Does the “Sharing Economy” Create Community, or Profit From the Lack of It?

When our kids were little, we lived in an Eichler suburb in south Palo Alto. Every house on the block had a 6-to-7-foot fence around it. In the year that we lived there we rarely saw a neighbor. It was eery.

One day, while mowing our lawn, I had a revelation: Our market system has a vested interest in our individual isolation, because this way — rather than sharing, say, lawnmowers among all the neighbors — we each buy our own lawnmower. Consumption is maximized by the destruction of community. In some weird way our market system depends on our isolation from one another, from the weakness of community.

Notice that this is — maybe — starting to change a bit now with the “sharing economy” … Airbnb, Uber, the mesh, waste as food, access not ownership, etc. But does the “sharing economy” really increase community, or merely find a new way to profit from the lack of it?

Various personal and civic pathologies are associated with the breakdown of communities … crime, mental health, etc.

In the following article from Huffington Post, human isolation is now found to be at the root of addiction, and human connection — community — the key to healing it.

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think”
 By Johann Hari

Excerpt:

The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

 


A Beautiful Moment From a Beautiful Movie: “Pride”

For years I’ve kept a mental collection of movies that contain forgiveness. I dunno why. Maybe because we are all so often in need of it ourselves. Places in the Heart. Enchanted April. Love Actually. Happy Thank You More Please.

And now — after watching it today on Amazon streaming — Pride, based on a true story about an alliance between a group of Welsh miners and a group of gays and lesbians in Thatcher’s UK in 1985.

Here’s the emotional high point from this beautiful beautiful movie, a rendition of Bread and Roses like we’ve never heard before. A great old union song.

 


The End of Old Artic Sea Ice in Three Minutes (video)

“Decades ago, the majority of the Arctic’s winter ice pack was made up of thick, perennial ice. Today, very old ice is extremely rare. This animation tracks the relative amount of ice of different ages from 1987 through early November 2014. Video produced by the Climate.gov team, based on data provided by Mark Tschudi.”


Timelapse Video of Planet Earth from Space

Explanation of video from YouTube posting:

Watch Earth roll by through the perspective of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst in this six-minute timelapse video from space. Combining 12,500 images taken by Alexander during his six-month Blue Dot mission on the International Space Station this Ultra High Definition video shows the best our beautiful planet has to offer.

Marvel at the auroras, sunrises, clouds, stars, oceans, the Milky Way, the International Space Station, lightning, cities at night, spacecraft and the thin band of atmosphere that protects us from space.

Often while conducting scientific experiments or docking spacecraft Alexander would set cameras to automatically take pictures at regular intervals. Combining these images gives the timelapse effect seen in this video.

Watch the video in 4K resolution for the best effect and find out more about Alexander Gerst’s Blue Dot mission here: http://www.esa.int/BlueDot

Follow Alexander Gerst via http://alexandergerst.esa.int

Audio via the Audio Network library:
1. Into The Matrix (1899/6) Jason Pedder / Ben Ziapour
2. We Are Delirious (2073/6) Annie Drury / Bob Bradley / Matt Sanchez / Matt Parker


Je Suis Charlie


Internet’s Impact on Print Media Only Part of the Story

Playwright Alena Smith, describing the faded fortunes of American playwrights, notices that the impact of the Internet extends far beyond the print media:

This is what happens to “old media,” after all — new media rise up and displace them. We are clearly in the midst of such a conflict right now, as the internet has seized control of the global cultural economy, upending established industries and eroding formerly paramount institutions from book publishers to the music industry to print newspapers and magazines to now, finally, even the mighty television networks. Rough times lie ahead for the television industry, and these challenges will inevitably impact its writers.;

Side note: We’ve joined this revolution by dropping our cable service several years ago (saving ourselves over $100/mo). Now we do all of our “television” viewing online, Internet only.

Smith continues:

As internet pioneer turned techo-skeptic Jaron Lanier starkly puts it in his 2010 screed You Are Not a Gadget, “Once file sharing shrinks Hollywood as it is now shrinking the music companies, the option of selling a script for enough money to make a living will be gone.” Lanier’s warning may seem hyperbolic, but unrestricted file sharing is surely what undermined the music industry, and it’s what’s hurting the world of journalism, too. In a sense, the internet caused the unbundling of both the music album and the print newspaper — and in doing so, severely damaged both industries. The trouble comes down to simple economics of supply and demand in the digital age. When infinite copies of a work of art can be made and distributed globally in an instant, supply is limitless, and the value of an individual copy gets pushed down to zero. But of course, the original cost of creating a work of art in the first place, for the creator, does not change a bit. Writers still need to eat, pay rent, and feed their families. They just can’t necessarily rely on profits from their actual work to compensate them for that endeavor. This is how a profession gets demonetized. This is how a job — a living — gets reduced to a hobby.

Notice too Smith’s perspective on net neutrality:

The platform where nearly all of culture now takes place is, in fact, owned and controlled by a handful of incredibly powerful, borderline-monopolistic corporations. And these are the companies, like Amazon, now getting into “the scripted game.” We’ve already seen the types of problems that can arise under this new arrangement — for example, in the recent conflict between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette. In an era where Amazon is responsible for 65 percent of all online book sales, and 41 percent of book sales, period, their thuggish negotiation tactics can be potentially calamitous for a publishing company, and devastating for individual writers. If this is how Amazon treats the writers of books, how well can we expect them, as producers or distributors, to treat the writers of TV shows? Similar questions can be asked about any of the powerful new platform owners — in particular, the telecom companies that actually control the physical cables and routers through which all our media now travels. The fight for net neutrality is the fight to stop the internet from becoming a place where giant telecom companies are able to dictate terms to every creator who wishes to distribute content through their pipes. And screenwriters’ livelihoods depend on it.

Read the full article here: “You Can’t Make a Living: Digital Media, the End of TV’s Golden Age, and the Death Scene of the American Playwright


Best Headline in Today’s Union

Best headline in today’s Union:

“Nevada City woman arrested for stealing friend’s car, evading police under the influence”

I don’t steal cars, but I agree that it’s best to avoid drunk cops.


The Evil Wolf vs The Good Wolf Inside Us All

This “old Cherokee story” continues to make the rounds on the Internet. I saw it most recently on Facebook, posted like this:

Some thoughts:

As much as I love this old story — and I do love it — I think it’s important to understand and accept that we can’t ultimately defeat and destroy the Evil Wolf (all those dark forces within us) and live thereafter as “beings of light.” This is not some New Age parable. Rather, as the story says, “there are two wolves inside us all.” There will always be two wolves inside us all. The best we can do is become more consciojus and aware of the Evil Wolf (or, in Jung’s terminology, our Shadow). “Feeding” the Evil Wolf is equivalent to following it’s claims and urges as if they were the true path of virtue. Not feeding it consists in seeing it for what it is.

The Wolf that “wins” only wins provisionally and for the moment.

It’s important to accept both wolves as core parts of our nature.

Trying to rid ourselves of the Evil one is rather like Christianity’s psychologically unrealistic project of ulltimately defeating Satan. The problem with this project is that we’re constantly finding enemies out there and never confronting the Evil Wolf in ourselves. We’re constantly at war.

Accepting both the Good and Bad Wolf as our own is more like the psychologically healthy image of the Hindu goddess, Shakti (consort of Shiva), who is often protrayed both as a destroyer and as a creator.

On balance, I think the old Cherokee story is more akin to Hindu (and less to Christian) psychology (which we in Western civilization have inherited, whether we are individually Christian or not). 

Love_vs_Hate


Carl Sagan’s Words Are More Powerful Than Ever

Carl Sagan’s beautiful riff on our “Pale Blue Dot” is an incredible amalgam of science, philosophy and some kind of word jazz, and has inspired more than one video treatment (just search for “pale blue dot” in YouTube and you’ll see what I mean).

Here’s the best treatment I’ve found. I particularly love the momentary image flashing by of Atticus Finch sitting with his daughter Scout on his lap on their front porch just as we hear Sagan’s voice saying “every teacher of morality.”

I still miss Sagan’s sane voice. We need it now more than ever.


Maureen O’Hara

By Don Pelton

As a pre-teen pre-pubescent sprite I was in love with actress Maureen O’Hara. It’s still a mystery to me. Maybe due to the effect of movies in the 1940s, I was in love with lots of things in movie theaters, including the tall brunette usherette at the Saturday matinee, and the Abba Zaba bars sold at the candy counter (oh man, peanut butter and taffy!).

It was probably the same mystery that impelled me to love the movie, “The Quiet Man,” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. I particularly loved the scene where Wayne drags O’Hara by her hair across the beautiful Irish countryside.

The whole fantasy burst for good years later when I eagerly showed my new bride (a mostly Irish lass herself!) this most wonderful of all movies and she laughed and mocked the absurdity of the crucial hair-dragging scene!

Losing that fantasy was all for the good, but now, more than sixty years later, I still feel the faint tug of … Maureen O’Hara.

Screen Siren Maureen O’Hara to Receive an Honorary Oscar

Maureen_Ohara


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