Data, Universes, and Quantum Self-Help?

"In 1952, Erwin Schrödinger gave a lecture in which he jocularly warned his audience that what he was about to say might “seem lunatic”. He said that when his equations seemed to describe several different histories, these were “not alternatives”, but all really happened simultaneously."

The number of universes is not "objective" but, following the work of Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin in 2010, is partly determined/limited by "our own abilities to distinguish between different universes and to remember our results." And if this is true, then the ability to manage larger and larger data sets, like contacts, constituents, and demographics, may actually be helping to create more universes whose results we remember by retaining and managing as data

Now, it's obvious these changes will have profound effects on our personal psychologies, our relationships, and even our minds. It's a little premature and opportunistic to try to catalog these changes and market our insights about them. For example, when Sir Isaac Newton articulated a theory of gravity, revolutionary at the time, did some other idea-peddler think he might be able to teach a course on how to use gravity to improve your love life or "attract" money. It's natural that advancements in science, especially in physics, give rise to popularized interpretations of the "metaphysical" implications of physics. But these byproducts aren’t necessarily enjoyable. 

The physics of parallel universes and realities is no exception. This physics is still easing its way into our collective consciousness; and as Marie Laure-Ryan writes, it is "not yet solidly established in our private encyclopedias . . . to suspend momentarily our intuitive belief in a classical cosmology." It was inevitable that, when the nature of quantum reality and parallel universes developed in the early 2010s, there would emerge a new subcategory of life coaches: quantum life coaches. 

The transposition of quantum theory to life coaching practice and the self-help industry rests on this foundational argument: if reality is unlimited and there are possible worlds where different assumptions or outcomes had completely redefined the parameters of the possible, we can more easily change our lives, feel less fixed and permanent, not feel trapped by our choices or that which is beyond our choice. Thus, one life coach published Quantum Jumps in 2013, asserting "that we exist in an interconnected holographic multiverse in which we literally jump from one parallel universe to another . . . In a moment you can become smarter... more confident... happier... more outgoing... more effective... in better relationships... with more willpower. Gain practical tools to achieve real change in your life, regardless of past history." Similarly, in Advanced Quantum Jumping Using Water: High Frequency Affinity to Attract Money, Love, Health and Attunement published in 2019, we learn that it's our "frequency" that makes us "emotionally or financially unstable, overweight, and unhappy . . . all you have to do is tune into a new frequency where you are happy, emotionally, and financially stable, and at a healthy state." Why? Because "there are these alternate versions of you in the universe where these things are present." The author likely means alternate universes; but in any case, "the possibilities are endless", an audacious conclusion based on a very cursory reading of the actual physics.

There is, of course, a tiny kernel of truth here that is, at least in a metaphorical sense, related to the quantum axiom that perception plays a role in shaping reality. Beyond that, though, these books don't really engage the full paradigmatic implications of quantum reality on, say, personal ethics and relationships. 

A good test for how "wooey" these psycho-populist self-help approaches to quantum reality really are is how much they hype up our "freedom" to transcend material realities. Contemporary physics may be able to get by without a notion of time (thus enabling opportunistic self-help authors to suggest we shouldn't dwell on the past), but it still retains the notion of causation (thus implying, I would think, that we can still "make mistakes"). To paraphrase a certain controversial theorist of political economy, we can make our history, but we can't make it any way we please.

So I think there are better spaces to explore ethics, self-concept, and care for others in the quantum paradigm. Here are a couple of thoughts: First, we can critically examine our very strange ideas and applications of risk. For example, we normalize driving cars, an extremely risky act. But if we act "unnaturally" responsibly while driving, as David Pearce writes, being extra careful driving is a way of "minimis[ing] the number of branches [of reality] in which one injures anyone," even if some injuries are unavoidable. The idea of the multiverse, with each subject's choices influencing other universes, widely expands our concern for "others." 

Second is a more historical and justice-oriented interpretation, which begins with an important metaphor: diaspora. In the multiverse, "diaspora" can be seen as a kind of involuntary universe-jumping. Artists from historically oppressed communities, like Stan Squirewell, see the ancestors as "ancient futurist or psycho-mystics" who encoded this universe-jumping. Squirewell's "aesthetic is in direct lineage (but not limited) to the geometric patterns of West African indigenous peoples such as the Akan and the Ndebele etc. The black protean character that pervades my work is derived from mythological water deities like the Greek god Proteus and the Caribbean water spirit Mami Wata." Visual artists can see the patterns in mythology, architecture, and other fields, myth becoming code. The coding creates the links; change the coding and we can change the links. The symbolic strategies of oppressed people link them with other oppressed people

So while it's probably not harmful that people might sell a few books deploying watered-down quantum theory to convince us that we can overcome our personal limits, it's far richer to consider larger social implications and the potential for new layers of human and ecological solidarity. Thinkers from east to west correctly predicted in the 20th century that the revelations of Heisenberg, Schrodinger and Einstein would inexorably change our ethics and politics. It's about a lot more than re-imagining ourselves getting that big raise or improving our love lives (even if those might feel very important).


One-Dimensional Man[agement]: LinkedIn and Absorbent Liberalism

Guest poster: Matt Stannard

Published in 1964, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse examines and criticizes both the communist and capitalist empires of the time — the United States and the Soviet Union — to examine how ruling classes create false needs, mediate public deliberation, and absorb dissent. The simple explanation for how advanced industrial societies do the latter is that they recast it as loyal opposition, watering down the revolutionary or structural implications of social criticism and creating manageable reforms which, by owing their creation to the original criticisms, appear to be fulfillments of them. But besides just re-narrating dissent as loving criticism, liberal societies also create networks that integrate subversive, anti-hierarchical ideas into existing systems. 

The capitalist “West” did this better than the Stalinist “East”. Critiques of the wage system manifested small wage hikes and minor worker protections. Critiques of militarism and colonialism resulted in greater integration of and empowerment of certain groups within the military ranks, and PR campaigns about benevolent soldiers or cops. Critiques of patriarchy birthed campaigns to bring more women into the executive class. 

This continues today and, in many ways, LinkedIn — the business-oriented social network started in 2003 by Reid Hoffman — is a living example of Marcuse's "absorbent liberalism" (my term, not Marcuse's), by which I mean the most noble and healthy liberal ideas are unapologetically cast as elements in entrepreneurial capitalism. In fact, one thing LinkedIn does particularly well is integrate all the sectors we have long believed to be exclusive of one another: the public and private sector, academia and the non-academic "real world," technological and intellectual labor. Everyone can create a professional profile on LinkedIn and sell themselves, even full-time anti-systemic activists. Surrounding it all, like a mesh WiFi network, is the framework of contemporary capitalism, which earnestly needs all of it: the poets and the plows, the intellectuals and the electricians, the rebels and the human resource managers. 

"Help make LinkedIn more inclusive," reads a recent demographic questionnaire sent via email. As I read through and answered the questions — my race, my age, my sexual orientation and gender identity — it occurred to me that a huge portion of the ownership, entrepreneurial, and managerial classes would probably find these questions mildly irritating or politically offensive. At any given time, it seems like 30-ish to 40-ish percent of surveyed Americans preferred the anti-woke politics of Donald Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, while a smaller portion (but not insignificant; we're talking business owners and cops and such) are even comfortable with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson. To whom is LinkedIn directed? 

One answer may be that members of the professional class, from upper-level managers to corporate attorneys, may have accepted and integrated themselves into the techno-liberalism of the LinkedIn crowd even while spouting or silently assenting to reactionary politics outside of their work life. This is economics massaging politics, which is the function of the inclusive liberal state. And networking, like the collection of data on constituencies and clients, is an apolitical need.

What is clear is that LinkedIn is a self-consciously absorbative project. A 2015 New Yorker profile of Hoffman ties his techno-non-topianism to earlier sociological and economic templates of "Man." Hoffman believes "we can fix the problem [of inequality] through Internet-enabled networks. Work is already becoming more temporary, sporadic, and informal, and this change should be embraced. Many more people will become entrepreneurial, if not entrepreneurs. The keeper of your career will be not your employer but your personal network—so you’d better put a lot of effort into making it as extensive and as vital as possible." The article calls Hoffman a "twenty-first-century version of William H. Whyte’s . . . 1956 book 'The Organization Man'" but the same template, that sociological profile of types of "men," sparked the title of Marcuse's treatise a decade later: One-Dimensional Man, herald of comprehensive social engineering that functions to keep power structures in place, to shape-shift the closures of society rather than open spaces for genuine human emancipation. 

Thus, we note the presence of LinkedIn Learning management classes emphasizing skills and competencies along with the development of leadership attitudes and attributes. The concept of "leadership" must remain deliberately fluid and feel nonhierarchical and non-dominionist. First-time managers are told that to transition into leadership, you need to "become a better listener, and connect to your employees emotionally." 

But LinkedIn also incorporates critiques of managerialism, and even of neoliberalism. Take the writing of Michael Judd, a healthcare administrator interested in alternative models of leadership and organization in support of collaborative models of health care, writing about them on LinkedIn. In one of his essays, Judd navigates the awkward terrain between professionalism and revolutionary critique. This pragmatic reality supposes that educated workers, even managers, may learn from and incorporate alternatives into business structures reliant on the old order. Judd transitions from a concluding paragraph on neoliberal, neo-colonial exploitation of labor to calls for understanding diversity in the workplace. For him, neoliberalism's threat to diversity is in the streamlining that happens when all production, and even all intellectual discourse, is reduced to production for profit. Ultimately Judd hopes that our drive to be social beings will counter the alienating effects of neoliberal capitalism. It's not a communist vision he puts forward as his utopia, but a liberal one: "the right to question authority and the laws that govern our society. It is the right to equality, justice and liberty for all, regardless of race, class, gender, age, disability, diagnosis, or any other stratifying label."  

And you can't blame smart, well-meaning people from this manner of incorporation and cooptation, and it may be more useful to look for ways that thinking, compassionate humans can incorporate emancipatory critique in their everyday lives (than critiquing the whole system like some kind of monolith). Liberalism, the pragmatic argument goes, may be the best we can do, and rejecting it may invite authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism before egalitarian revolution. Better to build inclusive markets than invite exclusionary violence. 

It's a persuasive argument, and it will work until it stops working, which some argue it already has. 

This post was sponsored by my client Accurate Append, which provides high quality data and email append services to support organizations, empower campaigns and connect businesses with their customers.


The Quantum Computer Brain Theory

A slew of recent articles have likened the human brain to a quantum computer, including one titled, "Your brain might be a quantum computer that hallucinates math" — an article by Tristan Greene at The Next Web. Quantum mechanics has changed, continues to change and will likely still change everything. As the "math that explains matter", it has played a role in "cell phones to supercomputers, DVDs to PDFs." 

Reality is neither absolute nor predictable in the microworld: uncertainty is its fundamental condition. In fact, science is far better at predicting odds than assuring outcomes. In 1921 chemist William D. Harkins wrote: “Since it concerns itself with the relations between matter and radiation…[quantum theory]... is of fundamental significance in connection with almost all processes which we know.” 

In 1927 Werner Heisenberg's revealed “that deterministic cause-and-effect physics failed when applied to atoms.” In fact, he determined it was impossible “to measure both the location and velocity of a subatomic particle at the same time. If you measured one precisely, some uncertainty remained for the other.” This observation heralded the revolutionary change then characterizing physics. 

In many ways, quantum theory frames our physical reality in ways that sound like a philosophical or psychological thought experiment, rather than physics. The observer is inseparable from the observed. Everything seems and behaves as if interconnected even if we don't know why. You can't predetermine how a photon will behave; you can only observe it from one perspective and watch as it changes, almost in response to your observation. Things can be off and on at the same time. The ability to be off and on, 0 and 1, at the same time makes things work exponentially faster. If these were human traits, they would indicate refusal to recognize limits, willingness to live with ambiguity and openness to the dynamics of perpetual change. Recent research into the quantum attributes of our brains suggests that quantum traits are human traits — at least that our brains can be accurately described as (slightly slimy and meaty) quantum computers. 

Theories about the quantum nature of the brain have existed for a few decades. For some theoreticians, consciousness is itself a quantum process. For others, quantum concepts are more aptly understood as rhetorical or metaphorical ways of describing consciousness. Still others believe that matter and consciousness are "dual" substances in the same underlying reality. 

Most recently, research squads at the Universities of Bonn and Tübingen have tied "simple processes" to our identities as quantum computers. The researchers found "abstract codes" for processing arithmetic — specifically addition and subtraction — in the brain. They discovered that the neurons firing during addition were different from those firing for subtraction problems, and that different parts of the brain were deployed for diagnoses and solutions to problems. One of the researchers explained: “We found that different neurons fired during additions than during subtractions . . . it is as if the plus key on the calculator were constantly changing its location. It was the same with subtraction."The study shows that different neurons fire for different cognitive functions, and the brain is capable of learning the difference between those functions. 

In reviewing older research, we find further linkages between human brain activity and quantum mechanics. In learning tasks, recurrent neural networks "not only learn the prescribed input-output relation but also the sequence in which inputs have been presented." They also learn to interpret what to do "if the sequence of presentation is changed." Meaning in natural languages transcends the mere matching and calculations of symbols; the entanglement of language is quantum entanglement. 

In fact, the case is so compelling and consistent that it might be worth asking whether the brain is a quantum computer or whether quantum mechanics, our systemic perception and interpretation of quantum reality, is modeled after our own brains? After all, we've been able to perform sophisticated and nuanced calculations and synthesize seemingly inconsistent data for as long as our current brains were evolutionarily manifest. The first solid evidence of the existence of counting was about 20,000 years ago: a dead baboon's fibula bone with a series of symmetrical lines cut into it, and which archaeologists guess was used to tally something. Much later — around 4000 BC and when people were living in cities — that formal number and counting systems — mathematics — was developed to keep track of all the people, animals, and things (for example, foodstuffs). The invention of zero constructed another layer of complexity.

Our brains have long been able to tally and to keep track of things through a demarcation that we can safely call counting, whether we had a language for it as such. Our brains could already calculate, and even understand the idea of nothing without the concept of zero; and, functionally, it could perform calculations as needed. Thus, the question of when we developed numerical systems, and therefore math, is then a material, historical, collective question. 

Math isn't just counting; and even within counting, the ability to categorize and create sets implies an interpretive power that cannot be reduced to quantification. Somewhere along the way, quantifying becomes qualifying, quantity becomes quality, and that's where the quantum function comes in — the reality that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, that cause and effect might be blurred and that things can (must) be interpreted and predicted. After all, the presence of this interpretation is the criteria for designating a computer program "artificial intelligence." 

Finally, consider the set of phenomena we call communication. We interpret and exchange symbols in a web of signification that is as predictive, uncertain and inseparable from perception as photons are. We don't simply store information and then process, modify and retrieve it. (In fact, oftentimes we need help with such activities, especially when we need to organize large quantities of data. That’s why we might turn to services like Accurate Append’s data appending, which allows organizations, campaigns and businesses to fill gaps in their data.) Rather, we, as humans, figure it out through often-clumsy and always-imperfect communication. Philosopher Jacques Derrida points that all language is "problematic" in a deeply fundamental way, and that this is a "stroke of luck" for those who appreciate communication, because absent that "problematicity," we would have no reason to speak, to discuss. "How else," Derrida asks, "would what we call 'misunderstanding' be possible?" 

In many ways, likening the brain to a quantum computer could be getting it "backwards"; but as Feynman diagrams (the basis for one kind of time travel) tell us, at the quantum level there is no forward or backward. Maybe the model of the quantum brain is both cause and effect simultaneously. 


How to Build Your Company's Marketing Strategy From the Ground Up

If you’ve just started your own business, you need to increase visibility for your company. That means creating a comprehensive strategy for your brand new marketing department. Even if you’re interested in working with a marketing agency like The Adriel Hampton Group, you’ll want to spend a considerable amount of time plotting out the general details of your company’s marketing strategy. These steps will give you a blueprint for designing an effective marketing strategy for your company.

Invest in Templates

Even if you’re building your marketing strategy from the ground up, you don’t have to start completely from scratch. In fact, using premade templates to outline your brand details and different marketing initiatives can make the process much more efficient.

For example, if you’re getting ready to release a new product, you might be tempted to put together a unique go-to-market strategy - but chances are, you’ll be surprised by how complex this task really is. To make matters easier, you can utilize a go-to-market strategy template. A template like this will help you organize your business plan and marketing strategy along with other key details for your product launch. By creating your strategy with a premade template, you can establish a seamless process.

Hire Support

With your long to-do list as a business owner, you might not have much time to focus exclusively on marketing. While you’ll want to be involved in the development of your marketing strategy, you may want to hire marketing specialists to handle the bulk of the work in this area. Reach out to your network to see if any of your professional contacts can refer you to marketing experts.

Identify Your Target Customers

In order to get a significant return on investment from your marketing efforts, you need to have a specific idea of your target customer. Basically, you’ll need an in-depth understanding of their demographics, budget, and the problems that your company can help them solve with your products and services. If you’re still unsure of your audience, Market Evolution recommends looking closely at the consumers that your competitors target with their own marketing initiatives - who are they attempting to reach?

Establish Your Brand Identity

You want to ensure that all of your marketing materials clearly convey your brand’s identity. But what if you’re still a little uncertain about your brand identity? Don’t stress - working with your team to determine the values you want your brand to communicate, and how you can visually represent these values, is an opportunity to get creative and dive into the purpose of your business. Rebrandly recommends thinking about your company’s mission and what kind of brand voice will resonate with your audience. You should also consider how your font, color scheme, and logo will appeal to your customers.

Consider Your Messaging

In marketing terms, messaging refers to what you’re saying to your audience. But you don’t just want to focus on the content of your message - you also need to carefully determine your tone and how you can play with language to connect with your customers. Depending on which channel you’re concentrating on, you may need to modify your messaging slightly due to the medium itself or the specific customer segment you’re trying to reach. You can brainstorm different messages for each campaign.

Digital Channels

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of marketing channels, it’s time to brush up on your knowledge! A marketing channel refers to a platform or communication route that you use to get in touch with your audience. For example, digital channels include email marketing, social media marketing, video advertising, and even search engine optimization. Digital marketing is a great way to connect with younger, tech-savvy consumers.

Offline Channels

Although lots of companies focus on digital marketing today, you don’t want to neglect offline marketing channels like cold calling, direct mail marketing, and placing ads in print publications, especially if you’re trying to advertise to an older customer base. Bulletin boards in local cafes, telephone poles, and billboards can also function as offline marketing channels!

Measure KPIs

How can you really be sure that your marketing strategy is working? You need to measure and monitor several key performance indicators to ensure that you’re getting the results you want. There are endless KPIs you could measure, so try not to get too overwhelmed! You’ll want to start by focusing on cost per customer acquisition, customer retention, cost per lead, marketing qualified leads, and, of course, sales revenue.

If you’re fairly new to the basic principles of marketing, designing your company’s marketing strategy can seem tricky. But once you get a clear picture of your target audience and start testing out different methods, you’ll quickly start to learn which promotional techniques work best for your business. With time, you’ll be able to grow your customer base!

Ready to optimize your organization’s marketing strategy? The Adriel Hampton Group can help you reach new audiences. Email us today at [email protected] to get started.

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels


Can We Communicate with Plants?

The classification of a living being as "plant" does not exclude consciousness. In fact, most contemporary definitions hinge upon plants' particular cellular formations, and their ability to photosynthesize. Earlier definitions emphasized plants' rootedness, their inability to be mobile the way animals were – but even that definition is not precise. Regardless, there is no intrinsic reason that plants cannot, in addition to their other characteristics, also possess some kind of consciousness. Indeed, recent research continues to move in the direction of concluding that plants not only behave purposefully, but also transmit "messages.”

Such messages might seem to some a loose interpretation of the concept, and it does rely on the assumption that ‘communication’ of any kind requires mutual (if imperfect) interpretation, and not just a stimulus and response. Such a definition applies to human communication as well; we may not fully understand each other, but we intend to understand, interpret and ultimately derive meaning from one another's utterances, or “signs.”

We know that plants "communicate" with each other, in that they convey and receive seemingly purposeful signals. The signals are more than just reflexes – one thing moving or influencing another thing. Ecologist James Cahill says that there are obvious "strategies" in inter-plant or plant-environment communication. "Plants can’t run away, so they have to develop other strategies to stay alive," suggests one article describing his argument. The signals manifest through the use of chemicals, but the chemicals are not mere tools; rather, they are signal-tools.

The most remarkable fact to emerge from the discovery of plants communicating with other plants or with other parts of their environment is the idea that they "cry for help" or in general express "distress" over being eaten by bugs and other creatures. Although "suffering" is certainly an anthropomorphic concept, the data suggests plants do the plant-equivalent of crying for help, eavesdropping on other plants being eaten in order to strengthen their own defenses, and tell animals they can nest in them in order to benefit from animal waste. These may not be unmistakable acts of sharing meaning and interpretation, but they are more than mere impulse-motion.

So can humans ever create meaningful communication with plants? What would this entail? Communication is about signaling. Signs, signals, referrals, indications – everything is part of a complex "web of signification." For logician Gottlieb Frege, the meaning of a given sign is a function of its relationships within that web. That relationship is articulated through interpretation – the receiver receives the message and assigns it meaning. The subjects in communication, individual and collective, interpret others (and their own) signals. This interpretation is always imperfect (the late postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida believed language had to be problematic for communication to exist at all), but we do it anyway.

So while we have exchanged electronic signals with plants, I don't believe we've established anything close to "communication" with them, because although we are "interpreting" their own outward directed gestures (electrical currents, the generation of sounds) as "signals" of biological need or distress, we have no idea whether they are framing those phenomena as signals, and we can't really distinguish them from the messages they are already sending to other plants and non-human life. And do plants collect and organize data?

New research casts some skepticism: a "team of Singaporean scientists discovered that communication between plants and humans is possible by tracing electric signals diffused by plants." Since we can barely call the electric sensations "signals," and there is no evidence of interpretation going on in the plants (only reflex), we have to decide that the evidence is inconclusive. Likewise, the fact that humans can send electronic sensations that make plants do things (shrink back, move, grow faster or slower) indicates that humans have established a level of mechanical control over plants, not that we can communicate with them. The article about the Singaporian experiment goes on to say that "signals can be controlled [by humans] to broaden the plants' abilities and functions." We can interpret their signals, but our signals back to them are just attempts to technologically control them. It lacks the reciprocity of created meaning, or at least we are not seeking the plants' messages for themselves.

Some of this is definitional and some of it is biological. Brains transmit meaning through neurons, and plants don't have neurons. Plants seem to transmit electrical signals, but to what end we don't know.

But it's important to emphasize that "we don't know" is the real takeaway. We don't know that the sensations being transmitted are interpretable or convey meaning in any way similar to what we think meaning is. There are also as-yet-unexplained data that raises more questions, like the "clicking" that one writer's plants made when she was alone in a room with them (and listening to their roots through special microphones), clicking that stopped when visitors entered the room, started up again when they left, then stopped when more people entered the room. This could be a very sophisticated reflex, but could also be a purposive response of some kind. Scientists admit that to say the clicks are communicative "requires further evidence." After all, response to stimuli is only the very basic root element of communication – necessary, for sure, but not sufficient.

Although not everyone will recognize it as such, the question of whether humans and plants could actually communicate is an important one. The stakes are high both philosophically and practically. Philosophically, it makes sense to see whether we can communicate with radically different living beings here before figuring out how we'll communicate with extraterrestrial beings. Being able to "stretch" ourselves across kingdoms is the ultimate test of our adaptability. And perhaps actually communicating with plants would teach us something about how the rest of the living world orients to time. Practically speaking, "early detection of diseases in crops could result in high food security for us humans," and what better way to check for those diseases than to ask plants how they are feeling and receive an answer.


Tips for Hiring Freelance Marketing and Sales Pros to Support Your Business

Guest post by Jenna Sherman from parent-leaders.com. Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash.

As a business owner, you rely on marketing and sales experts to attract customers and drive growth. However, if you're just getting your business off the ground, you may not have the means to build a full-scale marketing and sales team yet. Don't worry. Freelance professionals can help you fill the gaps and give you the support you need. Agencies like The Adriel Hampton Group help businesses like yours scale up, giving you professional insights from a trusted external source. Read on to find out how to find the right experts to get started.

Understand the benefits of hiring freelancers

You might think that it's preferable to have an internal team to handle your marketing and sales. In fact, inviting an external point of view is often preferable, as you'll get fresh insights from an objective third party. Hiring from outside of your company has other benefits too. You'll be able to tap into specialized expertise and enjoy the greater flexibility that comes with hiring independent contractors. You'll also save significantly, as you'll pay for what you need when you need it.

Identify what type of freelancers you need

There are many niches in the sales and marketing field, so it's important to narrow down your needs. Hubspot provides a list of types of marketing to help you figure it out. In some cases, you may not need a person for the job but can rely on "off-the-shelf" services. For example, if you haven't established a formal business entity, you can use a business formation service like ZenBusiness. This is cheaper than a lawyer, and creating an entity like an LLC will help you save money, reduce paperwork burden, and protect your legal liability.

Write detailed and targeted job ads

Once you know exactly what roles you want to fill using freelance sales and marketing professionals, it's time to write job ads. The key to a successful job ad is detail. There are a few questions to ask yourself as you craft the ad, such as why there is a need for this project position, what personality traits will make a person successful in the role, and what credentials they need. You also want to think about how you can attract top talent. That means highlighting the benefits you offer, such as a budget for software and equipment.

Set up an interview screening process

Once you've posted your job ad, the applications will start rolling in. As you screen resumes, have your original job posting in front of you. This will allow you to directly compare the wants and needs of your post with the profile of the applicant. You can then narrow down the pool to a handful of applicants to interview in person or via video chat. BetterTeam provides a guide to running a good interview, like preparing questions in advance. You may also want to take notes during the interview. 

Create an onboarding process

Once you've completed your interviews and chosen your final applicant, it's time to get started. Don't just throw your freelancers into the deep end and expect them to swim. Give them the tools they need to succeed. For example, if you use collaboration tools like Asana or Slack, make sure they have access to these. Establishing a rigorous onboarding process can help your new talent feel at ease. Start by establishing a visual connection to the team via an introductory Zoom call.

Craft a detailed sales and marketing plan

You hired your sales and marketing freelancers because you want them to help your business grow. To make sure that happens, sit down with them to create a detailed sales and marketing plan. Ideally, sales and marketing will work in tandem, creating a supportive network. Marketing should attract new leads, which sales should then convert to new customers. Talk to your freelancers about your goals and how to best achieve them. Then, create a written plan you can all refer to.

Identify critical KPIs to measure success

When drafting your sales and marketing plan, make sure to discuss key performance indicators, KPIs. Rhythm Systems explains the importance of KPIs, revealing that they allow you to analyze patterns, track progress, monitor company health, and make adjustments to stay on track. KPIs are also great for seeing how well your freelancers are working. For example, if you wanted 100 new leads in a month, did they achieve that? If you aren't achieving your KPIs, it may be time to adjust your sales and marketing plan.

Maintain regular communication with your team

One of the challenges of working with freelancers is communication. Take a proactive approach to this hurdle by setting up clear communication strategies and policies upfront. There are many tools you can use to stay in contact with people who aren't on-site, like Slack, Skype, Zoom, and Dropbox. Encourage your team to download the necessary tools and use them regularly. This ensures that your freelancers feel seen and are comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns.

External sales and marketing professionals can benefit your business in many ways. However, you want to make sure you're hiring the right people. Follow the steps above for success.

Want more content about leveraging sales and marketing for greater business success? Check out the Adriel Hampton Group blog.


Capitalism, Labor Unions, and Strikes

A wave of labor strikes — the scope of which has not been seen for decades — is sweeping across the United States. In fact, more than 100,000 workers are either involved in strikes or will be if threatened strikes happen. And the militancy of the strikers themselves, and of the unions, is supercharged. Members are rejecting small concessions, and leaders are even talking about the system — capitalism — in their public narratives. 

All of this occurs against a background of a general rejection of traditional work structures, low wages, and expectations of loyalty or enthusiastic labor. For entry-level jobs and wages, it's now often the case that nobody is showing up to work at all, despite the federal government cutting the most "generous" of Covid-era benefits. Ultimately, people are tired of working in conditions that inhibit their humanity. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at UC Berkeley, says that the bosses and mainstream media are trying to frame the current conditions as a "labor" shortage. "But that’s not what’s really going on," Reich writes. "In reality, there’s a living wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a health care shortage." To this, I would add a shortage of system legitimacy. People are fed up with the brutal hierarchies of capitalism and are responding en masse. 

It's not controversial, I think, to predict that these mass labor actions will win immediate gains for workers and their families, including for those workers who aren't participating in strikes. Unions make everyone better off, except the bosses. If the dominant paradigm of contemporary capitalism is neoliberalism — a widespread assertion by the powerful that markets are always better, economic hierarchies provide benefits that "trickle down" to make everyone better off, and government policies should actively maintain such conditions — the strike is the ultimate repudiation of neoliberalism. The strike asserts that maintaining and reaffirming worker power should take precedence over maintaining "free markets”, and that egalitarianism — material equality — is more important than profit. It does all this through coordinated work stoppage, because control of work translates into political control. 

Granted, there are still barriers to the widespread success of strikes (most of which would go away if the PRO Act passes). These barriers include the simple fact that there is no right to strike guaranteed by law, that bosses can, in many instances, hire replacement workers (“strikebreakers”) without running afoul of labor law, and that the National Labor Relations Board's ban on "secondary activities" (boycotts and strikes against companies that support the companies against which workers are striking) renders strike action much weaker than it would otherwise be.

But even with these limitations, the ability of labor to flex its muscles in the American political playing field is impressive — particularly as not long ago, economists were predicting massive permanent layoffs as a result of automation. For the foreseeable future, however, workers have leverage because of their scarcity and their militancy. Unions may even help usher in widespread climate change-inspired reforms concerning how entire industries and labor are structured.

It's an open question and somewhat controversial, however, whether unions and strike actions can fundamentally transform the economy. The answer depends on who we ask.

The stakes could not be higher. The climate crisis is an existential one, portending widespread death, grueling refugee crises, and potentially irreversible damage to the biosphere. And Marxists believe that the working class, the most important class in history, is the agent which will address it. "[I]n the face of a worsening climate crisis," the Trotskyist faction of the Fourth International recently posted, "we know it is necessary to develop a program based on class independence with a strategy for ending the root cause of the ecological and social catastrophes we face: the capitalist system itself . . . Only the working class and its allies have the power to build a new system which operates in the interest of all of humanity." 

But if fixing the climate requires a wholesale restructuring of society along anti-capitalist, cooperative, and explicitly sustainable lines, it's still somewhat of an open question whether labor unions as presently structured have an integral role to play. The reason for such ambiguity lies in the essentially reformist nature of unions. In fact, that’s why critique of trade unions and labor unions in general can be identified in the earliest iterations of Marxism. 

Take, for example, arguments by anarchists like Partisan Review editor Dwight McDonald, who a century ago argued that in England, "the great dock strikes of 1889 led by socialists like Tim Mann and John Burns" ultimately evolved into the milquetoast British Labor Party. And in Germany, "the mighty Social-Democratic trade union movement, on which Marx and Engels placed their main hope for socialist leadership" — like the CIO in the United States — went from "rebellious youth to bureaucratic senility." Unions, the argument goes, exploit anticapitalist sentiment to gain power, then collude with the ruling class to control workers: "in each case the early struggle to establish unions had an anti-capitalist character which more and more disappeared as time went on," observes McDonald.

Perhaps this is another way of expressing Ahmed White's thesis in his article "Its Own Dubious Battle: The Impossible Defense of an Effective Right to Strike," positing that labor actions are only truly revolutionary if they occur as part of a revolution — that is, at the very least, if labor refuses to stay in the narrow NLRB lines and instead engages in illegal, wildcat, and forbidden actions. White's main argument is that "an effective right to strike is not only an impossible distraction but a dangerous fantasy that prevents labor’s champions from confronting the broader, sobering truths that this country’s legal and political system are, at root, anathema to a truly viable system of labor rights and that labor’s salvation must be sought elsewhere." 

But I think this is ultimately a kind of question-begging argument. All influential movements in capitalist society are in some way institutionally embedded, and such groups also, quite naturally and consistently, provide the rope of their own criticism and (sometimes radical) transformation. While most socialist and communist organizations in the U.S. support unions, few do so uncritically, and some groups have gone to great lengths to democratize unions, play decisive roles in strikes, and play strong roles in union locals while explaining their structural and ideological limits. Others have done nothing but criticize labor hierarchy and invite workers to form new labor organizations, explicitly anti-capitalist and indifferent to NLRB politics. Those "outsider" theorists also have a role to play in the mosaic of the radicalization of labor.

In order to empower unions as political forces, unions need to communicate with their own set of "constituents," and engage in campaign outreach based on an understanding of a kind of "voter base" in the politically conscious public. There are effective tools — like the email appending services offered by my client, Accurate Append — which can make this outreach easier. Ultimately, if more workplaces are unionized and more community members belong to unions, these ideological arguments will take on new form and life, and socialists, anarchists, and communists can work their differences out in common praxis against capitalism, rather than primarily against each other.


The History of Antifa

Guest post

Contrary to the narrative pushed by conservatives like Donald Trump, Antifa is not an organization. Indeed, to describe Antifa as an “organization” would directly contradict its inherently decentralized character. To “be Antifa” (anti-fascist) is to recognize the existential threat posed by fascism to vulnerable communities. This means committing to stopping the encroachment of fascism by any means necessary. Importantly, this is not a progressive definition of Antifa and anti-fascism— it is the only definition. 

Anti-fascism is as old as fascism itself. In 1920s Italy, left-wing resistance group Arditi del Popolo took to the streets to fight Benito Mussolini and his Italian Fascist Party. The group united leftists of all banners, from revolutionary communists to anarchists, for the common cause of hitting fascists where it hurts. During Adolf Hitler’s far-right Nazi regime, left-wing resistance groups such as Antifaschistische Aktion took to the streets in an effort to prevent further atrocities from taking place. After World War II, left-wingers in Germany regrouped, with new anti-fascist movements such as the Außerparlamentarische Opposition forming.

Antifa: As American As Apple Pie

In the United States, Antifa can be considered merely one in a long line of decentralized movements dedicated to the elimination of fascism. In the late 1980s, Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was founded in Minneapolis from a radical punk group known as the Minneapolis Baldies. The group spread across the Midwestern cities of Chicago and Columbus and later found its way throughout the country. Anti-Racist Action would establish a meaningful presence in the West Coast cities of Los Angeles and Portland, and even “crossed the border” into the Canadian metropolis of Toronto.

The rise of Antifa as a radical political force can also be partially traced to the creation of Redneck Revolt, formerly the “John Brown Gun Club” in honor of the famed abolitionist. The group was founded by white southerners committed to the cause of anti-racism and anti-fascism. The core principles of Redneck Revolt provide a strong summary of what guides anti-fascists in the United States:

  • “We stand against white supremacy
  • We believe in true liberty for all people
  • We stand for organized defense of our communities
  • We are working class and poor people
  • We are an aboveground militant formation
  • We stand against the nation-state and its forces which protect the bosses and the rich (police and military)
  • We stand against capitalism
  • We stand against the wars of the rich
  • We stand against patriarchy
  • We believe in the right of militant resistance
  • We believe in the need for revolution”

Following Donald Trump’s election in 2016, anti-fascists wasted no time taking to the streets to resist his right-wing extremist agenda. From the beginning, Antifa activists were on the frontlines resisting Trump’s agenda, which included building alliances with religious groups in the interest of protecting migrants. Almost two hundred anti-fascist activists faced criminal charges after protesting Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017. 

Praxis: Antifa in the Real World

Despite the media’s depiction of Antifa organizers as troublesome young people committed to violence at the expense of making a meaningful impact, this could not be further from the truth. Following the devastation brought on by Hurricane Harvey, Antifa activists took to organizing mutual aid efforts to help those displaced. Outside of the United States, the cause of defeating fascism in any form remains the goal of activists across the world. From India to Brazil, activists are putting their lives on the line to save the lives of others at risk from the rise of the far-right. The fact of the matter is that you can’t simply vote out fascism: defeating fascism means breaking it at its very core, and this means organizing on every front.


Eugene Debs: Political Communicator

It would be interesting to see how the public—even the left public—would respond to Eugene V. Debs if he were alive today. Debs was so morally sentimental and personally vulnerable in his rhetoric that it is difficult to predict how audiences would react, especially in a present during which vulnerability is often heavily tempered with irony, sarcasm and even nihilism in order to be digestible. In many ways, such irony and nihilism emerges from an explicit rejection of "liberalism," or soft center-leftism. Ronald Lee and James Andrews explain how Debs has been reappropriated by liberals (as distinct from socialists) as one of their own precisely because of liberal attachment to moral sentiment. By using "the historical narrative's definition of virtue," liberals crowd out radical change. Thus, Lee and Andrews argue that Debs' moralism better serves a contemporary agenda of "business-labor reconciliation" instead of the class war and unapologetically anti-capitalist ontology Debs actually possessed and espoused.  

Another critic points out that Americanrhetoric.com, ranks Debs' speech to the jury following his conviction under the Alien and Sedition Act for his Canton, Ohio anti-war speech "as the 34th most influential and memorable speeches of all time." It is widely acknowledged that "the speech in the courtroom failed at the legal level given the complicity of law and politics in reinforcing the power of the state.” Yet, something greater was at stake, and it is that very higher idealism which might succeed as political rhetoric right here and right now if someone emerged possessing Debs' ethos, which he himself had gained via creating "tropes of working class rhetoric that resonated with a wider audience." Indeed, losing in court was a huge rhetorical advantage to Debs' own movement at the time, and it is likely that the same events today would have been similarly appealing to audiences, given unprecedented and contemporary cynicism about the legitimacy of courts under neocolonial capitalism. Yet, an important difference to consider is that, "Debs never doubted that justice was on his side, despite the contrary conclusions of a closed political and legal system." In 2021, even committed leftists and progressives are hesitant to believe if not outright disbelieving that even a hypothetical court would provide true justice. What Debs might have treated as an aberration of capitalism is now seen by a significant section of today's society as an irredeemable feature of governance generally. 

More than one rhetorical scholar has highlighted that Debs understood messaging. One article even suggests Debs used what we might recognize as "modern" campaign tactics, and specifically in his 1912 presidential race where he utilized easy-to-communicate messaging, a non-condescending simplification of complex German political theory suitable for Americans. Debs was different from other radicals: "He was able to translate the Marxist idea of socialism into traditional American language; he used Lockean language as a tool to explain to common Americans socialist thought."  This included appeals to individualism and natural law. Capitalism, he argued, was a threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

The results of Debs' messaging are clear. Third party candidates generally struggle to get more than a few thousand votes, even for president. Only three third party candidates have ever exceeded five percent of the vote. Debs was one of them, attaining six percent of the vote in a race against Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, and Teddy Roosevelt—a crowded and notoriety-saturated field. Debs had nearly a million votes campaigning both as a free man and as an incarcerated one. He had a devoted following and even his enemies acknowledged his virtues and how tough it was to go up against him. Above all, Debs' deep faith in humanity, and his abiding loyalty to the marginalized and downtrodden, made him a living argument for socialism rather than simply another firebrand with a manifesto. Debs had ethos, forged through his kinship with the least powerful people including the incarcerated. 

I think understanding Debs rhetorically and politically requires analysing his statement to the court from a point earlier than that chosen by most. Debs statement begins with "kinship," or relatedness. "Your Honor," he says, "years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free” (emphasis added). In these opening lines, Debs is emphatically acknowledging that he is not any better than anyone else. And that, unlike some of the more flowery morality often identified in his rhetoric, remains an acceptable sign of virtuosity even today. 

Similarly, Debs' very important statement on race relations critiques whiteness in a way that intentionally and decisively lifts up the agency of Black voices. "The whole history of the Negro race in America is one to make the white race blush scarlet with shame," Debs writes, before continuing on to point out that the seizure of humans from Africa for the sake of chattel slavery had so dehumanized Black people as to render them free from any debt to the white race, even the old cannard of "gratitude" for those white people who fought for emancipation. Debs had been a railroad worker and so he used the phrase “'Jim Crow' car" to describe the post-emancipation treatment of Black people. In the end, "for the improvement [African Americans have] been able to make under such inhuman and degrading conditions he is certainly under no obligation to his former white slave-drivers—his present white persecutors." Ultimately, Black people do not owe white people anything in the context of race relations; instead, Debs said, we owe each other solidarity as workers.

Debs as a political communicator would, perhaps, do better today than some might initially expect. Yes, he was at times excessively sentimental in the language he chose to use, but he was also self-deprecating, critical of both his race and gender and clear in his admittance of his own moral weaknesses, all in an effort to lift up the working class in its entirety. In 2021, marginalized communities and poor people—those living most precariously—might appreciate Debs' combination of utopian hope, commitment to struggle and solidarity and clear criticism of whiteness and cis-gender patriarchy. 

This post was sponsored by Accurate Append, which provides data services similar to those of Melissa Data, Infutor, and Data Axle. Try Accurate Append's data services for your cause or campaign today.


The Pandemic and the Transition to New Political Communication

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended a lot of assumptions. We used to think that things like work location, physical proximity and functional spatiality were all fixed concepts. Remote work was considered a novelty and people were expected to gather together in the same space for organizational functions. Yes, some of that was already changing, with forward-minded activists and entrepreneurs developing collaborative platforms where work and communication could take place from anywhere with a signal. But mainstream society still saw this as a novelty.

The pandemic altered this by forcing us to consciously define, "essential" work, and the ruling class hasn't done a very good job with its version of these redefinitions. From insisting that education (primary, secondary, and college/university) could not be moved into safer physical space to forcing dangerous situation onto retail and restaurant workers, they proved they do not take care of the workers they need and employ and instead use their very essentiality to force them into precarious workplaces.

This insistence on proximity, as we'll call it, is also reflected in far-right populist political gatherings, from maskless Trump rallies (which will presumably re-start soon) to mob attacks on governmental spaces. It's this trajectory — this growing insistence by those in financial power, or those seeking illegitimate political power, that we "show up," that our bodies be there — that I want to examine by taking a closer look at the conversation about covid-19 and governance.

I'll start with Professor Andrew S. Roe-Crines's February 23 essay in The Conversation.  Roe-Crines uses the impact of the pandemic on British Parliamentary PMQs to express concern about the future of democracy, which he sees as reliant on (in my own words) a physical immediacy and spontaneity. He writes:

The impact of COVID on these rhetorical arena affects the ability of one of our key democratic norms to function – communication. Without communication (or rhetoric), there is no meaningful liberal democratic society or scrutiny of our political leaders. This is not to suggest our liberal democracy has ceased to function (indeed, its move into the virtual realm is a testament to its strength). However, the manner in which PMQs is currently functioning impedes not just scrutiny but also the ability of party leaders to lead their parliamentary parties.

I've included the whole paragraph because I want to dwell on the weirdness of it. The author recognizes that the move into virtual processes and gatherings is a testament to democracy's strength, but believes, and goes on to articulate, that some essential part of political rhetoric is lost when crowds do not gather. There's never really a global definition of what rhetoric is, but there's an assumption about not being able to exercise the same quality of leadership absent physical immediacy.

Roe-Crines continues by saying that without an immediate crowd, leadership can't be discerned: "The virtual conference cuts out a key measure of how much support a leader really has – the sound of the audience. Without that feedback, party leaders are left speaking into a camera in the hope that the audience accepts their arguments without really knowing if it does." Of course the "audience" that is residents of the UK is very different from the "audience" one would be speaking to in PMQ. Plus, the whole argument is quite creepy, particularly when seen through a lens of ability, political and economic geography, and the actual danger of right-wing populism having less to do with it being populism and more to do with who is funding it.

I'm left to wonder why we wouldn't consider new Q and A formats that would try to find the spontaneity and authenticity the author wants without requiring people to inhabit particular geophysical public space. "Gone are loud displays of support, or the need for the Speaker to regularly demand 'order!' . . . little to no interaction with the physical or virtual audiences of MPs." Frankly, all of this seems like a logistical problem.

Which brings me to Aristotle. Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ability to see and deploy the available means of persuasion in a given situation to win over your audience. This materialist and historicist definition is extremely pragmatic. Rhetoric so-defined isn't damaged, undermined, or limited by the transition from in-person to virtual collective action. It just changes. It just needs a new set of methods.

Furthermore, if the initial argument is that lack of physical proximity undermines connection, Aline Burni's observations about the role of empathy in leadership during COVID, and its connection to superior forms of political leadership (if your measuring stick is pandemic survival and functionality) found in states with female leaders, subsumes any argument about the breakdown of democracy due to space and distance regulation. The importance in political communication, particularly during crisis, lies in ability to connect rather than mobilize a proximate crowd. In fact, that connection is exactly what my client Accurate Append has offered during the pandemic: it has provided quality email append services to enable organizations and companies in touch to support those who support them.

Political scientist Aline Burni studies international and transnational cooperation at the German Development Institute. Burni writes: "During the COVID-19 pandemic, female leaders have been portrayed by the media as more competent and efficient in dealing with the outbreak. A study by the University of Reading has provided evidence that countries led by women entered lockdown significantly earlier. Consequently, these countries suffered less in terms of COVID-19 infections and deaths, at least in the first wave." Now, we don't need to dwell too much on female leader X vs female leader Y — that kind of overly-analytic approach is not helpful. Burni is intellectually honest sticking to the first wave in this very recent article, and we know that there are always exceptions to any general conclusion, and we're seeking general observations about leadership attributes.

Importantly, ". . . the study emphasises [that] the proactive attitude of females compared to male leaders (earlier lockdowns) that helped to avoid deaths” is a universalizable trait. There is also a plurality of often creative "crisis communication approaches" which Burni frames as opportunities for leaders to connect with constituents. The clincher: "In general, there is not one successful model of crisis communication. However, it appears that communication has been more effective when based on a balance between science, rationality and emotions simultaneously, especially when the leader expresses empathy."

We know that people find ways to express empathy on conferencing platforms and constituent communication system, and that deep canvassing methods as well as streams of transparent and useful information (constantly accessible "news" from every level of government, delivered via tweets, for example) can even shape quantitative data gathering around communicated human needs. And some technologies can be empathetic.

Empathy seems far more important than physical proximity in exercising good leadership. The privileging of physical proximity is old world, assumes a level of material privilege, and is patriarchal in that it depends on control of the powerful over the proximity of others.

Empathy, the recognition that others have moral worth and consideration on par with one's own, must include a literal, material "taking one where one is." That makes egalitarian, equally-distributed communication technology essential for collective action and decision making, as well as just checking in on the well-being of constituents.