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Our civilization doesn't scale
By Dave Winer on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 4:03 AM.

Stories about the latest banking crisis lead to an inevitable conclusion. There was no way to prepare for what was, in hindsight, inevitable -- the bursting of the housing bubble.  permalink

A picture named reagan.jpgMost of the hype from anti-government people are mashups of what President Reagan said to get elected, but had nothing to do with the way he governed. None of the things he said about government could actually work in the world he lived in, and would work even less in the world we live in today. But he didn't try to implement his ideas. He was a pretty normal politician that way. Sure wasn't anything remotely like a prophet. permalink

Honestly, our problem isn't government, it's the huge number of people on the planet, multiplied by the complexity of the lives we lead. permalink

Reagan's imagery might have worked when we lived on a mostly unexplored planet, without computers, and our complex computer-managed systems. If you didn't like having neighbors, you could just pick up and go somewhere and be by yourself, rugged and individual, and get some peace and freedom. If that world ever existed, and I wonder if it really did, it sure doesn't exist today. Not if you want your kids to go to school, and get proper health care, and get on the Internet and listen to your iPod, etc etc. Sure it sounds nice in a commercial, but you're not actually going to do it, even if you could, and you probably (almost certainly) can't. permalink


We're living on the edge now, and we could still tip over into the abyss. It might even happen soon. That's what we we have to worry about, not whether we can "get government out of our way." permalink

We may be on the cusp of another 2008-type financial meltdown. Turns out the banks may not actually own the houses they've been foreclosing. Now we have no idea who owns the places we live in. permalink

All of the problems we're dealing with stem from the complexity that computers have enabled, and the scale of our civilization, the enormous number of people living on the planet, and the lack of education, intelligence, competence of the people who are running it. They may dress nicer than us, but it turns out the people running the banks and government don't actually understand the systems any better than you or I. They've just figured out how to get paid millions of dollars for looking and sounding like they understand.  permalink

If you all of a sudden said it's a free-for-all, everyone do exactly what you want, well, if you had the power to say it, you never would. Because you'd look at the situation and realize that's more or less what's already going on. What we need, with the vast number of people leading enormously complex unsustainable lives, is more of a collective sense of where we're going and what we're doing, not less. Otherwise we have no clue what's waiting for us, but it probably isn't very good.  permalink

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