First Bitcoin, Then Stocks, Then Oil Prices Fall
Recent turbulence on global markets has cast a spell of “fear and trembling” over many financial journalists. The financial media is known for its blatant stupidity, making mistakes such as confusing stock markets for entire economies. But a smart person would see this market volatility as a normal and delayed effect of the combination of an unraveling of “easy money” investment strategies with hair-trigger consequences of widespread machine trading mechanisms on markets. Until the “easy money” policies can be phased out and disposed of, this will be the new normal of machine age markets. But it is not genuine disruption.
That is Not Disruption… But Disruption is Coming
Everybody wants to invent and ride the next Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook up to the stratosphere. That is the path to wealth, but it is not genuine disruption.
Two distinct and interesting approaches to achieving the next level of disruption can be seen in France and in the US.
The French effort creates an “endowment” of $13 billion meant to generate an income in support of the development of disruptive innovations. This policy can be seen as a reaction to threats coming from outside innovators such as China, North America, Korea, and Japan. It is a top-down approach common to governments.
“The technicalities of this new massive innovation fund will be defined in the forthcoming weeks,” explained Romain Serman, the head of Bpifrance in the U.S. “This initiative is part of a comprehensive governmental policy aimed at fostering innovation and reforming the overall business environment for entrepreneurs in France.”
However, the $13 billion of initial capital is actually not meant to be invested – just the income it generates – and will remain untouched. __ https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanbaptiste/2018/01/17/france-creates-13-billion-disruptive-innovation-fund-hopes-to-become-the-next-startup-republic/#23c60178405e
The US effort by Peter Thiel is a much more modest bottom-up approach, which has the potential to yield far greater dividends despite the lower levels of initial investment.
What began as an attempt to draw teen prodigies to the Valley before they racked up debt at Princeton or Harvard and went into consulting to pay it off has transformed into the most prestigious network for young entrepreneurs in existence — a pedigree that virtually guarantees your ideas will be judged good, investors will take your call, and there will always be another job ahead even better than the one you have. “We look for extraordinary individuals and we want to back them for life,” says executive director Jack Abraham. __ Wired
Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to incubating the next disruptive innovation have the potential to yield important outcomes. But top-down bureaucratic approaches such as one sees from the US DARPA, the late Japanese “Fifth Generation” project, the current French effort, and efforts by the Chinese government to force innovation, are inherently limited by groupthink, corrupt power grabs, ideological distortions, and just basic bureaucratic bungling.
Tech prophet George Gilder sometimes looks into the future at more profound levels of disruption. He rightly sees the current kings of the market as incremental innovators rather than truly disruptive innovators. They have become so big that they are now trapped in the bureaucratic groupthink that kills disruptive vision.
Gilder: Those companies [Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook] are supremely great companies, but they’re going over the hill.
Q: … Business formation has really slowed down.
Gilder: And these are all bad signs… They reflect an attack on the educational system by foisting the smothering $1.5 trillion burden in loans on students to support a ridiculously overwrought leftist bureaucracy of indoctrination. They also reflect an expansion in the administrative state through massive increases in regulations, rules that really favor big companies. And not because of their alignment with technological opportunities, but because of their abilities to lobby, lawyer, litigate and find paths through the maze of rules.
… We’re not living in an age of boldness and abundance, but in an age of retrenchment and shrinking horizons and careful rearrangements of existing resources. A lot of it is epitomized by this whole idea that unless human beings stop moving, the climate’s going to collapse on us.
The climate-change paralysis has been very destructive, not only to our national economy but particularly to Silicon Valley. Every time I find a company that’s doing everything right, I discover a peculiar feature of its technology that’s designed chiefly to stop it from emitting carbon dioxide. And that feature twists the technology into a pretzel, making it less useful and less promising. Take Google. It’s making an elaborate effort to render all of its massive data centers around the world “carbon-neutral.” They’re all linked up to various druidical Sunhenges of solar panels or quixotic kites or windmills. I mean, that’s some archaic way to produce energy!
… I think it’s a Silicon Valley dementia that’s going on, which probably results from a religious collapse. I think G.K. Chesterton put it very well: When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they start believing in anything. Such as, we’re part of a computer simulation, or that there are infinite numbers of multiple parallel universes, or that a planet, which has endured orders of magnitude greater amounts of carbon dioxide through eons of geological history (producing photosynthesis in the process), will suddenly founder on an increase of .003 to .004 of a percent. You know, those bizarre, speculative fantasies that you hear very solemn, professorial figures espouse.
It can be helpful to consider a number of potential innovations as “disruptive benchmarks.” Many of these constitute basic changes to human biology, but it is not clear how profound a change in the makeup of the the human body would be necessary. For example:
- A reduction in the number of hours of sleep necessary from 8 hours down to 2 hours a night or less.
- An extension of healthy and mentally acute lifespan by a factor of 2 or more.
- Allowing humans to achieve adequate daily nutrition at one short sitting.
- Achieving the same reduction for excretion to a single short daily session.
- An increase in average human IQ from 100 points to 150 points or higher.
- A general elevation of mood, so that only those who insisted on experiencing depression and hopelessness (for artistic purposes for example) would do so.
And so on . . . One can easily extrapolate from such basic changes in daily human existence to envision significant changes across society as a whole.
Changing basic human existence would necessarily lead to a number of other innovations in other fields — some of them potentially disruptive and others merely incremental.
Those are not easy innovations to achieve. It is much easier to redesign computer architecture for higher speed and more parallel computing. Bringing broadband internet to everyone on the planet would be a breeze in comparison to most of the items in the list. Even building a human colony of 100,000 people on Mars would be easier, given new generations of heavy launchers.
Military innovations such as high powered lasers, railguns, stealth submarines, high speed nuclear torpedoes, and hypervelocity missiles and troop transports would all be a relative snap in comparison. But those are potentially disruptive only in the sense that a globally ruinous war or a global tyranny would be disruptive. Those are not the kind of things we are looking for.
Think Long and Large, Not Stupid
Governments are typically big and stupid. And so the policies of governments and government-funded entities are typically big and stupid. But that is the only type of thing that modern thinkers in government, the academy, and big media seem able to envision. A tragic and wasteful dead end.
Often it is the small and simple things, the basic things, that have the potential for greatest long term disruption. And that is where more people need to be looking, if we are to escape a long, sad, bloody quagmire much like a combination of Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pol Pot on steroids.
It is never too late for a Dangerous Childhood.
Disruption is already there : it is the blockchain.
Good. Now devise a few ways to use the blockchain to make France French again.