If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Innovation under Austerity | Eben Moglen

Innovation under austerity is not produced by collecting lots of money and paying it to innovation intermediaries. [Several examples of disintermediation: TV, encyclopedias, book publishing, music recording, magazine publishing] Disintermediation -- the movement of power out of the middle of the net -- is a crucial fact about 21st century political economy.

Intermediaries that did well in the past ten years are limited to two categories: health insurers in the U.S., owing to political pathology, and the financial industry. Health insurers in the U.S. may be able to capitalize on continuing political pathology to remain failing and expensive intermediaries for a while longer, but the financial industry crapped in its own nest and is shrinking now and will continue to do so.

The reality that disintermediation happens and you can't stop it becomes a guiding light in the formation of national industrial policy. The greatest technological innovation of the 20th century is the thing we now call the World Wide Web. That innovation both fuels disintermediation by allowing all sorts of human contact to take place without agents, and is itself a result of disintermediated innovation.

The browser made the Web very easy to read. We did not make the Web easy to write. So a little thug in a hooded sweatshirt made the Web easy to write, and created a man-in-the-middle attack on human civilization. That's the intermediary innovation that we should be concerned about. We made everything possible... and then intermediaries to innovation turned it into the horror that is Facebook. It's intermediated innovation serving the needs of financiers, not the needs of people.

What do we know about how to achieve innovation under austerity? We created the Cloud. We created the idea that we could share operating systems and all the rest of the commoditizable stack on top of them. We did this using the curiosity of young people, not venture capital. Venture capital came towards us not because innovation needed to happen, but because innovation had already happened.

That curiosity of young people could be harnessed because all of the computing devices in ordinary day-to-day use were hackable, and so young people could actually hack on what everybody used. That made it possible for innovation to occur where it can occur without friction, which is at the bottom of the pyramid of capital. Hundreds of thousands of young people around the world hacking on laptops, hacking on servers, hacking on general purpose hardware available to allow them to scratch their individual itches -- technical, career, and just plain ludic itches ("I wanna do this; it would be neat") -- which is the primary source of the innovation which drove all of the world's great economic expansion in the past ten years. The way innovation really happens is that you provide young people with opportunities to create on an infrastructure which allows them to hack the real world and share the results.

All of that innovation comes from the simple process of letting the kids play and getting out of the way. Which, as you are aware, we are working as hard as we can to prevent, now, completely. Increasingly, around the world, the actual computing artifacts of daily life for individual human beings are being locked so you can't hack them. The individual computing laboratory in every 12-year-old's pocket is being locked down. If you prevent people from hacking on what they own themselves, you will destroy the engine of innovation from which everybody is profiting. The goal of the network operators is to attach every young human being to a proprietary network platform with closed terminal equipment that she can't learn from, can't study, can't understand, can't whet her teeth on, can't do anything with except send text messages that cost a million times more than they ought to.

Disintermediation is beginning to come to higher education. [Coursera vs. MITx] Every society currently trying to restart innovation needs more education, delivered more widely at lower cost. Free software is the world's most advanced technical education system. It allows anybody, anywhere in the world, to get to the state of the art in anything computers can be made to do, by reading what is fully available, by experimenting with it and by sharing the consequences freely. True computer science: experimentation, hypothesis formation, more experimentation, more knowledge for the human race. We needed to expand that to other areas. The universalization of access to knowledge is the single most important force available for increasing innovation and human welfare on the planet.

Disintermediation means there will be more service providers throughout the economy with whom we are directly in touch. That means more jobs outside hierarchies and fewer jobs inside hierarchies.

We use the word "privacy" to mean several distinct things. [Secrecy, anonymity], autonomy: the ability to live a life in which the decisions you make are unaffected by others' access to secret or anonymous communication.

March 21, 2012, after close of business, press release announcing "minor changes to the Ashcroft Rules": government information about individuals of whom nothing is suspected will no longer be retained for a maximum of 180 days, but rather for a maximum of five years. In other words, infinity. We are moving from the society we've always known, which we quaintly call a "free" society, to a society in which the U.S. government keeps a list of everybody every American knows. What should be the Constitutional procedure for doing this? Should there be, for example, a law? They didn't need a law; they did it with a press release, on a rainy Wednesday after everybody had gone home. Very rapidly, and with no apparent remorse, the two largest governments on Earth (the U.S. and China) have adopted essentially identical points of view: a robust social graph connecting government to everybody and the exhaustive data-mining of society is both government's fundamental policy with respect to their different forms of stability maintenance.

It isn't just our civil liberties that are at stake. The other part of what that costs us is the very vitality and vibrancy of invention, culture and discourse, that freedom to tinker, to invent, to be different, to be nonconformist. This is what sustains social vitality and economic growth in the 21st century. There is no tension between the civil liberty policy of assuring the right to be let alone and the economic policy of securing innovation under austerity. They require the same thing. Free software, free hardware we can hack on, free spectrum we can use to communicate with one another without let or hindrance, free access to educational resources to every person on earth without regard to ability to pay."

Source: Innovation Under Austerity: Eben Moglen's call to arms from the Freedom to Connect conference

While speaking in New Delhi, India, in 2006, he remarked: "Anything that is worth copying is worth sharing." His other quotes: "The more we give away, the richer we become." And: "Note how even the smallest encounter with Free Software can make a man cheerful about the future of our judge" (said after hearing a judge of the Allahabad high court, India speak on the subject).

Moglen believes the idea of proprietary software is as ludicrous as having "proprietary mathematics" or "proprietary geometry". This would convert the subjects from "something you can learn" into "something you must buy", he has argued. He points out that software is among the "things which can be copied infinitely over and over again, without any further costs".

Moglen has criticized what he calls the "reification of selfishness". He has said, "A world full of computers which you can't understand, can't fix and can't use (because it is controlled by inaccessible proprietary software) is a world controlled by machines."

He has called on lawyers to help the Free Software movement, saying: "Those who want to share their code can make products and share their work without additional legal risks." He urged his legal colleagues, "It's worth giving up a little in order to produce a sounder ecology for all. Think kindly about the idea of sharing."

Moglen has criticized trends which result in "excluding people from knowledge". On the issue of Free Software versus proprietary software, he has argued that "much has been said by the few who stand to lose". Moglen calls for a "sensible respect for both the creators and users" of software code. In general, this concept is a part of what Moglen has termed a "revolution" against the privileged owners of media, distribution channels, and software. On March 13, 2009, in a speech given at Seattle University, Moglen said of the free software movement that, "'When everybody owns the press, then freedom of the press belongs to everybody' seems to be the inevitable inference, and that’s where we are moving, and when the publishers get used to that, they’ll become us, and we’ll become them, and the first amendment will mean: 'Congress shall make no law […] abridging freedom of speech, or of the press […].', not – as they have tended to argue in the course of the 20th century – 'Congress shall make no law infringing the sacred right of the Sulzbergers to be different."

On the subject of Digital Rights Management, Moglen once said, "We also live in a world in which the right to tinker is under some very substantial threat. This is said to be because movie and record companies must eat. I will concede that they must eat. Though, like me, they should eat less."

Eben Moglen is a professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, and is the founder, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center, whose client list includes numerous pro bono clients, such as the Free Software Foundation.

F2C2012: Eben Moglen keynote - "Innovation under Austerity"

Visions of a Sustainable World | Dr. Paul Raskin

This 10 minute video presents highlights of an interview with Dr. Paul Raskin about his views on the pathways necessary to achieve a sustainable planetary civilization in the near-term future. Dr. Raskin posits that a global citizens movement and a Copernican shift in how humans perceive their relationship to earth are both necessary. Dr. Raskin is the President and Founder of the Tellus Institute, the Founder of the Global Scenario Group, and a leader of the Great Transition Initiative. The interview is a companion to the Visions of a Sustainable World Speaker series at Yale, which brings scholars and practitioners to campus to help articulate positive, concrete visions of a sustainable global future and roadmaps for getting there.

Visions of a Sustainable World

Friday, May 25, 2012


Student Chris Herman has produced a short video on YouTube showing a well articulated argument for transhumanism.

Transhumanists believe all of the above-mentioned possibilities will occur once humans reach thesingularity, a time when science and machines will transform humanity in unthinkable ways and we will become the engineers of our own evolution.

According to Humanity+, transhumanism is:

(1) The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

(2) The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.

Source: Transhumanism Student Film Explores The Issues


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Scanadu, the Medical Tricorder from Star Trek

Scanadu is building the Tricorder, a medical technology straight from the world of Star Trek. Scanadu has assembled top scientists, engineers, and biohackers at their lab in the NASA Ames Research Park, located in Silicon Valley, California. Our vision is to put Tricorders into the hands of millions of people all around the world, enabling the individual to be a stakeholder in health, and bringing about a citizen-driven revolution in medicine worldwide.

Check your health as often as you check your email

Healthcare all over the world is broken. It is the last infrastructure of the industrial age waiting to be decentralized, waiting for the empowered medical consumer to take the place of a patient. Scanadu, recognizing this need and opportunity, is bringing the new, educated individual a tool just for them – the Tricorder – to scan and track health in real time. Scanadu has partnered with NASA and other innovative institutions to bring this mythical device to reality.


American Spring: The Documentary

Even the cold early spring of 2012 could not deter Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists in New York city. People from different backgrounds continue to come out onto the streets. The agenda driving all the protesters remains the same: income inequality, corruption among banks and multinational corporations, foreclosures, climate change, police brutality and above all, the need to get together and talk in person -- not just via mobile phones. It is all about the courage of ordinary men and women to tell the truth to those who hold power.

American Spring: The Documentary

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Synthetic Biology: Beating the Cell at its Own Game | Terry Johnson

Your body routinely produces 200 billion red blood cells every day, yet you could spend years at a lab bench attempting to artificially synthesize all of the raw materials that those cells are made of. Your cells manage to do that - and to assemble new cells out of those raw materials - with relative ease. Synthetic biology aims to design and construct biological systems to make valuable products or perform constructive tasks. The tremendous diversity in the natural world provides us with a versatile and complex set of biological tools. We'll discuss how synthetic biologists apply and hone these tools, and to what ends.

Terry has a master's degree in chemical engineering from MIT and is currently teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley. He hopes that by doing so, he will be giving students the tools that they will need to repair him when he gets older. With Kyle Kurpinski, he is the author of "How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution". In 2010, he was the recipient of the ASUC Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Science at Cal - Terry Johnson - Synthetic Biology: Beating the Cell at its Own Game

Monday, May 14, 2012

GLOBAL REVOLT - Global Occupy Day of Action









La manifestación del 12-M, vista desde un helicóptero

Spain's "indignados" return, but are politicians listening?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

MUST READ! Better Than Owning | Kevin Kelly

Ownership is not as important as it once was.

I use roads that I don't own. I have immediate access to 99% of the roads and highways of the world (with a few exceptions) because they are a public commons. We are all granted this street access via our payment of local taxes. For almost any purpose I can think of, the roads of the world serve me as if I owned them. Even better than if I owned them since I am not in charge of maintaining them. The bulk of public infrastructure offers the same "better than owning" benefits.

The web is also a social common good. The web is not the same as public roads, which are "owned" by the public, but in terms of public access and use, the web is a type of community good. The good of the web serves me as if I owned it. I can summon it in full, anytime, with the snap of a finger. Libraries share some of these qualities. The content of the books are not public domain, but their displays (the books) grant public access to their knowledge and information, which is in some ways better than owning them.

Very likely, in the near future, I won't "own" any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won't buy – as in make a decision to own -- any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won't own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to "own" it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.

For many people this type of instant universal access is better than owning. No responsibility of care, backing up, sorting, cataloging, cleaning, or storage. As they gain in public accessibility, books, music and movies are headed to become social goods even though they might not be paid by taxes. It's not hard to imagine most other intangible goods becoming social goods as well. Games, education, and health info are also headed in that direction.

As creations become digital they tend to become shared, ownerless goods. We can turn this around and say that in this realm of bits, property itself becomes a more social endeavor. Property may be less about title and more about usage and control. An idea can't be owned in the way gold can; in fact an idea has little value unless it is shared or used to some extent. Its value paradoxically can increase the less it is owned privately. But if no one owns it, who gains the benefit of that increase in value? In the new regime users will often assume many of the chores that owners once had to do. And so in a way, usage becomes ownership.

According to the principle of dematerialization, all goods are having their atoms infused with bits, decreasing their weight per performance, so that all material goods increasingly behave as if they were intangible services. This means that lumber, steel, chemicals, food, cars, plane flights – everything made – can also be governed by the principles of intangible goods (see the New Rules of the New Economy). As goods become disembodied, infused with slivers of mind, and packed full of bits, they will also obey the new dynamics of property. Soon enough everything manufactured will potentially become social property.

As cars become more "electronic" or digital, they will tend to be swapped and shared and used in a social way. The more we embed intelligence and smarts into clothing the more we'll treat these articles as common property. We'll share aspects of them (perhaps what they are made of, where they are, what climate they see), which means that we'll think of ourselves as sharing them.

Our sense of ownership is a funny thing. If you purchase an ebook and download the book's PDF file to your computer, you'd say you owned it, and expect the rights of ownership. However if you went to a link where a PDF of a book was opened on your screen for free and automatically, you might not feel you owned this book, even if it was copied to your disk. Possession of a copy turns out to be less important in the feeling of ownership than does the price. Free things don't generate strong feelings of ownership. Gifts do, which we think of as "free," but our sense of ownership is related to their "replacement costs" – how much they would cost us to buy elsewhere, their market value. If an item has a marketplace cost of zero, we tend not to feel we own it. So as more economic activity gravitates toward the free, less will feel owned. As more is shared, less will act like property.

Sharing is not very different from renting. We could say that the sharing economy currently emerging from social media is really a renting economy. But we don't use the word "rent" logically. When we watch a movie on a pay-TV channel we are actually renting it, although we don't use that word. Yet in fact we use a movie (movies are used by watching them) without owning it; instead we pay for the right to borrow it. That is rent. It doesn't feel like rent because there is no visible unit to swap. If we view a Netflix movie it feels more like renting because a little plastic disk is mailed to us. But if Netflix were to suddenly switch to digital download of the movie (as they are doing) we will still be renting the movie without the disk. The main reason we don't ordinarily use the metaphor of "rent" with digital goods is because we associate renting with things, rather than services. We rent a tuxedo, but we don't rent internet service. But when we rent, we are sharing the cost of ownership across a group. The legal ownership may reside with the company renting, but the effective ownership – the ownership of use – is held by the group borrowing the good or service.

In a rent relationship the renter enjoys many of the benefits of ownership, but without the need for capital, or upkeep. Of course renters are disadvantaged as well because they may not gain all the benefits of traditional ownership, such as rights of modification, long-term access, or gains in value. The invention of renting was not far behind the invention of property, and today you can rent almost anything. Women's handbags are a $9 billion retail industry in the US. Top of the line bags with famous brands sell for $500 or more. Since bags are often matched to outfits, or seasonal fads, a selection of fancy bags can get expensive real quick. In response to the high prices of bags a sizeable bag rental business has emerged. In large cities one can rent bags from a tony rental storefront. Or anyone can head to a half dozen handy online bag rental websites, and rent a near-new copy of a high-priced bag for their own use. Rentals run $30-60 per week, depending on the bag's demand. Renting thrives because for many uses it is better than owning. Bags can be swapped to match outfits, returned so one does not need to store them. For short-term uses sharing ownership makes sense. And for many of the things we use in the upcoming world, short term use is the norm.

As more items are invented and manufactured – while the total number of hours in a day to enjoy them remains fixed – we spend less and less time per item. In other words the long-term trend in our modern lives is that ALL goods and services will be short-term use. Therefore all goods and services are candidates for rental, sharing, and the social commons.

Once you have a trendy bag, you might need some trendy shoes, jewelry, scarves – all of which can also be rented. And its not just women's fashion today. There is a growing market for luxury good rentals of all kinds. Expensive men's watches, yachts, fine china, and artwork can all be owned temporarily from a company today. Less expensive stuff has a much longer history of rentals. Furniture, baby cribs, folding chairs and tables, construction tools, party tents, tools for do-it-yourself, and health care equipment can be borrowed from some 12,000 rental companies in the US alone.

What kind of stuff people rent-to-own

Leasing, licensing, subscribing are all types of shared ownership. (In general we rent for short-term and lease for longer; we'll rent a car for a week, or lease it for 2 years.) There are other variations in the sharing economy, such as rent-to-own, where regular payments go towards the purchase of the good when the purchase price is reached. Low-income families without good credit will often rent-to-own (at predatory lending rates) furniture and appliances they can't afford to purchase. Technically a mortgage is a type of rent-to-own agreement in which ownership transfers to the "renter" at the start of regular payments, but since the mortgagee enjoys the rights of ownership it doesn't follow the patterns of rent.

The latest twist in shared ownership for tangible physical goods is called fractional ownership. It is like time-sharing, but with full ownership privileges and responsibilities. Popular fractional ownership arrangements grant the co-owner a certain number of hours flying in a private jet to the destination of their choice, or driving a super car for 5,000 miles per year, or spending a limited number of days at a resort villa. With fractional ownership you can also share owning a sports team, a racehorse, or a vineyard. A website built to promote fractional ownership of primarily luxury goods puts it this way: "Fractional ownership and asset-sharing gives you an ideal way to get the most out of your investment by purchasing only the shares or time you require from an asset. All other aspects are split, both the benefits and the costs, amongst a limited number of shareholders or members."

The downside to the traditional rental business is the "rival" nature of physical goods. Rival means that there is a zero-sum game; only one rival prevails. If I am renting your boat, no one else can. If I rent a bag to you, I cannot rent the same bag to another. To scale your rental business you have to buy more boats or bags. But of course, intangible goods and services don't work this way. They are "non-rival" which means you can rent the same movie to as many people who want to rent it this hour. Sharing intangibles scales magnificently. This ability to share on a large scale without diminishing the satisfaction of the individual renter is transformative. The total cost of use drops precipitously (shared by millions instead of one). Suddenly, ownership is not so important. Why own, when you get the same utility from renting, leasing, licensing, sharing?

But more importantly why even possess it? Why take charge of it at all if you have instant, constant, durable, full access to it? If you lived inside of the world's largest rental store, why would you own anything? If you can borrow anything you needed without possessing it, you gain the same benefits with fewer disadvantages. If this was a magic rental store, where most of the gear was stored "downstairs" in a virtual basement, then whenever you summoned an item or service it would appear at your command.

The internet is this magic rental store. Its virtual basement is infinite, and it provides omni-access to its holdings. There are fewer and fewer reasons to own, or even possess anything. Via omni-access the most ordinary citizen can get hold of a good or service as fast as possessing it. The quality of the good is equal to what you can own, and in some cases getting hold of it may be faster than finding it on your own in your own "basement."

Access is so superior to ownership, or possession, that it will drive the emerging intangible economy. The chief holdup to full-scale conversion from ownership to omni-access is the issue of modification and control. In traditional property regimes only owners have the right to modify or control the use of the property. The right of modification is not transferred in rental, leasing, or licensing agreements. But they are transferred in open source content and tools, which is part of their great attraction in this new realm. The ability and right to improve, personalize, or appropriate what is shared will be a key ingredient in the advance of omni-access. But as the ability to modify is squeezed from classic ownership models (think of those silly shrink-wrap warranties), ownership is degraded.

The trend is clear: access trumps possession. Access is better than ownership.

Source: Better Than Owning | Kevin Kelly

Saturday, May 12, 2012

UK REVOLT - 400,000 Public Sector and Police Strike Over Pension Reform

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are taking part in a 24-hour UK-wide strike in a dispute with the government over pension changes.

The government says current pension schemes are unfair - and unaffordable because people are living longer.

But the unions say members are being "robbed" and will have to pay more and work longer for lower pensions.

Meanwhile, walkouts by prison service staff in England, Wales and Scotland have now ended.

Among the public sector workers taking part in the 24-hour strike are civil servants, NHS workers - including paramedics - border force staff and lecturers.

Around 32,000 police officers took part in a protest march against cuts, according to Metropolitan Police estimates.

Union leaders say up to 400,000 workers are on strike, while Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude puts the total number of public sector workers who joined strikes at "close to 150,000" which includes 102,244 civil servants.

Mr Maude also said pension talks will not be reopened and "nothing further will be achieved through strike action", adding that it is "now time that union leaders put the best interests of their members first by asking them to accept our generous offer".

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union - which estimates that an "overwhelming majority" of its 250,000 public sector members are on strike - said the UK would have "the highest pension age of any European country".

He added: "We're going to be paying more money when the cost of pensions are falling and our members have had a pay freeze for two years. So it's unfair, and ministers cannot justify the changes."

The government plans to raise the retirement age in line with the state pension age - eventually to rise to 68.

Continue reading - BBC - Public sector strikes: Workers walk out over pension changes

May 10, 2012 UK_Public sector strikes, Workers walk out over pension changes

May 10, 2012 UK_400,000 public sector workers protest against government's pension policy

Pensions row: 400,000 public sector workers on 24hr strike

How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform | Matt Taibbi

Two years ago, when he signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, President Barack Obama bragged that he'd dealt a crushing blow to the extravagant financial corruption that had caused the global economic crash in 2008. "These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history," the president told an adoring crowd in downtown D.C. on July 21st, 2010. "In history."

This was supposed to be the big one. At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn't be expected to pay for it. "The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama promised. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway's Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore. In a furious below-the-radar effort at gutting the law – roundly despised by Washington's Wall Street paymasters – a troop of water-carrying Eric Cantor Republicans are speeding nine separate bills through the House, all designed to roll back the few genuinely toothy portions left in Dodd-Frank. With the Quislingian covert assistance of Democrats, both in Congress and in the White House, those bills could pass through the House and the Senate with little or no debate, with simple floor votes – by a process usually reserved for things like the renaming of post offices or a nonbinding resolution celebrating Amelia Earhart's birthday.

The fate of Dodd-Frank over the past two years is an object lesson in the government's inability to institute even the simplest and most obvious reforms, especially if those reforms happen to clash with powerful financial interests. From the moment it was signed into law, lobbyists and lawyers have fought regulators over every line in the rulemaking process. Congressmen and presidents may be able to get a law passed once in a while – but they can no longer make sure it stays passed. You win the modern financial-regulation game by filing the most motions, attending the most hearings, giving the most money to the most politicians and, above all, by keeping at it, day after day, year after fiscal year, until stealing is legal again. "It's like a scorched-earth policy," says Michael Greenberger, a former regulator who was heavily involved with the drafting of Dodd-Frank. "It requires constant combat. And it never, ever ends."

That the banks have just about succeeded in strangling Dodd-Frank is probably not news to most Americans – it's how they succeeded that's the scary part. The banks followed a five-point strategy that offers a dependable blueprint for defeating any regulation – and for guaranteeing that when it comes to the economy, might will always equal right.


The first advantage the banks had lay in the fact that for all Obama's bluster, Dodd-Frank was never such a badass law to begin with. In fact, Obama's initial response to the devastating financial events of 2008 represented a major departure from the historical precedent his own party had set during the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched an audacious rewrite of the rules governing the American economy following the Great Crash of 1929.

Upon entering office, FDR was in exactly the same position Obama found himself in after his inauguration in 2009. Then, as now, the American economy was in tatters after the bursting of a massive financial bubble, brought on when speculators borrowed huge sums and gambled on unregistered securities in largely unregulated exchanges. This mania for instant riches led to an explosion of Wall Street fraud and manipulation, creating a mountain of illusory growth divorced from the real-world economy: Of the $50 billion in securities sold in America in the 1920s, half turned out to be worthless.

Roosevelt's response to all of this was to pass a number of sweeping new laws that focused on a single theme: protecting consumers by forcing the business of Wall Street into the light. The Securities Act of 1933 required all publicly traded companies to register themselves and offer prospectuses to investors; the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 forced publicly traded companies to make regular financial disclosures; and the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 required all commodities and futures to be traded on organized exchanges. FDR also created the FDIC to protect bank depositors (through an insurance fund paid for by the banks themselves) and passed the Glass-Steagall Act to separate insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks. Post-New Deal, if you put money in a bank, you knew it was safe, and if you bought stock, you knew what you were buying.

This reform strategy worked for more than half a century – and it offered Obama a clear outline of how to respond to the crash he faced. What made 2008 possible was that Wall Street had moved its speculative frenzy away from the regulated exchange system created by FDR, and into darker, less-regulated markets that had coalesced around brand-new financial innovations like credit default swaps and collateralized-debt obligations. It wasn't that the old system had broken down; Wall Street had just moved the playground.

All Obama needed to do to rescue the economy and protect consumers was to make sure that the new playground had some rules. That meant moving swaps and other derivatives onto open exchanges, making sure that federally insured banks that dabbled in those dangerous markets retained more capital, and coming up with some kind of plan to prevent the next AIG or Lehman Brothers disaster – i.e., a plan for unwinding failing companies that wouldn't require federal bailouts.

Continue reading (Long Read) - How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform | Matt Taibbi

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beautiful Minds | Richard Dawkins

Professor Richard Dawkins is one of the most well-known and controversial scientists in Britain. A passionate atheist he believes science rather than religion offers us the best way to appreciate the wonders of the Universe we live in. In the last 10 years he has become notorious for his outspoken views on religion, but at the heart of his success is his explosive first book -- The Selfish Gene -- which put forward a radical rewriting of evolutionary theory and divided the scientific community. Much of the controversy comes from its provocative title. Now, in this uniquely candid programme, Dawkins admits that the title may have been a mistake. In this journey through Dawkin's life we'll discover how The Selfish Gene got its controversial name, how Dawkins became the most influential evolutionary biologist of his generation and what has motivated him to become religion's most ferocious critic.

Beautiful Minds: Professor Richard Dawkins

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Federal Reserve System: Mend It or End It? | Ron Paul | Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) chaired a House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing on six legislative proposals that either reform or suggest abolishing the Federal Reserve System.

"More and more people are beginning to understand just how destructive the Federal Reserve's monetary policy has been," said Chairman Paul. "I hope that this hearing will kickstart a serious discussion on the need to rein in the Fed. 100 years is far too long for Congress to have taken a hands-off approach," Paul continued. "The Fed continues to reward Wall Street banks while destroying the dollar's purchasing power and driving up the cost of living for average Americans. This reckless behavior must come to an end"

Calls for reforming various aspects of the Federal Reserve System have existed since its creation in 1913. However, with the onset of the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and during the prolonged recession, calls for reform have escalated.

The Federal Reserve responded to the financial crisis with unconventional monetary easing, leading some to claim the Federal Reserve attempted to do too much to stimulate economic growth and set the stage for sustained inflation when the economy recovers. Slow economic growth, however, has led others to argue the Federal Reserve has not done enough and must be more accommodative in its conduct of monetary policy.

The six proposals that will be discussed by the Subcommittee on Tuesday are:

H.R. 245, introduced by Rep. Mike Pence
H.R. 1094, the Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act, introduced by Rep. Paul
H.R. 1401, the Democratizing the Federal Reserve System Act, introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur
H.R. 2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich
H.R. 3428, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank
H.R. 4180, the Sound Dollar Act, introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady

Opening Statement

Although it has taken nearly a century, it seems that the entire spectrum of the American political establishment has finally realized the destructive power of the Federal Reserve System. Whether left, right, or libertarian, politicians are lining up to attack Ben Bernanke and the Fed's destructive monetary policy. Where there is disagreement or lack of understanding, however, is on why the Fed's monetary policy is destructive, how it harms the economy, and what should be done about it. Today's hearing will examine the various proposals that have been put forth both to mend and to end the Fed. It is my hope that this hearing will spur a vigorous and long-lasting discussion about the Fed's problems, a discussion which will lead to concrete actions once and for all to rein in the Fed.

Much confusion exists over what the Federal Reserve System actually is. Some people claim that is a secret cabal of elite bankers, while others claim that it is part of the federal government. In reality it is a bit of both. The Federal Reserve Board is a government agency, while the Federal Reserve Banks are privately-run government-chartered institutions, and monetary policy decisions are made by the Federal Open Market Committee, which has members from both the Board and the Reserve Banks.

The Federal Reserve System is the epitome of crony capitalism. It exemplifies the collusion between big government and big business to profit at the expense of the taxpayers. The Fed's bailout of large banks during the financial crisis propped up poorly-run corporations that should have gone under, giving them an advantage that no other business in the United States would have received. The bailouts continue today, as banks maintain $1.5 trillion worth of excess reserves at the Fed, reserves which were created through the Fed's purchase of worthless securities from banks. The trillions of dollars that the Fed has injected into the system have the goal of forcing down interest rates. But the Fed fails to realize that interest rates are a price, the price of money and credit, and that forcing interest rates down will only create an even bigger bubble and an enormous economic depression when this entire house of cards comes falling down.

The Federal Reserve is statutorily required to focus on three aims when engaged in monetary policy: full employment, stables prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. In practice, only the first two have received any attention, the so-called "dual mandate." Some reformers have called for the full employment mandate to be repealed, in order to allow the Fed to focus solely on stable prices. But these critics ignore the fact that stable prices are not a desirable goal. After all, with increasing productivity and technological innovation, the natural trend for most goods is for prices to decrease. By calling for the prices of goods to remain stable, the Fed would have to inflate the money supply in order to counteract this trend towards price declines, pumping new money into the system and creating economic distortions. This is exactly what happened during the 1920s, as the Fed's monetary pumping was masked by rising productivity. The result was stable prices, but the malinvestment caused by the Fed's loose monetary policy became evident by 1929. There is no reason to expect that focusing on stable prices today would have a dissimilar outcome.

Other reformers have called for changes to the composition of the Federal Open Market Committee, the body which sets the Fed's monetary policy objectives. On Constitutional grounds, the FOMC is undoubtedly problematic, as government appointees and the heads of the private Federal Reserve Banks work together to set monetary policy objectives that directly impact the strength of the dollar. While all of the members of the FOMC ought to be confirmed by the Senate, debates about the size of the FOMC or whether Reserve Bank Presidents should make up a majority of the members or whether they should even serve at all are largely a sideshow. While the only dissent to monetary policy decisions in recent years has come from Reserve Bank Presidents, there is no reason to think that expanding the FOMC to include more Reserve Bank Presidents would lead to any greater dissent or to any substantive changes to the conduct of monetary policy.

Another proposal for reform is for outright nationalization of the Fed or its functions. No longer would the Fed create money; that function would be taken up by the Treasury, issuing as much money as it sees fit. No longer would the Treasury issue debt to cover fiscal deficits, it would just issue new money to cover budget shortfalls. If what the Fed does now is bad, allowing the Treasury to print and issue money at will would be even worse. These types of proposals hearken back to the days of the first greenbacks, which the U.S. government began issuing in 1863. A pure fiat paper currency, unbacked by silver or gold, the greenbacks were widely reviled. Only once the greenbacks were made redeemable in gold were they accepted by the American people. The current system of Federal Reserve Notes is even worse than the greenback era in that there is no hope that they will ever be redeemable for gold or silver. The only limiting factor is that the Federal Reserve System only creates new money when purchasing assets, normally debt securities. Allowing the federal government to print money without at least a nominal check on the amount issued would inevitably lead to a Weimar-like hyperinflation.

So what then is the solution? The Fed maintains that a paper standard can be adequately managed without causing malinvestment, inflation, or other economic distortions. If the Fed were omniscient and knew the wishes, desires, and future actions of all Americans, this might be possible. But the Fed cannot possibly aggregate or act on the information necessary to engage in monetary policy. The actions of hundreds of millions of individuals, all seeking to better their position in life, acting purposefully towards that aim, cannot possibly be compiled into aggregates or calculated through mathematical equations or econometric models. Neither a single person, nor the members and staff of the FOMC, nor millions of people with millions of computers working in a new Goskomtsen will ever be able to accumulate, analyze, and act upon the information required to create a centrally planned monetary system. Centrally planned fiat paper standards such as the one currently in place in this country are doomed to failure.

This brings us to the question of the gold standard. The era of the classical gold standard was undoubtedly one of the greatest eras in human history. For a period of several decades in the late 19th century, largely uninterrupted by war, the West made enormous advances. Economic productivity increased, art and culture flourished, and living standards rose so that even the poorest citizens lived a life their forebears could have only dreamed of.

But the problem with the gold standard is that it was run by the government, which exercised a monopoly over monetary affairs. The temptation to suspend gold redemption, so often resorted to by governments throughout history, reared its head again with the outbreak of World War I. Once the tie to gold was severed and fiscal restraint thrown to the wind, undoing the damage would have required great fiscal austerity on the part of governments. Emancipated from the shackles of the gold standard, the Western world proceeded to set up a gold-exchange standard which lasted not even a decade before the easy money policies it enabled led to the Great Depression. While returning to the gold standard would certainly be far better than maintaining the current fiat paper system, as long as the government retains the power to go off gold we may end up repeating the same mistakes that occurred from 1934 to 1971 as the government went first off the gold coin standard and finally off the gold bullion exchange standard.

The only viable solution for monetary stability is to get government out of the money business permanently. The way to bring this about is through currency competition: allowing parallel currencies to circulate without any one currency receiving any special recognition or favor from the government. Fiat paper monetary standards throughout history have always collapsed due to their inflationary nature, and our current fiat paper standard will be no different. The Federal Reserve is currently sowing the seeds of its own destruction through its loose and reckless monetary policy. The day of reckoning may still be many years in the future, but given the lack of understanding on the part of the Federal Reserve's decision makers, it is quickly coming upon us.

It is imperative that the American people be educated on the dangers of the Fed and the importance of restoring sound money. Now that nearly 50 years have elapsed since silver was removed from circulation, fewer and fewer Americans have firsthand familiarity with real money. The laying of the groundwork must begin today, so that the American people will be prepared for the day when the mirage the Fed has created evaporates completely.

Ron Paul Opening Statement - Federal Reserve Subcommittee Hearing - May 8, 2012

Congressman Paul Subcommittee Hearing "The Federal Reserve System: Mend It or End It?" PART 1

Panel II

• Dr. Jeffrey M. Herbener, Chairman, Economics Department, Grove City College
• Dr. Peter G. Klein, Associate Professor, Applied Social Sciences and Director, McQuinn Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, University of Missouri
• Dr. John B. Taylor, Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University and George P. Schultz Senior Fellow in Economics, Hoover Institution
• Dr. Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution, and former Vice Chair, Federal Reserve Board of Governors
• Dr. James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

Congressman Paul Subcommittee Hearing "The Federal Reserve System: Mend It or End It?" PART 2

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NASA | Pursuit of Light

NASA dreams big science. In this awesome new short, NASA presents the Earth, the planets, the Sun, and the endless universe beyond. Come for the cool, stay for the music, take away a sense of wonder to share.

NASA | Pursuit of Light

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MUST READ! The Final Convergence: Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property | David Koepsell

The Final Convergence

Intellectual property (IP) was a noble experiment, and it may have been the cause of some of the growth and development we have enjoyed in the last century or two. But its days are now numbered. The end of IP is written into the structure of an ongoing technical and scientific revolution. Nanowares will be the final merger of numerous seemingly disparate technologies into a single, overarching technological infrastructure. This revolution, when fully realized, will alter our fundamental relations among each other, to the products of our creativity, and to the ‘natural’ world. No longer will many of the forces that have driven prices in markets function as they have. Scarcity, in the best version of the nanoware future, will cease. This future is being prepared for by many who are trying to develop it.

I have been trying to make a case, ever since I first examined the nature of cyberspatial goods, that IP regimes do not reflect reality well, and that they can and should be altered (or abolished) to serve our needs, and to better embody both logic and pragmatic ends. The technology is revealing that our preconceptions about the nature of our technical artifacts, as applied through existing IP regimes, are fundamentally flawed. The case is being made for us by both the inadequacy of current legal norms to deal with emerging technologies and the recognition of innovators, who now consciously skirt those regimes, and are instituting and embracing new means to promote and to protect innovation. If we are to pave the way for the full, beneficial, and equitable realization of nanowares, then we must finally declare IP as we know it to be dead, and move on. Let's review what our examination has revealed, and explain why the death of IP means opening a new door for the future of technological and scientific progress and economic prosperity if properly navigated.

Nanowares: What Are They, Really?

I have attempted to use a single word to connect several different paths of current technological approaches to the same goal. The sciences have been pushing technology inevitably toward a convergence, as the fundamental goals of science – better understanding, prediction, and control of nature – have been leading to the development of the technologies that underlie nanowares. The emergence of essentially programmable physical goods will complete the development of two major tracks of technological development. On the one hand, computerization and information and communication technologies (ICT) have involved ever-increasing abilities to manipulate information, and on the other hand, better, more precise, and miniaturized manipulation of the physical world (necessitated in many ways by the underlying technologies of ICT) has involved ever-increasing control over our manufactures or artifacts. The convergence of information technologies and manufacturing means fundamentally rethinking our connection to our artifacts, as discussed in the chapters above.

One exciting feature of these converging technologies is how they are finally converging. I have specifically included in the analysis of nanowares technologies that are clearly not nanotechnology. There are two reasons for including in discussions about nanotech and innovation the grassroots development of localized or microfabrication technologies. The first is that those who are behind the emergence of these technologies have their theoretical roots in nanotech. The second is that the tools and infrastructures that they are developing capture many of the same issues as those that will be presented by the full realization of molecular nanotechnology (MNT). The goals of enabling the complete accessibility of all potential means of production, and of liberating fully human creativity from the traditional demands of capital, are implicit in the Fab Lab, RepRap (and other) micro-manufacturing efforts, and will be the ultimate inevitable result of true MNT. Because I (and others) see both streams of development as meeting at some future point, and motivated by the same ultimate goals, a single term ‘nanowares’ has been used throughout this argument.

We should treat all of these emerging and converging technologies as a kind, and look for ways we can precipitate their smooth arrival and realize their full potential. Ultimately, I do not think there is any real danger that governments or others who foolishly seek to keep alive current IP paradigms, and extend them to nanowares, can succeed. In fact, it is encouraging that while some of us try to justify the theoretical underpinnings of a movement, the movement itself marches inexorably onward, propelled by the general acceptance of its tenets. IP has been breaking down for some time as a result of half of the two-track movement toward true MNT. Even as the patent profession (really, the patent industry, in which patent lawyers, courts, and other related professionals are assured of profits by the mere filing and litigation of patents) seeks to bolster their floundering field against the tide of radical change brought about by ICT, those who are innovating in software have learned how to work around the legal impediments to innovation, and work out among themselves a more just spectrum of rights and expectations. This is happening as well in nanowares. It is part of the nature of the technology that openness and free markets will drive innovation in the field, and it moves those working in it at least away from excessive upstream patenting, and at most, toward open source paradigms.

In both the grassroots nanowares approaches to microfabrication (including desktop fabrication) and in the realm of synthetic biology, where bio-bricks approaches ensure free and open access to the foundational research and components, researchers and innovators alike are taking matters into their own hands and preventing patents from impeding these emerging sciences. The same trend motivated both industry and individuals to disclose rather than enclose genes in the race to decode the human genome and thereafter. Nanowares are thus part of a spectrum, and the continuation of a trend. The patent industry will grow louder, and look to governments to secure their domains, even as those who are doing much of the work in both the science and innovation work steadily to keep this expanding domain open.

In many ways, this book is not a call for action, but rather an attempt to theoretically explain trends that will occur anyway. It is descriptive rather than normative. Nanowares will be open, eventually, and IP will continue to break down, with or without philosophers making the case that it should. But some remain unconvinced, and innovators and scientists are still at the mercy of states, as well as market forces, that sometimes work at cross-purposes, and that are often impelled by habit rather than reason to continue to support dying methods and ideologies. Even while I am certain that the seeds of revolutionary change in our thinking about the natures of artifacts are embedded in the technology itself, we should be mindful of the pernicious ability of those whose domains are threatened, even by the inevitable, to attempt to secure their monopolies.

I have argued throughout my informal IP trilogy that where institutions or norms conflict with grounded principles of justice, we must seek justice. This is an ethical argument, and suggests that the forces I describe, and which are moving technology and science, are good, and that attempts to impede that development are the opposite. You may well accept the trends I have described, their economic efficiency, their inevitability, and their benefits for innovation without accepting the ontological and ethical arguments that pervade this text, but I have tried to point out the shortcomings of mere utility as a foundation for action. Let's look briefly at why ethics and justice ought to finally motivate us to embrace nanoware without IP, and why ethical foundations ought to be part of our thinking in science and technology in general. There are sound historical reasons to believe that some things are better than others, not just instrumentally, but also fundamentally.

Ethics and Innovation

If science and technology never had any impact on rights or duties, and if IP law did not impede some of those rights and duties, then philosophers could avoid confronting the ethical issues raised by new technologies like nanowares. But each new technology presents us with a range of new considerations regarding the rights of scientists, innovators, and the public, and the proper role of states in ensuring justice. It is a modern trend to incorporate earlier in the development of new technologies ethical considerations that are anticipated to pose impediments or lead to harms. As discussed above, most of the discussion regarding nanowares has focused upon potential harms posed in the realm of safety, security, public risks, and environmental impacts. All of this inquiry is warranted, given the experiences of harmful technologies in the past, and we have delved into them briefly above. But the argument I have been making in this text focuses primarily on IP, and how the current IP regime threatens the development of the technology itself. While I am mindful of, and concerned about, potential physical harms arising from nanowares, and indeed support inquiry into the general ethical duties of researchers and innovators in avoiding those sorts of harms, I am most concerned with the implications for justice arising from the application of current IP norms to this and other technologies.

We are not, as individuals, entitled to the fruits of innovation. I do not think there is a duty, either, for anyone to innovate. Nor do I think that justice requires the free dissemination of physical goods that result from innovation to either the needy or the wealthy. But I do think that states ought not to impede either individual human creativity or markets for the fruits of that creativity. There may well be individual, moral duties to contribute to society, and to not harm others consistent with Mill's oft-spoken about (and incorporated herein) ‘harm principle.’ I would certainly encourage innovators to innovate, to share the fruits of their innovation openly, and to enable others to improve upon their own innovations. Doing so would certainly be what ethicists consider to be supererogatory goods, or praiseworthy (morally speaking). But this is not an argument for achieving some moral utopia through adopting socialist principles such as the famous maxim: ‘to each according to their needs, from each according to their ability.’ Instead, it is a call to let markets sort out prices, free from state interference, and to allow human creativity to thrive without creating artificial barriers in the form of state-sanctioned monopolies.

I do not mean to imply that an utterly free market in innovation will result universally in ‘the good,’ ethically speaking. Rather, it is clear from history that people will do bad things, intentionally or unintentionally, and that states have sometimes tried to step in to rectify harms in some cases, and succeeded sometimes. The law and the state have played roles in marshaling public resources to great good in the past, and have in fact helped us to achieve our current level of innovation and wealth through various means, including through the allocation of resources to both science and industry. It is not per se unethical that we should make such democratic choices about allocation, control, regulation, or preference where those choices are truly democratic, and where harms might be avoided with certainty. Neither is it per se necessary that states do any of these. Looking at past examples, as we have a bit throughout the above argument, there are clear instances of state failures, in both allowing for and in some cases precipitating harms. Moreover, there is an even clearer history of state error in its actions regarding markets. There is as yet no good evidence that attempts to influence markets, especially in the development and dissemination of new technologies, are necessarily successful. Such attempts are also arguably bad, in a moral sense, when they involve impediments of natural rights (to life, liberty, or property, for instance). I believe that nanotechnology presents us with an important choice, and that many who are involved in this nascent field have already made that choice. The choice is: Do we wish to adopt failed IP policies in nanowares, or pursue new paths to liberate both the science and its development through technology?

We have other choices to make as well. For instance, should we pursue informal policies, or create institutions that help us to track dangerous materials, precursors, or final products that enter the stream of commerce? Are there some sorts of technologies that need to incorporate limitations, for instance on the potential negative consequences of unhindered self-replication? Should scientists and innovators choose to abide by certain ethical principles in general? All of these choices have ethical implications. The common thread of everything I have tried to demonstrate, and the overarching thesis of this book, is that it is the nature of each of the above as choices that is most important.

Continue reading (Long Read) - The Final Convergence: Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nanotechnology - A Changing Landscape | Eric Drexler | Future of Humanity Institute

In the Lloyd's library in London, Eric Drexler addressed business risks and opportunities of nanotechnology. Sponsored by both the UK Knowledge Transfer Networks of Finance and Nanotechnology, Drexler focuses initially on a broad overview of nanotechnology, then examines current and emerging risks. The talk concludes with prospects for transformative future nanotechnologies.

Eric Drexler: Nanotechnology - A Changing Landscape

MUST WATCH! Money, Power and Wall Street | FRONTLINE

FRONTLINE's four-hour epic on the global financial crisis — the first two hours — goes inside the struggles to rescue and repair a shattered economy, exploring key decisions, missed opportunities and the unprecedented and uneasy partnership between government leaders and titans of finance.

"Money, Power and Wall Street is demanding — this isn't Finance for Dummies," Evans writes in the review. "But it's a compact and thorough lesson."

In the first hour, FRONTLINE takes you inside the rapid rise of credit default swaps, including the voices of those who created them. With the real estate market booming, bankers successfully tweaked the credit default swap to bundle up and sell home mortgage loans to eager investors. But despite the money flowing into banks' coffers, credit default swaps also loaded the financial system with lethal risk. And when the housing bubble burst, the credit default swaps — originally designed to stabilize the system — brought the global economy to its knees. Regulators, who had often stood on the sideline and allowed Wall Street to police itself, saw the ugly consequences rapidly unfold before them.

Watch it here: Money, Power and Wall Street | FRONTLINE

Thursday, May 3, 2012

von Neumann Probes, Dyson Spheres, Exploratory Engineering and the Fermi Paradox | Stuart Armstrong | Future of Humanity Institute

von Neumann probes and Dyson spheres: what exploratory engineering can tell us about the Fermi paradox.

Talk by Stuart Armstrong, at the Oxford physics department

Abstract: The Fermi paradox is the contrast between the high estimate of the likelihood of extraterritorial civilizations, and the lack of visible evidence of them. But what sort of evidence should we expect to see? This is what exploratory engineering can tell us, giving us estimates of what kind of cosmic structures are plausibly constructable by advanced civilizations, and what traces they would leave. Based on our current knowledge, it seems that it would be easy for such a civilization to rapidly occupy vast swathes of the universe in a visible fashion. There are game-theoretic reasons to suppose that they would do so. This leads to a worsening of the Fermi paradox, reducing the likelihood of "advanced but unseen" civilizations, even in other galaxies.

von Neumann probes, Dyson spheres, exploratory engineering and the Fermi paradox

MIT and Harvard Announce edX

Harvard University and MIT today announced edX, a transformational new partnership in online education. Through edX, the two institutions will collaborate to enhance campus-based teaching and learning and build a global community of online learners.

EdX will build on both universities’ experience in offering online instructional content. The technological platform recently established by MITx, which will serve as the foundation for the new learning system, was designed to offer online versions of MIT courses featuring video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories and student-paced learning. Certificates of mastery will be available for those who are motivated and able to demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.

MIT and Harvard expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform. The gathering of many universities’ educational content together on one site will enable learners worldwide to access the course content of any participating university from a single website, and to use a set of online educational tools shared by all participating universities.

EdX will release its learning platform as open-source software so it can be used by other universities and organizations that wish to host the platform themselves. Because the learning technology will be available as open-source software, other universities and individuals will be able to help edX improve and add features to the technology.

MIT and Harvard will use the jointly operated edX platform to research how students learn and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on-campus and online. The edX platform will enable the study of which teaching methods and tools are most successful. The findings of this research will be used to inform how faculty use technology in their teaching, which will enhance the experience for students on campus and for the millions expected to take advantage of these new online offerings.

“EdX represents a unique opportunity to improve education on our own campuses through online learning, while simultaneously creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide,” MIT President Susan Hockfield said.

Harvard President Drew Faust said, “edX gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting groundbreaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education.”

“Harvard and MIT will use these new technologies and the research they will make possible to lead the direction of online learning in a way that benefits our students, our peers, and people across the nation and the globe,” Faust continued.

Continue reading - MIT and Harvard Announce edX

Visit: edX

EdX: The Future of Online Education is Now

Press conference: MIT, Harvard announce edX

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

97% Owned - Monetary Reform

97% owned present serious research and verifiable evidence on our economic and financial system. This is the first documentary to tackle this issue from a UK-perspective and explains the inner workings of Central Banks and the Money creation process.

When money drives almost all activity on the planet, it's essential that we understand it. Yet simple questions often get overlooked, questions like; where does money come from? Who creates it? Who decides how it gets used? And what does this mean for the millions of ordinary people who suffer when the monetary, and financial system, breaks down?

Produced by Queuepolitely and featuring Ben Dyson of Positive Money, Josh Ryan-Collins of The New Economics Foundation, Ann Pettifor, the "HBOS Whistleblower" Paul Moore, Simon Dixon of Bank to the Future and Nick Dearden from the Jubliee Debt Campaign.

Political philosopher John Gray, commented, "We're not moving to a world in which crises will never happen or will happen less and less. We are in a world in which they happen several times during a given human lifetime and I think that will continue to be the case"
If you have decided that crisis as a result of the monetary system is not an event you want to keep revisiting in your life-time then this documentary will equip you with the knowledge you need, what you do with it is up to you.

97% Owned - Monetary Reform documentary

GLOBAL REVOLT - Global Occupy and May Day Protest

US | MORE HD PHOTOS from The Huffington Post









































Labour activists have been holding marches and rallies in Europe and around the world to mark May Day, at a time of austerity and social unrest.

Politics coloured events in France - one of the eurozone's dominant states - which elects a new president on Sunday.

In Greece, which elects a new parliament the same day, a march through Athens passed off peacefully.

Thousands of Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona to protest against cuts and unemployment.

Earlier, workers in Asian states marched for better working conditions and the Occupy movement is planning events in North America.

International Workers' Day, as the 1 May holiday is known officially, is meant to be a celebration of working people worldwide.

A recognised national holiday in most of the developed world, it is also celebrated unofficially in some countries.

'Vote blank'

In France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen refused to back either candidate in the country's presidential election run-off on Sunday, when she addressed supporters in Paris.

Ms Le Pen, who came third in the first round last month, said National Front voters should vote with their conscience but added that both President Nicolas Sarkozy and his challenger, the Socialists' Francois Hollande, would surrender power to Europe.

Attacking Mr Sarkozy's five years in power and the ruling UMP party, she said she would "vote blank".

The National Front holds an annual march in Paris on 1 May to celebrate French heroine Joan of Arc.

Addressing a mass rally in Paris, Mr Sarkozy appealed for national unity around his Gaullist vision of France.

"I tell the unions, put down the red flag and serve France," he told the crowd at the Trocadero, which the UMP put at 200,000.

But the conservative leader also appeared to concede the banking system had been at fault.

"I want a new French model where the capitalism of the entrepreneurs will have replaced the capitalism of the financiers," he said.

Both Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande have been wooing the six million people who voted for Ms Le Pen in the first round.

In a speech in the town of Nevers, Mr Hollande voiced solidarity with trade unionists, saying: "When you have been a worker, when you have been a trade unionist, you know that inflation is a gnawing evil."

French trade unions were holding their traditional May Day marches in Paris and other cities.

Greek institution

Several thousand Greek workers, pensioners and students marched peacefully to parliament in central Athens holding banners reading "Revolt now" and "Tax the rich".

Greek Communist Party supporters gathered in the Aspropyrgos industrial area, outside Athens, to show support for workers at a local steelworks who have been on strike for months.

Anti-austerity protesters have been taking part in a day of strikes and demonstrations across Greece.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says the 1 May protests there have become an institution, with public and private sector strikes and disruption to public transport.

But he says there may be less of the traditional violence, since minds are focused on Sunday's general election, when many Greeks are expected to vent their anger against the austerity measures.

In Madrid, tens of thousands of protesters filed peacefully in the rain to the main square waving signs opposing government cuts.

The new conservative government is battling to prevent Spain needing an international bailout like those for Greece, the Irish Republic and Portugal.

"This day is an expression of rebelliousness... against the attack by the government upon the public services, upon employment, upon social and labour rights in our country," said Candido Mendez, head of the UGT union.

Ana Lopez, a 44-year-old civil servant, said May Day was sacred for her but this year in particular because, she argued, the government was doing nothing to help workers and the economic crisis was benefiting banks.

"Money does not just disappear," she told the Associated Press news agency.

"It does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks, and the politicians are puppets of the banks."

In Russia, nationalists, communists and opponents of incoming president Vladimir Putin all held separate rallies in the former communist state.

Mr Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev made a rare joint public appearance on the streets of Moscow, leading more than 100,000 people in a Soviet-style "Holiday of Labour and Spring" march.

US protests

The Occupy movement has called for global protests against economic inequality.

The movement gained international attention with the Occupy Wall Street protest last September but has struggled to maintain its profile as its supporters began to be evicted from public squares across the US.

An Occupy statement said: "The Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st, 2012," referring to its slogan that the wealthy 1% rules over a powerless 99%.

Its main rally will be in New York in the afternoon rush hour.

The Occupy movement in San Francisco called for a Golden Gate Bridge protest.

It said: "This May Day we look forward to seeing strong, powerful picket lines, unlike anything the Golden Gate Bridge bosses have seen before."

Rallies took place across Asia

In Hong Kong, about 5,000 workers marched demanding a rise in the minimum wage
In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 9,000 workers marched to the state palace calling for better pay and job protection
In Manila, the Philippines, some 8,000 workers rallied near the Malacanang palace to call for pay increases

Source: BBC - Europe focus of global May Day labour protests

May Day display: Hundreds of thousands rally worldwide

Europe: Anger, Gloom for Workers on May Day

OWS May Day NYC Protests

OWS: May Day Protesters and 100s of NYPD Officers

Riot police macing protesters in Portland on May Day

German clashes: May Day rallies turn violent