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Niall Ferguson: Donít Believe the Techno-Utopian Hype
Newsweek (via The Daily Beast) ^ | 7-30-2012 | Niall Ferguson

Posted on 08/01/2012 5:36:49 AM PDT by Sir Napsalot

(snip) My pessimism is supported by a simple historical observation. The achievements of the last 25 years were actually not that big a deal compared with what we did in the preceding 25 years, 1961-1986 (e.g. landing men on the moon). And the 25 years before that, 1935-1960, were even more impressive (e.g. splitting the atom). In the words of Peter Thiel, perhaps the lone skeptic within a hundred miles of Palo Alto: In our youth we were promised flying cars. What did we get? 140 characters.

Moreover, technoptimists have to explain why the rapid scientific technological progress in those earlier periods coincided with massive conflict between armed ideologies. (Which was the most scientifically advanced society in 1932? Germany.)

So let me offer some simple lessons of history: More and faster information is not good in itself. Knowledge is not always the cure. And network effects are not always positive.

....

By the same token, there was great technological progress during the 1930s. But it did not end the Depression. That took a world war. So could something comparably grim happen in our own time? Don’t rule it out. Let’s remind ourselves of the sequence of events: economic depression, crisis of democracy, road to war. ....

In the 1930s script, democratic decay is followed by conflict. I am not one of those who expects Europe’s monetary meltdown to end in war. Europeans are too old, disarmed, and pacifist for there to be more than a few desultory urban riots this summer. But I am much less confident about peace to Europe’s south and east. North Africa and the Middle East now have the ingredients in place for a really big war: economic volatility, ethnic tension, a youthful population, and an empire in decline—in this case the American Empire. ....

(Excerpt) Read more at thedailybeast.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: ferguson; niallferguson
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(Read the whole article)
1 posted on 08/01/2012 5:36:54 AM PDT by Sir Napsalot
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To: Sir Napsalot

That took a world war.

This may be the biggest lie of the 20th century ( in a century of big lies).

Is Ferguson completely ignorant of the galloping advances in the understanding of biology and material science?


2 posted on 08/01/2012 5:43:55 AM PDT by DManA
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To: DManA
It is true that Niall Ferguson is not a technocrat, he is a historian, specializing in economic history.

I am trained and worked in a science field since early 80s, and I find ((with due respect to the advances made in science and technology) most painted way too much of a rosy future hyping science and technology.

3 posted on 08/01/2012 5:54:54 AM PDT by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: Sir Napsalot

I tend to agree. When I see pictures of some tie-less dork tech CEO holding up the latest device on a stage, I don’t see real progress.


4 posted on 08/01/2012 6:04:30 AM PDT by JacksonCalhoun (CT Yankee in NC Exile)
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To: Sir Napsalot

Who is “most”? Most Popular Science writers for sure.


5 posted on 08/01/2012 6:08:44 AM PDT by DManA
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To: Sir Napsalot

Disagree with Ferguson.

I worked with Cray-2 supercomputers at Norfolk Naval Ocean Processing Facility in the 1980s.

It occupied 16 square feet of floor space, weighed 5500 pounds and consumed 195 kW of power.

The fastest computer in the world at that time with a clock speed of 125 MHz.

My current home computer has a clock speed of 3300 MHz. Plus it is much smaller, lighter and consumes far less power.

Computer tech has advanced more from 1987 to 2012 than it has in all the time before.


6 posted on 08/01/2012 6:21:03 AM PDT by moonshot925
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To: moonshot925

Then you probably remember the first time you saw a CRT on someone’s desk.

Every single job in the country is done radically differently than is was 30 years ago. At least the ones that still exist and not including the ones being done no one dreamed of 30 years ago.


7 posted on 08/01/2012 6:24:13 AM PDT by DManA
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To: moonshot925

You think there will be a breakthrough for the next 25 years in computer tech?


8 posted on 08/01/2012 6:26:50 AM PDT by Sir Napsalot (Pravda + Useful Idiots = CCCP; JournOList + Useful Idiots = DopeyChangey!)
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To: Sir Napsalot

9 posted on 08/01/2012 6:26:50 AM PDT by moonshot925
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To: Sir Napsalot
Why, if information technology is so great, have median wages stagnated in the nearly 40 years since 1973, whereas in the previous 40 years, between 1932 and 1972, they went up by a factor of six?

It is due to Gov't theft of overall productivity gains through inflation and debasement.

10 posted on 08/01/2012 6:31:38 AM PDT by PGR88
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To: Sir Napsalot
You think there will be a breakthrough for the next 25 years in computer tech?

Yes. I think there will be many breakthroughs in the design and efficiency of transistors. Nanotechnology and all.

Computing hardware will continue to get more powerful, more efficient, and cheaper.

11 posted on 08/01/2012 6:34:02 AM PDT by moonshot925
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To: JacksonCalhoun

The word progress implies a goal. Socialists believe the only worthwhile goals are ones sheared by everyone. Hundreds of millions of private goals have been achieve by advances in technology in the past 50 years.

Technological promises change. Change offers opportunities. It is up to each of us to use the opportunities to our personal advantage.

If his point is humans are good at squandering opportunities then I agree.


12 posted on 08/01/2012 6:41:01 AM PDT by DManA
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To: Sir Napsalot
"(Read the whole article)"

Newsweak? mmmmmm....no.

13 posted on 08/01/2012 6:45:08 AM PDT by StAnDeliver (=)
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To: Sir Napsalot

I think Ferguson is on to something. The problem is not the advances or lack thereof in technology — it’s the dumbing down of society. We will continue to have substantial technological advances, but such advances will be put to increasingly trivial and unproductive pursuits. As the populace becomes more preoccupied with their Facebook accounts or playing Words with Friends, authoritarian governments will eagerly step in to “regulate and control” society. After all, the people won’t even know what an important issue is.


14 posted on 08/01/2012 6:54:22 AM PDT by Cincinatus (Omnia relinquit servare Rempublicam)
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To: Cincinatus
I'm not sure what he's on to but to support it he makes that incredible claim that not only is growth in scientific knowledge not accelerating, it is actually slowing down:

The achievements of the last 25 years were actually not that big a deal compared with what we did in the preceding 25 years,

15 posted on 08/01/2012 6:58:37 AM PDT by DManA
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To: DManA
The achievements of the last 25 years were actually not that big a deal compared with what we did in the preceding 25 years,

What's he is saying is that while technology advances, it is being put to ever more trivial and unimportant uses. Compare landing a man on the Moon with a computer not much greater in capability than today's pocket calculator with the development of today's power PC, which is multiples of hundreds better than the Apollo on-board computers and is used to chat and exchange photos on the internet.

16 posted on 08/01/2012 7:05:51 AM PDT by Cincinatus (Omnia relinquit servare Rempublicam)
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To: Cincinatus

Well stated.

The unchecked growth of bureaucratic meddlers has hampered much technical progress over the last 25 years. The reason it would take us so long to get back to the moon is because many of the materials used in the 60s can no longer be manufactured. Think Freon.

Thank you EPA, and that moderate, Rockefeller wing of the GOP (Nixon, McCain, Bush and now Romney) whose initiatives prove to be more deleterious than outright communism. Just wait for the results of Free Drugs for Geezers and our demographic suicide through immigration and open borders to take effect.


17 posted on 08/01/2012 7:07:34 AM PDT by noprogs (Borders, Language, Culture....all should be preserved)
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To: Cincinatus

That is such a myopic point of view.

I took my care to a one man mechanic the other day. He hooked his diagnostic computer to my car’s interface and read the service alarms. He went to his desktop computer and brought up the service manual for my car. Ran an app that estimated the time required to fix my problem and presented me an estimate in about 10 minutes. Then he went to another app and ordered parts from the cheapest source.

Inconceivable a small under capitalized entrepreneur could have that power even 10 years ago.


18 posted on 08/01/2012 7:19:32 AM PDT by DManA
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To: moonshot925
Cray-2, now in convenient tablet form for just $399:

Yes, equivalent computing power. Around the time I was standing in the middle of a Cray-2 (a wonderfully unique opportunity during high school), I wondered what if all that computing power was applied to a single user interface; now I know.

19 posted on 08/01/2012 7:20:53 AM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals: http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com)
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To: Sir Napsalot

Similarly here in technology—and I agree with you and Niall.


20 posted on 08/01/2012 7:27:26 AM PDT by 9YearLurker
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