Jul 282017
 

As setup for the uninitiated: Trump recently tweeted that transgender people wouldn’t be allowed in the military because their medical care is too expensive. (Though, as has been noted by others, it obviously was not him tweeting. The tweets are far too coherent and grammatically correct. Pence got a hold of his phone, maybe?)

It’s classic Trump bullshit. I noticed something weird about one of the common responses though. I’m not sure if it’s for humor value or because sex sells or whatever, but there was a lot of focus on Viagra. Lots of “The Pentagon spends 5 times more on Viagra than transgender services“-type headlines. This sort of thing happens every now and then, when a medical cost is brought up people will sometimes respond with “But look at how much we spend on Viagra!” And, OK, but Viagra is also a legitimate medicine. It helps with the side-effects of many psychoactive drugs, such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Things which soldiers with PTSD often need.

I don’t dispute the facts. But there’s lots of things that cost 5x more than medical care for trans people, as it’s such a small cost. The focus on Viagra specifically seems to be along the lines of “If we can spend money on something as ridiculous as Viagra…” like it’s a party drug. Its the same attitude about sex that leads to “trans people don’t really need medical care either, its a private perversion” sentiments. It’s a harmful attitude to spread.

Jul 082017
 

From The New Yorker. Even they are getting in on it.

THE “EFFECT IS TOO LARGE” HEURISTIC – “a Radiolab episode…mentioned a famous study on judges handing out harsher sentences before lunch than after lunch. …the percentage of favorable decisions drops from 65% to 0% over the number of cases that are decided upon. This sounded unlikely.”

 

In Defense of Individualist Culture – A strong counter to the current pro-communitarian trend. Still don’t know if this is great or awful.

“The idea of mankind as arbitrarily malleable is an appealing one to marketers, governments, therapists, or anyone who hopes that it’s easy to shift people’s behavior. But this doesn’t seem to be true. It might be worth rehabilitating the notion that people pretty much do what they’re going to do.
…Once you’re aware that you can pick your favorite way of life, you’re a modern. Sorry. You’ve got options now.
Which means that you can’t possibly go back to a premodern mindset unless you are brutally repressive about information about the outside world, and usually not even then.”

((I’m assuming a bit of background knowledge, based on what’s been floating around the Rationalist Sphere lately, but it does have a good summary:
“The behaviorist or sociological view of the world would say that individualist cultures are gravely deficient because they don’t put any attention into setting up healthy defaults in environment or culture. If you don’t have rules or expectations or traditions about food, or a health-optimized cafeteria, you “can” choose whatever you want, but in practice a lot of people will default to junk. If you don’t have much in the way of enforcement of social expectations, in practice a lot of people will default to isolation or antisocial behavior. If you don’t craft an environment or uphold a culture that rewards diligence, in practice a lot of people will default to laziness. “Leaving people alone”, says this argument, leaves them in a pretty bad place. It may not even be best described as “leaving people alone” — it might be more like “ripping out the protections and traditions they started out with.””))

 

This is goddamn poetry!! Seriously good writing.  ‘Glow’ Star Betty Gilpin: What It’s Like to Have Pea-Sized Confidence With Watermelon-Sized Boobs
I feel it does it injustice to quote only a small snippet, but here’s a tiny bit: “at some point I realized the obvious truth that I was a hideous goblin under a bridge, that the sound of my voice was like audible feces, and the presence of my body in a room was like bringing a moose carcass to brunch. […] And then puberty was like, WA-BAM.”

 

Fascinating perspective. And unusually short for an SSC article!
ordinary conversations are hard to predict because they’re designed to be so.
There was some interesting discussion about this on Autistic Tumblr, which centered around: why would someone do this? Why can’t people just say what they mean?
And the best answer I saw …explained that people were trying to spare their friends the burden of rejecting them.
But if there are people who are unusually bad at understanding social cues, like autistic people, then any cue calibrated to be on the exact border of neurotypical understanding is likely to fail for them more often than not.”

 

Sheep want to die?

 

Living Ohio man Donald Miller ruled ‘legally dead’

 

Surprising! “You are wrong about Adam West’s Batman” I am revising my opinion on the 60s Batman. Might even check out an episode or two when I have time. It’s strange how many opinions we simply inherit from our culture.

 

It’s a decent start, and I’m glad Colorado is leading the way. :) Gov. Hickenlooper signs controversial civil asset forfeiture bill, calls it “important first step” in addressing problems with practice.
I still surprised people are willing to go on the record being FOR forfeiture… which I think just speaks to my stupid naive optimism about humans, given the entire political landscape we currently inhabit. :/

 

Interesting bits from a flyer regarding police training on Phone Forensics Tools:
* Before an officer views or extracts cell phone or tablet data during the course of a criminal or administrative investigation, he or she will obtain a search warrant or “signed written consent” <— Remember this part and don’t give consent, so you can maybe get the case thrown out afterwards if they do it anyway.
Data that can be extracted includes:
 Text and Picture Messages
 Videos and Pictures (in some cases with GeoTag-location info) and creation date and time
 Audio Files
 Emails and Web Browsing Information (in some devices)
 GPS and Location Information (in some devices)
 Social Networking messages and contacts (in some devices)
 Deleted Data – Call Logs, Messages, Emails (in some devices)
 PIN Locked and Pattern Locked Bypass & Data Extraction – (on some devices – not all phones bypassed)

 

YES!!! The future is *slightly* less dystopian!! Supreme Court Rules Patent Laws Can’t Be Used to Prevent Reselling
“This was one of those fundamental-right-altering cases of which your average American tends not to be aware.”

 

The Social Justice Warriors are right – “the fight over Confederate symbols is just a thinly-veiled proxy for the biggest moral question that’s faced the United States through its history, and also the most urgent question facing it in 2017. Namely: Did the Union actually win the Civil War? Were the anti-Enlightenment forces—the slavers, the worshippers of blood and land and race and hierarchy—truly defeated? Do those forces acknowledge the finality and the rightness of their defeat”

 

A fantastic review of Logan. It’s more a video about how genre evolves, using Logan as a case study, and stating that we are right at the cusp of one such evolution right now. So good, must recommend! Plus NerdWriter is generally awesome.

Donald Trump supported me when I was wrongly accused of murder. What do I owe him? – “I owe my freedom to those people who saw reason beyond loyalty.”

 

“Let’s be honest: the recent success of Catholicism is the ultimate sign of our inability to deal with the world through anything other than a late capitalist lens of standardizaton, corporatism, and carefully-packaged pablum. It’s the perfect religion for the Age of Trump.
(yes, it’s satire)

 

A Brief History of Goths. So neat to learn the word’s history!

 

People Around The World Throw “American” Theme Parties

 

An actual transcript of an actual interview with the actual president.
“Look at those very nicely dressed people. It’s religious liberty out there.”
(ending his answer to the question “Do you need to get Democratic support to get this tax plan passed?”)

 

Doing Business In Japan – ” “Most people want to become wealthy so they can consume social status. Japanese employers believe this is inefficient, and simply award social status directly.” The best employees aren’t compensated with large option grants or eye popping bonuses — they’re simply anointed as “princes”, given their pick of projects to work on, receive plum assignments, and get their status acknowledged (in ways great and small) by the other employees.”

” It is socially mandatory that your boss, in fulfillment of his duties to you, sees that you are set up with a young lady appropriate to your station. He is likely to attempt to do this first by matching you with a young lady in your office. There are, at all times, a number of unattached young ladies in your office. Most of them choose to quit right about when they get married or have children.

You might imagine that you heard a supervisor tell a young lady in the office “Hey, you’re 30 and aging out of the marriage market, plus I hear you’re dating someone who is not one of my employees, so you might want to think about moving on soon.”, but that would be radioactively illegal, since Japanese employment discrimination laws are approximately equivalent to those in the US. A first-rate Japanese company would certainly never do anything illegal, and a proper Japanese salaryman would never bring his company into disrepute by saying obviously untrue things like the company is systematically engaged in illegal practices. So your ears must be deceiving you. Pesky ears.”

(In contrast, the entirety of “The Personal Touch” section (just over halfway down) is rather heart-warming.)

 

“In late March, Hypatia, a feminist-philosophy journal, published an article titled “In Defense of Transracialism” by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, as part of its spring 2017 issue.
…Tuvel is now bearing the brunt of a massive internet witch-hunt..The biggest vehicle of misinformation about Tuvel’s articles comes from the “open letter to Hypatia” that has done a great deal to help spark the controversy.

It’s remarkable how many basic facts this letter gets wrong about Tuvel’s paper. Either the authors simply lied about the article’s contents, or they didn’t read it at all. Every single one of the hundreds of signatories on the open letter now has their name on a document that severely (and arguably maliciously) mischaracterizes the work of one of their colleagues. ”

 


This is just a text post on facebook, link here, but I’ve pasted it below for those without the FB. It’s the most depressing thing ever.

> “The Endless September has ended and we’re in some kind of other state of internet discourse. The lack of reliable information and discussion means the open internet isn’t really a usable tool as a communication platform. Things have gotten weaponized very quickly – far faster than people seem to be capable of defending against. The Endless September was a coarsening of discourse, whereas what we have now is a directed corruption of communication tools, as well as the corruption of search and matching. Multiple actors (including state actors) pushing as much noise and propaganda into view that usability plummets. It does feel like a new era of internet trust/usability/identity crises that we haven’t actually pointed at and named.
> If I look at any article my default reaction is “I have no idea if this is real.” and often “No, really, I can’t tell if this is real or illusion.” If look at any science reporting my default reaction is “this is probably not what the paper actually claims, also the effect may not be reproducible, also whoever wrote this may have a political or social objective.” Forum comments are all suspect, analysis is questioned. The underlying theme is to ask “who wins if I were to believe this”? Sure, these are all good threads to run in any information environment but it is taxing and the answer is negative more often than positive.
> Tools that should enable us to reach out and observe beyond our immediate capacity are now suspect, as we have no way of ensuring the source of the observations are reliable and the number of unreliable signals has significantly grown. The problem here aren’t the obviously unreliable sources of information, it’s the persistence and ubiquity of just-reliable-enough-to-influence-beliefs and unreliable-in-increasingly-non-obvious-ways.”

— Brandon Reinhart (quoted w/ permission)

 

From Eliezer Yudkowsky – “I was just browsing Hacker News, and somebody called the Ethereum currency (one of the first genuinely different successors to Bitcoin, in which ether pays for arbitrary computing services) a “cult”.

So here’s my bad idea of the week: Let’s just call everything we don’t like a cult, and see how far we can spread the habit on Tumblr. If the Internet calls everything that exists a cult, people will be used to hearing themselves called a “cult” for the crime of voting Democratic or eating meat, and distrust it when others are called a cult; the word will become meaningless through sheer overuse and people will be allowed to be odd again, since the English language will no longer have a handy derogation that means “weird people” as opposed to generically “people I don’t like”. I mean, English will still have words like “weirdo” but it won’t come with the scare-factor of “cult” whereby all weirdos are tarred with the brush of Scientologists.”

 

Also another from Eliezer Yudkowsky on Markets as Post-Human Optimizers that can be broken very easily if you Disrupt The Ritual.  Too long to quote, sadly.

Jun 062017
 

I knew I was going to see Wonder Woman as soon as I saw the first stills. Say what you want about DC’s current grimdark aesthetic, it does have one major thing going for it — the dark, muted colors makes Wonder Woman’s costume look like the Xena costume. I was drawn by the visual aesthetic, and was kinda hoping for a reprise of my Xena upbringing.

That was a silly thing to expect. Xena is world-weary and tormented. Wonder Woman is optimistic and almost childishly naive in the beginning, having been sheltered by her mother all her life. However I had a great time anyway and I’m very glad I went.

The movie is very clunky in the first part on the island (~12 min). There were a bunch of problems with it, and I was particularly annoyed that apparently someone high up thinks American audiences cannot comprehend a pantheon theistic structure, and so they presented Greek mythology as the standard Jesus v Satan story with the names changed (yes, really). But once we get off the island the movie is alternately Hilarious and Epic As Fuck. Everything a superhero movie should be. :)

May 022017
 

What overthinking looks like:

 

The final paragraph of Scott’s Hungry Brain review is the best backhanded complement-cum-advertisment I’ve ever seen. This comes after thousands of words reviewing a nutrition book that posits that modern extremely-tasty food is damaging our bodies’ fat-regulation mechanisms. I actually lol’ed.

“I want to recommend [MealSquares] as potentially dovetailing with The Hungry Brain‘s philosophy of nutrition without using phrases that might make MealSquares Inc angry at me like “bland”, “low food reward”, or “not hyperpalatable”. I think the best I can come up with is “unlikely to injure your hypothalamus”. So, if you’re looking for an easy way to quit the junk food and try a low-variety diet that’s unlikely to injure your hypothalamus, I recommend MealSquares as worth a look.”

 

5th Element is 20 years old this month. Some theaters are holding 20th anniversary screenings, you can check if there’s one near you Here.

 

It’s weird being on the other side of this now. Marijuana should be legal, it’s less harmful than alcohol. But it’s not as harmless as all its proponents say. Most of my friends use it like they use alcohol – perfectly responsibly for special occasions. But I’ve seen at least one person utterly consumed by it, in the manner of alcoholics who start every day with a beer, and don’t slow down from there.

I found this funny, because it didn’t go the way I thought it would:

 

On the Impossibility of Supersized Machines:

“In recent years, a number of prominent computer scientists, along with academics in fields such as philosophy and physics, have lent credence to the notion that machines may one day become as large as humans. Many have further argued that machines could even come to exceed human size by a significant margin. However, there are at least seven distinct arguments that preclude this outcome. We show that it is not only implausible that machines will ever exceed human size, but in fact impossible.”

 

What Would a Fighter Jet Buy 60 Years After Eisenhower’s Speech?

“The first item Eisenhower listed was a “modern brick school.” The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities places the national average for a 600-student elementary school at $14,800,000. A single B-2 would buy 99 of these schools.”
Nearly everything that happens in Washington is a petty distraction next the wholesale transformation of our fellow citizens’ wealth into machines of death.

 

An interesting perspective on Fearless Girl

“Commissioned not by an individual, but by an investment fund called State Street Global Advisors, which has assets in excess of US$2.4 trillion. [Fearless Girl] was commissioned as part of an advertising campaign developed by McCann, a global advertising corporation. And it was commissioned to be presented on the first anniversary of State Street Global’s “Gender Diversity Index” fund, which has the following NASDAQ ticker symbol: SHE. And finally, along with Fearless Girl is a bronze plaque that reads:

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

Note it’s not She makes a difference, it’s SHE makes a difference. It’s not referring to the girl; it’s referring to the NASDAQ symbol. It’s not a work of guerrilla art; it’s an extremely clever advertising scheme.

In effect, Fearless Girl has appropriated the strength and power of Charging Bull. Of course Di Modica is outraged by that. A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art. That would piss off any artist.”

The comments make intriguing counterpoints as well.

 

This angers me more than the United thing. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe I have a deeper emotional connection to tech stuff? – “ad designed to trigger Google’s voice-activated Home smart speaker”

There was some justice, if not enough –
“Wikipedia users began altering the first line of the article about Burger King’s Whopper. These edits included references to the burger as “cancer-causing” and stating that its ingredients include “cyanide.”

 

We are returning to the days of multiple Scott Alexander links per post! Doesn’t everyone just read him all the time?

“The nightmare scenario is that “free speech” goes the way of “family values” to the point where a seemingly uncontroversial concept gets so tarnished by its association with unpopular/conservative ideas that it becomes impossible to mention or invoke in polite company without outing yourself as some kind of far-right weirdo. Right now I think we are on that path.”

[interjection: I have never in my life known a time where “family values” wasn’t a synonym for Ignorance and Hatred. To the point that I was surprised to see Scott call it an “uncontroversial concept.” If “free speech” falls into the same disrepute, we’re all damned. ]

“If partisanship has grown stronger than principles, then even an incontrovertible proof that a certain principle supports your own tribe is going to turn out to be a gigantic booby prize. It won’t make the other side reconsider what errors have led them to contradict such hallowed ideals. It’s just going make half the population start hating the sacred principles necessary for society to function.”

 

From Robert Wiblin:
…Perhaps we are not designed to be content, but instead to forever compare our lot with that of our competitors, and to be happy only when we do better. The contented may simply have died out in the Malthusian era. … Happiness research does suggest one interesting parallel between taxation policy in our world and that in the Malthusian era. We saw in chapter 2 that taxes to fund the wasteful lifestyles of the rulers actually had no social cost in the Malthusian era. The glories of Versailles were not purchased at the price of the misery of the poor—whatever public relations problems Marie Antoinette may have had. Happiness research suggests that the same holds true for the modern era. If we value such collective goods as scientific research, space travel, public art, and fine architecture, then we should tax to fund them, whatever the economic cost. The consequent reduction of our material consumption will have little psychic cost…

 

Jonathan Coulton is back! And his new video is fantastic!

 

IMHO we’re already down the first few steps to this future.  Anti-Star Trek: A Theory of Posterity

“how to maintain capitalism in a world where scarcity can be largely overcome?

intellectual property [is] the ability to tell others how to use copies of an idea that you “own”

Anyone who tries to supply their needs from their replicator without paying the copyright cartels would become an outlaw […] if everyone is constantly being forced to pay out money in licensing fees, then they need some way of earning money”

 

Destroy them all. >< Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges – “Tl;dr: They are trying to end Patent Exhaustion, and make it illegal to use things you buy for anything except the use it was sold for.

The specific case is whether you can refill your old printer cartridges, but if the principle is allowed, a company could sell you a a toothbrush with a license prohibiting you from using it to e.g. clean grout.”

from article – “you don’t “own” things like movies, music, or even the software on your phone; rather, it’s being licensed, which means companies can go to all kinds of lengths to keep controlling how, when, and where you use the things you’ve bought long after you’ve bought them.

The question before the Supreme Court, then, isn’t one of “can Lexmark patent this?” Because Lexmark can, and has. The question is, rather: Can patent exhaustion still be a thing, or does the original manufacturer get to keep having the final say in what you and others can do with the product?”

 

A perspective on fascism by Neo-reactionary thinker Nick Land

“Fascism is broadly identical with a normalization of war-powers in a modern state

Fascism is practical socialism, distinguished from its dim cousin by its far more sophisticated grasp of incentives

Since the fascist state justifies itself through perpetual war, it naturally likes wars that cannot end. The Cold War looked like one, but wasn’t quite. The War on Terror is a better bet….Waging modern wars, and their metaphorical side-products, is what the fascist state is for. Winning them on occasion, and by accident, is only ever a misfortune.

Fascism won WWII so decisively that its opponents were driven to the political fringes of paleo-conservatism (once mainstream conservatism), libertarianism (once mainstream liberalism), and Trotskyism (once simply ‘communism’).”

Ends with some crazy shit, but intriguing up to that point.

 

I always thought I didn’t like poetry. Turns out I just hadn’t come across the right kind yet. Oh My God, I am *in love* with villanelles. The four examples here are AMAZING

 

YASSSSS!! Always use Oxford comma, or risk major legal repercussions!

 

I’m not sure if this makes me a hipster or pretentious or whatever, but I really love stories about stories. Meta-stories, if you will. Like Valente’s “The Consultant

 

Oh wow, this study into “What if Trump were a woman” is very interesting. Not sure what to make of it yet. Replications are needed!  quoting a friend:

“Hillary managed to impress enough people to become the democratic nominee and was considered quite qualified by a lot of liberals. Does that mean “mansplaining” type behavior is less grating when it comes from a woman? Also, does interrupting and shooting from the hip seem more justifiable when it’s from a woman (because we know she won’t be listened to otherwise, or something)? Maybe the pro-Trump audience is just more gender blind?”

 

Patriotic Correctness stifles speech and criticism just as much as Political Correctness can.

“The French government’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq prompted Congress to rename French fries as “freedom fries”. When the Dixie Chicks opposed the Iraq War, many stations pulled the group’s music from the air so as not to “trigger” listeners. Fans destroyed Dixie Chicks albums in grotesque public demonstrations. The radio became a safe space.”

Apr 132017
 

I basically don’t read posts in color. The amount of effort it requires to differentiate them from ads doesn’t seem worth it at all. And usually they’re basically contentless anyway. (I know, that’s judgy…) Combined with in-line ads, I scroll past like 1/3rd of my feed now. Way to go, Facebook.

I assume this was to make it harder to ignore ads, but it’s backfired, at least in my case. Now I’m gonna go out and finally get Facebook Purity.

Apr 012017
 

I don’t review movies, cuz I’m not a film guy. But sometimes I have thoughts on things? And I grew up with cyberpunk, the original Ghost in the Shell, and Stand Alone Complex, so I went to see the movie, and I thought a few things.

No Spoilers:

I really liked it. It was cyberpunk as hell, and for the most part felt very GitS-y. The interjection of a traditional american villain was meh, but aside from that, was very close to the earlier works in feel and theme.

And ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS visually.

I had a hard time getting into it at first, because it’s a reboot, and I’ve had so much of the earlier versions in my veins that it was hard to separate. But once I fully internalized that this is an alternate-universe story, it really clicked for me.

It was unfortunate that they tried to recreate several of the classic scenes, because you just can’t force in something that like. The recreations were OK, not as good as originals. Anywhere that the movie stuck to new stuff it was quite good!

One sorta-spoiler below, stop here if you want to avoid it!!

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I was surprised that they addressed the “ScarJo is white” thing! On the one hand, it’s not really an excuse, and it was slightly immersion-breaking. But on the other, it demonstrated they were at least aware of the issue? Dunno, kinda weird.

Mar 022017
 

Haven’t posted one of these in a while, hope it’s not too overwhelming.

Also, this one will be Trump-heavy, for obvious reasons.

 

This Is How Your Hyperpartisan Political News Gets Made.  You gotta give it to capitalism – it can be pretty damn efficient.
“both sites whipped up a post … The resulting stories read like bizarro-world versions of each other — two articles with nearly identical words and tweets optimized for opposing filter bubbles … These for-the-cause sites that appeal to hardcore partisans are in fact owned by the same Florida company”

 

Is Trump a time traveler? It’s the only hypothesis that makes sense.

 

Awesome Portal trick-shots :)

 

“In Japanese, “E” means image and “Moji” means character.”
The Oral History Of The Poop Emoji (Or, How Google Brought Poop To America)
I thought that Emoji was etymologically related to “emoticon”. Waddaya know.
Story itself is pretty interesting, includes a lot of cultural history that I found fascinating. And this:
“the most common use is probably “that’s unfortunate, and I would like to punctuate my comment with a reiteration that I am displeased at what has just been expressed.” It’s the anti-like.”

 

The year is 1910. Adolf Hitler, a struggling artist, has fought off dozens of assasination attemps by well meaning time travelers, but this one is different. This traveller doesn’t want to kill Hitler, he wants to teach him to paint. He pulls off his hood to reveal the frizzy afro of Bob Ross.”
The writing prompt itself is good but the true value of this link is that it introduced me to the ol’ Reddit switcheroo, a few comments down. AWESOME.

 

Guess I’ll be getting burners if I ever go overseas. This is the cyberpunk dystopia I was promised. Sigh. I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you.

 

WHY PURITY CULTURE DOESN’T TEACH CONSENT. Also some talk about the implications (which can probably be imagined)
“They don’t teach consent because teaching consent would undermine one of their basic assumptions about people. Namely, the assumption that every single last person– most especially men, but also women– are basically nymphos who are straining at their leashes every single second of every single day and if you let that sex-crazed beast out for even just a moment then BAM it’s all over and you’re not a virgin anymore and that’s horrible because now you’re a half-eaten candybar or a cup full of spit.”

 

I Helped Create the Milo Trolling Playbook. You Should Stop Playing Right Into It.
“I wrote the book as an explicit warning about how broken our media system was and why it needed to be fixed.

Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.

the most effective retorts against the alt-right were when Trevor Noah had Tomi Lahren on his show and when Elle Reeve profiled Richard Spencer for Vice. Both came off looking mostly like jokes. Tomi Lahren showed her age. Richard Spencer revealed his movement to be mostly a collection of a few thousand sad dorks.”

 

Dog Wick – The ol’ John Wick Switcheroo

 

NOTES FROM THE ASILOMAR CONFERENCE ON BENEFICIAL AI
A fascinating peek into a conference of people that will (IMO) literally shape the entire future of our species (or lack thereof).
“The technical people at the conference seemed to think this idea of uncertainty about reward was technically possible, but would require a ground-up reimagining of reinforcement learning. If true, it would be a perfect example of what Nick Bostrom et al have been trying to convince people of since forever: there are good ideas to mitigate AI risk, but they have to be studied early so that they can be incorporated into the field early on.”

 

I NEVER expected someone to munchkin their way into a spot on America’s secret assassination agency by simply slipping the president a piece of paper to sign that he doesn’t read. That is *cartoonish* plotting.
Suddenly it seems like giving the executive branch the ability to kill anyone without trial or oversight or even a record of the decision was a bad idea… I guess screwball comedy + real life = kafkaesque absurd horror.
(fairness note: that may not be what 45 is actually angry about, so this is partly speculation. But I couldn’t resist the image of Road Runner slipping Wile E Coyote an executive order he doesn’t read)
“But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.”

From a friend:

“I am the very model of a fair, aspiring rationalist
I’ll analyze my priors and modify, unabashed, a miss.
I know logical fallacies, and though I try my very best
I know I still make errors when the stakes are at their… hairy-est :)

For his scientific knowledge, though he’s curious, and reads a lot
He cannot speak in detail what the specialists have truly wrought
But still in matters logical and liberal-transhumanist
He is the very model of a fair, aspiring rationalist!”

 

What really worries me is 45’s purging of government bureaucrats and installing loyalists in their place. Especially his doing so in the agency that is literally in charge of secret assassinations.
“Third, popular attention must focus less on whether we agree with what the government is doing, and more on whether the system of checks and balances we have in place is working. It is a much bigger deal that the DHS felt they could ignore a federal court than that Trump signed an EO blocking green card holders in the first place. It is a much bigger deal that Trump removed a permanent military presence from the NSC than that he issued a temporary stay on immigration. The immigration ban may be more viscerally upsetting, but the other moves are potentially far more dangerous.”
(I know, I know, the first mistake was creating an agency of secret assassinations. But that boat has kinda sailed)

 

I think I have more respect for Uber now. They turned off surge pricing, like they generally do for disasters and emergencies, so they don’t appear to be profiting off disaster. They didn’t impose their politics onto their drivers. And they are financially supporting those drivers affected by 45’s ban. I wish more people would do some research before tweeting & hashtagging… What’s not to like?
“thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family. These drivers currently outside of the U.S. will not be able to get back into the country for 90 days. That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.
We are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table.”

 

All those times I railed against the pledge’s desecration, and blacked out “under god” on our money, and I was told “It’s no big deal” and “Stop being a dick, you’re the Angry Atheist stereotype.” …
This is why!
“”I feel that if a Muslim woman wants to move into this country, she needs to leave her towel home. Because the reason this country is here and safe today is because of Jesus Christ,” Bill says. “We were one nation under God.” […] A lot of Americans think one of the great things about this nation is that you can worship whatever god you want. Bill shook his head at that notion.
“That is something I believe that has come along with political correctness and all this other garbage,” he said, insisting that America is a fundamentally Christian nation.”

 

“I’ve done human rights work that had me working in proximity to the U.S. military, so at a professional meeting a Lefty called me a Nazi.
So if you tell me that I’m a Nazi… and tell me you’re in favor of going out and beating up Nazis, guess what? I am suddenly very interested in the physical safety of Nazis.
And I’m *Jewish*”
(post is crazy long, but that’s the most relevant part IMHO)

Oh how I hate the media. Are they TRYING to help Trump?
This article leads with DeVos’s Gun vs Bears comment. It’s also the highlight line under the picture when you share on Facebook: “She wouldn’t say guns don’t belong in schools–and cited a school’s need to protect itself from “potential grizzlies.” Bears, that is.”
That just means she’s really shitty at social posturing. We all know the correct PR answer is “Guns never belong in schools!” and then to demure and say “of course some exceptions can be made in extreme situations, such as to protect our children from rampaging bears.” The fact that she was honest and led with “Well sometimes guns are necessary” shouldn’t be a strike against her. I prefer honesty over political double-talk.
In fact, this makes me sympathize with her very much, because I hate bullshit. So when the rest of the article goes on to point out how absolutely clueless and incompetent she is, I’m now asking myself “How much of this is true, and how much is it the source doing it’s best to smear her?”

 

Obama commutes bulk of Chelsea Mannings sentence. I seriously did not expect that to happen. I have to update in the direction of being less cynical? Or, I guess if I’m the correct amount of cynical I should be surprised-in-a-good-way about as often as I’m surprised-in-a-bad-way. I should start tracking how often each happens, but the fact that this stood out so much might mean I’m still not cynical enough. Bleh.

 

3 disease resistant GMOs could address climate change and save farmers billions
“For example Simplot, the makers of the Innate potato estimate farmers will need to annually apply 25-45 percent less fungicide to its GM potatoes. Furthermore, widespread adoption of these potatoes could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 146 million pounds (the equivalent of taking 14,000 cars off the road).”

 

That Vow To Defund Planned Parenthood: Easy To Say, Hard To Do
“75 percent of that government support comes from the Medicaid program to pay for direct medical services provided to low-income patients, including contraception, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment. The remaining quarter comes from other sources, primarily the Title X federal family planning program. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the group gets approximately $390 million annually from Medicaid and $60 million from Title X.
… taking away Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid funding would require a change in the federal law that guarantees most Medicaid patients with a choice to use any qualified provider.”

 

Sometimes I wonder if one can be too charitable to one’s opposition. The Rude Pundit seems to think so, and I enjoy this moxy. :) He ends with some claims I’m not fond of, but does make good points. (snips for length)
“I have more respect for these dumbass motherfuckers than any of the wannabe Jane Goodalls observing the ways of the chimps. Because I don’t treat them like fucking children. We’re talking about fucking grown-ups who make fucking grown-up decisions, and I’m gonna treat them like grown-ups.
“To rural Americans, sometimes it seems our taxes mostly go to making city residents live better. We recognize that the truth is more complex, particularly when it comes to social programs, but it’s the perception that matters — certainly to the way most people vote.”
And there you have the reason why liberals are called “elitist.” We actually know that most of our taxes go to the Republican-run states. We aren’t fucking hypocrites who condemn government, elect people who want to shrink government, and then are pissed off when the government doesn’t offer enough services.
What you’re calling “elitism” is just simply not being ignorant. We don’t have our heads shoved up Jesus’s ass. And when the left gets angry because of how fucking dumb some of the shit coming out of rural and red mouths is, we’re told we need to understand what they believe. No, we’re just gonna say that stupid is stupid.”

 

Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable
“Most Americans conceptualize a hypothetical end of American democracy in Apocalyptic terms. But actually, you usually learn that you are no longer living in a democracy not because The Government Is Taking Away Your Rights, or passing laws that you oppose, or because there is a coup or a quisling. You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change.”

 

Oh god yes!! A judge “slapped a half-million-dollar bill on the lawyers and said that they were personally responsible for paying it, not their client.
This unusual decision could make lawyers hesitate to take patent trolls as clients”
A potentially fatal blow against patent trolls
GO TEAM HUMANS!!!!! :D

 

10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America – showcases both how awesome the new Google Translate is, and how interesting being seen by people outside your culture is. (From 1. THERE IS A THING CALLED “DINNER PLATES.” AND WHAT GOES ON THEM IS A MIGHTY DISAPPOINTMENT, through 10. BUT DARN IT ALL, THEY’RE SO WEIRDLY OPTIMISTIC YOU JUST CAN’T STAY IRRITATED AT THEM.)

This excerpt is so long it could be a post by itself, and it’s only a fraction of the original post. :) But so worth reading! Is is by the Ada Palmer who wrote Too Like The Lightning, who I interviewed a few months ago.
On Progress and Historical Change
“In the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon invented progress.
Medieval Europe came to the realization that God had a moral message to relate through its progression. God planned the Crucifixion and wanted His Son to be lawfully executed by all humanity, so the sin and guilt and salvation would be universal, so He created the Roman Empire in order to have there be one government large enough to rule and represent the whole world. The empire didn’t develop, it was crafted for God’s purposes, Act II scene iii the Roman Empire Rises, scene v it fulfills its purpose, scene vi it falls. Applause.
Francis Bacon invented progress. If we work together — said he — if we observe the world around us, we can base new inventions on our new knowledge which will, in small ways, little by little, make human life just a little easier, just a little better
It really took two hundred years for Bacon’s academy to develop anything useful. There was a lot of dissecting animals, and exploding metal spheres, and refracting light, and describing gravity, and it was very, very exciting, and a lot of it was correct, but–as the eloquent James Hankins put it–it was actually the nineteenth century that finally paid Francis Bacon’s I.O.U., his promise that, if you channel an unfathomable research budget, and feed the smartest youths of your society into science, someday we’ll be able to do things we can’t do now, like refrigerate chickens, or cure rabies, or anesthetize. There were a few useful advances (better navigational instruments, Franklin’s lightning rod) but for two hundred years most of science’s fruits were devices with no function beyond demonstrating scientific principles. Two hundred years is a long time for a vastly-complex society-wide project to keep getting support and enthusiasm, fed by nothing but pure confidence that these discoveries streaming out of the Royal Society papers will eventually someday actually do something. I just think… I just think that keeping it up for two hundred years before it paid off, that’s… that’s really cool.
As “progress” broadened to include unsystematic progress as well as the modern project of progress, that was the moment we acquired the questions “Is progress natural?” and “Is progress inevitable?” Am I powerless? Can I personally do anything to change this? Do individuals have any power to shape history? Are we just swept along by the vast tides of social forces?
Every year in my Italian Renaissance class, here at the University of Chicago, I run a simulation of a Renaissance papal election, circa 1490-1500. when I tell people about this election, and they ask me “Does it always have the same outcome?” the answer is yes and no. Because the Great Forces always push the same way. The strong factions are strong. Money is power. Blood is thicker than promises. Virtue is manipulable. In the end, a bad man will be pope. And he will do bad things. The war is coming, and the land — some land somewhere — will burn. But the details are always different.
The Great Forces were real, and were unstoppable. The dam was about to break. No one could stop it. But the human agents — even the tiniest junior clerk who does the paperwork — the human agents shaped what happened, and every action had its consequences, imperfect, entwined, but real. The dam was about to break, but every person there got to dig a channel to try to direct the waters once they flowed, and that is what determined the real shape of the flood, its path, its damage. No one controlled what happened, and no one could predict what happened, but those who worked hard and dug their channels, most of them succeeded in diverting most of the damage, achieving many of their goals, preventing the worst. Not all, but most.
There are Great Forces. Economics, class, wealth gaps, prosperity, stagnation, these Great Forces make particular historical moments ripe for change, ripe for war, ripe for wealth, ripe for crisis, ripe for healing, ripe for peace. But individuals also have real agency, and our actions determine the actual consequences of these Great Forces as they reshape our world. We have to understand both, and study both, and act on the world now remembering that both are real.
So, can human beings control progress? Yes and no. The system is more complex than it seems. A change which achieves its intended purpose also throws out-of-whack vital forces you did not realize were connected to it.
“Has social progress has failed?” or “Has liberalism failed?” or “Has the Civil Rights Movement failed?” they have also done what all movements do in a dynamic historical system: they have had large, complicated consequences. They have added something to the fish tank. Because the same Enlightenment impulse to make a better, more rational world, where everyone would have education and equal political empowerment BOTH caused the brutalities of the Belgian Congo AND gave me the vote.
I gradually got better at understanding the fish tank. the doctors gradually figured out how the eye really does function. some of our civil rights have come by blood and war, and others have come through negotiation and agreement. we as humans are gradually learning more about how our world is interconnected, and how we can take action within that interconnected system.
we really have achieve some of what Francis Bacon and his followers waited for through those long centuries: we have made the next generation’s experience on this Earth a little better than our own.”

 

TRUMP AND THE BATMAN EFFECT “Trump has put a lot of effort into crafting his image as a person who repays favors – you think businesspeople aren’t going to notice that kind of thing?
… we are in for four years of sham Trump victories… Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities, but nobody’s going to notice”
:(

 

Do Women Date Assholes? A Study.
“With the exception of narcissism, all measures of assholery appear to be either uncorrelated with or weakly negatively correlated with romantic success. The p-values are high enough and correlation coefficients low enough for most measures of assholery that I am comfortable saying that assholery is just uncorrelated with romantic success. That is, an attractive asshole has no more and no fewer partners than an attractive nice guy.”
Another bit of a surprise to note for my cynicalness-judging metric.

 

So I’ve been buying cage-free for the past five years in an attempt to make chicken lives less miserable, and it turns out it doesn’t matter at all, and may in fact be worse. :( Fuckin’ fucks. Score one for not-cynical-enough.
(trimmed for brevity. cw: descriptions of unpleasant animal deaths)
“…cage-free reforms likely harm laying hens. The most comprehensive study to date was conducted by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES). The most important and informative figure is the mortality rate. The study found significantly higher mortality in aviary(cage-free) systems, with 11.7% of birds in the such systems dying before the end of the production cycle.
Many of the excess deaths in the aviary systems were due to cannibalism and vent-pecking, wherein a hen’s cloaca is pecked out until she dies. Additionally, far more of the hens necropsied in the aviary systems were found to be emaciated. Ammonia levels were also higher, because the birds live in their own feces and kick them into the air. A much larger number of hens in the aviary systems were found to be “dirty.”
The study also found that it takes more hens to produce the same number of eggs in an aviary system, evidently because more of them are dead.”

 

Rick and Morty Theory: Why Rick is so Depressed. I didn’t realize it was possible for me to like this show even more. The video starts actually being interesting at 1:25, so skip to there.

 

“In February, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a warning of the consequences of a breach in the dam. For a statement written by diplomats, it is extraordinarily blunt. “Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning,” it said. Soon afterward, the United Nations released its own warning, predicting that “hundreds of thousands of people could be killed” if the dam failed. Iraq’s leaders, apparently fearful of public reaction, have refused to acknowledge the extent of the danger. But Alwash told me that nearly everyone outside the Iraqi government who has examined the dam believes that time is running out: in the spring, snowmelt flows into the Tigris, putting immense pressure on the retaining wall.
If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours. Along the riverbanks, towns and cities containing the heart of Iraq’s population would be flooded; in four days, a wave as high as sixteen feet would crash into Baghdad, a city of six million people. “If there is a breach in the dam, there will be no warning,” Alwash said. “It’s a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse.”

 

Reading Fake News, Pakistani Minister Directs Nuclear Threat at Israel

 

So uh… I think Michigan is soon gonna have a economic boom similar to the one Colorado had three years ago when we fully legalized pot. Well, maybe not as sudden and steep of a boom. But probably longer-lasting. Michigan lets self-driving cars on roads without human drivers.

 

The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does. Most interesting article on Shazaam that I’ve seen yet. Brains are fun! Note: memetic hazard warning for anyone who hasn’t fully rejected solipsism already.

 

“Our ancestors survived deprivation and lethal weather during this season, every year, for millennia. We can recreate these conditions in the modern day by turning off the WiFi.” – A Friend (paraphrased)

 

Now that there’s more than just the one charity working on AI risk, an EAF poster does some research/calculations to compare them.

 

So This is Basically Steven Universe. Hehehe.

 

Is Twitter a dystopian technology?
“Each person, in order to feel emotionally safe from the constant attacks that he feels like he’s getting on Twitter, might be pushed to join an ideological group – like a prison gang, for protection.
Ideological polarization creates few costs for the user. It really doesn’t make my online experience much worse to join the BernieBros, or the Alt-Right, or the Social Justice Warriors, or GamerGate, or the Libertarians, or whoever. I sacrifice a little bit of opportunity to say maverick, unorthodox things, and in return I get a whole bunch of people who have my back and are willing to beat off waves of attackers on a daily basis.
But ideological polarization might be very costly for society.”

Dec 072016
 

I’ve always been pro-Gentrification (or at least, not anti-Gentrification), and couldn’t quite understand why anyone wouldn’t be. This post has finally explained it in a way that *makes sense* (hooray for opposing perspectives!). Mad props to commenter Dirdle for bringing this article to my attention. I am updating my thinking somewhat… tho it’s still very hard to feel sympathy of people who are awful assholes.

“Even though gentrification is clearly and unambiguously for the greater good, and a net benefit to society, it causes concentrated pain on a small collection of people. Further, as a side effect, it chooses a subset of those people, the subset that suffers the most already, and heaps even more suffering onto them to get it out of the way of normal people who just want to live in the Mission (analogy: take part in nerd culture).”

And yeah… this reads like apologetics for assholes, and that there’s no reason anyone *has to* be an asshole, social skills can be learned if you try. IRL I certainly have little patience for assholery, and I don’t ever try to defend it.

For me tho, this wasn’t about trying to defend assholes, in so much as it was explaining why gentrification is bad. It drew an analogy that I could understand. The whole “the rest of the world is hostile and horrible, and this is my one safe place, and now I’m losing it because the world judges me as *not good enough*” resonated with me. That I was finally able to understand that was enlightening enough that I was OK with handwaving the actual analogy and pretending for a little while that they have little control over their general levels of assholeness.

More than anything else, I thought back to my own online communities in high school, which kept me going thru the shit years. And I remembered the terror when my local ISP went down for three days and I was cut off from them entirely, and I realized my entire world depended on some flimsy circuit boards that could be crushed any moment. That was the feeling this article brought up, and drew a direct line from that to gentrification.

 

Hey Google… when I have to use an ad-blocker to disable your “features,” you’re turning into MicroSoft. I shouldn’t need third party software to revert yours to functionality. >.< It’s not that I’m against Google putting in new features, but the fact that Explore is obnoxious and intrusive, and cannot be turned off is awful.

 

Immigration Can Increase The Amount Your Country Is Like Itself. Ouch-note: “Liberals are so stubborn about moving to big cities in blue states that it was a pretty major factor in this election: if liberals all stayed where we were born, Hillary might have won.”
(to clarify, the post is in favor of moving to friendly territory, this is a tongue-in-cheek observation)

 

“Can I do something RIGHT NOW to make the Trump presidency less awful, without getting off my butt or spending any money?”
MAYBE!
Trump has an online survey asking what he should focus on in his first 100 days. There are some options that are much less destructive than others. If enough people vote “Highly Important” for the least destructive ones, and “Not Important” for the most destructive ones, there is a chance he’ll neglect the most awful goals in favor of the less awful ones.
Of course this depends on him actually taking the results of an online poll seriously (and on enough sane people answering to influence the results), but that’s the crazy thing about Trump. You never know what crazy shit he’s gonna take seriously!
(Also, don’t just vote “Not Important” for all, that has the same effect as not voting at all. You gotta actually rank them to direct focus toward less bad options.)
IMPORTANT – do NOT let this replace *actual* doing of stuff and donating of money. This is literally the least anyone can possibly do, please don’t stop at the literal least.

 

If you need to smile today – 24 Pics That Prove ‘Ken M’ Is The Greatest Troll On The Internet. He makes the dread Comments Section fun! :)

 

“A girl dying of cancer wanted to use cryonic preservation to have a chance at being revived in the future. While supported by her mother the father disagreed; in a recent high court ruling, the judge found that she could be cryopreserved.”
The link is to an analysis article, because it’s less emotionally harrowing. In its first paragraph it links back to the BBC news article, which makes me want to cry and cheer at once. I can’t imagine the terror of not having legal bodily autonomy to the point that a parent could simply decide they want to kill me and that almost being OK!! Well, yes I can actually, which is why this was so awful to read. Some people are so freakin evil. :(

Wut?? Trump got more votes from people of color than Romney did. “The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people.”

 

As always, David Wong kills it. How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind
“If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness.”

 

“our brains are incredibly powerful organs, but their native architecture doesn’t care about high-minded ideals like Truth. They’re designed to work tirelessly and efficiently in our self-interest. So if a brain anticipates that it will be rewarded for adopting a particular belief, it’s perfectly happy to do so, and doesn’t much care where the reward comes from

“If we could arrange for our peers to judge us solely for the accuracy of our beliefs, then we’d have no incentive to believe anything but the truth.
In other words, we do need to teach rationality and critical thinking skills — not just to ourselves, but to everyone at once.”

 

Holy crap, awesome!! I dunno if I’m biased, but seriously, why are all the best shows animated? I have a hard time bothering with live-action tv anymore.

 

If you haven’t gotten your HPV vaccine yet, this is your reminder. The startling rise in oral cancer in men, and what it says about our changing sexual habits. Also a reminder to cure cancer, but that one’s less personally-actionable.

 

The dinosaurs spot the first hints of an asteroid on the horizon… 3D Printing Is Going to Turn the Miniatures Gaming Market Into a War Zone

 

 

Casual Love
“We have a mythology surrounding romantic love that says it’s a special, rare feeling, reserved for just a few people in your whole life… and that falling in love is A MAJOR LIFE EVENT, about which SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!
If we can agree that our bodies are not inherently dangerous, can’t we do the same for our hearts?
I suggest we take a page from the casual sex book here. Let’s lift some of the weighty grandiosity off the shoulders of love, and allow it to be what it is: a sweet, ephemeral, exciting feeling to experience and share.
[…]
The big advantage for the lover is that falling in love will feel less scary, life-threatening, and crazy-making. As long as love is theoretically reserved for people whom you want to date and possibly marry, falling in love will be confusing and dramatic. If we interpret this particular set of feelings and thoughts as an epic, life-changing event, we’ll have no choice but to get really, really attached to our beloved. We’ll throw a lot of expectations at them…
[…]
The big advantage for the beloved is that being loved will feel less like an attack, and more like a gift. The little-discussed fact is that it’s super uncomfortable to be loved when the feeling is not mutual. So uncomfortable, in fact, that many of us would rather act like callous, cold-hearted assholes than be in the same room as the person who loves us.[…]But that’s not an aversion to love, or to the lover; it’s the attachment and expectation being hurled in our direction with such intensity.”

 

Awesomeness by amazing friends!

 

Unsong Change Log
PATCH 5776.11 IS NOW COMPLETE. WORK HAS BEGUN ON PATCH 5777.0. HERE IS A FINAL CHANGELOG FOR PATCH 5776.11:
1. HUMANS NO LONGER DEPLETE WILLPOWER WHEN ENGAGING IN DIFFICULT TASKS; GLUCOSE NO LONGER NECESSARY TO REPLENISH IT.
2. ROCKETS CAN NOW LAND ON PLATFORMS AND BE REUSED IF NEEDED.
3. USER FFUKUYAMA COMPLAINS THAT THE POLITICAL SYSTEM HAS BECOME BORING. IN ORDER TO MAKE THINGS MORE INTERESTING, FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES WILL OCCASIONALLY FLIRT WITH FAR-RIGHT NATIONALISM.
4. UK NO LONGER CONSIDERED PART OF EUROPE FOR PURPOSE OF ECONOMIC BONUSES.
5. VOLKSWAGENS NOW REPORT CORRECT GAS MILEAGE STATISTICS.
(more at link)…
(probably funnier if you read Unsong, but still good!)

 

From Lambdaphagy on tumblr, quoting Murray:
“The broadest goal is a society in which people throughout the functional range of intelligence can find, and feel they have found, a valued place for themselves. For “valued place,” I will give you a pragmatic definition: you occupy a valued place if other people would miss you if you were gone. The fact that you would be missed means that you were valued. Both the quality and quantity of valued places are important. A beloved spouse is that someone who would “miss you” in the widest and most intense way. But to have many different people who would miss you, in many different parts of your life and at many levels of intensity, is also a hallmark of a person whose “place” is well and thoroughly valued. One way of thinking about policy options is to ask whether they aid or obstruct this goal of creating valued places.
It used to be a lot easier than it is now.”

Nov 222016
 

img_20161117_230102978I’ve kinda adopted Starbucks as my make-shift office. Last week, we got the first snow of the season, and Starbucks played Christmas Carols all day. :) <3

Today, it’s snowing again, and we have carols again! Squeeeeee!

Some grinchy friends complained about Thanksgiving being absorbed by Christmas. Apparently they don’t understand about The Holiday Season. I will clarify for them now–

Thanksgiving is basically just Christmas Lite. It’s a warm-up. It’s the pre-season of Christmas. If your Xmas Tree isn’t up for Thanksgiving, you’re doing it wrong. (“Just one calorie of Xmas. Not Xmas enough.”)

Hooray for the Holidays!!

(oh, quick carol hack for anyone who hates the super-Jesus-y carols as much as I do – get both the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s Solstice Carol albums. They are so much fun, and now I have much better lyrics in my head to take the place of all the Jesus-y ones when those come on. :) )

Nov 172016
 

toafI have this personal theory about Thamiel, from Unsong.

Note – I apologize if this has already been discussed in comments at some point. I read all comments on a chapter when I first read the chapter, but I don’t have the time/ability to keep up with all the discussion as it develops. I am eternally grateful to the commenters who link back to developed fan-theories in newer comments, they’re super helpful!

Anyway. Thamiel was once a necessary and positive force within creation. An aspect of the divine. Thamiel was Justice.

“You convince God to save Sodom. And what do you get? A city full of Sodomites. The scum of the earth. Worms and maggots infesting the world. And now they’ll never stop, because you showed them they’ll never face punishment for their crimes.”

Justice is a vital force in the real world. A world without Justice would be far more terrible than what we have. Thamiel’s purpose was to make sure that Justice was served. That evil was punished, and deterrents preserved. But Thamiel was not created with proper limitations. Justice is the only thing he cares for, and he wants endlessly increasing amounts of it.

What’s an effective way to increase the amount of Justice he gets to mete out? Cause more people to sin. The more that you can incentivize people to do wrong, the more souls you get to inflict “Justice” upon after death. So, in a perverse attempt to maximize the total volume of Justice handed out, Thamiel does his best to create the conditions that result in the greatest amount of people damning themselves. A horrific world of endless violence and despair. All in the service of what we would agree is a good principle. We want a Just World, but not Maximum Justice Inflicted. Much like we want enough paperclips to fulfill our needs, but not Maximum Paperclip Mass.

I’m not saying that Thamiel is an admonition to humanity to work harder on the AI Value Alignment problem, because not EVERYTHING has to be about AI. It could totally be a coincidence. After all, Some Things Are Coincidences Some Of The Time.

I’m kinda hoping that the second, withered head of Thamiel is later revealed to be the counter-balance that was supposed to keep this desire for Unbounded Justice in check, which was flawed in some way, and now vainly tries to protest with the minuscule scraps of energy it can muster. But that’s pure speculation/hopefulness on my part. Can’t wait for more Unsong!!