Sequoia Capital published an explanation of the crash. I don't think their right about it though.
Devaluing the dollar from gold in 74, the exodus of manufacturing from the us, the lack of anywhere to put investment dollars any more, the rise of home ownership created investment vehicles based on these, but they were overinflated to begin with, the banks then over leveraged everything, near criminal behavour was ubiquitous in every phase of a mortgage then - boom: the house of cards fell over.
What's unspoken here is how the military is a component of this. American imperialism (180 bases in 130 countries) is very very expensive. Since only American companies can bid, this forces American companies to sell $10,000 parts to the govt instead of making $500 tvs; this has been going on for decades. America produces arms, other countries now produce the things we used to make, that we buy and go into debt to own, then the next one comes out and we have to own that too.
Post wartime economies are usually pretty good. Post WWII was the most affluent time in all of human history. At some point people will realize things would be pretty good if they don't bugger about outside their own borders: step one, limit conflict to within a country.
World peace, which frankly is the only way out of this economic mess as we concentrate and make our utmost priority: food, warmth, medical and education America can once again serve as a model to the world.
America has a huge infrastructure and builds the most sophisticated and best tools of war ever made. But our real enemies are cold, hunger, disease and ignorance and our entire north American existence must be rebuilt now, almost from scratch, recognizing that what we've done until now, going back 50 or even 100 years, was a bad path to take.
I think a very big part of what happened too, is the rise of computers, the internet and technological advances in microelectronics. Now everything we could ever want is $7 at a "dollar store" and we have everything we want now. The rise and fall of gadjetmania is in no small way partly to blame for this. Funding another gadget at this point would not be prudent. It's probably arguable that you could supply an entire nation with computer telecommunications infrastructure just on crap Americans throw out. When I find DS1 routers at the Sally Ann I'm convinced this is true.
The Internet is large a cause of societal change as the printing press and whereas that took hundreds of years to pan out, computers and the network are changing society faster than is observable. With the cost of knowledge, in terms of time and money being reduced to very much the idea of getting something repaired thus enabling both a parts and service industry has been waylayed by buying a part off ebay, googling for instructions and saving 90 cents on the dollar. This isn't revolutionaty, this is what your grandfather did. We grew out of this mold because technology was advancing to quickly we had to replace a lot of things and aquire new ones. But we're done now. There will be no great new elecornics revolutions other than repackaging and recombinging og existing technology. That is:
We are now at a Star Trek level of technology.
Ok other than the transporter. The phasers are arguable. The dilithium crystals are right out as is the food synthesisers.
But! As far as computers and communications go I think it's a valid assumption that an 8 yar olfd today might watch the original episodes of star trel and think "that's funny those old fashioned computers and celphones were back in the 1950s when they made this. Ours are much better today".
Anbd indeed Captain Kirks gear does look pretty old school now. I'm a bit of a luddite but even I have better kit than Kirk does, and I'm a cheap luddite to boot.
I will buy a smartphone or a tablet sometime soon, probably on the google side of things not apples, much as I love the mac. But I aint buying any more gadjets, I don't have enough time to play with the ones I've got, and I don't have many and I'm semi retired.
Then there's the timewasting factor. If you thought people were slcakers before computers, watching office productivity go down with the advent of Windows Solitaire was stunning. And that extended to the home after it ravaged the office. But that was nothing compared to the internet which has probably wasted more time in one year than all the time spent discovering the top 100 greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time.
But this is ok. It's a phase. People go through it. They play with a new technology for a while, they explore. Having got past the stgage of "how to read and send email" people are now interacting on and via the network in a way that changes everyones daily life and indeed the fabric of culture and society. In a while they'll get over the novelty and come away with the ability to work over the network.
That time had better be now. Cause we're fucked and it's time to go back to work folks.
So! We need new ideas about how to build a world that we can afford, in every way, to maintain. Because what we have now now is beyond our ability to maintain it, that's how complicated our society has become above and beyond what we actually need to thrive. Towards this end I thought it might be instructive to just brainstorm ans throw out some ideas that might help. We used to have green light/red light sessions at one place I worked where we threw out ideas, wrote them all down without looking at them, then went through them all and redlined the ones that didn't make any sense. So, in "green light" mode I'm throwing out ideas that I think will change the world. Ideas that I think should be funded. Google is doing a bit of this, but a lot more needs to be done.
Here are some ideas that I think should see the light of day. Some are pretty radical, but I suspect we'll get there in the future anyway through a log series of iterative approximations; we can minimize waste by going there now.
Abandon every house in North America. Build something 1/100 the cost in the back yard. Hang out in there till this passes. The old house becomes a museum of excess from a bygone age, expensive to run, expensive to build. To build a half million dollar house today you need $22,000 in parts and $18,000 in labour. The rest is waste and can be safely ignored. This house should be insulated eight ways from sunday, build mostly out of recycled material, generate it's own power and food, and manage its own water and waste.
People must rely less on centralized food distribution. It's not working. Recent outbreaks of food contamincation causing wide scale sickness should be proood of that. And they're happening more often. There is goung to have to be a greater reliance on home grown food and at this point it's not overreation to attain full independance (modulo local bartering).
Poulty probably cannot be used as in the earthship days until a viable vaccine of H5N1 or all flus is found. Fish, instead is offered as an alternative with many good reasons to use them over poultry. Karl Hess was the first to point this out and deserves the credit for popularizing the idea. Barry Goldwaters speechwriter espoused this idea in a 1960s playboy interview. Get used to salmon and trout.
Waste in government process is at an all time high. I don't have a lot of dealings with the government but I've noticed in the last 5 years this has become a slow moving parody of itself. I'm under the impression that the prople that wrote software for "things in the government that use computers" was pretty god until the first few years of students trained in college around the microsoft model began hitting the streets. Now everything looks like and works like windows and nothing works and nobody cares. computers were supposed to make our lives easier, and they haven't. They did for a while but it's gone to hell in many cases now and we need to insist that computers live up to their promise of saving us, not costing us time. And money. As an engineer I don't have to spend too much time thinking about nearly any system I see today from the bank to the post office to the store about how it should be, and very definitlu not what it is. Predictably, store fare better then nearly everybody else - they can't afford the waste that say the dmv or post office thinks is just part of a normal day.
Paper needs to be eliminated from govrernment within 3 years. None of it except under very special circumstances.
Hemp needs to undergo widescale cultivation. It can be used to make paper and cloth much more eaisly and cheaply than anything else. It was suppressed by du pont so that synthetic fabrics could dominate, but they're made with oil. The potheads will actually hate this as it ruins any area within 10 miles for cultivation of "the good stuff". This alone should make conservatives happy. Life goes on.
A voter ID card. Ohio is getting silly. For the third presidential election in a row Ohio knows going in there's potential for voter fraud in 19 days when the 2008 election happens and we already know there were massive problems with the vote in Ohio in 2004 and 2000. In 1904 the US Government paid IBM to use machines to tabluate the census. This gave birth to IBM as an indistrual and computing giant, yet we're barelu as competant 100 years later than we were with punched cards! WTF?!? Instead we need a card that both sides are a very accurate touch screen. So accurate they can recognize thumbprints. No matter who handles the card, the card knows if it's the owner and only works for the owner. In it is contained a digital scan of the birth certificate, passport and drivers license of the owner. These can be checked in real time against government databases, although most poeple are happy that the picture mathes the person holding it. You should be able to use this to vote. Now as to what you vote for, not just elections but...
... cnn meets the IETF. The IETF process (and certainly no the IETF per se) is on a collision course with the government and the government may as well embrace those principles or risk being the last one to adopt them. It's already happening with the graphs or "dials" showing realtime approval and disapproval of presidential candidates while they're talking. McCain says something negative and you can watch on your TV the line dip indicating his popularity dipping as he talks. This is a bold concept. Now, take it a couple of steps further. Enumerate the issues: should we invade iraq? should we bail out the banks? and let poeple vote in ad hoc informal non-binding sueveys in real time. The president can go on tv, talk about the issue, outline possabilities and by watching charts from people voting on ideas he can get a sense of what will be a popular idea and what will not be. Look at the backlash over the first bailout vote. Congress and the Senate where shocked, awed and appalled that the populous rose up and blocked their deal. That was democracy at its finest and we need more of this.