The Revival of Life After Google
Throughout my life as an author for some 55 years now, I have always aimed to be deep into writing my next book by the time my last one comes out.
I learned this lesson early.
I was very proud of my non-fiction novel, Visible Man: A True Story of Post Racist America, published in 1979, until I learned that it had sold all of 740 copies in its first six months. Apparently, people didn’t believe we were in life after racism yet, even though we were.
Then and now, “racism” was just an all-purpose label to apply to people and ideas that the left doesn’t agree with. But those 740 copies were barely enough to pay for the coffee it took to write it.
Basic Books had imagined that Visible Man would be the major seller in my big $5,000 deal for two books on poverty, at the time regarded to be a hot subject. But back then, I was so engulfed in writing the second book, Wealth and Poverty, that I scarcely cared.
The internet has now kindled an even more towering and transitory tsunami of publications of all sorts. It is all too easy for a book to be lost under the avalanche, discouraging authors who are not pushing on to their next great revelation to be ignored by the reading public.
Somehow beating these odds and thriving around the globe has been Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. It has been the Amazon best-selling book on digital currencies and other categories nearly since its publication in July 2018. Amazingly, it became a major best seller in China, where it was pursued by 13 publishers and won an award as the best social science book of the year. Editions followed in Japan, South Korea, and India.
As I learned in London last month, it has even provided inspiration for “Satoshi” Craig Wright, Bitcoin pioneer. He also told me that Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World, had encouraged his blockchain ideas — all of which depend on the fast, bandwidth-hungry “gossip protocol” transmission of transactions to all nodes on the network.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares that same enthusiasm…
Life After Google 2.0
For all the enthusiasm in Asia, however, Europe has been slow in taking up Life After Google. The European Economic Commission is more inclined to milk and shake down Google itself with fines and penalties for far-fetched infractions of spurious “privacy” and monopoly laws.
Folks, none of us actually have a “right to be forgotten”—or remembered, for that matter. Yet European lawyers have fined Google and Facebook billions on this cockeyed concocted standard of “privacy”.
However, my publisher recently told me that they have finally sold the book to a German publisher. As part of the promotion for the new edition, I was asked to answer questions for a wide-ranging interview. I include it below. After each question, you’ll find my response:
Q: What were your motives for writing the book “Life After Google”?
In 1990, I had written Life After Television, which anticipated the fiber optics and smartphone revolution — “the computer of the future will be as portable as your watch and as personal as your wallet. It will recognize speech and navigate streets. It will collect your news and your mail. It will link to Internet addresses around the globe. It just might not do ‘Windows’. But it will open doors. Doors of perception. Doors to your future.” Steve Jobs distributed the book to colleagues and it may have influenced the development of the smartphone, which I called the “teleputer.” I wanted to do it again! Since 1990, many things have changed and Silicon Valley has adopted what I call a new Marxism, based on the idea that machines will ultimately usurp human minds. I wanted to refute that canard and outline the real prospects.
Q: Could you briefly tell our readers something about your background?
I went to Harvard and studied under Henry Kissinger, specializing on arms races and their effects. I believed that technological arms races feed on innovation and favor free nations, while quantitative arms races mobilize more and more of a nation’s men and resources, favor tyrannies, and are more likely to culminate in war. I have since written some 20 books, including Wealth and Poverty, which had a German edition. In recent years I have specialized in high technology, writing a series of books and investment letters on the physical foundations of the semiconductor industry (Microcosm: the quantum era in economics and technology (1990) and Telecosm: The coming of bandwidth abundance (2000). My information theory of economics is expounded in three books: Knowledge&Power, the Scandal of Money, and Life After Google.
Q: In your book, you first describe the fascinating development of Google as a company. Then why do you think the Google age is over, what’s wrong with Google’s business model?
Google’s success is based on a strategy of “aggregate and advertise.” But the so-called “ads” are really minuses — what I call “value subtracted advertising.” People do not want to see these pop-ups and insertions, which in mobile devices people rarely click on them. I predict ultimate failure for Google’s plan of collecting information from their users through free goods and then bombarding them with ads they don’t want. Amazon is already gaining on Google in internet ads and Chinese rivals such as Alibaba and Tencent get less than 20% of their income from ads compared to Google’s 90%. Google needs paying customers, not merely users attracted to their brilliant free services.
Q: Why do you think Google and Silicon Valley believe that artificial intelligence will make the human mind obsolete, so we will soon produce machine learning tools and robotics that exceed the capabilities of the human brain?
Because artificial intelligence makes people stupid, even Google executives. AI is deterministic and thus is great at games and other ergodic applications where the same inputs always generate the same outputs. But the world is not ergodic. The map is not the same as the territory. Symbols and objects must be linked by human minds, which are billions of times more complex and energy efficient than computers.
Q: Do you have more confidence in virtual reality than in artificial intelligence because VR increases the perceptual capabilities of the human mind rather than limiting them — like AI?
Yes, Silicon Valley should be in the business amplifying and aiding human minds, not replacing them. A strategy of obsoleting your customers is unlikely to win.
Q: Why should we trust the crypto currencies and the blockchain instead of Google? Can the blockchain protect us, for example against election fraud?
You can tell when something is a broken paradigm when the more you spend on it the worse are the results. Hackers around the globe last year hacked the net for some eight billion items of personal data, up 800% from 2018, which had one billion breaches. Despite constantly increasing outlays on internet security, the situation gets more disastrous year by year. Central bankers have been hacking the international monetary system for decades while trade and monetary wars erupt and currency trading becomes the world’s largest industry, with $6.7 trillion a day of transactions, some 25 times the world GDP. Blockchain provides a new security model for the internet and a new foundation for world money. As it is developed and deployed around the globe, it will be used for many applications, including secure registries for elections and private property.
Q: Does the decentralized form of the blockchain represent the quintessence of the Cryptocosm?
Yes, the Cryptocosm becomes more secure the more people use it, unlike centralized databases that become more vulnerable with more users. Each new user of a blockchain is a potential source of consensus and validation, while each new user of a centralized database expands its “attack surface” and vulnerability.
Q: You talk about security being an architecture and being at the top of the cryptocosm – why do you think Silicon Valley has given up on security?
Silicon Valley fell for the siren appeal of the advertising business, offering free goods to users in exchange for their data rather than incurring liabilities to paying customers.
Q: In your book you discuss Lidar, a method used in the automotive industry for optical distance and speed measurement. In your opinion, will we have completely self-propelled vehicles in the near future? Which companies will be involved?
In Life After Google, I tell the story of LIDAR company Luminar, which has Volkswagon and Volvo as early customers. I think the dream of map-based AI autonomy is a delusion. The map is not the same as the territory. Self-driving vehicles are a hardware challenge of machine vision more than a software challenge of big data and machine learning.
Q: Google will also gain important insights from your book. Have you been invited by Google to talk about the book or what positive consequences Google could draw from it? Or are you being criticized by Google for your book?
Google has told me that I will be invited to their speaker’s program, but it has not happened yet.
Q: Do you think our readers should still invest in shares of tech giants like Google? Which investment alternative(s) would you recommend?
Google commands incredible technology joined to a flawed business plan. Epitomizing its world leading technology is not only its search engine but also its alpha-fold AI that accomplished a stunning breakthrough last year in the once baffling field of protein-folding. Protein folding is crucial to most biotech advances. But Google’s business plan and public stance is deeply flawed. With brilliant rivals in China and the US, Google is not a monopoly but it has aroused the ire of government anti-trust nags around the globe. It does not invade privacy, yet it is charged as a privacy invader in Europe and the United States. Google needs more paying customers. If it can get them through exploitation of micropayments and blockchains, it may lead the next era as it did the last.
Q: What conclusions can our readers draw from your book?
My readers can recognize the enormous opportunity for blockchain in solving the crisis of internet security and the global scandal of money. Security is not an optional addon for networks and economies; it is an indispensable foundation for them. Money is not a plaything for politicians and central banks. It is a measuring stick for enterprise and like all measuring sticks — from the second to the meter to the kilogram to the degree Kelvin — it is ultimately rooted in the paradoxical scarcity and infinitude of time. Central banks can print “money” but they cannot print time.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy