Learning to Re-envisage the Economy (Part 2)


Looking now at anticipations of Shannon’s information systems in recent economic research, Maria Madi found American pragmatist C. S. Peirce studying scientific logic cycles and semiotics (signalling) in 1873.  In the latest Real Word Economic Review, Katherine Farrell found Marshall starting economics from everyday life (small is beautiful) instead of the funding of government. Andri Stahel started from Aristotle and found Dilthey studying hermeneutics (Shannon’s decoding).  However, the story told about computing is that Babbage showed it to be a mechanism, which Turing turned into a tape recorder using von Neumann’s architecture and linear programming.  Unsurprisingly, Shannon does not surface in Jamie Galbraith’s brilliant survey of current economics, nor in Edward Fullbrook’s textbook proposal: both still seeing the economy as it still is, so how it is usually seen.  Like a centralised power distribution system, primarily supplying governments and big business.

Actually (saying this having from 1953 worked where the original Bletchley computer circuits, transistors, digital circuitry, integrated circuits and multi-user programming were developed), in 1938 Shannon discovered telephone switching circuits performing logic – as now used in real computers – and in 1948 how to use information feedback circuits to improve their reliability.  The equivalent in bodies is neurons pulsing and laying down memories by sparking (Barondes, 1964).   Nerve cells are like transmission lines pulsed by inside-out car batteries (two liquids separated by a conductive membrane) when switched on by the limbic system (emotions) chemically recharging them. The pulse acts like radar reflecting environmental conditions at the end. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” argues that Quality is detected before actual awareness, which works: the limbic system (so nearly Descartes’ pituitary gland) is at the head of the spinal cord, wrapped round in the automatic reaction system. But that explains why the those who habitually use words often can’t imaginatively understand pictures, and vice versa: nerve cell memories don’t work well if rarely switched on.  Long-running statistics from the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator show intuitive thinking roughly in proportion to Left-handedness, with only a few introvert thinkers.  Likewise the Right must not be confused with sensory thinkers, for it consists mostly of practical types who like to be told what to do (I. Briggs Myers: “Gifts Differing“, 1980 [1942]).    

In Madi and Reardon’s “The Economics Curriculum” (2014), Reardon suggests the first year should be devoted to anything other than economics:  Imaginative literature and diagrams depicting flows between the four types of scientific logic?

What is still new is being able to re-envisage the economy as like the internet, with some people earning their keep supplying the infrastructure and the majority earning it like PC users doing whatever they need to do.

Read Part I

Learning to Re-envisage the Economy (Part 1)

Dave Taylor, born 1937 of slump-orphaned parents in industrial Manchester before the Hitler war, was by 1952 familiar with Catholic social teaching looking back to Aristotle’s economics and forward to post-war European economic reconstruction.  Before university qualifications became normal, he went on to a scientific apprenticeship and experimental work at the Radar Research Establishment in historic Malvern, since 1964 deeply immersed in training, management economics and philosophy of science.

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