Monday, March 02, 2009

Spoiled Rotten and Piles of termite wood

Amidst my moaning and complaining about everything, i just saw this video from a blog that i follow that puts things back into perspective.

Glad to be alive.

Now that that spasm of gratefulness has passed: back to the moaning.

A few days ago i ordered the book Termites Turtles and Traffic Jams by Mitch Resnick. Resnick was a computer programmer who wrote a program that turned scientific thinking about a lot of things on its head. Basically he modeled how a particular single-celled amoeba was able to assemble into a smile mold and disassemble from one without some central coordinating cell. Before Resnick scientists tried to locate a 'pacemaker cell' that coordinated the creation and dissolution, much like the pacemaker cells in our hearts and the drummer in a band.

Resnick created a program called Starlogo in which you could program populations of cells with very different rules. He put in a few basic rules that

This is a round-about way to justify why i think there should be an income or wealth cap.

I was reading an excerpt from his book where he was talking about a different modeling project with termites and wood piles. He would change the rules of the little world, such as how many termites were in the arena, how many woodchips they would put in a pile and things like this. He was talking about the ramifications of the different rule systems when he put in a different criteria.

For the most part, these termites would make piles of wood. He could also implement a rule that said that termites could not take woodchips from a pile with 10, 25 or some number of chips already. This drastically changed how many piles were made and how fast.

When he talked of this, I'm not sure whether i thought it or he said it (my perusing on google books stopped) but I thought to myself why he could just put a cap on how many chips a pile can accrue!

Let's say there's 1000 termites and 2500 wood chips. The rules of how termites pick up chips and move them around i thought were just like an economy. People make money (pick up chips) and put them in piles (buy something at a business or into savings or investment accounts). If you say that termites cannot take from piles with more than 10 chips, then you could have a maximum of 250 piles. But there will always be some chips circulating so that limit will never be reached.

In this scenario, there will inevitably be one or two piles of chips with say 50 chips, which is large compared to other piles, and again extra large when compared to the piles of no chips had by some termites.

But if you make a rule that says no pile can grow larger than 30, then what's going to happen is that more termites will have more chips! I don't see any systemic reason as to why this wouldn't be feasible in the economy.

The argument i've hear so far is that a limit on wealth or income would stifle creativity and innovation. But those are individual characteristics, not characteristics of the system.

Already the government is supplying banks with loads of old, new and unmade money not for the survival of any one individual bank, but for the system. It's about time that we start look to literally level the playing field.
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