Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fixing Philosophy?

So, it's pretty obvious that philosophy hasn't worked out as a science.

Either that's because it can't, or because philosophers have failed.

Since it hasn't failed completely, the first is falsified.

Since I'm a fan of the things that did work out, I attempted to fix it.

If I have succeeded, (here's an independent solution) that means that basically all previous philosophers are trumped by me.

This is the situation. Philosophy has a long, complicated, and dismal history. Now, however, I seem to be getting somewhere. Even if I'm not, I'm specifying which direction somewhere lies, which is still better than anything that came before. If I'm doing anything right I'm doing more right than literally any of the so-called 'great' philosophers. I represent a massive inflection point on the graph of the signal-to-noise ratio in philosophy.

Yet, naturally, of course, I cannot say things like "I'm the first real philosopher," even though I'm the first to even successfully define the discipline. I'm not allowed to say things like that.

So, what am I supposed to say instead? Assuming I am the first real philosopher, (or one of a small wave of first philosophers) how am I supposed to tell people?

So, still assuming this is true, because I'm interested in the answer either way, how am I supposed to claim that I'm doing philosophy right and everyone who came before was doing it by accident?

And here's my motivation; even if this person is not me, I would like to get the ground all cleared and tidied up for their arrival. Someone is eventually going to fix philosophy, and it would be nice if they knew what to tell people when they succeed.

A related question is, when an amateur offers a terrible argument, the simplest thing to say is, "That's a terrible argument." Of course they don't agree, or they wouldn't have used it. So, you have to back it up somehow, and the simplest backup for the above person is, "I fixed philosophy. I can recognize a good argument when I see one. (For instance, here.)" At this point the amateur is welcome to insist, but they're just wrong. There's no point in continuing the argument.

Unfortunately, that's another thing you're just not allowed to say. So what should this person say instead?

The Cause of Conflation

I just realized that conflation is caused by the brain principle "fire together, wire together."

If two events are almost always associated, they will be wired together, so that if you think of one you'll always think of the other.

What happens next is that we confuse association with logical identity, because we find we cannot conceive of the first concept without automatically conceiving the second concept - you cannot voluntarily switch your wiring on and off.

Philosophy, the Definition

Direct from La Wik.
"The definition of philosophy is a difficult matter"
No it isn't.

Philosophy is the study of meaning.
"and many definitions of philosophy begin by stating its difficulty."
Technically I suppose I did, but only to show how it is wrong.
"The Oxford Companion to Philosophy says that most interesting definitions of philosophy are controversial."
Certainly I expect controversy. I do not, however, expect to see actual falsification. This definition does in fact work in basically all cases. Further, it matches the naive expectation of nearly everyone. It generally validates the work of most paid philosophers, and points to the things students of philosophy find important.

No, the only real attack to this definition is the proposal of an alternative that fits even more closely. (This is the kind of statement that makes people think I'm not open minded, which means that I have to do things like list some of my mistakes, because in my opinion these statements are in fact grounds for such conclusions. Note that I'm not actually close-minded, however; they are not reliable indicators. There are subtle differences if you care to find them. Luckily for free will, you don't have to! You can go right ahead and discount my ideas for no reason at all, if you want. I suggest you don't lie about it to yourself, however.)

Also notable is the purpose of the definition. The purpose is to illustrate what is and what is not philosophy, for the sub-purpose of discovering what the traits of philosophy are. In other words, the purpose of the definition is to allow philosophers to discover what philosophy means.

And I think my recursion of awesome just blew a fuse. (It works! Worrrks! *Megalomaniac cackle*)

Further, once we know the purpose of philosophy, we can tell if we're succeeding. We can tell if what philosophy does is what we want to do: we can tell if philosophy is the right tool for the job. In parallel, we can tell if philosophy it itself succeeding, if it is advancing or stagnating.

By meaning I specifically mean two sub-definitions. They are both logical consequences, but the first is the last logical consequence, as I'll illustrate below with theft. This type is emotional in nature; it has no physical consequences, but only modifies how you feel about the world. The second is a more practical consequence, which I'll illustrate below with the consequences of 'the second step.' This type of meaning is instead used to inform procedural decisions, and technically speaking it is very close to physics as it describes what happens, rather than what it means.

The fact that both of these fall under philosophy means that philosophy is both a hard science, akin to math and physics, and the very softest science, softer even than psychology. Ironically, the hard part is the part not empirical. The soft part is the part under which the definition itself falls.

Technically speaking representation, encoding, and symbology in general fall under this definition of philosophy. However, their consequences are generally not very meaningful, though perhaps Wittgenstein said something interesting that hasn't trickled down to me yet.

So, to business. Let's check this against a few test cases.

First, ontology and epistemology are both considered part of philosophy. Why? Is this a valid inclusion?

Yes, it is valid, because epistemology is the study of the philosopher's main tool - logic. Epistemology is to philosophy basically what math is to physics. Physics is impossible without math, but the only way we can discover math in the first place is by studying physical things, like learning to count cattle.

Ontology is the study of existence. We can conceive of many things, but which things actually exist? How can we tell the difference? What does existence mean? What are its consequences?

Attempting to do philosophy without knowing what exists is extremely difficult. I haven't studied ontology in depth, but it may even be impossible. Since the only real tool philosophers have is logic, it is very easy to prove things that do not matter, to discover something that does not exist, by logical or empirical mistake. Without knowing beforehand that you've discovered something inherently invalid, an enormous amount of effort can be wasted finding the consequences and meaning of flawed concepts before the inevitable contradiction is found. The logic can even be solid, if the flaw is empirical. As empirical mistakes are inevitable, ontology is probably essential.

If you know a philosopher of ontology, could you ask them about it for me?

I suspect that the problem with almost every philosophy is a flawed ontology. Marx and Nietzche were very smart and, judging by how well their disciples can argue, logically skilled. Nevertheless most of their conclusions were wrong. Why? Ontology. We can see a priori that most of their conclusions cannot be true, but they were either ignorant of this method, or less likely, straight-up fraudulent. Freud was essentially fraudulent. It was well within his ability to falsify his theories, but he chose to ignore this fact.

Similarly, the definition of philosophy is downright trivial. How on earth did we miss that one? My ontology suggests it rather directly.

By contrast, physics needs no such assurance. The ontology of physics is simply experiment. It exists if you can measure it. There is no need to a priori know what can or cannot exist.

Right. Next.

The meaning of life is considered the ultimate question. Check.

Another common question: "But what does it all mean?" Check.

Now let's compare it to physics.

Because meaning cannot be objectively verified, a philosopher must be extremely skilled with logic.

For example, "Hey Mr. Philosopher sir, I steal stuff. Does that make me a bad person?"

"Yes, Jimmy, it does."

Are there any practical consequences to Jimmy's badness? Is there any test we can run? No, there is not. Instead, the next step - it is very important to realize this is a separate step - is simply for Jimmy to decide how he feels about being a bad person, and what, if anything, he wants to do about it. (This is fragment of the meaning of life.) Factual, emotional, and normative statements are always separate, and have separate chains of proof. They may sometimes coincide by chance, but never forget that it is just a coincidence.

Ignoring this second step or absolving yourself of responsibility will mean that other people can control you, by exploiting the automatic. Further, it means that your actual emotions and desires will get ignored. Not everyone has to automatically hate being a bad person, or indeed automatically feel anything, as that's the meaning of subjectivity.

So, if we have a good philosopher, one that can purvey useful meanings, we know without checking that their logical skill is downright insane.

Unfortunately for the pride of other professions, this makes philosophers the ultimate dilettantes and dabblers - logic, especially advanced logic, can be applied to everything, not just meaning. There is literally no section of life that cannot be improved with the insight of a skilled logician. Now, I can totally see how this looks. "I'm a plumber, and plumbing is the best metaphor for life. Let me tell you about it..." "I'm a construction worker. Our society would fall without us." "As a priest, I know that everyone could use a touch of spiritual life." "As a doctor, I know that most people are neglecting their health." Most professionals claim that their profession is the most important or the most noble.

Nevertheless, objecting to my conclusion is not respectable. Objecting to logic has two grounds; either a thing isn't logical, or that it's too complicated to logic out properly. The first is flat impossible. You can't even suggest it without using logic. The second can be conquered with skill, which is why I always use the adjective.

And second, I'm not actually claiming that philosophy is the most important. It is simply the one that can dilettante, in ways that almost all others can't. Philosophers have the most broadly applicable skillset. The conclusion that this fact means philosophy is most important is indefensible. Whether it is noble or not is a matter of opinion using my understanding of 'noble.'

The first reason it gets conflated with importance is first the non-recognition of the distinction I outlined above - it is up to you to figure out what this trait means for you. The second is that a good philosopher can take a quick overview of a many longstanding problems and suggest a new and valid solution, which will humble the professional, a feeling they tend to rebel against. Thus, they react by saying, "Your profession isn't the most important, you know; your skill doesn't trump my expertise." or words to that effect. Yeah, it isn't the most important. A philosopher is a philosopher to the extent they are good at logic, which the professional isn't, or they would have found the solution first.

This is, once again, a highly testable hypothesis. Have a competition between a doctor and a philosopher at solving management problems, for instance.

I would like to explicitly point out that even if a philosopher can improve a system of management, it does not mean that the philosopher is a better manager than the professional management, because the professionals will know a great deal more data than the philosopher. Without experience, while the philosopher can fix things, they cannot run things. Philosophers improve, they do not supersede.

Of course philosophers have an even worse parallel habit; pointing out serious problem that professions like government teaching sweep under the rug or have missed. This criticism tends to be unkindly received to the extent that it is true, because to the extent it is false, it is less believable.

So, compared to physics, the methods of philosophy are no less rigorous but require different tools, which is one reason it seems soft; the tools are unwieldy and require great skill.

Now I can consider the word 'philosophy' as one synonym for 'way of life.' This means that normative value sets, the object that informs the actions of the 'way,' are considered philosophy. Check. The only way to form any kind of objective normative statement is through logic, by examining the meaning of various concepts.

To see this, first realize that valid concepts are objective. There are a finite number of valid elementary definitions that do not self-contradict. (This is a product of existing in a finite universe. At most there is one valid concept per quanta. {I realize this hardcore begs the question.}) The relationships between these concepts is pre-determined by logic. Thus, aliens can discover all the self-consistent concepts that we have.

Through this, we can discover if some of the relationships, which are a priori true, correspond to normative statements. For instance, it is a priori true that every being will believe in their own property rights, which means that theft is not just considered wrong by others, but actually by the thief as well. Theft means hypocrisy.

So, a way of life is a set of normative statements, and philosophy is the only science that can produce normative statements. Check.

So. What does this definition mean? It means that philosophy is, in fact, not only a science but a respectable science; it means that philosophy does in fact have work to do; it means we can tell if a topic falls under this discipline; it means that nearly everyone calling themselves a philosopher is either right, or can quickly switch over to their real discipline without loss of continuity; finally, using the definition, these philosophers can refine their search parameters to focus on what they're actually trying to do.

And that's what I call a successful definition process. Champagne anyone? Do you know what's cool about champagne? They carbonate it not artificially by dissolving carbon dioxide under pressure into the liquid, which first requires some tech to produce pure carbon dioxide, but by sealing the bottle and letting it ferment a bit. Clever!

Two things, meta things, of interest. First, my assertion that I'm a very highly skilled philosopher is not without grounds.

Hey there! Another one of those prideful statements that make people think I'm close-minded. Eventually I'll probably find out that they're just jealous of my confidence, but hey. Note that I've laid out how to defeat my definition, which will naturally defeat the grounds as well. I'll put it all here for convenience: falsify, by taking a meaning of my definition and showing it contradicts another meaning, or, propose an alternative that matches the facts better. Note that it is empirical; it does not have to match every fact, it simply has to be better than the alternatives. We're allowed to say, "Well it doesn't quite match the definition, so we'll make an exception for it." This is not arbitrary, but rather a judgment call. (This is one of the reason this half of philosophy is soft.) The definition should rule out at least one thing that used to be considered philosophy.

I think I should clarify that what I mean is that the definition should validate most things intuitively philosophical, but not all of them. In other words, I'm competing against intuition, not logic. What this means is that my definition almost automatically wins, because if intuition could trump logic, we wouldn't need a definition of anything.

There are, however, some cases where a definition can clearly fail without a competing definition existing, because of the nature of forming a definition. For instance, if a definition of life or ruled out human beings, even if there's no competition, it fails. Similarly, if a definition of consciousness rules in some humans but not others, especially if the line does not independently track a second factor, it is definitely invalid.

The mechanism is that when we want a definition of something, we already have an intuitive idea of what it is. We are trying to formalize the intuition. If the intuition is strongly or repeatedly violated, then clearly the definition is of something other than what we wanted defined, and we shouldn't give it the preexisting name.

Second, this definition really is trivial. While I'm especially skilled at finding concise definitions,* I should not have come up with it first, by any stretch of the imagination. This means that my assertion, that almost all previous philosophy was fatally flawed, has evidence.

*(I can also do life, art, once had one for intelligence which I've forgotten, a one-line statement of ethics, and even, if I'm right, consciousness.)

If this were true, it would mean that the reason most people have no respect for philosophy* is that, up until now, philosophy really hasn't been able to raise the signal-to-noise ratio above something like 1/10. Such a situation is almost optimally inimical; it works just enough that you get burned trying all the things that don't work. In other words people in general have strong grounds for thinking that philosophy is kind of worthless, and for thinking that there are no true experts.

*(You can write a physics book for laypeople, and they'll take what you say on trust. If they don't understand they conclude that physics is hard. You can write a philosophy book for laypeople and they'll object at every turn. If it's hard they conclude that you're an idiot. In reality philosophy has earned its reputation of massive intelligence, because it is as hard as physics, and you have to be a genius to make up for the lack of experiment. I'm not exactly sure how I do it, because I'm only at 130 or so. Imagine what a logically rigorous 160 IQ should be able to do!)

Also, we know for a fact that some philosophy is fraudulent. This philosophy is often even more successful than crazy philosophy, because it is explicitly designed to spread instead of designed to be true. History has had several waves of self-serving (most likely fraudulent) philosophy, now widely ridiculed, but these have effectively erased any trust capital built up in and since the time of Aristotle. (If my definition works, it should invalidate huge chunks of these so-called 'philosophies.' I haven't actually checked it myself.)

As a for instance...on Reddit there was a post talking about how philosophers argue a lot. As you can see in the first comment, which is mine, I've again successfully pointed out the obvious. If we can't agree, the first thing to do is to fix that problem, to work out how to agree.* Naturally no one agreed with me. I'm not sure how exactly they're supposed to convince me that they shouldn't be able to convince me, but that's public education for you. If you get mind-fucked continually as a kid your brain just eventually stops working.

*(Unless it's arbitrary, but then we have no need to agree, and it is not science.)

So, does that all fit? Have I proved myself wrong anywhere? I don't think so, obviously. But the whole point of posting things like this is to make sure. Does it all fit?

Also of interest is tight wording and good style. I don't want to repeat myself and I'm trying to learn to word things properly. If you catch those mistakes, do please let me know.

Professionalism, Ideology, and Logical Techniques

Because I apparently insist on dealing with amateurs, it behooves me to illustrate the difference. Also, because I am an autodidact, I have no certification; basically no one will agree or vouch for my expertise. Also, I've always enjoyed articles with meat I can actually use. This post is intended to be like a user's manual for your brain.

I actually like the above situation. Certification is fatally flawed. It becomes a shortcut to actually evaluating whether a source is trustworthy or not. If you can't do that, especially with philosophy, you have no business anywhere near a philosopher, because it's fucking dangerous.

This kind of mistake is what gives ideology a bad name. Ideologies can be extremely powerful, and like all tools, are neither good nor bad. However, when an amateur starts dicking around with one, the probability of abusing it becomes nearly certainty, and the power amplification of the ideology magnifies the abuse to epic proportions.

Ideology. Warning! Misuse can cause megadeaths. Accidents can condemn endless generations to hellish suffering. Use at own risk of becoming Hitler. Side effects may include puritanism, institutionalized torture, or nihilism.

The personal tragedies that occur because of broken ideology are no less horrific, and are yet worse because the reason they occur is that they're supposed to be justified. This makes it all the more important to get the ideology right. Even if it did nothing else it would take up the spot that broken ideologies would try to invade.

Don't fuck around with ideas. They seem so innocent and formless, but they're literally the most powerful tool on Earth.

Instead, imagine how much good that much power could do if used for that purpose. Then, leave it to the professionals.

But anyway, I'm supposed to be talking about logical techniques.

It's a problem. How do you self-detect conflation? Conversely, how to unify apparently disparate things?

One way is to look at purposes. If you have an apparent single object or idea that's serving two purposes, then there's a good chance they can looked at separately. And anyway, it is dead obvious when they can't.

For instance, my stapler is being used as a paperweight. But it is not being used as a paperweight and a stapler at the same time. I should not conflate the logical consequences of the paperweight with those of the stapler.

Similarly, if you have two apparently different things that are doing/for the exact same thing, then logically speaking they are the same thing. Quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, etcetera.

A meatier example. I have stated that there is some optimal way to live your life. This is a fact. Do not conflate it with the statement that you should live your life this way. Finding such an optimum is impossible, and even an optimum heuristic is out of reach. The purpose of the first statement is to convey a fact, and whatever consequences that fact may entail. The purpose of the conflated statement is purely normative, and as we can see, the bare fact is irrelevant to the norm.

Purpose is just a handy tool in general, actually.

Using Purpose
Knowing the purpose of everything being discussed almost automatically organizes the discussion along logical lines.

To properly conduct a debate, it is necessary to define terms. As a corollary to this, it is necessary to define goals. Which inevitably means that the debaters have to agree on the purpose of all concepts being discussed.

Discovering conflicting goals can go as far toward a productive debate as discovering conflicting data. Once uncovered, the conflict can be resolved, or at least dealt with consciously and rationally. For an example, look at the second post on the page by Alan, where Alan uses purpose extensively to analyze meanings and motives.

Incidentally and as an example, the purpose of the idea "respect other's beliefs" shows that they really means "respect other's goals." Respecting beliefs is stupid to the extent that they are known to be false. More probably false, more stupid. Goals, however, cannot be false. Thus, respecting them is never stupid.

Confirmation Bias
To evade it, act thusly.

First, find the position you're sympathetic with. You'll almost always have such a position before you reason it out.

Then, attempt to prove the opposite. Pretend you really want to prove it. This causes you to actively seek disconfirming evidence, and it can become a challenge in its own right. Additionally it can give you greater confidence in your final conclusion; first you may stumble upon a solid proof of the opposite, with no chance of misunderstanding; second, if you are truly incapable of proving the opposite, having tried your best, then you know for almost certain that your final position is correct.

Unless of course you conflated something, which means that your positions weren't actually opposite. They were not actually differing answers to a yes/no question.

As a further bonus, this method gives you insight into the meaning of the opposing side. Having assumed yourself that it is true, then you know the consequences from the inside. Often this knowledge is all you need to complete the process.

This technique may even turn the confirmation bias into an asset. I'm not actually sure on that point.

This technique also neutralizes the congruence bias and the subjective validity bias. In fact I think it neutralizes almost every bias, because my availability bias doesn't throw up many incidences of me finding a bias it doesn't neutralize. Instead I remember often thinking, "This bias is just a facet of the confirmation bias." This wasn't quite true, but it has the same consequences as what is true.

Availability Bias
When proving things, we are biased towards easily remembered data. Stated like this, it's obvious.

However, this can be used to your advantage. For example, if something is supposed to be really common, yet your availability bias can't find any examples, then it is probably not actually that common. (Alternatively it could be like fish and water, in which case you won't be able to see it anyway.)

Don't allow newspaper articles unless by 'common' you mean 'happens often somewhere on the entire globe.' For instance I'm arguing (ha ha, no I'm objecting and he's projecting) with an anarcho-socialist who proposes that property rights are immoral because people need to eat. So, if you live in a so-called 'capitalist' society, can you find any instances of starvation in your society with your availability bias? I certainly can't, which suggests that this objection, even if true, (it's not) isn't of any practical consequence.

You can also use it to find important things. Ask yourself what's important on some subject. Whatever pops out is almost certainly important, because it is available. If it is not available and nothing is reminding you of it, it is almost always not important.

A similar so called 'bias' is the hyperbolic discount bias. In reality, things in the future really are worth hyperbolically less to you.

A Technique for Not Sounding Idiotic
So I hear all sorts of crap philosophy vomiting out of people's mouths. Obviously they are unaware of this, and actively resist it if I try to point it out.

How do I know I don't suffer the same ailment? Three habits.

1. I run everything I say out loud back through my auditory interpretation system. Did I say what I wanted to mean?
2. Do I believe what I meant to say? Are the immediate consequences of what I said actually things I believe?
3. What is the purpose of me saying this? Is what I actually said serving this purpose?

In both 1 and 3 I attempt to reset my brain so that it doesn't simply run through the same circuits again. I do this by adopting a separate paradigm; using a slightly different approach to analyzing my statement than I did while generating them.

Because these are habits, they do in fact happen in real time. And yes, they catch stuff all over the place. I have a low-frequency habit of starting three sentences before I manage to finish one, because the first two self-contradict and by the third I've realized I want to say something entirely different. Sometimes if someone says 'What?' I'll give them a completely different sentence because I've already realized the first one sucked.

And second, habitually examining my statements in light of my beliefs is pretty effective at making my beliefs consistent. It is getting tough for me to even think inconsistently. I'm beginning to recognize what it feels like, and then simply avoiding that feeling.

Does any of that sound desirable to you? Worth the effort of generating those habits?

Debates and Stubbornness
Whenever you put a statement into a public space there's a temptation to defend it to the death. If someone objects, it can become a contest to see who 'wins' with the 'loser' having to admit 'defeat.'

I think this is a species of reactance, but I'm not sure.

This is so wrong on so many levels that I'm actually cutting the discussion of it. (Avoiding a tangent? What now?)

To avoid this, make sure that before you state anything, you have an objective standard which will cause you to change your belief. If you think you might never change your belief, if someone argues with you, you should let them know that you won't accept arguments. You don't have to feel ashamed of this flaw, as most people have it. Just accept it and act accordingly.

Don't forget to check the standard for reasonableness. Do this for yourself, because you want to be right, so that you'll take the responsibility seriously. The God and racism discussions have standards of disproof, but they're subject to hyperinflation. Don't be like them.

Because I like lists:

  1. Conflation
  2. -Analyze the purpose behind all your concepts to see if they can be split or combined.
  3. Purpose
  4. -Know the purpose of all concepts and the arguments that use them
  5. -Use this to arrange the concepts and arguments into a sensible system
  6. -Don't forget to analyze the purpose of the system
  7. Confirmation Bias
  8. -Attempt to prove the opposite of what you want to prove
  9. Availability Bias
  10. -Is an tool, not a problem
  11. Talking Coherently
  12. -Did I say what I meant to say?
  13. -Do I believe what I meant to say? Are the consequences coherent?
  14. -What is the purpose of my statement, and is it serving that purpose?
  15. Stubborn Resistance to Data
  16. -Always come up with a disproof an objector could achieve.
  17. -Do this for yourself, because you want to be right, which will cause you to take it reasonably and seriously.
So, did you find that useful?

I could go through the entire list if it was.

Incidentally, one of the purposes of putting this out is to make it easy to prove that I'm a hypocrite, if indeed I am.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Local University

Positions available: There are currently three: Moral or Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge Integration

That's me! Now I'm so, very very tempted to actually apply...

"Good morning sir, let's get down. What are your credentials?"

"Uhhh....I think good? Like, real good?"

Plus of course I'd have to refuse an actual salary, and I would probably have to refuse to teach the courses they actually want me to teach.

I would of course teach anarchy and property rights, dualism, and I'm not sure exactly what the third one would be called, respectively.

Now, a non-corrupt institution wouldn't actually give a crap about my credentials. They would just test me. Naturally I'd ace such a test.

As a result, we know for a fact that they don't care about actual philosophical ability. Instead they care about credentials and being socially acceptable.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Some of My Mistakes

Because many people are fond of thinking that my mind is closed, that I cannot be convinced. In reality their logic just sucks, but of course if they could see that their logic would stop sucking.

So, here's some examples of things I was completely wrong about. I'll probably update this over the next few days as I remember more.

I was very skeptical about dark matter. It seemed much more likely that we didn't understand gravity than that the universe was filled with something we'd never even suspected before. Then I saw that picture of the colliding galaxies where the dark matter's gravitational lensing revealed its non-interaction as compared to the real matter.

I thought that the iron fact of your self-ownership invalidated slavery. Because even if you formally give ownership to someone else, you cannot actually transfer self-control. In reality, one of the things you can do with your self-ownership is sell yourself into slavery.

If one equation is conscious then every equation is conscious. I thought that this automatically proved that equations can't be conscious.

I thought that with deficit financing, governments must be spending more than the country's entire GDP yearly. I thought that tax revenue would be 83% of GDP or something like that. Official statistics place government expenditures, total, at about 35%. Obviously this is significantly lowballed but it's not lowballed by over half. Lowballing; for instance, governments are the only entity that get to use the money printer to spend inflation money at pre-inflation values. Since actual inflation is just over 10% a year, (you can check this against gas prices; they have almost eternally been something like 10 cents at 1900's levels) governments get to spend 1% of the money supply each year in value that doesn't get reported (10 trillion outstanding US dollars * 10% = 1 trillion, which is spent by government at full price but only gets 10/11 of value to everyone else. The US buys 1/11 or approx 1%, 100 billion dollars of value yearly, unreported, because they're doing it by distorting the measuring stick. There are of course other fudges as well, though I don't know what they are exactly.)

I also keep convincing myself that actual inflation is 15%. Mencius* actually agreed with me once, which doesn't help. Actual inflation = debasement. Calculated inflation = debasement - levitation(deflation). Every time a company successfully creates wealth, the total wealth has increased, but the total amount of cash is unchanged, resulting in levitation. So with calculated inflation at about 4% and GDP at +6%, debasement is around 10%. Official inflation is intentionally lowballed, so fudge it a bit and you get 12%, which is roughly how much the stock market grows yearly on average. So, as expected, stock prices measure actual value, as the actual value of companies, especially large-cap companies, does not change significantly over time. Also as expected, stock markets cannot create value, but only move it to where it's doing the most good. If the stock values are tanking, injecting liquidity, as governments are fond of doing, will generally just make them tank faster. The tanking actually represents loss of value, and injecting value markers does nothing to change this.

*(There's a link for this but I can't be bothered to find it right now.)

However, inflation is not 15%. I can show you references of me thinking this, though...

You'll notice that both these mistakes are what you'd expect from an anarchist's confirmation bias.

Update: From this link, I found that Japan's official budget is 140% of GDP, with unofficial estimates nearly double that. (The exact words made it even worse, but I think they were a mis-type.) Canada and the US are only spending a third of GDP? Hah! Not a chance!

I thought that vouchers were a good idea. Then Mencius said "This is budget-neutral for state and family alike, and unlike "vouchers" it does not require Uncle Sam or any of his little brothers to decide what "education" is." For the curious, the proposal is not to give vouchers but to give actual, honest-to-god money. The US has promised to pay for education, so it should quick dicking around and do so, by paying money to people with children. Good lord why is this so difficult!

As you can see, once my mind changes it changes completely. This doesn't stop me from changing my mind again, but it does make me look like people who have existential faith in their beliefs, which leads to the suspicion I'm addressing.

I thought that Americans stole the slaves from Africa. Admittedly I was intentionally misled about this. In fact, actual African societies opened their prisons and sold America their criminals. About ten million of them apparently. So what does this criminal ancestry mean for race relations in America? With the white-is-better mentality? Genes are real, folks. America doesn't have blacks. It has the descendants of the criminal underclass of blacks.

I make snap decisions about roughly how many reasons there are to believe something. My success rate is just high enough to fool me into thinking it is reliable.

I just published a post called "Wrong People Know They're Wrong." This is as best provisionally true, and it continually gets challenged by accounts from the "God Era." It appears obvious to us that the church was corrupt, especially when it joins with the state, but the markers I look for don't appear in God Era citizens. Unless my accounts are fudged, (very possible, the markers are subtle) they had no idea how stupid they were being, even though they could have worked it out at any time.

I thought ADHD doesn't exist, like, at all. I thought it was total bullshit on the part of psychologists. I thought I'd never seen any. As it turns out, this is because I have ADHD. I would never be diagnosed, however, because it doesn't interfere with my functioning. I am an A student, especially when I actually apply myself.

Whenever I was presented with an ADHD case I would just say, "I don't see what's wrong with them, they're just like me." When they actually had problems functioning, I would say, "Why don't they just do what I do? They're not sick, they're just ignorant." We don't need to use personality-changing chemicals to deal with ADHD sufferers. We just need to educate them. (Not with the so-called 'education' system.)

In other words, I was right. It is bullshit. But not because ADHD doesn't exist.

While learning this, I also found that it appears that having ADHD lets other ADHD focus on you to an extent not possible with or by non-ADHD people. The attention characteristics of ADHD seem to allow a different kind of conversation. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, as well, though.

I finally thought of a serious one. I thought that the second law of logic, the law of excluded middle, was false. Specifically I thought that some quantum weirdness was a falsification of the theory.
This did not stop me from using it all over the place by identifying sets of yes/no questions and exploring all possible answers.

I thought Wittgenstein was almost certainly full of shit, because most philosophers are full of shit, and the podcast on philosophy bites by a scholar of Wittgenstein is full of shit. Turns out, Wittgenstein is totally a philosopher! Congrats Wittgenstein!

I was extremely skeptical of early-universe inflation. However, without it, the first state of the universe may have been extremely dense, but the second state would be a black hole, as would all subsequent states.

I was completely mistaken about how badly human minds handle probability. I thought it didn't suck.

I thought biogenesis was possible, even likely. Then I ran the numbers. Then, I found out about the proton rock thing.

I was wrong about the relationship between space and time. While time is indeed meaningless without space, space isn't meaningless without time. Boring, perhaps, but not meaningless.

I was wrong about the contradiction in democracy. I still think democracy is fundamentally broken, but the argument in that post is vague, confusing, and not actually coherent.

I thought that counter-revolution was doomed to failure.

Wrong People Know They're Wrong

Usually. Sometimes. Under certain conditions.

Anyway, when it happens, they secretly want you to know they're wrong.

The Nytimes is linkjacked here, stating,

"Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.

“Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record.

Democracies like those in Thailand and the Philippines have proved more vulnerable to military coups and instability. A military coup in Thailand in September 2006 was briefly followed by an attempt, never completed, to impose nationalistic legislation penalizing foreign companies.

“That sent the wrong signal that we would not welcome foreign investment — this has ruined the confidence of investors locally and internationally,” the finance minister Surapong Suebwonglee said in an interview in Bangkok."
Wait, you're saying that a place that changes leaders and policies slowly is more stable? WHOA! Mind being blown here!

While I still don't see the point of crushing dissent - if they do something immoral, lock 'em up and leave 'em alone otherwise - keeping the military under tight control is just a damn good idea, as is letting your leader practice and become experienced. And stability leads to complexity which leads to awesome.

Anyway, the thing with human brains is that we have a desire for logic, truth, and honesty built-in. It's running in the background even if the conscious mind is completely off its rocker.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Does Consciousness Exist? Part 2

Part 1.

(With a short discussion about some other questions, as well.)

Consciousness is sensation, qualia, experience itself. Pain is not the flinch, the transmission of nerve signals, the yelling of 'ow.' Pain is the (sensation, qualia, experience) of suffering, which may lead to the flinch, or may lead from the flinch, or may be parallel to the flinch.

The first is our general experience of experience; we feel pain and so we flinch. The second is a reinterpretation of the physical state; that experiences are meters that report what the body is doing; the particular pattern of flinches, hormones, and nerve signals gives rise to the report of suffering. The final is something like a branch network; the nerve signal reaches the brain which releases hormones and the 'ow' independently of producing the suffering. The flinch and the suffering have roughly the same cause.

All objective facts must be verified by inferring the causes behind subjective experiences. For instance, to verify the temperature, I have to infer the cause behind a particular arrangement of red, the distortion made by the glass, (inferring the glass and distortion as well) and the black graduations (inferring the shape of the symbols and associating them with numbers.)

By contrast, there is no need to verify red or suffering. They simply exist, in the most first-hand way possible. Logically speaking, the existence of experience is axiomatic. Sensations are the most fundamental unit of logic.

The people who say there is no problem of consciousness - that consciousness doesn't exist - are willfully confusing the bare sensations with all the attributes and purposes that have glommed onto them over the millennia - willful choice, identity, morality, dualism, and so on - which are indeed debatable.

Indeed every property of consciousness aside from its existence is sublimely dubious, which is why you can claim that it doesn't exist without instantly losing all self-respect. It is still incoherent to say that experience doesn't exist, because every moment I am awake is a counter-example. (You're still allowed to claim that you don't exist, because of the other minds problem. If you do, I'm taking all your stuff, though. It's not illegal to steal from buildings - they cannot suffer from the act, and if you're not conscious, neither can you.)

The other confusion is over the question, "Can a thing be conscious without acting conscious? Could my chair have some internal experience, despite the fact that it will never reflect this fact?"

The first problem for this is the problem of measurement. For the first, even if I am conscious, without eyes, ears, and so on, I would be unaware of the outside world, incapable of, for instance, suffering due to attack. I may dream, but it would be impossible to awaken. Thus, even if chairs are conscious, we cannot abuse them. This also suggests that there needs to be some kind of computation to interpret the data from the sensors,* which most likely rules out consciousness for plants. While they react to the environment through some kind of sensory apparatus, there is no CPU to interpret the data.

*(The existence of dreams also handily rules out the consciousness of the sensors themselves. Interpretation can occur without actual input.)

There's also a similar problem with consciousness' effect on the outside world, (for instance, the chair has no muscles and even then wouldn't be able to move them) a property I like to symbolize with 'choice.'

The second problem is the problem of locked-in humans. They see and move much as a chair does - not at all. However, they still send information to the outside world, which we can pick up with fMRI and in principle verify that they are dreaming. (As usual, still subject to the other minds problem; this verification uses correlation purely.)

So yes, consciousness exists. The argument begins just beyond.

Is there anything I've missed?

UPDATE: No, there isn't. To present to me the argument that I am not conscious requires that I become conscious of your argument. The argument is the falsification.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Outlines, Wot?

While I'll happily savage the writing guides produced by so-called 'educational' institutions, this does not necessarily mean their advice is completely, totally wrong in all cases.

It's still ironic that I am now intend to actually make and use an outline. This would be the first time I've ever voluntarily done so, and in fact when I've been coerced into using one, I tend to intentionally pervert the process anyway, so this is essentially my first time ever.

Despite the fact that Pryor's advice was wrong and ten times wrong, this doesn't mean that I can't see the purpose and uses of, for instance, an outline. Pryor's main sin is to pervert the intellectual process of writing through his one size fits all approach, shared by most 'educational' institutions. Only the author truly knows if the piece needs an outline, when it needs an outline, and what exactly needs to go on the outline. Pryor doesn't care about producing a paper. Pryor cares about following the guidelines and filling a checklist.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to producing a essay challenging enough that an outline is actually necessary. It is, as per usual, on consciousness.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Single Fact

The longer I'm away from a school the more I love math.

And that's all you need to know about schools; it illustrates the entire edifice as completely as is ever necessary.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Well-Lived Life vs Teenage Sex

With no restrictions, there's little art to life; the well-lived life is too easy to obtain. Aside from the ghostly psychological influences of things like pursuing sex as much as these people do, there's no true way to truly screw up your life completely the way a hunter-gatherer or early farmer could do. The danger of unplanned children isn't that dangerous, and certainly no one is going to starve to death over it.

The strongest argument I can marshal is simply that these teenagers and their ancestors are going to regret this attitude, because they will wish they spent more time developing real human relationship skills, instead of a crass physical satisfaction that isn't, in the end game, all that satisfying.

Being the master of your habits instead of the other way around has always been a factor of a mature human being, though of course this principle has been taken overboard by various power-structures in an attempt to rein in the massive personal power of an adult human. Certainly, if you want sex, you should go for sex, but you should not let sex dominate you as these teenagers so obviously are, though not for any transcendent reason, but for the simple reason that it leads to a shallow personality. Every moment spent obtaining easy sex isn't a moment spent getting to know yourself, a moment not spent deciding who you want to be, a moment not spent developing nuances in response to life.

A well-lived life is one where the joys are of a purer kind, less dependent on other people and yet more involved with them in general. Our instincts with regard to sex make it very easy; to say a person is incapable of having children for social reasons is to imply a staggering degree of social dysfunction. We have also long known that the power of sex is used to patch up holes in personal development, as a system of overwhelming disappointment in the self.

I want to say that because sex is so unchallenging, especially for these 'liberated' young people, it
leads to a kind of apathy where their huge personal power as a human is going to waste, and they know it. Is Tiger Woods satisfied by a single round of golf against a middle manager? Then why do you think an adult forged in this kind of sexual environment is going to be satisfied with their life? I don't actually know if this is true or if I'm already becoming a old stooge. But it seems to me that a large part of the more traditional pleasures that wise old people have touted for millenia - personal relationships and the overcoming of personal challenges - is simply because they use our powers to their fullest, that they spur us to actualize completely in an attempt to meet them.

I would like to add to that the joy of a clean and natural landscape. We have parks for a reason - our cities look like ugly grey fungus from space - most humans prefer greenery. I'd rather live in a solar-powered wooden bungalow surrounded by tended wilderness than a McMansion with the works surrounded by other McMansions. I would like my children to be able to explore a rich world, full of details to excite their curiosity and imagination. Something else we've know forever - personal joys trump social standing. It's hard to see this, naturally, which is why it must be said at all, and why it keeps being repeated. Social competitions are often vague and shallow, benefiting no one except those at the top.

What better way to end your life knowing that you mean a lot to a few people that mean a lot to you, and having raised a powerful, happy, and self-confident children? What regrets can you have when you know you've done your best, at whatever you attempted to do?

You may notice that our society, with or without these teens, does not promote this kind of goal. Even attempting to raise your children without cruelty, such that they may in fact like you at the end, is a huge endeavor if you start at the status quo. Yet why wouldn't you cooperate with your children? Your goals and their goals are the same - for them to live a happy life. Yet it seems that our culture has allowed adults and their children to be locked in battle, a quagmire a thousand times more painful than an Iraq, where the goals are equally murky and the victories more compromised. Each protests that "I only want the best" yet a detached analysis reveals only power struggles, where dominance is the only goal.

It is accepted that parental visits are to be dreaded, but this is a symptom of a disease that wreaks more havoc than cancer. Supposedly, you love your parents, and supposedly they have the same goal as you do. If their presence is an obstacle to your goals, they're doing something wrong - very very wrong. If corruption is obtained by twisting the natural order, then there is nothing more corrupt.

I don't count here exasperation, which is a much lesser disease. Certainly there's no guarantee that you and your parents are personally compatible, that you would hang out if you weren't related. Long stays can be trying. But if they demand you call and you wish they wouldn't, they've fucked up worse than Bush ever did (except with his own children).

Unfortunately if you're now a teenager or adult, the best thing they can do is get out of the way - it's far too late to fix Iraq, and it's far too late to make up for parental cruelty once the children are grown. Grown children can defend themselves, (though rarely do) which means that a parent's protestations of reform and fresh good will are no longer credible. If the parent was cruel and selfish when the child was helpless, but stops when the child no longer is, then you cannot logically believe that they are anything but a cruel coward. While indeed some parents may repent, it's impossible to distinguish them from the ones that simply deceive themselves.

This is in fact the main reason that advising these teenage sex-berzerkers doesn't work. The parents burned all their credibility long ago. Your children are far more invested in the family than you ever are - it's their entire world - and they can see through you just as you saw through your own parents. Your choices as a parent are honesty or pitiful hypocrisy. Most apparently choose the latter, vehemently.

Still, teenagers are shortsighted. This is something else well-known yet little considered. Of course many of them are going to take the easy way out, despite any advice, credible or otherwise. And indeed, I would have been ecstatic as a teenage boy to explore no-consequences sex with a variety of partners, at least at first.

That's part of the reason I'm suspicious - are teenage girls equally well served by this phenomenon, or are they allowing themselves to be manipulated by the culture? Another well-known but little discussed fact is that teenagers and girls in particular desperately want to be accepted. The fact that sexual pleasure physically reinforces the behavior may be producing a deadly kind of double whammy for them.

A triple whammy, in fact, where their parents are engaging in exactly the same shallow behavior, producing a tacit endorsement. Mommy brings home a new guy fairly often, why can't I take it one step further? Why bother with one guy at a time?

But this is ostensibly an article about a well-lived life. So let's review, what's the purpose of life? Existence has no intrinsic purpose; the concept doesn't even make sense. However, you are conscious, which means you can assign it any purpose you like, which inevitably means you're going to choose happiness by definition - you're going to choose the positive emotional end-in-itself.

I've been considering this definition since I wrote it down, and there does appear to be some holes in it. But for the moment, the immediate corollary works - what 'happy' is to you and how you in particular reach it is unique to you.

There are some broad similarities, however.

For example, we can apply it to these sexually uninhibited teenage girls. Is this relationship-free and by extension human connection-free social scene upholding their goals and dreams?

If it is, by all means they should continue.

However, I know at least in one sense that it is not, and I've alluded to it above. Every moment spent obsessing about sex is a moment not spent getting to know your self-selected purpose. Not every detail is under your control, and if you want to live your life well, with skill and confidence, you need to know which details of your purpose are your choice, and which are chosen for you.

Sex is straightforward. Tab goes into slot. It has to be easy because otherwise the species would die out in times of crisis. There are variations, but there's only one criteria; which variation makes the tab and slot the happiest?

Nearly every other good thing in life is not straightforward, because they are complex, interrelated, and often unique to each individual.

The most difficult is relating to other people in the way that lets you feel 'connected.' Its difficulty is related to the reward in two ways, first is the reward of overcoming a challenge, but also if it weren't so rewarding, no one would go to the effort. The difficulty is that while dealing with one set of complex, interrelated goals is hard enough, dealing with two interacting sets, especially with finesse, is probably the most difficult task on earth. This is why love and compassion is considered such a high virtues - in reality it is a proxy to identify people who are deft in this skill.

Yet this is exactly the task that every child demands of their parent, and it's exactly the skills our teenagers have been neglecting. Not just lately, but for decades, possibly as long as 'teenagers' has been a recognized concept.

They explored the good things in life, but stopped at sex. While this happens to be an extreme, it's the end result of a long social trend.

The tragedy is that this trend appeared alongside the incredible scientific and technological advances that oil energy has brought us. While preindustrial societies had, I think, a very good excuse for vice - the daily fight for survival - now, and especially with the pill, there's no reason to stop any person learning to live their life well; to figure out what it means to them to live life well and then to do it.

I know from experience that living my life the way I think it should be lived is far more satisfying than casual sex or drug highs could ever be. The problem of vice has never been a societal problem, but always a personal one. Depravity and evil are insipid and painful. A truly vicious person can always be cast out of a society, but vices cannot so easily be dealt with intrapersonally.

But there is the other side of the issue as well. In the visual arts and increasingly in video games, artistic limitations are falling to better technology. What we're finding is that a large part of the creative process is the conflict between artistic vision and limitations. Ye Olde Painters had to choose their subject and lighting carefully, as their choice of pigments was limited. Their technique was determined by their tools. The best art was that which overcame these limitations most skillfully, by outclassing them, by cleverly avoiding them, or by outright incorporating them into the overall design.

With modern artists, few limitations remain. Too many choices confuse and burden the modern artist just as a grocery shopper confronted with a hundred types of pasta sauce feels bewilderment. Anything imaginable is representable, so what is there left for the artist to do? Simply choose something someone wants to see, and implement it. We can see the resulting artistic stagnation.

There is a similar phenomenon in the art of living well. Between technology and the welfare state, your life no longer has to convolute around strict physical demands. The space of possible working lives is now getting too huge to explore by trial and error, which is one reason these teenagers are so enthralled - they never get burned, so never learn to hold back.

Similarly, maturity is now overrated as a survival mechanism. College students grow up to 'play adult' and never truly actualize their true power and responsibility.

Because these dysfunctional lifestyles can be made to work, because ghostly psychological issues are the most pressing, it's difficult to prove that they are, in fact, dysfunctional. If a person achieves children, financial success, and declares that they are happy, how am I supposed to prove otherwise? All I can say is that in past times, such undeveloped people were among the worst off in emotional terms.

I don't believe the average 'you' is happy. I think the average 'you' has never known happiness and thus doesn't know the difference. Teenagers often declare their undying love, but it's generally accepted that they rarely achieve the real thing. With immaturity spreading, happiness has become another victim of children too full of worldly knowledge to know their way around their inner world.


There's some science behind the idea that women just aren't well-served by this kind of social phenomenon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

IP and a Tentative Solution Involving Ghosts

Or perhaps BitTorrent.

After a particularly intelligent - if party-line-toeing - essay on the subject of software piracy, my dander is once again up. While I've previously laid out the basic issue, but in that piece my motivation was to be consistent, not to go for social engineering.

The basic fact is that IP law doesn't in the least reflect the reality of IP.

Shamus' essay doesn't either, instead going for the moral angle, instead of analyzing the facts first.

For instance,

"It’s like sneaking into a movie. Sure, it’s not “hurting” anyone - nobody becomes poorer by virtue of your viewing of the movie - and you are not depriving anyone else of the product. (We must assume the theater is infinite in size and all the seats offer the same view for this analogy to work.) But most people recognize that sneaking in is still wrong."

But it's not like that at all. It's more like Coke projecting a movie onto the moon, and then trying to restrict binocular sales so that no one can see it without paying.

Competition will always drive the price down to the risk-adjusted capital cost - input plus profit - and the input cost of most IP, including all digital data, is essentially zero.

How much does it cost you to transfer a movie across a high-bandwidth connection? That cost - something people do for free every day - is the actual input cost.

It is, as the economists would say, not scarce. Data is like air.

"Piracy is theft, and pirates are thieves, plain and simple. Downloading a movie off of the Internet is the same as taking a DVD off a store shelf without paying for it. In 2005, MPAA studios lost $2.3 billion worldwide to Internet piracy alone."

The basic point is that people have worked on it and deserve to be paid. But is it so? If I made a huge factory to produce air, I would certainly have done a lot of work, and perhaps I might do so if there was a law that supposedly guaranteed me a return, but would I actually deserve to be paid?

No. I am not providing anything of value. Similarly, a studio that produces a game or movie cannot justify charging more than a few cents for the data, and this is the basic reason piracy is rampant.

Unless my proposal is sound.

The first component is that you cannot restrict data sharing based on any moral premise. Because data can be copied essentially for free, it doesn't make any sense, and as we can see, it does not work in practice.

Therefore, I look at this as an engineering problem. How do I produce actual incentives to restrict data sharing? How do I produce a system where, if a studio and a pirate both have the IP, which is exactly the scenario we have for nearly every release, how do I make it so that the studio can recoup their R&D costs? How do I stop the pirate from automatically out competing the studio?

My answer to these questions is to adapt my view of IP to match my view of physical property. If I own a physical thing, like my computer, I may sell it to other people. Thus, if I own a piece of IP, like a game, I should be able to sell it as well.

Here's where you can see it's important to look at the practicalities. When I sell my computer, I cannot keep using my computer. Conversely, if I sell a game, I can keep using the game. In fact, I can sell the game an infinite number of times. Again, this is the basic problem that makes IP so very different than real property, and the problem underlying piracy.

So, if I adapt property law to allow the studio and the pirate to sell the game, the pirate has a specific incentive to restrict distribution - every time they reproduce the IP for free, they are forgoing earnings and letting their customer in on earning opportunities.

Here's where BitTorrent comes in. BitTorrent could partner with PayPal or similar, and straightforwardly implement a metering system. This would also solve the leeching problem - how often would you seed if you were actually getting paid for it?

Also, the reason the studio is allowing pirates to obtain the game is that they cannot stop them at present. Most likely the pirates are obtaining review copies or have a person inside passing them the data. These leaks are highly pluggable, but there simply isn't enough incentive to do so yet, as it only takes one pirate willing to buy a copy to undo all their hard work.

So that's the system in abstract. Now let's look at how it might work out more concretely, in two steps.

I start my analysis as soon as the studio has produce a piece of IP, for example, a movie.

They have a huge market advantage - they have the only copy in existence, and they can set any price on copies that they want. Supply is the minimum possible, which means that the price set by the iron law will be enormous. Maximal, in fact.

Unless this proposal does not actually work, or there's a non-equivalent proposal that solves the problem, this price is, and always has been, the break-even price on IP. Attempting to make more money than this is quite risky, and at present results in excessive piracy. I think, however, that this price should cover the budget of most movies. If not, it's impossible to produce a movie without risking bankruptcy.

The only problem is that the buyer cannot turn around and sell it for more - they were the person who valued the IP the most. There isn't anyone who will pay more. However, they can sell it to multiple people, for example three people at 40%, making 20% profit.

These second-tier buyers will, because they can, turn around and also attempt to sell the IP. Obviously they can't sell it for more than 40%, because they'll simply be out competed by the first tier. They must sell it for less. And so, as supply grows, the price drops.

So now I'm going to tentatively imagine an actual market.

Let's say the movie is Hellboy II. Guillermo del Toro completes his movie, costing (for the sake of easy math) $10 million.

Del Toro knows that if he attempts to sell it at $30, a typical DVD price, all he'll be doing is immediately jumping to tier N prices, and attempting to compete with Nth tier sellers. This will be, as piracy has taught us, disastrous.

Instead, del Toro goes to a dedicated distributor. This distributor is either a middleman or a big pipe distributor. I'll assume it's a middleman, because the big pipes are the same in either case.

The middleman pays del Toro between $15 and $60 million for the privilege of being first buyer, based on expected sales. Del Toro essentially washes his hands of the issue at this point, and goes home happy. Obviously there is risk here - but that is normal business. This proposal does not magically allow all the market value to be captured by the primary seller. If del Toro wants to be safe, he can sell the first one on the open market to the highest bidder, and make sure he doesn't produce movies costing more than this.

The middleman turns around and sells the IP to several distribution giants - corporations with huge internet pipes, for example one for each country. I'll assume del Toro sold the movie for $20 million. The middleman must sell for less than this, or the pipes can go direct to del Toro and get the same price. As above, they sell to three or more big pipes at perhaps $8 million. The pipes sign a contract not to release until a certain date, as is usual.

Then, on this date, they open the floodgates. Even if a few pirates have obtained copies, they will not be able to materially affect the huge data floods of the pipes. Similarly, if the pirates attempt to capture high-bid customers, the big pipes can do it faster and more efficiently.

The big pipes set any price they want, of course, so presumably sell first to luxury clients in an attempt to segregate the market, selling for perhaps $60. These are the first clients that actually want to see Hellboy. They will not necessarily make up their investment financially - the reason they're also allowed to sell Hellboy is simply to prevent them from flooding the market with free copies.

Once copies stemming from the $60 buyers reaches some critical mass, the big pipes will decrease their prices, continuing to reap vast profits. However, now they are competing with peer-to-peer networks, which are increasing supply and satisfying demand, rapidly pushing the price down.

I'm going to stop here to more fully explain how the PayBitTorrentPal program might work. It's fairly simple. The seeder sets an overall price, which is then converted to a per-bit price. Each leech pays the bit price for every bit they download from the seeder, paid into a PayPal like account.

However, like any free market, there will be a variety of so-called ask prices. Therefore, the leech will use an implementation of smart contracts. The leech will set a maximum price they are willing to pay, and PayBitTorrentPal will download accordingly. The outgoing pipes of the lowest askers will be filled first, as will the incoming pipes of the highest bidders.

The smart contract will also allow the seeders to dynamically adjust their prices based on bids without having to monitor PayBitTorrentPal.

Because each tier of buyers can resell the product, the higher tiers can ask much higher prices, knowing that the lower tiers can make up most of it, which allows the price structure I have described.

However, eventually, and in fact rather quickly due to exponential growth, the market will be flooded with copies of Hellboy selling for one or two dollars a shot. At this point, it's likely that someone will start distributing for free.

This is the natural cutoff point for release into the public domain. At this point copies will circulate as they do now, but legally.

The beauty of this proposal is threefold. First, it can implemented entirely within current property law. Second, it could potentially turn a profit for you, yes, you personally. Finally, it takes advantage of peer networks instead of trying to fight them.

Tweaks, corrections, and counter-proposals are all welcome. IP is clearly broken. Have you thought seriously about what we should do instead?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Mind Node; More Evidence

From this.

"According to this theory, spontaneous electronic activity in the brain, "acting as a Darwinian-style generator of neuronal diversity," creates dynamic, highly variable networks of nerve cells, whose variation is comparable with the variation in DNA. Those networks then give rise to the reflex movements of the newborn infant. Over time the infant's movements become better coordinated. Neural networks associated with more successful movements—such as grasping an object—are "selected"; that is, their activity is reinforced as their synaptic junctions become strengthened. As the child continues to explore his or her surroundings, Darwinian competition strengthens some of these transient networks sufficiently to make them relatively permanent parts of the child's behavioral repertoire. Changeux calls the process, first elaborated in a 1976 paper, "learning by selection.""

Exactly what you would expect from a mind node fuelled network. It would generate basically random networks, each growing from a particular mind node. Later, more deterministic processes prune the networks, cutting back and cutting out on useless generations.

This links up well in a continuum with instinct. Instincts can be explicit, like the behavioral loop some wasps can be caught in, but can also be more implicit, by biasing the brain to produce a particular kind of neural network.

This also links up nicely with the facts of brain plasticity. If the brain is to remain conscious, the mind nodes must remain active, which means that new random networks are constantly being generated. These networks can take over damaged functions.


The definition of irrationality is extremely vague. Yet, considering how often it is used as an objection to an argument, a precise definition is important.

Is domestic violence 'irrational?' It's called irrational because it nets you no material advantage, and we all know it's unhealthy, but is it actually irrational?

The problem is that I have to assume that the abuser nets some psychological payoff from the abuse, because otherwise they would stop - violence is expensive and risks harm from the victim's defensive reactions, which translate directly into psychological costs.

As a result, while the apparent reasons for the abuse - generally punishment - are clearly meretricious, there are in fact actual reasons. The abuser's situation is better if they abuse, at least insofar as the abuser is capable of perceiving alternatives.

That doesn't sound irrational to me. Quite the opposite.

Similarly terrorism, especially suicide terrorism. It is not irrational, it is merely an act in search of unknown payoffs, most likely psychological and/or purely subjective payoffs. (The political payoffs can't be rational directly because of course the terrorist ends up dead. The politics can lead to psychological payoffs, however.)

Similarly, God.
In the scientific conception, belief in God is irrational because the standard of proof is discontinuous. Evidence and logic is used for all temporal matters, but this method is not used with relation to God, despite the fact that, for instance, ID attempts to use logic and evidence against the atheist.

Again, we see that irrational can be held to mean simply deceptive, usually self-deception. It is well known that God holds psychological payoffs for believers. How exactly is it 'rational' for believers to give up a demonstrably effective belief simply because it happens to be false? It is also usually false that atheism will give any benefit to the former believer, a falsity often refuted by atheists. (As I would expect, regardless.)

In short, the definition of irrationality is abused early and often.

I'm hereby restricting valid uses of irrationality to two.

First, acts or beliefs that lead to only negative outcomes.

Second, acts of logic that violate the laws of logic. When an argument leads the receiver to conclude something in contradiction to the argument. Or, when fallacious arguments are considered, even after someone points out the fallacy, to be useful, true, or convincing.

Let us consider the irrational fears.

Obviously, fearing harmless things do not lead to any beneficial outcomes. (However, once you have a fear, respecting it is the best idea - trying to ignore your phobia will likely lead to psychological harm.) In this sense, phobias are irrational.

Similary, most phobias are acquired through irrational event chains, where a false conclusion is drawn, but then reinforces itself.

AI's science you can do at home series has something for you here. You can try this with not stepping on sidewalk cracks. I also did it once with the ghosts circling the ghost houses in Mario World. Induct a phobia in yourself by avoiding, through all means possible, stepping on a crack, or being on a ghost house square when the ghost is in front. If you firmly establish the habit, especially if you come up with a superstitious reason for the habit,* it becomes emotionally difficult to stop. The phobia is born and starts being self-reinforcing.

*(Use doublethink.)

My use of irrationality will not include non-rationality. For instance, since there are no predictive differences, the choice between free will and determinism is a non-rational choice. Similarly which perspective you take on objective vs. subjective reality.

This type of irrationality is, I believe, the reason for all philosophical disputes that are not axiom wars. Because logic is perceived by the mind,* irrationality is insuperable in a debate. There is no argument you can make that can repair someone's mind from the outside.

*Sally is in Baltimore. Baltimore is in England. Therefore, Sally is in England. Now, for the acid test. How do you know Sally is in Baltimore? As in, not the source of the knowledge, but the actual method, the actual how?

That process, the process through which you know Sally is in Baltimore, is the same process that lets you chain England into Sally. If that process is interrupted, it does not look interrupted on the inside - instead it leads to irrationality, to false conclusions.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Truth, Logic, and Binary

According to physicists, in the beginning was the bit.

And in fact it seems the binary logic is the only type of logic there is. The law of excluded middle is absolute - the simplest question possible is a yes or no question.

Yet, is this actually so?

Like all the questions pertaining to the laws of logic, it's literally the most difficult question possible, because you generally can't use logic

For instance, what would a world where A = !A or A != A look like? I can imagine it, (chaotically changing things) but when I try to conceive it logically, it all falls apart.

The law of the excluded middle might be easier since you can use identity and contradiction to analyze it, unlike the example.

Still, this is an unexamined assumption of all human endeavors; that the law of excluded middle holds everywhere. On the other hand, I cannot even guarantee if it is true.

The reason this is important is that the binary nature of logic is the reason for the NIP. Binary logic cannot describe a continuous universe.

"General relativity, for instance, has successfully predicted many things that we can observe, such as gravitational lensing, so we also take seriously its predictions for things we cannot, like the internal structure of black holes."

Except that the internal structure of black holes is a singularity, and impossible to describe with bits. Most physicists acknowledge that this means GR is inherently incomplete - the problem isn't physical infinities, but physics theories that have infinities.

Guidelines on Not Thinking

(Update: A more direct link.)

Oh! Rather, I mean Writing a Philosophy Paper at MIT or Harvard.

If you want to know why philosophy doesn't seem relevant to people anymore, the above is why. If it seems like philosophy has nothing to contribute that the sciences can't do better, see the same.

You probably know my style by now, so I'm skipping the rest of my introductions and going straight to the 'philosopher' butchering.
"A good philosophy paper is modest and makes a small point"
If you have anything substantial to say, don't bother.

The text following makes clear that they think they mean, "Don't try to prove too many claims at once." Sadly, they mean exactly what they said above.
"Done properly, philosophy moves at a slow pace."
Large advances are right out.

Einsteins will always go into physics where they know stuff like this is bullshit.
"will be accurate when it attributes views to other philosophers"
First reading: Will be accurate if someone else said something, anything.

Second reading: Will be accurate if you didn't say it, but rather someone else did.

Did you know that in the ancient world, it was considered arrogant to claim your ideas as your own? So dozens of people would write books all by "King Solomon," or "Buddha." I can't remember if it was limited to the East or not.
"It need not always break new ground."
Write something new and die.

Backs up this from earlier:
"Don't be disappointed if you don't make an utterly distinctive contribution to human thought in your first attempts at philosophical writing."
Laying it on a little thick?
"Your critical intelligence will inevitably show up in whatever you write."
We can tell if you're sucking up properly no matter what.

Imagine they're correct for a moment. They're saying that any philosophical piece you write, no matter how easy or trivial, will show the full range of your critical thinking skills.

Considering this is official, and thus not likely a throw-away bit of writing, I suspect that Jim Pryor's full critical thinking skills will show up in whatever he writes... (Check the very bottom of the linked article for authorship.)

Also, again assuming they're right, then I have to assume that the person who wrote this bit is a complete moron. They, presumably, also have tenure. (At, they mention down below, Harvard. This is representative of Harvard thought? Sweet chickens! It's like being a fox with a key to the henhouse.)

Gah. They're like plagiarists; they want to be found out. Their weaknesses are downright abundant.
"and will contain thoughtful critical responses to the texts we read."
If it's not like stuff we're already reading, we don't care. Dawkins forbid that we actually have to expend effort to understand your paper.

Again, laying it on a little thick, maybe? Everyone already knows this from elementary school of course, but good lord you'd think at least at Harvard they'd have the decency to be subtle about it.

I know I don't have to keep repeating myself, but it's just so tempting...
"If you do want to demonstrate independent thought, don't think you have to do it by coming up with a novel argument."
Write something new and die. Again.

I suppose it slightly addresses the subtlety thing; this is the red herring to let the professor fool themselves about what they're doing, plus of course it baits naive students who think they may be allowed to think for themselves, to better weed them out.

The tip-off is that the sentence actually says, "If you do want to think, you don't have to do it by actually thinking."
"Thinking about a philosophical problem is hard."
Honestly? Fuck that. Considering the only tripe allowed here is triple-rehashed and 'well-aged' pap, it better be downright trivial.

If thinking, about things that are only accurate if you cite other philosophers, is considered hard, you'll never do actual philosophy.

Which I guess is kinda the point here.

Incidentally, this bullshit is exactly why I wouldn't touch university philosophy with a bargepole. I took physics instead, and that was the best 20 grand I've ever spent. Not that I'm impressed with their thinking skills either, outside their narrow math-based expertise.
"You're not trying to craft some fancy political speech."
Pff. Please. Of course it's a political speech. Your party is you, and your grade. Your constituent is your professor, or rather the grader, and you're trying to convince them to vote for you in terms of marks. Just like a real politician, you do this by lying and misleading your constituents, in this case by pretending that you're not sucking up, but rather writing philosophy.

Every economy based on tax dollars is political. No exceptions.
"You're just trying to present a claim and some reasons to believe it or disbelieve it, as straightforwardly as possible."
Unless that claim is original, complex, or really does anything that might make your grader have to do actual thinking or work. Then you might as well quit and go with the rehashed stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I think philosophical papers should be straightforward as possible. Minimal jargon, tangents used sparingly, (really they should be spun off as new papers) no unnecessary arguments or sub-proofs relying on controversial evidence, and so on. Naturally I fail at all of these, but it's an ideal to strive toward.

But reading the so called 'papers' I see from academic sources, they apparently don't actually believe any of this.

Just like all tax-funded programs, hypocrisy is the highest value; whatever you say you're doing, do the opposite unless you can do something totally unrelated.

Like foreign aid. It has nothing to do with aid and the target audience isn't foreign. Score!

Sadly Pryor takes a break from stating norms and actually gets into worthwhile details. Luckily they are blatantly obvious and any idiot could come up with them.
"In what order should you explain..." "In what order should you offer your criticisms..."
Pryor's belief, and indeed most professor's beliefs, that their students are childish at best and drooling idiots more likely shows up a little strongly here. You have to fail to plan completely before you forgo putting your arguments in order. What kind of idiot has to be reminded?

I guess the kind of idiot that writes this doggerel.
"I strongly recommend that you make an outline of your paper, and of the arguments you'll be presenting, before you begin to write."
Whoa! Never heard this advice before. My mind is being blown, man.
"This lets you organize..."
Outlines are for organization?! Holy freaking fencepost, batman! No wonder they weren't working for me.
"For instance, you want to be able to say what your main argument or criticism is before you write. If you get stuck writing, it's probably because you don't yet know what you're trying to say."

Only in academia would anyone set out to write a paper before having some kind of goal in mind.
"Give your outline your full attention."
"Uh, sir? I disagree. You see, I think when you're writing an outline, you should give it 50%, maybe 25% of your attention. This way, you can make mistakes, get distracted, write down things that were in the room but are totally unrelated and don't even notice. It's just wonderful, sir, because it makes you, yes you sir, feel superior. I have found that when your grader feels superior and enlightened, and yes sir I do have to degrade myself to this point before this happens, your grader magnanimously awards their corrections and 'help,' and feels like they're actually worth a crap. (Worthlessness is a common side effect of having to steal your bread and butter through taxes, sir.) It's crucial of course that you do this in the outline stage, before the final submission, because of course you get your kicks out of shattering the self-esteem of people who can't jump through your hoops."
"It should be fairly detailed. (For a 5-page paper, a suitable outline might take up a full page or even more.)"
When you're writing an outline, make sure it takes as much time and energy as possible. It should be basically your entire paper but with poor grammar. In fact, it should be even longer than your entire paper, taking the grammar into account.
"I find that making an outline is at least 80% of the work of writing a good philosophy paper."
Specifically, despite the fact that you're writing in bullet form, this outline should take you 80% of the time it would have taken you to just write the damn paper already. That's right, assuming a five-page paper takes five hours to write, you could have just taken the extra hour and finished it, if you didn't have to write a outline.

Oh wait, I got that wrong. Writing an outline in bullet form should take four times as long as it would have to just write the damn thing.
"If you have a good outline, the rest of the writing process will go much more smoothly."
Not thinking does make the work go faster, I must admit. Avoiding thought is of course a crucial task in any modern-day philosophical society.
"Your reader shouldn't have to exert any effort to figure it out."
Remember what I said about the graders and effort?
"...We've just seen how X says that P. I will now present two arguments that not-P. My first argument is..."
Your grader is mentally retarded. We know this because they're not tenured yet. IQ 65 or so. They couldn't ever figure out for themselves what you said. Basic reading comprehension is beyond them.

Writing like an asshole is the only way to get through to them.

Like the crack about critical thinking skills, this one actually has a seed of truth as well. It's overwhelmingly likely that your grader will be subsisting on caffeine and sunlight, and will have had roughly negative three hours of sleep last night, mostly because they actually decided to write an outline. (In math or physics, this sleep quantity becomes imaginary.) As a result, if your paper can't be read on autopilot, it probably won't be read at all, but faked. Don't worry; your grader has a large stock of horoscope-like comments to make in red pen for exactly this situation, and you'll get a D.
"You can't make the structure of your paper obvious if you don't know what the structure of your paper is, or if your paper has no structure. That's why making an outline is so important."
Increasing the time it takes you to write your paper by 80% is crucial, (or was that 400%?) and the only way possible that a paper could have structure.

We both know that your actual thought has no structure, so it has to be imposed artificially. This is probably because you've had to take crap like this seriously for at least 14 years in a row.
"To write a good philosophy paper, you need to be concise but at the same time explain yourself fully."

Do two opposite things, and do them well. Orwell? Who's that?
"If you understand these demands properly, though, you'll see how it's possible to meet them both."
It's so bad even Pryor realized this.

No it's not possible to meet them both, incidentally. Obviously you don't want to waste words. Explaining yourself fully, however, is not going to be concise, unless your thought is so puerile and vapid that its full extent is but a few words.

Admittedly, considering the restrictions above, this may actually be good advice.
"we don't want you to ramble on about everything you know about a given topic, trying to show how learned and intelligent you are."
Calling out the game is a big no-no. Keep up the pretense at all times. Don't be crude. I may not be subtle, but I have tenure; your work should be superior to mine, while, as I mentioned above, groveling in abject obeisance to make me feel superior.
"Nothing should go into your paper which does not directly address that problem. Prune out everything else."
I had to put this in here because it's actually good advice. It's so...novel. Where did this come from? What did you do with Jim Pryor?

"We tell you to explain yourself fully because it's very easy to confuse yourself or your reader when writing about a philosophical problem."

Well, sure, but nothing written to these specs will be philosophy, so what's the problem?

Notably the text following makes clear that this is another instance where Pryor has no idea what he's trying to say.

By explain fully he means "Don't be confusing."
"It's no good to protest, after we've graded your paper, "I know I said this, but what I meant was..." Say exactly what you mean, in the first place."
My irony circuit is blown out at this point, but maybe yours isn't.

"We've" graded your paper? Yeah, I'm sure Pryor's totally going to be grading papers. Even if he was, would that be fair to the students that didn't get his particular attention?
"Part of what you're being graded on is how well you can do that."
"So, you're going to magically divine what they meant so you can compare it to what they said?

"Like I'm having to? (Oh good my irony circuit is back online.)"

I give him an F. Actually an F is far too high. Pryor's total grade is currently at 4%, for that good advice I saw earlier.
"Pretend that your reader has not read the material you're discussing,"
Remember what I said earlier about politicking? Also, "Pretend that your audience is someone other than your audience, and integrity can go fuck itself."
"and has not given the topic much thought in advance."
Again, this is going to be the very opposite of concise.
"In fact, you can profitably take this one step further and pretend that your reader is lazy, stupid, and mean."
You will not have to pretend anything of the sort.

Second reading: We love our teaching assistants. No, really. Our students are just awesome people.

In reality, when exactly is a lazy and stupid person going to read philosophy? Fuck, Pryor!
"If you understand the material you're writing about, and if you aim your paper at such a reader, you'll probably get an A."
Like the soldier who loves his job, Pryor is literally advising you to think of him as an ugly little goblin. This of course is despite the fact that he's never going to see your paper except maybe to pass it on to his TAs. Needless to say this is not good advice, but I wanted to bring that idea to the fore. Again, this is probably just bait for people who can't politic properly.
"Don't shoot for literary elegance. Use simple, straightforward prose."
Entertaining your reader is a bad idea. A very bad idea. They should never delight in your essays, except in a holier-than-thou way. Outshining your masters is old-fashioned.
"We'll make fun of you if you use big words where simple words will do. These issues are deep and difficult enough without your having to muddy them up with pretentious or verbose language."
"And I'll make fun of you, Pryor, for being an insult to the human race. Naturally, you'll take it as lightly as I'll take your needling of my pretentiousness."

Because I have to admit pretentiousness is a bit funny.
"Don't write using prose you wouldn't use in conversation. If you wouldn't say it, don't write it."
Amusingly enough, yes I actually do talk like this.
"If your paper sounds as if it were written a third-grade audience, then you've probably achieved the right sort of clarity."
Another jab at the TAs? More bait? I'm not actually sure here. Both?
"It's OK to show a draft of your paper to your friends and get their comments and advice. In fact, I encourage you to do this. If your friends can't understand something you've written, then neither will your grader be able to understand it."
Man, I'm knocking Pryor's grade all the way up to 10% for this. Admitting only the grader counts! Honesty! More good, if stone-obvious, advice!
"Read your paper out loud. This is an excellent way to tell whether it's easy to read and understand. As you read your paper, keep saying to yourself"
I have to ask. Does this actually work for you?

Also, again, "Whoa! Never heard this before! Man I can totally see how you earned tenure."

The text following has questions that, if you can't think up on your own, you have no business anywhere near a philosopher.
"If you plan to discuss the views of Philosopher X, begin by isolating his arguments or central assumptions."
Again, don't think for yourself. Although, formalizing other people's arguments is a vital task if you intend to take them on philosophically. However, in the case of real people, (as opposed to the rehashed arguments of dead people) this is not a trivial task. Perhaps Pryor's infinite philosophical wisdom could give us some advice? (Hint: no.)
"Then ask yourself: Are the arguments good ones?"
Pryor's a master. Every time I think he can't go any lower, hey look! I am in awe.

Who the fuck doesn't think this to themselves? Chimpanzees and Pryor's colleagues? Pryor himself wouldn't of course, but he has it written down on a checklist somewhere, and doesn't forget anymore.
"Keep in mind that philosophy demands a high level of precision."
I don't even need to be here anymore. The man's just doing himself in.
"In this respect, philosophy is more like a science than the other humanities."
And yet it's even more full of pretentious bullshit. Interesting, isn't it?

Hey Pryor! That's what a philosophical question looks like! I know you've never seen any before except on papers marked "D" so pay attention!
"If you don't explain what you take Philosopher X's view to be, your reader cannot judge whether the criticism you offer of X is a good criticism, or whether it is simply based on your misunderstanding or misinterpretation of X's views."
Good advice. 12%. No more because again it's entangled with anti-think memes.
"When a passage from a text is particularly useful in supporting your interpretation of some philosopher's views, it may be helpful to quote the passage directly."
Quoting; a lost art. No one would have thought of it before Pryor helpfully

I think something's wrong. But the way to figure it out probably isn't in the dead philosophy corpus, so I guess I'll never know what.
"However, direct quotations should be used sparingly."
Got me there. Though to be honest I'd never believe a tenured professor was this dumb without hard evidence, and I don't expect every reader to read the whole linked article.

Sadly of course this is considering my audience as my audience instead of its opposite, which as mentioned above is verboten.
"It is seldom necessary to quote more than a few sentences."
It's just one of those times. Not that Pryor lets his students make that determination, because it requires thinking. When he thinks 'never, ever, not in a million years' he writes 'seldom.' Again, bait.
"When you do quote an author, always explain what the quotation says in your own words."
Especially if they said it better than you, that way we'll know how superior we can feel compared to you.

Also a nice opening to wrench an argument around in circles, like a politician might. Not that you've ever seen a thinker attempt to do that...
"Philosophers sometimes do say outrageous things..."
"but if the view you're attributing to a philosopher seems to be obviously crazy, then you should think hard about whether he really does say what you think he says."
This is, as I mentioned above, actually why I have to quote Pryor so extensively. I'd never believe he was this much a lunatic without direct evidence.
"Use your imagination. Try to figure out what reasonable position the philosopher could have had in mind, and direct your arguments against that."
We of course reserve the right to mark you down if you're not exactly clear the first time.

Another loophole for spin-doctoring.
"It is permissible for you to discuss a view you think a philosopher might have held, or should have held, though you can't find any evidence of that view in the text. When you do this, though, you should explicitly say so. Say something like, "Philosopher X doesn't explicitly say that P, but it seems to me that he might have believed it, because...""
Is there a song about spin doctoring? Because I think it might be Pryor's favorite, and I'd like to send him a small gift in exchange for his very useful insight into academic thinking patterns.

Yes, there is a more charitable reading of this. But Pryor's already authorized me to be mean, though naturally he would never authorize anyone to grade his Guidelines.
"Only summarize those parts of X's views that are directly relevant to what you're going to go on to do."
Sadly Pryor is actually quite good at being concise, and summarizing his idiocy is difficult.
"Try to anticipate objections to your view and respond to them."
"Thanks Pryor, no one's ever thought of that before! I think, just maybe, and I know this may come as a shock to you, but your students aren't actually three years old. I know! I know, isn't it crazy? Some of them, you know, the ones that breathe, thought of this on their own already."

I think this will be the last time I chastise him for wasting words. It's just too easy, and I'm bored of it.
"Of course, there's no way to deal with all the objections someone might raise"
"Yeah there is, actually. It's called being correct, something that I'm not sure you've seen, Pryor." Plus, if you can't answer all reasonable objections, it's overwhelmingly likely that you don't understand your own position.

Man, this guy makes me feel like a genius. If you notice me being overly obvious, let me know so I can stop. In fact if you notice me being like Pryor at all, let me know.
"Your paper doesn't always have to provide a definite solution to a problem, or a straight yes or no answer to a question"
Yes, solving problems is simply not what philosophy does these days. Having a definite, clear opinion just gums up the works.
"Many excellent philosophy papers don't offer straight yes or no answers to a question."
Thought makes us angry. If you manage to write a 5-page paper without any, but while keeping up appearances, you'll get an A. If you write well, (but not too well) you'll even get A+.
"Sometimes they argue that the question needs to be clarified, or that certain further questions need to be raised. Sometimes they argue that certain assumptions of the question need to be challenged."
Does the question need to be clarified? (What is philosophy, and how do we advance it when writing a paper?) Yes. Do further questions need to be raised? (Precision, humanities, bullshit? Strange combo there...) Yes. Are some of the assumptions questionable? (Does Pryor have a brain?) Yes.

"These are yes/no questions, Pryor. You idiot." Fuck, this retard is tenured? At Harvard?

I wouldn't be so hard on him if he wasn't supposed to be a professional. As the lawyers say, he knows or should have known. He knows or should have known everything I've said here.

Instead, let me just say that I think, just maybe, that I've discovered how String Theory got so fucked up.
"Sometimes they argue that certain easy answers to the question are too easy, that the arguments for these answers are unsuccessful."
Being right in a simple way is impossible, you see. We've proven it with our precise humanity. Well, a dead person proved it. Philosophy today isn't about answering questions like this.
"Hence, if these papers are right, the question will be harder to answer than we might previously have thought. This is an important and philosophically valuable result."
It's philosophically valuable to point out that a question is hard? This is somehow better than simply pointing out it's wrong?

On the other hand, I appreciate this anti-bait. It's a hint on a technique for successfully navigating the hoops; pretend that an answer is wrong because it's easy to understand. Professors like to hear that they're better than everyone, and this is right up that alley. It can also easily be twisted into the right shape for the rest of the hoops.

On the other hand I have no idea how to do this legitimately. Unless the previous argument was wrong due to oversimplification, which I would assume is equivalent to just 'wrong' (perhaps a bad assumption when dealing with Pryor) you cannot prove that an unknown truth will be 'easy' or 'hard' to discover.

For instance, how hard will it be to discover the fifth force of nature? Will we stumble upon it a la photoelectric effect, or will it be a more concerted effort? (I don't actually think a fifth force exists.)

I just got the weirdest sensation. I felt a thought go by. The contrast with Pryor is incredible. I wish I could get him to try it.
"If you raise a question, though, you should at least begin to address it, or say how one might set about trying to answer it; and you must explain what makes the question interesting and relevant to the issue at hand."
As mentioned previously, your reader is stupid and cannot figure this out on their own.
"Philosophical problems and philosophical writing require careful and extended reflection."
Can you imagine Pryor ever saying the opposite?

"My job is tolerant of carelessness and not at all time-consuming. You barely have to think at all."

It's just like me, specifically, claiming to a credible source. (I've done that, haven't I? This is why philosophy requires peer review...)
"Don't wait until the night before to start your paper. This is very stupid. Writing a good philosophy paper takes a great deal of preparation."
Whenever I hear this I take it as a challenge. I found out in OAC English that the more cramped for time I am, the better my mark.

Eventually I found out that this is by far the most important factor, because I maximized the mark (yes, 100%, twice, once on my Moby Dick review and once on my freaking Hamlet essay) using this technique to the maximum.

I would guess that, taking Pryor's assumptions, that this is because your audience is freaking stupid. As a result, the faster writing, which is presumably using much less thought per word, is much closer to their level.

Ooh, thought again. It tingles, like having sensation run back into an organ that's gone to sleep.
"You should leave yourself enough time to think about your topic and write a detailed outline (this will take several days)."
Just in case you had any doubts that it was busywork, to prepare you for your future union or HR job.
"Then write a draft (this will take one day)."
It occurs to me that Pryor knows an inordinate amount about how you best go about writing. He must be psychic. You know what they say about village idiots; they can hear the Gods most clearly.

In other words, what happens if you're done early? Does the rest of the day spontaneously combust?
"Your papers should be less than or equal to the assigned word limit. Your grade will suffer if your paper is too long. So it's important to ask yourself: What are the most important things you have to say? What can be left out?"
My Hamlet essay - the one that got 100% and prompted my teacher to suggest I take University English, whereupon I avoided, just barely, strangling her with my bare hands - was over 30% too long. In short, this is a just an ordinary everyday lie.

Have you noticed that the advice about how not to waste the TA's time is much more precise, practical, and in general followable than the rest of the guidelines? Despite being a blatant lie?
"Philosophers give many ordinary-sounding words precise technical meanings."
And I don't have to quote the rest. This is an ordinary everyday contradiction. Write like how you talk, explain your words like your reader is stupid, but use our jargon correctly, fool.

Notably, real philosophers tend to avoid doing this unless the ordinary word is invalid as-is and is therefore useless. Why? Because it only manages to confuse the layman. Hell, it sometimes confuses the philosopher.

Hopefully I'm not too guilty of doing this myself. I'm sure I've done it at least once.
"Even professional philosophers writing for other professional philosophers need to explain the special technical vocabulary they're using."
This is advice I wish many philosophy blogs would follow, because I don't see the ROI on looking up what 'analytical' vs 'continental' philosophy. It's terribly likely that this is a ridiculous spat founded by the likes of Jim Pryor.
"Many students find the dialogue form attractive. Done well, it can be very effective. But it's extremely difficult to do well. The form tempts the author to cuteness, needless metaphor, and imprecision. So you shouldn't try to write dialogues for this class."
Attempting to write highly effectively is banned for this class. (Effectiveness makes Jimmy cry.)

Also, if you fail to write effectively, and I agree the dialogue is a tricky form to not screw up, Jimmy won't even attempt to help. Ambition is also banned.

There's a section called "How You'll Be Graded." Naturally, nothing mentioned here is relevant, let alone true. The next bit is about revising your paper if it has been sent back.
"You can only correct these sorts of failings by rewriting your paper from scratch. (Start with a new, empty window in your word processor.)"
Laying it on thick with the busywork thing. Just in case you thought university wasn't about wasting huge portions of your valuable time. (I admit I wasn't quite sure with physics if this was the case or not.)

Imagine if it were true. The mark cited by Pryor is A-. But the only reason to completely rewrite a paper is if it had negligible value, or was going about literally everything wrong. Which means that A- papers are worthless.

Again, I can totally see this if Pryor's acolytes are marking, or indeed if Pryor himself is writing, because Pryor's writing does have negligible intrinsic value, and his acolytes probably can't tell the difference.

In total contrast...
"Keep in mind that when I or your TF grade a rewrite, we may sometimes notice strengths or weaknesses in unchanged parts of your paper that we missed the first time around."
So, erase everything and start afresh. Then we're going to notice strengths (Ha ha! As if!) or weaknesses in your unchanged portions. That don't exist. Using our mind powers.

Most likely the ones that let Pryor know so much about your personal best essay writing practices, and let him know what you meant when it isn't what you said. Those mind powers.
"Also keep in mind that it's possible to improve a paper without improving it enough to raise it to the next grade level."
Even if you do all this busywork, we might not give a crap.

I will now give my overall evaluation of Pryor's 'work.' (By which I mean intellectual vomit.)

Pryor managed, in my completely arbitrary marking system, (much like his, so he can't complain) to amass 12% out of a possible 100%, and I usually allow bonus marks. Now, I'm a fan of letter grades, and yet also precision. So, lets say A is 100-91%, B is 90-81% and so on. Pryor didn't even manage to score F, 50-41%.


12% corresponds to 'I' but just doesn't have that 'fail' ring to it, so I'm going to give Pryor his well deserved FFFF-. "See me after class Pryor, where hopefully the Dean will sign off on having you horsewhipped.

"For the abuse you're handing out to your students, it is the least you deserve."