Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, 15 1/4: Wool And What Came Before

Silver Star, the Valhalla range, and the backs of one of my cousins' families.

Taken half a hip swivel to the left of the first. Humans change alpine landscapes.

The earliest date at which I could expect to finish my next postblogging has receded towards next Tuesday in a gradual way, so I could say that I'm setting out to write a little jeu d'esprit (go France!) The truth is that it was not until Saturday morning, surrounded by my grandfather's books and preparing to climb a mountain on a family occasion, that I thought of something worthwhile to say: a quarter's worth of a legitimate installment in the Sacred Spring series, a very modest contribution to Getting Technology Right. This is a blog about restoring grass to its place at the centre of technological policy; a new horizon was opened up over at Brad Delong's the other day, and there is something to be said here about that.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Postblogging Technology, May 1948, I: Jigging For Subtext

She just wants to be alone!

R_. C_.,
The Waldorf,
New York, New York,

Dear Father:

Here I am back in California, and you're off to the East again! I understand, though. A Celanese contract would be very sweet. Speaking of the industry, there is also some movement on newsprint pulp in Newfoundland. It is buried deep in my letter, but Labour is backing away from the stringent early limits on newsprint next year. Whether that means the syndicate can salvage the new Newfoundland pulp mill is another question. I'm just a simple flyboy, but it seems to me that a mainland site would be a better idea, anyway. 

Speaking of flying, I've been billeted at Arcanta, but I have a plane, so it is easy to get down to San Francisco. Ronnie and Miss K.'s apartment is nice, if cramped. I don't think Miss K. likes me very much. Well, I don't like her boyfriend, so it's sort-of mutual.

I'm also a little surprised that she has a boyfriend, but what do I know of the ways of the human heart? I would tell you a bit more about the Arcanta flying, but so far I'm less than impressed with the Navy's approach to things. Better runway lights are all very well, but I am aching to try out those British automatic-landing gadgets I read about. And the less said about Fido, the better.  

Your Son,

Strange question in 1948.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XIV: Geoffrey Crowther's Take

"Cottonopolis." Probably a factory, not a tenement, not 1930s construction. I just liked the name.

It's not uncommon for me to find myself a little behind in writing a Postblogging Technology update at this point in the month; it's also common enough for me to find myself inspired by my reading. That is, after all, why I'm doing it!

This is not going to be a post about soapmaking, however. It's relevant, and also something that I can't get into the postblogging series, since it comes from a 21 May 1948 leading article in The Economist, and comments on an article in the previous issue. Well, I guess I could choose a different format . . . 

Anyway, point is, the leader writer, who may or may not actually be Henry Luce's favourite "stout" boy, has a take on the dark old days of the 1930s. That old fuddy-duddy, Keynes, did much to illuminate the problems of a general glut, The Economist concedes, and was useful in the way he focussed on oversaving as a cause of the terrible economic privations of the 1930s. 

Now, however, the Voice of Neoliberalism points out, in the light of last week's article on "the capital budget," it is time to focus on a different issue. Overspending, it points out, is only an issue when there is no commensurate investment, and it must now be acknowledged that there was a terrible lack of capital investment in the Thirties, with the exception of residential spending and electricity. 

Bam! Substitute IT for the building of the National Grid, and you've got ancestral voices speaking ancient truths to us moderns. Indeed, much of the argument against the secular stagnation thesis turns on that IT spending. Something, usually AI, now that Big Data has proven disappointing, will very soon now, unleash a new era of technological progress. Self-driving trucks was the thing, as from a few years ago, and the recent travails of Uber, Google and Tesla haven't penetrated the trailing edge of our thinkfluencers. 

Never mind that, what about the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age transition? No new insights today, just some thoughts, all rather tenuously grounded in archaeology that might reverse itself tomorrow.