Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How

“Vision is not only about the future, but also the present. What would having a vision like the one called participatory economics imply for today’s practical choices?

Broadly considered, if you want to get someplace new, it behooves you to take steps towards where you want to go, not steps that take you somewhere else. An obvious corollary is that you shouldn’t reinforce unwanted old structures, nor should you create new ones that are contrary to reaching your destination. You should want to undermine unwanted old structures, and to develop new structures in tune with your aims. The familiar slogan is: ‘Plant the seeds of the future in the present’.

…A worthy vision for life beyond capitalism acknowledges that neither current nor future society is made up of perfect people, ever wise and ever willing to behave altruistically. Instead, we can build participatory institutions and systems that make it automatic, instead of impossible, for us to consider ourselves, each other, the environment, and any other ‘externalities’. We must therefore build a movement that fosters, promotes, and rewards equity, solidarity, self-management, diversity, and sustainability, for all. On this path, we will make mistakes and continue to be human, but we will no longer be systematically set up to fail.”

-Alexandria Shaner & Michael Albert, “Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How.” mέta: The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation. 2022. DOI: 10.55405/mwp14en

While utopian, I do like the fundamental point. If you want people to participate in decision-making, the fundamental problem is creating institutions that support participation. The fundamental problem is not people. People are not going to change to create your vision of the world. The institutions have to change.

Ask Hacker News: Which Book Can Attract Anyone Towards Your Field of Study?

A discussion thread on important books in various fields. A few examples:

  • Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by Lakoff, George
  • Deep Learning for Coders with Fastai and Pytorch: AI Applications Without a PhD by Howard, Jeremy
  • Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Everett, Daniel L.
  • Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Petzold, Charles
  • Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jacobs Jane

Lludd and Llefelys

Lludd and Llefelys, one of the medieval Welsh tales collected in the Mabinogion, is a vision of the internet. In fact, it describes the internet twice. Here, a terrible plague has settled on Britain: the arrival of the Coraniaid, an invincible supernatural enemy. What makes the Coraniaid so dangerous is their incredibly sharp hearing. They can hear everything that’s said, everywhere on the island, even a whisper hundreds of miles away. They already know the details of every plot against them. People have stopped talking; it’s the only way to stay safe. To defeat them, the brothers Lludd and Llefelys start speaking to each other through a brass horn, which protects their words. Today, we’d call it encryption. But this horn contains a demon; whatever you speak into it, the words that come out are always cruel and hostile. This medium turns the brothers against each other; it’s a communications device that makes them more alone. In the story, the brothers get rid of the demon by washing out the horn with wine. I’m not so sure we can do that today: the horn and its demon are one and the same thing.”

Sam Kriss, “The Internet is Made of Demons.” Damage Magazine. April 21, 2022.

Interesting metaphor.

A Turning Point in Cancer

“The narrative has been incubating for many years, but in recent days we are witnessing some extraordinary progress in treating and monitoring cancer. The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as “unheard-of” by expert oncologists. This represents the essence of individualized medicine, whereby understanding the unique biologic basis of a person’s cancer can lead to highly accurate and effective treatment, and also avoid the toxicity of classical chemotherapeutic agents.”

-Eric Topel, “A turning point in cancer.” erictopol.substack.com. June 10, 2022

This kind of sums up what I have been seeing a lot of lately. Almost daily, I see reports from randomized trials, tabletop science, and other areas that indicate a lot of progress is being made in the treatment of cancer.

What a Bear Market Looks Like

But for those of us who were investing in tech and tech startups back in 1999-2002, that time will forever be etched in our minds. It was a brutal period during which our belief in the Internet and its potential was sorely tested. Many friends and colleagues left the sector and never returned.

So while crypto asset prices are down 80-95% in USD terms over the last year, they could and probably will go lower. Amazon was down 80% a year into the post-bubble bear market and it got cut in half again before it made a bottom almost two years after it peaked.

What we have yet to see in crypto land is when they kick you when you are down. And that is certainly coming. Regulators came after the Internet sector in a big way post the bubble and that seems likely to happen in the crypto sector too.

And most everyone in big companies wrote the Internet sector off, cancelling their Internet efforts as a fool’s errand. That seems likely to happen in crypto too.

-Fred Wilson, “What Bear Markets Look Like.” AVC.com. November 25, 2018.

Note the date(s). h/t to Jason Yanowitz.

The Good Guy/Bad Guy Myth

“Less discussed is the historic shift that altered the nature of so many of our modern retellings of folklore, to wit: the idea that people on opposite sides of conflicts have different moral qualities, and fight over their values. That shift lies in the good guy/bad guy dichotomy, where people no longer fight over who gets dinner, or who gets Helen of Troy, but over who gets to change or improve society’s values. Good guys stand up for what they believe in, and are willing to die for a cause. This trope is so omnipresent in our modern stories, movies, books, even our political metaphors, that it is sometimes difficult to see how new it is, or how bizarre it looks, considered in light of either ethics or storytelling…

When I talked with Andrea Pitzer, the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps (2017), about the rise of the idea that people on opposite sides of conflicts have different moral qualities, she told me: ‘Three inventions collided to make concentration camps possible: barbed wire, automatic weapons, and the belief that whole categories of people should be locked up.’ When we read, watch and tell stories of good guys warring against bad guys, we are essentially persuading ourselves that our opponents would not be fighting us, indeed they would not be on the other team at all, if they had any loyalty or valued human life. In short, we are rehearsing the idea that moral qualities belong to categories of people rather than individuals. It is the Grimms’ and von Herder’s vision taken to its logical nationalist conclusion that implies that ‘categories of people should be locked up’.”

-Marina Benjamin, “The good guy/bad guy myth.” Aeon. January 29, 2018

What’s The Best Lossless Image Format?

Looking at the test results, the bottom line is that most modern lossless image formats, like WebP and JPEG XL, provide big gains in efficiency compared to even the most optimized PNG.

Johannes Siipola, “What’s the best lossless image format? Comparing PNG, WebP, AVIF, and JPEG XL.” siipo.la. July 27, 2021.

I’ve been favoring png over jpg. But, maybe it is time to consider the newer image formats as standard?

Open-Tent Policy

“I think a lot about this thread because it reminds me of a lot of interactions I see online, where someone who thinks they know more than others about a topic falls into gatekeeper mode.

Look, I get it, there are people who think they are experts on given topics, who know everything. I think, for example, I know a bit about digital publishing because of the fact that I’ve been doing it for quite a long time. But while I have strong opinions on walled gardens such as Substack, I ultimately don’t want to push people away from something that’s working for them—rather, I just want to highlight, hey, you have options.

I think that when it comes down to it, the gatekeeper approach has its limits for cultural growth. It is designed to discourage others from showing an interest in new topics, rather than finding ways to introduce them to new topics. If you walk into a situation where you’re relatively green on a given topic, God help you.

I think some of this is out of protection—we want to ensure that our little corner of the cultural world is safe in some way. But at the same time, it naturally leaves others out.

If you’re an expert on something and your approach is to demean or otherwise criticize others who think differently on an issue than you do, you are doing more damage to your reputation than you probably even realize.

Open up the tent. Give yourself—and your hobby or career—some room to breathe.”

-Ernie Smith, “Open-Tent Policy.” Mid-Range. June 7, 2022

Sleeping Together

“Results show that those who shared a bed with a partner most nights reported less severe insomnia, less fatigue, and more time asleep than those who said they never share a bed with a partner. Those sleeping with a partner also fell asleep faster, stayed asleep longer after falling asleep, and had less risk of sleep apnea. However, those who slept with their child most nights reported greater insomnia severity, greater sleep apnea risk, and less control over their sleep.

Researchers also found that sleeping with a partner was associated with lower depression, anxiety, and stress scores, and greater social support and satisfaction with life and relationships. Sleeping with children was associated with more stress. Sleeping alone was associated with higher depression scores, lower social support, and worse life and relationship satisfaction.”

-“Adults sleep better together than they do alone.” eurekalert.org. June 5, 2022.