Archive for February, 2013

Legislative Self-Assembly


Isaiah Berlin once wrote, “We cannot legislate
for unknown consequences of consequences of consequences.”

He wasn’t making a statement about the mind’s resemblance to a broken record,
it wasn’t that he COULD NOT GET OVER consequences.

He was making a deep point about science and society…in the 20th century.

But suppose we produce a scientific approach that gets uncommonly robust forecasts
from cadres of superintelligent autonomous nano-brains,
and they all vote on a spectrum;
and suppose we decide to value their opinions?

We have so much that is known so well, an overdetermination of excellent forecasts. Is that so remarkably impossible? I mean, we get that
with global circulation models — which by the way aren’t so autonomous
or superintelligent and super excellent.

But would we legislate for consequences of consequences of consequences if they were OVERKNOWN?

When we have all the terrible nightmares of the world and bright dreams to be thinking, what can we do?

Nietzsche Reloaded



When I finally looked in to it myself
I became suspicious

of frequent snags
in the path of the Keystone vertical pipeline.

Innovation means managing responsibly
by first desiring certain properties
and paying a good price for the value.

It behooves me to fix the energy imbalance.

By combining instruments,
dancing with chemicals,
and sequencing breakthroughs,

I hereby declare my candidacy
for the New Independent Party.

Edward Luce channels the bravado of momentous industry in last week’s Financial Times:

The effects of technology are only just beginning to be felt in education and healthcare – the two most labour-intensive areas of the US economy that both suffer from productivity stagnation. Online education is beginning to spread. It is also meeting resistance. “The reactionaries in the faculties will eventually be grandfathered out,” says Tyler Cowen, co-founder of the Marginal Revolution University, which has pioneered free online learning in economics and other subjects. “We’ll still need Harvard as a dating service,” he jokes. “But the mid-level private universities do not know what is about to hit them.”

The author of the quoted perspective, Tyler Cowen, knows that dooming the mid-level private university does not entail the success of Marginal Revolution University. Cowen knows that large public universities are no longer averse to coalition-building with mid-level private universities to out-compete all sizes of open education initiatives in the long-term. Cowen seeks to re-brand Harvard University — a dating service! — without noticing that Clayton Christensen — the clearest voice on disruptive innovation theory in the education sector — works for Harvard.


Cowen isn’t given any space to acknowledge this, because Luce uses Cowen’s mouth to introduce the “despairing view” that government will eventually have to provide “a basic guaranteed income to all Americans….”

While I like the beautiful logic of Luce’s labor statistics, there is a great deal of journalistic model-building going on here without some requisite animated scanning. I would encourage Luce to  consider whether mid-level private universities and large public universities might not have the skills and business acumen to exploit the unique American history of science & technology policy — namely, basic guaranteed income — to shift economic policy.

My point is that the mid-level private universities that matter most to Cowen know damn well what’s coming.

I would suspect that in order for Cowen’s suggestion about basic guaranteed income to eventuate, Marginal Revolution University and its ilk must fail. The education industry can then produce civil leaders and industry visionaries who will engender an acceptable participatory politics of science and technology in the US. And so, Luce and Cowen’s bravado hidrosis is a walking contradiction in this respect.