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Happy to live in the EU?

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Nov 23, 2017 12:11

Internet, geopolitics & societal organization in light of the reformation

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This year it is 500 years since Martin Luther affixed his theses to a church door. The reformation, or rather maybe the printing press, changed society and beget wars. What will happen when the Internet changes how we get and disseminate information?

Let's first look at what similarities and differences exist between the effect of the printing press on society and the Internet's effect on society.

With regards to religion, Protestantism supplanted a hierarchical system of clergy, a body of people with relationships between them, with the "leaf nodes" being the common church goers. People lived in kingdoms, principalities and similar, where power was effectively shared between the king or other leader, and the church.

With Lutheranism the king could get rid of the power of the Roman church, and with the direct relationship between scripture and the believer, there was a new concept of identity and self, which both factors may have facilitated the nation state (see Fukuyama: Political Consequences of the Protestant Reformation, Part I , Part II ).

One may even argue that it influenced Catholic France through among other factors the French revolution, and led to Napoleons' Grande Armée which size dwarfed any other armies in Europe, People where energized to fight not for the church, but for other things such as universal ideas and the nation of France. These ideas later turned into the nation state as a war machine, where a certain loyalty with and fealty to the church and a willingness for sacrifice, had been outcompeted by having the same feelings towards the nation state instead.

The printing press led to a more direct relationship between the reader and a rich selection of standardized, mass-produced messages. Radio and television would later severely limit the selection of messages and hence funnel people's thinking into narrower tracks, and in some ways veer closer to a similar grip as that of the medieval Catholic Church, but in the service of the state. Radio may have been instrumental to totalitarianism.

The printing press made it possible to mass produce a wide variety of messages, still some works prevailed and got a much bigger audience. That is, even though the medium itself allowed a wide diversity of messages, people voluntarily limited themselves to a a more narrow set. Why did they do that? Two possibilities arise:

  • Some works were of much higher quality
  • A network effect existed, i.e. there was value in reading the same thing as others

Let's here exclude texts that were of immediate practical use such as on engineering or agriculture, and in doing so I believe the second factor becomes of most importance. Not so that the first factor, the quality of the work is unimportant, but rather that its quality should be viewed in its normative power for how people interact, which is a combination of the accessibility and the power of its ideas.

A thorough examination of the impact of Protestant ideas is beyond the scope of this text, mainly because I do not have the overview of it, but let's just settle for that the ideas did have an enormous impact and not bother too much about in what ways. Then we are left with the analysis that these ideas shaped the interactions between people in new patterns. In Fukuyama's texts he makes a difference between Lutheranism which tended to convert whole countries and principalities top-down, and Calvinism which spread more inconspicuously throughout the fabric of society.

Let's now look at the Internet. Just as with the printing press, a discourse gets delivered to your very own eyes, and you are required to believe in the text rather than to be commanded or prodded into believing in something, as was more the ways of the Catholic Church. And maybe it is this impossibility of commanding somebody to comply to the tenets of a text, where the concept of predestination is conceived.

Why would one embrace a discourse from a book or from the Internet?

  1. It confirms and completes already held views
  2. It promises success, as can be witnessed by those already holding the views

The Internet provides both reasons. The first one is prevalent in spades, and is what we refer to as the "filter bubble". The second one is seen in crypto currencies, which are creatures wholly dependent on the Internet and impossible to fathom without it, where a coin's success is completely dependent on other people's valuation of it.

The first reason, to confirm and complete already held views, can be a bit dangerous insofar that it may lead people into believing that they are more powerful in the world than they are, and that their peers are people that are actually surrounding them, instead of being spread out on the Internet. And of course it can nurture parochial views that are incompatible with interaction with other people holding different views. Some of these bubble communities — such as the flat earthers — have their fair share of people in them who cannot function in society in a productive way, which implies they are not locii of tremendous world-changing power.

The big effect of the Internet bubbles right now is in disinformation, that people do not know what facts to believe in. Partly this is due to some of the facts previously held as true were merely articles of belief meant to function as a glue in society.

When this glue comes undone, we may veer more towards anarchy or libertarianism. Crypto currencies can here be seen as a part of the new glue to hold society together, but that power also means that they may become brutal forces of change. The danger of disinformation on the other hand lies mainly in having difficulty to respond to nation states less affected by the chaos of the Internet, mainly Russia and to some extent China. However those countries may suffer much more gravely once the effects of the Internet hits them. As the entrepreneur Naval Ravikant said, China's monetary policy (to shut out crypto currencies) now boils down to its firewall policies.

The world completely went off the gold standard in the 1970s, and the flaws of "fiat" currencies (as currencies not backed by gold or similar are called) have been amplified by the super speed of computers, where the life cycle is accelerated by operations and communications close to the speed of light and the speed of logic gates. In fact, the fiat monetary system and its accompanying belief system can be seen as the original computer & network-driven filter bubble.

Fiat currencies are connected to the nation state, since they get their value from being the unit for paying taxes and are defended by the monopoly of violence of the nation state. If we assume the nation state will be weakened by the Internet and by crypto currencies, fiat currencies will also be weakened (directly so by crypto currencies obviously). Incidentally the Euro fiat currency has put itself into a strange predicament by being used in a geographic area without the rigor of the nation state.

Timothy Snyder has warned about the dangers of not having a functioning state. Mortality in such areas tend to go up and sometimes even surpass communist states' death tolls. So it seems we would very much prefer to have:

  • Functioning states, in tune with the new technology
  • An orderly way to get there





Nov 05, 2017 06:45

How to get DNS working on a Ubuntu 16.04 machine with a bridged interface

Posted by admin |

Summary: The solution is to disable DNSMasq in /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf .

It's no fun when it's not you configuring things wrong, but a bug. Reason is that you haven't learned anything, just made up incorrect reasons, until you find the bug.

A curious thing happened today, a Ubuntu 16.04 machine running a couple of KVM guest machines lost it's connection to the Internet, but the guest machines kept theirs!

After a closer look the host machine still had an Internet connection, but its DNS did not work. I will not bore you with the meandering trouble-shooting path, but in short this is a conflict between /etc/network/interfaces and the NetworkManager. These seem to be different competing systems for configuring your network, and sometimes they do not agree.

This time the conflict was about /etc/resolv.conf, which nowadays is handled by other processes, so if you manually write in it, that will be over written.

In this case bridge-utils (or possible a program triggered by it) wants to write whatever DNS settings it's configured with in /etc/network/interfaces , to /etc/resolv.conf. At the same time NetworkManager wants to tell /etc/resolv.conf that it has a DNSMasq DNSproxy running on localhost. And that does not work, maybe because DNSMasq only reponds to NetworkManager,or it's not there, or it's erroneously configured or whatever. /etc/resolv.conf gets clobbered with and that's it.

The solution is to disable DNSMasq in /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf . Then it works and /etc/resolv.conf takes its information from /etc/network/interfaces .

Bug #1384394 “/etc/network/interfaces: “dns-nameservers” entries...” : Bugs : dnsmasq package : Ubuntu

I suspect NetworkManager is only installed on desktop systems, and this may explain why it was hard to find info on the conflict

Oct 25, 2017 11:30

How to re-enable tap to click in Ubuntu 17.10

Posted by admin |

After the upgrade, tap-to-click stopped working with the touchpad. Couldn't find the setting in the, umm, settings applet, and also not in Gnome tweak tools. A solution was found by installing dconf-editor and navigating as indicated below:


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Oct 21, 2017 11:50

How to easily type weird characters on Ubuntu Linux 17.04

Posted by admin |

To get …  type Caps Lock , release and then ..

Well, not now. When you've done the following steps:

1) You need to install gnome-tweak-tool

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

2) Go to the "typing" section

3) Click at "Position of Compose Key"

4) Select a key. The "levels" refer to diffferent combinations of shift, Alt Gr and so on. Caps Lock however  is a good choice :)

Now you can type ellipsis with <compose>, then ..

and em dash with <compose> then ---

And so on!

It's a bit hard to find which combinations work. Some of these work: GtkComposeTable - Community Help Wiki

Oct 18, 2017 11:30

When screen info is missing in Ubuntu, install lxrandr

Posted by admin |

At least it is worth trying.

gnome-control-center refused to show any info on connected monitors.

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So I installed lxrandr, the monitor configuration utility from the LXDE project. It worked like a charm.

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It also worked for multiple monitors.

Oct 16, 2017 09:15

3 reasons for independence/insulation/secession & how to handle them

Posted by admin |

Catalonia wants independence, the UK has voted for Brexit and the United States under Trump wants to break up free trade agreements and "bring jobs back home". I believe one can see three different reasons for wanting to have independence, or wanting to secede or insulate oneself.

1) Being oppressed - if you cannot speak your language or cannot conduct business and other societal functions in line with your old traditions and customs, or if your religion is suppressed, then you may qualify for being oppressed.

The solution here is to liberalise society so that people can speak and worship what they want. If EU regulations lack in this respect, they must be revisited and improved, so that freedom prevails. A trickier take on this is if you are a minority within an oppressed area. Gaining independence may not necessarily be good for you. There are also demographic trends over time, such as in Singapore and Kosovo.

2) A large part of the population feel they are losing out to free trade and freedom of movement. This is what fueled Brexit and got Trump elected. The solution here is to keep the majority of the population happy.

If the discontent is due to immigration, you may eventually need to dial back on it. Free trade is so important that we do not want that jeopardized in the process! You will need to bring people into a structure that gives them leadership and hope. The best way to do that is to deregulate and make entrepreneurship do its work, and lots of training. If that is not an option, you may need to make a left turn and get people into jobs that way. But it cannot be ignored when it tips 50% discontent, for obvious democratic reasons.

3) A rich region does not want to pay for the poorer parts. This has been discussed in connection with Catalonia and also in Northern Italy.

The solution is to allow regions to "divorce", but they will have to pay alimony. In the EU the EU could set that sum. We do not want too many regions to gain independence, since it would risk a crumbling of the EU into nation states, which would then be somewhat of vassal states of the U.S., Russia and China. We do not want the development since it may be unstable, and wars may erupt depending on the power dynamics of the great powers. Russia is also not strong enough to play this in the long run, so the nation state scenario is inherently unstable.

Oct 04, 2017 10:50

Desirable characters not (easily found) on my keyboard

Posted by admin |

Yes, I sometimes use my blog as a paste board! :)

en dash (tankstreck)

em dash (jättelångt tankstreck)




| |

Non breaking space (between the pipes)



Sep 28, 2017 05:20

The amount of work needed to listen to a Youtube video...

Posted by admin |

...on your Android phone is daunting. It doesn't work with the Youtube app since it cuts out when it is not in the foreground. I have now on my destop made an mp3 and hope I can put that back on the phone, so I can listen to the lecture! If I can find an mp3 player that plays in the background. Which did not seem to be installed on my Nexus. If it is, it's hiding.

And how do you move files to and from your Andorid phone in a sane way? The USB tether does not show all files if there are many files in a directory. Google drive back and forth across the world? Ridiculous, I'll tell ya.

And it does not play in my bluetooth headset! I'm pushing into 20 minutes of work now. To listen to one file that was already there to begin with. And Firefox also stops playing it.

It turns out that my Plantronics one-ear headset does not support the AD2P profile, so I cannot listen to it. Do I need to say ridiculous?

Now listening to the mp3 file, via Google Drive, on tethered headphones.

Sep 23, 2017 09:35

Some reflections on Pippa Malmgren's list of things caused by debt

Posted by admin |

Pippa Malmgren has written a list on LinkedIn: Through the Looking Glass: We've Reversed our Views on Every Civic Value : Why?  on what debt in society may have contributed to. Below are my answers:

Restraint was good and excess was bad. Now excess inspires – witness the Kardashians and the gold fixtures throughout Trump Tower.

Excess used to be more marketable when mass communication ruled. With mass communication everything becomes idealized: The strongest, the most beautiful, the most lavish (Kim Veltman has written on this, although I cannot find the exact paper now). Internet tempers this. For one example, note people's preference for e.g. amateur porn.

Careers were good. Job hopping was bad. Loyalty to firms is considered crazy now because they are not loyal to you (because the debt means they have to cut costs). Now job hopping is good because you get to spread the risk that you’ll be hurt by any one of your employers.

Debt actually delays a transformation of the economy. If debt would be correctly taken care of, job hopping caused by restructuring would increase tremendously as a consequence.

Truth was good. Lying was bad. Now we live in a "post truth" world where we admire crafty wordsmithing, weaponization of words, clever messaging. We know the names of the previously anonymous spin crafters these days.

This is largely a consequence of communists shifting tactics to "post modernism", basically attacking anything that is constructive, in hopes of diminishing the center and getting a stand off (street fights) with the extreme right. As to why communism remains popular, it probably has to do with the promise of IYIs being bosses in a brand new world. Many intellectuals are acutely uncomfortable with pluralism, markets. They want to feel in control and think people are taking them for a ride with free markets, freedom of speech and so on. The reason commies remain influential is due to Taleb's minority rule. Specifically they are more coherent and focused.

Traditional religion was good and alternative religions were suspect. Now alternative religions gain followers and adherence to any one established local religion is considered a mark of small mindedness. People search for truth in the self-help section of the bookstore.

Religions go through rejuvenations every now and again. Organized religion can sometime lose track of its message and will need some competition.

Savings was good. Now Spending is "good": The Financial Crisis (and its inflation invoking solutions) punished savers and encouraged us to borrow given low interest rates. Debt is so good that governments tell us you can fix the debt problem by adding more debt and by endlessly postponing its repayment.

Yeah, seems about right!

Mainstream Media was trusted. Now clickbaiting plus political bias has caused us to trust Wikileaks and alternative news sources more.     

This is caused by the Internet, not by debt.

Thoughtful, measured responses used to be good (think Bertrand Russell). Now, no one has time to listen and they cannot understand or agree on the meaning of the words. Twitter beats Editorials. Soundbites beat nuanced explanations.

Question is, how many listened to Russell back in the day? It's a bit like musing over how good music used to be, but if you actually listened to a recording of what fare was served music-wise, it is clear that most was rubbish. It can be argued that we now have the most intellectual popular culture fare in history.

Experts were good. Idiots were bad. Now Nassim Taleb calls experts “Intellectual Yet Idiots”. We now like to watch reckless idiocy from comics to reality TV to other arenas.  

This is also caused by the transparency, and confusion, of the Internet. 

Torture was bad. Now torture is good (necessary). The Red Cross has found that more and more people now support torture under certain conditions.

This is a combination I think of not having been exposed to war for some time, and being enveloped in reality distortion bubbles of the Internet, not understanding that what goes around, comes around.

Debate was good. Now debate is bad. Opposing views must be silenced, not entertained. Free Speech was good. Now, Free Speech is bad. The view that "Speech should only be free if we agree with it" gains prevalence.

This is a worrying trend and may be linked to debt insofar as it belies a world view where trying things is not safe. And, post modernism of course.

Marriage was Good. Promiscuity was Bad. We are shocked by marriages that last and admire those who succeed in the promiscuous life and who have multiple marriages. We treat people as disposable items that you simply swipe right for and counsel people to try and have sex without attachment. The media not only condones this but provides detailed explanations to under-age children (witness the outcry over the Teen Vogue Guide to Anal Sex).

This has a lot to do with the liberation of women (marriage benefits men more than women, it seems so women are progressively less keen on it), but may also be caused by debt insofar that the debt society creates an unequal society with worrying interpersonal power dynamics.

Being an individual with self-confidence was good and admirable. Now, being an individual is only good and admirable if enough others confirm it through social soring. Self-confidence is suspect. We admire those who are “liked” and who have many “followers”.

This is caused by the Internet and its ability to give more power to some, both through these people having greater abilities but also due to a network effect. The network effect was already in place and much stronger, during the age of mass communication though.

Learning was Good. Now Learning is bad. Instead, we admire clever “hacks” and shortcuts that don’t waste time because knowledge is easy/ not hard

This is caused by post modernism, and debt could actually come to think of it be a post modern phenomenon!

Scoring people was bad. Now scoring people is good. Scoring a person on attractiveness or “hotness” was bad. Now we like high scoring people and entities - the Facebook effect. China’s new Social Credit Scoring system (an Uber for people) is announced almost without comment.

Again, the network effect, but now we can do the scoring ourselves instead of e.g. the BBC saying who is "hot".

Reading was good. TV was bad. Reading is now seen as a rare, time consuming, seemingly not necessary pastime. Instead, TV now (Netflix) has the best writing and pay scale in the entertainment industry and we admire free YouTubers and Instagrammers

People read immensely on the Internet. And they write!

Spying was Bad. Now, spying is good. After 911, spying was transformed. Instead of aiming at bad individuals, state intelligence aims their efforts at everybody (good or bad) in the hope of catching somebody bad (Prism, Echelon).

It's actually gone the other way, spying is now bad due to campaigns from e.g. Wikileaks. However spying capacity has increased massively, due to a faulty application of technology. Not sure what societal forces to blame there.

Science was good. Now, science is bad. Are scientists willfully trying to make holes in the universe with quantum efforts (thinks of CERN and DWave) or in DNA with the genome? With the advent of AI and robotics, everyone worries about whether robots and AI science will help or hurt us. Note the many warnings from prominent scientists like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about unleashing uncontrollable forces.

Biotech is very worrying, with or without debt: Self replicating invasive species.

Technology was Good. Now, technology can be bad.Your IPhone was supposed to make life easier. Now it is your life, which is good and bad.

Improperly applied technology, again unsure of what to blame.

Multilateral was good and bilateralism was bad. Now, this has reversed.

This may be a sign of almost apocalyptic changes, the feeling that most will lose out massively and you have to save yourself. It could also be a sign that some areas of the world are economically important and others not. Not sure about this one. However debt could distort the usefulness you have of multilateralism, maybe.

Price stability was good and inflation was bad. Now we hope for moving prices and desire more inflation.

Yup, the central banks may be in the process of blurring the concept of money. It's now more like points in a computer game. Very post modern.

Sep 22, 2017 01:20