Pretty much the most interesting blog on the Internet.— Prof. Steven Landsburg

Once you get past the title, and the subtitle, and the equations, and the foreign quotes, and the computer code, and the various hapax legomena, a solid 50% English content!—The Proprietor

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Ex-Friend D

Note: This post expands on the concluding paragraphs of another recent post. Please see there for context.

When the author was young—in the Internet’s teenage years and the early years of the web—he was semi-prominent in a number of technological and other endeavors in which by some sociological fluke the author and those of similar views were either outright in the majority or at least the dominant political faction. We too had our dissenters and would frequently engage in ferocious political debate with them, the author not being among the least ferocious. But we always tried to argue facts and reason without ill-feeling against our opponents. If anybody had ever suggested that we should use our numerical strength to shun and shame the dissenters into silence or exit, this suggestion would have been universally deemed unworthy of philosophers or gentlemen (as almost all of us were).

We were confident our words would suffice. Some of the more psychologically astute among usIt is a relative term, given that so many of us were somewhere on the autism disorder spectrum. would even go out of their way to be solicitous and technically helpful to the dissenters in the hope that if arguments alone were not enough, the resultant good feeling might inspire some of them to emulate us. But all agreed that it would be shameful to permit politics to contaminate our technical collaboration with the dissenters. We had (or so we thought) on our side the truth, and in many cases telephone-number IQs and encyclopedic knowledge of not only technical facts, but also those of history, law, and politics. Surely, we ought to prevail even without descending to ad hominem and dirty, alienating tricks. Perhaps that is why, all our advantages notwithstanding, we always lost the political battles in the end.This is why among the very small group of people and entities to whom the author does not try extend his general benign indifference slightly tinged by benevolence and empathy is the Gawker empire. Most of its many outlets produce occasionally worthwhile content but invariably leaven it with occasional political rants, invariably delivered at the level of the over-excited freshman. For the frequent unpleasant shocks this has administered, the author bears Gawker and co. genuine, if passive, malevolence and he takes genuine psychic pleasure at their failures and the prospect of their collapse. That is unworthy, but the author is only human with all human failings. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. Publius Terentius Afer.

One of the more entertaining of these endeavors was the game Olympia.Previously mentioned here. The author was one of the first to sign up for it and immediately proceeded to recruit an alliance of skilled and like-minded players. Among them was D, a clever young man and—as a fellow at a think tank near the university where the author was then a graduate student—one of the few allies he ever met in person. D and the author would exchange countless e-mails and share more than a few meals, plotting strategies, exchanging snippets of code, and sometimes debating politics for D was of Progressive views, then a minority view among our peers, but now the received opinion in many circles.

After about a year and a half, our Olympia plans had ripened and our alliance moved against all potential rivals nearly simultaneously.One is reminded of the conclusion of the original Godfather movie. Some of these coordinated moves were conventional military attacks. The author’s direct responsibility was a wave of targeted assassinations, by means both mundane and arcane, designed to disrupt the inferred opposition command-and-control structure and turn it against itself.The author takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in the fact that these actions resulted in the author’s character’s skull becoming a sinister and potent artifact in all subsequent incarnations of Olympia. The plan, one of the more complex the author ever had a hand in crafting, succeeded completely, reducing all opposition to our alliance from continental empires to scattered fleeing gangs and we declared victorious conclusion to the first game of Olympia.

Even after Olympia, D and the author remained friends, meeting and exchanging e-mails. The author was invited to D’s wedding. Eventually the author and D lost contact, but a few years ago, the author was reminded of D and looked into his progress on Google. D, like many of our old alliance in various fields, had made a name for himself in the world. D was a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist. So of course the author proceeded to reconnect with D on the then-novel Facebook and LinkedIn.

D responded with a friendly message expressing pleasure at the reconnection and eagerness to resume our exchanges. However, D explained that he could not possibly accept these link requests. For D had Googled the author too and found some of his political statements—no different or more outrageous than what is in these pages or what D and the author once freely and publicly discussed. D explained that if he accepted the author’s request some might infer that he endorsed the author’s views, which would be socially ruinous. Even the more reasonable inference that D would befriend and tolerate somebody with views as odiousThe author bears no ill will to any gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or nationality (even Russians) and has never, publicly or privately, expressed any hostility to any of them. Rather, the author, with only a few rare exceptions, wishes all individuals and groups the greatest possible happiness compatible with that of others. But failure to publicly and enthusiastically endorse even the most hare-brained arguments sometimes advanced on behalf of some currently favored groups is apparently sufficient to render one odious in many circles. as the author’s would damage D’s social standing among his peers.It is because of painful and humiliating experiences like this that the author does not believe that any fruitful contact can be made with the likes of the Haskeller mentioned in the previous post.

It is possible, if rather unlikely, that D would run across this post, decide that he was identifiable, and threaten a libel suit. Such a suit might—apart from the readily documented truth of the above account—not be entirely without merit. Hence, the author, reduced to relying exclusively on his own meager legal talents, would most likely take down this post.