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Fourth Letter of Reprisal - Draft

Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:58 pm
by Davi
Fourth Letter of Reprisal - Skuttlebutt
Tsar Date: 45:941:955

Pirates are confronted with all the same villainy as those on land. Theft and fraud. Even murder and sexual assault. Most landlubbers can’t fathom how we supposed “scoundrels” manage to avoid protracted chaos in our floating society. But, pirates know that the secret to thriving outside the Crown’s domain lies in embracing the Crown’s greatest fear… gossip.

The Crown delights in putting down an occasional dawn revolt, and then casually executes a dozen political prisoners before breakfast. But gossip, rumor, derision… these are what the Crown fears from the black. Even the casual skuttlebut can induce paranoia when power is tenuous. Gossip has the power to erode legitimacy, which in turn decentralizes influence. Gossip has the power to topple empires.

Among pirates your credibility is everything. Cultivating renown can expand your opportunities, shield you from false claims, and even earn you a ship and loyal crew. But infamy can get you ostracised, blacklisted and thrown in the bilge. However, libelous allegations from the Crown are practically a resume at sea.

Your reputation is an intangible asset that doesn’t belong to you. It’s the impression of you in other people’s minds. It’s what people say about you behind your back. You can’t control it, but you can influence it.

At the center is your identity. Your character. Your sentiments, ambitions and vulnerabilities. This core is yours alone, but it is invisible to others. Around that core will begin to crystalize your competence. The sum of your life experiences. All your successes and failures. These amount to an expertise. A gift you have to offer the world. But if you don’t show your competence, if you don’t show your character, no one will ever know your value. This is where many pirates go wrong. Competence requires presentation if you hope to stand out on a crew full of equals. Your presentation is all the outside world sees, and all they have to form their opinion.

On top of your character, your competence and your presentation, is your reputation. It’s the constellation of equilibria reached in much the same way as a market discovers price. Competing claims and signals. Whispers and circumstances. Reputation is built on complex and dynamic layers. Beginning with every individual’s method of earning and granting respect, and progressing to informal customs that develop in every community.

Generally speaking, reputation has two prominent features. The first is trust. Who do you trust and why? Trust relationships form a liquid social fabric, where one’s good standing rises and falls according to public opinion. With trust, cooperation and harmony are possible. Without it, we are derelict.

The second is behavior, which includes all the complexity of every individual. Our opinions of people are far more than a measurement of trust, but are instead comprised of a richly textured web of nuanced behavioral expectations. And these subjective attitudes about us will fluctuate constantly.
Some semblance of these methods inevitably emerge as individuals bootstrap their way up any crew. We simply can’t help but share our stories and observe patterns in our repeated interactions. And so long as there’s no interference with such pirate communications, a simple whisper campaign can have
incredible power to correct antisocial behavior. A time-bandit known for distracting a working crew is free to do that, but they may soon find no one aboard who wants to engage with them. Taken further they may find no crew willing to sail with them, and they’ll have no options but to launch their own ship (offering wages that reflect their unpopularity), or return to land.

Pirate communication is only half the solution. It allows information to travel freely but it doesn't distinguish truth from falsehood. We concede that spreading falsehoods is a gross immorality, but we can’t curtail speech as the Crown does. A pirate has the freedom to say, print and disseminate whatever they wish. Honest pirates must verify rumors, so the credibility of liars is itself subject to the forces of our social software. As a result, pirates are far more skeptical than the servile landlubber who believes whatever the Crown tells them to believe.

Informal reputation systems were sufficient when pirates interacted face-to-face. Only those who accomplished great feats earned renown beyond their own crew. But today, technology allows us to interact peer-to-peer, spanning the seven seas and beyond. Such infrastructure can streamline reputation systems with laser focus, but such a database may be used as evidence of “criminal conspiracy” in the hands of the Crown.

It’s crucial that competing services in this field include some immutable features that allow us to accumulate meaningful social capital with resilient networks that enable fellowship. Such a program must be designed for interstellar communication in a galactic parley. It must be resistant to artificial status inflation, and possess virtually no obstacles to entry. Such a tool must be a peer-to-peer protocol that relays data outside the traditional communication infrastructure. It must run without centralization and engage many niche platforms, and aggregate relevant data according to every user’s preferences. It must be grassroots, transparent, and subject to reputation itself. This limits the ability of hostile parties to spread lies without risking their own reputation as a truth-teller. But, all the most sophisticated features are irrelevant, if the reputation market isn’t accurate.

Pirates must find a way to enjoy enough anonymity to protect them from the Crown, while also maintaining a consistent identity to ensure their reputation is their own. Anonymous markets are already able to collect pseudonymous reputation data on all users. Aboard many ships the manifest is available to the entire crew, and often other vessels, to ensure that individuals have a consistent identity that is horizontally visible to other pirates, while remaining invisible to the Crown.

Re: Fourth Letter of Reprisal - Draft

Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:50 pm
by Davi

Re: Fourth Letter of Reprisal - Draft

Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:43 pm
by Spartacus
Okay, my comments. First off let me say that I find this whole pirate theme kind of hokey and stupid. I don't mean to be insulting with that statement, that's just my opinion. I'd much rather simply discuss philosophy and practicality without the cartoon characters.

That said, the last sentence in your piece is a contradiction in terms as I think I may have already pointed out. If there is an immutable database of everyone's mistakes and foibles, good deeds and heroics, then it will be available to all and sundry at some point as the ability to see inside of the minds of others is an impossibility, at least at present, and if we had that capability then this database of individuals proclivities would be redundant. The idea of a con(fidence) game is based upon the ability of some to fool and take advantage of others. Any reputation system which attempts to retain privacy will fail due to those con artists who can game the system and trust of others in order to gain personal advantage, and once that former private information has been breached there will be no putting it back in the bottle.

As has been said, the only antidote to bad speech is more speech. All must be open to all and unfortunately that means the sociopaths in power will have access as well. Of course that also means that we'll be privy to the attempted secrets of said sociopaths as well, the better to inform our choices and decisions.

Trust must therefore be an individual responsibility and that means that the gullible, lazy and mentally inferior are likely to be taken advantage of. What's the other option, a priesthood of specialists? We know where that goes, the sociopaths will rule the roost as is the current reality.

As I see it the only choice is greater availability of information from which we must all individually take responsibility for deciding our own sense of trust. And we will fail at times. That's the only way anyone ever learns anything. As has been said, "Utopia is not an option."

Re: Fourth Letter of Reprisal - Draft

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 2:56 pm
by Spartacus
I'm not sure but I maybe posted this in the wrong thread?