Where tech aligns

Timeline

  • RETURN Podcast, EP01: Decentralized Culture Wars

    RETURN Podcast, EP01: Decentralized Culture Wars

    In the inaugural podcast for RETURN, Editor Jon Stokes sat down with Brantly Millegan to discuss faith, getting canceled, and the history and future of the Ethereum Name Service.

  • Proposal: a pro-natalist “one commandment”

    Balaji Srinivasan’s new book, The Network State, lays out a speculative roadmap for the formation of a new kind of political entity — an online community with its own laws and commerce that eventually grows and evolves to the point where it can acquire land and some of the other hallmarks of what we think of […]

  • New AIs will need new types of institutions

    The fact that all these disparate people are interfacing with the same Mecha-Niskanenzilla bred in a lab by an EA macropolycule is just a weird artifact of the present moment.

  • How Stable Diffusion could end revenge porn

    I’ve been tracking the trials and tribulations of a project called Unstable Diffusion — this is essentially an effort to take the Stable Diffusion code and train a model that can generate “erotic imagery.” In other words, porn, though the project’s backers are careful to position the effort as appealing to other than prurient interests.…

  • A new era in political history

    Looking back on 2022, I expect Twitter’s acquisition will be seen as a turning point in political history. Until this, digital platforms were treated primarily as “tech” companies. Elon Musk recognized that Twitter is effectively a layer of government. While Musk’s experience is not in this sort of governance, he is probably a far more…

  • Where is the discourse?

    There’s an online game I find myself playing way too much of, and I hate it. I would love to never play this game again, but its existence is a consequence of the deep structure of social media, so if I’m going to argue about things on the internet then playing it is unavoidable. I…

  • Kant’s spiders grant the gift of access

    Kant’s spiders grant the gift of access

    Don’t tell my mom, but sometimes I circumvent paywalls on articles. I’ll tell you a reliable way to do so later on in this little blurb. But first, I know what you’re thinking, the good little Kantian that you are, “What if we universalized that maxim, Mason? How would writers make a living?” And that’s…

  • In the swarm, everything is pattern matching

    I see the circle game, but you see a white supremacist hand sign. I see a good-faith disagreement between two deeply held positions, but you see a mask that has finally slipped to reveal the grifter beneath. I see a successful move-fast-and-break-things entrepreneur with an impossibly successful track record of moving fast and breaking things, but you…

  • Kissin the old order goodbye

    “How to Avoid Another War?” It’s a bit late for that. But Henry Kissinger is not done effort posting. No one will listen to his plea for a full-dress late-twentieth-century pathway to peace, from ceasefires to negotiations to internationally supervised referendums. Certainly not Moscow. “Russia would disgorge its conquests thence”? Nyet. But he’s not writing for…

  • Mary Gaitskill’s punk realism

    Mary Gaitskill’s punk realism

    Enough time has passed since the ascendance of the “literary brat pack” that we might be able to reorient its parts more accurately. Because they came at the same time in the 1980s, wrote about the same kinds of people, shared the same publishers, and caroused in the same clubs, the media made a diversified…

  • A very short play about the future

    Scene: Television studio for a public broadcasting talk show. A HOST, in a dark suit and a warm and earnest expression, sits at a circular table across from a large ROBOT wearing a bandana over its glassy top. HOST: Good evening, viewers. My guest tonight is the TITAN 9000, the latest operating model of a verbal processing AI unit made…

  • A koan

    A koan

    When you survey the state of your life, spending Saturday night watching five movies straight and making consistent progress on a $13 12-pack, you think yourself a modern-day Caligula. Yes, Caligula would live this way if he were alive in 2021 AD and not 21 AD. Caligula would wear high-top Chuck Taylors holding onto dear…

  • Trusting technology

    Trusting technology

    Early man wielded fire, turning night into a time of brightness and warmth. In holding an axe, the thicket became passable, shapeable. And so the story has progressed on, as the tools humans have used have changed, so has the world itself been shaped by what is possible through their use. The globe shrunk with…

  • How punk rock is censorship?

    No one in their own conscience believes themselves to be capable of censorship. Certainly not the censorship they imagine, handed down across the decades like civil libertarian lore. No one wants to reflexively suppress ideas they find repugnant. No one wants to ban pornography, violent video games, to obscure perfectly natural nudity, or edit out…

  • The swarm protector

    The swarm protector

    You’ve heard of The Silent Protector. Now meet The Swarm Protector. Instead of catching bullets, grenades, etc., The Swarm Protector distracts the bots and avatars mobilized to distract you from the awareness you need to resist assimilation into the swarm. Especially helpful if you and your friends need bought time to build  technical and social…