Memia on Sunday 15-May-2022: Network swarm deplatforming...who's next?🐝// Terra Infirma📉💥// re-tasting the pickle🥒// Elondrop🪣// design after capitalism💭// what we owe the future🔮
Five hundred million years away from the sterilisation of the Earth by the Sun
Welcome to Memia on Sunday - your regular collection of longer reads and deeper thinks. Hope you’re having a relaxing (wet here) weekend!
In today’s edition:
Russia has been economically deplatformed by the Western “open source network swarm” - who’s next?
Terra Infirma - this week leading cryptotoken $LUNA lost close to 100% of its value in 2 days… a digest of commentary and reflection on the bigger picture.
Re-tasting the pickle - a deeper examination of Jonathan Rowson’s extensive essay sense-making the many aspects of the Meta-Crisis
Plus…the usual set of Weekend exploring links and Weekenders.
Enjoy your Sunday,
🐝Western “network swarm” deplatforming…who’s next?
Like many I’ve been jolted to attention by shocking footage of aggressive Israeli riot police in full body armour breaking up the funeral procession of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh yesterday. (She was allegedly shot by Israeli Defence Force while wearing a blue “PRESS” vest covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.)
I follow John Robb’s commentary on how the Western “open source network swarm” (made up of mainstream but mainly social media loosely “directing” politics and politicians) has been largely responsible for the economic deplatforming of Russia in the last few months, in response to its atrocities in Ukraine (on a whole other scale from Israel, admittedly). It’s a credible lens through which to interpret current events - here’s a clip from him talking on the subject with podcaster Jack Murphy in March:
“[Russia] has been turned into North Korea in the matter of a week“
(Full podcast here).
I wonder if the “swarm” might now start to turn its attention elsewhere … as Robb has previously anticipated, Israel seems like the prime candidate:
In amongst the continuing capital markets downturn, a major cryptocurrency ecosystem collapsed this week. Terra is…
“…a blockchain protocol that uses fiat-pegged stablecoins to power price-stable global payments systems. According to its white paper, Terra combines the price stability and wide adoption of fiat currencies with the censorship-resistance of Bitcoin (BTC) and offers fast and affordable settlements.
Development on Terra began in January 2018, and its mainnet officially launched in April 2019. As of September 2021, it offers stablecoins pegged to the U.S. dollar, South Korean won, Mongolian tugrik and the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies — and it intends to roll out additional options.
Terra's native token, LUNA, is used to stabilize the price of the protocol's stablecoins. LUNA holders are also able to submit and vote on governance proposals, giving it the functionality of a governance token.
Terra was founded in January 2018 by Daniel Shin and Do Kwon. The two conceived of the project as a way to drive the rapid adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency through a focus on price stability and usability. Kwon took on the position of CEO of Terraform Labs, the company behind Terra.”
This week, as a result of what looks like a coordinated attack on UST (Terra’s US Dollar-pegged “stable”-coin), UST seriously lost its tether (currently hovering around $US0.2):
The algorithmically counter-balanced $LUNA token imploded in a matter of days and nearly US$30 billion of value has seemingly evaporated:
These are big numbers. $UST and $LUNA were considered “safe” crypto assets - some VCs, hedge funds and individuals have lost much of their net worth (on paper) in just a few days. Ouch.
After a few false starts to stabilise the system, the Terra blockchain was temporarily halted and since restarted - the community has now started licking its wounds and looking for a way forward…
There are plenty of analyses of how the attack was mounted out there… this thread is a comprehensive breakdown if you’re interested in the mechanics:
And this one marvels at the elegance of the attack, with echoes of George Soros’ “Black Wednesday“ squeeze on the UK Pound in 1992:
A number of warnings had been made before about exactly this attack vector. This tweet from Terra CEO Do Kwon hasn’t exactly aged well…
FreddieRaynolds @FreddieRaynoldsA few weeks ago I responded to @tbr90’s tweet with a brief outline of how a wealthy attacker could not only break @terra_money but profit heavily doing it with a Soros style Black Wednesday attack. Below I provide a detailed breadown...~$1B capital needed. https://t.co/MIbSH3Lwpq
Kyla Scanlon as always gives her comprehensive and insightful breakdown of events here: UST and USD: Everything is Monetary Policy, and looks for “where to” from here (my bolding):
“There are other types of stablecoins like Tether, DAI, and USDC … and they are essentially utility tokens that are meant to bring stableness, payment systems, store of value, etc.
An important note is that Tether, DAI, USDC are all collateralized - USDC and Tether are fiat-backed and DAI is backed by ether and other crypto.
UST is simply not backed. There is nothing there but vibes.
…Bank runs are the entire reason that the Federal Reserve exists, which is why I am personally interested to see if there will be some sort of entity that rises from this for the crypto ecosystem that acts similar to the Fed….
…[USD] Monetary policy is basically vibes at this point.“
In terms of whether (and how) they manage to successfully reboot the Terra ecosystem… one option would be just to do a hard fork and rewind it back to before the attack began… unlikely to inspire ongoing confidence, though.
There’s been some superb trolling out there:
Dan McArdle looks at the bigger picture, we’ve been here plenty of times before:
“So by comparison one top-ten coin blowing up, representing less than 5% of total crypto mcap, doesn't phase (sic) me too much. But maybe I've just seen too many things at this point.“
My take: there’s been faster technology innovation happening at greater scale in DeFi in the last few years than anything that central-bank-managed fiat currency ecosystems could manage (even including China). They moved fast. They *really* broke things. But software bugs get fixed and then the system restarts and carries on. After the current across-the-board major asset bubble contraction comes to an end, those new technology platforms which have sustainable utility (not just NFT-based Griftech) will regain traction and more rational investment logic will perhaps return.
(See also Saving Capital Markets below).
🥒Re-tasting the pickle
One of the links which I glossed over was British philosopher Jonathan Rowson’s humungous Feb 2021 essay “Tasting the Pickle: Ten flavours of meta-crisis and the appetite for a new civilisation”
(I have to admit not reading it all the way through before linking to it in the newsletter… obviously that never happens usually …😅)
Firstly, a bit about Jonathan, clearly a hyper-intelligent guy:
“Jonathan Rowson is a writer, philosopher and chess Grandmaster who was British Chess Champion from 2004-2006. He holds degrees from Oxford, Bristol, and Harvard, was the former director of the Social Brain Center at the RSA, and an Open Society Fellow. He is co-founder and director of Perspectiva, a research institute that examines the relationships between complex global challenges and the inner lives of human beings.”
Well I had some time on a plane (!) to read in full this week and there are so many ideas, theories, metaphors, frameworks in there… if you have the opportunity, delve into this long, very dense but richly flavoured meditation on various schools of thought for reframing models through which to perceive the physical, social and political world we exist in.
In particular, this section of impressions of what kind of future humanity might aim for was a highlight for me, more subtle and balanced than most other writers I’ve come across:
“Whatever the precise model or terminology, it seems clear that the desirable destination is less like a new place and more like a renewing and regenerative process that will include several features:
A relatively balanced picture of self in society, free from the alienation of excessive individualism and the coercion of collectivism, with autonomy grounded in commons resources and ecological interdependence.
A more refined perception of the nature of the world, in which discrete things are seen for what they have always been – evolving processes.
A dynamic appreciation of our minds, which are not blank slates that magically become ‘rational’ but constantly evolving living systems that are embodied, encultured, extended and deep.
An experience of ‘society’ that is not merely given, but willingly received or co-constructed through the interplay of evolving imaginative capacity.
A perspective on the purpose of life that is less about status through material success and more about the intrinsic rewards of learning, beauty and meaning.
An understanding of our relationship with nature that is less about extraction of resources for short-term profit and more about wise ecological stewardship (some would add, for the benefit of all beings).
Patterns of governance that are less about power being centralised, corrupt and unaccountable and more ‘glocal’, polycentric, transparent and responsive.
A relationship to technology in which we are not beholden to addictive gadgets and platforms but truly sovereign over our behaviour, and properly compensated for the use of our data. (And where, in Frankfurt’s terms, we ‘want what we want to want’.)
An economy designed not to create aggregate profit for the richest, but the requisite health and education required for everyone to live meaningful lives free of coercion on an ecologically sound planet.
A world with a rebalancing of power and resources from developed to developing worlds, and men to women, and present to future generations.”
A few more sifted links to onward reading and watching…
The Demise of the nation state
From 2018: Novelist Rana Dasgupta’s comprehensive essay on The Demise of the Nation State:
“…Contemporary technological systems offer models for rethinking citizenship so it can be de-linked from territory, and its advantages can be more fairly distributed. The rights and opportunities accruing to western citizenship could be claimed far away, for instance, without anyone having to travel to the west to do so. We could participate in political processes far away that nonetheless affect us: if democracy is supposed to give voters some control over their own conditions, for instance, should a US election not involve most people on earth? What would American political discourse look like, if it had to satisfy voters in Iraq or Afghanistan?
On the eve of its centenary, our nation-state system is already in a crisis from which it does not currently possess the capacity to extricate itself. It is time to think how that capacity might be built. We do not yet know what it will look like. But we have learned a lot from the economic and technological phases of globalisation, and we now possess the basic concepts for the next phase: building the politics of our integrated world system.”
A few weeks ago, as Elon Musk had finalised his Twitter bid, Balaji Srinivasan was promulgating his thoughts on The Elondrop:
“Build the political support necessary to free Twitter with the largest airdrop in history.
Elon should go over the heads of the establishment to offer all Twitter users a deal: every account worldwide gains full control over their username in a crypto wallet, plus a share of Twitter's new coin, if they can help him get the requisite legal clearance in their jurisdictions and the acquisition goes through. This brings most of the 217 million Twitter users – including the 179 million who are non-American – into the fight.
In the meantime, he's not sitting around till Oct 24 waiting for approval. Instead, he sets up a parallel site where users can log in with Twitter to vote for the Elondrop. That login mechanism serves as a rough voter registration step. And the group who thereby votes for Elon serves as a worldwide constituency, one he can point to each day as evidence of his growing grassroots support.
In short, Elon runs the first truly global political campaign, gaining an activist following in every country, incentivizing people and policymakers alike to Align with Elon for global freedom and prosperity. Any establishment attempt to oppose this will be seen for what it is: a ploy to digitally disenfranchise the users of Twitter, to stop them from gaining a share of the wealth they've created, to take away the following they've built, to buttress an illegitimate regime that survives only by silencing its subjects.”
(Events have moved on…Musk put his Twitter acquisition “temporarily on hold” a few days ago - nominally because he’s questioning the number of fake accounts, and nothing at all to do with the ongoing market crash / haggling on price / eking out as much attention oxygen from this Twitter saga / distracting from Tesla product recalls…)
🌐Decentralization, beyond blockchains
Cory Doctorow’s writing is always excellent - most recently: A useful, critical taxonomy of decentralization, beyond blockchains.
Also, a couple of new / forthcoming books to add to my ever-lengthening reading list:
💭Design after capitalism
“The designed things, experiences, and symbols that we use to perceive, understand, and perform our everyday lives are much more than just props. They directly shape how we live. In Design after Capitalism, Matthew Wizinsky argues that the world of industrial capitalism that gave birth to modern design has been dramatically transformed. Design today needs to reorient itself toward deliberate transitions of everyday politics, social relations, and economies. Looking at design through the lens of political economy, Wizinsky calls for the field to transcend the logics, structures, and subjectivities of capitalism—to combine design entrepreneurship with social empowerment in order to facilitate new ways of producing those things, symbols, and experiences that make up everyday life.“
🔮What we owe the future
(Thanks @InaBeek for flagging this one - released later this year.) Some long range thinking in here, for sure:
“We are remarkably early in the story of human civilisation.
We are still five hundred million years away from the sterilisation of the Earth by the Sun, and one hundred trillion years away from the dying of the last stars. Leaving a shard of broken glass on the ground may harm someone tomorrow or one hundred thousand years hence. Our duty of care to each of those individuals is the same.
Positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time. This is the idea fuelling a burgeoning movement of longtermist thinkers- it explains why Elon Musk is trying to colonise Mars and why Jeff Bezos spent $42 million on a clock that will last 10,000 years.
Yet future peoples are completely disenfranchised - they can't lobby or vote for change. As we lock in today the global values and systems that will outlast us by eons, let's not forget the many left to come whose quality of life is in our hands.”
🐜Subterranean ant city
Check out the video footage in this thread digging out a massive abandoned ant colony. Nature is beautiful.
As simple as that?
Finally, thanks to regular Memia correspondent Saya Wahrlich for suggesting this simple 3-hour Neural Networks self-learning online course, which may be of interest to any readers curious to gain a more practical understanding of how ML works:
To end with…
God Emperor Trump
This turned up randomly in my feed this week… at first I thought it was an augmented reality creation… but apparently as far as I can tell this is a real, gigantic animated statue of then-US President Trump at 2019’s Carnevale Di Viareggio in Italy. (Love the little Rudy on his shoulder… and obviously predates his deplatforming from Twitter…!)
Saving Capital Markets
I hesitate to share this brutal meme on the current capital market meltdown… darkly funny (but set to gritty Saving Private Ryan footage, not for the feint-hearted…)
Kia ora Taranaki
And finally, look up!
Catch you again on Wednesday…