Archive for March, 2016

Resumption

Turns out Xenosystems traffic was overloading the web-host account, so it’s been upgraded ($$$ *sigh*). Fingers crossed, the black-outs should be finished now. Apologies for the interruption of service, and thanks for causing the problem. (Top two days of traffic in the history of the blog happened just before the crash.)

I’m in Huangshan until Monday, with perhaps slightly patchier connectivity for the next couple of days, but it doesn’t look as if there’s much of an excuse for dropping off the grid. Going up the mountain tomorrow. Will spend the ascent thinking of something to talk about.

March 31, 2016admin 19 Comments »
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Report from a Madhouse

When you throw your last scraps of civilized incentive-architecture in a dumpster and set it on fire it looks like this:

Cities across the country, beginning with the District of Columbia, are moving to copy Richmond’s controversial approach because early indications show it has helped reduce homicide rates. […] But the program requires governments to reject some basic tenets of law enforcement even as it challenges notions of appropriate ways to spend tax dollars. […] … when the elaborate efforts at engagement fail, the mentors still pay those who pledge to improve, even when, like [violent criminal Lonnie] Holmes, they are caught with a gun, or worse — suspected of murder. […] … To maintain the trust of the young men they’re guiding, mentors do not inform police of what they know about crimes committed. At least twice, that may have allowed suspected killers in the stipend program to evade responsibility for homicides. […] And yet, interest in the program is surging among urban politicians. Officials in Miami, Toledo, Baltimore and more than a dozen cities in between are studying how to replicate Richmond’s program. […] … five years into Richmond’s multimillion-dollar experiment, 84 of 88 young men who have participated in the program remain alive, and 4 in 5 have not been suspected of another gun crime or suffered a bullet wound … […] Richmond’s decision to pay people to stay out of trouble began a decade ago during a period of despair. […] In 2007, Richmond’s homicide tally had surged to 47, making it the country’s sixth-deadliest city per capita. In the 20 years prior to that, Richmond lost 740 people to gun violence, and more than 5,000 had been injured by a bullet. […] Elected leaders of the heavily African American city of about 100,000 began treating homicides as a public health emergency. … [DeVone Boggan] who had lost a brother in a shooting in Michigan … had to raise the money because he couldn’t persuade officials to give tax dollars directly to violent firearms offenders. […] Boggan and his streetwise crew of ex-cons selected an initial group of 21 gang members and suspected criminals for the program. One night in 2010, he persuaded them to come to city hall, where he invited them to work with mentors and plan a future without guns. As they left, Boggan surprised each one with $1,000 — no strings attached. […] “This is controversial, I get it,” Boggan said. “But what’s really happening is that they are getting rewarded for doing really hard work, and it’s definite hard work when you talk about stopping picking up a gun to solve your problems.” […] So far, the attention — and money — seems to be working for Holmes. Although the $1,500 he has received since getting out of prison last fall has not led to a miraculous transformation, it enabled him to make a down payment on his black 2015 Nissan Versa — something meaningful for a young man who for many years was homeless. […] He now spends hours each day in the car, driving around with friends, often smoking pot but not “hunting” — Vaughn’s term for seeking conflict with rivals. […] “The money is a big part,” Holmes says. “I can’t count the number of times it has kept me from . . . doing what I’ve got to do. It stopped me from going to hit that liquor [store] or this, you feel me, it’s a relief to not have to go do this and endanger my life for a little income, you feel me?” …

That’s as much as I can take. The phrase subject to XS emphasis describes the core principle of the scheme. Maybe it should count as a relief that these gangstas aren’t being directly rewarded for whacking shop-keepers.

There’s a term for this kind of scheme: Dane Geld. It’s not something civilizations with a future tend to engage in.

ADDED: Highly relevant. “… there are entire classes of people who can get more from the world by being unstable and dangerous …”

March 29, 2016admin 19 Comments »
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Cichlimbar

Cichlimbar

Trolls, don’t let the sun set on you here.

March 28, 2016admin 6 Comments »
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Twitter cuts (#57)

(This kind of abysmal insight is what NRx is for.)

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March 28, 2016admin 9 Comments »
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Chaos Patch (#107)

(Open thread + links)

RF on Dugin (1, 2) and the secure state (1, 2). Ugly Americans. Stubborn infertility. Beware Hobbes. Talking nihilism (+). Reactionary books. The weekly round.

A Curtis Yarvin AMA. Agonies of inclusion. Little red snowflakes. More (and more) despicable idiocy.

Jihad in Brussels (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Predictive hit and miss. Guerrilla war. The ‘gray zone’ isn’t working. More to come (!, !!). Tintin, shitlord. Spandrell’s take. Meanwhile, elsewhere. Death of the spider people. The French model. Orban speaks. Japan dips a toe in stupid. The CIA is on it. Islam is a nightmare for everyone else (also). Corrupted language. Ambiguity at the State Department. Ruin spiral in South Africa. Chaos in Brazil. Water worries in SE Asia. A (brief) geopolitical round-up.

NIRP desperation. Mighty Amazon. A drone milestone.

Everyone loses. Derbyshire on Williamson. The delicate generation (relevant). The left eats itself (part n).

Trumpenführer panic report (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). End of the GOP. Flashlights and networks. “‘It was like cross burning,’ Tucker told me.” Libertarians for Trump. Confusion at AIPAC. “Is he so wrong?” Paglia’s latest. Know your White Trash. A note on Weimar elections.

Freedom of speech under pressure. Mind-control meet-up. PC has an export problem. Vice slides. Chilled on warming. Jacobin Mag.

Apocalypse Corner. America is cooked. “I admit: I’ve been early on this …” Trans-FOOM.

Minimal tolerance. American racial composition. Race and crime (related). Expert consensus on the heritability of IQ.

Horizontal genetics. The neural code. CRISPR at work. Synthetic life update. Arachno-vibration.

Quantum AI arms race. Neuromorphic computational infrastructure. Face capture. Brain emulation comes first. It’s complexicated. The Tay problem. The case for cryonics.

Who can say that AI, in a not too distant future, will not replace democracies with more intelligent and dynamic constitutions?”

Commerce and culture. Petrific souls. Human and angelic atheism. Dangers of currency debasement.

March 27, 2016admin 43 Comments »
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Moron bites (#10)

Senseless religious fanaticism spouted portentously from the world’s most grandiose soap-box (and comically self-evident institutional train-wreck), check.

March 27, 2016admin 20 Comments »
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Twitter cuts (#56)

Derbyshire has made approximately the same point with even more blunt honesty.

Universal moral concern is a bizarre religious idea, of fairly recent vintage. Eventually it will come to be seen that way again.

ADDED: relevant.

March 26, 2016admin 15 Comments »
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Utilitarianism is Useless

Utilitarianism is completely useless as a tool of public policy, Scott Alexander discovers (he doesn’t put it quite like that). In his own words: “I am forced to acknowledge that happiness research remains a very strange field whose conclusions make no sense to me and which tempt me to crazy beliefs and actions if I take them seriously.”

Why should that surprise us?

We’re all grown up (Darwinians) here. Pleasure-pain variation is an evolved behavioral guidance system. Given options, at the level of the individual organism, it prompts certain courses and dissuades from others. The equilibrium setting, corresponding to optimal functionality, has to be set close to neutral. How could a long-term ‘happiness trend’ under such (minimally realistic) conditions make any sense whatsoever?

Anything remotely like chronic happiness, which does not have to be earned, always in the short-term, by behavior selected — to some level of abstraction — across deep history for its adaptiveness, is not only useless, but positively deleterious to biologically-inherited piloting (cybernetics). Carrots-and-sticks work on an animal that is neither glutted to satiation or deranged by some extremity of ultimate agony. If it didn’t automatically re-set close to neutral, it would be dysfunctional, and natural selection would have made short work of it. (The graphs included in the SSC post make perfect sense given such assumptions.)

Pleasure is not an end, but a tool. Understood realistically, it presupposes other ends. To make it an end is to black-hole into wirehead philosophy (1, 2). It is precisely because ‘utils’ have a predetermined biological use that they are useless for the calculation of anything else.

Set serious ends, or go home. Happiness quite certainly isn’t one. (Optimize for intelligence.)

ADDED: SSC discussion threads are too huge to handle, but this comment is the first to get (close) to what I’d argue is the point. Quite probably there are others that do.

March 25, 2016admin 38 Comments »
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Tay Goes Cray

tay00

This story covers the basics. (More here, and here.)

Mecha-Hitler just passed the Turing Test.

If this doesn’t earn the FAI-types a billion dollars in emergency machine-sensitivity funding, nothing will.

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March 24, 2016admin 39 Comments »
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NRx and Liberalism

In much of the neoreactionary camp, ‘liberalism’ is the end-point of discussion. Its argumentative function is exactly that of ‘racism’ for the left. The only question, as far as this stance is concerned, is whether the term can be made to stick. Once the scarlet letter of micro-cultural ostracism is attached, there’s nothing further to discuss. This is unlikely to change, except at the margin.

The obvious preliminary to this topic is, if not quite ‘American English’, something like it. ‘Liberalism’ in the American tongue has arrived in a strange space, unique to that continent. It is notable, and uncontroversial, for instance that the notion of a ‘right-wing liberal’ is considered a straight oxymoron by American speakers, where in Europe — and especially mainland Europe — it is closer to a pleonasm. Since we still, to a very considerable extent, inhabit an American world, the expanded term ‘classical liberal’ is now required to convey the traditional sense. A Briton, of capitalistic inclinations, is likely to favor ‘Manchester Liberal’ for its historical associations with the explicit ideology of industrial revolution. In any case, the discussion has been unquestionably complicated.

Political language tends to become dialectical, in the most depraved (Hegelian) sense of this term. It lurches wildly into its opposite, as it is switched like a contested flag between conflicting parties. Stable political significances apply only to whatever the left (the ‘opposition’, or ‘resistance’) hasn’t touched yet. Another consideration, then, for those disposed to a naive faith in ideological signs as heraldic markers. (It is one that threatens to divert this post into excessive digression, and is thus to be left — in Wikipedia language — as a ‘stub’.)

The proposal of this blog is to situate ‘liberal’ at the intersection of three terms, each essential to any recoverable, culturally tenacious meaning. It is irreducibly modern, English, and counter-political. ‘Ancient liberties’ are at least imaginable, but an ancient liberalism is not. Foreign liberalisms can be wished the best of luck, because they will most certainly need it (an exception for the Dutch, alone, is plausible here). Political liberalism is from the beginning a practical paradox, although perhaps in certain rare cases one worth pursuing.

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March 23, 2016admin 71 Comments »
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