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    I LOVE the existence of classes like this. Regardless of politics, exploring new ways of organizing software is fascinating to me. I wish this course diverted away from Urbit-specificness and discussed more forms of “Martian Computing” such as Collapse OS, Mu, Nebulet, or redshirt. Cutting away legacy code and starting from scratch is an amazing topic that can be explored in a number of ways, and I’m glad classes like this are encouraging this exploration.

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      Agreed. I’m obviously interested in what the Urbit project is trying to do, but there’s no reason that there shouldn’t be other projects trying to rethink the foundations of personal computing, compared to the ultimately Unix-based world we (largely) live in today.

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      Is this course available to anyone online? All I can access is the syllabus page. Also, is this affiliated/funded with the university? Seems like a possibly controversial course topic.

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        Seems like a possibly controversial course topic.

        I don’t know if this is what you had in mind, but it’s what everyone else is going to have in mind:

        The Urbit platform was conceived and first developed in 2002 by Curtis Yarvin.

        That name pinged something in me, so I clicked the link:

        Curtis Guy Yarvin (born 1973), also known by the pen name Mencius Moldbug, is an American far-right blogger.[4] Yarvin and his ideas are often associated with the alt-right, despite his and the efforts of other Dark Enlightenment thinkers to distance themselves from it.[5][6] From 2007 to 2014 he authored a blog called “Unqualified Reservations” which argued that American democracy is a failed experiment,[7] and that it should be replaced by monarchy or corporate governance.[8] He is known, along with fellow neo-reactionary Nick Land, for developing the anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic ideas behind the Dark Enlightenment.

        Hello, Moldbug, my old “friend”, you’ve come to fuck with me again.

        Wait, it gets worse:

        Yarvin has links with the website Breitbart News, the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and with the billionaire investor Peter Thiel.[9] His ideas have been particularly influential among radical libertarians, and the public discourses of prominent investors like Thiel have echoed Yarvin’s project of seceding from the US to establish tech-CEO dictatorships.[10][11] Journalist Mike Wendling has called Yarvin “the alt-right’s favorite philosophy instructor”.[12] Bannon, in particular, has read and admired his work.

        Yeah, this is cancel bait and no mistake.

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          Stick to technical commentary and please don’t post off-topic political axe-grinding and critique.

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            Okay, let’s go for the technical commentary, even though it ties in directly with Yarvin’s political pet theories: The system is strictly hierarchical where higher tiers exert enormous powers over lower tiers. If you’re into serfdom LARPing, feel free to be an Urbit serf, otherwise maybe look for something else.

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              Okay, let’s dig into that more: how does that differ from the normal internet? What happens when Cloudflare or Google want you off the internet?

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                Sure, google can take you down off the list of search results and cloudflare can remove you from their service (making you much more vulnerable). Google could also use their horrific amounts of money to tell my ISP to shut me off, but this is really bad and should not be possible.

                I have an Urbit planet, though, and my understanding is that I am totally reliant on my star (approx. to an ISP?) for connection to the wider network. As in, if I act in a way that my star doesn’t like, they can get rid of me. And if my star acts in a way that my galaxy doesn’t like, they can get rid of them, which gets rid of me too! At which point I have to use my much-touted “right of exit”, which is currently completely manual– there’s no workflow for this.

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                  I’m not sure what distinction you’re making between a “workflow” and a “manual process”. If you depend on some provider of compute or network resources, and they deplatform you for any reason (including political reasons), you have to manually react to it by finding a new provider if you don’t want your compute process to suddenly stop working. This is the case whether your upstream provider is an Urbit star, or AWS.

                  That said, there’s no reason why programmers can’t build tools to automate parts of this process. The Kubernetes ecosystem, for instance, has tools that make it easier to build a cloud-agnostic site, which makes it possible to switch between cloud compute providers with minimal downtime if and when the one you use decides to cut you off (or if another one is cheaper, or any other reason you might want to switch providers). Urbit is a young network yet, and there’s a lot of useful tooling that has yet to be developed, but you could imagine a software product for the Urbit ecosystem that makes tentative agreements with multiple stars to provide connectivity to your planet, and automatically switches to a new one if your current star cuts you off.

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                    Sorry, what I mean is you literally have to contact Tlon and have them help you change stars. If the thing that rescues feudalism from failure is this ability to exit, why can’t I just do it whenever I want?

                    If you depend on some provider of compute or network resources, and they deplatform you for any reason (including political reasons), you have to manually react to it by finding a new provider if you don’t want your compute process to suddenly stop working.

                    Right, and I’m saying this is a bad thing. This is also accidental to the design of the internet. Urbit’s design seems to be explicitly centered around being able to deplatform at-will, and I think this is kind of weird.

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                      Sorry, what I mean is you literally have to contact Tlon and have them help you change stars. If the thing that rescues feudalism from failure is this ability to exit, why can’t I just do it whenever I want?

                      https://urbit.org/using/operations/using-bridge/#escaping-your-sponsor <- changing sponsors is an Ethereum smart contract transaction that doesn’t require Tlon’s involvement in any way, just the new sponsor’s. They currently offer to manually help people find new sponsors, which works because the network is currently small and new.

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              The technical commentary is so damning that it’s surprising that people would prefer to hear it. Here’s my favorite example: Urbit’s implementation has incorrect and unsafe behavior for Booleans; they invented their own “loobean” type which is always backwards, and under-specified its behavior.

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                It’s neither incorrect nor unsafe on its own. It is very unintuitive, and doesn’t interact well with C, I’ll grant you that! But it’s a self-consistent 1-byte enumerated type with values {true, false}.

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                  I see this as fundamentally a problem with C that any program written in C has. There isn’t actually a way to specify a boolean type, only a numeric type at least 8 bits wide, where the 0 value has different semantics in branching constructs than other values. (This of course is similar to how most CPU architectures implement branch instructions). Ideally, you would represent a loobean as an ADT with exactly two variants, but C doesn’t give you the tools to do this. The Urbit project is working on moving its runtime from a C program to a Haskell program, which strikes me as a good idea.

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                    It seems like they explain it pretty well in that link. It’s dumb, in my opinion, but they seem to say explicitly to be comparing it with their provided values.

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                    I’m not commenting on the politics per se, just on the fact the politics are going to cause problems.

                    I see that as fairly neutral. Even Yarvin would agree his politics are controversial, I think.

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                      Do you not see how that is somehow even worse?

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                        So, you think a meta commentary about politics is on topic despite the fact that politics is off topic?

                        What’s really a shame is that the moderators can’t just delete these walls of text, because people sink so much into writing them despite their being off topic for lobsters. Just look at this garbage fire of a thread about the ethics of using Firefox. So many words expended, 0 opinions changed.

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                    Unsure if it’s helpful (since I think the material is mostly the same), but perhaps the Github?

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                      There are links to individual lecture notes and class assignments that seem to be working for me.