That experimentation machine we need

There are myriad methods of doing things, cornucopias of things to be done. We need, desire, some system of sorting through what can be done, what we’d like to have done, to see where a match can be made. A way of doing something we want done. The difficulty is compounded as the onward march of technology means that both are a moving target, what can and what we want.

At which point a story from something we’ve been doing this past 6,000 or more years, growing rice:

Junpeng is part of a pilot project to see if it’s possible to grow more rice with less water and fewer greenhouse gases. The dramatic difference between his two crops points a way to help the world’s 145 million small rice farmers, and could also greatly reduce global warming emissions from agriculture.

The project, backed by the German and Thai governments and by some of the world’s largest rice traders and food companies, has seen 3,000 other farmers in this corner of Thailand’s “rice basket” near the Cambodian border trained to grow sustainable rice according to the principles of a revolutionary agronomical system discovered by accident in Madagascar in the 1980s.

Jesuit priest Henri de Lalanié working in the highlands observed that by planting far fewer seeds than usual, using organic matter as a fertiliser and keeping the rice plants alternately wet and dry rather than flooded, resulted in yields that were increased by between 20 and 200%, while water use was halved. Giving plants more oxygen, minimising the competition between them and strictly controlling the water they receive is thought to make them stronger and more resilient to flood and drought.

The original finding was serendipity. The growth has been people trying it and finding it works. The end result highly desirable, but it’s the method of getting there which is important. Suck it and see and do more of what works.

This is, of course, a market method of testing innovation. The government involvement is telling people about it, not insisting that they do it nor planning who or how.

It’s not an outcome of bureaucratic planning now, is it? And thus our estimation of the value of bureaucratic planning above market experimentation is?