Life & Everything Else

Sovereignty isn't like money

<![CDATA[This is a very readable, cogent analysis of the challenges of democratizing capitalism. While I agree with the spirit of this posting, I think it conflates the process, the result of which we call “sovereignty,” with the fungibility of money, which is the hallmark of capital, the ability to transform an asset from one purpose to the other, regardless of the consent of all parties — A and B may agree, but C, owed money by B, may put that money to any use they want. Sovereignty, on the other hand, is a process that results in compromise without any reference to the specific power of the individuals involved, except their ability to deploy capital. The genius of capitalism is the fungibility of capital, which can be directed purposefully. But it lacks the deliberation between perspectives and equitable distribution of power that Democracy requires, so the analogy fails once you dig into it.
The VRM mailing list I originally posted this comment produced a reply that allowed me to expand on why the sovereignty-fungibility comparison is flawed.
By having a system of money (capital) that is built on the “word” of each individual or their sovereignty we distribute economic power. That is exactly the point of each of us having the ability to create our own IOUs (money, capital, credit).
It’s not a misunderstanding, but a disagreement. What you are describing is a system in which Tom Kleiner’s vision of democracy – “one dollar, one vote” – becomes a reality because the underlying sovereignty-fungibility comparison is flawed. By trading fungibility for sovereignty, we end up with a system in which economic power becomes one with the ability to marshal political power. I think that the evidence for my perspective in the clear in the Koch Brothers’ approach to social media and advertising. They flood the medium with self-reinforcing messages, a “paramedia” takes up amplifying their messages. The Koch Brothers treat social capital, as expressed through the mechanism of “votes,” as a commodity to increase the reach of their messages.
I think you are well intended, but that the aim is off, based on a flawed sovereign-fungibility construct that results in no distinction between doing business and doing politics. I envision a democracy where there is no connection between money and politics, though I am quite aware we are unlikely to get there.
Capital knows your ju-jitsu and will throw you flat on your back if you give them a mechanism like an IOU representing a share of the collective will expressed through democracy.
I welcome a counter-analysis, but will not engage in ideological debates.]]>

Business & Technology Media Comment & Crimes

What's that $19B about? WhatsApp at a glance.

<![CDATA[Doc Searls provides an excellent summary of the implications for trends in marketing and consumer privacy related to FaceBook’s $19B acquisition of WhatsApp. Here’s my take on the deal terms:
We have to assume there is a lot of overlap between the FB and WhatsApp user base. And, regardless of what anecdotal information we have about how people pay for or use the service, the potential revenue from the WA user population remains purely speculative. So, what do we actually know?
FB values WA users based on their activity, which represents about one message per day per user at the highest level. They are slightly more engaged than FB users, with 70% daily usage rate vs. FB’s 63% of users active every day. They are paying $1 per message sent per user/day, or roughly $0.00273 per message sent over a year. That’s a manageable low cost of traffic acquisition, but because the payment is concentrated in time, the financial impact on FB’s business could be pronounced, though we must acknowledge there is downside risk to the deal, too.
CNN Money reports that FB sees revenue of approximately $1.72 per user globally. It’s much higher in the US and Canada, where revenue is about $4.85 per user/year. This means the combined company could make up to $0.72 per user in the first year, if they implement ads in WA. However, it is important to note that FB’s ARPU for the Rest of the World and Asia are sub-$1. If most WA users are in Asia and developing countries, which I’ve understood is the case, the deal loses money more often than not under current conditions.
I doubt people will pay for the WA service (it’s unproven now) and, if they were to pay $1 a year, the deal is only a break-even for those users who pay. If 10% pay, which is a typical “Freemium” conversion rate used in projection, there is not sufficient revenue to prevent WA from being mined as a source of user data and implied intentions. As WA is integrated into FB, notably to FB’s user surveillance regime, which is the core of the FB business, it will likely need to add ad or VRM revenue to make the deal worthwhile. And that puts the whole deal in jeopardy, since there is little to no switching cost for users.
My $0.02.]]>

Life & Everything Else

Caffeine helps consolidate short-term memory

<![CDATA[I've been drinking five to eight shots of espresso as my breakfast for many years. People laugh about it. But with this report on the efficacy of caffeine in consolidating short-term memory — what you are learning and dealing with each day — I can point to Science as a justification for my coffee abuse. The interesting thing about caffeine is that it does not have the same effects alone as coffee. All those alkaloids and oils are good, somehow.]]>

Everything Else

Risk and empathy

Life & Everything Else

The magic upside of global warming?

Life & Everything Else

All mixed up

<![CDATA[European genetic history is more a mish-mash than expected. The pre-North American migration inter-breeding of Northern Eurasians shows that, even as we spread across the world, we loved the ones we were with.]]>

Brilliant Human Achievement

Targeting habitable worlds for exploration

<![CDATA[Think of where we are, just now. The journal Nature reports on research that provides a testable model for analyzing and, ultimately, visualizing remote worlds for the potential habitability of Earth-like destinations for exploration. Basically, using multiple observations of a planet as large as the planet Uranus in our solar system in transit of its star, the team has built a model that, if confirmed by the James Webb Space Telescope when it is deployed in 2018, confirms the model accurately allows us to predict — and refine our analysis of — the planet’s ability to host life, assuming there is not something on a habitable planet more dominant than ourselves that will annihilate us on arrival, and support colonization by humans or their machines.
Think about that. Like the Dutch company that this week announced it has about one thousand candidates it will send to Mars on a one-way trip, humans can start to make long-term bets on distant colonies by banking the claim represented by a ship or fleet headed off in some direction once it leaves. Even if that ship is not the first to arrive from Earth, it would still represent the initial claim to the planet. So, if space travel could be speeded to or past the speed of light and a later flight arrived first, the initial pioneers’ ancestors would retain their share of the planet, which could even be adjusted for future value as the first travelers’ confidence is reinforced by later followers, even if the followers got their first.
For most of my life, punctuated by my childhood fascination with space travel and the Moon, as well as in the 40- to 90-minute portions of my attention devoted in their hundreds and thousands to Star Trek throughout the past 50 years, I have not believed that man could leave the immediate neighborhood of this planet and its Moon. Maybe it is passing 50 years of age with some advanced aircraft-grade titanium cervical disc replacements. But I’ve come to see that the pioneering of space is the next shitty, but necessary, stretch of road humanity needs to walk in order to take any larger place in the Cosmos than it already has had the audacity to imagine.
Or, perhaps, this exercise in futurism will merely make it clear that mining my neck for its titanium is less profitable, but also much less risky than traveling to a planet orbiting a distant star, and I’ve sealed my own fate by enabling the short-sighted to consume the hearty and spirited men of their times for scrap metal. For anyone missing that this is meant satirically, titanium is not a particularly valuable metal. Really.
Happy New Year, one and all.]]>

Life & Everything Else

The Price of Truth: 70 Dead Journalists

<![CDATA[I honor the journalist, whether professional or amateur, who asks the uncomfortable questions in times of peace and shows the difficult truth in times of unrest. Seventy journalists died while reporting the news this year, many in Syria, but also in Egypt and Ukraine (where a prominent journalist was badly beaten for reporting on anti-government protests recently.)]]>

Life & Everything Else Technic

Small fusion project with potentially big results

<![CDATA[Reading with interest about the Sandia National Labs’ Z machine, an electromagnetic fusion reaction generator, if it every works. More than a decade behind schedule, the project is the least heavily funded of the various fusion projects in the U.S. and Europe. Someone will make fusion work, and it will be a tremendous step forward toward sustainability. Check out how the Z uses a ring of supermagnets and tuned laser burst to compress and, hopefully ignite, a fusion reaction. It’s simplistic in its design, essentially a containment field. Let’s hope we keep funding this kind of small project instead of defaulting to one big bang approach to fusion. It will yield more results we can learn from.]]>


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