Friday, November 24, 2006

Toward a Dynamic 21st Century...

A major theme here is 21st Century Problem-Solving. Above all, we problem-solvers must learn to shrug off the druggie-dogmatists who (from every political direction) feel driven to promote Culture War.

Toward this end, I’ve edited the series that I posted following the recent mid-term elections -- SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEW CONGRESS -- into a single, coherent article.

Feel free to write in with comments. Better yet, spread word!

And encourage others to post similar “wish lists” of their own! If even a few win-win proposals resonate and do a little good, it will all be worthwhile.

------ More News From The 21st Century ------

One of my wish list items is restoration of neutral scientific advisory systems in government. See a cartoon that illustrates our present situation.

Turning to miscellany... a 14-year-old boy is the first human to play a video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements. Getting subjects to move objects using only their brains has implications toward building biomedical devices that can control artificial limbs, enabling the disabled to move a prosthetic by thinking about it.

Scientists claim to have developed a new, genetically altered strain of virus that is highly efficient in targeting and killing cancer cells. The new therapy uses a genetically-engineered form of the adenovirus, which normally causes colds.

World Exports Reached $12.5 Trillion in 2005
Exports as percentage of world GDP:

2005: 28.5%
2000: 24.7%
1980: 20.5%

Face it - “anti-globalization” is just plain stupid. No other thing... no COMBINATION of other things... has ever helped the world’s poor as much as honest commerce. Trade, in which they have some freedom to barter their labor for an honest going-rate, instead of share-cropping for local lords. And yes, multinational-owned factories merit relentless scrutiny! But they are far more easily scrutinezed than local feudal bullies ever were.

The benefits of trade reached transcendant levels (as the people of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore via (in my own crackpot-yet-obvious view) the quirky/ironic beneficence of Americans’ buying trillions of dollars worth of crap they never needed.

Openly stating this blatant fact infuriates the left, of course, since the New Puritans believe that nothing can be accomplished (if ever) except via copious blame-casting and guilt. Proving yet again that they are (almost) as crazy as the right.

(Remember; I carefully separate indignation junkies of “the left” -- sourpusses who channel Cotton Mather and hate engineering almost as much as right wingers hate science -- from the modernist, problem-solving liberals who can claim credit for most of the good and miraculous accomplishments of America and Western Civilization across the last hundred years.

(Yes, there is some overlap. And yet, nothing is more likely to lead us further into hell than if we continue to conflate these two profoundly different groups...

(...the way Karl Rove conflated sincere “conservatism” with fanatical dogmatism, racism, kleptocratic theft and outright neocon lunacy.)

----- And More --------

One of you wrote in to tout your fun site that presents “News from the year 2020”.

Africa’s political leaders are being offered a $5m prize and a stipend for life if they do not plunder the national coffers or rig elections. Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are backing the initiative to be formally launched tomorrow in London by a foundation started by a Sudanese-born telecom tycoon, Mo Ibrahim. The annual winner will be chosen by a board that presently includes the former Irish president, Mary Robinson. He or she will receive the $5m (£2.6m) over 10 years and $200,000 a year thereafter. They are also allotted $200,000 a year to be given to good causes.

Representatives from MIT and the University of Southampton have announced the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI), a multidisciplinary project to study the social and technological implications of growing Web adoption. Featuring web-founder Berners-Lee.

...more soon. I accumulated a lot of cool stuff during the elections...

39 comments:

Blake Stacey said...

I thought up a wonderful plan for turning Contrary Brin into a book, which I am too tired to explain at the moment. However, I can give one concise point, the title which occurred to me: Reason To Hope.

David Brin said...

I do need to whip some kind of order into these things. But who has time?

My modernism series was the closest thing to a coherent themed work. I keep meaning to gather and rewrite it....

ANother neglected priority. I'd like to create a better blog at http://www.davidbrin.com... with higher production values than are possible at blogspot.

Problem is that neither I - nor my excellent web site designer - know how to do this or have any expertise in the available blog programs or how to host them at a personal web site.

Don Quijote said...

Problem is that neither I - nor my excellent web site designer - know how to do this or have any expertise in the available blog programs or how to host them at a personal web site.

You can change the template on Blogger to make your blog look better, you can use on of theirs or you can tailor your own, while the site will still be Blogger, it will be a good looking blogger.

Face it - “anti-globalization” is just plain stupid. No other thing... no COMBINATION of other things... has ever helped the world’s poor as much as honest commerce. Trade, in which they have some freedom to barter their labor for an honest going-rate, instead of share-cropping for local lords. And yes, multinational-owned factories merit relentless scrutiny! But they are far more easily scrutinezed than local feudal bullies ever were.

Yeah Right!!!

The list of human right abuse committed by those Multi-national is long. You can take a look at Corps-Watch.

Labor Rights in Colombia
The Colombian labor movement has been the target of a campaign of intimidation unparalleled in the contemporary world. More than 3,800 union leaders and activists have been assassinated since the mid 1980's; more than one hundred have been killed in the first six months of 2002 alone. In the past several years, links between the right wing paramilitary groups that carry out the majority of these killings and both US based corporations operating in Colombia and US military assistance to the country have become increasingly evident. In response, American labor unions and human rights groups have launched solidarity campaigns aimed at holding corporations accountable for their practices in Colombia and calling for a moratorium on arms shipments until the country's human rights record improves.


Few Protections for China's New Laborers
The exact cause of Li's death remains unknown. But what happened to her last November in this industrial town in southeastern Guangdong province is described by family, friends and co-workers as an example of what China's more daring newspapers call guolaosi. The phrase means "over-work death," and usually applies to young workers who suddenly collapse and die after working exceedingly long hours, day after day.

What happened in Bhopal?

How many Union Carbide Executives are rotting in jail?

The benefits of trade reached transcendant levels (as the people of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore via (in my own crackpot-yet-obvious view) the quirky/ironic beneficence of Americans’ buying trillions of dollars worth of crap they never needed.

(Those are five countries with total population of approximately 200 million, not even a fifth of China's population.)

It's called selling the family jewels to maintain a life style that is beyond your means.

Openly stating this blatant fact infuriates the left, of course, since the New Puritans believe that nothing can be accomplished (if ever) except via copious blame-casting and guilt. Proving yet again that they are (almost) as crazy as the right.

No, what infuriates the left is watching jobs that use to pay a decent wage with benefits disappear and being replaced with jobs that barely pay a minimum wage, don't offer benefits and who's sole requirement is the ability to say "would you like fries with that?".

Rob Perkins said...

I think the missing perspective is that all those teeming billions in the third world DREAM of a job in a clean kitchen where all they'd have to do is ask people things like "Would you like fries with that?"

And DQ, the fact that you know anything at all about abuses like the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal is evidence that the multinats are more easily scrutinized.

Woozle said...

Re blog software: do you have any particular software in mind, or are you just looking for something more aesthetically configurable?

Tacitus said...

Opposing globalization is a bit silly, it is driven by technological change that you cannot undo. Modern telecommunications makes it possible, modern metallurgy makes it practical (jet engines, container ships). I respect the idealism of anti globalists, but are they willing to confiscate the cell phones? To pay a higher percentage of their yearly income for basics like shoes and tools?
Now, I personally feel we should have some discretion in the parties we associate with....Canada, the US, Mexico, and perhaps some of Western Europe have enough common ground culturally, and enough of the really valuable stuff of the future (coal, oil shale, clean water, croplands, political freedoms) that it would be a nice plan/fantasy to one day tell the rest of the world "don't call us, we'll call you".

Tacitus

Don Quijote said...

And DQ, the fact that you know anything at all about abuses like the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal is evidence that the multinats are more easily scrutinized.

And as can be seen in the following link, it has made no difference.

Amesty International - Online Action Center - Demand that UCC/Dow Face Justice for the Bhopal Disaster

It only took a few thousand dead bodies and tens of thousand poisonned, I wonder how many small Bhopals go down the memory hole every year.

David Brin said...

DQ is SO welcome here! I could not hope for a better example of anecdote-based, indignation-driven guilt-tripping.

And yes, I believe that every crime he points to has genuine, tragic truth that is WORTH indignant guilt-tripping! By saying we need to de-conflate liberalism from "the left", I never said the left lacks a purpose. Certainly I prefer them to their counterparts on the farthest, loony right.

(Never noting how similar the fire-and-brimstone guilt-trippers of the far right are, in their end-of-the-world-is-coming fingerwagging. The difference is that Revelations Junkies really want the world to end, while a few lefties - a few - would actually prefer to be proved wrong.)

Yes, in situations like today's Colombia... or the labor movement of my father's youth... liberals and lefties had srong common cause. Duh? the feudal lords were titans using terror to prevent a transition from share-cropping to fair labor markets. (And yes, I include organized labor as an essential ingredient for fair labor markets!)

We OUGHT to feel outraged by the sins of transition globalization! It is why Project Witness is my top touted charity, empowering locals to use cameras to defeat monsters with guns. And yet...

...yet DQ shows no historical sense at all. No will to address my comparison, between globalized factory jobs and slave-duties on the estate of the local lord. A choice that people are offered everywhere that an "addidas factory" opens up. And they vote that choice with their feet, en masse, preferring Addidas, by far......leaving the local lords fit to be tied, of course. And often violent.

This is a transition that Marx himself spoke of!!!! So the left is being super-hypocritical or dismally ignorant when they ignore its power and value!

Now that I think on it, the irony is rich. For, you see, Marx was right about many, many things. Observing hs own past and present, he spotted trends and cause-effect chains that nobody elee had. Brilliantly. Established the entire branch of economics dealing with capital formation!

But when it came to the future, his just-so stories were completely loopy. (e.g. predicting that a day would come when capital formation - and hence "capitalism" - would be "finished." Moreover, the POSSIBILITY of a phenomenon like FDR never occurred to him.)

Elsewhere I call Marx "the greatest of all science fiction writers." Because the Communist Manifesto was the perfect "self-preventing prophecy". It laid down a scare-story scenario that he NEVER expected might be read, SAPIENTLY by ruling classes and democratic forces in the West... who might say "hey! this could happen! We'd better REFORM this scenario away!" In other words, Marx under-rated his own power of CITOKATE. Har! He was vastly more effective in the West than he ever was in the East, where he was made a god.

Sorry, I wander. I simply find it amazing how little lefties even know about their own movement. Or about feudalism and history. Or how their OWN countries overcame tragic distortions of capitalism.

We did not do it by burning factories and closing borders. They did it by fighting for and winning something called law.

Nate said...

I doubt you would find many members of the Right with much knowledge of their own movement's history, Dr. Brin. I suspect many of them wouldn't be members of the Right that exists in this country if they knew about its history.

The other thing is, I had a realization the other day. It's not directly about trade, though The Yes Men's Dow stunt lead to part of what I realized.

Public corporations in the US, BY LAW, are required to place the interests of making money for their stockholders above anything else. The environment, taking care of their employees, anything else. That, along with the law that corporations can be treated as people in regards to things like free speech or "takings" are both abysmally stupid and need to be changed.

But that's a tangent. The main thing I realized was this. Most companies make their money by selling things to people. And they use some of that to pay the people who work there. For the last 20 years, wages have been pretty much stagnant. But over those same 20 years, corporations have had record profits many times. That means two things.
First, that the record profits are all the money the companies have been making that have just been going to line the pockets of big stockholders and the CEOs, instead of going to the employees in the form of wages and raises, or even hiring more employees (especially since Bush took office).
And the second thing is, if people aren't making more money, but the companies are raking in more, where's that money coming from? Some of it comes from technological advances that let things be done more efficiently. And some of it comes from expanding markets to other countries, and a good chunk of it comes from moving factories to other countries where they can pay people less. But that doesn't cover all of it. And a lot of that's come from people going into debt. Spending all of their savings, morgatging and re-morgatging their houses as prices ballooned and interest rates stayed low. We've been spending ourselves into debt to give fat bonuses to the CEOs and dividends to the big stockholders. I'm not gonna listen to any crap about how many more Americans own stock, since a) most of that's in 401Ks and mutual funds and so on, and b) Most dividends are like less than a quarter per share. It's nothing unless you own thousands or millions or billions of shares.

Americans have spent their savings and gone into debt to enrich the CEOs and stockholders. That's the result of years of "free market" talk from the Right. Years of anti-labor practices. And years of tools like the WTO being in the hands of just the richest countries and the richest companies in them.

But the thing of it is. The thing of it that makes it so stupid, just like corporations ignoring and denying their environmental effects. It's gonna screw them over too. When people run out of debt to add up, and the money they get keeps shrinking thanks to inflation and outsourcing, who's going to buy their crap? Where are they going to get record profits when nobody can afford to buy anything? This is the legacy of the anti-labor right, and its exemplar, Wal-Mart. Henry Ford paid his employees enough to afford his stuff. Wal-Mart pays so little their employees can't afford to go anywhere else. When it was jut Wal-Mart, before it was the biggest retailer on Earth, the country could stand it. It was like a parasite, harmful, but not deadly. But every other company's started emulating Wal-Mart, in the ongoing quest for more and more record profits. The entire foundation of modern corporate America's built on sand.

I do agree that working in an Adidas factory is (usually) better than working as a substinence farmer, but that should be a false choice. People shouldn't be forced to choose between carving out a living in inhospitable soil and in working fourteen hour days for pennies in a dark, crowded, and unsafe factory. And the thing of that is, they could build the factory safe and not work people for slave labor and still have the labor be cheaper, because of the differences in the local economies. It's that same effort to try and get every last penny of profit they can, regardless of the externalities other people will have to bear that does it.

OdinsEye2k said...

There is an elephant (no pun intended) in the room in the globalization scenario that is often left aside. To conflate "honest trade" with many of our trade deals (see NAFTA, CAFTA for excellent examples of which I speak, including emperical evidence that NAFTA has negatively impacted BOTH the US and Mexico in many vital ways) is to present a false equivalence in many cases.

Trade deals regularly add rules about intellectual property (which are often ignored in places like China, which makes me cringe at the short-sighted ignorance of American companies that transfer their knowledge to future competitors that will eat their lunches) and investor's rights, but ignore the enviroment, labor and the "little people." If it is legitimate to make rules to protect the wealthy in these agreements, why is it often presented as so wrong that the poor and (future) middle classes should receive similar protections?

David Brin said...

Nate, your explication of problems with present day capitalism is much better targeted than simply reciting a series of nasty anecdotes.

There is no question that people will eventually demand a re-evaluation of the notion of the corporation as an amoral entity with human rights but less than human duties. I am happy to discuss this.

But there is a big difference between criticizing flaws and prescribing what will be better. Marx is the classic example.

A burden of proof falls on anyone whosays they have a better LARGE SCALE way to run things than the one that gave us all this.

BTW, your imagery of a choice between land slavery andsweat shop slavery jus t plain (and decisively) misses the point. Go to Japan and Hong Kong and Singapore and Malaysia and Korea and Taiwan and find for me the factory workers who labor as hard, for low wages and long hours as their grandfathers did, 50 years ago.

That is the measure of things. My own grandparents endured miserable factories that were NOT ONLY better than the old country, but let them feed and clothe and educate bona fide American brats who did NOT have to slave that hard.

When the factories are NOT ONLY better than land slavery, but also buildi streets and roads and hospitals and schools... and workers who have enough other options to start agitating for better conditions... then you get a pattern that is the hope of the world.

The pattern that HAS WORKED in too many places already for the left to legitinately ignore it (though they obstinately do.)

It can and should be tweaked. And its progress in China is poisonging much of the world, while the Chinese hurry up the same slope. There are countless ways to improve this methodology.

But the left does not help when it simply bitches bitches bitches about a system that has done more good for more people than any other in all of time.

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob Perkins said...

That much is true. Friedman, on his visits to India, noted that the renaissance of high tech work there is not reaching 98% of the population, even though education opportunities there have a wider reach. Further, the companies moving there are bringing in their own infrastructure, and they're not sharing.

That alone is keeping wage prices low there.

And there are cultural barriers as well. I know about an HP effort to open a "fair wage" manufacturing facility in Mexico, where they paid Mexicans less than they would have paid temp workers in Washington State, but still quite a lot for the area. They found that the people there would sign on, take the training, start work, get a paycheck, go bug-eyed at the size of the paycheck, and promptly quit and live off the paycheck for far longer than any HP exec ever anticipated.

The retraining costs there for new employees prompted them to close the plant there and put up with the six-week shipping delays associated with operating plants in China and Malaysia, where the people would not quit their jobs as soon as they were paid once. I have no idea if the "fair wage" idea was tried there, or if they just outsourced the manufacturing to local thugs. But there is a different kind of work ethic in Asia than in Latin America which appears to be closer to the Western-Euro frontier ethic than the Latin American one.

Anonymous said...

"But there is a different kind of work ethic in Asia than in Latin America which appears to be closer to the Western-Euro frontier ethic than the Latin American one."

I'm not entirely sure I read that right. I took it to mean that you were saying the Latin American work ethic was in some way inferior to the Western-Euro frontier work ethic. Is that accurate?

Dr.Brin-

In all fairness, the choice to work in factories rather than continue to live the life of subsistance farmers is often driven by factors like the enclosures that drove the 18th and 19th century Scotts out of their highlands and into the mills.

Ask the average Mexican farmer who had his Corn subsidies ended under NAFTA and then had to try to compete with massively subsidized US corn if he would rather still be on his farm or standing in front of a Home Depot in Southern California, or in line hoping for a job at a Maquidora.

For all the ugliness of the still spreading Industrial Revolution, I agree that it is a net good. It's not as if Taiwan (or hundreds of other nations) had enough land or enough fish to support its population by traditional means. The alternative was mass starvation.

What is important to remmember is that it's our money buying the Aididas, and that really does give us the power to control to some extent the treatment these workers recieve. We don't all have to participate in every boycott, or march in every rally for better treatment of Chinese bead makers, to make an impact, either.

Whether you make the choice to buy Fair Trade chocolate or refuse to buy produce laden with pesticides that poison field workers, you make a difference. When you write you President, your Congressthingy, your Senator about horrific sweat shop conditions in US territories, you make a difference.

No corporation wants the press associated with bad action, or wants to face a boycott that costs it even a few points of market share. Your lawmakers know that every active person, every letter writer, is probably having a large impact on 5 to 10 other voters.

It's not the evil boogeyman of Globalization we need to be acting against, but abuse of workers. The two need not go hand in hand, and these abuses can only continue to the extent to which we will tolerate them.

OdinsEye2k said...

But there is a different kind of work ethic in Asia than in Latin America which appears to be closer to the Western-Euro frontier ethic than the Latin American one.

A little semantic foolery for the day, which makes me wonder. Is it that the Latino stereotype has a poor work ethic or that the Asian/Anglo stereotype has a poor life ethic?

One aspect of progress along the satiability line that I've wondered about (along with the globalization thing) is what happens when we finally halt population growth (expected in 2050 or something like that)? Our economic systems have long been built on the pyramid premise that there will always be someone to flog into long hours for comparatively little compensation. Whether it is Indian call center representative, Chinese factory worker, or American medical intern, there seems to be an assumption that these people will be the base that cheat the sane cost-benefit negotiations that others (or, often the same people once more experience is gained) would fight for.

When the bulk of the population is in the middle age (or higher, as the final population boom snakes through the demographics), and there is no longer the ability to "throw bodies" at a problem, what will company structures look like? Or when, like the case that Perkins cites, workers become happy with only half-time (or less) work? Because, after all, isn't that a major part of the idea of a labor-saving device?

TwinBeam said...

What do people imagine would be different if the legal convenience/fiction of corporate personhood were ended?

I suspect the answer is - not much. It might have some modest benefits - but likely nowhere near what people imagine.

David Brin said...

Anonymous, I am all in favor of using open society methods to apply pressure to global businesses in order to force them to behave as better global citizens.

Moreover, I favor turning our international suasion efforts around to ensuring that locals in other nations NOT be driven toward the factories by whips like the Scottish enclosures -- but rather that they should be empowered with their own leveragable property rights, as described by Hernando De Soto. (And, indeed, as the micro-credit movement of Grameen Bank typifies.)

Both of these are movements that will happen in direct proportion to the degree that the world is an open and transparent place.

THAT should be the focus of the left, and not ranting against the GENERAL process of globalization. With Japan, Taiwan, SKorea, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and so on ... and now China and parts of India... as blatant success stories, it takes delusional myopia that is truly insane, in order to deny that the process works. Vigorous action-of-conscience should be applied to making it work BETTER, not to stymieing the only hope the poor of the world ever had.

What do lefties do, when you point out the almost PERFECT correlation? That the MORE tied to the international economy a nation is, the better its people do? Ask the folks in Burma and Sudan and Somalia and Zimbabwe how much better off they are, because they are less globalized. Watch how quickly lefties yatter and find some arm-waving excuse to change the subject.

Worse, utter hypocrites, they will deny all this, then turn around and screech that the people of Cuba live in poverty NOT because of failed leadership, but because the US has maintained a trade embargo (though the entire rest of the world hasn’t).

Hyprocrisy and delusion that would be astonishing... if their cousins-in-spirit on the far-right weren't far, far worse.

Dig it. Liberals embrace global trade... then march to get transparency and laws so that the benefits spread faster. Lefties know only how to howl.

OdinsEye, you are right that demographics will kill the WalMart Miracle (cheap goods for our poor folks, even as their jobs move overseas) just as soon as China & India develop enough to have strong internal markets for their own goods. (At which point the dollar will sink through the floor like a neutronium stone... and suddenly American workers will start exporting again. If we are well-led. ANd if we do not forget how to make things.)

So? If we were far-seeing futurists, we would concentrate on America becoming a center of robotic innovation, so that we BOTH lead the next Kondrtieff Wave AND have the new labor source to take care of us when we’re old.

AND so that the programming will be open source... so we can find the “destroy all humans” subroutines before they activate.

TwinBeam... I do not mid corporations being human. It is good practice for when robots demand personhood.

What I want is for corporate rules to be unable to hide behind multiple veils of secret manipulation. I want a world law that no more than two layers of holding company can stand in between an actual factory or ship or plane or product and the actual people who own/control it.

Moreover, I want the controlling interests in a company to bear liability for damages and losses equal to TWICE their actual stock share, not just the value of the stock alone. (Look into how this is done at Lloyds of London).

That might make them more careful with decisions that affect clients, customers and the world.

Blake Stacey said...

From Thomas Pynchon's latest:

"Evolution. Ape evolves to man, well, what's the next step—human to what? Some compound organism, the American Corporation, for instance, in which even the Supreme Court has recognized legal personhood—a new living species, one that can out-perform most anything an individual can do by himself, no matter how smart or powerful he is."

The physicist John Baez has some interesting thoughts and references on corporate personhood here. Quoting bits and pieces:

First of all, we must remember that at least in the US, corporations are persons in the eyes of the law. Technically, they're "artificial persons". This has been the case ever since the 1886 Supreme Court ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. In a clear case of judicial activism if there ever was one, this ruling redefined the concept of "person" to include corporations. In fact, it did so without hearing any arguments on this question, or providing any reason. [...] I look forward to the day when a corporation sues its president for violating its Thirteenth Amendment rights. [...] Secondly, corporations have a suspicious resemblance to the oversimplified "persons" that many economists like to study in "rational choice theory". [...] So, we see an interesting parallel development: the legal system redefining "person" to include corporations, while economists redefine the concept of rationality in such a way that corporations more closely resemble the ideal rational person than actual people do!

I don't think this is the result of some sort of "conspiracy": some bunch of economists and judges in a smoke-filled room scheming to let corporations take over the world. It actually seems like a natural form of evolution. Governments naturally set up the rules to favor powerful political entities. During the last century or two, corporations have become the most powerful political entities. As part of this process, the discipline of classical economics arose to describe Homo economicus. In other words, it describes human behavior modeled on how a good businessman — or by extension, a well-functioning corporation — would behave. Conversely, people working for corporations imbibe classical economics in school, and this influences how they behave. Eventually this economic paradigm gets applied to government itself and the feedback loop is complete.

For criticisms of "rational choice theory", the best place to begin may be Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Dr. Brin wrote:

I want a world law that no more than two layers of holding company can stand in between an actual factory or ship or plane or product and the actual people who own/control it.


But then what do you do about dupes, such as the professional ones that infest Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the Bahamas? "Oh, I don't control that; that's my friend Joe Kleinkopf's company..." It's a favorite trick of Zurichgnomes.

I've been reading Andrew Sullivan's discussions lately on extending his ideas of "conservatism of doubt" to "liberalism of doubt". I have to think your ideas about pragmatic use-what-works-ignore-cant liberalism might fill that bill.

Rob Perkins said...

I'm not entirely sure I read that right. I took it to mean that you were saying the Latin American work ethic was in some way inferior to the Western-Euro frontier work ethic. Is that accurate?

It is not accurate. And stuff like this is one of the reasons I hate socratic method questioning with all my heart.

The Latin work ethic simply exists and was a factor in HP's business dealings; it's a way of life with certain advantages and disadvantages, especially in my analysis here. I've said nothing about what I think of it.

What I think of it is that it describes a satiable culture of people; they work until they have what they need and then they go live their lives. I love that approach, actually.

Rob Perkins said...

A little semantic foolery for the day, which makes me wonder. Is it that the Latino stereotype has a poor work ethic or that the Asian/Anglo stereotype has a poor life ethic?

Heh. As stereotypes go, I think the Asian is that Anglos are lazy, isn't it?

No stereotype completely captures things, of course. The central experience I have interacting with the immigrant people from Latin America is that they are marvelously hard workers with a sense of perspective about wealth that Anglo/Euro types have nearly completely lost. The stereotype doesn't capture that.

I meant simply that HP found its way of doing business more compatible, finally, with the long shipping latencies and high productivity of Asian manufacturing efforts, than with the short latencies and high turnovers of the Mexican manufacturers.

I have no idea if the anecdote can be translated to generalities.

Anonymous said...

Not specifically about the current blog post, but I've been concerned somewhat.

While I don't see any long-term-viable alternative to the degree of transparency and accountability you advocate, I do see a potential problem.

Currently, our quasi-anonymity in many of our interactions and the geographical separation of people provide "safety valves" of a sort. If someone's past (or just rumors about them) become a problem for them, there is a handy escape -- they can move elsewhere, or even just avoid people who know about it. Unfortunately, this does provide a way for actual criminals to hide or evade responsibility.

However, the specter raised by a transparent society is that everyone will be in serious trouble pretty much all of the time. Their slightest past mistake will dog them for their entire lives; it will not be possible to have their youthful indiscretions expunged from public record in any meaningful way. Indeed, largely due to the Internet this is already increasingly the case, but when every public (and some private) interaction is on camera and recorded, with face and voice recognition software accessible by any Tom, Dick, and Harry, it becomes orders of magnitude worse. The worst current dangers in this regard are getting an undeserved bad rap online, where it can probably be limited to a pseudonymous identity that's disposable. That obviously would no longer be the case.

The optimistic scenario is to suppose that the sheer amount of "dirt" (mostly minor indiscretions, forgivable character flaws, and honest mistakes) dug up weekly about everyone and his brother, coupled with a would-be judgmental prick's awareness of his own "dirt" becoming comparably accessible, might lead to a sudden huge increase in tolerance and decrease in judgmental treatment and attitudes by people.

Of course, the optimistic scenario is unlikely to actually occur.

The worst case scenario is that people have to be virtually perfect in all of their offline interactions, lest it haunt them for the rest of their (increasingly long) lives interfering with job prospects or even just simply being treated with respect by anyone else at all. The likely outcome is for just about everything that can being done online, at terminals in shielded and shrouded rooms, using systems that provide a fairly strong guarantee of strong pseudonymity or anonymity. Offline interactions become rare, limited to what's unavoidable, and become increasingly stilted and formal, eventually ritualized to an extraordinary degree. And this doesn't really do more than move the problem and, to some extent, compartment it. So that transactions can be done with some protections against cheaters, new pseudonymous online identities will start with poor credit and be treated with almost as much suspicion as an actually-tainted one. Risky activities can be confined to a separate identity, but one's main identity can't reap any rewards from same, even if it does dodge any bullets fired at the risky-stuff id by disgruntled persons. If the main identity someone has takes a hit, they can start over, but it won't be easy -- it will be perhaps comparable to the current situation with bankruptcies and broken mirrors, seven years of bad luck and denied loan applications. Except that instead of having to do something dumb like get in debt up to your eyeballs way beyond your income's ability to pay down, all you'd have to do is run afoul of the wrong sort of personality. All of us who have any real experience engaging in activities online have encountered at least one and know the type -- look at them the wrong way or don't praise their every virtue or whatever, and before long they're telling anyone who will listen about the various terrible things you never did, only leaving out the "never". Which means that in the future, you might become bankrupt through sheer bad luck, without even having to make a risky stock market gamble first; every time you so much as post a blog comment you'll be taking a comparable risk.

Of course, the worst-case scenario won't happen either.

I'm guessing that some intermediate result will happen. For example, that the reputation system will self-organize to give a bad rap to people who spread nasty rumors, and said bad rap will make said rumors count for less. On the other hand, that may only work to the extent that the rumors are machine-readable and have consequences through automation. People being people, they'll read a juicy rumor and act as if it's true, more often than not. Of course, perhaps people that are too credulous regarding rumors will also end up deeply discounted by the reputation system ...

Does anyone have any more concrete guesses as to how this will play out? Will people become jaded to minor imperfections in one another, for example, that currently have a judgmental mentality? Perhaps there will be a renaissance in etiquette, where anything resembling arguing against the man (ad hominem) instead of debating their ideas becomes a bigger albatross around the neck of the attacker than whatever they said becomes around their target's?

Unfortunately, I don't see any online trends to support anything but the worst-case scenario at this time. Already, employers are reportedly using google to research prospective employees; anyone who hasn't either got a squeaky-clean past or a past successful attempt to completely whitewash their google results is going to be unemployable given the hiring climate created by all the offshoring. Nothing in the way of a rumor-counteracting system has emerged to perform "market corrections" on rumors with overvalued credibility either. Google's PageRank is going to serve up, as the top hit, the juiciest bad press on anyone that hasn't paid extortionate amounts to SEO some official self-spin page, because that's what people link to. Whitewashing your google results is probably going to increasingly be marketed by SEO companies at individuals in the near future, but obviously it won't be of any use to people without money, and they'll be the ones who need it most, since without being employable they will never have the money.

Unfortunately, I must remain rather pessimistic on this score for the time being. Maybe ubiquitous surveillance will force us to grow up in a hurry, but I don't think that's something to be betting money on given what I've seen so far with ubiquitous googlability.

Ultimately, the problem may simply be that nobody's superman, at at least 49% are actually below average. In a village of olden times, just about everyone could be the best at or at least good at their job, because they weren't compared to people the next village over, and maybe to one or two widely-renowned experts in distant villages that were mythical beings to the locals anyway. In the global village, though, a plumber is going to be reminded often of exactly how low he ranks on the world's plumbing roster, and probably of exactly why; a prod to improve until they reach their ceiling, and after that just a constant depressing weight they will not be permitted to forget about or to ignore. Same for every other vocation. Same for how well someone conducts their personal life. If you ever smoked weed, even just once as an experiment, your every future mistake will probably result in at least someone reminding you that you're a pothead, and of course both the mistake and the reminder will go on some kind of permanent record.

People manage to live their lives in substantial measure by ignoring or managing to avoid remembering the various pieces of evidence that they're worse than average at many of the things they do, as well as by remaining aware of the things they do do well. They manage to put out of mind and forcibly forget things that embarrass them about their past, cutting remarks that hurt them in the past, and things of that nature.

What happens when reminders of this kind of thing are inescapable, and every time anyone is mad at you they can dredge this crap up and make you feel miserable by reminding you of it? The worst-case scenario here is the stereotypical shrewy ex-wife that finds and airs all of your dirty laundry during the breakup and divorce, except that they really find *all* of it, and airing it means that there are potentially six billion or more spectators. (And defenders of legal things like spousal privilege worry about such minor things as being found guilty of a crime you actually did commit getting in the way of trust between partners, as if unaware that there are much bigger trust issues, such as "what happens when -- not if, when -- one day he/she hates me"...)

Something tells me that rates of depression and suicide may well skyrocket. I suppose the harsh Darwinian result of that is a population genetically predisposed to very strong and unshakable ego structures and extreme self-confidence, otherwise known as sociopaths, megalomaniacs, and psychos...

OK, forget the earlier worst-case scenario. The real worst-case scenario is that strong transparency does in a few generations breed a race of psychotics, dooming the whole planet.

Is it actually possible that the cure is worse than the disease? If so, there's no way out of the trap that I can see, and I think we have our answer re: Fermi's paradox...

P.S. the captcha on this thing is intermittently broken. It sometimes rejects responses that I know are correct, and I don't know why.

Waparius said...

Re: Anonymous

I can see at least one thing against the problems you talk about, and that is that people tend to forgive and forget, especially when they know that their own foibles can be brought up by other people. Families and close friendships probably wouldn't work if they didn't.

Admittedly this isn't friends and families but political enemies and potential wage-slaves...but even so, if every man, woman, child, and quite possibly dog had access to these Argument Nukers, wouldn't that put them in the same position as Soviet Russia and the USA during the cold war?

Francis said...

Face it - “anti-globalization” is just plain stupid. No other thing... no COMBINATION of other things... has ever helped the world’s poor as much as honest commerce. Trade, in which they have some freedom to barter their labor for an honest going-rate, instead of share-cropping for local lords. And yes, multinational-owned factories merit relentless scrutiny! But they are far more easily scrutinezed than local feudal bullies ever were.

David, David, David. The problem with globalisation has always been that the theory is good but the implementation is pathetic (for one thing, labour should be as free to move as capital). Unfortunately, there are serious abuses in the current implimentation (Don Q has given a short list). Also the multinationals are more easily scrutinised, but are far less easy to influence being much further away.

And re: international ties, there's a serious question about which is the chicken and which the egg (as with the other determinant - "institutions" such as the rule of law).

Anonymous said...

Here's yet another problem with transparency: suppose you're a member of a group that's not well-tolerated but you can hide your membership in (Jews in Nazi Germany, atheists and homosexuals pretty much anywhere) - if anyone can discover your group membership but standards of tolerance stay the same, things would get ugly. Is that soluble?

TwinBeam said...

"labour should be as free to move as capital"

So long as we have nations, with separate and often opposing interests, that's going to be impractical.

E.g. in the "illegal immigration" debate, the issue isn't the competition of illegal immigrant laborers (they tend to do low pay work that most are happy to leave to them) as it is the social and services costs. E.g. increased crime and burden on tax-paid social services like schools, prisons, emergency rooms, etc.

Globalization may be slowly moving us away from nationalism - but it isn't foolish for people to worry about *how* that transition takes place. (Which is the function of true conservativism - making sure that those eager for improvements don't throw away the baby with the bathwater.)

Nate said...

Dr. Brin said:
"Nate, your explication of problems with present day capitalism is much better targeted than simply reciting a series of nasty anecdotes."

But those nasty anecdotes are true. Union Carbide, and later Dow Chemical, have disclaimed any responsibility for the Bhopal Disaster. Union Carbide settled in 1989 for about $2,000 per family. And the area has yet to be cleaned up at all. And when one of the Yes Men went on TV pretending to be a Dow exec, and said Dow would take responsibility and clean it up, "Immediately afterward, Dow's share price fell 4.2% in 23 minutes, for a loss of $2 billion in market value."

Wall Street's priorities are not the priorities of anyone else on the planet. When companies fire employees, their stock goes up, when they hire employees, their stock goes down. And the companies are required, by law, to put profits for the stockholders first.

As for dangerous factory work being one of the steps that most of the currently industrialized countries went though to get where they are today, that's part of my point. We've been through that. In theory, we've learned from it, and how to do things right, not the horrible dangerous ways they used to be. There's no reason we should be forcing other people in other countries to work in dangerous sweatshops, since we know how to build factories that AREN'T dangerous sweatshops. We should be leapfrogging, to steal the term they use over at Worldchanging. We can build better factories with better machines that aren't dark dank deathtraps where people are stuck in practical slavery. We've seen how that works, and how to avoid it, because we've been through it. So we should know better.

And companies could still easily pay a lot less (and they could make things for the markets near the factories, even). It feels kinda weird to be saying that we shouldn't pay people the same money for the same work, but money is really relative to the local economy, and if there's one thing I've learned from RPGs, it's when you start throwing around lots of money prices and things get all out of whack. But there's no reason why companies can't pay a reasonable rate relative to the area where they are. And help build the infrastructure and society around them. They just often don't, and the way the system is set up right now, they usually don't have incentives to.

As for the "illegal immigration" debate, it's mostly because our immigration system and Mexico's economy are both severly bent. The answer definitely isn't some kind of "Guest Worker" program to create a legal kind of underclass of cheap labor. People who want to come here and live and work should all have the same chance to become citizens, and the same protection under labor laws and such as anybody else who works here.

Man, why do I keep feeling like I'm arguing for twinbeam's "Not throw the baby out with the bathwater" definition of conservativism? When did the liberals become the conservatives? (When the "conservatives" became the crazy reactionaries, of course, it was a rhetorical question.)

TwinBeam said...

Nate:

Conservatives aren't any clearer than liberals on which things are bathwater and which are baby - they just resist throwing out either until they are politically forced to accept change.

Regarding a Guest Worker program as a form of second class citizenship - a fairly large fraction of "immigrants" are "just here for a the money" - not to become US citizens. A guest worker program would provide an easier legal means for them to do that without surrendering their own citizenship. Legal status would give them better access to courts and other means of insuring that they are not abused.

The real question, in my mind, is whether there should be limits on the number of new citizens per year, in an attempt to retain a distinctive sense of "being American". I tend to say "yes" - and that would be the problem with any form of bulk amnesty program. The traditional multi-generational path to becoming a "true American", by adopting and adapting the dominant culture seems not only to work, but actually to be an essential part of the ever-changing American character.

David Brin said...

Yipes! Can I ask that when people post long and passionate and cogent missives here as “anonymous” they at least sign with a nom-de-plume like “worried in a glass house”? It really does help when it comes time to answer.

Anonymous long-poster, here is my short answer. Read Chapter 9 of The Transparent Society. Seriously. That is the chapter in which I strove hard to contemplate as many DOWNSIDE aspects of an increasingly transparent world as I could find.

For example, suppose all the people know almost everything. We will then be safe from utter domination by a brutal minority. (e.g. neo-feudalism). But we’d still be in danger of control by subtle-manipulative minorities... or else by a relentlessly conformist majority, squelching minor deviations, minority opinions, dissenting art or harmless personal eccentricities.

Indeed, I worry about this... and yet I see evidence against this trend and it is - ironically - to be seen in today’s popular culture. In which harmless (though sometimes deliberately offensive) personal eccentricity is extolled as a positive virtue, often rewarded with 15 minutes of personal fame.

Indeed, name for me one clade of harmless eccentrics who has NOT benefitted or gained increased tolerance from increased transparency and exposure.

There IS a line that the public refuses to cross. It is the line that prevents “Fear Factor” from ever becoming gladiatorial area shows like the Running Man. That line is “victims.” The public (so far) refuses to accept entertainments in which suffering was involuntary or imposed without adult informed consent. Nor do they accept substantial harm. “Eccentric” minorities who hate or intend harm (e.g. the Klan) do not benefit from exposure but rather, suffer for it.

I do not claim that this trend is perfect, but it is large and profound in the West... and thus serves to suggest that UNDERLYING western values synergize well with transparency.

Read Chapter 9!

You raise another matter, that of gossip. I personally consider it to be one of the most vile of human habits. I have not only suffered from malignant lies told by others behind my back, but seen other lives festered by it... and have loathed the same tendency in myself, while trying to avoid it.

All I can say is that gossip victims benefit from knowing THAT they are being gossiped about and what the detailed stories are. Only then can they have a chance of either refuting or gaining redemption/forgiveness.

You raise the notion of a society that punishes every crime, no matter how picayune. Sorry, but unlike the other concerns you raise, this one is plain stupid.

Think. In a democracy, people would hate that and (duh?) demand changes! Speeding tickets are steep because they only catch 1% of speeders. When ALL speeds are tracked, all the time, the first 10 mph above the limit will be billed to you like a toll telephone call, allowing people in an urgent hurry to hurry a bit, within safe limits, and pay for the privilege. Again, duh.

Above all, as Waparius says, we must become people who understand human fallibility and forgive the stupid flakey minor sins of others because we need forgiveness too. Will this happen? I dunno. But there are signs. In any event, WE DESERVE THE CHANCE TO TRY AND BECOME PEOPLE LIKE THAT!

AND IT WON’T HAPPEN IF WE PLUNGE BACK INTO PATERNALISTIC SECRETIVE RULE BY ELITES.


---

Francis, once again, I must reiterate. You arm-wave generalities to diss globalization, all of which are true... and not one of which holds a candle to the fact, fact, fact, fact, fact of Japan, HK, Taiwan, SKorea, Malaysia, Singapore and so on...

When you can show me that today’s workers in those lands are slaving under the same conditions that their fathers did, then lecture us about how obvious anti-globalization is. Otherwise, admit that it works, and help us make it better and more just.

Don Quijote said...

Francis, once again, I must reiterate. You arm-wave generalities to diss globalization, all of which are true... and not one of which holds a candle to the fact, fact, fact, fact, fact of Japan, HK, Taiwan, SKorea, Malaysia, Singapore and so on...

Not to rain on your parade Dr Brin, but Japan was an industrialized country prior to WWII, HK (~7 million) and Singapore (~ 4.5 million) are relatively small cities, Malaysia is definitely not an industrialized country, so out of your list we only have two countries of sizable population that have successfully industrialized since the end of WWII.

Please make a list of countries that were not industrialized prior to WWII and have successfully industrialized since, particularly under the free trade system that you seem to love so much.

David Brin said...

Sad, sad, sad. My how hard you try. Don't work tho.

Japan had the industrial capacity of a chicken coop, when we were done bombing in 1945. In fact, it took the LONGEST to re-industrialize of any of the nations mentioned on my list! Because the globalization engine wasn't in full steam in the 50s and 60s.

Malaysia is now a VERY far along industrial society. It was even when I visited in 1990.

You squirm, but won't wash, and in fact the squirming discredits you.

China is RIGHT NOW plunging up this road at a pace that blurs vision.

Ah obstinacy.

Don Quijote said...

Sad, sad, sad. My how hard you try. Don't work tho.

Japan had the industrial capacity of a chicken coop, when we were done bombing in 1945.


In 1939 at the beginning of WWII, Japan was a highly industrialized country, as were most of the current industrialized countries.

In fact, it took the LONGEST to re-industrialize of any of the nations mentioned on my list! Because the globalization engine wasn't in full steam in the 50s and 60s.

Nor were any of the other countries that had served as WWII battlefields, such as France (there is a reason the French call the period between 45 and 75 the glorious thirties) Germany, Italy, etc... It takes time to rebuild an infrastructure from scratch.

The Korean war was the accelerator of Japanese re industrialization, not globalization...

Malaysia is now a VERY far along industrial society. It was even when I visited in 1990.

Malaysia has a GDP of $12,000 (PPP). Slovenia has a higher GDP per Capita.

You squirm, but won't wash, and in fact the squirming discredits you.

Make a list of countries that have successfully industrialized (population greater than 10 million, GDP Per Capita of 15,000 and a GINI coefficient lower than .50) since the 60's other than South Korea & Taiwan.

China is RIGHT NOW plunging up this road at a pace that blurs vision.

Ah obstinacy.


And I seriously doubt that they are following your vision of globalization. They have no respect for intellectual property, and have no problem blackmailing other countries into giving them their intellectual property.

David Brin said...

Sorry, but this is still too rich. Please repeat for us the standard cant about why Cuba is so poor, today? hm?

SHOW US the chart of rapidly vs slowly developing nations. Do you even have the stats? Of course not! Because they would directly and almost PERFECTLY correlate with which countries have economies closely tied to ours by trade, vs those that do not.

ALMOST PERFECTLY.

BTW, notice how DQ armwaved away Taiwan and South Korea. And Hong Kong and Singapore, where the BEST you could hope for 40 years ago was a factory job that would have made Dickens barf.

Utter avoidance of the open challenge! Find one of these countries where the average worker would trade places with his dad. Please find one. Even in China and India - where it is just beginning and early-phase exploitation abounds. Find them.

The staggering thing is the singleminded monomania of this delusional self-hypnosis. Not a shred of evidence to support a stand that is nonsensical and outright deleriously innane... in the face of one of the most perfect correlations in all of human history...

... but instead of saying "let's find out why it works and then discuss together how to make it work better, with less outrageous corporate exploitation and cheating and pollution and labor abuse" instead there is a frantic need to wallow in distraction and hysteria...

... because only psychological terms like hysteria can adequately describe people having a wall in front of them and slamming into it, again and again, screaming "it's a door!"... while a real door stands only a few feet away.

Dig it, I fear the mega corporations and their hidden rulers. Perhaps MORE, because I see them more clearly. Actually, I don't think they much mind lefty-crypto-marxist rants much, at all.

What they fear is what they have always feared. Reform.

Don Quijote said...

BTW, notice how DQ armwaved away Taiwan and South Korea. And Hong Kong and Singapore, where the BEST you could hope for 40 years ago was a factory job that would have made Dickens barf.


Notice that Dr Brin is unable or unwilling to come up with a list of Countries that have successfully industrialized thru his beloved globalization process other than Korea & Taiwan (Both of which started their industrialization process with huge US military Subsidies).

PS. South Korea, Taiwan, HK and Singapore combined barely have a population of 100 million.

David Brin said...

And notice how obstinately DQ uses the big lie, because of course I have given this list and as of now, including India and China, the process has fully or partly lifted a MAJORITY of the people on the globe.

HAr! SHOW ME THE MASSIVE US SUBSIDIES OF TAIWAN'S ECONOMY! I put the lie to you, direct. Show them to me. Now. Because I do not remember any. Ever.

Show me pictures of Honk Kong and Kuala Lumpur in 1947 and let's compare them to pictures of those cities today.

Pathetic!!!!

Again I ask, show me a globalized economy in which people are still working in dickensian conditions a generation after their parents did!

I defy you!!!

And again I ask, why is Cuba poor?

No corporations. Guided by beneficent socialists. Free of globalization.

The way China was beforeDeng.

Hm... the comparison is also TEMPORAL!

Socialist-led... utter grinding poverty. Zimbabwe and pre-Deng China and Nehru India. Certainly these were far more JUST AND FAIR than slavocracies like Morbutu's Zaire and today's Burma.

But no less murderously opporessive of free speech and no less grindingly ineffective at lifting people upward.

Oh I won't come back to this thread again here. But for now, folks, notice just silly dogmatists can get. Evading every challenge, ignoring the nose in front of their faces... or trying to chop it off because it does not agree with theory.

Don Quijote said...

HAr! SHOW ME THE MASSIVE US SUBSIDIES OF TAIWAN'S ECONOMY! I put the lie to you, direct. Show them to me. Now. Because I do not remember any. Ever.

OK.

Taiwan


1951-1953: The United States resumes aid to Taiwan during the Korean War and defends the Taiwan Strait. Over the next 15 years, U.S. aid will top $4 billion, accounting for 5 percent of Taiwan's gross national product and enabling it to invest in infrastructure. Agricultural production increases by 14 percent and provides much of the investment capital and labor needed for later industrialization.

1954-1959: Emphasis on agricultural production stimulates the economy, with sugar as Taiwan's main export. Inflation shrinks to 8.6 percent while international trade deficits are covered by American aid.


Still waiting for that list of country that have successfully industrialized since the 1960s.

Anonymous said...

China's success may stem partially from their rejection of Western so-called "intellectual property". In effect, they are industrializing the way early America did, i.e. without paying what amounts to a "progress tax" imposed from without. (I seem to recall the US of America actually beginning with an explicit revolt against an actual tax...)

Despite claims that it spurs innovation, "intellectual property" law has shown a wide-ranging talent for actually stifling it, and for tilting various playing fields in favor of incumbents who then engage in rent-seeking rather than innovation. Indeed, it's even used to try to avoid accountability (by e.g. Diebold, which tried to use the DMCA to suppress a leaked memo disclosing weaknesses in their voting machines a few years ago, a taste of things to come as we now know).

Further reading:

http://www.againstmonopoly.org/
http://www.questioncopyright.org/

I also have a remark regarding the long anonymous post earlier in the thread and Brin's response. It seems the latter didn't address the issue that a highly transparent society will make it difficult-to-impossible for any person to avoid frequent, unfavorable comparisons with others. The thing about villages in particular. Also, while I doubt that such a society will harshly treat minor things under its legal system, I don't doubt the individuals in that society might harshly treat other individuals in their personal dealings. None of us like to be reminded of our faults (or worse, confronted with accusations of faults we don't actually have) or past embarrassments, but such reminders might become far more frequent and less avoidable.

Consider the current plight of celebrities -- their every minor life event, including their mistakes and peccadilloes, on permanent record and followed like a live-action soap-opera by millions. Well, they can take it -- by and large they are exhibitionists by nature, and oftentimes deliberately use (or even cause) things like this to garner publicity to further their careers or even just because they get off on publicity.

Now imagine the same thing starts to be true for the rest of us, most of us ordinary, private, non-exhibitionist people who'd rather permanently forget about at least some things and not be compared to everyone else in the world. There's a reason nobody likes to hear much from their intimate partner about his or her previous partnets, you know -- it leads to explicit comparisons and that leads to bruised and disappointed egos, and even to depression. (Or worse, rage or even murder...) That and similar things mean transparency would have a huge impact on individual life.

Of course, most individuals won't garner the widespread attention celebrities do; but it will be a lot easier to become the talk (or the laughingstock) of the town for a few weeks, or things like that, and impossible to live down just about anything. Already on the Internet we've seen a phenomenon where any attempt to avoid having attention drawn to something seems to draw attention to it (it's remarked on frequently at Techdirt); great for making those with the power to cause great harm more accountable, but bad news for ordinary Joes who just want their past drug habit or whatever to go away and stay put behind them.

It leads me to think that the posthumans walking around earth in the 2040s might not actually be all that much like us, psychologically, in a world that most of us here and now would be shattered by. What they will be like, I don't know. Psychos will select themselves out as surely as easily-depressed suicides will, but those that remain might be ... I don't know, insensitive? Transparency gives the insensitive a natural advantage over the sensitive person, since they can harm the latter and withstand the scorn of each other. Perhaps the playing field there would be leveled by new laws or social norms, but perhaps not.

Doug S. said...

Indeed, name for me one clade of harmless eccentrics who has NOT benefitted or gained increased tolerance from increased transparency and exposure.

That depends on how you define "harmless."

Francis said...

Francis, once again, I must reiterate. You arm-wave generalities to diss globalization, all of which are true... and not one of which holds a candle to the fact, fact, fact, fact, fact of Japan, HK, Taiwan, SKorea, Malaysia, Singapore and so on...

David, can you even read? I have never said that globalisation is an unqualified bad - simply that the implimentation is pathetic (something you seem to object to) and that there are serious abuses (as mentioned by Don Q). With the possible exceptions of Hong Kong (about which very little is known economically other than it's a free enough market that an oligarchy rules it lock, stock, and barrel (just ask Carrefour)) and Singapore, every last one of those countries you list industrialised through some combination of subsidy and protectionism combined with access to free markets. A path China is currently blazing.

And, while I'm at it, if you want to defend globalisation, now is not the time to defend. In terms of international capital investment (as a percentage of total) and population movement across borders, we were far more (i.e. >50% if Nial Ferguson is to be believed) globalised 100 years ago than we are today.

Your entire defence of globalisation rests on a post-hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy - that things are better now than they were and that globalisation has increased therefore it is globalisation that is responsible. But the countries to have done the best are NOT the ones to have slavishly followed the rules of globalisation (e.g. Argentina) - they are the ones which have been able to reap the undoubted benefits of globalisation while blocking the harmful parts (e.g. nascent industries getting blitzkreiged by cheap imported goods and unaccountable corporations) through various forms of protectionism.

When you can show me that today’s workers in those lands are slaving under the same conditions that their fathers did, then lecture us about how obvious anti-globalization is. Otherwise, admit that it works, and help us make it better and more just.

When you can demonstrate to me that despite the economic and demographic data, the world today is actually more globalised than that of 100 years ago, you will have a point there. Otherwise, you need to defend the "Dark, satanic mills".

And notice how obstinately DQ uses the big lie, because of course I have given this list and as of now, including India and China, the process has fully or partly lifted a MAJORITY of the people on the globe.

If by "This Process", you mean protectionist subsidies and tarrifs combined with exports and the industrial revolution, I conceed a point. Globalisation includes the removal of tarrifs and subsidies.

HAr! SHOW ME THE MASSIVE US SUBSIDIES OF TAIWAN'S ECONOMY! I put the lie to you, direct. Show them to me. Now. Because I do not remember any. Ever.

Don Q has exposed the bravado there for what it was by presenting you with the answer to your request. In return, I have a challenge for you. Name me one country that has industrialised since WWII through globalisation rather than through top-down planning involving protectionism and subsidies or external subsidies (including having hundreds of thousands of troops parked there, and including the Marshall Plan).

I'll be interested to see where you come up with, if anywhere. And despite Don Q having flattened your challenge, you have no response to his so far.

Globalisation makes a much bigger and more productive playing field (like the markets) but again, like the free market, there are systematic biasses towards existing behemoths making it almost impossible for weaker entrants to play without either anti-globalist forms of protection or systematic biasses being deliberately built into the system.