There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist.
Work, work, work, work, work, sings Rihanna through the grocery store sound system. Why do we have to do it? What else do we have to do? The questions are staging a comeback. Old dreams of new deals and new dreams of old jobs wake and walk. David Graeber’s latest book, Bullshit Jobs, is one of many contributions to this rethinking.
Ten thousand desert rats, 10,000 fish, 14,000 sheep, 1,000 lambs, 1,000 fat oxen and many more creatures slaughtered, cooked and served: that is how Ashurnishabal of Mesopotamia (883-859 BCE) pampered almost 70,000 guests for 10 days. The Archbishop of York’s enthronement feast in 1466 CE required 104 oxen, 2,000 geese, 1,000 capons, 1,000 sheep, 400 swans, 12 porpoises and seals, and a great number of other birds and mammals. In an appropriately grandiose sidebar to his ornate reign as king of France, Louis XIV became incapacitated by overeating at one of his own weddings.
As e-mail was taking over the modern office, researchers in the theory of distributed systems—the subfield in which, as a computer scientist, I specialize—were also studying the trade-offs between synchrony and asynchrony. As it happens, the conclusion they reached was exactly the opposite of the prevailing consensus. They became convinced that synchrony was superior and that spreading communication out over time hindered work rather than enabling it.
From the start, it was hard to know whose side Ferdinand Magellan was on. Born in northern Portugal around 1480, Magellan, an orphaned son of lesser nobles, spent decades serving the Portuguese crown in its wars abroad, in India and Malaysia. One might think Magellan was the epitome of national devotion. But in 1518, after being rejected by the Portuguese authorities, Magellan turned to his country’s greatest rival: Spain.
By Rahul Sharma
Mr Jack Dorsey might have his political views and Mr Donald Trump might have many twigs to pick with Twitter, but there should not be any argument over who’s the best ambassador and brand builder for the social media platform.
It is the U.S. President – the most powerful man in the world — who has unabashedly taken the Twitter route to push his point of view and policy changes in a way no other global leader has.
His late night tweets may have more to do with him and his place in the sun than for Twitter, but indirectly he has shown the power of an idea that Dorsey introduced to the world and by doing so become its best advertiser.
Sometime after Mr Trump won the US presidency in a victory that left many wondering where the good old world was heading, a friend from New York stated rather eloquently that it was going to soon turn into a bad new world — one which many could see coming, but had chosen to shut their minds to.
The newly installed world’s most powerful leader hadn’t really started his tirades on Twitter by then; he was only beginning to learn the power of this communication tool that he would eventually put to very good use.
Mr Trump, the friend went on to say, would challenge everything that the good old world had to offer – ethics, civility, decency, equality, stability and most of all the status quo of an era that in his view had done no good to America and Americans.
History will begin with him, and he will ensure that it is he — and no one else — who takes the credit for the changes he was about to bring about to the ways the world’s most powerful nation ran, I was told over a long conversation interrupted only by sips of some awesome whiskey.
Mr Trump — despite his shortcomings and lack of political knowledge — would control the narrative thanks to his penchant of jabbing his fingers on the phone to tweet his what was once considered his silly world view late at night after a burger meal in reaction to television news he didn’t agree with.
Indeed, as Mr Trump prepares to contest his second term as the US president, it is clear how he has used Twitter to hugely impact both domestic and foreign policy — forcing many of his opponents, followers and some of the world’s biggest leaders running scared.
Imagine waking up to a tweet from Trump that just changed the course of global trade? Or the fate of a global corporation? Or one spooked that the leader of a neighbouring country? Or, for that matter, one that announced a meeting with the leader of a country the American establishment had bashed around as enemy number one for more than half a century – North Korea.
As a communication tool, Twitter could claim to be the most influential and impactful — allowing world leaders to send out crisp, concise messages that have the ability to change the course of the world, sometimes permanently.
The trade spat with China that Trump triggered through Twitter is a good example. Gone are the days when subtle, confusing and sensible messages were sent out of the White House through official leaks or briefings. This president is more direct and he really believes that he alone can make America great again. So be it!
In fact Mr Trump has used Twitter to slam Twitter too. On a day he was to meet Mr Dorsey, he railed against Twitter calling the company “very discriminatory” and said it did not treat him well as a Republican.
He also accused Twitter of playing political games and worried about a supposed non-conservative bias on the platform. The challenge probably works well for Dorsey, as it positions his company as one that is open to hearing from the worst of its critics.
As I said earlier, Mr Trump is possibly the best ambassador for Twitter. The tweeting blue bird that has taken over our lives may or may not be proud of that association, but we could well argue that a lot of its power, visibility and relevance emerges from the fingers of the current U.S. president.
And for those who fear Mr Trump’s so-called inconsistencies and unpredictability, there is hard lesson ahead. If he can do what he doing, there are others who are there to follow — if not already keeping pace.
In fact, there would be very few world leaders who are not on Twitter – reaching to their constituencies and stakeholders directly with messages that leave the middlemen and traditional media dumbfounded and very worried.
The good old world has finally turned into bad new world, one that many are still grappling to come to terms with. All thanks to Mr Trump and Mr Dorsey’s Twitter!
A library at its most essential, a space that holds a collection of books. A dedicated room or building is not technically necessary…But whatever form a library takes, someone had to have chosen the books in it, which reveal the secrets of heart and mind—their cares, their greeds, their enthusiasms, their obsessions.
Many feel anxious about the impact of new technology on their jobs. This is not new. In fact, it dates back at least to the Luddites movement at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. And it resurfaced during the Great Depression and again in the 1960s, following a period of high productivity growth, and in the 1980s at the outset of the IT revolution. How can governments help?
The Vatican Secret Archives is one of the grandest historical collections in the world. It’s also one of the most useless. The grandeur is obvious. Located within the Vatican’s walls, next door to the Apostolic Library and just north of the Sistine Chapel, the VSA houses 53 linear miles of shelving dating back more than 12 centuries. It includes gems like the papal bull that excommunicated Martin Luther and the pleas for help that Mary Queen of Scots sent to Pope Sixtus V before her execution. In size and scope, the collection is almost peerless. That said, the VSA isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible.
The material and moral progress made possible by the Enlightenment is evident across a wide range of metrics, from human rights to life expectancy. But today’s political leaders seem inadequate to the task of managing the Enlightenment’s more troubling legacies.