Friday, May 05, 2006

The End of Money and the Singularity Model of Economics

Recently over at “The Warrior Class Blog” Will Brown wrote an article on the need for a singularity model of economics. This piece was also discussed at the Speculist by Phil Bowermaster. This was a very interesting article and while I wholly agree with Mr. Brown's assessment that we are in need of a serious singularity model of economics I must disagree with his equating of money with economics (if I understand him correctly).Here are a few points that I would add to this line of thinking:

To begin I would like to see a singularity model of economic that is very interdisciplinary. What I mean is that human economic activity and political organization is the result of both the biological and memetic evolution of the human species. As such Economics must become a more integrated science based on interdisciplinary principles.

Now having said that let us take a very brief look at the history of the economic exchange of goods.

The evolution of the technology of exchange corresponds to the evolution of the technology of economic productivity. The technology of exchange begins with civilization. Civilization emerges from human techno-memetic evolution when the technologies of writing and agriculture are developed. At this stage of civilization records are kept and credit is given but there is no standardized medium of exchange. This state of affairs leads inevitably to the adoption of a standardized medium of exchange – usually gold or silver. From this early stage in human civilization until the beginning of the industrial revolution gold served as an almost universal currency and was identical to money. At that point in history the banknote was invented and thus begun modern finance. However, even though banknotes have been used since at least the seventeenth century it has only been since 1971, following the Bretton Woods Accord, that most of the worlds governments began issuing fiat currency. This is the difference between money and currency. Money has an inherent worth or can readily be exchanged for a predetermined amount of something with inherent worth (such as gold), Fiat currency has no inherent worth and its value is subject to manipulation by governments and others with a great deal of power.

When this is understood one must conclude that economics and money are in no way the same thing because economic activity continues on, ever more rapidly, without the existence of money.

What now exists in place of money is a system of trust wherein members agree by dictate of law to accept a fiat currency in exchange for goods and services. One cannot become wealthy in such a system by merely accumulating money (as was once possible) but must accumulate capitol, i.e. the means of production.

In a society where capitol is centralized, wealth is concentrated into the control of the few. If there is only one power plant then whoever controls that plant is very powerful indeed. And if the enormous high-rise apartment complex is owned by one company then, again, that company has a lot of power.

But what happens in a decentralized society that has been altered by design-science revolution? Such a society is one that I believe we are currently building – or at least making possible. What happens when individuals are not dependent on the centralized and monopoly owned infrastructure of life? What happens when an individual can own a domicile for a relatively small amount that is completely self-sustaining – able to produce all of its own electricity, fuel, food, and tools? Such a time is around the corner.

Once this economic state of affairs is achieved the age of monopolization of the infrastructure of life will be over and so will the present politico-economic organization with all of its inefficiencies.

When, or if, this state of affairs comes to fruition how much capitol one owns will not define wealth since the entire infrastructure of life will be decentralized and since molecular nano-fabrication will end all scarcity (or destroy the planet). Once this revolution is fully developed all human interrelation will be based on meaningfully dialog. The only exchange will be the exchange of ideas and collaboration. The only wealthy man will be the self-actualized man.


It is hard to envision that "the entire infrastructure of life will be decentralized" in the course of a technological Singularity, when electronic networking tends in the opposite direction -- towards tighter and tighter centralization. But even so, there may be a return to something like hunter/gatherer cave-man economics, in the sense that a Prosperity Engine based on sentient means of production may provide a subsistence economy for all of humanity, similar to the African savannah at a time when the human population consisted of only a few thousand individuals. With subsistence assured, individuals may then compete to exchange larger contributions to social well-being in exchange for marginally larger enjoyment of the fruits of the economy. Ah well -- probably too Utopian!

By Anonymous mindmaker, at 6/5/06 09:15  

I agree completely with this line of thinking. You may have misunderstood what I meant by economic decentralization. Even though global society continues to become more and more cybernetically interconnected I think we will see a trend toward the dencentralization of tool and energy production because it is more efficient.
Also I think that the development of AI and the development of an intelligently networked global economy are one and the same (what you call the sentient economy). Once such an AI is in full control of the operation of the global economy we will either have sucseeded in bringing about a state of human flourishing or we will have brought about our demise. So it would seem that we our either destined to a state of utopia or to extinction (or possibly just a rather miserable existence - the matrix senerio.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 7/5/06 00:02  

My basic intent was to encourage just such discussion as you offer here, so thank you for taking part.

I think the description I offered is an accurate portrayal of the popular understanding of economics - which is a large part of the problem in developing anything so grandiose as SME. People commonly associate economics with banking, which is rather like associating biomedical research with your first aid kit. In both examples, however interconnected the two parts are, they aren't actually the same thing at all.

My inspiration for the post arose from a widespread misconception that Singularity precursor technology (molecular fab, AI, HSE, etc) will mean the end of money and sought to refute that idea. Since no-one's specifically opposed that thesis (yet), I'll take that as tentatively stipulated.

I noted at The Speculist that current economic principles don't seem to scale to the individual level of operability. Do you see that as compatable with your interdisciplinary approach?

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 11/5/06 10:46  

To Will Brown:
Thank you for taking the time to post a thoughtful comment. I really enjoy it when the blogosphere becomes a form of dialog and I am excited about the growth of conversations such as the one in which we are engaged.
I'm not sure what the prevailing opinion is concerning the future of money in a post AI and nanofabrication economy but I take the stance that money, and even currency as we now understand it, will cease to be the means of exchange.
I applaud your attempt to bring the economic discussion down to a level that can be understood by all but I simply disagree with your approach. I think that we need to move away from understanding economics in terms of banking as I see this as a hindrance to getting to the root of what economics is all about – which is creating a sustainable biosphere which will provide for all human needs in a most efficient manner.
In response to your question about the scaling of economic principles I'm not quite sure what you mean by this but I can say that I think an interdisciplinary SME needs to begin with an assumption of ever expanding abundance and seek to describe how the techno-economic evolutionary process can bring about a state of affairs in which humankind can dwell sustainably in and with the rest of the biosphere and in abundance.
Having said that the basic reasoning behind why I don't think their will be a need for any kind of economic exchange medium comes from the idea that at a certain technological point there will be no need to distribute resources as all services and goods will be provided by sentient machines that are not owned by people. Because of this there will be no such thing as human labor and no such thing as money. The result of this, as I see it, is a state wherein human beings will be able to engage in almost any activity they deem worthy of their efforts and will need no economic incentive (since a state of abundance beyond human understanding will already exist).

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 12/5/06 01:48  

Micah; Obviously I'm not saying this as well as I'd hoped.

We have the present state of tech development and the future state of development you describe. My thought is that it would be valuable to develop a set of principles and metrics as a strategic guide for getting from now to then with as little conflict as possible. The most common experience people generally have of economics is the banking industry and investment markets; it seemed reasonable to start the SME development process using the terms of that familiar context.

A brief aside: I submit that gold and silver have no more intrinsic value than do other refined metals (their value is determined by the identical process as are other metals) except as they are used as currency. The concept of money/currency exists outside of the form chosen for it's expression. The concept of "fiat money" is a political device built upon a distinction without a difference.

Some effectively universally accepted means for valuing and prioritising objects will be required however we obtain them and money already has such general recognition. Strategic science assumes change as a constant, so some method for prioritising value under variable circumstance will be one function for money well into humanity's future. A universal standard for valuing dis-similar objects or intellectual constructs for exchange over distance will almost certainly be another.

The scaling problem is an example of differing perceptions, I think. Something may exist in such abundance that I literally cannot possibly use it all. Even so, it is not actually infinite in supply so economically speaking it possesses scarcity and economic theories work from that premise. Assumptive behaviors based on that premise are the justification behind modern financial laws and agreements. How do we re-scale economic theories to accomidate an effective lack of scarcity controllable by the individual? Without creating conflict with existing laws and agreements which would work against the development of such individual capability.

One thing I disagree with you over is the idea that we will supercede the need to distribute resources. Human creativity will always be a marketable resource for so long as there are two or more humans in existence. AI must remain alien or indistinguishable from human and the latter must desire involvement in that market exchange to achieve that state.

Sam Dinkin described economics as "Logistics without all the trucks and stuff" and that seems right to me. Life will always have it's logistic requirements and money is the most commonly recognisable tool of economics. I think it will remain useful to us for a lot longer then you seem prepared to credit.

I have commented on your writing before now:

Maybe this will add some clarity to my thinking process.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 12/5/06 10:17  

You certainly raise some interesting points that I will have to give further consideration to. I'm a bit surprised that you think the difference between fiat currency and money is contrived. I agree that the same mechanisms determine the intrinsic value of all commodities. The reason why gold and silver have been traditionally used as money is because of the combined properties of being relatively scarce and useful. Today gold is no longer officially used as a currency yet it is highly sought after. One reason for this is because both the amount of gold that can be mined out of the earth is severely limited and finite and it is highly useful (as it has always been). In other words the supply remains about the same while the demand fluctuates according to a number of factors. No matter how much power one has it would be very difficult to change the perceived value of gold and hence its price. This is not so with fiat currency. The value of the Dollar or any other fiat currency is subject to extreme revaluations according to interest rates and the number of bills in circulation, or the productivity of the issuing economy (all of which can be manipulated by the government in order to control revenue without the people's consent).
My position concerning the distribution of wealth (as you know) is that we will move from fiat currency to the exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure (such as digitally represented corporate stock). I believe that this economic pattern will continue until there is no longer any need for human labor at the point of singularity. So I agree with you concerning the need for a medium of exchange that acts as a coordinator of logistics (without all the trucks and stuff : -), but I submit to you that the singularity event fundamentally changes the nature of the game. In a post-singularity world what would you pay money for and to whom would you pay it? Their will be no resource that any person can offer you - whether it be a device, commodity, or idea – that cannot readily be obtained by the fully automated-super intelligent-molecule manipulating global techno-economic infrastructure.
Of course this all just speculation on my part and I could be wildly wrong – we will see.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 12/5/06 14:20  

And so we equally surprise each other; I confess to a certain degree of amazement that you don't assume the artificial contrivance leading to the very concept of money. The idea of one object representing a myriad of other objects for the purposes of transacting in those other objects surely isn't an obvious or instinctive association, I think.

In an effort at clarity between ourselves, I offer this: Economics is the science of which money is both commodity and unit of measure; currency (including coinage)is the physical expression of money. Strategy is the science of identifying the means of achieving a desired objective; tactics are the methods chosen to arrive at that goal; logistics is the science of obtaining, prioritising and supplying the means required by tactics, which closes the circle back to economics.

Going back to my (deliberately truncated) definition of strategy, post-Singularity conditions are by definition undefinable, therefore you cannot develop a strategy for them other then to stipulate that you will need to do so once those conditions become more clear to you. One of the foundational principle's of strategy is that opportunity results from the actions (or inactions) of others and not your own; your contribution is in identifying and qualifying opportunity(s) as they relate to your present position. We know that our technology is progressing in the direction of a singularity, but we can only select from those opportunities that are presently offered to us by others. The tactics we choose to exercise to realise those opportunities are limited by the logistic and other constraints within which we operate. One of the primary logistic constraints now, and likely for most of the pre-singularity period, will be money and, at least at the individual level, it's principal expression as currency.

Stipulating that all physical objects have commodity value, the historical conflation of the commodity value of refined metals with their artificial value as currency has long been understood. That recogintion ultimately took the form of national abandonment of the "gold standard" as a metric for their currency (apologies to all you actual historians out there, I know I'm not summarising this very well). By doing so, they removed the influence of the commodity value of the refined metal from the valuation of their currency, pegging it instead to the agrigate valuation of their national production instead (apologies to all you actual economists as well, it's a blog comment, what do you want?). Since any currency is a product of that same nation, this simplified and stabilised the various currencies valuation.

You are quite correct that commodities fluctuate in value relative to their availability (supply and demand and all that). By minting their coinage (a more physically durable and lower technology iteration of currency) in a relatively rare metal, earlier societies subjected their national monetary system to external influences like the commodity value of the metal used. This put regulation of their currencies value beyond their control since any source of the same metal would depreciate the value of their own. Far from being a negative event, "fiat money" removed the historical conflation of two competing commodity markets from influencing national currencies.

I am curious, in what way do you consider "exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure" in any way different from existing currencies valued on national production measured in established economic units (Dollars, D Marks, Yen, etc)? I'm not refuting that there might be a desirable marketing reason (the principle reason national currencies change pre- and post-revolution now), but a change in packaging rarely announces an actual improvement of the product itself, in my experience.

You raise an interesting ancillary issue I'd like to address, "(all of which can be manipulated by the government in order to control revenue without the people's consent)". My impression is (and I recognise that I could be wrong here) that this is a false application of the Pre-cautionary Principle. Basicly, because something could be abused is not a valid objection to it's actually being used, but only of the terms and conditions under which it may be used with authority. Because I could commit a treasonous act in a publication is not a valid objection to the activity of publishing. Equally, because government could manipulate the national currency is not an argument against national currency or against government; it's the manipulation without consent that is of concern. Strategy identifies an objective and selects tactics to achieve that obective without damage to the existing position.

Thanks for letting me clog up your comment section this way, it's been a lot of fun and food for thought.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 13/5/06 20:32  

I think these kinds of dialogs are fantastic. Don't worry about clogging up the comments. In fact I don't even think of it as a comment – I set the comments to appear because I want any of my readers to feel welcome to add to what I've said in the original post. I feel that this leads to an all around richer experience to any reader that comes here. In addition if we keep this up much loner we will have a book size manuscript that we can publish : p .
Now to address some of your points and questions. You covered so much ground I don't know where to begin.
As you clarified your position I will do likewise. As I now beer understand your position and have had time to think about it more it turns out that we are hardly in disagreement except for what we are emphasizing. One key disagreement I have is over how you define the science of economics. I agree with everything else and I also agree that currency is both a commodity and a system of measurement – I just disagree that this fact describes what economics is. I define economics as both a descriptive and proscriptive science that seeks to understand and describe how human activity is coordinated toward productivity and seeks to proscribe the most efficient means of economic productivity. At present human activity is coordinated via a complex system of finance that I need not describe to you. No doubt some form of currency and system of finance will exist for as long as it is necessary for Man to labor and invent. I tend to think that this will no longer be the case after both strong AI and nano manufacturing exist – but until then their must be a medium of exchange (I think you agree with this).
Now concerning fiat currency. I do understand that the fiat currency system is part of the evolution of finance and that it is in many ways superior to gold backed money and coinage (especially if you are a Keynesian -which I am not). My point was just that money qua money has already ceased to be an economic medium and I agree that this is, over all, a good thing. However, implicit in this train of thought, in my mind, is the idea that finance will continue to evolve far beyond the concept of money (an exchange medium of inherent economic value). I believe that this evolution will end with the senescence of finance altogether but I realize that this is both speculative and contentious. What I am interested in is understanding the evolution of finance and how it relates to the evolution of technology, politics, economic production, etc. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Finally, you ask a very important question which I will address. You ask:

“I am curious, in what way do you consider "exchange of instruments that represent ownership of the economic infrastructure" in any way different from existing currencies valued on national production measured in established economic units (Dollars, D Marks, Yen, etc)? I'm not refuting that there might be a desirable marketing reason (the principle reason national currencies change pre- and post-revolution now), but a change in packaging rarely announces an actual improvement of the product itself, in my experience.”

The key problem with fiat currencies is that they actually do not just represent the national production of the issuing economy. Of course this is true to a certain extent but governments have the power to purposively raise or lower the value of a currency by manipulating a plethora of variables which the State has taken on the power to do. This power has been taken by the State in response to the Keynesian doctrine that free market systems are inherently unstable and must be manipulated in order to keep the economic machine running smoothly. Followers of Friedrich Von Hayek would vociferously disagree with this. On the other hand financial instruments such as corporate stock have real economic value in as much as they represent ownership of capitol. In a technologically mediated and perfectly liquid market such stocks could be immediately bought, sold, or exchanged for goods at a price which would be continuously adjusted according to market demand (This is a real price mechanism that measures real value as it exists in the aggregate of human consciousness -see Von Hayek). In such an economy all people would posses ownership to a greater or lesser degree of the economic infrastructure. This economic infrastructure is continually growing more efficient and hence the real wealth of everyone would be directly increasing. This is not so with fiat currency. So what, I ask you, is the purpose of fiat currency in a system such as this? The answer is that it gives governments the power to take in revenue without people knowing about it. This in turn allows governments to spend money on things that they would never spend money on if they had to raise a tax for it first – such as wage war etc. The system of fiat currency will be replaced because it is inefficient and human techno-memetic evolution is a process that ever increases the efficiency of human labor toward productivity. What do you think?

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 14/5/06 02:31  

Well, if you insist (sorry; Blazing Saddles was re-shown on one of the cable channels last night).

Your point about our differences of emphasis is key to our conversation, I think and the context of my original post. My approach to the question was always one of, "What is the commonly understood aspect of the thing". Whether the science of economics (which is not at all well understood by those not extensively trained in that discilpine - which describes me, for one) or the technologic advancements that lead to the Singularity, the single most common reaction I have experienced is that of rejection due to lack of contextual understanding ("That's all very well, but what does it have to do with me?"). I think it a given that both subjects have a great deal to do with everyone on this planet (if only because I desperately need capable allies with whom to leverage advancement of our mutual positions :)), so the qestion then becomes one of how to illuminate that individual context for the greatest number of people.

I happily stipulate that your's is the more accurate definition of economics. That said, there is a school of belief that can be summed up as, "You are what you do", and what you do is expressed by the tools you use. For the majority of people, I think, economics is the tools that they are familiar with, at least in their own life context. Expanding opportunity requires expanding capability; it isn't really necessary to be a computer scientist to successfully use a computer and it shouldn't be necessary to be an economic scientist to successfully use econoic tools - if an adequate context can be created within which to do so. Just as computer scientists didn't provide the impetus for creation of popular access computer tools, neither, I think, can we rely upon economists to do so in their field of expertise. It simply doesn't advance their position, structured upon the existing context, to do so. The next Bill Gates of the pre-Singularity may well be one of us or someone inspired by our thoughts here.

Unfortunately, the vagaries of my current labor context require my presence elsewhere for now, so with your understanding I will pick this end of the coversation up again when I return.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 14/5/06 18:37  

OK, where was I?

I think one of the central issues here is the assumptive nature of accepted conflation, our earlier discussion of gold being an example. Gold-as-commodity is one market, gold-as-currency is a different market yet it is still widely accepted that conflation of one market valuation is synonymous with the other market's function. Approaching this from the other direction, your assertion that corporate stock is in any way less subject to the whims of arbitrary manipulation simply doesn't stand up to even casual scrutiny. Agreed that the precise measures taken in either example differ in particulars, the same result occurs with either if the opportunity to do so is taken. It is that opportunity that has to be guarded against (and corrected when discovered) and not at all the case that either instrument is immune to such abuse. An effective strategy is one that would highlight the occurance of such manipulation, provide a mechanism for correction and nothing else. It is simply a given that such manipulations will be attempted in attempts at positional advancement, you can no more prevent that from being tried then you can expect people to stop breathing because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

I think of the mission of SME as providing a mechanism for as many people as are willing to develop the economic independence that I believe pre-Singularity tecnologic advancement's potentially promise them in other aspects of their lives. By doing so, SME would positively contribute to the meme that such independence is both good and desired by the greatest number of people possible, as well. I think it a foregone conclusion that those who enjoy success under current economic models will not view such relative displacement of their position at all favorably. Unless, as individuals, they have the means to translate their present position to one of individual independence also.

Which brings us back to our currency discussion. If you will accept the notion of national currency as the "stock certificate" of a nation/state (at least in the Platonic ideal), I think you will agree that this also contributes to the strategy of reducing potential for conflict. Currency includes all citizens (all users of currency, actually) whereas corporate stock is influenced by the position of each corporation as well as the market for stock's generally. The more people empowered by the model, the less likely is usurpation of the model by a limited (dare I say "special"?) interest group.

So how do we remove the "fiat" from the currency and bring that closer to it's Platonic Ideal? Since money is a product of human imagination in the first place, I submit that firmly linking SME with the personal independence potential of technology advancements will make acceptance of both occur without any specific effort made to achieve either. People believe that work = money and that money - currency - is the "normal" means of effecting exchange. Extending that belief to freedom from necessity for exchange eases that transition by allowing for both and creates wide-spread acceptance of both.

Which, I suggest, is also the most effective strategy against restriction of such technologic capability to the existing economic/social models.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 15/5/06 22:56  

The point of gold backed money is precisely that there is no conflation between a currency market as separate from the gold market. This is because a gold backed banknote is worth a predefined amount of gold. For instance a silver certificate was guaranteed to be exchangeable for a silver dollar which is a predefined amount of silver. Before the Bretton-Woods accord there was no such thing as a currency market (in anything like its current state). This is because the relative values of currency did not fluctuate as they do now. If the market value of gold changed it changed for all national currencies that represented gold (even if you wanted to exchange Nazi Reich marks for a silver dollar in 1944 you would have to have enough Reich marks to equal a silver dollar – thousands?). This is not to say there were not problems with gold backed currency – there were.
You asserted that both stock and currency could be manipulated. This is true. However there is an important distinction to be made here. First, it is true that it is relatively easy to manipulate the price of stock shares but any change in the price of stock is a temporary fluctuation. Over all the average price for any stock is indicative of its actual value ( as representation of ownership of some particular capital). Second, there are laws against manipulating stock value because this is viewed as deleterious to the market process. However this is not the case with fiat currency. Fiat currency doesn't just happen to fluctuate according to the relative strength of economies (otherwise the dollar would be beating the hell out of the Euro right now), but rather it is intentionally manipulated by governments which use their powers to incur national debt as a means of stealing revenue from the people without their consent (to better understand my position on this read this short essay written by Alan Greenspan in 1966
But beyond my disagreement concerning these technicalities I think that we are fundamentally in agreement. I found the last two paragraphs of your post to be particularly thought provoking. Reading what you said gave me an interesting idea. You ask:
“So how do we remove the "fiat" from the currency and bring that closer to it's Platonic Ideal? “
Here is a possible solution: What if we made an index that was supposed to indicate the relative economic productivity of an issuing economy? What I have in mind is something like combining the Dow with the S&P 500. Lets call this new index the U.S. Economic Productivity Index (EPI). This index could then be divided and subdivided whenever necessary (just like any index or mutual fund); and the certificates of the shares in this index would be U.S. Legal tender. Owning these shares would be the legal equivalent of owning that much of the economic infrastructure in that country. If other countries did likewise then the currencies of the respective nations could be traded on the open market. The result of this would be currencies thats value was set by the actual market and would be an accurate representation of the economic productivity of the respective nations. Those nations with the most economic productivity would have the most valuable money.
The result of this would be that those nations with the most valuable currencies would increasingly import more and more from the least productive nations because their money would be less valuable (making the trade a better bargain for the importer). This would set up a state of affairs wherein the least productive nations would beef up their production capabilities (this would not be a problem because of mass investments in those developing nations). As the least productive nations become more and more productive the most productive nations would grow in productivity less rapidly then the developing nations (because they import so much). The final result of this process would be a global economic equilibrium of import and export and relative capabilities of economic productivity. This, in turn, translates into an equilibrium of personal wealth because the people of the earth would actually own the economic infrastructure and as that infrastructure becomes more and more efficient so would the actual wealth of the people who own and are using shares of stock as a currency. Finally, their would probably eventually be issued a global currency backed by the global economic infrastructure leading to an end to the nation state.
So what do you think of my grandiose vision? Is this compatible with what you meant by moving closer to the Platonic ideal of currency?

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 16/5/06 01:25  

Micah; You said: "The point of gold backed money is precisely that there is no conflation between a currency market as separate from the gold market. This is because a gold backed banknote is worth a predefined amount of gold." We can agree that this is the intent, however, we seem to disagree that this is the practical result. If the commodity price of gold is $100/oz and $100 of currency is pegged to a different quantity of gold then your currency value is conflated with the commodity value as a practical matter. Pegging currency to production at least has the virtue od reflecting the capability of the issuer; pegging currency to the vagaries of supply-and-demand ensures an economic model of scarcity, I think.

Need to think on the whole vision thing. More to follow, as they say ... :)

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 16/5/06 23:48  

rlnwI think we are still talking past one another to an extent, Micah. I think your earlier post "Wrapping my mind around 2010" is a representative example of your approach to projecting future developments. Strategic science takes the opposite approach to the same objective. Sun Tzu chose to regard what you earlier called a "grandiose vision" within the realm of philosophy. The reasons for this appear to have been emminently practical ones.

We can each of us identify with a high degree of certainty whether or not our present position is advanced by a given opportunity. With a marked degree of lessor certainty, we can extrapolate our subsequent position and the general type of opportunity to be on the lookout for. Much beyond that though and the lack of specificity prevents any real possibility of reliable projection.

A second reason for classifying "vision" as philosophy is that, while having such a guide is required to develop any kind of coherent strategy over time, by attempting to stipulate particular end-state conditions, you increase the likelihood of passing up opportunities that advance your position only indirectly (seemingly a less desirable choice), but an actually available one, in hope of a more direct seeming opportunity appearing. Keep in mind that opportunity only results from the actions or inactions of others and is not something you can manufacture at need (just on the off chance, I really "need" to win the Texas lotto :)).

For these reasons, in strategic science terms, philosophy consists of all the guiding principle's which constrain the choices you allow yourself in selecting a given strategy.

In the present example, I keep returning to the "common understanding of economics" because I believe that to be closest to most people's position (and is certainly the case regarding my own).

We do require a vision to guide us toward an ultimate goal in our lives, but not, I think, to the degree of specificity that so obviously compells you. Put to the test, it really is a fairly short list of actions most people absolutely will not countenance under any circumstance. That being the case, all else becomes a matter of circumstantial requirement. Strategy can appear to be brutally pragmatic, but I submit that that is a result of the individual making the choice and not the methodology used to do so.

Strategy seeks to simplify the decision making process, whereas philosophy seems to require the most complex consideration's of even the simplest question. I submit that simple is better when working to attract supporters to advancement of an epic change that largely cannot be specified as of yet.

By Anonymous Will Brown, at 18/5/06 08:58  

Wonderful discussion. As I am pressed for time (as well as a bit of a johnny-come-lately to this entire set of discussion threads) let me just advise that, while I, too, am sympathetic to much of what Hayek (and his mentor, Mises) theorized and advocated (and see the crop of neo-Austrians and other libertarian free-market economists), what we must bear in mind is two things: (1) sophisticated robotics and nanotech will severely erode the need for *exchanges*, and (2) the entire (sub genre of economic) science of *catallactics* (the theory of exchange(s)) is about 95% of the entirety of economic theory. Now, due to neoclassical/Austrian "imperialism" over the last 4-5 decades or so, we have seen the catallactic (meta)model(s) extended into politics (Public Choice theory) and jurisprudence (Law & Economics and Economic Analysis of Law), as well as the evolution and/or construction of social structures/institutions (the neo-instituionalists, such as the superb Doug North [due check out some of his work], among, of course, many others). What we must realize, however, is that, as I said, much of traditional/typical *exchange* economics will (or at least can, if tech is properly instantiated) be significantly attenuated---one will merely interact with a cybernated "santa-claus" system or interlinked set of systems. But people will still need real *income*. Louis O. Kelso was concerned as early as the 1930s with the continued evolution of ever-more-productive captial instruments and capital-intensive processess, and with the advent of totally cybernated production of goods/services. He proposed a neo-Lockean variation (that British philosopher Hillel Steiner could embrace, I suspect, as well as, perhaps, Jeremy Waldron) in which capital-acquisition financing credit would be extended to all, rather than being *de facto* severely restricted to the already-encapitalized few due to the collateralization protocol in traditional finance, and that, eventually, everyone could own a substantial amount of (eventually) robotic/cybernated capital, and thus obtain both affluent leisure and a very high real income. I would strongly collegially suggest that you investigate Kelsonian ideas and proposals. See,, and the other links available there.

Economics is, today, also essentially about *incentive* structures, *incentive* protocols within (and among/between) instituional structures, etc. What we need is a comparative institutional-structure analysis of arrangements likely to produce the most desired outcome: That which amounts to a cybernated robotic, nanotech world in which labor is completely obviated and goods & services are simply "available" via an intelligent, global, cybernated nexis of instantiated intelligent technology. But what are the incentive path(es) and institutions needed to get us from "here" to "there"---THAT'S the big (set of) question(s). See also Jim "Cyber" Lewis' delightful page(s) on "Robotopia",

Gotta run...ciao for now (and thanks for the honor and privilege of posting a comment...)

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