Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Keynesian economist Robert Thomas once said, “Individual entrepreneurs, whether alone or as archetypes, don’t matter!” Thomas elaborated, “And indeed if they don’t matter, the reason, I suggest, is that the supply of entrepreneurs throughout American history, combined with the institutions that permitted–indeed fostered–intense competition, was sufficiently elastic to reduce the importance of any particular individual.”
In other words, if Henry Ford hadn’t come along and popularized the automobile, someone else right behind him would have done so in roughly the same way. Entrepreneurs are not particularly valuable, according to Robert Thomas. Without Ford, another mechanic would have “put a car in every garage.” Ford was merely in the right place at the right time.
If you believe that, then it logically follows that tax rates should be high. Why reward an entrepreneur for doing something now that someone else will do just as well very soon? In this view, government should be actively involved; bureaucrats can easily substitute for entrepreneurs, and the reward will go to the state, which can redistribute it perhaps more equally.
But let’s examine history to tell the real story…
This is an important discussion to have. As Folsom notes, there is a certain crazy but respectable logic bolting it all together; if you believe A, then B is a natural conclusion to draw. If the economy is a zero-sum game, then of course it is in society’s interest to make sure no individual or small consortium can hoard too much of the wealth, and if success is a lottery, then the winners have to put something back. Kinda like a roast beef sandwich, badly made with cheap meat: Take one bite and you’ll find yourself swallowing the whole thing, willingly or otherwise, in one gulp.
Well, I can’t even nibble at the damn thing because I know better. Innovative new things are built by eccentric (and egocentric) individuals, because they can be built by nobody else. It’s just a fact. Now, most innovative new things don’t work. When that happens, the eccentric individual risks ridicule…which won’t be forthcoming, unless people like to ridicule eccentric individuals. Which they do, actually, and not just a little bit. But if the thing works? Then a committee takes it over. Sooner or later.
So, to the untrained eye, to the bystander who’s never been close to any of the real details, it seems like the committee built the thing. That’s a tip-off newbie mistake. Every time I hear someone say “the government built the Internet” I immediately understand I’m hearing from someone who doesn’t know anything about anything. No…I didn’t build the Internet either. But I did make machines talk to each other through software…build packets to hold all the application-relevant data, come up with crude protocols for pings and acks and integrity checks and so forth…modeled it after what I knew about XMODEM at the time. No, a committee is not building something like that. It isn’t the right forum.
If the technology is “bleeding-edge” enough, as we used to call it, you could apply a decent litmus test to that term by first asking if there is some question about whether it will work at all. Yes, that is as good a definition as any. If there isn’t any such question, then you aren’t really innovating. If there is, then an evolutionary loop is going to have to be set up. Methods cobbled together, tried out, discarded like Edison’s light bulb designs, resurrected, refined, tried again. This is an essential element to true innovation. It cannot co-exist with a spirit of consensus. Consensus has to be abandoned, because the lodestar has to be “does it serve the purpose” and this cannot share its authority with any other goal. The innovator cannot serve two masters.
But this is all just obvious to anyone who’s built anything. Why does anyone believe otherwise? And with such zeal, such drive and determination to have the last word. Well, my observations are that they want the last word because they need to have it; their arguments are not convincing otherwise. And they believe committees and governments actually build things that work on new ideas, because they want to — it all has to do with hostility against the individual.
“…sufficiently elastic to reduce the importance of any particular individual.” Mull that one over a few times. Why would anyone say such a thing? Why work so hard to trivialize the good work of a man? You’d never in a million years say, if that firefighter didn’t put out the house fire, some other firefighter surely would’ve, and he was just in the right place at the right time. Why say such a thing with inventing a car?
This is another thing you can pick up only by being close to the action: No, it is not all pre-destined and pre-determined. Any mature and complex software project, for example, has all these modules that “need” to be re-factored. Maybe five percent, and that’s being generous, will eventually be blessed with an effort to so re-factor. And of those, maybe a third or so, and that’s also being generous, will ultimately succeed and not be recalled later as some kind of a boondoggle. “Great concept…nice idea…but, nobody understands it, we gotta meet our deadlines, so…” and then that’s that.
But one percent or so, are indeed refactored with the refactoring being a success. You naturally have to wonder if the refactoring projects were selected right. It’s the height of hubris to suppose the selection process was perfect, and opportunity was not lost somewhere. It’s a crap-shoot.
So no, if this guy wouldn’t have invented this thing, it’s not a fait accompli that the next guy standing behind him would’ve. That has never been assured at all. Invention is a chancy, haphazard thing. It is also a vertical thing, with new things built on top of other new things. Can’t have your Internet or your client-server connection without some way to form, direct, acknowledge and integrity-check the packets; can’t have that if you can’t have voltage differentials, and ways to modulate them and regulate them to transmit digital information; can’t have a system for processing digital information if someone doesn’t invent transistors and come up with several generations of ways to shrink them down. And cool them. And then someone has to buy it. Giant, mind-boggling strides in technology…think about it, I’ve got a cell phone, a money clip and a 250GB external hard drive sitting in front of me, they’re all the same size. When I was born, a system that held five hundredths of a percent of that data, would have filled a room. Leaps of that magnitude, rest on much smaller leaps, that are not nearly so impressive, nor as easily understood, to the layman. Nor, even, to the qualified engineer. Over and over again we see, things that are mind-blowing and easy to explain, rely on other things not so impressive, and nearly as easy to explain. Such smaller building blocks very often look like wastes of time.
So to kick it all off, someone has to risk wasted time. And not have to bother himself with explaining to a committee what he’s doing. Whether you can see it or not, it all starts with some dweeb in an isolated, forgotten room somewhere, playing Doctor Frankenstein. A Nikolai Tesla fiddling around with something in a Wardenclyffe. Wasting his time. That is the egg from which the new, good stuff is hatched.
Why does the contrary vision hold such enduring appeal? Because the forgotten room is isolated, by its very definition; so we never see this stuff actually happen. And, if you accept that Henry Ford could easily have been replaced for the benefit of society, by whoever happened to be standing behind him — it reduces people to mere cattle. And if we’re all cattle, milling about, chewing our grass and cud and every now and then some lucky bull goes through the motions of “inventing” something, well then that would mean…we’re all in desperate need of just a few capable cattlemen. Who are glorious and foreward thinking and wise, but never have to actually prove themselves to be in possession of such glittering qualities — and so opportunities will open to whoever can put on a good show, whoever can do the best job of pretending.
That’s the split, right there. It’s an enduring conflict between those who build amazing things that really work, and those who merely pretend to.
Keynesian theory is simply the detritus, the footprints if you will, left in the dirt by that latter group.
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