Notes April 23, 2008

April 22, 2008 § Leave a comment

Finances dominate reality: the election is open because we don’t know how either candidate will respond to mind breaking challenges.

 

From Asian Times http://atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JD22Dj02.html

There are certainly indications that the over-liquefied global system is not well situated today to handle more dollar liquidity (akin to throwing gas on a fire). Inflation and its consequences have quickly become major issues around the world.

With crude hitting a record $117 at the end of last week, there is every reason to expect that newly created global liquidity will further inflate energy, food, and commodity prices generally. The Goldman Sachs Commodities index has gained 21% already this year. But when it comes to monetary instability, our financial markets might just prove the unappreciated wildcard.

I just read a report, Human Capital Strategic Plan, March 2008, from The National Science Foundation. Because of my interest in the relationship between science and the broader society, I read it carefully.

First striking thing is the mission statement.

NSF Mission

To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense (NSF Act 1950).

In this context “human capital” strikes this reader as being part of the problem. The word capital comes from Greek for head, and referred to the number of cattle in a herd. Capital became that which grows. Human capital reduces the human to the head, and their function to being used to grow by owners, not themselves.

This directly conflicts with the human welfare view of the mission. But typically the mission  is unexamined for its assumptions and guidelines. The reductionist trend here is obvious, once you have an ear for the rends. The soul to mind to head to brain to (newest technology, such as computer) is the evolutionary line along which we are currently proceeding. This is not very adequate to real human welfare which requires an understanding of the human, which goes unexamined except insofar as the research fits the agenda of economizing the human.

and, from http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/

WHERE’S MY FLYING CAR?….Paul Krugman suggests that energy technology hasn’t advanced much in recent decades and then adds this:

I’d actually suggest that this is true not just for energy but for our ability to manipulate the physical world in general: 2001 didn’t look much like 2001, and in general material life has been relatively static. (How do the changes in the way we live between 1958 and 2008 compare with the changes between 1908 and 1958? I think the answer is obvious.)

Leaves out Internet and war technology. Otherwise, a photo of a party today and thirty years ago are hard to tell apart: dress is much the same, and no new tech is likely to be in the photo (but the photo is digital!).

More on science

BREAKING THE GALILEAN SPELL

By Stuart A. Kauffman

… Even deeper than emergence and its challenge to reductionism in this new scientific worldview is what I call breaking the Galilean spell. Galileo rolled balls down incline planes and showed that the distance traveled varied as the square of the time elapsed. From this he obtained a universal law of motion. Newton followed with his PRINCIPIA, setting the stage for all of modern science. With these triumphs, the Western world came to the view that all that happens in the universe is governed by natural law. Indeed, this is the heart of reductionism. Another Nobel laureate physicist, Murray Gell-Mann, has defined a natural law as a compressed description, available beforehand, of the regularities of a phenomenon. The Galilean spell that has driven so much science is the faith that all aspects of the natural world can be described by such laws. Perhaps my most radical scientific claim is that we can and must break the Galilean spell. Evolution of the biosphere, human economic life, and human history are partially indescribable by natural law. This claim flies in the face of our settled convictions since Galileo, Newton, and the Enlightenment. …

STUART A. KAUFFMAN, a professor at the University of Calgary with a shared appointment between biological sciences and physics and astronomy, is the author of THE ORIGINS OF ORDER; AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE; INVESTIGATIONS; and REINVENTING THE UNIVERSE: A NEW VIEW OF SCIENCE, REASON, AND THE SACRED (Basic Books, forthcoming, May 5th).

[MORE]

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge243.html#sk

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