Sunday, April 24, 2016

On Limits

I'm running up against an intellectual wall here.

          Across the board, I'm starting to hit my limit on being able to intelligently comment on issues of economics, current events, and even subjects that are more esoteric but closer to my heart, stuff I don't share here for professional reasons. I'm not talking about my work on the water, but things I am sometimes paid for or politely asked to look over and discuss, in the VERY few issues upon which I'm a legitimate subject matter expert or competent analyst.

 I'm being superannuated, as I'm not in the mix so much anymore.

 I was in a discussion about the role of surface:volume ratio manipulation as a function of conserving energy in stressed chloride cells as fish transition from fresh to salt water.

 Esoteric, yes. But important if you like having fish be a thing. Lots of them do that, transition from fresh to salt water, or the opposite, in the course of their lives, and it's important midway in the food web, where feedstocks for higher animals need to be available for there to be higher animals.

 Anyhow, I was talking about the ecology of the internal environment of cells and issues of programmed energy conservation and terminal depletion (programmed death; so it can burn 100% of its' energy store and die off, but not until it reaches its goal).

 A young kid just blows my argument out of the water by citing research about which I was unaware. I withdrew my argument until I could read up on the citations. Which I never did. I ran out of time, interest, what have you. I don't WANT to change my opinion. I liked the one I had. And that shit ain't cool.

 I'm running into my limit in understanding the economics of international shipping, too. Granted, lots of people are spouting nonsense, as ever, and lots of economists are among that number. The fusion of an understanding of economic processes and an awareness of mitigation tactics that have been or could have been fielded helps, and not everyone has that down... and, now, that number includes me, as well. I'm seeing processes, but I no longer see patterns.
I formed an early predictive model for measuring the changes in impact on local economies over time as resource-harvest industries globalized. I used this in looking at salmon farming in isolated rural communities, but it could be applied to fishing, mining, just about anything where you take from the local economy (you can define ecology as an economy. Energy flows like money, if you want to keep the analogy simple), as it was a great meat-and-potatoes model. Nothing cutting edge, just a nice way to reduce uncertainties.  Anyhow, the results have held true, 15 years later, and they weren't nice, so nobody cared, but it's nice to be able to say "I told you so" to folks who pride themselves on appearing smarter than you sometimes. That may be why I present myself as I sometimes do. Hmmmm.

           At any rate, I'm getting to the age where I don't like arguing for arguments' sake, and I'm getting tired of keeping up with the cutting edge discussion in the fields where I once was a more dominant personality. My world is getting smaller, and I'm OK with that, for the most part, but in letting some of this shit go, I'm also saying no to educating myself, and that means I need to pipe down a bit, which I find hard to do at times.

        I'm watching what's going on in international shipping, which is the downstream end of globalized trade. I don't like what I see, as there's so much instability and the end results look good for the surviving companies and bad for everyone else, especially consumers... and you know, I can't articulate why I'm feeling so bearish about it, and that's weird. I'm not one to accept emotional arguments when there's science available to frame questions... and yet I'm OK with doing that here, because it's too complex for me just now to get into. I need a deeper understanding of economics than I currently have. Do I have the energy and desire, and hell, the raw ability, to further my education?

 Maybe. But I'll be home in a little over a week, and there's my family to enjoy, and guns, and fishing, and beer and whisky too. Economics is none of those things, and probably won't be addressed.


Anonymous said...

I too am a former academic who changed careers (though not to the same extreme as you, going from lab to really damn hard work). It does suck when you realize that you can't/won't keep up on the field you had invested so much time and effort in studying and contributing to.

STxAR said...

I'm about 15 years ahead of you I think. I got my degree in electronics. I've noticed as I've aged that a lot of my knowledge has gelled into feelings. I've done some things so many times that I can do a lot of my work by feel. It's still based in science, but it feels a lot more like art. I haven't thought much about that, but your post has me thinking.

But, I've noticed that there is a definite shrinkage in what I'm willing to put up with. To include new technologies. At work, they want everyone certified on hardware that is managed by a group that will NOT allow anyone else to manage or even log in to it. Looks good for the blurbs, but is a waste of time and money. I'm having a hard time getting on board.

That said, there is nothing wrong with a change of focus. Just don't lose your curiosity. I recently found that I have a 'thing' for machining. I can't study enough about it. Weird.