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ȘȈǤƝȘ 76: Power Whispers

6 min

“Let not thy will roar, when thy power can but whisper.” —Dr. Fuller

Welcome to Signs of Life, a periodic roundup letter from Other Life, the coolest newsletter in the world. If someone sent you this, subscribe for yourself here.

In this issue:

On Corruption

Understand this and you will understand many mysteries of American politics—domestic and international.

What the international community calls "corruption" and "anti-corruption" are the same thing: social networks of individuals preferentially paying each other in accordance with certain shared attributes (values, organizational affiliations, kinship, whatever).

Washington endorses one type of corruption, based on one type of shared attribute: belief in the primacy of markets & contracts, as adjudicated by the Washington legal establishment.

If you submit to this, anything you do with others (who submit to this) is "anti-corruption."

If foreign governments donate money to the Clinton Foundation for favorable treatment, this is not corruption by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, insofar as the names of individuals and organizations in the paperwork have all been arranged in the fashion defined as legal.

Consider the Biden family in Ukraine. Calling that corruption is a "conspiracy theory" because this family's networked power machine was aligned with establishment consensus.

Why was it not corruption for Biden to push for the removal of a prosecutor (despite a material conflict of interest with respect to Hunter)? Because the establishment consensus says the prosecutor was "corrupt."

It's circular. "Corruption" is anything outside the clique.

Alien Invasions From the Future with Sam Frank

Sam Frank has written for Harper's and The New Yorker, but he was also an early buyer of Ethereum because Vitalik "looked like an alien."

Sam explains his heuristics for judging technological and cultural projects, how he first met Curtis Yarvin, what he sees in Urbit, and how he eventually became one of 256 senators in Urbit's galactic senate. Subscribe to the Other Life podcast and listen now.

Cyber-Hype Techonomics: The CCRU and Crypto

An obscure group of marginal philosophy academics predicted crypto and DeFi in Warwick, England around 1995.

The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) was a group of errant academics that formed around Warwick University in the 1990s. They were into jungle music, cyberpunk, Lovecraft, and amphetamine. The most famous name associated with CCRU is Nick Land, but it was a group.

According to the CCRU, digital technology would not bring market dynamics to a new place, but an old place. To primitive cults and pre-modern sorcery cultures. Obscure group beliefs would hold more power over real outcomes, not less (as the Enlightenment metanarrative expects).

The endpoint of the digital revolution is what the CCRU called cyber-hype techonomics.

The DAO is the socio-technical vehicle that rationalizes and formalizes cyber-hype logic. A DAO combines branding, jargon, currency, user IDs, crypto wallets, and currencies. For what? It doesn’t matter, as long as the machine runs.

Cyber-Hype Techonomics: The CCRU and Crypto
“As it gets cheaper it gets harder to stop... Softening-up social reality for flat take-over by the Cyber-hype entity.”

Urbit, Blockchains, and the Next Billion Users with Ted Blackman

Ted Blackman is a senior engineer at Tlon and one of the most advanced Urbit engineers in the world.

We discuss how Urbit will get faster, how it will scale to billions of users, and how Urbit fits into the blockchain ecosystem. In some ways Urbit is like a blockchain, in other ways Urbit is the categorical dual of the blockchain, soon there will be a blockchain built on top of Urbit, and more. Subscribe to the Other Life podcast and listen now.

From the Imperceptible Country

The Other Life community is also known as the Imperceptible Country. Think of it as a Web2.5 community.

10,000% Bullish North America

This guy Peter Zeihan is blowing up. Everyone is recommending him to me lately. He’s written a few books about geopolitics and his content seems to be rising due to interest in Russia-Ukraine.

At the Other Life meetup in Austin last weekend, ~nopbud-hosdes outlined a few of his big ideas, which he later published in the Imperceptible City:

North America is freaky. If you think of the planet as a series of video game / RTS spawn zones, North America is super-super easy mode. Most places have impossibly high transport costs, and North America has a series of insanely navigable rivers, dropping commodity transport to near-zero.
It also has an insane abundance of energy resources AND the biggest, most fertile agricultural zone in the world. AND highly defensible natural borders. AND the bulk of the land is in nice temperate, easily habitable climates.
North America has been coupled to the old world because our elites idealize europe, and Wilson made some dumb decisions about integrating into european defense arrangements. We've been subsidizing europe since WWII, on the condition that they serve as cannon fodder if there's a WWIII.
Now, US is in an isolationist phase, AND Europe is kicking off a series of brutal regional wars, AND Asian countries will have to go to war to protect energy routes from the Middle East, WHILE Iran and Saudi Arabia duke it out.
Net net, everything in the US will drastically improve, economy will drastically improve, quality of life will drastically improve, and we'll go for mercantilist policies that let us profit off chaos, while ensaring south america in economically extractive deals
He's 10,000% bullish on North America, basically

Join the discussion at ~hatryx-lastud/other-life.

Should your blog have a comments section?

There was a good discussion in town, started by Fanny Vassilatos.

I gave a long reply with all my thoughts, here's a snippet:

I have a pet theory that there is a major generational divide when it comes to comments sections. It seems to me that blogs/newsletters with thriving comments sections tend to be Gen X writers or older. If your audience is sophisticated and nerdy Gen X or older, I feel like you're much more likely to have a thriving comments section. If you're audience is Millennial and younger, I feel like you're less likely to have a thriving comments section. Millennials and younger never really developed this pattern/habit, they are much more accustomed to a private Discord or a private DM group.

As you can see, I prefer to give the Other Life community its own real estate, rather than force comments underneath any particular post.

Join the discussion in town.

Catalytic Converter Theft

A catalytic converter is an automobile part composed of platinum, palladium, and rhodium—precious metals.

We’re seeing reports of catalytic converter theft up ~10x.

Why is this interesting? From ~dibryl-sartev in the city:

As commodity prices rise, so do returns to theft of materials for parts. This is one of the dynamical couplings that cause dark ages to get dark quickly: metals and oils get cannibalized for relatively extractive low-tech-high-security uses rather than their relatively productive high-tech-low-security uses whenever the high tech populations are not able to protect themselves and the shared materials are scarce, but then the high-tech-low-sec demand still exists and this drives up the cost of materials and reinforces the cycle until the high-tech-low-sec gives up.
It’s one of the core loops of “catabolic collapse,” the tendency of complex social systems to begin burning their stored capital after they begin to hit sustainability limits, until reaching a new lower-capital equilibrium (possibly much lower).
For that reason, in a civilizational autumn it can be especially interesting to keep an eye on returns to petty theft and signs that the theft is becoming more organized, and here is an interesting example.

Join the discussion at ~hatryx-lastud/other-life.

On the limits of instrumental rationality in warfare

Edward Brown elaborated an interesting thesis in town:

The next revolution in military affairs will not come from new weaponry, but that weaponry will in the long run be its undoing…
The cognitive rigor mortis of optimization thinking in warfare will always lose to an opponent whose scope of warfare is wider than your own…

Join the discussion in town.

Parting Thought

“The will to power, as the modern age from Hobbes to Nietzsche understood it, far from being a characteristic of the strong, is, like envy and greed, among the vices of the weak, and possibly even their most dangerous one. Power corrupts indeed when the weak band together in order to ruin the strong, but not before.” —Hannah Arendt

Primavera (1477–1482) by Botticelli


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