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Speaker: The Voyage: The Engine Room Dilemma - All Hands Below Deck

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Stewart,

    I would love to see an economic equivalent to quantum theory and relativity and the new ways of thinking that they generated. (Current economic theory = mechanical physics & current practice may be better suited to some 'relativistic' economic theory.)

    So far as I'm aware, there are a plethora of alternative economic theories, but a very narrow range of them has control of practically the entire field.

    Bernard has raised a number of alternative ideas over the last year in the Herald. It's quite amazing to read the shrillness of the commentary that disapproves, how bitterly it opposes even the slightest deviation from monetarism. But also heartening to see a lot of commentary in favour. Well done Bernard, and thank you very much for your post here.

    I don't think a theory as amazing as relativity is needed in economics. It just needs to stop being totally dominated by the finance industry, which has a vested interest in the theories that most maximize their power. The great irony is that a lot of very interesting possibilities have been hypothesized in economics for a long time, but the more powerful the finance sector gets, the more impossible it becomes for experimentation to even be allowed, so the discipline becomes less scientific as time passes. I see the revolution needed there to be more akin to the Copernican one than the Einsteinian one. Scientists, by and large, agreed with Einstein, when his predictions started coming true. He was not suppressed. But the barriers to Copernicus' theory were institutional, he was challenging an orthodoxy of tremendous power, with near total control of the academia of the time. Galileo was actively persecuted for his contributions to it.

    I do not know whether any economic system is going to give the developed economies of the world the growth they had post-war, though. It may be the wrong question to ask what system will give NZ the most growth, a question that places us against other nations in a rush that we actually don't have any particular reason to be in. A better question might be what gives us the best sustainable growth with a reasonably fair social system attached.

    I have thought for quite some time that Marxist economics suffers as an alternative to "purer" capitalist economics by still being a capitalist theory after all, one that still isn't able to look forward to the end game of industrialization and mechanization, to a world in which humans work less, asking the question about what the best way for humans to cohabit without endless work would be. Instead, it deifies work just as much, indeed more so, and in doing so does not really challenge the basic foundation of the economics which would make slaves of us all. It's almost as pernicious as monetarism in this respect, in strangling out every other socialist alternative from academic oxygen. It's most annoying that our main political alternatives are predicated on a tension between two bad theories, and perhaps it is what Marxism has in common with monetarism that explains the poverty of choice we have in our major parties.

    But nothing I'm saying here is either news, or anything I haven't said before, so I'm going quiet now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Not sure I need a bank to do that really. I do need a secure network and secure servers.

    I suppose you can see a bank as a secure server where you store your bytes representing value.

    But really, you can't run any kind of a business (except drug-dealing, possibly) without a bank. How are your customers going to pay you? How will you pay your suppliers and staff? How will you pay GST, PAYE and tax?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to BenWilson,

    Bernard has raised a number of alternative ideas over the last year in the Herald. It’s quite amazing to read the shrillness of the commentary that disapproves, how bitterly it opposes even the slightest deviation from monetarism. But also heartening to see a lot of commentary in favour. Well done Bernard, and thank you very much for your post here.

    All the more so, since he used to be one of them. The monetarists are not unlike a bloodless Mafia syndicate, and if people think they're harsh on the 99 Percent, they're even harsher on monetary apostates like Hickey.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4136 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    The only non-bank payment system to have gained any momentum is noted for arbitrarily freezing peoples money for indefinite periods.
    I don't think I'd be putting my salary in there.

    (Or indeed into Bitcoin, which Doesn't Really Work).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4411 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I suppose you can see a bank as a secure server where you store your bytes representing value.

    As long as you can afford electricity or there is a steady supply, or no viruses like stuxnet or flame (and we can thank Barack Obama for at least one of those, if not both - gawd help us from those 'protecting life and liberty')

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4623 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    The world’s ability to invent and develop new tools and techniques to increase productivity has atrophied over the last 30 years.

    Everyone’s favourite anarchist anthropologist explains.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2932 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I was a bit unconvinced by Graeber's article. He doesn't seem to consider that a major reason we don't have flying cars and home robots is just that science fiction authors know less about physics than they thought they did, and overreached themselves a lot.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 182 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Julian Melville,

    I'd agree: there are basically three things wrong with utopian ideas of the past and present:
    - resource scarcity (e.g. supersonic air travel)
    - laws of physics (e.g. antigravity)
    - risk aversion (e.g.. flying cars)

    It's only the latter that we could deal with by realigning our ideas. If we decided to give up the 10 year lifespan gain from modern medicine in favour of a higher accident rate, we could take maybe a 12% increase in accidental death - flying cars slamming into buildings, nuclear plants melting down, that sort of thing. But people crave immortality along with all the other good stuff.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4411 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Thanks for posting that Stephen, some fascinating observations on the stagnation of our culture and the pervading bureaucratic spirit. This paragraph in particular resonated:

    "Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one; it—or at least something vaguely similar—has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded."

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Yes, it would be a stronger article if he resisted the temptation to riff on the "dude, where's my flying car" meme and stuck to the discussion about declining rates of profit, the neolib project, bureaucracy and control.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2932 posts Report Reply

  • Kiwi Nomad,

    Aging populations are going to retire and get sick over the next 20-30 years, leaving a smaller group of passengers working and paying taxes for health care costs and pensions.

    Ah, the old 'how are we going to pay for all the retirees in the future' non-issue... 3 points to ponder on: 1. Taxes don't fund anything... taxes are used by a fiat-currency government to regulate demand in an economy. 2. The NZ government will always be able to afford to spend on health care or pensions, it is a political choice on how much to spend or where that spending is directed. 3. Real resources are involved and if the government is allocating X real resources to a pensioner then that may reduce the real resources available for another age cohort when those resources are finite.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • jb, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    No, worst thing that happens is that the cash machines stop working.

    Which is why you have $1000 cash as an emergency fund

    a.small.town.in.germany • Since Jan 2007 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to jb,

    You are lucky.
    I have a $100 worth of coins that I can probably turn into shot-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Gravity has a lot to answer for – Defying the rules of gravity creates problems.

    Attempts at Space Travel deserve a special Darwin Award when you consider that under the Space Shuttle program to get a get a 100000 kg shuttle “up there” took a 2 Million kg “appliance” - with most of that weight being made up of tanks full of rocket fuel.

    Having once seen the re-entry capsule used in the Apollo missions at MOTAT you just think to yourself, “Hell no I wouldn’t go”.

    This is one view of what re entry can look like from space.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Columbia_debris_detected_by_radar.jpg

    Financial markets and their regulation and the resulting “economic management” is that their workings defy of laws of common sense and are partisan towards bankers and the political elite - that has always been the problem..

    Everybody, with the exception of bankers and political elite, gets burned on the re-entry when financial markets come crashing down to a reality of sorts.

    Strap yourself in enjoy the re-entry and the eventual return to reality as momentary as it may eventually turn out to be.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1184 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Thanks for your thoughts there, Ben.
    I may have been a bit over-zealous in hoping for a 'relativity' paradigm-shift, so your Copernican analogy sounds good to me, especially as it acknowledges the vested interests vying to retain their power by retention of the existing model.

    I still have issues with the fixation on 'growth', given that we live on a finite planet, and I'd like to think that both monetarism and consumerism could be scaled back dramatically. (Not to say that people should have to live in deprivation, but that a level of comfort - social as well as physical - could be viably attained for all. But that would require mankind to address the population growth elephant in the room.)

    For a viable long-term future of mankind we must be able to leave this planet & colonise the multiverse and I can only see our current economic models and system hindering that future.
    #gladimnotimmortal

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 562 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Well I don't know about that . It may have been true 20- 40 years ago when those aging were flogged out manual workers but I think the future of aging may be different. I am 60 and am not expecting to retire for quite some time and like many of my friends we are looking after our health a lot more than say, my parent's generation did. I wouldn't be so quick to write off the aging population as a liability too soon.

    I'm not so hopeful about the future. The over-use/miss-use of antibiotics makes me fear that in the next twenty years we're going to lose that great tool against disease. When that's gone, then I wouldn't be surprised to see the next generation have an average life expectancy lower than that of their parents.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 145 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Islander,

    Coincide?

    I have a $100 worth of coins that
    I can probably turn into shot-

    Small Change got rained on...*

    *Tom Waits

    Love it, loot it and leave it...

    For a viable long-term future of mankind we must be
    able to leave this planet & colonise the multiverse...

    Guess it's down to Magick and Wardrobes with back doors, then...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4623 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Stephen R,

    not completely ingest...

    The over-use/miss-use of antibiotics makes me fear that in the next twenty years we're going to lose that great tool against disease.

    ...and other bitter pills to swallow

    After the active ingredient in most birth control pills has done its duty preventing pregnancy, it begins a second life as a pollutant that can harm wildlife in waterways.
    Not only is ethinyl estradiol quite potent — creating "intersex" fish and amphibians — but it is very difficult to remove from wastewater, which carries it into natural waterways.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4623 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to BenWilson,

    so I'm going quiet now.

    No, please don't. You are gold.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 126 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Chris Trotter has an opinion piece on banks in a recent Press which has put the cat amongst the pigeons in the comments section - now I don't know what to think...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4623 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to John Armstrong,

    No, please don't. You are gold.

    Since you ask so nicely, one for the road.

    I thought the Graeber article profound and disagree entirely with the suggestions that he should have limited the scope of it to be more convincing. That very suggestion is symptomatic of much that has gone wrong in modern thought, the idea that everyone should have some tiny little parcel of knowledge in which they are respected, and outside of that people should limit their speculations. I found little to disagree with in his words, other than that I'd say he should probably limit his literary claim to "mainstream scifi".

    I've been reading Ursula LeGuin lately and I'm struck by the stark realism she decided to superimpose onto her vast tale of interplanetary civilization. She sees on cosmological timescales. So far as I can see, there's no flying cars - she limits her breaking of known physics to exactly one thing, the discovery by Shevek in The Dispossessed that makes faster than light communication possible. Interstellar travel is as slow as all current physics suggests it should be, and as expensive, so it's not done lightly. She makes the lovely observation in The Left Hand of Darkness that scientific progress can go incredibly fast, but it can also go incredibly slow, that Terrans took 30 centuries to discover the number zero, despite making a lot of progress in other innovation. But it only took 30 decades to go from sailing ships to space ships.

    Her vision of advanced society is similarly veristic, in disputing the utopianism of progress. She has a utopia, but she spends the whole book showing the limits of it, how very hard it is for humans to set something like that up and maintain it, and how it is subverted extremely fast by suddenly producing something of tremendous value to the rest of humanity (Shevek and his theory). Shevek spends a lot of time wielding a shovel in the story, most curious that LeGuin doesn't even recognize human inventions that have actually been achieved, like diggers and combine harvesters. But then again, perhaps she really was seeing the future there, that getting a physics genius to dig ditches is actually cheaper than the capital outlay on that kind of equipment, even in as egalitarian a society as her anarchic utopia.

    Furthermore, resource depletion is a constant theme, and she is not optimistic for us Terrans, the ambassador of whom tells Shevek that Earth was once as lovely as Urras (the planet of origin of his species), but simply ruined itself irreparably and survives at that point only through extreme belt tightening. I think she's overly pessimistic there.

    Doris Lessing, another favourite of mine, is even more dark and negative - Shikasta describes Terrans destroying themselves, despite the best efforts of the poor agent of the Canopians (who would seem to be a vast bureacracy) labouring for millenia in different human bodies against some kind of negative energy from a hostile civilization that sucks the goodwill out of our species. In The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 she depicts the destruction of another small civilization faced by the sudden onset of an ice age, for which the Canopians berate themselves for not seeing it sooner and not being able to get there in time to save anything physical at all. So the entire story is devoted to the representative taking on the tragic task of keeping the people alive for as long as possible whilst absorbing everything about them that he/she can, so that at least a memory of them is preserved.

    These would be extremely difficult stories to make into movies, even more difficult to make into computer games (although some grand scale strategy games provoke similar thoughts), though, so their widespread popularity will probably grow as slowly as most works of real genius do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    ...even more difficult to make into computer games (although some grand scale strategy games provoke similar thoughts)

    Start small with the Game of Life...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4623 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    In terms of New Zealand's creation of business ideas and ongoing productivity I'd like to add this to the mix especially with our small proximity and relationships to each other and aversion to criticism.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 546 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Tim Michie,

    I felt Jonah Lehrer perhaps overstated his case a little with:

    "But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn’t work."

    as highlighted here:

    "Although this study is often cited as evidence that brainstorming does not work, it is important to emphasize that this study did not actually test the brainstorming guidelines since both experimental conditions used brainstorming. The factor under examination was group versus individual brainstorming."

    A Review of Brainstorming Research: Six Critical issues for Inquiry

    Evidence of Electronic brainstorming's potential benefits being your contribution to the discussion Tim,

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie, in reply to chris,

    The

    A Review of Brainstorming Research: Six Critical issues for Inquiry

    link doesn't work for me. Having a look around the accessible pages it does appear that firm does promote debate of ideas and this was the aspect I found encoraging in the New Yorker article.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 546 posts Report Reply

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