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Make the world a better place.

By seebs in Culture
Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:52:00 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

If you were given a budget of a trillion US dollars, with the goal of making the world "a better place", what would you do?


I've occasionally had this conversation with friends, and it's amazing how many different ideas people have of what would make the most difference. What would you do, if you were going to try to get the most bang for your buck? A little of everything? One big project? Would you focus on short-term improvements, or long-term ones?

And no, I don't mean just this planet; if you think colonizing Mars is the best use of your money, go ahead.

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Poll
To make the world a better place...
o Focus on health. 11%
o Focus on basic scientific research. 35%
o Focus on cultural norms. 7%
o Focus on the environment. 22%
o Other... 23%

Votes: 117
Results | Other Polls

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Display: Sort:
Make the world a better place. | 338 comments (323 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
First try: Reclaim the Sahara. (3.71 / 7) (#2)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:00:05 AM EST

3,500,000 square miles of almost totally unusable land, with pretty good sunlight. I would guess that the land area of the Sahara, if a fair bit of it were turned to agriculture, could contain and feed the entire current population of the planet without horrible ecological stress. (If, that is, we were willing to give up things like cars and huge mansions, and perhaps eat a bit more vegetation and a bit less meat.)

Go ahead, tell me why it wouldn't work. :)


distribution (4.83 / 6) (#3)
by rebelcool on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:10:55 AM EST

theres already enough food in the world to feed everyone. the problem is distribution. warlords like to keep their people starving. It's difficult to revolt when you're hungry.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

True enough... (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:21:53 AM EST

That's one of the reasons I was thinking we'd move everyone there and leave the rest of the planet for wildlife reserves. :)


[ Parent ]
Why it wouldn't work. (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by sticky on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:22:48 AM EST

In a word: water. The massive amounts of water needed to irrigate one of the driest places on earth certainly wouldn't make the world a better place; it would wreak havoc on the environment.

I realize your suggestion was probably in jest, but it does raise the isssue of reclaiming marginal land for agriculture and habitation when more suitable terrain is available. The southwestern US is a good example of this. Aquifers in this area of the world are under great stress yet the population keeps rising, putting further strain on them and in the future will necessitate bringing water from further away. This will put strain on other water resources.

Reclaiming semi-arid and arid land is never a good idea from and environmental standpoint.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
What about Solar Panels? (4.33 / 3) (#42)
by CokeBear on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:29:37 AM EST

What if we cover large sections of the Sahara with solar panels? We could provide much of that part of the world with energy.

[ Parent ]
...and not only that... (4.33 / 3) (#43)
by localroger on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:33:30 AM EST

...with unlimited solar power (panels or mirror farms to thermal-steam or whatever) you could run huge desalinization plants and big pipelines to irrigate the parts of the desert you didn't pave with solar projects. You'd have to start with crops that build soil rather than going for marketable product, but in a decade or two you might stabilize quite a bit of land and reclaim it for normal agriculture (still irrigated by your solar farms). Then, with vegetation established, the weather patterns will return to normal and in a century or so, voila, not a desert any more.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

It's desert for a reason (none / 0) (#116)
by sticky on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:51:06 PM EST

Then, with vegetation established, the weather patterns will return to normal

The "normal" weather patterns don't bring any precipitation to the Sahara. Any large scale irrigation project is going to be forver dependant on that irrigation. Such a scheme would be a waste of money and resources.

A better idea would be to reduce developing countries' dependence on cash crops like cocoa, coffee, and cotton. If farmers could grow their own food they wouldn't be in need of food. Of course, this would mean that we in the West would have to change our overconsumptive ways. That means less coffee in the morning, less yummy chocolate snacks, and fibres derived from alternate crops that produce a higher yield per acre, like hemp.

I think we've seen time and time again what large scale projects that seek to alter the landscape do. They only cause problems that we can't forsee. Witness the dammming of the world's rivers, settlement of desert regions, and clearcutting of temperate and tropical forests, among others.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
Not Always (none / 0) (#268)
by localroger on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:16:59 PM EST

The "normal" weather patterns don't bring any precipitation to the Sahara.

Those weather patterns are "normal" because the desert itself has established them. A big chunk of the Sahara used to be called the "fertile crescent" precisely because those patterns haven't been there forever. Bring back the vegetation, and they would change back -- but you'd have to bring the veggies back first without the rain, to get the albedo down and the humidity up. The desert itself is what prevents rain from occurring there, and getting rid of the desert is just a chicken-and-egg problem of restoring conditions as they were before the desert took over.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Really? (none / 0) (#258)
by seebs on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:57:54 PM EST

That wasn't a desert once. Was it "good" for the environment when it changed?

Everyone is afraid that, if we have global warming, sea levels will rise - and you're worried about what happens if we bring more of the water inland?

I'm not talking about irrigation, not in the long run. I'm talking about changing the climate.

Yes, it's a change. The world has climate changes. We've had ice ages before, and we may well have them again. There have been many, many, major and catastrophic climate shifts, and the world is still here. I don't see why one we initiate is any worse than one we don't, and there's a lot of prime real estate waiting to be usable.


[ Parent ]
One small problem... (4.60 / 5) (#45)
by zantispam on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:26:17 AM EST

3,500,000 square miles of almost totally unusable land, with pretty good sunlight.

...which is the catalyst for nearly all of the hurricanes that happen on a yearly basis.

Farming in the Sahara would devastate the global climate. That's kind of a show stopper.

-- zantispam, who hasn't had enough coffee yet to go and find any supporting information yet




Free Duxup!
[ Parent ]
why? (none / 0) (#239)
by CodeWright on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:49:52 AM EST

Why is that a "show stopper"?

Nobody stopped the Aswan High Dam or the Three Gorges dam. If some enterprising individuals converted useless desert into productive land, then more power to 'em. Damn good use of money if you ask me.

[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok. (none / 0) (#282)
by zantispam on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:36:13 PM EST

I'll let you write the ecological impact statements...

Seroiusly. Can you tell me, in detail, how eliminating the largest desert on the planet will affect the climate? How will the prevaling winds change (they will)? How will the currents in the Atlantic change, and how will this affect climate in both the US and Europe? How will the change in temperature affect sea life, especially in the Atlantic? Give examples.

Let's get creative. If you were to eliminate the largest passive thermal conductor on the planet, how would that affect weather worldwide? If you were to eliminate the catalyst for (most|all|scientists can't figure out which) Atlantic tropical depressions, how would that affect weather patterns on the eastern seaboard? Cuba? South America? Show your work.

We'll get crazy now. How would the disruption of current climate models affect yearly bird migrations? Would they even have to migrate? Would they relocate farther south and not migrate back up so far north? How about butterflies? Fish in the Atlantic? How would these changes affect the prey/predator chains on land? You can use a calculator if you need to.

My point is that, even with 1e12, you don't just go changing the earth's climate willy-nilly. We don't yet know enough about how this rock works to even think of such a thing. But we'll be saving millions of people from a horrible death of starvation you say? At what cost? What happens if the collective, non-localized temperature of the earth were to decline five degrees (pick a unit of measure) in one year? What would go extinct? How about if the mean temperature increased? (yadda-yadda-global-warming-stuff. whatever.)

See whay I say it's a show stopper? It would take a trillion dollars just to figure out whay might happen if we did such a thing. Then we'd need another trillion dollars :-)




Free Duxup!
[ Parent ]
reiteration of earlier sentiment: why? (5.00 / 1) (#295)
by CodeWright on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 09:58:12 AM EST

You seem to think that I have not considered the possible environmental impacts resulting from such a large-scale macro-engineering project.

On the contrary, I just don't care about the consequences.

You can list a veritable Pandora's box worth of possible disaster scenarios, but they are mere supposition -- if humans did not act until they knew, absolutely, all the consequences of their actions, then, given imperfect knowledge, they would never act....

If there are negative consequences to human action, then those consequences can be dealt with as they occur.

With sufficient resources to turn the largest desert on the planet into a lush, fertile breadbasket, dealing with the fallout of that conversion would be an effort no greater and probably a lot less in comparison.

The very nature of human beings as sentient and technological creatures means that there is no such thing as the "natural course of events" that human beings may disturb. Human beings and all of their capabilities are just as much a part of nature as anything else. The "natural process" of a comet smacking into a planet and destroying the food chain is not somehow more "natural" than human beings incinerating vast regions with nukes. The difference is that human beings have the capacity for choice -- a capability sorely lacking in comets and other such "natural" disasters. That capacity for choice gives humans the ability to mold their environment to their desires. If people want to convert the Earth into a vast bio-habitat, then so be it. If they want to pave the planet, then, yee-ha, so be it.

So, who cares?



[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
The Food Production vs Population Growth Arms Race (4.00 / 3) (#96)
by texty on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:41:47 PM EST

Sadly, the reason I don't think this well-meaning idea would work is that the food produced would not actually go towards feeding the starving peoples of the world - it would just fuel our population explosion. This is an experiment which has been repeated every year for the last ~10,000 years, since the start of the 'agricultural revolution'.

Biologists recognise that in the non-human world, whenever the amount of food available to a species increases, the population of that species inevitably increases in response. However, believing that humans belong to a different 'Order of Being' than the rest of the community of life, we refuse to accept that this rule applies to us - despite the evidence of the last 10,000 years to the contrary. Because we can individually exercise control over our reproduction, we mistakenly extrapolate this to conclude that our species as a whole can do the same.

The point I'm making is that food production and population growth is an arms race, identical in spirit to the weapons arms race of the Cold War - because every increase in food production (initiated in order to feed an increased population) is matched by an increase in population. And an arms race can never be won - it can only be abandoned.

For a more detailed exposition of this idea, see 'Ishmael' or 'The Story of B' by Daniel Quinn.


Also check out these links:

Reaching for the Future with All Three Hands

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race



[ Parent ]
errr (4.50 / 2) (#151)
by crayz on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:52:17 PM EST

The US/Europe/Japan has far more food available than many African nations, and yet those poor countries have skyrocketing populations, while the "western" world's population is generally leveling off or declining.

Also, all the talk of how little the hunter-gatherers have to work is BS. If all I wanted to do was live in a hut in the middle of nowhere, eat crappy food, drink dirty water, and have no plumbing/electricity/etc., I could probably work a minimum wage job for about 1-2 hours a day. If I could do some skilled work I could probably work full time for two or three years, save my money, and live the rest of my life on the interest.

And if I don't want to do that(which I don't), I can work more, and enjoy more amenities, and a far larger variety of food and experiences, than they do.

[ Parent ]
Electricity. (none / 0) (#207)
by Rande on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:30:34 AM EST

From what I can tell, the declining growth in population in western world seems to be due to....electric lights.
When you have an educated population with electric lights, people find something else to do at nights than breeding.
...And when they do get to bed, more often it's a case of 'sorry dear, I'm too tired.'

[ Parent ]
dunno about that (none / 0) (#275)
by crayz on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:53:32 PM EST

I'd be interested in seeing some studies showing the intercourse rates and birth rates of people of different countries and see how much of a connection there is. My guess is it has more to do with birth control use than with not having sex.

[ Parent ]
clarification (none / 0) (#311)
by texty on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 06:43:14 PM EST


Slowing population growth rates slowing in first world countries don't contradict what I was pointing out about increased food production causing increased population. I definitely wasn't suggesting that it's a hopeless situation, that education & birth control have no effect - rather that their effects take place within this larger pattern of food-surplus-fuelled population growth. If the 'poor countries' you mention have skyrocketing populations, it is because there is a surplus of food to fuel that growth. How else could it be? After all (to put it crudely), people are 'made of' food. The purpose of my response was to try to suggest that turning the Sahara into a giant farm (or whatever) to produce more food might not be the miracle cure it sounds like - since it doesn't solve the problem of hunger, only pushes it to the future, when an even larger number of people will be hungry.

As for your evaluation of the crappiness of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, I can only point out that anthropologists who actually spend time with such people (those few remaining aren't in the process of being obliterated by our civilization's relentless expansion to support its growing population) find that these people don't themselves feel that they are living in the 'middle of nowhere', or eating 'crappy food', or struggling for survival. They in fact seem to feel that they are living entirely fulfilling lives - and history shows that they have often fought to the death rather than give up their ways of life. In other words, they generally don't feel that their lives are missing anything. Do these ignorant savages maybe just not know what they're missing? Compare their apparent mental health to ours, where the suicide rate among the young increases every year, more and more people every year suffer from chronic depression or that feeling of emptiness, that 'something is missing'; not to mention crime, large-scale war, and all the other that's-the-price-of-progress trappings of our situation. Notice also that these things are the result of only around 10,000 years of our way of life, whereas the tribal life seemed to work quite well for people for many hundreds of thousands of years, and without anything remotely near the negative ecological impact that we're having.

I'm not trying to push some kind of 'noble savage' idolization here; I just think it's important that we weigh up what we've gained against what we've lost - that we don't just accept the assumption that our things are just inevitably getting better and better and better as a result of civilization. That also seems to be what the aforementioned essay was trying to question.

You also point out our ability to "work more, and enjoy more amenities, and a far larger variety of food and experiences" than pre-agricultural people. I think it's worth noting in response that this plethora of options that our way of life provides come at quite a price. Two prices that immediately come to mind are alarmingly increased rates of species extinction (i.e., reduction of the planet's biodiversity as a fundamental consequence of our growth) and oil dependency (which we're apparently willing to fight any number of wars to ensure). In connection with this, the word 'unsustainable' also comes to mind.



[ Parent ]
At first (3.12 / 8) (#4)
by gibichung on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:11:17 AM EST

I thought this article would be a silly waste of time -- but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Frankly, I'm appalled by the cynicism on this site. A good majority of the people here don't seem to like where we're headed, but other than the occassional call for World Socialism, they rarely make clear what would make them happy. At heart, I'm an optimist, maybe even a bit of an idealist, and I'm curious as to what vision of the future motivates such critical views of the world and the future.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
unfortunately... (4.13 / 15) (#6)
by rebelcool on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:13:31 AM EST

money cannot buy what it takes to make the world a better place.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

well (4.66 / 6) (#10)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:19:38 AM EST

Enough money could probably purchase you the means to kill everyone on the planet.

[ Parent ]
Damn. (2.75 / 4) (#44)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:17:01 AM EST

I was going to say for a trillion dollars, I'd build a nice little doomsday device. Poof! Problems solved.

Alas, you beat me to it...

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


[ Parent ]
Deferring problems (4.62 / 8) (#49)
by greenrd on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:32:04 AM EST

OK, forgive me for taking you seriously.

There's just one problem with that "solution". It doesn't guarantee that intelligent life won't evolve again - somewhere in the universe. Perhaps it already has. There could be more Genghis Khans, more Stalins, more Hitlers - on a far worse scale. By attempting to improve our world, we might be able to reach a stage where there is no more hunger, no more wars, no more psychopaths. (Psychopathy might in fact be a genetic disorder). And perhaps in the very far future, we might even help other intelligent species with their problems.

Even a universe-destroying device would be susceptible to a similar argument, I think. There is no way of proving that what what we call "the universe" - what we are aware of with the limited science we have at any particular time - is the limit of what exists.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

"Better" (none / 0) (#93)
by ucblockhead on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:19:33 PM EST

Killing every person on the planet to make it "better" is oxymoronic, as "better" is a purely human concept. If all people are gone, then there is no one to care about the state of the universe.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#107)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:50:56 PM EST

It depends on whether you define "good" positively or negatively. If you define "good" as "the absense of suffering," then all people being gone would be better than there being people around who are suffering.

[ Parent ]
Foresight (none / 0) (#160)
by yooden on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:31:17 AM EST

That's were human foresight comes into play: I can now decide if a situation in the future would be better than the current situation. Me hanging around to appreciate it is not required.



[ Parent ]
"better" (none / 0) (#233)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:59:53 AM EST

Well, you can decide whether or not it's better for you at least. There's no such thing as "better" from the perspective of the universe.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I Agree (none / 0) (#272)
by yooden on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:31:03 PM EST

This has nothing to do with being oxymoronic though. I could still envision something I like better without me being part of it.



[ Parent ]
And that would be...? (4.50 / 4) (#15)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:25:42 AM EST

So, what is it, that would make the world a better place, that money can't buy?

Are you quite sure that nothing money can buy would even *help*? That answer's really a fair bit of a cop-out. Surely, there's *some* problem that money could help with. I would bet that, for instance, $1T would be enough to build a lot of schools, or get medicine for a lot of people who aren't getting it right now.


[ Parent ]
What the world needs now... (3.00 / 5) (#25)
by m0rzo on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:47:44 AM EST

is love, sweet love. It's the only thing, that there's just too little of - Burt Bacarach.

Wise man, eh?


My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

Sure you can. (4.00 / 8) (#30)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:20:00 AM EST

Just geneticaly engineer a human unsucceptable to regligious zelotry. put the new DNA on carier virus and go nuts :P
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
i have a similar idea (4.25 / 4) (#52)
by highenergystar on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 12:26:31 PM EST

i think that our current cultural and economic milieu makes it inherently good to live and enact a zero sum game ..if someone wins someone loses....necessary evil blah blah blah...i think it will make at least an interesting experiment whre ones genes/social environment be modified so that competition at the cost of any other humans anywhere will be too painful/repulsive a path to be pursued... does anyone think that the gene for survival/success is tied to the gene for 'only I win'? will we die out as a result of the aforementioned modification?

[ Parent ]
"I win" gene (none / 0) (#186)
by Boronx on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 03:43:12 AM EST

We won't die out, but if a few people are left selfish, maybe they are more fit than the altered, cooperative people.

On the other hand, if we do this, maybe it will push culture into a state where being selfish make you less fit.

There was a science fiction story about this (don't know title or author) but it didn't go into the evelutionary effects...
Subspace
[ Parent ]

education (4.00 / 8) (#8)
by dr k on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:16:54 AM EST

Pay teachers a decent wage. Buy out the "standarized testing" agencies and put them out of business. Open new libraries, and buy a thousand bookmobiles.

Testing... (3.75 / 4) (#14)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:24:03 AM EST

How do you propose to identify students who need different teaching, or more books, or whatever? Standardized testing may suck, but I think it's better than the alternatives, of having no metric whatsoever.


[ Parent ]
purpose of standardized tests (2.75 / 4) (#22)
by dr k on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:42:00 AM EST

Most of these test scores are viewed from a school or district level, where the individual abilities are overshadowed by the perceived performance of the school or district. Try to keep the state from punishing low-scoring districts - you can't do it with these meaningless numbers around.

Any metric should take into account family incomes, family size, property values, &c.

[ Parent ]

excuse me? (4.50 / 4) (#23)
by gibichung on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:04:47 AM EST

Any metric should take into account family incomes, family size, property values, &c.
What the hell do they have to do with standardized tests? The idea is that everyone takes the same test and is judged by the same standards. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from -- you get the same test that everyone else does. In the past, your 4.0 from Inner-City High could be discounted because of the low standards there. Today, you have a fair chance to prove that you got something out of your education. How can you say this is meaningless?

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
correction (2.00 / 1) (#69)
by medham on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:38:20 PM EST

There are no standardized tests such as you describe. Your comment about "lower standards" at inner-city schools reeks both of the troglodytic cave of the AEI and of impressive ignorance.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

What does that measure? (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 01:26:27 PM EST

I think what you really want to do is separate school performance metrics from child performance metrics.

If you can't read the job ads in the newspaper, being from a large family in a poor neighborhood doesn't mean you actually *can* read the job ads. It does, however, suggest that it's not a problem with "bad teachers", but a complicated set of interactions.

So, fine. We measure teachers based on *relative* performance, instead of absolute results... But the absolute results are still useful for evaluating which students need help.


[ Parent ]
hm (none / 0) (#135)
by dr k on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:29:33 PM EST

"So, fine. We measure teachers based on *relative* performance, instead of absolute results... But the absolute results are still useful for evaluating which students need help."

Evaluating students is a relative task as well. Top down approaches - standarized tests, "basic skills" lists, mandated X hours of instruction - are political toys that try to make education look better without worrying about the actual effects. These things don't mean much when a teacher has to deal with a particular student, because a teacher can evaluate a student without making him fill in circles using a #2 pencil.

The current direction of [American] education is embodied right in front of you: the computer. The state looks forward to the day when there is a robot teacher in every classroom, writing out lists of factoids for students to memorize. Sure, human teachers aren't perfect. But there is a lot of misplaced blame being put onto them. They are being made accountable to the evaluation system, a system that usurps their classroom and classtime.

[ Parent ]

Why is it relative? (none / 0) (#247)
by seebs on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:01:31 PM EST

I don't see much relative about "can you, or can you not, read the newspaper well enough to identify the job ads?". There's lots of aspects of this where the meaningfu standard *is* absolute.

It's great for the teacher to be able to evaluate the student, but for us to make informed decisions about long-term policies, we need to be able to answer questions like "How many of these students will be able to apply for a job?" or "How many of these students can balance a checkbook?"

I tend to agree that teachers are being held accountable for things beyond their control, but, in their favor, it's worth noticing that there's ample statistical evidence that good teachers make more of a difference than anything else the school system does; you can follow their effects on their students.


[ Parent ]
education (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by wiml on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:30:01 AM EST

I'm not sure I think yours are the best methods, but I agree that education is probably the best mid- to long-term effort. A trillion dollars really isn't that much, if you're talking about the whole world; it's only about $160 per person.

I suspect what I would do is spend a few hundred million funding research into what would be the best thing to do. But that's not a very interesting answer.

Even if you can educate people, you still need to get them into situations where they can make use of that education.

[ Parent ]

$160 a person (none / 0) (#112)
by Verminator on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:34:40 PM EST

That gives me a great idea! Why don't we squander the cash on a worthless gimmick and mail everyone a check in order to gain politcal office. People love getting money, they'll fall for it every time.

So long as one is alive, death doesn't exist, except for other people. And when one is dead, nothing exists, not even death. -- Aldous Huxley
[ Parent ]

Think outside the US (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:16:14 AM EST

Heh. I don't think the education markets that even use standardized tests really need that much help. Education in the US could be better, but who gives a shit. There are much bigger problems in the US then some 20 year old slashdot poster not being able to convert RPM to Herz.

Besides, a trillion dollars wouldn't even go that far in the US.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Research (3.37 / 8) (#26)
by Weezul on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:51:54 AM EST

Pay for research. Pure research is always the best long term investment a society can make.

I might give the ACLU and EFF 1 billion each, just cuz 1 trillion is a lot of money.

I suppose it would be a good idea to spend some money to even out the government bias of researchers studing the effects of illegal drugs. There are a few honest researchers out there studing the effects of illegal drugs and they do not get gov. grants.

Here is an example of an artice which could not get published: Crack babies are misconception. The babies are born with side effects from the mothers crack usage, but they have actually never been exposed to cocain. The cocain molicules are too big to get to the baby.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
Research in what? (none / 0) (#158)
by yooden on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:26:30 AM EST

I wouldn't invest in technology:

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
Albert Einstein



[ Parent ]
Take it over :P (3.76 / 13) (#27)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:12:02 AM EST

Ok, here's the plan. Some contries have 'stable' governments, others don't.

So step one is to stablize the unstable governments by taking them over. Take an african countrie like the "repulic" of congo, shouldn't be to hard, try to co-opt some of the leaders, declare yourself the government. As long as you can get the citizens on your side (promise of stablity, food, work, etc). If it proves imposbile, bail.

Once government is under control, build an army. It'll be a real army with songs and patriotic stuff and everything, but mostly what I'd have them do initialy would be in agriculture. The most important thing would to become self-sufficiant. And that means, at least, being able to feed the people in the army. (we'd let as many people into the army as wanted to be in). A trillion dollars is a lot, but it is finite. The US government spends that in about 8 months.

So once we get food covered, we'd start using the army to build infrestructure. roads, power, phone service. Roads most important.

Then I'd build schools. Good schools, as good as they can be. Once food is covered, education comes second.

Assuming a nation can become self-sufficient, and the education level is high, more military buildup will occour. nearby countries that I don't think are functioning well will be taken over by are new more powerfull army. after that, we'd do what we did with our country.

Finaly. In nations with stable and 'acceptable' governments we would invest money building schools and stuff.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Game? (3.33 / 3) (#41)
by CokeBear on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:26:14 AM EST

Sounds like the makings of a cool game.
Anyone here from Maxis?

[ Parent ]
game: (2.00 / 3) (#46)
by garlic on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:27:25 AM EST

combination of simcity and civilization?

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

Game? (none / 0) (#280)
by Noodle on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 08:09:19 PM EST

It's called Tropico<sup>TM</sup>.

{The Nefarious Noodle}

{The Nefarious Noodle}
[ Parent ]

Congratulations (4.45 / 11) (#50)
by greenrd on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:35:33 AM EST

You've just reinvented colonialism.

Only this time, your version is (presented as) humanitarian colonialism, rather than the violent and exploitative forms that the world has seen up to now. (Yes there were some good aspects of colonialism, but exploitation was the driving force. You could say the same thing about capitalism.)
"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Difference (5.00 / 1) (#82)
by J'raxis on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:38:10 PM EST

Yes, and he reinvented it well.

What’s wrong with that if the people aren’t resisting it? The post said that if the nation didn’t go along with it, just bail out (and presumedly try again elsewhere). That’s the key difference. Colonialism (IRL) was subsequently achieved by invasion if the people didn’t go along with it.

Again: If no one complains, what’s the problem?

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

What I would do... (2.50 / 14) (#28)
by gilmae on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:15:21 AM EST

Buy all the factories that make ammunition for small arms...and close them down.

"Sure. You can have all the guns you like. Have fun firing them."

Now *that* would make the world a better place. Doesn't really solve the problem though. How to stop people making their own ammunition. I guess I'd have to buy a whole lot of chemical factories as well. I don't think this trillion is going to go that far.

I guess most of the US readers are dismissing me as a troll by now. That's all right.

I'm not american (4.25 / 8) (#31)
by bke on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:22:28 AM EST

but I'm still going to dissmiss you as a troll. When are people going to learn that things aren't evil but rather that people are...

--
Read, think, spread!
http://www.toad.com/gnu/whatswrong.html
[ Parent ]

Well, (5.00 / 4) (#33)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:43:53 AM EST

suppose you do buy all the ammo companies. So what's to prevent people from making new ones to fill in the econoic niche?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Factory Ammo.. (4.40 / 5) (#35)
by Da Unicorn on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:30:01 AM EST

Heh, funny you mention that. Just did a run of 750 reloads for the .44 Mag. I shoot several hundred rounds per month and I have not bought a single factory loaded cartridge in over 10 years see my K5 story on reloading . Just don't shut down the component and powder manufacturers. Even then I'm good for a decade or so till I learn to make that stuff myself.

Had to toss that out there.

I just wish people would get along and realise we all live here and the best thing is to live and let live.

Oh and I would spend that $$ on alternative energy systems like bio diesel, producer gas, wind, solar and hydroelectric. Not big monster systems but smaller community and home based solutions. Or I could buy a few politicians and get hemp legalized here in the U.S but thats another rant.

Da

[ Parent ]

Weed (none / 0) (#187)
by Boronx on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:00:07 AM EST

Or I could buy a few politicians and get hemp legalized here in the U.S but thats another rant. And then what would you do with the other 99.999 percent of the money? Job programs for the poverty stricken ex pot dealers?
Subspace
[ Parent ]
Ha, err (none / 0) (#319)
by Da Unicorn on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 06:40:52 AM EST

Well, I figured to pump it into the alternative energy options I suggested then I would just skim the rest off to my offshore accounts. The out of work pot dealers would be on their own. With no contraband status the black market would evaporate along with the high profits [pun intended]

Da

[ Parent ]

Doesn't Do a Damn Thing (5.00 / 3) (#53)
by thecabinet on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 12:43:28 PM EST

And you expect them to do what with the money you've given them for the factory? But flowers for all the little children?

I'm certain they're not going to take the money and either buy another factory or build a better one. Great plan.

[ Parent ]

Watch out for me (none / 0) (#145)
by newellm on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:26:23 PM EST

I would go and buy some fertilizer and diesel fuel and make a nice big bomb to blow up your house. Then I think that I would mix up some napalm using gasoline, styrofoam, aluminum, and a little carosine and burn some people up. Later that day I would cook up large amounts of nitro-glycerine which I would leave in small unmarked boxes in large populated areas. Then I would take some razor blades and hijack a plane and fly it into some large buildings. When I finished that I would most likely play the brown noise at high volumes, well no, I'm not that mean.


This post is just an example of what a determined person could do without the use of small arms, I never intend to do any of the acts described above.

[ Parent ]
I doubt it'd work... (none / 0) (#180)
by seebs on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:08:54 AM EST

Two points:

1. It would obviously be cost-effective for someone new to go into that business. You'd eventually run out of money. :)

2. I am totally unconvinced that ammunition or small arms are the cause of violence. I think the issue is complicated enough to merit a lot of research. What little I've seen suggests that guns don't cause violence, but that violence tends to cause guns.

Still, it's a neat idea, and I like the way you sidestepped the "obvious" solution - which, just as obviously, wouldn't have worked. Nice post!


[ Parent ]
Think long-term (4.00 / 6) (#34)
by vefoxus on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:52:39 AM EST

The only way you could "change the world" is by focusing on the long-term:

- make education available and free (motivation required, though), especially in parts of the world where it is not available easily yet.

- organize irrigation in Africa, make people able to extract water... and make sure they know how to take care of it by themselves

- fund solar-energy research, which we'll need eventually

- help preserve culture in every country by funding museums, films, books. And also encourage the learning of other languages. Knowing who you are, who your ancestors were and what they did, and still be able to understand foreigners...

- fund research against malaria

Remember that $1T ~ $170/head (none / 0) (#195)
by Spork on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:43:53 AM EST

If you wanted to provide free education for everyone, you'd run out of money after each person bought three textbooks.

[ Parent ]
USA $161.09 (none / 0) (#267)
by I am Jack's username on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:14:58 PM EST

US$161.09 is about ZAR1829.92 (South African rand) per person - consider that a hard cover version of the Concise Oxford dictionary 10th edition costs almost a tenth of that here: ZAR185.00, and I'm sure governments buying in bulk for schools could get much better prices than that.
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
i bit far fetched... (3.90 / 10) (#36)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:07:42 AM EST

but I would fund research in developing a star-trek-ish replicator. Once people can replicate all the food and items they need, you really COULD have a pseudo-utopia. The only thing holding a pseudo-utopia back is limited resources, and humanity's unlimited want. I don't use the word utpoia by itself because there are still other factors, like human desire to dominate the wills of others. Probably after a couple generations of children growing up without want, the need to dominate others in hostile ways will disappear. There is also still the possibility of jealousy, rape, things like that, but who know how MUCH (or how little) having all our material desires met will affect us.

Cynicism Moment (3.37 / 8) (#38)
by UncleMikey on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:21:28 AM EST

Probably after a couple generations of children growing up without want, the need to dominate others in hostile ways will disappear.

Well, first of all, what makes you think that anyone outside the Elite(tm) would have access to replicators? What makes you think they would be widely distributed for anyone at all to use? What makes you think that they would be free to use, since replicators require energy, and energy generation, after all, costs money?

This isn't a rhetorical question. You've got Seebs' terabuck to spend on the problem; I'm curious as to what your solution would be.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

Nanotech (4.40 / 5) (#48)
by greenrd on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:19:20 AM EST

Well, first of all, what makes you think that anyone outside the Elite(tm) would have access to replicators?

In a reasonably free market, competition would drive down the price of replicators, and nonprofit groups would spring up with the goal of getting free access to a replicator to every man, woman and child on the planet. The only way to prevent this would be laws restricting the ownership of replicators. There would be enormous, incredible resistance to this.

Another reason is that some scientists (such as K. Eric Drexler) actually believe replicators to be possible - once we have advanced molecular nanotechnology. For this post I will assume they are correct, although I am in no position to be able to judge the science.

Nanotechnology assemblers would not only be able to replicate things very cheaply, they would also be able to produce virtually anything it is physically possible to produce - given a detailed specification and enough raw materials and energy (some of which it could extract from its environment). In the presence of competition and in the absence of illegal collusion, industrial megacorps would tend to gradually replace most of their production-line workers with extremely cheap nanotech. The food, mining, construction, energy and defense industries would all be revolutionised, for example.

Now what would you have? Vast unemployment (looking at a world scale here) and consequent poverty. This would be awesomely cruel and wasteful.

But that mass poverty is not going to exist. At least, not permanently. If the world economy lays off hundreds of millions of people in a short space of time, that would likely cause a recession because you've got far fewer people you can sell to. This is key. The future of capitalism in the advanced nanotech era - if indeed it does have a future! - has to be in services and "intellectual property", including designs of goods. The economics of replicating physical goods will become similar to the economics of pure 0s and 1s - copying will be virtually free.

The rich elites would find it pretty much pointless to restrict distribution of say food replicators. Why would they bother? Yes they would worry about "piracy" of intellectual property - but that doesn't prevent selling "black box" replicators with fixed basic nutrition programs, for example.

A key reason why so many people are starving today is because of violent conflicts (e.g. the war on Afghanistan) and economic oppression, both concerned with control over natural or human resources. Nike wants to keep its sweatshop workers poor so that it can pay them very low wages. In the advanced nanotech era, such control will largely no longer be necessary or desired! Natural resources such as diamonds will become nothing special because they will be easy to manufacture from other raw materials containing the right elements (in this case carbon). Saudia Arabia's oil supplies will become almost worthless. In terms of human resources, the average megacorp such as AOLWarnerDisney will find it quite cheap to pay its service workers reasonable "salaries" - since most basic material needs like food, drink, clothing and energy will be virtually free, they only will need to provide a reasonable incentive to work for them, such as intellectual property permissions or "money" to pay for services. Those who still work for a megacorp (if the megacorps don't die out altogether) will be a tiny fraction of the population, so arguably the employment market will be a buyer's market.

What makes you think that they would be free to use, since replicators require energy, and energy generation, after all, costs money?

You don't need to spend much more money after you've got a perfect replicator. Just replicate some solar panels and distribute them over uninhabited areas (or farms which are going to be put out of business by the replicators). Existing energy sources should be more than sufficient to bootstrap the process.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Anything? (5.00 / 7) (#64)
by Skwirl on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:07:27 PM EST

Welcome to SuSE Linux 79.2 (OPENCORES Quantum Hybrid) - Kernel 82.4.7 (tty2).

login: OsamaJr
Password: ********
Last login: Thu Sep 20 16:27:49 on tty2

# ls -l

drwx------ 2 OsamaJr AlQueda       512 Jun 28 2081 bin
-rw------- 1 OsamaJr AlQueda      1182 Feb 16 13:11 dead.letter
drwx------ 2 OsamaJr AlQueda       512 Feb 24 13:01 mail
drw-rw---- 2 OsamaJr AlQueda    2.13e8 Feb 2 02:29 greygoo.replicatorplans.gz
drw-rw---- 2 OsamaJr AlQueda    4.62e8 Feb 2 02:29 nervegas.replicatorplans.gz
drw-rw---- 2 OsamaJr AlQueda   9.53e13 Feb 2 02:29 uraniumpurifier.replicatorplans.gz
drw-rw---- 2 OsamaJr AlQueda   6.79e15 Feb 2 02:29 nuclearbomb.replicatorplans.gz
drwxrwxr-x 1 OsameJr AlQueda       512 Oct 27 19:13 www

# gunzip -d greygoo.replicatorplans.gz

# cp greygoo.replicatorplans /dev/replicator

# mv nervegas.replicatorplans.gz click_here_for_18_y.o_anna_kournikova_sex_doll.replicatorplans.zip

# mutt -a click_here*.zip -s "Free Anna Kournikova sex doll!!!!" president@whitehouse.gov

# lynx http://www.foresight.org/Sept11/index.html


--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
Nitpick (2.83 / 6) (#99)
by RegisteredJustForThisComment on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:15:03 PM EST

Sorry to pick at a nit here (and I'm sorry to give technical aid to any potential future terrorists), but I wanted to point out this:

# cp greygoo.replicatorplans /dev/replicator

I wouldn't recommend doing (anything like) that. If you did that, your /dev/replicator would get overwritten by greygoo.replicatorplans -- you'd have a normal file named "/dev/replicator" instead of a device. In my early noob days, I once did "mv somefile /dev/null" and discovered that I no longer had a /dev/null device. Whoops.

Perhaps you meant something like this:

# cat greygoo.replicatorplans > /dev/replicator

There's also the nonstandardness of a non-root user having a "#" prompt, but since many normal users set their prompt that way just to feel 1337er, we'll let that slide. :)

[ Parent ]

Osama Jr. doesn't have root? <nt> (none / 0) (#118)
by Verminator on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:56:31 PM EST


So long as one is alive, death doesn't exist, except for other people. And when one is dead, nothing exists, not even death. -- Aldous Huxley
[ Parent ]

*Shakes head* I don't get it. (5.00 / 1) (#232)
by UncleMikey on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:57:02 AM EST

In the advanced nanotech era, such control will largely no longer be necessary or desired!

Am I really the only person on K5 who sees that power is an end in and of itself? Such control will no longer be necessary, but then, it's not really necessary today. It's desired, and it will be desired as long as humanity exists. People will always seek to control other people for the sake of the control alone.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

easy (4.60 / 5) (#59)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 01:28:47 PM EST

I would give one to every person that worked on the project, and employ them to keep constructing more, and use what remaining money I had to build as many as I could, and give all of those away. I wouldn't be doing this for profit; I'm not that short sighted. Why the hell would i want to worry about paper money when I could replicate any item I wished for?

> and energy generation, after all, costs money

Money is an illusion, but compensation for work is not. If at all possible, I would make my replicators self-replicating. Assuming replicators WILL happen, its a short step to saying they can replicate themselves. Sure it would cost to bootstrap it, but once it got moving, "Replicators for all!" who want one... and you know even the most hardcore Luddite will want one eventually =]

[ Parent ]
Damon Knight covered this scenario. (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by la princesa on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:19:00 PM EST

See A for Anything and the disaster that resulted from the gismo, which could replicate anything, including itself and people. Slavery for 95% of the population and a severe limitation on gismo access, and also periodic replication of human slaves. The gismos were randomly distributed, but once their existence was known, a number of people immediately seized power any way they could. His scenario was pretty downbeat, but reasonable considering current humans. Nanotech's mere existence in a feasible replicator form could ruin a lot of people's lives.

[ Parent ]
please (4.00 / 1) (#84)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:48:06 PM EST

do not confuse fiction and dramatic scenarios with real life. What is the point of slavery if the potential slave owner can get anything he/she wants? Just to be MEAN to people?

Also: Random distribution would not be good enough. Produce one, have it replicate itself, and so on for 32 generations, creating enough for everyone on earth (at least one for every two people) Have it programmed so that the first thing it produces is a copy of itself, plus modifying a value in its circuitry (the generational number, which expires at 32 or 33, at which point it no longer HAS to produce itself after the first try)

[ Parent ]
"Just to be MEAN?" (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by dakoda on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:42:14 PM EST

heh, just to be mean. form my (limited) experience, that is what people exist for. to be mean to other ones.

it is not enough to simply have what you desire, and to be complacent. while it works for some, it doesn't work for all, as they always want more. in a world where goods are free (and therefore services [if it breaks, make a new one] for the most part), the only thing left to desire would be power over people. if done properly, a replicator-enabled society _could_ ensure that no one could have power over another, but as soon as this policy slipped even a little, things could be bad. replicating a defense system for the mean people would probably be trivially easy though :)

[ Parent ]
cynic ;P (none / 0) (#134)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:28:24 PM EST

well two points:
1) it may take a couple generations of humans getting used to the replicators, but the feeling of want is going to disappear and the agression and hard feelings towards other will dissipate.

2) There are lots of things to still to desire, like learning, and creation (in artistic and scientific ways), and so on.

3) I think youre a bit bitter =P. I've known a lot of very selfless, very nice people, so maybe seeing the nicer parts of the human spectrum as skrewed my perception, but I think if given the chance, and with the struggle to survive gone, you get to see the better parts of people. So how do I explain megalomaniacs like Pat Robertson? He's a mind moving backwards in a world moving forwards. There have become less and less people like him as time has moved on, just in the 20th century.

[ Parent ]
okay (none / 0) (#137)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:31:09 PM EST

so that was 3 points, pardon moi =]

[ Parent ]
Hah! (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by J'raxis on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:16:53 PM EST

We have replicators right now, devices that can replicate information at least — and look at the legal mess it’s caused. Can you imagine what would happen if we had devices that “infringed” on the “rights” of the entities who control natural resources? I don’t want to be around when that one starts.

— The Cynic Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

yes but (none / 0) (#83)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:38:28 PM EST

information != tangible goods (like food)

of course, try telling this to the RIAA and MPAA =P

[ Parent ]
Re: information != tangible goods (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by J'raxis on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:01:12 PM EST

My point was that right now we have devices that allow us to copy information at nearly zero cost. Information has for a long time been a large part of our supply–demand economy; the laws of supply and demand suddenly no longer apply. And, the entities who rely (or rather, survive) on this economy are fighting the availability of the devices tooth-and-nail.

Now imagine what would happen if/when we invent replicators — the entire supply–demand economy goes poof. Sound scary now?

— The Explanatory Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

no (2.50 / 2) (#94)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:28:35 PM EST

because the people who are producing these intangible goods that can be copied with minimal/no effort, still have to have some way to buy tangible products that CANT be copied in that way. When everything is copiable, from the chair you sit on to the house you live in, there's no reason for any economy to exist anymore. At least no economy as we know it. When the cost of production is zero, and the amount that can be constructed is essentially limited by the raw resources of the planet (which is to say, barely limited - theres plenty of garbage heaps to use as raw materials for now), supply = infinite (more or less) and demand (in Economic terms) = 0.

[ Parent ]
Seen it before (4.00 / 2) (#97)
by cpt kangarooski on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:48:13 PM EST

There was a story in the Venus Equilateral series by George Smith that ran along these lines. (except that there, they had learned how to convert matter into radio waves, and then record the wave patterns onto LPs.

He also predicted near total economic devastation, save that energy was still valuable, because it was needed for the replication process.

Ultimately though, he cheated, and wound up having to use the deus ex machina of an unreplicatable material that could be used as currency.

Still, I'm a bit more optimistic, provided that people don't simply kill one another by accident or design. There's a whole universe of stuff out there that we could turn into other stuff. And arguments about the need for artificial restraints sound hollow when the creator of an easily pirated thing can trivially satisfy his material needs as easily as the next man.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
not a deus ex machina (none / 0) (#246)
by CodeWright on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:52:08 PM EST

An "unreplicable" material is certainly not a deus ex machina with regard to nanoreplicators.

Specifically, all that nanoreplication buys you is the ability to make any desired *molecular* structures at the cost of rearranging the component atoms. It does *not* buy you the ability to create or modify existing atoms.

Hence, rare elemental matter is still valuable by scarcity (which also preserves the resource extraction industries; veins of relatively pure ore are still required to extract industrial quantities of elemental matter -- uranium, for example).


[406@k5] NON ILLIGITIMI CARBORUNDUM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends (none / 0) (#260)
by cpt kangarooski on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:35:31 PM EST

Well, you're thinking of mechanical replicators as in "The Diamond Age." What about more exotic technologies, such as the replicators in "Star Trek?" They very much do convert generic matter into energy and back again, and get to rearrange subatomic particles at will.

The technology in the story was much more like the latter in fact. And the reason for the material being impossible to replicate was not, IIRC, the difficulty of transmuting elements, but instead that it blew up when you tried to do so.

Depending on how the development of technology pans out, the need for raw materials could go either way. And even then, with recycling being near-perfect, it still doesn't seem like that big of an issue.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
No, still (none / 0) (#224)
by J'raxis on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:10:24 AM EST

You forget that besides actual possession of material wealth, people want things like power. The entities that control information and/or raw materials are not only wealthy materially speaking, they are also extremely powerful. They’re not going to want to give this up.

There’s also the issue of land ownership, that still remains quite finite (unless we’re also assuming that along with replicators we have space travel, or we can replicate ourselves a few extra planets to live on).

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

I voted down (2.16 / 6) (#37)
by maroberts on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:16:50 AM EST

..but I felt guilty for saying dump it to an article that wanted to make the world a better place.

But lets face it - this article goes nowhere - except for a few selfless hippy induhviduals most of us would think the world a better place if we had better social status, lots more money, were dating one, preferably two supermodels and scored the winning try/goal at the Superbowl. As or the most bang four your buck, I'll take any bang my buck buys me.

I spent 90% of my wealth on wine women and song - the other 10% I wasted (George Best)



~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
Speak for yourself. (none / 0) (#103)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:35:23 PM EST

I'm pretty much happy. Oh, sure, I could be happier if I had more money, but not a lot happier. For the most part, I can work, I can pay my bills, and everything's okay.

The reason I like thinking about things like this is that, every so often, I find myself thinking "Gee, I can't do that on a large scale, but I can do it here and now, and maybe I should", and I change the world a little.

A friend of mine was stuck in a vicious cycle where she got overdraft fees for about two days out of every paycheck. So, I lent her $100. Next paycheck, her bank balance never got below $10. Paycheck after that, it was $75. After that, $120. Pretty soon, she could pay me back my $100, and have a bit of buffer. The only loser in this scenario was the bank, and, well, I don't care. ;)


[ Parent ]
Burn the Money (4.12 / 16) (#39)
by Bad Harmony on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:24:44 AM EST

I would burn the money. A trillion dollars isn't goods and services, it is the capacity to buy goods and services. By spending the money, I would be substituting my idea of what was important for society's idea of what was important, hardly a democratic idea. It would distort the economy and create inflation.

54º40' or Fight!

Dude, that's the point (none / 0) (#77)
by sacrelicious on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:16:59 PM EST

By spending the money, I would be substituting my idea of what was important for society's idea of what was important, hardly a democratic idea

Uh... that's the goal of this story. In any degree, due to the USA's "plutocracy" implementation of capitalism, the more money you have, the more voting power you have. Does that mean that you would give up money for this principle you so highly tout?

[ Parent ]

See, I have the opposite view (3.00 / 1) (#90)
by roystgnr on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:04:27 PM EST

I would first spend as much of the trillion dollars as necessary to construct a giant orbiting battle platform, whose powerful laser defenses could both render it impervious to enemy assault and instantaneously smite all those who dare to challenge my power.

Once that's done, I get to implement whatever grandiose world-improving ideas I want, and I don't even have to worry about running out of money to implement them anymore. ;-)

[ Parent ]

I agree- burn the money. (none / 0) (#262)
by nstenz on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:55:15 PM EST

Money = power = greed = all that other stuff.

If we burned a trillion dollars and instead used our time and resources to help people otherwise, we wouldn't need the stupid money. Money is just a go-between for products and services anyhow. I don't see anything wrong with trading something useful over trading a piece of paper. In some countries, the paper would be worthless anyhow.

[ Parent ]

Help developing nations (4.14 / 7) (#40)
by Global-Lightning on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:25:06 AM EST

Choose a region and use the money to assist the nations there advance.
For example, the total foreign debt owed in Latin America is currently about $500 billion (10^9). Buy this debt from it's holders. Defer debt payments if local governments demonstrate they are spending the money on infrastructure, economic development, health, or education. If necessary, work to institute political reforms to eliminate counter-productive practices that have resulted from short-term survival due to economic instability.
The point is to set the conditions to let these countries achieve economic self-sufficiency. Many of these nations are blessed with vast resources but have suffered due to mis-management and outright corruption. Set the conditions to let them repay their debts without harm to their people. Once they have repayed their debts, use the funds to concentrate on another region (Africa, Asia?).

Decide who lives and who dies (4.16 / 6) (#51)
by bobpence on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 12:06:35 PM EST

Which I do every day with my dollar-votes anyway. First, develop an impenetrable fence - it can be a force-field, cordon of guards, double-row electric fencing, whatever, just so I can control what and who goes in and out. Now implement these chains around several opportunity zones - say one state in Pakistan, an area of Zimbabwe, a rural province of Argentina. I now control immigration, although emmigration is not restricted. I also allow trade into and out of my areas.

Now spend some real money: Improve or create schools, provide training for adults who did not have the benefit of good schools, and employ many of them in new plants at a living wage. The plants will make the best, most profitable (including externalities, so not profit over environment) use of local resources, whether they be precious mined materials, productive farmland, or labor. As profit grows, more people are employed productively and the zones grow into surrounding areas. Better schools produce more productive employees who earn more both at my plants and at others that come in to take advantage of the improved labor and industrial environment.

Eventually the zones will attract and accept immigrants who train and work there; some return to their homes, others send money, and their home areas also become developed, spreading the benefit of the trillion dollars far beyond what good it would have done just, as it were, feeding a man a fish today.

Of course all of this takes time, and people outside the zones starve to death while people in the zone are working in multi-million-dollar offices and factories. But the zones do contribute toward short-term charity, and their profits increase the amount available for it. More importantly they spawn further development.

If these areas don't want the benefits of industrialization, we could just impose it, as was done to the U.S. South in the aftermath of the American Civil War. While poverty is not gone, the area on the whole is much better off and has a more equitable distribution of wealth. It would rankle to be compared to the zones discussed above, but in essence it once was. In a few decades, with the economic growth that enlightened self-interest provides through capitalism, these other zones could also take umbrage and being compared to undeveloped areas, of which there would be fewer.

Or we could just order 250 billion Happy Meals a feed the poor for several months.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

-1, Hippie Daydreaming (3.33 / 15) (#54)
by thecabinet on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 12:45:28 PM EST

Personally, I'd like to see the money given back to the people it was stolen, err, taxed from.

As was mentioned already... (none / 0) (#263)
by Jazu on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:56:19 PM EST

No one said it came from any tax.

[ Parent ]
Re: magical appearing money (none / 0) (#320)
by thecabinet on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 09:49:36 AM EST

I understood that the money didn't necessarily come from a tax, but as was also previously mentioned, $1B does not simply spring into existence without serious consequences. Of course, this story was never supposed to be a part of reality, so dismissing those consequences isn't a major problem.

[ Parent ]

parent =~ s/$1B/$1T/; [nt] (none / 0) (#321)
by thecabinet on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 09:50:32 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Okay, I have another one. (4.55 / 9) (#55)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 01:20:17 PM EST

Free education. You invest your trillion dollars, and you basically use it as a foundation to fund schooling. The idea is, anyone who wants to learn, you offer them room, board, and whatever education they're looking for. You only give diplomas out to people who have solidly exceeded any standards anyone else uses, but you'll *teach* anyone. If you want to learn to program, we teach you to program. That doesn't get you a BACS; if you want a degree, you have to go through the whole liberal arts deal, and be basically competent in a handful of core fields.

And, once again, no student loans, no student housing costs, no nothing. You're learning, we feed you. Not expensive food, not great housing, but enough that you're not stuck being miserable.

And anyone can get it.

I think you could do that, as long as you were strict about only people who were actually trying to learn stuff getting the free food. I figure, $50B/year isn't that much compared to the number of people who actually want to learn something.


Open Education (4.33 / 3) (#74)
by hbw on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:16:31 PM EST

Better yet, build up a some sort infrastructure of free education.

Teachers work for free, students learn for free, when a student has gained enough knowledge, she can choose to teach other students - and all of this with the belief that knowledge is freedom, and the goal that with knowledge one can change the world to the better.

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure that would work... (5.00 / 3) (#78)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:18:02 PM EST

If you don't pay the teachers, they can't settle down, have kids, or otherwise pursue any kind of happiness *except* teaching. That's no good.


[ Parent ]
Open Educiation, continued. (5.00 / 1) (#333)
by JJunken on Sat Mar 02, 2002 at 11:41:02 PM EST

In an ideal world, socialized institutions like education, medicine and so on would be given freely, but there are market concerns which supercede this ideal. Unless you live in a society where money does not exist, it must factor in, in some way.

In a communist model, there's the state piggy bank which a bureau delegates the resources of down the tree of offices until it finally performs a function in society.

The democratic model is identical, except that, in theory, the governed have a say in how it's spent. In reality, we know it's identical to the communist model.

Both of these models attempt to apply a monetary "prosthesis" to the idea of an institution that operates without money as a prime concern, and concerns itself only with the "performance" of the money in the institution. And, as we can see, when education is performing at it's best, it becomes the first target for cuts, and when it's performing at it's worst, the money that's returned to the institution is returned with stipulations.

The reality of "open education", at least in the US, and I'll assume in most of Europe is a reality through Libraries, though this is an "unproctored" education, where the extent of your guidance is the card catalog and the librarians.

In progressive communities, libraries often support small groups of citizens who expand on a particular topic by giving them assigned space and time to meet and use the library's resources (books, space, etc) to those ends.

I'd personally like to see a merging of schools and libraries in communities where "topical specialists" (teachers, by day) are available at the library for a few hours a day to provide human guidance through topics, and perhaps even teach "open" classes through through library as a complement to the subjects they teach to their proper students through the day.

Take the example of learning about astronomy on your own time. You might engage the school's physics teacher to run a guided study of the subject, and to fill in on the chalkboard the concepts that are often assumed to be understood by the authors of the books and provide a more wholistic approach to the subject.

Further, you might make library courses operate with multiple teachers when the subject itself is interdisciplinary... A proper study of Ecology neccesarily includes a study of botany, biology, physics, meteorology, astronomy (as it relates to the solar and lunar cycles and their effects on things, which is physics), and so on.

[ Parent ]
Ointment, fly (4.00 / 1) (#162)
by shaper on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:37:46 AM EST

OK, since you're handing out free money for me to learn "whatever education I'm looking for", I'm interested in getting a PhD in Christian theology and creationism. Now where's my check?

My perhaps overly broad point being, who decides exactly what education is worthy? Once you start picking and choosing, you can never go back. Restricting the definition of "education" to vocational training would ameliorate but not completely eliminate this problem.

Nothing is ever simple. Nothing.



[ Parent ]
Underwater Basket Weaving (5.00 / 1) (#173)
by genman on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:44:19 AM EST

I'd say, if you were interested in studying theology, go for it. But only once you have completed a well-rounded curriculum.

There is value in studying any topic, including creationism. So what if the University cranks out a few Pat Robertsons or Jerry Falwells? If they can demonstrate some sort of learning and creative capacity, I say let them learn whatever they want.

I don't think the vast majority of the students would go for 'Christian Science' -- there usually less waste if you apply less control.


[ Parent ]
Ah, you're missing the point... (4.00 / 2) (#175)
by seebs on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:02:06 AM EST

You don't get a check. You don't get a single dollar.

You get housing, on campus, and food. It's not great food, but you can live on it.

Anyway, assuming there were a theology department of some sort, you'd need to qualify to get in. So, you have about 8 years of pretty aggressive study to get through, because you're not getting into a PhD program until you're qualified.

My plan is, no limits on what you can study - but you have to be able to convince the teachers you're actually trying to learn. If they think you're fooling around, you don't get to stay.


[ Parent ]
By far not enough money! (5.00 / 1) (#192)
by Spork on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:35:20 AM EST

Nice project, I guess... but remember, you only have $1T, and there are 7 billion people in the world. That comes to less than $200/head. Now, I know not all of them are college-age now, and not all of those who are would take the money, but still... that's three textbooks.

Most of the comments here betray a skewed sense of scale. I hope your proposal doesn't betray that you are a typical American who takes it for granted that people outside the US borders don't deserve anything (except a few bombs now and then).

[ Parent ]

Where did the trillion come from? (4.62 / 8) (#56)
by lucidvein on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 01:25:25 PM EST

Instead of theorizing on a trillion US dollars why not take efforts to redirect the cold hard billions spent on the military budget in the major industrial nations of the world. How many schools, health care centers or public works projects could be created and maintained with a portion of that funding? Better yet, leave the money in the hands of the workers and communities to use as they decide, rather than taxing at the Federal level. A standing army is dangerous to freedom, but is also a drain on the economy.

Because that would be more complicated... (4.00 / 3) (#58)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 01:28:39 PM EST

I'm admittedly trying to sweep a lot of the complications under the rug, here. So, for instance, your solution might be to use the money to lobby for long-term changes in spending practices, and reducing taxes. That's actually a really good idea, I like it a lot. :)


[ Parent ]
In the hands of... (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by thecabinet on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:09:53 PM EST

I hate to even give the appearance of interest, but here goes:

Better yet, leave the money in the hands of the workers and communities to use as they decide, ...

What is that supposed to mean? See, in my world, I would think that "[leaving] the money in the hands of the workers and communities to use as they decide" would mean not having a $1B to spend like this in the first place.

If we're going to let "the workers and communities" spend it as they see fit, let's not take it from them in the first place.

[ Parent ]

The value of money (4.00 / 7) (#60)
by IHCOYC on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 02:06:33 PM EST

Leaving aside the question of removing this from the military budget, or from some other programme ---

Money is a divisor. Real wealth is things like shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages, and well, politicians you've bought. Give everybody in the USA a trillion dollars and tell them to change the world with it, and the one way we know for sure the world -will- change is that a loaf of bread will cost at least a couple billion come tomorrow.

In other words, the amount of real wealth in the world is [relatively] fixed. It is not enlarged by pumping some more cash into the system.

From time to time the stock market dives; and on the day before the dive and the day after, neither our fields or our factories are less productive. Our workers are no less willing to work. Our machines have not all broken down in the interim. Rather, the current financial system generates dollars on paper and in computer memories, and they have to end up somewhere. It generates them faster than real things of worth can be made. The crashes are one way of flushing some of this faery pelf from the system.

It might be that the best thing to do with a trillion dollars would be to remove the cash from the system without any -other- disruptions. I'll take mine in large denomination bills. Here's a couple hundred thousand. Go bring me a truck full of gasoline. This is going to be fun.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

Yes and No (none / 0) (#131)
by thecabinet on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:14:44 PM EST

In other words, the amount of real wealth in the world is (relatively) fixed. It is not enlarged by pumping some more cash into the system.

The first part isn't true; the amount of wealth isn't fixed. When I find a way to combine tomatoes and cotton into some new magical fruit/cloth, I've created more wealth. You said as much not 2 sentences earlier.

Nevertheless, I agree with the rest of your post.

[ Parent ]

Wealth is more moved than created (none / 0) (#297)
by IHCOYC on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 10:44:53 AM EST

I said that it is relatively harder to create wealth than create money.

What really seems to change, by my sights, is the esteem or disesteem certain commodities are held in. Bread mold was not a valuable commodity until a medical use was found for the stuff; then it began to be cultivated. Once aluminium was a scarce and precious metal; it is no more. But the stock of silicon has risen recently.

Some people like to think of the invention of new uses for commodities like these as the creation of wealth. This smells too much of salesmanship for me to really be comfortable with the turn of phrase. There is a limit to the amount of stuff on the planet.

This message has been placed here IN MEMORIAM by the Tijuana Bible Society.
[ Parent ]

different interpretation (none / 0) (#251)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:59:20 PM EST

I didn't take the question to say "If the U.S. mint printed an extra trillion dollars..." (i.e., pumping new cash into the system), which would obviously cause inflation/devaluation and the side effects you describe. I assumed the question was "If you somehow gained a trillion dollars to spend" -- imagine, for example, that BillG, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, and a bunch of other folks suddenly got together and put a trillion dollars in a bank account and said "Go do something good."

However, the amount of real wealth in the world is not relatively fixed, as you state, because wealth can clearly be created through the application of technology and labor. Start in a pre-industrial, agrarian society; create a plow and hook it up to animals; show other people how to do the same. You have just deployed a technology that will substantially increase food yields and, indirectly, wealth.

It's a mistake to correlate stock-market gyrations with changes in wealth. This is the same mistake that some foolish dot-com bigwigs made when they saw themselves enriched on paper by their stock options and went out and bought big houses, etc. Stock shares are not money; they are worth something only at the moment you sell them for something. So when the stock market takes a dive, nobody (well, excepting the relatively few people who actually sold at a loss during the decline) actually loseS any money, because they didn't have the money to begin with.

In a way you've hit on something important, though: It can be misleading to figure net worth based on intangibles like stock holdings. We say "Bill Gates is worth $50 billion today" or whatever, but of course that's not true: If he started to unload big chunks of his stock, the price would start dropping. He'd never be able to convert that stock into cash at the current price. I look at stock prices more as a kind of indicator -- this is where the equilibrium between buyers and sellers currently stands, and it's a guide to what this stock might be worth if I were to sell it now... but that's hardly the same as cash in hand.

[ Parent ]

One word... (3.83 / 6) (#62)
by Stereo on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 02:31:24 PM EST

bandwidth ;)

-- God will forgive me. That's his job after all. -- Konrad Adenauer
Fix the internal problems first. (3.83 / 6) (#63)
by mind21_98 on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:00:52 PM EST

What's the use of fixing other countries if the USA has problems itself?

First, we should tear down housing developments. Many of them are just attracting crime and poverty. After they're torn down, we should rebuild newer apartment buildings, with newer facilities, and hand them over to would-be landlords for little to no cost, on condition that they don't charge more than a certain amount for rent. Then the laws should be changed so that evictions are much more difficult. There should be a program in place for people who are temporarially out of work that pays their utilities (and possibly rent, depending on your socioeconomic status) for up to one year.

After housing is taken care of, the requirement of a college degree will be removed from jobs. That way, those who decide to not go to college will not be punished. Some do know a lot more than people who have gone into college. A national job placement database will be created and accessible from any library to facilite job location. Internet access will be available in every public library, school and public government office, to allow anyone to use it.

Once those two are taken care of, crime and violence will be taken care of. Mandatory gun training for everyone, even if they don't own a gun, will significantly reduce the number of accidents. This will probably be best if it was taught in school at an early age. Police officers will be prohibited from carrying real bullets and guns, but will have rubber bullets and guns that can fire them instead, basically eliminating "suicide by cop" and allowing every criminal to be tried in court. All but the most violent criminals will be redirected to mental health institutions to ensure that they have no problems with their behavior, instead of prison.

After those three things are taken care of, and if there's money left, our attention can turn to other nations.

--
mind21_98 - http://www.translator.cx/
"Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."

Nice thought but... (4.33 / 3) (#71)
by hbw on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:03:22 PM EST

In order to fix the big problems that exist in the U.S. today, you need the vast majority of the people to agree and help out each other to solve them.

No money in the world could achieve those goals you set out - the only possible way is through co-operation.

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

Welcome to Utopia (5.00 / 2) (#86)
by kb575 on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:56:55 PM EST

Community housing with subsidised rents, national job placement programs, and utility/rent free apartments in cases of joblessness. Discrimination laws that ensure everyone has the ability to get a job regardless of training and free higher schooling and tertiary educations available to all, with interest free government loans, at less than $5000 a year for a degree. National gun laws and police with a tendancy to ask questions before pulling the trigger and a national murder rate of less than 50 a year (possibly even less). Where could such a place exist.... Can I add great beaches, cold beer and gorgeous women... Sounds like home... Come and visit the kangaroo's and koala's sometime and you'll see what I'm talking about.. K.

[ Parent ]
And all it took was displacing the natives. (nt) (2.50 / 4) (#115)
by la princesa on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:50:18 PM EST



[ Parent ]
And they didn't?[nt] (none / 0) (#315)
by axxeman on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 03:15:20 AM EST


Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?
[ Parent ]

At what point (none / 0) (#325)
by kb575 on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 09:50:40 PM EST

Is an immigrant a native...? How many generations does it take till someone gets to call themselves an Australian...? Ask yourself that before throwing stones at someone who is proud of their country..

You clown.

[ Parent ]

Dream (none / 0) (#132)
by thecabinet on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:17:15 PM EST

When I dream, I want a pony.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#153)
by yooden on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:57:19 PM EST

What's the use of fixing other countries if the USA has problems itself?

The amount of ignorance required to assume that everybody reading your post is a fellow Merkin is staggering. Yes, you have some serious problems, but I'm afraid a mere trillion bucks won't fix it.

(I can't believe, a trillion Dollars spend on rubber bullets.)



[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#294)
by mind21_98 on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 09:46:05 AM EST

Well, it's a thought. Contrary to popular belief, there are significant pockets of poverty, in the form of homelessness, etc. in the USA, especially in urban areas. Everyone needs to be fed, clothed and housed before other elements of US policy are fixed.

If you're refering to the War on Drugs and the country's questionable foreign policy, that's a whole different story.

--
mind21_98 - http://www.translator.cx/
"Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."
[ Parent ]

Ignorance (none / 0) (#301)
by yooden on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 11:54:20 AM EST

I'm referring to the fact that we are supposed to make the world a better place. Why did you assume that the USA's problems are internal problems for the reader? Why did you assume that "other countries" would mean 'not the USA' for everyone? Why should the USA have more rights to the money than other countries?

I'm used to Merkins who are not aware of the existence of life outside of North America, but in this case it was explicitly asked for a better world.



[ Parent ]
I should have been clearer (none / 0) (#312)
by mind21_98 on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 08:06:31 PM EST

Well, I actually should have been clearer. The reason why I suggested America's problems are fixed first is because other nations are not likely to accept Western ideals. Most feel that America is being hypocritical when it intervenes in foreign affairs when there's internal problems that drastically need fixing.

Once the USA's problems are fixed, it then has the responsibility to help others achieve the same goal in their nations. Done the other way around, we'll still be stuck with the same problems we have now.

--
mind21_98 - http://www.translator.cx/
"Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."
[ Parent ]

Ignorance (none / 0) (#329)
by yooden on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 01:08:14 PM EST

The reason why I suggested America's problems are fixed first is because other nations are not likely to accept Western ideals.

So? Why not giving the money to them? Why do you think the USA is in any special position to receive the dough?

Most feel that America is being hypocritical when it intervenes in foreign affairs when there's internal problems that drastically need fixing.

Hypocrisy is claiming virtues I don't have. The USA is hypocritical because it promises to protect Freedom when it only protects the interests of its major companies.

Once the USA's problems are fixed, it then has the responsibility to help others achieve the same goal in their nations. Done the other way around, we'll still be stuck with the same problems we have now.

Done the other way 'round, you would still be stuck with the same problems you have now. The rest of the world may be better off.



[ Parent ]
It will cause inflation (3.33 / 3) (#66)
by videntur on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:19:36 PM EST

Injecting money into the market will only cause higher inflation. This will bring more problems to the poor.

Actually, the really poor would benefit... (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by Guncrazy on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:33:28 PM EST

After all, the really poor people tend to be heavily in debt. And it's basic econmics that inflation is good for debtors, bad for creditors. Think about it.

Let's say you owe the bank $100. Currently, you can work 10 hours for $10.00 per hour, and make that $100. You can use that $100 to either buy 10 loaves of bread at $10.00 each, or you can pay off your debt.

Now, if you knew that tomorrow bread would cost $20.00 per loaf (due to inflation), you'd double your demanded pay, and employers would have to pay in order to maintain their work force. So now, at the end of a 10 hour day, you have $200. It will still only purchase 10 loaves of bread at $20 each, but your bank cannot change the amount that you owe, which is still $100.

Before inflation, you'd have to live on half-rations for two days in order to pay your debt. After inflation, you'd only have to go hungry for one day.

Race is irrelevant 99.999% of the time. And the 0.001% of the time it is relevant, someone is looking for a donated organ.
[ Parent ]

With $1Trillion (3.28 / 7) (#67)
by tdillo on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:27:13 PM EST

I think I would buy a small third world country, (like Canada or the state of Texas) and make the citizens there my slaves. 'Respect my aw-thor-it-tie!' That would make the world a better place, for me anyway. :0 Another way to make the world a better place with the money is purchase the RIAA, make H. Rosen my bitch and buy off some legislators. Have them repeal the DMCA and disolve the recording industry. All copyrights revert to the original artists. Or I could just buy Microsoft and become the EVIL SITH LORD(tm). MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This story(?) would have been a wonderful diary entry.

Money (4.75 / 12) (#68)
by ucblockhead on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:32:00 PM EST

Much as I hate to quote such an archtypical geek book, I think Douglas Adams said it best:

This planet has a problem, which is this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
The root of unhappiness is how we treat our fellow human beings. That's the beginning and the ending of it. Any "solution" has to change this, or it isn't a real solution.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
Money (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by einer on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:09:55 PM EST

The root of unhappiness is how we treat our fellow human beings.

A Buddhist would argue that the root of all suffering is desire. Specifically desire that cannot be satisfied. The inability to satisfy certain desires (the desire for money or power for example) can cause behavior that is contrary to the interests and well being of the actor and acted upon. How we treat our fellow human beings becomes a symptom of experiencing unattainable desires.

This argument leads to the conclusion that any "solution" that changes how we behave towards our fellow man would first need to address our ability (or lack thereof) to manage our desires in a reasonable, moderate way.

To answer the original question, I suppose I would use the money to offer free Philosophy classes to the world. (I know that Buddhism is thought of as a religion, but I choose to view it as an ethical doctrine in addition to being a spiritual guideline.)

With apologese to any practicing Bhodi's.
Andrew Einer

[ Parent ]
Ah ha. (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by DavidTC on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:57:52 PM EST

If it's unsatisfied desire that causes problems, sure, we can't do anything about people who want more power or more money, because by defination they'll never have 'more' money, just the amount they have.

However, with a trillion dollars we could satisfy quite a lot of desires that are quite legit, and satisfable. We could feed and clothe people, we could get them out of the hellhole they live in, etc.

So while a trillion dollars would stop some people from suffering, it would stop quite a few others.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Ah ha. (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by einer on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:34:46 PM EST

We could feed and clothe people, we could get them out of the hellhole they live in, etc.

Why are people living in squalor when there are more than enough natural resources for everyone to live comfortably? The answer is because people have immoderate, excessive desires. The problems you describe would be abolished if all people were better educated about the nature of humanity, and saw the incentive in a life without excess or extremes.

Pipe dream? Yes.

So is a trillion dollars.

Andrew Einer

[ Parent ]
that wouldn't help much (4.50 / 2) (#161)
by crayz on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:34:31 AM EST

If people didn't want excess consumption, they probably wouldn't be excessively productive. As I said in my previous post, people in the modern world do not need to work 40+ hours a week for a large majority of their life just to provide basic necessities. You seem to be assuming that people would be willing to change to a moderate lifestyle and still be workaholics, which would be insane.

The benefit of not consuming to excess would be far more leisure time, not being able to feed starving Africans.

[ Parent ]
Two chicks at once (3.41 / 12) (#70)
by dukethug on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:02:12 PM EST

<moralizing>
First of all, to all the would-be economists out there who are making vain attempts to sound intelligent by pointing out that injecting a trillion dollars into the economy would cause inflation and all sorts of other horrors, I would like to be the first (or perhaps the second) to congratulate all of you on how deftly you missed the fscking point. After all, why should we actually think about how to make the world a better place when we could look smart by carping at those who do!

Here's a news flash, Fauntleroy: You don't look that smart. Nobody likes you. Maybe if you were a little more useful and a little less of an asshole, you would make some friends, and you could stop reading Milton Friedman by yourself on Saturday nights.
</moralizing>

Wow, I feel better now that that is out of my system. Although it's not really my area of expertise, I would probably focus the vast majority of the money on health care and agriculture science. It's like that saying that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. With a trillion dollars, you're not talking about buying vaccines for people, you're talking about buying entire pharmaceutical companies and releasing their drugs into the public domain. I would also probably buy those annoying companies that are trying to patent sections of the human genetic code and put their work into the public domain. That shit just rubs me the wrong way. I would put all drug research into the public domain, so that everyone in the world could benefit from it. Even more so than software, pharmaceuticals should be open-source from the get-go.

Once you have people fed and healthy, taking on other problems (e.g., the environment, education, American copyright law) seems more feasible to me.

If you live in a 1st world country and would like to contribute to my efforts, you can send 30 US dollars to my Paypal account.

realism (5.00 / 1) (#212)
by kubalaa on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:19:45 AM EST

IMHO, hatching plans to save the world which have no basis in reality is wanking. It is not a trivial, unimportant concept that you cannot put money in one place without taking it from somewhere else. The author of the story was probably trying to ask "okay, what in this world needs to be improved," but by introducing money he unwittingly asked the much more important question (which most people missed), "what in this world needs to be improved, and what can we afford to lose?"

You mention environmental issues; the economy is an environment. It has evolved and balanced itself very carefully. Certainly not in the best interests of all people, but it's still a relatively stable system and if you just go fucking around with it without knowing what you're doing you'll probably make things worse. It's like shooting all the wolves and then you notice that deer are all over the damn place and eating your lawn. In your case, once you've bought all the pharmaceutical companies and turned them into non-profits, who's going to discover new drugs? If a non-profit pharmaceutical company is economically stable, why aren't there any?

The point of this discussion is to figure out how to make the world better, right? Did anyone say it would be easy? Is it helping anyone to say "Well, gosh, if I could wave my hands and make the world better, that'd be great." You are the one who is missing the point.

[ Parent ]

a little bit more wanking (none / 0) (#264)
by dukethug on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:00:04 PM EST

IMHO, your reply is pathetic. But hey, that's just me. There are some people in this world who aspire to better things, who have the unbelievable audacity to believe that things can get better. There are also those who plod along with their heads focused squarely on the ground, evaluating ideas purely in terms of concrete practicality. Hey, that's good for you. I hope that makes you happy. However, in this particular case, I think you're wrong.

First, in terms of practicality, there's no reason why everyone in the world with 30 US dollars to spend can't send it to my paypal account. People donate much more than that to charity every year. So, for the sake of argument, let's say that we pick a year in which am hefty chunk of charity funds go to me, to distribute as I see fit.

Note what I haven't done here. I haven't printed any more bills. I haven't discovered a gold mine. There is just as much money in the economy as there was before. Now if I did something like burn all of this money, or launch it into space, then I have done some real damage to the economy, because the currency will deflate. But I'm not doing that. In fact, I'm doing a very good thing, from an economic standpoint.

I'm buying pharmaceutical companies. There's nothing particularly harmful for the economy by me doing this. Back in 1999 and 2000, people bought and sold all kinds of internet companies for all sorts of ridiculous valuations. I'm sure the total value of companies back then totalled well over a trillion dollars at its peak. So by me buying these companies, all of the stockholders in these companies cash out and make out like bandits. Hey, good for them. They worked hard and took a risk, and they deserve it. Now they have all of this money to go spend as they choose. The money gets distributed right back into the economy from which it came.

But what we have added to the economy is information of tremendous value. All of the techniques used to design and produce these drugs come out into the open, so that anyone can use them. We've created a commons. And nothing stimulates innovation like a commons. People take those ideas and they turn them into money, that's the way the game works. Suddenly, there is tons more research into drug discovery, using these (now open) techniques. New (for-profit) companies are formed, especially since they know that if they discover something cool, that crazy guy with a trillion dollars is going to make them all rich.

This would never happen in our economy, because there is rarely a profit motive for someone to buy a company solely to give away its intellectual property. But that doesn't mean that this sort of thing is unheard of (Netscape and AOL, for instance) or that it is not just as stable as our current economic system. If there's anything we've learned from history, it is that economies tend to be robust. They can handle fluctuations- even trillion dollar ones, like the Internet bubble or my own pharmaceutical bubble.

Hey, maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong. But for future reference, just because I try to find a better way to do things does not necessarily imply that I have my head up my ass.

[ Parent ]

clarification (none / 0) (#304)
by kubalaa on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 01:07:49 PM EST

First, I think you missed my point, or I didn't make it clearly enough. I heard you say, "People trying to interject reality in this discussion are just showing off." I said, "People trying to avoid reality in this discussion are wanking." Which stimulated you to add some more realistic justification to your points, which, even if I don't agree with your justification, I think we can all agree is a good thing. We're all about improving the world here, the issue is whether it's okay to put the suggestions to critical analysis. (And you can point out that I'm not making any suggestions, just criticizing -- it would be better if I made suggestions too, but then I'm not sure I agree with the point of this discussion, and in any case criticism is still a positive contribution.)

My general principle is that things are the way they are for a reason, and nothing happens in a vacuum. For example, if we lived in a world where everyone would willingly give you thirty dollars, then many other things would be different as well. If the world was that unanimously generous, then your plans wouldn't even be necessary, would they? Then again, I'm not sure that the entire world having so much blind faith and agreement with one person would be a good thing.

There is just as much money in the economy as there was before. -- But, as with all things, it's the distribution that matters. I mean, there's always the same amount of energy in the universe, but it makes a big difference whether it's in the form of cosmic heat radiation or in the form of a neutron bomb sitting in the White House while a terrorist makes demands over the phone. By suddenly, drastically adjusting the distribution of money, things are going to happen. Complicated things that nobody understands.

All of the techniques used to design and produce these drugs come out into the open, so that anyone can use them. -- Okay, this is admirable. But my problem is yours is not a long-term solution. You've opened one generation of drugs, but what about the next? Obviously at some point in the past, everything that was known about drug technology was in the open, and yet it still managed to evolve to the current system. Why? How can we keep this from happening again? You haven't initiated any stable societal change.

They can handle fluctuations- even trillion dollar ones, like the Internet bubble or my own pharmaceutical bubble. -- The difference is that the Internet bubble happened naturally. To me, the chain of events which would have to occur leading to all pharmaceutical companies being dissolved is so improbable, so amazing, that the consequences are bound to be equally huge and unimaginable. It's kind of like if you figured out a way to make Jupiter disappear; it doesn't seem like such an important planet, but you can bet its sudden, unnatural disappearance would have very large long and short term effects on Earth.

By the way, have you read The Foundation trilogy? As books, they're not that great, and the ideas have flaws, but the principle is what we're talking about; trying to introduce large, stable changes with maximum stability and a minimum of effort.

[ Parent ]

Mars! (3.66 / 3) (#72)
by Tatarigami on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:13:53 PM EST

I think I would colonise Mars. There's a lot of benefit to a project like this - with an efficient and active space industry we could have clean solar power from orbital generator satellites, shift our polluting industries to space stations or the surface of the moon, and have cheap access to vaccuum, microgravity and controlled environments for manufacturing.

Some of the poorest countries in the world are ideally situated geographically for commercial launch sites, and when we're talking about the kind of wealth projects like this generate, I can't see how some of it could fail to spill over to where it's needed.

I'm started to sound like an L5 Society evangelist, aren't I?

L5? (none / 0) (#109)
by The Great Wakka on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:58:56 PM EST

I'm sorry? L5? Never heard of it. Please explain?

[ Parent ]
Two explanations (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by Tatarigami on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:25:22 PM EST

First the technical one: the Lagrange points, L1 through L5 are points in space around the Earth and Moon where the gravitational effects of both planets effectively cancel each other out.

If you stick something in one of these regions, it won't fall down. 'Orbit' is essentially a controlled fall around the planet, and eventually anything you put in orbit around your world is one day not going to miss it.

But objects stationed in one of the L points don't face this hazard. That's good, because it means we can build some really goddamned big things there -- like Gerard K O'Neill's space habitats.

Now the non-technical explanation: the L5 Society is a group dedicated to educating people on the benefits of developing space-based resources, and encouraging governments and private organisations to getting into space.

I haven't been able to find a decent link for them -- but they're out there...

[ Parent ]
Won't work (none / 0) (#114)
by jaymagee on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:42:41 PM EST

From everything I've heard, Mars is not massive enough to hold an atmosphere suitable for human life. The gravity just isn't strong enough. Sorry there. You would have to build domes, and bio engineer humans to exist in the 1/3 gravity and low pressure. That also means anyone born on Mars will never walk on Earth. To sya nothing of the effects low gravity has on your system.... Probably wouldn't survive more than five years.
Making a better humanity, one genetic change at a time.
[ Parent ]
Odd (4.00 / 1) (#126)
by Tatarigami on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:43:32 PM EST

That's strange, because from everything I've heard, Mars is massive enough to hold an atmosphere suitable for human life...

Of course there would have to be domes at first, because even the most optimistic time table for terraforming the red planet says generating a breathable atmosphere will take centuries. I don't think 1/3 Earth gravity would require any special medical procedures. Current research by NASA suggests that as long as there's enough gravity show your body which way is up and prevent the calcium leeching out of your skeleton, there should be no problem.

And who says anyone born on Mars would want to walk on Earth? The next leg of this trip is the Galilean moons of Jupiter. Then the cometary halo and interstellar space...

[ Parent ]
And most importantly (none / 0) (#316)
by axxeman on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 03:19:33 AM EST

It would provide a semi-off-site backup of humanity.

Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?
[ Parent ]

Easy (3.90 / 11) (#73)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:16:24 PM EST

1. Give $300 to every American. That's a responsible way to give the economy a kick in the pants..

2. Take the rest of the money and build a giant missile defense system in space! That'll show that axis of evil! Plus it'll be cool.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

heh (none / 0) (#85)
by zephc on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:55:46 PM EST

thank you, dubya =P

[ Parent ]
Almost there... (4.00 / 2) (#190)
by Spork on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:20:43 AM EST

I like those ideas! But if I did it, I'd make sure the rich people get more than just $300, because to them, $300 will do what... light three cigars? These are the guys who will really stimulate economic growth. They should get more money. Poor people will just use the money to buy foreign-made burritos and stuff. That gets us nowhere.

Oh, and if there's money left over, I'd do my best to bail out Enron. Those guys have had it rough and deserve a little break, cause you know, they're alright and play a pretty good game of golf.

Anyway, after that first trillion runs out I'd borrow another one from the tax slush fund that Americans pay the government every year. Then I'd pick some fights with some injuns, or maybe bad cowboys with big black hats, because people get mad these days when you try to shoot up the injuns. And if we can't enough of them, guys in black turbans will do.

Then, when we have a deficit, the poor people will be paying it off, while the rich people collect the interest. And everyone knows the best way to stimulate the economy is to give the rich people so much money that they can't think of anything to do with it except spend it.

[ Parent ]

The poll (2.00 / 1) (#75)
by J'raxis on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:02:47 PM EST

If one concentrates on basic scientific research, concentrating on health and environment naturally follow. I would think the generalization of “basic scientific research” would encompass these, and many other, topics. If you however meant scientific research which explicitly excludes biological or ecological study, well that’s just plain dumb. :)

— The Obvious Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

Several Ideas (3.75 / 4) (#80)
by Urthpaw on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:27:16 PM EST

My first thought would be to create Illuminati v.2 and take over the world (in secret of course), following the rules and regulations of the Evil Overlord List. But secret societies are expensive, and tend to result in their founders being shot.

So here's my second idea:

Buy out the debt of a desert-ridden, 3rd world country. Use this influence to get permission to build many solar panel-factories. Coat most of the non-arable land with panels. Sell the energy to 1st World Nations, and spend the profits on "social improvement"... Water supplies, education, medicare, etc.

After 25-odd years, the country will probably be supplying a significant amount of the world's power. Use this influence to pressure environmental reforms throughout the world. If there's extra money left over, buy out other countries' debts, and improve them as well.

It might also be fun to pull a hostile takeover on Microsoft, but it seems kind of petty, when that kind of money can improve millions of people's lives (Not that dismantling M$ wouldn't, but...)

buy out patents (2.00 / 1) (#87)
by Trollificus on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:59:06 PM EST

Why not buy out every bogus patent and over-extended copyright and release them to the public domain where they might better serve mankind.
That would certainly make the world a better place. How praytell would that make the world a better place? Well, for one thing, it would put a lot of ambulance-chasing lawyers out of business. ;p~
I know that would make my day.
But also, think of all the advances in the scientific and medical field that are being hindered because some faceless biotech corporation owns your gene sequences. So much for that ground-breaking cancer research that was going to save mom's/dad's life. It'll have to wait, since the almighty dollar takes precedent over the well-being of the human race.

"The separation of church and state is a fiction. The nation is the kingdom of God, period."
--Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of West Palm Beach, FL

Buy some of Africa (4.25 / 4) (#88)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:00:05 PM EST

I'd use the money to winkle out some of the worst rulers in the world (Africa offers the most scope here) and put in my own puppet regimes. Then run up the schools and health and run down the army. Pay off or kill any generals who might threaten trouble over this. Any nearby nasty regimes I would deal with by a non-agression pact: they don't try to invade my turf and I don't use my money to destablise them.

Concentrate on building up effective social infrastructure: law enforcement and judiciary. Education, education, education. Once we have 90% literacy in the 20-30 demographic, start bringing in democracy.

In twenty years I could turn a failed state into a beacon of democracy and hope. Now all I need is the $1e12.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

Umm, it's not so easy... (5.00 / 1) (#202)
by Spork on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:27:12 AM EST

You see, there are many places in the world with well over 90% literacy, places which already have democratic governments, but they are hardly "beacons of democracy and hope." I'm thinking here of Russia, the former Yugoslavia, and other such places. You shouldn't assume that prosperity will just pour in when you have an educated population and a democratic government. What comes pouring in are foreign opportunists who will pay your educated population three peanuts per hour to make microchips. They also make sure that those workers spend 2.9 of those peanuts on imported products from the opportunist's home country. This is a stable relationship; the only people who don't think it might very well stay like this still probably believe in the invisible hand and the tooth fairy.

[ Parent ]
Strong civil institutions (none / 0) (#215)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:54:22 AM EST

places in the world with well over 90% literacy, places which already have democratic governments, but they are hardly "beacons of democracy and hope

Which is why I would also concentrate on building strong civil institutions. Shrink the civil service, fire the incompetent and corrupt judges, revamp the police force and so on.

To get an effective economy you need investment. To get investment you need strong property rights (otherwise investors just have their investments confiscated or stolen). To get strong property rights you need an effective police force, judiciary and civil service.

What comes pouring in are foreign opportunists who will pay your educated population three peanuts per hour to make microchips.

If thats more peanuts per hour than they are currently getting then it sounds like a good deal.

They also make sure that those workers spend 2.9 of those peanuts on imported products from the opportunist's home country.

This is called "trade". They have money and want imports, the "foreign opportunists" have imports and want money. Why is this a bad thing?

This is a stable relationship;

Ahh, stability. A very good thing.

Or perhaps you mean that the low wages are stable. I don't think so. If doing business in my country is so stunningly profitable then there are going to be lots of foreign opportunists looking to hire my people. Pretty soon anyone only paying 3 peanuts an hour is going to have a staff retention problem.

the only people who don't think it might very well stay like this still probably believe in the invisible hand and the tooth fairy.

I prefer to believe in history. I can just about remember when Hong Kong was synonymous with cheap plastic stuff made in sweatshop factories. Then it was South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Currently its Malaysia, Vietnam. The "asian tiger" economies are a historical fact, even if they made some mistakes along the way (e.g. the Chaebol).

An open economy, educated population and effective civil institutions do seem to be necessary and sufficient conditions for rapid growth and large-scale reduction in poverty.

As a counter-example, consider India. It has a well educated population and fairly effective civil institutions (albeit rather slow). But until recently it also had a very closed economy. Foreign opportunists were not allowed, and production of important resources was controlled and licensed. If you ran a bike factory in India and produced a popular well-made product, you actually had to apply for a permit to increase your production, lest your increased output cause some other bike factory to go out of business. The result was the "Hindu rate of growth", barely enough to keep pace with their population and a direct cause of the widespread poverty still rife in India. If they had liberalised their economy after Independence they could have wiped the floor with us.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Re: Strong civil institutions (none / 0) (#335)
by Spork on Mon Mar 04, 2002 at 06:10:14 PM EST

IMHO:

"Strong property rights" = Foreigners with money can buy up your country

"Shrink civil service" = spit on the unfortunate

________

Regarding your examples: take two very large countries with very large educated classes: Brazil and Agrentina. They bought into this "invisible hand will lift you up if you remove all restrictions" fantasy. Now their economies are total shit. They look at Cuba with envy. The former USSR and Easern Europe are heading in the same direction. For this reason, I'm afraid your optimism is not well-placed.

[ Parent ]

Better than the alternatives (none / 0) (#337)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Mar 18, 2002 at 09:11:37 AM EST

"Weak property rights" = You can only have something until someone stronger decides they want it.

"Huge civil service" = Lots of underpaid officials with legal authority to make you jump through hoops until you pay them to stop.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Give the money back. (2.60 / 10) (#92)
by tmickpoi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:11:38 PM EST

I would give all of the money back to the taxpayers. They are the true owners of the money.

Nothing was said about where it came from... (none / 0) (#143)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:25:17 PM EST

..., try reading the article before jumping to stupid conclusions.



[ Parent ]

Interesting, I suppose. (4.00 / 3) (#95)
by valeko on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:36:36 PM EST

I guess I found this sort of interesting because it doesn't occur to me that the ostensible way to change the world for the better is by injecting lots of money into it. On the contrary, I think that instead of trying to perpetuate this status quo truism that influence (for the better or the worse) is a function of wealth, we should be trying to subvert this mechanism and improve the world through collective means and unity.

I don't know that if I were given $1 trillion (discounting the macroeconomic implications of this), I would find something constructive to do with it that is for the benefit of humanity in total. Being the abstraction of human labour that money is, it seems that anything I could possibly construct, reform, or disappear would just require me to pay someone else to carry it out for me -- in other words, function within the existing framework of markets that broadly govern society. I don't want to do this, and nor would I redirect this capital elsewhere because I would create a foundation in "underdeveloped" countries that would rest entirely on capital. Money is not magical, you don't just pay for something, and there it is, all done - money doesn't morph into tangible results. Once you build something with money, that which is built depends on further money, and functions in a scope that can only be described as monetary.

If humanity is interested in a substantial continuation into the distant future, I believe its goal should be to transcend such constraints. I shouldn't have to have US $(1 x 1012) to substantially better the world.


"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart

an honest question (none / 0) (#249)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:45:56 PM EST

I'm curious to know what made you come to this conclusion:

Being the abstraction of human labour that money is

Money as an abstraction of labor is something I hear often from socialist-leaning friends (and I'm not using the term pejoratively), but it's never been at all clear to me where that belief originates. I've always looked at money as an abstract means of exchange that is fungible, easily divisible, easily portable, trusted, and so on -- with no particular connection to labor or any other concrete quantity (except insofar as people in a particular circumstance are willing to make such a connection in order to facilitate a transaction). To me, saying that money is an abstraction of labor seems about as logical as saying calculus is an abstraction of physical processes in the world -- which is certainly the reason that Newton and Leibniz created it, but is not what calculus is.

[ Parent ]

Not convincing... (none / 0) (#299)
by Ward57 on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 11:06:39 AM EST

The act of giving $10,000,000 to someone is the act of giving them the rights (for most purposes at least) to the end result of great deal of labour. This may or may not show that money is an abstraction of labour - you end up arguing about the definition of "is", and that can be sticky at the best of times.

I tend to think that calculus is an abstraction of the physical world amongst other things (ie calculus is also many other things).

[ Parent ]
Easy answer (3.00 / 1) (#98)
by imrdkl on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:51:26 PM EST

give 200 bucks to every person on the planet.

Even things out: Destroy the monetary system (3.66 / 6) (#100)
by elgardo on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:15:44 PM EST

It's an interesting topic, since I have been thinking about writing about the problem with our monetary system for a while now, but didn't get around to start on it.

Money has a purpose; it gives an incentive to make people work. Other things can give incentives, too, such as food. However, money gives a little bit more incentive than just any item, because you can take this money and trade it towards any item you wish, provided that you have made enough of it.

However, people tend to want to work anyway, because doing something constructive is a requirement for the happiness of the average human being. However, money brings a new problem into this world: If you don't have any to start with, then you have to do "anything" to afford even to eat. Hence, money now not only give people an incentive to work, but an incentive to do a particular job that they would rather not do. What you end up with, is a society where the wrong people are stuck with the wrong jobs. Someone who might have been great as a rocket scientist migh end up cleaning toilets, while someone who should be cleaning toilets end up managing the ones that got to be rocket scientists.

The other thing about the monetary system, is that it is supposed to circulate. You buy something from me, and I buy something from you. This way, the money keeps going back and forth, so that people get what they want. However, since you don't necessarily know if will have a job tomorrow, not to mention your plans for retirement, you stock up on money for later use. This means that your are reducing the total amount of money in circulation, which in turn means that fewer people will get what they want.

Now add taxes. The idea of taxes is to provide for things of a common good to society. For example police; instead of everyone paying their own private body guards, we all chip in on paying an official police force to keep our streets safe. Now, the money does not disappear into this; each beneficiary of the tax money end up spending this money on goods and services from the rest of society, so the money does end up back in circulation. All the taxes really do, is to insure that specific services always will be available.

One of these services is the military. And there is a very special problem about the military services: In order to have the money circulate back to the civilians, they have to construct things through civilian contractors. Just the amount of food bought is not enough; the bigger the budget the military gets, the more contracts they need in order to put the money back into circulation. And in order to set up more contracts, they have to justify the spending. And how do you justify spending you allocated chunk of money? Why do you need another 200 missiles? Well, you have to replace the ones you... used!

So we are dependent on going to war now. If we don't go to war, the money will get stuck in the armed forces, and the civilian economy will enter a decline, as we keep loosing money.

Now, aside from the war thing, another problem with the monetary system, is that it generates a big social difference between the haves and the have-nots. The social strains caused tend to destroy people's health.

They made a very good study of this in Hungary. Even during a time of prosperity, the government made sure not to make the gap between the rich and the poor too big. At the time, the people of Hungary were also the healthiest in Europe, they were a lot less sick, and generally happy.

However, as Hungary opened towards a much more western economy, the rich prospered even more, and the poor got poorer. As the gap widened, the health of the people deteriorated. Even the death rate doubled within few years.

Hungary is not the only study; England during WWII is another example. And as I also experienced myself when I lived in the US vs. the time I lived in Canada vs. living in my home country, Norway: Money does not make you happy. Having friends and being able to socialize does.

A monetary system that generates a gap between the haves and the have-nots deteriorate society, because the haves don't "play" with the have-nots. It causes a layered society, where there's strain between the layers.

The have-nots end up working more and loosing time they would otherwise have spent socializing. The haves are suspicious of eachother, expecting anyone to stab them economically.

The greatest illnesses the modern western society have today are generated by the hierarchic society of haves and have-nots. So with some trillion dollars, I would sit down and figure a way to rid the planet from the monetary system, rendering the trillion bucks irrelevant.


Monetary system best thing since sliced bread. (4.66 / 6) (#152)
by martingale on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:54:03 PM EST

There are so many things wrong with what you're saying, I'm tempted to label it a troll. But since your post is rather long, I think it's genuine and I'll try to address your points. I'll refer to your words in double quotes below.

  • "Money has a purpose: it gives an incentive to make people work": In reality, money's purpose is to improve the bartering system. You trade what you have for money, then trade money for what others offer. The capacity to work is something you *have*, and you can trade it for money. There is no incentive to work if you can trade something else that you *have*. You're confusing an effect with a cause.
  • "However, people tend to want to work anyway": people crave *activity*, yes, but *work*, no. If you're an engineer or scientist (I am one) you're likely to confuse your work with your hobby. That's a lucky and rare state to be in. A bank teller's favourite activities don't involve standing behind the counter serving customers. Instead, people's favourite activities are entertainment(tv, hobbies, travel, whatever) and socializing(friendships, dating, whatever), and *that's* what they tend to want to do anyway.
  • "money brings a new problem...If you don't have any...you have to do anything...to eat": This problem exists independently of the existence of money. Every human being needs food and must do anything to get it if there isn't any. In a barter system, unless you're a hunter yourself, you must trade "anything" for food. In primitive tribal societies, you *work* for the tribe in return for a part in the food brought back by the tribal hunters. Note that this isn't necessarily the job you want to do.
  • "What you end up with, is a society where the wrong people are stuck with the wrong jobs": This has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with how the projects of the powerful our societies direct the activities of the less powerful. For example, Henry Ford had a project for which he needed auto factory workers, and society suddenly had auto factory workers. In medieval times, the nobles had projects to build castles and farm the land, and people got stuck with building castles and farming land. Now Ford's factory workers did it for the money, but the medieval serfs did it because they were indentured (slavery).
  • "Someone who might have been great as a rocket scientist might end up cleaning toilets, while someone who should be cleaning toilets end up managing": This is a continuation of the previous point, but I want to point out that in many western societies, *nobody* wants to clean toilets for a living. Thus *everyone* who has a job clenaing toilets is in the wrong job. But cleaning toilets is necessary nevertheless. Again, this isn't a monetary problem at all. In fact, since rocket scientists are paid more than toilet cleaners, the monetary system gives those people an incentive to change jobs if they can. (btw, I do know a physicist who used to clean offices for pocket money during his studies)
  • "you stock up on money for later use. This means that you are reducing the total amount of money in circulation, which in turn means that fewer people get what they want": That's just plain nonsense. If you remove money from circulation, then each unit will increase in value (you can buy more with the same number of kroners, guilders, dollars, pounds, francs, euro). If nothing else, this creates a need for smaller denominations. Either way, the central bank will issue more currency units, which will decrease the real value of each existing unit, including those units you keep in your bank account. Now in reality, the money you keep in your bank account is actually redistributed as loans and investments to other parts of society; it only *looks* like it stays in your bank account. So circulation is not stopped at all.
  • "All the taxes really do, is to insure that specific services always will be available": The taxes ensure the *funding* of those services, but not their *existence*. Think about it: firefighting units exist because of the demand for them in cities, where fires occur frequently. The demand is based upon a real physical phenomenon, so even if taxes didn't pay for firefighting units, these would still exist. The difference however is that without taxes, each unit would have to employ *more* people, to handle extra tasks such as finding sources of income (so in this instance I'm actually saying that taxes reduce employment numbers, wow!).
  • In one paragraph, you discuss the military industrial complex and how it allows governments to subsidise industry. When you say "you have to replace the [missiles] you... used!", I'm not sure what your'e trying to say: Are you saying military contracts lead to war, ie to use up the missiles? That's clearly nonsense, since missiles are perishable items, they have a use-by date after which they need replacing. The use-by date is of course a function of the technologies required for deployment, the training neede for operators, you name it. So perhaps you are really saying that this type of subsidy from military to civilian industry is a waste, ie build lots of missiles and never use them? That's really more a question of politics, whether to subsidise industries indirectly through the military or directly through handouts or tax concessions. To get back on topic, I don't see the monetary system per se playing a role here.
  • Here's your full paragraph: "So we are dependent on going to war now. If we don't go to war, the money will get stuck in the armed forces, and the civilian economy will enter a decline, as we keep loosing money." Once again, I don't see where the money can get stuck. If there's no war, the industries which supply the military receive your tax dollars (and then redistribute in their turn). If there is a war, then what? In sustained wartime economies, the governments usually requisition anything they want by fiat (no money involved), or the more sensible ones offer government bonds, which is to say: 'give us what we want now, and in return we give you the monetary value of it, with interest, back after the war, if we win'.
  • "another problem with the monetary system, is that it generates a big social difference between the haves and the have-nots": Money is used as a tool to create and widen the gap, sure. But let's say money didn't exist. Societies throughout history have concepts of social stratifications, with nobility, priesthood, worker classes, slaves, barbarians, you name it. In all cases I can think of, if and when those stratifications can be breached, wealth is the only way to achieve a change of one's social position. Think about slaves buying their way to freedom from their masters, wealthy merchants buying nobility land and titles, all the working class to middle class to upper class transitions. Sometimes, it's impossible to change your social position. For example, I believe the Indian caste structure is rigid and impervious to money. But in none of the cases I discussed is the monetary system a reason for social differences, only ever a symptom.
  • I'd like to see a reference for your Hungarian example, before I reply to that. Remember that a lot happened since the Berlin wall.
  • "Money does not make you happy": Of course not, money is an *enabler*. If you know what you want to do, then money can perhaps help you get there. The important thing is that it's a vast improvement over the barter system. Let me just give one example: if you're a fisherman and you barter fish for a living, you'll never be able to acquire a horse say, since you can't barter a horse for a handful of fish. But suppose you trade fish for money, and put aside a small amount every day. After some time period, the money is enough to buy a horse. Basically money allows time to create value, which is impossible in a barter system. Okay, two examples: barter precludes insurance. If you fish everyday and one season there is a disease which ravages your fishing grounds, you're in trouble. With money and savings, you can use any surpluses from previous years (if you have any) to limit the discomfort this time around.

Ok, I'll stop now.



[ Parent ]
nice try (none / 0) (#248)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:37:34 PM EST

  • Money has a purpose. Indeed it does: That purpose is to reduce transaction costs and to provide a neutral, portable, trusted, easily divisible medium for exchange. In the absence of money, you have bartering, which serves the same purpose, just less efficiently. If I want to buy some of your wheat and offer you a cow, but you want a couple of goats instead because you already have enough cows, I first have to go find somebody to whom I can trade a cow for some goats. The trade must be transacted in an integral number of goats (assuming you want them alive). It's potentially hard to value goats; they might not be consistent in "quality". They are relatively difficult to transport to the point of sale. And so on.

    If money gives people an incentive to work, that's merely incidental. People have an intrinsic incentive to work insofar as (a) they want to survive and (b) they want to improve the lot of their children, friends or family or tribe, etc. Whether they work for food or otherwise is irrelevant, because food is also exchangeable (at least indirectly) for "any item you wish"; money merely reduces friction and transaction costs.

  • people tend to want to work anyway. Many people want to accomplish things, yes, but that doesn't mean they want to do what needs to be done. How many people really want to get up at the crack of dawn and spend all day plowing a field? How many want to work in a slaughterhouse?
  • Money brings a new problem into this world: If you don't have any to start with, then you have to do "anything" to afford even to eat. How does money create this problem? You could just as easily replace money with "food" in your sentence.
  • Money now not only give people an incentive to work, but an incentive to do a particular job that they would rather not do. First of all, this concept that everyone should be able to do whatever they want is nice but unrealistic. Again, though, how is this money's fault? You could just as easily replace "money" with "wanting an SUV" in the above sentence.
  • However, since you don't necessarily know if will have a job tomorrow, not to mention your plans for retirement, you stock up on money for later use. Do you mean you hoard money under your mattress? I think relatively few people actually do that (though perhaps it's common in developing nations, I don't know). If people are putting money into banks or financial instituions, that money is not being taken out of circulation, it's being loaned to other people or entities to do things like buy homes. (Actually, in the U.S. at least, banks lend *multiples* of their actual reserves, so money saved in effect "creates" additional money in the economy.) Furthermore, there's little evidence that people "stock up on money for later use" -- most people save only a small fraction of their income, if any at all.
  • the money will get stuck in the armed forces I don't understand this at all. It's not as if Donald Rumsfeld takes the money the U.S. military (which is what you seem to be talking about) gets and locks it in a safe where it never gets used unless we go to war. That money will flow back into the economy whether it's through building new missiles or through investments in T-bills or something. Also, in case you haven't noticed, the military budget does go up and down in response to perceived needs. If we're in an extended period of peacetime, Congress will reduce military spending and spend the money somewhere else.
  • Another problem with the monetary system, is that it generates a big social difference between the haves and the have-nots. The social strains caused tend to destroy people's health. I agree this can be a problem, but again it's not clear that money is the cause. I've seen researchers argue that the real cause of societal stratification was the discovery of agriculture.
  • The greatest illnesses the modern western society have today are generated by the hierarchic society of haves and have-nots. So with some trillion dollars, I would sit down and figure a way to rid the planet from the monetary system. Again, it's totally unclear to me how the absence of money would make society any better. Even if we all went back to farming the land, if I work my fields more efficiently than you do I will generate more food, which will give me the ability to buy more things, which leads to a division between haves and have-nots, which leads to social stratification...


[ Parent ]
Simple.. (3.66 / 3) (#101)
by freija crescent on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:20:10 PM EST

End all suffering. End all hate. End the wars, the killing. Finally put to rest all the despair we feel. Create a world devoid of jealousy, prejudice and greed. End the cycle of tyranny that money itself has imposed upon this planet. Also, put to an end the destruction of this planet at mans' hands.

The solutions are never easy, and sometimes they involve moving in an opposite direction to what would be intuitive. But no matter. World peace and tranquility has been a goal of our race for millenia.. and it seems so close now. We need to make sure that once peace is instated, that there is no way man can rise up to corrupt the placidity of the new world.

With $1 Trillion USD, we can make a nuclear device strong enough to eradicate life on this planet. This is, after all, the only way. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not enlightened, and is probably himself a greedy bastard.

-fc

re : Simple (none / 0) (#194)
by Rande on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:40:38 AM EST

I was about to suggest the same thing.

There are also other possibilities. Genetically engineer people so that they are more placid and less inclined to breed like rabbits.
Of course that will mean that we won't bother to reach for the stars.

hmm, actually maybe exploding the earth isn't such a bad idea. At least then _some_ of our genetic codes might reach the stars....

[ Parent ]

Africa (4.00 / 2) (#102)
by 0tim0 on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:20:57 PM EST

Central Africa is (by far) the poorest region on the earth. A trillion dollars would go along way there. I think there are about 500 million people in central Africa (say, the whole continent less Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa -- I think they are doing ok), that would make $2k a person.

It would be a sizable transfer of wealth to an area that is lagging far behind the rest of the world.

What better way to transfer that wealth than to give an equal amount to each person? For the rich warlords it wouldn't be much money, but for the poor laborers it would be a lot. So, not only are you starting to equalize the wealth of the world as a whole, you're also helping to equalize the wealth of those poor countries, giving the oppressed people a lot of freedom.

Once they're given the money they can do with it as they please. The beauty of the free market is that they will (suddenly) be able to buy whatever they need.

Industrious individuals would be buying food from fertile areas, others would distribute it. The farmers would have more customers for their product. Distribution requirements would open up trade routes between countries. Schools of reasonable quality would pop up. The overall quality of life would certainly increase.

It may be a little "pie in the sky", but I'd prefer giving money to the poor and letting them do with it as they please rather than to try to devise or dictate a grand solution to their problem. Give them the cash and "let the market decide."

--tim

The problem I'd expect you'd have... (none / 0) (#106)
by seebs on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:46:47 PM EST

At least some poor people aren't poor because of horrible luck, but because they're not much good at planning. Giving them money may not solve that problem.


[ Parent ]
So what do if there's nothing to buy? (4.00 / 1) (#123)
by Verminator on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:24:54 PM EST

Two grand's pretty nice and all, but it ain't likely to help them out much if there's no economy to spend it in. If you hand a fistful of cash to a starving African family in a shack in the middle of nowhere they're still starving, they're still in a shack, they've just got some cash in hand should they happen to be in a place to spend it.

Even the lucky ones who live in a somewhat stable area would likely see immediate and massive inflation in the local market, wiping out their cash fairly quickly.

There's always the option of using the money to get somewhere else, but just getting to America would take most, if not all, of the $2k, (as much as we all like to bitch about it, the US is still one of the most attractive places to immigrate to for people who know what a really fucked up country is) and then they're left to struggle to survive just like the other millions of people who go there seeking a better life. In the long run they may be better off (at least from a capitalistic American societal viewpoint) but you could make their lives a lot better by spending the money to improve the entire area rather than hand it out.

So long as one is alive, death doesn't exist, except for other people. And when one is dead, nothing exists, not even death. -- Aldous Huxley
[ Parent ]

Warlords (4.00 / 1) (#149)
by yooden on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:42:05 PM EST

For the rich warlords it wouldn't be much money

Yes it would, because he would take it from all the poor laborers he could find.



[ Parent ]
Wouldn't this have the effect of... nothing? (none / 0) (#156)
by skim123 on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:11:01 AM EST

I'm no economics major or anything, but wouldn't such an action have the effect of nothing? I mean, if some people are given $2k and others are not, that's one thing, but if everyone is given $2k, then there's no perceived value in that $2k, correct? That is, the dollar would devaluate because everyone now has exactly $2k more than they did before. (Cept the US gov't, I suppose.)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Not quite (none / 0) (#330)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 02:42:14 PM EST

Individual dollars would all be devalued, so people who already had many dollars would lose value, while people who had few dollars would gain value. For example, lets say the devaluation was 50%. Someone who had no savings would get $2000, but it was devalued to $1000. They are still up $1000. But someone who had $10000 would end up with $12000 devalued to $6000, and lose money.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
I would bribe congress (4.08 / 12) (#104)
by Ender7a on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:36:12 PM EST

I would finally have enough to bribe congress into passing laws that I/we would want!

The laws I would create are:

1. All tax forms would have a pie chart that will represent each section of the government (research,military,schools,science,nasa,etc..etc..) Each form would allow each individual taxpayer to write down what part of their taxes would go where. (Example: I want 40% of my taxes to go to nasa, 30% to schools, 20% to science, and 10% medicine). This would allow the PEOPLE to decide where THEIR taxes go.

2. I would severely reduce the expiration limit that copywrited works (music,books,movies,art) can have. I think 15 years (compared to the outrageous 100+ years they got in law now) is MORE than enough time to collect on royalties.

3. I would require that all artist get at LEAST 50% of all (record,concerts,etc) sales from their work.

4. I would get rid of USELESS projects that waste time and MONEY. Like Bush's missile defense project.

5. I would legalize drugs and transfer the DEA personal into other law enforcement agencies. I would also TAX drugs.

6. I would legalize prostitution as long as it is set up in a similar fashion as what they have in Nevada (and tax them too).

7. I would increase taxes to the rich, BUT I would give some tax breaks based on HOW MANY WORKERS they have and HOW MUCH THOSE WORKERS GOT PAYED.

8. I would release people in jail who were put in for drugs/prostitution as long as that is their only crime.

9. I would reaffirm the separation of church and state.

10. Congress would pass no law on the sexual activities of human beings. What consenting people do/watch on their own time, in their own private homes, is their own business.

11. I would increase pay to teachers.



I could write a lot more but you all get the drift. :)

I'm impressed! (none / 0) (#198)
by Spork on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:08:05 AM EST

Hey, these are very good ideas! I especially like the "you choose the destination" tax policy. Of course, it would never work, because young people would give all their money to "no fat chicks" research and none to retirement funds. "Cool" projects would get seriously overfunded while boring stuff like parking attendant salary would suffer. (I know a more realistic system would just let you pick a general category like "military" or "research" or "social services", but even so, their budgets would fluctuate wildly with political mood, and that wouldn't be very efficient.) Still, I'm really intrigued by this idea, and would like to see a more detailed discussion of why it wouldn't work and whether the principle could be modified so it does work. I really do like the principle.



[ Parent ]

I've seen variations of it many times (none / 0) (#328)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:31:24 PM EST

The problem that it is "positive", leading to the aforementioned "Sewage Paradox".

The answer is negative allocations. You must voluntarily nominate those items to which you have a valid moral objection. Thus peaceniks may sleep knowing their money isn't being spent on guns, catholics that theirs isn't spent on abortions, myself that it isn't spent on parliamentary pensions.

An expensive and somewhat complicated, but attractive, way to grant peace of mind to all sorts of people.

--
In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.
[ Parent ]

I think I'd spend it (3.60 / 5) (#200)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:12:58 AM EST

undoing the damage this guy caused. Let's look at the program in detail

1. All tax forms would have a pie chart that will represent each section of the government (research,military,schools,science,nasa,etc..etc..) Each form would allow each individual taxpayer to write down what part of their taxes would go where. (Example: I want 40% of my taxes to go to nasa, 30% to schools, 20% to science, and 10% medicine). This would allow the PEOPLE to decide where THEIR taxes go.

Fine, except that the PEOPLE don't know what's important and don't have the time to spend finding out what projects need what money, which is one of the reasons that THE PEOPle employ THE GOVERNMENT to do exactly that. This is a guaranteed way to ensure that the public schools have more money than they know what to do with and the sewage works goes unmaintained.

2. I would severely reduce the expiration limit that copywrited works (music,books,movies,art) can have. I think 15 years (compared to the outrageous 100+ years they got in law now) is MORE than enough time to collect on royalties.

Well, you don't know anything about patent law, because the limit is 95 years for works produced for hire.

3. I would require that all artist get at LEAST 50% of all (record,concerts,etc) sales from their work.

Fair enough, you've destroyed the profitability of the music industry. Nowthere are no more interesting rock or pop albums which require expensive studio time that has to be financed up front, because there's no more music industry. So we're left with a hundred thousand home-recorded singer-songwriters. Thanks Mr Benefactor Of Mankind.

4. I would get rid of USELESS projects that waste time and MONEY. Like Bush's missile defense project.

But the last time they were polled, the PEOPLE wanted that project, which kind of proves my point regarding 1) above.

5. I would legalize drugs and transfer the DEA personal into other law enforcement agencies. I would also TAX drugs.

Great, welcome to a state with 25% of all adults as heroin addicts (this was the experience of Thailand and Iran).

6. I would legalize prostitution as long as it is set up in a similar fashion as what they have in Nevada (and tax them too).

Keen on the old taxes, aren't you? And why Nevada, for christ's sake? What you mean is that you'll back up a cartel of brothel-owners and protect them from any competition by enterprising street prostitutes. Nice move; I suppose we'll need some kind of corporate entertainment to take our minds off the singer songwriters you foisted on us.

7. I would increase taxes to the rich, BUT I would give some tax breaks based on HOW MANY WORKERS they have and HOW MUCH THOSE WORKERS GOT PAYED.

A pretty stupid way to hand out tax breaks. Of course, you've just created the most fantastic loophole on earth, as all the rich people of the world hire their wives and children and pay them vast salaries.

8. I would release people in jail who were put in for drugs/prostitution as long as that is their only crime.

Marvellous. The ghetto's going to need more petty addicts and prostitutes now that you got rid of hip-hop.

9. I would reaffirm the separation of church and state.

Why do you need trillion dollars to do that?

10. Congress would pass no law on the sexual activities of human beings. What consenting people do/watch on their own time, in their own private homes, is their own business.

Congress has never, ever, in its history, passed a law of this kind.

On reflection, I think I'd spend my money on ensuring that the voting age was raised to 35. 11. I would increase pay to teachers.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Loophole? Doesnt have to be. (none / 0) (#217)
by Cironian on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 08:08:03 AM EST

>> 7. I would increase taxes to the rich, BUT I would give some tax breaks based on HOW MANY WORKERS they have and HOW MUCH THOSE WORKERS GOT PAYED.

> A pretty stupid way to hand out tax breaks. Of course, you've just created the most fantastic loophole on earth, as all the rich people of the world hire their wives and children and pay them vast salaries.

I'd say that depends on the implementation. Say the following two conditions are given:

a) The tax break only applies up to X amount per employee (If you are paying your CEO 500k instread of 100k, thats only of marginal benefit to society as a whole)

b) The tax break is a certain percentage (well below 100%) of the income tax your employee actually pays. (If he has lots of deductions himself, the tax break for the employer goes down too)

That way, you cant actually abuse the system but are still encouraged to hire (and keep) employees. Of course, with a complex beast as tax legislation there will still be several small problems that have to be adressed.

[ Parent ]

reply (4.00 / 1) (#259)
by Ender7a on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:11:21 PM EST

1. All tax forms would have a pie chart that will represent each section of the government (research,military,schools,science,nasa,etc..etc..) Each form would allow each individual taxpayer to write down what part of their taxes would go where. (Example: I want 40% of my taxes to go to nasa, 30% to schools, 20% to science, and 10% medicine). This would allow the PEOPLE to decide where THEIR taxes go.

Fine, except that the PEOPLE don't know what's important and don't have the time to spend finding out what projects need what money, which is one of the reasons that THE PEOPle employ THE GOVERNMENT to do exactly that. This is a guaranteed way to ensure that the public schools have more money than they know what to do with and the sewage works goes unmaintained.


Ok, That is a valid argument and I was actually thinking about that while I was writing these Ideas down. I was pressed for time so I had to skim on some of them, but let me respond. My best solution to this dilemma would be to have some taxes set at a fixed "minimum" percentage set by the government (like 5% has to go to the military, 7% has to go to schools...etc). Then, whatever percentage is left can be distributed however the taxpayers want.

2. I would severely reduce the expiration limit that copywrited works (music,books,movies,art) can have. I think 15 years (compared to the outrageous 100+ years they got in law now) is MORE than enough time to collect on royalties.

Well, you don't know anything about patent law, because the limit is 95 years for works produced for hire.


I'll skip this one I think :)

3. I would require that all artist get at LEAST 50% of all (record,concerts,etc) sales from their work.

Fair enough, you've destroyed the profitability of the music industry. Now there are no more interesting rock or pop albums which require expensive studio time that has to be financed up front, because there's no more music industry. So we're left with a hundred thousand home-recorded singer-songwriters. Thanks Mr Benefactor Of Mankind.


The music industry can go down in flames for all I care. They steal an artist work and pay them nothing. All the while using that very argument about using most of the money to pay for expenses. What a big pile of shit.

With current technology, music distributation and costs could be dropped to 10% of what it is today. One example that comes to mind would be to have music stores burn personal mixed music CD's instead of forcing people to buy an overpriced CD that only has a few good songs on it. But I guess the music company would hate for people to have a CHOICE in what they want to hear, which brings me to your argument about no more albums. When was the last time you have heard something TRULY original on the radio? When was the last time you have seen a music artist that doesn't look like a clone of the others? Originality may not be dead but it is on life support with the way music industry is set now.

Don't worry about music dying out. It has been around since the dawn of time, it will still be here even if the music industry died tomorrow. Hell, it would probably be even better. :)

4. I would get rid of USELESS projects that waste time and MONEY. Like Bush's missile defense project.

But the last time they were polled, the PEOPLE wanted that project, which kind of proves my point regarding 1) above.


Actually, I think the poll question was a loaded one. It asked something like, "would you be willing to pay for Bush's missile Defense to feel safer?". It Didn't give the people an actual choice.

5. I would legalize drugs and transfer the DEA personal into other law enforcement agencies. I would also TAX drugs.

Great, welcome to a state with 25% of all adults as heroin addicts (this was the experience of Thailand and Iran).


Illegalizing drugs is a joke. Ask any five people at random if they know someone who uses drugs and I am willing to bet that you will get a resounding YES from them all. Wasting taxpayer dollars on this, while we need better schools and healthcare is a travesty. I have seen THREE different polls that asked the people if they think the war on drugs is a waste of time and should it be legalized. The answers were all yes and went something like (65%, 85%, 95%). I am bringing this up for memory but I do remember for sure that ALL were definitely above 50%.

6. I would legalize prostitution as long as it is set up in a similar fashion as what they have in Nevada (and tax them too).

Keen on the old taxes, aren't you? And why Nevada, for christ's sake? What you mean is that you'll back up a cartel of brothel-owners and protect them from any competition by enterprising street prostitutes. Nice move; I suppose we'll need some kind of corporate entertainment to take our minds off the singer songwriters you foisted on us.


At least the way it is set up in Nevada, You know that the prostitutes don't have any STD's because they have strict safety guidelines where the prostitutes have to be tested on a regular bases. As for the taxes, if it is legal then we might as well let it help pay for schools, roads, etc.

7. I would increase taxes to the rich, BUT I would give some tax breaks based on HOW MANY WORKERS they have and HOW MUCH THOSE WORKERS GOT PAYED.

A pretty stupid way to hand out tax breaks. Of course, you've just created the most fantastic loophole on earth, as all the rich people of the world hire their wives and children and pay them vast salaries.


Ok, thanks for the suggestion, I now revise the tax break to not include family members and friends. And in fact, taxes would be INCREASED for for rich corporations that hire family members. :)

8. I would release people in jail who were put in for drugs/prostitution as long as that is their only crime.

Marvelous. The ghettos going to need pettier addicts and prostitutes now that you got rid of hip-hop.


I am not sure what your argument here is. Anyway, throwing people in jail whose only crime is hurting themselves makes little sense. While I am on the subject, have you noticed how the rich and wealthy get different treatment than those of lesser stature? Drug use seems to be an "Health Problem" For the rich while it's a "Crime" for the poor. At least this way it evens the playing field a little.

9. I would reaffirm the separation of church and state.

Why do you need trillion dollars to do that?


Bush has already funded religious programs using American tax dollars and Ashcroft is just a few steps away from being a(n) hellfire and brimstone priest. This is really inappropriate action considering that a LOT of Americans have different religious beliefs. Not to mention that it has been my experience that religion and politics are a bad mix.

10. Congress would pass no law on the sexual activities of human beings. What consenting people do/watch on their own time, in their own private homes, is their own business.

Congress has never, ever, in its history, passed a law of this kind.


This kind of goes with what I was talking about on 10. Before the September 11th Tragedy, Ashcroft was planning on setting up a huge campaign to hunt down and arrest porn publishers and distributors under some vague decency law that is written in the law books. Since the 9/11 incident, it has been pushed back but supposedly Ashcroft is planning on continuing this campaign at some future date.

If anything definitely does not concern the U.S. government, then this is it(except on cases of exploiting minors but this is already in the law books). How much do you want to bet that Bush will try to push some kind of new Decency Bill through Congress sometime in the future?

On reflection, I think I'd spend my money on ensuring that the voting age was raised to 35. 11. I would increase pay to teachers.

It isn't the voters that are the problem; it's just that there is nobody worth voting for. People just vote for the lesser of two evils. :)

[ Parent ]
factual error (none / 0) (#270)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:23:22 PM EST

With current technology, music distributation and costs could be dropped to 10% of what it is today

I'd be interested to know what your source for that is, but it's completely wrong. Always, the biggest single expense in recording an album is paying the living expenses of a band, plus the very expensive and talented producers, session musicians, etc, in order to get the thing recorded in the first place. And that's a cost which no form of technology is going to help. The idea that the main business of record labels is "distribution" is a canard.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Troll? (none / 0) (#273)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:42:04 PM EST

Are you sure? It is my understanding that the biggest single cost in music distribution is "marketting".

(Same goes for most industries these days, of course.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

sort out the accounting (none / 0) (#274)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:49:45 PM EST

Promotion is probably the biggest single cost item for an album that makes it to market; Courtney Love probably sees it as the biggest item of expense that she thinks would otherwise go to her (because she's so gifted that her records would just fly out of the stores; she just leeches off talented people as a hobby).

But from the point of view of the record company, you've got to use "fully costed" rather than "successful efforts" basis. It's like preparing the accounts of an oil wildcatter; part of the cost of making oil strikes is drilling dry holes. Since most albums recorded are total flops that aren't even worth marketing, the biggest drain on the cost base of the music industry is parasitical talentless musicians who manage to land record deals.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Too fiddly. (none / 0) (#327)
by Jacques Chester on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:28:42 PM EST

A pretty stupid way to hand out tax breaks. Of course, you've just created the most fantastic loophole on earth, as all the rich people of the world hire their wives and children and pay them vast salaries.
Ok, thanks for the suggestion, I now revise the tax break to not include family members and friends. And in fact, taxes would be INCREASED for for rich corporations that hire family members. :)
Rapidly grows too complicated. The better option is to grant tax rebates to companies for each employee that they hire, and to pay for that with a GST. Work on this has been done by Kim Swales and Peter M. Lawrence. In all models, employment rises but inflation remains steady, well within safe limits.

Furthermore, quite often family members are employed for fair reasons. They may be well-qualified for the job. There's also the case that it helps the family stay together, rather than "I never see my husband/wife/son/father/etc because they are at work".

--
In a world where an Idea can get you killed, Thinking is the most dangerous act of all.
[ Parent ]

Perhaps (4.00 / 1) (#265)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:06:49 PM EST

Fine, except that the PEOPLE don't know what's important and don't have the time to spend finding out what projects need what money, which is one of the reasons that THE PEOPle employ THE GOVERNMENT to do exactly that. This is a guaranteed way to ensure that the public schools have more money than they know what to do with and the sewage works goes unmaintained.

Only for the first year. The next year, the sewers would be awash with money.
But less obvious projects would be a problem.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
hrmmm (none / 0) (#269)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:20:37 PM EST

by the end of a year without funding, the sewers would certainly be awash, but not necessarily with money.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Computer intelligences (3.75 / 4) (#105)
by afeldspar on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:44:03 PM EST

I would set up a research initiative to develop flexible, extensible computer intelligence. This would be worth it because then we could turn that intelligence toward the other problems of the world, and it would not have to be hindered by the same factors that hold back human problem-solving (can't accept an answer that hurts my pride, people will be angry with me if I mention the elephant in the living room...)

It may be the only way to improve the intelligence/vested-interest ratio that's brought to bear on a problem.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.

AI is the way to go (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by mjrauhal on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:10:12 PM EST

Absolutely. Especially considering the positive feedback loop that would result from a proper general computer intelligence. With access to its own source, it could incrementally improve on itself, reaching far higher capacity than we can.

[ Parent ]
... and if it's asane? (none / 0) (#121)
by Hizonner on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:14:58 PM EST

So, the problem with this is that the AI would rapidly become the most powerful entity in the world. So powerful that humans would be completely unable to oppose it.

If the AI is benevolent in a recognizable way, then that's good. If the AI is indifferent, then it'll just ignore you, at least as long as you stay out of the way of any projects it may decide to do. If the AI is malevolent, or if an indifferent AI happens to pick a project that requires clearing out all them pesky humans, then you have an enormous problem.

It's not likely to be trivial to control the motivations of something that's a lot smarter than you are. In fact, it's likely to be damned complex if it can be done at all.

Put it another way: are you willing to risk your life on there being no bugs in the biggest, most complex software project in history?

Think about it. Your relationship to this AI is likely to be a lot like the relationship of an ant to a human... maybe the relationship of an amoeba to a human. Assuming the AI has any recognizable analog of morality, what's the AI's moral stance toward you likely to be? Do you have any idea how to give it a particular, desired moral stance? Can you even unambiguously describe the moral stance you think it should have?

Remember, it'll be capable of figuring out the logical results of whatever moral principles you give it (assuming you can even clearly encode a complex thing like a moral principle). Human values frequently conflict with each other, and resolving those conflicts is the tricky part of moral and ethical philosophy. There've been lots of problems in the past with people getting fanatical about some particular moral principle, to the exclusion of all others. What if the AI does that?

Especially, what if the AI doesn't have any pesky pro-human biases, or even pro-life biases? What if it adopts a goal that it sees as "higher" than even its own survival, let alone yours?

10 points off for the first naif who mentions Asimov's ambiguous and unimplementable "laws of robotics"... and, if you say that it'll be restrained by not having the ability to manipulate the physical world directly, I hope you're confident that you can't be tricked, nor a containment system hacked, by something thousands or millions of times smarter than any human has ever been.

I'm not saying this kind of thing should never be done. In fact, I hope it does get done someday... but it's not a no-brainer. It will be a huge risk. If it's done with great care, it'll probably come out all right, but there'll always be the chance that it will destroy everything you care about... whatever that happens to be.

For some thoughts from somebody who actually wants to try this, try the Singularity Institute. There's also discussion on kurzweilai.net. For negative views of how the AI might act, search kurzweilai for postings by "mgubrud" or "craighub".

[ Parent ]

AI motivation (none / 0) (#252)
by acronos on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 03:41:37 PM EST

I agree that building an AI is dangerous.

Your average human views intelligence from his own motivations. Humans are evolved. Our basic motivations are designed (evolved) to propagate our genes. A machine does not have to have the same motivation.

Evolutionary algorithms are probably going to generate intelligence that is dangerous because survival of the machine is always part of evolution. Neural networks by themselves will not generate intelligence; they have to be in a framework. The route to AI is through designed algorithms. These algorithms will need a "goal"/motivation. For instance, a tic-tac-toe AI algorithm is motivated to win. There are several motivations that can be chosen that are unlikely to threaten humanity. One that I like is "seek the approval of humans." This can be the sole motivation for the AI and that AI could do anything it thinks humans would approve of. That would include advanced research or implementing a non-corrupt democratic government or doing the dishes. All of these would be sub-goals of the real goal of human approval. Think of this in terms of the human goals of survival and propagation and how much these influence all our decisions.

We may be on the same page because I agree that this is dangerous. I just believe that there are scenario's where the risks are worth it.

BTW, I am a full time programmer working on embedded manufacturing controllers. I have been working for 5 years on implementing AI on my own time at about 5-20 hrs/wk. I am well aware of the difficulty in defining the words "human" and "approval" in terms a machine can relate to. Nonetheless, I believe I will succeed at this within 10 to 20 years. I am doing it because I love creating programs that "think." It is my hobby and I am very good at it.


[ Parent ]
Why give it any power? (none / 0) (#241)
by davidmb on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:01:06 PM EST

Feed it the information it needs, let it rewrite it's own code and design new parts. But don't let it control anything else, or build dangerous add-ons. You don't even have to connect it to the internet (I'm sure it would be able to hack the army etc.).
־‮־
[ Parent ]
Why intelligence? (none / 0) (#142)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:19:20 PM EST

If I were to go down that route, I would make the big computer, but not waste it on trying to make it all that intellegent. I would use it to simulate, simulate, simulate. Feed it as much data from the world as it can take and have it try to get ever better at predicting the future with as many self-extending simulations as it cares to run. Call it Project Crystal Ball.

Who cares if the damn thing can think all that well? Seeing the future through a murky window sounds far more useful.



[ Parent ]

Because... (none / 0) (#197)
by afeldspar on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:52:35 AM EST

Because there are limits and diminishing returns to simulation. The reason that much of what computers can do now is not called intelligence -- even that which was once held up as what computers would never be able to do, and therefore intelligence -- is that it is domain-limited. The ultimate goal would be to produce a computer whose intelligence is not domain-limited.

If this could be done, then it could turn to the task of marshalling computer resources towards simulation, making perhaps better decisions than humans about what is important to simulate and how rigorously. It can also be set to all the meta-problems caused by its own existence: how to keep computers serving humanity? How to allay human fears of being replaced? How to improve human living conditions without making humans feel redundant?


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]

Singularity (none / 0) (#147)
by yooden on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:39:22 PM EST

You may improving the wrong thing: http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~phoenix/vinge/vinge-sing.html



[ Parent ]
Logical flaw (none / 0) (#193)
by afeldspar on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:36:13 AM EST

Any intelligent machine of the sort he describes would not be humankind's "tool" -- any more than humans are the tools of rabbits or robins or chimpanzees.

This is a fairly bad analogy. Chimpanzees did not design humans, let alone design humans to serve their needs. Nor, of course, did rabbits or robins.

Humans evolved the tendency to serve their individual and collective self-interest because that was a necessity of continuing existence long enough to evolve intelligence. There is no rational basis that I can see to assume that an intelligence created through human design or iterative computer design would suddenly develop an agenda that served itself, and yet I find this belief is rather widespread and its advocates persistent.

In any case, asserting that computers will not serve man because they will have superseded man is like saying that children will not nurture their parents because the parents have grown old and feeble and the children strong. That's a bad analogy, too, because the children will still have their own self-interest coming from their heritage in an evolved species. But it's a better analogy than Vigne's silly analogy of "computers will be to humans as humans are to robins and rabbits and chimpanzees: not their tools." Since chimpanzees are the only one of the species named that are even tool-users, expecting the analogy to say anything significant about the tools humans design is silly.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]

Singularity (none / 0) (#271)
by yooden on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:25:33 PM EST

Any intelligent machine of the sort he describes would not be humankind's "tool" -- any more than humans are the tools of rabbits or robins or chimpanzees.

This is a fairly bad analogy. Chimpanzees did not design humans, let alone design humans to serve their needs. Nor, of course, did rabbits or robins.

I don't think he was referring to any kind of relation between the animals and humans here. He just wanted to point out how clear we will understand the Intelligence' nature -- not at all.



There is no rational basis that I can see to assume that an intelligence created through human design or iterative computer design would suddenly develop an agenda that served itself

The Intelligence will simply be beyond human understanding and thus, control. It will be, by definition, incomprehensible. I don't know what makes you so sure that we will be able to control a being billions times more intelligent than man.



Note that I am not sure that Vinge's prediction will come true.

(As stated, it's inevitable anyway, so why should I care? Because it's damn interesting, and makes two of Vinge's books (A Deepness in the Sky, A Fire upon the Deep) the best traditional SF by a wide margin.)



[ Parent ]
Cheap, reliable, small, efficent fusion power (3.00 / 2) (#110)
by The Great Wakka on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:09:08 PM EST

Think about it. If it's cheaper than other sources, much pollution will stop. Energy will become cheap enough that it will quickly spread to poor nations whose quality of life will rapidly improve. A lack of energy restrictions (more or less) would mean that every other project, including matter reassembly and desert reclamation, will be exceedingly easy. Desalination plants will be able to take care of every water need. Hydroponic farms can take up the needs of the starving. And huge, dense megacities will take the place of ineffecent suburbs and such. And personally, I think that fusion can be accomplished for just $500 billion. What's holding us back? Oil companies. But that's a whole different post.

$500 B? (3.00 / 1) (#119)
by demi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:00:25 PM EST

And personally, I think that fusion can be accomplished for just $500 billion.

Just out of curiosity, how do you arrive at that figure? Well, seeing as how a new nuclear power plant typically costs on the order of $2-5 B to construct and bring online, developing a fusion energy source might be possible with 100 times that amount. But if people have problems with fission power plants located nearby, I wonder what they will think of fusion plants (probably something along the lines of 'not in my back yard!'). Even if the plants could be built today, the third world nations could never afford to build or maintain them. How would you feel about giving some small, politically unstable nation control of a potential H-bomb?

What's holding us back? Oil companies. But that's a whole different post.

Har har har. But just in case you actually believe that, know that even in highly controlled environments, controlled sustainable fusion has not yet been demonstrated. A working fusion power plant will need decades' worth of advances in materials science, plasma physics, and public education, at the very least, which keeps fusion out of the national energy debates better than any API lobbyist could. To build a gas/oil power plant costs about $10-15 M, its chief waste products are CO2 and water, and the infrastructure to regulate and control their operation already exists. That's pretty tough to beat.



[ Parent ]

I think there's a misunderstanding. (none / 0) (#122)
by valeko on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:15:37 PM EST

[In regard to oil companies holding back fusion development]: Har har har. But just in case you actually believe that, know that even in highly controlled environments, controlled sustainable fusion has not yet been demonstrated.

I think that what Mr. Great Wakka meant is that oil companies are inhibiting development of nuclear fusion, not that it's already available and they're just hiding it from us. I have no doubts as to this myself; we would be much farther along the road to developing practical, commercially viable nuclear fusion as a power source if not for the interference of those who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo. Same goes for alternative-fuel automobile technology - there would be more of them, and they would be better, if the oil companies didn't play a role in preserving the existing structure.

About infrastructure, you're probably right. But also remember that the reason for the absence of infrastructure to govern and regular something is again the feet-dragging of those who would rather go with what exists now because it generates revenue for them. If everyone truly wanted something to change, including those that govern the existing energy infrastructure, it would change much faster and more effectively.

How would you feel about giving some small, politically unstable nation control of a potential H-bomb?

This is a separate question, I think. I'm pretty sure that if you have enough money to singlehandedly preside over the development of viable nuclear fusion, you also have enough money to ensure that small, politically unstable nations are not so politically unstable. :-)

Doubtless, many practical problems would be created if nuclear fusion simply came about tomorrow. It certainly won't, even if science would use its best endeavours to try to make that happen. But there are certain forces that are conspiring to stall research in that direction because it would depress their thundering profits, and those forces are the enemy of progress.


"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

How exactly could the oil companies do it? (5.00 / 1) (#136)
by demi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:29:47 PM EST

...I have no doubts as to this myself; we would be much farther along the road to developing practical, commercially viable nuclear fusion as a power source if not for the interference of those who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

Hey, I'm going to assume that you can do your own research here, but the US government alone has already spent more than $10 B since the 1970's on various iterations of research-level fusion reactors (various Tokomaks, the National Ignition Facility, etc.), and none have produced tangiable results indicating that fusion energy will be practical any time soon. There are many other projects worldwide with the same goal, but nobody can get results if human technology is not yet up to the task. Not every research facility in the world is beholden to the interests of the petroleum industry, right? Or are they?

There are plenty of successful alternative power generation systems in place around the US (nuclear, hydro-kinetic, solar, etc.), but the fact remains that petroleum-based energy is simpler, more economical, and more efficient than any of the alternatives at this time. Personally, I think it's a stupid waste to burn our hydrocarbon resources that should be used for raw materials, but if people need more electricity (like they did in California last summer), oil is the easiest way to get it, and there's nothing sinister about that. In the case of fusion-based technology the researchers have no results that make advances in the near term very likely. It's not clear how throwing more money at them could improve matters, either (although the idea is not being abandoned). That hurts them more than any lobbying the oil companies could do.

I believe that there will be a breakthrough in the technology of magnetically focused high-energy plasmas soon, maybe in the next 20 years, that will change this whole discussion completely. But until human knowledge advances, we will have to wait patiently.



[ Parent ]

Make a real "EPCOT" city (3.00 / 2) (#117)
by bolthole on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 08:52:46 PM EST

The true vision behind EPCOT, that got twisted after Walt Disney died: Create a city that is clean, virtually crime-free, and a pleasure to live in.

Unfortunately, these days, just one would probably take most of the money. However, once it is shown to work, then others would be built with other peoples' money.

http://www.waltopia.com

Unfortunately, waltopia kind of sold out or got coerced. It used to be a bit heaver on how the vision was corrupted. Now it claims that somehow "Walt Disney Company has made Walt's dreams a reality", which plain isnt true when it comes to EPCOT.

A meta-circular idea (3.66 / 3) (#120)
by blamario on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:11:12 PM EST

I dunno. If I just get a trillion dollars and can't find a good way to spend it, I'd probably put the problem before some smart people and implement the best idea. Maybe I'd post it as a hypothetical question in a forum... wait a second! How did you get so much money? Ok, here's my proposal: I'd choose one or several small countries and pay them to implement direct democracy systems of various kinds. At the same time I'd also make sure this is well publicised around the world.

Democracy is the only solution... (none / 0) (#181)
by johwsun on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:33:49 AM EST

I agree with you...only democracy can save the world.
World is evil just because God created it with limited resources. Thats why, in order to share resources and make most people happy, we have to vote for those resources.

There is a way to vote:
Lets say we have 100 apples and 30 persons, they could vote about the maximum and the minimum of apples a person can have.
This vote will be between 0 and 1. Zero means no apple at all and one means all apples.
By voting between 0 and 1 people dont have to change their vote in case apples or population increase. Of course everyone he/she will be able to change his/her vote whenever he/she wishes.

So if I had a trillion dollars I will implement this or a similiar voting system.





[ Parent ]
A trillion? (3.33 / 3) (#127)
by Legion303 on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:01:13 PM EST

The first thing that springs to mind is that I would quadruple teachers' salaries immediately.

I'd use the rest to ensure even footing for all major political parties running for office (Greens, Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, whoever else is considered a valid running party and runs a candidate). If one group gets $250,000 in contributions from Exxon, the other major ones would each get the same amount from me. No more "Joe Blow? I never saw him on TV. Better vote for one of these two guys I *did* see on TV..."

-Legion

Quadruple?!? (5.00 / 1) (#150)
by jch on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:52:14 PM EST

Well, if you were to do that, I surely hope you would throw in some accountability policies.

If you were going to be paid to build a fence and failed (the teacher's job is to teach students the material, right?), would you get paid? Teachers do. Teachers have no accountability when it comes to their job. In fact, the only way a teacher (here in California, anyhow) can be out of a job is if they molest a student or something of that magnitude.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for raising teacher salaries (I'm not sure about guadrupling though) -- but I feel they get paid in accordance to their responsibility.

[ Parent ]
Competition (5.00 / 1) (#250)
by acronos on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:46:03 PM EST

By raising the salary you make more people want to be teachers. The only people who want to be teachers right now are philanthropists because the salary vs education requirements sucks. You are right that he would need to change the laws so the bad teachers can be monitored and fired. Our education system is a monopoly and all the garbage that comes with that. The way to fix the education system is to bring competition back into it. Raising salaries WOULD help. It would attract more people to do the job than there are positions available. This would make a big difference. It is unreasonable though because it is not sustainable. The trillion would run out.

[ Parent ]
To put it into a single line... (5.00 / 1) (#281)
by Eight Star on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:06:22 PM EST

If you pay PhD salaries, you'll get PhD teachers.

[ Parent ]
Given a trillion dollars (2.50 / 4) (#128)
by dollyknot on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:04:28 PM EST

I would check the mobius strip out, to see if it had only one side kinetically as well. Thereby showing where all the missing mass is, in the universe. And I would build the biggest klein bottle you ever saw. Then I could prove the universe is expanding into itself.

If there was any money left over I would use it to buy prime time tv to expound the idea that economics is about resource management not money.

Peter.
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.

Internationally standardized vocational training. (4.00 / 6) (#129)
by demi on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:07:12 PM EST

...and if $1 T seems like a lot of money to be spent merely on education, it is, but I guess my philosophy is more in line with 'if you want my help, you must first help yourself'. I think the best way to help the developing world is to give them not only the skills to participate in the global economy, but also the potential to cooperate with the global economy. The best way to do that IMO, is to make top-quality education, and job training, available to everyone that is willing to work hard for it.

  • Free tuition, room, and board, starting at adolescence (about US high school age), at central facilities located near major population centers in the developing world. Admission standards would be set to admit the largest number possible of people, given the local capacity for self-support (vide infra). After an initial training period, students can transfer to and from any vocational academy freely, again with regard to local self-support constraints.
  • Students would live in the training centers and would co-operatively work reasonable hours for a global industrial partner to support the costs of the school, and earn a modest personal stipend. In this way, hopefully both the students and the school would be self-supported. As for what jobs could be done, they would have to be relatively safe and simple, but involved enough to be a real learning experience.
  • Internationally standardized training in manufacturing, financial/information technology, systems management, and engineering (the students would pick a 'major' and specialize in it). The students would be tested for ability, and aptitude standards would be rigorously enforced. Depending on how many aptitude levels you have passed, you would increase your degree of specialization.
  • Internationally standardized training in the English language. Before everyone jumps all over me here for cultural colonialism, let's face it, if you can speak English well, you can work nearly anywhere in the world. That's my justification.
  • Free, unrestricted access to self-education in any artistic, scientific, or humanities fields (could use online libraries, distance learning. If you are ambitious enough and knowledge is what you desire, access to the world's best online information is yours, whenever you find the time for it.
  • You stay as long as you need to (maybe limited to 5 years), until you get a satisfactory job, violate the rules of the academy, or get accepted to another training program (such as a real university).

Now keep in mind that this vocational academy system would be optional, I mean if you decide you don't want to be a hard worker in the awful capitalist system you don't have to do it. But I think it would be a great way to allow skilled workers to cross borders between developing countries (even if the borders of first-world nations are relatively closed), network with each other, and possibly encourage new entrepreneurial growth in places where there hasn't been much previously.

I take my inspiration from the highly successful industrial 'co-op' system in design, engineering and science that most US universities offer. After a year or two of college, companies hire as quasi-employees a limited number of successful undergrads, and they alternate semesters with work and school. At the end of their co-op term, the students have real-world experience, some money, and a relationship with a potential employer. I really think it's a great system, and all optional of course.



Nice idea (none / 0) (#146)
by yooden on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:32:35 PM EST

If you don't want to relocate everyone to the neo-West, you should concentrate on improving life in the poorer parts of the world. If you want your students do something about it, you should find a way to limit brain drain.



[ Parent ]
danger of vocationalism (none / 0) (#166)
by quinten on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:16:27 AM EST

* Free, unrestricted access to self-education in any artistic, scientific, or humanities fields (could use online libraries, distance learning. If you are ambitious enough and knowledge is what you desire, access to the world's best online information is yours, whenever you find the time for it.
above you have the key point, and I'm glad you included it. The danger of providing only free vocational training is the ghettoization of our learning. I agree that education is our most important good. It should be free, and that should include every level of education, just as you suggest.

I went to a great highschool that offered a lot of experiential learning -- which didn't mean "learn this particular task," but did mean putting abstract ideas into practice. We were able to take charge of our own educational path, choosing courses, even teaching one if we chose. The overall philosophy was one of depth rather than depth. I really benefited from it a great deal. In college I now can focus on far more abstract details, fleshing out my experience. It seems to the be the right order to do things.
Ceci n'est pas un sig
[ Parent ]

Why, I'd buy the world a Coke (2.42 / 7) (#133)
by pyramid termite on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:26:00 PM EST

Sorry. Maybe I'll make a serious reply tomorrow when I have time.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Judging from the ratings ... (3.00 / 2) (#213)
by pyramid termite on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:48:28 AM EST

... I should have said Pepsi. Geez, guys, lighten up.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
The best thing to do with a lot of money (2.33 / 3) (#138)
by DavidTC on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:40:19 PM EST

It's to make idiots look like such. I'd have fun destroying the drug laws by purchasing, and planting, pot everywhere. Can you just imagine pot growing in the woods around the reflecting pool?

I'd also hire private detectives to find out every single crime that any political leader, or just all-around general political ranter aka Jesse Jackson, even if they aren't technically running for office. But I wouldn't blackmail them, oh no...I'd wait for one of them to take a stand about something that's in direct contradiction to what they did, and leak...a tiny bit. Wait a bit more, and leak a bit more.

The key with going step by step is to keep them from just 'coming clean'. No, let's have them go into denial mode. Eventually, they will have denied it every step of the way until the last proof came out, and look like fools. Wash, rinse, repeat, for every single hypocrite. Eventually they'd figure it out.

I also think it would be fun to out-lawyer some huge company. Wait till they sue a little guy over some stupid thing and then leap in with 200 million dollar legal team.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.

Develop Soma... (4.40 / 5) (#139)
by bjlhct on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:45:45 PM EST

...'Nuff said.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
Oh. Brave New World. (1.50 / 2) (#140)
by phobos18 on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 10:50:56 PM EST

Can I be an Alpha? Please!!!

[ Parent ]
Selection Criterion: (3.50 / 4) (#167)
by lucius on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:16:40 AM EST

If you have to ask then no, you can't.

[ Parent ]
soma!soma!soma! (4.00 / 3) (#159)
by urmensch on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:29:57 AM EST

soma already exists, it's just been made illegal and stygmatized.


[to live outside the law you must be honest]
[ Parent ]
Say what? (5.00 / 1) (#174)
by bjlhct on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:50:46 AM EST

You mean, like, crack, speed, etc?

Well, the problem here is dopamine gets depleted...you need increased production too...and you need all that other stuff, to make it "social" and you need to balance it so you work to...no food = you dead. There was an article here..."The Geek's Guide to Practical Brain Chemistry" that goes over this.

And then you need extra production of these chemicals too...in fact a virus might be the best thing here...and of course, there are moral and religious reasons why this may be bad.

If you want to compare all the negatives with a positive, you can check out www.neuropharmacology.com.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

The Mars idea, sorta... (3.50 / 2) (#141)
by pla on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:03:37 PM EST

Step 1 - Buy a medium sized island.

Step 2 - "Recruit" the top 0.01% of scientists (from all disciplines) on Earth, offering them nearly unlimited funding and no ethical constraints. Include a large enough number of grunts to act as "domestic engineers"/"human lab-rats."

Step 3 - Initially direct research toward getting the hell off Earth (since the governments of the world would fairly quickly turn against such an effort, ala Biafra).

Step 4 - Ignore Earth at first, creating a totally artificial, completely planned society, allowing complete individual freedom within the constraints of that requirement. No IP, no money, just the pursuit of knowledge as the only way for a person to "advance" themselves relative to others. (Think "centralized anarchy" rather than "communism", which might have crossed your mind by this point.)

Anyone who has read The Dispossessed, by Ursula LeGuin, will understand the type of society I have in mind. Yes, even that had its faults, but humans will *never* get away from petty power struggles, might as well aim for the least ability to cause damage on a massive scale.


Well, after thinking about it long and hard... (2.37 / 8) (#144)
by buckleup on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:26:08 PM EST

I'd just blow it all on Whores and Booze. I mean, honestly, what's the point? This world sucks and all of the people on it are small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Accept reality. Deal with it. Don't you see how pointless this thought is? Do you think there is any TRUE philanthropy in this world? Yeah?? Then just keep fooling yourself and remain the sucker that you were born as.

do you think about anything long and hard? (3.00 / 1) (#154)
by urmensch on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:04:23 AM EST

why don't you just go jump off a bridge? I mean, honestly, what's the point in living in a world that sucks so much?

you don't have to be philanthropic in order to want help people out.


[to live outside the law you must be honest]
[ Parent ]
Wow. (3.66 / 3) (#148)
by Sheepdot on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 11:40:08 PM EST

I was looking through the ideas folks had on here and noticed that those that said "Give the money back to the taxpayers it was taken from" are getting horribly low ratings.

How about instead of a rating, you respond with a comment that explains why such a suggestion is replusive enough to garner a 1?

ironic. (4.33 / 3) (#164)
by quinten on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:08:42 AM EST

ironically, those who are most fond of proverbs like "give a man a fish, and he will eat a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat the rest of his life" are the same that think magically the small amount of money we each pay as tax payers could be better spent in our individual hands.

Granted, the Federal government can mis-spend our cash, but the combined buying power is still greater than if we each had an individual...oh, say $300 in our pockets. You can do a lot more with a lump sum of $1 trillion than 300 million individuals can.

Give a man $300, and he can buy a couple extra cases of beer. Give a man a Federal government, and his children can get a better education and get out of the slum.
Ceci n'est pas un sig
[ Parent ]

you obviously miss the point of the saying (4.00 / 1) (#234)
by heatherj on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:28:07 AM EST

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a life." Yes, this is a good saying, but advocates of teaching the man to fish through most of the "government-program" types of ideas I've seen on this post are GIVING the man the fish-even if the stated aim is something educational-sounding. As a government, we give people food stamps. We do not teach the recipients anything about nutrition, smart shopping, or cooking. There is an organization called SHARE (WorldSHARE) that does much better than this. It is a co-op type of thing. You give them money (or food stamps). They pool all the money to buy food that would cost each individual about 3 times as much. You go pick up your share of the food. With your food at least comes a newsletter including nutrition info and recipes using that month's food. There are no income limits on participating in this, but they do ask that you do 2 hours per month of community service (your choice). I have seen very few government-program, socialist types of things that do not boil down to giving the man a fish in the end. When I find programs (usually these are private) that really do teach a man to fish, I give what I can. If I had that kind of money, I'd use it to find ways to teach people to help themselves. Frankly, the ones who just want a handout, rather than a hand up, I would just as soon allow to starve, hard as that sounds. They reproduce, they vote, and, from an evolutionary stanpoint the race would be better off without them. ALL welfare-type programs (welfare, public housing, food stamps, all of it) should include a work component. Welfare should be a worse pain in the ass than working is. I would use a trillion dollars to do everything I could to restore a Constitutional government in the U. S., preferably with a reinforced Bill of Rights (btw: whoever was discussing restoring the separation of church and state needs to read the actual words of the Constitution and the founders about the issue.). I would then work to teach people how to help themselves-without handouts.

[ Parent ]
Here is a reason... (5.00 / 1) (#177)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:05:00 AM EST

... the story didn't say that the money came from any taxpayers. Maybe it came from a genie in a bottle, maybe from some really rich recluse, maybe something else. A hypothetical doesn't need a complete backstory. The point is, the people that answered "give it back..." were ignoring the point of the article for the purpose of pushing their own "tax = bad" line. Or maybe they just didn't read all that carefully.



[ Parent ]

Well, not my ratings, but... (5.00 / 1) (#178)
by seebs on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:06:12 AM EST

There's nothing in the idea saying the money came from "taxpayers", or a government. Maybe what happened is the 5000 richest people in the world (I might need a few more, or a few fewer, I dunno) suddenly got this idea, created a non-profit organization, gave it all their money... and told it to go serve you.

I dunno. Just assume that the money isn't going to wreck the economy, that it wasn't stolen, and so on. Play with the question of what you'd do.

We'll do the other one later. ;)


[ Parent ]
Three Things (3.00 / 1) (#155)
by yooden on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:09:22 AM EST

One third goes into some pretty project to lighten the environment's burden a bit, like a Hydrogen infrastructure.

One third would somehow improve the poorer countries situation. Education? Infrastructure? Pension plans/contraception? Whatever (combination) has the best impact.

On third goes into a fund to keep up a think tank to educate the poor, keep up awareness of the global view and offer advice to any country in need of it.



A trillion dollars? (2.00 / 5) (#157)
by DJBongHit on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:21:45 AM EST

Yes, that would probably be enough. I'd make the Washington Redskins not suck.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

Smokedot? (none / 0) (#171)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:34:44 AM EST

Hey DJ, how's the relocation of ~. coming along?

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Smokedot (none / 0) (#245)
by DJBongHit on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:35:54 PM EST

Hey DJ, how's the relocation of ~. coming along?

Still waiting on that guy to get his server set up. I just got an email from him saying he got it mostly set up over the weekend and just needs to get MySQL up and running. Shouldn't be long now.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Is it ... (none / 0) (#277)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:15:02 PM EST

... going to support secure connections?



[ Parent ]

No (nt) (none / 0) (#309)
by DJBongHit on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 05:33:57 PM EST



~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Any reason? (none / 0) (#313)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 11:16:03 PM EST

Because I imagine most people would feel better posting details of their legally questionable activities behind some decent encryption.



[ Parent ]

No point (none / 0) (#323)
by DJBongHit on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 05:40:29 PM EST

Because I imagine most people would feel better posting details of their legally questionable activities behind some decent encryption.

Because it would provide a false sense of security. All you need is to know the time the comment was posted (and encryption won't help with this, obviously), and then you can read the plaintext off the site. And if you don't catch the data at the time it was posted, you can't trace it anyway, since I delete the logs every few days (and only keep them around for traffic analysis).

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Good points. (none / 0) (#324)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 07:54:02 PM EST

I would dispute this one part a bit, "And if you don't catch the data at the time it was posted, you can't trace it anyway...". It seems that people's ISPs are very likely noting where people are going, when, and how much is sent each way. That was one reason why I liked safe web, obfuscation. Secure connections wouldn't be nearly so good. I guess I was just hopeing to make it a little more than trivial to see what people are posting. I'm very much in favor of anything that increases the workfunction on prying into what people say online, but I guess in this case, the work function is increased by so little that it doesn't much matter.



[ Parent ]

if i had a trillion dollars... (2.00 / 5) (#163)
by dvena on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:00:32 AM EST

i'd start a website where people could post news stories and everyone would vote on if they were good or not, and then everyone could post comments on those stories! oh wait...

if i had a trillion dollars... (none / 0) (#216)
by The Stainless Steel Cat on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:56:03 AM EST

...I'd buy you a green dress. (But not a real green dress; that's cruel!) Cat.

[ Parent ]
Anti Weasel Foundation! (3.71 / 7) (#165)
by tmoertel on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:13:34 AM EST

What would I do with 10^12 USD? I'd create the Anti Weasel Foundation (AWF) with the following charter:
  • Stamp out those darn weasels!
Example:

A television commercial gushingly praises some candidate for political office. As the commercial plays, a weasel alert sounds, letting all viewers know that something weasely is afoot. Then, after the commercial, the AWF weasel-stats appear on the WeaselWatch monitor that sits beside your television:

  • The preceding commercial has been rated Highly Weasely.
  • Its truth quotient is 18%.
  • Of the commercial's 13 claims:
    • None were strictly true.
    • 7 were highly misleading.
    • 4 were moderately misleading.
    • 2 were slightly misleading.
  • This commercial may violate campaign finance law:
    • Air time was purchased by Corporation X.
    • Corporation X collected funds from wealthy individuals at events sponsored National Political Party X.
    • Corporation X does not appear to have any legitimate business other than purchasing political advertising.
  • Additional weasel notices for this commercial are pending.
C'mon! You know you want a WeaselWatch monitor, too. Give me the coin!

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


Colonize the East (3.00 / 4) (#168)
by CmdrTroll on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:19:47 AM EST

The subject says it all. Why would we want to do this? Well...
  • No more poverty. Poverty is to blame for most of the problems we face today. Poverty causes young children in Somalia to join radical Islamic schools (their only chance to get an education) and learn to hate the USA. Poverty causes the problems we have in Iraq today. Colonizing the East will bring its citizens up to modern living standards, and buy their peoples' support.
  • Give the people a better life. Did you know that 97% of homes in Afghanistan don't have indoor plumbing? Certainly there is something we can do to improve their plight.
  • Make better use of natural resources. Africa, despite plentiful sources of energy, labor, and raw materials, has very few high-tech factories. Moving assembly lines to Africa will save on labor costs, avoid expensive government regulations at home, and increase the supply of consumer goods. This means that everybody lives better.
  • No more state-endorsed terroristic religions. Church and state desperately need to be separated in most Eastern countries. People have a basic right to worship whomever they choose to worship, (preferably a peaceful lord like the Christian god).
  • No more worries about NBC weapons, since Westerners comprise a more advanced society whose primary goal is not blowing up the guy next door.
The real question, given a budget of a trillion dollars, is: why not colonize the East? And that is a hard question to answer.

jesus christ (2.00 / 1) (#211)
by turmeric on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:48:35 AM EST

that was not even funny.


[ Parent ]
And after the East (none / 0) (#317)
by axxeman on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 03:37:47 AM EST

How about colonising the Down?

Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?
[ Parent ]

Already spent it on the War On Drugs... (4.87 / 8) (#169)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:29:13 AM EST

When you add up all the costs of the WOD, including prison construction, court costs, police, lost wages of incarcerated users (and their taxes), the goods stolen by addicts (to pay for drugs they could easily afford by picking through garbage for returnable bottles, if the price weren't artificially inflated by prohibition), etc, etc... the total rings up to about $400 billion per year.

Even if you just take the actual drug profits alone it's well over $1 trillion just in the last ten years. As we discussed here recently, if drugs were legal, all of that money would stay at home, enriching our economy. (1kg of raw opium sells for $100~200 in Afghanistan, then goes for $250,000 on the streets of NYC as heroin... Hint: it's not the heroin processing that drives the price up by 250,000%)

Even if you just add up the DEA budget alone, it's well over a quarter-trillion -- just in the last 12~15 years.

Now what if, instead of throwing all that money down a hole, we'd been spending it all these years on education, basic research, development aid, alternative energy infrastructure... ???

Just a thought...

--jrd

change your dealer (5.00 / 2) (#196)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:46:22 AM EST

1 kg of raw opium would yield 100g of morphine base, which would in turn be converted into around 100g of heroin. Even assuming that could be cut to 500g, you're suggesting that heroin retails for $50/gram? Change your supplier.

Oh yeh and ...

Now what if, instead of throwing all that money down a hole, we'd been spending it all these years on education, basic research, development aid, alternative energy infrastructure... ???

Then we'd have a load of well-educated junkies on our hands.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Am I off by an order of magnitude? (4.50 / 2) (#206)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:19:45 AM EST

If so, no problem, I've got plenty to spare...

Even if the markup is only 25,000% or 2,500%, it's still a f*ckload more than it would be under a legal market regime. Many times more. And that difference -- between the legal-market value and the black-market price -- is directly and solely a result of prohibition.

Therefore, the bulk (at least 90%) of all money spent on illegal drugs -- whether for consumption, interdiction, or losses to theft -- is spent simply because those drugs are illegal.

When a program, such as prohibition, consumes so much of our resources, it becomes necessary to question whether or not the goal of a "Drug-Free Society" is really worth the cost.

Then we'd have a load of well-educated junkies on our hands.

As opposed to the load of un-educated junkies we currently have on our hands? Hmmm... maybe that's the whole point.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Coca-Cola enjoys a 2,500% markup... (4.50 / 2) (#223)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:08:24 AM EST

And caffine isn't nearly as addictive as heroin.
--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
Coke is Closed-Source... (4.50 / 2) (#242)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:27:52 PM EST

Try OpenCola for a taste of the real thing... ;-)

Seriously... if you mean to give Coca-Cola as an example that huge markups are not caused automatically by prohibition, then I have to disagree. As products, Coke and heroin are vastly different. Coke's price is inflated because of two factors: it's proprietary, and it's convenient. At least half the cost of a Coke is in shipping, packaging, marketing, etc.. Sure, you can get a "generic" cola on the same shelf, right next to the Coke, and you might even save 20¢... but you won't save 2,000%.

OTOH, the process for turning raw opium into heroin can probably be downloaded off the Internet. (Try here, for starters...) For that matter, the plants can be grown in your garden.

And, if you look at the history, you'll see that opiates in general were quite affordable, back when they were legal. (The average user was a bored housewife; the word "junkie" itself comes not from the "junk" they used, but from the fact that they collected junk for salvage to pay for their habits.)

If heroin were legal, it would cost no more than $2 or $3 per gram. Cocaine would cost little more than coffee. Even if we taxed the bejeezuz out of both, they would still be eminently affordable to anyone willing to pick up a few beer cans from the side of the road... And those who manage to hold down a job while addicted, at least they could manage their addiction without bankrupting the family. And they would be far less reluctant to seek help, without the threat of criminal sanctions...

No matter how you slice it, prohibition always makes the problem worse.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

you're entirely wrong (none / 0) (#276)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:59:53 PM EST

While the process for making heroin can certainly be downloaded from the Internet, it is highly dangerous (it involves boiling things with ether) and requires considerable skill to do properly. Good heroin chemists have always been in short supply despite the returns available in the illict trade; it requires the skill of a good chef, plus nerves of steel.

And Pfizer appear to be selling diamorphine to the British NHS at £26.3/gram, so I think you're wrong about your heroin economics as well.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You're missing the point... (none / 0) (#285)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 01:40:48 AM EST

I don't deny that it takes "nerves of steel" (Ooooh!) to turn raw opium into heroin. But you seem to be claiming that the difficulty in processing accounts for the entire price differential between the two products, and that prohibition has little or no contribution. Then, as if that claim weren't already ridiculous enough, you go on to support it with a commercial price charged to a government bureaucracy by a pharmaceuticals giant... despite the fact that this figure contradicts your own earlier price breakdown.

I quoted a price of $100/kg for raw opium, or 10¢/g. You pointed out that raw opium only yields 10% mass of morphine base, which gives us $1/g. You suggest cutting this $1/g heroin at 5-to-one ($5/g) and tell me that paying $50/g is crazy expensive.

Now you turn around and quote me nearly the exact same "crazy" price per gram for diamorphine! What is your point?!

You may have some inside knowledge of heroin production, but you don't seem to be making much sense with it. Do you seriously believe that prohibition has no effect on the price of heroin? If so, your arguments thus far, while interesting, have not been very convincing.

Do you deny that opiates were common, easily affordable household remedies 100~150 years ago? Do you deny that prohibition leads to black-market violence, impure products, police corruption, overcrowded prisons, and inflated prices? Do you deny that prohibition discourages addicts from seeking help? Can you offer a single coherent argument in favor of continued prohibition of drugs?

The Economist's Drug Policy Review says that " A kilo of heroin, 40% pure, sells (in units of less than 100 milligrams) for up to $290,000 on the streets of the United States." Given the choice between your figures and the Economist's, I'll trust the Economist, until or unless you start making some sense...

--jrd

[ Parent ]

prohibition (none / 0) (#287)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 03:47:29 AM EST

Do you seriously believe that prohibition has no effect on the price of heroin?

Prohibition of alcohol didn't have the fantasmagoric effects on price which you suggest; it slightly more than doubled the price of whisky. It seems from a bit of web research that I do indeed (based on Central London prices) appear to have access to cheaper heroin than most Americans, so sorry about that. However, this most likely has little to do with prohibition and a lot to do with economics; most Americans have access to cheap methamphetamine, which is an extremely expensive drug in the UK. I don't see how prohibition can account for these differences.

Do you deny that opiates were common, easily affordable household remedies 100~150 years ago?

They still are. I could walk down to the chemist's at lunchtime and buy a bottle of kaolin/morphine diarrhoea remedy, for example. Diamorphine did not exist 150 years ago, however, which is a lot of the reason why opiates are much more closely controlled these days.

Do you deny that prohibition leads to black-market violence, impure products, police corruption, overcrowded prisons, and inflated prices?

I rather think that I do, given that all of these things were common in SouthEast Asia during the period of legal opium.

Do you deny that prohibition discourages addicts from seeking help?

Here's one for you: do you deny that widespread legal recreational heroin and smoking opium has had horrendous effects in all the countries in which it has been tried (China, Iran and colonial SE Asia)? The idea that prohibition increases the number of addicts is actually laughable.

Can you offer a single coherent argument in favor of continued prohibition of drugs?

Widespread opium use has always had seriously detrimental social consequences everywhere it has been tried. During the worst periods of the opium epidemic, Yunnan province in China was unable to raise an army for lack of fit male citizens.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

A few points... (none / 0) (#290)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 06:42:28 AM EST

Prohibition of alcohol didn't have the fantasmagoric effects on price which you suggest; it slightly more than doubled the price of whisky

So you agree that prohibition did raise the price of alcohol artificially. But why was the increase so much smaller than it is with heroin? Because the prohibition was much more porous with alcohol. Alcohol is easy to make from common, legal materials (grain & yeast). It would be hard to conceal enough poppies in one's garden to keep an addict happy, but you can buy corn by the truckload...

Americans have access to cheap methamphetamine, which is an extremely expensive drug in the UK. I don't see how prohibition can account for these differences.

It doesn't -- at least not if you assume that the prohibition "implementation" is the same in both places. I would say that meth is more expensive in the UK because of market forces. There's greater demand for it in the USA, so more of it is available, making it cheaper. (Just spitballin' here...)

They still are. I could walk down to the chemist's at lunchtime and buy a bottle of kaolin/morphine diarrhoea remedy, for example.

So, in effect, the currently legal forms of opiates are still fairly cheap, compared to their black-market cousins... which is the point I'm trying to make. Or were you simply saying that they're still available, and not necessarily "easily affordable" as I claimed?

Also, please note that your legal opiate purchase involves no black-market violence. Your product has been certified as being of a certain purity and strength. If you find out otherwise, you can sue the company. If you get addicted, you can seek help from your doctor, without fear of getting arrested. If you're under-age, the chemist won't sell it to you in the first place, for fear of losing his license. It's (apparently) cheap enough that you can afford to buy it without robbing people.

I rather think that I do, given that all of these things were common in SouthEast Asia during the period of legal opium.

Um... you do realize that there was a lot of other shit going on in the region at that time, right? Are you saying that legal opium caused these things, as opposed to, say, backstabbing feudal warlords, Western colonialism, economic deprivation, etc? Corruption and violence in Asia go back a long time before the opium epidemic hit the scene.

Oh, and let's not forget that this "widespread" use was not in fact legal. The Emperor of China had already banned the smoking of opium in 1729, long before the "epidemic" and the Opium Wars. (And we Westerners were the pushers, ironically.)

do you deny that widespread legal recreational heroin and smoking opium has had horrendous effects in all the countries in which it has been tried?

Hmmm... I'm not sure that heroin per-se has ever been legally used on a wide scale in any country other than the USA. (It wasn't even synthesized until 1895, and then it was intended as an aid to morphine addicts.) I notice that you conveniently limit the range to "smoking" opium, which was the first drug ever to be controlled in the USA, because it was preferred by those "Heathen Chineys" -- while the laudanum favored by white Americans remained legal (and largely harmless to society) for many years thereafter.

Widespread opium use has always had seriously detrimental social consequences everywhere it has been tried.

Except for the legal use in the USA, of course... I guess it depends on your definition of "widespread" use. But regardless, your argument rests on one rather flimsy assumption: legal == widespread.

If heroin were leglized tomorrow, would you rush out and try it? I wouldn't. I've tried my share of drugs, but have absolutely no interest in heroin. Why? It has a bad reputation, for all the reasons you've stated. I don't want to mess with it, and neither would most other folks.

The idea that prohibition increases the number of addicts is actually laughable.

Prohibition of alcohol did raise the number of alcohol addicts in the USA! Read the history of prohibition to find out why and how...

Cheers,

--jrd

[ Parent ]

responses (none / 0) (#300)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 11:28:44 AM EST

Regarding prohibition and alcoholics; I regard the evidence as much more ambiguous than you do. In any case, if prohibition did cause an increase in alcoholism, it did so in a way which only weakly supports your case for legalising heroin; the mechanism was that people drank stronger alcohol under prohibition than they had done otherwise. Since the main effect of the prohibition of opiates is to reduce the strength of the average dose of heroin, I am unconvinced that one can read off policy conclusions in this way.

Um... you do realize that there was a lot of other shit going on in the region at that time, right? Are you saying that legal opium caused these things, as opposed to, say, backstabbing feudal warlords, Western colonialism, economic deprivation, etc? Corruption and violence in Asia go back a long time before the opium epidemic hit the scene.

This isn't true. The Kingdom of Siam did not have any feudal warlords, Western colonialism or economic deprivation, but it did have a very serious heroin problem in the early 20th century. And I don't recognise your characterisation of the rest of SouthEast Asia before World War 2.

The Emperor of China had already banned the smoking of opium in 1729, long before the "epidemic" and the Opium Wars.

But any time that this law was enforced, the British sent gunboats. There is, of course, a parallel here with the USA's experience; successful domestic and foreign enforcement of the prohibition of heroin has repeatedly and systematically been undermined by the actions of the CIA (once when it needed to recruit Corsican gangsters to break strikes on the Marseilles docks, and once when it needed to recruit Hmong tribesmen to fight the Vietnamese).

Hmmm... I'm not sure that heroin per-se has ever been legally used on a wide scale in any country other than the USA. (It wasn't even synthesized until 1895, and then it was intended as an aid to morphine addicts.) I notice that you conveniently limit the range to "smoking" opium, which was the first drug ever to be controlled in the USA, because it was preferred by those "Heathen Chineys" -- while the laudanum favored by white Americans remained legal (and largely harmless to society) for many years thereafter.

Smoked opium is much more potent than laudanum at any reasonable strength, and heroin only existed as a legal retail product in the USA for a short time -- not long enough to get established. The other big national experiment with legal heroin was Iran, which managed to rack up an addict population of 25% of all adults by the time the Shah decided to put his foot down.

If heroin were leglized tomorrow, would you rush out and try it? I wouldn't. I've tried my share of drugs, but have absolutely no interest in heroin. Why? It has a bad reputation, for all the reasons you've stated. I don't want to mess with it, and neither would most other folks.

I really don't think that the social benefits of widely available heroin are worth the risk.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

We're getting sidetracked... $1 Trillion! (none / 0) (#302)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 12:29:56 PM EST

I really don't think that the social benefits of widely available heroin are worth the risk.

So don't make it widely available! (Duh!)

We could get lost forever trying to decipher the cause-and-effect minutae of opium in Asia... The point of this whole thread is whether or not we could realize all these wonderful trillion-dollar dreams described in this discussion, if only we'd drop the failed and futile "War On Drugs" and put our resources to better use.

Bottom line: yes, heroin is inherently dangerous. So are automobiles, fireworks, hazardous chemicals, and a whole host of other goodies that are not prohibited, yet their dangers are accepted because we have adequate controls in place to ensure that they are used safely, and (mostly) without undue harm to society.

"Legal" heroin does not have to mean heroin that's available in any candy shop. (Why on earth do people always assume so?!) It simply means that we no longer throw people in jail for the manufacture, sale, or use of heroin. But given the inherent risks of heroin use, it seems quite advisable to restrict its use to adults, and to screen those adults for susceptibility to addiction, and monitor their use to avoid problems in this area.

Producers should obviously be strictly inspected for purity; vendors should be assiduously screened against sales to minors... And the cost for all this screening, monitoring, and testing should be tallied up and amortized across all heroin sales, in the form of a tax, so that the "cost to society" associated with heroin is borne primarily by the users.

The "benefit to society" of legal heroin is manifold:

  • Heroin gets a lot cheaper
  • Because heroin is no longer more valuable by weight than gold, there are no more turf-wars between heroin-dealing gangs
  • Because heroin is affordable, addicts no longer steal to support their habits, instead opting for low-rent, low-brow jobs... hey at least they're "contributing" something...
  • Because heroin production is now subject to government oversight, there are no more deaths or comas due to impure (or over-pure) products
  • Because heroin is "legal", any addict who wants some help in beating the addiction can seek help without fear of reprisal
  • Because heroin sales are now legal, and closely monitored, it becomes much harder for minors to purchase the stuff
What are the "benefits to society" of prohibition?

Sales to minors. Impure product, and the associated overdoses and injuries. Artificially inflated black-market prices, which drive ever-escalating turf wars between drug-dealing gangs. A society (USA) with the highest incarceration rate on the planet. A society that spends more on prison construction than on schools.

Obviously, I could go on, but I guess you've probably heard this litany before...

No matter what the problem is, prohibition always makes it worse. Always has, always will. We could actually accomplish a lot of the lofty goals described in this discussion if only we'd get our priorities straight, and give up this idiotic War On Drugs.

--jrd

[ Parent ]

I don't believe that this is true (none / 0) (#303)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 12:45:13 PM EST

Legal" heroin does not have to mean heroin that's available in any candy shop. (Why on earth do people always assume so?!) It simply means that we no longer throw people in jail for the manufacture, sale, or use of heroin. But given the inherent risks of heroin use, it seems quite advisable to restrict its use to adults, and to screen those adults for susceptibility to addiction, and monitor their use to avoid problems in this area.

Well, if this is the case, you're going to need an enforcement operation at least as big as the Bureau of (legal) Alcohol, (legal) Tobacco and (legal) Firearms, so you can forget about saving those trillions of dollars. I also don't think that your belief that you could successfully regulate the trade is any more realistic than the thinking behind the government-run opium dens of Indochina and Thailand.

And finally, I don't think that you can reduce the user cost of heroin by anything like the amount you suggest. Prozac, for example, is also more valuable by weight than gold, and so is Viagra. Heroin is difficult stuff to manufacture and produce; it is an agricultural commodity with a very restricted producer base (it will only grow above a certain height in the mountain range stretching from Northern Turkey to Burma). If it were to be manufactured on a commercial scale at low cost, then your thesis that it would not be a mass market product becomes less realistic.

Because heroin sales are now legal, and closely monitored, it becomes much harder for minors to purchase the stuff

Are you saying that it is harder for minors to buy (legal) alcohol than illegal drugs at present? You must live in a hell of a neighbourhood, and you're apparently not even seeing the price benefits :-)

The US incarceration rate is mainly due to the fact that the USA appears to have declared war on its black citizens. I do not see why this war would be stopped simply by legalising drugs.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You're grasping at straws here... (none / 0) (#305)
by taiwanjohn on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 01:50:02 PM EST

Well, if this is the case, you're going to need an enforcement operation at least as big as the Bureau of (legal) Alcohol, (legal) Tobacco and (legal) Firearms, so you can forget about saving those trillions of dollars.

First of all, the BATF budget is already waayyy less than the DEA budget! Second, keep in mind that we're talking about the entire War On Drugs here, and not just about heroin... Besides, I already said that whatever the cost, it should be borne by the users, so "regular folks" like you and me pay nothing.

I also don't think that your belief that you could successfully regulate the trade is any more realistic than the thinking behind the government-run opium dens of Indochina and Thailand.

It's being done very successfully, right now, in Switzerland. (Do you even read any of these links I keep providing?!)

Prozac, for example, is also more valuable by weight than gold, and so is Viagra

Yet, for some odd reason, we don't see criminal gangs fighting "turf-wars" for control of the Prozac market. Hmmm... Could it be because these products are legal??

(it will only grow above a certain height in the mountain range stretching from Northern Turkey to Burma)

Surely you're aware that opium can be cultivated in many species, many of which are quite happy in various climates. (Buy your seeds here.)

If it were to be manufactured on a commercial scale at low cost, then your thesis that it would not be a mass market product becomes less realistic.

Whoa! Wherever did you get this notion? Hell, heroin already IS a mass-market product!! If I've stated a "thesis" on the issue at all, it's simply that heroin is more dangerous to society as an illegal substance than it would be as a legal one.

Are you saying that it is harder for minors to buy (legal) alcohol than illegal drugs at present?

It sure as hell is!! Jayssuss man, what rock have you been hiding under?! High-school kids buy dope in the hallway, or the rest-room... to get alcohol, they have to go through a "trusted" adult. Get a clue, man!

The US incarceration rate is mainly due to the fact that the USA appears to have declared war on its black citizens.

Sorry, you've got this one backwards again.

Bigoted "peace" officers have never wanted for excuses to make "people of color" jump through a few extra hoops. The WOD just makes it easy... much the same way as those initial anti-drug laws made it easy to crack down on those "Heathen Chineys" who were seducing our daughters into the arms of jungle-madness 100 years or so ago...

Back then it was the "smoked" form of opium that got brown folks in trouble... now it's the smoked form of cocaine... Some things never change.

As I've said before: no matter what the problem, prohibition always makes it worse...

--jrd

[ Parent ]

Price figures for heroin... (4.00 / 2) (#208)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:34:34 AM EST

According to the NDIC:
Street purity levels reportedly have averaged approximately 35 percent over the past 3 years, ranging between an average low of 20.8 percent in Chicago to an average high of 51.6 percent in Detroit. The street price for a gram of Southeast Asian heroin is as low as $100, while a kilogram at the wholesale level sells for as low as $100,000.
That report is from 2 years ago...

Perhaps if I actually used the stuff, I'd ask who your dealer is... ;-)

--jrd

[ Parent ]

well educated junkies (4.50 / 2) (#229)
by HCase on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:32:57 AM EST

ok, so there are now more educated people contributing helpfully to society, do they not count because they're junkies? or are they therefore not allowed to contribut?

[ Parent ]
bah (3.00 / 1) (#230)
by HCase on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:33:52 AM EST

i can't type, ignore all misspellings. : þ

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but....... (3.33 / 3) (#170)
by Daverix on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:30:57 AM EST

Just think of the inflation this would cause, dumping that much currency on the market? Wow.

NOTE TO FBI: THIS IS INTENDED TO BE FUNNY (3.20 / 5) (#172)
by chrome koran on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 01:40:24 AM EST

First, I get elected President of the US. With a trillion dollars at my disposal, I think I can pull it off.

Second, I hire hitmen to assassinate the entire US Supreme Court. This enables me to select my own personal 9 Justices.

My pet Justices declare the US Congress to be unconstitutional on the grounds that they are not actually representing the people of their districts and are therefore pointless.

With Congress abolished and the Supreme Court in my pocket, I am the de facto ruler of the most powerful and wealthiest country on earth. As such, I will be able to do a whole lot of good and generally make the world a better place. Also I will get many babes and a really phat gaming rig! ;-)

i think FDR did that (3.00 / 2) (#210)
by turmeric on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:46:41 AM EST

and hitler too, maybe stalin as well.


[ Parent ]
Did I misspell funny? (NT) (none / 0) (#279)
by chrome koran on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 08:02:01 PM EST



[ Parent ]
i agree with many others... (4.83 / 6) (#176)
by quinten on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:02:55 AM EST

who think education is where the most focus should go. With education, everything else follows. Particularly, I think all education should be free. Period. I'm surprised it wasn't one of the topics on the poll. Sorry to reparent, but I have a couple of additional ideas:
  • get a real, national health insurance. Undercut the private providers. This should be easy, as traditional insurance is hugely wasteful and cost ineffective. Provide it on a sliding scale, perhaps, if not free to everyone.
  • Expand on programs like this one.
  • invest in sustainable agriculture. Factory farming is destroying the livelihood of the independent farmers and making us dependent on pollution-causing long distance transportation. Promote locally grown vegetables as reducing unemployment, increasing food quality and thereby health, reducing pollution, and finally promoting the security of our food supply.
  • invest in sustainable energy. Currently we subsidize coal manufacturers, rather than invest in photovoltaics and wind energy. This is ridiculous. I'm sure this investment would pay for itself very quickly.
  • create "ownwork". I can't recall the journal I read the term in, but the basic idea is to promote useful behavior economically. Do something like the WPA, which was hugely more successful than direct welfare payments. Subsidize community service initiatives -- leave the work volunteer, but provide more capital for quality of life projects that might not have a direct economic return. The people in the community have a greater sense of ownership, the people doing the work feel productive, and in the end the job gets done cheaply for the taxpayer.
Hmm, this has degenerated into my view of a utopian society :) well, I hope there are still ideas for others to bounce around.
Ceci n'est pas un sig
Anti-gravity and unlimited energy (1.00 / 2) (#179)
by videntur on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:07:34 AM EST

OK, since I have one trillion and I don't want to raise inflation by injecting it to the economy. There is another way and that is building anti-gravity and free energy devices.

Anti-gravity devices will ultimately solve our transportation problem. Imagine a place where vehicles no longer cough hazardous smoke, polluting the air. Instead, it floats on your front yard, glides out and zips into the air when you go to work. Roads and bridges will no longer be required, the savings will even be greater since the money saved can be put to better use, like eradication of illiteracy and poverty.

Free energy devices will truly revolutionize energy production. Imagine a home-based plant powering all home devices. Electric bills will totally vanish the moment these devices start operating in your backyard.

Mag-lev? (none / 0) (#199)
by Jel on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:11:17 AM EST

It's funny. We actually have a form of anti-gravity (namely, magnetic levitation, or mag-lev). However, to the best of my knowledge it's only used for a few high-speed trains.

Damn shame that the adoption rate hasn't been higher. I mean, who wouldn't pay an increase in taxes to have their local train line upgraded, if it meant they could experience pushing an entire train along with their bare hands? ;)



[ Parent ]
I wouldn't. (5.00 / 1) (#255)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:32:58 PM EST

I wouldn't want to pay more taxes if it meant I had to push the train myself.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Disperse Life (3.66 / 3) (#182)
by Baldrson on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:47:22 AM EST

Disperse Life

-------- Empty the Cities --------


1 Trillion is not enough......... (1.00 / 3) (#183)
by z00100 on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 02:55:43 AM EST

I trillion.....bah!!! First off..........I believe money is the root of all evil, all these problems in the world is because of money, or lack thereof. I would be all in for implementing a system that Star Trek employs, where money doesn't mean anything. Your contribution to society is what makes you successful. The more you contribute, the more society contributes back to you. I don't have time to go into details, but I think you guys understand what I mean.
I can't think of a sig. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
huh? (none / 0) (#214)
by mikeliu on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:52:39 AM EST

Could someone please explain for the non-Star Trek inclinced what he's talking about? "The more you contribute, the more society contributes back to you." ????? Huh? Sorta like capitalism, with all the big bad evil money?

[ Parent ]
Star Trek economics, eh? (none / 0) (#218)
by Jel on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 08:10:12 AM EST

Well.. in Star Trek, they have supposedly eliminated poverty completely, presumably because they can now manufacture whatever they want (including food) from raw energy using their replicators.

I guess he means that when people do big things, they become famous/get a starship/whatever, which is fair enough, in itself.

Of course, that doesn't really explain the story lines where people smuggle goods for profit, suffer from starvation in warzones, etc.

Basically, the whole social thing is a lot less well thought out than their technological aspects. They should've based it on "The Dispossed", if you ask me ;)



[ Parent ]
$1 trillion for the soul. (2.36 / 11) (#184)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 03:11:35 AM EST

I would give a nice, modest salary and full benefits for life to anyone who, in good faith, devotes their life to religious service, in any serious, life-affirming religion. Priests, priestesses, nuns, monks, anyone who wished to devote their life and was able to abide by the tenets of their select faith.

I would also help build places of worship for any community that requests them. Modest, utilitarian venues that would serve their purpose well and last for ages.


--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The
Religions... (5.00 / 2) (#189)
by katie on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:06:41 AM EST

...already get enough money and cause enough grief.

What about those of us who, in good faith, have decided to be atheists?




[ Parent ]
Atheists wouldn't get any money. (1.00 / 2) (#191)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:23:54 AM EST

First of all, I'm talking about devoting one's life to the service of a religion. If there is a form of atheism that one could devote their life to the service of, it might qualify. (Although I get the creeping feeling that it might not qualify as "life-affirming".)

Second, if every who served a religion was able to live comfortably, and places of worship would not need funding, then there wouldn't be an excuse to take money out of the collection plate to put a gold-covered bible on the altar. The money that people give to their church would then be freed up to do real charity work. (Of course, groups with more political than religious content, such as the Religious Right, would not receive funding.)

Finally, religion has done good and bad. It can be used to either end. Come to think of it, the same thing applies to science...


--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
religions use (4.00 / 2) (#228)
by HCase on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:26:35 AM EST

they wouldn't need to use their money for a golden bible? when did they ever NEED a golden bible in the first place? if money is being wasted on such shinies right now, all they'll do is buy more, maybe the new one will be golden and diamond encrusted.

[ Parent ]
True, there would have to be limits... (none / 0) (#231)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:47:45 AM EST

True, there would have to be limits on spending any money that is collected. Then again, this might fit the good-faith provision, using the Lenny Bruce logic of "If you own more than on suit while someone out there is starving, you're not a real Christian."

Then again, organized religions won't be the primary focus of this plan. It would allow more Pagan priests and priestesses, as well as monks of less popular religions. It would help to add a greater diversity to the religions one encounters in their daily life.


--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
Not that I dislike monasteries, but... (5.00 / 1) (#201)
by Jel on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:17:10 AM EST

Wouldn't an entire monastic planet be a little... well, crap? ;)

Taoist & Zennist monks, for one, would say that when every home is a monastic retreat, then there would be nowhere to retreat to.



[ Parent ]
Depends on how many takers there are... (none / 0) (#222)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 09:43:02 AM EST

I'm sure the amount of people who decide to become religious servants would increase. I don't think everyone would do it. Sure, you would be guarenteed a living, but to give your entire life to that kind of service isn't something just anyone could do.
--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
specific priorities (4.60 / 10) (#185)
by Sleepy In Seattle on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 03:30:49 AM EST

Interesting question to contemplate, though I think it's somewhat incomplete in its current form, because it doesn't specify whether we can spend the trillion dollars idealistically or whether we have to deal with political realities. To take a specific example, I'm not sure that a trillion dollars could buy food for all the Iraqi populace as long as Saddam is still in power. How much of the trillion would you have to spend to replace him with someone, or some system, that might or might not be an improvement? Or from another angle, how much of the money would go to overhead rather than to the actual projects?

Anyway, I'll be optimistic and assume that we can actually spend the trillion dollars more or less directly. Given that, these would probably be my priorities:

  • Safe drinking water. Needed for about one billion people worldwide. Estimated cost: $100 billion.
  • Basic sanitation systems. Needed for about two billion people. Estimated cost: $200 billion.
I'd consider these two to be absolutely fundamental -- without them, spending money on things like education, health care, and so on is a band-aid that only addresses superficial symptoms rather than correcting the underlying maladies. (You're probably not too concerned about learning to read if you're dying of dysentery.) Then:
  • Basic medical care. (Simple stuff like antibiotics, clean syringes, and so on -- I'm not at all talking about comprehensive medical care.) This must include an educational component especially with regard to sexual behavior (both because AIDS transmission is a tremendous problem in developing nations, and because family planning and contraception is critical to averting a population explosion once infant mortality is reduced and life expectancies increase thanks to clean water, sanitation, etc.) Estimated cost: $300 billion over ten years.
  • Basic literacy programs. (Other education would be nice, but reading and writing are the most critical skills -- they're effectively meta-learning skills that enable you to further your education on your own terms.) Estimated cost: $200 billion.
We've spent 80 percent of our allotment now. Where should the last 20 percent go? Food, housing, more education, more comprehensive health care? I don't think those are problems we can or should attempt to solve directly. Instead, we the aim should be giving people the tools to solve those problems (teach a man to fish, etc.). So I would propose this:
  • Fund a program of microlending to help jumpstart local enterprise and trade in developing countries. Along with this, help adapt legal systems and secure individual property rights. Estimated cost: $200 billion.
Note that there's a huge (and totally impractical) assumption underlying all these: That the money spent would actually effect the desired changes. Unfortunately political realities, corruption, official graft, and so on would likely end up diverting lots of these funds into the pockets of people who don't really need them. In other words, we'd need to fix the broken systems before we pumped more money into them.

Iraq (none / 0) (#291)
by Gully Foyle on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 07:09:45 AM EST

"To take a specific example, I'm not sure that a trillion dollars could buy food for all the Iraqi populace as long as Saddam is still in power. How much of the trillion would you have to spend to replace him with someone, or some system, that might or might not be an improvement?"

Assuming you manage an improvement, so the US/UN lifts its sanctions, and less of Iraq's, now increased, wealth is being spent on the military; how much of the $10^12 would you actually need to spend on food?

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Would I be allowed to hire hitmen? (3.60 / 5) (#188)
by nyxxxx on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:06:09 AM EST

If I wanted to make the world a better place by killing a few people would that be allowed?

sure, why not (none / 0) (#227)
by HCase on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:22:57 AM EST

hey, no rules were given. you can spend it any way you please.

[ Parent ]
Outsmart ourselves ;) (2.66 / 6) (#203)
by Jel on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:35:33 AM EST

There are tons of sciences and technologies we could develop if we work real hard at it. Some might have far-reaching implications.

Personally, though, I like to think bigger. In the "meta" sense of bigger. There are two ways to greatly enhance all of our future progress.

One, the most practical, is to encourage sharing of information & general social communication. That way, people can develop ideas together. Only when everyone can find the information and support necessary to develop their ideas will ideas truly begin to develop.

It has been said that the Internet's power is connecting minds in infinite combinations to make something greater, just as minds are the sum of billions of interconnected neurons.

The other method, admittedly a lot less realistic right now, is to simply pour all of our resources into AI. Develop an algorithm for unlimited understanding (ie, where IQ is limited by swap space =). That way, we can outsmart ourselves... make a system that can figure out all the issues we can't.



It's ironic... (3.60 / 5) (#204)
by ImgZen on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:09:26 AM EST

because money ( money concentrated in the hands of a few) is one of the reasons
why this world isn't "a better place".

"In the end, everything is a gag." -- Chaplin
That is a powerful meme (none / 0) (#237)
by acronos on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:37:39 AM EST

That is a powerful meme, but it is wrong. Many people believe money is evil because they do not understand it. If they understood it then they would realize that money is not the issue.

Money is NOT the root of all evil. Money is a tool. It is a lever, a hammer, or a bulldozer. If there is any evil then it is in people. And, that evil exists so long as people exist.



[ Parent ]
Yes, and ... (4.00 / 1) (#244)
by Kalani on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:51:59 PM EST

... the government is a filter on the great big economic feedback loop of our nation. That trillion dollars comes from the people, and it eventually goes back to the people (in ways that are predictable from the structure of that filter).

Even the ridiculously wealthy are filters for cash. They don't usually have the bulk of their wealth in banks or in hard cash, they have it in investments that essentially represent autonomous agencies of people working on some set of tasks or another.

Besides, there really is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to spending money on yourself. There's a Richard Pryor movie that demonstrates all of that.

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Easy Answer, Education (3.71 / 7) (#205)
by Quixato on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:10:17 AM EST

I'm going to have to agree that Education is probably the best way to spend the money. I'm not really sure about the details of spending it, what the costs would be, how many people could be educated, but that's really beside the point. As a hypothetical argument, it really doesn't matter how much. But the question is, why education? Simple. It's cliche, but knowledge is power; education for the masses in developing countries is power in the hands of the masses. Power for them to fix the problems in their own countries. Power for them to choose the right governments, and power for them to choose what's right for themselves.

Every other solution is a band-aid, a handout. It does not empower. If the people of developing countries had the same amount of education seen in our excessive lifestyles, everybody would theoretically be on equal ground. Imagine the pride in a country, previously forced to accept charitable donations from rich countries, but now able to fix the problems of their country on their own, be they political, envirnmental, capitalistic, whatever. Education is freedom from the pity of developed nations.

Bleh.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r

money doesnt solve anything. example: USA (4.66 / 6) (#209)
by turmeric on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:41:08 AM EST

the USA already has a trillion dollars and has tried to use it to 'improve the world'. not a whole lot of fucking good it did.

oh yeah, so did the USSR.

when you start trying to promote 'good things' with money, you just get a bunch of scam artists. people do 'good things' because they have an inner motivation to do so and there are not any assholes trying to stop them. but why would an asshole stop a good person from doing something good? why to make sure the asshole got his 'piece of the pie' so he could keep living in a nice house and buying expensive toys. what 'piece of pie' would he be getting? probably part of your 'trillion dollars'.

sure money is fine, money can help some people, but the real problem is that you need someone who gives a shit to actually do something positive with the money. and then deciding who is 'good' and 'bad' for getting the money turns you into some kind of disgusting bureaucratic ethics judge, or if you are pro-active, into some kind of dictator. oh, btw, thats how every evil bastard in the world starts out, trying to 'improve things'.

So, if you really want to help people, take the money, and burn it.

The lesson? (3.66 / 3) (#243)
by Kalani on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 12:42:16 PM EST

When faced with an extremely difficult problem, run away and cry like a baby!

OK I'm just joking, but this question of where to put a trillion dollars is provoking some rather specific answers. Consider it to be an investment problem. Diversify your investments and make sure that each set of investments in a particular area is picked by a team of experts in that area. That's the only practical way to minimize risk and maximize return. Obviously you'll lose a bit here and there, but if your research terms aren't corrupt you'll make long strides in the long run.

I don't know of any difficult problems that have been solved by giving up on them. :)

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Now, my serious answer - a crash space program (4.00 / 8) (#219)
by pyramid termite on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 08:16:28 AM EST

We need to colonize space. Period. One planet is not going to be enough for all of us and as long as we stay on one planet we run the risk of having our culture, our civilization and even our species exterminated. If we don't do it to ourselves by nuking each other or screwing up the planet, there's always a nice friendly neighborhood asteroid waiting to do the same thing to our Earth what the last asteroid did to the dinosaur's Earth.

I wouldn't bother with Mars. Put the research where it's going to make the biggest difference - portable, self-supporting (with some asteroid mining), space habitats. There would be room for millions of these in our solar system alone. All Mars will do for us is give us a few more billion people's worth of living space. That's not enough.

By the time we've filled up the solar system out to the Oort Cloud, it's likely we'll have figured out how to live in interstellar space. Once that's done, we'll spead ourselves throughout the galaxy. Forget about planets - we'll create habitats we can live in, or recreate ourselves so we can live in space habitats - or both.

The gross national product of the world was 43.6 trillion dollars in 2000.

A mere trillion is not enough. I want 2 trillion. A year. Until it's done. The benefits and increases from this will be literally beyond our ability to comprehend them.

What the hell is wrong with us as a species that we haven't gotten our shit together and started this yet?
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Space colonization needs strong basic S&T. (4.50 / 2) (#220)
by claudius on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 09:01:36 AM EST

We don't know enough about the space environment for humans to jump straight to space colonization--too many basic science and technology questions need to be answered for such an endeavor to have a reasonable chance of success. We still have not addressed the litany of problems that plague humans exposed to low-gravity conditions for long periods of time. We have not measured, in any satisfactory way, the exposure to radiation that an astronomer outside Earth's magnetosphere would receive--what good is a mission to a near-Earth asteroid if the astronauts are dead when they get there? We still have not managed to create the kind of robust, closed, self-sustaining biosphere needed to support humans off the planet for long periods of time. We still have no economic launch capability--O(10^3 U.S. dollars/kilo) launches just won't cut it for the ambitious missions you are talking about.

If getting off the planet is to be our eventual goal, and don't get me wrong--it is a very laudable goal, then the wiser investment is in the basic science that underpins such a mission. To send humans, you should first send robots. Loft expendable hunks of metal and plastic up into the sky before we send our fragile, organic selves. Let them crash and burn and, most importantly, collect data so that we ourselves do not crash and burn. Get the risk and the cost of the program down to levels where we don't collectively hold our breaths at every launch and question the wisdom of the investment at every funding cycle. Then, when a clear direction has been revealed to us by our efforts, we shall accomplish what you are proposing.

[ Parent ]

Space elevator! (5.00 / 2) (#225)
by dennis on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:10:40 AM EST

According to a recent NASA study, if we fund the right basic research for the next ten years we should be able to build a space elevator for about $40 billion, and additional ones for $15 billion apiece. So that's where I'd start, along with an offer to Congress to fund a couple extra aircraft-carrier groups to protect the things. As a backup I'd fund some of the other ideas, like laser launchers.

Once you have really cheap access to space, everything changes. You don't need $2 trillion a year; you'll very quickly start developing income based on the resources in space.

$40 billion initial expense leaves enough room to allow for pretty large cost overruns (if you've got a trillion), plus research into closed-cycle ecosystems, deep-space propulsion, etc. The focus should be on bootstrapping a sustainable, growing, profitable space economy. Then you can solve all sorts of problems.

In the meantime, though, I'd probably put some of it to work on fixing third-world health issues - something similar to what Gates is doing. And I'd fund some anti-aging research, to improve my chance of seeing the long-term results of all this.

[ Parent ]

Apollo program... (3.66 / 3) (#238)
by Ward57 on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:43:04 AM EST

Was 4% of the US's Gross National Product. During this, the US economy shrank (I don't know the figure's. I believe it grew one year in eight or something). Two hundred billion (which is far more than the total world space budget so far - at least twenty times as much) would be sufficient to develop large scale, live-in-space industries. Tim

[ Parent ]
I would... (3.00 / 3) (#221)
by darthaggie on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 09:04:11 AM EST

...get laid, early and often.

Hey that makes my world a better place. Oh, now all of a sudden this is about you? greedy bastard.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.

Simple (2.25 / 4) (#226)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 10:17:44 AM EST

To make the world a better place with 1 trillion USD I would wage war.

My bodyweight is muscle and cock MMM
Tenured K5 uberdouchebag Herr mirleid
Meatgazer Frau gr3y


Build roads, rail, ships. Ships above all. (3.50 / 2) (#235)
by Ward57 on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:33:49 AM EST

Firstly, I do belive in free, clean, drinking water for all the worlds citizens. Any plan whose prime aim is to to good in the world should lat least ook at that.

Build a comprehensive transport system across the globe, linking every major city on the globe to every other city on the same landmass. As such, it should be possible to take a train from London to Paris to Moscow to Dehli to Peking to Pretoria. Or possibly to drive. I suspect that free at the point of use could be very significant. Certainly, I would expect a South African to be able to either drive or take the train from Pretoria to Paris to attend university there. Or, for that matter, to do 'A' levels in England.

I would also expect that most companies would have something to gain from being able to expand into the next city as easily as the previous one. To cover all of Europe, Asia and Africa, one city at a time. Note : clearly, I am advocating this on both major landmasses (EuropeAsiaAfrica and the Americas).

I claim this makes the world a better place because :

1) Estimates of the cost of providing clean drinking water to every person on earth are way off. The famous one (which puts is at 40-50 billion USD) only takes the cost of buying the hardware (water filtration etc) into account. It takes no account of the cost of transportation, let alone trying to maintain these things in a mostly hostile environment).

2) This would considerably increase world trade - imagine rail lines crisscrossing africa - easier delivery of goods to the coastal ports, quite reasonably large scale trade up from africa into europe (Or, preferably via ship, which is the most efficient).

3) Any individual can reasonably pass from one country to another, by road (on the cheap), if necesary. All that would be needed is a car (or maybee even a bike).

4) Service stations. Pretty nearly all of the biggest cities in the world have harbours. One of the best places a city can be is on the meeting of a trade route.

5) Facilitates exchange of ideas - meeting person to person is far more usefull than email, or even the up-and-coming video conferencing.

6) I would say that the groupings with the most to gain from this are africa, europe and ex-USSR states, and to a lesser extent, China and India. Actually, however, they all stand to gain a great deal from this.

7) Finally, to an african, it is no longer a change of country and lifestyle to come and study in europe for a degree, it's just a long way from home.

and (3.00 / 1) (#236)
by Ward57 on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:35:34 AM EST

Couple more.

leaders who understand economics.
Ships and harbours.

[ Parent ]
Simple. (2.50 / 4) (#240)
by beergut on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 11:51:33 AM EST

Dismantle the U.S. government back to its Constitutional functions. This will have the effect of promoting world peace.

Use about 20% of it to protect my country and do the things the Constitution sets forth as proper functions of the government, and give the rest back to the U.S. taxpayers.

The resulting boom in economic prosperity would serve as a shining beacon of hope to the rest of the world's citizens who are struggling under the jackboot of Socialist dogma.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable

Feeding the trolls (none / 0) (#288)
by scruffyMark on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 04:51:08 AM EST

Dismantle the U.S. government back to its Constitutional functions. This will have the effect of promoting world peace.

I buy that alright, OK, but

The resulting boom in economic prosperity would serve as a shining beacon of hope to the rest of the world's citizens who are struggling under the jackboot of Socialist dogma.

What? Have you ever been to a country that's a social democracy? Say, just about any Western European nation? Only people in jackboots there are the right-wing nutters. In fact, in terms of things that matter (ie. health, education, real happiness, what have you) those countries are doing a heck of a lot better than the US. Hell, even in Canada life is better, and we're dealing with a US puppet government that just hasn't quite gotten around to dismantling the last vestiges of Canadian socialism just yet - things are deteriorating at roughly the rate that socialism is going away, I wonder why...

Consider Cuba. Can you imagine an impoverished country holding out for - what has it been? - fourty years under crushing US embargoes? A capitalist country would have collapsed after ten years of that, tops - to maintain their elite status, the elites would have had to concentrate the nation's dwindling wealth to such an extent, the poor would have had no choice but to rise and overthrow the government. And yet Cuba still has pretty much the highest life expectancy, literacy rates, access to health care, etc. etc. etc. in all Latin America. A capitalist system would require an ultra-rich country to achieve that real standard of living, while a socialist one can do it in a merely better-than-third-world country. Imagine that.

[ Parent ]

Yeah, and... (none / 0) (#308)
by trhurler on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 03:44:34 PM EST

All they have to do to get that "opulence" is put up with crushing poverty, routine seizures of any private accumulation whatsoever, dissidents "disappearing," life at the whims of a tin hat dictator, and so on. What a great deal!

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You know what I would do? (3.33 / 3) (#253)
by Hopfrog on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 03:45:27 PM EST

I would hire the worlds best economists, take a third world country and transform it to a second world country. I'd bribe the current government out of power, install a new Government, and make myself the man in the background.

I would then promote nationalism, at the same time helping out other third world countries, and indebt them to me, in effect buy away their debts from the 1st world countries. They wouldn't have to pay back the debts for the next 10 years.

I'd form a union with these other third world countries, and make sure that their trade benefits my country mostly, if neccesary, by bribing the current leaders. When I've got enough countries in the continent on my side to form an economic threat to other third world countries in the region, I'd either economically or ideologically muscle them into entering my union. (All the while, I'd make sure that my country was making money, so I'd be making more money in addition to my original sum.)

I'd promote stability in these other countries by bribing rebel and government rulers out of power. When I have a stable union, I'd form a partnership with poor countries in the other 2 third world continents. I'd sell them my products, in exchange for them selling me their products. Because we are all third world, the prices will be reasonably low.

When I have a stable union, and a working partnership, I'd start extensive research programs, mostly to introduce technological advances to the country. Because I would be encroaching on traditional first world turf here, I'd start using my union and partnership to muscle the first world countries. The first world countries would be forced to open up their agricultural markets as well as cede all simple proccessing tasks - like textile weaving - over to my union, or else they lose the raw materials to produce these goods.

By now, a lot more money will be flowing into the union countries, and I will start collecting the debts, which would have accumulated massively. The union countries would be better able to afford it though.
I'd then demiliterize the union as far as I can, and proceed to erode the tradditional government forms, and replace them with a council and region administrator type of governance.
I'd lobby in the background to make myself president of the union for the first term. After that term, I'd step down and retire to some small Island, and wait for them to print money notes with my face on the front.

Hop.

The CIA would assasinate you first... (4.50 / 2) (#266)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:11:26 PM EST

Okay, maybe not, but it wouldn't suprise me.


--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The Parent ]
Easy: universal school lunch program (4.25 / 4) (#254)
by orb on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:24:09 PM EST

A school lunch for the world's children would provide the incentive to get all the world's children into school. Then just sit back and wait 20 years.

You may not like the politics of the people who are advocating it, but it sure worked wonders in the US, it should be just as helpful in the rest of the world.

I would be king (2.00 / 7) (#256)
by theboz on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:40:28 PM EST

I would develop an airborne virus that would instantly kill men, and women that weighed over 200 pounds (that's pretty generous I think.) I would also have to be sure to develop a way to innoculate against it, and give this to my friends and family, then unleash the virus on Earth.

This might not make the world a better place for all the people that I don't know, but it would make it more pleasant to me.

Stuff.

Amen (none / 0) (#326)
by JChen on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 09:55:16 PM EST

Word up, my good brother. Let us rejoice now for the creation of our future sons and daughters.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
A million dollars to a million startups (3.00 / 6) (#257)
by ghjm on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 04:46:52 PM EST

Step 1. Purchase a 180-day certificate of deposit with a 2.5% six-month return, in the amount of $300 billion. This will require an extremely large bank or perhaps a syndicate of many of the world's largest banks.

Step 2. While Step 1 is ongoing, develop a set of guidelines for evaluating the fundamental sanity, solvency and potential of a startup business, with attention paid to avoiding cultural or industry bias as much as feasible. The goal is for an investment selection to require one week of research and decision-making, with a 25% acceptance rate. Preference is to be given to businesses which seek to improve the human condition in some reasonably sensible manner.

Step 3. Cash in the CD. We now have $1,007,500,000,000 in cash and short-term holdings (the article does not specify the manner in which the trillion dollars will be provided).

Step 3. Hire approximately 75,000 investment advisors & consultants, for a fixed one-year contract term. This workforce should represent an extensive cross-section of nationalities, religions and ethnicities. This activity will have a budget of $7.5 billion (I am assuming that the burdedned cost, including payroll tax, benefits, etc. of an investment adviser is, on average, $100,000, and that supervisors are required to select their own investments in addition to managing their staff).

Step 4. Using the remaining $1 trillion, select one million businesses and invest one million dollars in each of them.

-Graham


What an economist would do with a trillion dollars (4.50 / 2) (#261)
by bankind on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 05:49:25 PM EST

I don't understand how the people on this post all feel the urge to create huge bureaucracies with the money. The major problem of spending a trillion dollars anywhere would be that it would increase production without creating efficiency (applicable to any service industry as well). If we acknowledge efficiency as a result of the political and social "betterment" (such as pluralism and education), efficiency through the application of the money the best way to create a "better" world. Ideally the best way to utilize the funding would be to attack the exchange rates of countries that you wished to make "better." A trillion is significant to put the FED on the ropes and make Bush your dog. For example, merely suggesting a downward position on the dollar with the trillion dollars would be coupled by overshooting by expectations (See Dornbusch 1976). This would cause imports to increase and the society shift into exports (which is hard to do for a service economy like the US). With such a tight grip around Greenspan's neck, it would be very easy to subvert politics into the direction of your choosing. The entire business community would then rally around whatever political reforms you had. Now if you could do this to the US, you could do it to anyone (except those with strong capital controls, such as: China, Malaysia, and Vietnam). But what you could do is set up industries that could eliminate these generally export oriented economies' comparative advantages. Causing the same decrease in growth that you would cause from devaluation, but it would take more time. A trillion dollars is extremely powerful in the global capital markets and it is also where the inefficiencies associated with creating a bureaucracy would be eliminated. Without ever spending a dime, you could hold the world's economies at ransom, basically forcing them to enact policies of your discretion. The rampant destruction you could cause to national industries would lead to social pressure that few countries have the stomach to handle--and those that are willing to use the political power of a gun don't have the political legitimacy. But this is the easy solution, more or less destroy and start from scratch. Such a reform would then have the affect of negating existing efficiencies. The more difficult path would be to use the money to simply convert existing regimes. For example, making some nice concessionary arrangements, you could easily subvert the entire of East Asia through Japan. Or force dollarization (or Euro-ization) across the globe--which would make the world a better place, even if it pissed some people off. My simple point is that the money would be best used through threats and gestures rather than actual spending. The entire notion of money is to get people to work for you; a liquid, concentrated trillion dollars would be enough to employ the world.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

testing (3.00 / 2) (#278)
by sampson on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 07:45:07 PM EST

testing

spread bandwidth (1.00 / 1) (#283)
by jparp on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 01:24:09 AM EST

Put a significant portion money into research / development of the Internet infrastructure.

Give high speed bandwidth to everyone in the world, and then let everyone just solve there own problems.

As a figure to shoot for, I say giving everyone giving everyone in the world 10 megs down and one meg up would be a good start.

This might sound hard, but imagine a palm pilot that was powerful enough to play MMORPGs while acting as a wireless router. If everyone had one, Internet infrastructure would be a software problem, rather than hardware.
   
While were at it, lets give everyone 3D goggles that allow people to see Virtual Reality intermixed with the outside world.

Upgrade humanity.

Allot of people here talked about putting the money into education. I say put the money into information, and education will follow.


Monkey (5.00 / 1) (#284)
by froseph on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 01:37:57 AM EST

I would use it pay a monkey to dance for me.

On second thought I might just use it for the poor and needy- all those people starving to death in the war ravaged countries. It makes me sad to think while we have all this food, someone else in the world is starving. Perhaps while I'm at it I will help start up their economies so they can sustain themselves in the future.

in time (1.00 / 1) (#286)
by siculars on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 03:29:21 AM EST

when i have one trillion dollars i will answer this very question. i can tell you this: it will change the world as we know it.

space and recycling research (none / 0) (#289)
by hany on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 05:07:03 AM EST

I would spend such money on:
  1. recycling research
  2. space travel research
By "research" I mean something like "comming out with ideas and putting them into practice".

hany


I would use it (none / 0) (#292)
by refulgence on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 07:42:30 AM EST

to accumulate a huge personal collection of Ayn Rand first editions and memorobilia.


______________________________________________
"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
I'd set priorities - the world needs basics first (3.00 / 2) (#293)
by the original jht on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 09:00:40 AM EST

First off - the world needs cheap, reliable power. I'd build power plants in parts of the world that need them, using appropriate technology for an area (wind, solar, coal, gas, nuclear - probably not oil). People with no power don't need a lot - just enough for lights, refrigeration, and perhaps radio and/or TV. This'll make a big impact to people's lives and provide energy for the next two things on the list:

Item number 2 (and 3): Clean water supplies and adequate sanitation for parts of the world that don't have it. That'll cut back on disease vectors and improve health greatly.

Fourth - Provide basic medical care in places where it's not currently available. A little help goes a long way here, and money I gave out would be well-complimented by other charitable giving.

Fifth - Education. We need to replace the madrasses (I think I spelled it right) and their equivalents in other nations with good, solid, basic secularized education. People don't need to be "fully indoctrinated into the capitalist system" to learn neutral facts about the world, how to read, write, and perform basic math, and be functional citizens of their society. People need to learn enough to thrive within their nation, and they need to learn that the rest of the world is not full of prospective enemies.

With those essentials funded, I think the world will be ultimately be able to take care of itself quite nicely.

Of course, the first three items on the list will cost money to build and money to run - As a society that is serviced improves their standard of living I'd expect to be able to charge enough for the infrastructure to pay for ongoing costs. So the infrastructure needs to be built as economically as possible understanding that the point of break-even operation may be years away.

And finally, I'd keep a million or so for myself to live off of - I'm going to be pretty busy coordinating all this and will not have time for my real job anymore. Hey - a man's gotta eat (and have a vacation house on the Vineyard!)...


- -Josh Turiel
"Someday we'll all look back at this and laugh..."

Not bad... (none / 0) (#298)
by Leadfoot180 on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 10:46:20 AM EST

About your first choice, some clever methods of energy production will be needed before tackling nuclear power (which is a great idea itself) since it takes nearly 10 years to construct and 10 years to demolish aging plants. Half-lives of radiation is a patient process.

Overall though, some nice choices here. Makes a lot of sense. :)

[ Parent ]
Poverty (4.00 / 1) (#296)
by jolly st nick on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 10:40:33 AM EST

I'd have to say that my top priority would be the condition of the poor: their burdern of misery, their ability to develop themselves and to reach their full productive capacity economically. Education is not enough; the poor are trapped in a condition where numerous factors conspire to keep them that way. These need to be attacked in a coordinated way. Health: HIV prevention and treatment has to be a top priority. HIV is now a global leading cause of death. Furthermore HIV has a tremendous potential impact on future development. It strikes people in their prime, removing the remainder of their productive lives from service and leaves orphaned children behind to be reared and educated. The very top priority, then, would be to halt the spread of HIV through massive public education, and to deliver treatment to those infected to reduce mortality. Following HIV, in order of importance: reducing infant and child mortality (to restrain population growth to management levels), general health education, water quality, and control of human exposure to disease vectors. Simple mosquito nets over beds could save many millions of lives per year. Politics/Education: I put these together for two reasons. One, an educated populace has little chance of being able to use their education for advancement if they are living in a society that is run for the benefit of a few oligarchical families (common in third world "capitalist countries") or a religious or party elite. Second, a huge volume of "development" money is really diplomatic payoffs that are siphoned off by corrupt government officials. The second reason I put these together is that I believe the status of women to be fundamental to the efficiency of aid. For whatever reason, when women get aid and the discretion to use it, they, on average, use it more to raise the status of their family. For that reason, I would promote democracy, free press, and the status of women as preconditions (or rather co-conditions) in enabling people to put their education to use in ways that make them productive and self supporting in the world economic system. This would be grants to increase literacy, especially among women, to an support independent and free press. Microenterprise: massive investments will only be siphoned off by corrupt officials, or reinforce the social position of existing oligarchs. However, small grants, on the order of thousands, or even hundreds of dollars may allow individuals to create small businesses to meet the needs of their communities. These enterprises will bring the people resources to support the immediate mateiral and development needs of families (again especially if directed to women). They will foster a culture of self sufficiency that will create and grow a second generation of businesses that will bring foreign exchange and investment into their countries based on economic fundamentals, not diplomatic priorities. Infrastructure: judiciously timed and chosen investments in infrastructure will leverage investments in education and microenterprise. Electricity and water delivery, certainly are immediate necessities. Also the development of communications networks to begin countries to knit their regions together: wireless phone service initially, and eventually the creation of computer/communication networks with low cost public terminals.

Woah! (5.00 / 1) (#338)
by 5s for Everyone on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:25:05 AM EST

Another reason why you should use the "Preview" button before posting.
--
There is Damezumari in the Bamboo Joint
[ Parent ]
Screw MS (3.00 / 1) (#306)
by BushidoCoder on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 02:19:44 PM EST

I'd see what Bill's response to Redhat getting 500 billion in venture capital would be.

Then I would buy an aircraft carrier and use it for a yacht. I'd take off the flight deck and put a large park there with a nice Zen garden.

With whatever I had left, I would buy lots of gold coins, and make a giant vault that I could swim through like Scrooge McDuck. Oh yeah, and I'd eat hamburgers made out of filet minion and truffles every day.

\bc

Distribute evenly (1.00 / 1) (#307)
by bbartlog on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 03:31:20 PM EST

Assuming the problem of distribution could be solved, I'd disburse 990 billion evenly among the poorest 3 billion adults on the planet (that's $330 apiece, likely to be a year's income for many of them). The remainder I'd keep for further, more complex altruistic schemes...

Strategic Purchasing (3.00 / 2) (#310)
by jiuyen on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 06:04:10 PM EST

I really don't think money can change people's behaviors, but it can be very useful in the procurement of strategic resources. Therefore, I would:

1. Purchase and establish processes / organizations to preserve significant tracts of land in environmentally strategic (rainforest, wetlands, etc.) locations. Engage the Nature Conservancy to manage these lands.

2. Purchase the patents for medicines and other health-related products/procedures and release them to the public domain.

3. Purchase and exercise the rights to establish and manage public transportation systems in strategic locations, to be determined by need and the potential to reduce the use of automobiles.

4. Purchase the intellectual property rights of a variety of information technology and manufacturing-related patents and release them into the public domain.

5. Make one-time capital investments in clean energy production in various locations across the globe by establishing wind and solar farms in deserts or other suitable locations. Set up a trust to ensure their ongoing maintenance.

6. Purchase "pollution credits" in those countries, states and cities that issue them. Retire the credits, thereby shrinking the "allowable pollution" market size.

Just some ideas for starters.

Why so many "1" ratings, dipfan? (none / 0) (#336)
by jiuyen on Tue Mar 05, 2002 at 08:44:43 PM EST

I noticed that you (dipfan) rated many comments, including mine, as "1," but you did not reply to any of the comments with an explanation. I was wondering what criteria you had used?

[ Parent ]
To be blunt (1.00 / 1) (#314)
by sexyblonde on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 01:45:24 AM EST

I would help the poorest countries; put money towards finding a cure for cancer, ms, and diabetes. Purchase a ton of computers and donate them to the poorest schools in our country. Pay teachers to go and teach how to use the computers in those poor schools. Donate money to battered women's shelters. Donate money to schools. Teachers should NOT have to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets. Put money towards school activities and fuctions so that kids can afford to play school sports and participate in school functions. You would be surprised how many kids in just my daughter's school who don't participate in school sports/activities because they can't afford it. It's very upsetting and It pisses me off. They are going to Washington D.C. in April. How may kids do you think were able to come up with $1400.00 ? My daughter earned most of her money only because she worked on her grandpa's ice cream truck. She however is NOT going. Personal reasons. Anyways, I would put a lot of money towards our kids. I would build a lot of youth centers, YMCA's around the world to help our kids stay out of trouble and keep a level head. I would focus on our youth and help them to maintain a healthy outlook on life. Remember our kids today will be taking care of us in the future.



Computers (none / 0) (#334)
by /dev/trash on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 09:06:36 PM EST

I think what the world needs less of is such annoyances as computers. With the trillion dollars I'd make the African ( this includes the Middle East) boundries realistic again. Then take care of drought areas. Food and the fear of not sdying before you reach age 10 would do a lot for the world.

---
Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
The real issue? (1.00 / 1) (#318)
by getha on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 05:45:33 AM EST

I'd have to say most of you missed the real issue here. The question should first be asked: WHY is the world not the best place it can be? Why hunger, why child death, why poverty, why all of the rest of the bad things?

The answer is overpopulation. It is the main cause behind most bad things in the world today.

So, what to do with the money? Spend it on halting growth of, and then bringing down (over a period spanning some generations, of course) the number of people that walk this earth.

Not only is that beneficial to the human race, but it'll also alleviate some of the other pressures on this planet.




xchg .,@
jmp emailMe
You would make a good project manager... (1.00 / 1) (#322)
by MKalus on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 04:39:24 PM EST

...

okay enough jokes. I don't think over population IS such a big issue.

The earth could easily support 30 billion people (I think the UN did a study on this a while ago).

The problem is: Where people are living.

You can grow a lot of food in places like North America / Europe, but hardly anything in a desert.

So to make a perfect world (Let's think Popolus for a moment):

Move people out of areas like Africa etc. and bring them to areas where the weather is "mild". Grow food there, do away with wasteful things like SUVs, Meat Production etc. And you could feed the people.

Use Deserts etc. to build powerplants that harvest the sun's energy, and build water tide power plants to gain energy from the tide / moon.

Now having said all that:

This only works in theory, and here is why.

- None of us is God and can just move people in this amount.
- Racism (yes, racism) would prevent things like that.
- Language Barrier.

Just to name the top three one that come up right now.

So what is a real world solution?

Educate the people in the rich countries, make them understand that THEY have the responsiblity for this planet (e.g. DON'T buy an SUV unless you have a valid need for it, DON'T eat excessive amounts of meat, dairy etc.).

Once that has been established you can try to "cultivate" (I use this term loosley here, because IMO some of those "primitives" have more and longer culture than we do) the poor, make sure they have food and can integrate.

This wouldn't be an overnight project, something like this would take generations to work out, and yes, a lot of people would die until then.

Just my 2 cents.

Michael

[ Parent ]
NOT the real issue (1.00 / 1) (#332)
by cybaea on Fri Mar 01, 2002 at 04:46:50 PM EST

So what are you saying? Just nuke China, India, and Brazil, and the world will be a better place?

Overpopulation is not really the issue. There is plenty of food and plenty of medicine.

The issue is distribution of those items, e.g. USA has all the AIDS medicine and will not allow Africa to produce it. Europe has mountains of food, but are they going to ship it to Africa? Are they hell.

[ Parent ]
Only one trillion? (1.00 / 1) (#331)
by bakuretsu on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 03:30:17 PM EST

I don't think one trillion dollars is going to be enough... But, if you insist, I think what would make the world a better place to live in would be one hundred new signups on The Sensorium. At least, it would make me very happy, and I think better when I'm happy.

And if I can think better, than I can come up with a truly innovative and incomprehensibly complex way to spend the trillion dollars on beer and hookers.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004
Make the world a better place. | 338 comments (323 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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