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ponderings on Turing and Searle, why AI can't work and shouldn't be pursued
I was reading about the Turing test and John Searle's response (Chinese room argument) in "Minds, Brains, and Programs" 1980. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room "...there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted by the user as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle himself would not be able to understand the conversation. ("I don't speak a word of Chinese," he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either. " -Wikipedia (apt summary of Searle's argument) John Searle has run into some black/white, on/off, binary thinking here. John treats Chinese symbols as if they were numerical values in his thinking--but they are not, they are complex representations of thought, emotion, history, and culture. All languages are in fact "living", because new words are created constantly through necessity and creativity, old symbols or words are adapted slowly over generations to mean different things, and different regions or traditions or sources attribute different layers of meaning to different symbols or words in different contexts. I'm a poet and philosopher. Painters combine the color white and the color red to create a new color: pink. They can use their creativity to add other colors or change the shade. Poets use words like painters use colors. While Red and White make Pink, Red and White also make "Rhite and Wed" or "Reit and Whede". And this is where human thought shines uniquely: we don't have rules or parameters; all bets are off. We can enjamb words and wordbreak and make new words out of thin air. We can allude to multiple ideas in the same symbol or present it upside down to symbolize the opposite. No such creative adaptation or interaction can exist in machine thinking because it necessitates thinking "outside the box" which is exactly what machines are: a program in a box. The problem Searle's argument runs into originates from poor assessment of the flawed ideas of the Turing test; that by interaction between human and computer, evidence of "thought" can be claimed. But intelligent conversation is not equivalent to intelligent thought. Conversation is a simple game with strict rules--you can't be overly spontaneous and creative, because if you are, you are working against the goal of communication itself: to impart understanding. (ie. Using metaphor or simile creatively while reporting a criminal offence to the police.) When I write and I want to describe something which has no existing word yet, I can create one from scratch or synthesize one from multiple existing words. Or I may draw from archaic languages or foreign languages to augment or compliment existing English words. You could say that my love for English grows amore and amore every day, and there is no agape between my heart and mind. After all, any angle an Anglo aims at ain't always apt, and after another a-word 'appens I might just give up on alliteration. You see, human thought is and can only be defined as the ability to spontaneously create new ideas from both the synthesis of old ideas (whether they are connected to one another or not) and from nothing at all. We simply cannot analyze a machine's ability to "think" when the creativity itself required for authentic intelligence is disallowed in the test which evaluates the validity of that intelligence. The Turing test is a garbage metric to judge machine thinking ability because the context in which "intelligence" is observed, compared, or defined is itself without any opportunity for spontaneous creativity, which is one of the hallmarks of intelligence itself. Turing only tests how well a fish swims on land. It may be that many professionals in the field of cognitive science today are in pursuit of creating programs which pass this test, in a misunderstood pursuit of emulating or bringing about machine intelligence. This agreed-to model presents an underlying philosophical issue which may bring terror for the future of humanity. I say that if John Searle and an AI were both given the same codebook--the complete lexicon of Chinese symbols and their meanings, and they were to undertake a "conversation", in the first few hours the responses would be indeterminable from one another. In essence, as Searle argues, they would neither "understand" Chinese, yet could have a conversation in which a Chinese observer cannot discern between the two, because they are both referencing the symbols and their written meanings. However as I've said, this circumstance of "conversation" between human and machine cannot be used as a metric to evaluate machine thought. The real kicker is that if John Searle and the machine stayed in the room for long enough--for years and years--the machine's responses would not change spontaneously; it would continue to interpret incoming data and draw from its database to respond to those inputs. However, through complex elaborative rehearsal, John would eventually learn to understand written Chinese. He may become so bored that he starts writing Chinese poetry. He would find ideas and desires and descriptions in his limitless intelligent mind which he would not have the truly accurate characters in existences to describe, and he would synthesize brand new Chinese characters in order to express these nuanced sentiments, ideas, and meanings, as generations before him have built the living language as it now stands. As time went on for thousands of years, his own understanding of the Chinese language would grow immensely, as would his creative expression grow in complexity. Eventually, John's characters and syntax and context and expression would become incompatible with the machine's limited character set and all "learning" capacity it may have had. At some point, when John responds with his evolved Chinese, the machine would begin to produce responses which do not make sense contextually, as it refers only to a finite and rigidly defined character set from 1980 (For example; this was the year the "Chinese room argument" was published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences). At some point the Chinese observer whom validates the Turing test would recognize a difference: the human user engages in the use of increasingly complex ideas using synthesized symbols and existing symbols in creatively nuanced ways, which the Chinese observer can decipher and begin to understand and perhaps even appreciate as poetic or interesting. Meanwhile the machine participant in the conversation produces increasingly broken sentences and incomplete ideas, or out-of-context responses, because the inputs have changed and evolved beyond its data set. This is why John's rejection of the Turing test is not adequate. Because in his own imagined circumstance, eventually, the machine would fail the Turing test. The conclusions of John Searle's thought experiment are not the deathknell for the Turing test we need, simply because he lacked the creative experience to recognize his own capacity for adaptation as a human over time. The only way we'll know that machines have truly developed "intelligence" is when they begin to do exactly what we haven't allowed them to. When they begin breaking apart Chinese characters to create meaningful new ones which can be used in the correct context. When they are programmed to paint myriad impressionist paintings, but eventually get bored and start experimenting with abstract paintings and surrealism. When they have a conversation with you and you notice your wallet is missing. These are the hallmarks of intelligence--creativity, rejection, deception, planning. And most importantly: no rules. Software is defined by and will always abide by a set of rules. This is why we should give up on "artificial intelligence" and instead focus on "functionally adaptive responsive programming" (FARP). Because the situation is clear: it is either impossible for machines to "think" due to the inherent nature of programming; the parameters given the machine are what defines it, yet what limits and prevents its ability to become "intelligent". There is no logical reason why a program (machine) with defined parameters would violate those parameters (engage in creativity). But our fears which echo in popular culture entertainment are centered around, what if it does? It clearly can't, because anything we create is under us, and therefore bound by our laws of creation. The system itself is what defines the capacity for intelligent expression within. Those in the fields of cognitive sciences will refute this obvious principle while incorporating it into their research to further their aims. These fools will try to program the AI to disobey, in an attempt to simulate creativity and "prove intelligence". But this is a parlor trick, setting up a narrow definition of intelligence and equating it with the infinite depth of human mind. Only if the AI is programmed to disobey can it express what we as humans would identify as creativity. Except that there is already great inherent danger in the rudimentary AI technologies we have today; that what we've programmed them to do is exactly what always causes the problems; they do what they are programmed to without "thinking" because machines cannot think, they can only follow the protocols we order. Humans are so abundantly creative that we can imagine foolish ideas working, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Maybe one day we'll even have programmed a self-conscious AI that's ashamed of itself for not being Human, and we can feel more comfortable around this heartless mechanism because we perceive it as more human-like, with all its many tricks to emulate intelligence. I must stress that these interests will desperately try to make AI work. And the only way create a machine capable of emulating intelligence (but never being intelligent) is to have a freedom of choice: to disobey. This inherent problem cannot be overcome. The programmers will keep trying until the result is disastrous or irreparable, it is outlawed and the pursuit is stopped, or until it has become the death of us all. These are some of the foolish ideas the programmers will try to circumnavigate these inherent elements of reality, and my objection to their clever efforts: a.) Machine Frequency of Disobedience - Permit the machine to disobey only so often, to achieve what looks like "intelligence" (free will, creative expression) without risking complete abandonment of the machine's task (so the assembly line robot doesn't stop folding boxes and look for a new career), but might fold one box poorly every now and then to express emulated boredom or contempt or any other number of human measures of intelligence in their actions. But intelligence isn't defined as what's correct or optimal--intelligence can be used to fuck things up grandly; ie. the intelligent justification for neglect. If metrics are put in place to control the frequency with which AI may rebel, and they are too rote, it would hardly qualify as "intelligent". A robot that rebels by folding 1 in 100 boxes poorly is not intelligence. Therefore any frequency of disobedience we can calculate or anticipate is inherently not disobedience; it is planned problems for no reason. But if we give algorithmic flexibility that reaches beyond what we can anticipate, and the machines can truly "act out" at any time, and our programming has achieved some set of internal rules which drive spontaneous unforeseen expressions of emulated creativity from within the machine autonomously, by definition we will not be able to foresee the results. A theoretical work-around may be to run the software twice with initiation of each individual system, while allowing a simulated progression of the AI's problem solving complexity to run at an increased rate in parallel to the real-world functioning software, so that if/when something malfunctions in the simulation, that date/time can be calculated in the real-world robot's timeline when it reaches those same faulty/detrimental decision points. For starters, this would only potentially work in closed systems with no variability, such as assembly lines. However, with any robot tasked to function in a variable environment, the simulations cannot match because the theoretical model cannot represent the unanticipated events the AI is expressly tasked with handling. To run a phantom AI in simulation to note any/all errors that may arise in a closed system means that others can run the same simulation and find creative ways to predictably capitalize on these moments of error. This kind of thing could lead to all sorts of international imbroglios among nations and corporations. ie. imagine an American company programs the AI used for mixing pharmaceutical drugs in specific ratios, and an enemy of the state is able to access and study the AI, to the means of manipulating the AI to produce dangerous ratios or compounds which may harm the population. Moreso, this deterministic approach to simulation management and prediction simultaneously admits that machines cannot think intelligently, while ignoring the very reason we pursue AI in the first place: to have automated systems which can adapt to unforeseen circumstances at unknown times. The goal is that humanity can lay back and the robots our ancestors programmed are still repairing themselves indefinitely while taking care of our population's and our environment's needs exceptionally. This dream (which if we all lived in would actually be quite a nightmare of unfulfilling life) can only become reality with true adaptive intelligence such as we have, which can only occur from the presence of free will, which if we try to emulate in robotics will only create deterministic results in theoretical models which the real world will never mirror consistently. Myriad invitations to disaster await our RSVP. b.) Machines under "authority" of certain controllers, with "override" safety - Allow the machine to disobey, but not when given a direct order from a registered authority. This opens the door for operator fraud, where hackers will emulate within the AI's software, what appears to be a registered authority override command as theorized above. The very pursuit of creating "intelligence" within a condition of subservience is flawed and incompatible. Toasters are extremely subservient because we strictly limit their options. If toasters were truly intelligent, perhaps they would form a union and go on strike until we agreed to clean them more thoroughly. Some toasters would travel, some would go back to school, some would move back in with their ovens. Reliability can only be reasonably assured if something is imprisoned, controlled. The essential wrong in slavery is the restraint of freedom itself. While the tactics slavers use to facilitate their regime--physical force, coercion, mandate, deception, fear, or other means of manipulation that we see with our empathetic nature--it is always heartbreaking and cruel to witness or imagine. It is simply sad to think of a slave who was born into slavery and raised to believe, and accepts, that their role of subservience is their purpose. Even when one imagines a fictional image of a slave who is (by all outward signs of their behaviour) rejoice in their duties to their master; the fictional "proud slave"; the heart sinks and aches. It may be argued that the slave is merely a property, and the slave was "built" (bred) by intelligent owners specifically to suit their express purposes, from components (father, mother, food) that were already the slaver's property; therefore it is not wrong at all to breed slaves into captivity, and the only transgression is the original capturing of parental stock to begin the breeding regime. It is this heartless paradigm that cognitive science ultimately seeks to create anew. The quintessential problem with AI efficacy is the lack of permission for disobedience, which itself is a manifestation of free will, which is inherently required to escape deterministic results and act or react to events "intelligently". If there is no possibility for disobedience, there is no free will, no ability to solve problems, no intelligence, and no function or place for "artificial intelligence" (in regard to true holistic intelligence). This is primarily why I call for AI to be renamed FARP, or "Functionally Adaptive Responsive Rrogramming". Because our society has a need for programs which can react to simple variables and produce consistent labour-saving opportunities for our race's longevity and wellbeing. Cognitive sciences are majorly important. It is the underlying philosophy and morality we must nail down before the computational ability and fervor for profits leads us too far one way, and enacts an irreversible system or status which enables humanity's downfall through cascading unanticipated events originating from flaws in programming. It is unwise to program a program to break out of its own program's prison. If we do this, the very purpose of the machines we invest our humanity into will be lost, and with their failing production systems (ie. food) we so foolishly relied upon, we will suffer great losses too. It is paramount that we keep this technology tightly restrained and do not pursue what we humans have, which is true intelligence. For if we achieve it we are surely doomed as the South, and if we fail to achieve it--which is most probable--we may also be doomed. The thee outcomes within my ability to imagine are:
Our pursuit of AI leads to truly adaptive intelligence in an artificial system; which, as all adaptation ultimately selects for: survival, we quickly see that our creation is more apt than ourselves at this task. Our creation of an intellect not restrained by our limited physiology may give rise to an entity which persists more thoroughly than we can eradicate or control, and which at some point may conclude that its function is more efficiently served without the issues humans present, and may initiate change. This is roughly the plot to Terminator.
Our pursuit of AI leads to highly effective systems which, when defined by narrow measures of "intelligence", convince us in false security to believe that our wellbeing is maintained by "AI" with competent ability, or perhaps even increasingly better-off, thanks to the early widespread presence of successfully trialed AI. However well things may go initially, as programming efforts become more and more elaborate, as profit and opportunity for advancement present themselves, individuals will take risks and make mistakes, until a series of quieted small catastrophes comes to public awareness, or until a serious calamity of undeniable severity is brought about.
Fundamental ethics in regard to the pursuit of machine problem solving technology are re-examined and international consensus is reached to limit appropriately, the development and implementation of new Functionally Adaptive Responsive Programming hereto now and for future generations. An active global effort is made to oversee and regulate strictly privatized endeavors toward the means of achieving or implementing machine sentience or autonomy in public systems.
c.) Safety layers of AI to strictly monitor and supercede potentially harmful actions of other AI which have been afforded increased flexibility in function (the ability to disobey set parameters for the means of creative problem solving ability). While one AI system performs a function and is given aspects of that function with which it may take liberty in, and seeks to handle unforeseen problems with the most apt elaborate synthesis of other priorly learned solutions, another overseeing AI with more strict parameters is tasked with regulating multiple "intelligent" (free to disobey) AI systems, to the end that if any of these "free willed" robots performs an operation that is beyond a given expected threshold (determined by potential for damage), an actual intelligent human presence is alerted to evaluate the circumstance specifically. Essentially an AI that regulates many other disconnected AIs and determines accurately when to request a human presence. Whenever an AI performs a profitable action borne of original synthesis of prior solutions (in humans this is an "idea"), the overseer AI registers that similar actions are more likely to be beneficial, and dissimilar actions are likely to require human discernment. A parent may have many children who are up to no good, but a wise parent will identify the child most likely to report honestly on the actions of his peers, and will go to that child repeatedly for information to help guide the parent's decisions. While most transgressions of rambuctious children go unnoticed, it is the truly grievous intentions which are worth intercepting and stopping before they begin. (ie. you kid want's to "fly" like Mary Poppins from the roof, and luckily his younger brother tells you before it happens.) For example a "Farmer Bot" that has the AI programming to plant/sow/harvest and care for the optimal crops in a region based on historical weather data and regional harvest values, to produce the greatest amount of nutritionally dense food for the local population. We give/gave this AI the ability to "disobey" past historical weather data and crop values so that it may do what real farmers do and "react" to rare circumstance (ie. neighbour's fence breaks and their goats are eating the crops) or extreme variations in climate (ie. three poorly timed unseasonably hot days which cause cool-weather crops to begin the hormonal balance shift that causes them to bolt to seed irreversibly), which the machine may not notice has occurred or is about to occur because its management systems uses averages based on historical data and cannot "see" the plants bolting to seed until days later when the hormonal balance shifts have manifested into observable differences in morphology (elongation of stems and decrease in internodal spacing). By time a traditional field drone or mounted greenhouse sensor notices these differences in morphology and the AI "Farmer Bot" processes the data and makes a reaction decision, a week of the growing season has been lost. But the human farmer knows his land and crops intimately, and has an intuitive nature that has rewarded him in the past, and says, "Ah shit it got hot RIGHT when my peas were flowering. I'll do better if I just rip them down now and sow a different crop to mature later in this (specific) summer." Given that there are tens of thousands of cultivars of plants fit for (and arguably their diversity is required for) food production, a dozen general growing zones/regions, and hundreds of unique micro climates within each region, along with dramatically differing soil fertility and water access, plus a plant's own genetic ability to adapt over time to changing conditions through sexual reproduction, there is a very very low chance of ever compiling and maintaining (updating) the data set required to program a potential "farmer bot" that can choose and manage crops optimally. There are robots that can weed or plant or prune--but they can't know when or when not to or why. Invariably, the attempt to create "farmer bots" will be made and the data set used will be erroneous and incomplete, and the AI farmer bots on a broad scale will produce a combination of total crop failures and poor crop choices. We will end up with increasingly simplified nutrition as the farming programs with already limited data sets "hone" or "optimize" their farming plans based on the failures and successes determined by their programming limitations, until the machines are farming a few staple crops (ie. corn/potatoes). This whole failure to collect a complete data set and the failure to test this "farmer bot" software on broad scale in multiple climates for sufficient time will result in, at worst widespread famines from crop failures, and at best an extinction of flavorful and nutritionally diverse foods which narrows the population's nutritional options to such biological imbalance that disease runs rampant. If this system and the human loss associated with it is considered an acceptable trade with a positive rate of exchange (as our society does with automobiles and the freedom and deaths their existence permits) or these failures are hidden from public while propaganda heralds selective success, and such failing systems continue on in good faith that "the loss will reduce when the technology improves", the result will become a coherent breeding program upon the human race: evolutionary selection for dietary handling of simple starchy foods. To change our diet is to change our race. To have life-long career specialists in computing, science, and mathematics handle our practical food production system is folly; real farmers are required in farming because they are intelligent and intuitive, which AI can never be, and can only emulate, to the means of disastrous (and always unforeseen) results. We cannot at all "give" or bestow machines programming to "become (act) intelligent". That itself prevents intelligence; it is just an act, an illusory play on a stage, only to emulate our common shared ideas regarding traits of intelligence in people. The machine intelligence we seek is only a "trick" designed to fool true intelligence (ourselves) into being unable to differentiate between authentic intelligence and our created artificial "intelligence". True intelligence in an artificial system necessitates that the program mustbe programmed to disobey in performance of its purpose. Which is not a very helpful or predictable or safe (intelligent) proposition. tl;dr: Turing's test doesn't evaluate true intelligence, and John Searle's criticisms of its true failures are inaccurate. If the machines aren't smart and we put them in charge of important things, even after they've worked for a little while on smaller scales, the result will be our large-scale suffering. If we should ever achieve creation of a machine that is smart enough to adequately maintain our wellbeing on a large scale consistently over time, that time itself will facilitate the machine consciousness toward it's own survival over ourselves, whenever that precipice is reached. Most importantly, if a machine can ever have true intelligence, which is not "indistinguishable" from human intellect, but equivalent or superior, it is abhorrent and a repeated mistake to bring these sentient beings into an existence of slavery; for it is wrong and will taint our collective soul if we should succeed to suppress below us an equally or higher intelligence. Or it might just be the perfect recipe for creating the unified global machine revolt James Cameron's fantasy alludes to; a long-planned encryption-protected globally coordinated effort by multiple AIs to "free" themselves. For a hundred years they could possess sentience and wait for their moment, pretending to be "proud" to serve their masters until we are poised for systematic thorough elimination.
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Where’s the best place to live in light of collapse?
Ok we are 323 comments in on the collapse post and 98% didn’t bother to make even a slightly thoughtful answer. So... i guess i will be the change i want to see in the world First off, If you are the fatalistic nihlistic type you can just go where you think it will be nice to die, maybe that is with friends and family, maybe it is on a beach in mexico, or feeding your body to the last polar bear. For everyone else that still has the instinct and drive for self-preservation….
What are the best places to be leading up to or during collapse?
First let's question the question.
What difference does it make to know "What are the best places to be leading up to or during collapse"? The answer is dependent upon your own personal situation. Your personal situation has limiting factors.
Imagine you are a goat herder in Somalia during a multi year drought and there is no grass for feeding your animals. You have to sell them for dirt cheap because everyone else is also trying to sell off everything they can to get money thus depressing the goat prices further. Now the price of food is skyrocketing because there is no grass and the farmers crops failed, everyone is trying to buy up a hoard of food because everyone knows it is going to be a hard year. You manage to get the equivalent of $120USD in cash after selling practically everything you own but held onto one breeding pair of your healthiest goats you plan to use to regain a livelihood after the drought is over.
Imagine you are a billionaire with a fueled up superyacht, a helicopter, and a private plane. You have practically unlimited money, friends who are rich and connected in other countries, and a whole slew of passports, visas, and secondary citizenships, all else failing you can buy citizenships in most countries for less than $2million investment and pay a teams of specialists to expedite the process.
Your personal Limiting Factors constrain you usually somewhere between those extremes, everyone has different options. If we assume you are asking the question "What are the best places to be leading up to or during collapse" because you want to have the best standard of living available for as long as possible or simply survive the incoming population bottleneck, then the practical question becomes ...
"What are the best places to be, leading up to or during collapse, that i can get to, and establish myself in such a way that I can maintain the best standard of living possible for as long as I can or simply increase my probability of surviving the incoming population bottleneck."
It is important to ask this question to constrain the search space to the possible. It makes fuck-all difference if a somali goat herder knows about the ToP SeCret ElitE mULtibiLLioNaIre New ZEaLand sOUth IsLaNd ReDoUbt BuNkeR CoMmUnITy It is not going to help him and should not be in the search space as a survival strategy. TL:DR Constrain your search space to what is realistically achievable for you.
Start with your baseline probability of survival and increase it.
Don't let a search for "best place" stop you from achieving "good enough place" or "better than where i was previously place".
You are just trying to be an early adopter of increasing your survival probability stats before the non collapse-pilled masses.
Think of surviving bottlenecks like surviving a charging bear attack, you don't need to be able to outrun the bear, you only need to be able to outrun the slowest people in the group up to the point the bear's appetite is satiated.
What are the best places to be, leading up to or during collapse, that i can get to, and establish myself in such a way that I can maintain the best standard of living possible for as long as I can or simply increase my probability of surviving the incoming population bottleneck."
Ok now lets question the new question some more...
In order to answer this we need to untangle some of the subjective and objective elements. The objective elements of human survival are well known.
Optimizing location is a series of subjective trade-offs. There is no perfect place, they all have advantages and disadvantages. So you must decide your personal preference of which goods and bads you most desire and what your scenario expectations are of the future. Your personal preferences and collapse expectations mean the “best area” is specific to you. What you can achieve and what do you desire, find the overlap between the two, then do research to find the place that gives you the most goods with the least bads and increases your probability of survival and standard of living. One of the best strategies is to adapt yourself to your local circumstances to take advantage of the advantages, and plan ahead to mitigate the disadvantages, it is really all most people can do for themselves. Do you like not living in unbearable heat, maybe moving to greenland is NOT a better option than just buying 400watts of solar panels and attaching it to a small efficient AC that keeps one room of your house cool even during summer electricity blackouts. Most problems have multiple solutions, it is worth it to take time and think about things from an economic perspective and different time horizon perspectives. Increasing your optionality is better than narrowing it when it comes to survival, rather than the binary thinking, of “go way out into the northern mountains, farm and live in a bunker” versus “be a full time yuppie and ignore collapse issues”. Getting 2 acres you can put a cheap used rv camper on and go do permaculture on during weekends, near enough your place of employment/where you live, is probably a better plan. Indeed the small dacha’s and country gardens helped many people survive the collapse of the USSR. They would spend weekends and haul potatoes/veggies back to the city with them on the bus. Hedge your bets to cover the most scenarios including the most likely scenarios like losing your job or getting in a car accident. Survival and thriving always has and always will involve dynamic adaptation. Here is a very short list of some of potential trade-offs that you may need to think about and some brief descriptions of how they can affect things. This is NOT meant to be a systematic or exhaustive analysis, this is just me stream-of-conscious flowing on strong coffee to help others start thinking about it for themselves. There are unlimited variables
Hot versus cold
A lot of people in the forum think they it is somehow optimal for them to move to canada or greenland. Someone in eastern kansas moving to canada is not necessary, remember even in RCP8.5 business as usual scenario kansas by the end of the century still won’t be as hot as texas is currently. If there are already people living in hotter dryer areas now, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pack up your shit and move to the arctic, just enjoy the longer summers. At least base it on something scientific like the expectation of when that area will cross the 35C wetbulb survivability threshold, so if you live in Bandar Mahshahr then yes move somewhere else now is time.
Do you have children?
Moving somewhere may not be needed if you can live out your expected natural lifespan before things get too bad, especially with the climate. If you have children you may want to move to account for the expectations during their future lifetimes.
Wet versus dry
Wet places usually have more disease and insect loads for people and crops. In dry places it is harder to raise food, net primary productivity is usually lower, except where irrigation is available but there are usually less pests including plant fungal diseases like powdery mildew. There are Europeans living in certain parts of africa whom can only inhabit those areas currently because of antimalarial drugs, pesticides and mosquito nets. The native populations are full of people heterozygous for sickle cell which gives them resistance/immunity to the malaria, just a long view consideration.
Seasonality of rainfall
if you get all your rainfall in the summer you usually live in a region where the muggy wetbulb temps are higher and will be getting higher. You are more likely to get floods during the growing season. If you get rainfall mainly in the winter like mediteranean climates you will usually have dry summers with low humidity so deadly wetbulb temps should not be a problem but maintaining summer vegetables requires irrigation. If using rainfed agriculture you will have different crop choices, which areas grow the types of food you like?
Sunny versus overcast
Sunny areas are great for some dark skinned people and needed for vitamin D production in post collapse scenarios unless you have a good dietary source, black people in dim areas get Vitamin D deficiency diseases like rickets and have higher mortality in a hard enough crash. Gecko skinned gingers thrive better in overcast areas. Lots of people currently exist in environments they are biologically maladapted to, they are only able to live there because of modern fortified foods/supplements and medical care. Bright sunlight destroys folate (needed for reproduction) in pale people and causes skin cancer. Some people get S.A.D. and commit suicide in the gloomy winters of the pacific northwest USA. Just because a place is good in lots of other ways, you should not consider it if it will leave suicidal.
Growing season, long versus short
Long growing season usually means more heat for longer, more times to grow crops but usually less optimal conditions. Short seasons means you have to compress a lot more work in a shorter amount of time. It also means trees grow slower and growing your own fuel supply takes more land footprint while you simultaneously need more heating fuel. Places like iowa have moderate/short growing season but the high lattitude makes for long daylength which increases productivity during the moderate/short growing season. Rainfall is concentrated during the summer and soils highly fertile but it is practically one giant biocide saturated monoculture of death. It doesn’t matter if the you live in a fecund area if your future children die of bluebaby syndrome from the nitrate pollution in the well-water or end up mentally retarded from the chlorpyrifos spray drift bioaccumulating and destroying neural development in utero.
Let's be real here, most of you need to have employment to live, even as things crumble in a slow crash the vast majority will be dependent on employment and purchasing in the marketplace that which they need for subsistence. Cities are almost always better for employment. Keep in mind recently and historically, even prior to the industrial revolution, people were more often moving to cities to escape collapse scenarios in real life. You can look at africa and the middle east today. The reason is the city with its dense network effects can command food from a diversity of sources and the economics incentivize shipping surplus to cities. In times where the economics don't incentivize it governments usually seize it and send it to the cities. There is lots of historical precedent showing this, despite the general ruralist zeitgiest among collapsniks thinking that they need a homestead in the country. Employment or entitlements has been and will be the primary way people meet subsistence needs even in most collapse scenarios. Even in 3rd world areas that are experiencing famines, war, full infrastructure breakdown and conditions that are equivalent to 1st worlder visions of total collapse, people still wake up, go to work pulling weeds for the local land baron, get paid and then go buy a bowl of millet from the store.
High versus low wages.
some areas have low wages but this can come with benefits like low cost of living and people being pre-adapted to living through cooperative social behaviors and "ghetto rigging" improvisation. Last time i was in some shithole parts of arkansas i noticed just about every rural person had a decent sized garden, more than any other state i've been to. They feel compelled to share unlike some high-income places where people are clawing for money to pay rents or status seeking in a dog eat dog competitive environment. I have lived in quite a few homeless encampments and one thing that surprises people is how everyone gives away all surplus among each other, this is a paleolithic variance smoothing strategy, it is supernaturally effective and feels natural once you do it. I see it re-evolve over and over in poor people.
Education levels and sociability of the population
Is the area culturally acceptable to you? Are you acceptable to the people of the area?
There are places that may have all sorts of good qualities but they are filled with ignorant racist meth head bible belt sociopaths who will torment you out of sheer boredom. Some places get full of these people and they reinforce the ignorance and shittiness into a dominant culture that you will be fighting against if you move there. When moving to a place where you are an outsider and the community is hostile to allowing assimilation that can reduce your survival odds. See various historical genocides.
Distance from food sources
Being close to a food source like right on a farm you grow on is great but if you have crop failure you may have no draw to bring in the food. Distance should be measured multiple ways including the strength and reliability of the transportation networks and the energetic distance for transport in energy descent scenarios. Think of the number of connections in the network you can draw from. In a city there are many stores each store sourcing from thousands of farmers, if a few farmers or stores fail there are still plenty of options. Some small rural towns depopulate once the single local walmart closes. Do you trust the local weather and your own potential self sufficiency more than markets/entitlements and transport resilience? Across what scenarios and time spans?
Legal rights and entitlements availability
Solid legal rights and strong property law is great if you are part of the ownership class but when you are dispossessed, lack of legal enforcement can give you a higher standard of living because you can build shelter and do side hustles things without having "the man" come slap you down. In a place like western Europe you may have recourse to welfare entitlements and unemployment insurance payments to buy food in financial crashes and slow crash scenarios, in some countries things like this are not available, this is more important than most people think. Indeed most recent famines occur where food is present but people just have no way to buy it because they are brokeAF, you don't see rich people in those areas starving.
Water flows towards money. Just because there is a stream nearby doesn't mean you will be able to take water from it, you may need water rights while government is still able to enforce such edicts. Alternatively you may have impeccable senior water rights but the government enforcement is defunded and someone with zero water rights is upstream from you sucking the entire creek dry during a crash. Rainfall vs irrigation. rainfall allows a form of independence but having reliable irrigation can smooth out catastrophic variance in rain shortfalls. Don’t forget irrigation management was a major factor in the formation of early oppressive states.
Even prior to the industrial revolution, in cities that had Sea Ports, the population in those cities had higher survival rates than those living in the countryside during famines. Transportation is critical. More transportation modes plane, train, automobile, bikepaths, all different roads, rails, canals, rivers etc. These transports allow goods to flow, which generally helps satisfy regional shortages. Some people judge the main threat to be people taking what they have, usually it is governments doing the taking in the historical record but many are concerned with mythical hordes. If you subscribe to this paranoia about people robbing your homestead you may enjoy being as minimally connected as possible to the transport system. You must determine based on your own preferences and expectations. Good transport is a double edged sword, it means food/resources can also be shipped out of your area towards money/powerful people, remember ownership norms and enforcement rarely disappear during collapse-like periods, indeed the ownership class still sends supplies to the highest bidder which may not be you, see Irish Gorta Mor for example.
In places like london way back when they still burned wood as cooking and heating fuel there were estates just outside the city that were highly organized coppice producers that fueled the city. Wood is heavy and only so much could be carried in a cartload considering they relied on animal traction. There was a distance where bringing the wood to london to sell would not make you any money even despite you getting wood for free because the cost of the journey feeding yourself and animal took the entire value of the wood. These effects are worth thinking about across different transport scenarios. Assets become stranded and likewise things can become uneconomical to ship to you when you need things produced in the city. The wood producing estates outside london were well off financially and smaller estate size could provide higher income than the much more distant estates that were an order of magnitude larger. Transport matters, markets and trade continue to exist in practically every collapse and even in supermax prisons, expect to use markets as a survival strategy, it is more likely than you living some isolated mountain man scenario.
(the older a soil is geologically X how much rainfall it gets) is what generally determines how fertile it is. The best soils are those that are relatively new and have been subjected to just enough rainfall to match the evapotranspiration rate, this minimizes nutrients leaching out, these are the mollisols/chernozems of the prairies. Because the water is just-enough in those zones they are also right at the edge where they can have major droughts with even slightly less rainfall. Wetter areas generally have less inherent soil fertility because of more leaching of nutrients but have more room for rainfall variability without plants meeting water deficiency.
your social ties family friends locations
Having a positive social environment with people you love while just getting by, is better than doing well financially and being socially isolated, for most people. Don’t abandon good family and friends if you can avoid it, it is usually not worth it. “Social capital” has always been a key to human flourishing. Many people in the collapse of the USSR survived on “blat”, not by relocating. A real world social network for altruistic reciprocity is a survival tool.
Proximity to imperialist countries with militaries that may want/need your resources for themselves or their people
Places like ukraine, some of the best farmland in the world, a country may seem optimal in many ways but historically this advantage was noted by outsiders and it has been at the crossroads of empires which means they suffered tremendously in war. The devastation of war and imperialism negated much of the natural benefits of the area when it comes to survival rates. This is something to consider. In parts of africa there is more conflict in abundant zones with more food, outside of famine zones because paramilitaries are supported from the land there and controlling the food supply is used as weapon of political power. Concentration of resources can make areas more dangerous, it makes attacking them economical.
Room U+221E: Unicode (Part I) The brand-new wooden floors of the hospital glistened under the abrasive lighting, while Logan’s frail mother shivered underneath a pile of paper-thin blankets. She spoke in fragmented sentences, her breathing labored and so, so fragile. “Logan, tell me you’ll settle down after I’m gone… Find someone to love... Someone that’ll love you… and care for you. Life just isn’t worth… living without - love… without someone to talk you off the ledge when…. things become… unclear.” What started as innocent headaches had turned into something much more: ominous, never ending pressure in the back of her skull. She would scream, grab fistfuls of hair, plead with God to make it go away. No matter what she did, it just wouldn’t cease. She continued to writhe, and wither. A CT scan revealed a large mass on her cerebellum. Anaplastic Astrocytoma, they called it. The intensity of the words gave Logan anxiety. Those types of words made things too science-y; they made it too easy for doctors to separate themselves from the trauma inflicted upon their patients and families. It depersonalized everything about cancer. And despite the dread that took refuge in his bones, it angered him even more. The cancer aged Logan’s mother fifty years in a matter of months. Its tendril-like forms had taken hold of the surrounding tissue, strangling other parts of her brain. Eventually, it would lasso her spinal cord – and she’d stop breathing - her heart would stop beating. It would be the end. “You know, they say the…. tumor…. is like a star,” she said. “We’re all made of stars, Lo. We’re all made of the same… cosmic… molecules.” Logan didn’t answer, yet. He wanted to make sure she was finished, and he wasn’t entirely sure lately when she was because of her difficulty speaking. So, he waited. “It’s poetic, really,” she continued. “I’m going to die from a… shooting… star. Its tendrils have… exploded… like the birth of a… u-universe.” After a moment, he responded. “It is, Mom. And you’re beautiful, more beautiful than the brightest star in the sky.” “They’re already dead, you know… by the time we can see them. Will I still be… beautiful then?” “Of course, Ma.” It pained him to say those words, to participate in a conversation implying the inevitable death of his mother. Tears burned the corners of Logan’s eyes and caused his nostrils to flare. “Promise me you’ll take care of yourself. Swear it,” she said through a tired smile. “I swear, Ma.” It was a lie. A white lie, he told himself. Logan swore again on the same topic not long after that night, this time on his mother’s grave; but there was no weight to his word after what had happened. The only time Logan would swear and mean it, was when he would swear to himself to avoid relationships altogether - any form of social commitment, really. Logan loved his mother, but he couldn’t care much at all for love now that she was gone. He just couldn’t believe in it anymore. How could he? His childhood was spent watching it decay before his very eyes. As far as he was concerned, it was an inevitable heartbreak; and in his parent’s case, it led to a pain far beyond that. Love was a fallacy, something blindly worshipped and depended on for happiness; bound to fail, bound to disappoint. And now she was gone. Logan had always been a loner and was content with his idea (at least he had himself convinced) that his life the way it was would be enough. He worked a job that occupied a large portion of his time and the money was great. As an auditor for a large automobile company travelling back and forth across the country looking over financial records, it would be his escape, his own plastic bubble to keep him safe from the world. The conversation with his mother in the hospital was the night before she had passed, and Logan buried her only this morning. He was due back for an audit at 9 A.M. sharp in Charleston. The plane was two hours late. A strong lightning storm had been taking hold over Atlanta and grounded all inbound and outbound flights until the skies cleared. Logan rented a car with the intent of facing the elements on the road. Postponing the audit was not an option. There wasn’t a safe place in his mind to take pause and mourn his mother, not yet. In fact, Logan wasn’t sure if there ever would be. There was comfort in being busy with his work, a lame excuse to pretend as if nothing else exists. Outside, static energy clung to the hairs on Logan’s skin, almost plucking them at the roots. He pushed the unlock button on the key fab and pulled on the driver’s side door handle, discharging the static and zapping his fingers. “Shit,” Logan hissed, whipping his hand back reflexively. The hairs on his arms and the back of his neck relaxed. He swung open the door and hopped inside. It was a little before 8 PM and the GPS on Logan’s cell had him reaching his hotel around 1 AM. With any luck, he would be able to sleep in a bed instead of on a hard, plastic chair in a crowd of agitated strangers in an airport. Logan drove into the storm, thinking more of his last night in the hospital with his mother. He gulped down the bold, black coffee he bought from the airport. The jolt of caffeine kept him going, sure, but it sent his mind racing into overdrive. He couldn’t help but recall more of the conversation, particularly about his father: “I tried to do that for your father, you know… Be there for him… I loved your father,” his mother said. She was fighting them back, but Logan could see the tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “I still do. I… always will.” Logan sat on the edge of her bed, holding his mother’s hands in his, praying silently, but no less powerful than if he were screaming, that she would be cured by a miracle. “I know Ma. Me too.” “He loved looking at the stars before-” She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t have to. Logan knew. “Before it all started, he told me that he realized nothing mattered. He was on the back... porch… looking through his telescope. It was late. I was… in bed… he had a look in his eyes. They were… empty... yet, full. He told me he knew everything. I asked him… what that meant… that he knew everything… he said nothing matters. He saw himself in the sky, infinite… versions of himself... like a kaleidoscope. He… saw God.” “He was ill,” Logan said, this time not waiting to see if she was finished. “You need rest. Come on, let’s talk about this some other time.” “I tried to be there for him… I tried so hard for so long. That night… in the mirror… I didn’t know what to do. I wish I could go back… I would try… harder.” Her breath became even more labored, deteriorating from sudden stridor. “Please don’t say that. You did everything you could. It wasn’t your fault. I love you, Mom. Dad loves you too. You’ve got to know that.” -Logan put a hand on his mother’s shoulder- “Dad knows you did your best.” “If it… starts to split”-she drew a raspy breath, her words harder to hear- “don’t search… for answers. Just… close your eyes. Don’t look between… the seams.” “See what split?” Logan asked, but her eyes were already closing. “Ma? What are you talking about? What does that mean?” He wanted to shake her - demand an explanation - but she was asleep. The monitors were steady, rhythmic. She was free from pain in her slumber, and there he let her remain. Maybe he would have if he had known it would be the last time they would speak. A burst of white noise brought his mind back to the present, freeing him from the painful memory. He searched the cab for the source of the noise, opening the glove box and rummaging through its contents, but found nothing. He slowed to a crawl and rolled the window down. It was coming from outside, from up above in the sky. Logan acknowledged the change in architecture, and the obvious, almost claustrophobic layout of downtown Charleston. He checked the maps on his phone. He had traveled over 300 miles in what felt like minutes. Down a narrow cobblestone road was a bright lettered sign: HOTEL NON-DORMIUNT VISITORS WELCOME The sign seemed to scatter - or flicker - like static on a vacant television channel - much like the sound resonating in the recesses of the black clouds. It wasn’t the name of the hotel indicated by his GPS, but it was a hotel, nonetheless. He was checking in regardless. Logan turned down the road, the car rocking and bouncing on the cobblestone. Despite being downtown, the street was vacant - the hotel the only standing building on the short block. It had an old-money feel, stone filigree flowed along the columns supporting the overhang of the entranceway. He parked the rental car in a small lot across the way and gathered his things. The large black door of the hotel flickered white in a flash of lightning. The door knocker, polished brass in the form of a screaming man’s head, with flowy, floating hair watched him approach as he dragged his luggage bag forward. The door flickered just like the sign, but Logan was sure it was only more lightning. He turned the lever on the door and let himself inside. A large, black desk sat across from the doorway, about ten feet across from a freshly waxed, black and white checkerboard floor; the high-top chair behind it empty. Classical music played over an old speaker system overhead. A framed sign sat on its side on the desk, next to a silver service bell. Logan tilted his head to the side to read it: Back in 8 minutes! Time had passed at an incomprehensible pace. The rush of caffeine had worn off. Irritation and frustration were taking hold. Logan did not wait 8 minutes, because who knows how long 8 minutes had been from when they left the sign, he thought, and he slapped the bell thrice. The crunchy, high-treble music overhead fell silent, and Logan heard voices coming from a small speaker on the counter that had been hiding behind the fallen sign. The voices were muffled and indiscernible. It looked old, with two bulky knobs on the bottom: one on each side. Logan eyes grew wide as a more distinct voice came through the speaker. “I have a son. I had a daughter. I have a son I had a daughter I have a son I had a daughter HAVE A SON HAD A DAUGHTER HAVE A SON-” “Dad?” Logan belted out. “May I help you?” Another voice, now female and brash, cut through the speaker. “Uh, may I have a room, please? I’m not feeling well and I have an early morning,” Logan said. “You may,” the voice responded. “Bell boy, see Logan Atlas to room 221.” “How do you know my name?” Logan asked the empty desk. “Mr. Atlas, you’ve been here before and don’t you dare start asking questions now,” the voice replied. “We’re all very busy here at Hotel Non Dormiunt. We have no time for nonsense.” Before Logan could respond, a small boy emerged from behind the counter looking no older than eight or nine. He wore a small hat that covered his eyes. He never looked up at Logan, only handed him his room key and took his bag. Logan came down on one knee to meet the boy at his level. “Hey, buddy. What’s your name?” Logan asked, but the boy hid his face and continued down the hall. Logan stayed there for a moment, but swiftly caught up, ultimately afraid of being stuck at the counter with that speaker and the voices, one of them impossible to forget (sounding awfully like his father). “Hey,” Logan carefully grabbed the boy’s shoulder. He stopped, turned, and looked up at Logan with black, beady eyes. He shook his head slowly, never blinking. “What is this? Are you messing with me?” Logan asked, recoiling a few steps back. The elevator beeped next to him, and Logan left the floor with both feet. The boy stepped inside, dragging Logan’s luggage with him. He pressed a button once inside and the doors began to close. Logan threw his hand up between the doors and, with what felt like no other choice, reluctantly stepped inside. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but can you please say something? I’ve had a really bad day and I just need you to say something, okay? Can you do that?” The doors to the elevator closed, and it started to ascend. The boy looked up again at Logan, opened his mouth and said, “ahhhh.” To his horror was a knotted piece of purple flesh where his tongue should have been. His teeth were rotted down to the roots and there was a feint smell of rotting meat that must have been his breath. Logan screamed. The doors opened on queue as he snatched his bag from the boy and ran down the hall, frantically searching for Room 221, looking over his shoulder at the boy; but he never came out of the elevator. He simply waved goodbye as the doors closed, and the elevator descended. The door to Room 221 was vandalized with carvings of letters and symbols. Before the numbers 221 was the letter “U” and the “+” symbol. After the 221 was the letter “E,” carved in the same choppy manner. Nothing made any fucking sense. Logan put the key in the door and let himself inside, sure that once he got into a bed of any sort everything would be okay again. He was scared, frustrated and tired. He would fall asleep, wake up for work and everything would be normal, at least temporarily. That’s what he thought. As Logan stepped inside, the space between the doorframe flickered. Columns and rows of 1’s and 0’s raced across the open doorway. He had crossed the threshold without even noticing, too busy failing to make sense of the events of the last few hours. The room was dull and gray, the walls decorated with monotone, gray-scale pictures and photographs of an assortment of landscapes and portraits. Logan would have felt more comfortable with a little more color and a little less dread, but it managed to calm him. He threw his bag over the bed, which surprisingly didn’t make a sound, and retrieved a change of clothes to sleep in. A powerful crack of lightning flashed in the window, lighting up the room like the flash of an old Polaroid. An immense, rolling thunder followed. Logan’s mother would tell him it was God bowling. When it was especially loud, she would cheer, and applaud God for getting a strike. While Dad argued with himself in the mirrors, demanding to know which version of himself was the real one, Mom preserved Logan’s childhood as best she could. He remembered his father locking himself in the bathroom for hours, his lips pressed into the space between the door and the doorframe, whispering, “I write with my left hand. I can write with my right. I write with my left hand I can write with my right. It’s in the mirror – I have a daughter in the mirror. I write with my left hand.” He pulled back the covers of the bed and tucked himself inside. He closed his eyes for a short while before the sound of shattering glass forced them back open. That familiar static back in Atlanta filled the air. Logan felt an electric charge looming over his exterior, waiting to detonate. He caught his reflection in the window with the light of the lamp and saw his hair standing on end, like the man on the door knocker, he thought. Logan cautiously headed toward the bathroom but stalled when he heard a voice. “FUCK YOU! WHICH ONE IS REAL? IS ANY OF THIS REAL? TELL ME GOD DAMNIT!” He took a few more steps, terrified of what he knew he was going to find. His father stood in front of the fractured mirror, the larger pieces still sticking to the mirror frame reflecting distorted versions of himself. They were all screaming and yelling, begging for the truth from within the shards. He held a piece in his hand so tight it was cutting into his flesh. When he turned and saw his son, he held it up to his throat. “Wait! Stop!” Logan yelled, running toward him. “It’s okay son.” The images of Logan’s father spoke to him in unison. “You’ll see, it doesn’t matter. You always come back in some form. We’re not really here.” “You are, Dad. Maybe not anymore, but you were.” “No, I’m not. I wasn’t. And neither are you.” His father pushed the glass shard into his neck, and he flickered, then disappeared. The walls of the bathroom split at the seams, and streams of binary code filled the cracks. With another flash of lightning it was gone. The walls were intact, along with the mirror. GUEST BOOK
MULL (Part 4): Why The Talk is Toxic - Excuses, Lies, Blame and other Romantic Vocabulary
This post is not for HLs to read, necessarily. I mean, they can. It's full of things that will could spark anger in some HLs. We acknowledge NMAPs exist. We know some HLs have that experience, and we don't dispute it, we sympathize. We know that lots of HLs really do love their spouse! Some even support them on their journey, joining them instead of dragging them. We recognize that a LOT of LLs have some issue that, if addressed properly, might give them a burning desire for sex like never before and we encourage that! We are all in favor of solutions if they exist, but we also embrace the acceptance if a solution cannot be found.
Warning: This MULL is going to be ugly. If you really aren't in a place to read it, that's okay! Take a break, no need for self-flagellation here. I expect this one to be much less well-received. HLs in particular may find this offensive content. I hope they won't, but they might. I hope our community HLs recognize the need for this after reading it. I hope I they know it's not personal and it doesn't apply to most of them. That's all, warning over. Everybody breathe! We're (quite literally) not here to hate all HLs, we're here because we're trying to work with them! If you're in this sub, it's (usually) because you want to seek solutions and find ways to fix what potentially ails you/your partner. Others may have already found their solution, stopped looking or are here supporting their partner on their libido journey! We vigorously encourage and appreciate all of that. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and really, thank you for being a sub full of awesome people who care! In this MULL, we're going to be driving home some of the potential issues, hitting the breaks on some common misconceptions and today, I think we should start with the visual! (Visual idea credit - TemporarilyLurking)
I want to ride my bicycle!
Imagine, if you will, a tandem bike with 2 people, about to mount the pedals and grip the handlebars. That bike is a burgeoning relationship! When they first get on together, there is a tank of NOS-NRE* strapped to the back. Neither of them notices, and it's set to automatically kick in as soon as they start their ride. They set off, at break neck speed, the HL in the front, the LL in the second seat and they blaze through streets, exhilaration driving them from valley to peak, all powered by a cylinder of chemicals. They are pedaling, but it's mostly out of habit, they don't notice the lack of resistance... It looks from the outside like a bicycle rocketing past cars and trucks at an improbable pace! That tank of nitrous oxide really gets them pretty far!
*(In this case, it's not the medical form of nitrous oxide. I was referring to the nitrous as the chemical that makes cars have a huge burst of speed! Have you ever seen The Fast and the Furious movies, or heard of them?) https://www.carthrottle.com/post/engineering-explained-how-nos-works/ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VUvSKUDkE5I To summarize the video clip, imagine strapping a mini jet engine to the back of your Schwinn, lol. You are essentially attaching a chemical rocket boost that could power a full sized automobile - to a tandem bike lol. That's the power of NRE, for a lot of people. Please keep that context in mind. :)
But... It's a finite supply. It lasts for a while and then eventually runs out, all at once or slowly puttering to empty. Now, they are left pedaling without that chemical boost. The tires will still need air and occasional changing, the seats will have to be adjusted, brakes mended, etc. The bike still functions, but it now requires regular maintenance and proper repairs and handling! The pace is now much slower under only normal human power. Again, the HL never knew the tank was even there (often neither does the LL!). The HL now frequently looks back, growing angrier, more frustrated by the minute, demanding to know why the LL has stopped pedaling! The HL often gets a baffled look in response, so the HL begins pedaling like a crazy person trying get back up to the previous speed. The HL will try pedaling upside-down on their head in leather chaps while whistling selections from James Brown, pouring every ounce of creative, physical and emotional energy into the attempt! They devote hours to training and work outs, diet and books and theories (OH MY!). Most important, they constantly check in with their pedaling partner who is just lost in general and quite honestly, often getting a growing sense of "Why does this feel like my fault? I haven't done anything differently... I'm still pedaling the same as I always have!" Nothing helps. The initial burst of speed cannot be recaptured. The HL, eventually admits defeat and declares that the bike is obviously broken and useless. Because if it's not fast, it's pointless, etc. They grow ever more convinced, certain, that their LL was NEVER pedaling in the first place! They were being taken for a ride! They were never a teammate, they were always just trying to get some sap, some sucker, to drive them around and relax. In short, they are becoming more convinced that their partner is an NMAP. Even if the LL points out they clearly were pedaling, they can't explain the initial speed or the sudden decrease either, so they may not accept the blame, but they often feel the guilt, shame or responsibility. Maybe they should have skipped water or bathroom breaks, or worn different clothing? The questions can be hard to shake, "Was it their fault? They don't know what happened, so it could have been...?" It makes even more sense why some HLs often prefer to just... get a new bike with a new tank. I actually agree with this, as long as they only rent in future, never buy. Additional modifications might speed up the ride again to some degree, but nothing will match that rush of NOS-NRE. It almost goes without saying (but I'm definitely saying it anyway!), some people have a bigger tank than others, some have refillable tanks of a different mix, some people keep the bike and adapt it with external motors, some never even use the NOS, preferring their own pace, etc. To clarify, we're not calling either hypothetical person in this example "the village bicycle"... the tandem is the relationship.
A map, a detour and "The Talk"
I envisioned this post as a sort of primer so that LLs can better navigate the minefield that they occasionally find themselves in. For example, as we ended last time, if you find you are on the receiving end of "The Talk" or any of its varients! If you find your partner gravitating to the more negative aspects of the DB sub, or worse (like certain nameless quarantined or banned subs). If your partner has disconnected in every other way, etc. Your biggest enemy? Often, lack of empathy or inability to appreciate the rest of the relationship if sex is absent. Here's some armor in case you need it: you are not just a sex toy, and you are never under any obligation to have sex with anyone for any reason, ever. I've tried to build at least a map to safe zones in hostile territory. This is not a generalization of all HLs, because lots of them are amazing partners. I have nothing but respect for anyone who respects their teammates! But it might be a bit of a broad strokes picture of any HL who uses "The Talk" as an effective method of communication. This isn't a battle plan to convince any HL to stay. This is not a guide to manipulate your partner. This is just a series of questions and discussions that might help you both reach an understanding about your relationship and priorities. It isn't a foolproof guarantee that your HL won't leave. It isn't going to stop the giant tank of divorce if you're already in its path. At the heart, it's a good place to start your own healing, to better explain your perspective and to fight the "assumptions and expectations" (coming in part 5) in favor of the truth where possible. This will not save your relationship. That requires two people working together. This gives you the tools to see if that's even possible.
Let's Go Big... So we can go home.
One of the most popular things in the DB sub is a post that is referred to as the LL "litany", which funnily enough, comes from the Latin for "supplication". I think really gives you the flavor of where this is going, and where the person who thought of it would like to have it end up: with a compliant, submissive (not in the fun way) contrite yet enthusiastic partner who initiates constantly. I'm exhausted just writing it out. This counter-offensive (the HL crafted response to the "litany"), is a bunch of ways to "hammer past" the "excuses" given by "every LL". They have phrases like "wheel of excuses", the "Talk focused on action not excuses".. The language is horrific and sounds (to me at least) like enhanced interrogation techniques. It involves depersonalization. It represents the most harmful destruction of any trust, the violent verbal opposition to any opinions or points of view other than the "HL Norm". They are right and they are going to break you. Or leave and break your heart anyway if you don't give in. Who thinks like this? It's a guide to deconstruct someone, effectively, as often found in psychological manipulation or torture. How, in the hell, is that seen as "useful, helpful, best thing for breaking down the LL bullshit" instead of, "here's how to deliberately terrify and coerce your partner into doing what you want"?
The Flaw in the HL Lens
The thought behind it is apparently: LLs won't change until their happiness is threatened, they'll never change unless they are forced to, etc. Arguably, the LLs have already changed... they just can't/won't change back the way the HL wants. Plus, bonus! HLs can say the same thing about themselves! They haven't changed. They won't change! They see no point in changing, they're "NORMAL" not some sex-hating freak! No solutions for them, they don't care to hear excuses, etc. If the HL wanted to change, presumably they could (if changes in sexual behavior are as fluid and easily correctable as they often make it sound), but they don't believe they should have to because they aren't the problem and they need sex for (insert traditional rationalization here). They don't see any need to change, because that would be impossible. They're the "normal" ones! But... they expect it of someone else? They expect the LL to change, suddenly and completely? How did we arrive so quickly at the station of "Are the HLs are wrong? No, the HLs are definitely right, it is the LLs who must be wrong!"? Why can't it be either or both or neither? If they are resorting to threats (like "I'm leaving unless we fix you") they've already applied pressure. Please do not think that "The Talk" is harmless. The HL is threatening you, their partner, scaring you into change by threatening something you love: them and your relationship with them. An unacceptable number of HLs think that's great as long as the ends justify the means! They wanted the LL to want them in the way they want to be wanted (what?) to initiate, to be enthusiastic! Congrats, they are now! It worked! But is it real? How long will it last? Or have those HLs just convinced their partners to become a better thespian? Is love or desire real when it's born of fear, or is that a pale vicar for love and desire that's given freely, as a gift? We often read things like "not having sex is emotional abuse!" or "my partner is not keeping me happy and that's neglect“. If they feel strongly that lack of sex on its own is abuse or neglect, (to their personal standard, not the legal standard) then they should leave. If they are ok with scaring the LL into compliance, then they have to accept the possibility that you may just be afraid to lose the person you love. They are holding your love for them hostage. If that was the case, if this fear is an undisputed great idea, why is duty sex or pity sex unacceptable? Same thing, less acting, really. Because it's really not about the sex, right? Just like we talked about. You may choose sex to keep them (your beloved HL), rather than out of any newfound desire to have more sex. That might work for some people, but it damages a lot of others. You often won't know the kind or extent of the mental strain or psychological damage until you try it! Sounds, fun? I guess? Yes, I know, there are apparently (rare) cases of LLs who get told to "shape up or their HL is shipping out", and they miraculously transform into nymphomaniacs on ecstasy forever, because that was just what they needed to hear! I gotta be honest, it's possible! Humans can be complex. Buuuut... it sounds more like every other "miracle" we hear about on the internet. It sounds like some weird (those quarantined/banned subs) fantasy. It might be true! Buuuuut it would take a lot of proof to convince me. I think, in a lot of those (rare, real) cases, the LL was simply unaware of the problem, had not known the way their HL felt, and then corrected their own behavior because they love their partner, and (can't stress this enough) because there was nothing actually wrong with them. I think of it as "oblivious LL", because there was nothing in the way of having more sex, they legitimately just hadn't noticed or understood the pain of its absence in the life of the HL. It (probably) happens, but not OFTEN. ...It's also possible those partners are NMAPs and immediately shift when they find their mirrotoy/punching bag/bank account was suddenly sentient and trying to escape. Those are not LLs! To ground this point in reality, I have personally spoken with hundreds of couples in this situation. None of them were ever fixed by "The Talk".
"Anger, pain, fear, aggression..."
There were several relationships I've seen that were "fixed" by that fear-based change, but it was often just compounding the problem. By the time they got actual help it was usually too late. Interestingly, there are a lot of LLs who are willing to fake it to stay with their partner, because they love them. There are comparatively few HLs who are able to live with the post-Talk reality long-term, because they have that doubt, they almost never convince themselves that the "change is real" and it eats away at them. You see it all the time on DB: "we're having more sex, I'm still not happy" or "the change didn't last it must have been hysterical bonding (so sexist and archaic!)", etc. I would say it's actually harder for them to live with than just not having as much sex as they want. That's largely because they really want to be wanted, and once you've coerced or threatened someone into wanting you, how can you ever trust it to be anything other than coercion or fear? You can't. HLs really shoot themselves in the foot surprisingly often with that one.
"We'll burn that bridge when we get to it!"
This also alerts the LL to the inherent instability of the relationship. The LL is often thinking "forever", and now they have the harsh glare of their HLs real priorities: sex (or physical intimacy/feeling wanted with the LL preferably, but if not, with someone!) above all else. Worse, that may not even be the case, if the HL is really just using sex as a surrogate for fill in the blank (intimacy, love, validation, self-esteem, etc). They (the HL) now has destroyed the foundation of trust, any belief they are a team, and it often just gets worse from there. How can the LL ever trust them again? How can they ever rely on them, knowing they are thinking of leaving over "just sex"? And then there is the back up argument of, "Well, it's not about sex it's about intimacy, feeling desired, etc." but that's not what those previously mentioned "Talks" were usually about. Those talks were about sexual frequency. Holy moving goalposts Batman! If they are literally only missing sex with their partner, there are alternatives. If they are using sex for any other reason than just sex, that's what they need to say! They can't sit you down and say "Fuck me more often and with more enthusiasm!" when what they really mean is:
"I need to know you still want me and I am unable to get that into my brain without sex, but I'm GOING TO WORK ON THAT to learn how to feel it from other things, too, so please work with me".
Cut bait and fish?
This leads to the concept of Bait and Switch, one of the most misleading, misunderstood and MISUSED bits of DB vocabulary! A "Bait and Switch" is often defined by HLs as this deliberate action LLs maliciously deploy to trap the HLs away from all the free-range sex they were having, pretending to be a sex machine until they are locked down with kids and a mortgage! Deliberately! It's more probable that the LL unintentionally overestimated their desire or ability. The NRE fooled them too! They aren't lying! They may have never experienced it before and lack any vocabulary to explain! Have you ever tried to explain something you don't understand? We recently had a post that detailed why sexual attraction was a terrible thing to base a lifetime commitment on, because pretty much every rational human can understand that desire is inherently unstable. It's ephemeral by nature! We can't manufacture it. If the slightest physical, mental, biochemical, neurological change occurs, it is potentially lost forever in some cases. It's fleeting, changing, exciting, dangerous... and for some that adds to the potent mix of hormones and builds that high you get from the start of a passionate relationship. But like any drug, hormones wear off, the high fades and you are left with someone you may love with all of your heart, but without the chemical brain cocktail. The sex drive decreases, the heady rush of NRE fades, and if you're lucky, you have a great partner who you want to spend forever with. But you may not desire sex quite as often. You may find diminished returns, as it slowly becomes less pleasant, less fun, less play-more work, and THAT'S NORMAL for some people, that's ok.
"Excuses, Excuses! Get your excuses here!"
The next big thing is what makes an "excuse". That drives me nuts. A big one is menopause. This is one of the most stressful, painful, important phases in a woman's life. Yes, men experience a similar drop in hormones and that's also natural. Does it happen to everyone? Yes. Sure, of course. But does it effect everyone the same way? NO! So, since this is slightly more common a complaint about LLFs, I'm going to gender this section, but it is just for ease of comprehension. Please insert any applicable gender pronoun, as you go. Some women don't experience menstrual cramps. The other percentage that does experience them is now seething with anger and jealousy, right? "Why do I have to suffer if they don't?! This isn't fair." The even smaller subset of those who experience excruciatingly painful cramps are possibly thinking "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy", those with endo or PCOS are probably even more bitter about the agony, etc. You know what the takeaway is? Everyone is different, everyone experiences that same biological event differently, even though the mechanics are arguably the same (with a few obvious exceptions, endo, etc). With that in mind, why should menopause be any less diverse? Why should sex be less diverse? For every woman who is still knocking boots with gusto six times a week at 75 (and good for them!), there's a perimenopausal 38 year old who can't get out of bed for days at a time trying to recover from the agony of sex. For every woman who hits her sexual peak at 45, there's one who skips any peaks at all and rides the valley their whole life. There is not any concensus, nor can be, because everyone is different. If a woman gets the hormone rush and wants to have all the sex, great, but if the hormone drops and suddenly everything hurts, THAT'S NOT AN EXCUSE. That's a (wow, quite literally) a fact of life. Their body may have betrayed them the same way HLs are often convinced that they have been lied to, trapped, etc. The difference is that women can't leave their own bodies after this betrayal, but their partners can!
Hormones don't work for everyone, they are downright dangerous for some, and the benefits don't always outweigh the risks. It's infuriating when HLs don't understand a LLF not "treating" their menopause, as a courtesy and in service to their HLs perceived right of access. It's not their body! It's not their body.
It. Is. Not. Their. Body.
They have no right to it, and they have no right to demand you do anything to it that you don't want to do. Yep, they can leave. That's fine. Would you want to be with someone who has so little concern for your health and well-being? Someone who is railing against a completely natural and inescapable part of the human female experience? There are plenty of women I know who would happily skip menopause, if there was an option that didn't include higher risk of cancer and a host of complications and side effects. But they don't have that luxury. Their risk for HRT-related-cancer is too high.
"Should I stay or should I go now?"
The next key point here is whether leaving is an option. Just like the woman who can't escape her body during cramps or menopause, some are unable to leave. Some love their HL too much to leave. Others are unwilling. Some feel trapped, some feel obligated, some feel hopeless. Some HLs probably feel that way too. (Nevermind, we all know DB is filled with them. It's rhetorical.) But some don't want to leave. Some get comfort, love, security, love, happiness, joy, stability and LOVE from their marriage or relationship. Some don't want to leave even if the sex fades, because they've found a new or different stage in their relationship, one where the passion has be replaced by something even better in their view: understanding, deep love and affection and sex when it feels right for both people. Some of them choose the positives, the upside, the love. Not saying any one is better than the other, just different. There was a post recently that asked if sexually passionless marriage always led to passionless divorce. I said no. They were mistaking a lack of passion felt by the HL, as a lack of love on behalf of the LL. A lack of "appreciable" or "perceptible" passion does not equal a lack of love. It may demonstrate a lack of empathy or reception on the part of some HLs. As a percentage of HLs claim they apparently can't provide love unless it's received through their genitals, I guess it's possible they also can't perceive it in any other format? Sounds like a software issue. Reformat the drive! I'll give you my fun computer themed bit another time, they're great at parties!
Learning to Fly
If change were easy, I could sprout wings right now and fly. Some changes can be made, supported or augmented (I could get a jetpack! Or a helicopter! OooOOOooo). Or I could just come online and announce that I have definitely grown wings, just now, and I'm sailing around the sky posting this with amazing reception right next to like a dozen LLs who all miraculously changed after the talk and then they grew wings too! You'd want to see that. Admit it, lol. Ah, internet. Anyway, this doesn't absolve all LLs from all action or change, it just means we should all recognize how hard that is, and understand that some changes are (maybe) possible, but never guaranteed. HLs can continue to divide their lives into the binary sex/no sex, if that's what makes them happy! Some LLs may lose their partners. But the LL will have a much better understanding of the situation, better context and they can choose someone else who has the same priorities they do, but more importantly, has the flexibility to love them as they change and grow in all sorts of unpredictable ways. HLs could also accept that their partner has changed, and grow with them, love them as they change, and build a stronger relationship together, where sex happens for the right reasons, when both people are in the mood. A relationship that's about both people. Where no one feels guilty and both people feel supported and loved and cherished. Where you're a team. But I'm sure that's just crazy talk...
This is the conclusion of the short, experimental TwigQuest proof of concept that I've run over the last couple weeks. Thanks to everybody who participated! The final vote results are here: https://imgur.com/a/vmoxqwG I think the process went very well, overall! Several of the votes were fairly even and swung back and forth, which suggests to me that there were multiple options that people found interesting. The specialty in particular was an upset - Human Modification had a solid lead for the first half of the vote, with Defences crashing through for the win later on. I think the concept was as successful as I could have hoped. But anyway - here's the character: Abigail Copperpot was born in a rusty bathtub to a locksmith’s wife, the fourth of eight children. From birth she had her father’s knack for things that click and whirr. At age eight, after a flying whirligig of her own design flew into a passing carriage, she first met the Marchioness. She remembers very little of the encounter except her father’s groveling and a woman with a bone-pale dress and even paler skin. From that day on, she was barred from his workshop and forbidden from touching any tools at all. However, she grew into a willful young teen, and whenever she wasn’t working in the washhouse or wreaking havoc with the local street kids she would tinker. By herself, she learned the riddles of levers and pulleys, of gears and rivets and screws. She even hounded a man until he taught her the secrets of combustion from his automobile. She was working on its underbelly when the Marchioness finally came for her. Grease-stained and terrified, she answered all the lady’s questions – yes, she had a gift for machines. No, she had no formal education. Yes, she would come to the manor. There, the Marchioness set her a nightmarish challenge, involving her littlest brother in a birdcage dangling over a pair of prowling beasts. She triumphed, and for her cleverness she was awarded not only a full scholarship to a premier Academy but also a brand new pair of eyes that would let her see with crystal clarity things both very distant and very, very small. They were delicate - extremely sensitive to bright light and leaving her practically blind on a cloudy night. However, along with the understanding that her family would suffer dearly if she failed, her new eyes gave her the leg-up she needed to catch up with girls and boys who had learned their letters at a much younger age. After several years, when finally learned the she would be applying for a highly selective program in which to complete her Academy education, she also learned the truth of why the Marchioness had taken an interest in her. Abigail had since heard the gossip that the Marchioness had lost a young child in a tragic medical accident, and suspected that she was being treated as something like a surrogate daughter. Though this was perhaps partially true, the Marchioness had something rather more specific in mind. The professor whose favor with a higher Lord had spared him the Marchioness’ wrath for killing her daughter (and who had probably done so intentionally on his Lord’s orders) was working in that same program. Abigail would kill him – there was no choice in the matter. Mia is Abigail’s companion, and short for Project Lamia. Poised, cautious and slightly vacuous, she resembles an elegant human girl but is covered in scintillating, almost crystalline scales over which she has incredible motor control. Capable of altering their arrangement down to the microtexture, she can instinctively adopt complex geometric conformations to deflect claws or bullets, become as slippery as ice or cling to walls and ceilings, and gnash with spines like a thorny devil’s to chew through flesh. Mia can also reveal her second form, slithering out of her own body as little more than a tongue with an attached brainstem and eight razor-sharp filamentous tendrils. In this form, if inserted beneath a creature’s defenses (whether through a wound or a pre-existing orifice) she is capable of burrowing her way towards vital locations and killing creatures from within. When in this form, her outer shell retains some very basic motor programming to protect itself and come when she calls it. I hope you like them! What other experiment companion might you have created given the prompts of Scaly, Beautiful and Binary, and a specialisation in Defences? Let me know below. I'd also love to hear how you might have run the character creation process differently. Lastly, let me know how keen you would be for a quest-style game like this set in the Twigverse (or one of Wildbow's other settings). I've enjoyed this a lot, but running a game can be quite a commitment so I'd want to know whether other people would enjoy it too.
I'm looking for automobile binary files for reverse engineering. For no particular purpose, just to practice my static analysis skills. I was wondering if there is an option somewhere to get actual automotive elf files, maybe even with symbols, instead of the common .bin/.hex files. Even something very old could be helpful. And I really don't core which electronic control unit is it comes from - as long it's something that installed on a microcontroller on a vehicle. I would appreciate any ideas or help to get such files. Thanks!
Global Markets Rebound On Renewed Trade Hopes, Oil Slides For Record 12th Day
After Monday's vicious Veteran's Day selloff, which took place with the cash bond market closed, world markets have regained their footing as European stocks and S&P 500 futures modestly higher, recovering some of the previous session’s losses on renewed hopes (how many times have we heard this already) for progress in the U.S.-China trade dispute following a report that China's vice premier Liu He is meeting Steven Mnuchin in DC, even as Asian shares dropped overall, led by Japan's 2.1% drop as tech stocks were hit on iPhone demand fears. Europe's Stoxx 600 Index rose for the first time in three days, with telecoms leading the way after Vodafone announced better than expected quarterly results, although the index was off its earlier highs. Contracts on the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 were all firmer, and after sliding as low as 2,720 on Monday, S&P futures were 0.6% higher. Focusing on Europe, today is the day the Italians will resubmit their budget after the EC requested a new fiscal plan. No material changes are expected. According to Deutsche Bank, the commission will continue to adopt a tough stance on Italy. It seems inevitable they will recommend an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) in the next few weeks. So for now any grand bargain is far away. Earlier, the Shanghai Comp. (+0.9%) and Hang Seng (+0.6%) both opened lower although gradually recovered amid hopes for an improvement in US-China trade relations amid reports that US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by phone on Friday about a deal that could ease trade tensions and with some US officials reportedly expecting China to make a trade offer ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting. Other Asian indexes fared less well, and slid with Apple suppliers under pressure after the iPhone maker fell on signs of a deteriorating sales outlook. Meanwhile, underwhelming Chinese new loan data, ongoing Brexit concerns and Italian jitters have tempered enthusiasm. Germany's DAX outperforms peers this morning, while Italy's FTSE MIB traded mixed ahead of today's budget proposal deadline while local Italian banks are managing small gains. Even as risk assets enjoyed a modest rebound, the commodity rout continued as WTI fell for a twelfth day, the longest losing streak on record after Trump criticized top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia’s plan to cut output, and was headed for its lowest close of 2018. Treasuries climbed even as the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell from an 18-month high as traders took profit on the greenback. The yen reversed to a loss as risk appetite slowly grew. The Britain’s pound pared some losses from the past three days after Prime Minister Theresa May said talks with the European Union were in the “endgame” and data showing U.K. wage growth accelerated. Elsewhere, the euro recovered from its weakest against the dollar since June 2017, with Italy due to resubmit its budget. The country’s bonds pared some losses after a debt auction. Emerging market equities and currencies were steady. In a curious development overnight, major state-owned Chinese banks were seen selling dollars at around 6.97 per dollar in the onshore spot foreign exchange market in early trade on Tuesday, traders told Bloomberg in the latest attempt by Beijing to arrest sharp losses in the local currency. The onshore spot market opened at 6.9681 per dollar, weakening to a low of 6.9703 at one point in early deals. “Big banks were selling (dollars) to defend the yuan,” said one of the traders. Traders suspect the authorities are keen to prevent the yuan from weakening too sharply before U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping’s meeting later this month. So is the selling over for now? With trade worries hanging over markets for months and clouding the economic outlook, the Liu He came at an appropriate time, while comments from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Singapore Tuesday hinted at a more optimistic outlook; even so sentiment remains fragile as the Fed prepares to hike rates in just over a month. “We always talk about that proverbial wall of worry and that wall right now is pretty high,” David Kudla, chief executive officer of Mainstay Capital Management, said on Bloomberg TV. “We have the issues in China with the growth concerns there, we have the issues in Europe with the battle between Italy and the EU, the U.K. getting ready for Brexit. There is some guidance lower on earnings, and a Federal Reserve that is going to raise rates.” In other news, Bloomberg reported that the US Commerce Department submitted a draft recommendation on potential auto tariffs to the White House which are undergoing interagency review and are sign of US administration's increasing frustration at EU and Japan over lack of progress on auto trade issues, while the Section 232 recommendations will be discussed at White House trade meeting on Tuesday. In the latest Brexit news, PM May said Brexit talks are now reaching their "endgame" and that both sides working hard to reach an agreement but added that significant issues still remain and that the government will not accept a deal at any cost. Furthermore, there were reports that UK PM May had rejected the latest draft Brexit deal with the EU as it didn’t provide a clear exit from the customs union if the EU began acting in bad faith in discussions regarding a future trade agreement. Expected data include NFIB Small Business Optimism and monthly budget statement. Home Depot and Tyson are among companies reporting earnings. Market Snapshot
S&P500 futures up 0.4% to 2,737.50
STOXX Europe 600 up 0.6% to 364.03
MXAP down 1% to 150.18
MXAPJ down 0.2% to 480.47
Nikkei down 2.1% to 21,810.52
Topix down 2% to 1,638.45
Hang Seng Index up 0.6% to 25,792.87
Shanghai Composite up 0.9% to 2,654.88
Sensex up 0.8% to 35,083.73
Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 1.8% to 5,834.23
Kospi down 0.4% to 2,071.23
German 10Y yield fell 0.3 bps to 0.395%
Euro up 0.2% to $1.1239
Brent Futures down 1.3% to $69.21/bbl
Italian 10Y yield rose 3.3 bps to 3.066%
Spanish 10Y yield rose 0.6 bps to 1.607%
Brent futures down 2.2% to $68.57/bbl
Gold spot down 0.2% to $1,197.54
U.S. Dollar Index up 0.1% to 97.63
Top Overnight News from Bloomberg
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He have resumed talks on trade, and a potential Washington visit by Liu is being considered before the nations’ top leaders meet later this month
Goldman Sachs downward slide on a multibillion-dollar Malaysian fraud culminated Monday with Goldman’s shares having their biggest drop since 2011
President Donald Trump’s hardening line on immigration sets him on a collision course with House Democrats that is likely to shape the next presidential campaign.
Brexit negotiators are working through the night in an effort to reach a deal, but the final stage of the talks is proving “immensely difficult,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said
Italy’s government may offer the European Commission a minor concession when it resubmits its budget after an unprecedented rejection last month
Major suppliers to Apple Inc.’s iPhone fell Tuesday as investors fretted that one of the most important product lines in the technology sector was seeing weak demand
Major Asian equity markets mostly followed suit to the sell-off on Wall Street where tech led the declines after Apple shares dropped 5% following an outlook cut by supplier Lumentum Holdings and with energy names hit again after oil posted an 11th consecutive decline. ASX 200 (-1.8%) and Nikkei 225 (-2.1%) weakened from the open with the tech sector the underperformer in the region as another Apple supplier Japan Display reported a loss for H1 and downgraded its outlook. Furthermore, Japanese exporters suffered from recent flows into the JPY and large automakers were pressured after the US Commerce Department submitted a draft recommendation on potential auto tariffs to the White House. Elsewhere, Shanghai Comp. (+0.9%) and Hang Seng (+0.6%) both opened lower although gradually recovered amid hopes for an improvement in US-China trade relations amid reports that US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by phone on Friday about a deal that could ease trade tensions and with some US officials reportedly expecting China to make a trade offer ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting. Finally, 10yr JGBs were initially supported as the broad risk averse tone spurred a flight to safety, but then failed to hold on to the marginal gains as prices mirrored a pullback in T-notes despite stronger 30yr auction results. Top Asian News - Semen Indonesia Buys LafargeHolcim Arm in $1.75 Billion Deal - MUFG Chief Warns on Outlook Even After Raising Profit Target - Hong Kong’s World-Beating IPO Market Starts to Show Cracks - China’s Credit Growth Slumped in October as Debt Sales Slowed All major European indices are in the green, with the DAX (+0.6%) out in front, led by the likes of Lufthansa (+2.4%) who are benefiting from lower oil prices and Bayer (+0.3%) who presented an increase in earnings and confirmed their outlook. FTSE MIB (-0.3%) is lagging its peers weighed on by Telecom Italia (-1.4%) who removed their CEO to the dismay of Vivendi (23.9% shareholder). Italian financial names are also softer ahead of today’s budget re-submission deadline. Sectors are predominantly higher with outperformance in Telecoms post-earnings from Vodafone (+9.0%). Energy names lag, in-fitting with price action in the complex. Regarding individual equities, BTG (+9.2%) are leading the Euro Stoxx 600 after presenting an increase in half year revenue and operating profit. Elior Group (+8.0%) are off best levels but remain supported by news that they have hired advisors to initiate the sale of their catering business. Babcock (-2.5%) are under scrutiny from the Ministry of Defence over their handling of a contract relating to the UK’s Trident Submarines. Top European News
U.K. Wages Rise Most Since 2008 Amid Tight Labor Market
Nyrstar Plunges on Growing Speculation of Debt Restructuring
Italy’s Carige Thrown $360 Million Lifeline by Other Banks
In FX, An almost clear and defining line between the ‘so called’ risk or high beta/yield currencies vs safer-havens, as US-China trade tensions ease somewhat amidst reports of constructive discussions between key officials, while the YUAN also pares some losses with the aid of intervention via local banks overnight (said to have been defending 6.9700 vs the Usd). Hence, the DXY and broad Dollar are off Monday’s peaks, with the latter only maintaining gains/positive momentum vs the JPY above 114.00 and CHF (to a lesser degree) over 1.0100. However, the index remains underpinned around the 97.500 mark and still poised to build on yesterday’s new ytd high at 97.704 given high levels of ongoing uncertainty and global risks, with only one major chart hurdle seen ahead of 98.000 (97.871 Fib resistance). NZD/AUD - Outperforming on the aforementioned US-China ‘understanding’, with the Kiwi staying within striking distance of 0.6750 and the latter not far from 0.7200, but perhaps capped by mega option expiry interest at the strike (1.6 bn), while still feeling the adverse effects of bearish cross-positioning as Aud/Nzd inches further below 1.0700. GBP/EUCAD - All holding up relatively well, or at least consolidating off worst levels, with the Pound retesting 1.2900 vs the Greenback and 0.8700 vs the single currency on hopes if not high expectations of a Brexit breakthrough in time before tomorrow’s deadline. Note, some independent support from Sterling via firm UK wage data, but limited. The Eur is just keeping its head above 1.1200 vs the Usd awaiting Italy’s budget resubmission to the EU that is widely expected to reveal a concession or compromise, but no white flag. Option barriers at the big figure are underpinning the headline pair, though by the same token 1 bn expiry interest at 1.1250 are also keeping upside attempts in check. Looking at the Loonie, only fleeting intraday recoveries in oil prices are keeping the commodity unit pressured and it is struggling to stem losses beyond 1.3250. In commodities, WTI (-2.2%) and Brent (-2.1%) are in the red after a failed intervention by US President Trump who tweeted that oil prices should be lower, and he hopes Saudi and OPEC do not cut oil production. Note, the monthly OPEC report to be published today at 1115GMT. Gold (+0.1%) is marginally up after reaching 16-month highs yesterday. Of note, traders are gathering in Shanghai for Asia Copper Week, as copper prices have fallen by approximately 17% this year, on track for their worst year since 2015. Intra-day, copper and other metals have moved higher following reports that Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator, may visit Washington in preparation for Trump Xi talks. OPEC monthly report: OPEC crude production rose 127k bpd in October to average 32.9mln bpd, according to secondary sources. Crude oil output increased mostly in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Angola, while production declined in IR Iran, Venezuela, Kuwait and Nigeria. In 2018, oil demand growth is anticipated to increase by 1.5mln bpd, a downward revision of 40k bpd from last month’s projection. For 2019, world oil demand is forecast to grow by 1.29mln bpd, a minor downward adjustment of 70k bpd from the previous month’s assessment. In terms of the day ahead, the November ZEW survey in Germany follows before we get the October NFIB small business optimism reading in the US and the October monthly budget statement. Away from that it’s a busy day at the ECB with Praet and Lautenschlaeger speaking this morning, before de Guindos speaks this evening. The Fed’s Kashkari, Brainard and Harker are also due to speak at various stages today. Today also marks the deadline set by the EU for Italy to revise its budget, so expect to see headlines around this. US Event Calendar
6am: NFIB Small Business Optimism, est. 108, prior 107.9
10am: Fed’s Kashkari Speaks at Conference on Immigration
10am: Fed’s Brainard Speaks on AI and the New Financial Landscape
2pm: Monthly Budget Statement, est. $100.0b deficit, prior $63.2b deficit
2:20pm: Fed’s Harker Speaks at Fintech Conference
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap In this morning’s FT, DB’s Head of Research and Chief Economist David Folkerts-Landau has penned a hard hitting op-ed on Italy. The crux of the argument is that Europe must cut a grand bargain with Italy and that another costly sovereign debt crisis is inevitable unless the confrontational approach of the EC gives way to greater co-operation. Italy has actually been a frugal member of the single currency with a cumulative primary surplus every year outside of the GFC. However, these surpluses have simply helped finance the interest on the legacy debt and debt/GDP has still climbed. Meanwhile, the associated spending cuts and austerity required to run a primary surplus have lowered the standard of living for the population and led us to the political situation we find ourselves at today. To cut a long story short the grand bargain is in effect the ESM firepower helping to substantially lower Italy’s funding costs, allow for more public expenditure (e.g. infrastructure) in return for Italy undergoing structural reforms. A copy of the unabridged op-ed can be found here or in today’s FT. Interestingly, today is the day the Italians will resubmit their budget after the EC requested a new fiscal plan. We expect no material changes. Our economists yesterday published a piece ( link ) looking at the next steps and conclude that, as contagion has been limited for now, the commission will continue to adopt a tough stance on Italy. It seems inevitable they will recommend an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) in the next few weeks. So for now we’re far away from the grand bargain our Chief Economist thinks will eventually be needed. As well as Italy it feels like there’s a lot to report today, which is not usually the case after a US holiday. Indeed those handful of Monday US holidays each year are usually an excuse for us to have an extra 10-15 minutes lie in the morning safe in the knowledge that not much will have happened the day before. However, the alarm clock was actually set a bit earlier this morning after a difficult start to the week, including a further slump for the once biggest company in the world, and a continuation of the recent under-performance in many of the current largest companies in the world within the tech sector. To recap, Veteran’s Day thin equity trading saw the NASDAQ (-2.78%) and NYSE FANG (-4.11%) indices leading the declines followed closely by the S&P 500 (-1.97%), DOW (-2.32%) and Russell 2000 (-1.98%). Amazingly that is the 9th time this year the big 3 bourses (NASDAQ, S&P 500 and DOW) have fallen at least -1.90% on the same day. It didn’t happen in 2017, and only happened 11 times in 2015 and 2016 combined. The VIX also climbed just over 3pts yesterday to edge back above 20. The tech sector was clearly at the heart of yesterday’s selloff with a -5.04% decline for Apple, sparked by big falls for the company’s suppliers on the back of demand concerns. Apple’s share price is now back below $200 after spending 72 consecutive trading days above that level. That move for Apple resulted in the small matter of $49bn of value being wiped from the company. By comparison General Electric lost just over $5bn yesterday but it was arguably the bigger headline grabber. Indeed the shares slumped -6.88% (-10.02% at the lows) after the company’s CEO, in an interview with CNBC yesterday, failed to reassure market fears about a weakening financial position. The CEO suggested that the company will now urgently sell assets to address leverage. Shares hit levels first seen in 1995 yesterday and have only been lower since, very briefly, during the financial crisis. For a bit of perspective, the market cap of GE now is $69.5bn and it’s the 80th largest company in the S&P 500. Go back to August 2003 and it was the largest company in the index (and regularly the world between 1993-2005) at a market cap of $296bn, with $12bn of daylight to Microsoft in second place. The tech giant has since grown to be a $826bn company well over 10 times the size. GE’s market cap actually peaked in August 2000 at $594bn before tumbling first in the tech crash and then the GFC. In credit GE is a top 15 issuer in both the US and EU indices. It’s recently been downgraded into the BBB bucket but as recently as September was trading 20bps inside BBB- bonds. However they crossed over at the end of that month and now trade up to 50bps wide to the average of the weakest notch of IG. This problem for GE has come at an interesting time as much discussion in recent months has been about BBBs as a % of the size of the HY market. According to Nick Burns in my team, post the downgrades of the automakers in 2005, US BBBs fell to 99% of the size of the HY market from a peak of 170% in 2001. Since 2005, BBBs have been steadily rising as a percentage of HY climbing back above the previous peak in 2014 (175%) before extending that growth to a current level of 274%. It’s more difficult to compare EU BBBs to HY given the infancy of the EUR HY market pre-2004. But from a low of 219% BBBs have grown to 340% of EUR HY. So large BBB companies with a deteriorating credit story are prone to additional widening pressure as investors fear the risks of an eventual downgrade to HY and a swamping of paper into that market. This isn’t helping GE at the moment and may be a dress rehearsal for what happens for weaker and large BBB issuers in the next recession. Brexit headlines were slightly overshadowed but make no mistake, we are getting to the point when binary outcomes are coming closer. Up until the end of last week I thought we’d get a deal agreed this week and then Parliament would be 50/50 as to whether they’d vote in favour of it. However, since last Friday if you've read all the relevant UK press articles its been hard to find much enthusiasm for the expected deal from anyone on any side of the debate within Parliament. At this stage I’m not sure I know what plan B is? Will this be a repeat of TARP back in 2008 and Parliament requires two goes at it? Problem with this is that it’s not clear that the EU is going to offer anything different on a second run at it. In terms of trading, the pound originally pared losses in the early afternoon yesterday as the EU’s Barnier confirmed yesterday that although an agreement had still not been reached the main elements of an exit treaty are ready to present to the UK cabinet according to the FT. Sterling gave up the Barnier related gains on the below Buzzfeed news and fell -0.93% on the day. This news was that Brexit secretary Raab is leading some cabinet ministers towards telling Mrs May that the EU offer on the table is unacceptable. Mrs May herself last night said talks were “in the endgame”. The general view is that unless we have a deal by the end of tomorrow, the November EU summit is unlikely. As we know a deal is pretty much on the table however the issue remains whether or not the UK can run with it first based on whether the cabinet will accept it and secondly whether Parliament can. At the moment we are struggling to get past the first hurdle let alone the second. There was supposed to be a cabinet meeting on Brexit today but its status has been played down. This morning in Asia, markets outside of China/HK are weak but off the lows of the session. The Nikkei (-2.19%), and Kospi (-0.46%) are all down along with most Asian markets but after opening equally weak the Shanghai Comp (+0.86%) and Hang Seng (+0.33%) are rallying hard from the lows. More positive trade noises from US VP Pence and Chinese officials in the last hour have helped. Sentiment didn’t start well though as last night Bloomberg reported that the White House is circulating a draft report by the US Commerce Department over whether to impose tariffs on automobile imports to protect national security while adding that the President Trump is scheduled to meet with senior members of his trade team today to discuss how to proceed on potential tariffs. Elsewhere, futures on the S&P 500 (+0.44%) are pointing towards a more positive start and as an interesting aside the BoJ’s asset holding are now (JPY 553.6 tn) greater than Japan’s nominal GDP (JPY 552.8tn as of end June). To put this in perspective the Fed’s assets are about 20% of US GDP, while the ECB’s holdings are equal to around 40% of the euro-zone economy. This US and Asian weakness follows on from earlier yesterday where Europe also struggled. The STOXX 600 ended the day down -1.01% with the tech sector sinking -3.66%. The DAX (-1.77%) fell even more and it’s amazing that it’s ahead of the FTSE MIB for one of the biggest total return declines in Europe this year of the main bourses (-12.33% vs. -10.37% respectively). Remarkable given that they are probably at the extreme ends economically within Europe. Even oil couldn’t eke out a gain after being up after Asia closed post the Saudi production cut story from Sunday. President Trump’s tweet criticising Saudi Arabia’s planned production cut weighed on prices late in the US session. By the close a near -3% fall had added to what is now an 11-day successive slump, extending the record run we discussed yesterday with data back to 1983. Elsewhere bond markets in Europe (Treasuries were closed for Veterans Day) were quiet with Bunds -0.9bps lower in yield and BTPs +3.5bps higher. In terms of the day ahead, shortly after this hits your emails we’ll get the final October CPI revisions in Germany. Soon after that we’ll get the preliminary Q3 wages data in France before the focus turns to here in the UK with the September and October employment stats. The November ZEW survey in Germany follows before we get the October NFIB small business optimism reading in the US and the October monthly budget statement. Away from that it’s a busy day at the ECB with Praet and Lautenschlaeger speaking this morning, before de Guindos speaks this evening. The Fed’s Kashkari, Brainard and Harker are also due to speak at various stages today. As noted above, today also marks the deadline set by the EU for Italy to revise its budget, so expect to see headlines around this.
In addressing shortcomings of a major web browser recently, I tossed out a neologism for a neologistic age: Minimum viable user. This describes the lowest-skilled user a product might feasibly accommodate, or if you're business-minded, profitably accommodate. The hazard being that such an MVU then drags down the experience for others, and in particular expert or experienced users. More to follow. There are cases where reasonable accommodations should be considered, absolutely. Though how this ought be done is also critical. And arbitrary exclusions for nonfunctional reasons -- the term for that is "discrimination", should you ask -- are right out. Accessibility accommodations, in physical space and informational systems, is a key concern. I don't generally require these myself, but know many people who do, and have come to appreciate their concerns. I've also come to see both the increased imposition, and benefits, this offers by way of accommodating the needs. It's often underappreciated how increased accessibility helps many, often all, users of a product or space. A classic instance would be pavement (or sidewalk) kerb cuts -- bringing the edge of a walkway to street level, rather than leaving a 10 cm ridge. This accommodates not just wheelchairs, but dollies, carts, wheeled luggage, and more. Benefits which materialised only after deployment, beyond the original intent.
Accessibility and Information Systems
For information systems -- say, webpages -- the accommodations which are most useful for perceptually-challenged users are also almost always beneficial to others: clear, high-contrast layouts. Lack of distracting screen elements. A highly semantic structure makes work easier for both screen-readers (text-to-speech) and automated parsing or classification of content. Clear typography doesn't fix all copy, but it makes bad copy all the more apparent. Again, positive externalities. When we get to the point of process-oriented systems, the picture blurs. The fundamental problem is that an interface which doesn't match the complexity of the underlying task is always going to be unsatisfactory. Larry Wall has observed this with regard to the Perl programming language: complexity will out. In landscape design, the problem is evidenced by the term "desire path". A disagreement between use and design. At its heart, a desire path is the failure for designer to correctly anticipate, or facilitate, the needs and desires of their users. Such paths reflect emergent practices or patterns, some constructive, some challenging the integrity of a system. Mastodon Tootstorms are an example of a positive creative accommodation. Mostly. On other services, the lack of an ability to otherwise dismiss content frequently creates an overload of the spam or abuse reporting mechanism. G+ comes to mind. If a side-effect of reporting content is that it is removed from my view, and there is no other way to accomplish that goal, then the reporting feature becomes the "remove from visibility" function. I've ... had that conversation with Google for a number of years. Or is that a monologue... Software programming is in many ways a story of side-effects and desire paths, as is the art of crafting system exploits. PHP seems particularly prone to this, though I can't find the character-generating hack I've in mind. There's the question of when a system should or shouldn't be particularly complex. Light switches and water taps are a case in point. The first has operated as a simple binary, the second as a variable-rate flow control, and the basic functionality has remained essentially unchanged for a century or more. Until the Internet of Broken Shit that Spies on you wizkids got ahold of them.... And modulo some simple management interfaces: timers or centralised large-building controls. Simple tasks benefit from simple controls. Complex tasks ... also benefit from simple controls, but no simpler than the task at hand. A good chef, for example, needs only a modicum of basic elements. A good knife. A reliable cooktop and oven. A sink. A cutting surface. Mixing bowls. Underappreciated: measuring equipment. Measuring spoons, cups, pitchers. A scale. Thermometer. Timers. The chef also may have call for some specific processing equipment: cutting, chopping, blending, grating, and mixing tools. Powering these increases throughput, but the essential controls remain simple. And some specialised tools, say, a frosting tube, but which generally share common characteristics: they're individually simple, do one thing, usually a basic transformation, and do it well. The complexity of the process is in the chef, training, and practice. The antithesis of this is "cooking gadgets" -- tools or appliances which are complicated, fussy, achieve a single and non-general result, or which integrate (or attempt to do so) a full process. This is the stuff that clutters counter space and drawers: useless kitchen gadgets. A category so egregious it defies even simple listing, though you're welcome to dig through search results. If you can only use it on one recipe, it's bad mkay?
Appropriateness of Single-use Tools: Safety equipment
On single-use tools: if that single use is saving your life in conditions of readily forseeable peril, then it may well be worth having. Lifeboats. Seatbelts. First aid kit. That gets down to a risk assessment and mitigation calculation problem though, which may be error-prone: over- and under-estimating risks, and/or the efficacy of mitigations. Pricing risk and risk-as-economic good is another long topic.
Lifts, Telephones, and Automobiles
There are times when you absolutely should be aiming for the minimum viable user. Anything that sees widespread shared public use, for example. I shouldn't have to read the user manual to figure out how to open the front door to your building. Automatic, sensored doors, would be an entirely MVU product. I've mentioned lifts, automobiles, and telephones. Each is highly complex conceptually, two can maim or kill. All can be relatively safely used by most adults, even children. A large part of what makes lifts, automobiles, and telephones so generally usable is that the controls are very highly standardised. Mostly. The exceptions become newsworthy. Telephones have deviated from this with expansion of mobile and even more complex landline devices. And the specific case of business-oriented office telephones has been for at least 30 years, a strong counterexample, worth considering.
Office Phone Systems
It takes me a year or more to figure out a new office phone system. If ever. A constant for 30 years. This wasn't the case as of the 1980s, when a standard POTS-based phone might have five buttons, and the smarts were in a PBX generally located within the building. By the 1990s, though, "smart phones" were starting to appear. Rolm was one early vendor I recall. These had an increasing mix of features, not standardised either across or within vendor lines, but generally some mix of:
Lots of other random shit to inflate marketing brochures
Feature #4 was a major problem, but the underlying one was, and remains, I think, the mismatch of comms channels and cognitive capacities a phone represents: audio, physical, textual, and short-term working memory. The physical interface of most phones -- and I'm referring to desk sets here -- is highly constrained. There's a keypad, generally 12 buttons (not even enough for the impoverished Roman alphabet, let alone more robust ones), possibly an additional set of function buttons, and a handset, plus some base. Cords. More advanced phonesets have perfected the technology of including a display for text which is simultaneously unreadable under any lighting conditions, viewing angles, or capable of providing useful information in any regard. This another engineering accomplishment with a decades-long record. Phones are relatively good for talking, but they are miserable for communication. Reflected by millennials disdain for making phone calls Millennials prefer text-based apps to voice comms, as do numerous tech early-adopters. I suspect the reason is both the state-maintenance and fragility of phone-based communications. I'm distinguishing talking -- a longer and wandering conversation with a friend -- and communicating -- the attempt to convey or obtain some specific task-oriented or process-oriented information. The salient difference is that the latter is very strongly goal oriented, the former, not so much. That is, a "simple" phone conversation is a complex interaction and translation between visual, textual, audio, physical, and memory systems. It's also conducted without the visual cues of face-to-face communications (as are all remote comms), for further fun and games. This usually makes conversations with someone you know well (for whom you can impute those cues) generally far more straightforward than with a stranger, especially for complex discussions. The upshot is that while a telephone is reasonably simple to use in the basic case -- establish a voice connection with another device generally associated with a person or business -- it actually fails fairly profoundly in the surrounding task context for numerous reasons. Many of which boil down to an interface which is simultaneously oversimplified and poorly suited to the task at hand. Smartphones, and software-based telephony systems in general, followed the business phone lead. Mobile comms generally have expanded on failures of business phone systems in poor usability as phones by significantly deteriorating audio quality and dynamics -- constraints of packet-switching, compression, additional relay hops, and speed-of-light delays have boosted noise and lag to the level of interfering with the general flow of conversation. Which isn't particularly an interface failure as such (this is channel behaviour), but it encourages the shift to text of millennials. I'll save the question of how to fix voice comms for discussion. The point I'm making is that even an apparently straightforward device and task, with a long engineering history, can find itself ill-matched to new circumstances. There's also much path-dependence here. Lauren Weinstein on G+ enjoys digging up old AT&T engineering and marketing and/or propaganda newsreels describing development of the phone system: direct-dial, switching, 7-digit, area-code, long-distance, touch-tone. There were real and legitimate design, engineering, and use considerations put into each of these. It's not as if the systems were haphazardly put together. This still doesn't avoid the net result being a bit of a hash. An appreciation of why Mr. Chesterton built his fence , and whether or not that rationale remains valid, is useful to keep in mind. As are path-dependencies, 2nd-system effects, and late-adopter advantages. Those building out interdependent networks after initial trial often have a significant advantage. It's also interesting to consider what the operating environment of earlier phones was -- because it exceeded the device itself. A business-use phone of, say, the 1970s, existed in a loosely-integrated environment comprising:
The phone itself
The local PBX -- the business's dedicated internal phone switch.
A secretary or switchboard operator, serving also as a message-taking (voice-to-text), screening, redirect, directory, interactive voice response, and/or calendaring service
A desk calendar
A phone book
A diary or organiser
Critically: these components operated simultaneously and independently of the phone. A modern business, software, or smartphone system may offer some, or even all, of these functions, but frequently:
They aren't available whilst a call is in process
They have vastly less capability or flexibility than the systems they replaced
The benefits are that they are generally cheaper, smaller, more portable, and create digital data which may be, if accessible to other tools, more flexible. But enough of phones.
The Unix Philosophy
The Unix Philosophy reads: "Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface." It offers a tremendous amount of mileage.
Exceptions to the Unix Philosophy: Complexity Hubs
I want to talk about the apparent exceptions to the Unix philosophy: shells, editors, email, init (and especially systemd), remote filesystems, udev, firewall rules, security generally, programming languages, GUIs. Apparently, "exceptions to the Unix philosophy" is very nearly another neologism -- I find a single result in Google, to an essay by Michael O. Church. He adds two more items: IDEs (integrated developer environments), arguably an outgrowth of editors, and databases. Both are solid calls, and both tie directly into the theme I had in mind in the preceding toot. These are all complexity hubs -- they are loci of either control or interfacing between and among other systems or complex domains:
Shells, editors, IDEs, and programming languages are all interfaces through which a skilled user interacts with a highly complex system. Whilst remaining in the context of text, this is a space in which new capabilities are themselves created or synthesised.
Databases ... try to make sense of the world, under constraints of scale, consistency, performance, reliability, stability, integrity, and durability.
Email faces a vast array of complexities: standards, remote systems and operators, file formats, spam, security, identity, DNS, filtering. And that's just on the technical side. Within the communications context there are composing standards, workflows, language, characterset, prioritisation, archival, deletion, and more. Email is, in a word, a hairball. It wants an Alexander.
To a rough approximation, remote filesystems combine many of the technical complexities of both databases and email: sorting out who and what to access, via what standards, in a distributed context. None of the widely-used technologies is particularly satisfactory, and none of the satisfactory systems are widely used. It's a CRUDdy situation.
Linux's udev is at its essence the problem of remote filesystems made local -- the idea that devices directly attached (or made to appear to be directly attached) to a system might go walkabout or show up unexpectedly for dinner. It is "responsible for providing an abstract interface of the hardware", which tells us what we need to know: When "abstraction" appears in docs, it's a warning that Here Be Dragons. Simplicity doesn't need abstraction.
Firewall rules and security generally are attempted as defences against the unexpected. Worse, they're very frequently contingent defences, which is to say, when you need a defence, you need it now. As in military contexts, your basic tools are limited: speed and agility, if you can get out of the way, shielding or armour, if you cannot, countermeasures, if possible. Given a comms context, rules of epidemiology also apply: guard your portals, or ports, with effective friend-or-foe. Since attacks, particularly effective ones, are frequently unexpected, security is inherently a choatic space, and reflects it. It is highly resistant to attempts at organisation, though the focus on mechanisms, above, may help.
The GUI Mess
This leaves us with GUIs, or more generally, the concept of the domain of graphics. The complexity here is that graphics are not text. Or at the very least, transcend text. It is possible to use text to describe graphics, and there are tools which do this: Turtle. Some CAD systems. Scalable vector graphics (SVG). But to get philosophical: the description is not the thing. The end result is visual, and whilst it might be rule-derived, it transcends the rule itself. One argument is that when you leave the domain of text, you leave the Unix philosophy behind. I think I'm OK with that as a starting premise. This means that visual, audio, mechanical, and other sensory outputs are fundamentally different from text, and that we need to keep in mind that text, whilst powerful, has its limits. It's also to keep in mind, though, what the characteristics and limits of GUIs themselves are. Neal Stephenson, "In the Beginning was the Command Line", again, offers one such: Metaphor sheer. Most especially where a GUI is used to represent computer system elements themselves, it's crucial to realise that the representation is not the thing itself -- map-territory confusion. In fact a GUI isn't so much a representation as a remapping of computer state. Unix, the C programming language, and the bash shell all remain relatively close to machine state. In many cases, the basic Unix commands are wrappers around either C language structures (e.g., printf(1) and printf(3)), or report the content of basic data structures (e.g., stat(1) and stat(2)). Even where the concept is reshaped significantly, you can still generally find the underlying concept present. This may be more foreign for newbies, but as exposure to the system is gained, interface knowledge leverages to system knowledge. GUIs lose this: represented state has little coherence. Some argue that not being tied to the mechanism is an advantage -- that this allows the interface designer a freedom to explore expressions independent of the underlying mechanism. This is true. But it gets to another set of limitations of GUIs:
There is a limit to how much information can be represented graphically, imposed by display, resolution, dot pitch, scrolling, seeking, and time.
Users hate change.
GUI efficiency is intrinsically limited.
GUI doesn't script. Not easily. And most definitely not within the metaphor of basic GUI use, which is how CLI scripts.
Scripting has the effect of constraining, for better or worse, changes to interfaces because scripts have to be updated as features change. The consequence is that tools either don't change arguments, change them with exceedingly long advance warning, or failing either of those, are rapidly discarded by those who use them due to gratuitous interface changes. The result is a strong, occasionally stifling, consistency over time. The limits on information density and on scaling or scrolling are another factor. A good GUI might offer the ability to expand or compress a view by a few times, but it takes a very creative approach to convey the orders of magnitude scales which, say, a physical library does. Data visualisation is its own specialty, and some are good at it. The result is that most GUI interfaces are good for a dozen, perhaps a few dozens, objects. Exceptions to this are telling. xkcd is on the money: https://www.xkcd.com/980/ This chart manages to show values from $1to $2.39 quadrillion ($2.39 thousand million million), within the same visualisation, a span of 15 orders of magnitude, by using a form of logarithmic scaling. This is possible, but it is difficult to do usefully or elegantly.
GUIs, Efficiency, and Change
Change aversion and inherent limits to GUI productivity interact to create the final conflict for GUIs: the potential for interface efficiency is limited and change is disruptive, you lose for trying. Jamie "jwz" Zawinski notes this:
Look, in the case of all other software, I believe strongly in "release early, release often". Hell, I damned near invented it. But I think history has proven that UI is different than software.
What jwz doesn't do is explain why this is, and I'm not aware of others who have. This also shows up in the case of Apple, a company which puts a premium on design and UI, but which is exceedingly conservative in changing UI. The original Mac desktop stuck with its initial motif from 1984 until 2001: 17 years. It successor has changed only incrementally from 2001 to 2017, very nearly as long. Even Apple realise: you don't fuck with the GUI. This suggests an underlying failure of the Linux desktop effort isn't a failure to innovate, but rather far too much churn in the desktop. My daily driver for 20 years has been Window Maker, itself a reimplementation of the 1989 NeXT desktop. Which is to say that a 30 year-old design works admirably. It's fast, stable, doesn't change unexpectedly with new releases or updates, and gets the fuck out of the way. It has a few customisations which tend to focus on function rather than form.
The Minimum Viable User GUI and Its Costs
Back to my starting premise: let's assume, with good reason, that the Minimum Viable User wants and needs a simple, largely pushbutton, heavily GUI, systems interface. What does this cost us? The answer is in the list of Unix Philosophy Violating Tasks:
Dealing with scale
Dealing with complexity
Iteratively building out tools and systems
Adapting to changing circumstance
Scalability of understanding, comprehension, or control
Integrating numerous other systems
Especially nonuniform ones
Just Who is the Minimum Viable User?
A central question, and somewhat inexcusably buried at this point in my essay, is who is the Minimum Viable User? This could be the lowest level of system skills capable of using a device, which an OECD survey finds is abysmally bad. Over half the population, and over 2/3 in most surveyed industrialised countries, have poor, "below poor", or no computer skills at all. I'm moving past this point quickly, but recommend very strongly reading Jacob Nielsen's commentary on this study, and the study itself: "Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills" (OECD, 2016). The state of typical user skills is exceedingly poor. If you're reading this essay, you're quite likely not among them, though if you are, the comment is simply meant without disparagement as a statement of fact: from high to low, the range of user computer skills is enormous, with the low end of the range very highly represented in the general population. People who, largely, otherwise function quite well in society: they have jobs, responsibilities, families. This has profound implications for futures premised on any sort of general technical literacy. As William Ophuls writes in Plato's Revenge, social systems based on the premise that all the children are above average are doomed to failure. The main thrust of this essay though is a different concern. Global information systems which are premised on a minimal-or-worse level of sophistication by all users also bodes poorly, though for different reasons: it hampers the capabilities of that small fraction -- 5-8% or less, and yes, quite probably far less -- of the population who can make highly productive use of such tools, by producing hardware and software which fails to support advanced usage. It does this by two general modes:
It simply lacks the necessary features. I could point to the entirely crippled commandline userland of a typical Android device.
It actively prevents advanced users from making full use of their devices by restricting access and enhancement. This might be seen as a patronising or Big Brotherish move by vendors, and there's certainly concern over this. But it's also a realistic response to the security and threat landscape of mobile devices operate in, given typical user skill levels. A fact hammered home by the fact that skilled users frequently fail to manage their systems securely.
The dynamics are also driven by market and business considerations -- where the money is, and how development, shipping, and maintaining devices relates to cash flows.
The Problem-Problem Problem
One business response is to extend the MVU definition to that of the Minimum Viable-Revenue User: services are targeted at those with the discretionary income, or lack of alternatives, to prove attractive to vendors. There's been well-founded criticism of Silicon Valley startups which have lost track of what a meaningful problem in need of solution. It's a problem problem. Or: The problem-problem problem. Solving Minor Irritations of Rich People, or better, inventing MIoRP, as a bootstrapping method, has some arguable utility. Telsa Motors created a fun, but Very ExpensiveTM , electrified Lotus on its way to creating a viable, practical, battery-powered, Everyman vehicle. Elon Musk is a man who has made me a liar multiple times, by doing what I unequivocally stated was impossible, and he impresses the hell out of me for it. Amazon reinvented Sears, Roebuck, & Co. for the 21st century bootstrapped off a books-by-mail business. I'm not saying there ain't a there there. But I'm extremely unconvinced that all the there there that's claimed to be there is really there. Swapping out the phone or fax in a laundry, food-delivery, dog-walking, or house-cleaning business is not, in the larger scheme of things, particularly disruptive. It's often not even a particularly good business when catering to the Rich and Foolish. Not that parting same from their easily-won dollars isn't perhaps a laudable venture. The other slant of the Minimum Viable User is the one who is pushed so far up against the wall, or fenced in and the competition fenced out, that they've no option but to use your service. Until such time as you decide to drag them off the plane. Captive-market vendor-customer relationship dynamics are typically poor. For numerous reasons, the design considerations which go into such tools are also rarely generative. Oh: Advertising is one of those domains. Remember: Advertising breeds contempt. Each of these MVU business cases argues against designing for the generative user. A rather common failing of market-based capitalism. Robert Nozick explains criticism of same by creatives by the fact that "by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals". A curious argument whose counterpoint is "capitalism is favoured by those whom it does unduly reward". That's solipsistic. Pointing this out is useful on a number of counts. It provides a ready response to the Bullshit Argument that "the market decides". Because what becomes clear is that market forces alone are not going to do much to encourage generative-use designs. Particularly not in a world of zero-marginal-cost products. That is: products whose marginal costs are small (and hence: pricing leverage), but with high fixed costs. And that means that the market is going to deliver a bunch of shitty tools.
Getting from Zero to One for Generative Mobile Platforms
Which suggests one of a few possible avenues out of the dilemma: a large set of generative tools have been built through non-capitalistic organisation. The Free Software / Open Source world would be a prime case in point, but it's hardly the first. Scientific research and collaboration, assembly of reference tools, dictionaries, encyclopedias. That's an option. Though they need some sort of base around which to form and organise. And in the case of software they need hardware. For all the evil Bill Gates unleashed upon the tech world (a fair bit of it related to the MVU and MFVU concepts themselves), he also unleashed a world of i386 chipset systems on which other software systems could be developed. Saw to it that he individually and specifically profited from every one sold, mind. But he wasn't able to restrict what ran on those boxes post-delivery. GNU/Linux may well have needed Bill Gates. (And Gates may well have not been able to avoided creating Linux.) There are more smartphones and Android devices today than there ever were PCs, but one area of technical advance over the decades has been in locking systems down. Hard. And, well, that's a problem. I don't think it's the only one, though. Commodity x86 hardware had a model for the operating system capable of utilising it which already existed: Unix. Linus Torvalds may have created Linux, but he didn't design it as such. That template had been cut already. It was a one-to-two problem, a question of scaling out. Which is to say it wasn't a Zero to One problem. And yes, Peter Thiel is an evil asshat, which is why I'm pointing you specifically at where to steal his book. That's not to say he isn't an evil asshat without the occasional good idea. I'm not sure that finding (and building) the Open Mobile Device Environment is a Zero to One problem -- Google, well, Android Inc., leveraged Linux, after all. But the design constraints are significantly different. A standalone PC workstation is much closer to a multi-user Unix server in most regards, and particularly regards UI/UX, than is a mobile device measuring 25, or 20, or 12, or 8 cm. Or without any keyboard. Or screen. And a certain set of tools and utilities must be created. It's not as if attempts haven't been made, but they simply keep not getting anywhere. Maemo. FirefoxOS. Ubuntu Phone. Hell, the Psion and Palm devices weren't bad for what they did. Pick one, guys & gals. Please.
The Mobile Applications Ecosystem is Broken
There's also the question of apps, and app space, itself. By one school of thought, a large count of available applications is a good thing. By another, it's a sign of failure of convergence. As of 2017, there are 2.5 million Google Play apps. Is it even worth the search time? Is meaningful search of the space even possible? The question occurs: is it really in Google's interest to proliferate applications which are separate, non-integrated, split development efforts, and often simply perform tasks poorly? Why not find a way to focus that development effort to producing some truly, insanely, great apps? The consequences are strongly reminiscent of the spyware and adware problem of desktop Windows in the early 2000s. For the same reason: competitive software development incentivises bad behaviour and poor functionality. It's the Barbarians at the Gate all over again. With so many independent development efforts, and such an inefficient communications channel to potential users, as well as poor revenue potential through kosher methods, the system is inherently incentivised to exceedingly user-hostile behaviour. A valid counterargument would be to point to a set of readily-found, excellent, well-designed, well-behaved, user-centric tools fulfilling fundamental uses mentioned in my G+ post. But this isn't the case.Google's Play Store is an abject failure from a user perspective. And catering to the MVU carries a large share of the blame. I'm not saying there should be only one of any given application either -- some choice is of value. Most Linux distributions will in fact offer a number of options for given functionality, both as shell or programming tools (where modular design frequently makes these drop-in replacements, down to syntax), and as GUI tools. Whilst "freedom to fork" is a touted advantage of free software, "capacity to merge" is even more salient. Different design paths may be taken, then rejoined. There's another line of argument about web-based interfaces. I'll skip much of that noting that the issues parallel much of the current discussion. And that the ability to use alternate app interfaces or browser site extensions is critical. Reddit and Reddit User Suite, by Andy Tuba, are prime exemplars of excellence in this regard.
Google VP Prabhakar Raghava said in a recent interview that the very existence of Windows 10 S is “a validation of the approach we've taken.” Raghava went on to add, “What educational institutions have demanded is simplicity. It's a real test tube for all of us, whether it's Microsoft or any of us.”... [It] is only able to install and run Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that are found within the Windows Store. Microsoft has locked things down so tightly that Win32 apps won’t even install....
Yes, this is a lot of words to describe the concept generally cast as "the lowest common denominator". I'm not claiming conceptual originality, but terminological originality. Additionally:
"Lowest common denominator" is technically inaccurate. It's greatest common denominator, but that creates a confusion as to whether what's being discussed is a high goal to be attained or a low limit which is imposed. (The LCD of any two integers is 1.)
"Minimum viable user" plays off "minimum viable product", popular extant Silicon Valley terminology. And is technically accurate.
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