I improved time last night

Sometimes you find performance improvements in the simplest places. Last night I improved the time-stepping precision of NTP by a factor of up to a thousand. With a change of less than 20 lines.

The reason I was able to do this is because the NTP code had not caught up to a change in the precision of modern computer clocks. When it was written, you set time with settimeofday(2), which takes a structure containing seconds and microseconds. But modern POSIX-conformant Unixes have a clock_settime(2) which takes a structure containing seconds and nanoseconds.

Internally, NTP represents times to a precision of under a nanosecond. But because the code was built around the old settimeofday(2) call, until last night it rounded to the nearest microsecond too soon, throwing away precision which clock_settime(2) was capable of passing to the system clock.

Once I noticed this it was almost trivial to fix. The round-off only has to happen if your target platform only has settimeofday(2). Moving it into the handler code for that case, and changing one argument-structure declaration, sufficed.

Now, in practice this is not going to yield a full thousand-fold improvement in stepping accuracy, because you can’t get clock sources that accurate. (Well, not unless you’re a national time authority and can afford a cesium-fountain clock.) This change only helps to the extent that your time-server is actually delivering corrections with sub-microsecond accuracy; otherwise those extra bits will be plain noise.

You won’t get that accuracy from a plain GPS, which is seriously wobbly in the 100-millisecond range. Nor from a GPS with 1PPS, which delivers around one microsecond accuracy. But plug in a GPS-conditioned oscillator (GPSDO) and now you’re talking. These commonly have accuracy in about the 100-nanosecond range, so we can expect computing in nanoseconds to actually pass through an order of magnitude in stepping precision.

Pretty good for a 20-line change!

What are our lessons for today?

First…roundoff is insidious. You should always compute at the highest available precision and round off, when you have to, at the latest possible moment. I knew this and had a to-do item in my head to change as many instances of the old struct timeval (microsecond precision) to struct timespec (nanosecond precision) as possible. This is the first place in the NTP code I’ve found that it makes a provable difference. I’ll be hunting others.

Second…you really ought to beat the dust out of your code every couple of years even if it’s working. Because APIs will improve on you, and if you settle for a quick least-effort shim you may throw away significant functional gains without realizing it. A factor of ten is not bupkis, and this one was stupid-easy to collect; I just had to be paying attention. Clearly the NTP Classic maintainers were not.

So, this is my first non-security-related functional improvement in NTP. To be followed by many others, I hope.

172 thoughts on “I improved time last night

    • >Eric, what do you think of ntimed and their goal of replacing ntpd?

      PHK is a bright guy with many clues. I respect him a lot, and I say this despite the fact that he’s hostile to me because he thinks my open-source advocacy has encouraged crappy programming. I have not looked closely at ntimed but I have little doubt it is high-quality work, probably as good as anything I am capable of producing, possibly better.

      That said, I think ntimed is going nowhere. A clean-sheet design was the right thing from a technical point of view, but it’s not what the time-service userbase wants. Large time-service users are intensely conservative and risk-averse; what they want, and what NTPsec will deliver, is not radical innovation but a cleaned-up and hardened version of what they know.

  1. Late-binding, whether it’s arithmetic roundoff or any other type, is almost always the best thing, unless there is a *compelling* reason to bind earlier…

    My favorite example of which was the trend of “posting-free” accounting a few years back.

    Damnit; posting reports exist for a *reason*; they put fences in the process flow that you can talk about reliably.

  2. So what happens a NTP nano slave syncs up to a NTP micro master? I speculate that the cascading effect means that the nano slave tracks the micro master more closely than it would have but that the inaccuracies of the upstream micro based master source are passed down to the nano enabled slave. True?

    • >So what happens a NTP nano slave syncs up to a NTP micro master? I speculate that the cascading effect means that the nano slave tracks the micro master more closely than it would have but that the inaccuracies of the upstream micro based master source are passed down to the nano enabled slave. True?

      Yes. The change can only avoid loss of accuracy, it can’t add accuracy to data from upstream.

  3. > … he thinks my open-source advocacy has encouraged crappy programming.

    Because closed source products are *so* much better?

    • >Because closed source products are *so* much better?

      No, PHK thinks a lot of younger programmers have developed a belief that the many-eyeballs effect allows them to be lazy and careless because it will somehow all sort out in the end. He blames me for encouraging this. I think he’s mistaken – lazy people gonna lazy and grab whatever excuse is handy, and many eyeballs happens to be the excuse du jour. But it’s not a crazy or malicious mistake and I’m not counter-annoyed with him about it.

      He’s also pissed off about GNU autoconf being a festering pile of crap, a judgment about which I completely agree. Somehow he seems to consider this an example of my open-source ideas going bad, which is wack because autoconf predates CATB by a good decade. I am a bit annoyed about that part.

  4. “PHK thinks a lot of younger programmers have developed a belief that the many-eyeballs effect allows them to be lazy and careless because it will somehow all sort out in the end.”

    Which implicitly assumes any open source project will *get* those many eyeballs.

    From what I’ve seen, the vast majority don’t. They gain little traction, and are only looked at by their maintainer. No one else cares enough to look, let alone contribute.

    If you create an open source project, you must both beat the bushes to get other eyeballs, and assume you are probably flying solo, so your code will be only as good as you can make it. You would *like* your project to gain traction and attract other contributors, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

  5. Which implicitly assumes any open source project will *get* those many eyeballs.

    I’m coming to realize that this is one of the reasons I so love the JVM ecosystem. The binary format was designed from day one to make source attachment easy, the jar format makes source distribution easy, and Central requires any packages it hosts to include source packages. I’ve run into a number of bugs or missing features in a number of packages, and it’s literally as easy to step into code written by anyone else as it is my own code I’m working on.

    C/C++ has never been as easy to debug, and especially now that most distributions ship stripped binaries by default, impulse debugging is even less of a thing than it used to be.

  6. Well, the many eyeballs theory *is* retarded. Errors in the overall design are the deepest errors, and the more people you add there, the LESS likely you are to fix the problem correctly. No amount of eyeballs will morph Linux into Genera. What’s true of the “eyeballs” thing is that if you’re a project leader, then you can solve a lot of extremely shallow problems by getting large numbers of gerbils to have a crack at it and then checking their answers. On the other hand, open source is mostly solving janitorial, shallow problems anyway.

  7. @Shopgirl Peril: The ‘many eyeballs’ law is not a theory – it is a heuristic observation. And it is based on the idea that something that is hard for one person might be easy for another (bug detection, finding causes, etc.).

    Also, very few computer projects are and can be done with big design upfront…

  8. > No, PHK thinks a lot of younger programmers have developed a belief that the
    > many-eyeballs effect allows them to be lazy and careless because it will
    > somehow all sort out in the end.

    That’s nonsense.

    In 1983/4 when I was first trying to learn to program computers were, relative to today, scarce and there wasn’t a lot (relative to today) demand for programmers. Yeah, demand was about to hit the knee, but back then there were enough people who were interested in programming that being a professional programmer, well, they could be picky and you had to be relatively good.

    Today there is (relatively) a *huge* demand for programmers. Enough of a demand that they’re building them in India and shipping them over in multi-mode containers.

    Thus today you can be crap (relatively) and still get a job.

    > He blames me for encouraging this. I think he’s mistaken – lazy people gonna lazy

    Programming is *inherently* lazy. If we wanted to do real work we’d print the file out on a printer, sit down with a pen and check the fifth column keeping track of what values appear there instead of
    cat file.txt | awk ‘ { print $5 } ‘ | sort | uniq | tee fred.out | wc -l

    I don’t think the problem is “lazy”, I think it’s Dunning-Krueger.

    > He’s also pissed off about GNU autoconf being a festering pile of crap,
    > a judgment about which I completely agree.

    You aren’t the only two.

    > Somehow he seems to consider this an example of my open-source ideas
    > going bad, which is wack because autoconf predates CATB by a good decade.
    > I am a bit annoyed about that part.

    But again the question is would closed source have done *better*. IME, no.

  9. Closed source performs 99% of innovation. Open source is mostly toilet cleaning work and rip-offs. All the “innovations” open source are primitives, virtually NOTHING in the applications department (the only department that counts). They are basically the Chinamen of the software industry.

  10. Let me deliver the bad news to the wretches who’ve wasted their lives contributing to open source: the closed source world (rightly) laughs at open source people, etc. Not because they’re not useful. Eric’s right when he touts the importance of their work. But only in the same sense as manual laborers. “If you use the lavatory then you rely on MY toilet brush to scrub your porceline”, he brags. lol.

    If I were to bring a new product to market I could cut any corners I wanted, safe and secure in the knowledge that open source gerbils would line up in the years to come to produce a final implementation from my draft. That’s how it works – the closed source designers do all the interesting, creative work, and then the open source drones move in a few years later to do all the boring stuff the original creators couldn’t be bothered with.

  11. Programming is *inherently* lazy. If we wanted to do real work we’d print the file out on a printer, sit down with a pen and check the fifth column keeping track of what values appear there instead of
    cat file.txt | awk ‘ { print $5 } ‘ | sort | uniq | tee fred.out | wc -l

    I don’t think this is laziness, I think it’s a desire for accuracy. The computer will be a lot more accurate at correctly grabbing the data from, say, a ten thousand line file than I will. (In my case, in fact, I’ll do the shell pipeline for anything over about a dozen lines, just to be sure.) That’s why we have the computer do it.

    Of course, that could just be because I’m a programmer who wants to put a positive spin on things… :-)

  12. I wonder if there’s some way to encourage Shopgirl Peril to write more of these trolls (they’re actually really funny) without causing anyone to take the bait (which would ruin the humor). Thoughts, anyone?

  13. I think the inclusion of racism in the first attempt already nullified the effects of the bait. :P

  14. I would like to write Shopgirl Peril off. But I can’t. Granted, I work for a company which sells closed-source software Solutions to Enterprise Customers. Yes, the inside has a lot of warts. However, people are willing to pay millions of dollars for the product and associated services. This is because what we offer is much, much better than what’s available in the Open-Source environment. Not on a per-feature basis (I can probably find an OSS implementation which does every single one of our features better), but because we have a product with all of the features tested to work together.

    OSS is fundamentally limited by the people and the resources who work on it. I run Linux everywhere I can. In addition, I have a Windows laptop for my job (it runs Outlook and Winamp). I’ve been struggling at work with my KDE desktop for weeks now because the NFS server I use for my home directory is in another State (20 ms RTT). I’ve filed bug reports over this, but they don’t get any love. I’ve tried to debug this myself, but Wireshark crashes on the 35MB packet trace which samples some of the issues (in an attempt to figure out which of ~50 service applications is responsible). This is because there usually isn’t any good debugability associated with OSS applications.

    Eric: Since you’re working on it now, I’d suggest considering the following use case as a model to work from (it’s contrived, but matches up with the union of annoying cases I’ve encountered):

    Assume that you have a user who works for a classified non-specific agency. They are located … somewhere and are experiencing problems (it no worky). You need to be able to figure out what’s going wrong, and where. They won’t give you a console. They will run (reasonable) commands for your application to do things like get system information and turn on debugging traces. They will read back parts of the screen output (as long as they think it is innocuous). They will perform binary operations and give you the results (eg. is the value in field 5 present in the error message you are seeing?).
    Sometimes they will be willing to fax you log output after it has been captured and edited to remove any sensitive information. Sensitive information may include: the name of the system, the directory path you are working in, the IP address used, and (in your case) any captured GPS information which would allow anybody to guess where the user is located.

    • >I would like to write Shopgirl Peril off.

      Write it off. Anybody who claims that all the innovation goes on in closed source and opensource people merely clean after it is either a conscious troll or so completely detached for reality they might as well be typing output from a MadLibs generator.

      >Eric: Since you’re working on it now, I’d suggest considering the following use case as a model to work from

      Why am I supposed to care about this? Nobody is paying me enough money to put up with it.

      More generally, why should any of my peers care? There is plenty enough work to do for which the rewards in terms of peer reputation, knowing we’ve made a positive difference – and yes getting paid – are ample, without dealing with cases like this.

      You work for a firm, you must be familiar with the concept of a customer who is “bad business” – such a disproportionate drain of skilled time that the revenue isn’t worth it. You’re describing bad business. Customers like that stay bad business until they’re willing to either pay their actual cost of service or change their behavior so the cost lowers.

  15. Eric: Hence the Enterprisey bit. As for why you should care: it’s part of the fit-and-finish that makes a complete product. Supportability is a key element of any product. I wasn’t expecting you, personally, to be performing that type of support, of course. However, there are people who will make and sell products/solutions based on the software (eg. Red Hat) and they will certainly want a way to debug the end-user’s problems.

    In general, having to deal with mysterious error codes, hangs, and panics when something out of the ordinary happens without useful logging/tracing is an exercise in frustration and something I’ve come to describe as an incomplete product.

    • >In general, having to deal with mysterious error codes, hangs, and panics when something out of the ordinary happens without useful logging/tracing is an exercise in frustration and something I’ve come to describe as an incomplete product.

      Fair cop, but you’ve changed the subject. And neither your spook user nor this complaint has anything discernible to do with Shopgirl Peril’s semi-incoherent ranting, which (unlike you) achieves a nearly hilarious level of disconnect.

      To flip this around, I ask you to imagine the Mongolian clusterfuck that would ensue if somebody tried to productize NTP in closed source.

  16. @Eric

    Write it off. Anybody who claims that all the innovation goes on in closed source and opensource people merely clean after it is either a conscious troll or so completely detached for reality they might as well be typing output from a MadLibs generator.

    Instead of posturing, maybe you should show some examples of innovative opensource applications. But we already know you won’t, because you *unconsciously* know there are few, if any good examples. And since you’re strong enough to maintain your defense mechanisms, but not strong enough to bare the realization that opensource is lol, you’ll make no progress on this issue.

    Amazingly, Eric the “economist” hasn’t figured out this rudimentary fact. Cutting edge ideas by definition start out hidden. And the more cutting edge, the more powerful and significant, the less inclined the creator is going to be to share it. Which is why Eric’s blog is full of announcements about boring janitor work like PNG libraries and NTP. What did his recent post say? “tradition of public service?” Sounds like a THRILL RIDE of excitement! I doubt Eric can even correctly identify any really exciting projects, which is part of the reason he doesn’t understand this issue.

  17. @Mike Swanson

    I think the inclusion of racism in the first attempt already nullified the effects of the bait. :P

    Translation: “my brain is so weak it can be disabled at will by the use of the word ‘Chinaman’.”

  18. This was discussed a million times and is getting a bit boring. Open source is something you use when you have something else to sell than the right to use your software (licences). Such as hardware, or content and community (Reddit) or the products and services your website offers. It is a trade-off between no licence sales vs. getting bugfixes for free, which is fine if your business model is selling something else and the software is only playing a supportive role in providing that. When you are directly selling software licences or could, it is not such a good idea.

    I think I am quoting long settled common wisdom here, it is not just my opinion, it is the factual economics of it.

    Thus, expect open source quality to be good when e.g. Google is merely using Android to sell phones, but does not really care about selling Android licence. Come to think of it, I am not sure who exactly is financing GNU/Linux, but I assume they sell servers. Servers must be reliable more than pretty or user-friendly. Hence the general characteristics of GNU/Linux being reliable and not that pretty / not that user-friendly. It is a basic simple follow-the-money logic.

    Expect it to suck with something where licence sales are important – from games to ERP.

    A special case is when you could, theoretically, sell licences, but your customers are mostly programmers, so the quantity and quality of bugfixes you get is so good that it worths to keep it open source anyway. This is stuff like Visual Studio are destined to lose or to eventually get open-sourced. This is also why so many open source projects are the kinds of tools programmers and sysadmins use. If the currency your customers pay you with is bugfixes, this is just to be expected.

  19. @Shenpen You completely missed the point, which is about innovation. “Destined to lose” is exactly the point – that closed source comes first, then the open source rip-off comes along that completes it.

  20. @Shenpen
    “Open source is something you use when you have something else to sell than the right to use your software (licences).”

    I think you are referring to the description of “Enabling Technology vs. Business Differentiation” as described by Bruce Perens here:
    http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1470/1385#a6

    I would also add the results of publicly funded research and developer efforts, where the software is the product of a project paid for as a public technology development enterprise. Think of the development of the World Wide Web, i.e., HTML/HTTP (CERN) plus HTTPd (NCSA) that became Apache, plus Mosaic (NCSA) that became Netscape and later Firefox. I believe LaTeX also belongs to this category.

  21. maybe you should show some examples of innovative opensource applications. But we already know you won’t, because you *unconsciously* know there are few, if any good examples.

    I had a brief moment of “I wonder if that’s true” followed by, “Well, there’s MINIX, TeX, Sketchpad, TCP/IP, Make, Lisp, Coq, Bitcoin, Clojure’s persistent hash array mapped trie and STM implementation… Never mind.”

  22. @Joshua Brule – the inclusion of half of those is doubtful:

    MINIX: Not open source at time. Also unclear how it’s innovative.
    Sketchpad: So generically named I don’t even know what you’re referring to.
    TCP/IP: Origin in academia/DARPA rather than open-source community.
    Make: Not open source at time.
    Bitcoin: Innovative, sure, but useful? Its deflationary nature is crippling to its use as a circulating currency, yet it’s unclear how a cryptocurrency can be trusted without such a deflationary nature.
    Lisp: Origin in academia rather than open-source community.

  23. Certainly the charge that the open source community per se is more followers than leaders, chasing after reimplementations of scraps thrown to them by the “real” makers [who may or may not release under an open-source license] rather than actually producing new innovations, isn’t that obviously ridiculous. Your list of examples does little to refute it.

  24. @Random832
    “Origin in academia rather than open-source community.”

    Which is no distinction at all. The whole concept of Open Source is just part of the age old culture of shared knowledge and technology of which academia is also part. Making a distinction is purely artificial and has no basis in any kind of facts.

    Btw, I gave another example area above: The WWW, including HTML/HTTP, and associated servers.

  25. I had a brief moment of “I wonder if that’s true” followed by, “Well, there’s MINIX, TeX, Sketchpad, TCP/IP, Make, Lisp, Coq, Bitcoin, Clojure’s persistent hash array mapped trie and STM implementation… Never mind.”

    Are you dense? Do you know what an “application” is? Bitcoin is the SOLE good example out of the lot. I couldn’t be bothered going through this rubbish. Lisp isn’t even a piece of software you fucking bozo! And the most innovative implementations (e.g. Genera) were all closed source.

    @Winter

    I would also add the results of publicly funded research and developer efforts, where the software is the product of a project paid for as a public technology development enterprise. Think of the development of the World Wide Web, i.e., HTML/HTTP (CERN) plus HTTPd (NCSA) that became Apache, plus Mosaic (NCSA) that became Netscape and later Firefox. I believe LaTeX also belongs to this category.

    HTTP is a protocol you fucking monkey!! Mosaic wasn’t the first graphical web browser, and it wasn’t open source. Tim Berners-Lee’s implementation was, and it was public domain. So, if you were smart enough to figure it out, you could indeed find exceptions. You can also find people who like being shitted on by prostitutes. I guess it’s time to revise the theory that people find that fucking disgusting! And even your examples fit my theory, because, while examples of genius in their own areas, they lie in an extremely low area, so called “systems programming”. In other words, they’re not even really applications but primitives as per my original comments (not that you bothered reading it).

  26. @Winter

    Which is no distinction at all. The whole concept of Open Source is just part of the age old culture of shared knowledge and technology of which academia is also part.

    Wrong. It is a *crucial* distinction, because academics an exception to the rule. And if you had actually done any academic research (and every time we speak it seems less and less like you have), you’d know that academics are FIERCELY protective of their research right up until they can safely cash in on it through publications.

    Making a distinction is purely artificial and has no basis in any kind of facts.

    Haha! This was a good one. “Purely artificial” as opposed to what? “100% organic, all natural” distinctions? I like how emphatic that last bit is “NO BASIS IN ANY KIND OF FACTS”. lol

  27. You will never get a satisfactory answer on this from Eric, or any other open source person, because it’s a matter of public record and the projects simply do not exist. Check for yourself!

  28. I wasn’t going to say anything, but…
    What dependency resolution (apt-get, yum, Listaller, Nix)? I don’t know of a single closed source OS that does package management well. If anything, Microsoft et al owe The Linux ecosystem a huge debt for this, since Windows 10 is at least starting to take packaging seriously.

    As someone who is currently going through academia, I have to agree with Winter. People ARE NOT tight lipped about research projects (speaking generally). Showing off research is a bragging right here. To do otherwise would close off opportunities for critique, which is also highly sought after.

    Oh, while I am on collaboration, what about Git?

  29. Jakub: Imagine my dismay when I learned that Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server reverted all the way back to SCCS’s “check out for edit and you lock it from anyone else” model…

  30. @ssorbom

    What dependency resolution (apt-get, yum, Listaller, Nix)? I don’t know of a single closed source OS that does package management well. If anything, Microsoft et al owe The Linux ecosystem a huge debt for this, since Windows 10 is at least starting to take packaging seriously.

    Another derper. Did you hear what I said? This is not an application. And in any case, Microsoft is 1000x better at “packaging” than Linux. What are your chances of installing a binary Linux package from 1998 on the latest iteration of Linux without troubleshooting? FUCKING ZERO. The only reason the Linux packaging systems work at all is because there’s an army of “maintainers” (in other words, unskilled laborors: see my comment about “Chinamen”) constantly putting out compatibility fires.

    Oh, while I am on collaboration, what about Git?

    AMAZING how nobody in this thread can correctly identify an “application”. Just because it lives in userland doesn’t make it an application. For fuck’s sake Git is a nuts-and-bolts DEVELOPER TOOL. Something the people make the fucking applications use!

  31. @ssorbom What innovations is git responsible for?

    @Jay Maynard AIUI that’s actually configurable. It can occasionally be nice if you don’t trust the merge algorithms (or the merge conflict resolver in the hands of other developers) with a major refactor like renaming a class or adding/removing an argument to a function.

  32. ssorbom: “What dependency resolution (apt-get, yum, Listaller, Nix)? I don’t know of a single closed source OS that does package management well.”

    IBM’s z/OS mainframe OS has the definitive package management system, SMP/E. Not only does it deal with packages and dependencies and all the rest, but it also deals with the same thing for patches and maintenance updates and even individual zaps for a single module.

    It’s a big, monstrotious behemoth, but it does get that job right.

  33. @Random832

    I’ll bite. How would you define an application?

    Application is a function of will. So it’s not a question in this case of whether something is an “application”. Everything is an application. It’s a question of which is application subsumes more wills. An application – given porting – works much the same on any OS. In other words, the will of the people developing the operating systems is a mere tool in the hands of the application writers. And the will of the application writer is a mere tool in the hands of the one using the application and so on. In other words, system programmers and library writers are among the lower forms of life in computer programming.

  34. In other words, closed source developers (and their bosses) occupy the highest positions of authority and influence in programming, precisely because they are closed, concentrations of power. Compared to the closed source world open source is positively *democratic*, which is one reason they can only make progress on the most shallow, boring tasks.

  35. @Shopgirl Troll
    “Wrong. It is a *crucial* distinction, because academics an exception to the rule.”

    What rule would that be an exception of?

    Lets see, where were RMS, Linus, Tim, Marc, and Guido starting their little projects? Where was the NCSA server written? And a global institution that predates Columbus by centuries can hardly be considered “an exception”. And for innovation, everything electronic is based on purely academic research from the start of the 20th century. Electricity, blue sky research from the 19th.

    @Shopgirl Troll
    “And if you had actually done any academic research (and every time we speak it seems less and less like you have), you’d know that academics are FIERCELY protective of their research right up until they can safely cash in on it through publications.”

    Oh, just for your information, I have worked, and am still working, in academia for my whole life. And if you pay attention to OSS and academic discussions, you will see that academics and developers can be easily exchanged.

    @Shopgirl Troll
    “Mosaic wasn’t the first graphical web browser, and it wasn’t open source. Tim Berners-Lee’s implementation was, and it was public domain.”

    Tim was a Brit working for CERN. Developments produced at CERN are not automatically public domain. It was Tim’s conscious decision to put it in the Public Domain. Putting work in the Public Domain has always been recognized as Open Source. Another artificial distinction.
    http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/birth-web

  36. @Shopgirl Troll
    “In other words, closed source developers (and their bosses) occupy the highest positions of authority and influence in programming, precisely because they are closed, concentrations of power.”

    Could you give us some names? That makes the discussion easier.

  37. @Winter

    So, you begin by saying:

    What rule would that be an exception of?

    Indicating that you don’t understand what I mean, and then launch off into your usual bullshit:

    Lets see, where were RMS, Linus, Tim, Marc, and Guido starting their little projects? Where was the NCSA server written? And a global institution that predates Columbus by centuries can hardly be considered “an exception”. And for innovation, everything electronic is based on purely academic research from the start of the 20th century. Electricity, blue sky research from the 19th.

    None of this contradicts what I said in any way. You are a clueless fool. Please learn to read.

    Oh, just for your information, I have worked, and am still working, in academia for my whole life. And if you pay attention to OSS and academic discussions, you will see that academics and developers can be easily exchanged.

    That just makes it sadder, because it indicates that your research isn’t very interesting and therefore is not worth protecting. And what, now we are talking about exchanging PEOPLE? Are you capable of remaining coherent for even a couple of posts? Your entire reply is little more than tenuously connected statements selected almost at RANDOM.

    Tim was a Brit working for CERN. Developments produced at CERN are not automatically public domain. It was Tim’s conscious decision to put it in the Public Domain. Putting work in the Public Domain has always been recognized as Open Source. Another artificial distinction.
    http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/birth-web

    YES? AND? READ THE POST!@@!1ONEONEONE lol. My post cites this public domain project as an example of open source. And yet here you are accusing me of claiming that it isn’t OSS becaquse it’s public domain. Amazing how high and mighty your answers are when you can’t even follow a few simple English sentences.

    Could you give us some names? That makes the discussion easier.

    Nothing will make this discussion easier for you short of scooping out the contents of your skull and growing a brain in there.

  38. Git has “won”. Even Microsoft, which was (is?) notoriously anti-OSS have added Git support to its IDE: MS Visual Studio, and to its repository/project hosting site: Codeplex. Some of it is because Git is better, some of it because of network effect.

    Was Git an innovative application/tool by itself? No, Linus Torvalds, original author of Git (maintenance was since passed to Junio C Hamano), stated[1] that he borrowed from open-source Monotone (with several innovative ideas itself), which in turn borrowed from open-source rsync (innovative content-based addressing (aka content-based storage) idea[2]), and anti-borrowed from closed-source BitKeeper (while keeping workflow that Linux community created working with BitKeeper, which was for limited time free for OSS use). David A. Wheeler found[2] that first distributed version control system was Sun TeamWare.

    Nb. borrowing from others is how true science is done. “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

    Is Git innovative, did it originate innovations? Yes, it does. The fast-import protocol, now used by most if not all version control systems, allowing easy and fast switch from one version control system to another (see also [3]) originated in Git. Nb. this is what allows tools as ESR reposurgeon to exist. Git is AFAIK the only version control system where you can see line-wise history of file (annotate, blame, praise) following code movement and code copying (e.g. splitting file in two, or moving code withing one file). I’m not sure if bisect operation (for automatic finding source of regressions by effectively searching history for a revision that introduced regression), and stashing / shelving (temporarily interrupting current work, stashing work in progress away to make it easy to come to it back later, when one needs to switch to some other task like fixing critical bug) originated with Git, or whether the idea was borrowed from other version control system. I know that bundle (for offline sneaker-net transport of changes) originated in open-source Mercurial DVCS.

    [1]: https://git.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/GitHistory
    [2]: http://www.dwheeler.com/innovation/innovation.html
    [3]: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2762

  39. @Roger Phillips
    “Nothing will make this discussion easier for you short of scooping out the contents of your skull and growing a brain in there.”

    … is that you? Yes, you are back! I recognize your wonderful communicative style. The subtle ways in which you try to connect to the lesser minds.

    It has been a long time since you were banned. But you could not stay away I see.

  40. @Roger Philips
    “Amazing how high and mighty your answers are when you can’t even follow a few simple English sentences.”

    I just realized that we have a perfect record!

    In all of our encounters on this blog I have never failed once to not understand the true meaning of your words.

    And now, even though I did not know it was you, I still was perfectly mis-understanding what you wanted to say.

    How wonderful!

  41. @Winter

    The subtle ways in which you try to connect to the lesser minds.

    There’s no connection going on here at all, only ridicule. In any case, it’s you who brands me the “greater mind” here, outwardly in sarcasm, but inwardly with the utmost seriousness.

    Yes, you are back!

    Don’t celebrate just yet. The commenters here have almost successfully transitioned from aggravating to entertaining all the way through to boring.

  42. @Roger Philips
    “The commenters here have almost successfully transitioned from aggravating to entertaining all the way through to boring.”

    That is what happens when the community is missing the guidance of your greater mind.

  43. “Yes, it does. The fast-import protocol, now used by most if not all version control systems, allowing easy and fast switch from one version control system to another (see also [3]) originated in Git. ”

    I think you and I have a different definition of innovation. The idea of a fast-import protocol (i.e. a text dump of everything in the repository) is *obvious*. Actually implementing one isn’t innovation, it’s just work that they were willing to do and others weren’t.

  44. > I think you and I have a different definition of innovation. The idea of a fast-import protocol (i.e. a text dump of everything in the repository) is *obvious*. Actually implementing one isn’t innovation, it’s just work that they were willing to do and others weren’t.

    As many ideas it was obvious in hindsight (as “why it was not implemented earlier”). The existence of tools such as Tailor to convert slowly and IIRC in limited way (only linear history) to migrate or replicate changesets between ArX, Bazaar-NG, CVS, Codeville, Darcs, Git, Mercurial, Monotone and Subversion repositories argues against obviousness of it.

    The important thing is that fast-import is (or at least tries to be) VCS-system agnostic…

  45. @Random832
    “Actually implementing one isn’t innovation, it’s just work that they were willing to do and others weren’t.”

    I think you have the priorities wrong. Ideas are cheap, implementations are not.
    Hackathons: Proof That Ideas Are Cheap and Implementation Is Expensive
    http://www.drdobbs.com/architecture-and-design/hackathons-proof-that-ideas-are-cheap-an/240164937

    It depends on where you put the boundary between an abstract “idea” and the design that would make implementation “trivial”.

  46. An inexact quote of what I have quite recently found (that ideas are cheap):

    Somebody (author of piece) asked his colleague for work share: he provides an idea, colleague does the work, they share profit. The colleague said that he has a better deal: here are 10 ideas he doesn’t have the time to work on, and to fuck off…

  47. I know a way to stay friends forever.
    There’s really nothing to it.
    I just tell you what to do,
    And you do it!

    –Shel Silverstein

  48. > MINIX: Not open source at time. Also unclear how it’s innovative.

    Okay, I fudged this one a bit, but it was BSD licensed later and the license fee was mostly a formality. I’d argue that a usable micro-kernel counts as pretty innovative.

    > Sketchpad: So generically named I don’t even know what you’re referring to.

    The original CAD. Academic project, but with code available to the public.

    > Make: Not open source at time.

    I stand corrected.

    > Lisp: Origin in academia rather than open-source community.

    So, I do think this is an interesting question. I disagree with excluding academic contributions from what we consider “open-source” (if you’re allowed to play with the source-code, I think it counts as open-source), but excluding academic contributions, I have a lot more trouble thinking of really innovative open-source projects.

    I think a problem is, how far back do we track the “innovation”? John McCarthy invented garbage collection – does he get credit for… basically every popular programming language except C?

    > Oh, while I am on collaboration, what about Git?

    I was going to include Git, but a lot of the design borrowed from the (proprietary) BitKeeper, if I remember correctly.

  49. >> Oh, while I am on collaboration, what about Git?

    > I was going to include Git, but a lot of the design borrowed from the (proprietary) BitKeeper, if I remember correctly.

    Actually while Linus drew on *experience* using proprietary but free-use BitKeeper (for a specific workflow), it deliberately used different *design* and architecture from BitKeeper. It did borrow from open-source Monotone.

    Source: http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.version-control.bazaar-ng.general/18353

    > – When I did git, one of the things that actually _helped_ me was that I was consciously trying to not do a BK clone. I wanted to do the same things that BK did, but I very much did _not_ want to do them the _way_ BK did them. I respect Larry too much, and I didn’t want there to be any question about git being just a “clone”.
    >
    > So a lot of the git design ended up very much trying to avoid old designs on purpose, and I think that really helped. The fact that I didn’t have a background in SCM’s, and that I thought all the weaves etc were confusing, meant that I instead went for a radically different way of doing things.
    >
    > And I’m 100% convinced that “radically different” was the right thing to do. That was what allowed git to really soar. A lot of the good things in git come exactly from the fact that git does _not_ do things like most traditional SCM’s do. But BK should still get a lot of credit, because it was what taught me (and a lot of other people) what being “distributed” really meant.

  50. @Winter

    In all of our encounters on this blog I have never failed once to not understand the true meaning of your words.

    And now, even though I did not know it was you, I still was perfectly mis-understanding what you wanted to say.

    To be fair, nobody can understand what he/she(/it? Yes, I think “it” is the proper pronoun–it conveys just the right amount of disrespect) is saying. Even when Random832 asked for a clearer definition of what it meant by “application”, it refused to give an answer — at least, any coherent one.

  51. @Mike Swanson

    To be fair, nobody can understand what he/she(/it? Yes, I think “it” is the proper pronoun–it conveys just the right amount of disrespect) is saying. Even when Random832 asked for a clearer definition of what it meant by “application”, it refused to give an answer — at least, any coherent one.

    It’s perfectly coherent, you’re just too dumb to understand it. How hard is it to grasp that there’s no applications without will? Or that one will is subsumed by another? Apparently, very. Not surprising, since you seem to be a weak-minded (and therefore weak-willed) person.

    Also, I’m disappointed that Jessica Boxer hasn’t stepped up to defend closed source or Windows from you troglodytes.

  52. > OK, I confused. Did Roger get a sex change and become Shopgirl Peril?

    There are only a limited number of words that can be used to form an anagram, it’s really not fair to infer anything else from that.

    • >There are only a limited number of words that can be used to form an anagram, it’s really not fair to infer anything else from that.

      Actually, given that Shopgirl Peril’s style has in fact been becoming increasingly Roger-like, I think it is. But I only banned Roger because he slipped over the edge into utterly crazed incoherent ranting. Perhaps he actually got the psychiatric help I recommended – “Shopgirl Peril” is trollish and unpleasant but so far not utterly crazed.

      “Shopgirl Peril”, you are on probation. You have a few days to dial back the trollishness and say something useful or interesting. If you don’t, or can’t, the ban hammer will come down.

      Sigh. I hate banning people…

  53. @Mike Swanson
    “… it refused to give an answer — at least, any coherent one.”

    It has severe problems understanding the concept of “Communication”. The fact that to communicate a “Message” there have to be a shared “Code” and “Protocol” seems to be lost on It.

    As a result, all communication with It flounders on the complaint that It always assigns a different meaning to Its messages than any of Its readers. A meaning that never is understood by Its partners. As long as It refuses to negotiate a shared meaning of words and phrases, there is no solution and communicating with It will be just an exercise in frustration.

    As an illustration:
    @It/Shopgirl/Roger Philips
    “It’s perfectly coherent, you’re just too dumb to understand it. How hard is it to grasp that there’s no applications without will?”

    Lenny Susskind is able to explain General Relativity, Black Holes, and String Theory to the lesser minds of mere mortals, e.g.:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL202191442DB1B300

    So, it must be easy for a Greater Mind like It to explain a summary of his ideas to the lesser minds that read this blog. But I have not see any attempt of him that succeeded in communicating anything beyond insults.

  54. @Winter

    It has severe problems understanding the concept of “Communication”. The fact that to communicate a “Message” there have to be a shared “Code” and “Protocol” seems to be lost on It.

    Please come up with some less boring imaginings. I understand your code perfectly. For example, what you’re really saying here, is that I should dumb down what I’m saying so you can understand it. But then I wouldn’t get to see you flail around confusing yourself, possible because I do understand your language.

    As a result, all communication with It flounders on the complaint that It always assigns a different meaning to Its messages than any of Its readers.

    And yet, I always correctly assign _your_ meaning to the things _you_ say. Your version of language – that meaning has to be negotiated democratically comes from pure weakness, because it is intended to neutralize power relations in language.

  55. @Winter

    So, it must be easy for a Greater Mind like It to explain a summary of his ideas to the lesser minds that read this blog. But I have not see any attempt of him that succeeded in communicating anything beyond insults.

    You’ve hit the crux of the issue. Whenever you translate down like this, you lose some information. You can even talk to a dog, it’s just that it only gets the vaguest information, almost mere emotions. Likewise with the talk you linked – the lay listener doesn’t _really_ understand much at all. And when I insult you, you understand roughly what a dog does – that I am your superior. This is not anything I’ve said, that’s your way of understanding me. But unlike a dog, you don’t react to your feelings of inferiority with loyalty, but rather by maliciously and deliberately misinterpreting what little you might be able to understand out of what I say.

  56. @Roger Philips
    “Whenever you translate down like this, you lose some information. You can even talk to a dog, it’s just that it only gets the vaguest information, almost mere emotions.”

    Correct (we have broken our record run of perfect miscommunication now).

    But YOU come HERE to talk to US. So, either you bow down low enough for us to understand you or you should not come here at all. Trying to discuss subject matter in ways you know we could never understand is pointless.

    To summarize: If we cannot understand you, it is your own fault for trying to do the impossible.

    @Roger Philips
    “But unlike a dog, you don’t react to your feelings of inferiority with loyalty, but rather by maliciously and deliberately misinterpreting what little you might be able to understand out of what I say.”

    That is just what you expect when you talk like this to humans instead of dogs. If you talk to tigers or cobras, they will try to murder you. If you talk to humans, they will react maliciously. I am very disappointed that you cannot understand and prepare for this. Maybe you should stick to talking to dogs.

  57. > I think it is

    I didn’t mean to imply that this is not Roger (though it took embarassingly long for me to notice the obvious anagram), rather that the “sex change” remark was out of line because the name shouldn’t really be read as anything but an anagram.

  58. Re: “Shopgirl Peril”

    If you’re anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line as a man of culture rare,
    You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms, and plant them ev’rywhere.
    You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind,
    The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.

    And ev’ry one will say,
    As you walk your mystic way,
    “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
    Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”

  59. @Michael Brazier

    Naturally, you think I’m making up random nonsense, because you’re too dumb to figure out what I mean. And that is the level most people on this forum are at. The rest (Eric and a few others) have read a bit of philosophy but are utterly untouched by the most important parts. For example, Eric likes to talk about ontology. But does he know what the “flux” is? I doubt he’s even heard of it. And yet, it’s impossible to understand anything about ontology without it. You can’t blame him – he follows the analytic “philosophy” and none of them understand it either.

    People on this forum will say you are “insane” if you bless them with such insights as the fact that technology always creates more problems than it solves. That’s how hilariously dumb you people are. It’s easy enough to see that an ape has vastly less problems (practically none) compared to a member of even a rudimentary civilization, but for whatever reason, you don’t have the ability to collect this information without falsifying it to protect all your retarded little ideas. And because you can’t understand this tiny first step, you have no hope at all of understanding that healthy people always *want* more problems.

    Here is the truth: you are all Christian primitives with beliefs that are thousands of years out of date. Every single person on this forum except me is a pre-Nietzchean moralist. And yet, topics such as “freedom”, “equality” and “ethics” are frequently discussed on this blog. As if you could just skip over the most important breakthroughs in this field and continue on like they never happened. Now of course, you *are* free to continue on. Just as millions of Africans are free to continue living as if flushing toilets and other forms of sanitation were never invented, while we have moved past the stage of shitting ourselves to death and moved on to developing science, engineering and culture to hitherto unseen levels.

    @Winter

    If you talk to humans, they will react maliciously. I am very disappointed that you cannot understand and prepare for this. Maybe you should stick to talking to dogs.

    What you still haven’t figured out is that I clearly like being antagonized by you. There’s no lack of understanding here. In fact, I seem to recall saying this to you about 20 times, but apparently the message hasn’t sunk in yet.

  60. @Roger Philips
    “What you still haven’t figured out is that I clearly like being antagonized by you. ”

    You like to call people names? That is why you are here?

  61. @Winter

    What you still haven’t figured out is that I clearly like being antagonized by you.

    You like to call people names? That is why you are here?

    Amazing. “I like you to antagonize me” morphs into “I like to call people names”. Is that a new record for most ridiculous misinterpretation?

  62. @Roger Philips
    “There’s no lack of understanding here. In fact, I seem to recall saying this to you about 20 times, but apparently the message hasn’t sunk in yet.”

    Until recently, I was never able to understand what you really wanted to say (as you so eloquently told me numerous times). I am pretty sure I never understood this particular message. Thanks to your newly found clarity, we can now finally move on.

  63. @Roger Philips
    “Amazing. “I like you to antagonize me” morphs into “I like to call people names”. Is that a new record for most ridiculous misinterpretation?”

    No, but calling names is what you invariably fall back to when we do not “understand” you. See above references to human and animal intercourse. The conclusion that you like me to antagonize you so you can call me (and others) names is rather obvious. However, I am sure I have misunderstood you again (as I always seem to do).

  64. Winter, you feckless worm, have you never given a puppy one end of a bit of rope to struggle with while you tugged at the other? And haven’t you been amused by the tug-of-war that ensued? That is what Roger is doing; because he exists beyond limiting human constructs like “morality”; because he is jenseits von gut und böse, you and all merely rational, ethical beings are like the buzzing of flies to him.

    Heavy sarcasm of course: reading Nietzsche and believing in his philosophy does not automatically make you an übermensch. It’s doubtful Nietzsche himself was. At any rate, as the quotes have it:

    “God is dead.” –Nietzsche

    “Nietzsche is dead.” –God

  65. @Winter

    No, but calling names is what you invariably fall back to when we do not “understand” you. See above references to human and animal intercourse. The conclusion that you like me to antagonize you so you can call me (and others) names is rather obvious. However, I am sure I have misunderstood you again (as I always seem to do).

    There’s no “falling back”, but rather an unrelenting assault on your idiocy. In fact, if I (accurately) compare you to an animal, it is *you* who “fall back”, fall back AWAY from the point I’m making by misinterpreting it, or merely taking offense and reacting with feigned shock. I don’t need to be “antagonized” to call you names, nor do I take much pleasure in it. I crave the frustration of trying to explain things that are way above your head.

    @Jeff Read

    That is what Roger is doing; because he exists beyond limiting human constructs like “morality”; because he is jenseits von gut und böse, you and all merely rational, ethical beings are like the buzzing of flies to him.

    I am a perfectly ethical being. In fact, I am more ethical than anyone on this forum because I take into account future people as well as the present. So I can put my seal of approval on the extermination of entire races or species, because I am thinking about future races and species whose coming into existence depends on the destruction of billions of organisms. What I am beyond is Christian/Jewish morality (slave morality).

    Heavy sarcasm of course: reading Nietzsche and believing in his philosophy does not automatically make you an übermensch. It’s doubtful Nietzsche himself was. At any rate, as the quotes have it:

    Your understanding of Nietzsche obviously comes from course notes (or worse). Nietzsche predicted (willed, in fact) the _coming_ of the Overman. Abandoning Christian morality is the first step. It doesn’t magically transform you into an Overman.

    • >There’s no “falling back”, but rather an unrelenting assault on your idiocy.

      Roger, you have failed to say anything interesting and are lapsing back into insane babble. If your next comment fails to contain more actual substance than insults you will be re-banned.

  66. One useful tip Roger:

    For all your inscrutable intelligence and wisdom you have failed to understand the most important rule of the internet: Admin is God.

    This is a fact regardless of the value of $DEITY, and will continue to be a fact even in a realm of uber^2-menschen. It also has bitten you in the ass before.

  67. @ Shopgirl Peril

    Please excuse me for intruding in the discussion, but I feel compelled to address one of your objections:

    > For example, Eric likes to talk about ontology. But does he know what the “flux” is? I doubt he’s even heard of it.

    If you’re referring to Heraclitus’ doctrine of flux, I believe it is compatible with an observation Eric once made. Warning: that thread is 614 comments long; it may take a while to load, and some computers – such as mine – overheat easily. For convenience, I’ll copy the comment:

    >But this Ship of Theseus problem was long known to be addressable by pointing out a confusion in the definition of “same”. An organism does not have to be defined in some set-theoretic notion of the atoms it contains inside its boundary (the boundary itself is a conceptual notion). Indeed, no biologist would claim this. So, “same organism” is not the same as “same bits of matter”.

    Right. To a General Semanticist, or a Zen Buddhist, none of this is perplexing. There are no “things”, only processes. Nagarjuna called it “dependent arising”. When we insist on creating static noun-like categories, we do it for our short-term convenience, not because the universe is really like that.

    Also, this seems related to:
    – the concern of certain thinkers (Korzybski, Quine) about the verb “to be”;
    – Wittgenstein’s statement that “the world is the totality of facts, not of things”;
    – and Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, which at one point posits a language without nouns.

    None of this is foreign to our host. I don’t claim to know any of it in depth, but he probably does.

    I humbly hope this attempt at clarification fosters a renewed understanding between all parties involved.

    • >None of this is foreign to our host.

      Damn straight it isn’t. I have more connection with Korzybski than the others you mention, but they are all apposite and you get style points for the Borges reference.

      A relevant General Semantics idea is that there is no such thing as identity, merely sufficient similarity for the purposes of communicating observers. This maxim is called “null-I” for short and goes with the better known null-E (the geometry of nature is not Euclidean) and null-A (the logic of nature is not Aristotelian).

  68. Right, so you’re calling Nietzsche “insane babble”? The world’s greatest philosopher? Do you dispute my interpretation of his work? I’m dying to hear your thoughts on the flux. Or is advanced philosophical study not “interesting” enough?

  69. @Jeff Read

    Right. To a General Semanticist, or a Zen Buddhist, none of this is perplexing. There are no “things”, only processes. Nagarjuna called it “dependent arising”. When we insist on creating static noun-like categories, we do it for our short-term convenience, not because the universe is really like that.

    A process is a thing. lol fail. Don’t quote Wittgenstein or Quine to me, let alone BORGES. Like I give a shit what some Argentinian novelist thinks about the flux. I haven’t even read Quine, but I can tell from his wikipedia biography that he doesn’t have the slightest chance of understanding the idea of the flux. And Wittgenstein was neither a good philosopher, nor a particularly good logician.

    This is the problem: something that should be easy to understand, like the idea that there are no things, is IMMEDIATELY fucked up, by introducing a new kind of thing (a process). So typical of all the kinds of “thinkers” Eric loves.

    • >A process is a thing. lol fail.

      Only if you’re confused.

      A General Semanticist would say there are two concepts of “thing” in play here and observe a problem with language confusion. Thing1 is a term in a theory. Thing2 is a static nounlike entity which stands apart from what you call the flux, GS calls the process nature of reality, and Nagarjuna would call something in Sanskrit that I’m forgetting at the moment.

      The General Semanticist and the Buddhist agree that the universe is not composed of thing2s – we think it is because of the limitations of our senses and data-chunking mechanisms built into our neurology. But in order to form any better theory of what is going on, we necessarily have to have thing1s – abstractions – in our heads. Confusing a thing1 with a thing2 is jejune – their only similarity is that they both have linguistic handles.

  70. “something that should be easy to understand, like the idea that there are no things”

    If I drop a bowling ball on your foot, will you not say “ouch!” because the bowling ball doesn’t exist?

  71. Also, I like how you call it a “doctrine”, as if it weren’t a fact that, once pointed out to you, is manifestly obvious.

  72. @Jay

    If I drop a bowling ball on your foot, will you not say “ouch!” because the bowling ball doesn’t exist?

    No, I *will* say “ouch!” because of the resulting FLOW. And of course, I will quite happily talk about objects, and even think in terms of objects, because that is the way humans have evolved. As the most flat-headed person in the room, you most clearly illustrate the deficiency: the inability to deal with seemingly contradictory ideas. Even further down are people who can’t see the contradictions..

  73. It’s not an inability to deal with contradictory ideas. It s a refusal to bother with High Philosophy, just as I refuse to bother with High Art, High Literature, High Music, or any of that other crap that people espouse as being superior and in reality are just unenjoyable dreck foisted on the gullible.

    • >just unenjoyable dreck foisted on the gullible.

      Jay, here Roger is mostly right and you are almost entirely wrong. I am not endorsing his particular philosophy, which is college-sophomore stuff, but he is right to assert that philosophical inquiry is not pointless dreck. It’s…a good way to think of a properly constructed philosophy is as a set of active bullshit filters to keep you from fixating on incoherent or ill-founded theories.

      You don’t know this because the way philosophy is normally taught comes with a short ton of horse exhaust on top of it. That is not your fault, but nor should you mistake accident for essence.

  74. @Jay Please, just stop embarrassing yourself. World’s greatest scholars “gullible” for recognizing Nietzsche’s genius, outsmarted by American twonk in a Tron suit. What you call “high art” (presumably what most people would call “modern” art) is just shit art. Much like analytic philosophy is just shit philosophy. I don’t expect you to understand the opening paragraph of a single one of Nietzsche’s books, let alone see any difference between continental and analytic philosophy. It’s all just “high whatever” to you, because you’re so far down (barely a speck of dirt on Nietzsche’s shoe). Video games are real high art. So what video games have you been playing lately?

  75. @Eric

    Damn straight it isn’t. I have more connection with Korzybski than the others you mention, but they are all apposite and you get style points for the Borges reference.

    A relevant General Semantics idea is that there is no such thing as identity, merely sufficient similarity for the purposes of communicating observers. This maxim is called “null-I” for short and goes with the better known null-E (the geometry of nature is not Euclidean) and null-A (the logic of nature is not Aristotelian).

    So.. when are you going to get around to addressing the flux directly? As opposed to watered-down analytic rubbish that’s “relevant” (in your mind).

    • >So.. when are you going to get around to addressing the flux directly?

      One cannot address the flux directly. One can only point and say “It is!” and say of things dependently arising that they are not. The moment you try to “address” the flux, you’re abstracting again. Cutting slices out of the flow, pinning them down like specimens on a microscope slide. Which is OK, our brains have to work that way outside of a few moments of satori, but it means that the flux is simultaneously the most important concept there is and the most useless.

      You really ought to read some Nagarjuna, which the above roughly paraphrases in modern language. He’s flawed in his own way, but much subtler than Nietzsche.

  76. @Eric Total failure to talk about nonexistence of things without manufacturing EVEN MORE things. Total failure to understand what is meant by the “flux”. Jesus fucking christ, just look at this:

    Thing2 is a static nounlike entity which stands apart from what you call the flux

    Nothing “stands apart” from the flux. FAILURE.

  77. @Eric

    I am not endorsing his particular philosophy, which is college-sophomore stuff

    Says the guy who doesn’t have even a rudimentary understanding of Nietzsche, the only philosopher who really counts, or even Heraclitus. Further, there’s this bit:

    You don’t know this because the way philosophy is normally taught comes with a short ton of horse exhaust on top of it.

    Which undoubtedly refers to stuff like Baudrillard which, while flawed, is vastly more intelligible and interesting than the analytic rubbish you love so much.

  78. @Eric That is how crude your mind is. We can have a discussion about flow, and you can’t make a single step without miring yourself in a ball pool’s worth of objects, let alone make any progress on the problem.

  79. @Eric

    One cannot address the flux directly.

    Are you autistic? I merely wanted you to MENTION the fucking thing. That’s what the word “flux” is for.

    Which is OK, our brains have to work that way outside of a few moments of satori, but it means that the flux is simultaneously the most important concept there is and the most useless.

    How typically low-minded of you. It’s useless to YOU, because you are a crude-minded systems programmer. YOU can’t think of anything to do with it, much as I’m sure you can’t think of anything to do with Nietzsche in general. This is no different to a yokel who can see the usefulness of arithmetic but not pure mathematics. The flux is an UBERCONCEPT that touches on every single topic imaginable. And the fact that you have such a poor grasp of it (things being “apart” from it lol?) is why you suck at ontology.

  80. @ Shopgirl Peril

    Allow me to begin with two minor corrections:

    1. The comment you responded to was mine, not Jeff Read’s.
    2. Borges wasn’t a novelist. He wrote short stories, poems, essays, and short pieces that defy categorization (e.g. about half of Dreamtigers). And I assure you he was better that you’d expect from an Argentinian: he was erudite, harbored no animosity toward the British, and wasn’t interested in soccer.

    > Also, I like how you call it a “doctrine”, as if it weren’t a fact that, once pointed out to you, is manifestly obvious.

    I called it a doctrine in the sense that it’s part of a philosopher’s thought. I wasn’t being dismissive; just wanted to verify my impression that you were alluding to Heraclitus.

    > > Thing2 is a static nounlike entity which stands apart from what you call the flux
    > Nothing “stands apart” from the flux. FAILURE.

    Please remember what he wrote after that: “The General Semanticist and the Buddhist agree that the universe is not composed of thing2s”. So, unless I got something wrong, you and Eric actually agree about the nonexistence of thing2s – i.e. things that stand apart from the flux.

    @ esr

    > you get style points for the Borges reference.

    Thanks.

    > A relevant General Semantics idea is that there is no such thing as identity

    So much for Ayn Rand’s forays into epistemology, huh? :-(

    • >So, unless I got something wrong, you and Eric actually agree about the nonexistence of thing2s – i.e. things that stand apart from the flux.

      That is correct. I don’t know whether Roger hasn’t figured this out yet, or has but is trolling. I lean towards the trolling theory, and if I land there I will ban him.

      >And I assure you he was better that you’d expect from an Argentinian

      That’s an odd thing to say. Genius can arise anywhere; Argentina is not one of the more surprising locations.

      >So much for Ayn Rand’s forays into epistemology, huh? :-(

      There are no words in either English or Spanish to describe how awfully, abysmally wrongheaded Randian epistemology is. All the more astonishing because where she started out – in moral philosophy – she was, despite occasional odd fixations, almost uniquely brilliant.

      My own theory about this is that the epistemology was cranked out because being surrounded by worshipers of her early work put her under implicit pressure to expand her philosophy into a total explanatory system. She wasn’t up to the job. The further away she got from ethico-moral critique the thinner and sillier her constructions became.

  81. @Jorge Dujan

    Please remember what he wrote after that: “The General Semanticist and the Buddhist agree that the universe is not composed of thing2s”. So, unless I got something wrong, you and Eric actually agree about the nonexistence of thing2s – i.e. things that stand apart from the flux.

    I didn’t actually bother to read what he wrote, because I know how he views the flux (not as a flux at all). So this was technically the wrong text for me to quote, but the point is the same. Eric is unable to deal with the flux without “terms in a theory” (things), and his post is an attempt to paint this mental deficiency onto others. This is nothing short of an attempt to justify his pathetic discrete “flux” by making up a retarded little rule that nobody else is allowed to talk about the flux without first coming up with a list of parts.

    In reality, you can not only conceive of the flux without any “things”, but you can *communicate* it as well! I mean, for fuck’s sake, humans communicate all the time by transfer of sperm. Violence is another form of communication – no “things” required. How much more basic can I get with these observations?

    • >I didn’t actually bother to read what he wrote

      You’re re-banned. Not for your dealings with me, specifically, but because this typifies your attitude.

  82. @ esr

    > It’s…a good way to think of a properly constructed philosophy is as a set of active bullshit filters to keep you from fixating on incoherent or ill-founded theories.

    But what about this observation by Paul Graham?

    What I learned from trying to study philosophy is that the place to look is in other fields. If you understand math or history or aeronautical engineering very well, the most abstract of the things you know are what philosophy is supposed to be teaching.

    > That’s an odd thing to say. Genius can arise anywhere

    Fair enough, but my point was this: if Shopgirl Peril is reluctant to read Borges because of his nationality, I understand – such skepticism is reasonable, given this country’s track record and current state. Knowing Borges was atypical may help in overcoming such reluctance.

    > Argentina is not one of the more surprising locations.

    Care to elaborate? I’m interested in outsiders’ perspectives, much like you “try to keep around people who aren’t, as in [my] case, native speakers of English”. ;-)

    > …to expand her philosophy into a total explanatory system. She wasn’t up to the job.

    But who is up to that job? Are total explanatory systems even possible? Isn’t it dangerous to persist in perceiving the world through a “symmetry with a resemblance of order” (in keeping with “Tlön…”)?

    • >But what about this observation by Paul Graham?

      I don’t agree with him on this. He’s speaking the reaction of a person who has seen the historical accident that what is valuable in philosophy is surrounded by bullshit, and mistaken that for essence.

      >Care to elaborate?

      Some places are so poor that almost nobody can afford the time investment to think carefully about abstractions. Argentina isn’t one of them, and was less like them when Borges was doing his writing than it is now.

      >But who is up to that job?

      I’m not sure anyone is.

  83. Oh my, what have I done. Now I have to give my vision of reality or the flux or the answer to life the universe and everything?

    I know the answer, but what was the question?

    I can add little philosophy beyond what has already been given, besides that Borges was a librarian. My favorites are the “library of babel” and “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”.

    Anyhow, humans can easily identify any corrolated percepts or feelings as ” things”. These things do not have to have a counterpart outside of the mind, e.g., god.

    Let me add yet another philosopher to the list. Foucault showed that concepts (knowledge) arise in the conversations of groups. Words and meanings are created (lexicon, semantics, and pragmatics) to talk about subjects of interest. The whole concept of what is considered real is ultimately based in the usefulness of the things to the discussion at hand.

    For instance, in this blog there is talk about States, Markets, Rights, Ownership, and Governments as if these are things. These words and concepts are essential to even talk about Libertarian ideas. However, I also follow discussions where none of these concepts can be used as they are considered mirages.

    However, people like Roger who start to insult and curse everyone without exception I only encounter in reports about mental health care. With people like Roger, all words become meanigless and all concepts dissolve in mist.

  84. @Jorge Dujan

    Why are you asking Paul Graham or Eric what they think of philosophy’s place? Paul Graham is a businessman. That’s it. And his essays are for the consumption of programmers, not philosophers or scholars. Eric is much the same; he doesn’t believe in a real philosophy (which is something palpable). In spite of anything he might say, deep down he wants the same thing from philosophy as Popper – to discover a special “law” that will invalidate anything too complex for him to understand. Popper didn’t understand Marxism, so he wanted it gone from the academy. And yet, Marxism sent millions to their deaths (philosophy realized).

    Fair enough, but my point was this: if Shopgirl Peril is reluctant to read Borges because of his nationality, I understand – such skepticism is reasonable, given this country’s track record and current state. Knowing Borges was atypical may help in overcoming such reluctance.

    It doesn’t matter how atypical he was. He wasn’t a philosopher. He wrote stories for a living, and that’s it. I’m not disputing that he’s an interesting author, but the inclusion of Borges alongside the likes of Heraclitus and Nietzsche.. come off it. It’s the literary equivalent of people who think The Matrix has something interesting to say about free will. Pure wank.

  85. Also, I didn’t say I’m “reluctant” to read Borges. I just don’t think he has anything of substance to say on philosophy. I’ve read a few stories, they were moderately entertaining and I haven’t felt the need to think about them since.

  86. @Roger Philips
    “I’ve read a few stories, they were moderately entertaining and I haven’t felt the need to think about them since.”

    Other philosophers were less picky. Foucault used a story from Borges as a starting point. But I assume you do not consider Foucault worthy of your attention. (the last sentence is not a question)

  87. @Winter

    Other philosophers were less picky. Foucault used a story from Borges as a starting point. But I assume you do not consider Foucault worthy of your attention. (the last sentence is not a question)

    First of all, kindly refrain from calling me a philosopher. Second, I haven’t got around to Foucault yet. But judging by the kinds of people who like to name drop him, it’s not likely to be Earth-shattering. And once again we have nothing but pure weakness from you, Winter. As if because some philosopher who has a big name had some interest in Borges that I am supposed to put him next to a colossus like Nietzsche.

  88. “kindly refrain from calling me a philosopher”

    Oh, so you’re a stand-up philosopher….a bullshit artist.

  89. Eric: “the historical accident that what is valuable in philosophy is surrounded by bullshit”

    This sounds like a dedicated communist arguing about the historical accident that what’s valuable in Communism is surrounded by totalitarianism, and how we should not therefore conclude that Communism necessarily breeds totalitarianism.

    I know you much, much better than that. So how does philosophy not breed bullshit?

    • >This sounds like a dedicated communist arguing about the historical accident that what’s valuable in Communism is surrounded by totalitarianism, and how we should not therefore conclude that Communism necessarily breeds totalitarianism.

      One important difference is that nothing good ever came of Communism – it’s lies, oppression and murder all the way down. On the other hand, I learned from the study of philosophy how to spot certain common kinds of erroneous argument, such as those depending on the assumption that the universe consists of nounlike things with hard boundaries.

  90. Roger, if you’re planning on another resurrection and return to us, please let us know how the self-test turned out. Some forms of autism incorporate genius.

    As to the broader topic of philosophy, I’ve often thought that the first question that should be asked and answered is . . . “Did philosophy exist before the genesis of the species homo sapiens?”

    Also, as Winter has alluded to, all words that attempt to describe reality are approximations limited by the reach and accuracy of our perceptions and conceptions. But that deficiency does not invalidate their use in thought and communication.

  91. @Jay Maynard
    “I know you much, much better than that. So how does philosophy not breed bullshit?”

    Jay, philosophy is the love of wisdom. Many of the words and concepts you use daily were once high philosophy, like “idea” (Plato) and “logic” (Aristotle). Philosophy has its own language, just like law or science or cooking. That language might look silly to an outsider, but it is needed to keep the conversation clear. And, like the law or cooking, there is no single truth in philosophy.

    Philosophical questions are not like mathematical theorems that can be (dis-)proven once and for all, or like scientific questions where we can always be sure that the next answer will be better than the current. Philosophy investigates what we mean by saying a theorem is True, or Proven, and how a new scientific answer can be Better than an existing one.

    There is a very old joke, or paradox, in philosophy, attributed to Socrates. It says that to prove that philosophy is worthless, or meaningless, you have to use philosophy.

    But it is true. This paradox also illustrates that philosophy comes before the concepts of Truth or Meaning, or Usefulness can be used.

  92. @ Winter – “there is no single truth in philosophy”

    This is what Eric means by process. Truth is the accurate perception or conception of reality, but ascertaining that accuracy is an ongoing process toward an ideal on the horizon. Some claim to have made the journey and know the answer definitively, but that is more hubris than fact. And that is why many layman think philosophy is largely bullshit.

  93. @TomA
    “Some claim to have made the journey and know the answer definitively, but that is more hubris than fact. And that is why many layman think philosophy is largely bullshit.”

    In philosophy, the questions are eternal, the answers are only temporary. What stays from philosophy are the tools to tackle the answers, e.g., logic.

    But their are times when people do not want to think, but just want to act. These are times that are followed by great sorrow.

  94. @ Winter – “But their are times when people do not want to think, but just want to act.”

    That is residual innate behavior from our ancestral days as hunter-gatherers. In those days, failure to act quickly (instinctively) could get you killed. The advent of memetics and civilization has changed the paradigm, hence the need for philosophy.

  95. @ Winter

    > However, people like Roger who start to insult and curse everyone without exception

    To be fair, he did make an exception for me. I don’t know why; I’m by far the least intelligent and knowledgeable person here, and he would have been justified in calling me on it (whereas those he did insult, such as you, didn’t deserve to be insulted). Yet I somehow managed to be spared. It’s a bit like when, late in Dragon Ball Z, Mr. Satan is the only surviving human despite being abysmally weaker than the Z Fighters.

    @ admin

    “Admin”? What happened? Well, since you’ve used this “admin” account to discuss themes: sometimes I interrupt the loading of your blog and its appearance changes, getting a blue bar and such (the Admired theme, apparently). I actually like that look; how can I enable it permanently?

    > Some places are so poor that almost nobody can afford the time investment to think carefully about abstractions. Argentina isn’t one of them, and was less like them when Borges was doing his writing than it is now.

    Alas, things are likely to get worse.

    @ Jay Maynard

    > Oh, so you’re a stand-up philosopher….a bullshit artist.

    From this, and from something Eric once quoted you as saying, I gather you’re a Mel Brooks fan. :-) Have you watched Life Stinks? I have (many times, in fact), and feel it’s underrated; so I’d like to know your take on it.

    • >@ESR, why did you start posting as admin (its like sending personal email when logged as root)?

      Side effect of banning Roger. I have to go to admin to do that; sometimes I forget to log out and back in before I post.

  96. Eric: “common kinds of erroneous argument, such as those depending on the assumption that the universe consists of nounlike things with hard boundaries.”

    So, what happens if I pick up the bowling ball that rolled off Roger’s foot and drop it on yours?

    • >So, what happens if I pick up the bowling ball that rolled off Roger’s foot and drop it on yours?

      I go “Ow!”, of course. Nounlike things are sometimes a good approximation at short timescales. The value of keeping in mind that they are time slices ourt of a process is that you are less likely to be surprised when the universe presents you with behavior that is less simple.

  97. Why do you think the assumption that things are real entails that they don’t sometimes change into other things? In any realist metaphysics, the processes a thing can participate in are the main parts of what makes it the thing it is.

  98. @Michael
    “Why do you think the assumption that things are real entails that they don’t sometimes change into other things?”

    A bowlingball is a collection of molecules. On a human scale of size and time, it is useful to consider it as a thing. When burning it as garbage, it is just molecules.

    Now, when you start about rivers and clouds, or the earth, using the “thing” metaphore becomes much less useful. With electricity, seconds and love it becomes useless.

    Why does it matter? Because of the fact that humans often think that because a noun exists, a corresponding thing must exist.

  99. @ Winter

    And the application of language is both complex and contextual. For example, the word “thing” can sometimes be used solely as a pointer (e.g. that thing over there); in which case the noun is intended as a location aid rather than a definitive identity descriptor.

  100. @TomA
    “And the application of language is both complex and contextual. ”

    That is why philosophy (and mathematics and the sciences) spend a lot of effort to make their assertions unambiguous.

  101. @ESR: Regarding your comment about Rand apart from ethics, you say that she got worse.
    Considering that her ethical theories are largely rubbish, I have to assume that she descended into incoherency.

    I’ve wanted to write a parody of Atlas Shrugged where Galt and company are under the delusion that the world is totalitarian when it’s actually democratic-socialist with policies like those of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, et al. Galt Auto would not fail because Galt left, and Galt’s Gulch would end up within a few years in either civil war or fallen apart like Rapture from Bioshock. The only thing stopping me is that I’d have to read the book.

    A big problem with Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy is that it is exactly opposed to Communism. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bad sign; going to extremes rarely results in the truth. For a better critique than I could write, I must point you to zompist.com/libertos.html

    • >Considering that her ethical theories are largely rubbish

      I don’t agree. I think Rand was a brilliant if narrowly focused ethico/moral critic. Her analysis of the toxicity of altruism and collectivism has yet to be really improved on.

      Rand was a perfect example of what Isaiah Berlin called a “hedgehog thinker” – she only understood one thing, but she understood that one thing very, very well. Watching the Bolshevik Revolution destroy everything she loved as a child seems to have concentrated her mind; she spent the rest of her life trying to persuade the world not to make that hideous mistake. I think it’s a great shame she wasn’t more successful.

  102. @esr
    But what to think about the morality of her hero. That hero deliberately kills of most of the population of his country just to make a point. More like a psychopath.

    I do not give a penny for her thoughts on anything.

  103. Winter: “That hero deliberately kills of most of the population of his country just to make a point.”

    Not having slogged through Rand’s work, I’m not familiar with what you’re referring to. Which book, which hero, and was it an act of commission or omission?

  104. @Jay

    He is referring to Galt convincing the productive people that they should stop being co-dependent on their destroyers. Apparently when the parasite is defined as a Social Good co-dependency is suddenly a good thing as well.

    Yay.

  105. > He is referring to Galt convincing the productive people that they should stop being co-dependent on their destroyers.

    I tend to doubt your description is any less biased than Winters, but I’ll bite: What came of it? Did people die, or did the Free Market fix it and everyone lived happily ever after?

  106. That sure doesn’t sound like Galt is guilty of killing those people himself. Indeed, it sounds like Winter’s arguing that we have an affirmative duty to support those ho take from the productive. I do not recognize such a duty.

  107. This is all getting too abstract for someone who hasn’t read the book. I don’t even know how to evaluate whether the characterization of any class of people as “those who take from the productive” is A) present in the book, B) fair regarding any real-life class of people even if it is in the book.

  108. I apologize for my earlier digressions, and hope you find the following useful.

    Nancy Lebovitz once wrote about the morality of the actions of Atlas Shrugged‘s heroes. Her comment is even-handed; at one point, she describes something that both statists and anti-statists may find problematic.

  109. @ ESR – ‘Rand was a perfect example of what Isaiah Berlin called a “hedgehog thinker” – she only understood one thing”

    I disagree. She was fiercely locked in on single philosophical ideal, but applied it very broadly to every aspect of human existence (e.g. her non-fiction writing). And her work served as a counter force to the epidemic of socialist enthusiasm that was being driven by the major media of the 1930s. She was one the first iconic female warriors in defense of individualism. Not a small achievement.

    And to Winter, please do not lump the fictional character of John Galt into the pantheon of your heroes (e.g. Stalin, Mao, etc.). John Galt was a metaphor for the ideal of individual self reliance, and his “crime” was to lead a strike against societal parasitism. No real people died. Conversely, your heroes achieved an actual death toll in excess of 50 million. This is the essential difference between us. You have a shit fit over fictional death and can’t be bothered to acknowledge real and horrific genocide.

  110. @TomA
    “John Galt was a metaphor for the ideal of individual self reliance, and his “crime” was to lead a strike against societal parasitism. No real people died.”

    We are talking about moral ethics, more specifically, the moral philosphy of Ayn Rand as expressed in Atlas Shrugged. In this book the Hero, who is on the side of the Just, organizes the death of most of the population of the USA (or the world). What Rand describes are potentially more deaths than the big three managed together.

    Several commenters from the Libertarian camp have said they agree with these people dying (it is their own fault).

    This are the morals of Stalinism and Maoism.

    I think Nancy’s analysis is very informative.

    Btw, the people going to die include farmers, doctors, teachers, nurses, children, retirees, shopkeepers, truck drivers, farm hands, welders, construction workers, …..

    @Foo
    Calling them parasites smells of calling Tutsis “cockroaches”.

  111. @Winter

    Comprehension failure nearly as bad as Roger’s; the parasites were not the average joe’s, but the cronyists, politicians, do-gooders, etc.

  112. @ Winter

    You need to go back and reread “Atlas Shrugged”. The character of John Galt does not implement a genocide and does not employ violence against mankind. Get the context of the novel correct before you attempt to pass judgement on the moral framework.

    In Atlas Shrugged, Rand creates a world in which most of humanity have become parasites feeding off the productivity of others and a vicious cycle of political tyranny is pushing this to the point where the host will soon die, and then thereafter, the parasites must also perish en masse. Galt foresees this outcome and determines that the only real solution is to rehabilitate the parasites as productive entities via the mechanism of hardship and existential incentive. To accomplish this, he organizes a strike of humanity’s best thinkers and doers; who then withdraw their talent and achievement, which in turn creates the hardship environment that soon befalls the parasites. The parasites that can relearn how to be productive again will then survive and prosper. Those that don’t are either supported via the voluntary charitable generosity of others, or die as nature intended.

    Think of this problem in the first person. If you crawl out of the swamp and find yourself covered in leaches, do you praise them for their need of your blood, or burn them off?

  113. @TomA
    “If you crawl out of the swamp and find yourself covered in leaches, do you praise them for their need of your blood, or burn them off?”

    But the people going to die in Atlas Shrugged are not animals but humans. Calling them leeches is exactly as dehumanizing as calling Tutsies cockroaches

    @TomA
    “The character of John Galt does not implement a genocide and does not employ violence against mankind.”

    These are weaslewords. The hero Galt organizes a strike that is designed to result in the collapse of the infrastructure and to precipitate chaos and famine that will kill most of the population (90%?).

    Any targetted policy succeeding in exterminating 90% of the population is genocide in my book. Even if you could implement it by praying.

    Note that the dead will include all farmers, factory workers, nurses, teachers, docters, cobblers, children, infirm, elderly etc.

  114. @ Winter’s adversaries

    I generally agree, but what about the following (as described by Nancy Lebovitz)?

    > Francisco d’Anconia (who is supposed to be a very cool person), in the course of destroying one of his copper mines, permits the housing for workers to be built by incompetent and corrupt contractors– and thinks he’s making a point by doing so.

    @ esr

    Eric, I’m confused. You’ve made two claims about Ayn Rand that seem contradictory to me. Earlier in this thread, you wrote:

    > My own theory about this is that the epistemology was cranked out because being surrounded by worshipers of her early work put her under implicit pressure to expand her philosophy into a total explanatory system.

    That implies the cult predated her epistemological doctrine. But in “Responding to Eliezer Yudkowsky’s ‘Overcoming Bias'” you’d written:

    > In Guardians of Ayn Rand. you write “Actually, I think Shermer’s falling prey to correspondence bias by supposing that there’s any particular correlation between Rand’s philosophy and the way her followers formed a cult.” I don’t agree. There are specific features of the awful mess called “Randian epistemology” that are conducive to map/territory confusion, specifically the notion that the Law of the Excluded Middle is ontologically fundamental rather than a premise valid only for certain classes of reasoning.

    Which implies her epistemology predated the cult. How do we get out of this chicken-or-egg dilemma?

    • >Which implies her epistemology predated the cult. How do we get out of this chicken-or-egg dilemma?

      I wasn’t contradicting myself. I’m disagreeing with Eliezer’s disagreement with Shermer, that means I don’t think Shermer’s evaluation was mere correspondence bias, that means I do think Randian philosophy was at least partly driven by cult dynamics.

      But I see why the paragraph was confusing. I should probably insert a “However” before the second sentence.

  115. @ Winter – “Calling them leeches is exactly as dehumanizing as calling Tutsies cockroaches”

    A system of corrupt political elites that seduce people into abject welfare dependence and then render them incapable of self-reliance is real dehumanization, not petty name calling. And Galt does not aspire to kill 90% of the earth’s population, but to redeem it from the death-spiral of ravenous socialism at the expense of the productive. And lest you forget, its a work of fiction. Where are your tears for the tens of millions actually and directly killed by Stalin, Mao, Kim Jung Il and others.

    @ Jorge Dugan re: Francisco d’Aconia citation

    I don’t remember that specific passage in the book, so I cannot confirm its accuracy or context, but it sounds like the sort of “hard love” that is employed when dealing with addicts. Sometimes words alone are not enough to be persuasive, and experiencing hard knocks firsthand is needed (sometimes known a 2×4 upside the head to get their attention).

  116. @TomA
    “A system of corrupt political elites that seduce people into abject welfare dependence and then render them incapable of self-reliance is real dehumanization, not petty name calling. ”

    Every mass murder starts like this, with de-humanising the opposition. If this is the morality of Rand, what makes it different from Stalin’s morals? Or Mao’s?

    @TomA
    “And Galt does not aspire to kill 90% of the earth’s population, but to redeem it from the death-spiral of ravenous socialism at the expense of the productive.”

    By destroying the infrastructure that they need to live? Making certain they will die in chaos and famine? You are pulling my leg here?

    @TomA
    “And lest you forget, its a work of fiction.”

    Morals are well researched in Gedanken Experiments. That is a well researched field. This one seems to show clearly the genocidal phantasies entertained by part of the Libertarian movement.

    @TomA
    “Where are your tears for the tens of millions actually and directly killed by Stalin, Mao, Kim Jung Il and others.”

    In every comment I ever made on the actions of these people and their supporters and henchmen. I strongly feel that understanding the real causes of these horrors are better tools to prevent new attrocities than Libertarian phantasies based on a-historical and a-human ideologies.

  117. My comment triggers the moderation cue again. Lets try a fragment.

    @TomA
    “A system of corrupt political elites that seduce people into abject welfare dependence and then render them incapable of self-reliance is real dehumanization, not petty name calling. ”

    Every mass murder starts like this, with de-humanising the opposition. If this is the morality of Rand, what makes it different from Stalin’s morals? Or Mao’s?

  118. And another fragment
    @TomA
    “And lest you forget, its a work of fiction.”

    Morals are well researched in Gedanken Experiments. That is a well researched field. This one seems to show clearly the genocidal phantasies entertained by part of the Libertarian movement.

  119. Winter, if the system has transformed people into dependent slaves of government incapable of fending for themselves, then what happens when that system falls apart – as it will always do?

    Where does the fault lie? With those who created the slaves, not those who tear down an immoral system.

  120. @Jay Maynard
    “…incapable of fending for themselves, then what happens when that system falls apart – as it will always do?”

    As it was described by Rand, the system was not in immediate danger to descent into utter chaos. In the long run… we are all dead. By causing chaos and famine now, Galt takes direct responsibilities for their death.

    @Jay Maynard
    “Where does the fault lie? With those who created the slaves, not those who tear down an immoral system.”

    The direct fault lies with whom knowingly causes the infrastructure to collapse to create chaos and death.

    Morals and ethics are clear on this. Distant causes and injustices are no valid reason for Galt to organise mass deaths.

  121. @ Winter

    I’m guessing that you’ve never actually read any of Ayn Rand’s works, hence your misunderstandings.

    Rand called her philosophy Objectivism, and practitioners are known as Objectivists. Libertarianism didn’t come along until much later, and it was influenced by Objectivism, but they are not the same. Both movements however, are pro-individual and starkly anti-tyranny. Please visit the Cato Institute website for more confirmation of this.

    This will be my last word on this topic. Tyrants are bullies that succeed when citizens become timid sheep that can no longer fend for themselves. Politicians that purchase votes with endless government handouts convert decent people into dependent parasites, and pave the way for the emergence of a tyrant. Ayn Rand spent her life fighting this form of corruption and the attendant entitlement disease that undermined our species’ heritage of self reliance and self respect.

    I have no idea why you are so attached to the entitlement addiction of socialism, but recent history is very clear on this point. Your movement owns the tyranny.

  122. @TomA
    “Libertarianism didn’t come along until much later, and it was influenced by Objectivism, but they are not the same.”

    Many here who identify themselves as Libertarians defend the ideas of Rand, including this organised mass deaths. So I do not see why I should make sich a distinction.

    @TomA
    “I have no idea why you are so attached to the entitlement addiction of socialism, but recent history is very clear on this point.”

    It is clear, organized societies do better than unorganized societies. Also, the countries which are best in the world in any human value: health, life expectancy, education, happiness, freedom of the press etc. are what you would call “socialist”.

    @TomA
    “Your movement owns the tyranny.”

    Even a glance in history will show you that this is ridiculous, starting even before Sparta.

  123. These are weaslewords. The hero Galt organizes a strike that is designed to result in the collapse of the infrastructure and to precipitate chaos and famine that will kill most of the population

    No, he doesn’t. That’s Dagny’s incorrect interpretation through most of the book. But the whole point of the character of Dagny in the book is that she is factually wrong while being morally right. Dagny’s conversion into a striker is specifically not because of any “moral growth”, but because of factual enlightenment. if she were factually right, then, as Galt himself says, her course of action, her long refusal to strike, her fighting to do the best she can to keep the world together, would be the right thing to do.

    This key fact, the reason that that trying to keep the system functioning, like Dagny does, is doomed to fail, is because the people running the government would rather die than do what is necessary to be saved. The whole error of Dagny, the whole reason why she refuses to join the strike, is that she thinks that in the extreme, they will choose to live; the point of the book is that she’s wrong. That chaos and famine will kill the population is already inevitable, because the people in power will not abandon their policies. Even when it’s clear their policies are failing, and they have captured Galt, and they ask him how to save things, and he tells them, they refuse to do what he told them. And then they try to torture a different answer out of him. But he can’t give another answer, because there is no other answer that will save them. They choose to die (and kill 90% of the country) rather than do what is necessary to survive.

    You can say the villains are not realistic, that no human would, in fact, behave that way. You can say the situation is not realistic, that Galt’s answer is not, in fact, the only way to save them. But, as written, given the reality that exists inside the novel, the country’s leaders are responsible, causing the death of most of the population, because they prefer death to living in accordance with reality.

  124. The question then becomes whether there actually exists a set of facts under which Galt and the strikers’ actions are reasonable, or whether this was a pure flight of fancy on Rand’s part.

  125. In re ESR’s comment on Rand being a hedgehog thinker:
    You are entirely right. Unfortunately, Rand saw Scylla and veered far enough away to hit Charybdis dead center.

    And winter: Both of your links are inaccurate.

  126. Sorry for the double post. I followed up on your links, winter, and neither of them is the kind of parody I meant. The first one is just the summary, and the second one isn’t even a parody. What I meant is a chapter-by-chapter parody, and with a relatively upbeat ending. Instead of the world going to shreds, and Galt’s Gulch staying as-is, I’d have Galt’s Gulch going to pieces and the rest of the world approximately staying as-is. Also I’d leave out or change the free-energy device. Rand should have known better; it’s an unforgivable sin to me to have such a blatant scientific impossibility (the only book I’ve ever read with a free-energy device is Robert L. Forward’s /Timemaster/, and that has negative-mass objects to provide the energy). (Maybe a really good solar panel?)

  127. @EMF
    “What I meant is a chapter-by-chapter parody, and with a relatively upbeat ending.”

    I realized that some time after I posted the responses. But then the discussion had moved on.

  128. @EMF
    “the only book I’ve ever read with a free-energy device is Robert L. Forward’s /Timemaster/, and that has negative-mass objects to provide the energy). (Maybe a really good solar panel?”

    Isaac Asimov “The Gods Themselves”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gods_Themselves

    In this story, the energy is obtained by harvesting differences in the laws of physics between parallel universes. There is a catch with this source of energy. Using it makes the laws converge locally with potentially disastrous consequences.

    Rand could have used a fusion device running on normal hydrogen instead. That is not “impossible”, just “difficult”. But this point is irrelevant to the plot. Just read it like you replaced all mentioning of Galt’s device with “fusion”.

  129. The problem is that if the device provides truly freely energy, its production should be able to scale indefinitely (use the energy to build more copies of itself) at no cost to the owners, to the point of building a post-scarcity society. And when there’s truly no cost to you, the argument that you don’t have a moral obligation to help others (even “parasites”) is a lot weaker.

  130. @Random832
    “The problem is that if the device provides truly freely energy, its production should be able to scale indefinitely (use the energy to build more copies of itself) at no cost to the owners, to the point of building a post-scarcity society.”

    That is completely right. Although even if the production of energy is truly free, getting rid of the waste heat could still be a problem. Rand might not have thought about this.

    @Random832
    “And when there’s truly no cost to you, the argument that you don’t have a moral obligation to help others (even “parasites”) is a lot weaker.”

    When I understand the “Duty to rescue” discussions in Libertarian circles correctly, then there should be never ever any obligation to act. Even an obligation to pick up a drowning baby at your feet seems to be not conceivable.

    As Galt seems to have severe moral objections against the lives of the majority of his compatriots, he would not feel a moral obligation to help them in any way.

  131. Having seen the near collapse of a socialist enterprise and the reactions of its supporters, and having never read Rand, take this as it is.

    The Canadian health care system hit a wall in the mid nineties. The economy wasn’t growing fast enough to generate revenues to pay the increasing costs. Health economists, a good group of people never to listen to, had encouraged provincial authorities to not train doctors and nurses because if there were less there would be less demand. It got to the point where it was cheaper to pay for treatment yourself and get back to work than to wait for the bureaucracy to get around to it. If you were retired, well tough.

    In response there popped up people who provided the desired services. The supporters of socialized medicine said, literally, that waiting and dying was to support the best healthcare system in the world.

    If I was to pay a doctor directly I was, according to the perverse logic, stealing from the needy, who wouldn’t get cared for in any case.

    The whole thing was saved by the digging of bitumen out of the ground in a booming commodity market that lasted for a couple decades.

    So, winter, your criticism of Rand is a criticism of those who would abandon a system that was not working and killing people. Who were the ones causing harm, the doctors who were paid directly to use the operating theatres that were not being used, or the bureaucrats and politicians who would pay surgeons not to operate on people?

    Rand may have used hyperbole to illustrate her point, but in the real world socialist systems do not live up to their hype and in fact do enormous harm to populations. The system had 13 months waiting lists for a pregnant woman to get a gp. The choice was either a disruptive reform with all the obvious and visible consequences, maintaining the invisible inability of the system to do what it was purported to accomplish (sick people don’t vote. All you have to do is say you care and some token sweet, and the mostly healthy population will assuage their guilt by voting for you). Or build a vigorous economy by becoming a petrostate, a pariah.

    Canada chose the last, Alberta has almost twice the spending per capita compared to other provinces. We are now back to the nineties facing the need for reform but with substantially higher base costs.

    System collapse is real, that I suppose it’s Rand’s point. The longer it is entrenched the more likely the collapse and its consequences will be terrible. We should have all gone galt two generations ago.

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