Elizabeth Sandifer has a harsh—but not on-the-face incorrect—burn for Yarvin’s politics and political theory. If “code is law”, and Urbit is CY’s tour de force— I’ve come to understand Urbit as a software engineering train-wreck...
...which is not to say Urbit doesn’t have a use case—it does. Somewhat like taking Sanskrit for your college language requirement, it’s a costly signal of, well, something. Affection for John Locke’s theory of value?
I certainly have seen lots of interesting people who have gotten in to the system. For all the retconning, it’s clearly a political project, but one that’s captured the imagination of a weird and diverse group.
But a locus for a thousand-year online empire, it’s remarkably tied to technical business as usual at the most basic level...
ETH, to begin with—a blockchain that’s happy to take Mulligans whenever its core in-group suffers a loss. That’s a bit-level case of unpersoning that seems to clash with Urbit’s separatist/“exit” philosophy.
More fundamentally yet, it’s a system that relies on TCP/IP for everything. As a system built from the ground up (almost a toilet-paper Turing-machine), at some point it seems to swing left so that it looks like another internet app.

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More from @SimonDeDeo

13 Feb
What's the earliest you could have predicted that Python would be one of the top five programming languages? (Round to nearest year.)
I’m going to say 1995, but hear me out. (1) We already knew that attacking problems with computers, in a sort of ad hoc fashion, was going to be a big deal. *All* problems had a computational side, not just a special class.
(2) We knew that domain knowledge mattered—that the more the “ordinary” practitioner had direct access, the greater the payoff. No separate “computer group”.
Read 5 tweets
13 Feb
The best line on the rationalists, said to me once: these are the people who read the New York Times and took it seriously. What follows next is the response to that disappointment...
Effective Altruism is the most obvious (the Times says first world philanthropy will save the third, and yet it hasn’t happened yet); multiple different diagnoses for Neoreaction, I think.
A lot of people want to trace things back to SV culture, but this seems wrong. E.g., early Paul Graham essays, which are mostly about how to make money on startups, or inside baseball about code.
Read 15 tweets
6 Feb
Thoughts on tails and Hayekian (neo) liberal economics. The standard story is that markets “learn”—absorbing trades and propagating the implicit information by setting prices. It’s sufficiently intelligent to bring me tea from Japan. But tails *can’t* be learned... Image
They don’t occur often enough to train the reenforcement algorithm that the price system runs. When they do, their surface logic is unrepeatable (GameStop, really?)
Tails can, however, be reasoned about. We can think about what would be out of scope, even if we can’t anticipate its details. We can ask if this or that profit is on some sense “unreasonable”, emphasis on reason, not inference.
Read 14 tweets
18 Jan
Someone tosses a coin ten times; it comes up heads every time. What's the probability it comes up heads on the next toss? (Pretty darn high—part of @nntaleb's work is unprogramming you from your high-school rules of thumb.) Now consider the (related) Gambler's fallacy...
In this case, it's a theory about compensation: the worse one's luck is, the more likely it is to see a reversal. On the surface, it's irrational. The more bad luck you have, the more you accumulate evidence that the system is rigged.
But there's also an anthropic component. If the luck is bad enough, it starts to become inconsistent with your survival. You've accumulated evidence for correlations in the environment, but these correlations (may be) inconsistent with (people like you) being in this environment.
Read 18 tweets
18 Jan
Say we gain complete control over genetics—we can code development like Python. After 10,000 years, which is the most likely outcome of our decision-making?
Can’t believe the elimination of men and permanent sexual immaturity/liminal stage are getting so few votes.
I don’t think speciation events are likely. Silicon software has been converging on near-total comparability for decades.
Read 5 tweets
30 Dec 20
2021 predictions (🧵)
Student loans will (finally) be understood as a bubble on a par with the housing market in 2008.
Some of the fallout will be temporarily explained away by COVID, but many universities below the billion-dollar endowment mark (and some above) will find themselves short.
Read 22 tweets

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