Friday, January 3, 2014

The best of the Hipcrime Vocab 2013

Something I wonder on a daily basis...
So, it's the beginning of another year, a time when look back at all the crap I've already written and see what it actually says. And, I can post my entirely subjective view of what I think are the best posts of the past year. You can either read them for the first time (and not have to page through all the posts) or enjoy them again.

There were a few distinct themes that emerged this year.

It turns out that the modern fossil-fuel powered industrialized, globalized world we take for granted is extraordinarily recent, within the lives of our grandparents if you’re a member of John Tyler’s family, or within just one lifetime if you’re a tortoise. Before the nineteenth century, the world was trapped in Malthusian limits. What that meant was that as our food supply increased and we became more productive, the marginal contribution of each new person decreases even as the population grows. So that leads to most people living in poverty. And if living standards fall too far, it will cause a die-off returning living standards to their baseline. This baseline is called the subsistence level. And from the Neolithic Revolution until about 1870, that's where we were.

Living standards before 1870

Health changes since 1870

I wondered whether it was truly “innovation” that had brought about the industrial revolution as economists tell us, or whether it was really unlocking half a billion years of stored sunlight under the earth’s crust. And what might happen once that starts to run out?

Energy or Innovation?

The accident of economic history

Progress and the Great Divergence

And that caused me to wonder if the social progress we take for granted today, with leisure time, material wealth, democracy, universal suffrage, outlawing of chattel slavery, and so on, will remain; or will we return to the social conditions of the pre-industrial Malthusian world, as some have claimed, with its hereditary ruling elites, lack of social and economic mobility, rampant poverty, hunger, starvation, superstition, slavery, corvee labor and debt bondage. Sadly, all the signs point to the fact that in America, we have already started well down the path back to that type of society:

Will we preserve social progress?

Social Disintegration

Why the Industrial and Scientific revolutions are deeply irrational (and why they may not last)

Will technological progress continue?

Has America failed?

Incidentally, since I wrote those, it has emerged that a third of all American believe the earth has always existed in its present form (including a majority of Republicans), and that number is increasing, not decreasing. We are returning to the demon-haunted world.

I called economics our secular religion, and I wondered if we are losing our faith, much like we lost our unquestioning faith in the Catholic Church during the Enlightenment. And I said we need to take a look at how our economy really works in order to fix it

Marx claimed that the breakdown of capitalism might lead to a stateless system of collective ownership he called communism. He also feared it might lead to barbarism. But it looks like the system that is emerging has much in common with feudalism, albeit in a much more centralized form. This has been termed by many people, Neofeudalism:

Foundations of Neofeudalism

Coming apart

More Neofeudalism

I noted that we're already living in a de-facto post-work society, with millions unemployable under the current paradigm and dependent upon some other source of income, whether a government check or a lone breadwinner (or a life of crime). We're just going through the motions and pretending that we're going to have enough work for people in the future. We won't.

As usual, I pointed out that lot of this has to do with automation, self-service and productivity:

What Are People Good For 2013

Some Concluding Remarks About Automation

Paging Paul Proteus

Automation linkfest

Robots Will Steal Your Job. Is That Okay?

Automation and the middle class

All our economy is capable of creating are mostly shitty jobs we don't like that don't pay enough to live on. This is what counts as "job growth":

And we're taking increasingly desperate measures to preserve our technological civilizations, ones that will leave those of us not at the top of the wealth/power pyramid worse off:

Bright Green Environmentalism: A Toxic Love Story

Desperate Measures not once but twice

An architect explains diminishing returns

It Can, But Will It? 

The God that failed

I pointed out the errors in the myths embraced by both the Left and Right that debt is the biggest threat facing our civilization. Debt is just a side effect of our accounting system. For every debtor, there is a corresponding creditor, whether now or in the future. These debts can be renegotiated or written off. Instead, we're literally destroying entire civilizations. Money is created to mobilize resources. Yet when debt repayment becomes the sole focus, resources sit idle and wither away, and in the age of Peak Oil, what we're now destroying, we may never recover.

I looked at population trends:

I had some things to say about architecture, namely that "modern" architecture has morphed into producing giant pieces of modernist sculpture that perform poorly, don't work for climate and human needs, are costly in terms of materials and energy usage, and are only possible through heroic feats of engineering. The works produced by Starchitects are more and more collector pieces for the one-percenters to show off.

Computers versus architecture

Architecture is not sculpture

Architecture is not sculpture - continued


I pondered some science-fiction scenarios of what might happen thousands of years from now:

Human extinction

Medieval America

Saving civilization for posterity

I reevaluated our situation five years into Peak Oil and economic stagnation, taking a look at where widely-publicized predictions failed and where they were closer to the mark:

Five years into the apocalypse 

I had some thoughts on American politics:

The Enemy Within

Politics of the shutdown

Nicole Foss in Milwaukee

Homage to Detroit

Odds and ends:

The Gift of Poverty

Feral Humans

Why are so many choosing death?

Walking Away

1 comment:

  1. I definitely read your blog. As an Architectural Intern out of East Tennessee your blog couldn't be more interesting for me. Thank you.


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