Archive for September, 2015

Quote note (#188)

The model of algorithmic governance, lucidly outlined (from 2013):

The industrial revolution allowed us, for the first time, to start replacing human labor with machines on a large scale, and now we have advanced digitized factories and robotic arms that produce complex goods like automobiles all on their own. But this is only automating the bottom; removing the need for rank and file manual laborers, and replacing them with a smaller number of professionals to maintain the robots, while the management of the company remains untouched. The question is, can we approach the problem from the other direction: even if we still need human beings to perform certain specialized tasks, can we remove the management from the equation instead?

Most companies have some kind of mission statement; often it’s about making money for shareholders; at other times, it includes some moral imperative to do with the particular product that they are creating, and other goals like helping communities sometimes enter the mix, at least in theory. Right now, that mission statement exists only insofar as the board of directors, and ultimately the shareholders, interpret it. But what if, with the power of modern information technology, we can encode the mission statement into code; that is, create an inviolable contract that generates revenue, pays people to perform some function, and finds hardware for itself to run on, all without any need for top-down human direction?

(This isn’t the argument, merely the concept.)

The whole series (by Vitalik Buterin), parts 1, 2, 3. (A fourth part was promised, but I’ve not been able to find any trace of it.)

September 30, 2015admin 5 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Mental Gymnastics

Ignoring Sailer*, who is — of course — problematic, how about The Atlantic?

The statistics are hard to ignore. [Kenya, a] medium-size country of 41 million dominates the world in competitive running. Pick any long-distance race. You’ll often find that up to about 70 or 80 percent of its winners since the late 1980s, when East African nutrition and technology started catching up with the West, have been from Kenya. Since 1988, for example, 20 of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyan. … Of the top 25 male record holders for the 3000-meter steeplechase, 18 are Kenyan. Seven of the last 8 London marathons were won by Kenyans, and the sole outlier was from neighboring Ethiopia. Their record in the Olympic men’s marathon is more uneven, having placed in the top three in only four of the last six races. Still, not bad for one country. And even more amazing is that three-fourths of the Kenyan champions come from an ethnic minority of 4.4. million, or 0.06% of global population.

“Hard to ignore”? Oh, come on!

The first study, “A Level Playing Field? Media Constructions of Athletics, Genetics, and Race,” examines news media coverage implying that genetic differences lead particular racial groups to succeed more often at sports, and focuses on how that belief shows up within journalism. Collaborating with University of Connecticut doctoral student Devon Goss, Matthew W. Hughey researched nearly 24,000 English-language newspaper articles across the globe from 2003-2014. Among the articles that discussed race, genetics and athletics, Hughey and Goss found that nearly 55 percent of these media narratives uncritically parroted and perpetuated the belief that African-descended groups excel in athletics, such as sprinting, because of genetic racial differences — despite the research debunking that belief.

Who are you going to believe, the media-approved ‘debunking’ or the lying sports statistics?

*There’s a Sailer link in the Atlantic piece (naughty), which — oddly — goes to this. (I guess that’s one solution to the “hard to ignore” problem.)

September 29, 2015admin 36 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations

Stereotypes III

There’s an exchange in Sam Raimi’s movie Oz the Great and Powerful, where the fake wizard, speculating on the incentives for success, says to his monkey(ish) companion and servant Finley:

“We’re going to find this wicked witch. Steal her wand. I’ll get that big pile of gold. And you can have a nice pile of bananas, alright?”
“Bananas. Oh, I see, because I’m a monkey? I must love bananas, right? — That is a vicious stereotype.”
“You don’t like bananas?”
“Of course I love bananas. I’m a monkey. Don’t be ridiculous. I just don’t like you saying it …”

(I seem to remember Sailer citing a similar joke at some point — probably from a more reputable source.)

September 28, 2015admin 8 Comments »

Chaos Patch (#81)

(Open thread + links)

Dark to black. Cathedral maps (#1). Getting Buddhism right (viz). Cosmic cycles. Ego cults. Normalization. [Unauthorized information disclosure deleted.] The weekly round.

The crisis of Western authority. Re-industrializing America. Rules for cyberwar. Soros watch. Virtue signals. Hooked on crime. The monetary doom loop. The downward slide. Education proposals. Phase-change of the corporation. British military disgrace (1, 2).

Refugee catastrophe and opportunity. Europe’s crumbling elites. Chopping up Syria.

Left-side stories: Socialize the net (or in short). Bait-and-switch. “Let’s think in terms of Warm words and Cold words.” Read all about it.

Hoppe on Democracy, De Civilization, and Counterculture (video). The myth of market failure. Defending self-interest.

The Bitcoin computer. Quantum crypto-conundrums.

Hydro-theology. The Pope’s bargain (see also). Demystified beauty. “A general factor seems confirmed. I hereby dub it general religious factor (GRF).” Murder systems. Human turbulence. Why doesn’t Dawkins respect the Left’s human shields?

Techonomic tipping points.

Languages of the (near) future.

Genetics of empathy. Time-keeping proteins. Synbio update. The Mouse Utopia experiment. Visions of Pluto (and more). Climate of uncertainty (contra).

September 27, 2015admin 28 Comments »
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There’s a lot going on here:

Do you ever feel like you’re using the Internet as a modem? […] The Internet is actually an awesome modem. The online services blow AOL away. But are we really that far from 1995? […] Can we re-decentralize the Internet? A lot of great hackers have tried. Maybe we can’t? Maybe it’s just impossible? […] The Internet isn’t from 1995. It’s from 1975. In 1995, we learned that a network beats a mainframe. Now, we’ve learned that a 2015 mainframe beats a 1975 network. […] Does it beat a 2015 network? What is a 2015 network, anyway? […] If the Internet beats a modem, and a modem on top of the Internet beats the Internet — what if we made an Internet on top of the Internet? […] These questions seemed interesting. So we built Urbit.

The Urbit whitepaper (with links to (arcane) demos).

The Hacker News discussion starts off sophomoric, but gets better.

Best promo slogan I’ve seen yet (from this, last year): “If Bitcoin is money, Urbit is land.” It’s the algorithmic propertarian matrix for virtual real-estate.

September 26, 2015admin 55 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology

Man in the High Castle

The TV series trailer.

Could it be that people are beginning to understand that fascism won the 20th century? (With no sign of a major reverse so far in the 21st.)

Since ‘fascism’ tweaks people’s Godwin nerves, it might be better to talk about ‘pragmatic populism’ — so long as it is initially understood that no substantial semantic revision is thereby taking place. Whatever we call it, it’s what has ruled the earth for close to a century, as the culmination of democracy, and the way classical liberalism is actually destroyed. It plays on basic human traits in a way that leaves every other ideology in the dust — tribalism, resentment, vicarious identification with authority, extreme susceptibility to simple propaganda, and all of the remaining highly-predictable, easily manipulable, aspects of hominid social emotion. Ultimately, it’s what humanity deserves, strictly speaking, since it is nothing other than the cynical exploitation of what people are like. The fact that the most insultingly trivial redecorations of this mode of social organization suffice to convince even articulate intellectuals that something else is taking place serves as an ample demonstration of its tidal historic momentum. Fascists Pragmatic populists think that people, as a general political phenomenon, are irredeemably moronic tools, and they’re right.

The more politics we get, the deeper pragmatic populism digs in.

ADDED: Background to the Times Square shot. “The more familiar it is, the more terrifying it is.” (Quite.)

September 25, 2015admin 28 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Insect Agonies

Utilitarianism dominates the rationalization of morality within the English-speaking world. It is scarcely imaginable that it could be expressed with greater purity than this:

There are roughly 10^18 insects in the world. Suppose we give insects a .1% chance of being sentient, with their sentience being .1% of a human’s. (These values are intentionally small to demonstrate the scale to which insect suffering dominates) Assuming we assign moral weight to categories of beings by their number and the intensity of their inner experiences, this assignment gives each insect 1/1,000,000 of the moral weight for a human, meaning that the suffering of 1,000,000 insects equals the suffering of one human. Even when assigning insects this absurdly low moral weight, their suffering still dominates, as 10^18 insects comes out to 1 trillion human equivalents. If the number of insects were smaller, say around 7 billion, the consequences of not considering insect suffering might be acceptable. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, and as we shall see, ignoring insect suffering even if we assign a low probability to insect consciousness presents an unacceptably high risk of ignoring a catastrophic moral harm.

There’s no need to condescend to this argument by pretending to ‘steelman’ it. It’s already quite steely. For a start, it’s conceptually pure — undistracted by irrelevances such as habitat preservation. It’s solidly consequentialist, and — in its development from of its own basic axiom — practical. There’s no sign of a fetishistic rejection of pesticide use, for instance, or an appeal to any totemic vision of ‘nature’. It’s even realist, in that it recognizes enough about the character of this universe to understand the utilitarian obligation as primarily about the alleviation of suffering (positive pleasures being, in the grand scheme of things, no more than a rounding error). On this basis, there’s an insectoid antinatalist sub-theme, which (briefly) explores the thought that ethical extermination might be a positive moral good: “It is possible that most insects have lives that aren’t worth living … meaning the fewer insects in existence the better.” It focuses tightly upon the problem of relieving insect agonies, by chemically inducing a comparatively painless — rather than agonizing — death. Building its case in uncontroversial steps, it concludes that no effective altruistic cause has higher priority, since “… insect suffering probably dominates all other sources of suffering” and “… humane pesticides saves 25 human equivalents from a more painful death per dollar.”

Continue Reading

September 24, 2015admin 64 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Philosophy

Quote note (#187)

Gary North against revolution:

You don’t need a revolution to escape the system. You need secession. You need a withdrawal of support for the existing systems. You need to revoke the legitimacy which you extended to these organizations. You need to do it, and everybody else needs to do it. Nobody organizes this. People just learn, scandal by scandal, bureaucratic snafu by bureaucratic snafu, that the system is irreparable. It cannot be reformed. It must not be captured. It must be de-funded. The secret of liberty is not revolution; the secret of liberty is to de-fund the existing centralized order.

(It’s complicated, but North is pointing in the right direction.)

September 23, 2015admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy

Twitter cuts (#29)

Catalogued among ‘discoveries from the Outside’:

September 22, 2015admin 5 Comments »

Quote note (#186)

The first paragraph of a (short) big-picture piece by Robert Kaplan:

A vast crumbling can be heard across Europe, coupled with an ennui that is the ironic upshot of being stunned by too many disparate crises. The Mediterranean, it turns out, is not the southern border of Europe: Rather, that border lies somewhere in the Sahara Desert from where African migrants coalesce into caravans headed north. And as they have throughout history, the Balkans still form a zone of human migration from the Near East. For decades, the dream of the European Union was to become a post-national paradise of prosperity and the rule of law, and gradually, through various association agreements, extend the bounties of civil society to contiguous regions. Now the process is being reversed: The contiguous regions are exporting their instability into Europe itself. Eurasia, a super-continent of historic exoduses, is starting to reintegrate Europe. …

(Like Europe, the article undergoes progressive disintegration into directionless chaos as it continues, but it’s worth a look — if just for the symptomatology.)

September 21, 2015admin 15 Comments »
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