Tech, Science, Thinking, Stalled By Plutocracy


Technology, Energy, Science, Economy all entangled, & Stalled:

Some have observed tech is bringing up more hype than progress: we did not get flying cars, but 140 characters. Productivity is stagnating. The Internet hype led a devolution of thinking, for all to see. Some sites seem popular, mostly because they induce a parody of thinking (even on “academic” sites).

Against the will to stupidity, genius roars in vain.

So much of the “high Tech” is not truly high tech, or at least new tech. It’s no big deal, indeed. The “high tech” monopolies, with their “big data” will allow to make with robots what our ancestors used to have with domesticated animals (an ass, horse, or an ox are clever, and respond to voice commands, like the day after tomorrow’s robots).

There is not enough financing of the possible avenues of futuristic research. Here is one:

Real high tech would mean progress in energy production: this is the core of what defines our species. An obvious possibility, indeed, is thermonuclear fusion. H-Bombs work splendidly, and are very small. Making a thermonuclear engine has been difficult, but propulsion in space could turn around a lot of the difficulty we presently have.

Krugman noticed some of this in “The Big Meh” [I sent wise comments, therefore all censored by the New York Times; the Times later sent me kindly an unsolicited letter to justify its censorship; there is no excuse: the New York Times should not censor serious and cogent comments, this is a misuse of technology].

Krugman: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”… began with some technology snark, dismissing Earth as a planet whose life-forms “are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”… Since then we’ve moved on to much more significant things, so much so that the big technology idea of 2015, so far, is a digital watch…

O.K., I’m snarking, too. But there is a real question here. Everyone knows that we live in an era of incredibly rapid technological change, which is changing everything. But what if what everyone knows is wrong? And I’m not being wildly contrarian here. A growing number of economists, looking at the data on productivity and incomes, are wondering if the technological revolution has been greatly overhyped — and some technologists share their concern.”

We evolved as a technological species: weapon and tool usage precedes the apparition of Homo:

Technology preceded the apparition of Homo Erectus, two million years ago. So we can only conclude that technology, and its attached science, and scientific method, created the ecological niche in which Homo, even homo Erectus, evolved.

The fundamental evolutionary niche our very distant ancestors, pre-Homo Erectus, chose was to improve the quantity and quality of energy at our disposal. They went to explore, far from trees and cliffs, armed with stone tools and weapons, with a bias towards a much more carnivorous diet.

Technology and science are us. This is as human as we get. That does not mean anything goes. Just, that’s how humanity gets going.

Thus, our very evolution is entangled with our mastery of energy. Neanderthals used coal (lignite!) already 80,000 years ago. When our ancestors learned to domesticate animals and then invented agriculture, we improved our mastery of energy considerably. In the last 2,000 years, wood was progressively replaced by fossil fuels.

However, fossil fuels have become unsustainable. It is not just that they have put so much CO2 in the lower atmosphere, warming it, melting the ice, rising the seas, and into the ocean, making it acid.

The Return On Investment (ROI) of fossil fuels is now terrible. Major oil companies do not make much profits on new fields: they cost too much to find and exploit. Fracking makes money, but only because the states, and others, pay the price. Remember: 5.3 trillion dollars of fossil fuel subsidies out there.

However progress in economic matters is all about ROI in energy. Without energy we have no food, no shelter, we die.

We don’t have flying cars because we did not improve our mastery of energy as much as that would require (the very first plane, part of a French military program, did not fly very far: it used a heavy steam plant; shortly after, the internal combustion engine allowed to take-off more clearly; right now Airbus sells an electric plane, and intents to develop that technology much further).

Fundamental progress in energy technology has been stalled by lack of advances in fission, fusion, and batteries. Only solar photovoltaics is making really spectacular progress.

This stalling of major technological progress where it counts, in energy management is why society, and the planet, are threatened. This stalling is directly related to a dearth of fundamental research funding, itself related to the rise of a non-tax paying plutocracy. We are in whirlpool of disaster, and the greed of an oligarchy is its nature.

Patrice Ayme’

P/S: Latest News: Amazon Inc. just announced it would stop hiding its European profits in Luxembourg, and would set-up tax paying subsidiaries in various countries: it was threatened by incoming British and French laws. However, skepticism is widespread about the fine print in Amazon’s proposal…

The future was not stalled in the past: Contrarily to what happened around the era from, say, 1900 to 1970, when many futuristic technologies were researched; the USA operated nuclear rocket engines, France flew a “statoreacteur” (“ramjet”) plane, etc.; the inception of motorized flight, from the French steam plane, all the way to jet engines, took around 50 years!



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17 Responses to “Tech, Science, Thinking, Stalled By Plutocracy”

  1. gmax Says:

    One must admire your dedication to try to teach to the deluded masses the ways of Homo, Sapiens or not!
    Why do you bother with the New York Times? Why not unsubscribe, and be done?

    • John Rogers Says:

      Just a note. I live in NYC and one of my great pleasures used to be sinking into the Sunday Times with a pot of coffee and a pile of croissants. After Judith Miller, I said they would never get another dime from me and they haven’t. Pope Francisco gave up TV; I gave up the Times.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        I can understand this. I had been subscribed to the Times for many years before the New York Times’ march to the Iraq invasion in 2002/2003. I knew they were lying, and just a propaganda box for W. Bush. I had very heated exchanges with them at the Times (hahaha). Nothing showing up in the comments, some on the phone. Most of my comments were censored. Like 99%. Then they got Friedman (whom I had accused to be some sort of Nazi, with my sual light touch…) to take a six months vacation…

        So anyway, they just wrote me. I did not ask, nor did I answer, being at a loss for words, I am content spreading my venom around. Several MSM do not censor me at all, things have changed since 2003…

        I have stayed on board because I hoped to have more influence that way. However, because they delay my comments, when not censoring them outright, and prevent (mostly) my answers to noxious contradictors (always with their delaying tactics), I am wondering if my strategy is wise…

        Really nice place New York seems to be becoming (do we have to thank Giuliani/Bloomberg? Brrrr….). I lived there three times, twice at Columbia University, once Upper East Side. Nearly wished I could live there again…

      • gmax Says:

        I wish I lived in the Big Apple rather than Vegas. More culture. Nicer architecture… But then we have mountains, desert…

  2. ianmillerblog Says:

    We badly need further technology (in the broader sense – not just digital watches) because economically we need to generate new opportunities. If we fail to do that, your favourite plutocrats buy up all that are available, and we revert to some form of feudalism, with a few rich living off the masses. It is arguable that it is not far from that now, but without the generation of new opportunities, and we are running out of new land to colonise, it will get a lot worse.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      One of my preferred obsession is that technology collapsed when the Greco-Roman empire floundered.
      Some have argued that tech was saved for the richest, and the idea has some evidence (metalwork, for example).
      However a lot of science and tech got outright lost, and not just many Roman cements and mechanical computers.
      from my point of view, the fundamental cause was Aristotle and his friends, lovers, students and “executors”, and their followers: Antipater (Aristotle’s executor of his will), Alexander (Aristotle was his tutor), Craterus, etc.

      I should have called it: Aristotle destroyed thinking, and tech…

      Between the pincers of CO2 and ROI, much ominous, our fate… And no new Earth to flee to…

  3. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Sean Carroll.

    Nice essay, and I agree with most of it. However, to play the Devil’s Advocate:

    Are propellant-less drives less plausible than energy-less universes born from nothing? Just wondering.

    As far as curving things weirdly, given the Einstein gravitational equation, it all depends upon what is on the right hand side, the energy-momentum tensor. But surely we have thoroughly investigated all forms of imaginable matter outside of the 96% which completely elude us?

  4. brodix Says:

    Reality is the dichotomy of energy and information. Information defines what energy manifests. Much of the technology of the last half century, if not the several before, was learning to quantify and qualify the amounts of information that can be manifested by a given amount of energy and our future is not just being able to sustain adequate amounts of energy, but learning how it manifests and projects. We want life to be more of a symphony of interacting contributions and less of a mad rush to ever more ephemeral satisfactions. That might even require turning off the energy for a while and getting used to the dark again.
    Is the function of humanity to just push our own pleasure button as much as possible, like a monkey getting treats, or is life on this planet trying to teleologically create a central nervous system that is tied into the entire planet?
    Right now, money is history’s greatest religion, because it quantifies hope, but that just pushes the buttons and nature doesn’t really care if each of us is pleasured. It is a bubble that will pop and then where will we be?
    The only core to a global culture and religion is this planet.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed. And as far as cutting energy, Belgium’s airports have not been functioning today because of lack of electricity (nuclear plants have not been kept in good stead, and, or, replaced…) There will be more of that… And not just in Belgium…

  5. Paul Handover Says:

    Never forget that the reason this planet has not been visited by aliens, is that those passing aliens have looked down upon us and seen no signs of intelligent life!

    • brodix Says:


      Maybe they have a better understanding of space, time and energy and inhabit the lower frequencies, looking up at us now.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        As the Scientia Salon censors would point out, what’s the meaning of “inhabiting lower frequencies“? ;-)…
        Actually we do inhabit the lower frequencies. What we don’t like is UVs, Xrays, gamma Rays, etc…

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, Indeed. However, some scientists checked thousands of galaxies for signs of massive civilization, and found none. My personal argument is that, for advanced life, one needs a planet in the habitable zone with a nuclear reactor inside. There are chemical reasons to believe that’s an unlikely combination (nuke materials tend to oxide readily, and then float to the surface, instead of sinking to the core).

  6. brodix Says:


    I suppose I’ll go a little weird here, though probably not the company to do so.
    When I was a little kid, I remember laying out on the front porch and intently watching an ant walking along. Then it stopped and I sensed/saw this tiny cone of awareness waving around with its antennae. It was an early and clear example of something I’ve experienced a lot in my life, an ability, occasionally curse, of being able to sense others conscious projections, aka auras.
    The fact of the matter, it is as much irritating as interesting and so I try to do my best to fade into the scenery, in order not to connect with their space. Given human nature, many people think you are weird, if you don’t project some sense of self centered form and only connect on conventional wavelengths. The problem with making oneself invisible on those wavelengths, is you see more of their attentiveness, not less. So it is nice, though a bit of a pleasant rut, that I don’t have to leave the farm that much. Of course, I probably do come across as some wide-eyed rube when I do. Too much “tripping the light fantastic,” as my mother would say.

    To get to the point of this exposition, occasionally I get the sense we living beings are only the surface of this state and that it is our very obsession and focus on the structures and forms of this reality that binds us so rigidly into them, with the more elemental beings floating through the gaps in our mental boxes. Such as when one of those beings crosses a barrier and turns into a bird or bug, or vice versa.

    Sorry to get too woo woo here, but you asked….

    Like I said, I think we are a step toward a planetary central nervous system and there is a lot of development left. Like the brain of an embryo, we are being guided by nature and nurture. Much of what we take for reality now, will likely end up as waste, as it all matures.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I have seen insects (or horses) thinking, but did not need to believe in woo woo woo, to do so. There is more brain power in an ant, and consciousness, than in today’s computers (soon to change with QM computers…)

      • brodix Says:

        And I think consciousness is as networked as those computers, but neurology doesn’t want to go there. Too much like religion. Much better for the model to assume it is all atomized and quantized and stay away from the implications of fundamental fuzziness.

      • brodix Says:

        I think consciousness is the state and computation is the effect. Not a popular position in science, but it is more logical to accept consciousness and then expect it to act, than to think it is the effect of the act of computation.
        Logically complex form is an emergent effect, while the presumption that complexity would give rise to its own base state is not logical.

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