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KMO, Olga K, andAlbert Bates take the C-Realm Podcast on the road. First Stop: the ASPO-USAconference in Washington DC. Podcasting from the home of C-Realm guest Gary Borjesson, KMO talks with Albert and Olga about the trip itinerary, and KMO plays conversations with James Howard KunstlerDavid McFadzean, and Nikola Danaylov, AKA Socrates of the Singularity Weblog, on the topic of technology. Do accelerating returns in the advancement information technology yield corresponding improvements in human quality of life, or have we reached a point of diminishing marginal returns?

Music by Kai Altair.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
I was disappointed that Nikola didn't seem to address your question about diminishing returns. He talked about whether technology is ultimately labor-saving, but not about the trade-offs of that versus other factors.

Actually, it might be good to pick apart diminishing returns because that happens in several ways:

1. Direct cost: If something costs more than it produces, it's useless (e.g. discussions of EROEI).

2. Complexity cost and brittleness: The cost and complexity of maintaining tools might lead in a decreased ability to weather random emergencies, even if the tools increase productivity.

3. Externalities: I did like Nikola's example of fly-swatting with a cannon.

4. Capital accumulation: If the tools are in the hands of a few, those that give up most of their profit to get access to those tools are the only ones who get the job. More is produced, but there may be greater disadvantages to the change in distribution of wealth.

5. Labor displacement: Higher production leaves some out of work, with attendant costs to society. Of course, the same sort of technological development could create new, better jobs for those people, but that might be one of those returns that diminishes. Or at some point, being displaced from your job by a robot might free up resources to create new, better jobs for more robots.
Nov. 4th, 2011 11:14 am (UTC)
I asked Nikola about possible diminishing returns, and we REALLY talked past each other for several minutes. At the end of the interview he expressed his dissatisfaction with his answers. I asked him if there was any part that he would like to do over, and he specified the diminishing returns question. We took another crack at it, and he said basically the same thing the second time around, but this time I didn't really press the issue. What you heard in the podcast was the second attempt.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
On "internet in people's pockets" in the third world
There is a place around 35 minutes in where you ask if people in Thailand are mostly using Internet cafes or if they mostly have the internet in their pockets. This made me think of a phenomenon that I noticed in Israel back in 2006, even before Android and iPhones were available.

Migrant workers in Israel, a group which is mostly Thai and Filipino, with some other nationalities mixed in, often use their phones as their main connection back home. By this I don't mean that they call home constantly. Instead, they use smart phones (and back then, WAP-enabled phones) to email, check the news, and chat with family members back home. For the most part, this group of people cannot afford a computer at home or a cable or DSL Internet connection in their house, but they can use an Internet-enabled phone which is relatively inexpensive and pay by the gigabyte or by the week for their data usage.

My son tells me that the same thing is the case in Guatemala these days where many places leapfrogged right over the wired technology stages and simply have phone and Internet via mobile antennae. People in small villages, like where his paternal grandmother lives, use Internet-enabled phones of one variety or another for everything from communication to banking to shopping.
Nov. 4th, 2011 11:06 am (UTC)
Re: On "internet in people's pockets" in the third world
Very cool. I was last off the North American continent in 2008, when I went to Peru. Lots of people there seemed to have phones, but they mostly seemed to be talking on them. The internet cafe I used seemed to be half Peruvians and half Gringos.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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