Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Article: If greed did not cause it, what did?

Original Article written by Yanis Varoufakis for a keynote speech he gave at a conference near Brisbane, Queensland (Australia) on the theme of Risk Management after the crisis. - Tuesday 7, December 2010

I thought it was a very interesting and descriptive talk and a perfect view of the bigger picture of what led to the crisis (tracing back to the 1970s) and what the consequences and the by-products are.  /od


Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two hundred and eleven years before Gordon Gekko, Adam Smith had already told a stunned puritanical world that Greed is Good. Not in these Holywood-scripted words but in essence the message was identical: Greed is a force of good.
Smith’s audacious point was that, as long as markets remain competitive, greed turns entrepreneurs into society’s useful idiots; into profit seekers who, unintentionally, because of cutthroat rivalry with one another, provide consumers with cheaper, better and more numerous commodities, all sold at cost. It is (Smith famously insinuated) as if an Invisible Hand turns raw Greed into Society’s servant.
Of course, poor Adam Smith was writing for another era and would most likely had withdrawn his prognosis regarding Greed’s goodness today. In this sense, Gordon Gekko, especially in the sequel to the original Wall Street movie, is more relevant to our day and age than the long dead Scottish moral philosopher.
  • Is there an optimal amount of greed which the world exceeded before 2008?
  • Did we have an overdose of an otherwise useful stimulant?
  • Was Greed responsible for the Crash of 2008?
Time to make use of our flash interactive technology: Those amongst you who think that the GFC, the Crash of 2008, can be attributed to Greed please press the yes button. The rest press no.
And what about the euro crisis? Do you think it was the result of Greed by the governments of peripheral states, like Greece and Portugal, who borrowed too much during the good times? Once again press yes or no.
Well, it would be a pity if all you heard from me today simply repeated that which you already believe. So allow me to contradict the majority opinion by arguing that greed and loose ethics caused neither the Crash of 2008 nor the current eurozone crisis.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Speech: Slavoj Zizek - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Speech: Barbara Ehrenreich - Smile or Die

Very interesting talk! 

Acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Speech: Renata Salecl - Choice

Fusing sociology, psychoanalysis and philosophy, Professor Renata Salecl shows that individual choice is rarely based on a simple rational decision with a predictable outcome.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Article: The Insidious Evils of 'Like' Culture

Original Article written for the Wall Street Journal - Saturday 2, July 2011

In our age of online view counts and retweets, conformity is becoming the rule

Once, there was something called a point of view. And, after much strife and conflict, it eventually became a commonly held idea in some parts of the world that people were entitled to their own points of view.
There's a growing cultural obsession with being blogged, digged, tweeted and liked. Now add Google's +1 to the mix and it's just like being in high school all over again, says author Neil Strauss.
Unfortunately, this idea is becoming an anachronism. When the Internet first came into public use, it was hailed as a liberation from conformity, a floating world ruled by passion, creativity, innovation and freedom of information. When it was hijacked first by advertising and then by commerce, it seemed like it had been fully co-opted and brought into line with human greed and ambition.
But there was one other element of human nature that the Internet still needed to conquer: the need to belong. The "like" button began on the website FriendFeed in 2007, appeared on Facebook in 2009, began spreading everywhere from YouTube to Amazon to most major news sites last year, and has now been officially embraced by Google as the agreeable, supportive and more status-conscious "+1." As a result, we can now search not just for information, merchandise and kitten videos on the Internet, but for approval.

You 'like' me! Even rock stars agonize over their Facebook and Twitter stats.

Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn't retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be

Monday, 4 July 2011

Article: Fight Club - Life Lessons

Tyler Durden: “We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.”

Narrator: “Martha Stewart. “

Tyler Durden: “F*ck Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishing the brass on the Titanic. It’s all going down, man. So f*ck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns. “

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The movie fight club is filled with memorable quotes like this one…But embedded in the movie are also some great lessons that can be applied to everyday life.

1. Listen to people…Don’t just wait for your turn to talk
There is a scene in fight club where Edward Norton’s character talks about his rational for attending group therapy sessions for people with cancer or other illnesses. He says “When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just (waiting for their turn to speak)” (The sentence is finished by another character in the film.) The point being..