“When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations.”
Frank Herbert

Children of Dune

Practice Reflection – Fall 2016

n

This reflection is long overdue … but my writing motivation is still low and my ability to do so fragile … I hope I can recall some of the subtleties that appeared along the way.

Relationship with Practice

My allergy period this year ended somewhere around mid-July. It lasted slightly less then two months. It was overall easier, but I don’t feel it was due to internal circumstances. I do feel that is mostly due to numerous early frosts that destroyed much of the spring flowers which resulted in less pollen in the air.

I tried, during the allergy period, to stay in touch with practice but it was a futile attempt. With breathing at the heart of practice and my breathing severely compromised practice is difficult to access. Attempting to stay with it formed an additional layer of aggravation due to the instability of practice itself. Letting practice go was a practical decision, not a deeply conscious one.

However at one point I realized that I lost not just the practice but also the wanting to practice. That brought with it a subtle anxiety. One of the things I experienced in the period of practice prior to the allergy period was that the practice was somehow embracing, holding me. I had a very stable period of practice that came with little effort. Now that was gone, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t come back. My fear was “confirmed” when my allergy got slightly better and I tried to get on the mat (maybe too soon) and again met heaviness, friction and instability. Once I WAS able to practice, I, to my surprise and relief, fell quickly back into the embrace of practice.

Breath First

When I resumed practice I resumed the same practice I was doing before the allergy period … and physically it was fine. But when it came to my pranayama, I was exhausted and could not tap into my breathing capacity.

So I started an experiment, that to some extent, is still ongoing. I starting tuning my practice into a more cikitsa version. It took a few days of transformations .. and with every transformation (reduction and softening) in the asana sequence I found a growing space for re-inhabiting my breath. Over a few days the breath developed: just ujjayi breathing allowing the breath to expand, re-introducing holds, resuming pratiloma with less holds and less repeats and within a few days I was back to my full pratiloma practice.

Over the first month of steady practice I got reestablished in the breath and gradually re-introduced modifications that brought me closer to my full asana practice. At that point I started to feel a sense of vitality again. I experienced a feeling of lightness in my practice. I distinctly recall the feeling of coming up from various forward bends with a sense of a strong center and a lighter body … as if I was lifting up less weight … a lighter version of me.

Energy and Core

At least a couple of times during this period where I had a distinct experiences of energy in my core (abdominal area) as a foundation for … well … almost everything I am and do with my body.

A prominent experience was while working on the earthbag cellar. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out (I was in a healing cycle), but the weather was nice and I wanted to give it a try. I attempted to lift something (with some substantial weight, bot not too heavy, and not something I hadn’t lifted many times before) … and it required much more effort than usual.

As I observed this and a some following movements I realized that I felt weak in my center. I wasn’t able to activate my abdominal muscles. I didn’t have a feeling of grounded center from which I could move, extend or leverage. I rely mostly on my center for strength and stability, I am not a very athletic or physically large or strong. With the center gone, I had to rely on my peripheral muscles … and that gets tiring fast. And even though I can get away with it for a while, the quality of movement is lesser … less precise, less reliable, less stable, less enjoyable. Within a couple of minutes I realized, acknowledged and communicated that I was not up for working.

The initial experience of lack of core energy became a fascinating reference point for experiencing its recovery. I could witness, almost every day, a slight improvement. It is in everything … in standing and walking … in a sense of stability … vitality. I witnessed life and strength return to my abdominal area. The change was so drastic that it was clearly not a biological change. I don’t think it was (is)possible for me lose or gain muscle mass or flexibility in such a short period of time. It felt much more like an energetic shift.

It was refreshing and empowering to go back out after a few days and feel … centered and vital again. Losing it was an invaluable experience to appreciating it.

Life Again (… and again)

I have taken up this post after another few weeks of delay since I wrote the initial part … and that is the essence of “life again”. This has not been a period of “life throws things at me” but rather me inviting things into my life. The overall experience has been a sense of depletion. But not deep depletion. Rather cycles of depletion during which I take something in and incorporating it, digesting it, consumes enough of my energy to leave me in a disturbed state. A state I felt a need to recover from … sometimes with clear physical signs of illness, sometimes with only subtle physical signs, sometimes with an emotional fuzziness … in all cases reduced clarity.

I am now exiting a period of sickness . Together with the intensive 5 day event (Nyeleni) which I attended, that may become another three week period without on-the-mat practice. Though my energy may support a soft practice, my breathing (blocked, broken and limited) does not leave me space for an engaging practice. Attempting to practice in this way creates more friction then flow.

I am also heading (hopefully!) into a period with few distractions. I feel a turning inwards as winter sets in. Starting to settle into a raily routine with more time indoors, regular lighting and feeding of the stoves. I am looking forward to reconnecting with a regular and inward moving practice.

 

 

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Sinkholes: The Groundbreaking Truth

n

Something is happening to the ground beneath our feet:

… and I wonder … how does a major shift effect in electrcomagnetic fields effect our physical body, our consciousness? … and is there an effect in the opposite direction … can our state of being effect the sun’s activity?

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some words on philosophy

n

this excerpt felt more promising when I started reading the article, but I found no satisfaction … except for the trigger point … I feel that, though we may collectively feel we know what’s going on, that it is now how I feel … I feel that we are in an era in which everything is up for grabs … money, law, country, science, society, relationship … there is a more comprehensible list somewhere inside me but I don’t feel like formulating it.

I was also amused by how “scientists struggle to understand how consciousness arises from matter” … that question is valid in a world where matter does not have consciousness … if you change that assumption the question goes away 🙂

Eras in which everything is up for grabs are very rare, and they seem to be highly productive for philosophy. As Gottlieb points out, much of the Western philosophy that still matters to us is the product of just two such eras: Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries A.D.

It is hard for us to comprehend how totally Western consciousness was transformed during the second of these two periods, precisely because we live in its aftermath. In just a few generations preceding it, every fixed point that had oriented the world for thousands of years began to wobble. The discovery of America destroyed established geography, the Reformation destroyed the established Church, and astronomy destroyed the established cosmos. Everything that educated people believed about reality turned out to be an error or, worse, a lie. It’s impossible to imagine what, if anything, could produce a comparable effect on us today. Even the discovery of alien life in the universe wouldn’t do it, since we have long learned to expect such a discovery, whereas medieval Europeans could never have anticipated the existence of America, or of electricity.

Philosophers are people who, for some reason—Plato called it the sense of wonder—feel compelled to make the obvious strange. When they try to communicate that basic, pervasive strangeness or wonder to other people, they usually find that the other people don’t like it. Sometimes, as with Socrates, they like it so little that they put the philosopher to death. More often, however, they just ignore him.

Even today, cognitive scientists struggle to understand how consciousness arises from matter, though few doubt that it does.

… One of the most popular names for the unexplainable is God: God is how we answer questions about creation and purpose that we can’t answer in any other way. Certainly, both Descartes and Leibniz relied on God to balance the equation of the universe. Without him, they believed, the world did not make sense. The philosophers’ God was not necessarily identical to the God of Christianity, but he had some reassuringly familiar attributes, such as beneficence and providential oversight of the world.

… Spinoza made God so crucial to the world that the distinction between the two collapsed. There could not be two substances in the universe, Spinoza argued, one physical and the other divine, since this involved a logical contradiction. If God and Nature were distinct, then it must be the case that Nature had some qualities that God lacked, and the idea of a supreme being lacking anything was incoherent. It follows that God and Nature are just two names for the same thing, the Being that comprises everything that ever existed or ever will exist.

source

 

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Soylent customers keep getting sick

n

sigh …

“Liquid meal maker Soylent is stopping sales of its flagship powder, warning that a handful of customers reported stomach sickness after consuming it … customer complaints of diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomachs.

Backed by more than $20 million in venture capital, Soylent has emerged as one of several popular start-ups hoping to change what and how people eat. Meant to be mixed with water or other liquids, the powder has enough fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients to replace a traditional meal, according to the company. People looking for a quick fix, such as software programmers in Silicon Valley, have become devotees.

Soylent urged customers discomforted by version 1.6 of its powder to toss it.”

source

 

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What does it mean to be a peasant in Romania?

n

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Economy for the Common Good

n

Economy for the Common Good … being applued in companies, universities, municipalities … using familiar tools of measuring and accounting but applying them to different indicators and goals that are directly (instead of indirect indicators such as GDP) related to well being:

“GDP is not valued in itself but because it is associated with positive values such as jobs or the fulfilment of basic needs. Upon closer inspection, however, in no single instance is the relationship between rising GDP and the achievement of social goals and values assured. That’s why we propose that social goals should be defined and their achievement measured directly – instead of using the uncertain and unwieldy detour of GDP. The mere fact that a science so very bent on efficiency does not measure the achievement of goals directly but instead proceeds via the detour of monetary indicators, i.e. extreme inefficiency, shows that it is more of a faith community than a serious discipline.”

source

 

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Ikigai: A Reason for Being (Purpose)

n

The concept of Ikigai:

ikigai

I don’t feel that I’ve been able to live in this convergence. I would also want to see another dimension in it … one that relates to happiness and well-being since I believe it is possible to live in this convergence with negative outcomes and personal sacrifice in well-being and happiness.

I came across Ikigai in this OK, but tedious and not as convincing as I wanted it to be, presentation from Michel Bauwens:

What disappointed me in the Bauwens presentation was that is felt academic and theoretical (which I’ve come to expect from Bauwens) and offered nothing actionable.

The first question that was given to him by the host (Yohai Benkler – which feels like a name I should recognize but don’t) was good but in my opinion faulty. It assumed (and was not challenged) that because past transitions involved war and bloodshed, that the coming / current value transition would also require wars … and asked where those wars would be. The question forced Bauwens into a kind of theoretical prophecy that led to a very high-worded academic but, in my heart, empty response.

The question of violence also touched on the issue of feminine and masculine dominance (which I felt was wrongly framed as men & women) which came up in the presentation and in a followup question.What if these two issues are related. Could it be that if we had more feminine guidance that we could approach transition with softness instead of harshness? Could it be that that transition is already in the making?

During numerous points in the presentation I felt that Alexander’s unfolding wholeness is a key dimension that was missing from it. Unfolding wholeness, in a way, pulls the rug out from the assumption that there is going to be a definitive transition (or that there ever was one). Instead it postulates that we will witness a continuous and gradual development and change (which is hinted at in the presentation). What if we experience “wars” when we resist this kind of natural development and instead try to push systems (natural and human) into forced, mechanistic and usually destructive change that is better aligned with a dominant (and dominating), male and controlling attitude?

Maybe in a more balanced masculine/feminine world Ikigai is a valid diagram. In the male dominates world we live in, it needs a definitive feminine dimension to be complete.

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Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See

n

Visual inspiration

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Yoga: Tuning & Change On and Off the Mat

n

A recent conversation with Annelieke left me reflecting on the relationship between Yoga on-the-mat and  Yoga off-the-mat. How do life choices off-the-mat resonate with on-the-mat practice to form a continuous tapestry of change?

I was surprised to recall a device I learned about many years ago in high-school when I was studying electronics (surprised because electronics has not been a part of my life except for school). The device is called a phase-locked-loop and was used in FM radios.

fmradio

For those who remember doing this 🙂 … when you wanted to tune into a radio station, say 88FM, you would move a dial and as the indicator neared 88FM the signal would improve. If you shot past it, the signal would fade. There was a sweet spot where the sound came out clearest. What most people don’t know is that there is a finer process of tuning taking place behind the scenes. The dial and indicator are no-where near precise enough to select the actual frequency in which the radio station is broadcasting. The dial only allow you to come close enough for the phase-locked-loop device to kick in and do some automated tuning that locks onto the specific frequency (which is most likely not exactly 88MHZ but a frequency very close to it).

My experience has been that relatively little change takes place on-the-mat. There are fleeting moments of noticeable change, but they are the exceptions to the rule. Most of the time, practice on-the-mat is a repetition. Change is mostly subtle. Change I experience on the mat is like the phase-lock-loop mechanism – subtle tuning improvements to my current channel. It allows me to hear more clearly what the melody of my life is like on this channel.

What about changing channels? Practice on-the-mat does not do that. Changing channels is life changes …  diet, life-style, living conditions, relationships … the practices of yama and niyama. The practice on-the-mat does offer, every time I care to look, a mirror .. an opportunity to see where I am, what my life is like, how I feel. Practice on the mat can help me to refine my listening, to witness better, with more subtlety, with more discernment. But sometimes my conclusion is that I want to change something in my life … I want a different melody … a better melody … I want to change channel.

This also seems to fit with my reflection on the relationship of refinement of ashtanga (the eight-limbs) of Yoga. Pranayama sheds light on the qualities of Asana practices. Asana practices shed light on how I perceive and relate to myself (Niyama). How I relate to myself sheds light on how I perceive the world around me (yama).

A superficial glimpse of Yoga may leave an impression (or carry an expectation) that Yoga is what happens on-the-mat. That logic then begs a question: how does practice on-the-mat effect life off-the-mat? What if that question is inverted? When I get on the mat my entire life comes on with me … every time. There is nothing I can do to prevent it. That logic then begs a different question: how does life meet my practice on the mat?  I do not come to the mat to change. I come to the mat to see where I am and what I see. Discoveries on the mat inform me in making changes in my life.

My ability to see myself with more clarity DOES change on the mat is. That change comes from a long term, continuous, stable, deepening, caring and inspired practice. But ultimately, to experience substantial change, I must take my discoveries on the mat to my life off the mat … and there, I have found, is a life’s worth of demanding practice and potentially unrelenting change.

Getting on the mat opens a door. Change is what awaits me when I walk through that door … and if I don’t … well …

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Media Literacy

n

Another very good episode of Team Human. This time about media literacy … how to bring into our collective awareness that when we use digital platforms (both as consumers and creators of content) we are acting in a space that has been created and shaped by others. Others have made choices (conscious and less conscious) that effect what we can or cannot do and how we do it and how we perceive what it is we are doing … and these choices not only shape our consciousness but are amplified by it as we engage these platforms in communicating with others … and how true this is not only in our digital world but also in our physical and built world.

What happens when people are awoken to the existence of an underlying program and to the realization that they can be active participants (instead of submissive players) in its creation?

 

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To love is to give a space to grow

n

This movie had an interesting quality to it. I didn’t find it particularly moving, nor complete … yet underlying currents in it touched me. Maybe that speaks to Zazen 🙂

“To love is to give a space to grow”

source

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Trust Disrupted: Bitcoin and the Blockchain

n

A good overview of some of the fascinating issues that the bitcoin and blockchain spaces are experiencing. An underlying assumption in this field, that is not explicitly mentioned, is that technology and mathematics can be used to generate trust where people (for different reasons) cannot. That is one of the main reasons I am a disbeliever in bitcoin (and to a lesser degree blockchain) – these are technologies that systemically create disconnection and remove the need for trust to form. I look forward to technologies that can help us form real relationships and real trust amongst humans on a scale we have yet to experience.

This is the first of 6 videos (as I write these words):

 

 

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Better Companies: Equal Footing

n

So much information reaches me about what a mess we humans are making of this world … so it is uplifting to see a movie like this about companies that operate so differently from the companies I encountered in my career and life. These are established, producing, competitive companies who demonstrate that the well being and development of employees is directly tied to the well being and development of the business. As I was watching this, I wondered, what would my life trajectory have looked like had I encountered a work-place that recognized me, treasured my skills and created a culture and environment that enabled me to develop and grow, not just as an individual, but as part of a team.

AUGENHÖHE OV with English subtitles from AUGENHÖHEworks on Vimeo.

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Putting your house in order

n

“Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”

Leonard Cohen

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We are getting exhausted at maintaining an ugly world

n

It’s been a while since I’ve heard Charles Eisenstein talking … in The Fertile Ground of Bewilderment it feels like a fresh wave of crystallization is passing through him:

“… the core is changing … interbeing is the truth. We can only surpress it at great and growing effort, until we become exhausted. It’s like a parking lot covered in cement … if you don’t constantly maintain it in a state of ugliness then beauty will errupt. Dandelions will come up, it will crack and in fifty years it will be beautiful. And we are getting exhausted now at maintaining an ugly world.”

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Hotair Ballooning

n

Iulia and I joined her sister (and a couple of her friends) to visit a hot-air balloon festival which takes place regularly this year not too far from us (~2 hour drive). Fortunately (because we did not register in advance and because morning flights were cancelled due to climate conditions) we were able to get places on a balloon.

A couple of test balloons (party sized, not people sized) were released by the event organizer and it was decided that we could not take off from the festival grounds because winds would have carries us into forest areas where there is no place to land … so we got into cars and drove out ~8km … where we stopped in a field, and another test balloon was launched … and it was decided that this location wasn’t good either … we drove back a bit to  another location … apparently this a routines part of hot-air ballooning.

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In the next field the 3 balloon teams started unpacking20160923_175139

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and doing some  navigation planning

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then out came fans which started to blow air into the balloons20160923_180509

I was too preoccupied taking pictures to help but Iulia wasn’t …

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Finally, when there was enough air in it was time to activate those powerful burners

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… and pretty soon the balloon was upright and we were inside it

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… one balloon took of before us 20160923_181922

… then another balloon took of 20160923_182027

… and finally we were going up

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… and the ground quickly started moving away

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and we got a whole new perspective of the area we were in20160923_182637

We were a group of 3 balloons in radio contact. If I understood correctly navigating a balloon is done by changing altitude. Wind strength and direction is different at different altitudes. In choosing the balloon’s altitude the captain is actually choosing what winds will be carrying the balloon. Sometimes we were up and and sometimes down. Sometimes we couldn’t easily tell if a neighboring balloon was coming down or we were going up

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The flight was short 20-30 minutes … a small tree (behind the balloon in the picture below) got in the way or our landing … and the spot we were in wasn’t really accessible by car … so when the driver finally arrived (found us) the team started moving the balloon down the hill … the captain was gently adding heat and the other two were dragging the balloon towards the car …

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until the two were oneo again and the balloon started coming down20160923_185800

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… and if like we were, you too are wondering how that thing is deflated … you can gradually folded it from the basket end … but our team had what looked like a massive twisted exhaust pipe which did the trick … though is not as easy to use as one would think it is … looked like tough work20160923_190712

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and then the balloon was repacked … and that was ALMOST the end of that 20160923_191126

because the team that was flying Iulia’s sister had an even less fortunate landing that involved an oak tree that wouldn’t give … and way up the hill where their car couldnt’ reach either … so it had to be started up again and as with our balloon had to be carried a much longer way down the hill where it too was folded and packed … here it is being fired up again20160923_193308

so we arrived back at the festival grounds late and hungry … but with a sweet experience of flying in a hot-air balloon 🙂

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Basecamp Company Spinoff

n

A beautiful example that business CAN be made simple and sweet:

“But first, there are a million ways to spin-off a company. And most of them are fucking complicated. Complicated stuff is anathema to us at Basecamp, so anything messy, extensively lawyer-y, protracted, knotty, or otherwise elaborate was off the table. So what was simple?

… So we decided to give Claire half of it. We’d own 50%, she’d own 50%. Her 50% wouldn’t cost her anything.

We wanted her, she was up for the challenge, and the money that she would have to normally come up with to buy-in wasn’t an amount that mattered enough to us to put any hurdles in the way of making it happen. Plus, we didn’t have to mess around with silly valuations either. Why complicate things?

We’d maintain that 50/50 partnership until she generated $1,000,000 in new sales. It could take 3 weeks, it could take 3 months, it could take 3 years. The $1,000,000 was cumulative — she’d hit it whenever she hit it. And when she did, we’d flip the partnership in her favor. She’d now own 75%, and we’d own 25%. And that’s how it would run in perpetuity.”

The source post includes the actual term sheet:

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Failed Attempts at Negative Interest

n

First I came across this article about negative interest spotted in the wild. I was surprised to see this manifest so soon. Things seem to be moving faster.

But then I came across this even more interesting article about negative interest backfiring. Basically a person who just manages to get by from a monthly income and is trying to save for retirement, watches with worry, when any saving she is able to set aside (without investing it in any risk-related monetary tools) shrinks due to negative interest.

There seems to be a conflict between the underlying story of negative interest and the underlying story of prevalent money / economics. The latter is a story of unlimited economic growth – a growth imperative rooted in interest is built into it. Negative interest, however, comes from a story in which money is in a constant state of healthy flow – systems of either steady-state or degrowth economics. It seems that prevalent economic, in its religious clnging to the growth imperative, is trying to subvert negative interest for its own means – to induce economic growth. But apparently that is not working.

To get an idea of what an alternative “retirement fund” could be we need to look past money and to reflect about the functions we expect it to provide. Lets say that when I retire I want to know that I will have a place to live, access to good food and people who will be able to support and care for some of my needs as I become less able to do so myself. What if instead of setting aside money to be able to buy these things in the future I could invest money I currently have in social enterprises that would create infrastructure that could provide me with those services. The level of my investment in these services would determine the level of service that could be made available for me when I retire

Near zero interest rates and a destablized global economy make it very difficult to create money-based savings for retirement. Now imagine negative interest applied in such a world. Instead of worrying about future value of money or watching it lose its value sitting in a savings account would it not be a better option to invest it in social enterprises that would provide me what I would like to have when I retire?

It seems we are arriving at negative interest for wrong reasons – to extend the myth of econmoic growth. That may lead to a deeper problem: that we then dismiss negative interest as a failed tool and reject it in the future. I hope we can realize and discern that the conditions are not yet right for negative interest. That it is better understood as a tool that needs to be applied in the context of other tools and changes … in service of transforming the underlying story of money instead of prolonging the one that is currently failing us.

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Paul Romer: The Trouble With Macroeconomics

n

“… Macroeconomics, he argues, is like a science that has not only stalled for three decades, but has actually gone backwards in its ability to understand reality.

In the late 1970s, as the old certainties of Keynesianism collapsed, a new generation of economists moved the discipline on to the terrain of super-abstract equations. Their assumption was that the economy tends towards equilibrium, and that only unpredictable shocks from outside the system can disturb it. Since the shocks come from outside, for the purposes of these mathematical models, the economist has to imagine what they might be. In The Trouble With Macroeconomics, Romer mocks these imaginary disruptions …

Romer is a doyen of the profession, and from the heart of the US academic mainstream. His attack on some of the most esteemed and influential economists of our time is a big thing …

… Romer, scathingly, calls this “post-real” economics, and suggests a horribly simple explanation for its popularity: human frailty … over-confidence, “an unusually monolithic community”, near-religious group loyalties, a tendency to disregard results that don’t match the theory – and too little consideration of the risks of being wrong.

This is not just a problem for economics. Romer says the parallels between bad physics and bad economics suggest there might be a “general failure mode” in any discipline that becomes over-reliant on maths. Basically, the kudos goes to people at the cutting edge of designing mathematical models, not to those whose models match reality. If Romer is right, there are big implications for the way governments and central banks make policy. Instead of abstract models, you would need something much closer to reality – and, with the rise of computer simulation technologies, that is close at hand.

… In an agent-based model, you don’t try to work out whether a million people will, on aggregate, buy more bread or less bread. You create a million digital “people” and unleash them in world with digital bread and digital money.”

source

Paul Romer – The Trouble With Macroeconomics

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Cryptocurrencies are having crises of governance

n

“… Cryptocurrencies are having crises of governance — Bitcoin about blocksize and other scaling strategies, Ethereum because the hard fork they made to try to save DAOhub in the midst of its crisis of having no way to authorize an update to a buggy smart contract. Plenty of other coins and systems have had their own issues along the way as well.

These problems are not incidental to the design of these systems, they are inherent.

Cryptocurrencies were designed to escape oppressive governance. Their creators have focused on optimizing personal autonomy and anonymity. The fact that we don’t know who stole $65 million from DAOhub or even who the original creator Bitcoin is, should make this fact obvious.

Why does this matter?

Any system that can’t regulate itself dies. If it can’t respond, adapt, or evolve, it’s dead.

The kind of governance we’re seeking is best thought of as a self-regulatory community. In other words, a community which has the necessary information, communication flows, and feedback loops to regulate its health and longevity.

Until people and community, along with the information flows required for that community to see its own patterns and issues are actually built into the ontology of cryptocurrencies, they won’t solve the problem of governance and collective self-regulation.”

source

also see Preparing Bitcon for a Hard Fork

 

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