Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Objectivists Go Home!

Some of you talk about how taxes are immoral and the government shouldn't be involved in your precious industries, you say that if the government gets just a little more socialist the producers will leave in arms and the former society will collapse. You complain about your wealth being frittered away. If only you had more control!

Here's some advice, in homage to Life of Brian: Objectivists Go Home! That is, pool your money together (you guys are supposed to be rich productive individuals, right?), buy an island or series of islands, set up a government of your choosing, and leave the rest of us alone. Trying to save America seems a little too...altruistic, don't you think? Better to start fresh. Don't give me the argument that this land belongs to you, too, the Native Americans were here first anyway...

In the meantime, you ought to stop using public services like roads, you should only buy bottled water, you should only pay for expensive private schools, don't take your kids to public parks, you shouldn't accept any stimulus checks from the government or medicaid, medicare, unemployment, or social security, in fact you shouldn't even pay taxes... I'unno, isn't it all a bit hypocritical? The step to change is either leaving and going somewhere else or using civil disobedience a-la Gandhi. (Or bloody revolution, but you guys aren't supposed to be for initiating force right?)

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Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus

And now for something completely different, a movie review!

Rating: Horrible. Would not watch again, not recommended, etc. etc.

If you go in expecting to see some epic mega shark and giant octopus battles, prepare to be sorely disappointed. Now, were this a movie from, say, the 70s, I'd be a bit more merciful. But this movie is from 2009. The shoddy CGI is inexcusable.

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The hidden justification for killing

tl;dr version: death happens anyway, why does it matter if it happens before the person's 80?

To that question, had I lived a century ago, I would have answered: it doesn't. So what's changed?

Our technology has increased. We're getting better at not only living longer, but living well. Before now, the existentialist idea of "We're all going to die anyway, so why care about anything?" was pretty irrefutable. People turned to deities and other external sources of Purpose to try and avoid the problem. At best, the only real argument that could be made was "Why not care? In any case, it's obvious that I as a human do care, and I would prefer a future of caring to not caring, even if there's no real good reason beyond human preferences why that should be." In many cases that's still the best argument that can be made.

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Non-violence for a modern world

The problem sociopaths present to a non-violent society has been bugging me for quite a while. And this is in a perfect non-violent society! Nevermind real life which not only has sociopaths but general delinquents and immoral people. Furthermore, a stance of pure non-violence seems at-odds with a utilitarian perspective. If someone is going to do lots of harm/evil/disutility, from a utilitarian view that person should be stopped if possible. But wait, we're not supposed to use violence, because violence is also disutility. It hurts the inflicter as well as the inflictee.

Why be non-violent? Violence often leads to death, and death should be avoided. Human life is worth more than any current computers (unless one happens to be running a true AGI...), it is also worth more than any multi-million dollar mansion. Obviously people disagree with this, whether consciously or unconsciously and to various degrees, and I'm not excusing myself or trying to pretend I'm not selfish or irrational with respect to consistent spending like nearly everyone else. But in principle, human life is valuable, and I think a lot of people when faced with the choice of being directly responsible for a death vs. having a shiny new toy will choose to save the life even if they don't personally know the person. (It's of course not a sure fire bet when the person is, say, Stalin.) It's just easy to not consider the sheer amount of suffering out there.

The tenant of transhumanism is that life is good, therefore if possible life should be saved. If a person is 80 years old and it's possible to extend their life another 80 years, then you should do it. If a baby catches pneumonia and it's possible to cure the disease, then that should be done. "Possible" takes into account utility, but only in the positive sense. If it's not possible to save someone because of technology, okay. Money generally isn't an excuse, and "if you save him, he'll end up killing people" is a false implication. Save him, then keep him from killing people.

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On money, and Curiosity as the currency of the future

I grew up with Star Trek. At one point I knew a significant amount of Klingon (though I've (sadly?) forgotten pretty much all of it), and recently I've acquired all seven seasons of The Next Generation to watch all the episodes again. Having this base, it doesn't seem strange to me to imagine a future where money is obsolete and molecular nanotechnology produces food and other objects on the fly.

What is the driving force of humanity, in the Star Trek future? It is that of curiosity, that of self-betterment, and that of the betterment of humanity. "To boldly go where no one has gone before" corresponds to "seek out knowledge of all sorts and fill in empty spots on your map, for the territory is not empty." This is the noble, moral way to go, and I shall return to it in a bit. But first, a little on the current system of money.

Communism presents an attempt at fixing the obvious sickness that is present-day humanity. It is a failed attempt, but nonetheless it recognizes the problem: too many people are needlessly suffering and it doesn't seem right for the very rich, who don't need nearly all their money, to have such abundance. To make matters more disgusting, a lot of that richness comes from the exploitation and manipulation of others. This was true in the days of monarchy and aristocratic societies, it is still true today, though perhaps it's easier to get away with and truly the wealth is in more hands than before (and there's more wealth).

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