This Week Is Dumb

This week is a dumb week. There is so much horrible shit happening right now that the main concern is how to categorise which one is worse and how to manage the bum-hurt expectations of the people who's tragedy is, momentarily, at the bottom of the list.

But my real question is: why do we care?

Seriously. 

Horrible shit happens all the time. It's an unfortunate fact of the human condition: we suffer and die. It's the reason Buddhism has been so successful. Existence is suffering. People die on the roads. People die in instances of domestic violence. People die on the high seas on the way to this country and we as a country have voted to stop giving a fuck. What is different about the deaths of asylum seekers versus Australians in a plane that warrants so much media attention? Is it the fact that they're white? The fact that they come from cities and suburbs that we recognise? Is that it? They could be us?

Sure, maybe. But we could just as easily be an Indian refugee fleeing violence and poverty. It's just a result of who our parents where and where they were geographically when they chose to fuck. The notion that any human death is unworthy of attention is frankly wrong. I mourn the loss of those people on MH17 as much as I mourn the loss of someone who died of cancer or who died in a car accident. As I mourn every human life that passes - a brief candle between two infinite darknesses. 

I was going to mention the Israel/Pallestine conflict at this point but I'm not sure there's much point. I mean, we'll never really get to the heart of the matter. I mean, as brilliant and thoughtful and magnanimous and intelligent as I would naturally be when discussing the topic, the fundamental point is this: war serves only the warmongers. People are scared and when they're scared they give permission to the rich and powerful people that war benefits to do the things that they wanted to do all along.

Munitions are glorious industry. Mass-produceable. Single use. Expensive. Very profitable.The people of Gaza don't want Israel invading just as much as the people of Israel don't want to invade. It's a select few that have power (or have wrestled it away) that seem intent on getting people killed. People on both those sides just want to live a happy, prosperous life. Like literally everyone.

Same goes for the Ukraine/Russia conflict. Nobody would take it upon themselves to invade another country to try and get a meaningless piece of land on their own. It's something young idiots do at the behest of powerful, old men.

So that's where we're at and it's not getting better this week. This week is dumb.

For more dumb things listen to Jorge's podcast Unnatural Selection and follow him on twitter @JorgeTsipos

The Most Important Thing Left Out of the Budget Discussion

There's been a lot of hoop-lah and ballyhoo and other old-timey words that indicate a ruckus over the most recent budget announced by the Liberal government. It's mostly warrented and as far as I'm concerned I think most of those conservative hypocrites can fuck themselves all to death - but there is one thing that bothers me more than anything. Aside from all the cuts to hospitals and the cuts to essentially everything that is a thing, what really grinds my gears is the assault that's being mounted on the education system.

And before I get stuck in, stop focusing on Tony Abbott's 'not-bad-looking-daugher' getting a scholarship. It's frankly none of our business. I could give a fuck. Anyone who's well connected can do that. Of all the sins this government has committed that's not even close to the most grave.

Not bad.

Not bad.

The thing that does bother me about this education debate is that education is being framed in a far too reductive way; simply in turns of 'Return on Investment' (or ROI). Far too often I've heard Christopher Pyne talking about how the 60% of Australian Battler's are funding the education costs of someone going to uni and that's not fair. Here's a newsflash: that's what government is for.

I may not like the School Chaplaincy Program (and just to be clear, I don't, it's dumb) but my tax dollars, in part, go to fund it anyway. That's the point of living in a democracy. That's the social contract to which we have all agreed. I sacrifice a part of my salary every week and in turn I have roads and hospitals and schools and stuff that are important for running a damn society. I may not agree how every single dollar is spent ($24bn on new jets we don't need, for example) but that's the agreement I've made. 

I know you want me...

I know you want me...

It's not right (or frankly fair) for me to turn around and say 'Hey, I don't have a vagina, so why are my tax dollars going to pap smears or breast scans?' Why? I don't personally have this issue, so why should I help in that specific regard? Because it's a society, you twat. You have something that costs money that nobody else has. If you walk to work there is still part of your pay check that is going to roads. If you are a woman, you are in part, paying for some old guy to get his prostate removed. That's what being a society is. We ALL contribute and we do our best to look after EVERYONE. Allegedly. 

It's not good enough to say, 'Oh well, I got my education, fuck youse.' That's not good enough. Education, in particular, is something that benefits everyone. Literally. If you go to university you are statistically likely to earn 8% more for the rest of your life for every year you spend in tertiary education. That extra money that you earn, guess what, gets taxed and you more than pay for your education over the course of your life. Literally everyone wins. 

http://degreesearch.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/bright_outlook_infographic2.gif

http://degreesearch.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/bright_outlook_infographic2.gif

Now forget all that. It's true, but it's very reductive. The fact is, having a highly educated society is just good. It's good to have. When did we forget this? Getting further education (any education) means you are generally a more open, thoughtful and considerate person than you otherwise would have been. Education makes you more employable and with a highly educated society we are more likely to elect good politicians and make quality decisions. Education is the primary imperative of any society that wants to be a world leader in anything. Everyone should have the option to get further education if they want it.

If you want to encourage people to build businesses and tech startups and every other single job of the future, you need one thing: smart people that have specialised skills. Skills that they likely got from Universities that they could afford. By locking a single person out of this system we could be dooming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg from ever starting in the first place. Just because he started poor.

Where'd I go? Oh right, Harvard. Cause I could afford it.

Where'd I go? Oh right, Harvard. Cause I could afford it.

Sure, you can put all your University fees on a government loan (at up to 6% interest now - which is double what I get from my 'high-interest savings account') but if the cost of your degree from a prestigious University ends up doubling or tripling, you might think twice about getting it in the first place. Say you drop-out or you never earn enough money to begin paying it back. Mazeltov! You now have tens of thousands of dollars (maybe over a hundred thousand dollars) worth of debt, climbing at a potential rate twice that of inflation and wage increases. Good luck ever trying to get a home loan with that red mark against your name. No, seriously, good luck.

All this does is lock people into cycles of poverty. If all you can ever do is afford a second rate degree that nobody takes seriously, you will always remain second rate. You will never be able to compete with someone who paid $200,000 for a degree from the new 'Ivy League' that will form in Australia. Also, they may not go ahead an get that Art's Degree that they really want, but realistically provides fewer job opportunities. Yay for flushing culture down the drain!

There's some stuff about farms, but the rest is relevant. 

There's some stuff about farms, but the rest is relevant. 

I foolishly believe that if someone is willing to learn and work hard, they should be afforded the same opportunity to get a degree that some rich kid can. Christopher Pyne says this deregulation of fees will encourage 'competition' because as we all know the most prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale always have to compete to get people to enter their doors. It's so hard! WHY CAN'T WE GET ANY STUDENTS?? He reckons it'll drive prices down. We'll see.

So, in summery, the most important thing that's been left out of the budget discussion is this: Education has so many more, wide-reaching benefits to all of society than just the ROI. Can someone please start talking about them?

To see the product of Jorge's Sandstone University education, follow him on twitter @JorgeTsipos and listen to the incredibly intelligent podcast Unnatural Selection.

If This Then That

Automation is generally considered a good thing. The more you can automate something the more you have time for more pressing matters. If you can outsource something, and the cost of doing so is less than what it would cost you to do it (be that time or money) then the logical thing to do is to outsource that thing, right?

That being said, we increasingly have longer and longer work weeks. We pull more shifts for less money for more days. Though 'productivity' (an abigious metric if ever there was one) continues to rise and rise the amount of time we spend with our families goes down and down, along with our pay. Inequality and automation in a terrifying marriage. 

http://thecurrentmoment.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/productivity-inequality-poverty/

http://thecurrentmoment.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/productivity-inequality-poverty/

 

Yet unemployment in some sectors has never been higher. We live in a post-industrial, post-manufacturing and soon-to be post-service world. Every time you walk through the automated check out you cost someone their job. And no, you can't stop that, but maybe you can slow it down a tad - because the people at the top don't suffer from automation, it's the people right at the bottom. 

I discovered an app recently called 'If This Then That' which is all about programming your phone to do ever more detailed customizable functions of your daily life. It can do almost anything. For example IF I take a selfie, THEN email it to my mum. Or whatever. It has a plethora of time-saving and life brightening applications and I got really stoked. Think of all the time this will save me at work! Every time I upload a photo to the work Instagram it now immediately uploads to the work Facebook and the work twitter. Brilliant!

And then I thought  'geez, I hope they don't invent a program that can do social media, or I'm out of a job.' And there's the central dilemma of the progression of technology and the life of the worker: the things that make our life easier now will take our livelyhood away one day. 

Sure, you could employ everyone to build a road. Have one dude mixing cement, another flattening the road, another redirecting traffic, another measuring stuff. 100% employment. Instead of ATM's have a dude with a bag of money. Instead of Amazon, go down to your local bookstore. You see what I'm getting at here. 

Amazon killed my father - and raped my mother!

Amazon killed my father - and raped my mother!

But if you follow that logic there is no progress.  We're back in the dark ages using our donkey to grind corn. Or whatever. Where would civilization be without the cement mixer or the 'stop' sign? So as the inevitable goose step of progress marches on I must have faith that new industries will be created to replace the old ones. Right? No one ever thought 'apps' would be a thing - now it's a multibillion dollar industry with thousands of jobs. 

The irony is I love automation, I think it's great. It saves me time. It's convenient. It makes my life better. But how long before I too become a victim of that, just like everyone else and become one of three things: a computer maintanence person, a software programmer or a content creator? Part of the big, giant machine entertaining itself through to oblivion.  How long until I become like one of those obese figures from Wall-e that just sits on his fat ass all day, entertaining himself? 

Guys, I was thinking we could go out... Guys? Guys..?

Guys, I was thinking we could go out... Guys? Guys..?

If this (automation) then that (the world ends). Something to think about. Or not. I don't know.

Follow @JorgeTsipos on twitter to get his automated humour and listen to his free weekly podcast Unnatural Selection.