Berggruen Institute's Pre-Distribution Agenda Advances

Nathan Gardels

As the U.S. begins to grapple with its huge inequality chasm, this general idea of pre-distribution is gathering traction. In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, three close associates of the Berggruen Institute — Bob Hertzberg, the majority leader of the California State Senate, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Snap cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel — promoted just this approach. They wrote: “The equality gap continues to grow, especially between those who own capital assets that appreciate in value and those who work and live paycheck to paycheck. The richest 10% own 87% of all equity in the U.S. One way to start closing this gap is with a program to foster an ownership share for all Californians in the wealth produced here. We call the concept universal basic capital.”

Their essential idea is for the state to use its post-COVID surplus to seed a wealth fund in which Californians over 18 would own shares in a diversified pool of investments across the economy, including in start-up ventures. This fund could be further seeded, they write, by equity contributions, particularly from the state’s high-tech companies, in exchange for the kind of tax benefit they would get from donations to nonprofit universities.

Pre-distribution through universal basic capital, Rana Foroohar recently wrote in her Financial Times column, is “an idea whose time has come.” “Capital for the people,” as her headline reads, is “well suited to an age in which network effects and intangible assets are concentrating wealth not only in fewer hands, but in fewer businesses that can generate outsized gains with far fewer employees.” It is increasingly apparent that the best way to fight inequality is by spreading the equity around.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.