Claiming that you don't use "the lambda calculus" to do dependency resolution, of all things, seems weird to me. Even from my 30k foot understanding, that seems like a non-sequitur at best.
20th-century languages are all at least vaguely based on a formalism from the ‘30s called the “lambda calculus.” The fundamental operation in lambda calculus is variable reduction from name to value. So lambda languages all have a symbol table or environment which binds names to values.
Modern build systems assemble large programs out of small files by reusing this symbol table for global function names, a process called “linking.” Unfortunately, linking causes a problem known as “dependency hell,” involving baffling, unpredictable upgrade failures. The fundamental problem is the “diamond dependency” — when a build requires two different versions of one symbol.
I'm saying this in a thread about his politics, but my basic evaluation holds: he's probably not discovered a new system of government and a new computer science. But he's careful and scholarly with his arguments, and worth knowing.
(Of course, I've no idea what Urbit means. I've tried many times to get it, thought I was stupid, but it seems no one else really understands it either.)
> He also disputes being an "outspoken advocate for slavery", but has argued that some races are more suited to slavery than others.
(I followed up on the source for that, to see if he was misrepresented, and found the direct quote "We thus observe slavery not as a perversion, but as a natural relationship, like marriage.")
> see if he was misrepresented
Did you find out whether or not he was misrepresented?
He says that people who are loyal, hardworking, and not too bright are best suited to being slaves, and it stands to reason that some races are more inclined towards those traits than others, and that probably includes Africans.
Way to miss the actual argument he's making, dude. You were not even on the same wavelength.
Have you read the post we're discussing?
Here are some statements about how the plumbing is done, from Urbit's own website, that I suppose must be non-political:
"...most theories of property agree that anyone whoever creates or discovers new property starts out by owning it. Because galaxies are premined, Urbit starts as a centralized system. But it has two strong motivations to decentralize. One, the more decentralized Urbit is, the more Urbit is worth. Two, the only way for Urbit to fund its own development is to homestead its own real estate."
From a page on "Common objections to Urbit," under "Urbit doesn't have enough planets for every human being.": "A 32-bit planet is a tool, not a toy. Like a car, it's a device for a responsible and independent adult. There aren't 4 billion cars in the world, nor 4 billion independent adults. If you aren't an independent adult, and you don't need or even shouldn't have unconditional digital freedom (no one's 8-year-old daughter needs unconditional digital freedom), a moon from someone else's planet is fine."
(They redid their website apparently but the posts are archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20181214175456/https://urbit.org/... and http://web.archive.org/web/20181214190532/https://urbit.org/... respectively.)
Moldbug thinks he's being non-political. I don't think we should trust him to even know what that means. This might be a good chance to recover whatever interesting ideas are in Urbit (if there were any; it's not clear to me that there are any) for the common good, but there are almost certainly deep-seated assumptions that weren't even publicly stated in the FAQs about who gets to control what and who doesn't.
... edited to add:
> When you live in Manhattan, you simply don't worry about who owns it or why; and nor does it matter. Are they Jews? Muslims? Christians? Communists? Italians? You don't care and you don't have to.
That's hardly my experience, but, sure.
I haven't really looked much into this space, but Tim Berners Lee's Solid tries to tackle essentially the same problem without all the reactionary politics, no?
Yarvin's controversial personality aside, I just don't see the use case for this. Handing everyone a server / pod/ starship and then trying to share this across machines with some common protocol reminds me of the semantic web which already attempted this a long time ago.
What's wrong with this? A 32-bit namespace for full-blown "server-like" identities still beats today's world where everyone and their dog just crowds onto a single centralized service like Facebook, enjoying an equivalent "not an independent adult" status. Besides, the IPv4 address-space is 32-bit, and is nowhere near efficiently utilized - so Urbit's projected "neo-feudal dystopia" is already here even in the best possible case. (No, IPv6 rollout is not helping practically, at least not yet.)
I also think the politics of the designers of IPv4 are closer to the politics of most people on this forum than the politics of the designer of Urbit. So even if there are political assumptions encoded in the use cases it was designed for, they probably do match your use cases.
If I told you that IPv6 has 32 of its 128 address bits reserved as markers for making top-level subnets out of them (this is not true, but for argument's sake, pretend it was) would you say "Oh no, there's not enough IPv6 for everyone to have their own subnets" ?
Of course you wouldn't, because addresses are 128 bits long and there's enough address space for "EVERY ATOM ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH, and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ earths." per the first StackOverflow post I could find on the subject.
Is there enough address space for every atom on the surface of the earth to be neatly organized into subnets according to ownership rights? Well that's debatable, and if you want to compare apples to apples, you should ask that question.
If Urbit runs out of planets, then it will have roundly surpassed the expectations of anyone who makes this argument. You don't solve these problems on Day 1, it's really enough to have a plan that would allow 20-50% of people on the planet to have a stake in ownership of Urbit at this stage. When it starts getting cramped, how about THEN we spend some time and tackle scaling past a usership base of 50% of the population of humans that are alive?
There was actually a point to the scarcity, it's meant to solve the spam problem. "Planet" identities are meant to be precious. If your identity was worth $10, you probably wouldn't use it to engage in spamming unless you were sure that you could get more than $10 from the campaign before landing your address on a blackhole list. (And if it was possible to reliably achieve a profit like this, it would undoubtedly drive the price of a planet up, as others figured out how to compete with you at doing that.)
And even that is a naive assessment of the scope of the idea and how it prevents spamming. The identities are provisioned in a hierarchical fashion, such that if you landed more than a couple of planets on such a spam list (none exists today, but...), you would probably find out pretty quickly that nobody with inventory is willing to sell you another one. (Lest they wind up getting their whole "star system" banned from polite society for association with spammers.)
You need a sponsor to get a moon, you only need a unix computer and a network connection to get a comet.
I'm pretty out of touch with Urbit lore, but I'm not aware of anything you can do with a moon that you can't do with a comet. The planet is worth more because it can parent moons and stuff.
(E: I refuse to say "not that I agree with his politics". Whether I do or not should be immaterial here.)
Do you really believe that no people exist who have read his ideas, thought deeply about it, and still rejected it?
I remember clearly thinking through his point about the American Revolution, thinking through things his way, realizing there were things I didn't know and that he knew, and considering the situation. I still came to the conclusion that he was wrong.
The default mode, and I think we are all guilty of this from time to time, is to hear somebody beating the war drum, and then go look for a snarky, middle-brow dismissal. It just bothers me that we all seem to be so profoundly uninterested in the actual ideas themselves. This disqualification by personality stuff is so exhausting, and it annoys me that we're all so sure we're right.
Yes, in that his writings are excessively verbose and a chore to slog through, artificially limiting the number of takers; not unlike Urbit.
(I'm with you, to be clear; I didn't make it much farther than that because I figured that anyone who leads with such a poor argument, that can be debunked by thinking about it instead of getting drawn into the artificial mystique of how cool it is to read forbidden thoughts, can't possibly have very many more interesting thoughts deeper in.)
I recently reread his "Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives". When it came out in 2008, I thought it was brilliant. Rereading it now, I find it both brilliant and prescient. Here for example he casually predicts the strategy used by our current president:
Fourth, there is another way to succeed in the Outer Party. This might be called the Huckabee Plan. On the Huckabee Plan, you succeed by being as stupid as possible. Not only does this attract a surprising number of voters, who may be just as stupid or even stupider—the Outer Party’s base is not exactly the cream of the crop—it also attracts the attention of the Cathedral, whose favorite sport is to promote the worst plausible Outer Party candidates. As usual with the Cathedral, this is a consequence of casual snobbery rather than malignant conspiracy, but it is effective nonetheless. It is always fun to write a human-interest story about a really wacky peasant, especially one who happens to be running for President.
Yes, his writing is verbose and pretentious. No, you probably shouldn't trust any of the conclusions he reaches. If you have any sense, you should publicly disclaim any familiarity with him or his works. But with all seriousness, I (having no such sense) would claim that he has written the most incisive political analysis published yet this century. Ignore him at your peril.
Why would broadcasting one’s ignorance of a topic be a good thing?
Look at the level of hatred directed against Curtis in just this thread. Then realize that HN is one of the more measured and rational parts of the internet. Realize that the mostly unspoken landscape of the blog post is that he's leaving the company of his dreams so it won't be doomed by his presence. Professionally, he and his ideas are simply too hazardous to touch. If you even come close, you will be treated as contaminated. Even disavowal will leave you suspect --- ignorance is a better strategy.
I exaggerate for effect, but only slightly. If you need deeper explanation, you could try Venkatesh Rao's series on the "Gervais Principle" for some parallel examples of the role of strategic ignorance in business communication: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/.
(As an aside: I said "analytical ability well beyond trivia". It's not that high a bar.)
There's an impressive (and really novel at the time) case in favor of capitalism hiding in plain sight in the first book of Marx's Communist manifesto. Those who deprive themselves of Marxist theory for the moral catastrophe of communism miss out on seeing from the shoulders of tall people. The case for Carlyle is structurally the same.
For others interested, I also found that Scott Alexander wrote a tremendous summary and then rebuttal of Neoreactionary theory. An excellent example of steel-manning an argument you disagree with, then taking it apart in ways that its adherents might actually find convincing. (Link: [https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/03/reactionary-philosophy...)
A medium post that attempts to give a high-level overview (and will perhaps confuse you):
Another explanation attempt:
Urbit Primer (after which you will be confused even more) by the Urbit developers:
If you become more and more confused: good. :-)
An AMA by the Urbit developers:
If this all feels like reading scientology texts: you have just inhaled your first breath of Urbit - and it goes down into a deep rabbit hole. :-)
I attempted an explanation here: https://reddragdiva.tumblr.com/post/141832812938/argumate-al...
"I knew I recognized the name. It's like a giant model of a toothpick made out of toothpicks." - Peter da Silva
I would call it "TempleOS but on the blockchain", but that makes it sound more interesting and useful than it is.
That being said, Urbit as a Serverless framework, I think is a pretty big stretch.
Now that he's leaving, I wonder what the angle is supposed to be? And... it's flagged off the front page!
The system is not "serverless", it is just the opposite -- it is a "personal server", an application you have to run. To quote the primer,
> Most people park their ship in the cloud. If you prefer to host yourself, your ship can live on a laptop, a phone, even a USB stick.
(yes, "park your ship" means "store and run your file" in urbit)
[EDIT] BTW, that was not a rhetorical question. I need to know so I can frame my answer. And BTW2, thanks for the kind words.
Ironically, I agree with Urbit's stated goal of making it easier to run your own server. The reason I say "good riddance" that I was pretty sure that Curtis's approach would fail, and Urbit would implode sooner or later. But as long as it was alive (and funded by Peter Thiel) it was sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
I've not looked deeply into it to the point of setting it up myself, but as far as I know anyone can self-host a 'comet' (an identifier type with 128-bit address depth). If you wanted to interact with people through the system, you don't have to own a planet, or even get a moon (subset of a planet) as far as I know. Comet users would probably be second-class citizens when it comes to spam filters and the like, though.
I'm interested to see where this whole thing goes, if it goes anywhere. There's something appealing about insane, deliberately esoteric-seeming systems.
As far as I understand (not too far), individual Urbit nodes can still function independent of the Ethereum blockchain. Their parents can feed them the subset of the Ethereum/Urbit PKI graph that they need to validate any signature. The blockchain is only required if the node wants to personally verify that an asset hasn't been double-transfered to multiple parties in different forks, and don't trust their parents to have ensure that. This is a strict improvement over the older Urbit model, where you had to rely on your parents to relay that information.
The actual network and computing layers are still distinct from Ethereum, and have no knowledge of it outside of the identity system.
It's a neat project. I'm glad I won't need to make disclaimers about Curtis the next time I introduce it to someone.