Review: The Upside of Down

by Kurt Cagle

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (the DOW) did quite a dance today, with its peak to trough extending nearly 300 points before closing, pretty much at random, more or less where it started. I bring this up not to turn this column into an economic report about Wall Street (definitely out of bounds here, except perhaps in the discussion of Atom-based XML feeds retrieving DJ stats) but to discuss a bit about systems theory and to review a book that I think should be pretty much de required reading for XML architects.

I suspect that I've always been something of a systems theorist, and I've noticed that systems theory tends to attract architects like moths to a bright light (no comment about getting burned). You can tell the systems theorists out there - they are the ones that clandestinely like to play Sim City at work, who can readily tell you what the Austrian school of economics is despite not being an economist, who were getting nervous about calving ice shelves and CO2 concentrations long before Al Gore started doing his stage show. Some of us are scientists, some are programmers, some are environmentalists or economists, but the common thread that binds us together is that we're the ones who never stopped asking "WHY?" as kids.


2007-08-08 04:02:36
2007-08-08 06:17:33
The key is local production of local consumables. The problem is each locale varies by available convertible resources. There is no solution to the problem at a global scale although the allopathic approach is to increase the consumability of neccessary resources by reducing the costs of conversion or the need for it wherever possible.

The pattern is clear that until or unless controls emerge that enable self-regulation of consumption a system-wide reduction of consumers ensues as long as the local systems remain interdependent. One approach is to reduce interdependency by isolation and another is migration. We are not at a so-called tipping point of consumption as much as we have reached the natural barriers of migration (not immigration; that just restacks the locale resources). A third approach is local adaptation to reduce consumption by diet or by shifting the reliance on a common consumable.

Compare XML to the Irish Potato Famine. Qui bono?

2007-08-09 15:08:15
BTW: in the history of Rome, a factor in the collapse was the rise of the unproductive ownership society. Rome itself was a local non-productive consumer that became a black hole in the empire's economic ecosystem. When that happens, nations fall.

Take a real hard look at the CEO pay scale ratio and understand the rules and games for acquiring wealth in industries such as software, virtual worlds (a fascinating study hall). Now compare that to any smaller system that returns value for production.

Those are the parallels that should should scare you.

2007-08-09 18:02:20
I say blame the French!
Especially the philosopher ones.
Kurt Cagle
2007-08-10 08:38:30

Late sign of empire, I'd have to agree with you. I moved to Canada in part because of that - I was watching jobs being exported here, was watching resources come from here and to a certain extent finished goods being manufactured here and I was watching Canadians quietly became the de facto presence in the standards arena even while Americans were continuing to chase after the "big money". While Canada has some of the same problems that the US has, it has generally managed to steer clear of the endemic corruption that seems so much business as usual for both large corporations and the Federal government overall in the US.

The immense concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny proportion of the population has left the US brittle to shocks, and I think that's now coming home to roost. The problem with resiliency is that it's a lot like security - you build resiliency in at the beginning of a cycle. Building resiliency at the eleventh hour usually does you very little good. We're at the eleventh hour now, and like people thinking that they should have saved more money early on as they're faced with a sudden crisis, I suspect that there are lots of people beginning to think that maybe they should have been a little more thoughtful about long term cycles. Oh well ...