The main idea of this book is to express author’s legal philosophy as originalist and textualist, provide general overview and somewhat critic of current American judicial system, present author views on ethics of legal profession in America and support all this with texts of previous speeches and brief discussion of representative cases.
Here author presents how his confirmation as Supreme Court Justice prompted him to write this book to explain his legal philosophy, understanding of Constitution, and role of a judge. He also discusses his life, key points of development, and transitional character of his new position.
- “A Republic, If You Can Keep It™
This starts with discussion of the long line of Supreme Court Justices who supported American tradition of Self-rule by adhering to Constitution and laments current increasingly growing attitude to Justices as politicians in disguise who manipulate legal system in any way that supports their agendas. Author expresses his believe that it is completely wrong and that judge should act in accordance with written law the way it was understood when written and provides example of proper way of change via Constitutional Amendment.
- Our Constitution and Its Separated Powers
Author starts this chapter with citation from wonderful constitution of North Korea, which guaranties all conceivable freedoms and lots of free staff. Then he notes that, as all other communist / socialist constitutions it is really nothing more than words on paper with no relevance to reality. Then he contrasts it with American Constitution, which is short on promises and guaranties, but long on structural design of the system and procedural details of its functioning. Then he specifically looks at the role of Judiciary as interpreter o laws versus law giver and provides case examples when judges overstep their role. Then he discusses what happens when various branches of American government usurp powers they are not entitled to by Constitution. Author provides texts of earlier speeches and some cases demonstrating his points: Of Lions and Bears, Judges and Legislators; Power without Law; Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch; Caring Hearts v. Burwell; United States v. Nichols Sessions v. Dimaya
- The Judge’s Tools
Author starts here with recollection of his days in Law School when he was taught about “living” Constitution, which practically means judge disregarding actual text in order to achieve preordained conclusion, which this judge consider preferable in interests of “progress”. He then describes his discovery of people who believe differently and his conversion into this believe. Then he moves to discuss in more detail ideas of Originalism and Textualism.
Originalism and the Constitution
Here author discusses notion of originalism, which he defines simply as: “Originalists believe that the Constitution should be read in our time the same way it was read when adopted.” He also provides examples of such understanding in case of huge changes of meaning of words over centuries:” Originalism teaches only that the Constitution’s original meaning is fixed; meanwhile, of course, new applications of that meaning will arise with new developments and new technologies. Consider a few examples. As originally understood, the term “cruel” in the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause referred (at least) to methods of execution deliberately designed to inflict pain. That never changes. But that meaning doesn’t just encompass those particular forms of torture known at the founding. It also applies to deliberate efforts to inflict a slow and painful death by laser. Take another example. As originally understood, the First Amendment protected speech. That guarantee doesn’t just apply to speech on street corners or in newspapers; it applies equally to speech on the Internet. Or consider the Fourth Amendment. As originally understood, it usually required the government to get a warrant to search a home. And that meaning applies equally whether the government seeks to conduct a search the old-fashioned way by rummaging through the place or in a more modern way by using a thermal imaging device to see inside. Whether it’s the Constitution’s prohibition on torture, its protection of speech, or its restrictions on searches, the meaning remains constant even as new applications arise.”
Author also debates various objection to this approach voiced by supporters of “living constitution”.
A Case for Textualism
This is another item of contention related how to interpret texts. Author position is:” any theory of interpretation seeking to comply with the Constitution and the values it seeks to serve must respect the divide between making legislation and interpreting it; honor the grueling legislative process, not seek to invent new shortcuts; and protect the people from political pressures when it comes to the application of the laws in their cases and controversies.
Textualism does all this. When interpreting statutes, it tasks judges with discerning (only) what an ordinary English speaker familiar with the law’s usages would have understood the statutory text to mean at the time of its enactment. Rather than beginning with legislative history or making economic hypotheses about social consequences, a textualist starts with dictionary definitions, rules of grammar, and the historical context in which a law was adopted to see what its language meant to those who adopted the law. In this way, textualism offers a known and knowable methodology for judges to determine impartially and fix what the law is, not simply declare what it ought to be—a method to discern the written law’s content without extraneous value judgments about persons or policies.
Maybe the most prominent interpretive tools used by textualists are the so-called “canons of construction.” But don’t let the arcane name fool you. The canons are little more than commonplace rules of English usage and grammar—like the rule that the verb “includes” followed by a list introduces examples and not an exhaustive list.”
As with originalism, this follows by debate with opponents of textualism and careful review of their rejection.
In the second part of this chapter author provides review of four cases that demonstrate real life application of these ideas: United States v. Carloss; Carventer v. United States; United States v. Games-Perez; United States v. Rentz
- The Art of Judging
Here author discusses quality of judges and process of judging. That’s how he defines key points:” When it comes to the art of judging, I’ve learned over the years from watching my mentors and heroes that a good judge knows a few things. A good judge knows that often the lawyers in the case have lived with it for months or years and thought deeply about it long before the judge enters the picture; they deserve the judge’s respect as valuable colleagues whose thinking can be mined and tested to better the judge’s own. A good judge recognizes that existing judicial precedents reflect the considered judgment of judges who have come before and sometimes embody the settled expectations of those in our own generation. A good judge listens carefully to colleagues, appreciating the different perspectives each brings to bear. A good judge always questions not only the positions espoused by the litigants but his own tentative conclusions as they evolve. Pride of position and fear of embarrassment associated with changing one’s mind play no useful role; regular and healthy doses of self-skepticism always do.”
He also discusses a very important issues of social pressure and courage that a good judge needs to stand his ground when public opinion is going against the law. Author includes here a few relevant speeches and discusses some cases:
On Courage; (How) Do Judges Think? Of Intentions and Consequences; On Precedent; Henson v. Santander; A.M. v. Holmes; American Atheists v. Davenport
- Toward Justice for All
This chapter is about distance between legal ideals and realities of life, which often makes access to law difficult if not impossible for regular people. Author starts with the story of old fight between homesteaders and cattle barons in Wyoming at the end of XIX century when legal maneuvering succeeded with helping barons literally get away with murder. Then author links it to contemporary situation when access to legal protection is all but impossible for average person due to its expense, unlimited protection for prosecutorial misconduct and even crimes, overcomplication of laws and procedures to such extent that regular, even well-educated individuals could not effectively represent themselves even in simple and obvious cases. Author also critics overproduction of criminal laws, currently over 4,500 that nobody could reasonably expected to know, leave alone follow. Author also points out dangerous trend of substitution of jury trial with plea bargains, when prosecutors achieve nearly 100% success by blackmailing defendants either by overcharging or threat of financial ruing or both in cases, they insist on jury trial. As in other chapters, author provides text of a few relevant speeches and discusses some cases to illustrate his points:
Law’s Irony; Access to Affordable Justice; A Note on Jury Trials; Mathis v. Shulkin; Hester v. United States
- On Ethics and the Good Life
Here author discusses ethics of legal profession, the subject he taught for many years. Specifically, he discusses whether the prima loyalty of lawyer should go to the law or to the client. The illustration:
A Tribute; White and Murrah; But My Client Made Me Do It; Ten things to do in your first ten years after graduation;
- From Judge to Justice
The final chapter returns to the story of author confirmation to Supreme Court:
The East Room; The Senate Judiciary Committee; The Front Porch
The book ends with Author reference to the tombstone of early American lawyer Increase Summer, which symbolizes what the good lawyer should be:
MY TAKE ON IT:
To say that I strongly believe in legal originalism and textualism would probably be understatement because I just could not understand how “living constitution” and lawmaking by judge on the fly could be considered as anything else but complete arbitrariness: rule of men not the law. Moreover, the men in question were not a subject to any control and pretty much limited only by other men of different legal and political ideology. Currently the real law practically defined by balance of power in Supreme Court for all important issues, making it nothing but a tool of a party. Similarly, outcome of any legal proceedings is defined by balance of political power, including popular support of one or another approach, which, sometime (not that often) even overrides money and power of connections.
The main idea of this book is to describe in very entertaining form various deficiencies of AI, as it is developed up until now and critic currently popular hype created by media around such systems. It is also designed to demonstrate complexity of such systems and difficult road ahead that needs to be travelled to overcome it.
1: Mind the Gap
It starts with brief history of AI beginning in 1950s with its consistent over promising and underdeliver. The author provides a few examples of simple linguistic problems that easy for humans but very difficult for AI. He also provides a list of questions to ask in order to recognize overhype:
- Stripping away the rhetoric, what did the AI system actually do here?
- How general is the result? (E.g., does an alleged reading task measure all aspects of reading, or just a tiny slice of it?)
- Is there a demo where I can try out my own examples? (Be very skeptical if there isn’t.)
- If the researchers (or their press people) allege that an AI system is better than humans, then which humans, and how much better?
- How far does succeeding at the particular task reported in the new research actually take us toward building genuine AI?
- How robust is the system? Could it work just as well with other data sets, without massive amounts of retraining? (E.g., could a game-playing machine that mastered chess also play an action-adventure game like Zelda? Could a system for recognizing animals correctly identify a creature it had never seen before as an animal? Would a driverless car system that was trained during the day be able to drive at night, or in the snow, or if there was a detour sign not listed on its map?)
Finally, he discusses a number of areas where success is very close, but not achievable for a while, despite huge progress, such as driverless cars and makes the point that current AI with its trained neural networks becomes more functional and less understandable.
2: What’s at Stake
This chapter starts with the story of MSFT’s Tay – AI teenager who quickly learned lots of very bad staff from net and was shut down. It follows by discussion of AI’s lack of malice, personality and self-awareness. This makes them more controllable, but uncompetitive with humans in complex cognitive tasks. Author lists 9 specific risks linked to AI use. Author provides a couple of nice examples when non-human logic leading to logically consistent solutions unacceptable to people. Big part of it is AI substituting actual objectives of the task by some intermediate goal that is much easier to achieve. Nice example is soccer playing robot with set objective to touch ball as many times as possible, which start vibrating while touching ball. These problems are easily solvable, but practically non-predictable.
3: Deep Learning, and Beyond
Here author discusses massive move from classical – algorithmically programmed AI to deep learning self-programmed AI. The dramatic improvement in hardware power over the last 10 years greatly increased viability of this approach and shifted complexity to data selection. Author provided a nice graphic presentation of AI field:
Then he concentrates on Neural Networks, discussing their greed for data, opaqueness of results and fragility when it is not possible to understand how it achieved some weird conclusion. Here is representation of how it works:
4: If Computers Are So Smart, How Come They Can’t Read?
This is about another feature of AI – its inability of making sense out of reading texts or other forms of processing information. Author analyses a few examples of this happening. After this author discusses Google search algorithms and how they sometimes make mistakes inconceivable for humans, providing a few funny samples.
5: Where’s Rosie’?
This chapter is about progress in robot’s development or rather the slow tempo of such progress. So far we have Rumba, which is not that smart and hope for driverless cars that hit new hurdles all the time. Author discuses challenges of localization and situation awareness that robotics finds difficult to overcome and presents some “real life” scenarios to demonstrate impact.
6: Insights from the Human Mind
Here author reviewing some specific point, which make human intelligence so difficult to imitate:
- There are no silver bullets- complexity
- Excessive use of internal presentations
- Abstraction and Generalization
- Cognitive systems are highly structured
- Even simple aspects of cognitive systems require multiple tools
- Human thoughts and language are compositional
- Humans keep track of individual things and people
- Complex cognitive systems aren’t blank slates
7: Common Sense, and the Path to Deep Understanding
This chapters is about complexity of common sense and how difficult it is to recreate it via computers. Author reviews different attempts to recreate it algorithmically which generally fail because inapplicability of formal logic to common sense.
The final chapter discusses high requirements for AI system to be trustworthy and potential very high cost of errors even if probability of such errors is extremely low. Author discusses program verification methods, but admit that they are good only for simple systems like device drivers, but could not be used for complex AI, making the issue of the trust in such systems paramount to resolve before mass implementation.
At the end author expresses believe that eventually AI will become part of regular human environment and issues discussed in this book will be resolved, while presenting a bunch of new issues such as human employment that will need to be tackled.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I like multiple examples of clumsy AI provided in this book and generally agree that this technology is far from being close to full implementation as foreseen by Sci-fi authors and philosophers. However, I pretty sure that non-thinking, environment analyzing, and action directing systems such as required for driverless cars and based on Deep Learning are very close to implementation and will become trivial reality of everyday life. As to super sophisticated self-conscious system, I do not think they would go beyond some experimentation because in order to create such system, one would need to recreate complex experience similar to human life, which result in creation of just another human only on silicon instead of carbon base. I do not think that such artificial human would be superior in any shape and form to combination of regular human and computers with complex databases and AI analytical tools. Besides, similarly to what happened with nuclear weapons and conduct of war, not everything that could technically be done will be actually done due to multitude of ethical and common sensical limitation.
The main idea of this book is that the rift and even confrontation between American Jewish establishment and majority of American Jews on one hand and Israeli Jews on another is not an anomaly, but rather is the norm of this relationship, as it was existed since the beginning of Zionist movement. The reason is simple: American Jews live in America- universal country encompassing ideas of Western Enlightenment that applicable to the whole of humanity, while Israeli Jews live in National country of Jews encompassing Jewish strive to survive in hostile world by separating themselves into entity capable for military protection and economic support. This explains hostility of many American Jews to Israel caused by the fear that even slightest affiliation could threaten their good life among generally friendly non-Jewish majority. It also explains unhappiness of Israelis who feel that they do not receive enough support and understanding in their struggle to survive.
Introduction: “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
Author starts here with reference to a number of writings and speeches demonstrating the deep division and tension between two communities. Author then discusses history of this divide and presents this book as an attempt to explain its character, inevitability, and permanence.
1: A Mistaken Conventional Wisdom – A Rift Older Than the State Itself
This starts with author recollection of reaction of American Jews to Entebbe raid saving hostages and war of 1973 when the very existence of Israel was questioned. He recollects the feeling of unity and unquestioned support American Jews had for Israel and then recounts how this feeling all but disappeared and was substituted with complex mix of love – hate – contempt that is expressed in multitude of ways. He retells the recent history and change from admiration of Israel fight to survive when it was weak to rejection of the same fight when it became stronger. Author makes a point that it is not something new, but rather old situation with very deep roots:
- The real issue that divides the world’s two largest Jewish communities, as we have noted, is not what Israel does, but what Israel is. The essential issue, we will suggest, is that, at their core, America and Israel are exceedingly different: created for different purposes, they believe in and foster very different sorts of societies with very different values and different visions of Judaism.
- American Jews misunderstand Israel when they assume that Israel’s founders wanted or expected it to mirror America’s core values. And Israeli Jews often wrongly read American Jews’ differences as disloyalty, or laziness, without appreciating that American Judaism has a profound, but very different, set of core values. Israel’s founders never hoped that Israel would be an imitation of America, and American Jewish leaders recognized from the outset that a Jewish state would threaten some of their deepest commitments.
2: A Rift Older Than the State Itself
Here author looks at the rift between two Jewish communities, then rejects notion that it is a recent phenomenon and demonstrates that it is not correct by retelling the story of unhappiness of prominent American Jews with Israelis kidnapping of Eichmann. Then author refers to the refusal of American Jewish leaders support creation of Israel and rejection of Zionism. Here is a very nice confirmation: “ In 1885, American Reform rabbis adopted what is now known as the Pittsburgh Platform, the movement’s statement of core beliefs and commitments. In it, these rabbis declared, in part, that the Jews were no longer a people but now constituted a religion. “We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men,” they said as they jettisoned Judaism’s long-standing particularism and embraced the universalism then much in vogue in philosophic and cultural circles. “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community,” they said, and since Jews were no longer a national community, they expected “neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”
Author also discusses here external attitudes in America that at the time demanded 100% Americanism from new immigrants, which was completely consistent with wishes of Jewish immigrants, who feared rejection at the slightest hint of dual loyalty. Another fine point author makes is that eventual support of creation of Israel by American Jewish establishment in 1947 was prompted not by their support of Zionism, but rather they unwillingness to support admission of Holocaust survivors to America, which could strain relations with American Christian majority. Finally he traces how American Jewish attitudes to Israel mutated from supporting underdog fighting for National liberation, to protesting “Colonial power” that somehow suppresses National liberation of Palestinians.
3: A Particularist Project in a Universalist World
Here author compares American Declaration of Independence with its Universalist character, which claims commonality for the whole of humanity with Israeli declaration of Independence, which claims Jewish Particularity. Here is how author defines the core cause of difference: “America’s applicability to “all men at all times” and Israel’s commitment to the flourishing of the Jewish people are starkly opposite foundations for two different countries. That is why for many American Jews, to whom America’s universalism seems both natural and the indisputable ideal for the basis of a country, there is something deeply problematic and discomfiting about the very purpose of the State of Israel.“
Then author reviews history of discussions regarding this issue over the last century.
4: Idealized Zion Meets the Messiness of History
This chapter is not that much about conflict between two groups of Jews as about conflict between Zionist ideals and reality. Author starts it with his own history as a member of well to do Jewish family in America when his rabbi grandfather officiated Bar Mitzvahs and weddings in mid 1940s, while millions of Jews in Europe were being killed. He then discusses difficulties of understanding between people discussing ideals in comfortable settings and people fighting to death for survival – the process when people had simple choice: to die or to kill. American Jews are always ready to mourn those who die and condemn those who kill, while Israelis who are still alive do not inclined to be remorseful for such transgression. Author also discusses how the growing military strength of Israel opened opportunity for similar to American approach to the issue among Israeli “revisionists historians”.
5: People or Religion: Who and What Are the Jews?
This chapter is about another part of conflict – the notion of Jewishness. The American Jewish tradition is about religion, being American with somewhat different religious view, just a bit more different than between Protestants and Catholics. For Israeli religion is not the most important part of Jewishness – the nationality is. From here comes another difference: for Americans variances of religious attitudes are normal. One could be Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, or whatever other denomination outside of the state control. For Israeli Judaism is state religion, so everybody should comply, at least formally, and pay taxes to support it.
6: How Naked a Public Square: A Liberal or Ethnic Democracy?
This chapter is about continuing struggle to reconcile democratic ideals generally accepted by both group with reality when American Jews are very comfortable being one ethnic group among others in multiethnic American Nation, while Israelis struggling to maintain ethnic character of their state in fear that loosing it would leave Jews ones again to be people without a country at the mercy of some hostile majority.
7: Charting a Shared Future—and Why That Matters
Here author discusses the future of not only relation between these two groups, but also of their existence. American Jews numbers and their influence in America are on decline and with mass assimilation and intermarriage quite possibly on the way to extinction. Israel on other hand acquired millions of Jews from former Soviet Union and other socialist countries, increased birthrates of Jewish population and strengthened its ethnic/religious character as Jewish state. Author points out that both Jewish communities are vulnerable. Israel enemies could once again become more potent military and inflict crashing defeat and annihilation. The self-confidence and comfortable existence of American Jews could also proved to be as ephemeral as existence of German Jews of early XX century who considered themselves more German than Jews, fought bravely for Germany in WWI and a couple decades later found themselves on the way to gas chambers.
Conclusion: “Forget Your Perfect Offering”
In conclusion author makes a few suggestions on what to do and expect:
- The first order of business has to be a fundamental decision not to let the relationship founder, a commitment to the premise that the break must somehow be healed.
- Second, no progress will be possible without each side trying to see the other in the best possible light. Institutions cannot bridge the divide if the world’s two largest Jewish communities do not begin to appreciate the various differences and tensions that this book has discussed. The beginning of the solution lies in Jews learning about themselves, about the tradition they share, and about each other.
- Third, because the two communities are so fundamentally different, both sides need to accept that there will always be dimensions of their respective behaviors and policies that strike the other as shortsighted, morally questionable, or even disloyal.
- Fourth, both sides, if committed to maintaining some sort of a relationship, need to mute the dismissive rhetoric that they too commonly employ. Israeli denigration of Diaspora life—which, as we have seen, is deeply rooted in Zionism—is not helpful. Israeli denigrations of Jews who do not intend to move to Israel (a habit of Ben-Gurion’s) or of Reform Jews (much in vogue among today’s ultra-Orthodox Israeli leaders) serve no one. By the same token, however, saying that the creation of a Jewish state was a bad idea (recall the comment of J Street founder Daniel Levy), calling Israel a “terrorist state” (as did several delegates to the J Street conference in April 2018), or claiming that in defending its border Israel has “chosen to shoot Palestinians” (the Forward headline discussed earlier) serves no purpose. Such reckless and irresponsible statements deplete goodwill and sow bitterness.
- Fifth, there is little value in either side expecting the other to do the impossible. There is something not only intellectually sloppy but fundamentally immoral about American Jewish progressives’ insistence that Israel end the occupation but, when asked how, explicitly refusing to offer suggestions. If they have no idea how to end it, why would they assume that Israelis could end it but refuse to? Do they imagine that Israeli parents want to send their daughters and sons into combat? Just as one can understand why young American Jews want to end the occupation, one should understand just how offensive it is to Israelis when outsiders who have no idea how to end the conflict imply that Israelis are not interested in ending it or insist that Israel’s ending the occupation is a prerequisite to their engaging with Israel.
- And finally (for now), there are many other steps that would help, including (though certainly not limited to) much more intensive Jewish education among American Jews and a deeper understanding of the values of the West among Israelis.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that the problem here is not necessarily limited to Jews. It is the common problem in contemporary globalized world when Nation-states, as they formed in XVI-XX centuries, are under pressure to find some viable accommodation between their ethnic/cultural/religious foundation and supranational rules of game that increasingly combines world into one entity. The specific of American Jews vs. Israeli is just a part of these global processes. Its uniqueness comes from American exceptional quality as the country of individuals of multiple ethnicities, races, religions, and backgrounds united into one by common ideals of individual independence and limitation on government that provides enough space for everybody to maintain their uniqueness as individuals and/or groups with various levels of commonality. I believe that the best way for future development would be creation of something like United Democracies with USA standing as nation of individuals, whose needs for commonality with others is below levels of government intervention and force so these individuals would accept and tolerate religious and cultural differences of others, while other nation-states such as Israel could stand next to USA as nations of individuals, whose needs for commonality are much higher and require government intervention to enforce common religion, ethnicity, and culture. Such United Democracy could provide unified military defense, common market with standard rules of exchange, including leveling of cost of labor and such, protection of individual rights with most important being ability to leave country, which religion, culture, and rules an individual does not want to accept.
The main idea of this brief, but important book is that the typical business cycles of 9-10 years do not cover the complete cyclical character of development and that there are much longer economic cycles – some 50 years long that represent powerful waves of increase or decrease in the levels of prosperity.
This introduction points to the role of long cycles discovered by Kondratieff’s work, which normally masked by regular 9 years cycles.
This is just a statement that statistical methods used to analyze business cycles demonstrated required per capita analysis and taking into account that 9 years moving averages typically used smoothed secular trends.
VI. The Wholesale Price Level
This chapter represents analysis of French wholesale prices that demonstrates 3 long cycles: 1789 to 1814 (60 years), 1849 to 1896 (47 years) and one starting in 1896. Here is the graph:
Then author conducts similar analysis of cycles based on variety of statistical data:
V. The Rate of Interest
- Other Series
This one is just reference to multitude of other series demonstrating the same trends.
- Statistical Findings
Here are key findings of author’s statistical analysis:
(1) The movements of the series which we have examined running from the end of the eighteenth century to the present time show long cycles. Although the statistical-mathematical treatment of the series selected is rather complicated, the cycles discovered cannot be regarded as the accidental result of the methods employed.
(2) In those series, which do not exhibit any marked secular trend — e.g., prices — the long cycles appear as a wave-like movement about the average level. In the series, on the other hand, the movement of which shows such a trend, the cycles accelerate or retard the rate of growth.
(3) In the several series examined, the turning points of the long waves correspond more or less accurately.
(4) Although for the time being we consider it to be impossible to fix exactly upon the years that marked the turning points of the long cycles, and although the method according to which the statistical data have been analyzed permits an error of 5-7 years in the determination of the years of such turnings, the following limits of these cycles can nevertheless be presented as being those most probable:
(5) Naturally, the fact that the movement of the series examined runs in long cycles does not yet prove that such cycles also dominate the movement of all other series.
(6) The long waves that we have established above relative to the series most important in economic life are international; and the timing of these cycles corresponds fairly well for European capitalistic countries. On the basis of the data that we have adduced, we can venture the statement that the same timing holds also for the United States.
XI. Empirical Characteristics
Here are some conclusions:
XII. The Nature of Long Waves
Here author discusses the nature of long waves. He rejects the idea that these waves are caused by external events like wars, revolutions, and technological changes. Then author discusses in details why it is so for each of potential causes he reviews.
Author makes the following conclusion:
MY TAKE ON IT:
I believe that in other works beyond the scope of this book Kondratieff identified causes of long cycle with long term capital investment deterioration that lead to decrease in productivity of capital over time and consequent decrease in investment followed by decrease in consumption and depression. After long cycle hits bottom, the economy starts recovery with capital investment growth at the new and higher technological and infrastructural levels. I think it is only partially correct because levels of investment and overall economic development defined not by statistical numbers of economy performance, but by human actions, which depends less on economic statistics than on human psychological condition, moods, and believes. This links Kondratieff’s ideas of 60 years waves with idea of Saeculum cycles of societal development of approximately 80 years of psychological/political cycles when society goes through sequence: High – Awakening – Unraveling – Crisis. Historically Kondratieff’s third wave in which decline starts in 1914-20, somewhat coinciding with Unraveling-Crisis 40 years span ending in 1945. By this account we are now in 2020 approaching the end of Crisis period that sometime around 2025 would switch to High. Here is graph of Kondratieff’s long waves from another source linking them to technological development:
The main idea of this book is that the human society is developing somewhat cyclically going through 4 seasons or turns, like a year with about 20-25 years each turn, all together matching one long human life and defined by generation formed in condition of previous season. The seasons are: High – Awakening – Unraveling – Crisis and they neatly apply to American history. Correspondingly each season forms specific archetype of dominant personality: Artist – Prophet – Nomad – Hero, which in term moves through different stages of life, playing a different roles in different seasons. The idea of somewhat uniform cycles allows predicting the next development and author attempt to prove is by reviewing and predicting (somewhat correctly) the future.
Chapter 1 – Winter Comes Again
The book is written in late 1990s and authors predict that the winter is coming in around 2005 and it will last for about 20 years when America would go through Crisis season completing 80-85 year cycle that started after previous cycle’s Crisis of WWII. Here is how authors define the Four Turns:
Authors also describe dominant type of personality for generation born in each turn:
- A Prophet generation is born during a High.
- A Nomad generation is born during an Awakening.
- A Hero generation is born during an Unraveling.
- An Artist generation is born during a Crisis.
Then they describe in details the meaning of turns and how it applies to history overall and to American history specifically.
Chapter 2 – Seasons of Time
This chapter starts with discussion of notion of seasons starting in pre-Roman Italy and then moving through a few historical societies: Rome, Babylon, Maya, Hebrew, Hindu, and Chinese. Authors discuss specific Roman idea of Saeculum – period of time close to the length of human life during which full cycle occurs. Here is authors’ presentation for our society:
After that authors go into details of development in each of four turns of various cycles, including population, politics, economy, foreign affairs and other areas. At the end of chapter authors provide combined timetable of all Anglo-American Saeculum:
Chapter 5 – Gray Champions
This is reference to literary work of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Gray Champions are sign of new beginnings of every 80 some years: Puritans coming to America, American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression/WWII, and the next one, which authors writing in mid 1990s foresee coming in 2005.
Chapter 10 – A Fourth Turning Prophecy
This is the very interesting chapter in which authors from their vantage view of 1990s discuss the future Crisis that they expected to arrive around 2005. Obviously they could not know what is going to happen, but here is their list that now in 2020 looks much more severe than what actually happened:
- Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
- Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
- Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship
- Technological distress, with cryptoanarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenetic chaos
- Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases
- Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
- Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction
Part 3 – Preparations
Chapter 11 – Preparing for the Fourth Turning
Chapter 12 – The Eternal Return
The last part of the book and its 2 chapters are about preparation for the Fourth Turn and its crisis. It provides recommendation for each generation on what to expect and what to do in order to survive. By now it is mostly irrelevant, since the Fourth Turn is coming to the end and crisis thing that authors expected to happen did happen, albeit in somewhat different form:
- Terrorist attack on 9/11/2001 and following long war on Middle East
- Great Recession of 2008
- Cultural Distress of late 2010s
- Current Cold Civil war between American tradition, culture and political system and Anti-American denial of tradition with falling monuments and renaming places, rejection of American political system with its constitution, laws, and tradition, promotion of socialism.
In short, authors’ prophecies turned out to be correct in main.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is quite unusual book on human society because it makes predictions, which proved to be true not only in their functionality, but also in their timing. Overall the idea that human history is defined by generations of people formed by circumstances of their birth and socializing and therefore acting differently sounds pretty good to me. It makes sense that children of the First turn – Prosperity initiate the Second turn – Awakening, creating idealized and therefore impossible demands on society, which makes their children initiate the Third turn – Unraveling undermining this society, its culture and traditions, and, eventually, weakening to the point when it movers to the Fourth turn – Crisis and then either falls apart internally, succumbs to external enemies, or rejuvenate itself by restoring its tradition, refreshing its culture, and mobilizing its internal strengths to defeat external enemies and/or suppress internal subversion. The final result of the Fourth turn is either disappearance of society under conquest, dissolution into multiple parts, or recreation as even stronger society it was before. In case of survival, it starts the First turn of the new saeculum, to repeat process over the next 80 some years.
I guess we are now at the final stages of the Fourth turn – Crisis, which I believe to be completed about the final part of the second term of Trump’s presidency in 2024. By this time American culture that was under sever attack starting at the end of WWII and conducted by communist/socialist sympathizers will come back roaring, after rejecting attempts to suppress its key features: individual freedoms of speech, freedom of association, freedom of self-defense, and democratic control over bureaucracies. The new economic accommodations will be created to incorporate Artificial intelligence into the system without undermining individual ability to prosper via productive activities. Finally the new system of international alliances will be created to remove possibility of military confrontations either on small scale of terrorism or large scale of competitive societies seeking dominance.
The main idea of this book is that aging and deterioration of human abilities with age is not an inevitable natural process caused by irreversible accumulation of errors in DNA, but rather disease caused by accumulation of epigenetic changes that regulate genes expression. As such, this disease could be treated by restoring epigenetic environment of youth that would allow normal DNA expression and elimination not only of old age disabilities, but even death itself. In support of this idea author discusses results of his team research and findings.
Introduction: A Grandmother’s Prayer
Author starts this with description of his grandmother’s quite adventurous life and her vitality that disappear with age, substituted by physical and then mental disabilities. This was one of important stimuli for author to go into the specific field of biology and medicine.
Part 1: What We Know (The Past)
Chapter 1. ‘Viva Primordium’
This starts with description of initial evolutionary development and how living things developed ability to fix breakdowns of DNA. Here is pictorial presentation:
From here author moves to discuss overall approach to healing, noting that it is often fight against symptoms, rather than real causes. He discusses cancer as generic disease of immune system, rather then specific illness of lung or liver or some other part of the body. Author also discusses aging in evolutionary terms as seen via group selection, which prevents selection for immortality or even especially long lifespan. Author summarizes current prevailing attitude that aging is result of combination of factors and provides the list of these factors:
- Genomic instability caused by DNA damage
- Attrition of the protective chromosomal endcaps, the telomeres
- Alterations to the epigenome that controls which genes are turned on and off
- Loss of healthy protein maintenance, known as proteostasis
- Deregulated nutrient sensing caused by metabolic changes
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Accumulation of senescent zombielike cells that inflame healthy cells
- Exhaustion of stem cells
- Altered intercellular communication and the production of inflammatory molecules
Author does not really reject any of this, but rather goes around, first stating that he understands low feasibility of one cause for complex processes, but then presenting just such cause at the high level. He views bodily functions based on two types of information processing: digital presented by DNA and analog presented by epigenetics, with former reliable and unchangeable and latter vulnerable and is often broken due to variety of contingencies. Author correspondingly believes that this analog process is more or less regularly cleaned up and presents genes named SIRT1 to SIRT7, and a few other genes and enzymes that do just that. The final point author makes that accumulation of too many problems over time at epigenetic level makes this cleansing and fixing process less and less effective leading to aging. Consequently medical intervention that would restore effectiveness of such process would lead to elimination of aging.
Chapter 2. The Demented Pianist
Here author discusses incompleteness of DNA mapping and what he calls the Information Theory of Aging that he formulated. It started with research on one of the simplest living creatures – yeast. Author used it to analyze protein SIR2. Here is how author describes core of his discovery: “Broken DNA causes genome instability, which distracts the Sir2 protein, which changes the epigenome, causing the cells to lose their identity and become sterile while they fixed the damage. Epigenetic changes cause aging. There was, I imagined, a singular process that controlled them all. Not a countless number of separate cellular changes or diseases. Not even a set of hallmarks that could be addressed one at a time. There was something bigger—and more singular—than any of that. This was the foundation for understanding the survival circuit and its role in aging.“
The main analogy of this chapter is piano as DNA and epigenome as Pianist. The failing of SIR proteins allows accumulation of errors in epigenome, so pianist becomes demented, even if piano is good. Author discusses it in details and provides graphic presentations:
The main point that author makes here is that, as disease, aging is susceptible for treatment and that is what author is working on and he believes that such treatment is possible.
Part II: What We’re Learning (The Present)
Chapter 4. Longevity Now
Here author presents what is known about longevity and various examples of it occurring. He provides some recommendations: fasting, food mix, exercise, a bit of cold exposure, and so on. However he admits that the most important factor is good DNA.
Chapter 5. A Better Pill to Swallow
Here author moves a bit to philosophy and history, discussing Gilgamesh, Schrodinger, and nature of life. Then he moves to biology presenting:” The three main longevity pathways: mTOR, AMPK, AND SIRTUINS, evolved to protect the body during times of adversity by activating survival mechanisms. When they are activated, either by low-calorie or low-amino-acid diets, or by exercise, organisms become healthier, disease resistant, and longer lived. Molecules that tweak these pathways, such as rapamycin, metformin, resveratrol, and NAD boosters, can mimic the benefits of low-calorie diets and exercise and extend the lifespan of diverse organisms.
“. He also discusses resveratrol and some other compounds.
Chapter 6. Big Steps Ahead
Here is graphic representation what author believes in achieving:
And here is the way author plans to achieve this:
Chapter 7. The Age of Innovation
This chapter is about the last centuries of innovation in medicine. It starts with discussion of DNA and diagnostic and treatment feasts it made possible. Then author moves to more technical discussion about tools summarizing this in this picture:
Part III: Where We’re Going (The Future)
Chapter 8. The Shape of Things to Come
Here author looks at what will happen if his anticipation of elimination of aging in near future would come true: lifespan and health span extended beyond 100, leading to families of 4-5 generations, stress on resources, slowing down of scientific and political progress because individuals in power live a lot longer, social insecurity, renewed Malthusian challenge, and so on. However author ends the chapter on semi-optimistic note that humanity managed to overcome challenges before, so there is a chance that it would overcome this one too, especially if it means population of healthy, active, and productive 100 year olds.
Chapter 9. A Path Forward
The last chapter ends book with standard pitch of contemporary science: “we are about do and make great things, just give us more public money. No, make it a lot more public money”. In this particular case it sounds like complain that other get more for various diseases with really not that big impact, while aging impacts everybody and treatment of this disease would fix all others such as:
The final point here is that people should be able to die when they want to die and be healthy and productive until this moment.
In conclusion author describes his and his team current activity and stresses that so far there is no approved treatment for aging. However he can share what he himself does to prevent this disease:
- I take 1 gram (1,000 mg) of NMN every morning, along with 1 gram of resveratrol (shaken into my homemade yogurt) and 1 gram of metformin.
- I take a daily dose of vitamin D, vitamin K2, and 83 mg of aspirin.
- I strive to keep my sugar, bread, and pasta intake as low as possible. I gave up desserts at age 40, though I do steal tastes.
- I try to skip one meal a day or at least make it really small. My busy schedule almost always means that I miss lunch most days of the week.
- Every few months, a phlebotomist comes to my home to draw my blood, which I have analyzed for dozens of biomarkers. When my levels of various markers are not optimal, I moderate them with food or exercise.
- I try to take a lot of steps each day and walk upstairs, and I go to the gym most weekends with my son, Ben; we lift weights, jog a bit, and hang out in the sauna before dunking in an ice-cold pool.
- I eat a lot of plants and try to avoid eating other mammals, even though they do taste good. If I work out, I will eat meat.
- I don’t smoke. I try to avoid microwaved plastic, excessive UV exposure, X-rays, and CT scans.
- I try to stay on the cool side during the day and when I sleep at night.
- I aim to keep my body weight or BMI in the optimal range for healthspan, which for me is 23 to 25.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think it would be wonderful if author is correct and his research would lead to elimination of the most profound and most dangerous epidemic that kills 100% of people impacted – aging. I would not hold my breath in anticipation of this, but I believe that a number of point here are valid:
- Epigenetic nature of aging rather than DNA error accumulation
- Potential for regular maintenance of this epigenetic environment that would eliminate or greatly diminish symptoms of aging.
However I do not believe that lifespan extension would be a problem economically or environmentally. Economically advance of Artificial intelligence will eventually make humans redundant for production of goods and services, freeing them to pursue happiness as the main business of live. Environmentally it would also not going to be a problem because we are getting closer and closer to finalizing stable level of population and establishing complete control over environment by setting up closed loop of production/consumption and controlling additional inputs/outputs into the system, including most important: solar radiation. In short the future is bright and we’ll probably see a glimpse of it.
The main idea of this book is to present a bit of reality to people brainwashed by constant flow of negativism about economy, human industrial activities and their consequences. This reality is that over the last hundred years with technology development humans produce a lot more goods and services with a lot less of raw materials and external pollution of environment. It is also demonstration of futility of CRIB ideas that come down to using less of goods and services to save the world. In addition to some reasonable ideas author moves supports panic of global warming and demands resource allocation by very big government and behavior changes from people to prevent it.
Here author previews the book, explicitly stating his argument: Unlike what people believe, in reality the world and especially USA constantly produce “more with less” raw materials. It was achieved via computerization, by “substituting bits for atoms”. Author believes that this caused by combination of 4 factors: tech progress, capitalism, public awareness, and responsive government. Author also proudly declares that everybody will find something not to like in this book: environmentalist – his claim that industries are not evil, socialists – his support for capitalism, capitalists – his support for big government and taxes. So author calls for open mind and claims position of neutral observer.
Chapter 1: All the Malthusian Millennia
Here author reviews Malthus and Hobbes ideas and even provides quite convincing prove that it did worked like that until recent time: graph with relation of population to salaries:
Here author moves to the bad staff of early modern age: slavery, children labor, colonialism, pollution, and destruction of wild animals such as buffaloes and whales.
Chapter 4: Earth Day and Its Debates
Here author discusses the Earth Day: April 22, 1970 when America celebrated the first Earth Day. Author considers it turning point of Environmental movement. He refers to previous disasters such as explosion on Union Oil rig in California, Cuyahoga rover fire and so on. He also writes about Paul Ehrlich and other doomsayers who predicted unrealistic scaring scenarios, which nevertheless captured imagination of population, especially miseducated youth. Then author moves to proposed remedies that he does not believe in:
- Consume Less
- Impose Limits
- Return to land
Somewhat interestingly author also present ideas of Julian Simon that there is no scaring emergency and the Ultimate Resource are humans, who will eventually find solution to any development problems. Author also discusses bet between Ehrlich and Simon on future availability of raw materials that Simon won hands down. Obviously it did not stop promoters of gloom from continuing promoting gloom and make money in process.
Chapter 5: The Dematerialization Surprise
Here author reviews books and essays that documented dematerialization of American economy, meaning decrease of use of raw materials to produce consumable goods and services. Here are a couple of graphs demonstrating this trend:
Chapter 6: CRIB Notes
In this chapter author revisits of CRIB implementation: Consume less – Recycle – Impose limits – Back to land ideas, reviews how they worked over the last decades, and concludes that they had at best marginal influence on the process of dematerialization. Then he suggests that the causes are presented in the next 3 chapters.
Chapter 7: What Causes Dematerialization? Markets and Marvels
Here author states his believe that four main forces are responsible for dematerialization, and that it’s helpful to think of them as two pairs, with the first reviewed in this chapter being Capitalism and technological progress. Then he proceeds to review a few examples:
- Increase in agriculture that dramatically decreased use of land, fertilizers, and pesticides
- IPhone that substituted a half dozen of different devices from telephone to photo camera, to TV.
- Decrease of use of coal, pushed out by gas
- Computerization of transportation that dramatically decreased need for rolling stock
The key feature here is that people need benefits of final products and services, while raw materials are costs; therefore technology that reduces such costs is implemented enthusiastically.
Chapter 8: Adam Smith Said That: A Few Words about Capitalism
Here author provides kind of critic of critic of capitalism, albeit it is half hearted. He starts it with what he considers valid criticism:
- Capitalism is selfish
- Capitalism is immoral
- Capitalism is unequal
The he presents his critic of what he believes invalid criticism of Capitalism:
- Capitalism is cronyism
- Capitalism is anarchy
- Capitalism is oppression
Author then moves to discussing socialism. He mentions Hayek’s theoretical prove that socialism could not possibly work and then proceeds to discuss real live catastrophic consequences of implementation of socialism, concentrating on relatively benign case of Venezuela. Author even completes this chapter stating that the problem with Capitalism is that there isn’t enough of it.
Chapter 9: What Else Is Needed? People and Policies
Here author goes to critic of capitalism: externalities, such as pollution and stresses his opinion that capitalism needs supervision in form of “responsive government”. He combines it all in image of “Four horsemen of the Optimist: call technological progress, capitalism, responsive government, and public awareness.”
Chapter 10: The Global Gallop of the Four Horsemen
This chapter is quite optimistic presentation of recent developments: outreach of technology to even poorest people, demise of global Socialist system and switch of its key countries USSR and China to market, Global movement for good government, and so on.
Chapter 11: Getting So Much Better
This is discussion of the world’s getting better thanks to some extent to feeling worse. He complains about humans leading other species to extinction, compulsory global warming, and so on, but then presents a bunch of graphs demonstrating that everything is actually getting better like this one:
Chapter 12: Powers of Concentration
Here author moves to discuss urbanization and globalization that connects world into one with mix of positive and negative consequences. He provide 3 scenarios of change:
- There’s strong economic growth. The rich get much richer, but middle class and poor households also do better. Because wealth and income gains are fastest at the top—because the rich get richer faster than the rest do—inequality increases, but all segments of society see growing incomes and wealth. Tech progress exists but is not highly disruptive; people continue to do the same kinds of jobs for the same kinds of companies in the same communities year after year. Important institutions such as the educational system and the courts remain stable and inclusive.
- The elites capture the economy and the political system and turn inclusive institutions into extractive ones. They change the laws, pack the courts, demand bribes, assume control of the largest companies (publicly or behind the scenes), hire security services for themselves and let law and order decay for everyone else, and so on. The economy slows down because it’s so badly managed, and all tech progress has to be imported. The elite get fantastically rich while everyone else suffers and becomes poorer. Wealth and income inequality skyrocket.
- Economic growth is healthy and institutions remain inclusive, but tech progress is extraordinarily powerful—so much so that it disrupts industry after industry. This progress fuels many types of concentration; it allows more crops to be grown on less land, more consumption from fewer natural resources, more output from fewer factories, and more sales and profits from a smaller number of companies. The people at the top of these superstar companies see huge wealth and income gains. Gains for those in the middle, however, slow down considerably. And some segments of the labor force face particularly tough challenges; the factories and farms that used to employ them close, and new ones don’t open. Job opportunities concentrate in cities and in service industries. Wealth and income inequality rise a great deal.
Chapter 13 Stressed Be the Tie That Binds: Disconnection
Here author moves to discuss disconnect that developed between Americans of different persuasions. He starts with James Mattis stating that it is his biggest worry, by far bigger than Iran or North Korea. It follows by discussion of decrease in social capital due to multiple challenges such as deindustrialization and loss of good jobs, opioids, inequality, and widely existing knowledge of staff that is not so. All this creates disconnect between members of society and consequently undermines its stability.
Chapter 14: Looking Ahead: The World Cleanses Itself This Way
After giving way to challenges in previous chapters, author states here his overall optimist based on believe that:
Chapter 15: Interventions: How to Be Good
This is author recommendation to what should be done to reconnect country back. So he goes through main points starting with “statecraft” required to save the world from global warming with taxes. Then he takes on corporations that should drop whatever they are doing and direct resources to saving planet. Finally he does the same for non-profits and citizenry, at the end issuing the list of strong recommendations:
- Reducing pollution. Pollution is not a necessary cost of doing business; it’s a negative externality that causes great harm to people and the environment. However, efforts are now underway in America and other countries to roll back restrictions on pollution to reduce businesses’ costs. The better health is much more important than higher profits.
- Reducing greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases deserve to be called out separately from other forms of pollution because of the long-term harm they can cause across the planet, and because they’re not yet being controlled with regulations, taxes, and the many other tools used for dealing with externalities.
- Promoting nuclear energy. We currently have only one power source that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases and is scalable, safe, reliable, and widely available. We should be working to drive down the cost of nuclear power, and to overcome barriers to adopting it.
- Preserving species and habitats. Even though capitalism is now shrinking its geographic footprint in many countries, it still has a great thirst for attractive pieces of real estate, and for many animals. Conserving land, limiting hunting, and banning trade in products made from threatened species are highly effective interventions.
- Promoting genetically modified organisms. GMOs have been extensively studied and found to be safe. They also have the potential to greatly improve crop yields, reduce pesticide use, and improve nutrition. Yet they are strenuously resisted in many parts of the world. This needs to change.
- Funding basic research. Private businesses spend money on research and development, but they tend not to invest much in areas and ideas that won’t become products anytime soon. This means that governments have an important role to play in supporting more fundamental scientific and technical research as well as research into social phenomena such as disconnection.
- Promoting markets, competition, and work. Capitalism is widely unpopular at present, and socialist ideas are making a comeback. Yet markets, competition, and innovation have brought us previously unimaginable prosperity. As we’ve seen, they’ve also finally enabled us to take less from the earth. So we should not turn away from them now. Instead, we need to focus on finding meaningful opportunities for people at risk of disconnecting from society.
Conclusion: Our Next Planet
In conclusion author laments what humans did to the planet by living and multiplying and expresses hope that his “4 horsemen of optimism” will save whatever has left of it.
MY TAKE ON IT:
From my point of view this book is filled with duality. On one hand author looks at the past with optimism and recognizes that doomsayers where absolutely wrong and technological growth and increase of knowledge led to vast expansion of production combined with decrease in use of raw materials and pollution. This part is convincing, filled with data, and very reasonable. On the other hand author jumps to the same panic mode about global warming that he just criticized about previous fear of resource exhaustion and environment annihilation. This part is not supported by any serious data, filled with the same unjustified fear, and the same demands for government to interfere and save the world. I think that there is no real difference between people who made good living by scaring everybody about population bomb, resource exhaustion, and pollution in process falsifying data and attacking everybody who did not agree, and people who currently doing the same under the flag of global warming. Actually they are either the same people that did it in 1960s and 70s, if they are older, or just the next generation of crooks who look to make good living and obtain power over others by scaring them out of their wits.