Tag Archives: transition
And could create epic inequality
by Gregor Macdonald
Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 5:02 PM
- The transition back to an electricity-centric economy is regressive
- Declining net energy and peak expansion are co-incident
- Change that substitutes labor without providing a higher use for it is deflationary and results in inequality
- Our challenge is to find sustainable work for society
Capitalism demands fast gains in productivity. Capitalism seeks revolutionary change. But it’s not clear whether a revolution in machine intelligence leads to a deflationary boom, per Schumpeter, or a deflationary bust.
Writers such as Paul Krugman have perhaps moved too quickly, too easily, to conclude that a massive increase in production from such technology leads sustainably to large growth in GDP without severe consequences. Indeed, in a recent essay responding to Robert Gordon's paper on the end of growth, Krugman takes the view that (positive) returns from technology are just beginning to unfold.
I conclude that Krugman is actually concerned about and open to the possibility that an enormous wave of disruption to manufacturing from robots could produce higher GDP initially and also problems thereafter. What happens to wages in the broader economy?
One does not have to be a Luddite about technology to fear yet another huge new round of wage deflation. The West has already been treated to an era of “cheap, quickly manufactured goods that enhance people’s lives” during the past two decades. And it’s not clear that a flood of goods has necessarily improved well-being.
While I certainly wouldn’t make the curmudgeon's case that electronic devices have reduced well-being, it’s not clear that the I.T. revolution has accomplished much in the way of delivering to consumers cheaper and better quality energy, food, or health care.
Stress and anxiety defined my world. But on the surface, no one suspected that.
I was a Vice President at a Fortune 300 Silicon Valley tech giant, about to celebrate my ninth anniversary there. I had arrived there after a successful start-up stint, and before that, an MBA from Stanford and a few years at a Wall Street bulge-bracket firm.
My career appeared to be progressing right on schedule. So what was there to worry about?
Rob Hopkins is a true pioneer of the movement to intelligently prepare and adapt society for entering a post-Peak Oil future. His brainchild, Transition Towns, has been one of the most successful initiatives to date in inspiring hundreds of cities, towns, and communities around the globe towards using local cooperation and interdependence to shrink their ecological footprints.
Many readers on our site lament the inertia or hostility we all frequently encounter when trying to ‘wake up’ family, friends, and neighbors to the warning bells we see on the economic, energy, and environmental fronts. Chris and I often get asked for advice on how to make the red pill ‘tasty’ for the uninitiated. So we look at the success Rob’s model is having at spurring individuals and communities to action, and ask him: What’s your secret?
In short, it’s about making Transition feel “more like a party than a protest march.” Make it personal to the participants. Focus on celebrating the local benefits and empowerment it produces. As Rob says, the core Transition principles are “not about taking people back to something worse than today; they are a step forward. They are about building resilience, bringing people together, giving them the sense that anything is possible in such a way that everybody benefits.”
My transition began in the fall of 2008 during the financial crisis. I had watched the Crash Course earlier in the summer, and as the crisis unfolded, I began to take the initial steps, or Step Zero, as has been mentioned on the site before.
How I Got Here
In 2008, I was living in a condo in a city of about 50,000. I began to wonder whether living in a condo was the way to go, or to find a house and/or land. I knew the housing market was horrible and that it would get worse. Ultimately, I decided my best bet was to buy a house with land in a small town. The key was getting to that point.