Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bye-bye Bush

Historical Oil Prices: 2004 - 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can social capital markets move from niche to core?

The 700+ participants in this week’s first of its kind Social Capital Markets conference think so. Session summaries are available here. Social Capital Markets tend to denote markets and economic transactions where not only financial but also social and environmental aspects are of concern.

Right now there are three significant factors impacting the development of social capital markets:

First, the current failure of traditional capital markets models. We are in a moment of refashioning the global economy and the values and principles of social capital markets are being demanded: accountability, transparency, sustainability and governance. Social capital markets companies have a great opportunity to step in and help build the new world economic order.

Second, a broad social consciousness has developed. It started with Al Gore, Paul Hawken and others. Like all human behavior, economics is another area where deep awareness about the social and environmental impact of actions is necessary and increasingly available. Further, there is the idea of using the principles of business and economics as a tool for change; getting developing world populations actively involved as entrepreneurs receiving microloans has been vastly more successful in alleviating poverty than 30 years of foreign aid programs.

Third, the tools are now in place for realizing social capital markets. Web-based marketplace platforms and offerings are available for all manner of social economic transactions including investing (SRI public equity, social venture capital, debt, loans, microfinance, real estate and prediction markets), philanthropy (from donations to mission-related investments), purchasing (goods and services marketplaces) and income generating (jobs, projects and ideas marketplaces). Granular attribute selection can be used to allocate capital which makes transactions more empowering for all participating parties.

In summary, the three factors driving the next stage of Social Capital Markets, new models for rebuilding traditional capital markets, the development of a broad social consciousness in support of green markets and the tools to execute and monitor these transactions, could help the area evolve from niche to core.

The true moment of progress could come when Social Capital Markets are no longer distinct from traditional capital markets but are rather merely a feature or attribute of all capital markets.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Prime Directive redux

As a follow-up to the last post, Technology Intervention is Moral for advanced civilizations, it could be quite useful to develop a rigorous Principles of Societal Interaction to be ready for any potential future communications. Current Earth-based treaties and norms, as well as Star Trek's Prime Directive, as Hiro Sheridan points out, could be drawn upon for ideas.

Star Trek's Prime Directive espouses a strict non-interference policy towards other societies and identifies a key technological pivot point, the development of the warp drive allowing interstellar space travel.

The Prime Directive is an interesting blueprint; however alternatives could be evaluated for at least three reasons: practicality, reality and moral imperative.

  • First, as a practical matter, the Earth-based examples have been a case of societies being aware of each other, and often interfering. A clean, invisible, non-interference model is probably not practical, even for societies scattered through space. Being cognizant of the limited frame of human-reasoning, it still seems that if there are multiple intelligent societies in the universe, it is at least possible that they will start finding each other through SETI-type programs and other means, either intentionally or accidentally. At minimum, it is not ascertainable that any and all advanced societies would have and be able to successfully execute a non-interference and non-awareness policy.
  • Second, in responding to the complicated nuances of reality, there is a difference between non-interference in the internal affairs of another society in the Prime Directive and Westphalian sovereignty sense (supportable) and complete non-interaction (less supportable). There could be many types of interaction and diplomatic mission technology sharing as has been the historical precedent for Earth-based societies whose objectives would not be in contravention with Westphalian sovereignty. Over time, it may even be that Earth-based intelligent society evolves a universal bill of rights for all intelligent life, irrespective of nation-state or other jurisdiction such that concepts like Westphalian sovereignty become outmoded.
  • Third, as argued in Technology Intervention is Moral, it is not clear that non-interference is the most moral course and an advanced society may consider it a moral imperative to offer certain types of suffering-alleviation/quality-of-life-improving technology to less advanced societies such as vaccinations has been the case on Earth.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Technology intervention is moral

Advanced civilizations may have policies for interacting with civilizations deemed to be less advanced than their own. On Earth, there is currently no cohesive national or global view on contact with any non-Earth based intelligent societies. In the case of Earth-based societies, interventionism has been the norm.

Assuming safe interaction and communication can occur and intelligence or proto-intelligence has been established,

it is the moral obligation of any more advanced society to interact with any less advanced society.

It is a moral obligation to intervene for the purpose of technology-sharing first and most importantly to ameliorate suffering and improve quality of life, consider vaccines for example. Second, it is patronizing to decide whether or not to expose the less advanced society to more advanced technologies. The moral and respectful path is to expose the newtech and let the other decide.

Third, a broad goal of humanity is to lift all intelligent beings to an optimized state of fulfillment and contribution, so absent existential risk to the more advanced civilization, there is no reason not to share technology. Fourth, considering the 'do unto others' principle, the majority of humans would likely support intervention.

An alternate but less tenable view is that intervention is immoral, that the independence of the other civilization should be respected. The more advanced society does not have the right to interfere. It is better to let someone learn for themselves instead of teaching them; forget the matches and wait a few more centuries for lightning to zap the meat. However, even if the intervention is resented later, it is still more moral to intervene in the sense of improving suffering, quality of life, etc.