Saturday, October 23, 2010

Future society: an optimum strategy for flourishing

I just watched this interview with Tim Wu. He nails it re: the tendency of information industries to move from open to closed systems. I just pre-ordered his new book: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires There is little doubt in my mind how our society is going to evolve in an era of consolidated corporate power and ubiquitous information systems.

Although I don't subscribe to the idea that history repeats itself, I do believe that history does inform us about human nature and how powerful people fight to consolidate power and influence. This tendency is firmly stapled into our DNA.

There will almost certainly be strife between what used to be the middle class and financial and political elites. I read yesterday that one of the international rating agencies predicted a loss of "social cohesion" in the USA. Right now, there are large strikes in France over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. It is interesting that here in the USA, the waning middle class seems silent in comparison. In my country the consolidation of power by control of news by just a few corporations has been brilliant in execution, but not in the public good: we see people swayed by corporate controlled news to back political agendas that are very much against their own interests.

I have always had a strong interest in strategy games like Go (I wrote the first commercially available Go playing program) and Chess (I wrote the simple Chess program Apple shipped with very early Apple IIs). The point is: when playing strategy games, you play the current board position. Now, life is not a perfect knowledge game like Chess and Go but as individuals it still makes sense to "play the position" with what knowledge and resources we have.

What knowledge do we have? I would argue very little if you rely on USA filtered and biased news sources. You can improve your knowledge a little by reading multiple international news sources. I also rely on what people I trust write in their blogs and books.

What resources do we have? As individuals our resources are specialized job skills, education, family and friends, real property (hopefully not debt encumbered), owning your own business, cash assets, and social and professional networking. Negative resources are things like excessive personal debt.

In playing Chess and Go, it is almost always useful to understand what moves your opponent wants you to make, and avoid these moves! In our lives, I believe that it is useful to try understanding what the financial and political elites want the masses of non-elites to do. In recent history, using advertising and media control, a vision of extravagant lifestyles has been pushed at people and this has been carefully combined with control of cheap borrowing to induce people into taking on excessive private debt: optimum elite strategy for increasing control, wealth, and influence. The obvious strategy for non-elites is to avoid debt, avoid getting sucked into a materialistic lifestyle, and to invest personal resources in acquiring specialized job skills and making education a life-long process.

5 comments:

Positive Genomics said...

Hey Mark: "There is little doubt in my mind how our society is going to evolve"

I wouldn't be so confident about predicting how things are going to evolve... that's what nature is all about, after all.

I think we can talk about understanding the fitness function - the definition of what "survival of the fittest" is all about. And we can even modify it a bit, donors supporting a "survival of the cutest" for environmental support ("Go Panda Bears!" while frogs don't get much fundraising attention)

Mark Watson, author and consultant said...

Hello PG, right you are about firm predictions. However somethings will almost certainly happen (e.g., a second major hit to the USA and world economies in the future) but we can't predict when they will occur.

Slobodan Blazeski said...

There were similar issues explored at wired (*) article The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. And though its full of funny data as comparing the total traffic vs value of that traffic which begs the question is the video I've seen (**) that took far more bandwidth the all the rest of my surfing for several days really had more influence on me then all the other text articles read in the same period. Were the media spreading their distracting messages by the order of the elites or they simply went for the things that public want to hear? I don't know. But people enjoy hearing fairy tales, like those that you could be anything you want, you could always be able to refinance your mortgage , or the gas will always be cheap. The messengers who bring the real news are not popular enough to be elected. Mike Rows summarized beautifully in his ted talk (***) that fight against jobs that make difference in the economy is fought on several fronts.
But in the end isn't it because most people wan't to hear those lies? When Chilean miners were trapped there was a comment on one of a news that they should be having a good education instead of becoming miners in a stinking holes? Since most of the professors are leftist and suspect that all people who earn more money then themselves are doing something fishy and that's what they preach to their students the real question is where to get that education.

best
Slobodan

P.S.
You can't cheat a honest men.


(*) http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1
(**) http://vimeo.com/13876770
(***) 15:23 www.ted.com/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs.html

Timboy said...

I believe that we will be just fine in the long run. At the end of the Civil War, we were nearly bankrupt, but we recovered and grew to new highs. Then came the Great Depression when it was feared that all was lost. Yet we rallied to become one of the strongest nations on earth. Same with after WWII. We were nearly bankrupt then as well but our brightest minds propelled us to greater heights. During the Reagan years, we amassed such a huge budget deficit that many said we could never pay it off. Yet, but some accounts we nearly did toward the end of the Clinton years when we reached highs never thought possible. And so it will go. Are we now recovering or is the government just propping us up as some kind of great conspiracy? Maybe the latter for right now, but I believe we will ultimately go on to new highs. Will there be another meltdown? Of course? I don't know if we will see it, but either we or our descendants will see a very bright future as well. If I thought otherwise, I would sell everything and join a commune. LOL
-Timboy

Timboy said...
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