Saturday, March 31, 2012

Accepting Ignorance on Suicide Justice

"What would justice for Lizzy Seeberg look like? I don’t really know; I’m asking. To what extent does your opinion depend on the templates you have in your head that help you explain the world to yourself? Templates about race, sex, religion, loyalty, sports, and tribalism, I mean."

For the latter question, it will become obvious as I answer the former.

What a civilized society would do is whatever results in fewer future sexual assaults and suicides. It would do whatever minimizes both, and then make sure it isn't trading fewer assaults for more suicides.

It would not punish anyone for the sake of punishing them. It would never, ever trade more suicides for more 'justice.'

Having found this minimum, then it would call whatever it is doing 'justice.'

So really I don't know either. But I know how you could find out, if you truly care about justice.

I personally have some additional conditions about not harming innocents due to the actions of third parties - I would trade more suicides for harming fewer innocents - but these can be got around by contracts, so the point is generally moot.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cultural Learning, Economic Edition

Via Aretae, I find an example of the kind of thing that makes me think that people, in general, learn culturally. It's just real, real slow.

The intellectual classes have known (or should have known) how to make a country prosper since at least Adam Smith. It has simply taken this long for the knowledge to seep its way through societies, to make its way deep enough that leaders attempting to follow the ideas can get a meaningful number of people following them.

There are other ways this knowledge osmosis results in wisdom in leadership, but they all boil down to equivalents of the above.

I've seen many reasons to be optimistic or pessimistic about the future, but this is the only one that solidly meets my standards. Importantly, it can do both - if sophistry is what's percolating down, then it justifies pessimism. If you happened to know what makes a thing percolate easily, and read Marx in the 1800s, you could be utterly justified in seemingly paranoid pessimism, and you would have been proven horrifically, atrociously right. As another example, every pessimism of Carlyle's that Moldbug has shared turned out to be grimly true.

Thing is, while error percolates just fine or even better, it also vanishes. Eventually. For the people on the ground, who, how many, and what arguments various intellectual camps have is irrelevant, because reality gets the final word. Only believing in truth is stable. Eventually, an alliance forms between reality, the footsoldiers, and the intellectual camp whose first allegiance is truth, not politics.

One nitpick.

""Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $31,501 in 2009, compared to $4,545 for those nations in the bottom quartile,""
This is an association. It could easily be the other way around, and prosperity buys freedom. I'd like it the libertarian way around, but I certainly can't prove it.

Pattern Recognition Bug Fix

Mainly because I'd prefer to write posts that can lead to concrete action. It's not like philosophy is any more incapable of leading to engineering than any other field of inquiry.

Secondly, to promote communication. Maybe this trick is so well known nobody else thinks it is worth talking about. Or maybe some opposite.

This kind of thing is what Lifehacker would have to write about for me not to be disappointed in it. It would be great, as it would likely do the writing part way better than I do.

Inevitably this lead into laying out some of my thoughts on how the brain functions at less abstract levels.

There's a well-known bug in the human brain's pattern recognition modules, in that it is too aggressive. It flags many patterns on insufficient evidence, and often sticks to them despite additional evidence.

One day I wondered what would happen if I set my pattern recognition modules to work at recognizing the patterns characteristic of spurious patterns. I actually felt my brain go clunk. (Almost immediately? Next time I did pattern recognition?) Thinking became easier and more comfortable, and I found out I'd been fighting myself due to sudden onset peace syndrome.

Two and a half issues. First, a clunk feeling is not normally considered good scientific evidence. First and a half, a feeling of ease - while an end into itself and therefore still worthwhile - is not normally considered good evidence of ease. Second, this immediate reaction may have been based on certain other habits I'd developed, which anyone wanting to replicate this may not share.

I'm a bit socially stupid. When someone told me to question everything, I took it seriously. When I questioned whether the category that 'clunk' belongs to functions as good evidence, I found the scientists were wrong. I cannot find any strong verification of their position - I can only re-derive it from certain historical accidents. (Suggestions are welcome.)

For example, when I tested this clunk by checking my new-feeling pattern of patterns for spurious patterns, using the exact same methods I'd used before, I found spurious patterns had basically disappeared. (I still spot check sometimes.) The simplest explanation for feeling better is that it is better, and in this as many other cases, this was borne out.

Secondarily, human brains are far more similar than different. The clunk feeling should be repeatable, even if it is misleading. So, don't worry about whether its misleading, first worry about replication. Once replicated you can just test whether its reliable, rather than having to argue about it. In any case, a difference in feeling has to reflect a difference in function, the only questions are what and how much.

As for my habits, I had been deliberately training myself in inter-brain communication, as I had been raised to do. My pattern recognition modules can hear and understand my consciousness module, and so all I had to do was consider the idea and it became done. Whether this is normal or due to the training, I don't know.

If it isn't normal, getting the pattern recognition module to hear and understand the idea may take some finesse. The subconscious is suggestible, which means it can hear and often understand the audio-processing modules, which means saying it out loud may be enough. However, it is possible for the subconscious to hear, understand, but not to agree, in which case it won't obey. I can't imagine how a subconscious not agreeing with this, but my imagination is limited.

Another pathway is to practice it deliberately. The term is 'automaticity' but what's happening is the subconscious is understanding and agreeing with the procedure, and takes it over. The subconscious has to handle all the fiddly little details like muscle nerve signal encodings and information storage, retrieval, filtering and processing. You can say to it, "Find the patterns characteristic of spurious pattern" and it will just reply, "Okay, but what changes does that mean I should apply to these filtering and processing algorithms?" If you can't explain, you can lead by example.

And for your own sake, if it pushes back, listen. (In me this even feels like backpressure.) Your brain is on your side. Its interests cannot be more aligned with yours. Your consciousness directly commands something less than 0.1% of your neurons, and my estimate is inflated because consciousness is computationally inefficient. Much of the rest of the brain isn't general purpose, but the sheer weight isn't just for show.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Notes on a Property Dilemma

There's stuff in this post. Logic and epistemology: ways to screw up knowing stuff and what isn't screwing up for contrast, along with a justification for why it isn't screwing up so that if I'm wrong you can figure out how and why, including some real-time learning so you can see how I do it. There's justice and values, including several falsifiable statements of mine. Some generalized morality and ethics, of course. There's some individualism at the end, since Zwolinski (via) brought it up.

I should probably emphasize, now and more often, that I'm fully aware that this is simply what I think about these issues. I'm not claiming I have ultimate truth; that is for you to determine.

Heck let's digress a bit on that, too. If I make a habit of checking my beliefs if I need them to be true, to me it doesn't matter whether they're actually true. If I'm right, I should act on my beliefs. If I'm wrong, I'm going to act on my beliefs anyway, because by definition I don't know they're wrong, and quite possibly the only way to find out - as I already did checking - is by acting on them. Is there a world 'out there'? I don't need to know or care. (This not caring is very relaxing, I heartily recommend it.) I just need to keep checking that my observations match my beliefs. I would also mention noticing when my beliefs don't support my goals, but how do you miss trying to accomplish something and failing? ...(hourglass)... You don't miss the failure, you miss that failure was caused by your beliefs. So two habits, then: check beliefs, blame beliefs. For example, perhaps I write a philosophy book, and it doesn't sell. I can blame lack of interest, "I tried, but nobody's interested in philosophy, even when they should be." Perhaps I'll blame piracy. "The Ebook format was bought about once for every nine copies we found in the wild." Even if these are true, why didn't I believe they'd happen before I wrote the book? The world is not to blame, my understanding of it is to blame. Whee, digression.

"So you want to correct the injustices that have happened in the last five minutes, but ignore the ones that happened prior to that? That’s arbitrary."
I want to correct injustices of living humans against other living humans. There's no point in trying to give the dead what they deserve.

"The only non-arbitrary approach is to start fresh from where we are. "
An interesting assumption. Can you prove it? I bet it is pretty hard considering I just provided a counter-example.

"I’m sorry I took your Ipad."
"Good. You can atone by giving it back. With an icepack. I promise to forgive you iff you do."

"I see now that respect for property rights is important. So let’s try to be better about enforcing them. Life, liberty, and property…starting now!”"
The way this is wrong looks complicated to me, let's see if I can put it into words...

First, 'is important.' But, as context makes clear, he means, 'will be important.' So he's claiming that he can toggle it from important to not-important, unilaterally.

Yup, there is it.

There's this principle, called symmetry. If he can toggle it from important to not-important, why can't I? Let me be pedantic: if he can, I can. So he toggles it off just in time to take the iPad...err, but what happens if I notice in time and toggle it back on again?

He's claiming that whether he's a thief or not depends on how fast I am on the uptake. Further this can be solved by continually toggling it to 'on' so that no matter how quickly Adam performs the sequence, in the same splinter of time he turns it off I switch it back on.

"Figuring out what to do about past injustices is a tough problem for any political theory."
No, thinking clearly, in straight lines, is a tough problem for most political theories. Master that and the rest is simple. For example, the above.

"Libertarians like Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard have tried, at least briefly, to grapple with it."
I haven't read much Rothbard, but I was there when Moldbug called him a high-functioning sophist. The pattern is that Moldbug is right about these things.

I suppose I should check.

"Suppose, for example, that A steals B's horse. Then C comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at least returning the horse to the innocent "private" sector and out of the "criminal" sector."
Interesting assumptions. Can you prove them? How does the 'criminal sector' break symmetry?

I hope you'll forgive me if I don't keep spending time on this. It seems like a waste.

"Obviously, this is not the sort of issue that’s going to be resolved in a short blog post."
Depends on how complicated the proofs are. Unless he means the inconsistent beliefs across people - the 'debate' - will be resolved. Historically only state thuggery has 'resolved' such debates because it is actually a power struggle pretending to be pious. Usually someone wins because they are the state or wins and therefore becomes the state.

"But it can, at least on some plausible interpretations of libertarian principles, sanction redistributing resources from C to B."
Interesting assumption, etc... Thing is 'libertarian' principles only apply to libertarians. You have to go deeper if you want to justify anything regardless of whether A or B are libertarian.

Empahsis mine:
"If A steals from B and bequeaths the stolen property to C, B clearly has a right against C, even if C has acted entirely innocently. "
If the difficulty of the problem were such that 'clearly' were admissible to the court of logic, then Rothbard would philosophically be the last word on it, and the little vignette earlier would be so much whining.

Also: basically, no. If A steals from B, B has a right against A. If A can't afford it because they gave it to C, it doesn't forgive A and indict C. Property doesn't commit offences and applying remediation to property is, frankly, stupid. People commit crimes.

"Sometimes, in other words, the point isn’t that we have acted wrongly. It is that we have benefited from injustice in a way that we were not entitled to benefit."
This is an impossible combination. Again, some work before I can put the contradiction into words...

I think the problem is with 'entitled.' It implies that I am entitled to other things. That I justly own my computer because I'm entitled to it.

Ah, yes there it is.

It is backwards. I'm justly entitled to my computer because I own it. Ha ha, oops.
For emphasis, I repeat: the problem is thinking clearly.
Therefore, I should repair this and see what it looks like.

If we benefit from injustice, we own the benefit. But we don't own the injustices, unless we are physically responsible for the injustices. Is that clear? I'm not sure how else to put it.

I'll try a better example. White settlers genocide indian tribes and I benefit because they're not crowding my land. In this case, restitution is simply impossible - the specific victim tribes were completely wiped out, by definition of genocide. They have no ancestors to carry out feeling wronged.

I do own the benefit. Zwolinski thinks I don't own it justly, as his vignette attempts to illustrate. However, thinking clearly resolves the contradiction. Do I own the genocide?

If I could have prevented the genocide, I would have. In this case you just have to trust me, as I don't have the power to do so. However, in general you'll find that I'll stop any injustices I do have the power to stop.

(This is somewhat nerve-wracking. If I see someone attacking someone else, do I intervene? The consensus is no, but only because as an individual I don't have the power. But what if I do? If I stay out and find out I could have, I'll feel awful. Rational expectation says stay out. My principles say intervene anyway, you coward, because in that one-in-a-million chance you're wrong, the risk of beating the rest of the time is worth it.)

Since I don't own the genocide, nobody is entitled to take my property away to try to restitute the genocide. That's just attacking more innocents. As an innocent, if you convince me that someone deserves restitution anyway, I will probably give it voluntarily.

It is only this constant, usually self-serving attempt to justify confiscating from me that makes me oppose the act of restitution. For example, this is an anti-libertarian screed, thus a pro-state screed, which means a pro-taxation screed. (Verification: word choice should be random. Instead Zwolinski follows statist word patterns, which strongly suggests he follows statist thinking patterns. This is because the mechanism for mimicry is feeling sympathy. You ape those you like.) Will taxes actually be used to give just desserts? No, categorically, absolutely not. It will be used to fund further crimes. Often against the weak, as those who value power hate nothing more than those who fail to live up to the value of power. Just as I hate nothing more than those who fail to live up to the value of truth and honesty. However, it is true that my hate doesn't indicate they deserve any kind of punishment. It is simply how I feel about it, nothing more, nothing less.

(Instead who deserves punishment is people who try to pressure me into being less than honest. Because if they don't, it must be kosher for me to pressure them so hard into being honest that they actually do it, and so I win either way. Dear opponents, kindly tell me which way you'd prefer I win.)

I should also mention that all this is a mainly-correct account of how property intuitions work, as I expected from the use of 'certainly,' 'clearly,' and so on in lieu of proofs.

Forgive my repetition for emphasis: as a matter of record, if you can prove that A stole the iPad they gave to me, I will voluntarily give it back to B, because I value justice over having an iPad. (Assuming A can't foreseeably pay. I am entitled to keep the iPad, after all.)

I'm glad I repeated that, because now I can put something else into words.

Trying to force me to value justice is wrong. Because if you can justify that force, then I can justify forcing you not to value justice. Again, opponents: kindly pick how you'd prefer I win.

"Receipt of such benefits could be understood as a kind of strict liability offense."
So, back to the article, "Like, no and stuff." Conclusion follows from premises, but premises are wrong.

"Second, an over-reliance on so-called “methodological individualism” sometimes leads libertarians to be unnecessarily obtuse in thinking about historical injustice."
Remember what I said about valuing truth? I'm dreading where this is going. How what he's about to say doesn't make every truth-lover embarrassed for him, I may never understand.

"“Only individuals act,” we sometimes like to say. Or even “there are no groups, only individuals.”"
This is completely true. Oh crap this is going to hurt.

"But there are groups, and they matter."
Here it comes...!

"Individuals belong to families that transmit economic, cultural, and other advantages (and disadvantages) from one generation to the next."

"Individuals have racial, religious, and ethnic identities, and those identities shape the way they are treated by other individuals and institutions both consciously and subconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally."
Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh. Oof.

"Put these two kinds of identity together and it’s easy enough to see that injustices against an individual in one generation can negatively affect other individuals in later generations."
Wow, that stings. Ouch.

"And that systematic injustices against certain groups of individuals can have systematic effects on other members of those groups in later generations."
Whew. Okay, it's over, he's started repeating himself.

Hahaha, owwwww. How do I know I'm a connoisseur of logic? This genuinely hurts me. (But doesn't cause suffering, luckily.) Plus, I can fix it! Yay!

Families transmit because individual family members cause a transmission to other family members. If it cannot be described in terms of individuals, it doesn't exist. (This analysis is part of what I learned just a couple days ago trying to write my individualism post.) The advantages and disadvantages are the result of individuals agreeing, (voluntarily or by trickery or by coercion)[1] to participate in the family, as can be verified by looking at other cultures who arrange families differently. These groups are arbitrary and contingent, and have no existence outside what individuals make of them.

First, be very very careful talking about 'identities.' We have collections of properties that are, for cognitive convenience, organized by categories. Again, the identity doesn't exist except as it is embodied by the specific properties. Though yes in most cases the identity categories are useful shorthands. So is it the properties or the shorthands that shape how individuals are treated? Which is it that causes the Catholic to treat Protestants differently than Atheists? (See what I mean about being easy if you think clearly? Ask the right question, and the problem is its own solution.) It's the shorthand, often synecdoches of the shorthand no less, not the properties themselves. Zwolinski's analysis only works if it pivots instead on the properties.

Put those two kinds of identity together? They're completely different. Zwolinskis adding oranges to apples. Though yes, it is true that injustices can propagate along identity category-shorthand-tag lines. However, since they aren't constrained by properties, the effects often short out and start propagating across nearby lines as well. Principle: this happens with everything that is an artefact of our non-infinite cognitive capacity, rather than being real: the non-infinite mind makes mistakes doing the shorthand.

"Finally, whatever the intrinsic philosophical merit of “the past is complicated so let’s just start fresh” approach,"
It has no philosophical merit, it is entirely pragmatic. Say we figure out what exactly coercion is and realize everyone has been coercing everyone else. We could try to untangle the extreme network of who owes whom what, or we could just do amnesty. I've seen examples of this before, and immediately there are cries for exceptions and special cases and so on, and these compromises have to be made, though they'll always be judgment calls. That's why we call the people who run courts 'judges.' (Imagine a world where judges were selected for being good with judgment. Seems nice, eh?)

Note that having a new understanding is vital to doing an amnesty properly. There has to be a qualitative change in how things are done. Otherwise you can reform gradually - find everything that is working and fix it in place, then nudge what isn't working into shape, one at a time, with lots of warning. My use of the word 'working' is extremely deliberate.

[1]I find it sometimes necessary but difficult to re-read a sentence and skip over mid-sentence parentheses. I suspect italicizing will fix this; I hereby solicit comments. Also it's unconventional and thus makes me uncomfortable - what if it looks dumb? - which is good because I should figure out how to stop doing so many parenthetical statements. I'm often using dashes just for variety; that's just extreme.

A Few Trolley Addenda

So, uh, is there a reason everyone suddenly talking about ethics? Yet more evidence that I'm not 'most people.' Note that I might have been better off as a 'most people.'

I suspect what's actually happening is that most can see for an implication distance of zero. I'd feel sick even pulling the switch, though undoubtedly I'd feel more sick after pushing a dude, because more of my brain's systems would recognize what's going on.

I realized that my previous analysis had neglected the factor of whether they potential victims were there voluntarily or not.

I kind of demand that rail workers to be responsible for their own safety, not to rely on random passers-by with inconsistent ideas about what's murder and what isn't. If you work on rail and don't at least sometimes spare a glance for passing trains, I have a bridge in London to sell you. Who told them they were safe and why did they buy it?

I corrected this subconsciously, and used the tied-down victims version. Which as a bonus makes clearer that the solution is almost always never to get into a trolley situation in the first place.

As Kent pointed out, it is hard to find an actual, physical situation of playing God. Perhaps trolley intuitions are whacked because there has literally been no adaptive pressure to fix them, because it never, ever comes up.

Now is later, and I found something beautiful.
"Wherever I go, whether my audience consists of local students, congressional staffers, or post-Soviet professors, when I present the Trolley case and ask them whether they would switch tracks, about ninety percent will say, “there has to be another way!” A philosophy professor’s first reaction is to say, “Please, stay on topic. I’m trying to illustrate a point here! To see the point, you need to decide what to do when there is no other way.” When I said this to my class of post-Soviet professors, though, they spoke briefly among themselves in Russian, then two of them quietly said (as others nodded, every one of them looking me straight in the eye), “Yes, we understand. We have heard this before. All our lives we were told the few must be sacrificed for the sake of many. We were told there is no other way. What we were told was a lie. There was always another way.”
They were right. As Rawls and Nozick (in different ways) say, justice is about respecting the separateness of persons. We are not to sacrifice one person for the sake of another.i If we find ourselves seemingly called upon to sacrifice the few for the sake of the many, justice is about finding another way."
Suffering soviet rule is one of the greatest inoculations against sophistry. But surely, there must be a less devastating vaccination...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Addenda to Easy Sociology and Catholic Power Fossils

Power cannot be stably balanced. But a power balance can be engineered into place. The latter is the easy part of sociology. Predicting what the attempt will actually accomplish seems roughly as hard as I expected it to be, but perhaps the antecedent soft problem can be transmuted. (I learned that just now.)

Moldbug's formally-specified sovereign corporation, with crypto-locks and everything, could be put into practice in the next couple months if just the right people decided to. (I suspect not that many.) That part's easy. Figuring out what it would change into later is the hard part.

It appears cultural organization is extremely flexible. If I put a car together wrong, it will jam or explode. If I put a program together wrong it will crash. Society doesn't seem to have a 'wrong' it can be put into. It will accept any sort of order as long as the order is being put into place by powerful enough entities.

Thing is, since humans instinctively know so much about sociology, I know more than I think I know. I can confidently predict that, had I the power, I could put into place a monarchy. I know what to do such that society reacts by monarchizing.

To exploit this skill, all I have to do is ask myself how society will react to being monarchized. Or: don't just work out why crypto-locks aren't cost effective. Work out what would accomplish technological loyalty. Don't stop at one option, find most of them. Relevant question: why doesn't the US Army stage a coup?

When I mention that the powerful don't have the interests of society in mind, I do so because thinking is work and therefore they'll avoid it unless there's something in it for them. That no society has ever been well organized doesn't guarantee it is impossible, it merely guarantees that nobody who had the power to do so had the drive to do so.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Notes on Community vs. Individualism

So what is individualism, really?
(Update: some of the below is inviting reality to kick me in the teeth. Reality obliged.)
If all the finagling and misunderstandings and ignorance and deliberate sophistry is stripped out, if all the holes are repaired, what does individualism look like?
If I were doing a pilot project for testing an individualist society, how would I give it the best chance of success?

First, I'll contrast it against what Mike Lux (says he) thinks it is. (pathway was long) It turned out to be mainly a deconstruction of common propaganda techniques.

Notably, La Wik has only the vaguest idea what it is, and I can't even find a Stanford Encyclopedia entry. However, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy does exceptionally well, according to me. They default to private property.

The property principle contains my ideal of individualism as an implication. In short, no group has any moral claim on an individual except those stated in explicit property contracts the individual signed with the group. The group stands in relation to the individual exactly as would another individual.

"One of the clearest dividing lines between conservatives and progressives is represented by a battle of metaphors: the individualistic "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" metaphor vs. the community "we're all in this together" metaphor."
I have to agree with this analysis of the narratives. But it means that neither is in fact arguing about individualism - both sides are using sophistry to involve the philosophies at all. A competent philosopher should be able to eviscerate both almost instantly: what happens when a community pulls itself up by its bootstraps? Haha, oops.

Nevertheless, a competent sophist will involve the real issues, to bolster credibility, so I expect to see some real meat further down. (Retrospectively, sadly little.)

"Conservatives have always been individualists first and foremost, believing that we are all ultimately on our own, and that being dependent on others and especially the government is the ultimate sin."
And I am not disappointed. Again, while I agree with the portrayal...

Being dependent has so many different shades that this is ludicrous. As two, there's physically dependent - both of us require a power plant and so on to read these words. There's financially dependent - I have paid off the power plant, and owe them nothing. In fact, by paying them, I make them as physically dependent on me as I am on them. Perhaps more, as the workers use my money to buy food.

The independence advocated by the conservative is very limited. (Likely related to limited working memory capacity.) They mean simply do not depend on the goodwill or largesse of others for anything that is critical to your goals.

What happens if the government suddenly decides it doesn't need to pay off your group anymore, as happened to the working class? What happens to you if its financial irresponsibility takes out social security?

By contrast, if my power plant goes out of business, I still have my money and can usually find another. conservatives really find it necessary to call it a sin to stop themselves from doing it? Isn't it enough that it is self-destructive?
Just to rub it in: how much sense does it make to jail someone for having their social security wiped out by fiscal mismanagement? Aren't they already being punished for their lack of foresight?
If it never makes sense to jail someone for an act, how can it be a sin?

By contrast, consider Randian altruism. When someone demands the right to be dependent on you, they are a leech. Succeeding in being a leech can be a sin.

"They also embrace Ayn Rand's argument that selfishness is the ultimate virtue and that charity and self-sacrifice actually weakens a society by helping the "leeches.”"
I wonder if I saw this out of my peripheral vision, or if the train of thought to Rand is just that obvious.

Another example of sophist vs. sophist.
Note the difference between voluntary charity and morally-obligated charity. If someone convinces you to let them depend on you, are they really a leech? Randians deny that it can be voluntary. Progressives deny that it might not be obligate.

Whether charity is a net gain is an empirical question, and I would expect it would be be tested if charity was in fact about helping anyone.

"Progressives push back against these ideas, arguing that we are our brothers and sisters' keepers."
I see the sophists are loud and proud today.

Keepers? What, like a kennel keeper? If I'm keeping and you're keeping me, how does that work? Do we just swap responsibilities, or what?
Szabo calls the holders of this worldview hello kitty people, for treating everyone like they're a close friend and ally.

"should treat others as we want to be treated"
This can be repaired, but normally means...

I want you to swear at me, because being polite strikes me as intentionally deceptive. For most values of 'you,' you want me not to swear at you. Now what, boys and girls?

This has nothing to do with individualism, so I'll skip repairing it.
I will note the specific sophistry. The golden rule is native to Christianity, which means most conservatives would agree with this. The author is attempting to make it look as if they wouldn't, by putting it in a 'by contrast' context and using Progressive shibboleth words.

"that there is great value in a society where we look out for each other and give each other a helping hand."
Yay, not sophistry. But more missing the point.

Again, there's a difference between voluntarily looking out for each other, voluntarily forgiving missteps, and being obligated to do so by virtue of where you were born.

"That, we say, is what builds long-term common wealth -- along with the trust that enables democracy to function."
Empirical question.

First correction: the trust that allows democracy to swindle and con the populace.

Second: innovation is what builds wealth. Trust is just a commodity like any other.

Meta: this is tribal propaganda. "Join our tribe or it'll go badly for you." It enforces conformity by giving the impression that group obligations are the only pathway that leads to the desired commodity, trust, and that only proggies do this group obligation thing. It also reinforces the mental association between opposing proggies and opposing trust.

Which hopefully looks as absurd to you as to me, when put in straightforward English.

"This is one of the deepest fault lines in history, not just American history but all of human history."
Sophistry, neat; no ice.

The philosophical individual vs. collective thing is a proxy for two contingent, historically-rooted factions, that just contingently picked this battleground as their hypocritical, Hanson's-razor-style cover story.

The following passage is actually a non-sequitur.
"Thinkers like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and Francis of Assisi argued for community; whereas those like Aristotle and St. Paul (who was far more focused on individual salvation than on the community minded teachings of the Jesus of the Gospels) argued for a strong individualist view."
This is illustrating the conflict between authoritarians and classical libertarians, not genuinely about individuals at all.

That Lux cannot tell the difference is expected. He plumps for community because he wants to be able to tell you what to do, using community as his cover story. This bit of sophistry only works because the conflation is so common it seems normal.

I think conservatives win this on cleverness, for telling people what to do using individualism instead. Come to think, this is probably where the 'sin' comes in. If you're piously individualist in the conservative way, you end up obeying conservative authoritarians.
I should probably check this against some examples...but come on, you can't tell me that's not a well-crafted bit of propaganda.

"During our own Revolution, some founders -- including Ben Franklin and Tom Paine -- argued strongly for that sense of community, whereas others -- like Gouverneur Morris and Patrick Henry -- came down far more on the side of individualism."
On the topic of craftsmanship, this is a well-crafted bit of sophistry.

Having repeatedly misrepresented the individualism issue, Lux now associates his misrepresentations with verifiable historical figures. You can 'fact check' this and it will come up green.

It is very unlikely that these figures actually agreed with Lux's sophistries, but that's only noticeable after looking deeper.
Verification: crypto-authoritarianism wasn't necessary back then because authority per se was respected. Authoritarians could just come right out and be honest.

Of course they could also be sophists. Always possible.

"In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Social Darwinists bitterly debated the leaders of the Populist and Progressive movements"
I am reminded that experiment always trumps debate. Skill in debate may get you up the scholar status hierarchy, but ultimately you either agree with reality or you're just wrong. No debate is relevant.

Note repeated sophistry. Did they debate over this point, or is it yet another misrepresentation? Can I even be sure that Lux believes they debated over this point?

This article is over halfway down the first page and there's been no 'How To,' as promised by the title, as far as I can tell. It is in reaction to this kind of blather that I praise journal abstracts.

"The question for those of us in political life is: Which of these metaphors has more power among voters?"
The question for the scholar is, "Which of these is true?" Just in case you thought Lux might care about things that aren't power.

"My old friend and colleague from the Clinton White House Bill Galston"
Another choice sophistry. The technique is to give the half-attentive reader (ctrl-f 'skeptical') the impression that Lux knows Clinton. Social proof. In case you doubt, note that he picked someone named 'Bill' and then used their first name alone.
Even if this isn't intentional, at some point, it becomes the writer's responsibility to not be misleading.

"Galston says the family metaphor doesn't work because people don't have the emotional bond to their fellow citizens that they do with their family. But my experience suggests a very different story. [...] So that whole family metaphor Cuomo used must have resonated pretty powerfully."
It is a seven minute speech. Lux wants you to believe that he's convinced that there were no possible confounding factors, that Cuomo talked about essentially nothing but family for seven minutes.

There's that hello kitty people thing again.

"Progressives in America have suffered in the last four decades in great part because they allowed their narrative story to get disjointed and scraggly."
Amusingly, I see the exact same self-criticism from those on the other side of the isle. The narratives on both sides are assessed as bad.

"We have to remind people that in working together and looking out for each other, we do actually make our economy and our country a better place."
Note that Lux went from talking about which metaphors work in an election campaign to talking about an empirical question of economic policy. How much expertise do you suppose an election worker has in the realm of economic cause and effect?

"Progressives can win the fight over narrative and metaphor, and it is important that we do. We need to tell our story of community."
In the middle there was some practical advice. This is just more BS.

Black box the actual content of the metaphors. Remove them from consideration. Now consider: holding the electoral effects constant, what can you put in those black boxes that would offend the politicians so much they wouldn't use the metahpors?

As far as I can tell, the actual political desiderata are merely that they work with voters and don't piss off your interest groups by attacking their interests. Everything else goes, regardless of communities and individuals.

My plan for Monday is to have remembered everything relevant about individualism. The issue itself must be important to voters, or else it would be useless as Lux's sophist camouflage. It would be nice if I could work out what the debate would be about if it were actually about what voters want, not what Lux wants.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Notes on My Introduction to Carl Schmitt

Kalim Kassam pointed me to a new-to-me introduction to Schmitt. Contains mostly politics but also a bit about consciousness, which is my favourite bit.

"Anti-political utopianism includes all forms of liberalism as well as international socialism, global capitalism, anarchism, and pacifism: in short, all social philosophies that aim at a universal order in which conflict is abolished."
Cheerfully acknowledged as true enough of me! As any charitable observer would note, the ideal of abolishing violence doesn't mean I fail if homeopathic amounts of violence remain. I mainly think that a few simplifying steps could abolish more than half of extant violence. And that anyone who is averse to phase I trials must ultimately be pro-violence.

"Furthermore, Schmitt believes that utopian attempts to completely abolish conflict actually increase its scope and intensity. There is no war more universal in scope and fanatical in prosecution than wars to end all war and establish perpetual peace."
An excellent test of my anarchist philosophy.

Certainly, I want to avoid universal, fanatical war. How does my philosophy imply peace? The central feature of anarchism is that I deserve to be left alone by anyone I leave alone. In other words, I could achieve my utopia unilaterally if my country would give me the option of not paying taxes. (Of course they know better, because it wouldn't be just me.)

Specifically, I have, with only one proviso, no fundamental objections to Progressivism. The proviso is that they let me leave. If they'd let me out of their little 'let's try it on everyone at once' trials, I'd be happy to let them corrode themselves down to nothing with no further interference. But I suspect that's the ultimate point of Progressivism - justification for coercion. I'd be just fine with being proven wrong about this.

Ironically they accept this as moral, which you can verify by trying this argument on one. They'll respond by arguing that I can't leave them alone. However, their argument is that they can impose obligations on me through the gift of roads, or some such. If that's so, I'd give them a fiver and then impose lifelong slavery on them, and my first order would be to stop making me pay taxes. ("Only reasonable expenses." "Your gifts aren't reasonable." Etc, until they go in a circle, having forgotten I'd refuted those arguments already.)

"It is important to note that Schmitt’s concept of the political does not apply to ordinary domestic politics. The rivalries of politicians and parties, provided they stay within legal parameters, do not constitute enmity in Schmitt’s sense."
Moldbug has shown that this is incorrect. The appearance of tranquility is illusory. Republibrats and Democan'ts would happily kill each other if only it would work better. They just think the risk is too great. In due course, I'm sure they'll get to it, though.

I'm disappointed in the reactosphere for not discussing the Civil War 2. It seems more important to me than most other things, though perhaps I don't know about some other catastrophe, of about the same size, that will likely arrive first.

(Q:"Why don't you discuss it yourself?" A:"Even if I were knowledgeable, discussing this with myself is a waste of typing. If I knew how to spark a wider discussion I'd have already done it.")

"For Schmitt, political sovereignty is the power to determine the enemy and declare war. The sovereign is the person who makes that decision."
A fascinating distinction. The word is wrong, I think. Let me rearrange.

The leader of a group is who decides on the group's enemies. If a section of the group disagrees, then they aren't really part of the group. They're not working toward common goals. They're not following the leader.

Is it truly sovereignty? With this wording, does it matter? What matters is whether the above paragraph is true or only suggestive. Verification: can you think of a situation where different sub-groups are fighting different enemies, without working at cross purposes?

"and (b) life-transcending and life-negating values, i.e., things that are worth killing and dying for, like the defense of personal or collective honor, one’s culture or way of life, religious and philosophical convictions, etc. Such values make possible mortal conflict between groups."
So either group selection is a thing (there are conditions usually overlooked) or consciousness straight-up trumps genetics. (This is mechanically equivalent to having a non-evolved soul.)

No species will ever directly evolve to pursue a life-negating goal. Evolution simply can't work that way, without group selection. It is a fact that humans - in fact most humans - have life-negating goals.

So, I have in front of me an organism that has every system telling it not to die except consciousness, which in practice can override all the subsystems at any time, dying and taking all the subsystems with it. It could have happened indirectly by, for example, having human goals proceed from values, which proceed from consciousness. Regardless, consciousness must be its own thing that evolution exploited, rather than simply a kind of measurement device for pathways already evolved.

However it works, this is a pretty big elephant, so I'm impressed at how well it gets ignored. That takes skill, that does.

"The abolition of the political, therefore, requires the abolition of the human capacity for passionate, existentially serious, life and death attachments. The apolitical man is, therefore, the apathetic man, the man who lacks commitment and intensity"
Error, as I mentioned above. I have great attachment to being left alone.

Schmitt may have good pro-politics arguments, but lets me down by being ignorant of anti-busybody arguments. At least, he has failed to address them.

"The apolitical utopia is a spiritual “boneless chicken ranch” of doped up, dumbed down, self-absorbed producer-consumers."
This I must agree with. Were the previous paragraph put into practice, this would be the result.

"Politics cannot be abolished by universal declarations of peace, love, and tolerance, for such attempts to transcend politics actually just reinstitute it on another plane. After all, utopian peace- and love-mongers have enemies too, namely “haters” like us."
Past the missing busybody considerations, Schmitt constructs a good logical comparison, but this is an engineering question, not philosophy. Tolerance etc, is not the fundamental opposite of politics, and therefore 'haters' are not fundamental enemies of utopians. Declarations of tolerance etc. are merely one possible tool for reducing conflict. They didn't work.

Nineteenth century policing methods worked on criminals, so perhaps try those next. If that doesn't work, try something else until something sticks.

"Thus the abolition of politics is really only the abolition of honesty about politics."
I can't approve of the path but Schmitt seems to get to good places in the end. Yes, I agree, and the first engineering challenge for a sound utopianism is how to be against politics and dishonesty simultaneously. However, Schmitt's arguments must prove that it is impossible.

"But dishonesty is the least of the utopians’ vices. For in the name of peace and love, they persecute us with a fanaticism and wanton destructiveness that make good, old-fashioned war seem wholesome by comparison."
Dishonest utopians, yes. Honesty is hardly the least virtue, its lack proceeds directly to those wanton wars. Dishonesty plus power equals destruction, shockingly. Do phase I trials because dishonesty can slip in the back door.

To me this looks like quitting. It requires a much higher quality of argument to prove that honesty and utopianism can't be combined, or that it would lead to violence regardless. Historical patterns are useful but not sufficient. By contrast, we could just run some phase I trials and skip all the arguing.

"Two peoples occupying adjacent valleys might, for strategic reasons, covet the high ground between them. This may lead to conflict. But such conflicts have finite, definable aims. Thus they tend to be limited in scope and duration."
Moldbug's distinction between conflict and violence is extremely useful here. Conflict is ubiquitous and always will be. Schmitt wants to quit trying to reduce violence.

"But when war is wedded to a universalist utopianism—global communism or democracy, the end of “terror” or, more risibly, “evil”"
Shame, Schmitt. Violence is evil. Not risible.

Schmitt would have profited by disentangling means and ends. Proggies always promote means, as do most every group. Schmitt promots a means of not trying to abolish politics.

I promote an end. The end of violence. If you can show that my means are not promoting my end, I will change them. Further, by being explicit, I make it convenient to oppose the end directly. I can prove that Proggies means are not promoting their supposed ends - and indeed many others have besides, to their faces - but they don't stop. They're dishonest. Is Schmitt honest? I can't tell, because he avoided speaking explicitly about ends. I would have to check by poking him and seeing how he wiggles, like I've done by proxy to the Proggies. (They can prove me wrong by achieving their stated ends or even stopping the bleeding, so to speak - cease the cutting until they know better where to cut.)

Sociology is easy. Proggies choose the right means for their real ends, which is why they defend the means, not the ends. Schmitt, I feel, can do this too, which makes me suspicious about his real ends.

"As for the drugs of relativism, individualism, tolerance, and the multi-cult:"
A classic conservative error. Liberals are bad, therefore everything that liberals politically like must be bad.

Moldbug's version: "It also suffers from the electoral coincidence that it has to despise everything that progressivism adores, a bizarre birth defect which does not appear to be treatable." In an election debate, saying, "Oh yeah, you're right about that," is suicide. Ergo...many things, none of them good.

Relativism is good but has always been wrongly applied; morality is relative to the victim's values. Individualism actually contains collectivism as a proper subset. Tolerance of difference is good, tolerance of violence is bad. Multi-culturalism could work if both cultures respected each other and used an etiquette API to talk to each other, and obeyed property law. This last one may be pretty far-fetched, but that means it is bad due to being impractical, not impossible.

So Schmitt is right that all those things are, historically, bad. But that's due to the dishonesty and corruption, factors which Schmitt's anti-liberalism blinds him to. He seeks to condemn before he seeks to repair.

Not every liberal is a drooling moron incapable of appreciating anything good. They are lazy, self-serving, arrogant, foolish, rash, ignorant, stubborn, parochial, preening, and so other words, they're human beings. Just like conservatives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Notes on Sociologist Epistemology and Catholic Power Fossils

A good question, (via) being asked by hbdchick. Humanity was tribal everywhere before city-states. City-states did not replace tribes, but were some evolution of certain tribes. Regional contempt still exists, but it is based almost entirely on region, not on bloodlines that just happen to be associated with regions. Where did the tribes end up?

It appears that sociology is real easy up until the very end bit. As an aside, this is unfortunate for balance-of-power theories.

Second, great examples of how power grabs fossilizing into popular attitudes and received wisdom.

"The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups."
The key point is that they did so on purpose, and more or less on the first try. Imagine the complexity of society, then for an analogy, a software program or car of similar complexity. Imagine getting the program or auto prototype to work on the first try. Or on the fourth or fifth, using only armchair logic to iterate.

Lenin wanted to make Russia run by soviets, so he did. He just...did.

It's just the end bit that's hard - the consequences. The powerful can decide to change society to more or less whatever they want it to be. But this fools them into thinking they can choose the consequences of it being that way.

Lenin couldn't make soviets a good organizational principle. Nobody can - it is logically impossible. The Catholics couldn't make weakening tribes a good thing, so it is lucky that it probably is.

Part of the problem is that the powerful almost never (ctrl-f 'Cowperthwaite') have the interests of society in mind. I'm sure the soviets worked out just fine for Vladimir Lenin, and the Church got exactly the power it craved.

Which is unfortunate for balance of power theories. The Church was to an extent balanced by tribes, so it rid itself of tribes. Since sociology is easy, you can expect that most attempts by a power 'balanced' by another to succeed in its attempts to rid itself of the competitor.

As to the specific measures...
"From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history."
I don't want to commit the broken window fallacy. What did the Church do that didn't work, and thus wasn't listed, or was abandoned? I don't know, but my hypothesis predicts that it wasn't much, and that bad initiatives were abandoned quickly, where 'quick' is scaled to the communication and information-processing abilities of the time.

There's an interesting detail at the end.
"The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union."
Sound familiar?
It became the legal right of brides to reject suitors. Then, they start feeling entitled to reject suitors, as if it were the natural order of things. (Hmm, entitled? Turns out humans were human in 1000 AD too.) This, in time, naturally progressed to women demanding their lovers in fact love them and inspire love in return.

The modern romance novel has its roots in a successful Catholic attempt to wrest power away from tribes.

"However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominant."
Modern 'family values' have the same roots. Which would be fine if it didn't apparently entail the absurd practice of having women to either hire an nanny or be the sole nanny. If the 2:1 average is true, I'd expect that children and mothers would be adapted to the expectation of, for example, getting enough sleep every other night as the other wife took over. At the very least.

"In contrast, the percentage of such [consanguineous] marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent."
Fifty percent? Wow. Gross.
The Church decided it wanted us to find marrying a cousin creepy, and so now we do. No muss, no fuss. Just flash some raw power, thus status, and you're good to go.

"But, inadvertently, they also seem to have laid the groundwork for the civilized western world"
This is where Hanson signalling is a good thing. Then as now, the Church wouldn't have been able to sell its anti-tribe campaign, even to its own clergy, as 'we want more stuff.' It probably, then as now, noticed that tribal fighting is vicious and brutal, and sold the campaign as one to stop that. Propaganda being extremely primitive relative to modern kinds, they had to find a good thing their campaign would actually do.

(Found April 7)
"One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name "kin selection," is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other."The Church worked this out a little earlier. Without any formal scientific method. Glad to see independent corroboration, though.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Notes On US Family Field Guide

I suspect the real main problem is that status-focused people (via) never imagine that a status contest could go any direction except one side winning. It never occurs to them to win by not playing.

"Parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the kids have the skills to act on their own, she says."
I suspect the same. Unfortunately, the (report of the?) study is instead mainly a paean to the coercion of children.

Note that it doesn't really matter whether the tone was set in the original by Ochs' study or set by Wang's interpretation.

"In those cultures, young children were expected to contribute substantially to the community, says Dr. Ochs."
One word. "Expected."

In a sense, that's a good thing, because it means that children are thought to be capable of contributing, which is not true of our civilization.

Actually, a second word too. "Community."
"Children in Samoa serve food to their elders, waiting patiently in front of them before they eat,"
Ah, I see they mean 'serve' literally, as in 'servant.'
"Another video clip shows a girl around 5 years of age in Peru's Amazon region climbing a tall tree to harvest papaya, and helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire."
By 'expected' to 'serve' the 'community' they mean 'forced' to be a 'servant' to their 'parents.' To put the desires of the powerful before the weak. (Verification of power: if children could fight back, what happens? Answer: see the report. Ctrl-f 'ignored')

Of course it's mainly about status, not any physical good. The motive for Ochs is to convince everyone to let her have miniature vassals.

Verification: what do children in hunter tribes get up to? This coercion may have started as a survival necessity in starving farmer tribes, and is now simply a fossil of that power grab.

Double verification:
"Asking children to do a task led to much negotiation, and when parents asked, it sounded often like they were asking a favor, not making a demand, researchers said. "
Yes, this is what freedom is about. Absent a promise or other contract equivalent, you don't get to demand anything. Your options are to embrace liberty or embrace demands.
"Rather, the studied children didn't seem to view it as their routine responsibility to contribute, the researchers say."
That's because it isn't.

Instead, this is also an insult to the intelligence of parents. If the way to train independence were that simple, they would have thought of it. The mistake is more devious. Isn't it true that the helicopter parent is a higher-class phenomenon? Hence also a high-IQ phenomenon?

It's also an auto-insult by Ochs. Can she really not tell the difference between a independence and servitude? A fine specimen of the public school system, if so.
""The kids are oblivious to their parents' perspectives," says Dr. Ochs."
Cry me a river. Your kids aren't about you. Earn their attention...if you can.
"The researchers theorize that stems from a tendency in U.S. society to adapt to and focus on the children, rather than teaching children to focus on others."
We can all agree that researcher theorizing is so much bullshit, yes? Have these self-serving potshots ever turned out to be true?

Moving back to the story they were trying to tell, unfortunately it is one I could mainly have told just from my personal experience. But I'll start with an exception.
"And, Americans tend to encourage children to pay attention to objects more than faces, emphasizing colors and shapes, for instance, over people, says Dr. Ochs. In Samoa, children are expected to be attentive to others from a very young age, and parents stress focusing on facial expressions, says Dr. Ochs."
Such a relief, actual data. Unfortunately the data doesn't properly support their contention. Paying attention to objects is masculine, (ergo feminist) and object-focus is important for high pay and status jobs like programmer and physicist. The parents are doing the correct thing for their children's future, and I very much doubt it is impossible to combine a physicist's mind with common courtesy.
"doing most of the housework and intervening quickly when the kids had trouble completing a task."
I saw this a lot as a kid. Parents would intervene - usually over the kids protests. It seems to be counter-coercion. Having gotten over thinking of children as self-grown domestic workers, the coercion quota goes unfilled and so they have to force the kid to be 'free' of 'work.'
"For instance, one exchange caught on video shows an 8-year-old named Ben sprawled out on a couch near the front door, lifting his white, high-top sneaker to his father, the shoe laced. "Dad, untie my shoe," he pleads. His father says Ben needs to say "please.""
Here I can show how analysis in terms of power is important. Who gets to make demands? Nobody. The flip side of not having any obligation to haul wood is not being able to demand the parents serve the children. (Some exceptions due to the child being a consequence of the parent's actions. Food and such.) Win status games by not playing. The game itself is wrong, not how it plays out.

I'm intimately familiar with this because I did it to my own mother. On purpose, no less - I was consciously looking for how servile she'd get, though note that it was an instinct that gave me the idea. Luckily, I was somehow aware at the time that it wasn't supposed to work this way, and so I rightfully viewed my ill-gotten gains as ill-gotten. (Also luckily my mother didn't do the 'force to be free' thing very often. Just enough that I know what it is.)

For children who don't luck into thinking for themselves? When are they going even to learn how to untie shoes, let alone find out how much better it is on the other side, away from laziness? I only found out because I intentionally went and looked, almost purely out of curiosity.

"Researchers are also examining how U.S. parents view family life and work. Parents tended to describe a "very prescribed way of being together," says Dr. Kremer-Sadlik.

They commonly used terms like "family night," "family movie," or "family breakfast," and it was understood that the activity was meant to be child-focused time and not include others outside the family."
Looks to me like this is a fossil of an ancient Catholic power grab. (Ctrl-f 'arranged') But it is odd, because apparently other researchers didn't see this in Italy. In any case, I aspire to get full notes on hbdchick's post up for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Regulatory Strangulation, Perhaps Also Puritanism

So it turns out that when you feel exhausted, it's because you are exhausted. (Via.) Outrageous, I know. Even more outrageous, it means you should stop working.

Apparently this is some great insight. I must be a genius for thinking of it myself, without any science to back me up. Are you a genius too? If you haven't read the article, here's a test: deathmarches are useful under what circumstances, and if any, what are the costs? Ctrl-f 'exception' to find out if you win!

Rants aside,
"We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits."
Haha. No? Way to miss the elephant in the room. Let me cite this exact article...
"The rapacious new corporate ethic was summarized by two phrases: "churn ‘em and burn ‘em" (a term that described Microsoft’s habit of hiring young programmers fresh out of school and working them 70 hours a week until they dropped, and then firing them and hiring more)"
"The most essential thing to know about the 40-hour work-week is that, while it was the unions that pushed it, business leaders ultimately went along with it because their own data convinced them this was a solid, hard-nosed business decision. [...] By 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers’ pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight."
For every social problem, I must first rule out government intervention as the cause. Mainly because I almost never can.

The workforce can only withstand so much turnover before partly-burned-out becomes normal, degrading the entire thing. Similarly, the economy can only withstand so many wealth-destroying death marches before capital investment erodes noticeably, taking optimal productivity with it. Both effects amplify the number of jobs taken out of the money.
At the same time, new job creation - almost entirely due to innovation - has to compete with old innovations going artificially obsolete.

Confront the bosses? Robinson already admitted that it wasn't union action that caused the 40-hour week, it was all in-house. The unions demanded they do something they were going to do anyway, much like public execution was outlawed only after it stopped being done. Basically the difference was that Henry Ford knew his business and was, apparently, one of the last to do so. Consider this: where would Ford have got the idea to start research on working his dudes less and paying them more, in 1902?

Err...common sense? Isn't paying them more one of the first things you'd try, if you were a trying-things kind of person? And how much observation does it really take to notice that workers get tired at the end of the day? I'm honestly a bit baffled here. What do I have to do to not have considered these things?

Consider next: where does Microsoft get the idea of burning programmers like coal? How about the monotonically rising regulatory deadweight costs?

The burden has become so high that most businesses cannot afford to work their employees at any sustainable rate. The fixed per-employee costs are simply too high. (Lodge doctors are an example of an industry choked to death.)

Every time regulatory burdens increase, new jobs come out of the money, so to speak, and their bosses have only two options: fold immediately, or overwork the grunts and fold later.

Don't forget this wouldn't work if Microsoft had to pay for the programmer's training. They'd never make back the investment. This means that when Microsoft does this, it is almost certainly destroying wealth, net.[1]

Just in case you thought the 'housing crisis' was anything more than a minor symptom. (Effective red herring, though, gotta give them that.) It was hardly a crisis, and it isn't the problem. Indeed the only surprising thing is that employment didn't collapse sooner. A triumph of hope and optimism over experience, that.

Perhaps I should explain how I know that Mr. Ford was a real expert.
Managers may seem like idiots, but especially at the top, they really aren't. At any rate, they have accountants, who can tell them that their second-biggest expense on any worker is, by far, regulation. They could have lobbied to limit regulation. Instead, they decided to toss their own workforce under the bus, wholesale. Large corporations are very fond of is a lot like sharks being fond of remora just because it happens to hurt smaller sharks more. Or: I'm sure GM's major (former?) shareholders are suffering a lot of cognitive dissonance by now. Say hi to Detroit for me if you're headed by.

I strongly suspect what Ford's real goal with his research was simply overcoming social norms. He needed those dozen years as a buttress against The National Association of Manufacturers, among others. Otherwise, he could have just tried it in one factory, and then done the rest if it worked out.

I don't even doubt that modern CEOs are experts. They're just not experts at any kind of management. (Quite good at lining their pockets, for example.) I can't even blame shortsightedness, because Ford's strategy was a short-term win as well.

Summary: No job? Probably the government's fault, and almost nobody will call them on it. Housing's a red herring, a minor symptom. The main problem is negative-wealth businesses (and maturity transformation) and regulation ensures we get a steady supply of new worthless businesses. Henry Ford clearly knew his stuff, something that modern managers do not.

[1] And yet profiting in money who can blame them? The government effectively outlawed being not-evil, by giving huge advantages to the bad guys. Exploit the system or be destroyed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Notes on IQ vs. Arguments

I find communications of this type easier to verify and think about, but I don't know how or why. (HT.)

"The upshot of this is that if an argument doesn’t result in an agreement, at least one of the parties involved is being irrational or dishonest."
By far the most common reason for failure to agree is unwillingness or inability to communicate. The former leads to the latter, so almost all disagreement is proximately caused by lack of articulateness. In the comments on Aretae, Jehu adds that since tribes benefit differently from different conclusions, regardless of veracity, they'll lie to try to shift the likely outcome. Which is intentional inability to communicate.

The relevance of the simplification comes from being a single test I can apply to any argument. Are they articulating? If not, the argument is corrupt. At this point it doesn't matter why they're not, only whether it's worth trying to cause them to articulate. I find the listening unimportant. It'd be nice if I could get the debaters to listen to each other, but mainly I want to hear the articulations, so I can get all the evidence.

More generally, you can see the same kind of objection as Jehu's in Zietsman's comments. This means readers are intuitively concluding that this piece is misleading, as applied to their goals. I suspect they're onto something, but I'm unimpressed with their identification of the main issue. For a start, they didn't articulate what their take-away was, and I can't safely work it out from what they've said.

"One should also be aware that the equation gives an average IQ – the actual IQs vary quite a bit around the expected figure. For example, the authors show that threshold effects exist and that the minimum IQ needed to achieve a rating of 2000 is around 85-90. This is 30-35 IQ points lower than the expected IQ. Also from his peak rating Garry Kasparov’s expected IQ is 167 (and wild claims of 180+ have been made) but his actual IQ was measured at 135 (in a test sponsored by Stern magazine), some 32 IQ points lower."
Fascinating. My immediate thought: estimates of IQ for Einstein and Newton. I thought they were epistemically suspect, and now I have evidence. The same methodology gives a 180 IQ for Kasparov. Hey guys, I found some unknown unknowns... Note that this could underestimate IQ too.

"The difference between a grandmaster and a good beginner would be 5623 to 1."
Added to Dunning-Krueger, the beginner has no idea how utterly dominated they are by the grandmaster. Without unmistakeable evidence like a king getting knocked over, the beginner will think they won all five thousand times. Indeed, I can watch people saying they didn't 'really' lose, even when the king bites it. They make excuses. (So do I.)
I suspect this is largely because the brain incorrectly interprets losing at chess as morally relevant to the individual's character - that only bad people lose. This is the flip side of evaluating high-status people as 'better,' and accepting status hierarchies as morally relevant. (This one I don't do so badly on.)

"It would take the result of a string of 21-22 games (of backgammon) to provide the same test of relative skill as does a single game of chess."
In other words it's a lot easier to say you didn't 'really' lose at backgammon, and thus avoid triggering the faulty moral-status evaluation. Which both explains and excuses why games of chance are more comfortable to play and thus popular, especially among friends.

So here's a puzzle. He states his IQ is ~180 in the about section. You have enough evidence to evaluate my comprehension of the piece yourself.
"Some research shows that friends and spouses have an average IQ difference of 12 points, that for IQ differences less than 20 points a reciprocal intellectual relationship is the rule, for IQ differences between 20-30 points the intellectual relationship tends to be one way, and that IQ differences greater than 30 points tend to create real barriers to communication."
(There is a solution: the smart guy can talk down. By definition they can model the conversation, and the student cannot. I'm putting that aside for the moment.)

My IQ rates in the 130 region. If this was my only datum I'd have to conclude that my reading comprehension skill is worth something like 40 points of IQ.
Which observation is in error?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Err, Agnostic?

"Does God exist?" is the wrong question.

If you answer yes, the world is one way.
If you answer no, the world is the exact same way. 

Verification: care to propose an experiment to tell the difference?

E.g. I can be sure Zeus doesn't exist because he's supposed to live on Olympus, and no satellite can see him. But the monotheistic God has no analogue.

Which means the only difference is how the belief makes you, personally, feel. Even, "I follow the Bible because I believe in God" is a non-sequiteur. The key spiritual truths in these books are equally untestable.

There's a reason they're all about 'faith' and it is because their founders weren't idiots. They knew they were, experimentally speaking, shovelling bullshit that nobody can prove or disprove. So they exploited the guilt-by-association fallacy in reverse.

Both atheism and theism are wrong, in exactly the same way both are wrong in a debate between someone who thinks green dreams sleep furiously and someone who thinks green dreams party sedately.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Want to Change Through Learning

I feel late to the party here, but I just found the words to describe what I mean by 'education.'

What things would change how I act, if I knew them?
What would change my worldview if I knew them?

I am well educated when I know most of those things, out of the set of all things other people know.
This should, theoretically, barely warrant saying. Of course, when making a decision, I want all the relevant information. So, of course, I want to have handy all the relevant information for all decisions I regularly make. More generally, I want to reach the equilibrium, where I'm not likely to immediately change my habits just after an offhand comment by some random dude. [1]

However, these words made some facts plain to me, facts I don't see a whole lot of evidence of being known. (Or, I'd have thought, some random curmudgeon would have offhandedly mentioned them by now.)

First branch, there's some difficulties in becoming well educated.

Second branch, there's a striking contrast between what I want and things generally called 'education.'

A Good Education
The problem is unknown unknowns. Meta-education. It is hard to know about a thing I need to discover, without simply discovering it. The search relies on serendipity and inspiration.

I've approached this problem by looking at the frequency I discover new ideas and viewpoints, by aggressively neophilia, and by measuring how often Reality puzzles me or presents obstacles.

But that's the thing, isn't it? How do I know? How can I check that these measure are enough? I don't think I can. What would change how I search for knowledge, if I knew it? Nevertheless, they're what I've got and what I'm going to use.

At least the inevitable boasting about my education is falsifiable.
It's hard to ignore it when one's worldview is uncomfortable or stressed. Especially when I've consciously decided it doesn't have to be.
Unsatisfied neophilia is intrinsically punishing.
The frequency of new ideas is a simple number, and I can check 'new' by requiring myself to state where else I saw old ideas.

Even if all this is sorted out, there's the fact that what changes my decisions may not change someone else's. Education is necessarily individualistic and personal...though I also expect an awful lot of overlap.

To help balance my ongoing comments on Progressivism, I'll also say I expect roundly educated scholars to converge, even starting from different cultures. There's a clear best way of accomplishing most goals, and if you knew what it was and how to do it, why wouldn't you use it? A global intellectual elite is exactly what I would expect. (I just don't expect proggies to be any good at it.)

Also clarified, what I mean by 'uninteresting details.' Once I get chemistry, any further specific reactions are of no use, unless I want to be a professional chemist. Evolution entire fit neatly into the category of 'details' until evo psych and paleo diets hit the intertubes.

Notably, mathematics is often not details, for example the idea of 'orthogonal.' I just wish there was an actual school doing actual education, so I wouldn't have to waste time repeating arithmetic to convince the lecturer to start talking about generalized perpendicularity.

Speaking of schools...

I've Never Been in School
I went to a place called 'school.' And there were people called 'teachers' there. But I was certainly never taught anything there, except maybe a few details.

This isn't too surprising, in retrospect. It's well known that most are comfortable with confirmation bias, and only read or watch to support and validate their already-made decisions and worldview.

This is exactly the opposite of education.[2]

But since most prefer it, and this is nominally a democracy, I would expect public 'schools' to confirm that confirmation bias is okay. To be anti-education. And lo, so it is written...

Eliding most of my rant about school, I did learn that it is possible to blind the world to evil, and for a person to commit atrocities on children, then go home and think of themselves as a good person. I went to some of the best schools in my country, by the way. 'Academically' stellar.

Rant aside, I suspect that anti-education, ignorance, is in fact the correct decision for most. (Part of what lead me to concocting my theory of natural human castes.) My brain wants to out-group anyone who doesn't love knowledge per se, but it isn't necessarily cost-effective for non-scholars. My difficulty in accepting this suspicion is part of what lead me to my blog's title.

Which means that non-scholars should not only stay out of university, they should probably never go to an academic school at all. But, I'd be appeased with just an acknowledgement that the populations of G8 countries are not highly educated, no matter how many hours they've supposedly spent being taught. If they are more skilled, the cause almost certainly doesn't lie in the classroom. And that is perfectly fine.

[1] When I was a kid I noticed that I should preemptively do things the adult way, as it was generally better, which meant looking beyond my peers to find out what the adult way was.
Second, I want Alrenous:2020 edition to find the worldview of Alrenous:2012 not-retarded. Luckily, genuinely taking this approach to information all but guarantees it, because even if I do dramatically change, I know I couldn't have reasonably found it any sooner or easier. I can look only as well as I can look, which I'm doing. This has been tested first by anarcho-capitalism and then by Mencius Moldbug.

[2] Dishonourable mentions: ad campaigns, raising awareness, debates, journalism including most blogs, Khan Academy, almost all scientific papers. Learning non-details from these is like pulling teeth.

How To Prevent Trolley Solutions

A hopefully exhaustive tour of reasons the standard analysis makes solving the problem impossible. (Some addenda.)
(Spoilers: morality is binary, the trolley problem as normally stated is meaningless, letting die must be qualitatively different, and I think the only honest answer to the trolley problem is ignorance. I don't know, and neither do you, which means anyone who thinks they have an answer is wrong about something. It should be about playing God, which is a really tough problem.)

Spandrell put the trolley problem in front of me, and therefore I have to try to solve it again.
This is additionally a warm-up for the next post I'll write.

I started with a couple new-to-me thoughts, that it's about playing God and it's about deciding who deserves to live. I googled the former, to see how standard it was, but instead I found a superb illustration of the standard analysis. Which will hopefully help clarify my explanation of how broken the approach is.

"Does an assessment of whether some act is morally worse than another act, settle the question of what it is morally permissible for an agent to do?"
The offered answers: yes, no.
My answer: if your morality ever puts you in a position where you must choose the least-worst, your morality is broken.
I found this by asking myself, "What if morality is binary? Actions are wrong or not-wrong and there's no meaningful magnitude?" What if acts are either evil or not-evil and that's it for morality?

Put this way, it became clear to me that even if your morality does have gradations, it should approximately boil down to 'not do' and 'do.' If you choose the former, you're evil. If the latter, not. Which means every morality functionally reduces to binary morality.

Which means this whole question is meaningless - there is no such thing as morally worse.

Verification: put another way, neither circumstance nor human agency can be capable of forcing you to perform an evil act, because you cannot be held responsible for circumstance or other people. Therefore, there must always be a pure moral way out of any situation. If your morality disagrees, your morality is broken and you probably want to fix that.

So yes, it settles the question, it settles it as 'both are impermissible.'

"Important: You don't need to worry that if you respond "Yes" you're going to get caught out because of some trickery to do with bad consequences. In other words, if you respond "Yes", you're not going to get into difficulties because of thoughts about situations such as where inflicting more rather than less pain, for example, avoids some horrible outcome, because one can quite consistently argue that in such a situation inflicting less pain would be the morally worse action (and, therefore, to be avoided), precisely because it would have horrible consequences. "
Having said the above, this seriously revolts me. They were intuitively aware that they were asking a broken question, that they were engaged in sophistry, then salved their conscience by avoiding the real problem. That their analysis on the off-topic point is correct only makes it worse - they could have got the real analysis right.

Though I require myself to admit that avoiding this kind of sophistry can be difficult. I'd share but I want to minimize the tangent. Anyway, I demand that appointed philosophers know or figure it out without me having to explain.

"If you are confronted by a situation where you will inevitably cause pain, but you can choose whether it's a small amount or a large amount, then, it does rather seem as if the fact that it is morally worse to inflict a large amount of pain as opposed to a small amount (assuming it is a fact) settles what it is morally permissible to do - namely, only inflict a small amount of pain." If this quiz were a person they'd have earned a facepalm.

Your first problem is that, without coercion, you should never get into a situation where you must inevitably cause pain. And if you're coerced - by circumstance or another human - then morally it's all on their shoulders.

Second, they haven't established that inflicting pain is morally bad. Sure we generally agree - general agreement is not a proof. 'Rather seem' is not a proof! We could all be wrong. That's indeed the point. We don't understand the trolley problem. We must be wrong about something. The issue may well lie in the morality of inflicting pain.

Although I didn't find anything when I checked pain per se, I did find a problem with the word 'inflict.' As the trolley problem is identical here, I'll hold off and do them both at once.
"Is killing five innocent people morally worse than killing one innocent person?"
I quote this to note that 'kill' has the same problem as 'inflict.'

"Without these organs, his five patients will definitely die; or, to put this another way, it will turn out [the surgeon accidentally] killed them by administering the chemical."
Depends on whether you think this is negligence or luck. I, at least, can't prove it either way.

"Assuming (a) that the backpacker doesn't consent to giving up his life to save five other people, (b) that the lives of the five people will be saved if, and only if, the organs are transplanted, and (c) that nobody will ever find out what the surgeon has done, is it morally permissible for the surgeon to take matters into his own hands, and operate?"
Is murder ever morally permissible? No.
But that's the question, isn't it? Is it murder to coerce someone out of their life to save other lives which are at risk through no fault of their own?

"An interesting thing about this class of killings is that in particular circumstances it represents a challenge to what most people will take to be a moral rule that killing more people is worse than killing fewer people. "
That's not the rule. This is formal equivocation.
The rule is murder is always wrong.
But letting die can't be wrong. This can be proven by taking the limit. Kel thinks that
"Yet isn't walking away from making a choice, making a choice? Choosing not to pull the lever when you had the power to do otherwise is making a decision that would kill 5. If you could have done otherwise, you're responsible either way."
So you must save a child from a burning building, at the cost of your dog.

But where does this end? I could (I'm told) save a child's life in Africa by paying for their food. Am I responsible for their death?

I could also train myself in firearms and patrol the streets of the Bronx, defending the innocent. Am I responsible for those murders, because I choose not to?
Perhaps I could save yet others, but I don't know how. Am I negligent for not aggressively searching out these methods and victims?

Take the limit, you find it's absurd. Where's the line? What is the qualitative moral difference between saving someone emotionally nearby and someone emotionally distant? By this logic, I'm responsible for just about everything. (Especially in the minds of those who think I could start a social movement and change the world.)

Take the limit, and I'm God. So are you. We're all fully responsible for everything. This logic sucks and I'm taking it back to the store.

"It seems, then, that the proposition that killing more people is morally worse than killing fewer people must be false."
And indeed it is. Because of the equivocation.
At first, 'kill' is used as 'murder.' Obviously doing more wrong can't be better than doing less wrong.
Perhaps this would be best explained by reversing the moral valence. So let's multiply by negative one...

"Is it more wrong to euthanize five innocent, consenting agents, or to euthanize one innocent, consenting agent?"

Answer: it depends on whether you think euthanasia is murder or not, doesn't it?
And so the trolley problem - or the murderous surgeon problem - entirely depends on whether you think intentionally killing someone is sufficient to define murder.

But that's exactly the problem the trolley is supposed to address.

Principle: self-referencing statements are invalid. Either they converge, which means they're circular and thus meaningless, or they don't converge, in which case they're paradox, and thus meaningless.

Or equivalently, inflicting pain and being responsible for the pain inflicted are different. The question under consideration is which it is.

Luckily the trolley can be righted, and put back on its tracks by making it about something else. It seems to me that most honest victims of the problem try to do that.
Kel, for example, tries to make it about whether refraining from action makes you responsible. This, at least, is an answerable problem.
I've seen it transferred to a problem about the worth of human lives. Again, very answerable.
I think a better one is the playing God angle. If you're at the trolley, or you're a surgeon, you decide who lives and who dies. Which means you should, by definition, let live who deserves to live.[1] But doesn't that make it clear that mere innocence cannot be the sole consideration? If they're innocent, all six deserve to live. This is what makes it playing God.

The playing God problem is hard. I can't even find an entry on it.

Luckily, in real life the playing God situation is very rare. The moral solution, as I mentioned previously, is simply to not get into that situation in the first place. Nevertheless, through mistake or luck, it does occur. As a practical matter, some humans must play God. It is therefore necessary for the philosopher to at least look for a solution.

I like the surgeon formulation, because the trolley people are faceless and thus seem identical in character. The surgeon has patients and a backpacker, giving some hint of personality. Which makes clear that the world will be very different, depending on who the surgeon kills. Humans aren't fungible. To take the limit, what if the five patients are all Down's victims and the backpacker is Norman Borlaug? (Assuming Norman's legend somewhat matches his actual actions.) Thing is, there's no reasonable way to know.

I suppose you could play statistics, and say they all have an equal chance at being Borlaug, as far as the surgeon knows. But as long as you're playing statistics, then I might find that cultures that let the surgeon kill the backpacker have more killings than cultures that call it murder.

More importantly, I may be able to show a logical contradiction in one of those rule sets...

[1] This is true even if 'deserve' is meaningless, which I think is a reasonable response. Let it not be said I also ask broken questions. If deserve is meaningless, no-one deserves to live. Or to die. The entire problem is rendered meaningless. That said I still want a thing which plays the role of 'deserve' and I'll invent it if I can't find it.