Reducing the costs of destruction

I had been looking forward to meeting Umair Haque at Supernova a few weeks ago. But it was not to be; sadly, Umair’s mother was ill and so, quite understandably, he couldn’t make it.

There are many reasons for my wanting to meet Umair; just take a look at what Terry Heaton wrote about him some months ago and you’ll get what I mean.

My disappointment was short-lived: unable to turn up, Umair posted this article instead: A Manifesto for the Next Industrial Revolution. Great article, excellent food for thought. Here are some excerpts:

Creative destruction has two sides – the costs of destruction as well as the benefits of creation. And as creative destruction intensifies, the costs of this great tradeoff are going to sharpen. The price of growth, it seems, is a world that’s always riskier, more uncertain, and more brutal at the margin.

Consider this. When the last bubble was in internet technology, welfare was minimally affected – jobs were lost. When it shifted to housing and credit, welfare was affected more – houses and saving were lost.

Today, it’s shifting in large part to energy and food. What happens when hypercapitalism causes a food bubble?

Here’s the answer: marginal starvation. Lives are lost.

If that’s 21st century capitalism – maybe it’s time for a revolution.

All this got me thinking. The turbulence that Umair speaks of, the successive bubbles, these are not theories any more, they’re here. We’re seeing acceleration and spiking in creative output, we’re also seeing the same acceleration and spiking in the cost of destruction.

When human lives become part of the “cost of destruction” something is seriously wrong. And we need to change our views and values, in some fundamental way. I remember attending the inaugural Esther Dyson Flight School some years ago, where the incomparable Freeman Dyson (her father), spoke. He talked about heady days in the late 40s when physicists were excitedly contemplating the use of nuclear power to launch rockets and to extend their reach, a time when we didn’t know enough about the consequences. Then it all changed. Which was a good thing.

We have already learnt two important lessons from innovation, particularly when democratised or opensource:

The costs of failure and the cost of damage repair are two components of the costs of destruction. We’re going to have to extend these lessons radically, often counterintuitively,  in order to reduce the costs of destruction while sustaining, even enhancing, the creation of value.

Food for thought.

2 thoughts on “Reducing the costs of destruction”

  1. “The invisible hand is crippled”? Apart from the ‘Anglosphere’ has it ever been free? Is it not still in chains over most of the world?

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.