Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Motivation in an RBE

Daniel Pink talks about motivation in this 18 video given in Oxford (England). He shows from scientific research that motivation comes from Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose - being able to work under your own authority, building your expertise and working for something bigger than yourself. It is well worth watching. He cites global concerns like Wikipedia and Google in his presentation.

Smoking is good for you

Smoking is good for you. It creates jobs on tobacco farms, in cigarette factories, and in advertising and retail. The illnesses it causes need treating in hospitals and this creates work for doctors and nurses, ancillary staff in the hospital, and the people who design and build hospitals. It makes work for the people who make anti-cancer treatments. It even makes work for road sweepers and others dealing with smoking litter, and of course the people who work in industries that make lighters, matches, ash trays etc. Paradoxically, it also benefits the people who work in the 'stop smoking' industry: Those who give advice and hypnosis counselling, those involved in the manufacture of nicotine patches and gum, and those pretend cigarettes that help you give up the real thing. it's all economic growth.

The government, realising the cost to businesses of progressively banning cigarettes, has postponed the enactment of the Tobacco Act passed by the outgoing Labour Government which would see further restriction. (This is not a party political statement - the same paradoxes apply in a monetary economy whoever runs it).

Lunacy. In a sane world, if people really wanted to smoke, provided they knew the risks, no-one would absolutely want to stop them, but if people didn't have to have jobs to get money to access the essentials of life, who would work in an industry that both wants you to smoke and wants you to stop smoking. In a sane world, where only work that has a social return is done, there would be less work to do, and less stress - and less smoking to palliate the stress. (Whilst tobacco can hardly be seen as one of life's essentials, and thus the nutrients to grow it would be prioritised to food, there would be no moral reason for preventing its use.)

In a world without money people wouldn't have to be bonded in slavery paying back loan with interest. No-one would need to sell anything, including tobacco, and therefore no-one would need to push anything through advertising. The only 'advertising' would simply give information about the product/service.

Turkeys voting for Christmas

Andrew Gilligan, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, opined that Civil Servants ("Sir Humphreys") will not co-operate with moves to make the Civil Service more efficient by sacking civil servants. This is so obvious it hardly needs saying, but of course journalists get paid for writing so they write.

Peter Joseph says in 'The Zeitgeist Addendum' (possibly quoting someone else) "Human employment is in direct competition with technical development". May be technical development isn't quite the issue here, but why would Civil Servants or anyone else deprive themselves of a living by cutting out their own jobs in the name of efficiency? We need to decide what things need doing for our race/planet to thrive, and set about getting them done in the most efficient way possible - ie with the least human effort, which means machines and automation. Being deliberately inefficient so as to create work so that people can get money and thereby food is plainly diametrically opposed to being more efficient. We don't need Mr Gilligan to tell us this, but he has to eat too.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Even the crash makes work - pointless work - for people to do

Prof Niall Ferguson's TV programme, The Ascent of Money is being shown again on TV at the moment. In the first episode, he shows how the poor people of Memphis are loaned money to buy a car, but they can't afford to pay back the loan so the loan is 'restructured' and the car repossessed and put back on sale possibly in the same dealership that sold it to the first hapless customer.

The people restructuring their loans go to see lawyers, who are in effect paid to change a subprime loan that should never have been made by the bankers, into a loan that has some prospect of being paid back. There's also work for auction houses selling the same cars over and over again as they cycle round from individual to bank to auctioneer, to car dealer, to individual ...

Nothing productive, nothing worthwhile, all just games with money, moving cars around physically, nd admin as the 'title' to the car changes hands.

Public vs Private Sector

An article in The Week (10 July 2010) which was presumably quoting from a newspaper columnist - it may be Eamonn Butler in The Guardian - it's unclear - said of the 600,000 people public sector employees forecast to lose their jobs - "with nearly half a million jobs now being advertised, even in these uncertain times, there's plenty of scope for committed people to find work."

The forecast is for 1.3 million jobs to go in both sectors, but the article also quotes the Office of Budget Responsibility's forecast of 2.5 million new private sector jobs by 2014. The article doesn't attempt to decide whether these 2.5 million jobs are new additional - ie whether we are to deduct the 700,000 (1.3 million less 600,000) or it has been deducted.

It's a fat lot of good callibrating all this in "jobs" as if any one job is equal to any other job, and here we have the tacit assumption that private sector jobs are better than public sector ones. "Committed" people in the public sector will of course go out and get a new job in the private sector. What it is they were doing in the public sector or will be doing in the private sector is entirely irrelevant, it would seem.

If a job is pointless - having no social return - and is just there to give someone something to do so they can earn money and thereby access to the necessities of life, the 'sector' that it is in is entirely irrelevant. The point is that we should arrange to have done the things that are necessary for our survival and prosperity as a species by the most efficient means possible, and this means de-coupling work from access to the necessities of life.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Controlling the resource that is human labour

If you've got more than enough money you can lend the excess out to others and get interest. If you're the big four (Rockefeller, Morgan, Baring, Rothschild), then you've got pretty much all the money between you and everyone else's money is on loan from you.

Even for the hyper rich, controlling money is useless - what you want to control is resources, and that is why resources are accessed through the medium of money rather than by birthright or for free. For most people, the main way to get money is by working and thus the resource that is human labour is controlled - helped along by the fact that the money has to be paid back with interest and the interest can only come from the same place the capital did - ie the big 4, basically.

But by the same mechanism, human labour is working against technological efficiency. Technological efficiency is good on the face of it, but if it deprives you of a job then it deprives you of money and therefore of access to resources, therefore you don't want it, even though it's a good idea on paper.

When this problem is spelt out this simply, the stupidity of it is clear.

If money truly represented actual wealth (ie the resources we have to sustain human life on this planet) as many people think it does, then it would make some kind of sense. But it doesn't. It simply represents debt that most people are working to pay back but which in total can't be paid back because of interest. The amount of money in existence is growing independently of the true growth in the economy - ie increasingly efficiently deriving the resources we need to sustain our lives

Th control of true resources

In "The Zeitgeist Addendum" John Perkins, author of 'Confessions of an economic hitman', speaks of his involvement in destabilising (or attempting to) various countries of the world whilst contracted to the CIA and IMF (ie the USA).

The common scenario as he describes it is that the president of the country wants to keep a resource (say oil) for the benefit of that country - often the poorer inhabitants. The USA of course wanted control of these assets, and sent in people like Perkins to achieve it by attempting to corrupt the president.

In a resource based economy as defined by Jacque Fresco/Peter Joseph, the world's resources would be available to all equally/fairly - this is (at least partly) why it is described as Marxist - so how does a country claiming the oil as its own fit in with this?

Well, it doesn't really, but the point is who or what institution is controlling (true) resources and for whose benefit. In an RBE there would be no institutions and the world's resources would be intelligently managed for everyone's benefit by computers. In the absence of that set up, any institution controlling resources for the benefit of poor(er) people seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Let's get good at killing people and good at stopping ourselves too

BBC TV's technology programme 'Click' admiringly showed a new gadget that can detect the newer type of land mine that's made of plastic to avoid detection by metal detectors. Admittedly this is clever gadge, but here we have human ingenuity (and technological ingenuity, very possibly) working against itself - one working out how to kill people and the other working out how to stop them. Still, this all makes work and money and counts as GDP, so that's OK, I suppose? I wonder whether the same company manages to make and sell both the mines and the detectors

No - it's complete lunacy. It makes discussing public sector back-office staff look like a waste of energy. Let's take a serious look at ourselves as a race here. We put our finest minds and engineers to work perfecting the art of killing their fellow human beings, and call it 'economic growth' when they sell more of their pernicious weapons.

Decouple work from the need to access the necessities of life and people can immediately stop working both on weapons and the means of neutralising or countering weapons, and do something socially constructive or if not nothing.

Cut the backroom staff

Lib Dem Councillor Chris Naylor wrote to The Independent that the Chancellor should "apply his 80-20 rule to these [public sector] cuts too: 80% from Overheads and backroom, 20% from front line". This is purely arbitrary.

Later in his letter he adds "but ask these staff where the cuts should fall and they will of course say cut the cntracts [that they monitor] - not the payroll." How many people are going to suggest cuts that detrimentally affect them personally? Most people are going to defend their own jobs.

Once again we need to decouple work from access to the necessities of life. That way people don't have to defend their employment in lieu of access to life's necessities. Then we can truly concentrate on doing (or having done) only what needs to be done to improve humanity's lot, and have it done as efficiently and sustainably as we can manage.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Inequality causes ill health - Why Equality is Better for Everyone

From the BBC:

'A report from the National Audit Office indicates that the gap in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest parts of the population in England as a whole is continuing to widen, despite a target set by the Labour government in 2000 to narrow the gap.

Speaking on the [Today] programme, Dr Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets in London, said that the government needed to address the fundamental cause of ill health. "What I would argue is what you need is a much bigger and wider role for GPs, so in our centre we provide a hundred different projects which includes a job advisor," he told Today presenter John Humphrys.

"The evidence is absolutely clear, that if you get somebody into work or if you get them trained almost in anything you will improve their health."

BMA President Sir Michael Marmot, who recently published a wider independent review into health inequalites, said he was not surprised by the new findings and that there were "persistent inequalities" in areas including income and health.

He added that the scale of the problem in London could be seen by taking a journey on the capital's Underground system. For each Tube stop east from Westminster, he said, "you lose a year of life expectancy".

The NAO looked at 70 of the most deprived parts of England. It found that people are living longer in all areas but life expectancy is increasing more slowly in poorer districts.' is the sister website to the book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett). The overwhelming conclusion of the authors' study is, as the subtitle says, that equality is better for everyone - rich and poor alike.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Coming to terms with cuts

Well into this article, with classic understatement, the writer says:

"It will always be difficult to provide an incentive to employees to suggest measures that might result in the loss of their jobs, or those of colleagues."

Quite. More inefficiency means putting in more work to achieve the same level of output. More work = more jobs. So is inefficiency good or bad?

The ideas of The Zeitgeist Movement and The  Venus Project address this fundamental flaw of our economic system by decoupling work from access to life's necessities. Everyone gets access to life's necessities - you, me, and the 1 billion starving people. Using the best technology, we obtain the earth's resources sustainably for our survival. Only work that directly improves our lot as a species (is socially relevant in Peter Joseph's terminology) gets done, and that gets done as efficiently as possible - ie by maximising automation and minimising human labour.

Technological unemployment? Yes please!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Efficiency and employment are opposing each other

"In some parts of the country ... the public sector accounts for a third of the workforce. An urgent rebalancing was vital", wrote Damian Reece in The Daily Telegraph.

How much of the workforce should be in the public sector, then? We have to start from the premise that the public sector is a Bad Thing, which Reece only hints at by suggesting imbalance between the private and public sectors (presumably).

Here's the point. The only work that should be done is work that is directly relevant to social progress. Having a job to get money does not count as 'relevant to social progress', unless the work being done is in itself relevant to social progress. The work that needs to be done should be done in the most efficient way possible relative to the actual (ie not money) resources available. In many cases this means machines. Humans should only be doing socially relevant work that cannot be done by machines.

People in he public and private sectors all want/need to keep their jobs and there's a tendency to not be as efficient as possible in order that people may stay in work. The public sector gets criticised for that because it's tax funded and most people have no choice but to pay taxes, whereas in the private sector you allegedly have choice. This is a false dichotommy. The obvious essential service that the private sector predominates is food production and distribution. But food isn't produced and distributed as efficiently as possible, because people would lose their jobs - so it's the same thing as the public sector being inefficient to save jobs.

Until we decouple the need for access to the necessities of life from work and money, we are always going to have this problem. If we were so efficient that few if any people had jobs and therefore money to buy the efficiently produced goods/services, they would have to be given away. In our current system we create a cycle of consumption whereby jobs are made for people so that they can get money to buy the goods that are made for the large part to keep people in work.

Eye spy a number plate scandal

"Spy cameras which can track car number plates are in the government's firing line, following a 'scandal' in Birmingham.

Home secretary, Theresa May, announced she had expanded a review into the huge expansion of CCTV to include the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The move follows uproar after the cameras were secretly installed in Birmingham neighbourhoods with large Muslim populations - using £3m of 'counterterrorism' cash.

A network of 150-odd ANPR cameras was planned, to track residents entering or leaving Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, under a scheme dubbed Project Champion.

Some Birmingham city councillors complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, alleging the council was deliberately misled by West Midlands police.

The police were accused of pretending the project was for run-of-the-mill crime-fighting - when, in fact, the cash came a Terrorism and Allied Matters fund, intended to 'deter or prevent terrorism'."

Quite obviously, the way to know where a car (or any moveable asset) is at any time is to put a tracking device in it, and the obvious time to do that is when it is built. It would be a tremendous advantage to be able to know where all cars are all times. This ANPR technology is bridging the gap between the crude idea  of a number plate and a proper technological solution to the management of mobile assets. This retrofit of ANPR is bound to be more expensive, because as crude as a number plate is, it is fairly hard for a computer to read the characters off it.

The controversy here, though, is not just the cost, its lso the tracking of residents, which is done by looking up the ANPR-ed number plates on the DVLA computer and associating the registered keeper details with the registration mark. This is exactly the same process as would be done if the car reported its registration via RFID or SMS or Wimax, or some technological process.

The morality or effectiveness of counter terrorism measures is outside my scope, but at least do it technically efficiently if you're going to do it.

In a sane world you would know where all vehicles are all the time so you could deploy them efficiently. If you want a cab, you want the nearest one to you that's free (assuming it's the right spec). Of course with our current free market system of competing cab firms you just have to contact all of them.

A triumph of faith over experience

"It is homo sapiens's unique capacity for trading that pushes individuals to specialise and play to their own advantages. I am dexterous but weedy, you are strong but clumsy. I make the hooks and you catch the fish". This is a quote from The Rational Optimist, a book by Matt Ridley. He claims that trade is the vehicle that has enabled us to make progress in life expectancy, cleaner air / rivers, falling birth rate etc.

Nonsense. His example of the dexterous person making the hooks and the strong person catching the fish is an example of co-operation, not trade. And why is a falling birth rate progress? What other species, if it could count, would call this success. The rise in life expectancy is surely down to science, and who made the pollution that "trade" is now clearing up. Er, " trade". It's apparently to be congratulated for cleaning up its own mess.

George Monbiot called this  "a triumph of faith over experience"