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USA: mature or overripe?

9:35 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton


Among the casualties of the Snowden stories are an embarrassed and chastened White House, an American technology sector which has seen its own government tarnish its business model of a global, open internet and the strong US relationships with allies such as Germany. Financial Times

In English we make a clear difference between “mature” and “ripe”.

We also distinguish between ripe and too ripe with the word, “overripe”, which is common enough a concept to have one whole, unhyphenated word all to itself.


ma·ture adjective \mə-ˈtu̇r, -ˈtyu̇r also -ˈchu̇r\
: having or showing the mental and emotional qualities of an adult
: having a fully grown or developed body : grown to full size
: having reached a final or desired state Merriam Webster

over·ripe adjective \ˌō-və(r)-ˈrīp\ :
: grown or aged past the point of ripeness and beginning to decay
: too ripe : not new or young
: not fresh or original Merriam Webster

We don’t have a word for “over-mature”, as being mature is thought to be good and it is hard to see how you can have too much of it, but ripe, which in itself is good, past a certain point can become bad.

I would maintain that history’s most advanced and developed version of capitalism, the American version, instead of being mature is overripe.

The snippet from the Financial Times that tops this post reveals “the worm in the apple”, the conflict or “contradiction” in the system, simple to identify, but whose resolution or synthesis is very difficult to predict.

The most creative and innovative sector of the American economy, the sector that most represents a future prosperity for American business, is symbolized by Google, a huge organization, whose business model is based on the free flow of information and especially on obtaining the personal data of everyone on an interconnected, frontier-less planet, in order to anticipate and satisfy their every want and desire by knowing even their unconscious needs and motivations. This obviously requires enormous quantities of trust on anyone who uses Google… as users confide to Google, knowingly or unknowingly, things that they would never confide even to their dearest friend or most loved and trusted family member. Trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are the central, essential qualities of Google’s business proposition.

Google’s antithesis is the NSA, who also wants access to the personal data of everyone and to know (and especially anticipate) their needs and desires, conscious and unconscious in order to dominate and control them. This organization’s philosophy is not to trust anyone, not even ones closest friends. And whose process of knowledge to action might be symbolized by the drone strike. Certainly trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are NOT the central, essential qualities of NSA’s “business proposition”.

However the two “business propositions” are deeply entwined. It is hard to imagine a “Swiss” Google or anything as all-encompassing as Google in any country that did not physically control the Internet and set and enforce the world’s rules of commerce and supply the world with its reserve currency, while physically controlling the seas and air all over the world with the greatest accumulation of military power in the history of our planet. And conversely it is hard to imagine an intelligence agency as “penetrant” as the NSA without access to the resources of Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

The same as mixing Clorox with gasoline will cause an explosion and it is vital to keep the two apart, so it is vital for America’s new economy to keep the idea of the NSA as far away from the idea of Google as possible… I should say “was” because Snowden has let the cat out of the bag and like putting toothpaste back in the tube, all the king’s horses and all the King’s men will never put Humpty Dumpty back together again. With the wisdom of hindsight this Achilles’s heel of American power was obvious, but Edward Snowden, or whoever (if anyone) runs him has fired a deadly torpedo directly under America’s waterline.All that was needed was to find the right person at the right time and get him and his information where the United States could not prevent its dissemination.

Like taking candy from a baby.

Returning to the original metaphor, the connection NSA/new economy was (over) ripe for the plucking. Some would say that when our economic system reached it’s full worldwide potential and maturity such a conflict was bound to arise, others have been hoping and praying for such an event since the 19th century… we are “fortunate” enough to be here to witness how it plays out.

Cross posted from:

Thoughts on the New technology and privacy in the “Global Village”

11:44 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

facebook privacy

When I was a child, back in the 1950s, I spent many a summer in my grandmother’s tiny village about 1/2 hour’s drive from Hannibal Missouri on the Illinois side of the Big Muddy.

Neighbors would come into your house without knocking… they’d suddenly be there without any warning… there was no privacy and you had to be very careful what you were seen doing and what you said to anyone about anything… in no time at all all your doings and sayings would be all over town. The telephone was even a “party line”, so there was no privacy there either….

We seem to be recreating this scenario with the new technology.

Is this what Marshall McLuhan meant by the “Global Village”? … Complete with global “old wives”?

Cross posted from:

Steve Jobs: the metaphor

7:05 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Steve Jobs

There is virtually no debate about the best treatment. “It has long been held that surgery can lead to very long-term survival,” says Kim. (…) Despite the expert consensus on the value of surgery, Jobs did not elect it right away. He reportedly spent nine months on “alternative therapies,” including what Fortune called “a special diet.”  Daily Beast

It occurs to me that Steve Jobs is not only the most admired American of his generation, he is also a perfect metaphor to describe the era we live in.

He is universally acknowledged to be the undisputed master of our epoch’s dominating and defining skill, which is turning science into money.

The creator of some of history’s most seductive tools and toys.

Jobs was a visionary in this area, shrewd, obsessive with detail and a master of integrated systems, strategy and communication.

The lord of all he surveyed.

But as we can see from text quoted above, he was also a fool, sensu strictu.

This combination of technical and commercial perfection combined with a lack of elementary common sense is what makes him the perfect metaphor for America today… with the rest of the world tagging along.

Cross posted from:

SOPA + PIPA (additional reading)

11:18 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. Thomas Jefferson

At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.(…) higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Karl Marx

As a result, the legislative battle over two once-obscure bills to combat the piracy of American movies, music, books and writing on the World Wide Web may prove to be a turning point for the way business is done in Washington. It represented a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.(…) “The problem for the content industry is they just don’t know how to mobilize people,” said John P. Feehery, a former House Republican leadership aide who previously worked at the motion picture association. “They have a small group of content makers, a few unions, whereas the Internet world, the social media world especially, can reach people in ways we never dreamed of before.” New York Times

When I was in junior high, I had this wonderful science teacher, Mr. Lazlo, a very vocational teacher who was always finding creative ways of teaching. He even let me turn in my homework in comic book form. I adored him.

One spring Mr. Lazlo brought an incubator to class filled with fertilized chicken eggs. Every day we would cut open one of the eggs and examine the development of the fetuses.

Day by day we saw the fascinating change from a clot of blood to something that looked more like a chicken.

Finally the day came for the surviving baby chicks to hatch.

Little holes began to appear in the shells as the chicks tried to peck their way out.

When the chicks were managing to get their heads free of the shell, Mr. Lazlo suggested that we help some of the chicks get out of the shell and let the others get out the best they could.

The ones we helped soon died. Apparently the act of getting out of the shell was a vital part of their development.

Cross posted from:

Themes for 2012: The Technology (special for the 20 somethings)

9:18 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Probably the most useful service that older people can perform for young people is to convey to them the reality of life-modifying change. Anyone in their sixties, or older, today has seen the “unthinkable” occur several times in the course of their lives and as the song goes, they have probably been “up and down and over and out”, enough times to have absorbed or at least have some intuition of the Buddhist concept of “annica” or impermanence: the constant flux of life.  Having seen so much of it, having had to recycle themselves, perhaps several times, having seen the young and the beautiful wither and die, many older people hate and fear change.

For an older person to welcome change requires having embraced the spiritual value of annica and presents for them a constant inner struggle.

Younger people of course, usually welcome the idea of change, perhaps, because though sensing its value, they have little idea of its price.

Lets look at the changes the future may bring to those who have a lot of future to look forward to. Read the rest of this entry →

The magnificent quest for Shinola

11:58 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Shinola, take a whiff

Watching the antics of Romney, Santorum, Bachman, Paul, Cain and Perry and contemplating the mere possibility that someone who should only be handled with forceps like Newt Gingrich could now lead a party once led by Abraham Lincoln or Dwight Eisenhower, one gets the feeling that the spirit of the republic is a little like the Bruce Willis character in “The Sixth Sense”, he’s dead but doesn’t know it yet and only one small boy seems to understand the situation… Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement is that “small boy”.

In American-Speak someone of little understanding is said to be unable to distinguish between excrement and shoe polish, we say then that he or she “can’t tell shit from Shinola”.  It appears that in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a perhaps critical mass of Americans have taken it upon themselves to investigate the why and the how of the odor coming from the collective “shoe” and have set about to do something about it. Not a moment too soon if the race for the Republican presidential nomination is any sort of a leading olfactory indicator of the nation’s mental health. Read the rest of this entry →

The WikiLeaks Cables: The Portrait of an Empire

10:34 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton


Not really the image that America would like to project at this moment

There are Wikileaks cables from almost every imaginable part of the world, but since I live in Spain, I’ll fill you in on some of the dump’s specific effects on Spanish political life. Read the rest of this entry →