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David Schneider-Joseph
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This article expresses well my deep skepticism of Ethereum and other expansive uses of blockchain. There’s an illusion underlying all of this: that it’s somehow possible, via technology, to eliminate the need for trusting people. At best we’ve simply moved the trust to the contracts running on the blockchain, often without recourse to social, legal, and democratic institutions when the contracts prove fraudulent or when the inevitable bugs (which all complex software has) lead to disaster.

‘You actually see it over and over again. Blockchain systems are supposed to be more trustworthy, but in fact they are the least trustworthy systems in the world. Today, in less than a decade, three successive top bitcoin exchanges have been hacked, another is accused of insider trading, the demonstration-project DAO smart contract got [$150M] drained, crypto price swings are ten times those of the world’s most mismanaged currencies …

Projects based on the elimination of trust have failed to capture customers’ interest because trust is actually so damn valuable. A lawless and mistrustful world where self-interest is the only principle and paranoia is the only source of safety is a not a paradise but a crypto-medieval hellhole.’
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A geometrical puzzle:

There are multiple U.S. congressional districts, among the 48 contiguous states, whose perimeters are long enough to enclose an area on the Earth’s surface containing all of Canada. Find such a district.
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The first few sentences of Goodstein’s States of Matter:

“Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics.

Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.”
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T-27 minutes.
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Tomorrow, February 6, at sometime between 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm EST, Falcon Heavy is scheduled to launch for the very first time. When it does, it will become the world’s heaviest-lift orbital launch vehicle. The payload is set for a solar orbit very much like a Mars transfer (if it were launched on a different date, it would actually go to Mars).

Falcon Heavy’s first stage is essentially three Falcon 9 first stage cores strapped together, each of which will return to land and be reused, exactly as a Falcon 9’s would be (I had a hand in working on this when I was there). The upper stage is identical to Falcon 9’s.

There’s a lot that can go wrong, especially prior to the separation of the two side cores, as this will be the first time the aerodynamic forces on and internal stresses between the three cores will be experienced for real, as opposed merely to in simulation. Weather is 80% likely to cooperate, but launches can be postponed for other reasons, especially on a maiden flight.

[I haven’t been posting about every Falcon 9 flight anymore because they’ve become so regular as to be boring. In 2017, there were 18 launches, double the number in 2016, and 14 landing attempts. All succeeded.]
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This is the only thing I'll share about Oprah until and unless she actually becomes a real contender, so as not to deprive serious candidates of oxygen. She has consistently promoted charlatanism and mysticism for decades, most notoriously The Secret's "law of attraction". She also, obviously, completely lacks any relevant experience or expertise. In these two respects she has much in common with our current president: unqualified and out of contact with reality.

Of course, she is not a fascist. She hasn't openly promoted the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, nor has she attacked democratic institutions, the press, and the rule of law. If it comes down to her or Trump, I would of course vote for her. But please, let's stop discussing this foolish idea so it doesn't have to come to that.
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If you're interested in exporting your AIM buddy list prior to Dec 15, the existing software and web site don't seem to support that. But there's a workaround.

While logged into aim.com with e.g. Chrome or Firefox, you can enable the network traffic inspector, and you should see a GET request with a URL like so:

https://bos-l015c.httpssl.oscar.aim.net/aim/fetchEvents?aimsid=<NNN>.<NNNNNNNNNN>.<NNNNNNNNNN>%3A<YOUR_SCREENNAME>&seqNum=<NN>&rnd=<NNNNNNNNNN>.<NNNNNN>&timeout=10000&f=json&events=buddylist%2Cconversation%2CpermitDeny%2Cservice%2CmyInfo%2Cpreference

If you just load that URL directly in a separate window of the same browser, it will contain a JSON file of all your contacts.
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‘If we pull back from a narrow focus on incomes and purchasing power, … we see something much more troubling than economic stagnation. Outside a well-educated and comfortable elite comprising 20-25 percent of Americans, we see unmistakable signs of social collapse. We see, more precisely, social disintegration — the progressive unraveling of the human connections that give life structure and meaning: declining attachment to work; declining participation in community life; declining rates of marriage and two-parent childrearing. … What we are witnessing is the human wreckage of a great historical turning point, a profound change in the social requirements of economic life. We have come to the end of the working class.

… This slow-motion catastrophe has been triggered by a fundamental change in how the capitalist division of labor is organized. … The U.S. economy still employs large numbers of less-skilled workers, of course. They exist in plentiful supply, and U.S. labor markets are functional enough to roughly match that supply with demand for it. But all of this is occurring in what are now the backwaters of economic life. The dynamic sectors that propel the whole system forward, and on which hinge hopes for continued improvement in material living conditions, don’t have much need today for callused hands and strong backs—and will have less need every year going forward.

Economists … contrast the current dynamics to the skill-neutral transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy. Then, workers displaced from farm jobs by mechanization could find factory work without first having to acquire any new specialized expertise. By contrast, former steel and autoworkers in the Rust Belt did not have the skills needed to take advantage of the new job opportunities created by the information technology revolution.

… The nightmare of the industrial age was that the dependence of technological civilization on brute labor was never-ending. … Those old nightmares are gone—and for that we owe a prayer of thanks. Never has there been a source of human conflict more incendiary than the reliance of mass progress on mass misery.

… But the old nightmare, alas, has been replaced with a new one. Before, the problem was the immense usefulness of dehumanizing work; now, it is feelings of uselessness that threaten to leach away people’s humanity. Anchored in their unquestioned usefulness, industrial workers could struggle personally to endure their lot for the sake of their families, and they could struggle collectively to better their lot. The working class’s struggle was the source of working-class identity and pride. For today’s post-working-class “precariat,” though, the anchor is gone, and people drift aimlessly from one dead-end job to the next. Being ill-used gave industrial workers the opportunity to find dignity in fighting back. But how does one fight back against being discarded and ignored? Where is the dignity in obsolescence?

The scale of the challenge facing us is immense. What valuable and respected contributions to society can ordinary people not flush with abstract analytical skills make? How can we mend fraying attachments to work, family, and community? There are volumes to write on these subjects, but there is at least one reason for hope. We can hope for something better because, for the first time in history, we are free to choose something better. The low productivity of traditional agriculture meant that mass oppression was unavoidable; the social surplus was so meager that the fruits of civilization were available only to a tiny elite, and the specter of Malthusian catastrophe was never far from view. Once the possibilities of a productivity revolution through energy-intensive mass production were glimpsed, the creation of urban proletariats in one country after another was likewise driven by historical necessity. The economic incentives for industrializing were obvious and powerful, but the political incentives were truly decisive. When military might hinged on industrial success, geopolitical competition ensured that mass mobilizations of working classes would ensue.

No equivalent dynamics operate today. There is no iron law of history impelling us to treat the majority of our fellow citizens as superfluous afterthoughts. A more humane economy, and a more inclusive prosperity, is possible. For example, new technologies hold out the possibility of a radical reduction in the average size of economic enterprises, creating the possibility of work that is more creative and collaborative at a scale convivial to family, community, and polis. All that hold us back are inertia and a failure of imagination—and perhaps a fear of what we have not yet experienced. There is a land of milk and honey beyond this wilderness, if we have the vision and resolve to reach it.’
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