Monday, August 29, 2011

iPads for schools?

This story is the shape of things to come:
Each first-year pupil at St Kevin's College in Crumlin will pay €150 for the iPad, which will contain all their text books. They will keep the computer for the year and do all their schoolwork on it.
Now, from a professional point of view, I wonder what sort of deal they cut with the publishers - textbook costs are the bread and butter of many publishers, who are loathe to see their unit sales go over to e-formats (which destroy, ultimately, the possibility of making many sales). Academic publishers tend not to mind, since they don't need to sell 60,000 copies to make their costs back.

But this is where it is for our digital natives now, a single slate of technology will contain all of their education - and the question becomes, why not load up all their reading resources all the way through their academic career - they will expect instant access to ebooks at university.

Propriatorial rights are currently holding back the widespread adoption of ebooks. Certainly, there remains a need to pay for quality, but the time will come when e-books sweep away a lot of the existing informational infrastructure. When you have the entire world's knowledge accessible from a slim bag sized machine, anything is possible.

I wouldn't be surprised if there were similar schemes in the offing in the UK. The publishing industry is changing fast, and with a 3G Kindle only costing £150.00 (my mate bought an ebook in the pub as a demonstration) everyone will begin to expect. Likewise, it has reached the point where if you're with anyone with a smartphone and the conversation turns round to 'What Bands was Steve Vai in' - someone can Wikipedia the bugger before you can blink.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More from Fred

For the principle of taxation is, after all, a purely communist one, since the right to levy taxes is derived in all countries from so-called national property. For either private property is sacrosanct, in which case there is no such thing as national property and the state has no right to levy taxes, or the state has this right, in which case private property is not sacrosanct, national property stands above private property, and the state is the true owner.

Got that? Taxes are communist. Wouldn't it be nice if this wee quote could go viral, see how long it takes before frothing Tories are telling us paying any taxes is a communist plot?

Same source as before.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Right said Fred

Present-day society, which breeds hostility between the individual man and everyone else, thus produces a social war of all against all which inevitably in individual cases, notably among uneducated people, assumes a brutal, barbarously violent form — that of crime. In order to protect itself against crime, against direct acts of violence, society requires an extensive, complicated system of administrative and judicial bodies which requires an immense labour force. In communist society this would likewise be vastly simplified, and precisely because — strange though it may sound — precisely because the administrative body in this society would have to manage not merely individual aspects of social life, but the whole of social life, in all its various activities, in all its aspects. We eliminate the contradiction between the individual man and all others, we counterpose social peace to social war, we put the axe to the root of crime — and thereby render the greatest, by far the greatest, part of the present activity of the administrative and judicial bodies superfluous. Even now crimes of passion are becoming fewer and fewer in comparison with calculated crimes, crimes of interest — crimes against persons are declining, crimes against property are on the increase. Advancing civilisation moderates violent outbreaks of passion even in our present-day society, which is on a war footing; how much more will this be the case in communist, peaceful society! Crimes against property cease of their own accord where everyone receives what he needs to satisfy his natural and his spiritual urges, where social gradations and distinctions cease to exist. justice concerned with criminal cases ceases of itself, that dealing with civil cases, which are almost all rooted in the property relations or at least in such relations as arise from the situation of social war, likewise disappears; conflicts can then be only rare exceptions, whereas they are now the natural result of general hostility, and will be easily settled by arbitrators. The activities of the administrative bodies at present have likewise their source in the continual social war — the police and the entire administration do nothing else but see to it that the war remains concealed and indirect and does not erupt into open violence, into crimes. But if it is infinitely easier to maintain peace than to keep war within certain limits, so it is vastly more easy to administer a communist community rather than a competitive one. And if civilisation has already taught men to seek their interest in the maintenance of public order, public security, and the public interest, and therefore to make the police, administration and justice as superfluous as possible, how much more will this be the case in a society in which community of interests has become the basic principle, bind in which the public interest is no longer distinct from that of each individual! What already exists now, in spite of the social organisation, how much more will it exist when it is no longer hindered, but supported by the social institutions! We may thus also in this regard count on a considerable increase in the labour force through that part of the labour force of which society is deprived by the present social condition.

1845, Frederick Engels: Speeches in Elberfeld

To understand isn't to condone, or encourage, but the beginning of amendment. Socialists are not in a war with the police, but seek to render them unnecessary by other means.

Interestingly, listening to some of the rioters (well, the looters), a meme of them "getting something back" seems to be running through, claiming their 'reclaiming their taxes' - that might be worth future study. A mix of a feeling of entitlement and of being put upon.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Meatbots to be replaced by Robots

So, Foxconn are out to replace their workers with a million robots."The Taiwanese company has vowed to expand automation in its plants, with Chinese state media reporting plans to use a million robots in the next three years."

Shiny? Not really, this is the culmination of the Chinese economic trajectory - having massively expanded capital by extensive exploitation (throwing capital and labour at production) it now needs to expand by intensive exploitation (using less of each). Taking a production line with simply piece work and machinising it majkes perfect sense. Given that people have been killing themselves to get away from this work, as Noel Sharkey observes, getting rid of it by mechanisation can only be a boon to humanity at large.

The people on these production lines were meatbots, humans made, forced, to behave like machines.

Yet, humanity at large doesn't exist. Workers depend on the sale of their labour - that's why people didn't just walk away from the horror of this line-work. The human consequences of advances in technology is the key political question of the 21st century.

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