[from Gary Czko 2008.11.19 1814 CST]
It would be an even more interesting discussion if we could somehow find out what the controlled variables actually are, instead of just guessing. The same comment applies, by the way, to my proposals about making a model of the economy. In my latest version (which isn’t very recent), I guessed that many managers vary prices as a way of controlling inventory (it’s called a “sale” when the inventory gets too high), and that other managers control for maintaining a steady cash reserve by adjusting the fraction of income available for capital distributions (which includes profit). But those were guesses; I don’t know what is actually done.
What we really need to do, of course, is observe or even interview the parties involved to find out what they’re controlling and how they do it.
Yes, that seems like a way to proceed. But can you get to the to of the hierarchy. A manager may control inventory as you suggest, but I would be that there is a higher-level goal of making money and if controlling inventory no longer works that reference level may be reset or re-organization may take place. Would some type of MOL be useful here?
Economics is about the way people control certain social variables. Politics is about the way they control other social variables. Criminal justice, likewise. Constitutional law, likewise. In fact, PCT erases the borders between disciplines, so that once you get started, you can’t stop until you have a model of the whole system at some useful level of detail. To a polluter, the cost of installing smokestack scrubbers is just like the cost of buying a lathe or hiring another worker: a production cost, a problem in economics. Choosing to pollute is also a sales issue; if Green is preferred by customers, sales will suffer from the reaction to your polluting. Everything affects everything. The CEO who vetoes the scrubber is also a husband and a parent; there are conflicts between the business advantages of polluting and the health costs of polluting.
And this takes me to the next level which is the realization that what we’re REALLY talking about here is that vast model that Kent McClelland alluded to in his talk about the future of sociology at the first European CSG meeting at Greggynog, Wales, in 1994 (if I have all that straight).
Kent had a vision something like what you’re talking about. He’s accomplished some of the first steps, by pulling together a lot of prominent sociologists who are interested in PCT and getting them to write a book. I don’t mean to imply that only sociologists should be involved, but they already have an array of techniques for investigating social phenomena, plus a lot of people who are committed to the study of social phenomena, and who could maybe do with a boost to their self-esteem, considering how many departments of sociology have gone extinct.
I have Kent’s book. I will take a look at it again with these environmental issues in mind.
I know Kent is very busy, but I wish he would comment on this.
[From Erling Jorgensen 2008.11.18 1230 EST]
It’s interesting that you bring this up, Gary. My wife & I just had a
chance to hear Bill McKibben (who wrote the forward to Barnes’ paper)
this past Saturday.
Bill McKibben will be speaking Friday at 9 am Eastern Time at the Greenbuild conference in Boston. It will be webcast live at:
One of the things Bill McKibben said, persuasively, is that nothing
widespread will happen without some economic signal representing the
impact of the carbon in the atmosphere. This seems very compatible with
a fundamental PCT insight, that you can’t control what you can’t perceive!
If the economic structure of fossil fuel could be altered to include the
cost of carbon, as it were, then there is a chance that such market-driven
factors could enter into the day-to-day decisions of all of us economic
Yes, I believe that is the basic idea of the cap and dividend approach. Put the usually invisible price of carbon emissions into the fuel itself and limit the amount of fossil fuel that is available.
The other part of McKibben’s talk was discussion of a way to build broader
awareness (i.e., perception) of global climate change, & invite greater
interest (i.e., altered references) in taking remedial action. He said
there are the beginnings of a global branding campaign, (similar to how
“Coke” or “Pepsi” try to get their brands out there.) This one would be
centered around a number – 350 – which represents the amount of CO2 in
the atmosphere, in parts per million, that just might be sustainable
without runaway greenhouse effects.
Yes, and to know that we are already above 380 and adding 2 ppm/year at our current rate of growth of fossil fuels.
Other information would also be useful to have, for example, how much electrical energy we are using in our homes at any given time and what it’s cost per minute, day, week, month, etc. I recently purchased a meter that provides this information for my home (calleld TED) but was then disappointed to discover that I can’t get the current transformer clips to fit around the main electrical cables in my service panel.
It would quite a contribution if PCT could be used to help save the planet. I look forward to getting other ideas and comments.
P.S. An engineer friend of mine with environmental concerns (he designs Energy Recovery Ventilators to be used with super-insulated and super-airtight homes) also brews beer. He described how he creates a mini-universe containing sugar that is a paradise for the yeasts he introduces. The yeast undergo a population explosion, converting the sugar to what is a toxic waste product for them (alchohol) but is just what the brewer wants. The yeast then die in their own “poop” and the engineer/brewer has just what he wants–beer. So perhaps we are just the yeast of some much more powerful agent who is using us to create greenhouse gases and other forms of polllution for his own desired brew!