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OK, I've dug my way out far enough.

It seems that humane people are drawn instead to imagined worlds of shrunken, easily manageable technologies, where the issue isn't explosive potential, but the fear (hope?) that failing resources will make the 21st century blur and shift into a world of locally grown vegetables.

...what is so wrong with a world of locally-grown vegetables...
Please forgive my lack of clarity. I've spent enough time turning compost heaps and avoiding processed foods and truck-ripened fruits to appreciate locally grown vegetables. What I intended to criticise was what I see as a tendency to welcome the idea of harsh resource constraints that would force people to tend their gardens and eat their veggies because they'll be so incapacitated by shortages that they can't move things around any more. (Mind you, one could argue people would soon be quite happy with the arrangement -- partly because of hedonic-treadmill effects.)

My claim is that a future where technology stagnates is easy to imagine and very soothing to contemplate, compared to one in which a something like the Moore's law explosion in the infosphere begins to take off in the world of physical technology. Superficially, these capabilities on this scale seem like an optimist's dream because they could be used to solve many of the overwhelming problems we face today (for example, by spreading global wealth while decreasing environmental impact). On closer examination, they lead to possibilities that are scary, complex, and very, very hard to think about. After grappling with this, the idea that resource limits will stop all that starts to seem like... well... an easy excuse for avoiding the hard issues.

...the technomanagerial approach and the heavy industrial tech it relies on cannot be fixed.  it is what it is and it works the way it works, just like a shark or a virus.  a whole different approach is required to stop the ungoverned feedback loop of more resource destruction leading to more profits
This may well be true in practice, though of course it could be different in theory :^). But what if heavy industrial tech can, in fact, be replaced by something that beats it in productivity, cost, product quality, cleanliness... ? Something that resembles heavy industrial tech about as much as a kid's cell phone resembles [>>warning: obligatory Moore's law comparison from pre-1950<<] a room full of technicians in white coats tending a 30 ton vacuum-tube computer that eats 40 kW and delivers about 1/1,000,000 the computing capacity. Or about as much as an oak leaf resembles a billion-dollar semiconductor fabrication facility. (Guess which one makes smaller electronic devices.)
...why do we require "enormously more powerful technologies"?
Let's assume that we don't need them. The question is, what do we do with them when they arrive anyway?
...the power of core elites to appropriate time, space and resources...
...those things -- time, space, and resources -- have been subtracted  from the lives of real people...
Time, space, and resources (for quite a while at least) don't have to be counters in a zero-sum game. What scares me is that core elites are full of people who crave ever more power, because it is people who crave ever more power who climb to the top, and they're forcing a nasty game on the rest of us. Being forced to live more like peasants wouldn't keep people from being stomped.

Moving in the opposite direction may offer a chance, but humane, far-sighted people seem to prefer contemplating (fantasies of) shortage-induced collapse, or warming-induced collapse, or nuclear-winter induced collapse, or [fill in blank]-induced collapse. So I predict that lots of planning will be done for a future of limited options that never happens, and almost none for a future of enormous possibilities that seems hard to avoid.

how can more powerful technologies improve this situation?  the increase in technomass can only come at the expense of biomass and the further impoverishment of the core.
They could easily make the situation worse, but not because of a zero-sum resource dynamic. My thesis is (1) that enormously powerful technologies will emerge whether we want them or not and (2) that so much could change that there may be a chance to break out of some old, destructive patterns.
the molecular-level work may look light in theory, but it's based on the same extreme resource pyramid of industrial tech that impoverishes the periphery more viciously with each passing decade.
Molecular-level developments aren't inherently and necessarily based on this resource pyramid, but regardless of their potential, they are of course slotted into the system. And this pattern may continue even when really radical developments could be leveraged to replace they pyramid with something different.


Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Sat Oct 21st, 2006 at 04:47:44 AM EST
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