So what is the man saying ?

Thursday, 14 February, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Let's read the logs together, shall we ?

mod6 I'm not sure that I get your meaning.

Not the end of the world ; nobody ever is. Let me nevertheless indulge in that rarest of sports and hardest of jobs : describing someone else. Considering how often I'm "coincidentally right", might as well give statistics a lending hand anyways!

The first thing the man is saying is that there's a difference between computers that happen to work and computers that work correctly. This is a point with an immense footprint, difficult to entirely excavate. For instance : there's equally so a difference between a good job and a job that pays well. Equally so, in the strictest of terms : identical in form and identical in substance, the same exact mechanism at work. There's equally so a difference between the living and the scenesters.

There's this quanta of difference, absolutely everywhere you turn, omnipresent, all-important. It's not just in one place -- it's in all the places, the same one thing, perpetually. There's a difference between knowledge and exam-taking ; there's a difference between programming computers and fuzzing them ; and so following.

The important thing the man isn't saying, but also needn't say -- not anymore than he needs to preface every statement he utters with a concise description of strong nuclear force -- is that the republic's strictly impossible without awareness of that difference. It'd be like going through the supermarket looking for milk in the shape of cows.

Supermarket milk doesn't come in the shape of cows, it comes in the shape of cartons. Until and unless one understands this, one simply can not find milk in the supermarket. It is indifferent how many miles of supermarket floor he walks. It doesn't matter how hard he looks, how much work, dilligence, good will or polite demeanor he puts into it. Absent the required bit of meta-cognition, for as long as he stays unaware of the trick involved -- there's no helping him. He'll die milkless in Isle 4 (Dairy).

It really makes no difference how natural cows are, or how naturally milk flows out of them. Specific pressures whose mechanics are understood but needn't be described here have rendered the issue moot : milk is to be found in cartons wherever the supermarket grows, and that's an end to the matter.i

There's a commonly used concise expression of a fundamental problem, a #trilema cognitive token if you wish, that goes "meat systemsii learn with difficulty and forget with ease". This isn't limited to something in particular, but rather is universal : any system -- any system -- that falls through the metacognitive grate into the sad state of looking for cows in the supermarket will necessarily find itself in the exact same position : learning slowly but forgetting quickly.

Take the improbable case wherein one should manage to produce through sheer accident an artefact which the republic accepts. This hasn't actually helped him at all -- he won't roll that natural 20 again ; and even if he does he can't roll it reliably. Should one manage to fall over, from sheer hungry exhaustion, on the pile of milk cartons, and in the ensuing catastrophe burst one open, and then lick the floormilk there encountered -- that one still can't find milk in the supermarket!

This is the fundamental problem of magic versus technology : given the simple task of producing fire, to light one's cigarette say, there's two possible approaches. One's technologic : carry a matchbook. Own a Zippo. Drive a car made before the insanity, with a lighter hole and a lighter in that hole. There's a bunch of methods -- and all have their usual array of disadvantages. You gotta remember to buy the damned matches, and then keep track of which pocket you put them in. You gotta keep fuel for the Zippo somewhere, you gotta have the car on-hand and the battery not-dead, it's a whole fucking list of annoying... prayer, ultimately. Isn't it ?

To borrow a phrase, "why live your life in service to the maintenance schedules of a thousand possessions when you can live your life in service to the provider of possessions" ? Wouldn't it be the fuck easier ? Why bother with all the technology when one could simply, say, snap his fingers and there's fire ?

Suppose this worked for you ; don't ask me how, that's not how this working goes. It just works. That's right, isn't it ? I'm not even here to tell you "that's not how anything works", by the way. I have no strong feelings on the matter one way or the other, for all I care everything in your world can work exactly this way, I have no qualms whatever with it.

Now suppose one day it stops working that way for you.

What do you do ?

What do you do then ? That horrid, hate-filled day, what then ? What THEN ?

You see... when my matchbook is lost I just buy another. I keep my machinery functional, my consumables loaded, my filters clean, I maintain, it's lengthy and laborious tedium, but it gets done. Every day before the day ends the day's work's done, and then the next day and then the other. So I don't care.

I don't sit in bed worrying about that magic day when technology ends. I don't give the first flying fuck about the lunatics with bloodied axes ringing at your door.

Admitting for a second that magic were not just simply possible, but easy, the problem still stands : it's hard to fix. You don't understand how it works, which is the premise, it "just works", specifically without requiring your understanding. Therefore you also don't understand how it fails. You can't fix its failures, because they have nothing to do with you whatsoever -- just like its functioning had nothing to do with you whatsoever.

Magic, you see, has the exact same problem as the guy who accidentally, without understanding what the republic is, or means, or stands for, nevertheless produced something we deem usable. The same exact problem as the kid who, sitting down in the wrong hall, took an exam he never prepared for at the end of a class he never took, and produced 150 correct answers out of 150 questions by simply picking random boxes. Like this : a ; d ; c ; a ; a ; b ; c ; b... They've got to be the right answer sequence for some test somewhere, right ? Why can't it be exactly the test one happens to be taking ?

Magic users, and exam-takers, and jwzs, and neural networks, and all the rest of misfortunate incarnations of a moogleiii, trying to make it through a world they don't understand, share the exact same problem : it is extremely hard to do while it's extremely easy to fail. The little bit of meta-cognition missing, the divine spark of understanding absent, there is no way to republic.

And now we're equipped to understand what the man is importing as antecedents. He says this, explicitly even : suppose one attempted to republic without the republiciv, in whichever form you wish to represent this. How could it go ?

Suppose after making changes to some republican item one opts to distribute plain text files containing metaphorical instructions instead of distributing patches. Someone will perhaps translate the former into the latter, so there's obviously no great loss to the republic -- yet what is the meaning of the one's work ?

Suppose one opts to pass a large and ever growing encrypted pasteball around. Someone will perhaps translate, yes, but what of the one ? Suppose one needs some unsupported items for no reasons he can explain.Who is going to maintain them, and how shall their cost be borne ? More importantly -- why can't the need be explained ?

We could continue in this manner past exhaustion, but if the point can at all be made it's been made. Evidently the republic is all-integrating, and so to use its tools you need to use its concepts and so on all the way down. Meaningful conversation requires keccak hashing which is built on vtools which live on cuntoo and besides meaningful conversation happens in the forum which imports specific modalities and so on, and so forth. Completely, all the way. Obviously enough some of the junctures are yet leaky -- but the assemblage is just as obviously headed in the direction of tightening couplings, not loosening them, meaning that while it's not easy to interact with the republic from non-republican positions even now, it will only get harder over time.v

The man isn't saying there's something wrong with existing.

The man isn't saying there's something wrong with trying things.

The man is very much saying there's something wrong with trying things without knowing why : specifically what's wrong with this is that if one tries things without knowing why he's trying them, that one can't possibly express the results of his trying in any meaningful way! His effort's lost to solipsism, and, worse, any possible attempts to salvage his effort reduce, directly and inavoidably, to any other attempt to bridge the unbridgeable chasm.

The man is further saying that there are specific manners in which one can know why that are explicitly given ; and that there are specific tests to check whether one knows why, also explicitly given, which are besides exhaustive. In other words, the man is saying there's no excuse for trying things without knowing why, that it's always a deliberate act, whether disavowed as such or not.

These are not small things to say ; and besides, dies irae, dies illa...

———
  1. The exact opposite of this applies where the supermarket doesn't grow. Suburban kids teleported in an 1700s world are more than welcome to look for milk cartons until they fall over, for all the good it'll do 'em. Both examples illustrate the exact same point, and "natural" or "logical" or "obvious" or however else you aim to call the "magic bridge over the gap" ain't gonna produce it out of thin air, just for the naming. Reality just doesn't work that way. []
  2. Or "Neural Networks" if you much prefer []
  3. Early on, back before the admission standards were very high lots and lots of people seemed (to themselves, even) to be part of Bitcoin. Learning a couple dozen strings by rote was beyond sufficient for quite a while -- that is to say, until it wasn't anymore. []
  4. Yes, they're exactly the same thing. I'm not coincidental nor is coincidence what I do ; however one attempts to stuff coincidence into the chain the result's the same, because guess what, there's only one symmetry anyway!

    What did you expect would be the difference between the left side of the ball and the right side of the ball ? []

  5. In fact, the very notion of time is predicated on this tightening. It's not that the republic grows more organized over time, it's that the only possible meaning of time is "the measure of the structuring". Physical time flows from entropy, it's not its container but its effect ; and cognitive time flows from the republic's growing structure -- not the container, but the effect. These two are currently disjunct, in a manner reminiscent -- so far we're growing extremely fast -- but yes they'll come to terms eventually. They have to. []
Category: Bitcoin
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8 Responses

  1. "Physical time flows from entropy, it's not its container but its effect"

    Christ, I dun think I've ever read or heard a more succinct description of time itself, and in a footnote no less.

    But more on point: reading the logs today reminded me of my urges to "sacrifice a goat" in order to solve my apache woes a while back: http://btcbase.org/log/2018-06-25#1829381

    Because life is short and the volume of things to learn/do is immense, the urge to "just get whatever XZY working" in order to get back to focusing on the initial ABC can be strong. Which, to quote from the thread linked above:

    " the worst outcome of that approach is if it [seemed to] work."

  2. See also Minsky's mains toggle.

  3. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    3
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 14 February 2019

    @lobbes That is a particularly apt link in context.

    @Stanislav Datskovskiy To wit, trilema.com/you-cannot-fix-a-machine-by-just-power-cycling-it-with-no-understanding-of-what-is-going-wrong (amusingly enough, linked in the very article).

  4. Mr. Popescu,

    Thank you for taking the time to translate and spell this all out, not only for my own enrichment, but for all of those who come after me. I appreciate that.

  5. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    5
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 18 February 2019

    Cheers.

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