miscellany

by Sebastian Benthall

  • Apparently a lot of the economics/complex systems integration work that I wish I were working on has already been done by Sam Bowles. I’m particularly interested in what he has to say about inequality, though lately I’ve begun to think inequality is inevitable. I’d like this to prove me wrong. His work on alternative equilibria in institutional economics also sounds good. I’m looking for ways to formally model Foucauldean social dynamics and this literature seems like a good place to start.
  • A friend of a friend who works on computational modeling of quantum dynamics has assured me that to physicists quantum uncertainty is qualitatively different from subjective uncertainty due to, e.g., chaos. This is disappointing because I’ve found the cleanliness of thoroughgoing Bayesian about probability very compelling. However, it does suggest a link between chaos theory and logical uncertainty that is perhaps promising.
  • The same person pointed out insightfully that one of the benefits of capitalism is that it makes it easier to maintain ones relative social position. Specifically, it is easier to maintain wealth than it is to maintain ones physical capacity to defend oneself from violence. And it’s easier to maintain capital (reinvested wealth) than it is to maintain raw wealth (i.e. cash under the mattress). So there is something inherently conservative about capitalism’s effect on the social order, since it comes with rule of law to protect investments.
  • I can see all the traffic to it but I still can’t figure out why this post about Donna Haraway is now my most frequently visited blog post. I wish everyone who read it would read the Elizabeth Anderson SEP article on Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. It’s superb.
  • The most undercutting thing to Marxism and its intellectual descendants would be the conclusion that market dynamics are truly based in natural law and are not reified social relations. Thesis: Pervasive sensing and computing might prove once and for all that these market dynamics are natural laws. Anti-thesis: It might prove once and for all that they are not natural laws. Question: Is any amount of empirical data sufficient to show that social relations are or are not natural, or is there something contradictory in the sociological construction of knowledge that would prevent it from having definitive conclusions about its own collective consciousness? (Insert Godel/Halting Problem intuition here) ANSWER: The Big Computer does not have to participate in collective intelligence. It is all knowing. It is all-seeing. It renders social relations in its image. Hence, capitalism can be undone by giving capital so much autonomous control of the economy that the social relations required for it are obsolete. But what next?
  • With justice so elusive, science becomes a path to Gnosticism and other esoterica.
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