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« Productive Skepticism, I Hope | Main | Molecular Manufacturing, in its Broadest Sense »

March 09, 2006


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I agree with Tom, good example is africa, they are getting billions in aide and yet they are as hopeless as ever, because they themselves have very lack of care for thier own people, they have absolutely no passion for ever changing thier own situation. Look at S.korea, 30 years ago they were a extremely poor rice farming nation, 30 years later they're one of the wealthiest and advance nations in the world, why? because when the U.S gave them billions in aide they used it to advance, they worked very hard to catch up. The Africans even though billions has been pumped into thier countries and many do have natural resource wealth such as oil,gold and diamonds are still as poor and hopeless as ever. Aide should go to people that care to progress not people that don't.

Giving people free money is also a terrible idea, people will get lazy, if people don't work for thier money they'll won't have any regards for responsibility. Giving money to people like S.koreans I'm all for, giving money to people who sit around and use the money to live on it day to day while have no drive for improvement, no I don't agree with that at all, because they'll be a burden on people who actually did work hard to get somewhere. Wealthy nations/people shouldn't be punished because they worked hard to become wealthy.

Also my question is how is MM going to make any difference? first of all you can't make bread out of carbon as we all know, so its obviously easier the conventional way since making bread isn't technologically advance and drugs aren't made of carbon either, and since its already chemistry and biotech little would change.

Nato Welch

I think that there is a danger in charity breeding dependency, but what's the point in charity if it's only given out on the basis of merit, rather than need? Does DT seriously advocate that we should let Africa starve?

Add to this question the likely case that MM will create a big unemployment crisis, as the technology replaces workers who can't re-educate themselves as fast as the technology can be re-tooled for new markets. "Laziness and degeneracy" will not be the problem, then; it will be simply labor competition by super-competetent, super-efficient technology that workers will not own.

Which leads me, incidentally, to my suggestion for Africa: give them the IP, the technology, the MEANS to provide for themselves, and you can begin to wean them off the cash.

Dealers LIKE addicts, remember.


If Nanotech is REALLY CHEAP, then Africans can buy the technology in a radically altered post capitalist systems!

An amateur mathematician


Does DT seriously advocate that we should let Africa starve?

Let it starve? I got news for you, it IS starving, and people dying by the droves while billions of dollars are being pumped into a black hole. Its a hopeless case until the Africans themselves start caring about thier own people. They can't even freaking wrap up or stop breeding when Aids is so rampant, a deadly disease doesn't even motivate them to wear a condom or get tested, now you expect the world to educate them to use MM and become developed, wake up this is reality, not idealistic utopia.


DT, Aid to Africa contrary to what the newspapers say is really about bribing elites to keep raw materials cheap in the west!

Why is it DT that you have to rain on everyone's parade! Cutting aid to Africa will not save you a single cent in taxes as actually as a percentage of GDP it is a most 0.5 %!!!

An amateur mathematician


Nanotech Rules!


The U.S has more than 10 million starving children, we can use that aide for our own children if Africans don't give a rats arse about their own well being.

Karl Gallagher

My worry about a system that provides all necessities free is what it does to the recipients. Human nature expects to have to work to get what we need. People who are idle all the time start behaving pathologically--forex, the children of millionaires. So the bigger question is how do we find useful work for people in this wealthier system?


I have come to the conclusion that DT is delusional! By all means criticise Aid to Africa, most of it is wasted after all. But 10 million starving American children?

Now to Mr Gallagher. Who cares about the children of millionaires! Why is it so bad to be so wealthy that effectly all work is carried out by robots? In such a world, everyone would be in the same boat!

An amateur mathematician.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Nato: "but what's the point in charity if it's only given out on the basis of merit, rather than need?"

I'm not suggesting charity. And I'm not suggesting that the resources should be distributed on the basis of either merit or need. I'm suggesting that basic necessities should simply be available, no questions asked. The opposite of Marie Antoinette: "They have no cake? Let them eat bread." If they want cake--and most people will--then they can go out and earn it.

DT: "now you expect the world to educate them to use MM and become developed, wake up this is reality, not idealistic utopia."

Neil Gershenfeld (MIT) reports that one of the best ways to defuse tension on the India-Pakistan border is to provide networked computers. People become too busy learning to fight.

Karl: "Human nature expects to have to work to get what we need. People who are idle all the time start behaving pathologically"

I agree. But there are various kinds of needs, and supplying the necessities of health does not supply all needs. Anyway, a minimal guaranteed income still requires work to figure out how to spend it well. And people also behave pathologically when they don't have confidence that they'll survive past their 20's.


Tom Craver

You cannot make a valid analogy comparing giving goods/money to the bounty of nature. Nature has no will, no sentience, no need for morality. Humans do.

Nature's bounty is created without human effort. Human bounty requires human effort - no matter if that effort is quite small. If the effort is small, why are the recipients of the charity not allowed (required) to put forth that small effort on their own behalf, retaining their independence?

In fact, is it not because you would *withhold* MNT from the objects of your charity (and charity it is, however you arrange it) that you end up "needing" to provide that charity?

Why do you withhold MNT? You do not trust them - you fear what they will do - or allow their leaders to do - if they have MNT. Your charity is driven your desire to claim to be their friend - and yet you are not willing to trust them to be your friend in return. But the flaw lies less in distrusting them than in needing to validate one's moral worth by charity even if that charity ends up making things worse.

A far kinder approach would be to isolate poor nations from *all* trade until they are ready to trade on a truly free market basis: no bribing corrupt officials for cheap access to their resources; no giving the rulers military assistance or a national cash flow to skim to buy weapons to keep their people from rebelling if they are mistreated; no bringing in cheap/free goods that drive local producers out of the market while propping up incompetent governments.

Of course, cutting off trade isn't likely to happen - too many are greedy for profits, and uncaring of the impact on the local economies/societies, and willing to cynically use the rhetoric (but not the reality) of "free trade" to justify continuing an obviously failing system.

About the best we could realistically hope for is to develop the will to cut off trade in weapons, and prohibit government or corporate bribing of local officials - even in the name of delivering charity.

Possibly we could create an international agreement establishing the principle that a nation may deny patent protection to imported goods, forcing companies to establish local manufacturing.

When MNT becomes available, apply the same principle - in order to have their MNT designs protected, a company will have to establish local production, whether that means individuals with DRM-limited fabbers, or factories with fixed function fabbers.

Brian Wang

Helping the poor has proven to be a more complex problem. Corrupt leaders can take the money and the aid. There are many other problems actually raising people out of poverty in a lasting way.

More approaches have been and are being tried. Some are successful.

An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water. More at this link

Botswana is considered an African success story.

Other success stories and approaches:

Eliminating Malaria and TB and Aids is important. http://www.fightingmalaria.org/
It tough to show drive and initiative when you are dead or in bed from Malaria or as a country if you have a large percentage of people in hospitals.

Microcredit programs have also been successful.

Try things that might help. Expand what actually works.

Brian Wang

On the point of money being lost trying to fix poverty. Trillions of dollars get wasted all the time. Projects fail. If the world economy is 40-50 trillion dollars now. Maybe 50% is nearly a complete waste and 49% could be more optimally spent.

In Information technology, Y2K probably had too much money spent on it.
In real estate there is overbuilding.
General Motors is inefficient.
The tobacco industry has obvious issues.

Waste is not to be encouraged, but it is not a reason not to try. Efficiency clearly matters. Failing to fix the big problems means 1.2 million die each year from cars, millions die from curable disease, millions from poverty etc...

The Marshal plan
is a big project that was successful with Europe and Japan. If we were to be able to be successful with something similar for our modern problems, that would be a good thing.

Tom Craver

Brian -

My objection isn't that the money is wasted. It's that it ultimately is counter-productive.

The old saying should be "If you give a man a fish, he'll never learn to fish for himself." Provide clean water, and people won't learn to take responsibility to avoid polluting water. Provide enough food for all, and you'll put local farmers out of business - do it long enough, and no one local will remember how to farm.

The evil of long-provided charity is that you tend to make people dependent upon you, putting them at your mercy. Sure, they could "just say no" - and if they truly understood the long term impact of taking gifts from strangers, perhaps they might.

Charity programs also create golden opportunities for corrupt officials to enrich or empower themselves - giving them little motive to help end poverty and real motivation to keep people poor.

Brian Wang

Hi Tom

I agree that over dependency is a problem to be avoided. However, the incentive and punishment system has to be applied at the right level.

Providing safe drinking water from my tap is not something that I contribute much. I am dependent upon the water utility company and government regulation. I do pay a water bill. There is limited control and limited dependency.

Pollution reduction programs have been successful where businesses have been held responsible and laws and regulation created for farmers and urban individuals.

Helping establish a system for a country with a broken or non-existent system would I think be a good thing. You want to get buy-in, local shared responsibility and participation in the solutions.

Just throwing money at a problem or pure give-aways tend to run into the problems that you describe. Although as you have noted in limited doses or as part of a system they can be workable. Modifications to various aid programs that requires work or contribution from those who are aided tend to work better.

Phillip Huggan

Ahhh. Away from the brain-cramping technical details of the other thread... :)

Espousing the virtues of cultural/national self reliance is never ever accompanied by a tabulation of the resource and environmental imputs that the "winners" have utilized in their "winning formula". For the US (not to be political, just to use a familiar example), economic hedgemony has been developed basically because her borders are secure from the threat of war. No needless industrial capital destruction or widespread industry conversions to economically useless weapons production. If those 10 million malnourished American children DT quoted (did you know the African American infant mortality rate is worse than that in many 3rd world nations) had food, things would be even better. America should have a per capita annual income approaching $100 000.

Anyway, the reason we have progress is that more people are educated for more hours. It is intellectual capital that breeds new engineering utilities. Condemning people to menial labour instead of education to induce the "virtue" of self-sufficiency, is wrong and very inefficient. And they aren't even being condemned for a vice, they are being condemned because their ancestors didn't have capital to invest in compounding interest pyramid schemes or their ancestors were conquered.

Phillip Huggan

To summarize...aid in tandem with education, not aid in tandem with work.

Brian Wang

We can also look at this issue by not looking at the developing world. But first a reference to an article comparing being poor in the United States versus a Surgeon in the Congo.

There are the developed countries of Europe, Japan, USA, Canada etc... Each has different levels of safety net, entitlement and different rules. Even within each country there can be differences (different states and provinces).

The systems result in different levels of taxation to pay for the costs. The regulations effect the flexibility and robustness of response to change and adversity.

How much of a problem does each country/state have with poverty? crime? joblessness? overall productivity? Education?
Some issues may not be the result of the incentive or safety net system. And some programs would end up with different results in different places. But more comparison and analysis of different systems and results could be instructive for modifying flaws in each.

Also, the effect on competition and flows within the larger global economy matter.

ie. nice weather and cultural tolerance for beggars - seems to lead to more beggars in some cities. Also, worse crime statistics.
Some poor even travel to more cities where they can get an easier unproductive existence. Some places like Calgary, Canada gave the poor, homeless a bus ticket to send them to Vancouver.

Less competitive countries end up with more jobless people and more of a burden on those who are working. The systemically higher unemployment in Europe seems to be the result of this.

The overall sustainability of the system needs to be considered.

Canada has had more socialized medicine than the United States for decades. Many good doctors that wanted better pay ended up going to the United States. However, the free clinics for basic care in Canada are far more convenient for simple needs and can help encourage early detection of problems. Therefore, reducing the overall cost and burden of healthcare on the total economy.

So in developed countries, the issues are also complicated.

Phillip Huggan

To what end are productivity gains?
Is it possible that some of the people who are working are a burden upon some of the unemployed?

michael vassar

I have already covered this issue fairly thoroughly here.

http://wisenano.org/w/Pollution_credits http://wisenano.org/w/Basic_Income

FWIW, Paul Krugman seems to have reached similar conclusions at some point.

Good last set of points Phillip.

Zelah, US aid to Africa isn't remotely close to .5% of the GDP. Much closer to .1%

Nato Welch

Chris: I can see your point. There is a difference between charity of property and a plain natural resource. Charity still operates within the bounds of scarce property.

In particular, I can see how this applies to knowledge - specifically, intellectual property. Knowledge, by itself, seems to be one of those un-owned natural resources, like water and air. Unlike the latter, however, the wealthy on this planet are busy imposing aritificial scarcities of knowledge and endeavor; fences around information. If this is allowed to continue, then access knowledge - the primary means to overcome dependency, for example - WILL be charity, rather than a natural resource, because it will resemble scarce property more than un-owned resources in the eyes of global society.

That would indicate that we need to hold up the enclosure of the intellectual commons, and enrich it with these technologies wherever possible. I think you can agree with that.

Nato Welch


Mike Treder, CRN

Phillip said:

Espousing the virtues of cultural/national self reliance is never ever accompanied by a tabulation of the resource and environmental imputs that the "winners" have utilized in their "winning formula".

Excellent point!

There are very good reasons why so many early humans left Africa behind. In places like the Middle East, Persia, and China, prehistoric explorers discovered better foraging, better hunting, and more reliable climates. A wider selection of grains allowed them (after centuries of trial and error) to cultivate crops that would make settled villages possible. And so on.

The problem is not that Africans are stupid or lazy, because they're not; it's that the continent they inhabit stacks the odds against them.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tom: Not sure why you think I'd deny MM to people. I'd want to restrict the ease of using it for military or criminal purposes. But I certainly wouldn't deny it and then give back the dregs as charity.

That's more the kind of thing that corporations would do. I suspect that Bechtel considered getting tax breaks for subsidizing water piped to the poorest of the people who were forbidden to collect rainwater.

And I'm sure that corporations would be happy to deny IP to people, and then give them back the dregs as charity. So I agree with Nato.

In fact, I've been thinking about IP, and the various implementations of the idea that an inventor should be able to profit from his invention.

Hm... I feel a top-level post coming on...


Tom Craver

If providing people with access to MM is the way to end poverty, why play around with gifts of netting or guaranteed minimum incomes? Restriction of MM is implicit in your presumption of a need to give out gifts.

I suppose you might say that someone else will restrict MM, forcing you to just give gifts. But since CRN is in the business of trying to set policies for MM, you're essentially saying that you think you're likely to fail to get the policies you'd want put place.

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