Welcome, Eli writes here. The last posts follow.
Dreams at the limit
2018y10oct06sat—40w279d76%— 13h55m40s—-5utc

Perfect speed isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed is being there.


I confess a life-long weakness for eschatology: looking for meaning in ultimate destinies. This has been very much tempered by a deep awareness that prophecy is impossible (predicting future knowledge would make it present!), but I still think it worthwhile to imagine what could be. My particular style of haruspication (entrail-watching) is to take a model so seriously you pretend it is reality and thus won’t break when you stretch it.

When the model is a (feedback) process the natural question for me to ask is what happens if we assume perfect speed: where is it pointing at ultimately? These simple extrapolations lack even the flimsy grounding of utopias, they are just wide horizons, glimpsed from taking a limit on a model. I call them dreams at the limit and I’ll be showing you 5 of them today.

This has been an unusually important post for me to write. Back in sep2016 I wrote a negative inoculation to my recalcitrant singularity infection: how & why I had stopped believing in the singularity. This now is my first positive elaboration of a grand alternative to the singularity (and to vacuity!) as our default future.

I’m also trying something new: to look ahead grounded in personal experience, for the first time in my life sizeable enough to matter. It’s been about 2 decades since I grew aware enough to start making my own sense of things. I’ve been an early (bit) actor in the once unlikely rise of Big Tech, Asia, Bitcoin and even populist politics. I want to callibrate myself based on what has been (unexpectedly) true so far for me because, to put it bluntly, it is my future that I care the most about. To temper the vagueness & uncertainty of the exercise I’m giving it personal stake.

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Poker Hands
2018y09sep29sat—39w272d74%— 11h38m10s—-5utc

I‘ve been having fun at weekly poker meets. I love how fast, free & engaging Texas Hold’em feels. We’re all newbies with people coming in & out all the time so we constantly have to review the hand rankings: which hand beats which. I didn’t like any of the rankings I found online so I made my own. This is what I ended up with:

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Self-similar tile-map
2018y09sep13thu—37w256d70%— 13h12m10s—-5utc

Imagine a room with a simple tiled pattern like this on its floor.

Let’s represent the whole floor within each tile with a colorless hash-line pattern.

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Self-exemplifying chess pieces
2018y09sep11tue—37w254d69%— 15h03m30s—-5utc

Last year I got a bit back into chess thanks in part to discovering YouTube chess commentators like Agadmator. I’ve never gotten far into the game but it was surprising how enjoyable & instructive it was to watch great games re-enacted with insightful commentary.

Staring at 2d boards got me thinking about the pieces & their movements.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the symbols we used for the pieces could exemplify their defining movements? Something like this perhaps:

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Against Liquid Democracy
2016y10oct11tue—41w285d78%— 14h07m20s—-5utc

Liquid democracy —a modern delegative democracy enabled by the internet— is a puzzlingly popular idea, sucking up most of the air in technopolitics so far this decade.

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Formal Real Estate
2016y09sep26mon—39w270d73%— 12h53m17s—-5utc

James Graaskamp was a genius. I didn’t know the formal, academic study of real estate was a thing but he pioneered it in the early 1980s, while being a real estate practitioner through active consulting. He became quadriplegic at age 17 when he contracted polio but he travelled extensively and dismissed his physical condition memorably as a mere materials handling problem.

I stumbled on him by googling “spacetime moneytime” late one night, just playing to see if there was something at the intersection of general relativity & finance. I landed on his definition of real estate: “real estate is delineated units of space-time; a real estate enterprise is any systematic conversion of space-time <→ money-time” (my paraphrase). I fell in love with his wordy yet precise style, abstract but meaningful.

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London Review of Books
2016y09sep26mon—39w270d73%— 10h51m50s—-5utc

I’m testing out new habits: this blag, a gameful morning routine, more podcasts & audio (the audio version of The Economist is superb), the occasional fancy breakfast, more cycling, no Netflix, study-lounging… Subscribing to the London Review of Books is another such experiment. It took over a month a half for my first physical copy to finally arrive but when it did it was something precious. I gave it a thorough read and came away enriched.

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Ode to Elevate
2016y09sep23fri—38w267d73%— 19h21m03s—-5utc
Elevate Games

Brain-training is one of those fishy new concepts born burdened with an overpromising name. So is gamification. But behind the hype there is clear promise and Elevate is an iOS/Android app that surprised me by truly delivering a fun, gameful way to get a bit smarter & sharper every day.

It’s now been 43 days that I’ve used the app EVERY single day, almost since the very first day I found it. It’s the best 🌅 morning routine I’ve ever had —far surpassing snoozing, coffee, porn, checking up on news, messages or social networks… even exercise, which works better for me at nights. After a few minutes of my daily session at Elevate I just have to start my day and can’t get back to sleep —grogginess magically dispelled by focusing on the set of 3 different games it presents me based on my training program.

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Collective Intellligence For Democracy
2016y09sep23fri—38w267d73%— 17h25m05s—-5utc
Banner for Collective Intelligence for Democracy

The project Diego & I proposed was selected! 🙌 Yay! Our project and 7 other ones from around the world will be developed the last 2 weeks of November in Madrid in an international workshop with a funky name, Collective Intelligence for Democracy. For 15 days I’ll be leading a team of 8 volunteer collaborators at the MediaLab Prado so we can demo a working prototype on December 2nd. You can read more about it and apply to be a collaborator here in Spanish & here in English (the whole workshop will be bilingual).

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Snapchat Map
2016y09sep22thu—38w266d72%— 01h54m18s—-5utc

Snapchat is not instantly intuitive. It’s not meant to be understood or mastered the first time. Neither is a 🎹 piano or a 🚲 bycicle. These tools are instead optimised for ease of use, flow, and leveraging of possibilities after you’ve mastered them.

A lot of people over 25 years old (!) have famously responded to Snapchat’s newness with disinterest, perplexity1, annoyance and even anger. It’s not that hard to learn and the young have already adopted it in droves for its main 💪 superpower: flinging timed2 slices of life back & forth with friends & followers.

There’s a lot of conceptual innovation going on but as an interface junkie let me now just focus on interfaces & mental models. Once we realized the screen of a PC could be a (cyber)space, their master metaphor, the one that best exploited the affordances of mice, keyboards and the screens of the time, turned out to be overlapping draggable windows3 on “a desktop”. The metaphor of 📱 touch screens is spatially-arranged slides and Snapchat is pushing it into new directions like few other apps.

Snapchat Map
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What money promises
2016y09sep19mon—38w263d72%— 14h41m12s—-5utc

Of all the systems in society, money was the first to fascinate me. My recent years on bitcoin certainly built on that interest but it’s something I’ve been asking since I was a kid: what the hell is money? (Almost all responses have been annoyance at asking something so obvious.) I’m looking both for a theoretical, philosophical explanation, as well as a concrete, practical mapping of the huge system that is money now (it changes often!).

Felix Martin describes money a social networking technology in his brilliant 2015 book Money: The Unathorized Biography. Here’s a simple diagram of one of his dazzling perspectives:

Diagram of What Money Promises
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Automation makes quantities subjective
2016y09sep18sun—37w262d71%— 14h00m29s—-5utc

Quantification is a powerful way to be objective about the world. What we often don’t appreciate is that the interpretation of these objective measures is subjective: it depends on ourselves as subjects, it is subject to the imagination and automation (knowledge embodied as machines) we bring to bear.

Road flowers from a moving car
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Δ 17-day delta
2016y09sep17sat—37w261d71%— 23h55m22s—-5utc

We’re now over 1/8 of the journey. 14.05%. My rhythm these days has been intense 💪. More has passed in these ~2 weeks than in months before. Even more surprising is how social (!?) I’ve been and how diverse are the things I’ve been working on. I used to be happily monkish: monomaniacal, a bit of a recluse. No longer.

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Theory as music
2016y09sep12mon—37w256d70%— 11h59m59s—-5utc

Analytics rule, continentals drool?

Had I not studied math I would’ve probably studied philosophy. I’m glad I didn’t but my fondness for philosophical argument remains. There’s a funny little rift in philosophy between the analytical & continental styles. The analytical is the one dominant in the anglosphere and values clarity, argument & precision. It’s much closer to mathematics, cognitive science, computer science, physics and the hard sciences in general. The continental style popular in the European continent (mainly France & Germany) values evocativeness, originality & density (of meanings, interpretations, contexts). It’s closer to art, history, antropology, sociology, literary studies and other “soft” sciences.

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Prisma as visual music
2016y09sep09fri—36w253d69%— 11h59m59s—-5utc

There have been many popular image filters before and they can be lots of fun (like script kiddies in programming, I first got into Photoshop1 & image editing as a filter kiddie). Prisma has deservedly become massively popular because (thanks to recent AI research on deep neural networks) its filters have crossed a new treshold of quality.

Artificial intelligence has become artificial perception. Or like Wolfram might put it: artistic perception IS, of course, a computation.

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Yippies & May 68
2016y09sep07wed—36w251d68%— 01h16m02s—-5utc

I’m attending a wonderful seminar by Amador Fernández-Savater on Desire and affection in social movements and he shared with us 2 astonishing historical videos to set the mood and affect us. They did affect me!

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Technology in politics
2016y09sep06tue—36w250d68%— 14h57m35s—-5utc

Software is eating politics, but not particularly
and not how idealists in politics expect.

Free and open-source software is an explicit inspiration for many new political movements across the world: Wikipolitica in Mexico, Partido de la Red in Argentina, and the European Pirate Parties, to name a few.1

Because programming is such a ruthlessly pragmatic, tool-and-text-based technical affair (“We believe in: rough consensus and running code), programmers happen to be leading the way in distributed collaboration at this point in time. Seeing this, a particular brand of political idealists (“Government is the name we give to the things we choose to do together”) has been trying for decades to create digital democracy software that has barely been able to move past the experimental phase (with experiments that often go nowhere, remain uninhabited, and die quickly or languish).

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The Singularity
2016y09sep05mon—36w249d68%— 23h50m08s—-5utc

Progress is real, possible, desirable, infinite,
unpredictable, open-ended and not guaranteed.

Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble.

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the singularities.

Listen —of course having 💰 an abundance of money changes everything, but so does an abundance of sunlight, food, security, health, life, communication, knowledge, beauty, wisdom, enthusiasm, friendship, love, family, computation, intelligence…

⚡ The Flash is lucky because he can run real fast but also because he lives in a world where every problem can be solved by running real fast.

The Singularity was one of the feral memes that grabbed me early on growing up on the wild web. Some 15 years ago it felt so daring and all important to my younger, impressionable self. There are many definitions but the one that most resonated with me was the apocalyptic belief that short-term technological progress (specially the creation of True Artificial Intelligences) would grow so exponentially that a total discontinuity in the next few decades was inminent and unstoppable, with instant and eternal utopia or dystopia for humanity on the table. Thus defined the singularity has remained a decisive concept in my life and an intense preoccupation until relatively recently. But no longer.

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Word-boundaries across languages
2016y09sep04sun—35w248d67%— 23h52m13s—-5utc

A simple exploration into the beginnings & endings of words across languages.

Alphabets are remarkably powerful & discrete symbolic systems (~30 symbols to capture all the sounds in a language!). You can easily see evidence of deep linguistic features (like how meaning is broken down into pieces or how sound is encoded) in something as simple as the beginning and ending letters of words.

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2016y09sep03sat—35w247d67%— 22h31m13s—-5utc

I wrote most of the following the days after the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016. It’s been 72 days since and I can now see it as an inflection point in a year begun with high hopes but which by then had long unravelled into low spirits. I can trace an almost uninterrupted upward spiral of rhythm & momentum since that sleepless night that continues to today.

The world feels fresh and new, full of possibility. I hoped for Brexit but didn’t dare imagine it would actually happen. Now that it has what surprises me most is how much it has invigorated me.

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A fallibilist approach to time management
2016y09sep02fri—35w246d67%— 23h59m23s—-5utc

The question

NOT the overwhelming, impossible: How can I best use my time? (or my life!). Instead the humble, technical almost: How can I recover fast from bad uses of my time?

An answer

Choose a short unit of time. Time it through. Judge it after. Do it often.

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Smart, strange, creative, curious, alive, emotive
2016y09sep02fri—35w246d67%— 23h29m01s—-5utc

He is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege to spend time in his head.

Think of this book as something emotive —as the expression of a mood. An incredibly cool mood. A mood that (maybe) no human being could ever have been in before right now. A mood informed by profound and imaginative reflection on the best and most advanced science we have.

To read him is to experience the thrill of the highest level of discourse available on this planet and to understand it.

There’s a specific style of seeing, writing, thinking and being that I’m starting to recognize and that has profoundly influenced me for over a decade now.

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The last third of 2016
2016y09sep01thu—35w245d67%— 23h59m13s—-5utc

I really wanna tell you now
Baby, if I’m allowed
Maybe if I can teach you all the things I know by now
I really wanna beat the world
Baby, if I’m allowed

4 months. 121 days. That’s what’s left of this year 📅. Not a vast swath, a tiny patch of time. My patch of time to ⛏ plow and 🌱 sow and 🌽 reap. I’ve done some of the most challenging, most influential work of my life in patches about this long. In one, freelancing with Silicon Valley friends I made the capital that has kept me going for several years now (boom/busted in bitcoin). In another, I was part of the best team I’ve ever been a part of, changing the political history of my 🏙 city.

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