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Strategies for a discontinuous future.












Monday, June 14, 2004
 


Read Rheingold's address to the 2004 Stanford comms class. Interesting - but, frankly, I think the the 'invisible hand of info-anarchy leading to the best outcome for everyone as the future of everything' rap (by all the usual suspects, not just Rheingold) is starting to sound a little tired. I think it's time - past time - to start thinking about machines much more critically than simply fetishizing them.

Rheingold's two examples are Wikipedia and Ohmynews - the point I'm making is to look at the flaws in these structures. Do machines like Ohmynews create massive thought bubbles? Do machines like Wikipedia have an asymptote beyond which deep knowledge never makes it into the system? Machines don't exist to serve us - but it's easy to think they do.

There's a deep flaw hidden in the info-anarchists Panglossian message. The upside, as Aruthr C Clarke presciently observed in The Light of Other Days, is that a perfectly transparent society is a self-policing society. But the flaw is that a perfectly transparent society, is, economically, the ultimate competition - perfect competition (or close enough to it), for everything, everywhere, all the time. I don't think that's a nice place to live.

This is what orthodox economists aspire to: a society where perfect competition and productivity growth through technological innovation mean perfect consumption. This phenomenal essay about the Past and Future of the Industrial Revolution, by Lucas - which is absolutely crucial reading - explains why.

-- umair // 11:51 AM //


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