Scalpel

“During the Renaissance, when the scapel was invented, it took surgeons 100 years to learn how to use it properly. It’s the same with the internet, we have the technology, not yet the phronesis.” (Richard Sennett)

Algorithmic Trading

“I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein)

A speculative monster which feeds off itself, uses algorithms to profit from other algorithms, to speculate on speculation, moving faster than anything human. Labour, twice alienated in the money-form, becomes thrice perverted in finance, many times more abstracted in the form of money-figures become algorithms upon algorithms executed by machines that function faster than can be followed until – alienation triumphant – the lives of those who created this system, and millions if not billions more – a country’s economy destroyed, a family’s livelihood ruined on an algorithmic whim – are determined for them.

A Frankenstein work: the free creation of something free, which becomes a nightmare one cannot be free of.

If you’re not horrified by this, you haven’t been reading properly.

Heine, from a letter of 1842

“For our part we only know that communism, though little talked about at present, and though it lives a sickly existence in hidden garrets on miserable straw, is even so the somber hero to whom an enormous, though transitory, role is reserved in the modern tragedy, and which is only waiting for its cue to come on stage. We must never lose this actor from sight, and from time to time we will send communiqués concerning the furtive rehearsals by which it is preparing its debut. Such notices will perhaps be more important than all the reports about electoral maneuvers, party quarrels, and cabinet intrigues.”

Energy Slaves

An interesting piece in the latest Energy Bulletin. I was talking to an energy specialist at a conference this week. Among the striking things he said was that of the fuel alternatives hurriedly being researched by the petro-giants and even faster by ecologically-inclined scientists, none is better than one tenth as efficient – ratio of energy in (extraction, processing) to energy out – as oil. Indeed some are around one hundreth the efficiency.

On a related note, the driest April in recorded history in Europe is leading to fears over the wheat harvest which is already threatened in May, months before it is due to be cultivated. A ruined harvest would mean a dramatic rise in the price of Europe’s main food commodity – bread.