Wednesday, 29 March 2017

War on Labour


Making the news lately is our beloved government's latest case of taking care of its people, the removal of penalty rates. That is, business owners in retail and coffee shops all over Australia will no longer have to pay an extra to the employees that do their bidding during the weekend.
In case you are wondering what the sense of cancelling penalty rates is, the answer is obvious: our government is truly caring for its people. The only problem is, “its people” are the people with the money, not the people doing the labour; our government could not care less about the latter. They, the people with the money, stand at no risk of ever having to work a weekend their entire lives. Why should they care about those lowly pests that have to run around them and satisfy their consumption needs for the sake of being able to bring food to their table?

My argument is that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to this attack on labour. It was a decade or so ago that our government stopped differentiating between part time work and full time work when it comes to official unemployment statistics. The latest episode in penalty rates is just one of numerous steps taken by the ruling class to subdue the lower classes through the casualisation of work.
Penalty rates are just a little part of the greater war on the working class. The  biggest part is actually the disappearance of permanent positions and the change towards short term contracts, where the employer can get rid of employees whenever it feels like. At first it was presented as an advantage to the employee: the pay was higher, the flexibility was an attraction. Nowadays, however, when the bulk of employees are short term contractors, that is no longer the case. The pay advantage is long gone, but the benefits we used to take for granted - annual leave, sick leave - are gone.
Those of us lucky enough to stumble upon a permanent position stand to find that what used to be regarded as a position of a certain grade is now recruited as a position of lower grade. Why? Because they can. Because when each advertised vacancy attracts hundreds of eager (desperate?) applicants, the employer can dictate the terms. You might be able to land a permanent position, but it won’t land you as much money as it used to.

What we are seeing here, overall, is a pivotal transition in the economy. Whereas we used to live in an economy where labour was the primary source of wealth, that role is now leaning more and more towards capital.
Think about it: the people our society looks up to, the folks we consider to have “sorted” themselves out, are not people that work for a living. Instead, they are the people that managed to wiggle themselves out of working so that they have some arrangement or another that generates money for them "automatically".
Think of the Apple app economy, only in people: Apple has established the App Store, but Apple does not write the apps. People labour to write the apps and sell them, which is when Apple comes in to reap its 30% surcharge. Now, cut and paste Apple with your average investment property owner, and you get the point.

The real question is where are we heading for from here. And I think the answer is, sadly, blood, sweat and many tears.
Automation will mean that many if not most of us will lose their job within a decade or two. The income from labour pool will vastly diminish while the number of people seeking to make an income from labour will rise. [By the way, if you look at the Philippines, you will see what happens when this scenario takes place a the country level; however, what I am talking about here is a global level.] Eventually, the kettle will pop and the pressure will be released through a wave of violence that will eventuate in a solution along the lines of a universal pay allowance. As in, everybody will get paid regardless of whether they have a job or not.
There really is no reason for us not to be there already. We are more affluent than humans ever were, yet we choose to spend our lives locked inside an office and wasting the best time of our lives doing the whim of the ruling class. Until, that is, that ruling class no longer needs us.
In the mean time, the same ruling class is gearing up for the struggle to come, for those waves of blood, sweat and tears. Have a look at the Land of the Free™ and check out its police forces: these have been militarised from head to toe, using the War on Terror™ as an excuse. Yet, it has also been made very clear that this new military force is there mostly to enforce the class divide on the lower classes (e.g., Black Lives Matter).
The same army will “defend you” the day you decide that push came to shove. The day you realise you can no longer supply your basic needs through work. Maybe, on that day, you will lament the slow erosion of worker rights we all did little to stop.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Reasons For Not Jumping On Board The Mass Effect Andromeda Wagon

There's more than a few:
  • What are its chances of coming close to Mass Effect 3 (and 2, for that matter)? Why ruin the pleasant flavour left by the old trilogy?
  • It’s been 5 years since Mass Effect 3. I have changed a lot since. Arcady action of the reflexive type and shooting stuff up are no longer my thing.
  • Andromeda was developed by the Montreal branch of BioWare. The same branch that developed a rather meh Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3.
  • The writers that created all the depth in the previous Mass Effect trilogy (e.g., Patrick Weekes) were not part of the Andromeda effort.
  • Who’s got the time for a 40 odd hours game anymore?
  • Who’s got time to sit in front of one’s TV anymore?
  • Dragon Age Inquisition was such a disappointment. It was a good game, but things took so long to happen and with all due apologies, life’s too short.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes
  • Fire Emblem Fates Conquest is already doing an excellent job at providing me with a deep playing experience coupled with a good story and well developed characters.
Will the above be enough to keep me away? Probably not for long, if at all.
Is there a good chance for me to be disappointed of Mass Effect Andromeda? Yes, there is.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Of Nintendo and Privacy

Let me tell you a personal story about me and my adventures with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes game.

Fire Emblem Heroes is an online only game. That is, it has to be played with your iOS (and, I assume, Android) device connected to the internet. To its credit, Nintendo is not shy of admitting in its iOS app description that it does sell user data it collects [through that always online connection] to third parties. Fact of the matter is, almost all apps and web pages do this; one of the internet’s core problems is this being done behind the scenes without the person whose information is being traded’s awareness and without them having the slightest idea what is then done with this data.
Still, even a corporation such as Nintendo is bound by law. In this particular case, USA law, which demands in one way or another that no details shall be collected from people younger than 13 years. Thus, when I first started Fire Emblem Heroes on my iPad for the first time and the app interrogated me for my personal details, I declared myself a 4 year old. That should give me 8 years plus of unencumbered Fire Emblem heroism…
Problem is, I’ve grown attached to my Fire Emblem Heroes. Having spent much time on the game, I’d hate to lose the heroes I cultivated with time and effort. The solution provided by the game in order to enable the Cloud to store my game progress is to link my Nintendo ID to the game, and thus allow Nintendo to store my game progress against my Nintendo account.
Note the crafty little trick Nintendo is pulling here. Being able to link between one’s [Nintendo] games consoles and one’s mobile devices, be it phone or tablet, raises my value significantly before third party advertisers. It's for what should be obvious reasons, to do with them being able to link several sources of information about me together and acquire a much more accurate as well as detailed image of me. This is exactly why Nintendo offers the path of linking to its account rather than doing what most other iOS apps do, which is to store the app data on Apple’s own iCloud; there is no revenue for Nintendo in using iCloud.

Our story continues.
In order to solve this problem of being able to save my progress online without giving away too much private information to Nintendo, I decided to create a new Nintendo account and state there that I am a 4 year old; then I will link that account to my Fire Emblem Heroes, save my progress, but continue to enjoy the legal privacy protections offered to American children.
So I created such an account. Or rather, tried to; Nintendo would not let me finish the account’s creation without linking it to another account, an adult’s account.
So I went with the flow and created another account, this time an adult account, and then tried to link that account with the child account.
Wait! Said Nintendo. In order to prove you really are an adult and not a child in disguise, I need your credit card details, so I can charge it and therefore confirm you are truly an adult. Given the entire purpose of my personal adventure was the avoidance of providing the too personal and identifiable to Nintendo, I did not give them my credit card info.
I tried another trick instead: I went to the existing Nintendo account we have for our existing Nintendo Wii U console and tried to change the birthday on that account so as to make it a child’s account.
No, said Nintendo yet again: we will not allow you to change the birthday date on an existing account!

Thus ends my story. As in, I do not have the ability to save my Fire Emblem Heroes’ progress online. What I do have, however, is insight on just how far Nintendo is willing to go when it comes to milking its customers for personal data it can then resell.
Think about it:
  1. There is no way for a child to get hold of a Nintendo account without at least one member of the family providing positive ID for online data trackers to use and resell.
  2. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a child from creating a adult’s account and linking it to their game. Yes, it would be illegal for Nintendo to track that user, but its armies of lawyers would be perfectly capable of washing the company’s hands off that.
My experience has made it very clear on which side of the ethical debate at hand Nintendo stands. When it comes to our privacy, companies do not come greedier than Nintendo.


One final note: I would have loved, and I repeat - loved, to give Nintendo some and even many of my hard earned Shekels in return for a private Fire Emblem experience. Evidence indicates I have already done so several times on the 3DS incarnations.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Change of Direction

One question that begs the mind of a blogger who has been blogging for as long as I have is the classic “where to from here”.
Once upon a time, when this blog started, it took the form of an open diary. Me telling the world all sorts of things about myself that I had on my mind.
Times change, though, and now - and for all sorts of different reasons - I am much more reserved when it comes to openly sharing my life with the world. In this world of trolls, Gamergate and Trumps it does not take much effort to see where things can go wrong with such an approach.
Fact of the matter is, this blog has never been about money making or fame seeking. I did it to satisfy my own needs, period. And now my needs are different.
Which brings me to state a few things about the future of this blog that should have already been quite obvious. I foresee two things happening here: Firstly, the frequency of posting - which has severely deteriorated over the last couple of years - will continue to do so. The itch that I need scratching through a quick post is served much faster through Twitter, for a start.
Secondly, the trend away from the personal to the more technical will continue. This blog has always been about serving my personal needs, and right now my personal needs involve experimenting with stuff that could serve my professional aspirations.
C’est la vie.