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  1.  (9891.1)
    This review at Open Rights Group raises some of the points I noted.

    I should also add that whatever reservations I have about this particular series (or at least, episode) Curtis' skill as a documentary-maker is considerable. Parts of his work remind me of Orson Welles' F For Fake, and there's no higher praise than that.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011
    There's more detail about the series in an interview Curtis did for a Guardian article last week in which he says, about the mass pong game:
    "It was like a switch went in my head," Curtis says. "Carpenter saw it as a world of freedom with order. But I suddenly saw it as the opposite – like old film of workers toiling in a factory. They weren't free – they looked like disempowered slaves locked to a giant machine screen. It was a video game, which made it fun, but it still made me wonder whether power had really gone away in these self-organising systems, or if it was just a rebranding. So we became happy components in systems – and our job is to make those systems stable."

    So I'm puzzled as to where he's going, exactly. He rejects Rand's pure selfish individualism, but he also seemingly rejects any distributed, networked system model of human society on the basis that being a component in a system is analogous to slavery. I wonder if he has anything other than rocks to throw. Is he really shaping up to invoke dutiful obedience to hierarchical authority as the answer to the world's problems? I'm curious what makes him think that if we didn't have computers, power structures wouldn't just develop other tools to make advantage for themselves.
    Keen to see the second episode anyway. It felt a little forced at times to me too, but generally nutritious food for thought.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011
    Game designer Allen Varney did a nice whomping on Heinleinian pretensions:
  2.  (9891.4)
    I watched 'The Power of Nightmares' and really enjoyed it, definitely going to try this one later tonight.
    If nothing else these Adam Curtis works are important because they show how easily the same stories that FOX , BBC or CBC (here in Canada) can be told in an entirely different way. Whether or not the "facts" hold up it's amazing how a re-edit, different music, and motivations can paint a whole nother story... makes you think, I hope.

    thanks for the links!
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011
    Adam Curtis Blu-ray/dvd box set

    Highly unlikely due to clearance issues.
  3.  (9891.6)
    ....This show is amazing. I fucking love the Beeb. Also the structure is beautiful. Reads almost as if our master himself wrote it.
      CommentAuthorDoc Ocassi
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2011
    Adam Curtis was also on Jarvis Cockers 'Sunday Service' discussing shit, over the weekend,

    I need to re-watch the first episode, Frankly I find it very encouraging that these views get aired on the BBC, There are some serious discussions to be had in the world, and the more we discuss freedom of information in respect to the private lives of football stars, the more retarded we all become.
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2011
    To be honest, I stopped at the point where Ayn Rand said that Aristotle was the only philosopher that influenced her, followed that by doing a brief diss of all other previous moral philosophers, and then described her theory in terms that made it sound like a rip-off/mash-up of Bentham style utilitarianism and Kantian deontologicalism. I'm sure there is more to Ayn Rand than that (dead certain, in fact), but that definitely knocked me out of any sort of cognitive process I was getting from the documentary.

    Oddly, I have somehow managed to almost completely avoid the works of Ayn Rand throughout my philosophy minor. Maybe I should fix that at some point.
  4.  (9891.9)
    It's probably more worthwhile to go the the best critique of Randianism to date - the video game Bioshock.
  5.  (9891.10)
    I had a chance to watch it now, and actually I think it hangs together a lot better than I expected. I do think that people expecting a documentary full of well-supported arguments and clear explorations of the facts will be disappointed - but that's because I think Curtis is a polemicist more than a documentary maker. He's an amazing film maker, but this didn't seem like a documentary to me at all. It's a story, based on real world events, where he lays out the narrative that he discerns running through history. That's no bad thing, that's what he does.

    The Rand stuff did muddy things up a bit too much, especially when he was cutting back to her affair during the Lewinsky affair - no pertinent connection at all that I could see, it just looked good. In fact quite possibly most of the Rand stuff was only vaguely related to the stuff from Silicon Valley onwards - but it fitted in a pretty savagely critical way with Curtis's later look at the financial institutions - only working for their own benefit. I don't think there's a strong enough causal link there to justify the connection, but I do think that the similarities in philosophy between Rand, and those whose idea it is that a truly free free-market would lead to a stable world are enough for him to get away with it.

    Can't wait to see where he goes with this next week.
    • CommentAuthorTimbo
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2011
    Moving away form all the Randian stuff. I found the way Clinton's treasury secretary moved his hands during his interviews troubling. The lizard section of my brian was screaming at me not to trust him. He was one of the most smug bastards I have ever seen in my life.

    I do think that some of the links and ideas were forced but I love the fact that programmes like this are made and shown on a publicly funded TV network. Is it likely that FOX would highlight that the IMF is a tool for big business to shaft us all?

    Also given the historical "over exuberance" of Greenspan's 1990 markets do we not think that FACEBOOK's valuation at $50 billion and Skypes recent sale ($5.2 billion or whatever) are leading but into a new dotcom bust?
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2011
    Just got round to watching it - anything with a title by Richard Brautigan had to be worth a look (thumbs up @StefanJ - and cheers for the Varney link: a good read).

    There were some really interesting bits, particularly the mirror image of the 90s IMF/SE Asia bust and the 2000s China/USA property collapse. But I don't think that the argument that computers are to blame was made convincingly, or even really made relevant to most of the discussion.

    It was a beautiful bit of archive-mashup art, though - really great to see that 90s video footage used in an interesting way. Wish that some of the interviews had run longer, though.

    Also, just going to say it - I know it's been ten years, but I don't think I'm ready for jump cuts to the collapse of the World Trade Center yet.
    • CommentAuthorEmperor
    • CommentTimeMay 27th 2011
    @Alan Tyson

    On the ties between the Lewinsky Affair and the S.E. Asia Crisis: I don't think the implication is that one caused, or even directly affected, the other, but rather that, because the Affair was taking up so much of the President's time and energy, that little could be done to wrest power back from the Treasury and possibly stabilize the crisis in Asia.

    My interpretation was that, after Greenspan diverted Clinton away from his progressive policies into making cuts, he had nothing much to do with his time and ended up "doing" Lewinsky. The Treasury had already brought about a quiet coup before then.
    • CommentAuthorDrew_badly
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2011 edited
    Slight deviation but I did a mental handstand just because of the Richard Brautigan reference. There's a Brautigan docu on the way, I saw links on IMDB somewhere?
    • CommentTimeMay 29th 2011
    Oddly, I have somehow managed to almost completely avoid the works of Ayn Rand throughout my philosophy minor. Maybe I should fix that at some point.

    This is largely because most phil programs teach actual philosophy and not pop philosophy shite.

    Rand was also post-Hume, and like most Western capitalist political philosophy doesn't work without Locke's Proviso, so her saying that she wasn't "inspired" by anyone but Aristotle (which is also likely based on a misreading of The Republic), is utter bullshit.

    A lot of the thought that Rand is credited for is actually compounded and argued better by Nozick, anyway, so I'd leapfrog her and go straight to his arguments with Rawls. It's more interesting, argued better, written better, and it doesn't have that little cult that she picked up while she was still around. Also there's a great real-life circumstantial rebuke of everything he ever said.

    Libertarianism ignores some hard truths about the human condition and focuses really hard on certain other ones that kind of suck, so at least expose yourself to the better arguments for it. Rand just gets too much credit, and it's only because she was so popular.

    I'm going to catch this doc at some point just to see how he argues his point, but I feel that Free Software and Open Source are really the earnest, good kind of libertarian objectivism that gets bogged down by all the douchy incarnations thereof.
  6.  (9891.16)
    So, judging by his latest Guardian piece, tomorrow Curtis will endeavour to prove that ecology and non-hierarchical structures aren't real because some of the founders of the model were morally dubious. Which is like proving nuclear weapons don't work because Edward Teller was a dick.
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2011
    Episode 2 is online people. Not sure if its UK only.
    • CommentAuthorjhewes
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2011

    I was really surprised by the WTC jump cut too. I work for the Beeb and I'm fairly sure it's BBC policy that they don't show that again except in some pretty exceptional circumstances.

    Otherwise I agree with pretty much all the points above (having only watched Ep. 1 so far). It did strike me that to 'blame the machines' (to simplify one of his hypotheses a bit) is like blaming a typewriter for 'Mein Kampf'. It's how you programme the machines that makes a difference...
  7.  (9891.19)
    Part 2 seems a lot more focussed - I do like his drawing attention to how the cybernetic-ecological modelling went from metaphor to assumed fact. But at the same time, he seems to be convinced of the reality of his own metaphor of eco-cybernetic models being "a machine's dream"! I also find it notable that both he and several interviewees consider the idea of a 'natural balance' to be a Western mythological concept, and totally ignoring the far older Taoist formulation of same. (Though his critique of the steady-state ecological models is important to consider.)

    There seems to be an element of old-fashioned elitist white-man arrogance tinging everything here (ironic, considering his well-observed notes on the dodginess of the 'holism' model of Smutts) - especially in regard to attempts to find non-hierarchical or less-hierarchical structures for human conduct. At times he seems to say individualism is bad and connected groups are bad simultaneously... and take this somehow as a negation of the sacred precepts of Enlightenment thought.

    (He also seems to avoid noting things like Bucky Fuller's geodisic domes worked, the computer net works system analysis models are useful... or that there's a difference between, say, using Twitter and like networks and considering oneself to be solely a node in a network.)

    I'm not saying the ideas he's examining are immune to criticism or adjustment, far from it - but his attempt to do so seems both superficial and patriarchal. But I'll hold judgement until I've seen the whole thing, especially how he wraps it all up.
  8.  (9891.20)
    Agreed, part one's links between Ayn Rand -> Love of Machines -> Market Fundamentalism sounded a bit dodge. And agreed, part two is a lot more focused. What annoyed me there was the suggestion that the Limits to Growth crew elided steady state with support for the status quo, when clearly, Jay Forrester wanted "a man-made equilibrium of our choice". Sounds like a radical interventionist political programme, that. Nothing like Smutt's Holism in the 30s or communes in the 60s...