Technology

Elites Fear the Future or, Why We Won't Be Seeing That Pliny The Elder Bio-Pic Any Time Soon

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In the Washington Examiner, Glenn Reynolds cogitates on Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's important new book Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think:

As recounted by Pliny the Elder, a goldsmith proudly displayed to the Roman Emperor Tiberius a shiny plate he'd made from a new metal extracted from clay (aluminum) using a secret method only he understood.

The emperor was indeed impressed: He saw this new shiny metal as a possible threat to the value of his large gold and silver stockpiles, so instead of rewarding the goldsmith, he had him beheaded….

Today we see the motion picture and recording industries threatened by technology, and using lawsuits and legislation, rather than the headsman's axe.

But the pattern is the same: Technology is a disruptive force, and the first instinct of a ruling class is to take control, because any such disruption, however good it might be for humanity at large, is a threat to their own power.

Over the past couple of centuries, things have gotten better because science and technology have advanced faster than the ruling classes have been able to respond….

Reynolds is less sanguine than the Aundance authors on the continued ability of innnovators to keep working around regulators, who are often bought off by last year's innovators:

[O]ne of the most valuable ways of turning government regulation to one's side is to use it to shut down competition. When that happens, innovation slows or stops and society as a whole suffers even if individual special interests benefit.

Whole thing here.

Read Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey's review of Abundance here.

Reason.tv interviewed Diamandis and will be releasing that vid soon. In the meantime, check out our conversation with him about private space flight, the X Prize Foundation (which awarded the Ansari X Prize to Bert Rutan for creating a reusable suborbital space ship), and the problem with becoming "such a risk-averse society" as we've become:

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  1. The more powerful the government, the more tempting it is to purchase influence ? and, in fact, if your competitors are buying influence, you’ll have to respond in kind in self-defense.

    Obviously, the best way to combat this is to make the federal government’s regulatory power so limited as to be unmarketable. But it’s been proven time and again that we don’t want that. Legislators don’t want it, industry doesn’t want it and the voting population doesn’t want it. We’ve grown generally happy with central control.

    1. None of us want the same regulation from the government, but all of us want some regulation, and we put up with the 99% we don’t want in the dreamlike hope that we will be able to get the 1% which will make the 99% bearable.

  2. Does that picture of Jack Valenti remind anyone else of Andy Rooney?

    1. “You kids with your new-fangled VCRs, able to watch pornography whenever you want in your own home are destroying this country… get off my lawn!”

  3. I thought this would be about the internet too

  4. Whenever private space flight is brought up, just have to scream NUCLEAR PULSE ROCKETS. Or just wait 50 years for or whatever for some more advanced technology to make getting out of the gravity well commercially viable.

    I don’t think the problem with space flight is risk averseness rather than just that lifting mass with current methods is just too dang expensive for the ROI.

    Unless one counts being too wimpy to use NPRs as risk-averse.

    And whoever recommended Footfall the last time I said this, thanks, quite good even if it was a bit hard to get into and the Cold War thing felt a bit dated.

    1. NERVA http://www.daviddarling.info/e…..NERVA.html My father worked on this. Still has a model of the thing in his study. The article fails to mention that the main reason the thing was cancelled was the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972?) that made nuclear blasts in space a treaty violation.

      1. Interesting, I wonder how NERVA compares or could potentially compare to NPRs (or chemical rockets) in mass/cost.

        1. You might like the sections on Nerva and Orion at the project rho site. (Discussion of feasibility of science fiction rocketry.) Oodles of other links and references there for you to dive into as well.

  5. Innovative program to prevent cops from shooting dogs, and beating to death homeless men

  6. Totally off topic here, but I’ve come around to the Libertarian way of thinking in the last few years but there’s something I can’t get around: Accepting the current un-reality of the Atlas Shrugged premise that there is free land and resources available to all so people are really free to make their own destiny; accepting that there is a system in place (gubmint laws, business practice memes) and you could be born into poverty with no money, and there are no jobs in your area, and you just don’t know any better… Obviously we can’t turn back time to prevent this system from forming, so what is the Libertarian strategy to get out of this mess, particularly from a private property (as opposed to a “commons” type of property system) angle?

    And don’t freak out and say I’m trolling, I’m asking sincerely.

    1. There is no magic that will get us “out of this mess.” Servile power-worshipers and the thug-state are merely part of normal entropy. Keep resisting.

    2. One way to get out of this mess is to get out of the country

      Another is to work within the system, but try to bypass it whenever possible. Loopholes are your friend. (People say tax loopholes are bad because they benefit a few. Then why not extend those benefits to everyone? Counter the corporatists and the socialists with the same arg)

      At the same time, be more informed, educated, so that you may be more effective in spreading the gospel of liberty. I highly recommend:
      Is There Hope for Liberty in Our Lifetime? | Jacob Huebert
      which itself is based on the classic How to Advance Liberty (by Leonard Read)

    3. I don’t know if there is any grand strategy. All that is needed is to take responsibility for your life, try encourage others to do the same.

  7. I hope the Pliny biopic doesn’t depend on Diamantis book- the plate was likelier zinc than aluminum.

  8. Reynolds is correct: if it’s true that the free market is great and the government sucks (and it is), it doesn’t make much sense to keep believing that everything is going to continue to be more and more wonderful when the government is taking over the entire free market. See the Chevy Volt, for example.

    As much as I would love to be the sunny optimist, it gets harder and harder for me to buy into the Pollyanna routine with what’s going on in this country.

  9. So no calls for genocide or calls to war by the so-called libertarian Glenn Reynolds today. How refreshing.

    /Jay

  10. I thought that was a beer? Or is that Piney the Elder?

    1. It’s Pliny the Elder, and it kicks ass.

      1. It does. And Pliny the Younger is supposed to be even better. Unfortunately, PtY isn’t sold in bottles or even growlers.

  11. It’s pretty simple. The future will happen elsewhere, unless we dramatically change course in this country. I’ve been around long enough to notice this country substantially constrict itself just in my lifetime.

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