Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iran democratic pincer movement results

I had described the US's strategy of entrenching democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq as a strategy to squeeze the political system in Iran to breaking point. This appears to be happening. Together with the demographics of Iran (very high proportion of restless youth), this makes for a country ripe for revolution. I can see that the revolution will be repressed, at least for this electoral cycle, but the next few years will be characterised by:
a) Continually deteriorating economy.
b) Continually defiant hardline leadership.
c) Gradually increasing exodus of population to neighbouring democracies.

These sorts of things will continue to make the current theocracy decreasingly tenable, in the medium term.

Possible long term results are a failed/failing state, or a transfer to a fully fledged democracy or dictatorship/permanent state of emergency.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Light of other days 2

Just a few quick notes as I pass the half way stage of the book....

- Clarke is still a genius both as a visionary and a writer. Predictions such as a financial meltdown in London at the end of this decade, and the prediction that the model of journalism would be almost completely compromised by citizen journalism over the internet - have come true pretty well as described in the novel written in 2000.

- There is a lot of liberal use of what I would call "cliched predictions" regarding catastrophic results of global warming for instance and wars labelled as "resource wars". I am giving Clarke the benefit of the doubt with these as pretty much any and all conceivable future weather disasters, and wars will be tenably describable as results of global warming and resource disputes respectively. Being that a complete lack of wars and weather disasters is extremely unlikely, the cliches are likely to stick anyway regardless of other probable causes.

- I keep comparing the scale and timing of technology predictions in this novel to those of the Colour Mars series of Kim Stanley Robinson. Interestingly, Mars becomes Terra-formed in the colour-mars series in a timescale in which put to the "light of other days"(LOOD) would allow humanity to have large scale migration in time to escape Armageddon of the Wormwood - something which is ruled out as a possibility in LOOD's. I have to read and see if this changes by the end of the book.

- On the one hand I fear that the wormhole technology as described with seeming easy extensibility in distance, time, minitiuarization, resolution, cost effectiveness, verifiability and unfakeability is unrealistic as all good technologies have limitations or meet up with diminishing returns in some of these directions due to one or another inconvenient law of physics/economics.

- On the other hand my basic beliefs about information and its relation to crime game theory leads me to believe that even at the most complete imaginable level of information accessibility (as is approaching in this book) by anyone, there will be moral hazard ie. potential for damaging/serious crime.

- I cannot adequately demonstrate this.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Funding of Universities

Chris Fellows writes in the Australian:

I KEEP reading reports ("UNE legal bill rises to $1.3 million", HES online, May 29) that the University of New England receives a larger proportion of its income from the federal Government than any other Australian university as if this were a bad thing.

A public university should be accountable to the public and align its activities with the public interest. This is most likely to happen if it is funded by the citizens of Australia through our federal Government because he who pays the piper calls the tune. Every week I read in the HES stories about universities in trouble because their investments have tanked, or overseas student numbers have dropped, or a sweet deal with industry has led to a conflict of interest.

It would not be in the national interest if the federal Government provided 50 per cent of the navy's funding and forced it to obtain the rest by offering cruises and hiring ships out to foreign countries. Equally, it is not in Australia's interest to make public tertiary education - a critical part of our national infrastructure - dependent on narrow sectors of the community, or overseas customers, whose goals may not align with those of the nation.

Marconomically speaking, of course, I disagree with the specifics of the assertion, that universities are better for the country if they are run by the public purse, while at the same time agreeing with the gist that "Infrastructure" should be publicly funded.

The question is, which aspects of a university are "infrastructure" (Long term investments which benefits a lot of people, with no easy way to charge the people that benefit), and which aspects are products and service that people need and/or desire at an individual level, are willing to pay for, and private enterprises can make money from it by providing it the best way?

The infrastructure aspect of a University (Buildings, utilities, roads, long term equipment, general research projects etc.) ought to be funded publicly, and the Product/service aspects( gaining qualifications suitable for employment, industry specific research and development etc.) ought to be funded privately.

The private enterprises ought to be charged a rental and or tax for the infrastructure aspects which they use to sell the products or services which they charge for.

This issue screams that Universities should split off private arms, and look at divesting the aspects that are better handled by private enterprise.