Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Philosopher Downes

Stephen Downes is a researcher for the NRC, looking mostly at e-learning, but he's been churning out gems at his other blog. I've been sitting on two of them, going back to re-read them occasionally. The first is is about values and how they may be in conflict with the direction society pulls us, a topic I've also been stewing on:
"There is such a divide between what we believe, what we value, and how our leadership conducts public policy. We are desperately seeking a return to a society that is life-affirming, supportive of community, and respectful to the environment."

The second is an essay on the value of work. It's loaded with smart references, radical politics, well supported arguments and even a personal timeline that isn't far off from what I'd like to build for people creating future timelines of their life plans. He's thinking about what our lives would look like if the government starting the guaranteed income program that was recommended by a Royal Commission in the '80s (PDF). What a vision it is:
"We would, for example, expect a proliferation of the arts. Enough people live today at less-than-starvation wages in order to be able to write, paint, sing, act and perform any manner of cultural pursuit; with guaranteed income even more of them would do so. We would expect a proliferation of scholars and philosophers: with the requirement to work no longer driving people into cookie-cutter training programs, people would pursue their own aptitudes and interests. We would see many, many more restored cars, hand-crafted furniture, four-table restaurants, home gardens and home restorations, as people engaged in the sort of creation and building that interests them.

We would, ultimately, see a wealthier society. It would consume less, but what it consumed would be better. We would see much greater emphasis on production efficiencies, as the labour surplus currently existing would no longer pose a barrier to technological innovation. And we would see a happier society as no person would ever need to live in fear of economic ruin or starvation. There would be a much greater sense that we're all in this together, a much greater willingness to cooperate and share, a much stronger sense of family and community."

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