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Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy

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FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  " Nothing Mr. Gilder says or writes is ever delivered at anything less than the fullest philosophical decibel.. .  Mr. Gilder sounds less like a tech guru than a poet, and his words tumble out in a romantic cascade."

“Google’s algorithms assume the world’s future is nothing more than the next moment in a random process. George Gilder shows how deep this assumption goes, what motivates people to make it, and why it’s wrong: the future depends on human action.” — Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies and author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

The Age of Google, built on big data and machine intelligence, has been an awesome era. But it’s coming to an end. In Life after Google, George Gilder—the peerless visionary of technology and culture—explains why Silicon Valley is suffering a nervous breakdown and what to expect as the post-Google age dawns.

Google’s astonishing ability to “search and sort” attracts the entire world to its search engine and countless other goodies—videos, maps, email, calendars….And everything it offers is free, or so it seems. Instead of paying directly, users submit to advertising. The system of “aggregate and advertise” works—for a while—if you control an empire of data centers, but a market without prices strangles entrepreneurship and turns the Internet into a wasteland of ads.

The crisis is not just economic. Even as advances in artificial intelligence induce delusions of omnipotence and transcendence, Silicon Valley has pretty much given up on security. The Internet firewalls supposedly protecting all those passwords and personal information have proved hopelessly permeable.

The crisis cannot be solved within the current computer and network architecture. The future lies with the “cryptocosm”—the new architecture of the blockchain and its derivatives. Enabling cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether, NEO and Hashgraph, it will provide the Internet a secure global payments system, ending the aggregate-and-advertise Age of Google.

Silicon Valley, long dominated by a few giants, faces a “great unbundling,” which will disperse computer power and commerce and transform the economy and the Internet.

Life after Google is almost here.


For fans of "Wealth and Poverty," "Knowledge and Power," and "The Scandal of Money." 

256 pages, Hardcover

First published July 17, 2018

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George Gilder

43 books244 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 344 reviews
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
957 reviews569 followers
April 15, 2019
I’ve often pondered, ‘do libertarians masturbate with an invisible hand’, now from this book I know they most likely do since the author seems to appeal to the libertarian’s mystical anarchical bullshit of market perfection through magic and the author twice invoked the spirit of Maury Rothbard and his crypto invisible anarchical perfect state (look him up, if the name isn’t familiar) and other substance free libertarian juvenile invisible hand thinking as if they had something useful to say beyond the fiction of the invisible mystical hand being real and adequate for all purposes including apparently the answer to the question that I’ve often pondered.

Fan boys of the invisible hand of perfection will eat this book up. I don’t think I would have bothered to write a review or criticize this book if he hadn’t pissed me off by bad mouthing Markov Processes. I’ve got a few hot button issues in life and criticizing Markov Processes just happens to be on that short list. Geez o Pete, Gilder needs to get over his dislike of their memory less nature and thinks that all the problems in the world can be better solved by block chains and Bitcoin’s imaginary creations acting as better than gold because they require all previous states not just the most recent state in order to exist as Markov Chains do.

Let me see now, he thinks because Google gives away their product that makes it fatal for them, and since they solved the foreign language translation problem with Markov chains and machine recursive learning that it is not enough; and since DeepMind beat Go with Markov chains and tables of previous games but with no deep understanding of the program’s intentionality that means it lacks meaning; and that they are therefore doomed in the soon to be world since Google only cares about the most previous state of the systems under consideration. Sometimes, all one needs to solve a problem is the current variance-covariance matrix as with Markov Chains and the complete previous history of the process is not necessary as with block chains and the solution itself is just good enough for the problem at hand.

Gilder has a belief that materialism is not enough and a mystical meaning about the meaning (a meta-meaning) is necessary in order to process and understand the world correctly. As an example, and weirdly, in the book he seemed to have tied Shannon’s information theory to entropy to evolution on earth and how the second law of thermodynamics argued against life and tried to appeal obliquely to some kind of mystical bullshit as connective filler. (It all happened so fast and I did not understand it at the time when he said it, but it came together by the time I finished this book. Meaning for the process beyond the process is his driving standard and would be why he doesn’t like Markov Chains as a standard).

He didn’t like Max Tegmark’s book ‘Life 3.0’. I must admit I didn’t either. I didn’t like it because it offered nothing that was new to me not because it hypothesizes super AI. I think it’s safe to say that Gilder did not like the book because it hypothesizes super AI not because it was unoriginal.

I bet the author repeated Paul Krugman’s belief that ‘Bitcoin is evil’ seven or more times in this book. So what! What do I care if somebody calls it evil. Technically things in themselves aren’t evil, but I think I can call people such as this author and those he quote who think Bitcoin is as good as or better than gold stupid. Moreover when it comes to evil (or sin) I’ll just quote John Steinbeck, ‘there is no virtue, there is no sin, there just people doing things’. Even, if I am wrong, and if Bitcoin turns out to be as good as sliced bread it doesn’t mean Google will disappear.

The author requires meaning and purpose for his supreme standard. For example, he thought Renaissance Hedge Fund’s reason for being was meaningless since they did not posses self awareness for their processes and therefore would not be able to improve the world. I know nothing about that hedge fund, but I do know that is not a standard for a hedge fund.

It’s too bad that this author went into full pseudo-Libertarian gobbledygook land. He really did a fine job at tying Godel’s Incompleteness with Turing complete systems and universal computers, and explained why block chains matter and Shannon’s Information Theory is important and so on. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are in for a heap of change, but I don’t think the reasons outlined in this book will be the reasons why. The world is not static and all self-aware entities dynamically will process the changes happening within their environment, and if they survive, they will change appropriately with the times.
May 6, 2021
Can't help thinking that it's a bit premature to be, uh, celebrating the death of Google by the Big Data. Or mutual destruction of these two. They might actually surprise us by fiving us another couple of runs for our money and a lot of our other assets.
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Google AI offers uncanny “deep machine learning” algorithms that startled even its then chairman, Eric Schmidt, by outperforming him and other human beings in identifying cats in videos. (c)
Profile Image for Adam.
168 reviews37 followers
September 27, 2019
Review of the audiobook narrated by Eric Michael Summerer.

There are some interesting topics covered, but the arguments Mr. Gilder is attempting to make are more often than not muddled by an over-explaining of the technical details (in a way where he is showing off his knowledge more than concisely summarizing for the reader) and a wandering thread of thought that constantly moves between topics before any clear conclusion has been made. The scattered anecdotes add nothing to the narrative and only serve to illustrate how well traveled and connected he is. I was hoping to gain some insight into the future of the tech industry, but instead all I found was a self-indulgent collection of ramblings by a very smart man.

I thought that Eric Michael Summerer did a great job with the narration. He has a professional and clear delivery, which was the perfect fit for the content.

Final verdict: 2 star story, 5 star narration, 2 stars overall
Profile Image for Doug Sleeter.
35 reviews9 followers
August 13, 2018
If you want to know more about #Blockchain, #DigitalCurrency, #BigData, #Security, #Economics, #CryptoCurrency, #Cryptography, #Bitcoin, #Ethereum, and what's broken about today's Internet, you have to read this book.

Many people are "all in" with Big Data, Machine Learning, and AI. But unless we fix the problems with #BigBadData, all those dreams cannot come true.

Gilder very clearly describes what's wrong with nearly every technology built in the computer age. They left security out of the architecture, and now everyone's trying to bolt on security solutions to existing tech. It just can't work.

This book is so compelling, you have to stop everything you're doing and sit down and read it!
Profile Image for Jason X.
356 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2018
I did not enjoy reading this overly dense, overly technical, and overly name dropping screed against Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. I'm no fanboy of these companies and the walled gardens they create, but they do make useful products, albeit with their own imperfections. The book was okay, I guess it was full of wisdom and knowledge (and opinions), mostly from a libertarian / gold standard understanding of the world. I'm not really sure because most of it was over my head. I felt like I needed a PhD in computer engineering and history and economics to understand it.

Here is the theme (p.260) in 2 confounding sentences:

"The Google era is coming to an end because Google tries to cheat the constraints of economic scarcity and security by making its goods and services free. Google's Free World is a way of brazenly defying the centrality of time in economics and reaching beyond the wallets of its customers to seize their time."

I'm old enough to have seen giants fall - IBM for example - so Gilder's prediction of the end of these companies, or at least the walled garden silo model, may not be as far fetched as it may seem today. I can't say if blockchain technology is going to be the downfall or not. I really don't know enough to have an opinion, and this book does not do a good enough job explaining it. I do know that I would have enjoyed a book on this topic more for beginners, and definately one written by a more clear communicator.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
455 reviews184 followers
August 8, 2019
12 April 2019 - Very cool book.
I finished this about two weeks ago and have been mulling over how to review it since.
On the one hand, I love most of the book passionately. So many great insights. Such wonderful explanations of complex new technologies in terms that most any intelligent layman can understand - classic George Gilder! Gripping backgrounds on key movers and shakers in so many related fields that are becoming more important every day. Connections between technologies, individuals, news issues and government policies that I had not considered before, that could be crucial for a much better or much worse world.

On the other hand, I saw some flaws in his explanations of what money is or means. Some technology explanations just did not quite ring true and a few experts in those areas I consulted were a bit skeptical if he got them right. There were some other problems too... but they all seem pretty minor, compared to the positives and mind expanding scope, energy and positiveness of the overall book.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in:
- figuring out a better future world
- government policies actually already and potentially screwing things up
- what this "net neutrality" talk and policies are really about
- should we fear Google, love them or a mix?
- cryptocurrencies
- privacy on the internet

I remember reading and being greatly influenced by Gilder's amazing book Microcosm about 30 years ago. He wrote the most compelling story of the import of Moore's Law, the chip business, science, engineering, marketing, and affects on society one could possibly tell. The book steeled my wife and my resolve to invest in Intel and Microsoft at that semi-early stage, and wow, was that a winning hand for over 10 years financially, and society-wise still to this day and beyond. I believe that this book builds on some of Gilder's original insights there, and expands on the new technologies of cryptography and cryptocurrencies, communications, fibre optics, wireless and other related technologies so important for more progress toward a better world.

to be continued....
3 May 2019 - With today's Facebook announcement on their upcoming cryptocurrency, it looks like Gilder is definitely on the right track: https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook...

8 Aug. 2019 - Wow - what a firestorm erupted and has continued with the Facebook cryptocurrency proposal! Makes this book all the more important to read, ponder and consider the import.
Profile Image for Sarah.
729 reviews73 followers
September 26, 2018
I liked this book but there was much about it I didn't understand. I'll have to go back to it later, after I've learned a bit more and can better understand it.
Profile Image for Evin Ashley.
185 reviews6 followers
December 9, 2021
Note: I edited my review below in December 2021, after some period of time evaluating blockchain and cryptocurrencies. I highlighted new/revised text in brackets [].


Where do I start? This book is profoundly useful for me both personally and professionally, and I recommend it to anyone currently breathing in 2018 - to get a better grasp of how our "global society" will be structured, both in an economic and governance sense.

Admittedly, Gilder had me running high on blockchain idealism, but then I tripped right across the finish line on p. 262 when he described the flaw of blockchain as a potential (replacement) currency for the gold standard. So it's crucial that the reader read this book all the way through - blockchain may not replace currency, but it will certainly change our world. [It seems that a bubble is forming with relation to blockchain and cryptocurrency, in 2021. The technology is inherently not scalable, and therefore cannot be a replacement for financial transactions nor the Internet. Those who claim it is are perpetuating a Ponzi scheme, unfamiliar with the technology they espouse, naive, or a mixture of the three].

Having said that, I am [no longer] apt to invest in blockchain technology now, as I more clearly understand its inevitable use, primarily in transparent governance. [There has always been a dissociative claim that blockchain and cryptocurrency provide both transparency and privacy. Sadly, it seems that many who use it are indulging in criminal or hidden transactions, much like in our current system]. Of course there is a global backlash against this, coming from very powerful institutions (namely, governments and banks, who are invested in big data) who do not want to potentially lose power over society. [But to claim that this new technology is creating anything different - a utopia, so to speak - is a fool's errand, and a futile attempt to circumvent human nature].

The rise of blockchain is not incompatible with big data, in fact they will likely evolve together if Google's interest in blockchain technology is any indication. [Many blockchain and cryptocurrency applications are very similar to current Internet and banking applications. However, in 2021, after several big tech and financial institutions have created research departments into blockchain and cryptocurrencies, they have subsequently been dissolved, finding no scalable solution or value in its structure]. In addition, once blockchain becomes more widespread the average joe will not want to wrap their head around new technology - or even the above-average joe. [Many who are into blockchain and cryptocurrency either do not understand, or falsely deny, its limitations]. People love short cuts, no matter how intelligent they are, so why not have a middleman do your blockchain investing and transactions for you? [That would mean that there is no point in transitioning away from Google or other third-party financial institutions we currently have - why have the same model on a different platform? It smells like a Ponzi scheme]. There is plenty of opportunity, as this book illustrates, for humans to become more creative in society if they are freed up by secure transactions - the idea behind blockchain is trust. [However, that idea has not been translated to reality. Technology is not inherently trustworthy - only the people behind it].

Until our current institutions have a better grasp on how to get their hands around blockchain, there will be a lot of negative PR and stock market fluctuations over the technology. Hadera [seemed like it would be] a good contender as a blockchain company which could smoothly transition the current system towards a blockchain-based system. [However, in 2021, Hadera is not a big-name player in the blockchain industry]. As Gilder puts it, "Making no change to the Internet architecture, it (Hadera) poses relatively little threat to the established order." (p.266) [However, Hadera and others could never replace the current Internet architecture, nor compete with it, in terms of scale and efficiency. Early proponents of blockchain or "Web3" fail to realize that these systems are also vulnerable to attack, and are tremendously inefficient].

People hate change, so that's why revolutions usually happen; creation arises from destruction. But we may be able to ensure a smoother transition to a new global system if we use the ideas of both big data and blockchain technology, at their full potential [- a society rooted in trust and connection]. As Gilder warns, "Let us hope that the solutions will come without geopolitical chaos stemming from a series of new financial crises." (p.262) We already see this happening, so hopefully people can actually work together (after all, that's how we made it to the top of the food chain, right?) [Unfortunately, it seems that those who have invested in blockchain and cryptocurrency will find themselves in a debt bubble, unless they divest immediately].

I also very much enjoyed this book in a philosophical sense - it seems evident that Gilder is a religious or spiritual man, as the idea of human consciousness, a soul, and creativity repeatedly come into play. His beliefs may wander into idealistic territory when he insists a system upholding the creative potential of humanity will inevitably win out. The rise of big data shows that human nature also has a great proclivity for the short term, rather than realizing its full potential over the long term. Our true currency, and what we must value the most, is our relationship to time itself.
Author 15 books58 followers
July 11, 2018
Another masterpiece from George Gilder that will make you think about the world differently. I was honored to get a copy of this book from George before it was published, and couldn't put it down. We will interview George Gilder on The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy on 8/31/18 to discuss this book (www.thesoulofenterprise.com).
Profile Image for Warren Mcpherson.
193 reviews29 followers
October 2, 2018
The core of this book is about zero pricing of Google services corrupting markets across the technology industry. Small players face extremely difficult competition and markets for information and bandwidth have become dramatically distorted. Bitcoin does introduce a reasonable path to micro-payments and thus could make a remarkable impact on society.

The writing of this book is weak. The book starts with an angry repetitive rant complaining about passwords and captchas. When the focus shifted to core issues the repetition cleared up, but the undercurrent of anger remained and this is not conducive to clarifying complex ideas. Names of smart people and technologies were included in an exercise of proving something but not doing the best job of explaining anything. The technology jargon was mostly used correctly but superficially. There was quite a bit of gossip and information about developing technology projects, including some interesting vignettes.

The platitudes seemed out of place at first until you realize that overwrought capitalist morality actually seems to be the main point. Ironically a deeper understanding of business strategy would likely cool that passion considerably. Some people will feel aligned with the author and are likely to feel the book is convincing, others are likely to find the small mistakes reinforce their feeling the author lacks credibility. In the end, I think it would be more useful to treat the topic with a curious disposition. The subject area opens some fascinating possibilities and I look forward to future explorations.
Profile Image for Kent Winward.
1,662 reviews45 followers
June 17, 2019
My biggest complaint about this book is the lack of a coherent thesis, i.e. the weird virtual reality digression at the end of the book. Some of the book is a critique of Google and Facebook. Some feels like a libertarian screed. Some goes over monetary theory. Some is fanciful discussions of blockchain technology.

Between blockchain technology and AI, things are changing. I knew things were changing in the 90s with the Internet and paperless technology, but I didn't know how, just that things were changing and this is a familiar feeling.

Possibly the biggest disruptive factor and I don't know who the company will be (may not even exist yet), but someone is going to figure out how to monetize our attention using blockchain and pay us for our attention. If I want to sell you a book and you meet certain criteria on Goodreads and you agree, I pay you directly in a micro-payment for looking at my ad.

It is Google on steroids, not giving us free email, search and document storage, but paying us for our time and securing our data all while we, the end user, makes money. But unlike the title, AI and Big Data will fuel this flip, allowing end users to have their own protected data and to be paid for their attention. Not even close to the books thesis, but what I came up with after reading it and watching technology over the last 50+ years.
Profile Image for Dolf van der Haven.
Author 20 books12 followers
September 26, 2018
Somehow it is impressive how a 78-year old author an still put together a book that is top-heavy on the latest technology. The result, however, is a hodge-podge of superficial technical descriptions, endless name-dropping and an unsubstantiated premise that the Googles of this world are losing against blockchain applications. The praise of blockchain could have been more easily written.
One saving grace is the chapter on Artificial Intelligence, in which Gilder correctly debunks the myth that AI is ever going to take over the world by becoming more intelligent in all aspects than humans. The simple lack of consciousness prevents this.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,521 followers
November 7, 2019
Not a memorable book. It seems like a self-promotional book for the author's investment fund. I was looking for a good explanation of blockchain technology. It's not here.
Profile Image for Seth.
581 reviews
April 18, 2019
[Check out my podcast interview with George Gilder: www.closemindedpodcast.com/8]

[The full text of this book review is posted at The Close Minded Podcast blog: www.closemindedpodcast.com/book-review/life-after-google-the-fall-of-big-data-and-the-rise-of-the-blockchain-economy-by-george-gilder/]

George Gilder is one of my favorite thinkers. He writes coherently and thoughtfully about a rich variety of topics, and a common theme running through much of his thought over the last 30 years is an optimistic “futurism.” He sees important developments in technology and grasps their philosophical underpinnings and implications long before they are even a glimmer in the eyes of us average folk.

In the early 90s, for example, Gilder foresaw and wrote about the impending broadband revolution and the smartphone era (there's even evidence to suggest that he directly influenced Steve Jobs and the iPhone).

Undergirding his recent writings on technology is the science and philosophy of a concept known as Information Theory. Gilder spends a lot of time teaching the fundamentals of the theory and unpacking its implications in his 2013 book Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How it is Revolutionizing our World. It also directly informs his subsequent books: The Scandal of Money (2016) and now Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy (2018).

Explaining information theory is beyond my scope here, and I certainly do not understand it fully (definitely not enough to write confidently about it). But I'm utterly fascinated by the way it actively informs Gilder's thinking on so many different topics–from his opposition to insider trading laws, to his defense of entrepreneurship as the lifeblood of economic activity, to his framing of government intervention in the interest rate market in terms of time and knowledge, and his full-throated defense of capitalism. His most recent application of information theory touches on Google's ecosystem and its philosophy of humanity, on blockchain and decentralization, on rapid innovative increases in low-power computing capabilities, and on cryptocurrencies.

All Your Data Belong to Us

Gilder starts Life After Google by utterly demolishing the premises that Google's model is built upon, and describing how dangerous it is to society. To Google, you and I are not the customer; in fact, we are the product. They sell our information to advertisers and also use it to develop and perfect their algorithms. It's all part of their attempt to “organize the world's information.” It's as arrogant as it sounds.

Google's approach to collecting our data is ingenious: offer all their products and services for free–Gmail, Drive, Docs, Maps, Voice, Search, News, Books, Photos, YouTube, Assistant, the list goes on. And on. But there are major consequences to this model. For one, there is no market incentive to provide security of your data. After all, you aren't a paying customer, and Google can get away with token efforts at protecting you. To make matters worse, a centralized model means all the important data is in one place–a glorious gift for hackers and data miners.

In the early stages of the Internet, data centralization wasn't feasible. Processor speeds and the costs of memory were prohibitive. But Google (and the rest of Silicon Valley) drove the miraculous innovation that brought us exponentially faster, smaller, and cheaper computers. Google's approach to building their server farms to store, organize, and rapidly calculate their “best” answer to whatever we were searching for radically changed the tech industry. This made it possible for them to become efficient repositories of our data. And so they vacuumed it up while we used their “free” services.

This model–and the risk involved–is not unique to Google. Just consider all the data breaches in recent years, and the hundreds of millions of users who saw their information exposed. This is a direct result of a centralized model of data storage. You don't really own your data at all these companies–financial institutions, utilities, retail merchants, healthcare providers, insurance companies, personal cloud storage (DropBox, OneDrive, Evernote), etc. Nor do you have any ability to keep it safe. A single successful hack can potentially expose millions of customers' worth of data. And for the most part, we simply get an “oops” from these corporations in response.

The solution is not just “better security.” We don't need an even stronger wall around the castle. To change the metaphor, as long as the gold is sitting in the vault, the bank robbers will keep finding ways of getting in. It's an inherent problem and an enormous moral hazard, and it doesn't serve our interests. The entire model is flawed.

Gilder proposes an answer to this problem, and we'll get to that. But first we need to discuss the philosophical roots of Google's worldview.

The Fatal Flaw In Google's “System of the World”

Boil down Google's philosophy and you get a single, fatal flaw: they assume man (and his brain) is like a machine. They assume that eventually artificial intelligence (AI) will surpass us. But they cannot account for human consciousness with only mathematics and algorithms. In Google's worldview, the Singularity is real–the inevitable moment when artificial intelligence overtakes that of man. Citing a handful of German scientists, mathematicians and philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries, Gilder argues that information theory has definitively disproved this concept, shown it to be inherently self-contradictory. In one sense it's a warmed-over, scientific cousin of classic Marxism. But how can Gilder apply a “Neo-Marxist” label to men who are obvious capitalists?
The fundamental claim Marx made was that the Industrial Revolution would create a future where, as Gilder puts it, “the key problem of economics would become not production amid scarcity but redistribution of abundance.” (6)

“Marx was typical of intellectuals in imagining that his own epoch was the final stage of human history…. The neo-Marxism of today’s Silicon Valley titans repeats the error of the old Marxists in its belief that today’s technology – not steam and electricity, but silicon micro chips, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, algorithmic biology, and robotics – is the definitive human achievement. The algorithmic eschaton renders obsolete not only human labor but the human mind as well.” (6-7) […]

AI is believed to be redefining what it means to be human, much as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species did in its time. While Darwin made man just another animal, a precariously risen ape, Google-Marxism sees men as inferior intellectually to the company’s own algorithmic machines. Life After Google makes the opposing case that what the hyperventilating haruspices Yuval Harari, Nick Bostrom, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tim Urban, and Elon Musk see as a world-changing AI juggernaut is in fact an industrial regime at the end of its rope. (7) […]

“Marxism was historically hyperbolic the first time around, and the new Marxism is delusional today. Is time for a new information architecture for a globally distributed economy. Fortunately, it is on its way.” (9)

Google's fundamental philosophical mistake is to assume that AI could ever match real human consciousness. But AI doesn't have true intelligence, and it can never exhibit genuine creativity–only humans can do that. AI is just an algorithm. An incredibly sophisticated algorithm that grows beyond the understanding of its creators, yes, but ultimately it is still simply following rules, however complex.
“The problem is not AI itself, which is an impressive technology with much promise for improving human life. What transforms ‘super-AI’ from a technology into a religious cult is the assumption that the human mind is essentially a computer, a material machine.” (99)

Here is Gilder's kill-shot against Google's philosophy: “By using their own minds and consciousness to deny the significance of consciousness in minds, they refute themselves.” (100-101)

Introducing the Cryptocosm

So what is Gilder's cryptocosm and how can it shift the paradigm away from the Google philosophy?

Very simply, it's the new frontier being developed by young and emerging protocols of data decentralization, currency, info privacy and security–all built upon peer-to-peer, distributed ledgers known as the blockchain.

Imagine a money system where governments are incapable of printing their way out of debt, or of manipulating interest rates to serve the interests of their corporate cronies or advance an imperialist foreign policy. Imagine contracts–business deals, land titles, and more–that are enforced automatically by software protocols that nobody can interfere with. Imagine being able to pay anyone around the world instantly with total security, privacy, freedom, and without usurious transaction fees. Imagine being able to deliver micropayments to content providers on the internet rather than be force-fed ads that are either irrelevant to you or so targeted that they are creepy. Imagine having total control over your data–financial info, transaction history, personal medical records, browsing history, personal preferences and hobbies, etc.

In a world of centralized data, you get none of these things. You are the product being marketed, and your information is not protected. But the cryptocosm can deliver us from this model and deliver to us these benefits of security, privacy and control

But how? The potential of the cryptocosm is rooted in separate innovations in hardware and software.

Although Google played a key role in fostering the hardware innovations that were prerequisites to developing their dominance in centralizing and delivering data, and although their insatiable need for better and faster tech is fueling the next round of advances today, the irony is that those same innovations are fueling parallel advances in cryptographic decentralization based on the blockchain.

The computational power available in ever-smaller (and low-power) devices–like smartphones–allows cheaper and faster data processing than ever before, all without the need for centralized servers. For example, facial recognition software is built upon extremely complex algorithms that initially required a stack of servers to accomplish. No longer. A hand-held device can manage it instantly and locally. It's the same story with rendering video. The possibilities are endless. Google is sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

Gilder quotes Muneeb Ali of Blockstack:
“Google and Facebook captured value in the application layer but then had to invent a lot of protocols and infrastructure to actually scale…Because of the value they created early on, they had the resources. This [architecture] leads to giant moats because big companies had all the data, but also because no one else had the resources to innovate at the protocol/infrastructure layer. This innovation is always needed. The question is who has the incentive to lead the charge. In the post-blockchain world, the model gets flipped and there is direct incentive [for many teams outside the giant companies] to work on the hard problems of protocol and infrastructure innovation. This is a major shift.” (201-202)

How else could this all play out in reality? Gilder provides many examples.


Brendan Eich, creator of the most widely used programming language in the world (JavaScript) and former head of Mozilla, has been innovating on his latest venture–the Brave browser. It is built around speed, privacy, ad-blocking (30% of mobile bandwidth is sucked up by ads that virtually nobody clicks on!) and–most excitingly–an anonymous and secure system of rewarding web sites with cryptocurrency rather than trading time for content (watching ads). It's a brilliant approach to reasserting one's autonomy and privacy on the internet, and I hope it takes off.


I believe the future of our money will definitely be a cryptocurrency. The question is, do you want a cryptocurrency that is managed, overseen, controlled, and gate-kept by a government, or one that is decentralized, secure, private, outside the control of a state, and impossible to inflate or manipulate? Gilder writes that the cryptocurrency is
building a new trust, ID, and transactions later for the Internet. Better than cash, it offers exchanges that conceal personal information but also allow complete proof of compliance where necessary. Not only can you exchange anonymously, you can prove your record of behavior if a government makes untrue charges or a business makes spurious claims. This combination of security and attestation makes cryptocurrencies a fundamental improvement on existing moneys—a remedy for the monetary turbulence of our time.” (176-177)

We are still in the early, wild west stage of cryptocurrencies, with a lot of unknowns. But this is by far the most active and innovative sector of the tech economy right now, with billions being invested. Indeed, crypto startups have all but replaced the standard IPO (this is partly because of draconian regulations imposed after the 2008 financial crisis that effectively killed IPOs and are doing immense damage to entrepreneurship in the United States).


The blockchain (which cryptocurrencies are built upon but is NOT the same thing) poses some really amazing opportunities for taking back control over your personal and private data in the Internet age, from smart contracts to land titles. Just about anything that requires security and integrity can move to a decentralized model that will ultimately be safer and more reliable for end-users.

As Gilder is fond of saying, every failed venture is an opportunity to learn, to gain clarifying signals (information) from the market economy. Here is his pithy analysis:
“Many of these [innovative blockchain and crypto] ventures will fail, but together they can emancipate the next generation of the Web from closed silos of captured data. The cryptocosm can mobilize computer power in volumes that dwarf even the data centers of the leviathans. In this cause, the advances in computer science pioneered at Google serve to emancipate the world from Google’s silos.” (210)

Life After Google

Near the end of the book, Gilder addresses a contemporary hot button political issue–net neutrality regulations. As a free market guy, he naturally opposes the draconian attempts to regulate internet service providers, for reasons both philosophical (it's immoral) and practical (it's counterproductive). As the world's data continues to accumulate, and the ever-growing need for bandwidth and wireless coverage continues, the fate of the cryptocosm depends on the nascent 5G network. The gains in speed and coverage that 5G promises are so vast that they make net neutrality concerns all but obsolete–if the government doesn't smother the spread of the technology through regulation.
“In practice, the only factor that makes any serious difference for Internet neutrality is investment in bandwidth. If bandwidth is scarce, it will have to be allocated preferentially, regardless of the laws.” (236)

Google finds itself in an ironic catch-22. It supports oppressive regulations because it enables their “free” service model to the masses. But those regulations threaten to kill the very innovations that will allow their heavy data usage to continue into the future.

The good news for us is that Google, in attempting to provide for its future, will actually sow the seeds of its own destruction. Gilder gives us many good reasons that life after Google will arrive soon, and what a better future it will be.

[Check out my podcast interview with George Gilder: www.closemindedpodcast.com/8]
Profile Image for Jesse.
Author 1 book44 followers
June 30, 2021
Key work that unpacks the worldview behind Google, Facebook, and other tech companies. Nothing is free. If you are not paying for it, then you are the product. The big tech companies are running on a Darwinian social conditioning model. If you understand that, then you understand everything else.

The end goal for these companies is Artificial Intelligence. But these tech companies will not get there because the human mind is different than the human brain. The brain is the hardware, the mind is the software. A materialistic worldview can't build a human mind.

But these tech companies are going to try to get there anyway. In the process, they will fulfill what Lewis saw coming: Man's conquest of nature. Which is really some men who have conquered other men.
Profile Image for Eugene Kernes.
430 reviews20 followers
October 17, 2022
There are many technology companies, but it is Google’s product of information distribution that has become ubiquitous. Giving Google vast influencing power over the economy, and policies. Providing seemingly free products. Paying for them not with money, but with something far scarcer, time. Directing attention away from the wanted content, with distracting advertisements. Collecting a lot of data on the users which can be used for improvements, but the data is also centralized which attracts thieves. While not providing enough security, for the product is free. Free products that also attract malware.

There is a trend to utilize algorithms, and develop Artificial Intelligence. Seen as superior to the brain. Which makes humans appear to be substandard and useless. But AI cannot think, as AI needs human intelligence to program it. AI needs humans to structure information for AI to learn. Humans provide the goals and targets for AI to obtain an output. Algorithms are logical machines that have deterministic outcomes. But wealth is created from knowledge based on informational discoveries and surprises.

Advertisements, And Consequences Of Free Products:
The internet was meant to remove unwanted advertisements that were disruptive during the television era. The internet was meant to provide only the advertisements that were wanted. But under Google’s guidance, the internet is full of unwanted ads and contains a lot of bots and malware. Rather than empowering the individual, the internet has empowered those with money.

Google followed an unconventional strategy of making its content and information free. Making information part of a commons, available to all. Google wanted to organize the world’s information, and make it available. This would have also displaced existing advertising regime.

Nothing is ever free. Rather than paying for products with money directly, people are paying for products with their attention. Time is the ultimate scarcity. Time is what customers pay with free products. People welcome free when it means no charge, but what is wanted are the ordered content, rather than the content the authority chooses to provide. In economics, money measure scarcity of time.

Advertising is usually value-subtracting. Advertising distracts from watching content. Many products arose to prevent advertising, the source of the free content. What Google did was try to use search results, to have viewers see the advertising that they wanted to see. Transforming advertising into value information. Based on measurement of advertisement effectiveness and quality, advertisers were forced to improve their advertising or remove those that were ineffective. Google itself created an ad-blocker, which would apply to ads condemned by the Coalition for Better Ads. Blocking ads it deemed inappropriate, which might be an illegal act for a search engine. Ad-blocking is detrimental to the unwanted advertisement industry.

Not charging for software services, means avoiding liability for buggy products. Free products avoid liabilities to real customers, such as preventing development of appropriate security. Free products are not stolen, therefore do not develop measures to prevent hacking and theft. Security of information is delegated to the customers.

Artificial Intelligence:
Within the industry of AI, there are claims that machines will be much smarter and have access to more multidimensional data, that individuals would want to delegate their decisions to the machine. Everything becomes seen as an algorithm that can be controlled through machine learning. For the AI industry, the superiority of AI algorithm intelligence is making human intelligence inferior and the humans unemployable. As AI is making homo sapiens obsolete, there are Silicon Valley leaders who favor federally guaranteed annual income to compensate those who are obsolete. Making more and more people who are unemployed forever. AI is incredible technology that can improve human life. The problem is the human mind is seen as a sub-optimal computer, meant to evolve into a silicon based superior machine.

Marxism started with a belief that the industrial revolution solved many problems of production. Although the ideology has become know for revolutionary methods of rectifying workers grievances. Silicon Valley has a neo-Marxism trend of repeating the same error as prior Marxists, that of making human labor and mind obsolete. A world in which the machine supplement human activities is a utopian vision from Silicon Valley. Ironically, the vision is shared by their critics who have a dystopian view. The collaboration between utopian and dystopian views is possible because of Google’s monopoly of information and intelligence.

Computer power has become delegated to centralized propriety clouds, moving more data between distances without degradation. Computers have become cheaper because of this delegation. The “cloud” is an external hard drive for collecting a gargantuan amount of data, containing processors, connected by fiber-optic lines that consume immense amount of electrical power with the outcome of radiating immense amount of heat.

Gödel argued that all logical systems had a variety of paradoxes. Logical systems depended on unproved propositions. Consistency was no assurance that the system was correct. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem precipitated the creation of a mathematics of information.

Path to knowledge in a logical machine is deterministic and dictatorial. The machine can potentially gather and process data quickly using a combination of algorithms to produce a single outcome. A centralized processor of all data gathered under a single operator. As private data is oppositional to how Google wants to process all data, then Google’s claims about wanting privacy are inconsistent with what it wants.

Deterministic logic prevents surprises that enable discovery and creation. Technology needs to transcend deterministic mathematic logic to make progress. Deterministic machines are free from surprise, as the answers are implicit in the question. But information is surprise, the discovery of the unexpected. Within information theory, order defines the expected, but there are degrees of freedom in the message that allow for entropy.

Consciousness depends on faith for it acts even without full knowledge and therefore obtains surprises. Machines lack consciousness, lacking surprises. A logical system that is incomplete and needs an oracle. Knowledge of the incompleteness is the human condition, manifested in consciousness.

Wealth, and Knowledge:
Gold was mistaken to be wealth by Midas. Gold is the monetary measure of wealth, but not wealth itself. Wealth is not a thing or random sequence. Wealth is knowledge accrued over time. Knowledge is the source of wealth. Knowledge provides the understanding on how to utilize matter, and improve upon prior knowledge.

Many firms are using algorisms to make a profit. Firms within the financial industry make trades that make no sense because of algorisms, but these trades do create profit. Without understanding the reason for success, then no knowledge is added to improve and provide productive investments.

Knowledge and learning are the mechanisms by which wealth is created within capitalism. Rather than create wealth, wealth is being distributed in a zero-sum game. Knowledge is created with laboriously investigations within companies, but the Securities and Exchange Commission has made inside trading illegal. Which moved trading to algorithmic formulas because a computer cannot be indicted, although no creative investment is made either.

Universities make a fortune by selling a paper that comes at great cost to people. Students obtain massive debts while preventing them from becoming entrepreneurs that would enrich future generations.

Security Measures, And Lack Thereof:
Although there are people making claims about the superiority of the machines over their limited human customers, the breakdown of the security system reduced the worth of the machines. Nations with better security systems are becoming more prominent. Security is a fundamental, basic, and indispensable component of information technology for the services they provide, rather than a benefit from retro-fixes.

Centralization of data informs hackers where the most important data is, putting everyone at risk. Centralization makes information vulnerable to manipulation and theft by those in power. An alternative would be to have power and information distributed in a peer-to-peer system. The author predicts that the centralized and free information that collect customer data are not likely to survive distributed peer-to-peer technology, which has been termed a cryptocosm.

Gold provided a stable economic foundation that could be used to plan for long term projects without fear of inflation due to counterfeit money or fiat money that erodes future payments. Without the gold standard, money does not have an external frame of reference. Money has become a self-referential logical system that can be manipulated by central banks for their governments.

Bitcoins is like a precious metal which has a predetermined supply. Demand by users changes its value. A recognized but illusive originator of bitcoin is Satoshi. But Satoshi is nowhere to be found. The lack of leadership means that there is no third party that governments or hackers can infiltrate. Without taking control of bitcoin, there is distributed security.

Cryptocurrencies provide for anonymous exchange and security needed for transactions. They also provide proof of record needed to defend against governments and businesses spurious claims.

Additional Information:
Successful firms utilize extensively their era’s abundant resource designated by declining prices, while saving the scarce resource. Data and bandwidth have become the abundant resource, while customer patience is scarce.

Scarce bandwidth means that it will be allocated preferentially, no matter the laws. But if bandwidth is abundant, then neutrality laws are unnecessary. The irony is that a network neutrality campaign deters investment into improving the bandwidth. While Google supports internet neutrality, for government to intervene on Google behave. But Google depends on bandwidth abundance, that are penalized by network neutrality laws.

Applications tend to lock people in them. People provide them with lots of information, but need to petition to move their information to another application.

Some caveats for the book includes that the book is less about Google, and more about how the internet functions. Google provides and controls a major internet function. A company whose actions influence how other functions operate, and the policies that regulate how other companies behave. Showcasing the negative consequences of how the internet operations, and the alternative methods that are taking root.

There is a lot of esoterica in the book. Would help understand the content if the reader already knows the esoterica. Among the ideas, there is a poor transition between topics, and a lack of explanation for some claims. Related content is sporadically placed which makes it difficult to put together into a coherent understanding.

There is a contradiction when discussing security. In part, the author claims that security has been delegated to the customers, making it seem as a negative consequence of the internet companies not providing security. But in another part, blockchains are described as peer-to-peer distributed security as a positive consequence. Decentralized security cannot be both a positive and negative consequence of products.
Profile Image for Steve.
49 reviews4 followers
March 10, 2019
The most important things to know about this book are that George Gilder is Libertarian AF and a goldbug. So, I hope you like the gold standard. Also, if you're looking for a technical book best look elsewhere. This is a collection of stories.

Having finished the book minutes ago I find its narrative somewhat erratic. I was shocked to find myself in an appendix after a lengthy digression on why Academia and government telecom regulation are bad but the gold standard is good that didn't really go anywhere or actually finish the line of argument.

It's not that pieces of each of those digressions didn't relate to the overall argument in the title of Google bad, Blockchain good but that I expected more than a couple paragraphs tying it all together. Weird choice.

As a college drop out and somewhat tech savvy autodidact I found his screeds against academia incomplete and avoided the downsides of those "lifestyle" decisions. The ease of creating an impotent echochamber or stumbling into a cult are perils just as real and dangerous as the slow "establishment" bias of academia itself while often being harder to spot in the real world.

All that would demand a lower rating except for three things:

1. Lots of interesting references to theory I haven't read. As a guy who enjoys digging into the foundational papers of Alan Turing and John Von Neumann, I'm grateful that he reminded me that I haven't given enough attention to Claude Shannon.

2. While I don't think Gilder proves any part of his thesis that Google currently dominates a system of the world about to be disrupted by blockchain based entrepreneurship, there are big piles of smaller insights I plan on revisiting the book to collect later. Pointing out Newton's part in establishing the gold standard, the gigflop/watt excesses of datacenters, and the possibilities of using blockchain verified identities to break the current regime of megacorporate walled gardens. Which brings me to...

3. He did get me to reconsider blockchain as a potentially useful technology. That's a star by itself. Creating a decentralizes personal property regime that's cryptographically secure has many interesting possibilities. Will they come true? That's far harder to say.

The best thing I can say about this book is I plan on rereading it, which is high praise for a book one disagrees with so many assumptions.

The worst thing I can say about it is it's a thin, weakly argued thesis covered over with fantasies and name dropping. He often mentions real issues with blockchain technology and then dismisses them simply because he doesn't respect the people bringing them up. Though, really, who among us hasn't dismissed Paul Krugman in a moment of instinctive self defense?

Gilder's clearly got some real rhetorical chops and I enjoyed most of the book.

In an arena where many other writers on the topic have gone either all in or knee jerk rejected Bitcoin, I credit him for both continuing to learn at his age and for achieving a kind of nuanced view. That's at least something, even if I feel like the whole thing could have used a few more drafts and maybe a monster editor.

I enjoyed it, your mileage may vary.
Profile Image for Ed Kless.
Author 3 books14 followers
August 6, 2018
Gilder once again has changed my thinking. I was always aligned with him that Bitcoin, while the strongest of the cryptocurrencies, has a fundamental flaw in that it is inherently deflationary. However, it might only become so in a century, and by then many of the challenges might be moot or have been worked out.

My biggest mind shift came from my understanding of Google's model (and others) which I now see as problematic in the shorter term, say over the next decade. I have investigated using Brave as a browser and am actively seeking a replacement for LinkedIn/Facebook. So far Dock.io has the lead but I am not convinced.

If you are a technology geek you will love this book. If not, you should still read it, but skim some of the middle chapters as they tend to peppered with way more details than a non-techie would want to know.
27 reviews
February 7, 2020
Would not recommend. Gilder constantly uses overly complex language with obscure technical details that only serve to disconnect the average reader from the real message. There is a constant feeling that Gilder is trying to impress you by name dropping big tech players which seemed strange.

I didn't find that transition back and forth from the future of big data to blockchain technology to be particularly straightforward or smooth. At times it seemed like two different books that happened to trade off between chapters.
Profile Image for Omar Farhat.
3 reviews29 followers
March 30, 2019
This book is not made for tech people.

The book is a collection of stories holding arguments against the existing architecture of the internet. The book provides little to no analysis about the new architecture and whether or not it's possible to use it with the existing class of internet applications. It tries hard to convince you into joining the blockchain flamboyant group without actually understanding what blockchain is.
Profile Image for Kumar Raghavendra.
125 reviews2 followers
January 3, 2020
The start of a new decade is a great time to read this book, as a lot of what the book talks about is going to come true in the next decade. Blockchain technologies is at the centre of the book and has insightful ideas on how the Google system of the world is soon being replaced by a new distributed system of the world.
87 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2021
I'm considerably less informed after reading this book. The author briefly mentions a lot of topics but doesn't clearly explain any of them. Additionally, he speaks extremely negatively about Google throughout this book with very little explanation as to why Google is singled out in the list of FAANG companies. Pretty large waste of time. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
Profile Image for Rajat Goel.
1 review
May 18, 2021
One of the worst books i have ever read in my life. Too technical, too many name drops, unnecessary and random chapter tangents and forced logic.

It was a struggle to reach the finish line and i was barely able to do that. The only thing that the author has done beautifully is to promote himself.
Profile Image for Brandon Rodriguez.
54 reviews17 followers
July 12, 2020
Gilder is an “internet historian”, if that is not a term it should be. Much like a good artist who has analyzed art of the past to predict and innovate based on where and how human thought would have them paint. Also similar to how a historian can see how philosophical trends created and destroyed eras: gilder can see the landscape of the internet and he knows what’s coming.

Gilder speaks of “markov chains” (“DNA” codes of deep learning and AI) as if they are not the end goal, but a stepping stone and a brick wall at times. (*an oversimplification of how he speaks of AI is ( fast, not deep)

Gilder promotes blockchain, claiming it will create a more secure, more interactive internet and economy.

“Markov chains tell you the statistically likely future without knowing the past; blockchains enable the real life future by indelibly recording the past.”

An example of gilder’s ability to see technology through history thus applying it to a grander meta-narrative is when he compares the current internet blockchain revolution to the 95 theses against the Catholic Church. He calls Luthers action a “decentralization” of religion, which is a buzz word in internet industry right now. He has a keen sense of where the internet is going, and he paints a picture of a current internet landscape that is clearly monopolized, and says those days are ending before our very eyes.

I found the first 10 chapters to be a lofty markov/calculus/AI history (where the internet came from) and an attack on the ideology behind AI.. (Which I will be reading again.)

the last 10 chapters are a MUST READ, logically prophesying where the internet is going..
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joshua.
146 reviews
June 4, 2019
With wit and a whimsical, learned approach, Gilder serves up some really techy sauce with his vision of the future. While this book would not be approachable for everyone, I found it riveting and positively encouraging. The ways he is able to communicate information and parse several viewpoints fascinated me, he thoroughly debunked the University system in one chapter, and his prologue and first chapter (as well as chapter 5) are some of the most well written pieces of non-fiction I've read in years.

I commend this book to anyone who has knowledge of technology (beyond simple computer use) or has access to someone who has said knowledge of technology to translate the hard parts.
Profile Image for Moh. Nasiri.
293 reviews95 followers
September 21, 2018
Blinkist summary:
Google has built a world where individual security comes second to the data storage of a centralized hub. But its dominance now seems to be reaching a tipping point. By working outside of the dominant and traditional systems, the cryptocosm along with the blockchain has laid the foundation for a completely new way of protecting individual data and conducting online business. It can potentially pull apart the cluttered and exhaustive systems of Google while enabling progress and technological change in many fields.
34 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2020
The book foretells what the title says. Argues the case for blockchain based economy and peer to peer transactions without the need for a middlemen/agent like a bank. Envisions a world that will be decentralized rather than 1-2 major corporations calling the shots.

But the arguments for a bitcoin/block chain economy is very repetitive throughout the book and lacks the breadth and depth needed.
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