Dimensions of change

My fifteen-year-old son explains it to me this way: “You guys are old, and you believe things are going to stay the way they are, because that’s how they’ve been. I am completely certain everything about how I live and experience life is going to be totally different when I’m thirty.”

He’s saying this – I think – because he’s reading work from us ‘old guys.’ We’ve created machines that build machines, and planetary intelligences which exceed our own. We have drugs to make us think and feel as we choose. Our capabilities are already beyond our control (and we know this).

Yet here I sit, wondering – of all things – about my retirement income. Only Evan sees how ludicrous this is. I keep telling him, ‘look, all this stuff about qualitative change – surface warming, machine intelligence, the de-coupling of productivity and value, the Balkanization of nation states on a planet with super viruses and myth-driven fanatical killers – all these threats can only be consequential if people figure out how to bring them to market.’

The idea is, there have always been threats and terrors (and the Chicken Littles who keep us contemplative). But as a society, we choose what works, through price determination and competition, and only the successful stuff will be allowed to go forward.

Retirement income is about stock markets, and these ‘always’ go up (after a while). I guess I think they really have at least something to do with what’s going on underneath, but I’m not sure what. I read the ancient history and I wonder if the changes in the world between, say, 1920 and 1940, were as significant as those between, say, 2010 and 2030. I remember John Galbraith’s observation about 1929: “People weren’t surprised the market went down. They were surprised it kept going down.”

(I write this in hopes that, as usual, my printed predictions will be the trigger that starts things moving in the other direction).

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