home // about
shitbloggin with reid scoggin

link roundup 29



By passing the Inclosure Acts, the British parliament mandated the enclosure of private property, effectively reversing acts of customary law established in the Middle Ages, which set aside portions of the manorial lands for common use. No longer able to access common lands, the small peasants were unable to feed themselves and were forced to sell their small lots, as they could not shoulder the costs of enclosing their properties. The wealthier landowners, however, consolidated their smaller lots and significantly increased the size of these estates (not unlike the previously reviewed Gracchi period). The peasants who had become landless were hired as farm hands for wages on these estates. In combination with the aforementioned technical advances, these changes can be considered as the first instance of industrial farming and the initial reordering of the economic system along capitalist lines.

Agriculture was the primary use of land up until the 18th century, but innovations in agricultural production upended that order and led to a new system.

What happened to the peasants driven off from the countryside? They went to the cities in search of employment for wages, which marks the beginning of capitalism and the rise of the bourgeoisie. The landowners, by exploiting technical and legal advances in agriculture, provided the bourgeoisie with the labor necessary for the rapid expansion of their economic power. Although liberal mythology usually pins the changes of the 18th century on the reassuring and lofty ideas of the Enlightenment, it is no coincidence that liberal ideas took hold immediately in the aftermath of the agricultural revolution. Even the darling cause of historical progressives and reformers (who at the time were the early capitalist), the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, was passed at a time when the principal source of labor in the driving sectors of the economy (manufacturing and mining) were wage laborers and not slaves. It was easy for the new bourgeois elite to abolish something it had no use for.

That these predictions could be made with such clarity from the moment that a new innovation was birthed provides lessons today to those seeking political victory in an increasingly digitized age. The combination of the smartphone and ubiquitous internet access has led to the world of the individual becoming increasingly based on interconnection without the need for physical proximity. Such was the direct intention of the producers of these technologies. The platforms built atop smartphone infrastructures encourage constant interaction, information generation, and collaboration without barriers. They encourage a mimesis through which people see reflections of themselves in others, and seek to become more themselves through others.

Such a digitally intermediated world, perhaps counter-intuitively, carries with it the possibility of a less atomized future, one marked by communities of interests replacing the communities of geography. The lack of territory that characterize these online social groups make them less subject to the regulation of nation-states directly, unless one takes the Chinese approach and regulates the physical world’s ability to interact with the digital, rather than regulating the digital itself. This lessening of state political influence, however, does not lessen the political nature of these communities, which are subject to policing, exclusion, and internal laws set up by those who govern them.

There exists those that reject the values created by the current platforms that mediate online interaction, and have sought to create alternative technological bases for cyberspace. This is not the same as replicating existing platforms with different rules of content moderation, but developing new methods of interaction. Urbit, a crypto-decentralization project, is one of these cases: it intends to build a “new internet on top of the old internet.” Its goal is to create a consistent digital identity rather than fracturing one’s online persona, allowing for the creation of authentic communities of individuals online in opposition to the rootless cyberspace of the present. In such technologies, with their retreat into immutability and trust, we can see the arc of anthropological truth.

Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? To address these long-standing questions, we constructed a database of historical and archaeological information from 30 regions around the world over the last 10,000 years. Our analyses revealed that characteristics, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems, show strong evolutionary relationships with each other and that complexity of a society across different world regions can be meaningfully measured using a single principal component of variation. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.


The scale and organization of human societies changed dramatically over the last 10,000 y: from small egalitarian groups integrated by face-to-face interactions to much larger societies with specialized governance, complex economies, and sophisticated information systems. This change is reflected materially in public buildings and monuments, agricultural and transport infrastructure, and written records and texts. Social complexity, however, is a characteristic that has proven difficult to conceptualize and quantify. One argument is that these features of societies are functionally interrelated and tend to coevolve together in predictable ways. Thus, societies in different places and at different points in time can be meaningfully compared using an overall measure of social complexity. Several researchers have attempted to come up with a single measure to capture social complexity, but a more common approach has been to use proxy measures, such as the population size of the largest settlement, number of decision-making levels, number of levels of settlement hierarchy, or extent of controlled territory Others have criticized this approach on the grounds that these proposed measures focus too narrowly on size and hierarchy or that there are multiple dimensions or variable manifestations of complexity. However, another common view is that different societies have unique histories and cannot be meaningfully compared in this way Indeed, most historians have abandoned the search for general principles governing the evolution of human societies. However, although every society is unique in its own ways, this does not preclude the possibility that common features are independently shared by multiple societies. How can we study both the diversity and commonalities in social arrangements found in the human past?

  • Crypto-Current is not, by intention, a book about electricity, but it is quite probably a book about electricity nevertheless. Crypto-current (the thing) works itself out that way, in stubborn obscurity. Electronic publishing is no more than a late phase of its eventuality – although, essentially, among the most conspicuous. Electric current – measured in Ampères or ‘amps’ – conventionally takes the algebraic symbol ‘I’, derived from the French intensité de courant (current intensity), as used by Ampère in the formulation of his force law (1820). It is exactly current intensity, apprehended at a superior level of abstraction – and therefore without the benefit of any yet-stabilized, compact notation – that provides our topic. When posed in the Kantian fashion, our question – determined now at a scale that is bound to escape us – asks: How can there be anything like current, in general? It is, of course, time that is put into question here, but in such a way that electricity – and more specifically hyper-electrification – conducts the interrogation. Even within this widened domain, Ohm’s Law (1827), I = V / R – current is equal to potential difference over resistance – provides a definition we will not, and actually cannot, find reason to depart from, unless in an abstract direction. Our task, rather, is to generalize it, without subsidence into metaphor. Current is not a figure for something else. It is the thing itself – or real time – even, or perhaps especially, when it is most artificial.

nick land’s finally released his book about bitcoin. this is the foreword – unfortunately the chapters are posted as individual blog entries that don’t seem to be indexed with links in one place.

Ledger-based systems that enable rich applications often suffer from two limitations. First, validating a transaction requires re-executing the state transition that it attests to. Second, transactions not only reveal which application had a state transition but also reveal the application’s internal state. Unfortunately, expensive re-execution and lack of privacy rule out many use cases.

We design, implement, and evaluate Zexe , a ledger-based system where users can execute offline computations and subsequently produce transactions, attesting to the correctness of these computations, that satisfy two main properties. First, transactions hide all information about the offline computations. Second, transactions can be validated by anyone in constant time, regardless of the offline computation. The core of Zexe is a protocol for a new cryptographic primitive that we introduce, decentralized private computation (DPC). The security guarantees of DPC are concisely expressed via an ideal functionality, which our protocol provably achieves. In order to achieve an efficient implementation of our protocol, we leverage tools in the area of cryptographic proofs, including succinct zero knowledge proofs and recursive proof composition. Overall, transactions in Zexe are 968 bytes regardless of the offline computation, and generating them takes less than 2 minutes plus a time that grows with the offline computation.

To facilitate real-world deployments, Zexe also provides support for delegating the process of producing a transaction to an untrusted worker, and support for threshold transactions and blind transactions

things are getting unbelievably cyberpunk. there are only a couple of decentralization projects i find mind-bendingly exciting and this is one of them.

People should do what interests them. This was how most of the innovative stuff like BitTorrent, mix-nets, bitcoin, etc. happened. So, I’m not sure that “try to think about ways” is the best way to put it. My hunch is that ideologically-driven people will do what is interesting. Corporate people will probably not do well in “thinking about ways.”

Money is speech. Checks, IOUs, delivery contracts, Hawallah banks, all are used as forms of money. Nick Szabo has pointed out that bitcoin and some other cryptocurrencies have most if not all of the features of gold except it also has more features: it weighs nothing, it’s difficult to steal or seize and it can be sent over the crudest of wires. And in minutes, not on long cargo flights as when gold bars are moved from place to another.

But, nothing is sacred about either banknotes, coins or even official-looking checks. These are “centralized” systems dependent on “trusted third parties” like banks or nation-states to make some legal or royal guaranty.

Sending bitcoin, in contrast, is equivalent to “saying” a number (math is more complicated than this, but this is the general idea). To ban saying a number is equivalent to a ban on some speech. That doesn’t mean the tech can’t be stopped. There was the “printing out PGP code,” or the Cody Wilson, Defense

with tim may, of crypto-anarchy fame.

Freedom of expression must be allowed. With this freedom comes all sorts of problems, but these types of problems are not unique to the internet. Unpopular speech is a necessary consequence of free speech and it was decided long ago, during the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that the advantages of free speech outweigh the disadvantages. This principle should hold on the internet as well. Anonymity servers on the internet provide a vital service with many benefits to the on-line community. The minority of users who abuse this service by sending harassing messages or engaging in illegal activities are a definite disadvantage to anonymity on the internet but this problem can be reduced significantly by following guidelines suggested here. The fact remains that more than 15,000 email messages are sent anonymously each day which shows that there is a significant need for anonymity services on the net. If anonymity service is a truly negative thing for the internet, it will eventually die out by itself from lack of use. Attempts to artificially eliminate this service through legislation would not be right. This wish that the internet remain unregulated seems rather naive, however. It is hoped, at least, that future national and international legislation on the internet allows the vital service of anonymity to remain. A common set of guidelines for the use of anonymity on the entire internet is vital. Such guidelines will only function on an international scale if both lawmakers and net users work together and try to figure out a solution.

In the days after the Vegas launch, Augur did not disappoint. Thousands of users had traded upwards of $1.5 million on Augur, and the value of the REP digital tokens grew to the mid $30 range. Hundreds of betting markets proliferated on Augur’s interface. Would U.S. President Trump be re-elected? Who would win the France-Belgium semi-final in the 2018 World Cup? Would the price of ether exceed $500 by the year’s end?

But then, within a week, Augur fell to earth. Only a few dozen people were trading it daily. Users complained about the clunky interface, and started to notice the abundance of dud markets (“Does God exist?”). Worse, morally challenged “assassination markets” emerged, which some observers believed might actually encourage bettors to kill celebrities—if the jackpot got high enough. Some news outlets declared Augur a joke. One publication lamented the “hype, the horror, and the letdown of prediction market Augur.”

The truth lies somewhere in between.

What about the other two issues: lack of trust and lack of respect? In my opinion what sets Scuttlebutt apart form any other decentralised technology that I know of is that we decided to make humanity an essential component in our stack. This is not just a beautiful sentence. Humanity is a technology, too. Primitive homo sapiens took a long time to discover how to do community, and we cannot risk losing that skill for the internet era.

It’s easy for people to be anonymous and offensive on the internet, specially in a decentralised, peer to peer system. Scuttlebutt aligns the incentives in a way that humans, not computers or AI, solve the hard community problems. We do that by introducing four properties that incentivise humane behaviour: consequence, locality, pull, and interdependence.


We want to make it possible to have no passwords, no cloud backup, no companies, no captchas. All that you need is your friends. It’s a new type of security model built on trusting people, that has the effect of reinforcing trust even more.

At the extreme end, a customizable drone swarm could break-apart or merge together into a single unit while in the field. This would enable rapid response to changing battlefield dynamics. For example, a small group of undersea drones could break off from the larger mass to investigate a possible adversary vessel. If the new target presents a significant threat, the full swarm may re-form to tackle the challenge.

Research on drone swarm customization shows the concept is possible, but development is still in the early stages. A recent study in the scientific journal Nature demonstrated a basic mergeable robotic nervous system. A handful of very simple robots merge together to form a single, larger robot, or separate into smaller groups.

In the future, providing commanders with a drone swarm could be akin to providing a box of Legos. Commanders may be given a collection of drones that can be combined in different ways as the mission demands. This enables rapid responsiveness to changes in the military environment.

NARRATOR: they weren’t.

Post-quantum cryptography is an incredibly exciting area of research that has seen an immense amount of growth over the last decade. While the four types of cryptosystems described in this post have received lots of academic attention, none have been approved by NIST and as a result are not recommended for general use yet. Many of the schemes are not performant in their original form, and have been subject to various optimizations that may or may not affect security. Indeed, several attempts to use more space-efficient codes for the McEliece system have been shown to be insecure. As it stands, getting the best security from post-quantum cryptosystems requires a sacrifice of some amount of either space or time. Ring lattice-based cryptography is the most promising avenue of work in terms of flexibility (both signatures and KEM, also fully homomorphic encryption), but the assumptions that it is based on have only been studied intensely for several years. Right now, the safest bet is to use McEliece with Goppa codes since it has withstood several decades of cryptanalysis.

Take a look at two maps. The first shows the geographic breakdown of Pakistan’s patchwork of ethnicities. You’ll notice that ethnic Pashtuns live in the notoriously backward and violent northwestern frontier provinces. Their region extends deep into Afghanistan and covers the southeastern part of that country. These two regions – which are actually a single region with a somewhat arbitrary national border between them – are where most Taliban activity has been concentrated since the United States destroyed their regime in Afghanistan. A second map shows the breakdown of areas in Pakistan currently under Taliban control. You’ll see, when you compare the maps carefully, that almost all areas that are either Taliban-controlled or Taliban-influenced, are Pashtun.

The Taliban are more than an expression of Pashtun nationalism, of course. They represent a reactionary movement that idealizes the simplicity and extreme conservatism of 7th century Islam. By burnishing this ideology, the Taliban is able, absurdly, to attract support beyond its Pashtun base.

The ethnic component, though, is a formidable one. It all but guaranteed a certain degree of success by the Taliban in all of “Pashtunistan,” in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. Yet all the while, the ethnic map imposes constraints, if not limits, on how far the Taliban can expand.

this is something i’ve kind of dimly wondered about, so i was delighted to stumble on an answer.

When researchers primarily focus on items being sold on dark web markets, many gloss over the various types of communities that reside within the forums themselves, either focusing solely on Russian hacking collectives or not talking about forum members at all. This can cause readers to assume that the “hacker community” is an amorphous collective of individuals transcending borders and cultures. Quite the opposite — each country’s hackers are unique, with their own codes of conduct, forums, motives, and payment methods. Recorded Future has actively analyzed underground markets and forums tailored to Russian and Chinese audiences over the past year and has discovered a number of differences in content hosted on forums, as well as differences in forum organization and conduct.

Though I’m not sure where I read it, though probably John King Fairbanks’ book, it has been asserted that China from the Han dynasty down to fall of the Imperial system in 1912 exhibited such a strong cultural continuity that an official in the Former Han might find the bureaucracy of 1900 comprehensible. But wait, there’s more here. As outlined in Early China many of the broad outlines of Han culture which crystallized under the Qin-Han, actually date back to the Zhou dynasty of 1000 BC. The Shang even earlier clearly prefigure the importance of ancestor worship in Chinese culture.

The contrast with the other end of Eurasia is stark. A book like 1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed has a hyperbolic title which totally ignores the fact that that date passed without much tumult in East Asia, where the Shang were ascendant on the plains of the Yellow river. In fact, the curious thing to observe is that the periodic phases of political disunity and cultural turmoil never resulted in a sharp and distinct rupture in Chinese self-identity. Chris Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800 outlines the argument that the difference between Rome and the post-Roman polities assembled by the Germans is that the latter lost control of taxation and so dissolved the bureaucratic state. The mature and more self-confident Europe of the High Middle Ages was very different from Classical Rome. It was created de novo. In contrast, Song China was not that different from Han China.

But, you also need to sample more of the parameter space. Some families do leave the elite, and others join it. The goal of an institution like Harvard is to admit and cultivate potential joiners. These are not always going to be children who win spelling bees and science fairs, and can attain every metric you might put in front of them. Political leaders of given communities tend to look like and come from those communities. Therefore, there is a need to maintain some level of racial and ethnic diversity if power, as opposed to academics,* is your number one focus.

What if Harvard began to let more Asian Americans in? Even though it is a private institution it would have some of the problems that Stuyvesant High School in New York is facing. Stuy is about 75% Asian American in a city that is 12% Asian American. The plain fact is that an elite public school supported by the city is probably not sustainable in the long-term if it does not reflect the demographics of the city. This is not an argument about whether it is just or not, but an observation of the dynamics of power and influence in a democratic system.

Harvard has to look somewhat like America visibly. The visibility part is important because it makes it salient. The reality is that Harvard undergraduates are highly atypical in their family background. The average student comes from a family in the top 20% of household income distribution. This distribution is probably multi-modal because Harvard’s endowment allows it to subsidize students of more modest means while still reserving spots for the extremely wealthy and privileged. Additionally, when you scratch beneath the surface the “visibility” can deceive. Harvard representation of black students is near the national proportion. But historically the majority of these have been from biracial or immigrant or Caribbean American households. In the 2000s it was estimated that one-third of Harvard black students represented 90% of black Americans who have four grandparents who were born and raised in the United States as black Americans.

Understanding the expansion of human sociality and cooperation beyond kith and kin remains an important evolutionary puzzle. There is likely a complex web of processes including institutions, norms, and practices that contributes to this phenomenon. Considerable evidence suggests that one such process involves certain components of religious systems that may have fostered the expansion of human cooperation in a variety of ways, including both certain forms of rituals and commitment to particular types of gods. Using an experimental economic game, our team specifically tested whether or not individually held mental models of moralistic, punishing, and knowledgeable gods curb biases in favor of the self and the local community, and increase impartiality toward geographically distant anonymous co-religionists. Our sample includes 591 participants from eight diverse societies – iTaukei (indigenous) Fijians who practice both Christianity and ancestor worship, the animist Hadza of Tanzania, Hindu Indo-Fijians, Hindu Mauritians, shamanist-Buddhist Tyvans of southern Siberia, traditional Inland and Christian Coastal Vanuatuans from Tanna, and Christian Brazilians from Pesqueiro. In this article, we present cross-cultural evidence that addresses this question and discuss the implications and limitations of our project. This volume also offers detailed, site-specific reports to provide further contextualization at the local level.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of beauty recently, letting the word glide around in my mind over many possible meanings. It took a while, but I finally found one that clicked. Unlike all the other meanings I’ve toyed with, this one is tangible and solid; it keeps its shape. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with it, and I’m going to share it with you today.

But please, understand that I’m not trying to annex the word from you, to repurpose it to point toward my preferred concept. I don’t particularly care what other people mean when they talk about “beauty”; I have no dog in that fight. I just want to describe something that happens in the world, something I think is fascinating. And the best label I can think to give it is “beauty.”

Are you with me?

Here’s a little preview of where we’re headed: I want to talk about beauty as a game. Specifically, a two-player game. Or to be maximally precise: a family of games with two main player classes.

This will all make sense soon, I promise.

The words are those of Aeschylus, sung by the chorus in The Libation Bearers. But Libation Bearers was the second in a trilogy; the concluding piece sees Athena stop the endless blood-feud justice demands by providing a citizen’s court to judge cases of right and wrong. To the jury she gave “from the heights, terror and reverence, [so that] my people’s kindred powers will hold them from injustice through the day,” forever replacing the anarchy of vendetta with order imposed by the state. [3] That is how the story usually goes, and this is largely how Campbell and Manning describe the transition away from honor. As law grew honor diminished, allowing men to resolve their disputes without recourse to violence or reputation. This story is also wrong–or perhaps more charitably, incomplete.

The study of honor has had something of a renaissance among classicists and historians of Ancient Greece and Rome, with folks like J.E. Lendon and Susan Mattern demonstrating conclusively that a culture of honor and reputation were the driving forces behind Roman and Greek government, warfare, and inter-personal relations, despite the might of their rulers or the force of their laws. The pattern is repeated elsewhere: as early as 200 BC Chinese thinkers like Shang Yang and Han Fei discerned that feats of valor and private vendettas pursued for reputation and honor undermined state power. They, and the many dynasties that succeeded them in the centuries to come, tried with all their power to stamp out bloody honor feuds. They failed. Despite the efforts of thousands of thinkers and statesmen, archetypes like the vengeance driven son or the swordsman who cared more for his reputation than his life continued on as stock heroes throughout late imperial times, recognizable to all and cheered on in popular plays and novels like The Orphan of Zhao or Outlaws of the Marsh. Efforts by literati to lift conflict resolution to a more refined plane barely made a dent on popular Chinese attitudes, which remained consumed with ideas of honor and face into the early years of the 20th century.

The first is a straightforward pessimistic induction. Historically, science tends to replace intentional explanations of natural phenomena with functional explanations. Since humans are a natural phenomena we can presume, all things being equal, that science will continue in the same vein, that intentional phenomena are simply the last of the ancient delusions soon to be debunked. Of course, it seems pretty clear that all things are not equal, that humans, that consciousness in particular, is decidedly not one more natural phenomena among others.

The second involves what might be called ‘Cognitive Closure FAPP.’ This argument turns on the established fact that humans are out and out stupid, that the only thing that makes us seem smart is that our nearest competitors are still sniffing each other’s asses to say hello. In the humanities in particular, we seem to forget that science is an accomplishment, and a slow and painful one at that. The corollary of this, of course, is that humans are chronic bullshitters. I’m still astounded at how after decades of rhetoric regarding critical thinking, despite millennia of suffering our own stupidity, despite pretty much everything you see on the evening news, our culture has managed to suppress the bare fact of our cognitive shortcomings, let alone consider it any sustained fashion. Out of the dozen or so instructors of practical reasoning courses that I have met, not one of them has done any reading on the topic.

The fact is we all suffer from cognitive egocentrism. We all seem to intuitively assume that we have won what I call the ‘Magical Belief Lottery.’ We cherry pick confirming evidence and utterly overlook disconfirming evidence. We automatically assume that our sources are more reliable than the sources cited by others. We think we are more intelligent than we in fact are. We rewrite memories to minimize the threat of inconsistencies. We mistake claims repeated three or more times as fact. We continually revise our beliefs to preempt in-group criticism. We regularly confabulate. We congenitally use our conclusions to determine the cogency of our premises. The list goes on and on, believe you me. Add to this the problem of Interpretative Underdetermination, the simple fact that our three pound brains are so dreadfully overmatched by the complexities of the world…

It need not stop with malaria. Gene drives can in principle be used against any creatures which reproduce sexually with short generations and aren’t too rooted to a single spot. The insects that spread leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue fever, chikungunya, trypanosomiasis and Zika could all be potential targets. So could creatures which harm only humankind’s dominion, not people themselves. Biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a gene-drive system for Drosophila suzukii, an Asian fruitfly which, as an invasive species, damages berry and fruit crops in America and Europe. Island Conservation, an international environmental NGO, thinks gene drives could offer a humane and effective way of reversing the damage done by invasive species such as rats and stoats to native ecosystems in New Zealand and Hawaii.

Needless to say, the enthusiasm is not universal. Other environmental groups worry that it will not prove possible to contain gene drives to a single place, and that species seen as invasive in one place might end up decimated in other places where they are blameless, or even beneficial. If drives are engineered into species that play a pivotal but previously unappreciated ecological role, or if they spread from a species of little ecological consequence to a close relative that matters more, they could have damaging and perhaps irreversible effects on ecosystems.

Such critics fear that the laudable aim of vastly reducing deaths from malaria—which the World Health Organisation puts at 445,000 a year, most of them children—will open the door to the use of gene drives for far less clear-cut benefits in ways that will entrench some interests, such as those of industrial farmers, at the expense of others. They also point to possible military applications: gene drives could in principle make creatures that used not to spread disease more dangerous.


VoluntaryNet is an in-browser webrtc-based decentralized messaging platform on which social networks, marketplaces, and other applications can be built. Unlike centralized or federated systems, you own your identity and data. It’s free, open source, and run by the users themselves.