Monday, December 16, 2013

The Bitcoin Economy, Looking for Parallelisms to a Real Economy





Image from http://watchdog.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/12/bitcoins.png 


Bitcoin headlines and stories have been flashing all over the net as of late and if I were to play the paranoia game, I would think that the push by some finance sites to run stories was meant to ensure that its value (and relevance) is buoyed, perception-wise at the very least.



Although I am in no position to provide any thorough academic data analysis, deducing things from a parallel comparison to a real economy might prove interesting.

I won't play the hypocrite because I admit, I'm trying my hand on bitcoin mining myself: Got a wallet, installed it, joined a pool, and started mining with a program. I don't think I'll be making millions as a miner anytime soon though.




Hindsight is 20/20 as most investors would say, and Bitcoins would've been the Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google stock that made instant millionaires out of gutsy risk-takers after just a few years of sitting on their investments. In fact, what caught my attention to Bitcoins was a recent story about a Norwegian man who put down a $26 investment that shot up to $850,000 (for an asset that is a virtual cryptocurrency) in such a short span of time.




And so, this is where things get hairy in my view. Bitcoins are, in perception, considered by its supporters as an asset. Although we have already moved away from the gold standard when we talk about fiat money, interest rate movements and their relation to the real economy ensure that real currencies put relevance to human activities, transactions, goods, and services. I already elaborated on this matter with my views on my blog entry The Churn last May.



*Image from http://www.churn-rate.com/img/churnSketch.png 


If we, however, consider this virtual cryptocurrency as the ''national'' and sovereign currency of a virtual state and its economy, then it is unavoidable to ask, how is the Bitcoin economy doing? Are the Bitcoin citizens sustaining themselves well earning Bitcoins and paying with Bitcoins? The nature of the Internet itself as a borderless and boundless ''state/country'' for Bitcoin citizens add so many ''frictional'' costs in the forms of logistics, economic regime considerations, real world relevance, taxes (if any), and transmutability to a society/locality, among others. The regulation of an economy like this is staggering, not to mention the headache of dealing with overlapping commercial laws and practices. No one eats virtual burgers, drinks virtual milk, uses virtual shampoo. Do we get a Bitcoin FDA to ensure safety of consumables? The reliance on the labor economy and limited access of technology and understanding by non-IT classes in a society limits full relevance and applicability of a virtual cryptocurrency, especially to the blue collar working class. Someone down the supply chain will eventually want fiat money because it's tangible and integrated to a locality. The virtual nature of e-commerce poses limits to transactions. Interestingly, one of the vaunted benefits of Bitcoins is the elimination of the ''middleman'' to the exchange of goods/services/Bitcoins. There's no more Paypal, ClickandBuy, or credit card company to deal with. You sort the transaction out with the very same person you are dealing with, thus the ''savings'' from middleman fees. In my view, however, middlemen in the wild wild west [the net], we know as the Internet play a crucial role in ensuring fulfillment and security. The very nature of the Internet as a borderless place limits territorial law enforcement and tangibility to real life physical interaction. So the citizens of Bitcoin land will probably eventually need a Bitcoin leader, set up means of Bitcoin taxation, in order to employ Bitcoin law enforcers, assuming a Bitcoin body of lawmakers come up with a Bitcoin Constitution and Bitcoin laws for the sake of the Bitcoin economy's peace and order, maybe shop around for a Bitcoin pet if time allows it. Anyone who has dealt with online transactions/e-commerce knows the headache of having to deal with online order errors, overcharging, among other issues that only bring anger and frustration especially when dealing with unscrupulous Internet merchants.

 *Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/business-commerce-middleman-bureaucracy-middlemen-middle_men-cut_out_the_middleman-shr1072l.jpg

As I tried to understand the Bitcoin currency, there are certain points that I have found obscure with its principles. First of all, supporters have likened Bitcoins to gold due to its supply being capped:


A pre-defined schedule limits the total number of bitcoins so that they gradually approach a total of 21 million (ignoring those that have been lost through deleted or misplaced wallet files). The limit of 21 million bitcoins is "hard-wired" in to the protocol, and there will never be more bitcoins than this:


*Posted by Emansipater, Aug 30 '11 at 23:57




So, that's where the term ''mining'' was derived from. The year at which this 21 million Bitcoin cap is reached will depend on how many people decide to use their computers to mine Bitcoins.


*Image from http://www.littlevisuals.com/bitcoin-owners.png


So what we have in the mining community are Bitcoin ''gold prospectors'' who, if you checked the link about Bitcoin basics, are users that use their computer equipment to process, authenticate, and validate the chainblock (the ledger of Bitcoins on Earth/the Internet currently in existence and how they have exchanged hands between and among Bitcoin citizens) repeatedly in order cyclically update the said chainblock and in effect they also mine and earn Bitcoin blocks themselves, which adds new blocks to the chainblock - which is the cryptologic nature of Bitcoins (kind of like adding authenticated pages to the ledger).



*Image from http://f.kulfoto.com/pic/0001/0044/6FsDJ43485.jpg


Second is the vaunted nature of Bitcoins being free from a Central Bank's control. While there are people who have always held the belief that the Gold Standard should be restored by Central Banks and that the fiat money system be dismissed, the acquisition and hoarding of gold is certainly an activity wanting of conflict. Gold is in limited amounts on Earth and proponents seem to be after the sense of security that the tangibility of benchmarks invokes (ironically, Bitcoins will never be tangible in concept because it belongs to the virtual space of the Internet, where relevance is allocated by those who view or come across concepts or ideas on the web and accept them). Gold Standard proponents, in my opinion, miss the whole point of how developing the mechanism of an economy works. Fiat money, in tandem with interest rates regulate economic activity of people, people make up human civilization, and people transact, create goods, and provide services, these are the true basic foundations and resources of a real economy. Activities and the economic energy that echoes through the supply chain or trickles down through economic classes are limitless, as long as people generate ideas and work. Assigning value to a tangible benchmark that is Gold in order to make one believe of security (over a shiny piece of metal, admittedly a very good conductor of electricity) is misplaced and an unfortunate carryover of how backwards civilizations were run in my opinion. Instead of the idea/concept of scarcity being assigned to a shiny piece of yellow metal, scarcity and demand (at a given price point) should be attributed to the level of talent, the quality of the good, service, invention, innovation or practical need by buyers and consumers, that's how benchmarks should be defined. Conquistadors were never exactly civil about wiping out South American civilizations in search of gold, under the guise of Evangelization in the name of the Pope and the Church of course. Should it then be said that conquistadors and warmongers be given higher pay over scientists and academicians or tactful and innovative entrepreneurs?



 *Image from http://diyblogger.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/spanish.png



*Image from http://www.ushistory.org/civ/images/00017560.jpg


Furthermore, there is a luck factor to gold mining. I can only speculate how countries would act and possibly invade other sovereign states for gold (as what has already been speculated on when we talk about oil and the Middle East). Hypothetically, what if one day we found out that North Korea had the richest gold mines on Earth? Are we placing that chance (of gold discovery) to fool's luck or should we turn our attention of value-perception assignment to regimes and societies that develop more useful things, more competent people and more innovative ideas? Who deserves to be rich anyway? Is it really the territory with the most shiny yellow metal?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_standard#Bretton_Woods



*Image from http://www.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/33247-Is-It-Gold-In-Here-Or-Is-It-Just-Me.jpg 


Third, in Bitcoin mining, similar to real life gold mining, luck is considered a factor. It's even a statistic in this comparison of Bitcoin mining pools



Bitcoins are the currency of the Bitcoin economy, similar to how cash is the currency to a real economy. The concept of Bitcoin mining is likened to building a book, a ledger if you will, of the money supply of the system, known as the chainblock. This chainblock isn't controlled by an ''evil'' central bank, but validated and maintained by anonymous members of the network known as miners, who incidentally are answerable to no one. Central banks ''print'' money or more appropriately increase the money supply through reverse repos, interest rate tweaks, and other monetary tools, which are implemented through the banking system. Although I have no means or evidence to say whether central banks and banks influence interest rates for self serving purposes and profit for their own account, the banking system itself undergoes checks and transparency reviews by the government (who are chosen by the state's citizens), unless of course the government reviewers are in collusion with the banking system itself. The malice in speculating about how nefarious the entire system is, especially in colluding against the common man, I leave to society to ponder on, however.




 *Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/dhu/lowres/money-banking-federal_reserve-us_federal_reserve-stimulus-stimulus_package-credit_crunch-dhun74l.jpg


Bitcoin miners, however, although they validate the chainblock and add blocks as a form of work to the network and Bitcoin economy, earn blocks as compensation for their own account, too. This means the anonymous proxy of central bankers (i.e., the Bitcoin miners) not only add pages to the ledger but also put their names in the ledger as earnings for this type of ''work''. Assuming, however, that we say that central bankers also get wages for performing their professional responsibilities as central bankers, do they also funnel more money to their personal accounts when they increase the money supply of the real economy? Do they reward themselves for ''adding'' more cash to the economy? Assuming, furthermore, that the central bank runs on the gold standard (as what the Bitcoin framework seems to try to replicate with the cap on Bitcoin supply), do central bankers add more money to their personal accounts for every new delivery of gold to the mint or gold bars to the central bank vault?


  

*Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/dpi/lowres/business-commerce-bank-bankers-central_bank-the_fed-ben_bernanke-dpin195l.jpg


We again go back to the question I've posited above, ''Are we placing that chance (of gold discovery) to fool's luck or should we turn our attention of value-perception assignment to regimes and societies that develop more useful things and ideas?''


Fourth, is a question regarding the Bitcoin economy. What is churning (The Churn) the Bitcoin economy? Is it truly the profiteer's will that merchants sell to online consumers for Bitcoin as consideration (the invisible Bitcoin hand) or is this an idealistic push that has taken-off too quickly from the pragmatist's ground? I wouldn't be surprised if merchants are Bitcoin miners themselves as well. In the end, after the 21 million Bitcoins have been mined, who's actually doing real work in the Bitcoin economy, selling goods and services? Is everyone just mining away and hoarding the Bitcoins? The end game to me can be likened to a video game, when you reach the end, you've mined every single Bitcoin there is (you've hoarded so many potions, elixirs, and whatnot and you've defeated the final boss), what exactly do you do with these magical items after? Is there a New Game+ mode? Are these items of any use to someone else? Can the members/merchants of the Bitcoin economy survive among themselves in a Bitcoin island state where they sell stuff, get Bitcoins and have to turn around and look at the selection of goods and services they can use their Bitcoins on? Who really thinks they'll be benefiting from what they've saved up, if everyone is a saver in the Bitcoin economy and no one's pushing the hamster wheel to go around? The more expenses, the more income in an economy. I can only speculate that everyone is just waiting to spend their hoarded Bitcoins on something in the future, that is, if someone will be willing to accept Bitcoins in the future, because if no one's selling/offering any service of interest, then everyone's stuck with virtual credits with no one to give it to. I've already mentioned the frictional costs/considerations to a Bitcoin economy.



*Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/money-banking-atm-cash_machines-bank_machine-banks-machine-dcr0299l.jpg


*Image from http://duckduckgrayduck.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/funny-comic-desert-island-boat-land.jpg?w=500&h=252



Looking at the chart, even without thinking that it's a chart for Bitcoins to USD value, this asset is probably a bubble. Not unless you know a friend or a neighbor who's lived and sustained his lifestyle on Bitcoins for the past year and has declared that he couldn't live without Bitcoins in his life. All the press releases, as I've mentioned earlier in this entry, are attempts of churning relevance and attention. IF similar to a Ponzi scheme, it's the last who comes in that gets scheistered. Although, if everyone is just mining (like what I'm doing), I don't think there's any true fraudulent loss to incur, except a rise in the electricity bill and an accelerated depreciation of the computer equipment. And yeah a waste of time.



*Image from http://www.stubbornmule.net/blog/wp-content/btc2.png


Finally, I've come across a very good article freshly published by Matthew O'Brien



The author points out the unfortunate curse of Bitcoin and the paradigm it runs on, that it is deflationary. As I've pointed out before, if the Bitcoin economy doesn't run, kind of like a real economy, wherein merchants can't sell their items because no one is buying, these merchants will most likely just go back to the real economy and sell for real USD's, although I'm pretty sure merchants still want to get Bitcoins this early in the game because of the skyrocketing ascent of its value as pointed out by the article's author. Ultimately, though, it is a railed path to the demise of the Bitcoin economy if no one actually goes out and uses their Bitcoins; people have apparently been hoarding them because as an ''asset'', it's value is rising multiple-fold in relation to real life currencies. This is similar to the Great Depression of the 1930's, people had no jobs, entrepreneurs couldn't source capital and produce goods and offer services or engage in risk taking for that matter. No entrepreneurial endeavor could get off the ground, save the industrial/manufacturing boom brought on by World War II after a decade. The movement of money in the economy came to a standstill (and that's why Helicopter Ben had been adamant about flooding the system with cash - he studied the Japanese economic case before after all, and maybe Yellen will be the Darth to Bernanke's Luke or is it the other way around?), mostly because of fear. Interestingly enough, the hoarding of Bitcoins in Bitcoins wallets right now is motivated by greed, with users who have, unfortunately, played dumb about the end game at this point.


All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Illusion of Cyberspace Perception

I don't think there's anything more to elaborate on but to point out the obvious; that in conspiracies and backroom machinations, we are all sheeple, unless we have first hand account of the facts.

Sheeple:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheeple 

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sheeple

As a netizen from the dialup era of the mid 1990's I've seen a lot of things, but truth be told, shaping perceptions on the Internet is a very sought after commodity these days. We can spew and publish all the insights and opinions we have for the world to suspiciously or wholeheartedly digest and acknowledge, but know that we can never be absolutely 100% sure of the truth in a half-truth laden cyberspace.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/jan/26/fake-reviews-plague-consumer-websites 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/new-york-fake-online-reviews-yoghurt 

http://ph.news.yahoo.com/fake-online-reviews-reality-check-173549889.html 

This pretty much ruins anyone's Amazon.com experience, although they do have the Amazon Verified Purchase tags for reviews.


All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Economic Consciousness By Pope Francis


The Pope had good-willed intentions in sharing his opinions to the world as a leader of a major global religion. I believe, however, that he has been over-soaked by the tragic poverty he has seen on the ground (which is very much fine and understandable). The development of economics and commerce throughout the ages has been very tumultuous for human civilization. I, for one, think that it would be best for the Pope to look at it with a scrutinizing eye using the viewpoint from the top because the basic assumption is people are looking to survive when they are born to this world; and without rules, systems, and order, we go back to the barbaric ages of having the strong take from the weak the various resources people want (not that I'm denying what's still happening today). The Pope has a lot of centuries to study on if he wants to suggest a better alternative to the economic system we have put in place. Economics after all is about the efficient allocation of "limited" resources and people fight over resources all the time - land, food, time, water, attention, and whatnot. Free markets is the most civilized form we have at this point (well, we're talking about degrees and relativism after all) and people compete for the resources they want with effort, time, innovation, talent, etc. What's most important in all of this, and what the Pope IMO should fight for is the belief in EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Equal opportunity helps everyone with the fighting chance to work for the cut they deserve in this life, considering everyone else has needs and wants as well. Considering how most countries in the Pacific Rim are looking at so many ways to make companies from the West set-up shop in their territories to give jobs to their respective citizens, I think that this perception of "slavery" that the Pope is seeing is dated. Japan became the world's 2nd economy, by "enslaving" itself and manufacturing for the US, China took over the 2nd spot by doing the same. The fact that China engages in currency manipulation to make their labor cheaper for US companies to outsource their work to its territories is an invitation to be "enslaved" by the big corporations out there and for the Chinese to eventually get to prosperity. This, of course, is unfair for the Southeast Asian countries who want to get contracted for some type of work from foreign companies as well. It's all about playing the rules of the game. Work after all (or "enslavement" in the Pope's view) is the road to a better life. These, of course, must be under the premise, that the employers ("enslavers") are compliant to labor laws and human resource development philosophies and management theories. It's not just about ordering people around but making their working lives enriching and enabling, so that everyone finds his niche, the road to success, and fulfillment in life, considering we all live with borrowed time.



All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Diffusion of Liberty, Humanity Online

There is freedom and enlightenment achieved through formal academic education. More so if the people who ought to be learning have the need and desire to do so. If a dog likes a bone and gets a kick out of doing the tricks it's being taught anyway, then it's easier to train.

Internet access has become so integrated to people's daily lives that it's extremely hard to ignore the enriching wonders that happen through the simple navigation and search for answers to questions we have or the information we need to get access to. The dastardly prison of ignorance and illiteracy that existed in the past, when information seemed to be too tedious to obtain (from the library, a book, a credible resource person, or from daily publications) is constantly being dismantled. To be the victim of question marks at this day and age is unacceptable, especially to those who have access to computers and the Internet.

The amount of texts that most people used to read prior to the web boom of the mid 1990's, is nowhere near the amount of information that kids get today. Simply put, no one has read as much from printed resources, as they do today from virtual sites on the Internet. Internet access encourages LITERACY. If anyone wants to jump right onto social networking at the very least (or serious academic research and content creation at the most) then he has to know how to read and write. The very fact that you're engaging publicly through the Internet with a computer means you've managed to rise above the illiterate/moron level because you know how to turn on a computer and use it!

A person who intends to use a computer has to know how to read the instructions. It's true that things can be trained through repetition especially if we just base it on pictures, symbols, colors, and shapes, even children can do that, but a person can only engage in more complex activities online if he knows how to read. Clicking on whatever you see on the screen will be pointless if you don't know how to read. Case in point is Facebook. The Status Feeds of Facebook presumes that a user can read what's happening as published on text and doesn't merely rely on the pictures being shown, unless he's a 2 year old. No one can pump out ideas, words or concepts online without knowing how to read or write. People may act like idiots online, but most of these people are literate. Nevermind what their intelligence levels are. It is again only basic literacy we have to consider. You can't use a computer, and go ONLINE especially, if you can't read or write.

If for example, I am unable to read or write, then by simply clicking on a dialog box (as enabled by luck, my curiosity, and my hand and eye coordination) and typing ''adf;lad aioxfac oaehfa'' - which doesn't make sense at all, only proves that I am merely capable of gibberish. Garbage in - garbage out. The idea is, if a person is illiterate then he is incapable of putting messages across through the Internet, unless he had a microphone and a listening ear on the other end.

I remember during my early years on the Web, in the mid 1990's, I would scour the net for MP2's on fan sites/rings and the concept was practically alien to other people. They had no clue about the depth of the virtual world and they would rather ridicule and label online exploration sessions as rubbish activities; but after witnessing things for almost 2 decades, I can say that whatever ridicule I've seen and embarrassment I've felt (along with other early adopters of the ''information highway'') in the 1990's are now nothing but distant memories, because everyone who knows how to read and write knows what the real deal is all about. Most literate people in the Philippines are users now, with their activities not necessarily confined to Facebook and other social networking sites, but rather as a part of a movement in this lifestyle phenomenon of Internet use.

Believe it or not, I went through high school with a Brother word processor, that's an electronic typewriter with a diskette drive and a monitor and typed away the night for my reports, while most of my classmates would simply copy and paste their reports from online resources. My poor professor couldn't even tell because he was so disconnected from the advancements in Information Tech! And this phenomenon had been happening in 1997. My point is, users are free to choose what they want to do online. The Internet and computers are merely instruments. These might encourage laziness, deception, bullying, cheating, among other deplorable acts, but that's the nature of what people do, whether online or in real life. These are moral and conscious choices we make for ourselves. A person can't label a certain activity evil or disgusting just because he has an outsider's opinion on it, that he prefers to exclude himself from engaging in it. No one should think he's better than others just because there's this snobbery on how unproductive something can be. Heck, slackers on weed are more unproductive. At least netizens create a consensual atmosphere that reflects on the domestic online culture of a country. Like for example, Filipinos have this habit of saying "Proud to be Pinoy" everytime there's some good news about some Filipino abroad. It's a habit I've witnessed mutate through the years, and that's when feeds and comments threads weren't even conceived yet and I was simply lurking BB's (Bulletin Boards) online.

As for my insights regarding the more subjective aspects on the field of humanities and the Internet, prior to the emergence of social networking online, pundits feared the disconnection between and among people due to decreased interaction with other people. It was somehow alleviated by social networking, although I must admit that physical face to face contact remains the preferred means of connecting with people. In any case, it's so hard to quantify how the integration and amalgamation of the humanities, the arts, and technology has helped promote cultural advancement, evolve perceptions of realities, and change mindsets. One very evident case is the emergence of the Arab Spring. The youth of rabidly Islamic and conservative countries in the Middle East and North Africa were able to appreciate the type of life democracy brings to the table. They've seen the lives of citizens of other countries filled with potential, opportunities, possibilities, liberties, and, well, fun.

Through the Internet, they bypassed their state controlled media and socially stagnant mindsets that were inculcated by the people who were leading their countries. They witnessed for themselves how through Youtube, Facebook, blog sites, among other Humanities-based websites (I refer to anything that promotes the arts and creativity as the Humanities field as opposed to the Hard Sciences and purely academic sites), people were creating content and making creative expressions of their humanity (through dance, comedy, filmmaking, music, poetry, etc.). They saw how liberties weren't necessarily "evil" and "worldly/materialistic" as their conservative clerics had always pounded into their heads (at least for Islam). People living in democratic countries were able to show how life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are wonderful premises in a democracy.

It is hard to quantify things, but empirically, the Internet through subjective means, through the Humanities channel, has promoted multicultural appreciation and tolerance. It's no longer about people believing in a White Man's world or any sort of mindset that promotes stereotypes and discrimination, we are presented with something that's beautifully integrated and promotes understanding among cultures and people from all over the world. Unless anyone thinks diplomatic interaction from the top is the way to go, which often depicts other people, nations, and countries under political spectra and misconceptions. And flying all over the world to meet and understand other people and other cultures isn't exactly cost effective. Many social networkers and bloggers have friends from different races, cultures, and nations abroad (regardless of political ideology) because, frankly speaking, politics can be divisive if not put into the right context.

It is worth mentioning, however, that there is indeed two sides to this. Our parish priest during last Sunday's Homily described this social networking obsession as the new culture of narcissism. I think that it's terrible that people just pump out pointless things and broadcast them to the world, while ignoring what others share online too (which can sometimes be more important than talking about what you had for lunch). Looking for reciprocity can be revealing of who the truly sincere people are and who are just broadcasting for the sake of engaging in pissing contests, which can be a very vicious cycle indeed.

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Churn

This is going to be a rather heavy write-up, but if you're willing to proceed and read through, please bear with me as I scratch this mental itch I've had for a year now, as I try to put words and "tangible" form to abstract concepts that have nagged my mind for some time now.

We all strive to search for, if not put, meaning to this temporal existence we lead that we have termed as life. As I mentioned in a previous entry, my personal belief is, "Life is in between the human mind's desire for the infinite and eternal, and the human body's regard for its mortality." We interact (whether with ourselves, others, or the world around us) on borrowed time (to whom we borrow it from, let's leave it at that for anthropomorphic aesthetics and literary appeal).

Perhaps the most convenient way in my mind to encapsulate the "situation" we (humanity/people) are in is through the lens of the Social Sciences.


As an excerpt from Wiki (oh noes!):


The social sciences developed from the sciences (experimental and applied), or the systematic knowledge-bases or prescriptive practices, relating to the social improvement of a group of interacting entities.[3][4]
 

I believe people strive to find meaning and purpose first among people, within a context of a society of independently-willed sentient individuals who are capable of introspective reflection. Hypothetically, for any one person left alone in the wild, exposed to nature's rawest forces and creatures, any purposeful experience outside of an orderly civilization and society, would be merely for the sake of survival, sustenance, and progeny.

The Natural Sciences have allowed man to harness and take advantage of the rules and resources of our Universe. We keep measuring everything we have defined and define anything we discover, but the Universe will move on, even when devoid of any sentient life, and even after the last sentient thought of humanity fades (and the field of human biological sciences will disappear with us). With this in mind, "Social Sciences is where it's at." Even if the exercises seem more like celebratory cherishing of humanity's existence and an expression of self-proclaimed relevance, the fields of Social Science will allow us to understand this Churn I have given term to.

History and Economics are probably the most likely fields among the Social Sciences that will help me give form to the Churn. Before anything else though, let's put context to this discussion. Interestingly enough, the History Channel released this TV special entitled "What's the Earth Worth": and it's obviously just a very educated estimate at $6.87 Quadrillion, but more than anything, it's a monetary value determined through humanity's consensual perception (or at least to those who are in agreement with the amount arrived at based on what the benchmark or reference point was for the pricing methodology).


The video was taken down =\, but you can always look for it: 
History Channel: What's the Earth Worth


A few hundred years ago oil and rare precious metals wouldn't have had any value worth buying or bartering for at all, but it's the need for these resources that have transformed the paradigm in commerce.

The Merriam-Webster site defines Economics as


a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services  


I went through high school and college being taught the concept that Economics deals with the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Well, from the looks of it, at $6.87 Quadrillion, there's plenty for everyone after all given the abundance of resources. However, the wheel wasn't built with a perpetual pension fund for everyone in mind. Capitalism after all is a carrot and stick hamster wheel. We live in an economic regime of price and relevance. There is no "end game" after all. If we identify the certainties of life, these would be taxes, death, and change (pitch in some other stuff if you like, but to be concise these are the three most people recognize). I think change (and struggle) define the biological and sentient beings that we are, as I have posted in my previous entry, The Paradox of Imbalance:


“Because systems at equilibrium are at a minimum of G and can do no work, a cell that has reached metabolic equilibrium is dead! The fact that metabolism as a whole is never at equilibrium is one of the defining features of life.”


and these statements have come from a Biology Book by Campbell on just the subject of Metabolism (that I may or may not have over-read)!

Change entails one more aspect that Economics gives significance to, standards of living. Sure we can go about our lives living in caves, eating whatever edible plants or animals we come across with, and live off the extremely bare necessities of life, but with civilization comes issues regarding the quality of life, longevity of life, and even luxury. Corollary to these carrots of course is the emergence of something we have termed as ambition and aspirations.

Having laid the components out, we can actually imagine how the hamster wheel has been set-up. While far from being egalitarian, this institutionalized system of encapsulating how to deal with what each individual wants to draw out from society for himself is formalized. It brings civility to the exercise of "fighting" over scarce resources (which aren't scarce at all apparently), while also encouraging ambition, innovation, risk-taking, industriousness, hard-work, greed, creativity, determination of purpose, among other traits and objectives people have set-up for themselves in such a limited span of years. We have substituted this type of mechanism as opposed to encouraging war, rape, pillaging, and other forms of conquest that seems like a natural extension of hard work (well I suppose warring, raping, and pillaging can still be hard work) for the sake of one's self, his group, or his nation.

This economic mechanism is precisely how the standards of living of human civilization has been able to avoid developmental stagnation, through innovation, adventurism, risk taking, and entrepreneurship.

I think, inherently embedded in our socio-economic system that keeps the hamster wheel in motion and keeps people to push through the struggle is what we know as inflation. Text books define it as a rise in the prices of a defined (btw, people in authority define the contents of the index based on what they see in society) basket of goods and services or as an expansion of the fiat money supply in circulation. I have always seen inflation as merely the "atmosphere that envelops the battlefield" as people fight over "scarce" resources. If a person doesn't work harder and get a better pay grade, there's a risk of him being swallowed up by his diminishing purchasing power as the prices of goods and services go up. I suppose it's a humane way of sentencing someone to death, as it eats away on a person's capabilities to buy stuff and avail of services, from the heights of luxury down to the basic necessities for human survival.

Interestingly enough, I regard the late Tupac Shakur as an economist. He knew what he was talking about (even at the street level), when people at the level of society he was part of tried to get by and push through the struggles of life. Despite songs that seemingly cherished lives filled with illegal activities, it was an up and close depiction of how the world works and what a person is capable of or what he had to do when chasing that carrot for a better tomorrow.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzYbPjHeCKw#t=57


[Tupac:]
Staring at the world through my rearview
Just looking back at the world, from another level you know what I mean?
Starin...

[Tupac]

Multiple gunshots fill the block, the fun stops
Niggaz is callin cops, people shot, nobody stop
I wonder when the world stopped caring last night
Two kids shot while the whole block staring
I will never understand this society, first they try
to murder me, then they lie to me, product of a dying breed
All my homies trying weed, now the little baby's
crazed raised off Hennesey, tell me will my enemies
flee when they see me, believe me
Even Thugs gotta learn to take it easy, listen
Through the intermissions search your heart for a plan
and we turnin Bad Boys to grown men, it's on again
I give a holla to my niggaz in the darkest corners
Roll a perfect blunt, and let me spark it for ya
One love from a thug nigga rollin with a posse
full of paranoid drug dealers, to the end my friend

I'm seein nuttin but my dreams comin true
While I'm starin at the world through my rearview (see)
[x2]

(They got me) starin at the world through my rearview
Go on baby scream to God, he can't hear you
I can feel your heart beatin fast cause it's time to die (we)
Gettin high, watchin time fly, and all my motherfuckers
[x2]

[Phil Collins:]
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Hold on
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, Hold on
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, Hold on, Hold on

[Tupac:]
Now I was raised as a young black male
In order to get paid, forced to make crack sales
Caught a nigga so they send me to these overpacked jails
In the cell, countin days in this livin black Hell, do you feel me?
Keys to ignition, use at your discretion
Roll with a twelve gauge pump for protection
Niggaz hate me in the section from years of chin checkin
Turn to Smith and Wesson war weapons
Heavenly Father I'm a soldier, I'm gettin hotter
cause the world's gettin colder, baby let me hold ya
Talk to my guns like they fly bitches
All you bustas best to run look at my bitches

Now I know the answers to the question, do dreams come true
Still starin at the world through my rearview (I say)
[x2]

(They got me) starin at the world through my rearview
Go on baby scream to God, he can't hear you
I can feel your heart beatin fast cause it's time to die
Gettin high, watchin time fly -
and all my motherfuckers/nigga can die
[x2]

[Khadafi:]
Back in the days we hustled for sneakers and beepers
Nine-six for glocks cause fiends hittin up blocks with street sweepers
Bless myself when knowin rules to these streets, somethin I learned
in school, on some Million Man March shit for the piece/peace
True that, only one life to lead, a fast life of greed
Criminally addicted, infested since a seed
We all die, breed bleed like humans, towns run
by young guns, Outlawz and truants, shit's deep
Turn eighteen, burn my will when I go
Burnt my body with my shotty, or chosin my dough
So while you reminiscin all nights out with the crew
Smoke a blunt for me too, I'm starin through your rearview

[Tupac:]
Hahahaha, you ain't knowin what we mean by starin through the rearview
So since you ain't knowin what we mean let me break down understandin
The world, the world is behind us
Once a motherfucker get an understanding on the game
and what the levels and the rules of the game is
Then the world ain't no trick no more
The world is a game to be played
So now we lookin at the world, from like, behind us
Niggaz know what we gotta do, just gotta put our mind to it and do it
It's all about the papers, money rule the world
Bitches make the world go round
Real niggaz do they wanna do, bitch niggaz do what they can't

Starin at the world through my rearview
Go on baby scream to God, he can't hear you
I can feel your heart beatin fast cause it's time to die
Gettin high, watchin time fly, ya know/and we'll be
[x4: with vocal fade]

[Phil Collins:]
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Hold on
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, Hold on
[x2]

**http://www.lyriczz.com/lyrics/2pac/50537-in-the-air-tonight-%28remix%29/


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m3B060jo_o


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCdr3lp04EQ

The magical regime of price and relevance to my mind expands the paradigm through which we all live in. Given advancements in technology and logistics, there's only a few reasons why we can't bring some form of good or service through a straight line, from point A to point B and this is already probably apparent with online shopping and other commercial activities. In any case, in the regime of price we live in, everyone involved has a cut out of the pie, a few cents here and few dollars there, just so everyone gets some type of work done, something "earned" out of the activity, and goes home happy/satisfied. Middlemen, commission-ers, eggers-on, marketers, and other seemingly unnecessary parties to a transaction justify (in one way or another) their relevance to the deal and their appropriate share from the price. The justification of relevance itself is an exercise of survival and of earning a living within the hamster wheel. Sure, we can cut-off the excess fat from a deal, but it's tantamount to taking away jobs. If we look at the music recording industry during the emergence of the digital age, it was losing huge chunks of revenue from illegal downloads online, then in one way or another, to stop the hemorrhaging, it found a compromise through online distribution facilities (like the Apple Store, where we can buy and download songs at .69/.99/$1.29 cents a pop). Of course the whole ordeal was already in place anyway, so a lot of middlemen and promoters probably lost out on their share of the price-pie.

While we're on the subject of the music industry, what economic role or contribution do artists and entertainers provide anyway (this is probably also true for other performers of the arts, writers, and even athletes)? It's interesting to me though that as abstract as their craft, products, and services are, they are a form of escapism and of course entertainment for everyone else. They are, after all, bastions of the "arts and humanities'' (and athletics). Moreover, what's apparently special for entertainers and some athletes is the life they live to display for the world to see. It's a reinforcement of ambition and aspirations among people. It's an implicit invitation to go after a better life (that unfortunately often promotes envy and greed). Ordinary people would instantly think how anyone could afford these luxuries and why would they NEED excesses to the basics. The display of opulence has its relevance in the system, even if seemingly awful in reinforcing materialism. Materialism after all helps keep everyone busy with some sort of purpose or relevance, whether truly integral to a process or merely a niche role.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iCd6UHR-3I


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmeUuoxyt_E


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMyl0MrXKEk


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AWJ8vUzvDA


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndB_XkQTwFM


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwixjSKtJIY


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z57HaInKz94


While I did post a feature on Carlos Slim's home, people can easily point out that Warren Buffett lives a simple and humble lifestyle, but in any case, that's not the whole point I'm driving at. Warren Buffett's persona himself as a story of success who has earned billions is already an invitation for ambition and aspirations. In fact, any rich fellow can opt to live a simple life and it's a luxury in itself to have that choice to limit the opulence, but the guy at the gutter level of the system cannot have that choice.

I am amazed at how marketers and ads-people get to carve out their relevance in the system by inducing other people to consume goods and services that most of the time aren't necessary at all. Their abstract skills to make things seem relevant, induce demand, encourage consumerism and materialism, and manipulate perception are a wonder in capitalism. Heck, they actually give jobs to laborers, who would otherwise be stuck making all the unavoidable and ''necessary'' stuff for humanity. Why not make a useless novelty product? Why not build silly things that some dude would be willing to squander his money on because it's ''cool''? While it seems all too sneaky, it also gives other people jobs, as they work on seemingly irrelevant goods and services, that people would have otherwise passed over. There are so many things that people can live without, but are produced anyway, just because in one way or another, whether due to the machinations of marketers and ads-men or not, have stroked people's egos, hit insecurities, or inflamed desires to give color and individuality to an otherwise dull and streamlined life. This ad/marketing revolution, I might add, is the fuel that keeps Internet commerce (and even its existence) running. I mean, those administrators, servers, wires, cables, and other hardware that make-up this network of networks (i.e., the Internet) aren't going to pay for themselves. Thank you capitalism for Advertising Budgets!

And what is the point to all this "customization" of people's lifestyle when we live with a limited lifespan anyway, that after some time, people move on as others pass away? As I enjoy watching Pawnstars, The American Pickers, Storage Wars, American Restoration, Auction Hunters, (I haven't watched any Barter Kings episode yet), there's something that I've come to conclude about the regime of price. Aside from the concepts of Demand and Supply, of Rarity and Oversupply, it's the perception of the need and the price, which is often very true to collectors and people who feel like they need to possess some tangible form of history and something related to their personal memories. And come that Estate sale for these items, you know the bargains are going to pop-up, because the perceptions of the heirs don't necessarily come from the original owner/deceased. If we talk about the margins, above the basic cost that it took to produce something and considering the availability of the good or service, prices are often flexible and are influenced by perception.

If indeed there's an abundance of raw materials to make goods (as shown on What's the Earth Worth), then how are baseline prices of extracting these resources determined? There are mercantile exchanges that comprise the financial markets and demand and supply help the markets find that equilibrium price of compromise between buyers and sellers, but in the spirit of Louis Bacelier's Theory of Speculation, between buyers and sellers, someone has to speculate, make a move, take risks, and take a position. There is the idea of perception working in the minds of free-willed independent decision makers. To highlight the idea, if everyone knew what the outcome of a deal was or what the resulting price of a stock would be in 3 hours, then everybody would just be sitting tight; holders of the stock won't sell it until a certain price is exceeded, and buyers of the stock won't buy into the stock until it's cheaper than what the apparent price expectation is in 3 hours, so it would apparently be a quagmire. So neither party would make a move, but the world is ever changing, it is a certainty of life, perceptions of people change based on what their minds process amid the environment and other people's actions, so under the context of making decisions to earn money, speculations occur and risk taking happens. These are all influenced by individualized perception, if everyone had the same perception, then no one would be in disagreement as to how something should be priced and no deal or trade ever occurs in a situation like that.

This is probably also true with Gold being a precious metal that most cultures have found valuable. It isn't edible for sustenance and in no way should it even have value to basic survival of a biological being, but perception (probably because it's shiny) and history of civilization has reinforced it's value as a commodity. Whether we live in a floating interest rate regime with fiat money or the Gold standard, it's still all about perception of what the value of things should be. Apparently, people are in search of credible benchmarks against which other things should be compared to and valued with. Given drop-down interest rates, "money is cheap" because people can borrow at a cheaper consequence of paying the interest, but beyond that is the atmosphere in the paradigm - of encouraging risk-taking and churning out more money that people can fight over with whatever activities they attempt to engage in. The Churn itself is a rinse and repeat process that will extend longer than what one or two generations can observe. Before the pattern of rinse and repeat is realized, the older generations would have died off or have arrived at their twilight years, that it wouldn't even have mattered. Governments, their sovereign debt, and their taxing power are of course longer in their existence, but the decisions of one generation's government are also tied with the decision-makers and politicians of today, and are destined to experience the rinse and repeat cycle in any case. The experience of Europe (the financial and monetary burdens of the members of the EU) is a migration of the standards of living to Asia. After all, the system and The Churn is an induced mechanism of appropriating resources to where things are most relevant. Capitalism is about Demand and Supply, efficient allocation requires resources to be put where they should be. While I do not have any data or metrics, it can certainly be said that in Asia, labor is cheap and overtime and extra exertion at work is common place. I do not know what type of working environment and experience Europe has, but apparently the sacrifices of the past generations of Asians have allowed allocators of resources (the markets) to take notice that they can stretch their money and earn more if they invested in the Asian Region. The heavily-subsidized and socialist programs of Europe of course have taken their toll on their sovereign finances (a lot of freebies).











I have not done a more in-depth analysis of the situation and it's probably up to the readers to arrive at better conclusions, but in any case, the illustration here is how government policies can be maneuvered while a gestation period is set in place (intentionally or unintentionally) and while the citizens of the populace (with their limited life spans - below 100 years) are subjected to the circumstances of the situation. Rarely do current generations reap the benefits of change instantaneously. Call it the trickle down effect, the lag of execution or whatever in any case, people will have to deal with what they are put in when they belong to a system. Loopholes to the system are one way that a person can get ahead, if it's illegal then they have to pay with jail time and other penalties. After all, we merely play with the cards we are dealt with. And that's probably important to note, the WAY that we play with the cards we are dealt with. In the end, The Churn was designed with economic distribution in mind. It's in someway streamlined to work already. Beyond that, however, it is up to people to fill in the void of finding meaning to their existence, to find an authentic purpose outside of what the system of the Churn wants us to believe is our true purpose, i.e. educate ourselves, find a job, work for the economy (and for one's self, group or family), raise a family, raise a child (an economic component), retire, RINSE AND REPEAT. I think in between those seams and gaps of the Churn is where the excitement is. It is a path of self discovery in someway, once the distractions of what the Churn is supposed to be are set aside. I really need to buy this:





and finally start with this Astrophotography hobby I've been procrastinating on for so long.


All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jabbawockeez in Manila 2013

 There are two things I've discovered for two straight nights:

1) A Jabba show is definitely one unforgettable experience
2) You can hold a camera up over your head for more than an hour filming something, if you switch between hands (warning: will involve strain and pain)

I managed to film the entire show. I have no way of confirming if this is the same dance set they use in their  MUS.I.C. show, but since the Jabbawockeez are moving to a more permanent venue at Luxor Hotel & Casino (from the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino), this tour is nevertheless a milestone for them. 


They remain the most recognized ABDC (America's Best Dance Crew) winner and have recently received the Living Legend of Hip Hop award by Hip Hop International during the World Hip Hop Dance Championship Finals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Congratulations to them!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ab8o6MWYPLI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fUrzf0txauI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yFyvLuHKNTE


Now, I'm not about to give all the goods just yet without tormenting my visitors with some politically themed rant. I don't want to soil the mood, so if you're the masochistic kind, just highlight the next paragraphs. It's pretty amazing how far the world has come, especially in this Internet connected world. During the Commonwealth years of the Philippines, there were Federalist proponents who wanted full integration of the Philippines with the United States, from a colony into a state. The idea was basically to become part of the US sovereignty and it's easy to conclude how risky it was to even harbor the idea, especially given the racially segregated society that the US had been plagued with during that era.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SVD_e-6rKgU

It would've been a 2nd citizen's life for Filipinos IMO. Of course with the maturing sentiment and principles of society, more so pronounced in a society like the United States', it's pretty awesome to think how 2nd generation immigrants have found opportunities in the US. The stories of some members of the Jabbawockeez are merely part of what's unfolding in the search for opportunities of livelihood, success, and fulfillment through globalization and the emigration of people. These are furthemore facilitated in a world of tolerance and liberal dissemination of facts, ideas, and opinions (through the Internet and mass media, aside from printed media). Technology has absolutely changed the perception of humanity regarding other nations, cultures, peoples, and events. Ignorance has always been a divisive and shackling curse to any society, especially with racism and discrimination. IMO, principles and values are created through consensual tolerance and volition, with empathy, sensitivity, and understanding at the very core of formulating a humane society. People are hindered in making choices, generating opinions, and acting on them if they are encased with blinders, as pulling horses are given.

*Image from http://bekindtoustrolls.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/horse-blinders.jpg

 *Image from http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z152/UCLABruinKid/Tennessee-blinders.jpg

If people are expected to make educated and intelligent choices, then it's pretty obvious they have to be given the tools to become enabled, educated, and intelligent individuals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlSxs8aUSY4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT9itH1QB1k

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnGYi_9pdeU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nxy5NJY_8I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CTh6jy6qRw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdpvMByxc24

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S-3Li6u8Nk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKegCgp7jMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzwpegJQuAI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5SVzMuZ75Q

Anyway, back to the show. SuperCr3w performed with the Jabbawockeez btw, you know, the group that brazenly waved the Filipino flag during the ABDC Season 2 Finals. That basically alienated their market IMO, but I guess that's a tactical business error that wasn't instantly foreseen, but was repairable in any case and they're enjoying their own crew's fame just the same anyway.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kpEjCcu7sp4

I personally feel that Filipinos being historically bashed and berated by their colonizers have some form of cultural low self-esteem, sort of how a black sheep child of disappointment would always have a chip on his shoulder. And this is basically the secret origin of why people often find the irritating influx of "proud to be Pinoy" posts/comments being made by Filipinos on whatever success story or article there is on the web that mentions some form of Filipino involvement. I always find myself facepalming when I see these, but I can only speculate that these are merely posted by kids who don't know any better and just rub people the wrong way.

So the show was definitely a success and more than anything, it showed how the world is changing for the better. These dudes have always aimed to inspire people from all over and the media and the Internet have given them platforms to do so. Gone are the days that people have to chase a position of power (in politics or in any institution) or showbiz fame in order reach to out to others with their agenda/messages (well maybe ABDC helped out a bit too). If people believe and admire someone, especially in the case of the Jabbawockeez, then they will willingly follow (Twitter and Facebook anyone?!) and listen to the message. Positivity and inspiration are pretty admirable messages to draw from what the Jabbawockeez bring.

I'm very psyched to know how the Filipino culture extends through these guys. I guess the world-renowned value of hospitality that Filipinos never fail to exhibit shines through in other values, especially in tolerance, adaptation, appreciation, and respect. Philippine colonial history has been cruel, but I suppose that has brought out optimism and tolerance in the core values of Filipinos. Interestingly, SB introduced Kevin "KB" Brewer as his Filipino brethren and that's one prime example of how accepting our culture is. KB is definitely a Flip in my mind and I think he's married to a Filipina anyway. There are of course other ethnicities in the Jabbawockeez crew: Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, but just so we're clear, they have been and are still Americans. In any case, I don't think it should really matter anyway, but I suppose the Flip members are simply expressing their gratitude to where they take their ethnic roots from. I hope my previous points of discussion comes full circle with that idea in mind.




*Image from http://www.ciibroadcasting.com/wp-content/uploads/rac.jpg

Racist Test Tuesdays are damn funny, btw!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=It9tzMce8bg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=i9hmWpDPvz4

***Incidentally, today, January 21, 2013, is the inauguration of Barack Obama for his 2nd Presidential Term and amazingly it's also Martin Luther King Day in the United States!

***UPDATE

Here is Barack Obama's 2013 Inauguration Speech

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BzC135ql_wA

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2013. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.