Thursday, January 19, 2017

模倣子 Oil, Uranium, and Steel

Did you ever notice how dumb this is?
There is an interesting memetic phenomenon that is pointed up by a couple of facts:
  1. Civilian nuclear power is quite dangerous and ill-conceived (1)
  2. It's silly to make cars out of steel (2)
If you like economics, it's pretty clear that creating a civilian nuclear industry gives you many times the demand for fissile materials, which leads to economies of scale and a vastly cheaper per unit cost. The impact on the military is that it's much cheaper to build nuclear weapons, indeed, nuclear weapons might be prohibitively expensive otherwise. In other words, having nuclear arsenals without a civilian nuclear program may well be a practical impossibility.

Making War...
Back to conventional warfare, it's accepted conventional wisdom that you cannot wage a modern war without large, inexhaustible supplies of high-energy liquid fuel (3) and lots and lots of steel.

So, again, a war economy is based on having large supplies of oil ready and keeping them coming, and also have a large and sophisticated industrial base for making and building things (usually medium-sized machines of which you want to make thousands which are all just alike) out of steel.

Sound familiar?

Make Cars, Not War
Economically speaking, the car industry is perfect for this (4), as I hope is fairly obvious. Lots of steel is needed, the industry to make the steel, the industry to make complex machines from it by the thousand, and it further creates the demand for a continuous flow of vast quantities of oil on an endless basis.

An economy that didn't have those things would have a much harder time to switch over to making large numbers of military vehicles and weapons, and producing the steel needed for them, and getting the huge supplies of oil needed to run them.

Again, I think it's fairly safe to say that steel and uranium are fundamentally military materials, and their use in large quantities in any other domain is highly questionable. Hence the ridiculousness of making cars out of steel and having a civilian nuclear industry.

Selling a Silly Idea
One has only to look at the advertising (the memetic engineering effort) around cars, and around nuclear power in the 1950s (right after WWII), and so on. In the documentary The End of Suburbia, which is excellent, by the way, they assert that the creation of post-WWII suburbia and the "car culture" and the highway system was the biggest misallocation of resources in human history.

This may well be true, but...

They also suggest that it was an accident. I have long advocated the idea that it was a ruse to deal with the Problem of the Legions (5), and I still like the explanatory power and historical support for that idea. However, there may be other factors at play as well, e.g., suburbia, while dispersing the "legions" and giving them the illusion of "wealth" (a pretend country house for everybody), it also guaranteed that lots and lots of cars would need to be built. Everybody had to have one, whereas before, as The End of Suburbia pointed out, there were lots of trollies, trains, and other such infrastructure in place for most people.

From that point on, there would be no more trains, just roads and cars, because there was no longer any "Point A" or "Point B" to be simply connected with trains.  Just an endless spiderweb of roads, also paved with oil, by the way.

All of the memes around car use, nuclear power, and the use of oil are classic examples of memetic engineering and the behaviors of immunomemetic systems. Once one entertains the idea that the whole system of civilians using 90% of the uranium and steel, which they have no business using in the first place, making it more readily available and much, much cheaper for military pursuits, a whole world of memetic research opportunities opens up (6).

A Memetic Analysis Case Study
All of the memes surrounding and defending this system are potentially very interesting, and they infect people at all levels of society from the scientific and engineering community, to government, to big industry, to the average consuming citizen.

A big question, albeit perhaps a vague one, is how this whole thing came into being. Where are the evolutionary forces? Was there intention on the part of the humans involved, and by that I mean is there some kind of "intelligent coupling" between individual ants that make up the anthill and the collective "mind" of the anthill writ large? Is there some kind of theoretical "memetic energy" or memetic momentum" that is maximized and drives a system like the US, Soviet, Chinese, Japanese and European societies toward such a mode?

I am still looking for clarity, and then hopefully some kind of insight into the idea of whether a megamemeplex, or a large memetic system, has some kind of ability to "predict the future," i.e., whether it can develop a kind of "problem-solving intelligence."
(1) Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima anybody? If you know anything about the design of these three reactors, it only gets worse.

(2) The Soviet's Trabant (lovingly known as "The Trabby"), was made of plastic. From a weight and formability standpoint, plastic seems the obvious choice for an automotive material, but it was ridiculed in the West...for some reason (immunomemes don't have to be logical, remember?).

(3) This is why the Japanese attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, for example, i.e., to secure their oil supplies. Also the Nazis disastrous push to Stalingrad (Volgograd) was motivated by the need for more oil supplies to keep their multi-front war going. Also, the Allies managed to get a lot of impact by mining sections of the Danube, which hampered the Nazis from getting oil from the Romanian oil fields back to the Fatherland. In other words, once the oil runs out, the war machine grinds to a halt. You also saw the Nazis later in the war making tanks that ran on wood, etc., etc.

(4) What about the Soviet car, the Trabant (2)? The Soviets had a command economy, with five-year plans for steel production, and so forth, so they perhaps depended less on duping their civilian economy into buying tons of steel they didn't really need, per se.

(5) Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his armies (which was forbidden) and that was the end of Roman democracy. Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers also deals with the idea of when a bunch of veterans return from a war (lost or won), you have to deal with them or the government will fall, i.e., the veterans will take over (since they're young, strong, organized, and know how to fight and use weapons). One sees the subjugation of women that started after the Crusades, when all the veterans returned, and had to be given jobs (which hitherto belonged to women), and funny how all those witches who were burnt were coincidentally wealthy, independent women. Women were similarly subjugated post-WWII in the US -- one minute they were running the place while the men were at war, and the next minute they were too stupid and incompetent to do anything other than stay home (in suburbia) and bake pies while the men took over their jobs.  Go figga...

(6) Other domains, e.g., the US Health Care Industry, could perhaps be subjected to similar scrutiny, along with a plethora of others.
模倣子  Memetic Essay - Memetic Index

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