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How we're killing democracy, WWHTBT, & what happened at Burning Man 2023.
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From its birthplace in Athens to the French Revolution and all the way down to the collapse of colonialism in the 1940s, democracy has been an ever-evolving experiment. Today it seems that the democratic process itself is being used to bring people into power who are eroding democracy itself.
Umair Haque writes, “Now, at this juncture, the kind of person I am describing will object, and cry: “but what you are talking about is democracy in action! You fool, you are talking about the exercise of democracy! It is the voice of the people! The vox populi has spoken!”
Ah, but that’s not what democracy is at all. That’s mere majoritarianism. A democracy is something much more powerful than that. What is it, really?
It is first and foremost a set of rights. That give us powers, and therefore liberate us. Those rights are inalienable for a reason — because when they are excised, removed, shattered, and destroyed, a democracy is undone. And yet a democracy can do just that, if it is foolish enough, and in that way, destroy itself. And that is precisely what the world is doing now. It is taking rights and powers away from people. Which ones? All kinds. I already mentioned Italy’s targeting of gay parents. In America, women have been stripped of bodily autonomy. Again, the examples are endless.”
Successful problem-solving requires thinking all the way through the problem. One way to do that is to use the What-Would-Have-To-Be-True-Tool.
Talking about his less-than-desirable experience in a fancy hotel in New York with an elevator with fake buttons, Roger Martin writes, “WWHTBT for guest satisfaction to be positively influenced by your clever idea of phony buttons? They would have to care about their floor level — some will, and some won’t. So, it might be helpful to the segment that cares about floor level because the phony buttons will convince them they are on a higher floor than they really are. Oops — that WWHTBT is hard to believe. If they really care about floor level, won’t they look out the window and/or hear the street noise? Yes, they would. Thus, there is no overlap between the guests who care about the floor of their room and the guests who won’t notice they were deceived. That is thinking all the way around the logical circle.”
What you get is all there is. Not a day goes by when I don’t use ChatGPT and the more I use it the more I forget that on the inside it’s just a bunch of
trashtext gathered from the wild world of the internets.
Sharing how her frustration with colon-filled titles from ChatGPT led her to dig deeper into its inner-working, Zulie Rane writes, ”ChatGPT is not trying specifically to annoy me when it insists on using colons, even when I say, ‘Don’t use colons.’ The prevalence of colon-heavy titles in ChatGPT-generated text suggests only that it was trained on a body of text that contained colons in titles. When I ask ChatGPT to write me ten blog post titles with no colons and it immediately drafts ten blog post titles with colons, and I get annoyed? That just illustrates how much my perception of “artificial intelligence” has departed from reality.”
During a study in Vancouver 50 recently homeless people were given 7 $500 each, no strings attached. At the same time, the study ran a survey asking the general public what they thought homeless people would spend the funds on.
Jano le Roux writes, “Taking a step back to look at how the funds were used, it’s pretty clear that these folks made some really smart and thoughtful choices. Personally, I can’t help but be impressed by the level of savvy they demonstrated with their finances. Now, there’s this theory floating around, often dubbed the “temptation goods theory”, which suggests that individuals in such circumstances might splurge on things like alcohol or drugs. But guess what? These individuals broke that mold spectacularly.”
Until recently I had kept every cardboard box for every Apple device I’ve bought over the years starting with the very first iPhone. Why? I have no idea. But it seems that I’m not alone in this strange habit.
In his article, Elvis Hsaio takes a deeper look at the psychology and the consumer culture around why people hold on to Apple’s packaging. He writes, “Perhaps one of the most intriguing phenomena related to Apple’s packaging is the existence of a secondary market for it. Visit online marketplaces like eBay or Craigslist, and you’ll find numerous listings for empty Apple boxes. Some might question why anyone would purchase an empty box, but the existence of this market is a testament to the perceived value of Apple’s packaging.”
“Because big tech is from the United States, everything that happens there is replicated around the world.” This is a quote by Michell Mor. Mor is the digital strategy manager at Women First Digital and she like many others promoting reproductive health services for women are constantly banned from advertising on Meta’s platform citing restrictions that are only applicable within the United States.
The quote is from this article by Erica Hellerstein where she writes, “Some ads that didn’t make the cut featured products to relieve side effects of menopause; another included background about consent in school sexual education courses. During the same time period, the report points out, Meta approved ads for men’s sexual health products, including treatments for premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction pills promising to help consumers “get hard or your money back” and men’s lubricants to “level up your solo time.” The platform allowed these ads despite its own rules prohibiting ads from promoting products and services that “focus on sexual pleasure.”
Whether you like festivals or not you’ve heard of the Burning Man. For 30 years it’s been a cultural cornerstone. But this year’s climate protest followed by rains that trapped thousands of ‘burners’ in the middle of the desert may have opened the gates for a much-needed social audit.
Aja Romano writes, “In her memoir, writer Clemantine Wamariya recounted the experience of attending Burning Man and experiencing PTSD as a survivor of genocide while there. She cannily summed up the paradox of what the fest has become: “This is where people went to experience ecstasy but also to get closer to suffering — elective, luxury suffering.” It’s that concept — elective luxury suffering — that makes it difficult for many people to feel sympathy for Burning Man attendees. As income disparities grow more extreme, our patience with the frivolity of the elite has dwindled. With rising interest rates, fluctuations in the job market, and the ongoing inflation crisis, quality of life has worsened for many people, and Americans’ views on the wealthy have trended sharply negative, especially since the pandemic.”
Thanks for reading!
PS. Stay curious.