I was reminded of Ivan Illich the other morning. One of his rants was to frame the problem of how to raise the average volocity of the Mexican population as two choices. Choice A: build a jet airport in Mexico city. Choice B: build a large number of small bridges all over the nation. It was clear which raised the maximum speed; but it was also clear the B raised the average speed substantially more. It’s a good example of the trade-offs you make deciding to aid the power-law’s elite vs. the long tail.
What triggered this reminding? The Chinese space shot. First I smiled because that’s such an extreme case of choice A. Such a fine example of societies tendency to pointless monumentalism. Such an odd thing for a socialist state to engage in; not that anybody really harbors many illusions of the Chinese as particularly socialist anymore. But then I laughed out loud, because at least A and B acutally create linkages. Space shots don’t go nowhere. That’s really the extreme of monumentalism.