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navigating to the new economy

Today President Donald Trump proved once again he’s not up to the job and has zero interest in anyone but his narcissistic self. By leaving the Paris Accord, he’s dragging an embarrassed United States into a very exclusive club – joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world not actively participating in efforts to minimize the impacts of global climate change.

Of course this suits Trump perfectly – he sees himself as a big fish and now he’s belly flopped into a very small pond. All under the guise of bringing back jobs in the coal industry. Maybe Trump is so naive that he believes that could happen (if it’s been on Fox it must be true!). More likely, it’s just a cruel, morally bankrupt narrative that pumps up his base while he screws them over six ways from Sunday. That’s Trumps Art of the Deal – just substitute ‘Trump’ whenever he says ‘America’ and you see his true colours.

Under Trump, the US has now officially stepped down from any form of credible leadership role in the world. Truly a day that will go down in infamy.

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America’s ‘Exceptional’ Delusion

Angled_closeup_of_the_US_flagEconomic inequality, racial tensions on the rise, militarized police forces, the NRA’s power over politicians, public education cuts, crumbling infrastructure and dysfunctional government are clear signs the US is truly ‘exceptional’ – just not in the way it thought it was.

This inciteful article based on an interview with American historian Morris Berman, compares how Japan’s cultural history based on it’s crafts tradition, embrace of emptiness and awareness of death and impermanence may enable them to be better equipped to transition to a ‘post-capitalist’ model than America will.

What I’m suggesting, in terms of the difference between Japan and America in this regard, is that while the latter has no craft tradition, or philosophical tradition (beyond pragmatism), or way of being in the world other than hustling and economic expansion, the former has centuries of a very different way of life in its background—one that involved no-growth, homeostatic, “Buddhist” economics. One sees, in contemporary Japan, an endless conflict between East and West, between tradition and modernity; and when modernity fails, as it surely will, the Japanese at least have their traditions to fall back on. America has no such fallback position; it floats, not between tradition and modernity, but between modernity and collapse—which we see all around us today.

While there seem to be some glimmers of recognition from the Democrats vying for the 2016 Presidential race that they need to ‘Take Back America’ from the 1 percenters who are ransacking the country for their own profit – it may be too late to prevent a precipitous slide into a messy civil conflict that’s heating up on several fronts.

Will Canada find itself desperately trying to cope with an onslaught of American refugees at the border in the decades to come?

Read the full article: “America floats between modernity & collapse”: What Japan can teach the U.S. about averting disaster Via: Salon.com

Image: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

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Social Skills are Key in the New Economy

industrial-network age comparison-smRemember all those lifelong factory labour jobs that were off-shored in the past two decades? They’re about to be robot food – even in China.

If you’re still hoping the Industrial Age is eventually going to come back to life – think again. Just because more manufacturing is returning to North America & Europe – don’t be fooled into thinking those old middle class jobs coming with them.

Reputation and social capital is the currency of the new sharing economy.

This interview with Jeremy Rifkin: In New Economy, ‘Social Skills Count More Than Work Skills’ from The World Post has the most comprehensive description I’ve read of how our economy is transitioning from the Second Industrial Revolution to the Third Industrial Revolution.

Rifkin: “…we are beginning to see that a mass surge of employment is migrating out of the market and into the social economy, the not-for-profit economy, where human social capital counts more than economic capital. Machines are subsidiary in this sector because they can’t care for children or the elderly for example. Culture and Sports are other examples of employment islands sheltered from the storm. The social economy is the fastest growing employment sector in the world right now.”

Creativity, collaboration and critical thinking skills are the key to adapting in an increasingly complex world that’s changing too fast for any one person to fully comprehend.

Via: The World Post

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White House Embraces Maker Movement

Kinetic Sculpture - Image by Michel DeschênesIf you’re curious, creative and love to learn by playing and experimenting – you’ve got a great future ahead. President Barack Obama recognizes the importance of the growing Maker Movement in transitioning from the Industrial Age to the New Economy.

“Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff — by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building,” President Obama said before the inaugural White House Maker Faire in June.

Stephanie Santoso, Phd candidate at Cornell University was appointed as a senior advisor on Making for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.As an advocate for the maker community, she helped organize the White House’s Maker Faire this past summer.

The Faire was really designed to be a call to action, to signal to everybody in the U.S. and around the world. Making is going to be super important for technological innovation and solving pressing problems, whether that’s related to global health or empowering makers who have great product ideas to take those ideas to market.

Makerspaces are popping up across the continent in Libraries, Universities, schools and in collaboration with arts communities. Joining a makerspace let’s you learn real-world skills and collaborate with others in a safe and productive environment.

Full Article: ‘6 Questions For The White House’s Maker-In-Chief Stephanie Santoso‘ Via: Fast Company

Image: Michel Deschênes via Wikimedia Commons- CC BY-SA 3.0

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Aiden Robinson with lego prosthetic hand-screenshot

Aiden Robinson has worn a prosthetic hand of some sort since he was a baby. Some have worked better than others for him, but they had to be replaced frequently as Aiden grew, and the most functional myoelectric prosthetics aren’t often available or are too expensive for children.

Robinson, along with nine other kids with upper limb loss recently attended a week-long Superhero Cyborg Camp, run by KIDmob, a San Francisco nonprofit organization. The goal of this design education workshop is to teach design, problem-solving & prototyping skills. Aiden focused on designing a highly adaptable prosthetic limb that allows him to do what he needs it to do. Coby Unger, an Artist in Residence at 3D software maker Autodesk was so impressed with Aiden’s project he offered to help to refine Aiden’s prototype.

This collaboration between a child and a professional maker has resulted in a better overall prosthetic. Unger created a version of the prototype that could be remolded and reshaped to grow with Robinson, and used materials commonly found at hardware or sporting goods stores. He made polished versions of Robinson’s Wii remote controller and fork, and also helped developed other ideas. The life-size LEGO hand attachment that Robinson presented at camp was revised into a hooked hand with the same interlocking bumps as a LEGO set so he can build out new ideas using the popular block sets.

I absolutely love to discover real-world stories like this. It demonstrates how we need to foster the creative collaborative opportunities that are the foundation of innovation we need in the coming decades.

UPDATE: Coby Unger has added a link in the Comments to his ‘how-to’ article on Instructables, detailing how he worked with Aiden to develop his prosthetic. It’s a must read.

The Boy With the Lego Hand via The Atlantic

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interior of abandoned schoolUS Charter schools are starting to show the same weakness for serving the public good as ‘for-profit’ prisons. They breed corruption and profits for the investors and the public pays the price.

When state governments offload expensive public services to the private sector they’re essentially abdicating their role as public servants. Sure, if you can afford to pay to send your child to a shiny new school with up-to-date textbooks you be crazy not to right? Sadly, you discover your money doesn’t buy a better education for your children but you did pay your fair share of that nifty new corporate jet.

York teachers and parents have good reasons to be wary of charter school takeover. As a new report discloses, charter school officials in their state have defrauded at least $30 million intended for school children since 1997.

The report, “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools,” was released by three groups, the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education, and ACTION United.

Startling examples of charter school financial malfeasance revealed by the authors –just in Pennsylvania – include an administrator who diverted $2.6 million in school funds to a church property he also operated. Another charter school chief was caught spending millions in school funds to bail out other nonprofits associated with the school. A pair of charter school operators stole more than $900,000 from the school by using fraudulent invoices, and a cyber school entrepreneur diverted $8 million of school funds for houses, a Florida condominium, and an airplane.

The more concerning consequence is that US public schools are incredibly underfunded and closing at an alarming rate. There are some glimmers that parents are waking up to the fact that for-profit companies don’t put the public’s best interest ahead of their own.

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies Via Salon

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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John D Rockefeller & John D Rockefeller Jr.Anybody over the age of fifty has a crystal clear idea of how the Rockefeller family made it’s fortune – Oil. That’s what makes today’s announcement that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund along with 49 other foundations divesting from 200 gas and oil companies an unprecedented game changer in my view.

As co-founders of the Standard Oil Company in 1870, brothers John D. Rockefeller and William Rockefeller created the largest multinational Oil refining company in the world. Today, after 140 years of continuously streamlining fossil fuel production we can all see the writing on the wall – we’ve got to leave it in the ground or doom our grandkids to a bleaker future than we can even imagine.

While many scoff at the idea that the divestment initiative that 350.org has been encouraging will have any financial impact on the oil companies, it’s an incremental strategy much like the way the tide was turned on Big Tobacco and Apartheid in South Africa.

The timing of this announcement – just a day before the 2014 UN Climate Change Summit begins in New York City is obviously no coincidence. Adding the Rockefeller name to the growing list of organizations divesting from oil and coal is a big step towards action on climate change. Let’s see if our political leaders have an interest anyone’s future but their own.

Rockefellers Divesting From Big Oil via The Huffington Post

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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4 AXYZ - 3-D printed chairBy now, just about anyone who’s paying attention to technology has heard of 3-D printing and how additive manufacturing is poised to disrupt the way we design, build and buy stuff. While 3-D printed objects of plastic, metal, ceramics and even concrete can be practical and useful – many of our most cherished pieces are made of wood.

How the heck do you 3-D print wood?

Well, 4AXYZ (pronounced 4AXES), a British Columbia, Canada startup is in the process of gearing up for 3-D printing solid wood objects using what they call a Stratified Additive Manufacturing (SAM) process. And not a moment too soon. The traditional woodworking craftsman and solid wood furniture have been fading from the spotlight for a couple of decades – overshadowed by plywood, MDF and particle board cabinets and furniture – mass produced with CNC machinery which uses a subtractive process. The cost of truly creative and unique wooden furniture has gone beyond the budget of the average family.

Wood has a warmth and beauty that we humans respond to in ways we may not even be aware of – especially within our interior environments where we spend more time than ever before. 4AXYZ is taking the lead in developing a sustainable, next-generation woodworking technology that can incorporate different wood species, and even other materials into custom-designed, on-demand products that can be delivered within 15 days of ordering. CAD designs created anywhere in the world can be sent to the 3-D “printer” located closest to the customer – enabling the use of local materials and labour and saving on shipping costs.

4AXYZ is currently seeking $1 Million funding through Indiegogo to build a large-scale production machine.

Image: Epoch Times

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A Glimmer of Hope in the Repair Renaissance

Repair card from Mille Bornes Card gameThere’s an encouraging new DIY trend appearing – a return to the days when we actually tried fixing stuff instead of throwing it away – Repair Cafés.

A repair cafe is essentially a co-ordinated get-together of people who like to fix things and people who have things that need to be fixed.

It’s a great combination of resource sharing and community building that’s long overdue. We’re throwing out huge volumes of stuff that could continue to have a useful purpose for you or someone else with just a minor repair like replacing a fuse or a two dollar part.

The societal shift toward products that are untouchable, robotic and useless when single parts break has given rise to a number of unfortunate consequences. First off, our landfills have swollen: The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash per day, compared to 2.68 pounds in 1960, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, we’ve been forced into shallow relationships with our material possessions and have become increasingly dependent on manufacturers. And finally, overall craftsmanship has declined, and we possess fewer objects worth taking pride in and passing to the next generation.

The repair café idea, not unsurprisingly, sprang to life in Europe in 2009 in reaction to the economic crisis, it’s now spreading to the US. Repair cafés are being held in large cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and recently Portland Oregon.

Like the maker movement, the ‘repair renaissance’ will likely grow slowly and steadily over a long period of time. The good news is – it’s underway.

The Glorious Feeling of Fixing Something Yourself via The Atlantic

Image: Wikimedia Commmons (Share Alike 3.0)

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UPS Getting Into the 3-D Printing Business

3-D printing by Pop Culture Geek CC BY 2.0No big surprise that UPS is getting into the 3-D printing business. After all, it’s not much different from the other printing services that they’ve offered for years. It’s a natural extension that literally adds a new dimension to the service printing industry.

This is exactly where 3-D printing will make the most sense (and profit) in the coming decades. Sure it’s nice to think about having a 3-D printer on your desk at home – but ask yourself – how many practical and useful things are you going to make from extruded plastic that will make it a pay to own one? A lot of the stuff we use and need are made of metal or a combination of different materials that an inexpensive home printer just can’t produce. A service business like UPS can invest in the higher-cost industrial printers and serve a broader market.

Staples announced last year that they’re offering 3-D printing using ordinary paper (Belgium & the Netherlands only) – obviously this has a more limited use but it’s a great match for a company that’s in the paper and office supply business.

In a few years I expect it to be pretty standard operating procedure to purchase a ‘licensed’ replacement part 3-D file from a manufacturer that you can take to the local print shop to print out for you. No waiting for delivery or shipping charges!

3D Printing Goes Mainstream Retail (via The Atlantic)

Image: by Pop Culture Geek CC BY 2.0

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