After centuries of attempts at socialism beginning with the Spartans, Plato’s Republic and Christian monasteries, atheists and deists (sentimental atheists) introduced the latest iteration of socialism in early 19th century France. Henri de Saint-Simon convinced his followers that the problems of the world were so large than only powerful states could solve them. He considered the chief problems to be poverty and inequality. Socialists were shocked and awed by the meager advances in the natural sciences so Saint-Simon proposed that a junta of scientists, led by a mathematician, should work together to solve France’s problems and dictate the solutions to compliant citizens. That has been the model for socialism since.
The model worked well for them until the collapse of communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The allure of socialism had been mainly economic. The great socialist writer Richard Heilbronner admitted after the fall that capitalism had won the economic argument. But he hadn’t given up on socialism. He saw the environment as the last hope. If socialists could just frighten people enough about environmental problems they could persuade them to have the government take over large swaths of the economy to prevent catastrophe.
Some of us who are old enough remember when global warming was a science problem and scientists discussed and debated it. I worked for an electric utility in the 1980s when the industry was very concerned by global warming and kept up to date on the debate. Then the collapse of communism happened and things began to change. At first, socialists went after globalization, but that didn’t gain much traction. Suddenly, a majority of scientists, like the majorities in banana republics voting for the dictator, came out with an indictment against industrialization for causing global climate change and demanding the state rein it in. The science had morphed into politics, and just like in the old USSR that socialists wept over, no debate would be allowed. Musk has joined the socialists, claiming that GCC will usher in “More displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined."
In case climate hysteria was not strong enough to revive socialism, socialists have added another monster to frighten people – artificial intelligence (AI). While Musk is seriously worried about GCC,
He is positively terrified of artificial intelligence. He has suggested there "should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish," by which he means "summoning the demon" of artificial intelligence.
Musk is not the only public figure haunted by the specter of hyperintelligent machines whose plans may or may not involve human happiness or survival. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI "could spell the end of the human race.Many readers will think I’m obtuse and arrogant when I say that I’m not worried about either GCC or AI. After all, when 99.9% of all scientists, living and dead, are hysterical about GCC and the world’s top physicist is warning about AI, how could someone with a pea brain like me have any doubts? I defer to Hayek for my defense.
To paraphrase Hayek in his last book, The Fatal Conceit, intelligence is overrated, especially by intelligent people. High intelligence convinces intellectuals that they can control things they know very little about. He wrote elsewhere that the purpose of economics is to teach us how little we know about the things we think we can control, and that a high correlation exists between intelligence and susceptibility to socialism. Most highly intelligent people are socialists; just survey our universities for evidence.
Hayek argued that a vast canyon can separate intelligence and education from wisdom. Wisdom requires humility, which is scarcer than hen’s teeth among intellectuals and politicians. Wisdom requires respect for institutions that have appeared as the fruit of the wisdom of many generations.
GCC and AI appeared long after Hayek, but we should heed his warning about the hubris of intellectuals, including scientists. He might add that we should correct the official history, as he did in Capitalism and the Historians: the planet has been warming since the last ice age and most of the warming took place long before the industrial age. And pay attention to the medieval warming period. And humans only contribute 5% of the total output of CO2. And don’t place so much confidence in the computer climate models; he warned economists, too, about relying on math models. They’re flawed and provide the main evidence for the hysteria over GCC.
Concerning AI, Hayek wrote that humans will never understand our brains because for one entity to understand another, the understanding entity must be more complex than the entity under study. He wrote in Counter-Revolution in Science,
It would seem that any apparatus of classification would always have to possess a degree of complexity greater than any one of the different things which it classifies; and if this is correct it would follow that it is impossible that our brain should ever be able to produce a complete explanation (as distinguished from a mere explanation of the principle) of the particular ways in which it itself classifies external stimuli. We shall later have to consider the significance of the related paradox that to "explain" our own knowledge would require that we should know more than we actually do, which is, of course, a self-contradictory statement.In that case, humans will be unable to create something more complex than the brain, like the monster that terrifies Musk, since we can’t possibly understand our own brains, yet.
The newspaper editor Mencken wrote that politicians devote all of their time to frightening their constituents into voting for politicians to save them from monsters the politicians have fabricated. Unfortunately, he didn’t add that journalists are co-conspirators. However, both are nothing but shock troops for socialism.
We have nothing to fear from GCC or AI. But even if we did have something to fear, no one should look to the state to rescue us. Can anyone name any catastrophe in history that any government prevented? On the other hand, history is about nothing but government failure.