Website of Martin Sústrik, creator of ZeroMQ, nanomsg, libdill, Cartesian.

Musings about random stuff. No attempt at scientific rigor. Take with a grain of salt.

All the opinions stated here are my own. Any resemblance to opinions of other people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The Eb

Procopius praises them for being unlike other Huns, less like savage animals, more like civilized men with white bodies and laws to obey. Menander Protector, citing Peter the Patrician, asserts that they were in fact those Huns who decided to return to the east after the fall of Attila. Joshua the Stylite describes their military tactic as being like that of other Huns; they pretend to flee and then turn upon their pursuers killing them mercilessly with long bows and short knives . Despite all...

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On Interstellar Communication

She was nineteen when she joined Gliese Liberation Movement. She didn't fight in the insurgency, of course. She lived at Earth, twenty light years away from the conflict. However, she did attend the protests and she did help with the distribution of leaflets. She had a poster of comandante Iñigo hung above her bed. Part Che Guevara, part Zorro the Avenger, the young daredevil with a wry smile and a submachine gun guarded her sleep. Once, she sent him a letter. Maybe she was a little bit drunk....

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The Garden of Forking Paths

This article is a transcript of a lecture given at BorgesConf 2014 in Viterbo, Italy. Hi, everybody! Before getting to my topic I would like to thank Alvaro for organizing this awesome event. I think that he deserves three huzzas. So here we go: Huzza! Huzza! Huzza! I was also asked to mention that Medioera festival begins here in Viterbo in just few days. Those of you who are interested in digital culture may consider prolonging your stay here. Finally, there's an Alfajor stand beneath the...

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Inadequate Equilibria vs. Governance of the Commons

Introduction In the past I've reviewed Eliezer Yudkowsky's Inadequate Equilibria book. My main complaint was that while it explains the problem of suboptimal Nash equilibria very well, it doesn't propose any solutions. Instead, it says that we should be aware of such coordination failures and we should expect ourselves to fare better than the official institutions in such cases. What Yudkowsky is saying (if I understand him correctly) is that given that the treatment of short bowel syndrome in...

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Soviet-era Jokes, Common Knowledge, Irony

Scott Aaronson, in his blog post about common knowledge, writes: If you read accounts of Nazi Germany, or the USSR, or North Korea or other despotic regimes today, you can easily be overwhelmed by this sense of, “so why didn’t all the sane people just rise up and overthrow the totalitarian monsters? Surely there were more sane people than crazy, evil ones. And probably the sane people even knew, from experience, that many of their neighbors were sane—so why this cowardice?” Once again, it could...

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Musings on Social Capital

I come from Slovakia. Despite being a programer, I grew up and lived in the artist community of Bratislava. Nowadays, though, I am living in Switzerland. I knew that some of the artists from my home city have established ateliers in the old thread factory. Actually, I've spent quite a few days on the premises. But since I moved away, I've heard that the artists haven't managed to make a deal with the owner of the building and that they had to move away. I've also heard that they've decided to...

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Research: Rescuers during the Holocaust

The goal People who helped Jews during WWII are intriguing. They appear to be some kind of moral supermen. Observe how they had almost nothing to gain and everything to lose. Jewish property was confiscated early on and any portable assets Jews may have had have evaporated quickly. Helping Jews, after a short initial period, wasn't a way to get rich. Hoping for compensation after the war didn't work either. At the time it was not obvious that Nazis will lose. Until last couple of years of WWII...

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Structured Concurrency in High-level Languages

Introduction I've recently stumbled upon Nathaniel Smith's article about structured concurrency. It's very nice, very readable and explains the entire problem from the basics, so if you have no idea what structured concurrency is go and read it. I've been dealing with the problem for many years and addressed it in several blog posts. However, I've always tried to keep it down to earth, very low level, partially because I was playing with it in C (maybe with a bit of assembly mixed in) and partly...

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Progressivism vs. Conservatism: A Game-theoretic Approach

Some time ago I've written a blog post about modeling tradition. What I described, naively assuming it's something new, is an established concept of common knowledge . It turns out that among game theorists the concept was, well, a common knowledge. The term was coined in 1969 by David Lewis and he've used it to explain convention. The idea was mathematicalized later by others. Check the wikipedia article for details. Alternatively, here's a great intro to the common knowledge concept by Scott...

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Schooling in your Head

For a long time I've been interested in democratic schools. The idea of democratic schooling is not to treat the kids as some kind of untermenschen, as is the common practice nowadays, but as actual human beings with free will, capable of responsible behaviour and so on. In practical terms it means that children are allowed to do whatever they want unless it's against the rules. The rules themselves are established by a school legislative body consisting of all the citizens of the school, pupils...

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Composable Network Protocols vs. Encapsulation

This article is going to argue that to get composable network protocols, we have to treat them in a way that seemingly breaks encapsulation. The stuff here is not intrinsically complicated but it may be counterintuitive. Give yourself some time to think about the examples before rejecting the entire idea. First of all, let's look at the very idea of protocol composability. Imagine a stack of three protocols: It seems that the implementation of TLS socket should own the TCP socket. In other...

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Mojim Spoluobčanom (To My Compatriots)

(Find English version of the article below.) Za posledné dva týždne vyšlo tisíce ľudí do ulíc protestovať proti prepojeniu najvyšších úrovní slovenskej politiky na organizovaný zločin. Nemám veľa čo povedať o slušnosti, o jednotlivých politikoch, o slobode slova, či o detailoch súčasnej politickej situácie. Iní toho povedali viac a lepšie ako by som kedy dokázal ja. Chcem však povedať jednu vec a to toto: Priatelia, nie sme v tom sami. V susednom Česku práve teraz protestujú proti Zemanovým...

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Documentation Driven Design

After spending full day adding new documentation to libdill and after getting desperate about the repetitivness of the man pages I've got rid of what I had and spent another day writing a program to generate the documentation. Consider the use cases A lot of functions, for example, have deadlines. For each of those functions the man page should contain the following text: deadline: A point in time when the operation should time out, in milliseconds. Use the now function to get your current...

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Game-theoretic Approach to Tradition

Imagine a simple one-shot coordination game between two players who don't know each other and can't communicate with each other. Each can pick one of two cards, either blue one or green one. If both choose the same card they each get $100. If they pick different cards they get nothing. Without being able to make a deal (the players can't communicate), to guess each other's likes and dislikes (the players don't know each other), without playing the game repeatedly (the players play one game and...

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Crypto for Kids: Messenger's Story

A portal suddenly opened on the starboard ejecting a fleet of imperial pursuit vessels. The propulsion system of my ship got hit before the shield activated. I’ve tried to switch on the backup drive but before it charged to as much as 5% I was already dangling off a dozen tractor beams. It wasn’t much of a fight. They’ve just came and picked me up as one would pick up a box of frozen strawberries in a supermarket. I must have passed out because of pressure loss. The next thing I remember is...

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Your Share of National Wealth for a Microwave Oven!

Societies we live in are often stuck in suboptimal Nash equilibria (more context here). Those equilibria often arise from misaligned incentives. In many cases, decision makers have no stake in the game and the result, unsurprisingly, sucks. The solution is seemingly easy: Change the rules in such a way that the incentives are aligned. Shift decision making to those who will be affected by the decision. While generally a good advice this is often not that straightforward. Here's a story of one...

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Computational Complexity as a Law of Nature

I have to admit I know nothing about this topic, however, it is, as far as I can say, one of the weirdest and most interesting recent developments in physics. It is also closely linked to computer science. Yet, I don't see it discussed in programming community at all. The idea is that, somehow, nature may be fundamentally limited in its computational capacity. That, in other words, it's not possible to compute NP-complete problems in polynomial time and that the hurdle is not some kind of...

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Inadequate Equilibria

When I was an adolescent, maybe 18 years old, I was hit over the head with the realization that we have no say in our survival as species. Evolution is going to progress in a way that maximizes multiplication and our beliefs, our cleverness, our science, our will to sacrifice personal wellbeing to the benefit of all is not going to change that a bit. I was never able to communicate the horror of being at the mercy of cold and uncaring, non-sentient in fact, forces of nature to anyone else. At...

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Suicide by Culture

At the end of 1950's my great-grandmother was the last inhabitant of the family farm. One day she locked the door and went away never to return. When we visited the place couple of years ago, the easiest way to get there was to drive to the closest village, then proceed by foot. We had to pass through some fields, then through a forest. Finally, we've descended into a swampy gorge overgrown with vegetation. The path was barely passable. Blackberries and nettles were growing everywhere. We've...

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Low Hanging Fruit of Programming Language Design

Recently, I've read a paper about code duplication. The authors analyzed GitHub repositiories for duplicate code. They've found an unexpectedly high amount of code duplication. In their own words: This paper analyzes a corpus of 4.5 million non-fork projects hosted on GitHub representing over 428 million files written in Java, C++, Python, and JavaScript. We found that this corpus has a mere 85 million unique files. In other words, 70% of the code on GitHub consists of clones of previously...

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