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Ranked Choice Voting is Arbitrarily Bad

You're already being tactical when you decide that Carol isn't a threat and (falsely) uprank her. What changes if you go a step further to decide that she is a threat?

In fact, I think that the standard formalism for defining "tactical voting" is in terms of submitting a vote that doesn't faitfully reflect your true preferences. Under that formalism, falsely upranking Carol is tactical, but switching back to your true preferences because of what you expect others to do actually isn't tactical.

... and it's odd to talk about tactical voting as a "downside" of one system or another, since there's a theorem that says tactical voting opportunities will exist in any voting system choosing between more than two alternatives: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbard–Satterthwaite_theorem . At best you can argue about which system has the worst case of the disease.

And, if you're comparing the two, plurality has a pretty bad case of tactical vulnerability, probably worse than IRV/RCV. That's why people want to change it: because tactical voting under plurality entrenches two-party systems.

Ranked Choice Voting is Arbitrarily Bad

Each cohort knows that Carol is not a realistic threat to their preferred candidate, and will thus rank her second,

... except that you have her winning the election, which means that she obviously is a realistic threat, which means you don't want to vote for her. Why wouldn't the voters all assume that everybody else was going to do the same thing they were, thus making Carol a danger?

With a single vote per person, simple plurality feels like a fair result.

I don't see why you'd say that. People are always complaining about it, and strategies for it are well known and constantly discussed every time an election comes around.

Personally I like range voting, though.

Bureaucracy is a world of magic

This could easily turn into a book on the different security models. But I don't think I have time for that, and you probably don't either, so I'll try to just respond to what you said...

Faking an ID depends only on your skills and resources.

I don't think that's a productive way to look at it at all. The skills and resources I will need depend on the countermeasures taken by the people who create the IDs... who, although they may be under cost constraints, are professionals, unlike most of the users. They are the ones who invest resources, and they do have all kinds of choices about how much to invest.

There's also the question of verifier resource investment. A store clerk deciding whether to sell you beer may just glance at the card. A cop who stops you in traffic will nearly always check everything on the ID against the issuer's database, at least if it's a "local" ID... with the definition of "local" being expanded constantly. It's a three-way verification between the card, your face, and the database. I suspect notaries in many places do the same now, and I would expect the number of such places to increase. An ID card is no longer just a piece of plastic.

So, for transactions big enough for your counterparty to bother investing in serious verification, faking the ID really becomes a matter of either faking the biometrics it uses (not so easy in person even if the biometric is just a facial photograph), or subverting the issuing system.

It's true that subverting the issuing system is a class break against all of the IDs it issues, but it's also true that finding a zero-day in code that protects keys is a class break against all of the keys protected by that code.

Also, IDs are verified by people, who can make different mistakes.

... but keys are also held by people, who can make different mistakes. And they use different ways of storing the keys.

In any case, for any particular transaction, I as an attacker don't usually get my pick of verifiers. If I want to divert the payment for your house, I have to fool the particular person who handles that payment (and then I have to move very fast to get the money out of reach before they claw back the transaction). I can't get $500,000 from an escrow agent by fooling the clerk down at 7-11.

Whereas a key is either leaked or it isn't.

Well, no, actually. I said "steal your key", but the real issue is "use your key".

Suppose you're using some kind of "hardware" key storage device (they're really hardware plus quite a bit of software). The problem for me isn't necessarily to get a copy of your key out of that device. It's enough for me to induce that device to sign the wrong transaction... which can be done by tricking either it or you. I may be in a position to do that in some circumstances, but not in others.

You don't just have one thing to defend against, either. I have a pretty broad choice of approaches to tricking you and/or the device, and my options multiply if I manage to own the general-purpose computer you've plugged the device into, let alone the device itself. You have to defend against all of my options.

If you step back further, take a timeless point of view, and look at the overall history of transactions controlling a block chain's idea of a durable asset's ownership, there are going to be a lot of keys and key holders in that history. Only one of them has to go wrong to permanently divert the asset. So there are still lots of different people to trick if I want to establish a new dynasty in the manor.

You're not necessarily the only person affected if you screw up with your key, either. Arguments based on self-reliance only go so far in deciding what kind of system everybody should be using.

What I feel like I see from "blockchain people" is this sense that keys are axiomatically safe, to the point where it's always sensible to use them for large, irrevocable transactions with no escape hatch. Even people who have personally made (or failed to make) diving catches to keep, say, Ethereum contract bugs from screwing people over, still somehow seem to maintain their gut-level faith in code as law and total trustlessness.

Frankly it feels like "just world" thinking: "Key compromise (or whatever) only happens to the clumsy and lazy (who deserve what they get). I'm not clumsy or lazy, so I'll be fine". Even if that were true, there are enough clumsy and lazy people out there to cause total system collapse in a lot of applications if you don't design around them.

I actually think that block chains are a useful tool, that they can reduce the need for trust in many applications, and that that's a very good feature. Nonetheless, the idea that they can make everything completely automatic and trustless is just not reasonable.

If we're talking about real estate titles, you might be able to use a block chain to record everything, but somebody is always going to have to be able to override the system and transfer title against the will of the listed holder, or when the listed holder has lost the relevant key. There is going to have to be a "bureaucratic" system for managing those overrides, including trust in certain authorities.

By the way, I am not saying that the sort of magical thinking mentioned in the original post doesn't exist. "Send in a scan of your ID card" is stupid 99 percent of the time. "You must make the signature using a pen" is stupid and usually based on ignorance of the law. It's just that nothing else is a magic fix either.

Bureaucracy is a world of magic

Notaries serve an extremely practical purpose: they make it harder for somebody to deny that they signed a document. They were never intended to verify the content of anybody's statement of anything.

The assurance they provide is real. It is MUCH HARDER, and more importantly MUCH RISKIER, for somebody to walk in and effectively impersonate another person than it is for them to forge a document in isolation... face mask or no face mask.

Block chains, on the other hand, can be very much about magical thinking... for example the built-in assumption that it's somehow harder for me to steal your private key than to fake your ID, or the idea that an on-chain assignment of a physical asset can somehow "enforce itself" out in the real world.

Weirdly Long DNS Switchover?

Your A records are fine, but you seem to have changed name servers. Your old NS records are probably cached all over the place; the TTL on those seems to be 48 hours. It looks like the old server (at my-tss.com) is serving the correct data now, but it was probably still serving stale data when you saw the problem. Possibly it took it a while to realize that it wasn't authoritative for the zone, or possibly there was an update problem.

Generally, it's better to do the server change and the data change separately. And you have to make sure that the new and old servers are serving the same thing through the full TTL of the old NS records, or at least have the old server definitively reconfigured not to see itself as authoritative so that it can avoid misleading other systems when it gets a query.

Evidence: If I let my system use my ISP's servers and do dig -t ns bilingadvantage.com., I get the wrong cached data:

   ; <<>> DiG 9.11.27-RedHat-9.11.27-1.fc33 <<>> -t ns billingadvantage.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 38501
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 1232
; COOKIE: b250042072aca8b7ccde8a21602d31062c20fb70fa6f7d57 (good)
;billingadvantage.com.          IN      NS

billingadvantage.com.   3600    IN      NS      dns2.my-tss.com.
billingadvantage.com.   3600    IN      NS      dns1.my-tss.com.

;; Query time: 168 msec
;; WHEN: Wed Feb 17 10:06:46 EST 2021
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 122

... but if I go and query the actual GTLD servers, say with dig -t ns @a.gtld-servers.net billingadvantage.com, I get the right data:

; <<>> DiG 9.11.27-RedHat-9.11.27-1.fc33 <<>> -t ns @a.gtld-servers.net billingadvantage.com
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 27939
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 3
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available

; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;billingadvantage.com.          IN      NS

billingadvantage.com.   172800  IN      NS      ns1.zerolag.com.
billingadvantage.com.   172800  IN      NS      ns2.zerolag.com.
New Empty Units

"Make more" space? I'm pretty sure that violates general relativity or something like that.

You can make more steel and concrete, of course, and I don't think we'll run out of the raw materials for those, but we might find ourselves under water sooner if we keep cranking them out at too high a rate.

I suppose you could pay parents to make more labor for you. It's been done in the past, but I think the approach has gone out of favor these days. The lead time is pretty long, too, and the labor you get will itself need housing, so you need to make even more of it.

Also, presumably the prices of all of the above have to go up before there's a market signal to make more of them, so the price of anything else that relies on those inputs also has to rise, distorting market feedback on demand for those other items.

Seriously, money doesn't actually create anything, and there are actually finite physical resources in the world. Any political or economic system that causes physical resources to be allocated to producing physical things that don't physically benefit anybody seems like a system with a serious problem.

All you can extract from speculators is the money, not the physical stuff. The money launderers, if they exist in significant numbers, are going to be like super-speculators who provide even more money... but still no physical stuff. So they increase the misallocation. And how do you get the money from them, anyway? I mean, aren't they already naturally subsidizing construction by buying up units? Obviously they're still not solving the problem by themselves, because there are still people without housing. What's the intervention that would put more of their money toward housing, and who would be in a position to make that intervention?

One of the big knocks people always used to give against communism was that central planning would produce too many boots and not enough chewing gum, or set unreasonable quotas that forced farmers to damage the long-term productivity of the land, or whatever. Maybe that's not absolutely intrinsic to central planning, but it seems to apply to any plan to use this speculative phenomenon, no matter how you do it.

It seems to me that you really, truly only want to build housing (or anything else) if it's going to actually get used. Obviously if you truly don't have enough units for everybody to be housed even at 100 percent occupancy, then you need to build more. But you don't want either existing or newly built units sitting vacant at any higher rate than you can avoid, no matter how much money moves around as a result.

Without having researched it in enough detail to be sure, the vacancy tax idea seems like a good first step, certainly better than anything that would create more vacant units.

New Empty Units

Why do you assume that the space, materials and labor to build unlimited housing will be available? Those physical resources have to be pulled out of some other use, if they exist at all. And if they are available, that means you will burn a bunch of those resources, and cause a bunch of environmental damage, to create housing capacity that will never be used.

The significance of the launderers is that they may greatly increase the amount of such unused capacity, because they may be even less sane about prices than regular speculators.

I'm not sure that a system that burns resources because people "want" empty units (which they don't actually want for their own sake at all) is a good system. And I'm not sure what surplus you mean. Surplus money, sure, but where's the surplus wealth? Seems to me that the actual wealth is being poured down a rathole.

New Empty Units

I'm not sure that follows. If your goal is to sell the unit on to a different money launderer, that may make it "a good investment" independent of its value as a place of residence.

I mean, we have people out there buying and selling block chain attestations to the notional "ownership" of hashes of digital images, with no limitation at all on access to the actual image content. As long as something is scarce, you can apparently use it as a store or conduit of value, regardless of whether it's useful.

New Empty Units

I don't know if it's important to your argument or not, but you're not necessarily dealing with ordinary speculators.

Rumor has it that a lot of sales of vacant urban units, especially luxury units, are to (and/or among) money launderers. That means that (1) much of the value of a unit doesn't come from its utility as a place to live, but from its acting as a cover story and/or a quasi-currency-value-conduit, and (2) the buyers actually expect to take some losses. In fact, in some cases overpaying may be the whole point, because it lets the buyer transfer extra money to the seller in exchange for something outside of the visible real estate transaction. There don't have to be that many launderers out there for them to represent a big proportion of the liquidity in the market, because they tend to turn properties over a lot, and they either don't care so much about overpaying or they actively want to overpay (which then distorts the price signal for everybody else).

Even the launderers can only absorb so many units, but I imagine they may contribute to the markets staying more irrational than you'd expect for longer than you expect. Supposedly this also applies to fine art.

Technological stagnation: Why I came around

Frankly, I think the biggest cause of the "stagnation" you're seeing is unwillingness to burn resources as the world population climbs toward 8 billion. We could build the 1970s idea of a flying car right now; it just wouldn't be permitted to fly because (a) it would (noisily) waste so much fuel and (b) it turns out that most people really aren't up to being pilots, especially if you have as many little aircraft flying around from random point A to random point B as you have cars. A lot of those old SciFi ideas simply weren't practical to begin with.

... and I think that the other cause is that of course it's easier to pick low hanging fruit.

It may not be possible to build a space elevator with any material, ever, period, especially if it has to actually stay in service under real environmental conditions. You're not seeing radically new engine types because it's very likely that we've already explored all the broad types of engines that are physically possible. The laws of physics aren't under any obligation to support infinite expansion, or to let anybody realize every pipe dream.

In fact, the trick of getting rapid improvement seems to be finding a new direction in which to expand, so that you can start at the bottom of the logistic curve. You got recent improvement in electronics and computing because microelectronics were a new direction. You didn't get more improvement in engines because they were an old direction.

Your six categories are now all old directions (except maybe manufacturing, because that can mean anything at all). In 1970, you might not have included "information"... because wasn't so prominent in people's minds until a bunch of new stuff showed up to give it salience.

At the turn of the last century, you had much more of a "green field" in the all of the areas you list. You're going to have to settle for less in those areas.

And there's no guarantee that there are any truly new directions left to go in, either. Eventually you reach the omega point.

That said, I think you're underestimating the progress in some of those areas.


The real cost of basically everything is way down from 1970. Any given thing is made with less raw material, less energy, and less environmental impact.

I build stuff for fun, and the parts and materials available to me are very, very noticeably better than what I could have gotten in the 1970s.

Materials are much more specialized and they are universally better. Plastic in 1970 was pretty much synonymous with "cheap crap that falls apart easily". In 2021, plastics are often better than any other material you can find. 2021 permanent magnets are in 1970s science fiction territory (and more useful than flying cars). Lubricants and sealants are vastly better. There's a much wider variety of better controlled, more consistent metal alloys in far wider use, and they are conditioned to perform better using a much wider variety of heat treatments, mechanical processing, surface treatments, etc. Things that would have been "advanced aerospace materials" in 1970 are commonplace in 2021.

Mechanisms in general are much more reliable and durable, and require much less maintenance and adjustment.

I don't believe 1970 had significant deployment of laser cutting, waterjet cutting, EDM, or probably a bunch of other process I'm forgetting about. They existed, but there were rare then, and they are everywhere now. 1970 had no additive manufacturing unless you count pottery.

It's true that there's no real change in how major bulk inputs are handled... because that stuff is really old (and was really old before 1970). There's not much dramatic improvement still available, and not even that many "tweaks".

Yeah, you don't have MNT. Although there's a lot of "invisible" improvement in the understanding of chemistry and the ability to manipulate things at small scales... and MNT was always supposed to be something that would suddenly pop up when those things got good enough. It might qualify as a "new direction", but there are no guarantees about exactly when such a direction will open up.


Construction has always been conservative and has never moved fast. Given a comparable budget, 1970 construction wasn't all that different than 1870 construction, the big exceptions being framed structure instead of post-and-beam and prefab gypsum board instead of in-place plastering.

As for 1970 to 2021, in 1970 you would have used much more wood to frame a house. Nobody used roof or floor trusses in residential construction. There was also a lot more lead and asbestos floating around... and they needed lead and asbestos, because without them their paints and insulation would not have remotely approached 2021 performance. For the most part they weren't as good even with them. There's also much wider deployment of plastic in construction (because plastic doesn't suck any more). Fasteners are better, too, or at least it's better understood which fastener to apply when and where.

I can tell at a glance that I'm not in a 1970 living room because the plugs are grounded. Also, unless it's a rich person's living room, the furniture is prefab flat pack particle board with veneer finishes instead of stick-built wood.


When I was a kid in the 1970s, the fresh food available in your average supermarket was dramatically less varied than it is now, and at the same time dramatically less palatable. Even the preserved food was more degraded. We actually ate canned vegetables at a significant rate.

If you didn't live through maybe the 1980s to the 1990s or early 2000s, you can't really have an idea how much better the food available to the average urban consumer has gotten.

A big part of that was better crop varieties, and I think another very big part was better management and logistics.


Energy is doing quite well, thanks, with several major, qualitative changes.

We have working renewables. Solar cells in 1970 were just plain unusable for any real purpose. Wind was a pain in the ass because of the mechanical unreliability of the generators (and was less efficient because of significantly worse turbine geometries). We're also better at not wasting so much energy.

Batteries in 1970 were absolute garbage in terms of capacity, energy density, energy per unit weight, cycle count, you name it. Primary cells were horrible, and rechargeables were worse. You simply did not use a ton of little battery-powered gadgets of any kind. That's partly because all the electrical devices we have now are much less power hungry, but it's also because batteries have actually started not to suck. People in 1970 would have looked at you like you were crazy if you suggested a cordless drill, and that has nothing to do with the efficiency of the motor. By the way, that progress in batteries is based on a crapton of major materials science advances.

Yeah, nuclear didn't happen, but that was for political reasons. One notable political issue was that fission plants are easy to use to make material for nuclear bombs. Nobody quite caught on to the whole CO2 issue until it was too late. And "nuclear homes, cars and batteries" were never a very practical idea, so it's not surprising that they haven't happened. You don't want every bozo handling fissionables... and controlled fusion for power is probably impossible at a small scale, even assuming it's possible at a large scale.


The limits on transportation technology are energy and the Pauli exclusion principal. These are not things that you can easily change. You can't expect new transport modes because the physical environment doesn't change. You can't expect a bunch of new engine types because there are a limited number of physically possible engine types.

For actual deployed infrastructure, you have to add political limits (which are probably the main reasons you don't have much more efficiency by now)... and limits on what people want.

Doing a lot of space flight is a massive energy sink, and there is no urgent reason to waste that energy at the moment. Yes, I have heard the X-risk arguments, and no, they do not move me at all. Neither does asteroid mining. And the manifest destiny space colonization stuff sure doesn't. Maybe the people who want all that space flight are simply a minority?

Supersonic transport is also not worth it. Speeds have gone down because nobody wants to waste that much energy or deal with that much noise (or move the material to dig huge systems of evacuated tunnels).


Yeah, it's a hard problem, see, because you have to hack on this really badly engineered system, which you're not allowed to shut down or modify.

That said, cancer isn't a single disease, and "the cure for cancer" was never going to be a thing. I think that actual medical people understood that even in 1970. There've actually been very significant advances against specific kinds of cancer. There are also improvements in prevention; screenings, HPV vaccine, whatever.

"Heart disease" isn't really a single disease, either. But there's a lot less of it around, with less impact, and not just because people stopped smoking. Even if you eat all the time and never exercise (which we're worse about than in 1970), ya got yer statins, yer much better blood pressure meds, yer thrombolytics, yer better surgery, yer better implantable devices...

Oh, and they turned around a vaccine against a relatively novel pandemic virus in under a year. They identified that virus, sequenced its genome, and did a ton of other characterization on its structure and action, in time that would definitely have sounded like science fiction in 1970. They actually know a lot about how it works... detailed chemical explanations for stuff that would, in 1970, have been handwaved at a level just about one step above vitalism.

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