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Simulation, Virtualization, On the iron?

Friday, January 24th, 2020

So, I had a long series of conversations with someone on my recent Africa adventure about whether or not we are living in a simulation. Most of you already know that I have noticed that both evolution and intelligent design would discover virtualization fairly early on as a way to do a lot more with the same resources. Virtualization opens a lot of doors vs. running ‘on the iron’ – we already know that we have some virtualization features, such as dreaming and imagining possibilities, but I think it likely that we probably go a good deal further than that.

One of the thoughts i had never been struck by before which struck me on this particular version of enumerating the age-old discussion was that humans do not really have instincts to speak of – so one appropriate use of virtualization is to build the neural structures necessary to survive before we meet the real world. It’s quite possible that we’re still in our mother’s womb, living through recordings of various situations so we can build the neurological structures and be ready to deal with the real world, which may be far stranger and wilder than anything we’ve experienced thus far. When you think about it, if evolution hasn’t already found this, it’s a bit of surprise, because surely the child that experiences training simulations in-womb is going to have a *far* higher survival score than the child who does not.

Anyway, one can think of a number of scenarios in which simulation or virtualization would be a winning strategy – if we’re the product of intelligent design we’re almost certainly inside a virtualization envelope, because it protects the designer from us. One amusing possibility that’s occurred to me is that we may be the result of someone trying to develop a really accurate video game that simulates life forms – so accurate that those life forms turn out to experience the world as real. It would be, it seems to me, a easy mistake to make.

The psychology of stated truth

Friday, January 24th, 2020

So, I recently went on a African safari – a lot more about this later, including pictures and the like – most of the trip was amazing, but it did have a few disturbing moments. Today I’m going to talk about the one in which someone asserted a number of untruths as facts.

The whole thing started because I was talking about the opiod epidemic and mentioned marijuana in a list of “relatively harmless” drugs. Someone at the table I was at – and this person will remain nameless, but I’m fairly sure they have a significant mental illness – asserted that MJ had killed many, many people.

It came out that his sister was killed by a drunk driver who also had MJ in his system. And, I agreed with a couple of his points, which I’ll get to later – but he kept asserting increasingly obviously fictional, increasingly disturbing statistics.

Now, I’m generally disposed to believe things people present as facts, with the obvious exception of certain political figures who I know lie constantly and without limit. It wasn’t until he stated something directly opposed to personal experience and also widely reported group experience that I realized that he was, in fact, insane. Or else trolling me, but I prefer to believe insanity.

I do feel for him that he lost someone he loved. I do feel confident that he totally misidentified the root cause – the root cause is humans driving cars – we really shouldn’t drive cars, we’re not good a it – and the secondary contributing cause would be the alcohol. MJ earns tertiary status.

I finally told him to drop it – which is rather out of character for me, but once I had done some internet searches and confirmed that the things he was saying were not true, I found it *very* disturbing to listen to him talking about the subject because I knew he was injecting false information into my mind. I suspect he’s got a cohort of anti-MJ friends who egg him on and tell him things that *he* believes are true, although it’s possible that he makes all this stuff up himself. I also am fairly sure he didn’t *know* the things he was telling me weren’t true – but he certainly wasn’t ready to listen to a dissenting opinion. He was not in general willing to let anyone get a word in edgewise.

I’m sure I have been that person in terms of talking too much. I hope I haven’t been the one presenting utter fiction as fact.

Part of what I found interesting is how, as I listened to him, his point of view which was opposite of mine seemed more reasonable and plausible until he made statements which were clearly and obviously false, at which point I found listening to him frustrating and alarming. I do hope he finds whatever help he needs – I seem to know a lot of people that start to throw the baby out with the bathwater after losing a sister. (I am not sure if I’ve written about why I am absolutely against Marsy’s law for all, but that would be another example of someone pushing for a excessive solution because their sister died)

Anyway, I kept running web searches to verify that the “facts” he was telling me weren’t. One of the thoughts I of course had is it’s possible I am the insane one, and my mind was swapping out the text the web sites were returning with the text that I expected to see. But there’s no way to tell if that’s the case. It’s possible he and I live in two different universes and in his all the things he said are true. Again, no good way to know.

Another thing I noticed is he has the typical disease of certain lawmakers and other individuals of thinking that addicts are worthless and should be jailed for life or killed at the first convenient moment. I of course understand both that many addicts are also our most creative people, and that history owes much to people who were flawed in that particular way. But, see elsewhere, the people who tend to end up in power are the worst of us – because the best of us generally don’t want power over anyone but themselves. And probably thus will it ever be. I can only hope my insane table-mate doesn’t end up with any political power, because I have no doubt that he would make the world a worse place.

OK, to bring this back home to the original topic.. one of the weaknesses of the way humans are put together, as we know from the Milgram effect, is we tend to trust authority more than we should. Authority apparently can be something as simple as speaking in a authoritarian tone of voice. This is alarming because it means I might have many “facts” stored which aren’t, simply because they were spoken in a authoritarian tone. He *really* had to say something obviously not true (he stated that MJ has no medicinal value and that the idea that it is one of the best anti-nausea substances we know of was completely false – of course part of his defense of that statement was that it was listed as something to use only when all else had failed – which I’m not surprised, big pharma doesn’t make much of a profit on MJ. I note that TMS for PTSD sufferers is also listed as something to use only when all else has failed, whereas I would use it as one of the first things I would attempt. Big Pharma owns the medical industry and has no ethics at all. but we all already know that, and I digress..)

One other interesting thing to take away – if he had let it go after our first discussion, I would have researched it much more heavily than I am now likely to. I am pretty thoroughly convinced that adding MJ to the list of legal drugs has gained us far more (in terms of bright, creative, helpful people we are no longer putting in jail) than it has cost us (traffic fatalities might go up by a few)

I will mention there are a few points he made that I agree with – 1) You shouldn’t drive when stoned. It does increase your RT. 2) You DEFINITELY should not even THINK about driving when stoned and drunk. I don’t know exactly what that would do, but nothing good. 3) We are breeding more and more potent weed, and we should think about whether that’s really such a hot idea.

As you all know, I don’t partake myself so I don’t really have a horse in this race, other than a number of my friends do and I don’t think any of them belong in jail. I actually think the people *putting* them in jail are the people who belong in jail.

Anger and lies

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

So, it did occur to me recently as I was reading a friend’s book about Christianity that I still get angry when I consider the tenants of Christianity. Not nearly as much as I did, now that I Understand that Christianity is built on a series of lies, and exists both to make the population easier to control and to make money for the churches. But I do still get angry.

On one paw, it shouldn’t matter to me what anyone believes as long as they are not trying to control my behavior. On the other paw, a lot of Christians *are* trying to control my behavior, by making laws based on their twisted sense of morality, and also, it makes me made to know that even as we speak, children’s minds are being broken in the exact same way mine was broken, and Christians are patting themselves on the back about what good people they are as they break the minds of their children.

Okay, so let’s look at the big fundamental lie. They say that God’s love is unconditional. Then they say if you don’t believe in Jesus you will never be one with God and you will go to hell. These two things can not both be true. Unconditional means without conditions. God loves you. Period. If you’re muslim, God loves you just as much. If you made up your own religion, God loves you just as much.

Ah, they say, but God is a *just* God and therefore.. nope, stop right there, I call BS. Unconditional means unconditional. You just added a condition. “But the bible says..”

Look, I’m fairly sure – in the high 90s – that the bible is A: wrong and B: probably written by individuals with evil intent. And no, I don’t care what the bible says. In the absence of God making a sincere attempt to contact me and convince me my point of view is wrong, I’m going to assume that there either is no God, or God doesn’t work the way you all think God works. Stop lying to your children. Admit you don’t know, that no one knows, that there is no good way to know at the moment. The future of the human race may depend on your honestly. Remember that we have *fusion weapons* now – we can not afford to run the Crusades again.

Also, stop claiming Christianity is a superior religion to Islam because it doesn’t promote violence. We’re all aware of the violence being done in Africa in the name of Christianity – and we’re all aware of the crusades, and the burning of witches, and the never ending series of moral panics.

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.