02 July 2018

Replace works. Fighting doesn't.

Economic change happens disruptively; someone comes up with something new and the incumbent can't get to the part of the choice space involved.  (If the incumbent CAN get to the choice space, you don't get disruption.  Compare who made internal combustion aircraft engines with who makes gas turbine aircraft engines.)

Social change happens through ethnogenesis; people re-define who they are, or what the label they have been using means.  Ethnogenesis has a history of presenting moral reasons which conceal the economic motivations.  (Moral reasoning doesn't scale; trying to do this at current populations scales had better use the economic motivations directly.)

So, what do we need?

  1. presumptive social incorporation; follow the rules and you're in.  
    • As a statistical expectation, no current population centre is going to be one in 2100.  Better make the assumption that people are going to move around a lot now, because you or your descendants will be refugees.
  2. Profit as a measure, not a motive.  
    • "Do people agree that this adds something to the world?"; profit as a measure, very useful.  
    • "Did I capture as much of other people's income stream as I possibly could?"  Profit as a motive; actively harmful because it destroys value and creates as system which functions to destroy value.
  3. Income and asset caps
    • you can come up with reasons why this is fair and just, but a working economy requires this.  That's why you need it.  Once you get "I want to protect my good luck/act of theft" as a constructive principle, you stop having a working economy to the extent that "defend the loot" motivation holds
  4. Closed-loop economy
    • it's a small world, and there are a lot of us.  Everything has to either rot or be recycled.
    • Open-loop -- dig it up, use it, throw it away -- has run out.  it's going to stop; much better if we do that on purpose.
This is a hard sell in a conquest-is-virtue culture.  It has to win the fight with that conquest-is-virtue culture, too.  And there are about a billion details.  But so far as I can tell, if we can get a strong majority to define themselves in these terms, there's a chance.


James said...

Somewhat over 30 years ago I spent some time thinking about the problems with getting real effective general social change, decided that strictly political mechanisms were too flimsy, and ended up concluding that what was needed was a transforming "poetic" -- not just a change of the narrative people tell themselves (though that's part of it, and a powerful factor) but of the entire way the world is framed, corresponding to the frame in which a writer writing anything "creative" has to function to put together anything coherent.

There's also a matter of the feedback between thought and praxis. People tend to believe what they do, and social rituals provide a chunk of the sort of feedback needed to ground and reinforce effective frames of thought.

I decided at the time that it was too big a project, but it did provide some useful pointers (to me, then) regarding how to relate the reading, writing, and criticism of literature in terms of social utility.

The closest analogue to this sort of change is the shift that observably occurs when a new religion or variant thereof catches hold (England in the late 16th Century is an example). But if the change is attached to the sort of fervour which typically goes with that sort of religious change you get nasty disruptions (a century or so of off and on armed repression and actual army-level conflict, in the English case), which isn't a desirable outcome. If you don't get the fervour, you probably don't get the memetic transfer rate needed to shift general social praxis, either.

Helmut Monotreme said...

First of all, I love what you are doing here. I just discovered this blog yesterday and it has already given me a banquet's woth of food for thought. I like the direction you are going with these blog entries. But I don't have enough perspective to know whether I like them because they agree with my own evaluations of the state of the world, or because they are true and that they also agree with etc. That might sound like the Groucho Marx one liner: "I like you, I have no taste but I like you". I am pleased to discover someone else is thinking along the lines of "what are we going to do with all these refugees" because they are coming. Heck if you look at people displaced from Houston and Puerto Rico, (not to mention all those people desperate to cross the Mediterranean sea in leaky, overcrowded boats) they are already here. And I keep thinking that the world economy serves so many people so badly, that it's ripe for "disruption" in the silicon valley sense. And I think cyrpto currencies are in part a (terrible destructive) reaction to that. But I don't know how to disrupt the economy at all, much less in a way that won't be co-opted and neutralized by the biggest banks and won't empower selfish Ann Rand devotees who will use their newfound wealth to screw the rest of us (and not consume the electricity of a small country to fuel their gold-rush mentality). In order to avoid the kind of conflict that will make the conflicts of the 20th century look like a damp firecracker, we need solutions fast, and we need to make adopting that new "adapting to global warming and helping our neighbors not to die" both the popular choice, but also the profitable one. And I can't figure out how to make that happen. And I get the sinking feeling that lots more people are going to suffer and die before this issue is a priority.
And I should probably start blogging again, because this is kind of only tangentially related to your point.

Graydon said...

@James Burbidge -- I think you're right, about robustness of mechanism, and I think this is what's involved in ethnogenesis.

@Helmut Monotreme -- Glad it's food for thought!

I think "true" is a statement about the inside of some individual person's head, and "factual" is a statement about material reality, and that it's useful to maintain the distinction. I try for factual but it's a big old world.