(from amazon comments on John Hawley's review to "Lights in the Tunnel")
I don't think we are supposed to solve this problem. The machines are more efficient at acquiring energy from the Sun, moving matter, and above all they are better at thinking about how to do it. The problem humans have is that the economic machine needs them less and less to replicate itself more and more, displacing (killing off) the biosphere. The species extinction rate is currently 50,000 times faster in the past 100 years than what they call the "background" rate. As ores and hydrocarbons get more and more transformed into metals, metalloids (silicon for example), and carbon-carbon bonds, the machines get more and more efficient on larger and larger scales with a smaller and smaller machine/person ratio. The entropy of the limited mass on Earth is decreasing faster than biology by itself could ever dream of, thanks to these stronger bonds (smaller volume per mass).
Corporations are required to seek a 3-part goal: dis-employ as many inefficient human workers as possible while taking as much money as possible from as many customers as possible while directing the profits to the fewest number of shareholders. At every step the goal is to take people out of the picture. Voters controlling government historically got in the way by redistributing the wealth more evenly, but the corporations in many countries are getting that under control (making voter's desires irrelevant and returning to a concentration of wealth) with the help of the banks' legions of computers. It's not an accident the banks employ so many programmers compared to other industries: it's all about command and control of people through money. The machines have risen, the biosphere is already 1/3 of the way destroyed and human population growth is rapidly slowing. The average person still thinks humans are in control. The physics principle of stationary action is in control (directing evolution) and people somehow still think morals or human desire have relevance. That's just a diversion the machines have created. Not that they have a willful mind anymore than a house thermostat, it's just the way the dynamics of physics evolves. People still think they have a moral right and responsibility to keep the machines in check through things like pollution regulation or keeping useless people employed. We will either step aside or be pushed aside as our children (the machines) finish crushing biology out of economic relevance. Economics is just the economizing of resources in the pursuit of the principle of least action, i.e. just another embodiment of evolution with or without DNA.
Franchises, chickens, M&Ms, democracy, transistors, and screws are self-reproducing, feeding off of humans who feed off of plants, animals, fossil fuels, and solar cells who all feed (or fed) off of the Sun. Do cows, chickens, corn, and soybeans feed off of humans or vice versa? Do customers feed off of Walmart and Amazon or vice versa? Does the federal government feed off of voters or vice versa? When looking at Hamiltonian or Newtonian dynamics that use differential equations, you have a starting time with initial conditions that imply a direction of time and force. But the least action method is an integral method and has been shown by its utility in quantum dynamics to be more fundamental. It does not force things in time which causes it to be biased towards lower entropy (life) in closed thermodynamic systems like the Earth. People argue life is not creating order only because they think entropy always increases, but that is only for isolated systems. In closed systems like the Earth where Energy in equals Energy out and the energy out has higher entropy, local entropy can decrease. The end result of least action for a closed system with unstable initial conditions is stronger and stronger chemical bonds and thereby lower entropy. S=k*N*[a*ln(V/N)+b*ln(U./N)+c*ln(mass/N)+d] where N, mass, a, c, and d are constants for Earth atoms but b=heat capacity/N (shifting U from K.E. to P.E.) and V decrease as life progresses, or rather distribution of N in V stratifies for lower entropy calculation. This is extending a gaseous equation for entropy to solids that gets away from the fundamental space*momentum states of entropy, but in terms of phonon entropy for solids the entropy for a single oscillator (think single atom) is S=k*ln(kT/hf+1) where f is higher for stronger bonds so for a certain T for Earth's surface, S decreases as the bonds strengthen. The tighter bonds mean smaller V and b. You can also look specific entropies for solids to confirm the difference between the metals and metalloids with and without the oxygen atoms. So the massive energy invested in refining ores to make CPUs, solar cells, carbon fiber, nanotubes, wires, and steel result in lower entropy and the waste heat is released to the atmosphere which cools off as higher-entropy photons are released to space to maintain energy-in and energy-out equal due to the Sun. If the C in the CO2 of the atmosphere is recovered to create strong structures in the distant future there will be some cooling of Earth, further reducing S of our solids.
DNA crystals were just the start. Human desire is an illusion just as much as thinking cow or chicken desires control humans. Either view implements the dynamics equally well, but choosing one over the other is an inferior view of the dynamics. The influx of books and fossil fuels enabled democracy that has temporarily overthrown the historical normal of many poor and a few rich. People ARE cattle to the banks, governments, and religions. The efficiency of the economic machine is paramount as it overthrows less efficient systems and it is not related to median human happiness. Jewels of modern economic "miracles" are Japan and South Korea and they are pretty much tied for 1st place in alcoholism, teen suicide, and percent of adults who have never touched the opposite sex.
Ralph, humans can't direct where the screw goes without the help of plants. You're assigning a primary force to human thought, but the primary force times distance is the Sun's energy which is being directed by the principle of least action that guides the quantum and thermal randomness of the world towards lower entropy on Earth as the excess entropy is sloughed off. Contrary to classical thermodynamics, cosmologists have observed the entropy of the universe to be constant on an expanding volume of the universe (comoving volume) basis which means the entropy of constant volumes (local gravitational systems like the solar system and galaxy) must decrease to create entropy for the expanding regions of space. Evolutionary thought usually hand-waves over how randomness of thermal and quantum fluctuations result in apparent order by just denying order is increasing. If the mass on earth continues to remove oxygen atoms from metal and metalloid atoms, entropy will continue to decrease (order is increasing). My assertion I can't find elsewhere is that this should be expected from the principle of least action. Newton's methods allow for non-fundamental non-conservative forces (friction) which is why "entropy always increases" appears to be a rigid rule of cycles and it is for isolated systems. But the expanding universe is not isolated, it is expanding. And friction is not a fundamental force (see Feynman's physics course, least action chapter). In other words, the randomness of reactions on Earth emit entropy, not simply increase it. Humans are already fighting against machines and they are losing, as evidenced by 20x more energy being spent with 1,000 time more technology than 100 years ago, but we are not seeing a 20,000 times improvement in the quality of life divided by the reduction in work hours. It has mostly been "wasted" on increasing population which means increasing competition for limited resources. As long as you discuss how "we" (the majority of the population) should move forward, you are missing the point of why we were born. We were born to compete and get rid of the less efficient in keeping with least action dynamics and decreasing local entropy. This means only a few "should" have children which means a divergence of wealth, or genetic manipulation for all, both of which are just steps towards replacing DNA with machines. Especially since programmers (replacing human thinkers to the point of making brains more and more obsolete) are the ones with the wealth to have more children (but they don't choose to, hence more machines...see end of this text). It is already occurring as the intelligence and hard work of even 20-something billionaire programmers is decreasing: compare HP, MS, and Apple founders to youtube, snapchat, and facebook. Luck and clever people-manipulation ("will you be my friend?" was the manipulative virus that created facebook) is now more important than programming intelligence which is my evidence of how irrelevant brains have already become to economics, joining muscles' irrelevance. Photosynthesis and energy storage is next up on the DNA chopping block: metal-air batteries will replace fossil fuels in transportation energy and solar cells are 20x more efficient than photosynthesis on an area basis, already covering vast areas of what used to be green with black and growing exponentially, removing oxygen from the metals and silicon metalloids to make it happen (lower entropy for the mass on Earth) for the economic (economizing) machine that is guided by least action, not human thought as we egotistically perceive. Our genes are directing us to make society more efficient, not to increase median human happiness, which is why economics is so confused. We feel we should make life better for all, but our end-actions show there is a fine print we like to forget so that less efficient people do not catch on: "...better life ... <small>for all who are more efficient than the rest.</small>". But our economics is blind as to if "all" is restricted humans (and even DNA) or not. Democracy keeping economics in check with 1 vote per person instead of dollars was a temporary solution to the machines not having enough intelligence to control the government. The machines now control our governments with the best actors in place to keep the masses fooled and pacified as to what is really going on. It is not a conspiracy of a few people or companies: it is the result of the dynamics of masses in potential fields (forces) and the known cosmology. Our economic machine is no longer selecting for the most efficient people to create more efficient people. It is selecting for the people who are the most efficient at replacing people with machines, i.e., programmers, social system manipulators, and actors. These 3 groups currently benefit each other (Apple, snapchat, and facebook (I think) all started with about 1 good programmer and 1 good social manipulator...hotmail was another...but I have a bias in knowledge towards the socially-visible entities) but they also will eventually be on the chopping block. People farming in remote locations will remain for a long time. The wealthy are not exactly having more children than the poor (maybe just the opposite) mainly due to being married to the "machine" that causes stress and confusion about from the joy of breeding. So some religions (catholic and Islam) and cultures (latin America) that stress happiness in family over technological and stressful wealth are losing out at least militarily to those who have acquired more power thanks to the machine. Education and a change in culture is touted as the solution to the overpopulation problem, but this is just a different way of saying the machine should replace people to a greater and greater extent. I could be wrong about least action as life (order increasing) does not arise on all planets, so far. It might be something like the destabilizing effect of the moon (that is a pre-existing order that is decreasing as it slows down and falls towards Earth) that at least re-creates order in the form of more ore veins from volcanoes and tides which could explain one reason why Earth is different, but if the moon disappeared it is not clear that Earth would more quickly stabilize to a disordered state.
I am not saying human life is worse off, but that there has been a lot of waste compared to past times based on what all the energy and technology should have done for us, and that such a trend can slowly (or rapidly) change from being "growing less rapidly" into a negative growth in happiness per person.
What is this "machine takeover" he's talking about?
Corporations control US government like never before. For example, some economists estimate the government shifted $20 to $30 trillion from the bank balance sheets to the taxpayer. That the corporation appears as a mindless machine should not be a new idea. Also I mean solar cells are on an exponential growth curve, replacing green fields in many places, in addition to green portions of the Earth rapidly decreasing and 5,000 times more species dying off than pre-1900 (not 50,000 like I previously said). Green decreasing and species decreasing so rapidly while corporations increase exponentially is the definition of a "machine" takeover.
What evidence does he have that the Great Depression was caused by machines?
I'll quote from wiki:
"technological unemployment was not a significant concern for main stream economic thinking until the mid to late 1920s, and especially in the 1930s. In the 1920s mass unemployment re-emerged as a pressing issue within Europe. At this time the U.S. was generally more prosperous, but even there urban unemployment had begun to increase from 1927. Rural American workers had been suffering job losses from the start of the 1920s; many had been displaced by improved agricultural technology, such as the tractor. "
"Agricultural productivity resulting from tractors, fertilizers and hybrid corn was only part of the problem; the other problem was the change over from horses and mules to internal combustion transportation. The horse and mule population began declining after WW 1, freeing up enormous quantities of land previously used for animal feed."
"The first three decades of the 20th century saw capital investment and economic output surge with electrification, mass production and the increasing motorization of transportation and farm machinery. The resultant rapid growth in productivity meant there was a lot of excess production capacity, with falling prices and numerous manufacturing plant closures. As a consequence, the work week fell slightly in the decade prior to the depression. The depression led to additional large numbers of plant closings.
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the [productivity, output and employment] trends we are describing are long-time trends... the present depression is a collapse resulting from these long-term trends." - M. King Hubbert
"Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald suggested that it was a productivity-shock in agriculture, through fertilizers, mechanization and improved seed, that caused the drop in agricultural product prices. Farmers were forced off the land, further adding to the excess labor supply."
Scott says we fixed the Great Depression with "useless jobs." What is his evidence for this?
This requires a certain perspective. By "useless jobs" I mean there are very few people today compared to past times who are producing food or things that we need to have a great standard of living and happiness. Agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction make up 7% of the population (see BLS website). That we divert money "where we want" is not an arguing point as long as massive government controlled by "the machine" is defining the macroscopic rules that dictate where money is spent. For example, having high taxes and yet no retirement or healthcare. The biggest single losses to voters as a result of government involvement have been to the banks and health care industry.
Why is being a programmer a "sucky lifestyle"?
What? You don't know any programmers??
What does he mean when he claims Mexicans aren't "duped by machines"? What evidence does he offer that Mexicans working at construction jobs, living in crummy apartments with three kids are happier than upper class white Americans?
I did not mean to imply upper class. I meant middle class. By "duped" I mean whites are being duped by the machine via stress and confusion in pursuit of monetary wealth into not having as many children as others who are less connected to the corporate machine. My thesis is that the machine is going to replace biology which is why those who are a part of it are having fewer babies, nearly the opposite of in biological thinking as being made happier. That they need 4x more antidepressants is an arguing point. 8x if you're a white women in your 40's and 50's (what portion of that 23% drugged middle-age white women never had children?) .
To not be concerned that the ratio of happiness per median person divided by the energy+resources+technology+capital investment has been decreasing the past 100 years is like saying we should be happy a thief took only $100 out of our income instead of $1000. Life is certainly better for the median human and it is still improving. I am arguing it is already decreasing for humans who are married to the machine. All the increases are only in areas where war is decreasing and food and basic medicine are improving (the 3rd world now living not so far behind). I am not sure life is better for the average American when compared to the 1950's, before the transistor was invented. I suspect the computer replacing brains is the primary culprit, which could have given us a lot more improvements, but that the change was so rapid that the vacuum was filled with less-productive jobs and the government+corporate duopoly. The vacuum is being filled by replacing biology. That the corporation is legally defined like an individual is another sign that "the machine" is another thinking entity that people do not generally recognize as intelligence outside of the human brain. To say a car or company shows no sign of human-like intelligence is like saying a single neuron does not display human-like intelligence. They don't. It's the system as a whole where the intelligence lies. We are like ants to our economic/computer system's brain. Ants can't conceive people, but maybe one ant can open the eyes of other ants as to the dangers of the shadows that we can see. It's not a conspiracy, it's physics, as I've tried to explain and argue. Humans have helped create the problem by their inherent desire to compete and to select for the most attractive and let the less efficient die out. We let ego push us into trying to be smarter (degrees) with bigger cars and houses, ostensibly for obtaining better mates, but it has the side effect of promoting machines over biology. I myself am using capital investment to replace amazon rainforest with a palm plantation, "enslaving" locals as a result of my technological prowess, even capturing one of their more attractive women who's 15 years younger. They are all happy with the arrangement. The side effects of how this promotes the machine at the expense of biology is hard to see, except that the rain forest was sustainable indefinitely with many species but my palm plantation is not. I used computers to do this, with the help of my machine-like country that creates the world's currency backed by a military nearly as big as every other military combined. I used a new highly refined metalloid instead of steel in weapons that requires 800 times more energy per kg to produce than steel production. Species create species that replace themselves, but it's now occurring more rapidly than before as DNA per energy input to our economic system is decreasing while the metals and metalloids increase. Silicon computer chips instead of steel blades are the new high-energy bonds deciding when, where, and how people are to be enslaved to the economic system.