Tom Oliver's profile picture
Tom Oliver

Debt, the first 5,000 years - David GraeberDebt, the first 5,000 years - David Graeber

Debt, the first 5,000 years - David Graeber

Its long! Exactly 400 pages, but what a book. If there is just one book that I could read on economics/history/anthropology this would be it. The title sounds a lot more impenetrable than the content, when I tell people about this book I often get "that sounds very academic" but as a layman I found it perfectly readable.

This book takes a stab at the following questions:

  • What is the origin of money?
  • How is money created?
  • What is debt?
  • What is capitalism?
  • Where do markets come from?

So it is by no means just about what many people think of when they hear the word "debt".

The parts of this book that I enjoyed most were when the author got to show off his anthropological prowess. It really opened my eyes to the diversity (in the treatment of debt) of societies spanning millennia and continents. This includes the Tiv people of Africa, the Indus valley civilizations, the Irish kingdoms, ancient India and the usual suspects like the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and so on. Across world history there are trends that regardless of culture or geography make themselves apparent when considering what mediums of exchange were widely used at the time. You would think that knowledge of a particular society's culture, economic system and geography would first need to be analysed before sufficient anthropological predictions could be made. However, the author makes the case that simply by determining whether a transaction was settled in cash, bartering or through credit, much can be gleaned about the sort of goods that could be acquired (e.g. slaves etc.).

One major point of the book is that we exist in the very early stages of an economic era that may yet span many hundreds of years, beginning in 1971 when the Dollar was taken of the gold standard. Across history, societies that use precious metals as the medium of exchange tended to have a propensity for war, expansion and enslavement. Societies that did not, tended to be more peaceful, however we don't yet know if that trend will continue to be relevant in our modern era.

I must also mention that there is something that the author absolutely flogs a dead horse on. It is the total and thorough debunking of the idea that the inconvenience of barter provides the impetus for the advent of money. Every 15 pages or so we get a reminder of why the myth of barter is absurd and could not have been the primary means of exchange prior to money being established. Thank you David Graeber, I will personally guarantee that if I ever hear anyone repeat this myth I will forcefully point them in the direction of this book.

May you rest in peace.

Tom Oliver's profile picture
Tom Oliver

I've only been using Kagi for a couple of days now, but the search results on programming topics are leagues better than Duckduckgo. I may be a little late to the party, but just realised that you can have shared state between pages without polluting _app.tsx in NextJS. I credit Kagi for taking me to this page where I learned about getLayout.

Here is how to add Kagi as your default search engine to Firefox on NixOS (home-manager)

home-manager.users.<my-user>.programs.firefox = {
enable = true;
profiles = {
myProfile = {
search = {
force = true;
default = "Kagi";
engines = {
"Kagi" = {
urls = [
template = "{searchTerms}";
iconUpdateURL = "";
updateInterval = 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000; # every day
definedAliases = [ "@kg" ];
Tom Oliver's profile picture
Tom Oliver

The Trial - Franz KafkaThe Trial - Franz Kafka

The Trial - Franz Kafka

This is one one of those books that people tell you to read when they actually haven't finished it themselves (you know who you are). I don't think anyone would mind me saying that its a painful read, because surely that was the author's intention. It's about a guy who lives in a world that is governed by an impenetrable court system, the workings of which nobody understands. He gets arrested randomly and put on trial without explanation. Nobody knows what the charges are (except maybe the high judges?) so its very difficult to defend himself. There is what they call an "advocate" who offers to help the protagonist with the trial. However the help he provides consists of various sycophantic offerings to court judges who happened to have been acquaintances from the past. The protagonist also finds himself entangled with various female characters with tenuous connections to the courts, who for some reason show great romantic interest in him. They offer to help in one way or another by providing the protagonist with some sort of 3rd-hand information about the courts, which nevertheless fails to translate to much advantage in the proceedings. The setting of the book is no doubt dystopian, and reminds me of the Maoist witch hunts described in the book Wild Swans. For me it served as an unsettling reminder that there are people in this world who would quite happily construct such an opaque bureaucracy as described in the book. If the consequences of the court's ruling were not so dire, it could even be interpreted as comedic, but the sinister aspect of it all seems a little too real and a little too plausible for it to make me laugh.

I may have been a bit harsh. Overall I am glad to have read this book.

Tom Oliver's profile picture
Tom Oliver

人間失格 太宰治人間失格 太宰治

人間失格 太宰治



  • 女は死んだように深く眠る、女は眠るために生きてるのではないかしら。
  • 自分は道化を演じ、男はさすがにいつまでもゲラゲラ笑ってもいませんし、それに自分も男の人に対し、調子に乗ってあまりお道化を演じすぎると失敗すると言う事を知っていましたので、必ず適当のところで切り上げるように心掛けていましたが、女は適度という事を知らず、いつまでもいつまでも、自分にお道化を要求し、自分はその限りないアンコールに応じて、へとへとになるのでした。
  • 自分は、女があんなに急に泣き出したりした場合、何か甘い物を手渡してやると、それを食べて機嫌を直すという事だけは、幼い時から、自分の経験によって知っていました。
  • 俗にいうチャッカリ性でした。田舎者の自分が、愕然と眼を見張ったくらいの、冷たく、ずるいエゴイズムでした。自分のように、ただ、とめどなく流れるたちの男では 無かったのです。
  • 「モチよ」
Tom Oliver's profile picture
Tom Oliver

I just happened to stumble across The Dandy Warhols' new song - “I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem (feat. Slash)” and its pretty good.

The music video is mostly AI generated, with all the weird/creepy artifacts and distortions you may expect. A genius move since this is exactly the dreamy, hazy, vague, feeling their music has always conveyed to me.

Its amazing how over all the years of cinema, humanities attempts to convey the sensation of dreaming have never even came close to what AI can do. As the underlying models improve, we are likely to see fewer of these hallucinations in generated content, which I find a little bit sad. I love the mental image of a giant machine, lying motionless in deep slumber, engineers prodding at the wires in its brain, hoping to influence the direction it takes as it drifts through a dream.

I like this analogy because explains why AI halucinates.
What do we call it when we halucinate in our sleep? ...A dream.

It reminds me of the anime pluto which I saw on netflix. The plot is based on our desire to create a robot with a more human mind, with scientists going to ever greater lengths to balance human-like emotions with the cold hard logic expected of machines. One scientist takes it a step too far by creating the "ultimate" robot by simulating the lives of billions of humans in its brain. But there was one problem, the robot would not wake up. It was in an endless dream. Eventually the scientist found a way to wake up the robot by forcing an overwhelming emotion into its brain, rage.

Oof, lets not do that.