Investing in a Singularity

Posted on Wednesday, December 14th, 02011 by Austin Brown
link Categories: Long Term Thinking   chat 0 Comments

The math governing compound interest offers an enticing proposition to investors with patience and an eye for the distant future. A great piece in Lapham’s Quarterly surveys this siren’s call and some of the characters, fortunes and court cases wrecked on its shores:

‘A few years before [Benjamin] Franklin drafted his will, philosopher Richard Price rhapsodized in a sober treatise on the national debt, “One penny, put out at our Savior’s birth to 5 percent compound interest, would, in the present year 1781, have increased to a greater sum than would be contained in two hundred millions of earths, all solid gold.’

Thanks, Kurt!

  • I use the myths behind the concept of compound interest over long periods of time as the basis of a proof against time travel to the past: see

  • … but as we don’t have even one Earth of solid gold, we must have regular wars (clearing the accounts and return us to direct material value management for a while), fractional reserve banking system, an almost totally debt-based global monetary system, financial crisis – and while chasing money we create disasters like Fukushima. Yes, it’s our fault, and we have not seen all the global effects yet, but also fail to derive the consequences.
    This is why we should urgently replace the current control system with direct resource management, otherwise the “long now” of global human civilization will end in our lifetime.

  • I’m fine with direct resource management, as long as I get to be the one who manages the resources!

    Of course I’m being funny, but there’s there’s plenty of evidence that shows the resource mangers tend to make sure they get their share before everyone else, no matter if it’s government, business or other entity.

  • And there are other examples where resource management truly works for the community, in the greatest needs, volunteer helpers at catastrophes, people saving others with risking or sometimes sacrificing their own lives. I am sure that we have “encoded ability for empathy” being just as strong as “selfishness” (keep your community alive – keep yourself alive) – I have a quite long and perhaps boring explanation for this.

    The question is the difference: what can (should) be done to preserve the latter motivation against those that result in your examples (that I totally agree with)?

    Today we have the unique ability (through our global, practically realtime information systems) to consider all human beings as “WE”, extend the term “my community” to the human race (although naturally most of my life runs within a few kilometers radius,in my closest community). 
    I think this is the only way for us to evolve further – otherwise we surely kill ourselves by misusing our power.

    Our current infrastructure, with the monetary system at the top, works on HIDING and externalizing the cost (human labor, social degradation, pollution, depleting resources) of our (I dare to say: mostly artificial) needs. This problem CAN’T be resolved while using this monetary system and its basic rules, this is a simple consequence of the linked article.

    I don’t say that without this monetary system we will automatically go to heaven, you are perfectly right on that – but I am totally sure that keeping this system for another few years will lead us to hell. Just watch the current news and remember the “calmness and stability” of ten years ago, or the hopes after the eastern changes (I live in Hungary and see the devastating hopelessness growing year by year).

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