Categories
Culture world

Clash of civilizations

America and Western Europe have stagnated while China dives into its newfound riches.

Ethnic nationalism is on the rise while the liberal globalist elite does nothing to stem the tide, too occupied in complaining about the ‘deplorables’ on their devices while ordering more wine from Amazon and posting selfies on Instagram.

The myth that no two countries with McDonald’s refuse to fight each other appears to be just that. Realism is back, manifesting itself through the whims of protectionism.

Are we doomed to conflict?

Not necessarily. It is in these moments that pessimism and inventiveness coexist.

Wrote British historian Thomas Babington Macauley in 1830:

“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason . . . On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”

We can get out of this rut. Doom and gloom is the end all for worrying times. Tribalism can be cured, as can the negative aspects of nationalism.

There is a good side to bad problems that expose a weakness in the international order. But instead of whining in our own filter bubbles, we can use the moment to cushion against discontent.

Categories
Culture Politics & Society Tech

The naiveté of the shortsighted

“It is somewhat ridiculous to suppose that the invention of a motor car can render horses less necessary to man.”

Saddlery and Harness Magazine, 1895

They used to think that cars would never entirely replace the horse.

Today we think it’s foolish that Bitcoin, or space money, has any intrinsic value. How can we have faith in things we can’t see or touch?

To think that machines can never model the human mind may be a bit shortsighted too. Artificial intelligence is looming; robot consciousness is brewing.

Whoever thought that America would rebut the world it paved? Politics and freedom don’t always move forward.

The torrent of revolution and disruption seems to convey a reoccurring event.

Categories
Culture Postaday Tech

The internet is peanuts

Said filmmaker Orson Welles in 1956: “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”

We’re at a crossroads with the internet: How can something be so good but bad for us at the same time?

Part of the problem is that we use computers and phones for everything. We depend on technology to act as our wallet, camera, work, and entertainment device. Everything converges into the smartphone, yet we use it less to talk and more to navigate our everyday lives.

The addictive trills of the rectangular glow are just beginning. Tech promises to become more pervasive. We will offload all our work into the unconscious but competent machines, from driving cars to learning languages. AI portends to obviate human labor.

So what are we to do once the robots do it all for us? The line between productivity and doing nothing will blur. Some of us will entertain ourselves into inanition; others will work with automation to keep developing the future.

Either way, we are compelled to become the Jetsons. As long as we stay interested, we can keep the wave of the future interesting.

PS. I discovered the Orson Welles quote in Tim Wu’s fascinating new book The Attention Merchants (Amazon).

Categories
Creativity Culture Life & Philosophy

The unique shall inherit the Earth

There are three ways to stand out and be remembered:

  1. Be so good that they can’t ignore you.
  2. Be so interesting that they can’t ignore you.
  3. Be so unique that they can’t ignore you.

Talent is usually enough, but everyone can take a great picture. Technology and the internet leveled the playing field.

Grabbing attention can be fleeting. Remember the digital tenet that new things get consumed and forgotten.

But what cements you in someone else’s memory is acting remarkably daring and different.

In a world of masses, it pays to go micro. But the loopholes in individuality are getting smaller and smaller.

Categories
Arts Creativity Culture Photography Uncategorized

Social media companies as old storefronts

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Designs by Andrei Lacatusu

If Facebook’s recent newsfeed changes are any sign, social media is in decay. It’s gone from connecting people to Buzzfeed’s linkbait to a nest of echo chambers where the likeminded and bots spread fake news.

The art done here by artist Andrei Lacatusu provides a metaphor for the chaotic and ruinous state of social media, which appears to be failing like today’s brick-and-mortar stores. While we can expect the social networks to stay in business, they need to spend 2018 rebuilding the public’s trust.

Categories
Culture Photography

The London Milkman

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Photographer Fred Morley staged the famous photo of a milkman walking through the destruction of London after the German blitz during the Second World War.

That’s right – this photo was staged. Morley walked around the rubble of London until he found a group of firefighters trying to put out a fire amidst the fallen buildings, as he wanted that specific scene in the background. Here’s where the story has some variations. Apparently, Morley borrowed a milkman’s outfit and crate of bottles. He then either posed as the milkman or had his assistant pose as the milkman.

While the British government censored images of London’s destruction, it promoted this photo to show the world Britain’s resiliency and a sense of calm.

As writer and photographer Teju Cole once penned: “The facticity of a photograph can conceal the craftiness of its content and selection,” or Bertolt Brecht once wrote in his 1955 book War Primer, “The camera is just as capable of lying as the typewriter.”

World War II was a lesson in propaganda, in Morley’s case spreading awareness through the photographic medium to grab attention.

Marketers can be liars, which in this case proved indispensable to boosting morale and saving lives. Morley’s milkman image worked brilliantly.

Categories
Culture Poetry

Signalling anonymity

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Your face and clothing signal your identity. Your DNA is one thing, your outer-design another; fashion is the only element you can control.

A winsome smile can be deceiving. Inside could be a sufferer undressing the mind’s eye.

There is no need to prejudge one’s possibilities, even our own. Wearing a hoodie masks a coder, not the thief.

Categories
Books Culture Science

Why we prefer Friday to Sunday

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It‘s a curious fact, because Friday is a day of work and Sunday is a day for pleasure, so you would expect people to enjoy Sunday more, right? But we don’t. It’s not because we really like being in the office and can’t stand strolling in the park and having a lazy brunch. We prefer Friday to Sunday because Friday brings with it the thrill of anticipating the weekend ahead. In contrast, on Sunday the only thing to look forward to is work on Monday.”

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot

Ironically, the day of rest also comes with the “Sunday Blues” while Friday, a day we should feel work-averse, fires up the brain in anticipation of the school bell.

Categories
Creativity Culture Life & Philosophy Tech

Making for the micro

People always made art. Now, we just make it and share it in abundance.

But all the noise makes it impossible for aspiring creators to stand out.

On the flip side, the bell curve is widening from the masses to the niches. We can build an audience around sub-genres at scale for the first time ever; the Internet helps us stay connected.

Once we shift our strategy from marketing to everyone to marketing to the micro, we set ourselves up to make deeper work that lasts.

Your weirdness is not only acceptable, it’s mainstream.

Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy Politics & Society

Stem the tide

Automatons are soulless; they operate on voltage levels. However, humans can also be cruel, drugging the thinking out of their mind.

Evil is infectious; it spreads like a fungus.

The only way to beat a moral coward is to drain their morbid curiosity with a thoughtful mind.

The accumulation of progressive effort stems the tide of pessimism.

Beat them with kindness, letting them know they have a responsibility to act in good faith while they are alive.