Four Futures after Capitalism

January 23, 2017

sq_four_futuresAs conservative capitalism whips itself into an ecstasy of fevered apoplexy over the change in political climate, it is fun to step back and imagine what might transpire after capitalism’s eventual passing. To offer help, Peter Frase has written the excellent and cautionary “Four Futures: life after capitalism”.

Frase gives us four idealized futures blocked out by a matrix of two variables each ranging over two possibilities: 1) the structure of the social environment being either egalitarian or hierarchical, and 2) the resources of the natural environment being either scarce or abundant. What’s nice about the descriptions of these futures are the ample examples from science fiction media: TV, movies, novels, etc.

One assumption over all four futures is that, given sufficient resources of material and energy, technology, automation, and robotics will improve to the extent that human work as we know it will eventually be made unnecessary. Another is that climate change is real and will demand solutions and amelioration or it will only get much worse. And a big take home message is that the rich and powerful are in a much better position to benefit from ignoring climate change than you and me.

What will happen to the common person when their labor is superfluous? Not detailed are the possibilities if even the humans at the top are deemed unnecessary and the machines revolt. In order of diminishing happiness for most of us:

  • Communism: Egalitarian Abundance
  • Rentism: Hierarchical Abundance
  • Socialism: Egalitarian Scarcity
  • Exterminism: Hierarchical Scarcity

The cover has a nice iconography for the futures: a conveyor belt on a 3D printer assembly line shows a glass of wine for Communism (Cheers!), a key hole for Rentism, a watering can for Socialism, and a skull for Exterminism (Ouch!).


Peter Frase / Four Futures: life after capitalism

Some better reviews than mine:


There’s a similar fourfold of futures I forgot I mentioned in my article on Trompenaars, although fragmentation-coherence is used instead of scarcity-abundance, and there is a more positive spin:

Also, Frase has a blog that can be found at:

[*9.82, *9.190, *9.191]


Analogical Thinking

January 20, 2017

sq_analogicalIs analogy or metaphor the root of thinking? Some thinkers think so. But what exactly is analogy?

Looking at various lists of analogies of the A:B::C:D motif, I have distilled them into four groups: Relational, Hierarchical, Linguistical, and Mathematical. Are there analogies that don’t fit this scheme?


Object / characteristic
Order, sequence
Agent / object, action
Function, purpose
Cause / effect
Source / product


Classification, category, type, membership
Whole / part
General / specific


Meaning, definition
Synonym, antonym
Contrast, degree, intensity
Word parts


Patterns, geometries
Size, magnitude
Direction, vectors
Spacial, temporal
Ratio, proportion


View story at

Currently Reading:

George Lakoff, Mark Johnson / Metaphors We Live By

To Read:

Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander / Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, Basic Books (2013)

Noah Roderick / The Being of Analogy, Open Humanities Press (2016)

[*9.140, *9.141, *9.178]


Pass It On!

December 12, 2016

sq_pass_it_on3Is humankind selfish by nature or altruistic? Are people competitive or cooperative? Tribal or cosmopolitan? The short answer to all these questions is yes. We are both of those things, and often at the same time.

In this new age of nationalism and protectionism, we are diminished by our choices made from fear and small mindedness. Almost all the knowledge we have is from the choices, both good and bad, made by our forebearers, and those they have met and helped and been helped by along the way. Certainly our individual hard work does us credit, but most of the credit goes to what is automatically given to us at birth.

This includes but is not limited to: our language and our culture; our knowledge and science; our heritage and cultural relationships; our technology and skills; our education and institutions. All this and more, generated by our ancestor’s struggle to survive and flourish, as well as for the survival and flourishing of their progeny and their society.

As we think the horizons of our future recede we squabble over our claims and our distrust. I think we are made better more by our sharing of knowledge than our hoarding. Of course the things shared must have value; they cannot be lies or false or fake. Let us extend our concerns to all of humankind and to the earth we share.

  • If someone can create something, then others can make it.
  • If someone can find or discover something, then others can know, see, or grasp it.
  • If someone can teach something, then others can learn it.
  • If someone can demonstrate or show something, then others can use, do, or apply it.

Pass it on!

Also See:

Invention and Discovery



The Anatomy of Technology

December 5, 2016


Does technology have a fundamental structure? Does it have a unifying code? I am of the mind that technology is the totality of all tools devised by humankind. If so, what constitutes a tool? Again, I believe in a very broad definition, and think language and culture are also tools and thus technology.

Van Wyk proposes that technology is “created competence.” This competence performs actions (processing, storing, transporting) on stuff (matter, energy, information). sq_technology_frameworksThis begins the first framework of a technology, its anatomy. Along with anatomy, three other frameworks of a technology to consider are its taxonomy, evolution, and ecology.

In my diagram above, I have added a fourth action: that of creation. After all, technology is created competence. One might say technology cannot create, but is itself created. It is true that matter and energy cannot be created, but their shape and flow can be designed. Also, it seems that information can be created, and not just processed.

Further, I propose another addition to the stuff that technology acts upon: technology itself. Technology is often a mix of matter, energy, and information, and so technology can operate on technology and recursively act on and also improve itself. So perhaps both information and technology can at least be thought of as created.

So, in order to broaden the scope of the anatomy of technology, I propose changing the anatomical grid from 3 x 3 to 4 x 4. Then we have as actions

  • Creating & Designing
  • Storing & Accessing
  • Moving & Dispersing
  • Changing & Processing

Of course, the 3 x 3 anatomical grid is a well researched tool, and the changes I propose may not be justified or useful.


Rias J. van Wyk / Technology: a fundamental structure? Knowledge, Technology, and Policy. 9/2002 Vol 15, Issue 3 (14-35)

PDF at

To read:

Rias J. van Wyk / Technology – a unifying code: a simple and coherent view of technology (2004)

Frederick Christoffel Lochner / The functionality grid as paradigm for management of technology

PDF at


Van Wyk’s technological analysis is called Strategic Technology Analysis (STA).

In N. Katherine Hayles’ “My Mother Was a Computer”, three modalities of information are making, storing, and transmitting. Interesting that processing is not listed as a modality.

[*1.37, *3.32, *8.30, *9.2, *9.154, *9.176, *9.177]


Political Fourfolds

November 8, 2016

sq_politicalToday I present an example of a political fourfold. Frequently they have two factors: first, between the personal and the economic, and second, between liberty and security, or freedom and control. The quadrants that result can have different labels, but the one above is essentially the Nolan Chart, consisting of Authoritarian, Conservatism, Libertarian, and Liberalism.

  • Libertarian (personal freedom, economic freedom)
  • Authoritarian (personal control, economic control)
  • Conservatism (personal control, economic freedom)
  • Liberalism (personal freedom, economic control)

But you can read this anytime! This is an important day in United States politics so I urge everyone that can to please get out and vote!


Images of “Political Quadrants”:


Well that went poorly.

Another political or ideological fourfold is Anarchism, Radicalism, Conservatism, and Liberalism. This appears in Hayden White’s “Metahistory” but I’m unsure of its previous history.

[*3.172, *7.31, *9.172]


A Game of Fourfolds, Part 4

October 4, 2016


Many of the fourfolds presented here are roughly a combination of two dualities, a double dual if you will. Their diagrams could be considered as a crossed pair of rectangular cards, with each card showing a single pair of opposites. If one creates cards for every unique and important dual, new juxtapositions not thought of previously may be revealed by random and spontaneous association.

Of course many fourfolds cannot be reduced to the simple sum of their parts, or even the sum of their pairs. All four concepts often ramify themselves and each other due to binary, tertiary, and quaternary relations. Then the fourfold is greater than its individual constituents.

For example, the Four Elements are more than the opposite pairs of Air and Earth, Fire and Water. In Hjelmslev’s Net, Substance and Form combines with a superficially similar Content and Expression. However, above is an example of what I am striving for when Space and Time is combined with Matter and Energy.

Below is a list of dualities that might be used to create a useful set of cards. Some duals will come from fourfolds mentioned here but others will be new. Dualities or dichotomies are usually included in lists of opposites or antonyms, although they are usually more philosophical in nature.

Fourfolds that cannot be readily divided into two duals may by presented by square cards, perhaps called “trumps” or “major arcana” (or perhaps even “arcana quadra”). If cards are picked randomly but placed by choice, the rules of such actions must next be determined.

List of Duals (alphabetic):

Above, Below
Absence, Presence
Absolute, Relative
Abstract, Concrete
Active, Passive
Actual, Potential (Actual, Possible)
Addition, Subtraction
All, None
Analytic, Synthetic
Answer, Question
And, Or
A Posteriori, A Priori
Artificial, Natural
Asymmetric, Symmetric
Atom, Void
Beautiful, Horrible
Begin, End (Start, Stop)
Being, Becoming
Big, Little
Birth, Death
Black, White
Body, Mind
Bounded, Infinite
Cause, Effect
Chaos, Order (Discord, Harmony)
Child, Parent
Clean, Dirty
Combine, Separate
Complex, Simple
Content, Expression
Contingent, Necessary
Continuous, Discrete
Create, Destroy
Crooked, Straight
Dark, Light
Dawn, Dusk
Day, Night
Dead, Live
Decrease, Increase
Demand, Supply
Difference, Sameness (Distinction, Similarity)
Disease, Health (Sick, Well)
Division, Multiplication
Down, Up
Dynamic, Static
Electrical, Magnetic
Emotion, Reason (Irrational, Rational)
Empirical, Rational
Empty, Full
Enemy, Friend
Energy, Matter
Ends, Means
Even, Odd
Evil, Good
False, True
Far, Near
Fast, Slow
Female, Male
Fool, Sage
Forget, Remember
Found, Lost (Find, Lose)
Form, Substance
Future, Past
Gather, Scatter
Give, Take
Global, Local
Greater, Lesser
Guest, Host
Happiness, Sadness
Hate, Love
Hero, Villain
Hidden, Revealed (Invisible, Visible)
Higher, Lower
Holoscopic, Meroscopic
Illusion, Reality
Immanent, Transcendent
Inside, Outside (Internal, External)
Left, Right
Listen, Speak
Long, Short
Many, One
Me, You (Them, Us)
Mix, Sort
Moon, Sun
Nature, Culture
Nature, Nurture
Negative, Positive
New, Old
Object, Subject (Objective, Subjective)
Ontic, Phenomenal
Other, Self
Part, Whole
Particle, Wave
Particular, Universal
Peace, War
Permanent, Temporary
Play, Work
Practice, Theory
Quality, Quantity
Reap, Sow
Religion, Science
Read, Write
Right, Wrong
Rough, Smooth
Private, Public (Personal, Social)
Profane, Sacred (Secular, Spiritual)
Pull, Push
Space, Time
Strong, Weak
Vice, Virtue

List of Trumps:

Air, Earth, Fire, Water
Cold, Hot, Dry, Wet
East, West, North, South
Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer


Vocabulary list by Opposites (or Antonyms)

[*9.34, *9.37]


Distinctions with and without Differences

September 24, 2016

sq_distinction2It is often asked, why is there something rather than nothing?

Instead why not ask, why is there a rich diversity of things, rather than a dull sameness? And even though the closer and the further one looks the diversity is almost without limit, one also sees the world divided into natural kinds that partition it into a differentiated but interrelated mixture.

Several ancient philosophers thought that the entire world was an indivisible whole, a solid “being”. Others thought that you can’t even step into the same river twice, thus a fluid “becoming”. The real world seems to be somewhere in-between these two poles, moving continuously back and forth to now generate difference and newness, and then returning to sameness and oldness, and next continuing on to newness again.

Why drives these generative processes? One could say evolution, but evolution merely means “change over time”. And it would need to be an evolution at all levels of the cosmos, from the physical constituents of matter to the psychological constructs of culture. What do these disparate systems have in common?

Perhaps the commonality lies in the relations between small and large ensembles of chunks of space and time. In theories of statistical thermodynamics, the associations between micro states and macro states as well as micro events and macros events may drive entropy.

Here I present a schema that divides the continuum between one and many into four: Sameness, Similarity, Distinction, and Difference.
A member of the “being” camp might say these aren’t really different, whereas one from the “becoming” camp could say there really isn’t any sameness to begin with. Here I’ve chosen neither camp but struggled to bridge the gap between them.


Also see:

Statistical Thermodynamics

One and Many



Statistical Thermodynamics

September 22, 2016

sq_statisticalWhat drives the arrow of time? How does macroscopic irreversibility arise from microscopic reversibility? What makes entropy increase for closed systems, but decrease in certain open systems?

From the viewpoint of statistical thermodynamics, one can model the evolution of any discrete system by its possible macro states and micro states.

Those macro states having more possible micro states will be more likely to occur, and the macro states having less micro states will be less likely.

Similarly, those macro events caused by more possible micro events will be more likely to obtain, and the macro events caused by less micro events will be less likely.

Therefore, the probabilities of how the past effects the future are determined by the arrangements of the parts making up the micro states and macro states, and similarly the chains of causes constituting the relations between the micro events and macro events.

Apparently time is a progression of events unfolding from the more ordered to the less ordered. However, we know that local order can increase while global order decreases, even if we are unclear as to why. Information and organization can grow; nature and biological evolution are proof of it.

So there is an arrow of time, yet one might think that time is more like a river. (Heraclitus said you could not step into the same river twice.) There is a main flow of the current that carries most everything downstream to disorganization and increasing entropy, but there are eddies here and there that actually increase information and organization.

What enables this to happen? Some say thermodynamic gradients. Some say quantum entanglement. Some say gravity. Some say by the expansion of the universe. Some say dark matter or dark energy. Some say sorting processes.

Can we think of time as being “reversed” in these eddies where information and organization increase locally? No, but it’s an interesting (unscientific) thought.

References and Further Reading:

Italo Scardovi / Time and Chance: a statistical hendiadys

Time’s Arrow Traced to Quantum Source, Quanta Magazine

Time’s Arrow Traced to Quantum Source

[*7.136, *8.43]


Laws of Form

September 19, 2016

sq_laws_of_formGeorge Spencer-Brown, author of Laws of Form, recently passed away.

I’ve tried to appreciate this work in the past, but couldn’t really get started. I recently ran across the following four terms associated with the work,

  • Compensation
    -> (())
  • Cancellation
    (()) ->
  • Condensation
    ()() -> ()
  • Confirmation
    () -> ()()

Compensation and Cancellation are both considered Order, and Condensation and Confirmation are both considered Number. Number and Order are distinguished by Distinction, and the pairs of the two distinctions are distinguished by Direction.

I understand Laws of Form starts with “Draw a distinction.” Perhaps I would say “Draw a distinction, then draw a distinction of that distinction.”


For my further reading:


Compensation (+2) (Pairs of parentheses)
Cancellation (-2) (Involutory?)
Condensation (-1) (Idempotence)
Confirmation (+1)



T. S. Eliot: Four Quartets

August 12, 2016

sq_four_quartets5At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.

— From Burnt Norton by T. S. Eliot

Time is a child playing dice.