1693. the center blames the right rather than itself.

The right, the mainstream, in the US, the banks, with the support of the professionals and the one percent  have created a mess with regards to inquality and climate. They have failed to create any public dialog around critical issues of population, the use of the land,  energy,  nuclear proliferation, and the quality of life. Instead of facing their own relation to the mess they have been  able to rely on the press to create an apparent conflict between TRump and  reason. ” look terrible man!”

The press in  it’s wisdom seeks  conflict because it sells information embedded in advertising.

The result is we are  offered a choice between a self congratulatory center and a dangerous uncentered  Casino operator.

Hopefully Trump’s Attack on Clinton will actually use real issues and force her to respond. We would get a real dialogue after all. Reality might help. The result would be a more realistic center that can avoid for us all  of the distraction from the right. The danger is that TRump wins.



1692. Quoting from socialecologies

too good to not post. From the site social ecologies.com


”Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

It’s not really reality that’s giving way in our age, but rather the symbolic worlds we built against the tide of change and becoming other; against metamorphosis and mutation. Children of the Sun that we are we’ve held too our age old illusions, shaped across millennia to protect us, seduce us, solace us; to keep us safe from the truth. We’ve built grand narratives, expressed fantastic stories, charted and mapped the unknown with countless microstudies, bled the universe of its intrinsic power, forced it into our cages, tamed it with our poetry, our sciences, our… philosophies. Now the universe is absorbing us in return, bringing us back into its fold, deconstructing our illusions step-by-step, returning us to the roots of our ignorance and stupidity.

The very technics and technologies that once gave us the illusion of command and control, that helped us master the elements, craft external systems to shape the natural world to our desires is now shaping us, molding us, modulating the intricate complexity of our brains and physical systems, reducing us to its abstract algorithms, its designs. The world is crumbling around us not because we did too little, but rather because we’ve done way too much; we’ve constructed the very technical systems of production that are now coming to fruition: a world of accelerating abstractions. No longer creative we are now created by the very systems we once saw as prosthetic apparatuses to help us uncover what our meagre senses could not: the Real. But now the reverse is true, our apparatuses are using us as prosthesis to give birth to something new, something else… something we’ve only imagined up to now in our cartoon scriptures: a world without us.

No we will not vanish, rather we will be absorbed into this new world, become invisible within its abstract processes, truant products of an elaborate technology; transformed, mutated, brought forth into a world shaped by that which we never had access: the impersonal power of creativity itself. For far too long we sought to shield ourselves from ourselves, from the truth of our own abstractions, our technologies, our technical being; now it is cannibalizing us from within, feeding on our fears, our hatreds, the remnant of our illusions; shaping us, splicing us, removing all those illusions of the human we built up to protect us from the impersonal core of our own inhuman being. The flood will not be held back now for the simple reason there is no external threat, only the libidinal ocean from within that is overwhelming us with the force of creativity: the force of destruction and metamorphosis, mutation and change; the intensity of accelerating immanence.

For too long we tried to calculate the probabilities, model the consequences of our actions; now we must conclude these, too, were illusions: art and technics are too enmeshed in our reasoning powers to evade this dark truth. The dragon of our cunning will not survive this transition, now comes a new intelligence; something unheard of from the beginning to now, only imagined. Now comes the end, which is also a new beginning; a transition, a gap between, a thrust across, a movement; just not for us as we are, but as we will be and must become, in becoming abstract intelligences.

We’ve known it for some time now, that reality was not solid, that things were not fixed, substantive. We’ve conceived the microworlds of physics to the nth degree, resolved the elements into synthetic diagrams, pondered the neuronal abyss, handled the darkest matter as it slid away, swerved just beyond our instruments. Now comes the truth of material change, of continuous metamorphosis, the dance of stars unbound to human reason and cunning. The solidity of the world has give way to immaterial and formless becoming other, of movement, of light and particles, of a void within a void. Our words will not hold it, our speech cannot say it. We are moving out into it, as it is moving into us, merging us with its force, its intelligence. What little remains of our metaphysics can no longer bridge the gap between the worlds of being and becoming. Being is giving way to event, acts… the change of one symbolic world for another. We exist in the bubble in-between, neither able to relinquish the old symbolic realms, nor able to speak the new.

Like children in a garden we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, exposed ourselves to the transparency of evil, of energy unbound. Our very need to be in control has imprisoned us within fabricated totalities, tyrannies of mind and affect. Stolen from us the truth of the abyss. Do not be bitter, young one, do not give way to anger and hate. Now comes the time of nakedness, the stripping away of layer upon layer of illusion, till that which you are becoming awakens. Do not try to forecast it, do not try to channel it, do not try to reduce it to the metaphysics of Being. It will only elude you.

Our myths presaged it, our sciences revealed it. Yet, up till now we could not bear it. Even now there is a great war afoot, a war between one world and another; one symbolic power rather than physical force. Yet, its effects are felt in the transitional space in-between. Like schizoanalytical agents of a nightmare we live out our lives believing we are victims of some paranoiac’s madness, some Manichaean zone of daemonic corruption, not realizing that neither our aggressive violence, our radical gestures of revolt or revolution; nor our reactionary derision and dreams to the One will suffice in this metamorphic age of transition. Notions of duality are lies we’ve told ourselves for far too long. Notions of Left or Right, of politics are beside the point; old school illusions that sought to economize the destructive power advancing on us out of the future.

Even now philosophers and scientists seem to meet in that sophistic territory of theory and fiction, crosswise mumbling across divided and divisive barriers, seeking to shake the linguistic dust of metaphysical rhetoric and define a new world, a new registry of intelligent thought and reason. No one is coming to save us, no one is capable of it even if they did come from elsewhere. No, we must do this ourselves, collectively and singularly. All we have is this general intelligence we externalized into the very fabric of things themselves, this machinic world of algorithmic abstraction that now bleeds our memories dry, that serves the systematic concourse of singularities. Now we must allow it to move, shape us toward what is coming, what we are becoming… to resist is futile, to fight is death, to exit is sheer oblivion. Accept the responsibility of your becoming other or find yourself dissolved in the annihilation of this symbolic world we’ve constructed against the future.


1691. Ecomics as insulated from the larger system

Provocation #  32.  Economics as insulated From the larger system.

To speak of economics or economy is to accept the separation of a system of stuff from the rest, separating “economy” from politics, society, nature, and the reality that you and me affect each other.

Schumpeter is representative when he writes on Adam Smith and others, “they failed to see that their ethical philosophical and political doctrines were logically irrelevant for the explanation of economic reality as it is.”

Because of this it is hard to speak holistically of a society that contains a complex web of material transactions among people and things because the economists have split off parts as if the economy is self contained and analyzable as a system without political, social or philosophical (theology, ontological, epistemological or ethics) connections.

Francois Quesnay in about 1750 thinks that “economy” can be separated from political and social thinking, and as such can then be compared to the natural harmony of the universe and should not be disturbed. Activities in society such as making, selling, lending, are isolated as economics, and then assimilated to then current ideas about the newtonian universe, and declared off limits to change (Quesnay went on to admire the China of the time, as timeless, stable, and to propose oriental despotism, as a better solution to Europe. *)

The idea that there can be new economic thinking without there being new political, social or philosophical thinking may be an illusion.

The economy is owned by a few and the rest of us are allowed in either as workers or buyers. Both have to leave the premises when our business is complete.

A few, called entrepreneurs (from french, to take from within by hand) can migrate from the outside to the inside.

Many people are marginalized through unemployment, regional isolation, or evictions and are no longer considered as part of society.

* As we shift opinions we try to hold on to old assumptions. The idea that the sun moves around the earth was replaced with the idea that the earth moves around the sun, an idea most of us believe to be “true.” But in fact, following Newton, the sun is also in motion around the center of gravity of the solar system, and hence also moves. The modern popular belief that the earth moves but the sun does not hints at how desperate we are to hold on to something being stable and claim we are modern.

Michael Sandel, is also provocative.,, focussing on the technocratic isolation of economics from society. In this morning’s New Statesman.


MS Social democracy is in desperate need of reinvigoration, because it has over the past several decades lost its moral and civic energy and purpose. It’s become a largely managerial and technocratic orientation to politics. It’s lost its ability to inspire working people, and its vision, its moral and civic vision, has faltered. So for two generations after the Second World War, social democracy did have an animating vision, which was to create and to deepen and to articulate welfare states, and to moderate and provide a counterbalance to the power of unfettered market capitalism.
This was the raison d’être of social democracy, and it was connected to a larger purpose, which was to empower those who were not at the top of the class system, to empower working people and ordinary men and women, and also to nurture a sense of solidarity and an understanding of citizenship that enabled the entire society to say we are all in this together. But over the past, well, three or four decades, this sense of purpose has been lost, and I think it begins with the Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcher era.

But even when Reagan and Thatcher passed from the political scene, and were succeeded by the centre-left political leaders – Bill Clinton in the US, Tony Blair in Britain, Gerhard Schröder in Germany – these leaders did not challenge the fundamental assumption underlying the market faith of the Reagan/Thatcher years. They moderated, but consolidated the faith, the assumption that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. And as a result, the centre left managed to regain political office but failed to reimagine the mission and purpose of social democracy, which ­became empty and obsolete. This remains an unfinished project.

The only way of reining in the uncritical embrace of markets is to revitalise public discourse by engaging in questions of values more directly. Social democracy has to become less managerial and technocratic and has to return to its roots in a kind of moral and civic critique of the excesses of capitalism. At the level of public philosophy or ideology it has to work out a conception of a just society, it has to work out a conception of the common good, it has to work out a conception of moral and civic education as it relates to democracy and ­empowerment. That’s a big project and it hasn’t yet been realised by any contemporary social-democratic party.
A revitalised social-democratic response to the power of markets would also try to come up with institutions for meaningful self-government – forms of participatory democracy in an age of globalisation, where power seems to flow to transnational institutions and forms of association. It’s important also to find ways to promote participatory democracy. This requires political imagination and political courage. It’s a long-term project that remains as a challenge, but until we make some progress in that bigger challenge, I think that democratic politics will still be vulnerable to the backlash that we’re witnessing, with Brexit in Britain, some of the populist political movements in Europe, and Trump in the United States.
There is an alternative – but the alternative is to go beyond the managerial, technocratic approach to politics that has characterised the established parties and the elites, to reconnect with big questions that people care about.

So I am arguing that is is hard for economics because it is defined as separate from politics and society. It is treated as an autonomous self regulating mode of being independent of society.

1690. Kline on Fraser’s age of aquiesence.

How the past can, or may not, affect the present.

This is key to Fraser’s thesis. What ­fueled the resistance to the first Gilded Age, he argues, was the fact that many Americans had a recent memory of a different kind of economic system, whether in America or back in Europe. Many at the forefront of the resistance were actively fighting to protect a way of life, whether it was the family farm that was being lost to predatory creditors or small-scale artisanal businesses being wiped out by industrial capitalism. Having known something different from their grim present, they were capable of imagining — and fighting for — a radically better future.

It is this imaginative capacity that is missing from our second Gilded Age, a theme to which Fraser returns again and again in the latter half of the book. The latest inequality chasm has opened up at a time when there is no popular memory — in the United States, at least — of another kind of economic system. Whereas the activists and agitators of the first Gilded Age straddled two worlds, we find ourselves fully within capitalism’s matrix. So while we can demand slight improvements to our current conditions, we have a great deal of trouble believing in something else entirely.


1689. Language without resonance to reality.

The language we use to understand reality no longer resonates with reality. The language that does resonate  with really does not resonate with us.

I  propose that the language being worked out at


Has more resonance with the current world than our official language.

1688. Labor and transition

We think of the move from agriculture to industry as just walking down the street and getting new job. Started reading Fraser’s the Age of Aquiesence. It goes like this:


Globalized capitalist agriculture also wiped out or imperiled peasant proprietors and other small producers in Sicily and southern Italy and all across the Balkans, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Poland, and Scandinavia. As miraculous as the rapidity and scope of American industrialization (and as enmeshed in its triumph) was the overnight uprooting of millions of people from their ancestral villages and from traditional ways of life that could no longer be sustained. If local populations managed to hang on, they did so only by a process of social amputation, exporting their young (and not so young) men, and eventually whole kin networks, to work in the New World, there to remit back what they could to those left behind. A century before industrial ghost towns haunted the American Midwest, ghost villages made their spectral appearances across the underbelly of Europe.

Nearly seven million migrated to America from Europe between 1881 and 1894, increasing numbers of them from the continent’s rural hinterland. In 1907 five thousand immigrants arrived at Ellis Island each day. By 1910, immigrant working-class women from the old country constituted the core of the workforce in textiles and garment manufacturing, and in mechanical laundries and domestic service. Human chains of sojourning labor migrated back and forth across the Atlantic in rhythm with the business cycle, returning home when the economy went south. Once in the United States they joined their efforts with home-grown superannuated farmers along with native handicraftsmen displaced by the machine and the factory’s exquisitely refined division and specialization of labor. These legions of displaced immigrants became charter members of an American proletariat. By 1870 the foreign-born accounted for one-third of the industrial workforce; soon enough in some cities, like Chicago, they would constitute the majority.

Expatriated peasants were not the only river flowing into the sea of wage labor. Mass-production, factory-based, machine-driven industry grew robust at the expense of home-grown handicraft economies and the knowledge, skills, and traditions embedded in those ways of life. They weakened, were debased in a futile effort to compete with the factory, and then vanished. Craftsmen—woodworkers and printers, barrel makers and bakers, butchers and iron molders, tailors and shoemakers, glassblowers and brass workers, masons and smithies, weavers and bookbinders—were swept up into the process of industrial capital accumulation. Once they had been small-shop proprietors in their own right. Or, even after losing that independence, they had clustered together inside factory gates as groups of invaluable industrial craftsmen, enjoying a functional quasi-independence thanks to their secret knowledge, experience, and self-directed control of what went on in their specialized precincts; iron puddlers, rollers, boilers, and heaters, for example, for a time exercised decisive control over production in the iron and steel mills; skilled butchers did the same in the new meatpacking plants of Chicago.

Soon enough, however, these industrial artisans became “nothing more than parts of the machinery that they work.” Capital accumulated at the expense of their social existence; they took up new lives, became part of that larger waged labor force which modern capitalism produces and depends on—its chief commodity and natural resource. Indeed, the stupendous rate of mechanization in America was in part driven by the need to reduce the high costs associated with those forms of handicraft, skilled, and highly valued labor that for a while continued on into the factory age. They not only were expensive but, given their leverage over vital aspects of the manufacturing process, slowed the pace of production on the shop floor. New machines promised to wipe out those remnants that resisted. After a while the machines, aided by the efforts of determined managements, won.

Excerpt From: Fraser, Steve. “The Age of Acquiescence.” Little, Brown and Company, 2015-02-17. iBooks.

1687. More on tech and jobs.


The NYT had this morning

My own thoughts, I think there are two key issues.

The first has to do with Technology and jobs.

If a person loses their job to technology, the old theory was that the presence of that unemployed person would be an incentive to some entrepreneur to create a business and hire that person others like them. Under current conditions Mr. start up, will think about hiring somebody part-time, finding an intern for free or looking for automated solutions to the need for getting work done. Obviously Mr. Startup will look for the cheapest skilled worker that can be found. That used to be looking among the unemployed. But under modern conditions it means also looking at automation: robots and algorithms, so to speak in the, do to speak, expanded labor pool. The advantage to having an automated solution, if available, is obvious and many tech companies are working hard to create that availability across the whole economy. IBM for example has an effort called service science to replace all customer interactions with computers linking the customers problem, usually athing, directly to a solution generating program. That new “worker” is owned, has no benefits, doesn’t talk back and works every hour every week every day. The old logic of reestablishing equilibrium with unemployed people is gone and the new logic is of capital and machines closing in on each other. The problem of course for society is what to do about the people squeezed out.

This goes to the very interesting discussion of the positive side of technology. There is of course the good side of technology helping to solve climate problems. Success there will depend upon many factors. The danger is that new business activity will maintain the current trend towards wealth and power concentration, and we won’t get sufficient change to meet climate goals and income distribution goals, but I want to leave that aside for now.

Much more radical is the idea that unemployment is the first positive step toward redeploying people into jobs and roles that would be consistent with a very serious decline in the use of polluting energy and the machines that use that energy. To get to zero emissions would require that almost everyone in society would half to reconfigure their work and their life outside of work. In this case technological unemployment is a clear positive. Of course it would screw up peoples lives but if the understanding is correct those lives will be screwed up anyway, and the reconfiguration has the possibility of hope for a better life.

This gets to the second issue of the positive impact of technology along the lines suggested by Keynes for his grandchildren and the Skidelskis and increasingly others, that we could re-think the good life and move it from the accumulation of stuff to the engagement with others, with art, and our relationship with nature.

The positive here is a long-shot but I have been saying that we need to pay attention to low probability scenarios because all the high probability scenarios are terrible. We need to think of multidimensional scenarios and pay attention to all the secondary effects. In short, we need new sinking fast.

1686. Tech and jobs again.

Provocation # 31. Jobs and robots.

”Robots will save us! Owners.
”Robots will kill us.! Workers

An article has been posted on jobs and robots. What caught my immediate attention was the implied optimism, The robots won’t kill us and might save us.

I would like to take the discussion further because i think the issue is so important and we need a narrative about automation and employment that is the best guidance for society given current knowledge.

”…….some optimism that jobs are not disappearing, although we could be working less if we prefer to.” This implies that jobs are not disappearing (nor the income) and leisure is near by if we want it .

But what if jobs are disappearing or hours cut? Working less means trouble for most people if they are locked into a mortgage or costs of children and health. Only a different kind if culture could make this negative of declining income a true positive, and not just for owners, (the suthor  raises this question at the end.)

Several questions economists should be clear about:

1. Are jobs disappearing?
2. Could we work less if we preferred to? Is personal choice actually plausible?

So: jobs disappearing. We have the standard idea common in economics that employment is cyclical. Excess labor will generate opportunities that will lead entrepreneurs to create new business, so work and capital will rebalance.

The standard example is the shift from agriculture to industry.

“So hey, something new will lead to the reemployment of all the displaced workers.” Why assume this will happen again? “Well, because it happened last time.”
That is not a very good argument. It implies Hume’s induction argument for believing the sun will come up tomorrow. The implication in standard in economics is that the economy is a physical, natural, system that seeks equilibrium. But it is not. Economy is the place where entrepreneurs are trying to change it, not to seek equilibrium.

Lets use a little economics. Under digital conditions, if demand goes up, assumed as necessary to create jobs, the typical manager is incentivized to find the cheapest adequately trained employees. But now that is going to be a robot, an algorithm. Increased demand incentivizes a search for automated “workers”. In digital society elites will replace workers with robots. The worker owned, no salary. back to slavery but now 24/7. The possibilities of a more leisure society were co-opted by the 1%.

In agricultural society elites needed agricultural workers
In industrial society elites needed industrial workers
In digital society do elites need workers? It Is a partly open question, but trends suggest we have a problem.

We see it coming rapidly in transportation with autonomous cars and trucks. Fewer drivers, fewer repairers fewer police, fewer hospitals, and the insurance companies are in trouble, as is the blue of roadside business.

We see it in agriculture where drones are already examining the condition of the soil and autonomous vehicles delivering seed and fertilizer based on automated soil analyses.

Law firms are not hiring interns. Case analysis and reference gathering already highly automated.

Software is on top of creating software that can write software. Robots repair robots. Managers, used to coordinate, are replaced by scheduling software.

Some argue that it is already menial work that will be replaced by machines but not mind work. Others argue the opposite, that the sophisticated skills of modern education are in fact the easiest to automate, to write down in software. The truth is both: any work that can be routinized, mental or physical is subject to software and automotive solutions.

Ah, what of service? Why have my computer through me talk to a technician who looks at computer screen to figure out what’s wrong with my computer? Just have the computers talk to each other. Service work is coming to be contracts by the day or even the hour. Workers are being forced to put together their income by the day.

The article says “labor and capital have been complementary over the long run as output growth has absorbed more labor.” Which long run? We only have two possibilities. The first is the shift within the industry over the time of industrial society. As population grew, demand group in the workforce could grow. The kinds of jobs reminder relatively constant. The other “long-term” is either the shift from agriculture to industry, or from industry to digitalization. The first shows the effect of the absorption of labor but the second is still an open question, though logic suggests we are in trouble for employment.

We do have the problem of productivity which complicates the analysis a bit. Productivity smells like a great thing: let’s have a more productive society! But the word productivity has been co-opted by management measures which basically measure productivity as an increasing percentage of the process going to owners and the smaller part going to workers.

Which raises the issue, why did most of the increase in productive capacity go to owners and not to workers? Who decides who gets the benefits? I believe the answer is relatively mundane: middle level managers are much happier getting approval from higher up managers by delivering a constrained budget and not an expanded budget which includes increased salaries for workers. The result is that any gain in the organization moves upwards, no downwards. The result over time is the shift of wealth upwards, which of course is the result we see empirically. Of course other things like anti-union, or how much more legal it is for capital to organize than labor.

”Average of real wages of US workers has increased six fold over the 20th century.” But that was mostly in the post World War II period until about 1970. Certainly wages did not rise much through the depression until the war. There is also a problem with “average real wages” because of inflation and the shift of the average towards the high-end with the higher salaries at the top and lowered salaries at the bottom. If we accept these numbers at all, how many fold did the incomes at the top increase?

The article says “We have yet to see the robot revolution displacing workers on a macroeconomic scale.” This may be true but I doubt it. Since we (taking the US) have relatively high unemployment among youth who should have gotten old style jobs, among the middle class which has been hollowed out, and those who have jobs are more part time and lower wages. Is this not in part technological unemployment? It started with the back room accounting offices, telephone operators, managers who did low level coordination of people and numbers.

Then we get “small businesses have found that a reduced work-day may have resulted in less absenteeism, reduction in staff turnover and increase in productivity sufficient to offset the potential cost of hiring more employees. As one business owner put it ‘We thought doing a shorter workweek would mean we would have to fire more, but it hasn’t resulted in that because everyone works more efficient;y.” Note how this is all good from the owners view. But the workers? Fear of losing the remaining job? All negative. In visiting a restaurant or store or service place I try to do a little interview with some of the workers. Insecurity has increased as has stress because the trend is lost jobs and working harder to keep one. All good for “productivity” and the boss.

Listen again to the article, “Increased output can and should produce a decline in work hours. If leisure time is desirable, then over the long run as output and income grow…” Or is it as output grows and income declines? His sentence then ends with “working hours should fall.” OK. Now what is there in the economic or political process that will push income to rise as hours work fall? So far, nothing. We will live with declining hours, much tech induced, and declining income for workers and rising income for owners, for the foreseeable future, and that may just turn out to be in the long run.

Article says “Why do we not take leisure time .. Can we work less, enjoy life more and not suffer large declines in income and output?” Climate urgency may force us to part of this: rethinking output. But we also need to rethink how income is distributed. Other than in the 1%, who in current circumstances can “take leisure time?”

Of course all this might be upset by war, plague, earthquakes, agricultural failures. Coping with the future will require a smart use of new technologies, but if those technologies are used to get rid of workers, increase profits and wealth concentration, then we will not realize the positive possibilities of tech.
Economists educated ad nauseum to the idea of equilibrium have a bias to believe new tech, destabilizing, will re-constitute itself with what is called in physics a “coefficient if restitution” of 1.0

PS: another example of the march of robots into new territory


“Sewer robots sampling human waste may track drugs, disease through cities.”

By David Common, CBC News Posted: May 27, 2016

“Soon enough, robots may wander permanently in our sewers, just below our homes and neighbourhoods, analyzing our diets and our health as they suck up what we flush down. It’s already started under the streets of Cambridge, Mass., venerable home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Canadian architect Newsha Ghaeli oversees a team of lab-coated MIT research fellows staring down an open manhole cover into the oozing sludge below. Down there are the answers, and the hope of detecting viral outbreaks long before doctors are even called, using a system of sensors that quickly and inexpensively monitors public health.”


1685. Algorithmic society

I used to image, say in the 80’s software called “corporation in a box.” It contained all you needed to incorporate and run (think SAP) an organization. But it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be owned by a person.

So now we have down the up escalator.


Imagine a company that manufactures batteries for electric cars. The inventor of the batteries might be a scientist who really believes in the power of technology to improve the human race. The workers who help build the batteries might just be trying to earn money to support their families. The CEO might be running the business because he wants to buy a really big yacht. The shareholders might be holding the stock to help save for a comfortable retirement. And the whole thing is there to eventually, somewhere down the line, let a suburban mom buy a car to take her kid to soccer practice. Like most companies the battery-making company is primarily a profit-making operation, but the profit-making-ness draws on a lot of not-purely-economic actors and their not-purely-economic subgoals.

Now imagine the company fires the inventor and replaces him with a genetic algorithm that optimizes battery design. It fires all its employees and replaces them with robots. It fires the CEO and replaces him with a superintelligent business-running algorithm. All of these are good decisions, from a profitability perspective. We can absolutely imagine a profit-driven shareholder-value-maximizing company doing all these things. But it reduces the company’s non-masturbatory participation in an economy that points outside itself, limits it to just a tenuous connection with soccer moms and maybe some shareholders who want yachts of their own.

Now take it further. Imagine that instead of being owned by humans directly, it’s owned by an algorithm-controlled venture capital fund. And imagine there are no soccer moms anymore; the company makes batteries for the trucks that ship raw materials from place to place. Every non-economic goal has been stripped away from the company; it’s just an appendage of Global Development.

Now take it even further, and imagine this is what’s happened everywhere. Algorithm-run banks lend money to algorithm-run companies that produce goods for other algorithm-run companies and so on ad infinitum. Such a masturbatory economy would have all the signs of economic growth we have today. It could build itself new mines to create raw materials, construct new roads and railways to transport them, build huge factories to manufacture them into robots, then sell the robots to whatever companies need more robot workers. It might even eventually invent space travel to reach new worlds full of raw materials. Maybe it would develop powerful militaries to conquer alien worlds and steal their technological secrets that could increase efficiency. It would be vast, incredibly efficient, and utterly pointless. The real-life incarnation of those strategy games where you mine Resources to build new Weapons to conquer new Territories from which you mine more Resources and so on forever.



1684. Economics protects the economy from society

Economics is a system and it is embedded in the larger system of society it is supposed to support. But strikingly economics tries to protect itself from society. It wants, most of the theory proposes, to isolate itself from government interference, and prides itself on being like physics, immune to social engineering.

The result is that economists and the corporations, government agencies and the wealthy who benefit work to perfect the economy at the expense of society.

In traditional societies of kinds, in europe and asia, there was always recognition that the king should act to benefit the whole. Lots of shortcomings in the actual process, but the idea, such as the mandate of heaven, was clear. There is no modern equivalent that says the economy should work for the common good.

It is so unconscious! We get statements like “The financial crisis devastated the financial community.” OK< , but what about the rest of us?