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[Table] IAmA: I'm Curtis Yarvin, developer of Urbit. AMA.

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Date: 2016-03-25
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Questions Answers
Your writings as "Moldbug" are under fire for being "fascist" or "racist." Are the critics interpreting your writings correctly, or are they just being lazy? People are quote-mining your old posts about Carlyle and claiming that you support slavery, or something like that. I read those posts, but I was kind of confused about what your actual views were. What was the point you were making in discussing slavery in your political writings? What Carlyle said about slavery is that you can ban the word, but not the institution. There are plenty of people today who will be paying off their student loans until they die. Is this the same as being whipped by Leonardo DiCaprio unless you chop your quota of sugarcane? It is not. Is it "slavery"? Dunno, you tell me. Are they both bad things? Sure. Is everything that can fit, or has in the past fit, under this label, evil? If so, it would be a very unusual label.
Fascism is a pretty broad term nowadays. What exactly is fascism, in your view? What is your view of it? What is fascism? It's exactly what everyone thinks it is. The conventional wisdom is perfectly correct. Our historians have a merciless, laser-sharp understanding of everything bad that fascism was and everything it did wrong. What hasn't been done is turning this same laser on our own institutions.
There are plenty of people in tech who have pretty out-there political views, like supporting communist revolutions, including some of the people attacking you. But nobody is no-platforming people on the left or claiming to feel "unsafe" by sharing a conference with them. They don't have to make pledges to behave themselves at conferences. Why is there this double standard? As for your last question, it's simply a matter of who has actual power in our society. Everyone wants to think of themselves as powerless and/or oppressed. But actual power dynamics are not hard to find.
Fascism no longer exists. It's as dead as Odinism. You can reinvent Odinism, but it's not Odinism, it's fake Odinism. Unless it's a joke (and don't get me wrong, Nazi Microsoft chatbots are funny), it's pathetic. Actually, the fact that /pol has made Hitler funny is the best possible evidence that Hitler is completely dead. As for the word "slavery," it means too many things at the same time. Robert Nozick in the '70s devised a beautiful little paradox for people who think they can define "slavery": [Link to Try it.
What, if any, strategy do you have, either personally or as a company, for operating in a hostile PR environment? Changing minds isn't really an option. But the set of people in 2016 who care strongly about politics -- in either direction -- is surprisingly small by historical standards. Normal people are also receiving huge levels of obvious crazy from both left and right, both mainstream and alternative sources. This results in a basically healthy response of "tune this out, I just want to code."
What are your thoughts on Urbit with respect to cryptocurrency? Urbit is not an altcoin -- it's digital address space. "Digital land, not digital money." But the differences are relatively small. Basically, digital currency needs a blockchain because supporting high-frequency, low-friction transfers is a critical property of money. It's not a critical property of real estate. And it's certainly nice to see this very weird notion of digital ownership become mainstream and commonly understood.
are they totally orthogonal concerns? I actually feel very bad for the conference organizers -- both with LambdaConf and Strange Loop. I know what I'm getting into and they don't; they have a very hard problem to solve already, and then they get this nonsense. To which there's no easy answer at all.
Maybe an easier version: do you think growth in cryptocurrency adoption will help Urbit succeed? While I'm obviously super impressed with John de Goes (LambdaConf), I'm not in any way mad at Alex Miller (Strange Loop). I am not the conference organizer type, but my cynical expectation would be that an organizer has many different ways of making sure a problem like this doesn't arise -- Google being one of them.
Is the magnitude of the current controversy less than, greater than, or about equal to your expectation? Instead, there's a commitment to anonymous decision processes (I don't even know how they do that) and a really high level of principle. Yes, even in the case of Strange Loop. I'm glad I don't have that job!
How genuine or representative of your actual political views was Mencius? I always got the impression it sat somewhere between "here are some interesting things to think about" and purple shitposting, which makes this latest controversy a little bit confusing. Do you consider any of this latest wave of criticism to be on the mark, or strictly the result of misinterpretation? Everything I say I believe (at the time -- I still get flak for telling people not to buy bitcoin in 2013, because the gubmint was gonna shut it down. Well, it still could happen).
But it's difficult to separate opinion X from the commonly accepted stereotype of people who believe opinion X. It easily turns into a game of progressive telephone in which Twitter is talking about someone who has my name, but is otherwise Leonardo DiCaprio from Django Unchained. Or maybe Edward Norton from American History X.
I think one of the worst tropes in people who, for example, don't believe that human evolution stopped at the neck, is that they inhabit these stereotypes and make them their own. It's like Weev with his swastika tattoo. Really, Weev? Did you need to?
It's actually quite possible to recognize that human population genetics has a lot of impact on politics and history, and also recognize that human population genetics has nothing at all to do with your individual, personal and professional human relationships. Nor does politics.
As for "race," you can learn way more about someone from a minute of conversation than from a full genome sequence -- even if we knew how to decode the information in the sequence, which we don't. As for politics, there is essentially no one sane who thinks of themselves as evil or wanting to do evil. I have lots of progressive friends, and you'd be surprised how many ways we can find to see the world in the same way.
Behead those who insult weev. I did not insult weev! On the subject of incrementing numbers in URLs, I stand 100% percent with weev.
Aren't you better at politics than writing software? Why did you resign from political writing? Any plans to return? Are private cities a better variant on your preference for monarchy? Would you live in a Google City State? Do you think freedom of "exit" is better than freedom of "voice" or voting in the Hirschman sense? And, no. I'm actually better at writing software. :-) As a resident of San Francisco, I think we could quite easily try the Google City State thing by letting them run, say, Muni. If that works out...
Your one offensive comment is that some demographic groups are better suited for mastery and others for slavery. This seems absurd. All major ethnic groups were enslaved at some point in history and that wasn't based on IQ, it was based on military strength. Would you be willing to rescind that? Amusingly, my "one offensive comment" was actually me repeating something my wife (not at all a "shitlady") learned in her MFA program at SF State (not at all a Hitler Youth academy). (This is the observation that the conquistadors began the slave trade with Africa because Native Americans didn't thrive as slaves, which is not at all controversial history.) I figured that this wasn't exactly the sort of thing I'd say, but coming from her it was probably okay. Perhaps oddly, if anything I thought of this as a negative observation about Native Americans (I probably wouldn't do super well in the sugarcane fields either). Similarly, if I said that Greek Jews were more likely to survive in Auschwitz than Western European Jews (which is also true), this would strike me as a positive comment on the toughness of Greek Jews, not an opinion that they should be sent to the ovens first.
Last updated: 2016-03-25 23:36 UTC | Next update: 2016-03-25 23:46 UTC
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