Samo Burja Profile picture
There has never been an immortal society. Figuring out why. Founder of Bismarck Analysis. @longnow fellow. Bylines @CityJournal @palladiummag @TheNatlInterest
Eli Tyre Profile picture 1 added to My Authors
6 Nov
If the government openly regulated speech on the Internet, we would experience this as an increase, not a decrease, in our personal freedom.

One of manymideas to come out of my discussion with @wolftivy of @palladiummag last week. Listen here:

We’ve been expecting a truly decentralized Internet for nearly 30 years, yet every year the Internet gets more obviously centralized.

I explained why this is happening in the article that prompted this podcast. Catch up here:…
The flip-side of the Internet being a surveillance technology is that the Internet is also a communications technology.

In 2020, it is obvious how much personal, social, and political life has been thoroughly subsumed into the Internet. At scale, we have a new social world.
Read 8 tweets
6 Nov
HTTP is the operating protocol for the web. Politeness is one of many operating protocols for social interactions.

Like HTTP, politeness can be documented and taught. Disregard the protocol, and bad things happen.…

Although it sounds similar, “social technology” does not mean social *media* technology, like Facebook or Reddit.

The Reddit software and servers are material technologies. But Reddit’s use of human moderators is a social technology.

Social and material technologies often act symbiotically, but they are functionally distinct.

As I have argued before, the difference between a curious invention and a broadly adopted technology is the right feat of social engineering:…

Read 13 tweets
31 Oct
How do you change the world?

In this essay, I argue that the most impactful individuals in history all did so by founding functional institutions. Great Founder Theory proceeds from this:…

Most institutions are non-functional. This does not necessarily mean that the buildings are on fire or that layoffs are expected. Rather, most non-functional institutions are merely inadequately imitating functional institutions.

In a non-functional institution, everyone works towards the same socially-rewarded goals, rather than doing specialized work that combines to achieve the institution’s nominal function, such as winning wars or generating profits.

Read 8 tweets
17 Oct
China's mass surveillance and digital dystopia have been exaggerated or just made up in many pieces of Western reporting.

Is there anything worth reading on which of these have been debunked? I remember reading on the Chinese social credit score system for example.
Article on the social credit score…
Good article on the limits of China's supposed surveillance state.…
Read 4 tweets
17 Oct
Article Super-Thread 📲

Many new followers largely miss the essays that brought us here, as these things fall victim to the passing of time.

To combat this, here is a super-thread of all of my essays, which are also always online at:

Why was Obama elected president in 2008? Social media? Cultural changes? His personal fortitude?

To answer this question is to reveal your implicit theory of history:…

My research focuses on the people who have had the most impact on society and history.

We call those people Great Founders, those who founded exceptionally functional and long-lived institutions, affecting society long after they are gone:…

Read 9 tweets
15 Oct
@Aella_Girl From observing happy couples:

It should be someone who has a thorough mastery of your social world. Who doesn't need it. You switch social worlds with him to a wider one where you both thrive.

@Aella_Girl Given the above as the assumption:

1. Check the edge of communities that share your values. Either a new entrant, a heretic or just geographically distant.

@Aella_Girl 2. He should be liked by most in community, while honestly and jovially ignoring something usually important to it. Coin some questions and ask around for who might make such an impression

3. Debate your values while paying attention to body sensations. Check if he cracks.

Read 4 tweets
14 Oct
Super-Thread 📲

Far more people watch YouTube than like to admit. Not a bad thing! It has facilitated a revolution in the transfer of knowledge:…

Here is a thread of all my videos, organized as an overview on how I see the world and where it is going

Everyone has an implicit theory of history. Usually inconsistent and incoherent without explication and conscious work, it will nonetheless be the basis of much of your action in the world. With this concept in mind, what is yours?

Watch here:

What is the best methodology to learn something as vast and cross-disciplinary as history?

In this video, we try to bridge the gap from the overwhelming amount of historical facts to a coherent story of what actually happened. Watch here:

Read 65 tweets
12 Oct
Nearly 10,000 followers!

It is amazing nearly everyone that comments participates in good faith and an eagerness to learn. Grateful! Thank you! 😄

One of the best parts of orienting my thinking towards the public has been learning from those who write to me. Keep it up✊
Some of the things learned on road to 10k:

You don't have to fit into a neat box after all.

My interests are origin of science, industrial policy, political theory, history of civilization, long lived institutions... and our corner of twitter somehow gets this about me!

If you love discussing ideas in person, and they use twitter, tweets @ each other make for good bookmarks to follow up in person.

When you link something in email people skip, when you link it on Twitter they read.

Read 5 tweets
5 Sep
Thinking biological immortality makes things meaningless is cope, but a very human cope. We're stuck mortal so we make the most of these rationalizations.

To say old age isn't worth it because of frailty is evading the real argument. To equate immortality with being unable to die even if you wish is also evading the real argument.

A piece of evidence on underlying human preferences: At every opportunity to extend our health-span we do so. Healthy chosen very long, possibly infinite, life coincides very closely with people's revealed preferences.

Read 7 tweets
30 Aug
1 like = One contrarian evaluation of the relative advantages of the United States and China.
1. The United States has a more centralized government than China.

A governor of a Chinese province or mayor of major city has more autonomy than the governor or even state legislature of a US state.

The Party is heavy-handed because it contests real local opponents.
2. The average Chinese citizen is more effectively skeptical of the Chinese government than the typical American citizen is of the US government.

They understand the distinction between official positions and real evaluations.

See online comment sections.
Read 18 tweets
31 Mar
Grounding intellectual trust remains an unsolved problem.

As individuals we cannot perform all the experiments or check all the mathematical proofs ourselves. We neither have time nor is it economically or socially viable.

If we rely on institutions to preform experiments or check proofs for us, this scarcity of time is reduced to a problem to one of collaborative commons. But managing collaborative commons is an unsolved problem as well!

Read 10 tweets
18 Dec 19
One like = One Opinion on Wisdom and Madness of Crowds
@vgr 1. It's become well known Crowds can in some circumstances aggregate information stunningly accurately.

An illustrative anecode is Sir Francis Galton's surprise that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged.
2. What is less well known is that the mechanism of aggregation matters.

You might aggregate the information through voting or perhaps a market.

It can be as simple as asking many people to cross a park, a clear convenient beaten path emerges from their individual behavior.
Read 25 tweets
17 Nov 19
In this piece I provide an intellectual justification for transmission of tacit skills through @YouTube. Once written people can use the piece to share their experience of learning without associated negative connotation...…

@YouTube Observing online culture, it should be rather easy to write such justifications for Facebook and Twitter.

The writing environment however seems saturated with negative takes. The insight in those seems pretty much mined out.

@YouTube A reason for this might be that social media greatly benefits the power users and the very casual users. The former create content, and the latter use it as a phone book. Both of them use it to engineer and recreate their physical in person social lives.

Read 5 tweets
22 Oct 19
What happens when an American businessman tries to make US military contracting radically more efficient?

They are violating America's unstated rules by doing so, expect them to have few friends.…

America as all hegemonic powers do, has to juggle several incompatible ideologies and appear at least moderately legitimate to all of them:

Liberalism, Libertarianism, Protestant Christianity, Social Justice, Scientism, Neoconservatism...


The society compartmentalizes ideologies to the sector where they beset serve:

Libertarians will be quite happy to work as start up entrepreneurs and individuals contractors. Liberals as CEOs and academic administrators. Protestants as marketers.

Read 11 tweets
11 Aug 19
An interesting observation! I think something important has changed in how generations relate to each other.

But I question to what extent culture ever was as static as we currently imagine. Culture is never unmoving rather it exists in dynamic equilibrium.

Cultural stasis is usually a dynamic equilibrium.

People move into subcultures, people move out, but if they move at a nearly equal rate, there might be very little net change.

People observe change in their own environment, and then incorrectly extrapolate.

Further because of ignorance and self-flattery the present projects lack of change on the past.

Sexual norms make a great example. There were many sexual revolutions pointing in many different directions over last few millennia.

Read Catherine the Great's love letters.

Read 8 tweets
28 Jun 19
All my published writing so far build on itself and ties together important concepts I use in my thinking on any given topic.

But I've realized I haven't explained how.

So let's go through it together! 📚🚀😄

Back in February 2018 my first post was an attempted to explain how regardless of @elonmusk's motives, he was performing an important public service by launching his Tesla Roadster away from Earth at 12,908 km/h.


The Elon piece pulled on many strands of thought close to my heart. To do these justice I had to explain my thesis of founders being central to origin of institutions.

When writing a theory of history, first explain why we should care!

Read 23 tweets
10 Feb 19
Problems with Social Science (Thread)
1. The stubborn overlap of social institutions. This is particularly pronounced with political institutions where all forms of government want the legitimacy of all the others.
1a. The United Kingdom is a wonderful example being a disorganized bureaucracy pretending to be a meritocracy pretending to be a democracy pretending to be a monarchy.
Read 15 tweets