COVID and religion

May 2nd, 2021

I am curious how many less people would be dead of COVID if there were not religion in the world.

A possible alternative to ‘S mode’

April 30th, 2021

So, I had a interesting thought about a possible use for the blockchain. One thing it could be used for would be store known good signatures for applications – in this particular case, each time someone chose to run a application, you would look up the most recent block with that signature on it and you’d also run some hashes. As more and more hashes got run, the signature would become associated with a block starting with more and more zeros – the idea here is instead of letting Microsoft push a list of signatures as good (and after all, why should we trust them? They gave us windows 10, not to mention a long list of other stinkers) the group at large would decide which signatures were trustworthy. The idea here is that a attacker ideally would not be able to get a large enough bank of computers to do enough hashing to ‘legitimize’ a signature – you could also add things like a restriction of how many hashes per IP address per day could be registered etc.

I would like for us to have some way of knowing which binaries we could trust, I just don’t want to have to trust vendors we already know we can’t trust (i.e. Microsoft) for those signatures.

Another thought that came to me is how much better the world’s software would be if every ten years (say) everyone was *required* to release their source code and then anyone could develop it further. We’d end up with competing companies developing operating systems that ineroperated – it’s good that we have competing companies writing operating systems but it’s less than ideal that they can’t all run the same binaries (for example)

genetic algorithms and fitness functions

April 30th, 2021

So, I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before or not, but it popped into my head last night and I thought I’d write about it some more in any case.

It’s generally taken for granted by most adherents to darwinism that the fitness function in play on Earth is whether or not a organism survives to reproduce.. and I have to admit, given the results of DNA tests this has a high degree of plausability, however it is easy to imagine a situation where it isn’t actually true, or it’s true but future incarnations of DNA sequences depend on fitness results beyond mere survival.

I am of course thinking about my kittens – often a kitten will ‘survive’ (which just requires coming home with a nonzero amount of coin in it’s little kitten pouch on it’s collar) but still be culled by the algorithm because it’s not good enough (for example, only the top 10% of kittens usually move on to the next generation, and there are also things (like asserting buy and sell at the same time) that will get a kitten cut.

If there were things like this in play on earth we might not be aware at them, both because it would be easy to develop both fake and real DNA (this is the assuming-the-operator-of-the-universe-is-Loki sort of thing) and also because we might have real DNA but still be living a iterative series of lives in which only the top few percent of each generation move on to the next simulation. And that’s before we even get into discussions about the multi-world interpretation and the possibility that we are wandering from universe to universe based on the decisions that we make.

A interesting idea to play with is how something like a genetic algorithm might interface with something like quantum immortality. Not a particularly *happy* idea, though – if no one can actually die, then the people who draw a bad hand genetically will end up worse and worse off.

The problem with post-truth politics

April 25th, 2021

So, increasingly we live in a world where people believe what they want to believe, regardless of facts – this of course has been true for a long time in the case of conservatives (it’s very clear if you consider the delay line effects that when liberals are in power, the economy does better, yet conservatives always claim their policies are better for the economy, for example – and it’s been demonstrated repeatedly that the laffer curve does not play out the way the politicians claim it will and yet over and over people fall for the idea of the laffer curve – which is the core idea behind the failed Trump-era tax cuts)

One of the problems we have is that our political system exerts no punishment for being wrong, and politicians who are in fact appealing entirely to emotion continue to be re-elected based on doing the wrong thing over and over because that’s what their electorate, who prefer to live in a post-truth world and are aided by lying news sources (i.e. fox news), want and believe.

I think we need to add some sort of closed-loop automatic firing of politicians who guess wrong. It’s already been demonstrated that inside a capitalist system, it’s profitable to keep lying to the people, and the net result is that the system optimizes for the happiness of a few select individuals at the cost of the happiness of the group as a whole. I think we literally do need to automatically fire the people who, for example, vote in favor of the lying about who won the election, or vote in favor of the laffer curve, or whatever the lie of the week is. At the moment this would advantage the democrats, who are by and large making data-driven and science-driven decisions, but I am sure at some future date they will fall victim to the same rot that has taken over the republican party, so this is really a nonpartisan suggestion over the long haul. The decisions we drive the ship of state using should not be based on lies and wishful thinking.

Of course this probably means we shouldn’t have religious folks in politics, since the vast majority of religion seems to be built upon lies and wishful thinking as well. It would be a dramatic departure from history – and I don’t know of anywhere that has actually tried it – to, for example, require unit tests for success to be written for every law that is written, and require the law to be struck if the unit tests fail – and if someone enacted the law after being warned that history indicates this type of law tends to fail, require that person to be looking for a new job as well.

Christianity’s fatal flaw, reprised

April 22nd, 2021

So, I keep thinking about this topic because I keep feeling like if I could just put the right words on my thoughts, it would suddenly make sense to the Christians in my life why I’m so convinced the religion A: was made up out of whole cloth B: contains harmful ideas and C: should be relegated to the dustbin of history

I acknowledge that they’re generally not that likely to be able to integrate this information – that in fact the structure of their minds will prevent it because of the massive neurological upset that understanding would bring them – suddenly their entire mind would need fundamentally re balanced. But it still bothers me, especially when I have people on Facebook very sincerely assuring me I’m going to hell for not believing the right things in the right way.

I know I’ve talked elsewhere about how having a plethora of religions, each claiming to be the one true way and that all adherents to all other religions are less-than, is a awful thing we should be doing away with, especially since we now live in the age of weapons that can kill millions in minutes and we can no longer afford to have wars for no particularly good reason.

In any case, one basic thesis of Christianity that I hear pushed again and again is that man is so flawed that Jesus has to “die for our sins” because “God is a just god and demands that someone be punished for all these sins”. It’s insisted that even people who have only committed minor sins are way too flawed for our perfect God. It’s also insisted that Adam’s failure to obey God was part of what started all this.

But hang on a minute. God *Created* us with neural networks that start unformatted (almost no internal structure, we are mostly born tabla rasa). If God wanted perfect obedience, creating us a state machine (similar to the computer I’m writing this on) would have gotten H* exactly that. God clearly either had no knowledge of how neural networks work (which would prove the all-knowing part a lie) or *wanted creatures that wouldn’t always walk the straight and narrow perfectly*. It is not the nature of a mostly-blank neural network to immediately leap to perfect behavior – some sin along the way is *inevitable*.

Now, mind you, I’m not asserting that we’re designed by a supernatural being at all, I’m fine with the idea that we may have just happened, that a evolutionary process may be all there is that is responsible for our existence. What I can safely rule out, however, is that we were created by a all perfect being that should then be punishing us for being flawed. This has always had a couple of problems in the argument

1) The Christians who argue that God *has to* punish us for all eternity for our limited and temporal sins are

a) Arguing for a evil God. Only a evil creature would punish so disproportionally to the crime
b) Arguing that God has no free will. And yes, they really do argue that! They say he *Can’t* just let our mistakes slide, that it’s outside of his nature because he is a Just God (never mind that eternal torture for temporary errors, especially the low grade errors must of us commit, is about as unjust as I can imagine)

2) The Christians who argue that the only path to redemption is through Jesus are

a) Aruging that God has no problem with the vast majority of human population being misled in a way that leads to them being tortured eternally or
b) Arguing that God can do nothing about the plethora of religions that claim another path or
c) Arguing that their supposedly just and moral being has no problem with expecting us to *guess* in the face of huge amounts of misleading information, *including the observation of the world around us which would *strongly* support the idea that humans are storytellers who manipulate each other for money at the drop of a hat and that religions are just a way for the priests to manipulate the sheep in order to get money

Anyway, the fundamental mismatch between the way unpatterned neural networks behave on their way to learning to be patterned neural networks and the apparent expectations of God as described by the Christians seem to me to be a valid reason to declare the religion is bullshit. That’s before we even get into the abusive nature of “God loves you so much that he built a special place to punish you if you don’t love h* back”. Most of the behaviors the Christians ascribe to God we would call abusive if anyone else did them, and generally I think what’s going on here is the Christians, who have brainwashed themselves into believing the Bible’s threats about God are true, are so afraid of what God could do to them that they apply the “Where does a 600-pound monkey sit? Anywhere he wants to” strain of morality to God.

Absent Friends

April 22nd, 2021

So, the other day I called a friend I hadn’t talked to in a few years, and discovered I had again waited too late to call someone back. It’s not that they were dead (although I’ve had that happen too) – but the conversation went something like (me) Hi! (them) Hi, Buddy! (me) How are you doing? (them) The grass is in the chest (me) What did you say? (them) I see. It didn’t improve from there either. Dementia strikes again ;( If there was any connection between my statements and their responses I couldn’t find it.

In some ways I think it’s actually harder when someone is fading in that way than when they actually die. Because there’s this tantalizing ‘almost’ about the link, like there’s this sense that you’re just in a bad reception area and if you moved things would get better.

Another reminder to stay in better touch with the people I love 🙁

thoughts

April 21st, 2021

So, I ran across a tape of myself from my young adulthood, which I found kind of horrifying to listen to. I can’t decide if it was the pretentiousness or the privilege that bothered me more. I guess I would like to think I’ve grown up some since then – what a long strange trip it’s been.

I’ve often mused about how if I hadn’t been exposed to scary random violence as a child – which was in essence nobody’s fault, it was a case of mental illness – things might have ended up much better with one of my relationships – it wasn’t that they were all that violent, it was that I could not handle even the slightest whiff of violence because it resulted in bits of me replaying earlier traumas, as it were.

It does often bother me that the person who exposed me to random violence as a child is still triggered by things I did that I have already apologized for, but never considers that I might have problems with the things they did or that they could possibly owe me a apology. Then again, maybe 20 years from now I will think I was in the wrong in everything. I don’t know.

Listening to tapes from my childhood and young adulthood was .. sad, and weird, and hard. I guess I thought I’d do better than I have done, in relationships, in friendships, in life adventures. Of course, I still haven’t let go of the illusion that I will someday be a rock star. Just gotta climb one more mountain first. (Undoubtedly I am a much better musician than I was at the start of COVID, although whether I’m good enough to draw a crowd remains unknown. I have to sort out this paw injury issue and then shed for another 500 hours and then I’ll probably be ready to write and tape some more.

I do have a few fans.. which is interestingly different. I have a lot of friends I miss – there’s some irony here in that I often go missing for weeks or months at a time as I get interested in something and start chewing on it, but now that all of my friends are also doing that I find the holes in my life difficult. I do sometimes wonder how many people would even notice if I disappeared tomorrow. Then I remind myself I’m lucky that number isn’t zero, which it almost certainly isn’t.

So I guess I’m kind of in a Harry Chapin place – our story in the journey between heaven and hell, with half the time thinking what might have been, and the other half, just as well. I do hope post-COVID I do a better job of living my best life, with maybe a little bit less time writing code that won’t matter 5 years form now and a little more either writing code that *might*, writing music, or seeing friends. Love you all, miss you all. I’ve had entirely too many reminders in the past year that you never know when people are going to check out.

Watching the Chicago 7 trial

April 13th, 2021

I have to say, contempt of court should not be a crime, because most courts in the USA deserve contempt. (Of course, anyone who thinks they are worthy to judge others is starting out in a extremely questionable place, and when we look at the US where murder is encouraged if done by a cop or soldier, where ethics are for sale to the highest bidder).. In any case “Your Dishonor” seems like a honest way to refer to a judge.

Dear Netflix

April 13th, 2021

Please make a whole series of movies about the space dog from Over The Moon.. thank you 😉

Input filters and whether we’re setting ourselves up

April 10th, 2021

So, as I rant about conservatives, one thing that worries me is that I may be somewhat a victim of confirmation bias, or worse yet, input enhancement.

I’ve talked before about how every adhrent to every religion sees their religion validated in the world – and my theory that part of how this is achieved is by filtering out all the data that is obviously inconsistent with their beliefs. At times I worry – as one does – that the reason I see all this horrible behavior from conservatives is that I have come to expect it – and I’ve come to expect it because I’ve seen it, and I’ve got a self-reinforcing suboptimal setup for my input filters.

The challenge there, of course, is to expect something other than what I’ve seen.