Friday, November 27, 2009

Make Sense or Money

USAers have this way of wanting to spend themselves out of poverty. This strategy has been on display in Afghanistan where troops perform as power shoppers in the various street malls (bazaars), irrigating the merchant class with Uncle Sam's dollars.

This proves a satisfactory arrangement in whatever city it's practiced (or so they tell us), it's just damned expensive, like a million dollars per troop per annum or something on that order. Beats shooting however, which accomplishes a lot less for a lot more.

In contrast is Kerala, in India (or so goes the anthropology) where the evidence suggests (not surprisingly) that talking matters out in a highly literate and informed manner is more likely the way to hammer out lasting agreements, ones that work better over the long haul, because there's simply no magic bullet that money might buy in most situations. Banking on some deus ex machina is not always the best strategy.

Getting USAers to engage in public debate is a tricky business however, as they're somewhat out of shape, a lot of 'em, having left matters to pundits for so long. Their so-called town meetings about health care proved to be PR disasters.

Civics is not taught
. Cynicism about government is encouraged, but without any knowledge of what that government even looks like. In the meantime, geeks have needed to roll their own, having been left to their own devices. FooCamp and BarCamp are where it happens, or at those "unconferences". Virtual cyber-nations have grown up all around us, are currently jockeying for position in a vast new Cyberia with plenty of drive space (shared memory).

College radio stations have not been replaced by as many college television stations, despite the promise of cable, leaving the Internet to pick up the slack where public debate is concerned.

There's not much diversity of opinion on the airwaves these days. There's a calcified left versus a calcified right, and not much flowing in the middle.

This multi-decade switchover to social networking channels (including email and usenet) is a major change and I'm not about to rush forward claiming to have all the answers. This isn't about me being a wisenheimer, last time I checked, even though I have my educated guesses.

My point is simply that our debate is taking new forms, given the roadblocks in some media, the prohibitions and inhibitions. If those were to disappear, then yet other forms of working through our differences might appear, regenerating our democracy (thinking of DemocracyLab some).

Spending one's way out of poverty is not a bad strategy if you know the fundamentals, which all have to do with solar energy (a kind of fusion energy) and our planetary solar gradient, the source of agriculture and that vast separation of gases associated with homeostatic life (so-called Gaia in mythic models -- in no way a stupid idea). So yes, you do have a steady energy boost from the cosmos, a fire hose to turn on your challenges.

However, the key is to design intelligent circuitry for that energy. Money "in the raw" (as in "millions and billions") is merely a symbol of brute force, potential energy, which in some lines of work merely signifies "bull headedness" i.e. spending sans IQ. The education system is supposed to pick up the slack here, by making the invisible hand less clumsy and goofy. "Market choice" is quasi-meaningless if "dumb and dumber" are your only two.