The World Beyond Words

“I’m not really interested in truth. Truth relies 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

Fate/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

4chan/v/

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

NieR:Automata

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

NieR:Automata

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?

Yes.

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

Psycho-Pass

“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
Psycho-Pass

“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.”

Hagakure
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?”
“Confidence?”
“*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?”
“Well…”
“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.”

Confucius

“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?”

EVA-Beatrice
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?”

“MERELY PUT DOWN SOME RABID DOGS! SOMETIMES THEY JUST HAPPEN TO LOOK LIKE PEOPLE!”

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

“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?”

Zhuangzi

“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.”

Hagakure
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.”

Unknown

“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.””

Hagakure
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.”
“Oh?”
“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.”

Hagakure
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
Musashi Miyamoto

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.”

Hagakure
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
Shirobako

“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
Psycho-Pass

“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.”

Tesuji
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

“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.”

“Huh?”

“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.”

“Dumbass.”

“Complete dumbass. Dumbasses everywhere. The world is rotten…

…How about we destroy it all?”

“Huh?”
“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.”

Hagakure
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
Psycho-Pass

Nero to Altera drown in human life

Fate/EXTELLA

“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
Psycho-Pass

Commander to 9S what path will you take

NieR:Automata

“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.”

Hagakure
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.

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A Lie Stronger Than Truth

“Why so many people compare [Houseki no Kuni] to Nier automata?
The only similarity I see is the post apocalyptic setting”

“empty world
pretty girls
simple enemies
simple motivation
then you find out everything about everything you knew was wrong.

and everyone knew.

everyone but you.

and yet, there was a reason. a reason that, no matter how much you try to fight, you can’t win. people before you saw through it, but they too could find no other way. a lie, but a lie that’s stronger than the truth.

knowing that, what will you do?”

9s vs a2

Confidence and Conflict

laphos gentle persuasion

Once upon a time, when I found out someone contradicted themselves, I got really really mad. I’d get mad, and I’d stay mad as long as the contradiction existed. Which it always did. And when it didn’t, it was obviously a PR apology, so the original contradiction would be replaced by another more unclear sort.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me to pay attention to what the givens actually were. Person said statement A, given. Person said statement Not-A, given. Statement A and statement Not-A have a resolution — given. Person is good and honest — not given. Media interviewed Person for some reason, given. Media interviewed Person for reason they stated, not given. Entity made contradiction because of stupidity or error — not given.

This hasn’t solved any contradictions specifically, but it has led to an orderly process: “inspect the givens to determine where the contradiction lies”. “Where” – it’s either in me, or it’s not in me. If it’s in me, then it’s a matter of reflection. If it’s not in me, then I have linked someone’s name to danger.

Either way, getting mad is no longer part of the equation. No more mental equivalent of pointless rioting, because the problem structure has been identified. And one of the results of the structure is: enemies exist only on the outside.

If the self was a nation, this would be unification.

Detecting Enemies: Houseki no Kuni

Tumblr says Houseki no Kuni writer Haruko Ichikawa makes money from writing stories glorifying incest and pedophilia.

I don’t know whether this is true.

However, I do know how Tumblr has reacted to allegations of incest and pedophilia in the past, and their reactions in the past were exactly the opposite of how they’re reacting now; namely, “Let’s put a P on that LGBT”.

phos

So what I know, having spent negligible time and energy on the information, is that not only is there something else other than The Truth going on, I know they know something else is going on, they find that thing more important, and they intend to deceive everyone by going into significant detail on the “Truth” of something which they do not find important.

Following that are two questions: Do I agree that the other thing is more important than truth? and Do I support or oppose them?

This isn’t a difficult problem. The thing that’s more important than truth is reputation, and the corresponding goal is character assassination. People understand these things intuitively, they just forget because the battleground itself always deals in the language of truth. They forget, and don’t remember, because attention is being actively and continuously being paid to the wrong thing and only the wrong thing.

To consider truth as if truth alone is how you win a battle of truth is like thinking as long as you have more bullets than the enemy you will win a battle of military combat (extended: writing more words makes a better story, painting more detail makes a better picture, doing more work makes a better project, etc.). Yes, “all things being equal” he who has more truth wins, and if truth itself really is overwhelming, then nothing else matters.

“All things being equal” just happens to be a really bad assumption, and the “truth itself” in question is almost invariably guaranteed to be weak.

Truth’s purpose, in an engagement, is first and foremost to be shot at the enemy. Or more correctly: Things should be examined first and foremost in their potential to do damage to the enemy, and Truth is one among many items.

It may be sensible or even agreeable to refrain from using certain items. Nonetheless, this is the correct framework. It is, at the very least, a more correct framework than “But is it true?”.

antarcticite

Feynman on Understanding

transcription of excerpt of video lecture of Richard Feynman


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.

Mindsets, Bitcoin, and The Future You Wished For

After 2 days and 200 USD in Bitcoin, I have come to the conclusion that “cryptocurrencies” are not ‘digital gold’, their future as ‘digital cash’ is infeasible, and the endeavor as a whole is not worth my time.

That being said I learned a lot about what Bitcoin et. all actually are, and have a much better idea on what’s going on now that I have spent time and money on it. Was it worth that much to learn that I don’t care about this thing that’s popular? Maybe not.

I learned a bunch of other things too. And those were definitely worth it.


In one phrase, the problem with “cryptocurrencies” is: “blockchain scalability problem”.

The original aim of bitcoin to be a decentralized currency where no one needs to go to some preset central authority figure is due to its central technology, called the “blockchain”. No one owns any amount of items called “bitcoins” specifically; what they own when they have a private key is access to withdraw from the value of a cell on a spreadsheet. The blockchain is this spreadsheet. Everyone has a copy of the blockchain, the blockchain records all transactions and all accounts that ever exist, and so, no one needs to go to someone else to tell them they do or do not have, are or are not allowed to withdraw, send, or otherwise use their bitcoins, because everyone knows how much is in each cell, and who’s allowed into which cell is secured by “cryptography”. The blockchain also makes bitcoin extremely difficult to counterfeit, along with a number of other really neat features I won’t get into.

The problem is that everyone needs to have a copy of the blockchain.

This blockchain has a size, and that size is currently 150gb.

bitcoin blockchain size at 150gb

Think about how fast bitcoin has grown in relation to USD; that’s basically how fast it will grow in relation to your hard drive – supposing everything stays approximately the way it is. There’s a couple of proposals to change this, either in bitcoin itself or in one of the other couple thousands of “altcoins”, all of which either

  1. spell the death of decentralization for bitcoin on the code level, or
  2. make it significantly easier to counterfeit or any of the other problems that make a thing not a currency.

That being said, bitcoin is basically centralized as it is. Bitcoin is not a permanent protocol, do not think of it as like actual gold, there’s people out there who are or aren’t part of the official Bitcoin team and they write code and put it up on github, have conventions talking about what should or shouldn’t be done, and then when things are put into place people can choose to update to one or another or not update at all. It’s democratic, as some people like to call it. “No central authority”, so says their wiki.

That doesn’t mean no authority at all.

Bitcoin wiki screenshot: Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority: transaction management and money issuance are carried out collectively by the network.

The people who get to choose though are those who keep the blockchain – which about 10~100k people have today, fewer and fewer people will have as time goes on. And even amongst those who keep the blockchain it’s not equal; the miners do more deciding than /g/oe Schmoe, even if /g/oe Schmoe himself is a miner, because “the” miners in this case are two or three Chinese guys running computers that fill up multiple entire purpose-built buildings. If these guys want something to change on bitcoin, it will happen eventually. If they don’t want something to happen, it won’t. You can vote, so long as you have the blockchain. Your vote means as much in bitcoin as it does in the usual sense. The 51% rule is as you remember it.

The proposed suggestion for the blockchain scalability problem that doesn’t make it easier to counterfeit etc. say that it should be localized to some extent; that rather than seek confirmation from basically all blockchains out there, to not having to seek it if it’s local. This just means centralization. Whatever local(s) blockchain you refer to so you don’t have to do it yourself, now have a say in whether or not you get to do what you want. It becomes online banking, basically. There may or may not be more banks than there are now, they may or may not be the same banks that there are now, and they’ll all be global. These are minor details, considering that banks and global banks run everything as is. I suppose it’d be BTC banks and not USD banks that run everything. I don’t know if that means anything.

The big difference is that with bitcoin though is it’s trivially easy to find out how people use their money. USD, or fiat currency in general, is accepted as legitimate money (as opposed to counterfeit) because of physical appearance if it’s cash, and because of centralized VISA servers if it’s digital. Bitcoin is accepted as legitimate because you can trace lineage of every coin and account back to the first ever transaction.

That includes all of yours.


I’ve had the opportunity to see bitcoin from a few very different perspectives. Usually when “different perspectives” is conceptualized it’s like “red team” vs “blue team”: basically identical except for one thing, and that one thing is what decides who’s who and what’s what. This happens to have been true in US politics for at least 20 years (except for maybe Trump, which is why we got a lot more noise, but probably not Trump, because we’re getting a lot less noise these days), and it’s definitely reinforced by the price system, which has existed for maybe a hundred years. I’m not sure why it’s so pervasive. There seems to be a number of other ideas linked to this too, like how all knowledge can and should be equally accessible to everyone, and that possession or usage of something never changes the user…

In any case I think that’s a load of shit.

The most popular way to think about bitcoin is that it’s some kind of foreign currency. Or a stock. Which is why we have all these people coming in buying things up and sending it above 10,000:1::BTC:USD. They may have heard some word sounding like “kryptonite” here or there but all they’re really looking for is whether or not their Coinbase/Blockfolio/etc. balance number goes up or down relative to USD (and, by extension, their own currency, if it’s not the USD). They don’t care about how or why bitcoin or some other altcoin goes up or down. It’s not that they don’t “want” to put in the time or effort to learn about things. It’s that such a concept doesn’t even occur to them. These people will think in terms of “buy low sell high”, think that bubbles are inherent and incomprehensible, and simply a matter of timing entries and exits. They see money, they want money, they will clamor for money.

The other common way I’ve seen bitcoin is as a middle finger to the current world order. Buying bitcoin is a matter of having or signalling belief in a future, one which looks very different to the one we have today. Security, privacy, freedom, any number of ideas are the things that are important, not what dollar value it happens to be at this moment. And as a result some of these people go into mining themselves, many of them look into the background of the technology and people behind certain altcoins before putting their money in them. I don’t know much about investing, but if that one video of Shkreli’s I watched was how real investors invest, then these people would be investors. The previous group is apparently commonly called speculators.

These are not the same type of people, they do not do the same types of things; they are only “basically identical except for one thing” only in that they are words with different spellings; don’t confuse the name for the real thing. All those guys talking about how we’re 99% same DNA and 100% same stardust don’t have your interest in understanding in mind.

I approached it with a little interest in making money and a little interest in doing something outside the current economic system, though I’d like to think the majority of it was attempting to understand what was going on with this nearly-20,000USD thing that used to be worth 10,000-to-1pizza instead.

I spent 20 hours (including nonsense time) reading up on things, then I bought 200USD worth. Then read another 13 hours before I decided the endeavor was a failure. The 20 beforehand was general research on what to research, how bitcoin worked internally, and what names/sites/programs to use in what order in order to obtain them. The 13 after contained some experimentation time and largely revolved around finding out what exactly it meant to “have” bitcoins and what handles of control I had on it. The second experiment was when I deemed it to be a failure. 4 or 5 of the 13 occurred after as posthumous research.

The two experiments were:

  • Moving bitcoin from Coinbase.com to a “paper wallet”
  • Moving bitcoin from the “paper wallet” to an “Electrum” “hot wallet”.

The two results were:

  • Coinbase had a seemingly flat fee of ~15USD. Transfer time was ~15 minutes.
  • Electrum had a fee slider, to which the minimum was ~8USD. Transfer time was ~90 minutes.

At this point I already knew I couldn’t be bothered with day trading altcoins because I found out constantly staring at graphs was boring, and I knew constantly or even generally keeping up with news on what coin is doing what would not be interesting. Apparently just money does not motivate me. Finding out the results of the tests sealed the deal. I didn’t find out about this fees thing either until after I had bought it already because apparently no one in my research decided it was important to talk about. That was whatever since it made sense that such a thing existed since fees exist generally as a human interaction cost, and I knew bitcoin should be thought of more as a global spreadsheet cell than cash in hand. But 8USD and 90 minutes was simply not acceptable. Knowing that such a thing was caused by the blockchain being so large, that bitcoin automatically slows down to miners trying to upgrade their equipment so that they’re always in an arms race (this is why GPU prices have skyrocketed), and that the blockchain (along with times and fees) will only ever grow larger, made me decide it was a lost cause. Well, unless they change the code and make it so that people go to “localized” Lightning Networks or whatever. In which case it’s just online banking and you don’t own the stuff. Which also means it’s a lost cause.

I was looking for something I would consider digital cash or digital gold.

I did not find it.

What I found was something that may, sometime in the future, become online banking, like Steam or Amazon store credit, except with the ability to go un-fee’d across borders. Of the ones I looked into, the eventual winner of that seems like it’s going to be Ripple (because banks are literally behind it). Bitcoin’s prevalence appears to be largely because it was the original and a lot of people know about it. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it has all the problems that I’ve talked about above. As far as I’m concerned it means bitcoin is not digital gold, it is not digital cash, it is just really really shitty online banking with really high fees. Where it isn’t shitty online banking with high fees, i.e. when you have your stuff on an exchange, it’s day trading and stock gambling, and I don’t care to lose any of my dollarydoos to a “hack” or whatever else excuse they come up with to make off with my money. I suppose there’s also things like moving money without it being seen by capital controls (at least, not without a hefty amount of work) and funding people normal online payment systems won’t fund.

Moving money without it being seen by capital controls and funding things normal payment systems won’t fund: the demand for these determine the true value of bitcoin.

I don’t think it’s fair to say bitcoin “is” money laundering, but seems to be the primary role it fulfills. “Doing things governments don’t want you to do with money, and/or across borders”. Not that this is a bad thing, it simply presents no benefits to someone trying to buy things off, say, Amazon or Steam, which seems to be something that needs to be possible for something to be a replacement currency. It’s one thing if Amazon/Steam don’t accept your currency, it’s another if people don’t want to use it because of internal issues. If you hold the bitcoins, you have to wait 20~90 minutes plus some ever-growing fee; if you don’t, then it’s online banking with a different set of three letters. I’m not so sure about its comparison to gold. I suppose it is easier and probably will always be faster for bitcoin to be verified than gold to be verified, or even to find someone to verify your gold.

But gold and cash have many other benefits, simply because they are not digital.

The main and so far only practical use of cryptocurrency is getting around financial system countermeasures. This means primarily muh weed &c.

You send bitcoin, they send you weed in the mail. PROBLEM: If you can send weed in the mail, you can just send fucking cash. And people do send cash, including overseas to other countries, in exchange for weed and other illegal shit.

Why the do you want to do this transaction over the internet? We must understand that all the networks are compromised right down to the bone, and that throttling or delaying or cutting off connections is pretty damn trivial? Meatspace is so so SO much more secure it’s unbelievable. Cash is amazing compared to cryptocurrency for shady or criminal doings, compared to any online transaction! The internet is a great way to find sellers and instructions, I don’t see how it is or has to be a great way of carrying illegal transactions.

[…] People are way too infatuated with information technology. Information technology is good for communicating. That’s mostly it. It’s for jabbering. Which now includes sending hyper-HD 360 3D videos, which isn’t much of a practical upgrade. It doesn’t really matter that much. Never will.

When you do things on computers, especially online, you leave indelible trails that are permanent, very shallow, very cheap to access. Meatspace trails are temporary, deep, expensive to access. What you send, what is delivered, what is handed off is impossible to detect and prove without expensive and time sensitive meatspace operations.

That’s not to say that some decentralized IT currency meme can’t be interesting, but BTC definitely isn’t it. You want something that you can run on a rooted phone, and be self contained there. You need hundreds of GB and lots of time for confirmations to verify transactions yourself with Bitcoin. Storage footprint and latency need to be improved by orders of magnitude. Then UX also needs to be vastly improved. But that will all be to get a product that is still vastly inferior to cash in terms of security and reliability.

The argument for cryptocurrency, essentially, is that the state is incapable of cracking down on a technology, even if said technology threatens to undermine the state’s whole economic power. Judging by the way that the state crushes neo-Nazis and casually demolishes buildings and suchlike, I suspect that this an unreasonable proposition.

Regular, present-day currency is rooted in the idea that every dollar has a physical manifestation in a form of a piece of paper issued by the Federal Reserve Third Bank of the United States, and that whoever physically holds this paper is the possessor of its value. The cooler features of the financial system, things bank accounts, checks, credit cards, and more recently Apple Pay, are all built upon this fundamental logic. It’s nice, because money has been around forever, and anybody can physically hold paper and understand how it works, and it’s completely ad-hoc: it’s difficult enough (and dangerous enough) to fake a physical dollar that it rarely happens, and so there is no supertotalitarian Great Ledger in the Sky.

Cryptocurrency is something completely different. Cryptocurrency is rooted in the idea that mostly anonymous, effectively untraceable cash just isn’t cool anymore, maaan, so we need to move our means of exchange from human-friendly meatspace into NSA-friendly cyberspace. Oh, and because bits are super easy to fake, we need to use hand-wavy algorithms incomprehensible to normal human beings to build One Computer System in order to keep a perfect historical record of literally every transaction ever, viewable and Big Data-izable to anyone and everyone (or just your friendly neighborhood CIAniggers). And, oh yeah, if you’re ever hacked even once ever, or you forget your password, or your drunkenly change your password, or you’re scopolamined, then say goodbye to your life’s savings, ‘cuz you ain’t gittin’ it back, suckahh.

And if the government ever sinks its long, grasping talons into the One True Ledger, or simply issues its own virtual currency and outlaws the rest (can you say: adoption rate?), then yes, fuck you, you filthy heretic, you will be shunned by all of humanity, and good luck buying a house or a car or food at the grocery, or getting your children into not-nigguh-skool.

Apparently there’s a number of other differences, like “counterparty risk”. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but in the context of bitcoin I understand it to mean:

“If I send you gold/cash and you don’t give me the goods, I can shoot you in the head and find the gold/cash/goods myself. Or call the cops. Or someone. Might take time and effort, but it is possible.

If I send you bitcoin and you don’t give me the goods, and you decide that you’d rather lose the bitcoins than give me anything and go delete the key, no amount of torturing you or hacking your computer can get them back. It’ll be there on the blockchain, but no one can touch it again. Forever.”

Pretty big deal.

I think.

And I can only act on what I think, so that’s what I’ll do.

girls last tour creature: Things I can't eat don't have value, nom, nom.


As for the other altcoins they generally look like scams at most likely or nonsense at best.

Why would anyone care about, say, Musicoin? Musicoin, the site, says it streams music if users use Musicoin, the blockchain currency. Wow! Isn’t technology amazing? Why would I use a Chuck-E-Cheese token except it works at iTunes I mean Musicoin instead of Chuck-E-Cheese? I’ll take MP3s, thanks. Not iTunes MP3/AACs, those mysteriously disappear off my hard drive if I stop paying them. On that note, not Musicoin MP3s either.

Now if this isn’t a scam and it’s nonsense instead (which I don’t believe because Hanlons’ Razor is for tools), it’s pretty depressing nonsense. The selling point of the site to musicians is that there’s no middleman: There are no intermediaries in the Musicoin platform. You get to keep every last cent of your income. No intermediary. Except Musicoin. Your problems aren’t being washed away, they’re just being rearranged. That you can set each member of your three-man band to get 33% of the money just means you’re less likely to work together and more likely to be extremely suspicious if something screws up in benefit of one of you.

Maybe on the larger scope of things labels and middlemen doing hollywood accounting take out enough of a chunk for these to be much nicer problems to have, but these problems don’t disappear. This stuff isn’t magic. Either Musicoin, the site, or Musicoin miners and nodes control will control (the politics of) the inflation rate. How much do you want to bet labels today will be Musicoin miners tomorrow? And you’ll probably still have to convert back to fiat to buy stuff, or maybe not, because if this or blockchains in general ever get big you can bet that every large online retailer will be in on the currency exchange moneytrain. Musicoin, and any other blockchains like it, are the hope and likelihood of having more money now, at the cost of not being able to figure out who’s getting shafted when later because a bunch of numbers of inflation and fee rates is more difficult to visualize than just one.

Is it better to know you’re getting shafted and how much? Or better to know you’re getting shafted but not how much?

In general I just smell a lot of trouble in a future with blockchains.

Along my research (the 20 not the 13, if that matters) I found something that, at the time, I wrote off as just painting a story, but stories reveal the intentions of the author, and even more importantly they reveal what the author believes to be so immutably true they are confident that it will come through in the message they’re encoding to come out as truer than the words they speak.

This passage comes from Erik Voorhees, one of the great priests of blockchains becoming functions of society:

Peer just slightly into the future…

The reputational value of a parent’s Identity Token will be leveraged as collateral for a car loan. Access to the car, once purchased, will be transferred to the owner’s daughter via a blockchain key. In the car, the daughter will play the latest Taylor Swift single, tokenized in limited quantity for her Number 1 fans, which she acquired by bartering her tokenized Candy Crush trophy earned the prior day. This single, it should be noted, is streamed to the car over a P2P network, seeded by a man in Toronto with spare bandwidth, paid in real time with Platform Tokens that he intends to use to buy pizza, once he acquires 10,000 of them.

Now that I’m here and having written down enough of my thoughts, I have remembered why this is absolutely not the future I desire. I’ve also remembered enough of the thought to go looking for the original – which I have found, successfully.

“A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems.

When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster and farther than a walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion.

When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace; one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional.

Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop to wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway.

[…] When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he choices, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.”

The author of this quote ran it to its logical end and called for the destruction of all industrial civilization. I don’t quite agree that everything is all bad, in this specific example I think with proper urban planning the train offers more freedom to man than a car or just walking alone. But the point of technological progress is true: it’s mandatory.

It’s not a choice. It’s not freedom. How could blockchains be freedom when they chain you to the internet and, in theory, literally everyone? “If we are all enslaved then we are all free”? Have I heard this definition of freedom somewhere before? Yes, the blockchain makes it so that you don’t have to go to a bank or a government to say your money is real and you can use it. Now you can and, soon if Voorhees’ vision becomes true, must rely on absolutely everyone instead. If blockchains happen to go the Lightning Network route and become like online banking then maybe not much will change. If they go that route and there’s multiple of them (applecoin, steamcoin, amazoncoin, etc.), maybe life will be a bit more complicated. But if we have the ultimate dream of decentralization, where everyone has effectively infinite digital storage and power… anyone in the world can look at your entire history. At any time. You think we’re hearing a little bit too often about women complaining about rape now, wait till everyone gets a look at everyone else’s money history.

Maybe I have it wrong. I hope I have it wrong. But that’s the future I see. Not a future where I’m magically rich and retire young from day trading these things barely anyone understands. Not a future where the USD collapses and it’s raww paww land forever. Banks or some other institution would take over and run things, business as usual, except worse because of these new doohickeys and because they no longer have to answer to governments or even paper, and there’s no more frontier for people to go to to build up for years or decades their own little city or army to come back and strike when opportunity arises. We got a demonstration of what happens when you try that in the era of airplanes and telecommunications and they didn’t even screw with anyone; it was called Rhodesia. If you try it in America, the FBI will (statistically) have an inside man by the time you hit 4 people. If you try it outside of America, Russia, or China, it’ll take a few people longer, and rather than the FBI it’ll be someone that makes you wish it was the FBI. So to stop it it’s either revolution, in which case institutions probably win, if they don’t then outside institutions win; or hope that the institutions do the right and moral thing for the good of the people with new technologies.

Or hope for a solar flare to burn all the grids.

An Act of God.

Or hope that blockchains fail to catch on as currency. I think I’ll get on that boat. That sounds the easiest. Given that bitcoin is already burning the grids as it is, it’s not too implausible. We’ve heard about VR and a bunch of other hip tech nonsense that hasn’t caught on for a while, hopefully this too will just be a bubble.

In the meantime I’ll stick to stuff I see and understand and stuff my great-grandfathers could’ve seen and understood, thanks.

hehcoin is made of cardboard