Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2020-12-14T14:00:03Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com December 14. http://ranprieur.com/#b3e4485ffec125d49fb8a059f328ac3a6dd6a78d 2020-12-14T14:00:03Z December 14. Sent by two readers, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear. It's an interview of the author of a book with that title, about a bunch of libertarians who took over a town in New Hampshire, and tested their utopian vision of minimal government. It did not go well.

I often wonder why there still is a Libertarian Party. Together, democrats and republicans have been pushing the libertarian agenda for decades, moving steadily leftward on social issues and rightward on economic issues. Now weed is legal, and there are homeless people everywhere because all the money has been sucked to the top.

Hey right wingers, if you hate billionaires so much, why not propose a tax of 100% of assets over 999 million dollars. Presto, no more billionaires. Seriously I think the rich are mostly good people who haven't done anything immoral except follow their own luck, and bad laws, into having more money than good laws would permit anyone to have.

Libertarians love money and hate government, which doesn't make sense, because money is completely created by government, and inequalities in money are protected by government force. And not just money. From this Ribbonfarm comment (thanks Baltasar):

The private is always an invention. And it can only exist to the degree there is a power structure, typically a state in the modern world, to legally and violently enforce its private status. Private property is always a socially-constructed and state-sanctioned entity that disappears or loses its valence when the state no longer functions.

I would respect an ideology that opposed both government and property (beyond personal items). The precedent is almost all the non-state peoples of history and prehistory. But I'm not ready to give up yet on government. I think we have a lot of room to make it better, while money is irredeemable.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with money, because it can buy everything that a kid thinks is awesome. Now I understand that money is a way to make other people do things that they would not do if it weren't for money. Capitalism is the ideology that money magically makes selfishness beneficial, when really it's the exact opposite: because it insulates us from the effects of our use of power, money makes it possible for completely nice people to participate in evil.

December 10. http://ranprieur.com/#7e4c6e9f3539a2477c0f7ccc907e3a554d950e61 2020-12-10T22:20:51Z December 10. I've got no ideas this week. So here's a full repost of a post from 2011:

March 7. I've had several emails lately from people worried about "government", and I want to do a little rant. We are in the midst of an ancient struggle between central control and... well, the opposite is so complex that if we try to describe it with a single word, that word gets distorted by the forces of control. For example, "liberty" and "freedom" have come to mean the freedom of the powerful to crush the weak under their boots. Even "autonomy" implies individualism, and ultimately, the strong individuals crushing the weak under their boots.

The opposite of central control is a system where all powers are distributed to all: group decisions are made by consensus of all members, and anything that anyone is permitted to do, everyone is permitted to do. So there are no official secrets, no restricted areas, no licenses, no uniforms. There are restraints, but they apply to all. There are people with greater physical and mental powers, but there is no mechanism to leverage these internal powers into external powers written into the system. The only "authority" is when someone is respected for understanding something better than others.

Obviously, we're a long way from building a system like that at a high level of complexity. I think it's going to take us thousands of years. In the meantime, we will pass through many rises and falls of control systems under many guises. It's like a bunch of plagues passing through us until we gain immunity to all of them. And if our immune systems are lazy, they will always be fighting the previous one instead of the new one.

The last round of really bad control systems was in the mid-20th century. The Nazis were the scariest, but the Soviet system was more stable, and over time, more harmful. Two of the most influential political writers of the 20th century, George Orwell and Ayn Rand, were both reacting to the Soviet system. Their reactions, among others, have come down to us as a set of cultural immune system habits: the enemy is big government, existing for its own sake, fed by taxes, building ugly concrete monoliths full of dull-minded bureaucrats, justifying itself through stories of happy people working together.

If you haven't noticed, that system is dead, except in China, where it's not quite dead. The new dominant control system is big money, existing for its own sake, fed by profits, building sparkly glass monoliths full of depressed cubicle monkeys, and justifying itself through stories of strong and free individuals working hard to earn shiny toys. Government remains only as a buffer between big money and all other life, or in some cases, as a weapon that both sides are grappling with to use it against the other. In the third world, soon including America, big money controls government absolutely. But most Americans, stuck in the old immune response, see the hammer of government coming down on them and don't notice who is holding the hammer.

I don't mind the government. It's true that most federal spending makes its way (through bank bailouts and military contractors and medical insurance companies and the mortgage payments of entitlement recipients) to the giant concentrations of money. But my income is low enough to not pay federal income tax, and I expect to be able to keep it that low. It's true that governments are still strong enough to crush anyone who gets in their way, but they're also so slow and predictable that it's easy to get out of their way. Governments are like glaciers, while private interests, unhindered by government, are like fires.

I'm thinking that even big money is dying, because it can't concentrate any more wealth at the top without the bottom falling out. So what's the next phase of control? Don't answer that, but keep your eyes open.

December 7. http://ranprieur.com/#6dd759acb4fd596f841ce564e8ec156ef4f4580c 2020-12-07T19:50:14Z December 7. Stray links. Attack Drones Dominating Tanks as Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Showcases the Future of War.

Related: AI is an Ideology, Not a Technology. It has a lot of examples of how AI is framed as machines doing wonderful things, while ignoring the human contributions. The key paragraph:

"AI" is best understood as a political and social ideology rather than as a basket of algorithms. The core of the ideology is that a suite of technologies, designed by a small technical elite, can and should become autonomous from and eventually replace, rather than complement, not just individual humans but much of humanity. Given that any such replacement is a mirage, this ideology has strong resonances with other historical ideologies, such as technocracy and central-planning-based forms of socialism, which viewed as desirable or inevitable the replacement of most human judgement/agency with systems created by a small technical elite. It is thus not all that surprising that the Chinese Communist Party would find AI to be a welcome technological formulation of its own ideology.

A nice article on the UBI (thanks Steve), The Radical Idea Of Making Sure Everybody Has Enough Money To Live On.

Related: a Goodreads review of the book Scarcity, summarizing the argument that scarcity is a huge cognitive burden, which prevents poor people from getting out of poverty. It also mentions the concepts of tunneling, and cognitive bandwidth, and I wonder how these can be applied to people who are financially well-off, but still so narrowly focused on one thing they're afraid of, that they can't take a step back to see how to make things better.

An optimistic essay, The Pandemic Offers an Opportunity to Re-Wild Our Communities. I mean, this stuff is all going to happen, but it's optimistic to think it will happen through human institutions, and not over their objections:

The benefit to cities expands exponentially by just getting out of nature's way. Lands that are released from traditional maintenance regimes will quickly begin to cleanse stormwater, sequester carbon, reduce the heat island effect, improve habitat, and become a low-tech but important part of a new infrastructure that is needed now more than ever. Crumbling parking lots and parks released from maintenance will take time to rewild, but once that transformation occurs, cities will feel greener and like a true respite.

December 4. http://ranprieur.com/#c1fa17ba6aa93323259e481bdd805fa29247a192 2020-12-04T16:20:32Z December 4. Some personal stuff. Earlier this year Leigh Ann got a Fitbit, and she liked it so much that she just got a better one and I got her old one. So I've been tracking my sleep, and Monday night, after getting high, I had only 33 minutes of REM sleep. I thought, wow, THC really does kill REM sleep. But the next night, sober, I had 22 minutes. The next night, even more sober, 7 minutes! Last night I did everything right, and still got only 28 minutes, and all after sunrise. [Update: After looking at some research, this is exactly what happens in studies of heavy users. They sleep worse on the first night of a break, and even worse on the second night. At a gram a month, I thought I'd be closer to non-users than heavy users, but apparently not. Next I'll experiment with melatonin.]

The other day I had a visitor, and we walked around and talked about stuff. I told him my latest insight about meditation: Being is the ground of doing, and meditation is practicing being without doing. The better you are at being, the less it matters what you're doing. Charles replied that the deeper root of being, is non-being, like an empty cup. So now when I focus on my breathing, I frame it as creating an emptiness inside me to pull the air in.

Modern people often complain about feeling empty inside, or needing to "fill the void". So now I'm thinking, that could be a symptom of having too many ways to fill the void, so that we're never empty enough, for long enough, to learn to feel comfortable with emptiness. Related: an old Reddit thread on an important and rarely asked question: Why is boredom painful?

December 2. http://ranprieur.com/#c7e2378d2f2277d2df64867b9fb14b6dadb1dbd3 2020-12-02T14:00:47Z December 2. Far Side: wolf returns to city of straw Back to politics, my latest take on Donald Trump is that he's a time traveller from the past. In the movie Idiocracy, a completely average guy from our time goes hundreds of years into the future, and humans have become so stupid that he's a super-genius and the most important man in the world.

In our world, instead of becoming stupid, we became nice.

Trump comes from a time where if you meet a weaker man on the road, you take all his stuff and leave him in the ditch to be ignored by passers-by. A lot of ancient history was actually like that. Someone from that world, in ours, would marvel at the charity of his adversaries, and the gullibility of his allies.

His downfall was that he never understood us. Deep down, he really believed that if he insulted John McCain enough, Arizonans would recognize him as the stronger leader. That's why he thinks the election was stolen, because he cannot understand how any strategy could win other than absolute ruthlessness.

I do appreciate Trump for being so transparently who he is, and it's the strangest thing that his followers don't see it. People are worried about deep fakes, but one thing I learned in 2020 is that no technology can distort reality better than the human mind.

I think Trump started out cynically exploiting his followers, and together they fell into madness. That madness is an epistemological practice: building your mental model, of the world beyond your senses, as whatever you want it to be, or whatever makes your life feel meaningful.

Philosophically, I'm a pan-first-personist. I believe that reality is fully created by experiencing perspectives, because that's all reality is. But that doesn't mean you can just do anything. We have to share the universe with other reality-creating perspectives, and one thing you can't do, is make other people not real.

When Trumpers say Biden won through voter fraud, what they mean is, they don't think Biden voters are real. And reality creation goes way deeper than other humans. Somewhere I read that shamanic healers say the one thing they have no power over, is a pandemic. So... South Dakota ER nurse recalls how dying patients spend last minutes insisting virus isn't real.