Monday, February 08, 2010

The British

This is me so you know not to expect your everyday rant. But ever wonder how the British like to proclaim the superiority of their nation? That's so ludicrous. And at the same time, they whine that the only villains it's okay to bash on in Hollywood are English. Well, let's examine that.

The British are psychopaths. Literally, their national identity is the psychopath, exactly like the American national identity is the narcissist. They plundered and slaughtered their way around the world for centuries and are still proud of it. They exterminated whole nations of natives and they've oh so conveniently forgotten. They feel no guilt at all for anything they've done. Hell, even the Americans feel guilty about exterminating the Amerinds. So as fucked up, vile and evil as the Americans are, they're actually an improvement over the British!

And let's look at their filthy right-liberal / capitalist ideology. A dysfunctional psychopathic ideology that promotes traders and masters over people who produce anything and human beings. You'd think that industrial production would matter most in an economy since it's one of two key defining concepts of 'economy' (the other being consumption) but no. And they have the gall to claim they're a democracy. No wonder their country's so fucked up. No wonder all Anglophone countries are way more fucked up than even moderately advanced European countries like France. Britain, Australia (that bumfuck colony), Canada (Stephen Harper's fascists?) and of course Crazyland (aka America) itself.

But hold on, there's more. You see, there's the question of why they're so fucked up. A lesser person would leave it at their being fucked up, claim it's their "national identity" or whatever. Bollocks. Let's turn out heads to deMause's theory of childrearing modes. These modes are: Infanticidal, Abandoning, Ambivalent, Intrusive, Socializing, Helping. For some calibration, Canada is mainly in the Socializing mode. America is half and half stuck in the Intrusive and Socializing mode. Nazi Germany was in the very early Intrusive mode where they ruthlessly beat their children into blind obedience to parents. And then in the 1960s, Germany underwent a wondrous metamorphosis, going from early 4th to late 5th socializing. No wonder I love Germans. They fucking EVOLVED. In a single damned generation. They evolved more in 20 years than America evolved in 200 years.

So where does Britain fit into all this? I'm so glad you asked! Well let's take a look at some quintessential British children's literature you may be familiar with. In Harry Potter, the constant running theme is that the children are, yes abused but forget that for a moment, supposed to be exactly like their parents, follow in their footsteps and all that rot. In the Weasley's case, they're dominated by their verbally abusive mother. You know, they're chattel to their parents. Parental love is conditional on the children being Just Like Them.

The other example is Doctor Who, specifically Season 2 where Rose is sent away. The Doctor goes to all the trouble of reuniting Rose's family so he can fob her off on them. Touching eh? That season was full of the nauseating 'family matters more than anything' theme. But it's not just that. At the beginning of the two-parter that ends with Rose unwillingly stranded with her family, her mother Jackie complains about her daughter's travels. And her complaint isn't that they're unsafe but that her daughter will grow apart, become an alien in mentality, even if remaining homo sapiens in biology. Jackie Disapproves because her daughter's going to be Different from her. So let's strand Rose in an alternate universe without a time machine, problem solved!

Yeah you guessed it, well assuming you know the childrearing modes well enough, Britain is stuck squarely in the 4th childrearing mode where they beat children to Make Them Obey. The UK under Tony Blair had more than a hundred human rights condemnations by the European Court of Human Rights. Tony Blair actually formally defended child abuse to the European Court of Human Rights! What breathtaking evil. It's like fundie camps in the USA or even "gay therapy". Point is, the British consider their children to be their chattel property, theirs to use and abuse. And it's not likely to change so long as the British see themselves as #1. America stagnated for 200 years, Africa has stagnated in the infanticidal / abandoning / ambivalent modes for millenia. What Britain really needs is to be conquered. I'd almost wish the Germans did it except I love the Germans too much to put them through that. Think a little about how the USA imported slavery from black Africa and Nazis from post-War Germany and you'll see what I mean.

The best part is that the British think they're superior to the French, right? Oh man. Yeah right. Actually, I have precious little data on which to nail French parenting. What I know of it's pretty damned harsh. Verbal abuse, if not physical. Unreasonable expectations of children. But then I remembered the wonderful children's series Once Upon A Time on which I grew up. It taught a whole generation about human history, human biology, the age of exploration, age of invention, and more. And it ended on an odd note, a science-fiction future that was pure propaganda and social engineering. And that's important because the French really accept social engineering. They accept the needs of society (as exemplified by the State, and specifically Engineers) over the individual. And all of that verbal abuse and unreasonable expectations of children is aimed at meeting the needs of society, which puts the French squarely in the 5th Socializing mode of childrearing. And it makes sense, I'd just forgotten how harsh Benjamin Spock's dictates really were.

So yeah, Germany is late 5th, France is early 5th, and Britain is mmm let's call it late 4th. Bottom of the pack all the way baby! I mean hell, even the Chinese have managed 4th mode, and a couple centuries ago they were infanticidal. Gotta love those Chinese, they're evolving.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

There Is No New Internet Economy

I was reflecting on an earlier blog post about Complex Systems where I point out that theoretically there are only information, physical, economic & political systems and nothing else. There are some subtleties involved in this since very small primitive economies look like political systems more than anything else. After you realize that resource acquisition isn't such a hardship in primitive people's daily lives, and that intangible characteristics (ie, status) play a heavy role in these systems, then it makes more sense that they are political rather than economic. And artificial systems like resource distribution in computers could go either way, depending on how they're designed. But that's not what I want to get into.

What I want to get into is all the people who've been talking about the New Economy. You know, with the internet and the infinite reproducibility of information. People who've been trying to answer 'once you take out the cost of reproduction as a dominant element of the system, what's left?'. Clay Shirky has written about it on his site. Michael Goldhaber has written about The Attention Economy on First Monday. And I even recall an article using Hollywood as an analogy for the "new economy". It's all well and good. Hell until now I considered these papers to be Very Insightful. Only it turns out they're not very insightful at all. There never was a new economy and there never will be. What's called the "new economy" is an old thing called politics. Let's examine that for a minute.

The key concepts of the "attention economy" are attention, credit, fame and celebrity. Certainly politics has its own key concepts; loyalty, betrayal, conflict and factions come to mind. And you might think those are separate but wait for it. You see, the key concepts of economics are production, consumption, cost, price and trade. What do they have to do with politics? Nothing, that's what. Whereas, if you bother to think about it, the key concepts of the "attention economy" are the underpinnings of political power. If you have people's attention then you can help redirect that attention to something else, including something you want them to do. And making people do things is politics. Credit, fame and celebrity all further one's political power.

So what about loyalty, betrayal and conflict? What do they have to do with attention, with the so-called "attention economy"? Well, 'attention economy == politics' wouldn't be a very good insight if we didn't learn something new from it. And after careful thought, loyalty and betrayal are merely higher order effects. They're phenomena that appear when systems of attention are high valued and tightly bound together. Eric Raymond's betrayal of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation didn't involve money or laws or anything else of the kind. It involved pure attention. Just a very high-volume and high-grade form of attention since Unix programmers were showing loyalty by heralding Stallman as the messiah. Loyalty then is nothing but a form of highly consistent, high grade, long term attention. Betrayal is the hijacking or redirection of loyalty. It's attention all the way down.

There never was any new economy and never will be. Only a degraded form of politics that must inevitably bloom into its full form.

As a final note, I will say that the insight that an economy is about scarcity is not nearly so interesting once you realize it's implied by metacircularity. A metacircular system is one that's got a concept of self, an idea of what it values and of how it wants to be. This inevitably creates optimization and prioritization, what are called economics and politics. Also, the question of 'what do you want to do and be when you can do and be anything?' comes out of this naturally. It becomes an obvious extreme to the evolution of such systems - a trivial insight, not an important one. All this can be derived from metacircularity, a far more important phenomenon than mere politics or economics.

Metacircularity, especially consciousness, is a topic I've been meaning to write on for a while.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Hypnotism is an interesting phenomenon in the sense that it's something that I am utterly appalled at which others see as no big deal. Hypnotism is to me much like a multiple car pileup is to other people. What makes it even more app umm "interesting" is that its fans yammer on about how thinking you can resist hypnotism isn't the same thing as resisting hypnotism. And this is correct in a trivial way, but I'll show why it should be false.

The subjective experience of hypnotism is that you're 'going along' with the hypnotist's suggestions of your own free will. Not that your will is being overridden or any such childish nonsense. No, you're just "going along". Kinda like the torturers in Milgram's Obedience Experiment were "just going along" with the dictates of the emotionless researcher who was commanding them to torture someone, even past the point of inflicting lasting harm.

Now this is rather interesting because it means I'm totally immune to hypnotism. Not because I'm going to "resist" it or because "my will is too strong" or any crap like that. But for the simple reason that the whole process fucking appalls me. The reason I can resist a hypnotist is because I'm never going to sit on a hypnotist's couch. The whole notion of obeying someone without question appalls me. Hell, if given a few minutes to think about it, I don't even follow up on my own promises if the circumstances change to the point where they're a really bad idea. Not only do I decide things for myself but I decide again and again.

And given what this ties into, the horrific Obedience Experiment, we would live in a much better world if fewer people "went along" with others. If they just decided things for themselves. Perhaps the reason this is such a poor world is because they don't have the mental capacity to do this. After all, if people are incapable of realizing that this world sucks and is horrific, why should they realize that their torturing someone is wrong?

What Science Can Be Trusted

One of the things I collect is stories of science gone wrong. Respectable, and still respected, scientific experiments that are deeply flawed and/or outright faked. I'm not alone in this since Richard Feynman taught himself not how to read bubble chamber photographs but how other scientists systematically misread them.

My suspicion of scientists started very early on when my high school physics teacher told me personally about how some students at the University of Toronto tried to reproduce Millikan's oil drop experiment with modern equipment ... and couldn't. In fact, not only was that experiment faked because the "results" were cribbed from theoretical values, but the theoretical value Millikan copied from was WRONG. As if that weren't bad enough, later scientists copied his "results" even when their own were more accurate. After all, it's not like such a renowned and well-respected researcher would have been a bald-faced filthy liar, could it? That's why the "empirically measured" charge of the electron shows a steady progression from Millikan's value to the true value over time.

The other story of shenanigans among scientists that marked me very early on was this story of a biologist who tried to make a rat maze experiment. So far so good, right? I mean, there are thousands of the fucking things. Except that he was obsessed with doing it properly. He wanted to eliminate every possible source of error and confusion. After a dozen iterations, he ended up with this kind of super-maze that had all kinds of insulating soundproofing anti-vibration features. That's great right? WRONG. Because what he did was invalidate years, decades, of other people's research. And he didn't even get any results from it. All he did was establish how rat maze experiments should be run. Wait wait, the best part's to come because you see he never got published. Yeah that's right, you can do first-rate science that invalidates thousands of other peoples' work and it isn't publishable.

More recently there was this fairly widespread story of how lab rats were being made sick by being fed standard rat food. Cause the rat food was made from soybeans. And if you know anything about nutrition, and aren't a braindead hippie, then you know that filthy estrogen-filled shit's horrible for you. These guys were testing cancer drugs if I recall correctly. While I'm on it, do you know why drugs that cure cancer in lab rats don't do jack in humans? It's because lab rats are really, REALLY prone to cancer. Animals that aren't hopelessly inbred and thus have functioning immune systems generally don't get cancer and don't NEED the anti-cancer drugs that work on lab rats. Well as if this weren't bad enough, it turns out the rat food had something to do with giving rats cancer too. So this "promising" anti-cancer drug turned out to do jack once the rats were given actually healthy food. The best part is that the filthy soybean shit they were feeding the rats was the same shit everyone else was feeding their rats.

Then there's medical experiments in humans. Those are a fun a dozen. Let's take breast cancer. The earlier you treat breast cancer, the better chances you have of surviving. It proves that early detection and intervention works, don't it? Not so! Cause there's this oft-forgotten thing called spontaneous remission. That's where your own fucking body naturally fights cancer all by itself and beats it. Many of the women who are diagnosed as having early stage cancer would have beaten it anyways. Without any treatment at all!! But forget that, let's just spin it as painful OUCH diagnostics and $$$ expensive $$$ treatments working! There's money in it, who cares about the truth? Kinda like the oncologists PRIDE themselves on planning anti-cancer therapies so that a patient gains, statistically speaking, a mere few days of extra life. We all know that a couple extra days of life are worth tens of thousands of dollars in the pockets of oncologists as well as excruciating pain for patients, right?

But there's no experiments like psychology experiments. There's the executive monkey experiment where two monkeys get zapped based on the performance of one monkey. The results of the experiment showed that the executive monkey got more ulcers. This is good, right? I mean it proves that managers DESERVE their ski vacations and massage treatments for deciding other people's fates. And we all love the rich, right? Only problem is with this whole "performance" thing. Apparently the researchers decided to choose monkeys for the executive slot based on intelligence. I mean, you wouldn't want a dumb monkey there, they'd get zapped all the time and it would make the experiment run longer! Yeah, so apparently after that little confounding factor got taken out of the equation, it turns out that, surprise surprise, the helpless monkey's the one with the ulcers!

Then there are experiments on hairless monkeys. Everyone knows of the Stanford Prison Experiment, right? Same with Milgram's Obedience Experiment. You know, the two experiments where you draft volunteers who are willing to obey the orders of some anonymous researcher and then you make them do horrific stuff, and then you conclude that ALL PEOPLE, regardless of whether or not they volunteered for psych experiments, are slaves to authority and would commit atrocities! Un-fucking-believable. You can't make this shit up. For fuck's sake, the experiments wouldn't have been conclusive even if they'd DRAFTED psychology students into them. Why? Because psychology students are abnormal (highly empathetic and irrational, generally incapable of logic) so they are not statistically representative of the general population.

Then there's the Six Degrees of Separation experiment. You know, the one where this bozo sent thousands of letters to be hand-delivered to a destination. Letters, 99% of which never got to any destination, but let's ignore that and focus SOLELY on the successes and then draw conclusions about the planet from it! Never mind that it became immediately obvious that people were stratified by class and that letters whose origin and destination were separated by class would just never get there. Or that hey most of the letters never reached their destination. Yes, let's make positive conclusions from utter failures! Unbelievable.

You know, there are monkey experiments that are fairly trustworthy. There's the Chicken Wire Mother Monkey experiment which determined that comfort is more important than food for infants. Funny how comfort isn't listed as one of the "16 basic needs" of humans, even though it's been known for centuries at least that human infants deprived from touch DIE.

Then there's the experiment where a bunch of monkeys in a cage were conditioned to beat each other up based on some signal, then they were rotated until none of the original monkeys in the cage were left. But every time the signal was given, the monkeys still beat each other up.

There's a couple things that make these experiments trustworthy. The first is that you're not pre-selecting monkeys. You have a bunch of monkeys and you just do something to absolutely every one of them. The second thing is that you're not watching for anything complicated or subtle. You don't care whether the monkeys play the violin or even whether they push a button on time, only whether they eat or they beat each other up. The last thing is that you're not depending on the monkeys to use their huge brains to learn and do something complex, you're looking at strictly animal behaviour. Simple experiments testing for simple behaviour are pretty reliable. Complicated experiments and/or complex behaviour are unreliable, no matter how spectacular they appear to be.

So what science can be trusted? Can you really trust those huge over-complicated equations in superstring theory? Actually yes, because math is simple. Math looks complicated to your puny, puny brain, but it's actually hella simple to mathematicians because it's regular and predictable. Well what about those huge experiments with those enormous overgrown particle accelerators at CERN and Fermilab? Surely that's too complicated! Surprisingly not since conceptually those are just hollow tubes drawn into a circular shape with magnets spaced a precise distance apart. The engineering might be complicated but the design is extremely simple. And there are thousands of engineers on those projects making sure that every single detail works to spec. Best of all, there are also thousands of scientists on those projects checking every little detail of the theory, including each others' work.

You see, "complicated" doesn't mean expensive. On the contrary. An experiment with a hollow tube in the shape of a perfect circle that happens to be 10 kilometers in radius is SIMPLE. The fact that it's expensive just means there's gonna be thousands of scientists to oversee this incredibly simple experiment. That's great! And going the other direction, a cheap experiment with a single human being, or even a fucking rat, is incredibly complicated. Because biology is complicated, because brains, even animal brains, are fucking complicated. And usually those experiments only have a single quack overseeing them. So expensive & simple == good. While cheap & complicated == bad. Which when you really think about it is terribly obvious, but people aren't used to thinking that a rat is complicated so anything at all you do with a rat is a horribly complex experiment.

See also Most Great Science Is Fraudulent... and Modern Scholasticism.