The problem with computers and networks

August 4th, 2019

So, one of the things I’ve been saying is that one of the necessary ingredients for a successful collectivist system is good computers and fast networks – and also a *lot* of software designed to protect against corruption and against dictatorship. I could write a book on that subject alone – and maybe I will – but for the moment, I want to focus in on one particularly broken thing which is why I’m thumping the drum so hard for collectivism.

I have friends both in high and in low places. I have hung out with billionaires and with hobos. One of the things I observe is we have made the hoops you have to jump through in America way too difficult to clear – and the billionaires don’t know this, I don’t think, and the hobos do. I seldom see it spoken of, but one of the problems with good computers and fast networks is that it gives the human race perfect memory. That’s a good thing when we’re talking about capturing the latest performance of a musician or ideas of a scientist but it’s not so good when we’re talking about the economic systems.

One thing I’d like to point to – if you rent, and you get evicted, you have a *extremely* short list of places that will rent to you – maybe none in some big cities. Make one mistake, and you’re homeless. And the people who maintain this system feel good and smug and happy about it – but it adds to the chains that make us all a slave. There’s not a lot of margin for certain types of error in America, even though some people are inclined to make certain types of error. We’ll hand you a credit card without explaining compound interest to you, we’ll let you get evicted before we tell you ‘welcome to the ranks of the homeless’, and we’ll charge you with a felony for very small and stupid stuff and then tell you ‘welcome to the ranks of the homeless and unemployed’. And then we’ll throw you in jail again for not having a job.

We need to be a little more forgiving here. With evictions, it should probably be three strikes and you’re out, and after the first we offer you some counseling and education about financial management.

We act as if the human race is barely holding on – as if every dollar counts, as if we’re all about to starve. The media has programmed most of the people here to be horrified that a bum might be getting a free beer somewhere. But the truth is, humanity is the dominant species of earth. We’re so rich it only takes 5% of us to feed all of us, and we can use robots to build houses for us at this point. We’ve just been programmed to believe being horrible to each other is the right thing to do.

I’ll go on more about collectivism later because I don’t want to get sidetracked here, but I do think it’s important to recognize that we have built a system that for no good reason throws people under the bus at every opportunity, and then remembers that it has done so and refuses them again and again. This *costs us all*. People who are frightened don’t take the kind of risks that enrich all of humanity.

The end of the USA / Marks At A Carnival

July 25th, 2019

So, someone on facebook the other day observed that the latest spate of push polls used by basically every candidate out there is essentially treating the electorate like we are a bunch of marks at a carnival, and the politicians are the carnies.

I saw kind of a extreme case of this – Congressman John Lewis sent me a poll asking who was going to win the Democratic nomination. Of course Biden was at the top – I’m fairly sure that the DNC is manipulating the data in any way necessary to make sure no one hears that Bernie is in fact the front runner – but more interestingly, it was a push poll, so I thought I’d go email the Congressman to tell him to cut it out. Strangely enough, when I got to his site, it asked for my zip plus four, and then bounced me to a page that informed me I wasn’t allowed to email the congressman since I wasn’t in his district.

Well, then, why is he allowed to email me – not just push polls, which are insulting enough as it is – like I can’t tell that you’re trying to manipulate my opinion by asking me for it – but push polls that end in a list of “Yes, I”ll chip in $WHATEVER” with increasing amounts of $WHATEVER, but no checkbox for “I can’t donate right now”.

At this point, I think we’ve reached the endgame for the USA. Both parties are so corrupt as to be unrecognizable from the standpoint of honor, dignity, or desire to do the right thing. If I could push a button and disband them both I would, and I think this probably applies for most of the citizens here. There’s a ongoing fight about socialism vs capitalism as if they haven’t both been demonstrated to both be successful and be failures. We need some new ideas, badly. But our pundits seem to be stuck on the old ones.

The thing that astonishes me is all the people demonstrating brand loyalty to Trump as if he wasn’t clearly the most corrupt guy in the room. Even his own supporters have to admit he lies – at this point I think he’s at 10,000 lies, a average of 100 a day? I lack the energy to fight with them any more. If they can’t tell that they’re egging on the captain as he opens the throttles aimed straight for the iceberg, I don’t think there’s anything I can say that is going to open their eyes. The whole thing is a interesting experience in how much neuroplasticity humans *don’t* have.

Is there any way off this sinking ship?

I did realize one interesting thing about Trump that pretty much signals the end of the USA – he doesn’t even pretend that he represents the half of people that didn’t vote for him, or even that he likes us. He cheers on the hate at his rallies that is becoming a cancer eating into any hope of a compromise between the two sides. I can’t ever remember a previous president who didn’t at least make a token effort to show they represented everyone.

Of course, we’ve never had a president who was quite so much of a raging narcissist before, either. I guess it shows kindo f a loss of the american innocence and idealism.

One valid point in Trump’s favor – the media also don’t make any attempt to pretend they’re accurately quoting him, either. For example, the famous ‘good people on both sides of the debate’ – *in the very same sentence* Trump said he wasn’t talking about white supremacists, but the sound-bite-oholic media carefully spun and edited to make it sound like he was. I was astonished when I found the whole audio clip.

So it’s possible that there’s something to this whole ‘fake news’ idea as well. On the other paw, if we can’t trust the media, and it’s *really* clear we can’t trust Trump, we don’t really know what’s going on anyway.

We elected someone who said ‘Go ahead, punch him, I’ll pay your legal bills’. (And of course, Trump wouldn’t have – there’s a long history of him not even paying the vendors who do work for him). People talk about the ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’, and yah, that’s bad, but not as bad as ‘Go ahead, punch him.’ Our president, who is supposed to represent all of us, encouraging violence towards one of the people he was claiming he was running to represent at his own rally… at this point, busy locking children in cages. Supporters busy defending him with bullshit about the rule of law – pretending they don’t know that we deliberately built a broken immigration system so we could make the “illegals” work for peanuts. Supporters defending a president who has caused *children to die of dehydration*. And they mean it. The hate is strong with the Republicans. They feel good and warm about calling us left-wingers snowflakes, and cheering on the idea that they can drink our tears. They feel good about killing children. They’ve picked their scapegoats and they’re going to hurt them as much as they can and feel good about how good it feels to hate. They’re going to ignore any science they like, and suppress and censor it as well. Dollars are more important than people, dollars are more important than continuing to have a survivable ecosystem. So what if all our grandchildren are going to be eating yeast and barely surviving. Hate some more! More dollars!

I don’t see a way back from here.

——

Followup – John Lewis’s campaign sent me *another* push poll.. this time instead of chipping in, I’m to RUSH my money – still no option for ‘no’. There was a contact us link, so I sent them a link to this blog entry, and a request for a apology. They at least let me email them there.

——

And another side note – if you want to see the most excessive example of a push poll I have ever seen, check out Trump’s push poll. Aren’t you happy to know the president represents everyone?

Movie Blues

July 12th, 2019

Another of my movie-soundtrack compositions – this one is really more a sketch than anything, but I liked it so I thought I’d share it with the class.

Movie Blues

Cover – Hallelujah

June 14th, 2019

Just because I haven’t posted anything in a very long time, I thought I’d record something to let you all know I’m still recording over here.

Still working on the album. In the meantime, here’s something that will *not* be on the album and which might or might not suck 🙂

Sheer Covers Hallelujah

On recent events

April 21st, 2019

So, I’m a vocal critic of Christianity. Pretty much anyone who reads the blog knows that. However, I recently donated to help rebuild some churches in the south that had been burned by miscreants. What gives?

I guess I probably should have mentioned before. I don’t want Christians dead. I don’t want them hurt. I want them to stop hurting other people, but I don’t think the way to get that is to hurt them. I know this is a popular point of view – our army is based on the thesis that the way to get people to behave differently is to shoot at them – but I think in time we will come to see that it’s a small-minded idea – that in fact you start cycles of war and retribution that can take hundreds of years to end.

And, apparently – I wouldn’t have guessed this, but what actions we take tell us these things – if you’re a Christian and they burn down your church, and I have some extra dollars, I will help pay to rebuild it. I don’t think anyone should have their homes or community buildings destroyed because of who they are or what they believe. Especially since a lot of this is based on the unfortunate repeat-rise of the KKK , the proud boys, and groups like them. My hope is we will get beyond all this, because it’s pretty dystopian and I don’t want to live in a dystopia.

But, in the meantime, my thoughts are with all the people who have churches and homes on fire, or exploding, and I hope you all survive the adventure and heal as best you can. And I hope some day we learn not to use violence to settle everything.

Collectivism and money

March 26th, 2019

One of the interesting realizations I had recently is that one of the mistakes that has been made in attempts to implement collectivist economies in the past is the insistence of sticking to “money” – i.e. the idea that you can successfully represent the value of everything as a single number. I’ve talked in the various bits about bucketized currency about why you can’t accurately model value in the real world just by using one price, and I’ll probably go on about it at some length again later, but for the moment, let me just mention that if you’re not using flow-based resource management or production for use, you’re still falling into a lot of the fallacies that keep breaking the capitalist system. I know that the USSR, for example, had a currency, which makes me suspect that it was not really all that collectivist.

One of the things that I keep noticing is how various failures to track and respect value tend to make the on-paper accounting system get out of whack with the real world, and how this leaves us with the impression that we are broke when in fact we are not. I’ve come to the conclusion that the powers that be like it that way – seeing Trump has finally convinced me that there really are people like the villains in Disney films, who cackle gleefully at the idea of enslaving others and are overjoyed to know that somewhere, someone is suffering because of decisions they made.

Of course, those disney villain types are a lot of what makes designing a resource allocation system so difficult. If everyone was going to play fair and within the rules, we wouldn’t actually need a RAS at all – a few large warehouses full of stuff per community and a agreement to clean stuff up and bring it back, and to fix anything that gets broken, would be all we would need. But, of course, any time there’s a system someone is going to have to try and game it. And clearly there’s some people who take great joy in making sure they get the biggest slice of the pie – even, ironically, if they’re *getting a smaller piece than they would have if everyone had gotten the same slice*. (That is, as far as I can tell, where we currently are – if we worked together and implemented some of the technologies I have spoken of elsewhere in this blog, we’d all be – at least in terms of the experiences we were having – rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But the people with the most resources – the ones who could most help make that happen – would rather be known as the head cheese, than have more because we all have more)

Anyway, back to my original point. One example of this is overdraft fees. Now, first of all, these obviously don’t represent anything rational in the real-value world. It didn’t cost the bank *anything* that the overdraft occured, other than the very tiny loss of imaginary fractional banking reserve headroom. In the real world, no resources were lost. However, the bank robs (no other word for it) the customer based on the overdraft, thusly making the accounting system get out of whack with real world resources.

I don’t know that the USSR specifically had overdraft fees, but I do know that not all dollars – or rubles – are created equal, so any time you have the idea that you can put a price on something you’re probably falling for the fallacy of price. A dollar that buys a robot-farmed apple is a much “cheaper” dollar than a dollar that buys a handmade item made by a craftsman. A dollar that buys power generated by coal is a much more expensive dollar – measure in suffering or in dead people, your choice – than a dollar that buys power generated by a nuclear plant. We try to use scarcity to set price, but this isn’t that reasonable a thing to do and encourages gaming of the system (I gesture you to Enron shutting down all of California’s peaker plants so it could make millions off of how power had suddenly become scarce). The truth is, the idea that it’s rational to give things a price tag is a fallacy. And yet, we do need to encourage people to conserve scarce resources, and to budget and make decisions based on what’s most important to them. How to do?

The other side of me

February 26th, 2019

I’ve wanted for a while to do a song in the style of Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, and many others, where the words don’t really mean anything but seem like they should, and so the listener fills in part of the meaning and the song becomes as much about the listener as the original artist.

So, here’s a first attempt – I have a feeling I will be doing this type of thing again later in my career. I present, without further ado:

The Other Side Of Me

Bunne provided some assistance with mixdown – and may be presenting his own mix of the song – but otherwise, this is all me.

Christianity – the fundamental flaw in the premise

February 16th, 2019

So, again before I wander down this rabbit hole, let me remind you all that if you’re the type of Christian who thinks that we should be excellent to each other, and no one should be threatening anyone with hell, this isn’t about you. You just go on loving people and we’ll be all good.

This one is targeted towards those who believe in the concept of original sin. Specifically, it’s about how absurd you all sound once one spends some time looking closely at the foundations of the premise.

We arrive from the factory mostly unformatted. Our DNA is not packed with large amounts of knowledge and the means to express it. It is the nature of unformatted neural networks to learn by doing – and inevitably by making a *lot* of mistakes. This is better than complete inaction, which would be the other option.

The Christians are asking us to believe that a all-knowing God didn’t know this about neural networks. They’re also asking us to believe that a all-knowing God is somehow offended by the fact that we make mistakes even though it is a *lot* harder to make a self aware neural network than a turing machine. On the surface, what the Evangelicals think God wanted was a turing machine, or in any case some sort of state machine that accepts instructions. Yes, we know how to make those. They’re fairly easy to make, although there are some subtleties. But you can make a CPU out of anything from relays to vacuum tubes to gears, and it will follow the instructions it is given with the patience of a jacquard loom weaving according to the punched cards, yae onto eternity, forever.

It seems rather improbable that a all knowing deity would have created *us* if *e wanted obedience. Company that had something interesting to say, yes, that I can believe.

On the other paw, it’s *easy* to believe in humans authoring the bible as a technique of controlling other humans. One of the things I keep pondering when regularly engaging with a religious leader on facebook is that if I ever convince him that he’s utterly nuts and a negative influence on the world (and I’m fairly sure he is) he’s going to have to get another job. I have to imagine that makes him less receptive to the things I have to say – even if he knows they are true, there’s still the concept of being on the dole tomorrow. We *know* humans write viral content, and we *know* humans write religions. I gesture you towards both mormonism and scientology as religions that were pretty clearly just written by some guy.

But back to the flawed premise. Christians get really nervous when you start talking about the mechanics of thought. This isn’t surprising, since the basic nature of neural networks is at odds with their premise. I suppose it is possible that you could have created a NN with a complete predefined structure such that it wouldn’t make any mistakes, but that’s not what we are and that’s not what was done. There’s not a great way to precompute the right pathways on the fly – as a NN, you learn by doing, and as a side effect you make a fair number of mistakes.

This is exactly what the evangelicals are arguing “offends” their “just” God. (I think I’ve said before, let’s all be grateful the evangelical God is almost certainly not real, because *e is one evil bastard). This would be a case of God creating us to be what we are and then blaming us for being as *e created us. Not something I’d expect from a higher power. *and there’s no way, as NN-based systems without any real data preload, that we could ever be anything else*! So the religious *really are* arguing that God created us flawed and then hated us because we were flawed and then forgave some of us but only some of us who happened to believe a particular thing in a particular way.

Seems far more likely that religion was created to give certain people (especially the priests) money and power. I am *not* particularly too impressed with how they used it. The one bit of good news is, statistically, religion is shrinking. More and more people are choosing ‘none’ for religion. I have hopes that one good side effect of the Trump regime will be the next generation will have almost no religious members. Having seen the evil and the hypocrisy of the evangelicals, hopefully the next generation will decide that religion deserves to die.

I also think as we learn more about how religious thoughts are stored in neural networks, and how they pattern the interconnects between subnets, we’ll both learn how to help people deconvert more quickly and efficiently, and also how bad a idea religion was, or at least the religions we’ve seen so far. I can think of some very useful operating-system-esque belief systems, but none of them would start by saying you are the chosen one and anyone not your religion is going to hell. Or start by saying you are fundamentally flawed, a horrible person, and only by God’s Grace will you avoid being tortured for all eternity.

I notice that *no one* has taken a stab at counterarguing my previous post (here).

Christians got it backwards?

January 25th, 2019

While debating with my southern baptist pastor friend about all things religious (started out, as usual, as a debate about religion), I was struck with a interesting thought.

What if the (fundamentalist) Christians have it exactly backwards?

It’s hard for me to imagine a loving omnipotent omniscient deity that would send anyone to eternal torture because they couldn’t believe something that is, frankly, on the face of it, unbelievable. The basic premise of at least some christians is that you will be sent to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity, but A) We know humans are storytellers B) we know many of the bits of christian mythology are older than christianity, thanks to the work of Joseph Campbell C) we know that humans are susceptible to informational viruses – just look at facebook statusi that say ‘make a copy of me’ and D) we know that humans have a tendency to abuse that susceptibility.

I do believe, if there is a loving God and there is a Hell, Hell is a temporary thing. Only a evil creature would have someone experience torment for all time. Now, let’s posit for a moment that God is *not* evil. Perhaps to get into his utopia, you have to show a deep understanding of what love is, and Earth is a training ground for understanding that.

By insisting that God is planning on tormenting souls for all eternity unless they believe in this particular religion, while knowing that there are many competing religions, Christians may be demonstrating a failure to understand love that will result in them being sent back to Earth after they die to try again in the hopes that maybe next time they will learn a little more about love.

In other words, they’ve got the test entirely backwards. The test isn’t ‘have faith in this unbelievable claim so you won’t get tormented for all eternity’, the test is ‘recognize that this claim does not represent love to show that you understand love so that you won’t have a miserable time amongst people who are driven by it’.

I’m very fond of the bit of the bible where Paul (yes, that rat bastard Paul did have his good days) talks about Love – 1 Corinthians 13 I believe – you know, the Love is patient , love is kind, it does not keep a record of past wrongs..

Well, let’s try out a few Love.. statements and see if they seem reasonable

Love accepts you as you are .. seems to be the most reasonable one. At least, trying out the inverse, Love does not accept you as you are, seems to generate a strong resonance of falsehood within me.

I can understand “Love encourages you to grow”. But “Love threatens to torture you if you don’t grow” again generates a certain sense of falseness.

I should clarify that I’m only speaking of exclusionary Christians here – those of you who think I’m going to hell. I *know* there are Christians who see it the same way I do, who do not think that I’m going to be tormented for all eternity for the things I think and believe, and I thank you for not adding to the problem.

As promised.. more music in 2019

January 11th, 2019

Here’s for anyone who’s been pining for my movie-soundtrack stylings

Dreaming’s Done