Interesting Question

The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another....We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.

- Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsmanner, Schwacheres Volk!, June, 1910

Selected Correspondence:

29 August 2007

Iirrationality in argument

The truth is not found on the page, but is a wayward sprite that bursts forth from the readers mind for reasons of its own. I once thought that the Truth was a set comprised of all the things that were true, and the big truth could be obtained by taking all its component propositions and evaluating them until nothing remained. I would approach my rhetorical battles as a logical reductionist, tearing down, atomizing, proving, disproving, discarding falsehoods and reassembling truths until the Truth was pure, golden and unarguable. But then, when truth matters most, when truth is the agent of freedom, I stood before Justice and with truth, lost freedom. Here was something fantastical, unbelievable and impossible, you could prove that (A => B) and (B => C) and (C => D) and (D => F) Justice would nod its head and agree, but then, when you turned to claim your coup de grace, A => F irrevocably, Justice would demur and revoke the axiom of transitivity, for Justice will not be told when F stands for freedom. Transitivity is evoked when Justice imagines F and finding the dream a pleasurable one sets about gathering cushions to prop up their slumber. Here then is the truth about the Truth; the Truth is not bridge, sturdy to every step, a marvel of bound planks and supports from the known into the unknown, but a surging sea of smashed wood, flotsam and drowning sailors. So first, always pick your poetic metaphor, to make the reader want to believe, then the facts, and -- miracle! -- transitivity will descend from heaven, invoked as justification for prejudice.
Often we suffer to read, "But if we believe X then we'll have to...", or "If we believe X it will lead to...". This has no reflection on the veracity of X and so we see that outcomes are treated with more reverence than the Truth. It stings us, but natural selection has spun its ancestral yarns from physically realized outcomes, robustly eschewing the vapor thread of platonism as an abomination against the natural order, fit only for the gossip of monks and the page.

Yet just as we feel all hope is lost and we sink back into the miasma, back to the shadow world of ghosts and gods, a miracle arises; everywhere before the direction of self interest is known, people yearn to see where its compass points and then they hunger for truth with passion and beauty and insight. He loves me. He loves me not. Here then is the truth to set them free. Free from the manipulations and constraints of the mendacious. Free to choose their path, free to remove the ring from their noses, free to look up into the infinite voids and choose wonder over whatever gets them though. And before this feeling to cast blessings on the profits and prophets of truth, on the liberators and martyrs of truth, on the Voltaires, Galileos, and Principias of truth, on the Gutenburgs, Marconis and Internets of truth, on those serial killers of delusion, those brutal, driven and obsessed miners of reality, smashing, smashing, smashing every rotten edifice until all is ruins and the seeds of the new.

16 July 2007


Did I ever tell you about the time Nataliya took me out to go get a drink with her? We go off looking for a bar and we can't find one. Finally Nataliya takes me to a vacant lot and says, 'Here we are.' We sat there for a year and a half, until sure enough, someone constructs a bar around us. Well, the day they opened we ordered a shot, drank it, and then burned the place to the ground. Nataliya yelled over the roar of the flames, 'Always leave things the way you found 'em!'
(with apologies)

Everyone and no one wants to save the world

When the world extended to one's surrounding hills and mountains and over them was only legend, saving the world was approchable and a natural activity to all of independent character.
You do not need to justify the possession of these noble instincts. Such attributes are normally distributed. You have a constellation of these attributes and that makes you who you are. Recognise that the substantial ones are invariant.

You must satisfy your invariant instincts or you will be at odds with your own character. It is only when we are not at odds with our basic makeup that we can find life meaningful.

To exercise your instinct for saving the world, requires saving what you perceive to be the world.

Being modern, educated and wordly, the world you perceive is immense and this is disempowering compared to the valley world of your ancestors where your feelings were forged and where saving 10 people saved 10% of the "world"'s population.

Here lays the difficulty in actualising your character. Your perception is of a world so vast that that you can not envisage your actions making a meaningful difference.

People try to fool themselves and others into believing that one can ``think globally and act locally', however to anyone with a sense of proportion (not most people, btw) thinking globaly makes acting locally seem to be a marginal activity. It's not setting the world to rights.

To meaningfully interact with the world, you have to either constrain your perception of what it is back to valley proportions by eschewing all global information (most of us here have engaged on just the opposite course which is what has provoked this discussion), losing your sense of perspective, or start seriously engaging with the modern perception of the world.

That latter path can be hard to find, because it is only satisfied by creating ideas or inventions that have a global impact. Perhaps I have found one, and there's others out there, but for most people of your character a combination of eschewing knowledge of those parts of the world they can't change, and robust engagement with the parts they can is probably optimal.

Do not be concerned about when one is to do good, who defines good, etc. Act in the way you do because to do otherwise would to be at odds would to be at odds with yourself. Being on a path true to your character carries with it a state of flow, where the thoughts about your next step come upon waking, unbidden, but welcome.

I support similarly minded people, not because they are moral agents, but because they have common cause with my own feelings and dreams.

09 July 2007

The United what of America?

It has been frequently noted that many corporations exceed nation states in GDP. It has been less frequently noted that some also exceed them in population (employees).
But it is odd that the comparison hasn't been taken further. Since so many live in the state of the corporation, let us take the comparison seriously and ask the following question. What kind of states are giant corporations?

In comparing countries, after the easy observations of population size and GDP, it is usual to compare the system of government, the major power groupings and the civic freedoms available to their populations.

The corporation as a nation state has the following properties:
•Suffrage (the right to vote) does not exist except for land holders ("share holders") and even there voting power is in proportion to land ownership.
•All executive power flows from a central committee. Female representation is almost unknown.
•There is no division of powers. There is no forth estate. There are no juries and innocence is not presumed.
•Failure to submit to any order can result in instant exile.
•There is no freedom of speech. There is no right of association. Love is forbidden without state approval.
•The economy is centrally planned.
•There is pervasive surveillance of movement and electronic communication.
•The society is heavily regulated and this regulation is enforced, to the degree many employees are told when, where and how many times a day they can goto the toilet.
•There is almost no transparency and something like the FOIA is unimaginable.
•The state has one party. Opposition groups (unions) are banned, surveilled or marginalized whenever and wherever possible.
These large multinationals, despite having a GDP and population comparable to Belgium, Denmark or New Zealand have nothing like their quality of civic freedoms. Internally they mirror the most pernicious aspects of the 1960s Soviet. This even more striking when the civilising laws of region the company operates in are weak (e.g West Pupua or South Korea). There one can see the behavior of these new states clearly, unobscured by their surroundings.

If small business and non-profits are eliminated from the US, then what's left? Some kind of federation of Communist states.

A United Soviet of America.

13 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut dies

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. A friend and iconoclast, he died last night aged 85. Vonnegut was the author of over 20 books, including "Slaughter House Five", written about his experiences as a PoW during the Dresden firebombing. On the night of the firebombing, 30,000 civilians were burnt to death and most of Dresden's buildings were destroyed. Vonnegut hid with other PoWs in a slaughterhouse basement.
Five years ago, I spent the winter exploring the former East German town. I learnt that Australian Army hiking boots are good to minus 7 degrees, but at minus 8, heat flows out of the soles. I learnt that every major building in Dresden, from the Opera House to the Dresden Museum, was a socialist re-construction. I learnt that for even for a whole city the essential can be invisible to the eye.

As a successful author Vonnegut sometimes pushed whimsy into self- indulgence, fueled by a cult following in the the youth movement of the United States, which, lacking other role models or serious tasks, anointed him a genius. Yet in "Slaughter House Five", this confidence and littery flexibility gave Vonnegut what he needed to reveal a major allied atrocity to a generation that was sick of hearing stories about the war. This book seeded the belief system of a generation that would eventually react against similar atrocities inflicted on the Vietnamese.

Here is part of an an excellent longer interview with Vonnegut on Australian Radio last year. Even in this fragment Kurt's acuity and character shine.

13 March 2007

Do electric sheep dream of f16's?

In the morning, the call to prayer rises from mosque to citadel, the sun lights the haze into a furnace, glowing and aglow, casting long golden shadows into dusty streets, where swallows swoop on blinking gendarmes, while above them young girls water roof top sheep and pigeon boys climb their hutches to wave great checkered flags at distant points in the sky.

26 February 2007

Decisions made by a group reflect its membership

Insofar as our decisions are an expression of who we are, we must make sure that we do not lack courage. Insofar as we want a full range of intellectual opinions, we must have the courage to accept the full range of emotional inclinations that lay behind them.

Average shy intellectuals

X is an "average shy intellectual" and in that is a sounding for characters of his type. This type is often of a noble heart, wilted by fear of conflict with authority. The power of their intellect and noble instincts may lead them to a courageous position, where they see the need to take up arms, but their instinctive fear of authority then motivates them to find rationalizations to avoid conflict.

Carbon offsetting

Green house legislation is the distillation of political forces marshaled by science, economic foresight, activism, paranoia, the desire for change, leadership, sycophantalism, pleasure in moral whipping, settling scores, conservatism and those psychological forces which drive them. But in some countries we may accept the legislation as a given and turn our eyes the phenomena which flows from it but whose path to the sea is not yet clear:

In order to understand carbon offsetting we must first agree on what we accept for the sake of the argument. Here is a guess:

1. global warming is a problem
2. atmospheric CO2 significantly contributes to gobal warming
3. a reduction in increase of atmospheric CO2 now significantly reduces the effects of global warming in a meaningful time frame
4. atmospheric CO2 levels are substantially under human control
5. of the CO2 production under human control a significant quantity comes from human enterprize
6. reducing CO2 production is a cost effective means of addressing global warming relative to other means

I'm not sure I buy 6. but whatever. We are now tasked to reduce human emissions of CO2 although X may claim that there's a 7. lurking -- the continued moral fibre of individuals in the body politic. That's a more difficult question, which calls from great sympathy, but let us first work with what we can see clearly.

We have only two questions (a) is carbon offsetting effective? and (b) is it efficient compared to the alternatives?

Carbon offsetting by corporations is not motivated by moral considerations. It is motivated by legislation or self-regulation backed up by the threat of legislation.

It is effectively a tax on CO2 production, with the tax money going to industries that soak up carbon.

Now here comes the realpolitik beauty of carbon offsetting. CO2 producers favor it, since compared to outright bans and limits, taxes have greater flexibility and predictability. Hence fearing the whip of pending banning legislation, producers support this tax they would have normally hated. An increasingly powerful industry lobby group is created by those who take CO2 and the middlemen who find them. This lobby group is sees its interest as increasing the carbon transfer tax to the highest levels possible and to ferret our deception by CO2 producers! As an industry, it is a far more stable influence that the vagarities of popular political opinion. Even bureaucrats love it, as they now have their hands in another three industries.

Hence this is an effective real politic way of introducing, sustaining and increasing a cabon tax that would have great difficulties surviving as disconnected tax and grant system.

That answers (a). (b) remains an interesting question, as does what a clever realpolitik solution would look like for funding those alternatives.

If we have a serious problem, we are tasked to re-engineer the world using the best political, psychological and technological tricks we can come up with.

The right thing to do

People are motivated to follow happiness and flee from pain. These feelings *exist* to color our memories with our physiology so that we may extract meaning our experiences. It's a tautology to say that people do what makes them happy -- despite this, one often sees claims that there exist no altruistic acts, because such actions are the end product of people trying to maximize their happiness. This is to define aultrism out of existence, remove a useful word with which to partition our observations of reality. Instead, we may say that some people's happiness is bound up with other people's happiness and these people should be supported because of the obvious common cause with our own feelings.
A weaker form of the conservative argument (not mentioned here) is that a portion of seemly altruistic acts are covers for the fear associated with guilt.

When my eyes see phrases like 'right thing to do', 'appropriate' etc, I wonder what unstated world view I am meant to share. These phases smell of that unusually putrid whip; social sanction. But every man has experienced social sanction as the direct manifestation of morons baying at the moon, nodding and calling the result consensus.

Here, in Africa, there was a two page fold out on the "Night Runner" plague. Plague? Yes. Of people -- typically old, who supposedly run around naked at night (remember the population has pitch black African skin tones), tapping on windows, throwing rocks on peoples roofs, snapping twigs, rustling grass, casting spells and getting lynched because it's "the right thing to do".

Insofar as we can affect the world, let it be to utterly eliminate guilt and fear as a motivator of man and replace it cell for cell with love for one another and the passion of creation.

03 January 2007

The Australian lagoon

Australia is a lagoon in a sea of english which, having no translation tarrif, washes over us, sweeps our new thoughts away and blends into those that remain, until we no longer know whose thoughts we are.

Industries can dump pig iron to crush foreign production and they can also dump words. Billions of these ideas, already produced for another english market and having no translation tarrifs or transport costs slither into the country unheeded, stricken local journalists and set their burrows in our brains.

We're part of the big english world; this is our reality -- so when we fight, we must fight like kings. When we write about the sea we must write to the sea.


Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love. In a modern economy it is impossible to seal oneself off from injustice.

If we have brains or courage, then we are blessed and called on not to frit these qualities away, standing agape at the ideas of others, winning pissing contests, improving the efficiencies of the neocorporate state, or immersing ourselves in obscuranta, but rather to prove the vigor of our talents against the strongest opponents of love we can find.

If we can only live once, then let it be a daring adventure that draws on all our powers. Let it be with similar types whos hearts and heads we may be proud of. Let our grandchildren delight to find the start of our stories in their ears but the endings all around in their wandering eyes.

The whole universe or the structure that perceives it is a worthy opponent, but try as I may I can not escape the sound of suffering. Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them.

Automated authoritarianism

I've always been dubious about PGP's web-of-collusion and signing-deniability-away, although it's a lot better than the automated authoritarian's wet dream that passes for CAs.

I loathe these ("everything which is not explicitly permitted is denied") security types, whose idea of nirvana is the cyberspace analog to re-writing the laws of physics so it is not possible to shift in your chair without written authority. Behind their keyboards they must make concurrent salutes to the Fuhrer, Baal and Jack Straw.

31 December 2006

Doing the pentagon poker

All who spend time in the spy world soon come to the view that the rest of the population lives their life in a sea fog as a tiny piece of cork buffeted by a vast ocean of concealed truth. True enough, but economics and scientific progress still dominates the spy world as every black budget bureaucrat finds to their classified horror when budget time arrives and they 'do the Pentagon poker'

24 December 2006

The pending total annihilation of the US regime in Somalia

The US backed Somali "government", the Somali Transitional National Assembly (TNA), faces total annihilation, avoidable only by an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and the creation of a Quisling regime.

In the past year the TNA has been routed from all regions of Somalia by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and now holds only Baidoa, a middling town close to the Ethiopian border. The "government" has already lost the capital, Mogadishu. The TNA is a US supported power broker club with many detested warlords, including those behind the 1991 atrocities in Black Hawk Down. Its hold on Baidoa is weak and has only been maintained in the last 24 hours by aggressive Ethiopian air-strikes, artillery and the invasion of 10 to 20 thousand Ethiopian troops. Ethiopia is the traditional, hated enemy of Somalis. Whatever legitimacy the TNA may have had with Somalias is now completely lost. The Molotov-Tribbentrop Pact is statesmanship compared to cynicism behind the TNA inviting Ethiopian troops and artillery into Somalia.

It's worth pausing to reflect on the high power to wealth ratio of community building islamist movements such as the UIC when operating against well funded US/UN led democracy wagons. It appears the US promise of neocorporatism, i.e better shopping does not move the heart to engage in the cooperation, love and sacrifice demanded by war. The other US promise, democracy, is a difficult abstraction (try drawing it), and like all such abstractions, easily abused by those seeking power for other agendas. It is an alleged means to an end, not an end in itself. There's no human instinct for democracy.

Consider the US Declaration of Independence (1776), a document which is the distillation of instinctive desires which drove men to war and kept them there. What are these desires?

...God.. Creator.. created equal... Life, Liberty,... pursuit of Happiness.. Safety and Happiness... [followed by 26 paragraphs of hatred for the abuses of King George].

In other words, religious / community feeling (x2), equality, life, liberty, happiness (x2), safety, and above all, an extreme hatred for the brutal acts, preferment, and corruption of foreign influenced or controlled government.

Not once does better shopping or its alleged antecedent democracy appear.

This doesn't bode well for the Iraqi Provisional Authority or the Somali Transitional National Assembly -- at least, the British, pontificating and powdered though they may have been, shared the same language and religion.

If the US administration wants to inspire Somalis and others to support its regimes, it'll have to do better than promises of better shopping and handwaving means into ends.

IP over PPP over DNS over IP

In a world with radio waves flowing all around, it should be possible for people's thoughts to be as anonymous as the ether that caresses their skin.

I wrote the following (using ruby and the mDNS library). It's amusing and pleasing for wireless travel or anonymity provided one has a domain name server somewhere. There are many situations where DNS is available but not other types of routing (e.g Starbucks). Works under Unix and OS X.

You can get the code here:

An example:

proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# ls -l crafty.rb
-rw-r--r-- 1 proff proff 9106 Sep 20 18:00 crafty.rb
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# ruby crafty.rb
[1]+ Stopped ruby crafty.rb
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# bg
[1]+ ruby crafty.rb &
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# ifconfig ppp0
ppp0: flags=8051 mtu 1500
inet --> netmask 0xff000000
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# ifconfig ppp1
ppp1: flags=8051 mtu 1500
inet --> netmask 0xff000000
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# tail /var/log/system.log
Sep 20 18:12:40 proffs-computer pppd[3434]: pppd 2.4.2 (Apple version
233-10) started by proff, uid 0
Sep 20 18:12:40 proffs-computer pppd[3435]: pppd 2.4.2 (Apple version
233-10) started by proff, uid 0
Sep 20 18:12:40 proffs-computer pppd[3434]: Connect: ppp0 <--> /dev/
Sep 20 18:12:40 proffs-computer pppd[3435]: Connect: ppp1 <--> /dev/
Sep 20 18:12:46 proffs-computer pppd[3435]: local IP address
Sep 20 18:12:46 proffs-computer pppd[3435]: remote IP address
Sep 20 18:12:46 proffs-computer pppd[3434]: local IP address
Sep 20 18:12:46 proffs-computer pppd[3434]: remote IP address
proffs-computer:~/crafty/src root# ssh -l proff
Last login: Wed Sep 20 17:58:52 2006 from
Welcome to Intelligent-Design!
proffs-computer:~ proff$ w proff
18:14 up 2 days, 15:13, 6 users, load averages: 0.58 0.28 0.30
proff console - Mon03 2days -
proff q0 - 17:56 13 bash
proff q2 18:14 - w proff
proffs-computer:~ proff$

It is not documented, optimized, or made user friendly, or multi- user, but the code should be readable and if people with ruby or DNS knowledge are interested and wish to optimize it or otherwise make it smile then I will assist.

crafty.rb uses my logic suite, which I have prepended for ease of use.

21 December 2006

The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance

You may want to read The Road to Hanoi or Conspiracy as Governance ; an obscure motivational document, almost useless in light of its decontextualization and perhaps even then. But if you read this latter document while thinking about how different structures of power are differentially affected by leaks (the defection of the inner to the outer) its motivations may become clearer.
The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive "secrecy tax") and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what's actually going on.

20 December 2006

black hawk down, white wash up

Something worth noting about the unusual relative power of community building islamist movements when operating against well funded US led democracy wagons as evidenced by the recent victories of the Somali UIC; the promise of better shopping does not move the heart to the great acts of love or sacrifice required in war. "Democracy" is a difficult abstraction that is easily abused (try drawing it). It is a means to an end, not the end itself. There's no instinctive desire for democracy. Consider the US Declaration of Independence (1776), a document which is the distillation of psychological forces which drove men to civil war and kept them there. What are those forces?

...God.. Creator.. Men are created equal... Life, Liberty,... pursuit of Happiness.. Safety and Happiness... [followed by 26(!) paragraphs of hatred for the abuses of King George].

In other words, religious feeling (x2), equality, life, liberty, happiness (x2), safety and above all, an extreme hatred for the brutal acts, preferment, and corruption of foreign influenced or controlled government.

Not once does democracy or shopping appear.

This doesn't bode well for the Iraqi provisional authority -- at least the British spoke the same language.

17 December 2006


Ian Clark's Freenet has forums. However, they have zero political impact because only very highly motivated users can perceive them. We want to stand and fight AND run and hide, falling back to the next technical defense only when political defenses are over come.
This requires placing trust in some people. That's ok. We can engineer a situation that motivates people, not just machines, to have courage.

16 December 2006

Technology vs. Psychology

My general feeling is little outright new technology is needed. What is needed is an ability to integrate what already exists with a subtle understanding of what the real, as opposed to perceived political constraints are and this is what some of us have done. A lot of people are attracted to technology because of their relative strengths in understanding spacial relationships compared to psychological relationships. Both types of understanding give them some power over their environment. However, when they become activists, this fear of the projected, but unreal political threats (of which legalities are a subset) lead them to solutions which do not reflect the way people actually behave. Likewise, those people who see everything only through the lens of politics are similarly blinded; since people's basic make up is invariant, changes in the way they behave arise from changes in physical reality.

12 December 2006

I.. Q..

I may donate IQ.ORG [now worth $30k] to the WL civic institution if someone can find a good acronym.
Some good words:

Quorum, Question, Quest, Quadrant, Quality, Qualification, Quantum, Quotient, Query, InQuiry... Quasimodo [ok, q's are hard]

I... Q... [french word order]

I, International, Idea, Ideal, Identify, Integrity, Illusion, Image, Imagination, Immortal, Immaterial, Impartial, Interesting, Impassioned, Impending, Imperial, Impetuous, Institute, Important, Impressive, Impunity, Incite, Inclusive, Incorrigible, Incredible, Identical, Infamous, Infinite, Inform, Ingenous, Initiating, Inner, Institute, Insight, Intelligent, Intention, Inter-, InterQuadrant, InterQuarter, Intra-, Intro-, Intri-, Intuitive, Invariant, Innocent, Invective, Investi-, Iconic, Independent, Irony, Island, In-

I like: Inter-Quadrant, Inter-Quarter, International Quorum/Question, (center for public) inquiry, Infinite Quest.

If there's a great character from history who's name begins with I, one can form something like:

Isaac's Question/Quest ("Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?" (Genesis 22: 7)) Which is lovely, since the open mind yearns to know what the question is as soon it hears the name, and a biblical character may give christian sanctity (the answer to Isaaic is deeply moving, but the source of the pathos is horror. If we were to front as a Ploughshares style movement this might work).

Isaiah has many questions, of which 6:10 seems to be the most interesting:

Isaiah 6:10-11 "10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, and understanding with their heart, return, and be healed.'. Then said I: 'Lord, how long?' And He answered: 'Until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste.


Calibration of feeling

Words have no power to change except when there's a fork in the road with equally attractive paths.

In your position, I'd take a deep book, a backpack of food and a tent and go walking for three months along or .nz coast. You need to recalibrate your emotions through recalibrating your body. Emotions are body states. The mind can not be strong without strength in its relation to the body. 'Whatever' is then quickly answered; wake with the sun, take the next step, eat the next bite and behold people and chairs become a delight. It's hard for you to see this now, since future visions are colored with present emotional responses. But these emotional responses are just another part of your flesh, built from the integration of your neurons and body. It's material, stuff, like muscle, constructed from last weeks potatoes and environmental stimulus. You can strengthen your will through overcoming physical hardship.

The natural environment provides man with ready motivational gradients, but civilization has filled them in. Hyper-civilized influences, such as computing, artificial lights, drugs, films, instant food supply, telephones and reading decalibrate by disconnecting behavior and reward and failing to provide the sense data that our biological mental and physical structures have evolved to require.

There's little difference between a mouse exploring a new maze or a scientist realizing the greatest intellectual act of the age. Both are motivated by the same primitive brain regions that control feelings.

'The point' comes when feelings demand it. It can only be rationalized from the axioms of primitive emotion. If these axioms are weak due to decalibration by civilization, 'the point' eludes us. If they are strong, we pursue our goals with passion and vigor.

11 December 2006

Etymology of "cad"

Caddie or cadet used to denote the passenger of a horse-coach picked up for personal profit by the driver (i.e placed next to the driver and not in the already booked interior). So a 'cad' is a man who picks up women, profits from them, and then leaves them by the road side. 'Caddie' or 'cad-et', as in the diminutive -- 'there goes a cad and his cadette'.

Such romantic etymology is enough to make a man want to don his oilskin and mount his horse with whip and smile at the ready.

05 December 2006

Self destructing paper

A spy opens an envelope. Inside is a thin sheet of paper with a cryptic message. After it is read the paper spontaneously bursts into flames.

The message is the communicable distillation of your hopes, dreams and imagination. The paper is the internet. The internet is self destructing paper. A place where anything written is soon destroyed by rapacious competition and the only preservation is to forever copy writing from sheet to sheet faster than they can burn.

If it's worth writing, it's worth keeping. If it can be kept, it might be worth writing. Would your store your brain in a startup company's vat? If you store your writing on a 3rd party site like blogger, livejournal or even on your own site, but in the complex format used by blog/wiki software de jour you will lose it forever as soon as hypersonic wings of internet labor flows direct people's energies elsewhere. For most information published on the internet, perhaps that is not a moment to soon, but how can the muse of originality soar when immolating transience brushes every feather?

Readers have asked what software is used to run IQ.ORG. A mere page of handwritten ruby constructs the site out the most robust future proof storage form imaginable. A flat directory of text or html files. The directory, like any directory can be backed up, edited, emailed, zipped, transported, printed, trapped in amber etc.

A lovely way to create these files remotely is to send email to a mail alias. Add the following to your unix ".forward" file; it will save all email sent to as filed under the name of their subjects. Want to change something? Just mail it in again under the same subject!

# add this code to your .forward+secretname file like so:
# "/home/me/public_html/"
Dir.chdir('public_html/') # change here to reflect
your site's directory

s = $
if /^Subject: ([^.\/].+?)\n/m =~ s
subject = $1
f =, "w")

exec "./index.rb > index.html"
Here is the code that scans the strew files and builds up the html output you see:

# save as index.rb
# puts "" etc here
Dir.chdir strewdir
strews = `ls -t ???*`.map {name name.chomp}
strews.each { name { f
linkname = URI.escape(name.gsub(/ /, ''))
puts '

' +
f.stat.mtime.strftime("%a %d %h %Y") + ' : ' + name+ "

s =
firstline = s.split(/\n/)[0]
if firstline and /^(From [A-Za-z_-]: )/m =~ firstline
body = s.match(/\n\r?\n/m).post_match
body = s
x = body.scan(/--\{\s(.+?)\s\}--\s/m).join
if x != ""
body = x
if /

puts '
puts ''
puts "
puts '

puts '

strews.each {name puts ' #puts footers here
That's it! The raw archive does not even depend on ruby; it's gold until civilization collapses, the neoluddites take control, or both, but then we will have other adventures to please us...

04 December 2006

The Road to Hanoi

It seems like everyone I meet plans to follow the young Che Guavara, now that seduction of random latinos has been politically sanctified, and take off on their motorbike and adventure through the poverty and pleasures of South and Central America. And who can blame them? But there are other lands to explore.

Last year I rode my motorcycle from Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) to Hanoi, up the highway that borders the South China Sea.

On the road to Hanoi something caught my attention and that of every vehicle near me. We had to watch constantly and take action every few seconds or it would have killed us all.

The road to Hanoi is a Vietnamese economic artery but is nonetheless dominated by potholes, thousands the size of bomb craters. There are constant reminders of "The American War" all over Vietnam, and perhaps this was one of them, but in a more indirect way.

To a physicist a pothole has an interesting life. It starts out as a few loose stones. As wheels pass over, these stones grind together and against the under surface. Their edges are rounded off and the depression they are in also becomes rounder by their action. The stones become pestles to the hole's motor. Smaller stones and grit move between the spaces of larger stones and add to the grinding action. The hole enlarges, and deepens. Small stones are soon entirely worn away, but in the process liberate increasingly larger stones from the advancing edge of the hole. The increasing depth and surface capture more and more energy from passing wheels. The destruction of the road surface accelerates until the road is abandoned or the hole is filled.

Road decay is, like a dental decay, a run away process. Utility rapidly diminishes and costs of repair accelerate, and just like teeth it is more efficient to fill a pothole as soon as it is noticed.

But this measure of efficiency is not the metric of politics and it is a political feedback process that lays behind the filling in of potholes on almost every road on earth.

That process is driven by the behavior of politically influential road users who are themselves motivated to action by psychologically negative encounters with potholes.

When potholes are small, the resulting political pressures are insufficient to overcome the forces of other interests groups who compete for labour and resources. Likewise, it is difficult to motivate people who have other passions and pains in their life to goto the dentist when their teeth do not ache. Both are caused by limitations in knowledge and its distillation: foresight.

Why is this surprising? It is surprising because we are used to looking at government spending through the lens of economic utility; a lens which claims the political process as a derivative. This vision claims that political forces compete for access to the treasury to further their own utility. Hence, military intelligence and public health compete with road maintenance for funding and so should attempt to minimize the latter's drain on the treasury. But that drain is minimized by filling in potholes immediately!

Foresight requires trustworthy information about the current state of the world, cognitive ability to draw predictive inferences and enough economic and political stability to give them a meaningful home. It's not only in Vietnam where secrecy, malfeasance and unequal access have eaten into the first requirement of foresight ("truth and lots of it").

Foresight can produce outcomes that leave all major interests groups better off. Likewise the lack of it, or doing the dumb thing, can harm almost everyone.

Computer scientists have long had a great phrase for the dependency of foresight on trustworthy information; "garbage in, garbage out". In intelligence agency oversight we have "The Black Budget blues", but the phrase is probably most familiar to American readers as "The Fox News Effect".

22 November 2006

State and terrorist conspiracies
No. Don't skip to the good stuff. This is the good stuff.

19 November 2006

Strangers on a train

"Two strangers, one rich, one poor, were traveling together. One took an immediate dislike to the other, and verbally abused him for the entire trip. When they arrived at their mutual destination, both made their way separately to the same synagogue, where the abusive man was mortified to find that the poor person he had insulted on the road was a guest rabbi. After the service, the man approached the rabbi and begged forgiveness. The rabbi refused.
'But rabbi,' said the man, 'Aren't we required to forgive?'The rabbi replied,
'Yes, but I am not the man you insulted. Go apologize to a poor man on a train.'"