How to protect the future web from its founders' own frailty

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The bit about Roman chariots and the Space Shuttle is not true.

Literally the next para down:

This is not entirely true, there are historians who will explain the glosses in which it’s not true. But it is a parable about what happens when empires fall.


I missed this earlier and now I can’t wait to read more . . . thanks to the TRANSCRIBING!! Thank you for a great end of the week surprise. It will be shared it with many friends and colleagues. :slight_smile:

Why use an example and then immediately say it isn’t true? The effect, obviously, is to cause the reader to stop reading.

He probably had no time to think of a better one that was actually true.

Actually, I can see how this went. He gives a copy of the speech to a friend…

“You know that train thing isn’t true.”

“Maybe I could use the QWERTY thing.”

“Also not true.”


“Not true and not applicable.”

“Maybe that thing about the mouse and the cream?”

“Not applicable and they’ll want you read it like Christopher Walken”

“Damn, I got a plane to catch. I’ll think of something.”

You’re not weak if you eat a bag of Oreos in the middle of the night. You’re not weak if you save all of your friends’ mortgages by making a compromise when your business runs out of runway. You’re just human, and you’re experiencing that hyperbolic discounting of future costs because of that immediate reward in the here and now.
If you want to make sure that you don’t eat a bag of Oreos in the middle of the night, make it more expensive to eat Oreos. Make it so that you have to get dressed and find your keys and figure out where the all-night grocery store is and drive there and buy a bag of Oreos. And that’s how you help yourself in the future, in that moment where you know what’s coming down the road.

I love the Ulysses Pact as a way of thinking about protecting a decentralized internet. The need for protection from corporate centralizers seems clear.

And it can be very hard not to eat Oreos at night if they’re easy to find … or favor an IPO when you’ve been paid in shares.

But it’s not about heroic willpower by individuals. A pact is an agreement based on consent of multiple parties. It’s social. It requires trust between people to guarantee performance of a political task with a moral purpose.

In this instance, it’s trust among community members that our internet will remain decentralized — that we will stop those in power from succumbing to temptation.

A pact requires friends more than willpower. Willpower won’t help with dieting if loved ones keep bringing Oreos into the house.


The first version I saw of this anecdote related the wheelbase of chariots not to the state of Roman metallurgy, but to the width of the standard horse’s ass. (Insert Donald Trump joke here if desired.)

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