Quotable (#216)


In order to win the war unleashed by the Leninist revolution, Western capitalism fomented fascism against the working class. […] We know the story of what followed: Soviet communism and Anglo-American capitalism were forced into an alliance. Then democracy defeated the Soviet Union.

This might be the most garbled historical narrative I’ve ever heard.

(Piece as a whole is worth a read, though.)

Sexual Politics

Via Nate Silver, the electoral implications of hypothetical solely-male and solely-female electorates in the US (2016):



Given the absence of a realistic geo-political segregation option, continuing tension can be safely anticipated. (There still has to be a way to break the place up that makes more sense, such as starting with the places that don’t change color when gender-flipped.)

Digital Sovereignty

Even skeptics (such as this blog) can note the importance of the discussion initiated here:

Soviet Union had cinema, the PRC has the Internet.

I personally think that the international audience still largely underestimate the importance of what China has achieved policy-wise for the global landscape of Internet. Concepts like “digital sovereignty” that were proposed by China are now emerging from post-Snowden discussions in proposals at the highest levels in EU countries. Russia has already embraced it. Of course, the US industry still need the myth of a “global village” to push products worldwide. Still, I am curious to see how it evolves as the ad market will continue to shrink, and as foreign relationships with the US are likely to get less friendly in the next years. While EU and other countries (esp in Africa and South America) start realizing that the US-first model of the Internet is too much a disadvantage for them, the only other real-world case they can turn to is China. In many regards, China looks like the future of the Internet. …

It’s tempting for Westerners (and especially Anglos) to see Chinese government Internet policy as simply backward. That’s almost certainly an inadequate framework for making sense of the most explosive Web-growth in the world.

Among other developments, there’s this:


Quotable (#161)

Horror escalates:

… the immediacy of V.R. has a dark side, too. Several months ago, Michael Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger, researchers from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, in Germany, published a series of recommendations on the ethical design and implementation of virtual reality. Their appraisal of the medium’s psychological force is both studious and foreboding. “The power of V.R. to induce particular kinds of emotions could be used deliberately to cause suffering,” they write. “Conceivably, the suffering could be so extreme as to be considered torture.” In filmmaking, the director must perform a kind of seduction of dread, leading viewers through an escalating series of psychological states. In the immersive world of V.R., no such dance is required. …

Quotable (#156)

There’s going to be a lot of embarrassment to share out, when this nonsense blows over:

The truth is, the Bitcoin community is not just sceptical of anyone who claims Satoshi’s throne – it is resentful. The mystery of Satoshi and the democratising effect of there being no known founder has long been a central feature of the currency. Garrick Hileman, of the Cambridge Centre of Alterative Finance, is worried about the implications of Wright’s claim. ‘Satoshi as an absentee landlord was useful, it allowed entrepreneurs and innovators to take ground – and that may well be gone now. We’ve seen the old man behind the curtain – he’s no longer the wonderful wizard of bitcoin.’

(Via dmf.)

More delusion in the same vein, here. (Also, less delusion.)

Quotable (#154)

In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan, triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, and cost an estimated two hundred and twenty billion dollars. The shaking earlier in the week turned out to be the foreshocks of the largest earthquake in the nation’s recorded history. But for Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State University and one of the world’s leading experts on a little-known fault line, the main quake was itself a kind of foreshock: a preview of another earthquake still to come. …

From Kathryn Schulz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story about extreme quake risk.

Quotable (#140)

VR as a manipulative medium:

VR for the eyes, while sensational, offers no new information to the viewer. VR is more aptly comparable to 3D televisions than smartphones. […] VR for the hands, on the contrary, empowers humans like never before. If you want a magic thread to follow to find VR gold, just follow the hands. …

There’s a new kind of VR input device that does what the mouse does, but for 3D worlds. It’s called the 1:1 (“one to one”) motion controller. Hold one in your hand, and whichever ways your hand moves, it moves that way in the 3D world. This technology is dead-simple to use, and — most importantly — enables us to do things that we can’t with a mouse or touchscreen. Like the Nintendo Wii controller, perfected. […] This new generation of 1:1 motion controllers, pioneered by the Playstation Move and Razer Hydra, is being brought into maturity by devices like the Oculus Touch and Vive controllers. It is with these new input devices that we see a dimensional difference in what we can do. Mice track our hands with 2 dimensions (x, y). Next generation motion controllers measure not 3, but actually up to 12 dimensions at once (each hand has 3 positional and 3 orientational dimensions). Channeled appropriately, this massively higher dimensional input stream allows us to specify much more simultaneous information to a computer.

We live in a visual culture, and often forget that our hands got us here. […] … As developers begin to take advantage of the 1:1 motion controller, we will see changes that science fiction has yet to predict. Sight is our primary sense, but it’s time we all started paying a little more attention to our hands. It’s how we get things done.

Bitcoin as SOCI

This is one of the greatest things ever written, period.

‘SOCI’ abbreviates ‘self-organizing collective intelligence’.

The basic dynamics of a SOCI is as follows. It begins as some sort of attractor — some aesthetic sensibility or yearning — that is able to grab the attention and energy of some group of people. Generally one that is very vague and abstract. Some idea or notion that only makes sense to a relatively small group. […] But, and this is the key move, when those people apply their attention and energy to the SOCI, this makes it more real, easier for more people to grasp and to find interesting and valuable. Therefore, more attractive to more people and their attention and energy. […] … If the SOCI has enough capacity within its collective intelligence to resolve the challenge, it “levels up” and expands its ability to attract more attention and energy. If not, then it becomes somewhat bounded (at least for the present) and begins to find the limit of “what it is”.

Greenhal then narrates the story of Bitcoin to date, within this framework. The sheer enormity of the innovation it has introduced emerges starkly.

In conclusion:

My sense is that over just the next five years this new form of SOCI will go through its gestation, birthing and childhood development stages. The result will be a form of collective intelligence that is so much more capable than anything in the current environment that it will sweep away even the most powerful contemporary collective intelligences (in particular both corporations and nation states) in establishing itself as the new dominant form of collective intelligence on the Earth. […] And whoever gets there first will “win” in a fashion that is rarely seen in history.

This will look prophetic not too far down the road.