An irony about the price of Bitcoin

If you cornered the gold market it’s value would probably increase. Allegedly this is what De Beers has done with diamonds. Warren Buffet also allegedly tried to corner the silver market. However, if one person cornered the Bitcoin market its value would plummet to 0 because people would switch to an alt-coin or start over using our current knowledge rather than buy them from a monopoly source. Conversely, if we could somehow get bitcoins in everyone’s hands in proportion to their current wealth or equally per-capita Bitcoin’s utility and thus its value would skyrocket. One of the benefits of the mining process is it allows the coin to gradually diffuse into the population and gradually increase in value. In my mind its still a flaw that the unknown founder has so many.

The other benefit of mining of course is security. Bitcoin security also benefits from a high value. The higher the value and the longer it’s been around the more confidence we can have that it is secure.

In this way there is an element of a self fulfilling prophecy with Bitcoin because another person buying a bitcoin not only increases the price but also increases the usefulness of Bitcoin as a whole. However unlike an MLM which would have its business model collapse if everyone joined Bitcoin would be much more useful if everyone joined.

Because wealth follows a power law with the top few percent controlling a vast share of wealth it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Free Books Related to the Singularity

These are in the order of how interesting I found them. The first is very graphic so I’d advise against reading it if you are young or easily offended.

Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect
my review

[Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols]

Harry Potter Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Artificial Evil

Accelerando
my review

Rapture of the Nerds

I don’t know, Timmy, being God is a big responsibility

Skyhunter

Manna

The Egg

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

Robots Will Steal Your Job but That’s Ok

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz

I am thoroughly enjoying this book which in many ways builds upon the work of Gary Taubes on the health effects of dietary fat. One intriguing piece of data that the book brings in is the fact that the Maasai warriors of Africa, like the Inuit, who were mentioned in Good Calories, Bad Calories, also ate a diet that was almost devoid of carbohydrates and they still enjoyed fantastic health with a near complete absence of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

The book also delves into the pathological science that characterized the widespread adoption, in the U.S., of the hypothesis that fat and saturated fat were bad for the heart. However, here is why I find the case of the Masai and the Inuit so interesting. Rather than attempt to sort through all the biases and experimental errors and epidemiological studies that characterized man’s attempt to study diet I think the question can be more simply addressed by looking at first principles.

If you were feeding a squirrel in a zoo you would look at what it ate in the wild. That’s it. One could design a entirely new substance that might make a squirrel live slightly longer, hypothetically that is possible and this is essentially the claim that was made with vegetable oils, margarine, and crisco. While this is hypothetically possible the burden of proof for such a tactic would be high.

What is exciting about the Maasai and the Inuit is the results of their diet were extreme by modern standards. This was no slight association of the type the media is constantly trumpeting after epidemiological studies. This was a complete or virtually complete absence of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Moreover, there is a question raised by the paleo diet of how much our genes have adapted since the advent of agriculture. Paleo diet proponents assert that there has not been enough time for substantial changes. I do not know how they establish this. I would imagine some change starts right away, for example most people in the world are lactose intolerant. However the Massai are cattle herders and eat a lot of milk so anyone in this group who was hyper sensitive to milk would probably have died off right away. Its not impossible that whites and asians developed intolerance to fat in between but it doesn’t seem likely. They would be more likely to develop some tolerance for a high carb diet than a sudden intolerance for the original more natural food. All meat diets were tested by white people who lived with the Inuit after they left. They did fine. Modern research is beginning to confirm the fact that fat is healthy but it should have been given more consideration long ago based on first principles.

While Taubes claims to take a scientific skeptical stance he implies sugar is dangerous and a low carb diets are healthy. Teicholz seems thus far in the book to be skeptical that diet makes much of a difference at all. She seems skeptical a low fat diet is beneficial but does not seem to think a low carb diet is beneficial, although she discusses this little so far.

Is attending a PUA boot camp a form of “financial domination”?

There’s a certain category of financial social relationships which seem very odd to outsiders. I would put the pimp prostitute relationship, the gambler casino owner relationship and the financial dominatior vs sub relationships in this category. I would also put anyone attending a PUA boot camp in this category.

I had originally written this as a critique of Pua generally but I should be more specific and just make some comments on some ironies I find about “bootcamps.” I was pointing out how If I were trying to be a computer programmer and exaggerated my skills to get a job I’d then be in the position of having to learn what I was doing really quick by working hard or I’d be fired. Becoming a “pick up artist” is not like this. It’s not fake it until you make it its fake it until… you get really good at faking it. Some aspects of pua like the entire trifecta of the “dark triad” are clearly scumbag. So is lying to women to get laid. However, I have no problem with people who weren’t properly socialised trying to correct this. Also something like adopting a cocky and playful or funny personality seems harmless.

The useless bromide of today seems to be “be alpha.” Particularly when accompanied by the directive that to be alpha you must “not give a fuck” this is so vague that it seems like the “just be yourself” of our generation. Its comical in a way because while men are talking about this all the time its hard to even conceive of a woman talking about “alpha” males. Moreover, unless you are literally in a gang there is never going to be an unequivocal “leader of the pack” that is the domain independent “alpha” in your life. Different people will have power over you throughout your life but there is frankly no alpha position to aspire to. However, I will admit that while society is not currently organised with an alpha male hierarchy their could be some primitive instinct in which women might need a facsimile of this to feel aroused.Of course I have no problem with self improvement .

What annoys me about the ideas of PUA is it seems to work by hijacking some of the ways in which our genes are out of step with the world we live in and it does so in a way that provides no external benefits. This doesn’t mean it can’t work or shouldn’t be done if you can do it in a non sleazy way. This post is definitely a complaint about the way the world works but we still have to live in it. This is analogous to the “dishonor” of modern warfare in which nobody could, as a practical matter, say “put down the predator drone and come fight me hand to hand with a broad sword” if they are in a poor country. Its far more honorable in a way to be like one of the 300 spartans and train your whole life to bravely go out and fight hand to hand rather than in the modern era press a button to rain computer controlled death from above from thousands of miles away. There is no reason to becomee a violin virtuoso just because it’s harder and in my subjective opinion more legitimate if people prefer electronic music. People might be wired to prefer People to Scientific American and candy to chicken salad but that doesn’t mean it cannot be commented on. Ultimately I’m just commenting on something I find ironic.

One can imagine that in a tribal setting you would gain respect and move up to “alpha” position by becoming a good hunter and providing resources, or a skilled fighter and protecting loved ones or mediating disputes or providing sound consistent advice or some benefit to the group. Fifty years ago sex-starved guys would at least try to become rich and buy a flashy car, or become a great musician or comedian or entertain the world in some way. Kid Rock actually said he became a rock star for this reason and while I’m not entertained by his music some people in the world clearly are. With PUA there is no positive externality. A person develops the “art” of acting in the way a person with power in a tribal setting would act. He acts like an “asshole” which only a leader or a key contributor to a tribe would be able to get away with. He pretends he has other options. He shows confidence.

In a tribe setting a narcissist who over-valued himself, slept with friends women or behaved like an asshole publicly disrespecting other males would clearly eventually get his comeuppance in the form of ostracization or even physical violence. This does not happen today where people who eschew social rules are protetected by law and order and the world is so large a parasitic person can run through different friend groups and women throughout the world. One tactic for picking up women is actually the “dark triad” of narcissism, Machiavellism and psychopathy. Psychopathy? Regardless of how well it might work for an individual in this peculiar time in human history what sane person could advocate that trait in others?

In the modern world a guy doesn’t take slights because an “alpha” just fed his sister he takes it because he happens to be around this Deutsche doesn’t want to make a scene and will subsequently cut the loser out of his life. I had a friend once who was very personable and whenever introduced to a new group of friends he would quickly be accepted to the new group. He would eventually alienate this group by borrowing money and not paying it back but by then he’d have further moved on to a new group. He was like the original Hotmail startup with profitable viral growth.

All this shows that unfortunately in the modern world personality trumps character. In our ancestral environment it was probably the opposite.

What gift to the world does PUA provide? Jaded women, the spread of STDs, men wasting money on “boot camps”, encouraging of antisocial behavior?

Regarding lack of externalities, it used to require a lot of skill to become a talented musician and that is less true today. I see DJs as the perfect embodiment of this. I like electronic music and music should be entertaining. But its a great example of how machines have devalued humans. Most DJs essentially press play and waves their hands around. Its a far cry from the talent required to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix but it invokes some of the same female behaviors. The below clip from Dead Mau5 demonstrates this hilariously. He’s at the absolute pinnacle of this artform and is actually creating the music rather than simply stitching it together and even he seems to consider the whole thing a joke. His comments on dubstep are also pretty comical.

I have a friend who was and is obsessed with picking up women. The guy now teaches bootcamps. One thing I found and we discussed is how often he would strike out when it was just him and I but his success rate went way up when he had this dorky guy come up from another school and go out with us. The guy really looked up to him and having someone like that around is going to impress women. Another thing this guy used to do is cut off and interrupt male friends if they were talking to a girl which increases his status and lowers theirs. It’s one of the things I really used to hate about him. One of the last times I hung out with this guy we went to a concert and he slept with some married woman. As we were leaving the dorky guy sincerely thanked my asshole friend for inviting him. My asshole friend and I laughed about it later, I guess because him being such a good friend of ours didn’t warrant a thank you… or something. Human nature is weird. The reason I bring this up is because I was thinking how teaching a boot camp creates this dynamic. Here are these dorks orbiting around these instructors. They present a bunch of material some of which might have merit and then they see these guys going out and killing it. But you can imagine the “instructors?” are going to do a hell of a lot better with a group of fans hanging on their every narcissistic word then someone out solo would do. All this is ironic to me because they are paying ALOT of money to essentially have their status drained for a night to another person. It is “social status” if there’s an alpha in the modern world its relative lets assume there is the illusion of a pecking order in a social setting.

You have to hand it to the guys who came up with this concept. I know this isn’t true but it’s almost as if a group of pimps got together and figured out a way to cut out the prostitutes. Why occur the hassle and risk of selling a woman’s sex when you can receive money from men directly by selling them the idea of sex with women. And how ironic it is that the same school of thought who have fervently insisted for years that absolutely under no circumstances should a man buy a girl a drink or take her out to dinner because she will not respect you have now convinced guys that they should hand them over thousands of dollars for no real reason for information that is available for free online. Everything the instructors do is enjoyable and benefits them. People like to brag about sexual conquests. My friend who now teaches boot camps would constantly invent contexts where he could do this without seeming like he was bragging. I’ve lost touch with him but I assume the instruction consists of a few hours of him bragging followed by becoming intoxicated and stepping all over the toes of students to get himself laid. Since were taking on the pecking order “alpha” metaphor of using animal behavior to describe human relations in a way you boost yourself up and in doing so bring the person you’re speaking to down. Why would someone who had trouble with women want to hear about a successful guy having sex?

I have a theory that people have a weird submissive instinct to throw down gifts at the feet of sultans. Basically give their status to people who they perceive as already having a lot. I’m reminded of another blog I read regarding involuntary defeat syndrome. The blog had this to say about gamblers:

Continuing with the idea of genetically pre-programmed Involuntary Defeat Strategies (IDS), I think gambling may be one such strategy. Why else would otherwise sane people enjoy throwing their money away? Yes, we can argue hope of gain, the excitement of risk, enjoyment of the few times winning, but where does this hope, excitement, and enjoyment come from? They’re subconsciously rooted in an involuntary defeat strategy. Money is social power. Loss of money is loss of social power. People who gamble for pleasure (amateur gamblers) are programmed to not get too far ahead of their current social position. So they enjoy throwing away social position in the guise of losing money.

Its an interesting thought. We know the games are rigged in the house’s favor. Why does anyone play? Whats odder is unlike many of the faceless corporations people currently spend money at in this case the casino owner is often a prominent flamboyant figure like Sheldon Adelson, or Donald Trump or Jack Binion. Do people get some sick satisfaction from pissing away their precious small amount of money to billionaires? Why do prostitutes hand over all their money to the pimp? The women have had their social status obliterated by their circumstances (and the pimp) so its logical that the involuntary defeat strategy is to throw away social position in the form of money. Another example is the “financial domination” fetish in which men get some sort of sexual kick from giving money to a dominant woman that they never meet in person and do not have sex with. These women are even more impressive than the boot camp instructors but what is motivating the men? It also seems consistent with the blog’s IDS strategy when you equate money with status.

My advice to those people spending thousands of dollars on bootcamps is to have a big party or something with people you care about and show them a good time. Introduce some people and you’ll be the social center of attention. Better yet donate the money to charity. But if you’re determined to incinerate cash might as well do it pretending to be an “alpha” instead of pretending to be a “beta.” Were it legal even getting prostitutes would make infinitely more sense and in a way be more ethical than leading women on with machevillian lies and tricking her into a one night stand. I don’t really know what the big mysteries they are unfolding about human nature in these camps are but it seems clear that someone like Jay-Z gets someone like Beyonce because of his status which is in part from his wealth. Despite the PUA rhetoric that you don’t want to impress a woman with money they clearly are impressed. I think its part of their marketing pitch to convince guys its all about body language while money and looks have nothing to do with it. However, to the extent status is connected to money flagrantly wasting it seems like a direct attack on your own social status. But hey what do I know maybe you’ll pick up some good verbal tactics from these guys. The very fact that they sold such absurdity in the first place is a shining testimonial to their persuasiveness.

Confidence in the modern world

We have stone age genes for an information age society and the effects of this cannot be overstated. We live in a highly complex technological society and many if not most important questions either have no answer or require a tremendous amount of effort to answer. For example is polygamy wrong? There is no strong tribal norm. We live and let live. Is Microsoft a good investment? Should we go to war with Iraq? Should I go to med school? These questions are incredibly difficult to answer definitively I.e. confidently. Microsoft is a multi national corporation in a rapidly changing industry with components too myraid and complex to accurately quantify and fairly value. Perhaps it can be done with tremendous effort. What will be the blowback from a war in the middle east? What career is optimal in a rapidly changing job market? You should have doubts. You should not be confident.

However, there is a problem. We are emotional beings. Whatever is communicated literally by an expression of uncertainty the emotional interpretation of the words will be “I need help, help me, give me resources, I’m not competent.” Often in a significant way people do not want to do that. On a date or job interview it’s well known the person evaluating you is looking for confidence and “going with their gut.” They do not want the subconscious feeling that the person they are evaluating is helpless. Think of the typical career problem of a hunter gather. It would take the form of: “I don’t know where to find berries,” “I’m not a very skilled hunter,” “I’m in need of food or will be soon.” Such a hunter gatherer would perhaps be treated sympathetically and helped but also viewed as a drain on a selfish level by the tribesmen evaluating this person. An expression of uncertainty in the modern world is met with advice despite the fact that neither the advice giver nor advice taker truly knows what they’re talking about. Choosing among careers today is not a manner of survival but window dressing in an attempt to find meaning in a world of material abundance. Yet, it can provoke anxiety.

The scientific and industrial revolution are recent phenomenon. The ideas expressed by Karl Popper of science as falsification are beautiful. A theory is guilty until proven innocent. We put forward theories and rigorously attack them. It’s most laudable to rigorously challenge your own ideas. However on an emotional level any expression of doubt will be met with emotional discomfort, lowering of perceived value and advice not an admiration of a Popperian intellectual rigor. History is guided by “great men” such as Ancel Keys, proponent of the low fat dietary heart hypothesis and George W Bush proponent of the Iraq War. Should we attack the neighboring tribe was no doubt a very easy question when there was no out group loyalty and we raped and killed each other on sight. The war in Iraq should have been a very difficult decision. I was struck by the history in Good Calories Bad Calories and The Big Fat Surprise of how proponents of the hypothesis that fat or saturated fat caused heart disease such as Keys bowled over their opponents with supreme confidence while detractors made statements of the character of “evidence has not yet sufficiently established.” I think that psychologically people need a clear answer to one thing while they swim in a sea of other unanswerable questions that characterize modern life, but more than that they naturally are attracted to confidence. The president who says there is not sufficient evidence to suggest stimulating the economy will work is correct but will not be elected. Our ancestors had easy questions like which way is camp and who is sleeping with whom. Not knowing things is a modern phenomenon. This has the potential to create a world ran by charlatans. Tough decisions need to be made but they’ll end up being made by people who don’t appreciate their nuances.