The New Age of News

For some, YouTube is just that place where cat videos and fail compilations exist, and nothing more, but in reality, YouTube and a variety of other internet-based companies, some funded by Discovery, are attempting to revolutionise the way we perceive our entertainment and news. There is no field more prominently changed already than that of news channels and the corporations that run them (into the ground). Giants of the previous age like CNN and Fox News are losing credibility as their agendas are called into question, their accuracy of reporting falters and their previously enjoyed real-time-updates-even-when-nothing-is-happening methods are falling into antiquity. The age of privately controlled news is dying, and I say thank [Insert deity here, otherwise substitute with H. P. Lovecraft], because it takes a great deal of enthusiasm and pro-activity on the part of the viewers to facilitate such monumental changes. For that, I must address my utmost respect to the people behind this change – the viewers as well as the producers.

Rising up to replace these rusting titans are YouTube-based channels like SourceFed and DNews. They are news channels which seem (as far as I can tell) to hold little obligation to any demographic, country or company (although I doubt they would produce a scandalous story about Discovery). They can be viewed anywhere for free. Their demeanour is that of young, creative and idealistic people – people who would dare to challenge monopolised giants like CNN, and win. While major news networks lose viewers by the hundreds of thousands each passing year, SourceFed has reached 1 million subscribers and enjoyed over half a million views in the year that it has existed. There is no telling what will happen from here. Never before has such a thing existed. If we live in a world where fully established corporations can be pushed off their thrones by the young, creative individualists of the postmodern age, then I daresay we have found the ideal capitalist world! Unfortunately, such circumstances do not exist often.

All we have to do to allow these extraordinary events to happen is to give these newcomers moral support, and it literally is as easy as it sounds. Pressing a like button, sharing a video or writing a blog post about them can go a long way towards helping them, if you consider the long line of views that might stem indirectly from your small and easy contribution.

We can only dream of what monumental influence this quickly. It is one of those phenomena which we are fortunate enough to experience, its origins owed to the vast dynamics of the internet, a realm which, fortuitously, has not been dissected and compartmentalised by the powers that be.

But that will depend on you…

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Filed under Philosophy, Politics

A Scientific Perspective to Complement the Philosophical

This video, from a favourite news source of mine, details the reasons why fiction is so helpful to the brain, and so important for our development. Just watch it. You’ll see.

Also, here’s the link to a previous blog post which specifically explains the idea behind fiction:

http://wp.me/p44y5q-7E

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The Philosophy of Victory – Machiavelli and Sun Tzu

Two great books, two timeless texts, two manuals on the differences between victory and defeat, success and failure. These two texts, I believe, cannot be read separately. I myself finished them both this December and found them to be everything I imagined them to be.

A short background: Machiavelli was a Renaissance court employee who bore witness to the daily affairs and politics of Europe’s leaders. He saw the way they handled themselves both in war and in peace and observed the traits which ended up leading to their success. While being a nice guy himself, he came to the conclusion that to succeed as a leader (or Prince), one has to be ruthless, conniving, bribe-happy and, most importantly, rule by terror, as opposed to love. Sun Tzu was a famous Chinese general who seemed to win every battle he was involved in. He collected and wrote an anthology of texts explaining the art of war, and how careful planning is to go into every battle. He outlined how and when to attack, when to retreat, how to deceive one’s opponent and how to ensure victory every time.

Why it’s important today if these two men lived 400 and 2600 years ago: The lessons learned from these texts extend to canvass far more than just the art of ruling a kingdom or fighting a battle. They are manuals of management for any environment, from managing a restaurant, to running a family, to building a corporate giant.

It goes without saying that there’s so much win in these two books that successfully applying either of them can ensure that your life will be one big victory pie. But it’s not that simple.

Lessons from each book which I thought were interesting:

The very first thing Sun Tzu said: “The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death,  a road to either safety or ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

The very first thing on the agenda is to assert a huge contradiction to the attitude which dominates western thought. When in a state of war, you cannot ignore the uncomfortable things. War is itself a brutal affair. One cannot worry about how to treat the prisoners when the war has not been won yet, or ignore all of the possible dirty tricks one’s enemy may attempt, simply because that wouldn’t be fair. When in a state of war – in business, or in actual war – you cannot choose to ignore certain details in the hope that your enemy will also ignore them. If you do not choose to consider every possible betrayal and low move, those will be the things that surely lead to your demise. If you do not actively take those options into your strategy, then you will be disadvantaged throughout the fight. This is a rule that is ruthlessly applied to the corporate environment, but in everyday ‘moralistic’ life, people choose to ignore this fact, and pretend life is good, virtuous and easy. Unthinkable acts are just that: unthinkable. That’s all well and good if you’re a simple citizen, but if you want to play the big game and if you want to win, Sun Tzu says that you should, at some point, come to the realisation that going all out is the only rule. Failure to go all out will result in failure across the board.

Machiavelli likes to go on about the best possible way to ensure that your rule is long-lived and successful after the initial victory, rather than just looking at how to defeat the enemy’s army, which is why I think his philosophy complements that of Sun Tzu very well. The most intriguing lesson he brought forward was the effectiveness of two opposing methods of maintaining control over one’s kingdom: terror and love. Terror implies ensuring that your subordinates know that double-crossing you or under-performing at their jobs means harsh punishment, while love implies debauchery and a benevolent rule which benefits them, and thus results in an obligation to you. The problem that surfaces with the method of love is that when things get tough, and you are no longer able to supply your subordinates with a lavish lifestyle or keep low taxes, they will not be so loyal and will quickly get used to the idea of treachery, while a rule of terror will ensure their submission and loyalty no matter the situation.

A man is only as good as the books he reads. So read these books.

I’ll be writing again soon, I hope. Stay tuned/connected.

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Filed under Literature, Philosophy, War

Democratic Amendments – Reconsideration of Old Laws

Hello and sorry I haven’t posted anything for a month. Let’s just say it’s been a monumentally awesome holiday without much incentive to sit behind a computer screen.

This is the first of several blog posts where I will build upon my ideas of where democracy and/or mixtures of political systems in the postmodern era should be headed. This includes – but is not limited to – systems either developed exclusively with my noggin or derived from something interesting I saw, which will result in my analysing and critiquing the idea in depth, as opposed to explaining it from scratch. I’ll be using mostly the USA government and systems for convenience, since they seem to set the standard for Western politics along with the UK.

It is my understanding that politicians in a parliamentary meeting tend to waste many an hour month arguing about things that don’t matter, or being on holiday or at home. They typically have a 40 hour workweek, or as they say, an 80 hour biweekly schedule, which allows for flexibility. That is a typical 8 hour work day. As far as I’m concerned, a politician in a high position such as Senator or House Representative should be working harder. After all, the results of their efficiency and decisions have a direct impact on their country, and in the USA’s case, the world, and I believe anyone would agree that these politicians do not exactly have a reputation for ruthless efficiency and remarkable progress through their daily routines. The purpose of this somewhat accusatory rant is to ensure that you, the readers, understand that politicians have the time and energy to do more – and to do it more effectively.

In this first post of such a series, I wanted to outline something simple which outrageously doesn’t exist in any system I know. It stems from the very basic idea of keeping laws simple. One way this can be achieved is by revisiting old laws in order to renew, amend or discard them as needed. Perhaps, a law should only be considered valid for a hundred or so years. Before it expires, it must be revisited by Congress and scrutinised. Perhaps a law governing the industrial age or a First World War agenda carries no relevance today, and as such may impede the country in some way. Not only would this serve to ensure an  up-to-date and relevant legal system, but it would serve to clean up and simplify a country’s unnecessarily convoluted laws.

If there’s anything that destroys a country’s ability to encourage capitalism and individualism, it is an archaic legal system that only serves to hinder its people. Not only does it make the average citizen’s life difficult, but it also provides pathways and loopholes for a government to manipulate its populace. As long as there is a high level of obscurity in law, there will always be criminals and governments alike who will take advantage of the average citizen’s ignorance to achieve their own ends. At the same time, convoluted laws make business difficult. If we wish to live in a globalised capitalist economy, we need easy, simple laws. In corrupt governments, departments may complicate their own laws to achieve that very same objective, making everyday business so difficult that progress through the system is impossible without a degree of bribery to government officials. It is the grim reaper of capitalism.

Remember, whether you agree or disagree, I encourage you to comment if you have anything to add.

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Filed under Economics, Political Reform, Politics

A Must Read: Freakonomics

How does one draw common qualities between sumo-wrestling and teaching in the USA? Well, Levitt can do it.

Here’s  a TED video where Levitt talks about one of the many topics he covers in Freakonomics.

The book titled Freakonomics is the result of combining the brilliant creative vision of a left-brainer with the know-how of a fully trained economic analyst. If you ever want to develop a decent understanding of the world and its dynamics, you have to read this book. They have also published other books following this one. If you wish to read them all, I encourage you to do so, but at the very least, read one of them and understand the message behind it.

Enjoy.

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The Future of Education

There’s something inherently wrong about our current system of education, and it’s not just me. Many top field educators are feeling it, and so are many of the students who go through it.

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There are already many well-established problems with education which are simply not addressed because the solutions are too radical to make changes without half the world having a stroke about it. These problems are typically linked with the fact that modern education is based on an older system which was used to produce uniform, thoughtless robots instead of creative individuals. In the industrial age, this was what was required. A person trained in one country had to be able to interpret the administrative work of a person in a totally different country. The easiest solution to this challenge was to create a standardised global education system that was, for all intents and purposes, the same.

But the industrial age is over. Super-user-friendly software makes information sharing easy. We all know that. Alas, the old system remains. What the world desperately needs now, more than ever, is a generation of intelligent, innovative thinkers who can produce the new ideas and technology we need to sustain our way of life, because it’s not going to be this good forever. What was previously considered the field of logical thinkers is now recognised correctly as the playground of those who can dream new inventions seemingly out of nothing, and go about transforming those ideas into something tangible and helpful only after that initial process. Industry is no longer all about mass production, making processes cost-effective, or streamlining the work process. It is now primarily about thinking of something better than what already exists. Once you’ve done that, it doesn’t matter how wasteful your company is, you’re going to roll in money.

The most productive technology companies on the frontier of revolutionising human life already know this. Companies like Google aren’t interested in regimented work hours, matching uniforms and strict discipline. They have been bold enough to discard everything associated with a traditional workplace. Google replaces its chairs with bean bags and its stairs with slides. Its offices look like a playground for children, with vibrant colours everywhere. I daresay it’s an attempt to undo the creative damage done during school.

But this isn’t where it ends. These are the traditional problems with education, but what about the more abstract skills schools teach? I was glad to hear that some schools are replacing certain writing training courses for young children with typing classes. That’s a promising step in post-modernising an education system designed for a world that existed 200 years ago.

New propositions include teaching children to use research and computers to find information, rather than asking them to learn it. I believe a test should never ask a child to repeat information. It’s not helpful, not in an age where information is so cheap and easy to find. What could they possibly do with that information in their heads instead of in their phones? I dream of the day that children sit down in a history test and are asked to use the internet and their skills of information finding to critically analyse a historical event.

I hope this will be a reality one day. But what’s even better than that? What do schools condition out of children? The answer: the ability to co-operate. Children are taught from day one never to speak during tests. Asking for help or giving it is considered cheating. I say that’s wrong. I think a child’s ability to complete the questions on a test should be based on his resourcefulness at finding that information within a certain time constraint. That includes working in makeshift teams, and schools make half-arsed attempts at group work, but it’s token. The vast majority of a school experience is solitary, and that is deeply flawed. A person will work with other people more often than work alone, and I think people’s innate ability to co-operate would be vastly improved if schools pulled themselves together and understood that individual ability can only be improved when multiple individuals with their own idiosyncrasies are thrust into a socially demanding environment. It is imperative that educational institutions attempt to develop and streamline this skill, which is otherwise forced to develop in the workplace at the cost of a company.

This is simply an introductory post to enlighten you, the reader, of the broader underlying problems in our education system. Many more will follow, detailing the more specific areas which need refinement or radical change and showing you some of the myriad solutions that have been proposed. Stick around for more on the subject.

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Filed under Educational Reform

Extract from War of the Element (II)

Well, here she is, a piece of political beauty, the kettle boiling over, the point of no return. Enjoy.

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Vorith had since flown back to orbit with the remainder of his troops, while General Shellet remained as the acting commander of Inner System forces on Titan. There were still some splinter groups who were unaware of their recent defeat, but it would takes years for many of them to accept it anyway. Vorith knew that, so he left Shellet in charge – a smart young chap, he was – and ordered the fleet to begin preparations to return home. The war was nearly over. He had received a pre-recorded message as soon as he boarded The Quasar, shown to him by Captain Glune himself. It was a request from the governor of Jupiter’s small municipality of gas-mining stations for peaceful negotiations. He felt he had to oblige. ‘Invite him and a small entourage aboard. We’ll pick him up before we head back,’ he told Glune.

‘Yes, sir.’

 

He made his way back to the command centre of the flagship, where he met with four of the generals who had evacuated with him.

Vorith would make the announcement that the war was over. He felt personally responsible for such a monumental statement – more so than a leader usually would, but that was because all reporters and media companies had been left behind. He realised he could make up a whole new story, and they would be none the wiser.

One of his generals remained standing after they saluted him. ‘Vorith,’ he began, looking anxious.

‘You shouldn’t be calling me that. Don’t start now. It’s commander in chief, officially.’

 

‘Sir. Before the political leaders arrive for the debriefing, we wanted to express our gratitude and respect for your taking command these last few months. We understand it is an immense responsibility, one that should not be held by any democratic leader.’

Vorith barely looked up from his notes.

‘Well, I’d hardly call myself a democratic leader. I wasn’t actually voted in anywhere. Hell, the people back home don’t even know I’m acting commander.’ Vorith continued to study his clipboard, going over dozens of fatality and damage reports. The general shifted his stance, standing straight with his hands held behind him. It pushed his chest out, and showed the beginnings of a corpulent stomach. His thinning hair was gelled back, and the other three generals stood up as well, the one taking his hat off. The atmosphere suddenly grew tense. Vorith felt it, looking up and paying attention for the first time since he entered the room.

 

‘What we’re trying to say, sir, is that we have appreciated your command until now. It has brought nothing but victory to the Inner System. All we want you to know is, if the situation were to arise, we would remain loyal, to you, and, to you alone.’ He looked at the other three. They nodded. ‘You have the unquestioned loyalty of the military behind you.’

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A nail-biter, no?

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