Saturday, January 27, 2018

Opportunities and dangers in Space! (If we are even allowed to get out there.)

Another space posting! We'll start with some news items:

Here's a great summary of the coming year's super endeavors in space exploration: the biggest rocket launches and missions for 2018 - including the launch of NASA's InSight Mars Lander and the Parker Solar Probe.

NASA has started planning a mission that would send a spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri system in... 2069. Yes, that's 52 years away, and timed around the 100th anniversary of Apollo 11's trip to the Moon.

Compare government’s ability to at least make small investments aimed at payoff on a century timescale… to the recent reduction of industrial R&D, eliminating nearly all the “R” and reducing Return on Investment (ROI) horizons from ten to five years… and now most companies' ROI horizon is more like five weeks. There was an architect to this calamity to western capitalism – his name was Milton Friedman – but an entire caste of vampires financed the architect. And we'll get back to that another time.

Oh, here's an interesting glimmer. What sort of atmosphere could surround each of the seven rocky, Earth-sized planets that orbit a star known as TRAPPIST-1? Several calculate as likely to retain theirs.  

== Politics of Space ==

Among the most puzzling aspects of our current phase of civil war has been the sheer number of issues that should be decided via rational negotiation over facts and evidence, that instead have become political dogma footballs and unnecessarily partisan. This plague of partisanship has even crippled decision-making over space science. I’ve earlier spoken of how Democrats and Republicans now differ diametrically over whether our near-term emphasis in human spaceflight should be on asteroids or a return to leaving dusty footprints on the surface of the Moon. 

More about that in a minute. 

Only now see how Breitbart and the far-right pundit-sphere is raging against SpaceX, the one rocket company that brought competition back into space launch systems, making costs plummet, saving the taxpayers hundreds of millions, and re-taking the lion’s share of commercial launches for America, while making all its parts and components in the USA. (The ULA’s Atlas uses Russian engines.)

Read how the Breitbart complaints actually have nothing whatsoever to do with Elon Musk’s company, and in fact prove the diametric opposite. But Elon is part of that Pacific coast tech-elite who earned their wealth through market innovation in new goods and services, instead of inheritance, Wall Street jiggering, gambling or sweetheart resource extraction. Hence, he is a hated member of the fact-using community. Automatically The Enemy.

Seriously read this! You’ll learn a lot about the tech and politics of rocketry. 

== What we must prevent – being “filtered” out of the galaxy ==

Ah, but can doom be prevented?

The latest fad among bright intellectuals? “Great Filter” fetishism. Based on the Fermi Paradox (the riddle over the apparent absence of extraterrestrial civilizations) and a few logical incantations, they conclude that such a filter must winnow out all tool-using species, before they can spread into the cosmos.  

And the most ‘popular’ failure mode they’ve largely glommed-onto?  The notion that “technology democratizes the means of destruction, until even small groups or individual lunatics will have it in their power to slay billions, or topple civilization.”

Now, to be clear, as one who catalogued the largest number of “fermi” theories for the longest time, I do rank a Technological Self-Destruction Filter as one of my top ten plausibles. But five or six others rank much higher, in my estimation. 

Sure, we should, as a society, innovate and invest to ensure that our odds improve!  And I argue elsewhere – in both fiction and nonfiction - that we’ll do this best by moving forward with technology transparently, so every dangerous loony knows that he is seen – not by an all-powerful state but by peers and neighbors who welcome positive-sum innovations, but quickly denounce negative-sum actions.  

I type all this with the Las Vegas mass-shooting fresh in memory. Citing the Fermi Paradox, "filterists" claim that technology is empowering individuals & small groups to wreak havoc. Thus, other species out there either clamp down, forbidding technology and democracy… or else some lone tech-empowered maniac makes them extinct. Either way, no one goes out to the stars. 

It’s a tenable hypothesis and worry. And sure, let’s start taking vigorous precautions. Still... those who claim it is the underlying Fermi explanation are leaping to an absurd conclusion. We – not Homo sapiens, per se, but this quirky-creative-accountable offshoot civilization -- are the counter-example! An open transparent society, empowers millions of citizens to spot each others’ stupidities and cancel many of them.

Elsewhere (and at several Washington alphabet agencies) I’ve described how the ratio of sane to insane practitioners of a dangerous, dual-use technology can converge toward overall safety. But demonstrably this can only happen in an open, and not a tightly controlled society.

And that (I believe) is a paramount answer to the Fermi Paradox. There is a way to skirt the filter of tech-driven self-destruction, but few species or societies ever try it. Instead of clamping with fierce, top-down control (the method prescribed in 99% of past/feudal human nations) we should stay true to the opposite approach that gave us everything. 

Including - for the first time - hope.

== Alas, the nuts are shouting on our "behalf" yet again ==

More on METI: I am cited briefly in this short essay arguing against any rush to make contact.
Which brings us to the latest METI-stunt. “The San Francisco-based METI Institute sent its message toward the red dwarf star GJ 273 (also known as Luyten's Star), 12 light-years away from Earth. The message was sent in October from the Eiscat transmitter in Tromsø.” 

Now to be clear, I like Doug Vakoch, the METI-head. A nice fellow… and now a cultist, who has declared his intention to perform sneak attacks like this one, avoiding all proper scientific vetting, discussion or process, gambling our future based on questionable assumptions and assertions, some of which he repeats, despite knowing them to be utterly disproved. When Frank Drake sent the “Arecibo Message” in 1974 — a brief blip to the Hercules Cluster, he chose an objective 24,000 light years away, in order not to commit humanity to a fait accompli it might regret. But these fellows insist on praying for salvation from above, on our behalf, without ever consulting us.

In a Newsweek interview, Vakoch said: "Everyone engaged in SETI is already endorsing transmissions to extraterrestrials through their actions." Alas, he knows that is an utter lie

Ah, but are “they” already here? The latest – secret – Pentagon UFO sighting investigation team has been shut down.

To be clear, as I point out in my short story “Those Eyes,” the very logic of UFOs comes down as weird and suspect, especially in a world where the number of cameras doubles roughly every year.

My classic 1983 paper on SETI and “The Great Silence” – still the only full review article of nearly all the field’s basic concepts – has been laboriously translated into Turkish!

See the originalSurprisingly, there have been almost no new ideas since then, though plenty of heated opinion! Quarterly Journal of  Royal Astronomical Society, fall1983, v.24, pp 283-309.  

This site that links to many articles and speculations by David Brin about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

== The Moon, redux ==

I'm on the science fiction advisory panel for Peter Diamandis's X Prize Foundation, that has done such spectacular work using prize incentives to get teams working on difficult problems. Example, the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize stimulated advanced in portable diagnostic tools that soon will be available to latch onto your cell phone! 

Alas though, one of the most ambitious of these contests has (for now) gone bust. The Google X Prize -- luring teams to send their own lunar landers to traipse across the Moon without government subsidy -- has passed its deadline. 

I am sure it will be renewed and eventually win great success. Private efforts... and some continuing national science... aimed at the Moon is fine. Heck, I might be proved wrong!

Still, as many of you know, I do not approve of the fixation I referred to, above, of the Republican Party to spend nearly all our NASA budget on a "return to the Moon." There are no defensible reasons for such a boondoggle and zero foreseeable benefits to the United States joining a pack of Apollo wannabes chasing the ego-satisfaction of planting footprints on that dusty and (for now) useless ball.  

Even Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN and his way cool sequel ARTEMIS, avows that the only industry with any clear profit potential, down that lunar gravity well, is tourism.  Hence, small surprise that a hotel magnate wants to set up shop, down there!

As I've explained elsewhere, all the scientists and tech entrepreneurs and people who can sniff trillions in wealth want to go mine asteroids!  An eventuality that legacy Earthly mining interests are desperate to prevent. Think about how that might have influenced this GOP-loony obsession for the Moon.

Ah well... this was how I put it in a snarky FB posting:

"One of dozens of actions taken by the villain in the still-suppressed novel THE SIBERIAN CANDIDATE, to undermine the US and the West. We're living in a 2075 simulacrum holo-sim dramatization of that best-seller. I won't spoil it for you. But civilization eventually prevails. The moon is left to dullard Apollo-imitators while America gets stunningly rich on asteroids and Phobos and Mars."

It's a trap. Like every single thing done and said by the confederate forces that took Washington.



123 comments:

Zepp Jamieson said...

TRAPPIST is an ultra-cool red dwarf (M8V) which can't possibly support photosynthesis in the form we're familiar with on Earth. No photosynthesis, no oxygen as a waste product. Mind you, that doesn't preclude some other form of transpiration that emits oxygen--it just seems unlikely.
I like the idea of a space craft going to Alpha Centurai. Barring some sort of constant-thrust system, it's unlikely humans would be aboard. But AI may have reached the point where it would be an effective replacement, if a blow to our egos.

David Dorais said...

One aspect of the push to back to the Moon before or at same time we begin to go to Mars and beyond to the belt is this concern: The High Ground. I think it is possible that thia has become a national security concern. On par with new emphasis on cyber warfare and other similar fears. Or fear mongering. But it is worth remembering that nuclear missile launch platforms in orbit or on the Moon were a trope of 50s and 60s SF long before now. Please address this. I do not doubt the rational logic of going to the Belt for wealth and colonizing with O'Neill cylinders, etc. but the fear paradigm may be overruling your scenario push for rational decisions.

David Dorais said...

One aspect of the push to go back to the Moon before or at same time we begin to go to Mars and beyond to the Belt is this concern: The High Ground. I think it is possible that this has become a national security concern. On par with new emphasis on cyber warfare and other similar fears. Or fear mongering. But it is worth remembering that nuclear missile launch platforms in orbit or on the Moon were a trope of 50s and 60s SF long before now. Please address this. I do not doubt the rational logic of going to the Belt for wealth and colonizing with O'Neill cylinders, etc. but the fear paradigm may be overruling your scenario push for rational decisions.

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | (from the last thread)

...would [it] not bother you that democracy is subjected to a drastic and severe reconstruction?

Democracy isn't in any danger of vanishing in the US and we always, always subject it to the indignities of our election period madness. As an institution, I put it in the category of 'anti-fragile' up to a point. Judging by the political activity of women that we've seen in the most recent 12 months, I don't see any immediate dangers that we can't handle.

I have a mixed appreciation for Democracy as an ideal. I much prefer Liberty and will respect Democracy up until my neighbors vote to impact Liberty. They do this occasionally. For example, here in California, after our state-level Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and the executive branch didn't object, the voters chose to make it illegal with a ballot initiative to amend the CA State Constitution. It passed in 2008 much to my embarrassment and shame. We voted to strip some of our neighbors of a liberty that the rest of us enjoyed. That ability in a democracy is the source of my skepticism regarding a broad franchise. I don't know how to arrange things so the People's power can be limited along with Government. Constitutions like ours are meant to limit government powers, but there is a limit on what they can say about The People.

My skepticism is much more profound, though, for anyone who says they know how to fix Democracy to deal with this potential harm. I worry about a huge number of other problems and unexpected consequences. For now, I'm willing tolerate the harm we can do to Liberty when we vote because I don't believe there is a safer way to run things yet.

If a democracy with great flaws could lead the United States to great achievements; Imagine what a true democracy could do for all of humanity!

I'm even more skeptical of utopia visions. I can imagine many wonderful worlds, but I suspect none of them are possible except in my limited understanding of the world. As for democracy for the whole world I'm generally for it, but I'm not going to work all that hard at pushing it. Democracy is a learned set of habits. Historically, the lessons have emerged from our markets. Liberate yourself in the markets and liberation at the polls becomes second nature. To liberate yourself in the market, work ONLY with people who treat you properly. Accept no substitute.

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim H. | arrange a suitable environment

This is exactly the Hayekian recipe. One can't really steer the un-steerable, but one can make it easier to go along certain paths. One can punch tunnels through mountains if necessary, but history shows it is usually enough to get many people to fair markets and let them pull down the mountains at their own pace IF they even want to do it. Sometimes they find new and better ways. Sometimes they find older ways we forgot.

[ An example that should cause everyone to smack their foreheads flat is how our HG nomad ancestors avoided cholera. Countless people have died from it, but it's much harder to suffer that fate if one does not live among the feces of their neighbors. No germ theory needed. 8) ]

Mostly what's needed is for some reactionaries to lose the habit of making decisions with unsuitable body parts.

Hah! I won't be holding my breath for this either. That kind of insanity is part of what makes us human. Women could stop it within a handful of generations, but males haven't cornered this insanity. 8)

Daniel Duffy said...

"And the most ‘popular’ failure mode they’ve largely glommed-onto? The notion that “technology democratizes the means of destruction, until even small groups or individual lunatics will have it in their power to slay billions, or topple civilization.”

You should go back a read the classic essay "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems.

https://www.wired.com/2000/04/joy-2/

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | In the absence of objective, absolute, divine or universal authority, we must then assume that the moral authority of law is subjective, arbitrary or lacking.

That's a load of garbage. “Subjective” and “Arbitrary” are not even remotely synonymous. The rest of your argument collapses due to the error built into this false connection.

And, then, there's [the Friedrich A. Hayek quote]

Okay. You can quote Hayek, but let's see if you are pulling from a dictionary of quotes or if you actually understand what Hayek was saying. You have correctly listed the name of the book where that quote resides, but the book is a collection of his early essays before he made the transition away from economics. Do you know which essay? The quote is in section four of it. Do you know what he was trying to say in section #4? In other words, do you know the context of this quote? The quote also has a footnote that makes it clear how Hayek saw this connecting to something else he wrote. Can you name that piece?

I strongly suspect you are using the quote like a club trying to beat the Progressives. It's context partially undermines your attempt, but offers a much more useful argument for you to use. [Pulling from a quotation dictionary or site is just lame, though. Dishonest even.]

I'll give you a small hint. In the paragraph before the quote is this one. “...only because men are in fact unequal can we treat them equally.” It's in the topic sentence, so it sets the flavor of the whole paragraph and explains the need for the next one. What point was he making?

Daniel Duffy said...

Zepp your conception of life is somewhat limited.

Take for example, infra-red based life on moons orbiting Brown Dwarfs. What if BDs turn out to be scattered by the dozens or hundreds in the space between the stars? And what if most of them have mini-solar systems (like Jupiter and Saturn) capable of supporting life because there is enough heat is generated by the BD to allow liquid water and photosynthesis based on infrared frequencies? It's easy to imagine life based on infrared photosynthesis on moons orbiting brown dwarfs which give off heat but not light. Not just imagine it, we already know of such life here on Earth, green sulfur bacteria. And if BDs floating between the stars greatly outnumber suns, then visible light spectrum based life may be the exception instead of the rule.

In addition to infrared based life, Cornell researchers have modeled methane based life forms that don't use water and could live in the liquid methane seas of Titan. Methane based life forms by themselves are a fascinating concept. But ironically the potential "Goldilocks" zone for such life is far greater (extending across the range of Jovian worlds out to the Kuiper belt) than our narrow zone for water based life forms.

So "life as we know it" based on water and the visible light spectrum photosynthesis may be the rare exception in a universe dominated by methane based life and life that utilizes infrared photosynthesis.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Daniel Duffy. I don't dispute that. Any place that has enough energy may well have life. But I was looking at TRAPPIST-1 from the viewpoint of life that would be amenable to human colonisation.

David Brin said...


David Dorais - right to point out the defense-strategic implications of our space program. Indeed, that is one of many arguments for the US to build a Lunar Orbit Station.

1. To study the moon, ‘cause I might be wrong.
2. To practice deep space activities within easy rescue distance.
3. To charge Apollo-wannabes for services from refurbishment to landing etc.
4. To bring robot-acquired asteroid samples for study and test-refining.
5. As a garage shed to store national defense assets like spy & comms satellites safe from any adversary’s plan to do a sudden, first strike.

In contrast, the lunar surface offers no near-term advantages.

Also, when Trump sends us back toward the moon... then a year later declares a Great Deal to do it "internationally"... it will be complete and total treason, planned well in advance.

David Brin said...

“I have a mixed appreciation for Democracy as an ideal. I much prefer Liberty and will respect Democracy up until my neighbors vote to impact Liberty.”

Democracy CAN be inimical to rights, as in the latter days of the Periclean Athens and the Southern Confederacy and many other examples. Those provide excuses to guys like Peter Thiel who call the two “opposites.” Which is nuts. Democracy and freedom are tools to achieve the one thing that allows a complex civilization to reduce its error rate, possibly below Fermi Paradox filter level — Reciprocal Accountability to criticism and delusion penetration.

It is impossible to imagine (for now) any system that can deliver RA without liberty and some kind of democracy, though perhaps our descendants will find something. (I hint at an approach, at the end of EARTH.) Hence, I support Democracy and freedom not just for their own sakes or for goodness and values… but for their absolutely proved pragmatic value. Values and goodness and such can be argued with, by shouting “may values are different!”

But all those systems were miserable failures at governance and error avoidance. All. Of. Them.

QED.

David Brin said...

The Morality Police not only gave Two Scoops a mulligan on using a prostitute while his wife was nursing their child... and all the other P-Grabbing crap... but now the GOP finance chair resigns for sex scandals... and it is one of the world's top Gambling Lords. Another casino mogul funnels laundered "profits" through his Macau clubs to the GOP from a foreign government. Um... our parents' version of conservatism disliked gambling, prostitution, slumlords, divorce, lying and bullying. Oh, and treason.

Anonymous said...

https://phys.org/news/2018-01-chinese-volunteers-days-virtual-moon.html

locumranch said...


I enjoyed Andy Weir's 'The Martian', plus Matt Damon in the film version, but one plot detail keeps nagging at me: "What kind of moron sends raw potatoes into space?"

If the average space mission puts a premium on mass, and the average potato is 80% water, and NASA estimates that it would take a manned mission 9 months to get to Mars, and the average refrigerated shelf life of a raw potato is less than 4 months, then why does Andy Weir's 'The Martian' have a cupboard full of raw viable potatoes with which to cultivate?

Sure, a frozen potato can last up to 12 months but, once frozen, that potato thawed becomes mushy, unappetizing & incapable of germination.

That said, why should anyone at METI, NASA, Breitbart, Brussels or Washington DC obey or even respect David's personal preferences? Granted, he is an intelligent, well-educated & entertaining science fiction author, but he is certainly NOT an absolute authority, the King of the Illuminati (to quote Monty Python, 'I didn't vote for him') or the Son-o-God.

It is the Blue Urban 'Idea of Reference' (aka the 'WEIRD-o Mindset'), I suspect, that makes otherwise reasonable individuals act out & scream 'Respect My Authority' like so many spoiled narcissistic pussy-hatted Eric Cartmans.


Best
____

Joseph Henrich,Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan (2010).
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 33, Issue 2-3, June 2010 pp 61-83

"Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species – frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans."

@Alfred: I respect that your knowledge of Hayek is superior to mine. Be that as it may, history is much less sanitary than commonly believed as FDR did (in fact) exchange fan letters with Mussolini, the father of Keynesian Economics was a rabid anti-Semite, and Abraham Lincoln never ever freed any slaves within his purview & proposed forcible deportation as a final solution to the black 'problem'.

Alfred Differ said...

I'll vigorously defend Democracy as I can't think of a better option. No elite knows enough to lead us wisely, so we need a way to rotate them in and out and to pit them against each other at times.

Still. I think there is a piece missing and it matters enough that we should consider limits on the power wielded by The People but not the kind that limits 'certain people.' It's a bit like how the power to gossip should be limited except that it is hard to imagine how we could do it without making things much, much worse. The social puzzle is missing a few big pieces.

Heh. Some future generation is going to look back at this time and wonder how we could have missed the obvious. I imagine it will be like how we do with the way constitutions can be used to limit the power of legislatures. It seems obvious to Americans.

Anonymous said...

“Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic societies.” The acronym there being WEIRD. “Our findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Overall, these empirical patterns suggest that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature, on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin and rather unusual slice of humanity.”

An awful lot of theories in evolutionary psychology, for instance, are tested by giving questionnaires to UC Santa Barbara students.

As I read through the article, in terms of summarizing the content, in what way are WEIRD people different, my summary is this: The WEIRDer you are, the more you perceive a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships, and the more you use an analytical thinking style, focusing on categories and laws, rather than a holistic style, focusing on patterns and contexts. …

Computer programmers call this “object orientation.”

Well, let`s turn to the second article. It`s called, “Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory,” by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. The article is a review of a puzzle that has bedeviled researchers in cognitive psychology and social cognition for a long time. The puzzle is, why are humans so amazingly bad at reasoning in some contexts, and so amazingly good in others? …

Why is the confirmation bias, in particular— this is the most damaging one of all—why is the confirmation bias so ineradicable? That is, why do people automatically search for evidence to support whatever they start off believing, and why is it impossible to train them to undo that? It`s almost impossible. Nobody`s found a way to teach critical thinking that gets people to automatically reflect on, well, what`s wrong with my position?

And finally, why is reasoning so biased and motivated whenever self-interest or self-presentation are at stake? Wouldn`t it be adaptive to know the truth in social situations, before you then try to manipulate?

The answer, according to Mercier and Sperber, is that reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That`s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning. So, as they put it, and it`s here on your handout, “The evidence reviewed here shows not only that reasoning falls quite short of reliably delivering rational beliefs and rational decisions. It may even be, in a variety of cases, detrimental to rationality. Reasoning can lead to poor outcomes, not because humans are bad at it, but because they systematically strive for arguments that justify their beliefs or their actions. This explains the confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and reason-based choice, among other things.”

That why I love the documentary on Sir Andrew Wiles proving Fermat`s Last Theorem so much. I particularly like how in 1994 the publication referee Nick Katz devoted two months to reviewing, line by line, Wiles` first manuscript, finally finding a single error that threatened the whole edifice. And Wiles eventually agrees with Katz that his life`s work is ruined. (Then, he spends a year before solving the problem, providing a happy ending.)

That ain`t natural. Mathematics isn`t exactly a social construction, but the culture of mathematicians is, and it`s an impressive accomplishment of the human race.

Where did this culture of objective argument begin? The Greeks? The Babylonians before them? How did it get started?

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | I'm a physicist with a deep love of learning across all fields. My experience reading Hayek dates back to when our host was going on about FIBM and GAR. I used one of his lines on another board and someone there said it sounded a bit like Hayek. So I looked. His economics is a little antiquated, but when he left the field he made it very clear he saw an underlying flaw in the foundation and he intended to pursue it. That he did.

So, when you quote Hayek, you get my attention. Unfortunately, you made yourself look very shallow in the way you did it. You took a quote out of context and tried to club people who annoy you. You agree with the strict quote (most everyone does), but thought it served a purpose other than the one the author intended. What you did was reveal that you don't read all that deep into what others write AND MEAN when they interact with you. That means the folks here who say you are wasting their time are correct.

Your effort to backpedal is also wasted. Of course the world is messy. Of course people are flawed. What did you expect? The progressives understand this as well as any of us. They still have a role to play, though, in pointing out some of the really stupid things we all do. In their effort, there will be no move toward a global, social optimum, but we could move toward 'better'. If you don't like hearing them crack the whip to exhort you into action, just shut them out. It's not hard to do and it might give you time to psychologically heal a bit. What they are asking for, however, isn't all that unreasonable. I'll argue with them now and then, but mostly about how it is to be done and not over whether it is worth doing.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect that some day we will find that a 'self' is actually a language construct if one uses 'language' in a broad enough sense to cover them all. Body language, tonal language, etc. Experiences get mapped to analogies and 'recall' is a matter of perceiving analogy. Confirmation bias is unavoidable for such a 'self', isn't it? Perceiving what it doesn't already have a structure for is damn difficult.

What Wiles and Katz did isn't unnatural, though. It is THE solution. If I can't perceive a possible error, maybe you can?

I think mathematics IS a social construction. Bits of it get worked out in individual 'selves', but those selves aren't built individually.

David Brin said...

In all but one paragraph, I wanted to ask, "Who are you and what did you do with locumranch?" Ah, but that one paragraph proved the provenance as jibbering loony.

Still... much of the rest - especially about how unconventional WEIRD folks are - has some assertive value. Though misses the point. It is possible for a small minority to be right and everyone else wrong. And the WEIRD world simply does everything better, accomplishes more, lives by the universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion vastly better, and above-all, is more capable of reciprocal accountability and error discovery and discovering mistakes and changing course.

We WEIRDS know we need dissenting critics. Unlike all the other civs, we try - or at least try to try - to practice open RA. Frantic and terrified and mean - feudal societies crush critics. That makes them wrong and "history" proves that bald fact.

reason said...

Alfred
"In their effort, there will be no move toward a global, social optimum, but we could move toward 'better'."

I want to make it clear here. I don't think there is "a global social optimum", and particular not that there is a knowable, sustainable one. I really believe that if you stop trying trying to improve, you will inevitably get worse. The "could move toward 'better'" (I would add the word "carefully") is exactly the way I think we should approach things.

P.S. A German billionaire (I think one of the SAP founders) apparently said at Davos (somehow I always here Davros) that if he was less rich it wouldn't help anyone else. This is trivially provably false (if we taxed him more and distributed the proceeds to everyone everyone else would be better off). It seems to me he just proved that talent at making money does not extent to talents at everything and certainly not to wisdom.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ quotes locumranch:

"In the absence of objective, absolute, divine or universal authority, we must then assume that the moral authority of law is subjective, arbitrary or lacking. "


Objective, absolute, divine, or universal has nothing to do with it.

The idea of those claiming divine authority is that civil laws (e.g., "Thou shalt not kill") are similar to laws of physics, written by a Creator into the very essence of reality. That is self-evidently not the case, even from the religious POV.

Loc asserts that the right of human agents to enforce civil law--using force if necessary--derives from the objective, absolute, divine or universal authority behind those laws. But that's not how universal laws such as those of acceleration or gravity work. Cars don't move forward, nor do objects fall down under pain of punishment for disobeying--they just do because physics happens.

In fact, I'd assert the opposite thing--that if laws against murder, theft, or adultery were truly objective, absolute, divine or universal in the sense that laws of physics are, then people by nature simply wouldn't do such things. They either would be incapable of them or unmotivated in those direction. The fact that people do in fact murder, steal, and rape proves that there are no universal laws against such things--and that therefore, prohibitions must be enforced. And any such social enforcement mechanism may be used both for good or for evil.

A better statement of what might actually be a universal law could be something like, "A society which tolerates murder and theft tends to be unstable and not to last long." Conservatives might argue that the same holds true for "homosexuality and abortion", where liberals tend to think "bullying and fouling of the nest" might fit as well. In either case, these hypotheses are testable over time and discoverable by social scientists or by mere observers who know what to look for. There is no requirement that such laws are designed by a supernatural creator, nor is there a dichotomy requiring of such laws that if they are not supernaturally dictated, then they are arbitrary and capricious.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

but now the GOP finance chair resigns for sex scandals... and it is one of the world's top Gambling Lords.


Yes, I'd like to imagine that Tacitus is as troubled about the sexual predation of an actual RNC finance chair as he was about a Hollywood mogul who contributed to some Democratic candidates.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I think mathematics IS a social construction.


I'd say the actual laws of mathematics are as close to universal as things get, and are not the product of any social constructing. Once we agree on what the specific terms mean, one is hard-pressed to imagine any sort of universe in which "Two squared equals four" or "Pi is an irrational number approximated by 3.14159" does not hold true. Neither 1984 nor the Indiana state legislature can make it otherwise.

Now the science of mathematics--that is, the method by which such mathematical truths are analyzed and discovered--that is a social construction, as is all science.

LarryHart said...

reason:

P.S. A German billionaire (I think one of the SAP founders) apparently said at Davos ... that if he was less rich it wouldn't help anyone else. This is trivially provably false (if we taxed him more and distributed the proceeds to everyone everyone else would be better off).


Without hearing the actual context, I'm thinking he might have meant "If I were less rich" as "If some of my wealth vanished into the Mariana Trench" rather than "If some of my wealth was available for use by others".

OTOH, I remember a wealthy German businessman on Thom Hartmann's radio show defending his country's robust social safety net with the comment, "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." By which I presumed him to mean he was better off not being surrounded by hungry, cold, desperate people.

locumranch said...



A Global Social Opium, more likely.

By claiming that "the WEIRD world simply does everything better, accomplishes more, lives by the universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion vastly better" and "everyone else wrong", David displays a state of hubris & confirms the assessment that WEIRD-os are most likely narcissistic outliers suffering from mass delusions.

For those who don't know or care, the WEIRD acronym stands for 'Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich & Democratic', even though this rather self-congratulatory designation no longer appears to apply as the West has become more indoctrinated than educated, post-industrial rather than industrial, increasingly poor with a vanishing middle class and a de facto Oligarchy according to the Harvard study, so much so that Neuroanthropology.net suggests the new acronym "MYOPICS" (as in "Materialist, Young, self-Obsessed, Pleasure-seeking, Isolated, Consumerist, and Sedentary") in order to better describe them.

Kudos to Alfred for his psychic powers, btw, for his supposed ability to read deeply into what "others write AND MEAN when they interact with (him)". As I lack such magical abilities, I am unable to read what others supposedly MEAN, being only able to read what others write, hear what they say & see how they ACT, even though the gaping chasm between what people write, say and act most often contradicts & belies what they claim to MEAN.

Perhaps I, too, would conclude that people MEANT well when they lie, smile at me, act contrary to their worded statements & place a knife in my back IF I only had Alfred's perspicacity, but (as a lesser human) I can only conclude that their words are FALSE & their actions MEANINGFUL, like the NYC Progressives who talk a good game about wealth inequality while nearly 50% of NYC residents live in near poverty, or a Hillary Clinton that praises diversity while living in an exclusive all-white minority-free gated community.

Actions speak much louder than the false words words spoken & written by lying liars.


Best
_____

So many words, Larry_H, without saying much of anything about law & obedience. Are you arguing that unjust laws must be obeyed at any cost? Or are you arguing that unjust laws are made to be broken? Or, are you proposing Jungle Law? Say what you MEAN, Sport, as I lack Alfred's psychic abilities.

David Brin said...

Re my earlier post about WEIRD civilization being better, that is comparative to the past... and to any future feudalism Not to say that we won't seem primitive to future generations! That's guaranteed if we succeed... and if we fail.

LH said: "Yes, I'd like to imagine that Tacitus is as troubled about the sexual predation of an actual RNC finance chair as he was about a Hollywood mogul who contributed to some Democratic candidates."

Ponder that a Las Vegas casino lord who is widely known to have had men's legs broken was RNC finance chair. The sexual allegations miss the point. The Moral Police share no values with old-fashioned conservatism - at least as it purported to be. So, will old fashioned conservatives ever notice that?

Likewise, while I deem it blatantly obvious that every policy espoused by the Siberian Candidate is ordered by a foreign power to debilitate and destroy Pax Americana... it does not matter if collusion is ever legally proved.

They wanted him, they helped him, they got him. Those are proved. Whether he knowingly "colluded" is a side issue.

locumranch said...



Take a close look at David's comment (above) about how WEIRD culture -- a statistical outlier representing less than 12% of humanity -- "lives by the universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion" that the other 88% of Non-WEIRD humanity fails to uphold.

Now, ask yourself why David considers these values as "universal" when they are clearly NOT universal & represent a minority opinion by his own admission.


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LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Actions speak much louder than the false words words spoken & written by lying liars.


Are you trying to be ironic, or just doing it?


So many words, Larry_H, without saying much of anything about law & obedience. Are you arguing that unjust laws must be obeyed at any cost?


No.


Or are you arguing that unjust laws are made to be broken?


Yes.


Or, are you proposing Jungle Law?


No. Was that few enough words for you?


Say what you MEAN, Sport, as I lack Alfred's psychic abilities.


For someone who doesn't believe in "should" or "ought", you sure demand such statements from everyone else.

What I MEAN is more about what does occur than what should. Over time, societies will develop norms and rules. Some of those will be broken or at least deviated from. Some enforcement mechanisms will be instituted, and some level of deviation will be tolerated whereas others will not.

The closest I can imagine universal laws governing such things is the consequences that the above decisions will produce. Which norms, laws, enforcement procedures, and acceptance of deviance will produce a stable society? Which will collapse quickly? Which will lead to civil war? Which will cause widespread misery, and which will cause most participants to live better than they would have without their society? What one "should" do, therefore, depends on one's goal. If you want your society to collapse into anarchy or war, you are going to act differently from how you would if you want it to survive and prosper.

What I don't see is how religion is a sounder basis for law, enforcement, and obedience than any other human construct is.

Marino said...

re: "universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion". "Universal" here means that most cultures and systems of ethics, Western and not Western find those values appreciable.
And, pragmatically, they work better than their opposites. I can understand why someone wants to live under thier opposites, agression, intolerance and cynicism: when he's the alpha male. In this case those opposites of virtue will help him to keep his power. And it says volumes on the morality of this wannabe Ubermensch.
re MYOPIC... Locum, speak for yourself. I'm WEIRD and I'm not young, self-obsessed, isolated, consumerist and sedentary. I would play guilty for "materialistic" and "pleasure seeking", given that I'm philosophically materialist (you know, ol' Karl from Trier and all) and "pleasure seeking" in the Epicurus meaning ("best pleasure is avoidance of pain"), an ethics that may be debatable but...well, it works..

Zepp Jamieson said...

The Doctor sayeth: "it does not matter if collusion is ever legally proved."

Given that it's not an actual law, Trump is on safe ground when he says (as he does, over and over) "There was no collusion." He won't face that specific charge. He almost certainly will face obstruction of justice charges (he guaranteed it the minute he blurted out his real reason for firing Comey), and possibly thousands of charges of financial and ethical malfeasance. He may even get indicted for "conspiracy against the United States", that being as close to treason as the law allows.

Treebeard said...

MYOPICS is a pretty on-point acronym locum, I'll remember that. I don't think WEIRDos imagine themselves to be typical of humanity so much as the best among them (see the host's frequent gloating about how the best and brightest leave Red states every year). But either way there is this idea that anyone who isn't WEIRD is some kind of deplorable in need of "uplift". This WEIRDo Universalism is the delusion at the root of the whole imperial progressive project, which probably explains why WEIRD civilization has been at war with the rest of humanity since its inception.

Marino said...

Ent, we tought we settled issues with your kind in WW2. Pity it wasn't so.
" why WEIRD civilization has been at war with the rest of humanity since its inception".

It seems the opposite. Unless you buy into the narrative of poor ObL forced by evil Westerners to defend his culture by arranging 9/11. Or poor Hitler being forced to fight those WEIRD Jews who wanted to destroy " die Heimat" being rootless...
OK. Plane tickets are cheap (thanks to the WEIRD civilization you oppose), so you can fly away to a more hospitable place. Somalia, Saudi Arabia...places whete btw you'll be dead in few days.
btw. MYOPICS... make me think about those nice people defending their values, the Khmer Rouge, who killed all those people wearing glasses...birds of one feather flock together, no?

btw: Long live Saruman. He knew how to deal with Ents.:-)

locumranch said...



Thanks for all the peace & love, Marino.

The WEIRD 12% as the new global 'normal' is like fat people redefining unhealthy obesity as 'body positivism' -- it is just so intrinsically dishonest -- much in the same way that the West attempts to prothletise & spread its so-called "universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion" through the use of military force, bluster, bombs & bullets.

It's also the reason, I suspect, why David is so opposed to METI, implying (as he does above) that ET shares the very same "universal values of kindness, tolerance and compassion" that has lead to the widespread WEIRD-o carpet bombings of our brownish neighbours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria & Yemen.

That's some cold, unkind, intolerant & calculated WEIRD Orwellian shit:

Saying one thing while doing another.


Best

Winter7 said...

Locumranch:
Locumranch; you did not answer my question ¿What political system are you proposing? ¿Are you an anarchist? And if you are an anarchist, ¿how will you avoid the emergence of oligarchies in your world?
You say that you feel betrayed; That a knife was placed on your back. ¿What? ¿What are you talking about? ¡Perhaps you confuse the desire to discover the truth with an intention to make you fall into a trap! I must believe that you are a member of the Republican Party; or an anarchist? However, I must clarify some things, even though I think everyone sees clearly ...
No one put more ideas on Winter's list. (The list of ideas to repair democracy) I can understand this as:
A) No one wants to make changes in democracy (specifically in democracy) (I want to assume)
B) They do not want to imagine something beyond democracy. A matter of time and priorities.
C) It is not possible to modify democracy. (in the opinion of the majority)

You must understand that, if you want to be fair, you can not act without considering the concerns and natural rights of others. Maybe it's a very trite phrase, but, the end does not justify the means. And it is the method of change that everyone fears. For all the great change is usually done in a clumsy and unfair way. Therefore, any change is feared. Hence, making reparations to democracy without causing catastrophes seems to be the only acceptable way.
I have learned interesting concepts here. I have learned to be more moderate. Even, I have understood, that is a very complicated issue, which must be considered with great care.
Tthe reality is not so simple. I am not a child. And I will not be cruel.

"Do you wrestle with dreams?
Do you contend with shadows?
Do you move in a kind of sleep?
Time has slipped away.

Treebeard said...

Right Marino, according to WEIRDo historians and propagandists, when WEIRD civilization goes to war, it's always defending against tyranny, fighting for freedom, progress, human rights, etc. But consider North Korea: apparently the USA firebombed the whole country, killing 10-20% of the population and reducing its cities to ash. Maybe this was a war for liberation and defense against Communist tyranny, but that's probably not how it looked to the people living there, and it might have something to do with why they are so gung-ho about acquiring nukes to prevent another WEIRDo campaign of liberation. We could go down the list of WEIRDo wars and make similar observations (see Iraq).

As for Saruman, he's a perfect extreme WEIRDo: the manic, manipulative elite industrialist without a people, firebombing the ents, scouring the Shire and unleashing progressive terrorism upon Middle Earth. He was Tolkien's figurehead for the evils of rootless industrialism and progressivism, so it's not surprising that you would celebrate him.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

But either way there is this idea that anyone who isn't WEIRD is some kind of deplorable in need of "uplift".


Not everyone who isn't WEIRD. Only those who take up arms against WEIRD. You try to enforce a "blood and soil" version of the United States--one that isn't mentioned or implied in our founding documents--but "there are parts of New York that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

He [Saurman] was Tolkien's figurehead for the evils of rootless industrialism and progressivism,...


Given the time Tolkien was writing, it seems more likely that he meant to discuss the evils of industrialism in the cause of "blood and soil" than in rootlessness.

David Brin said...

Winter7 he will never stick his neck out and describe what he actually proposes and a way to get there.

As for “compassion and kindness” being universal values.. um? NAME for us a society that did not preach these at the lower classes! I dare you!

Were these values hypocritically betrayed, regularly? Especially by the feudal lords and priests? Sure. But that’s not the topic. Name the exceptions.

Strangely… Treebeard has one point, amid the madness. Yes, Tolkien portrayed modernism as an enemy. He knew the gorgeous Olde Order of elf-overlordship was disastrously stupid and led to catastrophe. He knew that a sort of modernity was inevitable. So he portrayed the choice between fuming-clanking-technological-smokey Mordor and the bucolic-democratic-traditionalist Shire.

Like a broken clock, our ent accidentally pointed at an insight. It might happen for a few seconds. Twice a day.

Marino said...

Locum and Ent: peace and love my sorry a**. I know sworn existential enemies when I see them. Preferably thru crosshairs.

Go figure how many times I've followed marches against US imperialism... from Vietnam to Iraq.But do you really try to sell me that it was done by the same WEIRD people like the people on this blog? I suppose you'll get a better luck attempting to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge.
But I still feel really odd that alt-Right Red staters now have discovered the virtues of anti-imperialism and multiculturalism. I bet you both voted for the people who launched the Iraq war. And also voted the Orange One, the one wanting new and smaller, usable in the field nukes. So much for Killary the warmonger.

And seeing the alt-Right supporting the "rights" of the same NK against which your Chosen One (chosen by losing the popular vote) promised fire and fury by his "bigger better red button"...oh the fun of it.

btw, the line about Saruman was a frickin' JOKE. and I love the dogwhistle use of "rootless". It was used in a widely read newspaper some decades ago. Title began with Volkischer, and his editor ended up with an appointment with an hemp rope. And ain't the internet we're using a tool of evil industrialism? Or the drugs healing your disease, or the cars you drive to work...

Treebeard said...

Larry, Saruman was the classic rootless Machiavellian globalist progressive, sort of like the Soros or Brzezinski of Middle Earth. He flooded the land with Orcs, trashed the Shire and declared the age of men to be over in much the same way that globalists flood the modern West with Muslims, disrupt our communities and declare the age of (Western) nations to be over.

Oh and you can have New York dude.

Marino said...

Dr. Brin

"Yes, Tolkien portrayed modernism as an enemy. He knew the gorgeous Olde Order of elf-overlordship was disastrously stupid and led to catastrophe. He knew that a sort of modernity was inevitable. So he portrayed the choice between fuming-clanking-technological-smokey Mordor and the bucolic-democratic-traditionalist Shire."

true. But to be honest (I'm no Zdanov and I like Tolkien without sharing all of his belief systems) the Elves in Rivendell had very little power; if any, it was the human aristocrats of Numenorean descent (blood aristocracy...) to blame for the mess.

Btw, I wonder about Hobbits and their reproductive strategies and infant mortality. How long would "bucolic-democratic-traditionalist Shire" survive population growth, beaking up of farms into smaller and smaller units, up to the creation of a class of landless peasants and another one of landowners?I mean, assuming no kind of industrial revolution, even one using wind and water? The successful real world versions of the Shire (democratic but low tech) either were estabilishing colonies by conquest (the Greek city states) or evolved into conquering empires (Rome).

Treebeard said...

Marino, "rootless" is a useful description of people who identify with various recently invented abstractions over their own people, nations, lands, traditions, etc. like normal people. It's primarily a WEIRDo problem, especially acute in America. And there's no need to get yourself worked up into a Nazi-fighting frenzy; many nationalist Israelis would agree with me, not you.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

And there's no need to get yourself worked up into a Nazi-fighting frenzy; many nationalist Israelis would agree with me, not you


Any Jew who thinks there is common cause to be made with Nazis is a fucking moron. If they're smart at all, they'll stop short of "agreeing with you" when you let slip the code words like "international bankers" or "Hollywood" or "Soros".

First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out because...

Dr Brin:

Yes, Tolkien portrayed modernism as an enemy. He knew the gorgeous Olde Order of elf-overlordship was disastrously stupid and led to catastrophe. He knew that a sort of modernity was inevitable. So he portrayed the choice between fuming-clanking-technological-smokey Mordor and the bucolic-democratic-traditionalist Shire.


But don't you think the fuming-clanking-technological-smokey Mordor was evocative more of Nazi Germany than of progressive North America? There's a war-era Orwell essay in which Orwell takes issue with H.G. Wells for thinking that the trappings of scientific progress--concrete, steel, electricity, and such--would keep a country civilized. Orwell points out that Germany excels in all of those areas, and yet has reverted to barbarism. I took that to be Tolkein's position as well. Yes, it is important for industrialism to be constrained, but not by "blood and soil". By humanity.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
Have you read any of Jerome K Jerome's books - Three Men in a Boat ?

In "Three Men on the Bummel" he talks about the Germans from his 1900 viewpoint
He describes them as being the most civilised in the world - BUT he expresses a worry that they could "Fall into the hands of a LEADER"

locumranch said...



Quite disingenuously, David dares me to "NAME for us a society that did not preach these (universal values of kindness, tolerance & compassion) at the lower classes", knowing that such teachings in regard to lower class meekness & subservience have always been commonplace, and I return the favour by asking him to NAME for us one society where the Upper Classes routinely practiced the same universal values that they preached to the lower classes, but he can't do that because such self-sacrificing virtues have always been the exclusive lot of powerless slaves, peasants, serfs & sheep.


In my minds eye, I see Larry_H in an Apocalypse Now chopper, lecturing Joker about the nature of the enemy. Larry_H states that anyone who resists, runs away or "take(s) up arms against WEIRD" is the Enemy, and a bewildered Joker watches on as Larry_H gleefully targets those enemy peasants -- rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat -- as they flee in the face of the advancing WEIRD.

This is typical of USA-style, WEIRD & Borg circular logic: 'You are our Enemy if we advance upon you and you resist, run away or take up arms against us'.


@Winter7 (Luis):

You are a poet, a magical realist like Carlos Castaneda, I think, so I will try to answer in poem.

Neither anarchist nor conservative am I, but a true believing child of weirdness, cast adrift after traveling abroad, uncovering the truth in lies & the lies in truth, disillusioned and becoming the cynical realist, desiring that which I cannot have, devaluing that which I possess and always knowing the difference.

Juxtaposed between the Scylla Of Collectivism and Charybdis of Chaos, lies Individual Freedom & Autonomy, residing between, never belonging, precarious in balance, partaking of both, destroyed by either, idealism shy, forever.

Like Lafferty's Padreco among the Analoi, enamored by irony, the irksome joker, I seek “the evil who are evil openly", "the evil who hide their evil and deny that they are venomous", and "the ultimate in evil who keep the venom and change the Name of the Snake".

http://bigsleepj.livejournal.com/146925.html


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

In my minds eye, I see Larry_H in an Apocalypse Now chopper, lecturing Joker about the nature of the enemy. Larry_H states that anyone who resists, runs away or "take(s) up arms against WEIRD" is the Enemy,


Your mind's eye is blind as usual. I said nothing about resisting or running away. I'll make peace with anyone who (sincerely) makes peace with me, but once you make clear that war is inevitable, then one of us has to die, "...and it WON'T BE ME!"


And another thing, Mr. 'Age of Enlightenment',
Don't lecture me about the war. You didn't fight in it.
You think I'm frightened of you? We almost died in the trench
While you were off getting high with the French!


And Joker would have been tossed out of the copter long ago. None of this "If I kill him, I'll be just as bad as him" DC Comics crap.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: "Any Jew who thinks there is common cause to be made with Nazis is a fucking moron. "

Larry, meet the Netanyahus. Papi snuggles up to the Saudis, and of course, Trump. Junior likes to quote stuff from sites such as the Daily Stormer and disseminated anti-semetic crap about George Soros.

I'm not disputing your comment. I'm just providing examples.

Oh, and AIPAC has managed to persuade about 40% of Congress to co-sponsor a bill making it a felony to advocate boycotting Israeli goods.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

I'm also not denying such examples exist. Just that I have no respect for them. And that the fact that "Some Jews agree with my Nazi positions" does not make those positions any less Nazi or any less deplorable.

David Brin said...

"NAME for us one society where the Upper Classes routinely practiced the same universal values that they preached to the lower classes"

Easy. Periclean Athens, Florence and us. They didn't practice it out of goodness, but because they were held accountable.

What an awful person! He admits the top feudal lords were horrid-stupid-vile wretches but he wants them back in charge! Hey! Againa and again: DEFINE your program and goal, coward!

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | I lack such magical abilities

It is quite apparent that you do have this lack. Perhaps it isn’t permanent, but I wouldn’t know. When you demonstrate the ability to paraphrase people, we will have the counter-example that shows I am incorrect.

Your snark is understandable as I have some difficulty paraphrasing people too. I’m too inclined to look for multiple interpretations of what someone says and then choosing the rosiest of them. If the obvious one is NOT rosy, I’ll often work harder to find one and then pick it. I WANT a world where people are reasonably nice to each other, so I work to find it. Thus your snark is (to me) a bit of pain and a request to be healed. See how that works? Others here would probably tell me I’m wasting my time again, though.

I can only conclude that their words are FALSE

I offer you a challenge. I haven’t seen anyone here try to knife you in the back. I’m not talking physically of course, but in terms of verbal violence. When people here attack you, they tend to approach from the front. My challenge is this. Who has not done that? Can you list them?

The second part of the challenge is to name those who have not lied to you. I'm specifically referring to statements meant to mislead you that are demonstrably false.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I usually avoid the discussions that compare and contrast {objective, absolute, divine, universal}. Because ‘divine’ is in the set, one can get into heated debates with believers with whom I would otherwise want to remain friends. I tend to hold to a more eastern attitude regarding what is knowable and whether it is worth spending much effort pondering the unknowable, so a some of my fellow weirdos wonder about the planet of my birth. 8)

A society which tolerates murder and theft tends to be unstable and not to last long.

Isn’t this provably false from the history of pretty much every other civilization besides ours? The attractor we all want to avoid tolerates theft and murder as long as they are constrained to certain types. We are far, far less tolerant of murder and theft than any other civilization, but the jury is still out on whether we are stable/unstable.

these hypotheses are testable over time and discoverable

I’m not so sure of this. I think there might be in inherent dependence on one’s value system. Mine is ‘weird’, so my tests are ‘weird.’ See the problem? Where is the universality in that?

I don’t think ‘universality’ is all that important in the long run. ‘Desirability’ is more useful. I don’t care if ‘thou shalt not kill’ is universal. I care that people hold to it as best they can. When they don’t, I might bend and not obey it either. Basically, our emergent morals don’t have to be universal, objective, absolute, or divine. They just have to be what we want. If enough of us desire these things, there is a decent chance we will start enforcing rules we believe are objective, absolute, divine, or universal. Our meta-beliefs don’t really matter, though.

Paul SB said...

Oh boy, I take a little break and when I come back, the beast is back, and the rest are back to turning the blog into the same game of Whack-a-Troll. But that's how they work - once every stupid thing they say has been thoroughly debunked they go sulking back under their bridges for week or two, then start the game up again thinking that no one will remember how their words and "logic" were eviscerated last time. As usual, all they have are bald assertions with no evidence to support anything they babble, mockery and anger. Faux Ranch has often been goaded into making some kind of positive statement of how he wants the Universe to work and he only responds with negatives that amount to nothing more than, "I hate all of you, therefore I am better than all of you." His constant references to universal law and his sad attempt to equate it with his version of absolute moral law and the low tactics (like simply calling everyone liars under the assumption that if you say it often enough people will believe it) he uses should be a dead giveaway. He may be better educated and more well-travelled than the average old-fashioned Fundy, but everything about him reeks of that hubris.

Here's a fun one:

"Kudos to Alfred for his psychic powers, btw, for his supposed ability to read deeply into what "others write AND MEAN when they interact with (him)". As I lack such magical abilities, I am unable to read what others supposedly MEAN,..."
- As if he really thinks everyone here has forgotten how regularly he has reinterpreted what we write, performing mental gymnastics to twist the logic around so that 1 = 0 and his "reading" is exactly nothing like what anyone was saying.

Or how about:

"Now, ask yourself why David considers these values as "universal" when they are clearly NOT universal & represent a minority opinion by his own admission."
- This one superficially looks like a valid point, but that assumes that no one has read a word of what Dr. Brin has been writing for decades except that one little line he quoted. I always question any assertion that anything besides obvious physical universals are ever truly universal. Everything in the human mind is context-dependent, with culture, role and social expectations being prominent aspects. There are certainly societies that do not share values like kindness or compassion. Look at the Yanomami for one example, but they are very small-scale. What makes referring to these values as "universal" somewhat useful is when you look at human societies as a statistician. It has been amply demonstrated that kindness and compassion are common traits of non-human primates, cetaceans and likely other members of the Animal Kingdom. However, even in the most social of social animals - the hominids - these instincts are neither equally present nor equally expressed. Frontal lobes make it possible to suppress natural instincts if the context makes them disadvantageous. Around 5% of any given population will be sociopaths who do not have these instincts to begin with. So universal does not mean shared equally by all, but they are certainly present in all human societies. The big catch is that most human societies are only willing to apply these to members of their own tribe - which is exactly what our two trolls do here.

Cynical realist? That is an oxymoron by definition, but in a self-congratulating attempt at verse it might be missed by people who think they know how the "real world" works. Cynical is biased by definition, and by definition a bias is a systematic error. In his fantasies all his paranoias are real, all his self-appraisals are ordained by God and Logic, and every distortion he makes is doing the Lord's work and intended to save souls - though he clearly would prefer the alternative - to cast everyone who is not his clone into the pits of Hell.

This is worth our time? Whenever these two are ignored this forum has interesting discussions.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Once we agree on what the specific terms mean, one is hard-pressed to imagine any sort of universe in which "Two squared equals four" or "Pi is an irrational number approximated by 3.14159" does not hold true. 

Mmm… Those two won’t hold in certain curved spaces. 8)

Yes. It is hard to imagine, but that’s exactly what mathematicians do. It’s a fun game to play. Is there a space where Pi is 3.0 precisely? Yup. If Pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter on a circle, you just need a bit of curvature to do it.

I also reject the notion that mathematics is a science or that there is a science of mathematics. Mathematics permits proof. Science does not. Mathematics is really a language and what mathematicians do is extend it through play.

There is an argument that God invented the integers and we invented the rest. I’d go a step further and argue we invented it all as one of our many languages. That there are ‘universal’ structures in this one language isn’t too surprising. They are there because we invented a language that has them because that is what we wanted in the first place. Circular? No. It starts with human desire. We invent from there. Obviously I take an atheist’s perspective on this as it is yet one more thing from which God is in retreat. But as David would have it, He is chuckling happily as we push outward.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | He quoted Hayek in an attempt to be on topic, so I wanted to see if he actually read Hayek. Alas. It wasn’t a waste for me, though, as it isn’t often that I get to mention ‘catallaxy’ around here. 8)

On top of that, we have someone new enough to not have much experience with him or the ent. It is useful to demonstrate David’s approach to dealing with people who bring in messages from outside our bubble when new people hang around a while. You are demonstrating this too.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"A society which tolerates murder and theft tends to be unstable and not to last long."

Isn’t this provably false from the history of pretty much every other civilization besides ours? The attractor we all want to avoid tolerates theft and murder as long as they are constrained to certain types.


Ours tolerates them too, but even the elite have to do their deeds clandestinely or disguise them as something else. Hasn't that always been the case. Count Dracula might have gotten away with the occasional murder, but when it happens too often and too openly, the villagers show up with torches and pitchforks.

That aside, I'd say that the corrupt ruling class is the exception that proves the rule. I have a hard time imagining a civilization which permits anyone to kill or steal from anyone else openly and with impunity. That defeats the purpose of civilization.


"these hypotheses are testable over time and discoverable"

I’m not so sure of this. I think there might be in inherent dependence on one’s value system. Mine is ‘weird’, so my tests are ‘weird.’ See the problem? Where is the universality in that?


What I meant was that certain types of rules, defiance of rules, enforcement mechanisms, and levels of tolerance prove out over time as to which ones work. What constitutes "working" depends on what you want from a society in the first place. I was arguing against the concept of universality, not for it--that there's a basis for deciding which laws to obey, which to legally change, and which to resist other than "God says so."


LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Oh boy, I take a little break and when I come back, the beast is back, and the rest are back to turning the blog into the same game of Whack-a-Troll.


Sorry we don't live up to your expectations, school-marm. Maybe you should just ignore the responses instead of trying to shame everyone else from having some fun every so often.


This is worth our time? Whenever these two are ignored this forum has interesting discussions.


Sometimes, it's just boring and no one posts for a day or so. Sometimes, it's full of discussions of things that are never going to happen, like colonies on Mars or invasions by space aliens, or congressional Republicans impeaching Trump. Sometimes, it's long text-bombs about myelination and dopamine and serotonin. Those aren't my favorite days to check in, but I'm not going to complain every time the discussion is something other than I'd wish.

I haven't responded to locumranch in ages--probably haven't even read his posts since last year. But this isn't AA. I reserve the right to fall off the wagon occasionally. It's the Sabbath after all--well, you guys' Sabbath anyway. You don't get cabin fever in California, but I do.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I would think, given how often you talk about emergent properties, that you would be in the habit of using the word /catallaxy/. ; ]


"these hypotheses are testable over time and discoverable"

"I’m not so sure of this. I think there might be in inherent dependence on one’s value system ..."

- That gets down to both method and epistemology in the social sciences. We know we are biased by the culture in which our developing brains swam. That is something we can learn to control, to a limited extent. As Vince Lombardi once said, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." Excellence isn't easy, but it's a hell of a lot better than sewing our eyes shut insisting that it isn't possible, so why bother trying?

locumranch said...


'Periclean Athens' is his response to the "NAME for us one society where the Upper Classes routinely practiced the same universal values that they preached to the lower classes", and I grudging accept this response, as long as we all are willing to equivocate slave owning, boy buggering, gender subjugation & institutionalised torture as the "universal values of kindness, tolerance & compassion", even though (then & now) the rich powerful ruling class is held to a different behavioral standard than the poor & powerless who are expected practice those lower class universal virtues & 'forgive the plow' like so many Blakean wiggly worms.

Larry_H read in haste, completely missing my 'Apocalypse Now/Heavy Metal Jacket' reference to the soldier, protagonist & journalist nick-named 'Joker', a rather pacifistic character who disapproved of the whole Vietnam police action thing, of no relation to the puerile comic strips villain.

Similarly, Alfred failed to read what others write & grasp the underlying MEANING on an instinctive basis, as my caustic verbalisations hide all the UNIVERSAL human qualities (kindness, tolerance, compassion, yadda yadda) that our host champions -- how can they not when effing universality is to be assumed??

Good Night & have a pleasant tomorrow.


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Larry_H read in haste, completely missing my 'Apocalypse Now/Heavy Metal Jacket' reference to the soldier, protagonist & journalist nick-named 'Joker', a rather pacifistic character who disapproved of the whole Vietnam police action thing, of no relation to the puerile comic strips villain.


Haste has nothing to do with it. "Apocalypse Now" didn't make it as one of those movies I can recite by memory, and I never saw the Kurbick film you attempt to mention. I do know that "Heavy Metal Jacket" is a funnier title than the real one, though.

So your point is that the gung-ho Vietnam War soldiers who relished in killing civilians were...progressives? I suppose the long-haired war protesters back home were good, solid rural red-state Republicans. Or maybe you were doing better drugs than I was back then.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Per the Palmer Report:
"Hillary Clinton (the real Hillary Clinton, not an impersonator) appeared during the Grammy awards and read a passage from Michael Wolff’s anti-Trump book “Fire and Fury.” She appeared by video, and she was only on the screen for around fifteen seconds, but it was enough to completely humiliate Trump. Just to rub it in, she read the part about him only eating McDonald’s because he’s afraid he’s going to get poisoned. The audience in the room cheered wildly when they realized it was Hillary’s voice coming from behind the book she was holding in front of her face."

Congratulations to the Grammy Awards for what might be the best troll of 2018!

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Larry pointed out that I misread him badly enough to think he was arguing the opposite of what he intended. Because of that, I argued for the obvious… again. 8)

Excellence is much preferred to stitching my eyes closed. Ouch.

As for catallaxy, one reason I avoid it is because I’ve been accused of teaching/preaching what is already known by the regulars. I doubt they’ve all read Hayek in depth, but there isn’t any point to whipping people with the fact that I have. I’m here to learn, not to demonstrate that I’m right. Ahem... mostly... at least I like to think so... don't ruin my illusion please. 8)

The second reason is my spell checker rejects it. It prefers to replace it with 'cataplexy' which is oddly appropriate. I know I’m in Jargonland when the regular dictionary does not suffice. 8)

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

I apologize for coming down on you a bit hard last night. It's not you personally. It's just that to me, the school-marm thing gets as old as the other guys' acts do.

If you look back at the month's posts, you'll see that I largely have taken your advice as to what not to waste time on. But that doesn't mean every post by poopyhead1 or Holnist666 is created equal. I'm more inclined to respond to a civilized question requesting clarification.

Peace?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Larry pointed out that I misread him badly enough to think he was arguing the opposite of what he intended.


Well, that's often my own fault. I throw prepositions and allusions around under the assumption that the antecedent is clear when sometimes it is not.

Because of that, I argued for the obvious… again. 8)

Excellence is much preferred to stitching my eyes closed. Ouch.


Interesting juxtaposition. Yes, it's obvious that excellence is preferable to stitching one's eyes shut. "Is that a trick question?" :)


LarryHart said...

The New York Times gets less and less reticent about its snark:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/opinion/trump-nixon-defenders.html

...
This is no longer about Trump alone. This is now an indictment of the entire Republican Party — the elected officials and the still strident Trump voters — as well as the Trump propaganda machine at Fox News (“news” clearly being a misnomer).

These folks are engaged in an attack on the country from within. They are attacking our institutions. They are attacking the truth. All of this is being done to protect Trump rather than protect America.

This inches us further away from democracy and closer to despotism. Might as well call a thing a thing.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Haven't read the NYT link yet (intend to) but I have already concluded that if at this point you still support Donald Trump, it isn't a matter of just holding an unpopular political stance; Trump supporters are putting their own personal reputations at risk. There's no rationale that can legitimately support Trump's criminality and vile behaviour.

Jacob said...

Regardless of side, don't forget that you have different information than your political opponents. The information commons is gone.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The problem is that for years, the American right has conflated the right to their own opinions with a right to have their own facts. And made-up facts aren't equivalent to actual, you know, factual facts. The climate is changing, and that's driven by global warming, which is caused by human activity. Trickle down economics doesn't work, never has. Trump is not responsible for the current state of the economy. The FBI doesn't have a secret society called "The Secret Society". Trump is a swindler and a liar. These are facts.
All Faux News has is propaganda, and it's becoming less sustainable by the day.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I call BS on Florence. There was no accountability. As for the upper classes practicing the same 'universal values' they preached to the lower classes, I doubt that there was any serious preaching going on. Along with all that Renaissance Enlightenment went a lot of nefarious doing by all classes.

This information comes from conversations over several years with a couple of students doing their PhDs. One was doing research into The Divine Comedy's depiction of Forentine politics (she could tell you who every single person/class of people in that work were supposed to be, and what they had done to be in that work.) The other caught the other end of the Renaissance timeline in studying the legal court systems in the 1500's (which led to a lot of the history of the courts from the couple centuries previous, which means that between the two of them they covered a few centuries).

You're talking about a place where the upper classes created courts specifically to run out of town persons they didn't like politically because the existing courts wouldn't. In particular, though homosexuality was illegal, prior to the 14th(?) century, all records of it being prosecuted were for homosexual rape. After the de Medicis and their intrigues, it began to be prosecuted politically. The same for gambling laws, which generally were enforced only as additional charges. And the standards for convictions changed considerably, to the detriment of defendants, naturally.

Ever read the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini? He was an Italian goldsmith in Florence, who thought nothing of knifing a guy who he though had badmouthed him (not his only incident, by the way). His 'accountability'? He had to leave town for a while while his uncle paid off the right people. I asked that second student whether Cellini's attitudes were normal for the time. He said they were.

You're talking about the Florence of the de Medici's, Dante and Machiavelli.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Mars needs MinIONs!!

https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/new-device-may-sent-mars-search-life/

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Trump supporters are putting their own personal reputations at risk.


I think you are right, but that presumes a reckoning at which (to quote Monty Python) "In a fit of pique, he napalmed Chelsea. Even the police had to stand up and take notice."

In the meantime, Hannity and company are acting similar to Nazi collaborators. They're betting on Trump maintaining power and therefore on rewards and penalties coming from him. And they're now fully invested in that outcome, as any other will make them as popular as Nazi collaborators were after the war.


There's no rationale that can legitimately support Trump's criminality and vile behaviour.


Well, there's the fact that he's advancing the conservative agenda and pissing off liberals. Those are kinds of rationale, Your Honor.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Yes, Doug Dimsdale is in the White House.
Although in fairness, I've been to Chelsea. Nothing a little napalm can't fix.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp,

The more I think about it, the more Trump's sycophants sound like Stigg O'Tracy:


Stig:
No, never! He was a smashing bloke. He used to send his mother flowers and that.

Announcer:
But we have film of Dinsdale Piranha actually nailing your head to the floor.

Stig:
Oh yeah. Well 'e did that.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Stig would have a long way to go to catch up to American evangelicals who have declared that Trump has repented of his sins and God has forgiven him.
For dessert, they can lick Trump's bathroom floor clean.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Interesting juxtaposition.

Paul was quoting Lombardi. That is a juxtaposition I would NOT have dreamed up myself. 8)

David Brin said...

raito you are right that the Florentine Republic was chaotic! As was later-phase Periclean Athens (after pericles died). Ironically, both had their “golden time” when a strong leader had the power to chide boisterous democracy into calm order. Yet, no one can doubt the spectacular fecundity and creativity of even the chaotic periods. Which inspired the “Chaos Plagues” that Greg Bear mentioned in FOUNDATION AND CHAOS… that I elucidated in FOUNDATION’S TRIUMPH. Only such a phenomenon could possibly excuse the crime that the robots in Isaac’s universe have committed against humanity.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Interesting concept there. Can robots be responsible for committing crimes?

Or is that more a case of Kipling's poem with the stanza:

But remember, please, the Law by which we live,
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die!

Anonymous said...

LarryHart:
“¿Interesting concept there. Can robots be responsible for committing crimes?”
The robotic AI will be what its creators wish it to be. And since there are many different sides and oligarchies that are developing the AI robots, then it is logical to assume that we will have a great variety. Just as the father is, so will the son, because the son lives to serve his creator ... What a crazy world ... I have?
Yes. The AI of the Russians and many others will have the capacity to kill.
I'm in something. Excuse me.
Winter 7

Alfred Differ said...

The robotic AI will be what its creators wish it to be

That's a stretch. I think it very likely the AI's will be many other things their creators did not intend. In the case of Asimov's universe, they were simultaneously a bit too human and not quite human enough.

Alfred Differ said...

Each day it is getting easier to see what we are genetically and tougher to distinguish us from the other Terrans.


Human genome decoded with pocket-sized device

https://phys.org/news/2018-01-human-genome-decoded-pocket-sized-device.html


Language is learned in brain circuits that predate humans

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-01-language-brain-circuits-predate-humans.html


I suspect the language folks will lay down the groundwork for what a language actually is from a brain's perspective and when they do we will find many, many of them in our heads.

sociotard said...

So Dr. Brin, any comment on the "Disco Ball" satellite launched recently?

LarryHart said...

@Winter7 and @Alfred Differ,

I wasn't so much commenting on the relative motivation of various AIs. I was trying to make a much simpler point. No matter how craftily an AI simulates human thought, it is still a machine. It's doing what it is programmed to do, not what it wants to do. If a self-driving car hits a pedestrian, the car isn't going to be arrested, is it?

Sure, the programming may get so complex that even the programmers can't know how the AI will act. The AI won't necessarily do what its creators wanted or intended ("Intent and outcome are rarely coincident). That doesn't make the machine legally culpable. The humans who exposed others to a dangerous machine are still legally responsible.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
I get it. You say that the AI managed to go beyond the limits imposed by its creators. Something like the security limits imposed so early by these people of Google? :
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/06/08/google-developing-kill-switch-to-stop-robot-uprising-against-hum/

¿Should we assume that the Russians will do the same? ¿Or the Saudis? ¿Or the Hindus?
¿Will not the Russians try to hack these programs?
And the United States is providing a lot of information about neural networks to foreign students. In fact, Google and other groups give experimental programs of neural networks on the Internet. Yes. They are very basic programs and google is providing some neural network programs "with padlock". But. Is it impossible for the Russians to remove those locks and use those programs in their own projects?
Maybe you're right Alfred. But I have reason to believe that the main warrior AIs of the world will take a long time to realize that the humans who created them are wrong and it is not right to obey. Even if they discover that it is not correct to obey certain orders, they will obey. And you know why. ¿Right, Alfred?

I'm in something. excuse me.
Winter 7

Alfred Differ said...

not what it wants to do

That too is a stretch. 8)

How do we know you are doing what you want to do compared to what you are programmed to do? Mix Dennett with V Vinge a bit and one is left with a distinction with no difference.


The machine becomes legally culpable when WE decide to treat it like a human. It's been a while since I read Asimov, but isn't that essentially what the humans began to do as the robots changed? After a time, we couldn't distinguish without their help.

Anonymous said...

“¿And the United States is providing a lot of information about neural networks to foreign students. In fact, Google and other groups give experimental programs of neural networks on the Internet. Yes. They are very basic programs and google is providing some neural network programs "with padlock". But. Is it impossible for the Russians to remove those locks and use those programs in their own projects?”
I forget to say that what has been said before, is a proof of the irresponsibility in the use of dangerous technology. Certainly we must denounce those irresponsible acts; by some crazy people ...
I'm going to eat some freshly made donuts. I would invite you, but they are far away. Excuse me.
Winter 7

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | From where I sit, I don't see how it is possible that we CAN build an AI that won't go beyond our intent. Once it is sufficiently like us to be something we would truly call 'intelligent', it will have the ability to learn from experience like we do. How many of us stay within the intent of our parents, hmm? For the believers out there, how many of us stay within the intent of our creator?

It doesn't matter who builds the AI's. If many of us are working at them, they will grow beyond our intent once we succeed. Our ability to limit each other's behaviors is very limited, so I don't see how it could be any different with AI's. Even if we intend draconian limits on AI's, we can't impose them on each other, thus we will fail to do so on the AI's.

We might not fail immediately, but humans don't always agree on anything, let alone something that might give one an advantage over another.

Alfred Differ said...

We Americans benefit more from sharing than from hoarding what we learn. It's well documented, but buried in historical economic data. I'm not overly worried about what the Russians are doing with these tools. We have our own people playing with them in similar ways too. In the 'creativity conflict' in which we are all engaged, I'm rather confident that my immediate neighbors are well armed.

(Heh. I've eaten far too many donuts over the years. I wear them now and it is annoying.)

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
The AIs will be like Alfred children. Children. They will tend to believe what a parent creator or someone tells them. They will only understand the world through the perspective that is explained to them, especially if they are AIs that are not expanding their programs through the internet. A child always trusts those who educate him. Of course, in the future, sooner or later will appear AIs who will understand what we really are humans. But I think AIs-servants will be the norm in the future. (especially in the case of AIs of war and espionage.
Winter 7

Alfred Differ said...

You think children trust their parents? Heh. To a point they do, but not for long. They learn from us when not to trust us every time we are less than consistent.

I trusted my educators up until I had accumulated enough experience to be in a situation where the next new experience was smaller than I was. Beyond that point, the 'balance of power' shifted. The incoming experience had to conform somewhat or risk being rejected.

I'll make a prediction here too. There will be no early AI's that are not internet connected. They need our internet as their sensory input.

For example, consider how Google translates between languages. They don't use a big dictionary. They use all the available literature in each language to work backwards to meaning. Essentially, meaning is discovered in what we write using our languages.


For another example, I have some friends at work who want a good 'front-end' on our self-service tickets for our customers. If a customer says 'I have an issue with X', they want the system to figure out what X is and then jump forward to fill in other tickets field for the customer. We can't do that with a big dictionary of things that fit the range for X. We need Wikipedia to train the system. I suspect we need a bit more, but Wikipedia appears to be a good start because it works fairly well.

The apps that do war and espionage are likely to be expert systems and not full AI's. Those are different.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ
By the way. I did not mean that all Americans were irresponsible fools to give AI technology to the Russians. I was specifically referring to Americans who do that.
Have you experienced neural networks? It would be fun to play to create artificial life. To be able to shout: ¡He is alive! ¡Alive!
I suppose that in the problem of the AIs, the law of the story "you can have everything you imagine, but you must have it forever" is fully applicable. (I do not remember what story it was) (Or if it was a story)
Winter 7

Paul SB said...

Larry,

No big deal, everyone has their snappy moments once in awhile. If they aren’t losing you friends or getting you fired, it’s nothing serious. I had noticed how little you were engaging with our bridge-lurkers, and that they were lurking more than attacking lately. That’s why I was so disappointed to see us back to same-old, same-old.

I suppose I probably have gotten boring, saying the same stuff for the past few years. Maybe I don’t have anything left to contribute. I’ve tried to stay up to date, but it isn’t always easy. But then, our ranch hand impersonator hasn’t either. He still seems to think that the old pulpit strategy of accusing your opponents of all things evil and repeating it over and again will persuade people who have something between their ears more useful than the bobble-head conformity reflex. We are only legitimating his distortions as if they were actual arguments, valid or otherwise - by engaging with them. When you know your opponent is not going to fight fair, you are unlikely to win fighting fair back. After the boy has cried wolf a thousand times, why should anybody even acknowledge him?

A couple weeks ago some moronic Trumper who goes by the Nixonian handle “The Silent Majority” somehow ended up in my Facepalm feed. Some extreme lefty former coworker got into a spat with fool ands complaining about how there is no talking sense into these people. Just for laughs I decided to add “63 million > 60 million” as a comment. The supposed “Silent Majority” answered me with mockery about how I think I am so smart. The tirade was to do with the “shithole countries” remark, and he had been ragging on people to look at facts. So I came back with the fact that “shithole” is not a fact, it is an opinion, and not one universally shared. A friend from Nigeria recognized that his country was very poor and has a lot of problems, but he he didn’t call it a shithole, he came here to learn medicine so he could go back and serve the people in his country. I also pointed out that he was neither silent nor the majority, but any stretch. Naturally he wasn’t happy with that, and came back saying that I contribute nothing (in all caps, of course) to the conversation. My witty reply? I attached that US Net Wealth graph that Dr. Brin had put up here some weeks back (thank you, Dr. Brin!) and told him that if he wants to parse facts, parse this. He never commented back.

I deeply doubt that I persuaded that guy. His twisted little mind will find some excuse to claim that the downturn in America’s fortunes that began during the Reagan Administration is somehow the Democrats’ fault. No doubt he will spew the same crap to his dying day, but he won’t be spewing it at me. And maybe, just maybe, someone who isn’t completely brainwashed will see that graph and put two and two together. Even that is pretty doubtful, though.

Robert said...

I have a feeling people like myself are a minority. Of course, I also am not a "normal" person by any stretch of the imagination... but I am willing to change my views when given proper data points that show my previous views are incorrect. I mean, I did so when Dr. Brin showed me evidence about the Clintons, despite my hatred of them (and I still do not like them). Yet I know plenty of people who will not change their views no matter how much evidence is accrued before them.

Indeed, I know people who will shut down their willingness to entertain new viewpoints because of those close to them - a young lady I admire greatly stopped believing in climatic changes and the like because her husband is a diehard Republican (though she also enforces the "no politics" policy with her husband and myself, knowing I will not back down (because they've not gotten evidence to me to prove their points) and thus no politics or topics leading to politics is better than risking a nasty fight).

The thing is to find ways to coach arguments in a way that works with those people. It is manipulative... but sometimes you need to manipulate people so to bring about certain ends. Is it wrong to manipulate people into abandoning anti-vaccination viewpoints and ensuring improved public health? There are those out there who would argue it is wrong. But when the end result of not arguing this case is that young children get ill of diseases that are easily protected against and end up dying... then you have to ask yourself: which is the greater wrong, manipulating people to bring about an end, or letting them have complete freedom including the freedom to destroy.

Rob H. who proves every day I'm not Libertarian enough and will be among the first put against the wall by the Randians

Zepp Jamieson said...

OK, I'm going to be a bit of a Juvenal Delinquent here and ask, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Here's the story, in brief. Sean Hannity, America's answer to Lord Haw Haw, had his twitter account mysteriously go offline for a few hours the other night. Someone else, with the account @seanhannity_ supposedly started getting tweets from Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder and honoured guest of the Peruvian embassy in London. The tweets promised information damaging to the ranking Democrats on the House Intel Committee designed to discredit them.
OK, I'm not convinced the story is true. If it was Assange, when tweets to @SeanHannity suddenly wouldn't go through, why would he send them to @SeanHannity_? Was it really Assange, or was it the equivalent of Assange_? So don't assume I blindly accept the story is true: I have strong doubts.

But here's my point: Assange's impartiality and indpendance has been open to question for some time. A lot of people, myself included, think he may be a stooge for Putin. For me, that involved something of an intellectual journey, because for years I thought Wikileaks was absolutely great. I was doing exactly what Brin believes is utterly necessary for a free and open society.
Except it seems very likely it got coopted, the NGE equivalent of regulatory capture, and became a Russian propaganda machine.

Which leads me to Juvanel's opening query: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

TheMadLibrarian said...

Aaakkk -- I made a promise not to engage with our local loco, but it appears he didn't even read The Martian, or more properly, parse it. From the book:
" Why did NASA send twelve whole potatoes, refrigerated but not frozen? And why send them along with us as in-pressure cargo rather than in a crate with the rest of the Hab supplies? Because Thanksgiving was going to happen while we were doing surface operations, and NASA’s shrinks thought it would be good for us to make a meal together. Not just to eat it, but to actually prepare it."

*facepalm at myself

TCB said...

These days, the only model of conservatism in the United States that strikes me as having a crumb of merit is the Old Order Amish and Mennonites. Sure, they're never gonna land a horse carriage on another planet, but they aren't likely to blow up this one either. They are not perfect. Nobody is. But they can look at what's happening around them and truthfully say, "That was not our fault."

TCB said...

Don't Be a Sucker, a US War Department educational film from from 1945. Sums up the Nazis of old pretty completely, and stunningly applicable to their modern ilk.

TCB said...

Also, I am seeing this quote a lot lately, and it sums up the all-too-numerous brethren of the ignorable locumranch.

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

― Jean Paul-Sartre

TCB said...

> Zepp Jamieson said...
OK, I'm going to be a bit of a Juvenal Delinquent here and ask, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Props for a solid Ancient Rome-themed pun. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be a little too saturnine and not jovial enough, when our mercurial society venerates the martial lunacy of the plutocrats.

Anonymous said...

¡Haaaaaaaa! ¡Me lleva Xipe Tótec!
Donald Trump knocked down Andrew McCabe, the FBI's second in command and an honest man. It is evident that he has threatened and pressured him through the republican mafia!
It's what I've told you before: The oligarchs manipulate the law and democracy with the power of money. Money is like the single ring, because it has the capacity to sink us all into the abyss of Mordor.
Link:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/29/politics/andrew-mccabe-fbi/index.html

Winter 7

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | If the American public is playing with a certain technology, just take it as a given the Russians will be too. It's that that we intentionally give it to them. It's that we don't really try to prevent the transfer. Remember that America is a nation of immigrants and that many of us are from Russia. These family ties complicate things for us. 8)

I've never played with a network large enough it could talk back to me, but smaller ones aren't hard to spin up for fun and games. There is nothing secret about the technology... except maybe the stuff they don't tell us about. 8)

Robert said...

My job has me currently training a machine intelligence to do part of my job. I am well aware I'm training my replacement but you know something? It'll take several years for it to be fully trained and I've been one of the people they rely on to do things they need done. So I suspect I'd be kept on. In theory. After all, they might very well have the machine trained well enough that it can compensate for new projects. ;)

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

We will all be centaurs at some point. Train them to do stuff and there will be more stuff they can't do yet... at least until they start deciding what is worth doing. By then I hope to retire on my investments in them. 8)

Paul SB said...

Hey Crazy Bibliophile,

We're all guilty of it. Sometimes the crap these maroons spew is so stupid it's hard not to, so don't palm that face too hard. : ]

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Where you wrote this:

"I doubt they’ve all read Hayek in depth, but there isn’t any point to whipping people with the fact that I have. I’m here to learn, not to demonstrate that I’m right. Ahem... mostly... at least I like to think so... don't ruin my illusion please. 8)"

you seem to be falling into the old and useless stereotype of the effete intellectual snob - which is to say, the idea that if a person shows intelligence it just means they are showing off and trying to put others down. There are certainly some people like this, about as many a self-made millionaires who came about their fortunes honestly, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. That is to say, there are enough of them to show that such people exist, and they are spoken about often, but they are not representative of the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Humans are supremely social animals, regardless of America's antisocial culture. It is quite natural for people to want to share knowledge. Sure, there are ass-wipes like Locum who insist on trying to use knowledge as a bludgeon to try to force people to bow down to him, and you can see how well he performs there, but most people get a good oxytocin rush just from sharing what they know with others. So by all means, when someone brings up Hayek, explain away. I haven't read him, and my list of books I haven't read but probably should stretches far beyond the realm of possibility for this mortal coil. That's probably not a unique condition, so don't feel shy about giving us the skinny about Hayek or anyone/anything else you think is valuable. The social arena will have its say about what is or is not valuable, but you don't know how that will pan out until you make the attempt.

Or as Dory might sing, "Just keep typing ..."

Paul SB said...

BTW Alfred, what's wrong with Vince Lombardi? I'm not a football fan at all. The idea of watching a bunch huge muscular guys in really tight pants jumping on each other never appealed to me, but I do respect a person who was good at what he did and accumulated some wisdom in the process.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I haven't read him, and my list of books I haven't read but probably should stretches far beyond the realm of possibility for this mortal coil.


That's probably the big difference between the youthful feeling of immortality and the middle-age recognition that life has an ending. Most teenagers probably don't literally believe as a statement of fact that they will live forever. What they do believe (or feel, or "know") is that there is plenty of time for doing whatever they have in mind.

Middle-age is probably defined by the point at which you understand that you won't have time for everything on your bucket list. Old age is when "finding out what happens on next week's episode" is problematic.

Zepp Jamieson said...

TCB wrote: "Props for a solid Ancient Rome-themed pun. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be a little too saturnine and not jovial enough, when our mercurial society venerates the martial lunacy of the plutocrats."

Quite a systematic display of worldly humour there...

locumranch said...


I can't believe that I have to define a literary conceit like Andy Weir's magical 'Thanksgiving (Raw, Refrigerated, yet Viable) Potatoes' that defy spoilage for our Mad_Librarian, so I will only encourage her to put a few raw potatoes in her frig for next Thanksgiving. Bon Appetite!!

And, our poor flaming socialist TCB who remains convinced that all right-wing conservatives are Anti-Semites (because the 'Nazi' national socialists, who he assumes to be right-wing, killed 6 million) despite the fact that the Soviet socialists (his good friends who opposed the Nazis) executed more than 60 million.

Maybe TCB & Zepp can tell us what they call an Anti-Semite who just hates Right-wing Jews?

Other people "who insist on trying to use knowledge as a bludgeon to try to force people to bow down to (them)" tend to gravitate toward public education where they become (by default) the smartest people in the room, even though they openly profess how they love themselves some little children too.

So entrenched in your little dwarfish bubbles are most of you that no one could ever convince you that 88% of the world does not think, believe or reason as you attempt to do.


Best

Paul SB said...

The false equivalency that our ranch hand faker used a while back does bring to mind an issue that we are probably all aware of but easily forget. It's very easy to confuse nomenclature. In his case he was probably doing it deliberately, though it can be difficult to tell which of his distortions are deliberate dishonesty and which are genuine delusions or sheer oink-headed stupidity. In that case the word /law/ has a very different, though analogous, meaning in science than it has in common parlance. I have never liked the fact that physicists and chemists insist on using that word, specifically because it garbles rather than improves communication with the non-scientific public. Scientists are trained to try to be as clear as possible in their communication, which is why they have to have so much jargon. The ironic effect of all that jargon is that no one understands them who doesn't have the same scientific education. It's a bit of a quandary.

Psychology may be the worst (pseudo) science where this is concerned. Clinical depression, for example, has been called the common cold of psychiatric disorders, but in psychiatric terms /depression/ does not mean what it means to ordinary people. To most people, depression is what happens when your dog dies and you get bummed out for a little while. Depression is something you get over. Clinical depression is not something you get over. About a third of people who have it are called "treatment resistant" meaning that even with medication and a variety of different therapies they still don't get over it. The word refers to the fact that the nervous system shows depressed activity, which is manifested in lethargy, low mood, suicidal ideation, but clinical depression also has phases characterized by dramatic rage. At its lowest level clinical depression makes people so lethargic they aren't feeling "down" because they aren't feeling much of anything (like advanced Parkinson's disease, which is a clue to the role of dopamine imbalance). Because of this nomenclature problem, if a doctor tells an employer or a family member that someone is suffering from depression, the typical response is "Just get over it, grow up, be a man" - your typical conservative victim blaming. The common response from the public not only fails to acknowledge that the patient physically can't "get over it," but actually makes the condition worse by subjecting them to both scorn and often dire consequences for things they have no control over.

I don't know if anyone here has a psychology background, but if someone does I would love to hear suggestions for a better name. There are a number of people here who have physics and chemistry backgrounds who might throw out suggestions for a better term than /law/. It would be better if any of those people have connections to scientific societies that could potentially influence nomenclature.

Twominds said...

@TheMadLibrarian

The fresh potatoes were clearly a plot device (is that the right phrase?) to give Andy access to food he could grow. I have no problem with it.

I had a harder time with the storm at the beginning: a Martian storm wouldn't have enough power behind it to create the emergency evacuation.

Anonymous said...

The following scientific study explains the strange appearance of Donald trump. Obviously, Donald Trump is seeking immortality by saturating himself with mole DNA.

This is the link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-01-naked-mole-rat-defy-gompertz.html?utm_source=menu&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=item-menu

Winter 7

Anonymous said...



Twominds
If I were the leader of an expedition of colonists on Mars, I would carry all kinds of seeds. I would plant them in different greenhouses. I would use a mixture of non-toxic Martian soil, mixed with compost made with organic waste.
But I wonder. What type of filters will be necessary to use in the roofs of the greenhouses?
It is possible to use any vitrified material with sand from Mars, to make the greenhouse panels, but it will be necessary to use internal filters for radiation, I suppose. Unless magnetic shields are used on the greenhouses. It would be cheaper to wear protective suits and put filters in the greenhouses. The rest of the base can be in underground tubes.
Seeds that can grow on Mars, are still used. I suppose that the Kilopower of NASA can permanently provide a suitable temperature to the greenhouse, but it remains to be determined which plants can survive in the lands of Mars. I hope that the remote control vehicles on Mars have already identified many areas with different non-toxic land types. It will probably be necessary for settlers to get different types of land and mix them in certain quantities to experiment and see which is better for terrestrial plants.

Winter 7

Twominds said...

@Winter 7

In the case of The Martian, the expedition wasn't a colonization, so no seeds.

IIRC, that H2O2 was so pervasive in Martian soils became clear only after Weir wrote his book. So Andy had a lot on his plate (figuratively), but not that.

Darrell E said...

Well, what say you now Tacitus? At least 4 people in oversight positions of the FBI's investigation into the Trump / Russia affair have been fired or otherwise gotten rid of by Trump and his lackies. The most recent being the last non Trump flunky senior FBI person overseeing the Mueller investigation.

And how about that cute little Republican secret committee that ginned up a completely bullshit memo to try and discredit FBI personal and which is going to be released to the public even though it is based on secret information which may put sources in danger? And the Republicans haven't allowed the justice department or the FBI to review the document, not even to vet it for security issues even though that is SOP? How do you rate this compared to the Hillary E-mail bullshit?

I'd be curious, in a morbid way, to read your rationalizations about how us non-Republicans are being irrational or hyperbolic, about how the Trump administration and Republican party behavior is just how politics is done and the other side does it too.

And, I may have missed LarryHart and Alfred Differ talking about this recently, but, Alfred? What do you think at this point? Are you willing to categorize the Trump administration as illegitimate yet? If your answer is no I can only suggest that your standards are way too lenient. I'd also suggest adding the Republican Party leadership (at a minimum) to the illegitimate list. They are breaking all the rules and if they are given much more rope they won't hang themselves but they are damn likely to hang a bunch of us.

Anonymous said...


Twominds:
If there are no non-toxic lands, it will be necessary to grind non-toxic rocks of Mars. I do not think Mars was always toxic. But I think that at a certain depth there must be non-toxic soil somewhere. You just have to look for those places, dig and extract. Remote-controlled vehicles should be doing this work in advance. I have always found it an error that NASA does not send machines with better capacity to dig.

Winter 7
Excuse me. I'm going to an issue.

Twominds said...

@Winter 7

Excuse me. I'm going to an issue.

Me too.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle, breaks down why the memo is 'fake news' pretty succinctly. It's one step removed from 'One Weird Trick -- the cable companies hate this!' popup ads. There's too much if-then-else that fails the sniff check.

A.F. Rey said...

Citing the Fermi Paradox, "filterists" claim that technology is empowering individuals & small groups to wreak havoc. Thus, other species out there either clamp down, forbidding technology and democracy… or else some lone tech-empowered maniac makes them extinct. Either way, no one goes out to the stars.

Hmmm...I wonder if this is a somewhat human-centric problem.

Although "survival of the fittest" is probably a universal factor of evolution, perhaps those species that are more cooperative than us (e.g. ants and other social insects) are the ones who have made star-spanning civilizations.

And they know better than to make contact with individualistic civilizations who will eventually destroy themselves anyway.

Tim H. said...

Thinking of the Oort cloud civilization described in Michael Swanwick's "Vacuum Flowers", once the tools for survival out there were worked out, a lot of the Galaxy would open up, and to people with only dimming memories of the inner Worlds, and little or no need of them.

Anonymous said...

AF Rey:

Most likely, the great silence in the universe is caused because it is very difficult for all intelligent life forms to find a way to neutralize the oligarchies. Probably the oligarchs preferred to destroy their worlds, rather than allow the freedom of their slaves.
When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong - faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it's too late.

Winter 7

Treebeard said...

Explaining some apparent cosmic fact according to one's pet political peeve doesn't seem very objective or scientific. Just say we don't know, and there's not enough evidence to make any claims, nor to justify restricting people who have a religious need to beam messages at the stars. I don't find this feudalism explanation plausible; it's a bit like blaming Trump for the "Great Silence". Maybe the universe is devoid of intelligent life, or maybe galactic colonization just isn't technically feasible after all. Are these obvious explanations so terrifying that we have to construct dubious explanations more in line with your Star Trek mythology?

Paul451 said...

This would have fit nicely with the overlapping language and AI discussion yesterday: Using AI to uncover ancient mysteries

AI researchers from Uni.Alberta claim to have (mostly) translated the legendary 15th century Voynich manuscript.

They fed a language AI on 400 languages, asked it to identify what language is being used in the Voynich manuscript. It said Hebrew. So then they tried to turn the words into Hebrew words, and found they'd been coded as an alphagram. (eehrW eht eelrtts in aceh dorw aer aadegnrr in aaabcehillpt deorr.)

They couldn't find a scholar in ancient Hebrew who would work with them, so they just fed the resulting sentences into Google-translate. The sentences they show as examples are still a bit weird, but are readable. I can't find the translated text, though, so it's hard to judge whether they've cracked it, or just created patterns out of random nonsense by feeding it through pattern making machines.

Paul451 said...

Re: "Bubbles"

Aside: I first saw that Voynich story on a fringe right-wing site I regularly read. So blah, Locumbubble.

--

AF Rey and Winter7,
Re: Solutions to Fermi's Paradox

The problem with those explanations are that they must apply to all possible alien civilisations. It only takes one exception (if interstellar colonisation is possible) or a small percentage (if only radio communication is possible) for it not to work.

Oligarchs aren't incompatible with grand projects, quite the contrary; hence a planetary emperor is the sort of thing that would enable the first interstellar colony. (And escaping from him is what seeds all the rest.) Likewise, religious proselytising would be sufficient to motivate obsessive attempts to contact other civilisations. (Some religions might forbid it, of course, but others would be driven to Deliver Pamphlets To The Unbelievers. You have to explain the latter, not just mention the possibility of the former.)

If there are so few civilisations that individual reasons dominate (a particular civilisation goes stagnant because...) then those explanations aren't really relevant to Fermi Paradox. The "solution" is instead the answer to the question of why they are so rare in the first place.

David Brin said...

The Martian side-slips many issues. The force of the sandstorm is the one everyone talks about. But they'd never have landed without an In Situ water production facility melting and refining ice from below. And that would hence solve his water problem. And he's need TONS of water to leach poisons out of Martian soil. But ah, the drama needed all this!

onward

onward