Outta My Mind

A Joneser's rants and riffs, ideas and trends, musings and innovations - all for your perusal and reuse. Steal it. Use it. Tell others.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Jaron Lanier's new book and luddism

@Jaron Lanier's new book, "Who Owns the Future", is getting quite a bit of play of late. This NYTimes article did a nice job of hitting some of the high notes:
Web businesses exploit a peasant class, that users of social media may not realize how entrapped they are, that a thriving middle class is essential to keeping the Internet sustainable. When “ordinary people ‘share,’ while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes,” even that elite will eventually be undermined.
 Well, I don't know about the undermined bit, but the rest rang true. The rant is basically that companies like Facebook are exploiting all of us by getting us to basically create content for free, which they then use to draw millions of viewers to their site, providing a juicy platform and trove of data for advertisers. Google does the same thing. So, why don't *we* start charging FB each time we post something there? After all, we're contributing content, and without content FB would be worthless. Then at least there would be some equity in terms of them making billions off of our contributions.

It would be an interesting argument, except that we've been doing something similar for a hundred years. We buy stuff using money that we worked for instead of making the stuff our selves. We're trading a resource that has value for an item that we want, that we either don't want to make, or couldn't possibly begin to make, by ourselves. Take your car, for instance. The auto makers and their chiefs make enormous sums of money which we gladly provide every time we walk into a dealership and fork over a huge amount of money that may represent half a year's wage for some people. In exchange we get a car - and we don't seem to mind that someone else is getting quite rich off of us.

So why should FB be any different? We contribute a small amount of time to make a post, knowing that we're also handing over a tiny scrap of information that by itself is nearly without value to anyone, but in aggregate is worth - well - a lot.  In exchange we get to stay in touch with family, friends, and high school buddies we had long lost touch with. Should we begrudge FB their billions because they are exploiting our desire to stay in touch with our social networks? Could we just go build our own platform and do it ourselves without them?

Each epoch of human technological progress has brought with it significant social disruption. The dawn of industrialization led to armed conflicts in Europe, as weavers began vandalizing the new knitting mills. They invoked their mythical leader, Ned Ludd, as the inspiration for their attacks, which were motivated by a desire to retain the rural, country life of individual artisans that allowed them to band together in small towns. Industrialization would eventually sweep it all aside, moving people into cities to work in large factories, and do away with much of what was then known as "the way things are" in terms of small towns and vernacular society.

What we are seeing now is some of that same disruption again. The drivers are similar, and so is the bargain we all make - every time we decide to buy something we could have made ourselves, or done without.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I am not a liberal, I am not a conservative - I am a citizen.

I think having a strong military makes sense; I think sticking our nose in other countries' business doesn't. I don't like oppressive regimes - at home or overseas.

Hunters should have the right to own and bear guns for hunting; and should be required to keep those guns in zip codes where it's legal to hunt.

Women should have the right to choose.

I believe access to quality health care should be provided for all citizens of our country. And if you're not a citizen or otherwise here legally, quit the free ride and and go back to where you came from.

I think overtly demonstrative public displays of religious preference, sexual orientation, and affection for one's partner should all be looked upon the same way - keep it to yourself, kids, because we're really not interested. Really.

Everyone has the right to work for a fair wage. And employers should be required to treat all employees fairly. This should include a company's leaders. And investors should be the ones who decide what's fair.

Corporations and other large institutions are not individuals, and should not be treated like them, because you can't send a corporation to prison (if you could, most of the Fortune 500 would be behind bars), and no individual can cross swords with a corporation on a level playing field.

I believe in science, facts, physics, and the mystery of the universe.

I believe we were once a truly great nation. And I believe we have allowed ourselves to fall into a state of disrepair.

I believe one of the things that made us great was the strong sense of individualism, ingenuity, and boldness that our European founders embodied. They enshrined this attitude in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I believe in the potential of every human being, and in doing what one can to help others realize their full potential.

I believe in the potential for our country to prevail as one of the world's greatest, but to do it we're going to have to take better care of our citizens.
It's time for each of us to think about what it means to be a good citizen, and to actively seek a change in our attitude about what it means to be an American, and what constitutes living a successful life here.

I believe that unless we do this or something else that drives a change in direction, in 100 years time we will not be the country our founders risked their lives to create.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Newspapers biting the dust....

Today's headlines includes news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would be publishing its final issue in the coming days, and its staff of 180 would be reduced to 20 or so. This is the lastest casualty in the newspaper business, which is seeing many of its century-old icons bite the dust. Then again, if you think about it, it really does sorta make sense. I mean, how many people does it take to capture any given image? Or document any given story?

There is too much capacity chasing too few data points. There are so many cameras deployed on cellphones and hanging around people's necks; and there are so many twittering bloggers now - does the "official" media ever get a scoop before it hits the internet anymore?

There is certainly a need for professional news organizations - objectivity, fact checking, the ability to cover a story in its proper context. All of these have merit. But the idea of coverage has to change. It is no longer necessary for dozens of news agencies to have their own unique coverage of major events. That is redundant. Seems to me that has something to do with the problem newspapers are facing. Along with lowered readership (because readers are getting their news off the web).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another letter to the NYTimes - Jonesers are in charge, damn it!

To the Editor:

How in the world anyone could argue that someone like President Obama, who was seven years old during the Summer of Love, has anything in common generationally with a bunch of grey-haired, tie-dyed, social-security-collecting retirees is beyond me (a 49-year-old). There is a new generation assuming its position of economic and political power. Generation Jones includes anyone born between 1955 and 1965, a generation with more people in it than the Boomers born between 1946 and 1955. We Jonesers danced to disco, knew no "free love", and remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the space shuttle Challenger exploded (not when JFK was assassinated). The Boomers had their run, and now it's just about over. I wish they would do us all a favor and get over it - and themselves.

- In response to They Warned You About Us, NYTimes Style Section, 1/25/2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obama's inauguration speech (fantasy version)

Greetings, fellow Americans! Here we are, the change you said you wanted, the change we all need - is here, and it starts now. For the last six administrations the Boomers or their elders have been in the Whitehouse. While great changes came from these administrations, they also brought with them great excesses. Two years ago the first of the Boomers became eligible to retire, creating a flurry of news and concerns about how our country was going to cover the exodus of wisdom these new retirees created; and more importantly, how our nation was going to pay for social security benefits as the retiring hoards left the workforce and tax rolls, to become a burden on their children and those of us left behind them in the workforce.

Well, it turns out that 60 million boomers did not all retire at once - we knew that would not happen. It turns out that there is actually a larger, silent contingent of us, born between 1955 and 1965, who are not Boomers, who are going to be in the workforce for another 15 or 20 years. We are the Jonesers. We are in charge. And it is we who are going to make things right again in America.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oooh - I like this: News as a public service

In today's NYTimes:

“Information is now a public service as much as it’s a commodity,” he said. “It should be thought of the same way as education, health care. It’s one of the things you need to operate a civil society, and the market isn’t doing it very well.”
- from NYT, 11/19/2008, Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs
Laid off journos are being redeployed by guerrilla startup news services aimed at covering very local news in order to keep corrupt local pols and businesses in the community spotlight.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Enough said on that for now - he is in, and I could not be happier about being an American in the 21st century.

In an op-ed piece in the NYTimes Nick Kristof wrote entitled Obama and the War on Brains, in which he discusses the reinvigoration of intellectualism in our Whitehouse and ergo in our country after an eight-year drought. I share his sentiments overall, and was inspired to fire off the below posting on his blog. After re-reading I thought I'd add it to my own collection - as so often happens articles I read coalesce my thoughts about various topics and out pops something I like.

Could it be that historically speaking the reason intellectual leaders tend to live in the shadows of leaders with lesser grey matter gifts is because intellectual horsepower is negatively correlated with political eptitude :-) ?

I mean, how did a nincompoop, mental midget like The Shrub get elected to Governor and then POTUS in the first place? Sure he had some help from Daddy and oil-sodden friends in that great southern republic. But still, he had to get to the finish line and somehow he did - beating out intellectually superior opponents - twice.

I see this in in the workplace, too. Intellectuals assume forthrightness and honesty more frequently, I think, and therefore are easy prey for those who would use those qualities to advance their own agendas. Just a thought. Oops - there I go again - laying myself wide open for political assault. Story of my life…
I've been wanting to get that off my chest for a few years. Feels good.