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« The Role of Government | Main | CRN's Hot Buttons »

April 12, 2004


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Brett Bellmore

But, of course, current AIDS drugs are subject not only to development costs which need to be recouped, but also not inconsiderable manufacturing costs. AND the cost of skilled administration of the drugs. (Which just promote resistant strains unless properly managed.) While MNT for all intents and purposes doesn't exist until exponential manufacturing is made workable. Which should reduce the cost of manufacture to something near negligable.

I would expect that Africa would benefit substantially from products which were developed for use elsewhere, but would suffer from a comparative lack of anything to trade for developmental work on products specific to African needs. And many medical products will be useless or even dangerous without skilled operators.

The worst problem Africa, and the rest of the third world, faces, is this:


Due to poor prenatal and early enviroment, these countries are going to be almost devoid of anybody capable of doing the development work, for at least a generation or so, even if you could magically fix all their problems today. And this in a world where intellectual capital is virtually the only thing of real value. They're going to be economic basket cases for decades to come.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

That map has got to be wrong. An IQ average of 70, implying that for every 100 there's a 40? And over such a conveniently-shaped region, too.

A little web searching finds: "In their sample of 185 countries, Lynn and Vanhanen (2002:59f) have only direct evidence of national IQs for 81 countries; the remaining 104 national IQ values have been estimated, based on racial group [2] compositions and neighboring country IQ values. Furthermore the available national IQ samples differ greatly in size, the point of time the IQ test has been performed, the composition of the participants and the type of IQ test which has been used. Worst of all, the IQ samples can hardly be considered to be representative on the national level. One may be particularly concerned about the sampling in remote rural areas in Africa during the 1960s." http://socio.ch/internat/volken.htm

IQ was equated with intelligence in all the reviews of the book that I read. I once took an IQ test that had been designed for inner-city black children. It said I might be trainable for simple manual labor jobs. Would anyone like to argue that we knew (or cared) enough in the 60s to design suitable intelligence tests for remote rural areas of Africa? I can easily believe that they scored a 70 on Western IQ tests. I find it very hard to believe that this indicates their intelligence.

The Volken paper also explains how Lynn and Vanhanen misused the statistics. "The variance explained by the model with only IQ in it amounts to 51 percent [6], whereas the model with IQ and EF explains 62 percent [7]. Thus Lynn and Vanhanen conclude that the independent effect of EF on real GDP per capita in 1998 amounts to only 11 percent." This is a blatant, stupid error; that's simply not how variance works; L&V's method could equally well demonstrate that IQ accounted for 12%. When you do it right, it turns out that economic freedom explains 29% of income, and "IQ" explains only 23%.

Brett Bellmore

Yeah, maybe not as strong a difference as that map suggests. That's still going to be their problem after nanotech arrives, though: A lack of people smart enough or educated enough to produce intellectual property for trade.

Mike Deering

In the past, increases in worker productivity and automation produced growth in corporate profits and growth in real wages as workers migrated into more technical jobs. Improvements in the design of machinery displaced workers from low paying manual labor functions to higher paying information technology functions.

Pundits point at this history to justify the statement that further automation will be good for everyone's income. The pundits are wrong. There is a new dynamic on the horizon, and we are just starting to see the effects. Improvements in computers, software, information technology, and artificial intelligence are displacing workers from those higher paying IT jobs and dumping them into the lower paying service economy. First human muscle was replaced by machines, now human brains are being replaced by machines. If this trend continues or accelerates, which I believe it will, we could all be out of a job soon, including engineers, product designers, authors, scientists, managers, executives, and yes even bloggers.

So, who is going to get the benefit of advanced technologies? Business owners and those with significant capital.

And who will lose? Workers and those with little or no capital.


I started thinking about who benefits from mnt from watching the latest in Iraq news; who is going to get those black boxes? O.K. so you use the military to snuff out the bad guys; even with early mnt, that will be harder than you think to weed out the bad guys; multiply that with all the other countries with all their personal problems of this world, and it won't be nearly as easy as you'd think to distribute all the new magic boxes.


Mike, everything you're saying there applied just as much to specialized, skilled accountants and computers (back when the term was a job as opposed to a machine). Was the sky falling back then? Did the workers with little capital fall over and die as their jobs were automated? Those folks are in late retirement now, and most look fairly well-off to me.

I'm a coder as well as a software architect, and frankly much of what I do is akin to scrivening. I'll be happy to have a machine do it for me so that I can focus on design and architecture. When machines can do that too, I'll be off to one of the other careers I have in mind. Change is good. Who *really* wants to be a scrivener, no matter how well paid?

Brett Bellmore

"Akin to scrivening". You got it; I'm a mechanical designer, and I spent thirty seconds or so this morning on productive thinking. The next six hours were spent on bludgoning the software into reproducing the design that was already in my head.

Give me a decent brain computer interface, so that a computer can handle the scut work, and you can keep your artifical intelligence. I enjoy the creative part of engineering. Maybe after my brain is frozen, I'll get lucky, and it will be digitized to play the part of a design engine in somebody's "genie machine". That would be a cool form of "artificial" intelligence, wouldn't it? Routines that you pay in machine cycles they can spend doing what THEY want?


Assuming that any given tech is good (not a good assumption, I don't believe) there is the serious issue of variable absorptive capacity. Intellectual capital is just one part of a giant, complex, cultural dilema set to make the rich richer and the poor -- relatively poorer, indefinitely.

Connected is the question of military tech. Who is a good guy? Who is a bad guy? It would take a vast oversimplification of history and international political economy to say, for example, that the USA is good and Iraqi insurgents are bad. Even if you believe you're on the good guy team right now, it's quite a leap of faith in the future and the future of power to cheer for the US military (or any military) to be empowered with super nano-capabilities. It's like a gamble that an uber-powerful state will never go bad and that you just happened to be lucky enough to be born in it. That's actually not luck or a gamble, that a delusion of white supremacy.

I allways say, the world is pretty messed up right now, and it aint cause those in power aren't strong enough...nanotech is only going to make that worse.


In response to mdog, we had better make sure nanotech is in the hands of a far greater cross-section of the community than just the "powerful"!
How? Free-market private enterprise of course. Capitalism has gotten quite a knock for the last ..let's see... century and the true nature of it seems to be little understood. The playing field for business is not level across the world. There is still too much protectionism, too many tariffs. As a result, "globalisation" is not the same as a true global free market. In a truly free market, opportunities abound for entrepreneurial types from any country (whether wealthly or poor) to create business opportunities and this includes hi-tech.
If we rely on governments to get MNT up and running, the technology will inevitably be concentrated in small areas and out of the reach of poorer and non-white people.

Andrew Spark

I think we need to reflect on the world’s response to an unprecedented tragedy, that is of coursed HIV/Aids are robbing communities and nations of their greatest asset to their people.

Tom Craver

Of interest...


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