Re: Hollywood Economics (was Sentism)

Doug Bailey (
Thu, 27 Aug 1998 17:43:09 -0400

Anders wrote:

>What I really hate to see on this list is the postings that are really
>based on "Hollywood" science, technology and economics, the kind of
>stuff you see in movies: inventions are usually made by solitary
>geniuses with no outside support, working completely from their own
>principles in such a creative way that nobody else can replicate their
>discovery without reading their secret notebooks; companies prefer to
>sell products for exorbiant fees to ultra-rich people than go for the
>mass-market, and they immediately try to use illegal means to squash
>any competition; new inventions are always so profoundly new that they
>give the owner nearly unlimited potential power and nobody can stop
>him or her, and so on.

1 ruble to anyone who can utter that sentence aloud in one breath. :)

Seriously, I sympathize with Anders' comments, in part. One the most difficult adjustments I've had to make when thinking about how the things we talk about on this list will play out in the context of society is abandoning fundamental aspects of the present. Some of the people on this list have been thinking deeply about the future for many years and a much more adept at "future thinking" than relatively new list members. I've only been exposed to transhumanist topics for about a year now and while I've come along way, there's much room for improvement. I think a healthy amount of tolerance and patience should be exercised by the senior list members when dealing with some of the naive notions of the newest members. Efforts should be made to help the new members "future think".

For example, the issue that arose in the Sentism thread about ultra-wealthy individuals "hogging" all the transhuman technologies for themselves is a classic example of projecting the current socio-economic realities of our capital-scarce, hard-to-create-gadgets world onto a future with exotic technologies. The "have and have-not" aspect of human society has existed since people could realize that they had things. Its hard to emerge out of that box and conceive of a world where there might not be classic class rivalry, wealth disparity, and so forth. People have a hard time wondering how we could get from a world like we have now to such a world. People are skeptical of utopian predictions.

One last note, I'm not so sure about your "inventions are usually made by solitary geniuses with no outside support". On what basis are you making this claim? I suppose we could look at the percentage of patents that go to unfunded individuals but I don't have those figures handy. My perception is that most of the meaningful progress made in technologies such as AI, brain studies, biotechnology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, engineering, etc. are made by researchers funded by large corporations. There might be limited circumstances such as Wozniak and Jobs or Bell (though their work-product is impressive) but the lion's share of technological progress today is made by researchers funded by business. Correct me if I'm wrong. :)