Rome, Complexity and Christ| Chapter 4| Complexity, Information Theory and the Nature of Symbolic systems: The Death of the Gods and the Revolt Against Reason

Death to the Republic

By the time Rome came to exist, technology developed to the point where different peoples found themselves within the same sphere of influence. Rome fought a war with a local super power Carthage who, ironically, rose to prominence as traders, It was a colony of the great seafaring Phoenicians.  It was by conquering Carthage, that Rome started to get a taste for empire. In nearly a lifetime, Rome rose from regional power to a hegemonic cluster with their destruction of Carthage. 

At first Rome mobilized its military, as they would argue, “in self defense”.  But as their founding fathers noted- war has a habit of undermining free societies. 

The Roman military Industrial Complex

First, Rome’s army was constituted of conscripted landholders. This only allowed for little conquest. Once Rome hit a certain scale, the rules which define an agrarian democracy proved outdated for the world hegemon. The defense of the empire proved ill suited to the nature of the Roman armed forces with members having to be land owning farmers. However, as campaigns grew longer, many small farms grew into disrepair and agglomerated into larger estates, thereby robbing Rome of its military.

A Roman general, by the name of Gaius Marius, chose to solve the problem not by limiting the size of the estates of wealthy romans but by doing away with the rule requiring Romans to hold land altogether. Roman soldiers, upon successful conquest, would even be awarded land. The official birth of the Roman military industrial complex.

Now, the only limit as to how powerful one can be, is how much one can conquer. Roman generals could recruit non farming owning males. That allowed any one individual to accumulate more soldiers than the rest of Rome. This then caused friction with the rest of the Roman Senate. The threat of tyranny was taken seriously in Rome.

Roman Political Economy

The political economy of Rome reflects the birth of the military industrial complex. With large debt incurred by candidates on behalf of their political career. These political debts would then have to be repaid through wars of aggression once in office. These wars of aggression can then be used as a means of punishing political rivals (once out of office). Roman politicians, being excluded from prosecution whilst in office, forced them to try to remain in office for as long as possible. Thereby perverting the political process. In the case of Rome, Caesar’s refusal to be tried for war crimes led to a civil war (led by Kato the younger) that would destroy the republic.

Nature vs Nurture

The nature and nurture discussion is only considered a discussion because we all live with the same nurture. So the difference between us is,  then, nature. The better word for nature is culture. The better word for nature is, genes. Fundamentally, nurture does dominate nature as different civilizations have risen and fallen at different points in time and space. If genes dominated, then we would see the same people dominating throughout the world. Nurture absolutely dominates nature. Who has smart and intelligent genes, illiterate genius or illiterate nongenius?

Roman culture is a unique culture in the history of the world. The fundamental collective unit of society within the Roman system was the family and the fundamental unit of that group is the individual. In Rome, people were known by their family name and had to act in accordance to the behavior associated with their names. Brutus murdered Caesar because, once upon a time, his ancestor was the one who killed Rome’s last tyrant. The Romans, like many previous people, had an ancestor room which enforced the actions that a member of a family had to accord to.

Stoicism-To despise fortune and the Gods

The competition between people was a competition between their gods. The head of NASA, Wernher von Braun, was a Nazi. The Nazi’s sent human to space. The Rastafarians, by contrast, we’re never going to send us anywhere. Why go anywhere? You’re already high. The disciples of Haile Selassie (Jah Rasta Farheigh) are also less likely to commit holocaust. 

Stoic values:

Stoicism, again, is fundamentally a pagan ideology. Roman mythology paralleled Greek mythology. The emphasis on fortune, however, is fundamentally a Roman concept. Fortune is your location in the possibility space. It is where you are out of all the places you could possibly be. To despise fortune is to despise variance or randomness. Because what fortune gives you, fortune can take away.

Deus Ex Machina

In information theoretic terms, the intervention by the gods is the explanation given to the unpredictable. If the unpredictable goes in your way, it is fortune. If not, it is misfortune.

Human action under Tyranny

Mises and Rothbard disagreed if people under tyranny can engage in human action. Rothbard, slightly misunderstood Mises theory of human action. Under tyranny, one cannot engage in true human action as they have to act in accordance fundamentally with the Emperor.

From an information theoretic perspective, Rome has a more independent processing system than their rivals. This is what made Rome such a unique society. They had remarkable individuals. While Carthage could only produce one Hannibal. Rome’s democratic system allowed  for many concurrent great people. Thereby giving it a superior edge in information processing.

Anarcho-Capitalism: The market is a process, trust the process

Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. This can be expanded as: economics is the study of the allocation of scarce means (inputs) towards desired ends (output). This allocation is done at a price. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce means at a price towards desired ends. Ideally, one does not allocate resources once. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce means (inputs) allocated at a price towards desired ends (outputs) through time.

Economics as a symbolic system

The fundamental point of the Misesian portion of the Austrian school of economic thought is that the symbolic systems used in economics are inappropriate. As these symbolic systems are those inherited from natural science and mathematics. These symbolic systems, when applied to economics, lead to faulty conclusions. As economics, the youngest of all the sciences, requires a different set of symbolic systems.

The Economics of Mises

The above point, made by Mises, was uttered prior to the days of the computer. Therefore, the language of information theory was limited. Information theory was not fully developed until after Mises. Despite this point, Mises was making a point about the nature of computation. Where one takes a computationalist view of the universe. Thereby characterizing human intelligence as a specific instance of intelligence as such. The language of artificial intelligence then becomes available to economics. Specifically, economics is the study of the estimation of a cost function.

This is in stark contrast to neoclassical economics which is completely devoid of any notion of computation. The closest thing to it comes from the notion of creative destruction. Theorized by the oft mischaracterized as Austrian but squarely Walrasian-Joseph Schumpeter. In which he acknowledges that it is the entrepreneur which takes the economy from one state of equilibrium to the other. 

Feelings as an information system

Feelings give us a way to represent the outside world within our brain. Originally, when something felt good it was because it was good. The cognitive dimension was tied to the physical dimension. The difference between what is perceived as valuable in the cognitive realm and what is actually valuable was non-existent in hunter gatherer times because one evolved based on the other.  Feelings allowe us to represent mentally the state of life within the organism and the state of life outside the organism in the cognitive realm. This is something which helps with evolution.

I felt hungry, so I tried eating some ice cream. That didn’t quite work because I felt sick. I then went to chipotle for some steak guac, and now I feel a lot better. Maybe that Ferari will fill the void in my life. You then get the Ferrari but are just as morabund as ever. But at least, you learnt. So this process of consciously trying to satiate unease is how society scales through time. This is the point of Demasio’s strange order of things. However, Mises wrote Human Action in 1949.

the Strange Order of Things

However it is worth understanding that humans do use reinforcement learning. But machine learning algorithms do not take advantage of the way nature creates intelligence. You are an information system, on top of a nervous system. It is worth understanding that the evolution of life is also the evolution of intelligence as such. In the sense that, at some point, life was not able to see, smell, hear or have access to any senses. Therefore, it is worth understanding that the first information system was not the neocortex but the nervous system. Feelings have evolved in order to give us a representation of the outside world. I see a tiger, I am then scared, so I then run. 

The role of feelings in information processing, save for the recent work of neuro-scientist Antonio Damasio, is completely absent in modern literature. However, it does have a corollary surprisingly in the economics literature. Specifically, the work of the Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises whose theory of human action is predicated on the notion that humans act because they want to satiate felt unease. This unease is generated by the nervous system and it is up to the information processing system to try to determine it.

intelligence stems from the human’s ability to interface accurately with reality. People, with skin in the game, do better without skin in the game not because of incentives (the point of the book Skin in the Game) but because of their feedback to reality. Feedback is then compressed by your nervousness into a binary. It is up to the information system to then process.

On the computational nature of capital and the pure time theory of interest

The satiation of felt unease, takes place through time. This information processing takes place through time. Time, an increasing the de emphasize topic in economics with theories of the trade cycle replaced by macro economics classes. Classes, on time preference, relegated to behavioral economics. To Mises, human action is a computation with regards to how long one can satiate felt unease for. It’s a matter of intelligence to be able to model felt unease over a time horizon. From an artificial intelligence perspective, the pure time theory of interest seeks to model the returns to time.

Theory of the firm

Following Mises’ work, it was Hayek who tried to change the symbolic system, used by economics, onto cybernetics. However, the difference between cybernetics and the rest of information theory comes down to theory vs practice. Cybernetics is applied information theory. The application of an information system onto robotics. Nonetheless, Hayek introduces the idea of the firm as an information processor.

Das Adam Smith Problem

The division of labor, from a complex system perspective, is the same as that of any organism. The specialization of information processing clusters at one scale, for greater complexity on the next. Firms are just a subset of the greater general class of system.

Catillion and Spatial Economics-What is a firm? 

As an information processing system, the firm tries to symbolize transport and transmit different information at different scales through time. It is being able to produce more things with more materials and to be able to symbolize more things. Catilion’s contribution to economics is the idea of having a unit of land with an information system to process over.

A firm is a dedicated network of people (information processors) with the ability to transform resources into economic products which are valued by people over an economic field. The main growth parameter is the differential in cost between the configuration of bits in and out (cost of materials vs cost sold) over how many products are sold. Costs are dependent on how efficiently nature is transformed. The scale of the firm is dependent on the level of value generated and the network over which that value is being generated (common market). Both are a function of the level of propagation of physical and symbolizable information. As the cost of transmitting physical information, and transmitting information decreases the cost of coordinating human action at a distance (the formation of a human network across greater geographical bounds) decreases.

Jesus Christ-Enemy of Caesar

The greatest arsonist in the history of the world, enemy of Caesar-Jesus of Nazareth. The above point is worth repeating, as otherwise, the history of the world does not make sense. Jesus Christ is an enemy of Caesar Augustus emperor of Rome. He was the greatest terrorist Rome has ever seen (which is why they killed him).

Jesus, destroyed the old gods except one, the one of his native people, the Jewish God-Yahweh. It is important to understand that the contemporaries of Yahweh were Zeus, Odin, and the like. He’s the lone survivor and the founder of his own type of religion-the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) which are considered as one. These religions are by far and away the most populous religion on earth. The reason why other pagan ideologies still exist is because the Abrahamic religions are limited by a eur-asian sphere of information communication.

Roman roads

All roads lead to Rome because the Romans built them. The difference between the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire has to do with Roman engineering. This is for the same reason why Roman capitalism proved so successful. Internal Communications were so good that a common market was possible because there was an infrastructure to transport goods and services.

From a complex system perspective, unlike Paganism, Christianity is an expansive religion. In Paganism, the potential nodes do not affect growth. As pagan ideologies are concerned with conserving relevant information through shared myths. The more roads, the more connections between different people. The more connections to help grow an expansive religion. Chrstianity could only have arisen in a network Empire such as Rome where common travel safety was essential for preachers. In addition, the centralized political infrastructure of the roman empire contributed to the propagation of Christianity .

Christianity has to still be based on a sound ideology (Judaism) to propagate through time. However, christianity is also concerned with expanding itself. So what Nietszche laments as christian meekness stems from the fact that it needs to be as appealing to as many people as possible. What is the difference between the old and the new gods? Good and evil are their names. It is important to understand that it is the Christians are the ones who have lost Rome. The more Christian the Empire became, the more its borders shrank. The Christians were the hippies of antiquity.