Thursday 27 March 2014

Podcast Extra (1)

I have written previously about my Apple iPod that I use as a relaxation through entertainment mainly at bedtime or occasionally when I am out walking the dogs. I have found myself chuckling away at a comedy program only to get a few strange looks from people walking the towpath. Now I wear a pair of bright pink ear buds which make it more obvious that I am listening to something and that I have not lost the plot. I find that the iPod is ideal in such situations because of its small size. 

For a bit more background on the ever growing world of podcasts you can read my original posting on Podcasts and Podcasting. Click Here.

So what have I been listening to recently in the digital world of podcasting. 

The latest in the list of Podcasts to be downloaded onto the iPod is 'Damn Interesting'. Its hard to say what the content is going to be. It could be a short story. It could be an excerpt from a book. It could have an historical flavour or it could be factual. Out of the current batch of podcasts (free for download on iTunes) I enjoyed listening to 'Nineteen Seventy Three.'

It is a well known story that the overthrow of Chile was ordered by U.S. President Richard Nixon. The 1973 Chilean coup d'├ętat against President Allende, came about following a period of American inspired social unrest. Nixon also ordered a form of economic warfare and stood by as the population starved. Allende was overthrown by the armed forces and national police. The military abolished the civilian government and established a junta that brutally repressed the population. Augusto Pinochet, army chief, formally assuming the presidency in 1974. 

Before Pinochet's rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America plagued by military juntas. The United States government, which had worked to create the conditions for the coup, promptly recognised the junta government and supported it in consolidating power. An internationally supported plebiscite in 1988 eventually removed Pinochet from power. Thousands of Chilean men, women and children were disappeared during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. Pinochet's controversial but close relationship with Thatcher led Tony Blair to mock Thatcher's Conservatives as "The party of Pinochet."

During its first year in office, the Allende Government achieved economic growth, reductions in inflation and unemployment, a redistribution of income, and an increase in consumption. The government also significantly increased salaries and wages, reduced taxes, and introduced free distribution of some items of prime necessity. Groups which had previously been excluded from the state insurance scheme were included for the first time, while pensions were increased for widows, invalids, orphans, and the elderly. The National Milk Plan affected 50% of Chilean children in 1970, providing 3,470,000 with half a litre of milk daily, free of charge. Which to the US government had all the hallmarks of subversion.

However, the 'Nineteen Seventy Three' podcast actually tells a much more wonderful and intriguing story of British involvement in trying to stay the coup d'├ętat. Involving a somewhat mysterious and larger than life individual. Plus a whole new brand of technology. Leaving the listener with that  'what could have been' feeling.  

Chile's Project Cybersyn was based on the 'viable system model' theory and used a neural network approach to organisational design, and featured innovative technology for its time. In an era before the personal computers it included a network of telex machines (Cybernet) in state-run enterprises that would transmit and receive information with the government in Santiago. 

Information from the field would be fed into a statistical modelling software application (Cyberstride) that would monitor production indicators such as raw material supplies in real time, and alert the workers in the first case, and in unusual situations also the central government, if those parameters fell outside acceptable ranges.

The principal architect of the system was British operational research, cybernetics and management science, scientist Stafford Beer. The system embodied his notions of organisational cybernetics in industrial management. One of its main objectives was to devolve decision-making power within industrial enterprises in order to develop self-regulation of factories. 

Who knows maybe you might be able in the future to listen to a podcast with the soft dulcet tones of a dyed in the wool Yorkshire cynic. Who might just wax lyrical about all things with good, bad and indifferent. Aspects that he comes across as he makes his way along the canal.

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