Zero Sum—in a closed system there is nothing else.

by | Aug 1, 2021

Zero-Sum, symbolized by an image from Cueva de las Manos, a cave and complex of rock art sites in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, that was named for the hundreds of hand paintings stenciled into multiple collages on the rock walls. The art in the cave dates to between 11,000 to 7,000 BC. Reaching, reaching, until finally defaced by graffiti from a bleak future?

Let’s turn to our masters at the World Economic Forum to see what they think:

Zero-sum thinking is back in vogue. After a geopolitically challenging year, relationships between great powers are increasingly cast in stark “if they win, we lose” terms. This has been seen most recently in the stand-off between Russia and NATO over Ukraine. However, in 2011 the journalist Gideon Rachman had already observed three sources of increased zero-sum thinking: slower economic growth; growing rivalry between the United States and rising powers, in particular China; and the clash of national interests in the search for solutions to global challenges such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and failed states. He concluded: “A win-win world has been replaced by a zero-sum world”. Is this true? Has the world become zero-sum?

Here the a typical argument that zero-sum with regard to creation of wealth is a fallacy:

Wealth is produced when creative human beings devise new or more efficient ways to meet the wants and needs of others. The invention of the internal combustion engine, for example, combined with technology for extracting and refining crude oil, turned a previously worthless, sticky substance, into an immensely valuable resource, “black gold.” Its use, in turn, enabled people around the globe to travel and deliver goods farther, more quickly and more economically than ever before. Such improvements have allowed the world’s population to grow exponentially while simultaneously decreasing the proportion of that population living in poverty. This could not have been possible if global wealth were a zero-sum game.

I think that the world has always been zero-sum, if only because the earth is a closed system. The earth has a finite amount of land, famously emphasized by Will Rogers when he quipped, “Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.” We have become acutely aware that the earth has a finite atmosphere. Even solar power, from which we derive such hope for our world will be gone in about 5 billion years.

Is Zero Sum all gloom and doom?

Not if we can figure out a way to prevent elite, rich assholes from doing our thinking for us. Not if we refuse to listen to their lies.

The challenge these days is to work with what we we have, as human beings, not as trans-human beings. Our bodies do not need to be genetically modified to adapt to the world, but rather healed to adapt. We do not need to imagine life on Mars as a distraction to reimagining our lives here, on earth.

Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in. —Emma Goldman

It’s much worse to be irrelevant than to be exploited. Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new useless class, useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system.Yuval Noah Harari

Which one do you prefer? I think I’ll take my chances with beautiful and irrelevant, out of sight of the shit-sticks and their ilk who comprise the World Economic Forum.

In future posts, I will be exploring topics that include will range from anarchy, antifascism, useless (mostly liberal) politicians and idiotic forever war and resistance to them all. I’ll keep trying to make humorous memes ( at least gallows humorous).

Hopefully we can hold onto to our humanity together.

Dave Crow

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