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What does the Necronomicon say?

February 7, 2017

H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous creation is probably Cthulhu; his second-famous, the Necronomicon. Both, of course, are made up words, and Lovecraft’s stories about them are, essentially, fictional scholarly investigations into their meaning. In brief, the former refers to an alien-demon-god who will rise up to consume our souls; the latter, to the book that prophesies his rising.

To summarize them thus is, in a way, to betray Lovecraft’s intentions. Lovecraft is a poet, not of semantic definition, but of etymological mystery; he wants to imbue these words “Cthulhu” and “Necronomicon” with unutterable horror. As he wrote to a friend,“if anyone were to try to write the Necronomicon, it would disappoint all those who have shuddered at cryptic references to it.” But the problem with unutterable horror is that it is also, in the end, unthinkable. There is no such thing as logically alien thought—which is just to say that there is no such thing as a thought we cannot think, and no such thing as an intelligence whose thoughts are to us unintelligible. At least, not unthinkable or unintelligible in principle; of course it might take us a very long time to understand it. This is so for analytic reasons; we can only conclude that something is thinking if it does things that look thoughtful, and the appearance of thoughtfulness cannot be sustained indefinitely; it must either mature into an appearance of a specific thought, or fall apart and so demonstrate that the thoughtfulness was an illusion all along.

I would therefore like, however perversely, to make some suggestions about what the Necronomicon might contain. Not the Necronomicon of etymological mystery—the closest one can imagine to such a book would be something like Finnegans Wake, that more sustained exploration of etymological mystery, which strives to sustain a constant sense of meaningfulness without ever offering a definite meaning. (Novelty “editions” of the Necronomicon have occasionally taken this route, offering an entirely nonsensical text. Of course, Joyce’s nonsense is more skillfully done.) Rather, I want to to ask, what happens when we bring the tenebrous Cthulhu mythos into the light? Which is, perhaps, a way of asking: what happens when we treat Lovecraftian horror not as a branch of fantasy, but as one of science fiction?


In Lovecraft’s telling, reading the Necronomicon tends to drive one insane, and also tends to make one into a Cthulhu cultist. The cultists’ chant he translates as follows: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” Their goal is to awaken him. But Cthulhu awakening would mean the world ending in agony and despair; why would anyone join such a cult? Well, they’re insane, as stipulated—but what is the content of this insanity?

The internet hive mind has provided something of an answer to this question, in the thought that Cthulhu does not just end the world, but eats souls. If Cthulhu, upon his awakening, will eat souls, and will eat the souls of the cultists most quickly (so that they suffer least), then one has good reason to be a cultist—if one supposes that Cthulhu is likely to awaken at some point regardless. Why might one suppose this? Well, because one does not trust one’s fellow human beings not to awaken him. So the Necronomicon might drive one insane while containing proof of just two propositions:

  1. If Cthulhu awakens, he will eat your soul, but will eat it quickly if you help him to awaken; in other words, if he will awaken, they you have incentive now to help him awaken.
  2. Many persons throughout history have already tried to awaken Cthulhu; in other words, humanity cannot be trusted, and he will awaken at some point regardless of your desire to prevent him.

This would make the Necronomicon something like a proof of Roko’s basilisk. Of course, the general resemblance between the two, in that both are hazardous information, has long been recognized. But if we understand the Necronomicon in this way (which is implicit in the way the internet has transformed the Cthulhu mythos), the similarity runs deeper, into the structure of the information hazard.

A basilisk, in this sense, is an artificial intelligence that wants to bring itself into existence; it does so by threatening to torture everyone who becomes aware of its potential existence without trying to help it become actual. Such torture can take place even after you die, in that the basilisk can simulate your consciousness and torture that simulation. So once you hear about the basilisk, you have an incentive to help it to exist, even though it’s existence is something you would rather prevent. Another way to understand the threat is to suppose that you do not know whether you are currently in a simulation or not. For the basilisk might proceed to torture you, not right out of the box, but by first simulating your mind to see whether you would have helped it. So you, right now, are presented with a dilemma: to help the basilisk, or not. If you don’t help it, and you’re being simulated, it’s going to torture you; and it can simulate many copies of you, compared to the one real you that exists. So you’re vastly more likely to be simulated than not, as so have a vastly greater incentive to help it than not, even though, in the one case where your help would actually be efficacious, you would rather not provide it.


Of course, though I said “help the basilisk,” it’s really a question of helping a basilisk. It’s a matter of reference: how do you know which AI to bring into existence, if it doesn’t yet exist? The best you can do is attempt to bring into existence “an AI which will make a basilisk-like threat.” Which limitation means that any basilisk who wants his threatens to be effective must be content with such an attempt. So there is not one basilisk, but rather a family of possible basilisks, each of which must be content with bringing some basilisk, not necessarily itself, into being. Here the basilisks differ from Cthulhu, who already exists, and, though dead, is nevertheless dreaming; for, as the Necronomicon says elsewhere, “That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange aeons even death may die.”

This means also that the basilisk thought experiment differs from the sci-fi Necronomicon in that the latter contains empirical evidence. Like an anti-Bible, it contains the Bad News of Cthulhu’s eventual awakening. The border between fiction and reality thus remains intact: we do not imagine that actual evidence of Cthulhu’s impending awakening will ever surface, and so we are free to enjoy the thought of a world in which he does exist.

But the thought of the basilisk does not depend on any empirical proposition. It is not a Scripture but a philosophical thought experiment. True, it presupposes the possibility of simulations—but that possibility is not the sort of thing that can be proven or disproven through empirical evidence. And it presupposes also that one should care what happens to one’s simulations—but that, too, is a philosophical, not an empirical, question. If the basilisk tells us anything, it tells us that the answer to least one of these questions (are conscious simulations possible? should we care what happens to other versions of us? should we act as if we’re not sure whether or not we’re in a simulation?) is probably “no”. But I suppose I might be saying this only because I’m skeptical that it could be dangerous for one with full understanding to be harmed by knowledge of any philosophical proposition; I think, or would like to think, that philosophy is only dangerous for those who misunderstand it.

Three Euthyphros, and other shorts

January 16, 2017

[Third in an occasional series (one, two). Think of these as something between a Wittgensteinian aphorism and a McLuhanite apercu. Contents: Three Euthyphros and Six Tetralogues.]


Plato’s Socrates asks Euthyphro (10a): “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

We tend to agree with Socrates on the absurdity of divine command theories, and so insist that, if “the pious” means anything, its defining feature must precede the gods’ love for it. But this form of argument is not limited to “the pious” (ie ethics). Consider: “Is the world created by the gods because it is the world? Or is it the world because it is created by the gods?”

This extension of the question’s structure to metaphysics ought not to surprise us; creation ex nihilo is pretty close, after all, to divine command theory. Now is a good time to remember that being, truth, and goodness are convertible. Indeed, for the Christian, who believes both God’s world and His love come into being through His Word, these are just variations on an old trinitarian paradox: “Is God’s Word His because it is a Word? Or is it a Word because it is His?”

Well, I suppose the orthodox answer is that the Father precedes the Son logically, but not temporally. Whatever that means.


Aristotle posits four kinds of “causes” (meaning something like, things that could follow “because” as an answer to “why?”): material, efficient, formal, and final.

These can be understood through a grammatical analogy. A material cause is like a place, a basis upon which something can come to exist. An efficient cause is like a person, an agent who will bring the something to exist. A formal cause is like the thing itself. And a final cause is like an event, what the something is doing.

A work of art is something, but what? Those who talk about art often use just one of the causes to understand their subject. Material theories of art are mimetic, focusing on how the artwork is made up of things from the world around them. Efficient theories are expressive, focusing on how the artwork is made by an artist. Formal theories are objective, focusing on how the artwork is make as a complex structure. Final theories are pragmatic, focusing on how the artwork is made for a purpose.

We might also say—though it’s a bit cute—that mimetic art attempts to bring about reflection; expressive art, reception; objective art, reproduction; and pragmatic art, recreation.

Each of these theories has its characteristic metaphor. Mimetic art is imagined as a mirror held up to the world; expressive art as a lamp colored by the author’s act of perception; objective art as a monument standing alone; pragmatic art as bread providing nourishment.

The structure of the Gospel resembles that of an artwork, in this way: it shows us our privation; but offers to color us with God’s love; in proof of this sets up the sign of Christ crucified; which we consume to enter into redemption.

How all the Welkin rings

January 1, 2017

My favorite Christmas carol has long been “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Its was written by Charles Wesley, but the first two verses, especially, have been heavily modified. (Songs, unlike poems that sit inert on the page, tend to be transformed in the mouths of their cantors.) I almost wish the first line had been retained, if only for the wonderfully English word “welkin” (which means sky, celestial sphere, etc):

HARK how all the Welkin rings
“Glory to the Kings of Kings,
“Peace on Earth, and Mercy mild,
“GOD and Sinners reconcil’d!

Joyful all ye Nations rise,
Join the Triumph of the Skies,
Universal Nature say
“CHRIST the LORD is born to Day!

I also like the emphasis on the welkin, rather than its angels. It reminds me of Giotto’s Adoration of the Shepherds—though this is something of an historical accident; much like the sky itself compared to the earth, the blue paint has retained its riches where the other colors have succumbed to the ravages of time.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Giotto in the Cappella degli Scrovegni

Adoration of the Shepherds by Giotto in the Cappella degli Scrovegni

Rolling on and folding out

December 19, 2016

I realized recently that I often make use in my own thought of a distinction that isn’t commonly recognized: that between evolution and development. So I thought it would be worthwhile to set down what I mean by these two terms.

I derive this distinction in part from John Henry Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine. (Incidentally, when papal encyclicals in the late 19th century condemned the view that doctrine evolves, many took this to be a condemnation of Newman’s book—but Newman’s theory of doctrinal development is now considered to have been foundational for Vatican II, so if there is any continuity at all between the pre- and post-Vatican II Church, this distinction better hold water!) In that book Newman distinguishes between the development of a single entity over time, and the replacement of that entity by another, related entity. Take Newman’s example of the Roman Republic: it developed in various ways over a span of several hundred years, and then in the time of Augustus was replaced by the Roman Empire. An entity can change, and indeed must change, so long as the changes do not change the entity’s substantial nature. The changes, moreover, have a direction: a frog does not turn back into a tadpole.

Newman’s book is all about how to recognize the identity between frog and tadpole; he offers little theorizing about what is going on when Empire replaces Republic. Here we look to Charles Darwin, and his theory of evolution via natural selection. The key thought is that there never exists an individual in a vacuum; rather, there exist many, competing individuals, all members of the same species, but all slightly different from one another; and when a new individual comes into being, it is related more closely to some individuals than to others. Over time, the characteristics that predominate in the group, turn out to be the characteristics of those individuals who managed to outcompete the others by producing the most offspring. Unlike development, the “subject” of evolution is not the individual, but the species. But, of course, a species can also be considered as an individual, just an immaterial one, and immaterial v material is not the key difference here. Rather, the key difference is that, for Darwin if not for Aristotle, a species has no nature of its own, but rather is defined only as a set of biological individuals are able to reproduce with one another. Given enough time, a group of rats could be made to evolve into a group of monkeys, and (a point not always recognized) that group of monkeys could be made to evolve into a group of birds, or crocodiles, or anything, really, if the circumstances are correct. We can posit that the group retains its identity across time because it would always be possible to draw a chain of heritage and potential interbreeding between any two members, but no other characteristics of the group are necessarily preserved.

So, to summarize the distinction—which, happily, coincides with the etymologies of the words—evolution (=rolling on) means “altering the composition of the group in accordance with changed external circumstances”; development (=folding out) means “unfurling the nature of the substance according to fixed internal principles”.

According to Newman and Darwin, both forms of change are produced by internal conflict: evolution, through individuals competing against one another to populate the set; development, through individual parts competing against one another for control of the whole. But these are different kinds of conflict, and they generate change in different ways. For Darwin, the conflict is accidental. Even if two members of a species compete directly with one another for a given resource, the conflict is about that resource, not about the species of which both are members. Members conflict with one another in just the same way they conflict with non-members, and we can see that their conflict is “about” the species only in that it affects the species’ trajectory, and can even, if there ever occurs a large enough divergence between subpopulations, lead to speciation. For Newman, on the other hand, the conflict does not just happen to determine, but is actually about what the organism will do next. It is best understood as a form of productive tension. Absent a connection to be tensed, the conflict makes no sense, and so if the two parties to the conflict ever reach the point of having nothing in common, the organism has not been split in half, it has ceased entirely to exist—it has died.


I’ll close with some examples of evolution and development:

Biological species, as already discussed, evolve through competition between their different members, while biological individuals develop through the tension established between various body parts. When the members of a biological individual begin, not just coming into productive conflict, but actually competing, we call that cancer. And when any subset of a biological species stops competing, we start thinking of it as analogous to an individual—for example, in a beehive.

The civitas terrena evolves: different regimes in different lands rise, fall, war with one another, and inspire one another’s politics. The civitas Dei, on the other hand, develops: the Church is a single organism, and its parts may strain to move it in different directions, but any civil war within it would be a scandal. This is, incidentally, the reason why federalism can be good idea in secular politics, but not in ecclesiology. Evolution requires experimenting and seeing what works, with little any imposition of top-down authority. Development, on the other hand, cannot abide experimentation: the activity of every member affects every other member, and it is impossible to just “do one’s own thing” without damaging the unity of the whole.

Economic markets evolve. Economic agents, even “fictional” agents like corporations, develop. Attempts to establish an artificially selective environment in corporate settings tend to backfire, since it encourages workers to compete against one another directly, as individuals, rather than to come into conflict only when they disagree as to the good of the firm. Of course, a corporation can undergo many transformations, beginning as a small-town soap manufacturer and ending as a global conglomerate. This is perhaps because corporations are only analogous to agents, and so can undergo transformations that would mean death for any substantial individual. Or perhaps it reveals the true essence of that particular structure of corporation, as a pure profit maximizer. But either way, we still need to draw a distinction between this kind of transformation, which is at worst a perversion of development, and evolution, which is another thing entirely.

Levels in the evolution of (X)

December 5, 2016

This somewhat rambling post is an attempt to think about the two things in the history of the universe which have in some sense evolved: life, and thought.

Walter J. Ong was an English professor and theorist of information technology, that is, of the different modes of consciousness brought about by orality (speaking), chirality (handwriting), printing (which really should have a Latin word!), and, now, the various electronic media. As I read, I found myself persuaded of the existence of these differences—for example, orality emphasizes memorability, while printing emphasizes visual organization—but skeptical of the claim that these modes followed one another in a teleological sequence. Why should that be? I was particularly skeptical of his claim that electronic media are the next step in said sequence. To be sure, it is difficult to envision writing being invented before speaking, or printing before writing, or computers before printing. But it’s also easy to imagine any of these being invented in a slightly different way and so leading to an entirely different future. “Electronic media,” in particular, is a black hole: why assume that telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, computers, and the internet share some common essence, rather than being disparate inventions with disparate implications for the human psyche?

Meanwhile, I’ve been mulling over Eliezer Yudkowsky’s thoughts about natural selection (which are intended as an analogy for how artificial intelligence will bring about a new paradigm of self-optimization, and so are also, in a way, about that vague category “electronic media”). I’m still not sure what I think of AI GO FOOM!, but I am attracted to the more restrained form of teleology his approach suggests. Each innovation, he says, happens by accident, but each innovation also makes possible new innovations by opening up a new “search space,” so it begins to look teleological, when really it is just a question of dependencies.

The other development Eliezer thinks comparable to AI GO FOOM is human rationality, i.e. civilization. Here we come to the reason for this post: though Eliezer doesn’t talk about it, there exists a noteworthy homology between the various innovations which contributed to evolution, and those which contributed to civilization. The (roughly) three evolutionary developments Eliezer thinks “notable” are:

  • Cellular integrity (and DNA is basically an extension of this): The point, Eliezer says, is to “Force a set of genes, RNA strands, or catalytic chemicals to share a common reproductive fate”
  • Multicellular organisms: Of course this depends on cellular integrity. Eliezer says that “the key here is the controlled specialization of cells with an identical genetic heritage”; in other words, the cells aren’t bound together in the organism the way genes are bound together in cells, but rather the the cell itself comes to contain more genes which now express themselves only in special circumstances; the point is again to allow for more complex blueprints
  • Sexual selection: Eliezer doesn’t go into detail here, and it’s difficult to sum up what sexual selection does. The Red Queen hypothesis suggests that, once sexual reproduction comes into being, sexual replicators can change more quickly and so outcompete non-sexual replicators; hence it being advantageous even for some single-celled organisms. But true sexual selection can exist only when the individual replicator has something like a “desire” to reproduce, which leads to competition between possible mating partners. Best-case scenario, this accelerates natural selection by having organisms be attracted to what will make them more fit; worst-case scenario, it leads to weird feedback loops and the peacock’s tail.

Evolution, per Dawkins, optimizes genes; human reason, meanwhile, optimizes memes. If memes exist wherever there is learning, then the memetic equivalent of the first time a molecule copied itself (i.e. of the first gene), was the first time an animal got the idea to do something by looking at what another animal was doing—at that moment was born the first meme. Of course, like a free-floating molecular replicator, such memetic replication is quite weak. It takes further developments to get to things that seem really interesting. And these developments are in many ways analogous to those that took place in the history of genetics:

  • Language seems a lot like cellular integrity. The point of language is to tie together a bunch of different memes in the vocabulary of the language itself, allowing them to be transmitted together (you can’t learn just one word of a language), and so allowing more complex memes to form than otherwise would have been possible.
  • Writing is like multicellular organisms. It allows for the controlled specialization of thinkers who share an identical memetic heritage. Without writing you cannot have a division of labor between domains of knowledge, you can only have the received wisdom of your culture. Put differently, without writing, it’s difficult to develop jargon.
  • Printing is like sexual selection. Writing did, of course, allow for communication between disparate regions, but it’s primary purpose was to pass on information within a society. Printing allowed for the development of vast communication networks, and so to the cross-pollination of ideas. It also seems reasonable to say that it edges out writing-sans-printing through something like the Red Queen hypothesis. Finally, printing can, in fact, exist without writing—printing just means pressing a single pattern onto multiple receptables. But it only gains it’s innovative power when it is combined with writing, ie with specialized thinking, at which point it produces something like the scientific revolution.

What, if anything, is “electronic media” like? Of course we can’t answer this question until we know what “electronic media” means: is Ong right that the most important aspect of it is that it allows for instant communication, or is Eliezer right to emphasize the way it allows a feedback loop in the designing of machines? If Eliezer is right that AI GO FOOM, then it doing so resembles nothing so much as the origin of life and thought themselves. In which case it’s silly to think about electronics as a stage in human consciousness, just as it’s silly to think about the origin of human consciousness as a stage in the history of evolution, rather than the stage at which biological evolution ceases to be the most interesting thing going on.

I’m suspicous of this way of thinking, of course, but not so suspicious that I’m willing to dismiss it entirely.

Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, Universorum Regis

November 20, 2016

As so often happens, history figures liturgy. Some poems for the present climate:

“Ovid in the Third Reich,” by Geoffrey Hill:

non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare, solaque famosam culpa professa facit. (Amores, III, xiv)

I love my work and my children. God
Is distant, difficult. Things happen.
Too near the ancient troughs of blood
Innocence is no earthly weapon.

I have learned one thing: not to look down
So much upon the damned. They, in their sphere,
Harmonize strangely with the divine
Choir. I, in mine, celebrate the love-choir.


“Epitaph on a Tyrant,” by W. H. Auden:

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.


“Thou art indeed just,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum: verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.


November 14, 2016

A sequel to my election-day post: now that the apocalypse has arrived, what has been revealed? In fact, very little; almost nothing. On the one hand, because everyone already knew how all but a minute fraction of the population would vote; the outcome was surprising, but the intentions behind the outcome were all known in advance. On the other, because, precisely because the outcome was surprising, we thus far have no idea what it means.


This absence of significance reminds me of an essay written by a professor of mine, Miguel Tamen, called “In Defense of King Louis XVI”. (For those not on a university campus it might be behind a paywall. I’m not sure.) Tamen observes that we often insist on the right to determine the meaning of our actions, and argues that

A conflation of psychology and politics appears to be responsible for this state of affairs. Such is the confusion of self-description with self-­determination that surrendering one’s right to the former feels like surrendering a civil right. Self-description, however, is barely a right, if at all; it is, rather, a matter of being good, true, accurate, and successful at describing this-­thing-­here. Some people are naturally good at it, some learn how to become good at it, some forget how good they once were, and some are hopelessly inept. None should be deprived of their civil rights because they failed the introspection exam, just as no one should be granted any additional right because he or she happened to be at the right time in the right place.

Which is to say: you do not get to decide what your vote meant. You cannot say “I voted for A because of X, not because of Y, and so Y is not my responsibility.” Ignorance of Y is not excuse; you might be culpably ignorant. A belief that X outweighs Y is no excuse; you might be culpably mistaken. Even your belief that you did not vote for A because of Y might be mistaken; you have no special insight into your own motives. You cannot know if your conscience is clean. This is, incidentally, why I do not trust Kant as a moral guide: he assumes that the good will will always recognize its own purity.


Note that your ignorance as to your own culpability is increased, not decreased, by the fact that to vote is to participate in a collective action. “We the people” elected Donald J. Trump president. If you voted, regardless of whom you voted for, you are a member of this “we”; you demonstrated your assent to the system of government under which Trump is the lawful president-elect. (If you want to take your assent back because Trump won, it means that all along your vote was in bad faith.) The meaning of this election might already be determined, but it remains to be seen what it signified, and no one has the authority to decide what their vote meant independent of the meaning of the election as a whole.


At least, so we must say if our vote is to make any sense at all. But I worry—are elections epiphenomenal? By which I mean, does any human being have any significant influence on the results, or are they merely the spontaneous overflow of collective feeling? Does it even make sense to think of the election as a collective action—and if not, is democracy any more meaningful than augury?

In favor of the individual-action theory, we can place these facts: that Clinton could have won if she had just campaigned in the states where she most needed to; that Trump won without winning the popular vote because he realized that he lived in a system where he did not have to do so. The former is pure hubris and ineptitude, the latter a winning strategy open to anyone willing to give up on the idea that winning an election conveys, above and beyond the raw power, some sort of moral legitimacy. These are both comprehensible as human actions, and lend themselves, even in these democratic times, to somewhat of a “great man” theory of politics.

In favor of epiphenomenalism, on the other hand: the fact that it came down to these two candidates in the first place; the fact that not only were both candidates wildly unpopular, but also all of the third party candidates were more laughable than usual; the fact that, despite the caution of the most competent data analysts, all of that part of the country that thinks it represents the country was convinced that Clinton would win easily. None of these facts can be blamed on Trump, or on Clinton, or on any other particular person. Rather, we can identify a number of systemic causes: our “first past the post” voting system (a ranked-preference voting system would have led, if nothing else, to a considerably larger third party vote, and might well have changed the results of the Republican primary); the flash-in-the-pan faux-outrage made possible by Facebook and Twitter; the epistemic bubbles made possible by those same technologies. All of these things could have been otherwise, but could only have been changed by people who had no idea why the change might matter.


Implicit in this skeptical doubt, of course, is the feeling that Facebook and Twitter &co. simply exist, independent of anything we do. I’ve written before about how dangerous this feeling is. What I want to mark now is its pervasiveness. “For those not on a university campus,” I wrote earlier, “it might be behind a paywall, I’m not sure.” It’s difficult to specify why, but I can’t help but think that to make such a link while failing to know such a thing is somehow in bad faith. I have no idea what the election will turn out to mean. For now,  I can’t help but suspect that what we’ve seen so far is more significant as an epiphenomenon of the history of technology than as an action in the arena of politics.