Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Economic images

Sometimes I stumble across humourous images and quotes in which I instantly find a deeper meaning. Here are a few recent ones, and my accompanying thoughts.

The first I stumbled across at Bryan Kavanagh's blog (which is worth a read).
What makes it funny is that it is so close to the truth. To me, the deeper meaning is that we have lost an understanding with what real productivity actually is.

The next image can be found all over the web now, but to me provides insights into exactly how new technology integrates into society. 
While we can laugh that the publicly run enterprise is stuck with 1960s technology, to me it says much more. It shows that aggregating many new technologies (computing, flight control, materials etc) into one much larger and more ambitious technology (the space shuttle) takes a long time. Also, it shows me that there are lock-in effects. The car has not changed much at all. This is partly because roads and associated infrastructure are still much the same, and drivers are trained to use the same controls in the car itself. This limits scope for macro improvements in car transport. The same applies to the space shuttle.

I also stumbled across this quote -

As Douglas Adams wrote in 1999, "Anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really." Yes, the world is different now. Do try to keep up 

This is an important one to keep in the back of our minds when we imagine seeing society deteriorate before our eyes.  I recall that the ancient Greeks worried about the proliferation of written texts, because it meant people no longer needed to remember and recite long passages. Only if you could remember a passage word for word did it show you truly understood its meaning. 


  1. I was recently lamenting that none of the current 'smartphones' are as smart as the original palm pilot I bought in 1996 (after I was 30) which was such a great organiser. They offer greater connection but less functionality out of the box. Perhaps people like widgets and toys, but I just want a good replacement for my filofax (which the Palm was)

    so perhaps Douglas is really a digital immigrant that assumes we all are?

  2. obakesan that's curious to hear that - what could he filofax do that smartphones can't?