Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Ultimate Resource

Why is it that mankind enjoys cell phones, computers and airplanes today but not when King Louis XIV was alive? The necessary physical resources to make cell phones, computers and airplanes have always been around, even when caveman walked the Earth. There is only one answer to why we enjoy these goodies today and not yesteryear.

George Mason economist Walter Williams' explains here.

11 Comments:

At 7/02/2008 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article introduces a very important and timely subject, namely, the resurgence in Malthusianism and the politics of limits. It is important that these ideas popularized by the Population Bomb and the Club of Rome are challenged given their potential to misdirect vast resources without solving the world's most pressing problems, for example, the provision of clean drinking water.

 
At 7/02/2008 1:44 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

Very romantic view. He forgot one important driving force for innovation: war.

Digital computers advanced during World war II and the need to break codes. I will mention Conrad Zuse's Z3 and the British Colossus. Also airplane and rocket technology are fundamentally the same as introduced during those times, through the V-2 German, a.k.a Von Brown. Of course, tremendous work has been done, but the breakthrough came about that time.

Most major technological breakthroughs came about because of the need to conquer and grap resources.

Should I mention atomic energy and all its technological applications, like nuclear medicine? Radar technologies and everything related to that?

When people are not faced with survival and war issues, little progresses.

What we experienced today is fine tuning of technological breakthroughs and also scientific ones, like Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, that took place during a time that people were killing each other across the globe for various reasons.

I suspect the next breakthroughs will happen in the future during a similar times, God forbid of course, nobody wants that.

 
At 7/02/2008 2:36 PM, Anonymous Ryan said...

Dr. Williams' conclusions are spot on, I just take issue with one thing he said in the middle of the 2nd paragraph.

"People became able to satisfy these needs with less and less time."

This is wrong. The fact that we have been able to do the cultural and spiritual things that Professor Williams praises is a reflection of the fact that the period of production has lenthened, not shortened. To be sure, modern industrial production has become ever more capital intensive, which in turn has made the process of production much more efficient and less time consuming. But it's a mistake to seperate the time it takes to make the capital goods that make production more efficient from the new, faster, and more efficient process once it is underway. Ford's implementation of the assembly line made the time it took to fit together all the requisite parts of an automobile much faster than previously. But the capital goods that facilitated this faster method possible had to be fastened first. The cars cannot be made in the faster process without the construction of the necessary capital goods that make it possible, and, therefore, the construction of these capital goods cannot be seperated from the period of production. So as modern industry has become more and more capital intensive, the provisioning of consumption goods--which are intended for the present satisfaction of our needs--has taken more amounts of time, not less.

 
At 7/02/2008 3:37 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I suspect the next breakthroughs will happen in the future during a similar times, God forbid of course, nobody wants that"...

Hmmm, says who? By your own admission war is when things get done...

Yes, that question was both a bit rhetorical and a bit of the devil's advocate sort of question...

Ever read that seminal piece by Edward Luttwak, "Give War A Chance"?

Its not very long and its worth the time...

Dr. Williams comment regarding the real difference between Hong Kong and the Congo were I thought especially good...

BTW, one more note about war, "WAR WASN'T THE 20th CENTURY'S BIGGEST KILLER"

 
At 7/02/2008 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sophist,

There are lots of examples of technologies that evolve without the impetus of war. The most obvious example is medical technology.

While there are lots of great developments on the battlefields of Iraq for the triaging casualties, and treating pain and trauma, there have been significant advances in recent years in such areas as the mapping of the human genome, advances in cancer treatment, brain imaging, diagnostic imaging, laser and micro surgery, etc.

It is time you got your nose out of a book.

 
At 7/02/2008 9:46 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Very romantic view. He forgot one important driving force for innovation: war.

sophist, you ignorant slut.

Cetainly war has been a driving force behind tech development -- but, more critically it's been a driving force behind tech implementation -- most of the tech was developed long before. In real fact, many tech developments sat around for decades unused until someone else spotted them (or re-invented them) and put them to use.

To use a key point involving warfare -- the Russians, in WWII, had the worlds BEST tank -- the T-34 -- if their tankmen had been half as talented as the German tankmen were, the whole war would have been over in 1941 and Moscow would have been in Berlin that year.

The developments in Soviet tanks, however, were developed by an American, Walter Christie more than a decade before the war. When his proposals were ignored by the US military, he found a receptive audience in the Soviets. Out of that came the T-34.

But all the techniques involved sat around waiting for a war to put them to use, not the other way around, as is your thesis.

This does not just apply to military technology. The Germans, looking at nitrogen compounds, developed one of the precursors to Rayon in 1912, patented it, and forgot about it, because they had no use for it.

DuPont rediscovered it in the early 30s and began developing it for fabric use.

War has a far more relevant place in the forcing of the re-examination and change of technologies, less than is often attributed to it. It is its ability to eliminate bureaucratic inertia, if anything, which causes it to force technology. Industries which haven't fought hard to improve efficiencies must do so in wartime, so new ideas and new ways of doing things are tried, even when those ideas or techs have been available for years.

> When people are not faced with survival and war issues, little progresses.

I repeat:
sophist, you ignorant slut.

That's not only not right, it's not even wrong.

What, there was little 'progress' made in the USA from 1870 to 1910?

Oh, yeah, we really, really were getting challenged by the Indians and the Spanish -- they were just forcing us to develop as rapidly as we could.

Yeesh.
:-/

I could further trash your clueless assertion, but let's just say your grasp of the history of technology is around as good as your grasp of economics.

The only accuracy in the basis for your argument is the fact that competition is a great driving force for change and improvement. War tends to put an extra edge onto competition, thus war does an excellent job of driving it. But it's hardly the only thing which pushes men to compete, not by a long shot. While Britain and France were often involved in wars, they competed outside that framework, too, and thus developed by leaps and bounds even in times of peace.


===

juandos, you will also find this of interest:
20th Century Democide

 
At 7/03/2008 10:16 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

obloodyhell declared:

"sophist, you ignorant slut."

the above remarkable statement combined with another remarkable statement of his that:

"Pricing is kind of opposite to quantum mechanics."

can possible serve as the two axioms of a new theory about psychosis described to obloodyhell only to to this companiero Juandos in more detail here .

 
At 7/03/2008 8:59 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

>obloodyhell declared:
> "sophist, you ignorant slut."

Once again, sophist demonstrates his ignorance, this time of basic cultural memes

It was a joke, numbnuts.

> combined with another remarkable statement of his that

Followed by an utter irrelevancy which has not the slightest thing of any kind to do with the point at issue, and instead is trying to make fun of (by removing from context) a point he never understood in the first place.

This, of course, would be an ad hominem attack, something he's whined about others (incorrectly, and notably me) making in the past.

Apparently, we can add "hypocrite" to sophist's ever increasing list of bad qualities.

> can possible serve as the two axioms of a new theory about psychosis

...as well as imagined credentials in psychology.

Tell us, sophist, where did you do your college work -- "Renaissance Universities, Inc."?

They offered degrees in over a dozen subjects all at once, right? No class attendance actually required? Financial Aid available?

... and yet you still managed to flunk out.

Would you care to actually attempt to refute ANY of the counterpoints made? Naw. That would require an ability to actually think and reason, and your name isn't sophist (sense 1b) for nothing.

 
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