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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why we need government more than ever

There are two terrific articles in The New York Times today, both brief and both on technology.

The first is

It is about how we have taken innovation to its extreme and we're "innovating" beyond human needs and with not enough or no concern for what said "innovation" might mean for or do to, we humans.  A bit from the article:

We treat innovation like an impersonal force, and a ceaseless outcome of entrepreneurship in tech. If we displace people or distort our culture with innovations that, say, wipe out local bookstores or measure every moment in a warehouse worker’s day, it is the price of a generally beneficial force.

Increasingly, however, economists and social thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom on innovation.

It goes on to point out that government laid the groundwork for and even began a great deal of the technologies and technological breakthroughs, yet business then privatizes those technologies and reaps all the monetary benefits, thus keeping them from the people and the society. This makes for yet one more way more and more of the wealth of the entire nation, the entire society is whisked away for and to the top "1%", the wealthy or already-wealthy of the society. Clearly this is neither fair or beneficial for that entire society, for the people.

Finally, it also points out that we're far more interested in that "innovating" and concentrating, especially in business, on greater and greater speed and on shorter term investing, as companies, industries and corporations. Clearly that's been a trend that's been building over the last several decades and time and again it's proven itself very short-sighted and even harmful to the very companies it's supposed to be helping, let alone to the people these companies and industries are supposed to be serving, let alone, again, the overall nation, the country, as a larger group.

The second article, again, from today's Times, is about a new book: 

Simon Head thinks the world has become good for computers, but bad for most humans.

In warehouses run by Amazon and Walmart, he says, workers are monitored by machines, their work output determined by performance optimization programs. At financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, traders and managers depend so heavily on algorithms that they abdicate personal responsibility for events like the subprime mortgage crisis.

The problem isn’t just the machines, however; it’s what machines do to thinking. In his book, “Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans,” Mr. Head bemoans a triumph of computer-led systems thinking and so-called “scientific management.”

These have led to “misindustrialization,” he writes, in which service workers’ emotions are manipulated to optimize retail sales, and Oxford dons are judged by a “research excellence framework” that compels them to publish nonsense to meet irrelevant standards.

And this is why I point out we need government even more now, today, and for two huge reasons.

First, all the industrialization and innovation and dependence on computers and technology is making us, in the business world and so, in the nation and world, overall, far more controlled by those machines and "productivity" and "innovation" so the human factor is being pushed out of the picture, if not ignored altogether.  That can be nothing but dangerous for the people on a small scale but also, in the bigger picture, for, again, the entire nation. We need government and rules to more control the direction of "progress" so all that innovation and technology and progress serves the people instead of the people serving the productivity.

Second, with the coroporatization of America and the world, combined with the wealthy people's and corporation's ability to buy the legislation they want, that will benefit them and their companies, through the very legal but very corrupting campaign contributions, all this gives them strong, nearly unfettered ability to have virtually everything headed in their way so more and more pressure is but on business, those corporations and so, us, the people, for more and more innovation, more and more "productivity", more and more "progress", all at the expense of the people, the worker, the man and woman on the street. The emphasis remains on profits for the companies--and so, the wealthy--people be damned.

That does not make for a healthy, even workable society. No way.

So we need government to not only keep those "at the controls" of society honest--no small feat in itself--but also to keep the wealthy and companies and corporations doing what's best for the larger society and nation, as a whole.

Do I think this will happen?

Absolutely not.  And for a few reasons here.

1) Government and laws never have kept up with technology and advances in industrialization. Government virtually always comes in afterward--long afterward--after there has been a collapse or tragedy of some kind and cleans up the mess. There is no better nor more recent example of this than the 2008 financial meltdown that nearly took America's and the world's economies down;

2) That "innovation" described above is hurtling forward at ever faster speeds, leaving government and our representatives ever further behind;

3) As long as we allow "campaign contributions", it leaves those with great deals of money--again, the wealthy and corporations--virtually if not truly in control of the very government that is supposed to be there to protect the people and nation.

It's all a Libertarian's and Republican's and Right Winger's dream.

It's also the dream of any anarchist.

I don't have my hopes up.

Anyone overly concerned or worried about "big government" in the US, in my eyes, doesn't see what's happened in the last several decades and of late. The "big boys" are in control and they don't like or want "big government" in any way, shape or form and they're getting just what they want, just what they're paying for.

Have a nice Sunday, y'all.

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