Chaos Patch (#109)

(Open thread + links (with some post-holiday backlog clearance))

Natalism is hard. Contradictions of right-wing activism (relevant). Inequality. Tribal competition. Civilization is brittle. Recent attention on the Alt-Right (viz 1, 2, 3), plus pushback. NRx and Akhenaton (perhaps, plus). “Political discourse is fundamentally shot.” Moldbug at Amazon. The weekly round.

Caeseropapism, sacred rites, and wishcasting. A pwned pope (plus).

Capitalism and intelligence (1, 2, 3). Owned markets. The Thing that cannot be named. “… our current ‘capitalism‘ is far from being capitalistic …” Capital under populist pressure (also). Business as magic. The new astrologers. Legal slavery. Commodity crunch. Brexit and the city.

The Indo-Pak trigger-zone. Syria in ruins. Tet in Europe. US proxy civil war watch. Imprisonment and Islam in France. Integration is provocative. The Dutch referendum. Cover-up uncovered. Lights out in Venezuela. “Print technology, the first mass media, facilitated the formation of nations, and the Internet is now undermining nationalism.” Fueling the flames. Feel the Bern.

Ethnogenesis. Jonathan Haidt interviewed by Tyler Cowen. Polarization. Collective punishment. Minority report. Socialist Neocam (for Canadians). Like the fall of the Roman Empire, but worse. Googleplex. Altruism addicts. The bubble test. Borders are bad (relevant).

Trump and his fans have broken the Overton window, and there is no going back.” Trump unbound. Accelerationists for Trump? Meme-war. Call of the wild.

Henry Harpending RIP (1, 2, 3). Cognitive mismatch (plus 1, 2). Another Thing that cannot be named. Noticing is still bad. Regression to the mean. Dark Darwinism. CRISPR cometh. Molecular synthesis. A programming language for cells. Hypercycles.

Don’t disrespect Uranus. Planet Nine is over-rated. More black holes. Level-1 multiverses (+). Simulation quandaries (+).

Computational mathematics. Urbit’s difficult road. The arms locker. Wirehead 1.0. Whisper systems. Malware media.

On Cyberpunk. John Dee and imperial myth. Medieval machine-books.

April 10, 2016admin 48 Comments »

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48 Responses to this entry

  • Chaos Patch (#109) | Neoreactive Says:

    […] Chaos Patch (#109) […]

    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 3:23 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tentative Joiner Says:

    Feel the Bern.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 5:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    Computational mathematics.

    that is really interesting read. this Wolfram|Alpha is just like math conversation bot for kids.

    really surprising, who woild suspect that mathematicians already empowered themselves with this whole new ‘Wolfram Language with about 5000 built-in functions and many millions of built-in standardized entities’. and anyone who not much in maths can try it too. Now, I can see from where Zizek got his : – and so on, and so on, and so on.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 5:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    I think Urbit is going to be legendary, like other highly inventive approaches such as Hypercard or BeOS. You may notice neither of those are still with us. Yes and no — they live on through their influences. Urbit may take a radically different form before it assumes its place in the technology world but either way, it is helping rock the boat, as otherwise Silicon Valley would keep demanding millions in VC for new ways to use Twitter.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 7:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    The arms locker is why it’s stupid to call Islam a threat. The West can wipe Islam off the face of the Earth at any time, as easily as wiping a foggy windshield.

    If the reverse were true, it would have happened already. Indeed this failure of Allah to provide is what’s driving Muslims particularly mad. Being at Western mercy is utterly intolerable.


    D. Reply:

    If the West collectively were firmly controlled by a single individual who wanted to destroy Islam, then it would be possible to do so based on collective Western advantage in technology and capital. As things actually are, the forces in power in most Western countries do their best to prevent anyone with anti-Islamic policies from attaining political power, much less using that power to attain any substantial movement away from the prevailing pro-Islamic policies. Despite the devotion of ever-greater resources to countering terrorism and the acceptance of ever-greater surveillance, the West is finding it increasingly difficult to prevent further attacks. Rather than the West wiping Islam off the face of the Earth, Islam is gradually destroying the West.


    Tom Barghest Reply:

    Imagine trying to quit heroin: “all I have to do is not shoot up.” Even if that’s the simplest thing in the world in principle, heroin still kills all too many. Islam isn’t a threat apart from our psychology, but that doesn’t mean it’s no threat.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 7:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tentative Joiner Says:

    A Ruby programmer sets out to exercise empathy and critical thinking but his pursuit is derailed. The result is not pretty.

    Plot synopsis: the programmer is confused about all the leftist signaling going on around him, especially since some of it comes from smart people he admires. He reads Kahneman only to lose his memetic equilibrium. Immersed in the American Ruby developer culture, famously virulent with progressive memes (see: GitHub), he emerges more pozzed than he started, not less.

    The story has a moral that’s easy to state — “careful how you self-modify” — but take a moment to appreciate how hard it is to turn that into actionable advice. Perhaps our protagonist never had a chance.* Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there is no simple, stock wetware-friendly set of rules for deciding whether to apply any particular self-modification. Your best bet seems to be adopting reservationism and exercising judgment in how you use the power tools of thinking. (Objecting to the latter “method” results in intellectual learned helplessness in the individual analogous to that induced by rule-by-formula at the organizational level. It makes him ripe for manipulation because judgment is also conserved. The difference between a formula in this sense and a tool is whether judgment is explicitly permitted/encouraged when applying it.)

    * Though I do wonder what would have happened had he instead started his “debiasing” program by reading the trifecta of Yudkowsky, Hanson and Alexander. Human rationality is path-dependent.


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    ‘”If you can comprehend that the concept of a meritocracy is structurally biased by the ability of those presently at the top to define what constitutes merit”

    If you can identify the bleak irony in referring to public denouncements of sexism and bigotry as “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs”’

    These are the thoughts of a man who is nearly 40 years old and believes himself intelligent.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 8:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    If anything, this article from N.Y.T. lets me know that N.Y.T. is not as much of a Cathedral organ as is the academic institutions. The commercial publishing businesses are just as much hurting from their symbiotic support and fealty to the false priesthood of today as the military would-be Ethno-Nationalists.



    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 8:53 pm Reply | Quote
  • F. James Says:

    Why NRx will inevitably bow down to the Cathedral.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 9:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • grey enlightenment Says:

    In other worlds, would it be possible that there’s a Universe out there where everything happened exactly as it did in this one, except you did one tiny thing different, and hence had your life turn out incredibly different as a result?</i?

    So why can't we switch our consciousness to an alternative universe where our lives are better

    I suspect the speed of light is the limiting factor

    The computer simulation argument borders on pseudoscience and leads to the infinite regress argument of who builds the simulation. there is no way to falsify it . But it's an interesting intersection of philosophy, computer science, and physics.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 10:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    The West can wipe Islam off the face of the Earth at any time, as easily as wiping a foggy windshield.

    Hmm — I wonder.

    First, I suppose, it’s useful to mention that “Islam” is a proxy for “low IQ third world populations from the Middle East.”

    Next, I’d like to point out our failure in eliminating the Viet Cong despite some heavy bombing. Islamic rebels will retreat to mountains and civilian areas. We do not have the moral fortitude to simply level those areas.

    So, I wonder. Would be interested in your feedback on the above.


    admin Reply:

    I’m not sure you’re really disagreeing. Kurtz could have won in Vietnam (and, at least as easily, in any of the Islamic bush-wars) is the proposition being approached from different angles. “Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”


    grey enlightenment Reply:

    As for Vietnam, the US govt. wanted to install a puppet govt. , not obliterate everything, which required more of a fine-comb approach, not a mallet. That has been the approach of US foreign policy since ww2.


    Alrenous Reply:

    The entire Vietcong infrastructure had been wiped out.

    The West did win in Vietnam. America lost at home, to Americans, who were using misleading images of Vietnam as a club.

    In my case, ‘Islam’ means ‘Islam.’ The West absolutely has the capacity to genocide every believer, anywhere in the world.


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Chomsky won the Vietnam War.


    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 11:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:


    Did anyone else notice that cyberpunk was merely a 1980s neon restatement of 1930s-1940s noir? Chandler and Hammett had more to do with cyperpunk than science fiction. They wrote the original outsider narratives.

    And if we track that back… we find Sherlock Holmes, or the outsider nature of intelligence to democratic society.

    End democracy, restore humanity 🙂


    Erebus Reply:

    You are correct. Noir is very similar to Cyberpunk in that crime is central to both genres.

    …But the author of that Cyberpunk article doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m quite sure that the author hasn’t read much, if any, Cyberpunk literature — he seems to have a shallow, surface-level understanding of the genre. (He seems to associate it with video games, primarily.) In truth, Cyberpunk can be summed up in one sentence: The intersection of low-life — violent criminals, hackers, jaded noirish detectives, drug dealers and addicts, etc. — with near-future technology. The visual aesthetic is not central to the genre. As far as movies go, Strange Days is far more Cyberpunk than Blade Runner. This doesn’t mean that it’s a better movie.

    Blade Runner isn’t Cyberpunk at all, actually. Its visual aesthetic influenced the literary genre, but the movie itself was based on a book that was firmly in the Science Fiction mainstream; a product of PKD’s decades-long obsession with androids and human-mimetics. The movie also predates the first examples of Cyberpunk literature by a couple of years.

    The article’s core argument — if it can be termed an argument at all — is that the “Cyberpunk aesthetic” is becoming old, trite, and dated. I’m not sure I agree; I think that it has never been more vital or more representative of the world we live in. In any case, many of the author’s examples ring false.

    >“One of the central inspirations for Blade Runner, the labyrinthine Kowloon Walled City on the outskirts of Hong Kong, was demolished in 1994. It is now the site of a park with gardens, floral walks, ponds and pavilions. It is a post-cyberpunk space.”

    …This guy hasn’t visited Sham Shui Po. With its tech markets and scrapyards, it’s more “cyberpunk” than the Walled City ever was. Besides, the Walled City Park’s neighborhood is still a pretty grim place. Not pretty. Not post- anything.

    The author’s second argument is that the genre is too dystopian. This is, first of all, a necessity — crime is central to the genre, and crime tends to be dirty. Second, the way Western Civ is heading, I’d reckon that we haven’t seen anything yet… the dystopias we’re imagining look like paradise next to life in Lagos in 2016. And that, in turn, may look like paradise compared to life in Europe in 2116.

    Speaking of Sherlock Holmes and Democracy’s effects on literature, that Haidt interview contained an interesting line:
    >”I think just reading novels from non‑Western cultures, and I would consider 19th century British aristocracy to be sort of a foreign culture now, just can give you an idea of cultures other than our own.”
    This is very true — and it extends to the first thirty years of the 20th century, for example in the works of W. Somerset Maugham. Those cultural elements were lost just as Democracy kicked into high gear — with votes for all, a “Democracy against Fascism/Communism” paradigm, etc.


    TheDividualist Reply:

    As far as I can tell it was mostly about leftist paranoia about corporations being evil and powerful and running/ruining everything. It is rooted in the 1960’s hippie counter-culture:

    It’s mostly that cyberpunk authors never really went that deep into politics, just used it is a cool fashionable holiness signal but combined it with various kind of other coolness signals – a newfound appreciation for Japan, being early adopters of computers and so on.


    Erebus Reply:

    >”As far as I can tell it was mostly about leftist paranoia about corporations being evil and powerful and running/ruining everything.”

    Only in Shadowrun and Deus Ex. What you’re describing is typically an exceedingly minor characteristic of Cyberpunk literature.

    …Hell, Snow Crash — second only to Neuromancer in the Cyberpunk canon — even featured the US Federal Government in an advanced (and downright comic) state of corruption and decay…

    Cyberpunk is a fuzzy term, but “near-future/high-technology crime fiction” is an apt description. It is not intrinsically about holiness signaling — and that sort of virtue signaling, which is now common to all forms of fiction, does not affect it any more than it affects other genres. (And plausibly less.)


    D. Reply:

    Even in Deus Ex, both governments and the large multinational corporations are secretly controlled by a conspiracy, a sinister offshoot of the Illuminati. The protagonist begins the game as a special forces operative of UNATCO, a military branch of the United Nations, but he and several others eventually defect to those fighting the conspiracy. There’s nothing intrinsically leftist about it, although it certainly relies on paranoid conspiricist fantasies of both left and right.

    Jesse M. Reply:

    “Near-future/high-technology crime fiction” doesn’t seem like a very good description, since it suggests absolutely nothing about the social structure of the near-future/high-technology society–in particular, your definition would suggest that crime fiction in the near future would be cyberpunk even if it was set in some kind of leftist utopian future where the power of corporations was greatly diminished and the government was some kind of well-run social-democratic one out of Bernie Sanders’ dreams. I don’t think many science fiction fans (or authors or critics) would be likely to classify such a story as “cyberpunk”.

    Erebus Reply:

    @Jesse M.

    Take William Gibson’s Burning Chrome story collection, for example:

    -The word “government” is barely used, and the features of the setting’s government are wholly irrelevant to the stories. (In fact, the IRS and other Federal agencies are briefly mentioned, which does not imply total anarcho-capitalism.)

    -The word “corporation” is also barely used, and the stories (with one exception, of a sort,) have nothing to do with corporations controlling everything and making a mess of things.

    -The stories don’t suggest very much about the social structures of the setting, overall. If they’re “dystopian”, it’s by necessity — as most of the action takes place in the underworld, with hackers, rogue agents, messed-up ex-military operatives, etc. Thus, whatever the setting is, it must have a seedy underbelly.

    …Yet surely nobody doubts that the collection is a work of cyberpunk — and an incredibly influential one.

    The majority of Cyberpunk stories — certainly an overwhelming preponderance of the genre’s short stories, and more than a few of its novels — have little if anything to do with social structures. For many of them, government is a feature of the landscape if it is mentioned at all; it is typically not important to the plot or something that must necessarily be standardized. (The only really noteworthy exceptions are, again, games like Shadowrun and Deus Ex — where nefarious mega-corporations make for easy villains.)

    Jesse M. Reply:

    A cyberpunk story may not explicitly discuss the social structure, but what hints we do get about the world at large generally point to a hyper-capitalist society where a lot of our traditional “sacred values” have been undermined by a sort of ultra-utilitarian attitude towards humans and other intelligent beings, with both governments and corporations treating people as tools to be manipulated (and physically modified, often in dangerous or pain-inducing ways) for the sake of profit or national interest, and discarded if they don’t serve such a function (see here for a good description of how cyberpunk is largely about extrapolating trends of capitalism undermining more ‘humanistic’ values).

    That definitely seems to be true of the first story in Burning Chrome, “Johnny Mnemonic”. In this story we have a future where the Yakuza have become ultra-powerful, and the lines between them and the multinational corporations seem blurred or nonexistent–“Where do you hide from the Yakuza, so powerful that it owns comsats and at least three shuttles? The Yakuza is a true multinational, like ITT and Ono-Sendai. Fifty years before I was born the Yakuza had already absorbed the Triads, the Mafia, the Union Corse.” They also have enormous NSA-like abilities to track people through their information trail: “the Yakuza would be settling its ghostly bulk over the city’s data banks, probing for faint images of me reflected in numbered accounts, securities transactions, bills for utilities. We’re an information economy. They teach you that in school.” (schoolchildren being taught about living in an ‘information economy’ seems like another suggestion of a hyper-capitalist world) And of the data that Johnny was carrying for them, he says “It was probably research data, the Yakuza being given to advanced forms of industrial espionage”, again seeming to blur the lines between the Yakuza and an ordinary corporation–in the modern world I don’t think ‘industrial espionage’ is a very common business of organized crime.

    This world also has a sort of ghetto area filled with criminals called “Nighttown”, a place that seems to have been completely abandoned by whatever government exists since it “pays no taxes, no utilities”, where the roofs have been “been smoked black by decades of cooking fires” and if one wants a drink one has to pay a “water vendor”. It’s a place filled with criminals where “any outside influence generates swift, cocentric ripples of raw menace”, and the place is described as covered in graffiti, “years of them twisting into a single metascrawl of rage and frustration”, apparently not cleaned in a long time since the graffiti included “gang names, dates back to the turn of the century”. This is not solely a place for criminals to hide, it seems to be a densely-populated slum similar a bit like the Brazilian favelas: “Nighttown spread beneath us like a toy village for rats; tiny windows showed candlelight, with only a few harsh, bright squares lit by battery lanterns and carbide lamps. I imagined the old men at their endless games of dominoes, under warm, fat drops of water that fell from wet wash hung out on poles between the plywood shanties.” When you find this kind of area in a country that also has plenty of wealth and high-tech lifestyles, that’s a pretty good tipoff you’re not looking at a country that puts much effort into helping the poor.

    There’s been some major war lately–the characters just refer to it as “the war”, and in this war the Navy had used surgically altered cyborg dolphins to sweep “cyber mines”, all these dolphins having been hooked on heroin to make them more compliant. In general there is a strong “bodies as commodities” theme, from the frequent references to the popularity of designer plastic surgery to the references to the Yakuza using an assassin “grown in a vat” to the main character renting out part of his brain to store data.

    So overall, I think it’s a story that nicely fits the template described in the link I posted at the top. Are there other stories in the book you’d point to that fit your “near-future, high-tech crime stories” definition, but that you think don’t have the suggestion of a hyper-capitalist, ultra-utilitarian background society?

    Erebus Reply:

    If that’s all you can come up with — after probing the text with Talmudic rigor — then you’ve essentially proven my point. The societal details of the setting are not very relevant to that story, and are indeed barely hinted at. Nighttown could be any slum; the Zaibatsu could be any powerful gang. And let’s not forget that these stories are narrated in the first person. (Have you ever read pulp crime fiction from the mid 20th century? The slums are always bad, and characters always say things like “the mob runs this town.” It’s typically hyperbole.)

    To answer your question, “The Winter Market” has nothing to do with any of that. It is a straightforward story of a used-up addict who seeks solace and escape in tech. “Burning Chrome” is a cybercrime story that would be utterly plausible in today’s America — or Denmark, for that matter. (This is the only story that clearly takes place in the Sprawl setting, but the tale itself is “hypercapitalist” only in the sense that criminals tend to focus their efforts on making money. Stealing it, that is.) “Dogfight” describes a shifty criminal’s growing obsession with an arcade game, and a female hacker he has befriended over it.

    …The common thread is that these are crime stories, underworld stories. Cyberpunk is future-pulp-crime literature. Sure, there are some stories that take place in Hypercapitalist techno-dystopias — typically the more derivative “man vs. corporation” works — but there are just as many that don’t feature or disclose the social details of their setting. And even when there is a suggestion of a “hyper-capitalist, ultra-utilitarian background society,” it is often just that: A suggestion that is unimportant to the plot. Cyberpunk is certainly not inherently about denouncing capitalism and signalling virtue, and it shouldn’t be conflated with “dystopian science fiction” in general.

    Jesse M. Reply:

    The societal details of the setting are not very relevant to that story, and are indeed barely hinted at

    Relevance is in the eye of the beholder, but if pretty much all stories classified as ‘cyberpunk’ have this feature, it seems reasonable to treat it as when of the defining features of the genre. Personally I think it is important to the overall “feel” of cyberpunk that the world at large is a fairly heartless one where the powerful treat regular schmoes as tools to be used and thrown away, rather than just having a protagonist who gets involved with crime in an otherwise nice-seeming world where most authorities are trustworthy and concerned with helping people in trouble. I’m not saying the authors are including this background primarily because they want to make some big political statement (though most famous cyberpunk authors like Gibson and Sterling make no secret of being fairly left-wing), to a large extent it may just flow from the desire to put the characters in a harsh noirish world where they have to do whatever it takes to survive rather than being able to appeal to any kindly authorities, but either way it’s pervasive.

    Nighttown could be any slum; the Zaibatsu could be any powerful gang.

    Well, slums and powerful gangs existed in the 80s too, does that mean you think the near-future setting isn’t strongly relevant to the story either? Certainly you could preserve most of the same structure if Johnny was just carrying some important data on a diskette or in a briefcase rather than having it embedded in his brain, and the various characters were still tough but not surgically or bionically enhanced. Anyway, I’d disagree with the whole idea that the defining features of any genre are determined entirely by what’s essential to the plot; chiaroscuro lighting is 100% irrelevant to the plot of film noir, for example, but it’s still important to the film genre.

    To answer your question, “The Winter Market” has nothing to do with any of that. It is a straightforward story of a used-up addict who seeks solace and escape in tech.

    This story doesn’t fit your definition at all, since neither the editor character nor the dream-artist whose visions he edits do anything criminal over the course of the story, or get involved with any criminals. And there are definitely strong suggestsions of a sort of uncaring capitalist dystopia in it. For example, there’s a suggestion of environmental degradation when the editor speculates about why the artist is paralyzed and in need of the robotic exoskeleton, suggesting her disease may be “one of the new ones—the all too obviously environmental kind—that they’ve barely even named yet.” And after the dream-program is finished another character makes a big speech about the reason it’s so popular, he basically says it has to do with the fact that she knew she was going to die very soon and her only hope was to make a bunch of money to upload herself into the computer, and that her audience (apparently made up largely of kids on the street) could relate to that kind of desperation: “What else did you think she was after? Sex? More wizz? A world tour? She was past all that. That’s what made her so strong. She was past it. That’s why Kings of Sleep‘s as big as it is, and why the kids buy it, why they believe it. They know. Those kids back down the Market, warming their butts around the fires and wondering if they’ll find someplace to sleep tonight, they believe it. … She’s big because she was what they are, only more so. She knew, man. No dreams, no hope. You can’t see the cages on those kids, Casey, but more and more they’re twiggin to it, that they aren’t going anywhere. … So she sang it for them, said it that way they can’t, painted them a picture. And she used the money to buy herself a way out, that’s all.” Finally, in the end this other character warns the editor he should be expecting another call from the now-uploaded version of the artist, her program is “taking up a lot of ROM on some corporate mainframe” so apparently her corporate overloads will just delete her if she can’t come up with more money.

    “Burning Chrome” is a cybercrime story that would be utterly plausible in today’s America

    It might be plausible in that alternate setting, but like I said, I don’t really see the fact that you could retell a similar plot in a different setting as an argument for not treating features of the original setting as defining traits of the genre. And once again the background hyper-capitalist world is pretty clear, this is a world where the protagonists do their criminal business in a virtual world called the “matrix” that is an “abstract representation of the relationships between data systems”, where “legitimate programmers jack into their employer’s sector of the matrix and find themselves surrounded by bright geometries representing corporate data”, and which is described as a “monochrome nonspace where the only stars are dense concentrations of information, and high above it all burn corporate galaxies and the cold spiral arms of military systems.” A nice evocative line, sort of Lovecraftian or Gnostic in the sense that the real powers in this world are vast, alien, and uncaring, and our protagonists are just scurrying around under their feet.

    Meanwhile the theme of bodies being routinely modified or exploited for the sake of moneymaking shows up again in the girlfriend of one of the main “cowboy” characters—she wants to get a new pair of eyes so she can be a “simstim” star whose experiences are sold as entertainment, and when the protagonist sees one of her friends got a cheap “Sendai” pair, he warns her “That kid’s optic nerves may start to deteriorate inside six months … Those Sendais are illegal in England, Denmark, lots of places.” (But not the US, apparently) Later he discovers that she made the money to get a better pair for hers by working as a new type of prostitute where she was wired up into “an approximation of REM sleep, while her body and a bundle of conditioned reflexes took care of business.”

    “Dogfight” describes a shifty criminal’s growing obsession with an arcade game, and a female hacker he has befriended over it.

    The woman is into a kind of brain-hacking, but of a strictly legal type, she’s studying it at a university. There’s the suggestion that being on track to get a job is a rare and lucky thing—the main character comments “both her parents had jobs—greedy buggers”, and later he calls her “Miss rich-bitch gonna-have-a-job”. Later we learn that her parents have put a “chastity lock” into her brain, giving her a Clockwork-Orange-like reaction if anyone touches her, not because they’re prudes but just because they want to make sure she concentrates on her schooling so she can get a job too (and these kinds of brainlocks are apparently legal since the main character was given one by the authorities to prevent him from ever returning to Washington D.C.) As she describes it, “I didn’t even do anything. Not a fucking thing. But they’ve both got jobs and they’re so horny for me to have a career that they can’t piss straight. They’re afraid I’d neglect my studies if I got, you know, involved in sex and stuff.” So again we have the same theme of the human body being treated in an ultra-utilitarian way for the sake of making money, and of society being divided into a small number of well-off haves and a large underclass of have-nots. Also, the “crime” elements of this story are very minor, so again this story doesn’t fit your definition very well—the main character has a history of shoplifting and at one point lifts some useless piece of junk, and later the woman scores some illegal mind-enhancing drug to help on her job interview, and the main character grabs her to trigger her chastity lock and won’t let go unless she gives it to him.

    Cyberpunk is certainly not inherently about denouncing capitalism and signalling virtue

    It isn’t “about” any one thing, it just has a bunch of traits that are common to the vast majority of stories, and gloomy portrayals of the excesses of capitalism are just one of them. The fact that an author chooses to include this in the background doesn’t mean the primary purpose of the story is “denouncing capitalism and signalling virtue”, it’s just an element to add to the mix, perhaps mainly just to contribute to the desperate gritty feel of the setting. (Anyway, do you think any time an author adds a bit of their political perspective to the mix in a story, like the libertarian element seen in many Heinlein stories, they’re just doing it as virtue-signalling, or would you only throw this accusation at a left-wing writer who did this?) My sense of Gibson in particular is that he incorporates these kinds of elements not to make any grand statement, but more just because he has an interest in societal trends and problems, and because he thinks incorporating this kind of reality makes for more interesting science fiction—for example, in this interview he says ‘I had a list of things when I started writing science fiction that it bugged me that science fiction didn’t do. And one of them was that it tended not to depict income inequality. It tended to pretend that capitalism didn’t exist. … And in science fiction, particularly in American science fiction, it’s just this kind of white, middle-class world. And that was all there was. If there was anything else, it was scary. And it was never from the point of view of the scary “other” people, who might be poor or not white or something. I’ve always consciously tried to depict a range.’

    Erebus Reply:

    >“And once again the background hyper-capitalist world is pretty clear, this is a world where the protagonists do their criminal business in a virtual world called the “matrix” that is an “abstract representation of the relationships between data systems”, where “legitimate programmers jack into their employer’s sector of the matrix and find themselves surrounded by bright geometries representing corporate data”, and which is described as a “monochrome nonspace where the only stars are dense concentrations of information, and high above it all burn corporate galaxies and the cold spiral arms of military systems.” A nice evocative line, sort of Lovecraftian or Gnostic in the sense that the real powers in this world are vast, alien, and uncaring, and our protagonists are just scurrying around under their feet.”

    It’s becoming obvious that even the slightest suggestions of money, of social inequality, or of body modification seem “hyper-capitalist” to you. You’re abusing the term. Besides, the existence in the story of military systems and the IRS, and the fact that certain countries have laws barring certain body-modifications, simply do not imply anarcho-capitalism. The setting of the story is little different from our own world. Do people today not modify their bodies in attempts to become media stars? Do hackers not target banking systems in mad attempts to make fast money? Does the military establishment’s web presence not utterly dwarf a lone individual’s?

    In any case, if we can agree that the elements of “social signalling” are background ambiance — like Chiaroscuro lighting in film Noir — then surely you see that it must be possible to write a perfectly serviceable Cyberpunk story without them? (To go a few steps further: “A Touch of Evil” would still be Noir if it were filmed in digital color at 48 frames per second… But only if the story were handled and filmed with appropriate care, and the essential plot left wholly unchanged.)

    I maintain that the simplest possible definition fits the genre best — that Cyberpunk is nothing more or less than near-future underworld/crime fiction — and that tropes like “man vs. mega-corporation” and “megacorp vs. human dignity” are, although common, non-essential to the genre. This is similar to the fog-and-neon Cyberpunk aesthetic, which has become very common to visual representations of the genre, but is also non-essential.

    The first 50 or so pages of The Diamond Age are typically taken as a kind of Cyberpunk parody. Note what Stephenson chose to exaggerate: Not social inequality, nor the corporate dominance of society, but the reckless criminality of the protagonist.

    Posted on April 10th, 2016 at 11:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    on the topic of procrastination there’s that right wing marxism video wayyy back that i still haven’t watched


    Posted on April 11th, 2016 at 2:19 am Reply | Quote
  • Ananda Hohenstaufen Says:

    “We want to be a fun hub and a finance hub. I guess we want to be a city that’s designed for human life, and human life is pretty much about having fun, and fun is a big part of being human and playing and experimenting. Free market, designed for pleasure and freedom.”

    Lets all become microdosing rave cyborgs chasing the Techno-Stimulant Apotheosis. Torque your experiences until you coast in permanent eudaimonia. Work hard, party harder. Nothing could possibly go wrong.


    Posted on April 11th, 2016 at 5:28 am Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    that is funny article, after repeatedly declaring that “you know nothing about Tibet”, (means readers) he wrote: ‘once the Chinese civil war was over, with the Communist victory in 1949, Mao soon invaded Tibet and took it over in 1951.’

    what about 10 years war 1955-1965 which in official history of USA special forces, and about 2 mln Tibetans who were killed during this war. What about war between India and China after which India lost huge amount of its territory. ill informed position on Tibet. I can say that quite confidentially as some who lived for years in that region.


    admin Reply:

    Two million?


    SVErshov Reply:

    right, 2 millions. at precent nobody want to remember this war not India, not China, not USA, or even Pakistan who provided its territory to run this war. USA needed Tibet as strategic place for balistic missiles toward Soviet Union.


    Posted on April 11th, 2016 at 4:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • michael Says:

    The Netherlands result suggests that is indeed the case, in the sense that the Dutch rejection of Brussels was more emphatic than is recorded in UK opinion polls. The referendum was forced on the government by a social-media group that collected 450,000 signatures on a petition – a symptom of growing popular activism against the European establishment.

    I think we are going to be seeing more democracy because tech. As ive said I dont see most of what we are criticizing being caused by democracy but by the ability of democracy to be hijacked and pushback managed through cathedral media education etc. If voting your measly 1/300,000,000 share becomes as easy as anonymously retweeting on your iphone, elites may lose control to bourgeoisie.Much of what elites do is technically illegal but too difficult to fight if tech makes it easy that is shut down, if at the same time tech makes outsourcing allmost all govt services easy government looks redundant and its meddling increasingly annoying.


    Posted on April 11th, 2016 at 4:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • Sidney Carton Says:

    Cannot find any obits in MSM for Harpending. Huh


    Posted on April 11th, 2016 at 5:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Relevant from Dampier link on Right Wing politics.

    “There’s a growing break in the English-speaking world between political factions as both sides recognize that neither really wants to coexist with the other peacefully.”

    No we don’t.


    Posted on April 12th, 2016 at 1:47 am Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    Level-1 multiverses (+)

    this link on ‘plus’ really interesting. fake universes especially. it close to simple description of what civilisations doing right now, manufacturing of VR and pushing persived Reality to its extremes.

    hard to comit to any of these, but seems like in physics situation more advanced. they already navigating in acid bath of paradoxes, compared to brave knight Zizek who still considering to take a plunge. ‘good luck with doing what you doing, you all will fail’ hard to buy either, it validity only can be tested by following it up to the end. a lot of drama but also, if theory producing nothing but paradoxes, would it not be onbviouse to modify it.


    Posted on April 13th, 2016 at 3:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tentative Joiner Says:

    A cryptoreactionary comment at SSC: why favor exit over voice when moderating discussions on the Internet.

    (Considering the thread in which it was made, I wonder if the resemblance is deliberate. They Who Shall Not Be Named are exactly who you think they are.)


    Posted on April 14th, 2016 at 7:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    Richard Jones on Transhumanism: He’s gloomy. Think of the complexity of the human brain not in terms of the number of neurons, but in terms of the number of molecules.


    SVErshov Reply:

    starting point here is assumption that we are all humans is not so correct. Hindu astrology for example describe every one who appears to be human by ‘ganas’, there is 3 ganas : gods, humans and demons and humans considered as lowest form of life in terms of mental and physical abilities.

    what we can describe as a humans would be most likely depend not on total number of neurons (molecules), but on number of conncetion each neuron has. for example in case of oligophrenia number of conncetions between neurones very limited, so cognitive abilities similarly limited. later when this kind of patient advancing to stage of dedility, his brain can support only two functions hunger and defecation, which can happen at any time.

    on another side of spectrum humans with large brains and enormouse amount of conncetiin between neurones. counting mollecules is irrelevant, because functionaly do not depend on number of parts, but on how good those part interract with each other. Also African Grey parrot if trained can develop intelligence of 9 year old human, can we consider him as transhuman.

    we also can define transhumans are those who has not a single genome but are mixture of different genomes, also known as established mixed chimerism. every woman on earth who has child is a such chimera, cells containing ‘Y’ chromosomes were found on woman brains 8 years after she was pregnant with a boy.

    before departing would be useful to have clearer picture on the subject itself.


    Posted on April 15th, 2016 at 12:44 am Reply | Quote
  • Erebus Says:

    Jones is right about molecular nanotechnology. It’s nowhere near viable yet. Nanotechnology is still in the earliest stages of its infancy — is still at the stage where it is just discovering new bulk nanomaterials like borophene. Figuring out what to do with these new materials, and scaling up production, is the real problem at present. We’ve had carbon nanotubes for 20 years and those things are just now starting to find their way into useful composites and products. (Murata Machinery — a Japanese company — has recently developed a spun CNT yarn, which is something that could be incredibly useful.)

    Producing nanomachines is a much harder problem than scaling-up bulk nanomaterials. Even the earliest instances of interesting and useful molecular nanotechnology/nanomachinery are probably 30-70 years away. And that’s an optimistic estimate, though one which does not take into account any breakthroughs in cognitive enhancement or AI.

    Jones is wrong about the brain. His position — insofar as it is comprehensible at all — is straightforwardly, and shamefully, Vitalist. We don’t yet understand how the brain works, and it poses very tough problems, but there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that the brain is utterly intractable. A thorough understanding of the brain and how it processes information will probably be attained within our lifetimes.

    His position on transhumanism is essentially “it’s a puerile secular religion which focuses on wish-fulfillment”. As far as the nascent movement is concerned: I agree completely! It is without merit.

    …But the concept itself is something utterly different. Giving eyes to the Blind Idiot God and becoming more than human should (indeed must) be humanity’s ultimate goal. This does not require political campaigns or Silicon Valley meetup groups. As heritable genetic-engineering tech gets more simple and powerful, it’ll be re-purposed by the wealthy and the ambitious, and that will be the first step. It’s going to happen, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.


    Erebus Reply:

    The above post was meant in response to Peter A. Taylor.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    I don’t see where your accusation of vitalism is coming from. What I got out of the podcast is (1) that the level of complexity is several orders of magnitude greater than commonly thought, (2) that we shouldn’t expect to get whole brain emulation or cryonics working within the next hundred years, and (3) that Jones considers Kurzweil to be a fraud for over-promising.


    Erebus Reply:

    From reading this:

    Most particularly, the part which goes:
    “If […] I am correct in my suggestion that the origins of the van der Waals force in the quantum fluctuations of fields provide a route through which such unpredictability translates into the outcomes of physical processes in the brain, then this provides an argument for mind uploading being impossible in principle. This is a conclusion I suggest only very tentatively.”

    This is vitalist in that it would ascribe magical properties to the brain. It is also absolute nonsense.

    In a broader sense, the sections entitled:

    “The unit of biological information processing is the molecule”
    “The brain, randomness, and quantum mechanics”

    …Are too vague and actually seem surprisingly ignorant of modern neuroscience. The problem isn’t that we need to look at every single one of the brain’s molecules, because so many of them are simply structural. (When they aren’t water.) The problems are that we don’t have any firm idea of what glial cells do, that there are too many orphan receptors in the brain with no known function, that we know very little of what transient protein-protein interactions occur and how they affect cognition, and there are many more open questions along those lines. We don’t need to map every single molecule down to its quantum state — we just need a better big picture. Right now, next to nothing is known about the fine workings of the brain. But Jones, for no particularly good reason, makes an understanding of the brain seem next to impossible, if not impossible outright. He seems to think that it’s a miraculous unknowable quantum black-box. He’s dead wrong.

    Cryonics is also a far simpler problem than he seems to imply. This is, again, total nonsense:

    “Physiological structures may survive, but as we’ve seen, it’s at the molecular level that the fundamentals of biological information processing take place, and current procedures will undoubtedly be highly perturbing at this level. “

    He has not demonstrated anything at all, so “as we’ve seen” and “undoubtedly” are… well… nothing of the sort. After that quote, he goes on to make an inane social argument that doesn’t even bear repeating.

    Virtually all of his scientific arguments are based on very tentative, untested assumptions. I really don’t see where his certainty and confidence are coming from. If I held theories that were anything like his, I’d be embarrassed to speak of them in public… I’d find a way to put them to an experiment first.


    admin Reply:

    Seems as if you get to “there’s nothing at all special about neurons” very quickly once you start pushing information processing in the brain down to the sub-cellular (or more specifically, sub-synaptic) level. The giant maw of pan-psychism yawns.

    Sure, we know DNA is an information-processing molecule, but it seems rash to go there if the topic is cognitive function.

    Once you start piddling around with quantum s**t, you’re already at the “I’m going to start cuddling my pet rock harder” level. (If the brain was a quantum computer, it would work a lot better.)

    Aeroguy Reply:

    Cryonics has come a long way, water crystals, protein denaturation and freezer burn are things of the past.

    Posted on April 15th, 2016 at 7:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Tentative Joiner Says:

    LambdaConf goes formal.

    Individuals each act according to their own morality, but we must share a common set of professional ethics in order to interact with one another in a professional setting.

    For LambdaConf, there is no direct moral component: there is only the determination of which professional ethics best facilitate the goals of the conference. For this, we have come up with a code of conduct, which we will improve over time.

    The distinction is explained elsewhere:

    “A lawyer’s morals may tell her that murder is reprehensible and that murderers should be punished, but her ethics as a professional lawyer, require her to defend her client to the best of her abilities, even if she knows that the client is guilty.”


    Posted on April 16th, 2016 at 12:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    “Cryonics Institute, is currently testing its own vitrification solution.”

    it is definitely efforts in right direction. as some one with first hand experience in cryo preservation of cells. I can say that vitrification at normal room atmosphere works only on cryo straws. idea is to get it frozen momentarily, that way no time for crystals formation. if you drop cryo straw in LN2 it will froze at once, if you drop 2 ml cryo tube it will not. because bubles created around tube preventing access of LN2 to surface. not to say about dropping whole human body in LN. it can be done in vacuum in this case vacuum will absorb gases and it will be possible to freeze at once 6 of 4,5 ml cryo vials. but human body – NEVER.

    what can be said about claim, that damage from crystal is insignifican? correct it not so significant, but significant enough to cause differentiation of almost any cell types into fibroblasts (kind of skin cells) soon after thawing in vitro. if to have brain made of fybroblasts is OK, then sure keep doing it. imo Cryonics is scam and always will be.


    Posted on April 16th, 2016 at 2:33 pm Reply | Quote

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