Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Q&A - 12/8

Commenter

WikiLeaks has crowdsourced a bounty of €100,000 to be paid out to anyone who can get them a copy of the secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. I'm not sure which is craziest here: That a modern western democracy could negotiate a trade deal in secret and keep it classified; that a news organization could offer a bounty for its contents; or that the bounty could be crowdsourced [..]

It is all crazy

News

[Chinese] users rattle off a list of symptoms, such as achy joints, red eyes and a cough, and the Chinese search giant sends an immediate diagnostic suggestion (flu, 75% odds). Then, it links users to a nearby medical specialist.  A majority of Chinese online turn to the Web first for health information, and voice search is far less cumbersome than text, Wei said.

“From a patient’s point of view, you’d rather have something like natural language — something you can talk to, [so] you can describe multiple symptoms at the same time,” he told Re/code. “Our long term goal is to build a medical robot.”

Awesome

Commenter

Single payer healthcare system will slow-down the innovation in pharmaceutical drugs

Bollocks

Drug research can be funded like any other branch of science, through government, or through start-ups with interesting & marketable ideas. As it stands current system is doing its best to destroy medical research through legislative abominations such as Bayh-Dole.

FT

[For Mason] Wikipedia epitomises a potentially brave new postcapitalist world.[..] Some readers may scoff at this. [..] But even if you love the current capitalist system, it would be a mistake to ignore the book. For Mason weaves together varied intellectual threads to produce a fascinating set of ideas. At times, the text is unnervingly dense; Mason has done extensive research. But the thesis about “postcapitalism” deserves a wide readership among right and left alike.

His starting point is an assertion that the current technological revolution has at least three big implications for modern economies. First, “information technology has reduced the need for work” — or, more accurately, for all humans to be workers. For automation is now replacing jobs at a startling speed; indeed, a 2013 report by the Oxford Martin school estimated that half the jobs in the US are at high risk of vanishing within a decade or two.

The second key point about the IT revolution, Mason argues, is that “information goods are corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly”. For the key point about cyber-information is that it can be replicated endlessly, for free; there is no constraint on how many times we can copy and paste a Wikipedia page. “Until we had shareable information goods, the basic law of economics was that everything is scarce. Supply and demand assumes scarcity. Now certain goods are not scarce, they are abundant.”

But third, “goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy”. More specifically, people are collaborating in a manner that does not always make sense to traditional economists, who are used to assuming that humans act in self-interest and price things according to supply and demand. “The biggest information product in the world — Wikipedia — is made by 27,000 volunteers, for free,” he observes. “If it were run as a commercial site, Wikipedia’s revenue could be $2.8bn a year. Yet Wikipedia makes no profit. And in doing so it makes it almost impossible for anybody else to make a profit in the same space.” [..]

Instead, Mason thinks that it is time to recognise that technology has turned us all into individualists — but connected us by networks in unusually powerful ways. And he wants to use the power of millions of individuals to build a more equal and just world that is no longer dominated by a “neoliberalism [that] is the doctrine of uncontrolled markets”. More specifically, Mason thinks — or hopes — that a postcapitalist world is a place where only part of the population will work for cash, on a quasi-voluntary basis; the rest will be pursuing non-monetary goals. He wants governments to provide a guaranteed income for the entire population and free (or low-cost) basic services and public infrastructure. He also wants companies to automate as many processes as they can (rather than relying on cheap labour) and central bankers to conduct financial repression to reduce national debt.

Mason’s vision for the future, in other words, is a world where the government provides the framework to enable individuals to flourish but state functions are handed over to citizens. It is a place where people are secure — and equal — enough to use the efficiencies unleashed by automation to pursue worthy goals, such as volunteering to write Wikipedia pages. [..]

[But Mason does not] address the issue that tends to preoccupy many unions and leftwing groups today, namely the fact that technology is currently turning many workers into the equivalent of insecure digital sharecroppers, rather than collaborative creative spirits. Just look at the current fights around Uber, and the lack of security for workers there.

You missed the point entirely

If you have guaranteed income, you would not be an "insecure digital sharecropper" - you would work on things that are important to you, and once in a while one of those passions can make good money, making you rich.

In terms of terminology - I prefer calling the new system postindustrial free market system.