Richard "Belmont Club" Fernandez elaborates.
That’s the standard theory: the real reason for murderous events in Europe and Mosul and Bangladesh — even Nigeria – lie in a centuries old grievance detected by Jihadi John. But there’s another explanation you may wish to consider. You are watching entropy at work, witnessing the destruction of information and seeing disorder take over the world.It's harder to see entropy at work when what is being deconstructed is a social order, or a received intellectual tradition, both of which are emergent phenomenon, rather than a computer, which has been planned and assembled for a purpose. Thus, messing with the jumper wires quickly messes up the computer. In an emergent order, however, no one person knows which components are essential, or even what the components are.
To understand this more clearly, open the case of your computer and consider the arrangement of the jumper wires (assuming you still have jumper wires). There are only a few ways the jumper wires can be correctly connected but millions of ways they can be wrongly attached. Order (in the sense of a functioning arrangement) is that small percentage of outcomes that work. Entropy is all the ways it won’t work. Order is statistically hard to achieve. Disorder is relatively easy to create.
Since order and knowledge are expensive, what we call civilization essentially advances by remembering which wires go where. The innovation of political correctness however, holds that since all jumper connections are equally valid, anything goes and one can even rearrange older wiring to suit aesthetic impulses. By declaring all cultures equal we open the doors to entropy. We may not notice the effect at first, because — to continue the computer example — there is still enough residual functionality in your machine to carry on."Rational ignorance" is a potential down-side to specialization and division of labour, The Wikipedia entry refers to a bundling problem that arises when people have to vote for one representative or one party manifesto or choose one bundle of goods to act respectively on a set of policy challenges or fulfill a set of wants. More generally, though, institutions have evolved to conserve on information costs, and people can rationally choose to become more expert at trading bonds or teaching analysis with the expectation that others have chosen to become more expert at servicing frozen pipes or repairing computers. Thus, there is no single necessarily optimal set of institutions, and yet there is no basis for believing that all institutional arrangements are equally valid. (I suspect that the "equally valid" is a debating point: let some strong-form adherent of postmodern deconstruction clarify in the comments.)
By and by we disable the CD drive, the USB ports, then some of the keys in the keyboard. Then one day we pull out a really important jumper and the hard disk stops. But by then we cannot acknowledge the damage we’ve done since according to our progressive thinking we ought to have improved things. And this thought will still be in our minds as the blade of the machete slices off the hand we put out to ward the blow.
It will come as a mystery, a total mystery. The reason for our befuddlement is because while ISIS’s destruction of Mosul’s artifacts is serious, it does not spread entropy as drastically as the Western cultural elite. Their powers of demolition are far greater because modern technical civilization depends on what economists call rational ignorance.
And thus, the role of the institution of higher learning is to equip its graduates with the ability to restore its civilization should that be necessary, or to be skeptical of proposals for reform solely for reform's sake. And, I add, to be able to recognize the sources of friction in an existing institutional arrangement and to think carefully about improvements, whether in the Paretian or in the Marshallian sense, that might emerge.
That's not, Mr Fernandez argues, the way the world works.
Unlike pastoral societies when a man might know all the things that mattered, most of us moderns know very little outside of our narrow fields of competence. We compensate by trusting others to know things about which we choose remain substantively ignorant for lack of time. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for Western charlatans to spread entropy for their own narrow, sectarian reasons.The argument has shifted focus from the bitter fruits of deconstruction to hidden social reform as analogous to a computer virus.
The more complex and less transparent society and technology become the more we must rely on rational ignorance. Most are totally dependent on it. When Ezra Klein of Vox says “explanatory journalism” is the wave of the future he is asserting that “since you don’t have the time to figure things out I will tell you what it means”. Ezra Klein becomes your “include file” — a code library one just links to making it just like code you typed yourself.
As J.V. DeLong explains, that can have the effect of flooding our lives with entropy wholesale. The modus operandi, DeLong explains is for “activists” to write their agendas provisions deep inside administrative law, which in “rational ignorance” we swallow whole. But once the statute is referenced — like an “include file” — all the buried provisions transfer over and have an immediate effect.
People who wonder how marriage went from an institution involving men and women to almost any combination conceivable in the blink of an eye, wonder at record winters in an age of ”Global Warming”, who ask themselves why their “Affordable Care” is so expensive and why the “free and open internet” has 300 pages of secret regulations; who puzzle over the identity of the masked attackers who attack centers of population every day are basically watching the effects of industrial scale entropy. They are watching knowledge — indeed common sense — being erased or obfuscated; destroyed at a rate that would defy the understanding of few guys wielding hammers.Mr Fernandez stretches in linking the excesses of governance by Wise Experts to the morale-corroding effects of self-despising multiculturalists. And yet, the antidote to both such pernicious forces is the same: the ability to ask the right, difficult questions, accompanied with the confidence to recognize when the answer is so much rot.
The other day a friend told me the hard disk on his super duper gaming machine was failing. Out of curiosity I looked at all the process IDs of his machine and saw about 500 Chrome threads running when his browser wasn’t even open. ”There’s nothing wrong with your hardware,” I said, “it’s a virus”. When we pulled out the network cable the virus went into quiescence without a connection and his hard disk became as fast as ever. The moral of the story, I told him, after he formatted his disk, is it doesn’t matter how fast your hardware is if you’re not careful what gets into your system. Entropy kills. Information corruption can make even the fastest hardware take 30 minutes to open a Notepad window.
Islam didn’t cause the Dark Ages. Some problem in the West did. All Islam will do is deliver the coup de grace. Our modern elites think information destruction doesn’t matter, but it does. Perhaps ISIS will teach this to them in the hardest possible way.