node created 2019/09/29
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
If my experience serves any purpose, it is to illustrate what most already know: our courts must not be allowed to consider matters of great importance in secret, lest we find ourselves summarily deprived of meaningful due process. If we allow our government to continue operating in secret, it is only a matter of time before you or a loved one find yourself in a position like I was – standing in a secret courtroom, alone, and without any of the unalienable rights that are supposed to protect us from an abuse of the state’s authority.
The U.S. is, of course, concerned over Iranian power. That is one reason why the U.S. turned to active support for Iraq in the late stages of the Iraq-Iran war, with a decisive effect on the outcome, and why Washington continued its active courtship of Saddam Hussein until he interfered with U.S. plans for the region in August 1990. U.S. concerns over Iranian power were also reflected in the decision to support Saddam’s murderous assault against the Shiite population of southern Iraq in March 1991, immediately after the fighting stopped. A narrow reason was fear that Iran, a Shiite state, might exert influence over Iraqi Shiites. A more general reason was the threat to “stability” that a successful popular revolution might pose: to translate into English, the threat that it might inspire democratizing tendencies that would undermine the array of dictatorships that the U.S. relies on to control the people of the region.

Recall that Washington’s support for its former friend was more than tacit; the U.S. military command even denied rebelling Iraqi officers access to captured Iraqi equipment as the slaughter of the Shiite population proceeded under Stormin’ Norman’s steely gaze.
It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scientists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.
Modern Western culture seemingly has entered a failure-mode unprecedented in history, where we have nobody willing to go first, to stand out, to do what needs to be done, to enact the changes everyone else wants. We've run out of empathetic iconoclasts—people who see the suffering of distant/distributed others, and for whom that aggregate suffering outweighs the risk that might come to the comfortable-life-in-obscurity of all their closer companions. The people with hearts that bleed for their fellow citizens, but then don't shrivel back at the thought of their companions being the ones who end up bleeding.
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.
So what I’m proposing is that finance, and indeed consumer Internet companies and all kinds of other people using giant computers, are trying to become Maxwell’s demons in an information network. The easiest way to understand it is to think about an insurance company. So an American health insurance company, before big computing came along, would hire actuaries to set rates. But the idea of, on a person-by-person basis, attempting to decide who should be in the plan so that you could only insure the people who need it the least on an individual basis, that wasn’t really viable. But with big computing and the ability to compute huge correlations with big data, it becomes irresistible. And so what you do is you start to say, "I’m going to..." — you’re like Maxwell’s demon with the little door — "I’m going to let the people who are cheap to insure through the door, and the people who are expensive to insure have to go the other way until I’ve created this perfect system that’s statistically guaranteed to be highly profitable.”

And so what’s wrong with that is that you can’t ever really get ahead. What you’re really doing then is you’re radiating waste heat. I mean, for yourself you’ve created this perfect little business, but you’ve radiated all the risk, basically, to the society at large. And if the society was infinitely large and could absorb it, it would work. There’s nothing intrinsically faulty about your scheme except for the assumption that the society can absorb the risk. And so what we’ve seen with big computing in finance is a repeated occurrence of people using a big computer to radiate risk away from themselves until the society can’t absorb it. And then there’s some giant bailout and some huge breakage. And so it happened with Long-Term Capital [Management] in the ’90s. It happened with Enron, and we saw a repeat of it in the events leading to the Great Recession in the late aughts. And we’ll just see it happening again and again until it’s recognized that this pattern is just not sustainable.
But when they plunder from these miners, these children, my fellow citizens, countrymen, thrown out on the highways and mother insulted — do you think that they will be good citizens when they grow up? I don't. The revenge and resentment will be buried there if they grow into manhood, it will develop, they will kill, they will murder to get even with those who robbed them. I want you to stop that. I don't want it to go on. Your Governor may, but I don't. I want the children to have the best of influence, I want the children to have good schooling, I want women to know nothing but what is good, I want to leave to this nation a nobler manhood and greater womanhood. Can I do it? No, I can't, boys, with the administration you have got, I can't do it.

I can do it if you men and women will stand together, find out the seat of the disease and pull it up by the roots.

Take possession of that state house, that ground is yours. (Someone interrupted, and the speaker said "Shut your mouth.")

You built that state house, didn't you? You pay the public officials, don't you? You paid for that ground, didn't you? (Cries of: "Yes," "yes.")

Then, who does it belong to? Then why did the militia chase you off? You have been hypnotized. The trouble has been that they wanted the slave system to continue. They have had a glass for you and your wives and children to look into. They have you hypnotized.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
[..] it's sort of transparent to me that postmodern psychobabble is a similar sort of impostiture to hide the fact that the people in question are supposed to be cultural vanguards but in reality have less to say than the street graffiti artists who tag up their buildings at night.
My departure from the volumes of science was a sin far less serious than that which consisted in having neglected to cast his eyes on the book of life.
Don't compromise yourself. It's all you've got.
I’ll be honest with you. I know a whole more about what freedom isn’t than about what it is, cause I’ve never been free.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked me up in the Jeep, a corporal who I was ultimately going to replace, he and I were in the battalion intelligence section, we were sent down to the tractor park, the amphibious tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility to take care prisoners, and detainees were a classification of civilians, they were not combatants; they could be detained for questioning, which is why they were called detainees.

And Jimmy and I went down to the tractor park and two tractors came in, they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top high flat-topped vehicles about eight or nine feet tall, and as the tractors wheeled into the park the Marines up on top immediately began hurling these people off, and they were bound hand and foot, so they had no way of breaking their falls, and they were old men, women, children, no young men, and I couldn't believe these guys were treating these people this way, and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed him by the arm and said "What are those guys doing? We're supposed to be helping these people." And Jimmy turned to me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I sort of took them off, and he said "Ehrhart, you better keep the mouth shut until you know what's going on around here." I think it was at that point that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting.

It went downhill from there, and again I can't even begin to explain in the space of time that you have all the things that went into it, but I began to understand, it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in these villages around us, and we were in a very heavily populated area at that time, they were the enemy, or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn't tell one from another. And day after day our patrols went out and we ran into snipers and mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed soldiers the first eight months I was in Vietnam, and yet our battalion during that same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping incidents per month, over half of them resuling in casualties. This is for a unit of about a thousand men. But there was no one to fight back at, and you begin to think, these people are the enemy, they're all the enemy. And then you go through villages and, you know, you get sniped at and so you call an airstrike in on the village and the whole village goes up, or you go through a place and you search it, and you burn houses and blow them up. The common perception, the notion I had when I was in high school was it was the Vietcong terrorized the Vietnamese population, forced them to fight against the Americans on pain of death. What I began to understand in Vietnam was that they didn't need to do things like that, all the had to do was let a Marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left of that village, they had all the recruits that they needed. I began to understand why the Vietnamese didn't greet me with open arms, why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn't change the fact that my friends were getting killed and injured every day and the only place that you could focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians who were there, and so it was this self-perpetuating mechanism: the longer that we stayed in Vietnam the more Vietcong there were, because we created them, we produced them.

None of that distilled itself into the clear kind of expression that I'm presenting now. What I began to understand within days and which became patently clear within months was that what was going on here was not what I had been told, what was going on here was nuts, and I wanted to get out. I knew if I was still alive on March the 5th 1968 they'd stick me on an airplane in Danang we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite so easy to forget it, but that was the notion, and certainly my last eight to nine months I ceased to think, I quite literally ceased to think about why I was there, or what I was doing. The sole purpose for my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out.

And the reason for that is, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just.. the questions themselves were ugly and I didn't want to know the answers. It's like banging on a door, you knock on a door, and the door opens slightly and behind that door it's dark and there's loud noises coming like there's wild animals in there or something. And you peer into the darknees and you can't see what's there but you can all this ugly stuff.. do you want to step into that room? No way, you just sorta back out quietly, pull the door shut behind you, and walk away from it. And that's what was going on, those questions, the questions themselves were too ugly to even ask, let alone try to deal with the answers.
We’re going to live in a world unless we do something quickly in which our media consume us and spit in the government’s cup. There will never have been any place like it before and if we let it happen, there will never be any place different from it again.
The Morlocks could have descended from today's social network or hedge fund owners, while the ancestors of the Eloi undoubtedly felt lucky initially, as free tools helped them crash on each other's couches more efficiently. What is intriguing about Wells's vision is that members of both species become undignified, lesser creatures. (Morlocks eat Eloi, which is about as far as one can go in rejecting empathy and dignity.)
"Who Owns The Future?"
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Most of the technology we like was created in the second half of the 20th century. We have been standing on the shoulders of giant and eventually the giants got old and were replaced by self-serving large tech companies. But since most people are making money, or get things for free, we don't want to recognize that we are their servants. There is no longer any urgency to create something different, because being different means missing out.

The reason you have to go to esoteric solutions when talking about something like decentralization is because the Internet is no longer built for it. From authentication, to networks and even the state of ip addresses is less than great. That you can avoid these problem by going to the fringe likely comes from the idea that hackers still have influence. We think that if something doesn't work it can't be our own fault, it most be some conspiracy or inherent limitation, rather a lack in our own understanding and ability to organize.