Archive for ‘Money’

February 26, 2013

Flutter

Flutter

Flutter is a start-up based in San Francisco, founded by Navneet Dalal and Mehul Nariyawala. Their first product utilizes gesture recognition technology over a built-in webcam in one’s computer, that allows a user to control iTunes, Spotify, VLC, and QuickTime using hand gestures. The company received early-stage funding from Y Combinator (an American seed accelerator). Instead of requiring separate hardware, such as Microsoft’s Kinect, Flutter makes use of the Mac’s built-in webcam to recognize the simple gestures of a person’s hands between one and six feet away. It can control navigation for iTunes, Spotify, Windows Media Player, and Winamp, with Netflix and YouTube support due next. Flutter is not designed for large movements that could be used in playing games, which limits it to navigational duties. The company says it plans to make money by licensing the technology to software companies that want to integrate Flutter into their apps.

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February 26, 2013

Lit Motors

lit motors

Lit Motors Inc. is a San Francisco-based start-up that designs fully electric, gyroscopically stabilized two-wheeler vehicles. The company plans its first small production run in 2014, and intends to sell the vehicle for $24,000. Founded by Daniel K. Kim in 2010, Lit Motors’ stated goal is to create a new class of personal transportation. The company is currently developing two products, code-named the C-1 and the Cargo Scooter. The original inspiration for Lit Motors came to Kim in 2003, when he was nearly crushed by a chassis while manufacturing a bio-diesel Land Rover Defender 90. Kim’s near-death experience inspired him to ‘chop a car in half’ to create what is now the C-1, as a reaction to what he considered massive waste in the transportation industry.

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February 25, 2013

Growth Fetish

Clive Hamilton

conspicuous consumption

Growth Fetish is a 2003 book about economics and politics by the Australian liberal political theorist Clive Hamilton. The book argues that the policies of unfettered capitalism pursued by the west for the last 50 years has largely failed, since the underlying purpose of the creation of wealth is happiness, and Hamilton contends that people in general are no happier now than 50 years ago, despite the huge increase in personal wealth. In fact, he suggests that the reverse is true. He states that the pursuit of growth has become a fetish, in that it is seen as a universal magic cure for all of society’s ills. Hamilton also proposes that the pursuit of growth has been at a tremendous cost in terms of the environment, erosion of democracy, and the values of society as a whole. One result is that we, as a society, have become obsessed with materialism and consumerism. Hamilton’s catchphrase ‘People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like’ neatly sums up his philosophy on consumerism.

Hamilton proposes that where a society has developed to the point at which the majority of people live reasonably comfortably, the pursuit of growth is pointless and should be curtailed. The surplus wealth could then be diverted into the essential infrastructure and to other nations that have not reached this level of wealth. Hamilton adapted the term Eudemonism to denote a political and economic model that does not depend on ever increasing and ultimately unsustainable levels of growth, but instead ‘promotes the full realization of human potential through … proper appreciation of the sources of wellbeing,’ among which he identifies social relationships, job satisfaction, religious belief for some, and above all a sense of meaning and purpose. Hamilton relates the fetish for growth to a ‘development mentality,’ and to a neoliberal ‘instrumental value theory [which] maintains that, while humans are valuable in and of themselves, the non-human world is valuable only insofar as it contributes to the well-being of humans.’ To this he contrasts the stance of the ‘transpersonal ecology’ described by Warwick Fox: this is ‘centered on the notion that only the ego-involved, contracted self can imagine itself to be distinct from the natural world and that expansion of the self beyond the boundaries of the personal necessarily means that one’s awareness, and ground of concern, extends to the natural world.’

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February 25, 2013

Animal Spirits

animal spirits by David Gothard

Animal spirits‘ is the term economist John Maynard Keynes used in his 1936 book ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ to describe emotions which influence human behavior and can be measured in terms of consumer confidence. It has since been argued that trust is also included or produced by ‘animal spirits.’ Several articles and at least two books with a focus on “animal spirits” were published in 2008 and 2009 as a part of the Keynesian resurgence.

According to Keynes: ‘Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations, whether moral or hedonistic or economic. Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits – a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities.’

February 25, 2013

Felix the Cat

felix

Felix the Cat is a cartoon character created in the silent film era. His black body, white eyes, and giant grin, coupled with the surrealism of the situations in which his cartoons place him, combine to make Felix one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first character from animation to attain a level of popularity sufficient to draw movie audiences. Felix’s origins remain disputed. Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix character, claimed during his lifetime to be its creator.

However, American animator Otto Messmer, Sullivan’s lead animator, has also been credited as such. What is certain is that Felix emerged from Sullivan’s studio in NYC, and cartoons featuring the character enjoyed success and popularity in 1920s popular culture. Aside from the animated shorts, Felix starred in a comic strip (drawn by Messmer) beginning in 1923, and his image soon adorned merchandise such as ceramics, toys and postcards. Several manufacturers made stuffed Felix toys. Jazz bands such as Paul Whiteman’s played songs about him (1923’s ‘Felix Kept On Walking’ and others).

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February 20, 2013

Bliss Point

yerkes

In economics, a bliss point is a quantity of consumption where any further increase would make the consumer less satisfied. It is a quantity of consumption which maximizes utility in the absence budget constraint. In other words, it refers to the amount of consumption that would be chosen by a person so rich that money imposed no constraint on his or her decisions.

February 19, 2013

Live Insect Jewelry

Live Insect Jewelry

Live insect jewelry refers to jewelry, made from living creatures- usually bejeweled, large insects- which is worn as a fashion accessory. The use of insects as live jewelry has existed for many centuries, with the Egyptians believed to have been the first to have worn insects as jewelry. Ancient Egyptian soldiers commonly wore scarab beetles into battle as the beetles were considered to have supernatural powers of protection against enemies. Although live jewelry has featured in Mayan cultural traditions for many centuries, it was not until the 1980s that the Mexican Maquech Beetle, a sub-species of the Zopherus beetle, achieved mainstream popularity as live jewelry. The Maquech Beetle is a large, docile, wingless insect which is decorated with gold and semi-precious gemstones and is attached to a decorative safety pin by a chain leash.

During the Mayan period, women from the Yucatán Peninsula wore Maquech Beetles pinned to their chests, over their hearts, to attract and sustain loving relationships. The tradition is attributed to a story from Mayan folklore, which believes that when a Mayan princess was not permitted to marry a prince from a rival clan whom she loved, she stopped eating and drinking, preferring to die than to live without her lover. In compassion with her plight, a traditional healer with magical powers transformed her into a Maquech beetle, so that she could spend the rest of her life living as a beautiful brooch on the chest of her lover, close to his heart.

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February 19, 2013

Phishing

phishing

free ipad

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors, or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing (altering the sender address) or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishing is an example of social engineering (manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information), and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.

The first recorded mention of the term ‘phishing’ is found in the hacking tool ‘AOHell’ (released in 1994), which included a function for stealing the passwords of America Online users. A recent and popular case of phishing is the suspected Chinese phishing campaign targeting Gmail accounts of highly ranked officials of the United States and South Korean’s Government, military, and Chinese political activists. The Chinese government continues to deny accusations of taking part in cyber-attacks from within its borders, but evidence has been revealed that China’s own People’s Liberation Army has assisted in the coding of cyber-attack software. Phishing on AOL was closely associated with the warez community that exchanged pirated software and the hacking scene that perpetrated credit card fraud and other online crimes. After AOL brought in measures in late 1995 to prevent using fake, algorithmically generated credit card numbers to open accounts, AOL crackers resorted to phishing for legitimate accounts and exploiting AOL.

February 19, 2013

Comment Crew

Comment Crew

PLA Unit 61398, referred to by the US as the ‘Comment Crew’ (owing to the collective’s past pattern of embedding HTML commands in the comments section of popular websites) is an alleged cyber-warfare unit of the Chinese military. As a hacker group the entity has been known to US intelligence agencies since 2002; they gave it the codename ‘Byzantine Candor.’ The unit is reported to operate out of a 12-story building in Shanghai and the surrounding neighborhood. The story was first broken by the ‘New York Times,’ based on information from a report by the computer security firm Mandiant, who were retained by the New York Times after a compromise of their own computer systems. Mandiant’s report states that PLA Unit 61398 is believed to be under the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff’s Department (GSD) 3rd Department and that there is evidence that it contains an entity Mandiant calls APT1, part of the Advanced Persistent Threat attacking American corporations and government entities.

Unit 61398 allegedly steals proprietary industrial and military information from the US and other nations. President Obama alluded to this concern in a State of the Union address, without mentioning China or any other nation: ‘We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets,’ he said. ‘Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air-traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing.’ Chinese government sources deny Mandiant’s allegations.

February 18, 2013

Great Recession

great recession by Elise Gravel

The Great Recession is a marked global economic decline that began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008. The active phase of the crisis, which manifested as a liquidity crisis, can be dated from August 7, 2007 when BNP Paribas (one of the world’s largest global banking groups) terminated withdrawals from three hedge funds citing ‘a complete evaporation of liquidity.’ The bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which peaked in 2006, caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The global recession affected the entire world economy, with higher detriment in some countries than others. As of December 2012, the economic side effects of the European sovereign debt crisis and limited prospects for global growth in 2013 and 2014 continue to provide obstacles to full recovery.

There are two senses of the word ‘recession’: a less precise sense, referring broadly to ‘a period of reduced economic activity,’ and the academic sense used most often in economics, which is defined operationally, referring specifically to the contraction phase of a business cycle, with two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. By the latter definition, the recession ended in the U.S. in June or July 2009. However, persistent high unemployment remains, along with low consumer confidence, and an increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. In fact, a 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans think the U.S. is still in recession or even depression, although economic data show a historically modest recovery. This could be due to the fact that both private and public levels of debt are at historic highs in the U.S. and in many other countries, and an increasing number of economists believe that excessive debt plays a role in causing bank crises, lengthy depressions, and sovereign default.

February 17, 2013

Cool

cool hand luke

the birth of the cool

Coolness is an admired aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance and style, influenced by and a product of the Zeitgeist (‘spirit of the age’). Because of the varied and changing connotations of cool, as well its subjective nature, the word has no single meaning. It has associations of composure and self-control and often is used as an expression of approval. Although commonly regarded as slang, it is widely used among disparate social groups, and has endured in usage for generations. Because there is no single concept of cool, one of its essential characteristics is mutability—what is considered cool changes over time and varies among cultures and generations. British philosopher and advertising executive Nick Southgate writes that, although some notions of cool can be traced back to Aristotle, whose notion of cool is to be found in his ethical writings, most particularly the ‘Nicomachean Ethics,’ it is not confined to one particular ethnic group or gender.

The sum and substance of cool is a self-conscious aplomb in overall behavior, which entails a set of specific behavioral characteristics that is firmly anchored in symbology, a set of discernible bodily movements, postures, facial expressions and voice modulations that are acquired and take on strategic social value within the peer context. Cool was once an attitude fostered by rebels and underdogs, such as slaves, prisoners, bikers and political dissidents, etc., for whom open rebellion invited punishment, so it hid defiance behind a wall of ironic detachment, distancing itself from the source of authority rather than directly confronting it.

February 14, 2013

The Rebel Sell

the rebel sell

The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can’t be jammed’ (published in the US as ‘Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture’) is a non-fiction book written by University of Toronto philosopher Joseph Heath and Canadian journalist Andrew Potter in 2004. Their central claim is that counter-cultural movements have failed, and that they all share a common fatal error in the way they understand society; thus counter-culture is not a threat to ‘the system.’ Following their claim that conformity isn’t something perpetuated by mainstream media, Potter and Heath identify other sources of conformity using work from Hobbes, Rousseau, and Freud. They describe conformity as often the byproduct of simple market preferences or, alternatively, as an attempt to resolve a collective action problem. For instance, they claim that school uniforms curb the fashion ‘arms race’ created between students when no restrictions are in place, and that they are not intended merely to stamp out individualism, as many counter-cultural figures have suggested.

According to Potter and Heath, this is why counter-culture is met with resistance: not because the mainstream is brainwashed into loving social customs, but because social customs provide a safety net saving us from a constant need to recalculate the significance of our surroundings. For example, thanks to rules of traffic, a pedestrian can generally safely stand on a sidewalk, without needing to reevaluate at each instance whether an oncoming bus might stay within its lane or whether it might hit the pedestrian. Thus, rules are by no means inherently oppressive: the undesirability of many facets of society (such as consumerism) are, if anything, caused from the ‘bottom up.’ To Potter and Heath, then, some rules may be beneficial.

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