Cranky About TED

Reader, you really must go and read this commentary.  For the uninitiated, TED talks are generally given by people in the science and technology fields and they are quite flashy.  The people giving the talks have impressive credentials and are generally very capable speakers.  Often, the presentations come across as informative and inspiring, but there may be reason to be more than a little cranky about them.  Here is a taste of Benjamin Bratton’s commentary in The Guardian.

Let me tell you a story. I was at a presentation that a friend, an astrophysicist, gave to a potential donor. I thought the presentation was lucid and compelling (and I’m a professor of visual arts here at UC San Diego so at the end of the day, I know really nothing about astrophysics). After the talk the sponsor said to him, “you know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired …you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell.”

At this point I kind of lost it. Can you imagine?

Think about it: an actual scientist who produces actual knowledge should be more like a journalist who recycles fake insights! This is beyond popularisation. This is taking something with value and substance and coring it out so that it can be swallowed without chewing. This is not the solution to our most frightening problems – rather this is one of our most frightening problems.

Don’t worry, there is plenty more juice in the article, linked above, including this crusty gem.

TED of course stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and I’ll talk a bit about all three. I Think TED actually stands for: middlebrow megachurch infotainment.

The commentary isn’t just a hit piece though.  It actually says very intriguing things.  Again, this is just a taste.

Because, if a problem is in fact endemic to a system, then the exponential effects of Moore’s law also serve to amplify what’s broken. It is more computation along the wrong curve, and I don’t it is necessarily a triumph of reason.


extoll chomsky

“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available,” Chomsky said. “Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.”

The reason for this is simple, Chomsky said.

“There is plenty of profit being made by those who pretty much dominate and control the system,” he said. “We’ve moved from the days where there was some kind of functioning democracy. It’s by now really a plutocracy.”


Picture 1

Modern Life

The following two paragraphs capture the essence of current American policy making:

In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts—one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government)—and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.

I found this at Naked Capitalism, where it was an excerpt from here.

david atkins

It’s a constant theme of conservatism to falsely take credit for the progressive causes of yesteryear while attempting to destroy contemporary ones. It bears repeating: in 1776, a conservative was a Tory. In 1860, a centrist advocated more compromises and a conservative was a Confederate or Confederate sympathizer. In 1880, a conservative was a friend of the robber barons. In 1935, conservatives advocated that the elderly die in the streets rather than receive Social Security. In 1955, a conservative was a McCarthyite red-baiter. In 1965, a conservative was a Beatles-hating, MLK-hating opponent of Medicare, civil rights and birth control. In 1986 conservatives were calling Mandela a terrorist while clandestinely selling arms to Iran to funding fascist Central American death squads. In 1996 conservatives were led by Newt Gingrich and impeached Bill Clinton over sex acts. In 2006 they were committing war crimes in Iraq while trying to private Social Security and subvert the justice department

Evil Is Losing Funding

ALEC is evil, and it is having a funding snafu.  The IRS is asking about its tax exempt status.  ALEC is thinking of getting into gambling legislation to pay its bills.  ALEC stands for the American Legislative Council, and it is bad news.

The Trayvon Martin killing was legal, and not a murder and/or manslaughter, because of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws.  ALEC was the tax exempt lobbying group who pushed packaged legislation to state legislatures, including the stand your ground laws.  In other words, ALEC is the reason George Zimmerman can start a fight and blow away someone when he gets scared, as long as . . .

So it is good news that ALEC is having troubles.  Go ahead and celebrate by reading some investigative reporting on the subject, in the Guardian, here.