Ideas Are the New Oil
Naval: Humans have a history of conquest because we fight for the same exact resources, but even in human history the first explorers were traders. They were going out there to find spices, gold, silk, new plants to domesticate, new animals.
They weren’t going out there necessarily to conquer the land. Eventually they did because of the finite resource dilemma when you’re stuck on Earth. But the moment you have the technology to get off of the earth, finite resources go away.
If you want a resource, then you go find a neutron star or you go find a star system. You don’t go after a little planet. There are infinite Kepler planets out there that are going to be much closer to them.
It’s ideas and trade that people want.
If you look at modern society—even though I know this is not the common belief—we’re becoming less warlike as we become more civilized. The reason is that you don’t conquer Russia anymore for its natural resources. The wealthiest places in the world now are the ones that have the best ideas. Silicon Valley was on top for a while as a wealth creation engine because it had the best ideas.
The new oil is ideas. It’s all digital. All the new fortunes are being created in ideas space.
In fact, if you’re starting out today as a young, ambitious person, you don’t learn real estate; you don’t learn coal and oil mining; you don’t go into the extraction of physical resources to create wealth. You go into ideas space. You go into programming, books, movies, blogs and podcasts and building robots, which are mostly intellectual property underneath.
Even as a human civilization, we’re moving away from conquering physical resources and moving much more into trading of ideas.
The downside scenario for the human species is that too many of our larger countries and nation-states believe that they’ve achieved maximal ideas and now it’s time to save resources. They end up destroying the means of improvement, error correction and creativity, and they end up stagnating.
Then you have the idea generation coming out of a much smaller set of city-states, which then have to defend themselves against these massive, more predatory, ossified states.
People talk about China being so impressive—“look at their rocket,” or “look at their GDP,” or “look at the city that they built.” Call me when they invent something new. Call me when they come up with some incredible idea that we haven’t had and they built some technology that we haven’t had. Because so far it’s all imitative. It’s them taking advantage of technology they’ve picked up from us that they’re now catching up on. They’re just applying scale to it because they have more people.
Call me when their GDP per citizen crosses ours. Call me when they come up with pharmaceuticals or vaccines or spacecraft or energy generators or fusion reactors that we do not know how to build. Call me when the authoritarian society figures out top-down how to build something brand new, when it’s more creative, when their art is better, when their science is better, when their technology is better.
Call me when that happens over a democratic, free, capitalist society, because I’ve never seen a case of that, ever.