Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us


Moldbug was about formalism. Which is funny because I associate "formalism" with Chomskyian linguistics. The idea that language can be modeled in a quasi mathematical form. Let's say that didn't really work out.

Moldbug's was political Formalism. Give everyone an official title of what he already owns. Let us say it how it is and not lie anymore. Good idea. I wonder how you formalize this?

Sailer writes how New York City is not actually run by its mayor; there's a sleazy bunch of "consultants" with a pipe to rich donors, who force any political candidate to hire this consultants in exchange for their donations. This includes the mayor, attorneys, and everybody who needs money to run a campaign in NYC. Guys like this.



Officially there's a mayor, who's supposed to run things, but he's not very smart, at any rate he needed money for his campaign and he wasn't very good at getting it. So he outsourced that to the free market, and the free market provided. Now there's a bunch of sleazy middlemen trafficking with influences from here to there.

How do you formalize this? Who's in charge? Who will be in charge tomorrow?

Not that this is somewhat particular to NYC, but not necessarily so. Is Obama in charge? Not really. He is the puppet of some conquistador consultant? Probably not. Who is? That's a good question.

Ancient China was very adamant that there should be one guy in charge. The Emperor. "The realm cannot be one day without a ruler". The theory was good, but the Emperor had a mother. And Ancient China was also very adamant about sons being obedient to their parents. So the Emperor Must Rule, but he must be obedient to Mom. Which is why there so many Empress Dowager.

The Western conception of power is different. We have people on top of the pyramid, and they're "responsible". Which means when something we choose to remove them when something goes wrong, even when the guy wasn't really involved in the process. But the process is very complicated. How to formalize that? It isn't any easier than formalizing language, like Chomsky. And that didn't work out.



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  • Well, he did not outsource it to the free market, because a free market is by definition.....Free and transparent! Had it really been a free market, he would have put it out for open auction and we could all bid on our guy to be the consultant. The fact that it was done behind closed doors emphatically suggests that it was NOT a free market.

    Now you may claim that a free market as such is an ideal construct and does not actually exist and cannot possibly exist much like a libertarian government will be swallowed by a nearby state in 5 minutes. Now, This is a point with which I can agree. But not your claim in the article.

    • That wasn't an important point. He outsourced influence peddling to the existing market. I said free market in contrast to legal bureaucratic procedures.

      I do think it's pretty free and competitive as it is. I don't see why a free market implies open auctions. Plenty of freelancers work through close relations with their clients.

      • In General, a Free-market implies government non-intervention. This being governmental work, any dealing there-in cannot be a free market. My own thinking is that a free market cannot exist. It is at best an abstraction. One who asks for a free market might as well ask for the absence of aging, decay and death.

      • This sounds like Mad Magazine from 40 years ago. I think it was there suggestion on how Civics class in school could be made more up-to-date and accurate.

        They printed an organization chart for city government with "The Boss" on the top, "The Boss's moll" (I know, I know, an archaic term -- the Boss's mistress if you were wondering), with the chart branching into the chain-of-command of various underbosses, with a box labeled "Mayor" at the very bottom of the chart.

        This was followed by a quiz having questions regarding the meaning of "soldier" and "torpedo" in your municipality.

  • Actually I think the analogy with languages is pretty good.

    Most human languages are shot through with exceptions and in general, if they are optimized for anything (doubtful) it is to used by smart apes, whose computing hardware has little problem with exception and is quite good at grey areas. All languages perform about equally, but still if you want to express certain things there are different languages that are better or worse. I.e., it's important in the modern world to speak a language with number terms beyond "one, two, many".

    However, there are indeed languages which are so completely formalized that computers can execute them. Such languages were invented exactly because people wanted to program computers. Even these languages have lacunae, but (compared to human tongues) the ambiguous parts are vanishingly small. There are two big downsides to computer languages as human languages: first, they are not generally expressive; you can't say everything (or even most things). Second, they are unnatural for most humans. In fact most humans probably can't learn them. (I do note the existence of logban and one assumes many other invented languages which are generally expressive. Nobody uses them.)

    By analogy, human power structures are generally informal. The overall structure is always that money flows proportionate and opposite to power flows; but there are a lot of ways to set this up. Overall government of all ideological types tends to become rather uniform in character.

    The neocameralist proposes to formalize government by making all significant power/money flows explicit in corporate shares. Computers will be necessary for this, and indeed they will probably be the reason for calling into being formalism. This is ironic: reactionaries have no problem with personal authority; it is the progs who want machine government. So, let us wish them godspeed in mechanizing everything.

    • Language forms exist by just convention. The logical structures are more often than not artificial constructs that we impose over the very loose regularities that exist. Languages evolve more or less randomly over time, subject to a series of loose constriants. You can't just change the way of doing things just like that, although a big revolution can change a lot of existing patterns.

      You can't mechanize language (and they've tried!) because the actual patterns of usage are very complicated and they change all the time. You can't mechanize politics because at the end of the day the machines can't force people to obey if they don't really want to.

      • You can mechanize language. That's the entire point of computer programming. That does mean that your "patterns of use" cannot be changed all the time. A C "hello world" that was written in 1972 will still compile in gcc and it will still do the same thing.

        But there are certainly ways in which human language and computer languages are very different. Don't get too hung up on it. It's just an analogy. It doesn't prove anything nor do any particular features necessarily map. Human languages change easily because they are fungible both at the point of production and the point of interpretation. That's not true of computer languages.

        As for mechanizing politics: well, at the end of the day people cannot force people to obey, either. So, that line proves too much. The point of any political system, ultimately, is getting people to obey, or in other words, to accept domination. This is what a "political formula" does. Moldy wrote as if technology can obviate the need for a political formula. This is IMO false. There is always a formula. Tech can, however, reduce the percentage of the population who need to buy in.

        And in any case I am not suggesting that a machine would rule -- although that is one way that a singularity might go. But outside of scifi, people must rule; only people can rule. It's just that many or most significant government operations would be machine-mediated. The mediation means that these operations are transparent, at least to those with the keys.

        • > You can mechanize language. That’s the entire point of computer programming. We only succeed in mechanizing language for computers by restricting its scope to a minute fraction of the scope of natural languages. Scope-wise, programming languages are closer to chess records (13. ... Ke3? has the same meaning as 150 years ago) than to any natural language. > The mediation means that these operations are transparent, at least to those with the keys. Where there is no established culture of public probity, the usual effect of enforced transparency seems to be to push real operations into opaque places. The real problem is the former, not the latter.

        • The analogy to programming languages is actually a really bad argument for formalism. A programming language is some definition of behavior that translates a program into machine instructions. You get to define behavior because you write the interpreter. Analogizing politics or language to compiler design just doesn't make sense. What's a political system's AST? What's a political symbol table? Is Chinese dynamically scoped? I'm not sold on the idea that you can force people to obey your political spec by putting their keys to the missiles on lock down or however Moldbug would have it. Politics isn't language design. It isn't a question of how to best represent machine instructions as a readable/writable language. I doubt we're getting an NrX patchwork reference implementation anytime soon. All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky. These details you try to abstract away will refuse to disappear. Naturam expellas furca...

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