Categories
Meta Regulation World

Capitalisms

I’m an engineer by training. I’m a very systems, process, methodical decision maker. He’s an entrepreneur. Different mind-set.

Management runs publicly-traded companies like ExxonMobil. Owners run private firms. The former are bureaucracies, the latter, fiefs. The former are a progressive invention, the latter much older. There is managerial capitalism, and then there is finance capitalism. There are corporations, and then there are businesses. Their leaders may look similar; they will all be, after all, rich. But they belong to different worlds.  Ross, Mnuchin, and Trump belong to one world. Tillerson to another. The distinction is so lamentably obscure to the national consciousness that even the members of these groups sometimes fail to understand that they are different.

Categories
Civilization Meta World

Nature Is Dead Because We Have Killed Her

Nietzsche said that we feel guilty because we killed God. We feel this same guilt today over the killing of Nature, which gave us our earliest gods. The guilt is expressed in hand-wringing over climate change, the polar bears, meat-eating, and so on. We feel the profoundest self-loathing in the creeping realization that all life on earth has become servilely dependent upon us. The beasts stripped of their nobility and humiliated in parks, or as the subjects of conservation efforts.

Maybe the birth of the gods itself was an expression of this guilt. The Bering Straiters knew what they had wrought when they wiped out the mammoths. The islanders the elephant birds.

Categories
Meta Miscellany World

Infinity

Nine are enough.

Categories
Civilization Meta Philoeconomica Quantity

The Illiteracy of the Literate

The complex feelings of lawyers and humanist scholars with respect to quantitative subjects, and particularly the quantifization of the social sciences, ought to give them greater empathy for the illiterate and uneducated. The humanist scholar is to the scientist as the illiterate are to the literate.

The illiterate view books with distrust, for books are used to undermine their most heartfelt positions in ways against which they are unable to mount a defense. But this is precisely how the lawyer feels when her nuanced doctrinal argument is demolished by a mathematical model of the economy that shows that regardless of the substance of the legal rule, the same economic outcome will obtain.

“It’s just mathematical mumbo jumbo,” says the lawyer. “These economists don’t know how things work in the real world.” But what the lawyer cannot do is to beat the economist at her own game. She can’t show that the economic model cannot withstand close scrutiny; all she can do is try to delegitimize the entire method. But the illiterate levy the same charge on the literate: “it’s just book learning,” they say. They cannot defend themselves in writing; but they can try to delegitimize writing itself.

It is particularly bitter for the humanists that they have been socialized to occupy the power position. For millennia, since the invention of writing, they have been the ones who use their learning to lord it over others. But now these merely-literates, these innumerates, must know what it means to be crushed by ideas. A very bitter position indeed.

I do not mean to say that the mathematicians have any better claim on the truth. But if the humanists think the mathematicians don’t, then it should perhaps worry the humanists to think that maybe they don’t either, in relation to the illiterate. Or maybe we are marching forward, after all, from one stage of intellectual progress to the next!

Categories
Meta

Power and Work

Ease should be your measure of power. You are sovereign over all things that you find easy.

How strange that when we think about power, we often think about things that we find hard to do! It’s hard, for example, to become President. But that tells you something about your power, doesn’t it?

Often we confuse the acquisition of power with power. Getting power can be hard. But having it is easy! Power means doing it is quick; you don’t have to think about it; you don’t have to work for it. Just like killing insects.

Are you surprised that the border guard didn’t think twice about executing the refugee? You shouldn’t be. Not needing to think twice is what it means to have power. The act figures very little in your mental map of important things, precisely because it’s easy!

You suffer for what you covet, not for what you have.

Categories
Civilization Meta Monopolization Quantity World

Optimal Prediction

When optimization arrives, either others will optimize against you or you will optimize against others. Business against you or you against business. There will be either corporate planning or central planning.

Categories
Meta

Maybe It’s the Stage

Climbing the Eiffel Tower is a disappointment. Reaching the moon is a disappointment. Why shouldn’t getting down below the nuclear level be a disappointment? Or getting outside the universe be a disappointment? Why shouldn’t science generally be the Eiffel Tower?

Suppose, for a minute, that God really did mean the universe to be our stage. Wouldn’t we expect its underside, and its backside, to be drab and unadorned, just as they are at the Met or La Scala?  And shouldn’t we take the barrenness of the moon, the emptiness of space, and the randomness of quantum mechanics, as signs. Can’t we see the signs?

To follow the plot, keep your eyes on the stage.

Categories
Meta

An Apology for Futility

Is it the fly who dies behind the window pane, or the fly who fears to enter your house, who retains her dignity?

Either flies don’t enter or people open their windows. By dying, which does the fly make possible?

 

Categories
Meta

The Heaven Chance*

You are nought but your fortune, as completely empty as chance, from the color of your eyes to the sharpness of your mind. So do not tell me that gambling lacks substance. You lack substance. There is no greater humility than the gambler’s.

*See Nietzsche.

Categories
Meta

Discovery

I don’t need a book; I can figure it out for myself!