[Harpers]: Routine maintenance: embracing habit in modern world

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Published on: January 14, 2022

Habit & Routine can be very helpful in some aspects but also can be crippling in other aspects. Came across this very interesting & thoughtful article about habits, its history, its relevance in social lifes from past and present, but also some thoughts on role of automation in society.

An interesting passage towards the end for balance & reflection:

“…But even the most ingrained human behaviors are accompanied by sensations that prompt us to pause and recalibrate when something goes wrong—a truth well known to anyone who has caught themselves driving home to a previous residence or gagging on the hemorrhoid cream they’ve mistaken for toothpaste. Ravaisson calls habit the “moving middle term,” a disposition that slides along the continuum between rote mechanism and reflective freedom. Weil, who similarly saw habit as a continuum, believed that we should strive to remain on the reflective side of that spectrum. The Stoics advised nightly meditation, so as to judge the virtue of the actions they’d taken that day, and Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of pragmatism, noted that in cases where habits have begun to work against a person’s interests, “reflection upon the state of the case will overcome these habits, and he ought to allow reflection its full weight.” It is this connection to thought that allows habits to remain fluid and flexible in a way that machines are not. Habits are bound up with the brain’s plasticity, a term James describes as “a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once.” Unlike algorithms, which lock in patterns and remain beyond our understanding, habits allow us to negotiate a livable equilibrium between thought and action, maintaining, as Weil puts it, “a certain balance between the mind and the object to which it is being applied.” .. ”

 

More about this article here: [The Link]

Microwork

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Published on: December 28, 2021

Microwork is a series of microtasks, which sociologist Antonio Casilli defines as “fragmented and under-remunerated productive processes.” Companies break up big projects into small tasks that can be performed by anyone with an internet connection, then hire people to do them for very little money, usually through a third party that handles the staffing. Mega-corporations use private firms like Samasource, while smaller companies find workers through user-facing platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk, Fiverr, and ClickWorker…

While it is noted automation might remove jobs, however trend seems to be that there is rise of this microwork (which may not be sustainable or suitable). Read more of this here:

 

Some predictions for 2050

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Published on: October 31, 2021

Futurists are drawn to the sensational and the unlikely: brain uploading, magnetic floating cars. But the actual future will be more like today’s world. Here is an interesting list of predictions for the future by 2050. Some of them seems more US centric, but an interesting read nevertheless:

Technology related

  • There will be Martian colony
  • Marketization of everything
  • AI will be most futuristic impactful change in day-to-day life
  • supersensorium (supermarket like experience of entertainment) will grow
  • A mostly storeless society
  • Education will take place mostly online
  • Genetic engineering of embryos to avoid disease will have become common
  • Anti-aging tech will extend the health-spans of the rich

Demographics

  • Huge improvements to standards of living
  • Families will continue to decline in importance
  • The future really is female
  • The rise of the throuple
  • A minority-led country

Political changes

  • The world will not war
  • The age of the mob will spur domestic turmoil
  • Soft totalitarianism will become the norm
  • People and culture will become boring

 

More of this here: [The Link]

 

History of what we call work

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Published on: October 5, 2021

An interesting article and review of the recent book by James Suzman about history of work and why we work in the first place. Long time ago, hunter gathering societies, worked minimally to get food and spent rest of time in leisure. How has society changed and can we go to a post-scarcity society where there is no need to work for make a living?

Book mentioned in the article

  • Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, by James Suzman

 

Read more the article here: [The Link]

Book from the author of the article: Automation and the Future or Work, by Aaron Benanav

Digital collection: can such a thing make sense?

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Published on: September 24, 2021

Came across an interesting article reminising about the days and role of collector and collection of cultural items like books, music and other (physical) items. With everything becoming digital & online recommendations especially ebooks and spotify for music, the act of collecting and the experience of collection has changed significantly. Few excerpts from the article

“In the digital era, when everything seems to be a single click away, it’s easy to forget that we have long had physical relationships with the pieces of culture we consume. We store books on bookshelves, mount art on our living-room walls, and keep stacks of vinyl records. When we want to experience something, we seek it out, finding a book by its spine, pulling an album from its case, or opening an app. The way we interact with something — where we store it — also changes the way we consume it, as Spotify’s update made me realize. Where we store something can even outweigh the way we consume it.”

 

“Over the past two decades, the collecting of culture — like maintaining a personal library — has moved from being a necessity to a seemingly indulgent luxury.”

“Yet even with all its excesses of content, our era of algorithmic feeds might herald the actual death of the collector, because the algorithm itself is the collector, curator, and arbiter of culture.”

 

More of this in the article here: [The Link]

 

 

state of reviewing books

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Published on: August 11, 2021

An interesting article on the reviewing books and the profession of writers/book reviewers. Like many creative pursuits making a living or making a profession out of it is getting harder and harder. A creative writeup on this here.

A sobering conclusion from the article: “Despite all the odds, good reviews are being written in this wretched era, by staff critics and by freelancers. New, technocratic solutions are proposed every day: billionaire funding, paid newsletters, essays crowdfunded on the Ethereum blockchain, a new patronage system funded by NFTs of GIFs. How grim it all seems. We never really wanted to live in the future. Then again, the history of book reviewing is a history of frustration and disappointment. Why should our era be different? At the very least, we should put an end to the misery. Publications of means, adjust your rates for inflation and pay your writers on time. Publications without, we can do better: Just say no to CTRs (Contemporary Themed Reviews)”.

 

More from the article here: [The Link]

A good rebuttal from Gawker here: [The Link]

Puts out a clear call to action by reminding what critiscism is about: “If there is a problem with book reviewing the problem is that those of us who are good at it aren’t good enough, there aren’t enough of us, and we aren’t doing a good enough job of expanding the scope of literary discourse, to put it in touch with tradition and open it wide to new writing. I recoil at terms like “thought leader” and “gatekeeper,” but we do have at least the duty of helping to create the culture we want to live in, and that world should be full of infinitely various delights. The imperatives are to be stylish, to be thorough, to be funny, to be generous, and occasionally to be cruel. Boredom, envy, gray skies and gray sentences — these are the things we were born to kill.”

 

[The Atlantic] The creative class and current state of society

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Published on: August 3, 2021

The emergence of creative class (bobos) has broken the old structures of rich, middle and poor but has lead to a new map of class structure. Pretty good article from David Brooks in The Atlantic called “How the bobos broke America: The creative class was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. Instead we got resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction”.

The article also talks about failings of modern meritocracy.. Another topic in itself.

Read more of this article here: [The Link]

 

From the article, below is a summary of the current state of groups, more structured around political orientation.

Blue oligarchy: tech and media executives, university presidents, foundation heads, banking CEOs, highly successful doctors and lawyers.

One step down from the blue oligarchy is the creative class (bobos) itself, a broader leadership class of tenured faculty, established members of the mainstream media, urban and suburban lawyers, senior nonprofit and cultural-institution employees, and corporate managers, whose attitudes largely mirror the blue oligarchs above them, notwithstanding the petty resentments of the former toward the latter

One economic rung below are the younger versions of the educated elite, many of whom live in the newly gentrifying areas of urban America, such as Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York or Shaw in Washington, D.C. More diverse than the elites of earlier generations, they work in the lower rungs of media, education, technology, and the nonprofit sector. Disgusted with how their elders have screwed up the world, they are leading a revolution in moral sentiments.

On the lowest rung of the blue ladder is the caring class, the largest in America (nearly half of all workers, by some measures), and one that in most respects sits quite far from the three above it. It consists of low-paid members of the service sector: manicurists, home health-care workers, restaurant servers, sales clerks, hotel employees.

Red hierarchy is the GOP’s slice of the one-percenters. Some are corporate executives or entrepreneurs, but many are top-tier doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who aspire to low taxes and other libertarian ideals.

One step down are the large property-owning families, scattered among small cities and towns like Wichita, Kansas, and Grand Rapids, Michigan—what we might call the GOP gentry.

Below them is the proletarian aristocracy, the people of the populist regatta: contractors, plumbers, electricians, middle managers, and small-business owners.

A level below the people of the populist regatta, you find the rural working class. Members of this class have highly supervised jobs in manufacturing, transportation, construction. Their jobs tend to be repetitive and may involve some physical danger.

Utopia and Dystopia Are Twins—Both Are Born Out of Criticism

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Published on: July 18, 2021

… “But it is only Utopia that allows us to dream together.”
An interesting article about talking about Utopia in political/social movements. Most blue prints of Utopia have been distorted and lead to disastrous outcomes. However, efforts to describe possible social conditions is important to make progress. See also recent documentaries by Adam Curtis talks about this – how absence of thought on how we should organise ourselves, has lead to current systems of power, which is not necessarily to the benefit of majority of people in society.

Few excerpts from the article here..” [Fredric] Jameson saw this cramped, blighted imaginative inability to conceive of positive systemic change as one of the hallmarks of postmodernism.”

..”The utopian impulse exists to spark discomfort with the status quo and agitation.

 

Newsletters: literary genre?

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Published on: July 8, 2021

An interesting perspective on emergence of newsletters. Newsletters from companies, brands and other thinktanks or consortiums are more common. However, newsletters from artists, novelists and other writers is something different and also perhaps new? Below is a link to an interesting article about this. Also some snippets from this article

 

“The Sound of My Inbox The financial promise of email newsletters has launched countless micropublications — and created a new literary genre”

 

“Newsletters vary in subject as widely as, for example, books do, and their authors may be cryptocurrency investors or indie musicians. What they share is the direct personal appeal of special delivery. They require the self-confidence involved in making this appeal to dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of strangers. A newsletter reshapes a writer’s relationship to their readers. The first-person informality that has been present since the earliest days of web writing achieves its business apotheosis in the newsletter: from personal essay to personal brand”

 

More about this here: [The Link]

[McKinsey] Social contract of 21st century

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Published on: June 10, 2021

An interesting overview from McKinsey on how economic outcomes and the relationship between individuals and institutions have shifted for workers, consumers, and savers in advanced economies.

 

More details here: [The Link]

 

 

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