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The environment - Journal of Omnifarious

Nov. 16th, 2005

10:52 am - The environment

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I just had an odd thought. We all know that there are some behaviors en-mass that help the environment and some that hurt. But we also know that despite the fact it's in everybody's long-term best interest to do things that improve the environment, it's not always in their short-term best interest.

Markets are like environments in this way. It's bad to use certain technologies because of the kinds of dependencies the vendors of those technologies foster in their users. Using them decreases diversity and hampers new forms and ideas arising. But they certainly seem convenient and useful in the moment. So, having a healthy market that actually does its job requires some amount of short-term sacrifice on everybody's part for a long-term gain.

So, when I talk about how people should use certain technologies for dimly perceived long-term benefit I'm being an 'environmentalist' for the technology marketplace.

Current Mood: [mood icon] contemplative


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Date:November 17th, 2005 12:52 am (UTC)
I've long said that an open economic marketplace is like an ecology. Entities/species compete for resources, form symbiotic and parasitic relationships, go extinct, change, branch.

In a ordinary 'natural' setting, there is no long range planning. Species "make bad choices" and pay for it, possibly through extinction, and possibly taking others with it or driving them down first. Many predator-prey groupings show cyclic boom and bust patterns. Some bodies of water have yearly blooms and die-backs, sometimes causing great harm to other species sharing the water with them.

Sometimes one species manages to crowd out most or all competitors, and it flourishes for some time. Kudzu is doing just fine in its drive to cover entire states. It may be a long time before it pays for its success, and it may never have a crash. Grasses have been around for a very long time without a lot of change, and with continuing success.

In an ecology, it's only at the species level is the outcome important. Economic and technological systems are often self-correcting, however it can be real tough on the people involved. In an economic setting we generally care about the fate of individuals; we object to "ecological" outcomes that harm people, while we often are accepting the death of a concept or product.

Humans can understand long range planning, although we don't seem to be real good at it. Both the short term goal of larger marketshare, and the belief that this solution is the right one, get in the way of longer term choices.

Microsoft just may be the kudzu of the software industry.

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