Ireland in 2050 Thoughts & comments.
I took “Ireland in 2050” on a weekend away. I also took a lot of fiction and some graphic novels (which is a fancy word for big comics). I didn’t think I’d get past the fiction and the graphic novels. In reality I barely got to the fiction as I used my available reading time devouring “Ireland in 2050” (2050).
It’s an enjoyable read. And an interesting exercise. And an important one. Steven Kinsella sets out to start a row about our future. I don’t think there has been much debate about our future since De Valera’s view of “comely maidens dancing at the crossroads”. Lemass had an economic vision. Garrett Fitzgerald had a social and liberal vision, with the economic one being consigned to fixing the economic mess.
On the whole there has been little debate, serious or otherwise about where we are going as a nation for a long time. Bertie Ahern said he was a pragmatict without ideology. As Keynes said about those “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” As to which economist well thats another story. So I love the idea of having a row about our future. We need it. And it could help us out of the mess we are in at the moment.
At one level while 2050 seems a long way away it isn’t. That’s an explicit point Steven makes in the book. And for the sake of our children and ourselves its something we need to think about. Its also something I’m interested in as I have 3 myself. Our children are hostages to posterity in many ways.
These are my random thoughts on the book. A fully account would take more time than I have at the moment. And both of our time could be better spend. You should start with reading the book. In fact if you didn’t read another word here and just went and read the book instead then I’d have achieved something.
The hook against which this exercise is set is a few months in the life of the imagined Murphy family as a hook to hang a number of thoughts against and to give us something we can relate to.
On page 35 I’ve written “The future is here, its just not evenly distributed yet” which is a quote from William Gibson which underlines that much of what the world is going to be like in 40 years has already been invented, its just going to be more pervasive.
On pg 42 he makes a distinction between income (what we earn per year) and wealth (stored income) and points out while we’ve recently had high incomes in Ireland we as a nation haven’t accumulated much wealth. This distinction is an important one that is seldom made (and even less so over the past few boom years). He also points out that our economy is < 1% of European total so our €191 billion could almost be a rounding error in European terms
On page 49 he refers to the tiger years as being “a series of very fortunate circumstances” – something Paul Krugman pointed out in 1997 about much FDI in Ireland up to that point. This is something that came through when I looked at this area when doing my MBA dissertation a few years ago. He also quotes Joe (JJ) Lee on this point and Lee’s rather superb “Ireland Politics & Society”. (There is nothing like the confirmation of your own biases).
There is an interesting and important discussion about the role of the US and how important it will be in 2050. On this point I’d like to think he’s right and I’m not sure. I’d contrast the UK between 1910 and 1950 as the comparative example. See this video for an explanation of what I mean. [Did you know 3] Either way the idea of making Ireland a trading hub is a good one.
I don’t know if he’s being provocative, or just trying to scare me when he refers to the possibility of a religious revival due to society calling “the benefits of extreme individualism” into account. He does mention the role of the church persisting for another two generations, as most of us remain “nominally catholic”. Whats missing at this point is the reason why. The role of the church as a shadow welfare state may have been eclipsed, and its role over ritual in society hasn’t. Birth, death and marriage and most critically its role in schooling and it refusal to relinquish that grip at any level are critical. Try getting your kids into a catholic school that is paid for by the general tax fund without being nominally catholic. (That’s a rant of a different order).
The role of the student having “the blinkered pony” about him is an interesting discussion. “We prepare our children for their lives as adults by attempting, in some sense, to produce university professors”. Its worse than that in many ways. We expect students to be able to answer questions, we tell them that there are answers to questions and that if they can’t answer questions they’re dumb. While back in the real world understanding problems, being terrified because there are no answers or a dozen answers and being able to work through to a good answer is the norm. It being able to cope with not knowing and working through to answers is one of the key skills that we are missing. He uses some of Sir Ken Robinsons work to illustrate his points that we need to “kill the education system, not creativity”. If anyone want to understand the industrial roots of the classroom then, start by reading John Taylor Gattos “The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher” And then get more information at Gatto’s own site.
There is an interesting discussion on privacy and the notion of privacy being an analogue one. This is one point where I think that there will be some changes. I grew up in a small town where there was little privacy. You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without being seen by someone, and you were stamped by who you were – your family, parents, brothers and sisters placed you in a context it was difficult to escape from. Despite this there was some privacy. As teenagers we found ways to be private. Just as teenagers today are doing. Many are texting rather than twittering as texting is 1:1 not broadcast and gives some modicum of privacy. There is plenty of stuff on Facebook and MySpace. There is plenty not on it either.
Anyway these are points for discussion rather than major disagreements….. And that’s just my thoughts on the first 1/3 of the book. Have I told you to go read it yet.
I’d intended to put all my thoughts on the book into this one post. Over a thousand words later thats not going to happen. So with only a third of the book read you can see all the ideas that are being provoked in my head… Go read the book for yourself. And I’ll update my thoughts on the other 2/3 of the book later.