Friday, September 20, 2013

Charles Manson, Liberalism, and Information Theory

Okay, I get it. Information theory is not your thing. Well, I'm also reading a book about the life and times of Charles Manson. Would you prefer that we talk about him?

It's a really outstanding book, not the least bit sensational or exploitive, and very well written. Not the sort of thing I'd usually read, but it got a rave review in National Review, and I like to have something on hand that doesn't strain the Gagdad melon.

It's not just about Manson, but about the whole cultural milieu(s) that made a Manson possible -- not the least of which being the Haight-Ashbury scene of 1967, where he found himself shortly after being released from prison in March of that year (by then he was 33, and had already spent most of his life in reform schools or prison).

The chaotic environment of the Haight -- full of troubled souls in denial of their troubles -- was the absolute perfect setting for a sociopath to ply the emerging trade of self-styled new age guru. There, where reality wasn't real, his abnormality would appear normal. He began deepaking his charismatic chopra to vulnerable dupes, and the rest is history.

Charlie was never much of a student, but during his last prison stint leading up to his 1967 release, he took a deep interest in two prototypes of modern-day self-help snake oil, the benign clown Dale Carnegie and the malignant clown L. Ron Hubbard. He took formal courses in How to Win Friends and Influence People, and drank deeply of Scientology. Of course, the last thing on his mind was "self-improvement" in any ordinary sense of the term. Rather, his goal was "other-manipulation" for purposes of helping Charlie.

In short, he just wanted to learn how to exert power over others.

So in that sense, he was a huge success. Aside from new-age guru, the only other career path consistent with his skill-set would have been politics or self-help books, but he obviously wasn't straight enough for those paths. So instead he practiced retail politics on the people around him, manipulating them to his advantage and organizing his own little community.

Not to compare the two, but I am reminded of Obama's friction-free passage through the liberal education establishment, in which he seems to have assimilated little but the fashionable leftist pieties and cliches of the day, resulting in nothing left standing in his head but the will to dominate and control others via politics. You might say that leftist politics is sociopathy for conformists.

Thus, if Obamacare should remain the law of the land, rationing alone will be responsible for killing many more people than was Manson. Leftism kills. Always has, always will. We'll leave it to God to sort out whether such destructive ignorance is culpable or invincible.

The book is a real page-turner, but I'm only up to Charlie in the Summer of Love. Which sounds "ironic" -- what with the juxtaposition of love and mass murder -- but of course there was nothing healthy about that disease-ridden revolt against human nature. It carried the seeds of its own violent implosion, and one of the seeds that landed there was a charismatic guru named Charlie.

Does any of the above have any possible connection to information theory? Yeah, probably, since everything does -- at least everything made of information, such as a human being. (Perhaps a better way of putting it is that information -- i.e., the logosphere -- is made of person(s).)

"Financial crises," writes Gilder, "are no more a product of evil machinations than are hurricanes." Rather, "If you build your house with the wrong stuff in the wrong place, with the wrong algorithm, you may be hit."

Likewise, if you build your psyche out of the wrong stuff -- for example, envy, ideology, the will to power, etc. -- things may not go as planned.

Again, in order for the economy to function, we need to conserve low entropy carriers such as the rule of law, stable families, religious values, etc. But the same principle applies to the successful individual. In Manson's case, there was no stable psychic foundation whatsoever, and genetics -- i.e., temperament -- took care of the rest. Or in other words, if you nurture nature in the wrong way, you're courting disaster.

How and why did the economic *surprise* of 2008 occur? Well, it "suddenly made transparent the values that had been artfully rendered opaque when packaged as low-entropy money and debt instruments."

In short, what we thought were boring, low-entropy investments turned out to be full of turbulence and downside surprisal. Investors thought they had transparent information about them, when the instruments were actually quite opaque, and were suddenly revealed as risky ventures instead of safe havens. And when the low-entropy carrier fails, then you've got economic chaos.

It reminds me of the parole board that released Manson from prison in 1967. Interestingly, even Charlie knew that this wasn't such a good idea -- that while he might appear stable in the low-entropy environment of prison, left to his own devices in the high-entropy world of reality, he wouldn't be capable of ordering his life:

"At the age of thirty-two he was finally going to be free again after almost seven years.... The facade slipped; Charlie panicked and told Terminal Island officials that he didn't want to be paroled after all. He felt safe in prison; he didn't think he could adjust to being outside again. If they let him out, he'd end up doing things he shouldn't."

No dice: "the wheels of the penal system bureaucracy were turning. On the morning of March 21 [1967], Charlie found himself out on the sidewalk with a cheap suitcase and his guitar, not certain of where to go."

And to make the same pattern immediately relevant to the news of the day, check out Krauthammer's column on the Navy Yard mass murderer. Again, liberalism -- in this case, deinstitutionalization -- kills.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

All We are Saying is Give Information a Chance

Gilder writes that "When law becomes high-entropy, the flow of information halts and knowledge withers."

Again, this is because we need stable boundary conditions at the lower level of any system, in order to create the conditions for upside surprise, i.e., growth, progress, creativity, and evolution.

Thus, when "the line of demarcation between conduit and content dissolves," everything is reduced to noise (or at least no one can distinguish information from noise).

For example, "When currencies float chaotically and financial rules gyrate unpredictably, finance becomes a high-entropy and a high-profit endeavor. The economy lurches toward a hypertrophy of finance and litigation" instead of growth and progress.

I was thinking of how perfectly this captures the present economic crisis when I read a piece at PowerLine called Why Such a Pathetic Recovery? The short answer is because of all the noise Obama has inserted into the economy, and thus all the information that has been destroyed or displaced.

As we all know, the “Age of Obama" has been characterized "by record poverty, declining incomes, unprecedented numbers depending on federal poverty programs, and millions leaving the labor force in despair." Why? Or, more to the point, why haven't we experienced the typical post-recession recovery?

For the scholars cited in the piece, the stagnation has been a consequence of the "poorly designed and implemented government policies [that] have impeded capital and technological investments and hiring."

Well, yeah. No shit, Bob. By the way, when are you going to get off economics and return to the more purely spiritual subjects you also pretend to know about?

First of all, there is a Connection between the two, but I first need to lay a foundation. Remember, we're trying to interpret the PowerLine piece in terms of information theory, not just partisan point-scoring.

In this case, the policies of Obama-Reid-Pelosi have impeded capital and technological investments and hiring, which is another way of saying they have impeded the flow of economic information that is needed in order to make such decisions and commitments.

The authors say as much: "These policies impacted many key economic channels, including monetary and fiscal policies, commercial and investment banking, manufacturing, housing, and the environment."

And "many of these policies have depressed growth by distorting the normal forces of supply and demand that are critical for a market economy to function well and create new jobs" (emphasis mine).

There it is: low-entropy economic channels have been flooded with noise, thus distorting the signals necessary to make rational economic decisions.

Note also that Obama's insistence that he can interpret and enforce laws as he sees fit, only adds additional noise to the system -- or contaminates information with power. If no one knows what the law is, then no one can rely on it as a low-entropy carrier of information. Rather, everyone has to try and predict what Obama is going to do. But that's not in the realm of rational economics; rather, it's in the occult realm of mind-reading.

So, with the porkulus bill of 2009, Obama infused the economy with a trillion dollars of borrowed money, hoping it would magically turn into information. Instead, it just remained noisy cash, which various interests pocketed; rather than being used productively, individual states mostly used the illicit gift to fund transfer payments to various interest groups and/or to reduce their own unsustainable debt.

Tax policy has also been distorted by noise, rendering it "highly unpredictable, which in turn depresses the incentive for business to make long-term investments in capacity and technology, and holds business back from significantly expanding their workforce." Again, when the tax code isn't a stable carrier, it diminishes information.

So, how do we get things back on track? Obama has attempted to use the Stupid Power of the state to get the job done, but again, power is just a substitute for his non-existent knowledge. Why not give information a chance, as did Reagan, or Kennedy, or Coolidge?

What would an information-based approach look like? Here again, I think the authors have nailed it. For example, it would involve "restoring transparency and simplicity to the tax code," which is an obvious way to return it to being a predictable, low-entropy carrier.

Likewise, "reducing the U.S. corporate income tax rate, and reducing marginal income tax rates, which now exceed 50 percent in some states." Doing so would result in less information being siphoned off by the state and converted to Stupid Power.

The authors also mention changes in labor, energy, and environmental policy that would "make it less costly to hire workers and reduce the cost of becoming energy independent." And of course, there is Obamacare, which has to be the most catastrophic injection of Stupid into the economy since LBJ.

Truth always walks with humility, while stupid tends to strut omnisciently. Why is this? Ace made an offhand comment about it the other day, that "the more you know the more you realize you don't know. And conversely, only someone who knows a tiny little bit could possibly be under the illusion he knows it all."

So, all we are saying to President Stupid is to give information a chance.

(More on the high cost of Stupid.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Building a Better Human for Fun and Profit

It is strange how one seemingly random book resonates with and expands upon the next, but I've long since stopped trying to figure out exactly how this works, and instead just take the cosmic hint and go with it. It's been happening for some 30 years, so by now I almost expect this kind of surprisal.

As it pertains to the intellect, the rule is simple: obey your thirst! -- just make sure your thirst is from the intellect, and isn't mere promethean prying, ego expansion, or cognitively concupiscent curiosity. In short, don't be an infertile egghead. This is not academia, to put it mildly.

The intellect knows what it needs, and if you abandon yourself to its Higher Whims, it -- or its proper Object, rather -- won't fail you. Many Raccoons can personally witness to this truth.

Of course, when you first drop into its precincts, it might appear as a dense jungle -- as indeed this blog may appear to first-timeless readers.

But as one acclimates to the fauna and terrain, one discovers all sorts of unsuspected interstellar highways, byways, low ways and HO! ways. Indeed, in the absence of this subtle arterial structure, the cosmos would be a pretty bland and boring place, no? Isn't this where all the action is?

In this case, America 3.0 might as well be Knowledge and Power 2.0, because it fills in a lot of specific detail that is missing from Gilder's more high-altitude view of psycho-economics.

In Gilder's case, he talks about the low-entropy carriers that are necessary for high-entropy economic signals to reach their destination. If the low-entropy carrier is too unstable, or filled with noise, or too slow, then it cannot perform its function.

This goes to the critical nature of human software, as embodied both in individuals and in institutions. In other words, in order for economic progress to occur, we must have the correct low-entropy carriers in place, both individually and collectively.

Perhaps this sounds a little abstract, but this is where America 3.0 fills in the details. Interestingly, the authors' ideas are not "new" per se. Rather, they have simply availed themselves of decades of research that supports the insights and intuitions of conservatives going back to Edmund Burke, at least. (I might add that this new biography of Burke is a kind of pre-commentary on the other two books under discussion; hopefully we'll have time to get into this later in the week.)

Again, we're grappling with this question of how a specific population of human beings vaulted out of economic stasis after so many millennia of stasis. "Why for almost all of that time is there nothing going on, and then in the last 200 years things suddenly just go nuts?" (Bailey, in Gilder).

One answer "is that we developed better institutions.... if you don't have the right institutions in place, it [the nutty growth] won't happen."

But that begs the question somewhat, since it requires better -- or at least less nutty -- humans to make better institutions. Afterwards the superior institutions can help to form more effective humans, but it must start with individual minds and souls.

I'm only about a third of the way through America 3.0, but this is precisely its point: how America evolved the institutions that made it uniquely susceptible to such miraculous economic growth.

Conservatives have always had the intuition that it had something to do with "family values," but America 3.0 demonstrates with historical, empirical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological evidence just how right they are.

"Family values" is just a shorthand way of pointing to a psychic reality that is full of implications. Americans are quite different from Africans, from Arabs, from Chinese, and even from Europeans (with the interesting exceptions of certain parts of Holland, Sweden, and Norway, where a number of prominent Raccoons reside).

Put the other way around, the wrong type of family and kinship structure will place a nearly insurmountable barrier to economic growth -- as we see so conspicuously in the Arab-Muslim world. Israel stands out as a beacon of economic sanity in that benighted region, but (ontologically) prior to that, it also stands out as a beacon of family, parental, and kinship sanity.

For this reason, you could give the physical territory of Israel to the Palestinians, but you first need to eliminate everything Israelis have built there, and reduce it to the wasteland that existed prior to their arrival.

Under such conditions, the worthless land couldn't support a fraction of the so-called Palestinians that have metastasized since 1948. In short, Arab institutions could never have created anything resembling modern Israel, and never will.

Very little time today. To be continued...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cosmo-Economics and the Metaphysics of Surprise

Same post, just a better title. It's all I had time for today...

If the second law of thermodynamics -- i.e., the inevitable drift toward entropy -- is true, why then do so many processes wind up instead of winding down?

For example, we are told that the cosmos starts off in a state of such maxed out order that it will someday be possible to reduce its recipe to a simple equation or discrete tattoo.

And yet, the cosmic story doesn't end in an abyss of dissipation, nor arrive in a land of bland randomness. To the contrary: here we are as laughing proof, hosting the most irreducibly complex object in the entire universe right inside our very skulls.

Speaking of the guffah-HA! experience, this weekend I stumbled across a scientific explanation of it in Kahneman's provocative but not mandatory Thinking, Fast and Slow.

It has to do with the sudden intuition of a hidden coherence between seemingly unrelated words and concepts. When this occurs, "measurements of electrical activity in the muscles of your face" will detect "a slight smile."

He doesn't go into what happens with the experience of a BIG coherence -- the biggest of all known as God -- but the impression of coherence "appears to be mildly pleasurable in itself." No kidding.

And it can also work the other way around, a point we have made on many occasion, e.g., how a depressed mood dismantles our pneumacognitive links and plunges us into a space of lesser dimension.

Thus, there is explicit humor in this blog, but the most important comedy is implicit, always revolving around the inexhaustible punchline -- meaning it never gets old -- of cosmic wholeness. For it is written:

Lesson! My yokes are easy, my words enlight. Beholied!

At any rate, this question of complexification, of "winding up," is of course one of the recurring motifs of the ink and pulp version of the blog. One fine day, after nine or ten billion years of matter just doing what matter does, it suddenly comes to life. Wo. Didn't see that coming.

Then, just as suddenly, life becomes self-reflective and enters a higher-dimensional space of truth, beauty, virtue, luv, laffs, wholeness, etc. And in the past few posts we've been discussing how man's economic condition suddenly vaults into a new space some 300 years ago, again, after thousands of years of stasis. In each case, the system breaks out of order and into a higher realm. But how?

All you metaphysical Darwinians and other tenured apes out there, why engage in the auto-pullwoolery of pretending to understand? In your case you really do need to read Thinking, Fast and Slow, because you're all laboring under a lazy and simplistic narrative fallacy, a theory-induced blindness resulting in the illusion of understanding, all revolving around a substitute heuristic (in which you totally beg the question of what Life is) and instead persist in your deluded state of WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is).

Or, as Gilder describes it, you need to abandon your "futilitarian, zero-sum view of the universe," which "reduces credulous biologists and neuroscientists to the intellectual penury of a materialist superstition that denies the objective significance of their own scientific thinking." So, crawl out from under your academic crock and into the light!

For the cosmos -- the real cosmos, not your dead and hollowed out abstraction of it -- "is an engine of ideas, an information system, like an economy." (Although I would put it the other way around: a functioning economy is a microcosmos.) "It is a singularity full of detailed and improbable information. It is a 'super-surprise.'"

Again: it is the ultimate guffah-HA! experience.

You might be asking yourself: how is all this cosmic happy talk, this odious pneumababbling, different from merely deepaking the chopra? Well, for starters, it results in conclusions that are exactly the opposite of his Obama-worshiping liberal fascism. For

"The supply side, with all its intricacies of goods and services, commands far more information than the homogeneous money-dominated demand side." Top-down order "means lack of surprise and absence of creativity." Which is precisely why Obama's LoFo base of useful idiots is so surprised at his economic failures. But that's not surprise -- rather, the opposite. Nor is the joke funny to its victims.

Now, we do need order in order for the order to yield upside surprisal. However, this order must be at the "bottom," so to speak -- better, the foundation -- not imposed at the top by an all-powerful state. But the left specializes in imposing order at the top, while destroying it at the bottom, resulting in social and economic disorder.

The stable, low-entropy order includes such things as "moral codes, constitutional restraints, personal discipline, educational integrity, predictable laws, reliable courts, stable money, trustworthy finance, strong families, dependable defense, and police powers," not to mention sane and sober leadership and orthodox religious beliefs. This is where the real exceptions of American exceptionalism lay.

Thus, "All the surprising singularities of creative capitalism depend on the boring regularities of political order.... The entire saga of the history of the West conveys the courage and sacrifice necessary to enforce and defend these values against their enemies."

In short, conservatives defend the Permanent Things so as to engender real hope for improvement in one's material circumstance, and to facilitate benevolent change, i.e. progress. Conversely, progressives poison the conditions of progress at the root. They undermine and denigrate the Permanent Things that make progress possible, replacing them with their relativistic fantasies and malignant dreams.