Paul Mason on the future of capitalism

RSA: Channel 4’s economics editor Paul Mason shows how, from the ashes of the recent financial crisis, we have the chance to create a more socially just and sustainable global economy (6:52).

Mason says reducing work to a minimum (automation, AI, robots) will bring about the third capitalist industrial revolution, but he has “severe difficulty” thinking about how capitalism itself could pull it off. To make it work, Mason suggests promoting the aspect of the world economy that’s new (“collaborative, modular, shared stuff”) then asking what we need to grow the sector. But business as usual is doing the opposite, and we’ll have to address this sooner than we thought.

Today I’m lucid dreaming about zombies


Zombie apocalypse. The best backdrop for lucid dreaming, something I do a lot.Escaping death is empowering. Looking into a mirror of what I’ll become if and when I turn—exhilarating.

Pushing a buck-20 in my vintage blue and white striped Z Camaro down leaf-covered country roads at dusk, flying between rooftops over zombie hordes in city alleys below, creeping through dark hospital basements or abandoned farm houses. I was neck-deep in this stuff long before TWD or World War Z.

Psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge first said time perception in lucid dreams follows that of waking life. Not so, at least not anymore. Tech has changed lots of things—time, identity, dreams—even zombies. Pop culture consultant Arnold T. Blumberg:

Slow zombies don’t cut it anymore. Our fears are more intense. Our technology is faster, our world is faster, we need a faster zombie. A great example is the World War Z film adaptation, where you see a virtual tsunami of zombie bodies rushing mindlessly. They’re not even human anymore, not even distinguishable as individuals. They’re just a mass of flesh washing over us.

Charlie Adlard, the artist behind The Walking Dead, says the show tapped in on a public zeitgeist. We see memes poking fun at the way we lose ourselves in smartphones or explaining our voyeuristic tendency to journal horrific acts and share them on social media. But what’s this about turning into zombies?

As time floods our perception and pixels come with emotions of their own, it’s hard to tell what’s “real” and what’s not. In cities, where even slow creeps at the speed of 4G, technology exacerbates the transformation of the real. ICT taps our inner collective, one status update, one group text, at a time; it hooks us into the zeitgeist IV. It’s hard to see what’s happening around the corner when we’re overwhelmed in the now, and if texting taught us anything it’s the danger of looking away, even for a second.

Being a part of something bigger is what we want—urban collectives, social networks, civil movements, society. Participating is at the heart of the social animal. But joining the collective at the expense of individuality is one source of anxiety. Scientific consultant on World War Z, David Hughes:

If natural selection is at play, we should expect to see cooperative behavior among zombies. Before they get bitten they’re individual humans with individual interests and different genetic relatedness, so they should be selfish. Once they’re bitten it doesn’t matter which zombie bites the next human so long as the virus gets there. We see many examples in nature of groups of organisms moving more quickly when the individual desire is subjugated to the success of the group.

The relentless onslaught of the zombie horde—or in The Walking Dead, the “herd”—represents the encroachment of human bodies on the 21st century city, which seems to mimic advancing technology. But to what extent is this happening at the expense of individualism? And is lucid dreaming a way to alleviate the anxiety of losing oneself in the horde?

For more commentary see Doc of the Dead, a fun look at zombie origins and how science and tech have made the genre.

This is a modified post from 2014. Image: The Washington Herd, The Walking Dead comics


Lidar-derived digital elevation model of the Willamette River, Oregon

When considering the historical path of a river, it’s easy to imagine a torrential flood that causes a stream to overflow its banks, or a drought that brings a body of water to a trickle. The reality of a river’s history is vastly more complex, as the artery of water gradually changes directions over thousands of years, shifting its boundaries imperceptibly inch by inch. —Christopher Jobson

“Willamette River Historical Stream Channels, Oregon” by Daniel E. Coe | | Data explosion infographic


Out of respect for my Lebanese friends, I’ve abandoned Facebook’s photo filter designed to show solidarity with Paris. I support efforts in digital spaces that serve to strengthen solidarity between nations in times of crisis. But when these efforts blatantly disregard the suffering of others, in favor of reiterating a longstanding narrative that separates citizens in the West from those in the Middle East, I don’t feel right participating.

What’s happened in Paris is horrific, and my heart breaks for its loss. But this week terrorist attacks were not confined to French borders. Keeping a balanced view of human loss everywhere will mitigate the desensitization spurred by western-centric media designed to erroneously illustrate that somehow French lives (120+ killed by terrorists in 2015) matter more than Lebanese lives (40+ killed by terrorists in 2015) or Kenyan lives (147 killed by terrorists in 2015). I don’t recall seeing filters for the other two.

This double standard, along with our instinctive desire to participate in it, reflects an elitist sensibility that’s enabled a myriad of atrocities the world over. This is my opinion and it’s not my place to judge your intentions, but I refuse to disregard my Lebanese brothers and sisters during their time of sorrow. All flags at half mast.

Annotated: The nonprofit leadership development deficit

Social good initiatives are central to building local communities, which makes social sector leadership more critical than ever. The private sector can help.

I met with S this week to talk about strengthening local communities through F2F discourse. One inspiration for his work, Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, explains how left brain dominance is giving way to a new era in which right brain attributes (empathy, inventiveness) drive progress.

Motivation 3.0 (coined by Pink and explained in his book) articulates what drives social enterprise today: autonomy, self-direction, and purpose. But a recent survey from The Bridgespan Group reveals that nonprofits are failing miserably at promoting professional development and mentorship within their organizations, and ignoring what one respondent calls “the culture of continuous improvement”.

The social sector will have to value its talent more if it hopes to have a significant role in the future global economy. Social sector talent and leadership development programs can learn from successful private sector models.

My annotations here: Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Nonprofit Leadership Development Deficit”

Your kids aren’t digital zombies

Inevitably, the year before you were born looks like Eden, and the year after your children were born looks like Mad Max. —Alison Gopnik

Alison Gopnik’s article for The Wall Street Journal explains how teens’ lives in digital parallels their time in the physical. Not so strange, considering “the cultural ratchet”, the tech phenomenon where kids assimilate more rapidly than adults.

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme with the train full of vintage hats stuck in their newspapers, meant to disprove digital critics who warn against the antisocial plague looming just two or three viral ad campaigns ahead of the next iPhone s. I once read an entire newspaper as a kid, front to finish, skimming sections (like the classifieds) which I circled back to.

Funny thing is you can put a newspaper down, you can finish it, it’s produced and consumed as a package, with a shelf life, a beginning, an end.

The internet and apps — the sprites that give mobile its mojo — aren’t so easily consumed, or left alone. I wonder how long it would take to skim the internet from my phone. Maybe longer than it would a newspaper. Maybe not. At some point I’d drop it in favor of a real conversation. The physical is less exhausting. I’m not sure “antisocial” is the problem.

As target demographics go we have no qualms about eating our young. The marketing monster is a glutton and the “me” generation is left starving for attention, validation, acceptance. In fact, caring about what others think now hampers our ability to critically engage in civic discourse, online and off. (Our teens will assimilate to that, too.)

If “the cultural ratchet” is true for digital tech and apps, it’s also true for civic engagement. Smart kids make smart communities. So let’s invest in them young.

Image: Alamy via Guardian

Annotated: Civil society, NGO or nonprofit sector — why terminology matters

To me “civil society organization” is broad enough to cover nonprofits, NGOs and CBOs (community-based orgs) while also reflecting on what sustainable urban development means in any context: harnessing the raw power of “ordinary citizens” through grassroots engagement. If we then consider cross-sector synergy in terms of “user-centered design for social good”, we can see this real-time data flow as feedback on what works and what doesn’t for local communities, not to mention the opportunity to educate on the lasting benefits of inclusive civic participation.

My annotations here: Rubina Feroze Bhatti, “Civil Society, NGO or Nonprofit Sector — Why Terminology Matters”