[FoRK] US defence budget will equal ROW combined "within 12 months"

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed May 4 23:11:46 PDT 2005

Interesting point of view Ian.  I disagree in a number of ways, as noted 
below.  I doubt that either of us can prove our differing positions to 
much certainty.

Ian Andrew Bell (FoRK) wrote:

> On 4-May-05, at 12:58 PM, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> ...
>> The .com boom/bust, with its very beneficial leap forward in 
>> technology, awareness, and access and transfer of wealth from 
>> moduls/foundations to the meritous-middle class, is a creative 
>> destruction model to desire.
> I'm sorry ... I realize I'm questioning our own existence here, but 
> what exactly is/was the profound human social benefit of the dot com 
> boom/bust?  How does eBay really contribute to the furtherance of 
> mankind?  Are fewer babies dying of malnourishment because I can now 
> shop for books and DVDs online?  Does ubiquitous broadband really 
> further the human endeavour or does the subsidized propagation of 
> internet access merely allow countries to compete economically with 
> other countries who, well, also subsidize the propagation of internet 
> access?

This comment and at least one below implies an attitude/viewpoint that 
shows an interesting selectiveness on quality of life issues.
The Internet, eBay, Amazon, Google, Wikipedia, and countless other 
successful children of the creative destruction of the Dot Com Era, 
along with death to outmoded, obsolete business practices have had an 
almost incalcuable postive impact on many people's lives.  Whether you 
measure improvement as entertainment, knowledge, cutting waste, speed up 
of progress, avoiding medical ignorance, psychological and social 
benefits of finding like-friends, or knowing about what's happening in 
other parts of the world, you can hardly argue that the world today is 
more or less the same as, say, the 1970's or 1980's.  When you throw in 
cheap long distance, cell phones, cheap easy travel, etc., life is far 
better and more interesting.

If anyone is dying of malnourishment, it isn't because there isn't help 
available, it is only because of local "authorities" that are causing 
it, either by some direct deprivation or by restricting information to 
the world.  I would bet that if given completely open access, full legal 
latitude, and full Internet access, I could feed or get adopted any 
number of marginally healthy children anywhere in the world.  I can only 
say that because I know the Internet could be leveraged that way by a 
single person.

Why do you think that Internet access is subsidized?  As a general rule, 
it is not, nor has it been since UUNet commercialized it.  It's a 
cooperative capital investment in most parts of the world.

> Given that the majority of those who were left holding worthless 
> shares were that selfsame middle class I suspect that any detailed 
> analysis of the flow of funds during the era would reveal that the 
> opposite was true:  the dotcom boom/bust had more to do with a 
> transference of wealth from the middle class to the moguls/foundations 
> than the inverse, as you've stated.  That a few "meritous" Sergeis, 
> Yangs and Koogles were beatified by those moguls to serve as beacons 
> to the slaving masses is hardly evidence of such wealth transference 
> having occurred meaningfully.

Hard to proove this of course, but both the moguls and individuals put a 
lot of money in.  Most of the money went into to pockets of doers 
toiling away or services to support them.  Certainly some mogules and a 
fair number of individuals made out well, but the boom in technology 
workers and capital investment in fiber, equipment, research, education, 
computers, software (including open source), etc. has had a huge 
accelerating effect.

> To assume that more technology is a good thing perpetuates a very 
> Western-centric view of humanity.  The Achuar tribe in Ecuador

True.  That doesn't make it wrong.  Outside of the inevitable local 
minima mistakes, more technology IS good, almost by definition.
Arguing against technology seems to me to be equivalent to saying: "If 
you keep making things better in small ways, eventually you're really 
going to be screwed."  Outside of nuclear holocaust and "quality" and 
completely reckless biowarfare, I don't buy it.  If this argument is 
true, why shouldn't it be true for non-technology, like law, education, 
arts, etc.? 

> has lived sustainably and happily in the same area for thousands of 
> years and I don't think they have much interest in getting internet

It is quite possible that they were progressing in ways of their own, 
but there is a point of view that not only values life in general, but 
specifically seeks to further knowledge as a life goal.  From that point 
of view, when two cultures meet, each should learn about and adopt the 
best practices of the other, both being free to decide what is better 
and whether to assimilate.  What this is hinting at is what should be, 
from my point of view, the goal of life: don't waste it.  What is 
wasting life?  For a human, it means making a positive mark, 
improvement, or change over just existing.  Technology is one type of 
knowledge and progress.

The only value for a people to stay in the same place, doing the same 
thing, without innovation for thousands of years is: a) to survive, b) 
to promulgate best practices, and c) provide some benefit to others.  
There is a little temporary benefit as a curiosity for c), but when a) 
and b) aren't an issue, groups Should adopt technology.

How does your description of a stable, but presumably non-innovative and 
non-evolving society of people differ from, say, a group of gorillas?

> access, or in buying and selling securities.  Of course, their primary 
> interest over the past 30 years has become growing and selling enough 
> cocaine to buy weapons to defend themselves from the encroaching oil 
> companies and their US-trained government security details.  Ironic 
> that both the cocaine and the oil end up in the same place though, no?

Those problems are temporary adjustment issues.  Their progeny will 
eventually get the hang of modern life.

>> We should all hope that the world leaps forward in all of these ways, 
>> however messy it is and whatever path it takes.
> When it wipes out societies, cultures, and species; when it consumes 
> every available resource as it careens down a blind path to global 
> ecophagy; when it actively promotes the deaths of millions of people 
> whether they're in New York, Iraq, Panama, or Israel .... I'm 
> beginning to think that maybe it's a bit too messy for me.

According to the technology and science of 30, 40, 50, 60, 100, 200 
years ago, billions would have starved and died of disease by now 
because their is no way we could have fed, managed, or kept healthy the 
billions we have now.  I fail to see how our advance-when-needed 
technology paradigm hasn't been beneficial.  Sure, we're kind of sad to 
see societies, cultures, and even species go, especially if the 
situation seems unfair to us, but really that's the way it has to work 
in the end.  Our sadness is, at least in some cases, something like 
wishing our children could know our grandparents when they were young 
and vibrant.

The alternative to most of our technology would be worse lives and more 
people dead and certainly far more of all of our lives wasted, ignorant, 
and unfulfilled.

> And the assumption that such leaping moves us forward is perhaps even 
> more problematic.  The point is that if your yardstick for "progress" 
> says Made In America then every person on the planet must be measured 
> on a continuum with the Bush family at one end and a starving 
> HIV-infected baby on the other.  The point is that the success of the 
> Bush family is entirely dependent upon a system which necessitates the 
> existence of both groups in increasing numbers, leaving progressively 
> fewer of us in the middle.

I talked about the world moving forward, not "Made In America" everywhere.
I went from a fairly low starting point, by US standards, to very 
comfortably high standards based on technology, almost completely 
self-taught from inexpensive sources starting in a farm/manufacturing 
county in Ohio. 
With proper motivation and any access to baseline technology, people in 
a large majority of the world could do the same.

You can't look at Bush anymore than you can look at Gates to learn 
anything about opportunities or effects of technology.

Most of the leap forward of technology, which has continued to bear 
fruit, happened during Clinton, not Bush.

>> The main cause of villany is ignorance
> The main cause of villainy is personal greed.  Ignorance allows 
> villainy to scale.  Profound ignorance allows villainy to scale globally.

There is much disagreement over the definition of "greed" and, for some 
of those definitions, whether it is bad or not.
I've run accross few people who I thought were "greedy" or otherwise 
driven by or practicing "greed".

Certainly, you could choose what I'll call the "thief's gamble" in some 
or all of your economic dealings, but in any working economic system, 
you'll lose to the system consistently enough to make playing fair the 
more attractive option.  If you define "greed" as "taking more than you 
deserve to the detriment of others and the system", then that is the 
"thief's gamble".  (I define the "thief's gamble" as: "I'll tend to be 
better off if I take more than I'm entitled to since the suckers will 
make up the difference.")

I can define away your restatement of my position:
Ian: The main cause of villainy is personal greed ("thief's gamble");
Sdw: The main cause of personal greed is ignorance (by the thief and by 
the economic system that doesn't effectively penalize the greedy thief).
Original Sdw: The main cause of villany is ignorance.

> "Economics" is a very good mechanism for the institutionalization and 
> export of ignorance.

How does that work exactly?  This is not an obviously true statement 
from my point of view.
I've only seen economics/commerce teaching myself and others valuable 
lessons, which, when factored into a system of behaving, work 
consistently well and surprisingly efficiently.

> -Ian.


swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

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