Brin has a controversial take on Star Wars. For example, he calls Yoda one of the most evil characters ever. Well, okay, Brin does have something of a point when it comes to Yoda. The Jedi as a whole are pretty much useless, meddling busybodies who are directly or indirectly responsible for the fundamental political problems in the Star Wars universe.
But, of course, Brin has staked his entire nonfiction career on his Platonic ideal of radical transparency allowing perfect knowledge in a state-democracy. Only when this ideal is realized will freedom be protected and capitalism work properly, says Brin.
Is technological growth inevitable irrespective of the economic macroenvironment?
In the mid-to-late aughts, Dubai’s political class was the darling of Davos and erected landmark creations including the Palm Islands and Burj Khalifa that ultimately bankrupted the emirate and led to it being bailed out by its northern cousin, Abu Dhabi.
Contemporaneously, in similar fashion, the political elite in notable areas such as Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Greece, and California enacted a series of social experiments (e.g., frothy benefits), which, on top of spurious real-estate bubbles, in retrospect amounted to little more than Menckenian hubris; the governments promised more guns and butter than was financially feasible. As a consequence of their extravagant splurging, taxpayers worldwide have become saddled with debt as both sovereign obligations and the financial industry across the globe have been bailed out and kept on life support.
Nearly four years ago, science fiction author Vernor Vinge was asked if the “future was cancelled” due to this financial crisis. At the time he said no and I said probably. Eighteen months ago, jack-of-all-trades Kevin Kelly suggested that “if in a counterfactual history, communism had won the cold war and microelectronics had been invented in a global Soviet-style society, my guess is that even that alternative policy apparatus could not stifle Moore’s Law.”
The problem with their reasoning is that both miss the fact that Moore’s Law and other innovation trend lines are in fact only descriptive behaviors of past manufacturing abilities.
Moore’s Law is not ironclad; it is not immutable and it is not science. It just so happens that semiconductor firms have been fortunate and currently are able to finance their insatiable appetite for plant expansion while at the same time increase the amount of transistors on a die.1 What began as a mere observation about manufacturing and miniaturization has turned into rank historicism that can be seen in any industry that has been disrupted internally and externally.2
The entrepreneurial ability of Craig Barrett, Paul Otellini, Hector Ruiz, and other semiconductor executives should not be overlooked as they were able to effectively and efficiently mix various factors of production (quantities of land, labor, and capital) into a profitable product. See I, Pencil by Leonard Read. ↩
Gustav von Schmoller was considered the dean of the German historical school, a school of thought whose (erroneous) interpretation of economics led to the original Methodenstreit. In some ways “chartology” and Moore’s Law divination are not much different than “numerology” of the past. See als0 Schmoller revisited. ↩
I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1
It’s been a news-heavy month. Here are a few more tidbits:
Yesterday, Tor/Forge announced that it will make all of its ebooks completely free of DRM by early July 2012. This is a momentous and welcome change. Tor/Forge is a genre imprint of Macmillan, one of the Big Six publishers. It’s the first of these publishers to cave to author and cusotmer pressure on DRM. It may have helped that Macmillan is not a publicly traded company. Cory Doctorow believes more Big Six publishers are sure to follow; he’s “had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers.”
Last month, James Cameron promoted private deep-sea exploration. He’s also partnered with Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Ross Perot Jr., to back private space company Planetary Resources. Immediate plans are to design and build low-cost robotic spacecraft for survey missions. The firm, founded and chaired by Peter Diamondis (creator of the X-Prize Foundation) and Eric Anderson, hopes to then build on this technology and begin mining Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) within the next ten years. For an extended explanation of how and why Planetary Resources can succeed, read Phil Plait’s post on the Bad Astronomy blog. We live in exciting times for the exploration and exploitation of space.