Editor’s note: Regular readers know that while Casey Research founder Doug Casey made his fortune speculating on commodities, he’s always been interested in many fields… especially science and technology.
In fact, Doug believes that advancements in technology are pushing us toward the biggest change in human history… and that “the very nature of life is going to change, almost unrecognizably, over the next 20 years.”
But in today’s Conversations with Casey, Doug explains why technology is often a double-edged sword… and what we should expect as these changes begin to take shape…
Daily Dispatch: Doug, many people perhaps know you for your commentary on commodities and politics, but you’ve long had a keen interest in technology. Can you explain what interests you most about technology?
Doug Casey: Philosophically, I’m extremely pro-technology because in the long run it’s always been a liberating influence for the average man. In the short run, however, it’s usually the opposite, because the rulers get to use it first. Let me give you some examples.
The invention of paper – a fantastic invention – was tremendously liberating for the average guy. It facilitated reading and passing on knowledge en masse through books. But to start with, the rulers – the kings and the priests – used paper to limit the freedom of the average man. The elite used it to control him more effectively.
Another outstanding example is gunpowder. It too has been immensely liberating. When it first got into the hands of the common man 500 years ago in Western Europe, it allowed the average guy to take out an armored knight, something which was hardly possible previously. But to start with, technology is always in the hands of the ruling classes first. And they use it to oppress the people under them.
This is a general trend for most new technologies – first the oppression, then the liberation. Everything in life is a double-edged sword.
Daily Dispatch: So you like the liberating aspect of technology?
Doug Casey: It’s the liberating nature of technology that makes it so interesting, so important. Technology has allowed us to lift our heads out of the dirt so we no longer have to grub for roots and berries just to survive. It’s given us today’s extraordinarily high standard of living. We no longer have to load 16 tons every day, as Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, to keep body and soul together. Today even the poor live in a world of relative, even absolute, leisure. At least in advanced countries, they live much better than royalty a couple of centuries ago.
I’m all for advances in technology – the faster, the better. I’m a technofan. Although, from an intellectual point of view, I’m actually more interested in science than I am in technology, per se.
Daily Dispatch: Can you explain what you mean by that? What do you see as the difference between science and technology?
Doug Casey: I like to understand the way the world works. That’s the job of science. Technology is the practical application of science. Very few people seem to understand that. Science is an understanding of the “why” of the world. Technology answers questions beginning with the word “how.” It’s more the realm of engineers than researchers.
So I’ve always been a science buff because the question, “Why?” really interests me. That’s reflected in what I read. I subscribe to several science magazines, with Scientific American and New Scientist probably the best ones, although they’re both rather statist from an editorial viewpoint. And I’ve always been a reader of science fiction, which by the way, is actually a much better predictor of the future than any kind of think tank or bureaucracy. Formal structures almost always tend to be concrete-bound and conventional.
Daily Dispatch: How else have you managed to maintain your interest in science and technology?
Doug Casey: It was this long-held interest in science that drove me to recently take a 36-part course in astrophysics. I found it extremely interesting, although it contained some rather advanced math. About a third of the course was built around equations. Like most people who’ve even gone to a decent high school, I have a basic grounding in math, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus, but frankly – entirely apart from the fact a layman rarely uses those things from day to day – it was mostly over my head.
But no matter. It helped me to put the broad concepts in perspective. Next I’ll do one on astronomy. Pretty much the same subject matter, just viewed more from an observational rather than a computational perspective.
Admittedly, knowing something about astrophysics is completely useless knowledge for the layman. Having an idea how neutron stars, white dwarfs, and red giants work has very little practical application in day-to-day life. It might just be entertainment unless you’re a scientist who is somehow being paid to advance these concepts.
On the other hand, the more you know about the way the world works – even in obscure ways – the better your chances of succeeding in life. And enjoying it.
Daily Dispatch: That explains a lot. So how do we get from science and technology to your interest in commodities and mining?
Doug Casey: Well, let me explain it this way. I’ve also just completed a course in paleontology. Paleontology traces the history of life on the planet. So it goes back 500 million years, right up to the near past. I became interested in it because of dinosaurs, like a lot of kids. Although, interestingly, only one of the 36 lectures in this course focused on dinosaurs. Which was rather counterintuitive, I thought. Anyway, my early interest in paleontology got me interested in geology – it’s a division of geology.
When I applied that learning to the knowledge I later gained about economics, finance, and monetary theory, I – naturally enough, I think – became interested in gold and gold mining. That led to copper, nickel, and uranium mining. And how to recover and use all the elements in the periodic table, for that matter.
It’s very much what Robert Pirsig pointed out in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you want to know how much to torque a bolt, you need to know something about metallurgy, which leads you to chemistry and physics, which leads you to Newton, which might lead you to his near contemporary, Shakespeare… you get the idea. There’s essentially no reason why any greasy-haired backyard mechanic can’t transform himself into a Renaissance Man.
Daily Dispatch: Which is useful because…
Doug Casey: Learning about subjects like geology or paleontology may not have immediate and direct economic benefits, but it’ll have indirect and delayed benefits in addition to their entertainment value. Melding science and technology with literature, history, and philosophy all helps you understand the way the world works. Often you don’t know where all this will take you. Just rest assured that you’re always better off having more knowledge than less knowledge.
Daily Dispatch: In tomorrow’s Daily Dispatch, we continue our discussion with Doug on the importance of technology, including how it has revolutionized the energy sector. As Doug explains, this, along with one other key factor, is why the world will never run out of oil…
Editor’s note: As Doug said above, technology will be “tremendously liberating” for the average guy.
And we’ve been closely following one of those technologies – 5G wireless networks – as it becomes an investment megatrend.
5G is the next phase of cellular technology. It’s going to transform how we communicate, and enable technologies like smart homes… remote surgery… and self-driving cars.
But that’s only part of the story. 5G has a fatal flaw that few know about. And none of these breakthroughs can happen until it’s fixed.
Our own E.B. Tucker found the company that’s developing a solution to this flaw called the “5G Master Key.” And he’s convinced it will send this company soaring as it allows 5G to spread across the world.