[Marxism] from input-output tables to global modelling

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 8 12:38:11 MST 2013

In today's Science Times is an article entitled "Digital Globes Offer
a Dynamic Vision."

It says (in part):

"Across a sunblasted courtyard [in the Cape Town Science Center]... a
digital globe — stands in a darkened room. This globe is a shining
sphere of light. Children stand awe-struck; adults of a certain age
may be reminded of images like Apollo 8’s Earthrise photograph, while
Tolkien fans of all ages will recall the spherical, swirling
“palantír” of Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings"....

"Controlled by a keyboard or tablet computer, a digital globe can
toggle between familiar, static images, like the world’s political
boundaries, topography or vegetation. It can animate complex
phenomena, like the formation of weather systems, the effect of global
warming on wolverine habitats or the annual pulse of sea ice....

"A digital globe can illuminate the human planet: wars, colonization,
the formation of diaspora, modern trade flows or air traffic…
Edward R. Tufte, the author of “The Visual Display of Quantitative
Information,” is enthusiastic about the potential of digital globes to
remind us of earth’s offline realities — “by forgetting about the 3D
whole Earth, flatland economic optimizing leads to global

On Tufte's website I added the following comment:

"Regarding your assertion that "flatland economic optimizing leads to
global pessimizing"... Certainly the local focus (whether geographic
or institutional) is bound to lead to Prof. Merton's unanticipated
consequences [Tufte mentioned Merton's article on his own
amplification of his Times quote.].

"But whether the 2, and not 3, dimensional representation is to blame,
I'm not so sure. Consider this:

"Wassily Leontief's input/output tables -- totally 2D and flat --
nonetheless attempt to portray a complete picture of an economy's

"... but imagine such an I/O table converted to 3D and displayed on
one of these globes. Now picture a group of representatives from each
economic sector projecting a display of their industries' needed
inputs and projected outputs onto the globe: picture trucks whizzing
across it, factories being built (and torn down), hospitals
rearranging their clinic sizes and locations -- and the globe's
computer continuously updating the picture as a whole with each new
input, the global (pun intended) output from which are then adjusted
in an iterative fashion.

"And as all this goes on, a program running in parallel displays the
changing climatic impact...

"The stuff of science fiction? Perhaps not for long."

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