Elsewhere

The Decline of The Postmodern Worldview, At Long Last

David Brooks is a strange combination of insight and ideology. He is a conservative at the core, and as a result his occasional epiphanies regarding the social nature of human life, society, and culture wind up in strange territory, like a fox with its head caught in a cookie jar.

This newest episode has Brooks summarizing a recent Pew Research Center survey (which he didn’t link to), which shows that Americans believe — for the first time ever — that the US is having a declining influence on what’s going on worldwide, although they are not advocating isolationism, but instead a deeper integration in the world. 

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This contemporary, postnormal worldview seems like a dilemma requiring resolution to him. He contrasts it with the false certainties of the postmodern — where his feet are still firmly planted — and then scratches his head in wonder:

David Brooks, The Leaderless Doctrine

These shifts are not just a result of post-Iraq disillusionment, or anything the Obama administration has done. The shift in foreign policy values is a byproduct of a deeper and broader cultural shift.

The veterans of World War II returned to civilian life with a basic faith in big units — big armies, corporations and unions. They tended to embrace a hierarchical leadership style.

The Cold War was a competition between clearly defined nation-states.

Commanding American leaders created a liberal international order. They preserved that order with fleets that roamed the seas, armies stationed around the world and diplomatic skill.

Over the ensuing decades, that faith in big units has eroded — in all spheres of life. Management hierarchies have been flattened. Today people are more likely to believe that history is driven by people gathering in the squares and not from the top down. The liberal order is not a single system organized and defended by American military strength; it’s a spontaneous network of direct people-to-people contacts, flowing along the arteries of the Internet.

The real power in the world is not military or political. It is the power of individuals to withdraw their consent. In an age of global markets and global media, the power of the state and the tank, it is thought, can pale before the power of the swarms of individuals.

This is global affairs with the head chopped off. Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm. The ensuing doctrine is certainly not Reaganism — the belief that America should use its power to defeat tyranny and promote democracy. It’s not Kantian, or a belief that the world should be governed by international law. It’s not even realism — the belief that diplomats should play elaborate chess games to balance power and advance national interest. It’s a radical belief that the nature of power — where it comes from and how it can be used — has fundamentally shifted, and the people in the big offices just don’t get it.

That’s the Brooks insight. Yes, we believe that the people in the big offices don’t get it. We are past Reaganism, and Realpolitik: we don’t trust the players that want to play those games. The ideal of a unified International community ruled by law — a la United Nations, or, in the small, in a united Europe — has fallen short, and those organizations are themselves the dreams of the last half of the 20th Century. We look at today’s world order — architected by those ideals — with a resigned sense of profound worldweariness. The defining emotion of our time is weltschmerz, not the nostalgia of the postmodern.

We aren’t waiting for a Jack Kennedy or an Eisenhower to stare down Putin. We know they are all involved in a game of thrones, and we are just pawns, and the world is the spoils.

Brooks, the fox, then gets trapped in the past, and seeks to delegitimize a postnormal rejection of statism and neoliberal globalism:

It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.

Again, postmodern values always lead to postmodern conclusions. Here Brooks calls those that reject the present day system ‘naïve’ and ‘utopian’. Personally, I consider the postnormal worldview to be protopian: I hope to be able to make the world slightly better. And the primary path of that is dismantling the worst aspects of the postmodern, which has been thrown into our hands like a ticking bomb.

Globalist political conflict and neoliberal financial markets have been brandished as the primary means of ensuring a world order for the past century and more, with decidedly mixed outcomes. Just look at the state of the world today: global warming, conflict and revolution everywhere, sectarian terrorism, genocidal policies, end-of-days religious bigotry, worldwide ineqaulity, and with power concentrated in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many. Is it any surprise that, at long last, we have come to a new appreciation of all systems where we, the people, are led by a powerful elite?

Brooks concludes, 

We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting.

On the contrary, history is the tale told by the victorious leaders of past conflicts. It is the future that we hope will be leaderless, where we can harness the technologies of the postnormal to bypass leaders and enact direct democracy based on truly human, local, and global principles of equality. 

Brooks, of course, sees only a void at the heart of the swarm, and the destruction of the institutions he believes are needed; where I see a multitude connecting to make a new world order, one that does without leaders trying to get us to march off to war or over a cliff, but instead displaces top-down organization with bottom-up association.

Brooks ends almost spuming in despair, while I find in this growing American rejection of the principles of the postmodern a reason for hope, a new pole star to steer by.

This is one reason that I am promoting leanership as the alternative to leader-focused organizations. The book I am writing — Leanership: A New Way of Work — explores these principles within the business context, but the logical outgrowth is the reworking of our institutions — including governments — to adopt the premises of postnormal economy and culture.

An End To Unpaid Internships

Recent efforts by top schools in the US against unpaid internships might turn the tide on this practice, which has become just another way that US businesses get free labor, and at negligible education benefit to the interns:

Good Steps Against Unpaid Internships - NYTimes.com

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported last year that nearly half of the internships taken by college students in the class of 2013 were unpaid. Many of these arrangements (often temporary, low-level jobs with dubious educational merit) may violate federal labor guidelines, which say that unpaid internships at for-profit companies must be “for the benefit of the intern” and that the employer may not derive an “immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” Yet colleges, through their career sites, frequently end up promoting internships that disregard these guidelines.

Two prominent universities in New York recently announced that they were tightening their policies on unpaid internships. In February, New York University said it would explicitly instruct employers posting on its job site to follow the Labor Department’s guidelines and to indicate that they are in compliance. (The university also clarified that it weeds out obvious noncompliant postings.)

Columbia University already had a similar warning on its career site. Last month, it said it would stop giving out “registration credit” (R credit) to students in internships. Those credits did not count toward a degree, and mostly functioned as a fig leaf for employers, who could pretend that the credit somehow justified not paying for a student’s work.

Columbia’s new policy brings it into line with other Ivy League colleges like Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth that do not give R credits, and ahead of many other universities. In the past few years, exploited interns have started suing their employers, and a high-profile case against Fox Searchlight Pictures was decided last year in the plaintiffs’ favor. But American universities have largely stayed quiet or even defended the practice. On this issue, Columbia and N.Y.U. are setting good examples.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the internship practice has been its bleeding over into the world of college graduates or the ranks of non-collegiate workers. Now an established business practice, but starting to decline, after the peak internship moment last year when gazillionaire Sheryl Sandburg’s non-profit was advertising for an unpaid intern to help promote her book, Lean In.

The minimum wage exists for a simple reason: low-paid working class people have little individual bargaining power. The same is true of college student or young workers in general, hoping to get the first step on a career. But the government today is caught with its shoelaces tied together, seemingly incapable to take the simplest steps to protect those without power. I’m glad to see these universities setting the bar higher, and forcing companies to do the right thing.

wildcat2030:

Kid logic works better for learning new gizmos - University of California, Berkeley Original Study
- Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research. The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways. (via Kid logic works better for learning new gizmos | Futurity)

Beginner’s mind.
  • Camera: Canon EOS 40D
  • Apeture: f/8
  • Exposure: 1/100th
  • Focal: 78mm

wildcat2030:

Kid logic works better for learning new gizmos
-
University of California, Berkeley Original Study

-
Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research. The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways. (via Kid logic works better for learning new gizmos | Futurity)

Beginner’s mind.

Commercial Drones Are Completely Legal, a Federal Judge Ruled | Motherboard

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/commercial-drones-are-completely-legal-a-federal-judge-ruled?utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=10 Things In Tech You Need To Know&utm_campaign=Post Blast (sai): 10 Tech Things%2

excerpt

For the moment, commercial drones are, unequivocally, legal in American skies after a federal judge has ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration has not made any legally binding rules against it.

The judge dismissed the FAA’s case against Raphael Pirker, the first (and only) person the agency has tried to fine for flying a drone commercially. The agency has repeatedly claimed that flying a drone for commercial purposes is illegal and has said that there’s “no gray area” in the law. The latter now appears to be true, but it hasn’t gone the way the FAA would have hoped. Patrick Geraghty, a judge with the National Transportation Safety Board, ruled that there are no laws against flying a drone commercially.

The FAA attempted to fine the 29-year-old Pirker $10,000 after he used a drone to film a commercial at the University of Virginia. Pirker and his lawyer, Brendan Schulman, fought the case, saying that the FAA has never regulated model aircraft and that it’s entire basis for making them “illegal,” a 2007 policy notice, was not legally binding. The FAA has never undertaken the required public notice necessary to make an official regulation.

Geraghty agreed: The FAA “has not issued an enforceable Federal Acquisition Regulation regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation; has historically exempted model aircraft from the statutory FAR definitions of ‘aircraft’ by relegating model aircraft operations to voluntary compliance with the guidance expressed in [the 2007 policy notice], Respondent’s model aircraft operation was not subject to FAR regulation and enforcement.”

I presume the FAA will new pass new rules making explicit that they thought their 2007 policy notice implied.

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