Slavoj Žižek draws some intriguing battle-lines in a discussion of Thomas Piketty:

So what I’m saying is that I think he’s utopian because he simply says that the mode of production has to remain the same; let’s just change the distribution by, nothing very original, radically higher taxes.

Now here problems begin, here the utopia enters. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do this, I’m just saying that to do this and nothing else is not possible. That’s his utopia. That basically we can have today’s capitalism, which basically as a machinery remains the same just oh oh oh when you earn your billions oh oh here am I tax, give me 80 percent. I don’t think this is feasible. I think, imagine a government doing this, Piketty is aware it needs to be done globally. Because if you do it in [one] country, then capital moves elsewhere blabla. This is another aspect of his utopianism, my claim is that if you imagine a world organization where the measure proposed by Piketty can effectively be enacted, then the problems are already solved. Then already you have a total political reorganization, you have a global power which effectively can control capital, we [have] already won.

The ‘utopia’ perversity is predictably Zizekian — part of some half-mad tactical gambit that doesn’t lead anywhere — but the argument for sovereign global authority as the sole coherent telos of Left politics is decidedly insightful. Given this convincing thesis, the insignificance of serious internationalist initiatives in prevailing left-political discussion is striking. It would seem that anything pitched lower than the level of global governance was self-evidently irrelevant — or even counter-productive — to socialist purposes.

Recent news, I’m sure, doesn’t help

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Wolfendale v. Urban Future

Pete Wolfendale has a version here. There were some threading issues, so this is the Urban Future version:

[Not “causally” but “casually”.]

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Quotable (#15)

Marc Andreessen (interviewed by Brian Fung) determinedly messes with some complacent assumptions:

… we sort of have a theory on … where really disruptive technologies come from. So the really new disruptive technologies come from the fringe. This was true of PCs. Steve Jobs was, like, a hippie. Internet came from the fringe. No big technology company thought the Internet was going to be important, right up until basically 1995 or 1996.

Bitcoin is the classic instance of that. Bitcoin didn’t come from Citibank; it didn’t come from the Federal Reserve; it didn’t come from Visa. It came from the fringe. And now Bitcoin is in the early stages of mainstreaming today. And the signs that it’s in the early stages of mainstreaming are mainstream venture capital firms funding mainstream startups, employing mainstream engineers to build services that’ll be used by mainstream people. You’ve got big companies that are not yet doing a lot with it, but are looking very seriously at it. So every big bank has people that are trying to figure out what to do with Bitcoin; every big e-commerce company has people that are trying to figure out Bitcoin. You have mainstream regulators figuring it out; you’ve got people at the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department and IRS that are figuring it out. At the state level, people are engaged on it. And so, it’s in the early stages of mainstreaming.


Anybody who thinks Bitcoin makes it easier to do transactions that aren’t tracked by the government is 100 percent wrong. The transactions all happen in public view. Anybody can look at the entire ledger and verify who owns what. So if you’re a law enforcement agency or an intelligence agency, this is a much easier way to track the flow of money than cash. So I think actually law enforcement and intelligence agencies are going to wind up being pro-Bitcoin, and libertarians are going to wind up being anti-Bitcoin.

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Quotable (#14)

Hang on while I call my lawyer ...

Hang on while I call my lawyer …

Jason Koebler on the obstacle to commercial space activity posed by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty:

While the United States has long been a capitalist society, other countries look at space more as a shared resource — under current international law, any sort of asteroid or resource mining would potentially have to be shared amongst the world.

“Many countries are much more interested in the equitable sharing of resources and land,” [space lawyer Rosanna] Sattler said. “These asteroid mining companies are not going to spend all that money and go to hostile environments to find out that they have to equitably share what they extract.”

A safe assumption, surely?

Radical Automation

To repeat Thomas Piketty’s most important philosophical insight: “… as I discovered, capital is an end in itself and no more.”

It seems that Slavoj Žižek agrees:

“Is Slavoj Zizek a US propaganda psyop?” asks Left Forum. There are far more interesting possibilities …

Watch this space

shanzhai 0

Hacked Matter on the next wave of shanzhai consumer electronics:

Cyberspace, both as word and as vision, entered the popular lexicon through William Gibson’s 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. But as it turns out, Gibson wasn’t interested in the Internet until he started buying watches on Ebay. In a 1999 Wired article, he details his compulsive addiction to bidding for vintage mechanical watches — what Gibson calls “fine fossils of a predigital age.” Little did Gibson know that thirty years after Neuromancer, watches and cyberspace would fuse — not only because it is now commonplace to buy watches online, but also thanks to “smart watches” set to become the latest portal into cyberspace.