Isolated from Diseases of the Mind and Body
What are we afraid of? In recent weeks, I have been traveling around the globe and observing the rapid emptying of airports.
Does this mean that most people are in a panic over a new form of highly infectious flu?
It called to mind my studies long ago with the great economist and game theorist Thomas Schelling, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2005 mostly for his theories of “micromotives and macrobehavior.” His book by that title showed that such phenomena as empty airports or traffic-jammed freeways or even segregated communities could reflect only the slightest attitudinal causes.
Only small changes in people’s minds, oriented in the same direction, can effect massive changes in people’s collective behavior.
“Though a society can resist epidemics of physical disease,” as I paraphrase philosopher-psychologist Karl Jung in Wealth&Poverty, “it is defenseless against diseases of the mind. Against ‘psychic epidemics’ our laws and medicines and great factories and fortunes are virtually helpless.”
The Materialist Superstition and Blockchain
In recent prophecies, I have been challenging the particular delusion of sophisticated people called the “materialist superstition.” This is the belief that wealth and growth reflect the accumulation of scarce material resources that can run out or be exhausted as the population grows.
Waste not, want not, is the savers’ austerity creed that expresses the materialist superstition.
I’ve been writing about the opposite view —“waste it and want not”— the abundance and scarcity paradigm of Caltech’s Carver Mead: “Waste what is abundant in order to save what is scarce.”
An entrepreneur following this idea is Craig Wright, the putative “Satoshi” of bitcoin fame. He told me at the London CoinGeek conference last month that this rule had inspired him in conceiving the blockchain. He read about “infinite bandwidth” in my book Telecosm (2000) and decided to waste abundant bandwidth to achieve security, scarce on the internet.
The blockchain wastes abundant bandwidth and storage transistors to save the scarcities of security and factuality. Copying the blocks across the network and storing them at every node makes the contents of the chain unchangeable by an attack at any particular place. To change the contents, you have the almost impossible challenge of taking over control of the entire network, capturing a majority of nodes: “a 51% attack.”
Key to blockchain is what is called the “gossip protocol,” which follows the now topical technique of viruses. By communicating to its immediate neighbors, it creates an exponential cascade. Gossip takes hashes of every block and chains them peer-to-peer to every node in the network.
Wasted wantonly through the broadcast chain of gossip is bandwidth. And wasted wildly in storing an entire blockchain hash on every node is storage. Beyond bandwidth, storage is by far the fastest growing vector of Moore’s Law, expanding several times faster even than the blockchain itself.
Thus, a protocol of wasting bandwidth and storage challenges the existing centralized database protocols, which perversely save what is most abundant: bandwidth and storage.
As I wrote in Life After Google, in constant dollars since 1980, the price of processing dropped some 500-fold, the usual Moore’s Law bounty. But the price of hard-drive storage dropped 250 thousand times or 500 times faster than the price of computer processing.
Satoshi’s goal with the blockchain is to achieve what a database truly seeks: availability, factuality, and security. Ironically, the existing centralized systems sacrifice these goals to a goal of saving on abundant bandwidth and storage through centralization.
That means existing databases waste what is scarce in order to save what is abundant. As Wright saw, that is a bad deal for the world.
Here we see the power of paradigms to guide investment. They can discriminate between genuine innovations and mere renovations based on the previous environment.
Over the last couple days, I have had a cold. Under existing conditions, I entertain fears that it is the “virus.” But so far it is a conventional head cold that has not reached my chest or caused a fever, so I believe I escaped Covid-19 during my recent trips to London and the midwest and earlier trips across China.
Until just yesterday, moreover, I lived in a house without internet service. So, I was doubly confined, insulated from both diseases of the body and diseases of the mind, which as Karl Jung observed humans seem powerless to resist.
However, mental viruses can spread over the land without person to person exposure, in the form of a new book that arrived on my doorstep from Amazon.
The new book is Dis-United Nations, The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World, by Peter Zeihan, and I predict, for what it’s worth, that this book will go viral.
For purposes of this prophecy, I found his shocking and contrarian views of China to be most relevant. Although I don’t accept his entire analysis, I do find arresting his critique of China’s catastrophic demographics affected by the famous “one-child policy.”
Imposed in 1976 by the team of Marxist technocrats who followed Mao, the one-child policy was a crude application of the materialist superstition that sees population growth as a burden on the limited physical resources of the planet.
Shared by Marxists and environmentalists and nakedly manifest in the Democratic party in the United States today with its “Green New Deal,” the materialist superstition impels policymakers to sacrifice human minds and minutes to save material resources.
Zeihan incisively shows the effects of this policy. “As soon as 2030, China will have four pensioners [retirees] for every two taxpayers for every one child… Four decades of depressed birthrates have swapped the children who’d be the next generation of taxpayers and wage earners for a generation of pensioners who will never again pay into the system.”
He concludes: “China’s 2010s boom was really just the beginning of the end.” It was fueled by sacrificing the future.
As I have written, atoms and frequencies are infinite and eternal. What is scarce is human minds and minutes.
In future prophecies, I will show how China might escape its demographic trap through technology. But it won’t be easy.
It will take positive epidemics of the mind, the release of human creativity and learning through the blockchain revitalization of the internet and the world monetary system.
This is an inspirational paradigm for new generations.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy