Thank you David – that little piece by Thorstein Veblen is an absolute gem!!!
It’s about 50 years since I read Darwin’s Origin, and it had a profound impact on how I saw the world. Then in 1978 I read Dawkins’ 76 Classic the Selfish Gene – which far from selfishness provided the first clear exposition I had seen for the evolution of cooperation. JMS’s work with Multiple Stable State Equilibria, and Axelrod’s work with games theory and strategic environments provided another step change in my understanding.
Then came my introduction to Goedel’s incompleteness theorem, then followed several years of immersion in designing and coding computer systems, and working with politicians on legislative design and implementation.
Then I finally got into relativity and from there into Quantum Mechanics.
More recently I have spent quite a bit of time with Chaos and complexity theory.
Now it seems quite clear to me that economics as a science is trapped between several incompatible requirements.
Markets measure exchange values, and exchange values are fundamentally based in scarcity. Money is a market measure of value.
Technology gives us the ability to produce a large and growing set of goods and services in universal abundance.
Anything universally abundant has zero market value.
That means that market incentives actively work against the delivery of any universal abundance.
Human beings require a universal abundance of a basic range of goods and services to deliver the security and freedom to actually be able to self actualise as they choose. Market based thinking and incentives actively work against universal access to self actualisation, forcing many people into a situation where survival needs dominate, and self actualisation becomes a distant dream. As human go through the self actualising process, for most their value sets change substantially.
The exponential increase in the rate of technological change is creating social chaos, as most people now face profound insecurity, as systems developed when individuals could expect to have jobs for life now find that the length of job security is shrinking exponentially as technological capacity increases.
Valuing things based upon their degree of scarcity made sense when most things were genuinely scarce. It makes less and less sense as automation of all phases of manufacture makes things potentially universally abundant.
Money and markets are rapidly coming to the end of their social utility.
We need to develop other metrics of value that are not scarcity based.
Arriving at a new consensus is a process that always starts as someone being the lone voice insistent upon change.
Consensus is nice when one can achieve it, and rarely exists in real science communities (or any community for that matter).
Far too many people prefer agreement over their own integrity.
I’d rather be a lone voice than deny what seems obvious to me (with all due respect to Kuhn), he was wrong on this particular topic.
And I am usually willing to consider the ideas of others, at least up until the point of the first falsified premise (and it only takes one reliable result to falsify any premise).
Having been in science for 50 years – we may have to agree to disagree.
Most conferences have contending hypotheses on offer.
Sure there are degrees of consensus, on some topics.
And it seems to be much more of a complex, multi-dimensional, probabilistic set of topologies than anything so simplistic as a consensus.
I’m not saying follow the first guy with some crazy idea.
I am suggesting it is powerful to listen to anyone who can state assumption sets, answer questions coherently, and is using concept sets that pass the test of not yet falsified (with sufficiently reliable datasets), and is offering something novel – particularly if there is high payoff in it if correct.
And sure – the vast bulk of what is on the internet is very poorly constructed and based upon invalid assumption sets. Actually same goes for most of what has passed for knowledge throughout human history, and the history of “natural philosophy” and science.
Reality seems to be sufficiently complex that we have to use simplifying heuristics to be able to make any sense of it at all.
Which is why I prefer using the term “useful approximations” for most of what I consider working “knowledge”.
It depends totally on the specifics of your analogy (jigsaw working from the centre piece).
If the center pieces of your puzzle are an appreciation of the profound and infinitely recursive nature of the many levels of uncertainty we currently have some beginnings of an awareness of, an awareness of what seems to be the stochastic nature of the foundations of reality, a profound awareness of our ignorance of the detail and simultaneously an awareness of the utility of many of the simplifying heuristics we use to make the models we currently find fit for our current purposes, then yes – I would agree with you.
If you mean anything more certain than that, then I suspect we may be in profoundly different consensuses.
When one looks closely at Heisenberg uncertainty, Goedel incompleteness, Quantum uncertainty, non-binary truth values, complexity theory, chaos theory, evolutionary theory in its many guises, behaviour, cybernetics, neural networks and leading on from there into general computational theory, and the sorts of heuristics necessary to avoid halting problems, one is left with a rather profound appreciation for uncertainty, and the need for minds to find certainty and stop looking for it where it doesn’t exist (which seems to be the best available explanation for most certainty in existence).