"The Sound of Silence:" Of Wealth and Communication

  • William Laraque, Managing Director at US-International Trade Services

  • 29.07.2015 01:00 am
  • undisclosed
The Middle Ages during which fairs, drafts (bills of exchange) and correspondent banking evolved, were imbued with a conception of wealth as being God-given. By implication the poor or un-wealthy were deemed unworthy of God's beneficence. 
The Renaissance changed all that. The celebration of wealth was attended by magnificent architecture, great palaces; the palace of the Doges in Venice, Il Duomo in Florence.  In the process the concept of wealth whether possessed by churches or princes, was redefined. The patronage of the arts was enabled and empowered by international trade. 
During the Victorian Era, International trade made possible Highclere, the magnificent estate and aristocratic way of life, the manners, the folkways and mores of the Granthams as featured in "Downton Abbey." As Julian Flowers explained, in the Victorian era manners and decorum were a part of mores and a reflection of the adherence to morality. Dinner, accompanied by dress, China, silver and other accoutrements of wealth, manners, was as much a religious as a social event. Going to dinner was like going to mass. Revolutionary Ideas such as social equality, like prayers "were noble but hardly made for good dinner conversation."
This way of life and wealth had begun to change with the Renaissance and the Reformation. Social change was manifest in both the development of craftsmen of extraordinary skill supported by patronage. Their wares were exhibited in great fairs such as the one in Hanover that exists today. Patronage also financed thought. Leibniz was supported as librarian, historian and Privy Council by the House of Hanover. During this time, the salon and great universities fostered communication and correspondence which became the principal means of education and of the dissemination of thought. The encyclopedia was published.
As civilization evolved, man's sublime expression in art evolved on the one hand accompanied by extraordinary violence and bloodshed on the other. The redefinition of wealth evolved so that the concept of poverty and of poor people did not reflect the poverty of their souls. The wealthy had a responsibility to provide for the poor. This evolution in the concept of wealth occurred during the Enlightenment, the revolutions of the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution, world wars and many other events of consequence to economic, social, political, and geopolitical change. 
The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, changed the concept of wealth. With the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason came the idea that shared values were more important than individual opinions and that the wealthy were responsible to care for the less fortunate. This is called humanitarianism. It was not because of God that some were wealthy and some were not. The Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Human Rights are the issue of this Age.
The Age of Enlightenment was followed first by revolution, the Age of Revolution and the Age of Terror. Robespierre presided over the Age of Terror which was found unsustainable and was replaced by the Restoration.
There are those today who would revert to feudalism, to the idea that God determines who is wealthy and who is not. There are those who would revert to the Age of Terror. This age has also been found to be unsustainable. Terror as a mode of regime change has, with certain notable exceptions, been replaced in the world by civil disobedience.
Today we experience a new idea. It is the vain idea that people are wealthy because of their own doing, their own smarts and wisdom. This is the age we live in; the Age of the Intellectual Selfie. I am wealthy and possess all the accoutrements of wealth because I am brilliant. Globally, the Age of the Selfie fueled by social media, is in a cultural clash with humanitarianism and those who would revive a Feudal Age, a Dark Age and the Age of Terror. Exacerbating the Age of the Selfie are narcissism and the idolatry of wealth. This idolatry has had a pronounced effect on technological progress. Instead of enabling communication in a humanitarian sense, technological progress has encouraged specialization in science, medicine and particularly in economics. Instead of these disciplines benefitting from natural philosophy, Renaissance humanism and the cross-discipline in thought of Leibniz's time, they are mired in isolation. The cardiologist doesn't talk to the mathematician today even if they work two offices apart. 
Norbert Weiner demonstrated that cardiology, neurology and mathematics are in fact related and that by collaborating, thought leaders can arrive at extraordinary solutions. It seems that in thought as well as life, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What I find most intriguing is that the computer and the Internet have become instruments of isolation; isolation in science and in thought. 
Leibniz, who conceived the computer and whose cross-disciplinary thought process resulted in the concepts of "universal characteristics" and a calculus of logic, helped to create the Age of Intellectual Isolation.
The corporate leader is guided by yet another concept, that of the Age of Relevance. Tim Cook of Apple, the world's wealthiest corporation by market cap, is the guru of this Age. "In the long arc of things you are only relevant if people love you," he said. In global corporate and geopolitical strategy, the Age of Love wars with the Age of Feudalism, the Age of Reason, the Age of Revolution, the Restoration, the Age of Terror, the Age of Civil Disobedience, and the Age of the Intellectual Selfie. The common goal of these disciplines is the pursuit of happiness. It is what Freud defined as being what all of humanity desires; work and love. The problem is that relevance is also necessary in order to achieve sustainable economic growth, job development and humanitarianism, the love of our neighbor. It is very difficult to come to this realization and to relate it to economics, to the real world because both on an individual and on a professional level, we are so busy doing our own thing.
In quantum mechanics Heisenberg's Principle of  Uncertainty, his dilemma applies to modern scientific thought. Our physical proximity and that of our ideas  to our neighbor's does not mean that we communicate. In quantum mechanics there are entanglements, areas where varied signals interconnect. In the areas of knowledge there are entanglements as well. This is all irrelevant if we cannot distinguish interdisciplinary signals and messages from noise. In politics and economics the problem is made worse because propaganda is conflated with noise. Understanding becomes so much more difficult. 
In cosmology, only black holes can explain the movement of certain planets. Only black holes can explain the relevance of one discipline to another. There is no need to search the cosmos for these black holes, they are found in the spaces between offices, cubicles, buildings and disciplines.
Neil de Grasse Tyson said that as the extent of our knowledge grows so does the perimeter of our ignorance. The remedy as reflected in the life of Leibniz is meaningful, cross-boundary communication, the process by which education is shared.

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