People got real mad last week at the suggestion that equipment left in Afghanistan could be an intel windfall for the Chinese.

But here's the Sci-Tech editor of DefenseOne (@DefTechPat) making exactly that case with technical detail and multiple sources.…
As I acknowledged at the time, I am by no means an expert on military hardware. But it strained credulity to imagine that billions of dollars of equipment captured without warning wouldn't give intelligence on US capabilities.

A windfall, even.…
One line of argument was that equipment like C-130s date to the 1950s, so *obviously* having them captured was no big deal.

@jalospinoso spent ten years in the Army conducting penetration tests...and thinks differently.
The strawman is that it was just some Humvees.

The steelman — according to @_GeorgiannaShea of FDD — is that "it's not just a Humvee…it’s a Humvee that’s full of radios, technologies, crypto systems, things we don’t want our adversaries getting ahold of”
Just a simple country techbro here making necessarily limited inferences under uncertain conditions, but apparently some experts agree — losing billions of dollars in US-origin materiel is analogous to leaking big chunks of source code onto the internet.
"Nothing was transferred to the Afghans that was of any technological value", I was told!

Except for all the tech built into the equipment that was just captured[1]. Here's another example: the gear used to detect IEDs.

Again, to be clear, I learned a lot in the discussion!

And heard some fun arguments. Some said that because America didn't trust their Afghan allies, it gave them only junk. Others said everything has been hacked anyway, so China wouldn't learn anything new.

Very reassuring…
The best exchange was with @ralee85, a true domain expert who was fair & honest.

The big difference between his informed opinion & my high-level guess wasn't on technical detail, though. It was our respective trust in whether the military would make this kind of mistake.
Our information environment today is all fog-of-war, especially on a foreign battlefield.

One day Afghanistan won't fall to the Taliban, the next day it does. One day "ISIS-K" is being drone striked, the next day it was some kids. And one day it's all just old gear lost…
General rule: if an institution says X and not-X happens just a little while later, where X is a big deal, the claims on small things are also questionable.

Internal disagreements get more signal then. Weight non-consensus voices more heavily when consensus is repeatedly wrong.
If early COVID discourse had been accurate, I'd trust public health more.

If Bitcoin didn't work, I'd trust macroeconomists more.

And if WMDs were in Iraq, I'd trust the state more.

But if experts are wrong, we can't blindly trust. Need our own diligence. And to rebuild trust.

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More from @balajis

15 Sep
Helpful feedback on the $100k prize for a decentralized inflation dashboard at His points are: (a) too much reliance on scraping, (b) no business model, & (c) too labor-intensive to replicate.

I disagree that these are show-stoppers, but go read first:
1/ JP says:

"while it's easy to find scraped prices of laptop computers, forget about prices for haircuts, rent, or healthcare"

Disagree. Below are online prices for haircuts, rent, healthcare.

[3]… ImageImageImage
2/ In general, the economy is going online. For almost any good there is now a digital storefront.

Moreover, this is a long-run project, so any absent price will come online.

Finally, as noted in the post (, partnering is an alternative to scraping. ImageImage
Read 13 tweets
12 Sep
Victory leads to risk aversion leads to defeat. Defeat unlocks risk tolerance unlocks victory.
Not deterministic, of course. Sometimes those who are defeated stay down and never get up. And sometimes those who have won don't even recognize they've won, and keep pushing for the next peak.

But it's a common dynamic. Winning can become easier when you have nothing to lose.
Question: is privilege then always a privilege? Or can it be more of a curse, like civilizational diabetes?

Because the richer something is, the less upside it may have, and the more capital seeks other opportunities.

Yes, capital compounds — but it also decentralizes. Image
Read 4 tweets
12 Sep
Proof of concept I want to see: a DAO that crowdfunds some land, buys a robot, then executes a collective decision to send that robot for a lap around the land.
Why? Show that a community organization can combine on-chain decision making and robotics to do things in the physical world. Proof-of-concept.

How? Use a consumer robot. A drone is ~$1k and is the obvious place to start:…
If you want a land robot, Double Robotics is $4k and works in office-ish environments. It can be controlled via telepresence. Good product, it's been around since ~2014.
Read 6 tweets
12 Sep
By the time the decline is undeniable, it's not easily reversible.
In other words, by the time the bien pensants start thinking everything is not going so well after all, you're really in trouble.
When someone's fundamental worldview is "it'll be fine, someone will take care of it", you can be assured that they themselves will not be taking care of any problems.
Read 4 tweets
11 Sep
Everything that was once founded can be founded anew.
There is no irreplaceable institution. That's a mental trap. Human beings with far less resources than us managed to level their way up from the Wild West to lunar landers in one long human lifetime.

We can certainly build better bureaucracies.
Be realistic! OK, well, if we're realistic, then building better systems in parallel will take years, likely decades. But it's not impossible.

Civilization decline is after all inversely correlated with civilizational dominance. There is always an exit.
Read 9 tweets
9 Sep
If we think about it in terms of tradeoffs, USD has short-term stability and long-term depreciation while BTC has short-term volatility and long-term appreciation.
This suggests there's a smart version of fiat that's conscious of engineering tradeoffs.

The dumb version pretends inflation doesn't exist or has no consequence. The smart version says it's a real cost that provides the funds to maintain a short-run peg.
Dozens of CBDCs are being designed around the world, some quite totalitarian, with negative interest rates, surveillance features, and similar mechanisms.

But CBDCs by small countries that *acknowledge* they're operating in a Bitcoin-constrained environment could be different.
Read 6 tweets

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