An (un)Common Look at Common Economies

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Indexes
  1. Let There Be Light
  2. Checks & Balances
  3. The Economics of Life
  4. Competition & Progress
  5. The Economics of Society
  6. The Economics of a Body
  7. Carbs, Fats, Calories & ATP
  8. Inflammation in Biological Economies
  9. Inflammation in Human Economies

Introduction

I’m going to start out this conversation with an approach coming from a health professional’s point-of-view first, as the topic of economics tends to incur a sigh of frustration and is generally followed by a glossing-over of the eyes. At the same time I am going to be approaching the health angle from a position as a United States citizen, as that is not only my situation but this discussion is particularly relevant to my neighbors in The Union — expressly those that continue to ignore the table-pounding by health professionals, from the doctorate level down to us plebeians that stopped at undergrad degrees; like myself.

However, that is not all that I intend to accomplish with this essay. What I have laid before you is an attempt to bridge the gap in understandings between the relevancies from the worlds of the biological and those of the economical. This requires not only some brief elaboration of complex mechanisms, but also broad generalizations, as these intricate systems involve seemingly endless levels of nuance. As the topic of economics is consistently approached from primary and secondary vectors, I intend to take a more… tertiary approach. Many generations have been choosing to sacrifice health for “wealth.” I also see an alarming level of ignorance toward how mechanisms involved in both our bodies, and our economies can be just as equally fragile as they are resilient, and adaptive.

First a general breakdown, to establish the foundation with which to build our discussion. Every engagement requires some form of common ground in order to “hash things out,” whether that common ground be a language itself, or similar experience, or a similar plight. For example, the current plight in the US — what I would argue is a very serious problem, of greater significance than any virus — is the pandemic that is chronic metabolic syndromes (let’s refer to them as CMS’s for short) that are gripping the population.

If you don’t know what CMS’s are, then may I request that you follow the hyperlink and read a bit so you can grasp a general understanding before continuing — what I have to say is quite important for the general population, and there’s a statistical likelihood that this paper will have significant relevance to you, if not multiple loved ones as well as friends, peers and colleagues.

The human body is designed to move, and more specifically to meet challenge. Your body is designed to be tested, rebuilt, strengthened, and then tested again. Unendingly… and forever (at least until our bodies can no longer sustain life-supporting functions). But even this is a very simplistic look at the miracle that is Life. We are not limited in this discussion to only looking at ourselves; we could look at the biology and physiology of your cat, your dog, your ex that you swear is something other than human, or that pet turtle that somehow escaped from your terrarium and made a mad dash for freedom. Every one of these examples has this common ground: the fact that we are alive and functioning, is a real marvel. But looking closer at the operations of an organism you will likely notice something, arguably more marvelous.

Photo by Daniel Forsman on Unsplash

Part 1: A New Way of Looking

The common view of a body is to look at it as one whole system, with the brain providing the control center, the skeleton being the frame, and the varying organs as supporting systems for the brain itself. I propose a… “new” approach to looking at a body.

Your brain is an organ, similar to your stomach, your lungs, your muscle, and your skin. All are equally biological yet, your organs perform particularly specialized functions, while sharing some commonalities between them. The brain performs a myriad of functions that include, but are not limited to; signal transduction, maintenance, and organization as it provides an environment to house the neurons & synapses that ultimately make up your thoughts, memories, decisions, and actions. Meanwhile, your muscle produces tension, or relaxes, based on the signal(s) received from the brain & spinal cord (which could technically be viewed as two parts of the same organ). All are made up of compounds & organic materials that are provided via the digestive system (to be more accurate, provided by the mother’s digestive system and initially built in the womb, that are then grown and built stronger by the provided digestive system after birth).

Very similar in general operations, right? Made of organic tissues, with discrepancies between range of functions, and depth of those functions. Now consider bones. Commonly regarded [outside of health fields] as something different than that of muscle tissue, when in reality they are more alike than different. Bone is still made up of organic material, and it grows. While the process and structure may vary, they are still similar in the sense that they grow and react to stimuli — just like your brain, and just like your muscle tissue.

All of these systems have another commonality, one that is at the core of my point to this discussion. But first, I want to go a bit smaller. There’s another organ that is miraculous in functioning; the mitochondrion. These little guys are literal powerhouses. In the most basic way possible, the description of what a mitochondria does is that it produces energy which gets used by our cells in our bodies to perform their individual, specialized functions. Very similar in a sense to the brain and the rest of the body — there is a job to be done, and the mitochondria performs to the best of its encoded abilities, (which can vary depending on DNA) with the best materials that are made available to it. No different than yourself — you [likely] have a job (of varying degree of specialty), and you do the best that you can with the materials that are at your disposal.

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

You, your brain, your muscles, your bones, and your individual cells can all be identified as individual actors (or organs). You act as an individual organ that makes up the body that is your work environment, your family environment, your local community, your state, and your country. Just like the mitochondria is an individual organ that operates as a cog in the machine that is your system of individual organs that make up the larger system of the body.

We’ve now leveled the viewpoint of a few separate systems within our body; the brain, muscle, bones, and mitochondria, as all being more alike than they are different. My intent here is to look at them all with a fair and equal lens, and to destroy the hierarchical structure that many of us were raised viewing our bodies as. Consider all of them as equals (regardless of size) on an equal playing field, separate from the holistic bodily structure. By doing this we can view them like individual parts to a well-oiled machine. Specialized components, performing functions that act as cogs in a greater machine.

Now for a question; what powers them?

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Let There Be Light

“ATP is the fuel of life. It’s an energy currency molecule — the most important source of chemical and mechanical energy in living systems…” — Sunyoung Kim, now professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at LSU

The motions of much of biological life are powered by one very important molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. Now, that’s an oversimplification of how energy is transferred and produced within an organic system… but for sake of not boring you any further with the particulars of the chemistry that occurs, we’ll just leave it at that. If you would like to look into how that chemistry works, just follow the hyperlink provided to start on your journey of furthering your education. But to continue laying the foundation for this discussion, let’s take it back to the source with first principles.

All life requires energy to go on living, let alone growing and propagating. Our planet’s main source of energy is our sun (Sol). In the form of photons (light energy), organisms on Earth soak up this energy and convert it into ATP with the help of chloroplasts, ADP (which is adenosine diphosphate, a precursor to ATP) and sugar — a process widely known as photosynthesis. This is the gateway by which light energy makes its entry into the organic energy economy of our planet. Not only does this energy provide fuel for the plants themselves, but that energy gets used to grow and reproduce. When this happens, consider how much energy is used in simply growing bigger (how much food do you eat in a day?). So when we look at the plant life that act as our gateway of energy onto our planet, they are also containing large swaths of energy within themselves not only as they grow, but as they reproduce and spread. In a sense, biological growth can be viewed as a form of energy storage (like a battery). Fans of the movie The Matrix, will likely have an appreciation for this analogy.

Checks & Balances

This is where herbivores come in. Herbivores are organisms that feed solely upon plant-life to supply them with the sustenance that they require to also grow & reproduce. Providing yet another continuation of the energy storage system. Our herbivores are then followed-up by the carnivores and omnivores, which gather and store energy by feeding on the herbivores and other living organisms. All of this involves the distribution and accumulation of ATP, which is produced from the light energy that falls upon our planet, provided by a source that is 93 million miles away.

Thanks to the quote by Professor Kim that was provided above, we get a step closer in the direction that I want to take this discussion. Before reading Kim’s work I had (coincidentally) already been thinking of ATP as a currency of life. And now that she has assisted in bringing in the term “currency,” let’s explore that angle a bit.

Part 2: The Economies

The Economics of Life

If we look at ATP as the “currency of life,” then we can look at an ecosystem like a system of economic exchange of lifecurrency and accompanying resources… between differing communities, as well as individual actors. ATP is also widely relevant in economic considerations as it provides a medium of exchange that enables processes beyond just the exchange of nutrients (resources) between cells & organisms — which I would argue is a barter system. Cells can signal for supply & demand just like you and I can. As a plant, insect or a mouse, plays a vital role in an ecosystem, so do you (or your company) play a vital role in an economy.

Now consider how ecosystems in nature operate.

They are truly quite fascinating.

Whether we look at the plains of the Serengeti, the mountains of the Andes, the rainforests of the Amazon, the Saharan Desert of Africa, the depths of the Pacific Ocean, or the frigid cold of the Arctic poles; life finds a way. Not only to exist, but to exist in balance. This balance is found as opposing forces collide with one another; as all aim to pass on their genetic code to the next generation; as all are [potentially] forced to contend over finite resources. Whilst defending themselves from those who seek the resources stored within their own bodies, or that of their offspring. In doing so, plants engage with predators (including insects, herbivores, parasites, disease, and other plants), herbivores engage with predators, and predators & omnivores engage with everybody else (basically). A balance is also found as; one population grows it provides a greater level of sustenance to another (what is referred to in the military as a “target-rich environment”); which provides a greater source of sustenance to another; and thus the system charges along. Providing avenues to eek out balance, as long as the natural order of checks & balances is maintained. But this homeostasis can be disrupted if one population disrupts too many systems in such a way that risks the continuity of complementing actors.

Are you still with me?

For example, let’s look at the lionfish. Not native to the coasts of the Southeastern United States, this species has been running amok. Due to the adaptations that were developed in accordance with the species’ home environment (the Indo-Pacific) the lionfish was allowed to survive in relative balance with its original environment, making it over-equipped for success in the Atlantic. This species is now causing cascading issues in the ecosystems of the Atlantic coastlines of the United States.

In nature, when one species has too much power, the natural progression is that species’ dominance can (tends to…) lead to extreme disruptions. These disruptions can not only damage the overall ecosystem, but drive the balance so far out of the norm that the dominator’s success also results in their own demise. As their dominance upsets the balance of ATP distribution, and the supporting systems that were in-place can no longer be sustained, the dominator runs out of resources to support its own growth rate. What follows are measures of austerity, forced upon the species (and ecosystem) by circumstance. Oftentimes resulting in outcomes such as famine, cannibalism, or even extinction. Until the ecosystem’s proverbial slate can be “wiped clean,” and the economical system of ATP exchange can be rebuilt from a sound, sustainable foundation.

Photo by Fabrizio Lunardi on Unsplash

Competition & Progress

A quick recap:

ATP = lifecurrency (a tool facilitating exchange beyond barter, not unlike the US dollar — more on that to follow)

Ecosystem = system of economic exchange of currency & resources, that [when left to the processes of natural selection] trend toward homeostasis (or balance) via competition

Ecosystem = system of economic exchange of currency = fragile & dynamic balance of competitors & supporting systems

Through these machinations, another miracle of life shines through. Arguably one of the most important aspects of life’s propagation is the allowance for randomness, by way of DNA mutation. These random tweakings of code allow for subtle differences to emerge in offspring. These minor changes can either be an impediment to the longevity of the organism, or provide an advantage (promoting its attractiveness in finding a mate or improving its competitiveness in dealing with adversity in its environment, such as predators). This is a feature of life, not a bug. I turn to words from Ray Dalio for defense of this claim as he provides a great example for this dynamic in his latest publication Principles For Dealing With The Changing World Order. Albeit coming from a point-of-view as an investor, the dynamic is still applicable. Found in a footnote at the bottom of page 225 Dalio includes this clarification;

“When compounded over a decade, gains are greater than losses because you keep building off of gains; whereas you experience losses and approach zero, future percent losses matter less in dollar terms.” — Ray Dalio, Principles For Dealing With The Changing World Order, p. 225

While Ray is speaking in regards to returns on investments in dollar terms, life itself is an investment mechanism on ATP returns — in its own right. If we swap out a few of the words; “gains” and “dollar” for “progress” and “life” we get closer to my point. Also it’s worth recognizing that these machinations of life don’t progress through time on the same scale as ourselves. While compound interest has relevance in our lives on a scale of decades, life operates on a scale of millennia — two orders of magnitude greater than ourselves. So we will make that substitution as well. When all of these substitutions are done we are left with this passage;

“When compounded over a millennia, progresses are greater than losses because you keep building off of progresses; whereas you experience losses and approach zero, future percent losses matter less in life terms.”

Life’s constant struggle provides an efficiency mechanism that results in producing heavily specialized, powerful, and extraordinarily complex systems. While it may feel unfair in the randomness of the incorporated entropy that life entails… there is a method to the madness. While all of this is producing organisms capable of effective feats, the state of consistent struggle, challenge, and failure & success ultimately results in an overarching efficient method for eeking-out progress — as well as efficient energy allocation. As societies/markets ultimately don’t want capital to be sand-bagged within unproductive companies (which results from policies that intervene in the natural competition of companies), the universe doesn’t desire to have energy shored-up within aspects of life that don’t play at least a small, yet effective role in the energy cycle.

The Economics of Society

Phew.

We’ve come a long way down this rabbit-hole. But we’re far from the end. If you need to take a break here, I certainly wouldn’t blame you.

You’ve likely noticed that I’ve been leaving behind little bread crumbs hinting at where I’ve been planning on steering things.

The manners by which Mother Nature chooses to find the most lucrative investments for energy is arguably brutal, dynamic, and complex. So is the stock market. Do you think hedge funds and day traders care about whether the individual companies (or their employees) feel that their strategies for portfolio management or trade justifications are fair? The answer is going to be a resounding “no.” Not to mention, you’ll be escorted out of every office with laughter if you bring that question for consideration. Their jobs are to accrue capital into sectors of markets & individual equities where their purchasing power will be treated best. And this is precisely what Mother Nature does with her ATP allocations. As ATP accumulates to the organisms that are best fit to survive and reproduce, so too do economies allocate purchasing power to companies (and individuals; i.e. Elon Musk) that are expected to be as equally fit to survive and prosper.

To gain an understanding of what determines the resilience & survivability of such entities I would personally recommend reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Quadrant literature as well as consuming content from Preston Pysh on cashflow analyses.

Pushing this thread further, we find ourselves at a point in the discussion that also behooves that we discuss the dynamic of Natural Selection in both environments. We’ve already discussed how Natural Selection plays a vital role in the overarching system that produces the most effective organisms. The very same machinations provide the most effective companies & individuals in a society.

All we need to do to gain a vantage point for a great example of this is looking back to the strategies that were used following the events of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the government’s intervention by bailing-out entities that were deemed “too big to fail.”

What has resulted since then? Companies that were facing a brutal death because of foolish decision-making, aversion to responsibility (and accountability) and general lack of critical-thinking by leadership, were allowed to continue existing — even though they had made it clear that they did not deserve to remain breathing in the ecosystem of economies. Still, American leaders, in their short-sightedness, felt that it was best to avoid the immediate pain of these organizations going up in flames (not to mention the embarrassment that it meant for America’s brand across the globe). What has resulted is a coterie of large American organizations that were then placed on government-backed life support. These gluttons have also now not only swollen to even greater size but have replicated as more companies fall to the temptations of relying on easy monetary policy as central governments fear the collapse of so many sources of income for their populations.

Now our discussion is ready for the next turn in the rabbit-hole of our Alice & Wonderland adventure.

While one could argue that the decision-making was the source of the weakness that has led us down the cascade of complications that has followed since, I would argue differently. Now, what I am not saying is that those individuals are free of blame or incrimination — far from. But the flawed justifications couldn’t have even been fielded if it wasn’t for liberal monetary policy being enabled by a fiat currency, (also referred to interchangeably as fiat money) but most importantly was the government intervention in the very important process of free market competition.

The Economics of a Body

There is more to draw out here so that I may paint the landscape with optimal precision. So for now, we turn back to ATP and Mother Nature. Specifically; the human body, and why food quality matters.

Before we continue, I would be behooved to both acknowledge and remind that; I am not a dietician, nor a nutritionist. And what I am discussing here will be generalizations.

Time for a brief rundown of what a “calorie” is. Firstly, the majority of those reading this will be familiar with nutritional calories seen as “Calorie” with a capital C — the difference might seem whimsical, but there is a justification for it. The reason is that Calorie refers to kilocalories, meaning 1,000 calories per Calorie. I make this distinction just to bring awareness to the fact that [especially in the sciences] punctuation and grammar can have significant relevance. Also yes, that means that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) intake of 2,500 Calories means 2.5 million calories.

Now, for a little nutritional information, that will — hopefully — not surprise anybody, (but if it does there’s no reason to feel bad as you’re learning it now).

All the better.

Food sources provide varying degrees of Caloric density as well many varying factors that affect nutrient accessibility, (also known as “bioavailability”). For example, fats yield the greatest Caloric density at 9 Calories per gram, alcohol forks-over 7 Cal/g, carbohydrates yield 4 Cal/g, and proteins can also yield 4 Cal/g. Furthermore, fats may yield the greatest payload of calories but the oxidative system is much more time consuming, and carbohydrates result in the smaller payload but the glycolytic system processes Calories, and yields ATP, much more rapidly.

We can draw a relatively easy comparison here for those of the more economically aligned practices. Consider the digestion process for carbohydrates to be day traders, and fats to be macro traders (or investors). While the day traders can produce faster profits, they require far more energy & input on a consistent basis, whereas the macro traders & investors position themselves to yield great returns over a long timeframe and require much less input on a rolling basis.

“Oh my Lanta, MIKE. Why are we talking about all of this boring nutritional science, get to the point!”

I am, I am. You can rest assured that there is a point.

So now that we have a very basic view of what Calories are and an even more basic level of understanding their significance with regard to yield from varying sources we come back to the ATP topic. Whether we look at the glycolytic pathway (mostly carbohydrates digestion) or the oxidative pathway (fats digestion) the general rule of thumb is that more Calories means more ATP. And, per our ongoing discussion, ATP is life’s currency. Now, I believe it’s time for a discussion around the quality of sourcing of ATP — i.e. the complications, or consequences, that arise from human interventions in the production of foods. As the efficiencies of an economy are the keystone to our current discussion, then we cannot be complete in our contemplation if we do not touch on the topic of quality — which we’ve already done in one respect by pertaining to zombie companies, now it’s time to discuss what I would label as; zombie compounds.

Carbs, Fats, Calories & ATP

This part of the conversation will involve more generalizations, as I’m making broad references here, but I will be providing sources for information that I particularly found educating as well as enjoyable.

Before this kicks off I’d like to also state that for our overall discussion I like to view foodstuffs generally as sources for ATP and nutrients, and I directly equate them to sources of capital and resources. This is because; just like there are multiple different forms of capital (like precious metals, collectibles, or assets that can be used to generate value), I would argue that foods (and therefore sources of ATP) equally meet the definition to serve as a form of “capital.”

ATP = lifecurrency = capital

As discussed above, ATP drives ecosystems via exchange, as do the vehicles representing capital & value (such as currencies & monies) drive economies via exchange. From here I propose a question; what happens when the manner by which the value (ATP or capital) is delivered is fraudulent, or fake?

To start, let’s look at processed foods, including artificial sweeteners. One aspect that drives me (and I would guess much of the exercise sciences) crazy is the potent and powerful differences in resource utilization between sources of varying bioavailability — and the overall lack of discussion around this very important dynamic to health. Generally, a food’s bioavailability will determine the efficiency of digestion & absorption. Natural sources such as fruit, vegetables, and animal products will have greater bioavailability than processed foods. This is largely due to — back to natural selection again — the fact that our bodies have developed very precise methods to digest the naturally occurring compounds we (the human species) have been exposed to over the many millennia that we have been present on this planet. Very specific enzymes such as amylase (present in saliva, and breaks down sugar) and protease (an enzyme that breaks down proteins) serve very important roles in each of our bodies.

Processed foods present an arguable problem to the equation. While our bodies are rather resilient and highly adaptable, the fuel & resource allocation process is relatively precise (what I would argue as fragile). By introducing processed food products into the system, we provide resources that exist in unnatural configurations that our processes and enzymes may not know how to handle — partially or completely. Not to mention, the digestive system is heavily reliant upon the microbiome that exists within our intestines — a topic that requires a separate essay in its own right.

By this line of thought I would consider processed foods to be “false foods,” as many are engineered to reflect particular flavors present in natural food products but are done so via manmade compounds & structures that do not appear by Mother Nature’s means. Andrew Huberman does an exemplary job of discussing these dynamics across many episodes of his podcast, but in particular I recommend this one as it’s not only recent but very relevant to our conversation.

It would also behoove us to consider the structuring of natural foods vs processed foods. Natural foods are going to come with resources that provide supporting roles that promote absorption such as fats, amino acids, fiber and water. It is for these reasons that one will get far more benefit from eating whole foods rather than attempting to rely solely on processed products, including powders and supplements.

Now, for the question that I can feel clawing at the back of your mind — where is this relevant to economics?

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

Part 3: Inflammation

Inflammation in Biological Economies

What happens when the human body receives these zombie compounds as sources of Calories? I’m referring to both processed foods as well as artificial sweeteners — but for simplicity’s sake let’s focus on the sweeteners. Something as simple as consistently consuming artificial sweeteners can result in a cascade of processes that culminate into effects that, while small in relative size, are capable of large end-effects. Let me explain.

In recent years the scientific communities of Nutrition, Physiology, and Psychiatry (among many other practices) have been connecting the dots in long-winded relationships and mechanisms within our ever-so complex, resilient, and fragile bodies in ways that we as a society have been largely ignorant to — willful or otherwise. It should not be intuitively taxing to believe that what we eat is capable of affecting our moods in both acute, as well as long-dated, manners. Research has been finding that what we consume, whether it be man-made or not, can result in tilting the balances of specific bacteria within our gut’s microbiota. This continues perfectly in-line with our discussions previously around the natures of economies and mechanisms of competition, materials sourcing, and natural selection. If we provide the resources that favor a particular population to prosper over others, then it goes without saying that said population will overtake their neighbors in number and surface area occupation within the environment. Meaning that the population will not only take up more space, but will also accumulate greater amounts of waste. To get the point across I want to propose a question; what are humans particularly skilled at?

“…stress got put into a part of the system that should not absorb that much stress.” — Dr. Andy Galpin, discussing the development of injuries in physical activity with Dr. Andrew Huberman

We produce waste. Lots of waste. And that waste has side effects in the environment that I think we could all identify as ‘inflammatory’ in nature. Whether that be the accumulation of plastics in the Pacific Ocean, or the run-off of fertilizers from industrialized monocropping, or the controversial takes on humanity’s effects on the greater climate cycle — the crux of the matter is that these are all reactions to the waste(s) that our societies and economies produce.

Within our bodies, and with the bacteria that we coexist with, the relationships are no different.

When we consume these inflammatory foods & compounds that favor particular bacterial populations, and we do so consistently, the waste products of these populations also accumulate in lockstep with the increase in population density. Now, before we continue, this is not something revelatory. Within the body are mechanisms that are constantly yielding waste, or byproducts, ’tis a natural result of formative & destructive systems. What is revelatory however is how these waste products are causing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so-on, order effects downstream. In this article psychotherapist Tori Rodriguez lays bare the relationship of how some substances’ reactions within the body, via our microbiota, ultimately result in effects that are capable of steering and manipulating moods… even going so far as to result in the development of disorders and chronic conditions. With studies such as this one from 2019, as well as this one from 2013, providing supporting evidence for such arguments.

*It’s high-time that we as a society stop remaining so aggressively, willfully ignorant to such important dynamics of the systems with which we rely on. Whether it be in our personal health, or in the ecosystems we inhabit, or the economies we participate in, we can not afford to discount how monumentally large results can manifest from even the smallest of consistent interactions.

Inflammation in Human Economies

So, if the waste products that result from utilizing fake, man-made, synthetic sources of ATP result in massive cascades of mechanisms that produce unhealthy disorders and undesirable effects within our own bodies… why would the same not be true of an economy comprised of businesses & customers rather than cells & organs? I mean, we’ve been discussing how alike the economies of ATP exchange in life are really no different than the economies of a local community or a country. How the byproducts (waste) of one system become the resource that feeds into another; result in consequences that likely have far greater ramifications than would be immediately deducible on the surface, as large systems tend to progress and shift slowly; requiring both time, and elevation, to observe & identify in scope.

We can look back through history for a few of such examples.

Whether it’s the Song Dynasty in China, the Roman Empire in Europe, or today’s environment around the Petrodollar system of the United States of America, exchange of fake currency (aka fiat currency) results in inflammation that sets off cascading events that result in changes in trending behavior due to the reactions to conflagrations set in motion by consistent use of the fraudulent currency. When a society goes about digesting a currency that is not resource-dense, or said currency is rapidly losing its resource-density, complications begin to manifest. Similarly, when the body goes about digesting foods lacking in nutrient density (potentially involving synthetic compounds such as artificial sweeteners or any of the slew of manmade chemicals injected into our foods) — the absence of accompanying resources can reduce the efficacy of the digestion. Which can then (in theory) result in the accumulation of waste products that would otherwise have been avoided, or effectively cleared away, thanks to the supporting systems that would have normally been kicked into action had the resource-dense currency been consumed instead.

Bugs In The Web

If this much is true — which, I am very confident it is — then we have to look at the myriad of supporting systems within such economies as well. Particularly those that are sold as features of the system, but in all reality are bugs.

Within our modern economy, and thanks to the miracle that is the internet (as well as Wi-Fi, and cellular signal), we are capable of transmitting communications [and now value] across space & time in quite literally a blink of an eye. Particularly one of the greatest problems of this system — which we are experiencing right now — is that monetary value that is exchanged via this system is rampant with complications and inefficiencies. A large portion of the sources of friction are due to the fact that this function was not built atop a purely internet-native system, but rather built atop of the now heavily antiquated financial communications system. Because of the double spend problem, the financial system is required to incorporate systems of checks & balances to confirm, as well as be capable of reversing, transactions through a series of middlemen operations across the plethora of domestic and international jurisdictions including; regulatory systems, political & legal jurisdictions, and commercial entities (to name a few).

This would be comparable to a slew of differing cells & organs within the body working to confirm, and if deemed necessary, reverse the exchanging of resources and ATP within the body by injecting themselves as a necessary middleman of the exchanges that are happening many billions of times per second. Thought alone would be slowed by many orders of magnitude, and the effective capability to react to the ever dynamic world around us would be all but defunct — and survival (let alone propagation) would be impossible… literally. This relationship ends up resulting in a further compounding effect when the aforementioned inflammatory reactions of economic systems are also taken into account, creating an environment that is not survivable.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Conclusion

Economies based on fraudulent sources of energy (ATP and/or capital) trend toward outcomes that produce negative feedback loops and ultimately result in their demise. The reasons for these collapses are rooted in inflammation due to a shift away from accompanying processes that would otherwise take place if done so in a more ‘natural’ manner — involving both resource-dense sources of energy/capital, as well as said economies being allowed to compete in a natural fashion (Darwinism; in both ecology as well as economics; aka free markets).

The health of our broader economies, both domestic and global, as well as the health of our own population within the United States, both stand — at present — extremely inflammatory and therefore extremely unhealthy. A return back to an economy that is based on a currency that is not only neutral in geopolitical standing, but truly worthy of value — by being resource-dense; meaning that energy & effort are both required to provide such currency for exchange — could very well be what is required to reverse the trend of decay of the greater system at large. This is not a call for taking a step backwards in technological innovation, but a step forward; working with new technologies that represent this resource-dense commercial & economic necessity.

However, the currency isn’t the only aspect of the solution, there is the matter of natural competition. Competition must be allowed onto the field of play, so as to allow for the best and most effective implementations of technology & methodology to be accurately tested, as well as confirmed to be effective. Without field-testing, theory never ascends beyond its current state as purely theoretical and/or academic. Reality is rarely as simplistic as stated in our textbooks.

By this essay I conclude that our global economy, and subsequent international and local economies, are just as resilient, and fragile, as our very bodies & ecosystems that we so often misuse and mistreat. That it would behoove us all, from the individual to the international leadership, to understand and acknowledge these parallels, so that we may stay our own demise.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” — Theodore Roosevelt

But wait, there’s more…

Epilogue:

Fossil Fuels

With the topics of biology, energy, and economies being heavily talked about in this discussion I would be remiss if I did not also mention the role of fossil fuels in this large macro environment. Before we tackle that topic I would like to swiftly put a stop to one of the largest arguments against oil specifically; oil spills.

Oil spills are admittedly catastrophic when they initially hit an ecosystem, I’m not here to argue that — frankly, because I don’t believe there’s a legitimate position against that fact. However, there is the fact that spills do not imply the lasting effects anymore with the development and implementation of bioremediation. This is a strategy that involves the deployment of microorganisms that have been identified as capable of digesting hydrocarbons, where their digestion is also amplified when fertilizers are provided in addition.

“In 2001 and 2003 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted random sampling of 4982 pits dug at 114 sites in Prince William Sound to determine how much residual oil remained; these studies found that 97.8% of the pits had no oil or light oil residues even though these sites had been heavily to-moderately oiled in 1989.” — Biodegradation and Bioremediation: A Tale of the Two Worst Spills in U.S. History

Oil & Energy

Now that you’ve allowed me to get that little bit in, we need to discuss the nature of human society in general. Humanity has always been wed to a relationship of;

harnessing energy = greater levels of flourishing

This can easily mean harnessing kinetic energy to produce tools & weapons, or harnessing the energy of fire by burning biomass (such as wood) in order to produce heat, denature proteins to assist in digestion (cooking), as well as gain sanitizing benefits. Admittedly our species hiccuped when we found out that we could use whale oil, but I would argue it was a necessary step to understanding how we could utilize crude oil. Not only in understanding of the processing that would have been required but also in the difference between the two sources; acquiring whale oil required the killing of currently living creatures (typically), whereas crude oil is more aptly the accumulation of the hydrocarbons of long-dead creatures, stored in wells far beneath the surface of the Earth.

If there were a “humane” justification, I guess that could be one.

The real marvel of our species was in the understanding of how to harness oil as an energy source, which provided the foundation required for truly aggressive technological innovation. Much like how public health could not be radically improved without access to consistent, reliable supplies of water… technology itself could not be radically improved upon without first having access to consistent & reliable supplies of energy, so that we may produce consistent amounts of electricity. Science tends to be quite difficult when you don’t have a set of constants to compare results with, many times requiring the maintaining of constant environmental conditions, both implicitly incurring consistent electricity demands.

Technological advancement doesn’t just allow us to perform greater feats of power projection in the forms of engineering or warfare, it also allows us to radically improve our living standards via greater iteration of innovation. Iteration allows for cheaper, more efficient strategies to be deduced, allowing for higher standards to be achieved with much less effort than the initial product. This is the magic trick to achieving a ‘higher standard.’ Iteration upon current innovations so that those who were previously priced-out of the newly emergent technology may also take part in the improvements upon daily life. And today, this process cannot effectively progress without consistent & reliable access to electricity.

Fossil Fuels & Powering The World Economy of Value

What holds true in the relationship between energy and innovation, also holds true for economic flourishing. If we are to continue off innovation’s necessity for access to consistent sources of electricity, economies also require consistent access — but for a, while similar, slightly different reason.

Economies require access to consistent energy not just to remain operational in a trustworthy way — a refrigerator may lose its allure, or its utility, if the electricity grid is not reliable — but also because innovation allows for better and better products to be made at cheaper and cheaper prices, at faster and faster rates (via the aforementioned iterative process). Not only improving the living standards of their societies, but also for improving the efficiency of their markets. Making so that the time intervals between advancement & improvement becomes continually smaller (Moore’s Law).

For if there is one thing more valuable than energy, it is Time.

Photo by Amos from Stockphotos.com on Unsplash

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