Quotable (#197)

This interesting interview with Michael Glennon on “double government” concludes with one of the most confused self-abolishing meanderings ever to see print:

The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy for reform has to come from: the American people. Not from government. Government is very much the problem here. The people have to take the bull by the horns. And that’s a very difficult thing to do, because the ignorance is in many ways rational. There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being active about, problems that you can’t affect, policies that you can’t change.

The utter nothingness of that paragraph says something important in itself. Roughly: Sadly, the kind of things that need to happen can’t possibly happen, which doesn’t suggest the problem is being taken very seriously. All that’s needed is for people to wake up simply doesn’t cut it, when — at the very same time — you know beyond all serious question that they won’t.

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Quotable (#141)

Barry Silbert (quoted in this in-depth profile):

On a probability, risk-adjusted basis, if I’m going to make a bet on what people want to own if the shit hits the fan, I’m going to want to make a bet on something that’s not being held by all the central governments whose fan is being hit with the shit.

Quotable (#138)

On history, cybernetics, and the end of trust:

We’re not undergoing, since 2008, an abrupt and unexpected “economic crisis,” we’re only witnessing the slow collapse of political economy as an art of governing. Economics has never been a reality or a science; from its inception in the 17th century, it’s never been anything but an art of governing populations. Scarcity had to be avoided if riots were to be avoided – hence the importance of “grains” – and wealth was to be produced to increase the power of the sovereign. “The surest way for all government is to rely on the interests of men,” said Hamilton. Once the “natural” laws of economy were elucidated, governing meant letting its harmonious mechanism operate freely and moving men by manipulating their interests. Harmony, the predictability of behaviors, a radiant future, an assumed rationality of the actors: all this implied a certain trust, the ability to “give credit.” Now, it’s precisely these tenets of the old governmental practice which management through permanent crisis is pulverizing. We’re not experiencing a “crisis of trust” but the end of trust, which has become superfluous to government. Where control and transparency reign, where the subjects’ behavior is anticipated in real time through the algorithmic processing of a mass of available data about them, there’s no more need to trust them or for them to trust. It’s sufficient that they be sufficiently monitored. As Lenin said, “Trust is good, control is better.”

(Emphasis in original.)

“Cybernetic government is inherently apocalyptic.” — Twice a day, even stopped communists can see the time.

Quotable (#135)

Craig Hickman on deepening neuro-technological darkness:

The convergence of knowledge and technology for the benefit or enslavement of society (CKTS) is the core aspect of 21st century science initiatives across the global system, which is based on five principles: (1) the interdependence of all components of nature and society (the so called network society, etc.), (2) enhancement of creativity and innovation through evolutionary processes of convergence that combine existing principles, and divergence that generates new ones (control of creativity and innovation by corporate power), (3) decision analysis for research and development based on system-logic deduction (data-analysis, machine learning, AI, etc.), (4) higher-level cross-domain languages to generate new solutions and support transfer of new knowledge (new forms of non-representational systems and mappings, topological, etc.). As civilization and societal challenges become more and more dependent on external and internalized artificial mechanisms and technological systems we are faced with the convergence of “NBIC” technological reorganization of corporate and socio-cultural fields of business, inquiry, and research into: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive and neruosciences. But it is the neuroscientific breakthroughs and initiatives that will underpin the forms of global governance: political and economic systems of rules, negotiations, and navigation systems of impersonal and indifferent regulatory and reason-based imperialism of the future capitalist regimes as they begin to marshal every aspect of life into a data-centric vision of command and control.

The subsequent list of ‘neuro-‘ prefixed social management disciplines, accompanied by short introductions, is a treasure.

ADDED: Highly relevant.

Quotable (#132)

Keerthik Sasidharan on the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew:

In the wake of his death, LKY is summarily dismissed by many on the Left as authoritarian or lauded by many on the Right who describe him as a pragmatist. Both appellations, while probably true depending on where in his long career one looks – obscure the true nature of a worldview, a philosophic outlook, around which he built institutions in Singapore. It is a view that is essentially pessimistic about human nature and what men would do if left unimpeded by social constraints. It sees humans as easily prone to material excess, as likely to grandstand at the expense of collective welfare, willing to indulge in emotionally satisfying rhetorical flourishes ignoring the truth of the evidence. It is also, however, a view that is self-aware enough to recognize that all societies need ideological Godheads around which its institutions and identities can accrete.

Inescapably, the result of such Godheads is a class of high priests, interpreters, and clergy who invent elaborate vocabularies to perpetuate their power. Faced with this recognition, the difficulty that faces every newly formed society is the choice of an organizing principle around which its institutions are then measured against. Viewed thus, while India chose ‘secularism’, the US enshrined ‘freedom’, post-Trudeau Canada made ‘multiculturalism’ its metier, the Saudis made ‘Islam’ their lodestar, Pakistan made ‘non-Indianness’ its operating principle, Singapore decided to enshrine (instrumental) Reason as its central organizing principle. Whatever gets the job done became the mantra.

(Emphasis in original.)1

Quotable (#96)

In a classic article on the problems governments can be expected to face with Bitcoin adoption, Daniel Krawisz writes:

All organizations tend to evolve so as to resist change, but governments, being subject to the problems of socialism, suffer much worse from this because government operations lack a clear concept of efficiency [for] their overall success, the relative importance of any of its parts, or the relative merits of alternative organizational structuring. Consequently, governments can more easily evolve into labyrinthian structures that nobody understands without anyone realizing what is happening.

An eye-opening article called Sinkhole of Bureaucracy describes a surreal example of this phenomenon in an outstandingly incisive way. In an abandoned Pennsylvania mine, which is now an office containing 600 federal employees and endless filing cabinets, process all the federal retirement pensions on paper by hand. The system is widely understood to be insane and dysfunctional, but despite repeated and ceaseless attempts to automate the process beginning in the early 80’s, the system has not changed. It is not a problem of will, but of knowledge: there is no one available with the skills to carry through the transition successfully, no one who knows precisely what those skills would be, and no one who can evaluate anyone else for them. As a result, the attempts to develop an automated process failed because the software engineers did not understand the laws and the bureaucracy well enough to design something correctly, and the bureaucrats did not know how to tell if the software engineers knew what they were doing.

Will the federal government be able to adapt to Bitcoin? This would require building an a system not just for the one department, but for the entire organization, and it would have to be built properly — it must distribute decisions enough so that bitcoins cannot be stolen easily by employees. After reading that article, I think it is reasonable to think that the government may not be up to such a task at all.