Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kiev protest photos

Insane photos from the Kiev protest/riot/revolution going on at the moment.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

When Cities Reclaimed the Network

[TLDR: It's land-grab time for cities. Claim your assets and your friends now, before the lawyers get here.]

In the Guardian this weekend, playwright David Greig puts forward a possible, but realistic knock-on effect if Scotland were to go all indie, namely a backlash against the over-centralised power and authority of London. He goes as far as saying that Westminster itself is now outdated (a viewpoint that seems relevant whether Scotland split or not):
"It's about renegotiating the union in creative, modern terms in the world we live in. We don't need a state built for empire any more. It's absurd. We don't need to reform the House of Lords: we need to start again," he said.
Over on my Bitcoin blog, I've become convinced that national currencies are due for a shakeup (see, for example, the recent impact on China). The centralised powers which wield their national currencies as weapons understand that those currencies still need to be based on resources - theoretically national resources but - increasingly - more directly flexible resources. In other words, the British Pound is depending more and more on the London Poundbrokers. (See also data from 2011 in this PDF for more background.)

Seeing fast results would seem to be a natural path for 4-year democratic cycles to tend towards. Boosting short-term figures - and being able to show that it was your party what boosted them - gives political marketeers something easy to spin. So it makes "sense" for national policy to bolster its "nearest", strongest sectors.

But in the short and long term, people know when they're being left behind, despite politicians' promises about "trickle down". There are two option at this point - two routes for the "unfavoured" to get back a political future: either be really clever about disrupting the status quo (ie. sell yourself well), or be really good at managing yourself (ie. run yourself well).

Brand new, new brand

Is 2014 really going to be the year that power centres fragment? As competition hots up between cities, and as historical symbols become more and more important for tourist-value (assuming a lack of other real growth industries), can we expect to see a land-grab for the nation's most treasured assets?

In the EU, we already have Protected Designations of Origin for "place-branded" foods and drinks - Champagne has to come from the Champagne region, etc. As cities and localities battle for "historical uniqueness", plundering their timelines for stuff to virtually sell, could we see the same for assets? (And if so, but of less interest as it'd be fairly abstract/arbitrary, what would this be based on?)

In short... cities - start trademarking your famous icons now, while you still can!


Secondly, where will this leave economic powers? After all, the whole purpose of national currencies (these days) is to pretend they're of value to people outside the state (so they buy them and keep the state going), and get everyone inside to generate it so they can hand it to the central power. All very 17th century.

If those in charge of "your" currency aren't particularly acting in "your" favour, that purpose starts to break down. Joining a currency is like learning a language - communication is supposed to be a two-way advantage: I can speak to you as well as listen, and we both benefit.

In other words, currencies and languages are both vehicles for network externalities - more actors and links in the network, in theory, boosts the gain to each individual actor. But uneven networks can also easily lead to lock-in effects, and as the distribution of power across the network starts to form around fewer nodes, the reasons for everyone else being part of the network start to dwindle.

Sub-nets join, the network forks, and splits become jealousy and culture.

I've been struggling to find a place where localised economics - local currencies such as the Brixton Pound - really fit in. Now I get that this is because currencies aren't about place - they're about cooperation. Currencies enable cooperation where other types of link (such as neighbourhood trust) have yet to exist. We've started to see this as part of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) programmes - but not in a fully formed state. Yet.

Cities don't need their own currency. Cities need currencies that will let them collaborate with other, like-minded, well-resourced cities.

In short... cities - know who your friends are sooner rather than later.

Mortal Engines

In the Mortal Engines series of books, cities have become massive, mechanical, roaming Traction Cities which battle to consume each other. While we're a little way off something like that, it's clear that however Scotland votes, times outside London are going to start getting tough. And more importantly, they're going to start getting questionable.

At the end of the day though, it's pretty basic. Know your resources. Choose your friends. It's all very 17th century really.

And watch out for the lawyers.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Men of Focus say goodbye - final track

I've been sitting on this track a while, but the first day of the year seemed like a good point to make the cut. "Sometimes Everything Left Is Somewhere Else (Goodbye Intro)" is the final track I'm going to release under the "Men of Focus" name. You can play/download it from the Soundcloud page, or see the embed below.

Men of Focus has always been an "experimental" banner, but with the release of the Temporary Episodes EP last year, and with Caustic version 3 hitting the streets, it feels like a good time to take making music to a more "consistent" level.

(OK, I'm not really sure what I mean by that, but I do now think of things in EP terms rather than one-off test cuts.)

It'll probably take some time until something new comes out - it usually takes me years to think up a new name... In the meantime, enjoy the tune.