Sunday, November 06, 2016

After Trump: information wants to be free, but knowledge is expensive

Fourteen  months ago I wrote that Trump was a sign of a healthy democracy.

That one might rank up with my Peak Oil prediction. I’m really not very good at the precision business. It’s hard to know what the future will be like, it’s harder to know when the future will be.

Trump now looks more like a cardiac arrest. Not a bit of chest pain that inspires healthier living; a full out arrest with defibrillators, chest compression and, at best, a long slow recovery. Whatever Systems we had to prevent something like Trump, they didn’t work. We have a political never event; the worst of America contending for the presidency.

When the plane crashes, when the healthy patient dies, we do a root cause analysis. Usually half a dozen things went wrong all at once; multiple safeguards failed. Some of these we know about. We had the Great Recession. We had home and wealth loss concentrated in the non-college population. We had globalization. We had, have, will have the AI world eliminating jobs — especially for the non-college. We have a demographic transition form white protestant to a mix of peoples. We have rapid evolution of social mores and constant technology churn. We have the secularization of America, the end of a historic religious consensus. We have the collapse of the GOP’s historic coalition of the wealthy and the white working class.

Those are big things. But I think we needed something else to create Trump. We needed to eliminate reality.

In our era it started with right wing AM talk radio and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire — not least Fox News. Today it manifests as a torrent of consensual hallucination racing across Facebook. Most of America, especially the non-college, live in world of dreams with only a loose connection to reality. I didn’t see that coming.

How can we correct this? The economics are not good. It takes money to do run the New York Times, almost nothing to create a false news story. The New York Times costs $200 a year — only the elite can read it now. Breitbart is free — supported by AARP ads.

Making knowledge available only to the elite is not a great survival strategy.

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