The Piketty debate exposed the dysfunction in economics
Interesting article as far as it goes, and I agree with all of Swami’s additions, and even when those are included, there seem to me to be three major paradigms that are missing, if one is to create interpretive schema that have utility in this very complex set of systems we find ourselves in.
1 The view of evolution given focuses only on competition, and ignores cooperation. That view is fundamentally incomplete.
Evolution is an exploration of systemic possibility spaces through differential survival.
Competition is one of the systemic possibilities.
Cooperation is the other major systemic possibility.
And systemic strategic spaces are infinite, with infinite variations of themes.
In games theory terms, when the major survival factors are within group, then competitive modalities dominate; and when the major threats to individual survival are from outside the population of individuals, then higher levels of cooperation can be strongly selected. And games theory is clear, that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to cheating strategies, and requires attendant strategies to prevent invasion by cheating strategies. Arguably the entire finance industry can be characterised as cheating strategies in this sense, and it is more complex than that, as I am sure Swami will point out. And each sentence in this part could become a book, as could some of the words alone.
So saying evolution or economic systems are about competition ignores more than half of reality.
Yes competition is real, and so is cooperation, and everything in between.
And when one looks at the evolution of complexity, in every case major advances are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation.
When one takes this view, our long terms security lies not in competitive, but in cooperative paradigms.
And I enjoy competing as much as anyone else, and I do so within a higher level cooperative context.
2/ the possibility of indefinite life extension.
In 1974, as I completed my undergraduate studies in biochemistry, I could see that from a “cell’s eye” perspective, every cell alive today in all organisms alive today would consider itself to have been alive for some 4 billion years. Because from the perspective of each cell alive, whenever it divided, the other other half of the division was the “other cell”.
So from this cells eye view, every cell alive today in a human being has gone through many cycles of division in a body, becoming either an egg or a sperm, joining with either an egg or a sperm, and being part of another body.
So therefore, every cell must carry as the default set, the biochemical tools for indefinite life, and all the mechanisms for organ differentiation and cellular senescence (biological aging) must be overlain on top of that. So achieving indefinite life extension is “simply” a matter of understanding that process.
In 1974 I saw that 4 stages of understanding were required.
1 Map the entire human genome (2002)
2 Accurately model protein 3 dimensional folding structure (2008)
3 Develop useful simulations of quantum chemical effects within those enzyme structures (2012)
4 Build a digital model of a living cell – in progress.
We are very close.
Many groups have now seen the logic that was clear to me 43 years ago.
If that final step isn’t already understood by some small number of individuals, it soon will be.
When every individual has personal self interest stretching out thousands of years into the future, then the sort of long term view I have held for the last 43 years will become more common.
3/ the impact of exponential technologies, particularly in the area of fully automated manufacturing. At present we can fully automate many processes, mostly related to information processing, and the economic value of many of those has dropped to zero.
As that technology spreads into manufacturing and energy production, an exponentially increasing set of goods and services will become like the air we breath – vitally important to each of us, yet of no economic value.
That reality poses a fundamental challenge for any market based system of values.
How can we use markets to manage things sensibly when many things have zero value.
Putting zeros in equations doesn’t usually produce sensible outcomes, particularly where divisions are involved, but also with multiplications.
We are in a period of transition.
We are moving from a historical reality dominated by scarcity, to a coming reality of technological abundance.
How we manage that transition is fundamental to our survival.
We do not see vast numbers of high tech civilisations sending messages from nearby stars or galaxies.
I suggest that would seem to indicate that the coming transition is not simple.
Yes we live in very complex systems.
And we are capable of making choices as to the nature of the highest levels of such systems.
And at the highest level, games theory is clear – only the cooperative have a high probability of survival.
And nothing is certain.
Everything is probability functions.
We could all make our best efforts and still have it all go “belly up”, that is a real possibility.
And if we don’t make our best efforts, belly up is a very high probability. The number of possible failure modalities is also increasing exponentially.
Within the set of things required for human existence and reasonable degrees of freedom of action (air, water, food, shelter, sanitation, energy, education, communication, healthcare, transport, tool-sets), then we can achieve universal abundance.
Of course in the infinite set of the possible, the vast majority will remain scarce. And the sorts of lifestyle possibilities that most currently conceive as high end don’t actually require a lot of mass or energy if you get really smart about how you provide them and close all material loops to achieve close to 100% recycling.
When technical abundance achieves Drexler’s molecular level manufacturing, then we are very close to universal abundance for all practical purposes.
The Sun is a vast source of energy, and likely to remain so for a considerable time (far longer than mammals have existed to date) – so not of immediate concern.