Quotable (#44)

Bitcoin expectations and the search for equilibrium:

Bitcoin is the rare asset that it’s impossible to be truly neutral about. The worst possible one-year price target for Bitcoin is the current price (as of this writing, $354). $0 is a fine and sensible price target for most people. But if you can’t get your price target down to $0, getting it down to $354 is harder than it looks. A world with widespread Bitcoin adoption looks weird, sure, and a world with no Bitcoin use looks pretty normal. It’s anything-in-between that’s at a minimum temporary, and probably impossible.

Gloom-Core

It isn’t necessary to assume more than a sliver of positive feedback for confidence to make a significant difference. Once the future looks dim enough, it’s irresistibly rational to cannibalize what’s left of it, and then the term ‘death spiral’ begins to acquire real force. Of course, there are a great many other dynamic tangles at work, and popular sentiment is likely far more of an indicator than a driver. Still:

20141027_hope

Ideas arising in a social environment quagmired in radical pessimism (or the opposite) probably require some careful discounting to correct for skew.

(Via Zero Hedge)

Machine Teleology

Losing the basic insight into machine teleology, which founds accelerationism, seems to be easier than holding on to it. As soon as it is asserted, with a confidence so glib it scarcely understands itself as controversial, that the destiny of machines depends upon lucid, human ethico-political decision-making, nothing that matters is any longer being seen. Machines are reduced to gadgets. The sophistication of machine behavior, through the development of programmable devices, has made this reduction ever-easier to confuse with intelligent apprehension.

The most accessible correction is found in the pre-history of programmable machinery, through the early stages of industrialism. Here the idea of machines incarnating specifically written instructions is simply impossible, which allows the question of teleological development to arise without distraction. An extraordinary text from 1926, entitled Ouroboros or The Mechanical Extension of Mankind, by American writer Garet Garrett illustrates this. Some significant samples:

England was the industrial machine’s first habitat on earth. There fanatical men led mobs against it. […] Frail and clumsy as it was at first, its life was indestructible. And now man would not dare to destroy it if he could. His own life is bound up with it. Steadily it has grown more powerful, more productive, more ominous. It has powers of reproduction and variation which, if not inherent, are yet as if governed by an active biological principle. Machines produce machines. Besides those from which we get the divisible product of artificial things, there are machines to make machines, and both kinds — both the machines that make machines and those that transform raw materials into things of use and desire — obey some law of evolution. […] Compare any kind of machine you may happen to think of what its ancestor was only twenty-five years ago. Its efficiency has doubled, trebled; its shape has changed; and as it is in the animal kingdom so too with machines, that suddenly a new species appears, a sport, a freak, with no visible ancestor.

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Quotable (#43)

Some grounds for consensus on seasteading?

… Yeah there is a huge disconnect between the idea of seasteading as a platform for experimenting with various forms of governance and the reality that the vast majority of people interested in pursuing it are orthodox libertarians who see some kind of anarcho capitalist libertarianism as the inevitable winner in a ‘fair fight’ between political systems. I really think that a belief in libertarianism is linked to a distinctive and relatively rare neurological type, and therefore will never convince the vast majority of people who tend towards a more altruistic and collectivized morality.

Quick links (#17)

The animating tension between China’s Legalist and Confucian traditions remains unresolved (expect it to increasingly stimulate political philosophy worldwide during this century). William S. Lind on “the Chinese way.” Xi Jinping wants to calm the culture.

CY Leung is far too honest for his own good.

Confidence in the future is unevenly distributed.

Drought in China’s wheat belt.

Top near-term tech prospects, and the basic trend. Emerging arguments: “Where you come down on conflicts between owners and users is going to be one of the most meaningful ideological questions in technology’s history. There’s no easy answer that I know about for guiding these decisions.” Limits of VR. The oil roller-coaster. Fusion hype? Ultra-technologies.

Bitcoin and venture capital, crowdfunding, actuaries, and Asia. It’s on course to take over the Internet. (Some extra crypto stuff (+ ++ +++))

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