Hello just having a go at replying again. Got some error messages trying to post here before. Perhaps the thread is locked as it's no longer the current one.
Hello everyone. Since I have signed up for an account I thought I might as well also say hello. I have been reading stuff on this site and associated communities for a while but I thought I had something to contribute here the other day so I signed up to make a first comment.
I'm in England, I have a background in science (PhD in computational biology back in the day) but now spend most of my time raising and educating my kids. I don't allocate much time to online activities but when I do it's good to have something substantial to chew on. I like the interesting conversations that arise in places where people are practicing genuine conversation with those they disagree with. Lots of interesting content here too.
Other things I am interested in: how energy resources shape what is doable; foraging; forest school; localizing food production; deep listening techniques; ways to help each other think well; data visualizations.
Thanks for a really interesting essay here. I'm coming to this several years later, but one question I have is do you think some of this effect may be due to 'diminishing returns on complexity' in the sense of Joseph Tainter, 1988? That would explain how there are gains such as widespread literacy and decreased infant mortality from initial spends on education, health care and so on but as time goes on more and more is spent to achieve even tiny gains because the social system as a whole has become more complex and difficult to manage. Is that idea something you have already considered? I think the minimum technological level is a rich field to explore in precisely the way you propose in this essay -- can the cheap version which is nearly as good be reproduced today? I suspect that because such designs are likely to be less energy-intensive that they will also future-proof better.
In addition I think cultural factors may explain why the USA's costs are rising more steeply than other developed countries: countries who preceded the USA in development during colonial times got to build infrastructure with those imperial profits before the USA's cost takeoff so in a sense those economies are at a different place in the diminishing returns curve. Since I referred in passing to energy intensity above, another factor leaps out at me because I am a fan of thermodynamics, geology and so on. I can't help seeing the invisible subsidy of fossil fuels as a factor in these social questions: much of the USA's infrastructure has been constructed around exploiting fossil fuel energy in a way that the previously developed countries did differently because a lot of those countries' infrastructure was built before the oil boom. That invisible energy subsidy I think lead to all kinds of inefficiencies in energy use, alongside attempts to tackle increasing complexity for instance in the pusuit of the sublimes of megaprojects. Other eras didn't have that energy to burn, and economic growth as a whole mushroomed around fossil fuel use, with the USA at the forefront because of how the timing of its economic growth centred around using fossil fuels for everything.
Well that seemed to go fine. I'll dig out my previous comment and repost.
Half and half at the moment. 12yo is registered at school although been home since March because of covid with a lot of work sent home from school. 5yo is full time home educated. It's going ok. 5yo is keen on writing, drawing, and at the moment creating lots of 3D models in paper and tape, so those parts are easy at the moment. I think different temperaments of kid make it harder or easier.
Is there a particular reason you're considering it?
Forest school is an outdoor learning format. cf https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/
There are a lot of these settings in the UK, maybe not so many elsewhere around the world. Out in the woods in all weathers, most settings aim at facilitating children's self-directed learning, with opportunities to learn a whole lot of outdoor skills ranging from wildlife identification, tool use, as well as skills in working with other people. We go once a week for a morning or once a fortnight.