Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What I’ve been up to

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

So, you all have probably noticed I’ve been pretty quiet in blog-land lately. I’ve been busy with a couple of things – beyond the usual work stuff that I’m always doing.

So, if you’re curious, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1) I’ve been working off and on on a social calendaring app that I can’t say much more about yet other than it should be pretty cool when I get it done.

2) I’ve been doing a back to fundamentals thing with my music – been practicing a lot of scales and patterns, concentrating on A: playing them all without looking at the keyboard and B: working on complex patterns with my left hand, trying to get better at walking bass lines

3) I’ve been working – so far mostly on paper, not in code – on a four-neurotransmitter spiking neural network simulation which is intended to be capable of unsupervised learning. More on this later.

Hope you all are having fun out there.

The problem with laws

Monday, June 11th, 2018

So, one of the stupid things us humans do – and I know, there are a bunch – is try to create a rigid code of rules to describe acceptable behavior in every situation. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Milgram effect wasn’t such a big thing with us – once rules are written down, we tend to follow them blindly *even when we know they are wrong*.

Anyone who’s done much coding understands that it’s *incredibly* difficult to get bug free code. Laws are essentially code for humans, and to add to the fun they’re often written by people who don’t have much experience coding at all, and often written for politically expedient reasons without considering the rule of unintended consequences. They also don’t get much revision or debugging.

I submit to the crowd that the basic *idea* of having laws is flawed. What we need are algorithms that can be used to judge the appropriateness of any situation, with broad group consensus, not a attempt to imagine every situation beforehand and codify what the punishment should be if someone chooses to take a certain action.

I repeatedly see laws getting used to justify, or at least call reasonable, behavior by the criminal justice system that is both abusive and counterproductive. One of the ones that makes me the most angry is the teens who are arrested for “producing child porn” when they do things like sexting, which is perfectly reasonable and natural behavior and should not be illegal at all. I understand the original point of the laws they were breaking was to protect children from predatory adults, but if our system was somewhat better designed, vindictive and/or milgrammed police officers and judges would not be able to use them to hurt the very people they were designed to protect.

I also see one problem with the *massive* concordance of laws we currently have is it is virtually impossible to even know what’s illegal any more. Unless you spend your life doing little else, there’s not a lot of hope of knowing what’s in the hodgepodge of state, federal, and local laws that apply to your current behavior. It’s also undoubtedly true that the people authoring the laws have not thought about the long term impact of their decisions. Most of the punishments are vastly beyond what the crime entails. Watching Le Miz the other day reminded me that we still think jailing someone for a year for stealing $500 is a reasonable thing to do – while at the same time, our jails *break people worse* in several ways:

A: They are designed to punish, not to reform. This punishment often leads to justifiable anger on the part of the punished, which leads to them being *less* inclined to work with our society

B: People are programmable – and we tend to entrain on our peer group. Locking up all the criminals together just means they entrain off each other, thusly making the convicts *more* criminal

If our desire is not to live in, to use Jordon Peale’s phrase, a ‘fucked up dystopia’, we should be trying to figure out how to get the people who break laws to fix themselves and develop as individuals in ways that ensure they won’t reoffend. I’ve talked in the past about one thing that might help accomplish that (see this) but this isn’t a subject I’m a expert in – it is, however, a subject that we could science until we had a well defined science of rehabilitation.

However, I think we also need to recongize that the law itself is often hurting people – we repeatedly criminalize things that should not be illegal just because some subset of people think that people should not be free to take that particular action. Religious people have a long history of using the law as a club to enforce their particular set of morals – even when the things they are criminalizing hurt no one but the person committing the act. The law should not be used to bully people based on your personal opinion about what is right and wrong – we should be able to develop a science of right and wrong as well, created by measuring harm to others.

The dangers of delusions

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

So, as we sit in the middle of a house divided – to put it mildly – I’ve been doing some thinking. To the right, things that to us on the left sound purely insane are absolute truth. Of course Mexican immigrants are a major source of terrorism, and we should be afraid of them crossing our borders bringing Sarin gas (even if the person writing the post couldn’t actually spell Sarin). Of course Trump is innocent of all he’s accused of, and the left wing media is being unfairly cruel to him. Of course God intends to torture us for all eternity unless we believe in Jesus.

The thing is, I have a intermittent mental illness. I’ve more or less mastered – or at least achieved a high degree of proficiency in – fighting it with a mix of drugs and being sure to get involved in some really big project whenever I reach one of the peaks, which occur every six months. However, I’ve experienced delusions, and let me tell you, they do seem absolutely real when they are happening. Also, most of the major world events that the left and the right are fighting about – cops shooting citizens, Iran building nuclear weapons, etc – are things that most of us never see except via media sources. And, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, the media isn’t perfect – I know far more people who have been misquoted in the paper than who have been quoted correctly, and I largely put this down to the fact that there’s a whole lot of neurons between person A’s conscious experience and person B’s. You’ve seen me talk about this before – the hope of experiencing some kind of reality that is absolute and monolithic truth is not very good.

That said, there are clearly many players at this point who are willing to inject lies into the media stream if it serves their purpose. I suspect, based on the amount of screaming about how much the people on the left are doing this, that the majority of people doing this are the ones on the right, although I’ve found examples of both. [I have figured out that the interesting fact that we see most the flaws in other people that also exist in ourselves is far amplified in political theater]

Without speculating too much on what the ultimate outcome of all this might be, I think it is safe to say we’ve found a survive-or-don’t situation here. The frustrating part for me is of course that people on the other side have no problem with making stuff up – and of course, they’d accuse my side of the same. Suffice it to say places like snopes and politifact are being kept very busy – and of course the people in question also accuse them of bias.

I have to assume that everyone is aware of the fact that something has gone badly wrong here. Of course, half the country blames it on Obama and the other half on Trump – but nonetheless, we are living in two parallel but not particularly congruent realities. I am sure that the delusional thinking is on the other side – but then, I would think that, wouldn’t I? I’m sure they are equally sure of the same thing. My hope is all of this is the prerequisite to some kind of enlightenment leading to a even more impressive age of reason than the one we’ve just had, but my fear is that this is the barbarians causing Rome to crumble.

So far, there’s not a lot of violence on the streets, although I do keep reading about the police arresting people for no reason and shooting people for even less and getting away with it. It feels like we’re deteriorating into a police state similar to Nazi Germany (let’s get dragged through WWII this time with our eyes open? Heil Trump?) but at the same time when I turn off the net and wander outside, everything seems fine. I live just down the street from a police station and I don’t see them dragging large numbers of people to jail, nor do I hear very many sirens. Walking the streets of Seattle it looks like everything is fine. The grocery store has plenty of food. I do see a lot of homeless people, which I take to be a indicator that the economy is not doing so well, but they don’t look like they’re starving.

And, in the political theater POV, I have to remind myself that it’s possible that the right-wing whackos have awakened a sleeping giant and we will be shortly seeing a massive wave of blue. Unfortunately I can’t feel that great about that because even the Democrats are so far to the right from me that they feel like the republicans felt in 1980. (And the republicans feel like the twilight zone.. I can’t believe that they’re okay with giving trillions of dollars of tax cuts to the rich while they cut money for children’s health care, public schools, and other services I would have thought we would have thought essential)

Anyway, it’s possible that this is going to play out with a ‘it seems the species has amused itself to death’. Or it may be that all this political theater is a cover story for something much, much larger happening behind the scenes. Or maybe we’re just near the endgame of the simulation we’re in?

Mass shootings

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

So, I want to preface this by saying I in no way approve of mass shootings or mass shooters, and that I am unlikely to ever even own a gun and I feel that guns are a tool for making a bad decision very quickly.

That said, I understand the forces that push people into committing mass shootings. Or at least some of them.

The world is rigged against us. There’s a never-ending series of paperwork to be done, admonishments for doing it improperly, hoops to be jumped through if you want to continue eating and living indoors – often hoops which are completely needless – makework jobs, poorly engineered systems – including our economic system itself. At some point while being pushed around by large corporations and the wealthy, who hasn’t been angry? This world sometimes seems like a dystopia designed to make us angry, starting out with the religions and education they try to force down our throats while telling us what awful people we are if we don’t wholeheartedly embrace them, moving on to the fact that the vast majority of us are essentially slaves – we can’t quit our jobs because we’d end up homeless, hungry, and cold. Combine that with the total lack of any control over our government – I’m personally forced to pay our government to hurt and kill innocent people with drones, something I find abhorrent – and apparently if I was on the other side of the fence I’d find providing health care to people equally abhorrent ..

Is it any wonder that a few people snap every year? Knowing that banks get handed free money that they can lend out at 9%, that laws get steadily written more in favor of corporations and less in favor of individuals? Knowing that people get bullied and abused in schools – including being abused by the state itself, told what they’re worth boiled down to a letter grade? And then some people draw a bad hand, and the next thing you know you’ve got $60,000 in debt and a worthless degree. Or some situation equally bad. The insurance company not paying to replace your car because they’d rather spend the money on superbowl ads. And that’s just if you live *here*. If you live in China, you’re likely to get forced to work a assembly line 12 hours a day. Live in a place the USA has decided is a “axis of evil” and you’re likely to get bombed back to the stone age.

Then you’ve got the laws – we’ve got laws against playing with your body chemistry, blue laws, laws against putting up a windmill, laws against .. well, you name it, really. We have a *absurd* number of laws. People like to tell other people what to do. It’s a problem. And we also have a absurdly broken criminal justice system – one that seems almost tailor-made for making the situation worse.

I refuse to fall for it, but I feel the anger. I know that giving into it won’t make anything better for anyone, and I think I have enough of a neurological operating system to not go domino – but I understand all the myriad forces that could cause someone to do so. We seem to be building a dystopia. And we *really* should stop.

Until then, don’t be surprised by the shootings. But do understand that our media seems to try to make things look as bad as they possibly can – statistically speaking, the number of people going domino is actually very, very small – you’re still more likely to be killed on the freeway than in a mass shooting, by a wide margin.

But if we’d like to stop mass shootings, my suggestion is, let’s stop being awful to people. Let’s stop being so “Don’t you steal dollars from my pocket to feed those hungry kids” (which turns out to be provably bullshit if you follow *the actual resources moving around instead of the paper fiat money*). Let’s reduce the number of government forms, and strip the criminal justice system of most of it’s power, and strip corporations of their personhood. Let’s arrange for inducements to learn for people who take away the rights guaranteed in the bill of rights – not punishments to hurt them, but inducements to learn that will leave them with the idea that it is not okay to take away people’s freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press. Let’s throw out both political parties and try again. Or.. I don’t know. We have to do *something* differently.

“now he’s up to something…”

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

So, it remains to be seen if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.. I will say the math is starting to get pretty hardcore around here.

Here’s the computing farm..

You know things are getting serious when I can find a use for 26 cores, 12 of which are high end Xeon.

Still cranking away on my neural network project

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Here’s a screen capture to tease you (and give you the sense that I’m doing something interesting over here)

I always test my code…

Monday, January 8th, 2018

On my office wall, I have a poster that has a picture of me with “I always test my code.. in production. When I’m coding myself, there’s nowhere else to test.”

This is about to not be true. I am building a genuine, very real, not in any way a delusion neural network debugger.

I will be posting a link to the git repo once it’s approximately functional so you can all appriciate the cleverness that goes into this. (Or laugh at me ;))

In the meantime, I leave you with this image of that poster.

If this were a co-op game..

Tuesday, 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

Free will and state machines

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

One of the interesting topics that we bandy around from time to time is the question of whether humans really have free will, or there’s just a very persistent illusion that makes it look like we do. Now, I find the idea of us not having free will at all rather sinister, and prefer not to believe that it’s possible that we have none, but I also find the idea that our decisions are simply the product of our minds equally absurd – this especially grates on me insofar as we humans love to punish each other – sometimes for the most abysmal things (I gesture you to Loving vs. Commonwealth Of Virginia for a example of this) that we later come to realize we shouldn’t have been punishing anyone for – but sometimes for things that are clearly suboptimal but still might not be definable as choices that people are making with their free will intact.

Jumping back up to the head topic for a minute, our minds structurally change as we learn new things, or have experiences good or bad. If someone is physically abused, the resulting physical traces in their minds – the wiring in their lion / no lion subnet – will change the decisions they make for the rest of their lives – and even something as simple as learning about a new topic will inform the decisions that we make in the future. So clearly our free will does not exist in a vacuum, and often when we are engaging in suboptimal behavior, you can trace the source back to suboptimal things that were done to us – and you can trace this backwards in time, generation after generation. Some of it is probably legacy all the way back from when ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ was the law of the land and we were extremely violent because we had to be in order to survive.

For all our religions that advocate forgiveness, we are not a particularly forgiving people. In addition, as I’ve talked about in previous articles, when people behave in ways we don’t like, we toss them into a system that is designed to be abusive – thusly breaking them worse. Frequently, when they come out, they behave in even more suboptimal ways, and we blame this on them rather than on ourselves as a society because hey, blaming people is fun, and enables us to feel superior.

But, beyond my dislike of the criminal justice system and indeed every system we have in place for fixing broken people (most of which don’t, and many of which break them worse, suck all the money out of their bank accounts, or both at the same time) I do think the question of how much of us is free will and how much of us is the inevitable, state-machine like responses to stimuli is worth examining, probably even with some hard science. I don’t think that we’ll find that we are entirely state machines, but I also am fairly sure we will not find that we are entirely creatures of free will either. However, we’re such good storytellers that even when we are responding to a series of signals lighting up clusters of subnets in ways that leave us very little choice (because there’s only one really good response path) we can tell ourselves stories that make it look to us like we are acting perfectly inside the world of free will.

Another possibility that I have considered is that in fact time doesn’t work the way we think it does – that while we perceive time as a linear experience, all of the decisions actually happen all at once, at the top of the tape so to speak, and then we experience them being played out in linear time.

Thought..

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

hought: both your lover and the devil will explore giving you exactly what you want.. but they are very much not the same thing

the devil wants to tease you with what you want, to demonstrate your exact flaws as a individual, perhaps even to enslave you

your lover wants to literally give you what you want, to make you feel good, perhaps even to set you free

How, if you’re in a turing test with the two of them, can you tell the difference?