Did you know roses float in shit? It's not just that roses float on top of shit, it's that there is a massive river of shit orders of magnitude larger in flux than the miniscule amount of roses that appear, pouring over the roses continually, and yet they still rise to the surface. If they didn't, there would in fact be very little to live for nor any hope for humanity.
The process of getting roses to float is something one might call academic discourse, selection and conversation, or intellectual discourse, or perhaps even art criticism. So what am I talking about? Great literature, great science, great music, great art. Du vin, du poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise. I'm talking about currencies, rappers, classical composers, and blogs. And yes, flowers. And architecture, though that really takes ages. Is that clear? Well in this post I am going to tell you a little bit about how to watch roses float, how to identify roses, and how to do your part to provide the buoyancy which keeps us from drowning in our own shit. I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe, and I was not offended, for I knew we had to rise above it all.
Let's consider Mencius Moldbug's 2007 blog post called "My Navrozov Moments", to pick a random example. First, we have a bit of lovely meta here, as this 8 year old post which I recently discovered is one of some ungodly number (I will estimate billions of words) of blog posts that have been self published over the last decade. Is any of this shit worth reading? Probably not a substantial percentage of it. However, some people knew this guy from other contexts and read his stuff. They called it rose-ish and told their friends. Their friends told other friends. Eventually, some folks I had met in other contexts told me it might be worth a look. Now, I have linked it and told a few of my friends. The thing is being kicked up near the surface of the river of our own shit, where it catches more eyeballs. Eight years is damn quick. Some folks who have had a lot of experience wading through these rivers of shit recommend simply staying away from anything within 30 years of the main sewer. Boltzmann was perhaps not so lucky with his roses, though they did eventually rise. Does this Moldbug article deserve your attention already? Well, we'll get back to that when we discuss rose identification. In fact, the article itself provides us with a nice segue to that discussion:
It's not clear to me that Digg, Wikipedia, arxiv.org, and other modern systems which solve, or at least purport to solve, the critical problem of separating content from nonsense, are quite ready for their new roles.
Here Mr. Moldbug has given us another metaphor for enabling roses to float in shit: separating content from nonsense. In his article, he mostly has told us that Universities sometimes suck at it. Well, true enough. Those who claim to be Universities can hinder that process in many ways. But seriously? It's not clear to him that Digg, Wikipedia, and Arxiv.org won't do any better? The problem here is that he had false expectations, and now he is very angry that they didn't play out. Not only is he angry, but he is jumping right on board the false expectation train again for the same disappointment. Mr. Moldbug, you expected people wearing University hats to separate content from nonsense for you by virtue of their hat. Now you expect somebody with a Digg LLC mug to do that for you? Would you rely on these people to tell you which women are more beautiful? Would you expect them to be the ultimate arbiters of what are pretty flowers? More to the point, have you considered what they promised in order to get the mugs and hats? No Mr. Moldbug, it is not Universities that are responsible for all violence in the world. It is people like you, which expected others such as University employees to be your leaders and betters in all things, who have fucked up.
Another example before I get carried away here. Some folks were looking at this problem of getting roses to float in shit and they called the process "peer review". Sure, this is as good a label as any. Some others tried to formalize this and regulate it in certain forums, which is of course broken and corruptible but hey as long as we recognize shortcomings we can work with this. At one point an astrophysicist called Chandrasekhar had moved himself up an informal WoT and had a prestigious position as editor of the Astrophysical Journal. An astronomer by the name of Halton Arp later sent a paper to be published, with some remarkable observations about quasars in relation to galaxies. Chandrasekhar, who was a busy man, took one look at the paper, saw that it contradicted some stuff which he believed in, and said "Nope, this is shit". This was Halton Arp's Navrozov moment.
So what happened? Well what happened is that professors with University paychecks are in fact the ultimate arbiters of what is science, and so Arp's work faded into the rivers of shit never to be heard from again. Chandrasekhar decided what is a science, just as it was Navrozov's professor who decided what is Hegelian scholarship. That's why you've never heard of Arp or Navrozov. Haha, did you catch that? This is a George Clinton moment for your ass. Chandrasekhar and Navrozov's professor were playing the part of Sir Nose. What really happened is that Arp's work has come to be required reading for anyone interested in knowing about quasars and galactic evolution, and he is recognized as one of the best astronomers of his era. That particular work has risen above the millions of words of ApJ which tried to drown it. Because funk does not just move, it removes. Dig?
Another example: How about the greatest architect of sound, JSB? The music is out there. It's not owned and advertised, not patented or professionally marketed. It's just out there. Every year rivers of upon rivers of music, sampled, electronic, acoustic, postmodern, mp3, ogg, romantic, death metal, experimental, etc. etc. are piled on top of this heap. Every year people discover Bach, and play Bach. You hear him on street corners, in children's Suzuki recitals, and when allowed enough allegory, everywhere. That particular rose floats in the stratosphere. Now there's a Coprophobic Rose for your ass.
At this point dear reader, you should be prepared to answer a few questions. Who is the ultimate arbiter of truth? Who is the ultimate decider of what is good science? Who decides what is a good currency to use? Who decides what is funky? Who decides what is beautiful? Who decides who you should shoot at? There is only one answer to all these questions, and if you don't know it you are most definitely part of the problem.
A few general guidelines:
1) Never lose confidence that roses will float on shit. Yes there will be tragedies, horrible unbearable tragedies to contemplate. But none the less the tides of time are in our favour. It might take lifetimes, but roses will emerge. Proprietary operating systems will wind up floating downstream with fiat, various pop musics, plastic branding, and other shit too countless to mention. Count on it.
2) Spread the word ceaselessly. Did you spot a rose? Tell your family, your friends. Blog. Publish anywhere and everywhere, in a respectable manner. Sure, you could even put a University hat on, or hell even a USG hat if you can bear that. I don't care, if you found something you believe in it is your duty to spread the word in any way you can. Sing! I can't hear you! Make some motherfucking noise!
3) Unless of course, you aren't sure. In which case, put your feet up and have a nice glass of STFU. Yes I am the ultimate arbiter of what is good computer science but you know what? I'm not sure about systemd. I'm really not qualified to give you a good opinion at this point, so I'm not going to pretend, or link others opinions that have gone up in my WoT, or vote on party lines. All I'm going to say for now is you do want to be careful what you use to boot your system, and I am sceptical. You see, saving roses is like chess. If you aren't sure what you are doing, chances are very good you are making a bad move. Bad moves suck, because in general it takes a lot of good moves to make up for one bad move. Is it a rose or a piece of shit? If you aren't sure, just get out of the way. And if you are a little sure, give the rose a little boost. If you are very sure, give the rose a big boost.
4) Shit can sometimes be safely ignored. Occasionally it makes sense to point it out so that nobody else will step in it. Other times, you might need to point out it's particular protein sequence to your fellow macrophages for future reference, but usually the best thing you can do is just move on by. It will sink on its own. Focus on the roses.
5) Just because duckduckgo is not the ultimate arbiter of truth, and harvard adswww is not the ultimate arbiter of what is good astrophysics, doesn't mean you can't use these services. Use them. Just because Chandrasekhar was wrong once doesn't mean you should ignore him either. Even fiat currencies could perhaps be used to your advantage. One does not swim in the rivers of shit without getting one's hands dirty. University gardens often have beautiful roses. Probably grad students taking care of them, who knows.
In point 4 above, I was perhaps too blasé about identifying the characteristics of shit. In fact those who peddle shit, who push it to the surface at the expense of roses, employ certain methods which it can be quite useful to identify. Glossy websites. Advertising and marketing. Anything that employs these methods should be avoided like the plague, and also it bears pointing out that one should not advertise and market true roses nor make them glossy websites. Of course there are exceptions. Every now and then someone will say "lets get the word out about bitcoin!" and make a glossy advert. Wealthy patrons sponsor flower shows. So, never discount something entirely based on the bullshit around it. But mostly, you should be forewarned. If a product has a large advertising budget, it is very likely that product is shit. Ignore it and wait a generation to see if it is still around.
To close, lets remember that even if you know you are going to win a war, that doesn't mean it isn't going to mean a lot of work is coming. Every battle is important. I'd like to thank my comrades in this struggle, and those true heros who have made great sacrifices. You know who you are. Beware my friend, shit winds are a-comin.