Sentiers No.15

Commons (and a dying internet), strength, history, scifi, Bitcoin, Eudamonia machine


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No real intro this week because, oops, after the shortest issue ever here’s the longest.


The Commons To Oppose The Churn
Q&A: Yochai Benkler on the Benefits of an Open Source Economic System
The brilliant Benkler on the potential of the commons as a way to organize our world, the only real option to neoliberalism in his view. Includes something we often forget; that businesses operate “on top” of various commons we maintain through our governments.

A society that puts the commons at the center, recognizing the importance of protecting them and contributing to them, allows different economic forms of organization to co-exist, both commons and market logic, private and public, profit-oriented and non-profit-making. In this mixture, it is possible that the economy as a whole is oriented towards being socially embedded, being about the people who generate the economic activities, and who can have very different motivations and commitments.

“From the archive,” also have a look at this by George Monbiot: Don’t let the rich get even richer on the assets we all share.

[T]here are four major economic sectors: the market, the state, the household and the commons.

The death of the internet
Joel Spolsky, without naming the concept, also ends up talking about digital commons with this dark but clear headed and personal look at the current destruction of the public and open internet.

There you will be delivered ads according to your interests, interests predicated on the content you view, content promoted by bots and agents of a corrupt government and its many corporate and civilian allies. It will be a win-win for everyone but you. This is not science fiction. This is the reality we are hurtling towards now. A closed system where all information gathers that can be endlessly gamed. A fascist’s wet dream.

The Invention of a New Kind of Political Party in Sweden
Also not specifically mentioning “the commons,” but quite directly about the concept, this experiment in a new form of political party, organized around values, crises to address, and facilitated workshops.

The Initiative’s most important innovation is launching a party without a program but with two lists. One is a list of six values that the Party espouses: courage, openness, compassion, optimism, co-creation, and actionability. The other is a list of three crises that the Party must address: the crisis of faith in democracy, the environmental crisis, and the crisis of mental health.

By the way, if you wondered why I use “The Churn” as a section in most issues of Sentiers, it’s from Welcome To The Churn and s5e03: Welcome to the Churn.


Strength
TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers
I don’t see how it could have gone any other way.

“Name a bitch badder than Taylor Swift 😍😛😤” (Tweet)
A fabulous series of answers followed, with incredible woman after incredible woman.

The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election
Not about “strength” like this section but definitely fits in here with the very worrying impact of those arsehole media personalities.

When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That’s exactly how some commentary and news coverage treated Mrs. Clinton.


History
Little Foot skeleton unveiled in South Africa
3.67 million years old. As with many of these discoveries, “we know nothing” often comes to mind.

++ I’m not going to link a Paul Cooper history thread every week (I think) but I’m a fan of libraries so I just had to include this one on the great library of King Ashurbanipal.

++ Preserve our cultural heritage with the crowdfunding
A platform to crowd fund the preservation of French heritage sites. Fantastic projects, worth a browse even if only for the ruin pr0n.


Words
Asking members to support its journalism (no prizes, no swag), The Guardian raises more reader revenue than ad dollars
Maybe there’s hope for (some) media.

++ Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures
Looks like a great free sci-fi ebook with some favorite names.

++ Words That Matter
Impressive collection by Medium with pieces by Roxane Gay, Hillary Clinton, Margaret E. Atwood, Lawrence Lessig and Justin Hall. Also features a superb illustration for each.


The Churn
Google’s AI beats the world’s top chess engine w/ only 4 hours of practice
Looking forward to a good analysis of what this kind of “learning from scratch” might mean for AI in less bounded domains. (The example of the combustion engine and Ferrari is horribly misguiding though.)


Bitcoin
Metascarcity and Bitcoin’s future
Linking to Jon Evans again, for a quick recap of the two “sides” in the Bitcoin debate, some of the most interesting questions around cryptocurrencies, and a few potential options.

On the gripping hand, though, if Ethereum’s mooted move to Proof-of-Stake (which essentially replaces the cryptographic number-crunching those miners perform with game theory) proves that PoS actually works, or if Bram Cohen’s Chia takes off … well, then I can certainly imagine a future in which Bitcoin’s pre-eminence is threatened.

Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future

Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development, and it’s getting worse.


Miscellany
Crash Course: Are We Headed for an Autonomous Utopia or Driverless Dystopia?
Interesting projects and possibilities in this article. More positive than the title might indicate. I’ll be having a look at the Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism it mentions.

“The blueprint is for building the safer future streets that cities need, where speeding is no longer an option, where cars are designed to yield and stop for pedestrians and bicyclists by default, and where people are free to cross the streets where it makes sense, rather than trek a mile to the nearest stoplight,”

Tim O’Reilly’s WTF? A book that tells us how to keep the technology baby and throw out the Big Tech bathwater
Back in No.9 I included a quite negative article about O’Reilly’s book. An opinion I tend to share (not having read the book though), based on his past writings. I’m including this much more positive view by Cory Doctorow because he tends to be critical of many things so his positivity is somewhat surprising and drew my attention.

He dares to assert that we can love the sin and hate the sinner. That the reason tech went toxic was because unethical people made unethical choices, but those choices weren’t inevitable or irreversible.

Heart-Wrenching Video Shows Starving Polar Bear on Iceless Land
“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks”

“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” said Nicklen. “This is what a starving bear looks like.”

You’re working in the wrong place
I’m kind of in love with the last part of that article, the Eudamonia Machine with its “five spaces that get progressively more focused on concentrated, focused work.”