No Closer To God : Imports, Exports, and Infocap [MT119]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

There is no special virtue in being an exporter -- we are no closer to God than the rest of you
-- John Hyde [10]

South of The River: a Silly Story

Dear Diary, It all started in such a small way. Of course all of us enlightened people who live north of the Swan River in Perth naturally feel a certain amount of pity for those those poor deprived souls who live South of the River,

It's often through no fault of their own, just an accident of birth, or perhaps lack of education, which stops them ever climbing out from their humble beginnings.

It's true that until the '60s we NOTREs had the only University in the State, so that every day their ambitious youngsters had to stream across the bridges to get a bit of learning, or else had to uproot and settle, temporarily and uneasily, in the poorest sort of lodgings available among we elite.

But of course those SOTRIs breed like rabbits, and in a spirit of fairness the Government eventually let them open their own university, to cope with their growing hordes as best they might. And it was made clear to them that there was to be no discrimination -- their better talents could still perhaps win scholarships to the proper University, and we would at least maintain a token representation in their own new venture. It was the least we could do, to advise them on what to do and exert a little kind but firm supervision of their development.

But of course they weren't satisfied. Before you could say Jack Robinson they had wheedled their way into renaming one of their technical schools as a university, and claimed they had two to our one. As a matter of form we had to do the same, making it two all.

And although the new private university, actually named after us, has started off in Fremantle, everybody knows that Fremantle and South Perth are only notionally south of the river. They are really just NOTRE missionary colonies, part of the white man's burden. Just to be safe, though, the private university is soon to be moved back into our hinterlands, well out of the problem front-line border area.

Faced with a clear 3-2 defeat, some of the lower SOTRI elements looked round for something else to complain about. They settled on an easy and emotive target -- money.

"Why", they started whingeing, "is it that we have to do all our special shopping in the NOTRE areas? Why do we have to pay them to go to all the best cinemas, to attend all the rock concerts, to see all the new plays, musicals, and overseas entertainers? We are just lining the pockets of the so-called north-of-the-river-elite, all we get is the dirty jobs and smoke-stack industries."

"Our factory and business bosses don't live with the workers, every day they drive over the bridges from their plush north-of-the-river mansions, staying just long enough to retrench a few loyal workers in order to keep their own fat paychecks safe".

It's pathetic, I know, but that's how some of them actually talk and think. They don't show any gratitude for the huge investments we have made in underprivileged SOTRI areas, our efforts to raise their training up to a decent level, our legislation to ensure that their squalid housing at least reaches a minimum standard of hygiene.

Now things are starting to look ugly. The SOTRIs are intending imposing Bridge Entry and Exit Taxes on people moving between the two territories. Even worse, they are proposing to apply tariffs on goods moving south, in order, they claim, 'to protect their own industries from a flood of cheap dumped NOTRE imports'.

And the latest, and perhaps silliest thing they propose doing, is to monitor and control all NOTRE investments in their areas. Their approval will be required for all new investments, they will have special limits on repatriation of profits to the north, and they will be moving to their own currency in the belief that that will save them from the problems which ours is currently experiencing.

It is inevitable and only equitable that we in turn impose stern restrictions on migration of SOTRIs into our territory. If we don't do this, we will be overrun with cheap labour and our own standards of living will start to fall -- we certainly don't want to end up with a Wetback problem like they have in the United States.

It is indeed sad to see all this happening. More and more, it starts to look as if Premier Hanrahan will be right. Dear Diary, where will it all end?

Now Let's Be Serious

Yes, you are right, that was a ridiculous idea -- it could never actually happen in Perth, could it?

Perhaps not. But parallels to this ridiculous story can certainly be found in real life everywhere. The underlying points are: erection or maintenance of a syston boundary round what you see as 'your' people, identifying those 'outside' the barrier with other syston labels, and seeking to advantage those within 'your' syston at the expense of the others.

All very natural -- Charity Begins at Home, after all.

The Seesaw Quiz

The Seesaw Quiz technique is one which I first noticed used in the seminal British TV comedy series, Yes Minister. It was used by Sir Humphrey Appleby to demonstrate to poor naive Bernard that the results of a survey of 'public opinion' on a topic were fundamentally different when the survey was approached from opposite extremes.

As a example here, I will apply the technique to the topic of Importing and Exporting goods, from the Australian viewpoint. A series of 'public opinion poll' type questions will be posed, and the answers given will be represented on a 7-point scale from highly positive to highly negative. Of course the answers are not actually derived from any poll, they are only my guess at what the majority answers might be in a particular case.

Importing & Exporting: A Public Opinion Poll

-3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3
No, No Maybe Don't Maybe Yes Yes,
No No Know Yes Yes
1. Should Australians be allowed to export? X
2. Should Australians be encouraged to export? X
3. Should the Australian Government help exporters? X
4. Should exports be subsidized by the Government? X
5. Should Australian companies open sales offices overseas? X
6. Should they manufacture Australian-designed goods overseas? X
7. Should Australians be allowed to own factories in other countries? X
8. Should they be allowed to own holiday homes overseas? X

Now run the same sort of quiz in the other direction:

-3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3
No, No Maybe Don't Maybe Yes Yes,
No No Know Yes Yes
1. Should the Government encourage importing of goods? X
2. Should 'dumping' of cheap foreign imports be allowed? X
3. Should Australian industries be protected by import tariffs? X
4. Should Australia try to replace imports with local produce? X
5. Should we try to finance developments from local funds? X
6. Should Indonesians be allowed to own holiday homes in Australia? X
7. Should Australians be encouraged to holiday within the country? X
8. Should the Japanese be allowed to buy up any property they like in Australia? X

Now maybe the suggested results which might be obtained from such a quiz are a bit out. And of course results from such a quiz may be different in the future. But the general tenor of the results is probably not contested -- things which are seen as desirable for Australians to do vis-a-vis the outside world are seen as undesirable for the outside world to do vis-a-vis Australia.

Logically this is hard to defend. Why should Exporting be viewed as Good, and Importing Bad? If you step over a national border, with various title deeds and bank deposit statements in your pocket, should your whole philosophy change as you do so?

MT does not venture to state that anything is Good or Bad. Its comment on the matter of imports and exports would be that all restrictions to trade flows would be likely to disadvantage those imposing the restrictions. Such restrictions would therefore be undesirable unless Asking Question One (MT116) -- "Are the restrictions on the grounds of attaining threshold health or safety levels?"-- gave a 'Yes'.

The value of setting up a Seesaw Quiz is that it allows you to localize and identify what syston you are standing in. The example just given is a fairly loosely-structured one.

Suppose we re-ran the last question, on permitting 'foreign' ownership, in a closely-graduated sequence, and said "Who should be allowed to buy a house in Perth?", with a series of answers graduated from 'Anyone in the world', through 'Europeans'; 'Asians'; 'Asians married to Australians'; 'Australians living overseas'; 'New Zealanders'; 'British with right of residency in Australia; 'Children born in the US of Australian parents/ with one Australian parent/ with one British parent who lived in Australia for 30 years but died in 1940; Thursday Islanders with one parent from New Guinea; a Filipino fathered by an Australian serviceman; someone born on the Cocos Islands to Malaysian parents; someone from Tasmania; from the Kimberley; from South of the River.

In MT111 the difficulties of deciding who was a 'foreign' owner were pointed out. Setting up the Seesaw Quiz on permitted foreign owners also brings out the decision difficulties. But an important point about the technique is that running the quiz from different ends is likely to give different results. Starting from the 'obviously yes' end, and getting more and more uncertain, will delay slamming down the drawbridge to a point much further on, than the point of raising it for candidates increasingly easier to accept.

There is a general MT inference which can be drawn from this situation:

Proposition 119A**. No syston boundaries are completely sharp, instead they are only profiled barriers

This brings us to the point where we can improve the detail of our Matrix model.

Back To the Atom

Right back in Figure 101.1, the first diagram in the first of these articles, we showed various 'models' of the atom. These ranged from the undefined round objects envisaged by John Dalton, through the planetary and shell models developed when research identified the electrons and nucleus which made up the atom, and ending with an 'electron density' image. In this last model, (d) in Figure 101.1, the electrons are represented as 'smeared out' into a probability cloud, where the density of the cloud is indicated by contour lines.

This particular image is taken from a detailed structure determination of the mica mineral muscovite. The full determination is shown in Figure 119.1, which is from Zvyagin [Reference 27].

Mica minerals have pronounced layer structures, which is why they can be split easily into very thin sheets. Before heatproof glasses were developed, windows in ovens and stoves were made of thin, transparent sheets of mica rock.

Structures like this muscovite one are worked out by subjecting the specimen to a high-energy stream of electrons or x-rays. Individual atoms in the specimen deflect or scatter the stream according to the extent of the electron clouds around them, and this can be used to build up pictures of the electron clouds themselves.

In the picture, places where the electron-cloud contours are numerous and closely-packed represent heavier atoms with lots of electrons. These are like tall, thin hills, but the contours represent electron density rather than height.

On the other hand, light atoms with fewer electrons show up with fewer, more widely-spaced contours, like small, low hills. The analogy is not exact, because the electron-density image is actually a projection of the electron clouds of the various atoms from a given viewpoint, perhaps across the layers. If viewed from a different angle, say along the layers, the projected image would be different.

Notice that some of the images are run together, appearing as pairs or groups of hills instead of isolated peaks. In some cases, this is only a projection effect, showing one atom standing behind and to one side of another. But in others, the atoms are actually very close and touching, so that their electron clouds are somewhat merged or shared. This electron sharing is, of course, the basis of chemical bonding.

Fig. 119.1. Projection of the muscovite structure on the 0yz plane Notice that some of the images are run together, appearing as pairs or groups of hills instead of isolated peaks. In some cases, this is only a projection effect, showing one atom standing behind and to one side of another. But in others, the atoms are actually very close and touching, so that their electron clouds are somewhat merged or shared. This electron sharing is, of course, the basis of chemical bonding.

Infocap Density Clouds

Earlier the analogy between atoms and systons was mentioned. In a further analogy, we can depict the infocap which systons contain in a similar way to that used to show electrons in mineral structures, as in Figure 119.2.

The intention of this figure is to give a visual grasp of infocap contents in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, plus the role of infocap in relations between these four countries. This example has been selected because the geographic outlines of the four countries give an immediate grasp of the players involved, which helps to introduce the concept. The infocap blobs within the individual countries are not intended to accurately reflect the geographic boundaries.

Features of this infocap-density image are as follows. Australia has internal divisions based on state boundaries. Some contour lines surround the whole country including Tasmania, inner ones exclude Tasmania. New Zealand has a distinction between the North and South Islands, but lies within a common contour envelope with Australia.

Fig. 119.2. Infocap density gradients for the UK-Japan- Australia-New Zealand grouping

Britain has its own internal divisions, and also lies within a shared, but lower, contour with Australia and New Zealand. It shares only its lowest contour level with Japan. Japan looks different -- it has a lot of closely-packed contours. This implies that Japan has a high infocap content, and also a thick, impermeable syston skin cutting it off from the rest of world.

There are no numbers on the contour lines, we do not yet have units in which to measure infocap. Of course, this figure is only the first attempt at setting up an infocap-density model, it could stand a lot of refinement. However, it can give an accessible visual representation of data which would be much less accessible in the form of pure numbers and tables. It can be expected to be fundamentally better than the latter, because it is a 2-dimensional representation, and so can carry a much greater information flow than a zero-dimension quantity like a number.

Don't Fence Me In

The infocap-density image also gives a further insight into the actual nature of syston skins. It would seem that these skins may actually be describable in terms of infocap characteristics. The suggestion is that syston skins are made up of steep infocap density gradients, that is, places where the infocap density changes rapidly over a short distance.

Proposition 119B****. Syston boundaries consist of steep infocap density gradients

As an example of this, look at Japan in Figure 119.2. Anyone who has had extensive dealings with Japan will know that Japan is 'different'. The inhabitants use a language and script which is both complex and not closely related to any others. Many would say that the social patterns, and even the thought processes, of the Japanese are quite hard to grasp for an outsider.

This situation is rather different to that with, say, one of the tribal peoples of the Amazon Basin. These people might also have a language which was difficult for an outsider to grasp. But the vocabulary of this language would be only a tiny fraction of that of Japanese, and their social patterns would also be far less complex.

In MT terms, the infocap content of the Amazon syston would be much less than that of the Japan syston, and so it would appear on the infocap-density image as a much flatter hill. Another way of looking at it would be to say that synenergy flow into and out of Japan is impeded by a very steep syston-boundary barrier.

It may be that in the future we will be able to examine such matters in more quantitative and analytical terms. An infocap-density gradient of the steepness currently possessed by Japan may be very close to unstable. In this case, the accumulation of more infocap by Japan could lead to 'slumping' of their whole hill -- perhaps a theoretical description of increasing distribution of Japanese capital funds overseas.

A possibly more powerful visual image is to think of a country-syston like Japan, not as a simple round mountain, but as a volcanic cone. The lava it contains, its infocap, can only build up so far inside the cone. If lava accumulation continues, inevitably it will eventually either overflow the lip of the volcano or will break through its walls and flow down the lower slopes. In either case, the result is a wider, perhaps lower, profile in which the slope gradient will not go over a given steepness.

What's Wrong With Hydroponics?

Growing plants hydroponically, that is, using not soil but an inert water-based medium, can be quite an efficient means of production. But it does have a number of practical drawbacks.

The plant nutrients required may be carefully calculated and supplied to the plants at the right time, but it is easy for things to go wrong, so the growth achieved is not what was expected. The plants may even die. Diseases can be a real problem, with the ability to sweep right through the operation in spite of stringent routines for hygiene.

It seems that the 'root' of the problems encountered with hydroponic production lies, not with doing anything wrong, but rather with the need to do a great many different things right. A hydroponic system does not have the resilence, the 'forgivingness' of a natural soil-based system. Instead, it is close to what physicists call a 'meta-stable' system, like a ball lying on the very top of a hill. Only the slightest breath of wind is needed to nudge it over to the point where it will gather speed and run right down the hill. Left in the valley bottom, however, it is in a stable position. If a breath of wind blows it up the slope, it will soon roll back to its original position.

It is no secret that the lack of stability of hydroponic systems is often tied up with their lack of buffering capacity. The inert materials, such as rock wool or gravel, used in place of soil do not have the same capacity to absorb excess nutrients or heat and give them out again when in short supply. Even at higher theoretical levels, there may inadequate buffers; hydroponically grown plants are usually all clones or genetically very similar, and if a disease strikes one, in its precisely-controlled state, it will hit the lot, all existing in the identical state.

So here the buffer missing is a bit of genetic diversity, or a range of variation in physical conditions. This diversity has a cost, the buffer capacity needs paying for. In a good hydroponic setup, only the exact amount of chemical nutrient required will be used, with no costs for overfeeding or leaching. But to go this route does mean walking the tightrope.

From the MT viewpoint, a buffer represents an investment of infocap. At first sight, it might look like redundant or unused infocap. This applies at every syston level -- why do we teach so many of our children a foreign language in school, for example, when for most it would appear a waste of resources? Very few of them will actually use the language in their jobs.

The MT answer is the same as always. Teaching the child a foreign language increases the infocap stores of the individual and of the syston which contains it. This will make the syston more diverse, and hence more stable.

Proposition 119C**. A syston with extensive buffer capacity will be more stable than one without

This Proposition does not seem particularly controversial, but it is one often in conflict with conventional thinking. There is seldom a distinction between putting resources into buffers, and wasting resources.

Most research fund committees, for example, watch very carefully to guard against 'duplication of research'. Before you get the money to research the structure of muscovite, for example, you would need to show that a thorough literature search gave no evidence that it had already been done. "No sense in re-inventing the wheel".

There is sense in this, but it can be overdone. The basic drawback of this approach is that it assumes that Researcher A is identical in performance to Researcher B, and this is not necessarily true. Worse still, it disregards the possibility that Researcher B will notice some side aspect of the research process which may turn out to be far more important than the original objective. Start off to invent a wheel, and come up with a ball-bearing, perhaps.

There is a virtue in redundancy. Perhaps the final word here may come from our genes. Of the genes contained in human DNA, some 80% appear to have no purpose whatsoever -- the so-called 'junk genes'. It is these self-same 'redundant' genes which may keep the human race stable in the face of unknown factors, today and in the future.

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(Full list of references at MTRefs)

[10]. John Hyde. Tree Crops, the 3rd Component. Cornucopia Press, Australia, 1982.
[27]. Boris B Zvyagin. Electron-diffraction analysis of clay mineral structures. Plenum Press, NY, 1967.

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