The value of most intellectual work is, in terms of marketability, inherently low. The structure of reality dictates, viz., it is inherent in natural law that, once an idea is created it can be nearly infinitely duplicated at minimal cost in the minds of men. This would be the ‘brushfire in the minds of men’ concept to which political commentators like Alex Jones often point.
The Austrian economists have often addressed this fundamental nature of intellectual work. A pattern both Mises and Hayek explicated was that in order to support themselves in relative comfort vis-à-vis the general population those engaged in so-called intellectual work (though not always exclusively), from elementary school teachers to university professors to broad political strategists to certain econometric and social work, must find demand for their labor from the state. Most of the work of the intellectual is superfluous idle speculation except to a state which, an unnatural institution according to the Austrians, requires constant intellectual rationalizations to apparently (re-)justify its bungling existence. Moreover, to any extent that the intellectuals, especially those engaged in specialized statistical studies, converge towards a provision of near-objective empirical knowledge about society at large, the gathering of such data is really duplicative of the market process itself, which already embodies much of the actionable side of such data in a way already fully integrated to the structure of production by the action of entrepreneurs. Any use of data derived beyond that already embodied in market processes sets us on the dangerous path to Hayek’s fatal conceit, in which such data is used to undermine the very processes which gave rise to the conditions such data are meant to faithfully represent. The Austrians have explained elsewhere why such an outcome is undesirable, we merely highlight this fundamental flaw in the use of intellectual work remunerated outside of the natural constraints of the market.
Real value creation is more often in relationships, networks and production behind the embodied representations of such ideas. For example, it may occur to me that the Democrat Party in the United States is rife with corruption, internal divisions and failed political strategies which plague it for the foreseeable future. One possible approach very discreet conservatives and libertarians could take at this time, as a radical alternative to the SJWs and Bernie-types would be to fund more traditionalist-oriented democrat challenger candidates whose primary interests lie in ends that dovetail with those of the so-called Tea Party right, ending corporate handouts both monetary and monopoly supported by legislation, making American foreign policy more subdued, a credo of peaceful pan-racial relations, pro-Tenth Amendment, and where do-able, anti-abortion and even pro-gun sentiments. Implementing such a strategy would require not just such abstract knowledge, which is rather simply provided in the sentences above, but concrete legal, accounting, and fundraising skills beyond those the author has. Should those with such ideas then remain in idle speculation, or should they provide their ideas openly and without expectation for recognition and remuneration to those in a position to actually act on them?
We have seen that attempts to legally exaggerate the claims creative types have over their work tend towards fewer avenues for creation in the future. Patents and copyright laws are being positioned to squash competition and development rather than promote it. Matt Drudge points us to a time when the Supreme Court will rule that ideas themselves belong to the major corporate media. It is no stretch that patent law in the hands of Google, Facebook, Apple et al can be used to achieve the same ends in the physical realm, wherein those technologies necessary to modern communication are monopolized in the hands of a few corporations, creating an effective monopoly on who can build and control internet-like systems in the real-world. For more details on the lack of natural justifications for IP law, we highly recommend the work of IP lawyer Stephan Kinsella.
We already have, like it or hate it, many paradigms of the imminent success of intellectual movements which embrace inherent low-cost accessibility to intellectual content rather than curtailing it. The Mises Institute, intellectual force behind the rise of the Ron Paul movement, distributes the work of its luminaries at no-cost online. Wikipedia is entirely voluntarily organized. Wildly successful Alex Jones incessantly repeats that the otherwise obscure knowledge supporting his analysis is all openly available in the publications of elites.
Until recently, Twittter, Facebook and YouTube relied also on the voluntary creation of its users to supply the content of its platforms. This is changing, as it becomes clear they’re beholden to certain ideological interests bent on de-platforming particular noteworthy users. We argue this is a painful and costly blessing in disguise. The ultimate defeat of the large tech media monopolists would be a parallel internet created, funded and maintained by decentralized third-parties. YouTube personality Stefan Molyneux, Alex Jones and others have already pointed to the need to build infrastructure that operates like that of YouTube but independent from Google’s operation in order to ensure the continuity of new media operations. While YouTube censorship and demonetization will be costly in the short run, the long run impetus to build systems even further removed from Google’s control is the only viable solution.
A parallel consideration in the age of the Information Apocalypse, so named by Steve Pieczenik, will become the authenticity of information. As AI algorithms, especially those acting in ways not immediately reviewable by human actors, are able to produce in real time facsimiles of imagery, video and audio output, that may or may not correspond accurately to what is happening in the - what shall we call it? – organic realm, any non-organic source of information becomes questionable. Terming it an apocalypse may not be the exaggeration it first appears. To the extent that peaceful social relations, the division of labor and complex social networks are dependent upon our ability to trust the information we receive and those who provide it, when the sources and content of digital information become so easily manipulated and pervasively comprehensive – the fake story can pass as easily as truth as the truth can – the existence of civil society itself, at least in the non-organic realm, will come into question.
Two fully stable solutions will present themselves. In some cases it will be necessary to return to the organic realm entirely. And while a particular human sense can be deceived under certain special cases, such deception can be offset by data obtained by other direct means in the organic realm. The digital realm will remain in constant flux as innovations in the various techniques and technologies of disinformation and information dispersion favor different entities at different times whose incentives to use them for truth or falsehood will themselves fluctuate with time. In such a tiered system wherein the information distributed by entities have varying levels of fidelity to the organic realm it will not be possible for even those in actual possession of the highest fidelity information to be sure that they are, for there is always the consideration that an even higher level tier, or entirely separate but equally situated tier with access to even greater fidelity information exists, as well as the consideration that rogue actors have successfully manipulated the otherwise impregnable tiered structure of information dissemination effectively for their own purposes. As the rate at which such manipulation can take place and the costs of verifying the fidelity of information increases, the only solution in the digital realm seems to be a fully transparent, decentralized, voluntary block-chain system, where all data can be openly verified by anyone at any time and there is at least no centralized authority in charge of the data that can exploit a unique position to manipulate it, even if small-time fraud remains ongoing.
Looking to the future, transparent blockchains will eventually face the same clamoring that all market-based systems do. The ability of small time criminals to make small time mischief with an otherwise stable system will lead to governmental entities demanding a monopoly of control over blockchains which instead incentivizes systemic abuse. The key to remember is that the decentralized blockchain is immediately verifiable to all participants. Any centralized blockchain can never be so verified and falls prey to the vagaries of the information apocalypse. Decentralized blockchains will have to be marketed with this endgame in mind from the beginning in order to best attempt to avoid such an outcome.
The decentralized blockchain solution has the double benefit of completely transcending all forms of spying, intrigue and surveillance since its entire point and effectiveness comes from utter transparency. If the forces that want to use falsehood to achieve their ends continue to push forward effectively, we must see a two-tiered world emerge where personal interaction is either formatted in a way where transparency is mutually comprehensive enhancing all participants’ fidelity to truth, as with the blockchain, or in situations where full transparency cannot be arranged, communication with actors whose trustworthiness is unknown is conducted in a way that is as little separated from the immediate, organic realm as possible in order to preserve opportunities for self-verification. Everything else will be subject to the delusional effects of the information apocalypse.