Luck vs Choice?

December 4th, 2017

So, one of the questions I tend to ask myself, as I talk to people who can’t troubleshoot simple machinery, is to what extent did I get lucky and to what extent have my choices led me to where I am?

It’s a worthwhile question. Did a simple throw of the genetic dice, or the path that I was led down, lead to me being capable of understanding almost any human-made system? Or is it my repeated choices to read, to study, to attempt to fix things even when I don’t actually know how, to ask questions of other people, to – not to put too fine a point on it – continuously learn and evolve over the course of my life?

Sometimes I get incredibly frustrated when talking to people who are not as capable as I am and who repeatedly insist that they can’t do something. Pretty much everything built by humans can be understood by humans and fixed by humans. And I wonder, is this a choice they’re making? Do people choose to be less capable than they are biologically able to be? Sometimes it feels extremely choice-driven – and yet, I am not at all clear whether it is or not. Re: previous discussions on free will, I think that not everyone has as large a list of options in their ‘what can I choose to do right this second’ list as I do, and I think some of that is that the more you learn, the larger your free will window becomes. So people who haven’t been imbued with a can-do attitude and experienced validation of that attitude literally can’t choose to believe that they can i.e. troubleshoot their car.

I have also seen people create large numbers of imaginary obstacles for themselves before they ever even attempt the job at hand. Now, I should mention that I think memetic disempowerment is a systematic problem with humanity – recently someone reminded me of the quote “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” which I think is a *excellent* example of memetic disempowerment and one of the many reasons that Christianity deserves relegated to the dustbin of history. Yes, sure, believe you’re going to fail before try! That’ll help! I also think that there is a fair amount of memetic disempowerment that goes on in our educational system – repeatedly grading people is not likely to help them feel empowered unless they happened to start out at the top of the ladder – and in our consumer-driven world, since after all if you feel empowered enough you might not buy $WHATEVER.

I am sure I also create imaginary obstacles for myself, and I’m sure that I have also frustrated many people in the past in ways similar to how I am sometimes frustrated by others now. I do wonder, though, how much of this is a choice and how much of it is directed by the wiring and memetic programming?

Another question is, what do we owe those who can’t? The political powers that be would, it would seem, like to throw anyone who isn’t extremely capable in all areas under the bus – and I assume that sooner or later this will include me, since if we keep raising the hurdle, sooner or later I will not be able to jump it. It’s clear that if we wanted to feed and house everyone we could, but also that we feel warm and fuzzy about patting ourselves on the back as we throw those who are less capable under the bus. Personally, I think we should try and feed and clothe and house everyone – in fact, give everyone everything they want, to the extent of our capability – although there are those who argue that we wouldn’t enjoy things if we didn’t have to struggle for them.

I don’t know. Rereading this post, I feel kind of like it paints me as a awful person, and that isn’t really my intention at all.

From a facebook discussion : free will

November 23rd, 2017

Well, the problem I have with saying I have free will is multifold. A: I am not sure I exist. “I” as a single entity might well be a illusion since I appear to be a cooperating collection of subnets, and experiments like cutting the corpus callosum argue strongly that I am not a single ego, that this is a illusion. B: I am not sure, if I do exist, that I’m not deterministic. Experimenting with artificial neural networks, I note that they tend strongly towards the deterministic unless measures are taken to keep them from being deterministic. C: I am not sure, if I do exist and am not deterministic, that it is free agency and not a RNG or random noise that is guiding my actions. And yet, the idea that I am a person wandering around taking actions of my own free will is very compelling. Especially when I start discussing the matter which seems very meta

Trippy Hippie Meditation Music

November 15th, 2017

More movie/atmospheric stuff

Thought

SimSheer

November 14th, 2017

So, one of the things I’ve been learning about is ANNs. I’ve tried playing with several different frameworks and several different topologies, and one of the ones I’ve been playing with is Darknet.

I’ve been trying to train a Darknet RNN on a corpus generated from all the text in my blog. So far the results have been less than stellar – I think I need a bigger neural network than I’ve been using, and I think in order to do that I need a bigger GPU because I’m running out of patience. I was astonished to discover >1 teraflop GPUs are now in my price range, so I’ve ordered one.

I’m hoping soon to have simSheer available as a php endpoint that people can play with. All of this is building up to using Darknet for some other purposes, such as image recognition.

It’s interesting to think that even if simSheer manages to sound like me, it will be doing so with no sense of aboutness at all – well, I *think* it will be doing so with no sense of aboutness. It has no senses, and no other data to tie my writings in with, so I don’t think that any of the neurons in it can possibly be tagged with any real world meaning. Or can they? This is probably a subject that some famous philosopher has held forth on and I should probably go try and find their works and read them, but in the meantime it’s certainly fun to think about.

I really wonder to what extent the aboutness problem (borrowed from Stephenson’s Anathem) applies to NNNs. Would the cluster I have for the concept of love even remotely resemble the clusters other people have? What would the differences say about me and them?

If this were a co-op game..

September 5th, 2017

So, I was having a conversation with a friend about one of my potential many mental models for God – the one in which God is a few neurons in each mind, spread out over all of us like a application running on a Beowulf cluster. In this particular model for God, it is possible that how we decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is majority vote. I hope this isn’t actually what’s going on, but you get some interesting results if it is.

Everyone goes to hell. Well, more likely, we throw religion out completely as criteria once we realize that everyone goes to hell.

Looking at a list of religions by population, you will see that *no one* has a majority vote. The top dog only has 31%. Now I can’t wrap my head around, at all, how people could be so dense as to think God is filtering based on religion and can’t manage to get the message straight. I’m not really all that clear on why anyone thinks God would need help multicasting a message while they believe God is all-powerful, but it strikes me that if we were playing a co-op game we’d be losing.

I do notice increasingly that men of faith are willing to admit that men of other faith are probably not evil nor the enemy. This is progress, but I think there’s a lot more to be made here. I can’t figure out how people even manage to hold the idea in their heads that A: our dispensation in the afterlife is limited to two destinations, given how big the universe obviously is B: there’s a omniscient deity who nonetheless can’t even manage to get a message to 1/3rd of the humans out there

Of course, this brings up the other (scary) possibility that not agreeing with the group you were born in is cause to be tormented for all eternity. But I would like to think that *no one* is going to be tormented for all eternity, because that phrase conjures up the idea of a being of pure, true evil. And yet, I do not get the feeling that the vast majority of Earth agrees with me that this is outside the realm of beleivability. This brings the idea of Peirson’s Puppiteers that the majority is always sane sharply into doubt.

I continue to want someone to author a new religion that doesn’t suck. What Scientology should have been but clearly wasn’t. If the Scientologists were honest, they would have the best neuroscience and mind-state gear in the world, instead of a 50-year-old dubious technology based on a wheatsone bridge and called a “e-meter”.

I do think the idea of why we can’t play Earth as a co-op game deserves further study

Cover: Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

September 4th, 2017

Little blues – thank you Otis Redding..

Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.

Neural networks and what you can’t let go of

August 9th, 2017

I had a interesting thought the other day about natural neural networks and people who hold beliefs that are not reality-verifiable or are even likely to be false. This thought started in looking at climate change deniers and people who believe religions that don’t appear to match the reality I’m experiencing, but it’s gone a bit further than that.

This is more of my hand-wavy guesswork.

It has occurred to me that one of the major problems a NNN faces is that subnets will tend to build major nexus points. These nexus points would appear to us to be core beliefs – or even just important beliefs. Once one of these beliefs is built, and a whole lot of connections to a whole lot of other subnets route through it, we would naturally be extremely resistant to removing it because we literally would be less able to function without it. In the case of religious (or religiously political) people – and I probably fit into this somewhat – letting go of their religion would make it far more difficult for their mind to work for a while – it would be somewhat similar to having a stroke. Major confluences of subnets which represented key ideas would no longer be valid – and it would likely be difficult to remove all of the traces of subnets like these, especially since there is a lot of redundancy in the way NNNs tend to wire. We may be extremely resistant to throw out cherished ideas – even when they’re proven wrong – because throwing them out makes it difficult for us to function at all, because all sorts of traffic is routed through them. They end up forming the underpinning for our personalities and decision trees.

I think if this is true, this is something we all need to understand and figure out the implications of. Christians brag of their faith being unshakable – but it might well be if Jesus showed up in person and told them they were wrong they would not be able to accept or integrate it because their faith is often loaded virally on them when they’re very young and ends up forming the physical underpinning for large portions of their mental structure.

Chester

July 22nd, 2017

So, I never met Chester. We had a lot of friends in common, for reasons that would take some explaining and probably aren’t worth going into here, and I am curious what he would have made of me if he had met me. But mostly, I feel a certain kinship to him, since we both have wrestled with some of the same demons. And thusly, I have written a song…

Chester

Godspeed and good luck, wherever you’re off to next.

Also available, Bunne’s remix: Chester, remixed by Bunne.

Politics, the two-party system, and donation farming

July 7th, 2017

So, one of the problems I see with the two party system is that it encourages dividing up the entire political landscape – a complex, multidimensional array including questions on the sliding scale of authoritarianism, capitalist vs. communist vs. socialist, nanny-state vs. libertarianism, rule of law vs. anarchy, change/growth vs. remaining the same, and a number of other sliders – on all of which probably the answer is somewhere in the middle – into single binary decisions.

Since some of these binary decisions end up being very hot-button emotional issues, it then allows for a undesirable no-or-little-progress tug of war in which both sides use the hot button issues to repeatedly ask for money, using emotional attacks like guilting that humans are not very good at resisting. In the meantime, because the opposing group feels very strongly in the opposing direction, little or no progress is made, so these hot button issues can be milked for donations for years at a time. One of my biggest criticisms of the Democrats is at this point, they aren’t even *trying* to have their candidates suggest new ideas. In the recent runoff election in Georgia, I was averaging four emails a day by the end begging me for more money – and I don’t live in Georgia – and not a single one discussed the ideas of the candidate, other than “He will stop Trump”. One of our biggest complaints about the Republicans in the Obama era was they seemed to have no ideas of their own, all they could do is try to throw monkey wrenches in the works – and now it seems that’s what the Democrats have become.

Now, the cynical bit of me thinks this is all on purpose, and it’s all because politics has become a business that is, just like so many others, all about money. And the current situation is *very* friendly to donation-farming. Send out those emails because it’s important to spend more than the other side – which is of course completely ignoring the fact that our election system is *not supposed to be for sale*. I mean, yes, more money means more ads to get ideas out to voters, but ultimately, isn’t the hope here that the best ideas will win, not the ideas with the most dollars behind them? And, if in fact the ideas with the most dollars behind them are always winning, shouldn’t we completely remove money from the election system altogether and perhaps even ban political ads because at that point it is clear that we are so externally programmable that we probably aren’t even voting what we think, but rather whatever’s been programmed into us most recently? On the other paw, if as I suspect political ads generally don’t sway that many voters, then isn’t this whole donation system basically just a racket to get money out of our pockets and into the pockets of the politician types who have in general already proven that they are not good with money? (I mean, look at our defense budget, and the defense budgets of the next five biggest competitors. Clearly we’re not good about deciding where to spend our resources if we’re busy making upgrades to our atomic bombs while children are starving to death and bridges are collapsing)

Part of what is interesting is if one looks at the emails from both sides, one sees the exact same emotional attacks used. They could almost be mad-libs – only the keywords change, the guilt and button pushing remain the same. And, we’re now in a situation where we’re *close to the noise margin* 50% left and right. This either means the ad targeters and marketing gurus are extremely good at their job and we’re all in a giant game of Risk between them, or it means that the election results we see are totally phony anyway (which is a bit tinfoil hat but only a bit – it’d be difficult to even honestly know) – or perhaps it means that humans genuinely are a even split between left and right. In any case, I suspect compressing every decision into a binary choice and two camps has led to a “representative” government that does a *miserable* job actually representing the views and values of the people. What’s really creepy is seeing how the tail has turned around and is now wagging the dog – brand loyalty is such that no matter what awful thing the people “on your side” – right or left do – many many many people on Facebook are up there defending it. It feels very “my country wrong or right” and I loathe it. I do think there’s a sizable chunk of $PRESIDENT supporters who would support $PRESIDENT if said $PRESIDENT started sending people to the gas chambers. It feels a lot like “Well, they’re a member of $POLITICAL_PARTY and I’m a member of $POLITICAL_PARTY so whatever they decide to do must be the good $POLITICAL_PARTY thing to do, no matter how awful, stupid, ill-advised, or historically poorly fated”.

Now, since I often go on about tracking the actual resources in play whenever we’re figuring out how to do resource allocation, one point I’d like to make here is you end up with enormous amounts of resources – at least man-hours (spent creating the ad content and watching the ad content both) totally burned up for no gain whenever you have a hot-button issue where people are 50-50 split. How many hundreds of thousands of man-hours have been wasted on abortion? How much church money which could have been spent at places like water.org have instead been wasted trying to save those poor non-babies (even though as I point out in abortion, summarized being anti-abortion because you think it’s murder is the same as having a profound lack of faith in God). In real progress, in human happiness, the current system costs us *a lot*. Sometimes we would be far wiser to table a issue awaiting future data rather than continue a 50-50 fight that’s unresolvable. And I think we would do just that, except that these issues are huge moneymakers for Big Politic – which is probably far worse than Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Big Ag combined.

I want to see a end to donation farming.

What I’d do if I could

June 18th, 2017

WARNING: This gets into some serious blue-sky territory

So, recently, I mentioned that I wouldn’t give power to certain conservatives who are in favor of criminalization of marijuana – and I think you all know I don’t smoke it but I’m a ally for those who do – and SS asked if I favored a America of exclusion.

Well, yes and no. I gave him a very short answer, which is that I favor a world where no one has any power over anyone else, but I thought I’d give the longer answer which is how I’d implement it if I were king.

I would load a hypervisor in everyone’s head, and network everyone together. Their bodies would be decoupled from their conscious experience. All physical possessions would be neural software – they would be able to have the same experience they’re having now, or wildly different experiences – a lot of experiences denied to all but a few would become open to everyone, such as the experience of being a rock star (simulated crowd unless you get *really* good at it and real people want to come see you, but I’d be into playing a simulated crowd, I’m not picky..)

A lot of experiences, like being in massive amounts of pain as your body fails, would go away. You’d have a interface for blocking people or locating new people you’d like to be in your life, for defining what you’d like your homes to look like and switching between them, for adding possessions – look at the video game The Sims, and you get a good idea of a lot of the interface you’d need. And you could fly with the blue angels, or be a rock star, or go mountain climbing, or drive in NASCAR, or whatever.

Now, at this point, “you” are a virtualized entity running under a hypervisor. Guess what this means – we can move you from body to body! You’d very likely be immortal as long as our society holds together. I’m assuming if Heaven (or $RELIGIOUS_UTOPIA) exists, this is part of it. I sometimes think we’re already in it and we’ve lost the instruction manual.

Anyway, you could be a despot or a fascist leader if you want – but, similar to being a rock star, you probably only get to have subjects if you’re good at it. Otherwise, it’s simSubjects for you. But I’d probably include code to allow you to forget that fact if you wanted to, so you could *think* you were ruling the free world. I’d also include ‘conditional virginity’ – (note that a lot of these are NOT my ideas, but the ideas of someone I talk to – $person’s future self, so to speak) so you could forget a experience you had temporarily so you could have it for the first time again.

Now, there are some serious challenges. We’d have to really master security in information systems, or we’d end up with people with all kinds of nasty virii loaded. (Well, we kind of have that situation now, don’t we ;-)). However, the advantages are pretty staggering. Among other things, a separate much smaller collection of neural code running under the hypervisor could do whatever body-care things needed to happen including farming, feeding, etc. In the meantime, you could eat a ten course meal if you wanted to and never gain a pound.

In addition, you could either choose to learn things ‘the hard way’ for the joy of the journey, or ‘matrix-style’ – many times I think you’d want to learn them the hard way when they were related to creating art, because that is the only way it would be “yours” and not just the group skill in playing the guitar or whatever. And some things like learning athletic skills the journey is part of the fun and not to be missed.

Anyway, learning how to write code for natural neural networks and get it to run correctly is a big ask. But that’s where I’d go with my utopia, Steve.