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What do you want to talk about at the RO Studio?

Enter your ideas for new discussions at the RO Studio.

Go to see the results, vote on which articles you are interested in discussing in the future, or add to other peoples' ideas on the response spreadsheet.

I will check this regularly and put the ideas as new discussions here on the blog!

The Evolution of Trust

This game investigates how trust and distrust operates in a community.

Let’s go through the game together and talk about the modelling and the conclusions.





Digital Money

There’s seemingly a lot of information about mobile payments on the internet in English, but most of it is breathless, “Omg the future is here”-style reporting, and not much that thinks about the implications for people and economies.
Let’s talk mobile payments on the personal level first:


Have you ever used mobile payment, like Line payment?
Why and why not?
What’s the advantages and disadvantages to using mobile payment?
Is there a privacy issue in using mobile payment?
Is there a security issue?
Can you accept a world that does not have coins and bills?

Below there are (way too many) articles I found discussing various aspects of both mobile payments and cryptocurrencies.
The main thing I learned is that cryptocurrencies and mobile payments are not at all the same thing, but that mobile payments have the potential to function as international currencies, which have a lot of interesting implications.


Applecash, an unintentionally international payment system?
Money you receive (via Apple Messages) from others is added to your Apple Pay Cash card that will live in your Wallet app.
While you can transfer this cash to your bank account if you want, you will also be able to use it directly to make purchases using Apple Pay in stores, in apps, on the web, or anywhere else that may eventually support the payment system.
That’s important because it means Apple has taken a fairly large step toward creating its own take on cryptocurrency.

This is real money, after all, that exists only in Apple space until you turn it into something else — a purchase, a service or "real" money in your account. You’ll also be able to share it with other people.
While the service will be U.S.-only on launch, it will extend, and it will be interesting to see how Apple supports person-to-person payments across borders. To enable the service, Apple is working with Green Dot Bank.
The partners will need to unravel complex questions, such as: If someone in Ireland chooses to use Apple Pay Cash to send money earned in Ireland to someone who works at an iPhone factory in China, in what location is the “value of that exchange created”?

What is Fair?

Imagine two possible worlds:
In World A, all the income and material wealth is owned by men. Women have no right to earn money or to own property of any kind. They are given the use of resources by the men in their lives, but they have no legal right to this. It is always done at men’s discretion, and men retain the power to take back property they have given to women at any time. However, it so happens that the men in World A are all perfectly just and compassionate, and always use their income and wealth wisely and judiciously. They never squander their resources or use them in ways we might consider immoral. They ensure that women and girls, while having no legal right of their own to control property, nonetheless have all their material needs met, and are provided with everything they need.

In World B, both women and men have a legal right to earn money and to own property, and the income and wealth of that world is equally distributed between men and women. However, the women in world B are not perfectly just and compassionate women, and frequently use their share of resources unwisely or immorally. They sometimes squander resources through foolish gambles, and sometimes spend money on immoral projects, such as buying weapons to pursue imperialist conflicts.

Critical Reading


This chart is pretty useful, but here are some other questions that also could be asked:

Who benefits?

Who decides how it’s carried out?

Why is this any of our business?

What’s the evidence?

What’s the most reasonabe counterargument?

Architectural Design: When Context Matters

So we’re going to look at design again this week, but from the perspective of city planning. The tech magazine Wired published a critique of Apples new headquarters recently, and it makes some interesting points about how global companies interact with the physical places their offices are in, and how the architecture they build helps or hurts the community around them. What I’d like to know is if the situation in California correlates to situations with industrial park developments in Taiwan, for instance in Hsinchu or the more recent development in Nangang. Are things working as intended in terms of helping businesses contribute to the economy? But I also want to talk about what you think Taiwan is getting right or wrong in terms of transportation and housing as well. So let’s talk design!

The context of a building is just as important as the building itself
You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general. People rightly credit Apple for defining the look and feel of the future; its computers and phones seem like science fiction. But by building a mega-headquarters straight out of the middle of the last century, Apple has exacerbated the already serious problems endemic to 21st-century suburbs like Cupertino—transportation, housing, and economics. Apple Park is an anachronism wrapped in glass, tucked into a neighborhood.

Cities or Nations, which is better governance?

Are cities a better locus of government than nations?

Which is to say, there have been some serious drawbacks to the relatively new concept of nationhood, including but not limited to:
1. arbitrary borders not matching tribal/social divisions
2. border control and passports
3. arbitrary limits on economic opportunity and migration
What are some of the benefits of nationhood?

What are some of the potential drawbacks of city-based governance?
What might be the benefits?

Here's a TED talk touting the idea:




Here in the recent news is an interesting example of city-government acting on the world stage. When the US government pulled out from the Paris accords on June 1, suddenly on the same day the "US Climate Alliance" was announced.

Check this out:

Leadership and the Excercise of Power

The saying goes: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But is this always true? This article in the NY Times says there are mitigating factors. Let’s discuss!


Freedom or Responsibility
Some psychologists separate power, defined as the control of valued resources, into two concepts: power perceived as freedom, and power perceived as responsibility. How you view power can affect how you use it. When you see power as a source of freedom, you are likely to use it to serve yourself, selfishly. But when you see it as responsibility, you tend to be selfless.


Contextual Clues
Who you are — your character and cultural background — affects your approach to power. But contextual clues about how power should be used can be surprisingly effective in altering leadership behaviour.

Teaching Design for Change


One of our RO Studio members proposed that we talk about how design, the physical design of the world around us, affects people. This might be a good talk to start with.



Cooperate or Not? The Nash Equilibrium and the Shapley Value



Nash Equilibrium

"The Nash equilibrium is a stable state of a system that involves several interacting participants in which no participlant can gain by a change of strategy as long as all the other participants remain unchanged."


Make 4 dollars or 5 dollars?
I'll explain it without the traditional prisoner story.

Imagine someone approaches you, as well as a random stranger, on the street. He says to the two of you:

If you both give me a dollar, I will give each of you $5. But if only one of you gives me a dollar, I will keep that dollar, and give $5 only to the person who gives me nothing. You aren't allowed to talk to each other.

Of course, if you could talk to the other player, you would surely agree that you both will give the guy a dollar, and each walk away $4 richer than you were. But since you can't, all you can do is figure out what is best for yourself. And regardless of what the other player chooses, it is best for you to give nothing.

If the other person gives a dollar, you are better off giving nothing -- as you'd make $5 profit rather than only $4. And if he gives nothing, you'll lose nothing, rather than losing a dollar.

The problem, of course, is that both players are likely to think this way, and each give nothing. This results in a lost opportunity to make some free money.

This kind of situation is everywhere in the real world. Rational people make choices that seem (to the Prisoner's-Dilemma naive) to be non-rational. They are not being stupid, they make these choices because it is in their interest to do so.....purely due to inability to make and enforce agreements.

Creativity

John Cleese on creativity:


A 5 Step process for creativity:
In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, Principles, and second, Method. This is true of the art of producing ideas.
Particular bits of knowledge are nothing, because they are made up [of] so called rapidly aging facts. Principles and method are everything.

So with the art of producing ideas. What is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which all ideas are produced and how to grasp the principles which are at the source of all ideas.

The second important principle involved is that the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.

Consequently the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.
STEP 1: GATHERING RAW MATERIAL

Is it ignorance or discrimination?

On PTT's WomenTalk forum, a woman who lives in Britain brought up some scenarios that she personally experienced with her coworkers. Read the article, and then let's talk about the cases she brought up!

I think we have to first have to define the difference between prejudice and racism. Prejudice — holding negative beleifs about a group of individuals, and assuming individuals share these characteristics
Racism — the social mechanisms (prejudice, disadvantaging, outright attacks) by which social power is differentiated for groups, and through the dissemination of which a group gains and maintains social dominance


Scenario 1: “Whatever”
Is it discrimination that someone should not distinguish between Taiwan and China, or only politics?
If sb can’t tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, is that racism? Unfamiliarity? Laziness?
Is it the same or different situation if, for instance, a Taiwanese person would be like, “Oh, Polish, Russian, it’s about the same?”
Would a Taiwanese person say that though?

Scenario 2: “Chopsticks”
What are the assumptions behind this kind of question:
—personal cultural preference?
—level of exposure to outside cultures?
—competence/incompetence in cultural norms?
Do assumptions/intentions behind actions matter?
Or the feelings resulting from the actions?
Which matters more?

Work, Leisure, Play

“This is the main question, with what activity one’s leisure is filled.”
--Aristotle
Is it important to distinguish between work and leisure? Or work and play?
Do we even really understand what leisure is? We seem to have this idea that leisure should be 'productive' or at least lead to productive work. Is this what leisure is really about?
What would leisure be like in a society with UBI (Universal Basic Income)?
What would you do if you really could do anything you wanted with your time? Does the idea of totally being able to decide what you do with your time a little unsettling? Do you think you would work well to be responsible to no-one but yourself for what you get done?
Is the scariness of too much freedom what makes people crave authority? We've talked about 'freedom from' vs. 'freedom to' before, does this apply to the question of work and leisure?



Work-Life Balance?
The equilibrium between productivity and presence is one of the hardest things to master in life, and one of the most important. We, both as a culture and as individuals, often conflate it with the deceptively similar-sounding yet profoundly different notion of “work/life balance” — a concept rather disheartening upon closer inspection. It implies, after all, that we must counter the downside — that which we must endure in order to make a living — with the upside — that which we long to do in order to feel alive. It implies allocating half of our waking hours to something we begrudge while anxiously awaiting the other half to arrive so we can live already. What a woefully shortchanging way to exist — lest we forget, so speaks Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another. We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.

Maybe you should just be single

There's a lot of single women in Taiwan. Part of that is that there are more women than men in this country, but then there's the phenomenon of all the foreign brides that are marrying into Taiwan. This is a complicated and painful issue, but let's look at it from the level of the personal this time.


Finding ‘the one’ as ‘the happy ending’
You see, I don’t believe that my relationship constitutes a happy ending. I don’t want a “happy ending”. I don’t want an ending at all, particularly not while I’m still in my goddamn twenties—I want a long life full of work and adventure. I absolutely don’t see partnership as the end of that adventure. And I still believe that being single is the right choice for a great many young women. 


Marriage: still an economic relationship at heart
Buried under the avalanche of hearts and flowers is an uncomfortable fact: romantic partnership is, and always has been, an economic arrangement. The economics may have changed in recent decades, as many women have gained more financial independence, but it’s still about the money. It’s about who does the domestic labour, the emotional labour, the work of healing the walking wounded of late capitalism. It’s about organising people into isolated, efficient, self-reproducing units and making them feel bad when it either fails to happen or fails to bring them happiness. 

Debt Culture

Debt has been ingrained in our cultures since at least Mesopotamian times (5000BC). This article argues that when debt becomes a way of life, that debt becomes meaningless. Let’s look at these arguments and see if they are valid.


Debt is how most people are making ends meet

CM: How important, then, is debt—or maybe more precisely, credit—in the quality of life that we now enjoy? That is, how much would we suffer, and how much would we have to sacrifice if we didn’t have access to debt through credit?

AM: For a lot of working and middle class people, it is the only way that they are able to continue to survive, given the stagnation of wages over the last few decades. I think that’s true for the economy as a whole as well. The economy depends on the credit relationships that allow us to continue to purchase consumer goods even when our wages are stagnating. The economy depends on the ability to defer payment.

Corporations depend on the ability to defer payment into the future. But they depend on that payment eventually being made. One of the ways to start thinking about how to resist capitalism is to think about how to refuse to make those payments. Because that deferral has to come to an end at some point, and finding a way, collectively, to refuse to allow that debt to be paid, is probably the only way out of capitalism that we have at the moment.

CM: How much is debt, and greater access to credit, the cause of the boom-and-bust, bubble-bursting, precarious, unstable economic era we are living in (dating back all the way to the NASDAQ bubble of the 1990s, if not earlier)?

The Work Ethic

I feel like the points made in this article work on some level, but I’m uncomfortable with them on many other levels. Let’s talk about the work ethic, its validity to people, the way it may or not be used to manipulate people in our economic system, and its relation to ideas like the UBI.

What is the point of full employment?
Why do we have to put everybody to work? In these terms, full employment becomes a punitive program. A way of saying you must earn your keep. You must be a producer of something. Why in the world do we have to think of ourselves as producers of goods—whether actual durable goods or the kind that you’re producing with this radio show? Why? What is the imperative, what is the constraint at work here? I don’t see that we need that identity anymore.

Do you think other people can be trusted?

This is some material from a recent Freakonomics podcast. It seems relevant to our recent discussion about whether having a uniform society is a precondition for democracy. In that discussion, we concluded that you needed trust in the system, critical thinking and economic stability as preconditions for successful democracy. So let's look a little more deeply into 'trust in the system' today. What exactly does that entail?

“Social trust” is what, exactly?
HALPERN: It’s just one of those things. It’s sort of like the dark matter of the economy and society, it matters very greatly and yet we don’t seem to focus on it very much.
HALPERN: Social trust is an extraordinarily interesting variable and it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves. But the basic idea is trying to understand what is the kind of fabric of society that makes economies and, indeed, just people get along in general. It’s clearly so critical for a whole range of outcomes.
HALPERN: This is a more powerful predictor of future national growth rates than, for example, levels of human capital or skills in the population.
HALPERN: Basically, having someone or feeling that other people can be trusted or people you can rely on in your life is worth a great deal. It’s roughly the same positive effect in a series of studies as giving up smoking. And smoking is really, really bad for you so, you know, social isolation, essentially, is incredibly bad for your health.