OT - Basic Skills in Today's World

Page 6 of 13  

Robert Sturgeon (in snipped-for-privacy@4ax.com) said:
| On Sat, 5 Aug 2006 19:02:58 -0500, "Jeff McCann"
|| || I think the reverse is true. Technological advancement gives a || society options, redundancies, flexibility and the ability to || assess and remediate problems.
Probably two sides of the same coin. Along with the advancements and capacity for flexibility come increasing specialization and narrowness of focus that leads to brittleness. One of the advantages we have is the wide geographic distribution of our assets - which means that as long as damage is localized, workload can be picked up in undamaged areas.
| Perhaps. I don't know. I was thinking the other day of | what would happen to the metropolitan area just to the | northwest of where I live -- millions of people who are | primarily living in the symbolic economy -- in the event of | a societal collapse caused by, say, a series of nuclear | detonations in 5 or 6 of our major financial and | governmental centers: say, DC, NYC, LA, Chicago, Seattle, | etc. People smarter than me have estimated that even such | "limited" destruction would inevitably cause the collapse of | the U.S. economy and society. I don't see these millions of | symbolic workers being able to survive a return to a more | material economy.
I don't think there'd be a complete collapse. There would be substantial changes and restructuring. The agricultural areas would continue to produce food, for example, and there'd still be a demand for what they produced, but the marketing and distribution systems would likely change. The food producers would still want equipment, chemicals, seed, etc and that demand would likely be satisfied.
| My (possibly wrong) conclusion is that the post-modern | symbolic economy/society is much more fragile than the | industrial economy/society it replaced. Too many of us are | no longer able to create goods, including food, and instead | are now only able to engage in symbol manipulation -- the | information/entertainment economy, a.k.a the post-modern | economy. Lawyers, data entry clerks, web masters, writers, | actors, singers, photographers, programmers, personal | trainers, relationship counselors, what have you. Can any | of them put actual food on an actual table? What happens to | them if their post-modern services are no longer in demand? | And that ignores entirely those dependent on | "entitlements"...
In some ways, yes - and in some ways, no. It might be an interesting exercise to look back and ask just how long it's been since some majority of the population of any primary city engaged in the creation of goods. Haven't the cities tended to be marketing and information centers almost from the time they became regarded as "cities" rather than "towns"?
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto
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wrote:

remediate
Societal collapse is a macro-scale event. What happens to individuals within that society are micro-level events. Individuals win and lose all the time, even in a thriving society. Whole groups have been caused to suffer many times by rapid changes within a complex society, yet the society as a whole endures.
It sucked to be a technology worker during the dot-com bust or an aeronautical engineer when we retreated from manned space exploration. It also sucked to be a buggy whip maker during the advent of the automobile.
Jeff
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On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 14:57:09 -0500, "Jeff McCann"
(snips)

Sometimes it doesn't. At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome had a population of around 1,000,000. By the late Middle Ages, that was down to less than 10,000, and wolves were roaming the streets. Various other societies have gone through collapses that were as bad, if not worse. Contrary to what we like to think, things can, in fact, go Very Badly. There is no reason to suppose that we are somehow immune.

I'm not talking about going through an economic shift, but an economic/societal collapse. Different story...
-- Robert Sturgeon Summum ius summa inuria. http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge /
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wrote:

society
Yep. No society is immune from collapse. My point is only that technologically advanced societies are much less so. So, do you think anyone alive at the height of the Roman Empire was still alive to see those wolves roaming the streets? No. It took a very long time indeed, for Roman society to decline and fall. It didn't suddenly collapse within a portion of a single lifetime, like, say, the Incan Empire.

It
Time to define our terms, I think. So, what does an economic/societal collapse mean to you?
Personally, I expect American society to die with a whimper, not a bang, over a span of many generations, in a way that is not readily apparent to many who are living through it.
Jeff
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On Sun, 6 Aug 2006 20:13:55 -0500, "Jeff McCann"
(snips)

That's possible, and most likely. But...
I can give you another scenario: 5 or 6 120 kt nukes go off in NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, Seattle, etc. (Hezbollah, Al Qaida, etc. have "won".) The investment, banking, and fed gov systems go into paralysis. No banks open, no stock markets, no commodity markets. No way to maintain the electrical grids, because of no way to pay the workers and suppliers. No way to restart the financial markets, because most of the leadership and workers in NYC are dead, and the buildings are in ruins, and the financial infrastructure won't be rebuilt for years, if ever. Then what's left of the fed gov (most of the leadership already being dead) starts distributing the billions (or is it trillions?) of dollars in paper money they have stored up for just such an emergency. Then the worker bees in places like Denver and San Jose figure out that they aren't going to get paid, and if they do get paid, it will be in money that is losing its value faster than a 1923 German Mark. Then you go to your standard rioting, looting, killing, and general collapse of society. Millions of dead bodies start piling up, and the population of the U.S. is rapidly heading towards half or less of what it was a couple of months before. State and local governments start devolving from fed gov control and issue their own currencies, which don't hold their value either. Local warlords start... well, you get the idea.
I'm not suggesting that is likely, or even the most likely result of that nuclear attack scenario. What I am saying is -- assuming that it can't possibly happen is a mistake. It has recently happened, to lesser extents, in societies which have suffered lesser shocks. A good example is the former USSR, which has gone through a monetary collapse, a severe population decline (the life expectancy is now only about 60), a social collapse, with alcoholism becoming even a bigger problem (contributing to that life expectancy decrease) and with millions of pensioners becoming impoverished as their state pensions' values evaporated along with the value of the ruble. And all they had to shock them was an inefficient social/economic system, a failed war in Afghanistan, and a nuclear power plant disaster. Extrapolate the results from my 5 or 6 nukes scenario, and you easily get to a near-total societal collapse. For fictional depictions, see: The Postman, Road Warrior, etc.
It wouldn't be like the transition from buggy whips to Model Ts. It would be a transition from the complex, highly ordered Information Society to a chaotic world of scarcity, destruction, and death. Another poster summed it up succinctly in another thread -- no cops.
-- Robert Sturgeon Summum ius summa inuria. http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge /
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"And all they had to shock them was an inefficient social/economic system, a failed war in Afghanistan, and a nuclear power plant disaster."
Robert, you missed the BIG one.. the Cold War arms race caused them to spend their society into the ground.
Now consider where the United States (Republican) budget deficit stands at this moment and ask yourself how close we are to the same situation.
A heck of a lot closer than we were in 2000.
TMT
Robert Sturgeon wrote:

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On 7 Aug 2006 12:05:54 -0700, "Too_Many_Tools"

Yes, but that spending went on for 44 years, as did their WWII spending for 4 years before that. But yes, you are right that it did help ruin them.

Yes we are. And we will be even closer 10 years from now, regardless of which party wins. Both parties favor ever increasing spending. The only difference is in what they want to spend the money on.
-- Robert Sturgeon Summum ius summa inuria. http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge /
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wrote:

All of which is backed up, off site, routinely, at least as to the more important stuff, and all of which tends to have a rather extensive paper trail (an auditing requirement), allowing fairly easy restoration in many cases.

The banks outside the affected zones, and even in them, may well be open much sooner than you think. One neat innovation is portable banking centers built on mobile trucks or vans, specifically for use in disasters. Have you seen them? Most major banks seem to have them lately.

Most of which have either backup arrangments or ownership interest in various other exchanges, so that they are capable of continuing their essential activities.
See, e.g., Disaster planning saves Wall Street, and Corporate Governance, Business Continuity Planning, and Disaster Recovery, below, and especially: Policy Statement: Business Continuity Planning for Trading Markets Securities and Exchange Commission [Release No. 34-48545; File No. S7-17-03] http://www.sec.gov/rules/policy/34-48545.htm

Don't underestimate the willingness of these people to work for deferred pay in an emergency. Also, there are interagency agreements for utility companies to provide essential labor and expertise to each other in emergencies.

There is no reason that they need to give the money out in an inflationary manner. They will simply exchange other obligations for cash, as necessary, though.

Extremely unlikely that there will be that sort of currency devaluation.

There may be a series of civil disturbances, but nothing that can't be handled. We've had that before.

True.
Has the Russian society and economy actually collapsed, even with a revolutionary change in government as well as all the other problems you mentioned? In other words, in most places for most people, does the mail get delivered? Do most people go to work each day and buy shelter, food and other necessities with their earnings? Do their kids get go to school? Does the electricity still come on when you flip a light switch? Does water flow from the tap when you open the valve? Can decent people walk the streets of their neighborhood without being killed and eaten by spiky haired mutants?

To a greater or lesser degree in most places for most people. But will that be a permanent condition, or deteriorate even further? Or will things soon begin to get better and problems get sorted out as a recovery begins within, say, months?
Jeff
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On Mon, 7 Aug 2006 18:29:31 -0500, "Jeff McCann"

You are ignoring the psychological shock inflicted on the survivors which might cause them to re-examine, and then discard, the underlying assumptions propping up the existing socio-economic system. For example, exactly from whom would they take direction if almost all the leadership of the Federal Government, Wall Street, et al., are killed within a half hour? Given that the currency is based solely on the faith and credit of the United States, and not any real assets or values at all, and that the Federal Government is suddenly decapitated (actually, worse than merely decapitated), why do you suppose things would just go on -- business as usual? Run the backups, get out the paper records, find the Secretary of Agriculture and swear him in -- he happened to be in Iowa at time -- and everything will get back on track in a day or two? The geezers will still get their SS checks, the welfare checks will still go out as usual (I know -- the EBT cards will be refilled), people will still dutifully file their 1040s, the money will still be as valuable as it was, or even half as valuable as it was? Assuming that seems to me to be overly optimistic. The economic shocks from 9/11 cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars, and that was trivial compared to a multi-city nuclear attack.
I'm sure you're right in that a good faith effort would be made to maintain something close to the status quo ante, but I doubt it could be done.
(rest snipped)
-- Robert Sturgeon Summum ius summa inuria. http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge /
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Tue, 08 Aug 2006 08:03:21 -0700, Robert Sturgeon wrote:

Especially the hit our economy has taken as Bush finessed his 'trifecta' into an interminable sucking fiasco.
--

Bart

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wrote:

bang,
to
It really is hard to say, but I do know quite alot from direct personal observation about how people react when their lives are totally disrupted, homes and jobs completely gone, communities devastated, loved ones missing, hurt or killed, little or no news from outside, etc. I'm willing to rely more than you appear to be on the basic resiliency of the American character in the face of adversity, as well as in the basic robustness of our social, economic and political systems.
As for the large scale economic losses, we've been down that road before, and not just in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Prosperity isn't just centered on Wall Street, it's built on Main Street, as well. There's a lot of fat and fluff in the American economy and lifestyle, and most people can manage to do with far less than they think, and they can rebuild and overcome faster than they think, too. Crises have a way of evolving into new opportunities. It's would suck big-time, to be sure, but it wouldn't suck forever.
And no, I don't think "everything will get back on track in a day or two," but I do think most things will get back on track eventually, in many cases faster than you think. Some things will, indeed, change or be lost forever. But a new "normal" will soon be established, perhaps different than status quo ante, but not all that different.
Jeff
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Jeff McCann wrote:

That's true for any people, look at the way we (I'm English) reacted to Germany's bombings of London and other major cities, or how we reacted when the IRA destroyed the centre of my city (Manchester), or when our home grown Islamists butchered people in the subways of London.
Everyone adapts, and very quickly.
Steve
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wrote on Thu, 10 Aug 2006 04:44:20 GMT in misc.survivalism :

    That collapse occurred later, when the Brits successively leveled great parts of Urban Britain. At least the luftwaffe had just demolished the buildings, not replaced them with ugly edifices as monuments to the bottom line.
tschus pyotr -- pyotr filipivich Typos, Grammos and da kind are the result of ragin hormones Fortesque Consulting: Teaching Pigs to Sing since 1968.
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The Inca and the Maya were very technologically advanced. Both collapsed in a lifetime.
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wrote:

in
No, they were not technologically advanced. They had some skill at celestial observation, and a very rich culture, but they barely even used the wheel or any other form of technology more advanced than that commonly found in the Western world of thousands of years ago.
Jeff
Jeff
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Their agriculture was extremely well advanced and both controlled watr to their benefit. Both lived in areas which could not support their populations without intesive agriculture. They lived on the edge. A decade or two of drought put them over the edge.
We live Over the edge in our use fossil fuels. Imagine our suppliers cutting us off. 100% of the food eaten by the average American is fossil fuel based. From putting it into the ground, growing it, harvesting it, to getting it to the table. Now cut the availability of oil by 60%.
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On Tue, 08 Aug 2006 03:54:11 GMT, Lobby Dosser

Yep. Even chicken is getting to be out of reach in my household unless we buy whole livestock and butcher locally- and that's just with a increase in gas prices, not a shortage.
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And the rationing that goes with it. Lots of folks around now who don't remember those halcyon days of 1972.
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Lobby Dosser wrote:

That was mostly politicians in Doing Something mode. I doubt that there was any real effect on gasoline consumption.
--
--John
to email, dial "usenet" and validate
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On Sun, 06 Aug 2006 17:52:56 -0700, Robert Sturgeon

=======================This was addressed at some length in my dissertation in Appendix A -- THE LINEAR AND ACCRETION MODELS OF ECONOMIC EVOLUTION
I attach the section on empire below as the most applicable, however W. W. Rostow's observations/comments about "Newtonian Science" in Stage VI --Renaissance also directly apply.
Note the [short] discussion where technical methodology is regarded as magic [symbolic manipulation?] and the bad effects this produced.
If you want to see the entire thing, or scan excerpts goto http://www.mcduffee-associates.us
references cited are in the bibliography
Enjoy
Stage IV -- Empires There is no sharp dividing line between a large city state and an empire, however it can be posited that when a city state begins to impose its rule on other linguistic and ethnic groups, especially if it imposes taxes for this "service," it has become an empire. This stage tends to produce large entities such as the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Roman and Chinese, possibly because of the existence of well-trained and efficient specialists in governance / administration and military science. It appears that the policy makers of a stage 4 society tended to engage in and promote activities which cause their society to become too centralized, too specialized and too highly concentrated to be sustainable. Generally considerable technical progress is made in the pragmatic sense. That is that while certain procedures were known to produce certain effects, these are regarded more as magic spells or procedures than as a cause-effect relationship which can be systematized or integrated. Examples of this are the conversion of iron into steel and the tempering of the steel to provide sharp, durable weapons. A major contributing factor to the decline and destruction of a specific empire may have been the tendency to regard any technical knowledge as a family or guild "trade secret" which was to be protected to maximize profit. Thus while a family or guild knowledge of pragmatic procedures may allow the production of complex and sophisticated products, it also tended to restrict the diffusion of such procedures and products into other areas and thus limit the rate of change and improvement. It is unfortunate that in many cases moral and ethical considerations have been introduced into this discussion as these tend to produce considerably more heat than light. (For example Rousseau 1712-1778 and Gibbons 1737-1794 ) What seems to be the general case is that all cultures are subject to random stresses. These stresses can be an invasion, an internal revolution, a famine, a plague, a new social theory, a new religion, etc. Cumulative environmental effects also appear to be important. For example, some writers have posited that a major contributor to the decline in some stage III societies was the depletion of available natural resources such as arable land for food and timber for building ships and fortifications. The less developed transportation systems and technologies would have caused societies in this stage to be more vulnerable than would societies in the later stages. There appears to have been little realization of the importance of using sustainable agricultural techniques, reforestation and the productivity of and thus the need for the protection of wetlands. Indeed, some of the major "public works" of antiquity and the medieval period was specifically the draining of swamps and marshes. Long term climatic changes could also have a similar decisive effect.[Wright, K.] Additionally, geographic changes such as the shifting of the course of a river or the silting of a harbor are also known to have caused the abrupt economic decline if not collapse of ancient city-states. It also seems apparent that the more perfectly an organism, and by extension a society or culture, is adapted to one set of conditions the less well it will be adapted to a new or changed set of circumstances, and it is observed that the older an organization the less "flexible" it is. A further consideration is that most societies in stage III historically tend to engage in behaviors which cause extensive amounts of animosity and resentment. These animosities include but are not limited to envy of their flaunted wealth, hatred of their affectation of political and intellectual superiority or simply a desire for revenge for military defeat. While the historical record is not completely clear on this point, it appears that most stage IV societies succumb, not to a single factor but rather a combination of simultaneous factors. That is to say that while an empire may have successfully coped with famines, plagues, invasions and internal revolutions in the past, they are unable to cope with all of these at the same time. This is especially true if their nominal allies and vassals have been biding their time for the proper moment to obtain revenge. Each of the characteristics that helped create an empire then becomes a characteristic that assists in its downfall. The concentration of governance and military science into the hands of a few, albeit highly talented, specialists means that if these few people can be isolated or incapacitated then the entire society is paralyzed. The specialization by large numbers of the population in specific trades means that they are extremely vulnerable if the demand for their specific knowledge/skill no longer exists as they no longer have the means or knowledge to feed themselves and their families in the sense of subsistence agriculture or hunting. Economic devastation of large numbers of people, what ever the cause, generally results in revolution. Responsible or not, the existing social structure and leaders are held answerable for the disaster. The concentration of people into large cities, while promoting trade and generally improving the perceived quality of life means that to control the city, all that must be done is to control the food (or water) supply and as there is no need to breach the fortifications, advanced technologies such as siege engines and catapults are not required for their capture. This means that a stage IV society or economy is vulnerable to organized and warlike peoples such as the Huns, Goths and Mongols even though they may lack "technology" or "culture." The separation between the "thinking" and "doing" classes tended to grow more pronounced over time. In most empires slave holding tended to become more pronounced, thus further debasing the status of labor, gainful employment and useful physical (other than military and sports) activity. Another factor may also be that the specialization of occupations has resulted in the development of a large mass of people with no more military capability or "will to resist" than a flock of sheep. Slaves, almost by definition, are forbidden to own arms or even learn the "arts of war ," thus making this segment of the population useless in the military sense. This means that as soon as the "professional" military segment of the culture is no longer available, for what ever reason, the culture is instantly vulnerable to even small para-military groups, even if these are not particularly well armed, trained, or led.
Unka George (George McDuffee)
...and at the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased, and the epitaph drear: A Fool lies here, who tried to hustle the East.
Rudyard Kipling The Naulahka, ch. 5, heading (1892).
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