Archive for February, 2010

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want. So Maybe You Should Want Less.

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on February 28, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Half of you think you’ll be rich someday, but one third of the world is content with two dollars a day. Could you be?

From need to want less. Some images
are also available as prints here.

Could you live on two dollars a day? Well, according to the book Portfolios of the Poor, that’s exactly what a third of the world’s population does. On the surface, those numbers probably sound appalling and evoke sympathy, but if you look a little deeper (this Prospect Magazine piece does a nice summary) you’ll realize that these people are really kind of doing okay. What makes taking a closer look at these lives interesting is the insight you’ll gain into how the rest of the world has to manage their money, not how much less they have proportionally. Imagine, for instance, having to pay interest on your savings, rather than the other way around. I’ve been a bit obsessed with the experience of poverty the last few years, partly because I live in a country where – while billionaire bankers worry about their million dollar bonuses – one in eight citizens is struggling to eat or living in a tent. But also partly because I’ve made some poor business decisions that have thrown me into that two-dollar-a-day camp at points. The irony of being a motivated and reasonably intelligent person who occasionally doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from has made me rethink things quite a bit, and caused me to ponder what happiness means pretty regularly. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that while being broke sucks, it doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy. I know that sounds a like a Disney “poverty is okay” message, but it really isn’t. Finding out what you really want and what you really need is a lesson worth learning, because although half of you think you’ll be rich someday, less than one percentĀ  will be. Oh. Unless you run for congress, in which case your odds are considerably better.

The Next Big Thing: Frictionless, Wireless, Virtual Economies

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on February 27, 2010 by admin in Technology

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Will the mobile phone powered transfer of virtual currencies created by online games and social networking allow the millenials to Twitter away their inheritances?

A couple of years ago I had a neighbor who made a few hundred extra dollars a month playing online games. How did he get paid to play games? By acquiring virtual goods like magic weapons and selling them to other numb-nuts who would actually pay real money to advance in the same online games. If you’re not already familiar with the idea, it may sound absurd, but it has become quite an industry, sometimes referred to as Gold Farming. And over the past year, it’s started taking an even stranger turn. The web sites IMVU and myYearbook have established a cross-site virtual currency exchange, and some think Facebook Credits will not only expand the site’s revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars annually, but may even become the de facto currency of the Internet. Although as of this writing, the idea of connecting these “economies” into a larger exchange remains in its infancy, IMVU and myYearbook have also launched Currency Connect, which promises the rollout of more virtual currency partners throughout 2010, and currently lists 27 viable platforms. So how seriously should we take these new virtual economies? Pretty seriously, according to the Chinese government, which fears that instabilities in virtual economies could destabilize real money, among other things. Add to the speculative possibilities of all this real and imaginary money changing hands the emerging models for frictionless and inexpensive money transfers using mobile phone-based tools like Twitpay, Square, OboPay, GetGiving, Zong, and Kwedit, and the possibilities for truly viable virtual economies are enormous. Below are a few demos of the leading-edge startups, and quick summaries of how each service works. You can also find a more in-depth look at these “frictionless” transaction ideas in this Wired piece. Read the rest of this entry »

Health Care For Us, Or Wealth Care For Them?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 26, 2010 by admin in Politics

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I’d feel a lot better about buying insurance if I didn’t feel like I was supporting Wall Street’s gambling addiction.

I must confess to being a bit of a simpleton in some ways, so could someone please explain to me what the health care summit and the health care reform act have to do with reforming health care? And since when does someone “win” a summit meeting? I had to check the definition of the phrase to make sure I’m not crazy for asking that question. Personally, I’m a little stuck on a few ideas, one being that “fixing the health care problem” means that, well, someone will be fixing the health care problem, not just making sure that we all have an equal opportunity to take part in it. And by “it” I mean “the problem”. I feel odd finding myself aligning with a lot of Republicans (although I have pretty liberal social attitudes, I think I’ve formed my own little political party in my head) on an issue like the individual mandate. If I’ve already opted to not give my money to an industry that generates 20% of its revenue from my boss wanting me dead, why would I start now? Oh yeah. Because I’d get a tax penalty if I didn’t. This is starting to feel a little creepy. After being told that my tax dollars would be used to bail out the gambling-addicted banking and insurance industries, now I’m being told that if I don’t give them business, I’ll pay more taxes? Why do I feel like I’m trapped in some weird revolving door? Oh. It just might be the combination of the Goldman Sachs Government (they were negotiating a deal to acquire the treasury department last year, you know) and the influence peddling of the the Media Lobbying Complex. I’m glad I read a lot. It keeps me alertly apolitical. Everyone seems to have an informed opinion on health care, but if you really want to know what’s wrong with health care, ask a nurse.

Devo Incorporated Marketing Gives Me Satisfaction

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on February 25, 2010 by admin in Music

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Why I think watching middle-aged men from Ohio dance around in space suits is the next logical step in Devolution.

Take Devo Inc.’s Color Study

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Devo. I was in the early stages of my black-clad nihilistic teen years, when no-one had started calling me or my friends “punk” yet. It was on Saturday Night Live of all places, and there is a very strong probability – given my age and the fact that it was late on a Saturday – that there was at least one drug influencing my perception. I remember thinking it was too bad they were so theatrically dorky, because I liked the way they had re-worked what I thought of as dinosaur rock at the time, i.e.: Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. I wish now I’d given them a better listen back then; my friends and I always kind of thought of them as “that nerdy Ohio New Wave band”, and “New Wave” was kind of anathema to whatever it was we thought we were doing. With hindsight, not only did they record a few of my favorite songs from the era (Satisfaction, Girl U Want, and Workin’ In The Coal Mine) but I really admire what they were trying to do with their ironic anti-corporate marketing message. I say ironic, when I should say meta-ironic, because their schtick – much like Ali G or Die Antwoord – makes it really hard to tell where the parody begins and ends. And they’re at it again; while I love the parodic nature of their Color Test marketing campaign and the fact that they released the first single Fresh for free (you missed it, it was only free for 24 hours), the fact that they’re signed to Warner and played the Olympics pretty much guarantees that the fan videos below will be pulled in no time by WMG. No matter. I’ll still get a weird satisfaction from watching the aging clever guys from Ohio dance around in weird suits. It’s the next natural step in their Devolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Just A Game. And Then You Buy.

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 24, 2010 by admin in Popular Media

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Are we all just becoming unwitting players in a huge video game?

In the future, shopping may be a little
more like Minority Report than we’d like.

I’ve been working on a project for awhile that involves turning pretend money into real money. Sounds crazy, right? People generally think so when I mention the basic idea, but when I go into the details, they say “aha” and want to invest in it. For what should be obvious reasons, I can’t go into those details, but I can give you a few little clues. It involves cognitive dissonance, self-esteem, and the excitement of buying things. I actually thought maybe the idea was crazy, until I watched a presentation (videos below) that Jesse Schell (founder of Schell Games) gave at DICE 2010. In it, he discusses a lot of ideas about augmented reality and consumer habits, the insane amounts of money made with Pengin Club, FarmVille and Mafia Wars, and how life is really just a game in which we’re slowly becoming unwitting players. One example he uses is how the Ford Hybrid SmartGauge EcoGuide dashboards are really just a game that makes the driver “drive greener”. He also explains why the iPad is “stupid”, likening the iPhone to a Swiss Army Knife, and suggesting the iPad is a “Swiss Army Knife of Kitchen Utensils”. He reminds us that NO-ONE expected the success of games on Facebook, the Wii, or Guitar Hero, and that there’s really no telling what “the next big thing” is. Except that then he goes on to try and do so, using Project Natal and the DSi as a launch pad, and getting a little carried away with his Minority Report-like examples in part three at about four minutes. In spite of the rather stodgy camera work and Schell’s gamer-turned-executive demeanor, it’s a thought-provoking talk. We’ve included it in three segments below. Read the rest of this entry »

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