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

We should probably be burning the Qur'an

By "we" I mean the US government, officially. We should also spam this image around; print out millions of copies and attach one to each of the US-funded air-dropped care packages to Muslim groups.

What's the goal? The goal is either how can we get more Muslims to be atheists, or how can we get the proportion of the minority of violent Muslims to regular Muslims to be about the same as the minority of violent Christians to regular Christians. The intent is to piss people off.

Will this anger people? Yup! I don't think it will actually cause violence, though. My reasoning is that for a person so far gone that they're willing to commit violent acts like suicide bombing, burning or not burning a book isn't going to change that. But if those extremists want to infantize their movement and make it about something as silly as burning a book, let them be silly, it will hurt their movement as saner Muslims realize it's just a book and there are millions more as well as infinite digital copies.

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Intellectual Gratification

Where do you get your intellectual gratification from? Do you read science books? (Not pop-sci, but real science books.) Do you read math books? Do you read philosophy? Do you study history? Do you build things? Do you have a smart friend you like to chat with for hours at a time? Or maybe you graduated school and don't think you have any need to gratify your intellect, you have a job to do and a family to feed, oh where oh where will you find the time?

Does the majority of your intellectual gratification come from a school environment? Or if you finished, was that the primary source?

For the purposes of this post, there are generally four types of students. There's the average student who goes through the system and emerges with a Bachelor's Degree (it doesn't matter what in) and goes on to work for 40 years, then retires. These are the most common but are losing ground to the second group. The second group is made of students with little ability. They don't understand the meaning of intellectual gratification, anything intellectual seems pointless or a chore and they would rather cycle through their short list of websites/games/t.v. shows all day. Thanks to modern mediocrity and races to the bottom, every education system graduates more of these people every year because hey, they have to live to support their mindless consumerism and too many jobs above minimum wage require a degree. The third group is the opposite of the second group, it is made of people with very high ability. They get high grades, they major in the harder Sciences, they get their work done. They have some ratio between consuming for intellectual pleasure and for other pleasure, as well as a ratio between consuming in general and producing. The fourth group is an almost bipolar mix of the second and third groups. They generally have the ability, and they'll have their successes, but they also have their spectacular failures too.

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New About Page Section

In case you never noticed, the "Jach's" link at the very top is actually my About Me page where you'll find loads of juicy personal information! I sometimes update it from time to time, pretty sporadically. I added a new section tonight that ended up a bit longer than I intended, so I figured I'd get some word-count credit for it in a post. It's about what you should label me as when talking about me behind my back! I wish I had something really hip to call myself like Carlylean, alas. You'll still have to do your research though if you're a journalist, which means this will probably do more to make me look like a freak than anything else since when do journalists do research these days.

Can you sum up your core views in a short package so I don't completely misrepresent you when reporting second-hand?

My real view is simple. I'm a transhumanist Singularitarian in the Good sense, or the Yudkowsky sense if you prefer. Anything that gets in the way of a positive Singularity is bad.

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Perils of Procedural Style

Dijkstra said the discrete world of programming is much more prone to small errors causing big problems than the traditional analog-looking world we're used to. He seems to think it's something inherent about the discrete nature, personally I think it's more to do with the smallness of the discrete bits we're dealing with and the huge levels of complexity implied from that. Humans aren't unused to dealing with discrete things, in fact we have to as our brains are finite things. A stove top's heat control controls analog voltage in a fuzzy way by discretizing at ranges--when you turn many dials and feel little bumps, that's called hysteresis, which is discretizing a normally continuous measurement. I really think a lot of the continuous things we're used to like playing music are just more discrete than even our computers and so they look like they're continuous.

If you play a chord slightly wrong, you'll probably get a slightly wrong sound instead of an incredibly wrong sound. On the other hand, you may break the instrument! The chord could snap.

If you change a single bit in a calculator's memory, that bit could be part of a single number, and the low-order bit at that, and so the result could be just a slightly wrong calculation like saying the square root of 60 is about 7.745966692414835 (instead of a 4 at the end). Or the single bit could be part of a single boolean and a boolean action could take the completely opposite effect of what it was supposed to do.

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Pedantic moment: I'm sick of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"

I really am.

Okay, I guess I can't just leave it at that because apparently it's not obviously false.

Two other variations on this phrase: "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" and "the whole is not the sum of its parts". I bring these up because this makes the mathematical error twice as bad. $$whole > \sum parts$$ is the original expression, $$whole \neq \sum parts$$ is another.

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The Movie Crash

I was introduced to Crash somewhere between 2006-2008. My Sociology teacher in high school had the class watch it. I enjoyed it (being a teen with no taste of course!), and I have a DVD now and have watched it again a number of times since (guess I still have no taste?). Sometime in 2010 I learned that a lot of so-called intellectuals really hate the movie. I didn't really understand, and I still don't entirely, why it deserves hate. It's at least better than Twilight, right?

The criticisms are typical, which doesn't make them invalid, just typical. It has a shallow plot, shallow characters, single-dimensional characters, perpetuation of stereotypes, predictable in parts, tugs at heartstrings instead of delivering a clear unambiguous message, perpetuates the supernatural, and so on. I think I just have a much lower standard for movie quality than these critics who hate Crash; if I want depth and exposition I'll read a book. I'm fine to admit that my brain goes to half-power when watching a movie or playing a game. These are entertaining activities, not intellectually stimulating ones (even the really good games or movies). Of course, the half-power thing applies to most fiction I've read too--most of my reading these days is non-fiction.

The reason I like Crash is because it offers a lot of intellectually stimulating after-thought to chew on, which includes its various criticisms. And at this point I sympathize with critics, because when I got a Netflix account, I was honestly surprised that Crash was the top-rented-out movie. Where are all the discussions of the issues raised? How come so many people I talk to still haven't seen it or don't care about talking about any of the issues? Why don't people remember much from the movie?

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Is government responsible for created wealth?

There has been a lot of heat lately on the issue of how much rich people owe society or their government now that they are rich. One aspect of this debate is where does wealth come from and is government in the end responsible for it?

I have a fairly simple answer, because it's a fairly simple question. The US government allows for a huge variety of ways people can start a business and create and sell something, which is the biggest source of wealth generation into the economy. If the US government were more totalitarian and for example required that in order to sell anything you had to go through their network to get it approved, to get it tested, to get it approved again, and the whole thing cost multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars (and if it's rejected at any stage for any reason you have to start over), I don't think anyone would be able to create much wealth. You'd have the biggest corporations maintaining their revenue streams but innovation and creation there would be slow.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter how many avenues a government leaves open for people to create wealth in. At the end of the day some human brain has to think of something and act on it, it has to actually produce something. This may be someone envisioning a new car engine, contacting the necessary manufacturers to make a prototype, then getting a designer to build a car around it and then marketing and selling. This is a new thing that previously did not exist, created out of the squishy folds of human brains but kickstarted by a single human. The government allows this process to happen, but because of this then this process seems like it would happen regardless of if the government was there in the first place. (Furthermore at each stage there's opportunity for more wealth creation--maybe the new engine requires a new manufacturing technique that can be applied elsewhere, maybe standard car designs won't work with this new engine and so a new design must be imagined that may be useful elsewhere too.)

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