by WorldTribune Staff, September 2, 2018
George Gilder, whose 1981 book “Wealth and Poverty” championed the free market and influenced Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, laments the era of “Google Marxism” which aims to make the human mind obsolete.
But the author of “Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy” also envisions a “cryptographic revolution” which will heal some of the damage caused by “machine obsessed” Silicon Valley.
In an Aug. 31 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gilder traced Google Marxism’s beginnings and the idea of a “completely providential government” in America, to a generation of young people who “were given college loans in a fabulous national mistake” which were used by the university system to “increase perks and tenured luxuries and ideological distractions” – all of which led to the “diversity campaigns and CO2 panics” that currently dominate university faculties.
The impact of these loans has been catastrophic, said Gilder in the interview with Tunku Varadarajan, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
“The result was to destroy the entrepreneurial optimism of a whole generation of young people, to drive them toward socialism, which they now tend to favor, and to even dissuade them from marriage.” The last is a consequence of debt, “which cripples them for the future.” Any benefit that education might confer on the young is nullified by the economic burden inflicted on them, which “leaves these kids impotent in the world.”
Gilder said the only way to undo this “vast blunder” is to forgive student loans across the board and “extract the money from all the college endowments and funds that were used to just create useless departments and political campaigns.”
According to the Federal Reserve, more than $1.5 trillion in student-loan money is outstanding. That money, Gilder says, “wasn’t deployed to improve education. Not a scintilla of evidence has been adduced that learning has been improved. It was used entirely to lavish on bureaucracies that, in turn, paid tribute to government and leftist nihilism.”
In the opening line of “Wealth and Poverty”, which sold more than one million copies, Gilder wrote: “The most important event in the recent history of ideas is the demise of the socialist dream.”
Google and Silicon Valley, Gilder said, have forged a “new catastrophe theory” which holds “that artificial intelligence will make human minds obsolete, and that we’ll soon produce machine-learning tools and robotics that excel the capabilities of human brains.”
Gilder said he calls this attitude “Google Marxism because Marx’s essential theme was that the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century had overcome all the challenges of production.” From that point on, Marx held, “human beings would focus on redistributing wealth among the classes rather than creating it.”
Google, Gilder said, is at the end of its “paradigm,” which he defines as “avoiding the challenge of security across the Internet by giving away most of its products for free, and financing itself with an ingenious advertising strategy.” He also contends that Google believes capitalism is at an end – that “this is the winner-take-all universe and the existing generation of capitalists are the final capitalists. That’s their vision.”
And if you believe that “machines can re-create new machines in a steady cascade of greater capabilities that are beyond human comprehension and control, you really believe that’s the end of the human race.”
Gilder, though, notes that “Machines can’t be minds. Information theory shows that.” Citing Claude Shannon, the American mathematician acknowledged as the father of information theory, Gilder says that “information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn’t surprising, we wouldn’t need it.” However useful they may be, “machines are not capable of creativity.” Human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams. By contrast, “a surprise in a machine is a breakdown. You don’t want your machines to have surprising outcomes!”
The narrative of human obsolescence, Gilder says, is giving rise to a belief that the only way forward is to provide redundant citizens with some sort of “guaranteed annual income,” which would mean the end of the market economy: “If everyone gets supported without any kind of growing up and facing the challenges of life, then our capitalist culture would collapse.”
Gilder said that “human beings have a propensity to believe in leftism” – in the idea that government can “answer all of their problems, guarantee their future, and relieve them of the challenges of life.”
In the interview with Varadarajan, Gilder detailed what he called the “cryptographic revolution,” and believes that it will heal some of the damage to humanity that has been inflicted by the “machine obsessed” denizens of Silicon Valley. Blockchain “endows individuals with control of their data, their identity, the truths that they want to assert, their transactions, their visions, their content and their security.”
With the cryptographic revolution, Gilder says, “we’re now in charge of our own information. For the first time in history, really, you don’t have to prove who you are, or what you are, before a transaction.” A blockchain allows users “to be anonymous if they wish, while also letting them keep a time-stamped record of all their previous transactions. It allows us to establish unimpeachable facts on the Internet.”
That evokes trust in the Internet, Gilder said, “without having to trust or rely on Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, or whoever the paladins of the new economy may be.”