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Ether Mind

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Founding Fathers Found

It's all rather hush hush. I'm not saying that Sandia National Laboratory accidentally brought several historical figures forward 200 years in time. I'm also not saying that these rogue Founding Fathers have vowed revenge against any particular groups, or that they've armed themselves and are currently on the move in Ohio.

For various reasons, here is presented a useful English/English dictionary to help get our wayward ancestors up to speed.

Inflammable: Flammable

No duh: Duh. Of course.

Federalist: Anti-federalist

Conservative: Liberal

Liberal: Radical

Radical: Conservative

Neoconservative: Jew, or one who practices Jeffersonian foreign policy.

Jew: this is now an ethnic slur in some situations.

Whig: Did you mean wig? Try adding keywords to refine your search.

God: no longer has real value. Used primarily as campaign endorsement.

Money: no longer has real value, thus "In God we trust."

Gold Standard: Only a metaphor, similar to "You can take that to the bank." Note that in a few weeks, "You can take that to the bank" may no longer be an assurance of fidelity. See Mortgages.

Mortgages: It is now possible to buy a house by borrowing money and using the house as collateral. This has enabled millions of Americans to become homeowners. It has also enabled negative consumer savings, trade deficits, low cost T-bills, and unrestrained growth in federal spending. For an accurate understanding of how mortgages operate as of August 2007, see Monopoly (game).

Monopoly (Microsoft): Ehh.. we don't really have time to go into this one.

Microsoft: They make games, but not Monopoly (game).

Television: A box that displays moving pictures and sound that depict violence, sex, blasphemy, and profanity of all types. What's worse is that the stories and archetypes are shallow and cliche'd, and the dialogue resembles a Chinese Box or extreme sociopath in its utter meaninglessness. Television (TV) is perhaps the single greatest obstacle to human progress and enlightenment.

HDTV: Now with sharper image!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tales of the Cypherpunk 6

index

"The net used to act like a connection of nodes and pathways, like a constellation. You sat at one terminal and routed your brain through gateways and servers to get to another point. You searched for information, pulled it down. Then server side applications came, running forever, offering a mechanical voice on the other end of the line. One day we woke up and realized that most of the communication on the net was machines talking to each other. When you read Faust, it only takes one computer in a basement to send you the text. When you ask what the best time is for a trip to Sardinia, there are weather bureaus, passports, and airlines involved. You're not dealing with a point. You're dealing with a net, the only net since they're really all connected. Now we're just waiting for IT to wake up and call US.

Moving around the net isn't like moving anymore. It's performing a series of operations on an array of data. It's turning the kaleidoscope and watching news articles become analysis. It's claustrophobic."

Shilo was confronted with his own words, coming back through the feeds. He wiped them away and saw his life, reached for the intersection between toolz and comms. He started a batch that would insert a reservation for two into Budreaux's system. No fudging databases or breaking passwords- a cypher like Shilo put a message in line between the parts of the whole. Somewhere between the hard drive and the screen, the Maitre D's list would gain a new entry. For Shilo, the process was reduced to a single thought. It was the work of an instant.

Betty watched Shiloh go slack for an instant, perched on the bench in the eye of the crowd. She knew he could do a lot more than make a reservation without an outward sign, but they had to wait to be called anyway. She vaguely felt that he needed to relax when he wasn't working. When getting on wasn't life or death.

Betty watched his eyes flicker and his neck seize. She reached out and felt his firewall up, unresponsive. The blue-eyed, grey-frocked secretary switched gears. She slid closer, obscuring Shilo's face with her own, sending an emergency ping to her brother, and finally (1.3 seconds after Shilo crashed) jamming.

The net came crashing down around them. The eternal, swirling crowds faltered. A few revelers collided with puzzled expressions, fear, irritation. The four dozen speakers from a nearby club popped and fell silent. Voices faded, other voices rose with a concerned tone. Motion, from the right. A scream, two, a chorus. Heads turned, turned back and the crowd began to part like an avalanche.

Gunshots rang out. Betty wrapped Shilo's arm around her neck, leaned forward, and lifted. She was only five foot three, and his knees almost dragged the ground, but she would worry about scuffed shoes later. Betty slipped out of her shoes (five foot two) and started running.

There were more gunshots, but she was already passing the bystanders, using them as concealment. She dodged right around a planter, left past Budreaux's Maitre D. She saw that he was more concerned with the empty screen of reservations than the chase outside. Anything beyond the restaurant's lectern was superfluous. She waved.

The girl's bare feet pounded the sidewalk, shredding hose without so much as scratching heels. Her right arm held Shy possessively by the waist. Her right hand gripped his while her elbow waved uncertainly to the rhythm of her steps. After thirty meters she stopped jamming and went stealth. Shilo's net was completely down. Hers was that of a visiting student. She obscured her vital signs.

Betty, we've got a pickup for you. The girl's augmented retinas showed her a 3d map overlaid on the streets. A van's icon shone through the buildings to the left. She picked up speed, leaned into the corner, and rolled into the van just as it started to move.

With a button press, Kelly shut the door.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tales of the Cypherpunk 5

index.

The lights of downtown were perfect. Streetlights showed the way without revealing the cracked sidewalks and bits of garbage. Stoplights changed like a row of dominos stretching off into the distance. The shadowy alleys were affectations. The sky was grey, blurred, the color that those blind from birth see. No one looked at it.

Shilo and Betty stepped from the dormant business district into the orange and red club scene. And pink and green and blue and white. Neon signs flickered next to five meter tall LCD billboards. Holograms beckoned from doorways and vanished at right angles. The young, the beautiful, and the bourgeoisie thronged the streets, the balconies, and the brilliant pearl white plaza at the center of Newman's Cross. Water arced like a string of diamonds, fifteen meters high or more, lighting the night, drowning out the stars, and falling back into a colossal white fountainhead. Younger people frolicked in the water below. They pushed each other into the waterfalls and grabbed unsuspecting ankles. The rush of water and shouts dominated the fountain, but the streets that led away from it called back with the suggestion of music and an occasional string of fireworks.

"Let's get some fried alligator, Shy!"

"I can't believe you like gator."

So, with Betty hugging his bicep - a bicep that was unused to so much noise and movement - Shilo was pulled toward Ruffians' Row.

Ruffian's Row was the oldest and most storied of the downtown strips. Stories only - it had never really been more than a trap for tourists, students, and couples' anniversaries. It was happily named 9th Street for many years, until the Edwin-Miller Corporation revitalized downtown. Focus group testing suggested that complacent middle class shoppers would spend more money if 9th Street acquired a hint of danger and blue collar roots. Ruffians' Row was now the designer lifestyle for those who were too down-to-earth for designer lifestyles.

Betty led him past a family buying their kids calories from a pushcart. They passed a pool hall with brand new shatter resistant antique green glass. The blue theater was sprinkled with as many glowing Xes as a tic tac toe board. Ha.

"What's so funny?" So he told her. Betty rolled her (sparkling blue) eyes. "Wakannai who would go to that place. They don't even have any fetish films."

"Budreaux's looks kinda full. Nnn, better make an electronic reservation."

They sat on a wrought iron (plastic) bench and Shilo entered the net.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Economic justification for government oppression

Stefan Molyneax, one of my blog's few blogrolled bloggers, has a book out. He's occasionally a bit of a pompous ass, but less so than the other political writers that people gobble up. This is probably due to the unshakable confidence that anarchists get from their elaborate and carefully researched ideas.

I'm tempted to buy the book for some friends of mine that recently got married. They're fairly intelligent, but also came from arbitrary and authoritarian families. Not that you would normally think of the kindly mother of the bride as authoritarian, but.. well.. authoritarian doesn't just mean frightening children with random acts of abuse. Even belief in the moral, rather than pragmatic, utility of traditions can be authoritarian. Many traditions are authoritarian in nature. The family is presumptuous as well.

Molyneux has been exploring the relationship between political beliefs and childrearing lately. I've had similar thoughts myself. The gist of the idea is that most people have a core set of values that are arbitrarily trained into them by their parents (think Pavlov). If your parents give you arbitrary rules, chores, allowance, etc. you WILL be more in favor of government control than someone like me who had three rules to cover every situation:
1) Don't stand on the furniture.
2) She may be your mother, but she's my wife.
3) Put your pants back on.

There was once an exchange like this:
Mom: Don't hit girls.
Me: I stuck my fist out and she ran into it. I thought she was going to stop, but she didn't.
Mom: (Frown).

Well, it was the truth. That's just the kind of credibility I have. Incidentally, who the hell would run into an outstretched fist?

Seriously, no one ever told me NOT to eat all the ice cream in the freezer. I just didn't do it.. I didn't buy it, and it's a scarce resource that should be conserved. I'm not sure it occurred to me to eat the food in the fridge before I was 10.

Economic Justification for Government Oppression

Not justification as such, but... We often think of government as an entity that evolves over time based on philosophical ideals, religious beliefs, and social forces. I won't totally contradict that, but I think that the form of government is MUCH more reliant on the underlying technological and economic base.

This argument isn't similar to Marxist arguments wherein the distribution of wealth determines the economic system and government. I'm not saying that amassing all the wealth in the hands of a few people will lead to aristocratic government.

Instead, I'm saying that the structure of government is determined by what is TECHNOLOGICALLY the cheapest way to make decisions.

Did feudalism die because the spread of Catholicism made people realize the innate worth of human life? No. Was it the Magna Carta? Superficially, that was an effect. Did we just evolve to a higher state of understanding? Nay.

Feudalism is a top-down decision making structure where the physical distance between members of the hierarchy is related to the need for quick decision making. Technologically, Serfs had no time to plan national defense or read the morning paper. They had no time to learn to read. The society required so many agrarian workers, and the process of farming was so straightforward, that only a few decision makers were needed because there were few decisions to be made. The only method of communication for the Serfs was word-of-mouth. They had to be physically close to the decision maker, the feudal lord. Preferably they were within half a day's travel, I would assume.

I'll skip crop rotation and the rise of the middle class. When the Renaissance hit, the more complex economy required more complex decision making. Thus, more people were brought into the process via parliament and such. This pattern has been repeated everywhere, with variations such as slave labor and shoguns. The printing press allowed long-distance communication and the governmental hierarchy flattened out. Instead of a long chain of subdivided land grants, with Serf-Knight-Baron-Count-Duke-Prince-King relationships, there were Commoners, Nobility, and Royalty. Of course social classes continued to exist, but the point is that with increased communication abilities (technology), and increased decision making requirements at lower levels (economy), the society became more egalitarian.

The USA was, at the time it was established, the most literate society on earth. This was probably due to Protestants reading their bibles, and to a certain extent the various free thinkers, British officers, and speculators swarming to the new world. I'm not an expert on the demography. The industrial revolution and the division of labor were well under way by this time, so the USA was created
1) Deliberately
2) With a highly literate population and plenty of newspapers and rivers
3) With a somewhat diverse economy that was consciously aiming to catch up to Europe in terms of industrial capability

The fact that the US constitution was drawn up with relatively little constraint makes it an excellent gauge of governmental structure relative to economic and technological conditions. A government that evolves, like Britain's, must at the very least lag societal conditions. It also faces vested interest, external pressures, its own traditions, et cetera. The US was RELATIVELY free from these, being geographically isolated and free of entangling alliances at the time.The creation of a new government also allows a break with prior laws and power arrangements where desired.

The result was a successful democracy, although power has tended to centralize over time. Still, compared to Renaissance England (Or 1855 Japan, or the Han Dynasty, or the Aztec civilization...) we're far more decentralized and egalitarian.

Information Technology is the explicit realization of the importance of data analysis, communication, and decision making to our daily activities. It allows the creation of an economy that is literally more complex than the human mind can conceive. I'm not limiting IT to the computer, here. The address book is a primitive database that allows us to surpass the limits of human memory, creating better business opportunities. The computer simply allows for more rules, heuristics, and decisions to be implemented in daily life that would be impractical before.

For example, when I go shopping, it is a simple matter to get to three different stores with relative ease. I go to Fry's because it usually has the best quality/price and such. There are surely some days when Safeway has a sale on chuck roast and ice cream, and on those rare occasions I'd save a few dollars going there. Is it worth my time to search the ads every time I go shopping? No.

If I had a wristwatch that told me which one to go to, based on my tastes, with no effort from me, it would make the economy that teensy bit more efficient.

Now, visions of a future libertarian or anarchist society have one great obstacle to overcome: they're too complicated. We'd all be better off making our own decisions, rather than having the government tell us what to do, but for many (most?) people, it's just not worth the effort to plan their own life. They have to work 9 hours, drive one hour, play with the kids, eat dinner, fix the garage door, and after that they barely have time to watch the news and figure out what our existing government is doing to screw us all today. They DON'T have time, and many don't have the education, to sift through MSNBC data on what business transactions are underway by the local utility co-ops and private security forces.

If current trends continue, one day most people WILL have the time and education to maintain a stateless society. Technology will assist them in filtering information. The economy will require decentralized decision making - it already does. The creaks of the bureaucracy are heard every time a hurricane destroys a major city and the inhabitants sit around waiting for death.

To all appearances, the government is actively trying to prevent the creation of a super-rational population, but based on my half-baked historical revisionism, the stateless society is inevitable.

I should really start recruiting a league of costumed vigilantes.

One of the suspects -- Jose Lachira Carranza -- is an illegal immigrant from Peru who was on bail on charges of raping a child when the murders occurred. - ajc.com

There are at least 3 problems with this situation. Well, at least we have enough manpower to crack down on stoners and shoot 5-year-olds and snakes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tales of the Cypherpunk 4

index

How had fate caught Shilo at such an impasse? He floated inches above the passenger seat of the notorious unmarked cargo van. The driver, known only as Kelly, was in the process of landing the van in a light rail corridor. He seemed marvelously calm, though to be sure, only Shilo was in danger of death if captured.

The van landed, and Shilo landed with a series of vertebral pops soon after.

"Warning," chimed a friendly female voice, "You have left the designated route. Please return to the route as soon as possible."

A burst of small arms fire pattered the roof like hail. "Kelly, we have to stay within 100 meters."

"That's a round number."

"Indeterminate EM scattering by architecture limits the accuracy of range estimates, okay? Just try not to hit that train we're following."

"That's the front of the train."

"Oh sh"

The van lurched drunkenly onto three wheels and bounced off the tracks, into an alley, left into a parking garage, and up a ramp into the sunlight. Behind them, a hapless squad car collided with a commuter train. The squad car was ripped apart, the occupants killed on contact. Inside the train, a young teacher's latte was knocked onto a pretty violinist's lap, leading eventually to a marriage and three children.

Meanwhile, the van found itself in a small pedestrian plaza.

"Please make a legal U-turn and return to the designated route." A map of the local streets appeared, with the van's icon floating in a grey-and-yellow-striped zone.

Shilo rubbed his forehead. "I guess that took care of our tail. Let's go pick up the pieces.