After the crash, can biologists fix economics?
I recall the first economics conference I attended in 1984 – IIFET (International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade). I had read Dawkin’s Selfish Gene 6 years previously. I had 14 years experience as a commercial fisherman, and two years running a wholesale retail fishing business. I also had two years experience on a senior political advisory committee, and had just experienced a 6 week full time campaign as a candidate for our parliament.
I listened to all the speakers, and in question time asked why none of their assumptions bore any relationship to how real decisions were made at any level.
No sensible answer was given.
Nothing has changed substantially.
The predatory strategies that profit vastly from the boom bust cycles retain their dominant place.
There is no real incentive from the system itself to change anything.
We peasants at the bottom of the heap are supposed to be ignorant.
We never have been.
Some certainly, to some degrees.
Others, far more aware than those at the top of the current economic system would like to believe.
It is becoming obvious even to those at the very top, that the current system has wild instabilities that are fundamentally dangerous even to them.
That hard reality is the only real opportunity for real change.
The current system cannot deliver the sort of security that allows individuals to live a very long time, with any real confidence.
The biological capacity to extend lifespans indefinitely is now only months away from being reality.
We can create a system that does deliver such security, and doing so cannot be done with the existing well understood suite of predatory strategies. Such security demands a change of strategy sets. It demands universal cooperation. Diversity is fine, no one is really interested in being exactly like everyone else. We all cherish our uniqueness, however much we may profess otherwise. That demands diversity.
What is required, is a high guaranteed minimum for all.
Technically it is not a major issue.
Socially, culturally, it is much more difficult.
And most cultures have constructs that can be aligned for delivery.
And there can be no absolutes.
We are dealing with real complexity, real randomness, even chaos in some instances.
All any of us can have is probability distributions – anything more is fantasy.
We have a narrow window of opportunity.
Global security is possible, and it requires global cooperation.
We have the technology to support distributed trust networks, and to empower all individuals with high fidelity and long lasting memory of prior interactions, digital memory is far better than human memory. Every individual can easily track every interaction they have.
Dunbar’s number (the effective limit of about 150 on social networks imposed by the limits of human memory reliability) need not apply to our future. Individual networks of several hundred thousand are easily possible, which radically alters stability dynamics.
If we want a reasonable probability of personal survival, then we must transition away from scarcity based measures of value.
We have the tools.
We have the confidence.
What is needed is integrity at every level, of the sort that few are used to dealing with.
Most of our society is fiction – falsity masquerading as fact.
Time to change that.
By my best guess, we have less than 20 years.