The Man in the High Castle

This page written circa 27 December, 2015.

Having watched Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, I found PKD's novella "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" dull by comparison. Thus I (binge) watched The Man in the High Castle and skipped the book. In this series the atmosphere is gripping, the Nazi Concorde and Japanese San Francisco scenes breathtaking, and the strong points made, but loose ends abound (perhaps the films fell through a wormhole). Methinks Mr Scott made Blade Runner tighter, but High Castle more loose. Noticeably, in the Netflix's version, Adolf Hitler is portrayed as rather more benign than is customary. More something reminiscent of Deighton's SSGB, to appear in video in 2016, it seems. Like the real Mr Hitler, Netflix's has a vision of a peaceful, united globe, if one run by Germans and rather short of Jews and blacks, and he has much more respect for the Japanese than his minions.

Worrying a little about my recent occupation with economics, Kay bought me a copy of An Economy Is Not A Society: Winners and Losers in the New Australia by Dennis Glover (Amazon). This is a book full of rhetoric and spin and with a few non-sequiturs slipped expertly under the radar, exposing its roots in the relatively-admirable, left-wing think tank Per Capita, and Glover's life as a political speechwriter. Nevertheless, it has something to say. Rip the first three chapters from the book and toss them in the trash, and you will cut to the chase in chapter 4. Mindful of the horrible impact of 30%+ unemployment portrayed in the first three chapters, Glover draws an excellent parallel between the onset of the industrial revolution in England 1800--1830 as portrayed by Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class written in 1963, and the conversion from heavy manufacturing to information industries in Australia. A rising tide may lift all boats in the end, but some may capsize on the way up. Glover is quite right in saying that the mean economic indicators do not capture every aspect of national health. One has to wonder if the Economist's Global Liveability Ranking 2015, rating Melbourne as the top place in the world to live, might have failed to visit Doveton-near-Dandenong.

CGP Grey's superb youtube exposition Humans Need Not Apply suggests that the automation that is about to finally erase vehicle manufacture from Australia is just the beginning. Glover may be seeing the tip of the iceberg. As Grey says, "We need to start thiking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable through no fault of their own". He is talking in the region of 45%, while the peak in any niche in Australia, causing Glover's concern, is 33%. As I have asked for years now, "What do you do with the fraction of the population you are sorry you've got?".

Piketty mathematically identifies the risk of accumulated wealth, and shows that it is most dangerous when distributed so that a maximum number of people expect to live off their capital income. Jeremy Arnold's answer on Quora to the question " rising wealth inequality the most pressing global issue?" talks about improving people's opportunities so that the unemployed fill the available jobs and rise up the value chain. Grey and Glover speak of a fall in net opportunities. There is only so much good you can achieve by properly equipping the people if the total number of jobs is shrinking, if the chain is too short.

ISIS notwithstanding, today's Men in our High Castles preside over a world with little war and decreasing violence. Instead the information revolution promises to produce more relative suffering than did the industrial one. Given Australia's recent achievement of 5 Prime Ministers in 3 years, courtesy of left-wing backstabbing and right-wing incompetence, one might be forgiven for having little confidence in their capacity to handle this situation. Makes New Zealand look quite appealing.

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