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Strategy at the speed of stupid

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Warren Buffett claims his master, champion investor Benjamin Graham, observed: “In the short-run, the market is a voting machine […] but in the long-run, the market is a weighing machine.” The Graham school of investment teaches focus on the weighing machine. Its students heed the call of the voting machine only when it gets them on the right side of the weighing machine. Favoring weight over vote let many Graham students profit more from weighing than others profited by voting. They gained more, and suffered less.

In the division of power between men in the larger market for power that is world politics, heeding the frenzy of voting over the slow tilt of weighing is as dangerous as it is desirable. Danger, like desire, comes clothed in bright flashing noise. Man is primed to vote when he should weigh by the cravings of the panicked beast deep in his fallen nature. Vivid easy commands more unthinking loyalty than just plain hard. With small things, this is survivable. With big things, this is life-threatening.

The current moment offers an easy and vivid contrast between vote bait and weight bait.

In one corner, we have the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), better known to Western voters as ISIS. ISIL is classic vote bait. ISIL is all vivid easy: they use easy and vivid theatrical atrocity to win the attention that wins votes. They have to. While theatricality is a luxury for the strong and ambitious, it’s a necessity for the weak and ambitious. It’s what you do when you have as little weight as ISIL.

Gorgeous George told young Cassius Clay, “A lot of people will pay to see someone shut your mouth. So keep on bragging, keep on sassing and always be outrageous.” Clay saw wisdom: “I saw 15,000 people comin’ to see this man get beat. And his talking did it. I said, ‘This is a gooood idea!'” Gorgeous George was not the best professional wrestler, but he was easily the most vivid professional wrestler. His theatricality drew votes, increased his stock, and led viewers to vote him into being larger than life.

Through the hadith of Gorgeous George, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!”, ISIL is now a top vote getter. It makes the voting machine ring with frenzy. While ISIL has no claim to be the most weighty strategic draw, it has a clear shot at the title for most votey strategic draw.

In the corner opposite, we have Russia. Russia is classic weight bait. Lots of classic weight bait. While ISIL seeks victory by cloaking its lightweight self in vote-drawing clamor, Russia seeks victory by cloaking its continent-spanning mass in weight-shifting silence. Crimea is taken by men without attribution. Russians without borders fight in the Donbass. Russia fights what the Arthashastra calls silent war, the War Which Cannot Be Named. Invasion happens by walking around.

Yet the unsleeping but easily distracted eye of official attention is reflexively drawn to the flash in the pan that is ISIL. ISIL jumps violently up and down, yelling “Look at me! Look at me!” with Made for YouTube clickbait barbarism. If there is a button for causing the voting machine to mindlessly suck up strategic bandwidth, be it genocide, retconned eighth-century nostalgia, florid rhetoric, scary men with beards, and over-the-top B-movie supervillainy, ISIL will furiously press it until its fingers fall off. They want to be seen: they have a scripted rendezvous at Meggido three hundred miles too north. If they can’t be a kufir magnet, they can’t be anything.

Since the most limited resource in today’s West of material plenty is attention, the blinking of ISIL diverts real power away from weightier matters. What Russia does carries more weight that what ISIL does. And ISIL can’t do much outside its territory except inflict bad theater on its viewers. Russia has nukes. ISIL has has YouTube. YouTube is huge to voting machine watchers. It’s marginal to weighing machine monitors except as just one input building towards a cumulative weight that tilts the weighing machine one way or the other. Nukes unleash weight with a speed that makes even the most shallow of flash voting look tardy.

Weighing Russia by investing sustained attention is strategy at the speed of smart. Voting for ISIL with any attention at all is strategy at the speed of stupid.

For fans of Daniel Suarez? Iain McGilchrist?

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — on, as usual, binocular vision, but this time 2020 as well as 20/20 ]


I’m about half way through Freedom(TM), the second of the books in the trilogy by Daniel Suarez which began with Daemon and (I believe) ends with Kill Decision — I’d have finished all three pretty much as fast as I could lay my hands on them if I wasn’t trying to write quite so much myself. As those who have read or are reading the books know, there’s a lot in there about the difference in perspective between those who have and don’t have “augmented reality” glasses.

Since I tend to like to have at least two lenses through which to view things — and am interested in general in what William Blake called “fourfold vision” — the topic itself is of interest me, quite aside from its potential to illuminate some pretty obscure corners of near future possibilities.

Likewise, I’d like to have some roughly parallel universe with which to compare the one Suarez is providing me with — and this video introducing a game called Ingress looks like a suitable “second lens” to set up a stereoscopic inquiry and arrive at a measure of depth:


I’m not looking to make a qualitative comparison between the books and the game here, just to ask if anyone with access to both would like to discuss what we can learn from juxtaposing them?


Because juxtaposition is key. Because, as Iain McGilchrist says in his speech The Divided Brain and the Courage to Think Differently:

There’s an oddity about the brain, which is that it makes all its everything that happens — the multifarious beauty of the world — come out of connections. It exists only to make connections.

Because, as he also says:

Relations matter more than things.

So that a marvelous counterpoint to Suarez’ fast-paced action-oriented techno-thriller imagination is McGilchrist’s slow-paced psycho-stiller contemplative approach:

I hope you’ll find time to appreciate them both.

Augmented Reality Emerging on Major Platforms

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

This was pretty cool, from Lewis Shepherd’s blog, Shepherd’s Pi:

Virtual recipe stirs in Apple iPad, Microsoft Kinect

Who says Apple and Microsoft can’t work together?  They certainly do, at least when it involves the ingenuity of their users, the more inventive of whom use technologies from both companies (and others).

Here’s a neat example, “a just-for-fun experiment from the guys at Laan Labs” where they whip up a neat Augmented Reality recipe: take one iPad, one Kinect, and stir.


Some technical detail from the Brothers Laan, the engineers who did the work:

We used the String Augmented Reality SDK to display real-time 3d video+audio recorded from the Kinect. Libfreenect from http://openkinect.org/ project was used for recording the data coming from the Kinect. A textured mesh was created from the calibrated depth+rgb data for each frame and played back in real-time. A simple depth cutoff allowed us isolate the person in the video from the walls and other objects. Using the String SDK, we projected it back onto a printed image marker in the real world.” – source, Laan Labs blog.

Shepherd has more on the technology here.

If AR is doable on an iPad fast and dirty by wizardly geeks then Apps for the casual technoprimitives cannot be long off.


Sunday, February 20th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron ]

It’s riveting to follow the tweets on protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya or Iran on Mibazaar in real-time to be sure — but mash that capability up with the one Shloky found and Zen just mentioned with video


As Zen says, I mean, “automatic face-recognition and social media aggregation raises serious concerns about the potential dangers of living under a panopticon state”.

Two dots, two data-points, two apps connected.

Tinkering our Way to the Singularity

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Artificial savants? Savant augmentation? The path to mentats?

Imagine the effects of  fine-tuning this crude stimulation with precision, then additionally doing “x”so as to amplify the remaining abilities, not simply suppress the contraindicative cognitive process.

Now imagine the potential effects of doing it on a systemic, societal, basis for a generation or two.

Hat tip to The Eide Neurolearning Blog.

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