Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Q&A - 24/6

News

Google launches free streaming service, Play Music, in America

GOOG everywhere

If production these days is mostly about information, then whoever is best at this game will beat others - unless there are network-effect-barriers that can't be crossed, i.e. Facebook. Streaming is all about information, and Google is master at moving / storing / analyzing information. They have their own DB product, their own app server infrastructure, plus there is programming know-how, major analytics knowledge. With that kind of basis, they can get into anything, really fast. No wonder Tim Cook is scared.

I think Google should get into banking... Here is a field that is nowadays almost entirely about information. Once there is that backbone to financial system, and Android smartphones on the front-end, all basis' would be covered.

Jeremy Rifkin, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2011

Fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are elite energies for the simple reason that they are found only in select places. They require a significant military investment to secure their access and continual geopolitical management to assure their availability. They also require centralized, top-down command and control systems and massive concentrations of capital to move them from underground to the end users. The ability to concentrate capital—the essence of modern capitalism—is critical to the effective performance of the system as a whole. The centralized energy infrastructure, in turn, sets the conditions for the rest of the economy, encouraging similar business models across every sector [..]

Three of the four largest companies in the world today are oil companies—Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, and BP. Underneath these giant energy companies are some five hundred global companies representing every sector and industry—with a combined revenue of $22.5 trillion, which is the equivalent of one-third of the world’s $62 trillion GDP—that are inseparably connected to and dependent on fossil fuels for their very survival.

Jeez

This is an insane concentration of money.

I'd assume these people would want to keep this power. 


[On Napoleon] Sylvie Bermann, the French ambassador to the UK, recently had the brass to claim that political co-operation between Britain and France comes “within the context of the united Europe which was the Emperor’s dream” — although today, she added, this unity is forged by democracy.

Well, yes — if your idea of a united Europe is the wholly owned subsidiary of a militarist dynasty, with its brothers and sundry marshals on its thrones; a vast autocratic empire run by bureaucrats and from barracks, all financed by “indemnities” laid on the conquered as the bill for their own “liberation”; your masterpieces — Rubens, Veronese, Titian — hauled off to the Louvre in Paris, the only city fit to be the culture capital of the world; your manpower marched off to some godforsaken calamity in the Russian snows or the burning uplands of Spain at the snap of imperial fingers.

Habits such as centralisation and the unquestioned superiority of elites do indeed die hard.

That Napoleon, the supposed deliverer of liberty and equality, all wrapped up in the tricolour, was the mortal enemy of freedom there can be no argument. When in 1799, the 30-year-old general came to power through the coup of 18th Brumaire, there were 70 newspapers in Paris. Bonaparte said there was need for but one — the Moniteur, the official tool of his propaganda — and closed down all but a handful of lickspittle flatterers.

His police and spies were everywhere, deadening cultural life in Paris. Theatres were shut the minute they dared to perform anything that could be construed as critical of the regime. Napoleonic Paris was a showplace for grandiose architecture but the cemetery of independently conceived art and ideas.

Ah, sigh the Napoleonomanes wringing their hands and dabbing their eyes, liberty had to die so that equality might live. Unless, that is you were black or a woman. In 1802 Napoleon reinstated slavery; two years later he liquidated one of the Revolution’s most precious achievements: divorce by mutual consent. The Civil Code made wives more the prisoners of their husbands than in the old regime. They no longer had any right to their property in marriage and had to ask their husbands’ permission to take the stand in legal proceedings.

The empire was socially reactionary. It re-established the Catholic Church and fawned on any of the old aristocracy willing to “rally” to its autocracy. It kept careers open to talent, but the acme of everything — fortune, status, honour — was the army. Napoleon set the tone on the eve of his first campaign in Italy when he sounded like a pirate chief, promising booty: “Soldiers, you are ill clad, ill paid, I am going to lead you into the richest plains of the world where lie all of your glory and fortune.”

Militarisation spread like poison through French society. Education which had been inspiringly modernised by the Revolution surrendered to absolute uniformity of curriculum and the cult of uniform. Students were summoned to classes by the drum roll.

So when the French ambassador imagined that Napoleon and his regime were some sort of template for the EU she inadvertently put her finger on the problem. For the habits of bureaucratic centralisation, uniformity of regulation, the unquestioned superiority of administrative elites do indeed die hard.

Napoleon moved through Europe, shuffling boundaries and states as he went, oblivious to the histories, traditions, languages, customs and sentiments which were and are the warm pulse of national community.

Nationalism of course has the potential to be every bit as dangerous as bureaucratic despotism when it turns tribal, narrow and xenophobic.

[..T]he [Europe that is] one of a family of nations — sometimes harmonious, often discordant — would have left Napoleon cold [..] But then there was something inhuman about his brilliance, expended as it ultimately was entirely on himself.

Perhaps Chateaubriand put it most humanely when, despising the romance of the despot, he lamented that “gone are the sufferers, and the victims’ curses, their cries of pain”. Which is why it is right to raise a cheer and a glass 200 years on from Waterloo.

Dictators.. what are they good for?

I met someone from Luxemborg recently, he tells me when Napoleon invaded his country he did bunch of standardized s**t, such as he made people take a last name, if families could not his soldiers made one up. So there were lastnames such as  bald, hairy, loud, idiot, etc. which are still around today. This made me think, these modernizers are so the same - Kemal of TR and his cohorts did much of the same thing in Turkland. His officials would assign people names such as bald, hairy, loud, idiot, in Turkese this time, and these names are also still around.

Anyway - the chronology of Napoleon state-building is interesting; because the centralization, standardization of the 2W arrived after Napoleon. Here is where our compatible-forces-finding-eachother explanation comes into play, no matter which part arrived sooner or later, what worked together formed a low-energy position from which there was no escape. It pulled societies in like a black hole.

Another example: Carl von Clausewitz. The famous military strategist / thinker fought in Napoleonic wars where -let's be honest- he got his ass kicked, all six times. Then he sat down to write On War, published in 1832 which is mainly about beating Napoleon-style forces. It would be a hit right?

Wrong.. basically nothing happened, noone gave a hoot. It wasn't until WWI and WWII military thinkers started remembering "who was that guy, Carl Clause-schmo-witz he wrote a book on this stuff, grand scale war?". Then his work is remembered and this is how we ended up with total war - an idea whose time had come. It was but a small step to take from mass production, mass consumption, mass communication to end up in mass destruction.

In today's decentralized, 3W world, Clausewitz is completely outdated obviously. 

Jeremy RifkinThe Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2011

I suspect at this juncture my American readers are asking, “What about President Obama?” Obama is the man who most reflects, in the public mind, the generational shift taking place in the world. The young president has confessed that the most difficult thing he had to give up on assuming high office was not his privacy but his precious BlackBerry. He surely would be attracted to the idea of a distributed and collaborative energy revolution patterned after the Internet model—right?

Obama has made green energy a part of his economic recovery plan. But when we look at the fine print, we see that his administration is even more deeply committed to bringing back nuclear power, offshore oil drilling, and experimental technologies to clean up coal emissions, allowing for a vast expansion of coal-fired power plants. And even his green economic recovery program is formulated more along the lines of centralized management and distribution of renewable energies than a distributed model, reflecting the top-down organizational thinking that governed the [second wave ..]

[It appears that t]he US team is playing a different game altogether—betting on the installation of giant, centralized wind and solar parks in the midwestern and southwestern states. The idea is to pass federal legislation that would mandate the creation of a super high-voltage grid that could send the electricity generated in these more sparsely populated regions back to customers in the more populated eastern regions of the country. The cost for creating the high-voltage grid would be spread among millions of electricity customers.

This centralized approach to harnessing renewable energy and distributing electricity has not gone over well with eastern governors and power companies. In July 2010, eleven New England and mid-Atlantic governors sent a letter to the US Senate’s majority leader, Harry Reid, and minority leader, Mitch McConnell, opposing the national electric transmission policy. The governors argue that centralizing wind and solar energy generation in the western region of the country “would harm regional efforts to promote local renewable energy generation . . . and hamper efforts to create clean energy jobs in our states.” The governors were particularly alarmed by the $160 billion price tag to create a national transmission corridor from the West to the East [..].

President Obama has been out on the political circuit talking up the need to replace a half-century-old servomechanical power grid with a digital, state-of-the-art smart grid and is pushing for thousands of miles of new power lines to meet America’s future electricity needs. But why would the president favor this centralized approach to organizing renewable energy resources that are, by their nature, broadly distributed and locally available?

Interesting

Has there been a change on this since 2011 I wonder? 

There is also an excerpt in the book on Hillary Clinton, suggesting that she "gets it"  better.