The General Theory of Evolution
Evolution is the best way of understanding how the human world changes, as well as the natural world.
It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes: from morality to technology, from money to religion.
We blame the sailboat for the wind.
Evolution means unfolding, the main claim of the book is that things unfold and human minds are only the intermediaries that mutate and get selected on, much like DNA is not the cause of evolution.
Far more than we like to admit, the world is to a remarkable extent a self-organising, self-changing place. Patterns emerge, trends evolve.
In society, people are the victims and even the immediate agents of change but more often than not the causes are elsewhere - they are emergent, collective, inexorable forces.
Change is not driven by a planner, it unfolds, it evolves, by means that humans don't yet understand. We try to see agency, everywhere, even if there is none. An ant hill has no main conductor, and neither does human society or the progress of technology. Both unfold.
Chapter 1 - The Evolution of the Universe
Book Recommendation De Rerum Natura - Lucretius
Book Recommendation The Swerve - Stephen Greenblatt
The Lucretian Heresy
Lucretius influenced a lot of the rationale of the Renaissance.
Newton could still not shake the idea of god, and proposed that God stabilized the solar system.
The idea of somebody explaining something with "the gods did it" when the answer would have been emergence or some other phenomenon instead. A Lucretian Swerve - or just swerve in the rest of the book. Swerves are also similar to non sequitur arguments.
Pasta or Worms?
No need of that Hypothesis
The impossibility of forecasting the position of an electron, or the weather a year ahead, made the world proof against the confidence of prognosticators and experts and planners.
The puddle that fits its pothole
We may be extraordinarily lucky and vanishingly rare. But that does not make us special: we would not be here if it had not worked out so far.
Thinking for Ourselves
Gradually, by reading Lucretius and by experiment and thought, the Enlightenment embraced the idea that you could explain astronomy, biology and society without recourse to intelligent design.
Enlightenment got triggered by Lucretius in a way and people started to replace stupid "skyhook" explanations, in other words swerves, with emergence theories and real scientific thinking and empiricism. This lead step by step to the worldview we can have nowadays and the knowledge that comes attached to it. There is no creator, but chaos and emergent phenomena.
Chapter 2 - The Evolution of Morality
Book Recommendation - The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith
We all enjoy making other people happy.
How Morality emerges
The moral negotiation among ordinary people gradually changed the common views in society, with moral teachers reflecting the changes along the way.
Language is an ordered system, albeit arrived at spontaneously through some kind of trial and error among people trying to make 'their mutual wants intelligible to each other'.
Moral judgements are generalisations arrived at inductively on the basis of past experience.
Book Recommendation - The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker
Book Recommendation - A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman
Book Recommendation - The Bourgeois Virtue by Deirdre McCloskey
The world gets less violent, but nobody is causing that. One driver is trade and capitalism, but the whole phenomenon is emergent. Once again.
The Evolution of Law
God didn't make morality, or the law, or language. All of them evolved in some way or another, through interactions of people, each acting to their small local rules, yet building up to this enormous complexity, that keeps changing, keeps unfolding. Morality is ever changing, because it is built, bottom-up, by the people, for the people, but without a central plan, it is an emergent phenomenon.
Chapter 3 - The Evolution of Life
Book Recommendation - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume
Darwin on the Eye
Book Recommendation - Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett
Natural Selection has far more power than any designer could ever call upon.
Book Recommendation - The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin
Problem - Improbability of Protein of Just the right shape forming - solution: there is vast redundancy. Only because we stuck with Opsin and Hemoglobin etc. doesn't at all mean, that these were the only options possible. There are myriads more proteins that doe the same thing, but in a different way. This eases the search, tremendously.
Evolution does not just explore the metabolic library like a single casual browser. It crowd sources, employing huge populations of organisms that scour the library for new texts. Organisms ar crowds of readers going through the library of Mendel to find texts that make sense.
Doubting Darwin Still
Still people try to teach creationism in schools in the US. But their arguments are no match for the power of scientific explanation. Whatever example they can come up with can be dismantled entirely because this subject is so well understood by now.
Darwin was rediscovering an idea. (of Empedocles who had it 490 BC but didn't properly follow it)
The Lure of Lamarck
Changing a cake after it hass been baked cannot change the recipe that was used.
Culture-driven genetic evolution
Life has evolved and we know it, yet people can't fathom that something as complex as life could have arisen simply out of randomness. And so we keep searching for agency and planners and even the best of thinkers often put a planner or skyhook up in the end, swerving left and right when they are faced with the sheer incredibility of their discoveries.
Chapter 4 - The Evolution of Genes
Reference to Nick Lane and his ideas about the emergence of life. Namely special Olivine hydrothermal vents. This is one of the best attempts to bridge the gap between no-life and first cell ever.
All crane and no skyhook
We overcame the size limit of the bacterial cell by hosting multiple internal membranes in mitochondria, and then simplifying the genomes needed to support those membranes.
Coal + the steam engine converting it to work, made surplus energy available and that's what got turned into the higher complexity of society. That very same process of excess energy happened millions of years ago when the first mitochondria eukyaryote merger happened.
Surplus energy is indispensable to modern society, and is the symptom of wealth.
On whose behalf?
The body is the plaything and battleground of genes at least as much as it is their purpose.
The only way to understand organisms is to see them as mortal and temporary vehicles used to perpetuatr effectively immortal digital sequences written in DNA.
The commonest gene in the human genome is the recipe for reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that the human body has little or no need for, and whose main function is usually to help the spread of retroviruses.
DNA that is good at getting itself copied, without killing the host, has great chances of "survival" and can therefore be viewn as a form of digital parasite. Hence a lot of code in the human DNA might not serve any purpose - other than ensuring its own replication.
Junk is not the same as garbage
Junk DNA reminds us that the genome is built by and for DNA sequences, not by and for the body. The body is an emergent phenomenon consequent upon the competitive survival of DNA sequences, and a means by which the genome perpetuates itself.
Red Queen Races
DNA as a cause of itself is a hard concept to grasp. It doesn't serve it's body, the body is more of a side effect. The same is true for adaptions in cancer cells or adaptions of pathogens or any adaptions . They don't happen for any purpose, they happen randomly and are then sifted by what works and what doesn't. This leads to seemingly insensible things in our DNA - junk. Well, for the purposes of our bodies it is junk, but for the purpose of multiplying itself from generation to generation it does a good job. Genetic parasites are real and a lot of our genome happens to take their shape.
Chapter 5 - The Evolution of Culture
To say that culture 'evolves' is not metaphorical.
The Evolution of language
Book Recommendation - The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin
Languages behave like species density. In more species rich places, people have lots of different languages and vice versa. So language density changes with altitude and coming closer to the equator just as species become denser at the equator and less denser in the mountains and close to the poles.
Languages are human products, but they are not consciously designed.
There are intensely close parallels between the evolution of languages and species.
The Human Revolution was an Evolution
In people, genes are probably the slaves, not the masters, of culture.
The Evolution of Marriage
Book Recommendation - Marriage and Civilization by William Tucker
Societies that chose "normative monogamy", or an insistence upon sex within exclusive marriage, tended to tame their young men, improve social cohesion, balance the sex ratio, reduce the crime rate, and encourage men to work rather than fight. This made such societies more productive and less destructive, so they tended to expand at the expense of other societies.
Marriage is not redesigned; it evolves. We don't notice it happening till afterwards. But the change is far from random.
The evolution of cities
Urbanisation was orderly but unplanned. It was evolutionary.
Cities will converge on the same pattern of growth wherever they are. In this they are very like bodies. A mouse burns more energy, per unit of body weight, than an elephant; a small city burns proportionately more motor fuel than a large one. Like cities, bodies get more efficient in their energy consumption the larger they grow.
Cities are "supercreative". They generate a disproportionate share of human innovation; and the bigger they are, the more they generate.
Cities only rarely disappear. Even when countries around them change often and at large.
The evolution of institutions
Political systems don't evolve, they just lurch dramatically every once in a while.
Human culture evolves, gradually but with an ever accelerating pace. That's probably what caused the Human Revolution. The role of this evolution of human culture permeates almost all aspects of our lives. From cities and their formation and growth, to how languages form and knowledge gets created, it is all unfolding, all evolving. Except for some reason - politics.
Chapter 6 - The Evolution of the Economy
Prosperity emerged despite, not because of, human policy. It developed inexorably out of the interaction of people by a form of selective progress very similar to evolution.
Human Action, but Not Human Design
Specialisation, accompanied by exchange, is the source of economic prosperity.
In it's ideal form, the free market is a device for creating networks of collaboration among people to raise each other's living standards, a device for coordinating production and a device for communicating information about needs through the price mechanism.
Imperfect Markets are Better than No Markets
Book Recommendation - Economic Harmonies by Frédéric Bastiat
Book Recommendation - Theory of Economic Development by Joseph Schumpeter
Book Recommendation - Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter
Question: Are there such things as biological parasites as adaptive solutions in emergent markets? How would we describe them and how would they look like? And how would they change the evolutionary pressures for companies?
The new and crucial ingredient was not the availability of capital, but the advent of market-tested, consumer-driven innovation.
Person to look up: Deirdre McCloskey
We can never predict innovation; we can only say that it will mysteriously emerge whenever people are free to exchange.
I make use of thousands of brilliant innovations every day. Very few of them were made in my own country, let alone my own village.
The Mighty Consumer
An Alternative to Leviathan
The arguments by Darwin and Smith are essentially the same, but applied and derived in different circumstances. Ones ideas govern markets, the others species. However the results are the same, better adaption and innovation without anyone doing it. An emergent phenomenon. Nowadays we are much richer and better off than before, and nobody knows why, just like how nobody knows how to feed Paris and yet, it is happening every day, magically, mythically, unfolding on its own.
Chapter 7 - The Evolution of Technology
Book Recommendation - The Age of Electricity by Park Benjamin
Book Recommendation - What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly
Just as you cannot stop discovery happening, perhaps you can't hurry it much either.
Inexorable Technological Progress
The explanation for the bizarre regularity of Moore's law and its brethren seems to be that technology is driving its own progress. Each technology is necessary for the next technology.
Path dependence is the keyword here!
The Sea Fashions Boats
Book Recommendation - The Nature of Technology: What it is and How it Evolves by Brian Arthur
Book Recommendation - Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Berlin Johnson
Book Recommendation - Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure by Tim Harford
Intelligent design is just as bad at explaining society as it is at explaining evolution.
There is a gradualism about the progress of technology that stories of sudden invention disguised, and an inevitability about each step once the previous one had been taken.
Book Recommendation - The Evolution of Technology by George Basalla
It is the sea herself which fashions the boats.
And it is the customers and human needs driving society that fashions it's inventions.
Book Recommendation - The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker
Technology is in that sense a continuation of biological evolution - an imposition of informational order on a random world.
Kevin Kelly - the idea of the "technium" a living "organism" comprised of all of our technical inventions, perpetuating themselves by using us.
It is already virtually impossible to turn the internet off.
People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.
The Technium wants what Evolution began.
- Kevin Kelly
Book Recommendation - Launching the Innovation Renaissance by Alex Tabarrok
There is little need for intellectual property protection, because the learning curve of the imitator is so steep.
Copying Is Not Cheap
Science is the Daughter of Technology
Science without use cases doesn't progress. problem-solving breeds science, not vice versa.
Scientific breakthroughs are the effect, not the cause, of technological change.
Science as a Private Good
Publicly funded research had no economic impact whatsoever.
Technology too evolves. Progress is largely let loose on its own, not tied to single individuals but directed by the wants of everyone. Tinkering, trial and error and a strong selective process by free markets and free exchange of ideas leads to a gradualism in inventions. No inventions are late, public spending in science doesn't do much, things get discovered at the "right" time and then by a lot of people at the same time. There is path dependence between different technologies and in a way the unfolding has an uncanny resemblance of being alive. Of wanting to continue, to prosper. The invisible hand of Smith is at work again, helping the unfolding, the sea itself fashions boats and our tastes fashion technology and where it goes.
Chapter 8 - The Evolution of the Mind
The notion that there is a unitary piece of selfness somewhere deep within the grey porridge inside the skull is plainly just a powerful illusion.
*Book Recommendation - Ethics by Spinoza
The mind exists for the body, is engaged in telling the story of the body's multifarious events, and uses that story to optimize the life if the organism.
- Antonio Damasio
Search as you will, you cannot find the mind in the brain - or for that matter the heart - of a human body. You will find only lobes and nodules and cells and synapses - all different, all working in parallel, all talking among themselves. Whence emerges the unity of consciousness then?
Book Recommendation - The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood
The Astonishing Hypothesis
Perhaps consciousness is far too distributed among the neurons ever to be found.
Neuroscientists can predict accurately what people will decide on, ten seconds before the person itself knows that they "want" to decide that way.
Conscious awareness is a post-hoc report if what's going on in your head.
The Illusion of Free Will
To he the product of all the past influences upon us is not to be destined to a particular fate in the future.
Harris arguing with Dennett about free will being an illusion or the product of emergent brain behavior.
Responsibility in a World of Determinism
Book Recommendation - Freedom Evolves by Daniel Dennett
Freedom to influence your fate is an almost infinitely variable thing that is the product of biology. The ability to move is a step towards freedom; the ability to move farther or faster is a farther or faster step. The ability to see, to hear, to smell and to think provide still more freedom to alter your fate. Technology, science, knowledge, human rights, the weather forecast - they all increase your freedom to alter your fate.
Free Will is a product of actions of cells in the human mind, not something separate from it. Activity in the mind leads to decisions, way before we become conscious of them, consciousness is a reconstruction of the world at a later time, and maybe an emergent phenomenon without any causing structure. Unfolding from the interactions of billions of synapses. Whether free will is an illusion, or our freedom increases because we have this complex machinery in our head is yet to be debated, but whatever the result it will have huge implications on our society and how we handle punishment for crimes and praise for people doing good deeds. If nobody is free - why do our "choices" matter? Thinking about it this way - if people get punished for crimes, that's an influence on the synapses, causing those that prevent crime to be firing more often, since they know about these consequences and take them into account.
Chapter 9 - The Evolution of Personality
Nature vs. Nurture - in the 1960s things were heavily on the nurture side, and people were called Nazis, if they claimed genetics to play a role in behavior
Book Recommendation - The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
Children get their personalities mostly from within themselves.
The Status Quotient
Size at age 16 is an uncannily good predictor of average income over lifetime in men only.
There is a tendency to settle some aspects of your personality in the mid-teens, based on how high you think your relative status is among your peers.
Personality unfolds from within, responding to the environment - so in a very literal sense of the word, it evolves.
Intelligence from Within
Heritability of intelligence increases with age.
In conditions of greater economic equality, IQ becomes more heritable, not less.
Person to research: Professor Plomin
Book Recommendation - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Innateness of Sexuality
Gay people are innately so. And they often cherish that.
The humane thing to do is to accept that human beings are built largely from within, from below; not from without, from above.
Even female and male monkeys show a preference to play with dolls vs. trucks that is uncannily similar to that in humans.
The Evolution of Homicide
Mammals have sexual behavioral differences, because of the asymmetry in care that mothers provide to children, making females resources to compete over. That's why men are generally more violent, larger, and less social except for status hierarchies.
The asymmetry between male and female habits is rarely completely lost.
Young men kill young men over women and status.
The Evolution of Sexual Attraction
Learning can only happen because we have innate mechanisms to learn. Learning is not the opposite of instinct; it is itself the expression of many instincts.
Human Nature comes from within, the skyhook of nurture by culture and education confuses cause and effect. Largely personality is determined genetically, most of psychotherapy ideas of Freud and co. are simply wrong, if trying to verify them with data one only sees genetic determinism. We are who we are, built from within, innately. And the older we get, the stronger this correlation gets. Still, we can adapt to situations around us, mixing experience, with natural tendency, becoming the product of both. Sexuality and gender differences, in particular, have a common footing in evolutionary explanation. Men are different from women, like in all mammals and that explains a lot of the behavior we see most commonly, everywhere in human societies.
Chapter 10 - The Evolution of Education
Schools are a little like prisons. What makes us think they are the best way to educate people?
The Prussian Model
Schools are designed to breed good soldiers, not good citizens with lots of knowledge.
Book Recommendation - The Rebirth of Education by Lant Pritchett
Crowding out Private Schools
Book Recommendation - Education and the State by Edwin West
States stepped in replacing an evolving system of private schools driven by open market evolution, by a static, slower, system with deteriorating standards over time.
Innovation in Education
It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.
Public education works as well as a planned economy. Not that good.
Dysfunctional bureaucracies cascade into a morass of corruption, as upward payments from those at lower levels buy good assignments or ratings from superiors.
- James Tooley
Person to research: James Tooley
Private schools outcompete public ones by a lot, since the demands put on them come from the paying "customer" instead of the state, hence the system evolves and keeps advancing it's level of education provided by doing so.
The Technology of Education
The traditional university will surely be gone in fifty years, swept away by technology. Why pay huge fees to spend three years on one campus, earning the right to be paid not very much more in the real world than non- graduates, rather than putting together your combination of online courses, marked and graded online, using the lectures if the best teachers in the field, wherever they happen to be?
Thing to Research - SOLE self organised learning environment
Older people teaching younger people by debating good curious provoking questions asked, answered and assisted by the information power of the internet.
Book Recommendation - An Experiment in Education by Sugata Mitra
Let's allow the internet on tests, and grade exams entirely differently, adopting education to our modern technology and how it can be used.
Education, done properly, is an emergent, evolutionary phenomenon. It is the process of encouraging learning about the world.
Education is a form of propaganda.
Education to Deliver Economic Growth
The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all. It is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizentry to put down dissent and originality.
- H. L. Mencken
Book Recommendation - Does Education Matter? by Alison Wolf
More education spending does not lead to more economic growth. Like at all.
Education is not a skyhook from which to hang economic policy; it is an emergent phenomenon.
Education is designed as a system to indoctrinate people to be "good" citizens, not enlightened humans. It's therefore not so much about learning but about value indoctrination such as punctuality, reliability and a solid love for ones own country. Insteady education should be evolving, to the needs of the children, learning should be self directed, open ended and adapting automatically to the use of new technologies. It should not be handled top down planned, just like an economy should not be handled that way, lest it goes to shambles. And there is clear evidence that such an open market style education is vastly better for learning than what most countries have now.
Chapter 11 - The Evolution of Population
In all cases, cruelty as policy, based on faulty logic, sprang from a belief that those in power knew best what was good for the vulnerable and weak.
Book Recommendation - Essay on Population by Robert Malthus
The Irish Application of the Theory
Book Recommendation - Merchants of Despair by Robert Zubrin
There is nothing morally wrong in describing a struggle for existence as a feature of human population. What is wrong is prescribing it as deliberate policy.
Book Recommendation - Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
Book Recommendation - The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant (Hitlers Bible)
Stories about the history of sterilisation and how the knowhow from America mixed with the psychology and philosophy in Nazi Germany.
Malthus provided the explanatory model used in justifying the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Those two are a bit weird since they are kind of pro eugenics. Book Recommendation - Our Plundered Planet by Henry Fairfield Osborn
Book Recommendation - Road to Survival by William Vogt
Book Recommendation - The Next Million Years by Charles Galton Darwin
The scary part is how widespread and normal or even fashionable these beliefs were.
Book Recommendation - Famine 1975! by William Paddock
Book Recommendation - The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich
Food aid tied to Sterilisation efforts to solve the problem of overpopulation, or letting people starve because they "breed to much". This was widespread "good" policy in the West. What the heck.
The Population Sceptics
Now Responses to this Madness from back then.
Book Recommendation - New Worlds Emerging by Earl Parker Hanson
Book Recommendation - The Geopolitics of Hunger by Josué de Castro
Population control just happens in an evolutionary, emergent manner, once child mortality lowers. People plan smaller families and so birth rates go down.
The Western Origins of the One-Child Policy
Book Recommendation - Just One Child by Susan Greenhalgh
Book Recommendation - The Limits to Growth by Club of Rome
Book Recommendation - A Blueprint for Survival by Sir Edward Goldsmith
The brutal campaign of mass sterilisation, forced abortion and infanticide was exacerbated by the voluntary murder of baby girls on a genocidal scale as parents tried to ensure that their one legal child was a boy.
And China was congratulated for that! What?!
The right thing to do about poor, hungry and fecund people always was, and still is, to give them hope, opportunity, freedom, education, food and medicine, including of course contraception, for not only will that make them happier, it will enable them to have smaller families.
Human disasters of grand scale had a common theme since some time now, the ideas of overpopulation as formed originally by Malthus and the resulting need to control population by direct means of policy. The Potato Famine, Nazi Holocaust, Sterilisation Camps in India and the One Child Policy in China have that in common. And while we today look at those stories and ideas in absolute horror back then the people who promoted and pushed them were convinced of doing the right thing for the right reasons and cheered on by the general public. And that is the scary bit. How can we be sure that the same is not happening to us right now in other areas?
Chapter 12 - The Evolution of Leadership
Book Recommendation - The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson
The Emergent Nature of China's Reform
Mosquitoes That Win Wars
When the most powerful man in the world turns out not to have much power to change the world, the American people none the less never lose faith in the presidential religion.
Imperial Chief Executives
The Evolution of Management
The best human organisations are ones like voluntary bodies that are not managed by others, but in which participants coordinate among themselves.
The Evolution of Economic Development
Trade, not aid, proved the best way to achieve an increase in prosperity.
Predatory elites have been the bane of poor countries in Africa and Latin America for decades, and aid has often - wittingly or not - subsidisied those predators.
The Evolution Of Hong Kong
Leadership is a tricky concept in an evolving world, since claiming causation of something becomes quite difficult and hard. Many things would have happened on their anyways and people who just were at the right place at the right time reaped the benefits. However sometimes people's actions still changed the world, single handedly, but usually for the worse. Also, once again, putting to much emphasis on top down design in contrast to bottom up growth leads to desasters or generally worse outcomes then free systems, let go to evolve on their.
Chapter 13 - The Evolution of Government
Book Recommendation - The Not So Wild, Wild West by Terry Anderson
Customs and laws would emerge where they were not imposed.
The Evolution of Government in Prison
Book Recommendation - The Social Order of the Underworld by David Skarbek
Government begins as a protection racket and emerges spontaneously when population reaches a certain size.
The Evolution of Protection Rackets into Governments
Book Recommendation - The End is Near and it's Going to be Awesome by Kevin Williamson
The characteristic feature of the nation state is its monopoly on violence.
Mafias arise from soldiers without work and lawless times as private protection groups. And they turn into more stratified, hierarchical systems organically and eventually into governments.
Book Recommendation - War: What is it Good For? by Ian Morris
The State arose from and by crime. That's how people originally got to power. That's what power is, force that you can use to control other people's actions.
The Libertarian Levellers
Commerce as the Midwife of Freedom
Free Trade and Free Thinking
Book Recommendation - Illustrations of Political Economy by Harriet Martineau
Book Recommendation - The Fourth Revolution by Adrian Woodridge
Persons to Research: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Richard Cobden
The Counter-Revolution of Government
Book Recommendation - The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Book Recommendation - Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
Free markets, where first politically motivated and embraced and later replaced by a new idea, that of a planned market, that shares things freely, to each according to their needs - in other words communism, with as we now know in hindsight disastrous consequences.
Everybody thought the key to the future was command and control, not evolution.
Plan, plan, plan was the cry on all sides.
Book Recommendation - Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
dirigisme, an approach to economic development emphasizing the positive role of state intervention.
Communism, Fascism, Nationalism, Corporatism, Protectionism, Taylorism, Dirigisme - they are all centralising systems with planning at their heart.
Fascism and Communism were and are religions of the state.
The Libertarian Revival
Book Recommendation - Who are the People? by Colm Brogan
Book Recommendation - The Road to Serfd by Friedrich Hayek
Government as God
Though politicians are regarded as scum, government as a machine is held to be almost infallible.
Book Recommendation - Adapt by Tim Harford
From the world economy to the laser printer, everything we use comes about by small steps, not great plans.
Book Recommendation - The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy
The Idea of Fragile and Antifragile Systems shines through these pages clear as day. Planned systems are fragile, they can't react and adapt to new circumstances, that are inevitably going to show up on reality and so they break, fatally and in a big unanticipated way. Because everything was figured out, except that one black swan event! Instead, small, incremental improvement, failing on the smallest possible scale, but continuously happening, hardens the system. Much like chaos engineering in computer systems. Most of the chapter was about the history of Governments though, and how they originally came to be organically from growing populations, by crime and monopolistic use of force within those populations to control the use of force. And how those systems then started to go back and forth between capitalistic freedom and free markets and intense periods of growth, and back to centralized planning and economic failure and problems. And that's what the chapter concludes with: big ambitious plans, are doomed to fail. No matter their name and that's what all the famous *isms have in common.
Chapter 14 - The Evolution of Religion
Book Recommendation - Man Created God by Selina O'Grady
Book Recommendation - Natural History of Religion by David Hume
In short, you can tell the story of the ride of Christianity without any reference to divine assistance. It was a movement like any other, a man-made cult, a cultural contagion passed from mind to mind, a natural example of cultural evolution.
The Predictability of Gods
It is a little known fact but gods evolve.
Gods evolved by adapting themselves to certain aspects of human nature, the environment in which they found themselves.
The Evolution of The Prophet
Book Recommendation - In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland
All religions look man made to me.
The Cult of Cereology
Example of Crop Circles, and people firmly believing in their supernatural causes even though other people are the ones who made them.
The Temptations of Superstition
Book Recommendation - Nostalgia for the Absolute by George Steiner
Superstition can be very easily aroused, and not just in people.
People detect agency almost everywhere. We are wired to do so.
The paradox is that if belief is universal, then no amount of argument can extinguish it, and in a sense therefore, gods do exist - but inside our heads rather than outside.
For me, the characteristic features of a mystical and therefore untrustworthy, theory are that it is not refutable, that it appels to authority, that it relies heavily on anecdote, that it makes a virtue of consensus (look how many people believe like me!), and that it takes the moral high ground. You will notice that this applies to most religions.
The secret of life, unexpectedly, turned out to be an infinitely combinatorial message written in digital form in three-letter words in a four-letter alphabet. This was very much not what vitalists had expected; it seemed to mundane - though it is one of the most beautiful ideas ever to cross a human mind - that life is information.
The Climate God
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
- Richard Feynman
In a lot of aspects, climate change has gotten to the point where it to closely resembles a religion. So much
The Weather Gods
Gods and their depictions have evolved in predictable patterns and so did religions. They are all man-made fictions following patterns that allow them to spread and that make use of the "intentional stance" a basic human assumption about how reality works, that is common to everybody. We assume agency wherever we see things change and hence are extremely prone to superstition, where we suspect causations between our behavior and random events that happened after it. We can see gods where there is nothing but randomn fluctuation or even provably human agency involved. Something mind bending though is that a lot of the characteristics shared by religions can be found in the realm of climate science, justifying that one could call it climate belief or religion.
Chapter 15 - The Evolution of Money
Book Recommendation - Good Money by George Selgin
In the 19th century people were minting their coins privately, because the government didn't supply enough medium of exchange and their coins were better.
The Scottish Experiment
Malachi Malagrowther to the Rescue
Financial Stability without Central Banks
Bottom-up monetary systems - known as free banking - have a far better track record than top-down ones.
Book Recommendation - Lombard Street by Walter Bagehot
The China Price
American politicians not only allowed banks to lend this cheap money to people with no deposits and little or no capacity to repay; they not only encouraged it; they actively mandated it by law.
How much was Fannie's fault?
Book Recommendation - The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure by John Allison
Book Recommendation - The Great Deformation by David Stockman
The Fannie Mae saga demonstrates that once crony capitalism captures and arm of the state, it's potential for cancerous growth is truly perilous.
- David Stockman
Government putting pressure onto banks to increase sub prime loans, because of no-racism policies caused the 2008 financial crisis. Not by too little but by too much regulation. It was thus not an evolutionary phenomenon.
The Evolution of Mobile Money
Book Recommendation - Life After the State by Dominic Frisby
The process of money creation by an expansionary government effectively redistributes money from the poor to the rich.
We do not set the price of toothpaste centrally, so why do we set the price of money so?
Money serves three main functions - a store of value, a medium of exchange and a unit of account
Wise mehr no more know how to centrally plan a monetary system, than they know how to centrally plan factories, hospitals and railways.
Money being organized by governments or central banks top down is a bad idea. Because when planning monetary systems one almost certainly overlooks some form of loophole that breaks the whole complicated thing. It is not an Antifragile way of doing it. Instead history has shown over and over that monetary systems should evolve, bottom up and freely, through competitive selection and therefore become much more resilient over time. That's how monetary systems became Antifragile and that's the way forward in the future as well. The role Bitcoin and other such advances in IT will play will become clear in the next decades.
Chapter 16 - The Evolution of the Internet
For all its messiness, the internet is not chaotic. It is ordered, complex and patterned. It is a living example of the phenomenon of evolutionary emergence.
Book Recommendation - The Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich Hayek
Like many of the bedrock technologies that have come to define the digital age, the internet was created by - and continues to be shaped by - decentralized groups of scientists and programmers and hobbyists (and more than a few entrepreneurs) freely sharing the fruits of their intellectual labor with the entire world.
- Steven Berlin Johnson
Dot-Communism: a sharing, swapping community of people who contribute to joint effort and expect no private rewards.
The Balkanisation of the Web
The internet is under attack by governments wanting to take away the freedom of its use as a means of controlling what people can see and therefore think and believe, turning the whole thing into a medium of controlled propaganda of sorts. That thought is scaring the shit put of me.
The Bizarre Evolution of Blockchains
Essay to look up: Shelling Out: The Origins of Money By Nick Szabo
Governments do not take kindly to money that is outside their control. Hence the shyness of bitcoin's founder.
The Mysterious Founder
Bitcoin has characteristics that make it almost ideal as a system of money, it is self-policing, it is impossible to inflate, and it is beyond the reach of the state. It solves the problem that bedevilled all previous forms of electronic money: that you need a third party to ensure that the money somebody is sending you is not being sent to somebody else at the same time.
The volatility and bubble-like behavior of bitcoins are not encouraging for a world reserve currency, and noe is its relatively small supply.
Blockchains for All
In other words, not just driverless cars, but ownerless firms.
Imagine in the future summoning a taxi that not only has no driver, but that belongs to a computer network, not to a human being. That network had raised funds, signed contracts and taken delivery of vehicles, even though its 'headquarters' is distributed all over the net.
Something as radical as language or government is emerging from the internet. Officials, lawyers, politicians, businessman may come together to try to stop this, glimpsing their redundancy, and for a while they may succeed. But the inexorable, inevitable, implacable nature of evolution will eventually defeat them.
An earthquake is coming. Let politics evolve.
The internet has transformed our society and every life of every human on the planet. But it too has evolved and is under threat from top down imposed rules of government, trying to seize control over it's free nature and make it do their bidding. But so far it has stayed mostly free and even continued evolving new ideas such as cryptocurrencies and the more abstract idea oof a Blockchain, that could disrupt the top down grasp of power from governments for good. Revolutionizing public service and turning it into something that is evolving to meet the people's demands better, faster and more efficient, enabling the same benefits that markets had on things we purchase but this time the benefits go to things that we pay for by taxes. Roads, public infrastructure and other public services where we take their mediocricy for granted.
Epilogue - The Evolution of the Future
There are two ways to tell the story of the twentieth century. You can describe a series of wars, revolutions crises, epidemics, financial calamities. Or you can point to the gentle but inexorable rise in the quality of life of almost everybody on the planet: the swelling of income, the conquest of disease, the disappearance of parasites, the lengthening of life, the advances in technology.
Bad news is man-made, top-down, purposed stuff, imposed on history. Good news is accidental, unplanned, emergent stuff that gradually evolves.
Bad news is Fragile. Good news is Antifragile.
Good things are gradual; bad things are sudden. Above all, good things evolve.
Person to research: Richard Webb
The people with grand plans will cause pain and suffering along the way. Let's give a bit less credit to creationists, while we encourage and celebrate the evolution of everything.