As dozens of venture capital firms fret about A.I., we reprise our decade-old celebration of uncertainty as the predicate for innovation.
Also thinking the optimized path you suggest in your essay is best symbolized by the Taoist symbol of yin and yang, darkness and light, entropy and order, and the optimized path is the line separating the two.
Allowing death (chaos, entropy etc.) into the system allows for new life. We are stopping death (and ultimately assuring its future prevalence) when we allow organizations/systems to grow too large and unresponsive to the nudging away from bad ideas and the gravity of good ideas.
I agree that novel ideas tested in the marketplace are foundations of innovation.
Our globalized, connected economy and way of life is highly fragile. It is a well-oiled machine, optimized for everything working perfectly (just like the fiber optic cable), but just one little bend and entropy will ensue. If we step back I think it is foolish to optimize for growth alone. I have increasingly been hypothesizing that cheap energy is the primary precursor to growth. Informational fidelity is the square root which can take the potential of this energy and multiply it. But if we don’t have cheap oil (and coal and gas) to burn, we have maybe a population of 2 billion. In this century, almost assuredly, this dependence on hydrocarbons will be radically changed, because we won’t have enough left to burn to make it affordable to do so, and it doesn’t look like we are preparing for that eventuality.
Resilience is perhaps a better driving ethos than growth, because we are biological processes. Biological processes that are optimized for growth usually crash, and resilience really is the ethos being bred in every single living thing. If decreasing informational entropy leads to growth, how do we increase resilience? Reduction of scale, (which is ultimately an increase in cross-population informational fidelity) Large governments, corporations, militaries, NGOs create informational entropy because their is an informational inertia in their processes. Because there is an internal self-rationalizing logic within these massive organizations, they are highly resistant to informational change. The mid level manager isn’t accountable to the successes and failures of her actions, because it is such a drop in the bucket in terms of direction in the ship. Smaller organizations grow and die and have new ideas and innovate and then are acquired by large corporations and put out to pasture. Why do large corporate stocks do so good then? Because they are a part of the Government Industrial Complex, and because of their proximity to the money printing machine. Every industry that is touched by regulation benefits larger players. Small restaurants have crashed, for a variety of reasons, but all is fundamentally related to regulation. Since restauranting is such a low margin business they are our canary in the coal mine, every regulation that nickels and dimes a small guy is one more nail in the coffin. This has been happening across the retail space again and again and again. If we are to have a more resilient information economy the scale must be held in check, at least by vastly reducing regulatory pressure for normal real world businesses.
The reason why we have seen the growth we have in the last century is because of cheap energy. This has covered many of the sins of the money printers and their adoring hordes of hungry swine looking to gobble from the hand of government.