How big a crisis?

Crisis are cyclical, and the global financial crisis dated 2008 left scars in our social tissue that are still far from healed. While the top 1% recovered almost entirely in a fairly quick fashion, the larger part of western population’s wages keep shrinking in terms of real purchasing power, now contributing to the rise of right wing populism, the resurgence of racism, white suprematism, sovranism and protectionism.

This scenario ignited a race against time where automation is challenged by the risk of authoritarian drifts within our society.

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Migration vs Automation

A lot of the western public debate is currently revolving around forms of protection to shield our economies from emerging ones.

The shield can take the form of a trade war, of a brexit, or less metaphorically, that of a wall at the border.

While we fight with our fear of migrants however, we are neglecting the rise of a much stronger workforce that is bond to eventually end the concept of work as we know it: Robots.

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Evil Genius

We are in the age of geek pride, an age where “nerd” is not supposed to be an insult anymore, and where we acknowledge that being smart is more desirable than having large biceps or long legs.

Why are villains constantly depicted as the cliché evil genius? Extremely smart, they often portray a view of the world that is at the same time at odds with ours, and yet intriguingly difficult to defy.

Villains are the destabilizing narrative element that brings chaos, but doing so by the means of cleverness, is a narrative choice that contributes to the message delivered by the story.

In an era when intelligence is one of the highest and most desirable characteristics, what does it do to our society, being exposed to infinite variations of idea that villains routinely outsmart heroes?

Distorted Reality

Everything you believe is false.
Not a conspiracy theory.
Not the revival of some anti systemic website motto from 2005.

This post is more trivially an observation on how we perceive reality in a world that’s been dominated by mass communication for about a century.

The impact of this on how we perceive reality is a much bigger distortion than we’d be willing to admit.
While this can be a great boost for ambition, it’s probably not the best for self-esteem.

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To UBI or not to UBI?

Spoiler alert: to UBI!
The fact is: sooner or later setting up some sort of Universal Basic Income (i.e.: free money for everyone, working or not) will become cheaper than maintaining social order.

This may happen within just over a decade or take a lot longer, but as the technology advances, it will make automation ubiquitous and lower the costs of goods further and further.

If this sounds like just a crazy socialist-ish utopia without fundament, let’s go through the numbers!

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Influenced influencers

An influencer -by definition- is someone who is able to influence others.

Typically the word is used to signify an influence on opinions, however there was a perfectly suitable pre-existing word for this: Opinion Leader.

What is so different between an opinion leader and an influencer, that we chose two use two entirely different names and categories?

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Fear of the unknown

The success of a movie is arguably linked with how much the people can relate to it.
The last year 3 movies caught my attention; not much individually, but when I saw the third of them I began to perceive them as a mark of our time:

  • Annihilation
  • A quiet place
  • Bird box

I am not much of a film connoisseur, so these are all pretty mainstream and relatively successful movies, and they all have quite a bit in common: they describe an unknown and unintelligible threat that impends over humanity. The threat remains hardly explained throughout the movie, and has the potential to change or destroy the world as we know it.

It appears our collective subconscious resonated pretty well with this type of story in 2018, and looking at the current status of technology, society and geopolitics, it seems hardly surprising!

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Recap 2018 – Putting it all together

Robots will bring down 30% of the jobs within a decade.
Neoliberalism is starting to be antagonized by vaste parts of the population, igniting the fire of populism.
Social Media exploited and society fell for it and social divisiveness is already building up.
In short, the Belle Epoque of our century has come to an abrupt end: the mandatory happiness that characterized the first 15 years of our century, is quickly transforming into anger.

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The Bee and the Beehive

That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.

Marcus Aurelius, in –Meditations

The guy lived -and ruled large part of Europe- nearly 2000 years ago.

What is interesting is that this quote was used in multiple occasions by the mind behind one of the European oldest populist parties -Gianroberto Casaleggio of the italian 5 stars movement- and that it symbolizes in more than a way the founding principle of many other populist values.

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Deglobalization

What would happen if Capitalism was to come to a peaceful end at some point in the coming decades, as I proposed in this post?

Culture is a complex system of communicating vessels, and it would be impossible to shut down capitalism without causing a chain reaction of cultural consequences that are seemingly far away from it: it won’t be enough to imagine a different model for our economy to understand how our world would change.

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Post-Individualism

I wrote recently about how individualism has been a cornerstone of western civilization for over 2 centuries now, and how this may be coming under a little bit of fire.

I do not believe individualism is entirely coming to an end, but I do believe that it is about to be downsized as a value in our society. This is often the case with cultural waves, and subsequent over-reacting counterwaves.

But what would a post-individualistic world be like? Individualism sprung from romanticism together with the exaltation of passion, the seed of anti-conformism, and many aspects of our culture that are deeply interconnected, so it’s not a case of shutting down a single value, but rather the interconnected network of values that we call our current culture.

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Neonomadism

I get to read from time to time about these hippy digital nomads that seem to be living the best life from some tropical beach. Rarely you get to bring the topic to a conversation and not see the distinctive look of jealousy appearing on someone’s face: tropical life, away from everyday traffic, commute and stress, flexible working hours… what’s not to like?

On the other hand, while this may sound like a dream-life, there are still many good reasons that keep us attached to our “homes”: not just our actual home, but our belongings, the nearby places we cherish like the local church, library or mall, our loved ones, and of course our jobs.

When you think of it this way, it is amusing what we call digital nomads: they only became such by making their home a digital place… it is actually their digital sedentism that enables them to be physical nomads!

The fact is: we are all digital migrants in the process of getting there… they are just a little ahead of the curve!

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Individualism

Romanticism was a cultural movement that gained momentum towards the end of the 1700s in Europe, and is still far from being a concept of the past: whenever you describe a “romantic” sunset or movie, you are the living proof that Romanticism and its focus on emotions has influenced our culture to this very day.
Another strong focus of romanticism was individualism: starting from Beethoven and continuing to me and you, individualism kept growing stronger and gained the status of cornerstone of western culture.

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Multisingularity

We describe as singularity the moment when A.I. will outperform human intelligence. The concept is of strong significance because if human intelligence is capable of creating A.I., anything that outperforms human intelligence should by definition be able to improve A.I., and this would cause an iterative chain effect that will bring A.I. to a demigod-like status in a relatively short time.

There is one catch tho: to define outperformance, or improvement over something, we should be capable of measuring and comparing it first. I am not really wondering if we are, I am arguing -instead- that it is completely impossible.

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Likeocracy

What is the social cost of a Like?

I wrote about Social Media before, but this post is about traditional online newspapers and how they are following the same footprints, using new techniques such as click baits and trying to “go viral”  in a bid to gain visibility or simply survive.

One meaningful example form the Guardian: Subsidised tenants are excluded from pool and gym in London block .

A bit of background here: in UK, at least 30% of the newly built apartments should by law be under the “social housing” scheme, with lower rent prices subsidised by tax payers.

Whatever is your take on the matter, this article will likely leave you angered at either:

a) the people who wants to use the subsidised pool and gym by bundling it with the social housing scheme and exploiting the system, or

b) the people who are supporting segregation and even a form of social cleansing, as proposed in the article.

This is the divide et impera at work again! Not because someone is conspiring in that direction: our Digital Media are simply tuned to rank something better if it causes a reaction, likes, shares, engagement!

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Praise of the grasshopper

What is globalization? A simple agnostic definition on wiktionary suggests very briefly that it is

The process of becoming a more interconnected world.

Following that, a second, more political definition is provided in which globalisation becomes a byproduct of capitalism.

If this was true (we’ll get there), it would be easy for a westerner to nihilistically dismiss our culture and values as a mere race to obtain more money and goods, and just as nihilistically dismiss the globalisation and the expansion of capitalism as something inherently negative, but is it that simple?

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Multiversal principles

There are in the world some principles that are universally accepted: human rights, not killing innocents, a good portion of the Ginevra convention are just examples.

If you live your life according to such a principle and neither you nor anyone around you ever challenges that principle, you will likely end up thinking that your principle is actually a universal principle, an objectively just principle that must never be challenged.

Social Media creates many basins of like-minded users, by feeding us more of what we like, and therefore shielding us from any line of thought that diverges from our own, effectively creating Multiple Universal Principles.

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Gender Divide et Impera

Feminism is one of the defining concepts of our era, one that is challenging patriarchy, the prevailing paradigm for thousands of years. One that has sprung from the very unique technological, social and economical conditions we lived in for the last few decades. One that seems inevitably going to advance with time until the final goal is reached to grant equal rights and opportunities across genders.

I argued before that our current communication system is dividing and weakening our society. This isn’t about that type of division: it is more subtle and we didn’t even noticed it spreading, beginning to divide the two founding halves of our society and species: two halves that should really come together as one. Continue reading “Gender Divide et Impera”

Democracy Miniaturisation

After the fall of the USSR, we immediately saw many European countries splitting into smaller entities, and even after that momentum slowed down, there never was an inversion, but rather a consolidation that took different shapes all the way to the present.

At the same time glocalization has grown to become a mainstream cultural trend: on one hand we keep globalizing as we did for decades, assimilating more and more foreign cultures into our own, enhancing the migration flows and letting our society becoming more diverse, but on the other hand we become more and more aware of what makes our own local culture unique exactly because we now have more elements to compare ourselves with others, thus enhancing the personal bond with our local community.

These two factors work in synergy with many others, and together they are providing an impulse towards a miniaturisation of our democracies.

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Digital Divide et Impera

Divide et Impera is an old latin saying. It was -over a thousand year ago- a very successful war tactic in which the enemies were divided, pushed against each other, weakened as a result, and ultimately more easily conquered.

Zooming in to the last decade or so, internet first and social media later tweaked ever so slightly the concept of human relationships, and in the process they ignited a revolution of our our communication system in such a way that we are now giving a new modern meaning to that old adage.

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Trendy Elders

There was a time when western societies used to respect their elders, just like most other cultures.

Something then changed, but what?

To answer, the question “why don’t we -as a culture- respect the elders” must be reversed, and we should ask ourselves why do most cultures do so, and what makes us different.

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The train and the truck

Yesterday an awful tragedy happened.

84 people died (count updated at the time of writing) in a terrorist attack, where a truck rallied for 2km through a crowd celebrating the French Bastille day, in Nice.

3 days ago, on July 12, an awful tragedy happened.

27 people died in a train accident, where two trains collided head-on in Puglia, Italy.

Did you know about the train tragedy? Probably not.

Mandatory Happiness

A quick chat with friends, and a couple of overheard conversations sparkled it all.

The chat was about how no one wants to be dragged into the downward vortex of negativity, we all heard it hundreds of times, I have been actively portraying the idea for like 20 years now, and yet, hearing it back chewed and served as a mainstreamized concept, scared me, for the first time in 20 years.

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