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Let’s break the bubble of political perception, join-up policy making and see ideas like Universal Basic Income for what they really are

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

As a culture, we are obsessed with the value we apportion to everything big. Big gestures, big careers, big houses, big bank balances and of course big impact.

Perception is everything – even when it is often wrong, and the absence of objective reality – the ‘real’ truth, rather than just our own, is the ultimate power behind every form of decision making that effects each and every one of us in our daily lives.

img_3014The rich irony is that it is the small things – the details, ingredients or constituent parts of everything, that inevitably become the building blocks of anything we perceive to be big.

In an instant, we see or imagine big end results, seldom giving any real thought to the creative process which will get us there. We overlook the need for a precise mix of elements to be ready and in place. We then forget that the absence of just one domino could abruptly break up a falling chain and render a shot at glory useless before we have even journeyed part of the distance there.

Against this backdrop, it is too easy to perceive others with ‘big’ roles as having the ability to see the world differently. To think that they have a different, more objective view. To conclude that they must possess knowledge that will enable only they themselves to make decisions at a level that will affect us all.

What we most often miss however, is that those making big decisions are usually very much like us. We perceive them to be different, but they are human all the same.

Many years of a self-serving political climate have created an inter-generational range of active politicians making and influencing decisions on the basis of a very limited scope of perception which barely reaches beyond that of their own.

As we watch, read and listen to the mainstream media, we can quickly attune ourselves to a snapshot of current political thinking. Yet that gap we can detect and feel between how we ourselves perceive things and where they appear to be is not present because we are in some way wrong. It is there because our decision makers and influencers are dangerously overconfident in their own perceptions of the world and everything around them. They have literally bought in to their own beliefs, whilst losing touch with both the perceptions and the realities of the very people whom they have been entrusted to represent.

If the perception of a politician such as the Prime Minister mattered only in so much as how it would affect their own future, the decisions which are now being made would impact upon nobody but themselves.

Regrettably, this is far from the case and decision after decision has been made by those in power over a series of generations and under the auspices of governments of all kinds that are made in the absence of any consideration for the reach, width and breadth of consequence or what can simply be summarised as the law of cause and effect.

All of us normally operate within perceptory bubbles where reality stretches only as far as the people and experiences which present themselves within. Everything else presents itself like a giant video where images can be observed and sounds can be heard, not unlike like going to see a film at the cinema, with the same absence of touch, taste, smell and everything else in anyway sensual, leaving any emotional response to run riot within.

With the evolution of e-living, this developing concept of life will only continue to grow, leaving the dehumanisation of relationships and communication to become all the more pronounced, as we lose more and more touch with the reality of the world outside and around.

Decision making at the highest level being conducted without the emotional intelligence and behavioural understanding necessary, and without the genuine motivation to deliver balanced policy provision for all.

It is little wonder then, that we have a conservative government which equates poverty with unemployment. A labour opposition set on a Marxist agenda which overlooks the natural capitalist which resides within us all. And a looming exit from the European Union which was delivered as the result of many millions of personal responses to life experience which extends way beyond our Nation’s membership of just one thing.

The obsession with big ‘wins’ leaves real suffering running rife within society. It’s overlooked for what it really is because the understanding of what life is really like and what it will really take to resolve our problems is absent from the minds of those whom have been trusted to protect us.

For example, on one side, Food Banks are viewed as little more than an unnecessary indulgence. Whist the other makes no mention of how so many more would be needed if they were in power, using them as an excuse to face down the Government in an attempt to win votes that would inadvertently increase this travesty whilst they do little more than pour scorn and deride.

images (7)Policy made in isolation and without regard to the effects of its implementation is now commonplace. This is sticking plaster politics where layer upon layer of quick fixes have become necessary. Each one laid upon the other to tackle the fallout from the last myopic policy, itself only created for expedience without due regard for what might lie beyond.

We are in a mess. A profound one at that. And we have at no time needed politicians to up their game and focus on what is important for everyone more than we do right now.

The good news, is that if the law of cause and effect and the age of consequence were really to be considered and embraced, the possibility and potential reach of the subsequent change would soon become apparent. Things have the potential to change in ways which could have many positive consequences for everyone, as well as the decision making politicians themselves.

How we support our poorest and most deprived members of society would be the very best place to begin. It is therefore perhaps no accident that we hear much talk of big policies aimed at people like the ‘just about managings’ and any one of a number of media friendly terms besides.

Universal Basic Income would provide an ideal start. Not because it is the free giveaway which Conservatives fear and Labour and left-leaning political parties might unwittingly embrace as a quixotic dream without further thought. But because getting it right would uncover and require intelligent communication about so many different policy stones which need to be turned over and addressed, whilst also dealing with the need for updating and change which has become overdue and very necessary in terms of the Government’s policy on Welfare for all our citizens in the 21st Century and beyond.

To begin with, the fact that peripheral chat about a Universal Basic Income has progressed beyond discussion in peripheral forums to open consideration by The SNP and governments beyond our borders suggests that a problem exists which such a model could address. Easy to dismiss as a left-wing giveaway of the kind which could easily break our fragile economy – because it certainly could if delivered without real thought, full consideration of the need for such a measure is nonetheless warranted.

A Universal Basic Income could ensure that everyone has sufficient income to live a basic lifestyle, free of the worry of debt and able to survive in times of hardship without having to become dependent upon others or government agencies of any kind – should they choose to do so. Its success would however be much dependent upon the restrictions and controls over the pricing of goods and services which are essential to basic living, and this is where the escalation of impact and consequential policy making would become most defined.

Housing, utilities, basic food and drink, clothing and appropriate transport provide the key cost areas essential to living a basic lifestyle. The problem today is that in the case of most essential services which were once publicly owned, they have been privatised. The others have too many parties adding themselves to ever complicated supply chains, making profit or ‘rent’ from little more than placing themselves in a mix which really should be kept quite simple.

Ethics simply don’t exist here and the impact of free-market profiteering within these sectors is visiting the same level of chaos and breakdown at a personal level for many of the kind which was visited upon us all by the same kind of gaming that created the 2008 financial crisis, in a very relative way.

These few facts alone give measure to the complexity and reach of just one policy alone. They also illuminate the work and communication which would be required to create a change which would ultimately only be the enemy of self-interest, if created with the care and consideration that each and every government policy truly deserves.

That politicians, influencers and decision makers would be required to work intelligently and beyond the scope of their tried and tested political philosophies of today, would be no excuse for them not to do so. The potential and existence of good and bad policy is present across all the Seats represented at Westminster and none of those representatives of our political parties have any kind of exclusive right or indeed the evidence supporting them which would suggest that they alone can deliver anything that is fundamentally right.

The noise which is populism has been created by the evolution of an unbridled public disconnect. It is a case of simple cause and effect.

Cure the causes. Quiet the noises.

 

Truth, post truth, lies or one persons truth is another is another mans lies: falsehoods and technical truths are the order of the day, but filtering for fake news will just take mass manipulation to a new level

December 23, 2016 1 comment

truth-2

Whichever way we turn, we have started to hear the media using the term ‘post truth’ as a label for just about every piece of news with which someone, somewhere disagrees. Some are more direct and call these stories lies. But politicians and activists have been using the same methods that they do now that they have for generations before the events of 2016 were even thought as being the remotest of possibilities. The only thing that has changed is that this method of communicating politically expedient truths has simply been given a name.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that this as happened, given that both the result of the European Referendum and the US General Election went completely against the establishment script, leaving many of most skillful users of this manipulative dark art crying foul, simply because the very same weapon that they have used against so many, has been so effectively been used against them.

So what is the ‘post truth’ – It literally sounds as if we have entered an era where everything now being said and done in government has progressed beyond the point of being true?

To be fair, we often say to others observing and discussing the same events that we experience, that they are ‘unbelievable’. But this is a turn of phrase that doesn’t suggest that these events or what has been said is untrue. It reflects a reality that the acts of the political classes often defy logical explanation; that they present outcomes it would be unlikely to imagine, or that the stories we hear are of kind ‘that you simply couldn’t write’.

Words present a different challenge again and we must be mindful of the fact that a story which one person’s experience tells them is true, can all too easily be dismissed through the eyes of another who has had an alternative or perhaps wider level of experience.

Sadly, the world of politics long since arrived at the point where saying that something was true – but in reality only just from the point of view of the speaker, would mean they could make what are wilfully misleading statements, whilst ‘honestly’ painting that particular perspective or alternative reality as being true.

Doubling down or the art of sticking to the story or script makes watching media interviews with politicians from all sides absolutely cringeworthy. I am sure I have not been alone in wondering ‘why the hell don’t you just tell them the bloody truth?!’

Unfortunately that’s how today’s unethical and morally devoid political establishment operates and how it expects new entrants to always behave. Whether always being ‘on message’, accepting that as a junior politician you will be told what you will think, or simply becoming a vote to be used in government at the will of the party leadership as soon as the elections are over, that is the distasteful and utterly dishonest way that the current political regime works.

Trump, Cameron, Farage, Osborne, Johnson, Gove, Hannan, May and every figurehead politician we can identify as having played a role in key events this year have all been telling us their very own truths. What they are not however, are genuinely or completely false. And we should all be very concerned that there is now a growing movement at work which is looking to filter ‘fake news’ from the material that we read. A development which has been spearheaded by the work which Facebook is now doing.

Fake news in its genuine sense is a concept which social media has facilitated and a source of satire and ridiculous comedy that most of us thoroughly enjoy. The Poke, The Southend News Network, Newsthump and The Onion are but just a few of many more that we can as easily have posting to our newsfeeds each day.

We access them just the same as the apparently legitimate sources we read like the BBC, Sky News, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or again a great many others too. Yet even they all promote the truths of the journalists, the editors, the companies that own them and the advertisers who pay the bigger part of their wages within them too.

People do know and understand the difference between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news already. They do not need filters – which will inevitably contain the bias or prejudices of the people who run or program them – to ensure that they are only exposed to news that they can ‘trust’.

In a certain manner of speaking, no form of news can really be trusted today, as very little of the news we read or hear arrives on the screen in front of us without some hint of opinion being present. This has always been the case on a broader level within the various parts of the national press. But it does now seem to have become that bit more unpalatable to dissenters when a reader’s exposure to the ‘wrong’ stories through targeted material they often really want to read removes the chance that the alternative – or to others the ‘acceptable’ or ‘correct’ point of view will not be revealed to them.

If every reader or viewer were to engage with the news that reaches them by thinking critically today, the media industry would simply cease to exist overnight. But that doesn’t mean they are unaware of the realities and truths at some level.

It has long been accepted socially that opinion is what makes news sell and what turns ‘news’ into a product that we then want to buy. However, we certainly don’t want to read, watch or hear anything with which we don’t identify, and this is the indisputable truth that all of those who now want to control news for their own purposes will be very quick to deny.

image thanks to unknown

What the US row over the regulation of broadband provision can tell us about the privatisation of public services and why we must maintain the basic right to the same level of ‘public’ services for all…

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

images-10We have so much news available to us now that it has become very easy to miss the stories which may fail to catch the public eye.

Away from the headlines today, some of our news sources have been covering the growing row between US President Barrack Obama and the Industry Leaders controlling the supply of Broadband Services in the United States.

Obama appears to be pushing for a system of regulation which will ensure the same level of supply across the Net to all customers, whilst the Industry itself is apparently looking for its own kind of controls which will allow differing levels of supply – and ultimately a ‘fast lane’ or optimum service for those to be made available for those who will pay for it.

On the face of it, this could immediately sound like something and nothing. We do after all have a whole range of choices when we buy or arrange our own internet packages and right now, it now seems pretty normal to pay for every little thing that we have.

However, whilst the speed of the roll-out of superfast broadband leaves many of us knowing only too well that different levels of service currently exist and seem to leave us with little choice, this is in itself just an evolutionary or developmental stage of provision. It is much like the experience of the switch from analogue to digital has been for those of us who used the Web from the beginning, and can still remember the rattle and hum of the tones as we hogged the phone line and dialed-in.

We may not like it and in an age where we have been conditioned to expect everything at the touch of a button, slow internet is beyond frustrating. But right now, we are accepting of it, as we are culturally acclimatised to accept that there is a direction of travel at work, which will only see services improve. (Yes, 4G apparently will at some point exist, even if you have already been paying for it for many months…).

But what would it mean to you if the next generations of technology were simply kept from you, when you knew that they existed and other people or businesses had ready access to them?

Your immediate thought might be that you are pretty happy with your iphone 6, or perhaps a Galaxy Smartphone, and that will do you just fine. But technology is moving apace, and if you were to work on the basis of Moore’s Law, which indicates that the speed and capacity of technology doubles approximately every 18 months to 2 years – which affects functionality as well as speed, you can soon begin to imagine what you might be missing out on by the time you are thinking about the phone you will be able to buy AND operate fully in the year 2020. Apply this to the services you receive through broadband too, and there is perhaps no need to say anymore.

The speed of communication through information technology mediums has been and remains a game changer which has impacts upon us all, usually in ways that leave us feeling completely untouched.

However, it is this very speed, and the capacity to move significant amounts of data from one location to another – perhaps even across the world, in timescales that as humans we at present still remain cognizant of, which have for example equipped money markets and traders to create industries within industries which literally create money from nothing as stocks and shares change hands with the potential to do so again and again over the course of a minute, whilst speculators also ‘bet’ on the transactions and the way their vales will go over the same period of time.

Speed – and therefore time, is increasingly becoming worth money where communication is concerned.

Whilst this may not be a thought that drags many of us away from our phones and iplayer-streamed episodes of The Big Bang Theory today, it will surely stand to reason that those who supply much faster internet services will see the opportunity in being able to charge a considerable premium for the product they supply tomorrow; whilst those who have the most to gain from the almost guaranteed technological leaps that are coming, will already possess and indeed have the most to gain financially from paying what will to them be trivial sums.

Not a problem for many of us today. But if the supply of service did really become as diverse as it could, there is no reason to believe that like in many other areas of contemporary life, cost will not quickly price large numbers of people out of the latest technology marketplace, with repercussions that could easily lead to the imposition of a whole tier of barriers to entry to services, apps and anything else which has then become entwined with the internet age.

Look at the behavior of the Industry in the States, and it will suddenly become very clear why our own providers could be so resistant to Government led regulation, and the imposition of a level playing field which will never have the potential for the same levels of profitability as that of the alternative.

Regulation that ensures a basic level of service for all and which is not itself qualified by a premium is essential. It can only be offered by an impartial third-party organisation – ideally good government – which has no financial interest in the services provided.

Government is today painted as the bad guy for any industry that provides either a public-wide service, or one which can ultimately have that same effect on the population and is not currently regulated – or guided with a robust ethical code that prioritises access and consideration of the consequences of profit-making actions upon us all.

This applies to the inappropriately named utility companies; companies such as the telecom providers, and also to the companies within the financial and banking sectors, where perhaps the most clear example of what happens when the fee-earners are left to regulate themselves was demonstrated by the financial crash of 2008.

The relevance of the US example should not be lost on us, just as the importance and argument that now definitely exists for greater Government intervention to regulate what are and remain public services.

The core reasoning of keeping essential services in the public domain was lost to decision makers of that time, through prolonged periods of low productivity and the high cost of running industry sized monoliths which were inherently resistant to change.

Regrettably, the long-term gift of what are effectively now monopolies to the money markets was not considered in terms of the requirements of ethical or regulatory practice, and the escalating costs of heating and electricity are just a symptom of what happens when a service is provided to a captive market by companies that are allowed to focus on nothing but the bottom line.

Sooner or later, Government will have to address these issues which face and surround all of the public services which are now in public hands.

Ed Millliband has to date probably been the most outspoken of the Political leaders in acknowledging the need to tackle the impact of unbridled energy price rises. But as with almost everything else, inflicting price changes, freezes or any kind of formula without regard to the real implications of doing so is akin to madness – and certainly so if the Industries themselves are not given adequate opportunity to reform before doing so.

Existing problems will be very complex to address. But for services such as the NHS it is not too late for politicians to do the big thing and tackle the problems that exist with meaningful reform. With Internet Services, it is in no way too late to ensure that the market continues to serve the best interests of everyone, and not just the few who will otherwise stand to make the most money from manipulating its harnessed profitability to their best advantage.

There is much for Government to do. But before anything there must be a change of mindset to one that genuinely considers the impact of polices on other polices and ultimately upon the consequences for us all.

The Internet will only come close to achieving all that it can for good if access to it is essentially the same for all.

Government will need to address this, just as it will soon have to accept that the parallel world which the Net has created will require its very own set of rules.

The distance which the Internet has created between us is already removing the humanity from relationships. We now need to ensure that our ability to pay is not the system of qualification for improving our lives that we should now be able to take for more than granted.

image: thevoltreport.com

Is the distance created by modern communication and business methods removing basic humanity from our relationships and has the time come for a whole new set of rules?

August 1, 2012 1 comment

So what motivates you at work or within your business? Is it doing the very best job that you can; or is it simply to earn the greatest amount as quickly as possible and perhaps keep yourself in that lucrative job that you already have, maybe progressing you to an even better paying or profiled position?

Whilst admitting that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth just as soon as the realisation dawns that other people may have noticed; for a growing number today it will be the latter and for very practical reasons that they may never really have even considered at that. Perhaps strange then that it’s a feeling of guilt which often accompanies that understanding when it arrives, as few will ever argue that we would all like to earn more or have a better lifestyle if given the option to do so.

The reality is of course that people feel bad about making money when questioned, if they hadn’t realised that it has become the purest motivation or aim in what they do, rather than being the very healthy side-effect of a career undertaking or vocation, and then doing it damn well.

With a growing concern about the ethics employed within business, not least of all illustrated by the Libor scandal, one must ask if a loss of conscience is one of the very negative aspects that the distance created by increasingly elaborate supply chains and the rise of the Internet have created?

Many of us have simply adapted and in many cases thrived from the changes and opportunities brought into being by the rise of the Communication Age.  So workers within Internet and information technology reliant businesses are perhaps excusably less aware of the fallout hitting customers they may never even see from decision making which is without a tangible fear or concern for the ‘human factor’. One also wonders if they are therefore insulated from the future catastrophes they now have the power to create in what may seem little more than parallel lives, which to the more aware would only ever be dressed as distant elephants that look less than the size of a gnat on their horizon.

To perhaps emphasise the downside of distance more effectively, I will take a step back to an industry that we all love to hate. A profession that has always had the benefit of distance between business and customer once they have been commissioned; but a distance which is also created by time and process rather than by the remote contact of a broadband cable.

Within the property market, many are quick to become cynical of the inflation-setting-overpricing of houses and wonder how they find themselves unable to afford even a modest home.

Some would blame the gargantuan super-tanker that was ‘right-to-buy’ as set in motion by Margaret Thatcher, but can quickly forget how it was that very act in the first place which encouraged massive property ownership within parts of society where people would never have dared even dream of being homeowners before her tenure, and perhaps led to those very same people being able to aspire to making such dreams their reality to begin with.

Others would look perhaps more accurately to the realms of Estate Agents who have ruthlessly pushed prices up and up, month-after-month and year-after-year in order to secure greater and greater percentage based sales fees.

Estate Agents actually do a job that they could choose to do very well on sensible margins – even in a good market. But repeat custom is to them a very long game and if someone else is saying they can sell a house for more, it doesn’t take much excuse to follow or to lose out because the risks to them seem very distant indeed.

After all, very few owners will willingly lose many thousands of pounds on a sale just because one agent tells them what its actually worth, when another says different. The agent who ‘does what it says on the can’ will have ‘priced to sell’ and done what they were commissioned to do, whereas the second agent plays the long game, watching the market rise to the price they suggested, thereby getting the fee they want but paying little note of the pain that their customer experiences in the meantime. No wonder then, that so many Estate Agency businesses have stopped trading or been forced to make substantial cutbacks during the economic crisis.

The long-term effects of such business practices are potentially incalculable and one can only speculate on just how overpriced our homes now actually are, and how far back in time standards of living and subsequent social mobility could actually be pushed as a result of the out-pricing of starter homes for young people; a situation created purely on the basis of making higher and higher margins for just a few without any apparent risk to the many from doing so.

So with the rise of the Internet and information technology, many more businesses now find themselves enjoying a distance between themselves and  customers which is to such a degree that the abuse of such apparently lucrative opportunities could create all manner of future problems, which may only ever become apparent much further down the line.

For instance, a once heavily hands-on recruitment industry which only a few years ago interacted with perhaps every candidate who made the effort to post them a CV, has been replaced by one which has discovered a seemingly bombproof level of security from risk of losing fees by targeting ‘perfect fit’ or tick box candidates, simply by focusing on electronic advertising and administration techniques. 800 applications through an Internet Job Board sounds a lot to handle; but not if you have set up a machine to identify perhaps a minimum of 8 ‘keywords’ or phrases from 10 in those CV’s before the hand of a human with any kind of feeling will go anywhere near them.

Nobody talks about the longer-term threat to hiring businesses of all shapes and sizes that comes from recruiting candidates from what by default effectively becomes a closed field of applicants who only know and understand a specific discipline within business, illustrated by the use of a series of words. Words which may themselves actually just be buzzwords or the esoteric ensemble of a recent graduate.

And why in purest profitability terms should recruiters care when today’s bottom line is secure and they achieved it with the benefit of never having to even speak to perhaps 3 times as many candidates as they actually did. Candidates who may have provided the recruiter’s customer with benefits and untold added value which they never had the chance to see but paid for nonetheless.  A situation leaving perhaps the best candidates finding themselves removed from the running by a software package that reduced the time involved for the recruiter to all but a mere fraction of what they would have ‘wasted’ otherwise.

It is quite concerning that labour and cost saving technology for one business can itself create the opposite effect not just for one, but potentially many others. But then if you also look at the dark-art-creativity of the financial sector and money-making ideas such as cereal futures and funds that own shares in supermarkets and dairy processors, you can quickly begin to see just how the mechanics of distance and its ability to negatively affect the lives of many people actually are. After all, what is 1p on the price of a pint of milk every couple of days when you had a £1 Million bonus last year?

On the one hand, technical advances and the heralding of an information-based communication age encouraging openness and sharing is driving a potentially buyer-led age where businesses have no option but to sell on the basis of making ‘just enough’ profit and delivering quality on time every time.

On the other, the opening of doors to many more  ‘golden-egg’ opportunities which are great for those picking up the product as it is found, but like the ever expanding and deepening ripples from a tiny stone tossed into a still pond, can cause mayhem and disaster in places that they had never even considered.

So the question needs to be asked; Is the distance created by modern communication and business methods removing basic humanity from our relationships and has the time come for a whole new set of rules?

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