Posts Tagged ‘collapse’
* Does the BBC want Moffat off Who? Well, then, I guess that’s pretty much everyone.
* The AV Club argues the American Office, to the end, was a great television show about how terrible love can be.
* But it’s not only the Globe. This failure is repeated across the mainstream media landscape — the product of a mindset in which climate change is simply another environmental problem, albeit a particularly complex one for which we’ll eventually find a technical fix, mainly by doing more or less the same things we’re doing now, only more efficiently and with better technology. It’s nothing to get too excited about. It’s certainly not anything to sacrifice your career over.
* Mark Fisher on affective labor. Warning: The ultimate imagistic reference is pornographic, if that’s unpleasant for you.
Being exploited is no longer enough. The nature of labour now is such that almost anyone, no matter how menial their position, is required to be seen (over)investing in their work. What we are forced into is not merely work, in the old sense of undertaking an activity we don’t want to perform; no, now we are forced to act as if we want to work. Even if we want to work in a burger franchise, we have to prove that, like reality TV contestants, we really want it. The notorious shift towards affective labour in the Global North means that it is no longer possible to just turn up at work and be miserable. Your misery has to be concealed – who wants to listen to a depressed call centre worker, to be served by a sad waiter, or be taught by an unhappy lecturer?
Yet that’s not quite right. The subjugatory libidinal forces that draw enjoyment from the current cult of work don’t want us to entirely conceal our misery. For what enjoyment is there to be had from exploiting a worker who actually delights in their work? In his sequel to Blade Runner, The Edge of Human, K W Jeter provides an insight into the libidinal economics of work and suffering. One of the novel’s characters answers the question of why, in Blade Runner‘s future world, the Tyrell Corporation bothered developing replicants (androids constructed so that only experts can distinguish them from humans). “Why should the off-world colonists want troublesome, humanlike slaves rather than nice, efficient machines? It’s simple. Machines don’t suffer. They aren’t capable of it. A machine doesn’t know when it’s being raped. There’s no power relationship between you and a machine. … For the replicant to suffer, to give its owners that whole master-slave energy, it has to have emotions. … . The replicant’s emotions aren’t a design flaw. The Tyrell Corporation put them there. Because that’s what our customers wanted.”
* And the only way to win is not to play: In part, this is how all solitaire games work. The solitaire aesthetic in general is about taking rational content and form — apparent in the effort to model the range of a T-37 turret gun in the game’s structure — and giving it metaphysical expression and feeling in a game-play design. It is a constructed channel of experience, with clearly defined player operations, yet completely undefined in terms of how the player experiences it. Even though you are rolling a die and consulting a results table, you see the battle in terms beyond paper and dice; your mind creates a narrative in which the enemy is repulsed or surges forth, where a battle-scarred unit makes the break-through or where defeat is quickly assured when a leader is cut down in the opening hellfire of bullets. A string of successful rolls translates into cosmic kismet, failed rolls into a series of punches putting you on the ropes.
* Local news: U.S. officials in Milwaukee have arrested a cancer researcher from China, Huajun Zhao, 42, on charges of “economic espionage” after a colleague at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCOW) reported that vials of a research compound were missing.
* Nightmares ever-ending: 12 Hurt at New Orleans Mother’s Day Parade Shooting.
* And a data visualization of Game of Thrones. Spoilers through the most recent book, naturally!
China is the most famous case, having in ten years more than tripled the number of college graduates from 9 million to 30 million. Since 1991, Singapore has added four universities to its previous two, and by 2020 will have a higher bachelors degree proportion than the US. Indonesia has 30 public universities, and 2000 new private universities. The Philippines has 500 public universities and 1500 new privates. Vietnam has gone from 150 universities in 2000 to over 400 today, with 20 percent of those being private.
The scale refutes the number one economic premise of American MOOC development, which is that even rich countries can’t afford great public universities anymore, so medium- and low-income countries shouldn’t try. In the North American mythology, less “developed” countries must teach their teeming masses on line, with low-cost American MOOC services endorsed by MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Penn. And yet Asian countries are ignoring this Western wisdom. They have rejected its “build nothing” implications.
* Gasp! But how could this be? Universities Benefit from Their Faculties’ Unionization, Study Finds.
* And some Friday night Graeber: A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse.
In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower.
“Cultural Man has been on earth for some 2.000.000 years; for over 99% of this period he has lived as a hunter-gatherer. Only in the last 10.000 years has man begun to domesticate plants and animals, to use metals, and to harness energy resources other than the human body (…) To date, the hunting way of life has been the most succesful and persistent adaptation man has ever achieved. Nor does this evaluation exclude the present precarious existence under the threat of nuclear annihilation and the population explosion. It is still an open question whether man will be able to survive the exceedingly complex and unstable ecological conditions he has created for himself. If he fails in this task, interplanetary archeologists of the future will classify our planet as one in which a very long and stable period of smallscale hunting and gathering was followed by an apparently instanteneous efflorescence of technology and society leading rapidly to extinction. ‘Stratigraphically,’ the origin of agriculture and thermonuclear destruction will appear as essentially simultaneous.”
—Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore, Man the Hunter (1973).
* From the reclaimuc archives: The police state in Europe vs. the police state in the US.
* And the average age at which people reach the lowest point of happiness in their lives in various countries. I feel pretty certain mine is and will always be 31, but then I’ve always been an outlier.
* New dystopian novella from Margaret Atwood. It’s a $2.99 Kindle single.
* A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday, during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.“
* Some student loan borrowers with the biggest debt loads didn’t fully understand what they were getting into when they borrowed the money, a survey of those borrowers has found. I’m shocked, shocked!
* …let’s start by setting forth two uncontroversial propositions. The first proposition is that the health care law is constitutional. The second is that the court could strike it down anyway.
Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them “I offer you struggle, danger and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation “Greatest happiness of the greatest number” is a good slogan, but at this moment “Better an end with horror than a horror without end” is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
* Vernor Vinge Is Optimistic About the Collapse of Civilization. At least that’s one of us!
State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States. Via @mikemccaffrey.
The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
* Today Occupy Wall Street occupied foreclosed homes nationwide.
* It’s long been surmised that the Mayan empire fell largely because of a 200-year drought that struck the region in 800 AD, but now it appears that the drought may have been amplified by Mayan agricultural practices.
* Weird ecology: The Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Florida has been so good to the American crocodile that the reptile was recently taken off the endangered species list. But the croc’s newly thriving condition has nothing to do with nuclear power itself; rather the species has cottoned to the 168 miles of manmade cooling canals that surround the plant, adopting the system as a new natural breeding ground. (Thanks, Lindsey!)
In the tight, little world of Scrabble, Nigel Richards stories are legendary. Nigel read the 1,953-page Chambers Dictionary five times and memorized all the words. Nigel bicycled fourteen hours overnight to a weekend tournament, won it, then biked home and straight to work on Monday morning. With a rack of CDHLNR?, Nigel played CHLORODyNE# through three disconnected tiles (the two O’s and the E). Nigel played SAPROZOIC through ZO#. Nigel played GOOSEFISH$. Nigel averaged 584 points per games in a tournament. Nigel’s word knowledge was so deep, his point-scoring ability so profound, his manner so unflappable, that a competitor once made a T-shirt reading: I BEAT NIGEL RICHARDS.
Lacking the money to pay its operating expenses, Mountain View’s SETI Institute has pulled the plug on the renowned Allen Telescope Array, a field of radio dishes that scan the skies for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. Via MeFi.
All the conditions that nurtured a powerful left in California have virtually disappeared. Today, the educational plans of the Sixties administrators read like fables, while California’s legendary liberal consensus has unraveled to the extent that no Orange County conservative would identify with the Ronald Reagan who, as governor, signed into law the largest tax increase in California’s history. The collapse of California’s education system is the sign of California’s collapse more generally. At the time of this writing, the state has an official unemployment rate of 12.3 percent (as high as 18-19 percent in some rural counties), and a budget deficit — even after two years of savage cuts — of $19.1 billion, with no solution to either problem in sight.
Fiscal crises, due to a careless article of the state’s 1879 constitution that requires a two-thirds majority for the passage of any budget, are familiar to Californians, but the current situation transcends all that. A crisis at least suggests a possible transformation; California’s problems seem terminal. Confidence — the attitude my shallow, beaming state supposedly lacks least — has all but disappeared. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (a trio of words it still pains me to write) enjoys approval ratings of 22 percent; approval of the Democrat-controlled legislature has reached a historic low of 9 percent. People have finally begun to believe in “bad luck.” California remains a harbinger for the country; only now it has come to represent not progress and creativity but social immobility, ecological catastrophe, and legislative hopelessness.