Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Quote note (#335)

America’s new court prophet explains:

We live in an increasingly volatile and primal era, in which history is speeding up and liberal democracy is weakening. As Vladimir Lenin wrote, “In some decades, nothing happens; in some weeks, decades happen.” Get ready for the creative destruction of public institutions, something every society periodically requires to clear out what is obsolete, ossified and dysfunctional — and to tilt the playing field of wealth and power away from the old and back to the young. Forests need periodic fires; rivers need periodic floods. Societies, too. That’s the price we must pay for a new golden age. […] If we look at the broader rhythms of history, we have reason to be heartened, not discouraged, by these trends. Anglo-American history over the past several centuries has experienced civic crises in a fairly regular cycle, about every 80 or 90 years, or roughly the length of a long human life. This pattern reveals itself in the intervals separating the colonial Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and World War II. Fast-forward the length of a long human life from the 1930s, and we end up where we are today.

Most ominously:

Despite a new tilt toward isolationism, the United States could find itself at war. I certainly do not hope for war. I simply make a sobering observation: Every total war in U.S. history has occurred during a Fourth Turning, and no Fourth Turning has yet unfolded without one.

February 27, 2017admin 6 Comments »
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Quote note (#276)

Fernandez on the escalation of irreversibility:

In Orwell’s view the mutability of the past was the foundation of tyranny. “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” To ensure this the Ministry of Truth was honeycombed with Memory Holes into which any inconvenient fact could be dropped and be disappeared. […] But just to illustrate how things have changed for the State we now know that Orwell was wrong. The mathematically dominant method for recording transactions, whether they involve the transfer of financial assets, intellectual property, health records or any type of information is probably going to be the blockchain. It has three important properties. First the entire record can be reproduced by anyone from a Genesis cryptographic starting such that all records will have the same signature if and only if they are the same. Second, no part of the record can be altered without regenerating the entire block chain from the beginning. Third, it is impossible to rewrite the block chain without incurring enormous real costs in electricity and computing power, as guaranteed by the laws of thermodynamics. […] The first property means that blockchain by nature it is a public ledger. The second ensures the database can only be falsified in its entirety. The third makes it prohibitively expensive to do so. …

There are still countless fools advising Cnut the Great to defy the waves, but time is not on their side.

August 20, 2016admin 28 Comments »


(Image source: Amy Ireland.)

Paul A. David provides the theoretical backstory, in his essay ‘Clio and the Economics of QWERTY’:

A path-dependent sequence of economic changes is one of which important influences upon the eventual outcome can be exerted by temporally remote events, including happenings dominated by chance elements rather than systematic forces. Stochastic processes like that do not converge automatically to a fixed-point distribution of outcomes, and are called non-ergodic. In such circumstances ‘historical accidents’ can neither be ignored, nor neatly quarantined for the purpose of economic analysis; the dynamic process itself takes on an essentially historical character. […] Touch typing gave rise to three features of the evolving production system which were crucially important in causing QWERTY to become ‘locked in’ as the dominant keyboard arrangement. These features were technical interrelatedness, economies of scale, and quasi-irreversibility of investment. They constitute the basic ingredients of what might be called QWERTYnomics.

The format of the Qwerty keyboard illustrates the production of a destiny. Even in the epoch succeeding the mechanical type-writer, and its specific design imperatives, the legacy layout of alphanumeric keys settled during the 1890s has remained frozen into place without significant revision. In the language of complex systems analysis, this is a special example of path-dependency, or irreducible historicity, characterized by irreversibility. Qwerty persists – arguably, as a suboptimal keyboard solution – due to identifiable ratchet-effects. Based upon this privileged model, the historical, technological, and economic process of ‘lock in’ through positive feedback is called QWERTY-nomics (and — going forward — simply ‘Qwernomics’).

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August 18, 2016admin 36 Comments »
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Quote note (#272)

Frederick Jackson Turner, from his essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893):

From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual traits of profound importance. The works of travelers along each frontier from colonial days onward describe certain common traits, and these traits have, while softening down, still persisted as survivals in the place of their origin, even when a higher social organization succeeded. The result is that, to the frontier, the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients, that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends, that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom — these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. […] Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the waters of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity, and the people of the United States have taken their tone from the incessant expansion which has not only been open but has even been forced upon them. He would be a rash prophet who should assert that the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise. But never again will such gifts of free land offer themselves. […] For a moment, at the frontier, the bonds of custom are broken and unrestraint is triumphant. There is not tabula rasa. The stubborn American environment is there with its imperious summons to accept its conditions; the inherited ways of doing things are also there; and yet, in spite of environment, and in spite of custom, each frontier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas, and indifference to its lessons, have accompanied the frontier.

Recollected with reference to the prospects of seasteading and space colonization, and their continuity with a distinctive Anglophone cultural impetus to resolve political tension through dissociation in space (with Exit as its key).

August 14, 2016admin 52 Comments »
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Quote note (#269)

SSC awesomeness:

I am pretty sure there was, at one point, such a thing as western civilization. I think it involved things like dancing around maypoles and copying Latin manuscripts. At some point Thor might have been involved. That civilization is dead. It summoned an alien entity from beyond the void which devoured its summoner and is proceeding to eat the rest of the world.

July 27, 2016admin 150 Comments »

Quote note (#258)

Curated history:

One of [Diana] West’s themes that she is developing is the necessity for reclaiming history, that is, we need to know what actually happened so the proper historical lessons can be learned. […] And the creepy part is when West relates going back in old newspaper files to research original accounts and finding that the one edition that she needs that will tell her what she needs to know is missing. Not the newspaper for the day before, and not the one for the day after, no, they’re all there, just the one she needs. That one’s gone, and nobody knows where it went, or what happened to it. As if somebody went back at some point and deliberately altered the historical record. […] I’m not sure how we can ever recover from something like that. The amount of historical “re-revision” that’s going to have to be done is extremely daunting.

June 13, 2016admin 24 Comments »

Twitter cuts (#58)

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April 7, 2016admin 24 Comments »
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Corrosive Individualism?

Everyone’s seen this argument a million times: “So what’s the problem with libertarianism? The problem is that if you put two groups one against another, the one who is best able to work together will overcome the group of individualists.”

An example would be nice. Here are the major modern wars of necessity (or existential conflicts) the Anglosphere has been involved in (‘win’ here meaning ‘came out on the winning side’ — conniving to get others to do most of the dying is an Anglo-tradition in itself):

English Civil War (1642-1651) — Protestant individualists win.
War of the Spanish Succession (17012-1714) — Protestant individualists win.
Seven Years War (1756-1763) — Protestant individualists win.
American War of Independence (1775-1783) — Protestant individualists win.
Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) — Protestant individualists win.
American Civil War (1861-1865) — Protestant individualists win.
First World War (1914-1918) — Anglophone individualists win.
Second World War (1939-1945) — Anglophone individualists win.
Cold War (1947-1989) — Anglophone individualists win.

Have I missed any big ones? I’m simply not seeing the “history is the graveyard of failed individualist societies” picture that seems to be consolidating itself as a central alt-right myth.

This isn’t a moral thing. I get (without great sympathy) the “organically cohesive societies should win” mantra. If there’s any evidence at all that it’s a judgment endorsed by Gnon, feel free to bring the relevant facts to the comment thread.

ADDED: “It’s complicated.” — You’re saying that now?

November 5, 2015admin 140 Comments »

35 Today

Shenzhen’s birthday is this Wednesday. I’d have put up a 1980 photo, but there wasn’t anything there.

Shenzhen today:


The Wikipedia profile.

August 26, 2015admin 11 Comments »

Greatness IIb


Are you getting this? (More, and better now you know what’s going on here.)

Background at SpaceX and Wikipedia.

Oh, go on then.

August 20, 2015admin 69 Comments »
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