Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nathan Tankus — The Terrifying Political Economy of Waiting

Since then many people, including the writers of this blog, have been watching events intensely. It is common among these critical observers to think (and to have thought) that the semblance of stability that was brought about by early 2009 couldn’t be sustained, either domestically or internationally. I think this reasoning is correct. However that thought in and of itself doesn’t tell us when things will fall apart.
Governments have a huge amount of power to keep the game moving, but they are constrained by the availability of real resources, like energy, and the actions of other governments, which in extremis, lead to war.

The game began to get unsustainable back in the 70's with the end of the era of guaranteed cheap oil. Petroleum remains the principal energy source of modern economies, and there is no obvious replacement on the horizon. With climate change forcing a re-think of carbon-based energy, this is the elephant in the room. Financial crises can be fixed, but the environment is something that governments do not control. The vise is tightening.

Naked Capitalism
The Terrifying Political Economy of Waiting
Nathan Tankus | student and research assistant, University of Ottawa


Nathan Tankus said...

your very kind, but I'm not a grad student. still an undergraduate.

Tom Hickey said...

You are way ahead of the game.

And in my day, research assistants were all grad students.

Roger Erickson said...

fixing typos from my comment at NakedCapitalism

A timely reminder. Some suggestions for cutting through the clutter.

1) Seems irrefutable that our policy apparatus has remained far too narrow, EXACTLY while the degrees-of-freedom of our populace has dramatically expanded.
Instead of extra DoF being leveraged through more discipline, we have less discipline, functionally.

2) Networked systems, when facing growth, solve #1 by reconnecting everything to everything, then relaxing to a new, leanest, connection-state that will suffice for awhile. That accounts for physiological lifespans, and cultural lifespans as well.

3) WHEN, exactly, do growing networked systems reconnect all-to-all, then relax? ONLY when they invent the catalysts which trigger invention of new methods - which then actually allow us to achieve the desired outcome. There IS no simple thing to do, but there is an iterative, re-tuning process to discover, by massively parallel trial and error.

4) Possible guesses?
...When K-12 education is completely altered, to focus more on team-building and context-parsing vs data memorization sans context.
...When growing numbers of increasingly isolated specialists quit spendig full-time is isolated specialization, and instead participate in more interleaved coordination. (20 hour work weeks? 20 hours recursive context discovery? Effectively, half time work and half time "council" discussion. That's roughly how tribal societies function. We'll have to do something different to leverage the return-on-coordination out of 315 million people.)

Tom Hickey said...

Roger, what you are saying in essence is that we need to be educating generalist, trans-disciplinary, system-thinking, meta creative problem-solvers instead of preparing people for "jobs," and training specialists at the advanced level who are isolated by their own methods.

Interestingly, this is what tribal education was about, where everyone had to be in touch with everything for the tribe to survive in challenging environment. With surplus societies, division of labor, and specialization, we got way far away from that and now it is coming back to bite us.

We also got too far away from the consensus decision-making and the choice of natural leaders that was characteristic of tribal live.

So we actually have models that were tested for millions of years before we got away from them due to "progress." Those models need to be revisited and scaled.

Roger Erickson said...

Yup. Been saying that for years, Tom.

As we grow, we need to maintain a focus on effective team building.

Or else everything we do becomes a joke, as we're seeing.

Sure seems like a focus on team building adds coherence to otherwise dissociated data generation.

Tom Hickey said...

Yeah, it strange. We teach team-building in sports, the military, corporations and many other areas, but relating it to society gets left out, other than maybe a single course in "citizenship."