Categories
Politics Preparedness

Day 1247 and For The Uncertain

If you have concerns about the instabilities abroad and at home in America, I am here to be of service. Being a Cassandra is a curse but when the moment arrives you are at least well prepared.

And so if you’d like to chat about things like moving to Montana, being prepared for disasters natural or man-made, or otherwise how to invest in adaptability at venture scale I am your woman.

I’ve been discussing my concerns in prestige glossies and serious news media for years. I see venture friends throwing apocalypse themed parties and I can’t help but feel like the hour is late.

I call this kind of mass awakening to reality the Thursday Styles Problem. By the time something is cool it’s already past time for you the regular person to benefit much from the knowledge of what’s coming.

Categories
Startups

Day 1246 and Slightly Disappointed

I am a bit tired so this could all be jet lag speaking but I’m feeling slightly disappointed. While I’ve found great inspiration in the work of my peers, I see the failures and venality too.

I am at Consensus and I’m unsure if I feel like we’ve got enough people building the future I want to see. I fear for the unraveling of the old powers and what the transition looks like. It seems like a lot of people will be voting for a convicted felon for commander in chief.

And yet there is hope. The conference coincides with the annual Coincenter dinner which is an industry wide non profit effort to work towards policy goals for decentralized computing like Bitcoin & Ethereum and the wider cryptocurrency.

Our mission is to defend the rights of individuals to build and use free and open cryptocurrency networks: the right to write and publish code – to read and to run it. The right to assemble into peer-to-peer networks. And the right to do all this privately.

Erik Vorhees delivered an incredible moving keynote address and I found myself with tears in my eyes as I considered the long history of fighting to become your own master. We separated church and state. We are fighting to separate money and state. I feel these philosophical lineages across my entire life.

And so I am slightly disappointed at this point. But I’ll try to sleep and it will pass.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 1245 and AI: Tool Versus Master

A bad workman blames his tools

Idiom

As we rapidly accelerate the power of our computing tools, machine learning has blossomed into the most heated topic in government policy, business strategy, and popular culture, as artificial intelligence begins to affect everyday life.

The focus on harms, and in particular singularity doomerism, has (ironically) pulled focus from the implications of the seminal “attention is all you need” paper.

Astonishing as it may seem at times, intelligence does not top out at “median human”, but can, and possibly will, go much further.

What a triumph this represents. We will all have access to tools that will enable our entire species to build. More intelligence applied to more problems means more solutions to very real human problems.

I am in Austin Texas for Consensus 2024. I’ll be participating a town hall to discuss how crypto’s mindset of open-source, decentralized computation might help us grapple with who builds, maintains, & owns AI tools.

Policymakers and Silicon Valley executives are both calling for regulation of artificial intelligence as fears grow over its potential harms. But others warn of entrenching a dominant, opaque, centralized Big Tech model and instead advocate for open-source code, decentralized computation and distributed data sourcing. Whom should policymakers listen to? What, if anything, can governments do to help this vital technology evolve in a pro-human way?

Thankfully, we aren’t starting from scratch in building a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence. Code has been treated as speech in Bernstein v. United States Department of State. It would seem like a reasonable precedent to consider algorithms speech as well.

And let us be clear, math and computing power are as essential as speech. In today’s world, they ARE speech. Humans may speak in natural language, but the way we extend ourselves, build things, and grow as a species is through our tools. Computation is a tool. To presume that these tools do harm is to make us bad workmen.

Now of course incumbent powers may try to keep the disruptive and democratizing power of these tools out of the hands of the populace “for their own safety”, but imagine if the first amendment had been frozen in time at the printing press and didn’t protect the internet? We cannot accept permanently lowered standards of fundamental rights.

The 90s era fight for strong encryption enabled a flourishing of digital businesses from finance to e-commerce. We must insist that the freedom to innovate remains the default for U.S. digital policy.

Ultimately, I agree with R Street’s Adam Thierer. He says “fear based narratives that prompt calls for preemptive regulation of computational processes and treat AI innovations ‘as guilty until proven innocent’ are no way to make good policy.”

America does not have a Federal Computer Commission for computing or the internet but instead relies on the wide variety of laws, regulations, and agencies that existed long before digital technologies came along.

R Street Comments on NTIA

If we are to regulate sensibly, let us treat artificial intelligence as we would any other tool and let us do so within the existing framework of our constitutional rights and their interpretations within past precedents.

Categories
Media

Day 1235 and Spin Doctors

Anytime I am outside of the bubble of American media algorithms, I feel like I see more clearly. It’s easier to spot “spin” when you see multiple narratives from competing supranational actors. When I’m in Europe, it’s much easier to see competing angles from Russia, China, and competing industrial interests.

The term “spin doctor” emerged during the Reagan-Mondale debates in the 1984 election.

A spin doctor is a person, typically a political aide or publicist, whose role is to present information or events in a way that favors a particular perspective or interpretation. Their goal is to influence public opinion by putting a favorable “spin” on the narrative.

It combines the meanings of “spin” (a biased interpretation or slant) and “doctor” (someone who repairs or fine-tunes things). Spin doctors aim to control the media’s portrayal of events by providing their own analysis and framing the story in a way that benefits their side.

Perplexity’s “Spin Doctor”

I’ve not heard “spin doctor” used recently even as we’ve gone further into cultural obsessions with media and its role in shaping opinion across the Internet age.

We’ve never had more awareness of how the news sausage gets made and it only drives interest. Filter bubbles are now written up in listicles. Publicists are the subject of profile treatments their clients typically receive.

We are in the golden age of propaganda and every single one of us competes in shifting alliances of attention and affiliation. We are all spin doctors now for our causes.

Categories
Culture Emotional Work Uncategorized

Day 1232 and Crab Bucket

As I age from maiden into crone (many millennials missed mother) I find myself uncovering emotions I missed during the forced march through corporate feminism & Girlbossism. The meritocracy takes its pound of flesh.

I climbed the chaos ladder & am grateful for my perch but I did not understand what I sacrificed to participate in this climb. I doubt your average person does.

American Millennials intuited that we had an opportunity to class jump through the meritocracy of institutional human capital games & were encouraged to do so if we showed capacity. Largely that meant raw intelligence & affinity for playing by unwritten social rules. If you could get out you were told to do so. Social mobility is one of America’s great strengths.

It is not without costs. I sacrificed family & place. To climb above the station of my origin & “achieve” the American dream of education & assets you leave behind a lot. To go from the lower rungs to prosperity and security we leave behind parts of ourselves.

I do not regret this. Many millennials come from dysfunctional families. Boomer can read as slur to some because future shock & greed hurt so many of that generation. The narcissism of the new age experimentation with new cultures and expectations gave us divorce & rootlessness. Those insecure circumstances bred flexible performative children who adapted to incentives.

If I had not leapt onto the ladder of meritocracy I’d be struggling like many in my cohort and I’d still be without a people. The Millennial wealth gap is tearing social fabric because the divergence between our outcomes is so clear. Atomizing is part of assimilating.

I am now in a position in which I inhabit the lower rungs of the very top of the ladder. I have access & assets & a reputation for work in the infinite game of playing for leverage. There is security here to be had. But a Damocles blade hangs over us all.

American success isn’t cheap. And you may not always understand the costs at the outset.

If you’d like to read more about the millennial wealth gap I’d encourage you to look. I am lucky to be one of the “self made” in my cohort in that I picked work that ended up being well remunerated. I started from a decent place but we were poor for portions of my childhood. Startup life isn’t a smooth ride and Silicon Valley produces very uneven outcomes.

I will not however be a millennial heir. I’ll inherit debt. The great wealth transfer will not be coming my way. I’m grateful to have helped my family but equally grateful when they manage to take care of themselves. I am so sad so many of our elders spent so much that their heirs felt the best option was a race to climb out of the crab bucket of the meritocracy. I am glad I made it. But it hurt.

Categories
Finance Politics

Day 1223 and Human Wants Are Endless

The curriculum of classical economics can be a bit of a blackpill if you are an optimist about the good in humanity.

Economists operate from a model that presumes human wants are infinite but our resources are not. Yes it is reductive, but if your goal is to model something on spreadsheet give got to start from where and somehow the economists picked non-satiation.

I’m using Perplexity more than Google Search these days so I’m delving (apologies to Paul Graham) into deep Reddit territory anytime I’ve got a random query.

Which incidentally is not paying off for Reddit just yet.

Reddit, which is trading about 40 per cent above its opening initial public offering price, is expected to report a net loss of about $610mn on $213mn in revenue.

Via Financial Times (which oddly I can’t share a link to for unclear reasons but here is a link to old reporting in Reuters and I’m writing this before earnings are released today.

Reddit’s artificial intelligence licensing deals have made them more useful to me than ever but it’s unclear how anyone gets paid for the mountain of work required to make it remain useful. Such is the tragedy of the internet commons. Anyways.

I’m feeling particularly sad about infinite wants as a framework for anything today. Ive been disappointed by just how much others view me as a source of want gratification even when I explicitly ask them to clarify their needs.

Much of the language of human wands must be couched in the language of need. Asking someone to be obligated to another person spirals quickly into a sticky web of moralists insisting on the value of their chosen wants. Id be more inclined to say yes to an ask if someone was clear about their needs upfront. Just in case you find yourself asking me for something.

Categories
Politics

Day 1219 and Right To Cause Chaos

There is a lot of noise at the moment. But occasionally a single event is so loud you can’t help but overhear it. America’s President Joe Biden caught my attention with this rather singular statement.

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos”

I am not well informed on this current situation as the last week or so I’ve been outside of the American news media bubble. I am not so sure I wanted to become well informed given that is what has reached me.

Chaos is more appealing in the abstract than the particulars. I say this as someone who views the word with more positive valence than is probably accurate to its general meaning and certainly than current public perception.

I believe chaos is increasing and rather than accept its effects as inevitable we must actively investment in our capacity to adapt to it. Building resilience has proven to be a very good investment thesis.

I don’t endorse causing chaos deliberately. Friction its place in the world. So does disruption. I’ll even advocate for creative destruction. But being destructive deliberately has been rightfully called an agitator.

Do we much we need additional agitation in a world already filled with chaos? I don’t get to make that decision on my own but I personally think it’s better to build fixes to the chaos we’ve already got. I don’t need to give entropy any help.

Categories
Culture

Day 1213 and Acedia

Seat me not anywise upon a chair, O thou fostered of Zeus, so long as Hector lieth uncared-for amid the huts


Homer, Iliad, Book 14, line 427

I’d check the citations on this translation of the Iliad but the old internet is dying so several clicks later I’m still unsure what florid Englishman gave us this version of the Illiad.

While Wikipedia is load bearing for civilization our middle tier universities who host classics departments are….not? I know, I’m as shocked as the rest of you. So how about those Trojans for Israel. Sheesh what an awkward thing to be named right now. Rough time for universities all around.

Anyways, I was going down a translation hole to learn about the seven deadly sins and got stuck on Acedia. Which is how I’ve bumped this quote into our shared history. I hope it aids your journey.

It would seem being depressed is an insult to the gods because you don’t have any right to question their creation of you. I myself find this to be weird mix of Christian moralism and honor culture.

In Ancient Greece acedia originally meant indifference or carelessness along the lines of its etymological meaning of lack of care. Thus Homer in the Iliad uses it to both mean soldiers heedless of a comrade (τῶν δ᾽ ἄλλων οὔ τίς εὑ ἀκήδεσεν, “and none of the other [soldiers] was heedless of him.[3]“) and the body of Hector lying unburied and dishonored in the camp of the Acheans (μή πω μ᾽ ἐς θρόνον ἵζε διοτρεφὲς ὄφρά κεν Ἕκτωρ κεῖται ἐνὶ κλισίῃσιν ἀκηδής

Naturally we’ve demonstrated this lesson of heedlessness in the Anglosphere through the Iliad. Two dudes who seemed pretty horny for each other despite being on a mission to save some hot chick named Helen is a hell of a way to train the young on moralism but you do you.

My Greek isn’t what it used to be but if you literally have to die to get your boyfriend to pay attention I think he might not be that into you.

Who knew self help and the Iliad could so easily be filed together in a mental library. Anyways, it’s a sin to be joyless and you should be heedful of the Hectors in your life before they are gone. It’s what Zeus the old horny bastard would have wanted.

Categories
Culture

Day 1212 and Being One of Many

Quick. Without overthinking it, pick one.

Words or Numbers.

I can’t predict your choice, but I’ll admit my “rational” conscience mind desperately wants me to pick numbers.

Alas my emotional subconscious intelligence quickly goes intuitive, lurching my feelings to a grabby place with “words.” That the right answer. I’d be hard pressed to correct my gut.

Humans love a good story. Even a single word can contain centuries of meaning. Just ask someone to define “woman” if you don’t believe me.

In the battle between numeracy and literacy, the bell has long ago been rung on the fight. Cave paintings transitioned to runes. Runes became alphabets. Literacy won before numbers got beyond accounting for the treasures of a king.

Priesthoods may have hated man understanding “the Word” but human minds were already on board with incantations of auspicious words before we got formal symbolic systems.

Probably understandably attempts to introduce topics like algebra were was a bit of stretch. Even simple arithmetic proved to be a contentious abstraction for many humans.

Ideas like property are a not a long haul from understanding “mine” and “yours” but it’s quite a leap to understand “how much” and “in what ways across different time and organizational schemas” which gets humans upset over specific collection of things.

Look at your hands and you understand that base ten allows you to calculate simple transactions for resources within your life.

Beyond that good luck. Got an abacus? Understanding that zero and one can communicate a universe’s worth of information is an even further leap. Attention wanders quickly without a computer.

And yet, as I enjoy the aesthetics of my own numeric symmetry in my 1212 days of consecutive writing, I know it’s my private counting mechanism.

“The need for numeracy today is enormous. Business requires people who have grasped the principles of reducing chaos of information to some kind of order.”

The Economist 1966

The narrative overlay of what numbers mean matters more than the numbers. So I’ll ask again. Which would you pick? Words or numbers?

Categories
Culture Finance

Day 1211 and Price of Civilization

Whenever I travel I am reminded of just how good a life I have be virtue of being born American.

I’m kept alive, fed, clothed and connected by a vast web of abstractions undergirding modern civilization thanks to the value of my passport and the exorbitant privilege of the dollar.

Constructs like private property have given rise to elaborate norms of obligation, honors, debts and expectations that enable coordination mechanisms like markets. This seems like a good thing from

All of this feels so astonishingly fragile. We listen when our bankers fret about “rules based western civilization” being under siege because we know those rules are what enables the niceties of our lives.

All it takes are a few assholes breaking the rules and the fabric frays a little more. Blessedly capitalism has its own immune system that is happy to attack all types of hostility.

If you are not integrated into the body politic of the dominant civilization you generally know it. I’ve found those outside of it generally wish they could be assimilated from simple envy. If you want these benefits be prepared to be assimilated to the rules and values of civilization.

Your alternative is struggle to hold yourself apart by your own rules and cultural values and insist others abide by them. This has generally required coercion, violence or shame in the past.

You can say “no” to civilizational benefits simply by opting out. To be left alone is to accept your status and stay outside of the great game of civilization. But to accept the benefits is to in some sense accept to accept that there are rules. You can’t break rules if you don’t know their importance. If you know the rules and break them however you can’t be surprised when it’s viewed as a thread.