance  censorship  babymonitors  4chan  adulthood  childhood  parenting 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Marc Andreessen’s Crude and Nuanced Tech Cynicism — Weird Future — Medium
"On Saturday night, serial-tweet-lover Marc Andreessen started a list.

1/Degrees of tech cynicism from crude to nuanced?
https://twitter.com/pmarca/status/447604341591908352

Andreessen ought to know tech cynicism — he’s been around for awhile. Indeed as co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used web browser, his career more or less spans the life of the web as we know it.

2/That can’t possibly work.
https://twitter.com/pmarca/status/447604381764960256

Today, Andreessen is a venture capitalist. He’s half of the name of Andreessen Horowitz, a firm whose holdings represent a range of successful tech start-ups. They put money into Skype, Facebook, Twitter, AirBnB, and Instagram. They also put money into Groupon and Zynga, but you can win ‘em all (actually, since both companies IPO’d, their stocks falling to 1/3 of peak valuation doesn’t really matter to Andreessen Horowitz — the exit is the win).

In short, Andreessen has seen some shit.

Embedded tweets take up too much space, so I’m gonna go ahead and paste in the rest of his list by hand.

3/Normal people will use it, but it’s trivial. 4/It will never replace [legacy]. 5/It will replace [legacy], which is why the world is going to hell. 6/Yes, fine, but just wait until [big company] does it. 7/Yes, fine, but just wait until [hypothetical better version that doesn’t actually exist] does it. 8/I can’t believe how much money those kids made from that. 9/It’s a clear and obvious bubble. 10/Whatever, innovation is dead.

That’s it. That’s the list.

Marc Andreessen thinks “Whatever, innovation is dead” is the most nuanced form of tech cynicism available.

You know, it happens. Andreessen is a busy man, what with all the innovation and disruption he’s got to fund and then exit from. When your days are that packed, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. If you have to spend all your time immersed in the promise of tech, your cynic muscles can atrophy and even the crudest cynicism might seem nuanced.

But we can do better. Here are a some additions.

11/ Normal people will use it, and then they’ll stop because it is a fad.

12/ It is as vulnerable to the logic of disruption as [legacy].

13/ It will prioritize speed of implementation over security, offering users’ personal data to hackers, advertisers, and spies on a silver platter.

14/ It will succeed long enough for a successful exit, then crash and burn, enriching VCs but doing little to improve the world as a whole.

15/ Although it preaches revolution, it will end up reproducing and empowering the structures of injustice that dominate today.

16/ It will intensify the growing concentration of wealth and power that appears to be endemic to economies which take advantage of network effects.

17/ Because it is being implemented in a country where food and healthcare are treated as luxuries rather than basic human rights, its success will multiply the misery in the world as it lays waste to [legacy].

18/ It is being created and sold to a tiny cadre of wealthy inter-connected players who are so convinced of their own intelligence that it doesn’t occur to them to ask around and find out the needs of other people.

19/ It will be powered by ads.

20/ It will do nothing to slow the headlong rush of global civilization into any number of catastrophes which would in turn render it irrelevant.

21/ It preys on and amplifies human weakness.

22/ It will have unintended consequences.

23/ It will do nothing to mitigate the chaos it leaves in its wake."

[Also

24/ It will re-enable scams that regulation had previously tamped down in [legacy].
https://twitter.com/doingitwrong/status/447812538638794752

25/ Its successful ubiquity will force users to contort their selves so they can slot into an ill-considered early design decision.
https://twitter.com/doingitwrong/status/447813472580300800 ]
timmaly  technology  marcandreessen  cynicism  technosolutionism  criticism  2014  internet  web  civilization  inequality  power  advertising  money  vc  venturecapital  legacy  unintendedconsequences  fads  wealth  economics  innovation  disruption 
march 2014 by robertogreco
From Superman to the Avengers: Rethinking Bruce Mau Design | UX Magazine
"Nurture Culture

Imagine a newspaper filled with a hilarious collection of things staff said throughout the year, off-color messages scribbled on post-it notes, and a two-page photo spread of "twins" (a.k.a. staff who start dressing similarly after working together for a while). That's the gist of the annual BMD Haiku book that is given to everyone on staff.

What I love about this artifact is that it's about culture, and culture only. It’s not about profit margins or client work, it simply and powerfully creates a snapshot of what it was like to work together for a year. So often as we race toward deadlines and profit goals, we forget that we are people. It's incredibly important to nurture our relationships, play with one another, and connect as human beings … because those bonds are what get us through the rough spots in projects.

So, what are you doing as a team or organization to celebrate, laugh, and nurture your culture? Do you have an explicit way to reflect upon the quirky uniqueness of your group? Are you making time to socialize and get to know each other?

There are a million ways to create stronger connections. For example, if you've had a particularly tough week at Cooper, you earn temporary ownership of a stuffed fish and a chance to make light of your angst with everyone.

I know teams that have "Grilled Cheese Fridays," go jogging together at noon, and have bad idea contests. The most important thing is that you instigate ongoing practices to keep culture alive.

“Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge.”—Bruce Mau

In closing, there are many ways BMD could have addressed the departure of their founder. They chose to embrace that change and become a new kind of organization, driven by a group of superheroes. That decision impacted how they perceive themselves, create, and interact with clients. So far, it seems to be working. And no matter how it turns out, you have to give them credit for owning change, rather than letting it own them.

As Alan Cohen said, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new, but there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change, there is power.”

Sometimes, change is a catalyst for organizations. Sometimes, when leaders retire, those who remain build from the legacy and blossom."
teams  culture  bmd  brucemaudesign  organizations  design  2014  brucemau  play  playfulness  tcsnmy  legacy  change  classideas  projectideas  writing  newspaperclub 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What the Smithsonian needs in a leader - The Washington Post
"The next secretary of the Smithsonian will face serious challenges including a decaying campus of buildings that needs major renovation and fundraising concerns that may complicate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And then there are the perennial issues: maintaining relations with Congress, keeping budgets intact, negotiating the cultural politics of the 21st century, and redefining the institution for new generations with an insatiable appetite for digital interaction and spectacle.

And yet ask around, and when people think about what kind of person should replace G. Wayne Clough as the next secretary, they don’t talk in terms of skill sets, or professional background. Business prowess and fund raising skill aren’t even on the list, indeed, after years of wanton commercialization of the institution, they are in bad odor. What matters now, after a string of desultory and sometimes disastrous secretaries, is finding someone with three essential personal qualities: boundless curiosity, courage and generosity."



"The problems Clough inherited weren’t just a string of embarrassments from a venal leader. Small brought an ugly ethos to the Smithsonian, staffed its top leadership with people who shared it, and generally infected the place with the idea that the only bottom line was the bottom line. Old ideals about scholarship and the “increase and diffusion of knowledge” were discarded."

...

"For all his institutional prowess and his deft touch with the moneyed and political classes, Ripley is remembered primarily as a man who loved knowledge. Among the many things that rankle about Clough is his having paid more than a million dollars to a “brand experience” firm to come up with the tawdry tagline “Seriously Amazing.” Ripley would never have done that, mainly because his entire life was spent living out the founding idea of the best-branded institution in American cultural life, a Smithsonian devoted to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.”



So it’s a troubling possibility that not only do men like Ripley not exist anymore, but that the world they mastered doesn’t exist anymore. Even more troubling, however, is the possibility that America is no longer producing leaders of this intellectual caliber. We may now be seeing the long-term impact of the fragmentation of knowledge, the contempt for art and the redefinition of accomplishment in exclusively commercial or entrepreneurial terms."



"The search committee’s choice will be scrutinized in light of a recent report by the American Academy of Arts and Letters that detailed an international trend away from education and funding for the liberal arts and social sciences, a potentially disastrous slight of things the authors says are “essential for the inventiveness, competitiveness, security, and personal fulfillment of the American public.” The next secretary may or may not be from the humanities (Ripley was a scientist), but he or she will have to love them deeply and without condescension, and be able to negotiate the intersection of art and science without trivializing the former or fetishizing the latter."
via:straup  2013  smithsonian  museums  culture  us  gwayneclough  lawrencesmall  sdillonripley  jcarterbrown  curiosity  generosity  knowledge  intellect  education  priorities  institutions  legacy 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Reinventing Administration - Notes + Links / Casey A. Gollan
"For months-and-months I’ve been sitting on a slowly-changing monster of an essay draft titled Reinventing Administration, borne out of my experiences in the last couple of years working with and fighting against the people in charge of Cooper Union. Inspired by Heather Marsh’s awesome serialized blog posts on collaboration, today I’m going to start noodling-in-public on different thoughts until this topic is out of my system and my drafts folder. While Cooper is the subject of these writings, it’s kind of interchangeable: an object through which I hope to address the challenge of reforming institutions who seem to have…gotten away from themselves. The problems here are not unique, and the questions we (the community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors) have had to ask form a kind of rubric against which to check out-of-whack leadership at schools everywhere.

Here are some topics that come to mind, which I’ll link up like a table of contents if they come into existence, and add to as I go:

• How did Cooper Union get into a death spiral?
• Is all money dirty? Or, how can anybody sleep at night knowing that an egalitarian institution is funded by businessmen who’re widening inequalities elsewhere?
• Legacy, as in cobwebs.
• Preservation vs. building a new city.
• Transparency, accountability, and other cans of worms.
• Asynchronous collaboration walks into a meeting an falls over laughing.
• Community theater (as in appeasement and “fake consensus” not showtunes. Okay, well, maybe showtunes.)
• Bottlenecks. (Hierarchies vs. networks)
• Who are administrators? Where did they come from? And could we do this without them?
• Who does a bland Public Relations department serve?
• A look at work by others on “Open Government” and “Open Society”
• Git and Github as a metaphor and possibly a working toolkit for Open Government
• Where to stop the technological steamroller
• Pushing the right leverage point — growth — in the wrong direction. Or, growing down and replicating as an alternative to fattening up.
• Does everything inevitably get away from you in the worst possible way, Peter Cooper? Or can you design a non-stifling system that supports its original intention.
• Do we need classroom teaching? An imagined debate between John Taylor Gatto, who learned everything he needed to know smoking cigarettes by the river, and Margaret Edson, whose experiences with schooling are heartwarming rather than traumatic.
• Can classroom teaching be saved? (Picking IRL education up where Clay Shirky left off…and kicked it while it’s down.)"
caseygollan  cooperunion  2013  administration  education  highered  teaching  learning  schools  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  clayshirky  hierarchy  hierarchies  leadership  management  bottlenecks  communitytheater  collaboration  asynchronous  legacy  egalitarianism  inequality  technology  git  github  opengovernment  transparency  johntaylorgatto  petercooper  systems  systemsthinking  opensociety  adminstrativebloat  questions  anarchism  governance  heathermarsh 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention (Full text)
"And if our parents and grandparents could toil and struggle for us…if they could raise beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, and connect the world with the touch of a button…then surely we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids."
us  obama  simplicity  complexity  climatechange  moonlanding  skyscrapers  internet  michelleobama  2012  future  investment  sacrifice  improvement  infrastructure  legacy  via:robinsonmeyer 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Institutional memory and reverse smuggling | wrttn
"At the end of the project someone should've been commissioned to write a book, "What This Goddamn Plant Is: And, How It Works". That book is effectively being written now, only by archaeologists."
engineering  documentation  process  archeology  knowledge  via:straup  institutionalmemory  memory  legacy  tcsnmy  lcproject  2011  via:blech  scale  scaling  bureaucracy  archaeology  reversesmuggling  institutionalarchaeology  institutions  business  reverse  culture  values  posterity  corporateespionage  reversecorporateespionage  organizations  recordkeeping  companies  management  sharing  via:tealtan 
december 2011 by robertogreco
“…than the evening of an Etruscan grove”: Soho in the bones « Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
"we are all of us making and remaking the places we live in on a constant basis, speaking them into reality through the things we say and the comments we leave on blogs, knitting them into being with bicycles and cars and our own two feet. We bring them to life with our custom and our traffic, our peregrinations and the exercise of our habits. And if we want to leave legends behind, we’d better get busy. These particular streets, richly shrouded in story as they are, demand no less."
adamgreenfield  memory  place  meaning  meaningmaking  soho  london  2011  subcultures  bike  biking  cars  cities  atemporality  change  evolution  urban  urbanism  pedestrians  walking  persistence  persistenceofmemory  legacy  living  life  reinvention  making  remaking  markmaking  from delicious
september 2011 by robertogreco
Graduation Speech - SLA Class of 2011 - Practical Theory
"And after you have forgotten the granular details of the periodic table of elements, continue to honor the scientific spirit of inquiry, always asking powerful questions and seeking out complex answers.

That is, we hope, what you have learned from us. That inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are not just words in a mission statement but an iterative process of learning that can and will serve you the rest of your life if you let it. And perhaps above all else, remember that throughout that process, there are those in your life who have been there, who have cared about you, who have mentored you, and in doing so, hope that you will pay that forward. That you will care for those around you. That you will understand that the intersection of that ethic of care and that spirit of inquiry starts with asking the question, “What do you think?” caring about the answer, and then taking action."
learning  chrislehmann  inquiry  inquiry-basedlearning  education  collaboration  research  presentation  reflection  process  skepticism  ethics  care  questioning  action  actionminded  agency  legacy  persistence  tcsnmy  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  commencementspeeches  commencementaddresses  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Free Science, One Paper at a Time | Wired Science | Wired.com
"For the past three centuries, he noted, technology has prevented us from fulfilling Panizzi’s dream of fast, free science. But the technology is there now, and so are the business models, as PLoS has shown. So what is the revolution waiting for."
history  science  research  collaboration  opensource  publishing  2011  daviddobbs  jonathaneisen  howardeisen  legacy  revolution  change  culture  academia  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
ScienceDirect - Research in Social Stratification and Mobility : Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations
"Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China. Data are from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases, analyzed using multi-level linear and probit models with multiple imputation of missing data." [Great stuff, although I'm not sure I like the use of unschooled in the abstract.]

[via: http://weblogg-ed.com/2010/the-end-of-books-for-me-at-least/ ]
education  books  libraries  reading  parenting  tcsnmy  generations  unschooling  heritage  legacy  learningculture  families 
april 2010 by robertogreco
The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Legacy Locker
"As people increasingly document their lives digitally, and move the majority of their interactions to the internet, there is a strange undeadness that happens to their online presence after they are gone. I have had first hand experience with this in my family last year, it is very difficult to get all the passwords and account logins sorted so that you can set everything straight once someone is gone. I would love to hear from someone who has used this service…"
death  digitalfootprint  digital  accounts  privacy  legacy  passwords 
april 2009 by robertogreco
After Credentials
"Judging people by academic credentials was...an advance...seems to have begun in China...in 587 candidates for imperial civil service...take an exam on classical literature...Before...government positions were obtained mainly by family influence...bribery...great step forward to judge people by performance on a test... [not] a perfect solution...The use of credentials was an attempt to seal off the direct transmission of power between generations, and cram schools represent that power finding holes in the seal. Cram schools turn wealth in one generation into credentials in the next...History suggests that, all other things being equal, a society prospers in proportion to its ability to prevent parents from influencing their children's success directly...general solution...push for increased transparency, especially at critical social bottlenecks like college admissions...better way...make credentials matter less... If you could measure actual performance, you wouldn't need them."
education  learning  paulgraham  credentials  schools  colleges  universities  testing  SAT  parenting  government  economics  business  performance  admissions  gamechanging  inheritance  legacy  careers  deschooling  korea  us  china  history  unschooling  homeschool  merit  lcproject  wealth  power  influence  competition  competitiveness  society 
december 2008 by robertogreco
Joi Ito's Web: My Timothy Leary
"The project involves a terminus made from the mortal remains of Timothy which are connected to a sarcophagus installation. It keeps track of and maintains a network of volunteer angels who keep his archival identity parts alive on the Net."
death  etoy  memory  internet  art  legacy 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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