Posts Tagged ‘History’

The Fifth Paradigm?

comppdgm

There’s a complete lack of theoretic elegance — or even basic structure — to this, but it still strikes me as basically right.

The image is over two years old. but I’ve only just seen it (via). The text pinned to it is from February this year, and also makes a solid forecast. The basic direction of capital teleology hasn’t been this pronounced for a century (at least).

September 17, 2016admin 104 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology
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Quote note (#282)

At least superficially, under-funding is the strict reciprocal of hype:

The blockchain industry is either hugely under-resourced or hugely over-optimistic. Probably both.

Bitcoin rigorously formalizes the common insight that words are cheap (it emerged out of spam-filter solutions). So this analysis is intriguingly ironic, as well as obviously thought-provoking.

September 9, 2016admin 8 Comments »
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Wealth Space

From Szabo’s critically-important exploration of collectibles:

Collectibles3

At the extreme upper left-hand corner is modern money – used purely as a medium of exchange and obligation satisfaction, and with high velocity, typically several transactions per month. The predominant such media in a culture also usually becomes its of account. At the opposite (southeast) extreme are pure stores of value – seldom if ever alienated, they usually change ownership only at death. At the northeast extreme are pure collectibles – a low-velocity (a few to a few dozen transfers per human lifetime) medium of obligation satisfaction and exchange, but also a store and display of wealth. At the southwest extremely are immediate consumables, such as food obtained from foraging in cultures that do not preserve or store their food.

September 3, 2016admin 33 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy
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Broken

‘Absolutist neoreaction’ seems to think its techno-commercialist enemies (and I think it’s fair to say, XS in particular) will have some kind of fundamental problem with this:

The history of ideas is the history of the resources behind them (which has some overlap with the base superstructure of Marxism) but that this is augmented and overridden by the action of Power, and power centres in both unified, and un-unified political structures.

If there is some determined attempt to separate Power™ from techno-economic capability, then incomprehension is probable. (But no one could possibly be suggesting anything that preposterous, surely?)

To ignore the historical association of power disintegration with the emergence of self-propelling techonomic competences also looks like a serious blindness. Capitalism hatched in Europe because Europe was broken. Keeping the world broken seems similarly indissociable from the survival of capitalistic historical momentum, and breaking it more profoundly is the route to capital intensification. Perhaps that’s the argument we’re having (not that such arguments matter much).

The Idea that unified power is the reliable principle of social competence is ethno-historically French. That is where it has worked its magic since the epoch of the Sun King. Under sufficiently dismal circumstances, the RF analysis might catch on there.

August 19, 2016admin 39 Comments »
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Qwernomics

Qwernomics
(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 38 Comments »
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Quote note (#275)

From James C. Bennett’s indispensable book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century (2004), on the genealogy of the Neocameral State (though he doesn’t call it that):

The lowering of transaction costs for international financial activities in the 1960s started to allow major corporations and banks to take advantage of the lower tax and regulatory burdens of tax havens such as the Netherlands Antilles. Corporations became sophisticated consumers of “sovereign services,” in this case, venue of incorporation. In doing so, they built on a trend started by 1920s shipowners, who had increasingly sought Panamanian and Liberian registry for their ships.

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August 17, 2016admin 66 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy
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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 »
FILED UNDER :History
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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 »
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Quote note (#266)

It is surely a crucial (and inadequately acknowledged) feature of Darwin’s The Origin of Species that its point of departure is artificial selection, which might also be described as primordial technology, or the foundation of material civilization. Natural selection acquires definition through comparison with the (predominantly unconscious) process of domestication, or cultivation. This is the transitional paragraph (from Chapter IV):

As man can produce, and certainly has produced, a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not natural selection effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters: Nature, if I many be allowed to personify the natural preservation or survival of the fittest, cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they are useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her, as is implied by the fact of their selection. Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long- and short-beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a long-backed or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection from some half-monstrous form; or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch the eye or to be plainly useful to him. Under Nature, the slightest difference of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will be his results, compared with those accumulated by Nature during whole geological periods! Can we wonder, then, that Natures productions should be far “truer” in character than man’s productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?

July 10, 2016admin 22 Comments »
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Cybergothic

The latest dark gem from Fernandez opens:

When Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, described his experiences treating patients with demonic possession in the Washington Post claiming such incidents are on the rise, it was met with derision by many newspapers’ commenters. Typical was “this man is as nutty as his patients. His license should be revoked.” […] Less likely to have his intellectual credentials questioned by the sophisticates of the Washington Post is Elon Musk who warned an audience that building artificial intelligence was like “summoning the demon”. …

The point, of course, is that you don’t get the second eventuality without conceding to the virtual reality of the first. The things ‘Gothic superstition’ have long spoken about are, in themselves, exactly the same as those extreme technological potentials are excavating from the crypt of the unimaginable. ‘Progress’ is a tacit formula for dispelling demons — from consciousness, if not existence — yet it is itself ever more credibly exposed as the most complacent superstition in human history, one that is still scarcely reckoned as a belief in need of defending at all.

How does the press warn the public about demons arising from a “master algorithm” without making it sound like a magic spell? With great difficulty because the actual bedrock of reality may not only be stranger than the Narrative supposes, but stranger than it can suppose.

The faith in progress has an affinity with interiority, because it consolidates itself as the subject of its own narrative. (There’s an off-ramp into Hegel at this point, for anyone who wants to get into Byzantine story-telling about it.) As our improvement becomes the tale, the Outside seems to haze out even beyond the bounds of its intrinsic obscurity — until it crashes back in.

… where there are networks there is malware. Sue Blackmore a writer in the Guardian*, argues that memes travel not just across similar systems, but through hierarchies of systems to kill rival processes all the time. She writes, “AI rests on the principle of universal Darwinism – the idea that whenever information (a replicator) is copied, with variation and selection, a new evolutionary process begins. The first successful replicator on earth was genes.” […] In such a Darwinian context the advent of an AI demon is equivalent to the arrival of a superior extraterrestrial civilization on Earth.

Between an incursion from the Outside, and a process of emergence, there is no real difference. If two quite distinct interpretative frames are invoked, that results from the inadequacies of our apprehension, rather than any qualitative characteristics of the thing. (Capitalism is — beyond all serious question — an alien invasion, but then you knew I was going to say that.)

… we ought to be careful about being certain what forms information can, and cannot take.

If we had the competence to be careful, none of this would be happening.

(Thanks to VXXC2014 for the prompt.)

* That description is perhaps a little cruel, she’s a serious, pioneering meme theorist.

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July 3, 2016admin 43 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Realism
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