17 Aug 2007

Who is Mencius Moldbug?

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Michael Blowhard knows, and spills the beans, thusly:

Having made a score in a recent dot-com boom — though “I only made out like a thief, not like a bandit,” he writes — he has been treating himself to a sabbatical, reading, thinking, and writing. He confesses that his monthly book bill is around $500.

Mencius Moldbug lives in San Francisco, where he is temporarily retired from the software industry. His principal occupations are feeding ravens, reading old books, and working on his programming language, which will be done any year now.

There follows the Moldbug political manifesto, a piece of intellectual provocation certainly worth a read.

A sample:

The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence. …

The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable. …

A further difficulty is that the definition of “violence” isn’t so obvious. If I gently relieve you of your wallet, and you chase after me with your Glock and make me beg to be allowed to give it back, which of us is being violent? Suppose I say, well, it was your wallet – but it’s my wallet now?

This suggests, at the very least, that we need a rule that tells us whose wallet is whose. Violence, then, is anything that breaks the rule, or replaces it with a different rule. If the rule is clear and everyone follows it, there is no violence.

In other words, violence equals conflict plus uncertainty. While there are wallets in the world, conflict will exist. But if we can eliminate uncertainty – if there is an unambiguous, unbreakable rule that tells us, in advance, who gets the wallet – I have no reason to sneak my hand into your pocket, and you have no reason to run after me shooting wildly into the air. Neither of our actions, by definition, can affect the outcome of the conflict.

And so on.

One Feedback on "Who is Mencius Moldbug?"

Elisabeth Payne Rosen

Mencius Moldbug:

I have just read your poem “Grant’s Tomb” on Dimitri Rotov’s blog (Civil War Bookshelf). I must say, it is quite a good poem. Who are you?

Also, re. the problem of violence. It seems to me that violence is written into our DNA–alas! But what to do about it? For a while, I thought maybe organized sports was the idea, but then there was that enormous soccer riot with major casualties in Brazil–or was it Brussels?

As an idealist and an optimist, I pray (literally–did I mention that I am a believing Christian as well?) that this troubling gene might be–massaged, let’s say, into something like a long nap. In the meantime, one can only account for oneself–and try to vote calm and intelligent people into office.


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