That is the title of a paper attempting to explain (away) the 17-year nothing that happened while CAGW models were predicting warming driven by increasing CO2. CO2 increased. Measured GAT did not.
Here’s the money quote: “The most recent climate model simulations used in the AR5 indicate that the warming stagnation since 1998 is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level.”
That is an establishment climatologist’s cautious scientist-speak for “The IPCC’s anthropogenic-global-warming models are fatally broken. Kaput. Busted.”
I told you so. I told you so. I told you so!
I even predicted it would happen this year, yesterday on my Ask Me Anything on Slashdot. This wasn’t actually brave of me: the Economist noticed that the GAT trend was about to fall to worse than 5% fit to the IPCC models six months ago.
Here is my next prediction – and remember, I have been consistently right about these. The next phase of the comedy will feature increasingly frantic attempts to bolt epicycles onto the models. These epicycles will have names like “ENSO”, “standing wave” and “Atlantic Oscillation”.
All these attempts will fail, both predictively and retrodictively. It’s junk science all the way down.
The responses to my previous post, on the myth of the fall, brought out a lot of half-forgotten lore about pre-open-source cultures of software sharing.
Some of these remain historically interesting, but hackers talking about them display the same tendency to back-project present-day conditions I was talking about in that post. As an example, one of my regular commenters inferred (correctly, I think) the existence of a software-sharing community around ESPOL on the B5000 in the mid-1960s, but then described it as “proto-open-source”
I think that’s an easy but very misleading description to land on. In the rest of this post I will explain why, and propose terminology that I think makes a more useful set of distinctions. This isn’t just a historical inquiry, but relevant to some large issues of the present and future.
For those of you who came in late, the B5000 was an early-to-mid-1960s Burroughs mainframe that had a radically unusual trait for the period; its OS was written not in assembler but in a high-level language, a dialect of ALGOL called ESPOL that was extended so it could peek and poke the machine hardware.
B5000 sites could share source-code patches for their operating system, the MCP or Master Control Program (yes, Tron fans, it was really called that!) that were written in a high-level language and thus relatively easy to modify. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time such a thing was done pre-Unix.
But. Like the communities around SHARE (IBM mainframe users) and DECUS (DEC minicomputers) in the 1960s and 1970s, whatever community existed around ESPOL was radically limited by its utter dependence on the permissions and APIs that a single vendor was willing to provide. The ESPOL compiler was not retargetable. Whatever community developed around it could neither develop any autonomy nor survive the death of its hardware platform; the contributors had no place to retreat to in the event of predictable single-point failures.
I’ll call this sort of community “sharecroppers”. That term is a reference to SHARE, the oldest such user group. It also roughly expresses the relationship between these user groups and contributors, on the one hand, and the vendor on the other. The implied power relationship was pretty totally asymmetrical.
Contrast this with early Unix development. The key difference is that Unix-hosted code could survive the death of not just original hardware platforms but entire product lines and vendors, and contributors could develop a portable skillset and toolkits. The enabling technology – retargetable C compilers – made them not sharecroppers but nomads, able to evade vendor control by leaving for platforms that were less locked down and taking their tools with them.
I understand that it’s sentimentally appealing to retrospectively sweep all the early sharecropper communities into “open source”. But I think it’s a mistake, because it blurs the importance of retargetability, the ability to resist or evade vendor lock-in, and portable tools that you can take away with you.
Without those things you cannot have anything like the individual mental habits or collective scale of contributions that I think is required before saying “an open-source culture” is really meaningful.
This is not just a dusty historical point. We need to remember it in a world where mobile-device vendors (yes, I’m looking at you, Apple!) would love nothing more than to lock us into walled gardens of elaborate proprietary APIs, tools, and languages.
Yes, you may be able to share source code with others in environments like that, but you can’t move what you build to anywhere else. Without that ability to exit, developers and users have only an illusion of control; all power naturally flows to the vendor.
No open-source culture can flourish or even survive under those conditions. Keeping that in mind is the best reason to be careful about our terminology.
Everybody knows, or should know, the basic rules of firearms safety. (a) Always treat the weapon as if loaded, (b) Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy, (c) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, (d) be sure of your target and what is beyond it. (These are sometimes called “Cooper’s Rules” after legendary instructor Col. Jeff Cooper. There are several minor variants of the wording.)
If you follow these rules, you will never unintentionally injure anyone with a firearm. They are easy to learn and very safe. They are appropriate for civilians.
Some elite military units have different rules, with a different tradeoff between safety and combat effectiveness. I learned them from an instructor who was ex-SOCOM. The way I learned them is sufficiently amusing that the story deserves retelling.
The instruction began in the following way. Imagine several students sitting in a circle in camp chairs, the instructor almost directly across from me. Note that this was after we had learned and practiced the basic Cooper rules I described above.
The instructor began by clearing a pistol (opening the chamber port so we could see there was no bullet there or ready in the magazine) and letting the slide drop until the port was closed.
He handed me the pistol, looked at me with a slight smile, and said “Eric. Please shoot yourself through the head.”
I thought for a second, grinned, pointed the pistol at my temple, and pulled the trigger. There was a click and shocked gasps from some other students. (The gasps meant they had learned civilian rules correctly. I believe testing this was part of the instructor’s intention.)
The instructor then asked for the pistol back. I handed to him. He fiddled with it for a moment, passed it behind his back, brought it into view, offered it to me with the chamber port closed, and said again “Eric. Please shoot yourself through the head.”
I said “No, sir, I will not.”
His smile got a little wider. “Oh? And why not?”
I said “Because the weapon was out of my sight for a moment and I do not know that it is not ready to fire.” (My exact words may have been slightly different. That was the sense.)
“That was the correct answer,” he said, and proceeded to explain to all of us that elite military units must frequently carry weapons in a combat-ready state, and therefore train safety under different rules that require fighters to reason about when a firearm is in a dangerous condition.
In that exchange I violated Cooper’s Rules (a) and (b). I was thinking like a warrior who must frequently carry weapons in a ready-to-fire condition (because he can’t count on having the time to ready the weapon in a clutch situation) and knows that the warriors around him are trained to do likewise.
I’ll never forget those few minutes, because they taught all of us a valuable lesson. Also because we did not prearrange this! The instructor paid me a notable compliment by assuming that I would respond correctly both in obeying his first order and disobeying his second – and, if you think about it, there was a normative lesson there about intelligent initiative, cooperation and responsibility that goes far beyond the specific context of firearms safety.
UPDATE: Post title changed from “Military rules” because this is a story about how special-ops fighters (“operators” in military jargon) think and react.
I was a historian before I was an activist, and I’ve been reminded recently that a lot of younger hackers have a simplified and somewhat mythologized view of how our culture evolved, one which tends to back-project today’s conditions onto the past.
In particular, many of us never knew – or are in the process of forgetting – how dependent we used to be on proprietary software. I think by failing to remember that past we are risking that we will misunderstand the present and mispredict the future, so I’m going to do what I can to set the record straight.
Some blurriness about how things were back then is understandable; it can sometimes take a bit of effort even for those of us who were there in elder days to remember what it was like before PCs, before the Internet, before pixel-addressable color displays, before ubiquitous version-control systems. And there were so few of us back then – when I first found the Jargon File around 1978 you could fit every hacker in the U.S. in a medium-sized auditorium, and if you were willing to pack the aisles probably every hacker in the world.
A larger and subtler change, the one easiest to forget, is how dependent we were on proprietary technology and closed-source software in those days. Today’s hacker culture is very strongly identified with open-source development by both insiders and outsiders (and, of course, I bear some of the responsibility for that). But it wasn’t always like that. Before the rise of Linux and the *BSD systems around 1990 we were tied to a lot of software we usually didn’t have the source code for.
Part of the reason many of us tend to forget this is mythmaking by the Free Software Foundation. They would have it that there was a lost Eden of free software sharing that was crushed by commercialization in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This narrative projects Richard Stallman’s history at the MIT AI Lab on the rest of the world. But, almost everywhere else, it wasn’t like that either.
One of the few other places it was almost like that was early Unix development from 1976-1984. They really did have something recognizably like today’s open-source culture, though much smaller in scale and with communications links that were very slow and expensive by today’s standards. I was there during the end of that beginning, the last few years before AT&T’s failed attempt to lock down and commercialize Unix in 1984.
But the truth is, before the early to mid-1980s, the technological and cultural base to support anything like what we now call “open source” largely didn’t exist at all outside of those two settings. The reason is brutally simple: software wasn’t portable!
You couldn’t do what you can do today, which is write a program in C or Perl or Ruby or Python with the confident expectation that it will run on multiple architectures. My
first second full-time job writing code, in 1980, was representative for the time: writing communications software on a TRS-80 in Z-80 assembler. Assembler, people!. We wrote a lot of it. Until the early 1980s, programming in high-level languages was the exception rather than the rule. In general, you couldn’t port that stuff!
Not only was portability across architectures a near-impossible dream, you often couldn’t port between instances of the same machine without serious effort. Especially on larger machines, code tended to be intertwined with details of individual site configuration to an extent that would shock people today (IBM JCL was notoriously the worst offender, but by no means the only).
In that kind of environment, arguing about whether code should be redistributable in general was next to pointless, because unless the new machine was specifically designed to be binary-compatible with the old, ports amounted to being re-implementations anyway.
This is why the earliest social experiments in what we would now call “open source” – at SHARE and DECUS – were restricted to individual vendors’ product lines and (often) to individual machine types. And it’s why the cancellation of the PDP-10 follow-on in 1983 was such a disaster for the MIT AI Lab and SAIL and other early hacker groups. There they were, stuck, having folded huge amounts of time and genius into a huge pile of 10 assembler code and no real possibility that it would ever be useful again. And this was normal.
The Unix guys showed us the way out, by (a) inventing the first non-assembler language really suitable for systems programming, and (b) proving it by writing an operating system in it. But they did something even more fundamental — they created the modern idea of software systems that are cleanly layered and built from replaceable parts, and of re-targetable development tools.
Tellingly, Richard Stallman had to co-opt Unix technology in order to realize his vision for the Free Software Foundation. The MIT AI Lab itself never found its way to that new world. There’s a reason the Emacs text editor is the only software artifact of that culture that survives to us, and it had to be rewritten from the ground up on the way. (Correction: A symbolic-math package called MACSYMA also survives, though in relative obscurity.)
Without the Unix-spawned framework of concepts and technologies, having source code simply didn’t help very much. This is hard for younger hackers to realize, because they have no experience of the software world before retargetable compilers and code portability became relatively common. It’s hard for a lot of older hackers to remember because we mostly cut our teeth on Unix environments that were a few crucial years ahead of the curve.
But we shouldn’t forget. One very good reason is that believing a myth of the fall obscures the remarkable rise that we actually accomplished, bootstrapping ourselves up through a series of technological and social inventions to where open source on everyone’s desk and in everyone’s phone and ubiquitous in the Internet infrastructure is now taken for granted.
We didn’t get here because we failed in our duty to protect a prelapsarian software commons, but because we succeeded in creating one. That is worth remembering.
The Dark Enlightenment is, as I have previously noted, a large and messy phenomenon. It appears to me in part to be a granfalloon invented by Nick Land and certain others to make their own piece of it (the neoreactionaries) look larger and more influential than it actually is. The most detailed critiques of the DE so far (notably Scott Alexander’s Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell and Anti-Reactionary FAQ nod in the direction of other cliques on the map I reproduced but focus pretty strongly on the neoreactionaries.
Nevertheless, after we peel away clear outliers like the Techno-Commercial Futurists and the Christian Traditionalists, there remains a “core” Dark Enlightenment which shares a discernibly common set of complaints and concerns. In this post I’m going to enumerate these rather than dive deep into any of them. Development of and commentary on individual premises will be deferred to later blog posts.
(I will note the possibility that I may in summarizing the DE premises be inadvertently doing what Scott Alexander marvelously labels “steelmanning” – that is, reverse-strawmanning by representing them as more logical and coherent than they actually are. Readers should be cautious and check primary sources if in doubt.)
Complaint the first: We are all being lied to – massively, constantly, systematically – by an establishment that many DE writers call “the Cathedral”. Its power is maintained by inculcation in the masses of what a Marxist (but nobody in the DE, ever, except ironically) would call “false consciousness”. The Cathedral’s lies go far deeper than what most people think of as normal tactical political falsehoods or even conspiracy theories, down to the level of some of the core premises of post-Enlightenment civilization and widely cherished beliefs about the sustainability of racial equality, sexual equality, and democracy.
An interesting feature of the DE is how remarkably little conspiracy theorizing there is in it. Instead, DE thinkers tend to describe the Cathedral as what I have elsewhere called a “prospiracy”. The Cathedral is bound together not by a hierarchy of internal control and explicit membership; rather, it runs on a shared set of ideological premises not all of which are held or even completely understood by the people who act as part of it.
To a first approximation, the ideology of the Cathedral can be described as “leftist” (many DE writers use the term “Progressive”, not meaning it as a compliment). However, the DE analysis of Cathedral ideology is actually much more complex and less reductive than these terms might imply (a point on which I expect to expand in later posts).
I will note, by the way, the known backgrounds of several key DE thinkers creates grounds to suspect that my own critical use of “Cathedral” in connection with software engineering had some influence on the DE terminology. I do not particularly claim this as an accomplishment, but there it is.
Complaint the second: “All men are created equal” is a pernicious lie. Human beings are created unequal, both as individuals and as breeding populations. Innate individual and group differences matter a lot. Denying this is one of the Cathedral’s largest and most damaging lies. The bad policies that proceed from it are corrosive of civilization and the cause of vast and needless misery.
Another way the DE puts this complaint is that nobody on the conventional political spectrum takes Darwinism seriously enough. Left-liberals self-identify as the friends of evolution out of a desire to be “on the side of science”, but if they really understood the implications of evolutionary biology and psychology they would be more horrified by them than Christian fundamentalists are.
The emphasis on this complaint is probably the single feature which most distinguishes the DE from other kinds of conservatism and anti-left-wing reaction. I’ll be writing about it at more length because I think it is the most interesting and challenging part of the DE critique.
While I don’t intend to do that here and now, I cannot exit this summary without acknowledging that many people will read this complaint as a brief for racism. In fact the DE itself contains two relatively distinguishable cliques that have processed this complaint in different ways: the Ethno-Nationalists and the Human Bio-Diversity people – in DE jargon, eth-nats and HBD for short.
If you come to the DE looking for straight-up old-fashioned racism, the Ethno-Nationalists will supply your requirement as hot and hateful as you like. The HBD people, on the other hand, are interested in value-neutral Damned Facts. They trade not in invective but in the nuts and bolts of psychometry and behavioral genetics. A signature consequence of the difference is that European-descended white people don’t necessarily come off “best” in the comparisons they make.
Complaint the Third: Democracy is a failure. It has produced a race to the bottom in which politicians grow ever more venal, narrow interest groups ever more grasping, the function of government increasingly degenerates into subsidizing parasites at the expense of producers, and in general politics exhibits all the symptoms of what I have elsewhere called an accelerating Olsonian collapse (after Mancur Olson’s analysis in The Logic Of Collective Action).
If this sounds like a libertarian critique, it in many ways is. One of my commenters noted, astutely, that the DE bears the imprint of Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s libertarian polemic Democracy: The God That Failed. Some of the leading DE thinkers describe themselves as ex-libertarians, but their thinking has often taken some very dark and strange anti-libertarian turns since. (I’ll have more to say about this in discussing Mencius Moldbug, who is worth a post all to himself).
Note to commenters: Please do not dive into attacking or defending these premises; that will be appropriate when I discuss them individually. Appropriate discussion for this post is whether I have missed major premises or gotten these wrong in any significant way.
I expect future posts in this series to include both a closer focus on individual premises ansd on individual cliques within the Dark Enlightenment.
This is a shout-out to all martial artists and would-be martial artists in the western Philadelphia exurbs, especially: Phoenixville, Spring City, Collegeville, Mont Clare, Upper Providence, Lower Schuylkill, Valley Forge, Charlestown/Malvern, Kimberton, Audubon, and Lower Perkiomen.
I train under Sifu Dale Yeager at the Kuntao Martial Arts Club in Phoenxville, and my school has a weird problem. It’s having trouble keeping students, and near as I can figure the trouble is that the school is too good!
Seriously. We have lots of people wander in, expecting the kind of near-useless pablum that’s peddled at endless numbers of interchangeable strip-mall karate emporia. Too many spend a couple weeks finding out how rigorously we train and bail. It’s not even that our style is physically that difficult; it’s way less strenuous than, say, kickboxing or hard-style karate. But it does demand concentration, mental flexibility, a willingness to learn challenging movement sequences, and the intelligence to integrate individual moves into an entire tactical system.
We teach a blend of traditional wing chun kung fu and Philippine weapons arts, with early emphasis on short blades (higher levels go to swords). It’s a close infighting style, and Sifu thinks a major reason we don’t pull in more newbies is that we look as scary as hell when we do it. I can’t disagree. There’s a quiet, ferocious intensity to the training that drew me in immediately but might turn off anybody who was just looking for exercise.
I’m posting because I’m worried about the school. We only have about twelve to fifteen people showing up regularly; sifu just told his instructors we need to get up to around thirty because the expenses for rent and equipment aren’t going anywhere but up. He doesn’t want to jack up fees because he doesn’t really run the school for money – he’s got a pretty well-paying day job, he’s interested in passing on what he knows to the best students he can find.
And we are good students. In more than twenty years of martial arts training at more than half a dozen schools I’ve found a style this interesting and a student group this impressive maybe twice. The level of commitment and mutual help is high. (It’s a mainly mixed adult group with a wide age range and one or two older children.)
If this sounds attractive to you, come train with me. You don’t have to be a twenty-year student like my wife and I, nor a natural athlete, but you do have to be ready to train with intensity and focus. Your mind will be exercised harder than your body.
I can especially recommend the training to the sorts of people most likely to be reading this. That is programmers, engineers, techies, and geeks of all description who already get it about mental discipline and flow states. Kuntao will engage you better than the strip-mall crap ever could.
Chase the link above or call 610-237-3902 ext 803
For at least fifteen years my name and its tri-letterization has been something with which you could conjure up a lot of attention among hackers and other sorts of geek. This fact presented the more clueful of my personal friends with a delicate problem: under what circumstances would it be proper for them to invoke this instrument?
I have actually been asked for guidance about this more than once. I developed some guidelines more than a decade ago. To the best my knowledge my friends have been pretty good about applying them. I present them here for your amusement.
1. Please do not drop my name to score cheap social-status points. That’s crass and I don’t like it.
2. Do drop my name if by doing so you can achieve some mission objective of which I would approve. Examples that have come up: encouraging people to design in accordance with the Unix philosophy, or settling a dispute about hacker slang, or explaining why it’s important for everyone’s freedom for the hacker community to hang together and not get bogged down in internal doctrinal disputes.
3. Do drop my name if by doing it you can rock someone’s world in a positive way. A case of this that comes up fairly often is encouraging a young proto-hacker.
4. Do drop my name if doing so would be funny. Funny is even an acceptable excuse for scoring social-status points with it – if you think I’ll laugh when I hear the story, go right ahead.
And yes, I apply these rules (or obvious analogs thereof) to myself. I think it’s vulgar to wave my fame around in contexts where it’s irrelevant. It can be very amusing, if you’re clued in, to watch what happens when somebody in a group of programmers (or gamers or SF fans or any other population that oversamples programmers) that hasn’t met me before twigs to The Presence.
If this attitude seems odd to you, understand that fame is exhausting and psychologically dangerous (I have a lot more sympathy for rock stars who fuck themselves up with drugs than before I felt the pressure myself). Ironic detachment from one’s own celebrity is, I have found, an effective coping strategy.
My distant friend Kent Lundgren, one of the most capable and thoughtful firearms instructors out there, has written a blog post addressing the tricky question of how we might filter potential carriers of concealed weapons for competence without involving the government.
I’ve struggled with this one myself. Kent is right on, we absolutely do not want the government to have an easy pretext to forbid people from bearing arms; that is too dangerous a power to let government have. Any legal bar should have preconditions at least as difficult for the state as a finding of clinical insanity.
Yes, private-sector competency tests might be a good thing. I’m all in favor of voluntary certification. It’s the produce-on-demand part Kent suggests that’s a little worrying. We’ve got more than enough of “Your papers, please” in America already – it’s not a demand that is compatible with a free society in the long term.
Thinking about it now, though, I’m not sure how much good a firearms competency certification would actually do for basic safety. Such proposals would have the same adverse-selection problem that “gun control” laws do; the people you don’t want armed are exactly the people most likely to flout them. The effect of all such filters is perverse, to disarm only the conscientious and law-abiding.
The most important thing to remember when thinking about this sort of policy issue is a criminological fact I learned from Don B. Kates: that gun crimes and accidents are highly concentrated in an approximately 3% cohort of the population that is also strongly deviant by other measures, including: rates of domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, auto accidents, rates of criminal conviction, and accident proneness. Low intelligence and low impulse control are nearly defining traits of this group. Elsewhere I have borrowed some cop slang and called these people “mooks”.
Your chances of being shot deliberately or accidentally by a non-mook are on a par with your chances of being struck by lightning – such instances are so rare that each one gets individual newspaper coverage (incidentally misleading us to way overestimate the frequency).
The trouble with an (essentially) voluntary certification requirement is that non-mooks don’t need it and mooks won’t bother with it. The criminal mooks would laugh at the requirement the same way they laugh at “gun control” laws, and the mere losers generally wouldn’t have their act together enough to go through the procedural hoops. They’d carry anyway, though, because they’re stupid and thus exceptionally prone to the Dunning-Krueger effect, overestimating their own competence.
Where does this leave private-sector certification proposals? Basically, in the same bad place as “gun control” laws, without the go-directly-to-jail threat. The training requirement might do some good at slightly increasing competence levels among non-mooks, but non-mooks are already so unlikely to shoot each other that I’m doubtful any improvement in safety would breach the statistical noise level.
Storm Pax hit my area today as we were just recovering, still a bit dazed and reeling, from Storm Nika. This brought me 14 inches of snow, and it brings you a tale of progress in small things and how odd the brain’s information-retrieval process can be.
My wife, perversely, actually likes shoveling snow. Which is a good thing because there was a shit-ton of the stuff on our driveway this morning. She carved a channel from the car to the sidewalk, which had been cleared all along our street by some helpful soul with a snowblower well before we ventured outside. But that left a ridge of snow, easily 4.5′ high and 6′ thick, between the driveway/sidewalk and the middle of the street. It was heavy, half-compacted spoil thrown by a plow truck; that happens a lot here after winter storms.
Contemplating that mini-mountain, I nearly despaired of getting our car out until the spring thaw. I knew that as bad as it looked, it was going to get worse – three inches or more of snow are due tonight.
Then I noticed that the new neighbor had carved his way through that ridge with what, by the way the snow was packed vertically around the cut, had to be a snowblower. Went over, knocked, introduced myself, and asked for the loan of the thing. New neighbor turned out to be an affable sort, a gray-haired blue-collar regular joe who introduced himself as “Gordo” and was quite cheerfully willing to let me use it.
That’s how I found myself pushing your typical American gas-powered snowblower out to the sidewalk. Two-stroke gasoline engine with a rope start, yup, seen those before, mildly dreading getting it to fire up. I never happen to have worked a snowblower before, but have childhood memories of my dad fighting for fifteen minutes at a stretch to get similar beasts started on push lawnmowers. Never had to do that myself; my generation got pretty spoiled by electric-starting riding mowers.
Hmm. Directions: Turn key to “Run” position, choke lever to full, press priming button three times, pull rope slowly until there’s resistance then quickly. My eyebrows rose. You mean they’re actually telling me I don’t have to yank as hard as I can as fast as I can? This is not yer father’s lawnmower. Progress in small things…
Damn me if it didn’t start second time (first time I hadn’t got the hang of where the resistance kicked in). This is the first burden of my tale; progress in small things matters. When was the first year that some engineer figured out how to make a two-stroke engine you don’t have to swear at and futz with endlessly to get to fire up? When was the first year they put actually helpful instructions in large print, located near the controls?
OK, so I went after the ridge with a roaring snowblower. Found out it was work; sucker carves and throws snow nicely but doesn’t push itself. Then I found out that this snowblower ain’t so happy taking on a ridge that overtops the blade aperture by a couple of feet. It’s a light-duty machine really meant for snow accumulations of less than a foot or so, not one of the monster-mawed things ski resorts use.
Time to invoke my wife and the shovel. If she knocks down the higher parts of the ridge the blower will be able to chew up and throw the results. Thinking to be economical with my neighbor’s gasoline, I shut the machine off and went inside to explain the situation.
A few minutes of shovel teamwork later Cathy and I had the ridge lowered and broken up enough for the snowblower to cope. Then…I found I couldn’t get it started again. Let the swearing begin…
Now comes the second burden of my tale, which is how odd memory retrieval can be sometimes. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what’s different this time and how to get the engine restarted. And, all unbidden, an audio track starts playing in my head. It’s Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly, from the 1987 A Momentary Lapse of Reason album.
I have very, very good auditory memory. It includes details like pick-scrape noise in guitar solos that a lot of people don’t even seem to actually hear. For this track, it includes stretches of near-unintelligible radio chatter between pilots and ATCs that are used as a sound-wash background for instrumental parts of the arrangement. This is running in my head, and out jump two words: “mixture’s rich”.
Aha! I go over to the snowblower and back the choke off about 15% from the high setting, pull the start cord, and it fires up instantly.
Did you get that? My unconscious mind found a way to tell me what my conscious mind hadn’t figured out. The fuel-air mixture in the snowblower was too rich; I needed to back it off and let the spark have more oxygen.
Now we can get to the street and I have acquired a minor life skill; next time I have to baby a two-stroke engine I’ll know exactly what to do. Thank you, clever unconscious mind!
Does this happen to other people?
I’m back home with the power on. Normal hacking and blogging will resume.
There’s four days I don’t want to have to do over again. Cold, stress, constant fatigue, consequent inability to concentrate…being a disaster-displaced person, it turns out, is psychologically difficult even if you have money and a good support network and a hotel in a First World country to fall back on.
The difference between voluntarily breaking your routine and having it forcibly ruptured for you really matters. I’m a pretty adventurous sort, normally utterly unfazed by travel and novelty and cheerfully willing to go on extended away missions, but this time I got barely a lick of work done on my laptop – I found myself aching for my desk and my computer and my routine.
Not just me, either. Cathy was working hard on not complaining but she was looking rather pinched and drawn by day two. I think of the three of us our cat coped best; by the time we relocated her from the frigid shell of Chez Raymond to my mother’s house on Day Three her attitude was clearly “as long as beloved humans are nearby, I’m OK”.
Sugar is so amiable that it’s easy not to notice that she’s as tough as old boot leather. She turned 21 during the storm. And no, you wouldn’t have been able to tell she’s the feline equivalent of a centenarian; she investigated my mother’s place as bright-eyed and curiously as a kitten. Did us both good to see it.
Upcoming: More on the Dark Enlightenment, a progress report on the Emacs repository conversion, and maybe a review of the Julia language. But I have to dig myself out from under some backlog first.
The title was a joke. The rest of this is not.
Cathy Raymond and I evacuated from our home this morning. We’ve never had to do that before.
Storm Nika has totally messed over the five-county area around Philadelphia. I’ve seen more downed power lines today than in my entire life until yesterday. Many roads are blocked by fallen trees. Over 600,000 people are without power; PECO has declared an all-hands emergency but says even so service may not be fully restored until the weekend.
This is much, much worse than Hurricane Sandy was. Regional rail is shut down. Most businesses are closed. So many homes are becoming uninhabitable that the county is setting up emergency shelters in schools.
Nominally it’s around 32F with little wind-chill but the freezing rain (now stopped, but could resume) soaks through clothes rapidly and I had minor cold burns around my ankles this morning from (unavoidably) walking through deep slush.
You would not want to be caught outside in this, hypothermia could sneak up on you and kill you much faster than is obvious. I felt it coming on a little when I was helping clear fallen trees from a friend’s driveway; fortunately, I could limit my exposure.
Temperatures are supposed to drop ten degrees tonight. As wet at it is now, that’ll turn a lot of roads into glare ice.
We’re OK. We were on the ball enough to nail down a hotel room a couple of hours before most people figured out they ought to. It’s only a couple of minutes from home; we can easily retrieve anything we need, it’s just not safe to try to live there yet.
We check on the house occasionally. Damage from treefalls is a minor but not insignificant concern. Also Sugar is still there; while she’s nicely demonstrating that all that cat fur is not purely decorative, Cathy worries.
Dammit, this year I am going to install a generator at the house. One instance of having to bug out is enough…and given the Maunder-Minimum-like trend in solar activity there’s probably more of this coming, not less. Hey, all you AGW idiots? It would be nice if we could actually have some global warming…?
The Dark Enlightenment is a group of thinkers and blogs that has aroused a fair amount of controversy in the last several years. Most people who write about them from the outside piously dismiss them as a gang of crypto- and not-so-crypto- fascists, or a sort of grunting neanderthalism dressed up in intellectual clothes. The reality, as usual, is not so simple.
I’ve been meaning to write about them for a while, and the first question I’m going to raise is whether they meaningfully present a single subject at all.
Here’s a recent version of an affinity map that has seen wide circulation. External link, might go stale; if it does, throw “dark enlightenment map” in a search engine to get something similar.
Just looking at the map, someone unfamiliar with the players would be justified in wondering if there’s really any coherence there at all. And that’s a fair question. Some of the people the map sweeps in don’t think of themselves as “Dark Enlightenment” at all. This is notably true of the light green cluster marked “Techno-Commercialists/Futurists” at the top, and the “Economists” connected to it in yellow.
If I belonged on this map, that’s where I’d be. I know Eliezer Yudkowsky; the idea that he and the Less Wrong crowd and Robin Hanson feel significant affinity with most of the rest of that map is pretty ludicrous.
Note, however, that one of only two links to the rest is “Nick Land”. This is a clue, because Nick Land is probably the single most successful booster of the “Dark Enlightenment” meme. It’s in his interest to make the movement look as big and various as he can manage, and I think this map is partly in the nature of a successful con job or dezinformatsiya.
In this, Land is abetted by people outside the movement who are well served by making it look like the Dark Enlightenment is as big and scary as possible. Some of those people lump in the techno-futurist/economist group out of dislike for that group’s broadly libertarian politics – which though very different from the reactionary ideas of the core Dark Enlightenment, is also in revolt against conventional wisdom. Others lump them in out of sheer ignorance.
So, my first contention is that Nick Land has pulled a fast one. That said, I think there is a core Dark Enlightenment – mostly identifiable with the purple “Political Philosophy” group, but with some crossover into HBD and Masculinity and (possibly) the other groups at the bottom of the map.
Additionally, maps like this can sometimes reinforce existing affinities if people on both ends notice them and take them seriously. Even in my limited and occasional investigation, I think I’ve seen some signs of convergence between “Political Philosophy” and “Masculinity”, with people in both groups adopting each others’ tropes and language more than they were doing on my first exposure to either.
It would not at all surprise me if there is something similar going on with the “Ethno-Nationalists”, a group about which I know only a little (and most of what I know is pretty nasty). I’m unqualified to write about the “Christian Traditionalists”, about which I know nothing, but I suspect this may be another spurious link. Same goes for “Femininity”.
From my reading, I think we are on firmest ground speaking of a “Dark Enlightenment” if we zero in on the middle tier of the map: “Political Philosophy”, “Secular Traditionalists”, “HBD”, and “Masculinity”. The link density of the map backs this up. Land and other Dark Enlightenment maximalists, though willing to write in spurious connections to inflate the movement, don’t seem to be wrong about these.
My original plan was to write a sort of view from high altitude of the whole congeries, but I think I’m going to have to break that up into several themed blog entries. Watch this space.
Here is a curious fact.
My wife Cathy is using Duolingo to learn German; she wants to be able to read sources on Iron Age and Viking costume in the original.
Duolingo takes her through a lot of pronunciation drills.
I’ve learned something by listening to her – which is that somehow, somewhere, I have internalized a very precise understanding of German phonology and phonotactics. As in, I not only know right pronunciation from wrong, I give her detailed advice on how to match Duolingo’s model speaker that we can both tell is correct.
What makes this weird is that I don’t speak German. At all. Nor have I ever lived where it’s spoken; I’ve visited Germany once, German-speaking Switzerland once, and that’s it.
This raises questions in my mind:
1. How the fuck? I mean, I suppose it’s related to my knack for generating names in the style of any specified language, and I could handwave about Markov-chain models, but…how the fuck?
2. What dialect of German have I templated on? Could there be any way to tell?
3. What other entire language phonologies have I swallowed … without … me … actually … noticing …
4. Does this happen to other people?
The human brain is a very odd thing.
I fell down a rabbit hole today. By reading this: An Incomplete Guide to Feminist infighting. Bemused, I chased links and read manifestos and counter-manifestos for a couple of hours until the sources just began to repeat themselves. But in some respects my confusion was just beginning.
As I was falling through all these diatribes like Alice wondering how deep the rabbit hole goes, one of the thoughts uppermost in my mind was Poe’s Law: “Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”
There was no humor down this rabbit hole. I found myself in the land beyond parody. On this evidence, I suspect it would be nigh-impossible to write a literate spoof of modern feminism that even many of its disputants wouldn’t blithely mistake for a real ideological position. And I found myself thinking of the Sokal Hoax.
Somebody, I thought, really ought to go all hermeneutics-of-quantum-gravity on these women just to see what happens. And then it hit me: maybe someone already has! It is impossible to tell how many of these women are ironists being “performative” (one of their favorite words) because all of them sound so precisely like an anti-feminist’s cruelest parody of the movement.
I mean, are they even women, really? On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog. Could these feminist twitter wars be an elaborate fiction accidentally generated by beer-swilling men in wife-beater T-shirts, each a master of the art of satire but utterly convinced by circumstances that everyone else in the flamewars is a sincere paragon of feminist outrage with immaculate activist credentials?
Fucked if I know. Sure, there are external checks one would apply – some of the disputants report having jobs at identifiable institutions. My point is that I can’t tell how anybody could falsify the wife-beater hypothesis going strictly on the rhetoric. That’s how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Actually, in a way it would it would be nice to think the wife-beater hypothesis is true and real feminists are off doing something healthier and more useful. Alas, I doubt this is the case; I suspect what we see here is what we get. So, under that depressing premise, what does it look like down the rabbit hole?
The most conspicuous thing is that these women ooze “privilege” from every pore. All of them, not just the white upper-middle-class academics but the putatively “oppressed” blacks and transsexuals and what have you. It’s the privilege of living in a society so wealthy and so indulgent that they can go years – even decades – without facing a reality check.
And yet, these women think they are oppressed, by patriarchy and neoliberalism, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and there’s a continuous arms race to come up with new oppression modalities du jour and how many intersectional categories each player can claim.
While these children of privilege are filling out their victimological bingo cards…elsewhere, women are treated like chattels. Raped under color of law. Genitally mutilated. But none of this enters the charmed circle of modern American feminism. So much safer to rage at the Amerikkan phallocracy that provides them with cushy jobs writing about their outrage for audiences almost as insulated from reality as they are. Not to mention all those obliging men who will grow their food, fix their plumbing, mow their lawns, and know their place.
There were pictures. Such pictures! They all look alike, from the cutesy white chicks with hipster glasses to the black WOCs with dreadlocks. It took me a while to figure out why, but I got it eventually. It was like browsing some Renaissance painter’s gallery of fin-de-race noblemen. Such arrogance, such entitlement, all those faces suffused with a a bland and unimpeachable conviction of their own superiority and righteousness. No wonder they fight each other like cats in a sack!
I cannot do justice to the sheer, pluripotent absurdity revealed by these twitter wars; it would take the powers of a Jonathan Swift to do that. I think I may have some light to shed on how it got so hilariously you can’t-make-this-stuff-up awful, though.
Years ago, I wrote about kafkatrapping, and uttered this warning: “At the extreme, such causes frequently become epistemically closed, with a jargon and discourse so tightly wrapped around the logical fallacies in the kafkatraps that their doctrine is largely unintelligible to outsiders.”
I think that is almost exactly what has happened here. While I had certain varieties of feminism in mind when I wrote that, it now appears that I grossly underestimated the degree to which closure had taken hold or would do so. While I wasn’t looking, they went from incestuous to plain ridiculous.
And to return to an older theme – I think this sort of bitter involution is what eventually and inevitably happens when you marinate in left-wing duckspeak for long enough. (Clue: if you find yourself using the word “neoliberal” as non-ironically as these women do, you’re there. For utter lack of meaning outside of a dense thicket of self-referential cod-Marxist presuppositions disconnected from reality, this one has few rivals.)
Accordingly, George Orwell would have no trouble at all identifying the language of the feminist twitter wars as a form of Newspeak, designed not to convey thought but suppress it. Indeed, part of the content of the wars is that some of these women dimly sort of get this – see the whole argument over “callout culture”. But none of them can wake up enough to see that the problem is not just individual behaviors. Because to do that they’d have to face how irretrievably rotten and oppressive their entire discourse has become, and their worldview would collapse.
Ah well. This too shall pass. The university system and establishment journalism are both in the process of collapsing under their own weight. With them will go most of the ecological niches that support these precious, precious creatures in their luxury. Massive reality check a’coming. No doubt the twitter wars will continue, but in historical terms they won’t last long.
This is a pre-announcement of the
second third Friends of Armed & Dangerous party.
FOAD 2014 will be held at Penguicon 2014, in Southfield, MI, almost certainly on the evening of Saturday May 3rd (but we don’t have a confirmed party-floor booking yet).
I believe John Bell is planning to run a Geeks with Guns the Friday before, so come equipped. Yes, personal weapons are considered an article of proper attire for the FOAD party – especially firearms or swords.
More details as they become available.
This is a brief heads-up that the reason I’ve been blog silent lately is that I’m concentrating hard on a sprint with what I consider a large payoff: getting the Emacs project fully converted to git. In retrospect, choosing Bazaar as DVCS was a mistake that has presented unnecessary friction costs to a lot of contributors. RMS gets this and we’re moving.
I’m also talking with RMS about the possibility that it’s time to shoot Texinfo through the head and go with a more modern, Web-friendly master format. Oh, and time to abolish info entirely in favor of HTML. He’s not entirely convinced yet of this, but he’s listening.
You might think “Huh? Emacs already has a git mirror. What else needs to be done?” Quite a lot, actually, starting with lifting Bazaar commit references into a form that will still make sense in a git log listing. Read the recent emacs-devel list archives if you’re really curious.
Fixing these things are important to me as part of a larger project: cracking Emacs out of an encrustation of practices and history that has made it seem insular and archaic to a lot of younger hackers who grew up with the faster pace and the techniques of the web.
RMS did too good a job. Because Emacs can be a total environment that you never have to step out of, the culture around it has tended to become inward-looking and hold on to habits that smell two decades old now.
My favorite quote about this is from Text Editors in The Lord of the Rings:
Vast, ancient, gnarled and mostly impenetrable, tended by a small band of shepherds old as the world itself, under the command of their leader, Neckbeard. They possess unbelievable strength, are infuriatingly slow, and their land is entirely devoid of women. It takes forever to say anything in their strange, rumbling language.
Fortunately, RMS recognizes that this points at a real problem. Some of his senior devs don’t get it…
And if the idea of RMS and ESR cooperating to subvert Emacs’s decades-old culture from within strikes you as both entertaining and bizarrely funny…yeah, it is. Ours has always been a more complex relationship than most people understand.
In a response to my previous post, on Acausality and the Scientific Mind, a commenter said: “The computationalist position necessarily entails that subjectivity does not really exist, and what looks like subjectivity is a mere illusion without causal force.”
There are, I’m sure, many vulgar and stupid versions of computationalism that have this as a dogma. But it is not at all difficult to construct a computationalist model in which there are features that map to “subjectivity” and have causal force. Here is a sketch:
Human beings have minds that are persistent information patterns of very high complexity. These patterns evolve over time, incorporating memory (both memories about sense data and memories about features of past mental states). The path can in principle be modeled as a computation in which the inputs are the present mental state and sensory inputs, and the result is a succeeding mental state. (The last sentence is the computationalist position.)
The computational path of a mind in the space of its possible mental states is chaotic, in the sense that its future has sensitive dependence on unmeasurable features of its present state (it is not significant to my argument whether the indeterminacy is quantum, classical, or due to computational intractability). The mind is therefore, as a whole, intractable to prediction.
Now we face the procedural question of how we identify a mental state. We do this in the same way we identify the state of a collection of matter: by measuring observable consequences. We observe that mental states of different people can be grouped into equivalence classes by observable consequences. (If this were not so, language, art, and communication in general would be impossible.)
Next, we observe that important features of our mental states are not intractable to prediction. We know this because people can form predictive models of each others’ mental states; in fact people rely so heavily on this ability that there is a strong case we evolved into sophonts in order to get better at it.
It is important, and bears emphasizing at this point, that we now have a model of mind in which (a) some features of its state at any given moment are tractable to prediction, (b) other features are not tractable to prediction, and (c) the tractable and intractable features are causally entangled with each other and are both inputs to ongoing computation.
Now I propose a definition: the “subjectivity” of a human being is that portion of his or her evolving mental state which is intractable to prediction by any observer.
I think it is not difficult to see that this definition accords with our intuitive notion of “subjectivity”. But here is the important point: As so defined, subjectivity is not a mere epiphenomenon or illusion. It has causal force because it is an input to the computation of future mental states which have observable consequences.
See, that was easy. Subjectivity reconciled to computationalism in less than 20 minutes of writing. A lot of philosophers of mind seem to be remarkably thick-headed.
There is enough right about David Gelernter’s essay The Closing of the Scientific Mind to make it important to recognize where he has gone wrong. His willingness to call out certain kinds of widely popular modern errors is admirable, but does not preserve him from having made some rather more traditional errors of his own.
The problem is not in Dr. Gelernter’s indictment of reductive materialism. In his terms, I’m a materialist myself, but I sympathize with his complaint. I cringe, sometimes, at the clumsy eagerness some materialists display to throw out subjectivity and anything else that they fear might let the camel’s nose of religion back into the tent.
What Dr. Gelernter has right is that the reductionists have overreached, tending to hammer flat the texture of human experience as it is actually lived and to react with wholly inappropriate fury when someone like Thomas Nagel suggests that there may be phenomena of consciousness that can only be understood from within a frame that includes consciousness.
Thomas Nagel may be right or he may be wrong – but the questions he is trying to ask and formulate are important ones, not to be dismissed out of what Dr. Gelernter describes (with some justice) as “cowardice”.
But Dr. Gelernter’s rebuttal suffers from overreach of its own. He writes as though the reductionists are merely having some inexplicable sort of tantrum, rather than being energized by the terrifying reality behind the camel’s nose. It is 2014 and religious suicide bombers have shrapnel-stormed schoolbuses full of children so often that we have grown numbed to the horror. More prosaically, creationists are trying to ban the teaching of science. Wholesale revulsion against faith-driven thinking is more reasonable – and the reductionist excesses it motivates as a reaction correspondingly less unreasonable – than Dr. Gelernter is willing to admit.
A graver problem is that Dr. Gelernter’s counterargument smells like an attempt to smuggle religious particularism back into the tent while pretending he is talking in a philosophically neutral way. It is hard not to suspect this when he sets up his argument in part by speaking of “religious discoveries” as though we are all expected to believe this is a combination of words that makes obvious and actual sense.
This tendency is further on display in Dr. Gelernter’s attack on Ray Kurzweil’s transhumanism. Whether Kurzweil’s predictions are right or wrong isn’t any more the point here than whether Thomas Nagel’s attempt to rescue subjectivity nails all the details. No: the problem is that when Dr. Gelernter writes sentences like “Whether he knows it or not, Kurzweil believes in and longs for the death of mankind.”, Dr. Gelernter is presuming an authority to define “humanity” that he does not actually posess.
I have a friend who, after cataract surgery, can see into the ultraviolet. And several others with cochlear implants that use microprocessors to feed sound into their auditory nerves. Are these not humans? There are other people experimenting with artificial senses even as we speak – as one example, with coated implanted ball bearings inserted under the skin of fingertips giving them a useful ability to sense magnetic fields. Are *these* not humans?
Where, and on what principles, does Dr. Gelernter propose to draw a line? If his hypothetical “man with stainless steel skin, a small nuclear reactor for a stomach, and an IQ of 10,000″ were to appear and assert himself to share the condition of humanity, what position would Dr. Gelernter be in to deny this? And, as an observant Jew who necessarily lives in the shadow of the Holocaust, does Dr. Gelernter really want to be in the position of denying the humanity of any being that claims it?
Behind Dr. Gelernter’s outrage about the supposed inhumanity of Kurzweil’s vision there lurks, rather obviously, the religious notion that [sic] “mankind” is created in the image and likeness of God, and what Kurzweil desires to construct as our future is a species of blasphemy. Without this covert religious premise – without the horror of blasphemy and Godlessness – Dr. Gelernter’s essay dissolves into a disconnected ramble among trends not obviously connected except by Dr. Gelernter’s dislike of them.
This is unfortunate, because it damages Dr. Gelernter’s credibility in arguing a case that genuinely needs to be made. There is something gone very badly wrong when science and philosophy banish the primary data of human experience and emotion from the discussion and ignore the embodiedness of our consciousness. Dr. Gelernter’s plea for cognitive scientists to attend to what he calls “subjective humanism” is much the best-argued and strongest part of his essay. It is a damned shame when a critic of their failure as sharp and well-equipped as Dr. Gelernter then promptly exiles himself to the box marked “religious conservative – epistemologically insane – ignore”.
To actually be in the game, Dr. Gelernter needs to do better than merely attacking what he calls “computationalism” – because there really isn’t anywhere else to land. If the mind and brain are not entirely computational machines causally entangled with the material universe, what else are they? What else could they be, even in principle?
I have shown elsewhere, in my essay “Predictability, Computability, and Free Will”, that the intuitive model of human minds as containing some sort of autonomous uncaused cause, anything that would make them other than computational machines, rapidly leads to nonsense. We can, it turns out, purchase ontological specialness only at the cost of losing any warrant to believe in reliable causation at all.
Therefore, the true challenge before us is to construct a respectful, humane account of subjectivity and “sanctity of life” that fits with computationalism. Dr. Gelernter is right to blast large swathes of computer science, philosophy, and cognitive science for ducking this problem by chucking subjectivity out the window – but he can be no help in fixing this as long as the answer lurking behind his critique is “the breath of God”.
This may sound like a specific objection to religion, but it is not. The real problem with the breath of God, if there is such a thing, is that it’s an uncaused cause that intrinsically destroys our ability to form predictive theories. Even if Dr. Gelernter were to disclaim his religion, any attempt to locate some special cause of subjectivity outside the mechanism would have the same problem; it could succeed only to the extent that it destroys our ability to do any science at all.
My challenge to Dr. Gelernter, then, is to choose: are you a scientist or a believer in acausal miracles? You only get to choose one.
Here’s a late New Year’s gift for all you repository-editing fiends out there: the long-awaited and perhaps long-dreaded reposurgeon 3.0.
In Heads up: the reposturgeon is mutating! I described the downside of a strategy of incremental small language changes aimed at preserving compatibility: you can wind up trapped by suboptimal early decisions. Sometimes, you have to bust out and do the big redesign, which I did and why there’s a bump in the major version number (the last time that happened was when reposurgeon got the ability to read Subversion dump files directly).
The biggest change is that the command language syntax has mutated from VSO to SVO. What? You’re not up on your comparative linguistic morphology and gave no idea what I’m talking about? That’s Verb-Subject-Object to Subject-Verb-Object.
Before 3.0 the order of syntactic elements in a command was: action verb first, then (for most commands) an event selection set, then (for some commands) an object like a directory or repository name. Now the selection set always comes first, followed by the action verb, followed by any object-like arguments.
This change makes the syntax more regular and easier to describe. Easier mainly because there is no longer any of the previous confusion, when a selection set was present after the command verb, over what the first argument of the command was. The selection set, or what came after it? (Correct answer: what came after.)
In making this change I am moving closer to a Unix design archetype that had already influenced reposurgeon pretty heavily: ed(1). ed had a horrendously awful UI by modern standards, but it was (and still is) great for scripting. If you think of ed as a record editor for which the records are text lines, and study its selection syntax, the influence – and the reasons ed makes a useful model for what reposurgeon is doing – should be obvious.
A significant new feature is that reposurgeon now has a user-definable macro facility. I have written in the past that these are generally a bad idea and I still think that’s true in general. (One representative major problem with them is that when macro expressions cross certain kinds of syntactic boundaries in the base language they often become a serious impediment to readability and maintainability.)
But I found I wanted macros while converting the groff repository, and reposurgeon’s base language is simple in some ways that make the obscuring effect of macros less dangerous. There are no analogs of the “++” postfix operator which in C makes “#define square(x) (x)*(x)” such a wonderful way to generate unanticipated side effects. (Hint: consider what happens when you say “square(a++)”. How many times will a be incremented, again?)
Many small irritations in the language have been fixed. “delete” now really means delete and is no longer overloaded with several variants of a commit-squashing operation; that is now “squash”. (Yes, this adopts some git terminology.)
Pathset syntax is now simpler and more powerful. For starters, pathsets now match not only commits touching matching paths but the content blobs that the paths point at (you can select either subset by qualifying with the =C or =B selectors). This is particularly useful in connection with the ‘filter’ command, which allows you to modify comments and blobs by passing them through a user-specified filter.
There are lots of other changes as well. If you have worked with reposurgeon before you’ll have a bit of relearning to do. Sorry about that, but experience has taught me that (when you can get away with it at all) one big, obvious compatibility break is kinder than a long-drawn-out series of little ones that leave everybody wondering what the feature set of the week is,