Pilzer First Law Substitution[1]

Paul Zane Pilzer is and eonomist, businesss advisor and author. He could hardly be called a sustainability advocate yet in his book Unlimited Wealth [2] he enunciates a very important truism. According to Pilzer " Consider this: if the ancient alchemists had succeeded in fabricating gold, gold would have become worthless and their efforts would have been for naught. Yet, through their attempts to make gold, they laid the foundation for modern science, which today has accomplished exactly what the alchemists hoped to achieve: the ability to create great value where little existed before. We have achieved this ability through the most common, the most powerful, and the most consistently underestimated force in our lives today--technology.

In the alchemic world in which we now live, a society's wealth is still a function of its physical resources, as traditional economics has long maintained. But unlike the outdated economist, the alchemist of today recognizes that technology controls both the definition and the supply of physical resources. In fact, for the past few decades, it has been the backlog of unimplemented technological advances, rather than unused physical resources, that has been the determinant of real growth."

At page 28 he arrives at the nexus in what he calls the First Law of Alchemy "By enabling us to make productive use of particular raw materials, technology determines what constitutes a physical resource"

Put simple this means that the technical paradigm defines what is or is not a resource. I suspect Pilzer, in spite of his brilliance in getting as far as he did with his realisations about technology, change and economics, did not realise the importance of his thinking in relation to defining a new way forward involving change for a more sustainable world.

By Pilzer first law susbtitution we mean fundamental changes in technology paradigms that change resource use patterns, define new resources and retire old ones with the principle aim of changing materials flows in such a way that they fundamentally alter underlying damaging molecular flows. We call this moleconomics.


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[1] Paul Zane Pilzers home page is to be found at http://www.paulzanepilzer.com/

[2] Pilzer, P. Z. (1990). Unlimited Wealth - The Theory and Practice of Economic Alchemy, Crown Publishers.