October 1, 2023 7:16 am

political implications

The Washington Post asks What the world would look like without fossil fuels, which can be summed up as "out entire way of existence depends on a huge amount of energy almost all of which we get from oil". The rough idea they are explaining is that if we just stop building more wells and mines, things will gradually get more expensive and it will take a huge amount of time and resources to transition to other sources, but turning it off directly is unrealistic.

Overall it tells a nice story, but what struck me was a paragraph at the end:

“The biggest worry I have is: ‘What are the implications of the clean energy transition in some of the segments of the population that are badly affected?’” Birol said. “In a not very well-planned transition, there could be a bit of a backlash with political implications.”

Basically, the transition will hurt a bunch of people, specifically the ones that are already under a smack-down. "Backlash with political implications".

How about humanitarian implications? How about inequality, or general unfairness? Is the real problem here that it's politically inconvenient?

Calling it "political" is such a euphemism.

August 23, 2023 7:03 am

a good death

On January 10th 2022 my wife Joy started to feel dizzy, sat down on a bench, and never woke up again.

I think it's the best way to die, suddenly, quickly, without any pain or anxiety about what is going to happen or how a life was led.

There was nothing leading up to it, and nothing to be done. No decisions to be made, nothing to second guess, no one to blame.

She was with our youngest son at the time, and if it had happened 10 minutes sooner she would have been driving. Maybe the little guy would have been hurt, and it certainly would have been much more confusing to figure out what happened. She was a terrible driver so if she had drifted off at the wheel I would have blamed her.

From her point of view, it was a short an anxiety free as it could have been. From our point of view, the fact that there was nothing that could have been done made it easy to accept – it was so shocking and in an "act of god" territory that all you could do was accept it. Every sort of what-if thought was shut down by the enormity of reality.

It was very pure.

August 22, 2023 9:43 am

locations in the magicians

The Magicians is one of those series of books that I enjoy rereading. Not really sure why, but one thing that's surpising to me is how many of the real world places that seem to have inspired the book are in my orbit.

In Brooklyn, there are a couple of scenes were they hang out in a dead zone near the Gowanus canal. I had a wild neighbor who used to own if not that exact spot, then something exactly like it.

"Brakebills" exists somewhere upstate near West Point, and I've spend many hours in Bear Mountain.

I've ended up in Arles a couple of times, and wandered through the back country around Murs when the gang went to look for ol' timy religions.

Flying into the British Virgin Islands there was a passport problem with one of our group, and that outpost was definately reminicint of the end of Fillory.

At the end of the last book, they get into a big fight in the woods of western Connecticut, which is where I live now. They take a train from Amenia back to the city, and I just got tacos in Amenia at this strange mexican grocery store that could very well have been a front for something. Tacos were great though.

August 5, 2023 9:05 pm

everything is equally evolved

In astronomy, the term evolution refers to the production of elements, stars, galaxies, and the other configuration of inorganic matter.

In biology, evolution refers to the adaptions of organisms to their environment through natural selection.

In humans, or the psychosocial domain, evolution refers to a type of human growth and civilizational development.

Each of these domains – inorganic, organic, psychosocial – operate on different principals. They are related, but each one has trancended the one previous. Inorganic evolution produces living species, giving rise to life; organic evolution produces intentional beings, giving rise to to consciousness.

The third type of evolutionary trancendance isn't here yet, or at least isn't widely distributed.

But if we think about the world and all of the things in it, its not right to say that some things are more evolved than others in the sense of better better or having progressed more; everything is as equally evolved as everything else since it's all been evolving together.

July 16, 2023 7:54 pm

timezones and dialects

Timezones were created because of the trains. Before, everyplace has its own definition of noon, which was when the sun was at the highest. First proposed in 1883, it was eventually signed into US law in 1918 as the Standard Time Act.

Where do languages come from? A language is a dialect with an army and navy.

Where do dialects come from? I think from books, or more to the point publishers, who are trying to reach an audience and market. The more they publish in a certain dialect, the more that dialect is defined and reflected back to itself.

The fluidity is then circumscribed a fixed by the commerce; in the first case transportation, and in the second place by book publishers and consumers. Without those forces, everything would be fluid and local.

So Yiddish, the Hasidim not withstanding, has more of a chance of surviving because of all of its published literature.

July 11, 2023 2:51 pm

Should Robots Have Rites or Rights

Here’s some food for thought: “Granting rights is not the only way to address the moral status of robots: Envisioning robots as rites bearers—not rights bearers—could work better.” A new paper, “Should Robots Have Rites or Rights,” suggests that “the Confucian alternative of assigning rites (or role obligations) is more appropriate than giving robots rights. The concept of rights is often adversarial and competitive, and the potential for conflict between humans and robots is concerning.”

Turing Post FOD #10: Prompt Engineer vs AI Engineer, and Superhuman Human Fallacy

Full PDF of the paper


In Confucianism, individuals are made distinctively human by their ability to conceive of interests not purely in terms of personal self-interest—but instead in terms that also include a relational and communal self. Etymologically, the meaning of humanness ( , ren) is “two people.” The Confucian’s recognition of the communal self requires a distinctive perspective on rite or ritual. The Chinese term li ( , rite or ritual) symbolizes arranging vessels in a religious setting. But Confucian texts used li outside the scope of religious tradition. Examples abound, including friendship, gift giving, or forms of speech. The rites that concern Confucius are quotidian practices. Here is a modern example: “I see you on the street; I smile, walk toward you, put out my hand to shake yours. And behold—without any command, stratagem, force, special tricks or tools, without any effort on my part to make you do so, you spontaneously turn toward me, return my smile; raise your hand toward mine. We shake hands—not by my pulling your hand up and down or you pulling mine but by spontaneous and perfect cooperative action. Normally we do not notice the subtlety and amazing complexity of this coordination ritual act.”

July 9, 2023 9:30 am

bad analogies

Twitter as town square

Mastodon is confusing

Mastodon is inherently too confusing for mass market adoption, and in ways that can’t be fixed without some central authority coming in and imposing a solution, which is against the fediverse’s ethos. That doesn’t mean Mastodon is doomed or bad. Just that it’s never going to achieve mainstream popularity.

Daring Fireball: Threads

"Choosing a Mastodon instance is too confusing"

*Signs up for six different incompatible Twitter clones*

Twitter is mainstream

Twitter is actually very confusing and while it seems big in amongst the chattering classes, it certainly hasn't achieved "mainstream popularity".


Facebook2.98 billion
WhatApp2.78 billion
Instagram2.35 billion
iMessage1.3 billion
WeChat1.3 billion
Facebook Messager1 billion
LinkedIn930 million
Telegram500 million
Twitter400 million
Discord196 million
Mastodon13 million

Note that iMessage comes default installed for iPhone users.

Mastodon is a Twitter replacement

People are looking for something different than Twitter because Twitter sucks. Mastodon was designed to be different from Twitter because Twitter sucks.

Twitter sucks because of the way that works and Twitter sucks because of the way that it's run.

It makes little sense to complain that something offering an alternative way of something different is, in fact, an alternative way of doing something different.

Freedom to run your own instance is dismissive

@Chanders @shengokai
But it's not just the affordances. It's also a question of the welcome, of how much other communities' insight into connection by these means is valued. I watched one well-known tech guy tell Dr. Flowers to just go build his own instance. Dr. Flowers quite properly said that was the geek's say to say, "Fuck off." You're right, Chris, that critical mass matters but the welcome communities feel here has an impact on that, and some feel more welcomed than others -- thus far

Telling someone that they have the freedom to go build their own instance isn't (necessarily) telling someone to fuck off. (Maybe in that case it was, I don't know the details.)

There are 4 software freedoms that geeks talk about, the freedom to use, study, improve, and share your software.

The point is: you could. Start up a Nazi site, start up a community around knitting. You own it, with all of the maintenance costs that are implied with ownership, and it seems like a pain in the ass frankly to run these servers.

But it's up to you. There are no gate keepers.

It will then be your problem, and people can complain that they don't like your politics.

Principles are ideological zealotry

I would like to see Mastodon thrive. But the platform’s ideological zealotry is obviously holding it back and seemingly isn’t going to change.


Holding it back from what, exactly? Do we think that the reason you start up a Mastodon instance is to become the next Twitter?

(And as an aside, I'm not sure what Daring Fireball re-titled the original article from "Why did the #TwitterMigration fail?" to "Why has Mastodon adoption stalled?" which I think undersells what a lunatic Bloonface seems to be.)

Darius Kazemi has a document on why you should run your own social network, and in it he sets the goal of having a maximum of 50 users.

The main reason to run a small social network site is that you can create an online environment tailored to the needs of your community in a way that a big corporation like Facebook or Twitter never could. Yes, you can always start a Facebook Group for your community and moderate that how you like, but only within certain bounds set by Facebook. If you (or your community) run the whole site, then you are ultimately the boss of what goes on. It is harder work than letting Facebook or Twitter or Slack or Basecamp or whoever else take care of everything, but I believe it's worth it.

What does thriving mean if your goal is to nurture your community?

Social media is social

On traditional “social media” platforms, in particular YouTube, the interactions are often not especially social. The platforms facilitate a kind of intellectual consumption more-so than conversation: conversations flow in one direction, from creator to audience, where the creator produces and the audience consumes. I think a better term for these platforms is “parasocial media”: they are optimized for creating parasocial relationships more-so than social relationships.

Drew DeVault

Probably the best way to see this fallacy in action is reading about Brands Town, a culture-jamming satire project.

Brands Town is a satirical role-playing game where players make up fake brands, develop their own lore, and role-play on the related Mastodon instance. Because Mastodon is part of the fediverse, this weird little game takes on dimensions of performance art, parody, and creative design. It doesn't stay on one server!

Brands Town

July 7, 2023 1:56 pm

threads is a mess

I signed up for Threads today. Download, click, click, and suddenly I'm seeing a wall of random stuff. A post from a Kardashian. Influencers commenting on brands. No idea why I'm seeing any of it.

At first I thought it's because someone I'm connected with on Instagram commented on it, but honestly I don't know why anyone would want to talk to Netflix unless it was a customer service complaint.

What I expected was that I'd see the people on Instagram that I followed. This content I'm seeing here never needed to be discovered.

July 6, 2023 8:56 am

things that are neat about the rivian

powered frunk hood

a button in the front will open and close the hood. (The tesla is manual and you sort of need to shove it closed.) I end up using this all the time.

Also, you can fill it with ice and it has a drain, so you can use it as a cooler. I haven't tried that yet.

hotspot and cell service

The Rivian consistently has service when my phone doesn't. Connecting the phone to the car's built in hotspot means that I can even sort of stream music or podcasts from the phone up here in the woods.

Sort of.

fast voice command

We play a game in the car where the kids get to choose a song based on the order that they buckle up. So there's a lot of "play the worlds smallest violin" or "play start a riot". Using the button on the steering wheel, the voice command on the rivian is significantly faster than on the Tesla.

the front glows when you charge

The front grill of the car glows green when charging

there's a flashlight in the door

Which uses the same battery cell as the car. There's also a speaker you can remove from the car and use I guess during your picnic party.

July 5, 2023 7:03 am

hallucinations are bullshit

A better word for hallucations is really bullshit, which differs from a more straightforward falsehood because the speaker is blithely unconcerned about truth.

It's not so much that these AI tools are grounded in reality or hallucating, telling the truth or misinformation, as much as they sound authoritiave when they do it.

Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all. Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true.

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

Also available as an expanded book