Sunday, March 30, 2014

The failure of overconsumption engineering 3-25-14

Overconsumption is a topic that has been engineered into our culture for the sixty years since the Second World War. This idea was introduced in order to best capitalize on the massive production capacity we built up during the war. When introduced it was thought that this over consumption of goods by the general populace would be good for both business and the happiness of the American populous. However this idea has not proven true, and as it has spread through to more and more products it has decreased consumer happiness  in line with its spread through industries.
In Chapter eleven of the text, Woodhouse speaks about how the sheer volume of waste that goes into current manufacturing of products. With billions of pounds of waste being generated every year in the production of good, many of which cannot be broken down in landfills that will sit there for thousands of years leaching toxins into the environment and groundwater, many of these goods and made from chlorinated hydrocarbons which were introduced to make use of manufacturing bi-products. While there were possibly good intentions behind the reuse of the dangerous chlorine from the manufacture of paper, there was little research done to see if the chemicals they were making were dangerous or harmful to people and the environment. This type of advancement without research can cause harm and with so many companies coming with new materials all the time it becomes difficult for them all to be regulated and tested accurately.

This process of over monetizing has leaked into fields other than manufacturing and classical engineering, such as in the field of computer science where it has lead to a development cycle similar to modern manufacturing in that many applications are being split into smaller projects that can be more easily monetized. This can also be seen in smartphone apps and games where microtransactions and expansions have been introduced to allow developers to introduce content that makes the game easier for people willing to pay. By doing this they are able to make people more willing to part with their money for an inferior product and it makes the applications less enjoyable for people who don't participate in the cycle of paying for content that should be included.

The concept of over consumption has become deeply embedded in our culture to the point that it is not just accepted but expected. This mentality allows companies and manufacturers to sell incomplete products to allow the consumers an illusion of choice that ends in citizens becoming nothing more than mindless consumers with no choice but to buy more every time they want a new feature that they don't need.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the tenth chapter of the text Breyman spends a lot of time talking about using the internet and other modern communication technologies to improve the representative ability of our democracy. With his main argument being that it would allow for significantly more people to participate in democracy all while raising the point that it would be incredibly difficult to implement without the help of the current system and massive support from the general public.
With the powerful impact that the internet has had on the way people interact, it would be surprising if there were little to no online forums for debate at this point in time and within a very short time I was able to find hundreds of websites that existed for people to debate the politics of their choosing. However finding independent forums for local politics that existed outside of news sites like the Troy Record proved too difficult,  but these newspaper forums still existed with a seemingly active user base and goes to prove the point of people being interested in debating current politics in an online forum. With all of these forums that exist they all have a central system of moderators that help to keep discussion on track but none of them seem to be the central authority for politics. With all of the interest that can be seen it could be the time for a central authority to form for political discussion. But this system would have to exist outside of the government because if there were to be controlled by the government any ideas that the current powers disagreed with could be moderated away and in a worst case scenario the people who posted those threads could be hunted down and arrested for suggesting a radical idea. Obviously such a scenario would only exist in a more totalitarian state than we have now but it is an eventuality that should be avoided at all costs. For example the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was started by a facebook event to protest the Mubarak regime which led to the recent Egyptian revolution.
Currently steps are being taken to implement democracy over the web, with initiatives like We The People at which allows anyone to submit a petition to the US Senate and if more than 25,000 people sign it the idea will get time and at least be mentioned on the floor of the house. This is an amazing first step towards people being able to more transparently interact with their representatives and effectively makes our democracy stronger. If we want to step away from the classical model of democracy that we have used for the last two hundred and fifty years we will need to take full advantage of our ability to integrate technology into anything to make it a corner stone of every citizens democratic authority.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Regulating the Regulators

Corruption has become an accepted part of the political fact set in the United States and it is becoming unsustainable. Since it has become accepted as fact that all politicians will end up taking bribes during their term people seem to care much less than they should, because when politicians start working for bribes they no longer work for the people that they represent but whoever is paying them the most. As Woodhouse says, this system does not make for a government that works efficiently.
As a representative democracy, our representatives should not be able to consider bribes and think that they can get reelected. In a day and age where politicians biggest concern is to be reelected it is important to try and find out why they  are not as concerned with helping the people that they represent. A model that was presented in the text was to pay our representatives significantly more to allow them to focus explicitly on their job rather than looking for ways to help them support themselves. However our representatives are by no means poor, pulling in $125,000 a year it is easy to understand why it would be difficult to make an argument for paying them much more than we do when our country is trillions of dollars in debt. A much better system that could allow our representatives to make as much as the average American, would be to introduce more fluidity into the representative system allowing for voter feedback on the performance of an elected official to have a greater consequence on a politicians career. A five star system similar to what RPI uses to control the Greek system could be implemented to watch over politicians and it could be done in an almost identical manor and presenting it to their electorate. If each local government were pressed to review these write ups and score them , a method could be devised that can punish or reward them based on how much they have done for their electorate.
This model of reward and punishment could have quite the impact on how politicians behave, especially as the worst offenders are forced out of office and barred from returning. If successful, this model could greatly reduce overhead as there would be no incentive for politicians to introduce 'pork' to a popular bill just because they were incentivized to do so by some corporation. It will allow for a new level of freedom for politicians to do what they feel is best for our country that hasn't been seen in over half a century.

Unions and Coops

The hierarchical model of  structural organization is a system designed to keep the majority out of power and has allowed for some of the worst labor atrocities of all time. Some of the worst conditions existed in mines and factories where people were forced to work long hours in extremely dangerous conditions in order to survive. This system was never fought or defeated until organized labor appeared and allowed workers to force management to give them some say in their working conditions. However these Union contracts are often very delicate and non-negotiable after the contract is signed. This system can lead to problems when the unions over negotiate and make it too expensive for a business to operate, as happened most recently with the GM collapse.
The biggest problem with systems like unions is that instead of actually getting a say in how the business is run, they only get to negotiate once. This leads to problems where unions over negotiate and this ends up causing problems between labor and management when they should be working together to ensure the company stays profitable. But this is rare in American business, and it is especially rare in large businesses anywhere. While some unions are better about this than other, for the most part their goal is solely to protect workers rights and compensation over the success of the company. A better system would be one in which the workers were better represented and informed about management decisions such that they were given a say in critical business decisions that could affect the workforce.
Workers and management should be equally represented in the business just like how every citizen is equally represented in the United States. If every worker felt that they were a partial owner of the company they worked at, then they would be more likely to put in their all every day to maximize productivity. Hard work could be even further incentivized if wages were based on a percentage of corporate profits rather than a fixed hourly rate.