Archive for February, 2006

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Jared Damond’s book is a compenduim of geopgraphy as a determining force in the evolution of innovation and human societies. If somehow this is the first review you’ve read of this then you should probably check a different review,

Mr. Diamond seems to harp over his points. He frequently has to remind us that this book counters the racist view point that he seems to think is the predominate view. I’ve personally never heard anyone use race as a means to explain to the advancements of some cultures or races over others, if anything I assumed a lot of it had to do with entrenched insitutions like the church or government closing down all possible lines of innovation and hence choking the culture from the inside or just foreign invasions. I’ve recently begun reading Jared’s next book collapse and found it to have the same I’m so better than those racist over-tones. Something in the presentation of Mr. Diamond’s material is what makes it annoying, while he certianly has some good ideas, a brooding and high-minded ego comes out of his prose which seems to have little time to consider an arguement outside of a brutally logical context. Mr. Diamond certianly seems to like the rigors of philosophy or any discipline that would require elegance in arguements. While he’s good at collecting data and weaving an “I was there” type of approach of first hand accounts his consistent mentioning of the “status quo” of anthropological knowledge (i.e. native peoples are inherintly somehow more in touch with the earth etc) gets rather annoying. We’re more than willing to hear you out and accept the premises of the arguement, but at times Mr. Diamond seems to be content to just argue with himself and conclude this is such becuase I say so. Somewhere in this book a convincing arguement remains, but it’s layered in small pieces in what is highly redudant prose. Mr. Diamond underestimates his reader and fails to provide an argument that can surprise as much as some of his simple collections of data can (for instance no new domesticable plants in about 200 years etc.)

cut this

the book revolves around the fact that Mr. Diamond doesn’t seem to consider that maybe many of the cultures that occupy better lands inhabit those lands becuase of culture. If the benefits of living in one are are obvious (good water, food, and weather) then isn’t a competition going to arise from bands in the area? Were the orginators of China the first to stumble into the valley or the first to scuessfully assimilate or kill the others in the valley? My point being while geopgraphy is certianly a high factor in what societies could easily locate the resources to become empires, innovate, and conduct warfare the cultures the basic hunter gathers that saw the potential in the lands settled probably had to contest the land with others, hence some amount of leadership and cultural self has to exist for these people to come to occupy the lands that ended up making the founding cultures of mankind. Hence we can’t rule out that those cultures that grew up and became advanced might have been the cultures that were able to rally their bands into something more than just a family in the first place.

BTW my blog is massively dis-organized

February 10, 2006 at 7:12 am 2 comments

Vocabulary and Innovation

??? Ok we all know the following at the moment the number of ideas written in English far exceeds that written in most languages. Plus many of those ideas have high economic value i.e. sciences, medecine, arts, etc. But let’s assume the following. You have 2 static populations one that has just been introduced some new ideas from another. The culture in question, despite 5000 years of existence etc, latches upon these ideas and begins to master them. Why? Because they have an environment that emphaises this one idea more than the originating culture which is full of innovations and hence more likely to have a diversified intellectual space less likely to nit-pick ideas down to their bare bones.? In other words in a limited linguistic environment a new idea will have more people concentrating on it than in the originating culture.

??? This assumes though that the two cultures are static. If one or both cultures are growing (as is often the case with innovations and higher economic status) than a culture has the ability to produce enough people to off-set the effects of a diversified intellectual space. I.E. if population grows along with the innovation then it’s possible that the increasing number of people will be able to specialize into the fields in question and continue the line of thought faster than the culture just introduced the idea.

??? If you take this as a model for innovation then we can predict that a culture that’s population is not growing faces the potential that it will dwindle in the intellectual space too.

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February 9, 2006 at 5:23 am Leave a comment

More Ideas Marijuana is a decentralized network so are 3d printers

This is an old story, but one of the problems with outlawing pot is that quite simply there isn’t any really big influx of it into the U.S. anymore. Pot can be grown in small quantities indoors etc. While cociane and other drugs require refining techniques that your average person wouldn’t want to do (ya know mashing it down to an acidic bath and then drying it) pot is much more regular, you just pick and go. Hence the real problem with it is that you can’t catch it as easily because virtually anyone with a closet can grow it. It’s similar to the problems of intellectual property rights we already face with p2p (which I haven’t used in ages, but ya know) and 3D printers. Knock offs produced in China, India, where-ever can shut down by lobbying the government to better regulate the industries and police them, but if people are building the things in their bedrooms with just a few punches of a button the network becomes more redudant etc. This has been covered by Lessing, Doctorow, etc but just occured to me the other day in terms of drugs. What can be grown easily at home has a better chance of becoming legal than what can be stymmed and shut off. The question is what would become of pot if decriminalized? Would small time growers begin community gardens? Isn’t its illegal nature what makes growing it in small batches so effective versus the risks of bringing it in whole sale? Wouldn’t legalization basically make it more effective to grow in large batches and ship in or would it turn out that a few hydroponics here and there are actually more effective than growing in bulk? My point being the illegal nature of mairjuana necessitates it’s homegrown mentality and the profit involved in growing it, while any law favoring decriminalizing it would open up a market for people elsewhere. Pot already has been the subject of engineering both in the lab and on farms and like tobacco it’s greater profit might be in owning the patent to a particularly good seed than in actually growing an activity many people already undertake just for the convience of it. I prefer to leave things open with questions, but I think pot being decriminalized would create an international market with 7-11 stocking the favored blends, but it wouldn’t actually kill the home grown types as much as thought, the amount of work going into it isn’t great and the results store better than produce or fruit my point being like a 3D printer it only takes a little time and materials put in to yeild something that’s leisure far outweighs the work.

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February 9, 2006 at 5:19 am 1 comment


February 1, 2006 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

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