Friday, November 15, 2013

TED vs. Kickstarter

I've been watching/listening to some TED Talks lately (word of advice - don't, they're habit-forming) and in the process engaging in wanton speculation and criticism as is my wont.
First off, Jane Goodall has gotten scary in her old age. I don't mean my kind of scary, angry nerd when-will-he-snap insane asylum scary, but the other kind. The softspoken social prime-mover sort. Listening to her dismissing complaints about her speech running overtime with "Are you going to come and drag me off?" you have to realize this is the sort of persona which can power social movements, and there are precious few of those among scientists. Granny Goodall can shame you into recycling where even if I had any credentials, the likes of me couldn't badger you into it.
Second, if you're relatively young, male and especially a gamer, Philip Zimbardo is kicking your pasty, antisocial ass. Implicitly, metaphorically, but you're gonna feel it nonetheless. And if you don't think a guy whose landmark experiment adorns every Psych100 textbook across the U.S. has enough pull within the unofficial trade-guild of headshrinkers to influence how society sees you, you really have spent too much time in Neverland. I won't say "let's try to prove him wrong" but rather let's prove him right and prove that we're in the right. In the mass-media culture we could all use a good dose of antisocial egomania.

I won't go into any others. Love or hate TED, the content provided is endlessly fascinating. However, I am constantly reminded of one of the first posts I made when I started this sad little joke of a blog. Where's the decentralization?
As delighted as I am by the varied material provided, lurking in my semiconscious assessment of the website, the tone of the presentations, the suppliant fundraising slant on every issue discussed, is the realization that in order to speak at TED you must very likely be or make yourself a corporate whore. When every talk is followed by an ad from GE, IBM, various car companies or Goldman-Fuckin'-Sachs, the social damage of promoting the most destructive agents of modern society arguably outweighs the positive effects of popularizing scientific breakthroughs or artistic achievements. Is anyone seeing the irony of having talks on global-warming endorsed by peddlers of gas-guzzling SUVs? The implication that human advancement cannot exist without the stranglehold such thoughtless, fungal, megalomaniacal, expansionist giants place on human advancement is viciously, deviously counterproductive. There can be no true progress until we are no longer slaves to the stock market, until we can advance scientifically and artistically without feeding the lion's share of our due benefits to the animalistically, instinctively competitive powermongers at the top of these pyramid schemes which block all social progress.
As much as TED is lauded as a positive movement, taking what used to be a multibillionnaire exclusive and opening it somewhat to the public, the program's roots still taint it. It is a game by the rich for the rich. Don't kid yourself. You're not co-opting them, they're co-opting you.

And then there's Kickstarter. At first glance, Kickstarter is an economic dead-end. The rich have no interest in it. It is by definition a for-product enterprise, and powermongers are by definition for-profit. So while in the short term Kickstarter results in many creative, ambitious projects coming to light which would otherwise never exist and creates a highly progressive climate of product-oriented design, it would arguably peter out in the long term. Redistributing, shuffling the funds of the few middle-class progressives among each other does not in itself fight corporate power. However, while funding an artistic project through direct contribution does not directly grow the economic share of the middle-class, it does keep more of that investment from being funneled up to the ultra-wealthy to be used counter-productively for say, face-saving, misleading, crowd-controlling advertisements on the TED website.
Let's remember that the rich produce nothing in themselves. Power is parasitic. Everything they have they acquire by raping and pillaging, by stealing it from true producers. You don't have to fight them actively if you can just keep yourself from feeding those parasites. They can be starved out.
Combined with promoting a product-oriented instead of profit-oriented mindset, this lateral redistribution has tremendous potential. Economists, social scientists, prove me wrong.

I for one am looking forward to the day when I find a large, crowd-funded, user-friendly service I can use instead of Google to post my rants.* I am always painfully aware of the irony of my dependence on this site. The other corporate dependencies of the Internet are bad enough.

*And no, I'm not going to deal with 4chan.

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