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The Art of Living in a Technological World: Bernard Stiegler's Perspective

In our digital age, the impact of technology on our lives is undeniable. From the screens we interact with daily to the data streams we navigate, technology permeates our existence. Bernard Stiegler, a pioneering philosopher of our time, goes beyond the surface effects of digital tools. For Stiegler, technology isn't just about how devices impact our lives or how they're created and used—it's about something deeper: technics.

Technics, for Stiegler, is the essence of human experience. It's what distinguishes us from other species. Our existence is defined by the experiences and knowledge our tools enable, whether it's a cutting-edge brain-computer interface or a primitive axe used for clearing forests. However, technics isn't merely synonymous with technology. As Martin Heidegger noted, the 'essence of technology is by no means anything technological.' Instead, technics is an open-ended creative process, a relationship with our tools and the world.

Stiegler's journey to becoming a leading philosopher of the digital age was unconventional. Born in 1952, he experienced the political upheavals of 1968, which shaped his early worldview. Disenchanted with traditional Marxism and the political trends of the time, Stiegler sought new ways to understand the rapid rise of electronic technology. He realized that technology was redefining our relationship with ourselves, the world, and each other. To account for these changes, Stiegler believed philosophy needed to be rewritten from the perspective of technics.

His time in prison for armed robbery became a turning point. In his cell, Stiegler immersed himself in philosophy, exploring ideas that would shape his later work. He came to see technics as a fundamental aspect of human existence, tied to our ability to store and preserve knowledge through tools like books and archives.

Stiegler's concept of technics challenges us to rethink the role of technology in our lives. It urges us to consider how our tools shape our world and our understanding of it. While technology offers new possibilities, it also poses risks, from standardizing our experiences to increasing surveillance. Stiegler's work reminds us that our future is not predetermined by technology; rather, it is shaped by our choices in how we design and use our tools.

In a world increasingly dominated by digital technologies, Stiegler's philosophy offers a profound insight: our tools shape not only our world but also ourselves. It is through understanding this relationship with our tools that we can begin to imagine new ways of living, being, and evolving. Technics, not technology, holds the key to unlocking the future.

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A Modest Proposal: Jonathan Swift's Satirical Essay

"A Modest Proposal," written by Jonathan Swift in 1729, is a Juvenalian satirical essay that suggests a shocking solution to ease the economic troubles of impoverished Irish people: selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. This hyperbolic proposal is a critique of heartless attitudes towards the poor, particularly the Irish Catholic population, and British policies towards the Irish.

Swift's essay is renowned for its sustained irony and shock value. It begins by vividly describing the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, leading readers to expect a serious proposal. However, the essay takes a surprising turn when Swift proposes that well-nursed, healthy children can be a delicious and nourishing food. He even provides detailed suggestions for preparing and cooking the children, as well as calculations to show the financial benefits of his suggestion.

The essay also critiques the can-do spirit of the times, which led to illogical schemes to solve social and economic issues. Swift mocks projects that proposed simplistic solutions to complex problems, such as the idea of running the poor through a joint-stock company.

In addition to criticizing these projects, Swift targets the calculating way people perceived the poor, viewing them as commodities. He uses statistical analysis ironically to show the absurdity of trying to justify cruelty with dispassionate statistics.

Swift's rhetorical style persuades readers to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. He creates sympathy for the Irish and disdain for the narrator, who shows emotion only for his own class. Swift also degrades the Irish by using language usually reserved for animals, highlighting the dehumanization of the poor.

Scholars have speculated about the influences on Swift's essay. It has been compared to Tertullian's Apology, which satirically attacked early Roman persecution of Christianity. Swift's work also responds to Daniel Defoe's essay on preventing murder and other abuses, as well as Bernard Mandeville's proposal for public bordellos.

Swift's essay was met with backlash in British society, with members of the aristocracy responding to it. Despite its controversial nature, "A Modest Proposal" is considered a masterpiece of satire and is studied in literature courses as an example of early modern western satire. It continues to be relevant today, serving as a critique of simplistic solutions to complex social and economic issues.

In conclusion, Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" remains a powerful and provocative work that challenges readers to confront their assumptions about poverty, society, and human nature.

Charlie Munger's Legacy: A Tribute to His Five Key Insights

Charlie Munger, the influential vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and renowned business partner of Warren Buffett, passed away on November 28, just shy of his 100th birthday. Munger's wit and profound wisdom were hallmarks of his character, contributing significantly to Berkshire Hathaway's remarkable success, with an annual stock return of 19.8% from 1965 to 2022, surpassing the S&P 500’s 9.9% return.

Munger's insights, often shared through volumes like "Poor Charlie’s Almanack" and "The Tao of Charlie Munger," have left a lasting impact, particularly in the investment world. Here are five key pieces of advice from Munger that have shaped many perspectives:

Mental Models: Munger emphasized the importance of developing a "latticework" of mental models, which are conceptual structures drawn from various disciplines to aid decision-making. This approach, spanning fields like philosophy, physics, and investing, helps create a more holistic understanding of the world.

Inversion: He advocated for the use of inversion, a technique where problems are approached by considering the opposite outcomes. By understanding what leads to failure, one can better navigate towards success, whether in personal goals or investment strategies.

Understanding Opposing Views: Munger advised against forming opinions without considering all sides of an issue. He believed that ideological thinking was detrimental, advocating for thorough research and understanding of opposing arguments before forming an opinion.

Avoiding Predictions: Contrary to popular belief, Munger and Buffett's success was not based on predicting the future. They focused on investing in good businesses and staying committed, rather than relying on expert forecasts or attempting to predict market movements.

Reading and Lifelong Learning: Munger attributed much of his wisdom to his habit of voracious reading. He believed that constant learning and exposure to diverse ideas were essential for personal growth and development.

In conclusion, Charlie Munger's legacy extends far beyond his business acumen. His insights into decision-making, learning, and life philosophy have left an indelible mark on those who have followed his teachings. While he may be no longer with us, his wisdom will continue to inspire generations to come.

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Michał Kalecki and Challenging the Norms of Capitalist Theory

Michał Kalecki, a Polish Marxian economist born in 1899, made substantial contributions to economic theory and policy during the 20th century. Working across prestigious institutions like the London School of Economics, University of Cambridge, and University of Oxford, he also served as an economic advisor to several governments, including Poland, France, Cuba, Israel, Mexico, and India.

Kalecki's influence on economic thought is often compared to that of John Maynard Keynes, although he remains less known in English-speaking circles. He integrated Marxist class analysis with oligopoly theory, impacting both neo-Marxian and post-Keynesian schools of thought. Utilizing mathematical models and statistical data, he was among the early macroeconomists to apply these tools to economic questions.

Central to Kalecki's theories was the circular flow of income, building on the Physiocrat François Quesnay's principles. He asserted that in a capitalist economy, production and employment are primarily determined by business investment, challenging traditional economic models.

Kalecki's economic views emphasized the role of government intervention and the interaction between the state and private sectors. He argued that prevailing economic growth models overlooked the government sector's significance and the empirical role it played. Kalecki's skepticism extended to the idea that higher wages could lead to fuller employment, challenging conventional economic wisdom.

In his notable 1943 statement, Kalecki highlighted the preference of business leaders for "discipline in the factories" and "political stability" over profits, recognizing unemployment as an integral part of the capitalist system. He contended that capitalists sought to limit government intervention that disrupted laissez-faire conditions, except in the case of armament spending.

Kalecki's monetary theory was rooted in Knut Wicksell's business cycle theory, emphasizing credit as a fundamental component of the capitalist economy. Unlike Keynes, Kalecki saw monetary policy as endogenous to the business cycle, influenced by business investment rather than interest rates.

One of Kalecki's most famous contributions was his profit equation, derived concisely and intuitively. He asserted that profits were equal to the sum of investment and capitalists' consumption, with investment and consumption decisions determining profits.

Kalecki's interest extended to income distribution, where he explored imperfectly competitive markets and oligopolistic conditions. His model suggested that the wage share in national income remained roughly constant over the business cycle, influenced by factors such as the degree of monopoly and the relationship between raw material costs and wages.

In analyzing the business cycle, Kalecki's investment function played a crucial role. He formulated an equation where investment decisions depended on factors like savings, the rate of change of profits, and the stock of fixed capital. The cyclical nature of investment decisions, leading to economic fluctuations, formed a central aspect of Kalecki's economic insights.

Despite Kalecki's considerable theoretical and practical contributions, he remained more practically oriented than academically inclined. His work, rooted in practical experiences including engineering, journalism, and credit investigation, provided a distinctive perspective that challenged established economic doctrines.

In 1970, Michał Kalecki was nominated for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, a testament to the impact of his theories on the field. His legacy endures as a significant figure in economic thought, challenging conventional wisdom and providing valuable insights into the dynamics of capitalist economies.

The Gospel of Wealth: Harnessing Fortune for the Greater Good

In the late 19th century, amidst the roaring engines of industrialization and the clinking of gold coins, Andrew Carnegie, a titan of industry, penned an essay that would echo through the corridors of wealth for generations to come. Titled "The Gospel of Wealth," Carnegie's words were not just a reflection of his era but a timeless call to action for the affluent and powerful.

Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist who amassed immense wealth in the steel industry, published "The Gospel of Wealth" in 1889. At the heart of this essay was Carnegie's profound belief that the wealthy had a moral obligation to use their fortunes for the betterment of society.

In a tone reminiscent of a wise elder sharing hard-earned truths, Carnegie argued that the accumulation of wealth was not an end in itself but a means to a greater purpose. He believed that the rich were trustees of their wealth, holding it for the benefit of society rather than merely for personal indulgence.

Carnegie's philosophy on wealth can be summarized in one powerful statement: "The man who dies rich dies disgraced." It wasn't a condemnation of wealth but a challenge to its possessors to recognize their societal duty. He implored the wealthy to actively engage in philanthropy, to use their resources to tackle the profound issues of the day.

One of Carnegie's primary arguments was the idea of providing opportunities for self-improvement. He believed in funding educational institutions and libraries, seeing knowledge as the key to societal progress. Indeed, Carnegie himself funded the construction of thousands of libraries across the United States, leaving an indelible mark on education.

In the spirit of his essay, Carnegie, through his charitable acts, sought to bridge the gap between the privileged and the less fortunate. He envisioned a society where the benefits of industrialization and progress were not confined to the boardrooms but spread across all echelons of society.

Carnegie's essay ignited a philanthropic fervor among his contemporaries, inspiring a wave of benevolent actions that shaped the foundations of institutions we still benefit from today. His ideas were a catalyst for the rise of modern philanthropy, influencing figures like John D. Rockefeller and later generations of billionaires who committed to giving away the majority of their wealth.

As we reflect on "The Gospel of Wealth" today, its relevance endures. In an age of unprecedented wealth accumulation, Carnegie's call to philanthropy remains a guiding light. The challenge he laid down to his fellow tycoons is not bound by the pages of history but resonates in the choices made by today's billionaires.

While the world has evolved since Carnegie's time, the fundamental question posed by "The Gospel of Wealth" remains: What responsibility do the wealthy bear towards society? In the ongoing conversation about wealth and its consequences, Carnegie's words echo as a reminder that with great affluence comes an even greater responsibility to uplift and improve the human condition.

"The Gospel of Wealth" is not just a relic of the past; it is a living document challenging us to consider the impact of our wealth on the world around us. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, Carnegie's essay invites us to ponder not just how we accumulate wealth but, more importantly, how we choose to use it for the betterment of humanity.

The Art of War

Sun Tzu

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1984: 75th Anniversary Paperback

George Orwell

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Understanding Socialism

Socialism, a political philosophy encompassing diverse economic and social systems, centers on social ownership of the means of production. The term encompasses various economic, political, and social theories associated with the implementation of such systems. Positioned on the left-wing of the political spectrum, socialism's defining element is social ownership.

Diverse forms of socialism exist, with non-market and market systems being two primary categories. Non-market socialism relies on integrated economic planning, replacing factor markets with engineering or technical criteria. This system aims to eliminate perceived inefficiencies and crises linked with capital accumulation. Market socialism, on the other hand, maintains monetary prices, factor markets, and the profit motive, but control over profits lies with the workforce or society.

Socialism, with roots dating back to the 18th-century revolutionary movements, gained prominence in the 20th century, notably with the Soviet Union. However, scholars debate whether the Soviet economic model truly represented socialism or operated as a form of state capitalism. Despite its historical associations, socialism remains a political force globally, with variations like social democracy emphasizing social justice within capitalist frameworks.

Post-World War II, social democratic governments implemented reforms, nationalizing industries in some cases and introducing welfare measures. However, by the late 20th century, the influence of socialism waned, as some countries embraced free-market policies. In the 2010s, democratic socialism experienced a resurgence in popularity.

The pivotal moment in socialist history occurred in Russia in 1917. Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik faction, played a central role. The Bolsheviks seized power in the Great October Socialist Revolution, establishing the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Lenin advocated for workers' soviets to assume authority, marking the birth of the world's first constitutionally socialist state.

The subsequent period saw economic experiments, including the New Economic Policy (NEP) in response to a famine in the early 1920s. The Soviet economy became the first centrally planned economy, emphasizing industrialization. Despite challenges, including major famines, the Soviet Union achieved rapid industrialization.

Post-war, social democracy gained prominence in Europe, introducing social reforms and wealth redistribution. The British Labour Party's radical socialist agenda in 1945 nationalized key industries. However, in the 1990s, social democratic parties, like the British Labour Party under Tony Blair, adopted more market-oriented policies.

Scholars have debated the continued relevance of socialism in the post-industrial era. Some argued its demise after the Cold War, while others, like Antonio Negri and Felix Guattari, suggested socialism's global political role extended beyond the fate of the Soviet Union.

In essence, socialism, rooted in diverse philosophical influences, aims to achieve higher material production, efficiency, and rationality than capitalism. It critiques capitalism for generating waste, concentrating wealth, and limiting productive forces. While socialism has undergone historical shifts and faced criticism, its impact on political thought and societal structures remains a subject of ongoing discussion.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann

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The Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith

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