Quotable (#149)

A ruined empire on the brink:

All around the Web, in print, and on radio comes the claim that America has entered its “Weimar” phase. Economic collapse, political paralysis, rampant homosexuality, a desperate, disoriented populace open to the ravings of a demagogue – that is the portrait we get of Germany between the end of World War I in 1918 and the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. That is where America is supposedly situated in 2016. […] Yes, Weimar Germany ended badly, horribly so. But …

Much tying-itself-in-knots follows (not entirely uninterestingly).

The historical analogy is far stronger than the apologetic analysis. What Weitz refuses to contemplate, is that the set of outcomes he dogmatically defends as “social progress” is a partisan agenda (the New England Utopia) masquerading as a universal value. What left-liberals see as unambiguous advance looks to everyone else like losing. As the Internet decentralizes media, the progressive narrative monopoly is coming apart in the hurricane, and nostalgic preaching for the old religion won’t glue it back together. Weitz is right about one thing, though: there’s no doubt political developments could be blown in very ugly directions.

It’s chicken (the edge of the cliff version).
Left-Liberals: Stick with our vector for social development, or we’ll all go over the edge.
Mashed-Right: There have been far too many concessions already …

You have to swerve, Weitz pleads. Even if they do this time, they won’t forever, and its already far less obvious that they will. Compared to what we’re used to, that makes it a whole new world.

Quotable (#143)

William Faulkner quits his post office job:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

(Source.)

Bitcoin as SOCI

This is one of the greatest things ever written, period.

‘SOCI’ abbreviates ‘self-organizing collective intelligence’.

The basic dynamics of a SOCI is as follows. It begins as some sort of attractor — some aesthetic sensibility or yearning — that is able to grab the attention and energy of some group of people. Generally one that is very vague and abstract. Some idea or notion that only makes sense to a relatively small group. […] But, and this is the key move, when those people apply their attention and energy to the SOCI, this makes it more real, easier for more people to grasp and to find interesting and valuable. Therefore, more attractive to more people and their attention and energy. […] … If the SOCI has enough capacity within its collective intelligence to resolve the challenge, it “levels up” and expands its ability to attract more attention and energy. If not, then it becomes somewhat bounded (at least for the present) and begins to find the limit of “what it is”.

Greenhal then narrates the story of Bitcoin to date, within this framework. The sheer enormity of the innovation it has introduced emerges starkly.

In conclusion:

My sense is that over just the next five years this new form of SOCI will go through its gestation, birthing and childhood development stages. The result will be a form of collective intelligence that is so much more capable than anything in the current environment that it will sweep away even the most powerful contemporary collective intelligences (in particular both corporations and nation states) in establishing itself as the new dominant form of collective intelligence on the Earth. […] And whoever gets there first will “win” in a fashion that is rarely seen in history.

This will look prophetic not too far down the road.

Dunhuang at the Himalayas

Absurd name aside, the Dunhuang — Song of Living Beings exhibition at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum is superb. Even those who’ve been to Dunhuang will appreciate it.

dunhuang33

Just as an art of the replica show, it’s jaw-dropping (and it isn’t just that, remotely).

The modern artworks included in the show mostly make little difference, with a few exceptions. They’re simply, and inevitably, overwhelmed by the Mogao Caves material.