Links of the Week — November 22, 2008

Image from Ziggy Fresh shot at Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village. Thanks to Tree for the link.

Enough Self-Change?: For the last couple of years I have been advocating “let-self-change” — adapting yourself to the world, developing new capacities, making yourself healthy and happy and effective and authentically yourself in spite of the systems that don’t work and are killing us all and are trying to make us everybody-else. Doug Rushkoff doesn’t agree. In this remarkable speech, he says we’re too apologetic about our own ideas and knowledge and capacities and not angry enough at these dysfunctional systems. He rips into “self-actualization” movements like NLP that waste our time on introspective efforts when what is needed is collective work. It’s time to stop adapting ourselves, he says, and time to start working with others to fix these dysfunctional systems before they destroy us. He argues that they are anachronisms, designed by people centuries ago for reasons that no longer apply, and now they exist only in a form that has been corrupted by those with wealth and power for their own advantage, in a culture of cheating. He goes on to argue that centralized money needs to be abandoned in favour of an abundance of local currencies that are ours, and have real value. That TV wants you “alone, and vulnerable and sad” so you will buy what they’re selling you to feel less so. That most of the energies of business and our financial systems in particular are now speculative in nature, trying to extract value instead of legitimately creating value. That we need to recognize and use the wealth of open source resources available to collectively change our society and systems, and to stop trying to change ourselves and change the world instead. Thanks to James Coughlan for the link.

Because We’re Afraid: On a similar riff, Justin Kownacki says: “Why should what you, the employee, say or do in public directly affect anyone’s perception of your company? Because everyone is afraid. Of what? Of everyone else? Despite the fact that we no longer have to fight one another for food and shelter, we still live in a constant subconscious fear of what everyone else thinks of us — and we all believe that any other person could squash our lives just byblinking. That has to stop.”

A World of Awe and Wonder: Stuart Kauffman’s new book refutes “The God Delusion” (Richard Dawkins’ fierce defence of atheism and of scientific determinism). Aligned somewhat with Stephen J Gould’s acknowledgement that evolution is a crap-shoot, but one the die have been rolled living systems are self-organizing and “a collective catalysis emerges out of the soup”. Spiritualism is defensible, he argues, not in belief of a human or omnipotent or order-imposing god, but in belief in Gaia, the capacity of all-life-on-Earth to collectively self-perpetuate towards more creative and complex and awe-some forms. God, in other words, is in all of us, in every creature who ever lived or ever will. My favourite quote: “Nobody, not scientists, not philosophers, has any idea what consciousness is.” Wonderful to hear a scientist who appreciates mystery, and that we are utterly incapable of knowing everything.

Running Out of Bail-Out Room:  The entire financial “services” industry has been rescued from their incompetence and greed by pliant governments spending obscene amounts of taxpayer money without receiving a controlling interest (and cancellations of executive bonuses and a rollback of management salaries) in return. Now manufacturers are pleading for the same welfare payments from government coffers. So it isn’t surprising that pension funds, which have lost 30-40% of their value since the market collapse began, want to be exempted from funding the deficit — the amount the value of the funds’ investments falls short of the present value of future pension payments. The assumption still seems to be that the market will rebound, and than all that is needed is a deferral in making up the deficit until the Dow is back at 14,000 again. This is reckless thinking, and we can only hope governments won’t allow it. If markets are now trading at what shares are really worth, instead of the absurd overpriced levels of the last decade or two, then these pension funds will never recover, and the companies that offered them will have to dip into operating funds to pay up the difference. We have gotten into too much trouble already allowing people and companies to incur debts they will never be able to repay. It’s time to stop it. Time for us all to live within our means.

Agenda for a New Economy: David Korten outlines five steps to move from our bankrupt and corrupted industrial growth economy to a new economy focused on the well-being of all:

  • Clean up Wall Street
  • Move to local market economies
  • Self-finance the real economy
  • Measure what we really want
  • Convert to debt-free money

Let’s Cancel Daylight Time: A study done by UCal suggests that instead of saving energy, daylight savings time actually increases it. They suggest that we do away with it one and for all. I’ve suggested going further, and having every country in the world adopt GMT (UTC) as their time, year-round. Time zones, instead of specifying what time it was, would then indicate “normal business hours” in that zone. While those already using GMT (the British, mostly) would specify working hours as 09:00-17:00, for those in Eastern North America they would be 04:00-12:00, in Western North America they would be 01:00-09:00, and for East Asia and East Australia they would be 18:00-02:00. No “am” or “pm”, and “noon” would become “midday” (the midpoint of the normal business hours) and “midnight” instead of being 0:00, would be twelve hours later than “midday”. It would take some getting used to, but would avoid changing clocks even when travelling.

Bonuses Actually Worsen Performance: Dan Ariely’s research study found that the bigger the bonus at stake, the worse those offered this bonus did, if their performance required significant cognitive skills (the bonus did motivate better mechanical performance). Ariely ascribes the unexpected result to stress and fear of failure.

A Government That Admits It Is Failing in Many Areas and That It (and We All) Can Do Better: The State of Oregon publishes an annual scorecard that shows its performance in all the areas that matter to citizens (economy, education, civic engagement, health and social support, public safety, community development and environment — year-over-year change, comparison to neighbouring Washington State, and comparison to the US as a whole. It’s refreshing to see candid disclosure of areas where performance is actually declining. It’s equally refreshing to see a government that says this is a scorecard for everyone in the state, not just the government, and that every citizen has a role to play in improving the state’s performance. Thanks to my colleague Greg Turko for the link.

Gladwell and the Ecology of Success: Malcolm Gladwell’s new book suggests we are mostly made, not born, and that struggle and challenge can teach us what we need to thrive and to excel. This runs almost directly counter to the “nature not nurture” arguments in Freakonomics. Once I’ve read the book (I’m going to see Gladwell week-after-next) I’ll write more about this issue, and tell you where I stand and why.

The Secret Life of the Brain: New Scientist presents a study that shows that one understudied part of the brain is hard at work when the rest of the brain is relaxing, and that this part may be the connector and pattern-recognizer, daydreaming, sorting memories and imagining possibilities.

More Evidence That Mexico is a Failing State: I’ve been predicting the collapse of Mexico (and CitiGroup ;-) for awhile now. It looks like I might be right on both. The drug warlords essentially own the political, economic, legal and security systems in Mexico, and the middle and upper classes who can’t afford or don’t want to live in heavily-armed private refuges are fleeing in droves, joining the mass exodus of the poor.

Thought for the Week: Thomas Arthur and Ashley Cooper have made a stirring short film about last weekend’s march for marriage equality.

This entry was posted in Our Culture / Ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Links of the Week — November 22, 2008

  1. Paul says:

    RE: “Enough Self-Change?: … stop trying to change ourselves and change the world instead.”Granted that the world’s dominating systems are dysfunctional, and we should change them (if we can), would Doug Rushkoff use that as an argument not to change ourselves? Terrible! Especially because, if we accept the statements made later in your notes, “we still live in a constant subconscious fear of what everyone else thinks of us,” and perhaps “we are mostly made, not born”. Clearly we are not immediately ready to rebel against the domination, often not even ready to recognize it. I would say we desparately need to change ourselves before, and while, trying to change the world. Let-selves-change!

  2. Paul says:

    RE: “Let’s Cancel Daylight Time”: “… having every country in the world adopt GMT (UTC) as their time, year-round.”Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water! Uniformity would be great–one simple system instead of the current patchwork–but I don’t think it’s too much trouble to change one’s watch when traveling. If everyone were in the same time zone, it would be that much harder for us to realize which part of the day others were in. You don’t want to call up someone to congratulate them on their birthday, only to find out they were sleeping soundly in the middle of the night!

  3. Krupo says:

    Paul’s comment is spot on.That, plus good luck getting the world to agree on GMT/UTC. You’d have a whole mess of countries saying, “no thanks, we’re keeping Time Zone X”. Confusion would only increase.

  4. Dale Asberry says:

    Re: Bonuses Actually Worsen PerformanceAlfie Kohn has written a wonderful in-depth book that debunks this meme. In Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plan$, A

  5. Dale Asberry says:

    Mr Kohn has also written on competition ( and several books on the wrongs of public ‘education’.

  6. scruff says:

    Responding to both Dave and to Paul above, I wholeheartedly agree that we should do away with daylight savings time, but I don’t think the adoption of UTC helps us any, nor do I think that uniformity would be at all good. Adopting UTC would only serve to alienate people from the experience of their world; “am”, “pm” and the numbers on the clock have been given meaning – connections to the play of light in the sky. Universal time frames would join all our other dysfunctionalizing technology in severing our activities (and our minds and souls) from the realities around us. How about we get back to natural behaviour? When our environment is in morning, we’ll call it morning, and when it’s night, we’ll call it night, and whatever time it is, that’s when we’ll do things appropriate to that time. Let’s not force some abstract uniformity on something which is Not Uniform. That would just be another iteration of what screws everything up in the first place!

Comments are closed.