Re: poly: Dreams of Autonomy

From: <>
Date: Fri Aug 27 1999 - 10:19:08 PDT

In a message dated 8/27/99 8:32:22, wrote:

>It occurs to me that a common theme in many dreams of the future we have
>been enticed by is an unusual degree of autonomy.

I don't think "autonomy", which means self-government, is quite the right
word for what you're discussing. Liechtenstein is autonomous, but hardly
self-sufficient in the sense you're discussing. "Self-sufficient" might
be more precise, albeit less catchy; "autarky" (national self-sufficiency)
is close although it refers to larger units than you mostly discuss.

>There is one way in which dependence has decreased, and that is with
>increases in modularity. We are less dependent on family members for food
>and health, because we can buy such things in open markets. Complex systems
>often work better when modules are creates whose internals can depend less
>on each other in certain ways. So perhaps some of these dreams can be
>resurrected as new forms of modularity.

Although, of course, somebody buying food in the supermarket is even more
dependent on other people than someone farming with their family. Those
individuals in toto may be more reliable, due to the law of averages and
the invisible hand, but the fact remains that probably thousands
of people participated directly in the production of what I bought on my
last grocery trip.

Certainly the current trend is for greater interdependence. If anything,
the cutting-edge technologies that are looked on as the vanguard of
nanotech (computers, software, biotech) are interdependent in the extreme.
Individuals choose not to make substitutes for existing devices, but to
devise new ones and then trade to get the ones they don't make. I see
no profound reason that our approach to general-purpose manufacturing
(i.e. nanotech) would differ greatly from our approach to general-purpose
Received on Fri Aug 27 10:21:20 1999

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