Jason (jcreed) wrote,

Went to the Jared Diamond talk. I had high hopes, but it was kind of frustrating to listen to; the one point that I found interesting was the observation that societies are in trouble if their decision-makers are isolated from the consequences of their decisions, i.e. if they happen to be some (in the short term) rich elite that are able to by virtue of their wealth side-step poor public services. And if you're going to make a libertarian counterargument to that, to say that public services are not necessarily by definition necessary, then you have to ensure, I think, that the decision-makers aren't extensionally identified with the rich elite, if there so happens to be one.

The audience questions were even harder to sit through; a high density of "statemet statement statement... question mark?" although Diamond did a fantastic job of chattily non-answering the non-questions, instead just talking about something related in some token way. One woman asked very pointedly, however, what we are to do when we arrive at a situation of power-consequence disconnect as described above, and gave the example of north korea — and much to my disappointment he completely kept with his strategy of non-answering, and simply pointed out that he's not worried about the environmental impact of north korea, and is more concerned with the environmental impact of the US. I mean, granted, the topic of his talk was more about environmental impact of cultures, but I would love to know if he had any actual ideas about dealing with the grandiose sociological problems he cherry-picked to complain about. For that's the pessimism that's one of the few things I'm inclined to give ear to in Malthus and Marx and so on, the fear that the "default" or what have you in long-term change in human societies is that things get fucked up pretty bad, that owning things gives you the power to make more things, and the simple operation of interest rates drives any initial noise into gross discrepancies in wealth, and that the disconnection of power from the result of exercise of power is horribly and frightfully natural occurrence, and maybe we have to apply some sort of informed continuous correction to it to avoid the violent and discontinuous corrections we call political revolutions.

But what is it, what shape does it even take? All Diamond said about solutions seemed to have to do with pumping more money into nebulously defined "preventative enviormental solutions" early before they get bad. I don't buy this at all — why would it have been easy to solve greenhouse emissions if only we had started thirty years ago? People would still enjoy using internal comustion engines and eating factory-farmed hamburgers and popping out 2.3 babies per household that grow up to do the same, wouldn't they? I know I would.
Tags: talks
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