Beautiful World [A Trip to Japan]

Yasukuni Shrine

Tokyo, Yasukuni Shrine

> What was the original objective?
> Where did I go?
> What did I find in Japan?
> What did I find having traveled?
–> What is the value in travel?
–> Planning and Decisions
–> Where can information be found?
–> What does having information mean?
> References and Other Rulesets

What was the original objective?

The main thing I wanted to see was how the Japanese use their land. I’ve heard and seen a lot of things about Japanese zoning, public transportation, and how everything was walkable and human-scaled, and that’s what I wanted to see for myself.

Other than that, what I wanted changed wildly as planning progressed.

The original suggestion was to go on a bus tour. I outright rejected this idea. Bus tour? In Japan? Why not stop only in expat enclaves while we’re at it?

I’ve never had a good experience with group guided tours. Granted, all (2) of them have been Chinese bus tours in America, but even theoretically removing all the Chinese and American parts I don’t like the idea of being corralled into certain timeframes on someone else’s schedule. What if I like this place more than that other place less? What if I don’t care about shopping for hours on end at globalized fashion chains so you can get your commission money because the type of people that would sign up for such tours are mentally lazy and financially stupid? What if I don’t want to have “how many minutes did someone else say I have left again” lurking in the back of my head? Which I don’t. I’ve had 12 years of that already thank you. I think 20% of my life expectancy is enough of that.

Tourist attractions are not specifically interesting, i.e., “a lot of people have been here and want to come here” is not a good reason to care, but everything is even more uninteresting if I don’t expend mental energy to obtain it. As far as I’m concerned, Times Square is a place on on a bus. Times Square is not a place in New York, or, if it is, New York isn’t a place in reality. Guided tours are like dreams – after unending nothing, that is to say, going past places you don’t spend a moment thinking about, places you have heard of will magically and suddenly appear in front of you. Then it will disappear, for another indeterminate length of time lots of nothing will happen again, and then another thing will appear. Rinse and repeat. It will not have value when it appears, it will not have value when it goes away; the only difference is someone else stopped the passage of space for a few minutes so you can take some pictures.

I wanted Japan to feel real.

So planning it myself it was. Well, myself and my sister. My mom would be travelling with us too, but she had little input on planning, outside of some travel agent she regularly used to book tickets and hotels, and saying how long she was willing to go. Which was important.

Time was the greatest limiter – or rather, the greatest organizer. We started off with a self-guided tour template of 1 week, suggesting Tokyo, Hakone, and Kyoto. The plane tickets we had went the opposite direction, but in any case, Hakone was fairly quickly cut out, as there was only one or two things theoretically interesting in Hakone, and the big one – a traditional inn and various traditional things – seemed rather expensive. Things were first blocked out in 2~4 hour chunks with ideas from tourism sites. At some point after deciding on hotels, we detailed it further, adding more major and minor places, finding what bus numbers or train lines and transfers would be taken between points (and tallying up their fares), getting a list of potential places to eat we were certain had english menus, and eventually, discovering Google has something currently called MyMaps (probably because Maps and Earth are now integrated), specified the exact routes to walk the whole way, planned down to the minute. It was no longer “Kyoto” and “Tokyo”, but “these specific places in this specific order in this specific route in Kyoto and Tokyo”.

The number of places I wanted to specifically go were not many. Honnoji was conveniently placed so I wanted to go there for the memes. Akihabara because I’m a weeb. Other than that, it was more important that I saw at least one item of each type: big train station, varied land usage, walking around places places that were popular for non-tourist (i.e. local economic) reasons… I think that was it. If the trip length was longer and I was alone I’d probably spend most of my time in those, maybe some no-name cities and villages, but since I wasn’t, I settled for a small potential set of suburb-y places and routes close to Kyoto, taking the same importance in the schedule as the big-name attractions.

That was the original idea.

Where did I go?

I planned for a lot, but got to probably less than half of it.

As sorted by names of major places. Days 1-3 in Kyoto, 4-6 in Tokyo; 2018 Nov 16 ~ 22.

1 Honnoji
Nishiki Market
Potoncho Area
2 Potoncho Area
Keage Incline
Tadasu no Mori
Nijo Castle
Randen Rail
Potoncho (ltd)
Keage Incline
Nishiki Market
3 Nara
Kyoto Station
Arashiyama (ltd)
Randen Rail (ltd)
Kyoto Station (ltd)
4 Shinkansen
Tokyo Tower
Akihabara (ltd)
5 Kyu-Furukawa
Imperial Gardens
Tokyo Station
Akihabara (ltd)
Imperial Gardens (ltd)
Tokyo Station (ltd)
Tokyo Tower
6 Atago
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Shinjuku Station
Some Cat Cafe
Shibuya (ltd)
Akihabara (ltd)

Planned routes: [1][2][3][4][5][6]
Actual routes: [1][2][3][4][5][6]

There were a few problems executing the plan.

  • The first day was plagued with problems, one being upon landing in Osaka I’d been awake for about 30 hours. The other one was enough to give me what I think people call a breakdown, which I’ll get to later, but it was solved and after a night of sleep everything was okay.
  • About halfway through the second day, my feet started hurting. Near the start of the third day, they started killing me. The other three days were the same way: about one hour of alright walking, then death. This pain was probably also a big factor in the significant decrease in the number of pictures I took. In total I took 1728. Of those, 656 were taken after the third day – 38% of the total, or, 68% less than the other half (technically more, since the first day didn’t start until noon, and that was before landing. 152 were before reaching the hotel). 68% reduction in interest is probably an accurate number. 68% reduction is probably also accurate about my walking speed.
  • I didn’t plan for eating time.
  • Or shopping time. I think it should be called “browsing” time, because that’s the real problem.
  • Or time to take pictures.
  • Because it bears reiterating: how much my feet were killing me. If you are looking to visit Japan, and are also an overweight American who doesn’t walk as a fact of life, this will probably be your biggest problem. Forget about saving up money for a trip. Get fit first. Or you’re going to waste a lot of time.

I’ve uploaded 562 of the pictures I took [1][2][3][4][5] including 92 panoramics. I’ve also uploaded 19 videos, including 30 min of Shinkansen through Nagoya.

Other than one image at the top and one at the bottom, they will not be found in this post. This post is not about “travel” in the current standard meaning. I’m not particularly interested in “travel”, it’s merely something that had to be done to achieve the objective.

I don’t have any real “travel” things to say about Japan – except about Gion, which was amazing, and about Odaiba, which was not. I stayed at Kyoto Rich in Kyoto and Mitsui Garden Shiodome in Tokyo. The former felt cheap, but it was cheap, and its location was good. The latter did not feel cheap, was cheap, at its location was similarly central. And the 72-hour Tokyo Subway Ticket (Metro and Toei) was a real moneymaker: put 1500Y in, got 2610Y out. Probably would’ve been more if my feet didn’t hurt. The pictures too were not about “travel”. I have put some comments on them to help illustrate their meaning, which is the important part.

— Having finished now, “comments” is no longer an appropriate description. This was supposed to be the “main post”, but I suppose, just like Japan itself, I spent more length visiting ideas that “don’t matter”. The words in the final album alone are more than what I wrote here. Maybe I’ll put them in their own post one day. For now, they rely on the pictures to convey their premises. It’s related, but probably not the same topic. If you read both, which comes first is probably not important, but it’d be best to leave the final section of this post for last.

This post is (was) the attempt to capture the larger ideas.

What did I find in Japan?



It is beautiful everywhere.

I had originally dropped into a bunch of places on Google streetview to try and find specific sites that were interesting and pretty, like here’s a shrine or park, look at how it’s surrounded by modern buildings, and planned to walk 137 meters from the station and then turn left. But I didn’t need to follow my planned points and path to see it. It simply presented itself to me. Now, if I wanted to see specific points, then of course I would still need to obey the laws of physics in order to arrive within visual range.

But beauty? In Japan, you don’t need to obey the laws of physics to find beauty.

It was because beauty was everywhere that I was able to make myself put one foot in front of the next to continue moving from point not-hotel to point not-hotel twelve hours a day. It was because beauty was everywhere (and because my feet were killing me) that I forgot to eat (until my feet were killing me enough that I decided that I’d pay to sit down, and paying to sit at certain places just happened to come with complimentary food). It was like magic… except it wasn’t magic, because the materials and designs were obviously human. Man made this. Man made Japan. Specifically, Japanese Man made Japan. Are the Japanese magical beings? I was told that visiting Japan would make me realize that it’s not anime fantasy land. And it’s true – but only about the anime part.

How did they make everything so beautiful?

I have some guesses, a few of which I’ll name, but I don’t think any of them are sufficient – supposing a place fulfills all the requirements I specify to the letter, it’s probably still going to be ugly. It might be pretty to someone else, I suppose. Do you find those european replica towns in China beautiful? Is a zoo is a budget safari? Would you visit a ski slope if it was in a hotel? You can say yes, but I won’t.

A magical place naturally implies a magical cause: it sounds magical, but I think the best answer to say Japan is beautiful because of the Japanese. If some country and Japan switched populations, I imagine it’d start looking like Japan in less than 20 years, and feeling like Japan in less than 2. It at least seems to be plausible. Put Brits in Africa, you get a Britain (Rhodesia). Put Japanese in an American car factory, you get Japanese cars (NUMMI).

But back to Japan. And the longer, more incomplete answers.

The term I’m familiar with is “human scale”. I think this name is the right idea for a label from the American standpoint, but I’m going to be talking back and forth between the denotative “human scale” and the more important thing I feel the phrase stands for.

Japan isn’t beautiful because it’s “both traditional and modern”, it’s beautiful because everything is in its proper size and place. Things aren’t big or new or whatever just because they can be, they are whatever size and form serves their purpose. This takes any number of forms, the most famous of which is that traditional-and-modern thing, the slightly less famous being narrow buildings and narrow streets. But it’s everywhere.

“Convenience store” in America means “the thing next to the gas station that sells “edible” industrial waste”. In Japan I felt they were competing with Walmart Supercenters in variety, with Starbucks in frequency, and… I don’t think there’s an equivalent concept in America for their slot in quality. There were a lot of things they sold for next to a dollar / ~100Y, but to say Lawson or FamilyMart are part “dollar store” would be a grave insult. They served a variety of needs at a convenient price and place. They slotted in where they could; a Lawson here could be twice as large as the Lawson there. And this concept just fractally repeats all the way up and all the way down.

In Kyoto I saw a number of buildings that had bridges across little creeks. Creeks whose width was maybe one american car length. And these bridges were super simple. They weren’t some over-engineered “This passes Safety and Environmental standards and was made by an Equal-Opportunity company that Supports Womens Rights” thing. It was “My property can only be accessed by crossing this creek. So I need a bridge. To cross this creek”. I’m pretty sure more than a few of those bridges would not survive a car load in an earthquake, but who cares? And so bridges appeared. One of the things I ended up taking a lot of pictures of were parking lots. I hate cars, and I hate parking lots, but I had to appreciate how even parking lots had their place: Is your empty spot big enough for two cars? Put a sign with a light on it and lay down those contraptions, you’re open for business. Is it not big enough for two cars? Put a vending machine on it. Is it bigger than two cars? Construction will be here tomorrow to make something, if not a shop or other business, then a manned parking lot, or a parking tower.

Just to give some idea on sizes, here are the numbers I was able to measure. I probably should’ve measured more, but like with the pictures, these were dependent on what I found different enough to notice at the time, and by the fact it was a handheld tape measure (and by the pain in my feet).

6″ – steps height (probably in Kiyomizu-Gojo station)
8′ – ceiling (probably also in Kiyomizu-Gojo station)
6’6″ – ceiling height low end (?)
31.5″ – door width (probably hotel room)
73.5″ – door height

100″ – bridge single lane width (across the river from Kiyomizu-Gojo station)
218″ – double lane street width (across the river from Kiyomizu-Gojo station)
34″ – handrail height (probably the barriers on the street west of Shijo bridge)
15.5″ – vehicle limiter (i don’t know the proper names for these: they’re the interlaced barriers that indicate only pedestrians are allowed. this was at Potoncho Park. the measurement is the width between barriers.)
46″ – bridge guardrail height (probably Sanjo)
7″ – old step height (leading away from Keage incline)
5’4″ – hello kitty store entrance covers (Higashiyama)

46.5″ – pedestrian path width on a bridge (next to Toufukiji station)
7.75″ – new step height (unnamed park on Kamo River)
5’3″ – bottom of train rings height (the things you hold onto)
7′ – small inari gates inner height (at Fushimi-Inari)

21.5″ – shinkansen legroom (this measurement is from the edge of my seat at seat level to the back of the seat in front at the same level. it is not the same number as the number you see on airlines, which measures the distance between the same points on two chairs.)
7′ – metro-shimbashi station ceiling height

5′ – imperial palace wall, single block height

9.75″ – step length (no idea)
7′ – tunnel height (no idea)

81″x48″ – bed size (the length at the first hotel was shorter)

Next to everything was human sized.

I remember hearing some complaint once about how portion sizes for Japanese food are small. I didn’t feel this way (but I also don’t get Big Gulps). Granted, I ate mostly like a commoner, but given commoner food, I felt it was too large for a meal when I did ask for bigger portions. I ate slightly more expensive than commoner twice, once for something like 2200 and the other for… 2800? And it was like they stopped adding volume at the correct point and then just changed out the remaining cost for better materials. Which seems like the right approach. You can’t eat more than a certain amount anyways (Japan does have buffets, but all prices come with time limits). My favorite meals were about 100 – convenience store onigiris, rice balls wrapped in seaweed with a few flavory goodies inside. They fit in the palm of my hand. Turns out that’s about how much I need to not feel hungry. And I’m an overweight American, so it’s probably a meal for a human at a proper size.

The few things in Japan I didn’t like were all because they were improperly sized.

– There’s a stretch of about 300 meters between the Hijiri and Shohei bridges, north of the Kanda river and east of JR-Akihabara Station, that I felt bad walking up.

I think it’s because it’s a single row of short and narrow not particularly impressive buildings, on a road with a narrower than average sidewalk (and fairly wide bushes), backdropped/shadowed by a wide skyscraper.

– The entirety of Odaiba.

The whole place felt like it was designed by an American. Wide roads, giant parking lots, and the only streets in Japan I found trash on.

I had gotten off at the Fune-no-Kagakukan stop for the Sora Yori memes, then after seeing the ship walked to Diver City. That first ~200m walk was terrible. Nothing but a wall of bush on my right, and a road and elevated busway on my left (Yurikamome is not a train). It had its separated pedestrian and cycleways, but I didn’t care. No one was there, and nothing was interesting. Still better than a walk in American suburbia, but that’s not a very high standard. Then I crossed the street and walked another ~550m, most of it next to a parking lot. A giant, American-sized parking lot. That I couldn’t cut through because they were walled because free parking doesn’t exist in Japan. Which is fine enough I suppose, it’s not like it would’ve been better if I could.

Diver City was just a mall. Like, an American mall. The spacings and everything. The arcade level was not worth coming here instead of Akihabara (unless you choose a hotel here, which I don’t recommend), though it was interesting seeing random candy bars and food in UFO machines I suppose. There’s a giant Gundam outside and a level of the building just for gundam inside, but I don’t particularly care for gundams. Other than that it’s a mall. Clothes and more clothes everywhere. Maybe it’s good clothes? Even if I was interested in clothes, I can’t imagine I’d do it here.

The one good thing here was the karaage. I didn’t know it was possible that fried chicken could be fit for human consumption, but there go the Japanese, proving me wrong again, by turning every conceivable thing into a delicacy.

Except, apparently, Odaiba. This place sucks. Skyscrapers and landscrapers and trash on wide empty streets: everything you could possibly want to piss a pedestrian off. It really is as if it was designed by an American. There’s even a replica Statue of Liberty.

God bless America. I mean, Odaiba.

– Arashiyama. But this one’s probably fixable by not going there early Sunday afternoon.

“Crowded” means different things to different people, two common ones are lack of personal space and people getting in pictures. I didn’t mind these so I thought crowding was alright, but it turns out it isn’t – depending on what the place is. It’s a matter of having the appropriate people density. Higashiyama being crowded was fine. Arashiyama’s bridge being crowded, not so much. The Grand Staircase at Kyoto Station felt a lot more comfortable during the best thing I’ve seen in a very long time, than the same place the next morning before anyone had woken up. Taking Tokyo trains during off hours was alright, but seeing how many people can really fit into a single car during the morning rush hour without any particular discomfort? That was beautiful. Not the kind of beautiful you can take a picture of. Not that it’s not allowed; you simply won’t be able to do it.

– Kansai and Narita airports. I mean, they’re not the worst (hi Houston). Given that even the Japanese don’t have likable airports, it could be that it’s just impossible to make such things. But, for sake of completeness, I mention that here. You do need to follow the laws of physics to at least escape the airport before you can find beauty.

Everything else was properly sized. And because everything was properly sized, everything could be integrated and arranged into a social order.

Order: that was my feeling in Japan.

Beauty is order, order beauty, that is all I know on this earth, and all I need to know.

Most things (outside of the anime girls) weren’t particularly pretty. But they didn’t have to be. Most were probably ugly things if looked at alone, but they fit in with everything else, at their proper size, with proper boundaries – if I had to tally up all my pictures by type, gates would rank at the top – and the rest was taken care of… by everyone and everything else doing the same thing. Almost none of it was done for artistic reasons, too, There were some potted plants and a shrine here and the very occasional anime girl there, but most of it was just economic (i.e. making money) usage of space. An advertisement. A restaurant menu. A door. A vending machine. A coin locker. A parked bike. A parked car. I think it’s appropriate to call this beautiful in the usual sense of the word, but also because I think it’s a beautiful sounding word to apply to the concept that english doesn’t have a word for, the opposite of “boring” (“interesting” has been compromised), which is almost always the real problem with “ugly” buildings. I don’t think I ever saw anything one would normally call “art” on any building. I did see anime girls, but they were there because they were advertisements in Akihabara, not because it was an art piece. Not because the building was too big and they needed to put something else on it to make it less ugly. Buildings were just the size they needed to be.

Granted, I didn’t go into any skyscraper districts. But if you aren’t up to speed yet: Japan isn’t made of skyscraper districts. It’s not “overpopulated” or “hyperdense”. It’s pretty easy, or maybe more accurately, you have to put some effort in to get specifically to the skyscraper districts or other boring places. I think Akihabara has quite a few buildings that would classify as skyscrapers, but I never noticed such a fact while I was walking around in it. There was simply an endless variety of shapes and sizes everywhere I could possibly imagine to look – both in weeb heaven land, and (nearly) everywhere else.

I wonder if order is the way to build a beautiful city. It at least seems to be the case.

I find Las Vegas and Dubai ugly. Places like these are terrible because there’s only one strip where all the interest is, it’s all at the wrong size and frequency, and the moment you step out of that it’s a wasteland. I don’t care how fancy your light shows are, I don’t care about five stars this or millions of people have been to that, give me some lively streets with real people where I can wander around – again for the slow: that means on foot – stop at any time, any random place, and still be able to see nice things, and maybe, even get nice food. All the interesting non-point places I’ve found in Japan are also strips: Nishiki Market, Akihabara, etc. Suppose none of these compare, and Vegas or Dubai are better. The problem is, around Vegas and Dubai, are… Vegas and Dubai.

Around Nishiki is Kyoto, and around Akihabara is Tokyo.

It’s like buying a home. You’re not buying “a” ‘house’: you’re buying the neighborhood, you’re buying the city, you’re buying the local politics and economy. Now, given that, is it more important that beauty is on your house? Or is it more important beauty is on all that other stuff? Model it as a woman: big tits, or manages everything about home life well?

In America, it’s the former.

Americans have some pretty funny ideas, which I’ve ranted on at length before so I don’t intend to retread everything, but I’ll note a few things just to provide contrast.

Using the big keywords I’ve said here it’s very easy to journalist your way into a negative summary of Japan fitting into existing American ideas. If there’s parking lots everywhere and everything takes every possible open space at every size, then it must be extremely crowded, we’re America we have a lot of space, we don’t need to do that. If everyone follows everyone else and makes buildings that are somewhat boring and don’t stick out too much, then it must be because everyone is a drone, we’re America land of the free, we’re individuals we won’t do that. And so on and so on. I will respond to just these two, and indicate a pattern between them. I will also suggest that this pattern is the American mindset, and a countering pattern that appears to me to be the mindset of the Japanese.

“Japan is small and America has a lot of space.”

“[A]s if all the acreage in, say, Wyoming makes an ounce of a difference to people trying to live and work in, say, Boston. Or for that matter, all the acreage in WESTERN MASS vis-a-vis the people trying to live and work in Boston.”

That America the nation-state has political boundaries that are large is utterly inconsequential to land usage of cities. There’s a joke around political circles that Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. This is alluding to the idea that outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia is a big country with next to no one in it. It’s a true idea. It’s also true of every country on the planet except for Singapore, the Vatican, Monaco, Lichtenstein, depending on your definitions Macau and Hong Kong, and a few other city-states I might have forgotten about. Think about any “crowded” country in your mind, go look at it on google maps, you have free satellite view of anywhere on the planet (did I mention it’s free?), no excuses (if you haven’t looked around Las Vegas or Dubai before, now would be the time to do that too). You’ll find there’s a lot of space everywhere, and most cities aren’t that crowded outside of a small area. India, it’s a whole lot of farmland. Bangladesh, same thing. China, China doesn’t even exist outside its eastern plain. And what is America? America is Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, Miami, Atlanta, and Houston. Add or change the list if you like. That’s 10 items. Suppose I was wrong by half there’s 20. 20 cities. Over a lot of space. You know what that makes America?

That’s right: A corncob stand masquerading as a country.

If we’re looking at just the cities, everything is too large. American highways are too large. American suburbs are too large. American houses are too large. Big Gulps are too large. Everything is too large – or nonexistent, because it’s “go big or go home”, and “or” means both. So we get 1) really big things, and 2) nothing. Strip malls, parking lots, skyscrapers. Endless fields of single-family homes. Nothing larger, nothing smaller. Everyone has to get in their car to go to the Supercenter. No, that’s not entirely correct: they go to the parking lot at the Supercenter. Not a Japanese parking lot. An American parking lot. From one vast desert to the next.

Japanese cities are interesting from large scale to small. In Japanese art, anime, and movies, they straight up lift scenes and places from real life Japan. And why not? This also explains how this place churns out so much good art. The modernists on staring into blank pages being inspirational were wrong; you need to have seen something to draw it. So if you’re constantly surrounded in beauty, it’s going to be much easier to create it. Or just copy. And why not?

American cities are the interior of one car and the rear end of the next.

That’s what’s shown and that’s what’s remembered, because that’s more real and more beautiful than what is actually out there.

The other argument is that “America is sparsely populated”. Which in context of the other one makes it hard to keep a straight face. I understand why these lines are said: it’s status signalling. Americans all learned in elementary school the narrative of Manifest Destiny: America the Beautiful for Spacious Skies something Amber Waves of Grain or other. Which is fine and all, if you realize that’s what you’re doing. But those ideas are why America is actually for Spacious Cars and Black Plains of Boring, why your commute is 90-120 minutes a day one way, and why it’s not even constantly moving at any predictable speed: First, build big and far apart because there’s a lot of space. Second, say any suggested improvements can’t work because everything is too spread out. Then, say things don’t have to be close together because there’s a lot of space…

Ideas have consequences. If you think Las Vegas / Dubai is the correct model, one where people go from oasis (home) to desert (everything else) to oasis (supercenter), that’s fine.

I don’t think anyone who’s thought it through actually agrees with that.

“Japanese are mindless collectivists and Americans are innovative individualists.”

One of the big narratives about Japan is it’s always pushing the state-of-the-art on automation.

This was one that I found to be completely wrong. Beyond a doubt. Whether Japanese universities and companies at the top when sorted by automation is completely inconsequential. I’m commenting on daily life and culture as I was able to see it on the streets, and my thrust is we know for sure that’s the real Japan, and whatever things up in the clouds they’re doing, it’s based on and a result of the stuff right in front of us. People have a tendency to map what they know onto what they don’t know, they hear Japan makes the highest tech, that must mean the rest of it is also higher-tech, and this isn’t helped by journalists or their imitators. “Japan is super automated” in the American understanding is not just false, but wrong, actively wrong, like you have to make up shit and enthusiastically remove what’s in front of your face in order for the image to be true.

Rather than pushing automation, what I saw suggested Japan actively attempts to stick a person into every possible place where there might be public conflict. So many that it’s as if they only stopped sticking more people in places because they couldn’t find more people.

I was in Akihabara and noticed there were four cops standing around, hmm wonder what they’re doing, but wasn’t particularly interested so I was going to walk past – but then they stopped me. And everyone else. All four of them got in some formation.

Then a car appears out of nowhere, disappears onto the street. They all say something, bow, step aside, and pedestrian traffic resumed.

I should’ve went into the store and bought something right there. That was a show.

It was the entrance to a parking lot in the middle of a big building, Yodobaishi Camera (sells discount electronics). Maybe those four had some other purpose too but their main job, as far as I could tell, was just to prevent people from getting hit. Four men. I’m going to say it again because it was just so amazing to me: Four men. Four men, hired for purpose of making sure no one got hit. That was in the late afternoon so there were a lot more people, but you can drop into google maps and see for yourself what it looks like in the middle of the day. They’re still there. Three rather than four, but still there. Standing at attention.

There’s probably a better way to phrase it than “Japan is designed around paying attention”. Both automation and attention at least in their Japanese and American iterations both could easily be said to represent the other way. In a sense, the pedestrians’ and driver’s collision detection is “automated” by those men. In another sense, if the men were removed, then the parking entrance would be designed around “attention” because if you don’t pay it, you’re screwed. It is my intuition and choice to map the Japanese way onto “attention” and the American way onto “automation”. There is an upper limit on what you can pay attention to, so you have to pick and choose what’s important to you. Detailed in obverse: what do you want other people to pay attention to with regards to you?

A matter of what decisions are important: Do you want drivers to have to stop and wait for an indeterminate period of time before they can enter/exit your building, and pedestrians to watch out so they don’t get maimed? Or do you want to put uniformed people there to take care of that decision they don’t care for, for them, and bow after their task is complete?

I can tell you I wouldn’t have applauded for a convex mirror.

Not that there weren’t any convex mirrors. There were. And those too were in much higher frequency than I expected. Mirrors, signs, attendants, so many things were everywhere for the purpose of ensuring quick and clean expected results for the public in such excessive amounts I was beginning to suspect the Japanese Department of Transportation must be the most powerful arm of the government. Then I noticed another extension: convenience stores. Can you imagine one of those giant waist-sized copy machines? In a convenience store? Well they had it. Unmanned. Right next to the porn mags and microwavable meals. Which they will ask you if you want it microwaved for you. They had that right there too.

And everywhere I looked the principle continued. I haven’t seen the Energizer bunny in twenty years, and now I know where he went. He’s here. Running Japan.

Even the famous meal ticket machines struck me in the same way. After seeing a few, it was obvious its primary purpose was a matter of removing potential money conflicts. The cook/waiter doesn’t need to handle the money, only the meal. And if money can neither be swiped by the employee nor argued with by the customer, then you don’t need a manager on site – or if there is one, his meaning is different.

The American idea of automation, on the other hand, is specifically about reducing the number of people. Nevermind whether the public is satisfied with it, just reduce the number of people. The current popular example is self-checkout machines. No one likes them. No one. You are going to get “Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove item”, and you are going to stand and wait for the single employee assigned there to get to you, after he gets through the other five machines having the same problem. But it’s good, because it’s automated. Self-driving cars are killing people, and we’re “debating ethics” like “should a car kill pedestrians or its passengers”, rather than suing the company, or banning the technology, or reducing their maximum speed, or hitting the brakes. Or going back to drivers. It’s good, because it’s automated. The real problem is that the technology is just a little imperfect today. This is the future. This is the march towards enlightenment.

The reason why I map the American way onto “automation” is because I doubt Americans think. Thinking itself is treated as a sin. Americans mechanically seek automation because they mentally seek the reduction of syllogisms to points. Preferably, to a single objective point: one True narrative to rule to them all. Are the Japanese “collectivist”? Perhaps. But if I were to choose either Americans or the Japanese to call “automatons”, the Japanese would not be it.

In writing this I had to stop for two days because a neighbor’s dog was yelping at a rate of about once a second for a length of six hours and driving me insane. When I try to talk to them, they pretend they’re not home. When I talk to the police, they tell me a complaint is not real until I get five neighboring homeowner signatures. When I talk to my family, they tell me people have a right to raise dogs. These answers – don’t change the fact that there’s sound pollution emanating from that dog, and it’s been happening for the past five years. When I look at what others have said about similar situations, people have responded from “just live with it”, to “throw poisoned meat over the fence”, to “send endless legal paperwork at them”, to “spend tens of thousands of dollars to soundproof your room”, to “buy super bright lights and a big amplifier and send it right back at em”.

In short, they said: “You go do something about it”.

Or as I phrased it last time: “Fuck you, got mine”.

I even read one comment saying something like this was a good thing:

“I’m surrounded by neighbors with barking dogs and the sound of gunshots. I’ve never been a big fan of the wanna-be dictators that live in cities so it actually brings pleasure to my ears to hear the report of liberty ringing through the woods and my fellow freedom loving country dwellers don’t mind it either.”

Maybe I didn’t go into the Japanese countryside enough, but it was quiet. That stereotype was on the money. Everywhere I went was quiet. People were quiet. Cars were quiet. Toilets flushing were quiet. Even those hot air driers you stick your hands in were quiet. The loudest things were trains (if you weren’t inside them) (correction: arcades were the loudest), but both rails and highways had sound walls on them. Anywhere they were close to housing, soundwalls. Miles and miles and miles of soundwalls and more soundwalls. It is difficult to imagine a Japanese neighborhood ever having a noise problem, first because probably no one makes much noise to begin with, and if they did, they’d be cooperative and come to some agreement, and if they weren’t, the cops would come and help work something out. “Help” not being sarcastic. Cops are everywhere in Japan, by the way. And these aren’t American cops. There’s no equivalent American concept for them. I would maybe compare them to class leaders, but that only makes sense if you’re a weeb; class leader also has no equivalent American concept. I would also maybe compare them to having a big brother, but “Big Brother” also has absolutely nothing to do with how Japanese police integrate into their social fabric. I would know. I saw people casually walk up to talk to Japanese cops. And Japanese cops casually walked up to talk to me. (That story is in the panoramics.)

The Japanese actually have a social fabric. That doesn’t exist in America, because regardless of how many “community center”s you build, everyone’s attitude is “fuck you, got mine”. No matter what kinds of things I or the police can do about that neighbor’s dog, it’s their dog. That’s not a statement of legal rights, that’s a statement of ontology. A court order means nothing if that person doesn’t care to do it. The law doesn’t protect people, people protect the law. The Japanese people protect the law. The American people say “fuck you, got mine”.

Ideas have consequences. Everyone knows America makes crap cars, and that’s because everyone making those cars only pays attention to their own little bubble and exercises whatever arbitrary authority over others the piece of paper says they have, fuck if there’s consequences, “fuck you, got mine”. Change the approach, change the consequences.

Earlier I talked about a Japanese car factory in America – it was new Toyota management over what a recently closed GM plant manned by, as the union phrased it, “the worst workforce in the automobile industry”. The day it re-opened, the world’s best cars were coming down the line. And it wasn’t because of some fancy automation. Take it from the workers themselves. Turns out you need people to make cars, and human relationship structures are also a technology. One of the things they did was instantly reduce total man-hours to produce a car by half. They achieved this because Japanese managers decided the line will be stopped any time anyone – any line worker – thinks there’s a problem. Turns out stopping the line for something minor when it appears is cheaper than finding out after the fact and having to undo, and then redo, everything that’s piled on top later.

Just like how it’s cheaper for a neighborhood for an owner to pay attention and train their dog than a neighbor buy soundproofing materials, or big speakers and bright lights. “You can’t say that, that’s their dog!” Yes. It is their dog. That’s the point.

Japanese pay attention to their place in the social fabric to achieve desired consequences.
Americans talk about freedom and innovation.

Japanese make cars people want.
Americans talk about how scrappy tinkerers in Stanford garages made DARPA self-driving cars.

People tour Japanese tourist attractions, cities, suburbs, and charming rural villages.

People tour American tourist attractions, not the cities, definitely not the suburbs, and not rural villages, not because they’re not charming, but because they don’t exist.

Ideas have consequences. Change the approach, change the consequences.

Perhaps the overarching idea is manners.

There was a lot of manners everywhere. The most obvious ones being bowing and uniforms, some less obvious ones being quietness and a certain simplicity and cleanliness in dress, and not obvious at all if you don’t understand the language, how many politeness suffixes there are on every word public attendants say. Somewhere along the way occurred to me it wasn’t a coincidence that Japan is both a land of politeness and a land of proper and beautiful walls and gates. Walls and gates… are just the building versions of manners. Or more illustriously:

Manners are just the human behavior version of walls and gates.

When you encounter a building or a person, you basically have no idea what’s going on inside it. If that building is properly defined though, with a slight bit of flourish on its entrance, you’ll feel it’s slightly more important – because it shows it understands its borders with its neighbors, and that it treats the people who enter it with respect. If a person is properly defined, with a slight bit of flourish where it’s important, say, a clean blue suit, with white-gloved hands, then you’re more likely to go to such a stranger to ask for help, and, finishing with a bow, feel slightly better going off about your day.

Whatever is going on inside your house or your head, how you present is how others will treat you and interact with you. How you present yourself is what your “manners” are.

A lot of American political activism, downstream of which is the general culture, has the central idea of “Don’t judge me by my looks”. Well what else are you giving people to judge you on? They’re not going to read your book. “You can’t judge me” Sure I can. I have to know how to interact with you. “You don’t know anything about me” I know at least that your gate is ugly and your walls are crumbling. There’s certain types of things I can reasonably be sure are true from those facts, just as sure as I can be that a tree fallen in a forest at some point made a sound. “I’m trying to raise awareness” Yeah. You’re doing that alright.

“I do what I want!”

Does such an idea lead to a better world? Ideas have consequences.

The American phrasing for Japanese dress code is “conservative”, and in terms of the physical references, it’s pretty accurate. In Tokyo it was more or less a sea of black suits. In Kyoto there were quite a number of kimonos instead. But “conservative” (in Americanese) more generally means “old fashioned”, as in “done because it’s always been done this way”, and I’m not sure that’s so true. It may be true at the individual scale, like parents telling kids what to do, but I doubt that’s what’s happening on a broader scale. I don’t think it’s the general principle. It does not seem to be possible to build and maintain society so beautiful and so clean and so peaceful with just the idea, “because it’s always been done this way”.

Proper manners have an importance for the person doing it. The act of performing a ritual reinforces its mental importance. I once had, and this is not normal, a co-worker who made sure to say “good morning”, every day, to everyone, the first time he saw them that day. I didn’t understand it then, even when reciprocating the gesture, even when he left and it didn’t happen anymore. I lacked (the ability to construct) a frame of reference on what a world built on that principle would mean. But now I have an idea. “In Japan not saying grace before eating something is considered the absolute pits of rudeness and sure sign of retarded manners.” It’s technically not ‘grace’ because it’s not the Christian God, it’s saying thanks to the people who worked to prepare the food. But technically, that’s as unheard as praying to a god, because most of the people who prepared that food aren’t around, and actually no one is around if you’re eating alone and the waiter has left the table. Yet it happens. Not because of materialism vs spiritualism, but because the act of doing it reinforces its mental importance.

What would it mean if everyone and everyones’ behaviors had proper boundaries? What would it mean if everyone’s interactions with each other were properly defined? What would it mean if people paid attention to others, and saw that everyone has their share in shaping what the world will look like?

What would such a world look like?

Japan gave me some ideas.

No, that’s not accurate.

A week in Japan induced me to ask, “What would such a world look like?”.

What did I find having travelled?

What is the value in travel?

I believe it is to adjust your senses.

I consider this the first real time I’ve been to another place. In all the other times, it was basically a dream. I had no say in anything, and nothing affected me. The only decisions available were to follow or not follow the tour group (whether this be a Chinese bus tour or family), to get on or not get on the vehicle in time, and to wake up or not wake up on time. In travel as well as other domains, I’ve found where you make decisions is where you pay attention is what becomes important is what you remember. This time, it was somewhere I wanted to go. Nevermind that “it’s the land of trains and anime!!!” isn’t a very good reason, it’s my reason, which means it’s better than someone else’s reason. That’s how decisions work. So I wanted to make all the decisions I could come up with.

At the beginning I said my interest was “how the Japanese use their land”, but what I really wanted to see was how they live. To fully see how another people live is probably an impossible task, though you can presumably get pretty close by speaking their language and working in their economy for a few decades. Short of such an intensive and extensive ethnography, I was content to wander about the places just slightly more mundane than specifically designed tourist attractions. I have a few opinions on the tourist attractions, which I list in the albums, but most of them were not particularly here nor there.

In the end, the parts of Japan I enjoyed the most were watching people do things and inspecting places designed for more reasons than just mine. How do these foreign people live their daily lives? Well, here’s at least how they live some of their public parts of it.

Planning and Decisions

The most important purpose the tourist attractions served was anchoring during the planning phase – which turned out to be fairly different from what I imagined before I did it, and doing it showed me why it is travel agents and tour guides exist. That stuff takes time. A lot of time. I can understand why some people don’t want to do it (though I think it also entirely defeats the purpose of travel). There were some decisions too, though not so much on decisions between tourist attractions. It’s comparing this (web)page to that (web)page: hard enough telling which part is better even with detailed specsheets, telling worthiness of tourist attractions based off of fuzzy language written by people you don’t know is intractable. Hiring people who have (ostensibly) been to places – tour guides and travel agents – would have a much better idea. (No surprise, those types are the ones writing these (web)pages.) Taking it a step further, such people would have been much more important before the internet. In such times, where else would you get a map? How would you read the signs? I imagine if I had unlimited money and power, a personal travel guide would be ideal. Someone who knows all the stuff, but is at my beck and call rather than the other way around.

The other decision was only slightly less intractable: how much resolution should the planning have? “Kyoto then Tokyo” was obviously not good enough, but where should the detail stop? I imagine this one isn’t as difficult if you’ve travelled before and have a sense for this sort of thing, but I hadn’t a clue. It might also be something approaching personality: I hate not having any ideas, so I planned things down to the minute and meter – not so much so there was a plan to follow to the letter, but to have a letter to return to in case things go wrong. This cost a lot more time, but I felt better having done it.

When did I stop? When I burned out.

That being said, a lot of planning ended up being next to superfluous. Like looking for restaurants: I was worried about places not having english menus, but this is basically not a concern. They’re fairly common. Some will even indicate it on a sign outside. At first I was using and similar, but they all listed the super high class exorbitant stuff which I didn’t care for. Then I used tabelog, something the Japanese actually use, but it turns out it’s not particularly important to the Japanese whether a place does or doesn’t have an english menu, so they don’t go and mark that detail on a review site. Then by the time I got there, I magically found myself magically okay with places not having english. I wasn’t a food tourist. I had some plans to be one, but because beauty was everywhere, lines at a lot of places were long, and my feet hurt, I skipped meals or ate at convenience (stores).

This extremely detailed planning, or rather, the expectation of having an extremely detailed plan, ran into two major problems:

  • I didn’t have a specific spot to get a SIM card.
  • “Don’t travel with family”.

These appeared at the same time at the very beginning after something like 16 hours of plane and transfer and 30 hours of being awake, which gave me what I think people called a breakdown.

The former was an oversight based on how exceedingly simple and cheap it was to do in Hong Kong. A little 7-11 or something right at the exit of customs had SIM cards for like 10 USD for 7D unlimited calls/text/data. I was caught by surprise at KIX when mom said “don’t get it here, it’s cheaper in the city”. So I’m like, okay mom. Of course, it wasn’t okay. Because now you don’t know where to go to get a SIM card. They aren’t just lying around on the streets “in the city”. We take the limo bus to Kyoto station, and wander around the south side until we find some convenience-looking stores, one (or two?) of which had english instructions on laminated sheets on their SIM cards for sale. They were something like 4500Y minimum for 30D, 1.5GB data, no calls no text. Which seemed like a bad joke. Then we take a taxi to our hotel, except the taxi didn’t drop us off at the literal doorstep, I don’t have a map because I was expecting to have google the whole time, and neither of them have maps of sufficient size or detail either, so we walk around like headless chickens for an hour until one stranger responded to mom’s asking random people for directions with a google maps search and tells us we had walked in the wrong direction. Turns out the taxi dropped us off about 300m from the hotel, and we had extended that distance by about 200m. Somewhere along those 500m we stop by a FamilyMart, which may or may not have had a SIM card. I say “may or may not” because there were definitely things labelled “phone”, but none of them had instructions were in english – which is pretty important to someone who can only read english (“I know my kana and a few kanji” = “can only read english”). I was delirious at this point, but my sister saved the day by searching up “kyoto sim card” or something on google using the hotel wifi, said we could get it at a BIC Camera next to Kyoto Station, and so that’s where we went and that’s what we got. Or rather, that’s what I got. Apparently neither of them found such a thing was all that important. I was ready to shell out the 4500 at that point, but BIC Camera had the same offering for 2000, so 2000 it was. Looking it up now, apparently KIX has SIM cards for around 4000. In retrospect, I should’ve just paid the 2000 extra and gotten that half a day of time back. 20 USD for a few hours of time and peace of mind? Next you’ll tell me you have a deal for self enlightenment.

(There’s a lot of signs saying “free wifi” everywhere, but I don’t trust such things (in America), one because it’s unreliable reception, two because my main usage would be GPS which means moving around. My sister said she had success with ward/station wifi in Kyoto and Nara, but in every Tokyo attempt they required at least an email, and her yahoo email gave some consistent error message. Free wifi on the limo bus also required some similar details. On the same topic: the SIM card asked for passport details.)

“Don’t travel with family” I’ve heard now and again, so it seems to be some sort of idiom. Having done it now I have some ideas as to why it is. It doesn’t have to be true, but some things will make it more true than not. I think it comes down again to decisions, but since I’ve been talking about decisions a lot already I’ll use a slightly different angle.

The problem with travelling with family is the former is unknown unknowns and the latter is set knowns. Under normal conditions, when this or that happens, this or that person takes care of this or that part. In travel, any number of things can change, most importantly the things you didn’t even consider, and it’s now unclear who can do or who is responsible for what. When mom contradicts me, usually she knows both what I want and what she’s talking about. But generally she only deals with and I only consult her on certain things. SIM card acquirement methods in foreign countries not being one of them. And if it’s on a tight timeline even the decision of whether to stay in this area for a little longer or not can be a strain. Everyone has different interests, and different ways to approach unknowns – how do you deal with those differences in your family? What that dynamic is determines how much you will enjoy what level of travelling with them, or any arbitrary thing with any arbitrary group. Between getting off the limo bus and getting the SIM card four hours later I blamed mom in a variety of colorful ways for preventing us from having a navi, and somewhere in there she said “You could’ve not listened to me”. Which at the time just made my mouth even more colorful. But finally getting sleep after 40 hours of being awake, and then running into coordination problems again that first real day, I decided to do just that afterwards. Our interests didn’t correspond to begin with. She found Gion “boring, when are we going to see the actual stuff” when I found every step I took there much more interesting than the “actual stuff” we later arrived at. She later spent an hour in a Shinjuku cat cafe. I was happily wandering my way from Shinsen to Shibuya doing “nothing”. Does everything need to happen together with family? Is it a magic word? Good fences (and good gates and good manners) make good neighbors; everyone prefers cubicles over open offices; rooms have walls for a reason. I never had trouble with family on all those other trips because I knew who was in charge and I was fully satisfied – or at least, not unsatisfied enough to conceptualize it – being pulled along doing whatever it was the others were doing. This time, that was not the case.

Next time I go somewhere I’m going to print out some maps beforehand. Yes it’s more convenient if everything is on the phone, even more convenient if it’s on the cloud, but I think having a lower level tech backup is good (google does not offer downloadable/offline maps in Japan). Having thought about it beforehand is also a type of backup, and regardless of how superfluous a lot of it turned out, I’m glad I did that: “you fall to the level of your training”. I was able to quickly rearrange the order of things because I didn’t need to look details up again, which would’ve taken longer because mobile is not the same as a desktop. And of course, I had an idea on what places of interest existed. No tourist booklet could have given me ideas on the visual value of what this or that non-tourist area would be.

I think I’d like a lower level backup of everything, but that’s probably not feasible at some point. The lower level of GPS is just asking for directions. Rather than cross-referencing three paper schedules you should just take a taxi, which mom is fond of, but actively exited my considerations. Similarly, there’s an upper limit to how many and what kinds of decisions you can make. Taking a train is more real than taking a taxi, but only in that 1) regular people use trains more than taxis and 2) trains have stations, which in Japan are absolutely charming. The actual ride of a train and taxi have basically the same decision weight.

Unless you take a taxi that drops you off somewhere you didn’t tell it to.

Where can information be found?

Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like the internet has severely warped my understanding of where things can be found. I thought I had understood the concept with regards to driving and GPS – I look at the map beforehand, and I try to achieve what I visualize in my mind, only consulting the phone if I start doubting the correlation between what I see and that image. It was obvious to me that following a disembodied voice by the nose that only tells you what to do 15 or 30 seconds ahead of time would paint a similarly disintegrated world. But the problem was much bigger than that.

In Kyoto Station there was a visitor information center or some similar name. Mom wanted to go take a look and pick up some brochures and booklets, so I follow her in, but I was thinking: gee, what a fancy and pointless display. It’s not like people are going to come here and then plan their trip.

And then I thought – where else would they put it?

How much sooner could the City of Kyoto and the Japan National Tourism Organization get that information sooner into the hands of those who would be interested, by what methods could they have done it, and in what forms could it possibly take?

Sure it’d be better if you knew beforehand, but that’s not what visitor centers are for. If you’re looking for information beforehand, maybe the Japanese Embassy in your country has something. But you’d still have to travel to the Embassy, which they probably don’t have in your specific city (I don’t know anything about embassies). Other than that, where would it be? Who would spend their time and/or land providing such a service? And it is a service. We refer to searching on the internet as “looking up”, as if the man in the sky himself is handing us an apple – and that’s exactly right. What’s not right is thinking that’s how information works. The Google god hands you an apple, but that’s dependent on what Google will give you, and there are things it won’t, either because it chooses not to, or because it doesn’t have it (or because it’s on page 10 and you don’t look past page 2). You can use or anywhere else, but their information is also limited. Their scope is not infinite, and the real thing is. An obvious limit: how are these sites funded? They are funded somehow. Perhaps that’s why all the restaurants in the first place I looked were of the exorbitant type?

One of the reasons I told myself I didn’t like American cities is because it’s not clear where anything is. Everything is too spread out, everything’s spread out, if a place doesn’t have one of those hundred-foot-tall towers with a huge logo on it, you won’t know it’s there. And in a sense that’s true. Tokyo was marvelous with sticking huge maps (with english!!) on what seemed like every other street corner (infinite budget: how do you do that for cars?). But it’s still not holy revelation when everything is close together. You still have to find one and walk to it.

There’s always some work/cost involved.

And there’s always the possibility that amount is too high.

This other example is even sillier than the last one: I started with the idea that I could shop around to save money on souvenirs. Now, this wasn’t entirely untrue, but it was false. How much could you possibly save? These sorts of things are usually discussed between the sellers beforehand, and even if the cost was a big difference, you are probably not going to be the one to exploit it. There were differences, but I don’t think I saw any more than 300Y difference for the same >2500Y item in the same district. And if it’s not in the same district, or if the more recent district simply doesn’t have the thing you wanted: are you going to go all the way back to the other one? Is this what you want to be spending your time on? How many days are you here? Oh yeah, remember this is all while your feet hurt.

Related is the concept of a “tourist trap”. At least in Japan, I feel a more appropriate wording is “tourist nest”. Here is an area where you can see what you came to see, buy things you’d expected to buy, and there’s plenty of things in english and people who can speak english. Sure there’s some other district where you can get things for cheaper, or see something interesting that most people don’t see. But there will be less english. And the people there won’t be prepared to handle you. Imagine being randomly placed in an airport with no signs and no maps, no attendants and no telephone booths. With videogames as a metaphor instead: imagine no minimap. In the same sense, it’s like being deployed at an embassy or a(n American) military base. Yeah you’re in another country. But your actions mean very different things when you’re inside versus when you’re out. Or in a much darker sense, human trafficking. You’re in a foreign country, but no one knows you, you can’t communicate with anyone, and you have no papers. After escaping, finding your way to the nearest “tourist trap” is probably your best bet. But how will you know where that is? In a much more mundane example, suppose you live near a big city and some friends visit you and ask you to show them around or introduce them to some famous places. If you didn’t have the internet and weren’t a tour guide or taxi driver by profession: how would you do that?

The difference in mapping of what physically exists versus what goes on in people’s heads is significant. And it seems like the difference is getting larger – that or something related, like peoples’ ability to cross or even recognize that gap is rapidly diminishing.

What does having information mean?

When the printing press was first being deployed the majority of production went towards novels, and the criticisms were that people would not be able to distinguish between fiction and reality. There’s the famous story about a radio reading of a book that made people believe aliens really had landed on earth. More recently, video games are said to cause violence in children, and porn to cause a variety of changes in relationships between women and men.

I think all of them are right. Not in their specific claims, but in their general direction.

The principle is whatever you train for is whatever you will expect. Training in “the real world” is not an exception, as there’s quite a few “the real world”s out there, and they’re all wildly different from each other.

The more specific principle is man-made environments are very low on dimensions. If it’s text, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, you are taking in information from a single type, literally one font, it’s linear, and it’s uninterrupted. Spend a lot of time reading text, and you’ll start thinking the world comes in one type, operates linearly, and will be forever continuous. If it’s a videogame there’s a few more parts to it, but you’re still looking at a rectangle of light, and probably using a standardized interface with limited inputs. If it’s a job, again, there’s just a few more parts to it. Major difference from the other two being you have to leave your house.

There are so many more information types in the world.

That there’s probably more types than any one can ever directly handle is only a vaguely important revelation. The more important one is there’s some arrangement of types that probably works a lot better for you than whatever you have now. This is the real reason why it’s said there are things you can’t learn from schools and books, not because they’re not discussed thoroughly in schools and books (though there’s that too), but because the types they use aren’t designed to be compatible with you.

Perhaps there’s someone that could gain a substantial understanding of Japan based off of going to tourist attractions. I doubt it. Perhaps there’s someone that could gain it off of going to museums. This requires being able to read Japanese, but it’s more plausible. I needed to wander the streets I picked out myself off random google maps streetview drops. I should have done that even more; I gained next to nothing going to the actual attractions.

But no one was going to tell me about that.

No one could have imagined to tell me about that.

References and Other Rulesets


“Training deals not with an object but with the human spirit and human emotions.”

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Bruce Lee

“I don’t care where you read it. I don’t care who said it. Even if I said it. If it doesn’t fit with what you believe and your common sense, then it is not so.”

The Buddha
as relayed by Richard Hamming


“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

John Keats

“You can get away with staggering amounts of ugliness in a city as long as it is held to a human scale and balanced with the sacred.”

Wrath of Gnon

“The wasted space (and its contribution to overall impoverishment) in our stagnant cities is definitely on my mind a lot–but it’s not surprising that high real estate costs in other cities haven’t changed things for them, mainly because they’re just too far away to benefit from places which are still thriving–they only *work* when they have functional economies of their own.

It’s like that tedious cliche about “why do Americans need to build dense when we have S P A C E” as if all the acreage in, say, Wyoming makes an ounce of a difference to people trying to live and work in, say, Boston.

Or for that matter, all the acreage in WESTERN MASS vis-a-vis the people trying to live and work in Boston.”

Alex Forrest

“Mechanical innovations, including mechanized cities, can add to our experience and stimulate our perceptive capacities, but they do not eradicate the mechanisms of human physiology.

The proper size of a bedroom has not changed in thousands of years.

Neither has the proper size of a door nor the proper size of a community. If cities have become immense, so much more is the need for subdividing them into comprehensible sections. Transportation systems may render the outlying parts of the city more accessible, but communities must remain individual entities whose size and appearance are comprehensible. The physical fact of scale must also be visually apparent. When these principles are violated the results are cities without human form, cities without sympathy, cities without pride. Worse still are the effects on the spirit and human sensitivities of its people.”

Paul D. Spreiregen
Wrath of Gnon

“The immersive ugliness of our everyday environments in America is entropy made visible. We can’t overestimate the amount of despair that we are generating with places like this. And mostly, I want to persuade you that we have to do better, if we’re going to continue the project of civilization in America. By the way, this [smiley face on a water tower] doesn’t help. Nobody’s having a better day down here, because of that.

There are a lot of ways you can describe this. I like to call it “the national automobile slum”. You can call it suburban sprawl. I think it’s appropriate to call it the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. […]

The salient problem about this for us is that these are places that are not worth caring about.

[…] The public realm has to inform us not only where we are geographically, but where we are in our culture. Where we’ve come from, what kind of people we are, and by doing that, it needs to afford us a glimpse of where we’re going, in order to allow us to dwell in a hopeful present. If there is one catastrophe about the places we’ve built, the human environments we’ve made for ourselves in the last 50 years, it is that it has deprived us of the ability to live in a hopeful present.

The environments we are living in, more typically, are like these. This happens to be the asteroid belt of architectural garbage two miles north of my town […] If you stand on the apron of the Wal-Mart over here, and try to look at the Target store over there, you can’t see it because of the curvature of the Earth.

That’s nature’s way of telling you that you’re doing a poor job of defining space. Consequently, these will be places that nobody wants to be in. These will be places that are not worth caring about.

We have about 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today. When we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending.”

How Bad Architecture Wrecked Cities
James Howard Kunstler

“America’s the best, if you really treasure your freedom, you’ll put up with 60 minutes every day each way to go 20 miles, a distance which might as well be in the middle of nowhere because it’s all single family detached residential around here. Stop complaining already. Everyone else has to deal with it too. If you don’t like it why don’t you leave? I just suck it up like a real man. I’m proud of my country. I don’t like it either,

but look at me,

I don’t complain.

This attitude is why I hate Americans. “My country, right or wrong” – except worse, because it’s not about foreign vs domestic, it’s about “Fuck you, got mine“. There’s no reasoning going on, there’s no considering of alternatives, there’s no constant seeking for improvement, it’s “eh, who cares, fuck you, got mine”. American gamers say those who are better than them “have no life”, and say those who are worse than them “casuals”. Americans who are more successful than them are “lucky or “talented”, but when they taste success themselves it’s because they have “passion” and achieved it through “hard work”. It’s so prevalent everywhere it’s would almost be funny, except they get really serious when the shit hits the fan and still refuse to believe that any of this is related.

People want housing to be close to jobs and shopping. Higher population density means more people are closer to the same amount of things. Metro systems, which have guaranteed right-of-way on their rails, connect speedily and reliably even more people to the same amount of things. This speed simultaneously connects those people to more areas than before, meaning there’s more areas competing with each other, driving the price down of, among other things, rent. All of these things are objectively desirable. All of these things are required in an ideal city.

But the people don’t care. And the city planners don’t care. The public transportation workers don’t care. The public transportation leaders don’t care. No one cares, until it looks like it might be time for them to get their cut. Then it’s not in my backyard, not my job, sorry the project was more complicated than expected, it’ll cost twice as much and take three times as long, man that janitor worked really hard this year, he deserves a raise. And then it’s back to not caring. Maybe once every five years we’ll do a week’s worth of work. Maybe once every four years they’ll pay attention. And we’re the world police superpower anyways, it’s always going to be better to live here. If those slanty eyed chinks start getting uppity we’ll just nuke them. Time for a nap.”

BART, Americans, and Attitudes, vs The East
Korezaan Su

“In most North American communities, police takes the curious form of clearly identified vehicles basically prowling the streets in search of violations (most often traffic violations). The analogy of police being predators hunting for prey is a bit too easy to make. This doesn’t help police-community relations at all, because the isolation of private vehicles means that police will rarely be in contact with the community except when intervening, so police may come to see the community they’re policing (especially if they don’t live in it) as made up of only two types of people: law violators/criminals and victims begging for help. That’s not a great way to develop a great relationship: “that community is full of criminals and people who flout the law all the time and hate us, but when they’re in trouble, suddenly it’s ‘please mr policeman, save us!!!'”.

[…] The reason for this type of policing is easy enough to understand. With people dispersed everywhere over a large area, how can a few dozen policemen provide effective surveillance if they’re not constantly on the move, at a speed that allows them to cover enough ground. This is a model that is also needlessly applied to dense neighborhoods which could have an alternative mode of policing.

Another unpleasant result of this is that policemen develop severe windshield perspective syndrome, since they spend their jobs at the wheel, they adopt the point of view of drivers, being more lax towards casual traffic violations by drivers and more likely to enforce jaywalking fines or the like on pedestrians and cyclists (and also, disrespecting bike lanes).

And what alternative mode is there? Well, again, Japan shows an interesting contrast.”

Police box: policing a walkable city
Urban kchoze

“Why are you going that far to obey the law when that law can neither judge a criminal nor protect people?”

“The law doesn’t protect people. People protect the law.

People have always detested evil and sought out a righteous way of living. Their feelings… The accumulation of those peoples’ feelings are the law. They’re neither the provisions nor the system. They’re the fragile and irreplacable feelings that everyone carries in their hearts. Compared to the power of anger or hatred, they are something that can quite easily break down. People have prayed for a better world throughout time.

In order for those prayers to continue to hold meaning, we have to try our best to protect it to the very end.”

Kogami Shinya, Tsunemori Akane

“They spent about two weeks, and they worked in a Toyota plant.”

“Hooked up at the hip with a counterpart in the Corolla plant, someone who did the exact same job you’d be doing back in Fremont.”

“And they start to do the job, and they were pretty proud, because they were building cars back in the United States. And they wanted to show they could do it within the time allotted, and they would usually get behind, and they would struggle, and they would try to catch up. And at some point, somebody would come over and say, do you want me to help?

And that was a revelation, because nobody in the GM plant would ever ask to help. They would come and yell at you because you got behind.”

“Really, we wanted to give them a chance to see and experience a different way of doing things. We wanted them to see the culture there, the way people worked together to solve problems.”

“Then, the biggest surprise was if, when they had those problems, afterwards, somebody would come up to them and say, what are your ideas for improvement so we don’t have that problem again?

They couldn’t believe that responsiveness. I can’t remember any time in my working life where anybody asked for my ideas to solve the problem. And they literally want to know. And when I tell them, they listen, and then suddenly they disappear, and somebody comes back with the tool that I just described. It’s built, and they say try this.”

Jeffrey Liker, John Shook
This American Life #561: NUMMI 2015

“Just because something is on the internet does not mean it’s a “public space”.”

“Yeah so what? We need to make sure large companies aren’t able to control who can go where and do what. You can’t kill somebody just for being in your house. So obviously there’s a line that needs drawing.”

“You’re forgetting that another entity could provide the well for the other demographic, seeing as there’s money to be made there.”

“It’s an example of there being limited availability in resources. In the example of the water, there’s no time to wait for the market to dig another well to save the person. Any excuse can be made, but the end result is the person dies, not that property rights have been saved. The same thing is happening with social media. […] If it’s the greater races at stake. The future of civilization at stake. Then there’s no length we shouldn’t go to to save it. Property becomes less important. It’s a hierarchy of needs for civilization to survive.

[…] The entire premise is virtual or not, private or not, when something dominates how we live our lives, we need to look at how we can update those areas to reflect our values. Those values conflict with private property every day and we have to make hard decisions. Private property is an ideal just like freedom of speech, belief, etc. […] Property rights are incredibly important, but there are times they hinder civilization. If it allows us to get run over and civilization destroyed, and property rights destroyed as a result, then they weren’t very good ideals. This is why libertarians have mostly become fascists of some sort. At least until we get control of things like borders and universities.”

“There is no comparison between forcing a company to manage it’s website a certain way and border control.”

“It’s not a comparison. It’s about taking every ground we can to support the existence of civilization. Property rights are good at that, but only to a point. We also need to think in terms of collective property rights.

We can’t just wait until something reaches our doorstep. Collective power always has and always will matter.”

Arman, Unknown

“When was the first time you ever pulled an andon cord?”


“Where did you do it?”

“In Japan.”

“Were you at all nervous, because you’d been taught for so many years never to stop the line?”

“Yeah. And it was really exciting.”

“What got me was the fact that they had a cross bolt, and they stopped the line to repair it […] which is take the bolt out, ream the hole, put the bolt back in, instead of sending it on and putting all the other junk on top of it so you have to take it off and repair it. And whoever puts it back isn’t skilled in putting trim back, so they’re going to mess up. That impression, I said, gee, that makes sense. Fix it now so you don’t have to go through all this stuff.

That’s when it dawned on me that we can do it.

One bolt.

One bolt changed my attitude.”

Frank Langfitt, Earl Ferguson, Rick Madrid
This American Life #561: NUMMI 2015

“To grasp the essence of a political culture that does not recognise the possibility of transcendental truths demands an unusual intellectual effort for Westerners, an effort that is rarely made even in serious assessments of Japan. The occidental intellectual and moral traditions are so deeply rooted in assumptions of the universal validity of certain beliefs that the possibility of a culture existing without such assumptions is hardly ever contemplated. Western child-rearing practice inculcates suppositions that implicitly confirm the existence of an ultimate logic controlling the universe independently of the desires and caprices of human beings. This outlook, constantly reaffirmed in later life, inclines Westerners to take for granted that all advanced civilisations develop concepts of universal validity, and they are therefore not prompted to examine the effects of their absence.”

The Enigma of Japanese Power
Karel van Wolferen

“Centralization leads to complexity, complexity leads to crisis, attempts to fix the crisis have, because of complexity, unintended consequences, which escalate into further crisis, leading to further centralization, Hence Soviet Russia, Hitler’s Germany, Venezuela, and now America.

This is the crisis of socialism, explained in “I pencil”, which makes the point that no one actually knows how to make a pencil, hence socialist production of pencils will fail.

In order to manage complexity, you need walls, so that one man can make decisions without having his decisions mucked up by another man’s decisions. Hence, private property and local authority, the authority of the father, the authority the business owner, the authority of the CEO. And, not so long ago, the authority of the local aristocrat, who tended to be a high officer in the local militia, a major employer and landowner, and related by blood or marriage to most of the other high officers in the local militia.

Ideally all the consequences of a decision should be contained within those walls. Of course they never are, but if you try to manage all the externalities, things very quickly slide of control. Every attempt to manage the externalities has unexpected consequences, and attempts to deal with the unexpected consequences have additional unexpected consequences, because trying to control matters that have externalities connects everything to everything else, resulting in a tangle beyond human comprehension.”

Throne, Altar, and Freehold
Jim’s Blog

“The emperor listened intently to Zhang’s tales of exotic plants and animals, including horses that sweated blood. Most intriguing were the reports of nations that dwelled in fortified cities. They were said to be adept at commerce but “poor in the use of arms and afraid of battle” – standard characteristics of the walled and civilized. Zhang described “large countries, full of rare things, with populations living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical to those of the Chinese people.”

People who lived like the Chinese? Now that was welcome news. In a flash, China’s alleged isolation was swept away. The Chinese had retreated behind walls only because they knew the world to be hostile and barbarian. Now they knew otherwise. Wu sent great expeditionary forces to open a lifeline to the newly discovered brethren in the fraternity of wall builders. At the time, only massive armies dared cross the terrain of the Huns, so Wu endeavored to make the route safe for travelers. He ordered the construction of a new wall – the reed-and-dirt wall discovered by Stein – to defend China’s thin link to the civilizations of Central Asia and beyond.”

Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick
David Frye
Wrath of Gnon

“Entrances have everything to do with what we feel about what we are entering. All buildings until the birth of modern architecture knew this, and you can see it in church doors, temple gates, shop entrances, and cottage doorsteps. Now the doors of a modern building are likely to be a continuation of the same hostile slab of glass or steel that makes the rest of the building sterile and aloof. There will be no place to rest for a moment, inside or out, and no shelf to rest a burden on, and no decorative details to declare, “This is not just any place you are entering, but this honorable place.” I believe even criminals feel different about the judges they encounter inside an old courthouse than inside a new one.

My wife and I walked under the Gates and beneath the curtains. Thousands of others were doing the same. Many of them no doubt made the same journey daily, scarcely thinking of it. Certainly our walk was enriched by trees, grass, shrubbery, ponds, views. But now the Gates, by framing those sights, gave them a new aspect and importance. Not “grass on a hill,” but this view of a grass hill. Not a pond, but look at the pond. A frame of any sort values what it encloses. And as we walked, we felt subtly ceremonial. We were not walking, but walking through the gates. People walked a little more slowly, and sometimes had little smiles, and talked less on their cell phones, and perhaps felt more there.”

Roger Ebert
Wrath of Gnon

“In Japan not saying grace before eating something is considered the absolute pits of rudeness and sure sign of retarded manners.”

Wrath of Gnon

“The essentials of speaking are in not speaking at all. If you think that you can finish something without speaking, finish it without saying a single word. If there is something that cannot be accomplished without speaking, one should speak with few words, in a way that will accord well with reason.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“Footnote: Some people whose parents didn’t love them enough to teach manners, has objected to this thread thinking it is about style because I mention the International Style in the opening. Note the capitals. It is not aesthetics, it is an actual thing.”

Wrath of Gnon

“The Japanese have understood that what people are largely pursuing in the workplace is not so much money as the respect of the people around them, and therefore maintain a sophisticated – indeed, bizarrely over-elaborate to the Western eye – economy of respect in addition to the economy of money. They have understood that a large part of what money-seeking individuals really want is just to spend that money on purchasing social respect, though status display or whatever, so it is far more efficient to allocate respect directly.

Did you really think people as obviously intelligent as the Japanese were doing all those odd-looking bows for nothing? Sure, these behaviors are derived from tradition, but there’s a reason they kept these traditions and the West hasn’t. Interestingly, this understanding on their part of the need for unapologetic status differentials contradicts the emphasis in Western socialism on a culture of equality.

It also follows that if society is to maintain status differentials without suffering withdrawal of social cooperation due to the resulting resentment of low-status individuals, society must contain these status differentials within strong overarching sentiments of social unity.

Naturally, the Japanese are famous for this, too. It all fits.”

Japan, Refutation of Neoliberalism
Robert Locke


“I’ll go ahead and download it.”

“Why don’t you buy paper books? E-books lack character.”

“Is that right?”

“Books are not something that you just read words in. They’re also a tool to adjust your senses.


“When I’m not feeling well, there are times that I can’t take in what I read. When that happens, I try to think about what could be hindering my reading. There are also books that I can take in smoothly even when I’m not feeling well. I try to think why.

It might be something like mental tuning.

What’s important when you tune is the feeling of the paper you’re touching with your fingers, and the momentary stimulation your brain receives when you turn the page.”

“I feel kinda discouraged. When I talk to you, I feel like I’ve been missing out on something all my life.”

“You’re reading into it too much.”

Choe Guseong, Makishima Shougo

“McLuhan provides a definition of hypnosis as: “one sense at a time.” Print is a uniform and repeatable commodity that creates a hypnotic superstition of the book as independent of and uncontaminated by human agency.”

Zero HP Lovecraft

“Philosophy appears to be expansionist. It needs to learn to stop.

China has to reboot every ten generations, but since the Chinese aren’t expansionist, they don’t overreach nearly to the extent that philosophical civilization has been prone to. The reboots succeed.

[…] Aristotle taught Alexander, and then Alexander decided he needed the entire known world. Then Rome did the same thing. And England. And America. Philosophy’s thing is kind of getting the one right answer to all the questions. When Christianity absorbed this, they decided that, since they had the one right answer, everyone needed to know it.”


“the Chinese, their colossal national self-regard notwithstanding, have no faith in the permanence of their political arrangements. All Chinese people, including the rulers, have internalized the dynastic cycle.”

“I wonder how much of it is genetic and how much of it is word of mouth.

When I hear others talk about the cultural revolution and the opium wars it’s always in terms like “China Was Absolutely Ravaged”.

When my dad mentions it instead it’s “Oh Yeah That Was A Thing Too”.”

Spandrell, Korezaan Su

“[O]ne trait of Asians I really like, is just how cynical and goal-oriented they are. To a large extent, discussing politics is just not done at all in Asia, unless you happen to work in politics or the media. That was boring, but also refreshing, coming from a European environment where everybody feels they must have a strong opinion on everything, from the price of bread to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any abstract discussion of politics or philosophy in Asia is usually derided as a sophomoric attempt at showing off. Try to talk about anything not involving immediate money or gossip and you’ll soon get interrupted. “So what?”, “Your point?”, “What’s it to you?”. A common Japanese quip when you use some uncommon word is, 言いたいだけでしょ“you just want to say that word”, implying your vanity makes you feel good at using weird words that make you feel superior or high-status, but they’ve got you all figured out.

And they’re right. It got me thinking. What’s the point of all those conversations which don’t concern personal, immediate interests? It didn’t take long from that realization to finding signalling theory, and suddenly it all made sense.

Note that most of what we call Asian “philosophy” is also very down-to-earth, preoccupied with how to run a government, or how to live a good and content life. That’s just how the people are, and I still believe that they are genetically incapable of caring about metaphysics and the pointless abstraction it so often encourages.”


“A good player tries to read out such tactical problems in his head before he puts the stones on the board. He looks before he leaps. Frequently he does not leap at all; many of the sequences his reading uncovers are stored away for future reference, and in the end never carried out. This is especially true in a professional game, where the two hundred or so moves played are only the visible part of an iceberg of implied threats and possibilities, most of which stays submerged. You may try to approach the game at that level, or you may, like most of us, think your way from one move to the next as you play along, but in either case it is your reading ability more than anything else that determines your rank.”

James Davies

“I think talent is the ability to take chances, and the calm to learn from your mistakes. Skill is second to that. I’ve seen plenty others with much more skill miss great opportunities because of extreme self-consciousness or some mistaken sense of discretion.”

Sugie Shigeru

“Why… Why did you do such a reckless thing?!”
“This is about finding the truth behind people’s deaths! If we want to uncover such a thing, naturally we must risk our own lives!”

Tsunemori Akane, Kogami Shinya

“There are things I just can’t do.”
“Because you never try.”
“I do the things I can as best I can.”
“And so you never accomplish anything new.”

Phosphophyllite, Antarcticite
Land of the Lustrous

“A trap is for fish: when you’ve got the fish, you can forget the trap. A snare is for rabbits: when you’ve got the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words are for meaning: when you’ve got the meaning, you can forget the words.

Where can I find someone who’s forgotten words so I can have a word with him?”


Electone Super Live

Kyoto Station, Grand Ampitheatre

this exists solely because facebook seems to default to the final image of a post for its preview image. apparently you can control it by setting a html meta property, but that's not allowed in free wordpress. what is allowed though is putting down images in html and then setting them to not show up. so this technically is the last image - as far as facebook is concerned.


Indecision is Good [Valkyria Chronicles 4]

I hate Claude Wallace.

iron will

This guy is awful. I don’t remember the last time I was angry enough at a protagonist to scoff at the emotional climaxes and conclusion of a plot.

Valkyria Chronicles 4’s writing is bad. But mediocre writing has occurred in other games and stories without pushing me to actively hate it. Generally speaking, so long as there’s a token effort to hit all the basic requirements, I’m willing to give things a pass. Valkyria Chronicles 1 did this quite well: simple characters, simple plot, a little bit of political intrigue, and the bigger portion of writing going to setting up the world and gameplay mechanics: ragnite means industrial revolution means power means war, ragnite means radiator means weakspot, etc.

I don’t remember much of what would be called the “plot” of VC1. Which means it probably wasn’t amazing. This is fine. It was simple, and it worked. VC4 has this too, with its new addition of Squad Stories, where each of your minor characters in groups of three get their own short narrative. It also does this for a few of the supporting antagonists. But it doesn’t do any worldbuilding. And it doesn’t do this for the main characters. It even makes some really odd choices in pacing, like following up a big reveal not with an explanation, but with an entirely unrelated flashback. But these are minor problems. Many a bad story has been saved with a good protagonist.

The major problem is VC4 has Claude Wallace for a protagonist.

At first I couldn’t imagine this would be a controversial position, but after spending some time arguing on /v/ it appears there is a social duty for a literary dissection of VC4’s man with the fancy haircut. Claude Wallace probably isn’t the worst character ever in a big or semi-big name series, but he’s the worst one I’ve seen. I say this in the sense that I usually drop stories if the plot or protagonist doesn’t get it up within the first few episodes or hours – and VC4 fit very neatly in that category. VC4 is a character story, about a character that does nothing.

I thought about stopping several times. But VC4’s gameplay was fun enough, a few of the Squad Stories were entertaining, I like Raita’s designs, and Steam’s refund window closed after 2 hours, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Maybe I could be wrong?

I wasn’t.

Claude Wallace is a piece of shit.

And I am here to tell you why he’s a piece of shit.

> The Ideal
> Overview of Claude Wallace
> Claude’s Decisions and His Character
> The Counterarguments
> The Finale
> Epilogue
> Meta / On Rhetoric

Continue reading

The Lineage of Thought

A few days ago I watched the first official Elder Scrolls Legends tournament. ESL is a card videogame, and one I had basically no idea about anything in it about up until I opened the twitch stream. I have little interest in card games, but I have some general ideas about the styles of play. Partly because people play card games and I have some ideas about people, partly because a friend of mine likes card games and tells me the ins and outs of things. This friend was interested in ESL. This friend was why I was watching the tournament – he was playing in it for $20,000.

In card games there are two styles: “aggro” and “control”. Aggro is whittling down the opponent’s health at every opportunity possible, “control” is about “card advantage”, having more cards than the other guy does, which generally also means playing slower and doing more concentrated moves near the end. Whether aggro or control style is stronger depends on the mechanics of the particular game and the cards in it. New cards can move the overall favor of everything available (you can only bring a certain number of cards), and with the advent of the internet and “balance patches”, old cards can be made to do the same.

I largely stopped playing online competitive games because of these “balance patches”. I don’t like having to relearn the entire game every time something changed. Reading the “patch notes” which say this or that changed by this or that much in this or that way isn’t enough, even when they aren’t hiding changes (something else that’s made possible in videogames), because you don’t know what that number means until you play it. Many field shifts have arisen from changes that look small on paper – shifts which might not even arise until much later. To say nothing of things which look large on paper. Games have died on the spot because of such changes (Blacklight Retribution, “Recoil Update”, Jan/Feb 2013).

Not that anyone admits it at the time. The most common defenses can all be distilled to “git gud”, which means “just adapt to the changes”. There will always be a most competitive strategy, the good players will find that and use it. And if there are multiple competitive strategies, then it’s good because the game is balanced among many different styles. The problem is not with the game, it’s with you, etc.. Everything I said that was technical would be refuted, and I never had anything much to say that could be generalized. So I just stopped playing things I stopped liking. And then stopped playing changing games in general.

Watching this card game tournament I had no idea about gave me an idea. It’s not so frequent I spend a decent chunk of time with something I have no technical knowledge of. And while I did catch onto a few things, I largely relied on the casters and the twitch chat to tell me what was going on. Showing the board and even the players’ hands meant nothing to me. The only part of the video that was useful was the face-cams, showing players’ reactions.

The faces told me that the decks are extensions of the players.

A couple of people I couldn’t read, but for the majority, I couldn’t see them playing in a different style than the way that they actually played. Perhaps professional players decide on which style or cards to play based on whatever happens to be strongest at the moment. But I imagine those players think of the game the same way a regular person thinks of their job. They wouldn’t feel at all.

These players didn’t play certain cards and styles because they were good. They played cards and styles because it fit them. Certain cards and styles being good was the cause of these players being here.

If other cards and styles were better, different players would have been here instead.

(There’s also luck of the draw and life circumstances and all the other things that change results that can’t ever really be accounted for; we’re talking about what can be here.)

The idea that this or that thing becomes stronger or weaker through balance patches is true, but only from the game’s point of view. It assumes the game’s existence. It assumes you are already going to play it, and will play whatever happens to be the wining strategy. This perspective is useful to the creators and the media, but not much to anyone else. Whether this or that thing is strong is a large part of why people play things in the first place. It’s probably the only thing that has any staying power – after 10 or 20 hours, the pretty music and beautiful art or big name is not going to matter as much as how the game flows.

What flow is right depends on the player. A competitive player doesn’t become competitive because he uses something that everyone already knows is strong. He is competitive because he thinks and plays a certain way, found something in this game that fit that existing way, and demonstrates through winning that something in the game happens to be stronger than the rest. If he doesn’t find it, he’s not competitive. If he does, then he is. The information available presents a certain story, which needs to be filtered backwards through survivorship bias. If a man is playing a card game and he dominates, the inclination is to think it’s because that card is strong. But that’s only the visible part of the equation. That’s the “card” part of card game. The players of the game existed long before the cards came into existence.

This idea was demonstrated at the Elder Scrolls Legends tournament. In one of the highlight plays of the event, my friend failed to use a card effect to deal the finishing blow to the opponent, opting instead to do something that would increase overall survivability. He lost the round right after he did that – but that’s not the point. The move probably did increase overall survivability. He played that move because he’s always looking for increasing survivability. This is what the redundant “winning by not losing” and “winning by just killing the other guy” and similar sayings mean. Personofsecrets is a control player: he favors “winning by not losing”. And that means not seeing “winning by just killing the other guy” things.

Once the casters explained the technical details of the card effect, I thought it made sense just fine. But that’s because I know how this guy plays games. I have an idea of what this guy is capable of. People “can” do things that they “aren’t” capable of, but generally, they can’t.

“I’m not sure why there is a theory that I would be deliberate and not go for a win if I see it. To clear up the wrong theories, if I had ever targeted my own creature with Black Hand Messenger, then that would have been the very first time.

“My tendencies as a player likely leave me with some blind spots when it comes to trading versus pushing damage. Maybe if I was a little more well rounded, then I wouldn’t have made such an error. One other thought is that perhaps a reason that I got to where I got to has to do with such idiosyncrasies and focus on making trades that I have.

It’s a blindspot.

Managing them is a skill, but that too requires a method, and any method has its blindspots. There will always be blindspots, because you can’t see everything, and you can’t keep everything in mind. One can say players are good because they win and bad because they lose. That’s one way of looking at things. I don’t think it’s a very useful one; it’s pretty clearly circular. But it’s how many people think about it. Including game developers, who often are only looking at overall win rates.

The important part of balance patches isn’t that they change the game.

It’s that they change who plays it.

You are attracting, and repelling, certain kinds of people, by “balancing” the game in certain ways. Players come and go depending on what the balance of the game is, and that “balance” they are looking at and feeling through isn’t the four sigfigs percentage on some spreadsheet.

It’s obvious enough when comparing one game to the next, this game is good and that game is bad, why, because “I don’t like it” i.e. ‘It doesn’t fit me’, or “It’s toxic” i.e. ‘I don’t fit in with the other people who play it’. It’s still obvious when comparing a game to itself from one year or title to the next. The realm of confusion grows the smaller of a scale it goes, but it’s still the same pattern. One person only has one mindset to bring with them everywhere – from life, to that game, to this game. If they’re going to play this game, that mindset will have to work there too. If it doesn’t, either they change the mindset, or they stop playing. The normal outcome is they stop playing. There’s so many other things in life that mindset is used for.

And it is “one person” that plays the game. Not “the fans”.

“Git gud”? Yes.

But that is also how a game dies. Getting good at something is finding out how to make something work for you – and some things won’t. People have their tendencies, people have their limits. Personofsecrets left Hearthstone because it was or became too favored to aggro. It so happens Hearthstone is still king of card videogames – but that’d be because aggro is “right”, not because it’s “balanced”. Balanced doesn’t mean anything unless you know what it’s balancing against. I left Blacklight Retribution because it stopped being about strategy. Blacklight was an FPS that favored mid-range thinkers, not long-range campers or short-range twitchers. It balanced that. So the people who were there for strategy left. With that, Blacklight not only had a small playerbase, it also had little to differentiate between it and any other FPS.

And so it died.

It’s a principle.

Why do companies succeed or fail? Not because they’re profitable, but because they have a structure behind it that happens to survive and succeed with how the world works at the time.

Poke it here, poke it there, whether it’s already in “the” law or not; make it do things it normally doesn’t in enough ways, it will die. Balance patches, or “forcing innovation”, doesn’t mean that whatever desired will actually happen. The government or “public” may want something to happen, but other than the laws of physics and other limits of technical implementation, the structures of companies also determines whether something will exist. Or whether the company exists. Which, the more you look into history, you’ll find that’s frequently the original intent; the technical details are just followthrough.

But, just like with games, these presume that civilization will still exist after the change. And, just like with games, people won’t admit it if it so happens that it doesn’t.

Why do people succeed or fail?

Not because they get a big job with big money, but because they have a structure behind it that happens to survive and succeed with how the world works at the time.

Liberalism is the currently popular paradigm that “everything can be discussed”. This idea excludes anyone who thinks there’s some things that can’t be discussed. There’s actually quite a few things many people don’t think should be talked about. When they’re forced to say and believe they can, they naturally respond with depression, drug addiction, and any number of delusional contradictory ideas.

Recently there was also a theft of a plane from the Seattle-Tacoma airport. The guy ended up doing “nothing“: he killed only himself. There’s a lot of words going around, like “we need to talk about mental health”. But what does that mean? What does it mean to anyone?

Nothing. Nothing is what it means. It’s a replaceable line with “we need gun control” and all the other ones is what it means. To say bad mental health causes suicides is like saying bad players don’t get wins. It means nothing to anyone, it’ll be forgotten in a week, because that’s what things on TV mean, and TV is the only thing that exists outside of toiling to get money. People don’t have the correct lineage of thought, or even the idea of a lineage of thought, so they can’t predict anything, nor can they figure out why it happened after it has happened. What’s probably going to happen, if anything is going to happen, is some nonsense thing like mandatory checkups with a psychiatrist for anyone that’s around planes. No, it’ll probably be cheaper, like annual rewatching a couple of hours of training videos. Why? Because that’s the structure that exists in companies today. And that’s the structure people have put up with.

But they don’t have to. That’s what the SeaTac guy did.

Is life under an existentially disgusting structure better than quitting?

The game assumes its existence. The game will change its players so that only “fans” will play.
Those that disagree, stop playing the game.

So yes.

It is.

A Mountain in the Jungle

nier automata 2b in forest facing forest king


Let us start with the proposition:
So long as you attempt to understand the world, it can be understood.

What do we have at hand for such a lofty goal?

The materials as a whole can be called “experience”. Whatever you experience is the only method of information input you have from the world. It does not matter if it’s through your own senses, by someone else’s words, or through reading text and looking at pictures: that is experience. Without experience, you have nothing to work with. You must experience in order to understand.

The tools as a whole can be called “thought”. With thought we remember; compare one past event to the next. Perhaps notice patterns here, perhaps guess causes there. We assume meaning and connections so they can be found, and hopefully, when one is found, it allows us to gain an understanding of the world; that is to say, to predict the future.

The final category, of the plan on what to build, can be called “decisions”. The world is vast. The world has many things, and even more relationships between. Which of them do you want to understand? In what way do you want to understand them? These are not given through experience, nor will you find them in comparisons through thought. These are not about the world. They are about you. Just as you must decide to build an understanding, you must also decide what form that understanding will take.

This is where I decided to start writing my understanding of human thought and human civilization.

This is where the enemies number the most. Those that number against the above tenets – the principles that say that knowledge is possible – are vast. They are so vast it is useful to think of the world as consisting of two kinds of people: you, and everyone else.

Everyone else will lie to you. Everyone else will gaslight you. You might lie to yourself too, but you are also the only one who can build your understanding. Everyone else can only and will only tell you that knowledge is impossible and you are delusional.

Among them are:

Utopia/Equalists: They will say you can’t separate people into different groups.
Bigotry/Womanism: They will say you can’t think things because someone might feel bad.
NAXALT/ESID/Platonism: They will say you are wrong because you are not perfectly consistent.
Studies/Experts/Numericism: They will say you need the fancy letters and tabled numbers.
Management/Authoritarianism: They will say you don’t know all the details.
Straight Up Lying/Journalism: They will fabricate things simply to contradict you.
Bootstraps/Americanism: They will imply only the lazy embark on your endeavor.

It is not possible to respond to all of them, much less to any particular point.

Thankfully, it is also not necessary to respond. We’re after an understanding of the world… and they don’t have it. Not only don’t they have it, they aren’t looking for it. Not only aren’t they looking for it, they don’t even understand the concept of looking for something. These enemies are not an opposing army; it’s not your red team versus their blue team. It’s your red team against the insects, the animals, the trees, the flow of the river, the rain from the clouds, the sun in the sky. They’re fighting you, but not on the same level. They’re fighting you on something else entirely.

A concept that generally explains their behavior: they are talking about their dick. How long and how wide it is. How long they can go, how long they can… and so on. They usually don’t use the exact reference, but all in all it’s the same sentiment. For example: why does it matter that some idea I come across or decide to build might hurt someone’s feelings? Unless the objective in question involves other peoples’ feelings in some way, why would such a point be relevant? Because people with big dicks care. And if you don’t agree, that’s because you have a small dick. Hey everyone! This guy has a small dick!

Traditionally this was called “morality”, more recently it’s been called “signalling”. I generally prefer modelling it as dickwaving, because that’s usually about as much as they can be bothered to prop up their concerns. Womanism, Platonism, Journalism, all of it can be approximately reduced to “My dick is thiiis big!”. It’s about them and their superiority. The moment you start talking about problems and solutions, they go away. Or they repeat themselves ad nauseum. Occasionally they violently shut you down. In any case they will never respond to your points.

The points they bring up might be right. They may even be useful. But whatever you do, never bend to the people behind them. They number so many and the motivation behind the words is so obvious and overwhelming, you will, from time to time, forget the desire that started you off in the first place.

You must not lose that desire.

The desire and the understanding are not so much two separate things as they are cause and effect. You must believe that something is there before you can conceive of even the idea to look for it. The common criticisms to this logic are that the thing may turn out to not exist at all, or that you may mistakenly start seeing things that aren’t there. These are valid concerns. But they’re secondary. They only matter after you’ve set off on your journey. Whatever the idea might be, it will not be there if you don’t think it is possible, it won’t ever appear in front of you on its own. This is not true of physical objects, which are there whether or not you believe it. Ideas are different from physical objects in a number of ways. This is one of the important ones: the answer to “If all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail” is “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

You must desire an understanding if you are to have one.

So we start with the proposition: so long as we attempt to understand the world, it can be understood. And when we forget, which we will, this is where we will begin again.

We begin, with the blind faith and belief that it can be done.

“There has to be an answer. You must not doubt that.

If you can’t believe that, why don’t you cry yourself to sleep, and then just give up and die?”

> Intro / “There is Only One Game”
> Technical Implementation “Capturing the Essence”
> Human Thought Space / “All Else is Halation”
> Gnostic Technology / “The World Beyond Words”
> A Mountain in the Jungle
> Epilogue / “References and Other Rulesets”

Technical Implementation

All things are built on technical implementation.

If you want to buy something, someone else has to be selling it. If you want clean clothes tomorrow morning, someone has to wash it. If you want the light to turn on, you’re going to have to walk over and flip the switch. If the switch is going to turn the light on without burning the house down, the wires can’t be frayed. If your dishes are going to be clean, the water lines must be clear. If someone else is going to sell to you, they need to trust that your money will go through.

We have generally lost the concept that things have requirements outside of time and money. This has been true for a while for bureaucrats of all sorts; the rest of us have gotten closer to them with globalization and internetization. Everything is run by accountants and managers now. When all you have is a spreadsheet, everything looks like a cell; when you have that and consistently get what you want, those few things which fit in cells will appear to explain the world. It doesn’t matter that we call it “information technology”, it’s reduced our understanding because we haven’t thought about what its existence means. Such words evoke the visual imagery of an immaculately clean environment with crisp blue water, clipped green grass, clean white walkways, and towering glass skyscrapers. It doesn’t call to mind anything about how such a world would function in achieving its goals, much less its maintenance, or how it’ll arise in the first place.

You need a map of a place to get there. You need a plan of a place to build it. Today we have only a picture and think that’s enough. Worse, we think it’s a picture of the present. This is not so bad so long as we achieve what we want – and there are an endless number who will talk about how we have things so great today; how nearly everyone has a refrigerator and we live better than medieval kings’ wildest dreams. If a refrigerator or some other modern amenity is enough for you to be happy about life, then that’s great. Good for you. God’s in His Heaven, All’s Right with the World. If you however notice that federal programs that set out to plant refrigerators in poor households don’t really seem to change their nature, or in any other matter don’t think the world is just fine and dandy, regardless of what the television priests say, then there’s more to it. The spreadsheet mindset is obviously insufficient. The understanding of the world has holes which require something else to improve. There is more to the world than employment rates and GDP. There exists more fundamental materials than just man-hours and dollar-quantities.

And we can find out what those are.

If it was built by man, it can be understood by men. Rearranged: If it is to be built by man, then however it will be built must be understandable by men. Once upon a time, every place everywhere was the hypothetical “desert island”. Anything any of us have beyond that was built at some time by some man, through some complicated, but necessarily comprehensible, set of technical implementations.

In the case of the literal desert island, we have the story of Robinson Crusoe. In the case of the modern version with the zombie apocalypse, we have a whole assortment to choose from.

My personal favorite is the story behind the Transatlantic Cable.

In a sense it’s not as grand; it’s neither building everything from nothing nor about societal collapse. But I feel it illustrates the most important principles. It’s a story about how to take a single step, where the details clearly serve the goal, rather than the all-too-common obverse. It’s also far enough back in time and thought that it’s obvious that they lived in a different world, yet not so far we doubt our ability to relate to them – we’re able to see the fishbowl, yet still properly empathize with the fish.

The plan was to lay a cable to connect Europe and America.

The cable would be for the telegraph, the era was the 1850s, the approximate speed change on message delivery between the two continents from a matter of weeks to a matter of minutes (though a full message would still take hours to fully transmit). Ships were run still on coal and propelled by paddles, and the only reason it was possible at all was because Britain had colonies in the tropical East which happened to have certain kinds of trees which happened to produce a certain kind of material. That material had been used almost since antiquity as toys for children; more recently it was discovered to remove pencil marks off paper. As electrification of cities had not yet occurred (~1880+), this would be the first large-scale usage of the material ‘rubber’. Telegraph lines are electrical, you need to protect them from water along their entire length – in this case, it would be the length of the Atlantic Ocean.

The first cable laid worked only for a few weeks.

It turned out the knowledge of electricity and cable design which had been tested and used at the time were not sufficient to achieve acceptable results over the new 2000-mile system. As it only lasted a few weeks – less than two cycles of communication between Europe and America – many did not believe it was even real, public support was negligible, and it took another five years before enough capital was gathered for another attempt.

The second cable was lost.

Halfway along, in the middle of the ocean, it snapped off the end of the ship. The cable had been designed to resist much tensile force, but for one reason or another, it wasn’t enough.

The next year a third cable was laid with no problems. But this time the mission was not just to lay a cable. It was to also finish the other one. The one that they had lost the previous year.

This was 1866. Long before the age of GPS. They had sextants and chronometers to be sure, so one could know his location on the endless sea to some approximation. GPS has an accuracy of around 5m. Sextant accuracy, depending on the navigator using it and a number of other things, is on the order of 500m~5000m. It was with sextants and paddleships that they would have to use to find a cable in the middle of an ocean. Beyond that it was a matter of throwing a hook off the back, running out the several miles (1mi=1600m) of rope for a few hours for it to hit the bottom, and then sailing around until they found it.

So that’s what they did.

They went to where they lost it, and threw a hook off the back.

Then they sailed around until they found it.

They found it.

It took them two weeks, but they found it. And then, just as they managed to get it above water, it snapped and they lost it. It took them another two weeks to find it again.

This time they did not lose it. Once they brought it aboard, much more carefully than before, they tested it. Who knows if a year at those depths had not caused something to occur to the material? Who knew if, somewhere else along those thousand miles, several miles down, something had not disconnected the cable from its station in Ireland? The general understanding was that the world would eventually erode into the sea, which had a featureless, sandy bottom. This was 1866. Plate tectonics will not be proposed until 1912. Deep-sea vehicles that can look at what’s actually going on down there will not exist until 1960.

In any case, the cable of 1865 happened to be functional.

They spliced it with the cable they had on board, and ran it back the thousand miles to Newfoundland.

The time it took them to lay the cable on their first journey that year took two weeks. They spent a little over a week in port to load up on supplies and eight thousand tons of coal. Their successful return happened four and a half weeks later.

There were now two working transatlantic lines.

The amount of money and time it took to do what they did wasn’t “because” they were using “older” technology. To them, the stuff they were using wasn’t old at all. The ship used in 1865 and 1866, called the Great Eastern, had a screw propeller, fairly new technology at the time, along with paddles and sail, which were the standard. A vessel less than 10 years old, she was upon completion the largest ship ever built, doubling the previous record in both length and in width. Again, mass electrification wasn’t yet a thing, so telegraph cables, especially these ones, were the cutting edge of technology that only the richest and most powerful could afford. Sextants weren’t so new, but what were they going to use instead?

So they threw a hook off the back.

You do what you want with what you got. If you have GPS, use that. No GPS, use a sextant. No sextant, use star charts. No star charts, remember where on the horizon the sun rose that day the best you can, remember where you came from the best you can, sail in that direction, and pray to god you reach port before you run out of supplies.

World War 2 had very few vehicles in it. The majority of logistics and supplies were on horse-drawn wagons. The car had been invented for a while, but those were expensive, and a lot of car companies were building planes. Germany in particular had no oil production of its own and was blockaded from all sides, so they were pressed for alternatives. Economies pre-war were mostly agrarian, i.e. most people were farmers and there was a bunch of farm land. Hence, horses.

In the Cold War, there was a spy plane called the SR-71. This plane leaked oil on the ground. Flying at thrice the speed of sound makes things hot, hot materials expand; the parts were designed to fit together correctly at speed. These and other spy planes would then fly over other peoples’ land and take pictures. On film. The first spy satellites also used film, and dropped canisters with parachutes after completion.

Today, missile interception largely does not exist. One attacking intercontinental ballistic missile can launch several warhead: you cannot do the same with a defensive interceptor. This “cost-exchange ratio” was discovered before missiles became commonplace, and it was clearly cheaper to just fire back. The concept of intercepting missiles was known in World War 2 when only the Germans had them, but it wasn’t possible. There was no computer strong enough and fast enough to figure out how to intercept the target. Computers at the time were mechanical, with gears and shafts. There was also no weapon with enough range or speed to intercept: anti-aircraft guns could not hope shoot down something going that fast. Today, with modern digital computers which we can literally stick in the missile (minus all the support structure, e.g. satellites in space watching for launches), an interception missile still takes years to design and incur costs so large they’re noticeable to world powers. World powers can’t just throw infinite time and money at it. They have multiple things to deal with at any given point in time.

Everyone has multiple things to deal with at any given point in time.

It’s just that almost no one pays attention to what that means.

Perhaps people in the past didn’t understand this sort of thing either, but they definitely don’t understand it today. Through “information technology” everything that actually occurs is reduced some nonsense non-technical non-actionable value, because that’s the kind of thing that fits on a spreadsheet. Dollar values and opinion polling statistics fit on spreadsheets. “Leak oil on the runway” and “Throw a hook off the back” doesn’t.

But “Throw a hook off the back” is what actually does the work. Do what you want with what you got: all things are built on technical implementation. Today and tomorrow, just as it was yesterday and the day before, no matter how many white lab coats with large flat screens there are or how many clean and sleek white unibody high-tech machines roll around, whatever is being done, at the level of things being done – if things are being done – those people are doing their equivalent of throwing a hook off the back.

Let us start with the proposition:

So long as you attempt to understand the world, it can be understood.

Start with what you know, the results are not the structure.

Throw a hook off the back. And we’ll see what we can find.

Human Thought Space

Knowledge has certain properties.

There are things it can and can’t do. There are places it can and can’t go.

Put another way: our usage of knowledge has certain properties. Or, if you prefer: human knowledge has certain properties. These appendages (among other possible examples) can’t actually be separated from knowledge “itself”; there’s not really such a thing as knowledge that exists outside of our using it, nor is there knowledge that isn’t human. So in a sense it’s all logically equivalent to just “knowledge has certain properties”. But the different phrasing helps gives us an idea on how to approach it. For all the boasting about being in the information age and having access to everything, people have an exceedingly poor understanding on the technical details of what it means to know anything.

About the only thing everyone knows is fact versus opinion. The classical version used on children is ice cream, which is better chocolate or vanilla; the answer is an opinion not a fact. It’s also a complete and utterly useless distinction. What does having these categories accomplish?

Suppose I said vanilla is better. Guess what flavor scoop I’m going to get?

Extending the question makes it even more obvious: if you leave the room and come back, the ice cream disappears, and I say that kid over there stole and hid the buckets, what are you going to do? “Fact or opinion”? Suppose a kid did steal and hide the buckets, and you bring it up to their parents picking him up. Are they thinking, “fact or opinion”? Ridiculous. Fact and opinion are non-actionable categories thought up of by dickwavers. “That’s just your opinion” Of course it’s my opinion, it came out of my mouth. The question is, do you believe it? I make a claim; what is your response? Those two categories don’t help you make decisions. They’re not technical. They can’t be used.

We are interested in what mental processes help us inform action. “Fact”, “opinion”, belief, theory, knowledge, understanding; these and others are approximately the same thing as far as we are concerned, and we are concerned with technical implementation. Technical implementation: out of all those words, for reasons that aren’t important, people seem to have the highest affinity for “knowledge”, so that’s the one I opened with. I don’t think it’s very illustrative, but general-purpose widely-used words and phrases are mostly about signalling and rarely illustrative. Illustrations, as with technicals, are specific first. Here, I like the combination of “human thought space”.

“Human thought space” has certain properties.

There are things it can and can’t do. There are places it can and can’t go.

Some things may have an effect on how quickly you can navigate through the space. Other things may have an effect on how large the space even is. None of these properties or items are properly appreciated today, so it is the obvious result that their understanding is so poor. They’re treated like superfluous decorations, lifestyle choices at best (“opinions”), and easily reversible errors at worst (“oops”).

For example: mental clarity is affected by sleep. If you are chronically lacking in sleep, you are not going to think as clearly. The less you sleep, the more mistakes you will make. You will eventually cause major problems and forget things that would, if you slept well, be perfectly obvious. But you didn’t.

The average response is somewhere along the lines of “just get more sleep”, as if anyone and everyone who happens to be in question is equivalent to an irresponsible carefree college kid. This lack of appreciation for the technical details which determine the conditions of human thought space is what causes people to get “unintentionally” and systematically deprived of sleep in the first place. Which is fine if it’s brushing off someone you’re never going to see again, but – as would be expected – those who are chronically deprived of sleep are common in socially and physically critical positions. The two I’m aware of are doctors and air traffic controllers. I’m sure I could guess accurately at a few more.

There’s also a lot of other of these external affectors (like nutrition), but the probably really long list of those is not particularly important here. We’re not after any list, at least, not one beyond what can sufficiently help us with the specific yet large problem we want to solve.

It so happens the list can be reduced to one item – an internal affector. Something inside human thought space that changes what else is in there, and how we get around inside it. An idea that changes other ideas.

An idea that gives order to other ideas.

Wikipedia has a long list of “Cognitive Biases”; “bias” means “arbitrary personal preference toward error”. These include items which should be at least vaguely familiar to everyone, like the bandwagon effect, dunning-kruger effect, confirmation bias, and hindsight bias, along with quite a few other things, and the expected description then dismissal of each. There’s even a section at the bottom called “Common theoretical causes of some cognitive biases”, linking to a number of other pages of various lengths, some even including math and symbols. All in all, the equivalent of a bunch of D&D role-playing board gaming bespectacled nerds getting together, using long complicated words read from manuals and paired with dice rolls, and the campaign title is “The Quest to Find Out the Reason Why Stupid People are Stupid”. I mention them for the same reason I used the word “knowledge”: everyone has a decent affinity for them.

The other reason is they got pretty close.

At this time on that page there exists a graphic which lays out the hundred or so items in a circular arrangement, with some number of subcategories, and then four large categories which encompass them all. The four categories are:

“Need To Act Fast”,
“Too Much Information”,
“What Should We Remember”, and
“Not Enough Meaning”.

Speed, Sorting, Recall, Usage: these are not just causes of biases.

These are primary dimensions along which human thought space lies.

“It doesn’t matter what you know. It matters only what you can think of in time.”

And there are limits to this. Obvious limits. Individual limits.

Your limits.

What you can think of in time at the time is what matters, not the sum total of all things you’ve think you’ve ever learned or heard of. Not what some dickwaver wants to claim at some other time. Did you get enough sleep? Have you been eating well? What were you thinking about, what were you paying attention to? Did you bring enough rope for the hook to hit the bottom? Did you bring enough coal for the trip back? These are what matter.

These are what’s underappreciated today.

There’s a number of ways you could effectively arrange and order the human thought space; this is the one I prefer, and I think it’s the most important one of them all. It’s not so much because it contains all that much in itself, but because it intuitively connects many other important things.

“It matters only what you can think of in time.”

This line for me calls: What do I know? How do I know? When did I know it? Who did I hear it from? What detail do I know it in, and what paths did I take to arrive at that point?

It turns thoughts from nebulous not-seen not-objects into things that are-spatial and are-physical, thus, even if I don’t really get it at the time, I understand viscerally that it has its boundaries. They might not be height length and width, or even temperature and weight. But they’re something, on some dimension. They’re things that exist, so they’re finite, and finite things have properties which can be found. If things can be found, they can be understood; if things can be understood, they can be grasped.

And if things can be grasped, then they can be implemented for grander purposes.

All things are built on technical implementation. This is how I model ideas so they can be implemented. I can’t know or see everything at the same time, or even remember all the things I have known and have seen, so I need a system. A system of ideas. An idea of a logic that connects and recalls one idea to the next.

An idea-logic. An idealogos.

An ideology.

These are not superfluous decorations or lifestyle choices. These are the fundamental dimensions on understanding, the equivalent of the laws of physics for thought. Human thought space has certain properties. This ideology will help us remember some of it.

When I was thinking and figuring out the problem, I didn’t spend too much time on this step. It was a thing I came back to after getting lost more than anything else. The line I’ve been quoting is from The Book of Five Rings, which, along with the Hagakure, are called ‘the books of the samurai’. They’ve been around me for a while so I’m intuitively familiar with the properties of the tool/model, even if I wasn’t clear where or how specifically beforehand it’d be used at every point on a project of this scale.

In writing, I felt “It matters only what you can think of in time” needed to be specifically explained at some length. A number of things I will say, including at least a few critical ones, have the risk of causing an unconscious flippant dismissal because the words will seem to form tautologies.

A “well duh”. Or a, “yeah, I knew that”.

But it doesn’t matter what you know.

And there are ways of getting to the right idea. Faster, more reliably, and more ahead of time.

It is true that each thing could simply be extended so that each is a path rather than a step, but for many of the ones ahead I decided to only explicitly note it here beforehand instead. Certain things are much better quickly and in quick succession, and only have certain effects when presented in that way. In this case, I desire those effects. But I also want their component parts, completely foreign to common discourse, to be properly grounded. If the best I can get is isolated and in simple contrast beforehand so that eventually and unconsciously the principle may be discovered, then that’s what I’ll take.

The technical implementation of my understanding – as far as my ability in writing can go and how much time I’m willing to spend and so on – means that this plane will just have to leak oil on the ground.

For me, it’s been leaking for a long time. For you, hopefully not so much.

Hopefully, it will all fit together now at speed.

Gnostic Technology

The world has certain properties. There are things it can and cannot do. There are places it can and cannot go. Let us start with the proposition: so long as you attempt to understand the world, it can be understood – specifically, human civilization. If all things are built on technical implementation, then civilization too has parts which we can examine and use to reconstruct the nature of the whole.

A thing is defined as how it behaves and operates – that is to say, what it does.

What does civilization do?

Throw a hook off the back: let’s say civilization gets together for a single simple yet large project. This is a knowable step which definitely (i.e. “by definition”) contributes to the whole, and being a large project, it would involve theoretically the largest proportion of people, thus being more fitting to help determine what civilization is. You may replace my example with any particular one you prefer and fill in your own details;

I will pick the building of a battleship.

Not only are they large projects, battleships are the greatest moving mechanisms ever built, the single most glorious monument to its creators’ capabilities.


Who exactly is the creator of a battleship?

A battleship is generally recognized as a product of a country. What is a country? A country is generally recognized by the two-dimensional shape of its political borders as they hit natural coastlines, centerlines of mountain ranges, historical treaties, and so on.

Does this two-dimensional shape covering vast amounts of space build battleships?


Then what is the use of this two-dimensional shape in regards to building battleships?

There isn’t one.

This kind of problem will be frequent and reoccurring.
We will largely choose to chase our objective.

Countries are mostly empty – empty of people. There is only civilization where there is people, and people tend to be together. Usually, they congregate near water. Better yet, where fresh water meets the sea. These don’t exist everywhere, and if another group is already in the area, for water or for any other reason, people will usually either join that one, or go somewhere else, far away. What they don’t do is get a census and map, calculate the average, then some other math to find what coordinates and what size plot is theirs. There is a number of actual reasons; none of them have geographic uniformity in mind.

As for everything else a country is made out of: they don’t matter. The trees, the grass, the sand, and the fish. It can be said that having a nice climate with nature to relax in or an ease of access to various materials is related in some way. But we need to start somewhere. For me it’s obvious, if not just take it as an arbitrary assumption; we’ll say for now that only people matter in building a battleship.

When a country builds a battleship, it means only the parts of that country that can help in building a battleship, build the battleship. The rest of the it may serve any number of other purposes, or perhaps not at all and are even a nuisance; in any case it’s not all the land or the people, not even if you count up the farms including the food supply chain that keeps everyone alive. There are more people doing more things than just your battleship, even if it’s a total war economy and even if you are literally only fielding battleships – someone has to be making pencils and paper, utensils and clothing – farms keep those other guys alive too.

So which parts build battleships?

Shipyards, for one. So that part would be near a body of water, preferably one that connects to the oceans and isn’t some isolated lake. I imagine really large steel forges would be needed, along with iron supply, so unless the shipyard is also near some mountains or wherever iron is mined, the “building” will occur in at least two places. People who are familiar with manufacture of ammunition in some way would be recruited. A university or some place that has engineers and knowledge would be needed to make firing control computers. The navy would probably be consulted as to what kind of design they’d prefer depending on their doctrine. A whole number of bureaucrats would be needed to keep track of information going here and there. And of course, the food supply chain and all the other basics.

I’m probably missing some things.

But it’s not too important. We have an idea on what to look for now.

And we have a grasp on the general principle we came for.

A country is not monolithic, it is its civilization. A civilization is not monolithic, there is only civilization where there is people. Even when a civilization comes together for a great project, it isn’t everyone in it doing all the same things, it is specific people doing specific things. It’s a really different picture of civilization, a much more detailed one with parts that can intuitively be understood, compared to the extremely well-defined shapes on a map that in totality cover every square inch of land above water on the entire planet which appear arbitrary and opaque. That “political” map is what normally comes to mind when we think of “the world” – that is to say, that map is the world.

Or, was the world. Now we know there can be something different. A map of civilization, one that’d look a lot closer to a map of population density, where things are few and infinitely far between, where borders on a world map would look very poorly defined. Rather than lines running latitudes, longitudes, coasts, and mountain ranges, nearly all of which no one lives in, much less sees… borders are now always people. Borders between the parts of a civilization building a battleship, and the parts that aren’t. Borders between one civilization and the next.

Borders between one civilization and the savage beyond.

And there is a savage beyond.

If you are driving on and then fly off a cliff, it doesn’t matter that, on a map, you go only a distance of five minutes walk from the road. Five minutes walk on a well-lit well-cleaned named street in a city is very different from five minutes walk in nature’s wilderness. It doesn’t matter if that spot on the road is only twenty minutes drive from a decent sized city. You go off that cliff, you are no longer in civilization. You may bring things that civilization made with you, but you are no longer on it. If no one saw you fly off that road, if you weren’t expected that night, or the next morning, or whoever was expecting you next decides it’s not worth looking into; if that cliffside road didn’t have a guardrail that broke to show evidence that something abnormal happened; if under that cliff was a forest and your car didn’t burn, or if something did burn and the park ranger decided to not pay attention that day – the more of those and those kinds of things happen, the further from civilization you get.

The spectacle, generalized: at any moment, if you are alone, you are outside civilization.

Civilization is not out there. Civilization is not some independent abstract entity.

Civilization is here, between you and me.

Everything that civilization has, needed to be built, and everything that’s built needs to be maintained. These are done by people. Us. If we want civilization to be a certain way, then it will become that way. Everything starts with us.

That being said: “we”, too, has certain properties.

There are things “we” can and cannot do. There are places “we” can and cannot go. All things are built on technical implementation – and we already know that human thought space has its limits. Human action space imposes more limits. Human cooperation space…

And if things have limits, they can be known.

What exactly is this “we”?

We know that it’s not everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a battleship or sealing/dealing with a hole in the ozone layer, there is no such thing as something that involves everyone. In at least the current standard usage of the word, even the word “everyone” isn’t everyone: it refers to only all people who are currently alive. What about the ancients? What about posterity? Are they not people too? In quite a number of analyses and decisions, to say that those groups can be “pretty important” would be quite the understatement. Yet, neither the past nor the future is included in “everyone”. Even as it is, just everyone on the planet today is unwieldy. It’s impossible to understand.

We know when something exists, it is specific, and the result of specific people doing specific things. “Everyone” was sufficiently specific when contrasted to nature, but it’s not good enough anymore.

What does civilization have?

Running water, stable food supply, in this age electricity, in any age material search, procurement, and processing. Language, culture, markets, policy and conflict resolution, some kind of future to look forward to.

“Everything starts with us”: Who exactly is doing what?

A handful of people “do” almost everything.

All the things above are largely the results of large organizations, each comprising of hundreds to hundreds of thousands, which do approximately what one or two people say. Running water isn’t a bunch of people standing in line each handing the other a bucket with everyone being equally valuable. It wasn’t like that when it was wells and aqueducts, it’s not like that today, and it’s not like that for anything else, names like “free market” and “democracy” or not.

There are people who make decisions that affect more people, there are people who make decisions that affect less; it so happens that it has and will always be true that a handful of people make decisions that affect almost everyone. These people are called the elite. They are elite because they make significantly large decisions – while we have tools like hammers and computers, their tools are companies. They de jure own large chunks of “the economy”, and by extension, de facto own large chunks of everything else. Civilization does what the elite wants…

…if they do their part correctly. All things are built on technical implementation. The elite, too, need to wield their organizations in a certain way in order to get what they want. Fail that, and they may eventually find themselves no longer elite. Fail enough, and eventually there’s no longer a civilization.

For a tool like a hammer, the technicals are in materials science, physics, and ergonomics.

The technicals on how to design an organization of people achieve an objective is: how “management” treats its “workers”. Organization. Policy.

“Culture”. “Teamwork”. “Quality”.

While these and similar ideas are shamelessly wielded by flagrantly distasteful people today, they are distasteful rather than silly because there is something valuable behind it. We know these are important. Somehow we know, even if we haven’t experienced it ourselves. Even if we can’t recall any specific example.

I now provide a specific example.

“The story of this factory is a famous one among car people–
it’s taught at business schools.”

In 1982, General Motors closed down its assembly plant in Fremont, California. At the time, GM was the world’s largest car company, and it closed down this plant because of its constant production problems. It was also manned by “the worst workforce in the automobile industry”. It wouldn’t be surprising if those words came out of GM, but they didn’t. Those words were from United Auto Workers, the union.

Drinking on the job, sex with hookers in the parking lot, average of one in four people not showing up on any particular day, deliberately sabotaging this or that part and whatever happens happens – and that’s just from the records available today. If you can imagine it, odds are, they probably did it.

Around that time, GM was having trouble with smaller cars. They had to build them due to government emission requirements, but those cars were always at a loss. Coincidentally, Toyota was also running into government issues. They were small, but rapidly gaining enough market share that Congress was pondering import restrictions. So Toyota was looking into building cars in the US. But they wanted some help. Toyota had only manufactured in Japan, specifically, in a city named after them: of their 16 plants in Japan today, 13 of them are in or near a city that changed their name to indicate the company’s local relevance.

Toyota looked to GM. Toyota would handle the factory side of things, GM would handle marketing and the rest; GM would learn how to make cars more cheaply, Toyota would get around import restrictions. For the plant, GM offered up Fremont Assembly. UAW for their part said they wanted the joint-venture to rehire the same people. Toyota agreed, and they ended up rehiring somewhere around 90%. Fremont Assembly was renamed to New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated. It began production December 1984.

And the day NUMMI opened, the world’s best cars were coming down the line.

That’s not hyperbole.

NUMMI made cars at the Japanese standard, the highest standard, that is to say, way above GM’s. Number of man-hours spent per vehicle halved: it literally took half the manpower to make the same amount of stuff, and that stuff was made was better. In defects per hundred vehicles and basically any metric you can think of, there were similarly massive improvements.

And it was done with people who were drinking on the job and having sex with hookers in the parking lot. “Were”: they stopped doing that. They showed up, and they built cars. “Several told us they enjoyed coming to work for the first time.” The worst workforce was, suddenly, making the best cars anyone could find.

How did they do it?

“Several told us they enjoyed coming to work for the first time.”

They built better cars by changing how the people felt.

A car is made up of many parts, but aside from being a product made of metal, it is also a product of human emotions. Cars are built by men, and just as it was with the doctors who get no sleep, a man’s emotions is not an unrelated item to the outcome of his task.

When a car is moving down the assembly line at a rate of one a minute and the line is three miles long, no one knows exactly what is happening. No one worker can see all of what’s going on. No one manager can see all of what’s going on. No one mortal can see all of what is going on, even if he isn’t sitting down in an office in a different building. But each worker can see his part. And each worker further down the line has a chance to see some of the results of all the other workers that came before him.

If a worker doesn’t like his job, his team leader, the management, or just spilled his coffee that morning, he’s going to do a poorer job. Some of those actions may be said to be a result of intentional reasons, others, written off as “having a bad day”. But all of what they can do is within their thought space, and the thought space shifts based on emotions. Better emotions, better thought space. Better thought space, better results. If you feel a certain way, you will start seeing things that you wouldn’t if you felt another way. It doesn’t matter what a camera sees. It doesn’t matter what someone else sees. It matters what you see – in this case, what the worker sees.

Cars don’t get made in a car factory just because “that’s what car factories do”. Cars don’t work just because “they should”. All of those things come together, or don’t, due to human action. Human action is a result of human thought space. And human thought space is a result of, among other things, human emotion.

NUMMI imported the philosophy of Toyota, which stressed first and foremost the importance of continuous improvement and respect for people. In an organization, these two are the same thing: one is the cause, the other is the effect. People naturally want to perform well at their jobs. People want to do better every day. People especially don’t like making mistakes. But that’s working alone. With organizations, this also depends on how people treat each other.

All accounts of “labor-management relations” in Fremont Assembly describe it as “war”.

NUMMI put everyone on the same team.

The most famous symbol of the culture shift was the andon cord, “andon” being a loanword from Japanese now standardized due to NUMMI’s success. The andon cord is a cord above every worker’s station that, on a pull, would call a team leader over to help. If the team leader was unable to resolve the problem in time, or otherwise decided that it was serious, he would let the cord’s timer run out, and stop the entire line. Quality came first: that is to say, it was more important to get each car done right, than to get more cars done. Which led to more cars getting done, because errors weren’t being fixed later.

The andon cord was for the workers to catch errors. And the management supported the cord being pulled. They put it there. GM had red buttons that stopped the line too, but they were placed up to 75ft away. Walking 75ft is quite something when the line is moving at a car a minute. Its placement reflected its meaning: You weren’t supposed to push it. Sure, it’s there for a reason. There’s also a reason it’s all the way over there. Toyota replicated their own system at NUMMI brought the button within arm’s distance of everyone. It also was no longer a button, no longer something you had to look for specifically and hit it. Just reach up to the approximate height, and pull down: the point became a line. That placement and shape reflected its meaning, too.

Error-catching was part of a larger ideology.

Everyone was expected to inspect what they could in every car as they passed, solve problems, and note improvements that could be made – and in turn, management would do what they could to implement suggestions, make life easier, and make cars better. All things are built on technical implementation: this means that there’s always more details. Humans make mistakes. Machines make mistakes. Everyone and everything makes mistakes. “Mistake” simply means deviation from the idea in mind, which will always hyper-defined in one area and nebulous in the next. What we can do is do what we can now with what we have, and improve what we can the next time. In an organization, a continual project with multiple people working on multiple things, none of which are independent, this means “teamwork”. At some point in time, the andon cord didn’t exist. It, and many other things that we won’t go into here, was created because people thought and found it’d make doing things correctly, easier.

“People” – probably the worker doing it. The management and engineers listened, brainstormed some things together, and implemented a solution. While certainly there’s outside research going on in new materials, new aerodynamics, new more efficient engine design, the assembly and the running of a factory is technology that goes into the car too. All things are technology. All things can be improved.

Better cars are made by changing how people feel, change how people feel by putting them on the same team.

How did NUMMI put two sides of a “war” on the same team?

Same lunchroom. Same parking spaces. Division 1 classifications reduced from 80 to 1, skilled trades reduced from 18 to 2. Everyone on the line knows every other job on the line, everyone is allowed to do repairs. No seniority benefits. Organization was by teams rather than by skills. Bonuses for suggestions that get implemented. To counter drinking on the job, they even paid extra if you didn’t leave for lunch.

Before it opened, it flew all management and all 450 team leaders (about 1/5 of all line workers) to Toyota City for three weeks of training, including working on the line as a team member with the Japanese already familiar with the system and ideology. When it opened, and throughout its duration, Japanese management was present. They moved to California to oversee operations personally – including Tatsuro Toyoda, one of the founder’s grandsons.

It’s easy to say you care. It’s also easy to show you care.

It’s different to always and continuously go the extra mile because you give a shit.

That’s what GM didn’t do. They didn’t bother with the system behind it.

“Workers could only build cars as good as the parts they were given. At NUMMI, many of the parts came from Japan, and were really good. At Van Nuys, it was totally different.

The team concept stressed continuous improvement. If the team got a shipment of parts that didn’t fit, they were supposed to alert their bosses, who would then go to suppliers and engineers to fix the problem. All the departments in the company worked together.

But Ernie’s suppliers had never operated in a system like that. If he asked for fixes, they blew him off. And if he called Detroit and asked them to redesign a part that wasn’t working, they’d ask him why he was so special–

they didn’t have to change it for any other plant, why should they change it for him?”

“There was no vocabulary, even, to explain it. So I remember, one of the GM managers was ordered, from a very senior level– came from vice president– to make a GM plant look like NUMMI. And he said, “I want you to go there with cameras and take a picture of every square inch. And whatever you take a picture of, I want it to look like that in our plant. There should be no excuse for why we’re different than NUMMI, why our quality is lower, why our productivity isn’t as high, because you’re going to copy everything you see.”

Immediately, this guy knew that was crazy. We can’t copy employee motivation, we can’t copy good relationships between the union and management. That’s not something you can copy, and you can’t even take a photograph of it.”

“You had asked the question earlier, what’s different when you walk into the NUMMI plant? Well, you can see a lot of things different. But the one thing you don’t see is the system that supports the NUMMI plant. I don’t think, at that time, anybody understood the large nature of this system.

General Motors was a kind of throw it over the wall organization. You know, each department– we were very compartmentalized, and you’d design that vehicle, and you’d throw it over the wall to the manufacturing guys.

And they had to deal with it. And, I mean, you’re in there. You’ve kind of put your heart and soul into making this whole team concept work. And now you’re the messenger that has to go out and say, look, guys, even though this is the way the system’s supposed to work, and these are my issues, I’m not going to be able to solve them, and you’re going to have to deal with it.

And it was destructive. It was detrimental. I mean, no question about it.

You know, they never prohibited us from walking through the plant, understanding, even asking questions of some of their key people. I’ve often puzzled over that– why they did that. And I think they recognized, we were asking all the wrong questions. We didn’t understand this bigger picture thing.

All of our questions were focused on the floor, the assembly plant, what’s happening on the line. That’s not the real issue.

The issue is, how do you support that system with all the other functions that have to take place in the organization?”

When NUMMI opened, GM was seven times the size of Toyota.

That changed because Toyota paid attention to the problems of human technology: how to get organizations of people to treat each other, how to get individual people to believe the right things and act well on their own. It’s the result of taking human cooperation and human action space seriously. “Everyone” doesn’t exist, you and I do, and that means you and I need to do our part if “everyone” is going to achieve the objective.

This general concept behind “teamwork” is how you technically make people work together.

I use the phrase “make people” deliberately to illustrate an idea. It has a negative feeling to it. As if people are objects to be used and thrown away. But it’s important to keep that model in mind. People can be made to do things. People can be manipulated. A doctor that doesn’t get sleep will perform poorly. An assembly lineman who believes they can do better and will be supported by everyone from their foreman to the president will consistently try to find ways to exceed expectations. Humans have limits, limits mean there are certain properties, and properties can be manipulated with to create different results.

In an organization, these results are largely not a function of what you and I do. It’s not nothing. But it’s not everything. Organizations invariably have some kind of division of labor, a hierarchy, and idea behind it: a “culture”. A company culture, or a civilization’s culture, more or less rests on the shoulders of what the elite do. Do they just say things? Do they just do things? Or do they technically implement what’s necessary to get what they want?

GM had terrible human technology: Fremont Assembly made garbage cars.

Toyota had better human technology: NUMMI couldn’t stop getting quality awards.

“Maybe they don’t say explicitly “Don’t tell me,” but they discourage communication, which amounts to the same thing. It’s not a question of what has been written down, or who should tell what to whom; it’s a question of whether, when you do tell somebody about some problem, they’re delighted to hear about it and they say “Tell me more” and “Have you tried such-and-such?” or they say “Well, see what you can do about it” – which is a completely different atmosphere. If you try once or twice to communicate and get pushed back, pretty soon you decide, “To hell with it.””

One can say NUMMI treated the workers “more like human beings”. But that’s also just the opposite of the negative “make people work together”. They’re not wrong. They could be, that’s not important. What’s important is they’re not technical statements.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses after Toyota took over day-to-day operations; one common complaint under the new system was favoritism. And so what? What was any worker going to do about that? Nothing. Or at least, close to nothing. Nothing that’d change the system. Nothing he could easily do would be equivalent to upper management descending from the heavens and smiting whoever was doing the thing in question.

Revolutionary rhetoric (and rhetoric reflects ideas) invariably has lines like, “If we all rose up tomorrow and” this or that or something or other. But “we” don’t exist. You and I exist. You know what kinds of things you and I will rise up tomorrow for? No water. No food. That’s called a riot. Beyond that, it’s not happening. There has never been and will never be a “we all rise up tomorrow”. Revolutions are always a result of extensive cooperation, usually coordinated by a small group, headed by an even smaller handful of people. Those people are called the elite. Revolutions are that way, corporations are that way, civilization is that way. And the rest of us largely do what they want, not because it’s right or wrong, it could be right or wrong, that’s not important, but because human action space exists. It’s implicitly admitted anyways: suppose something is bad. Why do we need to rise up? Why don’t you take care of it?

Because there are things you can and cannot do. There are places you can and cannot go.

It’s true of civilizations, it’s true of organizations, it’s true of you – and it’s true of your mind.

You can’t go just anywhere anytime with your mind. Remember that?

“It doesn’t matter what you know. It matters only what you can think of in time.”

Sleep, nutrition, emotions, what ideas you were raised with, what situations you’ve encountered, how other people treat you, what you want to do with your life: these influence what you can think of in time. And there is always a time. It takes time to think, it takes time to remember, it takes time to go to a friend for a second opinion and go even just, “oh yeah, I knew that”. The purpose of thinking, that is to say, envisioning how things works and what you are going to do in your next few steps, is to come to accurate conclusions quickly so the correct technicals can be enacted and get the results desired before the world has turned, and the situation has changed. Sometimes, it’s the wrong conclusion. Sometimes, bad technicals are used. Sometimes, there is no tomorrow, and the right answer arrives too late.

There exists a human cooperation space, a human action space, a human thought space – and each has their limits. In each, there are things you can and cannot do. There are places you can and cannot go.

“There are places you can and cannot go.”
There’s a “can”.

Where can you go? What can you change?

Well, there’s all the obvious stuff. Obvious doesn’t mean it’s therefore wrong.

Your business. Your team. Your family. Your room. One habit. A single good deed every day. Did you look into their eyes, stop for a moment, and say thank you? Did you pay attention to something you wanted to change for once and do something about it? Did you eat dinner at the table, making sure everyone was there? Did you find out something a teammate needed done, and do it for them? I don’t know anything about running a business, so I probably shouldn’t list any specific examples. But I could guess. You could too.

It’s not nothing. There’s something you can do.

There are outside influences too of course, from those on the situation to on your mind. But whatever control you have on your decisions – which isn’t nothing – is up to you. There are things you can do.

Industrialized society in the information age has a lot of rules and a lot of managing, but it’s not a monolith. It can’t control everything. It exists: therefore, it has limits. It thinks it doesn’t, and everyone thinks it doesn’t, and that’s why everything sucks. Not just the vast majority that the elite control, everything sucks. People think things should magically i.e. by invisible magic and naturally i.e. by the leaves of nature perform the way they’re supposed to, without a care in the world as to what they can and could do. So they do nothing. Or, they think you can do anything you want, all you have to do is put your mind to it, just start a multi-billion dollar business or run for office if you don’t like it so much, sum total of which, surprise, is absolutely nothing. Or, and this is the worst of the three, they believe “the truth is always somewhere in the middle”. As if you could take two things, any two things at all, and the best option is always to throw the two things into some fuzzy goodness-maker that does ????? and out comes exactly what’s perfect for the situation. It’s garbage. All of those are garbage. They’re dickwavers. They don’t tell you anything useful. They can’t even conceive of what it means to do something.

Where you can really go: depends on how you do it.

First, you’d need to believe the place exists.

You need to decide this place is somewhere you can go.

Then, you need an idea on what you’re going to do to get there. The technical implementation. “But how will I know?” That’s the wrong question. Start with what you know, the results are not the structure. Do what seems reasonable. It doesn’t have to be great. It doesn’t even have to work. It just has to do something you can already understand, and from there you get results and it can be improved. If you need to find a cable on the bottom of the ocean and all you have are sextants and a hook, that’s what you’re going to use.

Then it’s a matter of whether or not you happen to get there.

If you don’t get there, but can try again, then first you’d need to still believe it’s possible. Try changing up your technicals somehow. Then take another shot.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that you can’t try again, because you’re dead. Either literally dead, or lost hope, or decided it was impossible – any of these things informs action, namely, to stop, which means that it will no longer happen. If, for whatever reason, it comes to you, you wouldn’t be able to recognize it. It’s gone. Because you stopped believing in it, the place is no longer there.

There is a world outside of you, a world outside of your organization, a world out there outside of civilization. No one knows the future: no one knows what is going to happen next. We can make some guesses, some of them pretty good guesses. But no matter how good they are, they are 1) guesses, and 2) not actually the future. So they’re probably going to be wrong at one point or another. Once upon a time, Rome ruled the world. Then, it was Mongolia. Then it was Britain. Currently it’s the United States of America. Yesterday the biggest car company in the world was General Motors. Today, it’s Toyota.

Each time something changes, it was due to things that didn’t exist – until they did. They were causes that could’ve probably been found out, but “no one” believed them, and if you don’t believe in something, it doesn’t exist. And there’s always something you don’t believe in. That’s why there’s change.

It’s not wrong. That’s just how it is. Human thought space is limited. You have believe some things and not others, focus on some things and not others, if you are going to get anywhere. You can only think and know a few things. It’s impossible for anyone to know all what’s really going on in a civilization, in an organization, in a building, in their own mind. People can spend their whole life and not get a hold on a single one of those, let alone do all of it “in time”.

There’s always more things.

Always more unknowns. Always a greater, savage beyond.

What we can do is recognize where our knowns end and the unknowns begin.

What I can do is help you remember where your knowns end and the unknowns begin.

It’s easy to have the right idea. It’s hard to keep it.

Having the right idea is as simple as someone giving it to you. There are details there too, like discovering the person with the right idea to begin with, but more or less that’s as hard as it gets. All you need to do is hear or read it, and then you have it.

But you only have it for that moment. You may have spent a couple of minutes, a couple of hours, a couple of days, a couple of years, or even your whole life hearing about it. Some people go their whole lives without learning anything. Being given something means it can only stick for so much. There’s the time part: even if you’re a live-in apprentice, the master only spends an amount time with you. It’s some amount. It’s not like he’s actually there watching literally everything of every step of every second.

Then there’s the complexity. If you tell a kid that thing over there is a tree, what do they understand out of what you said and did? They could’ve seen the pose. They could’ve seen the forest. They could’ve seen the tree. Or, they might’ve seen the color green.

Let’s suppose that the master did actually hold your hand everywhere, did the parts for you, put food in your mouth for you, and so on. Imagine something like watching a livestream of someone’s life through their eyeballs, except you can also feel the heat, your muscles get exhausted from exertion, and all the other experiences in life. Suppose the master shows you literally everything. That still doesn’t mean you understand any of it, much less understand it the way they wanted you to understand it. The world is complicated, there’s an infinite number of moving parts. What parts relate to which other parts? How do they relate? How should they be simplified and understood? Words and experience can only point out a limited amount of things – the rest is up to you. There has never been an apprentice that fully copied his master, and if there was, and the next apprentice did the same, that’s where the tradition died. There are always more unknowns, and you have to constantly fill it in.

And you can only do things in your own way.

Keeping the right idea involves doing things your own way.

An idea is a piece of equipment. It has certain requirements, takes up a certain amount of space, and has certain uses. Your mind has some sort of environment to it; presumably, you’re familiar with a decent amount. That’s where all your other ideas/equipment are. If you are to keep an idea, your new equipment must integrate properly with all your other equipment. If you don’t integrate it, and instead put it “somewhere over there”, it’s probably going to get lost, and you’re going to forget it. It doesn’t mean it’s gone, it’ll just take a while to find it. That’s a “oh yeah, I knew that”.

How to integrate your new idea with your old ones is up to you. You could just jam it in and hope for best. You could find out that it does basically the same functions as one already existing, throw out the old one, make slight modifications and you’re set. It could turn out to be the case that, while it sounded nice, you picked up the idea for reasons you don’t really understand yet, you don’t really know how to integrate it, and you really do have to just put it “somewhere over there” for now.

The ideal case is the new idea fits neatly and easily into the old ones.

The ideal method of organization of ideas maximizes the ideal case.

How you organize ideas is an ideology.

Throughout this piece I have repeated myself a number of times. I did do some of it intentionally, most of it wording for rhetorical effect. The rest of it is because it’s what I found. I started off trying to understand the world, and everywhere I looked, this is what I found, connecting all the parts.

“All things are built on technical implementation”.
“Start with what you know, the results are not the structure”.
“Human thought space has certain properties”.
“It matters only what you can think of in time”.

It was true at the top level, it was true at the bottom level, it was true at every level in between – and more. There turned out to actually be a top level, civilization does actually stop at very obvious points. But the bottom turned out to not exist.

It’s easy to say people only have sight in a some-degree cone which can see to such-and-such size details at such-and-such distance, have hearing that can only detect this amount of pressure/decibels, beyond this it’s a matter of what they hear or read from other people etc.. But there was more than that. People don’t really know or control themselves either. Just because it’s in your vision cone doesn’t mean you see it. What you see depends on what you’re looking for, how well you’re looking for it depends on how you feel, and a whole number of other things, things that cannot be discounted.

And I knew all this. But that’s not the point. I never thought of it in time.

And suddenly, I was thinking of it in time. Suddenly, a single principle could toke me from the heights of what civilization can do all the way to the depths of a single man’s emotions. No longer was it this “physics” this and “psychology” that. No “well [that saying] is true but what about [this other saying]”, no “oh yeah, i knew that”, no “duh”. This was true everywhere I looked, and it took me anywhere I wanted. It covered everything that was possible to know, from the start of discovery, to the recall of memory.

It’s a transportation system across ideas, and it itself is an idea with the same properties.

It’s fractal.

Usually my problem with new ideas is I forget.

This idea was the opposite: I couldn’t stop seeing it.

I know that that means it’s better than a lot of the ideas that came before. But I also know that I will eventually stop seeing it everywhere. It has to be that way. People forget. People try out new things, and when trying out new things you have to, to some degree, let go of existing methods. There’s also all the things already discussed ad nauseum about the human thought space. Even now, there’s probably areas and things where I’m not actually applying the principle to, I just don’t know it.

For when I forget, I’ve come up with something that recalls the idea.

I felt the “think of in time” line could be improved. Like the red button vs the andon cord, it was invoking things in ways that weren’t as useful as they could be. Perhaps it’s because I really liked, read, and reread the books around the principle. Hagakure is a bunch of short stories and morals about honor, involving cutting down people like this or that. The Book of Five Rings – the actual source of the line – was huge chunks about the literal techniques on how you go about the swinging of the sword cutting down of people like this or that. Perhaps it’s because I’ve run into a bunch of “oh yeah I knew that” types, and I really don’t like invoking those kinds of people when trying to understand anything.

The line is a good line, for acting in the moment. And life is always in the moment. A very good line on which to build a decision theory. But the concept behind it can be used to do more.

Like make a map of the territory.

A map that recognizes that it is a map, and not the territory, and reminds you that when you go out into the territory, it’s more than you can ever see.

A good line recalling this concept needs to carry its fracticity. It’d need to talk about the qualities of what you know and what you don’t know, and how one becomes the other. It’d need to talk about you, in such a way that you’d naturally and willingly – you want to – insert yourself into the idea. It’d need to talk about how all knowns have limits and all unknowns have no limits, without doing things like inflating or squashing egos. It’d need to be short; long things are hard to remember. Preferably, it relies on as little technical knowledge as possible so it’s not field-specific, removing resistance against generally using it.

Preferable, it doesn’t rely on the words at all, but calls some image, with feeling, from instinct.

These and other similar conditions are ones I believe I have largely fulfilled. I’ll tell a short story now, but other than the first few paragraphs and unlike basically the rest of this piece, I didn’t plan what was going to be in it. I’ve never known an oral tradition, but I imagine it’s something like this: made of small yet important bits consisting of how to start and how to expand, and then expanding it.

I call it:

“A Mountain in the Jungle”

The jungle is the unknown. The jungle is endless. You can stop anywhere in the jungle, look at something, and the more you look, the more you will find. You can’t see very far; twenty steps any direction and it’s all different again. You have to be careful, or else you’ll get lost. And who knows what’s out there savoring for a taste.

The mountain is your home. There’s only one, but it’s high up, and it’s clear. When you’re on it, nothing can hurt you here. You still can’t see an end to the jungle. But at least here, all things are known. Everything works exactly like it should. And every day, you build the mountain, larger and taller. Up towards the sky.

The mountain has existed since before time began. You remember bits and pieces of the past, when the mountain was smaller here or there, but there was always a mountain, and you have always been building it.

Given that all you know how to do is build and how large the mountain is, it’s probably true that the mountain was started a long time ago. Your parents built it, your parents’ parent’s built it, all the way back, everyone was building. That’s your best guess, because you can’t talk to them about it. You can’t talk to anyone about it. You see many people on the mountain, usually they’re building it too, but they don’t know what you’re talking about. Occasionally they say some things that makes sense, most of the time it’s just words and sounds that don’t amount to anything. Once, every couple of ages, you happen to stumble upon someone in the jungle that seems to understand what you mean. But when you bring them back to the mountain, they don’t recognize that anything has changed. As far as they can tell, they’re still in the jungle. They say you must be tired and confused; they’ll bring you back to the *real* mountain. And once you’re supposedly there, you don’t see anything either. About the only things you can really talk about is what’s in the jungle. Which you both agree is very dangerous and full of things no one knows.

And the jungle is always expanding. Every day the jungle is expanding. It’s probably expanding out there somewhere too; as far as you’re concerned, it’s expanding up the mountain. Or the mountain is being eaten down by it. It’s hard to tell. It also doesn’t really matter, what matters is that the mountain gets smaller every day, unless you work hard chopping away at the jungle, go out for materials, and build the mountain higher. You’ll always remember the one time you decided to take a break, see what happens if you just don’t do anything. You stayed right on your spot on the mountain. How long it was isn’t clear anymore. What was clear: the jungle came up the mountain. Frighteningly fast. That was scary.

But some time later, you did it again. You forget why you did it, but you didn’t intend to do it. It might’ve been overexertion after building too hard for too long, might’ve been going on a long journey and failing to find a new place to mine for stone and other materials, might’ve been that one time you followed some guy who said he’d show you a new plant and got lost for a while trying to come home. In any case it happened again.

That time, you decided to measure it.

You placed a few rocks where the mountain stops and the jungle starts. It’s not clear where exactly the boundary is, but it’s as good as you can make it. Did nothing that day, checked back tomorrow, sure enough it was in the jungle now. But it wasn’t gone. The rocks were still there. And it wasn’t that far either. Just a few paces. Did the same thing again, waited another day (that day you remember – you played with really pretty butterflies) and again the rocks are still there. The rocks from the first time are still there too, though toppled over and spread out a bit. Maybe some animal tripped over it? But where they were was just a few paces from yesterday’s rocks, which in turn was about the same few paces from the mountain – and more importantly, the same number of paces you found the first time!

It was a revelation:

The jungle could be known.

Or at least, its border with the mountain could be known. And approximately which way from where the sun rises relative to the mountain you get your building materials, which in turn was about this way from where you got water, and… hmm.

You tell some people about it, most responded in their usual basket of assorted syllables, the rest, as far as you could tell, said, “you are crazy”.

Nevertheless, you start getting ideas.

You do it over and over again (not all back to back; have to keep clearing the jungle and finding food and all the other things) and every time, you find the same result. Well, almost every time. The usual amount is such-and-such number of paces per day. Sometimes it’s a bit more, sometimes it’s a bit less. One time you tried measuring by finger lengths instead to be more accurate, and that worked too. But every once in a while a tree falls down and it expands faster for a while, and sometimes for reasons you couldn’t quite figure out it expanded slower. It was more easy to screw up the finger measurement, and the pace count was about right anyways. Such-and-such number of paces per day. Assuming the sun crossed the sky in the same amount of time every day. And you’re the same size. Seemed like safe enough assumptions. The number of paces wasn’t always the same, but it wouldn’t off by very much, and when it was, there was also usually something obvious that showed why it had changed.

One day you decide to do something different.

You decide you’ll clear a path to the mine.

(Or was it the river?)

You reason, perhaps rather than just clearing the mountain, perhaps other things could be cleared too. Yesterday trying to get a lot of berries you cleared a fairly large area in the middle of nowhere, and, today, when you finally found it again… it was there. It had shrunk, the jungle expanded here at a rate somewhat differently than back home. But it didn’t just disappear. Or at least, you think you found it. It’s probably the same patch though, it was in this direction about this amount of time’s walk from the mountain.

The sun is great and all, but sometimes it’s cloudy, and sometimes, you don’t wake up until the middle of the day. If only you could see in the jungle like you could on the mountain… then there wouldn’t need to be any wondering about where to go, and how to get back. If it’s a straight path, anywhere on the path there’s only two ways to look, one of them is going to be the mountain. If it’s not a straight path, then at least there’s a guide, again with two directions, and one of them is going to head to the mountain.

And it worked. Or it did, after some adjustments.

As discovered earlier, the jungle expanded differently out here, some places really fast, and that meant that some paths were simply not viable. While one place worked just fine with a straight path, most others needed to include a number of funny turns and workarounds. You didn’t know where to go to get around the problem beforehand, but you knew there was a problem, and you knew where it was you needed to go, so you tried this or that and eventually one would get through. Usually. Sometimes it was too much of a bother and there’d just be a patch of jungle inbetween.

For a few of them that were too far, you eventually decided to just build mini-mountains instead. And why not? You know how to build a mountain, the jungle has some height; building a small mountain, one that’s tall enough to see straight from the one back home sort of serves the same purpose. Would still need to trek through the jungle, but it could save a lot of trouble. Smaller mountains have a smaller area that needs to be maintained, which also means a shorter amount of time required to climb and build…. it seemed like a good idea. And for some of them, it was. Others, it just didn’t happen. Tree canopies happened to be too tall, jungle expanded abnormally fast, too far from the mines; the reason was different for each.

But some paths were cleared. And some new mountains were made.

And of course, the real meat and the original objective:

Your mountain is bigger and better than ever.

Some people believe it. Most people don’t. They all seem to make more sense now… maybe something to do with all the new things you’ve been doing? Fewer grunts and yells, more comprehensible signals. It’s still not really how you’d do things, when they say some word they usually don’t mean what you say it to mean, but you’ve gotten more accurate at guessing what they’re saying. And that’s better than before.

Those random guys that came around once every forever, some of them see your mountain now. And you see some of theirs, too – one day they just popped out, like they’ve been there the whole time. You’re able to discuss how to build this or that part, this or that way, this or that material. There’s also those mini-mountains, some of which people have started clearing and building themselves. A couple of them have gotten quite large. So have some of your paths, which some of the people you try to talk to insist are mountains. They could see what was going on for such a long way – how could they possibly be in the jungle?

Just the same – some of your creations could not survive.

As some got built, others got destroyed. The faster you built, the faster some died. On rare occasion you’d see someone take material from one mountain to build another, but often it just disappeared – you’d follow them in the jungle and then at some turn, they’d be gone. It was as if people were making the jungle grow faster than normal.

As if people were becoming the jungle themselves.

Where you could get an answer, through as best you could figure out whatever symbols and sounds they used to mean, they would always say the same thing. As you asked more and more, it turned out, it really didn’t change, whether it was someone who was building or destroying. Now, as you harken back, back when it was just one mountain in the jungle, you remember and see, they have always been saying the same thing:

“I’m building the mountain.

What are you doing?”

Epilogue / References and Other Rulesets

All things have a domain. This is where the domain of this piece ends.

In college I once asked an English grad student a question. She was the TA for the writing class I was in, which covered stuff I learned in fifth grade. At some point it was mandatory to make an appointment with the TA to discuss our writing or something, and I wanted to come up with something to impress her (she was hot. those were some big titties). Something good has to be something I was interested in and knew something about. My problem around that time was I didn’t know when to stop writing. The question I asked was, I forget the words, but it was something along these lines:

“A thesis is supported by an essay. An essay is supported by paragraphs. Paragraphs are supported by concrete details. Presumably, concrete details are supported by further concrete details.

How far down am I supposed to go?”

She failed to give me a good answer.

And I continue to have that problem today.

My first iteration of this piece went 17,500 words in the wrong direction. This piece is written in a file titled “setup6d” (there’s also about that many “collection” .txt’s), and I had a lot planned for this final section. But it’d be too long. Length matters. It’s “all related”, but these technical details matter. So it’s time to stop. It’s time to pull up the hook.

And all the miles of rope.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand a little more about the nature of the problem.

Ever since I started taking drawing seriously, many things not in drawing have simply revealed themselves to me. Drawing is spatial, and I have always thought spatially. “I have always thought spatially” is currently in words, but I didn’t discover that until I took drawing seriously. “Taking [anything] seriously” too. Etc., ad infinitum. Basically anything regarding learning, I learned through drawing. And all things have to be learned – learning just means “input”. Which for me makes sense if I think of it as “seeing”. That’s why all examples I used highlight seeable things.

Drawings can be measured into correctness. You know that one pose artists in movies do? The holding up of a pencil? That’s measuring. This amount of space on the pencil is this amount of space as it appears in reality. You don’t need to know what the ruler says, just how big this looks in proportion to that. Plus or minus 10% is fine, so long as it’s the right 10% – choose what you’re measuring and in what order wisely. Art may be harder to grasp, but drawing is a technical skill. You need eyes, hands, a pencil, and paper: the rest is followthrough.

When I started, all I did was measure.

But one time, I measured my way into something better than the original. It looked good, I overlayed it with the picture I was copying from, but it didn’t match. Traced the lines myself, overlayed with the measured version, still didn’t match. But one was obviously better than the other. My eyes weren’t lying. Photoshop wasn’t lying. And one was better than the other. So the measured one had to be better. That was a breakthrough. That gave me confidence.

Obviously real artists don’t measure everything. That’s not what they do. But that doesn’t matter. Measuring is extremely slow; that doesn’t matter either. What matters is results. And doing something I could do, doing something I understood, I made better results.

“Something I can do and I can understand can make better results.” That was the breakthrough.

I called it,

“Capturing the Essence”.

I never encountered anything that worked like that for writing. In drawing I not only learned how to draw, I learned how to export learning to other things. Now, I at least think of writing as something that can be improved, a skill that exists independently of any ideas that are talked about inside. Make this section longer, make that section shorter, rearrange the sections, change that word out for one that’s more memorable, change that word out for a couple of sentences that would smooth things out… and so on.

Does that make for better writing? I imagine it does. I hope it does. Taste I couldn’t really port over. I couldn’t port over tracing either. Nor my lack of care for intricate detail.

But I do have some taste, here and there. Including one for bibliographies.

I have a taste for bibliographies.

I think saying the purpose of bibliographies is “to prevent plagiarism” is absolutely insulting.

A trick that can only be played on children. No, that insults children, I should be more specific: people with no understanding of the world. It’s the same trick with intellectual property. “If someone has done it before you need to give them credit”. Question: How am I going to know that? How are you going to know that? I’m going to search the whole library to see if someone did it before me? What if the library’s incomplete? What if the Library of Congress is incomplete? And it is incomplete. Even the Library of Alexandria was incomplete. Even 10,000 pages of Google is incomplete, and you’re not going to look past the first 10. Everything is a mountain in the jungle, and the jungle is infinite. Trying to find out if something has been done before you, ever, anywhere, is trying to search the entire jungle. You can’t do it. You are being sent on an impossible task. To make it exceedingly clear: You are being fucked with.

Plagiarism is really about who’s going to come after you for not giving them credit. That is to say: it’s about “who”. It’s power. If you’re small and they’re big, they can take whatever they want and claim it’s theirs. They can even claim they did it first and you stole from them (search: art plagiarism). If you’re really small though, you can take whatever you want, because no one cares about you. No one even sees you. In academia, we see the end goal of this anti-plagiarism device meets perfect information: citations absolutely everywhere. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is looking for a slice. Names and titles and dates everywhere, every sentence, clogging up the flow of the actual stuff. It’s ugly.

I’m a nobody so it doesn’t matter. I do what I want.

I largely can’t be bothered because citations eat up my time: any time and energy I spend looking into who said what is time I’m not spending doing and finding out new things. All thinking, plus or minus, cites all the way back to the Buddha or Socrates. Guess who the Buddha and Socrates cited? And we want to be like those two guys, right? Not the academics?

It doesn’t matter if someone else found it before me (especially not if I don’t know who did it), I didn’t do it so I don’t get it, and when I do it it’s new to me. The most common thing is people say things that are too vague, the less common but still frequent case is they say things that are obscure; anything that is useful to me I’ve basically had to do myself anyways. So either I spend energy figuring out what people are talking about, and then do it myself, or, I just do it myself. It’s usually not a very hard choice.

But I like bibliographies.

Bibliographies help me remember things.

Other than being spatially gifted/verbally impaired, I have a really terrible memory. The primary reason why I wrote all this and do any thinking is because I can’t remember jack squat. Normal people with good memories, I imagine, are just fine with a bunch of disparate pieces of information. That’s presumably why they enjoy that trivia stuff so much. But I can’t do that. I can hold only a few things. So I need to hold the best few things. As it turns out, there are different types of things, and this type is better than the rest, because it is a single thing yet also multiple things. It requires thinking to produce, and is usually called a “principle”.

“Ideology” is what I’ve called a principle of principles. It’s usually called “epistemology”, but I don’t like that word too much. I like the sound of the word “ideology”. And I can see what it is: idea, logic. Logic of ideas. What the heck is an “epistem”? But back to book-graphing.

Good ideas are not randomly distributed. Someone who’s had a good idea before is likely to have a good idea again; someone who’s had multiple good ideas before is more likely to have good ideas in the future. The world is really big and there’s a lot of ways to see about and think around it. You can only see and do so much yourself. It’s nice to have people who you can use to do additional thinking for you and run into real problems “beforehand”. There’s still the minimum reverse-engineering and implementation costs stated earlier, and it is pretty hard to find someone who’s not just being deliberately obscure (for dickwaving purposes) – but that’s why bibliographies are great! Once you’ve found one good thinker, if he has a bibliography, it significantly increases your chances of finding more good thinkers.

As for the creation side of it, naming sources helps me remember the lineage of ideas.

Lineages are something that turns the dots of ideas into lines: it’s another type of principle.

Some lineages are very important. You need to know who said it and what it was used with etc. to figure something out. Other lineages basically don’t matter and external factors could be rederived offhand. I think it’s rather good practice to keep at least a couple of notes on lineage of each thing around. It tells you where the minimum domains on the things are: “at least according to this guy”.

This section, apart from the bibliography, was originally going to be more detail about me. All things have domains; “of course [A Mountain In The Jungle] is my opinion, it came out of my mouth“. But what do I mean to you? Earlier when I said I wrote 17,500 words in the wrong direction: that was an autobiography. Mostly about the two months that were the primary impetus for this idea. But I don’t think the particular details of that are important anymore. The final theory survives just fine without it – as it was intended to. As for what purpose that served, that is to say, giving you some idea about me, I think what actually appeared in this section is sufficient. More than enough self-referential stuff.

Okay, maybe a bit more. Since I have written them already.

I picked some fights at the beginning. Here are a few of their illustrations before the end.

Utopia/Equalists: They will say you can’t separate people into different groups.

Equality is mostly a useless concept.

Equal enough isn’t, but then it gets into details, technical details, which these people don’t want to talk about. Is it IQ? There’s literal apes with no whites in their eyes that have higher IQ than some africans and aborigines. “Can function in society” If you ask me, 10x the murder rate and (infinity)x the riot-and-loot-stores rate is a disqualifier. “You’re just a racist” You will find that anyone you ask, from any angle, once you get down to these technicals, will have a different answer for what is equal enough. It’s a fact of life that different things are different. It only becomes a pressing problem when you emphasize this impossibility. That’s why non-“racists” have the “the progressive stack”: they’re always finding more inequalities.

The technicals will get you eventually.

The jungle will get its fair share.

Here’s the bottom line for me: children born from the same parents, raised in the same household, and fed the same food, turn out different. Even the lengths of your fingers are different. Suppose equality is good and you have infinite power (which, I’ll remind you, you don’t). Is it good enough to change that? Go in there and replace parents with government employees? Finger surgeries for everyone? I don’t think equality is good enough for that. I don’t think it’s good enough for basically anything. There’s science men on TV who like to say things like “we’re all made of the same star stuff”. Are you going to start treating cabbages like people? Equalists don’t even treat racists like people, let alone cabbages (which they tend to treat more poorly than cows/chicken/pigs/fish, also made of “star stuff”). Granted, they’ve recently stopped eating cabbages and started eating “Soylent”. That just makes my opinion easier.

Equality is mostly useless.

Using useless things in important and critical ways will get you the obvious results.

Bigotry/Womanism: They will say you can’t think things because someone might feel bad.

I once passed by Forever21 fairly regularly. Forever21 is a women’s clothing store, presumably the idea is wearing their clothes will keep you forever 21. Now one day I was passing it a thought occurred to me,

“When does a lady become a woman?”.
Or maybe it was “When does a girl become a lady?”.

The answer came fairly quickly: It’s long after it’s already happened. Thirty year old females are girls. Then they’re ladies, and have been ladies since they were twenty. Sixty year old females are ladies. Then they’re women, and have been since they were forty. They are whatever they say they are, whenever they say it. Which naturally extends to: things are whatever they say they are, whenever they say it, and whenever they change their minds. I wasn’t able to truly generalize this at the time. But this was also before the current iteration of MeToo and Rolling Stone.

These people are very skilled manipulating your thought space. And the less in control you are of your thought space, the less understanding you will have of what’s going on, the higher the probability you are going to help cause results you are not going to like. There’s a reason why the Greeks made up the concept of Sirens.

Keep your wits about you around these types. Choose your actions wisely.

They don’t have your best interests in mind.

NAXALT/ESID/Platonism: They will say you are wrong because you are not perfectly consistent.

ESID is a version of NAXALT used among those who move to Japan to teach English. ESID stands for “Every Situation Is Different”, and it’s used to remind people that, whatever idea they had about Japan before, whatever they had heard, isn’t therefore going to apply to them. NAXALT is fairly popular, “Not All [X] Are Like That”; generalized version of “Not All Women Are Like That”.

I believe the purpose of ideas is to help gain understanding about the world. So, NAXALT/ESID, if it’s a good idea, helps expand understanding. Start with principle, find exception, re-evaluate new possible general case, expand principle.

I ran this idea backwards and I found it didn’t work.

It just permanently destroys principles.

We’ve already done race and women, so let’s use this travel one this time.

Suppose you moved to Japan. You don’t move to “Japan”, you move to a house on such-and-such street in such-and-such city, probably with people to help you with everything being Japanese, and a job doing such-and-such things with Japanese clients… you get the idea. Suppose you do that for a day. ESID, you don’t know everything. Fine. What can you know in a day.

But no matter what you do, it’s the same result.

A week. ESID. A month. ESID. A lifetime. ESID. You know what it means to live in that house, that street, etc.. What about another house on a different street? A different city, a different province? A different job, seeing different people, being in different networks? ESID, ESID, ESID. You can’t say Japan means this or that because ESID. You’re just talking about you.

Someone else though can say things about Japan, because ?????, then it’s not ESID.

“But I wouldn’t say things like that, I’d say it’s because you hadn’t” Exactly.

The jungle is infinite. We can’t clear the jungle. We can build the mountain.

So build the mountain.

All you need to do is keep track of who’s saying what, and know that all these limits also apply to the other guy. If someone says you can’t say something about your experience in Japan, just know he has some background too.

Studies/Experts/Numericism: They will say you need the fancy letters and tabled numbers.

I fucking hate science.

“Exact science” isn’t an exact science. Even rocket science isn’t rocket science. I would know, I’ve taken some rocket science. There’s some really fucking inane shit in there. “But you haven’t taken all of rocket science” Fuck you.

For example, they have tables for making decisions. That sounds neat you say, make decisions as objective as possible. But tables aren’t magic. All things are built on technical implementation. Tables only say what you fill them with, and you can only fill them with what you have ideas for. What do rocket scientists know about decisions? Not much more than you, because our philosophical tradition doesn’t take decisions seriously, it only talks about “facts”. Rocket scientists know plenty about tables, but when they have to measure the importance of having this feature versus that feature or measuring budget against quality, guess what they do? They say this feature has an importance of 0.3 and that feature has an importance of 0.5.

How did they do that?

It felt that way.

No really, that’s the extent of it. Experienced or not, they pulled it out of their ass, and if the tables end up saying something they don’t want, they change the tables or the numbers until it says what they want it to say. Which is invariably going to happen because people don’t feel or think about those things in fucking numbers. At which point you might as well have just chosen something “subjectively” the first time and written an essay instead. But no. It has to be science. Which means it has to look like science. Which means dickwaving tables.

Doctors are the same way. “On a scale from 1 to 10, how much pain are you feeling?” My chin is detached from my skull and blood is spilling from my hands, what the fuck do you think? Am I talking to someone? Is this a person? Hello in there??

Human thoughts and experience don’t fit perfectly in numbers, believe it or not. They don’t fit perfectly in words either. There may be uses framing things this way or that, but how they’re framed is of utmost importance. And no one pays attention to this.

In highschool AP Statistics the first time p-values were brought up, I asked, “What does it mean to be 95% confident?”. No good answer. Then I was told to assume things are normally distributed, and I asked, “Why would we assume things are normally distributed?”. No good answer. I got the department award for statistics that year. Perhaps that was a coincidence. Perhaps getting a 5 on the AP test was also a coincidence. I wouldn’t know. I still don’t take statistics seriously.

Or maybe, I take it seriously, and no one else does.

But words mean what people use them to mean, and people use science and statistics etc. to mean ^that kind of shit, and I have no particular attachment to the word, so if that’s the name the enemies desire, that’s the name they will get.

Management/Authoritarianism: They will say you don’t know all the details.

They don’t know all the details either.

Transatlantic cable, SR-71, ABMs, battleships, NUMMI…

Actually, let’s wrap those two big stories up.

The Transatlantic Cable eventually became part of a greater system. The British Empire repeated the feat, pulling a cable across Canada, the Pacific Ocean, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, South Africa, and back to the homeland. The system was completed, half a century later in 1911, and was called, “The All Red Line“.

In World War 1, British worldwide communications went uninterrupted.

German connections were cut immediately.

NUMMI produced the world’s best cars until 2010.

In 2009, after nearly three decades of failing to improve its quality and under the 2008 recession, General Motors filed for bankruptcy. Among other things, it pulled out of the NUMMI joint venture with Toyota. NUMMI had a no-layoff policy, one that it demonstrated its commitment to shortly after opening in 1987 and 1988, when slowed production and slowed sales meant 264 workers were technically not needed. Most of the workers were assigned to “kaizen” projects.

Kaizen is another japanese loanword made famous here, meaning “continuous improvement” (“改善”, lit. “change line”). Kaizen was the philosophy of Toyota and NUMMI: everyone can always improve. It was the philosophy my dad taught me. My dad worked at NUMMI. I’ve heard the song of kaizen since before I could speak.

Toyota offered to keep NUMMI open in exchange for some pay cut. I forget the number, but it was a rate that, as my dad said, if anyone had heard about it at the time, “everyone would raise their feet in agreement”. But UAW was “the sole bargaining agent for the NUMMI labor force” by the original contract.

And UAW wanted more.

Toyota pulled out, and opened a few more elsewhere in the country. NUMMI was the first time Toyota had closed down a factory in its 70+ years of existence.

From a business perspective it wasn’t particularly a good idea to begin with. Toyota didn’t specifically need to do a joint venture – at the time, such a thing was unheard of. It was big news. Apparently one headline announcing it read, “Hell Freezes Over”. Especially using a plant known to be sin city. But they did it. Because they wanted to, in their words, learn what working with Americans would be like. It was about learning. After thirty years and now running multiple plants in the country, perhaps they decided they had learned enough.

And yet, they gave huge severance packages.

Every year you worked there, you got one week’s pay. On top of some amount of bonus. And 20,000$ cash – to buy health insurance while you look for your next job.

No one got a penny when GM closed Fremont Assembly down.
Hell, no one got a penny from GM when it pulled out of NUMMI either.

Toyota also did some things under the table – “They told me, “What we are talking about now is not in black in white. There will be no records of this. You talk about this to no one. Not your boss, not your coworkers, not even your wife””. One by one they went behind closed doors with that man in the suit and talked about ?????. (The water cooler ran out a lot that day.) I have no qualms talking about it, but my dad said not to, so out of respect for him I’m cutting out most of it. But I think the concept of it is important. You can guess what was occurring, a hook off the back is mostly sufficient.

The end result: Some people took it. Some people didn’t.

My dad didn’t.

Toyota gave it anyways.

Straight Up Lying/Journalism: They will fabricate things simply to contradict you.

Fake news is not a problem. I have long since learned not to take them seriously. I keep track of who says what, and if anything comes from “CNN”, or “NBC”, or anyone of the fourth estate, I know what that information means. It’s not a problem.

Does it cause problems? Yes. But it’s a known quantity. I know what to do with it.

In this case: minimize my exposure to it.

All this discussion about how you need to give us a second chance, we check our facts now, you’re taking things out of context, when things are always changing there’s bound to be mistakes, our job is hard, blah blah blah. I don’t care. I could care. But that’s clearing out the jungle. That’s called buying Hanlon’s razor. That’s called not learning your Aesop’s fables. When have these guys shown they cared? Do you know what happens when you turn your back to the enemy?

NUMMI and some other jungles are fun to look around in; this one just sucks. It fucking sucks. There’s not a single thing I can point to like with NASA, “oh we had to time our mars landing at exactly the right moment” fuck you, it takes 7 minutes for a signal to even reach mars and “exact” is a measurable amount of time, either larger than 7×2 minutes (data signal here, command signal back), in which case, fuck you, or it’s smaller than 7×2 minutes, in which case, you’re trying to trick me, fuck you. I’d be amazed if you just told me what kinds of difficulty you were dealing with instead of directly talking about how big your dick was. But journalism is worse. There’s no reference point. Or rather, there’s infinite reference points. And it is all dicks.

Easier to just tell them to go fuck themselves. Which achieves approximately the intended results anyways, and results are what matter. Only people who don’t like it are journalists.

Who can go fuck themselves.

Bootstraps/Americanism: They will imply only the lazy embark on your endeavor.

These are the kinds of people who say things like, “If you don’t like Amazon or Facebook or Google, why don’t you start your own business?”. Or, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, I paid my own way through college working part-time in the summer”.

I hope I’ve impressed upon you by now what the problem with this is.

More importantly, I hope I’ve impressed upon you now how its solution begins.

I’d like to do more. I could go on forever.

But I have other things I want to do.

And you have an approximate idea. So long as you know about where to look, have the some resources, and you start looking, you’ll get approximately what you want.

Throw a hook off the back.
Start with what you know, the results are not the structure.
All things are built on technical implementation.
There are things it can and can’t do; there are places it can and can’t go.

Start with the proposition:

So long as you attempt to understand the world, it can be understood.


“Mastery does not normally cross fields.

Epistemology is the exception. Every field of inquiry involves epistemology.”



“There are at least three psychological reasons for why most people are deterred from finding the true theory of history. The first is that the vast majority of people only have an implicit theory of history.

(Which is to say: most people do not even have the concept of a theory of history.)

Here’s the problem with relying on your implicit theory of history: it’s wrong, without a doubt. The world is complex, and your theory of history has to explain how everything in the world works. So, without explicitly trying to improve your theory of history, there is no hope: there will be countless things that you have not had the time or the psychological freedom to take into account. Improving your theory of history implicitly is not systematic enough to work.”

On Building Theories of History
Samo Burja

“One of my favorite stories about my wife and myself, when we were in New Jersey, our breakfast table was right next to some windows looking on the garden. We’re having breakfast prior to me going to work. And she says, “Dick, it’s raining.” I look at her and think “What’s wrong with her? She must know that I can see it’s raining”. Then I say to myself, what did she really say?

What she said was: “I’ve had my second cup of coffee and I’m fit to talk to.”

I spent much of that day at Bell Labs watching how much of what we say is not what it appears to be. And it is amazing. The enormous amount of how much of what we say is literally not correct. No way. So the language has a great deal of thing of things more than what you think; our natural language has a great deal of features, which in a language to a computer would not have to have.

Well we have not studied the problem. When I heard the Japanese were planning to write fifth generation computers, the speed was alright, but when they were going to do AI to do things, I thought they would not succeed. And they didn’t. Because they were not profoundly studying the nature of language. And until we do, we will get language like ADA, which are logically alright, but they don’t fit the human analogue to do the kinds of things that a human animal does with language.

Now I point out there are two languages: there is you to the machine, and the machine back to you. They need not be the same language. You want a terse one in, and you’re willing to put up with a rather verbose one coming out. Frequently what comes out is so terse you can’t figure out what it means, and you’re willing to settle with a lot more printout – but not too much. It’s a problem of designing language to communicate ideas to machines.

But unfortunately we don’t know what ideas are, so we don’t know how to do it.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“The story of this factory is a famous one among car people-
it’s taught at business schools.”

This American Life #561: NUMMI 2015
Ira Glass


“There isn’t really a problem of induction.

There really is a problem of intentionality. How the fuck do things refer to other things?”


“Suppose you have two theories, A and B. Both completely different psychologically, different ideas and so on. But all the consequences they computed are exactly the same. They may even agree with the experiments. The two theories, although they sound different at the beginning, have all the consequences the same. […] Suppose we have two such theories: how are we going to decide which one is right?

No way. Not by science. Because they both agree with experiments there’s no way to distinguish one from the other. So two theories, although they may have deeply different ideas behind them, may be mathematically identical, and usually people say then in science ‘one doesn’t know how to distinguish them’. And that’s right.

However, for psychological reasons, in order to get new theories, these two things are very far from equivalent. Because one gives a man very different ideas than another. By putting a theory in a certain kind of framework you get an idea what could change. Which in theory A would talk about something, you say I’ll change that idea here, but to find out what corresponding things you’re going to change in B could be very complicated. It may not be a simple idea. In other words, a simple change here makes maybe a very different theory than a simple change there. In other words, although they are identical before they’re changed, there are certain ways of changing one which look natural, which don’t look natural in the other. Therefore psychologically, we must keep all those theories in our head. Every theoretical physicist that’s any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics, and knows that they’re all equivalent, and that nobody is ever going to be able to decide which one is right – at that level – but he keeps them in his head, hoping that they’ll give him different ideas.”

The Character of Physical Law
Richard Feynman

“There has to be an answer. You must not doubt that.

If you can’t believe that, why don’t you cry yourself to sleep, and then just give up and die?”

Umineko no Naku Koro Ni Chiru: End of the Golden Witch


“There was no vocabulary, even, to explain it. I remember one of the GM managers was ordered from a very senior level– it came from a vice president– to make a GM plant look like NUMMI. And he said, I want you to go there with cameras and take a picture of every square inch. And whatever you take a picture of, I want it to look like that in our plant. There should be no excuse for why we’re different than NUMMI, why our quality is lower, why our productivity isn’t as high, because you’re going to copy everything you see.

Immediately, this guy knew that was crazy. We can’t copy employee motivation. We can’t copy good relationships between the union and management. That’s not something you can copy, and you can’t even take a photograph of it.”

Jeffrey Liker
This American Life #561: NUMMI 2015

“Managers tend to believe that if they only knew what was going on, they would know what to do.

It’s called micromanagement.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“The foreman, Mr. Fichtel, said he wrote a memo with this suggestion to his superiors two years ago, but nothing had happened yet. When he asked why, he was told the suggestion was too expensive.

“Too expensive to paint four little lines?” I said in disbelief.

They all laughed. “It’s not the paint; it’s the paperwork,” Mr. Fichtel said. “They would have to revise all the manuals.”

The assembly workers and other observations and suggestions. They were concerned that if two rocket sections scrape as they’re being put together, metal filings could get into the rubber seals and damage them. They even had some suggestions for redesigning the seal. Those suggestion weren’t very good, but the point is, the workers were thinking! I got the impression that they were not undisciplined; they were very interested in what they were doing, but they weren’t being given much encouragement. Nobody was paying much attention to them. It was remarkable that their morale was as high as it was under the circumstances.

Then the workers began to talk to the boss who had stayed. “We’re disappointed by something,” one of them said. “When the commission was going to see the booster-rocket assembly, the demonstration was going to be done by the managers. Why wouldn’t you let us do it?”

“We were afraid you’d be frightened by the commissioners and you wouldn’t want to do it.”

“No, no”, said the workmen. “We think we do a good job, and we wanted to show what we do.””

What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Richard Feynman

“While this is THE classic book on lean production […] They give short-shrift to the real key.

The original researcher for this study was John Krafcik (he later became the President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America). In his own report of the data he pointed out that the skills and motivation of the work force has the greatest explanatory power of assembly plant performance.

Yet this is given remarkably little attention in this book. Had the authors look beyond the automobile assembly even as nearby as the turnaround at Harley Davidson this focus on people might have gotten much more attention. In the case of Harley, there was no way to miss that the key was the people in every factory floor function.

Get the people environment right, and everything else will sort itself out.”

Bill B.
Amazon reviews for “The Machine That Changed the World”

“One thing I really like about the Toyota style is that they’ll put in a machine to save you from bending down. The Toyota philosophy is that the worker should use the machine and not vice versa. Not like some of these plants you read about where it’s automation for automation’s sake.

I visited a plant a while back – they had robot sealer guns but they also had workers who had to check that the robots had done it right and to redo it manually when the robots screwed up. It would be fine if the robots worked perfectly – and the engineers always seem to imagine they will. But they don’t and so the worker ends up being used by the machine.

At NUMMI, we just put in a robot for installing the spare tire – that really helps the worker, because it was always a hell of a tiring job. It took a while, and we had to raise it in the safety meetings and argue about it and then do some kaizen. But they knew. They understood. And they came through. Same thing with installing batteries – they put in a machine to help the worker do a better job. That would never happen at GM-Fremont – you never saw automation simply to help the worker.”

George Nano
The ‘Learning Bureaucracy’
Paul S. Adler

“Maybe they don’t say explicitly “Don’t tell me,” but they discourage communication, which amounts to the same thing. It’s not a question of what has been written down, or who should tell what to whom; it’s a question of whether, when you do tell somebody about some problem, they’re delighted to hear about it and they say “Tell me more” and “Have you tried such-and-such?” or they say “Well, see what you can do about it” – which is a completely different atmosphere. If you try once or twice to communicate and get pushed back, pretty soon you decide, “To hell with it.””

What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Richard Feynman

“Ted Holman, a Team Leader in the body shop, argued this way:

“I don’t think IEs are dumb. They’re just ignorant. Anyone can watch someone else doing a job and come up with improvement suggestions that sound good. But they don’t usually take into account all the little things that explain why, from the worker’s point of view, they couldn’t work. And it’s even easier to come up with the ideal procedure if you don’t even bother to watch the worker at work, but just do it from your office, on paper. Almost anything can look good that way. Even when we do our own analysis in our teams, some of the silliest ideas can slip through before we try it out.

There’s a lot of things that enter into a good job design. Little things can make a big difference, like how high or low the stock is placed or how the tools are organized or where the hoses are. The person actually doing the job is the only one who can see all those factors. And in the U.S., engineers have never had to work on the floor – not like in Japan. So they don’t know what they don’t know.

In the typical U.S. plant, you never even saw the IE – they stayed in their cozy offices upstairs. They never talked to workers about how to improve their jobs.

Today, we drive the process, and if we need their help, the engineer is there the next day to work on it with us.”

Smith put this contrast in a broader perspective:

“In most plants, management assumes the “divine right” to design jobs as they see fit. And in the U.S. auto industry, workers have historically agreed to that in exchange for higher wages. Management was willing to pay a ton of money to the workers to preserve its prerogative.

But in practice, the old way of setting standards was just ridiculous. An Industrial Engineer would shut himself away in an isolated office and consider how long it took for somebody to twist their wrist and move their arm in such and such a way, and calculate from some manual and try that way to come up with a task design. The IE would take this “properly” designed job to the foreman. The foreman would not his head, but then said “screw you” to the IE’s back and redesigned the task to his own liking. Then he’d take his task design to the worker and said “Do it this way or you’re out.” The worker would not but would pull the same trick on the foreman. In the end, the job got done however the worker could. When the boss walked by, the worker might pretend to do the job the way the foreman had told him. Everybody involved knew this was going on but no one cared to do anything about it.

Multiply that game by the number of shifts and the number of different people involved and you’ve got a process you can’t control. You can’t build a quality car like that. You can’t even go back and improve the process, because the IE lives in dream world, doesn’t have a clue how the job is actually done, and doesn’t have any impact. The foreman’s impact is also zip. Nobody talks to the worker even though he’s the one guy who can do something about the problem. Nobody wants to listen to him. That’s basically how most of the auto industry operates even today.

So you can see why standardized work is so revolutionary.

And why most IEs are pretty uncomfortable with it!””

The ‘Learning Bureaucracy’
Paul S. Adler

“I said, “In order to speed things up, I’ll tell you what I’m doing, so you’ll know where I’m aiming. I want to know whether there’s the same lack of communication between the engineers and the management who are working on the engine as we found in the case of the booster rockets.”

Mr. Lovingood says, “I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, although I’m now a manager, I was trained as an engineer.”

“All right”, I said, “Here’s a piece of paper each. Please write on your paper the answer to this question: what do you think is the probability that a flight would be uncompleted due to a failure in this engine?”

They wrote down their answers and hand in their papers. One guy wrote “99-44/100% pure” (copying the Ivory soap slogan), meaning about 1 in 200. Another guy wrote something very technical and highly quantitative in the standard statistical way, carefully defining everything, that I had to translate – which also meant about 1 in 200. The third guy wrote, simply, “1 in 300.”

Mr. Lovingood’s paper, however, said.

“Cannot quantify. Reliability is judged from:
– past experience
– quality control in manufacturing
– engineering judgment”

“Well”, I said, “I’ve got four answers, and one of them weaseled.” I turned to Mr. Lovingood: “I think you weaseled.”

“I don’t think I weaseled.”

“You didn’t tell me what your confidence was, sir; you told me how you determined it. What I want to know is: after you determined it, what was it?”

He says, “100 percent” – the engineers’ jaws drop, my jaw drops, I look at him, everybody looks at him – “uh, uh, minus epsilon!”

So I say, “Well yes; that’s fine. Now, the only problem is, WHAT IS EPSILON?”

He says, “10^-5”. It was the same number that Mr. Ullian had told us about: 1 in 100,000.

I showed Mr. Lovingood the other answers and said, “You’ll be interested to know that there is a difference between engineers and management here – a factor of more than 300.””

What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Richard Feynman


“You build 3-dimensional things. The design space [however] is n-dimensional. You design in n-dimensional space, one dimension for every parameter you can adjust. Therefore it is not 3-dimensional space that matters in design, it is n-dimensional space.

And n-dimensional space is vast. Very, very large.

To convince you of this, I will start by your own experience. You think you know 3-dimensional space, but you really don’t. You are really familiar with 2 dimensions. In 2 dimensions, a random walk will come back to the same place: if you meet a person, there’s a good chance you’ll meet them again.

In 3 dimensions, that is not true. In 3 dimensions, say the ocean where the fish live, what do they do? They go around on the bottom, they go around on the surface, they go around in schools, they assemble at the mouth of a river. They cannot wander the open ocean and hope to find a mate. That’s how vast 3 dimensions is. You can wander around 2 dimensions and sure enough, you can get a mate. Probably. In 3 dimensions, not a very good chance.

In higher ones, forget it.

But that is the space of design. You’re out there in that tremendously vast space.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“Imagine you knew a guy. Imagine this guy was willing to say for you, “Yeah, if she has her tits chopped off, she’s totally a man now.” Like, doesn’t that give you a warm fuzzy feeling? He must really like you to be willing to lie that flagrantly to help you out.

Problem is if you make too many friends, the lie will become a thing. Is he lying for you, or just because everyone is doing it? So now you have to come up with an even bigger lie, and see if he’ll still say it.”


“But would you be willing to ride the deer?”

“If you’re not then it shows that you don’t really believe it’s a horse, no?”

“The future is fucking a man to signal you think he’s a woman, forever.”

Alrenous, Covfefe Anon, Parallax Optics

“So Zhao Gao brings a deer into the palace. Grabs it from the horns, calls the emperor to come out, and says “look your majesty, a brought you a fine horse”. The Emperor, not amused, says “Surely you are mistaken, calling a deer a horse. Right?”. Then the emperor looks around at all the ministers. Some didn’t say a word, just sweating nervously. Some others loudly proclaimed what a fine horse this was. Great horse. Look at this tail! These fine legs. Great horse, naturally prime minister Zhao Gao has the best of tastes.

A small bunch did protest that this was a deer, not a horse. Those were soon after summarily executed. And the Second Emperor himself was murdered some time later.”

The Purpose of Absurdity
Spandrell/Bloody Shovel

“No idiot, it’s the opposite. How you mouthbreathers are let loose in society is beyond me”

“The premise of democracy is to let loose all the mouthbreathers.”

Unknown, Alrenous

“What percentage of people do you estimate believe democracy should be valued for its innate value and not simply its ability to on average deliver better results than authoritarian states?”

“So this economist here means to tell us that “value” and “results” aren’t the exact same thing.”

Unknown, Spandrell/Bloody Shovel

“Can you imagine an ethnologist observing gorillas for years only to conclude that their behaviour is “wrong” and that they ought to do something else instead? How ridiculous would that be? Now consider our humanities and social studies professors who supposedly study human nature.”


“We need to be subject to critique by people who know what they’re doing.”

“This is hard when the West largely rejects the idea that some people know what they are doing better than others.”


“Primogeniture, inheritance of the family fortune by the firstborn. This practice has since been replaced by the more humane system of inheritance by lawyers.”

Samo Burja

“the CDC performs a very important function, which is to render legible that which the government wishes to define as disease”

Literal Banana

“It’s increasingly clear, if it wasn’t already, that the “Rule of Law” that is supposedly the core of Western society is in reality just Rule of Lawyers. Or Rule of Judges, who by far have the largest discretion of any power holder. They can ban and overturn anything.”

Spandrell/Bloody Shovel

“It’s amazing. You have all of these oppressed brown people – excuse me, let me use the worshippable, sacrilizing term – people of color.

And by color, I mean the color brown.

The people of color brown, they’re constantly trying to get into these places, these white spaces, white organizations, white institutions, that are oppressing them!

Imagine if the Armenians in Turkey had some march in Istanbul, demanding to be served by Turkish diners, or staged sit-ins in Ankara. They would be killed, and the government would look the other way. Or if the Kurds marched into Baghdad and demanded equal funding for their schools, and that the people of Baghdad should pay for it because Baghdad has more money, that this was their right, equal rights meant that the Baghdadis had to pay for their schools, to pay for their stuff.

Actually oppressed people don’t behave this way.

In the United States, who is trying to gain access to the other? Who is trying to escape the other? Who would rather have an hour commute than live in a neighborhood predominated by the other?

Is it called “Black Flight”? Or “White Flight”?”

Ryan Faulk/The Alternative Hypothesis

“It’s *after* you apologize that you get in trouble. People smell weakness. They detect the difference between an action caused by principles and one driven by fear.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“The wasted space (and its contribution to overall impoverishment) in our stagnant cities is definitely on my mind a lot–but it’s not surprising that high real estate costs in other cities haven’t changed things for them, mainly because they’re just too far away to benefit from places which are still thriving–they only *work* when they have functional economies of their own.

It’s like that tedious cliche about “why do Americans need to build dense when we have S P A C E” as if all the acreage in, say, Wyoming makes an ounce of a difference to people trying to live and work in, say, Boston.

Or for that matter, all the acreage in WESTERN MASS vis-a-vis the people trying to live and work in Boston.”

Alex Forrest

“Well, ok, but why? How did this mistake happen? He of course does no attempt at explaining. Because his job, the job of Pat Buchanan is to be a conservative, and the job of conservatives is not to understand a thing. The job of conservatives is, and has been for decades, to state their confusion with a tone of strong indignation. I don’t understand this! Hmm! I am angry, yes I am, this makes no sense, and that makes me angry. Join me in my indignation, oh and buy my book. Hmph!

[…] if you don’t get something, that’s a statement about the limits of your intellect rather than about the nature of the problem. If you don’t get something, the problem is with you, not with the issue. Go try and understand it, and then come back. Your indignation solves exactly nothing.“

Mistakes Happen for a Reason
Spandrell/Bloody Shovel

“Slave ownership has traditionally taken very curious forms. The best slave is someone you overpay and who knows it, terrified of losing his status.

Multinational companies created the expat category, a sort of diplomat with a higher standard of living who represents the firm far away and runs its business there. All large corporations had (and some still have) employees with expat status and, in spite of its costs, it is an extremely effective strategy. Why? Because the further from headquarters an employee is located, the more autonomous his unit, the more you want him to be a slave so he does nothing strange on his own.

A bank in New York sends a married employee with his family to a foreign location, say, a tropical country with cheap labor, with perks and privileges such as country club membership, a driver, a nice company villa with a gardener, a yearly trip back home with the family in first class, and keeps him there for a few years, enough to be addicted. He earns much more than the “locals”, in a hierarchy reminiscent of colonial days. He builds a social life with other expats. He progressively wants to stay in the location longer, but he is far from headquarters and has no idea of his minute-to-minute standing except through signals.

Eventually, like a diplomat, he begs for another location when time comes for a reshuffle. Returning to the home office means loss of perks, having to revert to his base salary – a return to lower-middle-class life in the suburbs of New York City, taking the commuter train, perhaps, or, God forbid, a bus, and eating a sandwich for lunch! The person is terrified when the big boss snubs him. Ninety-five percent of the employee’s mind will be on company politics…

…which is exactly what the company wants.

The big boss in the board room will have a supporter in the event of some intrigue.”

Skin in the Game
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“If you have ten loyal, conscientious workers, the advantage over having ten sullen nihilists is easily destroyed by having one truly bad hire who you can’t fire without invoking a lawsuit. Some (enough) companies have responded by making working conditions bad enough that everyone wants to leave, then trying to entice good ones to stay on the sly.

[… M]anorial nobles offered good working conditions because if you really pissed them off they could have you executed. Work is terrible to the extent it is protected. See also: communism.”


“I find it very disturbing how people can casually recommend working two or three jobs as a long-term solution to life’s problems, because it demonstrates the reality that in the post-industrial west, you are no longer a citizen of a national body or a society with a clearly defined identity and culture. You are a citizen of an economy, and your life’s purpose and value is reduced to being a menial laborer in a larger body whose sole ideology is simply production for purposeless expansion. You are a cog in a machine, and exist for that purpose only to be discarded when your utility to the religion of production has exhausted itself. For fuck’s sake, your value as a person is literally measured by your economic productivity and the money that you accumulate from it.

A fucking peasant in the twelfth century has led a more meaningful life than the majority of the machinated zombies that call themselves “people” we are surrounded by today. Contemporary society is too focused on work and not focused enough on living. In prior historical epochs work was viewed as a means towards living. It is a sacrifice to be done and gotten over with in order to realize a goal. Today, it is conflated WITH living. Post-industrial society views the act of work to be the very essence of life. You work, and therefore you live. We have built the ultimate materialist society.”


“16th century: They promised us religious freedom and tore up the commons, slaughtered the monks and crushed the statues of our saints.
18th century: They promised us political freedom and exchanged our village councils and manor courts with a vote for a distant parliament.
19th century: They promised us financial freedom and led us into dark and noisy factories and crowded slums rife with disease and debt.
20th century: They promised us national freedom if only we would stand up to be counted for the draft, learning to bayonet our brothers.
21st century: They promised us the freedom from identity, from family and descendants, if only we gave up all that our ancestors left us.

And here we are today: with nothing left to offer and nothing left to take.”

Wrath of Gnon

“Part of being a historian is that you quickly learn to become a hater of all things.

And you realize we’re on a small boat in a world of shit and there’s a leak.”

Jason Scott

“If you can’t plan or make decisions, you will have trouble with everything you touch.”

[But this is ridiculous! He got hit in the head with ten pounds of steel, and then less than a minute later he went at it again! This is a professional handyman?!]

“People can live their whole lives without learning anything.”


“It’s not a problem. It’s a predicament; it has no solution, only outcomes.”

The Real Reason Your City Has No Money
Strong Towns
Charles Marohn


“You’re thinking, “I don’t want to hear about how everything is interpretable through the artificial paradigm of narrative structure–” as if it was me and not your god who made it this way, as if I was better able to invent a convenient fiction that happened to apply to you rather than describe a process that’s been used for millennia. You think you’re the first? You think no one but you has lived your life? Do you think you are so unique? Do you think I just took a guess? This isn’t the first time this game has been played, there’ve been over 100 generations of Guess What Happens Next and it is the exact same answer every single time. All of this has happened before and it will happen again.

But you want “why”, you’re drawn to “why” like you’re drawn to a pretty girl in the rain. Let me guess: she has black hair, big eyes, and is dressed like an ingenue. “Why?” is the most seductive of questions because it is innocent, childlike, infinite in possibilities, and utterly devoted to you.

“Why am I this way? Why do I do what I do?” But what will you do with that information? What good is it? If you were an android, would it change you to know why you were programmed the way you were? “Why” is masturbation, “why” is the enemy, the only question that matters is, now what?

But you want “why”.  Ok, here we go.”

Amy Schumer Offers You A Look Into Your Soul
The Last Psychiatrist

“Whenever anything unexpected happens, the programmed role has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future, and when it isn’t, Rome falls.”


“It doesn’t matter what you know. It matters only what you can think of in time.”

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi

“It is a principle of the art of war that one should simply lay down his life and strike. If one’s opponent also does the same, it is an even match. Defeating one’s opponent is then a matter of faith and destiny.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo


“But I didn’t prove it for the skater. The skater uses muscle force. Gravity is a different force. Yet it’s true for the skater.

Now we have a problem: we can deduce, often, from one part of physics, like the law of gravitation, a principle which turns out to be much more valid than the derivation! This doesn’t happen in mathematics, that the theorems come out in places where they’re not supposed to be.

In other words, if we were to say that the postulates of physics were this law of gravitation, we could deduce the conservation of angular momentum, but only for gravitation. But we discover experimentally that the conservation of angular momentum is a much wider thing. Newton had other hypostulates by which he could get the more general conservation law of angular momentum. But Newtonian laws were wrong. There’s no forces, it’s all a lot of baloney, the particles don’t have orbits, yet – the analog, the exact transformation of this principle about the areas, the conservation of angular momentum is true with atomic motions in quantum mechanics and is still, as far as we can tell, exact.

So we have these wide principles which sweep across all the different laws. And if one takes too seriously its derivation, and feels that this is only valid because this is valid, you cannot understand the interconnections between the different branches of physics.

Someday, when physics is complete, then maybe with this kind of argument, we know all the laws, then we can start with some axioms, and no doubt somebody will figure out a particular way doing it. But while we don’t know all the laws, we can use some to make guesses at theorems which extend beyond their proof.”

The Character of Physical Law
Richard Feynman


“Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building, by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed age-old social and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things. The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes, public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and a gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.”

The Geography of Nowhere
James Howard Kunstler
Wrath of Gnon

“[…C]ommunities are not for justice, peace, defense, or traffic, but for the sake of the good life, the Summum Bonum. This good life has always meant the satisfaction of four basic social desires, desires to which earlier designers have always given material and structural shape. These desires are conviviality, religiosity, intellectual growth, and politics. […] If a new region is to be successfully developed, decentralized, and open-ended to many possibilities, some interventions are simple. What will be needed is the construction of focal points at primitive crossroads: a sidewalk cafe, a restaurant serving excellent meals, a little concert hall or theater, a charming church, a well-designed meeting hall.

To sum up the success of old and the failure of modern community design in one sentence: ancient planners, recognizing the invariable Aristotelian purpose of why people live in communities, put all their talent into the building of the communal nucleus […] The rest of the settlement then followed naturally.

In contrast, modern designers are forever building the rest of the city.”

The Idea of Design
Victor Papanek
Wrath of Gnon

“You know, they never prohibited us from walking through the plant, understanding, even asking questions of some of their key people. I’ve often puzzled over that– why they did that. And I think they recognized, we were asking all the wrong questions. We didn’t understand this bigger picture thing.

All of our questions were focused on the floor, the assembly plant, what’s happening on the line. That’s not the real issue.

The issue is, how do you support that system with all the other functions that have to take place in the organization?”

Ernie Schaefer
This American Life #561: NUMMI 2015

“You’re going to find within your lifetime, but not much within mine, that you have moved more than you would have expected from L2 to L1 or Linfinity, and you will find that statistics does not support you. The chi-squared test is a good example of this: an L2 fit. They haven’t bothered to work out the L1 or Linfinity qualities of it. The mathematics are a little more ferocious. It’s a little more difficult.

But with modern machines, who cares about how difficult math is, we just let the machines grind away, they can do a few billion operations a second, what do I care.

It is better to get the right problem solved a little bit slowly, than to rapidly solve the wrong problem.

I announce that as a very general theorem. The tendency is to try to solve the wrong problem elegantly and rapidly. And I have seen that enormous times in my life; grabbing something I can cope with and solving the wrong problem, announcing the exact answer to the wrong problem.

Generally speaking, I would rather have an approximate answer to the right problem. And that is where the difficulty arises: identifying the problem. The greatest step in creativity is recognizing that there is a problem. The second greatest step is identifying the nature of the problem.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“I think the best definition of politics is one I found in an American dictionary, which said, ‘the art or science of governance of a country, and how it runs its internal and external relations’.

Translated in real life, it means “How is my life affected by the government?”. Do I have a job? Do I have a home? Do I have medicine when I need it? Do I have enough recreational facilities? Is there a future for my children? Will they be educated, will there be a chance to advance in society?

If you do not have any of these things, you are going to find agitation.

You have no recollection of this because you were not born, but in the 1950s and 1960s, Singapore was in a state of agitation every day. You look up your old Straits Times and [other newspapers], archives. Look at the riots, the strikes. Why? No homes, half the children were not in schools. 14% unemployment and underemployment. Pirate taxi drivers. No job, so I take a car, pay no license, no insurance, come in I give you a ride. 50 cents, 20 cents, so on. Hookers all over the place.

Today, over 40 years, we have transformed it, because assiduously we attended to the politics of life.

That’s what it’s about.

‘What is the future?’.

If I can have another political party, you can have another political party, to look after you, the way the PAP has, I say, my job is done, finished. I can go home, and sit back, and read the books I want to read.”

Lee Kuan Yew


“Mechanical innovations, including mechanized cities, can add to our experience and stimulate our perceptive capacities, but they do not eradicate the mechanisms of human physiology.

The proper size of a bedroom has not changed in thousands of years.

Neither has the proper size of a door nor the proper size of a community. If cities have become immense, so much more is the need for subdividing them into comprehensible sections. Transportation systems may render the outlying parts of the city more accessible, but communities must remain individual entities whose size and appearance are comprehensible. The physical fact of scale must also be visually apparent. When these principles are violated the results are cities without human form, cities without sympathy, cities without pride. Worse still are the effects on the spirit and human sensitivities of its people.”

Paul D. Spreiregen
Wrath of Gnon

“Authoritarian systems have many problems but pork isn’t one of them. The guys who gotta eat aren’t that many, and you don’t need an elaborate faith argument to set up a system for pork distribution.

Say China.

China makes their high speed rail system, spends untold trillions on it, trillions paid by public debt which will probably never pay themselves. 90% of the stations built 30km out of the main cities, many in the middle of rice paddies where proper roads haven’t even been built yet. How many billions were skimmed of it? I don’t know but the Railway Minister is in jail and the Ministry itself was abolished, which means even the Chinese government is embarrassed by it. But hey China now has a pretty cool high speed rail network which they sorely needed, works like a charm, and out of the hugest budget in human history they only had to pay off some local officials and the railway minister. I’ve seen estimates of 5%.

The waste on pre-K education is 100%.”

Pork and Hamsters
Spandrell/Bloody Shovel

“The fact that it’s large is why censorship matters. Nobody cares about small forums censoring people.”

“Just because something is on the internet does not mean it’s a “public space”.”

“Yeah so what? We need to make sure large companies aren’t able to control who can go where and do what. You can’t kill somebody just for being in your house. So obviously there’s a line that needs drawing.”

“You’re forgetting that another entity could provide the well for the other demographic, seeing as there’s money to be made there.”

“It’s an example of there being limited availability in resources. In the example of the water, there’s no time to wait for the market to dig another well to save the person. Any excuse can be made, but the end result is the person dies, not that property rights have been saved. The same thing is happening with social media. […] If it’s the greater races at stake. The future of civilization at stake. Then there’s no length we shouldn’t go to to save it. Property becomes less important. It’s a hierarchy of needs for civilization to survive.

[…] The entire premise is virtual or not, private or not, when something dominates how we live our lives, we need to look at how we can update those areas to reflect our values. Those values conflict with private property every day and we have to make hard decisions. Private property is an ideal just like freedom of speech, belief, etc. […] Property rights are incredibly important, but there are times they hinder civilization. If it allows us to get run over and civilization destroyed, and property rights destroyed as a result, then they weren’t very good ideals. This is why libertarians have mostly become fascists of some sort. At least until we get control of things like borders and universities.”

“There is no comparison between forcing a company to manage it’s website a certain way and border control.”

“It’s not a comparison. It’s about taking every ground we can to support the existence of civilization. Property rights are good at that, but only to a point. We also need to think in terms of collective property rights.

We can’t just wait until something reaches our doorstep. Collective power always has and always will matter.”

Arman, Unknown

“No one rules alone, thus when the King attempts to gather all power in his own hands, he finds he has in fact gathered all power into the hands of dangerous powerful people dangerously close the throne. To fix this problem, the official Church need to remind the people that the God who commanded obedience to Kings, also commanded that Kings, like other men, should refrain from coveting that which belongs to someone else.

Repeating: Freehold means that the peasant in his hovel possesses Kingly power under his hovel’s roof, which Kingly power the King has no right to mess with, even if the peasant abuses it. That power is not the King’s to interfere with, even if the peasant is arguably mistreating his wife and his children. If the lord stops that peasant from mistreating his wife and children, pretty soon King George the Fourth gets cuckolded, as he cuckolded others. […]”

Throne, Altar, and Freehold
Jim’s Blog

“Even compared to other ancient societies, Roman law and culture gave the head of household extreme power over their family. For example, children did not have separate property, including unmarried adult children, and a patriarch faced no legal punishment for killing his own children or slaves.

Practices of this type, combined with the feelings people naturally have for their immediate family, made households internally coordinated to a ludicrous degree. For instance, you didn’t have to worry about your second-in-command leaving to work for a competitor, because law and custom were on your side if you physically drag him back. Thus, a skilled patriarch would have a power base that was effectively immune to most attacks short of murder. This greatly lessened the Problem of Local Focus, making the household much more formidable.”

Production of Elites in the Roman Republic
Ben Landau-Taylor

“Centralization leads to complexity, complexity leads to crisis, attempts to fix the crisis have, because of complexity, unintended consequences, which escalate into further crisis, leading to further centralization, Hence Soviet Russia, Hitler’s Germany, Venezuela, and now America.

This is the crisis of socialism, explained in “I pencil”, which makes the point that no one actually knows how to make a pencil, hence socialist production of pencils will fail.

In order to manage complexity, you need walls, so that one man can make decisions without having his decisions mucked up by another man’s decisions. Hence, private property and local authority, the authority of the father, the authority the business owner, the authority of the CEO. And, not so long ago, the authority of the local aristocrat, who tended to be a high officer in the local militia, a major employer and landowner, and related by blood or marriage to most of the other high officers in the local militia.

Ideally all the consequences of a decision should be contained within those walls. Of course they never are, but if you try to manage all the externalities, things very quickly slide of control. Every attempt to manage the externalities has unexpected consequences, and attempts to deal with the unexpected consequences have additional unexpected consequences, because trying to control matters that have externalities connects everything to everything else, resulting in a tangle beyond human comprehension.”

Throne, Altar, and Freehold
Jim’s Blog

“Hmm? It is a staple of theater, though I am not so fond of it. I prefer an ending where the many plots are resolved, yes.

But without a god’s intervention, human animosity and love cannot easily be erased. The playwright must have reached the end of his rope. Most writers know the tangled web of human emotions cannot be undone by humans themselves. So, the deus ex machina is an expression of hope.

A last hope, to be sure, a mirage created by those on the verge of ruin, wishing for a savior.”

Nero Claudius


“If you go to India, you’ll find sadhus, holy men, people who abjure the world, who go around giving land away or begging from the rich to give to the poor. It’s a totally different culture. There’s the sort of Gandhi saintliness.

It’s not the model in China. In China, the model is either Three Kingdoms or Shui Hu Zhuan, Water Margin, the kind of hero who forms a robber band and kills off wealthy people. You don’t go begging from the wealthy to give to the poor. You just kill the wealthy and take from them.

So it is a completely different philosophy to guide a man in life.”

Lee Kuan Yew

“To grasp the essence of a political culture that does not recognise the possibility of transcendental truths demands an unusual intellectual effort for Westerners, an effort that is rarely made even in serious assessments of Japan. The occidental intellectual and moral traditions are so deeply rooted in assumptions of the universal validity of certain beliefs that the possibility of a culture existing without such assumptions is hardly ever contemplated. Western child-rearing practice inculcates suppositions that implicitly confirm the existence of an ultimate logic controlling the universe independently of the desires and caprices of human beings. This outlook, constantly reaffirmed in later life, inclines Westerners to take for granted that all advanced civilisations develop concepts of universal validity, and they are therefore not prompted to examine the effects of their absence.”

The Enigma of Japanese Power
Karel van Wolferen

“There are two types of societies. This isn’t a theory of evolution, or about which is better than which.

There are societies that respect their relationship with nature, and others that do not. This is about how societies view change.

The native people of Canada tried not to break the bones of salmon they ate, and returned the bones to the rivers. Native people from eastern and western parts of Russia decorated the skulls of the seals they captured and dismantled, and returned them to the master of the sea along with their poetries. They thought fur and meat were gifts from the animals as a proof of their friendship, and they returned those gifts by adding spiritual values to the bones. They showed their respect towards nature through their meals. This is because they thought the true form of animals were gods who wore the skins of animals. Because they wanted the gods to visit them again, they served by giving back to them respectfully. There are similar beliefs in Northern Eurasian and North American cultures, and many myths remain.

But in modern day Japan, there probably aren’t that many people who still believe that animals are able to talk and that gods live inside of them. They’re looking down on nature. They see animals as something they can naturally steal from, and if they feel like they took a little too much from it – they can just start protecting them. That’s how they see it.

When did that kind of arrogant society form…?

The key factor is the appearance of technology.

Specifically, weapons made of iron.

After obtaining these excellent weapons, man’s respect towards animals faded. In the tales told around Sakhalin, there is a verse that says, “Swords that cut extraordinarily well were passed on from Japan, and after that, bears were killed easily”. A certain individual born in a heretical land one day realized: this is a weapon that god gave, but it is a weapon able to kill god.

The origin of the word technology is the Greek word “Techne”.

“Techne” means “to artificially draw out the blessings that an object is hiding”.

A good example is heating up a rock and taking the iron out of it.

The sword and technology stolen from god gave man power that even gods will fear. For them to visit again, giving back to them respectfully… there’s no need for such things anymore.

Now, we can simply take everything.”

Ch. 148 – “Human Society – The Grave of Bears”
Terra Formars

“So it basically all goes back to when a gay kiddly fiddler named plato once foolishly agreed with some sophists that the senses were unreliable, setting up 2000+ years worth of fanboys who took him seriously after to fruitlessly retread the same ground over and over and produce schizophrenia in written form attempting to make systems of thought around taking such an assumption as a given. Blunder of the millennium really.

But anyways, skipping a lot we arrive at Descartes, who could perhaps be considered a seminal example of the needless handwringing brought about by taking the athenian pederast seriously. Like many of his unfortunate fellows (and unfortunate countrymen who had(and have)to live in a society subjected to the (ostensibly)intellectual output of such unfortunate fellows), he made an attempt to produce an epistemology while assuming the premise that senses are essentially unreliable as a given. His attempt at a solution to this intractable thought exercise (for intractable, and a thought exercise, it both is) was what some might recognize as ‘categorically imperative’ avant la letre, before Kant himself gave the irascible mode of thought its name.

In the most simplest terms, the ‘enlightenment project’ basically comes down to the desire to produce a system, that is wholly atemporal or universal, which can be used naively to calculate any possible knowledge, wholly separate from any particular user agent. The ultimate failure mode of all this was, of course, the fact that the capacity of any given system is necessarily contingent on the capacity of its creator; no being within Being could create a system that fully encapsulates being; for if it did, then it already does.

It was the ultimate failure of such a project that gave rise to the oft misunderstood post-modernist schools of thought, particularly the french continentals. Who, while claiming to be overturning the modernism typical of Descartes and those inspired by him, ironically retained the same modernist/enlightenment standards of evidence; standards that dictate that any valid proposition must be universally valid; that any proposition with an exception anywhere is just as worthless as any other; standards that, if you were to actually take them seriously and apply them consistently, would imply that knowledge itself is impossible.

Which means naturally, of course, that noone (least of all the baizuo lumpenproles) ever actually applies them consistently, but instead in selective, tactical manners, to rhetorically dissolve Things They Don’t Like in the acid of nominalism, while leaving their own conceits overlooked.”


“There’s an entire field of the arts that’s missing because logic isn’t sufficiently appreciated. Namely -actual- psychology, the study of the soul, starting with enumeration of all qualia. Wikipedia has a list of biases. It does not have a list of cures for those biases. Further, it’s rather half-hearted. There’s a whole nosology of thought that’s missing because philosophers have let humans believe they’re normally rational. The Greeks had four or more words for love. English has one. People might experience love differently, but, like, who cares? It’s just fee-fees.

Oh, but it turns out qualia are the basis for all life goals, and also the foundation for all knowledge.

So, uh, oops.”



“Mathematics is a way of going from one set of statements to another. It’s evidently useful in physics, because we have all these different ways we can speak of things and permits us to develop consequences and analyze the situations and change the laws in different ways and to connect all the various statements, so as a matter of fact, the total amount a physicist knows is very little, he has only to remember the rules for getting from one place to another, and he’s able to do that. In other words, all the various statements about equal times forces, the forces in the direction of the radius and so on are all interconnected by reasoning.

Now an interesting question comes up: is there some pattern to it?

Is there a place to begin, fundamental principles, and deduce the whole works?

[…] Because all these theorems are interconnected by reasoning, there isn’t any real way to say, ‘well these are the bottom, and these are connected through logic’. Because if you were told it was this one or this one, you could also run the logic the other way if you weren’t told that one, and work out that one, like a bridge with lots of members and it’s overconnected. If pieces have dropped out, you can reconnect it another way.

[…] The Babylonian thing that I’m talking about is to say, I happen to know this and I happen to know that, and maybe I know that, and I work everything out from there, and then tomorrow, I forgot that this was true, but I remember that this was true, and I reconstruct it again, and so on, and I’m never quite sure where I’m supposed to begin and where I’m supposed to end, I just remember enough all the time so that the memory fades, and the pieces fall out, I put the thing back together again every day. […]

The method of starting from the axioms is not efficient in obtaining the theorems. In working something out in geometry, you’re not very efficient if each time you have to start back at the axioms. But if you have to remember a few things in geometry, you can always get somewhere else. It’s much more efficient to do it the other way.

What the best axioms are are not exactly the same, in fact are not ever the same, as the most efficient way of getting around in the territory.”

The Character of Physical Law
Richard Feynman

“The voyage of the Great Eastern was ended. Twice had she been victorious over the sea. Twice she had laid the spoils of victory on the shores of the New World, and her mission was accomplished. All on board, who had been detained weeks beyond the expected time, were impatient to return; and accordingly she prepared to sail the very next day on her homeward voyage. The Medway, which had on board the cable for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, remained two or three weeks longer, and with the Terrible, whose gallant officers had volunteered for the service, successfully accomplished that work. But the Great Eastern was bound for England, and Mr. Field had now to part from his friends on board. It was a trying moment. Rejoiced as he was at the successful termination of the voyage, yet when he came to leave the ship, where he had spent so many anxious days and weeks, both this year and the year before; and to part from men to whom he was bound by the strong ties that unite those embarked in a common enterprise—brave companions in arms—he could not repress a feeling of sadness. It was with deep emotion that Capt. Anderson took him by the hand, as he said, “The time is come that we must part.” As he went over the side of the ship, “Give him three cheers!” cried the commander; “And now three more for his family!” The ringing hurras of that gallant crew were the last sounds he heard as he sunk back in the boat that took him to the Medway, while the wheels of the Great Eastern began to move, and that noble ship, with her noble company, bore away for England.”

Recovery of the Lost Cable
presented by Bill Burns

“1791 to 1871 – Babbage was minor nobility, he had an idea of building a machine. He had been using tables [for integration and derivation], and the tables had errors. And he said, “If only a steam engine would make them, they would be accurate”.

So, he set out to do it.

[…] Babbage wanted to print out the numbers so that there was no possibility of human error. Well, the technology to do this was beyond his abilities. He greatly improved manufacturing and engineering techniques of building this and that, but he never got it done, in spite of government support.

[…] Babbage never completed it because what happened to him was what happened to a great many people: he no longer was well into one and he had the realization of a better machine. He had the idea of a general purpose computer. Why bother with this difference machine that can only do simple things, when I can build a general purpose computer? So he started doing that, again with government money, and again he did not complete it. It was not his fault, probably, although he was a bit irascible, perhaps with a better temperament he might’ve got it done. But probably not. The technology was not equal to him.

However, somewhere in the 1990s, the British, at a museum where some of the parts were, completed the design, not using heavy gears made out of brass but plastic gears. And the machine ran just as Babbage had designed it. It was, to great extent, a Von Neumann type machine. It has a mill, which you call the arithmetic unit, it has a store, which is typically called memory, it had branching; it had all the features.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“Fire control computers solve fire control problems.

Their solutions depend on own ship’s course and speed, target range, target bearing, target’s course and speed, wind speed and direction, initial shell velocity, and other factors up to a possible total of twenty-five. The factors occur simultaneously, and many are constantly changing.

But the computer continuously and instantly solves the problem, and sends the answer to the guns as train and elevation orders.

A computer cannot do this without men.

For example, men operate the director, which sends target range and bearing to the computer. And here at the computer, other men set in other information. Obviously computer accuracy depends on the quality of information it receives.

And that depends on the skill and understanding of the men.”

Basic Mechanisms in Fire Control Computers
United States Navy Training Film, 1953

“Why are you going that far to obey the law when that law can neither judge a criminal nor protect people?”

“The law doesn’t protect people. People protect the law.

People have always detested evil and sought out a righteous way of living. Their feelings… The accumulation of those peoples’ feelings are the law. They’re neither the provisions nor the system. They’re the fragile and irreplacable feelings that everyone carries in their hearts. Compared to the power of anger or hatred, they are something that can quite easily break down. People have prayed for a better world throughout time.

In order for those prayers to continue to hold meaning, we have to try our best to protect it to the very end.”

Kogami Shinya, Tsunemori Akane

“I am not trying to elicit sympathy. I am providing the backdrop of how this plan of mine came to be so that you can FEEL it, from one human to another. After all, that is what this is all about.

Civilization does not exist externally. It exists between you and I first.”

Patrick Ryan

“Lastly, in a certain sense, this is a religious course. I am preaching a message, that with one life to lead, you want to do more than just get by. There are a great many religions, and I don’t want to get involved in one or the other too much, it is however an emotional matter I’m really appealing to.

It’s very frequently said that a happy life is one which has some goals achieved. Well, studying the matter over, and reading about it and talking to people, everybody pretty much agrees that it’s not the achievement of the goal that really is the best part. It’s the struggle. The struggle to success is what makes you what you will be.

Remember, at old age, you’re gonna have to live with yourself. There’s no escape living with yourself in your old age. You’re stuck. And at old age, you can’t change as much as when you were younger; consider what kind of person you wish to be in old age.

And start now, being that kind of a person.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming


“In the famous tale by Ahiqar, later picked up by Aesop (then again by La Fontaine), the dog boasts to the wolf all the contraptions of comfort and luxury he has, almost prompting the wolf to enlist. Until the wolf asks the dog about his collar and is terrified when he understands its use. “”Of all your means, I want nothing.” He ran away and is still running.”

The question is: what would you like to be, a dog or a wolf?

The original Aramaic version had a wild ass, instead of a wolf, showing off his freedom. But the wild ass ends up eaten by the lion. Freedom entails risks – real skin in the game. Freedom is never free.

[…] A dog’s life may appear smooth and secure, but in the absence of an owner, a dog does not survive. Most people prefer to adopt puppies, not grown-up dogs; in many countries, unwanted dogs are euthanized. A wolf is trained to survive.

Employees abandoned by their employers, as we saw in the IBM story, cannot bounce back.”

Skin in the Game
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Above all, don’t overestimate your own power as an individual. Founders are important not because they are the only ones whose work has value, but rather because a great founder can bring out the best work from everybody at his company. […]

To believe yourself invested with divine self-sufficiency is not the mark of a strong individual, but of a person who has mistaken the crowd’s worship – or jeering – for the truth.”

“Zero to One”: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Peter Thiel

“I ignore polling as a method of government. I think that shows a certain weakness of mind. An inability to chart a course – whichever the way the wind blows, whichever way the media encourages the people to go, you follow.

You are not a leader.”

Lee Kuan Yew

“We have to find our way back to a definite future, and the Western world needs nothing short of a cultural revolution to do it.

Where to start? John Rawls will need to be displaced in philosophy departments. Malcolm Gladwell must be persuaded to change his theories. And pollsters have to be driven from politics. But the philosophy professors and Gladwells of the world are set in their ways, to say nothing of our politicians. It’s extremely hard to make good changes in those crowded fields, even with brains and good intentions.

A startup is the largest endeavor over which you can have definite mastery. You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world.

It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance.

You are not a lottery ticket.”

“Zero to One”: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Peter Thiel

“Normally, those people would never wake up from their fantasy worlds. They live meaningless lives. They waste their precious days over nothing. No matter how old they get, they’ll continue to say,

“My real life hasn’t started yet.”

“The real me is still asleep, so that’s why my life is such garbage.” They continue to tell themselves that. And they age. Then die.

And on their deathbeds, they will finally realize:

The life they lived was the real thing.

People don’t live provisional lives, nor do they die provisional deaths. That’s a simple fact. The problem – is whether they realize that simple fact.”

Tonegawa Yukio
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji

“I want to tell you another thing, a story which I’ll use several times: the story of the drunken sailor.

He staggers a couple of steps this way, he staggers a couple of steps that way, this way and that way, this way and that way. In n steps, typically, you’ll get the square root of n distance. In a hundred steps, you’ll get about ten. In ten thousand, it’ll be about a hundred. He may be right where he started, he may be further away, but that’s typical.

On the other hand if there’s a pretty girl over there, he staggers like this, back like this, over like that – he’s going to get a distance proportional to n.

If I can create in you a vision of where you are headed, you will make progress proportional to n.

If you do not have a vision, you will wander like a drunken sailor.

[…] Now you’re gonna say to me, “But Hamming, how do I know the future?”.

It doesn’t matter much, from what I’ve examined in life, what goal you set. Whether you want to march that way, that way, or that way. If you have a goal, you’ll get somewhere near it. If you don’t have a goal, you’re a drunken sailor. My problem is to make you form your goals, and to some extent, try to achieve it. To make you something important rather than just drifting.

It’s comfortable to drift through life. And a great many people when questioned closely will assert that they’re perfectly content to drift through life.

I don’t think too good an idea of that whole thing.

[…] Those who do something generally have some kind of goals and see where they’re headed, and their lives add up. Those who don’t are just a bunch of isolated events.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“The great thing about standardized work is that if everyone is doing the job the same way, and we run into a problem, say a quality problem, we can easily identify where it’s coming from and fix it. If everyone is doing the job however they feel like, you can’t even begin any serious problem solving.”

Rick Madrid
The ‘Learning Bureaucracy’
Paul S. Adler

“Write psychological rather than logical.
Write so that it can be followed.
Write so that you, five years later, will know what you were doing.
Don’t do some cute trick. You won’t remember.”

Learning to Learn
Richard Hamming

“I don’t care where you read it. I don’t care who said it. Even if I said it. If it doesn’t fit with what you believe and your common sense, then it is not so.”

The Buddha
as relayed by Richard Hamming

“Of course it’s my opinion. It came out of my mouth!”

some Halo 3 machinima

“Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”


nier automata do you think games are silly little things


All things have a domain.

This is where the domain of this piece ends.

this exists solely because facebook seems to default to the final image of a post for its preview image. apparently you can control it by setting a html meta property, but that's not allowed in free wordpress. what is allowed though is putting down images in html and then setting them to not show up. so this technically is the last image - as far as facebook is concerned.

[Review] The Witcher 3


yen do you plan to compliment me all evening

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I originally played The Witcher 3 (henceforth: “Witcher”) two years ago, and did not complete it at the time. I had run into many small problems, problems that after thirty hours became large enough that I did not want to go any further. Recently a friend got the game and was talking about it, and showed me things he managed which made me think I must’ve gotten something fundamentally wrong. So I gave it another shot. I always thought that if only the gameplay problems I had were solved I’d enjoy the story.

I’m glad that thought turned out to be the case.

The same cannot be said for the two expansions, Hearts of Stone (HOS) and Blood and Wine (BAW). HOS is fine, but does not fully hold up to the standard made by the original game, for both internal reasons and for reasons beyond its own control, mostly the latter so I don’t blame it too much. BAW on the other hand has been praised everywhere as far as the eye can see since its release; in the modern age, finally, DLC that isn’t just cosmetics and pointless new thingamajiggies. Which is true. A new story and a new map isn’t something these days you see.

But it really would’ve been better if they had just let it be.

If you plan to play The Witcher 3:

  • Use a controller.
  • Use some color-changing mods. They’ll make things look prettier and your life much easier. The ones I used were “Super Turbo Lighting Mod” and “Absolute Prerelease ReShade”.
  • EXP is primarily tied to progressing the story.
  • Money is primarily tied to loot.
  • All special items you would want or need are found in easy-to-reach chests. This is to contrast with many items which are in bags and barrels that are often stacked on top of each other, and sometimes in hard to reach places. Skipping these may occasionally miss valuables, but never a unique sword or recipe.
  • Application of oils is not necessary.
  • Application of potions is not necessary, except maybe Killer Whale if you want to go underwater.
  • Having fully levelled equipment is not necessary.
  • Do not play Blood and Wine.
  • Do not play Blood and Wine.
  • Do not play Blood and Wine.

This is the first time I’ve seen something fall off from a potential 8 to an absolute 1.

For record-keeping purposes a singular score must exist, and after much consideration 7/8 is my opinion on that matter. But there is a pretty clear gap where it works enough and where it really doesn’t, a border I can summarize in single line:

Do not play Blood and Wine.

Wild Hunt: 7/8 (3~8)
Hearts of Stone: 6/8 (5~7)
Blood and Wine: 1/8 (1~4)

Everyone and their mother says Blood and Wine is the best thing ever, you haven’t had the full Witcher experience until you’ve played Blood and Wine, Blood and Wine Blood and Wine Blood and Wine. And so I played it. But I simply can’t score them combined. Everything about its existence is such an insult I must dissociate it. I like the characters and themes of the main game too much, and the writers clearly were struggling with invading outside forces. It is possible that with Gwent or in currently released information on Cyberpunk 2077 that they have lost to those forces. I don’t know. That’s a different topic.

But I feel compelled here to give at least The Witcher 3 my fairest shot.

I played it on PC with a DS3 controller on Blood and Broken Bones difficulty, Japanese audio (a large chunk of why I got the game was because I heard Sawashiro would be in it), the above mentioned color-changing mods, mods making the main female characters’ boobs larger, mod that improved their faces, mod that allowed me to play as those women, and a mod that allowed me to fast travel from anywhere, which I got because one unique situation in the whole game bugs out with a female character model (climbing a ladder out of the water). I had intended to play as Geralt too but apparently the mod doesn’t allow switching between male and female, so all screenshots in this review showing “Geralt” will show someone else instead.

I played 158 hours: 115 for the main game, 131 (+16) for Hearts of Stone, 158 (+27) for Blood and Wine. I will put more hours into it before completing this review. I liked the end of Witcher. I’d like to feel that again.

Because I don’t like my current final experience with it.

I don’t like it at all.

> — (Illusion of Space)
> — (Gwent)
> — (Skellige and Everything Else, but mostly Skellige)
> — (People and Objectives)
> — (Exceptions)
> — (Flow)
> — (Unfathomable Errors)
> — (Rise of Routinism)
> — (The Expansion That Killed The Witcher)

Continue reading


When you see something, it causes you to react in a certain manner, and frame the world in a certain way.

riyo altera peaceful

We like to believe it’s a matter of choice. We choose our thoughts, we have free will to do what we want; if I’m not following instructions explicitly then I’m not following anything at all. The nature of this statement though means that if there is one example at all where response is automatic, then the previous statement about the structure of the human mind loses its inherency. And there is an example. There’s plenty. So many the public discourse has a word for it:

“Not Safe For Work”

Generally this refers to visuals of a certain kind. In itself it’s already somewhat blurry and pretty clearly manipulated with respect to some other internal logic. If something, for example, is referred to as “Safe For Work”, you know that it’s probably with respect to “Not Safe For Work” rather than “Work”, which means that it’s probably not actually safe for work. Whatever that means.

I have an idea what it means, and I’d like to expand the concept.

To work means to focus on doing something. To focus means to ignore all other problems for some given period of time, implying that all other problems are, at least during that time, not problems. The complete statement the other way reads:

“Only when all other problems appear solved for the time being can one begin to work.”

In a shorter form:

Work requires Peace.

In order to work, it must be the most important problem at the time, and the only problem that is perceived. Generally speaking, sex is not safe for work. But quite a lot of other things are also in this category too.

For example: “The Internet”.

There have been things circling for a while now about how the internet, or perhaps ‘social media’ in specific, cause people to be unhappy. Studies show that people who spend more than some number of minutes per day on something online are some percentage of points more unhappy, we need a plugged-unplugged balance, something something something. I don’t doubt that this is true, but we need to know why it is true to get anything prescriptive out of it. If your life is absolutely great, the idea that seeing other people happy on Facebook makes you “jealous” is obviously not going to be true. What you need to know is not specifically that it’s “bad on average”, but what is bad for you. At least, in the context of what is safe for work.

Why “The Internet” makes people unhappy is because people don’t get that it’s not strictly safe for work. If you are aware and conscientious about how you use it, you’ll be perfectly fine, and I’m not talking about something asinine like avoiding pornography or counting the number of minutes. The internet is fundamentally a technology. It’s glowing boxes connected to other peoples’ glowing boxes, and it has a bunch of information on it. If you see what makes you happy, then you’ll be happy. If you see what makes you mad, you’ll be mad. If you see “whatever”, then on a long enough timeline you’ll probably be pretty mad. Don’t pay attention and don’t think about how something works, it’ll eventually do things you don’t like in ways you don’t understand.

Imagine if the internet only had your favorite comedy. You and everyone else would know exactly what using it would cause. Imagine now instead that the internet only had horror. Same deal. In both cases there’d be weirdos who respond to the givens in an entirely different manner, but they’d be accurately and correctly recognized as weirdos, and the general idea wouldn’t change. This… was how the internet used to be. More or less. Places ran with whatever they were about or were interested in, usually with very specific ideas (because they were familiar with the topic), and so were places where various unrelated strangers congregated. Only places where this was maybe not the case was in “off-topic” forums or “chats”, which then was a question of what the moderation paradigm was and who the moderators were, but basically as long as you didn’t go there, or to certain URLs, you knew, with pretty decent confidence, what you were going to get into.

In the post-URL age people have no idea what they’re getting into. Or, perhaps more importantly, they have no idea that they have no idea what they’re getting into. “I joined facebook to connect with my friends, so why am I mad all the time?”. And of course, with a bunch of clueless people of varying backgrounds and interests, there can be nothing actually going on that can be built on at all at with moderation, except office politics and geopolitics, which is exactly what we see happening with “community standards”.

If Facebook really wanted to make people happier, you think it wouldn’t happen? Remember that thing called advertising? Companies paying to get peoples’ eyeballs? That’s why you’re not connecting with your friends. No, not so much because you’re seeing ads, but because you’re in a structure that is interested in you seeing ads (and news, and whatever it is people pay to have you see). That’s called the News Feed. Go to a specific page, or profile of a person who you knows only posts certain things, you’ll see something very different.

Perhaps something like my current experience with Twitter. I used to hate it, now I’m basically fine with it. I’m following about the same number of people I did before, but now I’m perfectly happy going there because everyone I follow posts only either 1) images I want to look at or 2) text in a language I can’t read. For me, Twitter is basically Pixiv, and perfectly safe for work. Occasionally there’s porn on it too, but that’s fine, because when I go there, porn is within my expectations, and therefore I know exactly what to expect – that is to say again, exactly synonymous with safe for work.

Now there is always the chance that something could happen. Maybe some Japanese artist decides to retweet something that in English. Maybe someone @’s me. But these are edge cases. They would not reflect on my experience of Twitter as a whole.

Unless something big happens and a bunch of people @ me at the same time, and then suddenly everything changes. Which, too, is in the structure of Twitter. There is the option to make things private, but that more or less breaks the structure of Twitter (Not the case for Facebook, but Facebook has the advertising thing). If Twitter really wanted to eliminate the possibilitiy of “something big happens and a bunch of people @ me at the same time”, also known as “mobbing”, “harassment”, or “death threats”, they could do it. But they don’t. They’re interested more in something else, one which I unfortunately don’t have a simple analogy like I did for Facebook because I haven’t much experience with it. It’s probably something along the lines of statistics and surveillance, considering how it’s used.

In any case that other thing exists. You use services for a reason, they provide you services for, almost always, a completely different reason.

They have their own ideas.

And I have my own ideas.

I have noticed that what I think when I wake up in the morning and what I think before I go to bed in the evening have large impacts on what happens during the rest of the day. Anything thought during these times takes a while to form, and I need everything to be silent and calm during that time for them to bear fruit. Sometimes these ideas are complicated, sometimes not. At best they are a productive idea for me to chase for the rest of the day or week. At worst it’s a metaphorical and literal breath of fresh air: a visceral understanding that there are no major problems. The air is warm, the light is bright, my belly is full, and my body will do what I tell it to do without pain or limit. Maybe this is what’s called “meditation”. I wouldn’t know. I don’t like how that word sounds so I don’t use it.

I can’t do any of that if I open up the internet and have people reposting shit spewed by journalists about employment rates or automation or economy or politics, anything anyone ever says about cars that aren’t in the direction of absolute and unwavering praise of trains, anything anyone in the west says about housing and rent, any western cartoons, any webcomics, the vast majority of things that can be said about videogames, the vast majority of happy smiling pictures at any parties because that’ll just remind me about employment rates and cars and all the lies people tell about those things, and all the lies people tell about the lies that people tell about those things, and a whole laundry list of other things both of things that I can explicitly name and things that I can’t identify are problems.

Information space works differently than physical space. There’s the connectivity and speed issues to be sure, but even if I did sit down and think about really all the potential problems that would for me be not safe for work, it’s difficult to tell when that list or formulation would be complete. Here’s all the real and potential instances I get unseated from my focus, here’s all the sets of reasons I’ve come up with that explain the data, is this a complete understanding? It’s Hempel’s Paradox. Or maybe even attempting to solve the thing runs into Godel’s Incompleteness.

But if I don’t deal with information space, it’s not a problem. Sitting in silence with my monitors off and my phone on silent means that the only information space I need to deal with is in my own mind. I spend my due time clearing out possible worries in the times where such ideas gain a huge first-move advantage, and as a result a lot of irrelevant other ideas that come up during the rest of the day get tossed. Not that nothing can disrupt this, to be sure. But, if I think things though correctly, only significant things will change my focus, and those things won’t so much be “Not Safe For Work” as it would be “You Need To Work On This, Right Now”.

Most things don’t need to be worked on right now. Journalists will say something “JUST” happened but it doesn’t matter. Not much matters. And that’s how it needs to be, if anything is to get done.

Format the day correctly in the mind by calmly dealing only with physical space in the morning and evening, making the only information space your own mind, and recognize that there are no major problems. The “world” is, all major things considered, safe for work.

riyo astolfo zzzz

Unless a bullet comes through the window. Then it’s not safe for work.

But if it did, that would be the thing to work on.

this exists solely because facebook seems to default to the final image of a post for its preview image. apparently you can control it by setting a html meta property, but that's not allowed in free wordpress. what is allowed though is putting down images in html and then setting them to not show up. so this technically is the last image - as far as facebook is concerned.

The World Beyond Words

“I’m not really interested in truth. Truth relies on consensus and evidence; it is by definition ex post facto.

I’m interested in what truth is before it is truth.”

altera in nero np extella


How should one change decisions?

“Making”, or “sticking” to a decision, is largely a matter of confidence, to not think further about the inputs (i.e. “not doubt yourself”). That is not the topic.

The topic is about “changing” a decision, that is to say, making a change to the overall set of actions and beliefs you hold, because you always, always already have a default decision: it’s “abstain”. Everyone gets 24 hours a day, and they’re used up even if they’re not touched. If the move you choose to play is “sleep more”, that’s a move. A move you can never take back, a move you are making at the cost of every other move. A New Year’s ResolutionDecision to “go to the gym” is not simply, “go to the gym”, it’s “go to the gym for x number of hours at y time, time which is currently used by Facebook and Netflix”. Fail to complete the statement, and sooner than you know it you’ll be back on Facebook and Netflix.

We want to know what it means to change a decision and what it is that leads to it.

The question: How can we more reliably and consistently change our decisions so that they better lead to the results we desire? Errors in making the decision, errors in executing it, and errors in outcome are to be expected; nonetheless, we would like to attempt to solve the field of problems in which all factors at least appear to be under our control, which is to say: What sort of mindset does that involve?

It appears to at least involve asking: “What is the good life?”. That would cover how one should think with respect to one’s own thoughts; a principle, or paradigm of sorts. If you don’t have a larger, perhaps unreachable goal in mind, then your mental horizon only ever reaches into the next few minutes, and that’s clearly not correct. But what else would it need to cover?

It’d need to cover how to interpret information from the outside.

It’d need to cover how to categorize the words other people speak. It is these, not our eyeballs’ interpretation of colors and physics nor eardrums’ interpretation of intensity and distance, that are our primary informers on the state of the world.  And there’s an international intertemporal logistics chain for every idea. Keeping in mind that such a thing exists, that every word not only has someone saying it but organizations and cultures of people behind it, is definitely part of the correct interpretation. That’s all the easy part.

The other part is dealing with the words themselves.

Words which just so happen to have nothing to do with changing decisions at all.

> The Simple Case: On Entertainment
> The Heavy Case: On Institutional Narratives
> The Specific Case: On the Results of Decisions
> The General Case: On the Structure of Decisions
> Decision Theory: The World Beyond Words

The Simple Case: On Entertainment

How does one decide what movie to watch or what game to play?

liz vs joseph anderson


Starting from the end, we know that the decisions will either take the form of “Yes” or “No”.

“Yes”, go spend time with it, or “No”, don’t spend time with it. Things can be divided up further and justified using any number of words; those are the basics. Everything is framed in this manner, even whether or not to further look into whether or not the entertainment is worth the decision. The strongest influences are directly interpretted in “Yes” or “No”, the words they come in basically irrelevant: if a friend you trust on these matters says something is really good or really bad, anything else they say is rhetoric to fill up the time; you know just off of that what you will do. If you have multiple such friends and they say the same thing, same thing.

If you have multiple such friends but they don’t have the same opinion, then it gets a little more complicated. This situation feels a lot more like wading through various opinions of strangers. It’s as if these friends suddenly lost their faces and started talking in very serious voices in a foreign language. And of course it would be: no longer is it simply accepting the conclusion, you’re now being pushed to look at how conclusions are created. Time to go to the sausage factory.

How does one reconcile such conflicts? How does one flatten these various “Yes”‘s and “No”‘s into a single Yes-or-No? Is there some way to formalize it so that the answer is immediately clear every time, or even vaguely clear and decently quick most of the time? I think most everyone intuitively recognizes the correct answer to this question:

It’s not possible. You can’t actually do such a thing. “Things aren’t so black and white”.

Unfortunately they then get themselves fooled into thinking it’s 100 shades of grey.

What does it mean for something to get a rating of 81/100? First of all, it’s now a number, and not only is it a number, it’s a fraction. A fraction whose units is presumably “of a Yes”. 81/100 “of a Yes”. Unfortunately this runs back into the previous problem because we don’t know how to operate on the unit “of a Yes”. It’s clearly not additive, you can’t have a 81/100 then find a 19/100 and call it a day. There’s some kind of averaging going on maybe? Maybe only from people you trust? Or people who make sense? But sometimes those people are still wrong. And a lot of the time they’re not even consistent! There’s the whole disagreement between the “anything below 70/100 is absolute trash” people and the “50/100 is average” people, but everyone even in their own ratings doesn’t make sense! They say this one thing is bad because they do this, but they say this other thing is great for doing the same thing! This 95/100 is mediocre but that 92/100 is game of the year?

Actually even more importantly, what does it mean for something to be a certain rating to begin with? If they’re not even useful in internal rankings, what are they good for? Prices? Does 81/100 mean “Yes but only at 19% or more off”? Does a 70/100 mean the first 70% of the thing is good? Or maybe only the last 70% is good? What does it mean? Means go buy the thing, find out yourself, and join the comments section afterwards. But that’s the journalism business model; it does not actually help you and your decision beforehand. You can’t make it “Yes” and then go back and change it to a “No”.

The fundamental problem is that “Yes” and “No” opinions can’t mix. In entertainment these are called “Positive” and “Negative” reviews, and while I’m sure those two words existed before integers did, their appearance alongside “81/100” turns it into just another numericist fetish. Makes it feel all objective and sciency. Yet, the slightest inspection reveals we can’t treat them like numbers.

That’s because they’re not in the same units.

That is to say: they don’t measure the same things. At all. Go through a large number of positive reviews and negative reviews, on anything at all, and you’ll find almost overwhelmingly they talk not only about entirely different things, but also in entirely different ways. Positive reviews say things like “Oh my god it was the best thing ever”, whereas negative reviews will say “X which was done in Y way should’ve been A done in B way.” One reads like a press release and the other sounds like a whisteblower on a scandal.

An asymmetry: “Yes” only needs a declaration, but a “No” begs explanation. A short and unsubstantiated “No” might as well not exist; a short and unsubstantiated “Yes” doesn’t feel out of place. A detailed “No” is expected, a detailed “Yes” seems to invariably have to start talking in “No”-language to up the wordcount. This game is great because… it’s “No”t like the other games. An avoidance of the “No”. Whereas the “No” doesn’t have to mention the “Yes” at all, it just tells you to…

…go back to your life.

Ah: And every change in decision affects your whole life.

No change… doesn’t.

Now it makes sense. To change a decision requires something, to not change a decision doesn’t require anything. A Law of Inertia… a Burden of Proof. So of course a “Yes” decision wouldn’t be comparable let alone mixable with a “No” decision. Any amount of Yes-change is fundamentally different from no-change, whereas any amount of no-change won’t subtract from a Yes-change.

It only flows one way.

Or, if it’s easier to visualize: there’s only resistance the other way.

But wait. Isn’t the asymmetry backwards then? If “Yes” is required to fulfill burden of proof and overcome inertia and “No” isn’t, why is it that in entertainment, negative reviews are the ones which have more detail and reasoning? If such a theory was true, wouldn’t we expect to find the positive reviews going through all the effort to get people to come and spend their time and money, while the negative reviews have nothing worth reading? I mean, that fits in with the rest of what we know too right? That negative people are just haters and you have to be positive to do anything productive?

(First though I must reiterate: “Yes” in the context of this post refers to a very specific concept. It is “Yes”, in the decision whether or not to change. In just switching both terms to read “”No”, in the decision not or whether to change””, the statement would be logically equivalent, but it wouldn’t make any sense. You can’t negate something before stating it; the default assumption of the human mind is always inertia rather than change. In all the languages I’ve ever heard anything about, there’s a number of concepts which are commonly or only phrased as Not-Somethingelse. I’ve never heard of a Is-Notsomethingelse.

As an exercise, please try to think of a word with a negative prefix/suffix, then try to think of a word with a positive prefix/suffix. I will give my own results after this sentence, please actually do this exercise. Do you have them in mind? My results are: I thought of “Un” immediately, and “undo” was the first word to fit. All those years of playing Ghost has biased me towards the first few letters of the alphabet. In contrast, It took me a couple minutes to ponder if a positive conjugation even existed, to which I eventually answered “Pro-Choice”. But that really means I wasn’t able to think of one, because that’s not actually a word.)

That’s true. In a sense. Yes, and No. If you’re only looking at the big popular things, and a lot more things are or at least are seen as (and thus equivalent as far as the stranger is concerned) big and popular these days thanks to the internet, then…. no, it’s not. It’s not backwards at all. It’s right on the mark. The theory predicts that more energy will have been spent on the side which attempts to convince people to change. If you’re looking through reviews on a big popular thing thinking about whether or not you are going to buy, with no further change in your decision, you are… going to buy. With no change in course, no additional information, you will now or eventually spend time and money on that piece of entertainment. Might take a year or three until it goes on steam sale or whatever the equivalent is for movies these days, but it’ll happen. This won’t be true of things you’ve decided against already and don’t even bother with the reviews on. This is also not true of smaller productions you’ve never heard of, and on that, as expected, the results are flipped: the positive reviews gain the meat, and the negative reviews lose their character.

It takes energy to make a push for things no one cares about, and it takes energy to make a push against things people do care about. Which one is “Positive” and which “Negative” is field-dependent; which one is for change and which one abstains is not.

The asymmetry is not backwards; the theory holds.

The Heavy Case: On Institutional Narratives

We were originally asking whether to or not to play this game and to or not to watch that movie, but the same problem arises in things which don’t not-matter: how do we know how to think, what to believe, and who to trust? Am I correct in my ways now? Which parts of it need to change? Which things are leading to results I did not expect or want? What sort of things need to occur in order for me to decide to change? We’ve found that in entertainment, the people saying the actually interesting stuff can usually be found in the negative or positive reviews for popular and indie productions, respectively, but what about the general case?

What is the standard approach to solving such a problem?

Ancient Overlord weapon story


The standard approach is: insert more positivity until it’s positive.

Or, if it’s easier to visualize: The problem exists because it’s negative. You’re poor because you are “lazy” (negative) or don’t “work hard” (positive) enough. You have a shitty job (negative) because you aren’t “passionate” (positive) enough about your field. You should stop complaining (negative) about X business/business practices, you could just “start your own business” (positive), it’s a “free country” (positive), only reason why you’re sitting around complaining is because you’re a “hater” (negative). There is no problem (negative) with this game, you just need to “git gud” (positive). Out of all of these the “passion” explanation is the one I hate the most. Probably because it’s the most prevalent.

In any case, the standard approach is not a solution.

It’s not even related to a solution. If the heater broke and you comment that “it’s cold”, the solution isn’t to “raise the temperature”. If you are broke and you are “unemployed”, the solution isn’t to “get a job”. It’s so obvious that these are not solutions that it’s almost mind boggling how it’s confusing. These “suggestions” and “I’m just saying”-s are not solutions. Solutions are things which take the problem as a given and respond to the problem by discovering and playing within its ruleset. Maybe it’s solvable, maybe it’s not (and thus it’s a “fact of life” rather than a “problem”), but if it is solvable, that’s the way to solve it. “Just fix it” i.e. “Just don’t have the problem” solves as many problems as the number of people who have ever been enlightened by an after-the-fact “well you can’t say I did’t tell you so”.

A lot of people like SpaceX. Should these people therefore decide to become aerospace engineers? Why would that be true? If they decide to do something else are they therefore “just not passionate enough about space exploration”? I like food therefore I should become a chef? I like clean things therefore I should become a janitor? People who become chefs might have done it because they liked food, and people who become janitors might have done it because they have OCD, but these links don’t work both ways. Oh I didn’t become a janitor. It’s because I’m just not passionate enough about cleaning. Or, perhaps more applicable, I didn’t become a janitor or an aerospace engineer at SpaceX, because I am just not passionate enough about space exploration. You see how this works? You see how the words as used have absolutely nothing to do with the thing at hand? But that’s all that’s ever stated by the standard narratives.

I’ve thought about trying to move to Japan because I hate cars. Considering my options, I applied to get in with the government-run “JET Program” for the temporary position of ALT, which is basically a permanent student teacher of English. My application happened to fall through and I thought about the other options, one of which was Interac, a private company hiring for the same position. In the end, due to things I then found out about the private specifics and just the general endeavor as a whole, I decided against it. Did I lose my desire to move to Japan? Well I definitely didn’t stop hating cars, but to say I stopped because “I’m just not passionate enough” is nonsense. Would someone not passionate have gone through all that paperwork and research to begin with? If I got in with JET I’m “passionate”, but if I don’t get in I’m “just not passionate enough”?

What’s the criterion here? That I do or don’t get in? Then that “passion” is a description of a result rather than a prescription of how to try to determine it beforehand. Who takes this shit seriously? Has no one heard of Hume?

I could get in as a fugitive too, come in on a visitor visa and then just hide from the police after the 30/60/90? days elapse. Maybe if I lived in Mexico or Venezuela or North Korea such an option would be higher up on the list. But the fact is: I don’t live in those countries. My life as-is isn’t so bad that I would try being a fugitive in a land whose language I don’t speak. It just also isn’t so great that I’d defend America and cars at every chance I get. Under the standard narrative I should either put up or shut up. But, if I shut up then that must mean there is no problem, and if I put up then that must mean I am crazy or am “just” too (something negative). Thus there is no problem. Meanwhile, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.

The standard approach has no real comment on how to solve problems i.e. change decisions.

Probably because most people don’t solve problems or change decisions.

(There are actually very salient reasons as to why “passion” and positivity et. all are paraded around as solutions to such things, but those reasons and their implications are beyond the scope of this post.)

The Specific Case: On the Results of Decisions

The reasoning of a decision do not in themselves strictly lead to the decision’s results.

A common refrain is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. This is at least not untrue, but more importantly, it has no expanatory or prescriptive power. It’s not actually usable. Does it tell you to not have good intentions? Or always suspect those who do? Does it say that “A road paved with good intentions is a path to hell” or “The road to heaven is paved with bad/good/no intentions”? It doesn’t tell you what to do, nor does it tell you what not to do. It’s completely and utterly useless except for gotcha “I told you so”s.

Good intentions don’t mean good results. They also don’t mean bad results. Bad intentions don’t mean bad results. They also don’t mean good results. We never really know others’ intentions, we can only see results and attempt to reverse-engineer from there. That information is, in anything of any noticeable complexity, always incomplete. You simply can’t “know for sure” or “prove” something like a mathematician proves math (that itself is also not as a-priori perfect or inhuman natural law as most people believe, but that is beyond the scope of this post). In a very controlled environment, like a game, perhaps it can be narrowed down to intelligence/stupidity. Anyone out of elementary school should know how to not lose at tic-tac-toe. In high school after about a year of afterschool waiting with a few friends, I solved Chopsticks and won every time, and I solved what could be solved with Deuces, as whenever I played I never scored lower than rank two. Different people have different abilities, so I perhaps solved some things others didn’t, and I didn’t what some others did.

But some problems are just unsolvable. That is to say: they are close enough to unsolvable that thinking of them as solvable will itself in turn cause bigger problems. In other words again, some results do not trace their lineage to a single use or non-use of some idea. Sometimes there’s more than one thing going on.

Sometimes being most of the time. And almost all of the time on things worth talking about.

This is a game of PUBG I played. I’m not the star of the video.

No one is.

And yet, it’s the most interesting sequence of events I’ve ever seen, bar none. I had originally thought about sticking in music and captions and explanations or fancy slow-mo sequences to explain everything, but it didn’t need it. With only a few edits for simultaneous feeds and repeating events in a certain sequence, it’s self-explanatory. There are no particular game-technical details that are at all important.

It’s simply a series of human intentions and reactions.

A story.

There were no amazing plays. There were, to be sure, two really stupid ones. But other than that, everyone played as reasonably as anyone could expect. Some brighter players, some dimmer players, but all about right. Commonly with PUBG in specific this is due to “randomness”, as you start the game with no items and need to find some in order to survive and win fights. But that wasn’t the case here. Everyone had the items they could’ve reasonably wanted by the time of the final fight. Six players, six people with differing expectations, and yet not a single one at the end was right.

I could speculate and write out what I thought were the motivations of each player at the time, but you can do that yourself with the video.

I’ll tell you what was going through my head when I played as me, 01 korezaan, partially because I happen to know what I thought, but also because I happen to be the player in the video who has the least interaction, so it’s not obvious what it is I’m responding to.

After firing upon 22 Khram, partially in cover and almost completely in sync with 01 Personofsecrets thus somewhat hiding how many people were firing, 01 Personofsecrets tells me to rush the building. I agree it’s a good idea, or more importantly it’s not obviously a bad idea and there’s no time to talk about it, so I do it. While running I hear shots in front, then shots to the right, the shots in front again. No one on my team has died or taken any damage (the UI is slightly different in-game, there’s team health indicators to the bottom left), so I continue sprinting. More shots ring out as I reach the building, 01 lonelyshadowzz has taken hits, but he’s behind a wall, and I know that Team 22 in general is on this side of the road, so I thought, if I was in that situation, I’d just lay behind that wall. If I have healing I use it, maybe come over, if not, just stay put. I didn’t expect him to try and run across an open road without having healed. But he did that. So now he’s dead and I can’t do anything about it.

At this time it’s not entirely clear how much of the enemy team was alive. I presumed it was 3, but it could’ve been 4; 22 Baconnaise died out of line of sight and the kill ticker at the top right is hard to pay attention to when you’re trying to spot enemies. In any case there was definitely 1 in the building, and the others were up the treeline somewhere. Probably. Then I start suspecting that building guy (22 Khram) had left the building, because nothing was happening. I didn’t hear any footsteps so there was no movement, which could mean because there was no person. It would be reasonable to leave the building and run directly away, towards teammates, with the building itself covering the line of sight between us. At one point I look behind me too, because I found it that odd nothing had happened for so long.

Then 01 Personofsecrets gets a huge chunk off 22 calmdownok. In those few seconds 22 calmdownok uses a healing item, 01 Personofsecrets tells me “turn left and left again, he’ll be at the tree right in front of you”. I took this literally and turned left, before realizing two lefts is a nonsense direction, and deciding it meant the closest tree to the west that would be “right in front of me” if I looked off that side of the building.

I happened to turn left because I believed there to be no one in the building at the time. Given that someone is at the tree, and that another one or two are up in the treeline somewhere, the approach with first the blue building on my left and then the red shed on my right would keep me in the most cover for the longest amount of time against the largest number of angles.

It just so happens there was someone in the building, but he didn’t shoot me immediately.

Which in turn was because I just so happened to spook him from shuffling around the outside of the building a lot, making him think I was about to come in at any moment.

Just so happened he decided to watch an angle completely useless to his teammate.

Just so happened that, after following the information provided by 01 Personofsecrets, I won the fight against 22 calmdownok. Not an expected result, I’m usually the poorer shot. Just so happens I finished my sprint first, my gun was up and his gun was down, and I got a shot off before he could even contest.

Just so happened that 22 Khram comes down the stairs and fires at me as I move into general cover.

Just so happened that, as 22 Khram is firing at me, I turn around to see that the building’s windows were empty. There was another window, which he was in, but that’s not what cropped to mind at the time. What appeared to be the case was that the game’s sound engine was being bad again. Here’s someone firing at me, yet the building windows I see in front of me – where I hear the sound from – are empty. PUBG’s sound engine is such that sounds in front of you and sounds behind you sound exactly the same. Left and right work just fine, but front and back are as if you yourself are firing, so to determine locations by sound you always have to spin your head. So, since bullets were being fired, but I saw nothing, and 01 Personofsecrets definitely wasn’t the target, it must be at me, and the enemy must be further west or up the treeline. I finish the kill on 22 calmdownok and run to where I thought would be cover.

Just so happens I was wrong.

Just so happens 22 Khram decides to reload his magazine rather than finish firing his final 8 bullets at a defenseless target.

Just so happens 01 Personofsecrets runs in the door as that reload is occuring.

Just so happens, because we hadn’t seen Team 22’s fourth, 01 Personofsecrets still thought there was still an enemy to deal with.

Just so happens, at some point I said “You need to rez me. Like. Right now.”

Just so happens he jumped off the second story and got to me in time.

This isn’t so much a just so happens, but it just so happens, their fourth got in a boat at the beginning and went to the next village over, and only just got his land vehicle on the road when the encounter ended.

And so, it just so happens we survived.

Did we all give our best? Maybe not 01 feakyassuo or 22 Engineoflove. Not only is dropping a skill that’s not too difficult to get right, a few hours of the game reveals reliably to the average person just what kind of difference it makes to drop 20 feet in the wrong direction or 5 seconds too late if you’re dropping with company around. Going to the next town over is a couple of orders of magnitude up from that.

But everyone else certainly did. We – both Team 22 and Team 01 – aren’t the best players, but we all did reasonable things, with reasonable levels of skill. No one was to praise, no one was to blame. Team 01 didn’t win because they were great players. Team 22 didn’t lose because they were poor players. Nothing to do with smart or stupid, good or bad. Not really “because” anything in particular. It was quite a lot of little things that turned out in ways no one expected.

Just so happens too that I was the final spotlight character and the whole thing could be edited into something that almost looks like a story. I certainly wouldn’t have found it very interesting if I had played as someone else. Nor would I have had the replay to even look at or make the video on, because, it just so happens, PUBG replays cut off the moment you die. You can look at other peoples’ perspectives if they’re within a certain range of you, but you can’t look if you’re dead. Just so happens too this was my first squad game in a long time; I had decided that only duos was worth playing but 01 Personofsecrets said he wanted one game, I said alright, one game. Just so happens that one game was amazing.

Just so happened I didn’t die.

Just so happened we won.

Just so happened… to be that way.

The General Case: On the Structure of Decisions

The results of decisions are not the reasons, that is to say, structures, for decisions.

The structures of decisions, even if identical, can result in wildly different resulting decisions.

Please make your choice 9S-A2


Let’s talk about achievements. Climbing to the top. A mountain top.

Let’s say your achievement is climbing to a mountaintop. Good job! With this achievement, you’re now looking to do the big one: Mount Everest. How do you climb Mount Everest?

“I’ll just climb it”

Well no, you can’t do that. You’re on the top of a mountain right now, you see.

You’re gonna have to get off the summit of that mountain first. If climbing a mountain has approximately the same properties as does hiking or cycling a really steep hill, then I hope your skills for climbing up a mountain are equally matched by your skills for climbing down a mountain, because that’s not a cakewalk either. It’s not just “I got to the top! Time for sex, shower, and then bed”. You gotta go all the way back down first, buddy. Down is easier than up if you’re a rock, but you’re not a rock, you’re a fleshbag, and even rocks break if you drop them from high enough. Are you tougher than a rock? The ground doesn’t care if you’re manly or not I’m afraid, only that you are a man, and not a rock.

Anyways, supposing you make it safely down the mountain, then you gotta go home, or back to the hotel, and that’s not necessarily at the base of the mountain either. If it isn’t, you are probably driving or going to get driven back, perhaps in a bus of some kind, so no whipping out your dick in there either (unless you’re into that sort of thing), then you enter the hotel, go up stairs or elevator, and hope to god you remembered to bring your keycard before you left for your great expedition, because if you didn’t, back to the lobby you go. Depending on how much time has passed you may or may not have taken off all your fancy equipment, so you’ll have to take that off. You are probably caked in sweat. Sex now or after shower? In any case, you’re not in bed until you’re in bed, and you’re not in bed until you’re in bed.

Then you gotta go to that other mountain. Probably with at least a handful of months inbetween because you used up all your vacation time already and have to save up again for the next one. Then you gotta look up the routes, call up some numbers, buy the plane ticket….

The important parts are: you need to get down the mountain, then you need to do a lot of things that don’t involve you going up mountains or gaining altitude in any way, all in order to even start climbing the next mountain, let alone getting on top of it, which may or may not happen, since expert climbers still die.

You don’t “go higher”.

You literally always need to go lower first. Probably a lot lower.

To anyone simply looking at the results at the time from moment to moment, they won’t understand it at all. “Wow why is this guy losing altitude, I thought he was a promising newcomer but maybe not”. For something physical like mountain climbing perhaps it sounds like a comical exaggeration, but that’s only because basic physical principles are generally understood: of course you have to come down from the top first before you can go to the next one. K2, the second highest mountain in the world, is in the same mountain range as Everest, but everyone recognizes you don’t just climb from there up into the air until you reach the correct elevation, and then magically get teleported over to the summit of Everest, just because “they’re part of the same range”. They might not understand all the other things like how you really will die up there if you screw up or how heavy carrying oxygen tanks is, but at least a few of the critical basics are understood. Enough to understand that being able to do something once doesn’t mean being able to do it again.

People generally don’t understand this on anything else.

If symbols (numbers, words, pictures) are involved, “generally” becomes “definitely”.

Good Programmer? You can do more in less time. What do you mean you’re going to do something that might not work? Didn’t you learn how to program in school / the jobs you had before you were hired here? And what do you mean it’ll take more time than you thought? You gave me an estimate didn’t you? Aren’t you the progr-ah, so I did mishear. You’re actually an artist. A big one too, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube. Wow, you can make really realistic drawings of people! Truly skilled. Master artist. Hey, can you draw me a kangaroo? I just like kangar- what! That looks ugly! Like a five year old drew it! You’re a hack! Fraud!

I haven’t done any amount of programming so I can only point to someone who has and the mountain climbing metaphor in general, but I have done drawing so I know exactly what the problem was there.

It’s that the results are not the structure.

“Good artist” doesn’t mean “he can draw whatever I want”. People train and practice in different ways, they are going to be good at what they trained and practiced at and nothing else. Or more specifically: if they do actually turn out good at anything else, it’s either 1) a happy coincidence, 2) a fluke, or 3) the audience is simply unable to detect the errors. The artist of the example above has studied at an atelier for a decade drawing extremely accurate muscle forms on human anatomy. That is a certain field. It is “in” art, it is not “(all) art”. From what I know about ateliers, they generally create from reference – i.e. they are copying without tracing. Here’s a picture or model, now draw it. Drawing from imagination is a wildly different skill from drawing from reference. How you approach things if you are always going to be copying is fundamentally different from how you approach things if you want to be able to do them from your mind. If I’ve never seen a kangaroo before everyone understands I wouldn’t be able to draw you a kangaroo, but even supposing I have, that still doesn’t mean I can do “it”, because that’s not what “it” depends on. It depends on a number of things, maybe the first of which is whether you’re paying me enough to draw a kangaroo, or more generally, why I would be interested in doing such a thing.

This isn’t a joke or nonsense separate detail; it’s a direct cause to whether or not something happens i.e. a part of the structure. A good artist isn’t suddenly not a good artist because he declines your request. He might just not want to draw kangaroos. If he does want to draw kangaroos, it depends on why he wants to draw them and what it is he likes. If he likes cute things, perhaps the head will appear larger. If he likes slimmer sexier things, perhaps the tail’s length in proportion to the body will be longer. If he doesn’t care about color, you’re probably not going to get immaculately rendered fur. If you didn’t pay enough, you might get something that would otherwise be more complete. These are generally referred to as “style”. And it works in different ways than just “good” or “not good”.

If you can draw a cat, you can probably draw a tiger. Maybe not the best one ever, but probably a better tiger than someone who’s only ever drawn environments.

And yet, maybe not.

I’ve spent years grinding pencil sketches of little anatomical details of the female body (for reasons beyond the scope of this post), the vast majority of it being from imagination, but I was able to pick up the most important points on how to draw jets and cars within a few iterations (not hours, iterations!) of each. Does this mean I have a natural affinity for mechanical objects? Maybe. And yet, maybe not. I can’t draw a tank that doesn’t look silly. And all my guns are terrible, they’re too fat and look like supersoakers. I think this might have something to do with the fact that I draw on paper at a certain size, and that “certain size” is such that the diameter of the barrel on the gun or tank is often not much larger the width of the 0.5mm lead out of my mechanical pencil. I mean, maybe that means I should draw larger? But drawing smaller means I can see all of it without having to pull my head back, and in my experience the large problems are always at the large scale; an eye can be 10% off a non-symmetrical direction without any real problem, a head can’t be 10% larger without turning an average young adult into a tall kid. And that’s my domain, drawing small sketches of anatomical parts. With no knowledge of how any other setup works the rules from that setting are going to be what I’m going to default assume. So those might be why I can’t do tanks and guns. Or it might be something else.

These are the kinds of things which comprise the structure of decisions.

Are there universals?


Do I know what they are?

Well, I know where not to look.

I also know approximately where it is to look: Any universal in the structures of decisions has to do with universals for human existence and epistemology. One of them would be time. You and everyone else only ever have 24 hours in a day, and you can only ever do one action at a time, at the cost of every other action. Keep that in mind and plan without regards to direct feelings about any specific actions; the results are not the structure. Related to that is how you assess risk. You want some things, you don’t want other things. Given what you know at the time, what kind of decision will you change? If it’s already obvious then good for you, if not then you need to lay the details from the top to the trivial; the results are not the structure. Ideas, like “truth”, are important, but they’re not the most important thing, not at the cost of everything else. There are other things to weigh it against. How do you weigh it? I don’t know. Weighing Truth against Love is probably very different from weighing Freedom against Order, and that’s assuming we even have the same definitions of the term. I do know that their weighing has nothing to do with speaking inside their own terms. “But it’s true” is not a valid point in Truth vs Some Other Virtue; the results are not the structure.

It might be that Truth, or some other idea, really is worth that much. What do you think? Operative word: “you”, not “think”. What are you willing to do? That’s what’s at hand here; it’s not a test with a box and a correct answer. “Risk” is essentially just cost. Living in industrialized society it’s been confused to a pretty large degree, with such reliability in systems we have begun to believe that more than just that the sun will rise again tomorrow in the east, more than the moon will fill up every 30 suns, more than the seasons will cycle endlessly, we place our trust in a seemingly endless number of other things… so much that we think that chaos is the error.

“Risk” is essentially just “Cost”. No, that’s wrong. “Cost” is essentially just “Risk”.

In deciding something, the question is: Is it worth the cost?

These decisions aren’t in terms of “passion” or “competency”. “Just git gud” says, in this domain, literally nothing. It’s less than nothing. The equivalent of “Why don’t poor people just buy more money?”. The problem isn’t “good” or “bad”, “passion” or “laziness”, it’s that it looks silly or stupid, and the reason why it looks silly isn’t because it’s “good” or “bad”, “passion” or “laziness”, but because it’s the end result of a whole chained series of other decisions, decisions that may or may not even be known are related at time of initial inspection, that are entirely opaque if you attempt to think about the world in a just-shove-in-more-positives way.

Last month I wrote something up on Bitcoin, saying it had no future, or whatever future it and all the other cryptocurrencies had it would be at best the same as what we have now. Last month, quite a few people were talking about how all the naysayers are just naysayers (negatives are negatives), look at how they said it wouldn’t break 1 dollar, 10 dollars, 100 dollars, it’s currently 17,000, it’ll be 100,000 soon, it’ll replace fiat currencies with raww paww bux (positives are positives are positives). Since then it’s dropped about half its value to ~10,000, and I haven’t needed to say anything, because I looked into the problem structure, and analyzed it at that level which didn’t happen to change (it could’ve, but it just so happened that it didn’t). So I haven’t said anything. Granted, I lose out on all the potential profits daytrading or shorting or whatever a bubble might have, but that’s not what I commented on. I commented on the long term inherent value of such a technology, not what dollar number it might reach. Since then though, “quite a few people” have changed their tune drastically, because their analyses *were* on what dollar value it might reach. Now it’s all about how it’ll fall fall fall, sell now it’s going down, get back in when it hits 5000 or 800 or [number]. Maybe. Some of them are now saying they knew it was a scam all along and they were in just to make the quick buck.

I find it pretty obvious these people are in it to demonstrate to others that they’re an expert on the matter, rather than actually being an expert on the matter. Not that the former isn’t important, but it’s not the same as the latter; the results are not the structure. They may or may not confuse the two. If they do, then they’re high on their own supply, if they don’t, well. Now you know why Hanlon’s Razor is for tools.

People who look up to these “quite a few” though definitely do confuse the two. Just the same as people who look up to entertainment reviews, or institutional narratives for explanations, it’s always sort-of just-as the expected results, until it really, really isn’t. Look to take advantage of something when you don’t know how it works and aren’t willing to figure out how it works, the expected result is that it will do the unexpected. This isn’t to say you have to understand how everything everywhere works. No one has time for that. You have to move at the speed of everyone else, and everyone else has decided they’re going to ride airplanes without understanding how airplanes work. So onto the plane you go. Just don’t be surprised if the pilot and co-pilot can no longer operate the plane and the plane crashes.

Perhaps, before getting on the plane… before buying into bitcoin, before looking for art commissions or getting into a coding job, before moving to another country or picking a major, before seeing that movie or buying that videogame… perhaps, before you get into something, you try to look into things a bit first.

You may learn a few things.

You may not.

But you definitely won’t if you don’t look at all.

At some point in time your boarding party is called and it’s time to get inside. Plane lifts off and you’re on your way to your destination, with no further input asked of you. Everything proceeds as planned. Until it doesn’t. You notice no one is attempting to do anything about the situation. Perhaps one of the flight attendants or other passengers has more experience than you, or perhaps such people are in the bathroom. But you can only act on what you believe to be true at the time, and you believe no one is up for the task. It just so happens no one rises in your field of view, and you make your way to the cockpit.

You may, perhaps, be able to figure out the radio, and learn over the telecom clear enough information in time to have the chance to try and land safely. It’s not impossible. Happy ending if it does, and everyone wants it to happen, but the results are not the structure. The structure is: you don’t know what you’re doing…

…and you’re willing to do it.

The expected result would be that the plane crashes and everyone dies.

The decision… is to man the controls and put up a fight.

Decision Theory: The World Beyond Words

dominator destroy decomposer


“Why… Why did you do such a reckless thing?!”
“This is about finding the truth behind people’s deaths! If we want to uncover such a thing, naturally we must risk our own lives!”

Tsunemori Akane, Kogami Shinya

“I seriously doubt this, but I’d better ask… do you think you can accomplish anything with no sacrifices? You’d like it if stuff you did saved people’s lives, but you don’t wanna let a single person die, ever? Think about the fact that right now, at this very moment, there are Eishi fighting and dying all over the world. If you want to save the world, if you want to save even a single human life, then don’t you need to prove yourself as soon as possible? What is it then? You don’t mind people dying without your knowledge, but once you know about it, suddenly it’s bad?”

Tsukuyomi Mana
Muv-Luv Alternative

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“I might have to kill your son after all.”
“Guess it can’t be helped.”
“But I thought this shuttle was unarmed.”
“Yes, it’s unarmed.”
‘Then, where do you get your confidence from?”
“*laughs* This is typical of how the Abh think. It’s not as if Her Highness believes she can definitely win. There’s no sense thinking about what we’d do after we’re killed. She’s just warning me in the event that we were to win.”
“Then, what did you think, Jinto?”
“His Excellency thought that you disregarded the possibility that this ship may be destroyed.”
“Do you take me for a fool? Our chances of winning this battle are less than 10%. Of course I know that.”
“But you still choose to fight?”
“What other choice do we have?”

Lafiel Abriel, Second Baron of Febdash, Jinto Linn
Crest of the Stars

“When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.”


“The ‘Why’ is there for purely rhetorical purposes, like the ‘it’ in ‘it is raining’.”

The Last Psychiatrist

“There has to be an answer. You must not doubt that.

If you can’t believe that, why don’t you cry yourself to sleep, and then just give up and die?”

Umineko no Naku Koro Ni Chiru: End of the Golden Witch

“If that Dong Zhuo can confine the emperor to the inner palace, and toy with him as a puppet, then why can’t we look at him equally, and use him to our advantage? Within this decree I hold in my hands, is there a single phrase that is not what the emperor would like to say, but dare not say? Though this is a forgery, it is more real than a real decree. I am certain that as soon as this decree is announced throughout the realm, every treacherous man will cower in fear, and every loyal man heartened.”

Cao Cao
Romance of the Three Kingdoms

“Maybe we haven’t had enough time to prepare, and maybe this still isn’t enough power… but the people who fall back on endless excuses like those will never achieve anything.”

Kouzuki Yuuko
Muv-Luv Alternative

“There are things I just can’t do.”
“Because you never try.”
“I do the things I can as best I can.”
“And so you never accomplish anything new.”

Phosphophyllite, Antarcticite
Land of the Lustrous

“The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.”

The Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith

“Video games tend to be loathed by people who have never played them. That’s understandable, given the gore involved, but it’s a shame. In addition to their considerable ingenuity and occasional beauty, the best games provide a model for the design of software. They show how applications can encourage the development of skills rather than their atrophy. To master a video game, a player has to struggle through challenges of increasing difficulty, always pushing the limits of his talent. Every mission has a goal, there are rewards for doing well, and the feedback (an eruption of blood, perhaps) is immediate and often visceral. Games promote a state of flow, inspiring players to repeat tricky maneuvers until they become second nature. The skill a gamer learns may be trivial – how to manipulate a plastic controller to drive an imaginary wagon over an imaginary bridge, say – but he’ll learn it thoroughly, and he’ll be able to exercise it again in the next mission or the next game. He’ll become an expert, and he’ll have a blast along the way.

When it comes to the software we use in our personal lives, video games are an exception. Most popular apps, gadgets, and online services are built for convenience, or as their makers say, “usability.” Requiring only a few taps, swipes, or clicks, the programs can be mastered with little study or practice. Like the automated systems used in industry and commerce, they’ve been carefully designed to shift the burden of thought from people to computers. Even the high-end programs used by musicians, record producers, filmmakers, and photographers place an ever stronger emphasis on ease of use. Complex audio and visual effects, which once demanded expert know-how, can be achieved by pushing a button or dragging a slider. The underlying concepts need not be understood, as they’ve been incorporated into software routines. This has the very real benefit of making the software useful to a broader group of people – those who want to get the effects without the effort. But the cost of accommodating the dilettante is a demeaning of expertise.”

The Glass Cage
Nicholas Carr

“Anything that’s actually worth doing has a non-zero chance of failure and too many unknown unknowns for estimates to be useful.”

Michael O. Church

“Eren… I’d told you to wait for me downstairs!! What have you done… DO YOU EVEN REALIZE WHAT YOU DID?”


Father, Eren Jaeger
Attack on Titan

“Suppose you have two theories, A and B. Both completely different psychologically, different ideas and so on. But all the consequences they computed are exactly the same. They may even agree with the experiments. The two theories, although they sound different at the beginning, have all the consequences the same. It’s usually easy to prove by doing a little mathematics ahead of time to show that the logic of this one and this one will always give corresponding consequences. Suppose we have two such theories: how are we going to decide which one is right?

No way. Not by science. Because they both agree with experiments there’s no way to distinguish one from the other. So two theories, although they may have deeply different ideas behind them, may be mathematically identical, and usually people say then in science ‘one doesn’t know how to distinguish them’. And that’s right.

However, for psychological reasons, in order to get new theories, these two things are very far from equivalent. Because one gives a man very different ideas than another. By putting a theory in a certain kind of framework you get an idea what could change. Which in theory A would talk about something, you say I’ll change that idea here, but to find out what corresponding things you’re going to change in B could be very complicated. It may not be a simple idea. In other words, a simple change here makes maybe a very different theory than a simple change there. In other words, although they are identical before they’re changed, there are certain ways of changing one which look natural, which don’t look natural in the other. Therefore psychologically, we must keep all those theories in our head. Every theoretical physicist that’s any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics, and knows that they’re all equivalent, and that nobody is ever going to be able to decide which one is right – at that level – but he keeps them in his head, hoping that they’ll give him different ideas.

Incidentally that reminds me of another thing, and that is that the philosophy or the ideas around the theory: a lot of ideas, ‘I believe there is a space-time’ or something like that in order to discuss your analyses… these ideas change enormously when there are very tiny changes in the theory. For instance, Newton’s ideas about space and time agree with experiment very well. But in order to get to get the correct motion of the orbit of Mercury, which is a tiny tiny difference, the difference in the character of the theory with which you started with is enormous. Reason is, these are so simple, so perfect. They produce definite results. In order to get something that produces a little different results, it has to be completely different. You can’t make imperfections on a perfect thing, you have to have another perfect thing. So the philosophical ideas between Newton’s theory of gravitation and Einstein’s theory of gravitation, their differences, are enormous.

What are these philosophies? These philosophies are really tricky ways to compute consequences quickly. A philosophy, which is sometimes called an understanding of the law, is simply a way a person holds the laws in his mind so as to guess quickly at consequences.

Some people have said, and it’s true for instance in the case of Maxwell’s equations and other equations, ‘Nevermind the philosophies, nevermind anything of this kind, just guess the equations. The problem is only the compute the answers so that they agree with experiment, and it is not necessary to have a philosophy, or worry about the equations’. That’s true. In a sense. Yes, and no. It’s good in the sense if you’re only guessing at the equations, you’re not prejudicing yourself and you’ll guess better. On the other hand maybe the philosophy helps you to get it. It’s very hard to say.

For those people who insist however that the only thing that’s important is that the theory agrees with experiment, I would like to make an imaginary discussion between a Mayan astronomer and his student. The Mayans were able to calculate with great precision the predictions, for example, for eclipses and the position of the moon in the sky and Venus and so on. However it was all done by arithmetic. You count some numbers you subtract certain numbers and so on. There was no discussion of what the moon was. There wasn’t even a discussion of the idea that it went around. There was only calculate the time there would be an eclipse or a time when it would rise full moon and when it would rise half moon. Just calculated, only.

Suppose that a young man went to the astronomer and said, I have an idea. Maybe those things are going around, and they’re balls of rock, we could calculate how they move in a completely different way, rather than just what time they appear in the sky.

So of course the Mayan astronomer would say Yes, how accurate can you predict eclipses? He says I haven’t developed the thing very far. He says But we can calculate eclipses more accurately than you can with your model and so you must not pay any attention to that, this mathematical schema is better.

There’s a very strong tendency in people to say against some idea, if someone comes up with an idea, says let’s suppose the world is this way, and you say to them what would you get for the answer for such and such problem, and he says I haven’t developed it far enough, and you say well we have already developed it much further and we can get the answers very accurately.

So it is a problem as to whether or not as to worry about philosophies behind ideas.”

The Character of Physical Law
Richard Feynman

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Our objectives may be the same… however, as long as we value different things, we will choose different methods.”

Mitsurugi Meiya
Muv-Luv Alternative

“When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.”

Niels Bohr

“A trap is for fish: when you’ve got the fish, you can forget the trap. A snare is for rabbits: when you’ve got the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words are for meaning: when you’ve got the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find someone who’s forgotten words so I can have a word with him?”


“Training deals not with an object but with the human spirit and human emotions.”

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Bruce Lee

“Why don’t you just let it go? That’s all in the past, now. You’re like my mom, going all “Oh this guy was suspicious from the start!” once the culprit in her detective dramas gets revealed. What difference does it make if you don’t manage to stop me?”

Yiwu Liu #44
Terra Formars

“I’ll go buy time. We’ll have to bet that this situation will change.”

Komachi Shoukichi #3
Terra Formars

“It is a principle of the art of war that one should simply lay down his life and strike. If one’s opponent also does the same, it is an even match. Defeating one’s opponent is then a matter of faith and destiny.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“The birth of a hero is completed upon his death.”

Kusanagi Motoko
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

“Why do anti-Nazis always make fun of the fact that Himmler was a chicken farmer? First of all: there’s nothing wrong with being a chicken farmer. Second: it obviously didn’t affect his performance as head of the SS.”


“Matsudaira Izu no kami said to Master Mizuno Kenmotsu, “You’re such a useful person, it’s a shame that you’re so short.”

Kenmotsu replied, “That’s true. Sometimes things in this world don’t go the way we would like. Now if I were to cut off your head and attach it to the bottom of my feet, I would be taller. But that’s something that couldn’t be done.””

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“I have heard that most of the forces for retaking the capital will be gathered from the Secondary Defense Line and the Kantou Final Defense Line.”
“Who cares who gets to rule right now… such a damn waste of time.”

“If you are calling our nation’s sovereignty “stupid”… I cannot ignore that.”

“How are these battles for power not stupid? It’s all meaningless if humanity has no future. Squabbling over government here, on the front lines of the Far East? They should just borrow everything the UN has and squash it like a bug.”
“Then I shall ask you this. What if the UN’s objectives were heavily influenced by a particular nation’s desire for world domination? And if that state happened to be exceptionalist, and intolerant of contrary opinions, would your answer remain the same?”
“It would.”
“Humanity’s survival takes priority.”
“In that case, assuming we became able to communicate with the BETA, would you allow them to rule the world if it meant our survival?”
“No. I’m after a human victory. It’s impossible for us to coexist with the BETA.”

“Then I shall use a different analogy.

Let us say your squad, while engaging the enemy, experienced internal strife and fell into dire straits as a result. Then my unit, which happened to be deployed in the same area, came to you and offered to help resolve that strife. If you do not accept, your squad will die… but if you do, then most likely the problem will be resolved and you will win. However, accepting would force your squad to be incorporated into mine. Let us further assume this means you would all become my slaves, losing all physical and mental freedom.

Would you still accept my offer?”


“Would you accept any sort of plan if it could ensure victory?”


“Is something wrong? If fights over power are indeed “stupid”, you should be able to answer without hesitation.”

Tsukuyomi Mana, Shirogane Takeru
Muv-Luv Alternative

“He knows. But what good does that do him? He doesn’t believe it.”

Cao Cao
Romance of the Three Kingdoms

“Truth is what a person / a people believes. Everything else follows, not precedes.”

Korezaan Su
2016 December 20

“Even when our eyes are closed, there’s a whole world out there that lives outside ourselves and our dreams.”

Edward Elric
Fullmetal Alchemist

“I’ll let you decide whether I’m bluffing or not.”

Tsukuyomi Mana
Muv-Luv Alternative

“The essentials of speaking are in not speaking at all. If you think that you can finish something without speaking, finish it without saying a single word. If there is something that cannot be accomplished without speaking, one should speak with few words, in a way that will accord well with reason.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.”

Donald D Hoffman

“You’re thinking, “I don’t want to hear about how everything is interpretable through the artificial paradigm of narrative structure–” as if it was me and not your god who made it this way, as if I was better able to invent a convenient fiction that happened to apply to you rather than describe a process that’s been used for millennia. You think you’re the first? You think no one but you has lived your life? Do you think you are so unique? Do you think I just took a guess? This isn’t the first time this game has been played, there’ve been over 100 generations of Guess What Happens Next and it is the exact same answer every single time. All of this has happened before and it will happen again.

But you want “why”, you’re drawn to “why” like you’re drawn to a pretty girl in the rain. Let me guess: she has black hair, big eyes, and is dressed like an ingenue. “Why?” is the most seductive of questions because it is innocent, childlike, infinite in possibilities, and utterly devoted to you.

“Why am I this way? Why do I do what I do?” But what will you do with that information? What good is it? If you were an android, would it change you to know why you were programmed the way you were? “Why” is masturbation, “why” is the enemy, the only question that matters is, now what?”

The Last Psychiatrist

“It doesn’t matter what you know – it only matters what you can think of in time.”

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi

girls last tour arrow1

Girls’ Last Tour

“There is something to which every young samurai should pay attention in battle. During times of peace when listening to stories of battle, one should never say, “In facing such a situation, what would a person do?” Such words are out of the question. How will a man who has doubts even in his own room achieve anything on the battlefield?

There is a saying that goes, “No matter what the circumstances might be, one should be of the mind to win. One should be holding the first spear to strike.” Even though you have put your life on the line, there is nothing to be done when the situation doesn’t go as planned.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

girls last tour arrow1

Girls’ Last Tour

“I think talent is the ability to take chances, and the calm to learn from your mistakes. Skill is second to that. I’ve seen plenty others with much more skill miss great opportunities because of extreme self-consciousness or some mistaken sense of discretion.”

Sugie Shigeru

“Personally, I believe the most important thing in life is being able to take advantage of an opportunity whenever it may come. If one manages that, one can bring about positive results through later effort. However, effort alone is not guaranteed to bring about such opportunities. Those opportunities will not wait for people to be ready. If you want to accomplish something… there will be times when you must make decisions, whether or not you are prepared for them.”

Tsukuyomi Mana
Muv-Luv Extra

“An unforeseen situation… An unexpected turn of events… In the face of those, you too will face your true self.”

Makishima Shogo

“A good player tries to read out such tactical problems in his head before he puts the stones on the board. He looks before he leaps. Frequently he does not leap at all; many of the sequences his reading uncovers are stored away for future reference, and in the end never carried out. This is especially true in a professional game, where the two hundred or so moves played are only the visible part of an iceberg of implied threats and possibilities, most of which stays submerged. You may try to approach the game at that level, or you may, like most of us, think your way from one move to the next as you play along, but in either case it is your reading ability more than anything else that determines your rank.”

James Davies

“To stand atop other people… is to bear a great many responsibilities, and hand down a great many decisions. As a result, governments and organizations have different beliefs and ideals depending on their positions. People are no different. When one wishes to do something, there are inevitably some who see it as good and others who see it as evil. However, if you are able to place yourself in different positions, then all of them will appear to be right.

And… although it is sad, there may not always be a path which satisfies each and every one of their wishes… No matter what you rely on at those times, or what path you show to those below you… If you hesitate at those times… then you must have the courage to stand still and look back at how you arrived there.

And… you must never hesitate to stain your own hands with blood. Those who show others the way must not avert their eyes from the weight of responsibility.”

Koubuin Yuuhi
Muv-Luv Alternative

“Pacifism will remain an ideal, war a fact.”

Oswald Spengler

“Asking nicely never works until you have the upper hand.”

Kusanagi Motoko
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

“Victory needs no explanation, defeat allows none.”

Imperium Thought for the Day
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

“Always attack – whether it is a counterattack or an attack in response to an attack. In the time it takes to evaluate the effects of an attacker’s attack, you could have attacked. Whatever has happened has already happened, and the effect is what the effect is, and no matter the effect – if you will want to attack, attack without pausing to find out what happened to you. It takes focus to do this.

People are naturally inclined to respond more powerfully to things happening to them than to things they are doing.

This reflex must be overcome so it cannot be used against you.”

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi

“I’ve lost everything. My room, my money, my reason to live. Everything. I wish they’d just kill me.”
“No. You can’t die.”
“You’re telling me to live? Oh that’s right, you were royalty, you talk different. I’m a piece of shit at rock bottom. And you still tell me to live? No to give up hope?”

“You’ll stink if you die.”


“So don’t. Not in this tiny space.”
“That’s it?”
“That’s it.”
“How selfish are you, you bitch?”
“You’re one to talk, you loser. Hope? Do you honestly believe such a thing exists? All that exists is persecution and fighting DRAGONs every day.

Dammit. It’s almost funny. Those ignorant bastards are brimming with prejudice and bigotry. They hear I’m a Norma and they reject me like idiots. Is it THAT bad I can’t use Mana? Is it THAT bad I’m different?

It’s all a lie. Friendship, family, social bonds. AAAAAHHHH I can’t believe I said friendship is great and bonds are beautiful. I want to beat myself up.”


“Complete dumbass. Dumbasses everywhere. The world is rotten…

…How about we destroy it all?”

“I bet we could do it. With our Para-mails and Arzenal’s weapons…”
“How far do you think it is to the continent? We’ll run out of fuel, and then it’s *splash*.”
“We just have to build something that can make the trip, then.”
“What about food?”
“There’s plenty of fish. Or we could steal from the humans, if we had to.”
“And materials?”

“We’ll figure something out.”

Hildegard Schlievogt, Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi
Cross Ange: Rondo of Angels and Dragons

ange i'm not empty enough to be content with whatever you decide to give me

Cross Ange

“A person who does not want to be struck by the enemy’s arrows will have no divine protection. For a man who does not wish to be hit by the arrows of a common soldier, but rather those by a warrior of fame, there will be the protection for which he has asked.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

ange kill god

Cross Ange

“Send out all the drones we’ve got!”
“But we don’t know which path to take.”
“Try randomly! Make sure at least one drone gets through!”

Nobuchika Ginoza, Kunizuka Yayoi

Nero to Altera drown in human life


“Why are you going that far to obey the law when that law can neither judge a criminal nor protect people?”

“The law doesn’t protect people. People protect the law.

People have always detested evil and sought out a righteous way of living. Their feelings… The accumulation of those peoples’ feelings are the law. They’re neither the provisions nor the system. They’re the fragile and irreplacable feelings that everyone carries in their hearts. Compared to the power of anger or hatred, they are something that can quite easily break down. People have prayed for a better world throughout time.

In order for those prayers to continue to hold meaning, we have to try our best to protect it to the very end.”

Kogami Shinya, Tsunemori Akane

Commander to 9S what path will you take


“When the time comes, there is no moment for reasoning. And if you have not done your inquiring beforehand, there is most often shame. Reading books and listening to people’s talk are for the purpose of prior resolution.

Above all, the Way of the Samurai should be in being aware that you do not know what is going to happen next, and in querying every item day and night. Victory and defeat are matters of temporary force of circumstances. The way of avoiding shame is different. It is simply in death.

Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death.

By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

D meiya birthday

“Life is not always better than death. It is not that simple. Living and being made to survive are very different things.

What matters is what the person wants, and whether or not it can be achieved.”

Mitsurugi Meiya
Muv-Luv Unlimited

this exists solely because facebook seems to default to the final image of a post for its preview image. apparently you can control it by setting a html meta property, but that's not allowed in free wordpress. what is allowed though is putting down images in html and then setting them to not show up. so this technically is the last image - as far as facebook is concerned.