Wednesday, May 31, 2017

With Laws Like These, We’re In Our Own Prisons

When Gordon Moore published his article “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits” in Electronics in 1965, he had no idea that he’d promulgated a “law”.  He was making a series of hypothecated observations limited to semiconductors in electronic machines.  And his observation – far from being a “law” – was an interesting convergence of a technical and technological challenge to the 1767 Sir James Steuart law of Supply and Demand (also not a law) built on John Locke’s 1691 treatise, “Some Considerations on the Consequences of Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money.”  Locke, Steuart, Adam Smith (1776), Alfred Marshall (1890) and Moore and their respective “law” contributions are appropriated in every conversation about the “Knowledge Economy”, the “Digital Age”, and the “Internet of Things” with wanton negligence both of their substance and their extrapolation. 

I have been watching the flying wing race formerly known as the respectable America’s Cup – once one of the world’s most storied sports.  Chasing the Auld Mug since 1851, sailors pitted their mastery of the elements against one another to demonstrate valor and tactical brilliance befitting the Cup.  In 2010, the America’s Cup was raced in multihull 27m boats and in 2013, CIA engineer turned billionaire Larry Ellison poured money and lawsuits into the once elegant cup transforming racing into one of the saddest comedies of our time.  Now the winged hydrofoils reach speeds over 44 knots (50mph) at over 2.5 times the speed of the wind!  But comically while technology made the boats flying machines with horizontal airplane wings it also introduced another alarming feature.  The race cannot be conducted if the wind is too strong.  That’s right.  All the digital design brilliance cringes in the face of… you got it…, THE WIND! The race must be sailed in winds ranging from 5 to 25 knots.  And if you’re a Kiwi, you know how devastated you are to win multiple races only to have your sailing victory vacated because Oracle’s boat couldn’t handle the wind speed… in a RACE!  We’ve engineered our way into a world in which a sailing race can only tolerate moderate winds.

Those who extol the misapplication of “Moore’s Law” or the “Law of Supply and Demand” share a common fallacy.  These social maxims describe a constrained two-dimensional projection of a system in which analog reality is necessarily rejected.  Supply and demand presumed that people would consolidate their views of value exchange through the sole utility of state-associated monetary units.  Supply never calculated the regenerative or replenishment costs of inputs and required a persistent state of colonial expropriation of energy and elements from enslaved lands kept in abject poverty and political impotence.  Demand never contemplated conscious use as opposed to linear consumption to extinction.  Missing from the “law” was the human corollary of commons-based access and beneficial use exchange.  Moore presupposed hegemonic reliance on electricity without contemplating a world in which light, acoustics, kinetics and other energies may be superior and more widely applicable.  And in both cases, by reciting these conjectures as dogma, what passes for science, technology, innovation, and progress serves to further limit and attenuate the consideration of competing and superior options as to do so would represent an existential threat to the very fiber of manipulated social engineering – the communications and monetary system. 

At a recent conference, I was impressed with the negligence of “thought leadership” in perpetuating the catechism of digital sclerosis.  Ironically, I pointed out that the convergence of these two laws – digital fiat currency and exclusive digital animation of systems upon which we depend – means that we as a society have provided state and non-state actors a single point failure which is easily exploitable.  Now a miniature electromagnetic interference can appropriate or erase our economic system and disrupt the very nature of living.  Rather than heterogenous multi-modal adaptive systems, brittle susceptibility is the unchallenged sequalae of what we call innovation and advancement.  Reckless prattle from the celebrated likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking about the dominion of machines – that the robots will one day turn on humanity – is relevant only in a world in which humans continue to build their prison cells and shackles using ever shrinking, increasingly myopic views of matter, energy and their digital organization.  Artificial Intelligence is an oxymoron at the collective scale.  Those who extol or fear it are probably least capable of apprehending the nature of intelligence.  For intelligence comes not from the diminution of contemplated options but from the expansion thereof.  It comes from the considered critique of unquestioned assumptions.  Oh, and it comes from actually reading the fantastically narrow sources from which sweeping generalizations and “laws” are derived. 

The America’s Cup is a harbinger of the Moore’s Law fallacy.  Yes we may get more precise.  Yes we may go faster.  But we will be less capable of handling the analog diversity of the real world and it will be that very world that will welcome us to reconsider our arrogance with dynamism at speeds exceeding 25 knots.  Time for the intrepid sailors to muster to humanity’s stormy dawn.


  1. Oh my finally someone (yes that's you David) is questioning these 'man made laws' ..... We seem to have forgotten natures universal laws and these true laws will always prevail, what ever man does.


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave