Guest Post By Joseph Friedlander
Acknowledgement: Dr. Bruce Cordell’s 21stcenturywaves.com for extensive quotes—this is a summary of many threads of his put in one place for reader convenience and to facilitate the discussion of ideas. This serves as a
One line summary: War does not lead to prosperity and only marginally to new tech– a debunking—the tech advances gained by war can be obtained in peace by careful incubating of tech seeds and the adroit management and exploitation of those tech seeds that do sprout–yet usually the opposite policies, ruinous in economic effect, are the default setting of many powerful bureaucractic forces.
War during Maslow Window is a particular disaster.
30 Second version:
Typically near the opening of Maslow Windows over the last 200+ years, conflicts, or even wars, can ignite or appear potentially devastating (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962); Empirically, no Maslow Window of the last 200 years has ever been delayed or diminished in any observable way by an early or pre-Maslow Window military conflict. But this does not mean it can’t happen.
Dr. Bruce Cordell in his writings and the site 21stcenturywaves.com has brought to the attention of space and political enthusiasts the possible recurrence of long wave cycles and SOC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organized_criticality in human behavior and history.
We start with some defining questions: What is A Maslow Window?
Dr. Bruce Cordell:
Cordell (2006) introduced the concept of a “Maslow Window,” triggered by rhythmic, twice-per century economic booms. Affluence-induced ebullience propels many to higher states in the Maslow hierarchy, where their momentarily expanded worldviews make great explorations and MEPs seem not only intriguing, but almost irresistible. As ebullience decays — due to widespread perceptions of budget stresses, a war, etc. — the Maslow Window closes.
An ebullient, fractal (high SOC (self-organized-criticality) international environment (i.e., a Maslow Window) where almost anything is possible. About twice per century over the last 200+ years there are extraordinary pulses of great explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark) and macro-engineering projects (e.g., Panama Canal) that resonate around the world. These “Maslow Windows” are times of extraordinary affluence-induced ebullience similar to “animal spirits” theorized to drive business cycles by British economist John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s. In response to ebullience, many in society ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy and, as their world view expands, find that great explorations and MEPs are not only intriguing, but seem momentarily irresistible. This captivating, but short-lived ebullience is triggered by major, twice-per-century economic booms over the last 200+ years that were first described by Kondratieff in the 1920s.
Joseph Friedlander: A Maslow Window is named after the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (which though was stated for the individual, would analogously apply to society as a whole) where for a brief period each long wave cycle (by your reckoning as understood by me) society feels secure enough, not grappling with problems of bare survival, to reach for higher aspirations ordinarily neglected during more pressing times. In Jerry Pournelle’s phrase, not just survival, but survival with style. During a Depression equivalent, space travel can be an imaginary escape, but during a Maslow Window, it is an exciting actual prospect.
Dr. Cordell: A spacecraft launch window involves the energy state of a rocket while a Maslow Window involves the psychological state of a population. And it is true that outside a launch window the performance penalties become prohibitive, while outside a Maslow Window the economic and political requirements preclude, or at least delay program success. The edge of a Maslow Window is fuzzier than for a launch window because it’s apparently governed by complexity theory.
Dr. Cordell : … I think of society’s Maslow state as a statistical ensemble of each individual’s position (or level) in the Maslow hierarchy. An individual’s ascent up the hierarchy usually results from a decrease in perceived physical, emotional, and/or financial stresses. In this “ebullient” state – usually triggered by a major economic boom — many in society, due to expanded worldviews, momentarily find great explorations and major technology projects not only intriguing, but almost irresistible.
During a major economic boom (e.g., the 1960s Kennedy Boom) essentially everyone experiences “animal spirits” — to use a popular Keynesian term — but not everyone experiences “ebullience” (i.e., rapid ascent up the Maslow hierarchy). Some of those excited, but frustrated animal spirits-only folks may trigger negative events (e.g., wars). As the ratio of ebullient actors to animal spirits-only folks declines, the Maslow Window begins to “close” and political support for Apollo-style programs decays. For example, by 1966 the Vietnam war was already weakening societal ebullience during the Apollo Maslow Window (~1958 to 1969), which ultimately resulted in President Nixon’s cancellation of the last three Apollo missions to the Moon.
What is SOC (Self-Organized Criticality?
Dr. Bruce Cordell: The brainchild of Danish physicist Per Bak (1948-2002) — “one of the most original people in science” — SOC is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur. You can see the famous “Bak sandpile” conceptual model of SOC in Aschwanden (2010) as well as in Bak (1996),How Nature Works.
The captivating assertion of social scientist and SOC enthusiast Gregory Brunk (2002) that,
Virtually all aggregate-level, monumental events are somehow ’caused’ by the process of self-organized criticality,
Is there evidence for SOC catalyzed Wars?
Dr. Bruce Cordell:
Wars and the Evidence for Complexity serious conflicts or wars are typical features of the years just before a Maslow Window or early in the Window itself.
The classic example of such a pre- or early Maslow Window conflict is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — early in the Apollo Maslow Window (1959-69) — when conflict over Soviet offensive missiles emplaced in Cuba almost led to a major nuclear exchange with the U.S. Other examples include the Napoleonic Wars (Lewis and Clark Maslow Window), the Mexican war (Dr. Livingstone/Suez Maslow Window), and the Spanish-American War (Peary/Panama Maslow Window).
This model suggests the current Korean tensions — including their potential for nuclear war involving N and S Korea and possibly other nearby states (e.g., Japan) — are a harbinger of the next Maslow Window expected by 2015. Plus the seemingly irrational provocations by North Korea resulting in a “tinderbox”, “complex,” and “sensitive” situation, are actually the types of interactions we’d expect as we approach a critical Maslow state.
Dynamics of SOC — The Gap Equation
Bak’s Gap Equation governs the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state.
The model is so general that it can also be thought of as a model for macroeconomics. The individual sites represent economic agents, and the random numbers f1 represent their “utility functions.” Agents modify their behavior to increase their wealth. The agents with lowest utility functions disappear and are replaced by others. This, in turn, affects other agents and changes their utility functions.
Bak’s quote above could apply just as well to agents of particular space projects modifying their behavior and vying for funding at NASA (or elsewhere) and/or Macro-Engineering Projects likewise seeking support of all types. Agents and projects with the “lowest utility functions” soon disappear (a Darwinian principle), no matter how big they are – just ask Constellation advocates!
The Bottomline is: This compatibility with Bak’s law indicates that space projects and MEPs—and wars– are most likely governed by SOC. The Space Project/MEP System is most fractal just before and during a Maslow Window. As in Bak’s computer simulations, transitions into and out of the strong SOC state are abrupt just before (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) or just after the Maslow Windows (e.g., in 1914 and in 1970). While in the critical state, large changes (i.e., great explorations, MEPs, major wars) can occur in response to even a minor stimulus. (My emphasis, JF)
Bak also hints at predictability (by analogy with his sandpile model, he refers to major changes during the critical SOC state as “avalanches”)
While it’s tempting to dismiss this model as just another scary fantasy, please be reminded that medium-size wars have already been identified as SOC phenomena by National Aademy of Sciences member Donald Turcotte and his colleagues as early as 1998. According to Bak, a complex system exhibits SOC only if it has some form of power-law scaling, called “fractal” by Mandelbrot (1963). Based on their size-frequency plots for wars, Roberts and Turcotte (1998) conclude that,
The results we have shown indicate that world order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries; and wars, like forest fires, are SOC processes.
Although Roberts and Turcotte (1998) only had data up to 150,000 deaths per war, the fact that “medium-size” wars are almost pure SOC indicates that the major wars of Maslow Windows are also fractal, as suggested recently for World War I — historian Niall Ferguson suggested recently that WW I was a product of self organized criticality.
… Major hot wars (e.g., W. W. I) line up with each peak in the 56 year energy cycle, over the last 200 years. It’s an empirical fact that they do…
…It’s important to keep in mind that the long wave is not always exactly 56 years; it typically varies between 55 and 60. So expecting major wars to occur exactly at the peak in 1969 is unrealistic, although major wars over the last 200 years are quite close. Please see Joshua Goldstein and others for an in-depth discussion of the relation of long waves and wars.
Thus far Dr. Cordell.
What Do Long Wave cycles look like charted over long stretches of time?
A sample long wave chart by Charles Hugh Smith at his site oftwominds.com, used with permission (Thanks, Charles!) This chart is annotated if you have never seen the concept of this once in a lifetime cycle charted against history—
You will notice the peaks and wars that can frame, and even terminate great Maslow Window booms (Jeffersonian Polk Taylor Fillmore Pierce-Buchanan(~1847-60), TR-Taft (1903-13), JFK-LBJ-Nixon (1960-72) eras)
Usually these have been at least involving maneuvers between great powers even if conducted in the Third World, i.e. the TR era cycle’s interventions in Latin American, (in a way conducted with one eye on Germany), the LBJ era Vietnam intervention (one eye on Russia and China)—but in this upcoming cycle a unique feature now is the danger that EMP weapons can give vast leverage to a Third World combatant (the equivalent of successful barbarian raids vs. an Imperial capital).
Dr. Cordell has written:
In fact, the most important Wild Card of the 2015 Maslow Window is the date of the major war expected in the 2020s. If it comes in the late 2020s, human civilization may expand to the Moon and possibly even Mars. If it starts closer to 2020 — in addition to the tragic loss of life and property — human expansion into the cosmos may be postponed until near 2071, when the late 21st Century Maslow Window is expected to open.
Joseph Friedlander: A thesis of this article is that rebooting the economy is necessary and contrary to popular belief war is not only unnecessary to do that, it is destructive and a danger to future progress—
War per se does not help progress contrary to popular belief: what it can do BETWEEN MAJOR POWERS (fighting for their national lives so they take it seriously enough that anyone offering a bureaucratic excuse is eventually told ‘there’s a war on!’ as a self explanatory excuse to get with the program) is accelerate approval processes, and financing processes. It takes the brakes off. It cannot gun the engine of innovation itself other than through catalytic effect (A previously successful effort to develop the Internet, for example, may catalyze further developments more quickly than otherwise possible. But this, to paraphrase Eric K. Drexler, is an old story of old tools helping to build newer more productive tools).
If the tech pipeline of prospective innovations cannot be kept filled, despite any funding level within reason, only a trickle can come out.
FDR asked Congress to declare war against the Japanese Empire, and the relevant tech developments being in the pipeline, four years later two mushroom clouds rose over Japan, and an Empire fell. Nixon asked Congress to declare war against cancer, and (the prospective developments not being in the pipeline) many of the original Congressmen voting the funds have themselves died of cancer.
Note that the amount of prospective innovation in the pipeline could presumably be increased by increasing the scientifically literate and tinkering population—if a determined national effort was made using “tool kits” (see von Hippel, below.)—(A tool kit is a prepackaged tech aid package to greatly ease small user groups experience in producing a limited range of much easier than normal and acceptable quality output in proper format for a manufacturer to take their design and produce it. An analogy familiar to all Windows users would be the equivalent of Microsoft wizards that enable you to click next, next, next and input parametric data to produce a result that might take (gasp) skilled manual programming or at least command line skills.
By reducing the skill input presumably we could go from 1% of the population being tech innovators to as much as 10% as long as the incentives were there (both motivational and financial). X Prizes again could be a huge motivator, i.e. large prizes available to the first (self-financed) group able to produce a given result (within parameters) and the second (a lesser prize, but to encourage many entrants for a richer field of entry).
In the press of wartime heat, Funds (with a capital F) suddenly become available to deploy innovations thought of in private sector heads for many years beforehand. An example not commonly known: No fighter not on the drawing boards by Pearl Harbor saw combat before V-J day in the USA. And those innovations in waiting had often been debugged by their private inventors by decades of nickel and dime tinkering (see von Hippel, below). Their successful deployment is of course chalked up to a flawless government program rather than individual and small group genius taking pains over time. Those who know the story of Barnes Wallis appreciate to quote Wikipedia, “ the difficulties Wallis often faced in persuading those in authority or who controlled funding sources to support his ideas.”
Indeed, the more offices to visit to ask for permission, the larger the units of business academic or government to navigate, the less time and effort is left to actually innovate (leaving entirely aside the modern tangle of IP issues where it can be literally forbidden for everyone on the team to study the topic together—yeah, that helps a team…/sarcasm)
In the end, ‘government’ innovation usually involves picking the best brains from the private sector and financing their creativity together (as in the Manhattan Project) to fill a tech pipeline with a new nascent technology or subsidizing deployment by private sector actors (massive government financing –through various tricks– of industrial plant or kit) of privately developed tech ALREADY IN THE PIPELINE.
This is not written to depreciate government per se but strictly with an eye to determining what really works in what circumstances to generate maximal national growth and tech power for use in a Maslow Window context.
We know that during a Maslow Window things can move quickly. I am searching for an explanation as to how that happens.
There may be the equivalent of government cloisters of gifted minds (national laboratories, great university labs) but these come from the private sector (recruitment) and return there (at least for collaborative purposes). Their output is often good but expensive relative to what it would be in the private sector. (Not that waste is not possible in the private sector—it particularly is a problem in massive favored government contractors—but in a way this is a perversion of government spending itself, as influential firms are a part of the government in all but name. (If you doubt this, try cutting favored corporations’ allocations, or yearly tax credits, or see how many former government people land as if by golden parachute to lucrative private jobs…) For many years the great aerospace companies kept the government product sections walled off from the private product sections lest bad habits of over documentation (mil-spec disease) and overspending spread. That itself is proof that the cost structure in government is higher.
So during wartime a sudden flood of wealth from the government enables deployment of long deferred (thus many-iteration debugged) private worker or user developed innovations (including, surprisingly, hobbyists—who was the Frenchman who allegedly said that ‘A hobby is the most intensive form of study’?)
This is literally unbelievable to most people, who see the impressive facade of NASA or the NSA (National Security Agency) and leave shaking in their boots at how cool they are, but you don’t suppose they raise their personnel in Matrix-like incubators do they? If a person does sufficiently good work outside, or shows sufficient academic or hobby (hacker) progress, he is hired. If an innovation shows enough promise, it is duplicated, or even contracted for from the sea of privately nurtured expertise (The giant tracked crawler transporter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawler-transporter for the Saturn V and the Space Shuttle was not the result of an internal NASA program but a contracted-for (by Marion Power Shovel) adaptation of best mining practice with some NASA-added tweaks.) NASA itself never claimed sole ownership of many developments but always referred to the “government industry team” of 300,000 people.
But the ‘private companies’ themselves are often as inefficient as government because they too are (too often) large bureaucratic organizations. My claim is, contrary to Eisenhower’s famous Farewell Address,
the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.
What President Eisenhower understandably believed (after industry tours) to be task forces of scientists were really, in my understanding, working groups assembled from smaller ‘cells’ of individuals who had developed the facility of working together productively. But there is no doubt what is more impressive to a distinguished visitor—the lone inventor or the buzzing corporate laboratory workshop. Corporate management would have wanted him impressed that the Federal dollars keep flowing..
To defeat any claim that I am making mystical claims for the efficiencies of large government contractors—observe independent testimony from
a wonderful work: DEMOCRATIZING INNOVATION- by Eric Von Hippel
freely downloadable at, http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/books/DI/DemocInn.pdf Von Hippel makes this point:
“an early study of innovation in scientific instruments documented that
nearly 80 percent of the major improvements commercialized by instru-
ment manufacturers had been developed by users (von Hippel 1976). When
I later discussed this finding with managers in instrument firms, most of
them were astonished. They insisted that all the innovations in the study
sample had been developed within manufacturing firms. They could be
convinced otherwise only when supplied with actual publications by user-
scientists describing user-built prototypes of those instrument improve-
ments—prototypes developed from 5 to 7 years before any instrument firm
had sold a functionally equivalent commercial product.”
In retrospect it should be obvious that a small focused team can move quicker.
Even Rudyard Kipling could have told us that:
Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.
(So now we reconsider the World War 2 tech boom: The 1940s deployment of dreams now fully mature that sprang from the 1910s to the 1930s) This only works during major wars between major powers, threatening enough that the bureaucracy is panicked into partial withdrawal: The bureaucratic institutional default of “Let’s see” is temporarily switched for “DO SOMETHING—NOW!” But suppose you have a lopsided struggle like the US and (fill in the blank, what one cynic called our ‘Asian enemy of the week’, (really decade) Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans) on a dramatically lower tech level, then only minor developments (better hot weather or thermal cold weather gear) are deployed, but not transformative cycle-stretching inventions (nuclear power, jet engines) deployed in struggles between major powers. Indeed, wars between major and minor powers may dissipate capital on both sides, enabling effective tech deployment rates LESS than otherwise possible
One way to think of this is that a ‘backlog’ of as yet undeployed inventions exists in the tech pipeline. (first read a concept very similar to this in an essay on predicting futures in the SF magazine Analog, in the 1990s, wish I could give proper attribution, readers please chime in if you know that author–) to be deployed during key boom times (this was before the concept of the Maslow Window was developed and publicized) OR if the ‘deployment rush’ does not happen for whatever historical reason—to lie dormant for decades as each dribbled out into a much narrower tech deployment channel.
But between 1953 and 1963 for example, we went from Mach 2 aircraft being invented to Mach 25 orbital spacecraft being deployed—in 1968 to Mach 35 escape velocity spacecraft—and since then nothing fundamentally new in manned aerospace. (Note that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty removed by agreement with the Russians the prospect of a lunar land rush/arms race that had driven previous Maslow Windows) The urgency went out, and the wind went out of the tech sails.
As Arthur C. Clarke had previously noted in Profiles Of The Future (1962) this tech curve of increased speed from the early ‘50s, to the early ‘60s would if continued till the year 2010, have placed the speed of light itself within man’s grasp. (Clarke called it a discontinuity in the speed curve, but I wonder…). (I remember reading at least 2 cold war science fiction novels that postulated the US-SU (Soviet Union) contest going to the stage of interstellar spacecraft (and presumably rival star empires). Certainly that kind of extended deployment technology race would have been feasible, even if not the literally stellar results obtained. But if they had been…
In the book The Year 2000 by Herman Kahn (Freely downloadable) http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/kahn_yr2000.pdf (WARNING 88 megabyte file, don’t download without knowing what you’re getting into…)
He advanced in one spot the thesis (greatly condensed here) that every 5 years since 1945 a complete generational technology transformation had occurred as complete as that between 1919 (end of first World War) and 1939 (beginning of second World War). Summarizing greatly with the bomber sequence B-29, B-36, B-47, B-52, B-58, B-70 (That last never actually deployed, but “woulda coulda shoulda”) From 1945 to 1970—and then the feeling of urgency and crisis went away, and so did the rapid tech deployment boom.
So the idea of a narrow range of years, a window to deploy tech or have it remain theoretical, is not merely a supposition but in some areas may be demonstratable fact. Yes, after the fact we can play “woulda coulda shoulda” games…but others have pointed out how, for example, a technology like fuel cells may be developed and if not taking off in the next say 10 years or so, gets its industrial ‘niche’ occupied by another development and sits on the shelf for over a hundred years after that as a laboratory demonstration. There is a time and tide to tech as well as the lives of men.
Another way in which the Maslow Window cycle has been uniquely abused this time around (ie the natural state of affairs messed with to the point where aberrations not seen in previous cycles may appear this time) is the extraordinary educational decay in sub-college public education in the USA—(and through academic adminstration gamesmanship, analogous but different distorting effects in the quality output of still functional higher institutions of learning)
Historically, to be fair, there have always been functional illiterates in the USA. But usually these were acknowledged dropouts, not those who actually had ‘done the time’ in the system. Usually those could read at least at a functional level.
(In an old jail closed in the 1980s, for example, the oldest surviving etched graffiti, by accounts I have read, was stunning in its penmanship and even featured original poems. The newer graffiti, in effortless perfect marker, was illiterate, coarse and left the impression on the reader of societal decline. Anecdotal, for sure. But indicative?)
Today, however, for example half the population of Detroit is thought to be functionally illiterate—the vast majority having been through school at high funding rates. This would simply not have been believed in the post 1957 Sputnik educational funding rush. It is not merely that American urban schools are not globally competitive—but rather that their graduates are apparently unable to even maintain the economy of their local area at the same level. Once those a step above functional illiteracy had practical job training and apprenticeship pathways that worked to get a good factory job—enabling a family supporting income at a reasonable rate of effort and output—now such a prospect for someone growing up in a urban school system is rare indeed. More common of the flavor of today (few actually do this) is to study industrial theory for a while in some university courses, find that there is no actual market outside teaching for industrial theory, work in some low-paying retail job for which your university time was non-relevant and when the economy contracts be forced to public support.
But this very decline in educational quality and career training result (coupled with the decline in the industrial sector which sharply limits hiring for those who do succeed) can bring people to a ‘tipping point’ ready to accept otherwise unacceptable ‘whole system package changes’.
Is it possible this is a manifestation of self organized criticality (SOC); emergence of a “critical state” in the US national education system. During the fractal Maslow Window, when system agents (e.g., corporations needing workers, agencies, competing countries, individuals personally squeezed by the collapse of hiring who thus need to upgrade their skill base to reemerge competitive ) interact and evolve most intensely, the system is vulnerable to rapid, major transitions such as (for example) massive training pulses or spreads of new techniques. Also coming with this is the confidence to try new things as a result of previous career steps up. Outside the Maslow Window the system is less fractal (low SOC index), counter-ebullient, and requires several decades to self organize again into a critical state.
Another self-organized criticality possibility might be simply this: We are used to old industries dying and new ones being born to take their place. In this latest, truly messed with cycle, (characterized by unprecedented control of the economy by the government and its contractors) old industries have been dying (Chrysler, GM) but new industries have not been born. We are even used to old cities based on old industries dying (Detroit, East St. Louis) but the new cities and their new industries in many cases have been built (sometimes literally in the case of Las Vegas) on foundations of sand—the so called FIRE (Finance, insurance and real estate) economy, taken as an abstraction for a “transaction economy” which does not create wealth in terms of needed product but transfers wealth around because of direct or indirect government mandates for services AT A NON MARKET PRICE. (ie if schools were better all over and taxes were hugely lower so would be the effective cost of real estate—medical care would be cheaper if allowed to import generic drugs from overseas at 1/20th the price and the emergency clinics not mandated to serve anyone who walks in the door—people might choose to self insure rather than facing a legal requirement forcing you to do business with a car insurance company.) In all these cases, the FIRE economy relies on legal mandates (often literally written by their lobbies and sent to lawmakers as “model legislation”) to force you to do business with them at their price. If you could refuse, the prices would have to decline to be attractive. Ah, but you can’t refuse… full price, please…
Inflexibility in an economy is like inflexibility in a personal working style—it makes it hard to adapt to changing circumstances —education where you do not have the right to opt out of local taxes if you wish to send your kids to private school—investments where you cannot put IRA money into a friends new tech business informally but must send it through Wall Street tollbooths first— in each case, rents are extracted and inferior (non custom) quality of service built in. And worse, it eats up funds available for real tech and real change. This is no more a real base for a real economy with good paying, competitive world class output than Detroit is an example of healthy world class auto industry.
Politically connected and ‘good enough’ industries protected for example by arranged government purchases of cop cars or fleet sales cannot compete against world-class auto exporters whose products are greatly preferred by private buyers (and break down less often)
In terms of SOC self organized criticality, this loss of competition also is reaching a critical state and MUST be dealt with soon if the US is to reap the benefits of the Maslow Window (rather than its overseas competitors)
This is not the first time that the US has had powerful rivals during a Maslow Window—France and Britain in the early 1800s, the same in the mid 1800s, Germany in the early 1900s, Russia in the 1960s. But this IS the first time since the 19th century that a rival of the relative size of China is emerging to compete with the USA, and with such an opposite ascending trajectory vs the declining US one
The US must reverse its descent or other nations will reap the primary benefits of the Maslow window.
We will be passed by China unless we get a move on
New York Times (8/15/10) concurs.
After three decades of spectacular growth, China passed Japan in the second quarter to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States.
Brian Wang of Next Big Future projects China passing in PPP terms (purchasing equivalent) if current trends continue, between 2016-18. The IMF computes 2016. Wiki uses those stats here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_future_GDP_(PPP)_estimates People who have problems with this mostly concede it’s possible a decade later. But by then it could be in absolute dollar vs yuan terms. The point is, there is a huge momentum to getting an economy moving forward—or backward, terribly hard to change, and even more wrenching to attempt going from deceleration to acceleration. President Obama’s call to double exports http://www.soundmoneyproject.org/?p=3913
was as laudable as it was pathetic—it is like the principal of a failing school calling on the students to top the district next year with no real changes in curriculums, study habits, parental support, etc. There is an entire ecosystem of support systems behind every systemic success or failure and we are doing nothing sufficient to change this—another SOC opportunity (ie incipient crisis) in the near future.
In a guest post for Brian Wang’s blog http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/12/setting-up-industrial-village-on-moon.html I commented on the kinds of transactions Jane Jacobs once noted: Transactions of decline and of ascent that can tear down the industrial vibrancy of an area (USA) or build it up. (China.) There I said,
how Chinese quality has gone from toylike (older readers will remember when Made In Japan was a cheap-shoddy-goods joke) to masterful in 20-25 years. Much of that was achieved by talent diffusion throughout a growing, learning and cross-hiring economy. Notice that they recently unveiled something like 10 new models of small airplanes. There are more car companies in China than US companies have models of cars. You learn by doing. You forget by not doing. Transactions of ascent. Transactions of decline. Which works for a group, a people, a nation?
Bruce Cordell’s articles on Asia’s ascent:
If the USA does not use the Maslow Window, others may do the hard work to become the next tech leading power and the US will be in the position of Great Britain after the Second World War—with a struggling economy, dependent on foreign cash flows, with huge restrictions on what you can buy and import, (including foreign fuels) and in general be a bad place to do business. If people of ability, not wanting to spend their hoped for brilliant careers in a place with no opportunity, decide to leave and work elsewhere, that can only accelerate the path of national decline.
Or, we can choose to fix what needs fixing, clear the decks of what needs clearing, and face the upcoming future—and its’ Maslow Window—with the determination to make the USA the tech leader till the next tech window around 2071. We cannot control the winds of the zeitgeist. But we can control how we choose to angle our sails. I say set course for national success.
In conclusion the USA had better get its act together and change on a national level or face the fact that a Maslow Window comes to the world but once a lifetime, use it or lose it. If so– AND we can keep out of a major war– we can benefit from the full potential 10 years of the Maslow Window.