Gödel’s greatest contribution to the fields of metamathematics and logic was this: you can never say only true things without withholding some true statements.i As such, looking from within the murky and unapproachable waters of La Serenissima, what can we say about our little island that hasn’t yet been said? Well, how about this:
It’s like talking to a wall. There’s no use arguing with a cult.
Having always prided myself in maintaining an independence well past the point of sociability, pankkake’s is a perspective worth exploring. Have I unwittingly joined my first cult? God knows he’s not the only one to make such accusations. So is there any merit to this “cult” labeling? And what defines a “cult” anyways?
My perspective on La Serenissima has been most significantly shaped over the last 10 months, during my potentially never-ending IRC Yeshiva: a journey of unexpected and really rather magnificent proportions. Not even a year ago, I was yet another Bitcoin enthusiast with a Twitter account, organizing local meet-ups, signing up merchants, and wondering how to grow my interest into something more substantive. All the while, I was keeping tabs on Trilema, not quite grokking Mircea Popescu’s sexually-oriented symbolism but sensing that I shouldn’t totally ignore the fishy smell, when I read a line he wrote that simply wouldn’t let go of me:ii
#bitcoin-assets: where Bitcoin policy is set.
This was a weirdly powerful hook. It was sticky. At once, I wondered how it could it be that some seemingly random chatroom, rather than the will of Bitcoin enthusiasts everywhere, could determine Bitcoin’s policy, and also what kind of policy there was to set! Wasn’t Bitcoin just an open platform for permissionless innovation for anyone, anywhere, anytime? What could a bunch of crude dudes possibly have to say on the matter, much less influence? For months, these thoughts swirled around in my shoulder-mounted soup bowl, unsure what exactly to make of the idea.
Then, as always happens when one is freed from the banality of the familiar, I found myself with some spare time during a vacation in Mazatlán. Then, there, just like that, the pieces began falling into place. I actually sat down to read the #b-a logs and there I saw conversations unfolding before my very eyes that gave context to Trilema, that gave context to Bitcoin, and that were were so tearfully, blessedly, beautifully over my head that I couldn’t read anything else for weeks. As someone always hunting for an intellectual challenge, I’d never seen anything even remotely like #b-a. At once technical, philosophical, political, and outrageous, it was like a gift wrapped for someone else, and yet just for me.
Today, I’m one of the 437 people in assbot’s L2, one of the 29 in assbot’s L1,iv I’ve started a blog that has since become the second-most influential blog in the space,v I’ve written thousands of lines on IRC, read 500x more that that, I’ve learned enough about Bitcoin business to see that I’m still not ready to start one myself,vi and I’ve consumed a considerable amount of kool-aid on topics ranging from socialism to digital security.vii
While I’m proud of this growth and these accomplishments,viii not to mention the external recognition,ix I’ve garnished in the past year, should I also be proud of the kool-aid? Isn’t kool-aid bad because cults and shit?x
So, of cults and kool-aid: What’s the deal?
Perhaps the most valid parallel between La Serenissima and “cults” as I understand them is that both are organisations, organisations with rules, leaders, and followers. The key distinguishing difference being: productivity.
The new Foundation, the new deeds system, a real Bitcoin news site, and more,xi apparently created ex nihilo from the fertile minds of La Serenissima, are all examples of this productivity. As such, rather than a “cult” per se, where strict obedience and blind adherence to a set of protocols is the order of the day, La Serenissima is more properly viewed as an institution that creates the collisions necessary for growth.xii #bitcoin-assets, like all proper and sustainable institutions, is a platform for business, culture, productivity, and pictures of titties. As such, at least to my eyes, it’s a bastion of civility if not subject to its own flavour of insanity. So let’s talk about this insanity.
Said insanity isn’t the typical religious type requiring fasting, praying, and fucking up one’s children, but rather a devout and self-referential anti-puritanism. La Serenissima’s anti-puritanism is developed from causes rather than towards explicit ideals, and it’s propelled by two incredibly powerful forces and an avowed belief in the righteousness therein. These forces being:
1) The prevailing power and wisdom of logic, and
2) The prevailing power and wisdom of Mircea Popescu.
The latter is undeniably the leading figure in La Serenissima and his command of the former is quite simply unsurpassed in my personal experience on this planet.xiii He’s one of the most masterful wielders of words I’ve come across, and in the hundreds of thousands of words of his that I’ve read, I can scarcely recall an example of his logic or reading of history being trumped.xiv This is what draws me in so.xv He’s a dominant force. And it’s rare that he slow plays his hand, preferring instead to use his commanding chip lead to either force smaller players into submission or else clean them off the table. As efforts to lure intellectual equals like Taleb and TLP have thus far failed,xvi MP’s intellectual, linguistic, and articulate dominance remains largely unmatched. So he remains atop the hill, Doge of this fair city, with logic as his crown.xvii
As such, it’s scarcely surprising that so many of those in La Serenissima clamour for his approval, implicitly if not explicitly. I know I’m certainly guilty of this. After all, he’s really the guiding hand of this whole shebang. It only makes sense that his blessing would be sought after, if not in fact sine qua non for success.
This is sort of the unwritten agreement, intentionally or not. Get in the WoT and get on Mircea’s good side or you have a snowball’s chance in hell of mattering in Bitcoin. Since mattering is exactly what those in La Serenissima desire, it’s little wonder that #bitcoin-assets has created such a strong immune system around itself to keep out the pretenders. You really are in or you really are out. And the only way to get in is to submit to the simple fact that you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.
Basically, if you don’t agree with MP on a subject of import, you will. ‘Tis only a matter of time. There’s little gray area here, which is sorta how the cold crown of logic works. Again, this is another strange aspect of La Serenissma that makes little to no sense from the outside. How can one fucking dude be right every fucking time? I don’t get it either but I’ve certainly learned not to have any pretenses of knowledge. No way in hell would I ever ask what the definition of a word means by guessing based on its “context.” I’d be shot on sight.
While this creates a degree of black-and-white thinking for the newbies, and therefore the majority, it also creates a far more focused and disciplined mind in those that survive their education and progress into adulthood. In time, and only in time, this adult brain can consider alternative perspectives. Until then, it’s assumed that the child brain is there to be trained, not asked its uninformed opinion. This approach may be as unfamiliar to the western reader as the smell of burning flesh but this type of education has no shortage of successful historical precedent, and therefore validity.
The lines between teacher and student are what naturally separate institutions into leaders and followers. La Serenissima is no different here. This makes sense too. Child brains are for following and adult brains are for leading, which isn’t to say that one can’t progress or revert to the other. It happens all the damn time. In the forward direction it’s called “individuation” and in the reverse it’s called “senility” and both are a part of pretty regular life. N.B. That these processes are also independent of age. You can be 40 yo and have a child brain. But what of it? Not everyone is cut out to be a leader any more than everyone is cut out to be 7′ tall, y’know?
It’s not all “O noes those poor manchildren” or anything. Being a follower really ain’t half bad for the simple reason that it’s less mentally demanding.xviii Less independence means less responsibility means less worries, mon! A follower, if adequately trusting of their leader, needn’t even verify a leader’s instructions.xix Independent on the task, however, obeying instructions liberates the follower from determining whether or not an action is necessary, providing some measure of relief, if not completely oblating guilt should the task fail to achieve its desired result despite the follower’s correct execution.
This is essentially the “kool-aid,” that which I drank, and largely still drink, with regards to digital security among others. I defer to the adult brains like Stan D. because my child brain hasn’t sufficiently developed for me to have my own opinions on the matter. With my background in fine arts, philosophy, economics, and microbiology, what could I possibly, independently!, bring to the table on matters of infosec? What am I gonna do, argue that iPads are totally legit storage devices for PGP keys? No, so I defer to the experts, quietly fiddling with the edges here and there, slowly accumulating experience until I have something of value to offer.xx
Taking something at face value is an efficient means to an end, but like everything efficient, is fragile. A leader’s instructions are necessarily more narrow than the space comprising all possible solutions to a given problem. This is a result of both the “need to know basis” and the “I don’t have all day to explain to you why using Windows is insane” effects. As such, unforeseen circumstances can throw wrenches in the followers’ gears that wouldn’t have slowed down the leader. This has the disadvantage of imperfect execution and the advantage of increased first-hand learning.
In many ways, with an understanding leader in charge, this is the ideal scenario: followers are given a bit of rope and will either hang themselves or learn how to make a snare trap so they can eat. On balance, over the past year, I’d have to say that my experience with La Serenissima has been the less hangy of these two alternatives. I’ve learned more about computing, finance, business, and marketing than I could’ve imagined and I owe everyone there a great deal of gratitude.
This isn’t to say, from some perspectives, that I haven’t tried to hang myself. I have. From the outside looking in at this institution-cum-“cult,” my regurgitation and therefore implicit condonation of rape and sexual slavery, whether I intended these terms in the literalxxi or simply as useful metaphors for dominationxxii, isn’t always clearly conveyed to the reader.xxiii As such, some hot water have I brought to boil with friends and family. Certainly nothing irresolvable, and no interventions have yet been attempted, but being a Reactionary isn’t always smooth sailing.
All of which is to say that while La Serenissima shares some qualities of a “cult”, it’s more properly viewed as a productive institution that’s at once a stronghold of logic, the home of MP, and a corrosive offering to the world.
Frankly, I love it. Whether you choose to take it or leave it is entirely up to you and comes down to whether you desire to make productive contributions to Bitcoin, and therefore the world, or whether you’re content to cheer from the sidelines.
And so it goes. And so it flows. That kool-aid. That cult.
___ ___ ___
- Gödel’s two most famous propositions are as follows: Proposition VI may be stated as “If the formal system P satisfies a certain condition of ‘consistency’, then there is at least one recursive class-sign r in P such that neither v Gen r nor Neg (v Gen r) is ‘provable within P, where v Gen r is the generalization of r with respect to its free variable v.” Proposition XI may be stated as “If the formal system P is ‘consistent, its ‘consistency’ is ‘unprovable’ within P.” via Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme I by Kurt Gödel, 1931, with introduction by R.B. Braithwaite, 1962. [↩]
- Though I can’t currently find the linkable source! [↩]
- Ah, I remember the pre-(+m) days well! [↩]
- Making me a Bitcoin Lord, by some reckoning. [↩]
- Trilema being the first, and this second, incidentally, being created at the request of the author of that first. Is it any wonder you see so many Trilema quotes on these pages?
And if you don’t think Contravex is as influential as I claim, you didn’t see me roast the lead figure of the Bitcoin populare on a spit for all the world to see. This is where shit goes down. Way more people read these pages than you might guess, not least of all in Fuzhou! [↩]
- That’s the dream, ain’t it? And if Apocalyptic, who just cleanly closed down altcoin exchange X-BT, and mike_c, who just cleanly closed down perimutuel betting game War of Life, couldn’t hack it, fewer than we might imagine actually can. It’s a bit of a quagmire to legitimately persuade Bitcoin holders to part with their coins. Illegitimately convincing them is considerably easier, which has everything to do with target demographics. [↩]
- I didn’t begin life as an anti-socialist, but when you take shit to its logical conclusion, it’s kinda hard not to, y’know? Unlike Citizens of Fiat, Citizens of Bitcoin don’t proceed on feelings alone. Feelings end conversations whereas logic keeps them going no matter how much it hurts. No matter how much! It’s for the greater good. [↩]
- Whether you think me a Lord or not, or whether I think myself a Lord or not, I’m one of the freest and most well-read motherfuckers you’ve come across. For, on top of 1-2 hours a day of logs over the past year, I’ve also read 50+ books, just as I have for the past several consecutive years. And no Hunger Potter shit either. Real fucking books. Ones written before you were born. So if you think 2014 was an impressive year, I’m just getting started. I’m still young! [↩]
- External recognition from people one has not and may never meet is strange. The nearest thing I can compare it to in meatspace is when Nana receives a signed letter from the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Premier, her MLA, and her MP for her 100th birthday. These pieces of scrip mean exactly jack shit to the world at large but they very much mean something to her. This is a bit how it feels to be a “Bitcoin Lord.” I’ve recognized people of importance in the world and they’ve in turn recognized me.
It’s hugely satisfying, quite the stroke of one’s ego, and not surprisingly addictive, though it means very little to anyone I’m likely to come across in my day-to-day. It’s very much like having an alter-ego, like being Superman in the telephone booth and only in the telephone booth. [↩]
- Because trolls! [↩]
- Including Pierre Rochard’s upcoming accounting software! [↩]
- “Institutions” being used in the way North and Thomas used the term in their 1973 paper Rise of the Western World, wherein they “made a distinction between what they argued were the proximate, and the fundamental determinants of economic growth. The thrust of their argument was that while it is clear that rich countries have greater levels of total factor productivity (TFP), more educated workers (human capital) and more machines, tools and factories (physical capital), to say this is not an explanation of the sources of differences in prosperity. Rather, it is just to re-describe what it means to be prosperous.”
via Institutions, Human Capital and Development by Acemoglu et al., 2014. With productivity such as we’ve seen, doesn’t La Serenissima sound like a pretty fucking rich country to you? [↩]
- It’s little wonder he’s toyed with the idea of attending law school, if only for shits, giggles, and gals. He’s already fit to be Argentina’s judge, jury, and executioner. [↩]
- Not that it doesn’t happen! I never said it doesn’t happen!!1 [↩]
- And undoubtedly what repels others with equal and opposing force, independence of mind, or of anything for that matter, being one of the western world’s shared values and myths. Lots of people hate Taleb for many of the same reasons. Too angry! Too much ego!!1 etc. [↩]
- Yet even these two are far more specialised than Mircea, who commands respect in more domains than I can reasonably enumerate. [↩]
- Logic makes for an insanely sane crown. It’s going to sting for all those emotionally-driven folks out there, sure, I’m just not sure I can see my way to a more sensical nor sensible arrangement. This is that very unfair perspective. Again. And again and afuckingain over and over until there’s nothing left. [↩]
- At least once you get over your own ego that tells you that you’re too smart, too mature, too good to listen to anyone but yourself (and the talking heads on TV). [↩]
- Now whether this is indeed the case is dependent on the task itself as well as the follower’s own ability and interest in verification. [↩]
- Just as you do with Bitcoin. [↩]
- Not particularly. [↩]
- This, much more so. [↩]
- Just like the Torah, Contravex isn’t always meant to be taken literally. The point of these pages is provocation. So ya, there’s a 95% chance you’re gonna hate me. What can I say… Read between the lines? [↩]