Monkey Logic — A Light Take on the Dark Patterns of our World

Why are people so angry?
Why are people so stupid?
Why the hell did she/he/it just do that?

The answer is Monkey Logic. We are not sanguine sages or intellectual titans. We are messily evolved amalgamations of ad-hoc fixes collected over Billions of years of hard-knocks trial and error. We have high expectations for the world, but Sanity and Rationalism are human inventions. Truth does not equal Beauty. Madness, money, and monogamy are our own psycho-cultural inventions; emergent tokens; semiotic short-hand heuristics for the recurring patterns of reality-

One man’s sanity is another man’s bat-shit crazy.

- case in point, for some, my use of a gendered noun will mark me as a moral degenerate and legitimate target of whatever heinous acts the mob considers appropriate this week for infractions against its shifting and arbitrary taboos.

My wife crochets. Small baskets for keys, square boxes for change, and recently, awesome little bags perfect for when she’s baking and doesn’t have a place for her iPhone while she listens to the Joe Rogan podcast. After early skepticism and perhaps a little good-natured criticism, I converted. Last week I asked to borrow the bag - I wanted to use my wired, noise-canceling headphones to listen to the Joe Rogan podcast while hoovering. It was at this point she decided she might just have a viral hit on her hands…

She set off to set up an online store but quickly stumbled into a thread of Etsy artisans bemoaning the introduction of advertising on the platform. I shuddered when she told me. As an author, I am a long-time sufferer of Amazon’s dubious practices. I know how the introduction of advertising forces authors to buy-in or fade-out. Products stop being surfaced according to quality and popularity as creators are forced to cut further into their profits to buy visibility. It becomes a race to the bottom fueled by a constant influx of hopefuls willing to accept selling loss-leaders in exchange for making it big somewhere down the road…

Etsy, Amazon, and their like, obviously love this model. Of course they do. They are no longer limited to a cut of platform sales. When they started shaking down their ‘tenants’ for protection money they unlocked a whole new revenue source.

“Nice line in hand-made socks you have there… it would be a shame if some upstart with deep pockets and a fresh pair of knitting-needles was to move in on your turf…”

Etsy is a publicly-traded company. A very large chunk of this ‘quaint little hand made goods store’ is owned by capitalist hegemons who are far from quaint; think BlackRock and Vanguard. If you are not familiar, these are among the world’s largest and most successful investment companies. Shares are massively disproportionately owned by the richest members of society. (The wealthiest top ten percent of people own more than ninety percent of the shares).

So what we have here are the most affluent elites - the billionaire hedge-fund oligarchs - shamelessly turning the screws on the smallest most humble workers. How much can anybody make selling socks or charming crocheted bags? Not a lot, but it’s about to become a lot less. My confident prediction is that in most cases it’s going to end up being less than nothing.

The slum-lord-monopolist-kleptocrats are bulldozing the dreams of their residents to squeeze out a little more value. It is not a victimless crime. True, some platform denizens are merely playing, slumming it by pretending to be an artist. They can cope with paying a bit more each week for their hobby, but there are livings being made in these digital ghettos too. The single mum who makes a little extra money making and selling baby mittens to help pay for winter warmth will just have to knit her family thicker hats.

On the upside, it’s good news for the Klepts. If they can press just a few more drops of sweat from each of their disgusting peasant tenants, they can manage to fill their penthouse infinity pools.

Do the super-rich really need more?
Clearly the answer is no, but they want it.
Monkey Logic.

They are really good bags with universal approval from our friends, she has gifted many, but you will never find them because she’d rather languish in obscurity than capitulate to a shady protection racket.


Wired says “Chill: Robots Won’t Take All Our Jobs”

I usually like wired, but this piece is either totally misguided or cynically disingenuous…

The argument seems to turn on the fact that productivity (as economists measure it) is not surging, which we should expect if robots were providing most labour, making the handful of human workers left super productive.

There is no mystery; jobs are being degraded: people are being fired from high paying positions and re-hired as burger-flippers and janitors. Hours worked does not change, but the highly trained engineer is now asking “if you want fries with that”.

Also the ‘Deep Learning’ AI revolution is less than a decade old. Sufficiently advanced ‘oids‘ don’t exist yet: self-driving cars are not here; 3D printed houses still a few years away; AI chat bots are only now creeping into the work place. The Robo Advisors of FinTech are destroying the finance sector incumbents, but the big banks can’t fire people fast enough to maintain productivity against their collapsing profits.

Finally, companies are not investing, they are focused on short term cost saving, outsourcing, and downsizing. So even if the ‘oids‘ were available off the shelf, companies wouldn’t be interested yet. They will wait a few years until all the glitches are ironed out–

–even then, as the ‘oids‘ reach parity with humans, productivity may remain low as humans will be performing all the dirty and degrading work too low value for an expensive ‘oid‘.

Perhaps the author simply considers anything more than 5 years away as pointless SciFi speculation, and while the speculation is fun– please read my books!  🙂  –for those of us with kids, these topics are very real.

Can we know what animals are thinking?

A nice article from the economist on animal minds. 
“In 1992, at Tangalooma, off the coast of Queensland, people began to throw fish into the water for the local wild dolphins to eat. In 1998, the Dolphins began to feed the humans, throwing fish up onto the jetty for them. The humans thought they were having a bit of fun feeding the animals. What, if anything, did the Dolphins think?” 
It is astonishing to me how fashion, peer pressure, and group think mentality, inhibit even supposedly critical thinkers. Only slowly are we coming out of this cloud of denial regarding the minds of animals. I am far from being anti-science, but just because subjective mind is currently beyond the realms of what Science can opine on, doesn’t mean it is not real. Denying animal consciousness because we don’t understand human consciousness is just another ravenous bugblatter beast of traal.