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Saturday 30th April, 2022 - The full full stack, and the weight of history
Hello and welcome to my newsletter!
Another season 2 instalment…
Torrential rains here all last night, running a bit late today…
I don’t have a lot of time to put this issue together, and there’s a lot to cover. Got to start somewhere though. Let’s recap the mid-week special.
The mid-week special was all about the bigger picture, situating big tech in the enormous mess that is humanity. It’s all basically a giant mess. Here was the triple layer sandwich map I felt described everything quite well:
The full full stack
Tech, protocols and standards
Culture, punk rock, hip hop, art, edm
Religion, history, procession of the equinoxes
As you go further down the stack, the time horizons get bigger and bigger. Tech stuff is very precise, makes a lot of sense, the religious stuff is crazy wild, can seem like total nonsense. But it’s all a mess, every single layer is a mess.
That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s useful to appreciate that fact, because you have to parse what you are reading in context. The type of information that’s being communicated is very different.
I find this map useful. For years I had zero interest in religion, and I still wouldn’t call myself particularly religious, but I can see how some of these things fit together now.
It’s really quite amazing what we’ve created. A sort of matrioska of seas, each with it’s own tides. We can get stuff done in the present, but it’s informed by the past.
Right, that’s the recap. What else have I been thinking about?
Big tech companies as Roman legions
Since I’ve been in ancient history land, with all these history podcasts, I’m finding the parallel between big tech companies and Roman Legions sort of interesting. They are in many cases comparable in numbers, though thankfully in might today’s big tech legions are wimpy. But these wimpy legions are changing the world, in many cases they are doing it together across borders, building a better future. That’s progress. But it’s still difficult, because we all are affected by our past, even if we aren’t aware of it. It manifests in the most unexpected ways. Seemingly small inconsequential details, that actually at times cause big rifts.
Money as permission system
The other thing I’ve been thinking about quite a lot is Bitcoin and the money system. The discussions about architecture are very interesting. One idea that keeps popping up in my head is that money is a sort extremely complicated permission system. I’m wondering as Bitcoin is basically programmable money, how that will play out. Lots of possibilities, but as anyone that has ever lost an online password will know, when you get locked out, it’s not much fun. How will Bitcoin handle that? The stakes are much higher with this app we call Life.
Brains having live conversations
One of the most incredible things about podcasting is that it’s one of the best mediums for watching brains having conversations. No time limits, no need to fit into a schedule, anyone can in theory participate.
We are great at observing, not so great at live, off the cuff analysis. We should probably just accept this and lean into it. Rather than always trying to catch people contradicting themselves, and hounding them for it, create an environment where it’s ok to make mistakes, it often leads to new and innovative ways forward.
The Alien Debate episode on the Lex Fridman podcast is a terrific episode. The topic is fascinating. It’s with 3 scientists from different base sciences. They each have very different styles of thinking and approaching problems. They push themselves into difficult and unchartered territory, without being too worried about making mistakes. There are several places where the person doing the talking and analysis is as surprised as the people listening to the words coming out of their mouth. It’s wonderful. It’s fun. It’s effective.
In some settings, as long as we have our priorities straight, we don’t need to be as worried about contradictions. Sometimes it actually highlights an area that might be interesting to explore. We can do that together in a way that isn’t war-like. That in itself is a skill that can be learnt.
Lex Fridman has been hitting it out of the park recently with his podcast, almost every episode is a home run. The Alien Debate was a bases loaded gram slam. Baseball metaphor.
The Rest is History Podcast, is my latest favorite, you might have noticed I linked to a lot of their episodes in the last issue. They are also on a tear, with some more phenomenal episodes covering French presidents, and one on Englishness. Every episode is a six, well clear of the boundary. An over of sixes if you will. Cricket metaphor.
I keep wondering if there is an equivalent history podcast produced in French. Wouldn’t it be great to hear them critiquing British politics, and what in their view is frenchness? Chances of it descending into a food fight are minimal IMO. What about los espanioles?
It’s an honour to be able to clumsily velcro these masterpieces onto my tiny newsletter. Thank you.
Should we do history differently?
This is controversial, but here goes anyway.
There are a lot of people in the world still in poverty. Like really a lot.
What if we discovered that our fancy pants AIs could come up with an alternative history that provably made the world a better place, should we re-write history? On long enough timescales, it’s going to be eventually be re-written anyway, it will all end up as a one line entry in a book that nobody reads.
If we could speed up the eradication of poverty, and colonise other planets much much quicker by deleting some of the weights we are carrying around our necks, should we do it?
I think it’s worth asking because we are entering an era where that sort of thing might no longer be possible anymore because we record everything in so much detail. Rewriting history sounds like a really bad thing, but that’s how we got this far.
Refactoring code in the tech layer happens on a daily basis, and is an essential part of building, how does one refactor code in the religion & history layer?
At some point it has to happen, or else things are going to drift uncontrollably apart.
It Took Me 10 Years to Understand Entropy, Here is What I Learned - Haven’t had time to read this yet, looks interesting though
Bully Pulpit - Om Malik - Some quality analysis of the Elon buys Twitter situation.
Stephanie Eckles’ guide to debugging CSS - Haven’t had time to read this yet, looks interesting though
Adam Newbold’s site View Source - Really useful
BTC066 Creating Bitcoin Products and Infrastructure w/NVK (Bitcoin Podcast)
Alien Debate: Sarah Walker and Lee Cronin (Lex Fridman Podcast)
French Presidents 1958-1981 (The Rest Is History Podcast)
French Presidents 1981-2022 (The Rest Is History Podcast)
England and Englishness (The Rest Is History Podcast)
Bitcoin, the Greatest Money System with Darin Feinstein (What Bitcoin Did Podcast)
Practical Ways to Solve Hard Problems (Changelog Podcast)
That’s all from me…
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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!