MonthDecember 2013

Basic Income Means Basic Freedom

Thought Infection makes a civil libertarian case for guaranteed basic income:

Freedom in the 21st century should mean freedom from having to engage in productive work simply to meet your basic needs for comfort and dignity.

At one time, the ready availability of jobs amply filled the need for a basic access to a comfortable and dignified life, but precipitous technological and economic changes erode this dynamic further each day. The function of the economy has never been to provide gainful employment to people, but simply to provide material goods. As the economy manages to produce more with less human labor, we must create new mechanisms aimed specifically that maintaining and raising the minimum level of comfort and dignity to everyone in a society.

The first step, as for any change, will be to admit that we were wrong. The establishment of a basic income will require every inch of personal and societal soul searching we went through in previous epochs of tectonic social change. Social progress has too often been retarded by our inability to deal with our own fallibility. The abolishment of slavery and the establishment of civil rights was an agonizingly slow process because those in power were unwilling to deal with their own sins.

Similarly, even as wealthy years of technological and productivity gains have eroded the justification for the job-driven society, we remain unwilling to admit that we were wrong; it is ok that we let people starve because we have no choice, right? We maintain a facade of work ethic aimed at convincing ourselves that our draconian social constructions to compel people into productive work are necessary and morally just.

Full Story: Thought Infection: Basic Income Means Basic Freedom

(Thanks R.U.!)

In Honor of World Merzbow Day: Merzbow Mantra 1

In honor of World Merzbow Day, here’s a short video clip that uses part of “Mantra 1” from the Merzbuddha album. It’s a bit more gentle than most of Merzbow’s output. This album was a bit influence on my own approach to doing noise.

Collision Detection: A Tale of Surgically Enhanced Long Distance Love

Here’s a new short story by Tim Maughan — a tale of surgically enhanced long distance love between two neoreactionary seasteaders:

Timo waves at him one last time, as he pulls down the garage door entrance to his studio-slash-operating room. It’s not quite what he’d envisioned a backstreet grinder clinic would look like, and?—?despite his subtly animated tattoos and achingly faux-scruffy beard?—?neither is Timo. What the drop-out med student turned artist has just done to him is technically illegal, yes, but then the Amsterdam authorities have a penchant for turning their eyes away from such things, hence Timo is able to operate out of this prime location overlooking the Singel. Just across the water from the flower market. Lovely. A certain clientele expects a certain standard of surroundings, he tells himself.

He takes the tram home, Timo advising him it’s best not to drive. It makes him uncomfortable, itchy, sitting here amongst the unwashed, unchosen. Even through his face mask, the stench of untweaked, un-perfumed sweat and fried-food flatulence scalds his nerve endings. He touches fingertips to his cheek, feels a numbness there that he knows is caused by more than the December air, that recalls childhood memories of dentist’s anaesthetic, feels a sickly tumour like solidity under his skin where the gel’s excesses are still dissolving into his blood. It reminds him of touching his mother’s heavily botoxed face as he wiped confused, angry tears from her dying eyes.

Full Story: Futures Exchange: Collision Detection

3D Printed Headdress

3d printed headdress

A 3D printed headdress by Joshua Harker. More photos here.

See also:

3D Printed Fashion of Iris van Herpen

London designer creates 3D-printed, regenerative running shoes from protocells

(Thanks Jillian!)

Cyberpunk Builds Bitcoin Wallet That Even Apple Can’t Ban

kyle_drake-660x440

From my latest “Out in the Open” column for Wired:

Kyle Drake calls himself a professional cyberpunk. He spends his days on the net, writing computer code and trying to stick it to the man. His latest target: the global banking industry.

But he’s not aiming to take down the financial sector with some sort of illegal hack attack. He wants to beat them at their own game with a little help from the world’s most popular digital currency, Bitcoin — a burgeoning system that runs on thousands of servers across the globe without answering to any central authority. “I think Bitcoin is the most important thing I’m going to work on in my life,” Drake says.

His current project is Coinpunk, an open source Bitcoin wallet that he believes will help free the world from both big banks and powerful payment processors like MasterCard and Visa.

Full Story: Wired: Out in the Open: Cyberpunk Builds Bitcoin Wallet That Even Apple Can’t Ban

And in other Bitcoin news Bitcoins in Space: Hacker to Fire Digital Currency Into Orbit. The plan is to use a nanosat to run a Bitcoin server in space:

The notion may seen excessive, but for Garzik — a self-confessed space fan whose dad helped build missiles at the White Sands Missile Range — it has always been an obvious next step for the digital currency. “When Bitcoin came around, it seemed natural to me that you’d want some sort of redundancy out in space,” he says, explaining that this could not only help the peer-to-peer network fend off attack, but give it a lifeline if machines are unavailable on earth.

Garzik, like many Bitcoiners, is an idealist. “If you’re out in a field in Africa or if you’re a researcher in Antarctica, you should be able to have just as much access to Bitcoin as someone in the better-wired portion of the world,” he says.

Photo by Aaron Parecki / CC

Amazon’s German workers strike as Christmas orders peak

Reuters reports:

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market behind the United States and sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, a third of its overseas total. Amazon took its most daily orders in Germany last December 16, when almost 4 million articles were bought, with shipments peaking on December 17.

Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, said 1,115 staff had joined the strike at three sites, but there had been no delays to deliveries.

“Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents,” a spokeswoman said, adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network over the Christmas period to ensure delivery times.

The Verdi union said up to 700 workers joined the strike in Amazon’s logistic center in Bad Hersfeld, plus 500 to 600 in Leipzig. For the first time, the union also called a strike in Graben, where Verdi said 600 workers took part.

“The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts,” Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzenberger said in a statement.

Full Story: Reuters: Amazon’s German workers strike as Christmas orders peak

See also:

Amazon’s Drone Delivery Hoax Distracts from Working Conditions at Amazon Warehouses

Union 2.0: How a Browser Plug-in is Organizing Amazon’s Micro-Laborers

The Alt-Labor Movement: Low-wage workers fight to make bad jobs better

New Study Finds No Causal Link Between Schizophrenia and Marijuana

Previous studies have found that cannabis users were more likely to develop psychotic disorders than non-cannabis users, but were unable to determine a causal relationship between use of the drug and psychosis. A new study suggests that there is no causal link.

In the new study, by comparing families with and without a history of marijuana use, the Harvard researchers were able to address this question.

They recruited four groups:

-87 non-psychotic people who had used no drugs.
-84 non-psychotic people who had used marijuana.
-32 patients who had schizophrenia but hadn’t used drugs.
-76 patients with schizophrenia who had used marijuana.

They then looked at the relatives of those with schizophrenia in comparison to the relatives of those in the control groups.

The results showed an increased risk of developing schizophrenia in the relatives of patients who already had schizophrenia, whether or not those patients used marijuana.

This study, then, finds no evidence that marijuana is associated with developing schizophrenia.

Full Story: PsyBlog: Marijuana Does Not Cause Schizophrenia

Previously

Pot smokers who started young more likely to exhibit psychosis

Cannabis-Psychosis link not caused by dopamine increase

Is Schizophrenia Caused by Retroviruses?

Code Literacy Doesn’t Need To Come At The Expense Of Other Skills

My latest piece for TechCrunch:

This week President Barack Obama rekindled a couple of the Internet’s favorite debates: whether it’s appropriate to take selfies at funerals, and whether everyone should learn to code.

As part of Computer Science Education Week, Obama delivered a YouTube address titled “President Obama calls on every American to learn code.” […]

But I think we can all agree that learning programming shouldn’t detract from other educational objectives, like reading, writing and math. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can be combined with other skills.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Code Literacy Doesn’t Need To Come At The Expense Of Other Skills

Mindful Cyborgs: Why APIs Are Important

I missed this Mindful Cyborgs recording session, but in this episode Chris Dancy talks to API evangelist Kin Lane about APIs and why it’s important to have access to your data:

KL: I mean, really just the pace at which everything is. In 2012 . . . so, I started API Evangelist in 2010. First year and a half I was evangelizing. I was really telling stories over and over and over trying to make the mainstream aware of what was happening. Now, I don’t have to do that. The pace is there. I mean, you see articles in the New York Times, in the Washington where they say API in the title. You used to never see that acronym. It’d be in the body of the post but . . .

CD: Well, it doesn’t seem so scary.

KL: It isn’t.

CD: It doesn’t seem to scare especially when people use hundreds APIs every day and they are just labeled with do this with this API, you become more comfortable with it but they seem to be exponentially scary. Are you familiar with Zapier? Yeah, Wade Foster I think is this really great guy, great customer service too but one of the things I thought they did that was really unique is because of the way they work with different APIs and then they’ve got this Zapier or bundle servicing where they can take up service without an API and kind of like give you some access to it.

For Google Glass which some people love, some people hate. It is what it is, because they had a wrapper. They just built a wrap around it and suddenly you have all this access to all these services that would never show up on Glass that overnight you have 100 new glass applications. That can be scary for companies.

KL: Yeah. That’s empowerment right there. That for me APIs are not just for developers because someone can access their own resources.

CD: It’s your data, yeah.

KL: And the thing is we operate in all of these clouds. We’ve migrated to the cloud environment and we exist in 14, 15 different places and these people are monetizing our data and so I’ve been doing a lot of talk at the university level lately. I’m working on a project right now called reclaim your domain which is basically teaching people basic web literacy stuff and the fact that those are your Instagram photos, those are your Flickr photos, that’s your Twitter data. You can get it out. How do you reclaim your domain and start taking control and APIs are how we do that.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Data Hacking with Fanatics and the API Coming Out Party

3D Printed Drugs, Precarity and Out of Control Student Loan Debt in My First Published Fiction

Membrane cover

I had two goals for the year. One was to learn how to spell restaurant without checking. That one I actually managed pretty quick, once I set my mind to it.

The other was to finish and sell at least one short story. That was harder, but I pulled it off. Today my first short story “The Faraday Bag,” was published in an anthology called Membrane. It’s a sci-fi/crime story set in the near future, where the economy has collapsed and student loan debtors are hunted in the streets.

It also includes nine other stories stories, each with a full-color illustration, about “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.”

Buy it in print or for the Kindle from Amazon, or for the Nook.

You can also buy the electronic edition from the publisher for just $5, DRM free.

All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Here are the first few paragraphs of my story:

I knocked out Brock’s front left tooth the day I met him. He and Colton tried to mug me during my first delivery to the Complex. They were just a couple of scrawny teenagers, but I’m not a big girl and they had knives. So I hit Brock in the mouth with my bike lock. Colton’s older brother, Connor, broke-up the fight before it got any worse.

Two years later I still had nightmares about it and still hated doing deliveries at the Complex. My heart pounded as I approached their perch on the picnic table in the center of the courtyard. They didn’t even glance up from their phones.

“Going to see Carl,” I said, handing them a couple of warm energy drinks from my bag. “Keep an eye on my bike, yeah?”

“Si, senorita,” Brock said with a big toothless grin. I hated him calling me “senorita.” I didn’t even speak Spanish.
And seeing his missing tooth always made me feel like shit.

The Complex was a block of six withered apartment buildings on the edge of Seattle. They were supposed to have been condos, but construction had halted on the neighboring light rail line during the Iran War and it was never completed–so the Complex ended up as low-income housing instead. It bordered an abandoned shopping center full of junkies with a habit of breaking into people’s cars and apartments. Brock and Colton were like the Complex’s immune system. I guess they decided I was non-harmful.

I jogged up the stairs to Carl’s apartment. He answered the door as out of breath as I was and, dragging his oxygen tank, went into the kitchen to make me a cup of instant coffee. He never let me help, so I took my customary place on the spine-mangling papasan.

“The apartment next to mine just opened up, Juana,” Carl said, handing me my coffee. “We could be neighbors.”

“I haven’t saved enough for a deposit yet,” I said. “And I couldn’t rent an apartment in my own name, even if I could afford it. Loan Enforcement would pick me up, throw me in a restitution camp.”

As if I’d wanted to live there anyway. But hey, at least it would be my own place.

I set his pills on the coffee table. A month’s worth of black market Avastin, a cancer drug, fresh from the pharmaceutical printer in Landon’s basement. A year’s supply would have cost him about $100,000 if he bought them from the pharmacy.

“I never should have gone to college in the first place. It’s not like I ever wanted to work in an office or anything,” I said.

“At least you had the opportunity,” Carl said. “Those boys out there probably never will.”

I hadn’t thought about that. Colton’s mom had been serving cocktails at a strip club ever since self-driving trucks went online and all the truck stops closed down. I had no idea what Brock’s parents did, or whether they were even around, but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be co-signing on any loans.

“I wonder where they’re going to end up,” I said. “These days you can’t even get a job as a dishwasher without a degree. Hell, I have a degree and I can’t get a job as a dishwasher.”

Carl tapped his phone to confirm the purchase. I always felt like letting the clients keep my cut. Carl barely scraped by on his Social Security check.

My phone rang on the way out of the building, and my stomach did a backflip when I saw the caller ID. I almost let it go to message, but answered at the last second.

“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore,” I said.

“I never said that,” Nicole said. “I just wanted to give it some time, after what happened.”

“Yeah, so why now? It’s been, like, six months.”

Seven months and 12 days, but who’s counting?

“I need someone I can trust,” she said. “Can you meet me at Bar Nuit in an hour?”

I wanted to say no. Wanted to tell her to find someone else to be her puppy dog. But of course I said yes.

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