Saturday, August 29, 2020


 Curiosity killed the cat... but satisfaction brought it back.

Blood is thicker than water. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.

Jack of all trades, master of none... but better than a master of one.

Great minds think alike... but fools rarely differ.

Birds of a feather flock together... until the cat comes.

The early bird catches the worm... but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

It's not the automation

 Kind of a cute premise by Frisco Uplink.

Step 1, invoke Star Trek, the Next Generation episode, "The Measure of a Man" (S02E09), where Picard argues that Data should be considered sentient, because holding him non-sentient risks creating a permanent underclass of disposable exploitable labor.

Step 2, argue that non-sentient supervisory software a la Uber goes the other direction: the supervisory software allows us to treat gig workers such as Uber drivers as disposable exploitable labor. According to the author, "Gig workers are precarious not only because they lack benefits, but also because the everyday bedrock of their work is determined by a black box algorithm designed to extract maximum profit for a distant corporation. . . . Software perfectly shields the humans profiting from this one-sided equation from confronting the personal toll it takes" on their disposable workers.

The author puts too much weight on the means, and the inversion fails. Indeed, TNG gets it exactly right. The decision to classify some beings as non-sentient is the critical act. Once we have decided that some beings are non-sentient, we'll find some means or another — lords of the manor, colonial administrators, overseers, supervisors, software — to efficiently exploit them. 

The bosses have always shielded themselves from the human consequences of their exploitation, and this alienation long preceded capitalism, although capitalism has refined alienation to its purest state (at least so far).

Tuesday, August 04, 2020


Standing on one foot, the government acts in the workers' interests, that is the entirety of socialism, and the rest is its interpretation.

Why the workers' interests? Why not humanity's interests? Everyone's interests?

In part, the reasoning is, I think, along the same lines as #BlackLivesMatter. The intent of this slogan is not that only Black lives matter. Instead, everyone already agrees that White lives matter, but no small few seem to believe that Black lives do not matter. White people do not need a political movement to protect their lives because their lives are already protected. Black people do need a political movement because their lives are presently not protected by law and custom.

Similarly with socialism, at least in part: all humanity does matter, but billionaires and their supporters and enablers do not need a political movement to get the government to act in their interests. The government already acts in interests of the billionaires, but acts against workers' interests.

But in part, socialism is dissimilar to BLM. I hold as an article of faith that white people's interests are not fundamentally opposed to black people's interests, however presently entrenched the opposition. In contrast, billionaires' interests are fundamentally opposed to workers' interests. The government cannot act in workers' interests without acting against billionaires' interests. The only final resolution to the conflict is to eliminate the billionaires.

Happily, it is at least theoretically possible to eliminate the billionaires without killing anyone: we need only take away their money, not their lives. The billionaires might fight to the death to preserve their power and privilege, but that's their choice, not ours.

A note on capitalization: I use the capitalized terms White and Black to denote socially constructed racialization. In this sense, White interests are fundamentally opposed to Black interests. I use the uncapitalized terms white and black to denote the physical characteristics that we usually use to socially construct race. I personally am white, but I do not see myself (or I do my best to not see myself) as White. Also, the social construction is not symmetric: Whiteness is intrinsically racist, but Blackness is not, because Blackness is a response to White racism.