Re: SOC/TECH: Greenstar <--- MUST SEE

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2000 - 08:09:28 MDT

Hal Finney wrote:
>Greenstar looks promising, but I am afraid that their current ideas
>about ecommerce are not going to succeed. ... selling MP3s and
>artwork just when ... such commerce will soon be obsolete.

Doug Jones wrote:
>Engineering rarely is the solution to
>political problems. A Greenstar installation is just too much value
>concentrated in too portable a form- I fear that without the patronage
>of local powers, it would simply be stolen and dismantled.

Greg Burch wrote:
>I don't doubt that the installations would be at risk of being suborned by
>local thugs. You'd have to pick your projects wisely. ...
>[costs] between $100k and $200k, which is steep, but which could be brought
>WAY down, I bet, with serious volume production and continuing engineering

Volume production is at odds with picking a few good projects. To support
volume production, you'd need an easy way to find lots of good sites.

I am highly skeptical of the economics of this enterprise. It seems
driven by self-indulgence of rich engineers. Comparisons across poor
countries, regions, and individuals almost never show any substantial
health effect of variations in medical spending or water and sanitation.
And the idea that random isolated villages could recoup $100K investments
via ecommerce seems just ludicrous, even if the equipment isn't just stolen.

It seems far better to me to stick with the microloan approach. Give them
a financial incentive to find the best projects, and then let them
tell you what projects they think will recoup their investments.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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