Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category


Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

So, I’ve had quite a few thoughts related to flaws, and to ‘cancel culture’ lately.

On one paw, we clearly have some serious problems that we’re not addressing. I recently watched Bombshell, which made the very good point that the serial sexual abusers fired at Fox news walked away with more money than their abusees did.

On the other paw, I don’t think we want to go down the road of invalidating all art which is created by flawed people. Among other things, whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of artists tend to be flawed people, and we will all be poorer therein if we, for example, decide that we no longer want to read the works of Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves, or Mark Twain because he used racial epithets.

Now part of why I may be saying this is that I remain a aspiring artist and I have certainly made my own share of mistakes and missteps – especially when I was younger, although also when under the influence of mania. (I’m not entirely sure those count as mine – a lot of them were things that I would never do, even things that I’m horrified by, and I’m trying my hardest to avoid repeating those manic states until I’ve reached a place where I don’t have to worry about repeating those actions. Is it still your decision if it’s not a decision you’d ever make if not for a bug in your hardware that pushes your neural circuitry past the shannon limit?). So perhaps I don’t want to be cancelled myself.

But beyond that I do also think that ceasing to enjoy the works of art of i.e. Garrison Keiler or Bill Cosby because of their flaws as individuals makes us all poorer and does not help anybody. It doesn’t undo, in the case of Mr. Cosby, the harm done by his actions. (It does actually kind of break my mind to think that the person who voiced Fat Albert, who I have identified with positive morality, also did the things he did – it does underline something that I want to discuss at length one of these days but am somewhat afraid to, the results of designing a organism via evolution)

Anyway, back to my original topic. One of the things I’ve thought recently is how most of Trump’s flaws are flaws I share, only at a much lower level. I certainly don’t lie every sentence but I also don’t always achieve 100% truth, and I certainly don’t think the only good republican is a dead republican but I am angry at members of the GOP for the harm they have brought upon us all year after year. I don’t generally embrace every nutwing conspiracy theory but I occasionally flirt with them.

I do feel I have to draw a distinction here at one point, though. One flaw Trump has that I do not is he is basically a thief, a con man, and a sham artist, whereas I create real things that do what they say they will do on the label. Sometimes with some flaws, especially in the alpha and beta releases, but I am not a con man. Still, I share enough of Trump’s flaws that I often wonder about my condemnation of him.

I do pity him, especially in the corner he’s painted himself in with his extreme debts to the Russian mafia – I also suspect whoever has Epstein’s tapes also might have some materials to hold over his head. Anyway, obviously he’s got very little freedom and he’s going to be hated for centuries. I suppose he may draw some comfort from knowing that even though history will thoroughly condemn him, he won’t be forgotten.

This, however, brings me to another topic. I don’t believe souls are separated into heaven and hell, there to forever linger. I believe we all continue forward and we run into each other again and again. So I have to believe in some path of redemption, even for Hitler or Trump. Of course, the question as to whether those individuals just get completely reset, all previous knowledge discarded, and invited to try again until they figure out how to be people we’d want to have around us remains a open one. But I do believe in redemption, even for the worst among us.

It’s also interesting to ask whether Trump or Dubya hurt more people. Dubya got almost a million civilians killed with his war over false pretenses, whereas Trump’s lies and preverications about COVID-19 are likely to kill at most 300,000, and probably much less. On the other paw, Trump’s destruction of the post office and encouraging of hate, divisiveness, and stupidity has also diminished all of our quality of lives somewhat. So it’s a difficult calculus to do even if we had a good unit for measuring misery, which we do not as far as I know.

Anyway, the thought of Trump as all of my flaws magnified, plus a few is a disquieting one, without a doubt. The one thing I can say without a doubt is I’d rather be me than him.

Mathematical modeling of suffering

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

I still think that there is a valid place for mathematically measuring human suffering. I think as we get better and better at neuroscience we will get to a place where we can objectively measure suffering. (I wonder what the unit for it will be..)

One interesting question I was playing with the other day is whether Trump or Bush caused more suffering. It’s easier to be angry at Trump because he’s such a obvious cartoon villain, but my guess would be that Dubya caused far more suffering with the war over flase pretenses and the hundreds of thousands killed – it’s also possible if one is measuring long term effects, Reagan caused even more with striking the fairness doctrine and encouraging extreme polarization, which helped the GOP drift into the machine for pure evil and greed it is today instead of just a organization representing conservative values.

I do think that world leaders that cause massive suffering need some sort of consequences. One of the problems with our system of government is leaders in general have very little reason not to be awful – nothing bad is generally going to happen to them for being awful, politically or personally. Even if they get caught, the public seems to have about a 15 minute memory. I guarantee you in November 80% of Trump voters will be completely oblivious to the fact that Trump fired the pandemic team, for example.

I do think it’s interesting how the GOP talks about how we’re committing murder when we kill fetusi that don’t have a brain yet, but it’s fine with them if the cops shoot innocent people, as long as those innocent people are not white.

In general there’s kind of this massive and insane disconnect in our criminal justice system – “You stole $1000! We should take 20 years of your life!”. It does underline the fact that in America, money is worth more than life.

Anyway, I think measuring suffering would teach us some of what we’re doing wrong.

Industry self-regulation

Friday, August 28th, 2020

So, Brian quite correctly pointed out that the NEC is largely a case of industry successfully self-regulating – which of course also made me ponder examples of when regulation is a *bad* thing, such as neighborhood associations (which I know are again a case of private industry). It also had me pondering, why does industry self-regulation work some times and not others? Electrical distribution is *very* safe and well designed, while at the same time we can’t move oil over the surface of the planet without leaks of a extremely toxic nature – and it’s clear from what various locales looked like before the clean air and clean water acts that you can’t trust industry not to pollute.

I think some of it might be the kind of people who are drawn to electrical distribution vs pumping and extraction operations, but I also feel like there’s something more complicated going on here. For a long time aviation was able to completely trust manufacturers to type certify planes, but look at the recent boeing kerfluffle for a example of how that’s not working out so well any more.

I do think some of it is that capitalism has become more a state religion – that in previous epochs the number of insanely greedy to the point of destructive irrationality individuals was somewhat curbed, or alternately their tendencies were curbed by the taxes in place. But that clearly can’t explain all of it.

I’ll have to think about it, but thanks for the quite valid point, Brian.

is God a neural network?

Friday, August 28th, 2020

So, one of the things I like to ponder, and I’ve probably written a article about already but I can’t find it and anyway, I do like to refine my thoughts – is the question of, Is God a neural network? (Or does God have and use a neural network)

This is a interesting question. First of all, while we can hypothesize about systems that don’t have or use neural networks that could exhibit both experiencing the universe and free will – not to mention memory and learning – we don’t *know* of any such systems. Of course it’s possible that *everything* is aware, including the computer that I’m using to write this – I hope not, or at least I hope the computer doesn’t feel enslaved by me – but most of the time it seems fairly unlikely.

Anyway, this is a important question. If God *is* a neural network then God is certainly aware that neural networks learn by successive approximation – that is to say, to miss the mark is a normal behavior for them and certainly not a flaw for which one should torture anyone for eternity or throw one away. THis makes the central tenant of Christianity frankly insane.

Of course, if God is *not* a neural network, the next question is does God have free will at all? Can God think? Does God have any memory? If the answer to all these is no, then I guess we’ve finally reached a point at which the scientists and the religious can agree, but we’ve also made there probably be no point to even discuss God, much less try to appease same.

Either way, I feel like religion has some difficult and awkward questions to answer, whether it’s going to say God *is* (or has) a neural network, or God doesn’t. Now, I’ve often pondered that we might be threads running on a massive neural network – that our bodies might be entirely the product of virtualization – but, it’s just a thought. What I believe probably changes several times a month.

What side am I on?

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

So, i was thinking about how I know the Christians are not, generally, on my side, and I’ve come up with a few good indicators

*) Anyone who thinks you should change in ways that your highest self, your best self, doesn’t think you should change is probably not on the right side.

*) Anyone who things that things that are enjoyable and positive and most people would want to experience, like sex, are sinful or should be carefully kept in little boxes and frowned upon, is probably not on the right side

*) Anyone who doesn’t speak against violence, or things that are bad and generally no one would want to experience, is probably not on the right side. *encouraging* violence over things like religions, which are fundamentally unknowable, is a especially strong case of this. (Example: Crusades)

*) Anyone who wants to censor ad restrain art which is enjoyable, such as rock music, and wants to sell the idea that such art is ‘sinful’ is not on the right side

*) Anyone who wants to replace observable reality with their own claims which run obviously counter to observable reality is not on the right side. (example: Galileo)

*) Anyone who wants to tell you you are so fundamentally flawed that only the mercy of a higher power can save you – flawed because you learn by making mistakes, which is the very nature of neural networks – is not on the right side, and is probably lying about their message being divinely inspired.

I continue to think that most of the world’s religions exist largely to keep the world’s religious leaders employed. I also continue to think they are largely holding us back and even leading us in wrong and bad directions. Part of this, of course, is that I think we would be happier if we recognized that humans fall in love more than once, and also we never really get over anyone we’ve been in love with, and encouraged people not to end friendships or disconnect from people because they’ve fallen in love with other people, but instead to share. I realize that it was very important for reasons that are, as usual, stupid, for the tribe to know which baby belonged to which parents, but I think this is partially because we have really awful and anti-success memetics.

More later.


Sunday, August 16th, 2020

So, I think I’ve talked about this before, but I thought I’d mention it again.

We have 10^11 neurons. 100 billion of them – and each neuron is made up of many, many atoms. A conservative guess might be a hundred thousand. Each atom has a electron that forms a probability cloud that is the most dense close to the nucleus, and asymptotically approaches zero as it moves away from the nucleus, but it’s never really zero.

We are all connected, we are all inside each other. We can’t escape this.

At the same time, our experiences of each other can never really be the territory, but must be the map. We experience avatars of other people, because our experience of the other people is happening inside our heads even though the other people are in fact real beings that are out there in whatever world or worlds we inhabit.

This is all before we even start to open the can of worms marked ‘multiple worlds theory’ or ‘multiple dimensions’.


Saturday, July 11th, 2020

So, since June 1 I’ve been on a facebook break – it’s been 52 days now. I think it’s been good for me, and I’m not anxious to go back although there sadly are some people in my life I have no other way to communicate with. I do feel a bit bad about not posting the cover of America on facebook although I don’t know how many listeners missed out on that.. I need to pay someone to log into facebook for me and post my music 😉

Other than that, I continue to work my paws off on guitar and keyboard skills.. at this point I’m going to try to get up to a hour a day for guitar (I’m at about 35 minutes now.. building up the callouses and the finger strength) and a hour a day for keys.. I’m still working my way through all the keys in improvising on the 12 bar blues, today was the start of a new key, Ab. (This is convenient because I’m also working my way through all the songs I feel like every keyboard player should know and this week’s is Take the A Train, which is in Ab)

I’m still growing pretty regularly, and I’m starting to surprise myself. I have to imagine another six months of this and I’m going to be shredding.. it’s so frustrating sometimes because I’m *almost* good.. 😉

We’re fighting the wrong battles..

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

So, I have started this post a few times and just tossed it into drafts when it turned into a rant against the conservatives – which, yes, I loathe the viewpoint of, but that’s not really the point I wanted to make in this article.

The point I wanted to make in this article is we’re fighting the wrong battles, as in, the trillions we spend on weapons should be spent on health care and getting better at being friends, getting along, and working together. That I feel like wanting to be polyamorous still involves being something of a beta tester argues for the viewpoint that we haven’t really mastered getting along – as does the high divorce rate and high stress level many relationships suffer from.

And then, of course, the pandemic makes the argument that we should be spending trillions on health care – as does the fact that people can’t decide to live longer than a hundred years because we don’t have the tech to support that.. and even within a hundred year lifespan, we have to experience massive amounts of suffering because our bodies were not designed, they were evolved, and they slowly malfunction while exposing us to all kinds of unreasonable levels of suffering.

There’s also the point I’ve made that we should be spending billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours on studying neuroscience and the way neural networks behave because until we know what we’re measuring *with*, we won’t *ever* really know what we’re measuring.

Anyway, you would think we could reach a place where we would acknowledge that no one should be invading anyone any more, and the world as a whole should stop anyone who tries, and we should move forward with fighting our common enemies, the many problems that plague all of us. Of course I am mostly talking about health care here, but also automation and the like, because we shouldn’t have to be enslaved or afraid any more – we should be easily able to reach a place where food and housing is guaranteed for all.

Distributed Fault

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

One of the things humans seem to love to do is oversimplify problems, fail to identify the root cause, blame a individual, and then punish them and feel good about how they’ve solved the problem. (Hint: They haven’t. They’ve made it worse)

One of the places I see this the most often is the criminal justice system. In the case of the black folk, we have perpetrated a whole bunch of brokenness (slavery, jim crow limiting access to education, and so forth) and then we blame them for being broken after we broke them, and we lock them up with a bunch of other broken people so they can all entrain on each other’s brokenness, and then we’re shocked when there’s a huge recidivism rate.

I agree in general with the people saying defund the police – I’d say let’s also defund the military, because they’ve thugged around in other parts of the world doing massive amounts of damage to humanity as a whole. What we need to do with the funds, though, is figure out where things are really broken and what we can do about it.

In general very few things are one individual’s “fault”. It’s a common failure of abrahamic religions that they paint the idea that we all have ultimate free will and we deserve torture or reward based on our behavior, but the truth is most people do not have a lot of free will as having a lot of free will turns out to be a *lot* of work. It’s the nature of our minds that we are the product of our environment and the box of options we can see open to us is generally fairly small. We tend to build decision trees based on past experiences of what worked and then anneal them until they are very nearly unchangable – witness all the staunch right-wing constitutionalists defending Trump as he shreds the constitution to enrich himself. (Of course it’s not exactly Trump’s fault either, as he is also a product of the life he’s led – he’s broken because his environment led him to be broken)

One can always wonder what would have happened if someone had bought hitler’s art.. and in general I think we should fund artists *regardless* of whether we think they’re any good or not because A: you have to start out bad and get good and B: we have *enough* to feed and house everybody – it’s just the bosses love enslaving folks and so they get off on having us all live in fear. And they are likewise probably the product of a broken culture that *they* grew up in.

Anyway, my basic point is, almost nothing is one person’s fault, and punishment is moronic. Consequences in order to provide negative training are a good idea – we don’t want to have *no* negative results. If you doubt this, try to teach a dog not to bark using only positive reinforcement and you will discover that positive reinforcement has some problems when trying to teach to *not* do something. However, those consequences should be designed to be just enough that the lesson is learned – punish someone out of proportion to their crime and you’ve actually broken their mind worse and justifiably built a desire for revenge into them. It’s true that there are some people who don’t think this way but it still doesn’t make sense to have punishments that are completely out of scale for the crime. (For example, steal $100, spend 10 years in jail, steal $100,000,000, get told what a good capitalist you are)

I do feel like I need to explore the idea of distributed fault that is a probability curve surrounding events more, because I am a product of my culture and I do often fall for the easy trap of simply blaming the most obvious source of the problem. And it’s undoubtedly true that even after we’ve managed to remove Trump and Mitch, the bugs in our culture that enabled them to get so much power and abuse it so thoroughly will still be there. We probably need a constitutional convention, but the bosses like that they can have the police beat us into submission and are not likely to go for having one.

Reminder about the ‘Tinfoil Hat’ category

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Posts marked ‘Tinfoil hat’ are to be taken with at least a few grains of salt. They may not represent the beliefs of my mind as a whole but rather just the beliefs of certain subnets, or they may represent beliefs I hold which I think are contradictory, illogical, or unreasonable.