World After Capital: Enhancing Freedom

NOTE: The following excerpt is the introduction to the third part of my book World After Capital.

Part Three: Enhancing Freedom

The second major goal of World After Capital is to propose an approach for a transition to the Knowledge Age. The challenge is to overcome the limits of capitalism, by moving past a society centered on the Job Loop towards one embracing the Knowledge Loop. Part Three will propose changes to regulation and self-regulation that increase human freedom and let us unlock the promise of the Digital Knowledge Loop. There are three components to this:

  1. Economic freedom. We must let everyone meet their basic needs without being forced into the Job Loop. With economic freedom, we can embrace automation and enable everyone to participate in and benefit from the Digital Knowledge Loop.

  2. Informational freedom. We must remove barriers from the Digital Knowledge Loop that artificially limit learning from existing Continue reading "World After Capital: Enhancing Freedom"

Uncertainty Wednesday: The Unknowable Alternative Life

In the last Uncertainty Wednesday, I told three episodes from my life to illustrated just how pervasive uncertainty is in our lives. Today I want to tackle the first and maybe most fundamental implication of that: you cannot know what your life would have been had you made a different decision. This is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. We only observe the one life that was realized, not the many that could have been. This is what Milan Kundera refers to as the “Unbearable Lightness of Being” in his eponymous book.

Now you might object with something along the following lines: “Clearly I would be better off today if I had put money into bitcoin in 2011 and then sold near the peak in 2017.” The fallacy in this type of hindsight analysis is that it holds everything else constant. That is you say “given the path Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: The Unknowable Alternative Life"

World After Capital: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Knowledge Loop

NOTE: I am resuming posting excerpts from my draft book World After Capital. The previous post introduced the Knowledge Loop. Today’s post covers the promise and peril of a Digital Knowledge Loop and also wraps up Part Two of the book.

The Promise and Peril of the Digital Knowledge Loop

The zero marginal cost and universality of digital technologies are already impacting the three phases of learning, creating and sharing, giving rise to a Digital Knowledge Loop. This Digital Knowledge Loop holds both amazing promise and great peril, as can be seen in the example of YouTube.

YouTube has experienced astounding growth since its release in beta form in 2005. People around the world now upload over 100 hours of video content to YouTube every minute. It is difficult to grasp just how much content that is. If you were to spend 100 years watching YouTube twenty-four hours a day, Continue reading "World After Capital: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Knowledge Loop"

Uncertainty Wednesday: A New Tack

After a six week hiatus I am resuming Uncertainty Wednesday. Much as I have done at varying points with my prior Tech Tuesday series, I have decided to head off in a different direction, at least for some time. Instead of the theoretical approach so far, I will focus more on the philosophy of living in a world full of uncertainty. How should we live our lives, make business and personal decisions, judge performance, etc. given pervasive uncertainty?

My plan is roughly as follows, but I am open to suggestions. First, I intend to write a bit about just how much of our lives is impacted by uncertainty (hint: all of it) despite us largely not acknowledging this reality. Then I plan to look at examples that illustrate how poor our intuitions are when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. With that in place, I will share the answers I Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: A New Tack"

Labor Day: AI & Labor

We are finding ourselves in a strange place this Labor Day: the impact of AI is simultaneously being overestimated and underestimated. There is still massive hype surrounding self driving cars, which will almost certainly take much longer to arrive than the public appears to believe. At the same time, there is mostly quiet but massive AI progress on tasks such as reading radiology images.

The key thing to understand – if you want to form an opinion on AI progress – is to distinguish between “open” and “closed” domains. The difference revolves around how much knowledge is required in adjacent domains to be effective in the domain itself. In an open domain you need to know a lot about other domains as well. 

Driving is an example of an open domain: to be an effective driver, you don’t just need to know about the road and the car and Continue reading "Labor Day: AI & Labor"

World After Capital: The Knowledge Loop

NOTE: I am continuing to post excerpts from my book World After Capital. The following is on the Knowledge Loop. Unfortunately I am dealing with a gitbook issue, so this revised text is not yet live on the book website.

The Knowledge Loop

Already today knowledge has made possible something extraordinary: by means of the innovations of the Industrial Age we can, in principle, meet everyone’s basic needs. But we cannot stop here. We need to generate additional knowledge to solve the problems we have introduced along the way, such as climate change. Knowledge is powerful, but only if we have enough of it. Where will that additional knowledge come from?

New knowledge does not spring forth in a vacuum. Instead it emerges from what I call the Knowledge Loop. In the Knowledge Loop, someone starts out by learning something, then uses that to create something new, which is then

Continue reading "World After Capital: The Knowledge Loop"

World After Capital: The Knowledge Loop

NOTE: I am continuing to post excerpts from my book World After Capital. The following is on the Knowledge Loop. Unfortunately I am dealing with a gitbook issue, so this revised text is not yet live on the book website.

The Knowledge Loop

Already today knowledge has made possible something extraordinary: by means of the innovations of the Industrial Age we can, in principle, meet everyone’s basic needs. But we cannot stop here. We need to generate additional knowledge to solve the problems we have introduced along the way, such as climate change. Knowledge is powerful, but only if we have enough of it. Where will that additional knowledge come from?

New knowledge does not spring forth in a vacuum. Instead it emerges from what I call the Knowledge Loop. In the Knowledge Loop, someone starts out by learning something, then uses that to create something new, which is then

Continue reading "World After Capital: The Knowledge Loop"

Speech and Power

There is a healthy debate going on now about the role of Twitter, Facebook, and others (Google, Apple, …) with regard to moderating speech on their platforms. Rather than writing something entirely new, I decided to go back and look at what I have written and whether my opinion has changed since then. As I did that I was happy to find that I have had a fairly consistent approach based on who has power.

Over the years I have written a lot about keeping the government out of regulating content on the internet. For instance, in a post from 2010 titled “We Need an Internet Bill of Rights (And Fast)” I wrote:

If you care about freedom and democracy you do not want to give the government a wholesale way to shut down access to sites on the Internet.  The potential downside from abuses of such as system Continue reading "Speech and Power"

Speech and Power

There is a healthy debate going on now about the role of Twitter, Facebook, and others (Google, Apple, …) with regard to moderating speech on their platforms. Rather than writing something entirely new, I decided to go back and look at what I have written and whether my opinion has changed since then. As I did that I was happy to find that I have had a fairly consistent approach based on who has power.

Over the years I have written a lot about keeping the government out of regulating content on the internet. For instance, in a post from 2010 titled “We Need an Internet Bill of Rights (And Fast)” I wrote:

If you care about freedom and democracy you do not want to give the government a wholesale way to shut down access to sites on the Internet.  The potential downside from abuses of such as system Continue reading "Speech and Power"

World After Capital: The Power of Knowledge

NOTE: Today’s excerpt from World After Capital dives deeper into human knowledge and why it is so powerful.

The Power of Knowledge

Have you watched television recently? Eaten food that had been stored in a refrigerator? Accessed the Internet? Played games on your smartphone? Driven in a car? These are all things that billions of people around the world have access to and often use daily (there are over 2 billion smartphone users). Many of us take these capabilities for granted and rarely do we ask where they come from. And while these are produced by different companies using a wide range of technologies, none of them would be possible without the existence of knowledge.

Knowledge, as I use the term, is the sum total of all information humanity has recorded in a medium and improved over time. There are two crucial parts to this definition. The first is “recorded Continue reading "World After Capital: The Power of Knowledge"

World After Capital: The Power of Knowledge

NOTE: Today’s excerpt from World After Capital dives deeper into human knowledge and why it is so powerful.

The Power of Knowledge

Have you watched television recently? Eaten food that had been stored in a refrigerator? Accessed the Internet? Played games on your smartphone? Driven in a car? These are all things that billions of people around the world have access to and often use daily (there are over 2 billion smartphone users). Many of us take these capabilities for granted and rarely do we ask where they come from. And while these are produced by different companies using a wide range of technologies, none of them would be possible without the existence of knowledge.

Knowledge, as I use the term, is the sum total of all information humanity has recorded in a medium and improved over time. There are two crucial parts to this definition. The first is “recorded Continue reading "World After Capital: The Power of Knowledge"

Browser, Wallet or Something New? Looking for Crypto Ease of Use

The internet was around for about two decades before the arrival of the web supercharged its growth. The ease of using a web browser made broad consumer adoption possible. Mobile payments were around for at least a decade before they started to take off. Again the key factor to adoption was ease of use – this time in the form of wallets that are actually integrated with in-app payments and widely accepted at the point of sale such as Google and Apple Pay (in other parts of the world adoption was driven by carrier billing or pre-payment – again questions of convenience).

Similarly crypto is approaching a decade of existence. And we are still looking for the massive increase in the ease of use that will enable broad adoption. It is possible that clinging to the browser and wallet metaphors may be holding us back. The browser is strongly associated Continue reading "Browser, Wallet or Something New? Looking for Crypto Ease of Use"

Browser, Wallet or Something New? Looking for Crypto Ease of Use

The internet was around for about two decades before the arrival of the web supercharged its growth. The ease of using a web browser made broad consumer adoption possible. Mobile payments were around for at least a decade before they started to take off. Again the key factor to adoption was ease of use – this time in the form of wallets that are actually integrated with in-app payments and widely accepted at the point of sale such as Google and Apple Pay (in other parts of the world adoption was driven by carrier billing or pre-payment – again questions of convenience).

Similarly crypto is approaching a decade of existence. And we are still looking for the massive increase in the ease of use that will enable broad adoption. It is possible that clinging to the browser and wallet metaphors may be holding us back. The browser is strongly associated Continue reading "Browser, Wallet or Something New? Looking for Crypto Ease of Use"

Blogging Hiatus: Reading More

Despite making progress on the recovery from my shoulder surgery, I have not been blogging and today will be another missed Uncertainty Wednesday. 

I have been spending the last few weeks of summer reading more which has been enjoyable. I am learning about Zero Knowledge Proofs from various blogs, including Vitalik Buterin’s excellent posts on the topic. I am also nearly finished with Michael Pollan’s “How to Change your Mind” about psychedelic drugs. And I am halfway into Judea Pearl’s “The Book of Why” and about a third into Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland.” All three of these are interesting reads.

As for updates on World After Capital: I am stuck on a section that I am unhappy with but am hoping to get that resolved by next Monday, so I can continue posting excerpts. I have also received a large number Continue reading "Blogging Hiatus: Reading More"

Blogging Hiatus: Reading More

Despite making progress on the recovery from my shoulder surgery, I have not been blogging and today will be another missed Uncertainty Wednesday. 

I have been spending the last few weeks of summer reading more which has been enjoyable. I am learning about Zero Knowledge Proofs from various blogs, including Vitalik Buterin’s excellent posts on the topic. I am also nearly finished with Michael Pollan’s “How to Change your Mind” about psychedelic drugs. And I am halfway into Judea Pearl’s “The Book of Why” and about a third into Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland.” All three of these are interesting reads.

As for updates on World After Capital: I am stuck on a section that I am unhappy with but am hoping to get that resolved by next Monday, so I can continue posting excerpts. I have also received a large number Continue reading "Blogging Hiatus: Reading More"

Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future

Facebook is in the unique position today to face both the problems of centralization and decentralization. On its centralized core platform it is confronted with making content decisions, while on WhatsApp it struggles with slowing down the spread of rumors and calls for violence. Just to be clear, I have no sympathy for Facebook which has been arrogant about these issues and has put growth above anything else. Nonetheless everyone who is building new decentralized platforms would do well to think about these issues NOW.

The Internet itself is quite decentralized relative to Facebook. That’s of course why InfoWars and many other conspiracy websites are out there. Facebook has long wanted to convince people around the world that it is effectively the Internet (after all time spent outside of Facebook is a lot harder to monetize). But of course it is not and it can easily censor content on its Continue reading "Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future"

Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future

Facebook is in the unique position today to face both the problems of centralization and decentralization. On its centralized core platform it is confronted with making content decisions, while on WhatsApp it struggles with slowing down the spread of rumors and calls for violence. Just to be clear, I have no sympathy for Facebook which has been arrogant about these issues and has put growth above anything else. Nonetheless everyone who is building new decentralized platforms would do well to think about these issues NOW.

The Internet itself is quite decentralized relative to Facebook. That’s of course why InfoWars and many other conspiracy websites are out there. Facebook has long wanted to convince people around the world that it is effectively the Internet (after all time spent outside of Facebook is a lot harder to monetize). But of course it is not and it can easily censor content on its Continue reading "Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future"

Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Conclusion)

The last few Uncertainty Wednesdays had us look at how to model beliefs using probability distributions and then update those with a specific example of using the beta distribution. You may have noticed something odd about the way we updated the parameters of the beta distribution: add 1 to α when we observe heads and add 1 to β when we observe tails. This wipes out any and all ordering information. So let’s say you have a total of 100 observations. With this update rule the only thing that matters is the total count of heads and tails respectively. Let’s say that happens to be exactly 50 each, which gives us this beautiful looking distribution:

image

Which is quite tight around the probability 0.5 for heads.

Yet clearly there is a huge difference between observing some fairly random sequence of heads and tails versus say first 50 heads and then 50 Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Conclusion)"

Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Conclusion)

The last few Uncertainty Wednesdays had us look at how to model beliefs using probability distributions and then update those with a specific example of using the beta distribution. You may have noticed something odd about the way we updated the parameters of the beta distribution: add 1 to α when we observe heads and add 1 to β when we observe tails. This wipes out any and all ordering information. So let’s say you have a total of 100 observations. With this update rule the only thing that matters is the total count of heads and tails respectively. Let’s say that happens to be exactly 50 each, which gives us this beautiful looking distribution:

image

Which is quite tight around the probability 0.5 for heads.

Yet clearly there is a huge difference between observing some fairly random sequence of heads and tails versus say first 50 heads and then 50 Continue reading "Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Conclusion)"

World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Self-Conservation)

NOTE: Today’s excerpt from World After Capital rounds out the section on limits of capitalism. We already saw the issue of missing prices, the problem of power laws and today talks about how the self-conservation of capitalism through the political system keeps attention trapped in the job loop.

Self-Conservation

Toward the end of the Agrarian Age, when land was scarce, the political elites came from land ownership. Their influence really wasn’t substantially diminished until after World War II. Now we are at the end of the scarcity of capital, but the political elites largely represent the interests of capital. In some countries, such as China, this is the case outright. Senior political leaders and their families own large parts of industry. In other countries, such as the United States, politicians are influenced by the owners of capital because of the constant need to fundraise.

A study conducted at Princeton Continue reading "World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Self-Conservation)"