New Post Series on Intelligence & the IQ Controversy

I’ve recently begun reading some material related to topic of intelligence as a human trait: it’s definition, it’s relevance, and the 20th anniversary of a book that set off a firestorm about the topic as a whole. In particular, I want to critique the perspective expressed in this paragraph which basically sums up conventional wisdom against the idea that IQ is anything tangibly important:

 

“Intelligence is a bankrupt concept. Whatever it might mean – and nobody really knows even how to define it – intelligence is so ephemeral that no one can measure it accurately. IQ tests are, of course, culturally biased, and so are all the other “aptitude” tests, such as the SAT. To the extent that tests such as IQ and SAT measure anything, it certainly is not an innate “intelligence.” IQ scores are not constant; they often change significantly over an individual’s life span. The scores of entire populations can be expected to change over time – look at the Jews, who early in the twentieth century scored below average on IQ scores and now score well above the average. Furthermore, the tests are nearly useless as tools, as confirmed by the well-documented fact that such tests do not predict anything except success in school. Earnings, occupation, productivity – all the important measures of success – are unrelated to the test scores. All that tests really accomplish is to label youngsters, stigmatizing the ones who do not do well and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that injures the socioeconomically disadvantaged in general and blacks in particular.”

 

The bold emphasis in that paragraph is mine. I highlighted those particular segments because I intend to do a few blog posts explaining why those assertions are wrong. This week and next week I will do posts on defining intelligence, the validity of IQ as well as why it’s not “culturally biased” (whatever that means), and finally do a post on a book in particular that created quite the firestorm two decades ago simply by being flat-out misrepresented.

 

During the past couple years, I’ve become convinced that the idea that we can shape any human being we want into whatever vision we wish to impose on them is pretty inhumane at the least. Parents, educators, society at large, even disadvantaged individuals themselves have been blamed for shortcomings that nobody really has much control over at this point.

 

Consider these posts a series on social science – as if empirical evidence mattered.

 

What I Think of Liberty.me So Far

Not long ago, an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for a new Libertarian social network began. Spearheaded by one of the biggest names in the movement for radically Libertarian thought (Jeffrey Tucker), it definitely looked like something that had promise.

 

 

 

 

That turned out to be an understatement! A couple months ago I became a member on that site when I forked out just over $100 for an annual membership. What motivated me to want to use the site was probably no different than the motives everyone else has on the site. Having an alternative to that holocaust on privacy known as Facebook sure is nice. Having a feed of user-generated articles is great too, in addition to the podcasts and “karma” feature that rewards people who produce great content. Then there’s the ability to create groups centered around specific topics, as well as have chat rooms that are functionally similar to Facebook’s instant messenger feature – but with privacy in mind of course. Top it off with the free massive open online courses they offer from time to time by the biggest names in the liberty movement (David D. Friedman recently did a course!), as well as numerous how-to guides that members are free to download, and what you end up with is a pretty respectable site that is more than worth the money.

 

In terms of the sorts of how-to guides they have, you can find everything from firearms advice, privacy information, a guide on peer-to-peer banking as well as one on how to invest in precious metals.  As if anything couldn’t be more timely, Jeffrey Tucker just did a post on his section of the site about how bad Facebook has gotten, and why Liberty.me is already a good alternative. Oh yeah, did I mention that anyone who signs up as a member get’s their own virtual site on Liberty.me? I’m already contemplating on how to clean up my blog and mirror all the worthwhile old posts onto my second site. From what I can tell this site will make it easy to distribute a PDF version of the book I’ve had in the works for nearly half a decade. Physical copies can easily be done via Createspace.

 

The crucial question with anything you’re considering giving money in return for is if it’s more worthwhile than all the other things you could do with it under those circumstances. Does it make sense to ever buy it? Are there other things I need the money for to a greater degree? Do I need to buy it now or later? Whether or not Liberty.me passes that criteria for you depends on how serious you are about your political leanings. The higher up you find yourself on the Nolan Chart the more likely the site will turn out to be a payoff. It’s a great haven for deep thinkers who are willing to dive into the edgier elements of activism as well. Having a kind of internet foxhole to put ideas together and organize is a necessity.

 

For me, Liberty.me was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. In addition to other sites, such as Libertarian Papers, Libtery.me looks like something I need to get into the routine of using as often as I use Twitter. And perhaps it’s about time I actually do something with my YouTube account that doesn’t involve bitchfighting with people; maybe some playlists of good content are in order?

 

One last note: Use the discount code “STATEEXEMPT” when you sign up. 😉

 

Ghost Gunner: Proof Defense Distributed is Alive and Well

Here comes a development that warrants that this blog end it’s hiatus. I blogged a year ago on how the State Department has halted CAD file release for “dangerous” objects by Defense Distributed. Looks like that hasn’t stopped them from keeping busy:

 

 

https://ghostgunner.net/

 

I can’t think of a single person (Cody Wilson) or organization (Defense Distributed) that has demonstrated how much market innovation alone can have a bigger impact on current affairs than raw electoral politics alone. Check the official site out linked below the video for the list of innovations this device has, including a new file format that stores information about where to place external support jigs. That alone is a worthy feat, but a machine costing under $1,500 that has the capabilities of bulkier CNC machines costing at least double that speaks for itself. All hardware and source code will be open for people to borrow from or contribute to, meaning this is just the beginning for this sort of device.

 

From what I’ve read so far, this should be capable of machining at least one new AR-15 lower receiver per hour from 80% lowers. Someone could loan this out to a friend, or “sell it forward” so as many people can legally produce lowers as possible. Of course, there’s many more uses for this unit that are unrelated to firearms. I’m thinking “pirating” car parts using a 3D scanner such as this one could be another potential use for what Ghost Gunner could help manufacture:

 

 

Now the inevitable question arises: Do prohibitionists really think committed killers will give an exhausted shit about any law saying they must put a string of numbers on what they make in the name of registration? Such a law was vetoed in California of all places last Tuesday by Jerry Brown. This is the infamous “Ghost Gun” bill everyone was satirizing not too long ago.

 

 

The reason the governor vetoed the bill is so shockingly reasonable for any politician, let alone one from California of all places:

 

To the Members of the California State Senate:

 

I am returning Senate Bill 808 without my signature.

 

SB 808 would require individuals who build guns at home to first obtain a serial number and register the weapon with the Department of Justice.

 

I appreciate the author’s concerns about gun violence, but I can’t see how adding a serial number to a homemade gun would significantly advance public safety.

 

Sincerely,

 

Edmund G. Brown Jr.

 

 

No kidding! The best part of how tools like the Ghost Gunner CNC machine are already changing the conversation? Paternalistic types are now siding with the gun industry in an effort to curb their use. Of course they don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing, but irony of that makes me giddy as hell. See for yourself: https://twitter.com/StateExempt/status/519233597749084160

 

Cody Wilson Responds to Twitter Critic on Ghost Gunner

Very smirk-inducing, and rightfully so.

 

If you aren’t out to ban every firearm from civilian ownership, then you have nothing to fear.

And remember guys: they’re called “Undocumented” firearms. 🙂 

 

Coming Soon – A List of Proposed Posts [August 2014 Edition]

The title of this post is self-explanatory, so without further ado here’s the list itself:

 

-My Collected Posts on Crypto-Anarchy

-Rational Ignorance: An Economic Analysis of Time Management

-I Joined Liberty.me and You Should Too!

-Belle Knox, College Costs, and the Signalling Theory of Education

-The Ten Universal Rules of Logic

-Burden of Proof: How You Draw the Line

-Antifragility: A Primer

-Writing That is Both Analytical and Antifragile

-Simple Math Showing that Taxing the Rich Gets Us Nowhere

-Simple Math Showing Background Checks Can be Eliminated – Seriously

-Three Reasons We Can and MUST End Anti-Discrimination Laws

-Demonstrating how “Privilege” is an Intellectual Black Hole

-Five Arguments Feminists Need to Ditch to Remain Credible

-Ten Ways Women Can Increase Pay NOW Without Government

-Five Arguments Anti-Racism Activists Must Ditch to be Credible

-Forget Disease: Single-Parenthood is the Biggest Epidemic in America

-Stop Bashing Christian Conservatives as “Anti-Science.” No really.

-News Flash: Anti-Science Liberalism Actually KILLS People

-Scrap the Precautionary Principle NOW

-The Bell Curve’s 20th Anniversary and it’s Significance

-Human Biodiversity is the Nuclear Physics of Biology and Social Science

-Why Social Justice Needs “The Bell Curve” and HBD

-Yes IQ Matters a WHOLE Lot More Than Socioeconomic Status

-Why Critical Studies Can (and Should) be Scrapped from Colleges

-How to Define Government and the Free Market

-Five Reasons Free Markets Beat Government at  [Five-part series]

-Price Controls Either Cause Shortages, or Aren’t Needed

-Ripple Effect: How Bad Price Controls Can Be

-The Simple Process That Makes Speculators a GOOD Thing

-Why Monopolies are Unlikely in the Absence of Government Intervention

-Universal Case Against Government Regulation I: Costs

-Universal Case Against Government Regulation II: Benefits

-Regulatory Capture is Inevitable – Here’s Some Examples

-Public Choice Theory: An Introduction

-Sorry Democrats, Demographic Determinism is Largely a Myth

-Buying Unowned Property: Aboriginal Reimbursement Explained

-The Many Camps Within Libertarianism – and Where I Stand

-Years Later and No Shred of Evidence Nozick Abandoned Libertarianism

-An Open Challenge to Naomi Klein Fans Who Buy Her Attacks on Milton Friedman

-How Much Would a Free Market Legal System Cost?

-Under Market Anarchy, Would the Poor Lack Protection and Legal Representation?

 

So there we go. These look like they’ll be the next forty or so posts that will appear on here. I pledge to do about 3-5 posts per week if not more. Largely this is possible because most of what I’ll write will be draft-ish material for State Exempt itself. Needless to say I will probably add some stuff to the list from time to time.

 

Sit tight, stock up on drinks, and enjoy what will soon appear!

 

Tentative Outline for Chapter Sections of “State Exempt”

I was supposed to finish a post series on Cryptography-related matters a while ago, and do a whole variety of other posts on different topics. But I pretty much began taking a bit of a break from the internet.

 

With Twitter eating up almost as much time as YouTube did a few years back, I decided to scale that back a bit and put that saved time towards working on other things. Besides taking the time to form new relationships with people in my area that I have a lot more in common with than I did several years ago, I finally got around to finishing this:

 

State Exempt Chapter Section Outline

 

Being the procrastinator that I am, I finally felt compelled to go through my written notes and make an outline that is one step closer to actual draft material. With the outline above, I now have a better idea of what I want to cover and where. From here I just need to reorganize my existing notes to fit that section outline and start reading some key books from a selected bibliography to better inform how I cover various topics.

 

When it comes to projects or tasks I do in life, I don’t plan on focusing on anything I don’t have any control over. And I sure as hell don’t plan on doing anything that won’t matter after I exit the picture altogether. One source of inspiration that really catalyzed my desire to finish the project this site was set up for is the work Cody Wilson and the rest of Defense Distributed have managed to do. At this point Cody could drop dead and his impact will still matter for decades to come.

 

 

I suppose that’s what every activist, artist, intellectual, or writer hopes to do: immortalize themselves through their own work. If I can do just half of what the likes of David Friedman or Murray Rothbard did when their key works came out, then that’s more than enough for me.

The 100th Anniversary of the Federal Reserve Act – Why It Was Misguided

December 23rd, 1913 – a day that will live in infamy. I thought I would meander from my post series on crypto matters to highlight something equally important, if not orders of magnitude more significant in the grand scheme of history.

 

Exactly one century ago, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was signed into law. The result was the establishment of America’s longest running central bank – which is the sole issuer of whatever currency a given government wants to have it’s taxes paid in. Since money is half the equation in the vast majority of economic exchanges, this basically put a largely unaccountable institution in the position of manipulating a large portion of the American economy.

 

In case you’re wondering what this means in practice, take a look at the following video:

 

 

Every time new money is printed (almost out of thin air), the money causes the prices of various goods and services to rise as it begins to circulate throughout the economy. The “winners” in this situation are the first people to get the freshly printed cash, because prices don’t rise until after they have spent it. These rising prices are a natural result of supply and demand – more money in circulation chasing the same amount of goods means each dollar loses purchasing power.

 

Unfortunately these rising prices do come at a cost, as the video above explains. The people who lose out every time the Federal Reserve increases the money supply are the people who receive the new money last – which almost always means entry-level workers who are at the bottom of the new money supply chain. The prices of almost every major good and service has already risen long before the amount of spending money they have at their disposal rises as well.

 

To put it bluntly, increasing the supply of fiat currency in any national economy operates like a regressive tax. This tax is basically inflation that affects the poorest people in any given situation who happen to be the last ones to have their wages adjust for the new money in circulation. It gets even worse for those who don’t have any salary whatsoever; the loose change that comes their way only looses more purchasing power due to the rising prices of everything else.

 

 

 

We can easily break this destructive process down into just five steps:

 

1. Banks and the Fed increase the money supply. Those most politically-connected are first to receive new cash.

 

2. These well-connected people/groups spend this money. With more available, they have increased buying power.

 

3. As this money circulates, prices for everything rises to adjust for the increase in total dollars in the economy.

 

4. The savings and purchasing power of those at the bottom is eroded since each dollar loses purchasing power.

 

5. Consequently, the gap between the politically-connected rich and the disenfranchised poor grows with steps 1-4.

 

 

 

The process by which the Federal Reserve and the banking system we currently have actually increases the money supply is something that could occupy an entire post altogether. For now I just want to spend time focusing on the effects this process has. In a couple future posts, I will continue explaining case against central banking and what needs to be changed.

 

 

How Asymmetric (Public Key) Encryption is Possible, and Why It Matters

This post will serve as a basic introduction to something everyone who cares about privacy or information security ought to be familiar with. At less than a thousand words, it will probably only take you fifteen minutes or so to read and understand.

 

Public key encryption has been around for decades and has served as an indispensable solution to one of the biggest problems in the secure transfer of information over the web. With the recent revelations over NSA Spying and the establishment of Bitcoin as a somewhat mainstream form of currency, I find myself in more conversations about this feature of information security lately than ever before. How does it differ from just plain old symmetric encryption and why are the two named as such? Last but not least, what major problem does public key encryption solve and how does it achieve this?

 

In my previous post on low-tech cryptanalysis, I explained how pen and paper ciphers (like substituting each letter of the alphabet with something else) are easy to break but also suffer from a critical flaw that makes them very insecure to use over the web. For someone to use any “secret code” to send messages to someone else, you must first send them the cipher for that code. If you are doing this over the internet, there’s a pretty good chance that cipher will be intercepted and used to read the messages encoded with it. Thus a more robust solution is needed that is both secure when properly implemented and is also safe to implement over a public network.

 

This is where public key encryption comes in. Public key encryption is often known as asymmetric key encryption because it depends on the use of two “keys” that serve entirely different purposes. One key is used to encrypt messages that are sent to a given recipient, while another is used to decrypt such messages. These are respectively known as the public and private key. When using public key encryption to communicate, you begin by generating a set of these keys. The public key is shared with everyone who may potentially want to send you a message.

 

 

This video above gets the basic point right, however I should note that the correct term for the kind of math functions that asymmetric encryption uses is mathematical trap, not “one-way function.” This distinction is critical because the latter term refers to a math function that isn’t just improbable to reverse, but impossible to undo.

 

So now we know asymmetric encryption takes advantage of math problems that can easily be done in one direction, but require too much computing power to reverse. Why is this important, or useful to begin with? Simply put, encryption that operates this way can be used to communicate with people over public networks without having to actually meet in person to exchange a cipher.

 

As an example, consider simple multiplication and division problems. Obviously the kind of math used in public key encryption schemes is exponentially more sophisticated that the simple examples I will show here, but the underlying concept remains the same. Take a moment to ponder the following math problems, and decide which one is easier to do:

 

1. What is the answer to the following: 10 x 100

2. Which numbers were originally multiplied together to get this result: 1,000

 

At face value, you likely would be tempted to answer the second question by saying “ten times a hundred.” But consider just how many ways there are of getting this outcome using positive integers alone: 1 x 1000, 2 x 500, 4 x 250, 5 x 200, 10 x 100, 20 x 50, 25 x 40, 1000 x 1, 500 x 2, 250 x 4, 200 x 5, 100 x 10, 50 x 20, 40 x 25, and so on. If we broke it down into decimals, the number of possibilities would be even higher. Guessing every possible answer to find the right pair is impractical. With the kinds of mathematical functions that public key encryption actually uses, it becomes nearly impossible with today’s computer hardware.

 

Multiplying two numbers has only one answer. Dividing a digit on the other hand is another story altogether, the number of ways of doing so makes it unlikely that you can use a computer to search through all the possibilities and find the pair that was actually used for the encrypted result – hence the term “mathematical trap.”

 

Now comes the final question: How does public key encryption put this feature of math functions to use?

 

Public key encryption works by having a user generate a pair of keys, one public and one private key. The public key is sent out to anyone who might want to sent them a message, while the private key – as the name suggests – is kept hidden. Remember the first of the two problems listed above that involved the simple task of multiplying two numbers together? This loosely resembles how a public key operates.

 

When someone wants to send a message to you, they will take your public key and use it to scramble the message they wish to send to you. This requires very little computational power (recall how easy multiplying two numbers was). But if someone wants to decrypt that same message, they would almost never succeed at doing so because of all computational resources required to break it. Remember the second problem listed above and how there were so many possibilities to sort through? The only way to reverse this successfully is if you have the private key, which makes it possibly to reverse the message encryption without having to sort through endless possibilities.

 

Naturally of course, only you have the private key in question. So the end result is that you can share a public key that can only encrypt messages (multiply two numbers) but cannot be used to reverse the result. That way you can send out a key which people in turn can use to send messages to you that any third party would fail to decipher. This makes asymmetric encryption perfect for communicating over the internet with people you never meet in person. 

 

In my next post, I will go into greater detail on RSA schemes, elliptic curve cryptography, and quantum cryptography.

 

Cryptography 101: Low-Tech Cryptanalysis Explained

Well, with Bitcoin going mainstream, public resentment against the NSA at an all-time high, and people not having a clue what Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed means by labeling himself a Crypto Anarchist, it looks like a few posts on cryptography and Crypto Anarchy are in order.  There will probably be five posts; this one will be an intro to cryptanalysis, the next will explain how public key encryption works, after that I will do another one on elliptic curve and quantum cryptography schemes. From there a post will be devoted to a primer on Crypto Anarchy and the last post will be a categorical list of software tools for any beginning Cypherpunk.

 

Now for some beginning cryptanalysis. To put it bluntly, this post will be an introduction to code breaking that will look at some very simple means of encoding and sending “secret” messages by hand. As it turns out these are pretty trivial to break, but their biggest drawback becomes apparent if you try to use such low-tech methods over the world wide web.

 

Let’s start with the traditional substitution cipher. There’s nothing very sophisticated about it; you simply take a letter of the alphabet and replace it with something else. This could be another letter, a symbol you made up, or what have you. The most famous yet very simple example is the Caesar Cipher. Each letter of the alphabet is replaced by a letter three spaces to the left of it; the letter D is written as A, E is written as B, and so forth. Here’s what the cipher looks like as well as how it “encodes” a message:

 

How a typical substitution cipher works.

How typical substitution ciphers work. A letter is replaced with something else.

 

Simple enough right? Now let’s look at another method called a transposition cipher. Rather than replacing a letter of the alphabet with something else, you simply change where the letters are actually located on the message sheet itself. Here’s a simple example:

 

One of many transposition ciphers. Location is what matters.

One of many transposition ciphers. Location is what matters.

 

So now we know the two main low-tech methods for encoding messages, but breaking them is pretty simple to do.

 

The means of breaking these two general approaches to making “secret codes” varies greatly. For substitution ciphers the longer the message is (or the more material you can intercept over time), the easier it becomes to decipher the meaning of the text. While a number of various techniques can be applied for doing so, they all usually stem from just two strategies: frequency analysis and letter pairs.

 

Frequency analysis takes advantage of the fact that each letter of the alphabet will appear at different rates; the letter “E” for example is the most commonly used letter of the alphabet and chances are the most common letters/symbols in a message will be vowels. This is why it cost money to suggest a vowel on “Wheel of Fortune” – filling in a vowel makes it much easier to guess the puzzle. Letter pairs of course tend to be two vowels as well. Plugging those in can help you decipher a message with some trial and error. The more material you have to work with (longer messages, more messages, or both) the more successful the techniques will be.

 

Transposition ciphers on the other hand are a different story. They are almost always easier to break if the message is very short. In the case of the rail fence example pictured above, it only seems easy because the visible message (25 letters) isn’t concealed by bogus letters that hide how the letters in the message (25 total) have been transposed. The obvious way to try break the cipher would be to take a given letter, and see if a pattern can be found with other corresponding letters that eventually form a word. More complicated means exist for breaking various transposition ciphers, but all that’s beside the point of this post.

 

These two approaches to encoding messages have their own distinct pros and cons. What they both have in common however is that they simply lack the level of security needed to encrypt information sent over the internet. This is because any recipient of an encoding message must have the cipher needed to decode it, and sending it over the internet where a malicious third party could intercept it defeats the whole purpose of using the cipher in the first place.

 

What we need is something that allows someone to send messages to you that are encoded that you can decrypt, but does not require you to send the necessary key for decryption over any information channel an adversary might be listening into. My next post will explain how asymmetric encryption – better known as public key cryptography – solves this dilemma.

 

November 4th, 2013 – Sixth Anniversary of Going Market Anarchist

Update: Well, okay to be fair technically I’ve only been “Market Anarchist” for half a decade. But saying so kind of sort of ignores all the time I was in denial about what I really thought could “work.” And after all this time messing around with Python I refuse to count like a programmer unless I absolutely have to. If I had to pinpoint a day when I first began the transition at all, it would have to be in 2007, when I first came across the general case for abolishing the FDA. A year later when the 2008 Presidential election was called, I finally adopted the title “Anarcho-Capitalist.” To satisfy those who don’t like the origins of the later term, “Market Anarchist” should suffice.

 

 

I can sort of remember the day. The past several months prior to it I went from being nominally conservative to total minarchist Libertarian. All government ought to do is protect people from initiation of force at home and abroad. Yeah I was pretty outside the mainstream but nothing along the lines of wanting to scrap our political system altogether.

 

At the same time I was having some doubts. After spending some time on a now defunct social networking site called “Bureaucrash Social” I had been exposed to some ideas and arguments I never knew existed. Combine this with spending some time on the Mises Institute website, skimming through the daily articles, and it wasn’t long before I started to realize just how far the arguments against government could go.

 

My breaking point ultimately was on the night of the 2008 elections. Having switched from being supportive of McCain (please forgive me for that) to being fascinated by Bob Barr’s campaign (he too defected from conservative politics), I knew I was going to be pretty dissatisfied with the results whether Barack Obama or John McCain won the presidency.

 

As soon as the election was decided, a key element of the outcome finally dawned on me. My mother was in a relationship with someone at the time who noted that millions of people who probably weren’t too happy about the outcome would probably wake up sick the next day. Because just over 50% of the people who chose to vote outnumbered the rest, that was the outcome whether people liked it or not.

 

So what was this key element you ask? I knew to some degree that arguments could be made that law and order could be provided in the absence of government thanks to a short bit that David D. Friedman posted online from his most famous work. He had posted chapter 29 from his book on how the free market might provide police and courts. Combine this with the fact that I was convinced that non-interventionism was the way to go when it came to foreign policy, and that really didn’t leave much of anything for government to do. Consequently, this meant there was next to nothing that a president or elected congress could possibly serve any legislative purpose for.

 

Why waste so much time and effort on having half the country impose certain preferences on the other half if there was so little elected officials should even be allowed to do once elected? That was when a couple months of letting some arguments against anti-trust, intellectual property, government legal systems, and government provision of various public goods finally sunk in. I had yet to figure out precisely how on a functional level a society with no government was supposed to work, but I knew that the idea of supporting one with government kind of relied on some serious double-standards. If business is so evil, why should an institution that can force payment and restrict you from other providers of various services within it’s “legal territory” be any better?

 

No need to go into detail about how my views developed after that. In a nutshell, I started gathering notes for “State Exempt” about a year later in the winter of 2009. I thought I would have it done before summer of the following year because at the time I expected it to be only 150 pages or so. Boy was that a dead wrong estimate on my part…

 

So it’s taken way longer than I thought it would. Rather than a short primer, it will be a borderline treatise even though I never once published a book before in my whole life. I would probably get fired from any job that required me to estimate the amount of time I needed to get something extensive done – no question about it. Hell, at least I have the cover finished:

 

Way less gloomy than the earlier version.

Way less gloomy than the earlier version.

 

Procrastinators of the world unite! Better late than never ought to have merit if it means a better final product.

 

State Department & DefCad: Just What Files Freaked Them Out? (Part II)

Note: This will likely be a five three-part series. I will link to all parts below this note once all are done. I am the DefCad.org user, “OpenSourceArmorer.” Contact me via the DefCad forums if you have questions, and no – don’t even ask me for the original .STL files. Unless you can verify that you’re a US citizen, I can’t share them. And in the interwebs that kind of identity verification is hard and pointless. Especially when the files themselves are not that hard to find elsewhere…

 

In the first post in the three-part series I described what the controversy is over some 3D-printable CAD files that the State Department was concerned about. I especially emphasized what the State Department’s criteria is for objects that fall under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Now in this post I want to go over all ten items that were listed in their letter to Cody Wilson and explain why it’s clear the State Department doesn’t have a clue about what these files actually do when printed. We begin with the most well-known of them all…

 

1 – Defense Distributed Liberator pistol

 

Courtesy of Andy Greenberg. The Liberator in assembled form.

Courtesy of Andy Greenberg. The Liberator in assembled form.

 

Okay so this first one needs little explanation aside from some clarification about it’s so-called “undetectability.” A lot of idiot journalists (and a few lawmakers) have been harping on this as being invisible to airport security, as if not a damn thing has changed in that area since 1988. Well no, we have new technologies such as backscatter x-ray, thermal imaging, and millimeter-wave scanners. These technologies make “undetectable” firearms a total impossibility.

 

 Backscatter X-ray

Backscatter X-ray Image

The new version of the Rapiscan body scanners will come with software that only highlights foreign objects, not body parts.

 

A type of X-ray that can detect plastic is known as backscatter X-ray.  These types of body scanners will penetrate clothing, but not skin. Any solid object can be picked up irrespective of what it’s made of – including a 3D-printed gun. In fact, the ability to detect “plastic guns” has been one of the selling points of Rapiscan, the company that currently makes the kind that have been used in airport security. Right now they are working on a new version of their TSA body scanners that only show a gingerbread outline of the person being scanned (to address privacy concerns) while highlighting any specific foreign objects.

 

In addition to addressing privacy concerns, the Rapiscan body scanners also produce radiation levels so minuscule that you may as well worry more about being in direct sunlight for five minutes.

 

Thermo-Conductive Imaging

Thermo-Conductive Imaging

By detecting the difference in heat and IR conductivity between clothing, human skin, and a foreign object, Iscon scanners can detect 3D-printed guns with ease.

 

Thermo-Conductive Imaging identifies objects via their heat and infrared conductivity profile. The laws of physics makes it impossible for 3D-printed objects – or a wide variety of solid objects for that matter – to transfer heat and infrared radiation at the same rate as human skin and clothing. Yes, this applies even if someone has kept an object against their body for several hours. The temperature profile of any given object will vary between the side touching human skin and the side facing away. Thus it’s impossible to disguise an object from the scanner by attempting to match it’s temperature with the rest of someone’s body or clothing. Plastic being an insulator makes this especially impossible to pull off successfully.

 

Passive Radiation Scanners

This image is an example of a tech tested in New York City to detect firearms of all materials.

 

Next we have a category of passive scanners that detect natural radiation output from a human body – such as a new kind of scanner being tested in crime-ridden areas of New York City. In particular one technology that shows some strong promise for being both from radiation and privacy concerns is passive millimeter-wave scanning. I cannot emphasize this enough: these do not fire radiation at the person being scanned. They detect obstructions in natural bodily radiation normally emitted.

 

To put it in blunt terms, there is no such thing as an “undetectable” firearm, even if it’s a 3D-printed gun made entirely out of plastic. I will address this issue in a future post when I critique Steve Israel’s HR 1474.

 

According to the ITAR criteria for what falls under their control, it *might* be illegal for files of this pistol to be on the internet because it qualifies as a “non-automatic” firearm. My next blog post will visit the legal issues surrounding what is okay under ITAR soon. According to the official ITAR regulations, what Cody Wilson did may very well be perfectly legal since the files themselves may qualify as being under public access. This will be discussed in the next post, for now I just want to focus on what the actual files are.

 

Now it’s about time I explain in detail what the other nine CAD files are that the State Department took issue with in their letter to Cody Wilson. Prepare to be stupefied at just how trivial these objects are in printed form.

 

2 – The “.22 Electric” Concept

 

.22elecgun

No, this is not a functional gun at all – remain calm.

 

This is nothing more than the product of someone messing around with CAD design in order to make a purely conceptual pistol that as of yet has no possible way of functioning. To my knowledge the person who originally developed it abandoned the project because they concluded it was just plain unrealistic of a concept to pull off. The idea was to somehow make a printable gun that fires rounds via electrical detonation of a cartridge’s primer. The designer of this object goes by the name of “Proteus” on the DefCad forums, and despite abandoning the concept this object was supposed to utilize, he later worked on making a replica of something the State Department probably took even more seriously – but for stupid reasons of course.

 

 

3 – 125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead

 

123mm "Warhead"

The State Department thinks you can “print” an anti-tank warhead. Yes, they are batshit paranoid.

 

Out of all ten files, the reaction of the State Department over this one is by far the most f*ckishly hilarious of them all. This is not, I repeat, this is NOT a functional warhead. All you have here is a CAD file for making a plastic replica of a warhead that is no more harmful than a model jet. The story behind how the developer of this object achieved the task is especially noteworthy given how the State Department has chosen to define what an export is. When I first began a draft of this post several months ago (before I became busy for reasons discussed in this blog’s previous October post), I decided to get in touch with Proteus once and for all via private online chat.

 

He described to me in a nutshell how the process of designing the file played out:

 

“I designed a CAD file for a 125mm HEAT round. HEAT stands for High Explosive Anti Tank. Now, the first rule of anti tank warfare is do not fire solid pieces of ABS plastic at a tank, with no propellant, and hope it will stop the tank. It won’t. And yet this is exactly what the DOJ appears to believe regarding this design.”

 

So either the DOJ is stupid as hell, or they are overreacting to what should technically be considered under the public domain. More on why in just a moment…

 

“Opening the file finds a 3 foot tall design, too big to be printed on 99% of 3d printers. It also has NO inner workings (and I don’t even know what they are), and no fins on the back. Obviously the inner workings are critical to the functioning of a round.”

 

You heard it there folks. This file is for a solid replica that has no working internal components. Nothing anyone ought to freak out from. But what if the hardware, propellant, and all other necessary elements for a HEAT round were available in addition to this file?

 

“Alright, let’s assume that you SOMEHOW could print the round AND all the propellant etc, which is impossible with today’s technology. It is still in plastic, which would not contain the explosion as much as metal and therefore be much less potent than a standard round.”

 

The biggest blow to the idea that this file poses a special new danger to the public at large stems not just from the fact that you can’t find the inner workings of a real HEAT round along with the explosives and propellant, but where Proteus actually got the information used to make the file in the first place:

 

“And the kicker? I got everything to make this design, right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:125mm_BK-14m_HEAT.JPG

 

4 – 5.56/.223 muzzle brake

 

5.56/.223 Muzzle Break

Oh noes!!! A printable muzzle break that gives nothing to America’s enemies that they don’t already have!

 

So let me get this straight… A muzzle break – which comes on just about any rifle these days by default and is nearly useless when printed in ABS or PLA or any plastic for that matter – is considered a troublesome offense to the ITAR laws? This is about as relevant to a firearm as a muffler is to a car. Sure, it may be a trivial component used in conjunction with a firearm but the object itself is useless unless you already have one. Not to mention the fact that a plastic muzzle break will not withstand the pressure and heat from a gun blast.

 

 

5 – Springfield XD-40 tactical slide assembly

 

XD-40 Slide

Artistic rendition of something useless without the whole damn gun itself. Art can be pretty “life-threatening.”

 

This was designed by a DefCad forum member named “texan_eagle_scout” who presented this here: http://forums.defcad.com/showthread.php?126-My-contribution

 

Nothing people can’t already acquire. You would be hard-pressed to get a printed slide to word on an actual Springfield XD.

 

6 – Sound Moderator – slip on

 

Sound_Moderator

Yes, a sound “moderator” for a pellet gun freaked the State Department out. No, it’s not for a real gun.

 

You may recall when the Liberator was first released that Chuck Schumer flipped his lid about a printable gun that could accept “silencers.” He may have been dumb enough to simply regurgitate what the New York Daily News reported on this matter, claiming that printable “silencers” were available for the Liberator. As the picture above clearly illustrates, this is nothing of the sort.

 

 

7 – “The Dirty Diane” 1/2-28 to 3/4-16 STP S3600 oil filter silencer adapter

 

Oil Filter Suppressor

Posting CAD files for car parts could be a threat to national security – run for the f%#&ing hills!!!

 

When it comes to legal gray areas that are open to wide interpretation, this object epitomizes such dilemmas the most. This is a car part and not something distinct to firearms. Explanation for why this violates international arms trafficking laws of any kind would sure be nice.

 

 

8 – 12 gauge to .22 CB sub-caliber insert

 

subcaliber-insert

CAD files for a cylindrical tube could be illegal to post online. Whoddathunk?

 

Here is another example of something that calls into question just how broad ITAR restrictions can be applied. What this is supposed to do is turn a shotgun (a relatively lethal weapon at close range), into a .22lr rifle. For those of you who know nothing about firearms, .22lr rounds are just about the smallest cartridges you could possibly find anywhere.

 

All in all this file would allow someone to make a plastic tube that makes their shotgun less lethal than it already was.

 

 

9 – Voltlock electronic black powder system

 

Voltlock

It’s a motherfucking cylinder. How this falls under ITAR restrictions beats me. Are sex toys munitions too???

 

Now we enter even more confusing territory about what the State Department thinks could potentially violate weapons export laws. As you can see in the image above, the “Voltlock” is nothing more than a cylinder – nothing more. I checked the actual CAD files (.stl) for this and it appears that this is supposed to be turned into a tube somehow. From there a hole exists at the top to insert some kind of black powder as well as electrical wiring to ignite it in some way. Clearly this is nothing more than a concept item like the “.22 electric” listed at #2 above.

 

This file reaches the pinnacle of the “Just how f-ing far can ITAR go???” mantra, and it’s not that hard to see why.

 

 

10 – VZ-58 sight

 

Rear VZ58

The rear portion of the iron sights. Anyone with a gun that could use this probably already has some.

 

Like many – if not all of the other objects on this list, I find this one to be a peculiar addition. Yes this file is a firearm component, but all this does is function like a rear sight replacement. Anyone with a gun that could make use of this part probably already has such a thing. I mean, guns do come with rear sights by default.

 

If the events surrounding ITAR’s present effect on these files means anything, it’s the fact that the Department of State is a bigger threat (or nuisance for that matter) than any of the parts they complained about.