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Thread: Politics and the dismantling of complex institutions

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    Default Politics and the dismantling of complex institutions

    Modern industrial society is on the road to eventual collapse due to diminishing returns on investments in additional complexity. (If that doesn't make sense, please read this introduction to the subject: http://dieoff.org/page134.htm ) The fundamental reason that returns should diminish at all is that space and natural resources are finite.

    In light of this view, which is becoming increasingly mainstream, it would seem that the best policies to adopt would be ones that decrease, rather than increase, complexity in all areas of society, and that stimulate a return to easier, less energy-intensive ways of getting things done.

    The difficulty is translating this into practical steps. I can see what needs to happen, but I have no idea how such changes might actually take place in advance of an actual collapse:

    - downsizing of the military to the level necessary to protect national borders and ensure domestic security
    - substantial reduction in the cost and complexity of healthcare
    - substantial reduction in federal, state, and private indebtedness
    - reduction in all manner of handouts
    - reduction in the cost and complexity of education
    - reduction in the cost, complexity, and expansiveness of the penitentiary system
    - gradual phasing out of systems that require high energy inputs to maintain; timely replacement with lower-cost systems (particularly transportation, food production, and housing)
    - gradual phasing out of consumer credit as a common practice
    - introduction of some form of simple employment programs to ease the transition of the jobless and those who are culled from the modern workplace as complexity begins to drop

    One of the most obvious solutions is to somehow create incentives for the relocalization of food production that would cause the jobless and former prisoners and soldiers to get involved in growing food. This could be done by taxing some aspect of energy-intensive food production (but only through a simple tax scheme!) and allowing individual food growers to sell food tax-free.

    Plans need to be devised for repatriating soldiers and prisoners (in the U.S. at least). If mechanisms are developed that give people the prospect of self-sufficiency (like the homesteading provisions of the 19th century), people who are currently a burden on the system might become motivated to try to achieve self-sufficiency.

    It seems logical to increase taxes on energy usage while reducing property taxes and zoning restrictions and promoting "off the grid" home management. This could motivate people to pursue true land ownership and independence from the complex systems that currently run their lives.

    People need to be given as many routes as possible to provide for themselves. This will allow the state to reduce expenditures on social security.


    Comments? Ideas?
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    We simply need a new and easy way to produce high levels of energy (electricity) output without oil. This is by far the most promising project:

    http://www.kitegen.com/index_en.html

    I don't know why it's being implemented so slowly. Probably because humans are so terribly stupid and energy lobbies are so terribly powerful. In my ideal world, a load of research funds would be directed towards this project, and in 10 years the whole European continent would sustain the larges part of large-scale energy production by means of...wind. Oil prices would steadily drop since it won't be used for energy production, thus we'd still be able to produce plastic materials.

    Obviously, this will mean that since electricty-powered cars will be much more expensive than their counterparts, a large-scale mass transportation network will be developed (I don't care about public or private - it just has to be "large", so that people won't feel the need to use their cars for example when they want to stay out at night) and most citizens will use mass-transport, thus traffic jams will be strongly reduced.

    To be completely honest, I think your scenario is...horrible. You basically want mankind to regress to something akin to "middle ages". I can't see why anyone would want that, except latent sadistic tendencies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Modern industrial society is on the road to eventual collapse due to diminishing returns on investments in additional complexity. (If that doesn't make sense, please read this introduction to the subject: http://dieoff.org/page134.htm ) The fundamental reason that returns should diminish at all is that space and natural resources are finite.

    In light of this view, which is becoming increasingly mainstream, it would seem that the best policies to adopt would be ones that decrease, rather than increase, complexity in all areas of society, and that stimulate a return to easier, less energy-intensive ways of getting things done.

    The difficulty is translating this into practical steps. I can see what needs to happen, but I have no idea how such changes might actually take place in advance of an actual collapse:

    - downsizing of the military to the level necessary to protect national borders and ensure domestic security
    - substantial reduction in the cost and complexity of healthcare
    - substantial reduction in federal, state, and private indebtedness
    - reduction in all manner of handouts
    - reduction in the cost and complexity of education
    - reduction in the cost, complexity, and expansiveness of the penitentiary system
    - gradual phasing out of systems that require high energy inputs to maintain; timely replacement with lower-cost systems (particularly transportation, food production, and housing)
    - gradual phasing out of consumer credit as a common practice
    - introduction of some form of simple employment programs to ease the transition of the jobless and those who are culled from the modern workplace as complexity begins to drop

    One of the most obvious solutions is to somehow create incentives for the relocalization of food production that would cause the jobless and former prisoners and soldiers to get involved in growing food. This could be done by taxing some aspect of energy-intensive food production (but only through a simple tax scheme!) and allowing individual food growers to sell food tax-free.

    Plans need to be devised for repatriating soldiers and prisoners (in the U.S. at least). If mechanisms are developed that give people the prospect of self-sufficiency (like the homesteading provisions of the 19th century), people who are currently a burden on the system might become motivated to try to achieve self-sufficiency.

    It seems logical to increase taxes on energy usage while reducing property taxes and zoning restrictions and promoting "off the grid" home management. This could motivate people to pursue true land ownership and independence from the complex systems that currently run their lives.

    People need to be given as many routes as possible to provide for themselves. This will allow the state to reduce expenditures on social security.


    Comments? Ideas?
    I'm speaking from a American perspective although some of the ideas relate to Europe as well, such as VAT.

    You're looking at some measures that seem sound but likely will result in accelerated collapse unless meaningful ways to improve people's standard of living are found. Human beings do not take continued reduction in their standard of living in a positive fashion. One must remember that many of our current social welfare and social programs were done in order to mitigate social unrest and struggle.

    Social unrest is the province of disenfranchised unemployed young men, often uneducated and unrepresented.

    Fundamentally, because resources are limited and theoretically currently becoming more limited, the number of people that will in the future be unable to provide for themselves will rise.

    The fact that most often when organizations cut budgets, the reform oriented programs are the one that are cut the fastest. This is a common problem with all societies that need reform, the forces against reform makes it difficult at best and impossible at worst. People are generally far less willing to make a temporary sacrifice then they advocate.

    The truth is that America workers are more productive then they have ever been, but are paid less now then before. Structural efficiencies are taking place to promote productivity, however, added complexity or immobility is often the result of some of these changes. There is always a price to be paid for the mobility of reform-capable systems versus systems that are the best performing.

    Given that American productivity is up, American labor is being paid less, American income taxes are getting lower(American sales taxes(a form of regressive taxation) is getting higher and they're thinking about a VAT(another form of regressive taxation)). The standard of living for a majority of Americans have been slowly declining and might cause social unrest.

    The model I see for reducing cost is drastic restructuring of America's most costly programs such as Medicare, Social Security, Defense. At the same time tax reform must be moved in a progressive rather then regressive fashion.

    Collapsing society have a habit of sacrificing it's young, penniless men for the protection of it's old, established and unproductive. Medicare, Social Security, Defense.

    Social security and Medicare cannot be eliminated completely, because of the ethical considerations, but ultimately, Social security payments can be reduced as well as Medicare on a progressive basis. So that those who would be reduced to poverty will not be, and those that can live without it will make this sacrifice for the consideration of future generations.

    Medicare payments should be progressive as well along with prescription payments.

    The chances of these sort of ideas being passed in the current political climate? I'm not sure, but funding progress with regressive taxation such as Sales Tax, VAT and other means is untenable.

    Ultimately I think reductions in the standard of living for the working populace is sure to cause unrest, especially with measures like the VAT, "flat tax", and regressive forms of taxation. Healthcare must be provided for working and non-working adults or working age instead of keeping the old and established on resuscitation. Everyone wants to take care of the old, but we must evaluate how we approach dying and how we die without becoming a burden for our children. As far as property taxes and zoning restrictions, modern urban planning has improved greatly, especially where I live but I think that rural and suburban planning is largely atrocious. I think the temporary alleviation of property taxes rather then the reduction of them is a better solution to property taxes and that zoning properties work/live which is occurring commonly in urban planning is a good step forward.

    They key I see to fair taxation is to shift the tax burden to those who have the money, the fact that the people that control 90+% of the wealth only pay 60% of the taxes is a total injustice that must change or the situation can only deteriorate. The creation of a established oligarchy via erosion of the estate tax is only making it harder for people to find financial freedom as those that have feel free to hoard.

    As far as public policy, I see the rule of Emperors like Trajan and Hadrian who focused on infrastructure improvements to strengthen a society from within which would provide jobs that would be lost in any form of military reduction. American infrastructure is also becoming slowly out of date and privatized which is causing all sort of collusion and fraud.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    We simply need a new and easy way to produce high levels of energy (electricity) output without oil. This is by far the most promising project:

    http://www.kitegen.com/index_en.html

    I don't know why it's being implemented so slowly. Probably because humans are so terribly stupid and energy lobbies are so terribly powerful. In my ideal world, a load of research funds would be directed towards this project, and in 10 years the whole European continent would sustain the larges part of large-scale energy production by means of...wind. Oil prices would steadily drop since it won't be used for energy production, thus we'd still be able to produce plastic materials.

    Obviously, this will mean that since electricty-powered cars will be much more expensive than their counterparts, a large-scale mass transportation network will be developed (I don't care about public or private - it just has to be "large", so that people won't feel the need to use their cars for example when they want to stay out at night) and most citizens will use mass-transport, thus traffic jams will be strongly reduced.

    To be completely honest, I think your scenario is...horrible. You basically want mankind to regress to something akin to "middle ages". I can't see why anyone would want that, except latent sadistic tendencies.
    So basically large scale technological innovation and infrastructure improvements?

    I totally agree!

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    I think one of the biggest problems in some society isn't welfare or handouts(living this way isn't all that attractive), but being a working class person no longer provide a attractive alternative to welfare, crime and other "off the grid" pursuits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    - introduction of some form of simple employment programs to ease the transition of the jobless and those who are culled from the modern workplace as complexity begins to drop

    Comments? Ideas?
    I don't wanna work. I don't need a job. I don't like delta's view on life. Life is not about working. Eww.

    You talk bout this change, but you don't think about it. What ppl are gonna do? You enjoy that shitty living concept that is a very representive thing of delta quadra, but hey c'mon - do some more thinking, please.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hkkmr View Post
    So basically large scale technological innovation and infrastructure improvements?

    I totally agree!
    Yeah. Technological innovation is what will "save" us. However, politicians need to be forced to pay some attention to new technologies, they require extremely high levels of capital, thus governments - given their large budgets - are the best choice for providing such injection of money. I personally have never witnessed anything more promising (energy-wise) than what I have linked - KiteGen. I believe its potential is being extremely underestimated.
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    Rick just because you think hard about a proposition without taking someone's word for it, doesn't mean you have to be an expert at it. You deduced that returns would diminish... you're right, there are periods when that happens. And when that happens, the FDGs and hmmkrs of the world (properly, progressive reformers) set about challenging the ways we think about things, helping us see the world and nature in a different light so that we can use what we have to obtain that which we don't have, but through that light finally can.

    In 200 years, we'll be terraforming planets. Maybe even 100. Goodness knows we'll be colonizing the oceans eventually, and projects are already underway to build cities on the sea.

    It's alright to try to protect the world, but it's like trying to raise a child: you want to try to protect without inhibiting the child's growth as an individual.

    You're an IEE, right? So think about how you can motivate people to relate to their planet more productively.

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    Modern industrial society is on the road to eventual collapse due to diminishing returns on investments in additional complexity.
    What is needed is a new paradigm in technology which will lead to increase productivity. Also, with the high debt that lots of people, companies, governments have, there is diminishing marginal returns per dollar after a certain point, which have already been reached. http://www.elliottwave.com/freeupdat....-Economy.aspx

    I did not read the article, but I am confused about how you have said that "the best policies to adopt would be ones that decrease, rather than increase, complexity in all areas of society, and that stimulate a return to easier, less energy-intensive ways of getting things done."
    Complex systems are in a balance between order and chaos, also know as "the edge of chaos" by some. Society is never out of balance (as far as I know, if anyone knows otherwise I would interested to know about it), it is always in equilibrium, although it is still evolving.
    Taken from context of what you wrote, I would say that the downsizing people want is a reaction against the recent expansion of size regarding various things, although I would still this is probably in equilibrium, it is just that the equilibrium have changed compared to what is was before. I am interested to hear others opinions about this.

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    The talk among my communitarian friends is that national biz should go bye-bye and instead everything should go local, regional, whatever. I guess the idea is that this will eliminate oligarchy... but over the long term it won't. You can reduce and reduce and reduce... but sooner or later you run into the reality of real power.

    It's not the form but the substance which is at issue... we need a change of attitude.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pulsar41 View Post
    I did not read the article, but I am confused about how you have said that "the best policies to adopt would be ones that decrease, rather than increase, complexity in all areas of society, and that stimulate a return to easier, less energy-intensive ways of getting things done."
    Complex systems are in a balance between order and chaos, also know as "the edge of chaos" by some. Society is never out of balance (as far as I know, if anyone knows otherwise I would interested to know about it), it is always in equilibrium, although it is still evolving.
    Taken from context of what you wrote, I would say that the downsizing people want is a reaction against the recent expansion of size regarding various things, although I would still this is probably in equilibrium, it is just that the equilibrium have changed compared to what is was before. I am interested to hear others opinions about this.
    Complex systems are often more energy efficient then simpler systems because of complex exception handling built to increase performance or create productivity. The consequence is often inflexibility and immobility. The simpler more generic system however is more mobile and flexible which can become more energy efficient if the exception can be handled generically or if the exception simply ceases to happen.

    It's important to eliminate obsolete complexity and create more generic exception handling wherever possible, this is really what modernization is all about. The problem with doing this is that it always requires creation of infrastructure and large government projects to develop and create as well as the talent and skills to do so.

    I've always viewed Medicare as a flawed model of how to run a healthcare system as it caters to a segment of the population that has limited productivity. Then thing is, despite fraud and many other issues of administration, it's run very well. The dramatic healthcare costs increases of the last 30 years have largely been driven by private healthcare inefficiencies and the cost of inpatient care.

    The US simply is in the 19th century regarding healthcare. When Hong Kong, one of the smallest most libertarian government in the world has universal inpatient access which provides some of the best healthcare in the world, the US continues to bankrupt people over medical debt. Singapore, another place very friendly to business has it. It's no wonder the rest of the world are starting to believe Americans are stupid.

    Not providing universal access to healthcare to working age adults in the US is untenable.

    China is going back to providing Universal Health Care in the future, this is the other major country in the world that does not currently have universal access. The fact that China is planning to providing universal access for 1.3 billion people versus the 300 million in America tells us that the inefficiencies are not in the government but rather sometimes they are in the private sector.

    The idea that the private sector is always more efficient then government is simply a fallacy. Corruption, collusion, fraud, monopoly are all growing in the private sector. This is why big business is usually just as bad as big government, if not worse.

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    It's important to eliminate obsolete complexity and create more generic exception handling wherever possible, this is really what modernization is all about. The problem with doing this is that it always requires creation of infrastructure and large government projects to develop and create as well as the talent and skills to do so.
    I would say that to have more speed in doing things, you need smaller groups working on the same goals/project like infrastructure not just one big project.

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    FDG, I think you are misreading me. I'm talking about a consciously directed policy of getting rid of the "fluff" accumulated in recent decades, not about returning to the middle ages.

    The U.S. and many other countries in the developed world have been living beyond their means for quite some time. The steps required to really solve their financial woes are the types of things I've laid out in my first post.

    These are the kinds of things any individual would or should do if he realized one day that his current lifestyle is leading him down the path to financial ruin: cut down on all superfluous costs, reduce fixed expenses to a bare minimum, etc. The longer these steps are delayed, the more jarring will be the transition when the system can sustain itself no longer.

    The approach of the U.S. government has been to put off hard times for a few more years by taking out more loans. This is generally a good strategy for elected politicians, but very bad news for the health of the system as a whole.

    In the context of the financial issues and systemic problems of governments such as the U.S., Kitegen is basically irrelevant. Yes, resources should be directed towards energy projects such as Kitegen. But that is but a small aspect of what I'm talking about. Kitegen can't fix the 1st world's demographic issues, the increasing inefficacy of military spending, the problem of diminishing returns in education, healthcare, and the penitentiary system, nor can it fuel industrial food production in its current state.

    The wise thing to do would be to begin to restructure these systems in such a way as to make them much less costly and easy to administer, while continuing to invest in areas that are not exhibiting rapidly diminishing returns. That is what I'm talking about.

    HKKMR, the alternative to engineering a soft transition to a monetarily lower standard of living is a "hard transition" (i.e. collapse). A properly engineered soft transition would entail higher levels of employment and job and property security and would avoid the problem of disenfranchised young men by providing them with property, work, and increasing economic independence. The way to minimize unrest is to give people opportunities that they didn't use to have. Just increasing taxes and lowering handouts is not a systemic solution at all.

    I do share your skepticism though, because it is deeply not in the interests of banks, business empires, and the politicians they fund to enact any type of reform that would reduce people's dependency on banks and business empires.

    The solutions you propose are actually very similar to mine, though I also include the idea of simplifying the systems themselves in addition to just cutting their funding.

    Tcaudilllg, I do motivate people, but on a smaller scale than is necessary. Almost everything I take up becomes viral within a certain fairly small community around me, but what is the net effect? This reminds me of a line in a song by Rush:

    "All this time we're talking and sharing our rational view, A billion other voices are spreading other news"

    I'm not sure everyone in this thread understands what Tainter means to say by "diminishing returns on additional complexity." This is not like an ecosystem, which becomes more and more stable as its complexity increases. I highly recommend reading the article to understand the deeper consequences of "diminishing returns in investments in increasing complexity." This is the crux of things and goes deeper than just finances, economics, energy or ecology.

    Examples of diminishing returns on investments in complexity can be found everywhere. More and more poorly educated people despite increased investment in education. Higher education eats up a much larger portion of one's post-college income than a generation ago (in the U.S., at least). People are becoming unhealthier despite increasing expenditures on healthcare. National security is declining despite increased outlays on security. Etc. etc.

    In the graph below I've marked where we are in my opinion (group 2) and where technology optimists tend to be (group 1). I believe we should invest in high-prospect technology while decreasing complexity and costs in other areas as a matter of precaution and to fix financial problems.

    It is easier for the eye of a camel to pass through a rich man than for a needle to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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    Sorry, Rick, but I don't fully understand what you're hinting at. If you slow down the economy in a purposeful fashion, there will be less resources available for everything, even technological development. It's extremely easy to let an economy spiral down to "Middle Ages" if you try to get rid of all the "unnecessary stuff". It's much better if first new great technologies are developed, then most people get educated about energy expenditure and/or benefits of a "simpler" mode of living, then resources will (slowly, of course, as every large-scale human activity) will be directed towards less "complex" pursuits, as you put it.

    More and more poorly educated people despite increased investment in education. Higher education eats up a much larger portion of one's post-college income than a generation ago (in the U.S., at least). People are becoming unhealthier despite increasing expenditures on healthcare. National security is declining despite increased outlays on security. Etc. etc.
    Are you exclusively talking about the US? If so, why? The US is an extremely small part of the whole world population. Europe has a lot of problems, still people are getting more educated and less unhealthy as time passes by, in spite of high public debt.

    To be honest, I think you're conflating two instances which aren't necessarily related. Many high-income, high-complexity countries manage to have citizens that are sufficiently healthy and educated.

    Kitegen can't fix the 1st world's demographic issues, the increasing inefficacy of military spending, the problem of diminishing returns in education, healthcare, and the penitentiary system, nor can it fuel industrial food production in its current state.
    These are not problems that can be solved. They need to take care "of themselves". Demographic issues are choces of a given population: do you force them to have more (or less) children? Demographic trends are extremely complex to predict. Everything seems easy from your first post, yet almost every line would require years of accurate study before being "implemented", lest causing a catastrophic future.
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    FDG, I think many steps wouldn't require slowing down the economy, but simply "balancing the budget." People who are jobless could be given opportunities to provide for themselves through food production and participate in large-scale useful infrastructure projects such as the CCC in the U.S. during the Depression.

    Yes, you're right, I'm talking mostly about the U.S., which seems to be on the cutting edge of diminishing returns and is generally leading the way for others. Smaller countries are more easily manageable and somewhat less prone to developing "fluff" and parasitic systems. But look at Europe: many countries are drowning in debt — a symptom of diminishing returns, driven on by domestic populism and global competition.

    But, I definitely agree with you about investing in new technology. There remains a chance that they may "save us," though there are plenty of reasons to suppose otherwise. But certainly the investment vector should not be directed towards continuing to do and build "more of the same," which is what the U.S. is doing.

    The reason I talk about demographics is because it's clear the social security paradigm must be changed in the U.S. The generation that had it best is now 70-90 years of age; they have lots of working people to provide for one retiree. This is about to get a lot worse. An economy can only sacrifice so much to take care of nonproductive participants, and this will become more and more of an issue as the population ages.
    It is easier for the eye of a camel to pass through a rich man than for a needle to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    HKKMR, the alternative to engineering a soft transition to a monetarily lower standard of living is a "hard transition" (i.e. collapse). A properly engineered soft transition would entail higher levels of employment and job and property security and would avoid the problem of disenfranchised young men by providing them with property, work, and increasing economic independence. The way to minimize unrest is to give people opportunities that they didn't use to have. Just increasing taxes and lowering handouts is not a systemic solution at all.
    Higher taxes on the rich and higher estate tax is the way to get out of the current fiscal deficits. Right now is that it's more profitable to move money out of the country to foreign investments then reinvest in domestic improvements. I do not believe that the middle class, the people that have 10% of the wealth should be footing 40% of the bill. If people want to have fair taxation, this equation must be balanced, or else the rich will simply get richer and the poor will get poorer and even were the total energy output to remain stable, the gradual reduction in the standard of living for a vast majority of the population is inevitable. The only other way to maintain this sort of divide is exponential growth of energy resources. I would never advocate increase in taxes for the poor and middle class, because they already pay enough. Higher taxes on the rich actually is a systematic way of approaching the problem, because the consequences of better wealth distribution and shifting of wealth due to reinvestment rather then taking money as income and sheltering it. Trickle down economics did nothing to trickle down or promote reinvestment. Taking a lesson from the Great Depression, high taxes on the rich was one of the few ways that the wealth disparity was improved for the next 40 years, which was a component in higher standard of living for the majority of Americans.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    I do share your skepticism though, because it is deeply not in the interests of banks, business empires, and the politicians they fund to enact any type of reform that would reduce people's dependency on banks and business empires.

    The solutions you propose are actually very similar to mine, though I also include the idea of simplifying the systems themselves in addition to just cutting their funding.
    You cannot simplify the system without first figuring out a way to transition the existing system, often times this is just not that easy. The political inertia is also often against fixing the system, no matter how much empty rhetoric is bandied. I deal with many legacy systems written on obsolete hardware and software in my engineering work and it's no easier to do there when people are more interesting in taking the profits in the short term rather then reinvesting in modernization and infrastructure for the long term. At a certain point, the legacy architecture is so widespread and used that it's impossible to displace. It's often at this time that a more efficient modern system running on a new architecture will overtake the legacy systems. Take Microsoft vs Apple vs Google, or US vs EU vs China.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Yes, you're right, I'm talking mostly about the U.S., which seems to be on the cutting edge of diminishing returns and is generally leading the way for others. Smaller countries are more easily manageable and somewhat less prone to developing "fluff" and parasitic systems. But look at Europe: many countries are drowning in debt — a symptom of diminishing returns, driven on by domestic populism and global competition.
    I think it's a fallacy to say that there is diminishing returns on education and other advancements. I feel people are smarter and more capable today then they've ever been. But there abilities and capabilities are wasted. There is no investment in utilizing their abilities as well as promotion of ideological policies that are fundamentally unsound. There is no question in my mind that people are smarter and more capable now then they were 50 years ago. But the mindset that they lack some capability has reduced their opportunity. The last two to three years in American politics have been based on two things, a short revival of the youth movement with the election of President Obama, and a reaction against this revival by the old in the last mid term election. Ultimately I believe this is a struggle the youth will win, but the question is what cost and on what timeline.

    Diminishing returns on the expenditure of capital and resources on education, security, etc is not really a production of diminished capacity or diminished returns because of increase complexity but simply lack of resources to provide opportunity. The only real way out of this is a concentrate effort to increase resources and energy capacity.

    As I said before when you look at what is part of the increased complexity of system, it's often optimizations that cannot be migrated to a new architecture which means they require the continued survival of the legacy system. It's easy to remove totally obsolete piece of complexity or simply to eliminate them altogether, it's by many factors harder to displace in-production vital systems which ensure smooth real time operation of day to day needs. The only real way to displace these systems is to create a secondary system which will be matured and then transitioned to, which requires a premium of expenses, talent and decision making.

    American schools still produces some of the finest minds in the world, unfortunately, many of them realize that the political atmosphere in the United States is not progressive but regressive. The brain drain of immigrant students and even native students will rise in the future unless the US political situation changes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hkkmr View Post
    I think it's a fallacy to say that there is diminishing returns on education and other advancements. I feel people are smarter and more capable today then they've ever been.
    This may be true, but I'm talking about diminishing returns here, not total results. Today we have people who are, say, 10% more capable and intelligent as a result of a 200% greater energy investment of their education. This is the whole crux of Tainter's analysis of collapsing systems.
    It is easier for the eye of a camel to pass through a rich man than for a needle to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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    Glorious Member mu4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    This may be true, but I'm talking about diminishing returns here, not total results. Today we have people who are, say, 10% more capable and intelligent as a result of a 200% greater energy investment of their education. This is the whole crux of Tainter's analysis of collapsing systems.
    10% more capable per year? Then 200% over 20 years isn't that big of a issue.

    Energy use per capital is ~ the same as 1990 levels. So energy use in education and other areas of life have remained flat. But everything costs more and the disparity of wealth is greater. You are talking about money, rising costs and inequities. Ultimately it matters little how educated the populace is if the opportunities do not exists.

    During Clinton's administration between 1992-2000, the bottom 90% of the population had 30% of the wealth. Now they have 15%. It's no wonder they feel that they're 1/2 poorer. This is still unlike the 1960's and 1970's where the bottom 90% had 65% of the wealth.

    The good news is that energy use will likely drop more but the wealth disparity equation must be addressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hkkmr View Post
    I think one of the biggest problems in some society isn't welfare or handouts(living this way isn't all that attractive), but being a working class person no longer provide a attractive alternative to welfare, crime and other "off the grid" pursuits.
    Reading through the comments of this thread and found this article that supports your argument and makes for an interesting comparison:

    http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress...alist-germany/
    asd

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    Quote Originally Posted by hkkmr View Post
    10% more capable per year? Then 200% over 20 years isn't that big of a issue.

    Energy use per capital is ~ the same as 1990 levels. So energy use in education and other areas of life have remained flat. But everything costs more and the disparity of wealth is greater. You are talking about money, rising costs and inequities. Ultimately it matters little how educated the populace is if the opportunities do not exists.

    During Clinton's administration between 1992-2000, the bottom 90% of the population had 30% of the wealth. Now they have 15%. It's no wonder they feel that they're 1/2 poorer. This is still unlike the 1960's and 1970's where the bottom 90% had 65% of the wealth.

    The good news is that energy use will likely drop more but the wealth disparity equation must be addressed.
    I meant 10% over the same period of time that investment increased 200%. These are just random figures estimated by talking to older people about how much their education cost in comparison to wages at the time versus that of my generation and younger.

    I agree with you on the importance of reducing the wealth disparity. If it continues to grow for much longer (which it will, unless there is a major national effort to turn things around) it will allow the tea party movement to grow into a full-scale bottom-up revolution that will probably be disastrous for the country.
    It is easier for the eye of a camel to pass through a rich man than for a needle to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    I meant 10% over the same period of time that investment increased 200%. These are just random figures estimated by talking to older people about how much their education cost in comparison to wages at the time versus that of my generation and younger.
    Wow...what a detailed procedure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG
    We simply need a new and easy way to produce high levels of energy (electricity) output without oil. This is by far the most promising project:

    http://www.kitegen.com/index_en.html

    I don't know why it's being implemented so slowly. Probably because humans are so terribly stupid and energy lobbies are so terribly powerful. In my ideal world, a load of research funds would be directed towards this project, and in 10 years the whole European continent would sustain the larges part of large-scale energy production by means of...wind. Oil prices would steadily drop since it won't be used for energy production, thus we'd still be able to produce plastic materials.

    Obviously, this will mean that since electricty-powered cars will be much more expensive than their counterparts, a large-scale mass transportation network will be developed (I don't care about public or private - it just has to be "large", so that people won't feel the need to use their cars for example when they want to stay out at night) and most citizens will use mass-transport, thus traffic jams will be strongly reduced.
    Yeah, forget electric cars; the batteries on those can't be produced on anywhere near the required scale. The rich will have them, yes, but not the masses. If there is ever an energy revolution towards electric propulsion, most people will be travelling on busses/trains.

    Conservation will take up much more slack than any line of technology, though. Energy is currently being wasted on so many levels it's debilitating. There are huge strides to be made countering that trend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Wow...what a detailed procedure.
    This is in the realm of common knowledge (or so I thought).

    Please see this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College..._college_costs

    ""Disproportional inflation" refers to inflation in a particular economic sector that is substantially greater than inflation in general costs of living. This kind of inflation for medical costs in recent decades is well known. However, that of college tuition and fees exceeds that of medical costs.

    The following graph shows the inflation rates of general costs of living (for urban consumers; the CPI-U), medical costs (medical costs component of the consumer price index (CPI)), and college and tuition and fees for private four-year colleges (from College Board data) from 1978 to 2008. All rates are computed relative to 1978. [13]

    Cost of living increased roughly 2.5-fold during this time; medical costs inflated roughly 6-fold; but college tuition and fees inflation approached 10-fold. Another way to say this is that whereas medical costs inflated at twice the rate of cost-of-living, college tuition and fees inflated at four times the rate of cost-of-living inflation. Thus, even after controlling for the effects of general inflation, 2008 college tuition and fees posed three times the burden as in 1978."

    "Long term price trends make higher education an especially inflationary sector of the U.S. economy, with tuition increases in recent years sometimes outpacing even explosive health care sectors.[14] These trends are the sources of continuing controversy in the United States over costs of higher education[15] and their potential for limiting the country's achievements in democracy, fairness and social justice.[16] Today some companies offer tuition reimbursement to students."

    "A closely related issue is the alarming increase in student borrowing to finance college education and resulting student loan debt. In the 2007-2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), the median cumulative debt among graduating 4-year undergraduate students was $19,999; one quarter borrowed $30,526 or more, and one tenth borrowed $44,668 or more.[17]"

    - - - - -

    The article shows that medical and particularly higher education costs have been rising disproportionately compared with the cost of living. Other sources show the same is true of the corrections system in the U.S., and with a bit of searching I could dig up statistics to show that other institutions have been growing more complex and costly without corresponding increases in effectiveness.
    It is easier for the eye of a camel to pass through a rich man than for a needle to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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    Glorious Member mu4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    This is in the realm of common knowledge (or so I thought).

    Please see this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College..._college_costs

    ""Disproportional inflation" refers to inflation in a particular economic sector that is substantially greater than inflation in general costs of living. This kind of inflation for medical costs in recent decades is well known. However, that of college tuition and fees exceeds that of medical costs.

    The following graph shows the inflation rates of general costs of living (for urban consumers; the CPI-U), medical costs (medical costs component of the consumer price index (CPI)), and college and tuition and fees for private four-year colleges (from College Board data) from 1978 to 2008. All rates are computed relative to 1978. [13]

    Cost of living increased roughly 2.5-fold during this time; medical costs inflated roughly 6-fold; but college tuition and fees inflation approached 10-fold. Another way to say this is that whereas medical costs inflated at twice the rate of cost-of-living, college tuition and fees inflated at four times the rate of cost-of-living inflation. Thus, even after controlling for the effects of general inflation, 2008 college tuition and fees posed three times the burden as in 1978."

    "Long term price trends make higher education an especially inflationary sector of the U.S. economy, with tuition increases in recent years sometimes outpacing even explosive health care sectors.[14] These trends are the sources of continuing controversy in the United States over costs of higher education[15] and their potential for limiting the country's achievements in democracy, fairness and social justice.[16] Today some companies offer tuition reimbursement to students."

    "A closely related issue is the alarming increase in student borrowing to finance college education and resulting student loan debt. In the 2007-2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), the median cumulative debt among graduating 4-year undergraduate students was $19,999; one quarter borrowed $30,526 or more, and one tenth borrowed $44,668 or more.[17]"

    - - - - -

    The article shows that medical and particularly higher education costs have been rising disproportionately compared with the cost of living. Other sources show the same is true of the corrections system in the U.S., and with a bit of searching I could dig up statistics to show that other institutions have been growing more complex and costly without corresponding increases in effectiveness.
    The issue of diminishing returns is that they're not always diminishing. There is always a plateau before you can create another burst, the question is whether enough resources and effort exist to sustain the plateau. The chart you posted of course reflects those two possibilities, only one possibility presents a real solution to the problem. Whether that viewpoint will become true is not really something we can speculate on, but ultimately what one chooses to do personally is the question. Keep making progress, keep increasing the level of education, keep going forward or downsize and cost cut for efficiency and longer term survival. I say longer rather then long, because ultimately it will collapse due to some stress on the system, but who's to say what.

    Healthcare, education and cost for prisons have risen in costs so dramatically because these are not commodities that can be priced reasonably by the market but these are treated as such. I will not say priced accurately, because such a thing does not really matter from a ethical standpoint. Education has increased also because the demand for higher education is so much higher and the ability to make a living without higher education so much lower. This isn't a bad thing because education's diminishing returns is based on opportunity and providing that opportunity. The problem is that the system is starved for resources and the only way to do that is to technologically innovate out of our energy problems. Addressing wealth disparity will give us time to do this. I think the solution to the problem is to change more programs to means based programs such as medicare and social security and increasing taxation based on wealth as well as restoring the estate tax to its original levels prior to all the cuts. I think this will reduce debt and help provide stability.

    I have little hope in the means based programs to help people escape without the jobs to match, but the key is to provide social stability until technology innovates us out of the current plateau which will create new class of work and jobs.

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    I don't think it's about technology. I think it's about limiting what companies can use current technology to do.

    Indeed from what I can tell, the race is on to completely replace LIIs with AIs.

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    I think that's the most brilliantly insane thing I have ever heard you say, tcaud. Kudos.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thanks Arthur View Post
    I think that's the most brilliantly insane thing I have ever heard you say, tcaud. Kudos.
    And perhaps the most brilliantly stupid response, ever. Kudos.

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