In this edition:
- Urbit Office Hours / Orientation for new users
- Could 50 men take over the island of Nauru with $10M?
- Is it cheating to use AI in your writing?
- New Urbit group, New Aesthetic Notes
- The truth will set you free, but not under any conditions
- The Other Life Energy Cartel
- The difference between kindness and fondness
- New: BASED TECH JOBS!
- Urbit Orientation / Office Hours. Friday, February 10 at 11:30am CST. If you recently got on Urbit and need some orientation, this is for you. The main goal is to help you find groups, apps, people, and workflows that unlock value for your personal needs. All new Urbit users are welcome.
- How to Build an Independent & Profitable Academic Course ($). Thursday, February 9 at 2pm CST.
- Seminar on the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle ($). Friday, February 17 at 11am CST.
- Seminar on Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software ($). Monday, February 27 at 2pm CST.
Members enjoy free access to all events, an archive of exclusive content, and a bustling community of more than 500 independent writers, creators, and engineers.
Is it cheating to use AI in your writing?
The Hockney-Falco thesis suggests that Renaissance painting was such an improvement on pre-Renaissance painting primarily thanks to the use of optical instruments such as the camera obscura. In other words, the great artists from this period—Peter Paul Rubens, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and others—are remembered as great partially because they were aggressive and shameless exploiters of Artificial Intelligence. Were they cheating? Presumably some contemporary observers must have thought so! Posterity, however, says no.
The human qualities they brought to their work—the emotionality, the symbolic resonances, the larger vision they pursued in their work over time—was not commoditized by the new instruments and this is perhaps what distinguishes the great Renaissance painters from the merely good ones.
Hat tip to the anonymous reader who pointed this out to me. He adds, "Caravaggio was a pimp and thug who killed people, yet he painted like an angel because he 'cheated.' Real artists are always looking for either new techniques or new technology, while losers write off those who seem to be better as innately talented."
The truth will set you free, but only if you sign it with your name
Jordan Peterson’s recent tirade against anonymity online might seem like Boomer Cringe, but he is importantly correct in one specific way.
There is something like an existential requirement to speak what you believe with your own name, at least to the maximum degree one can handle. Anonymous writers and artists can produce very interesting and powerful works, no doubt, which can be as honorable and impressive as any other works. There is just a particular kind of thing that one cannot do so long as one publishes anonymously.
We’re talking here about the deep Christian insight that the truth will set you free. This is a concrete, empirical mechanism. When you speak difficult truths in your own name, your body and soul go through certain forced updates, as it were. The social implications of your words reverberate back into your attitude, your posture, your identity, your finances, and more. It's an irreversible and comprehensive equilibration dynamic that one sets in motion. It significantly changes you, and marginally changes society.
If there is a lie that reigns in the civic order, and you speak against that lie with your own name, you always pay some kind of price, but your freedom is always increased and your character is always improved. You gain nobility as you bear the lacerations of a corrupt society, in your service of a higher, more distant, more abstract good.
Could 50 men take over the island of Nauru with $10M?
"Nauru is a 8sq kilometer island in the middle of the pacific ocean. Population ~10,000. Once the home of a strong phosphate mining business, the island fell on hard times after strip mining drained the phosphate reserves. A recent boom to its prison and asylum contract business with Australia has provided for basic necessities for the island but otherwise it is quite a poor island. The population is largely obese and unarmed. Basic cuisine on the island is canned fish. There are only 40 police and a small governmental presence...
Costs: Chartered flights to Nauru will cost ~$300,000. Pay for a small mercenary force ~$1mm, paying off governmental officials ~$1mm, equipment (weapons and ammo) ~$500,000, equipment (tools) ~$200,000, recruitment of other administrative officials or team members ~$2m. $6m for usage on the island."
Nauruan Independence Plan
The Imperceptible Country
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ChatGPT Lawyers [2 comments] by ~davnyl-dorreg. "ChatGPT will destroy the notion of law and order in a legal sense. Once people realize you can write absolute and convincing legal arguments with a rudimentary GPT-3 engine, law firms will be forced to adopt them. After that legal defense will come down to which attorney has the better AI. People's sense of justice will disappear as the nature of law and order is revealed; an exercise of power. Some will question justice itself, others will simply exist with the current thing, docile and accepting of their new algorithmic paradigm that doles out prison sentences based on prompts. Ultimately rhetoric will be exposed for what it is, and the unspoken state of nihilism we live in will be openly understood by the masses." Reply at:
Deleuze and Edward Hopper's Horizontal City [3 comments] by Kevin McCoy (~batnev-riddur). "I haven’t been able to join the group discussing Deleuze’s The Movement-Image, but I was thinking about that text today while visiting the Whitney Museum. I'm sharing my thoughts here as a way to contribute... I’ve also published this text on my art-focused Urbit group “New Aesthetic Notes” which you can find at
~batnev-riddur/cluster if interested. There are another half-dozen short texts published and a growing set of images."
Disruptive Spirituality [5 comments] by Edward Brown (5 comments). "What would a disruptive idea of spirituality be for the 21st century? When I say disruptive idea, I'm talking about a thing that is so new and outside the framework of how we currently understand things, that although it takes little effort or investment to start, it has potential to overtake the entire playing field... I am not saying 'what would a new religion look like,' I'm saying what could a new understanding of religion or spirituality be in the data-driven infocracy that we live in today."
How to Start a High-End Newsletter [8 comments] by Tony Coniglio. "How do very expensive information products get started?"
The Other Life Energy Cartel by Tundranaut. "I created a Signal group chat for all things energy-related. Energy expertise isn't a prerequisite. Please join if you feel so inclined. Group link here.
Yesterday, I sent out 25 more invites to the Realm alpha. If you already joined the waitlist but haven't received an email yet, don't worry; you'll be in a later batch. Just hang tight.
So now about 50 folks in the Other Life orbit have Realm, so we should start to see some amount of serendipitous interaction.
For the next 30 minutes or so, I will have a Room open for anyone who wants to drop in and try the live voice chat with me.
If you want to connect with Holium off-Urbit, pop in their Telegram group. They'd love to hear from you.
Based Tech Jobs
I'm going to experiment with listing not just Urbit jobs but all non-woke tech jobs adjacent to the Other Life community. If you run a company that values competence and mental independence more than political opinions, submit a job listing here.
- Designer (strong preference for in-person NYC). You will help us design our app and create a brand. You will make everything that you come into contact with more beautiful—our videos and posts, our office, and of course, our product. Design is influenced by companies that we admire like Notion and Urbit.
- iOS Swift Developer. Several years experience and some familiarity with Hoon.
- Full Stack Engineer. Well rounded engineer who has a functional programming background and a proven track record of delivering high-quality infrastructure or platform products. Hoon experience desired but not required. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
- Runtime Engineer. Deep knowledge of C, asynchronous systems code, memory allocators, Rust, etc.
- Hoon Developer. Completed Hoon School and ideally App School. Some experience developing production software.
- Principal Product Designer. Generalist design background and can manage projects autonomously; work closely with PMs and engineers to deliver thoughtful and systematic solutions to spec; manage and evolve existing design systems; BA in Design, Architecture, HCI, or relevant experience; 7+ years’ product design experience.
- Director of Finance. Investor relations, create and maintain financial models, develop investor presentations, bookkeeping and accounting, etc. 3+ years experience in ops, finance, or investor relations.
Hit reply if any of these sound like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.
Submit a job listing.
"Kindness is in our power, but fondness is not." —Dr. Johnson