There’s an interesting discussion going on in the economics world about the impact of the cost of the Iraq war and on the US, following the publication of The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. Economic theory says it should have stimulated the US economy, but it doesn’t seem to have. The impact of the war on oil prices is also disputed. Finally, Stoglitz and Bilmes suggest that the financing of the war has accelerated the transition of global power away from the US.
I blogged last week about the potential impact of expensive energy on the future shape of the internet. Now it turns out that Sun has already started changing the design of its computer systems to favour efficiency rather than performance because of energy costs. It seems to have moved them to a different market space from their competitors.
This will mostly be familiar material to anyone who’s been following the arguments about sustainable economics, or is familiar with the critiques of the limitations of neo-classical economics, but nonetheless there’s a useful seven-point summary (really six) at the WorldWatch Institute site. Two points to highlight are the emerging potential of the commons as a model for managing resources, and the way in which poverty globally is highly gendered.
One of the most consistently interesting thinkers online about the long-term future of industrial society is John Michael Greer, who takes an impressively long-term and wide ranging (if also pessimistic) view of civilizational change. In his recent post Back Up The Rabbit Hole, he speculated on the way in which the ‘ultra cheap energy’ of the 1980s and 1990s had shaped US technology development – in particular the shape of the internet.
My wife has been on a course recently where students became exercised by issues of honesty and transparency. During the discussion, they became hyphenated, as if they were effectively aspects of the same thing. But from a trends point of view, clearly they’re not.
The current scandals around surveillance in the UK reminds me that I meant to post about Privacy International’s most recent international league table. (Thanks to Our Kingdom for the prompt). England and Wales are in the bottom category – “endemic surveillance societies” – while Scotland, split out for the first time, is a little higher, in category 5 (‘systemic failure to uphold safeguards’) of the 7. England is the only EU country to make the bottom grade; the US is also down there. A note of caution; very few states make the top three categories.