Welcome to the October edition of The Miaaw Monthly which tells you what to expect this month, and provides a few pointers to things you might like to explore.
Our podcasts are a way to have (hopefully) interesting conversations about the things we care about. Please spread the word as widely as you can, and encourage people to subscribe to The Miaaw Monthly.
If you have anything that you want to include in The Miaaw Monthly, or discuss in the podcasts, then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to collaborate.
The final podcast for September arrives today and continues our occasional Friday Number 5 series, which we include every time the month has a fifth Friday. That’s four times a year, fact fans.
In this episode we continue our look back at our greatest hits from the early years with a look at Episode 11 from March 1, 2019, in which Owen and Sophie discuss the resurgence in interest in ideas of cultural democracy during the late nineties and early noughties.
Every Friday a podcast appears at 12:34 UTC. Sometimes we get so eager that they appear an hour or two early to allow for any lag across the internet. Mostly they arrive on time. With that in mind, here are the podcasts that will drop in October.
Friday October 6: Meanwhile in an Abandoned Warehouse | Episode 65
Last month Bill Willingham, the creator and author of the Fables comic book series attempted to end a dispute with DC Comics by relinqushing his copyright and declaring that the characters and stories had now entered the public domain. DC Comics rapidly issued a statement disagreeing. Owen Kelly and Sophie Hope discuss what this says about copyright, how copyright fails in general, and how it fails in terms of co-creation specifically.
Friday October 13: The Bookshelf | Episode 20
Owen Kelly looks at The Careless Society by John McKnight, a book from 1993 that has never made the impression that it ought to have done. It takes arguments from Illich and Friere and attempts to apply them to contemporary attempts to create and sustain creative communities.
Friday October 20: A Culture of Possibility | Episode 33
François Matarasso and Arlene Goldbard realize that having talked a great deal about cultural democracy, they have yet to dive into the second half of that topic. Many people take democracy for granted, but what is it really—certainly more than majority rule and voting every once in a while? Where is it practiced? What’s standing in the way of democracy’s full realization and what can we do about it? How can culture advance democracy?
Friday October 27: Common Practice | Episode 28
A couple of months ago Sophie Hope joined the Rural School of Economics at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop and talked about everything except the workshop itself. This month Sophie Hope visits the Scottish Sculpture Workshop again and asks them about their philosophy and practice.
All our podcasts are available from Anchor.fm, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Overcast, RadioPublic, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Stitcher.
You can also listen to them at the miaaw.net website where you will find additional links, notes, and references accompanying each episode. You will also find a full archive of all the previous podcasts there.
The New Feudalism explained
In his recent book Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism, Yanis Varoufakis – the “libertarian Marxist” former finance minister of Greece – makes an excellent case that capitalism died a decade ago, turning into a new form of feudalism: technofeudalism.
This book makes excellent and important reading, even if you end up not agreeing with it. He argues that Capitalism isn’t just “a system where we buy and sell things.” It’s a system where capital rules the roost: the richest, most powerful people are those who coerce workers into using their capital (factories, tools, vehicles, etc) to create income in the form of profits.
By contrast, a feudal society is one organized around people who ow things, charging others to use them to produce goods and services. In a feudal society, the most important form of income isn’t profit, it’s rent. To quote Varoufakis: “rent flows from privileged access to things in fixed supply” (land, fossil fuels, etc). Profit comes from “entrepreneurial people who have invested in things that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.”
Varoufakis illustrates this with numbers of examples that relate to ideas of creativity, community and cultural democracy. He uses Amazon as one example, likening shopping on Amazon to visiting a bustling city center filled with shops run by independent capitalists. All those capitalists remain subservient to a feudal lord, Jeff Bezos, who takes 51 cents out of every dollar they bring in, and furthermore gets to decide which products they can sell and how those products get displayed. Capitalism has not gone away but its importance has become secondary to the power of the new fuedalism.
Jolly Roger, a possibly useful AI
Almost all of the uses of ChatGPT and other large language models like it seem either trivial, or illegitimate in one way or another. Social media, for example, seems flooded with advertisements that will show you how to write and publish and ebook in less than 3 hours, or 3 minutes, or whatever.
Last week, however, we came across a use of so-called AI that actually does something useful. Jolly Roger Telephone provides “friendly, patient robots that talk to these rude telemarketers for you. They love to chit-chat, and will often keep nasty callers engaged for several minutes. By keeping the bad guys busy, you keep them from pestering other innocent people, and you hit them where it hurts most…their wallets…because no matter how hard they try, our robots won’t ever buy anything. And best of all, you get recordings of each call, so you can hear them squirm and have a good laugh!”
It is always possible of course that in the near future your Jolly Roger answering robot will, in fact, find itself talking to a marketing robot with no humans involved. Whether this will count as an improvement or not will remain up to you.
Elon Musk tells lies
Last month we found a website, Elon Musk Today that tracks the claims and boasts that Elon Musk posts and the amount of time that has passed without him actually doing what he said he would do.
This may not count as the most important activity to engage in but it serves a real purpose: to keep the contradictions and broken promises in sight so that we retain some sort of community memory.
Justice for Neanderthals
The Guardian publishes lengthy essays from time to time and this example of a Guardian Long Read raises a variety of interesting issues from an unexpected perspective.
If you subscribe to The Miaaw Monthly you will get a short, sharp newsletter in your email in-box at breakfast time on the last Friday of every month. You can then find out what’s in the podcasts for the following month, as well as some of what is available in the wider world.
We won’t sell you email address, or use it for anything else except mailing you a copy of The Miaaw Monthly every four or five weeks.
Subscribe by going to buttondown.email/miaaw.net – and please tell your friends about it too!