Archive for October, 2016

Tasty Tory Goodness

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Tory9. This is gonna be a great album.

Lack of faith

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Now, as a result of some of my activity on facebook, I have been threatened, yet again, by Christians. (Well, threatened-by-proxy, I’ve been assured that they have certain knowledge that God is going to torture me for all eternity for the things I think, believe, and say.)

This strikes me as having a profound lack of faith. They think A: that I’m going to believe that they know anything about love, when they’re threatening me with eternal torment, not for my actions mind you but for my thoughts and beliefs? B: that God is so powerless that he needs people like them to do his dirty work of threatening individuals?

I hate this behavior. I haven’t really come up with a effective response to it – although hopefully at some point I’ll write a article in here that I think is so good that I can just post that article instead of racking my brain for what you say to someone who thinks it’s a good idea to add more pain and fear to a system that already has too much by threatening you about things that are, as far as I can tell, fundamentally unknown and possibly unknowable.

And the thing is, theoretically, I’ve already accepted Jesus’s salvation, back when I was a child. So it shouldn’t matter that I now think the whole thing is akin to a computer virus, except designed to run on human minds instead of state machines. (It’s a collection of information that says ‘make a copy of me or you’ll suffer eternal punishment when you die’. And people tend to infect their children with it when said children are young enough to not think critically about the validity or lack thereof of the information contained in it. Plus, we tend to generally accept anyone who claims authority – see the Milgram effect for more on this)

I don’t doubt that religion has had some good effects, and I don’t doubt that it would be useful to have *something* that virally loads on us. I just doubt a lot that *this* should be the something. Surely we at this point have evolved memetically and in our knowledge about the universe to the point where we can write something better than the Abrahamic religions?

I find it hard to believe that I’m a bad person because I tend to value reality-testable truths over those which fail basic reality testing. I find it *really* hard to accept that the majority of people in the world think that I should be tormented for all eternity. (And, what’s terrifying here is, if we are in fact God as I have hypothesized, and they get to vote, I suppose that’s what they’ll do. I just hope some of them will be at least somewhat aware of the fundamental immorality of their action when they do vote to torture me indefinitely – as I said, not even for my actions, but for thoughts and beliefs which match the reality I’m experiencing.

Now, I have no doubt at all that some of my mental illness and some of my experiences surrounding religion are tied up in each other. I had a nightmare last night in which I was being hugged by $PERSON and it morphed to me being gripped by something hard and metallic on all sides and a voice was telling me “I am SATAN!”. One of those nightmares that is scary enough to wake you up – I don’t know that it was actually valid or sane for me to be as afraid as I was, but it took me several minutes to accept, with some relief, that I was awake and that what I had been experiencing was a dream, not something real.

Now, a conventional Christian would take this as proof that the devil is real. I take it another way. I think that when the devil was described to me as a child I patterned some of my neurons while imagining what such a being would be like and that collection of patterned neural associations / subnets is still in my mind. Your own religion perpetuates the devil, Christians, by having children imagine him you make him real. Is it any wonder that I hate the religion? It seems like all of my periods of insanity have at least some religions subtext and content, and one of the strongest reminders of how little my well being mattered to my parents was them applying pressure to me to go through with confirmation when I already had serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of the religion they were pushing down my throat.

I don’t disagree that neural networks need some form of patterning to be moral – the default behavior of a NNN is to be completely amoral, and if no set of associations that includes morality is loaded, you end up with Hitler. I just think that we could manage to load associations that resulted in moral behavior without loading associations that ended in nightmares, not to mention insanity. I do wonder if part of the problem with religion is that it’s incompatible with my personal choices re: neural topology, which obviously from looking at my experiences compared with other people’s is not the same as everyone else’s.

So, yes, Bill And Ted, please come teach us how to be excellent to each other. And Christians, please stop threatening me with your God that can’t be bothered to show up and explain himself after having left me with a book that contains unresolvable contradictions and things which are obviously false unless *e has been in a regular practice of altering reality, but has mysteriously stopped about the time our ability to take photographs came along. I have enough trouble with religion already without you adding fuel to the fire.


Sunday, October 30th, 2016

So, I got into a argument on facebook with some anti-deists about whether it takes more faith to believe in intelligent design or evolution. The point I was trying to make is that initially, from the perspective of a child or someone from a pre-scientific era, it takes more faith to believe in evolution. Believing that you can get things like a high resolution eye out of randomly flipping bits, then seeing which collection of bits lasts longer does take some faith. You have to have enough faith to continue learning about the process beyond what they will teach you in school. Evolution does stand up as a valid theory after deeper research – but it takes a leap of faith to believe that a process so random and blind could lead to something as advanced as we are.

What takes even more faith is believing that the universe isn’t the product of intelligent design. The number of things that you can do inside it make it seem much more like a sandbox game than anything else. Electricity. Radioactivity. Semiconductors. Photons. At some point it starts to look like it was designed to make it possible to build cool things here.

On the other paw.. Conway’s Game Of Life demonstrates that you can get extremely complex behavior out of extremely simple systems. And we have no assurance that the experience our senses are delivering to us is *directly* from the metal of the universe, so it’s possible that all those nifty things are in fact coming from just a few very simple rules. If you had a really big Game Of Life system that was turing-complete, all the rest of the neat behaviors could be coming from code. Potentially code we created.

Anyway, I wanted to talk for a minute about Christianity, and for once I won’t be ripping it to shreds. I wanted to comment about a somewhat odd subject – Noah’s Ark and Young Earth Creationism

Now, it’s obvious on the face of it that the literal story of the ark is completely impossible under the current rules. That does not in fact mean it didn’t happen.

Why? Well, it’s easy to extrapolate from our current technology and say that in 50 years or so we could create a experience of a universe like this one. It’s *not* a far leap to say that someone already has, and that we’re inside some sort of simulation. Said simulation would not even have to be running on a conventional digital computer – it could be running on the neural network of a life form much more advanced than we are. Hypothesize a world where it’s practical for a whale to have a 10^20 neuron brain, and then have us be the imagination of said whale, and there ya go. Or hypothesize a species that has telepathy, and minds the size of ours, but uses their spare capacity to run alternate personalities behind a hypervisor wall. Again, there you go. There’s a ton of different ways that this story can have gone down that leaves us inside a virtualized environment.

At that point, there is absolutely *nothing* to prevent the people *outside* the hypervisor from messing with the reality *inside* it. So, Noah’s Ark is impossible on the face of it, for a whole host of reasons – goes into a lot of detail about all the various flaws, of which there are *many*, in the idea of Noah’s voyage being a real historical event, so I won’t reproduce their excellent work or detract from it by attempting to do a less-well-researched version. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – obviously for the flood to have happened at all, we either would have had to have massively different topology, or a lot more water, so it’s clearly something that required some reality bending. Once you start accepting that a operator from outside the virtualized environment was messing with reality, the sky is the limit as to how much messing about could have occurred.

Do I think it actually happened? No. And my biggest reason for this is there isn’t a clear candidate for a deity communicating with us. Aside from voices in our minds, which might be mental illness, might just be us talking to ourselves, and might be any number of other things, there’s no God speaking. Nor is there one religion – despite God having to have the ability to edit reality in order to make things like the flood occur, we’ve got a plethera of religions, all insisting they are the One True Religion. So I don’t believe, because if there is a God, said being seems to be walking me down the path of not believing. But I understand the choice *to* believe, because I recognize that it’s not impossible that those events occurred.

Continued, sort of, in the next article

Ashamed of being a white male

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

So, recently I was looking at this:

I commented that it made me ashamed to be a person of the male persuasion, but it got me to thinking about all the things white men are responsible for that I have felt ashamed of over the years.

#1) It’s not a *white* man thing, but the idea put forth in the Bible that women should be quiet, should not lead, and whatnot. It’s pretty clear to me that souls have no gender – your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing – and it’s sad to think of how many brilliant ideas were lost or ignored and not acted on because they came from someone who happened to be wearing a female body at the time.

#2) The Trail Of Tears, Wounded Knee, and all the other times we invaders gave the local inhabitants of North America the shaft just because we had gunpowder and they didn’t. I think if we had instead befriended them, integrated their culture into ours, and learned from them, we’d be much further along. Yes, we knew things they didn’t.. but they also knew things we didn’t, and a lot of those things got lost.

#3) The cold war – fighting a proxy war over resource allocation systems and religion, getting many people hurt or killed in the process. McCarthyism is also pretty shameful.

#4) In general, the idea of imperialism.

#5) Slavery, and then after that was over segregation. Just as your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing, so is the color of your skin. There’s no reason to think that those with dark skin were ever “less than” or that it was ever okay to enslave them or restrict their freedoms and rights. Also, just as with the native americans, probably the africans knew things we didn’t (I gesture you to the concept of ubuntu as something we could really use to learn) and we discarded those by assuming that we were better and smarter than them and they had nothing to give but slave labor

And, a counterartument

Friday, October 21st, 2016

So, since sometimes I like to debate myself, I thought I’d post a counterargument to This is something that literally just happened. I’ve been trying to teach Remus to not bark like crazy, and so I have a bag of treats open and I’m praising him and giving him a treat every time he manages to look out the window quietly or otherwise do some behavior I’d like to positively reinforce.

While I was busy doing some paying work, he just stuck his nose in the bag of treats in order to try and steal some. I of course pulled him away and explained that he shouldn’t do that, but then I got to thinking about our little discussion here. To a certain extent, money paid out by the group is the ‘treat’ to encourage certain behaviors that the group considers to be pro-survival. Giving money for not displaying those behaviors reduces the group’s ability to influence individual members in directions that are presumed to be beneficial as far as the group can tell.

My response to this argument is that we should probably do this – for luxury items. It’s almost certainly desirable to have carrots to help encourage people to grow, especially since their growth may enable us all to be wealthier through creating more carrots for all. However, because of the reasons I discussed in my previous post, I do not think it is a good idea to do this for basic necessities like food and shelter. I also do not think it is a good idea to do this for things that benefit all of us, like education and access to communication networks. (More on that later, I expect).

resource allocation as a group

Friday, October 21st, 2016

TL;DR=Humans work as a group – entitlement programs are a reflection of that reality and most are in the best interests of all of us

So, on facebook, someone had stated “the only reason anyone would vote democrat is the expectation of a welfare check”. I had pointed out that there are many reasons, and it’s more complicated than that, and one of their responses was “if you want to help other people be my guest but keep your stealing fingers out of our wallets”. I indicated a interest in further discourse on the subject if they were open to it, and said I’d write a blog article with my opening thoughts on the matter.

(This makes it sound worse than it is – I truly believe, at least at this point, that this person is open to trading ideas on the subject. I am of the opinion that we’ll all get further if we at least consider the ideas of people who are politically opposed to us before rejecting them. I am sure he has valid reasons for believing what he does.)

So, first of all, I will be the first to admit that “entitlement programs” are a band-aid. The right solution would be to have a better way of doing resource allocation to begin with. But, here’s my big picture overview.

We as a species are in the business of creating resources and resource pools as a group. A single individual could almost certainly not build a working power generator, for example. (You think you can? I want to see you try. No buying premade *anything* – every raw material must come out of the ground. And if you’re even doing research to discover *how* to find copper, make it into wire, etc, you’re using the work of the group to help you. If you are using knowledge of what copper looks like, or that it conducts electricity, or that you can dope silicon with phosphorus and boron and get a semiconductor that will generate electricity when light shines on it, you’re likely using knowledge you aquired from the group)

Even acquiring and cooking food would be challenging without contributions from the group. (How’d you learn to make that bow and arrow? How did you know how to create fire, or that fire would make the food more palatable and also let you get more calories from it?). We work as a team, and communicate concepts through symbolic language. It’s part of why our species is so able to thrive in what is a somewhat difficult environment.

So, hopefully by seeing that you can accept that we work as a group. My guess is your objection to entitlement programs is that they appear to compensate nonproductive members. I have a number of responses to that.

First of all, it’s difficult to know how productive a member really is. As I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog, money has a number of flaws as a vehicle for abstracting value, so if you’re just measuring by the money that they make, you’re likely missing a lot of their contributions. We never know where lightning, in terms of a brilliant idea, will strike – and sometimes, you do literally need the idiot asking stupid questions to help the genius have the next great idea. Not all contributions to a society are obvious.

Also, because our society has a number of, hem, weaknesses, some individuals get misprogrammed in ways that make it very difficult for them to succeed via conventional measurements, through no fault of their own. However, they may still make important contributions to the system as a whole – they are somebody’s friend, somebody’s family. Very few of us are completely disconnected from the social mesh that is all of us.

Second of all, you really don’t want to lose a member (or throw them under the bus) that’s just going through a rough patch. Imagine if you will someone like Tesla, who’s very bad at making personal relationships and business decisions, but very good at creating mind-bending technologies like the induction motor. Now, imagine tesla gets sick – and dies – because of a shortage of funding and a health care system that doesn’t want to help him. Humanity as a whole has now lost the value he contributes, because we were more concerned with the valueless money in our wallet than we were in sharing out resources in order to benefit the species as a whole. Because we all basically have the same 10^11 neurons, the only way to be really mindbendingly good at one thing – like Tesla was at invention – is to be weaker in something else. The human history is full of stories of geniuses that had trouble tying their shoes. Ultimately, the money those people “stole out of your wallet” made us all richer, including you, in real value, in knowledge.

I think it’s important to look at the really big picture when considering resource allocation. First of all, it’s important to recognize that fiat money has no real value other than the value we imagine it to have. (Apologies to those of you who have been reading this blog the whole time and have to listen to me reiterate things you’ve already read). Real value is things like food and shelter and clothing – nobody really wants money itself (unless they’re using it to keep score), they want the things it can buy. It may help you accept the loss of some of that worthless paper in your wallet if you recognize that it really is worthless.. it’s just a pointer to value, it’s not the value itself.

As far as value itself, we have as much as we have. The entitlement program dollars for things like welfare are mostly going to things like food and shelter, which we in fact *have a surplus of!*. In the case of food, it’s *extra* stupid to not give it away, because *it has a short shelf-life*. If we were short on food, I could see making a case for not giving it to the “less productive” members of the tribe, but we’re *not*. Food rots. We might as well give it to everyone, because we’ve got more than enough, and more food than you can eat potentially has a *negative* value because of the need to deal with getting rid of it.

Now, you made the point that there are other types of welfare that go to people who will not spend it on things we have a surplus of like food and shelter, and I think you may have a case there, but overall, the important thing to remember is that in fact, dollars don’t matter. What matters is concrete and steel, because what we can ‘afford’ is entirely driven by concrete and steel. It’s also important to remember that not all contributions are easy to measure. One analogy to consider is if you removed all the neurons from your mind which don’t fire regularly (by denying them blood sugar since they were “dead weight”), the results would be *very bad*. Another point to consider is that the “nonproductive” members do in fact contribute by being the friends of the “productive” members and adding to their quality of life.

Another problem is you never really know what skills, worthless now, will be very valuable in the future, and some skills take a lot of work to hone, which appears “nonproductive” insofar as money is concerned. For example, when the first pioneers began playing with computers, it was not at all obvious how much more value we would be able to generate for humanity with these machines. Many of them went broke trying to build computers before the transistor was invented – but they generated *huge* value in terms of figuring out what sorts of things you needed to think about and do in order to build a programmable computer. It’s potentially possible that my “nonproductive” studying of writing music may turn out to have huge value someday – maybe first contact will happen and my music, not commercially viable for Earthlings, will be *very* in desire as a trading material by ET. You really never know. But – assuming we *do* have enough food, water, and shelter – you want people to explore the unknown fringes and the potentially dry holes, because some of them will turn out ultimately to have water. If there is no social ‘safety net’ there is a lot of incentive *not* to take risks – and the risks are where the rewards are. And in any case, you really don’t want the people who have skills that are not valuable now but will be valuable in the future to starve to death, losing us access to those skills.

As a digression, the transistor itself is a good argument for my case. It was invented by a *government monopoly*, by some engineers who were also amatuar scientists playing around trying to build a better signal amplifier. Without the transistor, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, and it’s unlikely the “free market” ever would have found it. The Internet is another great case of this.. ARPA designed a flexible network protocol to allow computers to talk to each other. Without the “entitlement” money going to the ARPA engineers, we wouldn’t have a Internet at all. (For better or for worse) – and when the Internet went up against the networks and protocols designed by the “free market” it *stomped all over them*. It was, quite simply, better and more flexible.

It’s also worth noting that that money “being stolen out of your wallet” in fact came from the group. You didn’t print it yourself, and you didn’t create the value yourself that it can be used to buy. (otherwise, you wouldn’t need to buy it, because you already would have it). Instead, the group gave it to you in exchange for the value you created for the group. It’s a pointer to the idea of group resources, and as such, it is reasonable for the group to decide what to do with it. I agree that the current system of give it to you, take it back, give it to you again or give it to someone else is very clumsy and at odds with the way humans emotionally react to things. Hopefully we’ll implement something better – although it is worth noting that what we’re currently doing has gotten us a long long way.

I apologize if I have misidentified your argument against things like welfare – if I have, please speak up so I can respond to what your real issue with it is.

Now that you’ve read this, perhaps you might be interested in some cautionary notes on Resource Allocation System Implementation

On the impossibility of omniscience

Friday, October 21st, 2016

One of the ideas that I find interesting is that it is basically impossible for anyone or anything to *know*, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are omniscient.

Now, I understand that in the context of the Bible, there was no way that God was going to be able to explain this to people with the level of understanding that the authors of the bible had. (If indeed the bible involves any divine inspiration at all, a subject I leave up to another discussion at another time)

However, from where we sit today, it’s easy to give a mental model for knowing why you can’t know – the virtual machine inside a hypervisor.

As a omniscient being, you have no way of knowing if you’re hypervised. It is entirely possible that it *appears* to you that you are all knowing but your knowledge is limited in scope by a hypervisor. If you’re anything close to really being all-knowing, you know this. The VM running under a hypervisor certainly *thinks* it’s in control of the hardware, and entirely aware of the state of same, but it’s clearly not *actually* in control of the hardware or aware of it’s state.

I see no reason to think that individuals, or even deities, can’t be hypervised – in fact I think it’s likely that we *are* hypervised. I think elsewhere I argued why both intelligent design and evolution would quickly land on hypervision as a way to get more done with less resources very quickly.

I get this is probably too subtle a argument for most people who haven’t studied computer science to grasp, and I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words that don’t require a understanding of virtualization. But I do think it’s one of those things that once you see it, you see it. You can never *know* you’re omniscient. It’s not possible.

Thank you

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

So, I feel like in all the talking about the things my family did wrong, I never really do enough to talk about the things they did right. There’s no way I could think of all of them right now, but a recent facebook post did make me think of a few. So here is my public thanks to my parents for outfitting me with basic survival and problem solving skills beyond that of a number of my friends. For the chores I hated doing at the time which I now understand were transfer of knowledge in how to cook, clean, and generally keep things running.

A additional big thank you to my dad for teaching me the basics of how machines work, starting out with simple machines and basic newtonian physics, as well as for teaching me hands-on real world undoing + fixing + redoing = repair. For explaining algebra and trig to me when I was 12 instead of insisting I was ‘too young’ – and explaining them in words that made it easy for me to understand, and helped further my programming career.

And a thank you to both my dad and my sadly no longer with us Uncle Joe for teaching me a appreciation of quality, of a job done right – and especially the importance of a ‘can do’ attitude. I wish everyone I know had gotten that lesson. I wish I had better self-esteem – but I would not trade my ‘can do’ attitude for it in a million years.

Election thoughts

Monday, October 17th, 2016

So, as we sit amongst the facebook election madness – and it’s been unusually rabid this cycle, for a whole host of reasons, I find myself thinking of the fact that we’re all flawed.

Now, every election cycle, it seems we spend a lot of time underlining how flawed both of the candidates are – and whatever ideology you subscribe to, it tends to make you minimize the flaws of your horse while thinking that the flaws of the other horse are the worst things that there could ever be. And I don’t doubt that one horse can run a race better than another – or else we wouldn’t have horse races. I’m sure there are people who would argue that I’m more flawed than any of the current crop of individuals who would like to be steering the boat whilst feeding from the public trough. I’m not actually sure – I’m not even sure if you can reasonably measure flawedness.

Ironically, the least flawed of the field from my point of view, Bernie, couldn’t even get a seat at the table. I still can’t tell whether this is because of a corrupt system, people who lack vision, or some other aspect. And I have no doubt that Bernie has his own set of flaws. Anyone who wants the job has got to be more than a little bit cracked.

But, I keep reminding myself, for all the warts in all the candidates we have running for office, they’re all human beings just like you and me. They have their hurts, their doubts, their flaws, and their moments of triumph just like any of us. It’s tempting to demonize the horse that doesn’t match your chosen ideology, but I am not sure that’s wise. Among other things, you’re possibly encouraging your neural network to set up notch filters that highlight their flaws while downplaying their good sides.. and it’s possible I’ve gone so far in this direction that my experience of Trump is somewhat locally synthesized. There’s no easy way to tell (see many previous discussions on the nature of our minds and the nature of reality)

In any case, it would be nice if we could dial back the insanity a couple of notches. No one deserves to be firebombed over this whole thing. It’s also worth noting that some of the split between the horses and the horseraces is the result of different ideas of utopia.. the farmers and rural folks have their thing, and the cities have theirs. But, in this world we live in, the farms and the cities need each other. Big agribusiness depends on big technology.. all us folks in the city genetically engineering crops, making fuel, making robot tractors – and big population depends on big agribusiness.

But we want and need different things. I’m not really sure what the solution is, but I’m certain that firebombing each other’s political campaign headquarters is *not* the solution, nor is threatening to put our opponents in jail, nor is attempting to shut down free speech.

I don’t know why I worry about these things. I don’t get the sense that the world at large is listening to me. Occasionally I wonder what it would be like to wake up and discover that I’d been slashdotted and my web server was cranking out hundreds of megabits of content. And, honestly, it could happen tomorrow. Or never. The world is unpredictable that way.

I try to be less flawed every day. I hope that all the horses in all the horseraces do too. And I hope that they are as aware that they are flawed as I am aware that I am.

November 3rd

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Another of my movie-soundtrack compositions..