How frog gets cooked in the cloud

How much computer power do we actually need for normal tasks? Does the difference in computational power influence the end-result? Can you tell a difference between an article written on a desktop or a laptop? The last question sounds incredibly silly, I know, and yet when I watch the tech YouTube videos there’s an impression that if you’re a “real pro” or a “power user”, you’ll need “MO PAWAH”. The poor-people tech made for the plebs just won’t cut it, you’ll need the shiny new thingy to keep up with the times. Only the 7nm node size will cut it.

Several things happened recently. First, a new Intel bug was discovered, possibly rendering modern Intel CPU machines vulnerable to attack unless you cripple the CPU by disabling almost everything on it. Second, America embargoed China by limiting access to all kinds of software and hardware technologies, from Android and Windows to x86 and ARM. If we add that to things that are already known, such as the Intel kill switch, and all kinds of technologies that make it theoretically possible for the manufacturer to brick the motherboard of your device remotely, on a low-level of access through the onboard networking hardware, BIOS and the chipset, because America put you on a list of “sanctioned” individuals, for whatever reason.

Microsoft is introducing a “politically correct” spelling-checker into Word. Online censorship is rampant. Witch hunts are out of control. I can easily imagine some AI identifying “politically incorrect” people online, through their cloud service logins, and I can easily imagine hardware and software manufacturers full of “social justice warriors” performing acts of “social activism”, for instance triggering a “stolen device kill switch” on your motherboard remotely if you write too much “right wing” or “racist” content online. If you think this is paranoid, imagine being Snowden or Assange, and imagine what can be done to their computers if they are identified remotely, and if it’s done by someone really powerful, like NSA, or Google, or Microsoft. Now imagine this being automated, delegated to an AI system that will check your login against a list, and then simply “deplatform” you by bricking your PC, because after all, Nazis can’t be allowed to speak.

All of this made me think: what would I do if I was targeted by something like that? Using a web browser made by a huge corporation is a vulnerability. Using cloud services is a vulnerability. Using an operating system made by a company that’s BFF with NSA is a vulnerability. Using Intel, and possibly even AMD CPU is a vulnerability. Using a motherboard with a chipset and a BIOS that isn’t made transparently is a vulnerability. So, if someone decided to brick my computers that run Windows and Mac OS on Intel, and my iPhone and iPad stop working, or at least stop connecting to the Internet and accepting my login into Apple services, what would I use to get online?

It turned out that I have one machine that is most likely to remain working: a Raspberry Pi 3B+ that I have under my desk running Linux, a machine I manually hardened and which runs 24/7 hosting mysql, ssh and apache. However, that’s not all. It also runs a LXDE GUI, with a complement of Office tools. But this is an extremely weak machine. Its CPU is a rounding error between two geekbench measurements of my main desktop PC, and I’m not even exaggerating much. Its “disk drive” is a micro SD card, and the entire computer can fit on my palm. However, there’s a catch. It is basically Android smartphone hardware converted to serve a different purpose and run a different OS. People use Android smartphones to do things online every day and don’t give it a second thought. But can you plug a smartphone board into a monitor, keyboard and mouse, run Linux and do normal tasks, like researching things online, taking screenshots, writing and article in OpenOffice, logging into a CMS and posting the article on your blog? Yes, you can.

In fact, it turns out that this small tiny computer is more powerful than the machines I used to write most of my books on. And I edited them in OpenOffice, printed them as PDF, and then used Linux command line tools to split the PDF into PNG images of individual pages, and then publish those on my website in the online reader form. I did all that on an IBM T43 laptop, which was less powerful than this Raspberry Pi thingy. Of course you can do it, and in fact that’s how I wrote this article; I connected the Raspberry Pi instead of my desktop computer, and used it to drive my usual peripherals. It doesn’t feel slower when you write the document; you can do most things just fine. I used computers with less power and memory for most of my career, because that’s what we had then. It’s actually quite smooth; I installed Gimp from the terminal while writing this article and not even a hiccough. Then I used Gimp to crop a screenshot and save it. It did it just fine. I just got used to computers that do the same things faster, that’s all. Using this thing didn’t degrade me into stone age. I could even plug my external HDD into it and process raw photos from my camera if I had to. I would use dcraw, rawtherapee and gimp instead of lightroom, the way I did for years, and guess what, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, because I did it exactly that way for five years and nobody could tell the difference between that and lightroom anyway. I just got suckered into using tools for lazy people, tools that make it very easy, but that don’t actually do anything I couldn’t do manually with some more effort. I could also do just fine without the online cloud services, and guess how I know? Because I was here before they were. I was on the Internet and finding my way around quite well before Google was a twinkle in its authors’ eyes. Some of those tools made things easier, but the price might be too great. Ease and comfort, apparently, can be weaponized as a vector of attack. You make it easy for people to access the same file from several devices and they don’t stop to think that their files are stored on someone else’s computer in unencrypted form. You make it easy for people to connect to other people online and they don’t stop to think and realize that their entire social life is now owned by a company whose primary motive is to sell you to the advertisers, and to control the entire experience as to be more presentable to the advertisers. Also, that they hire fuckwits who studied feminism and social justice and who want to change the world to be more like an American college: meaning, that it requires less thinking, more feeling good about yourself, and excluding everything that gets in the way of feeling good and not having to do any thinking.

However, someone bricking your PC might actually be a lesser concern. A greater concern might be someone blocking your Visa card because you’re on some political list. Also, the banks might not allow you to open an account. You might not be able to get a loan for a house or a car despite your stellar credit rating. Police might track your whereabouts using your phone, because you’re on a list of “extremists”. You might be stopped from boarding a plane. You might be taken off a plane in an islamic country that has you on some shitlist, because you criticised Islam online. Those threats are actually more real, and I’m actually not making those up; that shit actually happens now, as we speak. It’s just far less common than it could be, once the technology proliferates. So, sure, I used a PC made from a phone chip to write an article on the Web, big deal. I can maintain the same kind of online presence with rudimentary technology, and nobody would notice the difference. However, that proves one interesting point: that the advancement of technology in the last two decades was actually much less drammatic than one would think. We just got used to the fat and expensive tools that do basically the same job as the old lightweight free ones. Also, it means that America can cut the rest of the world from their technology, and the rest of the world could do just fine with Raspberry Pi boards made in China for $1, and they would actually be forced to get more creative with resources and possibly find better ways of doing things. Being reduced to simpler computers wouldn’t actually degrade life much, because faster and better computers didn’t upgrade it much. They just made it easier for stupid and incompetent people to think they are advanced, smart, trendy and techy, while in reality they are just stupid consumers.

So, what am I going to do now; continue using Raspberry Pi as my main PC? Hell no. It can only display a 1080p image on my 4K monitor, which makes everything blurry. Also, I have to pay attention to memory use because it only has one gig of ram, and so on. But I know one thing. If America does cut me off from American technology, I will find whatever piece of junk that runs Linux and connect to Russian-Chinese Internet, and I will do just fine. I used to write code on a potato when Web was an experiment on Tim Berners-Lee’s Next cube, I wrote books on computers that couldn’t walk and fart at the same time, and I can do it again if necessary. The only thing that’s actually scary for me is thinking how easy it was for me to get used to the idea of giving up privacy and security just to make things a tiny bit easier and more comfortable. Because of this, I might actually start intentionally giving up various online service that make things unnecessarily easy, but at a hidden cost. I will also give Linux a second chance.

However, if that is scary to me, there’s another thing that should be scary to the Americans, and that’s the idea of a smart person that’s comfortable using Linux tools on a Raspberry Pi instead of a Macbook. Because that person might understand that he can do just fine without all sorts of things that make him a slave. For instance, he might understand that the AGC computer that got people to the Moon was computationally much weaker than the toy I’m writing this article on, and that St. Augustine and Isaac Newton used ink and parchment.

UnGoogle

I just uninstalled the Chrome browser, after many years of use; I use Firefox now. Also, I have been using the DuckDuckGo search engine for months. This is my response to Google persecuting non-leftist political voices and acting as a hostile political force. Also, I consistently use addblock, and will do so for as long as they censor and demonetize my favorite youtubers. It is difficult to stop using them completely, for instance I still sync contacts, notes and calendars through google, but it’s a start.

The problem is, the entire Silicon Valley is a leftist cesspool and to really get away from that, one should slowly stop using American services. This would be quite unpleasant to attempt all at once, but honestly, the sooner the better, since everything American you use is just another thing that holds you hostage. Android and Windows were already used as a weapon against Huawei, x86 CPU architecture is a weapon, ARM is a weapon, Internet and GPS are weapons. I get it, everybody got hooked and it will take time to get out of the trap. However, one thing at a time.

How to improve civilization

The first thing I would do is order everybody by level of victimhood, descending, which means the biggest most whining and pathetic victims on top, and then I would take the top 10% out on some meadow and shoot them. Alternatively, confiscate all their property, sell them on a slave market and ridicule them endlessly.

That would put an end to all that victimhood bullshit and whining and everybody would be permanently and powerfully motivated to get their shit together and improve their position from a position of agency and personal responsibility. Essentially, delete from mankind order by victimhood desc limit 10%;

There is a very old custom in Croatia where all sins of the past year are put on some puppet called “Princ Fašnik”, and it is then ritually burned. If the greatest victim and whiner in every village was identified every year and ritually burned on a stake in a public square, that would be the most effective possible instrument in ridding civilization of victim mentality and social parasites. He who is the most pathetic dies. Each year. The prize for whining is shame and death. That’s my solution.

A fig leaf

There has been lots of talk lately about the need to embrace the gold standard for currency again because of America abusing the dollar. There are two issues that need to be separated, and the answers are not as simple as it might seem.

The reason why gold functioned as currency for the majority of history is that mankind had a solar powered economy. This means it was restricted by the amount of agricultural land that was used to convert solar energy into carbohydrates. Also, solar power was used for energy, in form of wood and coal. This made the total supply of energy available to mankind more-less constant. Also, technology was primitive and constant. This made the economy constrained, and its volume could be represented by another constrained resource, gold. Essentially, you could dig out just enough new gold to match the eventual growth of the economy. However, the problems started with the industrial revolution, where new inventions could multiply the size of the economy, and the monetary supply remained constricted. When petroleum use freed mankind from solar restrictions on energy by tapping into a huge energy buffer of oil reserves, invention of electricity broke all restrictions wide open, and Haber-Bosch method of synthesizing artificial fertilizers allowed for a huge increase in food supply, the economy and population started growing exponentially, and the monetary supply needed to be expanded far beyond the constraints of any single constrained resource. So, having in mind that the supply of gold couldn’t successfully cover the expanding economy even in the times of Tesla, Westinghouse and Rockefeller, and needed to be supplanted and eventually replaced by mechanisms based on mortgage loans and BDP calculations, suggesting an introduction of a currency backed by gold at this point reveals lack of understanding of the constrictive effect that would have on mankind. With gold, the totality of everybody’s wealth always equals the totality of gold in supply. With a gold standard, if you invent something that grows the economy by 30%, the supply of gold doesn’t grow by 30% to match, which causes a shortage of money in circulation and artificial appreciation of gold, favouring those who already hold the most gold, instead of giving power to the inventors and “new money”. Of course, if gold-backed paper money is used, the state will print more money in order to keep up with the economy, but then this money will lose convertibility into gold. This is the reason why gold standard was removed: it was a problem rather than a solution. When economy grew, for instance by the size of petroleum reserves, it was much better to use petroleum reserves as basis for currency than to try and dig out enough gold to represent the value of all the oil in the world, or to artificially inflate the value of gold to the comic proportions. Also, when someone came to the bank to request a loan, the bank could either say “sorry, but there’s not enough money in circulation to give you a loan, because we didn’t dig out enough gold this month”, or they could say “we can take the mortgage papers as backing for a low-interest loan we can get from the central bank, which will use this guarantee as backing and create new money which we will then sell you at increased interest”. Guess which turned out to be more acceptable for a growing economy.

However, when you allow someone to print papers saying “this paper represents a gold coin”, you will inevitably get more papers than gold coins, because the position where you can create money out of thin air is incredibly tempting. The first experiment with paper money in ancient China ended for exactly those reasons. But that is a separate matter: you can’t say that abuses of the fiat currency system justify returning to the gold standard, if the gold standard was not viable even in the 1930s, due to its restricting hold on economy. You can only make a currency that is required to be backed by actual physical resources, such as metals, petroleum, electric currency production, foreign currency reserves, and mortgages on physical assets. You can require solid backing for all newly printed money, but gold, there’s just not enough of it in existence to cover the value of our economy. It can’t even cover a minute fraction. And even if there were enough gold, it would work only if our economy remained constant. For a 5% growth in economy, you would need to have 5% of increase in total supply of gold, which is utterly unrealistic.

There is that other matter of dollar being an instrument of pressure and abuse, which warrants its removal from the position it presently holds. This would require the United States to relinquish a position where they can print new money out of thin air, and have the rest of the world pay for it; essentially, that’s what you get when everybody is forced to pay for petroleum in dollars. Instead of the normal inflatory effects you would get from increasing the supply of money in circulation, you get the situation where the rest of the world is artificially impoverished and American economy is artificially boosted. If you think America would relinquish this position without a very ugly world war, I have some real estate on the Moon to sell you.

However, there is a reason why America might actually find it preferable to have dollar crash and burn, despite all its obvious benefits. You see, all American debt is denominated in dollars. Also, American debt is so huge, it approaches the point of being unserviceable. There is a very easy and tempting solution for this: America can just print trillions of new dollars without any backing, and use them to cover their debts and thus reset their situation. Of course, that wouldn’t sit well with all the nations that hold American state bonds denominated in dollars, and would basically crash the world economy and monetary system in an instant, producing an avalanche of consequences, and that’s the reason why other great powers have been diversifying their assets, from US bonds to gold, rare earth minerals, etc.; because they see this coming. Either America will cause a world war to cover its naked butt, or remove any semblance of a fig leaf by simply resetting its debt to zero using the aforementioned method. Of course, having in mind that this would wipe out all retirement funds and personal savings of their citizens, this method would be hugely unpopular and would need to be covered up by some fabricated external factor. This is why I find a war to be much more likely. They will stir the pot so much, nobody will pay any attention to the little man behind a curtain pulling the levers and pressing the buttons. The plan seems to be to provoke Russia and China into a war, suffer a limited nuclear strike, introduce martial law, and then reset their debt and thus hide their plan behind some external villainous force, playing the poor victim of evil in the world. There is too much propaganda to that effect already in place for me to have any confidence in the possibility that I might be wrong.

About tantra

I wrote a lengthy email message to someone and decided that a part of it is too broadly useful not to be made public, so I publish a sanitized version here:

If a genuine tantric practice is to be found anywhere in the world, it would be in the West, rather than India. Tantra requires one to break the bondage of tradition, dogma, and was to Hinduism what the sexual revolution of the sixties and onward was to the West. Tantra was a method of provoking enlightenment, as they saw it, by breaking the bondage of seeing oneself as “pure” and “virtuous”. Elements of that can be found even in the ancient texts such as Mahabharata, where Shiva tests a brahmana by offering him the amrita nectar in an apparently “impure” form, by taking form of a hunter from the lowest caste and offering the brahmana to drink his piss. The lesson was that the great gifts of the Gods cannot be obtained if one fails to discard the rigidity of one’s religious customs.

This same principle lead Buddha to enlightenment when he discarded the rigorous self-torture and simply followed calm and serene consciousness to its source; this doesn’t seem radical to us now, but he was instantly despised by his peers and regarded as “fallen”. Tantra is usually associated with spiritualized sexuality, but that is a shallow view. If anything, tantra started as breaking the brahmacarya vows which made the sadhus “pure”, and the spiritualized aspects started as one felt this burden of “purity” drop off, and perceived his liberation from having to maintain all that tiresome pretense, and felt the actual reality of existence.

Sex was in fact the least of the taboos broken: a common tantric initiation was to render oneself, usually a member of brahmana caste in good standing, ritually impure by drinking a mixture of five impure substances (feces, blood, urine, sperm and sweat) from a human skull in a graveyard.

This is a very radical version of something people nowadays don’t even notice as radical: wearing the orange cloth. Orange cloth was something the lepers and outcasts had to wear to warn others not to get close to them lest they be rendered ritually impure. Nowadays the orange robe of swamis and buddhist monks is seen as a symbol of high status, but it was never meant to be seen as such. It was meant as taking upon oneself the status of lepers and outcasts, beggars of the lowest order, permanently and without recourse deprived of any positive social status.

There is a very profound meaning in this, as there is an opposite correlation between one’s investment in social status, and spiritual internalization. In essence, give people smartphones with a connection to social networks and they can kiss meditation goodbye. Also, in order to attain true spirituality, one needs to withdraw his spiritual energy from the world, and “world” is translated primarily as “games of social standing”. Tantra, in essence, understands that “purity” of the brahmana caste is a social game which absorbs one’s energy and inhibits true spirituality. That’s why the point of tantra is not sex with some pure divine being, but sex with a dobi, an “untouchable” laundry woman of lowest caste. The point of tantra is shattering one’s carefully crafted fictional being of social status, while preserving the core of one’s consciousness and realization. That’s what’s called dancing on the edge of the sword, or riding a tiger: this ritual self-destruction can actually destroy you unless you manage to detach yourself fully from your social persona. However, if done properly it can give you freedom by removing fictional restrictions, because it’s realization of God and actions that are performed by a consciousness absorbed in God that are truly pure, and any attempt at achieving purity by avoiding contact with “impure” persons or things is an illusion and a game of social standing – he who is most pure wins. A tantrika strives to achieve a state of correct action which arises from unity of energies that fuel action, and consciousness that is permanently absorbed in God. Thus all his actions are pure. This is the meaning of the symbolism of Kundalini Shakti sexually embracing Shiva seated in the ajna cakra: correct action, correct way of being present in the world.

That was my introduction. Now follows the description of my experience in the Puttaparthi ashram. (note: that was relevant in the context of the original inquiry)

Everybody there lived in some sort of a terrible fear of sexuality, to the point where any kind of contact between men and women was abhorred. And when I say “any kind of contact”, I mean that more literally than you can possibly imagine. The local store had working hours separated for men and women, so that they would never mix. The lines for coconuts were separated into male and female. The mess hall was separated into male and female sections. The darshan hall was separated into male and female sections. Et cetera, ad nauseam.

From what I quickly realized, Sai Baba merely affirmed all the local customs, prejudice and ignorant beliefs and made it grow big and proud of itself. He never did anything to make them question their beliefs and wake them up, he basically told everybody they are doing everything right, that every religion is right, it’s all good. All the vapid Hindu customs were praised and affirmed. He was feeding Hindu narcissism instead of shattering their bullshit with clear words of knowledge. In exchange, he was given the apparent power and wealth, but in fact he was a slave. He sold his soul.

And of course, since everybody was so afraid of sex, of course sex eventually broke out in the nastiest forms. I believe the reports of sexual abuses, they are only expected. Sai Baba himself was karmically poisoned by the compromises he made and all their filth manifested through him. It’s something completely expected if you see it with my eyes. All those brahmanic attempts at achieving purity exploded in the most depraved forms of filth, which was to be expected. The entire experience there was very educational, in a sense a concentration camp is educational: it shows you what must never be allowed to happen.

Everything Sai Baba did affirmed exactly that layer of traditionalism and hypocrisy tantra strives to destroy. Sai Baba was a false teacher, not in a sense that he himself was not spiritually powerful, but in a sense that he deliberately chose the easy path of telling people what they want to hear, because he chose the path of least resistance. Everything they taught in the Prashanti Nilayam “ashram” was so profoundly false, that it can be only made right by rejecting it outright and destroying it to the ground. Every single thing they taught people about spirituality is fully and profoundly wrong, to the point where doing the opposite would be awesome. To repeat myself, visiting that place can teach you many things about spirituality, the way visiting Auschwitz can teach you things about spirituality. Such a profound example of doing everything wrong can actually point out all your mistakes and set you on a correct path. If you are so inclined, of course, but most people don’t really have a habit of turning their brains on at any point in time.