The Success of Tesla Depends on True Science [Part 3]
With currencies trading at an ever-increasing pace, up 30% in three years to a level of $6.7 trillion a day, the world’s largest industry, while other industries languish; with trade collapsing into mercantilist deal-dabbling and brute barters; with global debt swelling into a hulking overhang of some $300 trillion, dwarfing measured output; with “science” slipping from a discipline of tested learning into a schlerosis of power; with education collapsing into dingbat dogma; and with interest rates sinking below the financial waves of liquidity as if time ran backwards; with profits overtaxed everywhere and capital gains mostly fake, all the usual signals of capitalism are misfiring — producing the noise of manipulation rather than the knowledge of wealth. Whew, that was a mouth full. But you get the picture.
Filling up the monetary fabric of world capitalism is propaganda and deception. The actual message of time and worth is nearly unreadable amid the bluffs and bezzles of vastly redundant and opaque claims of value and demands of policy.
In 2008, we learned in another way that the financial numbers are nearly meaningless compared the available information. The vast majority of the home loans in the mortgage crisis were sound — the houses were intact along with the payment streams. But because no one knew which mortgages were not sound, all the securities crashed. The financial crisis was far more a crisis of information than of finance.
You can make a similar case for the COVID crisis. The disease was routine, causing no unusual bulge in all-cause deaths, but the information about it was chimerical. With Polymerase chain reaction exponentials, widespread false positives, “asymptomatic cases,” trumped-up “super-spreaders,” and spurious and redundant death claims galore, paranoia dwarfed reality.
Information theory shows that success rates or profits or earnings or test results are all meaningless if they are massively redundant and devoid of reliable truths. If there is no way to detect and measure the errors, the market gyrates between euphoria and panic.
Monetary and political phantoms — concealing a reality from all but a few — favors paranoia and summons it everywhere. Investors have to gauge the effects of the phantoms, but keep their feet on the ground states of truth. As Warren Buffett observed, only in the short run are markets voting machines. In the long run, they weigh those realities.
Ignoring the Noise
In the current phantasmagoria of life after capitalism, the entrepreneur is on his own. To function coherently, he has to generate a “system of the world.” He has to have a philosophy and mode of measurement backpropagates truth to his neurons — that can guide him in the face of constant political and financial distortion and noise.
Elon Musk commands four major companies devoted to a fashionable philosophy of life and politics that shapes his ambitions, but also befogs his vision. To judge the future of Tesla and the rest, you have to calculate the real topologies of the world behind the spurious maps and power-walls of the world.
In making our judgments, it is not enough merely to expound scientific truths or distill the true information quotients. Columbus’s maps were chimerical, but Columbus still discovered America.
The four pillars of Musk’s entrepreneurial belief system are:
- That the climate is threatened by accumulations of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by a human race that is ultimately an unsustainable burden on a frail planet with a scarce and diminishing resource base. This is the prevailing premise of his Tesla automobile and battery technologies, the SpaceX extra-planetary agenda, and all their political subsidies and supports. All these propositions are profoundly wrong, but the world worships at the altar of a “sustainability cult.” An entrepreneur will do best to grasp both truths — to understand both the opportunities opened by public and political manias and the long-term limitations and perils of using a flat map in a round world.
- That artificial intelligence and machine learning can usurp and obsolete human minds. Humans are ultimately meat machines. Minds are the random effects of evolutionary accidents. Machines, by contrast, are planned by rigorous engineering. Machines will prevail. This is the assumption of his OpenAI project with Ilya Sutskever and a philosophically more sophisticated old paypal Peter Thiel.
- That human brains can be enhanced with neuralinks to computers. These are being developed by his Neuralink corporation, a rather far-fetched direct neuron communicator. “In twenty years,” he says, “we’ll have a full brain interface to all our neurons.” The idea is that the symbols used by minds are readable in the electrical signals measurable at neuronal nodes. Good luck with that.
- That flight to Mars is a reasonable goal with a vital yield. That’s the goal of his breakthrough SpaceX venture.
I’m probably missing a few. Some of his ventures are even boring. He’s a supremely busy and visionary guy. But the essence of his system is Tesla as a Roadster on a SpaceX Rocket neuralinked to Musk’s dream of machine supremacy in the universe.
Altogether these themes mount to the level of an entrepreneurial ideology. Although each of the assumptions is wrong, they all have huge momentum in the academy, the media, and in politics. They are maps only vaguely congruent with reality, but offering a set of guideposts that can summon real technology and accomplishment.
That’s because what we call science is mostly speculation, as depicted by Thomas Kuhn, The Nature of Scientific Revolutions. It is secular religion, with a succession of faith-based systems following one another, from multiple parallel universes to gender studies, often without traction or truth. But engineering and technology are real and cumulative.
Investors should keep an eye of Musk’s projects and engineering insights and treat his philosophy as mostly noise and politics.
He may ride the Zeitgeist and land on the moon and become the world’s richest and most powerful person without being any more right than Columbus was.
Impelled by the grandeur of his vision and the practical bounties of his pursuit, he may well produce a series of new machines with huge utility without being right about anything but the engineering.
There is magic in boldness and vision. Like the smart phone of the last era, Tesla has found the sweet spot where technologies converge in a new morphic resonance — a unity where time and space reinforce one another and yield new utility. If Musk can stay healthy and disciplined, he can become a giant. Don’t bet against him.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy