EDIT: thanks to everyone who posted! I have to run and actually finish this thing. Check out http://www.urbit.org, or http://github.com/urbit/urbit.

My short bio:

I've spent the last decade redesigning system software from scratch (http://urbit.org). I'm also pretty notorious for a little blog I used to write, which seems to regularly create controversies like this one: http://degoes.net/articles/lambdaconf-inclusion

I'll be answering at 11AM PDT.

My Proof:


Comments: 151 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

windowborder29 karma

Your writings as "Moldbug" are under fire for being "fascist" or "racist." Are the critics interpreting your writings correctly, or are they just being lazy?

  1. Fascism is a pretty broad term nowadays. What exactly is fascism, in your view? What is your view of it?

  2. People are quote-mining your old posts about Carlyle and claiming that you support slavery, or something like that. I read those posts, but I was kind of confused about what your actual views were. What was the point you were making in discussing slavery in your political writings?

  3. There are plenty of people in tech who have pretty out-there political views, like supporting communist revolutions, including some of the people attacking you. But nobody is no-platforming people on the left or claiming to feel "unsafe" by sharing a conference with them. They don't have to make pledges to behave themselves at conferences. Why is there this double standard?

cyarvin42 karma

Fascism no longer exists. It's as dead as Odinism. You can reinvent Odinism, but it's not Odinism, it's fake Odinism. Unless it's a joke (and don't get me wrong, Nazi Microsoft chatbots are funny), it's pathetic. Actually, the fact that /pol has made Hitler funny is the best possible evidence that Hitler is completely dead.

What's alive is the ideological system that defeated fascism -- which committed plenty of atrocities of its own. Of our own. When we think about crimes from the last century, it seems more relevant to think about the crimes we committed, not those they committed.

What is fascism? It's exactly what everyone thinks it is. The conventional wisdom is perfectly correct. Our historians have a merciless, laser-sharp understanding of everything bad that fascism was and everything it did wrong. What hasn't been done is turning this same laser on our own institutions.

As for the word "slavery," it means too many things at the same time. Robert Nozick in the '70s devised a beautiful little paradox for people who think they can define "slavery": [http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/nozick_slave.html]. Try it.

For example, is "debt slavery" slavery? Or is it only slavery when you can't declare bankruptcy? Oddly enough, our society has one form of debt that can't be shed in bankruptcy: student loans. The institutions that benefit from it are our most powerful and privileged.

What Carlyle said about slavery is that you can ban the word, but not the institution. There are plenty of people today who will be paying off their student loans until they die. Is this the same as being whipped by Leonardo DiCaprio unless you chop your quota of sugarcane? It is not. Is it "slavery"? Dunno, you tell me. Are they both bad things? Sure. Is everything that can fit, or has in the past fit, under this label, evil? If so, it would be a very unusual label.

As for your last question, it's simply a matter of who has actual power in our society. Everyone wants to think of themselves as powerless and/or oppressed. But actual power dynamics are not hard to find.

jakejnichols23 karma

Why will the first 5,000 people use Urbit? I can understand (in theory) why Urbit would be super cool if it got broadly adopted. But what is in it for the early adopters? Why is it worth it for early users to pay the cost of adopting an alien software platform?

cyarvin21 karma

Great question!

When you're building a new network, Metcalfe's law is always a thing. What we've realized is that in a sense, you already have a personal cloud computer: the set of silo services you use already.

These services have APIs (mostly). When they don't, they're scrapable. The real initial role for a personal cloud computer is not replacing these services, but controlling them.

To be more concrete, it'll be a long time before you can actually move your data and identity out of Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, etc, etc, etc. What people need now is a way to stay in control of this data from something that's (a) a general-purpose computer and (b) actually belongs to them.

To put it a slightly different way, Web APIs are the I/O of a modern cloud computer. Existing programming environments aren't designed first and foremost for driving this I/O channel. A new environment needs to be -- so this is the focus we're working toward right now.

jakejnichols6 karma

Cool. I am a tech early adopter who is very concerned about owning my own data, and am very willing to try products to help solve this problem. What problem exactly can Urbit solve for me? Right now, I've moved to keeping all my data and notes in SpiderOak, which does zero-knowledge encrypted syncing and backup. So I already feel like I am mostly in control and ownership of my own data. Email is still a problem, but I don't want the pain of running my own email server. Facebook I'm stuck on because all my friends are there. I'd like a secure-by-default, self-hosted alternative to Slack, but it seems like then all non-techies in the group would also have to run their own Urbit instances? Seems easier just to use an open source slack clone. Can you sell me on becoming an early adopter of Urbit (not necessarily now, but whenever it is ready)?

cyarvin12 karma

The question is how many of these special-purpose services you have, and what UI you use them through.

SpiderOak is a great service. It's not Facebook, Slack or Instagram. Suppose you want to post one of your notes on SpiderOak to Facebook? Suppose you wanted your Facebook updates to autosync to SpiderOak? AFAIK, you have to do it manually through the browser UI. You as a browser user are in control of all these services, but you don't have a stateful, cloud-persistent computer managing them.

Urbit is also its own web server, so no, you won't need everyone to have an Urbit instance to use Urbit as a self-hosted Slack.

jakejnichols3 karma

Suppose you want to post one of your notes on SpiderOak to Facebook? Suppose you wanted your Facebook updates to autosync to SpiderOak?

This is isn't a big problem for me right now. If I was trying to solve this kind of thing, I'd probably look for a Mac app running on my hard drive, to sync between Facebook and my local desktop. I think there is an app out there that will do that for photos. The idea of running a simple desktop app appeals to me more than the idea of running and securing a cloud server.

cyarvin13 karma

Right: that's because you think of a cloud server as a Linux box on the Internet. Which of course it is. I know what it takes to run and secure a Linux box on the Internet. I don't want to do it either.

Running your own server on a public network should be a human-scale endeavor. It isn't, basically because a Linux distro is 30 zillion lines of code and the Internet is an orc-infested warzone. My feeling is that this can't change without (a) a new OS and (b) a new network.

You actually don't want the master copy of anything on a desktop, I think, simply because a desktop can't deliver the reliability that the cloud can. You may be capable of managing backups and making sure they actually work correctly, but most people aren't. The cloud can deliver absolutely reliable data storage and computing, which a box in your house just plain can't. Unless you live in a data center.

(If you have a global adversary, the box in your house remains the best choice, of course. I don't even have a global adversary, I think! And I'm more likely to have one than most...)

jakejnichols4 karma

Well, I am still focused on the early adopter stage. And I understand that Urbit is designed to be way more secure, stable, and maintainable than linux -- but will that be the case for the early adopters? Won't there be buffer overflows in the underlying C-code? Won't there be bugs that make the whole thing crash? Boneheaded mistakes in some library that cause data loss or corruption? Usually with a new product there needs to be a very large benefit in order for users to want to deal with the inevitable bugs and friction of being an early adopter. I'm still not sold on that benefit yet.

cyarvin16 karma

That certainly won't be the case for the earliest early adopters. The true early adopter is motivated by fun, not actual utility.

Frankly, when you're selling a product to geeks, you're selling a product to people who want to play with it because it's cool. They make up reasons they actually need it, which they can explain to their tolerant normie friends and family. But honestly, nobody at all really needed an Apple I in 1981, or whatever, to control their model trains and garage-door opener.

The geek is a visionary. She wants the Apple I not because she needs it, but because when she sees it, she invents the Mac in her mind. No, there aren't a lot of these people -- but there are enough.

TJIC11 karma

So do you see your v0.5 market as being individual consumers? I'd expect that it'd be easier to find some B2B niche...or, at least, I'd expect that a 'B' niche would be a lot more easily monetizable. No?

cyarvin7 karma

It's more monetizable but it also involves a certain amount of scale.

I think the market for personal cloud computers will develop a lot like the market for personal computers. Eventually the Apple II became a business computer in a sense, but not after the PC market had spent a few years developing. There are more tinkerers than you might think -- and businesses are less interested in exciting new technologies than you might think. :-/

conduct_of_code15 karma

  1. What, if any, strategy do you have, either personally or as a company, for operating in a hostile PR environment? It seems changing minds that are hunting scalps based on a bad-faith interpretation of a pull quote isn't really an option.

  2. What are your thoughts on Urbit with respect to cryptocurrency? Or are they totally orthogonal concerns? Maybe an easier version: do you think growth in cryptocurrency adoption will help Urbit succeed?

  3. Is the magnitude of the current controversy less than, greater than, or about equal to your expectation? And do you think that matches Lambda Conf's (at least as of the time of publication of the linked blog post)

cyarvin33 karma

  1. Changing minds isn't really an option. But the set of people in 2016 who care strongly about politics -- in either direction -- is surprisingly small by historical standards. Normal people are also receiving huge levels of obvious crazy from both left and right, both mainstream and alternative sources. This results in a basically healthy response of "tune this out, I just want to code."

  2. Urbit is not an altcoin -- it's digital address space. "Digital land, not digital money." But the differences are relatively small. Basically, digital currency needs a blockchain because supporting high-frequency, low-friction transfers is a critical property of money. It's not a critical property of real estate. And it's certainly nice to see this very weird notion of digital ownership become mainstream and commonly understood.

  3. I actually feel very bad for the conference organizers -- both with LambdaConf and Strange Loop. I know what I'm getting into and they don't; they have a very hard problem to solve already, and then they get this nonsense. To which there's no easy answer at all.

While I'm obviously super impressed with John de Goes (LambdaConf), I'm not in any way mad at Alex Miller (Strange Loop). I am not the conference organizer type, but my cynical expectation would be that an organizer has many different ways of making sure a problem like this doesn't arise -- Google being one of them.

Instead, there's a commitment to anonymous decision processes (I don't even know how they do that) and a really high level of principle. Yes, even in the case of Strange Loop. I'm glad I don't have that job!

xmjEE9 karma

Having read a good deal about your unqualified reservations:

What are the places you think are best suited to neo-cameralism?

What do you make about the ongoing demographic changes of (Western/Central) Europe? Do you think a monarch would've prevented it?

Where will you locate to once Urbit becomes hugely successful?

cyarvin22 karma

One of the strange tragedies of the modern world is that, with modern technology, governance is actually incredibly easy. For instance, because of the genocide, the international aid community gave Rwanda a pass to essentially govern itself. Rwanda is now the best-governed country in Africa if not the entire Third World. Frickin' Rwanda. (I don't need to flee America, perhaps because I'm not weev and not a Nazi, but I would seriously consider Kigali.)

Likewise, it is not in the abstract a problem to move a bunch of Syrians to Belgium, because Syrians are human beings and human beings are easy to govern. It may not be the world's best idea, but it is not an obvious disaster. However, with the present system of government, I'm a lot less enthusiastic. Belgians, and more generally today's First World populations, basically need no government at all -- and our governments have lived down to this challenge.

throwaway42624535239 karma

When do you think the United States will collapse?

What do you think will be the outcome of the migration crisis in Europe?

Will Trump clean house and become Emperor of America?

How do you plan to make Urbit accessible to a regular person? I mean, they are going to need some kind of lies-to-children, simplified, old thing analogue explanation to understand it. Hell, I don't understand what Urbit is or how it's supposed to be used.

cyarvin10 karma

I'm going to answer your fourth question only :-)

The answer is that right now, you can't understand Urbit unless you're essentially someone who could have invented it yourself. This is not a tiny set of people, but a relatively small one.

We're trying to get it to the point where you can understand it as a normal Unix tool. Ideally, it'll eventually be something you sign up for just the way you sign up for Facebook -- you may not even perceive it as a general-purpose computer. You certainly won't need to learn Hoon, any more than you need to learn PHP to use Facebook.

fche2 karma

"We're trying to get it to the point where you can understand it as a normal Unix tool."

Do y'all have a roadmap / timeline for that?

cyarvin10 karma

Yeah, most of this stuff already works. We'll probably ship it when we get FUSE working -- mounting the global immutable namespace over FUSE makes it feel real in a way nothing else can. Also, libuv has done a great job with inotify() but inotify() still basically doesn't work. So: not this summer, this spring.

EvolutionistX8 karma

Would you consider an arranged marriage between your kids and my kids?

ETA: Fine, I'll ask a real question. At this point, would you rather be known for Urbit and your other programming projects, or your political ideas? What do you think of being famous and having so many fans (and detractors?)

I do hope you will come back to writing someday. I prefer UR to Nazi chatbots.

cyarvin10 karma

Urbit is a lot more important to me in the near term, for probably obvious reasons. I would certainly rather be rich than famous, but probably everyone who is (slightly) famous rather than rich says this. Ideally I would have just enough fans to pay the bills, and just enough haters to keep me amused.

As for the arranged marriage, ask me again in a decade :-/

SauceOnTheBrain8 karma

How genuine or representative of your actual political views was Mencius? I always got the impression it sat somewhere between "here are some interesting things to think about" and purple shitposting, which makes this latest controversy a little bit confusing. Do you consider any of this latest wave of criticism to be on the mark, or strictly the result of misinterpretation?

cyarvin28 karma

Everything I say I believe (at the time -- I still get flak for telling people not to buy bitcoin in 2013, because the gubmint was gonna shut it down. Well, it still could happen).

But it's difficult to separate opinion X from the commonly accepted stereotype of people who believe opinion X. It easily turns into a game of progressive telephone in which Twitter is talking about someone who has my name, but is otherwise Leonardo DiCaprio from Django Unchained. Or maybe Edward Norton from American History X.

I think one of the worst tropes in people who, for example, don't believe that human evolution stopped at the neck, is that they inhabit these stereotypes and make them their own. It's like Weev with his swastika tattoo. Really, Weev? Did you need to?

It's actually quite possible to recognize that human population genetics has a lot of impact on politics and history, and also recognize that human population genetics has nothing at all to do with your individual, personal and professional human relationships. Nor does politics.

As for "race," you can learn way more about someone from a minute of conversation than from a full genome sequence -- even if we knew how to decode the information in the sequence, which we don't. As for politics, there is essentially no one sane who thinks of themselves as evil or wanting to do evil. I have lots of progressive friends, and you'd be surprised how many ways we can find to see the world in the same way.

SupportiveFather696 karma

behead those who insult weev

cyarvin21 karma

I did not insult weev! On the subject of incrementing numbers in URLs, I stand 100% percent with weev.

rationalimachination8 karma

Is anybody building a Twitter for Urbit?

cyarvin8 karma

Yes. :-) (For certain values of the word "Twitter.")

thegoodbitpug8 karma

Do you see distributed computing platforms like Ethereum or sidechain/layers like Rootstock as competitors to Urbit? If so, what do you think distinguishes Urbit from similar efforts?

Also how can I get a Nock shirt?

cyarvin8 karma

See my answer above on IPFS -- there's a synergy here again.

Our Nock shirts are cool. We'll be selling them soon. You can get one sooner if you send us a patch :-)

canned_green_beans8 karma

  1. What do you think your approximate go ranking is currently?
  2. Favorite game from the Alpha Go vs Lee Sedol challenge match?
  3. What do you think is the biggest technological hurdle to making Urbit a reality on a larger scale?
  4. It seems that for a project which is so non-standard and has as great a scope as Urbit does, there may be a limit to how much more people or more money could help development. Do you think that so far in your silicon valley startup experience the amount of money you've received and the workforce that you've had on the project has been appropriate?
  5. Do you have any advice for people taking on large scale projects, such as attempting to write entire system stacks?
  6. It seems that one of the biggest self imposed filters on people attempting development for the Urbit platform is the extensive new terminology, which overlaps with existing word meanings (albeit in entirely different namespaces). Now that a substantial number of people have viewed the documentation, do you believe that this terminology is useful? A mistake?

cyarvin9 karma

Ha, I'm terrible at go. Maybe 10 kyu when I played regularly. Sorry to burst your bubble.

The question of whether Urbit could use X amount of money, and the question of whether a rational investor would give it X amount of money, are very different questions. Even the best VCs are not really visionaries -- in fact, they can't be. That's what us cattle are for.

We've posted a lot of Urbit doc, but we haven't asked people to actually use it -- in fact, we've asked them not to. So we've seen a lot of first impressions. This tells us more about perceived than real usability. (Both matter, of course.) I would still describe this choice as a cost, but a necessary cost -- the other option is using existing terms with different meanings, which has higher perceived usability but (I think) lower real usability.

On large-scale projects: (1) start with a piece you can do. (2) premature documentation is the root of all evil -- don't write documentation describing software that doesn't exist. Build the code first.

Joram27 karma

Aren't you better at politics than writing software? Why did you resign from political writing? Any plans to return?

Are private cities a better variant on your preference for monarchy? Would you live in a Google City State? Do you think freedom of "exit" is better than freedom of "voice" or voting in the Hirschman sense?

Your one offensive comment is that some demographic groups are better suited for mastery and others for slavery. This seems absurd. All major ethnic groups were enslaved at some point in history and that wasn't based on IQ, it was based on military strength. Would you be willing to rescind that?

cyarvin22 karma

Amusingly, my "one offensive comment" was actually me repeating something my wife (not at all a "shitlady") learned in her MFA program at SF State (not at all a Hitler Youth academy). (This is the observation that the conquistadors began the slave trade with Africa because Native Americans didn't thrive as slaves, which is not at all controversial history.) I figured that this wasn't exactly the sort of thing I'd say, but coming from her it was probably okay.

Perhaps oddly, if anything I thought of this as a negative observation about Native Americans (I probably wouldn't do super well in the sugarcane fields either). Similarly, if I said that Greek Jews were more likely to survive in Auschwitz than Western European Jews (which is also true), this would strike me as a positive comment on the toughness of Greek Jews, not an opinion that they should be sent to the ovens first.

Somehow, which shouldn't have surprised me, this commonplace historical observation metamorphosed into "everyone of African descent is best suited to cutting sugarcane for the Noble White Man." I don't have a problem with "rescinding" that, since I never said it.

And, no. I'm actually better at writing software. :-) As a resident of San Francisco, I think we could quite easily try the Google City State thing by letting them run, say, Muni. If that works out...

Joram23 karma

That is a lazy and insufficient deflection.

Many historians discuss why some American slavers chose to use imported African slaves over native Amerindian slaves, and that's generally not offensive. Thomas Sowell for example wrote extensively about that and generally didn't offend anyone.

This also isn't some simple misunderstanding. Your direct quote is:

"Not all humans are born the same, of course, and the innate character and intelligence of some is more suited to mastery than slavery. For others, it is more suited to slavery. And others still are badly suited to either. These characteristics can be expected to group differently in human populations of different origins. Thus, Spaniards and Englishmen in the Americas in the 17th and earlier centuries, whose sense of political correctness was negligible, found that Africans tended to make good slaves and Indians did not. This broad pattern of observation is most parsimoniously explained by genetic differences."

First, this is completely absurd. Throughout history rival tribes have killed and enslaved each other, and this was through military strength not through some general intelligence factor.

You are saying that genetic factors of low intelligence made Africans more suited to slavery. That's both wrong and completely unnecessarily offensive.

AFAIK, it was often harder to enslave a people in their native lands, so slavers often choose to import remote slaves. I don't think statements like that would offend anyone.

cyarvin37 karma

I said "character and intelligence." One thing that's hard for the 20th century to understand is that the ability to survive as an agricultural slave is a talent -- just like the ability to survive in Auschwitz. (Read Primo Levi.)

It was not necessarily the best, the worst, the smartest or the dumbest who survived in Auschwitz. Auschwitz selected for a very different set of talents than the normal, sane world, in which being nice and smart is better than being mean and dumb. Similarly, early American slavery selected for talents that Africans had and Indians lacked.

(It's not militarily hard to enslave people in their native land when you're as ruthless as a medieval Spaniard -- guerrilla war in Latin America is a postcolonial phenomenon, not a colonial one) As I understood and understand the matter, the complaint of the conquistadors about their Indian captives was that they too easily refused to work and eat, and essentially just died. This is similar to the fate of the last of the Tasmanians. Hunter-gatherer peoples don't do well when forced into inactivity/drudgery. Intellectuals also don't do well with drudgery, although we're just fine with inactivity. So the conquistadors imported agricultural peoples to do agricultural labor.

I would make a terrible agricultural laborer and an awful agricultural slave. (I am also not very good at being a master, though for different reasons.) Am I praising myself for this lack of talent?

Yes, it may have something to do with my high intelligence. (It also has something to do with my poor character.) Intelligence can be a liability. You don't have to be an agricultural slave to realize this -- all you need to do is go to an American high school.

What I learned in an American high school was that intelligence does not make me special or better. I agree that if I thought smarter people were better people, given the fact that no magic process has distributed the smarts equally, I would be a racist in the classic sense. (I also don't agree that the talent to be a master, or the talent to be a slave, makes a person better or worse.)

It's hard, especially for smart people, to give up the idea that smart people are better than stupid people. The ancient Greeks lent similar prestige to athletics; they believed a fast runner was spiritually better than a slow runner. They fought a lot of wars, so athletics mattered a lot to them; we write a lot of code, so problem-solving ability matters a lot to us. But one is a muscular talent, the other is a neurological talent. Neither has any mystical significance.

Once you stop believing in the mystical importance of intelligence, I think it's very easy to accept that it's unequally distributed (as athletic talent certainly is). I understand that this is very hard for our society, and especially for people like me who grew up believing that good grades were holy and professors were gods.

All I can say is: they're not. Or at least, so I believe. I hope this helps you understand the context of my remarks a little better.

iceman-p7 karma

Previous versions of Hoon had no keywords and used a system of two symbol characters to define execution structure. The documentation defended this "metal-head" language structure. I've been watching the urbit github repository and it looks like Hoon 151 adds optional colon prefix keywords as synonyms to the two symbol syntax.

Why make this change? Were you worried that the sigil syntax would scare people off? Or perhaps did you change your mind about whether the sigil syntax was a good idea? I'm curious about what lead you to change something fundamental about the language.

cyarvin8 karma

I know it's odd to develop privately, or at least quietly, on a public repo :-)

You're basically right. Learning the sigils is easier than it looks -- this is not just a theory, I've seen it -- but it looks hard. Introducing an optional keyword syntax (and keyword-named stems) actually makes Hoon slightly worse, I think, but only slightly. And it smooths over the initial shock of alien-ness. Hoon is actually a very simple language, and I just don't need the work of making this obvious.

Chaigidel7 karma

I guess you're familiar with Richard Gabriel's Worse is Better, with the idea that projects that get 80 % there fast with gaping conceptual holes in them outcompete projects that go for the 100 % and get bogged down trying to get the difficult bits just right. We seem to still be very much in a worse is better landscape, and Urbit fits in with the opposite sorts of systems that have been getting their clocks cleaned by quicker and dirtier approaches since the 1980s.

Is there a plan for how Urbit and its tight tolerances approach are going to survive in real world software ecosystems where things often get unpredictably chaotic over both social and technical dimensions?

cyarvin13 karma

I'm definitely familiar with "Worse is Better." I would say that in the long run, worse is just worse. And more to the point, it's hard for something new and gnarly to compete with something old and gnarly. The only real opportunity is to contrast with the current conventional wisdom, not to mimic it.

The winning technologies of the '90s and '00s were simple and crude. The Web, PHP, JS etc. They are still crude, but no longer simple. You still need to be simple -- Urbit does everything possible to avoid the difficult problems -- but crude is already quite a well-solved problem.

Luxen7 karma

  1. Who are the core developers of Urbit? I've seen references to a company in other questions. Is Urbit a commercial product?
  2. Do you think a developer can learn enough to make meaningful contributions to the project in their free time?

cyarvin7 karma

  1. Urbit is a tiny little seed-stage startup.

  2. Yes, but not quite right now. We're close to releasing a new round of doc and actually soliciting public engagement.

adaldharf6 karma

  1. Do you have any plans on returning to alt-right politics, either through your blog or some other avenue?
  2. Besides the Strange Loop incident, has your personal life or work with Urbit been significantly affected by the blog?
  3. How does it feel to be one of the founding fathers of NRX and what are your thoughts on NRX today?

cyarvin27 karma

I honestly don't think of myself as ever having been involved in "politics." Honestly I think politics in any real historical sense is almost dead -- people hardly care. At least, compared to the past. Would anyone care about the 2016 election if Trump weren't running? And Trump is a throwback from the past, not an omen of the future. The future is grey anonymous bureaucrats, more Brezhnev every year.

I'm a writer -- when I have interesting things to say that I feel like no one else is saying, I can't help posting them. I'm not sure there's much in this category at present. I certainly can't compete in the great sport of turning Microsoft chatbots into Nazis.

nickbentham6 karma

Did you expect to be disinvited from Strange Loop last year? Or were you surprised to be invited and then not surprised to be disinvited?

cyarvin8 karma

As I said above, I was slightly surprised to be invited, because I assumed an organizer would run away from this sh*tstorm rapidly. I was a little surprised to be disinvited, but I certainly understand the incentives.

tteclod6 karma

Do you have a simplified roll-out plan for noobs interested in implementing Urbit? Do you have suggestions small-scale experimental implementation for noobs? An Apple IIe / Commodore 64 / 8086 for Urbit?

cyarvin8 karma

We're working quite vigorously on a way for noobs to engage. It's certainly fun as an abstract project to write a Nock interpreter, but it's both too easy and doesn't really get you to Urbit in any way.

JoocyDeadlifts6 karma

How can we expect Urbit to change Joe Schmoe's tech use? What does it look like at the level of whatever the opposite of a power user is?

cyarvin10 karma

In the long run?

I think what happens is that Joe Schmoe still thinks he's using Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Actually he is. He is using them through apps on his urbit, though. They are just protocols with a legacy central server, which Facebook etc will probably be able to afford to maintain somehow, even when no one is seeing ads.

LWMR5 karma

Which currently existing company would you most prefer to have running a city-state that you'd live in?

Trump seems to be a great rallying point for what you described as "peasants getting jobbed". But in terms of what net effect he's likely to have, would you rate him closer to 1) can-kicker staving off the inevitable for a little time/pressure release valve, 2) merely ineffective, or 3) overall negative after one considers the increased immune system response of the bureaucracy?

(I presume he'll not actually fix anything. He doesn't seem about to run for True Election, after all.)

cyarvin9 karma

My daughter informs me that Trump is going to kill all the Muslims. I don't think she's right, but she's very smart and I hesitate to contradict her.

Frankly, there is so much great executive talent in this industry that it's almost not worth answering. Even when you put a few low-level geeks in DC and let them fix Obamacare, the contrast is amazing.

diversity_is_racism4 karma

Do you think a new system designed for tinkerers can take over from commercial interests?

Why has Linux, despite many successes, not taken over in that way? And what are you doing differently?

cyarvin18 karma

Linux has actually taken over. You can ask anyone who used to work at Sun about their commercial interests. :-/

I think the critical problem with Linux on the desktop, and similar places (like word processors) where OSS has had a tough time competing, is where you run into giant blobs of complexity that are just plain no fun to code.

For example, that's one very practical reason Urbit is a cloud computer without a GUI. It's also a reason the Urbit kernel is 20,000 lines -- I wish it was still 10,000.

bataryal4 karma

What benefits can owners of digital land expect eventually to see? Currently the principal advantage seems to be a short identifier.

cyarvin11 karma

A 32-bit urbit (planet) is basically free and will be for quite a while. However, if you have a 16-bit urbit (star), you can issue planets. And if you have an 8-bit urbit (galaxy), you can sell stars.

Or to put it in a different way: MIT has a /8 (IPv4 "galaxy"). It was probably unclear in 1981 what benefit they could expect to see. But I think it's someone clearer now.

tmpaccntsr3 karma

What sort of relationship do you see between something like Urbit and IPFS?

cyarvin11 karma

Very simple: Urbit should have an IPFS client. Urbit is also a global immutable namespace, but one built on very different principles, and not solving the CDN/BitTorrent/Freenet axis that IPFS takes on.

More broadly, this kind of cloud infrastructure is synergistic, not competitive. IPFS is doing a great job of getting traction, and the more traction it gets the more useful Urbit is -- because as IPFS develops a network effect, talking to IPFS is a no-brainer use case for Urbit.

Similarly, Sandstorm is another personal cloud OS built on completely different principles from Urbit. The more traction Sandstorm gets, the better for Urbit -- they're roughly like the PC OS and the PC browser. In theory the browser was a sort of OS, but in practice it much prefers to run on someone else's OS. Likewise, Sandstorm (once it has more of a UDP gateway :-) is a much better place to self-host an urbit than an industrial Linux platform like Digital Ocean.

(Aside from this, Juan and Kenton are both great people and awesome engineers -- I wouldn't want to compete with them even if I could.)

cgrills3 karma

Hi Curtis,

My wife and I just moved to South Bay after escaping DC. One question and a challenge for you:

How do you view the question... “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

I view the ability to lucidly answer, and then convince others of the validity of these truths, as one the best tests ever devised to measure imagination, courage, and leadership.

Someday when you’re free for lunch at Urbit, I challenge you to see which one of us can answer that question more times.

Best, Chad

cyarvin3 karma

It's not my question but I believe I've answered it a number of times. :-)

Unfortunately the best way to develop software is in a closet by yourself. That's not the best way to evangelize it, though. I'm looking forward to moving out of research and into evangelism...

1SMB5919BT3G3 karma

What kind of jobs would widespread adoption of Urbit create?

cyarvin18 karma

None. It would destroy a lot of jobs, though. Technology destroying jobs is a huge problem. I don't pretend to be contributing in a positive way here.

throwaway4582923412 karma

Thank you, Mencius.

And since first-level posts should contain a question, here's mine.

Back in 2007, you wrote "The other day I was tinkering around in my garage and I decided to build a new ideology". Nine years later, how does it feel to know that you have succeed?

cyarvin8 karma

There's a story in which Chou En-lai was asked what he thought of the French Revolution and responded: "it's too early to say." Probably this was invented by some clever journalist, but it's still a good line.

temp0101010101-1 karma

Do you really believe that black people are subhuman, as I've read on this thread? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9676830

cyarvin23 karma

The early 20th-century architect Ralph Adams Cram had an interesting theory that we're all subhuman. Shakespeare, of course, put us somewhere between the ape and the angel. I am raising a couple of small children, and I can tell you I've seen a bit of angel and no shortage of ape.

I think that when we use the word "human" we often really mean "angel." So, yes: we are all subhuman. Black people included. I'm not just saying this: I think the main flaw of 20th-century political systems is that they're designed to govern angels. If you plan for apes and allow for angels, I think you get a much better result (especially when there's a Y chromosome in the mix).