Qwernomics

Qwernomics
(Image source: Amy Ireland.)

Paul A. David provides the theoretical backstory, in his essay ‘Clio and the Economics of QWERTY’:

A path-dependent sequence of economic changes is one of which important influences upon the eventual outcome can be exerted by temporally remote events, including happenings dominated by chance elements rather than systematic forces. Stochastic processes like that do not converge automatically to a fixed-point distribution of outcomes, and are called non-ergodic. In such circumstances ‘historical accidents’ can neither be ignored, nor neatly quarantined for the purpose of economic analysis; the dynamic process itself takes on an essentially historical character. […] Touch typing gave rise to three features of the evolving production system which were crucially important in causing QWERTY to become ‘locked in’ as the dominant keyboard arrangement. These features were technical interrelatedness, economies of scale, and quasi-irreversibility of investment. They constitute the basic ingredients of what might be called QWERTYnomics.

The format of the Qwerty keyboard illustrates the production of a destiny. Even in the epoch succeeding the mechanical type-writer, and its specific design imperatives, the legacy layout of alphanumeric keys settled during the 1890s has remained frozen into place without significant revision. In the language of complex systems analysis, this is a special example of path-dependency, or irreducible historicity, characterized by irreversibility. Qwerty persists – arguably, as a suboptimal keyboard solution – due to identifiable ratchet-effects. Based upon this privileged model, the historical, technological, and economic process of ‘lock in’ through positive feedback is called QWERTY-nomics (and — going forward — simply ‘Qwernomics’).

There are a series of (now largely dormant) socio-political and policy controversies attending this model. For a counter-point to David’s analysis see the (excellent) Liebowitz and Margolis essay ‘The Fable of the Keys’ (1990), with comparatively-tolerable — if philosophically superficial — gloating from The Economist (here). The really crucial content of the complex systems analysis, however, remains unaffected by the vicissitudes of the controversy. Qwerty is a demonstrated (artificial) destiny, and thus a key to the nature of modernistic time.

The philosophically-serious critique of David’s construction dissolves the idea of any transcendent criterion for global optimality. (I’m not going to attempt to run that here yet.)

Qwerty is, beyond all plausible question, the supreme candidate for an articulate Capitalist Revelation. We haven’t begun to explore it with appropriate ardor up to this point.

ADDED: Course outline.

August 18, 2016admin 36 Comments »
FILED UNDER :History

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36 Responses to this entry

  • Kwisatz Haderach Says:

    What is “technical interrelatedness”? The other two are clear enough.

    Here are some other path-depedent choices which will not change any more:

    C and C++ as standard languages for device driver programming and “real time”.

    – Pseudoirreversibility because a language change is a re-write, a lot of the old effort is discarded.
    – Programmers learn these languages because companies need these languages for current products. Companies choose these languages for new projects because programmers in the labor pool know these languages. (Is this technical interrelatedness? Some other component of the system needs to change in a coordinated manor?)

    Right-handed / Left-handed road traffic pattern.

    – People learn the pattern and it becomes ingrained. Dangerous to change. (Is this technical interrelatedness? Some other component of the system needs to change in a coordinated manor?)
    – Road signs and markings are oriented for only one direction of traffic, all would need to be changed.

    Almost every single technical aspect of representational democracy, e.g., voting systems, districting, procedural rules.

    – The problem in all these cases is that politics is a zero sum game – whatever helps their side hurts my side and vice versa. Thus, any technical change that is not perfectly neutral will be opposed by the side that expects to be damaged by it. Systemic inertia prevents most changes in the case that there is opposition.

    My favorite insight from the article is that, while the typewriter subsystem was designed by a human, the professional typist + business stock of typewriters + typist school system was not designed by anyone.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    im guessing a continually evolving chain of improved products electric typwriters word processors computer keyboards blackberries and education support a backlog of legacy product sunk costs
    fortunately for me i make up for the two finger approach my skipping capitalization and punctuation

    [Reply]

    Axel Mckibbin Reply:

    You’re talking about LEGACY. Only difference is your talking about it from the technological angle instead of the biological one. Taking inspiration from this huh?

    http://theanti-puritan.blogspot.com/2016/07/neocameral-future-chapter-1.html

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    I read the first half of part one of your treatise.

    Some of it was interesting. I like the way you set up the contrast between capitalism and our evolved psychology. I stopped because you provided very little evidence of your claims. It asks a lot of your reader to present large, complicated theories of the world, that explain everything and recommend every answer, but always on the basis of just your own assertions and – especially – definitions.

    To take an instance of something I know a little about, the time scale of human evolution. You seem to be under the impression that the psychology of human beings hasn’t changed for hundreds of thousands of years. This is now know to be a fallacy. Human beings have changed, on a genetical level, in detectable amounts in just the last thousand years alone. Maybe even less time. The theoretical limits of change are set by the breeder’s equation – have you heard of the breeder’s equation? Try reading the 10,000 Year Explosion by Cochran if you want to study more in that direction.

    The danger you face is that your theoretical edifice never seems to need to ground itself in reality – you are not proving in case to the reader, only stating a case. When you hand-wave in the idea that human beings are running on software that evolved a hundred thousands years ago, you build your castle on sand.

    And now, am I talking about legacy – in your technical sense of the term?

    I don’t think qwernomics, or my qwernomic examples, are the same thing. Qwernomics is interesting chiefly to economists, some of whom, astonishingly, still believe that the efficient market hypothesis is true. Qwernomics is a thought experiment that shows that many production outcomes are path dependent, which means they couldn’t, in general, be running up against theoretical optimalia. Qwernomics is an observation about real world techonomic production which demonstrates inefficiency in the market.

    “Legacy” in your technical sense, which is just “genetic legacy” for the rest of us, is not an observation about markets. Our genetic makeup is not for sale on a market. So, it doesn’t really apply.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    Kwiz without reading his essay and admittedly knowing little of the genetic hard science though i know what the equation is.You really dont think its fair to say to some extent we are running on old software?Sure we have changed in the past thousand years that doesnt mean we have lost everything that goes back farther a lot of our behavior is reflected in ape behavior, one of my amateur theories is old traits are repurposed or at least triggured by new stimulae to do things other than they were developed for. first we are selected by physical environment then mostly humans start to become selected by the cultures that evolve small and capital e to support winning strategies in a feedback loop. and now we are starting to actually bypass selection.whats going on with feminism with tinder whats going on with western civilization and altruism populist politics are ancient instincts not being manipulated?

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    Of course human beings aren’t t “fully adapted” in the sense that gene flows are not all in equilibrium. Many alleles are currently mid-sweep, some of them tearing through the world population at an astonishing rate. We are changing, very fast. This means, that selection pressures in the environment are strongly favoring some of our genes over others. If you are genetically adopted to primitive tribal communism, then you’re getting selected against right now. And as I have said before, selection pressure hurts. All that much is granted – and I don’t think it was Axel Mckibbin who had the idea.

    But that “legacy” essay seems to go much further. And to go much further is to erase a very rich natural history of humanity which I would like to keep. We don’t need to destroy nuance in order to make ourselves feel like we have a great theory that explains everything.

    To comprehend the scale of the genetic changes that we have undergone in the last 1000 or even 500 years requires an act of historical imagination. “The past is a foreign country”, and in fact it is very foreign. I think people from England circa 1,000 AD would seem almost as foreign to us as modern Brazilians or deep-Siberian peasants would. It’s not a simple matter of how many genes changed, but rather the direction of the change. (The gradient of selection). One book that got me thinking more about this was The Better Angles of Our Nature by Pinker. His colorful historical anecdotes that he used to make his case helped me visit that foreign country.

    But suffice it to say, they wouldn’t look like us, walk like us, smell like us, or think like us. You probably wouldn’t your great-great-great^25 grandfather as a house-guest.

    Axel Mckibbin Reply:

    All that is necessary is to show one fact. From this the second automatically follows.

    Fact (1). Genetic change is not as fast at technological change.
    This is proven by simple observation. For example: high rates of obesity are largely the result of a legacy craving for high calorie foods. There are countless other examples when you dig deep. Anyone willing to observe reality can observe the proof.

    Fact (2). Once you have shown the two rates are off, it naturally follows that the RIFT / gap / whatever you want to call it, will grow over time.

    Once you understand these two things there are several possible ways technology can effect the human race. None of these possibilities are good for status quo humans.

    Some possibilities are;

    (a). Humans are destroyed by technology.
    (b). A new species is created by technology and the two begin to follow separate evolutionary paths.
    (c). Genetics changes humanity and “humanity” stops being human in any meaningful sense of the word.
    (d). Humans die off slowly.
    (e). Humans continue to exist, but in an increasingly Alien and inhuman environment.
    (f). A combination of the above.
    (g). Something else entirely which is also bad.

    If the species is genetically modified it stops really being the human species. If AI takes over it may wipe us out. Also bad for the species. If humans die off from birth control, then the species stops existing. If our minds are uploaded, and we stop using human bodies then the species has effectively gone extinct, etc., etc. None of the available options involve a positive outcome for mankind unless you arbitrarily redefine the word “mankind” to mean robots, genetically modified humans, mind uploading, etc.

    Now your objections;

    “Some of it was interesting. I like the way you set up the contrast between capitalism and our evolved psychology. I stopped because you provided very little evidence of your claims. It asks a lot of your reader to present large, complicated theories of the world, that explain everything and recommend every answer, but always on the basis of just your own assertions and – especially – definitions.”

    “Little evidence of your claim.”

    Then you say;

    “Of course human beings aren’t t “fully adapted” in the sense that gene flows are not all in equilibrium.”

    So what, you are dissembling? You challenge my thesis and then admit it is correct. Why then do I need proof? Why should a prove myself to a dishonest man? You didn’t stop reading because of legitimate objections. You stopped reading because the thesis conflicts with your normie progressive indoctrination that “muh progress is good,” bullshit.

    I don’t prove myself because I know don’t have to. Any honest person will see that I’m right. Any dishonest person will nitpick everything anyway and refuse to admit when I’m right. It’s just basic knowledge of human cognitive biases. Proof assumes humans are convinced by logic. Science tells us that no amount of proof will convince anyone who does not want to accept it. I talked about this in the Preface.

    I LITERALLY said this in the Preface;

    “Since human cognition is fundamentally hostile to everything that refutes cognitive bias, it is not my job to prove my ideas to you, but your job to overcome bias and prove my ideas to yourself.”

    Am I making high demands? No shit! That’s the point!

    As for definitions. You understand the definitions just fine. You are committing the fallacy of logic chopping. The fact that I use words in inventive ways is irrelevant. Again, a person who cannot see, will not see, what is in front of his noise.

    See; https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/120/Logic-Chopping

    “To take an instance of something I know a little about, the time scale of human evolution. You seem to be under the impression that the psychology of human beings hasn’t changed for hundreds of thousands of years. This is now know to be a fallacy. Human beings have changed, on a genetical level, in detectable amounts in just the last thousand years alone. Maybe even less time. The theoretical limits of change are set by the breeder’s equation – have you heard of the breeder’s equation? Try reading the 10,000 Year Explosion by Cochran if you want to study more in that direction.

    The danger you face is that your theoretical edifice never seems to need to ground itself in reality – you are not proving in case to the reader, only stating a case. When you hand-wave in the idea that human beings are running on software that evolved a hundred thousands years ago, you build your castle on sand.

    And now, am I talking about legacy – in your technical sense of the term?”

    Blah blah blah. More asinine refusal to see what you already know to be true.

    Writing an insanely long treatise is unnecessary. Assholes like you are the reason authors feel the need to bore everyone with 500 extra pages of trivial proof. This is pointless since 500 pages wouldn’t convince you anyway. I don’t have to prove a case–no person is convinced by proof anyway. You prove that no one is convinced by proof by first disrespecting me / challenging my work and then admitting I’m right.

    This isn’t a matter of proof. It’s a matter of you overcoming your doublethink.

    Yet again, you will either see it or you won’t.

    And of course you won’t.

    Moving on;

    “I don’t think qwernomics, or my qwernomic examples, are the same thing. ”

    I didn’t say it was the same thing. Fallacy of misrepresentation.

    ““Legacy” in your technical sense, which is just “genetic legacy” for the rest of us, is not an observation about markets. Our genetic makeup is not for sale on a market. So, it doesn’t really apply.”

    Blah blah blah. More examples of the fallacy of Logic Chopping. More fallacious nitpicking. This entire part isn’t even sequitur.

    PS.

    None of this is for you. You can’t be convinced anyway. This is for everyone else who is reading this.

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    Learn how to take constructive criticism, Axel.

    Learn to anticipate the predictable emotions that you feel when you receive unexpected criticism: anger, denial, resentment. Let those emotions float past, like leaves floating on a river, as you watch from the shore. Or as admin might say, discipline yourself to coldness.

    Then you can save yourself the embarassment of writing long screeds that include phrases such as “Any honest person will see that I’m right.”

    Also by avoiding the initial emotional outburst, you avoid alienating the ones who could be your most useful allies and caring friends.

    And by the way, I’m highly offended to be called a normie 😉

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 3:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Erik Says:

    Sweden changed road pattern fairly smoothly, though.

    [Reply]

    Erik Reply:

    (That should have been a reply to Kwisatz.)

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    Interesting, learn something new every day. Maybe strike it from the list, then?

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 4:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    comparatively-tolerable

    Kek.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 4:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    Indeed, an the ergonomics of right/left hand roads are far from arbitrary. In our time, right-hand roads have the advantage since most people are right-handed and generally you want your right hand positioned over the gear shifter, thus placing the driver on the left side of the vehicle.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    i dont know not too many american even drive a stick i do both while in the city vs the country vs suburbs with a stick is different its weather in city traffic or dirt roads i want to be faster and more in control with the wheel than the stick

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    Automatic is sooo bourgeois. One finds standard transmissions all over the right and left side of the income curve…

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 4:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • Ur-mail Says:

    > A path-dependent sequence of economic changes is one of which important influences upon the eventual outcome can be exerted by temporally remote events, including happenings dominated by chance elements rather than systematic forces.

    The link between this and the proof-of-work blockchain concept seems immediate. If enough work is accumulated around some ordering of events, then there is a point past which, for all intents and purposes, the ordering of those events becomes immutable.

    [Reply]

    Rec0nciler Reply:

    A quote from the referenced paper by Leibowitz and Margolis seems to make a complementary point about the dollar:

    “The trap constituted by an obsolete standard may be quite fragile.”

    [Reply]

    Rec0nciler Reply:

    Also, the title “The Fable of the Keys” is…just spooky.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 6:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • Apatheos Says:

    Qwernomics: space’s affect on formal Judgment

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 6:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    So would the derivation of standard railway gauge from the width needed to fit a cart-horse between wagon shafts be something like a path-dependent sequence? Apparently Stephenson said that given a second chance to choose a standard gauge, he would have had a bigger one.

    BTW –

    http://vt100.net/dp/chinese.jpg

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 11:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    To some degree, it makes sense to settle on a standard — any standard — and improve it slowly over time. Without centralization, those improvements come through small details of competition, like position of shift keys and moving around of punctuation keys, as happens between laptop manufacturers.

    I have no problem with C/C++ being standards; nothing has exceeded them for versatility, and their low-level support means that there is no need to keep pushing in that direction, barring some truly epic revelation regarding syntax, at which point C can be patched with a library. Attacking those languages is like demanding we re-invent the shovel without some massively more efficient alternative.

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    I’m not attacking them, don’t get me wrong. The reasons why we mainly use C and C++ are damn good ones; they just happen to be historical reasons.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 19th, 2016 at 1:08 am Reply | Quote
  • Jefferson Says:

    Remember when the Japanese switched over to the Gregorian calendar?

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    Funny you would say that considering whats going on there now is so reactionary. But on the other hand is there really a nation more cucked than japan?

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 19th, 2016 at 1:44 am Reply | Quote
  • cyborg_nomade Says:

    is URbit doomed then?

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    if it can guarantee privacy and freedom as claimed and do it all in the background as hoped no i have no fucking idea whats behind my keyboard until it stops working or someone tells me its fucking me so if someone tells me urbit works and i dont get fuck i download it a lot of people will download it unless of course they outlaw it and if it does what they say it will do theyre gonna fucking outlaw it i mean theyre not even going to allow blogs like this in the us by the time clintons done.
    But of course you guys will all be living in space by then so it wont matter

    [Reply]

    (N) G. Eiríksson Reply:

    Say hi to Alex jones

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    @

    You realize this blog would be illegal in europe and we all would be prosecuted and the drum has been beating to do the same here. so its not a conspiracy theory its reality.

    But this is a teachable moment a NRX that wasnt useless as tits on a boar hog would be building opensource, un hackable unstopable, anonymous social media and communication platforms even if you had to PWN some libtard hackers to build it for you thinking they were making the net safe for OWS. instead you discuss seasteading.

    Posted on August 19th, 2016 at 1:53 am Reply | Quote
  • devcarrier Says:

    //was the Liber Qwyz ever released in full? etc. multiple loose ends. erroneous forgeries. the carrier isn’t a fan of Borges.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 20th, 2016 at 12:02 am Reply | Quote
  • pyrrhus Says:

    Establishment of the Federal Reserve, a highly dysfunctional entity by most standards, may well have severely warped the development of numerous institutions. Getting rid of the Fed would likely not return the US to anywhere near its original path…

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 20th, 2016 at 1:33 am Reply | Quote
  • Quint Essential Says:

    Qwernomics is your own moniker? It sounds suboptimal, and awkward to say. Qwertynomics has the advantage of being the same amount of syllables as economics.

    Still digesting L&M.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 20th, 2016 at 4:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kwisatz Haderach Says:

    @Kwisatz Haderach
    Angels*

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2016 at 12:19 am Reply | Quote
  • michael Says:

    @Kwisatz Haderach

    I agree as a kid i went from dinosaurs to egyptians to evolution drove the nuns nuts. But it probably one of the things that made me a racist I love human culture everyone’s and it only took five minutes of multiculturalism yo understand they intended to destroy all culture. I used to try to reason with liberals that by teaching whites to hate their own culture you were teaching them hate all culture that you appreciate other’s cultures through the lens of your own,I think youre wrong about my great grandfather x25 I think id find him very interesting if a handful and wouldn’t be surprised to find he pulls on his ear when hes tired like my daughter and father.
    this nrx quest for the foolproof society im skeptical that we are evolved for such a thing maybe if we can hang in long enough we may catch up but i think what keeps tripping us up is gene lag we evolve faster socially than we can genetically, this is why i keep arguing to go slow and adapt older formats [not monarchy thats silly] until crispr or something can finally tailor us to our environment. And yes thats going to be sad but inevitable i suppose my there will be a refuseniks patch

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2016 at 1:31 am Reply | Quote
  • Quint Essential Says:

    @Kwisatz Haderach
    I deciphered your pseudonym and I dreamt of dead cities. Of course, the tabs could also be to blame.

    The reply to David is odd. It seems to accuse David of the same thing it does itself, (moral) superiority.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2016 at 4:29 am Reply | Quote
  • Outliers (#19) Says:

    […] morality. Market breakdown. World downfall. Trolsk dominance. Race riots (unrecognized as such). Albion Awakening […]

    Posted on August 21st, 2016 at 5:02 am Reply | Quote
  • Natural Mathematics Produces Greater Intelligence Than Humans Can Says:

    […] But the core of his philosophy takes some effort to spot. For example, a cryptic post about the dominance of the Qwerty layout keyboard reveals a Landian […]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2016 at 4:08 pm Reply | Quote

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