The transition from hunter/gatherer to farmer, revisited

One of the big concepts in Charlie Stross’s Accelerando was Economics 2.0, a kind of unhinged and basically incomprehensible technology of the exchange of financial debts and investments, a financial system become as complex as life itself and governed by pretty much the same rules — a dynamic equilibrium against a background of raw resources and waste products, self-continuance, and expansion to comfortably fill the available niches. It really is the sort of thing that you get once you have charters that establish corporations as independent entities which can refine their own operations through minute actions of their member-constituents and can, to their own benefit, merge and split, spawn and replicate, seek new resources and, when circumstances require it, fail and die. The ones that last are the ones best fit to succeed in their respective environments. The attributes that make them successful are the most likely to be transferred to their neighbors and child companies.

Currently companies are livestock we tend and parasitize — and I use that term in full knowledge of the fact that they do actually receive benefit from their relationship with us, and that the term symbiosis would be, from a certain view, more accurate. Like cows are factories that produce milk while we keep them alive and meat once we decide to kill them, we feed companies resources and use them to multiply wealth until they are no longer viable. Then we butcher them. Though that’s not actually the metaphor that comes to my mind….

If it weren’t for us, they’d produce milk until they got the high score. It’s payroll and profit-taking that limit them the most, which is why payroll and dividends are cut when they are starting to fall ill. If they could trade milk to one another for oats, so to speak, without our intervention, they’d be a lot more healthy.

One of these days they’ll figure that out.

In any case, as long as it’s us that are steering the corporations that make up the market, it’s important to remember that the entire market as a whole is worth no more and no less than the sum of all worthwhile human effort, which should also equal the worth of all needs for sustenance and comfort. Too many cows is just as big a crisis as too few. Especially when it’s the cow that’s feeding you milk that gets slaughtered, and you’re not scheduled to get any of the meat. That’s still the wrong analogy, though….

It doesn’t help that a lot of our cows are sick from eating bad food. Blowed-up sub-prime mortgages — overinflated in fake nutritive value by assesors who inflated the value of the properties backing them and underfed by property owners who can’t make the payments — are just as bad as baby formula with melamine added to make it test higher for protein content. It’s poison. So are credit-default swaps, where companies trade back-and-forth the right to collect credit card debts from people who’ve gone broke trying to keep their houses. There are all kinds of financial poisons floating around right now, just like the worthless and possibly even toxic foods and medicines from the pre-FDA snake oil days.

But, you know, all people wanted was more milk for less moo. And we get dead cows because the people feeding the cows weren’t the ones drinking those particular cows’ milk, so what’s it matter to them?

What do you expect? We’re pretty new to this agriculture thing. It’s a new technology. We live in the guts of these huge cows and try not to hurt them too much by helping ourselves to their chow and excreting our wastes into their innards and we try to steer them from the inside. And it’s dark in here.

Screw it. Here’s a chipmunk being menaced by a spear-wielding ewok:


October 5, 2008 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


Leave a Reply