Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Great Stagnation

Somewhere out there someone always wants to make the argument that we are going to slow down now.  It is my position that this will plausibly occur upon the human economy at the least been optimized.  That still leaves the issue of optimizing the human.

The first is approximately three generations out including a reasonable amount of time for completion.  To put this in perspective, suppose we decided to completely reengineer and redeploy the entire population contained in the water shed of the Hudson River (reasonably one of the most completely modernized place on Earth) the accomplishment thereof would properly demand around twenty years, much of that to reshape forest and land to best effect.

At the completion of that transformation, we might imagine every human being working at his best capacity also through targeted education and support.

It is when we have been able to do this for every living human being on Earth that we may consider actually slowing down.  I think that it may be achieved inside of three generations or inside of sixty years.

At the same time our knowledge base will have also reached its maximum depth inside of about two generations allowing full completion of our modern world inside of about two generations.

Anything approaching stagnation will not be upon us until three generations have passed.

Planning to breakthrough the Great Stagnation and enable the next layers of the Future

DECEMBER 22, 2011

The USA has eaten low hanging economic fruit since the 1700s.

1. Free land (Homestead Act, etc.)

2. Technological breakthroughs (electricity, motor vehicles, telephone, radio, television, computers etc.)

3. Smart, uneducated kids (who were made productive through excellent public education).

4. Cheap fossil fuels. 

In his book The Great Stagnation Cowen says Tyler says his grandmother saw greater changes. She lived during the birth of airplanes, skyscrapers, suspension bridges, radio and television, antibiotics, atomic bombs and energy, interstate highways, jet travel and a moon landing.

In contrast, a child born in 1970, a year after the first moon landing and the Boeing 747’s first flight, has seen the personal computer, biotechnology, cellphones, Web browsers, search engines and nanotechnology (the current weak version of nanotechnology and not full blown molecular nanotechnology).

I would note that we have layers of technology (civilizations technology and solution stacks) that exist from different times which make up the stack of technology that we use today. This can be thought of the way archeologists will dig through layers of history, except this is the layers of living technology. This can also be related to the stack of hardware and software that exists in a computer solution (an example is LAMP - Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP).

We have the bodies and minds from evolution that have existed for tens of thousands of years.

We have clothes, agriculture and language that have been around for many thousands of years.

We have electricity, engines, cars, planes, television and highrises from the time of our grandparents.

We have computers and the internet and biotechnology. 

Usually when new technology comes along there is some shift from old technologies and some other technologies are adapted. We collectively will resist changing technologies and structures that are deeper in the stack. Many older ways and processes have been perfectly adapted into how people live. There is no desire to change. This can be seen in the regulations in France or in Palo Alto, California to changing buildings and landscape. The owner may want to change something but the neighbors or the workers resist change. There is also the resistance to changing anything that is "good enough" with anything different.

So progress should not just be measured by how powerful is the next layer of technology that we add on top. We also need to look at how well we can innovate and upgrade the heck out of the older layers. Also, the best versions of the older technology may not be distributed to everyone to enable maximum productivity.

Some examples are:

Policies and planning to achieve faster economic growth

Accelerating the economy while maintaining or improving safety will require coordination and effort. Just like being able to have trains move faster and with fewer delays requires planning, coordination and effort.

Each of the levels of faster speed would require consideration.

10 times faster construction would mean - less time for various checks from weeks to days.

100 times faster means minutes for turnarounds or everything pre-checked and approved.

1000 times means all interested parties must have their issues pre-thought out for work in the pipeline up to one year in advance. A pre-planned city wide wiki of intersection projects. New software and new project planning may be required to enable each level.

Plans would be going into a queue for simulation, software-agent first pass comments and validations.

How modularized and disconnected can things safely be? The more compartmentalized things can be then the more simplicity and speed can be retained. There is value to higher safe development speeds.

20% growth - 1997-98 Internet time across the whole economy

There are a lot of inefficient processes that are making things relatively stagnant.

Capturing higher GDP from Megacities - better planning

Computer driving technology is basically within reach of doubling (or more) the capacity of a road lane to pass cars. Pundits don’t seem to realize just how big a deal this is – it could let cities be roughly twice as big, all else equal. Doubling the population of any city requires only about an 85% increase in infrastructure, whether that be total road surface, length of electrical cables, water pipes or number of petrol stations. This systematic 15% savings happens because, in general, creating and operating the same infrastructure at higher densities is more efficient, more economically viable, and often leads to higher-quality services and solutions that are impossible in smaller places.

China has noticed one-city GDP growth effects from high speed rail linking cities. According to initial research and estimations, upon the completion of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the "dumbbell effect" will lift the GDP growth rates of the regions along the railway by about 19 to 21 percentage points. 

Upgrading Infrastructure can be done faster than upgrading people

Until we get major transhumanist technology it will be faster to upgrade infrastructure to make people more productive and to enable greater wealth and welfare. However, there should be DARPA like efforts to revamp education and to find ways to enable people to rapidly get new and improved skills.

Boston University post-doctoral fellow Kazuhisa Shibata designed and implemented a method using decoded fMRI neurofeedback to induce a particular activation pattern in targeted early visual areas that corresponded to a pattern evoked by a specific visual feature in a brain region of interest. The researchers then tested whether repetitions of the activation pattern caused visual performance improvement on that visual feature.

The result, say researchers, is a novel learning approach sufficient to cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that require visual performance.

Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research?

"In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome," said Kawato. "However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way."

At present, the decoded neurofeedback method might be used for various types of learning, including memory, motor and rehabilitation.

More Tyler Cowen and Peter Thiel Videos

DECEMBER 21, 2011

WorldBank - The number of people living on less than $1.25 (PPP 2005) a day is projected to be 883 million in 2015, compared with 1.4 billion in 2005 and 1.8 billion in 1990. Much of this progress reflects rapid growth in China and India, while many African countries are lagging behind: 17 countries are far from halving extreme poverty, even as the aggregate goals will be reached.

Some anti-poverty and children under 5 death reduction factors -
Each year of a mothers education reduces by 10% the chance of her children dying before the age of 5.

884 million people lack safe drinking water. 80% in rural areas

Access to clean sanitation goals appear out of reach for 2015.

Other have analyzed the poverty and have an even better picture where there will be fewer than 600 million living on less than $1.25 per day in 2015. In 2009, there were World Bank projections that there would be 1 billion living on less than $1.25 per day in 2015 and 800 million in 2020. Therefore, poverty statistics are catching up to the reality of an improved situation.

No comments: