[unrev-II] Availability of Knowledge & Consequences of Efficiency

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@sun.com)
Date: Fri Oct 05 2001 - 16:46:04 PDT

  • Next message: David Kankiewicz: "Re: [unrev-II] Availability of Knowledge & Consequences of Efficiency"

    David Kankiewicz wrote:

    > ...I am just taking some time to consider the consequences
    > before deciding whether to provide my ideas and specs for
    > OHS/DKRs, augmentation, etc...

    I think that is a valuable and noble effort. A few thoughts on the

    1. "All" knowledge should NOT be available to everyone.
        That is one very good reason that a huge, global DKR is a bad idea.
        However, it is both impractical to construct and computationally
        difficult to search, even if it existed, so I feel we're on safe

        What we need and will have, instead, are islands of knowledge that
        bridges to one another. The information that flows along those
        will need to be automatically recalibarated (recategorized), most
        using topic map translations, or their equivalent. I forsee a huge
        employment market developing for ontologists who will set up the
        ontology-translation mechanisms that will allow my island of
    information to
        reference and search information in your island.

    2. We *will* get radically more efficient.
        And you rightfully point out that the drastically improved
    efficiency has
        the potential for imposing a monumental social cost. If one person
        do the work of 10, where do the other 9 find work?

        This is a social engineering problem, and although we have done a
        reasonable job of handling it up until now, I am not convinced that
        have done the best possible job.

        Our response to increases in efficiency has heretofore been to
        the bar". The implications have been:
            * Organizations that don't invest in the latest
               technology eventually succumb to the competition.

            * Organizations that do invest survive, and the people who
               the new technologies become way more productive.

            * The investment fosters more technological innovation, which
                produces greater efficiency, in a feedback loop.

            * The need to understand new technologies drives education,
               of the greater opportunities that exist for the educated
    segments of
               the work force.

            * Those that don't keep up with the pace, and master new
               as they come along, eventually succumb to competetive
               and retire or find new ways to make a living.

    In general then, we've responded to increased efficiency by working as
    hard -- or even harder -- and taking competition, figuratively and
    to the next level.

    Now, is that a truly good thing? In some ways, yes. In others, no.
    It's not the most humanitarian system around. An Australian aborigine
    spends 2 hrs a day providing for their needs. We get to spend a lot
    more than that.

    And the opportunity cost of making a living is that there are projects I

    would dearly love to work on that get very little attention, for lack of

    time and energy. Multiplied by millions of others who have that same
    problem, there is a huge opportunity cost, compared to what we would
    have if those people had more freedom to "follow their dream".

    On the other hand, a lot of useful work gets accomplished because we
    are willing to work for a living -- and the work we do is something that

    *someone* considers valuable enough to pay us to do it. If we didn't
    have to work for a living, how much of that work would get accomplished?

    I really wonder.

    For some reason, I think about it especially when I travel. At home, I
    don't come into contact as frequently with the people who really keep
    the wheels turning -- the people behind the checkout counter at the
    airport, and at the car rental station -- the people behind the desk at
    the hotel (I was one such in my later college years), the people who
    come clean the room, and fix things.

    If it weren't for the need to make a living, who would do these things?
    Not me. Probably not anyone.

    Then, too, I wonder how much we could benefit if we had a cooperative
    economy, rather than a competitive one. You make shoes. I'll make socks.

    Then George could grow apples. But if he goes into the shoe business,
    then one of you is going to suffer. Or maybe both of you will. Or maybe
    the consumer will suffer. Or maybe the consumer will be way better off,
    because the price will go to the lowest possible level, due to the

    So a pair of shoes may be "worth" a whole crop of apples, because your
    feet get cold in the winter. You'd have to sacrifice a lot of other
    but you'd get your shoes. On the other hand, if two people are selling
    pretty soon we'll find out how much they really *need* in exchange for
    shoes. A bushel of apples will probably do it.

    Thinking about it, it seems clear to me that the transition from a
    economy to a fixed-price economy came about *entirely* as a result
    of competition. I mean, even if money is the medium of exchange, we
    still have to figure out how much your 3 beaver pelts are worth, and how

    much my ax is worth. Even if we buy and sell for cash, we need to
    barter to settle on a price for the ax, and a price for the pelt. And if
    happen to *need* an ax at the moment, brother the price will go up.

    But when competition enters in, prices have a more stable, enduring
    quality. An ax is "worth" so much, because you can go down the
    street and get one for near that. (At the outset, of course, price
    setting was still mostly a matter of bargaining. But over time, they
    have zeroed-in a more "fixed" quality.)

    So, darn it all. I really wanted to find a way to propose a system where

    people would be free to do what they are interested in doing, and a
    system where we would be more efficient by favoring cooperation
    over competition. But I seem to have argued myself around until I
    find myself headed full-steam in the opposite direction.

    Funny how that happens, sometimes.

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