106 Comments
Jan 10, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

During the current winter lockdown (EU-based) I've had bouts of crushing loneliness. I've also come to the (honestly quite chilling) realization that despite how important relationships are to me, I've never been intentional about fostering/deepening human connection.

Your writing resonates and feels authentic, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on that cluster of topics.

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Jan 10, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

Everybody is talking about decentralized platforms to replace the functionality of social media. The other possibility is to look for overseas platforms that have some independence from US infra providers.

Arguments for this are spread inside other posts as well eg middle-eastern revolts without the platform taken down. Foreign platforms were used, the situation is bad but far from home, so no issue was brought up.

The mentality is that you roam to a place that doesn't care about your opinions to have an uninhibited online presence. Somehow this sounds less bad than a place that actively tries to silence your opinions.

Of course, I applaud the attempts to launch decentralized solutions because one of the motives is bringing change to your local living environment for the better.. Either that or the aversion of reading/working in other languages is high.

Anyway, this just happens to be the harder path in comparison to alternative ideas. I find this uncharacteristic of the human/engineering mentality, we're lazy.

Don't read into this too seriously please, it's just some rambling.

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I haven't yet tried your suggestions in "On stress and comfort" for improving one's mood - I must do so! - but I seem to be having good success with omega 3 fish oil capsules, which by now have a bunch of scientific evidence backing their use for treating depression. I'm really excited about them. I want to point out three additional things about their use: one, the medicine colestyramine interferes with their absorption, even though this isn't stated on the medicine information leaflet or in some online databases of interactions, so if like me you take colestyramine, try to leave at least 6 hours between the colestyramine and the fish oil capsules. (I would recommend always consulting any provided information and then at least TWO online sources of interaction information, whenever adding a new supplement or medicine to your daily routine, because adverse interactions aren't always widely known.) Two, you really need to eat a meal or snack containing fatty foods at around the same time as you take the fish oil capsules, to prime your body to absorb the omega 3 fatty acids in the fish oil capsules. And three, evidence suggests that the best time to take them is in the evening, because they can help sleep as well.

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Jan 10, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

What are some good Signal, Mastodon, Urbit, whatever groups? I'd love to just exit the left of center mainstream, but all the good content still lives there, and there's a discoverability problem (feature?) with all the decentralized stuff.

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Jan 10, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

We don't want the world to burn. What's our Schelling point and our North Star? "Get good at life", yeah?

(I'd prefer Jesus Christ, but even then there are very many fake Christians who want to burn the world out of resentment. And there are many decent non-Christians.)

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Jan 9, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

Why can’t we go back to running blogs and using rss readers again?

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Feb 13, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

More book reviews!

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Jan 10, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

How about telegram?

It would be interesting to know what values you bring to the world. Maybe there is a post on this that I missed?

Also, as you told about your 1-year goals could you plz tell about your more long-term goals.

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Jan 9, 2021Liked by Slava Akhmechet

This is a great move. The only thing I'm on is Twitter...For crypto. Other than that, it's a hot mess. We'd all be better off if it was shut down. Social media in general.

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First off, I've been thinking more thoughtfully about how I consume media and organizing my time more effectively thanks to your writing. I already have five books chosen on one subject - the period of Reconstruction - based on your blog post about how to organize my reading . So thanks for that mental model.

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I've been trying to understand the outrage on hacker news / twitter / etc about the trump twitter ban (by both loonies on left and right).. It surprised me, how many ppl think this is a bad move.. Then I realized.. European and American attitudes toward free speech is totally different, just as they are diametric opposite when it comes to gun laws and also fairly divergent when it comes to free market regulation, environment and food standards.. We truly see the world differently in many ways.. Re free speech, I think the 2nd half of this article gets to the point really well:

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2017-03-19/free-speech-in-europe-isn-t-what-americans-think

Free speech isn't a rule of nature. It's an invention of humans. It's a nice (and seemingly necessary idea) for a civilized society to function, but the American's resistance to tinker with a 200-300 year old idea (even a bit) is perverse and borderline insane to me. Society functions completely differently today compared to how it worked when these ideas took root at first. It logically follows that as you change parameters of a system (connectivity of humanity + speed and cost of spreading dangerous and incorrect ideas via platforms like twitter) our notion of free speech should evolve too.

I think, the historically very strong (compared to other countries) libertarian influence in American intellectual discourse creates a dangerous blind spot here that really doesn't help this debate.. Just as libertarians argue for the magical invisible hand of free market to solve everything (which is conclusively and provably false), they pollute the free speech argument with the same non-sensical idea: bad ideas will be combated with better ideas in the market of ideas. This is obviously not true for several reasons.

1. Firstly, (and again obviously) this presupposes that in the population there's roughly an equal propensity for complex information processing, which is necessary to form informed opinions on most important topics of today's world (climate change, nuclear deterrence, power dynamics and minority groups, animal rights, effective altruism, etc, etc). This is clearly not the case.

2. We know from cognitive psychology how incredibly hard it is to change someone's opinion, especially if it's linked to his/her identity at some level (which most opinions we care about in public discourse - see above - are).

3. We know that the platforms in question don't optimize for information correctness when generating the feed but instead for engagement metrics (because, more engagement means more time spent there, which translates to more ads showed in our face to buy shit we don't need). Plus we know that abhorrent and outrageous content spreads an order of magnitude faster than boring, true, complex content on these platforms. Given these two facts about the nature of these platforms and information spreading on them, how on earth would a good idea stand a fair chance against the torrent of unchecked bullshit and conspiracy theories? How on earth this childishly naïve libertarian idea of free market of ideas would ever materialize? It won't, it cannot, it does not. Hence we have ppl believing in 2021 that the earth is flat, that vaccines cause autism and that the 2020 US election was fraudulent.

Overall, Americans need to get over themselves and simply realize that what some old wrinkly blokes thought 300 years ago isn't the pinnacle of great human ideas and certainly not the software we should be running our incredibly complex modern societies on. They had some nice idealistic ideas (which they violently disregarded btw), that have brilliant insights that need further work and updating, just like every other part of our moral landscape. In this case, it's quite clear to most ppl outside the US, that if you combine classical free speech with the amplification of modern social media platforms you get Trump and Capitol hill chaos and you get looting and riots too (yes this goes both ways).

Let's move onto the question of how. How exactly it is best to moderate free speech? Clearly the blunt and ad-hoc censorship is suboptimal (even if it's currently probably necessary). But zooming out it becomes evident that Trump is just the ugly symptom of the larger problem here (unchecked free speech + amplification = recipe for disaster) and without a comprehensive discussion and policy around this, it'll get worse.

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Top books everyone must read?

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Why not stay on Twitter and continue to use it as a public square until such time as something forces you off platform? Is this a decision of principle?

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i’m really sadden, but how do we rebuild decentralized communities? i loved twitter because you, and others like solana, cyantist, webdevMason, etc taught me so much about investing, start ups, libertarianism, software engineering etc. it was an incredible place to learn, while banning right leaning accounts doesn’t apply to me, how long before they come for my ideas, how can we make sure no one has this power of censorship again in a decentralized world? and more important where can we build a community were i can learn from the people i love while not supporting people like dorsey and their platform

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What are some of your learnings from creating RethinkDB and eventually failing to create a sustainable business around it?

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Let's make new platform in Lisp! (jk, had to write that since I found you looong way back through Emacs blogpost). I am glad you are leaving behind this abomination of platform (tw). I was joining various networks and groups in past year or so, nothing did stick to the wall. So currently I am just reading you and Moldbug on substack and that's kinda it sadly. If something pops up I will be more than glad to join.

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I guess for many of us leaving Twitter / FB will come with a huge FOMO effect and also the severance of (mostly artificial, but no less useful) social ties. Moving to new platforms and asking good friends to do the same will break some of the weak ties (which are very useful for finding references, jobs, etc.) and will also deepen the echo chambers most of us are in. Just my 2c.

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The topic I'd like to discuss with honorable author of this thread and its community is the permanent silencing of POTUS by major social and communication platforms. Personally I'm yet to take a strong position on this. On one hand these are private, for profit organizations, with shareholders, customers and for the lack of better word values. Also they're free to decide who can and who cannot use their services, just like all of us are at liberty to choose whom to welcome to our private residences. Finally, freedom of speech is never absolute, nor was it meant to be. One should not scream "fire" in a crowded theater, when there is none. One should have no platform to trigger violence, descrimination and such. These were the arguments supporting the action taken. The counter argument is that such deeds seriously deminish reputation of the office of POTUS which will have long lasting effects. Another thought is that a revolution against tyranny (real or imaginary) is never legal from perspective of existing laws, and thus, by definition is always unlawful and often violent. And yet, during arab spring and other colorful revolutions of the past decade these platforms never silenced opposition and often were instrumental in regime changes. Isn't this a school case of hipocracy (not that I'm surprised by it)? To what point private enterprises should provide platforms to elected officials or any citizen for that matter? Should there be a line where "dangerous" individuals be excommunicated? Perhaps the answer lies in competition between various platforms and their respective censorship policies or lack of there of. But then, our social fabric will be even more fragmented, with each group following its own tunnel.

Sherlock.

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I've struggled with the Twitter question myself —

On one hand, it's the most toxic force in modern society. Personally, I believe it's almost entirely responsible for the Trump phenomena, the Trump derangement phenomena, the regression of social progress into woke culture, and a myriad of other things. No question that media institutions help with all of it, but the power of Twitter is that it speaks perfectly to pseudo-intellectuals with short attention spans, which is the entire middle class (and above) in this day and age. It's made celebrities of some of the most hateful people on the planet, people who would otherwise have no platform whatsoever as they couldn't string together two ideas in a discussion or long form text.

But on the other, it has a monopolistic position in its particular specialty of public political discourse, and there's nothing else even close in being able to reach a massive number of people. I run a blog, but almost all my engagement comes from social channels — practically no one is running RSS anymore. Substack and co. might be a little better, but your subscribers stay fixed without other channels for promotion (e.g. Twitter).

Twitter's deplatforming of wrongthink is concerning, but I'm not sure that checking out is the right answer either. If enough people quit, it'll become less important, but I'm not sure that I see that happening anytime soon, and in the meantime, it'll just mean an Overton Window that keeps sliding further into the realm of depravation. Hopefully something cracks eventually, but in the meantime there's nothing to push back on the Twitter elite continuing to influence public policy in destructive ways.

What pushed you over the edge, and do you have plans for expanding your readership sans Twitter, Facebook, and co.?

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I’m still stuck on your recipe for hiring rock star engineers who solve the hard probs in 15 min, and like “how the fuck do I even identify who those people are, to get to interview them?”

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What finally put you over the edge?

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What's the likelihood that a decentralized Twitter-like service will become a viable competitor within the next 5 years?

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Brave decision. How do you plan to deal with FOMO or maybe only missing out? I really get a lot of great inputs from Twitter.

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What do you think about Urbit? Are you maybe going over some time in the future?

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Thanks.

I wanted to ask about your opinion on the essential things one should acquire to make an impact on technology? How to shift the path of technology? What are the paths to work on great futuristic tech products?

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Hi Slava,

In Peter Thiel's Zero to One, he says that we are not making great technological progress in general, except Information Technology. What's your take on that?

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Did you see that AWS is blocking Parler from their services because they don’t believe they are doing enough to manage speech on their platform? Scary precedent, maybe scarier than the Twitter/FB actions IMO. AWS is so dominant that they become the de-facto speech police if this kind of stuff goes without pushback. I used to think that free speech/libertarian philosophies would never become a real differentiator in the market, but I’m starting to believe that it is more possible it will become a major differentiator.

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Which projects seem the most interesting or promising in providing solutions to users who can't trust central tech platforms?

For a while, de-centralized tech seemed unnecessary, it's a pain to use (IRC much?) and people running tech platforms will be neutral enough, right? However, after seeing AWS ban Parler, it seems centralized tech platforms can't be trusted. As such, I'm really curious which projects seem the most interesting or promising to you in providing solutions to users who can't trust central tech platforms?

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Have you considered using Mastodon? It is FOSS and allows anyone to host their own server node in the network.

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I live in DC and have worked on the Hill so I'm mostly just sad about the events of this week. Not sure at all how to deal with the awful political culture we have or even how to begin to bridge divides. Utterly demoralizing week.

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What's a thing you're especially high conviction about that others are missing? Also, is it "easy" for you to be contrarian, sometimes curmudgeonly, because of your personality? And does that make you more or less right in your thinking?

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