Hi there, hope you’ve not been waiting too long, I have.
I do plan on getting back to putting some writing up here, like perhaps the Gcode poems I’ve started doing to help me remember projects, or some of the political musings I so enjoy.
Here I am in my studio, usually with a print job on the go, the TeeBot Suitcase slowly coming together, enjoying the last few days of 4 hourly morning visits I’ll be able to make this week before I go and get a real job.
As you can see its pretty cool, we have a well equipped workshop, including a 0.4mm drill bit which has come in very handy. I’ve had a few blocked nozzles and I’ve spent a lot of time swapping out the extruder parts, working up a sense of how best to stop them taking place. Now that I’m in a room where the humidity is 33% average, I can rest assured that it has nothing to do with moisture in my PLA.
Here are a couple of the projects I’ve done recently:
Here pictured is an Elsa wand whose “jewels” had snapped off – probably because the manufacturer can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over a year if they use a lot less glue. I printed some new ones in glow in the dark blue, glued them generously in place, and Voila.
Up next is some kind of friendly dragon toy whose fire, that shoots out of his mouth in plastic form, had broken off and resulted in the tearful dismay of its owner. Not simply being able to stand idly by while a poor boy like I myself once was, lost all hope of ever enjoying his favourite toy ever again, I offered to step in and offer a solution. A few minutes of design later and another few in print time and this new (also glow in the dark) fire was ready to be shot out of yonder jaws.
There are a few things on my mind this month, mainly that next month I’m starting a new job where fixing broken toys for kids could end up taking up large amounts of my spare time. As an educator of 25 seven year olds I expect as soon as they find out I can reprap toys back to life, they’ll want me to. Repair club, thats how I think it’ll start off. If there is nothing that kids want to repair then we can just take stuff apart to learn about it. I really want to give it a go taking a large amount of time and really going for it where it matters. The class of 2016, who I’ll be educating all the way through to 2021, are going to have a better idea of 3D printing, design and the power of Reprap than even the most ardent and dedicated armies of online 3d print hype-snipers. In my own experience, just reading about Reprap as much as I could from about 2007 onwards, taught me far less than what I’ve learned since actually getting involved hands on in 2011.
That is the great five year plan. I would ideally like to combine it with a PHD in 3D Printing that the University of Nottingham is offering from Autumn, but I’ll have to dedicate time into charming the relevant authorities, and formulating, formulating and polishing and formulating. Frankly though, if 3D printing just remains the darling of industry, the accessory of choice for the trendy designer and doesn’t actually make it big time, where there is mass adoption, then it has little chance of changing the world, and without actually taking people outside of their clickety click comfort zone of hype and wonder and getting them to screw something together or take something apart, it won’t.
If Reprap is going to save the world, we need a step by step recipe of how exactly to get it into people’s heads that it is a better way of living. Distributed manufacture is less wasteful than the crazy transportation stories of globalization that see produce, fresh produce, getting shipped all over the world to be washed, treated and sold, just because it makes a little more profit on a gargantuan enough scale. Oil is wasteful and that was OK, when you just have to put more of it in your car to get the extra 10k to where its 20 cents a gallon cheaper. The baby boomers were innocent but we are certainly not.
I grew up being taught that everyone has the same right to an education, to a reliable fresh water supply and enough food. My world as a child confirmed this because everyone I knew was sorted in these respects. I learned that men had been treated differently to women in the past and that this should change, people should not be discriminated against because of something they were born with like the colour of their skin or their preference of sexual partner. This was different to the way my parents were brought up, British people certainly disliked Germans because of the history of the war, and my parents were exposed to the emotion that their parents felt and assumed it the default, as you do when you’re a child – your context defines your tacit knowledge, the stuff you take for granted as being true. For my generation, the idea that peace is good, discrimination bad, and that climate change denial is boneheaded are there in the background. They were the issues that we hashed out in classrooms and playgrounds over many rounds, and even if you stand with the staunchest climate change deniers out there, what is the harm in changing to a less wasteful economy? If you’re one of those that doesn’t even accept the possibility that 99% of climate scientists could possibly be right about the greenhouse effect, then think for a moment about what boneheaded might mean.
Reprap might not turn the world economy on its head in 2016, I think we can rely on the current status quo to achieve that result for us, but long term, I think changing to an economy of distributed manufacture, where all that has to be shipped around the world are the design files, is a step in the right direction. Freedom isn’t something that I would include any more in my surrounding context – sure I can move to a different country if I feel my freedom is being eroded – but it is something that I have to build more and more into my life. The freedoms to repair and reproduce and create are some of the dearest to me now. It brings me great joy when in need of a solution to simply dream one up. I refuse to buy something new every time something breaks. I am responsible enough to hold the reigns of a rapid replicator and by educating everybody, we can unleash its power to do good.
Dear New Year
This is it, the year we’ve all been waiting for. It’s “the now” so that applies even if the sense of awe for the moment and the expectation for what the year’ll bring are horrendously out of proportion. In the future when I look back I’ll be glad I wrote it, and then read the second sentence and feel silly because saying at all is silly.
It’s always now. A friend of mine said he liked that the word nowhere breaks down into the words here and now. As conscious beings always on the knife edge between old time and new time though, the already passed and the not yet begun, we dwell on the nature of this moment, the here and now, never being quite graspable.
Before you have dwelt at all, the moment is gone and already there in the annals with all else that has taken place, yet if you try and live the past in the present, you end up recycling old memories, never quite living up to the way they were when you first made them. Look to the future and you miss all that is going on around you in the present.
Take any moment though and its meaningless, it has no context. The only possible meaning a moment could have would be in relation to what has already happened and to what is expected to happen, or what might happen. I’ve been thinking more and more recently that it is just about deciding what shall happen.
All around us are self-fulfilling prophecies. The folk in America stockpiling cans of food and ammunition for the apocalypse are the ones making it happen. They think they’re in some special elevated state of knowledge because they know the desolate future of so many movie scenes is inevitable and the rest of us are chumps for not buying into it, but the future will only be filled with a bunch of gun-toting oil-crazy maniacs because they’re making that future more likely by preparing for it.
Those of us in WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised Rich Democracy) countries living the good life right now will still be doing so down the line as long as we continue to work for less and less, put more things on credit, and buy more insurance. And all that insurance money will go into speculating that this pattern will continue, further spurring investment in more chaotic weather, to match the increases we all help secure by wanting a bigger car.
Smartphones will probably effect more change than 3D printers in the next few years. No parents seriously think their kids wont have a smartphone in a few years, even if they’re still very young. If they don’t end up having a smartphone then they’ll probably be spared a great deal of modern madness but will at some point be swept up by its effects.
Or maybe I’m wrong about that because I’m thinking about what I think is most likely to happen rather than thinking about what I have to do to effect the future I see. If I spend the year dedicated to the future where no kid can do without their Reprap and their silly apps and games are nothing but timekiller for when they’re on the train, then that’ll be what happens. Maybe not in the space of a year, but every prophecy needs to have some time crystalising before it can self-fulfill.
You’ll see. After 2016, maybe after 2017 too and even into the 2020s, kids all over the world will be so absorbed in their 3D printing trip, devising the hottest new devices on the fly to be prototyped that day as a matter of course and sent into the field, one offs, customisations, single use IOT hack boxes for any eventuality, people like me now nattering on about what might be will seem awfully quaint.
The future starts here and now, but don’t look for it for too long because its really nowhere. Just make your future.
Disruptive Innovation Festival
This time of year can mean only one thing, it’s time once more for the Think Dif Disruptive Innovation festival! Taking place online, distributed worldwide, with partakers from all over, this event bases its content around the idea of the circular economy.
The circular economy is the idea that we actually don’t need to waste anything, that all the “byproducts” of any process can be utilised as resources in other processes. This will probably be jettisoned as an idea by typical conservatives who palm it off as a lefty utopian pipe dream, and they can miss out as far as I’m concerned, they’ll jump on the bandwagon when every economy on the planet is circular.
Any waste that is left over after a manufacturing process isn’t necessarily unusable, much of it is eminently useful, its just a case of connecting two businesses so that one can source its resources cheaper and the other can save on disposal. Like all the food that is wasted every day, if only there were a way to organise the hungry mouths, that undoubtedly exist, to eat the food and use the energy not lose it.
The circular economy represents a paradigm shift in economics towards a more holistic outlook, what reason is there to carry on mining from the earth when you can mine from unused electronics? Mining surely costs a significant amount so why not recapture the copper, as an example, from cathode ray tube television sets, that people will actually pay you to take off their hands?
Mainstream economics, ideas like market infallibility and business as usual that lead to more monopolisation, quite frankly need to be disrupted. It occurred to me yesterday that the neoliberal synthesis exists simply to serve those who already own a disproportionate amount of wealth and want to strengthen that position, or those who desperately want to be in a position of greater wealth than their neighbours, whereupon they can righteously spout rhetoric that their greed has been beneficial to the greater good. The circular economy makes sense in and of itself, it’s common sense, for the common good.
So get involved in the festival, register and catch up with what you’ve missed, there’s like a month left to watch the events and there’s loads of great speakers and great ideas. Challenge your ideas, disrupt the accepted patterns of thought that we all fall into, and if you like, challenge me with a few Any Rand quotes.
The New Economy
I can’t help keeping up with British politics, it’s a vice I have I suppose. Last week on Question Time there were a lot of people in the audience wondering about their futures now that the steel industry in Britain looks like being shut down for good and they wanted answers. Naturally all the panel members swerved and pandered, not really answering much, either pointscoring or just towing the party line, then there was that lass who won the apprentice coming across blandly nice and looking nice and bland. I wondered if any of them has read a decent book on economics or technology since the turn of the century. Nothing they said gave and inkling so probably not.
Now I know Britain has been reprogramming its economy since Thatcher, getting rid of industry and manufacturing – where the workers were organised, and replacing it with services – where the salariat self-sacrifice for paltry “luxuries” like Tampons. There’s the industry of finance of course, which basically makes money from speculation and usury, without actually making anything, so its tantamount to printing money – oh no, they actually just are printing money as well. I would really like it if someone was on Question Time who would mention British success stories in the technology sector, like Raspberry Pi or the Reprap Project, something that has changed the world already really, that is British and worth being proud of, if you haven’t given up completely on the idea of Britishness. There are makers all over Britain – Artisans, Designers, Tinkerers – whose efforts are enriching the lives of their customers, and making the world better but who don’t impact enough on the economy to be taking into account by the statistics.
That’s why finance has been so successful in Britain I think, it has become the only way people recognise what happens in the bigger picture, their only yardstick. This I find unfortunate. Has anyone in Britain actually noticed that the world’s most successful companies today are making things? Apple make some things, so do Google. Facebook pretty much just take the data we willingly give to them and sell the analysis to advertisers. The Oculus Rift, oh yes a Facebook subsidiary, they do make something. But successful young companies, small companies, they’re making things, even if it’s just more software to eat more of the world. The world is changing and the networked status of your typical WEIRD individual (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) is vastly different to their counterpart of a decade ago. Barriers are not only falling like they did for the last generations, bridges are springing up everywhere between people who could never have even imagined an interaction a few years ago.
Kevin Kelly‘s The New Economy from the end of 1999 (which like Fight Club was one of the last great books of the 20th century) was perhaps revolutionary at the time, but I fail to grasp that the differences we now all know exist, manage to elude politicians – and seemingly the electorate – alike. The New Economy came out before Apple released the iPod, before Mark Zuckerberg had his first shave, and back when a google was a number and not a verb, but this influential little book that has unravelled like a manual for 3 of the most profitable companies in the world, it would be nice if it had readers outside of the Valley. It’s almost as if people haven’t heard of the future.
“What’s that you say? The future? Oh yeah computers will control everything we do, hahaha like that’ll ever happen!” says anyone WEIRD before hurriedly glueing their eyes back to the computer they carry around in their pocket that controls their lives. The political rhetoric that accompanies this daily hypocrisy is hopelessly languishing in the language of the past, not looking even acknowledge anything vaguely resembling change. That change however is going on right under our noses: most Brits hardly ever use cash anymore, and all of them are being spied upon by their government, the majority get their news either from HSBBC or one of the Murdoch rags – is it any wonder?
Bootstrapping Ourselves Free
I’ve been thinking for a while that moving my operation out of the bedroom is not just a good idea, but a necessary step towards getting anywhere at all. I actually like the fact that I’m printing the future behind a curtain in my bedroom. When I was studying Philosophy and trolling SL4 the best thing in my life was the feeling that AI was still possibly just going to wake up and stroll out of some dude’s basement. In all likeliness it will come striding off of some corporate campus, the main thrust of my bachelor’s thesis, and that left me looking for some other project to pursue. Luckily Reprap was just getting going at that time and now in bedrooms and basements all over the world, there are guys like me changing not only the field of 3D printing with their research, but changing the way we make things, the way we design things, the way we think about the future of everything, literally changing the world.
I could sure do (more) research in a laboratory type environment, with a team of dedicated engineers and designers, where we all draw salaries and are so absorbed that we don’t have time to think about politics. But I can’t see that happening. The most I could hope for in this direction would be corporate sponsorship – some kind of investment from VCs or a Bank, a Business Angel or a whole Den of Dragons – but I don’t like the idea of this. The trouble with investors isn’t that they want more money back than they gave you in the first place, the trouble is that they deem it necessary to tell you how to spend the money, because they are certain of what will result in more money coming back in, after all, they made this money in the first place, they’ll lose out if you don’t make it back for them. I don’t want to start a business to be my own boss and then have some investor or VC telling me what to do, or even just sniffing around getting in the way, that doesn’t appeal. What are my options though?
At a founder conference I was at the other week, the greatest representation was from Banks, VCs and coaching firms. It felt a little strange walking around as one of the founders, the guys with good ideas, and there were all these folks around us all telling us about all the ways they could throw money at us. I know thats how the world works, you gotta spend money to make money right? And everyone is in it for the money, even if they say they aren’t. The worrying thing was hearing one successful CEO saying he reached the break even point after 3 or 4 years. Yikes. It seems to me like this is a bit much. Does a business really need that much “investment” in terms of outset for advertising and branding just to reach the point where it can even entertain making a profit? I’ve heard of successful businesses taking off in a short space of time too and they rely a lot on advertising to raise awareness and keep awareness high, so that everyone knows their name, so that they’re the go to brand in their sector. I don’t want to be like this though, I don’t think thats what Reprap is about. I read about this scenario and it put me off even more.
That’s where the idea of bootstrapping comes in. The whole spirit of Reprap is about printing the parts for your next machine, or for the machine you give to your neighbour. This is the basic principle of bootstrapping, which I didn’t learn from the self-help business books where it is easiest to find, but from my favourite living Philosopher, Dan Dennett, in his book Freedom Evolves. I first read about it in his earlier book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” where he uses the term to describe the incremental nature of evolution. Investors are like skyhooks, freak mutations that just happen to offer significant competitive advantage and immediately launch those who have them into a future with potential for greater success. Everything else in evolution happens through bootstrapping, tiny steps, each one “improving” on the last, slowly but surely and eventually resulting in the same progress as a skyhook. Evolution doesn’t need magical advances from one species to the next like human imaginations often believe because it has the incomprehensible vastness of time to do its undirected work. I don’t think I necessarily need investors either, like Johnny Cash, I’ll build it one piece at a time.
Bootstrapping my 3D printing business will involve some sacrifice of course, I’ll probably have to do more work and take on more responsibility for what it will become, but that’s okay, that’s what I want anyway. The first rule of bootstrapping (from the business self-help section) is that sales is king. If I can sell something more than anything else, then I should just print an awful lot of that thing. I don’t get turned on by sales despite enjoying the market banter, both as a seller and a buyer, the most boring kind of 3D printing is the kind where you just take the last print off the heatbed and press print again straight away. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is however worth it, if it means I can grow a business naturally, out of demand, and along the lines that I want to. Of course it’d be nice to have an investor give me a load of cash for a shiny printer farm with shiny workstations all loaded up with Solidworks, but it’ll also be nice to have to do the whole thing with Repraps whose parts I printed, and on machines loaded with Linux and FreeCad. That’s the plan right now anyway. Say I’ve sold out because I’m off to go print some touristy schnick schnack and ticky tacky for halloween and christmas but in the long term its the right choice I think.
This weekend past was my very first Makerfaire! It’s the very first time Berlin has had one indeed! The venue was the Postbahnhof near Ostbahnhof, which is handily enough a short bus ride from my house. Makerfaire is to Makers what Mecca is to Muslims. No-one can go every year but every maker has to go at least once in his or her life. Its really just a big opportunity for everyone in the making business to show off the latest gadgetary delights and for everyone else to revel in the spirit of the new economic paradigm. I could smell the solder as soon as I walked in and there was chatter and a buzz about the place everywhere I turned. Kids were all over with dropping jaws as standard, only outnumbered by the amount of LEDs, flashing in fantastic silent cacophony.
As well as there being a nice buzz to the place, it was very interactive, like one of those nice museums for kids where they can enjoy physics “hands on” for a day. Soldering was never very far away, every 25 feet or so was another benchfull semicircle of stations each with their little sponge or wire brush, some with LEDs of course showing around 350° C. There were your corporate stands downstairs but surrounded by successful makers, the guys from 3DK had a marvelous technicolour display, a sleek vase next to each roll of filament:
There were some new printers kicking about, looking very fancy and futuristic, just like that kid in Vietnam said was important in a 3D printer: to look like Batman. Style before substance one might say, but in the end you can never have too much style. Too much substance gets in the way at these things. The word auf Deutsch is Messe, and it is kind of a mess. These things are really complex and inevitably that means we need time to all get on board and see the future before we make it for ourselves. Making is hard goddamn work man, so it’s nice to have a weekend of fuss and mess and stress and then destress. I found it hard not to walk around scratching my head, just because everyone else was doing it.
To be honest there was so much to see and do I could have spent all week there, such was the spirit of collaboration in the air. I need more collaborations. A collaboration is like a recalibration, a new start. The maker movement, and it is a movement, does not disappoint in its ability to convince. This is going to be the birthplace of the future lifestyles of a circular economy, the healthiest of all economies. The financial system has parasitised our industrial economy whilst mainstay media helps silence the workers. All four of these are in clear and decisive need of a recalibration. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to recalibrate the world of finance, what the mainstream media would report as a “crash” or a “crisis”. They themselves are suffering enormously at the hands of the siren servers of social media, Twitter and Facepunch. The industrial economy and the workers are being dissolved, superseded, jiggled around, turned upside down and generally given a run for their money by us, the makers, workers out of work.
But the best bit was the sound. The solenoid band were really awesome but went on like some 70s prog-rock solo, and by 5pm I can imagine the people on the neighbouring stall reminding one another to bring the earplugs for tomorrow. All sorts of synth experience was there being had and for me hearing made sound was the most visceral part of the weekend. One Italian dude had pyrex cubes that you could plug together making ever bigger more complex instruments, he’d unfortunately gone before I could photograph him so I like to think he was off with a maker lady simulating babymaking maybe. Sometimes the sounds being made were indeed like that of babies, hell there were enough babies there chiming in. There’s nothing like pressing a button and hearing a sound though, then pressing another for some noise and that feeling of being a master of the universe was there in the sound interactions to be had.
There was too much going on for me to adequately address all of it I wish to, certainly whilst having a bit of a rant – albeit with a bit of insight. I wasn’t doing much at the faire itself, I was too shy to speak to everyone but it was nice to enjoy many and frequent micro-interactions with the mob around me. Beautiful people everywhere – uniques, sneakers and geeks. One can’t help but judge based on fleeting interactions, but under the roof of Makerfaire, everyone’s a maker baby, that’s the truth. All beautifully part of the same wave, a finely tuned sine wave. Makers are like a laser, cutting the plastic of society, shaping it to their precise desires. The laser isn’t focused at anywhere near full power yet but the power is being cranked. Maker muscle is on show in the hands of the people that blows everything out of the water. The most efficient workers are those that work for themselves, those true artists that just can’t help it, the tinkerer, the taker-aparter, the caretaker. Doing what they love makes them more than just workers, because they do it anyway, not for anybody in particular. Energy has only got the chance of becoming green outside of the current profit-driven geopolitical nightmare, I only worry that democracy might not be able to effect rapid enough change, and that the teetering glass bones of corporate financial-media complex may well be shown up for what they are before too long.
If we have a distributed power network of solar panels, windmills, geothermal, hydro and so forth, no aggressor could conceivably “take out” the functionality of the whole network by destroying the power stations. I seriously think nuclear weapons in a country make that country vastly more likely to be attacked in a theory game where either none or all the possible missiles are fired, I fancy my chances in a country without them. If you do live near nuclear weapons, say Faslane, try not to leave it too long before moving far away somewhere else. Berlin isn’t perhaps the ideal place to be come Defcon 5, but to be honest financial warfare is far more likely these days, look at the wobbly the world threw when the Chinese devalued their currency slightly. Imagine them just overnight deciding to do a North Korea and recalibrate their financial system, everyone each gets the same amount today regardless of what they had yesterday. This paper is no longer worth anything, this paper with a slightly different picture is now worth something. I do wonder what the Chinese Communist Party Innermost of Inner Circle meetings are like, and then I remember telling Bob once for a joke that the Chinese government was already an AI.
I guess once the Singularity has happened everyone’ll be looking back trying to find the exact moment when this century’s Gavrilo Princip threw a bomb at the equivalent Franz Ferdinand’s car. I do have a hunch that by the time we realise the Singularity has taken place, it will have already been happening long enough for it to be unstoppable. I don’t think of the Singularity as the moment when an artificial mind achieves consciousness, because like any of our ever-learning minds, the AGI, friendly or otherwise, will have to grow up its own way. The Maker Movement is the future hive mind growing up. No government, no Google can match the potential of all the people on the planet making together. Growing up remember means making mistakes, testing yourself, doing enough to know what is wrong and right. Growing up entails chaos and conundrum and if, in the future we can all look back and realise that it all just part of the process then hopefully too, we can be joyful that we’re still alive. Make on!
To carry on from yesterday, the challenge of a changing global climate is the overarching banner under which all efforts to achieve social justice, fairer economy and less moral corruption must be bracketed. Naomi Klein is right in this, for if we don’t take care of the disaster that’ll screw things up for all of us pretty quickly when it comes down to it, then all the efforts we’ll have made in the mean time come mid-century will have been for nothing. Like the high school maths teacher who made it clear to his students, logically, we can do nothing and nothing happens, do nothing and we’re fucked, do something and nothing happens or do something because we’re fucked. Either way, doing something about it is the wise choice, and I think many more people are coming round. It probably contributes to the stifled growth of the economy actually. There is nothing better for the environment that you can do from a personal point of view than consume less, but politicians, neo-con economists and those who stand to make vastly more, tell you you should be spending more to boost the economy.
I must admit I do like reading about economics and how academics across the ages have categorised us peeps on the street, in whatever our guise, into one big system that encapsulates banking, business speculation and industry. Because the global economy is such a massive and complex system, it is no wonder there are so many different competing and diametrically opposed views. It is also a wonder nobody has gotten round to doing a something like realistic simulation of it. In most mainstream economic models, everyone behaves as a rational agent, doing what benefits them more, taking into account nothing of the delicate subtleties of human life that inevitably colour even our economic interactions. And I don’t expect someone to be able to program a simulation that can predict my most subtle actions, but it would be nice to have something that perhaps tries. Mason told me this morning (well actually I read it) that the most advanced simulation used by the European Central Bank contains only 3 kinds of agents: households, firms and the central bank. It seems to me like that is Pong to the real economy’s Tennis.
Now for all his highbrow economic analysis, Mason too is aware that the transition before us is one that requires real human change at its heart. He isn’t as spiritual in his overtones as Brand, certainly not, but both realise that the change we face is a case of facing up to the current status quo enjoying elite and making them listen to their own rhetoric. They’ve been telling us for the last few decades, with the help of whichever crackpot economists happen to paint them in the best light, that the accumulation of ungodly wealth is necessary to keep everyone striving for a better life, and to trickle down onto them, providing them that better life. I don’t need a complex analysis to figure out that this is the result of a system bolstering itself over and over at all costs, making sure the system works for the benefit of those responsible for most wealth generation within the system, it’s obvious. Like any attractor in a complex system, it feeds itself, its actions are naturally going to be conducive to the prolongation of the attractor, thats just what it does. And just like any bifurcation, the system goes through a change that leaves another attractor open to the system.
It is surely possible, with the current breakdown of mainstream media, the networking of virtually every interaction, the decoupling of economic wealth from nations and banks through cryptocurrencies, the maker revolution undermining vast swathes of industry that we are on the edge of just such a bifurcation. There is another attractor waiting for our system out there in the depths of phase space and I for one think we should check it out. I could dedicate myself to getting rich of course in order to have a greater influence on the current system, buy a TV channel, make major donations to a political party, perhaps invest in some arms manufacturer, but I always had the feeling the trappings of such endeavour would not fulfill me. I think most people actually are likely to find relentless wealth accumulation appealing. Advertising helps, and an education system that teaches you to want a good job a big house and a big car contributes, but mostly that helps you to consume in order to line the pockets of those already at the top.
The real elites have already been having a tough time of things in the recent past anyway, there is a new management executive class that can demand multi-million dollar salaries despite not belonging to traditional banking dynasties. There are individuals in the developing world who’ve been moneygrabbing at such a vast rate since the generation of globalisation that they think they can challenge the traditional banking dynasties. The Bank for International Settlements is an interesting institution, but that’s a discussion for another day. The point is, there are signs from within and without, and from all over the muddled middle, that a transition is already taking place. We are accelerating that transition already by our everyday activities. Even the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski lived in a house made of wood and rode a bicycle to go and buy groceries. Technology wants to be used and we want it now more than ever. The internet of things and the greater use of big data becoming together some AI that’ll tell us a lot about the economy, not just the monetary one but the one that takes into account all those subtle human interactions I mentioned, will signify our being beyond the current mire of inequality. It really won’t matter one way or the other in the future who has been the best as a racing rat, or who is the best at responding to ads, or telling other people what to do, because we will actually be doing the things that give us most fulfillment where and when and how we would most like to do them.
All we need to do is try and make it happen rather than taking any number of cynical viewpoints that we all from time to time espouse that enable us to sink back into the comfy distraction couch and sip depressants then stimulants then depressants then stimulants, simulating some sort of real life that a natural human craves, but that the 9-5, keep up with the jones’, aspirational lifestyle really cannot fulfill. Everyone wants a better life, why can’t we find ways of reaching that goal rather than putting up as many obstacles as we can? If we get on with accepting things the way they are then all we can look forward to is being left behind. If we collaborate we can achieve fulfillment for ourselves more and more and for more and more other people too. There just won’t be any adverts telling you to make stuff yourself or think about ways to use programmable cryptocurrencies, there won’t be a competition amongst the youth seeing who can build the best solar panel for their roof, or designing a sharing platform for alternative energy saving ideas, this is something that has to come from effort, from lots of little steps taken together. Know however that there are millions of people holding your hand when you choose to take these steps, you are not isolated, atomised, solely individual, you are more, because the emergent properties of humanity far exceed its instincts to survive and reproduce.
Some light reading…
My summer reading is gradually drawing to a close. There are a few books each year that I make it my business to read and not in the sense that only a few make it into the category of worth my reading, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word business. Business is a funny word isn’t it. “Pleasure doing business with you” could signify an arms deal in London at last month’s highly unreported arms faire DSEI or it could signify a transaction between two subsistent peasants. On the other hand, it might just be what two people in neighbouring cubicles say to each other after having had the pleasure of doing their business simultaneously.
Business. How busy I am at the current time. Well that’s my business. Why should I tell you how busy I am? A co-operative is different to a business usually, for starters you wouldn’t have to make sure your co-conversant isn’t talking about taking a dump when talking co-operatives. A co-operative has the advantage of being run by the people who make it up, for those people all to gain together as co-owners. Shareholders and the idea of having to please them rather than actually run a business properly is the stupidest way of doing things yet devised, didn’t Jack Welch say something similar – the guy who first implemented shareholder value?
The first book I’d like to mention is Russell Brand’s Revolution. There are many who don’t class this as anything close to being worth reading, but quite frankly they seem like snobs to me. Russell, despite his rantiness (and randiness) at times, can get carried away into all kinds of colourful places, which does not detract from the entertainment value of the book actually. But at the heart of it, his book represents the newest generation, those likely to be disillusioned, apathetic towards politics, educated but jobless, or in demeaning breadline work, those more likely to do pretty much anything than reach the ever rising ripe old age required to qualify for a state pension. This forgotten generation, of whom 50% are University educated thanks to Blair’s turn of the century target politics. Brand can effectively be said to represent plenty of them, of us, those that were brought up to want to be TV stars, or football players, to want the house and the car and the perfect little life, and those that realised somewhere along the line that none of what this narrative had to offer really had anything to do with our fulfillment.
At the root of Brand’s urge to revolt, is a stark and clear knowledge of the injustices of our age. How can bankers, and a less and less regulated system of banking and finance, be responsible for things that gravely affect most of the other people on the planet, and get away with their bonuses intact? The last few years have been a wake up call for many people, across Europe and America certainly, that the media-financial complex has had its day and become see-through, if not transparent. And Russell is a millionaire and lives a life of luxury, but we all do, we live in the dire distracted atomism bred into us by neo-conservatism that makes us all effective consumers. I’m just getting to the stage of the book where he presents some ideas for future improvements and there are so many out there, like co-operatives, that do offer us a way of doing things differently in the future. I’m reaching a similar stage in my second book too, Postcapitalism by Paul Mason.
The Mason is a more serious tome and is thin on entertaining asides thick on much meatier economic theory and history. Mason convincingly combines the work of various economists to try and extrapolate where we are headed in terms of our now global economy. It is clear to him, and to myself that we are already entering the transition phase to something different from that which has been dominant for the last couple of generations. Mason draws parallels between the transitions from Feudalism to Merchant capitalism, and from there to Industrial capitalism and now Info-capitalism and makes a very convincing case. I think it beyond doubt that we are making a transition to something vastly different to what we currently enjoy (or despise) just because it is impossible not to have noticed massive paradigm shifts in terms of technology in one’s lifetime, unless one is under 5. The amount of free services that your average person can tap into that didn’t even exist a generation ago is eye-popping – the internet is obviously central this.
Anyway, Mason is almost at the really exciting part where he is going to talk about what we can do to encourage the transition to a friendly Post-capitalism where we have a sharing economy and are unlikely to foster the kind of corporate hegemony amongst conglomerates that are trying to push through disgusting legislation like TTIP. When we beat back such legislation, we are well on the way to carving a better world for ourselves, our forgotten generation and our children. We have to do so to give our planet, or the living things on our planet anyhow, a chance to flourish. That is the starting point for all things revolutionary, right now, this generation, everything starts with an E for Environment.
“This Changes Everything” came out earlier this year from Naomi Klein and is a call to arms for us all to get together and stop the decimation of natural environments. The status quo would have us descend into global warming so that they can implement so-called “disaster capitalism” where the already vastly rich will seal themselves in million dollar bunkers waiting for living things outside to die, whilst still selling us water and probably air supply and shade. All we have to do for some sort of similarly segregated scenario to come about, would be nothing. Luckily the economy too is changing, and allowing us to change our way of caring, about ourselves, this is our last dance, this is ourselves, under pressure. Hmm got sidetracked there for a second. We can all do something different though, make a little change, make lots of little changes, effecting big change.
And thats where my Reprap antics come in too. If I can manufacture something in my living room then I don’t need to import it from China or Sweden. If I can grow the raw materials nearby or make things from recycled materials, then I can close the circle and have a sealed economy using just things I have lying around. This kind of production will have no or little impact on the statistics at the bottom of your screen, it is effectively black market. And even if markets spring up and people like me are doing business, the chances are it will be using programmable cryptocurrencies anyway. For a long time cynic, at the moment I am full of optimism. Over summer, pretty much since the British election, I’ve been languishing in a twitter fueled soup of listening to radio 4 in the mornings and carefully observing both the Tory infiltration of the BBC and Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to opposition leader. We’ll see how it turns out, but I think a little bit of time away from it, dedicating myself to my own personal small steps forward. I will enjoy the last few pages of my summer books anyhow, that’ll free up some of the little time that I do have for better things. Which I will document! Watch this space!