Thursday, October 18, 2018

Life After Google by George Gilder - Book Review

Life After Google by George Gilder

Unable and unwilling to call this a 'book' I can only refer to it as an unedited collection of Dictaphone notes hastily scribbled down at random by Mr. Gilder's copyist. I frankly doubt he ever read the final draft. Even an editor could not put order into this chaos. As a proponent of communication theory George Gilder here presents noise without any signal.

While the original premise sounds enticing enough, that human creativity and 'surprise' will circumvent and overrun the megalithic monstrosities erected by the deterministic priesthood of the new religion of Artificial Intelligence, the exposition proves limp-wristed and muddled, at very best. Simply wishing for a better world does not make it so.

George Gilder propounds a vanguard of free-willed individuals and creative adventurers who heroically break the mold and over-power the Google Goliath with their unpredictable slingshots. Paradoxically he selects cryptocurrency as his magic bullet with its shadowy 'Cypherpunk' underworld origins. He even goes so far as (bit)coining the awkward neologism 'cryptocosm'. Undoubtedly fashioned after the Latin word 'crypta' for cavern (yes!) and the Greek 'kosmos' for order in the universe. Interesting to note also that 'currency' comes from the verb to run, therefore we are here presented with the opportunity to run in an orderly fashion round and round in a cave. Which is exactly what Gilder's circular arguments do. Nowhere is there a cogent proposal enlightening us on how to break the bonds of the Matrix and exit this madness.

For there is no doubt on the urgency of the matter and would a real solution be offered it should be heralded on the rooftops. The titans of tech have us tied to their tethers. We are ever so more enmeshed in their perfidious net as we simply seek to perform our daily tasks. From shopping, to studying, to communicating -and with the internet of everything, to our cars and our refrigerators, we are left unable to escape their greedy grasp. For if on the internet 'Information wants to be free' we are paying for it with our very souls. Indeed, identity theft and intellectual property theft are the pillars that under-gird this monument to the machine. As value is sucked out of us and compiled into server farms nestled in the glades and valleys of Oregon and New Zealand, even our money is being replaced by a credit score.

But so how does 'cryptocurrency' set us free? Well, it doesn't and it can't. Despite - and in fact because of - the claims of decentralized nodes, edges, blockchains, endless Turing algorithms, we are evermore prisoners of the grid. Think of it. How much more enslaved are we in a tomb (crypt) fashioned from blocks, tethered to us by chains, forcing us run to in place (currency). Words have meaning. Cryptocurrency and blockchains do not set us free but tie us down inexorably to the hive mind of the mega-machine. George Gilder utterly fails to see this as he desperately tries to ingratiate himself with the Big Tech prophets and Silicon sages. His school girl crush on Silicon Valley hipsters belied by endless pages of name-dropping decries his purported disruption and underlines his myopia. For if we are to expect salvation from the giant machine it is not by diving into the fractals of the grid that we will find it. The circle cannot be squared.

The 'singularity' is coming. The event horizon nears as the entire world becomes Google mapped, our desires become robot-sexed, our fantasies become cookie-tracked, our dreams become virtual-reality and our souls become 'blockchained'. What is left is a tribal world of sameness (subversively presented as diversity) statistical meanness and average outcomes. Outliers can be pegged and increasingly are excluded, if not downright terminated by the deterministic priesthood of Big Tech as clearly evidenced by the current massive censorship purges on social media. The 'tall poppies' are cut down and anyone who stands out is made to lay low or be de-personned. So while George Gilder may wish to present himself as a voice crying out in the desert, he comes across as a mere Don Quixote chasing bits and bytes. His false prophecies are blind to the cliff we have indeed fallen off and he cannot see the mountain for he is stuck in a cave.