embrodski

Jan 052018
 

I’m switching all my texting and messaging to it as much as possible, and this is my urging that you do too. First and foremost, due to security, of course, but…

The user interface is slick and beautiful and just sooooo responsive.

There’s a destop app that integrates seemlessly and stays synced to your phone(s) and other computers, so you can type on a keyboard when near one, instead of tapping on a screen! Yet is still fully mobile when you aren’t near a legit computer.

My biggest fear was that setup would be a pain, with all sorts of tech knowledge needed, and passwords, and private keys, etc. No. Nothing like that. Just install the app and you’re good to go. It syncs your contact list from your phone and auto-fills it with anyone else who has Signal.

And, of course, the security. Fully encrypted end-to-end, so no one else can read your messages. Not the NSA, not Facebook, not Google, not the phone company, or any service provider. Your conversations actually remain your own.
And it’s free!

Very importantly, this is good to use AT ALL TIMES. If people only use Signal for illicit talk, that means it’s obvious that anyone using Signal is doing something shady. Once you use it for everything, all the time, out of a matter of principle because it ain’t nobody else’s business what the hell you’re saying to your mom or your bae or your boss, there is a normalization of using encryption all the time. Which is as it should be.

I know this sounds like an ad or some shit, but I’m just really excited and happy about this. 4 out of 5, would encrypt again!
https://signal.org/

Jan 012018
 

My Favorite Medieval Film Is A Knight’s Tale

“this film challenges the ideas of a medieval past as being so very different from the present. Spectators singing a rock and roll song by Queen at a medieval joust certainly raise the eyebrow of many, but the song certainly strikes a more familiar chord with a modern audience than the strumming of a lute. Does the modern song convey the enthusiasm and pageantry of such events to a modern audience more successfully than an authentic tune would have done?

… In other words, there is a truth of historical reality, and then there is a truth of historical relationship — a difference between knowing the actual physical feel of the past and the relative emotional feel of it.

…Because we don’t live in the fourteenth century, we don’t have the same context for a historically accurate jousting as a person would have had back then. A tournament back in the day was like the Super Bowl, but a wholly accurate representation of the event would not give us that same sense. Rather than pulling us into the moment, the full truth would push us out of it: rather than fostering the connection between the present and the past, it would have emphasized the separation. So Helgeland split the difference: he included tons of historical accuracies with non-historical familiarities.”

 

History is Written by the Losers
“Herodotus is one of two men who can claim to have invented history. Sima Qian is the other.

This is a rare feat. It was accomplished in exactly two places. Herodotus did it in Greece; Sima Qian did it in China. Of the other great civilizations—the Mesoamericans, the Egyptians, Summerians, and their descendants, the Andean kingdoms, the early rulers of the Eurasian steppe, the great empires that sprouted up along the Indus and Ganges rivers, along with their cultural satellites across South and Southeast Asia—history is nowhere to be found. I remember my shock when I discovered our knowledge of ancient India relies more on ancient Greek historians than ancient Indian historians. Traditional Indic civilization simply did not have any. In ancient India, playwrights, poets, lyricists, grammarians, philosophers, story-tellers, mathematicians, military strategists, religious authorities, and religious upstarts all put pen to palm frond, leaving a treasury of Sanskrit literature for the future. This literature is sophisticated. It is meaningful. Even in translation, much of it is beautiful. But search as you may, nowhere in this vast treasury will you ever find a work of history. That a great thinker could profitably spend his time sorting through evidence, trying to tie together cause and effect, distinguishing truth from legend, then present what is found in a written historical narrative—it is an idea that seems to have never occurred to anyone on the entire subcontinent. Only in Greece and in China did this notion catch hold. The work of every historian who ever lived finds its genesis in one of these two places—and with one of these two people.”

As to the thesis – “Those who rule do not have the time to write about it. … When high position is stolen from you, and access to the heights of wealth and power denied, there is little one can do about it—except write. History is thus rarely a “weapon of the weak.” The judgments of the historian do not serve the margins. They do not even serve the masses. They are a weapon in the hand of defeated elites, the voices of men and women who could be in power, but are not.”

 

The Tragedy of Jon Stewart

In short, nightly comedy news fell into the same trap as the 24-hour news channels. To keep their audience night after night they have to manufacture outrage.

I’ve been saying for a while that Cultural Segregation is bad, and I’ve lost some friends over it. I’m glad to see the view is finally starting to reassert itself in the wider culture. (well ok, the wider culture of my bubble, I realize there’s plenty of sane places that never went through this phase)
This is a link to an open Facebook post that went semi-viral. It starts with “As an Indian woman, I really appreciate Indian fashion being normalized in this way. Why should our clothes be relegated to Indian-only spaces? Why are only Western clothes allowed to be worn by mainstream society? This kind of generally well-meaning social segregation has the overall effect of holding White Western culture as a neutral norm all other cultures can and should draw from, while simultaneously telling us our cultures must be kept to ourselves.”

 

Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State. That was kinda anti-climactic for what was supposed to be the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth. “The only territory it still “controls” are a few scattered villages in Syria in the middle of nowhere.”

 

The host of this show set up a Trolley Problem. Subjects were convinced they were part of a focus group about commuter rail. They’re placed in a switching station, that mointors tracks remotely via CCTV, while waiting for the focus group to begin. A kindly old conductor shows them the ropes, and even has them switch a train coming down the tracks from one track to the other just for fun. Then he’s called away.

While he’s gone, convincing video footage is played of a 5-and-1 constructions workers stationing themselves on the two tracks. And then footage is played of an oncoming train that will hit the group of 5. The subject must choose to throw the switch or not, they don’t have a lot of time, maybe a minute?

Test was run 7 times. How many people do you predict flipped the switch to save net-4 lives IRL?

 

An interesting rescue of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” that shows how not knowing about the cultural context of something is a pretty big deal.

“Given a cursory glance and applying today’s worldview to the song, yes, you’re right, it absolutely *sounds* like a rape anthem.

BUT! Let’s look closer!

So it’s not actually a song about rape – in fact it’s a song about a woman finding a way to exercise sexual agency in a patriarchal society designed to stop her from doing so. ”

Most interesting comment was the observation that the line “At least I’m gonna say that I tried” is basically saying “It’ll be easier for both of us if people just think you raped me” which… fuck. The past was a horrifying place. :(

 

God I hate the FDA. Feds Prepare For A New War On Kratom, An Herbal Drug Many Swear By.

 

Another open Facebook post, this one on Jeremy Bentham.

“I’d like to talk a little bit about moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and why he has a weird level of celebrity status among people who think like I do.

…There is a sense in which Jeremy Bentham literally invented a lot of the concepts we take for granted as the founder of utilitarianism and a prolific Enlightenment thinker, but there is another sense in which, almost as a side-effect, he came to a variety of conclusions about the social order which wouldn’t gain widespread traction until decades or even centuries after his death.

…Jeremy Bentham, at a time when the morality of chattel-slavery was still a hotly-debated topic, was saying that It’s Okay to Be Gay and we shouldn’t slut-shame.

…Here is a radical proposition: Jeremy Bentham wasn’t just ahead of his time — he was ahead of *our* time.

…maybe you can’t have the visionary foresight without the eccentricity. Even among progressive people, who pay a lot of lip-service to celebrating diversity, there is a surprising amount of hostility to weird nerds re-deriving the social order from first principles. When we’re judging people for doing this, maybe we should remember Jeremy Bentham.”

 

How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally.

OK, I knew it was one of the best pieces of art ever, I didn’t realize how much it altered a genre!

Navy apologizes after aircrew members draw a penis in the sky. Well color me impressed! It must take a ton of skill to be able to draw something like that with jet that’ll be recognizable from the ground! Good ol’ Kit Cloudkicker strikes again.

 

Russia organized 2 sides of a Texas protest and encouraged ‘both sides to battle in the streets’. “Russian actors organized both anti-Islam and pro-Islam protests in the same location at the same time on May 21, 2016, using separate Facebook pages operated from a so-called troll farm in St. Petersburg, the Senate Intelligence Committee disclosed on Wednesday.”

 

Pretty. This is the rare kind of poetry that I get.

“but now they tweet from Syria, and when our beautiful missiles crashed into their airbase Jared Kushner was listening to Hamilton

do you think bin Laden ever picked up the controller? maybe he did. maybe he slid into the skin of an American Marine and blew holes in his own country. high score. high score.”

 

What New Atheism Says “I’m not surprised when the New Atheists are characterized in ways which attempt to erase what they are saying or just get them to shut up. They’re forcing a conversation that most on the left really don’t want to have.”

 

People freaking out about Amazon Key are showing their “Living In A Neighborhood Where You Can Leave Packages Unattended Outside Your Door For Hours” privilege.

 

The Grand Unified Keanu Theory. O_O

 

Photographer Spends Eternity Waiting For Museum Visitors To Match Artworks And The Result Is Worth The Wait

 

Hah, Wired has an article about the Paperclipper game.

“Gaming, Lantz had realized, embodies the orthogonality thesis. When you enter a gameworld, you are a superintelligence aimed at a goal that is, by definition, kind of prosaic.

“When you play a game—really any game, but especially a game that is addictive and that you find yourself pulled into—it really does give you direct, first-hand experience of what it means to be fully compelled by an arbitrary goal,” Lantz says. Games don’t have a why, really. Why do you catch the ball? Why do want to surround the king, or box in your opponent’s counters? What’s so great about Candyland that you have to get there first? Nothing. It’s just the rules.”

Now whenever someone asks why an intelligent agent would turn the universe into paperclips, point them at this game. Then come back the next day, look them dead in the eyes, and ask them “Why. Did. You?”

 

So good! Now I want every visual story to do this. How David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes

In Favor of Futurism Being About the Future “We are going to fight our hardest to end poverty, disease, death, and suffering, and we’re going to do it in spite of petty Boston Review articles telling us we should stop doing it so we can focus on hating each other for stupid reasons.”

 

Dec 302017
 

I actually had some time to read a few books outside of book club in the past couple months. So here’s a quick review of each. They aren’t the full reviews I normally do, because it just doesn’t feel the same without the book club chiming in. Plus, I don’t know if they’d turn out to be good/bad book club books (I’ve been surprised before, in both directions. Heck, see The Emperor’s Blades most recently for one such example). But here’s a few thoughts!

Europe In Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson

It’s been a really long time since I read ugly prose. So long, in fact, that I forgot what it was like. Then I picked up Europe In Autumn. Regardless of it’s other strengths of flaws, the prose in this really is just plain ugly. I don’t need everything to be Cat Valente-style gorgeous, but man, put in some effort to make the words not gross! Everything sentence is flat and just flops there. Descriptions are more often lists of things/characteristics than anything that evokes a visual or an emotion. Maybe it makes me shallow to be turned off by ugly prose, but… ugh.

Also, I couldn’t give two shits about the character or the plot. At first it was neat to see things in my native Polish, and the novelty of that carried me for a while. But by the time we get to the third boring description of a smuggling/infiltration going wrong we still have no reason to care about whether it goes wrong or not. There’s no stakes for the protagonist, it seems like he fell into this line of work because he was bored with his old job, but finds this one just as dreary. If he fails, what does he lose? What does he gain? Are there any consequences for anyone? For the world? Even if there were, do we care? The answer to all of these is “no.” Or it was for me, anyway.

I guess there’s some sort of alternate reality/hidden world thing going on once you get 3/4ths of the way through the book, but I barely made it 25% of the way through. I have no faith that it would be interesting enough to slog through this. Not Recommended.

The Causal Angel, by Hannu Rajaniemi

The final novel in the Quantum Thief trilogy, and a fantastic finish!

I’ve raved about the previous two books in the trilogy, and Causal Angel doesn’t disappoint. The books just keep getting more and more epic, with Quantum Thief being somewhat local, mostly confined to one city, Fractal Prince expanding to cover the fate of the inner system, and Causal Angel tackling the ultimate fate of humanity and the observable universe.

Things keep getting more bombastic too, with ever-larger things exploding ever more frequently, more harrowing escapes, and more personal sacrifices in every book. By the time I was in the last quarter of the book I couldn’t stop reading, and stayed up waaaaay too late.

Also, I know I mentioned this before, but Rajaniemi is our people. The books are transhuman from the very beginning, fully embracing emulated minds and their consequences from page 1, and reference many well-known shibboleths and thought-experiments in the rationalist-sphere. But it’s really hammered home in the third book, where not only does Coherent Extrapolate Volition enter the plot, but much of the conflict (and problem-solving) revolves around the technologically-mediated CEVs of disparate groups competing against or reinforcing each other to drive toward the final conflict/resolution. It’s awesome.

Of course the writing is dense and sometimes I had to go back and reread a page (or two or three) to grasp what was being put down. I don’t think that’s too big a strike against the book, sometimes it’s good to be challenged. :) And it didn’t happen often.

I fully expected to love this, based on the previous two books, and I’m really glad I wasn’t disappointed. Highly Recommended.

Dec 192017
 

The Emperor’s Blades, by Brian Staveley

Synopsis: A triple-Chosen One narrative about an assassinated Emperor’s three far-flung children reuniting to save the empire and avenge their father’s death.

Book Review: You know how everyone has a friend that’s writing a fantasy novel that’s just kinda there, but doesn’t do anything? It has characters, they do things, events happen, but ultimately you’re not sure what the point is? This book is that sort of story taken to the absolutely highest limit of quality.

Which is to say, it’s basic as fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. If you’ve read a lot of fantasy, you know from the very beginning pretty much what’ll happen, and more or less how every scene will end, and what the ultimate character arcs will be.

Which isn’t a necessarily a bad thing. This felt very much like comfort reading to me. It was like rewatching an old favorite episode, and at any time that I was reading it I really enjoyed it. Good times! But whenever I had put it down, I had no desire to pick it up again. There’s just… nothing there to interest me in re-opening it. I did a few times, because it is a book club book, but eventually I stopped. If I had infinite time I’d enjoying finishing this, and the whole series, but I don’t.

At Burning Man, there are a lot of sound camps that play non-stop House. It’s basic as fuck. Straight-up Boots-And-Pants for hours. There’s a place for this, because it’s very easy to dance to. You don’t have to stretch yourself, you can just fall into a groove of movement around energetic people and enjoy sensations.

But you’ll never be challenged by it.

Emperor’s Blades is similar. It’s what you expect, and it’s pleasant. And as I said, it really is among the best possible executions of this type of novel. It does exactly what it wants to do extremely well. The writing is good, the characterization works well, and so forth. It’s just what it wants to do isn’t something I have interest in. Its aspirations aren’t high, and it doesn’t have anything to say, as far as I can tell.

There’s definitely a lot of people who’d like this sort of thing. But for myself – Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: We had a super-high turn-out for this, and everyone had strong opinions that they were excited to share. And importantly – they were all over the place! There were people who thought this was trashy but lovable. Those who thought it was well-written and compelling. Those who thought it was bad writing of someone’s D&D campaign. Everyone agreed the giant eagles were awesome. Everyone had some sort of analogy to describe the book.

Since our book club is a Science Fiction And Fantasy book club, some of our readers come for a background that heavily favors one or the other. Those who have not read much Fantasy actually enjoyed this quite a bit, because it was fairly new to them. Only one person really hated it, and everyone else agreed it was easy to read for however long they read it.

Before I went into to the book club meeting, I fully expected to give a ‘not recommended’ rating. There’s nothing being said in here, so what is there to talk about?

Turns out, our reaction to a paragon example of a novel-type that we have differing feelings about. It was an intensely interesting discussion, and quite energetic! You don’t even have to read all that much of it, if you don’t want to. So, surprisingly – Recommended!

Dec 072017
 

The Daily Dot posted an article titled “We fact-checked FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s net neutrality ‘facts’—and they’re almost all bulls**t

The fact that they censored two letters of “bullshit” should tell you right off the bat that they may not quite have a grasp on what bullshit entails.

I read this article while doing some research on Net Neutrality, and I actually really appreciate it. They, perhaps unusually for a media outlet, didn’t seem to want to tell direct, bold-faced lies. As such it’s very easy to see that the media (or at least, the media I’m used to reading) doesn’t actually care about what they facts say or imply. The battle for Net Neutrality is now an idealogical battle.

To save everyone’s time, I’m going to boil down Ajit Pai’s point Daily Dot’s counterpoint to what bare assertions with all the Fnords removed. I have not looked into any claims directly, I simply take them at face value, because that’s all you need with this article. Direct quotes in italics, occasional commentary by me in italics. Anyone who put a few points into Reading Comprehension can play this game. Let’s rate the bullshit together!

1A – The Internet was fine before the 2015 Regulations. 1B – That’ll remain the case after they’re repealed.

Contra 1A – “It’s true.” Contra 1B – ISPs didn’t want those regulations, therefore they must be good regulations.

“It’s true” doesn’t sound like “this is bullshit” to me. Sounds like two different groups arguing over which regulations to impose, with ISPs on one side and content-delivery-networks like Netflix and Amazon (CDNs) on the other. Verdict: this is not what bullshit means.

2A – Entrepreneurs and start-ups did very well in the pre-2015 enviroment. 2B – That’ll remain the case after the 2015 Regulations are repealed.

Contra 2A – “Yes.” Contra 2B – We believe ISPs will stifle them in the future, though.

Verdict: Agreement on half the point, contrary speculation on the other half. Not bullshit.

3A – ISPs didn’t block websites before 2015. 3B – They probably won’t after, and will be required by transparency laws to state when they do.

Contra 3A – “This is technically true” 3B – Users will have to police the Internet instead of the police, and you can’t count on them to do that.

Verdict: This is technically not bullshit

4A – Broadband investment as fallen two years in a row since the 2015 Regulations were adopted.

Contra 4A – This is “entirely false.” Investment has increased, speeds have increased, here’s links.

Verdict: Hey, now we’r getting somewhere! Actual bullshit!

5A – ISPs didn’t charge a premium to reach certain content online before the 2015 Regulations. 5B – They won’t after repeal, either.

Contra 5A – This is true, but it’s inconvenient that you want to base you predictions about the future on how things worked a couple years ago. Contra 5B – They EXTRA won’t if we keep these regulations, though!

Verdict: It’s starting to sound like the Daily Dot is the one peddling the bullshit here. I can’t judge based on the merits, as I haven’t looked into any of these claims yet, but boy, you guys really should work on sounding less weasley.

6 – The 2015 Regulations burden small ISPs and new entrants who can best introduce competition into broadband market.s

Contra 6 – Totes. “This one likely has the most validity to it.” But we can just selectively not apply these regulations to small/new ISPs!

Verdict: Holy shit guys, I’m actually on Pai’s side now. Is this a black-flag operation?

7 – Yes, there will be Internet Fast Lanes. This isn’t bad.

Contra 7A – We are in agreement, except we think this is bad.

Verdict: No bullshit, just differing values.

8 – The 2015 Regulations already permit bundling services. Portual has “Net Neutrality” regulations, and also has bundling, because that’s allowed under these kinds of regulations.

Contra 8 – “This one is totally true.”

Verdit: Anti-bullshit

9 – The 2015 Regulations stifle innovation. Here’s an example.

Contra 9A – That example is true. But it’s just one example, and on net it’s hard to say what will or won’t stifle innovation. Also, NOT having the 2015 Regulations can also stifle innovation. “for now at least, we’ll have to rack this one up as a big ol’ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

Verdict: ಠ_ಠ

10 – The 2015 Regulations stripped the FTC’s ability to protect user’s privacy. Repealing those regulations will return that power to the FTC.

Contra 10 – “This one is true.” BUT Net Neutrality would have stronger privacy regulations, if Congress hadn’t removed those privacy rules from the regulations.

So the 2015 Regulations would protect privacy, if they protected privacy? I suppose I cannot argue with that on logical grounds. Verdict: both?

11 – Repealing the 2015 Regulations will lead to better, faster, cheaper internet for rural folks, city folks, space folks… basically ALL the folks!

Contra 11A – “This is entirely speculative,” “it’s possible,” “this is a great unknown.”

Verdict: OK, so sorta bullshity.

12 – The FTC is better at protecting the internet and consumer interests than the FCC is. Here’s some examples of things they did pre-2015 to protect consumers.

Contra 12 – We prefer the FCC.

Verdict: Another legit difference of opinion. Not bullshit. Although the contra point by The Daily Dot did include the bizarre line “the FTC creates a reactive approach to regulation—ISPs have to break the law first, then fix what their wrongdoing later, after the FTC cracks down.” Does the FCC have a Pre-Crime branch? How the hell do they stop wrongdoing before it happens?

13A – Most of the comments supporting the 2015 Regulations were faked, coming from botnets. 13B – Also, it doesn’t matter, internet comments don’t decide policy.

Contra 13A & 13B – “It’s true”

Verdict: Anti-bullshit, again. Tempted to score a negative-1 for this, but they were nice enough to include it rather than just omit the embarrassing points, and I don’t want to be churlish.

14 – The courts say it’s OK to repeal the 2015 Regulations and return to pre-2015 rules.

Contra 14 – Oh you poor, naive, child. We’ll be taking this to the courts for years.

Verdict: :(

 

My final tally:

2 items were actual or sorta bullshit
4.5 items were differences in values or conflicting goals. This is not bullshit, it’s what’s under debate.
7.5 items were not bullshit, and in many cases the Daily Dot literally said so themselves.

Ahem. “We fact-checked FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s net neutrality ‘facts’—and they’re almost all bulls**t.” 2 out of 14 is NOT almost all. Maybe those ** were standing in for “tamentsAboutOurDifferentPreferencesInRegulatoryStructures,ManyBackedUpByFac”

Dec 072017
 


I am sad for Al Franken. Translation of relevant part at front of this video:

“The allegations are false, and/or wildly exaggerated. I am cooperating with the investigation, and the investigation will prove this to be the case. However, I see the political lynch mob forming, I have plenty of money, and I don’t need this shit. As a well-off white male, I will personally suffer much more from attacks from my side over the coming months than I would suffer over the rest of my life from nopeing-out and letting the Trumpers run wild. Peace out.”

The allegations against Franken as of this writing

The photos currently available  (Arianna’s comments)

A Survivor’s Defense of Al Franken

Nov 212017
 

double edit! Should be fixed now, and looks like the problem was with a plug-in, so back to my home theme.

edit: nevermind, still broken I guess. /sigh. Getting tech support.

My old website theme has broken, which is sad, I kinda liked it. But for the past few days no one could click on anything, including old posts, previous pages, or leaving comments. So I’ve moved to good ol’ WordPress 2012 default, things should be working again.

Also, I’ve started a new job, and a lot of mental energy is going into learning the ropes, so posting will be sporadic for a while. I do have a new post up from a few hours ago though, please see below.

Nov 212017
 

[epistemic status: just an emotion dump. sorry.]

I dislike men. The entire gender skeeves me out.

I’m not sure what caused this. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get along with my father, and I often saw him hurt my mother (with words, never with violence, but they were deep hurts). Maybe its because during my childhood and adolescence, our hated out-group was “Old White Men.” The bastards who ruined everything, enslaved the rest of the world, grew fat with their wealth, and then rewrote history and hid all their misdeeds, never to pay for them. God how I hated them. Maybe it was because I saw first-hand how awful boys are too each other, especially in the middle-school-age demographic. It’s fuckin’ Lord of The Flies out there.

Regardless, I dislike men. The entire gender is, in my view, a collection of predators. Driven by an animal nature to destroy and defile and consume. It’s not that they’re evil, per se, it’s just that their biology doesn’t permit for anything else.

Half the reason I don’t want to have children is that I run a 50% risk of having a boy for each child-attempt. I do not wish to bring a predator into my home. I don’t want to raise a predator, to set loose upon society. And it’s considered impolite to sex-select your children in our society.

I work in an industry that’s predominantly female (accounting), and glad for it. I tend to seek out female friends. But I’m very aware that I’m an outsider from the only good gender.

Of course, I know plenty of good men. Some of them are very close friends of mine. I know these feelings of dislike aren’t rational, and that attitude is sexist. But knowing it doesn’t make the feeling go away.

I realized a few years back that I’ve been pitching my voice a bit higher my whole life in an attempt to be less threatening. I discovered that when I learned that most people don’t need a day to recover after talking for an extended period, and can often read aloud for a full hour without any pain.

I’m jealous of the trans people I know. I understand that there is a very strong sense of being female-gendered, and stuck in the wrong body, and an awful sense of disphoria. Anyone feeling those things would want to be the correct gender. But a deep, intuitive part of me keeps insisting that it’s a tactic to flee from being part of the oppressor class. And that the non-binary friends I have are doing the same thing. That it’s all to stop being the vile male sex. It feels like cheating. It feels like the thing I should do, if I had enough courage to go through with it. It feels like it’d be betraying the minority decent people left in this gender, and truly abandoning it to the predators. But I don’t want to be too slow about it either, languishing here long after there’s only animals left.

I’m starting to avoid triggers. I now refuse to read anything that headlines how awful men are as a group. Just today I saw “What To Do We Do With The Art Of Monstrous Men?” I don’t know what to do with something like that. I guess I’ll just stay silent, because I sure as hell don’t want to defend any of these rapists or predators. I’m ashamed enough to be associated with them due to my gender.

I don’t know. I don’t know how to be part of this group I can’t stand, and can’t leave.

Nov 132017
 

There’s an odd line in Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” where he sings “The only questions I ever thought was hard–is do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” It’s weird because there is no Trekkie I’ve ever met who thinks that’s a hard question. Everyone has a strong and clear opinion on exactly who is the better captain, and why. Sure, the half who say it’s Kirk are wrong, but there’s no waffling on the position.

I was recently in a discussion with an older geek and a younger geek, both of liberal persuasion. And the younger, more zealous geek stated that Captain Kirk is morally disgusting due to his regressive attitudes, and everyone should distance themselves from that abomination. To which the older geek got royally upset, and for good reason.

The young geek, watching TOS nowadays, sees only that a hero of SF nerdom is a womanizer, and feels disappointed that this is what people look up to. They either don’t know or don’t care that Star Trek was incredibly progressive for its time. It had perhaps the most diverse cast on television. It portrayed a socialist utopia in the thick of the cold war. It snuck in pro-feminist and anti-segregation lines. It showed the first interracial kiss on television during a time when that got them nearly kicked off the air in almost half the country.

And yeah, Kirk was a womanizer. This was also the decade of free love, where that wasn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. Regardless, it is not acceptable behavior nowadays, and therefore Kirk must be disavowed and publicly excoriated.

In the progress of ethics, much like in the progress of science, we are where we are today only because we stand on the shoulders of giants. If we see farther, and know better what is good, than those below us, it is in large part because we stand on their progress. So while we don’t have to hold them up as moral exemplars in the current light, because they aren’t, neither should we call them moral monsters for being ahead of their time and pushing progress forward! Society progresses fast enough nowadays that the people who fought for the rights and morals we have now are still alive, and turning on them seems particularly cruel when their around to see it.

This sort of thing has impacts on the real world. It was brought to a head for me last weekend, when a con I was attending had a panel on a culture war topic. It got heated, as they tend to. A young liberal defended the SJW position in what I’ve heard was a particularly courageous manner. While I spoke to them later that day, an older white gentleman came up to praise them for their good work. This is a guy who is very obviously strongly on the side of the liberals, but the instant he came over, the circle of people I was in froze up. Tension weighed down the air. He was instantly unwelcome because he was old, and The Olds are always vile monsters from the barbaric past. He took a moment to praise the young liberal, complementing them on how well spoken they were. There was a murmur of anger, and my heart sank. This poor guy was just trying to praise her, but he didn’t know that you can’t tell a minority they are well spoken, because that’s something only a racist would say. He moved away after another minute, probably not knowing why he was getting so much hostility. He didn’t realize he never had a chance, he was judged an enemy before he’d opened his mouth.

I know it’s a cliché now, but this is just another example of how the Left eats its own. How does *anyone* feel safe in a movement that is THIS cannibalistic?

As for how things can be done better – I recently was linked to the concept of “Value Over Replacement.” If a person hadn’t existed, would the people who would have taken their place been better or worse than them? I don’t know much about the original Battlestar Galactica (the only real comparison I can think of on American TV, though I realize it was years later), but I haven’t heard anything about their progressive philosophical agenda.

This whole “destroying those who helped get us where we are” thing? Yeah, guys, let’s not do that.

Nov 082017
 

In a new book, Eliezer discusses civilizational inadequacy. In one section, he first explains that hundreds of babies die every year because a formula used to feed premature children with certain birth defects is made from soybean oil rather than fish oil. Swapping one for the other would prevent all these deaths, and many other cases of brain damage in babies who don’t die. It’s known by enough people that this should be fixable, and has been known for years, and yet nothing is changed and hundreds of babies die every year. He then goes on to postulate why we, as a society, can’t be assed to save these lives.

>Suppose you want to sell a used car, and I’m looking for a car to buy. From my perspective, I have to worry that your car might be a “lemon”—that it has a serious mechanical problem that doesn’t appear every time you start the car, and is difficult or impossible to fix. Now, you know that your car isn’t a lemon. But if I ask you, “Hey, is this car a lemon?” and you answer “No,” I can’t trust your answer, because you’re incentivized to answer “No” either way. Hearing you say “No” isn’t much Bayesian evidence. Asymmetric information conditions can persist even in cases where, like an honest seller meeting an honest buyer, both parties have strong incentives for accurate information to be conveyed.

>A further problem is that if the fair value of a non-lemon car is $10,000, and the possibility that your car is a lemon causes me to only be willing to pay you $8,000, you might refuse to sell your car. So the honest sellers with reliable cars start to leave the market, which further shifts upward the probability that any given car for sale is a lemon, which makes me less willing to pay for a used car, which incentivizes more honest sellers to leave the market, and so on.

>In our world, there are a lot of people screaming, “Pay attention to this thing I’m indignant about over here!” In fact, there are enough people screaming that there’s an inexploitable market in indignation. The dead-babies problem can’t compete in that market; there’s no free energy left for it to eat, and it doesn’t have an optimal indignation profile. There’s no single individual villain. The business about competing omega-3 and omega-6 metabolic pathways is something that only a fraction of people would understand on a visceral level; and even if those people posted it to their Facebook walls, most of their readers wouldn’t understand and repost, so the dead-babies problem has relatively little virality. Being indignant about this particular thing doesn’t signal your moral superiority to anyone else in particular, so it’s not viscerally enjoyable to engage in the indignation. As for adding a further scream, “But wait, this matter really is important!”, that’s the part subject to the lemons problem. Even people who honestly know about a fixable case of dead babies can’t emit a trustworthy request for attention.

There a LOT more to Eliezer’s book, this is just one excerpt, but boy does this fill me with guilt. Because this section, in essence, can be reduced to “The Culture War Kills Babies.” Not in the mamby-pamby way that university students scream “You are killing me!” but in actual, literal corpses that one can count. Due to all the social outrage we pour into things like cultural appropriation and “cis is the new straight,” there is no room left for drawing attention to actual outrageous things, like babies dying by the hundreds unnecessarily.

I do talk about cultural issues a fair bit. I may be contributing to the killing of babies, and I don’t want to do that. I think it may be possible to talk about cultural issues in a way that doesn’t engage the outrage drive, and I will strive to do that. I think Scott Alexander does it very well, and often Eliezer as well. From now on, any time I want to really get incensed about something, I will first ask myself if it’s as big a deal as hundreds of dead babies. I’m sure it sometimes is. Much of our future hangs on how we deal with (for example) intellectual property and privacy rights. But man, that pile of babies is really appalling.

Maybe the worst part is that anytime someone throws a fit over people kneeling or choosing an unorthodox hairstyle I’m going to think “Man, you are killing babies right now, but I can’t say anything about that because it wouldn’t only make things even worse incredibly quickly.”

Well OK, not the worst, by a long shot. But it’ll be there. /sigh