Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Politics, the two-party system, and donation farming

Friday, 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.

The constitution didn’t scale

Friday, June 9th, 2017

So, in a discussion on facebook I was talking about how the constitution failed to scale. This isn’t surprising – most code written to run with 50 million users won’t scale to 350 million. How did it fail to scale, in my opinion? Note that this is not a hard set list of opinions – I might change my mind later about what bits failed to scale. I know that it failed to scale because of all the epic stupidity running around, but I don’t know that I know exactly how and why. But here are my guesses.

A: It failed to have a enforced code check of some sort. The only provisions for amending it involve getting a large and very disparate group of people to agree that it needs to be amended. We have reached the point where that would be very difficult to do because we can’t get over half the people to agree on anything, and yet, this is the time when it needs a tune-up the most.

B: While it stated what rights can not be taken away, it failed to say what should happen to people who *do* take those rights away. We’ve clearly lost the freedom of assembly, it seems likely we’ve lost the freedom against self-incrimination, and there’s no redress other than to hope the courts figure it out. This was not as large a problem when there weren’t as many people – but, as the number of people go up, the number of people in law enforcement potentially violating the rights of others goes up.

C: It failed to consider the fact that societies change and grow. It has no provision for the deletion of laws, or of precedents, or of what the rational time for considering such deletions might be. As a result we have so much cruft in laws and precedents that only a determined study of them for many years offers a citizen much hope of even understanding what is legal and what is not. I do not think it was the intention of our founding fathers that 10% of the nation would have to be lawyers

D: It failed to predict or offer ways to adapt to massive technological change. This is the most invasive when it comes to improvements in communications – that milliseconds after someone says something, a video of them saying it can be in the hands of everyone in america. Also, that the second amendment would have to go up against the idea of citizens owning nuclear weapons, or at least semiautomatic cartridge guns capable of several shots a second. There are also new questions about rights brought about by a state that can maintain a database of every action every citizen has ever done, could potentially track every citizen, etc. New rights likely must be forged to protect privacy.

E: It failed to predict that the voting methods laid down would result in a two-party stranglehold, where any third party risks the prisoner’s dilemma. It also was never designed to be a true representative government – for example, we’re 50% female, but the kingdom is ruled by a bunch of old white men, and there’s no attempt to address that

F: It failed to predict that automation someday would require a new economic system because it will no longer be possible or practical for everyone to have a job.

G: It failed to predict a industry that would thrive on misinformation – while freedom of the press is a good thing, it might be a good idea to require the press to label misinformation, misleading statistics, etc as such. As it is, it’s very difficult to figure out who’s spinning which way and what’s really going on, which makes it very difficult to make informed voting decisions.

H: It failed to predict the tyranny of the rich – that at some point, corporations would be considered people, and the richest people would break the system trying to become richer in paper dollars at the cost of actual wealth.

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.

Bernie Sanders and the prisoner’s delimma

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Bernie does a very good job of underlining one of the basic problems with a two party system with a third party attempting to break in.

Those of you who are students of history will remember that Clinton won his first term partially because of a man named Perot, who was also a independent with some interesting ideas. Of course, Clinton was running against Bush – and, insane as this sounds, lately we’ve had cause to feel nostalgia towards Bush. Bush was maybe not the president I would elect, but he wasn’t much of a heel (in the faces and heels speak of WWF) – he was a moderate, and is repeatedly on record as saying things which are mostly pretty reasonable.

In the meantime, this year, our election is between moderate capitolist conservitive Clinton, insane reality TV star Trump, and democratic socialist Sanders. So, another three way race. However, unlike our last three way race, in this one, the split is between Clinton (who, much as we don’t want to admit it, we can mostly live with) and Sanders (who many of us would love to have as he represents real tangible progress on a number of fronts). Meaning, if half of us vote for Clinton and half for Sanders, Trump wins.

Now, if you’re a Trump fan, I don’t really know what to say other than, why exactly do you want WWIII? But, let’s leave them out of the discussion for the moment and talk about those of us who aren’t fans of building walls and evicting people because we don’t like their religion.

If Bernie gets on the ticket somehow – either as a independent or on the Green Party or, really, any way other than by getting the Democratic nomination, we’ve got a real problem.

The problem is remarkably similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. I think most of us could agree that either Bernie or Clinton would be better than Trump, but we have to find some way to agree, en masse, who we’re going to vote for.

We also have to find some way to verify that we really voted for this person. In essence, I do not think the US voting network is secure or trustworthy or believable, so I want to go out on a limb here. I am suggesting we perform something not usually done. I am suggesting *every one of us* photograph our ballots and upload them all to a central repository. We’re going to have to put together something that can handle this, ideally in some decentralized (blockchains? peer to peer) manner. We are going to have to build a reliable voting network as a system for verifying that the current voting network is reliable

I also am suggesting that one way or another, if both Bernie and Hil are on the ticket, we need to all agree which direction we’re going beforehand. The very last thing we want is a 50/50 split between Hil and Bernie winning the election for Trump. At the same time, we don’t want Bernie to step down, because the things he’s saying are the things that need to be said.

More on this later.

Side note – It’s easy to see one feature we *really* should have built into the voting network – the ability to list candidates in order of preference. This would facilitate indicating that you both like Hil and Bernie better than Trump, while indicating which you would rather have elected. However, my hunch is that the whole thing is a bit of a show – just like WWF – and that in fact the powers that be run the place using entirely different methods, while keeping us distracted with the faces and heels.

Trump

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Reading about Donald Trump makes me think my friend Steve is right.. I should buy some land as far away from everyone as possible.. Okay, I’m joking, but only somewhat. I read the polling numbers, and there’s more than 40% of my fellow citizens who would vote for this guy? I wonder if the people talking about ‘kicking the illegals out’ realize that the illegals are the people who are adding the most value in a lot of places – a lot of them are really hardworking folk! If you forget the bullshit money politics and look at where that strawberry actually came from, you realize that if you kicked them out, our economy would fail in large and impressive ways. Now, I’d really like it if robots were picking the strawberry and the illegals were A: legal because we’d adopted a open border policy and B: taking a siesta, but I recognize that’s still a few years out, so for the moment, please don’t kick out the people who are actually doing the work.

Trump does, however, bring up a interesting ethical question. What is your ethical responsibility if Hitler gets elected? Suppose Trump does get elected, and he starts putting Muslims in concentration camps, a la the Japanese in WWII? What form should my resistance take? Writing blog articles is probably not enough at that point.

Of course, if that does happen, I assume I’ll also be placed in a concentration camp, shortly after the secret police discover this blog on the wayback machine.

By the way, if Bernie doesn’t get elected, I will take it as a sign that it’s too soon for socialism – at some point, at some level of automation and computer science, socialism is going to become the only sane answer. At that point more than 50% of the US will, I really hope, be able to figure that out. We aren’t quite there yet – we *need* a bunch of people to work their asses off for a few more years. One thing I do love about things like Minecraft – and the web – is that it has taught millions of people to program, and millions of people to understand automation and building automated systems. Guys, there is still some work left to do before we can truly live in a socialist paradise where the only people working are the ones who want to..

Water

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

http://ecowatch.com/2016/02/15/nasa-water-scarcity-drought/

Who didn’t know this was coming?

This is fixable. There are a number of steps we need to take, however.

1) The bible is not the word of God, and ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is also known as a fork bomb. Encourage people to not have children, encourage them to use birth control, encourage them to recognize the planet has a maximum carrying capacity and we are above it.

2) Take all the money away from the army, and use it to fix what’s about to come unglued. Otherwise, we can all use our armies to fight over the last drop of water, and we can all die together. Please tell me we’re not this stupid?

3) Stop being so afraid of nuclear power. Look at the number of people killed per kwh for coal, and then tell me how dangerous nukes are? The fastest desal we can throw together is cogeneration with nuclear. We can build nuclear plants that don’t melt down when they lose cooling – there’s a very long list of very promising technologies for this. Let go of the paranoia fuel and do what makes sense.

4) In areas where it’s a option, solar desalinization. It’s *insane* that SoCal doesn’t have many many megawatts of solar desal up and running.

5) Start selling synthetic meat as a option in all restaurants. ‘Natural’ meat takes many, many more resources to create, and frankly I like the synthetic stuff just as much.

6) Start planting forests, and stop cutting them down. Forests are a important part of the water cycle – they emit moisture over a very large area, helping to build the clouds that produce freshwater rain.

7) Only bottle water in places where it’s naturally plentiful

8) Ban fracking outright. In fact, ban *anything* that removes fresh water from the cycle.

9) Bump the priority on the singularity. A trillion-neuron mind might be able to see things that we, as hundred-billion-neuron-minds, can’t.

10) Learn more about moving water around. My intuition says pumping water from the middle of the country to the coasts is a bad idea – we should be pumping it the other direction until we’ve returned the system to it’s previous balance. The issue is when people in Orange County, CA water their lawns, the resulting moisture ends up blowing out to sea.

Yes, Earth is a fairly stable system that’s hard to break. But it’s not *impossible* to break, and we’d really like to run it so well that life is idyllic for most of the people here. We can learn to do this.

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

So, for the most part, I write this blog for myself. There are times when I hope other people will read it and respond to the ideas within it, and lately I have seen a number of the ideas that I espouse elsewhere, which I find encouraging but doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is reading and reacting to it since after all good ideas should appear spontaneously in a number of places – when it’s time to railroad, you railroad – but mostly it’s for me to look back over my thoughts and ideas.

There are times, though, when I’m a bit sad that millions of people will read books by the major pundits, but my blog is likely to never cause much in the way of server load. This month, so far, if you remove search engines, 115 megabytes of text have been pulled from my blog. That is not a lot. 70-something people have read the ‘head’ of it (I can tell because of the image I posted when I was banned by facebook), which is also not a lot. On the other paw, I guess it does mean I am free to express myself without ever worrying about whether someone is going to misinterpret what I say or it’s going to have some negative unintended consequence on the world.

While I would like it if millions of people wanted to listen to my music – especially if they wanted to pay me for the privilege – I’m not at all convinced that I want to be a political pundit.

Friday, January 29th, 2016

It’s a challenge sometimes. When I think about the fact that almost certainly the last three presidents all used drugs, but none of them issued a block pardon to all drug offenders arrested for no crimes other than possession / nonviolent distribution.

I do feel a bit like we live in, increasingly, a police state. There are way too many laws, they’re way too complex and poorly written, it seems lately it’s acceptable for a cop to shoot you just because he doesn’t like the way you looked at him and he will not lose his job nor his right to carry and continue shooting innocents.

Trump feels to me like a page right out of Hitler. The same sort of hate. Why can’t we make our government stop, have a constitutional convention, make a prioritized list of everything that sucks, and figure out closed-loop results-oriented ways to make it not suck?

Part of why is politics involves some sort of insanity in humans. I swear neither party wants to hear from me. They want my money, but I am the last guy they want to talk to. I’ve sent Bernie many emails asking to just have a staffer talk to me about my ideas concerning resource allocation – even a 21 year old intern – just because I think I could convince one guy enough that I’d have a dog in the fight – and no response. In the case of Hillary and Trump I didn’t even bother because, yes, what’s the point? They both have huge things to gain from a better resource allocation system but I am guessing neither one of them knows that or is willing to find that out. I’d love to be proved wrong. I really want things to improve *massively* for people here. I just .. don’t see it. I want to see it. I’m ready to see it. But so far..

And I will admit, I have a hard time seeing the point of view of my political opponents. I just can’t wrap my head around it at all. I try, but it basically feels like they just can’t make the intellectual leaps I have and so they want me to be forced to live in a country that’s stuck at the level they can understand and believe in. And I have several people I love who are republicans.. I love them, but I don’t understand them. I’m sure it’s not that these are stupid people. I’m sure there’s another reasoning chain I could have gone down that makes their views make complete and total sense. But I didn’t go down it, and un-learning what I know now would be a challenge.

Nonstandardized testing

Friday, January 29th, 2016

So, I think most people who know me know that I hate organized education with a passion.

The part I hate most is the grades – measuring people and telling them they’re not good enough – but I also hate the curriculum (look, just let them learn about whatever they want whenever they want. You’ll be shocked at how good the results are!) and the lack of certain very obvious subject matters in the curriculum (if you must have a set list of things for them to learn, learning how to learn should be first, followed by learning cognitive distortions and tools like nonviolent communication, followed by learning about common human failings such as the milgram effect).

Another part I hate – no big surprise – is standardized testing. I do have a suggestion for something we could do instead.

Non-standardized testing.

Basically, the idea would be to come up with challenges – such as, here’s a microcontroller kit, get it to control this robot to push this ball into this goal, here’s a 3d printer, get it to print out something you like – here’s a movie camera, shoot a movie as a class – here’s some musical instruments, record a album – here’s a mcdonalds, run it for a day without losing money.. here’s a patch of dirt, can you raise a edible crop? .. one can imagine all sorts of real-world challenges that would make great ‘are you a adaptable human being?’ tests.

It would be hard to give things a numerical score, for sure, but you would undoubtedly find out if the kids were learning how to work together in teams, how to learn new things, how to tackle unexpected challenges – in other words, whether they’re learning the types of skills that really matter once you get out in the world.

Since standardized tests are supposed to be used to find out if the school is passing or failing, I think the unstandardized ones would do just as well. And they’d be a much better use of resources. You definitely get bonus points for a test that the student learns something meaningful from.

As a side note, one of the things that most makes me want to say “You all fail learning forever” is hearing about things like IEPs (for the uninitiated, that is a Individual Education Plan). Look, you will get MUCH better results if you *don’t plan*! Education isn’t something you plan. It’s something you do. Sure, you might want a sketch of a plan, and some data points would help, but a teacher planning education is forgetting that in the most effective and fun education, the student is in the driver’s seat.

Why energy companies fracking should pay *huge* tariffs

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

When we purchase water, there’s sort of a unspoken compact that we’re part of a closed loop system. We’re not going to pollute this water grossly and then lock it up far outside the water table, we’re going to use it and return it via the sewer system to be, in essence, recycled. Earth is based on a closed water cycle, which I’m sure you all learned about in grade school. The people who are fracking are opening that water cycle up – rendering the water uncleanable by mixing it with extremely disturbing chemicals, then locking it up deep in the earth.

These people should be paying *enormously* more per gallon. Water is the most valuable liquid in the world and they are, in essence, reducing our total available fresh water. A $10/gallon tariff doesn’t sound outrageous under the circumstances.