Tragedy of the NotCommons

https://www.pexels.com/@akos-szabo-145938

A blog tag to an article I did not read set me to thinking today. Read on if you think that the Net today is fraught with societal risk.

I have been using the WWW, Internet, since a couple of years after its start as ARPANET and MilNet for email and data transmission. Following it through the years I saw the slow exploration then the exuberant exploitation through the 80’s and 90’s even the 0ughts.

One of the things I had a hard time understanding was the effervescent froth about how this was freedom and that governments could never control it. When governments where the entity that installed it and ran it in many places. There are arguments in support of a weakish case for net freedom but for the masses it is not and will never be a truly open commons.

A big part of this is because of the way most people interface with the Net. They use it like they use a car, get in and drive, many times not knowing a thing about internal combustion engines, transmissions, etc. They are not technically savvy people, but then even people like me, an engineer, thirty plus year user of the Net, do not understand the ‘stacks’ on ‘stacks’ that are the interwoven hardware, firmware, protocols and software that makes the Net hum.

In the early days the Net was about Protocols, eMail and Hyperlink were two critical protocols that enabled communication and the creation of documents (Still, though they are called, Blogs, or Sites) that could be read out of sequence and include incredible depths of information that were simply impossible with a book or the like.

This early Net was dynamic and boisterous but largely a land of technical folks, academics, geeks and nerds. It was a natural environment for them in a way only the still evolving desktop computer had been until then.

After a while businesses started to move in and the media started to look at this as a way of distributing their content without the cost and logistic drag of newsprint, TV stations or even radio. Of course what most did not see coming was that the net would make their old advertiser supported business model very difficult to support over the long term while giving new Platforms (AOL and their ilk, now TWITTER, FACEBOOK etc) a leg up as essentially the new middle man between the consumer and ‘the content.’

But even at the start with AOL et al, some philosopher technical types pointed out that these Platforms ,while they gave Joe User an easy path to the internet, put a barrier between the user and the broader Net. Some like me never went down the platform path because we wanted the depth of the Net in the raw as it were but we pay the penalty of having to work harder to get things that Platform users get for free.

Twenty years on Facebook and Twitter have paved over the Net to a very significant degree. They started as just social networks with different focuses. But they have become the principle distributor of news and opinion. They have sucked up adjacent Net onramps in their fight to gain share and suppress competition. Now they lust after your data so they can sell it to the highest bidder, while using it, somewhat unintentionally to wrap the users in ever thicker cocoons of confirmation bias. They have also strangled the legacy media in its bed by stripping away the advertiser revenue.

Why?

I see 3 main reasons, ease of use, addictive content and the network affect. Ease of Use: You might argue that some of them are not that easy today but in the beginning essentially each of them was drop dead simple, so simple a tweener cheerleader could use it in ten seconds or less. Addictive Content: Most of these tools make something you want to do easy and provide reinforcing feedback, if your tweet goes viral to a 1000 people, woohooo! If your facebook post gets a like from a dozen friends, charge UP! This is addiction. Network affect: Simply stated, a network of 10 people has 100 interconnects, 100 people have 10,000 interconnects, the more people on a platform the more valuable it is to the user as well as the owner. Since you have limited time in your life, you cannot copy identical on multiple platforms going along. Then the platforms will make it hard for you to migrate from them with your list of friends, follows, photos, blogs, whatever.

So?

The title of the article I mentioned at the start said something about Protocols vs Platforms and this was one of those epiphany things you hear about. AHA!

Platforms are largely just Net hubs and they hate open protocols because it will reduce them to pipes and strip away their ability to siphon off value from the users, both consumer and creator.

Facebook or Twitter are just Protocols of Protocols with a software wrapper. Their core are proprietary protocols & software, not open protocols so that competition is impossible. The network affect and the users addiction to the particular flavor of Platform makes changing essentially impossible.

But if the Platforms are required to open their protocols and enable users to migrate their core identity the monopoly would be broken without destroying the user side value. One could even see an anti monopoly order that required some kind of Baby Twitter / Baby Facebook disaggregation that requires the ‘Babies’ interlink and compete.

This seems relatively clear cut process . It would provide the users with competition for their core value that is simply not there today. And while it will hurt the stockholders (who are earning monopolist profits today) it does not strip their assets while providing the opportunity to earn significant returns going forward.

The NonCommons of today, the Platforms, are a tragedy for the users in that their value is stripped without much recompense beyond ease of use. If we go back to the roots of the Net, open protocols, and user value, we have a chance to build back better….and make the Net great again.

The Woke Purge is Beginning

From Maggies Farm: The Woke Purge is Beginning in total because it’s short and very clear:

“ Parler being dumped by Amazon Web Services wasn’t the first shot. Gab was in 2018. Gab is still around, though it is private now and subscription only. That may be the future for Parler and others like it which fill a need.

But going private isn’t the only solution, there are other solutions. But private is probably bes. However, being aware and adept at meeting the Progressive/Leftist challenges to free speech is essential. I am particularly fond of The Mises Institute’s approach.

This is a space in which I’m uniquely informed and aware. I’ve been seeing this slowly developing for years, and it’s been a growing concern. I’ve been told for years “oh it will never get that bad” and now it really is that bad. Many said Net Neutrality was necessary because the provider of the pipes would throttle, reduce and limit ability for sites and apps to work. Ironically, the purported supporters of Net Neutrality are the very same businesses who are throttling free speech – you know, the free speech they felt Net Neutrality was required to prevent OTHERS FROM THROTTLING THEM. Except, they will argue, ‘this is different’. It’s not. And Net Neutrality would have given these tech oligarchs more power to do this very kind of thing.

That said, because all this has happened slowly at first, then suddenly (due to the Capitol incident), Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy fits these moves restricting the freedoms on speech very well. When it’s taken, unlike bankruptcy – which is usually noticeable, this is going largely unnoticed and unmentioned. Or, at least, it’s being done in a manner many consider ‘acceptable’. Because the main beneficiaries are the very groups doing damage to free speech – the tech oligopolists. Who know ‘better than you’ about how things should be done, how you should live your life, and what you can or should say.

Don’t get me wrong. Tech in’t bad. Social media isn’t bad. It’s not inherently evil. It is ambivalent to morality. But individuals themselves can be good or bad, and as a result can have overbearing and long-lasting impacts on our realities. I’m sure Gutenberg was not loved by leaders of the day and “War of the Worlds” certainly sent many scurrying to talk of the damage radio can do. TV was described as a “vast wasteland” and Bill Gates felt there was little commercial value to the internet.

What is happening now requires individual awareness and action. It does NOT require fighting or violence. Just intelligence and smart, cordial and meaningful action. The Progessives are just starting, in my view. I don’t believe violence will help solve issues – it will be used to justify positions. But being louder, smarter and more aware will make a difference.Posted by Bulldog in Hot News & Misc. Short Subjects at 17:06 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
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Freedom vs Liberty

We talk a lot about freedom but it seems to me that this is a word that has a lost its gravitas in the current era. Maybe the older more difficult word liberty is the one we should use when we talk about fundamentals.

Freedom starts with that word Free, which may have had a noble meaning once but essentially triggers the ‘free stuff’ consumer sales instinct today. Free education, Free care, Free food, Free….whatever it is you think someone should have a right to for whatever reason.

The very word Free has been degraded to a economic term that means ‘worth less’ or worthless. One could see this as intentional neo-marxist thought war. It is certainly one of the reasons that a lot of low info types don’t realize that what they are asking for is has a great cost. Gov’t Free stuff is not free.

The word Liberty still has its gravitas. When you say you have liberty of conscience, liberty of person, liberty of property, liberty of word, liberty of action, you are saying things that seem to have weight and maybe make you and others think.

The US was set up as a nation of individual liberty, the individual sovereign over the government, the state strictly limited in its ability to interfere with the individual.

Giving up Freedom of speech to some seems almost trivial, it was free after all right? But if you are saying the government is effectively limiting your liberty of conscience, word and action, I think even those with a limited understanding of the issue might think again.

Society, Xiciety, Techocracy, what next?

Too many things that I could post to be able to post anything. The reality is that we are in the crux of the flux and nothing is visible through the smoke and dust.

Many very sane people have overloaded and said things they will later regret. Some very sane people have ‘locked up’ and done the same or not said enough. At the end of the day mostly this is about living in a time when the chaos of reality overwhelms individual, and even more, group, ability to absorb and organize, let along rationalize, what is going on.

What bothers me the most is the absolute arrogance of the tech oligarchs in control of Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook. They have essentially locked out what they see as the ‘other side’ they are signaling that they feel that the opposition has no rights, utterly at odds with the ethos of the US origin. As I have noted several times one could see the US as essentially a soft focus vision of China.

The problem with the Techocracy above abbreviated would not be so savagely pernicious if it weren’t that they essentially represent de facto monopolies. While legalistically one could (and lawyers have) argued that they are not monopolies, they effectively each and every one, are, because they make it hard for the ordinary user to avoid them. As a group they absolutely are because one way or another they control 99.99 % of personal and probably >90 % of business communications.

When they collude as Google and Apple are to force 3rd parties such as Parlor and other platforms competitive with FB and Tw, to conform to some squishy leftist censoring standards they have in essence moved us closer to Xiciety. When you also see them pushing hard against anything that limits their freedom to use foreign slave and gulag labor one gets the feeling that they have seriously lost their way.

  • Are the 4 evil?
    • De facto, yes.
  • But they are corporations, ok they have powerful CEO’s but they are American and they are teams not really individuals.
    • But those teams are closed, self or leader selected, cliques from a very small ‘genetic’ head space on the west coast, with generally young and woke workforce’s enforced by the Uber woke HR departments.
  • But, but they are Woke, Diverse, MultiCultural, Free Market, Open Market, MultiNational…they want freedom, civil rights!
    • But that litany is not actually about freedom and civil rights beyond keeping the base population passivated. The reality is that the F&CR ‘they’ want are free this and free that and happy multicolored faces. Not the core human freedoms laid out in the Decleration of Independence and Bill of RIghts. Those core freedoms would mean that the 4 would be forced to compete, we failed years ago when it became clear the 4 were in reality a quartet.
    • These ARE publicly traded multi national firms who cannot depend on the US for their profits any longer. This means they have to maintain an image acceptable to China and Europe at the very least. And both of those use the litany and talk F&CR, they use them as propaganda weapons to keep the base of the population in its place.

What next?

It is far too soon to tell. It will take weeks to get our heads around what happened. It will take months for the ramifications to start to become clear. Years to start to see the reactions, and probably a decade for the ring down. Trump did what he was hired to do, upset the apple cart, open a lot of eyes, unsettle the settled.

Who knows were this all goes. Civil War? Doubt it but it is more likely today than it was last week, or last October. Violence…who knows, could be, might not be, to be honest this does not look like a situation where the use of force has much applicability unless the Democrat/Techocracy decides that they either have the upper hand or need to strike while the iron is hot. Either mistake could lead to violence and devolve into Civil War and that would end the US as it exists today, just like the last one did.

No road leads us back to where we were at any time in the past. The tragedy is that those who think getting rid of Trump improved things are fools who did not see that 2019 may have been the best time in US history. Their butt hurt from Trumps wins forced them to break everyone’s toys.

And so we move into a future. As usual with no signposts. But now with the light of enthusiasm largely extinguished.

My read on the Capital crud storm

So I got a concerned eMail from an aunt in England after the crud storm in DC yesterday. Below is my way longer than she probably wanted explanation of what was going on after pointing out that the ‘broke’ media over reported something while casting the worst possible light on it. Below that is a take on the political posturing that led up to it.

The reality is that 4 years ago the Democratic Party screwed up and did not cheat sufficiently to beat the groundswell of support that carried Trump to the presidency. The apparatchiks who thought they had a lock on the future of the country were horrified.

They started a low level insurgency in the gov’t and in the streets where of municipalities where they had absolute hold. Make no mistake, up until yesterday every place you heard about that was having street protests and really riots and violence were in deeply Democratic centers where the mayors and councils could neuter the police and had already neutered the ability of the people to push back.

This last time the Democratic Party was prepared for the Trump support and overwhelmed it. To my mind it looks like cheating put Biden over the top, but that is hard to prove since it would have been a passively cellular network of cheating in densely populated centers they already controlled. Suppressing Trump votes (which were still huge by historical standards) and expanding their own. Much of the issue both pro and con were changing the rules due to ‘COVID’ and a huge concerted drive by both sides to expand the vote, providing a jungle of confusion regarding the reality.

What is going on now is a knock on to that. The reality is that the laws regarding our national elections (in a republic of very differently governed states) are Byzantine in their complexity. What I think few have realized until this last 2 months is that the system has no real way of dealing with systemic breakdown in voting which is highly state centric. While the ‘news’ says that the thousands of accusations of fraud have been ‘proven’ invalid nothing like that has happened. Except in a few trivial cases nothing has actually reached the point of presenting proof. In every significant case the court has refused to take the case because:1) The protest should have been made before the election, once the election happened the protest is void (even though there was no time before the election to know what was happening.) 2) The person(s) making the protest had no standing because they were not directly harmed. 3) The court did not have jurisdiction and thus even if they took the case could not remedy any fault found. 4) The court did not have any remedy period…which is essentially what the US Supreme Court said when the States protested other States patently fraudulent election results.

The above and Trumps refusal to back down is what triggered yesterday which was very peaceful until an idiot shot an unarmed protestor in the capital building where she in fact had something of a right (as a citizen) to be. It should also be noted that this was a Potemkin affair, the Mayor (deep rabid Democrat) pulled the police and closed things down to enable violent rioting (that did not happen.) Also pulled the police from the capital and the protective services essentially did not push back when the crowds started building up. Then the politicos went into deep political posturing for the cameras thus providing all sorts of wonderful propaganda fodder for the ‘new.’

Should the invasion have happened, no. Did Trump make it possible, yes. Did his opposition PULL the crowds in for propaganda purposes, YES. Did the capital burn down or suffer any significant damage, NO.

What you see is the marxist left pulling the liberal idiots into their grip so that they can start stripping the country of its assets as they have been doing in the UK for the last couple of decades (from my view over the pond.)

An interesting blog piece on the background I discussed above from Mark Tapscott at Instapundit:

“….. the more fundamental question is whether Congress has the authority to set aside a state’s Electoral College votes. In my view, there are two key aspects of the question:

First, is there sufficient evidence of fraud in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and others to justify the decisions of Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri to register objections to the acceptance of their Electoral College votes? I haven’t had the opportunity to review all of the evidence for all of the allegations, but, as explained, for example, in this
“American Thought Leaders” interview on The Epoch Times with the Data Integrity Group, the evidence of vote manipulation in multiple states is substantial and cries out for a critical investigation.

Second, Congress has an absolute right to set aside the Electoral College votes, according to President Abraham Lincoln, who
told Congress on February 9, 1865, that “the two Houses of Congress, convened under the twelfth article of the Constitution, have complete power to exclude from counting all electoral votes deemed by them to be illegal, and it is not competent for the Executive to defeat or obstruct that power by a veto …”

The
process seen in Wednesday’s Joint Session, interrupted as it was by the riot around and within the Capitol, was conducted as prescribed in the Constitution. Each properly framed and submitted objection to the acceptance of a state’s certified Electoral College votes gets two hours of debate in the Senate and the House, at the end of which members of both chambers vote on whether to accept or reject the objection.

Congress considered objections in 1969 (the “faithless elector” of North Carolina) and 2005 (Democrat objection to awarding Ohio’s votes to President George W. Bush) under this process and rejected the propositions. But Congress could have accepted the objections, which would have left Electoral College votes on the floor.

This reality should not surprise anybody who is familiar with the manner in which the Founders wrote the Constitution as a “legislative supremacy” document. So long as the Senate and House are of one will, Congress has, as Willmoore Kendal and George Carey
wrote, “all of the ultimate weapons in any showdown with either of the other two branches.”

Congress doesn’t like a program or action favored by the President? Congress can defund it. To cite but two examples: Congress doesn’t like how the Supreme Court is ruling? Congress can change the composition of the Court. If Congress has the will, the Founders gave it the power to do pretty much as it pleases so long as it respects the Bill of Rights.

Bottom Line: There is substantial evidence that Congress could have relied upon,
had it chosen to do so, in deciding to exclude the Electoral College votes of any of the challenged states Wednesday and thereby made either Joe Biden or Donald Trump our next Chief Executive.

Had I been a senator or representative Wednesday, I would have voted to uphold the challenges presented for Arizona and Pennsylvania (as well as those planned prior to the riot for Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada), on the basis of the Data Integrity Group’s statistical analysis, not because doing so would have given Trump another four years in office, but because somebody ought to go to jail after pulling off what is likely the biggest election theft in American history.

Either we have honest elections or we don’t.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader CptNerd for
this link to much easier to read version of the full Lincoln quote. I used the Congressional Globe link because the whole page makes interesting, though difficult to decipher in places, reading.”

Nuff said…

More on Politics sorry, got to get it out…of me..out there…something

It’s fascinating that the razors edge of revolution is often young women

The Challenge of Marxism
written by Yoram Hazony
Published on August 16, 2020

This well written and insightful article lays out the fundamental problem that ‘liberal-society’ has with Marxism, it is fundamental and insurmountable without stepping back and being able to address the core intellectual attraction of Marxism.

The article also points out clearly that the challenge to the liberal-capitalist society today is a dispersed network of Neo-Marxist follow ons not the International Communist Marxism of the soviet era.

The current rag bag liberal street agitation groups espouse Neo-Marxism in the form of defining the world as made up of human association groups (once classes now identity groups) who have natural affiliation and self awareness, organized in society into a hierarchy of oppressors and oppressed. Where the oppressors form a web of custom, law and history that supports this oppression largely hidden from most of the oppressed.

  • In this theory:
    • there is nothing but oppression and
    • that when seen this can and should be attacked in all ways possible up to and including direct violence. That there is
    • one true view of the world, that of the woke (or Marxist, SJW, etc) and
    • any other view is false and that
    • defending other views is violence and
    • can be addressed with physical violence up to and including death.

The basis of liberalism are enlightenment values of freedom, liberty, human worth… which can be argued are actually conservative values expanded to the masses without much of a rational argument.

The Marxist analysis of class, oppressor and oppressed is clean, rationale and expansive enough to cover most situations if the area of regard if defined clearly. The liberal while depreciating the marxists’ absolutist tendencies can understand the analysis and is forced to agree since they rarely have a good counter argument that does not require them negating marxist truisms and engendering attacks on their racism, classism, elitism, misogyny, etc. Over time one article of liberal faith or piece of history, has it’s context distorted to the Neo Marxist account and is then pulled down by the rabble no one can deny.

And so the Marxist cadre, not calling themselves that but acting in swarming semi accord have captured the elite institutions which were largely liberal and now are largely controlled by Neo-Marxists with the reins of power in their hands.

  • So I say that the Marxist analysis makes sense right?
  • No I said that the Marxist analysis is clean and rational.
    • But it purposefully limits the definition of ‘the problem.’
  • The basic analysis of self aware human groups is true.
    • But the abstraction of the definition is taken to extremes to sharply define a ‘class’ such as mobility, demographics, etc are limited
    • The other abstraction; of oppression, also goes to extremes to ignore countervailing facts, social cohesion, economics, even the availability of violence to both sides
  • In Marx’s time, while the Imperial Russian autocratic-oligarchy vs serf appeared to have some relationship to the Owner-Manager vs worker in capitalist free holds like Victorian England, the reality was that in all cases each side had its risks and its pains as well as advantages and pleasures.
    • And at the end of the day the masses always had the pitchfork and torch if things got bad enough. While peasant rebellions rarely ended well for the rebel leadership it usually had a positive long term effect on the survivors because the upper class wanted to avoid reoccurrences.

Ok so I have wandered on for some time, and off topic really, the article is very good, much better than my rough handling of a few of it’s very clear points. Read it.

American Fascism, Political-Industrial-Oligarchic

The Threat of Authoritarianism in the U.S. is Very Real, and Has Nothing To Do With Trump

Glenn Greenwald
Journalist; co-founder, The Intercept; author, No Place to Hide and forthcoming book on Brazil; animal fanatic & founder of HOPE Shelter.
(L-R): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY,TOBIAS SCHWARZ,ANGELA WEISS,MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Unfortunately on the nose. We do not have a representative democracy we have and probably have had an Oligarchic Republic. This only becomes more obvious as the Republic (power split down to and exercised at various geographic/social sub units) is over run by the federal (central) government where the oligarchs can focus their power to get the biggest bang for their bucks.

The confusion and purposeful distortion of the words/meanings of-democracy, representative-democracy, republic, federal…and others is probably more important than the issues with the presidency. The more centralized power is the more important controlling the levers on that power becomes.

Book reviews…Cities, roads, history, society…

I have as always been reading a lot on a broad range of topics. Here are three very worthwhile reads that have some things in common and might give you some interesting insight into society history, cities, transportation.

Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind’s Greatest Invention Kindle Edition
by Ben Wilson

Saw this at Barnes and Nobles but bought the kindle edition. The physical book is nice but was not sure it was a real keeper. This is a good book, probably written before 2020 and Covid-19 raised questions about ‘the urban’ but I think either well thought out and thus an argument against the Anti-Urban angst right now, or edited well to address it without being too pointed.

This is an interesting read going back to pre history and even pre town/village to show that mankind was building monuments long before cities and that the typical early city surrounding religious/social centers was not an after thought but the genesis of the city. Also pointed out that when Mesopotamia was originally ‘urbanized’ it was more like Tenochtitlan, a wetland/jungle, not a desert as it is today. This actually points to a minor theme about natural climate change in this book and how it enabled then destroyed many early societies and their cities.

Dr. White works up from Uruk (probably oldest major city) through the more well known Mesopotamian city states to the coastal city states of the Mediterranean and Asia and how these cities lived and died by trade as much as by being centers of power. That usually the power came after economic power. Each city is put in its own context but that context extended to today. A city on the monsoon trade routs of the Middle Ages compared to modern Singapore. The trashing of Medieval Paris by Napoleon the II’s city planer (in the 1850’s) to build todays ‘city of lights’ is compared to the trashing of many other city centers in the name of modernity and the car.

But throughout the dynamism of the city, its inventiveness and its beating heart at the center of economic power is stressed. And above all that cities are human creations and habitats that are rebuilt and rehabilitated by the human spirits that enliven them. And despite wandering into and even making a strong case for the maleness and misogynistic tendencies of cities and the anti other tendencies Dr. White pulls back and strongly supports the case that cities are centers of diversity and new ways of living and new ways of empowering the downtrodden. While at the same time pointing out again and again that the elite urge to ‘clean up’ slums and old sections invariably destroys as much or more that is strong and beautiful as ‘helps.’ That the humans that give the city heart and power are the lower and middle classes not the elites and that elite re-planning is generally destructive of the human in the city. Again and again slums and ghettos are shown as a horror to the elites that is utterly at odds with the dynamic creativity that they hide in back alleys. Even in Mumbai and Lagos today the power of the slum is at odds with its image as presented by the largely ignorant elite.

The chapter on Warsaw in WWII is hard to read, but again and again points to the humanity of the urban core and its draw on the human soul for those it has become home to.

This book is an eye opening read and an excellent piece of work with a different view of the urban and the city. Not the least because it even deals with the suburbs and the suburban city (LA) and shows that it is in many ways just part of the continuum of development over something like ten thousand years.

I grew up in what I would call metro-suburbs of England and the Suburbs of the US and find that this book provides a much more solid base for thinking about the city than any article or techno dissection of the city vs suburbs vs rural…. Read the book, don’t miss some fascinating images and the use the author puts them to to explain times and places in some depth.

The effect of Covid-19 and the internet (one cannot be dealt with without the other) the coming impact of electric and autonomous cars and then personal air transport should be thought of AFTER you have read this book. It gives one pause and a new way to address what a city is and its draw to and repulse from the human spirit.

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe Kindle Edition
by Judith Herrin

Ravenna on the Adriatic (the sea between Italy and the start of Eastern Europe is not a city one has heard of. Rome, Venice, Pisa, these cities of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are famous but a city that was for some hundreds of years the Capital of the Western Empire is simply not mentioned in most history books. Largely because its history started when Rome fell for the first time to the invaders and the Roman capital moved to what we call Constantinople. This was the start of the dark ages as first the barbarians and then Islam destroyed the Roman Empire. But that empire took a great deal of killing and our simple view of Rome the City = Rome the Empire, reinforced by Gibbons and others is simply false.

The city was important in Roman times, a city on an estuary that was much like we might imagine Venice a few hundred years later. The romans built/dredged a large harbor next to the city and it became the main sea link from Rome to the East, Anatolia, Greece, etc.

As Rome as Rome fell Ravenna became a center of gov’t and it also became a center of Christian faith, usually linked to the Abbot of Rome but also linking to the Eastern Faith, it was often at odds with the Abbot of Rome and or the Abbot (Patriarch) of Constantinople, where the later emperors tried to control the universal (Catholic) faith and failed.

Because of its link to the Eastern Church and Greece its Churches were richly decorated with mosaics, some of the most startling survivals of a period of history little remembered in the west.

Over the period of the barabarian invasions and later Empire the Emperors in Constantinople used Ravenna as their Western center of Government from where famous generals led army after army out to defend or recapture Roman lands. But in the end the powerful warrior tribes out of Germany, etc beat down the empire and took it as their own and Italy splintered into the city states that enliven the story of the Renaissance.

This history is rich and interesting, politics, religion, sociology, art, woven together. Dr Herrin uses a lot of first sources and actual peoples words to weave the story. Photographs of the wonderful mosaics makes one want to visit this historic city. The details of this ‘missing’ period are deeply interesting and helps explain the rise of Catholicism and the split with Orthodoxy. Another great read if you are interested in the history of Rome, Europe, the Middle Ages.

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways Kindle Edition
by Earl Swift

Earl Swift’s The Big Roads starts at the beginning, in the nineteenth century with dirt tracks and cobbled lanes of the towns, cities and rural expanses and leads through their evolution over time. It is interesting that so much of the early work was more about associations building assets for commerce and the socialization of the automobile, prior to its becoming a power in its own right. And that the bicycle had a part to play before the automobile was big.

The story of the US routes, Route 66, Route 31, Route 71 etc etc and then the genesis of the interstate system are fascinating tales of time, place and actors.

A very human story interwoven with fascinating people and lacing in stories of places and times that you had heard elsewhere but never linked into the creation of the highways and now byways across the US.

As with the books above, particularly Metropolis this book talks about the hubris of the elites and of the blinders that technical leaders can have and the damage they can do while believing they are in the right and having the best interest of the people they are displacing at heart.

A fun book with fun side stories that especially resonate with me as I grew up as the Interstate system really came into its own and the knock on effects it had became visible, mostly for good but too often at a cost to various neighborhoods and towns.

Artificial…uh, dance partners?

Two items run across recently the emphasize the huge progress that robotics and Artificial intelligence has made in the last couple of years.

From Robot Reports a somewhat frightening video:Watch Boston Dynamics Robots Tear up the Dance Floor.

Boston Dynamics Atlas doing parcur from an article in The Verge

The Boston Dynamics robots are at the point that they can do most things a human can in regards to locomotion. It is unclear how much beyond balance and moving is local to the robots as the thoroughly bounded arena makes clear but the basics of the body frame is there. Ability to manipulate the environment other than in the most basic way has not been demonstrated by Boston Dynamics but other companies are making huge strides in manipulators. Ability to sense and understand the environment is another huge step. Except that the sensors exist (autonomous cars etc). Leaving understanding the environment beyond a very limited ‘world.’ And that takes a brain, and that seemed a long way off….except is it?

Hat tip Maggies Farm, in Towards Data Science: the article; GPT-3: The First Artificial General Intelligence?

From the article
The picture above shows an inverted dome with a waterfall at is base pouring water into another circular waterfall. An interesting visual metaphor for the reinforced learning of many modern AI systems.

GPT3 would appear to be on the threshold of general purpose artificial intelligence. In the article it is noted that GPT3 is a brain in a box with no ability to sense or manipulate the environment without human intervention. But ‘wrapping’ those abilities ‘around’ GPT3 appears all but trivial. Given its ability to learn on its own would a Boston Dynamic’s wrapped GPT3 become something close to the robot of our dreams and nightmares. It certainly appears so.

Atlas’s is battery powered, I think, to the tune of an hour or so. GPT3 is instantiated on a huge computer network but both of those limitations are receding every day as computing power and battery storage continue to improve driven by their broad application across the tech scene.

Five years from now it would seem likely that the general purpose android robot will be a real thing. If built in quantity like say a Tesla 3 are you looking at $30K a pop? What does that lead to?

I want to make sure they understand that I for one welcome our dancing robot overlords.