TZM Discovery Train Volume One: Hayek, Infinity, CRISPER, Messy Business and Ideas


We need international agreements in place before precise technological or scientific solutions can be implemented because the changes they introduce can have a profound effect across borders. Today, there is no doubt that we live in a global community of people who have more in common than not. Pollution in China affects the health of people in America. Everything we do influences everything.

Can you imagine if Latvians, for example, couldn't benefit from a given technology because they were just so different from Poles? A Latvian, don't you know, couldn't use a smartphone if her life depended on it. When I was younger and hanging out in Tokyo, Japanese people believed that most, if not all Japanese people were allergic to cheese. When I went to a grocery store in Tokyo at that time, I couldn't find any cheese. I could buy Osembe, Natto, Soy Sauce, lots of Japanese ingredients but not many imported products. If one goes to Tokyo now, one might find an Italian restaurant and a pizza parlor in every neighborhood serving lots of dishes with cheese in it. In the early 1980s, many Japanese people believed they couldn't consume some foreign products because, in every conceivable way, they were inherently different from Westerners. That belief has changed now, and stores in Japan are full of imported consumer goods.

Our beliefs change all the time, just as the stories we tell ourselves are always changing. The fashions of the moment easily sway people's emotions, ideas, thoughts, and opinions.

Have you ever thought of the concept of Infinity? I was listening to a BBC Discovery podcast episode this morning about it. It was fascinating and, as usual, got me thinking. When most of us think carefully about something, we will discover connections between what we are focused on and peripheral ideas that may not seem relevant at the time.

After listening to the episode on Infinity, I listened to another Discovery podcast, “Editing the Genome, Part Two.” I'm sure you've heard about CRISPER. The main takeaway from that episode was that when one edits genes, for whatever useful purpose, one must think of the whole, planetary organism and all of the members of global civilization before one implements it. Genes don't recognize nation states. What one country does to eradicate mosquitos or diseases in pigs will most likely affect all other countries; therefore, international regulations must be in place to protect the web of life and human populations from unintended consequences.

Some scientific endeavors are publicly supported, and benefit the public even if money isn't made on the effort. Wait, is that even possible? Why should one do something if one can't make a profit on it? Let me count the ways. Never mind that the list is too long for this puny essay. The fact is, we could do a lot of things in concert with one another, in a global community that recognized differences and also understood that life on Earth is interdependent and also profoundly affected by human beliefs and actions. Japanese people could still eat miso soup every morning while Americans could have their bacon and eggs. Your identity doesn't disappear just because you recognize that you are part and parcel of something more significant and more complex.

Is the Universe flat or curved towards infinity? Is the Universe we can see only a flash of time, energy, and mass in the Multiverse? What are all the numbers between zero and one? Why does it even matter to ask that question and if you do and have a new theory about those questions, can you be killed for your efforts? What does calculus have to do with Infinity? Listen to the podcast to find out.

Don't take anything for granted, if you don't know about something, find out about it. Even a cursory understanding of a subject will help you a lot in formulating your ideas.

These musings, for some reason, made me think of a conversation I saw between George Will and Charles Lane. They both work for the Washington Post.

Here is a description of the video.

[In a conversation with Post columnist Charles Lane, George F. Will, author of the new book "The Conservative Sensibility," defines the plight of the modern conservative. In a political environment hostile to prudent ideas, Will recommends turning away from rampant progressivism and looking to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.]

The Founding Fathers – there you have it, those gentlemen, way back when, had all the answers. Never mind that they had never heard of a nuclear bomb and thought that the best labor saving device a man could own was a slave.

George Will is a big fan of Friedrich August Hayek. During the talk, Mr. Will mentions Hayek a lot. He also enjoyed saying that politics and conservatism are messy and that that makes them fun. George seems a bit anti-technocratic, which, in specific contexts, is understandable. Market economies are messy and unpredictable, he says, and the best way to progress is to let the markets do what they do and figure things out as you go along. Information in a market economy is tricky and often opaque; markets are unpredictable, but they always create value over time. It's as if we lived in a world with infinite resources and never-ending opportunities to invent more things to bring to market and consume.

Hayek is certainly the go-to economist for conservatives.

Hayek was interested in how prices influence almost everything; business cycle theory; and he was a prominent defender of Capitalism. He's a significant economist so if you're even remotely interested in the subject you need to be familiar with his work. His intellectual rival in the field was John Maynard Keynes. Understanding the difference between the two economists will take you a long way towards understanding the world in which we live. If you read only one book from these two essential economists, I'd recommend, Hayek's, "The Road to Serfdom," and Keynes', “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.” These two knew a lot about how money works in society.

So why talk about CRISPER, the concept of Infinity, a conservative like George Will and two economists who did their best work in the 1920s and 1930s? It's because once you understand how all of these things dovetail into a socioeconomic system and are exploited and co-opted by the market system, you can begin to understand how our challenges today are structural. And, you may even become interested in how complex social systems work.

Use your imagination. Why does money have anything to do with how we manage global resources, public health, and the integrity and sustainability of habitats and ecology? Don't you think we can find better ways of creating value and increasing health and well being?

Ideas are just stories. We need better ideas if our civilization is going to have a future. Once you have educated yourself, you will see everything in different ways and be able to imagine different ways of organizing things that are more in line with what we know and understand in 2019.

It's essential to understand how ideologues think and where they got their ideas. When we do, we can begin to be creative and think of even better ways of doing things; founded in scientific rigor and expert understanding of how human designed and engineered complex systems can work for the greater good of life on Earth.

I'll end with a quote Peter Josephs included in an introduction to his book, "The New Human Rights Movement."

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong, which will be imposed upon them ." – Frederick Douglass


Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.