Foundation and the Future
- Mathematics is an elegant, beautiful language of power and precision. It deals with things that can be proved (well OK, now we're getting into Godel Incompleteness Theorem territory, but let's keep things simple for now). It deals in both the concrete and the abstract because it starts with axiomatic principles and derives everything from them; but when applied to human interactions, the precision of mathematics rapidly breaks down over any time horizon, because humans are anything but axiomatic except in the most general sense (e.g. the Axiom of Human Action).
- Economics is a messy language grounded in logic that deals with highly unpredictable entities- humans. Using the axiomatic, rational language of mathematics to deal with that which is not rational or axiomatic is by definition crazy. It is not for nothing that someone once said, "Mathematics brought rigour to economics; unfortunately, it also brought mortis".
- Psychology is neither precise nor axiomatic; combining it with mathematics to try to achieve predictive power is flat-out absurd.
I know that sounds like a strange claim to make when the actual management of the economy has been a total disaster. But hey, Hari Seldon didn't do his work by convincing the emperor to change his policies – he had to conceal his project under a false front and wait a thousand years for results. Now, there isn't, to my knowledge, a secret cabal of economists with a thousand-year plan to save our current civilisation (but then I wouldn't tell you if there was, would I?). But I've been struck these past several years by just how much power good economics has to make correct predictions that are very much at odds with popular prejudices and "common sense".
To take a not at all arbitrary example, a standard macroeconomic approach, the IS-LM model (don't ask) told us that under depression-type conditions like those we're experiencing, some of the usual rules would cease to apply: trillion-dollar budget deficits wouldn't drive up interest rates, huge increases in the money supply wouldn't cause runaway inflation. Economists who took that model seriously back in, say, early 2009 were ridiculed and lambasted for making such counterintuitive assertions. But their predictions came true. So yes, it's possible to have social science with the power to predict events and, maybe, to lead to a better future.
There is one huge difference this time, and that is our use of public debt to increase resource availability and extend the period of r-selection. This has allowed for a slight increase in the population’s shift towards the r-psychology in this cycle, and lengthened the period of Unraveling. That all will increase the magnitude of the Crisis we will face. This would have been predictable, if you had viewed the increases in national debt which began around 1980 in the context of this work . The disturbing aspect of this is that when the collapse comes, the hardcore Left will be particularly loony, since their amygdalae have essentially no adaptation to a more free, competitive environment. Today, not having free government healthcare, and free cellphones is the same to them as being tossed into Lord of the Flies. When things get so bad that there is no food or housing, they will be capable of anything. The coming Crisis will be epic.
- Start with a solid grounding in sound economic theory. That means Austrian economics, which breaks down economic interactions into a series of simple axioms, from which deductive logic can then provide simple yet powerful predictive models that show, in a priori fashion, the causes and effects of various economic phenomena.
- Continue by reading into evolutionary psychology, and in particular into r/K selection theory, which will give you some real insight into how both liberals and conservatives think- and more importantly, why
- Maintain a wide range of reading interests. Some of the most brilliant sci-fi I have ever read have helped me develop my own ideas about where and how future technology will influence modern society (I suspect that it will become more r-selected over time, right up to the next great collapse). I strongly recommend Charles Stross and his work in particular; others like David Weber, John Ringo, and Timothy Zahn are definitely worth reading also.