📚 Life After Google - The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy by George Gilder
The idea of the book is that we currently operate on google’s system of the world, and that there are technologies that can move us past the oligopoly. To be clear this book is not a slander on google by any means. Gilder gives google the praise it is worthy of. The creation of arguably the worlds greatest money machine, its ad-based search engine that has birthed this system of the world. However, he argues that the age of centralized big data is coming to an end, and that the future belongs to the blockchain economy.
He takes this term from Neil Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, where it is used to denote a set of ideas that pervade a society’s technology and institutions that inform its civilization. Gilder does an incredible job taking you through the mathematical history of what makes this system possible.
The information economy is still spoken about as if it is a new thing. Yet Gilder shows the reader that the underlying mathematics have been here for decades, and it was google who consummated it all. From the likes of Isaac Newton, Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, Gregory Chaitin, William Briggs, John von Neuman, Hubert Yockey, Claude Shannon, Peter Drucker, and Ludwig Boltzmann came google’s system of the world. Sometimes referred to as the information economy.
Google’s idea of progress stems from its technological vision. Newton and his fellows, inspired by their Judeo-Christian world view, unleashed a theory of progress with human creativity and free will at its core. If the path of knowledge is the infinitely fast processing of all data, if the mind - that engine by which we pursue the truth of things - is simply a logic machine, then the combination of data and algorithm can produce one and only one result. Such a vision is not only deterministic but ultimately dictatorial. If there is a moral imperative to pursue the truth, and the truth can be found only by centralized processing of all the data in the world, then all the data in the world must, by the moral order implied, be gathered into one fold with one shepherd. Google may talk a good game about privacy, but private data are the mortal enemy of its system of the world.
The walk through of how google came to be the force they are was very well done. I enjoyed how Gilder detailed the remarkable compilation of minds at 1600 Amphitheater Parkway. Working on problems at all levels of the OSI model, making chapter 14 my favorite of the book. From optimizing the way light moves through fiber optic cables, to testing underwater data centers for cooling purposes, to using machine learning that moves “search” to “suggest,” the reader is provided insight into how google has some of the brightest minds working at each level.
So does life after google come into play?
The book focuses on google predominantly, but also mentions the likes of facebook, amazon, and apple as participants in the same manners and methods Gilder details with google. That is why oligopoly is often used instead of monopoly. It is worth noting the emphasis on blockchain and its potential is not a (project name) maximalist one. This is the same author that in 1990 published, Life after Television, where he predicted the personal computer would become the smartphones we see today. The same author that in 2000 published, Telecosm, where he predicted the fibre optic communication infrastructure to scale to a magnitude where costs would reach practically zero. George Gilder is a widely respected mind when it comes to forecasting technology.
His tone surrounding blockchain and cryptography is one of reason, with a hint of revolt. I will say the last 3 chapters of the book did fall off compared to others. It was published in 2018 so the narrative surrounding the space was greatly allure and grandiose visionaries. However, what amazing movement starts without such a thing? I’m very curious to see what he has to say about the time passed since publishing of the book. Great read.