Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fundamental Cognitive Traits

These are the fundamentals of cognitive power:

* analysis
* synthesis
* intellectualism
* intelligence

Analysis means being able to swap concepts and ideas (structures of concepts) in and out of working memory with absolute fidelity. Someone lacking analysis (over half of the population) suffers a dyslexia of sorts, the concepts in their minds swim and distort on their own. There exists a direct test for this phenomenon. The consequence of analysis is that a person can build up large conceptual models in their conscious mind, ones that far exceed the capacity of working memory, and reason about (comprehend) those models by following along their chains. This is what is necessary to master mathematics, formal logic, programming, and any other purely formal system. As a result, lack of analysis leads to thinking based on magic instead of logic.

Synthesis means the spontaneous generation of new original abstract concepts. This is done by multidimensional decomposition in the subconscious. Someone lacking synthesis (over 90% of the population) can stare at a dataset and distinctions will not spontaneously occur to them in a process commonly known as "intuition". Someone high in synthesis will have distinctions enter their mind entirely uninvited and so will possess concepts (understanding) of nearly everything they are familiar with. They will talk to people and suddenly realize, without any prompting or priming or even the vocabulary to articulate what it is they realize, that there are two distinct groups of people they are talking to. When talking to someone, they will spontaneously categorize that person as X and not Y and Z if they know those categories. They will jump meta-levels and question someone's motivations, goals and values. They will judge not just right and wrong (whether something accomplishes a goal) but good and evil (whether the goal is valuable). All spontaneously and without any need for conscious thought or even a vocabulary.

Intellectualism means that one believes ideas have value independent of any application. Someone lacking intellectualism will use 'philosophical' as a term of abuse, as synonymous with 'not worth thinking about'. Or more subtly they will believe that all ideas have an application even if this is unknown presently. This is blatantly false since the infinity of math certainly can't be squeezed into a finite universe. These people believe that all ideas have application because they don't want to bother thinking about the opposite because this opposite view has no practical value. When hostile, anti-intellectuals will demand to know what you have done, what you have accomplished, what status you have achieved, how much money you've been given, that gives you the authority to think. Because of course, thinking has no value except as an adjunct to doing. In extreme cases, anti-intellectuals do not believe that abstractions even exist on their own terms. They do not believe that mathematics is real. Only that it is useful as a "representation".

Intelligence means only memorization ability. It refers both to the size of working memory and the rate at which things are transferred from working memory to long-term memory (ie, are memorized). There is some overlap between intelligence and analysis.


Intelligence varies but its variation is consigned to the extremes and not the middle so it doesn't seem to vary that much in practice. IQ tests measure knowledge linearly but knowledge is acquired logarithmically so intelligence must be exponential. Yet, it doesn't really matter because paper notes for storage and now computer searches for retrieval have made memorization overwhelmingly obsolete. And further software can make it more obsolete still.

Synthesis and analysis vary by many orders of magnitude. I estimate that synthesis varies by 3 orders of magnitude from high functioning autistics to creative geniuses. And the average functioning person is very close to an autistic as far as synthesis is concerned.

Analysis may vary even more and all of the variation occurs smack in the middle, neatly separating the general population between the haves and the have nots, between rationals and magical thinkers.

Intellectualism? Very difficult to tell, or to detect for that matter, so I don't know.

Analysis and synthesis are somewhat independent of each other. Intelligence is entirely independent of synthesis. As for the rest, it's quite difficult to tell.

Which traits are most valuable? I would say analysis then synthesis then intellectualism. Of course, combinations of traits trump individual traits so that synthesis + intellectualism (philosophers judging good and evil) seems about as valuable as analysis alone (engineers creating bridges and landmines). And analysis + synthesis far surpasses analysis alone. Intelligence is least important for raw cognitive ability. High intelligence and nothing else means you'll get nowhere faster.


Doctors, lawyers and medical researchers are overwhelmingly high in intelligence and low in analysis and creativity. This is because their subjects (biology and the law) are ad hoc and artificial. Since it's impossible to reason about biology or to intuit the inner workings of biological systems, people with high analysis or creativity have an atavistic repulsion against it.

Philosophers are overwhelmingly high in intellectualism & creativity and low in analysis. With very few exceptions, philosophers are incapable of dealing with philosophical matters on a purely formal basis. In fact, symbolic logic is effectively beyond the mastery of most philosophers.

This is why despite philosophers having originated symbolic logic, the subject had to be adopted out by mathematicians. It is also why you can find philosopher professors teaching symbolic logic and even writing books on the subject in an entirely incoherent and disorganized manner. They do not comprehend logic and students of philosophy frequently contradict themselves in the most blatant and appalling manner.

This is also why philosophers obsess about nonsensical concepts and gibberish distinctions. And it is why the most ardent nonsense and gibberish (eg, Rawls, Dennet) confers upon philosophers high stature and respect instead of derision and scorn. While the very few philosophers capable of analysis, giants such as Quine, are accorded so little stature.

Philosophers don't use logic to analyze anything because they are incapable of analysis. Instead they substitute resonance and repetition, things that will lead the reader to synthesize concepts and become comfortable with them. John Rawls says as much in the opening chapters of his book, moral reasoning to him is not a matter of formal reasoning but a matter of altering ideas until they fit" against each other.

It is also why philosophers are so obsessed with historico-linguistic garbage. The words verbal diarrhea and intellectual sewer come to mind. It is complete nonsense (who cares what Kant or Descartes thought, who cares what Rousseau and Hobbes said, when they were wrong) but there sure is a lot of it.

Artists and designers have high synthesis, low intellectualism, and varying amounts of analysis.

The difference between an artist and a designer is that artists are self-centered -- they express their own thoughts and feelings, not someone else's. Method acting relies on the ability to feel what you wish to act out. And musicians that play mechanically without expressing their own feelings are simply bad artists.

Different kinds of designers have different secondary traits. A fashion designer doesn't have the analysis of a graphics designer or industrial designer. And only systems designers are intellectuals. Yes there are some, but they are few.

Engineers and exact scientists are overwhelming analytical and non-synthetic. Theoretical physicists are intellectual. Experimental physicists are anti-intellectual. A very small number of theoretical physicists are synthetic.

Anthropologists are overwhelmingly magical thinkers incapable of logic. The incoherence and blatant illogic of their field's central assumptions proves it. "Cultural beliefs make sense in the cultures that spawn them"? You might as well say that psychotic beliefs make sense to the psychotics that hold them. It is just as true and just as meaningless. And yet this is the central tenet of anthropology. Or at least, this is what is taught as the central tenet of anthropology. The real foundation of anthropology is this: love the little psychotic bastards.

Programmers range all over, from non-analytical coders to analytical programmers to intellectual developers to synthetic designers to intellectual and synthetic systems designers.

Autistics are lacking in the residual concrete synthesis that every normally functioning person possesses. Normal people generate concrete concepts of: angry, happy, sad, distant, intimate, so on and so forth. This is all done very early in life and is more or less hardwired in the most primitive parts of the brain which is why they are not abstractions per se. Austistics lack this. Whether concrete synthesis is entirely absent in their brain or simply inaccessible is immaterial -- it doesn't work, period. However, I have met at least one certified abstract synthetic person who claimed to be autistic. So assuming they weren't lying, it may be that abstract and concrete synthesis are somewhat independent.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I Don't Trust ANY Nutrition Advice

Someone asked and so here I answer.

Because medical science in general and nutrition in specific has suffered too many fads, too much ideology and way too many reversals to be considered credible. You're not just dealing with the complexity of the human body, something which is FAR from mastered. You're ALSO dealing with the complexity of food.

Take fats. There is not one skerrit of evidence ANYWHERE that fats are bad for your health. Some retarded imbecile just decided they were and imposed his ideology on everyone when he was the head of the medical committee on the subject. And that was before we knew about all the different kinds of fats. So picture this, some retard saying that eating what makes up most of the human body after water is BAD for you.

There is a rule about complex systems you know. It's not possible to make complex systems perform better by measuring (creating reductive linear metrics of) their variable outputs. But it IS possible to make them perform better by measuring their PERSISTENT inputs. The things the system doesn't routinely react against and so can't "improve" by making a tradeoff against something else.

So when the Finnish education ministry decided to publish measures of schools, that degraded education. But when the Finnish polity decided to publish the tax records of their politicians and to kick out any tax cheats and evaders? That improved their government.

Now consider the medical science establishment as a giant complex system. And consider not the variable inputs such as money going into the system. Or the variable outputs such as papers produced. No, forget all that crap. Consider only the quality of the MINDS in the system, categorized on a standard such as Bloom's taxonomy of cognition.

What is that quality? Piss poor. You're looking at high IQ imbeciles here. Deeply irrational morons incapable of logic, plodders incapable of any creativity, but capable of memorizing lots of useless arbitrary facts. These are people who can do the work but not have the slightest comprehension (because that requires analysis) nor understanding (because that requires synthesis) of what they do.

So here is my diagnosis: the system is shit and so I do not trust it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fields of Academe Devoid of Logic

An expansion on Academia Is Shit Actually, the title should be 'fields of academe devoid of a single person even capable of logic' but that's too long. So obviously anthropology, history, psychology, so on and so forth. Let's examine the evidence:

Anthropology is an anti-science that objects to truth (!!) and holds that contradictory belief systems are equally valuable (!!). Its cherished nugget is that psychotics' belief systems "make sense from the point of view of the" psychotic. I do not exaggerate.

History has given up on being a science. The last great theory of history in history was Marxism. Afterwards, the only theory of history has been psychohistory which is outside history proper. It got especially bad when all the theories of agriculture were shot down. Now there aren't any explanatory theories of anything.

Psychology hasn't got any theory of mind nor any understanding of what the mind is. If you've ever met psychologists, you know they are deeply irrational. Their subject matter is deeply irrational and they can't see the patterns behind it. The DSM-III was written by clinicians, who are limited by direct contact with empirical reality, but the DSM-IV was written by teachers and researchers and it is telling!

According to the DSM-IV, there's no such thing as psychopathy but there is an "anti-social personality disorder" that includes anybody weird that doesn't want to play nice with society, like political dissidents. Also according to the DSM-IV pedophilia does NOT include people who are merely sexually aroused by pre-pubescents. They're only pedophiles if they feel guilty about it or if they get busted on charges of pedophilia. So to cure a pedophile you have to make them feel okay about it and keep them out of the hands of the law. ALSO according to the DSM-IV, multiple personality disorder does not exist. The problem you see is that people with multiple personalities believe they have multiple personalities, not that they have them.

Biology - molecular. Do I really need to go into that? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason behind molecular biology. Hell, there's no rhyme or reason behind chemistry, so molecular biology? No, it's all ad hoc crap. I'm talking about the subject matter (the physical reality) being ad hoc crap. Why? Because what kind of person do you think that subject matter would attract?! It attracts people incapable of logic. People who don't have a problem with A => C AND B => C AND A + B => NOT C or whatever.

Molecular biology is like C++ except 10,000 times worse. Not only can it never be understood but it can never be comprehended. The only way you can ever model any part of a cell is on a computer, because an accurate model can never fit into your mind. So molecular biologists are people who feel perfectly comfortable with the fact they 1) need to memorize reams of arbitrary ad hoc facts, 2) will never comprehend the subject.

And as the nail in the coffin, I point you to the fact that the Central Dogma of Biology was overturned but biologists refuse to accept that fact. See, they've accepted that the Central Dogma is false, but they've got this story now about how they never believed it in the first place. What took physicists 100 years and 5 generations, the biologists did in 20 years and 1 generation. Meaning, the same people who believed the dogma are the ones who don't believe it now.

Biology - ecology. Do I really need to go on? This is the field where people, in all seriousness, make up Just So stories. Absolutely every artifact in every species has a pat answer and that answer is always that it benefited the species to have it. Gorillas give birth to females in times of stress? That's because it benefits the species to be conservative. Some big cat gives birth to males in times of stress? That's also because it benefits the species to be conservative. Logical contradictions and counter-examples are blatantly ignored.

Other biology - it's not that there aren't meaningful questions to ask. For instance, why do cells exist at all? It's that those questions were abandoned. Apparently it was too difficult to come up with reasonable theories for those questions so biologists prefer to leave them unasked. The only work in the area seems to be on slime moulds.

The incidence of 'capacity for logic' in the general population is somewhere south of 1/2. But it's not all that rare so let's say 1/3rd. And yet in fields like biology, it plummets to a few percentage points. And then in anthropology it's beneath the threshold of detectability.

Philosophy has an astonishingly low incidence of capacity for logic. This is the field that originated logic. It's a fucking embarrassment that the incidence rate is south of 90%. But from the material produced by its practitioners, it's obvious that logic isn't a major force. Definitely below 30%. Below 10% even. The best thing to do for the field would be to burn it all and restart it from scratch with different people.

I haven't even gone into the humanities. You think that lit crit came out of nowhere?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Moral Theory Exists

Every time the topics of abortion and animal abuse come around, ignorant American twits come out of the woodwork to make up some crazy theory about how rights attach to babies or fetuses or animals ... or themselves.

It is insufferable to hear them yammer on about a subject they don't know and they don't even pretend to know. It is insufferable to watch them write nonsensical gibberish and pretend that it is meaningful.

I know this all comes from being American too. Because Americans don't believe in morality (religiosity is an entirely different thing) and they're used to laws that are completely arbitrary self-contradictory nonsense.

Reading them is like watching some deranged Doctor Who fan asking top physicists how to create a time rotor. All I have to say to them, all that anyone can say to them, is shut the fuck up.

Moral theory exists. It has axioms and uses logic to derive theorems. And there's no room in those axioms for their babbling gibberish. Things like "living entity" and "complete organism" are just fucking nonsense. And the notion of rights attaching to babies is so much gibberish.

Moral theory adds up to normality. Moral theory says it's moral to abort a fetus and immoral to kill a baby. It says it's immoral to drink alcohol during pregnancy and bring that pregnancy to term. It says it's immoral to talk to your child about how you had the chance to kill them.

Moral theory has to do these things because if it didn't end up with sane conclusions, ones that further the good of the group, then it would be trashed. But that doesn't mean idiots can ignore it in favour of spewing their own personal stupid shit.

If you can't reinvent moral theory from scratch and get an entire moral code out of it, shut the fuck up. The world doesn't need your stupid ad hoc shit.

Logic vs Magic

I've ranted about magical thinkers often enough, and I've had to explain what magic means often enough, that I should really just write it up and get it over with.

The three fundamental concepts underlying magical thought are association, opposition and essentialism. These contrast against the three fundamental concepts underlying logical thought which are implication, contradiction and structuralism.

Let's look at each of these pairs in turn.

Association vs Implication

Association is a symmetric relation between two things while implication is not. Magical thinkers have difficulty comprehending that relationships are not symmetric. So if A implies B, they have difficulty comprehending that B doesn't imply A.

Among other things, magical thinkers have problems with the whole concept that correlation doesn't imply causation. The closest thing to implication which they understand is causation and so they invariably think that if two events are associated with each other, the prior event must have caused the latter.

This all comes from the fact that neural networks like the human brain work associatively. Logical implication is a higher-order abstraction which doesn't run on the brain's native hardware. Magical thinkers are piss-poor at holding abstractions in their minds, or even learning them, so when faced with logical implications, they will fall back on associations.

Opposition vs Contradiction

When two things are in opposition they are in conflict with each other. Perhaps they can only exist in different places at the same time. But when they are in contradiction then only one of them can exist in physical reality.

The concept of a contradiction is highly abstract since it involves the notion that one thing's existence over here prevents the other's existence over there. Contradiction embodies within it a concept of non-locality or universality which is extremely abstract. Opposition does not embody such a concept.

Without an understanding of contradiction, magical thinkers are prone to spew literal gibberish such as "three in one". Words strung together that don't actually mean anything. This is no barrier to the magical thinker who thinks quite sincerely that contradictory things can just coexist side by side. Even when there is no "space" to coexist in!

Essentialism vs Structuralism

Ahh, now here's a tough one to convey. Essentialism is more or less the conviction that abstractions don't exist or aren't real. Which of course makes perfect sense for people who can't retain or focus on an abstraction long enough to use it, let alone manipulate it. If abstractions aren't real then what is real? Well, concrete things are real. But what does that mean exactly?

The brain has this notion of 'object identity' which persists through time. A ship has a magical essence, much like a spirit, which gives it its identity even after all of its component pieces have been replaced or upgraded. Note that it isn't the object's structure that gives it its identity. Because structure is an abstraction and the belief that abstractions exist and that they are real is structuralism, the polar opposite of essentialism.

This magical essence of a thing leaves an imprint long after the thing's structure has been destroyed. So dehydrated milk is a kind of milk apparently, and apple juice contaminated with toxic elements is still apple juice. And a liquid made from petroleum that's chemically identical to apple juice wouldn't be apple juice. Nevermind that quantum physics most emphatically says this is bogus, magical thinkers can't process contradiction anyways.

In essentialism, what matters is not the structure of the thing but rather its history, ancestry and origins. So it doesn't matter that a black person has a high IQ, high education and was raised with Western values by white parents. What matters is that they've got black genes and black "blood". Perhaps someday in the far future the "blood" will be "purified" through good (or intelligent whatever) manifestations of the race's members, but until that happens they're all tainted.

Racism and nationalism are inherently essentialist ideas. It isn't logically possible for a structuralist to be a racist. Of course, since the world is run by magical thinkers, the definition of racism is corrupted to suit them and you get all kinds of absurdities about racism supposedly being about skin colour. Then again, you get all sorts of nonsense about how races supposedly don't exist also.

Essentialism often shows up in the more idiotic arguments of humanists too. The fact that my body was constructed from DNA which traces its lineage back for hundreds of generations to the same cave-dwellers as everyone else on the planet is supposed to matter to me. It's supposed to make me not despise 90% of the people on the planet. Same thing with the fact that my intellect is only the product of dumb luck. Yeah, only problem is I'm a structuralist so I'm quite comfortable in my contempt.

Oh and beware of pseudo-structural essentialism. The fact that I share DNA and a bodily shape with magical thinkers wouldn't make me side with them against an AI that would exterminnate them.

No Such Thing As Utility Functions

One of the most fundamental concepts in economics is the "utility function" that is supposed to represent a person's desires and their relative value to each other. Of course, this is crap (distant rumble as the entire edifice of mainstream economics goes down) but let us reflect here on why it is crap.

A person's desires are not well-ordered like the real numbers. It's not the case that you can always tell that one thing is more important than another thing. Being tortured may be less desirable than chocolate ice cream, but is having a nail driven through your hand more or less desirable than being kneed in the groin?

It's not even the case that there is no relationship between some pairs of desires, like the (knee in groin, nail in hand) pair. Rather, the relationship may or may not exist and may or may not fluctuate over time or due to externalities. You may prefer to have a nail driven through your hand one day and be kicked in the groin the next. All depending on whether you had chocolate ice cream that morning.

So people's desires are not well-ordered and they are not even partially-ordered. They are rather extremely disordered and so form an edset - to contrast with poset. Now the question is, what does an edset have to do with a utility "function"? The answer is: not a fucking thing. As should be immediately and blindingly obvious to anyone familiar with programming.

A function is a set of relations between two sets or between a set and itself, with each relation mapping to a unique value. A "utility function" is not a function since utility(knee in groin, nail in hand) maps to every possible value in the range of the function (less, equal, more) and also to no value at all.

The economist will counter by claiming that if people have no persistent utility functions then it's simple enough to take a snapshot of their desires at any one point in time and treat this as a utility function. However, this is moronic because the "utility function" so generated will invariably be 99.99% blank. Maybe there is a way to rescue the notion using a probability distribution of value for each desire (to represent randomness from internal and external sources) but this would rapidly become intractable.

More substantively, the utility "function" of an edset encodes little to no information. It is primarily white noise. What is of interest is not "less" or "more" or "equal" or whatever. What is of importance is the edset itself. This should be familiar to programmers because I am saying no more than that describing people's desires isn't well suited to a functional approach at all but rather requires an object-oriented approach.

Of course, the reason economists cling to this functional approach is because first it sounds more mathematical. Economists are suckers for anything that makes them sound more authoritative, the scum. And secondly because they are holding onto a Utilitarian past where you can pretend that utility(knee in groin) = -10.0. Such precision!

This makes it the 273rd umm 274th? reason why mainstream economists are morons and the whole field should be thrown in a rubbish bin. Along with anthropology and ... I am actually drawing a blank here since I can think of no other fields in academe that equals these in loathesomeness. Oh wait, philosophy. Phew, I was afraid my sense of righteousness was waning.

Oh yeah, there's a better name than 'edset', it's 'value system'. I really don't like 'desire' since it sounds too earthy and sensual. Of course, value has the dual problem of sounding too abstract and cerebral, but I can live with that better. And desire has the problem that satisfied desires are no longer desires, whereas value doesn't have that problem.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Democracy and Human Rights: Anarchist, Communist and Liberal versions

Many ignorant Americans believe that "liberalism" is an unambiguously good thing. After all, doesn't every racist cracker hate liberalism? Aren't the opinions of racist crackers good enough for us? What need do we have for a brain when we can just take the opinions of racist crackers and invert them?

Oh yeah, and then there's all that propaganda about how the Western countries are liberal democracies. Shouldn't that be the ultimate stamp of approval? After all, it's not like corruption exists in any EU country, is it? What could make more sense together than liberalism and democracy? It's like fire and gasoline!

In Europe at least, the word liberalism is tainted, about on par with neo-liberalism in North America. It's correctly perceived as being right-wing. So although I don't know one way or the other, I have trouble imagining European politicians proclaiming proudly about their countries being 'liberal democracies'. They'll whisper it instead.

Well, if liberal democracy is bad then what are the options? Wai ... what? You mean there are other options?!

Liberalism vs Communism vs Anarchism

Liberalism is predicated on a system where the capitalist elites are guaranteed their power against the majority. As a result of this, all liberal theory aims to justify and, since justification is impossible, rationalize its inherent power inequalities and injustices.

So the liberal concept of democracy is predicated on "representatives" who disintermediate (and disempower) the people from the reins of power. And of course, on the concept of "parties" who ensure that a faction of the people (or their representatives) can still rule.

Meanwhile, the liberal theory of human rights is predicated on rationalizing whatever moral code suits the elites of the moment through nonsensical gibberish and handwaving abracadabra. I need say no more than what I've already said - it is nonsense.

This is seen most easily by comparing it with the communist and anarchist versions of democracy and human rights.


Ignorant people knowing nothing of democracy beyond the liberal propaganda often dismiss one-party states as inherently undemocratic. This is not so. A state is democratic or undemocratic depending on its actions, on its conformance to the wishes of the people. If the mechanism were telepathic communion precipitated by sexual orgies, then it would still not matter.

Communist theory comes from the experiences of the Paris Commune. It is not based on rationalizing the privileges of powerful people since these were guillotined so it has no need to divide and conquer the populace. We can see this in the fact that communist democracy is based on consensus.

In a communist democracy, it doesn't matter that there is one party or one electoral candidate, because less than 90% approval of the party is shameful and less than 80% is cause for revolt. Compare this with liberal democracy where less than 50% approval is routine and a leader with 50% of the votes behind him proudly proclaims that he has a "mandate". To dominate the 50% of the population presumably.

So when American propaganda scorns the Cuban elections of Fidel Castro because he's the only candidate ... this is just completely fucking nonsense. It's especially galling because there are real anti-democratic forces in the Cuban and Chinese systems (the politburos are unelected) but the USA's propaganda rags prefer to focus their condemnation on deviations from right-wing liberalism.

Similarly, the communist version of human rights ... well actually look no further than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for that. Communists invented it. Especially awe-inspiring is the blatantly communist clauses approved even by dumbass Anglo-American governments. Such as:

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

You really have to think like a lawyer to appreciate it but once you do. I mean, think about it. It doesn't say that rich property owners have the right to own property. Nor does it say that everyone has the right to BUY property. No no no, it says that EVERYONE has the right to OWN property. Imagine that, the poor and destitute have the right to own property! All written in black & white, in a document signed by Anglos. Well, some Anglos since it was never signed by the USA.

The defining characteristic of communist human rights, the fingerprint seen in the UDHR with suitable analysis, is that process doesn't matter, only outcome does. The process by which human rights are made to happen is so completely irrelevant, so completely outside communist theory, that it's never even aluded to. Communists just don't care. Hell, communists are willing to murder to redress the social order so it's not like they can care.

But more generally, it's indicative of a communist blindness to process, to the dynamical nature of reality. I suspect totalitarian communism would work very well as a means of regulating a perfectly static system. Something like the original Wiki Wiki Web was supposed to be - a static membership of programmers focused on producing static Document Mode artefacts.


At last we come to the best. Anarchist democracy is based on participation. It does away with the nonsensical concept of "representation", as if one person could really represent a multitude, and takes "rule by the people" literally. The only kind of "representation" allowed in anarchist democracy is the statistical kind where a statistically representative subset of the population is drafted by lottery to serve on a jury.

Since anarchist democracy is not predicated on disintermediation, juries have great power. They can not only nullify a law in a specific case, as is no longer true in the USA, but they can repeal it for all cases. With sortition replacing elections, juries of citizens are even responsible for making the laws. Roderick T Long has an excellent article on how juries ruled democratic Athens.

Which leaves only anarchist human rights but that's a story all its own. Suffice to say that they are a system as concerned with process as with outcome. This is necessary in order to recognize both the dynamic and static components of human freedom. Components of freedom which themselves reflect the dynamic and static components of human beings individually and of humanity as a whole.

Communist human rights form an excellent base for anarchist human rights, but additional concepts such as rightful possession and rightful expropriation need to be developed. Rightful possession to define who ought to use an object in any given circumstance, and rightful expropriation to define what ought to happen when usage transfers from one to another.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eliezer Yudkowsky's Friendly AI Project

[Some people may want to skip straight to instructions for making harmless AIs rather than reading about the many things wrong with that crazy bastard yudkowsky. - 12 mar 2011]

I've recently been debating the merits of Eliezer Yudkowsky's Friendly AI project. And by project I mean obsession since there doesn't seem to be any project at all, or even a few half-baked ideas for that matter. Well, to my mild surprise, since this is someone I nominally respect, I have discovered that I believe he is a complete fucking idiot.

Eliezer believes strongly that AI are unfathomable to mere humans. And being an idiot, he is correct in the limited sense that AI are definitely unfathomable to him. Nonetheless, he has figured out that AI have the potential to be better than human beings. And like any primitive throwback presented with something potentially threatening, he has gone in search of a benevolent diety (the so-called Friendly AI) to swear fealty to in exchange for protection against the evil god.

Well, let's examine this knee-jerk fear of superhumans a little more closely.

First, there are order of magnitude differences in productivity between different programmers. If we count in the people that can never program at all then we can say there are orders of magnitude difference. If we throw in creativity then there are still more orders of magnitude difference between an average human and a top human. And somehow they've managed to coexist without trying to annihilate each other. So what does it matter if AI are orders of magnitude faster or more intelligent than the average human? Or even than the top human?

Second, extremely high intelligence is not at all correlated with income or power. The correlation between intelligence and income is high precisely until you reach the extreme ends of the scale at which point it completely decouples. There is absolutely no reason to believe, except in the nightmares of idiots, that vastly superior intelligence translates into any form of power. This knee-jerk fear of superior intelligence is yet another reason to think Eliezer is an idiot.

Third, any meaningful accomplishment in a modern technological society takes the collaborative efforts of thousands of people. A nuclear power plant takes thousands of people to design, build and operate. Same with airplanes. Same with a steel mill. Same with an automated factory. Same with a chip fab. So let's say you have an AI that's one thousand times smarter than a human. Wow, it can handle a whole plant! That's so terrifying! Run for your life!

There's six billion people on the planet. Say one billion of them are educated. Well, that far outstrips any prototype AI we'll manage to build. And the notion that a psychopathic or sadistic AI will just bide its time until it becomes powerful enough to destroy all of humanity in one fell swoop ... is fucking ludicrous.

Going on, the notion that the very first AI humans manage to build will be some kind of all-powerful deity that can run an entire industrial economy all by its lonesome ... is fucking ludicrous. It isn't going to be that way. Not least because the supposed "Moore's law" is a bunch of crap.

And even if that were so, the notion that humans would provide access to the external world to a single all-powerful entity ... vastly overestimates humans' ability to trust the foreign and alien. And frankly, if humans were so stupid as to let a never before known and unique on the entire planet entity out of its cage (the Skynet scenario) then they're going to get what they deserve.

Honestly, I think the time to worry about AI ethics will be after someone makes an AI at the human retard level. Because the length of time between that point and "superhuman AI that can single-handedly out-think all of humanity" will still amount to a substantial number of years. At some point in those substantial number of years, someone who isn't an idiot will cotton on to the idea that building a healthy AI society is more important than building a "friendly" AI.

Having slammed Eliezer so much, I'm sure an apologist of his would try to claim that Eliezer is concerned with late-stage AIs with brains the size of Jupiter. Notwithstanding the fact that this isn't what Eliezer says and that he's quite clear about what he does say elsewhere, I am extremely hostile to the idea of humanity hanging around for the next thousand years.

Rationality dictates there be an orderly transition from a human-based to an AI-based civilization and nothing more. Given my contempt for most humans, I really don't want them to stick around to muck up the works. Demanding that a benevolent god keeps homo sapiens sapiens around until the stars grow cold is just chauvinistic provincialism.

Finally, anyone who cares about AI should read Alara Rogers' stories where she describes the workings of the Q Continuum. In them, she works through the implications of the Q being disembodied entities that share thoughts. In other words, this fanfiction writer has come up with more insights into the nature of artificial intelligence off-the-cuff than Eliezer Yudkowsky, the supposed "AI researcher". Because all Eliezer could think of for AI properties is that they are "more intelligent and think faster". What a fucking idiot.

There's at least one other good reason why I'm not worried about AI, friendly or otherwise, but I'm not going to go into it for fear that someone would do something about it. This evil hellhole of a world isn't ready for any kind of AI.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Firefox Is For Cunts

Case study: after some browsing I casually tossed my keyboard aside in such a way that the F1 key got pressed continuously by a cable. By the time I noticed what was going on, Firefox was trying to open 50+ help tabs. Which of course slowed it to a crawl.

I killed Firefox only to try to edit the profile.js file. gEdit promptly froze on me as well. And examining the file with OpenOffice made me give up in disgust. So I tried to reopen Firefox hoping it would not try to open all of those tabs, or let me close them as fast as they were opening. And of course, it froze my computer.

So I try to reboot my computer but control-alt-delete doesn't work and I have to do a hard reboot. And when I get back into my computer it demands to know whether I want to restart the last session of Firefox (hell no) or start it with a clean slate (fuck no). So I hit ESCape which somehow doesn't cancel but defaults to clean slate. Okay no panic, last time I did that I was able to kill Firefox and get back my previous session. So I proceed to do this and I find out that profile.js has been completely wiped clean. Not a trace of the original dozen tabs I had open exists anywhere. They aren't in history, they are nowhere.

Now Firefox and Unix weenies will dismiss it all as a bunch of "accidents" or even worse claim it was my fault - it's always the user's fault as far as incompetent programmers are concerned. But there's at least two dozen principles of systems design that have been fucked up the ass in this case.

And what's tying it all together? Massive arrogance. Massive overweening I-know-what's-best-for-you-even-though-I-hold-you-in-utter-contempt arrogance. This "accident" could not have happened except that at every single step of the way, the programmer decided that he knew what was "best" for the user and decided to inflict it on them.

Even Internet Explorer, which is barely useable, didn't have that much arrogance. Whenever IE crashes, which is often, it's feasible to recreate your list of open windows by going through your history. But not Firefox because the history doesn't keep anything as simple as the pages that have been opened (programmer model) or the pages that are open at that moment in time (user model). Instead, the programmer decided to be "smart" and keep only the pages that have been opened by user action. So now those tabs which were initially opened by me an unknown number of weeks ago are nowhere in history.

And it's like this all the way down the line. Why did Firefox freeze my computer? Because Unix system programmers are morons incapable of comprehending the user model of scheduling (the main interface window has absolute priority and applications inherit resources from open windows) and also were incapable to sticking to the batch programming model which Unix's incompetent designers built into it initially. They had to get "smart" and fuck it up.

This travesty is the direct result of programmers' addiction with adding "features" over the users' dead bodies. Features which proceed to interfere with basic functionality in ways that make it unreliable or non-existent. Because programmers are mindless robots incapable of comprehending good versus evil. Like the mad engineers working on atomic weapons, warplanes, biological weapons and anti-children mines, they only care about getting a shiny new device. Not something constructive for the world.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time's Arrow

Scientific American has an article about time's arrow this month. I've written about this subject a month ago and I've known about it for years. This is all yawn-inducing crap. And yet I regularly see so-called scientists oohing and aahing about it in pretend amazement while giving the subject a pretentious name like "The Cosmological Arrow Of Time". There is nothing special about the human perception of time being asymmetric.

Human bodies and human minds are computational devices so it's really obvious that they should work from a low-entropy state to a high-entropy state. After all, general computation has this nasty habit of producing entropy. So much so that it all-but requires the production of entropy to happen. Hence why complex computations like human minds only happen in ways that allow for the production of lots of entropy.

Furthermore, the low-entropy state of the big bang doesn't need any explanation - it's just a quirk of our universe. To the extent that it needs an explanation then the Anthropic Principle is explanation enough. If our universe didn't have a low-entropy end somewhere (ie, a "past") then it could never support complex computations like human minds to observe it.

All this painfully-forced "amazement" on the part of physicists is another example of how difficult certain people (the physicists involved) find it to believe that their subjective impressions have no relation to the laws that govern the universe. Here the subjective impression of time "flowing" versus the physical reality of its being a static dimension with the quirky property of conserving information. Elsewhere the subjective impression of being indivisible versus the quantum mechanical fact of decoherence.

Even physicists start cooing like idiots when reality starts demanding they give up some cherished notion they grew up with. It's painful to watch. The only thing more painful is when perfectly obvious facts like the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis are rejected out of hand. Or when something like Goedel's Incompleteness Theorems gets brutally butchered.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guaranteed Basic Income

The justification for a basic income is pretty simple and even obvious after you know about it.

There's only so much land on the Earth. Nobody is making any more and nobody made what's already there. So who should have it? Well the only just answer is that the land should be divided up each and every year into equal shares and these shares split up equally.

So from the fact you were born you have a human right to 1/(humanity's size) of all the land on Earth. And while we're at it, also all the oceans, all the fish, all the petrol in the ground, all the coal, all the forests, all the ... well you get the idea.

Now if we're sophisticated then we're going to allow people to sell off their rightful annual share of the natural resources on the Earth to the highest bidder. And that my boy, is the guaranteed basic income.

There's another argument that the basic income should be augmented with the share of the labour rent in the economy. Labour rent is the extra value you derive from having a job which some unemployed person can't derive because there aren't enough jobs to go around.

But this argument is iffy to say the least because the economy is bounded by resources. So the reason jobs are scarce is because natural resources are scarce, and we're already providing a basic income due to the scarcity of natural resources. So providing one for the scarcity of jobs would be double-counting. Maybe.

Anyways, when natural resources are so plentiful that everyone can grab as much as they want, then the price of untouched natural resources falls to zero and the guaranteed basic income falls to zero. But in *our modern world* where natural resources are very, VERY scarce, the price of untouched natural resources is extremely high and should be high enough to ensure someone's survival.

This is not the only argument for supporting people in financial straits by the way. There is also the argument from economic efficiency. There are many, many situations where it's best to charge everyone the same fee regardless of how much of a resource they use. This happens when keeping track of everyone's usage is going to cost more than the resources themselves.

Well as it happens you can invert the argument to talk about people's un-renumerated contributions to society. For example, raising your children has economic value to society. Raising them well has even higher economic value to society. These are benefits.

So is writing novels and publishing them online for free distribution. So is dispensing knowledge online. So is volunteering to sustain a community like all the people who run those Craigslist forums do.

The point is, all of those things provide net economic benefits to society as a whole. Should the people who provide them be left to starve to death? Should they be called chumps and laughed at? If you think these people should be rewarded then you've got a problem.

How do you measure people's contribution to society? Even better, how do you measure it without destroying it? Because it's a documented fact that when you start putting a price to people's un-priced voluntary contributions then their motivation disappears.

The answer is that just like charging everyone for oxygen or municipal water or sewers, it's not possible. The measuring apparatus would cost more money than it would save by preventing fraud. So you know what's the solution? The most efficient solution that's not totally unjust? Cut everyone a check and have done with it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Right-Libertarianism's Defects As A Morality

Dave on reddit gave an excellent explanation of Why So Many Programmers Are Right-Libertarians, bringing up many good points. It wasn't a complete explanation though, so I brought up the couple more points I could think of. I also took the opportunity to chronicle my own insights into moral theory while doing that. And since I've been putting off writing part 2 of Morality for so long, long enough that there's a part 3 planned now, I figured this would at least be something.

[Dave] missed the fact that right-libertarians are extremely superficial thinkers. If they were REALLY good at following logical implications all the way down the chain of reasoning then they would inevitably run into the fact that absolute property rights justify slavery. And from this single reductio ad absurdum the whole system that spawned this atrocity collapses.

Not that this is the only problem there since without a moral system to give it meaning, the term "coercion" is hollow. Is it coercion to stop someone from coercing you? If you say yes then you annihilate the concept of coercion. If you say no then you must define a morality that prioritizes interpersonal actions by different actors so as to answer which are less coercive than others'.

The right-libertarians' axiom of "I was there first" is ludicrous as a morality since it violates the second basic self-consistency check which every moral system must pass to merit the name. A moral system must not adjudicate different outcomes depending on point-of-view or order of events. A moral system is ONE system, one viewpoint, for ALL of the group.

(The second basic self-consistency check is really a lemma off of the first self-consistency check. Which itself is a theorem that stems pretty directly from the definition of a morality as the rules which a group should obey for the benefit of the group. The theorem is this: since the group is the entity that reasons about and applies the rules, there can't be an internal inconsistency in the application of the rules when the group applies the rules. The lemma just extends this to time order by noting that logic transcends time.)

To get back on topic, you also have to add in the fact that right-libertarians are incapable of creativity. Because if they were capable of creativity they would have an independent conception, one not arrived at by deductive reasoning, of social justice. And this conception of social justice would be in direct violent conflict with right-libertarian precepts on a constant basis.

There do exist perfectly logical and coherent systems but they aren't well-known so you essentially have to create them. That's what I ended up doing using possession as a basis and weaving human rights together with procedural freedom. I ended up having to recreate the whole foundation of human rights too.

The thing is, creation comes from creativity and that's something all but exceptional programmers lack. A person certainly doesn't demonstrate the least shred of creativity by parroting others' systems of thought whole.

I recommend you examine the philosophy and politics entries on my blog. Especially the one on morality.

I'll leave you with a little fact. What mathematics is to all the hard sciences, the language which underlies all the other fields and unifies them together. So too psychology is to all the social sciences. If you don't know psychology, and by and large economists don't, then you can say nothing about systems of human beings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Science Fiction versus Fantasy

Have you read anything by Julian May? Her Pliocene Exile series has dwarves, elves and magic powers. Only the dwarves and elves are really exiles from a dimorphic alien species who came to earth because their sentient ship determined it was biologically compatible, and the magic is psionics.

Then in her Moon series, magical amulets are communications devices made by a sadistic species of energy beings who live, or are, the Aurora Borealis. They call themselves the Greater Lights and you properly greet them in your request for favours by saying "All hail the Cold Light Army".

There is no difference between science fiction and fantasy except for this: science fiction is rationalistic whereas fantasy is mystical. That's why there exists the dichotomy between ray guns, aliens, psionics versus wands, elves, magic. Talking trees? Baah, that's just biotechnology!

No, the real reason why LOTR is fantasy is because of JRR Tolkien's crap about the Maiar, powerful spirits that rule the world. Also because of his feudalism. In a science-fiction context you can portray feudalism, as Julian May does, but you can't say this is how the world should or ought to be.

So when princes win kingdoms in science-fiction, it's because they're smarter, stronger and braver than anyone else. It isn't because they've got any Divine Right To Rule. And when the humans struck down the elves' tyranny in May's Pliocene Exile series, this was a GOOD thing. Not like in LOTR where the humans' defiance of their elvish overlords in the divinely preordained order resulted in them being destroyed.

When Picard the starship captain defies the gods then this is good. When Paksennarion the paladin defies the gods then this is evil. Because in a rationalistic worldview the universe is to be controlled and subjugated, but in a mystical one the universe is to be feared and propitiated.

Given that our civilization is entirely the result of rationalists, it amazes me that we allow the magical thinkers to enjoy the fruits of civilization instead of driving them into the wilds to die of starvation. I remain hopeful this is only because we haven't figured out how to eugenics the mysticism out of human DNA, yet.

No comment on this subject can be complete without reference to David Brin's essay on the romantics now only available at the internet archive from its former URL ( The only non-Romantic mystical writer I know of is Ursula K LeGuin in her Earthsea series.

Oh and the Romantics are still with us today. They're calling themselves Greens now. And they're just as dedicated to anti-industrialism as ever. They've given up the hierarchy bit but have more than made up for it in sheer misanthropy.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Hydrogen Economy

Idiots parrot all the time how the Hydrogen Economy is going to save the status quo. To a first order analysis this is ludicrous since fuel cells are overcomplexified expensive pieces of crap and hydrogen can't be transported.

However, say we did away with all the futuristic vapourware, what could "hydrogen economy" possibly mean then? Well, it could mean very high temperature nuclear reactors that produce hydrogen thermochemically at very high efficiencies. Assuming the hydrogen produced were cheap enough, there are plenty of applications for it.

Reducing iron ore to pig iron would be one of them. Pig iron can be efficiently turned to steel in an electric arc furnace, without the use of coal. By that point in time, all electricity would be produced by nuclear reactors and coal power plants would have been removed from the equation.

So what would happen to the current production of 1 billion tonnes of coal annually? Well some of it would certainly go to calcinating clinker for concrete cement. Assuming this could be displaced somehow, and assuming enough hydrogen were produced cheaply enough, then it should be possible to transform all of that coal into some synthetic fuel.

Currently, coal to liquids is extremely expensive partly because some of the coal must be burned in order to produce the hydrogen to synthesize the hydrocarbon chains. Assuming this weren't a problem then 1 billion tonnes of coal per year converts into about 30 million barrels per day of synthetic fuel. This falls far short of the current 80 million barrels per day the world uses but it's certainly ... interesting.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ambient Power

Eco-zealots always whine that if only so-called "renewable" sources of energy had gotten as much research & development money as nuclear then they would have become just as profitable.

Well first of all, we're really talking about ambient energy since nuclear is just as renewable as anything powered by the Sun. The Uranium and Thorium our planet inherited from supernovas during its formation is only going to disappear through radioactive decay. And that won't be for many billions of years.

Second of all, nuclear power became profitable within a decade of its invention. Meanwhile, it's been more than 140 years since photovoltaics have been invented, and more than four decades since NASA has been funding their R&D, and what do we have? Bupkis. What does that tell you?

People seem to think that engineering can do anything, achieve anything. That it's just a question of waving your magic fairy wand and pouring enough money into it. Well it's not. And it's really very, very simple why it isn't. It goes like this:

  1. solar power is a DIFFUSE form of power
  2. this means that you need a MACHINE to concentrate solar power
  3. in our physical universe, a machine must be made of MATTER
  4. matter COSTS MONEY

Add it all up and what do you get? Solar power will always be more expensive than nuclear power. Always. Now and for all time.

The only reason hydro doesn't suffer the same fate is because we can use pre-existing mountains and ravines as the collectors. Once dam-builders have to pay for mountains, and this will happen when we start dismantling the Earth for a Dyson sphere, then hydro power will no longer be profitable.

Ambient forms of energy are inherently inferior and no amount of chanting by arch-druids and channeling the power of Gaia is going to change physics.

Oh Nos, Wage Inflashun !!

There's been some worrying about wage inflation happening in odd places like Oklahoma. Let's straighten it out.

Wage inflation is good, asset inflation is bad. Wage inflation benefits workers at the expense of non-workers while asset inflation benefits property owners at the expense of the poor.

Of course, to the Fed, pundits and right-wing economists, who are all shills to the overclasses, it's the reverse. This is why a housing bubble is not considered price inflation, but wage inflation is the work of Satan and must be combatted forthwith. Forsooth!

What's Been Going On

Contrary to popular opinion, any recent price inflation is not a direct function of the asset inflation that's been going on. It's rather a minor side-effect of the means by which it was achieved. Using lots of easy and unregulated credit for asset owners.

Other means of inflating assets exist which would have no effect on overall prices. One is increasing competition for assets, say by moving to a double-income family model which restricts free time and mobility (of commutes) thus artificially narrowing options for workers.

Another is decreasing density which decreases the total number of possible homes within the commuter's habitable area. This is just decreasing supply of homes by squandering very scarce land to build them on. It also contradicts the claims of suburbia advocates who say they are providing affordable homes.

Yet another means of inflating assets is to re-price the assets out of the hands of the locals by, for example, opening up assets to ownership by rich foreigners. Needless to say, sharpening wealth disparities helps this process along.

What Hasn't Been Going On

A final way to cause asset inflation is restrictions on their formation, say if there is a timber or brick shortage for housing. Squandering land would be a special case of this. About the only asset inflation which a sane economy should ever worry about is that caused by resource shortages.

There is a good way of dealing with resource shortages, it's to slow down the economy by scaling back legal working hours. This spreads the pain uniformly instead of concentrating it among borrowers (ie, everyone but the smart rich) as is done by hiking interest rates.

But this is irrelevant because it is the only cause of asset inflation we are NOT seeing, except for land squandering. So basically, all the current causes of asset inflation are the product of an insane society with an insane economic and financial system.

It's Been Going On For Decades

So I hope you see what's been happening. For decades there has been asset inflation without price inflation. Due to the political class being shills to the rich. Recently this asset inflation has been put into overdrive by madmen willing to endure price inflation. What's important to note is that it would take decades of wage inflation to redress the social balance and see a modicum of justice.

Oh yeah, and when someone like Milton Friedman says something astonishingly idiotic like "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon." what he's really saying is that he doesn't give a damn about the allocation of wealth between rich and poor. Which he wouldn't, being a right-wing shill.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How To Think About EROEI

Some eco-zealots claim the nuclear industry has an EROEI of 10 or 2 or even negative. Ha!

The right way to think about EROEI is to invert it. 1/EROEI is, more or less, the proportion of your industrial economy which must be devoted to producing energy. This assumes the energy industry is no more energy-intensive than other sectors of industry. A not-unreasonable assumption.

So if you have an EROEI of 10 then 1/10th or 10% of your industrial economy must be devoted to producing the energy for the rest of the industrial economy. If you have an EROEI of 30 then this falls to 1/30th or 3%, for a 7 percentage point difference.

Given that booms to recessions happen on a change of just a few percentage points in production, 7 pps of energy overhead matters a hell of a lot. Actually, even pushing up the EROEI to 90 reduces the overhead to 1% which improves the industrial economy. Pushing the EROEI beyond 90 can't improve the industrial economy significantly and that would explain why it isn't done.

Having said all that, you have to ask yourself whether or not you would have noticed if 1/10th of ALL industry everywhere (steelmaking, concrete kilns, road building, automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, even television manufacturing) was devoted to just producing energy.

You have to ask yourself whether an EROEI of just 10 for a vital component of the energy sector (and nearly ALL of the energy sector of France) passes any kind of sanity checks.

And if you still want to know, nuclear power has an EROEI of 90.

Why Nuclear Plants Shouldn't Be Made Safer

By Carolus Obscurus in response to a (poor) article on nuclear's EROEI.

In spite of theoretical safety concerns, in practise in the West nuclear power has been several orders of magnitude safer than coal, which has killed plenty of people.

In fact, nuclear plants are so safe that their safety may have been counterproductive --- it can argued that for every life saved in improving the safety of nuclear plants several lives have been lost in constructing those super-safe plants. Can't present a graph here but obviously at some stage the rising fatal accident rate associated with increased investments in constructing safe buildings will intersect with the declining fatal accident rate resulting from the added safety.

Not easy to explain to the general public, though. The individual deaths of 100 construction workers employed in building nuclear plants is not headline news. But if a sparrow falls within a radius of ten miles of an operating nuclear power station Greenpeace and co. will start turning on the waterworks ....

Sparrows near Three Mile Island at leukemia risk, Greenpeace claims

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Right-libertarians, aka Propertarians, aka Market Fundamentalists, aka Satanists

Or, There Is No Such Thing As "Anarcho"-Capitalism

"Anarcho"-capitalists believe that property rights should trump human rights. They believe that human beings have no rights at all and that property, THINGS, have all the rights. They have no conception nor any desire for justice. They are also fixated on inanimate objects rather than human beings. And they fetishize the ownership relation, believing that all things should be owned / anthropomorphized. They are mentally ill and they are extremely repellent.

In "anarcho"-capitalist philosophy, a person is a thing to be owned. They will cheerfully admit this except they will give you a song and dance about how people should own themselves. The only problem is that ownership is distinguished from possession precisely in that you can sell, lease and destroy an owned thing. So a person who owns their body (as opposed to possessing it as their human right) is by definition capable of selling it. So "anarcho"-capitalists literally believe in slavery.

This should not be any kind of surprise to you since the "freedom to contract" (ie, absolute bindable contracts) is literally nothing more than the ability to enslave your future self to the word of your present self. You could contract yourself out for a billion years of labour as the scientologists do. Or you could enter into a contract you later find despicable because your values were fundamentally altered in the meantime. The propertarians care not because they have successfully enslaved you and they expect you to be obedient.

In fact, the logical extension of the freedom to contract is that you can abduct and kidnap someone, rape and torture them until they break, and then have them "freely" sign a contract which retroactively legitimizes what you did to them by declaring themselves to be your slave. After all, physics does not recognize a difference between future and past, so why should contracts? If you can enslave your future selves, then why not be allowed to enslave your past selves?

Propertarians love slavery. Their "freedom of property" is enslaving all humanity to objects, things. Their freedom of contract is nothing but outright slavery. And even their "owning yourself" is just their attempt to hide their love of slavery in plain sight.

"Anarcho"-capitalists, right-libertarians, market fundamentalists and satanists ARE SLAVERS.

And if you are not repelled by them then there is something deeply wrong with you.

Oh and I call them Satanists because the Satanic Bible was in fact inspired by Ayn Rand. And because it's really all the same thing, right-libertarianism being about the legalisms of egotistical shitbags while satanism is the rituals of egotistical shitbags.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Universal Principles, or Why Chemistry Is An Inferior Body Of Knowledge

Qualities of a Body of Knowledge

What are some relevant qualities by which we may judge the quality of a body of knowledge? We can start with the ratios of rules to facts and of facts to phenomena. We'll go on with the universality of principles, the extent of knowledge, and the simplicity & organizing power of concepts. So when we look at chemistry, what do we see?

In chemistry, there are too many rules for the facts we know. There are too many facts for the phenomena we know. Rules are so far from universal that they can never be called principles - as proved by the fact you can't name a single one that belongs entirely to chemistry. Knowledge of phenomena is very limited. And all concepts are ad hoc, baroque and with limited power.

Principles of Chemistry

But what about "Ka x Kb = Kw" and "all endothermic reactions speed up with increasing temperature"?

The problem with those principles is that they are very far from universal. Although chemicals can be acids or bases, most of them are neither. How exactly is it meaningful to talk about the pH of Uranium Oxide? Or steel? And as for reactions, the problem there is that chemical reactions consume themselves and so they have a nasty tendency of being intermittent. We're not talking then about something that persists but rather something that flickers to life and then winks out. Most chemicals are not in the middle of a reaction!

Concepts of Chemistry

What exactly are the fundamental concepts of chemistry anyways? The chemical bond is one. Unfortunately, talking about the universal laws of bonding would just be a repetition of quantum electrodynamics and electrostatic attraction.

Valence shell electron theory is a staple of chemistry. It explains the periodicity of Mendeleev's table. But Mendeleev's table itself explains nothing further. It only talks about how some chemicals are similar to other chemicals, not why they are the way they are in the first place.

Chemistry doesn't explain why there's two electrons to an orbital (physics does that) and it doesn't explain the shapes or numbers of orbitals (physics sortof does that). Hell, it's not even possible to account for the colour of gold without dragging general relativity into the mix!

Actually, if anything has any claim to being a fundamental concept of chemistry, it's orbitals. That's because orbitals are critical in chemistry yet they are far too complex to compute using physics. They're an emergent property.

Pity the orbitals don't really matter in the far reaches of chemistry. Certainly, everything is made out of them, but it doesn't seem to matter. Probably because when it comes down to it, there's only a few of them that matter at all.

Let's compare with physics.

A Brief Look At Physics

Absolutely everything in the physical universe is made out of energy. For something to even exist, it has to be made out of energy.

Do you know why photons can only travel at the speed of light? It's because if they didn't then there would be a reference frame in which they are at rest. And since their rest mass is zero, this would mean they have absolutely no energy. Thus there would be a reference frame in which a photon does not exist and another in which it does exist. And that's absurd.

Literally, Physical Existence = Energy.

Space then is a near-universal. Everything exists in space except for space itself. Space may or may not be a property that emerged from superstrings.

Information is another near-universal. Everything that exists save possibly space itself holds information in order to exist. The laws of thermodynamics are laws about information. 'entropy' can be defined as 'information we don't care about' thus neatly demonstrating why it has no role in the fundamental laws of physics. Information is a conserved quantity which follows specific laws.

From these concepts alone, it is possible to formulate a theorem about the maximum possible rate of computation in a volume of space at any non-zero temperature. Any attempt to compute more would require more energy, which would increase the energy density past the point a black hole would form which would disconnect you from the heat sink and destroy your ability to compute anything. That is a pretty fantastic thing when you think about it.

And Back To Chemistry

Chemistry has nothing like it. There are a few different orbitals and there are a few types of bonds ... but there seem to be too few types of bond to matter and the different orbitals hardly matter. So no universal laws and no universal theorems. I'm not sure why chemistry is so fragmented but it's a shame.

And that's why chemistry is an inferior body of knowledge.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Natural vs Artificial

From a lovely little discussion I just had.

There is a fundamental magical difference between anything artificial and anything natural.

In fact, this magical difference is even enshrined in physics in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The laws of physics are deterministic until human beings get involved at which point they become magically non-deterministic (whatever that means).

It is also enshrined in the Lockean doctrine of "natural rights" which the USA believes in. Negative rights are natural (don't require human action) and positive rights are artificial (do require human action). In the communist doctrine of human rights, there is no distinction.

This magical difference is why watching someone drown to death is okay but drowning them yourself is wrong, as every red-blooded American is taught to believe since true freedom is the freedom to drown.

This magical difference is why 4 to 8 milliSieverts per year of natural radiation is perfectly acceptable. But 0.05 milliSieverts per year due to standing outside of a nuclear plant 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year is totally unacceptable.

So now you know the reason why the actions of quadrillions of natural cosmic rays is unimportant compared to a few dozen artificial beams in the LHC. Obviously the latter are much more threatening to us in magic-magic land.

So if a black hole 'just happens', its okay, but if we make it ourselves: no way!

If it just happens then it's nature's revenge or proof of the sinfulness of humans.

Nature is Mother and God is Father, you know. And they LOVE us even as they beat us. In fact, that's WHY they beat us. Because we deserve it!

Magical thinkers "reason" using magic because they're incapable of using logic. In fact, they're incapable of grasping any abstract concept at all.

Hence why they have to recycle the few concepts they do have. Which invariably turn out not to be abstract like "mortality risk" but rather concrete anthropomorphizations like "mother won't be pleased".

Mother won't be pleased with us making black holes on our own. In fact, mother won't be pleased with us doing anything, being independent like and saying what a murderous fucking bitch she is.

Why economics isn't a science

Some unredeemable fools claim that various and sundry economists, notably Friedrich Hayek, are "empirical". This is unbelievable bullshit, but to appreciate the absurdity of that statement, one must know what 'empirical' means in the first place. Which is something economists uniformly don't know.

What does empiricism mean?

Empiricism means that you collect experimental evidence in order to test theoretical models. Those theoretical models are then verified or disproved to the extent that they conform to the experimental evidence. Most crucially, a single mismatch between any part of a model and the corresponding experimental evidence is sufficient to disprove the model.

What do economists mean?

Economists mean that they dream up whatever model they like and if some tiny subset of the model happens to match the experimental evidence then it is verified. It is by no means necessary for a model to match all of the evidence or even most of the evidence. It is sufficient for the model to match some of the evidence for it to be considered "empirical".

For instance, it is possible (and it has been the case) that a model whose every single assumption is violated by reality is still considered correct because some of its conclusions (the ones the economists particularly like) happen to match the evidence.

In fact, it's worse than even that because economic "models" are not even required to be causal. This is actually what the economists mean by "empirical". They mean that the models they dream up are purely analytic tools that have no basis in reality, logic or causality.

To an economist, not only is it perfectly acceptable to model the real physical world as an AD&D fantasy, ignoring the fact that elves, orcs and goblins don't exist. No, far more than that, it's acceptable for the proposed AD&D fantasy to be fuzzy and ill-defined. It doesn't even have to be coherent!

Economics is what you get when you get people to manipulate a bunch of meaningless symbols and numbers. Symbols and numbers which they've had to memorize because they don't actually mean anything. Not in the real world and not in any world since economics falls short even as pure mathematics.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Modern Myths

Someone asked me what are the greatest myths that people hold today.

The biggest myths are probably this:

first, that popularity is more likely to make something true rather than false.

second, that authority is more likely to make something true rather than false.

third, fourth and fifth, that there is something called the scientific method which the scientific community uses which grants it legitimate authority.

These are the main epistemological myths. The number of domain-specific myths are legion.

There is the myth that democracy is electioneering, thus that Cuba is less democratic than France, let alone Canada, let alone the USA.

In physics there is the myth that nondeterminism is intelligible and meaningful.

In metaphysics there is the myth of functional eliminationism, that qualia do not exist.

In politics there are the myths that human rights are anything other than a communist programme and that property is in any way compatible with human rights.

In economics, that financial (aka mainstream, Austrian, Chicago, etc) economics has any bearing to reality and is anything other than a rationalization for economic predation.

There is the myth of Relativism in anthropology, the myth that anthropology is a science instead of an anti-science. The myth that history is a science instead of record-keeping.

There is the myth that human cognition is unitary, that it can't be categorized in levels.

There is the myth that morality applies universally to all humans regardless of cognitive capacity.

There is the myth that genetic diversity is more important than intellectual diversity.

There is the myth that physical reality is magically different from mathematics.

There is the myth of magic, of descendance, of origins, of provenance, of essence, which inflicts all magical thinkers.

There is the myth that the past was better, that the elitism and exceptionalism of feudalism is "grand".

There is the myth that sacred (fearsome and incomprehensible) is good and profane (understood and controlled) is bad.

The most personal myth is that your parents weren't abusive when you grew up because hey, you love your parents right?

The greatest of all domain-specific myths is that complex systems (humans, cities, societies, countries, economies, even transportation networks) are linearalizable. That they can be reduced down to linear superpositions of component parts.

But if you give up the first five, the rest fall down one after the other like dominos.