Shows I’ve been enjoying

Some of my favorite shows for 2016:

Atlanta
People vs OJ
Insecure
Steven Universe
Young Pope
Regular Show
The OA
Mr. Robot
Game of Thrones
Bob’s Burgers

This is just off the top of my head. There are other shows I liked but forgot to list and other shows that I haven’t watched yet. There are also shows that I like but didn’t have strong seasons in 2016 so I didn’t list them.

I also watched a lot of Mary Tyler Moore, a lot of Friends, and all of Seinfeld, which continues my sitcom education. I’ve previously watched all of Cheers and Frasier.

I’m currently really enjoying Legion.

The Future Looks Like This

This is incredibly inspiring: How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World β€” And Democracy

I think this is what the future should look like. Smaller units of governance, with the ability to collaborate on larger levels. Smart use of technology to get closer to direct democracy, seeing what the people really want. It’s also a very practical guide, insofar as it looks to occupy current institutions and combine that with work outside those institutions. It also acknowledges our very real problems, whereas neoliberalism denies them. In that way, it presents a true alternative to the autocratic, xenophobic right-wing that’s gaining steam worldwide.

Gonna do more research.

Brave New War

I devoured, over two days, Brave New War by John Robb. If you want to understand how modern day conflicts are fought, this is a must-read. It came out in 2007 and is still relevant (helps explains Trump) and will be relevant for a long time. I also recommend his blog.

Not Going to Make a Go Pun Here

Crepes-a-Go-Go is moving from downtown to closer to San Pablo, near the library on University. When I talked to the owner, he said that some big New York developer had bought that entire block and kicked everyone out. They had been in that location for something like 29 years. He added that Berkeley isn’t a place for mom and pop shops anymore. Later, Stevie told me that she thought maybe the University had owned the land and then sold it to the developers. I don’t want Berkeley to get San Francisco-ized. Is there anything that can be done?

Not a Utopia

I believe society should provide for everyone’s basic needs. Everyone should have food, shelter, education, and mental and physical health care.

Some would call this utopian. I disagree. I would call it the bare fucking minimum for a just society.

Providing for basic needs wouldn’t solve a lot of humanity’s problems. We’ll still fight. There will still be a lot of injustice.

But it’s a necessary start. I truly believe that providing for basic needs instead of forcing people into wage slavery would unleash a lot of human creativity. It’s not about problems magically being solved, but allowing people to use more of their time and energy to start working on those problems.

It speaks to how poor our imaginations are that this counts as utopian thinking. There’s enough for everyone. We have the technology to provide for everyone and the technology to make the distribution possible. It’s all within reach. It’s not pie in the sky thinking. We live in an age where this is doable.

Note that I didn’t say we’d all be perpetually full and jolly. I didn’t say we’d all live in mansions with everything we want. It’s only the basic needs that I’m talking about right now. That’s not utopian at all and fuck capitalism for making us think that it is.

Twitch Plays Pokemon and New Forms of Government

I could see myself looking at back at this and thinking I was really stupid to write this, but I’m going to write it anyway. I already cringe at a lot of what I previously wrote anyway. Blogging is for this, I guess. Putting out your proto-thoughts into the void so that you can laugh at them later. No, really, though, this is helping me reason through things. And more importantly, get them out of my brain so I can move on to reasoning about newer things. I’ve mostly been focusing on trashing liberals because it helps me collect my thoughts so that I can be nicer on Facebook and push the conversation leftward without people muting me right away. When people are rehabilitating Bush (and even saying they’d rather have Nixon), I feel like this is important work. I use the word important very loosely. Please don’t think I’m that full of myself. Anyway, I do want to spend some of my brainspace thinking of more positive views of the future. Even if those first attempts are awkward. So here we go.

Twitch Plays Pokemon was a massive success in decentralized decision-making. In case you don’t remember, TTP was when someone hooked up a hacked version of the original pokemon game to Twitch and let people enter commands to play. It was chaos. Anyone who could chat could play. You typed in A, B, start, select, up, down, left or right and your command was put in the queue. When I first saw it, I was like, “Oh, haha, that’s neat” and then peaced out. I was later drawn back in after a co-worker told me that it was amazing. And indeed it was.

What emerged was strategy and mythology. People posted strategies on a subreddit. (I imagine everyone is familiar with reddit, but people were talking on a forum that was just for people playing TPP.) They proposed where what we should try that day. There were competing ideas. They were upvoted and downvoted accordingly. But in the end, the vote that mattered was the hive mind. People voted by posting the moves they wanted in the TPP chat. You could see the struggles. The character would move up and then down again and then up and slowly (or quickly) one side would win the tug of war. The hive mind moved it and it obeyed. The strategies were actually being executed. All this just from a bunch of people typing commands.

I remember in particular an argument about whether we should put a pokemon in the day care or not. I disagreed. The character wobbled back and forth as the argument raged on. I kept trying to push it in the opposite direction. But I could see we were losing. We made it to the day care and deposited a pokemon. You could feel yourself as part of this collective.

As the game progressed, people posted tactics too. Ledges are one-way barriers. To progress through the game, sometimes you have to make it through a pathway with ledges. If you drop down the ledge, then you have to go all the way back around. As you can imagine, this is a much more difficult task when you have a bajillion people typing in commands, not all of whom agree with the direction you’re going. At the beginning, people were spamming up to keep from being pushed down. Eventually, the tactics changed to where people were not spamming up because it actually made going through ledges harder. (I won’t bore you with the full details because I’ve probably bored you enough.) So, the collective intelligence managed to not only move around strategically, but it managed to get smarter and more efficient.

There were also trolls. Most of the people wanted us to beat the game. That was the goal. Some people didn’t want that. They’d do things like push us towards the computer and try to release pokemon. The collective pushed back, though. What made this so inspiring is that we won. In so many other arenas, trolls win. They poison the discourse and get people to leave. They harass and destroy. They graduate to doxxing and swatting and even shooting. But if you structure the rules correctly, anarchy can produce great results. You can win even with the participation of bad agents. More importantly, most of us wanted this to happen. It truly followed the will of the people. I remember being emotionally moved when we finally won. I stayed up late to watch. At the time, we had no idea if it was possible to win or not. We won, and it was a triumph against trolls everywhere.

I used the word anarchy earlier. It might be misleading to say it was all “anarchy.” To progress through the game, you have to get some stuff in the Safari Zone. It costs money to enter and you only get a certain number of steps. With the rules in place, we would’ve run out of money and then could never complete the game. So, the game was changed. A new mode was created. Democracy mode. In this mode, there was a timer. Everyone inputed their commands. Instead of the character moving in every direction, it only moved in the direction that got the most votes in that time. Tick tick. Move move. It worked. Then, we were given a choice. You could put in the normal commands, or you could place a vote for anarchy or democracy. When it reached a certain threshold, the mode changed. The collective used this to our advantage. You see, we dynamically changed our mode of governance in order to best meet our challenges. It’s really amazing when you think about it. Usually, it’s very hard to enact such constitutional changes, but we flipped back and forth. New strategies arose in reddit and the collective mind moved.

Besides the strategy, reddit also became a compendium of mythology. The game screen showed one thing, but we narrativized it further and imbued the game with even more meaning. The collective mind would sometimes do silly things, like look at the helix fossil a bunch of times in a row. This became a meme where “consult the helix fossil” was a phrase and the helix fossil was deemed an oracle. Then, there arose counter-mythologies about how the helix fossil was a false prophet and the dome fossil was the truth. I even own a helix fossil t-shirt. When pokemon were released accidentally or due to trolling (or a little of both), we eulogized the lost. Some of our pokemon became heroes. A single venomoth took out a dragonite. ATV slew dragonite all by his lonesome. Fan art arose. And people also explained the mechanics of the game that allowed this unlikely event to happen. It’s part of what made the game so fun. Also, because the game was global, I’d sleep and then Asia and Australia would play. I couldn’t watch or rewatch what they’d done. (Besides, literally rewatching would be boring.) However, I did get narrativized recaps through reddit. It was fun participating and it was fun spectating.

The other half of this blog post’s title is “New Forms of Government.” Now this is where I get silly, but I think this social experiment proves that this type of anarchic decision making isn’t doomed to failure. Some think that the people can’t be trusted with power, but I think they can. People point to popular votes where the “wrong” outcome was given. People vote for the less talented, but more palatable individual in a reality singing competition. People pick “Boaty McBoatface” as a boat name. However, in a world more complex than pokemon, government by an elite few actually can cause more harm. Think of the very serious foreign policy types who always argue for military intervention. Decentralized decision making was right for pokemon and it is right for the world. And one thing that is often missing from these discussions is that pokemon was a much more enjoyable experience this way. If it was run by an elite few, it would’ve been rather boring to watch. Boaty McBoatface is a great name, by the way. It elicits joy.

Even beyond actual government, so much of our world is actually tiny dictatorships. Companies are run by CEOs. Employees often get very little say. Even open-source projects, which is thought of as collectivist (because anyone can contribute), are mostly governed very hierarchically. Pull requests are committed based on the decision of the person who owns the repository. Or they endow some people with the power to approve. But it would be interesting to make git repositories that were governed different. Maybe with some type of voting system? Forums and comments are governed by admins and moderators with the power to banish or edit. What if people could be voted in or out, and this could be done without mods? While content is created in a more decentralized manner on social media, its distribution is determined algorithmically but not neutrally. That is, Zuckerberg can decide that live video is important and boom, it’s privileged more in your feed. In a more decentralized world, the platform would be open and algorithms would compete.

I truly believe that technology can positively reshape the way we govern ourselves. With new software, we can come to collective decisions more instantly, more dynamically, in a more decentralized fashion, and that this will improve humanity. I know, it sounds techno-utopian. I’m often more curmudgeonly about technology. But think about what we have already collectively accomplished. As programmers, we have collectively contributed to Stack Overflow and created this hive mind so we don’t have to waste time solving the same problems over and over. It’s free and amazing. It has collectively made us so much more productive. Open-source projects are similarly a boon to us collectively. Projects like Ruby on Rails make humanity better. Instead of reinventing boilerplate code, we can collectively create abstractions and work on what truly matters. Beyond even using an open-source plug-in to add a feature to make our lives easier, we can create infrastructure. So much of this is done for free, for the collective betterment of society, not for profit.

And, oh, we also beat Pokemon.

Imagine a world more like this. And imagine instead of administrators of these open-source projects being bogged down by fatigue, the project was maintained collectively, not just collective contributions. How much more could we improve society? This is why I am sometimes optimistic. We are in an age of instantaneous communication across vast distances. We should be able to harness this power to turn our governments into decentralized, dynamic units.

Liberalism Can’t Answer Trumpism

So, Trump is saying that Obama wiretapped him. Liberals say Trump is a liar. I mean, he is generally prone to making shit up. I do doubt Obama literally had a wiretap in Trump Tower. At the same time, he presided over an expansion of mass surveillance over Americans. Liberals can nitpick but offer no substantive critique of surveillance.

People are shitting on Ben Carson for saying that slaves were immigrants. Yes, Ben Carson made crude, offensive, stupid, illogical remarks. But in response to the Muslim ban, these same people were unironically, proudly saying that “America is a nation of immigrants” and “Immigrants built America.” These phrases feed into American exceptionalism all the same. Here’s a good pieceon what’s wrong with those phrases.

These are just two examples based on recent news. Liberalism offers no real answer to Trumpism. All its critiques don’t go far enough. They actually uphold fascism (mass surveillance) and colonialism.

Goodbye Sushi Ko

Sushi Ko recently closed. I only started eating there because the Japanese place across the street had closed after a fire. (I miss that place. Decent sushi, good non-sushi, never too crowded.) Eventually, I started eating there every Wednesday with my business partner. They had a really good lunch special with gyoza and teriyaki chicken. The regular lunch bento where you got to pick and choose was already a great deal, and the lunch special was an extra dollar off. The special switched days, our work schedule changed, but we still kept coming back.

One day we were going to walk in. The door was open, but no one was sitting at the tables. It was just the owners packing things up. Are you closed? Is it just for the day? Forever? Why? They told us it was closing because the rent was going up by a lot. We thanked the owners.

It makes me sad to see a nice restaurant like that close, not because business was bad, but because rent was going up. In its place will be some dumb wings place, or so says the sign indicating someone in that spot is applying for a liquor license.

Nearby a Tender Greens has opened. I ate there and it was good. It’s much more expensive, though. (The portions are big enough that it’s not a rip-off.) A Blue Bottle recently opened in the WeWork building. They serve avocado toast, the current fad food used to rip off hipsters.

Games of Berkeley has moved. I was glad to see it wasn’t closed forever. They had a red tag sale, but I didn’t see anything interesting. It’s weird seeing the iconic building empty.

I recently ate at Long Life Veggie House. It has very generous portions for a good price, especially the lunch specials. It’s a trip being inside because it’s at the old SpoonRocket HQ. I look around and I can still see the tangle of wires in the closet, the router where I replaced the cable with one of my personal cables, the shelving stuffed with stickers and whatnot, the curtains, and of course, the wall of Cambros. Oh and I remember the people. Anyway, Long Life Veggie House used to be downtown. I suppose its rent went up a lot too.

Restaurants always come and go. It’s a high turnover business. But I hope we don’t see more Berkeley restaurants replaced by chains. Don’t you dare touch Top Dog.

The Other Side

I’ve seen liberals want to understand the other side. For them, this means trying to read more conservative/Republican sources.

I recently read a tweet (can’t find it, ugh, but I’ll try again later) about how from a global perspective, US Democrats are considered to be a party on the right side of the political spectrum.

So, if liberals really want to look at the other side, they’d be better served reading non-US leftists.

Perhaps this is what was bothering me when people were talking about bubbles after the election. That liberals need to look beyond capitalism and imperialism to truly get outside their bubble.

UPDATE: Found the tweet. I think someone else I follow quote tweeted it and added more, but I can’t find that.

Gacha Gotcha

I recently downloaded RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch. I have fond memories of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon game, managing a park’s finances and building cool coasters. The touch version is garbage. I mean, it’s slick for what it is. But I have what mobile games have become. Rides make money. Then, you have to come back every so often to tap them and collect the money. Rides have a maximum amount of money they can hold, so you have to come re-open the game. It’s very Farmville-esque, but hyper-powered as games chase engagement metrics. Then, there’s the stupid slot machine mechanic. In order to build things, you have to collect cards. Cards are random. So, it could be forever before you get the thing you need.

Building a roller coaster wasn’t even allowed until I reached Level 5. Once there, the game noticed that I didn’t have the cards I needed, took pity, and gave me more. (Meanwhile, people leave the park because I can’t get the cards to give them the types of food they like.) The actual process of building a roller coaster was a disaster. The controls are difficult and unintuitive.

The game is completely joyless. I’m so tired of free-to-play. All of these mechanics make for things that aren’t actually games. They’re optimized for extracting revenue.

Some of the first games I played on iOS brought me so much joy. When I first played World of Goo on iPad, I thought it was magical. It felt like it was the way the game should be played. Lost Winds was similarly amazing. It was a platformer where you drew lines of wind to move your character around. The characters and story, the background and the villains, were all charming.

Lost Winds will be unplayable when I update my iPad. I’ve been putting it off. I wish we could preserve this history better. iOS versions go up and up. The game doesn’t make more money. Eventually, the game is no longer compatible. It disappears. In fact, Apple recently purposely purged a lot of unworking games from the store. I can’t download the games anymore. They’re gone forever. A lot of games from my childhood are better preserved. I can still boot up a DOS VM and play old shareware games. But what will happen to these old games?

With Lost Winds, I can still download the game from Steam, but it loses its magic when not played on the touch screen.

There are still a lot of amazing mobile games. I recently downloaded Causality. I’ve also been playing Mini Metro and Hoplite. Amanita Design’s wordless adventure games remain among my favorites. Monument Valley is beautiful. None of them are free-to-play, though. Maybe I’ll try paying for RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic.

It makes me incredibly sad to see these joyless games and to see some of my favorite games disappear. Are there any projects to preserve them?

Trump Doesn’t Need a Fire

I saw an article or articles going around about how Trump could possibly use his own Reichstag Fire to consolidate power and enact emergency measures. I’m not sure why, but these articles troubled me — not because I thought they were true, but because something in the framework that creates these types of pieces is wrong. I guess I’d like to explore why I think this.

What’s interesting is we already had a moment like this with George W. Bush. Bush used a terrorist attack to compromise civil liberties. The Patriot Act expanded the government’s ability to surveil us. Beyond the Patriot Act, there was illegal spying. All of these were essentially approved of by the Democrats, including when telecoms were given immunity for helping the government with illegal surveillance. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act, in fact. The world we live in now, with the NSA able to listen in to anything, where Western countries help each other spy on their own citizens, is directly a result of what happened under Bush. Obama promised constitutionality, but did not dismantle any of this. Trump now has control of this. So why does he need to create some type of false flag operation to gain power? What additional surveillance powers would he gain? How, in this case, is Trump unique?

In addition to spying, the CIA engaged in torture. Obama promised to close Guantanamo, but never did. Trump has promised to start torturing again. Now, liberals are starting to rehabilitate Bush and Romney as “reasonable” Republicans. Bush already used a terror attack to start torturing people. Romney promised to “double Guantanamo” when he was running for office. People cheered for this shit. Trump doesn’t need an additional terrorist attack.

Our domestic police forces have become increasingly militarized since the war on terror. This includes not only the way they approach things, but equipment. Yeah, the police has military grade equipment. And they used it at Standing Rock, attacking water protectors. This happened under Obama, paused, and then resumed under Trump. Trump didn’t need to do anything special. We’re worried about hypothetical shit when what’s already happening is not that far off from worst case scenario.

This is just analyzing the Bush era. Let’s not forget that America has continuously attacked minorities. The way the police treat black people is already fascistic. This is a part of America’s past and it is part of our present, as witnessed through countless cell phone videos. This is propped up by the prison-industrial complex. The US already locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other country. Our so-called rule of law and systems of justice are Kafkaesque nightmares. Poor people are locked up for years before they even get a trial because they can’t make bail. The conditions inside our prisons are inhumane. Oh and remember when I mentioned torture, let’s not forget Chicago’s own “black site” for torturing its own citizens. In Ferguson, the city systematically targeted its own black citizens, using the police force to extort them with fines. All this, and Trump didn’t even have to lift a finger.

So I guess I wonder why we have to invent dystopias when we already live in one.

I do recognize that it can get “worse.” That me in my privileged bubble and my privileged friends could have our bubbles popped. I’m in the middle of reading a cartoonist’s account of the conditions in Serbia during the war and sanctions. We don’t have hyper-inflation going on here; we have running water and electricity. Lucky us, I guess. Oh and neo-Nazis don’t freely roam the streets yet. And myself, I haven’t taken up arms for a revolution. So, maybe my actions show that I don’t really believe it’s so bad as to be a dystopia. I am thinking and learning, though… and writing. But even with all that, I think if we truly want to be free, we need to look clearly at what has already happened. If don’t normalize Trump but normalize the pre-Trump status quo, then we have lost. If we worry about Trump using a terrorist attack to further erode civil liberties, but “miss Bush,” then we have lost.

The final thing that bothers me is the idea that Trump could perhaps use a protest as pretext to further grab power. That perhaps if it became a riot, then he could crack down. Beyond the fact that this ignores the already militarized response to protests (which I’ve already covered above), it seems to disempower those who would want to protest. That Trump and crew are omnipotent evil villains and everything we do somehow plays into their plans. It’s just a cleverer way of dressing up the normal liberal complaints. When it comes to radical demands, they’ll pretend to agree with the principles but disagree with the means or disagree with on’s tone. In the past, they thought actions of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s were all counterproductive. Oddly enough, though, none of the right’s moves are ever counterproductive. It’s an inconsistent framework.

I do understand that some actions are counterproductive. I recognize this in foreign policy where intervention can cause more problems. One of my favorite parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender is when King Bumi is attacked by the Fire Nation and decides to do nothing (and then waits for a better moment). Doing nothing is sometimes awesome. But not now. We need swarms of people trying different tactics.

Hm, so I think I have adequately figured out why I find those types of articles troubling. Time for sleep.

Silly Engineers

Software engineers can be such clods.

Several big companies, including Apple and Google, engaged in collusion to keep wages down. The capitalists aren’t on your side. (Our side, I suppose is the better way to phrase it, as I’m also a developer.)

The startup world often isn’t any better for non-founders. The equity given to the first engineers is usually not as good as what they think it is. Especially in a less than ideal exit where investors grab their share first and the engineers are left with scraps (or nothing). When an exit does happen, they’re usually not consulted and don’t get to fight for their share. It’s especially bad when you consider the hours they’re expected to put in. Then, factor in that their work product belongs to the company. Their upside is rather limited even with the small share they get. (Perhaps I will google links to stories to show what’s up, but I’m tired right now. If you’re experienced in the world, you’ll understand this intuitively.)

Really, engineers at places like Uber should be allies with the lower-income contract workers. Not the capitalists who have proven that they will engage in pretty much literal theft.

The solution is to go beyond capitalism.

Zuckerberg, Trump, and Exploitation

I’m not sure how many people are aware of how Trump stiffed contractors. Here’s an article on it. This kind of behavior makes him a dick, and I think a lot of people recognize that. Even if legal, it’s described as an unethical loophole. It’s exploitative. If you agree, you can keep reading. If you don’t, whatever; I’m not going to argue this point.

Now, let’s talk about Zuckerberg. I specifically bring him up because there’s speculation that he could potentially run for office. He is a liberal, so some people might be encouraged by this, but he is a rich capitalist. In fact, Zuckerberg’s exploitation exceeds Trump’s. Social media depends on people creating free content. The value is created by the users. But it’s not redistributed to the users. Facebook advertises against the content we create, but it keeps all the value and no creator is paid (aside from small exceptions). Their algorithms, for displaying content, displaying the best ads, facial recognition, all depend on the data that we create, yet we are not recompensed. Facebook’s exploitation of free labor far exceeds Trump’s in both monetary value and the number of people exploited.

We don’t see it because we are taught to work within the framework of capitalism. Trump’s exploitation is more obvious because he had an agreement. Whereas with facebook, we click approve for a user agreement that let’s facebook do this. Nothing should be redistributed to the user, because in capitalism, the value that’s created belongs to the capitalist. Under capitalism, when an employee develops a tool that makes them more productive, the excess value is captured by the company and the employee merely gets what she was already making (or less). So really, it’s not just a problem with the Zuckerbergs or the Trumps of the world (although they are particularly egregious cases), but a problem with the system of capitalism itself. As a society, we lack imagination. We need to start imagining a world where instead of Zuckerberg being able to buy land in Hawaii and possibly elections, the workers are the ones who get the value of what they create. People will tell you that this will never happen, but many of them are the same ones who insisted that Brexit would never happen, that Trump would never win the primary, that Trump would never be president, and perhaps they are the same ones who insisted that Iraq had WMDs.

And I’ve limited this conversation merely to exploitation. Zuckerberg’s views are troubling in general, as well. But that’s a different conversation, and I’m not interested in that one yet.

Baldwin

I watched I Am Not Your Negro with my wife and mother-in-law last week. Definitely recommend it to anyone.

Here’s an article if you want to read something about it before deciding to watch it: https://thebaffler.com/blog/the-defiant-i-am-not-your-negro-orr

I’ve wanted to read Baldwin for a long time but wasn’t sure where to start. After watching the movie, I bought a collection of essays. Haven’t read it yet, though.

Saving Books

I saw this originally on social media somewhere, then googled and found a different article on it: A librarian in Florida went rogue to save 2,361 books from an algorithm.

A librarian created a fake library card to check out books. If they’re not checked out, they get culled from the collection, so this was done to save the books.

I wonder if something could be done where you create an app or website (or google doc?) that actual people use to check out books on their own, instead of having to create a fake account.

Antifascist Attention

Antifascists have been written about in the NY Times and in Wired, which are very mainstream publications. I’ve seen people complain that the tactics are counterproductive because they draw attention to the right-wing extremists, but rarely do I see that attention is also being drawn to the protesters. Just wanted to point out that this is also an effect.

Ethical Dilemmas for Liberals

This story about New Yorkers removing Nazi graffiti from subway cars went viral. (First saw it on Twitter, but can’t remember where, so no hat tip.) It wasn’t condemned, so I guess liberals find this ethically acceptable. But force isn’t? So, I have some further ethical dilemmas…

Can you punch a Nazi to prevent him from putting up Nazi propaganda?

No! That’s still force and using force to hurt someone you disagree with is also fascist.

Okay, what if I take the Nazi’s sharpie and destroy it, without actually hurting the Nazi?

No, destroying property is wrong and makes you just as bad as the fascists.

Ah, but the Nazi is about to deface property. Doesn’t that put me in the right?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Well, what if I simply stole the Nazi’s pen, without him ever being aware of it?

No, the Nazi still has rights to his property. Stealing is always wrong. What are we but savages without the rule of law? You are destroying civil society by undermining the rule of law and thus you are also a Nazi.

But I can destroy the Nazi propaganda after he puts it up?

Well, it depends. If it’s graffiti, you can clean it up. However, you must do so respectfully and can’t damage any property. If it’s a flier put up somewhere public, you can’t remove it because that would violate free speech. You can, however, debate with the poster. By the way, Nazis can also be women. Let’s not be sexist by assuming gender.

Whose speech is protected

Milo gets police protection. In fact, he gets extra police protection as BPD was coordinating with neighboring areas.

Meanwhile, water protectors trying to stop a pipeline get attacked by a tank.

This is not a post about hypocrisy. Or to say that “one side” is “always” protected and the “other side” is “never” protected. I merely want to say that there tends to be a clear pattern as to whose speech is protected by the state. And that these things can happen on the same day, and in my particular facebook feed, which is mostly people who are Democrats, people felt more strongly that they wanted to condemn “rioters” rather than the state violence in the latter. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt, that they wanted to comment on something closer to home. Yet with the BLM matters protests, there seems to be a pattern where property damage is worthy of universal contempt and condemnation, but systematic state violence is not.
I know, I know, maybe I simply want to see the pattern. Is this a case of “why are people paying attention to X, but not paying attention to Y?” My feed is so limited, and I’m not getting a full vision of public opinion. Timing matters and perhaps I don’t see the intensity of people’s reactions. After all, my social media posts don’t reflect much thought about NoDAPL even though I’ve donated money to the cause. Maybe that’s all true. But even if I’m wrong, the state’s actions still are clear.

I like to view things in terms of systems and this seems to be a clear case of the system acting to protect itself, even though liberals would ostensibly be against such repression. The state commits violence. Nationalism blinds people to it. Even when they recognize it, they attribute to a few bad actors. Both sides are painted as equivalent; stopping fascism is equivalent to fascism. Any reaction is “counterproductive.” The status quo is upheld. The system of state violence against minorities ends up protecting itself.

Calexit

Not sure what my opinion is on Calexit, in terms of whether I support it or not. California as a unit still seems to big. I’m more excited about cities rebelling than a state. (If you look at voting maps, the US is more divided along city/rural than red state / blue state.)

If California defies the federal government over this immigration issue and the federal government retaliates by withholding funding, then California may respond with withholding its own taxes from the federal government. This is a de facto Calexit. That may trigger a violent response from the federal government. I imagine California would back down at the mere threat of violence, but hey, times are strange.

Anyway, time to start stockpiling.

Un-American

The Muslim ban is a tragedy, but it’s hard to call it un-American. America has a long history of xenophobia. If America keeps doing it, then how can it be un-American?

I keep thinking about the end of Bojack season 3 with this exchange between Bojack and Todd:

Todd: You can’t keep doing this. You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay. You need to be better

Bojack: I know and I’m sorry. I was drunk there was all this pressure with the Oscar campaign but now… now that it’s over

Todd: No! No, Bojack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol or the drugs or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid. It’s you. Alright, it’s you. Fuck man, what else is there to say.

It’s not Russian hackers, or stupid hicks, or one bad president. It’s America.

This isn’t a stain. It’s part of the fabric. Racism was woven into the constitution.

We can’t keep clinging to this notion of America like it’s really good with this hidden heart of gold (to call back to Bojack season 1). We have to judge it by its actions… and they’re not pleasant.

Let’s give up on nation-states and capitalism and start building something better.

Adversarial Liking

I’ve been more interested in how to trick machine learning these days. This is a cool example of an image being imperceptibly modified so that machine learning classifies it wrong.

The main reason I’m interested is because of all the tracking going on. By advertisers, by advertising platforms, by governments, and by hackers. It’s too late and too hard to keep information from getting out, so I think it’s more interesting to create false information so that someone gets an incorrect view of me.

One technique I want to try is what I’m calling “adversarial liking.” It just means liking things on facebook that I don’t actually like. For example, I’m going to ask for a list of podcasts and like them all, even though I’m never going to listen to them. I want facebook to get an incorrect picture of me. Facebook doesn’t really account for this threat model, so it should be a successful attack.

I know, as an advertiser, it’d suck to have my ads be less effective because facebook has a more inaccurate picture. But this kind of stuff will be more important in this age of surveillance. Some of my next projects might include google searching for things I don’t care about, creating automated web traffic, adding products to my amazon cart, signing up to and “reading” email newsletters, and creating false location trails.

Punch Nazis

Punching Nazis is morally acceptable. This is about a specific form of violence against a specific group of people. It’s not a statement about violence in general, and not a statement about other forms of violence. Philosophically, I don’t need to demarcate all the points where violence is acceptable or unacceptable for it to be morally right. I mean, generally, people accept that some lies are good and some lies are bad. Some punching is good. Self-defense punching can be acceptable. Punching nazis counts too.

Here are some tweets on Nazi-punching to give further context:

And here’s my favorite version of the meme:

Memes aren’t just dumb internet pictures. They’re the future (and present) of warfare. And the warfare goes beyond merely ideas.

UPDATE:

The meme is spreading!

Oops, looked at the replies and it seems like this is a different punch from the same day as the first punch?

Plumbers in Flint

Here’s an article about 300 union plumbers going to flint to install water filters for free. The article says they’re from unions around the country but doesn’t go into much detail about the recruiting or coordinating beyond mentioning the United Association as the coordinating organization. It also mentions that the filters were donated by another organization, Plumbing Manufacturers International.

I find this exciting. It fits into what I imagine the future can be like. Where we can coordinate and build teams to do good. I’m going to collect more articles like this so I can start to show what a positive vision of the future feels like.

(h/t to this tweet:

)

A tentative framework

[I wanted to work on this and turn it into a real essay, but I feel intellectually constipated. So, I’m just going to squirt this out… well, let’s end this metaphor. Suffice it to say, this will be half-baked. My intention is to put this to start my thinking on this topic rather than to indicate that this is my final word. I’m attempting to build a framework for myself to understand future trends.]

I don’t really have anything to say about the election. I’m more interested in longer term trends, and I believe we’re going to witness the collapse of nation-states and capitalism. Nation-states and capitalism aren’t good, so hooray, but collapse could mean violence, so not hooray. (Well, those statements need a lot of unpacking. Not gonna do it yet, though.) Here are the trends that are causing this destabilization: AI/automation, decreased trust in political and financial institutions, global warming, and advances in asymmetric warfare.

AI will destroy a lot of jobs in the relative near-term. Truck drivers are first on the chopping block. This is millions of jobs. (I did see a chart that makes this look more alarming, saying it was the biggest job in many states. However, that chart is misleading because several other jobs are broken into categories the way truck driving isn’t. Still, it’s a lot of jobs.) There are also second-order effects from self-driving cars/trucks. When people are driving less and riding in cars will be a lot safer, that will reduce the need for car insurance and could potentially erase jobs in that field. A lot of service jobs will also disappear. At fast food restaurants, you won’t need nearly so many people. With kiosks and/or natural language parsing, you could replace cashiers. Advances in natural language processing could potentially replace a lot of customer service representatives, but I’m a little more skeptical about that because it’ll be harder to get enough data to do customer service for smaller companies. AI can also replace white collar jobs. Anything that is mostly spreadsheet work can probably be replaced. I believe that AI will replace these jobs more quickly than we can replace these jobs with new jobs. If we look at where automation has taken jobs before, like with manufacturing in Detroit, you’ll see that the transition isn’t easy. Lots of unemployed people means instability. The scale of this change will be a shock that capitalism can’t absorb.

Global warming will destabilize nation-states through forced migration and disaster-caused refugee crises. In Alaska, villages are already being forced to move. Sea-level changes, which to some degree is inevitable, will force many more to move. Strictly defined borders will be strained. Other factors, like natural disasters and desertification, will cause movement and fighting over resources in other areas that aren’t directly affected by rising sea levels. Refugees will move in numbers that the nation-state system probably won’t be able to absorb.

People are losing trust in the institutions we have now. Examples of decreasing trust in government are the record-high unfavorable ratings of both Trump and Clinton in the most recent election. Congress’s approval ratings are also in the toilet. This distrust extends to the elites in the financial system. During the Great Recession, bankers were bailed out while less rich people lost their homes. I believe this distrust is further reflected in pop culture by the prevalence of dystopian fiction and shows like Mr. Robot. The current nation-state system requires trust to function. People follow laws when they trust the system. Power transitions peacefully. But without trust, the system loses its hold on the people.

Asymmetric warfare will also destabilize the current systems. We already have examples of insurgencies taking on nation-states. The US didn’t win the Iraq War. Economically, it’s way cheaper to destroy something than to create something. And disruption has gotten even cheaper and less risky with new technologies. Well-timed robo-calls can cause panic and disruption, causing economic costs, and this requires no investment in actual weapons. Our basic infrastructure, including electrical grids and water distribution, is centralized, fragile, and would be easy to disrupt. Advances in the organization of insurgencies has also advanced. (See open-source insurgencies.) This decentralization makes it even tougher to fight an insurgency.

So, imagine all these things happening at the same time. Angry people without jobs. Displaced angry people without jobs. Displaced angry people without jobs who distrust the current institutions. Displaced angry people without jobs who distrust the current institutions and can asymmetrically attack current institutions.

Nation-states can’t provide security. Capitalism can’t provide jobs. The system is headed toward severe failure.

But I mean, this doesn’t have to be bad. Nation-states industrialized murder. Capitalism and nation-states are responsible for some of the worst, most racist atrocities. Most of the jobs that will be replaced are shitty anyway. In fact, most jobs are shitty. In addition, capitalism and the elites in charge are specifically responsible for the climate change that is fucking the planet. Morally, these systems should be erased.

This is very radical for someone who is classically conservative, as in Burkean, not Republican, but I came to this conclusion without even doing a deep dive of history. It’s all rather obvious once you let yourself look. Still, shouldn’t I be fighting for the preservation of institutions? They’re hard to build anew, so shouldn’t we build incrementally? But you have to understand that our current systems do more to eradicate traditional knowledge than build it. Capitalism atomizes society, breaking our communal ties and thus our communal knowledge. Nation-states are agents of genocide and the current borders often arbitrarily divide communities. Plus, if this morally bankrupt systems are about to collapse anyway, then it really doesn’t make sense to preserve them. The strategy, instead, should be to work as hard as we can to create alternatives before the system collapses.

This is an opportunity to build something new. To restructure society in new ways. To exercise our imagination. Or rather, societies and imaginations. Because the future also needs to be decentralized. The world is too complex for one solution. It’s too risky to put power into large centralized authorities. I can imagine many solutions with cities and communities figuring out their own ways to switch to renewable energy and redistributing the gains of automation to their citizens instead of to the rich. These communities, although not under centralized control, don’t have to be isolated from each other. Social media and other technology can allow new forms of communication and organization. They can more dynamically share information or organize and reorganize to reach common goals without an overarching nation-state.

I don’t want to pretend that decentralization will solve all our problems. It won’t erase racism or oppression. Insular small communities can be very *-phobic. It’s not as if Ferguson’s problems would disappear if nation-states would disappear. However, I’d rather have the damage limited to smaller communities than be carried out on a vast scale. For example, a homophobic president can do much more damage than a homophobic mayor simply because of the scale. The military-industrial complex is giving weaponry that militarizes our police forces. We can also start to build truly radical spaces where people can escape; you can’t escape capitalism or nation-states right now. Removing nation-states and industrial capitalism is necessary but not sufficient.

So, that’s my framework for the future. We have to start create spaces outside the system and strengthening communities and communication to brace for the fall of capitalism and nation-states. The alternative is losing to the elite, who’ll continue to horde resources. We have to exercise our imaginations. Stop imagining dystopias and start imagining what’s next. I still don’t believe in utopias. There will always be bad actors. I don’t think I even believe in hope. Good doesn’t eventually triumph because the universe is indifferent. Humanity may be a tiny blip that wipes itself out. But I think there’s a chance our future can be better than what we have now. There’s an opportunity to disrupt the system and reap the benefits. That’s enough for me.

Further reading:
https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-artificial-intelligence-can-and-cant-do-right-now
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun
https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-jobs-are-not-the-solution-but-the-problem
https://medium.com/@BComuGlobal/america-needs-a-network-of-rebel-cities-to-stand-up-to-trump-7c07202e7cc2#.ame5l23nm
https://medium.com/complex-systems-channel/teams-a-manifesto-7490eab144fa#.yfuusc23r
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/03/starting-an-ope.html

I read Sapiens

I actually finished this book a while ago. I put off writing about it until now. Again, this is not a review. Just a few random thoughts, which aren’t even fresh.

I read Sapiens based on someone’s recommendation. It was a broad history of the human race. I found the first half more interesting, when it was talking about how humans, which includes predecessors and contemporaries of Homo Sapiens, spread across the globe and wiped out so many other species, and when it was talking about the transition to agriculture. It lost me later on. It starts to analyze things through an economic lens, and anyone reading this likely knows what BS I think that is. I also found the book less interesting when it tried to peer into the future.

I read The Stranger

I’m titling this “I read The Stranger” and purposefully not calling this a review or a critical analysis.

So yeah, I read The Stranger because it was recommended to me by a friend in college a long time ago. She was more my roommate’s friend and I vaguely recall that he cheated on his girlfriend with this girl but only in a drunken one-night thing kind of way, but it hadn’t happened yet when she recommended the book, and all of this is totally irrelevant to the story. What I really mean to say is that this person didn’t really stick in my life. But for whatever reason, the recommendation of The Stranger stuck in my mind for years. I must’ve mentioned something about how much I enjoyed The Myth of Sisyphus, which is also by Camus. It’s a non-fiction essay, which I haven’t revisited in several years, but spoke to me very much as a senior in high school and definitely highly influenced my philosophical thinking back then. He’s also French, and perhaps I mentioned something about wanting to read something in the original French and that’s how it came up? Who knows anymore. It was a lifetime ago. A year later, I briefly joined a French class and then dropped it because it was awkward and not fun. (French in high school was some of the most fun I had.) I still have yet to read How I Became Stupid in French, which was one of my favorite novels. I’m rambling again with irrelevant details. I eventually bought The Stranger at a used bookstore, remembering the recommendation. Then it sat on my shelf for some more years. I once took it with me on some type of trip, read part of the first chapter, then put it back on the shelf. Then, I finally read the thing.

And after all that, I have to say that I was really disappointed. Like, I didn’t really get it. Yeah, I guess I’ll talk more about how I didn’t like a literary classic and make myself sound like a dumbass, but this is how I feel. So the guy was kind of disconnected from the world and murdered someone? Neat? Maybe he was spectrumy? At the end, I didn’t really comprehend the philosophies underneath it, nor did I enjoy the journey along the way.

I have to contrast it with two other things I enjoyed. First, Crime and Punishment, which is fucking awesome. The dude murders someone with an axe because of his philosophical arguments, and then it torments him. You’re in the mind of this dude, and you feel weird as fuck when you finally have to tear yourself from the book and walk around in the real world. You feel paranoid like the book’s spell hasn’t worn off. I didn’t feel pulled into the mind of the mind of the main character of The Stranger. Then again, maybe I’m coming at the book at the wrong angle. The character is disconnected, so maybe I should have felt disconnected from him too. But I feel like I at least should’ve felt some amount of unsettled while reading it. Instead, I just felt slightly puzzled, I guess.

The other thing I’ll contrast it with is Mr. Robot. I loved season 1. I’m still not sure how I feel about season 2. There were things I liked about it, but I feel like I can’t even judge it as a season until I see the next season, which is kind of frustrating — ah, but this is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about here. It’s a very unsettling show. The camera-work. Wow. Sometimes the main character in the shot will have their head way to the side of it. It’s very disorienting. Well, it’s hard to convey the feeling with such a bare bones description, so you should just watch the damn show. Rami Malek just won an Emmy for his work as the main character, Elliot. His acting is awesome. The show really nails the tone and atmosphere. I particularly felt unsettled during the part where Mr. Robot drops him in a sitcom, and it manages to nail the tone of the sitcom, while being really dark too. It’s great. Anyway, so I had recently been watching that show, and that show blew me away, and Crime and Punishment blew me away when I first read it too. I was expecting to be blown away by this novel too. It was by one of my favorite philosophers… and… well, it never gripped me the way these did. It never put me in a weird headspace despite sharing some superficial similarities with Crime and Punishment. The psyche of the main character just wasn’t that interesting compared to Crime and Punishment or Mr. Robot. I wanted profound alienation, but I barely felt any kind of disconnection. I just kind of got what the character’s deal was and also kind of didn’t. And while I had some grasp on the character, I didn’t really know what the book was trying to say, and didn’t enjoy it enough to really, really get it if it was there and I missed it. Whereas with Crime and Punishment, it sets up the themes rather nicely and follows through and finishes well. We’re still in the middle of Mr. Robot, but it’s so compelling that I have to keep watching to understand the mysteries.

I know, I know, this is more about my feelings and less critical analysis. I was pretty upfront about that when you started reading this, though. Maybe I’m being unfair in my expectations. The next step would be to read the thing and analyze it… figure out why the other two things work for me… and what about the Stranger didn’t work for me… but if I didn’t enjoy it, why would I re-read it?

Expectations matter and color your perceptions. I wanted something great after all these years expecting something great, but I didn’t get it. Maybe if I had read it back then, I would’ve loved it. It would still be a few years until I read Crime and Punishment, and Mr. Robot hadn’t even been conceived yet. My philosophies have evolved quite a bit since then too. Who knows?

I read Red Harvest

I have no critical analysis. I guess I’m just marking this here to note that I actually read and finished a book.

It was a fun book; I enjoyed the ride.

I was confused by what was going on and found it hard to keep track of the characters, which was exacerbated by the fact that I read half the book, put it away for months, and then finished it.

My friend lent it to me a really long time ago and told me of all the movies it was based on, and I still haven’t seen any of the movies. Now I can finally return the book and then not feel guilty about asking back for a book I lent to a different friend.

Yeah, I got nothing else. Just warming up for some thoughts on other books.

Police Accountability in Berkeley

I retweeted this:

https://mobile.twitter.com/IjeomaOluo/status/750932924493467648
I’ve only begun my research. So far, I know that Berkeley does have a citizen oversight panel: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Police_Review_Commission/Home/About_Us.aspx

I still need to learn who’s on the commission. I also don’t even know who the mayor is, or who the mayoral candidates are, or who’s on the city council. Nor do I know any of their stances.

I also don’t know if the Police Review Commission has any real clout or not.

I would like to attend a meeting and start getting involved in local politics.

We don’t have body cams yet, as I learned in this kind of recent article: http://www.dailycal.org/2016/04/26/berkeley-police-department-discusses-implementation-body-worn-camera-program/

It seems like the issue is getting the money for them. Berkeley didn’t receive a federal grant.

(I have some reservations about body cams because of surveillance, but the tradeoff is stopping the execution of black lives, so yeah, seems worth it. And it’s an evidence-based effect.)

I don’t know yet what the threshold is for indicting police officers in Berkeley. California has banned grand juries for fatal police shootings ( http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_28621966/gov-brown-oks-nations-1st-ban-grand-juries ). I’m guessing the rules will at least be county-wide, though. Seems like there’s discretion based on the district attorney, so I need to learn who they are.

I’m still woefully ignorant, but I pledge to continue my research, share the research, and use that information to make a local impact.

The Sins of the Ruling Class, part 1

Now that the election is clearer, I’ll comment a bit on big picture stuff. This is old-school blogging because I’m feeling my way through these issues, struggling instead of writing a big essay.

People were so disgusted when Trump said that he would go after the family members of terrorists. They thought it was sick and sociopathic and disqualified him from the presidency. Meanwhile, Obama has policy of using drones to strike terrorist targets and 90% of the people killed are civilians. I suppose it is an improvement on Bush, who had us invade two countries with ground troops. While Bush was president, Clinton voted to authorize the disastrous war in Iraq. She refused to call that vote a mistake while running against Obama. And even though Obama is “better” than Bush, he has further destabilized the region with illegal military actions1 and arguably helped the rise of ISIS. Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state for some of this, so she shares some of the blame. Plus, she is, by all accounts, even more hawkish than Obama. The disastrous Iraq War should’ve discredited everyone involved and completely destroyed neoconservative influence on foreign policy. Yet many of the same people are still around. Clinton’s foreign policy would be a continuation of our current sins.

We rightly criticize Trump, but I have to reject the privilege discourse on this subject. As US citizens, we are privileged to not live in fear of drone strikes2. We are privileged not be one of the over hundred thousand dead Iraqis. We are privileged not to be the foreign dead in Clinton’s future wars that we will surely erase from our collective memories.3

1 I suppose legal is up for debate, but most presidents have been acting unilaterally with military actions for decades. I consider this dangerous and illegal, an impeachable offense. But a cowardly Congress doesn’t care, and our society collectively shrugs.

2 Except the US citizen we did target.

3 Recently, I saw a statistic going around comparing the US dead in wars versus the US dead domestically from guns. It’s supposed to be a frightening statistic that scares of from guns. I totally agree with more regulations on guns and less guns in general. The statistic, though, is problematic because it erases all the foreign — and native — people we killed. It’s a lot.

The 100, Season 3, pre-finale

This season of the The 100 has been more plot-driven than character-driven. At the end of season 2, Jasper gets his goggles back, and in that moment, you feel how much he has been changed by his experience in Mt. Weather. In season 3, the characters have been more stagnant, and most wouldn’t make a decision differently than they would’ve at the beginning of the season. One character stands apart: John Murphy. He has the most satisfying character arc, and he also happens to be everyone’s new favorite character, and I’m guessing those aren’t unrelated.

Two episodes ago, we had characters making some tough choices. Murphy is about to crush ALIE when chipped-Emori tells him that real-Emori will disappear too. He hesitates. He can’t do it. Murphy actually gives a shit? What? It’s a huge change for him. At the beginning of this season, ALIE/Jaha locked him up and he learned that ALIE’s the one who nuked the planet. There’s no way he wouldn’t have done it. It would’ve been the best move to survive, and Murphy was all about survival. Then, he proves it wasn’t a fluke by going along with the plan to go to the tower and take out ALIE. He tells Bellamy he’s not the only one who has someone he cares about. There’s no taking back this decision because there’s literally no physical way out. This weakness and capacity for love is new for him. From his backstory, you know that he’s been closed off emotionally since his childhood. It’s a big leap for his character, and it’s satisfying for us as the audience to have seen that journey. The big moments matter because they reveal something interesting about his character.

Meanwhile, Monty is also making tough choices. ALIE plops Monty’s mom in front of the kill-switch, and so Monty has to decide whether to kill his mom a second time. But it mostly plays as an “Oh shit” moment for the audience. There’s not much we learn about Monty that we didn’t already learn the first time around. And the first time around didn’t seem to reveal much about his character either. Perhaps you could make the case that he has graduated from priming the genocide gas but not pulling the switch to actually pulling the trigger. But between killing his mom the first time and the second time, he’s very much in follower-mode, arguing that Raven should stick to the plan. You could also say that he went from going along with his mom’s decisions (and Pike’s) to disobeying her and killing her. Even so, it’s more the circumstances around him changing than his thought processes changing. His arc is more similar to Bellamy’s (which I’ll explain soon) than Murphy’s. There’s another tough decision for him to make in the season finale with chipped-Jasper having taken Harper hostage, and the stakes have been artificially upped by suddenly turning Monty and Harper in the couple. I’m still holding out hope that we learn something new about Monty, or that being forced to continually make these decisions fundamentally changes him somehow — perhaps he breaks like Jasper? (Speaking of Jasper, his character hasn’t changed that much since the beginning of the season either.)

Bellamy was also making tough choices throughout the decision, first deciding to align with Pike and then deciding to betray him. There should be some type of character arc there, but there’s no fall or redemption, really. He remained the same person throughout. This is specifically shown in the episode where he decides he’s no longer in Pike’s camp. The episode is bookended with him responding “I do it everyday” to the idea of protecting his people. His people are mostly those he landed with, whom he lead at the very beginning. Pike goes from “We don’t go after our own” when being arrested to specifically trying to find the spies inside instead of thinking about the threat outside. Pike wants to execute Kane, instead of throwing him in jail, which in turn threatens the lives of Miller and Harper. Crossing this threshold of killing one’s own people is what makes Bellamy switch sides. Instead of Bellamy changing, the circumstances around him change. Afterwards, when Bellamy is trying to do some soul searching, thinking he was on the wrong side, Clarke basically tells him to accept himself and that there are no bad guys. There’s not really a place to go with a redemption arc either. It’s not as if the show is completely unaware of what it’s doing. Kane wonders if Bellamy betrayed Pike because he had really changed or if he did it to protect his sister. The storyline is kind of supposed to subvert a straight-forward fall and redemption arc. When a story does this, though, it would be more fun to have some type of emotional journey for the viewer. Instead, many people feel frustrated.

One of the reasons why the tough choice in season 2 of pulling the lever resonates more is because it reveals more about the characters. Clarke wants to be different, to be moral and strong, but in the end, she chooses her people, just as Lexa and Dante did too. It’s a heart-breaking, earned reveal. Bellamy chooses his people, but he also chooses to share the burden with Clarke, which also makes it more interesting. He offers Clarke forgiveness as she offered him forgiveness in the beginning. Plus, it’s an even tougher decision for him because he actually worked with the Mt. Weather resistance.

Arguably, the only other character with a satisfying character arc in this season is Lexa’s. She doesn’t completely abandon her philosophy of protecting her people, but she wants to redefine people. She wants to welcome skaikru and feels guilty about what she’s done. She also opens herself open to love, deciding that Clarke was right about there being more to life than surviving and that love is not weakness. Then, Titus shoots her, so we’re robbed of an awesome character who’s acting like a real leader and trying to guide society to new ideas.

We’re at the finale, so maybe we’ll see more changes in the characters. There’s still potential with the Octavia, Pike, and Indra mess. Will they seek revenge? Will Pike learn to be less of an asshole? Monty, as mentioned above, may be forced to rethink how he’s been doing things. But even if the characters don’t change too much, I’m still excited to see where the plot goes, how the ALIE threat is resolved (or not resolved), and what kind of crazy twist cliffhanger we’ll be hit with at the end.