Archive for May, 2017

The problem with communism

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

(cut & pasted from something I posted on facebook, because I thought it might be worth saving)

The problem with communism is that by definition, it means the state owns all the resources. Collective ownership of property can work – does work in some cases – but you can not, generally, trust the state. At least, history suggests you can’t. Think about it, do you want the US government to own all the resources, given it’s track record? The government tends to be made up of people who by choice want to have power over other people – who it would appear are the last people you want to actually have that power.

If you find a way to make the state omnibenevolent (say, replacing the humans with very well programmed AIs – or maybe having some powerful incentive for them to remain benevolent to all), then I’d say communism is a wizard idea. Until then, I think socialism (where the resources belong to the workers) or even capitalism (where the resources belong to the bosses) is a better choice.

(I’d also note, apropos of nothing, that capitalism undoubtedly has it’s place. We probably do not want to remove incentives to compete for the best designs, for example, as without those we would not have the computers you all are reading this on, the network that connects them together, or the efficient power grid that runs them). It seems likely to me that no one ideology is going to solve all our resource allocation woes – that picking the right ideology for the right resource is what makes sense – just as no one algorithm is appropriate for all computing challenges. Don’t use a hammer to drive in a screw..)

Part of why I keep talking about using buckets to track money is that I think we likely should be using different algorithms for allocating non-scarce resources like food than for allocating scarce ones. It makes no sense to make someone starve *while we’re throwing food away*, but it may make sense to not hand a yacht to someone who’s not doing anything productive when we are still in a space where yachts are scarce.


Thursday, May 25th, 2017



Little bits of paper
Ones and zeros online
Matter more to you
Than live hearts and minds

You tell yourselves lies
About where the poor have been
You say they’re all just lazy
You don’t understand

The system we built
Doesn’t put you back up when you fall
Instead it locks you behind another prison wall

And while you stand there
In your ivory tower on the green
Another kid gets crushed between the wheels of the machine

Money is not value
It’s just the corpse and the cost
Value is the things you really need
But that idea gets lost
When your mind is obsessed
With how rich you could be
You don’t see how if we left it behind we’d all be set free

And if you’re telling me
You want things to stay the same
Which is just another way of saying conservative
With just another name

I’m telling you, man, you don’t see the fall
Staying the same is another way of dying
That’s the writing on the wall

And if you don’t want to join me in this dream
At least admit you’re making hell
With the tools and the means

You’re making weapons.. Shoot the guns and drop the bombs
To kill another innocent

It’s obvious to me
From where I stand
We can all be unimaginably wealthy
If you just lend a hand

Stop thinking of this as a zero sum game
With what we know now, the rules are not the same

Think about virtual reality
Think about gifts – a race set free
Not even Jesus could see the whole picture yet
When he said the poor are with you always – he missed a bet.

Biological systems, the most powerful computers yet known
If we could load the right software, paradise could be homegrown
Whlie our bodies kept the wheels moving
Our minds could be alive and free
Inside our own envelope
Freedom, inevitably

But I’m guessing that aint what you’re about
You’re about ownership, and power, and making sure you leave the rest of us out
So you’ll forgive me if I sometimes don’t see your side
If I think you’re either evil or stupid, or have something big to hide

The story:

So, I was testing out Waves’ new grand piano (this), and I decided to track vox and the piano and just kind of spin some lyrics as I went. I liked what I got enough to add some layers and post it here, and hopefully some of you will enjoy it as well. I think my favorite bit is where the acoustic guitar comes in..

The title is definitely a nod to the trope, although, then again, maybe some anvils need to be dropped.

Hypocrisy and neural networks

Monday, May 8th, 2017

So, as we see hypocrisy abound in our current world political situation, it’s become quite popular to criticise people on it. And I am not here to say that it is a good phenomenon – but it is certainly a *understandable* one.

So, first, before I head down this rabbit hole, let me draw your attention to videos of the Milgram experiments. One thing you will notice, over and over, is that people clearly were not of one mind about pushing the switch. They were obviously agonized over it, many of them protested or questioned the action, and yet ultimately the neural wiring that translated out to blind obedience of authority won. I know that I’ve discussed this before.

Now, I would say that this phenomenon is very closely related to hypocrisy. In both cases, you have collections of subnets that are at war with each other, or at least have a disagreement over what the correct action is. It’s pretty clear that religion does a much better job of programming people to say the right things than to do the right things, and what that may indicate is that religion does a good job of programming storyteller or verbal parts of our neocortex, but that a lot of the things that drive our actual actions are formed before religion ever gets it’s claws on us – they may be native to our DNA and the way it expresses itself, or formed in earlier childhood. Or it may be that they are formed later, but that some types of experiences lead to stronger collections of subnets than others. In any case, the thing to remember about hypocrisy is that generally I think you will find it happens when someone is of two minds about the subject.

For example, all the discussion about $CONSERVITIVE_POLITICAL_PARTY talking about how great $FAVORITE_RELIGION is while simultaneously doing things that are strongly against everything that $FOUNDING_RELIGIOUS_LEADER stood for are a great example of this. Some portion of their minds is in favor of tolerance and love and feeding the hungry and all of those things, but a larger portion of their minds is in favor of grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down, and possibly some things that are. (It is also, of course, possible that no part of their minds is in any way in favor of $RELIGION but that they are in favor of getting elected and since there is currently no punishment for lying on your way to office, there’s no reason not to claim to be in support of $RELIGION if it gets you the gig and the nice cushy salary for life)

However, assuming good faith for the moment, let’s suppose that they are sincere in their adoration of $RELIGION. That doesn’t mean that their whole mind is – and, no matter how persistent the illusion that we’re one single person per body, the truth is that we’re a huge collection of subnets, all with different goals and agendas and experience. I know that I’ve already referred to this, but I gesture you to the experiments of cutting the corpus collosum and the results that ensued.

I really think we’re not going to make serious progress until we start to accept some of the strengths and limitations of natural neural networks. Hypocrisy is in fact both. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – and this is exactly the behavior we’re talking about here. Without it, we would never really be able to weigh the validity of contradictory but true ideas.