Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

I do sometimes feel like I was born in the wrong place or time, but I have to admit there are many worse places I could have landed in. My pro-collectivism attitude would have ensured I was unemployed and homeless in the 50s thanks to McCarthy. My anti-Christian attitudes would have gotten me *hung* in the middle ages, and my mental illness would have gotten me shot by the cops by now if I were black. All of this does underline the fact that we have more freedom than we ever have, but that we also have a long way to go.

Why to play fair in war, especially cold wars

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

So, recently on facebook on the Heinlein discussion group I had discussed the fundamental hypocrisy of the USA threatening the USSR over the missiles they placed in cuba when we had missiles placed in europe equally close to the USSR and ready to threaten their homes.

Someone in the group had said essentially that one should not try to play fair in war, that you should do whatever you can do to win.

Now, shortly after this I decided to take a facebreak, so I never posted my rebuttal there. However, I”m going to post it here, because I think it’s a important idea to think about.

No, you should not take unfair advantage, *especially* in a cold war. Even Heinlein recognized this – in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress he did not have the colonists drop their kinetic energy weapons on every city in the world even though they clearly could have wiped out 90% of humanity with the first drop. Prof’s reason was sanity itself “Whenever possible, always leave room for your enemy to become your friend.”. The same sanity appears in Crimson Tide “The enemy is war itself”.

This is *especially* important in the nuclear age, but it was important even before then. A endless serious of escalations will eventually leave everybody blind and will lead to a never-ending war. The USA unfortunately has a thuggish attitude when it comes to the rest of the world and has no problem with using force when it’s not appropriate. For this, we leave our children with a unpayable debt- eventually our country will be forced to default or disband, or we will need to change the way we think about money. For this, we have the ability to wipe all humanity off earth just by launching a third of the fusion weapons we have mounted on ICBMs. (One might say one proof there is a God is that WWIII hasn’t happened – although this may just prove that quantum immortality is a fact)

You cannot do whatever it takes to win. Sometimes you have to accept that losing now is better than losing later in a much larger way. The Geneva Conventions, which the USA has violated over and over, recognize this fact, as well as the fact that civilians should not be forced to suffer because of the awfulness of leaders. Unfortunately because we have the biggest gun, our government can not be put in the slammer, but that is undoubtedly where it belongs for repeated crimes against humanity.

I will also mention that in a cold war, it’s *especially* important to play fair. The best outcome of a cold war is massive technological innovation and no actual hostilities. The USA and the USSR didn’t manage this – we had a series of proxy wars that killed millions and did untold damage to ecosystems. Hopefully a future performance test between collectivism and individualism will be less damaging to the world and the people in it.

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Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

So, while watching You Don’t Know Jack, I pondered about how the religious are almost always on the wrong side of every issue. Over time, the people figure this out, but they always slow down the growth of humanity.

Naturally the religious are on the wrong side of assisted suicide – abortion – gay marriage – whether the earth orbits the sun or vice versa, even.

My natural tendency is to blame religion but I’m starting to contemplate whether I’m looking at this backwards. Perhaps religion is not the cause but rather the symptom, and the cause is a neural network that resonates with wrong ideas. (in some cases just wrong in that they’re inherently internally inconsistent, wrong in some cases in that they discard empathy and throw fellow humans under the bus, and wrong in some cases in that they are demonstrably factually incorrect)

This clearly is conservativism – how many times have they tried the Laffer curve in the hopes that maybe this time Lucy won’t pull away the football? How many times do they insist the problem is the immigrants when in fact the immigrants add enormous value to the society and have a much lower rate of crime than native citizens?

One question is whether that structure is something that can change. I tend to think it’s probably not.. it’s probably compiled in via neural structures on a level below that which most people can access. Conservatives can’t see that they’re wrong, any more than religious can see the inherent contradictions in their religion. I’m sure I have similar blindness lurking somewhere, but of course I can’t know where it is either.

And another..

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

One thing that is dramatic and scary is how quickly Americans are willing to watch their government throw away the bill of rights. (Except, of course, the second :)) I’m watching a history of the communist party in America and it’s incredible to what extent the government tried to outlaw a *idea*, and punished people for having that idea. It’s also similarly impressive how quickly half of Americans embraced facism when Trump showed up – and still can’t acknowledge to this day – even after a armed insurrection to overthrow the result of a free and fair election – that that’s what they embraced.

The bill of rights represents a set of ideals that we should try to live up to. It is true that from time to time we will slip – and from time to time safety may require placing some limits (i.e. not equipping citizens with nuclear bombs, no matter what the second amendment says) – but we should all act, by removing leaders who are encouraging overthrowing the ideas mentioned in the bill of rights. (This should be done by channels built within the system when possible, but at some point force may be necessary because of a willingness to cheat by both of the current sides). We have already lost the freedom to assemble – police regularly gas, mace, and beat up demonstrators who are peacefully assembling to petition the government for redress of grievances. And apparently in the 50s, we as a people allowed our leaders to go considerably further, and to outlaw ideas and to punish free speech and forbid association.

The truth is, if marxist or stalinist communism was superior, it should have been permitted to win. But it clearly wasn’t – events at the chernobyl power station demonstrate that stalinist communism had fatal flaws and would ultimately be relegated to the dustbin of history. (Any command and control axis that allows what is politically popular to override what is true in a nuclear power station without a containment system deserves to die a very quick death. Clearly the people in a control room “representing the interests of the party” should not have had any power at all – and yet they were able to bully board operators into doing suicidally stupid things. Of course, in America we’d probably see the same stupidity, but for money. Fortunately other forces – the fear of being sued into oblivion if you irradiate a few million civilians – mean we build nuclear power stations with containment systems so when they fail few radioactives get to escape)

However, we the people should be permitted to decide on our means of government – part of why I am so upset about Trump et al is not because Trump was a fascist, but because he did not have a majority and he still behaved as if he had a clear mandate. And, to underline the fact, he would never claim that he had won the popular vote in the second election, but he was willing to use violence to prevent the transfer of power.

So what gives? When is it appropriate to use violence, given that humans are wrong so often? It would have clearly been appropriate to use violence to *prevent* Trump from becoming a dictator, for example. And yet, one can look at cautionary tales like the USSR and the Nazis and McCarthyism and see that sometimes what is approved of by the majority is clearly wrong.

Hopefully it’s not a question I’ll have to come up with a firm answer to in the near future.

Side note

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

One side note to the previous post – one major problem I see in general is that people tend to identify a political and resource allocation system, declare it perfect, and then fight for it. In the case of the USA we’re willing to commit mass murder to stop other countries from practicing collectivism, for example.

What we don’t do, and we *really should*, is figure out ways to testbed different systems and compare them with each other – and I don’t think that the ideal country is the one that can build the best weapons systems, but in general the current situation of the world has a number of people trying to optimize for this.

People have religious level attachment to systems of government – no one believes in testing, or in test-release cycles for things like laws. If we wrote code for applications the way we wrote laws, you wouldn’t even be able to get a working word processor written. In general one big problem is people believing they are right – and continuing to believe it even when proof they are wrong is shown to them.

This of course is part of the inherent limitations I talked about with NNNs, in the previous article. But we should build systems of government with the intention that we will check on the basic structure and tune it from time to time. It is not enough to vote in and out people to hold representative positions in a system that is itself failing to meet the needs of the users.

The implications of the limits of neural networks on political systems

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a bit is the limitations of neural-network based life (i.e. us) and how they affect the political systems we form and our quest for something approximating a utopia.

Here are some of the more obvious limitations of NNNs:

1) “Unlearning” is difficult in general
2) Certain subjects (politics and religion) tend to end up compiled as hard structures and therefore be difficult to unlearn
3) The part of us that actually makes decisions and the part of us that explain the decisions we make are not that tightly coupled. Due to this, we will often explain our decisions in ways that are not correct even though we are not consciously lying.
4) Skills we don’t use tend to atrophy as the network repeatedly rebalances to reinforce and improve skills we do use. This in particular is a problem when we exercise too much power as we tend to lose our ability to empathize with people we have power over. Literally, authority causes brain damage – this is dramatically demonstrated time and time again throughout our society but we have made no real move to indoctrinate people into understanding that it is true or to change the structure of our society to be less hierarchical.. one study here.
5) While we as collective individuals are very good at identifying the source of information (internal vs external) – or at least think we are – individual subnets have a very difficult time doing so. Therefore people asserting authority can order us to do things that are wrong and we are very likely to do them anyway – see the Milgram effect.

I was pondering why I think that our best and most ideal political systems are not really implementable in the real world. I’ve talked about wanting a direct democracy where people only vote on the topics that interest them, and their vote is weighted based on demonstrated knowledge on the topic in question. There’s no way that the powers that be would ever willingly let go of their power, partially because they are brain damaged and do not realize they are – see #4.

People also are carefully in this country brainwashed to fear collectivism, mostly with appeals to emotion and faulty statements. In the real world resource allocation involves flows of resources, not flows of money, but we’re assured that any time someone gets a free meal it costs dollars out of our pockets.

I do think the most ideal resource allocation system would have a greater aspect of collectivism than the world we currently live in. I also do think that a direct democracy mixed with a meritocracy would result in the best possible governance. The advantages of using a more collectivist resource allocation system is that we could pursue mass automation without anyone starving or not being able to live indoors, and the advantage of a direct democracy which is also a meritocracy are legion and probably could be the subject of a entire series of articles. We’d have to start out by talking about the basic problems with representitive democracy, especially when limited to a two party system.

Anyway, it should be pretty clear why a direct democracy is preferable over a representative democracy considering #4. When speaking of collectivism, though, I think it is important to draw a distinction between communism and socialism.

I wish that I could believe otherwise, but I have to say that until and unless we can build a command and control system that isn’t subject to corruption, communism is a bad idea. The reason is that in a communist system, the resources belong to the state. We have yet to figure out how to build a trustworthy state – ideally I wouldn’t even allow the states of the world to own weapons of mass destruction.

Socialism is definitely a better idea (the resources belong to the workers) but one unfortunate tendency is that unethical individuals will claim to be leading a socialist revolution until they get into control and then it turns out their socialist revolution is actually a attempt to build a dictatorship or oligarchy.

Anyway, I think no matter what you do, you have to remember that it’s a bad idea to leave people in power for too long. We have seen in the united states a government that has run away into repeated acts of pure evil – starting wars over false pretenses and for profit, drone strikes that kill 10x the number of innocents that they kill targets – and we can go back further in time and see the government repeatedly destroy people’s lives for daring to promote collectivism, and willing to use a machine gun on workers who are striking for better conditions. We can see the government repeatedly break it’s word with the native americans. We can, over and over, see the government being horrible. And yet, there is no real attempt to fix it. At this point I think a lot of people recognize there is a problem, although one very big issue is that we do have two different utopias – at least!

Anyway, I hope that at some point we will run into a generation which will think about, as they are designing resource allocation systems and command and control systems – and please remember those are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS – communism, socialism, and capitalism are NOT political systems nor systems of command and control – dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, representative democracy, direct democracy are NOT resource allocation systems – and consider the limitations of humans as they design our path forward.

I also do think there is a large role for programmable computers in a future world. Just in representative democracy they can be used to draw the lines of districts but they can also help us run a direct democracy with discussion groups for individual topics, weighting and votes on individual topics, etc. I know that a number of people are concerned that such a system would disenfranchise the homeless and poor, but I think we could easily arrange to have computers in libraries to give people the access they need – and I also know that we could arrange for computers in prisons and that there are a lot of reasons to think that that would be a good idea.

My response to Robert Reich’s comment on cryptocurrency

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

1) I think it’s a good thing to take money – the power to mint it and control it – out of the hands of government. Crypto also offers the possibility of evolving money in two important directions – #1: we can start tracking metadata for each transaction including real world resources and man-hours – ETH already has the vehicle for this, although it would take getting everyone to understand why it was a good idea to get it implemented #2: We can start using separate types of money for renewable and nonrenewable resources. Cryptocurrency helps open people’s eyes to the idea of ‘multiple types of money’ and could also be a vehicle to help facilitate this. Squishing all types of value into one type of money is resulting in us repeatedly doing stupid things.
2) The large use of energy is something that could easily be rectified. If instead of having all participants constantly hashing and scaling the difficulty needed by the total hashrate, we required participants to *occasionally* hash to prove they *could have* (replace the proof of work with a proof of capability of work) and to hash on demand (allowing the network both to get the hashes it needs to make the blockchain go and also allowing the network to challenge suspected cheaters to prove they really can turn over them hashes) we could reduce power exponentially. The huge power usage is because no matter how many participate, the payout per block is the same – and stupid numbers of people have started participating. We can design the network to still do what it does while using a lot less power than it does.
3) Blockchain technology offers us a lot of awesome possibilities, including the possibility of checking vote aggregation ourselves. So far it’s the wild west on the idea of using it for money/value, but the idea is a good one – governments would likely be much better behaved if we took the power of the purse away from them. This is not saying I don’t believe in funding government operations – but right now, my government is murdering massive numbers of people using my tax dollars, and I feel represented by basically Bernie, AOC, and no one else. Cryptocurrencies offer us the possibility of taking some power away from governments and I think that is a good thing
4) Some cryptocurrencies also use very little power while empowering a new way of building a communications network – I gesture you to Helium.
5) All that said – the future of cryptocurrencies as a vehicle for value is extremely unclear. No one should invest any money in them they can not afford to lose. It is also not at all clear what future cryptocurrencies based on a proof of work that uses hashing have post the advent of large quantum computers.
6) Most of the time I agree with you, but on this one I think you’re probably under informed and acting as a shill for people in power that are frightened – though whether that’s because they *don’t* understand blockchain or whether it’s because they do, I don’t know.

“Liberal bias on campus”

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Apparently republicans are complaining about the “liberal bias on campus”. I believe this – because conservatives are generally interested in implementing things that are false-to-fact. Actual education on the data does not support the conservative agenda nor the conservative ideals. But this isn’t a flaw in America’s colleges – rather, it’s a flaw in what has become conservativism in America. Now, mind you, I was never a fan of conservative thought. I’ve never thought the past was better than the future except perhaps in some very specific instances like windows 7 and the motorola photon 4Q – I definitely recognize that things like Obamacare are a huge leap forward and that a concentrated effort on awareness of the least of us is in fact leading us down a path that’s likely to end with a lot more equality and justice for all, even if it might be a little uncomfortable on the way.

So, I was never a fan of “let’s stay where we are” or “let’s go backwards” or “let’s have a small government that doesn’t protect us from the privitations of big moneyed individuals” even before American conservatism became “let’s do everything we can to enslave the little guy so Betsy Devoss can get her third yacht” and “let’s cheer on the KKK and tell the cops good job shooting those innocents, please shoot some more”

But now that American conservatism is “Go ahead, punch him, I’ll pay your legal bills” – not to mention failing to pay bills (a common Trump thing) – not to mention ignoring science (I don’t know which I find more pathetic, the antivaxers and antimaskers or the people who want to pretend global warming isn’t real) not to mention ignoring common sense (Let’s destroy the most valuable liquid on the planet – water – in order to get a little bit of energy in a system where the *sky is raining soup*) not to mention ignoring hard data (we could talk about the laffer curve, or we could talk about abstinence only education)

Basically, the phrase that comes to mind when describing conservative goals at this point is ‘just plain dumb’. They of course support this with a cavalcade of lies, and most of the purpose of the conservative party is to make sure that at all costs, the pigs stay more equal.

My point is, colleges have a liberal bias not because they have a political agenda, but because they are teaching the facts, and the facts do not support American conservatives.

Badly needed improvement to US medical system

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

One thing the US medical system badly needs is a set of rules similar to the ones mechanics operate under.

1) They should be required to provide a quote beforehand. Recently a doctor ordered some unnecessary imaging for me and the imaging lab could not even tell me how much it would cost.
2) They should not get paid if a reasonable person would conclude they did not solve the problem. This would require a little bit of special-case handling because of course you have hypochondriacs who would never believe they had been cured, but I am sure we could come up with a way (maybe a independent panel of reviewers) to implement it. For long term treatments money could go into a escrow account until the patient concludes the work was successful.

As it currently stands, they have NO reason to behave themselves. They can charge anything they want, they never have to get any results, and because of protectionism for health insurance companies you can’t even change providers if you don’t like the results you’re getting unless you want to wait for the next enrollment period. Being a doctor is a license to steal – and also my ongoing experience with them suggests they all think they know my body better than I do and they often do not bother to even listen to me.

From my POV, health care in the USA is the worst in the industrialized world – and the people who run the system have no shame and are making no real attempt to improve it.

Part of why I definiately lean to the left politically

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

So, as I see it, conservative – right leaning – people are generally anxious to throw people under the bus. Illegal immigrant? You’re not a person, you deserve to suffer. Black? The cops should just shoot you now. Poor? You should be enslaved so the rich can get richer. And so on.

Now, this is a *LOSING STRATEGY* – which is why for the past hundred years, every time the conservatives get in power the economy in general does worse, individuals do worse, and happiness levels drop. However, humans are programmable creatures, and the conservative news does a good idea of selling, over and over, the idea that it is a winning strategy. They also carefully sell the idea that we’re barely making it, that we’re all going to starve if 10% of us don’t work, which is utter bullshit – humanity is *spectacularly wealthy*. But – as we all know, having power *causes brain damage* – and part of how that manifests is when they get in power, conservatives actually think they are improving the world by throwing people under the bus, as often and as quickly as possible.

Liberals are in love with the radical idea that if we work together we can all get further. Obviously, so am I. Generally to the extent you can build a trustworthy government it is also the best vehicle for making sure people *don’t* get thrown under the bus. Part of the problem is we perpetually have people trying to throw other people under the bus so they can profit – you end up with for-profit prisons, prisons with for-profit telecoms, for-profit immigration detention centers combined with artificially low immigration quotas, and all sorts of similar things. Naturally the for-profit prisons use their money to advocate for making more and more things illegal.

I guess when I look at the government, I see the social services arm as mostly trustworthy but under-funded, the education arm as somewhat trustworthy but someone needs to take away all those stupid tests, and the criminal justice system as downright evil and needing completely retooled. The laws are somewhere in the middle. I go back and forth on whether earth is a dystopia, or just a long way from a utopic center – I definitely am aware that my position is well, well above average on Earth (I am ‘privileged’)