Personal Blog of Joe Brewer

Archive for the ‘Semantics and Perception’ Category

The Power Politics of Ignorance

In Cultural Evolution, Semantics and Perception, Social Change on April 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Did you know there are “product defense” firms whose primary mission is to confuse the public for financial gain?  These companies spread doubt about scientific findings so that tobacco companies can sell more cigarettes (which cause cancer), fossil fuel companies can delay climate action (to sell more oil), pharmaceutical companies can keep dangerous drugs on the market longer (to extend profits), and more.  Every time a large financial interest is threatened by knowledge, these PR firms step up to the plate and do their bidding.

This tells us something important about the science of social change — namely that what we DON’T know about something is part of the power politics of society. Continue reading “The Power Politics of Ignorance” »

Want to Solve the Climate Crisis? Study Meme Science!

In Complex Systems, Semantics and Perception, Social Change on November 20, 2012 at 8:11 am

This article is co-authored by Joe Brewer and Lazlo Karafiath

It’s almost the end of 2012 and a leadership vacuum continues to plague the nations of the world on our single biggest global threat.  Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

The urgency of this problem is clear when we think about the wave of wildfires, floods, and droughts that spread across the world this year and “freak” storms like Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on New England earlier this month.  Even the skeptics among us are increasingly nervous about offshore oil rigs going up on flames and pouring millions of barrels of precious crude into the open waters of the world’s oceans.

Continue reading “Want to Solve the Climate Crisis? Study Meme Science!” »

Want the Power of a God? Become an Accountant!

In Complex Systems, Human Behavior, Semantics and Perception, Social Change on March 29, 2012 at 12:01 am

Have you ever wanted the god-like power to create entire worlds?  Wondered what it feels like to destroy a universe with the flick of your hand?  Then become an accountant.  That’s right, you heard me.  The Great Creators (and Destroyers) of reality are the people who define what is worthy of measurement.

Consider this:

Current wisdom says that the amount of global economic activity is the total of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) for all countries in the world.  This number tells us how much value is created each year through productive activity.  And yet none of this activity would be possible if children were not born, raised by devoted parents, and educated by society.  The most essential “productive” activity performed by humans is parenting. And what is the net economic value of parenting?  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  It doesn’t exist as far as economists are concerned.

And how do we know this?  Because it doesn’t appear on the accounting books!  Being a mother has no economic value — at least not according to the accounting schemes used by macro economics today.  This sweeping power to make massive value-creation disappear is wielded by accountants every single day. Continue reading “Want the Power of a God? Become an Accountant!” »