Artisanal Service

“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, born October 15, 1844

Work in the 21st Century: The Good News
Wrote about the future of work the other day (Surplus to Requirements).

The Life of RileyThe future will have no need for labor in the traditional sense. All mass production and most administrative work will be performed by machines. Nobody will have to work for a living: basic income will be provided, or else goods and services will be available at no charge.

Nevertheless, work will exist, and some if it will be done for money (whatever that will look like). While nobody will have to work, many people will want to. Available work will be one of:

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Sorry, Bank’s Closed

“We are here to make another world.”

—W. Edwards Deming, American scientist, born October 14, 1900

No, no! Give the kid top billing

Stacy KontrabeckiI MC’d at TEDx Shelburne Falls on Saturday. I talk a lot about how Western Massachusetts is full of world-class talent that can take on the world. Saturday proved it to me again. The program included several videos of talks from both the TED mother-ship and TEDx. The presentations that we heard the other day were just as good as anything that was on show. Congratulations to everybody who presented the other day, and to Stacy Kontrabecki, who did an amazing job putting (and keeping!) TEDx Shelburne Falls together. I’m not sure when the videos from Saturday will be up at TEDx Shelburne Falls, but keep an eye out, and I’ll link to them when they are posted.

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Surplus to Requirements

“If work was a good thing, the rich would have it all and not let you do it.”
—Elmore Leonard, American novelist, born October 11, 1925

MolochHad a piece yesterday about Singapore looking underground for space to grow, and recalled some classic visions concerning work of the future. “Metropolis” extrapolates from the dreadful human cost of the First Industrial Revolution a world where people are literally fed to the machines. H.G. Wells understood that the owning class would be happy to sequester the working class underground and keep the surface to themselves. The bitter irony in his story is that the workers evolve into cannibalistic brutes who prey on the feather-headed descendants of their “betters.”

But in the 20th century the logic of capitalism and the logic of the machine made a world more like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Machines provide abundance. Mindless consumerism is the real job of the inhabitants of the World State. We’ve lived there for decades. Henry Ford’s insight that better paid workers would make better consumers generated the world, with a little help from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, of the long boom between the end of World War Two and the capitalist counter-revolution of the greed-is-good 1980s.

Masses of reasonably well-paid consumers will not be required to keep the machine humming in the future. With automation. labor in the traditional meaning of the word is literally unnecessary. The question for the 21st century is what to do with all those consumers whose work is now surplus to requirements. What happens next?

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Notes from the Underground, Singapore

“I adore art… when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.”

—Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer, born October 10, 1813

Giuseppe VerdiLast night at 21st Century Business Roundtable, Paul Silva, president of Click Workspace, co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors, and manager of River valley Investors, led us through the ins and outs of equity investment in startups from the points of view of entrepreneurs in need of funding, and of capital in search of exciting investments. We enjoyed Paul’s wit, vivid delivery, and deep knowledge. I certainly learned a lot. Next week, 21st Century Business Roundtable presents Adam Robinson, Ostberg & Associates and Scott Foster, Bulkeley, Richardson and Gelinas on the subject of Financial and Legal Issues for Entrepreneurs.

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“Every man has his dignity. I’m willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.”

—Denis Diderot, French editor, born October 5, 1713

Denis Diderot 111Diderot, co-founder and chief editor of the Encylopédie, a key work of the Enlightenment, would have loved the Internet. The Encyclopédie began as a translation into French of one of the first English encyclopedias. It was intended to encompass every branch of human knowledge, and “change men’s common way of thinking.” In other words, Diderot’s goal was just what the Internet allows us to do: share all of human knowledge with everyone, for the common good. I’m not sure if Diderot foresaw the ferocious reaction that the Enlightenment project would rouse from the forces that profited, and continue to profit, from ignorance and superstition. But his remark that “Humanity will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest” suggests that he had a notion.

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Conquering the Darkness

“We are all murderers and prostitutes—no matter to what culture, society, class, nation one belongs, no matter how normal, moral, or mature, one takes oneself to be.”

—R. D. Laing, Scottish psychologist, born October 7, 1927

Conquering the Darkness

Punkah in Church of Saint Francis, Kochi, India

I’m thinking about how to measure the value of having the Internet always on and available everywhere to everybody.

  • Heard two twenty-somethings talking about school. They were tut-tutting about how hard life was back in the olden days when people had to go to the library to look things up. They’re right. Think of the distinction between data and information. Information is what data becomes when it has been organized and indexed. A library is an indexed collection of physical books. The index expedites the retrieval of information by allowing the user to find the books she needs. But now she can have indexed, instant access to all the information written in those books from anywhere. Not to mention that she can copy and share that information a lot more easily than if it continued to be trapped inside of those paper books.
  • Yesterday I was (trying to) work with a colleague in a place with inadequate connectivity. It was literally impossible to finish what we had planned to do together. We divided the tasks and headed for places with better connectivity. I’m still working on my part; but I retrieved the list of Western Massachusetts towns and cities I needed in under a minute. I learned how to scrape the table to a Google Spreadsheet in under five minutes. Continue reading “Conquering the Darkness”

DELA Brings Down the Tofu Curtain!

“Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults.”

—Gore Vidal, American novelist, born October 3, 1925

Return of Don’t Eat Lunch Alone South of the Tofu Curtain!

Auntie Cathie LogoThe new West Springfield Don’t Eat Lunch Alone starts today. We’ll be meeting at Auntie Cathie’s Kitchen at 217 Elm Street 12–2 today, and then every other Thursday. Thanks to Trish Truitt for getting this going. I’m going to be late today, but look forward to seeing all of you there.

Yesterday we linked to a story about re-onshoring and its benign impact on the economy in Massachusetts, which is still strong in manufacturing. Today’s piece is about how Franklin County Technical High School has stepped up to prepare both young people and adult learners for the good jobs and expanding opportunity the renaissance in manufacturing industry offers.

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It’s So Old it’s New

“Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”

—Graham Greene, English author, born October 2, 1904

More Vanished Civilizations

Lee Wiley“….In 1939, [Lee] Wiley recorded eight Gershwin songs on 78s with a small group for Liberty Music Shops. The set sold well and was followed by 78s dedicated to the music of Cole Porter (1940) and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (1940 and 1954), Harold Arlen (1943), and 10” LPs dedicated to the music of Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin (1951)….These influential albums launched the concept of a ‘songbook’ (often featuring lesser-known songs), which was later widely imitated by other singers….” By the way, if you love the Songbook, do yourself a favor and check out Lee Wiley. She deserves to be better known. Lee Wiley songs

It’s natural for a culture to pay attention to its own art exclusively. In 20th century American pop music before Lee Wiley’s experiment, the Hit Parade dominated: a simple, ever-changing collection of new songs that became popular, were widely listened to and covered by other artists, and then vanished. Wiley’s example was followed by such great singers as Frank Sinatra, who sang songs from the twenties on, and Ella Fitzgerald, who did a monumental and masterful series of songbooks for Verve in the 50s and 60s.

Another famous example from music is the Bach revival in the early 19th century. Bach died in 1750. His music was already considered old-fashioned. While it was valued and studied by composers like Mozart and Beethoven, it wasn’t played. Mendelssohn arranged and conducted a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in Berlin in 1829, the first time it had been played since since Bach’s death.

About the same time Mendelssohn was reviving great music from a few generations back, Sir Walter Scott invented the historical novel. Novels are called novels because they’re news. They’re stories of modern life; or they were before Sir Walter got to work. More about that another day.

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Nothing New Under the Sun

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.”

W. S. Merwin, American poet, born September 30, 1927

Vanished Civilizations

There’s still time to sign up for Jim Mumm’s Elevating Your Sales Technique workshop tonight in Northampton. Jim is a successful entrepreneur and an excellent speaker. His company Executive Training Solutions, LLC provides Sandler Training in the Pioneer Valley. 6:00–8:00PM. Refreshments provided.

Chess with DeathA Millenial reported watching Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries” in his Psychology Class. We didn’t find out what he thought about it: he’s sixteen, and will not communicate with adults about that stuff. His grandmother, a Baby Boomer, thought it would be fun to show the Millenial and his Gen X father a short, satirical film called “De Düva” (The Dove, 1968). It’s a very funny pastiche of Bergman: faux-Swedish dialogue (Madeleine Kahn, in her film debut, offers a cigar to her cousin: “Phalliken symbolsk?”), a game of badminton with Death (homage to Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”), and a mixture of nostalgia, natural beauty, and existential dread. “The Dove” was once very popular at college film societies and art houses (an art house is a movie theater specializing in showing serious independent and foreign films, and revivals. They still exist, I think).

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