Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Crack at Explaining Bitcoin

Bitcoin was recently described to me by someone to whom I'd just explained bitcoin very briefly as "online rewards".  Quite an accurate observation!  You get a reward for having your computer compute some hashes from a highly condensed version of the data in the public ledger.  What public ledger?  I'll explain that later.  Let's nail down who pays for the reward and why.

The reward comes in the form of newly created bitcoin, which essentially dilutes the holdings of everyone who has bitcoin.  In this way, the entire bitcoin community pays the reward, in exact proportion to how much bitcoin each member holds.  Why are we willing to pay through this form of what can accurately be called "inflation"?  We pay it because we value the system's ability to transfer value (in the form of bitcoins) from one of us to another through the Internet, without a middleman that we have to trust.

The reward goes to a lucky computer owner whose machine has found a special number called a "nonce."  It's difficult to find the number, and the number that will work is different for each person trying to find it.  I'll explain why in a moment.  "Bitcoin mining" software, which is free and open-source, finds the number.  It starts with a nonce of zero and runs an algorithm that takes two main inputs (as well as some others that we can ignore for now).  The first main input is called a "hash" which is computed from all the new bitcoin transactions.  The second input is the nonce.  If the algorithm produces a small enough result, then the owner gets some bitcoin.  This is because one of the new transactions adds the reward to the owner's bitcoin address.  If the algorithm produces a result that is too large (nearly all of them are), then the software increases the nonce by one and tries again.

Remember I said that I'd explain why each person trying to find the number has to find a different one?  This is because the "hash" of the new transactions depends on the data that represents those new transactions.  Since two different people trying to find the number each have a different bitcoin address, the one new transaction that puts the reward into the owner's btc address will be different for each of them.  That changes the hash, and therefore the nonce that will work.

Remember I said I'd explain what the public ledger is?  It is commonly referred to as the "blockchain" because each time someone finds that special number (the "nonce"), they add a block of transactions to it.  So the blockchain contains all the blocks, each of which contains a set of transactions that were made during a particular period of time (designed to be about ten minutes long).  Bitcoin is transferred from one bitcoin address (or, account, if you like thinking of it as a ledger) to another by adding a transaction.  The transactions already in the block chain must include one that puts bitcoins into the source address, and none that remove those bitcoins from it.  Let's see how the ledger is handled to make sure no bad transactions get in.

I'll explain it with an analogy.  Suppose someone says "Find me a number whose digits add up to exactly half of itself."  We all know how to make sure that any proposed answer actually works, right?  Bitcoin works the same way.  If you add a transaction that moves bitcoins from an address that doesn't have any bitcoins in it, your transaction will be ignored by every (sane) bitcoin miner and therefore never get into a block.  But lets suppose that an insane miner tries to add it.  First, in order for his attempt to even get noticed, he'd have to find that special nonce.  Once he did that, here's what would happen:

The new block would be broadcast on the Internet to other miners who would read the transactions in it.  They'd see a transaction that attempted to spend bitcoins from an address that didn't have any bitcoins, and tag the new block as garbage or just throw it away, and then proceed with trying to find a nonce that worked for them, using only the valid transactions they've received.  Every decent bitcoin client would also recognize this bad transaction and therefore ignore the entire block.  In this way, the miners protect the integrity of the blockchain, and by finding nonces that work, they earn bitcoins, or "online rewards."

The version of this explanation at litmocracy.blogspot.com will not be updated much.  Instead, the post on bitcointalk will be updated.  I'll have a link in a few minutes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Be A Teacher

Some of us know someone who is involved with governmental efforts to enforce laws.  Some of the laws they enforce do more harm than good.  Their employer will always tell them they have no business letting their personal beliefs interfere with their job.  Many people buy this, or at least pretend to buy it, in order to keep earning money.  Losing that job would be devastating.  So it makes sense to avoid letting your beliefs interfere with your job.

Deep down, everyone loves voluntaryism because when "other people" follow that particular code in their dealings, it makes everything better.  Most people generally follow voluntaryist principles, even government employees while doing their jobs.  However, when it comes time to follow the part of the job description which calls for violating the principles of voluntaryism, the job wins.  Again, this is because it makes sense to avoid letting your principles or beliefs interfere with your job.

Don't worry, this essay is not going to keep painting the same dismal picture.  It's based, after all, on a claim that is being debated all over the liberty movement.  The debate is whether or not, as Wendy McElroy put it, "there are embers within every person" which burn with the energy of freedom, longing to warm an otherwise cold and dismal world.  Every person.  It's probably obvious which side I'm on, and I'm begging you to join me.  Be a Teacher.  How do you do that with someone who is involved with governmental efforts to enforce laws, especially when it makes sense to avoid letting your beliefs interfere with your job?

The answer is the second paragraph of this essay, applied to their superiors.  Those who enforce government legislation are constantly picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore.  Sometimes, the really sociopathic creeps at the top see this as a problem in their efforts to accomplish some kind of nefarious job through the enforcement of some seedy legislation (like the Monsanto Protection Act, for example).  To combat their underlings wise (for the general welfare of all) looking-the-other-way, they find the biggest problems the law is supposed to solve, they institute some kind of reward for enforcing the law that's supposed to help and tell their underlings to put more effort into it.

This is the pressure point, and Bradley Manning's prosecutors know it... or at least one of their superiors knows it.  Whoever it is that knows it is certainly a creepy kind of sociopath.  Some might think it's Chris Dodd.  But it doesn't matter who it is.  It is obvious that they know because this pressure point is exactly where Brandley Manning pushed.  He took the information from his superiors that supported and encouraged non-voluntaryist behavior, and he made it public.  The threat of such publication, on an individual basis, is often enough.  But in Manning's case, any such threat would have backfired.  Snowden had the same problem.  They both did the right thing, publishing what was given to them in confidence because they sensed the harm in it.

So if you know someone who enforces legislation as part of their job, encourage them to pick and choose what they enforce, congratulate them on ignoring the  most destructive laws (most of the Monsanto Protection Act, I imagine, and that law against raw milk), and help them prepare to publish whatever destructive schemes their superiors cook up to get these nefarious laws enforced.  But before doing that, be a teacher, because they're going to see a problem with these efforts to promote freedom and peace, namely, their superiors.

Good teachers ask questions.  It's called the Socratic method, and it works pretty well.  It also saves you a lot of time when your pupil already happens to know what you're trying to teach.  So here are some questions that should open a discussion with those you know who happen to get paid for enforcing laws:
  1. Are there laws that you're supposed to enforce, but you just ignore them?
  2. Why do you ignore them?
  3. Are there laws you think should generally be ignored because enforcing them makes things worse?
  4. Have you noticed any effort from your employer to get you and your coworkers to enforce laws that tend to make things worse?
  5. Would/do you discuss them with anyone?
  6. Would your boss tell you where those efforts come from?
  7. If a reporter were interested, would you name names if you had them?
  8. Do you want to help create a culture in which those higher ups who create or encourage the enforcement of harmful legislation will be pressured not to?
If your discussion seems fruitful, suggest that they create their own list of questions to ask their boss if and when their failure to enforce certain laws comes up.  If it doesn't seem fruitful, this may be because the person you're trying to reach has gone too far down the rabbit hole.  Be a friend, and follow them.  Tie a mental string to the fundamental axiom: an individual's conscience is an important force of good.  Remember that as you explore the personal landscape of your pupil.  Be nice, and they may find their conscience and start using it.

If you didn't notice that I just insinuated that enforcing laws you think are harmful as part of your job is a violation of your own conscience, a prostitution of yourself, a whoring out of your being, well, now I've said it explicitly, but only because you have read this far.  If you say that to someone who is doing it, they will ignore you, and that just makes things worse.  Be a friend, and let them come to that conclusion on their own.  That's what good teachers do.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Etymology for an Ailing World

American newspeakEtymology is the study of word origins. Over time, words often change their meaning. Sometimes this is a result of natural usage in a changing world, as in the case of the word “goodbye”, which started out as “God Be With You” (or “with Ye”). As the farewell utterance retained its usefulness even among people who grew less religious, the four original words lost their utility. In other cases, as highlighted by George Orwell in his book 1984, authorities manipulate words in order to place new meanings on ancient and valuable texts, common sayings, or other influential bits of language.
Deception is an instinctive tool creatures from bugs to humans use to improve the prospects of continuing their species. Most deception in nature happens between species, for example when a predator or prey accomplishes its goal by providing bad signals to its enemy. Camouflage is one good example. Human beings, however, often use deception on other members of our own species. Though this strategy tends to wane with age, wisdom, and maturity in most, there are certain kinds of people who employ the strategy of deception at an increasing rate as they get older and take on more responsibilities. This is because there is a sharp contrast between the group they favor privately and the group they favor publicly. Etymology is a useful tool for detecting and remedying the damage caused by such deception.
For those who occupy positions of influence, there is always the temptation to get people to believe things that aren’t true, or to look at things in a warped way. For example, when George W. Bush and his administration were pondering how best to protect the usefulness of the national currency against growing interest in using some other medium of exchange to trade oil, they concocted the story of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to justify an attack on Iraq. It also seems likely that the destruction of the Word Trade Center Towers in 2001 was part of a “false flag” operation designed to justify the attack. There are many examples of such “false flag operations” throughout history. While the majority of the world’s population suffers from the outcomes of these deceptions, any exploration of crony capitalism, fascism, communism, or other government structures will show that they provide great benefits to those who are in power and to their friends and business associates.
Often, it isn’t clear whether a word’s changing meaning over time results from the intentions of authorities or from its natural course of usage among people. Indeed, such shifts in meaning are most often a result of the combination of these two factors. The very word “authority” is a great example. It starts with the telling word, “author”. These first six characters suggest that someone is creating a story, perhaps based on truth, or perhaps a complete fabrication; perhaps intentionally deceptive, or perhaps fiction intended for entertainment. In all cases, the audience of such an author chooses whether or not to pay attention to the story, and how much of it to believe.
In order for an author to become an authority, the audience must find value in the story, feel a growing respect for the wisdom of the author, and ultimately rely on the author for information, knowledge, and wisdom in some specific domain. I am tempted to call this “respect-based authority”, but this is misleading. Authority is always and necessarily respect-based, and the “authorities” know this and struggle with it. Examine the material provided to schoolchildren about “the authorities”. Rather than presenting the claims and writings of these power players so that the students can come to their own conclusions, the material starts with the conclusions desired by the authorities. History textbooks, the novels students read for English class, and even math textbooks are filled with examples insinuating and insisting that “the authorities” are wise and should be respected. Really, however, they are tyrants.
In “The Social Contract”, Rousseau writes “In the exact sense, a tyrant is an individual who arrogates to himself the royal authority without having a right to it. This is how the Greeks understood the word ‘tyrant’: they applied it indifferently to good and bad princes whose authority was not legitimate.” It is unclear from the English translation I have how he means the word “legitimate”. Etymologically, “legitimate” comes from the Latin word for writing, but more specifically, the writing of law. This leads down a wonderful path our readers can explore on their own, along which they will meet Hammurabi, often cited as the first guy who wrote down the rules he would be enforcing. The modern meaning of “legitimate” does not require an author, but assumes that the real world is the measuring stick for legitimacy. For example, a “legitimate” argument cannot contain a logical error because such an error delegitimizes the argument. No author can legislate logic out of existence. A tyrant can, however, and that is the point here.
Authorities are valuable people who earn respect by knowing their subjects and providing help and advice to those who rely on them for the knowledge they hold. Tyrants the world over crave such respect and do everything in their power to enjoy its benefits. The essence of their tyranny, however, is not any written law or lack thereof, but the lack of the more modern kind of legitimacy: reasonable justification. When reason paints the tyrant as a tyrant, his true nature emerges through his reliance on coercion and violence. In his “Essay on the Trial By Jury”, Lysander Spooner points out (and extensively defends) the fact that it is jurors’ “primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.”
Another example of etymology that is highly germane (at least in the United States of America) in the area of applying etymology to the ailments of the world is the word “income”. Peter E. Hendrickson has written a wonderful website page explaining how this term has been abused outside of the law, while its meaning inside the law (from 1916) retains all manner of usefulness for those citizens of the USA who wish to understand the US Internal Revenue Code and avoid paying unnecessary taxes. His essay explains that the word at that time described passive income, and that it is now unofficially abused by tyrants (whom most would call “authorities”) to deceptively maximize tax revenue. His essay is available at http://losthorizons.com/Documents/AllEconomicActivityIsNotIncome.htm.
With this in mind, this author urges you to help other people understand the difference between authority and tyranny, and to point out that an authority that relies on its brute force is not an authority, but rather a tyrant, incapable of relying exclusively on reason, as all genuine authorities must. To put it in a simpler light, if you are “writing your own story” and someone threatens you into changing it (perhaps with a “You may not grow/sell/transport that kind of plant/milk/chemical/monetary instrument/light bulb” or other such law), recognize that you are being controlled not by authority, but by tyranny, and complain loudly. This world needs a lot more voices complaining of the tyrannies under which it suffers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The seedy Ad Hominem

There are a few people to whom I am very dedicated - members of my family and close friends.  I love these people with all my heart, but they cause me a thorough if weak kind of suffering when they gleefully or happily (I refuse to admit "joyfully") describe the foolishness or suffering of people they don't like.  I may not like these people either, but the connection between derision and consideration has become disturbingly strong.

Consideration is the mental act of considering another person's perspective.  Derision is the act of attacking or demeaning a person.  These two acts are connected as opposites, meaning that acting on one tends to inhibit acting on the other.  This is only natural, but it is being used against most people, and my sensitivity to derision has highlighted this abuse for me.  The abuse of this connection has always been with us, even taught in high school and college, as the false "ad hominem" argument.  It is taught as a false argument, but still it persists, and it is now, I believe being used intentionally where violence is too obvious and deceit is too difficult.

Human beings can be divided into parasites and producers.  Everyone has an evolved sensitivity to parasitism, and we escape it whenever we can, if we detect it.  The easiest way to detect parasitism is when the parasite causes us pain in its endeavor to live off of our own efforts instead of making its own efforts.  Sometimes the pain is not severe enough, or the chain of cause and effect is not clear enough, for us to see that another person is stealing our life force from us.  This is the case with most successful parasitic humans.

They form groups and work out plans to siphon off the surplus of the productive, using all kinds of strategies to prevent their victims from feeling enough pain to escape.  The simplest strategy is violence.  If the group can convince enough people that the violence is necessary and justified, then it enjoys widespread success.  This requires that the violence be quite limited.  This works until the parasite class has damaged so much of the host productive group that their surplus is no longer enough to support the parasites.  This is solved by the parasites through deceit.

The next simplest strategy for maintaining their access to the surplus of the productive is deceit.  For example, the violence used by the parasites is often deceitfully attributed to external parties and used as an excuse for the parasites to take more from the productive under the claim that it will be used to protect them.  When used by the parasite class that is most successful, such deceit is often called "false flag operations."  Increased communications among the productive class, such as through cell phones and the Internet, are currently putting the lie to many such false flag operations.

Another way in which the parasite class uses deceit is to skew or warp the perceptions of the productive class in the direction of relying more on the parasite class for "whatever it is they do to protect us."  Examples of this reliance can be found in the roles of central banking to protect from dishonest bankers, government schooling to protect from ignorance, and "Health and Safety" bureaucracies to protect from danger.  These roles can only be justified by deceiving people about the nature of their relationship to bankers, knowledge, and the natural world.  Again, these deceits are beginning to suffer widespread destruction through the disillusionment that the Internet provides.

This ongoing struggle the parasite class has with an ever-awakening population of productive humans who have had enough is driving their deceit strategy underground, psychologically.  The ad hominem attack is a subconscious kind of deceit.  It does not explicitly make false claims, but rather relies on the subconscious of the victim to make those claims.

When people don't believe them any more, and someone is speaking the truth about how they have cheated people, their last strategy is to get everyone to view the speaker of truth in a bad light.  This limits our efforts to consider what the person has to say, thereby providing a little bit of protection to the parasites whose predation is being described.  This is why derision bothers me so much.

Derision is no longer simply an immature thing we do to get back at people who have been mean.  It is now a full blown psychological manipulation tool.  Every barb and jab at a speaker of the truth weakens the strength of their truth.  Let us thwart them by being kind and defending those who are attacked, regardless of the value of their argument.  Ad hominem attacks are always a strong indicator of the inability to present a reasonable argument, and that is often because the position of the attacker is not reasonable.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Printed 3D Gun Censorship Aide

For all law enforcement officials who are interested in aiding and abetting the US government in its efforts to prevent the common folk from being able to defend themselves with the newly available printed 3D gun from Defense Distributed, I have compiled the following useful information:

  • The file is called Liberator.zip and is available through bit torrent, which means anyone who has the file and is running the bit torrent service will be able to automatically provide it to others who would like to have it.
  • In order to verify the integrity of the file, the SHA1 checksum has been published: aa33bc73264b80b87d21ff8d56de02eaecda3574
  • This checksum matches the checksum this researcher got from the file when downloaded from cryptome.org, and also when downloaded through bit torrent, and it also matches the sha1 checksum published on the ar15.com website.

Please note, as well, that there is a healthy and useful distinction between authority and tyranny, and the more we share this information with others, the more peaceful our world will be.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fewer [Blank] Will be able to Purchase Guns.

John Carson (supposedly) of Organizing for America at BarackObama.com recently wrote me an email that says (among other things):
The Judiciary Committee voted to move forward on a bill that would make universal background checks the law for all gun sales. That's hugely important for one simple reason:

If Congress goes on to pass this bill, fewer dangerous people will be able to obtain guns. Period.
Only where he has the word "dangerous", he's making a horrible assumption.  It's an assumption that lies at the core of the problems caused by the legitimization of violence, otherwise known as "government".  The assumption is that the decision about whether or not a person is dangerous is universal and objective, but not only that.  It also assumes that some group of well chosen people will be able to make that decision.

What he should have written, which would be more honest and effective at improving our country rather than destroying it, is "fewer people government bureaucrats and legislators don't like will be able to obtain guns."

If you have a gun to sell, it makes sense to avoid selling it to someone who will use it to violate others, but most people who buy guns end up using them to protect others.  The ratio of people with guns who will protect you to people with guns who will violate you is very high.  The unfortunate effect of laws such as the one John Carson and Mr. O'Bomber are encouraging is to shift this ratio lower.