Scalable Communism

Why do people knock communism? It’s not a bad idea! From each his ability, to each his needs. It works great among my family and friends. We don’t keep tabs on who bought the last round of drinks, nor do we charge each other for rides to the airport. It. Just. Works.

Funny how it always seems to end in disaster when employed at a national level. I think it’s fair to say that communism is a perfectly reasonable economic system; it just hasn’t gotten over some scaling challenges.

Communism, but on the blockchain.

Kidding. Intra-family/friends transactions aren’t really communist — they’re governed by an informal accounting system with reputation as currency.

This was common in elite circles throughout antiquity. The economy of the Roman Republic revolved around amicitia, or mutual serviceability. It’s how the wealthy maintained business interests all over the Mediterranean despite living in a state of quasi-perpetual war. Existimatio, or reputation, dictated whether a person was worthy of receiving beneficia. Reputation was earned by engaging in liberalitas, or generosity, gratia, or gratitude, fides, or trust, and benevolentia, or benevolence.

Anthropologists sometimes refer to this as a moral economy; a system governed by customs and social pressure in the absence of formal regulation.

The number of participants in a reputation-based moral economy tops out at our ability to maintain persistent social relationships, also known as Dunbar’s number.

Or does it?

China’s rolling out a nationwide social credit system that assigns scores based on things like littering and helping old people. A handy app helps citizens identify nearby deadbeats so they can be properly shunned. We may not have the cognitive capacity to remember a nationwide network of amici, but computers do!

Deadbeat detector

The Cultural Revolution and a communist history of encouraging citizens to snitch on neighbors has turned China into an exceptionally low-trust society. The rationale behind social credit is to restore a culture of trust. Seems counterintuitive — a moral economy based on amicitia is predicated on the idea that participants *like* each other, or at least pretend that they do. Information overshare tends to reduce likeability. Nevertheless, the surveillance will continue until morale improves.

Chinese propaganda warns citizens about dating white people

See Also:
Koenraad Verboven. The Economy of Friends: Economic aspects of amicitia and patronage in the Late Republic. 2002.

The Future is Intersectional

Hi I’m back! Just returned from a trip to next century, and let me tell you, the future is WOKE.

(That’s right, I winter in the future. Global warming means San Francisco will be balmy in January.)

We might think we live in a progressive era, that we’ve come a long way since the Civil Rights movement, but it turns out the 21st century is a veritable dark age as far as social justice is concerned.

First of all, our current treatment of animals is super problematic. In a few years, we’ll embrace lab-grown meat and ban the use of livestock.

Everyone was glad to see the end of factory farms, but we never really thought about what we were gonna do with all those farm animals. See, we didn’t just realize the immorality of killing animals, we realized the immorality of owning animals. It turns out that species is a social construct, and biological taxonomy is a pseudoscience invented by Carl Linnaeus to justify anti-animalism.

In 2028, President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (yeah, sorry) will proclaim the emancipation of 100 million cattle, 75 million pigs, and 10 billion chickens. They’ll all be given equal rights. There were bigots who claimed that farm animals could never be integrated into high society, but California proved them wrong by appointing a horse to the Senate.


But if you thought livestock ownership was problematic, wait’ll you hear about the vegans. By 2048, the SPLC will have deemed them a hate group for committing genocide on entire plant species.

Oh yeah, plants have rights too. Did you know that plants feel pain? OMG, they do. The Open Borders movement will expand to include automatic amnesty for one of the most persecuted groups in the world: weeds. For thousands of years, so-called “weeds” have been beaten with hoes, smothered with mulch, and chemically eradicated with herbicides. We don’t actually use the term “weed” anymore — it’s a pejorative used to disparage plants with different growth habits.

As you can imagine, there was pushback. Some extremists held on to the abhorrent idea that only native flora should be allowed to live in certain areas. Anything else, they claim, is an invasive species. The theory of horticulture will be thoroughly debunked, but nativists will insist that foreign plant species leech resources from the soil and inhibit growth for native grasses. Maybe the native plants should stop being so lazy and shiftless.

Botanical equality

Amnesty International will go from exposing sexual harassment on Twitter to scolding gardeners. Funny how human rights organizations always suffer from feature creep.

I couldn’t stick around to see what happens next, as I had to return to work. The future might sound dismal, but on the bright side, It’s okay to punch a vegan.

Hate on a Plane

Here’s an article about the rise in hate crimes on airplanes, and I’m not sure if we’re supposed to be getting mad at the racists or the airlines. Now that we’re down to 31 inches of leg room, it’s all but impossible to physically assault the person next to me when getting out of my seat.

Last year there were 350 reported cases of “inappropriate touching”. No surprise there. Ever see two passengers try to move past each other in the aisle? It’s like a Nelly rap video, except gross.

Last year I was on a United flight, and two flight attendants were discussing their new policy for booting uncooperative passengers in the wake of the David Dao incident. Instead of dragging a middle-aged doctor out of his seat and knocking his teeth out, flight attendants were to announce that *all* passengers need to deplane. That way, customers can direct their rage at each other, rather than at the airline for their shitty policy.

It occurs to me that Western Democracy works much the same way: Keep the citizenry permanently divided and popular dissatisfaction safely channeled into meaningless dead-ends. And that’s why this headline specifically calls out “racist passengers” rather than, you know, rude and grumpy passengers who just spent 12 hours packed into a cattle slot.

My Favorite Twitter People

I’ve gotten lazy in my old age, and find that Twitter is a good way to let others do my thinking for me. Those who think particularly profound thoughts get hearts as endorsements. Out of curiosity, I wrote a script that tallied my tweet “likes” and ranked the recipients.

In order of likes-received, here are my 10 favorite Twitter people from the past year:

  1. @NickSzabo4
  2. @pierre_rochard
  3. @DontPanicBurns
  4. @saifedean
  5. @bitstein
  6. @nic__carter
  7. @interfluidity
  8. @Ragnarly
  9. @sonyaellenmann
  10. @WahWhoWah

Looks like my favorite tweets are 90% crypto-anarchist, 10% neoliberal. But who cares about me, let’s look at who Silicon Valley thought leaders are favoriting!

Elon Musk is always entertaining. He gets a lot of grief for the time he spends on Twitter, but it looks like his Twitter activity is largely related to work. @elonmusk‘s most ❤️ed accounts:

  1. @Tesla
  2. @SpaceX
  3. @TheOnion
  4. @ElectrekCo
  5. @cleantechnica
  6. @fermatslibrary
  7. @Teslarati
  8. @mayemusk
  9. @InsideEVs
  10. @kimbal

Here’s Twitter founder @jack’s top ten likes:

  1. @kanyewest
  2. @sza
  3. @elonmusk
  4. @leslieberland
  5. @freialobo
  6. @sriramk
  7. @Larakate
  8. @marciadorsey
  9. @chancetherapper
  10. @michaelmontano

@pmarca used to be one of my favorite twitter personalities, until the PC police drove him off the platform. These days he still interacts using ❤️s. Marc Andreessen’s top ten:

  1. @ComfortablySmug
  2. @BaldingsWorld
  3. @jessesingal
  4. @clairlemon
  5. @ProperOpinion
  6. @St_Rev
  7. @rivatez
  8. @webdevMason
  9. @ne0liberal
  10. @iowahawkblog

The investigative journalists at The Outline already jumped on this case and identified Andreessen as a closet neo-Nazi.

Why do we even use this feature? ❤️s are a good source of data for targeted ads, or for Twitter to rearrange your timeline in a way that confirms existing bias. There’s zero benefit conferred to the user, but we keep clicking it anyway. Maybe the Like button is just a digital version of the close-door button in an elevator: A meaningless form element that provides symmetry in the user interface and helps us feel like we’re doing something productive, while we slowly relinquish control to the machines, one button-press at a time.

Don’t Hate Her Because She Commissioned Opposition Research on George Soros

Why is everyone hating on Sheryl Sandberg all of a sudden? I get that Facebook is evil and enables #FakeNews and allowed Putin to subvert American Democracy – but why is Sheryl Sandberg catching the flak? She was always an Unassailable Good, a champion for social justice! This is the Patron Saint of Feminism we’re talking about!

It’s clear that the tide has turned: Sheryl’s stock photos used to be consistently fabulous; now all the header images are beady-eyed and bitchfaced.

Sandberg inquiring about George Soros is a nonstory. Execs want to know whether outspoken billionaires have a financial interest in their demise. This is the guy who broke the British pound, after all. NYTimes editors aren’t complete idiots – I mean, they are, but even they should know that this is a complete nothingburger.

The real story is why the media is so intent on blowing this up. And why now?

Facebook has MSM on a tight leash. Facebook is a gatekeeper; it’s where people go to get the news. They (along with Google) control the flow of ad dollars. There’s been speculation that Facebook’s PR team leans on the NY Times to send any unfavorable Sandberg coverage down the memory hole.

Conspiracy Theory #1: Sheryl Sandberg lost her position of influence within Facebook.

It’s like the Harvey Weinstein story. Journalists overlooked Weinstein’s hiring practices for thirty years because he owned important media properties and controlled a lot of ad dollars. But when social media destroyed the news industry, Weinstein’s influence waned and muckrakers had a field day.

Conspiracy Theory #2: The Sheryl Sandberg/Soros story is a smokescreen for something else.

The events in question took place over a year ago. Why did the story not go to press until the day after Amazon announced their HQ2 locations?

I don’t know. But when a billionaire with outsized media influence and a world-class PR team gets a pile-on, something’s up.

A flashback to better days: