A response to a critique of “Why Capitalism Creates Pointless Jobs”

Why Capitalism Creates Pointless Jobs

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.

[My response to Kimock’s critique – rather than the original post itself.]

Hi Kimock

There is some truth in your assertion, that an understanding of some of the fundamentals has not been clearly demonstrated, and your response suffers from a similar (though one step deeper) lack of understanding about fundamentals.

The fundamental that is most important at this time is that markets must value any universal abundance at zero.
That is, anything that everyone has all they need of, has no market value, irrespective of how important it is, like the air we breath.
In the case where things are naturally abundant (like air), you can say – yes, that’s entirely sensible. And that could be argued as a reasonable position when there was only a very tiny set of such universal abundance possible (air).

However, that has now changed.
Now technology allows us to produce a large and exponentially expanding set of goods and services in universal abundance. We have that technical capacity. Having owned and operated a software company for over 30 years I am far more aware than most of that fact.

The incentive under capitalism is to make profit.
To make profit, there must exist scarcity.

Most of the laws in any jurisdiction are about creating such scarcity.
Some do so explicitly, like Intellectual Property (IP) laws, copyright and patent etc.
Others are much more stealthy, and fall under the broadest possible heading of “health and safety” which includes most of the guild laws requiring qualification (be it medical qualifications or a trade certificate, or whatever).
In all cases, whatever their public rationale (whatever the sales pitch used to get them through the many levels of whatever legal process exists), the practical outcome is to prevent universal abundance by the imposition of artificial barriers to such abundance.

10 minutes on the job training can have someone being productive in a narrow field, in most cases. Sure, we all increase the scope and depth of our knowledge as we gain experience, and the evidence is clear, most people only need a couple of hundred hours of school room instruction to learn the basics of reading and mathematics, and then they learn best by engaging in something that actually interests them – only a very tiny minority find that in classrooms or any education system.

The real fundamental issue is that markets are internally incentivised to prevent the emergence of universal abundance, which is what most of those in really high paid jobs actually do (in one way or another – certainly lawyers).

The real fundamental issue is, that right now, we possess the tools and resources to meet the reasonable needs of every person on the planet for air, water, food, housing, transport, communication, energy, education, healthcare, sanitation, security, and freedom – but actually delivering such abundance would break the capitalist system (any system based on exchange or markets).

Capitalism is a very complex multi levelled system that in times of genuine scarcity one could make a reasonable argument was actually in the genuine interests of life and liberty for most people.

In an age of exponentially expanding automation, one can no longer make that argument with any level of integrity or coherence.

Our exponentially expanding productivity has outgrown the scarcity based value-set that gave it birth.

We need to transition.

It is in everyone’s interests to make that transition as peaceful as possible, and of benefit to everyone (right across the capital distribution spectrum).

I am confident that can be done.

I am without any shadow of reasonable doubt remaining that it cannot be done within a market based set of values.

We require something else.

I seems clear to me, that a universal respect for individual life, and individual liberty is such a viable set of replacement values.

That actually requires each and every one of us to think about how we can secure our own lives, and the lives of everyone else. Killing anyone is not an option – ever!
The military industrial complex must go – and we must do that in a way that is as stable and secure as possible (at all levels).

Liberty, freedom, can never be without constraints.
In complex systems, it is constraints that deliver form.

We only exist because of constraints – from the subatomic levels on up.

Meaningful freedom exists within constraints. And to be clear, I am not saying that our current sets of laws are appropriate constraints, and they are what they are, one level of constraints in a very complex set of levels of constraints.

So we live in interesting times, and we really do need to understand the fundamentals – without necessarily believing any of the dogma from our history or cultures associated with those fundamentals.

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Finding Peace

September 27-30,’16 ~QofDay~ Finding Peace

Where do you find peace?

In accepting what is, as it is.

In accepting all the choices I have made, and all of their unintended consequences.

In accepting all of my inadequacies.

And in the face of all of that – choosing what I do and doing what I do.

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Laurie – 59ers – things most grateful for

The 59ers

Big, little, tangible, or intangible, name three things you’re grateful for.

Hi Laurie

Great list.
Only 3?
Sight; speech; life (which includes family, friends, the rest of humanity and all the ecosystems we share this planet with).

And Yeah – Happy birthday! Be Great – it annoys the hell outa those who had other plans for you!

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Critique of Capitalism – is cancer a good metaphor – by Joe Brewer

Capitalism Has A Metaphor – It’s A Cancer

My mother died of cancer five years ago. While most of the cells in her body grew and reproduced at a rate that merely kept her alive, there were a few rogue cells that mutated and changed?—?reprogramming themselves as greedy individuals who cared about nothing except rapid growth and exploitation of the body’s natural reserves.

Hi Joe

Having survived a terminal cancer diagnosis myself, I have a certain sympathy with the view you express, and the details are important.

Cancer in humans happens when something interferes with the normal signaling pathways between cells that keep them operating in a cooperative fashion, and some subset of cells starts growing at cost to the function of the colony as a whole (us).

I trained as a biochemist, with a fascination for molecular evolution and evolutionary theory more generally, over 40 years ago.

Somewhat over 6 years ago I was sent home “palliative care only” after being told that there was nothing known to medical science that could save me from the melanoma that was spreading through my lymph system and liver. That got my attention. I started researching. There is actually a lot of evidence that immune system function can be greatly enhanced by appropriate diet (largely plant based, in my case I went strict vegan). There is also a lot of evidence that in most people a lack of vitamin C is the rate limiting factor for immune system function. So my radical diet of high dose oral vit c and whole vegetable foods worked in my case, and my immune system was able to rid my body of the tumours that were infecting it.

When one understands evolution in the context that all major advances in the complexity of living systems are characterised by new levels of cooperative systems, and one also understands the basic games theory idea that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by cheating strategies, and requires attendant strategies to prevent cheating from prospering and destroying the cooperative, then one can see that our immune system has evolved to deal with cancer, and adopt strategies that support it to do so. We have many levels of sets of such attendant strategies within us – both genetic and cultural, that support the many levels of cooperation that make us possible.

And one needs to also be able to see the deeper context, that as humans we have both cooperative and competitive modalities, and which gets to express is a function of context in which we perceive ourselves to be. The greater the abundance we perceive, the more probable it is that we will act cooperatively rather than competitively.

Our current economic systems works against such perceptions of abundance in many different ways.

In our recent history, when most things were genuinely scarce, then capitalism was arguably an effective method of decreasing the extent of that scarcity by distributing such resources as were present to where they could be most effectively used, and encouraging the production more of what was needed.

What has changed, and it is a real game changer, is our ability to automate processes.

We are now capable of delivering universal abundance, but within the capitalist paradigm, any universal abundance has zero value. The double problem with that is that it actually incentivises developing systems that prevent the universal abundance of anything (arguably all of our intellectual property laws) in the interests of maximising money and profit.

So given the change of context that humanity has experienced, from one of a predominance of genuine scarcity, to one of an expanding set of goods and services that can be available in genuine universal abundance, the scarcity based paradigm of markets and capitalism is no longer as beneficial to life and liberty as it could once have reasonably been argued to be.

Capitalism is not a cancer per se, and it is a system evolved for contexts of scarcity, and as such promotes competitive rather than cooperative behaviour at higher levels, and also promotes hoarding (a strategy appropriate to our deep past but not appropriate to our present).

It is these levels of inappropriate competitive behaviour that create the cancer on the body politic.

Fully automated production gives us the ability to meet the reasonable needs of every person, but that would break the economic system.

Our economic system is complex at many levels.

In combination with our political and legal systems it has become a haven for cheating strategies at many levels.

Prior to now, people employing such strategies could genuinely claim ignorance. Such claims are becoming exponentially less believable.

We now require all people, at all the upper levels of our systems, to start acting genuinely cooperatively, in the interests of themselves and everyone else.

We have the technology to produce an environment where it will be in the genuine long term self interests of everyone to cooperate, and it will take time to change the habits of mind of many.

Human nature has two major modalities.

We can all be either cooperative or competitive.

We have the technical capacities to deliver a context that supports the cooperative side of our nature in everyone.

Our existing economic, political and legal structures are no longer in our real long term self interest (not any of us, not even those most benefiting at present – though I understand that few can fully appreciate that at present).

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Evonomics – Imagine Economics as an Evolutionary Science

Imagine Economics as an Evolutionary Science

What might an evolutionary perspective mean for the future of economics?

The next evolution in economics is realising that scarcity based values (market values) are not appropriate mechanisms to use when dealing with anything that is potentially universally abundant – which is already a large set of things, and the set is exponentially expanding.

We need to understand the role of cooperative strategy sets in the evolution of complexity, rather than simply focusing on competition.

We need to evolve economics beyond markets.
We need to evolve to the next level of cooperation, universal cooperation.
Technology can empower universal security, but not inside a scarcity based model that promotes competition, but only in an abundance based model based on universal cooperation and fairness. You don’t need to dig too deeply into games theory to figure that out.

Evolution doesn’t have to work perfectly.
It only needs to find “heuristic hacks” (strategies that are a near enough fit to work in practice in the situations present most often) to work.

That seems to be what life is.
A set of many levels of cooperative systems (often involving layers of recursion), that succeed in replicating in practice in the environments they find themselves in.

We are capable of taking that up another level.

Economics, as currently understood by most, as a set of market derived systems, cannot do that.

Economics, as originally understood, as a set of systems for managing the largest household (originally a glorified village, and in today’s context this ball of rock currently containing some 7 billion people) is something more than most people currently imagine.

And science is not about consensus.

Science is about what does or does not work, in practice, in terms of explanatory paradigms and tools.

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A heathen argument for faith

Amor Fati: A Heathen Argument For Faith…

‘Amor Fati’ is a Latin phrase used in ancient Greece meaning (approximately) ‘love your fate’. Essentially, it is the idea and belief that all things necessarily happen for the good, the nearest modern corollary being: ‘Everything happens for a reason.’

Hi James,

On this we fundamentally disagree.

It seems clear to me that Darwin, Dawkins et al have demonstrated how all this complexity we observe can emerge by the simple expedient of differential survival of variants. If that is true (which seems to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt), then it really is counter to the notion of “that all things necessarily happen for the good”.

It seems be far more like – stuff happens- much of it completely random, some of it with some intention and design of some person behind it.

For me, the idea that everything happens for a purpose, just destroys any possibility of free will.

It seems to me that I have free will, at least to the degree that I do.

So no – I do not accept that children dying horrible deaths from invasive parasites is for a purpose. That’s just genes doing their thing. Patterns on patterns on patterns, …. That particular sort of pattern we would do well to eliminate, permanently.

For me, faith is the antithesis of responsibility.
If you really believe that all the nasty things that happen are to some great purpose, it is a convenient let off from any moral responsibility to make the effort now to change it.

It seems clear to me that we can bring purpose into existence with our choices (to the degree that we do choose), and in the absence of active choice, habits, patterns at many different levels just do their stuff.

[followed by]

I think I get how you are using faith as an idea.
I get you believe that things will work out for the better in the end.
The bit that you don’t seem so clear on, is that such a faith actually has an aspect to it that absolves individuals from making the hard choices, as making such choices doesn’t really matter, because it will all work out in the end anyway – why bother putting skin in the game (at some level).

And I get it isn’t always that way for all people of faith, I see some people of faith in my community with a lot of skin in the game at some levels, and at the higher levels, most of them seem to somewhat less than passionate about life and liberty, with the necessary implication from liberty of exploration of unknowns, and seem to be much more attached to conformity to patterns from the past.

So for me, there remains this meta level danger of “faith” in any context.

For me, the exploration of systems and logic indicates that we have sufficient resources to sustain cooperation at the highest levels for a long time, provided we manage our numbers within the limits of the systems available.
It doesn’t take much training in mathematics to see that continued exponential expansion must eventually run into real limits, forcing us from cooperative to competitive strategies.

And there is sufficient energy available to give us time to make that awareness a universal part of the concept of responsibility.
And there is enough to give every person the right to be a part of one child, and we could have some sort of lottery system to allow some people to have more than one child. And some sort of policy like that will be required on this planet fairly soon.

Unconstrained expansion of population must necessarily lead to conflict at some point.
We are not at that point yet, our technology is still allowing us to do more with less faster than our population is growing, and there are hard limits to that strategy – energy limits imposed by the metabolic needs of human bodies and the technology to support them. If we assume that humans have 20% of the energy falling on the earth, and have conversion efficiencies at 20%, and a human being needs about 70KW continuous power (including the energy to manufacture and run artificially lighted hydroponic gardens) that gives a limit of about 10 times our current population.

And it isn’t a stable answer to say, we can take from someone else, because it doesn’t take long for your group to run into the problem, even if they are the only group left on the planet. So we might as well find a stable solution to the problem soon, before WWIII.

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Sail on Sailor

Sail On, Sail On, Sailor

Hi John,

Enjoyed your writing as always, and largely agree.

In an hour or so I will be attending a meeting of scientists involved in rock lobster management. I will be using the internet, rather than driving and flying. Most meetings more than 10 minutes drive away I now attend by remote – I get to see and hear them, they get to see and hear me, saves both travel time and carbon footprint.

I too have had my share of powerboats (and sailboats), and was a keen pilot. I have about 500 hours of pilot time as well as several thousand hours of passenger time in aircraft.

And we can develop technologies that can make us carbon neutral – but the profit available from oil is just too much for many to give up (particularly with Saudi oil costing under 50c per barrel FOB).

When we get serious about getting people into space, we will build long linear motors, solar powered, that start deep in the earth and emerge at mountain tops with enough velocity to reach orbit. Chemical rockets are just too wasteful of energy, most of the energy goes into accelerating fuel, rather than actual payload.

If our goal is to prolong life then we have to acknowledge that using the scarcity based value measure of markets in a context of the abundance available from fully automated systems is not appropriate.

Human nature contains both cooperative and competitive strategic sets, and which gets expressed depends on the context.

In contexts where there is enough for all, cooperative behaviours always give greater benefits to all than competitive behaviours. (Provided there are adequate sets of attendant strategies to prevent invasion of the cooperative by cheating strategies.)

Markets (and their derivative measure money, and their derivative system of thought economics) are scarcity based, and as such impose a context that incentivises competitive behaviour from individuals. In contexts of actual abundance competitive behaviours always deliver sub optimal outcomes (and in a context which includes the possibility of weapons of mass destruction, such behavioural modalities actually imposed significant existential risk upon everyone).

In the context of full automation, markets are an existential threat – when viewed from a strategic perspective. For me, that is clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

So from the strategic perspective of longevity, it is markets and economics that is the threat.

We don’t have a resource problem, our exponential expansion of knowledge means we can do more with less far faster than our population is expanding. We are not short of either energy or mass. The sun puts out enough energy that every person currently alive could have more than humanity as a whole currently uses. Energy isn’t a problem.
Nor is mass – we live on a huge ball of it with another huge ball of it in nearby space, and most people only need a few tens of tons to meet their reasonable needs.

The real issue for those of us committed to longevity is the modes of thought, beliefs, truths – call them what you will, that exist in the population. My experience of being diagnosed terminal cancer 6 years ago, curing myself, then having others come to me to see how I did it, has proven to me very clearly that most people would rather die than do whatever it takes to change their habits and beliefs.

Economics as a system imposes so many drags on creativity, so many incentives to continue using technologies that are proven to be dangerous, but involve sunk capital – that the dimensions of risk are terrifying when you actually start to clearly see them.
But most people seem to be far too invested in money as a concept to even be able to look.

[followed by]

Hi John,

If what you said were true, then I could agree with you, but is it?

When we have laws in existence that require directors to optimise the value of investor funds, while we have no similar laws requiring directors to be reasonably cognisant of the long term impacts of their decisions on everyone who is affected – are they really just tools? Or have they stepped over a boundary into something else?

Isn’t it really true to say that in our present systems, the short term needs of profit dominate over the long term needs of people?

Can that ever be ethical?
In any dimension?

I argue that not only can it never be ethical, it can never actually be safe either (if one is willing to explore long term trends and outcome probabilities across strategic domains). To me it is, clearly, always the high risk low reward (in the long term) option – however profitable it may seem in the short term (and therein lies the great failure of our current systems, we do not hold people accountable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of actions in the longer term – criminality at a higher order than our legal systems acknowledge). And I admit that is a largely intuitive evaluation across domains that I cannot easily communicate to anyone.

For me, having been in this enquiry for over 40 years, I have no shadow of reasonable doubt remaining that our current systems are heavily weighted to deliver profit over valuing human life (each and every human life).

Yes I am poking.
Actually pushing quite firmly.
And, as is your freedom, you choose your own path.
I fully accept that.

We are on very different paths (in all dimensions), and we can communicate, at least to the degree that we do.

I respect you.
I respect the journey you are on, the paths you have chosen. They are not my paths, and they are possible paths with high ethical standards I can respect.

And I am actually nudging you quite firmly towards a path you seem resistant to explore. And in a very real sense, I can understand that resistance, it isn’t a comfortable path, and if I didn’t think you capable of walking it, and if I didn’t see value for you in it, I wouldn’t be doing this.

And it is your choice, just as my path is my choice.

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