Humanity

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By Dr. Motte

The world is mourning right now. The UK in aggregate voted to leave the EU. It will have massive implications. I have a stake in this decision, because my two children are British as is my wife. Many others closer to the center of Brexit are more impacted, and I feel for them.

The UK leaving the EU will mean travel limitations and barriers to employment, which are beyond significant inconveniences. Worse are the financial consequences for the additional overhead and constraints in trading. The worst part is that culturally, our new norm is a new low. We’re living in tacit acknowledgement that the majority of our fellow humans would rather segregate than unify. Many tie the decision to leave the EU with low intelligence or unwarranted fear. Others claim more severe xenophobia. In any case, we are taking two steps back, and it will take decades to repair and right the course. This is what we are grieving over. What could have been if we all came together not just in the EU but all over the world? There is a possibility that this referendum amounts to nothing and the UK remains in the EU, but the damage has been done as we start drawing lines on the basis of where people come from.

Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty bummed, and so is my family. We’re not the only ones. Brexit is such a huge global bummer that it set the world record for the number of times the word ‘bummer’ was used to describe how people felt after the results posted.

Bummer trend

From a Google analysis of the word bummer.

My only hope is that people will continue to stand up for what is right. More and more people around the world are taking a stand and many are taking stands different to each other. It all gives me faith, because it means people care and are not happy with the status quo. Our humanity gives us meaning and vulnerabilities. Only by working together can we enrich ourselves fully since we’re all connected. I am committed to the forces of tolerance, unity, and peace. We will eventually overcome the isolating rhetoric, fear-mongering, and misguided nationalism that prevents us all from progressing to a better place.

Journalism’s transformation in the digital age has been incredible to watch, and we’re far from it shaking out. Measured by traditional advertising dollars flowing into print media, the industry has been decimated with revenue falling to levels not seen since 1950. Have you ever seen a drop-off so steep?

Advertising freefall

Source: Carpe Diem

I thought we had it bad in the music industry. Our global revenue of recorded music went from almost $30B in 1999 to $15B today, but it’s nothing like the precipitous fall of newspaper advertising. In the music industry we have reached the nadir of the industry free-fall and are finally on the upswing. The real debate is if we’ll be moving beyond our historic highs from 1999. The music industry will go well beyond that point. People are using more services to enjoy recorded music, and they can all track, report, and monetize all the attention we giving to it.  This is compounded by the growing level of access online and across devices. Everyone can tell that music has become more pervasive in our lives.  The music industry is truly a $100B business trapped in a $16B shell today. When looking at journalism, however, I do not see a similar leveling out nor can I get a sense for how big the new models will be. I’m not even sure what those winning models are or how journalists will adapt and evolve like artists have in the music industry.

It’s easy to revel in the web’s democratizing power of real-time information access. Anyone can gather information, report on facts, and publish an informed viewpoint nearly instantaneously. More often than not, these atomic units of journalism are not sufficiently researched or well written, but they deliver on our immediate need for news and information. Traditional newsrooms can’t compete and are closing shop. Clay Shirky points this out poignantly in his article Last Call, which is highly recommended reading if you want a brutal awakening on the realities of the journalism industry. Clay gives a heartfelt perspective on the impact of newspapers closing and journalists losing their jobs.

The death of newspapers is sad, but the threatened loss of journalistic talent is catastrophic. If that’s you, it’s time to learn something outside the production routine of your current job. It will be difficult and annoying, your employer won’t be much help, and it may not even work, but we’re nearing the next great contraction. If you want to get through it, doing almost anything will be better than doing almost nothing.

The question is how journalists will survive? The best at their craft play an essential role in shaping our collective knowledge and culture. Their insights are informed by a vantage point not many are able to achieve. Most have a mastery of the written word that inspires us into action or sends us into deep reflection on relevant topics and issues.

Mathew Ingram‘s take is that we’re in a golden age of journalism. He recently published a great response to the recent articles on the decline of the print media business:

Some argue that the rise of the internet has destroyed — or severely crippled — journalism, but all it has really done is disrupted traditional mass-media business models. Journalism itself has never been healthier, and new players are finding new models. [What many are] complaining about is the failure of a specific business model for funding journalism, not the decline of journalism itself.

As more media is produced than ever before, is there a way to support journalists by letting them earn for their expertise and critical thinking beyond writing articles for publications? Could we tap their knowledge and perspective in a mutually reinforcing way and let them support others in the creative process? Can journalists find income streams detached from declining news organizations and connect directly to others who would benefit from their attention? These are my initial questions as I learn about the journalism industry.

We’re seeing journalists use Fluence as a utility to manage their inbound media submissions, and some are experimenting with letting producers and brands send them media and rough ideas for their thoughts and advice. Can we generate a meaningful income stream for journalists by harnessing their expertise and feedback? How best to help them earn for the value they create beyond writing articles? If done well it could supplement the lives of journalists and other curators so they can continue playing their crucial role as our trusted sources.

I’m keen on tackling these problems given the parallels between journalism and music. Each requires talent and tenacity to do their craft well. Both have been massively impacted positively and negatively by digital and web technologies. Our culture and society thrive when both are supported and appreciated. Reading a cogent article can move you to tears, mobilize you to fight, or can challenge the status quo in a way that changes life forever. We all know the power of music and how an incredible song can bring so much emotion, joy, and energy into our lives. Both move humanity forward and are essential in helping us all connect on a higher level.

I saw a great documentary on Netflix yesterday called Particle Fever about the Large Hadron Collider built by the venerable CERN. It’s a super interesting look at literally the biggest machine humans have ever made by the institution that birthed the Web. It’s truly a remarkable feat and one that has had the entire field of physics in unified rapture. The movie speaks to both the theoretical and experimental camps of physicists who come together around the LHC to determine the existence of the Higgs particle. The thresholds in the data determine if the new particle discovery will lead us into one of two different theoretical directions in physics: supersymmetry or multiverse. The ending climaxed with the measurement presentation of the new particles and what it means to the Higgs Boson reality and the post-standard model world of physics. Peter Higgs was shown in the movie as the results were presented, and the outcome was celebrated, not for its conclusiveness, but rather its validation that we are just beginning to scratch the surface of “everything.” It was amazing to see that moment documented. Peter Higgs cried, and it was very moving. Check out the trailer below, and watch it on Netflix if you’re a subscriber.

 

Rolling Jubilee

I find The Rolling Jubilee concept to be radical, innovative, socially productive, and bi-partisan. It’s the bailout of society by the people, not the government. The Rolling Jubilee buys back people’s debt for pennies on the dollar and abolishes it. Seems like a utopian ideal where opposing economic schools of thought could unite. Markets are typically brutally rationale, but the Rolling Jubilee gives mercy and altruism a home in the market as it would be comprised of more compassionate, less financially motivated participants. Humans would forgive debt based on their own choices for what debt was worthy of forgiveness.

The risk to fail could be dramatically lowered in the pursuit of education and progress. Creativity and innovation will have more room and permutations to grow if the fear and cost of failure were dramatically lower.

Will debt forgivers keep coming back to the market and find value beyond its unique novelty offering? That’s the key question to scaling the Rolling Jubilee. I believe they will return if the Rolling Jubilee provides positive social recognition and a feel good emotion they will not get from other marketplaces or charitable causes. If it takes off will we flood the market with more bad debt? Will the incentive to succeed decrease if your debt can be easily be forgiven so defaulting borrowers face less severe consequences? People borrow money to learn, eat, and succeed, not to

fail and lose money. Since it’s a marketplace, there’s no guarantee that your debt will be trade-able or ultimately forgiven. Thus, a rationale debtor can not count on the Rolling Jubilee to bail them out as their debt may not be forgiven. Many questions to answer. The only way to figure it out is to start.

Much has been said about the government bail-outs in the recent financial meltdown of 2008. Seems to me like they were a success. The bailed out companies are generating profits and have paid back the loans. The policy and administration saved jobs that grew spending, which fed more jobs. The liberal government seems to have proved its philosophies, but the conservative approach is not wrong to minimize government involvement. Personally I am a social liberal but an economic conservative. I like to see humans get along with each other for the greater good and government play as small a role as possible. It works if we agree to not harm or take unfair advantage of each other. Unfortunately, I feel there will always be a few humans, the real 1%, who will inevitably wrong it up for the rest of us. This has always been the case in human history. Fortunately, though, humans inspire movements of extraordinary magnitude. We are witnessing it around the world, and it is happening all around us locally. The revolutionary potential is at an all time high and manifesting itself in ground-breaking thinking and action. Is The Rolling Jubilee one of them? Olympic level thinking focused on citizen awareness and action, it is simple, powerful, beautiful, and socially conscious with the potential of having a large-scale global impact. I love that the idea could appeal to socialist liberals and free market conservatives at the same time. We are defining a new class outlook. Let’s call it a “party” and have a good time in 2016.

If it worked completely, the need for a government funded welfare state would disappear. There would be welfare by the people for the people, or more specifically from their tag line, “A bailout of the people by the people.” It might be something that both Karl Marx and Ayn Rand agree on. Could that be possible economically and philosophically? Big ups to a fresh idea. I hope it takes hold.

Mad Respect.

There’s no question about it. The awful attack earlier this month by a Mississippi group of teens on an innocent black man was absolutely, positively a Hate Crime. Watch the video below, and there should be no doubt. Then why on Earth would CNN put a question mark after the title term Hate Crime in their video? I just don’t get it. It’s unequivocally a Hate Crime, which frankly should be spelled out in all caps. I had just written a post about another racist incident in India a few days ago, and I mentioned how that episode didn’t move me to anger because it was rather harmless in the grand scheme of things. This one, however, moves me through intense anger through to deep sadness as I struggle to come to terms

with how this behavior can still exist in this world. As most people do, I like to wax poetic on how information technology is bringing us all together and inspiring us to love one another, but the truth is we have a long way to go when middle-class teenagers are murdering people based on the color of their skin.

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