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OK, since we are off-topic anyway, I'll throw in some of my middle-aged
lefty thoughts... I feel compelled to first throw in a few angle brackets
for good measure however, so here goes: <<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>
#1 Matthew Gertner wrote:
>What I find misguided is the idea that we are all in one big team working
>towards a common goal. I think that the last century or so, especially, has
>shown that progress is a lot faster when you have a lot of smaller teams
>competing with each other.
Why do you correlate "progress" (whatever that means, let's not even get
into that) and "small teams in active competition" as some kind of truism ?
Hasn't most progress been funded by governments and, especially in the U.S.,
by the military ? Look at Bush Jr: preaching hyper-capitalism but, when
reminded of harsh realities by the likes of Bin Laden, actively practicing
Keynesian politics and supporting the economy through government
intervention, severe protectionism and... military spending.
>This is the main distinction between communism
>and capitalism. Granted, capitalism is a dirty, ugly thing that implies
>human beings are selfish entities that aim first and foremost to maximize
>their own success. If you want to call us capitalists warlords and thieves,
>you won't be the first one. Personally I think that this is a consequence
>"human nature", which is a consequence of genetics, and that capitalism is
>the effect and not the cause. The failure of anything like communism to
>succeed on more than a minimal scale is pretty good evidence that this is
>the case, besides all the anecdotal evidence that you can experience in
As John Cowan pointed out, communism never existed - only brutal
bureaucraties where a dominant "elite" (ahem) oppressed the rest. As for
capitalism, it is mostly preached as an ideology in order to protect and
extend private interests, but true competition is mostly reserved to us
humans, in our various social roles: consumers (compete so that you can have
more than the next guy: bigger car, bigger house, bigger belly), employees
(compete so that you constantly live in fear of being jobless, accept low
salaries and crush fellow workers on your way to 'success'), etc. I am
re-reading Orwell's 1984 right now and I think everyone really should. It
was written with communism in mind but it's striking to see how well it
applies to present-day capitalism in many respects. That must explain why
corporate press releases sound like Newspeak I guess.
Large corporations really strive for oligopolies, as they are more
profitable than monolopies in the long run, and they do their best to avoid
too much competition. Countries do the same, I mean just look at
20th-century U.S. politics for a striking illustration, not to mention Bush
Jr again who would happily bomb Europe, Asia and Africa as well if the
military or the oil industry told him to :-)
I very much dislike the idea that "human nature" would entirely be a
consequence of genes. This smells badly of socio-biology and bogus theories
such as Dawkins' "selfish genes". Culture is definitely more important, and
mankind is not yet an ant colony, at least I hope so. That's why a baby can
grow into another Hitler or another Montaigne with just the same genes.
>I'm all for idealism, but not if it hinders overall progress.
In other words, you're not an idealist.
>(BTW: I was going to preface my subject line with "OFFTOPIC, but I guess
>this is spot on topic for XML Dev, right? ;-)
Sure, this list is full of amazingly smart and educated folks who will
probably read this before going back to their daily issues, but I'm hopeful
that the discussion will ring a bell. Call me an idealist.
#2 Nicolas Lehuen wrote:
>Genetic algorithms and selection are indeed effective is selecting the
>"best" entities according to their success. That's fine. But what is
>? What is the direction of progress ? Can you tell what is the objective of
>biological evolution ? I guess not. What about economical evolution ? Is
>there any economical evolution, to begin with ? Are we forced to play this
Yes, all good questions, but obviously they don't have "natural" answers,
only theories that reflect ideologies. That's why citizens have to debate
these issues at election time instead of blow-job stories or demagogues
babbling about "security" and the dealth penalty as main social engineering
>When you are using selection and competition in a capitalist environment,
>success is simply measured in terms of the wealth an entity can gather from
>its environment. Sharing with other entities ? Yep, only if it will bring
>you more wealth in the future. Look at the state of the world right now,
>it's just a consequence of playing this game.
I think you assume too much rationality here. Much of economic orthodoxy
assumes a simplistic model whereby "consumers" and "producers" have perfect
price information, take every decision based upon their sole personal
interest (gain), and the whole process leads to a Global Optimum. Although
it was demonstrated ages ago (don't have exact reference on hand) that the
process actually leads to disaster and has to be tightly controlled by...
>My point is that you can only safely play the game of selection and
>competition is you have correctly defined your target. The winners of the
>capitalist game will likely not be humanity, but the game itself. A shift
>objective is required if what matters is humanity, not money.
Very well said. In fact the only hope for mankind is that we find the right
balance between cooperation/community and competition. Hey, this list is a
nice step in that direction, even though people are being too harsh with one
another :-) That must explain why most members are lurking only, and
incidentally why the active community is made of 99.99 percent men / 0.01
percent women (hi, Amy). Female presence is necessary in any community or it
all ends in a bloodbath.
Peace & love & angle backets to all,