March 2018
【3/2 (五) 8pm What's Higher Education For?
【3/9 (五) 8pm How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy
【3/23 (五) 8pm How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy, Part 2
【3/30 (五) 8pm The Tension Between the Global and the Local

April 2018
【4/20 (五) 8pm What we get wrong about misogyny
【4/27 (五) 8pm What would a sustainable economy look like?

May 2018
【5/4 (五) 8pm The Sustainable Economy: What is Owed a Worker?
【5/18 (五) 8pm The Wisdom or Madness of Crowds
【5/25 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】

June 2018
【6/1 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】

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The Wisdom or Madness of Crowds

Nicki Case made another social game. Let's play the game together and see what we learn!


The Sustainable Economy: What is Owed a Worker?

Since we’re talking about the economy here at the RO Studio, we probably need to talk about the ways in which each of us derives value from the economy. In short, we are paid, what does that mean for how we live in this economy?
The list of issues below is probably not complete, what other issues are a part of the labor every person contributes to society?

Job = Social Status?
Our jobs are our income, our income is a measure of our worth. The kind of job we do is also a measure of our worth in the eyes of society. Our income and job type seem to be the main measures of our status as an individual. The only other indicator that seems nearly as important is whether or not you are married.
What are indicators of status in society?
How much does your job or income factor into this status?

Fair value for labor
What is fair value for labor? How does this get calculated? Not all labor is the same, either.
Our society makes a distinction between blue-collar and white collar labor, but what actually are the kinds of labor we find in society? Are they worth the same?
Should some people’s labor be valued differently? How should that value be calculated?

For example, which job is more important to a hospital, the cleaners, the nurses or the doctors? Which, if they went on strike, would affect the hospital most? Most quickly? Most in the long term?

What would a sustainable economy look like?

What would a sustainable economy look like?

There’s more to economic exchange than a pure exchange of value. In fact, the more I think about what an economy is, the more I realise that nearly every aspect of our lives is mediated through capitalism.

I want to take a few steps back and consider what are the elements of an economic system. Today's excerpts are for getting the conversation started, but to be honest I'm not very satisfied with the analysis presented by these authors. As always, the links to the original articles are in the section headers.

But anyways, let’s start with asking, what exactly does ‘Sustainable’ mean?

The 'wrong' definition of sustainablility
The world's nations presently define their top economic goal in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is the total amount of production produced within a nation, usually within one year. In 2010 GDP varied from $16 trillion for the European Union, $15 trillion for the US, and $6 trillion for China to $16 billion for Afghanistan, $7 billion for Haiti, and $105 million for the Falkland Islands.
The top economic goal of most nations is a constant, never ending rise in total GDP of several percent per year. It's their economic growth target. Nothing is more important except for war. If a country's GDP goes flat, that's stagnation. If it falls for more than two quarters is a row that's a recession. Both are to be avoided at all costs.
The official GDP growth targets for several countries are: (Data sources vary per nation)

Sustainability is what people want to happen indefinitely. No country has a GDP growth target less than about 2%, except when recovering from a recession. Thus the defacto definition of economic sustainability is steady growth in total national GDP of a minimum of about 2% per year.
But this is the wrong definition. Total national GDP doesn't tell you how much the average person's income is. Nor does it tell how many people are at the low end of the distribution of income and are thus starving. Nor is steady growth even possible forever. Steadily growing total GDP is thus a flawed goal that can lead a country, and the world, terribly astray.

討論逐字稿: How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy

FYI: This transcript has been reconstructed from notes on paper, so it’s more ‘interpretive’ of what was discussed than a direct record. It's from the discussion about How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy.

Notes on the video:
Should experts run things?
Is democracy how we should run things?
What are we as a people?
How do we govern properly?
Reason and democratic organization?
Invisible hand of the market?
Can markets determine our future well?
Can markets govern us?
—Markets need/create inequality
Markets generate capital accumulation NOT growth
Markets generate stagnant economy/oligarchic class/renters
Law gets organized around oligarchy
—no equality of opportunity
—no social mobility
—can’t develop ourselves to become what we want

What we get wrong about misogyny

In her book, Kate Manne talks about the logic of misogyny. I feel like this is a very clear description of a root problem in modern society.

Sean Illing: Can you sum up your argument in this book?
Kate Manne: There’s a tendency to define misogyny as this deep hatred in the heart, harbored by men towards girls and women. I define misogyny as social systems or environments where women face hostility and hatred because they’re women in a man's world — a historical patriarchy.
Sean Illing: I always thought of misogyny as an ideology: a body of ideas that exists to justify social relations. But you argue that this is sexism, and that misogyny is better understood as a moral manifestation of sexist ideology.
Kate Manne: Yeah, that's really well put. One way of looking at it is we have these patriarchal social structures, bastions of male privilege where a dominant man might feel entitled to (and often receive) feminine care and attention from women.
I think of misogyny and sexism as working hand-in-hand to uphold those social relations. Sexism is an ideology that says, “These arrangements just make sense. Women are just more caring, or nurturing, or empathetic,” which is only true if you prime people by getting them to identify with their gender.
So, sexism is the ideology that supports patriarchal social relations, but misogyny enforces it when there’s a threat of that system going away.

The Tension Between the Global and the Local

This issue seems to me to be a central conflict in modernity, or maybe a central conflict since cities have become a thing. How do our ambitions for acheivement as individuals resolve with our need to be connected with the people and places we grew up with?
Do you think this is a struggle for people in Taipei? What have been some of the things people think about this problem? What are some of the solutions people have found, and what have we had trouble solving?
Do you think this issue has been exacerbated or simplified by technological innovation, like with cellphones and computers and the internet?

Can I do that and be a scientist too?
I’m a scientist at UC Berkeley—a card-carrying true believer in liberal Enlightenment values. Imagine that I meet a bright young woman in a small town in Wisconsin or Alabama, and that I want to persuade her to become a scientist like me. “Listen, science is really great!,” I say. “We scientists care about truth and reason and human flourishing. We include people from every country and culture. And our values have transformed the world. For thousands of years before the Enlightenment, the speed limit was the pace of a fast horse, and children died all the time. Now ideas move at the speed of light, and a child’s death is an unthinkable tragedy. Democracy has eclipsed tyranny, prosperity has outpaced poverty, medicine has routed illness, individual liberation has uprooted social convention. Come join us!”

The young woman replies, “That sounds fantastic! But there’s just one thing. I love this town. I have a boyfriend who also wants to be a scientist, and I’d like to get married and have a bunch of kids here soon. My parents are looking forward so much to being grandparents, and my own grandparents need me to look after them. My family and friends are all nearby, and I’d like my kids to live in my community and take part in the same traditions I grew up with. Can I do that and be a scientist too?”

How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy

“Neoliberalism, warns Professor Wendy Brown, has created a form of reasoning in which human beings are reduced to their economic value and activity, and in which all fields of human activity are treated as markets and institutions, including the state, are increasingly run as if they were corporations. This logic is even applied to activities with no connection to wealth creation, such as education, dating, or physical exercise, which are increasingly governed according to market rules. People are treated in this schema, as units of human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value.”

What's higher education for?

So this guy has a particular viewpoint and a certain axe to grind, and yet his article brings up some interesting analysis. Let's talk about education, certification and what these things mean for society in general.

Education certifies "brains, work ethic and conformity"
There is a massive gap between school and work, between learning and earning. While the labor market rewards good grades and fancy degrees, most of the subjects schools require simply aren't relevant on the job. Literacy and numeracy are vital, but few of us use history, poetry, higher mathematics or foreign languages after graduation. The main reason firms reward education is because it certifies (or "signals") brains, work ethic and conformity.

You could get a Princeton education for free...without a diploma, does it matter?
If a student wants to study at Princeton, he doesn't really need to apply or pay tuition. He can simply show up and start taking classes. As a professor, I assure you that we make near-zero effort to stop unofficial education; indeed, the rare, earnestly curious student touches our hearts. At the end of four years at Princeton, though, the guerrilla student would lack one precious thing: a diploma. The fact that almost no one tries this route — saving hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way — is a strong sign that students understand the value of certification over actual learning.