Cyreenik Says

August 2018 issues

Big change is coming to Venezuela, what it will be is still very uncertain

Nicolas Maduro (and before him Hugo Chavez) have been running Venezuela into the ground since 1999 in the name of reaching the goals of the Bolivarian Revolution. Reaching those goals hasn't happened, but the effort has been popular enough to sustain sufficient citizen's support... up until now.

The cost to Venezuela's prosperity has been huge. The country's economy hasn't grown, it has contracted -- it is down a third from what it was in 2013. And now, finally, Maduro and his supporters seem to be recognizing that things need to change.

This next year is going to be exciting because what the changes will be, and how they work out, is still quite unknown. On the mellow side the change could resemble the austerity reforms that Argintina and Greece are going through now. In these there is economic pain but the communities are handling it peacefully.

At the other extreme this could get quite spooky. If this turns into a social revolution of the sort that swept Iran in 1978 then both Venezuela and the surrounding Latin American regions are going to experience a lot of unsettling social upheaval, and it could bring on what I call a "bloodletting war" of the sort that the Iran-Iraq War of 1980 became -- an eight year long stalemate that succeeded in shedding lots of blood.

In the latter case, in two years or three, the people of Venezuela and the surrounding region could find themselves living in "interesting times".

This 23 Aug 18 Economist article, Nicolás Maduro tries to rescue Venezuela’s economy The president’s plan is bold, but probably not bold enough, talks about President Maduro initiating a bunch of new reforms.

From the article, "NICOLÁS MADURO’S address to his fellow Venezuelans on August 17th began like all his other “cadena” (“chain”) appearances on state television. ...

This one was worth staying tuned in for. Wearing a business suit rather than his usual tracksuit, and sniffling through a head cold, Mr Maduro made unexpected announcements. He appeared to jettison some of the economic practices that make Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution” a uniquely destructive experiment in left-wing populism. Venezuela has suffered an economic contraction of more than a third since 2013; inflation that may exceed a million per cent this year; shortages of food and medicine; and an exodus of people to neighbouring countries."

The importance of a community having a Big Vision and community members feeling enfranchised

Two current mysteries of current events are why Turkey and Venezuela are letting the country's prosperity go to hell in a hand basket. Why is this choice getting more citizen support than getting their economic act together and producing prosperity that the whole country can share?

Part of the answer is the importance of a Big Vision to the community and the importance of community members feeling enfranchised.

(I define feeling enfranchised as meaning a person feels that the community is watching out for them and that the community respects their opinions when they express them. They don't have to agree with them, but they have to respect them. Having a successful Big Vision helps people feel enfranchised. As in, "We may not agree, but we can work together on this.")

A Big Vision is an idea that a lot of community members can get behind. They are willing to spend time, money and attention on getting the Big Vision accomplished. Two periodic examples of this happening are cities supporting hosting Olympics and World Cup games -- city members whip up lots of enthusiasm for this as they compete to become the host, and even more when they are successful. This is Big Vision in action.

But keep in mind that there is a lot of resource being devoted to making this Big Vision happen, and that resource is not necessarily building the community's prosperity. If the Big Vision is building a factory or an industry that then becomes profitable, this is building the community's prosperity. If it is building an Olympic game venue, then it is not -- it is building pride, not prosperity.

This Olympic game-style vision seems to be what is powering the current evolution of Turkey and Venezuela. For a couple decades now both have been pursuing a Big Vision that is not related to promoting prosperity, and the prosperity has been suffering dearly.

The current big question is how long the peoples of Turkey and Venezuela will want to keep pursuing their current Big Vision, and, when they get ready to change it, what will they want to change it to? Examples of countries currently in the process of changing their Big Visions to something more prosperity-oriented are Argentina and Brazil. One that is trying hard to do so is Greece.

Gene editing: The future is coming fast in this arena -- it is getting easier and more popular

The new gene editing technology, CRISPR, is getting steadily cheaper and easier to use. This means that genetic editing will follow an evolution similar to computers. In both cases the early uses and users worked on expensive and exotic projects, but those were followed with steadily more mundane uses on steadily widening ranges of activities, and these projects were being conducted by more mundane users. The result of this style of evolution is the creation of a large industry that flowers into many activities.

We are still at the earliest stages of this evolution in genetic editing, but keep an eye out for lots more activity, both in how much is done and what activities it is done on. But, like computers, gene editing is something lots of people have emotion-based opinions on, so it is going to be high profile for many years to come. And the emotion part means that lots of wishing and dreaming is going to be mixed in with the scientific and technological harsh realities.

Alternatively, genetic editing could evolve like nuclear power, another technology with lots of emotion surrounding it. Nuclear power has evolved very slowly and into very limited marketplaces. But I see this as having happened because nuclear power remains expensive, this is why it has evolved much more slowly and into many fewer applications than computers have. Gene editing could follow the nuclear power path, but I don't think it will because I foresee the costs and convenience following the computer path, not the nuclear power path.

This 8 Aug 18 WSJ article, Gene-Editing Technique in Human Embryos Draws Skepticism Critics challenge a study saying a disease-causing gene mutation was repaired in human embryos by Amy Dockser Marcus, talks about gene editing a human embryo. It is an example of emotion and reality doing some controversial mixing.

From the article, "Critics are challenging a high-profile study published last year in which scientists reported that they successfully and safely used a popular gene-editing tool to repair a disease-causing gene mutation in human embryos.

Doubts about the experiment—which used the Crispr gene-editing tool on a mutation that causes a potentially fatal heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—were published in two papers on Wednesday in Nature and are a reminder of the complex scientific and ethical challenges that remain before Crispr gene-editing in embryos could be used in a real-world setting."

This 17 Aug 18 WSJ article, Scientists Confront the Ghost of Eugenics As new gene editing tools raise the prospect of engineering desired human traits, researchers are determined to educate the public by Amy Dockser Marcus, brings up gene editing in the context of the older concept of eugenics. For many people eugenics is a spooky concept that didn't work out well. So this article is one of the cautionary tale-style articles about genetic engineering.

From the article, "The recent rise of Crispr, a powerful gene editing tool, has given scientists the ability to more easily and quickly manipulate DNA in the laboratory, allowing them to alter the traits of animals and plants—and, potentially, of human embryos as well. Gene editing offers the prospect of finding cures for intractable diseases, but it has also raised concerns that it might one day be used to engineer humans who are more intelligent, beautiful or athletic. “Eugenics,” says Henry T. Greely, director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, is “the ghost at the table.”"



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