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

Thought Dump

I haven't felt like writing in a few months, clearly. But I've had some thoughts on what I could write about. Except many of them seem like rather obvious thoughts so to expand on them would be somewhat wasteful. But I'd like to record them anyway, so here we go with a handful. Disclaimer that I have not really thought much about this stuff -- to write is to think, thinking without writing is self-delusion.

New Years resolutions are coming up. I think an uncomfortable truth is that we can't really change ourselves that much, or that quickly. As much as media leads us astray with epic hero journeys and countless self-help books to the contrary, many people still have the same resolution year after year. "This time will be different," they say. And this is even when they have so concrete a goal to go for it! Many other goals are either vaguely defined or just non-existent.

So much is hereditary. It shouldn't be too surprising then that you can't escape too far from your genetic limits and starting point. In the heuristics and biases literature, just knowing about the ways you can be biased is not necessarily enough to guard against them. I like to think it helps, but only marginally. Similarly with knowing the techniques of Persuasion. And to top it off, you can be self-aware of a mental illness and perhaps live with it but that self-awareness can't let you think your way into a cure. Some days I suspect the only real way to reach a goal that is beyond your comfort zone is the old arsenic method.

Society seems less tolerant today than what I imagine it used to be, decades before I was born. I don't think this is an accurate picture though. The difference seems that deviancy is tolerated more, and indeed encouraged and pressured, it is normalcy that is becoming strange. This political cycle hopefully made that clear to more people. We can say each side enjoyed roughly half the population's favor. It is therefore a mistake to write off the other side as fringe, or bat-shit insane, or incapable of seeing reality. There is a lot of shall we say motivated cognition in all things, but if you model everyone else as irrational, they're going to surprise you with some smart moves.

I'm a form of deviant. I worry that a backlash is coming and it will take the 'private deviants' like myself along with it. This is what I'm getting at when I say it almost feels like society is less tolerant. It's not like gays in America were lined up on the street and clubbed to death, like in certain Middle Eastern and African states, during the 20th century. And gays didn't exactly have to hide their gayness. They just had to be gay over there and not spread or evangelize. This idea of "you can be weird, so long as I don't hear about it, or so long as it's over there" is to me a great form of tolerance. One can enjoy My Little Pony in the peace and comfort of one's home. But if there's a backlash against faggot furries who prey on little girls (because of course such a nonsensical opponent would be the target of a backlash) anyone who just posted a pony meme ironically is at risk. You think this can't happen? Take a look at Duterte's policies. He's cleaning up the drug problem by encouraging citizens taking the law into their own hands to kill suspected drug dealers, or some hopeless addicts too. This isn't even necessarily a bad strategy. But the same strategy could be applied elsewhere, and targeted towards more general deviancy. It would probably be effective, but I don't doubt I would eventually become a target. Contingency plans are in place but we all know how those go -- it's always the night you're too lazy or forget to wear a bulletproof vest or carry your handgun that you end up getting shot.

Japan seems like a haven of the "you can be weird, so long as I don't hear about it, or so long as it's over there" policy. And their standards of weird seem pretty extreme anyway so even as a "normal" person you still have quite a broad range of behavior you can display. The important part of the "over there" qualifier is that deviant behavior isn't normalized. It's recognized for what it is. Tolerated, but not encouraged. Meanwhile here in the States I wonder if I temporarily identified as a Female, would I have been eligible for a scholarship targeting women in STEM? Would have made college cheaper. And I can always change my mind again later when I graduate. In America, deviancy is encouraged and incentivized. I believe in keeping vices private. I'm not particularly ashamed of my particular vices, but it's not like I'd want them aired for all to see, nor try to trap others in with me.

Trigger warnings can be modeled as a new form of etiquette. Like certain table etiquette that's out of fashion, it's not very well-argued why the customs should be the way they are. But at least classic etiquette has the argument of tradition on its side, tradition is important. Trigger warnings and the rest (like preferred pronouns) of the concepts are just SJW nonsense without historical backing, created and pedaled mostly by young people with no real accomplishments. Anyway, since etiquette is basically dead already, I see no reason to try and resurrect it with something that's not even the classic form. From the standards of classic etiquette, those spewing the new rules are quite vile. At least the champions of classic etiquette were good people.

Occasionally I rethink the validity of defamation claims. Usually I consider myself a free speech absolutist. Insult the government, why not. Shout fire in a theater, why not. You're not too bright if you provoke a response you know is likely to hurt you (like say making up offensive crap about Xi while blogging in China) but I'll agree philosophically the response should be unwarranted, words are just words.

What gives me pause is when people use their free speech to imply you said something (or hey, even quote you directly in some cases, they don't always need to make it up). Even if you can prove it slander in a court, damage can easily be done to your reputation and job. Also, what you said might have been 10 years ago, when it was common sense to say such a thing, but modern fashions prohibit saying the same thing. This gives an example of what happens to people who oppose the party line. My thinking is that with stronger defamation consequences, at least some of those people could seek reparations. As it stands, apparently you have to be wealthier than a single-digit millionaire to take on an organization slandering you, or just unduly focusing negative writing and angry readers at you even if everything the writing says is factually true. (See Gawker vs. Hulgan.)

Such thoughts make me think it's not such a bad idea for the government to step in and restrict media or restrict individual speech. This affects blogs like mine. But we live in an era where a blogger, unable to punch the person they have a problem with due to location or due to strength, can write enough mean things (true or not) about a person and get enough attention that it would harm that person more than any punch. We live in a world where vigilante 'justice' extends beyond biker gangs beating up pedos who deserve it to anonymous nobodies being able to socially blacklist someone else, a sentence not much different from prison, despite no crime having occurred. I consider my idea in one of my Anarchy posts about creating a distributed registry for a reputation system (e.g. Yelp for human beings, with each human judging for themselves whether they believe the 1-star review on your name saying you stole a bank pen to be true before they economically transact with you) to be the most evil and mistaken idea I've had. If speech is to be regulated, it must be regulated by a wise King. When I say the government could intervene, I really mean in theory, some government could intervene, even ours, though I'd prefer it wasn't ours. China and Singapore and even Russia can handle these things because they have stronger more hierarchical governments. It's generally clear what you can't say now, and what you won't be able to say for the foreseeable future, so there's not even that high of a cost. The US cannot handle such a thing yet. And there's much uncertainty over what you can say now, or whether something you said a few years ago you thought was ok turns out to be evil. The US could start down the path of responsible speech restriction with a simple rule of not badmouthing Trump or his family. I don't really have a problem with such a rule. And I'd be happy to edit out any slights should such a rule be intended to apply retroactively.

Programming languages aren't tools. Nor are they cars. Nor are the applications they produce cars. Especially not cars that "shouldn't need understanding of their workings."

I think my meta-certainty for most of my beliefs is low. When you read my About page, you'll see I really only care about one thing: human immortality and the human species and its descendants spreading throughout the universe. I hope I can participate somehow in that. So I'm more concerned with whether it's possible, and whether it's possible soonish, and what sorts of characteristics the future might have. Compared to the Singularity, all the current issues of uncertainty that form my other beliefs and personality are irrelevant. I only preach for certain things because I think I'm right and because it's fun to do so. But I'm not unyieldingly attached to those things. For a trivial example, Gentoo Linux rules, Windoze drools. I have many arguments for this. I believe it. I might troll people instead of arguing seriously because that's more fun. And yet if you forced me to nuke Gentoo and use Windows forevermore, not even allowing me to write my own OS, I'd probably complain a lot, but I'd live with it. It's not very important in the grand scheme of things. I'm also not unresponsive to arguments like "Nix/Guix/SmartOS rules, Gentoo drools". I predict I'll still be using Gentoo in 2025, but we'll see. This detachment is what I call my 'meta-uncertainty', and for things outside my core care of transhumanism, it's generally an unconfident value.

Silence is kind of stupid a lot of the time. Be frank, say what you mean, say what you feel. Don't bottle things up. Don't block. Don't disengage. Especially if someone is challenging you and not just harassing you.

Do all ideas and opinions deserve equal time and attention? Or at least some time and attention? No to both. Some ideas are stupid, people who have and who pedal those ideas should feel stupid, and the rest of us should ignore them. Keep them far away from mandatory 'education'.

The movie Crash has a line: "It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

That seems like everywhere to me, not just LA, but I haven't been everywhere. The most physical, direct human contact I've had in a long time was at a recent Babymetal concert. I've been to other concerts before, but not metal ones, metal ones are special in having that contact. Everywhere else it seems like we're avoiding touch as much as possible. I don't think this builds up an urge to 'crash', but it surely is an unhealthy symptom of society.

On my transition from anarchy to monarchy or otherwise rule by the elite few, I stopped by meritocracy. However you want to define merit, so long as the upper crust of those with the most merit are ruling, you'll have a better system than anything that traces its roots in the will and permission of the People.

All men are not created equal. Other lives matter, but they are far. Near lives matter more. This neatly resolves some philosophical dilemmas, and keeps you from being pwned to donating a useless $3500 to save an African life when you could instead spend that on SENS/MIRI research. This isn't to say some lives can't be equal, just that you can create categories that have ordering relationships. You can do so similarly with pain. Thus 3^^^3 dustspeck-in-people's-eyes is better than 50 years of torture for one person because dustspecks categorically are less pain than torture, there is no finite number of dustspecks-in-the-eyes (given each dustspeck-in-the-eye is applied to one person) that can equal torture. Similarly, I don't care about simulated versions of myself, family, etc. Or about potential quantum-immortal selves. They are very far indeed, and blackmails to me with torture simulation as leverage won't work. (Besides, I have no guarantee such torture has not already occurred.)

Many problems go away when you reject the Enlightenment delusion of Equality.

When crimes or damages are irreversible, punishment becomes rather pointless. If someone robs you, you can punish them by making them give you the amount back and then some, plus maybe some physical discomfort to ward others from doing the same. But if someone kills a friend, there's no way to bring your friend back. You cannot punish the murderer enough to make things right. So why punish at all? The only reason left is to dissuade others. Pretending in honor or justice or revenge is fooling yourself. As such, the punishment should be the minimum necessary to achieve maximum likely dissuasion. This can change depending on the base rate at the current time. For instance, if there's a really bad problem with illegal aliens, it's not unreasonable to boot the lot out with their so-called anchor babies and build a wall. In a decade, when the illegal immigration situation is more under control, things like amnesty can be considered. There's a conservation law with problems and solutions. You cannot solve a long-standing big problem with a tiny and quick solution. You cannot drain a lake, fed by a river, with a spoon. If the river is small, you may over time be able to drain it if you have a good enough pump that outputs faster than the river inputs. That's no consolation to those drowning just a few feet beneath the surface though who need relief now. In order to save them and drain the lake quickly, you need to dam up the incoming river, apply pumps and pipes and build outgoing rivers, and fill in the lake with land. You may end up destroying some you intended to save in the process, but the overall amount you save will be greater.

Mentally challenging games like Chess or Go may be good for improving your ability to focus. I'm not so sure. It's a good feeling, to know you can focus on a game for hours, and you feel the exhaustion afterwards. Watch out for addiction. Timed or not, it doesn't matter. Video games are more dangerous from the addiction side, and generally you can get away with more passive thought, unless of course you're playing against human opponents. Anyway, when you're feeling down and like you can't focus on anything, try focusing on a game, or a favorite piece of fiction, for a long period of time. You might surprise yourself to discover you still have the ability to focus and pursue one activity for a prolonged period of time, you aren't a slave to the multitasking facade that's trying to dominate your current life. Hold on to that.

Posted on 2016-12-06 by Jach

Tags: Anarchy, fodder, government, morality, personal, philosophy, rant, thought


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