The Economist: The World in 2007
December 2, 2006 11:10 AM   Subscribe

In 2007 there will be lots of anniversaries, the web will keep killing the television star, the popcorn will taste familiar, humankind will come closer still to achieving immortality, and text messaging will conquer Africa. And although the spread of democracy is stalling (don't worry however - the Swedes still win (pdf)), it's still down to George Bush.

The Economist: The World in 2007.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also: podcasts!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2006


The immortality article mentions a couple of drugs that have the potential to reduce stressful memory formation and inhibit all memory formation, respectively. I must say that I'm kind of scared of the latter. Two scenarios spring to mind: first, criminals using it to keep witnesses/victims from seeing anything and second, torturers doing the same.

I'm also not entirely sure what good use it could have. Perhaps it could be used during surgeries in which the patient needs to remain awake. That way the patient doesn't remember the grisly details. Other than that I'm having a hard time imagining why completely inhibiting memory formation would be useful.
posted by jedicus at 11:44 AM on December 2, 2006


jedicus: Given to rape victims immediately following the trauma or soldiers after a particularly horrific episode, it could potentially lessen the effects of post traumatic stress disorders.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2006


Or, you know, help you forget how she stabbed you in the heart after two years of committed marriage, and ran off with a fucking chef. A Belgian chef.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:54 AM on December 2, 2006


Thanks for the post.

Wow, that is some astonishingly inane and unsupportable contrarianism from Micklethwait. "Now, with the Democrats likely to lavish ever more on boondoggles," Bush can courageously stand up to overspending?!? The Republican Congress has had zero restraint, to be sure, but the biggest budget busters have been Bush initiatives, like the precription drug benefit and that inconclusive experience in Iraq.

Plus, if you want to engage in "maybe Bush will do something postive someday" contrarianism, you have to mention immigration reform. It's the only area in which Bush might be considered to have consistent principles over his public service career (with the possible exception of decreasing government revenue regardless of context or expenditures). And those principles on immigration are closer to those of most Democrats than Republicans.

The end of the article is jaw-droppingly counterfactual. Micklethwait lists a bunch of seemingly intractible problems that Bush has shown little or no inclination to address in any meaningful fashion (the Doha trade round, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the environment), asserting that he could preserve a legacy by solving them.

"With panache and a little cunning," Micklethwait writes, "Mr Bush could start to fashion a replacement for Kyoto." Well, with a little fairy dust and psychokinesis, I could kick John Micklethwait in the nuts over the Internet. But does anyone think that's a likely event?
posted by ibmcginty at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2006 [4 favorites]


jedicus, many years ago, a science fiction author (I think it was Heinlein, although I'm not sure) posited the invention of what he called the Lethe field, in which memories couldn't be formed.

He was of the opinion that suffering isn't pain itself, but the memory of ongoing pain, and thought it would be used for surgical recovery. I don't think he intended it for use as 'anesthetic', but rather just in the postoperative phase.

The thought of torturers using that kind of drug/field is absolutely terrifying.
posted by Malor at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2006


Baby_Balrog: I realize one of the drugs may lessen the impact of traumatic memories, but the other one eliminates memory entirely. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, even in the military.

Imagine soldiers are ordered to commit something along the lines of Haditha or My Lai. Then they're given the memory eraser and told afterward that they were the attacked rather than the attackers. The soldiers are 'happy' and the brass get plausible deniability.

I really think there are few circumstances where the risk of using a drug like that would not be outweighed by the potential for abuse and manipulation.

I can see the anti-PTSD drug being very useful in the military and in rape cases and the like. Even then I have reservations: in the case of rape, I think it would be important to know that the drug only reduces the traumatic effects of the memory while still allowing conscious recollection of the event. Otherwise there would be problems with identifying attackers.
posted by jedicus at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2006


ibmcginty has it spot-on. that might be the most crapulent piece of bullshit ever. my favorite is "Millions of people around the world may have loathed Mr Bush for his actions, but it was hard to accuse him of a lack of ambition." Try: s/Bush/{"Idi Amin"|"Pol Pot"|"Stalin"|etc.}. Utterly embarrassing garbage.

WTF is wrong with the Economist?
posted by facetious at 12:05 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it could be used during surgeries in which the patient needs to remain awake. That way the patient doesn't remember the grisly details.

I'm given to understand this is already done. One of my friends told me they'd given it to her, and when I recently went for an endoscopy recently, they mentioned to me that among the drugs I was receiving, there'd be a memory disrupting drug.

Part of me finds that disturbing -- not remembering an experience is not the same as not having had it. It's also a bit of a problem from a liability/responsibility standpoint. But on the other hand, I may well not want to remember some things.
posted by weston at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2006


From Micklethwait:
That is not to deny the toughness of the task that Mr Bush faces. With Iraq, he has to mix resolution—America surely must keep its troops there throughout 2007—with contrition: he owes Americans and Iraqis a frank explanation of the mistakes made.

So that's it. Don't change anything about the complete f-ing bloodbath, just say, "oops, my bad?" We already know that they screwed this up, we don't want an explanation of mistakes, we want some fracking plan of how we're going to get out this. People are dying everyday and he's still treating it like it's a marketing exercise.
posted by octothorpe at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2006


Hmm. Yes, it certainly is strange that Bush's attempt to democratize the middle east has had the opposite effect. Even more inexplicably, his efforts to safeguard our constitutional rights have, for no reason anyone can think of, instead eroded them. His massive campaign to end terrorism has, through some mind-boggling trick of fate, caused it to grow like wildfire.

Perhaps if our greatest minds spend the next fifty years studying these paradoxes they'll be able to identify the complex circumstances that brought about these unintended consequences. Clearly there's just no sensible, simple explanation readily available.
posted by Clay201 at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'd prefer if they would cure sarcasm.
posted by srboisvert at 12:35 PM on December 2, 2006


weston - it was likely midazolam.
posted by docpops at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2006


Clearly there's just no sensible, simple explanation readily available.

How about this one: The man is criminally incompetent.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2006


I wasn't going to comment on the Bush article, but Christ, it's almost painful to read. Every other sentence sounds as though it's coming out of a parallel universe overseen by unicorns.
posted by docpops at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2006


How about this one: The man is criminally incompetent.
Ohh, you can't say things like that. It wouldn't be civil or bi-partisan or serious.
posted by octothorpe at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2006


"With panache and a little cunning,"

Are we talking about the same person? The CIC who laughs at fart jokes and is about as cunning as a roofing hammer?

There is little to no hope that anything constructive will come out of the Whitehouse in the next 2 years, I mean really, this fella literally was a failure at just about everything he touched prior to being president. Why do people think it'll be any different because he has access to more money and a military?
posted by edgeways at 12:43 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


The memory-altering/removing/suppressing drugs remind me of William Gibson's "Mona Lisa Overdrive", in which one of the characters, Slick, did time in a "chemo-penal unit" under the influence of "induced Korsakov's". (Wernicke-Korsakov Syndrome.)
Quote: "(...)something they did to your neurons so that short-term memories wouldn't stick."
Most (all?) of the novel's text is reproduced here. A word search for Korsakov will bring up relevant passages. Frankly, I could see the bad outweighing the good, as interested parties could crack the drug and produce it for their own agendas, which could have terrible results. The Manchurian Candidate, anyone?
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:47 PM on December 2, 2006


...and, sadly, when it comes to his legacy, he does not have much to lose.

Well, they got that much right about Bush.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2006


Would a memory-easing drug be selective? Would the patient's memory of pain be reduced along with his memory of his grandparents' farm, or his first day of school? Would even more current recall be affected, such as business appointments, papers due, the combination to his locker, his Social Security number?
posted by Cranberry at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2006


The only one I looked at was the "tv" one. Apparently the author's teenage son or daughter told him about this hip new Youtube thing and he went and wrote an article.

yeah, I'm sure two minute videos of kids lip syncing to Justin Timberlake will replace professionally made tv shows any day now. Maybe TV networks/movie studios will deliver more content online, but the whole idea of amateurs replacing professionals is just as silly here as it when its applied to bloggers.

A new kind of professional may emerge, or professionals may adopt new delivery methods, but amateurs, by definition, will never replace professionals.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2006


"maybe Bush will do something postive someday"

Washington Post Op-Ed: 'What Will History Say? He's The Worst Ever.'
posted by ericb at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2006


Mr Bush will have experience on his side. He is set to become the most experienced voice around the G7 table.

Jesus wept.
posted by dhartung at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2006


One issue concerning the pill to do away with painful memories causing stress disorder is that many lawyers will be hard put to make a case that clients suffered as a result of this or that and had an emotional impact lasting many many months; therefore compensation called for.
posted by Postroad at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2006


Would a memory-easing drug be selective? Would the patient's memory of pain be reduced along with his memory of his grandparents' farm, or his first day of school?

The drug in question inhibits the formation of memory, it does not affect memories you already have - just the ones the brain is trying to make, for the duration of the medication. It turns you into Memento guy for 4 hours.


On a side note, it's interesting that people are simultaneously praising the drug for surgical uses (where it would prevent trauma) and worrying about its torture uses (where it would... cause more trauma?) It's actually potentially useless as a torture drug, since the person you're torturing will keep forgetting what the fuck is going on. We're either capable of discomfort in both situations or neither.

One issue concerning the pill to do away with painful memories causing stress disorder is that many lawyers will be hard put to make a case that clients suffered as a result of this or that

This pill would be prescribed to people who are already psychiatric patients, so they obviously have a doctor willing to testify that they are ill.
posted by mek at 2:44 PM on December 2, 2006


The Economist, to which I subscribe, is balanced, but on the right (in the same way that the BBC is balanced, but on the left). They flirted with climate-change denial a couple of years back, but moved away as the evidence became clearer (though with a tinge of regret, I think). Similarly, this week's analysis of Britain's transport problems is 'build more roads, trains are shit'.

The World in XXXX series, which I don't bother with any more, has always been a bit less balanced, partly because it's written under by-lines, and partly because it was edited until a few years back by a Tory MP (rather than by the magazine's editor).
posted by athenian at 2:51 PM on December 2, 2006


Mr Bush will have experience on his side. He is set to become the most experienced voice around the G7 table.

experience /= ability.

Not experienced enough to be aware of live mikes and the inappropriateness of public shoulder rubs for heads of state.

I doubt you'd want a 58 yo quarterback just because he has been playing for 30 years.
posted by edgeways at 4:41 PM on December 2, 2006


mek, I think the torture aspect is to make people forget the experience, therefore unable to provide a testimony for accountability.
A pill with rohypnol and additional memory disruption componentes would be horrific, and I'd say nearly guaranteed.

Yes, under the proper use it may have some dramatic benefits. I wonder at long term trends though. Even from a voluntarily aspect, would people eventually have access to this via prescrip or off the street to wipe the memories of unpleasant, but not traumatic, events? If so I can think of a very compelling argument why this would be a "bad thing".
posted by edgeways at 4:48 PM on December 2, 2006


I clearly recall an issue of the Economist from 2000 in which they stated, roughly, "Bush's detractors think he is a dangerous fool who will lead the country to ruin. He is not." That tells you everything you need to know about their prognosticative ability. Anyone familiar with his personal or business history will tell you that that the "detractors" position is the only reasonable one to take, and history has since borne it out. Their bald and unsupported assertion to the contrary is what caused me to cancel my subscription.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:01 PM on December 2, 2006


The Economist, to which I subscribe, is balanced, but on the right (in the same way that the BBC is balanced, but on the left). They flirted with climate-change denial a couple of years back, but moved away as the evidence became clearer (though with a tinge of regret, I think). Similarly, this week's analysis of Britain's transport problems is 'build more roads, trains are shit'.

The Economist, which I read, energetically supported Bush's war on terror, never questioned that invading Iraq might not be justified by the facts and have never apologised or offered correction for this unprecedented editorial error.

The credibility of the editorial staff has suffered irreparably, but the writing remains at a high standard.
posted by three blind mice at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2006


In pre-Internet days, I woud read the Economist because it had the best global news reporting I could find. Now I can't stand to read it after all the pro-war cheerleading and "George Bush is smarter than his detractors give him credit for" shit they've been peddling over the last few years.

Is it just me or has anyone else thought that the quality of the Economist has been declining since about 2000?
posted by rks404 at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2006


Scandinavia ftw.
posted by nonmerci at 11:10 PM on December 2, 2006


The Economist, to which I subscribe, is balanced

The Economist's 'balance' consists of a pro forma recital of a glib characterization of the opposing viewpoint, which they immediately dismiss without substantive argument, in favor of their own viewpoint which they assert also without substantive argument. It's not as obnoxious as Fox's belligerent demonization of an opposing viewpoint (or straw-man misrepresentation thereof) but it's every bit as biased and irrational.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:41 AM on December 3, 2006


Shouldn't this post come with a spoiler alert?
posted by sien at 1:05 AM on December 3, 2006


Oooh, Look At Me, I Read The Economist!
posted by homunculus at 1:47 AM on December 3, 2006


I've been reading "The Economist" since around 1999 and, while it still has the best global news reporting around, and pretty good writing, it has been lurching steadily rightwards. In particular, they are taking a fundamentalist pro-business slant that tends to stick in my throat (especially when it leads them to choose Colbertian truthiness over reality and plain facts).

Moreover, its writers are fundamentally unable to admit having been proven wrong in the past. It may come from the collegial way it is written, but it's still annoying like Hell, like for instance when they absolutely refuse to contemplate that the invasion of Iraq may have been a mistake, or when, as athenian suggests, they discreetly consign their previous scepticism towards global warning (which was rather more than a flirtation with denial) to the memory hole.
posted by Skeptic at 4:00 AM on December 3, 2006


I've been reading "The Economist" since around 1999 and, while it still has the best global news reporting around, and pretty good writing, it has been lurching steadily rightwards. In particular, they are taking a fundamentalist pro-business slant that tends to stick in my throat

The Economist has been around since the 1840s, and it's always had a fundamentalist pro-business slant. It was founded as a pro-free trade advocacy 'newspaper', and it has maintained that view with remarkable consistency.

So yeah, the reporting is frequently great, has excellent writing and editing, but don't lose sight of the fact that even the editors aren't going to say that it's impartial.
posted by norm at 8:56 AM on December 4, 2006


In 2007 there will be lots of anniversaries

Amazingly, every single event that occurred prior to 2007 will have an anniversary in 2007.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:53 PM on December 4, 2006


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