sorry for the three of you who check this regularly about the delay – i don’t have much of an excuse, but my life has been going surprisingly well in a lot of tiny ways over the last month or two. not as much time to lock myself away and read i guess, though i’ve definitely been doing that. actual books, too! i’ve discovered peter turchin recently and i’m really loving him.
- Mechanism Design in the Venetian Republic – theumlaut.com
On the morning after a Doge’s death the members of the “Maggior Consiglio,” the council representing the freemen of the city, convened to first select by lot 30 of its members older than 30 years, who were designated as “electors.” But if — perhaps by analogy to the U.S. Electoral College — you think that the 30 then simply elected the Doge, you’re mistaken.
Those 30 were reduced to 9 by lot. The 9 then designated a group of 40, each of whom needed 7 approval votes out of the 9 members of the committee. Back in the hall, with the entire Maggior Consiglio present, these 40 would be reduced by lot to 12. As before, the 12 would nominate 25 names, subject to approval by 9 members of the committee. In the hall, these 25 would be reduced to 9. In turn, the 9 nominated 5 names each, commanding the support of at least 7 members of the group. Those 45 would be reduced by lot to 11, and then nominate the 41 true electors of the Doge.
Only then would the real election begin. The 41 were kept isolated in the ducal palace until the Doge was elected. Each member of the “Quarantuno” could nominate a candidate. In the early years, a name would be picked at random, and a yes/no vote would be held. This would be repeated until a candidate was found who had the support of 25 members. Later on, this sequential procedure was changed to simultaneous approval vote, where each member of the Quarantuno votes yes or no on each of the nominated candidates. The candidate with the highest number of votes would be elected as the new Doge, provided that he had the attained at least 25 yes votes.
- In the Land of Vendettas That Go On Forever – vqronline.com
“Six people were killed,” Nabolli said. We had picked up Shullani again, and were driving to visit with another family living on the ramshackle outskirts of Shkodër. For almost twenty years, they had been involved in an especially gruesome and absurd feud. “Okay, the guy who makes three kills—in 2000, he was working in the other village, with the other family,” Nabolli explained, pausing only to shift the Fiat. “He was working, and after the work, the other family said, ‘Come in to eat something.’ So he comes in to eat something. And they said, ‘With rakia.’ And he said, ‘Thank you, but I don’t want rakia, I don’t drink rakia, I want only to eat and for you to give me my money.’ And they said, ‘No, you are in my house, you need to drink rakia.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t want rakia, I just want to eat and go back to my house.’ And they said, ‘No, you have to drink rakia.’ And they take the pistol, and they say, ‘If you don’t drink rakia, I will kill you. And so he said, ‘Okay, I will drink this rakia, but you will have problem with me.’ And after, he goes to his house, gets his gun, and then one day later, he kills the person who gives the rakia. After this, the other family, they want to take blood feud, and so they kill two brothers of the guy who made the first kill. And the guy returns, to make other kills. After they kill his brothers, he went to live in the mountains. And the other family lived in the village, near Tirana, the capital. He knows in what place they live. He go there, and he stay for a lot of days, just looking at where they live. One night, he goes inside the house, where there are all the mens. And he killed two of them, and injures three others. Five people were shooting. After this, he returns to the mountain. Two killed, three in the hospital. The special forces came and killed him. This is the story. For rakia.” He paused. “Never say no to rakia!”
Twenty minutes later, seated on a couch across from six framed photos of the family’s dead (handsome men, and tall, with serious eyes) I was handed a cup of rakia by a woman in a dark red blouse, the sister-in-law of the man who, seventeen years ago, had denied another family’s drink. They refused to acknowledge or concede his death, which would end the feud, because it had come at the hands of the police—not one of their own. She told me, with Nabolli translating, that her sister had recently killed herself; she feared too much for the inevitably grim future of her young son. Now, this woman and her own son—he appeared around twenty-five; he was wearing a faded black T-shirt with a peace sign on it—were hiding out in a tiny rental home, near a stretch of nonfunctioning train tracks.
The same implant can be used for many purposes: to steal documents, tap into email, subtly change data or become the launching pad for an attack. T.A.O.’s most public success was an operation against Iran called Olympic Games, in which implants in the network of the Natanz nuclear plant caused centrifuges enriching uranium to self-destruct. The T.A.O. was also critical to attacks on the Islamic State and North Korea.
It was this arsenal that the Shadow Brokers got hold of, and then began to release.
Like cops studying a burglar’s operating style and stash of stolen goods, N.S.A. analysts have tried to figure out what the Shadow Brokers took. None of the leaked files date from later than 2013 — a relief to agency officials assessing the damage. But they include a large share of T.A.O.’s collection, including three so-called ops disks — T.A.O.’s term for tool kits — containing the software to bypass computer firewalls, penetrate Windows and break into the Linux systems most commonly used on Android phones.
Evidence shows that the Shadow Brokers obtained the entire tool kits intact, suggesting that an insider might have simply pocketed a thumb drive and walked out.
But other files obtained by the Shadow Brokers bore no relation to the ops disks and seem to have been grabbed at different times. Some were designed for a compromise by the N.S.A. of Swift, a global financial messaging system, allowing the agency to track bank transfers. There was a manual for an old system code-named UNITEDRAKE, used to attack Windows. There were PowerPoint presentations and other files not used in hacking, making it unlikely that the Shadow Brokers had simply grabbed tools left on the internet by sloppy N.S.A. hackers.
- The World’s Most Toxic Value System – uwgb.edu
Although this “honor” mentality tends to be a feature of what anthropologists sometimes call “shame” cultures, “shame” is not really an accurate term either. There really is no specific term in English to describe this value system. The social science literature commonly describes this mentality as “feuding,” but though feuding is common in such societies, the term “feud” tends to obscure other aspects of the value system. The term “Mediterranean” is also widely used in the social science literature, and although it’s accurate in that almost the entire periphery of the Mediterranean shares this value system to some extent, we find it far beyond the Mediterranean. The term “traditional” is sometimes used to describe cultures imbued with the values I’m discussing, but the word is unsuitable as a general label for too many obvious reasons.
Words from other languages like “vendetta” and “machismo” aren’t really satisfactory because they have been taken into English and at best cover only a part of the attributes of this value system. What we need is a foreign term unfamiliar in English. There’s a Spanish word, pundonor, a contraction of punta de honor or “point of honor”, but it’s not really satisfactory for two reasons. First, its components are too similar to English to avoid confusion and second, it’s really not fair to saddle Spanish culture with the term. While we can find this attitude in Spanish cultures, it’s much more virulent, destructive and unmoderated by humor and common sense in other parts of the world. Until I find a more accurate term, I will use the Arabic word thar, “blood vengeance,” for this value system. The term embodies many of the attributes of the “honor” or “feud” mentality, has no semantic baggage attached to it for English speakers, and comes from one of the largest languages and cultures where these values are widespread.
- Ra – srconstantin.wordpress.com
There’s also a preference not to engage with people authentically — i.e. being more comfortable asking someone for a pre-packaged response (like “give me money” or “sign this petition”) than asking them to have an open-ended conversation with you.
Ra promotes the idea that optimal politeness conveys as little information as possible. That you should actively try to hide preferences (because if you shared them, you’d inconvenience others by pressuring them to satisfy your preferences). That all compliments are empty pleasantries. There’s an interpretation of “politeness” that’s anti-cooperative, that avoids probing for opportunities for genuine mutual benefit or connection and just wants to make the mutual defection process go as smoothly as possible. Ra prefers this, because it’s less revealing, commits you less, doesn’t pin you down, allows you to keep all your options open and devote everything to the pursuit of Ra.
Ra is involved in intuitions about silence or absence being ideal. A blank sheet of paper is more beautiful than any art you can put on it, because the art is potentially flawed, while blankness is flawless. Blankness leaves all the options open.
on the subject of an egregore (eg moloch). related is this previously linked ribbonfarm post, and this somewhat uneven collection of essays, exploring egregores. via a link roundup by the nearly always excellent…
- Banish Plump Mouse Deer and Banish All the World – samzdat.com
As much as the book talks about certain material actions (theft, etc.), what the peasantry really do is play at the traditional senses of morality. That is, “slander” is critical, as is the ability to hold wealthy landlords to task by invoking traditional Islamic and Malaysian moral duties. This seems to work: Scott breaks down the land-prices and points out that rents are below proper market-prices. The landed class is often afraid to bring in cheaper outside labor, and a lot of their fear comes from social status and mores.
The latter is particularly interesting because it almost looks like a traditional labor-movement strike, it just doesn’t use any of that language. Indeed, I suspect that outside labor is threatening partially because of this: it’s mostly itinerant Thai workers, so neither Malay nor Muslim, and therefore unlikely to press for and continue the traditions that Sedaka’s workers rely on. It also means the peasantry have no power over those laborers: moral complaints only work if someone has the same moral code. (Also notable that there genuinely is a strike at one point, and it goes terribly for the peasantry; this mostly confirms the “hidden resistance is better resistance” thing.)
If it seems to you like “They should just form a union and call in unionizers” or, worse, “The fact that they don’t is clearly because of religious fanaticism and cultural chauvinism” then you are insane. a) I’m pretty sure that the Ghost Busters showing up is a more realistic proposition. b) Let’s say that unionizer actually succeeds this one time. $10 says they come from an urban area and have more liberal, anti-traditional ideas, which means cost/benefit says the peasantry risks them subverting all the other forms of their power in the process.
- qBitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Quantum Cash System – arxiv.org
A decentralized online quantum cash system, called qBitcoin, is given. We design the system which has great benefits of quantization in the following sense. Firstly, quantum teleportation technology is used for coin transaction, which prevents from the owner of the coin keeping the original coin data even after sending the coin to another. This was a main problem in a classical circuit and a blockchain was introduced to solve this issue. In qBitcoin, the double-spending problem never happens and its security is guaranteed theoretically by virtue of quantum information theory. Making a block is time consuming and the system of qBitcoin is based on a quantum chain, instead of blocks. Therefore a payment can be completed much faster than Bitcoin. Moreover we employ quantum digital signature so that it naturally inherits properties of peer-to-peer (P2P) cash system as originally proposed in Bitcoin.
i’m not even going to pretend to know enough about quantum mechanics/computers to understand most of this, but it’s wild how many steps ahead this is. these problems it solves or only even theoretical.
- Time-Lock Encryption – gwern.net
In cryptography, it is easy to adjust encryption of data so that one, some, or all people can decrypt it, or some combination thereof. It is not so easy to achieve adjustable decryptability over time, a “time-lock crypto”: for some uses (data escrow, leaking, insurance, last-resort Bitcoin backups etc), one wants data which is distributed only after a certain point in time.
I survey techniques for time-lock crypto. Proposals often resort to trusted-third-parties, which are vulnerabilities. A better time-lock crypto proposal replaces trusted-third-parties with forcibly serial proof-of-work using number squaring and guaranteeing unlocking not after a certain point in time but after sufficient computation-time has been spent; it’s unclear how well number-squaring resists optimization or shortcuts. I suggest a new time-lock crypto based on chained hashes; hashes have been heavily attacked for other purposes, and may be safer than number-squaring. Finally, I cover obfuscation & witness-encryption which, combined with proof-of-work, can be said to solve time-lock crypto but currently remain infeasible.
- What Happens If China Makes First Contact? – theatlantic.com
Some seti researchers have wondered about stealthier modes of expansion. They have looked into the feasibility of “Genesis probes,” spacecraft that can seed a planet with microbes, or accelerate evolution on its surface, by sparking a Cambrian explosion, like the one that juiced biological creativity on Earth. Some have even searched for evidence that such spacecraft might have visited this planet, by looking for encoded messages in our DNA—which is, after all, the most robust informational storage medium known to science. They too have come up empty. The idea that civilizations expand ever outward might be woefully anthropocentric. From Our December 2017 Issue
Liu did not concede this point. To him, the absence of these signals is just further evidence that hunters are good at hiding. He told me that we are limited in how we think about other civilizations. “Especially those that may last millions or billions of years,” he said. “When we wonder why they don’t use certain technologies to spread across a galaxy, we might be like spiders wondering why humans don’t use webs to catch insects.” And anyway, an older civilization that has achieved internal peace may still behave like a hunter, Liu said, in part because it would grasp the difficulty of “understanding one another across cosmic distances.” And it would know that the stakes of a misunderstanding could be existential.
First contact would be trickier still if we encountered a postbiological artificial intelligence that had taken control of its planet. Its worldview might be doubly alien. It might not feel empathy, which is not an essential feature of intelligence but instead an emotion installed by a particular evolutionary history and culture. The logic behind its actions could be beyond the powers of the human imagination. It might have transformed its entire planet into a supercomputer, and, according to a trio of Oxford researchers, it might find the current cosmos too warm for truly long-term, energy-efficient computing. It might cloak itself from observation, and power down into a dreamless sleep lasting hundreds of millions of years, until such time when the universe has expanded and cooled to a temperature that allows for many more epochs of computing.
everything about ‘three body problem’ just screams that it’s something i’d love – i feel a little silly about not having read it yet.
- A Priesthood of Programmers – jacobitemag.com
At the same time as the platforms consume the distribution channels of the news media and thus gain power over them, the existence of such platforms allows independent actors to sidestep the media entirely. The Awl published a strong article in 2015 on the symbiotic relationship between the media and their subjects and its unravelling as said subjects discover they no longer need the media. It argues that prior to the platforms, figures hoping for tailored coverage had to trade access to themselves to media outlets, which controlled captive audiences and facilitated communication to the public as an intermediary. Now, athletes and celebrities command immense followings of their own. They find it easier, safer, and more rewarding to speak to their fans directly, and they have much more leverage over the media when they do engage. And anything newsworthy they say on their personal feeds, the media will have to cover it anyway, a dynamic exemplified in the political sphere by Donald Trump. His prolific tweeting (missives covered as news in their own right) and videos of his incessant rallies (in which the press pit was often made a caged spectacle subject to mockery) served as his ground floor messaging to his base. His media coverage during the race was consistently negative, often vitriolic in a way that has not been seen in living memory, but it did little but confirm the belief widespread among his base that the media as an institution is partisan, corrupt, and dishonest. Previous candidates such as Dean and Obama made clever (relative to other politicians) use of technology to buoy traditional campaigning. Trump was the first to really exist on the net, to adhere to and exploit its norms rather than those of the previous era.
That the platforms work a certain way is not purely a passive result of what functions well given technical and market conditions. These systems are built by people, with their own culture and inclinations, and as such their worldviews and wills are embedded in the output of their labors. Two main currents define the platforms of the present: quantify anything that can be to enable its automation and externalize the rest, and platforms exist to be neutral carriers of information, serving the whims of the users rather than imposing on them. Both of these points emerge from myriad sources, from the “hacker philosophy” the field began with (now in the minority, but echoes are still felt), to business concerns, to legal structures, to media pushback. Journalists largely oppose both, again for a mix of philosophical and self-interested reasons, though it is clear most don’t understand the views they argue against and simply see them as wrong. For them, little of value is quantifiable, all issues must be subject to human judgment, and platforms exist to transmit a message, and those with pretensions of neutrality are shirking their duty. The media now is in a position akin to that of the papacy of Pius IX, eclipsed and in danger of being replaced wholesale by a new model, reacting against it by leveraging the believers they have left.
of course, i hide the jacobite link at the bottom lol. i promise it’s not psycho shit – it’s an epilogue to mcluhan.
Mars Talk Ep. 11: What is Urbit? – 1.5hr youtube panel which is much more high-level and accessible than most discussions and descriptions you’d find by enthusiasts and the devs.
sshtalk – a secure chat/IM client built around ssh