“Let’s kick out those Huguenots !”

Not at first, when they first began trickling into London in 17th century.  Some of them who had been fleeced of their money in France were useful as sedan-chair carriers, others to earn a penny or two every week brushing away horse dung from the streets.  Which some had to do every few minutes, there being so much traffic.  But when hundreds started arriving, being kicked out of France for being Protestants by Louis XIV’s Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) — and then thousands — and settling into ghettos — then the hue and cry went up from Londoners — that is, the ordinary ones, fearing for their jobs.

Until the government, noting how skilful many Huguenots were — taking silk-weaving and clock-making to far higher levels and bringing new skills besides — passed an Act allowing then to stay.  This was useful because 40-odd Huguenots had became very good merchants and, when King William III was broke, needing money to re-equip his army and navy against a French invasion, lent him the money he needed in 1696.  It was a life and death situation all over again for the Huguenots !

They exacted a price, though. They want 8% p.a. and, to make sure of getting it, took over the Lottery, which was the government’s main method of raising money.  The Huguenots also asked for a privilege — to print money to sell or lend to the public — banks in those days being very small and exclusive. When granted, the merchants promptly called themselves the Bank of England, lent the government 1,800,000 gold sovereigns, and then printed £1,800,000 banknotes to lend to the public.  They doubled their money immediately !

From then on, the Bank of England and the UK Treasury Department have been hand in glove.  No matter what they say about the Bank being independent.  Central banks very rarely are.  What’s interesting in this particular period of its history is whether the Bank will survive at all if the world economy is anywhere near a steady-state.  It’s certainly not needed at the present time.

Money is a three-Act play

1. Money was invented by businessmen for their own convenience (and their customers, too);
2. The manufacture of money was taken over by governments for their own profligacy;
3.  When too much money has been manufactured and everybody is dipping his hand into it, then money takes over willy-nilly until, roughly, a steady-state is reached.

And that’s where we are now. Within the reach of human nature — some wanting more money, others wanting to deny it to others — and governments not taking silly decisions — the world economy will look after itself from now onwards. Some people call it recession, or a depression or even a catastrophe.  Doesn’t matter. It’s the world economy repairing itself.

After then, depending on the number and type of innovations that become available, the changing reach of human nature and the availability of energy to keep the system going, the world economy will change to a higher level or a lower level.  It kill be looking after itself despite the tweakings of governments which are supposed to be ameliorative.

The whole thing went wrong when money ceased being a commodity with a value of its own that was convenient to use to balance-up trade, and became a token which governments could inflate for its own purposes and steadily deprive the public of its value from year to year.

One day, when man is intelligent enough, we’ll be back lo a one-Act play.  There’ll always be problems due to human nature but none as long-lasting, or as frequent or serious enough as those we have today.

Have I missed out a Revolution or two (or three, or four)?

The organisers of the latest annual World Economic  Forum who charge you $40,000 a ticket and therefore seem to know what they’re talking about have chosen “The Fourth Revolution” as their theme.

I can only make out three Revolutions.  The First Revolution involved the mass production of food.  The Second Revolution involved the mass production of consumer goods — the status goods that carry around or show off to make others aware of our social standing — as well as the mass services like electricity or sea cruise holidays.

The Third Revolution is little to do with mass prodution but in supplying intensely personal needs which the other two Revolutions either made worse for the most part or neglected altogether.  We are talking of a vast explosion of discoveries centering around the carbon atom generally and human DNA in particular.

It will involve custom-made materials and desiderata far superior to those we use at present, but also educational and health care mehods that precisely suit our children and our individual genes.  And, on top of that, a far better understanding of what human nature is all about. so we’ll hopefully be better in devising happier and more efficient social organisations.

Revolutions are only such in history books.  Massive cultural changes take a century or more at least. We’ll be groping around yet for more than few generations.

Alpha and beta humans

One fact of life that I became convinced about some years ago when writing on the Net is that we humans are  becoming two breeds.  To follow Aldous Huxley, let us call them  alphas and betas. It is certainly occurring in the advanced countries and there’s a touch of it between them and the poorest countries.

The reason why this is happening is that automation is now proceeding at such a pace because it is an increasingly necessary cost-saving factor in a global economy.  This means that there is selection for intelligence going on today as never before by means of young ladies making sure that they select capable, highly-intelligent young man as the potential parent for their children.

There are heaps of evidence that this is occurring in advanced countries.  It’s not a sharp division yet but as cultural-like tends to breed with cultural-like then the separation is bound to grow within a few generations. One piece of evidence is that since David Cameron became prime minister in 2010, more than 400 public libraries have closed down in Britain There were then 96 million books on the nation’s shelves, now there are 82 million.  At such an attrition rate there ‘ll be none in a decades’ time.

But in tomorrow’s world of increasingly dumbed-down jobs for most do half the population need to read? They’ll get by most of the time with a small vocabulary of names they’re familiar with.  As for the increasingly scientifically education elite, they’ll certainly need to be able to read and write.

China’s three modes of slowing down

As expected,  China’s growth last year has slowed down to 7%.  In any other country this would be astonishing.  The three possible causes that stand out to me are:

1.  The world economy has too much on its plate to have any room for the sort of economic growth we had up to the 2008 crisis.  And, besides, there is far too much debt in the world that has yet to be worked off or written off;

2,  China has decided to turn away from a highly exporting country to a more balanced service and welfare economy;

3.  Exports of consumer goods were dying off anyway.  The advanced countries are replete and need only improvements, the new middle-classes of the developing countries are now largely satiated. There’ll be no mass sales there until the ordinary populations are much reduced and have jobs.

Time will tell –10 years, 50 year and 150 years respectively. .

Letting realism into sport

Professional tennis is now implicated in drug taking and corrupt payments.  This has always been a ‘nice’ sprt. Twenty yer ago everybody would have been shocked.  But’s siucch an individual sport and the prizes are so high, its popularity is so great  There probably isn’t a sport remaining which isn’t affected now.

The protestations of innocence that come form the genuine are identical from thos who are guilt. Even detector tests are not reliable.  Supervisory and testing bodies will have to be a lot large than they are now and who can say that all their personnel are not total honest. And even if they;re honest and want to reveal incrimintory results, can thy stand up to senior officials who often want to keep them under wraps uite “for the good of the sport” or the multi-billion sports arena that is just being built.

The situation can only get ‘worse’ — which means beibg realistic about human nature.

Moving to rough equality in fits and starts

There’s a lot confusion as the whether wealth and income is declining or expanding tin this modern world.. n argument wig a friend I instanced our way f way of life — for most if us — in the agricultural era when wee were undernourished, underweight, under-aized peasants and smallholders of the agricultural era who had, by the 1770s or so, exploited every single yard of manually cultivable plot of land on the planet and living almost exclusively on a carbohydrate diet. This was good for energy but not for healthy immune systems. Even in early industrial times, 1914, with a newly augmented diet, only one quarter of the British male population were fit go army service

From fossil evidence, agricultural man was nowhere near as tall, well muscled and boned as modern man — that is the 20% elite of modern man , nor of his predecessors, hunter-gatherer man.

I think you ought to clarify your position regarding inequality of wealth. Due to he spread of information, both wealth and income differentials have been declining for thousands of years, the former always with lags, sometimes quite long ones. But there are always anomalies being thrown into the mix — innovations, government privileges, weird monetary experiments, war episodes — which perturbations take time to settle down again.

When all is said and dine, however, it isn’t egalitarianism at the end of the line because we are instinctively hieirarchical and will always exist in pecking orders, though hopefully more dependent on mutual respect and appreciation of skills than many of the ridiculous procedures that are used today,

 

Half of English women have experienced mental problems

Half of English women in middle-aged life  have experienced mental illness at some earlier time in their lives.  This is according to the National Health Service in England, (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has separate state health services.)  This surprised me even though  I knew anecdotally that something like 6% of those attending a GP’s clinic every morning don’t have any physiological problems at all – but fall into a social, pychological, emotional, depressive bag)

According to the Survey the most common diagnoses are as follows —

1, — 19% diagnosed —  various foms of depression including pos-natal depression;
2, — 8% panic attacks;
3. — 5% generalised anxiety disorder;
4. — 3% nervous breakdown,
5. — 2% post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s not all one-sided, of course, 49% of men have diagnosed mental problems — though men tend to hide their problems.

We are supposed to be living in an era of great anxiety but how much this compares with other eras is impossible to day.  Maybe we’ll be able to get some general ideas from fossil bones and other camp site evidence.  But it may not be possible and it may not be important or interesting.  Suffice it to say that angst is forever with us and something we’ll always have to accommodate to.

Personal Interlude

I hadn’t written a post yesterday becaue I was a little shakey after taking some sleeping pills (Lorezepam) the night before,  prescribed by my doctor some months ago as an occasional back-up.  Wary of ever beccming addicted, last hight was first time I ried them.  It was actually my second sleepness night on the trot. After taking them, it was a surprise that although all sorts of spooky tingling were going on in my body, it took more than another three hours before I felt sleepy. Thus when  I woke up early his morning I’d only had three or four hours of sleep altogther — not the seven or eight that the instruction sheet promised me !  What’s more I haven’t felt sleepy furing the day.

But today has had to be a write-off for normal thinking and writing because I found that when I wrote a few simple e-mails to friends I found I couldn’t spell the simplest words and grammar was also shot.  I had to go over sentences three or four times to get them right. At the tail-end of he day, 11.50pm, this seems to have gone now.

It’s also opportune to mention that because I have advanced emphysema and can scarcely walk from my daytime sofa plus working library to my night-time recliner-chair  I am due to depart at any time — heart attack, or pneumonnia or ‘flu.  Atanu Dey, after cconfirming with my better half or my daughterr, has kindly agree to write to this bloglist to confirm the situation.

I’ve also asked Atanu to copy my Theory of Post-Industrial Economics to his farewell post.  Now this theory, simple, or even banal though it may seem to some readers, particularly professional economists, is actually my life’s work, if that doesn’t sound too pompous — an addiction which has threaded in and out of all the other things I’ve attempted.  My theory gathers together deep concerns about human nature and society that has troubled me since adolescence, together with mid-life puzzlement about politics and economics and then forcing them together with what are only very recent discoveries in evolutionary genetics mainly as a result of the many shocks emanating from the first draft elucidation of the human genome project (HGP) in 2003.

Economists can no longer say rhat it can never be a science because of the complexities and vagaries of human nature.  Evolutionary genetics has now shown us  since 1953 that even these can be related to an considerable exent by the coding of genes and, since 2003, to the further coding of epigenes in the overall genome.

Furthermore, because everything that a human being does by way of thinking, deciding and acting, has an effect on the outside mecanical world then economics is doubly into the science of thermoynamics, This means that so lomg as man is able to inject additional energy to that which the sun normally radiates onto the living enviironment then his world-wide economy will become of a fixed overall actvity just as the natural envornmentt is.

Becaise my theory is a scientific then it will the first true theory of economics ever. It will be testable before being overtaken by a better one. It’s first test is that if Janet Yellen of of the Fed (America’s central bank) succeeds in raising the economic growth of America above its lamentable state then my theory will fail.  My theory will be correct if the present world economic impasse continues wll beyond all previous recessions since the dawn of the individual revolution. If we time our present recession form 2008 then the key year to note is 2034.*  If the world is growing economically in 2035 then my theory will have been proved wrong.
(*The longest previus economic depression was that between 1963 and 1896 in England.)

China’s middle-aged spread

The world today faces a toxic cocktail of three ingredients  according to Jeremy Warner writing in the Daily Telegraph. They are low oil prices, rising US interest rates and China’s travails.  His argument on the first point is that the cheaper price of oil will cause the price of dollar to rise and this, in view of huge dollar debts that the Third World countries already have, will sink them further.  On the second point, I don’t think that US interest rates will rise any further than the recent 0.25% rise.  It will cause sufficient trouble within the American economy.   It will have to be brought down again.

On  China’s problems I’ve been changing my mind over the past few months.  Although I think that China will dig its way out of its present financial mess in the next couple of years it still has the larger problem of some 500 to 600 thousand extremely poor rural Chinese that it hasn’t yet been able to help.  The provincial governments have built anything up to an estimated 50 ‘ghost cities’ waiting for occupation by hoped-for expanding industries in the coastal provinces. However, the decrease in the annual growth in Chinese exports in the last two years suggests that China may already be getting stuck at is present economic level — something that economist Barry Eichengreen suggested some years ago.

Adjusting to an automated economy

An article on Tecrepublic website by Conner Forrest tells us of an ‘unmanned’ factory in Dongguan City, Guangdong which produces parts for cell phones.  Before the production line was automated the factory had employed 650 people, now there are only 60.  The 60 will be comprised mainly of low-skill loaders and un-loaders — still the spatial sorts of jobs that computers can’t do! — but also, more importantly, of high-skill engineers, to deal with breakdowns and software engineers to deal with changes of parts specifications that will inevitably occur from time to time.

The advancing tide of automation cannot be stopped because competition between forms to produce items at cheaper costs is constant.  But what about the surplus 590 workers?  Many economists have tried to brush this type of problem aside by saying that these can be found jobs in new industries.  But this implies an ever-growing world economy !

The longer-term answer can only be very much better standards of education so that the high-skill jobs that will always remain in an automated economy can be shared. Working weeks can also be seriously reduced. Low-skill jobs will also remain, but there will always be genetically low-skill people even in a high standard educational environment. Also, if a firm is successful enough it might also employ low-skill workers in environmental work in order t make the firm a more interesting place to be in order to attract the best of the high-skill workers it needs.

Terrorist attacks are the least of our problems

It is already the case that the 300 million of people in northern Europe are experiencing population movements from some of the 400 million people of the Middle East and the 1,100 million people of Africa.  While the population of the northern European countries is liable to decline to 200 million by the year 2100, the Middle East will expand to 680 million people (a 72% rise) and Africa will expand to 4,950 (a 350% rise)  [The figures are derived from a report from the Royal Bank of Canada, based on population projections of the United Nations.]

While it is true that migrants mainly come from the war-torn countries of the two blocs, how many more wars are there going to be in the coming years?  Migration pressure will remain enormous and continuous from now onwards unless the lesson (unfortunately brutal) of “No more” is rammed home as soon as possible. This has almost been achieved on the land borders but the EU has still not had the courage to institute blockades on the Mediterranean sea coasts from which boats set out.  It is only then that the thousand-mile supply chains of migrants will slow down and then cease.

Government politicians are sensitive to terrorist attacks by Isis and so forth, but the majority of ordinary folk in ordinary jobs in Europe are far more worried about immigrants taking their jobs away from them. It is this fear that has eclipsed what would be their normal instinct to help the immigrants who would like to come here.

Theory of post-industrial economics — Revision 5

Keith Hudson

[For those interested in the theory the latest revision is that of re-writing the section, Principle of Least Effort. Though shorter than other sections, this is the main component of the theory.]  

Summary

The world economic system is only capable of running efficiently at one activity level depending on the size of energy inputs no matter what political leaders want or their economic advisors suggest by way if strategies for desired economic growth. Whether the ultimate world economic activity will be significantly lower or higher than today’s level is impossible to say until we have clues as to how the present global impasse (January 2016) plays out in the coming years.

Contents

Introduction
Hierarchical structure of society
Principle of Least Effort
The accident of the Industrial Revolution
The motivation for consumer goods
Conclusion

Introduction

Beyond — or possibly beneath — man’s instincts for feeding, sexual activity and membership of a social group is his propensity for novel perceptions.  A constant variety is what keeps his brain active.  Without it, the less curious person falls asleep, while the more curious person falls into a meditative mode.  As to distribution, it is severely asymmetrical — a bell curve raked towards the less curious end of the spectrum but with a long tail towards the rarer more curious end. The rarer individuals are those who are more socially ambitious — within their own kind — and may be comprised of adventurers, sports people, artists, business entrepreneurs or scientists — the last formerly known as philosophers.

Hierarchical structure of society

The asymmetry is revealed in the hierarchical structure of all societies ranging from small groups through to major nation-states or large multinational corporations. some early anthropologists of a more romantic left-wing persuasion a century ago thought they had observed some egalitarian groups but on more extensive familiarisation, or when in emergencies, or when observed by later anthropologists such turned out to be hierarchical.

The difference between seemingly egalitarian groups and very competitive ones is only one of cultural style.  The culture is usually the product of many generations and is probably — when more is known about the new scientific subject of epigenetics — built up of emotive balances of behaviours taking time to be inherited more widely in a society.  Thus it is possible for two independent societies living in similar circumstance and with similar skills and mental conceptions to have very different cultures — but hierarchical withall,

In early man, an individual male had no choice but to remain in the society in which he was born whatever his skills or inclinations.  Many a genius would have had an innovative idea which was not taken up by the others of his group and thus died with him. This accounts for the immensely long periods, sometimes of tens of thousands of years, between innovations, or even what seem to us to be modest improvements to existing innovations.

Man, as a social species, is ‘patrilocal’ in that it is the young females who travel out of her parental group to find a marital partner in order to avoid genetic in-breeding and thus the acquisition of serious mental and physical handicaps in the group. She will tend to choose a male in a similar culture and of a similar class within it, but given a chance to choose a male of higher social level will do so in order to maximise security for her children. This instinct is called sexual selection in distinction to, and additional to, general selection of the fittest. The upwards choice of the females tends to leave inept or handicapped males behind who tend to father no children and thus deleterious genes become extinguish when they die. This is our form of quality control.

But in today’s post-industrial society, males, born with different genetic proclivities and living in a world bathed in a vast variety of information, will also be adventurous. Every male, from puberty onwards, depending on his particular talents will tend to seek groups of like-minded males and females. Whereas philosophers in older times would frequently walk for days , perhaps for a few hundred miles to be with other philosophers he may have heard about, today, increasingly, young people will travel from one end of the earth to the other to join a particular group.

This usually takes place between the age of puberty and adulthood at around the age of 30 in males, and 25 in females.  This is when the skills acquired in the rear lobes of the brain are developed further in the frontal lobes of the brain. Most individuals have usually found the sort of group they prefer to identify with — if the group accepts him or her, of course! — and most ambitions have largely been played out.  In the case of exceptionally creative individuals then ideas are nowhere near as productive as those before the age of 30.

The groups chosen by individuals vary both in skilfulness and in cultural style.  Groups with exactly the same objectives will still be hierarchical but might vary between those which are easy going and where the gradations in social order are thin and the signs hardly noticeable to the other extreme in which all the members of the group are fiercely competitive — and makes sure that everybody knows it!  Thus we can have groups in which there are only subtle signs of social ranking — the choice of a suitable word in conversation perhaps — or highly ostentatious ones — such as commissioning a luxury yacht that is just a few inches longer that a rival’s yacht! But note, however, that such rivals will be members of their own group. If necessary, when faced with a common challenge, they will act as one.

Principle of Least Effort

Our economic system, being a physical system, is subject to all the known laws of physics in that, at any given level of energy inputs to keep the system going, it seeks to shed as much energy as possible. The Principle of Least Effort has been suspected by philosophers of the 16th and 17th centuries, took shape in the laws of thermodynamics mainly by Josiah Willard Gibbs in the 19th century and dramatically demonstrated in Richard Feynman’s quantum elecrodynamics where he showed that sub-atomic systems, which have an infinite modes of proceeding, always choose the modes required the least energy. Because all larger physical systems are summations of what goes on sub-atomically then even a system as large and complex as the world economy is subject to the same principle.

The same applies in all systems where there are, apparently, different modes of proceeding. Unlike those researchers and thinkers involved in the sciences who don’t seek to ignore the principle of least effort — because its inviolable —  economists since John Maynard Keynes’ time have become trapped into thinking that the ultimate size of the world’s economic system can be influenced by governmental decisions. But this cannot be just because there is wide-scale human demand for a larger economy.

Some ‘growth-economists’ are aware that economic growth cannot go on forever on a finite earth but, nevertheless, assume that the world economic system can expand a great deal yet. The fact is, we simply don’t know.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, the fact that about a dozen advanced countries have arrived at a high level of economic development — as we presently define it — and that about half-a-dozen more might do so it is possible that the majority of countries in the world may not be able to proceed much, if any, further than they are today.

The accident of the Industrial Revolution

No economic historian can give an adequate answer to how the industrial Revolution (IR) actually got started with cotton spinning in Manchester at around 1780 and grew explosively in England in the early 19th century.  By imitation, this was followed almost as explosively by France, Belgium and Germany in northern Europe in the mid-19th century, shortly followed by America.

The reason why IR began in Manchester and nowhere else where they were importing raw cotton (for example, Bristol, London and other ports in Europe) and exactly when it did is difficult to describe because there was a temporary confluence of many different factors which need to be given their relative balance.  All the following seem to be crucially important — but there are probably more I’ve left out.  :

1. A surging population of redundant people in the countryside in the latter half of the 18th century able to fill as many factories as could be built in Manchester and nearby; 2. the availability of a domestic middle-class market for cotton clothes (the woollen, silk and linen interests having persuaded the government to put a high tariff on the import of coloured cotton cloth from India in 1700);

3. the suitability for growing cotton in plantations in southern America and the West Indies  and the availability of millions of slaves from Africa to do the work; 4. the availability of many water mills (to drive factory belts) in northern England (to be followed quickly by early steam engines, already being developed in the coal mines);

5. the availability of  many country banks (not available in other northern European countries due to war-torn history) and the proximity of Scottish banks who advised English bankers to widen their depositor-base; 6. a veritable stream of Scottish inventors (trained scientifically in four Scottish universities) coming south to a more prosperous England.  (At the time, England only had two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, and they were little more theological seminaries little science;

7. the availability of a large and powerful navy (the largest in the world already after recently fighting the French) used to protect foreign markets from other countries’ exports; 8. the availability of large numbers of village-based weavers in the region able to take up increasing quantities of cotton thread from the northern factories (before weaving factories started to be built in the 1830 and ’40s);

The above will do. Accidents continued to be useful in making sure that the IR explosion could be continued.   There were other lucky accidents of access to coal and iron ore from which the railways could be launched and steel ships later in the century.  Railways meant that the coal industry could be vastly extended for export sales. By mid-19th century science started increasingly with the development of electricity and the telephone.

England was ready for industrialisation in the late 18th century but not necessarily in the exponential way it actually happened. There were sufficient numbers of blacksmiths, engineers and carpenters in all the towns and the larger villages of England to have got the ball rolling — albeit at a much slower pace. But once the SR kicked in during the latter half of the 19th century we’d probably have developed all the consumer goods that we have now. And so would several other countries which, today, are economically advanced.  A larger and more even industrial dispersion might well have meant that, financially, the City of London wouldn’t have attained the almost complete monopoly over international finance that it did by the late 19th century.

The motivation for consumer goods

For the first three decades what drove the industrial revolution initially ever faster were (a) the available open markets at home nd abroad and (b) hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the countryside with no other livelihood except the factories.  But cotton spinning was mainly for women and children and they could be exploited for six days a week labour for 12 to 15 hours a day. Yes, they had relatively modern brick-built and slated houses, heating was cheap and they could afford minimum food and clothes but the main motivation was simply survival.

By the 1830s. moves were afoot by Liberal-minded aristocrats and land-owners in the House of Commons and fears of Conservative-minded MPs that they might be smothered in their beds by rioting crowds and a revolutionary situation developing here — as were occurring all over Europe — plus the colossal profits being made by cotton spinning — life began to ease slightly all round. Workers had a little more money to spend. A second set of clothing for Sunday best, and a few pennies every week for the new Monitor Schools (also known as Victorian Schools) could be afforded plus the odd trinket that served as housewives’ first status good, such as a Wedgewood pot.

Status goods and services could only be affordable by the aristocrats and rich.  As far as goods were concerned they could, one by one, be substituted by mass produced equivalents, successively becoming cheaper and reaching lower social levels as production runs became larger. By the mid-19th century, the new middle-class could start to afford domestic servants.  All this meant that most people could aspire to go upwards socially and did so.  This would have been absolutely impossible in the previous agricultural era.

The modern status goods in advanced countries are pretty well fully comprised by a house, car, home furnishings, utility services, entertainment, personal ornaments, hobby activities and travel.  These are all public manifestations of what a person considers his social status to be. There don’t seem to be any more goods or utility services that aristocrats and the rich typically possess — albeit of higher-priced brands — that the average wage- or salary-earner doesn’t possess. Furthermore, the typical aristocrat and the very rich have as busy a working week as the average person.

What puts the tin hat on it, however, is that the large consumer goods manufacturers have no more consumer goods on their drawing boards.  There’s a lot of talk of domestic robots but then there has been for 50 years past/ It would be very surprising if they’ll  yet be found in the home or tending the garden in 50 years’ time.

What will drive the consumer in future years and take up an increasing amount of his income is medical and educational services — existential rather than status. Demand is such already that their price is rising steeply.  As industrial automation continues to make consumer goods and utility services more cheaply,  post-industrial services will become more expensive for two reasons.  The first is that increasingly high-level training for professional providers is necessary. The second is that higher-level services increasingly tend towards one-to-one situations for best results in both training and in delivery to customers.

Although the daily energy required by an advanced  professional doesn’t compare with that of a machine-tool making goods, the many years of training necessarily means that matters of investment are problematical.  Parents will pay as much as possible for the education and health of their children and themselves.  But who will pay for basic scientific research?  Industries can’t afford to do so — only relatively trivial product development — and, with declining profit margins due to increasingly fierce global competition. the cost of funding research can only be left to governments, which already carry out a great deal in the advanced countries.

Conclusion
Advanced governments will therefore have to become increasingly efficient in order to afford funding for basic scientific research, the sine qua non of tomorrow’s world. This will mean shedding many functions that they now carry out == which will become all the more intentional as the Principle of Least Effort finally starts seeping into the consciousness of government politicians (hopefully more scientifically educated in future years). Apart from territorial security and basic scientific research, advanced governments will be wanting to leave alone anything that impinges on the economy and leave it to business.

What is also implied with this is that government that don’t fund scientific research are not going to do well at whatever optimal level the world economy settles towards in due course. The relationship between the dozen or so advanced nation-state and the 190 undeveloped countries will remain much the same as they have been since about the 1930s.  Their standard of living will remain relatively low until they reduced their populations enormously unless a few of them can discover a niche in which advanced scientific research is not yet carried out and high-value innovations traded with advanced countries.

This is not to say that all those countries that presently call themselves advanced will necessarily remain so.  It’s up to each of them as how much it can dispense with non-governmental activities and devote more taxation towards scientific funding.  Whether  world economic activity, when Least Effort, will be significantly lower or higher than today’s level is impossible to say.

Human breeding starts here today

The beginning of what will be seen to be the human breeding programme will be starting in London today.  The new methods of gene-editing now allows the genes of lab-fertilized eggs to be improved when necessary.  The first stage will be to remove subpar genes which would otherwise give rise to handicaps and diseases, and replace them with standard ones.

To get to the first stage, however, will require a great deal of research involving many fertilized leftovers from IVF clinics that would not otherwise — for different reasons — have developed into viable embryos.  These will involve zygotes.  These are fertilized eggs up to a few days old which have divided into about 200 cells in which their DNA is still pluripotent (‘general purpose’).  The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) are meeting today and will be giving their go-ahead — probably.

China carried out similar experiments last year but there was an outcry from scientists all round the world that not enough consideration had been given to them beforehand.  By virtue of a more experienced approach over many years, scientists and governments in many countries will accept the HFEA’s decision today  as their go-ahead also.

Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi going mad?

Is the latest terrorist attack — a series of explosions in Jakarta, Indonesia — a sign that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi going mad?  There’s been no indication yet that this has been an Isis project but it’s highly likely to have been.  Al-Baghdadi didn’t become the leader of Isis because he’d written a PhD on the battles of Sunniism as it expanded out of Arabia in the 7th century.  He was himself a very successful leader of small terrorist groups within Al Qaeda before breaking away.

His forte was, apparently, surprise — the ability to carry out an unexpected attack in entirely unorthodox ways. And to carry them out with great speed. His original attack on Mosul, a sizeable city, with only 300 jihadists was an example. He was able to repeat the same tactics time and again.  But most of his gains in Syria have now been bombed out. Al-Baghdadi himself got out and is now in Libya. He’s now repeating his unexpected scatter shots.

But unlike Taliban in Afghanistan he hasn’t established real territory to rule over — something every authentic Caliph should have.  By and large, al-Baghdadi has failed.  He’s losing his judgement. “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first makes mad.”

What Philistine governments should be doing

In my penultimate post I suggested that the standard of living of countries in the future will depend very much on its relative facility of innovation compared with other countries. In turn, this depends on governments giving as much priority as it can afford to scientific research.

At present, several advanced governments fund many university faculties which are nothing to do with preparing young people for life and fall into the category of being scholarly for scholarship’s sake  — philosophy, literature, etc.  There is nothing wrong with this and, besides, there are many borderline subjects as well as some which are established as leisure pursuits but have economic implications later.

But governments should not be funding these.  Let individuals and private foundations support them such university faculties. If any of them mean anything at all they’ll not suffer from lack of funds.

The following is part of an Abstract of a dissertation whose author was rewarded with a PhD == altogether this has involved many thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.  .

“This PhD thesis investigates the cultural implications of cis-women performing female drag, with particular focus in cis-female drag queens (aka faux queens) who are straight-identified. The research has been completed as creative production and exegesis, and both products address the central research question. . . ”

If the author of the above ever came across my comments then I would no doubt be instantly labelled as a Philistine.  But then, labelling is something that the post-modernist pseudo-intellectual generation so easily fall into the habit of.  An increasing number of the real intellectuals of the modern generation are increasingly branching into science during adolescence as recent university applications show.

Getting a grip on chief executives

In an argument of on Radio Five Live the other day debating the astronomical salaries and bonuses that Chief executives are given these days by large firms, Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South who sits on the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee was saying that something must be done to give shareholders of a firm a much better say.
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Ben Southwood, an economist at the Adam Smith Institute, said that these payments are perfectly acceptable. After all, shareholders are free to sell their shares in such a firm — which he calls a “bad” firm — and buys shares in what he considers to be a “good” firm — where they don ‘t pay high salaries and bonuses.  Shareholders choose remuneration committees and they wouldn’t choose one which allowed excessive payments.

But Ben Southwood’s argument is invalid because by far the most shareholders these days are not individuals but large institutions, such as pension funds, hedge funds and insurance funds. They will be fully aware that salaries and bonuses to the top executive layers of a firm are often outrageous, but as they themselves are also involved in the various rings of remuneration committees then they’re very happy for the custom to continue.

The point about shareholders selling shares in a “bad” firm in order to buy shares in a “good” firm is a red herring.  The large institutions will be doing this anyway. The excessive payments that may be paid to top executives — even in the good firm they may be buying into — are chicken feed compared with the profits that the good firm is making.

Chris Pilp’s argument, although on the side of the angels, is totally impractical for much the same reason as the shareholding structure mentioned above.  Individual shareholders are heavily outnumbered by institutional shareholders and only very rarely make their voices heard, never mind being able to successfully vote that way.

High priority for future governments

Nothing is more certain than death and taxation, so the saying goes.  If that’s the case, then there is nothing more certain than businesses will try to avoid (legally) or evade (illegally) taxation.  This means that governments will be competing against one another in offering lower corporate taxes. and, in turn, this means that governments will have to become more efficicnt, and probably a great deal smaller in personnel terms if not in functional terms, in the coming years.

What will also attract sizeable businesses to one country or another are the educational quality of their people and the state of their research facilities from which innovations — and ultimate prosperity — flows.  Businesses themselves rarely produce innovations because their own research and development invariably become channelled along the lines of its existing products. A large business can create thousands of patents every year but they’re usually little more than improvements in making existing goods.

Half-a-dozen or so advanced governments already fund a great deal of the scientific research that goes on in their countries.  Between them, the three countries that win almost all the Nobel prizes in science subjects — England, Germany and America (in order of prizes per unit population) — probably cover all the known experimental branches of science (and new branches that bud from them) so it’s difficult to know just how can most countries of the world can break into high value innovations.

The existing share of world trade by about a dozen countries are likely to remain much the same as now but even in their case it will depend on just how much their governments give scientific research top propriety second only to security.

To lighten my morning

A couple of items from ScienceDaily lightened my morning after thinking gloomily whether the world economy is heading for a crash or not.

1. I’ll not say a bad word again about women who spend vast sums at health farms and have mud baths.  There may be something in it after all !  Some clays have two key ingredients that give them anti-bacterial properties.  In particular, blue and green clays — the sort that, otherwise, damp-proof bricks are made of.  The team that discovered their ability to kill pathogenic bacteria at Arizona State University, led by Lynda Williams, are now actively exploring whether extracts from these clays can be used against those killer bacteria which have acquired immunity from the whole range of antibiotics that doctors have been using but are now beoming ineffective.

2.  The coffee berry borer insect (Hypothenemus hampei) which lays waste whole plantations of coffee absorbs enough caffeine from the leaves it chews that would kill a human exprsson drinker !  How does it acheive this?  It — by itself — doesn’t. But it is host to a variety of friendly bacteria that love the stimulant. The leader of the research team, Javier Ceja, has now identified 13 species of bacteria in the digestive tract of the insect.

All this will help towards fidning a solution to the berry borer and the research has now been taken up by Berkeley National Laboratory.  This will be good news to coffee drinkers.  It’s also a reminder that, quite besides Hypothenemus hampei,  Homo sapiens couldn’t survive without friendly bacteria in our digestive system also.  In fact, we have well over 1,000 different species, not only dealing with some poisons in our food but also making vitamins and also — recently discovered — some vital molecules that our brains need in order to develop properly.

Effective territorial walls

Gideon Rachman — an economic journalist for whom I have a great respect — is writing in the Financial Times that “Population pressures in Africa and the Middle East will drive immigration far into the future. ” This is very much the view of historians.  And they’re absolutely right.  Some migrations in the past have been unstoppable.  But those that weren’t successful and were not recorded, historians never hear about.

I’ve been collecting cuttings on migration written or said by people with similar views to Rachman for some years.  I’ve come to the view that migrations are eminently stoppable.  What’s interesting about the African migrants in the past two or three years is that almost all of them come from countries in which there is active warfare — or, sometimes, forced conscription of young men.  Only a small percentage of migrants come from peaceful countries even though their standard of living may be quite as low.  Cultural attachment is very strong.

Walls and razor-wire fences effectively keep out the bulk of any masses.  A few may get through if there are not enough guards or inadequate technology.  The Chinese and the Romans built walls that were practicable for hundreds of years at a time, and the Israel wall around the West Bank has been effective against terrorists for the past 20 years. The Israel-Gaza and Egypt-Gaza walls are also effective.

Is the world economy about to crash?

Who knows !  Of those who think about finance and economics a lot, one half think that an economic crash is due.  The other half, such as Janet Yellen of the Fed thinks that it is now on the up-and-up or else she would’t have raised the Fed rate by 0.25%.

On this side of the Atlantic, Mark Carney of he Bank of England is plainly more nervous because he hasn’t raised the BoE rate despite talking about it for the past two years.  Up in Scotland, the credit chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland,  Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, has said that the world’s debts — governmental and private — First World and Third World — are all too high. He’s advising clients to brace themselves for a “cataclysmic year” and to sell their income-producing assets and get into cash because if there’s a deflation of the sort he thinks is coming then cash (or slightly better, government bonds) will actually increase in value.

The whole situation is so complex that ample evidence for both points of view can be found.  And it won’t be about the numbers of those buying or selling shares or properties — largely equal at present. It will be purely emotional.  It will be a feeling in the air — but in the air everywhere — in the present case in Shanghai as well as in London and New York — that the time has come to sell.

I hope there’ll be a crash, and pretty soon, too.  As all the adverse indicators are more adverse than at the time of the 2008 Crash then it will be a more severe crash.  Greenspan certainly thinks it will be.  This will be the only way that monetary reform will be carried out so that a new currency will be beyond the manipulations of any government.

The super-eruption of the immigration problem in Germany

On the morning of 1 January the Cologne police department’s press department released a statement under the heading: “Festive Atmosphere — Celebrations Largely Peaceful.”  It now turns out that that it was very unruly and that many women had been assaulted.  The police not only covered up this but also that similar attacks had been going on art several big city railway stations in Germany — that is, where New Year celebrations are usually held. Assailants of North African or Middle Eastern appearance have been implicated by the women concerned.

It now turns out that this was a ‘special’ version of what had been going on anyway in front of all large railways stations in German, not just on New Years’ Day, but any date of the week.  There have been a disproportionate number of street crimes there for the past two or three years. And the police have been covering them up.

The publication of police statistics is a crime in Germany and this is why, until the past week in Germany, no glimmer of these events — apparently involving immigrants, legal or illegal — has been appearing in German newspapers. Der Speigel has now given the whole story for the first time.  This has now become such a huge controversy in Germany — far beyond what extreme right-wingers have been able to elicit — that Der Speigel’s ‘crime’ cannot possibly be prosecuted now.

The future of any more immigration into Germany, and the future of Angela Merkel as Chancellor, are now problematical.

The return of manufacturing to First World countries

The orthodox view of the future of the half dozen First World nations is that they will become mainly service economies and, as far as employment goes, leave manifacturing as far behind as agriculture has been — using only about 2% of he population.  This at least is the picture for. let us say, the next 50 years anyway.

Considering that automation can be applied to any job — in goods or services — mental or physical — that is of a routtine nature then there is no reason why automation could not be brought in very quickly.  It depends on the costs of labour.  ##when it sgarts rising significaintly — as it is beginning to do in  China already — then manufacturing work can either be returned to First world countries with muh higher ,levels of automation or the work can be handed downwards to countries with much lower labour costs.  his is what is gtening o happen and, so long as successive relocation costs are not too high, this is where most manufacturing jobs will go.

Bur manufacutirng can also return to First world countries once more carbon-based marterials come into existing. Carbon composites have already replaced metals in making aeroplane bodies and parts, but this is farily elementary stuff.  Much more sophisticated carbon=based materials with far better specifications than present materials will be possible before too long using synthetic DNA. The big advantage of this mode of production is that both syntheitc DNA and the synthetic protein materials it prodyces will be fully recyclable.  There will be no waste, unlike today.

This carbon-based method of manufacturing will not only be developed in F irst world countries but itt will become locked in there also.  The intellectual challenges of making an almost infinite repertoire of new materials and the number of specialised jobs it will engender means that First world countries need ever have unemployment again.  Nothing would be gained and agreat deal would be lost if this new technology were allowed to migrate to other countries.  Besides, those who work in it would have to have a high level of education which Second and Third World countries would not be able to afford.

Fleming warned us first

I’ve mentioned in previous posts the great danger many of us will be in in future years because all the serious diseases caused by bacteria will have become inured to all the antibiotics that have so far been developed as ‘cousins’ to the original penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. In the following extract from his speech given when he received the Nobel prize in 1944, he was fully aware of the possible dangers kin using this wonder drug.

Enough notice was taken Fleming’s warning that penicillin and its later antibiotic derivatives were never available over the counter but were only issued on prescription.  Nevertheless, they have been vastly over-prescribed — mainly due to pressure from patients — and thus underused, leaving some bacteria time to mutate resistance.

“The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops.  Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and, by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.  Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr X has a sore throat.  He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin.  He hen infects his wife.  Mrs X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin.  As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails.  Mrs K dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs X’s death.”

“Biggest ever doping scandal”

. . . so says my paper this morning. In dramatic parsing we are told that dark secrets lie in the Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdique, Barcel and that Madrid’s Provincial Curt will flush them out sometime this month.  The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) and the International Cycling Union (UCI) — two of the bodies that ought to be welcoming objective evidence — are pleading that the data remain in the archives, part of a special anti-doping probe, Operación Puerto.

In a world of rich prizes for sport only the stupid — which WADA and UCI must think the rest of us are — can believe that doping can ever be extinguished.  In the professional sports –especially in the individual-performance sports — results will be twisted.  In the amateur sports where there are high cash prizes, then let them become professional.  And, above all, if sports people want to compromise their health by taking drugs, let them do so and we can decide for ourselves who we want to watch.

We ought to be backing Iran

There are many paradoxes in history, particularly when two counterpoised cultures slide in opposite directions.  None more so than Sunniism and Shiaism within the Muslim faith where dominance between them has switched over three times.  The first occurred before Muhammed was born actually — that is, before Islam existed,

At around 10,000 BC when the last Ice Age started to recede, global temperatures — and thus rainfall — rose, and the grain growing crescent of the Middle East came into existence, the Arabian hunter-gatherer tribes of the flatlands of eastern Arabia, adjacent to the farmers of Iraq, became farmers. These later became Shias whereas the tribes in mountainous Arabia, later Sunnis, remained fierce hunter-gatherers for the time being.

Of the two, it was the Shias who were more technically advanced having to become, in modern-day terms, extremely scientific in the way they crossed the various wild cereal strains in order to maximise wheat production and also — very importantly — to breed-out the propensity of wild wheat to disperse their seeds explosively before they could be easily harvested.  Originally, the farmers would have had to pick up the grain from the ground rather than harvesting the ripe seed with a sickle.

It was among the hunter-gatherers, the Bedouins, of the mountainous deserts of Arabia that Mohammed founded Islam. And, around 700AD it was the Sunnis which sprang forth out of Arabia to proselytize all the countries around. Resisted by the existing farmers, they leap-frogged over eastern Arabia and embedded Sunniism in all of them except in Iran where they were already part of an advanced Persian civilization and had already been converted to the more peaceful state of Persia –now Iran — the Shias, much more technically advanced than the Sunnis all around them.

By 1300AD, the Person empire was played out and the Ottoman Empire took over.  Ironically the Sunnis revived at that stage and invaded an even further ring of countries, leap-frogging what is now Iran and Turkey in the process — to Spain in the West and India, central Asia and China in the East. Now gathering know-how from all different  countries they controlled, they more than regained technical dominance over the population of Shias in Iran.

But then Sunniism retreated in Spain, was absorbed by the more powerful Han culture in China, and the Moghuls of India were manipulated out of their control by the East India Company in the 17th century.  After this shrinkage, the technical baton was handed back to the Shias of Iran.

And that, after the third switch, is where we are today.  Saudi Arabia has a limited amount of technical and scientific competence but it’s mainly geared to oil extraction. It has only just started to expand the curriculum of its schools towards science teaching (though not evolution yet) and away from a mainly religious one.  Almost all its young people are on welfare.  Most of the jobs in Saudi Arabia are done by people from other countries.

In contrast, Iran has large numbers of well-educated young people — they frustrated by the religious government,  It is a moot point whether the mullahs will have to be overthrown by revolution or whether they will become Westernized peacefully.  There are signs that they are shifting towards modernity.

The general public in the Middle East are desperate to get the mullahs and the fanatics like Al Qaeda and Isis off their backs and to have a chance of a Western way of life.  America and this country, in being more friendly at present to a nasty and backward country, Saudi Arabia, had really start backing Iran.  I think it’s probable that the US State Department are actually doing this sotto voce.  But unless we start withdrawing favours from Saudi Arabia very soon then goodness knows what the 30 years-old Crown Prince Salman will think of next to provoke Iran.

Is America a broken economy?

In twenty years of reading Irwin Stelzer I have never yet read a column of his in the Sunday Times where he extensively quotes adverse comments about the American economy, never mind making any of his own.  Today, his piece is full of the former — so full that there’s no space for his own frank comments — if he can ever gird himself to make them. But he does go far enough to say that, adding up all the pluses and minuses he’s come across, it looks like a 70% negative balance — more or less confirming what several Republican candidates said in their last televised debate — that America is a “brocken economy”.

I don’t think America is a broken economy at all. It is an advanced case of what happens to an advanced country when it leaves manufacturing industry too far behind it.  In this regard, America is now following this country.  Correction though — manufacturing industry will come back with a whoosh to America, this country, and two or three advanced north European countries, once the software has been perfected for the final push of robotic manufacturing. That is, when the most skilful tactile and visual skills can be exactly simulated by automation.

It is then that China’s economy will burst like a balloon, unless — and this is a very big unless — it has also been able to to get into a sufficient number of areas of advanced scientific research where it will be able to develop is own innovative products rather than to copy ours.  We don’t know yet whether its 2,500 year-old Confucian authoritarianism — that is, its Communist Party in modern times — will ever relax enough to allow it to become creative enough.

The big myth about China’s hang-up

The big myth is that China has got itself into trouble financially and doesn’t know what to do about it.  To an extent this may be true — they’re beginners at getting themselves into trouble whereas we in the West have done it three times already — 1873, 1929, 2008. We must give the Chinese a bit of learning time.

What’s entirely overlooked is that the rot started two years ago when China’s growth rate started slowing down from 10% p.a. It was slowing down, in my opinion, because the world market for Chinese-made consumer products was easing. The demand from First world countries had largely stabilised 20 years ago Second and Third World countries were just beginning to, two years ago. There is, of course, fantastic potential in theory for vastly more exports to these countries, but it is simply that they started to run out of money.

But surely, it might be objected, the Chinese themselves must have realised this two yers ago. Why should they deny the obvious?  My reply is that the Chinese are human, just like the rest of us, and are quite as capable of going into denial.  Even more desperately than us — they’ve still got 600 million rural people to bring out of poverty —  they couldn’t believe that world economic growth might have already ended.

Well, we’ll have ti see, won’t we? Employment figures have gone up in America, it was announced this morning. So they’re all being hopeful again that the 2008 -2015 impasse is now over. What do the increased jobs actually mean? More low-paid jobs? More part-time jobs? World economic activity has to stabilise sometime. In my view, it might have done so already.

Better babies for the young

Referring to my last post, there is little doubt that one of the biggest growth areas of tomorrow’s world will be that of better, healthier children brought about by eliminating deleterious genetic variations, or mutations.  In this particular case, it is not so much that adult specialists have a firm grip on the field as that the field itself, depending on knowledge of genetic handicaps and diseases, is still quite new.

Why it is worth mentioning, however, as possibly being highly exploitable by young people, in order that they may not be excluded from what will be high earnings in future years, is that it depends more than anything else in dealing with vast amounts of DNA data, something in which young people are particularly adept at handling on their PCs and, before too long, immensely powerful smart phones.. Also, the friends of young people up to the age about 30 years, are of natural child-bearing age when they would particularly welcome expert advice as to any genetic risks they may be harbouring. A potentially large market of their services is already available.

Already identified are approaching 5,000 genetic diseases which have serious disabling effects on the growing foetus and which, at birth, may finally deliver a seriously handicapped child or even a normal-looking, apparently healthy child who may be attacked with a killer disease later in life. This is most poignant when a much loved and otherwise attractive and intelligent child is struck down with a brain tumour or some other cancer.

But almost everything that departs from a perfectly averagely endowed child — a large nose, or webbed fingers or clubbed ears — even though there’s no health risk, is due to a mutation which causes a less than perfect foetal development. As we have about 25,000 genes the human gene pool is likely to have many thousands of genetic mutations.

We could therefore list thousands of genetic mutations from the most serious diseases through to those which only have trivial effects on bodily appearance.  At present only the worst 100 ones of the former are detected and only then by fertilization of an egg with sperm in a laboratory — as in IVF clinics.  Plainly, because his is an expensive process, this can’t be done for all young couples who want a child but would also like to know whether they might produce a handicapped children between them.  This happens most frequently when  both the mother and mother carry a single copy of a particular defective gene and these match up during fertilisation.

We are all carriers of such single-copy mutations and the frequency of the mutation in each of us can vary between, say, cystic fibrosis, 1 in 200 (more frequent than that in some parts of the world) to 1 in 60,000 for galactosemia. Many trivial physical anomalies can be as frequent, say, as 1 in 10. while some extremely serious handicaps can be as infrequent as 1 in 200,000.  On balance, matching up is not something that prospective parents worry about too much. Nevertheless, if possible handicaps between any two people — already married or thinking of getting married — can be calculated with great precision once you have their complete DNAs then people are going to want to know, if the price of the service is not too great. This will be one of the new services whose jobs could  ‘de-protected’.

The future is a long time

Onthe 20th of this month the annual top businessman’s beano, the World Economic Forum at Davos, where all the Great and the Good of the modern world will gather and congratulate themselves and one another on being such successful people.  Klaus Schwab, who runs the show, has decided on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” as the theme for this years.  I’ve no idea what his Second and Third one is but I’ve little doubt that his Fourth has something to do with the Internet.

In which case — because iconoclasts are also invited — presumably free of charge — Robert Gordon might be here because, for most of his career as an academic economist, he’s been developing the theme that the Internet is far too hyped and will not produce the sort of transformations that, say, the automobile and colour television have done — never mind the smartphone.

Well, I think he’s wrong.  It took 70 years before electricity had its main effect — the dispersal of factories away from city-based three or four storey belt-driven monsters into light and airy factory units of all sizes that could be scattered anywhere.  As regards the Internet, I think Gordon is partly right.  It has probably already had its main result — the plethora of online services — and I don’t see any great surge in economic output because of it, only more efficiency of the present one (and fewer jobs).

But we’re only 30 years on. Now that the equivalent of supercomputers are available to anyone with a smartphone — and mainly by the young — then we are going to see how the young make of the Internet as they contemplate a world in which there will never be enough job, sill less interesting jobs — all protected in various ways by the adults.  Young people today, in Third World, Second World or First World countries will start to set their minds on the problem of how to use the Internet to make themselves skilful enough to share the working week of the adults.

Will they succeed?  Of course they will.  Young  people — males less than 30 years o age, and females less than 25 — whose frontal lobes are still growing and have space for more networking have been producing almost all the new ideas ever since we drifted away from hunter-gathering   They are not going to be stumped by this problem. The future is a long time.

A step too far for Sharia law in Britain

Sharia law — sacred law for Muslims — has been allowed to function in an official way in this country since 1998.  This was when Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MATs) were set up and allowed the same legal sanctions as other types of tribunals.

This came about because we then had a Labour government which was encouraging the large scale immigration of Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh and saw the new residents as automatic votes for Labour — which they largely have been.  Thus Labour became Muslim-friendly in a way that hadn’t happened before when ‘British’ Caribbean blacks started coming into the country at a slower pace in the 1960s.

By all means, Muslim immigrants in this country should be allowed –just like every other citizen —  to run whatever organisations they want in their leisure time, but the MAIs should never have been given the partial legal status that they have — that is, precedence over British law on several issues such as inheritance, divorce and family discipline.  Although anything approaching serious offences were not handed over to MAIs and, of course, remain the province of British police and British courts of law, MAIs were a step too far.

As to the government allowing a British District Judge, Shamim Qureshi, who sits at Bristol Crown Court, to double as “presiding judge” at a MAI as was conceded yesterday, this is going a step too far. It is only delaying the ultimate absorption of Muslims within the culture of this country.

Four intelligent diasporas and a fifth one to come

Quite frequently, when Dr Livingstone — that great Victorian discoverer — the first white man to explore the ‘dark depths’ of rain-forest Africa — came across another new tribe he’d find a village shop there.  A Gujurati trader might have been there for a century or more.  They were the ones who’d penetrated sub-Saharan Africa long before the European nations, tripping over themselves in their haste, when starting to colonise the Continent.

The Gujuratis, an specially intelligent and enterprising culture of western India, were either adventurous because they were intelligent, or hey were especially intelligent as a result of being world travellers. The same applies to three more especially bright cultures — the Jews, the Armenians and the coastal Han Chinese. World travellers all for different reasons — often persecution — they all also became wide ranging diasporas and, wherever they found themselves, they all tended to became more successful than those of the indigenous populations in which they settled.

Modern studies show that there’s a disproportionately high perccntage of 1st or 2nd generation immigrants among the most successful in any generation. The 60,000 Gujurati small business people whom General Amin threw out of Uganda and who arrived in this country in the 1960s with little more than the clothes they were wearing and a change of them in their suitcases spawned hundreds of businesses in this country, including two billionaires.

We’re probably going to have to be more intelligent in future decades and centuries — the nature of our increasing specializations will see to it.   But, in any case, I suspect that this would happen anyway. There are so many young people travelling the world — particularly in the crucial period before 25 years of age while their frontal lobes are developing new ideas that have a chance to build neuronal network of their own..

The obstinate Europeans

Although a lot of people in Britain are becoming increasingly exercised whether to remain in the EU or leave when they vote in the coming referendum — whenever it’s going to be.  It’s increasingly obvious now that David Cameron wants it to be sooner rather than later because he wants to retire.  What’s complicating matters somewhat in the last few days is that strong opposition is growing among Conservative MPs as to allowing George Osborne to be the kingmaker, either for his proteges — until recently — or for himself  by default.

It really doesn’t matter whether the referendum is be held earlier or later this year, or what the result will be when it’s over. The fact is that micro-cracks are spreading in the Brussels bureaucrats’ dream. Despite being rescued twice with massivc bail-outs, Greece is again retrenching on their side of the bargain.  The euro currency is being deliberately inflated — something the EU said it would never do,  France’s economy is getting more deeply in trouble and Germany is refusing to give it any further rope. National barriers are going up between more member countries of the ‘free travel’ EU.  Angela Merkel’s plan of further welcoming 200,000 Middle East refugees a year for several years has already come to a shuddering halt before it has actually started.

Each member country, each with its own language and each inheriting its own idiosyncratic habits and emotional responses, is obstinately refusing to be moulded from outside its own cultures by the people in Brussels.

THEORY OF POST-INDUSTRIAL ECONOMICS– Revision 4

Keith Hudson

[For those already interested the main revision is that of adding one new section –Hierarchical structure of society — so only this meed to be read.]

Abstract

The world economic system is only capable of running efficiently at one activity level depending on the size of energy inputs no matter what political leaders want or their economic advisors suggest. Whether the ultimate world economic activity will be significantly lower or higher than today’s level is impossible to say.

Contents

Introduction
Hierarchical structure of society
Principle of Least Effort
The accident of the Industrial Revolution
The motivation for consumer goods
Conclusion

Introduction

Beyond — or possibly beneath — man’s instincts for feeding, sexual activity and membership of a social group is his propensity for novel perceptions.  A constant variety is what keeps his brain active.  Without it, the less curious person falls asleep, while the more curous person falls into a meditative mode.  As to distribution, it is severely asymmetrical — a bell curve raked towards the less curious end of the spectrum but with a long tail towards the rarer more curious end. The rarer individuals are those who are more socially ambitious — within their own kind — and may be comprised of adventurers, sports people, artists, business entrepreneurs or scientists — the last formerly known as philosophers.

Hierarchical structure of society

The asymmetry is revealed in the hierarchical structure of all societies ranging from small groups througn to major nation-states or large multinational corporations. some early anthropologists of a more romantic left-wing persuasion a century ago thought they had observed some egalitarian groups but on more extensive familiarisation, or when in emergencies, or when observed by later anthropologists such turned out to be hierachical.

The difference between seemingly egalitarian groups and very competitive ones is only one of cultural style.  The culture is usually the product of many generations and is probably — when more is known about the new scientific subject of epigenetics — built up of emotive balances of behaviours taking time to be inherited more widely in a society.  Thus it is possible for two independent societies living in similar circumstance and with similar skills and mental conceptions to have very different cultures — but hierarchical withall,

In early man, an individual male had no choice but to remain in the society in which he was born whatever his skills or inclinations.  Many a genius would have had an innovative idea which was not taken up by the others of his group and thus died with him. This accounts for the immensely long periods, sometimes of tens of thousands of years, between innovstions, or even what seem to us to be modest improvements to existing innovations.

Man, as a social species, is ‘patrilocal’ in that it is the young females who travel out of her parental group to find a marital partner in order to avoid genetic in-breeding and thus the acquisition of serious mental and physical handicaps in the group. She will tend to choose a male in a similar culture and of a similar class within it, but given a chance to choose a male of higher social level will do so in order to maximise security for her children. This instinct is called sexual selection in distinction to, and additional to, general selection of the fittest. The upwards choice of the females tends to leave inept or handicapped males behind who tend to father no children and thus deleterious genes become extingjuish when they die. This is our form of quality control.

But in today’s post-industrial society, males, born with different genetic proclivities and living in a world bathed in a vast variety of information, will also be adventurous. Every male, from puberty onwards, depending on his particular talents will tend to seek groups of like-minded males and females. Whereas philosophers in older times would frequently walk for days , perhaps for a few hundred miles to be with other philosophers he may have heard about, today, increasingly, young people will travel from one end of the earth to the other to join a particular group.

This usually takes place between the age of puberty and adulthood at around the age of 30 in males, and 25 in females.  This is when the skills acquired in the rear lobes of the brain are developed further in the frontal lobes of the brain. Most individuals have usually found the sort of group they prefer to identify with — if the group accepts him or her, of course! — and most ambitions have largely been played out.  In the case of exceptionally creative individuals then ideas are nowhere near as productive as those before the age of 30.

The groups chosen by individuals vary both in skilfulness and in cultural style.  Groups with exactly the same objectives will still be hierarchical but might vary between those which are easy going and where the gradations in social order are thin and the signs hardly noticeable to the other extreme in which all the members of the group are fiercely competitive — and makes sure that everybody knows it!  Thus we can have groups in which there are only subtle signs of social ranking — the choice of a suitable word in conversation perhaps — or highly ostentatious ones — such as commissioning a luxury yacht that is just a few inches longer that a rival’s yacht! But note, however, that such rivals will be members of their own group. If necessary, when faced with a common challenge, they will act as one.

Principle of Least Effort

[needs revision]     seeking novelty.  novelty-seeking brain which can vary between passively entertained minds and the much rarer cases of those who are constantly theorising or trying out new physical and mechanical skills. Man is not different in this instinct from thousands of other animals species, only that we have creative minds to an extreme degree.  Whereas other animals’ creative activities don’t usually cause environmental destruction, many of ours do and sometimes on an epic scale.

Our economic system probably hasn’t caused too much ecological damage so far.  It’s probably repairable sooner or later either by ourselves or by evolution.  Although, strictly speaking, it must be regarded as part of the total world environment and depends upon it, our economic system can be regarded as a separate system apart from energy inputs from the sun.  Solar radiation sustains all the environment, whereas, particularly since the industrial revolution, it is necessary for only part the modern economy — agriculture.

Our economic system, being a physical system, is subject to all the known laws of physics in that, at any given level of energy inputs to keep the system going, it seeks to shed as much energy as possible.  In thermodynamics this is known as maximising Entropy, or the Principle of Least Effort to keep the system going.  Excess energy, or waste heat, is shed to outer space on cloudless nights. The Principle of Least Effort means that, at any given level of energy inputs to keep it going, the world economic system always tends to one activity level no matter what policies or strategies may be applied

The accident of the Industrial Revolution
No economic historian can give an adequate answer to how the industrial Revolution (IR) actually got started with cotton spinning in Manchester at around 1780 and grew explosively in England in the early 19th century.  By imitation, this was followed almost as explosively by France, Belgium and Germany in northern Europe in the mid-19th century, shortly followed by America.

The reason why IR began in Manchester and nowhere else where they were importing raw cotton (for example, Bristol, London and other ports in Europe) and exactly when it did is difficult to describe because there was a temporary confluence of many different factors which need to be given their relative balance.  All the following seem to be crucially important — but there are probably more I’ve left out.  :

1. A surging population of redundant people in the countryside in the latter half of the 18th century able to fill as many factories as could be built in Manchester and nearby; 2. the availability of a domestic middle-class market for cotton clothes (the woollen, silk and linen interests having persuaded the government to put a high tariff on the import of coloured cotton cloth from India in 1700);

3. the suitability for growing cotton in plantations in southern America and the West Indies  and the availability of millions of slaves from Africa to do the work; 4. the availability of many water mills (to drive factory belts) in northern England (to be followed quickly by early steam engines, already being developed in the coal mines);

5. the availability of  many country banks (not available in other northern European countries due to war-torn history) and the proximity of Scottish banks who advised English bankers to widen their depositor-base; 6. a veritable stream of Scottish inventors (trained scientifically in four Scottish universities) coming south to a more prosperous England.  (At the time, England only had two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, and they were little more theological seminaries little science;

7. the availability of a large and powerful navy (the largest in the world already after recently fighting the French) used to protect foreign markets from other countries’ exports; 8. the availability of large numbers of village-based weavers in the region able to take up increasing quantities of cotton thread from the northern factories (before weaving factories started to be built in the 1830 and ’40s);

The above will do. Accidents continued to be useful in making sure that the IR explosion could be continued.   There were other lucky accidents of access to coal and iron ore from which the railways could be launched and steel ships later in the century.  Railways meant that the coal industry could be vastly extended for export sales. By mid-19th century science started increasingly with the development of electricity and the telephone.

England was ready for industrialisation in the late 18th century but not necessarily in the exponential way it actually happened. There were sufficient numbers of blacksmiths, engineers and carpenters in all the towns and the larger villages of England to have got the ball rolling — albeit at a much slower pace. But once the SR kicked in during the latter half of the 19th century we’d probably have developed all the consumer goods that we have now. And so would several other countries which, today, are economically advanced.  A larger and more even industrial dispersion might well have meant that, financially, the City of London wouldn’t have attained the almost complete monopoly over international finance that it did by the late 19th century.

The motivation for consumer goods

For the first three decades what drove the industrial revolution initially ever faster were (a) the available open markets at home nd abroad and (b) hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the countryside with no other livelihood except the factories.  But cotton spinning was mainly for women and children and they could be exploited for six days a week labour for 12 to 15 hours a day. Yes, they had relatively modern brick-built and slated houses, heating was cheap and they could afford minimum food and clothes but the main motivation was simply survival.

By the 1830s. moves were afoot by Liberal-minded aristocrats and land-owners in the House of Commons and fears of Conservative-minded MPs that they might be smothered in their beds by rioting crowds and a revolutionary situation developing here — as were occurring all over Europe — plus the colossal profits being made by cotton spinning — life began to ease slightly all round. Workers had a little more money to spend. A second set of clothing for Sunday best, and a few pennies every week for the new Monitor Schools (also known as Victorian Schools) could be afforded plus the odd trinket that served as housewives’ first status good, such as a Wedgewood pot.

Status goods and services could only be affordable by the aristocrats and rich.  As far as goods were concerned they could, one by one, be substituted by mass produced equivalents, successively becoming cheaper and reaching lower social levels as production runs became larger. By the mid-19th century, the new middle-class could start to afford domestic servants.  All this meant that most people could aspire to go upwards socially and did so.  This would have been absolutely impossible in the previous agricultural era.

The modern status goods in advanced countries are pretty well fully comprised by a house, car, home furnishings, utility services, entertainment, personal ornaments, hobby activities and travel.  These are all public manifestations of what a person considers his social status to be. There don’t seem to be any more goods or utility services that aristocrats and the rich typically possess — albeit of higher-priced brands — that the average wage- or salary-earner doesn’t possess. Furthermore, the typical aristocrat and the very rich have as busy a working week as the average person.

What puts the tin hat on it, however, is that the large consumer goods manufacturers have no more consumer goods on their drawing boards.  There’s a lot of talk of domestic robots but then there has been for 50 years past/ It would be very surprising if they’ll  yet be found in the home or tending the garden in 50 years’ time.

What will drive the consumer in future years and take up an increasing amount of his income is medical and educational services — existential rather than status. Demand is such already that their price is rising steeply.  As industrial automation continues to make consumer goods and utility services more cheaply,  post-industrial services will become more expensive for two reasons.  The first is that increasingly high-level training for professional providers is necessary. The second is that higher-level services increasingly tend towards one-to-one situations for best results in both training and in delivery to customers.

Although the daily energy required by an advanced  professional doesn’t compare with that of a machine-tool making goods, the many years of training necessarily means that matters of invesment are problematical.  Parents will pay as much as possible for the education and health of their children and themselves.  But who will pay for basic scientific research?  Industries can’t afford to do so — only relatively trivial product development — and, with declining profit margins due to increasingly fierce global competition. the cost of funding research can only be left to governments, which already carry out a great deal in the advanced countries.

Conclusion

Advanced governments will therefore have to become increasingly efficient in order to afford funding for basic scientific research, the sine qua non of tomorrow’s world. This will mean shedding many functions that they now carry out == which will become all the more intentional as the Principle of Least Effort finally starts seeping into the consciousness of government politicians (hopefully more scientifically educated in future years). Apart from territorial security and basic scientific research, advanced governments will be wanting to leave alone anything that impinges on the economy and leave it to business.

What is also implied with this is that government that don’t fund scientific research are not going to do well at whatever optimal level the world economy settles towards in due course. The relationship between the dozen or so advanced nation-state and the 190 undeveloped countries will remain much the same as they have been since about the 1930s.  Their standard of living will remain relatively low until they reduced their populations enormously unless a few of them can discover a niche in which advanced scientific research is not yet carried out and high-value innovations traded with advanced countries.

This is not to say that all those countries that presently call themselves advanced will necessarily remain so.  It’s up to each of them as how much it can dispense with non-governmental activities and devote more taxation towards scientific funding.  Whether  world economic activity, when Least Effort, will be significantly lower or higher than today’s level is impossible to say.

Territorial Isis

When young I was first introduced to man’s evolution by Chicago-born Robert Ardrey.  Although he’d graduated as an anthropologist, he actually earned his living — and very successfully, too — as a prolific playwright and screenwriter, being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937. Before too long, however, he revived himself as a ‘straight’ anthropologist, went to live in Africa in order to interview the leading archaeologists there and wrote the book that first turned me on, African Genesis in 1961. It was a best-seller and he followed it with The Territorial Imperative in 1966.

In the latter book he laid a great deal of importance of a group, or a tribe or a culture having a defined territory — even though it might be a nomadic one — in maintaining morale. Indeed, within limits, the more a territory is attacked the more it becomes psychologically healthier. He gave as an example the fact that, during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, individual mental illness seemed to melt away — the psychiatric hospitals were almost empty.

We discovered this in this country during the Second World War.  The more we were bombed by the Germans, the more our morale and fighting spirit went up.  America re-discovered this when bombing Vietnam in 1975 as no country had ever been bombed before.  But the more they were bombed the more imaginative and resilient the Vietnamese became and eventually caused the Americans to evacuate.

The predominant feature of any group, or culture or nation within defined boundaries is that it has a common ideology.  “We are superior to any other group, or culture or nation. We are correct.  Everybody else is wrong.”  And the same applies to the sub-cultures of the politics — usually for practical political warfare between two groups — between the rich and better-off, with their typical sub-territories (houses and locales), and the ordinary and poor.  Even within countries with proportional elections and several parties, the basic division is always there.

There’s been some interesting research which brings this out very clearly.  Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood in a paper entitled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines — New Evidence on Group Polarization.” published in the American Journal of Political Science (2014).  In a series of four carefully designed projects they tested the relative effects of race, gender, religious belief and political ideology on one’s prejudices. The last one came out as the most powerful in all four tests.

In times of economic stress when jobs are being downgraded kin terms of skill and real income that old-fashioned polarities should have revived.  The Tea Party and Donald Trump in America, the revived left-wong Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in this country, and the brand new extreme left-wing and right-wing parties in Europe.

It also confirms what I’ve thought about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Isis in Syria and Iraq — and more recently in Libya, too. The phenomenon is not so much about their religion but about the same sort of old-fashioned nationalism that created the nation states of Europe. It’s about territory first — the rest can come later.  As I related in a post early last year, al-Baghdadi’s doctorate at Baghdad University was gained for a study of the early wars of Islam as its armies swept out of Saudi Arabia and the caliphates that were established. Nothing about the doctrines of Islam, or its vast amount of scholarly commentary and poetry — never mind some of the scientific branches it was pioneering at around 800-1200AD — maths, astronomy, medicine.

More on German engineering

This is by way of a codicil to my post of last week, “A well-meant Wake-Up Call to Britain — which failed” (7 January) in which I came to realize that, in engineering, Germany was always ahead of Britain even though the industrial revolution happened to have occurred here due to a fortuitous set of circumstances.

I’ve subsequently learned that, in fact, Germany already had free state schools for children in the 1780s, 100 years before we did in England. And they weren’t biased against science as our were.  Strictly speaking these German schools were only in Prussia — just one of the many independent principalities that amalgamated during the following century into Germany.  But also I learned, most of those states already had universities — so Germany was much better endowed than England was, with two only at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

This probably also accounts for Germany’s ‘perennial student’. Scholars moving fairly frequently between universities and studying different subjects before choosing their vocation and final degree in their late 20s ir early 30s. I don’t know how much this still applies these days.  Perhaps a German reader will enlighten us.

Sound money will have to be re-invented

The Chinese stock market was automatically shut down this morning when share prices fell after half-an-hour’s trading — the second time this week.  This will mean that, later on this morning, London SE shares will plunge.  Later today, Wall Street will also.  These minor panics might turn into a major panic any day now.

In their usual patronising way, Western financial commentators are asking whether China can cope with the wild ways of capitalism.  Of course it can.  Unlike the central banks of the West with basic rates close to zero and high street banks with reserves that have only just recovered from the 2006 crisis, China has plenty of scope for action and can immediately check a stock market slide.  The Chinese government has massive debts, just like the Western nations, but they’re all owed to itself not to others.

The worst that can happen to China is that many of its billionaires will lose their fortunes and a lot of foolish day=traders can also lose their pittances. Most Chinese will get very sore at their government if the big institutional investors on Western stock exchanges — by far the majority of shareholders these days — also start panicking.

Alan Greenspan, the ex-Chairman of the Fed twice removed says in his latest book, The Map and the Territory 2.0, that a world financial crisis quite as bad as, if not worse than, the crisis of 2008 is inevitable.  When it happens, will the bureaucratic political system of China or the so-called democratic system of America, Japan, and Europe hold up better?  We don’t know.

Sound money will have to be re-invented, that’s for sure — and by multinationals in my opinion.  And governments will not be allowed to print it in future years and devalue it all over again.  An who will prevent them?  The choice of the mass democracy of customers, not the pretend democracy of the electorates.
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Looking for a good biography?

If you are a biography fan and know nothing of Alexander von Humboldt, one of history’s forgotten geniuses comparable with, say, Darwin or Wallace, then read The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science, by Andrea Wulf.  Now available on Amazon for £5  instead of £25.  Nicely bound and plenty of illustrations

“Superb” — The Economist,  “Thrilling” — The New York Revue of Books,  “Magnificent” – Sunday Times,  “Engrossing” — Wall Street Journal,  “Fascinating” — Financial Times, etc.

Meat pies don’t fall out of the heavens

Hydrogen is, as we all know, the ideal fuel of the future. It is non-polluting when burned — water being its only waste product. The problem with hydrogen is that it is expensive to make.  Water needs to be elecrolysed — which takes a lot of electrical power — and, tt make the process more than  halfway efficient, it needs to  be catalysed by a very expensive, and rare, metal, platinum.

I have Steve Kurtz to thank for sending me details of the research by a team at Indiana University and published in the journal Nature Chemistry and on the internet’s ScienceDaily who seem to have cracked the problem of producing relatively inexpensive hydrogen, Trevor Douglas, the Earl Blough Professor of Chemistry in the Bloomington College Department of Chemistry, who led the research says this of it: “Essentially, we’ve [used self-assemblying myriad genetic] building blocks [capable of making an enzyme which takes in] protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,”

The only thing non-scientific readers need to know is that an “enzyme” is the organic chemistry equivalent of a catalyst in inorganic chemistry.  In this case, the enzyme is a special version of hydrogenase. And, in the words of Douglas again: “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable. You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”

So there we have it so far,  It will need piloting on an industrial scale. If it all come off well, then will truly have the fuel of the future.  It will not be dirt cheap.  Nothing ever is. “Meat pies don’t fall out of the heavens” as the Chinese say,  but it will be very much cheaper than present proposals for electric cars that are now being made.   Fuel cell cars running on electricity made from naturally made hydrogen will relieve the financial burden enofmously — as well as not burning carbon fuels in power stations to make hydrogen.

North Korea with an H-bomb? Why not?

There are those who are saying that North Korea must be bragging about having developed an H-bomb.  But why not?  It’s still an agricultural country and, in that sense, backward, and its leader, Kim Jong-un, seems a bit of an idiot, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not capable  They’re a clever nation despite having a, ideological fixation and detestable regime right now. They’ve made A-bombs and they deliver medium range missiles precisely onto target.  An H-bomb seems very possible. They can actually be made very small and thus, when fitted into a ballistic missile, are potentially hundreds of times more powerful than normal nuclear weapons.

It will send shivers up the spine of Japanese politicians, of course, whose antecedents treated Korea very badly in the early part of the last century.  China will be none too pleased with its otherwise weird neighbour either.  But North Korea is a nation-state — something that Western nation-states pride themselves about — and why shouldn’t it have whatever military weapon it wants, particularly if it develops it all by itself?  It will never dare use it, or even an A-bomb missile.  One or two or even all three of the major nuclear powers would drop on North Korea like a ton of bricks.

Nuclear weapons have brought peace between the major nation-states in the last 65 years.  Nation-states are no less militaristic than they and their predecessors have always been especially against small countries or ‘nationettes’.  Government politicians are always itching for wars because it’s a guaranteed way to make them popular — an easy way to get a lemming-like population behind them.

But the nuclear bomb has brought responsibility at long last to those countries that have it.  Even one of the most lawless governments in the world, where religious maniacs still hold sway — Pakistan — hasn’t dared used its nuclear rockets against its hated enemy, India.  Now that Iran is getting the nuclear weapon — with Obama pretending it isn’t — it will be considerably more responsible than it’s been hitherto,  It will probably proceed all the faster to become westernised.

Men need equality

Women earn more than £1,000 a year more than men between the ages of 22 and 29 –even though some of them have already had babies.  After 29, earnings then equalise as the most ambitious career women decide they’ve been influenced too much by women’s lib and must make haste to have children before it’s too late.

LIfe is also unfair to men because a beautiful young woman can sleep, or sometimes not-sleep, her way to the top of the social pyramid if she plays her cards carefully for a number of years.  Even the best-looking men can’t do that.  He needs much more — qualifications, sponsorship, more than usual ambition, and even talent sometimes.

The reason for all this is that women’s brains — more specifically, their frontal lobes — mature earlier than men’s.  They are fully adult on average at 25, five years before men.  School exams and university exams are relatively easy for women.  No wonder they forge ahead of men, even in business, for a few years. There’s nothing we can do about this — it’s in our genes — except to have differential exams, of course. Could men lose face by having easier exams?  You bet we could!

Yes, women have it tough in wartime or in economic depressions because, as often as not, they also have children to look after.  On the other hand, highly ambitious men or highly criminal men — which women tend not to be — are responsible for engendering both situations.

Yes, women have only recently attained equality in some advanced countries.  It’s been a slow cultural change — as cultural changes always are — from agriculturalism to industrialism, from a long period when all men had to work very hard to the modern period when machines are taking over the hard muscular work.

Indeed, ne wonders whether men– as free animals — are needed at all in modern society.  Just one thing, though, that will save us.  Families in which there are fathers always present for the children produce better children than those with just one parent.

What about children from gay male parents or lesbians couples?  We just don’t know yet since the notion became fashionable in only recent years — and, of course, legal.  I suspect that during puberty and adolescence in future years the children of like-for-like marriages will have more psychological disorders than normal.  But I may be wrong, of course.
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Jeremy Corbyn beats Donald Trump any day of the week

I don’t write often about the Labour Party in this country — in fact only once in the last eight months since resuming this blog — because English concerns are a bore to most of my readers.

Suffice it to say that I find Jeremy Corbyn, the extreme left-wing leader of the Labour Party, to be a likeable person.  I would much rather have him as a neighbour than, say Donald Trump.

But Jeremy Corbyn lives in Cloud Cuckoo Land regarding real politik — that is, in understanding human nature in the round, not as an idealised version.

I think Jeremy Corbyn has finally served his own death warrant as leader of the Labour Party by sacking Pat McFadden from his Shadow Cabinet and keeping Hilary Benn.  Hilary Benn spoke directly against Corbyn’s policy in a recent parliamentary debate and, intellectually, he’s a lightweight —  like his father before hum.

Yet last night he’s sacked McFadden, a left-winger but one of the sharpest brains in the Labour Party — who should have been the Shadow Chancellor instead of Corbyn’s oldest pal who has no idea of how to produce an adequate financial policy — in fact, none at all so far because he doesn’t have the wit to produce one that would stand up to scrutiny.

Goodbye, Jererny Corbyn.  Most everybody else have been forecasting this.  I’ll join them now.  How did Jeremy Corbyn become leader?  Because he was elected by the rank and file of the Labour :arty in the country, rather than by fellow MPs.  Why did ordinary Labour Party members vote for hm?  Because they wanted more and more welfare payments and saw Corbyn as a soft touch and would spend more despite the extremely serious economic condition that this country is now in.

What Isis defectors say

In this country the MI5 is quizzing Isis volunteers who return for one reason or another.  We don’t yet know what their findings are.  In America the University of Massachusetts Lowell has set up the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS).  James Forest is Director of Security Studies at the Center.  A Terrorism Research Initiative has been questioning 13 Syrian defectors from Islamic State — why they joined, what they saw, and why they quit..

Arthur Cordell has sent me a copy of the abstract of their research note, and this can serve as preliminary statement before a complete account is published in book form early in 2016.

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Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State: Why They Joined, What They Saw, Why They Quit

According to what we learned, all IS cadres undergo Shariah training in which they are imbued with a Takfiri ideology that allows them to deem all others, including Muslims, who disagree with IS’ extreme ideology, as apostates who should be killed.

Despite this indoctrination, all of our informants (all are Syrians) experienced their Shariah trainers as a positive influence since they allowed them to deepen their own religious understanding. In this sense, these disengaged defectors remained radicalized “true believers”. They also had been given military training–learning to handle weapons, explosives, and undergoing exercise.

Following these compulsory courses, they were sent to the front. Syrians who join IS are rewarded with salaried jobs which for young men translates into the ability to marry and for young women the money allows them to save their families from literal starvation.

Foreign fighters are receiving additional rewards: wives, sexual slaves, and sometimes homes and cars. Daily life was punctuated by brutal practices – including floggings, torture and beheadings.

Defections were the result of exposure to extreme brutality, disgust over the slave trade, observations of deep hypocrisy–a total mismatch between the words and deeds of IS. Charges of corruption and complaints about battlefield decisions that produced unnecessary deaths in their own ranks were also causes of disillusionment . Our informants all had come to hate IS and warn others not to join what they gradually came to see as a totally disappointing, ruthless and un-Islamic organization.

Why no thoughts about Isis?

One reader has said to me why don’t I write more about the Isis problem in Syria and Iraq.  She seems to think I know a great deal about the life and motivation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Well . . . I’m not sure that I’m an expert on him at all . . . but, in my balance of interests, I’m much more interested in the general shape of the future world rather than the Middle East just now.

Without wishing to be superficial about the terrible suffering now going on because of al-Baghdadi’s influence I can’t see any solution.  In any case, I can’t see Isis lasting very long.  As a dysfunctional regime — or an attempted one — in a dysfunctional Middle East whose general population is crying out to be Westernized then it can only be a matter of time before they sort themselves out.  However brutal and terrible this might be, the Western countries won’t be able to intervene in a constructive way — anymore than they’ve been doing so far.

The vast majority of Muslim immigrants who are already here in Europe are no problem at all.  It’s the fanatical Muslims we have to worry about — and also the effect they have over a minority of the young who may be passing through more than usually years.  We need much more intelligent services for the foirst part, and much more thought given to the prospect of young people more generally in a job-destroying age.

A well-meant Wake-Up Call to Britain — which failed

The Great British Exhibition of 1851 — an inspirational idea of Prince Albert in order to show off British engineering and science — actually contained more German machine tools than British. That came as a bit of a shock when I first read it many years ago and it’s always been a puzzle.  I’ve never researched the problem because I’ve always been prioritising other matters but it has been grinding away in the back of my mind.  I hoped that one day I might read an historian who would explain why. But I never did and the question kept on nagging away.

Gradually, however, one or two facts dropped into place. The first one was that a Copyright Act was passed in 1825, so the German could have legitimately copied British engineering in the preceding years of the industrial revolution period 1785-1824.  But then that fell by the wayside because that left insufficient time for the Germans to have developed the advanced machines ab initio in time for the 1851 Exhibition.

Some tkime later, I gathered that Count von Bismark, when Prime Minister, had established free state schools for the sons of German Army officers.  Those schools, surely, would have been concentrating hard on science and engineering.  But that idea didn’t solve the problem  because they wouldn’t have been established until the 1870s at the earliest.

Already in this country some of the northern cities in England such as Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham, together with some industrialists, had already established new universities with the emphasis on science and engineering in order to compensate for the only two other universities in England at that time, Oxford and Cambridge which were little more than collections of theological training colleges for the Church of England.

Very recently indeed, I came across the fact that Alexander von Humboldt– a polymathic German scientist —  who has been described as “the genius you have never heard of” with tremendous influence throughout Germany, had pushed hard that German universities, heavily classical at the time — just like our Oxford and Cambridge — should teach more science and, furthermore, in association with experimental labs.  But, on reflection, that didn’t wash either.  His dates (1767-1835), and his many years of scientific travel in the southern hemisphere, were such that his influence in strictly German affairs didn’t really start until the 1820s.

Being English, my own bias has prevented me from realising from the beginning that, of course, Germany was more advanced in engineering 1851.  The fact that Germany didn’t initiate the Industrial Revolution (IR) is beside the point.  It was sheer luck in the conjunction of several simultaneous factors in 1785 as described in my post of 27 December (“The Hudson Theory of Economics”) that launched the IR. It was not our engineering superiority.  The first factory cotton spinning machine was made, not by an engineer, but by a carpenter!

Germany has, of course, been at the head of the engineering game and at least a co-leader in science ever since the scientific writings of the genius, Leibniz (1646-1716) — the big rival of Isaac Newton (1642-1725) — who were both at the head of their packs of new breed of brilliant German and English scientists during the so-called  ‘Western Enlightenment’ as a follow-up to the Reformation for which we have Martin Luther — a German — to thank.

So there we are !  Had I been an historian, and not an industrial chemist (and a Jack of All Trades ever since !) then I should never have been surprised in the first place by the Germans appearing agt the Great Exhibition.  M’mm . . . perhaps that was Prince Albert’s original plan anyway.  He was, of course, German, when he married Queen Victoria — that was why he was never allowed to be King — so he probably knew that German industry would be very visible in the Exhibition.  Perhaps it was a well-meant Wake-Up Call to British industry.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.  It was another few decades until our elite universities, Oxford and Cambridge — the ones that really influenced the government — started taking a serious interest in science and engineering.

The fallacy of multiracism

Barry Humphries — the Australian comedian who performs as Dame Edna Everage –said something which seems to me to be true when being interviewed by the Radio Times.  “Why do you thik Downton Abbey is so popular in the States?  Because there are no black people in it.”

Although the aristocratic Crawley family ‘above stairs’ would have had some investment dealings in black slaves only a couple of generations previously, there were hardly more than a handful of black people in the whole of the country in the Edwardian times of Downton Abbey, so it would have been dis-historic of Julian Fellowes, the scriptwriter, to have included even one.

It couldn’t have happened among the servants ‘below stairs’ in Downton Abbey either.  They swould not have tolerated a black employee there anymore — even if there’d been millions in the country as now — than the trade unions did in the multinational in which I worked over 40 years ago.  Out of the 4,000 office and factory workers there, there wasn’t a single one even though Caribbean-British then  comprised about 5% of the population.

When the government put pressure on the multinational management there who, in turn put pressure on the trade unions, about half-a-dozen blacks were recruited and scattered widely among the workforce (in the factory only) with a nod to the shop stewards that no more would be recruited. These were token blacks but the business could then say it wasn’t racist.

Blacks appear on BBC television quite frequently — albeit more than proportionately in the general population — and, more often than not, they turn out to be highly qualified professionals such as barristers and speak with impeccable upper-class accents. Fairly obviously — when thought about — most had been adopted as young children by middle-class families and subsequently sent to expensive private schools.

Such well-spoken blacks don’t represent blacks as a whole in the country where racism of an unspoken nature still operates — as it still does in America from what I read.  The whole problem about racism is that multiracialism is a fallacy.  Every group, or organisation or culture or country thanks that it and it alone is the norm, is superior, is correct.  All the others are inferior.  By our group-living past of millions of years that’s how we had to be in order to survive.

By all means different races can trade together amicably.  Even different races can mix together as a work group during working hours  with a common objective. But socially and in their leisure time, the races want to be among their own kind where and hen they can express their own idiosyncratic feelings fully.  Racist cultures, like every other element of a culture, take a long time to change.

How we are intelligent

In her book, Machines Who Think, Pamela McCorduck surveys what Artificial Intelligence  (AI) researchers appear to be after by way of new software algorithms that will make computers into machines that are indistinguishable from humans by way of identifying goals. seeking out the data that will inform how to get there and then follows through with instructions.

This is very much what we do when we specialise in an interesting or problematical topic chosen from our perceptions, think about them — acquiring more data if we need to — and then, finally, our brain instructing our muscles to carry our some activity to clarify a situation or solve a problem — or build a computer to do it for us !

AI researchers say — and McCorduck agrees with them — that they are seeking simplicity in the classical Newtonian manner when he said:  “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Unfortunately, although Isaac Newton did indeed refine complex problems such as gravity or the nature of light into simple mathematical statements, these formulae didn’t, in fact, last all that long.

Einstein then came along and modified Newton — inventing yet more simple formulae — and he in turn has now had to be modified with quantum physics. This is now accepted by almost all physicists even though no-one truly understands its complexity.

And then, too, evolutionary biologists, who study the brain from the genetics angle, say that intelligence is not at all simple. Indeed, in reality, it has become more complicated as time goes on.  What they have noticed, as evolution has proceeded from apparently simple single-cell bacteria almost 4 billion years ago to the higher mammals — and ourselves, of course — that the nervous system which masticates, and then delivers, intelligence, has become even more complex as we survey the evolution of the brain.

And a larger and larger brain, too, compared with body weight — in animals such as the elephant, apes, porpoises and ourselves. These all seem to possess self consciousness, an intuitive sense of correctness (in our case most prominently in mathematical proofs) and a sense of fair-play (the very basis of our economic system).

One very interesting feature of the animals mentioned above is that their brains have not only become larger but much more crinkled.  The higher thinking faculty of the brain is actually carried out only on the outer skin, or cortex, of the brain.  In order for processing to be amplified from one species to the next without making the head too heavy to carry around, the cortices of these brains have become very crinkled.  It’s important to mention this because there are some mammals with extremely crinkled brains about which, so far, not a lot is known abut their intelligence.  There may well be a few more species added to the elite  ‘Intelligence List’ before too many years are out.

Is there an ‘understanding’ between the people traffickers and the EU?

Am I right or am I wrong in thinking that there must be an  ‘understanding’ between the people traffickers and the EU?  The dinghies bringing refugees and migrants to the small Greek islands just off the coast of Turkey are a better class of dinghy and no longer being beached. The steersman — a trafficker – is taking the dinghy away again for another visit.  Also, every migrant has a lifejacket. Also, there aeems to be a higher proportion of families with very young children.

When the EU foreign ministers announced a month ago that they were going to more heavily patrol the Mediterranean and arrest the traffickers — then invariably referred to pejoratively — I wrote how stupid this decision was.  It would stop the traffickers steering the more expensive type of dinghy with powerful enough engines. They’d use cheaper boats which would be more overloaded as used to be the case early last year, and there’d be many more drownings,

The EU must have realised this. We’ve heard no bad words about the ‘criminal human traffickers’ in the last week or so and none seem to have been arrested.  They appear to now to be treated as business people with whom the EU have made some sort of verbal agreement.

Janus-like Evolution

Evolution is always proceeding in opposite directions. In the one because we need to adjust to the present situation.  We need to regress to the average — the average always being momentarily the most intelligent, the most healthy, the most beautiful.  All highly correlated genetically.  We need to progress towards equality every generation.

In the other direction we need to be prepared for what might be environmental changes in the future.  We need to be throwing up mutations — at every fertilization event — that night be beneficial in an unknown future. These are futures we’ve long had in almost 4 billion years of evolution — the strategy that paid off. Thus we also need to progress towards variety and inequality — that is, hierarchy every generation.

But despite the different directions of evolution every generation there is always a marginal gain in intelligence overall.  This has led from the brain of a  bacterium to the frontal lobes of the higher species of mammal. Small forward momentum every generation in some species or other.  (What is more, now that precise gene-editing is practicable, we’ll undoubtedly be breeding ourselves rather than trying to invent a mythical AI robot.)

This explains the anomalies of both the increasing equality and the increasing inequality in the world. We are confusing wealth and talent.  While we in the advanced countries continue to specialise we will be proceeding from the increasing equality of wealth to the increasing inequality of talent. There’s a danger (?) that our elite will become an entirely self-breeding population.  It’s called sympatry.  It’s happened in man’s past and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen again.

And the same thing applies between nations.  As long as specialisations continue to grow, 180 countries of the world haven’t the faintest chance of becoming advanced nations unless one or more of them can develop their own specialised niches of scientific research.  It is even a moot point whether the scientifically uncreative Confucian nations will be able to advance or remain trapped roughly where they are now while three countries continue to scoop up almost all the Nobel prizes in science.

Being right — that is, being left or right

Both socialism and conservatism depend upon exaggerations of human nature.  Because we are occasionally altruistic and both parties feel good about it then we need more of it between everybody permanently.  Because we are in groups characterised by pecking order, then we are justified in preventing those below us getting what we have obtained — because we deserve it.

No matter how individualistic we say we are, we all belong in groups and basically belong to one or another.  And once we’re there, our group, or culture or nation is always superior and the other is always deficient. In times past this was natural and practical.  Today it can often be dangerous — or at least highly inefficient.