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Monthly Archives: December 2016

December 31, 2016

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

It's human nature to be pessimistic, but this can have political consequences.

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What’s it about?

Johan Norberg argues that people often think things are worse than they are. Bad things are more newsworthy and memorable. Nature blessed us with an ability to recall negative events easier than positive ones, and “40 million Planes Landed Safely Last Year” does not make a good headline.

Progress:

  1. 71% of Britons think the world is getting worse; only 5% think it is improving.
  2. Only 5% of American’s guess correctly that world poverty has halved in the last 20 years. In both cases a Chimpanzee guessing randomly would do better.
  3. In two centuries the number of humans living on less than $2 a day has gone from 94% to 10%.
  4. Improvements in medical science mean lifespans have increased dramatically. 68% of the world has modern sanitation, a luxury 18th Century Kings lacked.
  5. Better nutrition and the spread of education means people are smarter too. IQ rates are rising all the time.
  6. Tolerance has spread. More people are able to read, hear, and imagine themselves in other people’s shoes.

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Despite the bloody headlines, the world is far safer than it used to be. The homicide rate in hunter-gatherer societies was about 500 times what it is in Europe today. Globally, wars are smaller and less frequent than they were a generation ago.

The only type of violence that is growing more common is terrorism, and people wildly overestimate how much of it there is. The average European is ten times more likely to die by falling down stairs than to be killed by a terrorist.

Evidence that the past was more brutal than the present can be gleaned not only from data but also from cultural clues. For example, one study in Britain found children’s nursery rhymes are 11 times more violent than television programmes aired before 9pm.

Problems

Male blue-collar workers have seen no improvement in their earnings for several years. Technology could continue to destroy many low-skilled jobs. And nature is being thinned dramatically. Global Warming is a worry, too. Green technology is advancing and farming is becoming more efficient. Perhaps human ingenuity will triumph.

Take Away Points and Context

  • It’s human nature to be pessimistic, but this can have political consequences. A strong majority of voters in favor of Brexit and Donald Trump believe that life was better in the past.
  • Progress, both technological and moral, is all around. The Caste System is eroding in India, for example.
  • There will always be some losers from progress and it’s up to government and society to help those groups.

 

Full Article:

Better and Better: The state of the world

The Economist

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.

By Johan Norberg.

Oneworld; 246 pages; $24.99 and £16.99.

Progress. Your comments welcome below.

December 30, 2016

Why Trees have feelings too: Amazing Discoveries in a German Forest

In their own way trees have feelings. They communicate with each other and help each other in times of need.

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What’s it about?

Thomas Pakenham looks at the literature on trees, new and old, and at recent discoveries that show trees can communicate with each other through underground networks connected by fungi.

Why Trees have feelings too:

  1. The Oak tree has been a symbol of power and strength since classical times. Britain, the US and twelve other European countries now claim it as their national tree.
  2. Oak can survive for around 600 to a 1,000 years. Exact estimates are impossible, since the oldest oaks are hollow, their inner rings missing. Within Britain a few, around 500-600 years of age, still stand proud.  It’s possible for visitors to enter into the interior of the Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire. Diner parties for 17 people were recorded inside it in the eighteenth century.
  3. In the 17 Century, John Every wrote a best seller on trees, Slyva, or a Discourse on foreign trees. Despite many attempts, few books have matched it in elegance and authority. A hundred years after it was first published it was reissued with elegant copperplate illustrations and new commentary.
  4. The European ash and horse-chestnut are threatened by diseases from Asia. Parks and forest across Europe and North America are being destroyed. In Denmark 80 percent of European ashes have already gone. It may already be too late to stop. A combination of fungus, beetles and bacteria means many wood-lined roads, green parks, and sheltered towns will be left bare.
  5. One solution is to reintroduce Asian varieties of the same trees, as it is believed these are immune. It will take many years to find out.
  6. A forest in  Hummel, a small village in the Eifel Mountains in Germany, has been found to have an extensive network, called a mycorrizha. Fungi connect trees of different species by passing electrical signals along their roots. The trees communicate by exchanging carbon, often helping others in time of need and receiving the favor back in turn. They also exchange vital information. Alerting their children and neighbors to opportunities and threats.

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The oak has always been admired for its staying power…. No other tree is so self-possessed, so evidently at one with the world. Unlike the beech, horse chestnut or sycamore, whose branches reach up towards the sky, the solid, craggy trunk of a mature oak spreads out, as if with open arms, to create a vast hemisphere of thick, clotted leaves.

It is this copious canopy that provides a home for an astonishing number of small insects, birds, animals, lichens, ferns, and fungi. A great oak is a world in itself. The King of the Trees, the head, heart and habitat of an entire civilization.

Poetry

Trees have appeared in poetry as well ancient texts (the Oak was the tree of Zeus, the Greek King of Gods). John Clare wrote of the splendid sycamore, for example. Its sticky leaves were a great gift to the world. Percy Shelley described sycamore leaves as “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.”

“If Winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

Take Away Points and Context

  • The new books match the original Sylva in their lyrical descriptions and new discoveries, reminding us of trees inherent beauty,  gifts for survival, and cultural associations.
  • In their own way trees have feelings. They communicate with each other and help each other in times of need. Living their lives in harmony with the ecosystem and each other.
  • The message that these books carry is the same as Evelyn’s three centuries ago. We need trees for many reasons, grab your spade and plant one today.

 

Full Article:

What the Trees Say

Thomas Pakenham

 

Greystone/David Suzuki Institute, 272 pp., $24.95

 

Why Trees have feelings too. Your comments welcome below.

December 30, 2016

Why Russia Seems Strong but is Weak

The new nationalism builds on traditional Russian insecurities, resentments and jealousies and is something the population want to believe.

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What’s it about?

Arkady Ostrovky looks at Russia, Putin, Wars and Nationalism, and why Russia has not yet become a free-market democracy.  His review illuminates how much has changed and stayed the same in Russia over the last half century.

Why Russia Seems Strong but is Weak:

  1. Russian’s knowledge of the past is patchy, filtered through the myths created by the current regime.
  2. The economy has descended into stagnation after a decade of economic growth. The market reforms of the 90’s have petered out, oil prices are low, and the States share of the economy has doubled. Competition has withered, the rule of law is patchy, the economy is run by a small clique of insiders, connected with the ruling political elite.
  3. The KGB has been rebuilt as the main vehicle for political and economic power, restoring the two main pillars of the Soviet state: propaganda and repression.
  4. Russia has a vibrant urban and wealthy middle class. Russian cities are modern and European. The young are educated and open minded.
  5. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and attack on Ukraine came after protests against his rigging of the 2011 election. Rattled, Putin began to spread nationalism, creating the notion of Russia as threatened by the West.
  6. Military triumphs and anti-American propaganda flood the airwavess, fueling the idea of a besieged country protected only by Putin and the security forces.

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Russia has no intention of going to war with America or its allies. Instead it will act through non-military means “to undermine the general political and strategic potential of major Western powers, to disrupt national self-confidence, to increase social and industrial unrest, to stimulate all forms of disunity…

Anti-British talk will be plugged among Americans, anti-American talk among British. Germans will be taught to abhor both Anglo-Saxon powers. Where suspicions exist, they will be fanned; where not, ignited.”

So wrote George Kennan, the “wise man” of American diplomacy, in a famous telegram from Moscow in 1946.

Seventy years later the telegram seems as relevant as ever, because the system that Kennan described is being rebuilt.

Resurgence and Decline

Russia modified and liberalized after the collapse of the Soviet Union, creating private ownership, launching new industries, and freeing people to make money, consume and travel. The state retreated. Although TV, radio and print are controlled, the internet is free. At critical junctures an elite came to dominate the economy resurrecting the old spy service. The path of least resistance seemed to be chauvinism and paranoia, and the Kremlin’s traditional neurotic view of world affairs.

Putin’s skill has been to co-opt the public along the same lines. His propaganda builds on the disrespect and disbelief Russian’s have for objective truth. When all facts serve some purpose, it is easy to portray the West’s policies as rigged and as hypocritical as Russia’s are.

The new nationalism builds on traditional Russian insecurities, resentments and jealousies and is something the population wants to believe.

Take Away Points and Context

  • It was naive to think that after 74 years of Soviet Rule, and several centuries of paternalism before, that Russia would emerge as a functioning Western-style democracy. Nevertheless, Russia’s current state was not inevitable and has been brought about by decisions the Russia elite have taken when facing hard choices.
  • The economy is stifled by corruption, lack of external investment, an over-mighty state, weak rule of law, and an authoritarian culture that thrives on fear and keeps young minds closed. This increases the risk that Russia will face slow economic and intellectual degradation.
  • Russia’s interventions abroad have, in the Russian people’s eyes, restored Russia’s status to that of a Great Power. Yet the Russian military is weak, its growth limited by a declining population and aging technology. Russia uses both military and non-military means to assert itself, and as a generation of leaders who lived through the second world war passes away, a new generation, less afraid of violence, threatens the use of nuclear power.

 

Full Article:

Russia: Inside the bear

A Special Report in the Economist.

 

Why Russia Seems Strong but is Weak. Your comments welcome below.

December 29, 2016

We are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal

The ability of billions of people to create and spread their own version of culture is something brand new.

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What’s it about?

Seth Godin argues that the age of mass marketing is over and the explosion of communication channels means we all have a chance to find our people (tribe) and market to them. Anyone can lead a movement as long as they find their tribe and offer them something valuable.

We are All Weird:

  1. Human beings prefer to organize in tribes, into groups of people who share a leader or a culture or a definition of normal. The digital revolution has enabled silos of tribes to come together in groups that outsiders think weird.
  2. The mass market didn’t always exist. In 1918, there were 2,000 car companies in the US. Prior to that markets were even more local. Standardization and television created the mass market. The internet and social media has returned us ‘back to normal.’
  3. The new normal gives us more information, more choice, more freedom, and more interaction. Combined with rich world wealth, this means we develop hobbies and idiosyncratic preferences and seek out people who share them.
  4. Western culture has encouraged conformity and the idea of normal. School encourages certain lifestyles. Manufacturers encourage everyone to find a mainstream hobby and buy mainstream supplies. Music companies and book publishers sold only mainstream products.
  5. Now there are millions and millions of new markets. Each specific. The efficiency of focusing on these markets makes up for their lack of size. 20% of 1 million is better than 1% of 10 (million).
  6. People are searching for connection more than consumption. Selling today revolves around making that connection.

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Amplified creation, marketing efficiency, and the support of tribes, then, are pushing toward one outcome: we’re getting weirder. Mass is withering. The only things pushing against this trend are the factory mind-set and the cultural bias towards compliance.

The revolution that we’re living through has many facets, and a profound and overlooked one is that mass is not the center any longer. Us and not-us is a dead end.

Our culture in now a collection of tribes, and each tribe is a community of interests, many of whom get along, some who don’t.

Different forces

The forces for normal include: Big Media, Manufactures, Franchises, Large Service Firms.

The forces for weird include: wealth, media choice, shopping choice, and the human spirit.

Take Away Points and Context

  • The ability of billions of people to create and spread their own version of culture is something brand new, something that will make the changes of the last decade look trivial.
  • The opportunity lies in being the one the weird seek out. This means you must be weird as well.
  • Research reports that the ability to be weird, the freedom to make choices, and the ability to be heard correlates to happiness. This is the same around the world, regardless of race or geography.

 

Full Article:

This is my own review of We are all Weird, for more on this topic and other subjects see www.mattmcginty.net, or see the book below.

We are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal

by Seth Godin

Portfolio Penguin, 103 pp, $5.02.

 

We are All Weird. Your comments welcome below.

December 29, 2016

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

The two core abilities for thriving in the information economy are the ability to master hard things and to produce at a high level.

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What’s it about?

Cal Newport looks at the need for ‘deep work,’ the ability to focus for uninterrupted periods of time and gain a deep understanding of a subject, while forming connections and improvisations. He argues that deep work is rare, valuable and meaningful, and harder to achieve in an age of increasing distractions.

Deep Work:

  1. The two core abilities for thriving in the information economy are the ability to master hard things and the ability to produce at a high level, in terms of both quality and speed. Both depend on your ability to do deep work.
  2. Deliberate practice needs your attention to focus on a specific skill you are trying to master or improve. You receive feedback so you can correct your approach and keep focusing your attention where its most productive.
  3. Within the world of business, open-plan offices, meetings, chance encounters and intrusive communication technologies are favored over the ability to do deep work. Many of these decrease a person’s ability to do deep work. Connections and collaboration often come at the expense of being able to focus. As do social media or similar technologies.
  4. Research suggest human beings are at their best when immersed  in something challenging. Deep work can lead to the development of skills that will make a career rewarding.
  5. It’s possible to train yourself to do deep work in snatches throughout the day, between other tasks.
  6. A societal belief that new technology must be good, combined with extensive marketing by big technology firms means that technologies are often adopted without critical reflection on their utility.

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Discipline 1: Focus your most energy on the most important, reduce time on ‘shallow’ work.

Discipline 2: Reserve and record time spent in deep work

Discipline 3: Undertake weekly reviews, to work out what went well and what didn’t

Be Lazy: Give yourself downtime after work. Switch off.

Downtime:

  • a) aids insight
  • b) helps recharge energy
  • c) usually replaces work that is not that important anyway.

Avoid new technology: Schedule time on the internet and social media both at work and at home.

Meditate: Focus your attention on a problem while undertaking physical activity.

  • a) be wary of distractions (thinking of easier things) and looping (going over and over what you already know).
  • b) structure your deep thinking
    • i) identify the relevant variables to the problem and keep them in mind,
    • ii) identify and work on your next step question (the next thing you need to do),
    • iii) assuming you’ve solved the problem, review and consolidate your answer.

Quit Social Media

While social media have some benefits, the downsides may outweigh these. A tool should only be adopted if its positive impacts outweigh its negative impacts on reaching your goal. Not every new technology is good, and consideration is needed before we decide if and how we are to adopt them in our lives. Even when technologies are adopted we should be careful to use them not so much for entertainment, but to further our career and life goals.

Take Away Points and Context

  • Deep work is not for everyone. It requires hard work and difficult habits. It may involve confronting that your best is not (yet) that good and doing away with an artificial sense of purpose that comes from being ‘busy’.
  • For some it can, however, be rewarding and productive. Learning about deep work and the many obstacles to undertaking it seems useful.

 

Full Article:

This is my own review of So Good Can’t Ignore You, for more on this topic and other subjects see www.mattmcginty.net, or see the book below.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

by Cal Newport

Hatchet Book Group, 256 pp, $14.60.

 

Deep Work. Comments welcome below

December 29, 2016

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Telling someone to follow their passion may potentially lead to a career riddled with confusion and angst.

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What’s it about?

Cal Newport looks at the passion hypothesis: that following your passion is what we all should do, arguing instead that job satisfaction comes through building up skills and then trading these for control. Along the way he introduces us to new concepts and mental models such as the craftsman mentality, career capital and control traps, illuminating the essential factors that make people satisfied with their job.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You:

  1. Passion is rare and dangerous. Few of us know what we are passionate about, often what we think will make us happy does not. There is a whole industry built up marketing the belief that courage is all you need in order to follow your passion. This can be dangerous if it means taking risks and forgoing the acquisition of education or skills that often lead to life-satisfaction.
  2. Craftsmen work with effort and clarity at what they do and any job can count as a craft. The craftsman mindset asks what can you do for the world, not what they world can do for you. It might be better to put aside your ideas of following your passion and become good at what you do. The craftsman approach can be the foundation on which you build a strong career.
  3. All good jobs seems to have three basic components. Creativity, Impact and Control. In short, we are most satisfied when we feel free to be creative, when we feel our work impacts and improves the lives of others and when we feel we are in control, with autonomy to work when, where and how we want to.
  4. In order to gain these three things we need to develop skills that are rare and valuable. By working with a craftsman mentality we can build up these skills. The better our skill-set the better our career capital and the more we can trade this capital for impact and autonomy.
  5. Deliberate practice is the key to building career capital through rare and valuable skills. Deliberate practice means 10,000 hours of practice, but with feedback built into it. It is stretching your ability to where it is uncomfortable and then receiving feedback.
  6. When you come to exchange your career capital for more control you will come across obstacles or control traps. Your employer will fight against your bid for more control. A bid for control can go wrong if you don’t have the capital to back it up.

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Rule 1: The passion hypothesis is not just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Telling someone to “follow their passion” is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.

Rule 2: Regardless of how you feel right now, building a craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you can build a compelling career. Adopting a craftsman mindset first means passion follows.

Rule 3: Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.

The 10,00 hour rule: The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The phrase encaptures the idea that with deliberate practice you will build the skills necessary for a successful career and a successful career can be used to create missions. Missions can bring a unifying focus to a career and they focus energy toward a useful goal. They require career capital, little bets (which may or may not work out), and to be remarkable (i.e. worth remarking on).

Take Away Points and Context

  • While some people are able to locate a passion and follow it these cases are rare. For the vast majority of people there is no pre-ordained vocation or single pre-existing passion.
  • Most likely one of the core components of your ideal job will be the idea of control. Others will include impact and creativity. Acquire career capital and trade it for these things.
  • The craftsman mentality does not work in areas where: there are no opportunities to distinguish yourself, where your job focuses on things you think are useless or bad for the world, or where you are forced to work with people you dislike.

 

Full Article:

This is my own review of So Good Can’t Ignore You, for more on this topic and other subjects see www.mattmcginty.net, or see the book below.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

by Cal Newport

Hatchet Book Group, 256 pp, $14.60.

 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Comments welcome below.

December 29, 2016

The Future of Driverless Cars

The question is not if driverless cars can happen, but when and under what circumstances.

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What’s it about?

Sue Halpern looks at driverless cars: the technology, debate, risks, and the road ahead.

The world’s first self-driving taxi service entered into operation in Singapore this August (2016). A few weeks later, Uber, the app based taxi service, launched a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. The vehicles keep a human in the seat in case of emergencies, but the cars otherwise drive themselves.

Google, Baidu, Lyft, GM, Ford, Delphi and Daimler and several other companies are competing to do away with drivers once and for all.

The Future of Driverless Cars:

  1. The timelines for implementation of autonomous vehicles vary from report to report. Morgan Stanley’s bullish view is “100% autonomous penetration” by 2026. The university of Michigan says 2030, IHS automotive 2050.
  2. Google’s recent autonomous car division project manager, Chris Umson, states the technology will implemented incrementally: Starting in safe places, or places willing to experiment, or with early adopters.
  3. Many new cars already have machines undertake certain tasks: automatic windscreen wipers, brakes, blind-spot detectors, cruise control, self-parking, and for Tesla – autopilot mode. Machines take in information from the environment and then implement an outcome based on predetermined algorithms.
  4. Although self-driving cars have the potential to be safer than the human-driven sort, there is likely to be a point during their early adoption where they are less safe. This danger could be heightened where there is split responsibility between human and machine. Already there have been three deaths in Tesla cars while on auto-pilot.
  5. As the technology becomes widely adopted the point of increased danger should recede. More cars will be able to talk to each other, artificial intelligence will learn and improve, technology will improve. Data from GPS, radar, laser radar (lidar), sonar, inertial measurement utility and ordinary cameras will become better integrated and the decision making algorithms more accurate.
  6. The biggest hurdles may be ethical and legal. Who will need the insurance, the driver or the software manufacturer? Who will be responsible in the event of an accident? How will we distinguish blame in semi-autonomous, mixed cars? How will the algorithms be written? Will we favour children over adults? Will we kill two adults to save one child?

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Utopia looks something like this: fleets of autonomous vehicles—call them taxi bots—owned by companies like Uber and Google, able to be deployed on demand, that will eliminate the need for private car ownership. (Currently, most privately owned cars sit idle for most of the day, taking up space and depreciating in value.)

Fewer privately owned vehicles will result in fewer cars on the road overall. With fewer cars will come fewer traffic jams and fewer accidents. Fewer accidents will enable cars to be made from lighter materials, saving on fuel. They will be smaller, too, since cars will no longer need to be armored against one another.

With less private car ownership, individuals will be freed of car payments, fuel and maintenance costs, and insurance premiums. Riders will have more disposable income and less debt. The built environment will improve as well, as road signs are eliminated—smart cars always know where they are and where they are going—and parking spaces, having become obsolete, are converted into green spaces.

Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that switching to full vehicle autonomy will save the United States economy alone $1.3 trillion a year.

A big change

The major car makers understand their days of dominance are over, all are making alliances with tech companies.

The companies with the best software will win.

Driverless cars will become more noticeable on the streets, smaller, made of different material and designs and without steering wheels and brake peddles.

Capital will be the winner. Those with the robots will prosper, while many middle class jobs are likely to go.

Mass transit systems, too, may disappear, made cost ineffective by the ubiquitous fleet of self-driving cars.

Take Away Points and Context

  • The pace of technological innovation is rapid, particularly in the case of artificial intelligence and the area of ‘deep learning’, the ability of machines to process and learn from information.
  • The question is not if driverless cars can happen, but when and under what circumstances.
  • There were 35,000 traffic fatalities in the US alone last year, and over six million accidents, almost all due to human error. Self-driving cars have the potential to eliminate road deaths, making the time where we tolerated such casualties an anachronism of the past.
  • There are dangers in the effect on jobs. Taxi driving has traditionally been a route into the middle class for the less-educated or for immigrants.
  • There are dangers that privacy will be eroded, with big tech companies, such as Google, collecting data on where passengers go, what they do in the cars, and what advertisements to best show them during their ride.

 

Full Article:

 

Our Driverless Future

Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead

by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman
MIT Press, 312 pp., $29.95

 

The Future of Driverless Cars. Comments welcome below.

December 28, 2016

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Financial Independence is the point where you can live off your savings. The more you can save now, the earlier that time will come.

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What’s it about?

Joe Dominguez and Viki Robin’s classic book on transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence. A book about capitalism, consumerism, money and what it means to us, and how to find meaning in life by doing work we love. Making a living, not a dying.

A book for anyone who wants to live and work on their terms, not societies, and needs money only to survive, not for status.

Your Money or Your Life:

  1. The Industrial Revolution was successful in providing the material goods that were necessary for a basic standard of living in Western Society. This point was reached some 40 years ago.
  2. By the early 1920s the capacity of machinery to fill human needs was so successful the economy was slowing down. Workers were asking for a shorter workweek and more leisure to enjoy the fruits of their labours. They did not seem as instinctively eager to buy new goods and services (like cars, chemicals, appliances and entertainment) as they did the old ones (like food, clothing, and shelter).
  3. Two sectors of American society were alarmed at this trend. The moralists, who believed that idle hands would do the work of the devil, and the industrialists, who were afraid of damage to economic growth. The first worried about corruption of the Protestant work ethic, the second feared that workers would choose leisure over consumption (at their expense).
  4. Culture was reconfigured to educate people to want things that they didn’t need. Art, science and industry came to serve a new concept, that of ‘standard of living,’ convincing workers to pursue higher levels of consumption rather than stop and be satisfied.
  5. Instead of leisure being relaxing activity, it became an opportunity to consume –  travel and vacations meant the consumption of even leisure itself .
  6. Several research studies have confirmed that above a certain subsistence level money does not make you happy. There is a fulfilment curve at which overconsumption actually deceases happiness.

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So here we are the most affluent society that has had the privilege to walk the face of the earth, and were stuck with our noses to the grindstone, our lives in a perpetual loop between home and job and our hearts yearning for something that’s just over the horizon.

We have come to believe that it is our right to consume. If we have money we can buy whatever we want, whether or not we need it, use it or even enjoy it. After all, it’s a free country. And if we don’t have the money…heck, what are credit cards for?

Born to shop. Whoever dies with the most toys wins. Life, liberty and the pursuit of material possessions.

A new relationship

As well as its transactional value money can be about power, security, status and social acceptance. Understanding your relationship with money and what it costs you to obtain is the first step to getting control of your finances. What does your job cost you? Take off the holidays, the commute, the meals out, the bottles of wine: all the things you might do to drown out your despair. How much of your daily expenses are really needed?

The authors ask us to be diligent and ruthless in understanding our earnings and expenditure and ensuring that we always save more than we spend.

Take Away Points and Context

  • The planet is showing signs of nearing its capacity to handle the results of our economic growth and consumerism. Water shortages, topsoil loss, global warming, species extinction, natural resource degradation and depletion, and air pollution. The world will be unable to live as the West has done for the last 40-50 years.
  • Society exhibits a caste mentality with regard to your status, derived through what job you do and how much it earns you. Numerous psychotherapists have documented the effect of this social belief system. A continuous supply of ‘successful’ professionals with empty souls and burnt out bodies showing up to take a seat at the clinicians chair.
  • Financial Independence is the point where you can live of your savings. The more you can save now, the earlier that time will come. Work thereafter is a choice, not a trap.

 

Full Article:

This is my own review of Your Money or Your Life, for more on this topic and other subjects see www.mattmcginty.net, or see the book below.

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

by Joe Dominguez and Viki Robin

Viking Penguin, 363 pp, $9.55.

 

Your Money or Your Life. Comments Welcome below.

December 28, 2016

American Genocide: Indian Enslavement in America

For American Indians, slavery in the New World persevered over four centuries while changing forms.

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What’s it about?

Peter Nabokov looks at the size and nature of the massacres and enslavement of the America’s original inhabitants.

Whether the slavery systems were  indigenous, European colonial, or US national, they grew into complex cultural matrices intertwining slavery, wealth and social power. Indigenous and Euro-American slave systems evolved and innovated in response to each other. North America was a vast, dynamic map of raiding, trading and resettling.

American Genocide: Indian Enslavement in America:

  1. For two centuries after Columbus’s arrival on the continent an enslaved Indian workforce was put to work throughout Mexico, Florida, the American Southwest, the South American Coast and the Philippines.
  2. As opposed to the transatlantic trade in African slaves there was no monolithic institution in which slaves were auctioned as commodities. Practices differed across the region and under different colonial powers.
  3. Right from the start of Spain’s colonization of North America there was resistance to the idea of slavery in Spain, although it never amounted to much.
  4. Loose estimates are that the system composed of some 2.5 million to five million Indians. Overwork, foreign pathogens, famine, and abuse contributed to the 90 percent decline in the North American Indian population between Columbus’s arrival and 1900.
  5. The slavery system bolstered hatred, discrimination, multiethnic animosities and all sorts of human suffering. Not least the terror of surviving amid bands of slave raiders.
  6. Slavery was a contributing factor in UCLA historian Benjamin Madley’s argument that genocide is the only appropriate term for what happened to native peoples in north-central California between 1846 and 1873.

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Madley has documented his charge of genocide by years of scrolling through local newspapers, histories, personal diaries, memoirs, and official letters and reports.

These revealed what many indigenous groups endured at the hands of US military campaigns, state militia expeditions, impromptu small-town posses, and gold miners, as well as ordinary citizens who hunted natives on weekends.

Most western historians and demographers could agree that genocidal behavior toward the North American Indian population occurred during the nineteenth century.

Madley has concentrated on the killing in California during the bloody years between 1846 and 1873.

An Indictment

As gold drew ever more migrants to settle and colonialise California, the Indian communities came under attack. There was pervasive racism towards the states’s diverse and generally peaceful native population. Many of the atrocities were committed not by soldiers but by companies of militiamen. Natives were raped, starved, tortured and whipped with killing indiscriminant. The region was a quilt of many killing fields.

Take Away Points and Context

  • For American Indians slavery in the New World took many forms that persevered over four centuries while changing according to local conditions, global pressures, and maneuvers to evade abolitionist crusades.
  • The word ‘extermination’ was often used by military, religious and bureaucratic hardliners. For most, this outcome was considered no great tragedy – as an entire people were defined as savage and subhuman.

 

Full article:

Indians, Slaves, and Mass Murder: The Hidden History

Peter Nabokov

 

 American Genocide: Indian Enslavement in America. Your comments welcome below.

December 28, 2016

Barack Obama The End of Hope: Reflections on his time in office

A legacy of Obama’s humble view of America’s interests and influence may be a more leaderless global order.

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What’s it about?

The Economist writes an Essay on Barack Obama, covering his childhood, tenure, achievement, struggles and plans for the future. From being a skinny kid growing up in Hawaii, through to his time in office. Bold ideas either unimplemented or about to be undone, a mix of diplomatic bravery and timidity, and the mixed results of his character and skin-color on US race relations.

Barack Obama: The End of Hope:

  1. Despite being awarded the Nobel peace prize in his first year in office the US has remained at war. Bombing seven countries, often from unmanned drones, in 2016 alone.
  2. The failure of the Bush years, the Arab Spring and the rise of IS has seen America embedded, for one reason or an other, in the Middle East.
  3. Some trace a direct line from Obama’s reluctance to get involved in Syria (not enforcing the ‘red line’ he drew on the use of chemical weapons) to Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and to China’s Island building in the South China Sea.
  4. Despite the elation about race relations Obama’s election encouraged, the share of Americans who worry about them “a great deal” has doubled since 2008.
  5. One view is that race relations are not worse, but more visible. Disappointment, because it speaks of high expectations, may be grounds for optimism.
  6. The affordable care act and other changes Obama oversaw in the White House will by 2017 have boosted the after tax-income of the bottom 20% of America by around 18% compared to at the start of his tenure.

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From the start of his Presidency, Mr Obama worried that he could not bear the weight of expectation he had inspired. On the night of his first victory he spoke of “unyielding hope” in “a place where all things are possible.”

Yet for all his achievements, his intellect and his grace, his eight years in office imply that even the most powerful leader in the world—a leader of rare talents, anointed with a nation’s dreams—can seem powerless to direct it.

From the ruins of Syria to the barricades in Congress and America’s oldest wounds, sometimes nothing has been the best he could do. Sometimes it was all he could do. The possibilities seem shrunken.

After its collision with history, so might hope itself.

The Limits of Power

Democratic leaders often leak political power as they govern, even as their efficiency improves. In Obama’s case, Republican election victories and a wide partisan divide meant that this process was rapid and costly. America’s finances have been patched rather than mended, immigration remains unreformed and despite several massacres gun laws have not been tightened. Notwithstanding the closure order signed on his second day in the job, Guantanamo Bay remains in operation.

Take Away Points and Context

  • Unable to pass laws, Obama turned to executive decrees and regulations, strengthening transgender and gay rights and improving the lot of federal workers, consumers and undocumented migrants.
  • History often moves in zigzags. Non Hispanic whites, will be a minority in the US by 2050. It is too early to tell the effects of Mr Obama’s tenure on race-relations.
  • Events and America’s deadlocked politics can limit the power of the brightest, most hopeful of Presidents.
  • A legacy of his humble view of America’s interests and influence may be a more introverted (if angry) America, and a more uncertain, leaderless global order.

 

Full article:

Barack Obama: A reflection on Barack Obama’s presidency

The Economist

 Barack Obama: The End of Hope. Comments welcome below.