The problem with communism

May 27th, 2017

(cut & pasted from something I posted on facebook, because I thought it might be worth saving)

The problem with communism is that by definition, it means the state owns all the resources. Collective ownership of property can work – does work in some cases – but you can not, generally, trust the state. At least, history suggests you can’t. Think about it, do you want the US government to own all the resources, given it’s track record? The government tends to be made up of people who by choice want to have power over other people – who it would appear are the last people you want to actually have that power.

If you find a way to make the state omnibenevolent (say, replacing the humans with very well programmed AIs – or maybe having some powerful incentive for them to remain benevolent to all), then I’d say communism is a wizard idea. Until then, I think socialism (where the resources belong to the workers) or even capitalism (where the resources belong to the bosses) is a better choice.

(I’d also note, apropos of nothing, that capitalism undoubtedly has it’s place. We probably do not want to remove incentives to compete for the best designs, for example, as without those we would not have the computers you all are reading this on, the network that connects them together, or the efficient power grid that runs them). It seems likely to me that no one ideology is going to solve all our resource allocation woes – that picking the right ideology for the right resource is what makes sense – just as no one algorithm is appropriate for all computing challenges. Don’t use a hammer to drive in a screw..)

Part of why I keep talking about using buckets to track money is that I think we likely should be using different algorithms for allocating non-scarce resources like food than for allocating scarce ones. It makes no sense to make someone starve *while we’re throwing food away*, but it may make sense to not hand a yacht to someone who’s not doing anything productive when we are still in a space where yachts are scarce.


May 25th, 2017



Little bits of paper
Ones and zeros online
Matter more to you
Than live hearts and minds

You tell yourselves lies
About where the poor have been
You say they’re all just lazy
You don’t understand

The system we built
Doesn’t put you back up when you fall
Instead it locks you behind another prison wall

And while you stand there
In your ivory tower on the green
Another kid gets crushed between the wheels of the machine

Money is not value
It’s just the corpse and the cost
Value is the things you really need
But that idea gets lost
When your mind is obsessed
With how rich you could be
You don’t see how if we left it behind we’d all be set free

And if you’re telling me
You want things to stay the same
Which is just another way of saying conservative
With just another name

I’m telling you, man, you don’t see the fall
Staying the same is another way of dying
That’s the writing on the wall

And if you don’t want to join me in this dream
At least admit you’re making hell
With the tools and the means

You’re making weapons.. Shoot the guns and drop the bombs
To kill another innocent

It’s obvious to me
From where I stand
We can all be unimaginably wealthy
If you just lend a hand

Stop thinking of this as a zero sum game
With what we know now, the rules are not the same

Think about virtual reality
Think about gifts – a race set free
Not even Jesus could see the whole picture yet
When he said the poor are with you always – he missed a bet.

Biological systems, the most powerful computers yet known
If we could load the right software, paradise could be homegrown
Whlie our bodies kept the wheels moving
Our minds could be alive and free
Inside our own envelope
Freedom, inevitably

But I’m guessing that aint what you’re about
You’re about ownership, and power, and making sure you leave the rest of us out
So you’ll forgive me if I sometimes don’t see your side
If I think you’re either evil or stupid, or have something big to hide

The story:

So, I was testing out Waves’ new grand piano (this), and I decided to track vox and the piano and just kind of spin some lyrics as I went. I liked what I got enough to add some layers and post it here, and hopefully some of you will enjoy it as well. I think my favorite bit is where the acoustic guitar comes in..

The title is definitely a nod to the trope, although, then again, maybe some anvils need to be dropped.

Hypocrisy and neural networks

May 8th, 2017

So, as we see hypocrisy abound in our current world political situation, it’s become quite popular to criticise people on it. And I am not here to say that it is a good phenomenon – but it is certainly a *understandable* one.

So, first, before I head down this rabbit hole, let me draw your attention to videos of the Milgram experiments. One thing you will notice, over and over, is that people clearly were not of one mind about pushing the switch. They were obviously agonized over it, many of them protested or questioned the action, and yet ultimately the neural wiring that translated out to blind obedience of authority won. I know that I’ve discussed this before.

Now, I would say that this phenomenon is very closely related to hypocrisy. In both cases, you have collections of subnets that are at war with each other, or at least have a disagreement over what the correct action is. It’s pretty clear that religion does a much better job of programming people to say the right things than to do the right things, and what that may indicate is that religion does a good job of programming storyteller or verbal parts of our neocortex, but that a lot of the things that drive our actual actions are formed before religion ever gets it’s claws on us – they may be native to our DNA and the way it expresses itself, or formed in earlier childhood. Or it may be that they are formed later, but that some types of experiences lead to stronger collections of subnets than others. In any case, the thing to remember about hypocrisy is that generally I think you will find it happens when someone is of two minds about the subject.

For example, all the discussion about $CONSERVITIVE_POLITICAL_PARTY talking about how great $FAVORITE_RELIGION is while simultaneously doing things that are strongly against everything that $FOUNDING_RELIGIOUS_LEADER stood for are a great example of this. Some portion of their minds is in favor of tolerance and love and feeding the hungry and all of those things, but a larger portion of their minds is in favor of grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down, and possibly some things that are. (It is also, of course, possible that no part of their minds is in any way in favor of $RELIGION but that they are in favor of getting elected and since there is currently no punishment for lying on your way to office, there’s no reason not to claim to be in support of $RELIGION if it gets you the gig and the nice cushy salary for life)

However, assuming good faith for the moment, let’s suppose that they are sincere in their adoration of $RELIGION. That doesn’t mean that their whole mind is – and, no matter how persistent the illusion that we’re one single person per body, the truth is that we’re a huge collection of subnets, all with different goals and agendas and experience. I know that I’ve already referred to this, but I gesture you to the experiments of cutting the corpus collosum and the results that ensued.

I really think we’re not going to make serious progress until we start to accept some of the strengths and limitations of natural neural networks. Hypocrisy is in fact both. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – and this is exactly the behavior we’re talking about here. Without it, we would never really be able to weigh the validity of contradictory but true ideas.

For anyone who’s been missing my movie soundtrack stuff

April 2nd, 2017

Mellow Fools

Free will and state machines

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.

“Us And Them” and neural networks

February 12th, 2017

More of my hand-wavy guesswork about the structure of the human mind follows.

So, one of the interesting questions that comes up when thinking about NNNs is the question of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It’s a pretty standard part of human thinking to think of yourself as a member of a group (the ‘us’) and people who are not members of that group as being ‘the enemy’ or at least subdesirable in some way. I’m not thinking this type of thinking is all that helpful a lot of the time, but it’s interesting to think about in terms of what it says about the underlying network.

Earlier, I hypothesized that while we as individuals have the ability to determine whether information is coming from inside or outside of us (or whether we think it is – in fact we’re probably not in a great position to know for sure) very few neural subnets can tell the source of information – and in fact many subnets may not be able to tell a data access from a command from a teaching / learning moment. Extending on that idea a little bit, it may be very difficult to abstract any external data that a local copy does not exist of.

It’s very likely that any attribute we can recognize in the “them” exists within us, since if it didn’t we wouldn’t have a frame of reference to think about it at all. This doesn’t mean we’re all mass murderers, but it does mean that we all have a collection of symbols surrounding the idea of mass murder. Generally, I imagine, that symbol is wired up in such a way as to inhibit such behavior in most of us. (After all, neurons do most definitely have inhibit inputs as well as excite inputs)

Now, it’s important to realize that a lot of these symbols are necessarily fairly large. You don’t fit a idea like mass murder inside a single neuron, or even a hundred, and you also have to have some fairly large neural bridges sufficient to allow reaching between symbols that are physically somewhat disparate, because the overall system is so large that there are physical limits as to what can be wired directly to what.

So, one of the questions – especially insofar as we’ve been discussing neural games of Go – is how much of ‘them’ is a interior part of us that is attempting to be a acting part at any given time. We the controlling personality is obviously going to resist acting on the urges and impetus of the parts of us that are what we would consider part of the ‘them’, but they’re still very much active and engaged neural subnets which are participating in the overall big picture of making us who we are. If you removed them entirely, you would likely not get a stable or usable system. This would seem to play in nicely into the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

DID and neural networks

February 1st, 2017

So, popular consensus is that DID is a mental illness caused by extreme trauma that causes a personality to fragment into segments.

I assume it is news to no one that while I do not consider $future_person[0] a alter, I do believe that I have DID, although normally my alters stay very far backgrounded. I do however think that they all contribute to the overall system – that is to say, I think that for example when I’m jamming with the band and making up lyrics on the fly but my conscious experience is only slightly engaged in creating the lyrics (a phrase or fragment or concept), some wordsmith part of my mind is creating bits that rhyme and turning this into full blown lyrics. For a example of this, check out this audio clip from band practice with Bruce, Art, and me – this was not a prewritten song, it was improv – clip

I think it is possible to have something that is a close kin to DID and have it be a more productive order than the average configuration rather than a disorder. The reason is that it enables the operator of the mind that is using this configuration to more effectively utilize the entire neural network.

Consider that normally, your conscious experience is only engaging with a few dozen threads at once – that’s all you can have ‘foregrounded’, or actively a part of your world. Now, obviously there are neural structures that do things like running a scheduler for running events at preset times, but if you have alters, you can also pass off foreground tasks that you don’t need to be actively engaged with to other bits of yourself – it’s kind of like the advantages of having multiple cores in a CPU. I don’t know if alters have a conscious experience, or just a head node and task list, or what – it would be fascinating to be able to look at the structure of my mind sufficiently to find out – but certainly they can be engaging neurons and neural subnets that would otherwise be completely idle.

Now, of course, I have no memory of what it might be like to *not* be this way. So it’s possible that I’m wrong and that I would simply be able to handle more threads if I wasn’t broken. I do seek certain types of reintegration, although with a fair amount of fear and trepidation because I’m hesitant to fuck too much with a running system.


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?

Inevitable neurological war, part duex

January 31st, 2017

So, I discussed in a earlier article a inevitable neurological war that I see set up entirely too often. You can find that article here if you’d like to review the bidding.

I submit to my audience that Christianity as I see it implemented on Earth, at least amongst a number of it’s adherents, sets up a similar inevitable neurological war. Subnets have to decide whether they’re going to submit to the idea that God is Love, and Love keeps no record of past wrongs, or submit to the idea that God is Justice, and will torture you for all eternity for the mistakes you make here. Both messages are contained within the same religion – along with a very nice bit of code to make it both viral, and not self-updating.

In other words, it’s malware. It sets up a neurological game of Go, very likely in order to make it easier for the Powers That Be to control us by limiting the amount of use of our 10^11 neurons we can make.

Now, I don’t deny that some people manage to transcend this feature of it. I don’t doubt they are the ones for whom the idea of God being Love is the important one, and them as have a broad and complex definition of Love. I wouldn’t deny that Love will occasionally deliver you a difficult lesson. I do continue to insist that the only way that Love would place you in hell for all eternity is if you A: asked for it and B: continued to ask for it, repeatedly, for all eternity, knowing that that is what you were asking for.

At this point, I’ve got my eyes out for neurological games of Go in general. I’ve come to suspect that the operating system loaded by entrainment into most humans has a very high suck factor and that A: we can do better and B: we should do better

So, one of the things I’m weeding out in my own mind is neurological games of Go that have no end and benefit no one.

As I’ve talked about, I’m pretty sure that you can experience amazing things – and quite desirable ones – if you get the *correct* neural operating system loaded on your minds.


January 30th, 2017

New from Sheer, angsty prog rock. Almost Floydian:


Drums: Bruce DeGrado & Sheer
Everything Else: Sheer


Day after day
Things fade away
How am I supposed to be okay
With the things you say?

And night after night
Things aren’t quite right
The fading of the light
Dark is bright

So many holes
Will we ever be made whole
Over and over we’re forced to let go
Of the things we love and know