Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’

Catastrophe Capitalism

Catastrophe is bad for the Left, say these communists, so there’s at least something to look at there. They don’t make the connection to r/K politicial dynamics, but that’s probably linkage worth making. The #HRx criticism that capitalism goes off the rails by making people fat and happy has something to it as well. There’s a tragic structure there, which can get lost behind the obesity statistics. Capitalism works best as a general problem-solving protocol for tackling harsh reality.

Capitalism is, in any case, a positive catastrophe in the technical (Thom) sense.

The XS meta-political-economic proposal is capital autonomization, based on massive capital goods absorption of social surplus, in order to keep the monkeys sharp and hungry. It’s not an easy thing to pull-off politically, which is why exotic solutions of the Neocameral-type are so attractive. Constant Malthusian catastrophe requires a lot of upkeep, but there are a number of ways to get there. Crypto-cybernetic capital (at last) in power is one, but social / ecological collapse gets there by a negative route. The extreme challenge of the off-planet frontier (stripped of abundance delusions) would help to put it onto automatic.

December 1, 2015admin 14 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Quote note (#204)

If there’s a downside to this, it’s well-hidden:

Richard Yonck, writing in the Scientific American, calls the recent “passage of the Space Act of 2015 in the U.S. House and Senate” the Dawn of the Space Mining Age. In essence, it “gives any American who successfully extracts natural resources from outer space the property rights over the haul.” The act has angered those who believe the cosmos should be free from the greedy scourge of capitalism. For the first time in human history, celestial objects, once the property of all because they were inaccessible to everyone, can be bought and sold by those who can reach them. […] … At stake is not only the biggest Gold Rush in human history, but the greatest territorial expansion since the Age of Discovery. Most products built from space resources will be left outside of earth’s gravity well and men will go up to join their products rather than return them to Terra. Exploration means diaspora.

Off-world development is going to take a while to catalyze, but it’s ultimately where everything that matters is going to happen.

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November 30, 2015admin 29 Comments »
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Parametrics and Provocation

This is from April last year (but I’ve only just found it). It’s quite amazing how many lines intersect in it:

Both Schumacher’s and Hadid’s language propose an architecture that’s “above” trivial moral and political hand-wringing, like worker’s rights. Peggy Dreamer, in a recent CalArts panel, described Schumacher’s style as “über-form,” meaning that it takes on the aesthetic of the universal and inevitable in order to create icons of an imaginary future. And that is what China and the Emirates are buying — the Seoul Design Park, Galaxy SOHO, Guangzhou Opera House, the 2022 Qatar World Cup Stadium. These are icons of future cities, not current ones.

The reason it’s here, now, though is to add some framing for this Patrik Schumacher talk, which I was politely asked (on Twitter) to trigger a Xenosystems conversation about it. While I’m in no position to directly wire-head XS readers, it looks stimulating to me. (There isn’t much capitalistic historical materialism about.)

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November 22, 2015admin 7 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Quote note (#194)

A realist case for markets:

The market mechanism is loosely efficient. But the idea that efficiency is the main virtue of free markets is wrong. Competition itself is highly inefficient. In my home town, I can buy food from about eight different places; I’m sure this system could be much more ‘efficient’ if Waitrose, M&S and Lidl were forcibly merged into one huge ‘Great Grocery Hall of The People No. 1306’. I am equally confident that after a few initial years of success, the shop would be terrible. […] The missing metric here is semi-random variation. Truly free markets trade efficiency for a costly process of market-tested innovation heavily reliant on dumb luck. The reason this inefficient process is necessary is that, though we pretend otherwise, no one knows anything about anything: most of the achievements of consumer capitalism were never planned; they are explicable only in retrospect, if at all. (XS emphasis.)


October 27, 2015admin 24 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Quote note (#189)

“[C]apitalism in the ribbonfarm sense”:

Capitalism is not an ideology pursued deliberately by some to “defeat” those who live by other ideologies. It is a condition imperfectly closed societies default to in the presence of increasing choice in the environment, usually created either through the actions of outsiders or natural changes.

From a consistently thought-provoking slab of Venkatesh Rao insight porn.

(XS will try its best to get back to it.)

October 7, 2015admin 36 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

35 Today

Shenzhen’s birthday is this Wednesday. I’d have put up a 1980 photo, but there wasn’t anything there.

Shenzhen today:


The Wikipedia profile.

August 26, 2015admin 11 Comments »

Greatness IIb


Are you getting this? (More, and better now you know what’s going on here.)

Background at SpaceX and Wikipedia.

Oh, go on then.

August 20, 2015admin 69 Comments »
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Greatness II

Tim Urban relates the utterly awesome story of the SpaceX boost-phase:

This was a venture few sane investors would touch, and the ability for the company to exist rode largely on Elon Musk’s personal bank account. By the time 2006 rolled around, Musk had decided to revolutionize the automotive industry as a side project, and with $70 million of his PayPal fortune tied up in Tesla, that left about $100 million for SpaceX. Musk said this would be enough for “three or four launches.” SpaceX would have that many tries to prove it was worthy of paying customers. And since the thing paying customers would want is for SpaceX to deliver a payload of theirs into orbit, that’s what SpaceX needed to do — successfully launch something into orbit to show the world that they were for real. […] So the game was simple — launch a payload into orbit in three or possibly four tries, or the company was done. At the time, of the many private companies who had tried to put something into orbit (see the dearth of “operational” companies on this list), only one had ever succeeded (Orbital Sciences).

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August 19, 2015admin 36 Comments »

Quote note (#175)

Joseph Schumpeter, from his (1946) Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Capitalism:

… prediction of whether or not the capitalist order will survive is, in part, a matter of terminology. If it is to be more than that, it depends upon the likelihood of a reversal not only of existing tendencies, but also of an established state of things, and therefore upon the answer to the question where the political forces are to come from that will be able and willing to effect such a reversal.

July 27, 2015admin 30 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Bargain Base

Suddenly, with private space activity re-setting the cost calculus, all kinds of things become realistic:

… a new NASA-commission study has found that we can now afford to set up a permanent base on the moon, by mining for lunar resources and partnering with private companies. […] Returning humans to the moon could cost 90 percent less than expected, bringing estimated costs down from $100 billion to $10 billion. That’s something that NASA could afford on its current deep space human spaceflight budget. […] “A factor of ten reduction in cost changes everything,” said Mark Hopkins, executive committee chair of the National Space Society, in a press release. […] The study, released today, was conducted by the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation — two non-profit organizations that advocate building human settlements beyond Earth — and it was reviewed by an independent team of former NASA executives, astronauts, and space policy experts.

To dramatically reduce costs, NASA would have to take advantage of private and international partnerships — perhaps one of which would be the European Space Agency, whose director recently announced that he wants to build a town on the moon. The new estimates also assume that Boeing and SpaceX, NASA’s commercial crew partners, will be involved and competing for contracts. SpaceX famously spent just $443 million developing its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon crew capsule, where NASA would have spent $4 billion. The authors of the new report are hoping that 89 percent discount will extend beyond low Earth orbit as well.

The most interesting reasons for wanting to do this stuff are politically edgy in the extreme, and if the whole process gets started, no one involved will want to discuss them. The helpful approach is to treat them as unmentionable in advance. Best to concentrate on the techno-economic practicalities, until the lunar neocameral splinter Human extraterrestrial foothold is safely in place.

ADDED: Plus one of these, please.

July 22, 2015admin 25 Comments »