Please, take the information economy away

Our friends at The Economist have like most media superstars realized that fear sells better than attaboys and so they’re preaching a new kind of terror. We are told that unless we act now to open up immigration, all of our Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will go to Chile.

You are supposed to be cowed by this, but no reader here will be. First, we realize that even if immigrants are of high quality, no nation functions as well as a nation with all things in common — race, ethnicity, culture, values, language, customs, heritage, and philosophy/religion — in unison, or “at once.” It is not any one piece, but all together. Second, we realize that this is a typical media scare piece. If all people are equal, we have enough homegrown talent; it’s just not getting utilized.

This conveniently leads to the next point. Why aren’t every single one of our best and brightest rushing to Silicon Valley to invent the next Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Meebo or Zynga? There are many reasons, but the most prominent is that not many of us are big fans of the information economy.

In the lore of our mass media, we started as an agricultural economy. Sometime around 1910, we became an industrial economy, and lots of things changed as a result. We transitioned to the next stage in the 1990s, when we invented computers. Now we’re an information economy, in which we don’t make things but make ideas, entertainment and software.

Some of us think it’s more likely that, as our society began its liberal decay, industrial society just happened along because of the inventions of the past. Our growth accelerated it, and we ended up at the information economy stage without having learned a vital lesson: that which is popular with consumers generates false growth, because the consumer economy is a Ponzi scheme.

Ask yourself why the USA and Europe are immigrant-happy. Part of it is that the liberal parties know that non-white groups never vote conservative (in any appreciable numbers; hail the exceptions). The other part is that we need to keep feeding the Ponzi scheme. Get people in, work them for their labor, and then when they expect a higher standard of living, sell them products.

Our economies are structured on growth because democracy is inherently moribund. It is moribund because by granting political equality, it leads people to equality of purchasing decisions, which creates consumerism. Who cares which are the best athletic shoes; the trendiest sell the most at the highest prices and thus return the most profit.

This is not to swing to the left and say the free market is a terrible evil thing. It’s a great thing, and often a better way of handling routine regulation than having bloated incompetent bureaucrats oversee it. However, it’s an invisible hand system, like socialism and democracy, and no invisible hand system really works. There is no substitute for leadership.

The information economy is just the latest trend in the consumerist trend. As a result, it’s even less tied to reality, and even more correlated toward “whatever is popular, generates the most money.” We have seen from the past two centuries that making government and society into a popularity contest has resulted in a race toward the lowest common denominator, which keeps lowering itself every time a new low standard is achieved.

Silicon Valley “geniuses” of today are not inventing new technologies; they’re reshuffling the cards with old technologies in new packages. They’re not making spaceflight, new medical advances, or solving social problems. They’re inventing new variants on Facebook, the iPad and video games, which are purchased by a consumer audience but have little relevance outside that zone.

Of course, some good things come from our computer mania. The demand for these silly services has in part fueled our creation of vast economies of scale for broadband, faster CPUs and mobile computing. But those things would have come about anyway for any method that is superior in efficiency to older ways of communicating and storing data.

Instead, we have created a vast “economy” that is wholly self-referential. Consumers buy stuff, so consumers invent stuff, so they get more of their share of the pie. This really is a zero-sum game, in that all wealthy is a known commodity, where casting aside the stupid information economy and investing in hard sciences increases the size of the pie. But it’s less immediate, thus less popular.

10 Comments

  1. crow says:

    When modern man gets sufficiently comfortable, his inclination is to lie back and wank.
    Wanking begets ever more wanking.
    He soon forgets that life is about living it.
    All he wants, now, is that fleeting feeling he gets when he ejaculates.

    1. gg says:

      Weaklings!

  2. Jason says:

    What is left after the consumers have consumed the consumables?

    War.

    1. crow says:

      Not necessarily.
      But death, for sure.

    2. ferret says:

      After the consumers have consumed the consumables, consumers become consumables to be consumed.

      1. Cannibal zombie ritual!

  3. Jacob says:

    I’m glad you mixed in an economic commentary. Most people are unaware that the world economy is a giant Ponzi scheme. You can say “the world is a giant Ponzi scheme” to their face, but they still don’t get it. They think “oh haha yeah” or “oh yeah man it sucks” or whatever, but they don’t really get it – it literally is a giant Ponzi scheme that has run on for decades.

    Once populations decline because of (choose your own disaster: Global Warming, Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Food, whatever) or because we make a conscience decision to not destroy every last natural resource on our planet just to keep the scheme running – it is over. Without population growth and the increased destruction of natural resources there is no economic growth – this can take a bit to sink in as well.

    We are already at this point. More money is made by moving money around than actually making anything. Hedge fund managers and bankers are the biggest profiteers. They get to make tons of risky investments and if they ever screw up, the Federal Reserve – a private banking entity that prints and controls our entire money supply – just bails them out. High Frequency Trading dominates most activity on Wallstreet. The public is years and years behind and basically clueless on what has happened to the entire economic system – “the fish rots from the head.”

    The pension funds in municipalities, states, and even the federal funds – social security and medicare – are entirely dependent on economic growth (i.e. population growth and natural resource usage) to make any payments. The stock market and growth of your retirement is also dependent on this. Currently all markets are losing a great deal of value but appear to be maintaining some nominative pricing simply because of the high rate of money-printing and thus inflation.

    It isn’t simply a matter of shrinking population, if we even just break even or grow too slowly the entire system is underfunded and bankrupt. The only solution the idiots in charge of the system has is to print money to fund all the bankrupt programs. The US is only surviving right now by stealing (this is literally, not a metaphor) productivity from other countries. This is entirely based on the USD as the world’s reserve currency and it’s basis as a fiat currency – the Federal Reserve (a private entity) prints this money to fund our entire government. Because all oil exporting countries and China accept USD in exchange for goods and then reinvest these in Treasuries (and because they hold trillions in debt and keep buying) we are able to “get something for nothing” by the Fed simply printing more funds and devaluing all foreign treasury holdings.

    Interesting note: Qaddafi’s Libya was the only country to reject USD in exchange for oil, not soon after he was overthrown.

    The federal government sees this as a win-win – they get to keep running a bloated and expanding system. Economists say we have a liquidity problem – not enough people spending money. When the Fed prints, they devalue all those illiquid savings and spend them for you! In addition, when you invest that money to help compensate for the inflation they get to tax you on any “gains” you made, which were, if you are like most people, much less than the actual inflation anyway. They also have a motivation to underreport any real inflation to make us all more optimistic about the economy and prevent their international debt holders from getting too worried about the worth of their investments disappearing – remember interest rates are at an all time low!

  4. Missy says:

    Great article and commentary, too.

    “Wanking begets ever more wanking.”

    ROTFLMWAO!!!!!

  5. Doug Vance says:

    The information technology profession itself has been in decay since the early to mid 90s. It is brimming today with programmers, or really hackers/hacks, who have little to no concept of lifecycle development.

    This is reinforced by their own management who definitely have no concept and if they did, would convince themselves there is no incentive to have their staff implement professional systems lifecycle design as policy.

    The result is products that constantly frustrate customers, deadline-harried and error-prone overworked staff, and eventually complaint-harried angry management, costing sales, causing layoffs, and destroying public confidence with the computer industry. This, in the name of saving time and cutting costs in the name of not implementing a lifecycle design production policy.

    That’s not to say that the old timer industry giants such as Microsoft, IBM and Apple have gone this way because they apparently haven’t. But outside of the old timer group are the majority small time hackers making bad systems we encouter too often.

    1. It didn’t help that they told a bunch of people who otherwise couldn’t care less about technology, “Go make products that people want to buy!”

      Since the buyers are zero-informed, they go out and buy garbage and make idiots into millionaires, and then a million more idiots emulate those.

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