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...


ge said...

This just in on Drudge:
"Woman Stabs Roommate Because He Wouldn't Stop Listening To The Eagles..."

Lady, get in line

Gagdad Bob said...

A clear case of Stand Your Aesthetic Ground.

Rick said...

"(Bailey, in Gilder)"

Our man Gil or George?

julie said...

ge, maybe she saw The Big Lebowski too many times, and figured that if she complained she'd just get thrown out of the apartment.

But as one acclimates to the fauna and terrain, one discovers all sorts of unsuspected interstellar highways, byways, low ways and HO! ways.

I was just sitting out on my patio a little bit ago, enjoying a brief respite of peace and quiet. If you sit still for a bit, the life of the world just opens up; look one way, and a buzzkill of vultures comes drifting up to perch in some nearby trees. Look another, and a pair of squirrels sneaks onto the roof; up to no good, no doubt. A third, and a variety of anoles and frogs go to and fro, making a surprisingly small dent in the numbers of ants around the house.

There are trails everywhere, leading to the secrets of life, great and small...

mushroom said...

A buzzkill of vultures -- that is as good as a murder of crows.

"Family Values" -- there is a reason that traditional values become traditional and start sounding trite and cliched. It's the thing that worked.

mushroom said...

I guess a Desperado Took It To the Limit one too many times.

Rick said...

I see this Gilder fellow is a Discovery Institute founder (NTTAWWT).

Also, an interview here at Uncommon Knowledge (which I haven't watched yet).

Open Trench said...

I like the Eagles. Fast Lane, particularly.

"He was too tired to make it; she was too tired to fight about it.."

Genius, I tell you, genius...