Week #10: A New Story of the People / Gun, Germs, and Steel

In “A New Story of the People,“ one topic Charles Eisenstein speaks of how there is a forces of separation upon people. If people are separate from the universe, they start wanting to control external forces and become lords and masters of nature. Nowadays, this way of thinking cannot continue due to the limitations the Earth has. There are many influences that maintain this force of separation, one including economics. But, this can be counteracted by gatherings such as TEDtalks, and immersing one another with each others’ awareness. I agree with this act of counteracting the forces of separation. Some people are unable to realize the effects of their actions on the Earth, but if gatherings, events, or forms of media were implemented, people are able to see beyond what they could not see before. For example, I didn’t realize how unsustainable my lifestyle was until after taking this course. But after learning and interacting with others, I was able to realize the truth and use the information to better my life and the Earth. A key way to teach is with the absence of force, and is something many activists keep in mind when they go about with their life’s work.

In “Guns, Germs, and Steel,“ Jared Diamond explains how geography greatly affected inequality in the world. Because of what was available to a certain region of the world, that region was able to make use of whatever resource and develop as people. In the middle east, there was a region called the “Fertile Crescent” in which, way back in history, farming and the domestication of animals had first developed. Most animals that were able to become domesticated had originated from that region. The way our modern world has advanced similarly evolved quickly in the Fertile Crescent. There was indeed a downfall though, due to overexploitation of the land and resources. Seeing this event in history may be able to teach us something today. Many know most of our modern world is overexploiting the only resources we have. Our downfall and failure is yet to come if we continue our advanced methods. Although we have amazing, efficient, and admirable technology, I feel as if a lot of these technologies are our way to “cheat“ in surviving. The human race is the biggest competitor against the rest of the Earth, and so far we’ve been winning, but by the means of cheating. We’ve been getting ahead of the race by violating nature and many choose not to see the lessons history teaches us. By studying the past, we can avoid a lot of future troubles we are yet to face.

Makeup: Discussion Set 9A

Through copyright laws and implementing fines, there seems to be a discouragement of creativity to the general public. Through this, companies and people are able to protect their material. This leaves a lot of fixed media, in which the general public is only exposed to certain things, sometimes even repeatedly. Creativity should be encouraged everywhere, including schools. Nowadays, I think creativity is more widely expressed compared to time period and scenes from RIP! There are many social media outlets people are able to use such as YouTube, SoundCloud, blogging websites, and more where people take advantage of expressing what they want. Creativity may not only be associated with the arts, such as paintings, film, or music, but it can be used in other industries, like in engineering and business. If children, even high school students, are able to practice their creativity early on, their ways of thinking can evolve. There was an article I saw a long time ago that talked about how people who were described as “lazy” was not a bad trait. It showed how these “lazy people” were able to figure out efficient and quick ways to solve a problem, proving that they were judged too quickly and smarter than they seem. I would think creativity plays a huge role in this situation. People are able to think of alternative ways to do things. It would not be smart to not give people a chance and suppress them of their capabilities, and because of this, creativity should be highly encouraged everywhere.

Week #9: The Greeks Chasing Greatness / Peter Linebaugh & Denis O’Hearn

The Greeks Chasing Greatness” presents the various ways the ancient Greeks lived and which aspects greatly affected the world, especially America. One great system we inherited from the ancient Greeks was democracy. They believed they needed a system that was for the people, from the rich to the poor. Many Americans nowadays who support democracy also believe that the people are able to make a change. Unfortunately, it’s been building up over the years to be the opposite of what a democracy was originally meant to be. Americans rely on representatives to carry out decisions, but the Athenians did not. As we learned in class, a lot of what the American government supports is what the rich demand, as the rich are the ones benefiting the government. Another difference is how the Athenians took politics very seriously, in which they looked down upon those who did not participate. Americans are entitled to their opinion, and it is not extremely looked down upon if one does not care much to participate in politics. I wouldn’t think the ancient Athenians would believe American democracy is a true democracy, and I also don’t think Americans are spreading democracy either. The Athenian government and American government seem to have different goals and values when it comes to democracy.

Peter Linebaugh spoke of how capitalism affects the rest of the people, mostly those who are struggling the most. He believed that the one percent in America needs to take part in the problems occurring in the commons as they keep building up when the rich get richer. He also believed that happiness ended when capitalism came about. I agree with what he had said since many continue to struggle while very few actually make it and achieve the American dream. When I think of a time before the boom of capitalism, I think of how the commons was peaceful and doing fine. For example, back then in the Native American tribes, everybody worked together to provide food and shelter. It was participatory and there was not overharvesting of resources. A point brought up by Denis O’Hearn in the other interview was how people would be a lot more motivated to benefit the community if there was no capitalism. This idea can be seen in how the Native American tribes lived back then too. A community with a lack of capitalism has a shift in priorities. Instead of aiming to benefit your own family and constantly trying to beat the competition, people would be working with one another in a fair manner that would benefit everyone. The slightest distraction of competition sets people in a self-benefiting direction, this leaves those who cannot be financially successful ignored and “exiled” from capitalism. It would be hard to shift away this kind of system and thinking, but it might be possible for America to make some changes if the government and one percent helped fix problems in the commons.

Week #8: Discussion Set 8A / Crumbling America

Discussion Set 8A

Resistance to sustainability is a significant issue in America. An example we saw of this was in the RIP documentary, where people creatively use samples from other media but copyright laws leave these people with huge fines to pay. People reusing clips of media or reusing ideas and making their own version of it would be the sustainable approach to the situation. The resistance to it would be companies like Disney suing everyone who uses any of their material. A main reason for the resistance would be because of money. Large corporations push for the government to pass laws that protect these large corporations and the media that they own. The government may be biased toward these large corporations due to their role in the economy and how much power they possess. It isn’t fair, but citizens contribute to the resistance and support the large corporations by seeing their movies in theaters, going to the theme parks, buying their merchandise, and more. This is not the only way we are resistors to sustainability, but through other actions such as depending on cars for transportation. People also are “going green” to help and “be sustainable,” but we would consider this as being sustainably resistant too. Awareness plays a huge role too. I did not know until taking this course that “going green” was not enough. Many people out there who are working on reducing rather than choosing an alternate way to live do not know that reducing is not the answer. I also don’t think people know that they are being resistant to sustainability since the true meaning isn’t known. Those with the most control, the government and large corporations, are the ones who release products, services, and regulate what people need. They are the ones who are designing our country for failure if most of our current systems and lifestyles are degenerative.

In the “Crumbling America” documentary, America’s poor infrastructure is shown through many different life threatening events, from falling bridges to drinking water contamination. Currently, America’s infrastructure received a letter grade “D” and is being maintained, but as mentioned in the video, these are only band-aids which won’t actually fix the problem. In order to fix America’s infrastructure, it would have to be as soon as possible, or it would only get more expensive as time goes on while the materials deteriorate. Unfortunately, there is no money for such projects and the politicians of America don’t seem to care enough to fix these issues that put their citizens at risk for injury and death. Many comments viewers have made about this documentary mention how American politicians have different priorities: using our money toward war. I agree and definitely think their priorities don’t make a lot of sense. It would be best to set aside funds to fix our infrastructure and other extremely important things such as health care, instead of wanting access to all these third world country resources. While the country works to save money for these projects, there should also be new designs for our infrastructure with materials that actually last. In addition, those who are jobless and willing to work can finally be put to work in helping this significant remodel. I can’t really tell whether or not the leaders of America purposely put off this type of problem, but there are plenty of students striving to become engineers and many jobless people who would happily work. The only issue here is on whether or not politicians feel their people are worth protecting.

Week #7: Shell vs. Ogoni / Toxic Culture

The fight between the petroleum company, Shell, and the Ogoni people of Nigeria was an unfortunate event of environmental and humanitarian issues that occurred during the 1990s. Shell’s extraction of oil in the Ogoniland of the Nigeria Delta polluted and damaged the land, and as a result, the Ogoni people protested nonviolently. To stop these movements, Shell paid the Nigerian military to take action, which happened to be through genocide. Ken Saro-Wiwa was the president of MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. He spread awareness of what Shell was doing and led the peaceful movements. The Nigerian government was after Saro-Wiwa after Shell had finally abandoned the Ogoniland, and eventually had Saro-Wiwa hung for his “crimes.” Watching this documentary and seeing footage of those who suffered reminded me of how America was when it was first colonized. The Native Americans were treated the same way when the Europeans arrived and both took their resources and violated all the innocent people’s basic human rights. It made me very sad to know that this horrific behavior and history repeats itself as Shell knowingly let the harm and murder happen to innocent people. One of the best ways to end this type of behavior would be through news and spreading awareness. It was a great thing that Ken Saro-Wiwa worked to protect his people, and his son had continued spreading awareness about what had happened to his father as well. Regular civilians are able to help end corrupt behavior by not supporting these large companies. Protesting helps too, as it brings attention to the company’s toxic acts. As light is shined on a company, the company must take action, and hopefully it is that they no longer participate in inhumane ways. Education is important as well, because for some time, people did not know of what Shell was doing. Shell was able to bribe people from speaking to the media and other false information was released as a result too. It would help for people to do some research on where some of their goods come from and educate both themselves and others while they’re at it. Hopefully people realize it’s possible to make a difference and fight for the freedom of others by watching what has happened between Shell and the Ogoni people.

In “Toxic Culture,” Gabor Mate speaks of how society can affect a person physiologically, even though many people may not think of this. The psychosocial environment of a young one can affect their future behavior through a chain reaction. For example, if a pregnant woman is very stressed during pregnancy, then the chemical signals in her body can affect the development of her child. The baby would not have the healthiest development, and as a child, he/she may also develop disorders such as ADHD. In general, initial environment and stress the mother experienced during pregnancy can affect long-term development. I believe both the conditions of psychosocial environment and natural environment are equally important to a person’s well-being. Both environments will affect a person physiologically. The way a child grows up in their household is dependent on the experiences they have with their parents, which is the psychosocial aspect. If the same child’s family happened to live in a city where a lot of pollution occurs due to factories, then the environmental aspect would greatly affect the child’s health. Both types of environments should be considered because they both can be connected in some type of way, depending on the situation. One should not be overlooked more than the other when observing issues in our culture/economy.

Week #6: Dr. Deming / RIP!

Dr. W. Edwards Deming helped reconstruct the Japanese economy after World War 2. Deming’s beliefs were that waste needed to be eliminated, people must cooperate with the system’s aim, and that people should be striving for continuous improvement. After WW2, Japan had to rebuild, and with the help of Deming, they were able to get back on track. In the video, it was said that the US’s success after the war was not because of how their economy was or because of their practices- it was simply because they had won the war. Unfortunately, the US has been unaware that their practices are wrong, and that there will be a downfall. It was also said that the Americans are reluctant to change because there is no quick fix. In order to truly qualify as a successful economy/country, there would need to be continuous improvement and self-assessment. This would only be possible with cooperation between people. An example they had mentioned was how in a workplace, some people aim to benefit and then are rewarded with higher pay. This is the wrong approach to how one should act in a workplace, and it is wrong for the company to give such reward (this sends the wrong message and people then have different priorities and behaviors.) Instead, it is not about being competitive, but about being cooperative. This is similar to emergence and nature as a model because in nature, things occur when animals work together, which can be seen in animal communities, such as an ant community. William McDonough also believed in zero waste and that America has already set up their own failure. “Regulation is design failure,” which is a lot of how America runs. This can be seen in the previous example where a worker works hard to meet regulations set by the company. Then the worker is able to receive a pay raise for the achievement they made. But, we don’t know how they were able to achieve their tasks as it may have been done unethically. Regulations are oftentimes met by people taking shortcuts. Again, things would be a lot different, perhaps a lot better, if the initial goal of a group was to work together and achieve the goal of the system.

 
RIP! A Remix Manifesto is a documentary about how copyrighting affected how people used media they do not own in their own work. An artist known as Girl Talk is one of the earliest DJs who used multiple samples of different songs to create “mash ups,” creating one “new” remixed song. In the past couple years, there have been many emerging DJs/artists especially in the EDM (electronic dance music) culture. I wouldn’t say there is a demand of consumers wanting to be producers, but it is definitely a hobby that people pick up. Some people actually make it, become famous, and perform at music festivals, while others just continue to make their own material out of the joy it brings them and their listeners. I also do believe many are interested in EDM and other remixed music because the mainstream radio music is overplayed or some people may think some of the music is inappropriate or repetitive. An outlet that results would be musical streaming services such as YouTube or Soundcloud. Sometimes, YouTube videos are unavailable or the sound is muted due to copyright issues. Some ways people are able to post content belonging to a company are by distorting the way the video looks or the sound. On the other hand, music I listen to on Soundcloud mixed by different artists/users are usually never taken down/no longer available. It doesn’t seem like there are copyright issues in a space where people are encouraged to post their own remixes of music, or maybe I am just not aware of it. I do understand where large companies are coming from when they protect their media that they own. I wouldn’t want my work to be used without my permission especially if I wasn’t getting any credit for it. I guess it would have to come down to how companies handle the situation. Maybe instead of suing people who cannot afford large fines right away, they can allow people to use their songs or whatever it is that they own, as long as users are giving the company credit, or whatever the company decides. As long as there is some sort of fair agreement a company can make with its consumers, then there may be a better outcome from this issue. I don’t think it is wrong for people to create other works based on whatever they are inspired by, although it does depend on the situation. Either way, companies should not attack, but rather work with the community to inspire and encourage creativity. This is similar to the ideas we see with sustainability. Companies can do their part for the community such as promote a scholarship for students in the arts instead of punishing those who, most of the time, don’t realize they are downloading illegal music or punishing those who just simply are inspired by media they see. Working together instead of just having a profit mentality can create a variety of positive outcomes.

Week #5: TED / Emergence

In Luis von Ahn’s “Massive-scale online collaboration,” he speaks of how revamping CAPTCHA to reCAPTCHA created two functions instead of one. The first being CAPTCHA’s original purpose: to allow a person to verify they are human on a website to prevent scalping of online purchases by computer programs. The second being able to get the help of millions of people in decoding the text of old books which computers are not able to digitize. So, while people are submitting their reCAPTCHA words to verify they are human, they are also helping computers better recognize hard-to-decipher text from older books. Another way his team was able to use crowdsourcing to their advantage was by creating Duolingo, a website which presents simple to complex sentences in a foreign language with real-life context for people of all social statuses to learn a new language and translate as they go. This created an effective resource for people who cannot afford expensive foreign language learning programs, and in return, foreign texts were being translated for free, which would have been extremely costly to being with. Both of these examples really opened my eyes to crowdsourcing. It is extremely effective to use the help of millions for cheap, faster and, if implemented correctly, accurate results. Luis von Ahn’s team truly created ways to kill two birds with one stone. I believe in this kind of thinking is great since the team created a mutualistic relationship between what they were doing and their audience/general public. Their purpose and services would in turn benefit others, rather than aiming to make a product/service that only benefited the company. They definitely had a fair business model and created something that was sustainable.

In Massimo Banzi’s talk, “How Arduino is open-sourcing imagination,” an open-source microcontroller gives anyone the option to learn and create their own functioning product. The product enables anyone to customize and would allow them to have a cheaper product that may cost a lot more in the market. This would be another example of a company with a fair business model. Their product would allow their users to not be confined by other products and softwares such as Apple. There is more freedom and people wouldn’t be spending as much for something they might need. Again, a fair business model provided such as this is a sustainable method businesses can follow. Focusing on what a community needs rather than profits would result with a better, more efficient product.

In Steven Johnson’s “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software,” he introduces the concept of emergence by using the example of a slime mold study by Evelyn Fox Keller and Lee Segel. They questioned how slime molds were able to survive and relocate to environments that better suited them while lacking a brain and only being made of single cells. Instead of having a pacemaker, the slime mold cell community communicated through their production of cyclic AMP in which they were able to rally other cells together. This presented bottom-up behavior. As Johnson said, emergence is movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication. We can see this with slime molds and in other examples of nature. Emergence seems like a good reminder that not everything needs to be displayed by a top-down system. A system can work efficiently with a bottom-up flow. This top-down system may be the wrong approach to running a community depending on the situation. Sometimes a community can become too complex and difficult to regulate if there is one thing in command. In nature, many species are able to function as a community without any dominance. I think this is something valuable to think about when considering changes to better a community and how it functions.