Archive for April, 2014

Future Mutation

Our first Time Spiral Press product is up on Amazon. (Yet to update the TSP site in recognition, though — Dunhuang and all.)

We put it up in a Jing’an District bar, over a few cocktails, which somehow rubbed-in the revolutionary aspect. It was hard not to imagine Rimbaud and his Absinthe-sozzled crew producing some delirious poetry and sticking it up on Kindle before the end of the evening. Amazon is going to disintermediate publishing so hard. In my experience, this fate never befalls an industry before it has abused its position to such an incredible extent that its calamity is necessarily a matter of near-universal celebration. Broadcast media, publishers, academia — into the vortex of cyber-hell they go …

 

April 10, 2014admin 4 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Philosophy
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Scrap note (#9)

I’m back in the Chinese West, this time with the family (nuclear plus mother-in-law). As I write I’m on the train from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, fabulously renowned for its Buddhist caves. It’s re-bonding-with-the-tablet time, then, which is a mechanical challenge – mostly due to incredibly dysfunctional cursor control, which I know everyone is on tenterhooks to hear more about …

… so, 24-hours later, there’s not much in the way of gripping travel news to report. We’re heading to the Mogao Caves tomorrow, which should be worth talking about. Up to now it’s been desert and donkey-meat and the general weirdness of the Chinese West, but with a mind oozing uselessly like gritty mud, it doesn’t add up to anything remotely profound. Perhaps later.

The thing I want to introduce tentatively here, because it has to be re-introduced more thoroughly quite soon, is hyperstition, and in particular; hyperstitional method. I’m getting the strong sense that there are things it simply won’t be possible to do otherwise. (I’ll try to explain.)

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April 10, 2014admin 21 Comments »
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Distributors

It’s time for another (quick) Umlaut rave. There’s no getting around it after reading this, then following the back-link to this, and being reminded somehow that this comparatively obscure online magazine has somehow rounded up two of the half-dozen or less people in the world who really get what Bitcoin is going to do to this planet. (I’d say “two-and-a-half” — but with no disrespect to Adam Gurri, his soul just isn’t in it, which is to say: terminally distributed.)

After reading this stuff, it’s easy to think that the only meaningful role for anything else on the right is to run interference while ‘Bitcoin’ (i.e. a-centric digital crypto-commerce) consummates the destiny of capitalism. The intelligence gulf between the emerging Bitcoin machinery and legacy political controversy now yawns so abysmally that inherited conceptions of ‘activism’ have become low comedy. Poke at Bitcoin with a political stick and it slithers sideways while turning more feral — the ‘instinct’ for that is already locked in. The confused idiots who are trying to manage human societies today will almost certainly make it into a monster. Since I don’t like them very much, it doesn’t upset me to see it stealthing into the shadows, with venomous claws emerging. It will be darkly amusing to see it coming at them out of Hell.

April 8, 2014admin 46 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Technology
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Demo-babble

Fred Hiatt on the ‘cold war’ still raging in Hong Kong:

Anson Chan …  rose through the prestigious Hong Kong civil service to the top appointed position of chief secretary, resigning in 2001 when she felt the chief executive was allowing Beijing to chip away at Hong Kong’s core values: rule of law, a level playing field and freedom of press, speech and association. Since then, she said, democracy’s hold has grown more precarious … 

Did you spot the subtle non sequitur? (To resolve it requires some understanding of the fact that the precise, technical meaning of ‘democracy’ to experts like Hiatt is ‘nice Westernish stuff we like’.)

April 8, 2014admin 4 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Democracy , Discriminations
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Quote notes (#71)

F. Roger Devlin reviews Gregory Clark’s latest book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility at American Renaissance:

China, which saw enormous social upheaval in the 20th century, provides yet another perspective. Under Mao, much of the country’s elite was killed or exiled. The rest were subject to discrimination and excluded from the Communist Party. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao tried to turn the social scale upside down by shipping prominent people to the countryside to work in rice paddies. If political intervention can create higher social mobility, it would have done so in China.

Yet once discrimination against “class enemies” was abolished shortly after Mao’s death, those with surnames characteristic of the pre-communist elite quickly began to rise again. Today, they are greatly over-represented even in the Communist Party. Those descended from the “workers and peasants” favored under Mao have quickly seen their status erode. Recent social mobility in China has been no greater than it was under the Emperors.

Anyone who doesn’t find their presuppositions shaken by Clark’s work is probably not paying attention. If those out here in the NRx think it conforms neatly to their expectations that heredity is strongly determining of social outcomes — are they comfortable proceeding to evidence-based acknowledgement that socio-economic regime-type seems entirely irrelevant to the (uniformly low) level of social mobility? Clark himself draws the curve-ball conclusion: so why not be a social democrat? It’s not as if rational incentives make any difference anyway.

(I’ll be looking for the opportunity to dig into this stuff at least a little, as soon as I catch a moment.)

April 7, 2014admin 18 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations , Political economy
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Chaos Patch (#10)

I’m seconds away from embarking upon True Detective — highly psyched. [First episode was — indeed — awesome. So far, in the running for the best TV show ever.]

Much other chaos (including shoggoth, crypto-currencies, and child management).

So Chaos Patch …

ADDED: How about telling me what we’re not talking about enough?

ADDED: Among the things provoking thought at my end right now, are shoggothic modernity, and block-chain governance. (I’m trying to keep them from running into each other too much, too quickly.)

ADDED: Hugely enjoyed butting in on the PAF event — not a vast amount of shoggothism, but a delightful opportunity to chat with some thoughtful people about time, capital, artificial intelligence, and what the hell is this neoreaction bullshit (?).

April 4, 2014admin 61 Comments »
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Suey Park Unplugged

Some instant-classic comedy at Salon.

(via @CineRobert)

April 4, 2014admin 15 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations , Pass the popcorn
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Expected Unknowns

Nouriel Roubini has a short article up at Project Syndicate on The Changing Face of Global Risk, replacing the top six dangers of recent years with an equal number of new ones. There’s nothing remarkably implausible about it, but neither is it irresistibly convincing.

This type of forecast, were it reliable, would be of inestimable value. To some considerable degree it is simply inescapable, since there must always be default expectations (of the kind occasionally formalized as Bayesian priors). When specific probability-weighted predictions are not made, future-sensitive agents do not fall back upon poised skepticism — such Pyrrhonism is a philosophico-mystical attainment of extreme rarity. Instead, presumed outcomes are projected out of sheer inertia, whether as perpetuation of the status quo, or the mechanical extrapolation of existing trends. It takes only a moment of reflection to recognize that such tacit forecasts are at least as precarious as their more elaborate alternatives. Their only recommendation is an irrational mental economy, which would find in the least-effort of cognition some analogy with the superficially equivalent (but in this case informative) principle in nature.

Large-scale forecasting cannot be eschewed, but there are obvious reasons why it cannot be greatly trusted. It has no definite methods (relying for its credibility on hazy reputational capital). Its objects are complex, chaotic, and — once again — poorly defined. It has a restricted time frame, appropriate to gradually emerging developments constrained (to some degree) by historical precedent, but necessarily inadequate to radical innovation and to sudden, rapidly evolving events. The combination of these various blindnesses with a high-impact chance event produces the nightmare of the forecasters — (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s) black swan.

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April 3, 2014admin 11 Comments »
FILED UNDER :World
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Conservatives

AoS two days in a row, which is a sign that I like the place. It’s far smarter than it attempts to appear, which is always attractive, and it’s among the wittiest blogs I know (by which I mean painfully funny, quite often). There are also writers at AoS that I almost agree with, but when they’re reaching the line, or threshold of escape, and are just about to cross over into the open country beyond, something catches them — and you know it’s going to pull them back in. Conservatism has them hooked.

Ace is a comparative squish in his own house. Some of his comrades are considerably meaner, so they get out further. It’s one of Ace’s own pieces that triggers this, though.

Writing about the attempt by Mozilla employees to purge CEO Brendan Eich from the company he built, he notes that the only ‘ground’ floated for this effort is private, discreet political speech, in the form of a small donation made to the successful (anti-gay marriage) Proposition 8 campaign, six years ago. Their attack on Eich — conducted through Twitter — is a contrary type of political speech, more attuned to the PC Zeitgeist, but in every other way less defensible. If anyone is going to be fired, why shouldn’t it be the twitterati lynch mob? Ace muses. (Good question.)

The post concludes with the lucid observation:

The left has laid down the rule that their political rights shall never been infringed by an economic penalty, because McCarthyism. While they meanwhile demand the exact same sort of McCarthyism for everyone else.

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April 2, 2014admin 37 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations
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Quote notes (#70)

AoS speaks for me on this:

There are two types of people: Those who only sometimes procrastinate those who are so inclined to it that it creates havoc in their lives. Lately, I tend to be the latter of the two. […] My procrastination has been so bad today that I actually researched “procrastination” in order to procrastinate a bit longer. Then, I tweeted about my procrastination in order to drag it out even further. Then, others joined in, and it was clear that I am far from the only one. […] Well, the fine folks at The Next Web blog have posted a very timely article on the science of procrastination …

Procrastination is a time-based phenomenon, so I’m sure there’s a gripping philosophical angle, if only it were possible to extract some cognitive resources from the labyrinth of digression. Seriously, there’s a major procrastination post coming … some time later (i.e. as soon as practically possible, which always means at the last, sleep-starved minute).

The essence of procrastination (at least for me): this is far too urgent to deal with right now.

April 1, 2014admin 9 Comments »
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