Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eschatology, Money Metabolism ,Global SuperOrganism

I am writing this blog entry acknowledging my blind-man's view of an elephant.

Reference materials:

Along with the three documents above, a fourth reference is this snippet from a friend's email:

Our conversations frequently touch on eschatology (the end of the world) whether it's a religious eschatology like the second coming or a secular eschatology like peak oil, economic collapse or kurzweil singularity. It's interesting how people react differently to an anticipated end of the world regardless of it's precise nature.

Finally there are people who see the ending of worlds as an endless cycle which should be endured rather then fought, escaped or embraced. The old religions: Hinduism, Shinto, Roman and Orthodox Catholicism for example encourage this attitude in many of their adherents, which you can see in the internal politics of India or the apocalyptic science fiction of Japan. I particularly recommend the novel A Canticle for Liebowitz as one Catholic's post-apocalyptic vision of the future.

A key theme in Canticle is the preservation of books (and eventually all knowledge) by the Albertian Order of Liebowitz, and it's implications for the rebirth of technology and long-term survival of the human race. The monks contend that this is what the Church has always done, even though worldly governments and philosphers go through cycles of creation, destruction and reinvention of ideas as well as civilization itself.

I do not have a working articulate synthesis-thesis that ties all the above together, but I do have a bullet list of ideas to popcorn into this dialogue space:

  1. With source code text files being the bedrock of the internet civilization/organism, are programmers standing in the position of Albertian Order of Liebowitz? Or maybe the early free software pioneers at least? Better than Irish monks who preserved Greco-Roman scholastic greatness through the 1000 years of ignorance in Europe, the OSS programmers are preserving text (source code) that moves and operates on itself, which is an order of magnitude higher than the mission of the Irish monks. [ see the auto-catalytic reference ]

  2. If money is the nutrient of the internet super-organism , are the recent global monetary troubles something that could arouse the imperative of self-awareness in the ii? Given D. Brooks opinion that human perceptive abilities are too weak for global investment, the super-organism needs massive global scales of wealth, and humans need the global transfer of information and goods, are we at a crossroads in which humans and the super-organism have a mutual interest and urgency to address that interest? [ see the kevin kelly super-organism reference ]

  3. Extending #2. Will the world's middle and lowest classes see their need of free flowing global information as more imperative than the wealthiest, and see efficiencies gained by the super-organism becoming human's transactional policeman? Will the world's less-than-most-wealthy see the internet transactional civilization of Amazon/Google as their only true savior, rather than Luddite dreams of basal economies ( local and less technology) rising up to rescue their families?

1 comment:

The Serpent Lord said...

Programmers are the direct inheritors of the culture of ancient ascetics who retreated from society to copy self-editing text while propogating technology from the time of the Hindu Sages to the Protestant Reformation.

(It may offend some people to suggest that sacred texts change over time and that their ancient traditions hopped over boundaries of culture and religion, but the historical evidence supports this, and what is Cannon but a self-selected collection of texts?)

Our modern stereotypes of the cloistered academic, the socially withdrawn scientific community, and the obsessed writer, inventor, clerk, businessman, engineer or hacker come directly from this protestant tradition of monks-on-the-loose.

Money isn't a nutrient, it's a feedback system: sweetness, not sugar. Modern economic systems also come from the ascetic tradition. Protestants hadn't finished changing their monastic habits to business suits when they started proclaiming the virtues of capitalism.

The current, experimental, alpha version of the Global Finance System - unregulated, volatile, wildly popular and widely reviled - is something that we can live with out, but I expect we will see many new and improved versions whether or not it ever reaches beta or release candidate stages.

Much more important is the global propagation of the Local Finance System. What we don't see here at the center of the Global Financial Collapse is the explosion of the cellphone-as-ATM pattern in rural India and other parts of the world. This promises to dramatically increase the number of people who can accumulate and use money, a prerequisite for any kind of finance system.

Meanwhile the biggest bankers and engineers-turned-bankers (looking at YOU, General Motors) are still hypocritically promoting themselves as good protestant capitalists while vacuuming cash from the tax coffers into their private matresses (and spending some of it to cover the costs of laying off employees and shutting down plants!)

While the Ghost of Capitalism Past rattles his chains on Wall Street the life-blood of Capitalism Yet to Come is coursing down Main Street.