Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Turing Institute for Data Science

trying to work out which of these two pictures will represent the sort of work the ATI will do most

1/ tamagochi hive mind
2/ astro turf wars

answers on a post card...

Friday, June 12, 2015

the naked eye aint wot it used to see

John Berger's ways of seeing  tv series was amazing - not just politically, but visually. everyone should atch it while they can (its >25 years old - makes new kids on the block look very naive) - its a polemic, genius art meets politics piece of criticism which is so much better than No Logo or Shock Doctrine. although I liked those too, albeit they were polemical, but with design instead of added art - hmm - maybe i'm just a polemicophile.

meanwhile, the four eye sage continues. Lft eye has accreted weird stuff in cornea so need laster treetment to restore it to pristine post-cataract post-detached-torn retina state. but the right eye now has vitreous partial detachment, so  might have to go thru same old retina shit if the macular/retina decide they like my vitreous more than my eye sight. great. we'll see. literally. and figuratively. and visually. and metaphorically. and luminously, and demonstrably. the outlook is temporary. the view from in here is, hmm// why dangle. floaters and shiny flashes cross the field, and I am not watching a thunderstorm or a plague of paparazzi.

how long does a vivid imagination outlast a visual reminder? the word, imagination: why is "image" in it? that's my currency. i don;t want to retire, even if it was to play blind lemon pledge for a few years (cue martin simpson joke name for blues guitarist) - would learn to play like this, maybe

Thursday, May 21, 2015


There's been some (social) success in micro-loan systems in bailing out developing areas of the world, however, the macro-loan business run by the european central bank and the IMF and other neo-liberal agenda organisations is unacceptable.

Why don't we start a macro-loan potlatch?

Potlatch is a mutual system of gifts which bonds societies together - described in anthropology literature, it existed in particular in the Pacific North West of America between native tribes, and resulted in less war, as well as marriage exchanges (ok, so not necessarily all good) - this would fit the exact  same goal that the EU was created for, but without the complex burocracy and mission creep. Also, without the centralisation and mission creep/capture by capital - instead it would be a syndic. Norway could bootstrap it for Greece (but note, it would not be government or financial service agencies - it would be people-to-people, peer-to-peer)

I think such a mechanism could actually realize a techno-anarcho-syndicalist end-run on the whole neo-con/neo-liberal agenda - if you look at the disposable wealth one could offer, a set of a few million brits could, for example, extend a couple of trillion pounds quite easily. but it wouldn't be brit-to-portugal, but interest group to interest group....

needs some wiki-rules to prevent misbehaviour (but given how much the centralized banks and their alleged regulators like the FSA and the credit rating agencies completely screw up, a child of 3 could come up with something fairer and more stable...

time to invade everyware

Thursday, April 09, 2015

My Manifesto for May 7

1. Austerity was always a nonsense idea - Keynes was right, Hayek wrong - during times of trouble, especially when there's the lowest interest rates in history, the government should borrow to run big infrastructure projects -the obvious one in the UK is to build about 500,000 houses per year for the next 10 years. The Harvard economists withdrew the empirical study paper that purported to support austerity (after it was shown to contain trivially wrong spreadsheet calculations) - it is no shameful thing to admit that the governments of Europe (esp. Germany) were wrong in following a bogus policy.

2.  Do not leave the EU- the CBI says so, and it is obvious that all the evidence (from trade and other places) is that we cannot afford to leave - we would cripple our economy. Drop the promise for a referendum, which is just a fig leaf for tories to protect against UKIP - confront the stupidty of UKIP with the sanity of the EU. The EU does not interfere in our sovereign law (proven) and is mainly a net massive contribution to our wealth. And political stability and peace. Sure, a few europeans come here to work and live - see next:

3. Do not change immigration policy. It is fine. there are more people going to the rest of europe on health tourism trips than come here by a factor of 10. THere are nearly as many people emigrate to warmer climes in Europe than come here from old eastern block, now EU, countries. The people that leave are old, expensive NHS drags. The ones that come here contribute massively, didn't cost us anything to educate, and do not especially work for less -t hey are too well educated to take the low end jobs.  Stopping them coming here would cost us money, significant amounts of the education and health services would collapse too. Point out UKIP only say this because they are racist. Point out that there is already a points system for non-EU people who want to come here - its almost impossible to get a work permit for a non-EU immigrant even if they have a PhD in the right topic. Ludicrous nonsense is made up about this. We should also be able to stand more asylum seekers from dangerous parts of the world (syria etc) which might make some of our radicalised people think we aren't actually against them.

4. Scrap trident. Being able to nuke Iran after we are a smoking crater is dangerous nonsense as well as being genocide. Money saved would also help with some of the next few things...

5.  Build lots and lots of houses and other infrastructure. I am really not dogmatic about whether you need to keep the right to buy policy, but would just point out that if you added 5M houses in the bigger cities, the price of housing would fall to something affordable and lots of builders would have been paid, so would be able to afford them too...obviously.

6. Make all education (including higher) free for all. It was for ages - we weren't poorer when we introduced fees, we were richer - we can still afford it. Germany repealed fees. We should too. Scotland has. Everyone benefits from having a better educated population. However, re-introduce the split between more vocational (shorter degree programme) polytechnic degrees and more academic R&D, just for clarity of career path. Note, medical and law degrees should be offered in polytechnics.

7. Progressive tax isn't far wrong. It is probably about right. But it needs to be enforced fairly. Corporation tax likewise. Staying in Europe would help with this (pressurising Switzerland to stop acting as a tax haven and Luxembourg to stop acting as a corporate tax haven) - we should offer that the UK will shut down corporation of london and channel island loopholes in exchange.

8. Pay for the NHS upgrade/funding gap 30B is less than 500 pounds per person - who says this isn't affordable? They are wrong.

9. Pay attention to sustainable energy - we could borrow lots of money against a future we'd then enjoy, by building those two big tidal barrage projects and a bunch of offshore wind farms. There are some downsides, but in the long run, the geo-political reduction in dependence (or is it addiction) to gas and oil from OPEC and Putin's Russia would be a Good Thing for everyone.

10. Move towards social, digital Direct Democracy - the Liquid Demos experiments need to continue til we make them work as engaging. Grass roots movements are breaking out everywhere - give them decision making (hey, even tax raising) powers whenever they show responsibility  - this is the way to reclaim being the Mother of all Parliaments - so we could one day soon say:

"We are all westminster, now."!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

post feminism or posthumous feminism - is hi-tech just the new rock and roll?

I've read a lot recently about appalling treatment of women in hi-tech companies (c.f. gamergate). I guess its only surprising if you assume the somewhat dubious rhetoric/narrative that the hi-tech world came out of some sort of Californian hippy past (a very weird narrative if you think about Hewlett/Packard, Microsoft, IBM, and why should Google and Facebook be any different?)
[n.b. education is not immune from this - viz, MIT,  Stanford, and I am sure where I work too...]

So then I started reading some jolly good recent autobiographies starting with
Beverly Martyn's revelations about John Martyn - what a git.
So then I got on to Viv Albertine's great dissection of her life - some hard times - mostly less crap guys, but still some.
Then I read Jah Wobble's Memoirs of a Geezer, which has some extremely funny moments, but some odd views on relationships, although some heroic  stand-in work, similar to John Lydon's tale of waywardness and argumentation, followed by some recovering family work.
Finally (well, most recently) I got Kim Gordon's Girl in the Band (which reminds me, I had read Patti Smith's fantastic Just Kids which is mainly a lament for Robert Mapplethorpe), and see some of the same behaviour.

So what's the common thread? These folks represent a sample of people bought up in US and UK counter culture over the past 50 plus years, and yet, 200 years after Mary Wollestonecraft, there's precious little evidence any of these icon's of our time paid a blind bit of notice to what she said.

So even if the hi-tech sector came out of the counter-culture (which it doesn't) their youth heroes and even mentors were basically a bunch of patronising arseholes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Really Radical

I realize that the roots of the word "radical" are, errrr, just that - going back to roots. But I really dislike the use of "radicalization" to describe the brainwashing of poor western muslims back to the stone age (except, ironically, happily toting 21st century western weapons).

The idea of being really radical for me summons up the re-wiring of ones roots - the subtle, and careful replacement of medieval assumptions with more nuanced behaviours and affordances, permissions and obligations. There are plenty of examples - having just come back from China, I caught up on some of their history (from 13/14th century) and it is a similar story to ours - highly hierarchical societies with a very strict caste system, a priesthood and a royalty, and 11 strata - every detail of behaviour prescribed - penalties for breaking rules could result in everyone from the top 9 strata in your family/entourage being executed - reading about the Peasants' Revolt in about the same time in England, much the same here.

Moving on through the "Englightenment, the 19th and 20th century saw may radical ideas enacted.
People could take the weekend off.
People got a say in how things were run.
The definition of people included folks from any walk of life, men, women,
We got the right to a fair trial (innocent before being proven guilty).
We got to live in peace without interference in your behaviour in your own home.
We got to expect a fair go at education, health, safety, entertainment, fulfilment.

Along with these fundamental rights (and there are a lot more we enjoy)
we got the right to talk nonsense in public. We got the right not to expect the Spanish Inquisition (literally and figuratively). We got Satire. We got to enjoy (or find excruciating) difference. Diversity. Tolerance. Misdemeanour. Letting your hair down. Eccentricity. Daftness.

Long may we persist - I like to think we were heading towards Iain Banks "Culture" philosophy, and a jolly good thing to.

Meanwhile so-called "radicalized" religious "fundamentalists", hear this: you aren't fundamental or radical. You are superficial, ignorant and lacking in any human spirit.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Revolution Will Not be Branded

Struggling through Russell Brand's tome whose basic flaws this review nails (poor writing, repetitios, long windied and not terribly funny).

However, there are several ill-matched tropes in the book, which for me, ultimately, completely undermine what might otherwise have been a useful contribution to the debate on what should replace western capitalist "democracy":

1. Mixing up his own already fairly public personal voyage with a rag-bag of quite interesting critiques of the situation in which we are in, largely by other people, distracts from the impact.
I don't care that he's a recovering substance abuser. It isn't relevant to the argument, no matter how much he tries to make of the analaogy between his own and societies' addictions. The personal solution doesn't work for society, and the social problems don't gell with his conspiracy of the illumiati-bus load of ultra-rich. You can't blame other people, no matter how wealthy for your own poor choices. Re-organising society from the bottom up isn't just a matter of better ad-blocking.

2. Repeated use of 4 letter words, both for emphasis (ok use of F word and invective/dismissal of individuals (not ok use of C word), will piss of a lot of readers who are  from a more genteel world, or perhaps are just women, or just think the author should use his imagination to come up with less lazy cusses (think, arab curses, for example - may your mother's milk be long life).

3. Religion - so I see where he's coming from with the personal/spiritual aspect of life - there's a brilliant bit in Ursula Le Guin's genius novel, The Dispossessed, when someone from the capitalist planet asks the visitor from the Anarchist neighbour world "so you don't believe in god?" and he retorts that they are perfectly capable of thinking in the spirtual mode - its just one of seven ways of thinking. (Wish Le Guin had listed the other 6!)

The problem is that he didn't get the same level of expert advice or even decent sound bytes on how you might link social, and economic re- organisation with a spiritual structure that doesn't just end up being the same old organisation with priests and temples, hedge fund managers and casino banks, presidents, senators, lords and  white houses.

Oh, and he picked the wrong kind of yoga.

Some further thoughts
i). Brand is somewhat in-awe of "experts, to the extent where he magically places Naomi Klein and Thomas Piketty together on a pedestal - as far as I know, Klein is no more "quafid" than Brand to comment (this is not a criticism of Klein (or Brand) - anyone can read up this stuff) but Piketty has "paid his dues" so is an expert (for what its worth) - what makes Piketty and Klein worth reading is that they put their evidence up for inspection - their books are copiously well supported by facts.

ii) Crucial point is that its clear at some points (about midway through the book, for example) that Brand doesn't live the dream quite - when talking about Bankers Bailout he doesn't join up with the discussion of cancelling indivuduals' debts - the argument used by the right wing is that "if we cancel everyones' debt, they will just stop working so hard, and run up more debts". So if that argument applies to the Hoi Poloi/Jane Q Public/The Great Unwashed, how does it not then apply in spades to bankers? The austerity imposed on great swathes of Europe in the name of sorting out the crisis, which was largely bought about by covering failed casino banks and stupid lenders (not borrowers) is one the most awe-inspiring con-tricks of all time. As some of the smart people are quoted as saying in the book, it was transfer of wealth from the poor (who were also borrowers, to the rich who were already coining it from gigantic bonuses and outrageous interest rates.

The Shakespear line  "neither a borrow nor a lender be" sure is bad advice. Pick one, and make sure its a lender. (Brand does quote various olden time cultural and religious proscriptions against lending, to, errr, give him, errr, credit :)

iii) the book should be free (as well as buyable) - this is known not to affect sales of good books, but sets an example - my colleague, Ross Anderson, wrote the best book on security engineering, and got his publishers agreement to make it free online too without any detectable negative impact on sales (in fact, likely the reverse).