Gilder gives the example of a normal heartbeat on a monitor, which is ordered but carries little information; it is a low-entropy carrier, basically telling you that the person is alive.
Conversely, a hi-entropy message contains so much information -- i.e., so much surprise -- "that it will actually appear as random noise to any recipient unequipped with the proper decoding device."
The first thing I thought of was jazz -- in particular, its more abstract variants -- which has been called "the sound of surprise." And how could 15 modern jazz fans be wrong?
Yet, to most people -- to the uninitiated or unpretentious -- it will just be the sound of... random noise. This is in contrast to, say, a marching band, which conveys no surprise but lots of order.
But real noise is truly "defined by its randomness. Each sound or signal, independent of previous signals, is utterly unpredictable; each bit is unexpected."
That being the case, it is "impossible to differentiate such random noise from a series of unrelated creative surprises," because "both are gauged by their entropy or surprisal." Thus, constant surprise looks a lot like complete randomness -- that is, unless you know how to decode the message.
Finnegans Wake: creative surprise or just random noise? Most people will take one look at it and conclude the latter. Others will say it is the most dense with information -- or novelty -- of any "novel" ever written. But it's impossible to unlock the information without a Skeleton Key.
Obama's foreign policy: full of creative surprisal, or just random squawking?
His economic policies are certainly flooding the world with noise. Gilder: "When government either neglects its role as guardian or, worse, tries to help by becoming a transmitter and turning up the power on certain favored signals, the noise can be deafening.... governmental interventions in the economy are distractions -- 'noise on the line' -- that nearly always retard expansion."
For example, the current artificially low interest rates are destroying information, because interest rates are supposed to convey information about real-world conditions.
As such, "if the government manipulates them, they will issue false signals," resulting in a serious misallocation of resources.
The housing collapse of 2008 was a direct consequence of such government-based noise, what with the combustible mix of artificially suppressed interest rates and state-mandated loans to unqualified borrowers. What resulted was not a "surprise" but an inevitability. You can drive out economic reality with a pitchfork, but she always comes roaring back, usually pissed off.
In his terrific The End is Near, Williamson talks about the extraordinary distortions caused by the Fed's monetary polices, and how these naturally redound to the benefit of the state -- specifically, a state that simply cannot stop spending.
This hides the true impact of the debt, for if -- okay, when -- "the cost of financing the federal debt" reverts "to its historical average," it will result in interest payments the size of the Pentagon budget. (And this is leaving aside future commitments to the tune of 222 trillion, on top of the "official" -- i.e. admitted -- debt of 16 trillion. That's more money than there is in the world.)
Should interest rates go higher than the historical average -- and who's to say they won't? -- "then interest on the debt would be the single largest item in the federal budget by a long ways, equal to about twice all current discretionary spending." Yeah, you might say the End is Near.
Imagine a compulsive shopper who has the power to command the interest rate of his credit card to be zero. That's the federal government.
Worse yet, the compulsive spender with the magical credit card knows the interest rate is eventually going to rise. He's just hoping it won't happen until the next generation is on the hook for the bill.
To which I say: no taxation without incarnation.
Or, maybe we can ban abortion on grounds of pre-emptive tax evasion.
Bottom line: the state cannot force creativity or plan for upside surprisal. It can only be a parasite on, or beneficiary of, those. But what it's really good at is being an economic, educational, and environmental noise machine.
And that's just the e's.
Oh, and don't be *surprised* that the most enthusiastic supporters of the noise machine are themselves characterized by *low information*.
(Great piece by Ace on why liberal minds are so devoid of surprisal.)