Jun 14

What is wrong with mainstream and alternative media? (Advanced)

imagesWhat is wrong with mainstream and alternative media today? I’ll try and give it to you in a word or lack thereof in today’s realm of fast, real-time and dynamic media. OBJECTIVITY.

When I did my Master’s degree, I learned the value of presenting a balanced argument. The idea was not to simply persuade your readers as to one viewpoint or the other. Your job as a professional, independent and academic writer, was to research the facts and to present both sides of the argument, from which you (the reader) could inform yourself and your draw your own conclusions.

This is exactly what is missing today. From both sides of the spectrum, be it mainstream media, social media, the press core or alternative media; we are presented with undeniable truth and fact that appear to be anything but. We are bombarded with information, which is presented and slanted to direct you to one conclusion. The problem with this approach of course is that…

When everybody thinks the same, we are no longer thinking.

What then is objectivity? Is it simply being independent and unbiased?

It actually goes a little further. It’s also about what media outlets choose to cover and not discuss. It’s about removing yourself from the equation and being able to take a step back from your own viewpoint. I regularly watch the BBC for example, and I also watch RT, whereby I compare and contrast issues that both media organisations cover. Both are state owned. Both portend to be professional, neutral and putting across a unbiased and impartial view according to ‘guidelines’.

However, one only has to count the number of anti-fracking articles on RT to see that Russia is clearly threatened by energy independence and is anything but impartial. As much as I personally might dislike the idea of fracking technology and the potential environment damage, if it could be proven to be safe, then naturally we should look at it, analyse it and base any new project development on these facts. There are examples in the US of successful co-existence in projects between farmers, oil extractors, and local communities but these will almost never get a mention by RT. Have a read through a variety of RT’s fracking articles and you will quickly pick up how the reporting lacks total objectivity and is pushing a clear narrative. http://rt.com/search/news/term/fracking/

The BBC also found itself it hot water over its seemingly biased coverage of the Scottish vote for independence. That said, at least the BBC acknowledged the issue on their own website but to just compare how different the coverage was just have a look at the two very different viewpoints.

Alternative media isn’t much better at times. Take http://truthinmedia.com/ for example. I don’t think I can find one positive article about the U.S. administration or any administration actually doing anything right. Now, think outside the box. How is that actually possible? Surely, some parts of a government administration must be doing something right or positive somewhere. As much as I respect Ben Swan for his investigate journalism and style, it is still typical of the alternative media styles that present mainstream media and government as completely incompetent. Whilst that actually may be true, the lack of objectivity (choosing to only cover negative topics) doesn’t allow us as readers to be independently informed or make up our mind without subscribing to that point of view.

Some popular misconceptions in mainstream and alternative media.

  • Russia is always wrong and the west is right. In reality, Russia is as it always been. Indifferent to the west, and protecting its interests as we do ours.
  • Terrorism from the Muslim world is a great danger to us. In reality, we are a far greater danger to them.
  • Mainstream media is biased and not bipartisan. In reality, all media is state owned, even RT and Iran’s PressTV, so none of them are truly independent. Associated Press is about as good as it gets.
  • Greece is responsible for its situation and bringing down Europe. How on earth can a six-month old government be held accountable and responsible for 40 years of criminal lending and spending, done by former officials and international institutions?
  • History is always written by the winners. We have archaeology for a reason. To establish fact.

I could write another several pages on this rather complex and huge issue today in the information age in which we find ourselves – whereby we want truly independent, neutral and unbiased reporting. Basically, we want to see it and tell like it really is, not how it’s perceived and sold. Somewhere between the left and right lies truth and objective knowledge. To allow us to get there though you have to present both sides of the argument.

Oct 27

Why I’m so optimistic – ‘The Internet of Things’ (Advanced)

Internet_of_ThingsThe end of the old world, the beginning of a new one. That is what the ‘Internet of Things’ promises. Every business manger, technologist, consultant, product developer, designer and yes, teacher and trainer, needs to understand the implications of the ‘Internet of Things’.

It’s a rather large, complex and difficult topic to address in a training room. Few trainers will dare to speak about it. However, I have had some fantastic results, with news of my training material making all the way to the top CEO’s of some of the largest German corporations. I will therefore endevour to present some methods, tools and ways you can also do this.

Firstly though, to teach anything you need to become familiar with the topic. So, what is this ‘Internet of Things’ all about? The internet of things is essentially a goal to fully connect the Internet to a worldwide energy network, and to a manufacturing network, and finally to distribution centres (ports, airports, warehouses, railway networks, trucking networks etc).

Allow me to digress for a moment. What’s one thing you notice when you see an shipping accident at sea on T.V.? Half the containers float around for about a week or so. Many of them float because they are empty or half empty = wasted space. I sent a small package to the U.S. last week and it cost over 40 Euro for things that were less than 20 Euro in the box = excessively expensive. How many people have tried to take a train with Deutsche Bahn but found it costs too much? It costs more to travel to Wolfsburg by train than it does for one person to rent a car and drive there, almost twice as much = ridiculously expensive. Disbtribution is where a lot of energy, time and space is simply wasted. It’s inefficient, slow, wasteful and often excessively expensive.

Then along comes 3D printing in this new ‘Internet of Things’. Here the concept of ‘Bits to Atoms’ comes into play, which sounds rather sci-fi, but basically means the transformation of free designs and images (uploaded to the internet by people using free open source software) into 3D products by people with 3D printers in your local area. With fully connected distribution networks these products can be shipped or assembled around the world or even somewhere near you home at almost near zero marginal cost. Near zero marginal cost means close to the cost to produce something with a small amount of profit on top. Individuals around the world will be able to ship products in rented container space for example or will be able to make use of empty space in buses, trains and cars far more efficiently than before. Self-driven cars are already passing the testing phase according to Google and Audi. Designs are being shared, energy and many other things will also be shared in this new collaborative commons economy.

I could talk for hours about the ‘Internet of Things’ but my prodigy and a professional I rather admire has already created such a video to speak further about it. Watch this YouTube video by Jeremy Rifkin apltly named the ‘Near Zero Marginal Cost Society’. You can download a full free copy of the text with time markers here:

Trainer notes: Given the length of the video and the article, you may want to consider getting your participants to watch the video and read the dialogue at home in their own time or as a study activity. You could look for a one or two page article on the internet of things to use during the session. Jeremy Rifkin is a slow, thoughtful speaker, who generally expresses himself in a simple yet elegant way. The idea is get you to begin talking about and understanding how the internet of things will impact business. One thing you could do is list the advantages and disadvantages of the internet of things. Privacy vs Comfort. Encrpytion vs Transparency. Environmental Protection/Shared Energy vs Scarce Food, Water and Oil/Gas. I am going through the text slowly with some participants at Siemens, and although we go off-topic and discuss many possibilities, we do try to get through at least a page each session. If you have any questions about any of the text or need help about how to explain it or just need some good examples, feel free to email at: http://www.berlinbusinessenglish.com/contact.php

Sep 14

Is the Euro safe? Are we safe? (Advanced)

cash is kingEvery day it would seem we are bombarded with images of war, terror, destruction, chaos and challenged with ideas that the Euro is in danger and that the end of the European project is around the corner. Well – turn off the news – throw out those newspapers, and just give yourself a little reality check. Will anything I see in the media affect me now, today or tomorrow? Will ISIS invade Berlin and bomb my local S-Bahn train on my way to work? Is there anything to really stop me from being really safe and afraid?

I am sure you will come to realise that NO is the most rational answer to the questions above. And no, Russia is not invading either. Why? Well for one, global economies (apart from Germany and China) are mostly insolvent and broke. Not only can they not afford large new wars, they are also short on public support to expand or continue endless wars on terror.

We also have pretty much always had problems in the middle east, the Balkans and the Ukraine. War is never a solution to such problems. War is simply the failure of diplomacy and cooler heads to prevail. I define all war as theft i.e. somebody is trying to steal something from someone else. Unfortunately, it is the local people that suffer through the destruction of their land and property. Rarely are those that make the decision to go to war affected but I do know that history is littered with examples of those that try to control the world, usually end up controlling nothing. Putin and Obama are two sides of the same coin.

Although we should not stand by and do nothing, we should be careful to do too much. We can offer aid, assistance, resources, training, development help and consultation, but at the end of the day, these regions need to speak with their neighbours and develop their own solutions, which after a period of pointless wasteful war – I believe they will. Vietnam was a huge problem just 40 years ago and today it is a thriving socialist economy, and became so once all the foreign powers stopped intervening.

So what then is the future of the Euro in such an environment of economic malaise and global terror?

I have heard many people say that you should buy property, you should buy gold, you should buy this, this and that to protect your Euro wealth. I have to ask myself if any of these people have really thought it through. The idea for example that the dollar is about to collapse is both absurd and rather shortsighted. The problem is not the dollar per se, but worldwide debt levels.The dollar still is and will remain a safe haven, simply by geography alone and despite whatever agreements the BRICS enter into. Money isn’t going away any time soon and neither is the dollar. Purchases of US treasuries by foreign companies actually increased last month, which is the opposite of what we are told by gold bugs and dollar bears alike.

Back to the Euro, ask yourself which is the bigger problem? The 800 trillion dollar global asset market or the 5-10 trillion dollars of money printing the federal reserve, the ECB and other central banks have embarked on in the past five years? The global asset market was valued at around 111 trillion in 2001 and rose to as much as 710-800 trillion in 2013, an almost 530-620% jump, whilst global GDP over the same period rose from 32 trillion to 82 trillion, up 156%.

All money printing or QE does is keep this massive asset bubble afloat, but when it pops, assets such as the USD and Euro will actually rise as debt is defaulted on and interest rates are slowly raised to some level of normalcy. The exit of troubled economies such as Greece would also be bullish for the Euro as debt levels again would be eliminated and asset prices written down. The risk therefore is not with the EU but with bank assets, gold and or other highly debt leveraged products such as real estate. In an environment such as deflation and debt destruction, cash is king.