Friday, September 06, 2013

Government: The Left Wing Noise Machine

I want to go back to the similarity between information and randomness, and how both appear different from order. Again, it's a tricky concept, but important to understand.

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.)

15 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

"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."

Bingo. Appears random without the decoding device. Therefore, what is truly random? -- might as well just say "silly" -- as the view many have of the Bible (never mind Finnegans Wake) without a proper decoding device. Not even Obama's decisions are random (to him or to those who know him). To know him is to have the play-book/decoding device. With that view, he is a broken record.

My decoder ring tells me that he loves all this attention: "OMGz what will he do noooow!!1"
The World on the edge of its seat.

9/06/2013 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

However, it is "impossible to differentiate such random noise from a series of unrelated creative surprises," because "both are gauged by their entropy or surprisal."

Before I read further, wouldn't a post-modern or post-post-modern argument be that the very fact the randomness is generated "intentionally" make it art?

9/06/2013 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is fascinating stuff and dead center on what is close to my heart.

Nobody with any sense thought you could time the market, but we all thought it was a measure of what was going on in the real world -- not perfect but a reasonable approximation.

Now, it's as if we were outside on a really cold day all bundled up. Somebody complains about having to wear all these clothes, so we stick a match under the thermometer until it reads 95. Then we think we can walk around in shorts and flip-flops.

9/06/2013 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

When you've lost Paul Krugman.... Of course, he thinks Obama's mistake was not enough noise.

9/06/2013 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Is there another medicine that makes you astonishingly and horrifyingly ill in massive doses, but magically cures you in gargantuan ones?

9/06/2013 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, that would be funnier if it wasn't true...

However, 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 like complete randomness, that is, unless you know how to decode the message.

This is very interesting as applied to the study of brain waves. Just a couple of weeks ago, there was news about the first human brain-to-brain internet connection. When I first read about it, I found it both creepy and passingly interesting. This week, however, I suddenly find the noisy patterns of brain waves to be much more important. If a person's mind can be effected in this way, perhaps it is possible that someone could develop the technology to both read and react to the patterns that crop up, for instance, during a seizure. A pacemaker for the brain, as it were...

9/06/2013 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I believe during a seizure the brainwaves are unusually ordered, but I could be wrong....

And some people think panic attack is a kind of "anxiety seizure."

9/06/2013 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You know Giles Corey was accused of witchcraft and tried by having stones placed on him. Each time they asked him if he would recant, he cried, "More weight." The witchdoctor Krugman cries, "More debt!"

9/06/2013 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"And some people think panic attack is a kind of "anxiety seizure.""

Be that as it may, having a panic attack is still preferable to riding a roller coaster.

Or riding a log flume ride.

Or riding the Tower of Terror.

9/06/2013 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"Nobody with any sense thought you could time the market, but we all thought it was a measure of what was going on in the real world -- not perfect but a reasonable approximation.

Now, it's as if we were outside on a really cold day all bundled up. Somebody complains about having to wear all these clothes, so we stick a match under the thermometer until it reads 95. Then we think we can walk around in shorts and flip-flops."

Sell in May and Go Away and Don't Come Back Till All Saints Day.

http://www.streetsmartreport.com/sts

Works better in Europe than the U.S.

At least as of this paper:

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3083268?uid=3739776&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102589857931

And yes, it exists thanks to mass psychology.

9/06/2013 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

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."


As Mushroom said yesterday, this is fascinating stuff. It occurred to me just now that this might also apply to certain cultural ideals; particularly those cultures in which one is expected to stay within the order, and essentially to refrain from being a source of any surprise. Isn't there some Japanese maxim about the nail which stands out, and so gets pounded in? Or is it the tall flower that gets cut?

Also, it occurs to me that the idea of entropy, which is thought to denote disorder, in truth denotes a return to a lower state of order. True, there is disarray when things fall apart, but ultimately, barring any surprises, everything settles. Rock forms layers, bodies in space settle into orbits or clump together, inertia sets in, and things become extremely ordered. Also mostly dead.

9/07/2013 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, order is definitely fatal. One more reason to think of the one as a dynamic threeness.

9/07/2013 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Drudge UPDATE: Stork Detained as Spy in Egypt Found Dead...PETA Seeks Congressional Approval for Missile Strike
.
.
.



augmented ala
ge

9/08/2013 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Via Venderleun, there's a good piece up by David Warren.

ge, lol. Except that PETA would probably have been in favor of killing the stork, in order to "rescue" it from its human captors...

9/08/2013 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Or, maybe we can ban abortion on grounds of pre-emptive tax evasion."

Ha!

No doubt after Obamacare has been free for long enough, the desparate search for revenue just might make that a reality.

9/08/2013 04:49:00 PM  

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