There will be no harm in making mild preparations for our destiny, in encouraging, and experimenting in, the arts of life as well as the activities of purpose.

from Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)

Portrait of John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

Economist
June 5, 1883 – April 21, 1946

John Maynard Keynes was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in mathematics, he built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles. One of the most influential economists of the 20th century, his ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, challenging the ideas of neoclassical economics that held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. He argued that aggregate demand (total spending in the economy) determined the overall level of economic activity, and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment, and that labour costs and wages were rigid downwards, which means the economy will not automatically rebound to full employment. Keynes advocated the use of fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions. He detailed these ideas in his magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in late 1936. By the late 1930s, leading Western economies had begun adopting Keynes's policy recommendations. Almost all capitalist governments had done so by the end of the two decades following Keynes's death in 1946. As a leader of the British delegation, Keynes participated in the design of the international economic institutions established after the end of World War II but was overruled by the American delegation on several aspects.

When Time magazine included Keynes among its Most Important People of the Century in 1999, it stated that "his radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism." The Economist has described Keynes as "Britain's most famous 20th-century economist." In addition to being an economist, Keynes was also a civil servant, a director of the Bank of England, and a part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals.

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Herbert George Wells

World Brain

World Brain is H. G. Wells' prescient description of something akin to Wikipedia in a collection of essays and addresses dating from the period of 1936 to 1938. Throughout the book, he describes his vision of a new, free, synthetic, decentralized, permanent “World Encyclopædia” that could help world citizens make the best use of universal information resources, arguing that access to such a common interpretation of reality would increase individuals' abilities to make positive contributions to world peace.

Terence McKenna

Build Your Own Damn Wagon

"Do not watch, do not consume," implores Terence McKenna, inviting us on a thought-provoking journey to reclaim our humanness. By building our own conceptual wagons, rather than riding ready-made vehicles of meaning, we can travel along unique paths of critical thinking. Once within our own virtual worlds, the wonder of our distinctive minds will be open for discovery.

Hans-Georg Moeller

On Second-Order Observation and Genuine Pretending:

This paper discusses the meaning of the concept of ‘second-order observation’ used by Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998). Luhmann identifies second-order observation as a defining characteristic of modern world society. According to Luhmann, all social systems construct a social reality on the basis of the observation of observations. Rating agencies in the economy or the peer-review process in the academic system are examples of social mechanisms manifesting second-order observation. Social media also represent organized second-order observation. The paper suggests that in a society based on second-order observation, ‘genuine pretending’ is an adequate mode of existence. This notion is derived from the Daoist text Zhuangzi. It indicates a disassociation from social roles which allows their performers to exercise these roles with ease and, at the same time, maintain a state of sanity. (Published in Thesis Eleven 2017, Vol. 143(I) 28–43.)

Marshall McLuhan

Understanding Media

When first published, Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media made history with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and life in the twentieth century. In Terrence Gordon’s own words, “McLuhan is in full flight already in the introduction, challenging us to plunge with him into what he calls ‘the creative process of knowing.’” Much to the chagrin of his contemporary critics McLuhan’s preference was for a prose style that explored rather than explained. Probes, or aphorisms, were an indispensable tool with which he sought to prompt and prod the reader into an “understanding of how media operate” and to provoke reflection.