daraknor (daraknor) wrote in newatlantis,

Who is B?

[This was sent to ishmael_discussion@yahoogroups.com a group that discusses Daniel Quinn's concepts of sustainability and tribal living. "B" is a character from "The Story of B" about a man charged with being the antichrist, leading a revolution to overthrow old hierarchies and ways of thinking. It is intellectual, and not nearly as exciting as I just portrayed. Here is my rabble rousing on the list after they diverged into a Kerry vs Bush debate regarding taxes]

I agree with most of what you said, the intent and the details. I would like to focus on this concept, and maybe start a different thread of discussion.

> And while I'm not terribly upset at the "not a lot of 'B's'" charge (in
> the time that I've been reading here, I haven't seen any B's) - I find
> it astonishing that one would even bring that into a US political
> discussion.

I haven't seen anyone close to "B" either. I am still studying things, but I have some concepts I'd like to air out a bit.

> "B" would abstain. He wouldn't vote for any of the clowns currently running.

I agree with the intent here, that "B would vote for something that is sustainable" but beyond the transparent fiction in the "Story of B" I am thinking of some sort of mastermind like Asimov regularly discussed in his fiction. PsychoHistory, the Empire, several of the supercomputer short stories and so on. "B" doesn't necessarily undertake action that obviously leads to a specific and apparent conclusion. In other words, he is probably more subtle than your average superhero. "You could work for Keizer Sose and never know it."

So I shall ask, "Who is B?" the quick knee jerk reaction to the rhetorical question is that B is someone who creates a sustainable society. In researching this long deep and hard, we don't know what "sustainable" really is. I've read over 200 definitions of the word, and nobody said how to do it or what it is. Sustainable is a word defined by its opposite, the same way that "tall" and "short" define one another. This is not good enough.

We need to create sustainable societies, but there is no positive way to assert that something is sustainable, instead we (even Quinn) point toward its opposite, the failure of the system. Quinn blurs some lines, and doesn't distinguish between sustainable at each level of the system (individual, group, hierarchy, nation, multinational, world).

In prior arguments (mostly on my local group and against a specific community) I have demonstrated how the ideological tribe in the wilderness is only sustainable on a global level, but not on the other 5 levels. This is no accomplishment because EVERY situation, proposal and society real or imagined can be shown to be not sustainable. All we do is extrapolate our flawed understanding of the world to a point where it no longer functions as planned.

I have a lot of practice in this regard, planning redundant, high availability, load balanced and clustered networks for massive web applications. At the same time, I would turn around and design a small, modular application (I hesitate to call them web sites, because there is so much interaction) that could easily scale. It had many features of the big guy, but implemented the features in innocuous ways rather than blasphemous expenses. (Going from 99% uptime to 99.9% is a massive increase in cost, and every time you add 9/(10^n) the cost goes up by a factor of 10^n or so.)

What were we planning against? Failure of the system, failure of subsystems, surviving suprasystem failure. This is sustainability planning in a very pure, simple, straightforward fashion. You don't end up with 100%, but you can get pretty close. Sometimes (distributed denial of service aka DDOS or BGP misdirect) people think of ways to create failure that nobody else considered before that time. Don't focus on the failure, focus on how to fix it and prevent it in the future. THIS is sustainability. Reflexively responding to situations. "You see, tradition isn't the absolute guide you thought it was." - Children of Dune

That is a brief answer about the direction we need to take "sustainability" studies. To facilitate this, we *must* know how much something costs. Explaining what I mean by that is a huge topic, but the brief question is: how much does that plastic tub of tofu shipped across the pacific ocean and delivered by a diesel truck really cost the entire system? (environment, man hours, nonrenewable resources, cleanup, recycling or disposal, total energy from the sun spent creating the tofu, the oil that became plastic, the oil used as fertilizer to grow the food, the ink... etc) The short answer of the shelf price assumes that all the secondary costs are included, and that there are no tax subsidies, etc. (there are)

Production tends to match consumption, but sometimes one leads the other. When we have direct craftsman selling products to consumers, consumption leads production. The craftsman makes as much as he can sell. When we have mass production, we consume as much as we can that was produced to avoid loss. If we make 100,000 widgets, we better sell 70,000 or we go out of business. (more detailed explanations widely available.) This is were production drives consumption. We advertise and promote, cut prices and pawn off as much of those 100,000 widgets as possible in an attempt to make the 100,000 widget run economically viable. There are... very fuzzy concepts of sustainable mass production. Small production costs more, but is more measurably sustainable for dozens of reasons (especially if you try to quantify sustainability).The horrific truth is that single production isn't competitive with mass production, we need cost effective miniproduction to remain both competitive and sustainable. (We aren't sustainable if someone else forces us out of business).

In a science fiction future I see, we drop our old cell phones into a recycling machine, that spits out the raw components which are weighed. They give me credit for the rare earth metals and other hard to find pieces (local value kept moderate by a commodities market) and they hand me a new, smaller, more efficient and advanced cell phone with a rebate paid for the difference in the materials provided vs materials consumed. This is a directly measurably sustainable system by tracking efficiency, energy inputs, commodities, loss of rare metals over time that are not recoverable. The cell phones are for the most part assembled onsite. Upgrades are near instantaneous, plans and patents are available for download, the intellectual property is compensated for across the solar system and money available to the inventors immediately.

There is more, but I will try to keep the rest of this brief. Who is B?
1. Destroys old hierarchies of power
2. Creates measurably sustainable societies
A. Measuring cost
B. Flexible and proactive planning
C. Understands and plans around failure states
D. Creates the framework for a sustainability metric
3. Fixes social science to limit damaging behavior
A. Society realigns itself to sustainable behaviors
B. Nonsustainble behaviors are self corrected (don't sue, sympathize and fix)
C. Education that teaches "why" things happen so accurate proactive decisions can be made

So far I only covered partial plans for addressing the problem. I'm working on 1 and 2, but parts of 3 will have to be done on the fly and by the people. Attempting to do this without the underlying and fundamental understanding seems like putting four wheels in a square, connecting them somehow, and claiming they have a reliable car.

So, from this discussion and everyone's prior experience,

Who is B?
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