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The Relationship Between Capital & Knowledge

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ThatOldGuy Posted: Tue, May 8 2012 2:53 PM

I was making some calculations today and spaced out to think about the following- the following could apply to many situations, but, as it pertains to my coming to this question, I will focus on a brief introduction to the question regarding math in particular.

As a heads up, I'm not sure as to whether this is more in the realm of praxeology/economics or thymology/economics so I will bump this thread for clarification purposes as well as a reassessment of the interesting question posed in that thread as it relates to the question posed in this thread.

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It's no secret that there are brilliant minds among us. Many of the posters on this forum are some of the brightest people I've ever "met."

For example, Isaac Newton discovered the motion of planets around the sun and why the planets travel the patterns they travel. To do so, he invented/(discovered?), in one year, integral and differential calculus to theorize that the elliptical patterns by which they travel are the result of the calculus behind conic sections; then he turned twenty-six.*

Over time there has been more capital invested in mathematical calculation. The particular capital good that led me to posing this question is the calculator. I am able to take the integral of the function f(x)=2x+2 from any upper and lower limit and, as a matter of the time it takes to plug it into my TI-84, find the solution. It's done in virtually no time as far as I'm concerned. If I had to do it, though, I could find the integral in my head and go from there.

I've also known people who can perform complex calculations in their head in a matter of seconds ranging from fairly reasonable, yet impressive nonetheless, accuracy to downright perfect with the correct number of significant figures. This seems to be somewhat more prevalent with older people -who have, perhaps, not had the option of resorting to calculation by a computer- in my experience, at least.

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My questions are the following: does wealth, or exposure to it, hinder our ability to cope with problems -any problem at all- on our own or merely change our approaches to them by increasing specialization within a given society? Does the production of wealth, and increased levels of it, encourage further the division of labor in a given society in this sense such that our independence (e.g. my having to use a calculator rather than using brain power because I don't have the option of using the calculator) is reduced?

I am not, yet, sure if this post is to my satisfaction and will understandably answer any questions posed at me for clarification purposes. The way I see it, these concerns involve praxeological, thymological, and economic insights.

Thoughts?

*(FWIW I disagree with his assertions regarding allocating more resources to astrophysics, even though the assertion as a "refutation of capitalism" is nothing new, but I think Neil deGrasse Tyson reflects on Newton's accomplishments nicely here; apart from possibly his economic/political views, he seems pretty cool personably.)

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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gotlucky replied on Tue, May 8 2012 4:51 PM

[D]oes wealth, or exposure to it, hinder our ability to cope with problems -any problem at all- on our own or merely change our approaches to them by increasing specialization within a given society?

Wealth enhances our ability to cope with problems.  An axe enhances our ability to chop down trees, and a calculator enhances our abilities to solve math problems.  That is why they exist.  Think about the pencil and paper.  Those two objects enhance our abilities to solve math calculations.

Does the production of wealth, and increased levels of it, encourage further the division of labor in a given society in this sense such that our independence (e.g. my having to use a calculator rather than using brain power because I don't have the option of using the calculator) is reduced?

Isn't that the point of the division of labor, that we are more dependant on each other and on capital?  But isn't this a good thing?  It improves our quality of life.  We don't have to be fully independant in order to meet our needs.  Of course, anyone who feels that they would be better being more independant in certain disciplines is free to strengthen their abilities in those areas.  But the rest of us don't have to do this and we can specialize in areas that interest us.

• | Post Points: 20
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ThatOldGuy replied on Tue, May 8 2012 6:58 PM

In retrospect, I feel like I was just thinking out loud (without thinking) when I posted this. I had a feeling it was that simple. By division of labor I was trying to frame it as generally as possible so we wouldn't just be talking about calculators. Hmm..

gotlucky:
Of course, anyone who feels that they would be better being more independant in certain disciplines is free to strengthen their abilities in those areas.  But the rest of us don't have to do this and we can specialize in areas that interest us.

I think this pretty much covers it. Thanks.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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