Without knowing the rules of the Death Note, I don't think L could have done anything (besides outright abducting/murdering Light) to stop Light, even if he is 100% sure Light is "responsible".
That said, I feel like a much simpler solution than what's proposed at the end of the essay is:
1. Gather up the names you want to write over the course of a week.
2. Wait another week, then write it at a specific point of time of the week.
3. Keep to that schedule.
The names need to be as public and as well known as possible such that it would be impossible to trace the flow of information. (Remember, the goal is fear, not specificity.) Keeping to that schedule means you will never leak more information thereafter.
The only way Near and Mello end up overcoming this advantage is by: (1) Mello obtaining a Death Note of his own, allowing him to ascertain the real ruleset, and (2) Near not being directly involved in Light's life the way L was, and there not leaking any extra information about himself until the finale. That last bit is especially critical considering L was taken out precisely because he was physically present and therefore had his real name observed by Shinigami eyes.
I think the most under-utilized ability of the Death Note in the series is the ability to specify manner of death. Light uses this on occasion, but he could've have made many criminal deaths seem accidental or suicidal in addition to staggering their occurrences in time in order to throw L off from the very beginning.
Absolutely. This ability is so significant that it completely overshadows the ability to kill people. If anything, the deaths should be treated as an unfortunate byproduct of being able to control people for 23 days in a row.
I think that's where your proposal breaks down. Light is powerhungry and arrogant, but he's also very moralistic. A character that proritizes fear over accuracy would be a different character than Light. He wants to build a better, even perfect, world. And for that, he must have accuracy. Otherwise he's a mere tyrant, something he believes he is not.
Of course, it's worth saying, the great archetypal tragedy of the story, and what makes it excellent literature, is that his goal is unacheivable. Humans are deeply imperfect and powerless to end evil completely. And the process of trying turns us into the worst of all monsters that can possibly exist.
Somewhat. You're right that Light is extremely ambitious in his goal, but fear is also explicitly his chosen strategy. (Also, Light very clearly leans into being a tyrant. He says that eventually, he wants to start executing useless people as well.)
Another thing to consider is that (and I believe this happens in the manga), the news reporting itself responds to the Kira phenomenon, and starts publishing names accordingly. For us, let's think "Top 10 people in the world Kira should kill right now" listicles. The upside is that the information becomes more readily available. The downside is that you (our hypothetical, less-evil Light) may eventually want to exercise some discretion over who's being killed, and that would be where information gets leaked, and that's where I think this strategy might falter.
Just a little light reading that's close at hand from a few years back:
See also any critical commentary on Nissan and the extraordinary case of Carlos Ghosn.
What I can say is approximately 100% of material that gets popular is simply the retelling of something like 7 archetypal stories that our human minds resonate with. Watch Moana and Wreck it Ralph, they're the same story: the
Resurrection of the Spirit of the Father. Watch Harry Potter and LOTR and the 5th Element, they're the same story as David and Goliath: the Overcoming the Impossible. Death Note and Faust are the same story: the Pact with the Devil.
I could go on.
You can call anything equivalent if you pick and chose what factors matter
Specifically, the power of the <n> basic stories meme is that it implies a lower information content of our stories than we supposedly realize. The meme makes you feel smart by inducting you into the enlightened set. But in fact, the low information content is in the supposed categories, not our stories. They throw out all the details that actually make a story. Even if one of the categories was the ridiculously specific "tiny man makes treacherous journey to destroy dangerous magical object, also there's a wizard", that's still a far cry from reconstituting LotR.
We tell the same stories again and again because there's a finite set of stories that engage our mind, whether we like it or not.
May as well say all stories are "Man vs Man" or "Man vs Nature" or "Man vs God". Sure you can categorize basically every story into one of those three things but it is almost never useful to do so
@dang do your thang
Suppose you had a means of transmitting information back in time - a one-node network that effectively could email to itself with a timestamp (in the past) being the message's "recipient."
Suppose such a thing existed in the world today. Assume the individuals in possession of such a thing were very intelligent, very careful and very guarded about its use.
Could you still detect that such a thing existed by observing real-world events - stock market changes, tech innovations, amazing coincidences and the like? What evidence would you look for?
Furthermore, I imagine it would be very easy for such a party to accidently blunder into a situation where they lose control of the time-messaging device, erasing all evidence of its own existence and leaving the timeline perturbation-free until such "time" as reverse time travel is rediscovered.
Anyway, it has only one hard "commandment": Nobody can violate causality anywhere inside its own historic light-cone, since doing so could be a potential attack (or competition) to its own existence.
This is touched upon by a favorite sci-fi story of mine, where humans come in possession of such technology and make huge leaps in capabilities in short timeframes. Those leaps are unexplainable to most alien species they are in contact with.
Especially later on in the books a huge part of the story is told from alien POVs. The author has some interesting ideas about how other species may find us impressive, and in what respects they may consider us primitive.
The books are mostly about on-planet fighting and some ship-to-ship battles though. In fact there's little politics and communication at all until the cold-war arc. So don't expect the books to dive deeply into it at all.
But I really recommend the books just for how many interesting ideas Evan Currie managed to compress into a fast-paced action story. They left me with a lot of stuff to mull over long after putting the books down.
1. the type of time travel in effect. I'll assume Marvel-flavor time travel, where going back is really jumping to a different universe that shares the same history till the arrival time. But if it's something more complicated then relaying info back might Marty McFade the prognosticator out of existence.
2. the level of information available to the prognosticator (future communicator). Is it near-total, so they could tell the recipient to "duck… now!" or is it just public info like stock prices, weather, and what's on the news?
Best case for the recipient is that for each change they make, they still have an ally relaying valuable info from the future that includes those changes. And also that said ally has near-total information to help protect the recipient.
Worst case for the recipient is that after they make one change, they are now in a timeline where their future ally no longer communicates with them. This is also the most detectable for others in the recipient's time because the recipient will likely make some big bets based on the one-shot info they receive, and won't have additional info to help avoid detection.
To continue the thought experiment: if you developed that technology in the year 2120, how would you use it, and would that be detectable in the year 2020?
Even ones without a TARDIS?
Any timemachine that produces self-consistent timelines (arrives at a fixed point after a finite amount of iterations) can be used to solve problems in PSPACE.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSPACE  https://www.scottaaronson.com/papers/ctc.pdf
@Theophite: the existence of nonzero interest rates implies the nonexistence of time travel.
Essentially, if there were a system that could send information from the future to the past, the future agent would want to be "as discreet as" possible, while still achieving "nearly perfect" outcome.
Note that the future agent has the advantage of reiterating over and over his/her choices, because, well, the "future-future" he/she can still send a signal to his/her past about want went wrong the previous time.
This happens to be a common plot for a lot of various time-travel movies and TV shows like Dark, Umbrella Academy, etc.
Bootstrapping the singularity is unlikely to be achieved with a single application of a time machine since you are only sending information to the past, not the technology itself.
And repeated application allows other actors to intervene during each iteration, which may result in the CTC settling into a different fixed point than the desired one.
You can't expect to own and use a time machine and be left alone while doing so.
> You can see it was a gamble by considering if Light had been outside Kanto; since he would not see it live, he would not have reacted, and all L would learn is that his suspect was in that other 2/3 of the population, for a gain of only ~0.3 bits.
My understanding of L's plan (based on what he said in the broadcast) was that he intended to do several live broadcasts, one in each region, until he was caught. Lind L. Taylor was a death row criminal being offered a deal to survive, and would've gone along with doing several broadcasts. Additionally, even if they didn't do it live and simply recorded it there's no way that Light would've known it wasn't live and he would've acted in the same manner (and since Lind was in L's custody, L would've known if he died even if Light didn't).
At the time Death Note was written, mass internet communication wasn't as prevalent and so you wouldn't expect people to find out about events like the broadcast for at least a few hours (long enough to do broadcasts in each region). L probably hoped that Kira was in a less populated city since it would cut down on more bits of entropy (and I'd argue it would've been a better idea to start broadcasting to smaller cities first -- since it's more likely an event like this in a big city would be quickly broadcast to the rest of Japan).
Of course, this assumes you can continue to apply the same method many times, which probably doesn't apply to this case, as you can only fool Light with a similar method a limited number of times (possibly once only). In that case you probably want to do it more fine-grained than 1/3 so that you get more bits of information once you get to the first (and therefore last) successful attempt.
"Bob Robert. Writes down a number X>=82,589,933 where 2^X-1 is a prime number as his guess of the next largest known prime number, and it is indeed correct. Then dies of a heart attack."
The fact that they entirely lucky that the series of digits indeed satisfies the mathematical condition we want is incidental but I believe abides by Death Note rules.
It's been a while since I watched Death Note, but isn't this brought up as a reason why Kira can't do, "writes down L's real name, then dies of a heart attack."?
It would be theoretically possible for someone to be lucky enough to guess L's real name, but apparently the note has a bullcrap detector or something where it eventually just says, "no, they wouldn't really know to do that."
Let me put this another way. I think the following would be considered a valid Death Note command.
"Person flips a coin 100 times in a row, and gets heads every time".
Now how is that different from
"Person runs an RNG digit generator 100 times in a row, and gets 9s every time".
"Person runs an RNG digit generator 100 times in a row, the 100 digit number is exactly divisible by 123456".
"Person runs an RNG digit generator 100 times in a row, 2^x-1 of that number is prime".
And if this is all iffy, let me propose an alternative. Let's assume (I'm not 100% sure of this) that we can verify large prime within 23 days. Heck, build a data center to do this if we have to.
"Person runs RNG to generate x such that 2^x-1 is prime. Uses machine and verifies that it is indeed prime. Dies of joy."
You can similarly use this to crack hashes, etc.
> "Person flips a coin 100 times in a row, and gets heads every time".
I'm pretty sure this would be interpreted as "The person has to flip coins until they have a 100 streak of only heads". This will obviously take a really long time, and the person might be driven insane before that. Similar things go for
your other examples.
In a comment further up you wrote:
> in particular we know that the Death Note is able to "manipulate" luck
I don't recall that specifically. Even then, I would guess that this has it's bounds. I also have the feeling (not backed up by lore, but I think it would fit in the world), that bigger manipulations would take more energy from the respective shinigami, so while a shinigami might be able to manipulate luck enough to make someone win the lottery, finding prime numbers would be too draining.
I disagree. For example, Light has people die of getting run over a by truck. But the Death note does not interpret this is as "person repeatedly crosses the street until they get run over by a truck". Instead, events are (reasonably) manipulated such that a truck runs them over. Similarly, the coins would be manipulated to have 100 heads in a row.
>I also have the feeling (not backed up by lore, but I think it would fit in the world), that bigger manipulations would take more energy from the respective shinigami, so while a shinigami might be able to manipulate luck enough to make someone win the lottery, finding prime numbers would be too draining.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is true, but hey, what's a couple of Shinigami to save us some compute!
That being said... let's assume you're right. If the death note can manipulate odds to an arbitrary degree, you're thinking way too small right now. It would be much more efficient to write:
"X opens a laptop text editor, closes their eyes, and hits keys randomly. They open their eyes and discover they have accidentally written an algorithm for quickly factoring large numbers. They copy and paste this algorithm into an encrypted email to firstname.lastname@example.org, then die by jumping in front of a bus."
If X dies of a heart attack, you know your instructions didn't take and there's no algorithm for quickly factoring large numbers -- the problem was impossible. But then you can start modifying your query for, "an easy strategy for keeping cubits stable", or whatever you want to follow up with.
If I have a fast-track to get at almost any (possible) invention I can think of, I'm not going to waste my time factoring large numbers!
Right, what I feel might be the case is that the targeted output needs to at least be verifiable (hence see my second proposal). An argument could be made that unless the person has a way of verifying their action, there is no way to ensure that the desired outcome is achieved, so the instruction is invalid. (Separately, at least in your written example, it is possible for the person to be mistaken about the validity of their method!)
On the other hands, actions that are (machine) verifiable fall right within the scope of the Death Note (insofar as the verification instruments are also reliable, and verification happens within 23 days). I emphasize machine verifiable because the Death Note has various rules concerning other people, which I won't wade into. If "X starts his car and his car engine explodes" is valid, then so should "X keys a random string of inputs into a machine, machine returns True, then X dies."
So no we've limited the scope of DN-solvable problems to 23-day machine-verifiable problems. Now we just need to know what set of problems are 23-day machine-verifiable...
That's a good point.
> are 23-day machine-verifiable
Here's a followup question. Can a person be part of the machine?
For example, I might rephrase my earlier entry to be:
"X closes their eyes and types random keys, such that they form an algorithm for quickly factoring large primes. They email that algorithm to email@example.com and receive a confirmation that their algorithm is sound. At which point, they become so excited that they run into the street and are hit by a bus and killed."
My worry with that is that if there is some kind of force behind the death note, it might decide to just manipulate me instead of the person writing the algorithm. I don't want an evil genie scenario where I just accidentally write "yes, it works", instead of "no, it doesn't."
By extension, if we have a 23-day machine-verifiable problem, am I allowed to specify that the machine is not glitching or producing errors? In some cases, that might be more likely than finding the correct answer. Shinagami picking the most likely scenario that technically fits the criteria might be an effective way for them to reduce some abuse of the system.
I actually ran this kind of analysis on my use of Hacker News a couple of months back. It turns out that the patterns mentioned only really work if you have something that resembles a normal sleep schedule, which I clearly do not:
12 AM *********
1 AM ***********
2 AM *********
3 AM *******
4 AM *****
5 AM ****
6 AM ***
7 AM **
8 AM ****
9 AM *****
10 AM *********
11 AM ***********
12 PM ***********
1 PM ****************
2 PM *************
3 PM ***************
4 PM ************
5 PM **************
6 PM ***********
7 PM *******
8 PM **********
9 PM *********
10 PM ********
11 PM *******
Typically asleep around 5-8AM despite irregular sleep schedule, generally including 4 and 9 AM as well.
Frequently staying up to around 2 or 3 AM.
Lunch typically around 12, lull in work after lunch = more time to browse and make comments.
Dinner typically at 7. Spike in browsing HN after dinner while full, then focus on work or relax for a couple hours, before starting to drift off and get back to browsing HN around midnight.
Happy to hear if this is close or way off haha. But I suspect despite the patterns not being as clearcut, this is still enough to pinpoint your time zone within a couple hours.
At the time this data was taken, yes, I would generally be asleep at around 7-8 AM; usually that either meant I'd get up at 9 AM (if I had things to do) or past 12 PM (if I didn't).
> Frequently staying up to around 2 or 3 AM.
Yes, this is usually when I went to bed. Occasionally this would push towards 6 AM.
> Lunch typically around 12, lull in work after lunch = more time to browse and make comments.
I ate lunch around 1 or 2 PM, since I'd often wake up at about 12 PM.
> Dinner typically at 7. Spike in browsing HN after dinner while full, then focus on work or relax for a couple hours, before starting to drift off and get back to browsing HN around midnight.
Sounds about right.
> But I suspect despite the patterns not being as clearcut, this is still enough to pinpoint your time zone within a couple hours.
Could you do it if I didn't add the hour labels?
Also, even a bunch of seemingly random deaths with implications would likely produce terrifying fits of paranoia and retribution in the populace - remember humans can't not-see patterns in the thing they focus on, so a death-weapon would change the world this way - not sure if that what your psychopath wanted.
If an actor could kill "anyone nominated to head party X" then things would get ugly but even more, "do these things and you're immune" notes could certainly get people moving, especially if these were seemingly benevolent. "Random company heads die 'till CO2 production declines X amount" for example.
"Ceo Ceoson, overcome by immense guilt over environmental destruction, writes down 'Companies 1-16 are responsibl for the dying environment and we don't deserve to live.' having a heart attack."
It needs to double up as a stand-alone action as well as a threat.
What could work is an investment in such technologies, public announcements and then disappearing, maybe falling off a yacht or such a thing.
Regularity, order, and prompt obedience to command are qualities which, in modern armies, are of more importance towards determining the fate of battles than the dexterity and skill of the soldiers in the use of their arms. But the noise of firearms, the smoke, and the invisible death to which every man feels himself every moment exposed as soon as he comes within cannon-shot, and frequently a long time before the battle can be well said to be engaged, must render it very difficult to maintain any considerable degree of this regularity, order, and prompt obedience, even in the beginning of a modern battle. In an ancient battle there was no noise but what arose from the human voice; there was no smoke, there was no invisible cause of wounds or death. Every man, till some mortal weapon actually did approach him, saw clearly that no such weapon was near him. In these circumstances, and among troops who had some confidence in their own skill and dexterity in the use of their arms, it must have been a good deal less difficult to preserve some degree regularity and order, not only in the beginning, but through the whole progress of an ancient battle, and till one of the two armies was fairly defeated.
-- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
There are three uses of the word "invisible" in the text. Two refer to invisiblbe causes of injury or death, and their psychological impact.
Not that I have a reference anymore, but there used to be articles in the state controlled newspaper mentioning the fuzzy bounds of allowed political discourse akin to I'll know it when I see it and if you so happen to cross this boundary, well that's your own fault for getting involved in politics at all, you should've stuck to simple peasantry.
Despite that, loved the article.
Anybody know of other writers that do research and writing in this style? I quite enjoyed it.
I don't know if it's just the sheer amount of content that feels intimidating or anything else (like reading long paragraphs of sans-serif fonts on screen).
This is what immediately comes to mind:
(Not entirely wrong, as it happens.)
A) Satoshi would be identified as a unique individual and any number of bad things would happen since they are such a high value target.
B) Satoshi would be identified as (effectively?) a pseudonym for one or more nation states and whatever value they derived from creating Bitcoin would evaporate.
Given we are currently in a superposition between states A and B, as well as a possible state C where the pseudonym Satoshi is either effectively dead (lost the credentials) or actually dead (end of life); one can infer that the value of Bitcoin continuing to exist as it is either outweighs any change of state or that such a change of state is no longer possible.
He also claims to have used the same algorithm for identifying company insiders for trades (see parent comment in that thread for context).
I don't think he was bullshitting even though his tool isn't public because he has a different NLP project that works reasonably well (https://hnprofile.com/ which can find users based on their interests).
Anyone know what I am talking about? The "winning entry" was, I think some kind of pretty abstract anime story. If Death Note was on the list at all (the list may have been compiled before Death Note was aired), it was not on the top of the list. The list was written by a single author and it had extensive long-form style commentary.
Death Note is based on the "keep your enemies close" that turns up a lot in Japanese Culture. For instance, more than once in Sailor Moon the bad guys wind up embedded with the good guys, and the same thing happens in Tales of Symphonia. Thus it is almost necessary for the plot for Light to move in with L.
On a more serious note I don't think this is trying to say the show is wrong for having these mistakes just that the character could have done better and thinking about how is fun and allows you to examine just how much information leaks from seemingly benign sources.
Also a great illustration why CoinJoin is not a complete transaction privacy solution for Bitcoin.