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Blockchain technology. Information blocks in digital space. Decentralized global network. Cyberspace data protection. 3D illustration with elements of a binary code
Blockchain technology. Information blocks in digital space. Decentralized global network. Cyberspace data protection. 3D illustration with elements of a binary code

While the West Hesitates, China Is Moving to Blockchain

Life After Google by George Gilder, advocating blockchain, became a best seller in China and received a social sciences award

In this week’s podcast, “George Gilder on blockchain and carbon computing,” tech philosopher George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks, our Walter Bradley Center director, continued their discussion of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). This time, they focused on the future of blockchain, of quantum computing, and carbon computing.What difference will they make? Quite a lot it seems. Today, we will look at what happens when blockchain goes global.

You can download Gilder’s new book, Gaming AI, for free here. The three earlier episodes and transcripts in this series are also linked below. And so now…

Gilder and Marks discussed both the huge surge of interest in blockchain in China and the central weakness of Bitcoin, whose engine is blockchain.

Robert J. Marks: What’s happened to blockchains? You talked about blockchains a lot in your book, Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy.

George Gilder: The Chinese communist government under Xi Jinping has adopted blockchain as a core technology for the future of China.

And has launched a blockchain platform for the entire Chinese economy, and the new digital yuan currency that’s affiliated with their blockchain platform, their national blockchain network. While American congressmen and senators are panicked by the idea that Facebook might launch a Libra on the blockchain and somehow undermine the venerable Dollar, the Chinese are cruising onto that blockchain.

I believe that we’re headed towards some kind of monetary crisis where Bitcoin will have its day, although Bitcoin has real limitations that make it difficult to become a currency. There’s still room for generating a currency that actually can expand with the global economy, rather than be kept like Bitcoin at an absolute limit of 21 million units.

Robert J. Marks (pictured): So that’s a limitation, right?

George Gilder: That’s a limitation that renders it inherently a deflationary currency. And that’s a mistake. So, Bitcoin has its flaws, but nonetheless blockchain is a crucial new distributed architecture for the internet and for the global economy. Unlike the current internet architecture that’s hacked eight billion times a year now. The more we spend on internet security, the less secure the internet becomes, it’s eminently hackable …

And so blockchain still has a critical role in the future of technology. It can provide the basis for distributed internet architecture rather than this porous pyramid we now have where all the data and money and power rises to the top, where it’s controlled by a few players, social networks, search engines and whatever, and where it can be hacked. You know, where it is, you know where the important information is, it’s at the top of the pyramid.

Note: Although Bitcoin survived the pandemic, it has been in the news a lot lately and not in a favorable way. For example, in July, scammers gained access to a number of high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Kanye West, and Elon Musk, and used the opportunity to swindle people out of their Bitcoin money. Jonathan Bartlett reports that the security within Bitcoin actually seems to facilitate scams. So bitcoin is more safe from hacking but perhaps less safe from fraud. Some, like economics prof Gary Smith, see it as a classic bubble investment. The underlying blockchain technology, however, is considered pretty sound and many think it key to a tech renaissance.

It turns out that Gilder’s book, Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy (2018) was a hit in China:

George Gilder: Blockchains are really useful for any kind of computational or transactional process, that needs a ground state, needs a secure ground state that can’t be manipulated. Blockchains are going to be very useful in the future. Blockchain advances come almost daily and the Chinese breakthrough is just amazing. My book, Life After Google, became for a while, a second best seller in China. And it got the award last year as the best social science book in China, published in China. So that’s why I’ve been in China so much over the last year, chasing Life After Google.

They really adopted its message. I don’t know whether they will… It’ll probably be a somewhat porous blockchain with back doors for the communist potentates, but blockchain is pretty hard to manipulate. So there’s going to be a struggle in China to define the limits of the blockchain and how it functions. It’s going to be very interesting to watch, because it does give you identity.

Note: For more about Life After Google, see Imagining life after Google and Why does Google seem to be having a corporate nervous breakdown?

Gilder seems much more comfortable than many commentators with the growth of government surveillance:

George Gilder (pictured): A lot of people think that facial recognition is a threat to identity. I want to be recognized when I go out to the airport or whatever, rather than being treated like a terrorist as the TSA has to do, treat everybody as a terrorist, if they can actually identify you as the new Clear system in a lot of the airports now do.

George Gilder talking with Peter Robinson at the Hoover Institution

They’re trying to make advances, which use face recognition. It’s great to have your Apple iPhone that can see you and recognize your face and let you in immediately, rather than have you have to recall which unmemorable password, complex number password you happen to adopt for any particular app. I like facial recognition, I just think we’re making some mistakes in the understanding of new technology, that derive from our belief in a Singularity.

This idea that somehow technology threatens the human mind, threatens human jobs, threatens human uniqueness—that belief is really crippling our technology, because it makes people fearful and actually technology is good. It creates jobs always. Technology never destroys jobs; at least in a free economy, it generates the capital to create new work. People don’t get hired because they’re unproductive. AI and other such technologies make people more productive and thus more employable and provide better jobs, safer jobs, and more creative jobs. My whole theme is, AI is a hopeful, wonderful new amplifier of human work and employment, not a threat to human uniqueness or capabilities.


Next: Does Schrodinger’s cat think quantum computing is a sure thing?

Here are the first through third parts of the Robert J. Marks’s podcast discussion with George Gilder, including links to the transcripts:

Why is AI a key battleground in philosophy and religion? Tech philosopher George Gilder explains. Spoiler: He thinks humans will win. The belief that AI is superior to human ingenuity, in Gilder’s view, stems from mistaking maps for territory and models for reality.

What if fast computers get in the way of carefully considering information before starting trades? Tech philosopher George Gilder explains why bigger computers running the stock market are the road to sudden panics, not to stable prosperity.

and

Has the Singularity been indefinitely postponed? Called off?
If a human brain has as many connections as the whole internet, why should we merge with computers in a Singularity? Tech philosopher George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks say they hear much less about computers with superhuman intelligence than they used to.

Show Notes

  • 00:26 | Introducing George Gilder
  • 01:00 | Blockchain
  • 07:57 | Facial recognition
  • 10:30 | Bitcoin
  • 15:04 | Quantum computing
  • 18:16 | Carbon computing

Additional Resources

Podcast Transcript Download


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While the West Hesitates, China Is Moving to Blockchain