Mirror World

MirrorWorld

Chapter 3 of George Gilder’s book Life After Google (2018) digs down into the roots of the hubristic decision by Google’s executives to plunge into profound issues of philosophy and neuroscience. His previous chapter points out the limitations of math and computer science in reflecting true reality and actual human interaction.  Google’s system of the world is all about search.  Search begins with a “mirror world” (an authentic model of the available universe).  Google sought to render the entire world into a corpus of accessible information, a gigantic searchable virtual reality database.

 

And they did it! Gilder writes:

Google digitized nearly all of the available books in the world (2005), the entire tapestry of the world’s languages and translations (2010), the topography of the planet (Google Maps and Google Earth (2007), down to the surfaces and structures on individual streets (StreetView) and their traffic (Waze, 2016). It digitized even the physiognomies of the world’s faces in its digital facial recognition software (2006, now upgraded massively and part of Google Photos).  With the capture of YouTube in 2006, Google commanded an explosively expanding digital rendition of much of the world’s imagery, music, and talk.

 

Google is an incredibly powerful new technology. Access to so much information is valuable and desirable.  And how does Google make money from their innovation? – by offering if for free – only charging advertisers.  Free is good, right?  What’s wrong with free?  As we shall see in the coming weeks……everything.

 

Not only is “free” a lie, a zero price implies a return to the barter system of human exchanges that we left in the Stone Age.  You pay Google not with your money but with your attention, above all, with your time.  As Gilder puts it:

Time is what money measures and represents – what remains scarce when all else becomes abundant in the “zero marginal cost” economy [he’s referencing a 2015 book by Jeremy Rifkin]. Money signals the real scarcities of the world concealed in the false infinites of free.  [Google is a] “Free World”, and it is reaching past your wallet, spurning your earned money, to seize your time – which is actually your life.

 

Next week, we get to the other problem of “free”.  It ignores the challenges of security.  Who wants to steal free stuff?  Our Estate Planning War Chest contains wealth and valuable knowledge – your time and attention are not free – they must be tightly secured to prevent theft.

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Gold, Math, Information and Time

BooksGold

Chapter 2 of George Gilder’s book Life After Google (2018) discusses Google’s “system of the world” (set of ideas pervading civilization’s technology and institutions).  It informs a given culture, providing people with a worldview.  Isaac Newton gave humanity an orderly system of the world with his revolutionary Principia Mathematica (1687).  Newton also established the Gold Standard measure of value, basing British currency on gold.  Why is that so important?

 

Isaac Newton spent half his life muddling in alchemy – trying to turn various metals into gold. His failures yielded crucial knowledge.  All wealth is the product of knowledge.  The clear chemical irreversibility of gold makes it a stable and reliable “monetary Polaris”. It gave traders and merchants assurance and certainty in the value of goods and services.  It’s part of what launched The Great Enrichment.  Money under the Newtonian Gold Standard was as irreversible as gold and time itself.  But now, Gilder writes, the Google era has dramatically changed things.  Money and value have become relativistic and unmoored.  Big Data defines the new reality as currencies are manipulated by fiat, deception and computer algorithms.  The volume of global currency trading is 100 times that of all stocks.

 

But there’s hope and reason for optimism. Seeds of a successor system of the world were sewn by new knowledge of mathematics 88 years ago.  In September 1930 global geniuses gathered in Germany to establish mathematics as the summit of all human thought.  They failed because of the ideas of Kurt Gödel.  Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem changed everything (best grasped as “this statement is false” – is that statement true or false?).  Godel’s work lead to Alan Turing’s invention of the Turing Machine – proving the limitations of computers, which then lead to the development of Information Theory.  Quantum physics emerged as a wildly successful science but philosophically fell into a self-referential loop of electrons and photons trying to measure themselves.

 

Gilder’s ultimate point is that wealth and time are profoundly intertwined. Nothing is free.  Understanding time is crucial to understanding wealth – I’ve read every layman’s book on time I could find, most recently The Order of Time (2018) by Carlo Rovelli (highly recommended).  All sources point to the concept of Entropy as the key to understanding time. Physicist Ludwig Boltzmann pinned entropy down in 1877 and then the concept deepened into “missing information”.  Go back and re-read chapter 2 of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now (2018).

 

Wrapping your mind around all of this yields a treasure trove wealth of knowledge – all safely secured on a pedestal in our Estate Planning War Chest.  Next week, we follow Gilder as he plunges into the “mirror world” of Google.

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Intellectual Dragon Slayer

knight fighting the dragon

I read George Gilder’s new book Life After Google – The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy (2018) this Labor Day weekend.  It contains a cutting edge understanding of the true nature of work, time, capital, value, wealth and power.  Gilder is a great defender of capitalism, slaying the evil dragons of Big Data and Marxism (you’d think socialist ideas would be long dead by now, but they keep coming back like zombies).  We took note of Gilder’s work here on 11/14/17 (battlefronts against socialism), 11/21/17 (tied to the mast on a voyaging ship of knowledge and power) and on 11/28/17 (capital is not a stock of goods).

 

Gilder has an incredible talent for weaving together profound, multi-disciplinary concepts from law, philosophy, economics, computer science/information theory, mathematics – even religion. He is an intellectual knight defending individual human dignity, knowledge and wealth from political attack. Life After Google opens with a 2017 quote from an economist:

The economy has arrived at a point where it produces enough in principle for everyone… So this new period we are entering is not so much about production anymore – how much is produced; it is about distribution – how people get a share in what is produced. That sounds like Marxism to me.  Gilder writes:  “Marxism is much discussed as a vessel of revolutionary grievances, workers’ uprisings, divestiture of chains, critiques of capital, catalogs of classes and usurpation of the means of production.”

 

Let’s watch him mutilate the menacing monster of Marxism one intellectual/moral sword swipe after another in the coming weeks. He exposes Google’s “system of the world” for what it is.  George Gilder is a War Chest Warrior extraordinaire, so we’ll take our time touring his most recent arsenal of ideas.

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Erudition is not Truth!

Erudition

Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now (2018) fills me with optimism and hope that humanity has not given up on Truth, despite absurd pronouncements from academia, media and political pundits.  “Their methodology for seeking the truth consists not in framing hypotheses and citing evidence but in issuing pronouncements that draw on their breadth of erudition and lifetime habits of reading.”    Pinker writes that just because humans have cognitive and emotional biases does not make us hopelessly irrational.  He hates the phrase post-truth era because it implies that we are now resigned to propaganda and lies and must fight back with more of our own.

 

Hardheaded rationality is starting to win the day because it is a more reliable guide to how the world works than the “pronouncements of erudite sages and narratives inspired by systems of ideas”.  When a creed takes hold of an intellectual group, the critical faculties of its members becomes compromised.  Pinker showed how leftist politics distorts the study of human nature, including sex, violence, gender, childrearing, personality and intelligence.  The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002).

 

Perhaps future humans will look back with great contempt at the blithering nonsense of some of today’s public intellectuals and ideologues the same way we derisively view the 1692 Salem witch trials. How is rationalism defeating the politically correct, cling to, wrong-headed beliefs of certain intellectuals in defiance of all evidence?  Pinker tells us at pg. 377:

 

When people are first confronted with information that contradicts a staked-out position, they become even more committed to it, as we’d expect from the theories of identity-protective cognition, motivated reasoning, and cognitive dissonance reduction. Feeling their identity threatened belief holders double down and muster more ammunition to fend off the challenge.  But since another part of the human mind keeps a person in touch with reality, as the counterevidence piles up the dissonance can mount until it becomes too much to bear and the opinion topples over, a phenomenon called the affective tipping point.  The tipping point depends on the balance between how badly the opinion holder’s reputation would be damaged by relinquishing the opinion and whether the counterevidence is so blatant and public as to be common knowledge:  a naked emperor, an elephant in the room. 

 

When it comes to property law, economics and the philosophy of private wealth, the Estate Planning War Chest continues to point out naked emperors and elephants in the room.

 

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Regime Uncertainty – Stability of Property Law

Regime

Robert Higgs used the phrase “regime uncertainty” in a 1997 article: https://fee.org/articles/regime-uncertainty-then-and-now/

He explains that uncertainty about property rights has an enormous impact on how wealth owners control the use of their property – how they reap income from it and how they transfer to others on mutually acceptable terms. Politicians can royally screw things up.

 

Private property rights in the U.S. are safe… for now – but evil Leftist politicians continue to set forth menacing ideas on property law that could destabilize our system.  I say ‘evil’ because socialism immorally treats people as a means to an end (the goal is to force the interests of the collective above those of the individual).  A totalitarian Government destroys liberty – anyone familiar with history, economics and law knows this.

 

While the mainstream media trots out hate Trump messages day after day, I noticed that Senator Elizabeth Warren surpassed socialist Bernie Sanders and clueless Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by proposing to nationalize business in the U.S.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/08/elizabeth-warren-plan-nationalize-everything-woos-hard-left/

 

It should not concern any of my clients because, not only is it preposterous, the idea has been ignored by mainstream media and exposed as absurd by anyone paying attention. Kevin Williamson calls her proposed bill a “batty plan”, David French a “terribly written mess” and Charles Cooke writes that “we are all worse off for her duplicity”.  Senator Warren and her advisors probably soon realized that the idea was dumb – she quickly proposed some additional anti-corruption legislation that distracted media attention away from her socialist ideas.

 

While wealth is safe in the U.S., it is not safe everywhere. The South African Government is threatening to seize private farm property of white land owners so it can be doled out as reparations.  Capital is highly portable and will quickly vacate a regime where it is threatened by Government shenanigans.

 

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/08/south-africa-move-to-seize-private-land-threatens-rule-of-law/

 

I recommend maintaining U.S. jurisdiction over all assets. Our law is stable and is not threatened by regime uncertainty at this point.  If I was a South African lawyer, however, I might consider it time to get out of Dodge.  Our lawmakers should heed the ability of wealth owners to protect their interests when considering changes to a wildly successful and stable private property legal system.  Our Estate Planning War Chest is secure – despite ill conceived, feckless attacks from the political left.

 

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Elite Art Snobbery

ArtDog

It seems silly when you think about it, but Steven Pinker paints a crystal clear picture of counter-enlightenment thinkers in his book Enlightenment Now (2018) – their cognitive positions are absurd.  Chapter 3 begins to expose the ridiculous belief among “Second Culture” intellectuals that the consumption of elite art is the ultimate moral good.  Pinker mows that notion down to the ground in subsequent chapters, particularly in Chapter 21, where the superiority of reason and the triumph of rationality are hailed.

 

You just can’t argue with Pinker’s line of reasoning. He writes:  “Opposing reason is, by definition, unreasonable.  But that hasn’t stopped a slew of irrationalists from favoring the heart over the head…. There’s the postmodernist credo that reason is a pretext to exert power, reality is socially constructed”.  That’s all nonsense and Pinker’s trouncing of anti-enlightenment ideas is so thorough that it’s amusingly entertaining.  Read the book!

 

Counter-enlightenment ideas (both on the Left and Right) seemed to be gaining a foothold. But guys like Pinker, Jonah Goldberg, et al. are shining the light on the preposterous position of past and present snobby, artsy fartsy progressive intellectuals.  Pinker gives a nod to the blogosphere group known as the Rationality Community (pg. 381), who urge people to be “less wrong” in their opinions by applying Bayesian reasoning and compensating for cognitive biases.

 

The bottom line is – things are getting better, becoming more rational. Despite the silliness and pessimism of elite progressive intellectuals, what Pinker calls “the chattering class”, there are plenty of rational thinkers and actors who understand and appreciate the conquest of capitalism over socialism and other post-modern bullshit.  It’s obvious.  Our Estate Planning War Chest radiates gratitude for reason, science and the ongoing march of human progress.

 

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Pinker Rings a Truth Bell That Critics Can’t Stand

Bell

I was going to walk through the ideas in Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now – The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018) chapter by chapter like we’ve done here with other works important to our War Chest of knowledge, wealth and morality.  But you really need to read it yourself.  I could never do it justice.

Pinker has done something amazing. He rings a truth bell so loud and clear that it infuriates critics who can only cover their ears and scream NO NO NO!  Just read the reviews — many very positive (Bill Gates called it “my new favorite book of all time”).  Pinker’s web site links 17 reviews to his book.

https://stevenpinker.com/reviews-enlightenment-now

He has apparently struck a nerve among academics who scornfully review his work to justify their profession and deflect Pinker’s contempt for their worldview. E.g.

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2018/5/17/17362548/pinker-enlightenment-now-two-cultures-rationality-war-debate

Others cringe at Pinker’s optimism:

The Atlantic (4/15/18) When Trust and Reason Are No Longer Enough

NY Times (2/28/18) Steven Pinker Wants You to Know Humanity is Doing Just Fine. Just Don’t Ask About Individual Humans

NY Times (3/2/18) Steven Pinker Continues to See the Glass Half Full

Writers who disagree with him are nonetheless forced to contend with the lucidity of his work:

National Review (3/1/18) A Failed Quest for Meaning.

Pinker’s hostility towards religion and vilification of Friedrich Nietzsche and postmodernism earned him plenty of upset critics. I think his brutal dismissal of the only alternatives to humanism (religion and romantic heroism) is unnecessarily harsh.  There’s a place in humanity for God and noble chivalry!

Though you may disagree with some of his conclusions, Steven Pinker’s work is devastating to smug, pessimistic intellectual elites. Here’s a review concluding that he’s a step ahead of his critics:

This is not a work of philosophy but a work of social science. Those expending time and keystrokes angrily complaining that Pinker’s version of the Enlightenment does not accord with their preferred definition are missing the point. Pinker’s book is not a case for the Enlightenment that invites refutation, but a refutation of the arguments of the counter-Enlightenment which, it turns out, have been wrong all along.

https://quillette.com/2018/03/11/steven-pinkers-counter-counter-enlightenment/

Pinker’s ideas on reason, science and humanism connect us all. If any one of us suffers or dies early, we should all care.  In an ancient town, when someone dies, a bell rings.  Who died?  The famous John Donne poem answers:

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

 

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