PoE: Proof of Effort

I really liked this idea of Proof of Effort, a riff off Proof of Work and Proof of Stake consensus mechanism in cryptocurrencies. Strikes me as a variation of RTFM. People are more inclined to help once you have shown you have tried to solve your own problems.

Shadow Libraries: Library Genesis, ZLibrary & Sci-Hub

I’ve never seen the term “shadow libraries” mentioned in this blog post before. I had heard of Sci-Hub. But, I’m not a scientist, and I have never needed to access it. But, I does make me wonder.

Open Question: How does one balance how copyright helps to foster an environment where people conduct research and against the negatives associated with restricting access to that information?

In a print paradigm, the medium is a bottleneck. So, you need to provide incentives for publishers to publish a work. But, in a digital environment, the material costs have largely been eliminated or transferred to the reader.

Of course, there are costs of selection, peer-review, editing and the other functions of a publisher. But, it seems to me that capitalism is a horrible system for an information architecture, particularly in the sciences where much of the funding for foundational research is either paid by governments or are channeled through public universities. Research that cannot be accessed is no different from research that was never conducted at all.

Our Technology Sickness—and How to Heal It

“Because of the digital revolution, our lives are being transformed by three grand bargains. The intellectual bargain: we have more knowledge but less capacity to concentrate and focus. The social bargain: we are much more available but much less attentive. And most importantly, the emotional bargain: we are much more connected, but much less empathetic. When we trade away skills for power, attention for availability, empathy for connectivity, and quality for quantity of relationships, we sign up to a Faustian pact that we do not even know exists—one that gives us more control over the outside world, but less control over our inner world.

What then is to be done? What shifts in thinking and behavior will help us reverse course?

1. A philosophical shift: Less choice, more freedom…[essentially, a variation of the Helsinki Bus Station Theory. The longer you travel down a path and narrow your scope, the more interesting the path. More options means you are in a space more people travel.]

2. A cultural shift: Attention over availability…Our humanity should not be measured by how much attention we attract but by how much attention we devote to what matters. [Or, as has been said elsewhere, “Focus on nourishment rather than poison.”]

3. Remedial technologies [and behaviors. The idea is to train an incompatible behavior. It is possible to turn Airplane Mode on your phone, a remedial technical solution. But, turning your phone off and reading a book accomplishes the same thing and removes technology from the equation. The Amish might be a good reference point.]

4. A Talmudic shift…Jews are expected to be conversant with all sides of a controversy, but in their lived behavior they are expected to follow one position among many. Such a culture ensures that one’s intellectual world is much more expansive than the world of one’s lived practice. [Or, don’t let your politics define the ideas you are allowed to engage with.]

—Micah Goodman, “Our Technology Sickness—and How to Heal It.” Sources. Spring 2022

Excellent essay, all the way around. Recommended.

Custom, Off-The-Shelf or DIY

  1. Quality and custom work is expensive, but it can be tailored perfectly to your needs.
  2. Off-the-shelf is cheaper, but a pretty good fit for the typical use case.
  3. Adapting an off-the-shelf product costs less than custom but it will never be a perfect fit.
  4. Do-It-Yourself, if you want to do it well, is going to take up much more time than you imagine, at least an order of magnitude more time.

A generalization of Eliot Peper’s The Four Laws of Making a Website*

Those That Leave Arizona

“Arizona Department of Corrections Director David Shinn said Arizona communities would “collapse” without cheap prison labor, during testimony before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee Thursday.”

-Jimmy Jenkins, “Arizona communities would ‘collapse’ without cheap prison labor, Corrections director says.” azcentral.com. July 14, 2022

Reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Let’s assume that what David Shinn is saying is true, and not saying it for some other reason, say, to keep his Department’s funding at a certain level.

What is the moral responsibility of people living in Arizona communities that rely on prison labor? How does this responsibility intersect with other societal problems, such as racism? How does this feed into other problems? For example the existence of unsustainable communities might act as a further draw on other limited resources, such as water, that make other communities unsustainable in a vicious cycle.

How is this different from slave labor? How is it different from other exploitive labor, whether that is rice imported from Indian farmers exploiting village, cotton farmed in concentration camps in China, electronic devices that can only be economically produced using similar systems of exploitation?

Let’s assume you feel the need to do something about these problems. Is it enough to be an incrementalist, to be slightly less exploitative than you were yesterday? Or, is there some kind of deontological threshold of purity, where – given the environment – lives based on a lower level of exploitation is enough?

The correct answer is probably that we need to radically we think our lives and adopt a much lower standard of living that eliminates this kind of exploitation. Easy to say, but it is both difficult to know how to do that and probably even more difficult to want to do it.

Zuihitsu, 2022-07

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  1. You do not need to be related to relate.
  2. Stop seeing life as a canvas to fill and see it as marble to shape.
  3. The market owes you nothing.
  4. Incorporate some calculated risks into your plan.
  5. You never know when you’re going to run out of steam.
  6. I don’t interest myself in the why. I think more often in terms of the when, sometimes where, and always how much.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself.
  8. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.—James Baldwin
  9. Markets of abundance are both bad for the median consumer, and good for intelligent ones.
  10. Cars destroy community.
  11. The test of all beliefs is their practical effect in life.—Helen Keller
  12. Forgiveness and compassion are always linked.
  13. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
  14. Look for the 25 to 1 risk profile.
  15. You only find out who’s swimming naked when the tide goes out.—Warren Buffett
  16. Smart people hate small talk.
  17. Act like you like someone and you will.
  18. How do you spend most of your time?
  19. Perhaps the dead are the only reliable narrators because their stories are all they have left.
  20. It takes years, if ever, to understand the relative authenticities of our relationships.
  21. Stand in the presence of questions and do not look for answers.
  22. Play the man, not the puck.
  23. There’s imprisonment in trying to recreate the past.
  24. Love is the process of refining the truths we can tell each other.
  25. To know is to share a community of interpretation.
  26. In the game of privacy, the only way to win is not to login.
  27. Build infrastructure.
  28. Paths are made by walking.
  29. Tactics are exchanging one problem for an easier one.
  30. People have done this before, but not us.—Ada Limón
  31. And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  32. How long can the corpus outlast the corpse?
  33. If you aim at nothing, you hit nothing.
  34. I, and I alone, am responsible for everything I think and feel.
  35. The First Law of Online Writing: always make sure that anything you want to endure is hosted on a platform that you control.
  36. No. I’m fully committed right now.
  37. Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?
  38. The chances are minuscule. But minuscule is not zero.
  39. To be alive, he says, is to act in ways that reduce the gulf between your expectations and your sensory inputs.
  40. The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it.—Alan Moore in V for Vendetta
  41. Enduring relationships anchor our identity or our sense of self.
  42. Anything studied and discussed long enough on the internet tends to lead to disillusionment.
  43. People focus on the vices more than the virtues, and lose trust.
  44. Theories followed far enough permit us to transcend our worldview.
  45. Do nothing without gaiety.
  46. Withhold judgment. Distrust your own knowledge, and avoid ideology.
  47. You ultimately become whoever would have saved you that time no one did.
  48. Choose what is simple without hesitation; sooner or later, what is complicated will always lead to problems.–Bernard Moitessier
  49. Obsession with detail is a hallmark of the most successful maintainers.
  50. Simplicity is a form of beauty.–Bernard Moitessier
  51. Do not crystalize your thinking prematurely.
  52. Rapid growth is unbalanced growth. Eventually, growth will be redistributed to an equilibrium.
  53. Be genuine. Be interested. Give the conversation air.
  54. …what we have loved, / Others will love, and we will teach them how.–Wordsworth
  55. People are different, with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to understand who you’re dealing with.
  56. One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.—Aldous Huxley
  57. Don’t overreact to recent bad news.

Eclipse Phase 2E Bundle & After The Fall

“Agent! This all-new Eclipse Phase 2E Bundle presents the 2019 Second Edition of Eclipse Phase, the tabletop science fiction roleplaying game of transhuman survival from Posthuman Studios. After losing Earth in a war with AIs, transhumanity disperses throughout the Solar System and beyond, struggling to survive. In a typical Eclipse Phase game, characters belong to Firewall, a secret cross-faction organization that protects transhumanity from biowar plagues, self-replicating nanoswarms, nuclear proliferation, terrorists with WMDs, net-breaking computer attacks, rogue AIs, alien encounters, and anything else that could drive an already decimated transhumanity to extinction. Agents may even step through a Pandora Gate, a wormhole to distant stars and the alien secrets beyond.

Funded in an April 2017 Kickstarter campaignEclipse Phase Second Edition improves the game with faster character creation, streamlined “resleeving” (body switching), new skill and gear systems, updated combat and hacking rules, and four sample teams. Most First Edition source material is compatible with the 2019 Second Edition.

For just US$14.95 you get all eight titles in our Eclipse Collection (retail value $54) as DRM-free ebooks, including the complete Eclipse Phase 2E corebook, plus the free QuickStart RulesRules Primer, and Character Pack; three 2E adventures – Router Case FilesXenovore, and Overrun; and four “Nano Ops” two-page mini-scenarios: All That GlittersBetter on the InsideBody Count, and Grinder.

BundleofHolding.com

I mentioned Eclipse Phase back in November 2017. If you like role-playing, this is a good way to pick it up.

Also, check out After the Fall, a series of short stories and novellas in this world:

In a world of transhuman survival and horror, technology allows the re-shaping of bodies and minds, but also creates opportunities for oppression and puts the capability for mass destruction in the hands of everyone. Other threats lurk in the devastated habitats of the Fall, dangers both familiar and alien.

After the Fall is the first anthology from Posthuman Studios, set in the world of Eclipse Phase, their award-winning roleplaying game. The anthology is a mix of old and new fiction, including stories by Eclipse Phase favorites—Talia Dean, Jack Graham, Steve Mohan, and Rob Boyle and Davidson Cole. New fiction will feature science fiction rising stars Ken Liu, Madeline Ashby, Fran Wilde, Karin Lowachee, Wesley Schneider, and Andrew Penn Romine.

I do not role play, but the book really drew me into the world of Eclipse Phase. Highly recommended.

The Corruption of Apology

True apologies are precious. They’re a secular process of remediation, drawing on moral intuitions shared by many religious traditions. They encourage membership in one’s moral community because they are fundamentally relational: They heal the bond between wrongdoer and wronged. By temporarily humbling the perpetrator and vindicating the victim, they pave the way for both sides to make up. 

Apologies presuppose that there is some sort of moral community that shares a sense of right and wrong to which both the wronged and the wrongdoer belong. By apologizing, the wrongdoer embraces the norm that he violated. By doing that personally, ideally face to face, he works to heal his wounded relationships. And so he invites his victims to forgive, release their resentment, and move on. 

We all depend on apologies and forgiveness to go on living with one another. Husbands and wives admit their faults and patch up their differences. Kids on playgrounds say they’re sorry and then get back to recess. Coworkers talk through misunderstandings. As Hannah Arendt argued in The Human Condition, we wrong one another every day, and we learn to forgive constantly so that we can start afresh. The alternative is trapping ourselves in endless cycles of vengeance. 

Stephanos Bibas, “The Corruption of Apology.” persuasion.community. July 27, 2022

What I found interesting about this commentary was how it explicitly lays out what is necessary for an apology to have meaning, i.e.:

  1. A shared norm that was violated.
  2. A person who violated the norm and a person effected by the violation.
  3. Discussion and acknowledgment to observe the norm in the future.

A shared norm implies membership in a community, or at least a relationship between two people. Of course, some norms are universal, or nearly so. Murder, stealing, lying and so forth are generally disapproved of. However, the norms may be different between members of a community and The Other, or outsiders. However, a morality that has double-standards, one for the in-group and one for the out-group, is a dubious morality. Yet, they exist and are common.

The enumeration is interesting. It really cuts to the heart of a common class of problems in our modern world. The article focuses on the fact that norms are in dispute in different communities, but I think there are more interesting aspects of this problem.

Some people are toxic. They have no regard for norms. They will not acknowledge that they have harmed anyone. They will not discuss it beyond making excuses, like those you see in A Narcissist’s Prayer. You will never get a real apology from such a person.

The other side of it, that the article does discuss, is that our online environments pretend to community, but they aren’t actual communities. We have “friends” that aren’t really our friends. There are people trying to enforce norms without community and often on behalf of others. It turns it more into blood sport, where we are allies promoting the agenda of different teams.

For example, I believe in equal rights for women. I would like to see structures of institutional racism broken down. I think we should broaden our acceptance of the various sexualities between consenting adults. I think there are serious problems of class than need to be addressed, and we need greater opportunities for success for people living in poverty. But, as a white, male, heteronormative person that is not living in poverty, what are my responsibilities to forward those various agendas?

Is a country a community? A state? A city? Or even a neighborhood? And when I think about the communities and norms I subscribe to, does believing in a norm make a community? It can. You can forge a community based on a shared norm or values. But, you need both. If you want to promote values – or norms, it needs to be done in the context of a community. You cannot impose them from outside. And, even a community is not enough, you need to promote them in relationship with other people that you know. Values that abstract out real people, with real flaws, aren’t much of a value, just as getting people to apologize, not to some person, but to the world, isn’t a real apology.

Forer Statements As Updates And Affirmations

“The Forer Effect is a trick used by astrologers, psychics, and social psychologists…What statements show a Forer effect? Wikipedia just says they should be vague and somewhat positive. Can we do better?…

…Or you could phrase them as affirmations, or arguments for self-compassion…

– Scott Alexander, “Forer Statements As Updates And Affirmations.” astralcodexten.substack.com. July 26, 2022

I found the concept of the Forer Effect and the exercise or turning it around interesting. But, I think where it fails for me is I think trying to compare ourselves to the internal states of other people, an experience we do not have direct access to and can only guess at, is rarely an exercise that has value. We do not know what other people’s lives are like. And, for those whom we have a lot more interaction and might be able to guess, it’s largely irrelevant.

My wife is someone who seems genuinely happy as a default state. Does it make any sense to use what I imagine her experience is of the world as a comparison for my experience? I assume I am different from her and from most people. I think the real question here is whether a given behavior is adaptive or maladaptive. Is my self-criticism, on net, a positive or a negative in my life? Is my sense of being different from other people a positive or negative force in my life?

When you reframe this discussion and try to get away from comparison and think instead of other ways of being, or perhaps other times in your own life, you are at least interacting with your lived experience and trying to do something to improve it. Personally, ‘I find questions like: does anyone else experience/believe/whatever X?’ to be in the same category. Whether other people have similar experiences is largely irrelevant, isn’t it?

We live in an environment where we are constantly being manipulated and influenced. Of course, everyone feels critical of themselves and awkward because we are products of that environment. If we lived as hunter gatherers 500,000 years ago, the uncertainty and doubts we have would be completely different. So, the fact other people have the same outlook and behaviors that you do is not surprising. It would be surprising if they were much different.

So, perhaps the more interesting question is: how am I different than most people? Or, as Scott Alexander puts it:

“These affirmations aren’t foolproof. 50% of people are in the top 50% of most-sexually-awkward people, and 1% of people are in the top 1% most sexually-awkward. When I read these, I feel like most of the time I can think “Ah yes, this is a Forer Effect, good thing I caught myself before I believed it”, and then for one or two of them I think “No, I am just literally objectively in the top 10% of the population on that trait.” This is why I’m calling these “potential updates” instead of “absolutely correct articles of dogma”.

-ibid.

To me, this is the more interesting question. If you are going to engage in comparison, which I don’t think you should – i.e., comparison is the thief of happiness, wouldn’t it be more interesting to focus on where you are truly different from others?