Doc Humes has always interested me. Many people compare him to Timothy Leary, but I think it would be better to compare Timothy Leary to Doc Hume. What fascinates me is how, even into his late years, he still reamained a hip revolutionary, trying to tear down the fabric of reality. To “break on through to the other side,” as The Doors put it. Humes’ most phenomenal accomplishment was his genuine courage to confront the mundane, even in his old age. He was a true exception when you consider that the hippies of yesterday, want to build a wall along the Mexican border today:
It’s not uncommon that a frightened community will implode on itself. They reinforce the clan structure, they put up walls around the town, they mount watches and guards, they’re afraid of being poisoned—there’s a whole raft of symptoms that goes with this disorder. It’s an anxiety disorder.
— Doc Humes, in taped conversation, c. 1979
Max Keiser just posted a video on the problems millennials face because of their baby boomer predecessors. While I don’t agree with everything said, it does point out the startling difference between the baby boomers of yesterday and the baby boomers of today.
Yesterday’s baby boomers tore up their draft cards and yelled, “Hell no, we won’t go!” Today’s baby boomers have sent their kids to two wars and are working on a third. Yesterday’s baby boomers smoked tobacco like crazy. “You have come a long way, baby!” An obvious sales pitch to baby boomers. Today, if you light up a cigarette in a baby boomer’s presence, you are likely to get arrested. Yesterday’s baby boomers did a lot of drugs. Today’s baby boomers have imprisoned millions of drug users and forced them into labor, earning 25 cents per hour. Yesterday’s baby boomers gave us the sexual revolution. Today’s baby boomers try to deny marriage rights to gays.
Listen up millennials! Old age can quickly turn you into a little fascist. Not so with Doc Hume. In his time, he was a modern day Da Vinci- inventor, revolutionary and writer. He was great at many things, but was best at reducing things to the real facts. He was a man before his time, perhaps best suited to today’s information age, rather than the age of Aquarius.
His comments about television apply more to the internet than to TV:
The possibilities for improving the human condition through instantaneous global communication via pictures, and color pictures at that, is immense. It seems almost infinite as you gaze down the road at the future. But so far, we haven’t had the smarts to use our TV to benefit ourselves, we tend to waste our time with television. There’s a lot of anesthetic TV going on, just sort of kills the pain, get us through the day. There’s a fear of creativity in TV, which is a reflection of a general fear of creativity.
— 5/8/78 conversation in Billerica prison, with Oliver Trager
Fasten you seat belts, folks. He gets deeper:
You know the famous non-recognition policy of Pope Urban? When Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, he invited Pope Urban to look through the telescope and see for himself. The Pope decided that if he didn’t look through the telescope they didn’t exist. Then you have John Foster Dulles non-recognizing China. A quarter of the world’s people. Just didn’t recognize them.
Now they’re non recognizing this and non-recognizing that. Pretty soon there’s nothing left to non-recognize. So the media start doing interviews with each other. You see it on television. Where one talk show host invites another talk show host on and—the other day, the day the disarmament conference in New York opened, they had a 2-hour talk show on mis-matched socks!
The ultimate of the non-recognition policy is that there’s nothing left to non-recognize. So you got this bizarre spectacle of the media interviewing the media. And when someone gets promoted or fired it becomes news
— Doc Humes, talking to Oliver Trager on tape, c. 1980
“And when someone gets promoted or fired it becomes news”? Hello Donald Trump.
I think no other description could describe modern media better. Pick up your remote and surf the channels- Fox News, MSNBC, CNN. They just interview each other to prevent any possibility that something “non-recognized” might get mentioned.
However, Humes has a lot to say about Bitcoin and this is where it gets really interesting:
The media, the politicians, governments, are always reluctant to admit the existence of anything they can’t slap a tax on or stick in a box. Something that can’t be immediately explained tends to undermine their authority, ’cause they’re supposed to be able to explain everything. So along comes something they don’t have the answers on, and they tend to dummy up and put a bag over their head, pretend it’s not there. You know, when Pope Urban VIII refused to look through the telescope of Galileo, it was because he didn’t want to admit the fact that Jupiter had moons around it. His argument was that if he, the Pope, who was the top dog at the time, the top tweet in the birdhouse, if he didn’t see it, it didn’t exist.
“Top tweet in the birdhouse”? A punch to the collective groins of Twitter fans everywhere, but I digress. Lets get back to Bitcoin:
You’ve got to remember that the word real originally meant “royal.” It still does in Spanish. In French, montreal, Montreal, is “mount royal.” If the king didn’t see it, it didn’t exist.
Now we get to the heart of the issue. The word ‘reality” comes from the term ‘royal’. During the times of the great monarchs, the king told you what reality was and you dared not question it. Forget breaking through to other side, Peasant. Galileo challenged that and his actions eventually lead to the scientific revolution. Though the government still has a lot of authority to tell you what reality is, science has put a big dent in that power. Yet, even today, the power of the Sovereign to print money has largely gone unquestioned.
If you do any investing, you know that Janet Yellen’s next market jawboning will likely decide the outcome of your investments. The sovereign rules finance and finance rules you. Reality is what the sovereign tells you it is. Science has done little to curb this awesome power and has instead left us at the mercy of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls the IYI or Intellectual Yet Idiot:
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
Science, though it has diminished the power of the sovereign, has left us at the mercy of IYIs:
But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligenzia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
Ok Mr. Taleb, that was a bit a harsh. Taleb even admits that the blog was satirical, but there is truth there and it certainly stings.
The point is that a Nakamoto Consensus is one big truth machine. Like the scientific method, it’s algorithms are designed to reach at truth independent of the sovereign and the IYI. Nakamoto’s consensus decentralizes the power to define reality. It is dangerous to the “non- recognizers” and they are doing everything they can to redefine it using words like ‘blockchain’ and ‘distributed ledgers’. They refuse to look in the telescope and see the moons of Jupiter.
What the IYI wants is a digital version of this:
A centralized database where they can erase transactions as easy as removing chalk from a board. They wish to retain the power to define reality and to continue their non-recognition of a Nakamoto Consensus. Witness all the talking heads talking to themselves about “blockchain”. Whatever that is. Presently, it seems to mean anything and nothing. Which is what the “non-recognizers” want.
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