What if Isaac Newton Had Discovered Electrical Conductivity?
Electrical conductivity was discovered in 1729. What if Isaac Newton had discovered it six decades earlier? Could he have combined it with his researches in alchemy to discover electrochemistry? Would the development of electrical and electronic devices have been accelerated by six decades or more?
Another Effect of the Chinese Government vs. Hong Kong
A Problem … and a Solution
We have a problem. For some reason, younger voters tend to favor left-wing policies.
My best guess that it that's due to left-wing teachers in high school (or possibly earlier). I doubt if it's due to immigration. Immigrants just try to fit in … and their children's teachers tell them how to do it.
To make matters worse, the Left blames any resistance on “white” racism and actual “white” racists (unless they're false flags) are taking advantage of it. (I try to remember to put quotes around “white” when used in this context.) We need a way to get right-wing voters who have nothing to do with “white” racism.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, we have hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against Communism. The Chinese Communist government will probably crack down some time. So… the US might have the opportunity to import a million voters who hate Communism.
One possible problem is that the current President might not agree to this. On the other hand, any such reluctance on his part might get Republicans to go along with the current impeachment effort.
This will also make it possible to distinguish between racists and conservatives. Real conservatives will either be in favor of this or will have reasonable objections (the Chinese Communists will almost certainly have some agents among the refugees). The racists will oppose this.
Once we have enough conservatives who are clearly not “white” racists, other groups (for example, anti-environmentalist Mexicans) may also start voting right wing.
The big problem with all of this is that it requires lots of events to go right. That tends to be unlikely.
The Left Thinks the Right Struck First
One reason the Left is so eager to impose their opinions is that, in some sectors, the Right struck first, sometimes without realizing it. For example, one characterization of moderates is that they might claim:
If conservatives use the power of the state to end drag-queen story time in public libraries, what will stop progressives from using the power of the state to end prayer in public schools?
In this case, prayer in public schools was an earlier example of imposing opinions.
Similarly, the current proposals to classify those social media that censor the “alt-right” as publishers (and therefore legally responsible for anything illegal on their sites) is a matter of repealing earlier laws that made it for social media to censor pornography without being classified as publishers. Leftists believe “You said our stuff was obscene? Okay, we say your stuff is obscene!“
In Addition to a Pride March
If there was a Pride March, should there be marches for other sins?
A Greed March on Wall Street, a Wrath March in either Portland or Charlottesville, an Envy March through gentrifying neighborhoods, a Gluttony March past four-star restaurants…
Three decades ago, the Lust March would have been at Times Square. Today it should be held in Hollywood.
The Sloth March would be cancelled because the marchers couldn't be bothered to show up.
A Few Notes on Social-Network Regulation
Many conservatives think the answer to possible censorship by social networks is to bust them up. I disagree for the following reasons:
- We are winning on the two most important fronts.
For some reason, many conservatives have actually been convinced by left-wing gloating and think they lost the “culture war.” The two most important parts of that war are abortion and guns. In the real world, poll results on approval of abortion have not budged in decades and the abortion rate has been declining. Support for gun-control laws has been declining along with the crime rate.
- The problem is going away.
The problem of censorship by social networks, to the extent it exists, is made possible by their monopolistic nature. On the other hand, the Left is also convinced they face a problem of potential censorship by capitalists and they're putting together alternatives such as Mastodon. They're already faced with the fact that people they don't like can use it.
- Vertical integration is good.
Breaking up the social networks and keeping them out of web browsers, etc., is a common recommendation. On the other hand, that can backfire. If different organizations control different layers, the censors only have to block one of the layers and they can pick the weakest.
- Net neutrality is still a bad idea.
First, the commonest justification (that the social networks are platforms instead of publishers) only means that they're immune from lawsuits that should not exist in the first place. Second, in LeftWorld, the rights to trespass on someone else's private property and to force people to pay to propagate opinions they don't hold are First-Amendment rights. I suspect that the right to shout down opinions you don't like will soon be regarded as a right and any attempt by a social network to deal the DDOS from the Left will be a violation of net neutrality.
- Last, but not least: You cannot use the Ring!
A Theory about Left vs. Right, Part II
A few years ago, I posted that:
The Left wants to break down barriers between places and put up barriers between times. The Right wants to break down barriers between times and put up barriers between places.
In case you were confused about what is meant by “barriers between times,” the meaning is spelled out in Martin Hägglund's philosophy
Dreams of Utopia
According to H. G. Wells:
Hitherto a social consciousness had been asleep and not even dreaming in human history. Before it awakened it produced nightmares.
Did you ever dream you woke up and were starting the day … and then abruptly realized you were still in bed?
It's Not the Stone Age Any More
The latest excuse for anti-immigration hysteria is that there's genetic evidence for many examples of one population's males replacing another population's males (typical example here). I can think of several counter arguments.
- It's not the Stone Age any more. It's not even the Bronze Age. This sort of “kill the men and rape the women” warfare has been much rarer since the spread of iron weapons.
- Many of the people propounding this theory appear to be on the Right wing … but are ignoring the anti-gun control implications of their ideas.
- Binational states are notoriously unstable. Sometimes you can get away with bribing the leaders of the minority side but that's rare. Multinational states are more likely to be stable. Back during the invasions in question, we saw two ethnic groups interacting at a time.
- We also see a similar pattern in a population that was not in a position to do much slaughtering.
One final comment: This is why you must not ignore racists. If you ignore or “no-platform” them, they will spread their ideas anyway but you won't hear of them until some nutcase shoots a few dozen people. If you listen to them, they can be refuted.
Immigration Costs and Global Warming Costs
A Note on the Covington Controversy
Those of you who haven't forgotten about it by now may recall that many of us Never-Trump conservatives were a little too quick to jump on the bandwagon. I think I have an explanation for this.
Attending a pro-life rally wearing a MAGA hat does not make that much sense. On the one hand, the pro-life movement is based on defending the rights of Potential Americans (I believe they are real human beings, but that they are only potentially American since they have been neither born nor naturalized.) On the other hand, part of the MAGA movement is a matter of keeping Potential Americans away. The combination might be based on one of two possibilities: 1) The MAGA-hat-wearing pro-lifers were wearing the hats to annoy the Other Side; 2) they simply hadn't thought through the implications of their ideologies.
The early reports seemed to indicate the first … which is not a very good tactic. Of course, may of us criticized what it appeared to be … and apologized when a more complete video emerged.
Another reason for the early condemnations was that, even if the early reports were wrong, a condemnation could be retracted the next day and then forgotten about. A retraction may even make you look better to swing voters. For that matter, if an early condemnation makes the right-wing base angrier, that might help turnout. In the other direction, a lack of condemnation may increase left-wing turnout.
It's the End of 2018
Weren't anti-agathics supposed to be invented this year?
Still no sign of Augustus Caesar (aka Francis X. MacHinery). President Crassus is bad enough.
Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?
The above question is asked in The New York Times by Todd May, a philosophy professor. His answer: “I want to suggest, at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.”
- Incredulous stare.
- There are Ouden worshippers (cf. Past Master by R. A. Lafferty) out there.
- Professor May's concern for animal suffering is clearly zoocentric. Don't plants get a say? Humanity has been very good for plants owing to all the CO2 fertilizer we've been adding to the air.
- He's also for gun control. Shouldn't a philosophy professor have a need for logical consistency?
- Philosophy isn't all pointless bulshytt; some of it is harmful bulshytt.
- Note to philosophers: In That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, Frost was not the hero.
A Brief Note on the Election
Trump lost; Kavanaugh won.
The vote for the House of Representatives was a proxy vote for approval of Trump. Approval of Trump was, in turn, a proxy for approval of immigration. Immigration won.
The vote for the Senate was a proxy vote for approval of Kavanaugh. Approval of Kavanaugh was, in turn, a proxy for approval of abortion. Abortion lost.
In other words, Americans voted in favor of the recognition of the rights of Potential Americans.
Addendum: The reversal at the end of the third paragraph has been corrected.
The Second Amendment and Censorship
How I came to realize the importance of the 2nd Amendment
It was very indirect. It started when I saw Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience in a bookstore. Needless to say, I bought a copy. One of the chapters was “Life (with all its problems) in space” by Alfred Crosby. I then noticed a book by Alfred Crosby Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (it's not as nutty as it sounds) in a bookstore. (Bookstores are what we used before the Web was invented.) I bought that and noticed references to Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill. I found and read that and then noticed another book by William McNeill In Pursuit of Power in a bookstore. That was the book that made me realize the importance of free (liber) weaponry.
When only the State could afford the best weapons, we saw increasingly authoritarian governments. This happened in the Bronze Age, in the early Gunpowder Era, and the era between the invention of machine guns and the AK-47. The ability to buy weapons really is important.
The relevance to censorship
But that isn't what I'm talking about in this post. I'm talking about censorship. If we wanted to keep me away taking the Second Amendment seriously, it could be interrupted at many stages.
We could keep professors from publishing ThoughtCrime. We could keep other scholars from citing the professors who published ThoughtCrime. We could ruin the careers of other scholars who cited a professor who published ThoughtCrime and disinvite them from conferences.
This is another case in which a system with many layers is vulnerable to censorship. The Internet escaped that in the early stages because there were (for a while) fewer layers. In other words, we must be very resistant to any attempt to spread a blacklist. It's one thing to shun someone you think is a jerk. It's another thing to shun people six degrees away from him/her/whatever. It might even be worth shunning people who try that (but not shun their friends.)
On the other hand, we've see this before … in the form of secondary boycotts by labor unions. At least you can't get “good goons” any more.
The Other Side of the Leftward Drift
A few years ago, I speculated:
The leftward drift of formerly-conservative Supreme Court Justices (discussed here) can be explained fairly easily. Much of the time, conservative is a synonym for “willing to crack down on people who are Not Like Us.” When such a conservative becomes a Supreme Court Justice, the people who are Like Us changes from the middle classes to the political activist class and the people who Not Like Us changes from the lower classes to state legislatures.
We now see the flip side of that: We have just confirmed a Supreme-Court Justice who was faced with some of the same tactics used to crack down on people who are Not Like Us: multiple charges so maybe one would stick, threats of draconian penalties in case of failure to cooperate, potential charges for allegedly-false statements, and of course trusting polygraphs. That may immunize him against the leftward drift. Kavanaugh may even be surprisingly liberal on defendant's rights
On the other hand, don't count on that last.
Conversation between 1978 Me and 2018 Me
1978 me: What's occurring in 2018?
2018 me: We might finally get enough judges on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. They're holding hearings. There's a professor on one side and someone who spent his school years in a haze on the other.
1978 me: I hope the professor wins and that pro-abortion pothead loses!
2018 me: No, it's the guy in a haze who's backed by pro-lifers.
1978 me: What!?!?!
Internet in Series vs. Internet in Parallel
There's a potentially worrisome development:
One of the things that is becoming clear, to me at least, is that the layered model (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSI_model) the whole internet is built on, is censorship friendly. And I don't just mean OSI, but the layers in the app layer. I'll unpack.
You can see the rest of the explanation on Twitter, but I'll summarize it here: The Internet currently requires numerous layers to all work together to get something through. If the censorship people can shut off just one layer, they've won. To make matters worse, if they look like they might possibly shut off one layer, the other layers might go along avoid getting caught.
This was not a problem with the classic Internet: just the computers and wires. It wasn't even much of a problem with Usenet. Today, if they can shut off the wires (what the net-neutrality people claim to be worried about), the DNS servers (what the people insisting on US oversight are worried about), the search engines, the anti-DDOS companies, the social networks, the web browsers (the most recent Firefox release sends all DNS requests to a central location), or other things I won't know about until the possemaniacs try taking them over, then they've won.
A mathematical model
If you have 1 layer and 3 providers in each layer and each provider has a 50% chance of folding in response to a possemaniac, then the probability of censorship is 12.5%.
If you have 10 layers and 3 providers in each layer and each provider has a 50% chance of folding in response to a possemaniac, then the probability of censorship is 73.7%.
Maybe the answer is more vertical integration. In other words, a web browser from a search-engine company, an operating-systems company, or a hardware company might not be such a bad idea. This also means the standard response to a potential left-wing oligopoly (break them up!) is wrong-headed.
By the way, how much would it cost to start one minimal viable company in each layer? I suspect it could be done for under a billion. So … All you need is at least one zillionaire (preferably partly retired but with some years left) … I'm sure the Koch brothers, Peter Thiel, Robert Mercer, or even Paul Allen will be up to it.
A Reaction to The Transhumanist Bill of Rights—Version 2.0
The Transhumanist Bill of Rights—Version 2.0 (seen via Instapundit) includes (with my reactions):
“All sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of a system of universal health care.”
Does ‘universal’ mean universal? Does this apply to entities in the Boötes void?
“For instance, a cryonics patient has the right to determine in advance that the patient’s body shall be cryopreserved and kept under specified conditions, in spite of any legal definition of death that might apply to that patient under cryopreservation.”
So… If you were accidentally cryopreserved and didn't leave such a directive, you have no rights?
“All sentient entities are entitled to reproductive freedom, including through novel means such as the creation of mind clones, monoparent children, or benevolent artificial general intelligence.”
I'm glad to see this. Version 1.0 was written by Zoltan Istvan, who has also advocated parenting licenses.
“All sentient entities also have the right to prevent unauthorized reproduction of themselves in both a physical and a digital context.”
If such an unauthorized reproduction occurs anyway, does the being in question have rights?
“All sentient entities should be protected from discrimination based on their physical form in the context of business transactions and law enforcement.”
Does that mean you cannot require, for example, the ability to breathe chlorine as a prerequisite for employment?
“All sentient entities have the right to defend themselves from attack, in both physical and virtual worlds.”
“Societies of the present and future should afford all sentient entities sufficient basic access to wealth and resources to sustain the basic requirements of existence in a civilized society and function as the foundation for pursuits of self-improvement.”
Does the first mean you are permitted to defend yourself against the tax collectors needed for the second?
“Lying for political gain or intentionally fomenting irrational fears among the general public should entail heavy political penalties for the officials who engage in such behaviors.”
So… We can hang (or do the equivalent to) environmentalists?
“In addition to the rights enumerated herein, this TRANSHUMANIST BILL OF RIGHTS hereby incorporates by reference all of the rights expressed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and hereby extends these rights to all entities encompassed by this TRANSHUMANIST BILL OF RIGHTS.”
Uh oh. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes:
These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Idealist translation: All good stuff! No bad stuff!
Realist translation: The preceding 28 articles guarantee hot air. Anything they promise can be set aside if someone influential decides they're inconvenient.
Okay. Now they're just trolling us.
The response to bans on plastic straws is, of course, expensive metal straws that can only be cleaned with difficulty. The next step after metal straws will be to notice that not everyone can afford metal straws and to set up a government agency to get metal straws into the hands of the proletariat … who are then expected to be grateful. That, in turn, will be followed by sneering at the people who complained about the original regulation combined with accusing them of being hypocrites when they also criticize the agency.
I have three questions about this:
If a couple with a child are arrested for the illegal manufacture, sale, or transportation of plastic straws, should the child be separated from the parents or should there be a family jail?
How stoned do you have to be to think a plastic straw is a problem requiring a ban?
What do “people of color” think about a straw ban?
Why the Left is Getting Hysterical about Judges
What if they really think that right-wing judges will do as much “legislating from the bench” as left-wing judges have?
This is not entirely a straw-man argument: There is a possibility that right-wing judges might stop “birthright citizenship” for children of illegal aliens. On the other hand, I've heard very little about this from the Left. Maybe they refuse to learn about the Right even to know what the real possibilities are.
One common type of legislating from the bench: Declare that a law that has a “disparate impact” on a favored group is unconstitutional. For example, carbon taxes will have a disparate impact on people in rural areas.
Another common type of legislating from the bench: Declare that the law MUST follow the current social preferences of the ruling class. One possibility is banning bilingual education. Another possibility is declaring that the phytoestrogens in soy feminize men and therefore interfere with the militia described in the Second Amendment. Tofu, tempeh, and even soy sauce will be forbidden to males.
To any Leftists reading this: Yes, some of the judicial decisions you applaud sound that nuts.
A “Bump-Stock” Compromise on Immigration
Let us compare the border-control issue to the gun-control issue.
A common argument for gun control is: “Look at all these gun massacres!” The obvious response is that the massacres are almost always in “gun-free” zones. There is an exception to that retort: The Las Vegas massacre of a few months ago was not in a “gun-free” zone. It may have been more effective than usual due to the use of bump stocks. As a result, the NRA uncharacteristically offered to compromise by accepting a ban on bump stocks.
A common argument for border control is: “Look at all these illegal aliens violating American traditions!” The obvious response is that high rates of immigration is an American tradition. There are two claimed exceptions to that retort: 1) Earlier immigration was mostly of Europeans; 2) the rate was, at most, 1.5% of the already-present population per year.
The first claimed exception might sound valid … except we heard it before.
- 18th century: These immigrants aren't English; they are different.
- 19th century: These immigrants aren't Protestant; they are differenter.
- 20th century: These immigrants aren't Western European; they are differentest.
- 21st century: These immigrants aren't European; they are [we must invent a new grammatical form for this].
For example, if we send advice to keep Muslims out to the year 1856
, it will come out as a Roman Catholic ban.
On the other hand, the 1.5% limit appears to be reasonable. (For today's US, it's about 5 million per year.) So … Maybe we should set a limit of 1.5% of the already-present population per year. If it's exceeded, maybe we can auction off the permits. This will also prevent the nightmare scenario of 300 million Democratic voters arriving tomorrow. The proposed limit will not affect politics much in the short run and, in the long run, the descendants of the New Americans may change their minds as much as Southerners or Catholics have. We can already expect Mexicans to oppose asinine environmental regulations.
One more topic we must consider: The recent protests against enforcing immigration laws are about separating families. On the other hand, separating families is also done for violent or property crimes. On the gripping hand, this isn't a “crime” crime; it is a borderline case … similar to a ban on bump stocks. So … Should children be separated from parents if the parents violated a law against owning bump stocks without a license?
What Governor Cuomo Should Have Said
Governor Andrew Cuomo said:
As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. I am a Jew. I am Black. I am gay. I am a woman seeking to control her body. We are one New York.
He should have continued:
As a New Yorker, I am a fetus. I am Bernie Goetz. I am BlackRock. I am Donald Trump. I am The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and National Review. I belong in the city of Alexander Hamilton and Ayn Rand. I sneer at people worried about “over”population.
Asddendum: I just recalled a possibly-relevant Pauline Kael quote
I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them.
Governor Cuomo is refusing to feel them.
A Suggestion for Liberals, Update
Should Government Control of Space Travel Continue?
Elon Musks's recent stunt of putting his car in orbit has been greeted with whines from people claiming that, since governments started space exploration, we must continue government control. (There have been similar claims about nuclear energy or the Internet.)
That makes as much sense as claiming that, since Silicon Valley was started by a racist, we must ensure it is controlled by racists.
That makes as much sense as claiming that, since post offices were invented by the Persian Empire, all postage stamps must be sold by Iran.
That makes as much sense as claiming that, since Mickey Mouse was created by Walt Disney, the Disney Corporation must hold a perpetual copyright. This last is particularly important since many of the whines come from critics of Intellectual Property.
Meanwhile, I recommend that, if we free copyright after 70 years, maybe we should also deregulate technologies produced with government support after 70 years.
Aren't anti-agathics supposed to be invented this year?
Tap tap. Is this thing on?
A few notes on recent controversies:
Net Neutrality: I'd be more likely to take seriously the claim that Net Neutrality regulations are a matter of ancient tradition if it weren't for the fact that every Net Neuterer has a different definition of Net Neutrality and a different timeline of how the regulations changed. As far as I can tell, Net Neutrality was a matter of custom … like tipping. It was enforced by the FCC frowning hard.
I won't more than mention that whether a foreign nation has Net Neutrality changes depending on rhetorical needs. If it's necessary to find an example to prove that corporations won't adhere to Net Neutrality standards without being forced, then there are lots of examples of nations without Net Neutrality. If it's necessary to say “All the cool nations are doing this,” then those examples disappear.
In the real world, Net Neutrality violations can be divided into:
- The beneficial (throttling a bandwidth hog);
- The trivial;
- The temporary;
- The imaginary.
Corporations: As far as I can tell, support for Net Neutrality is based on the theory that corporations are all-powerful psychopaths. As far as I can tell, the entities that act most like the way leftists imagine corporations act are governments and online mobs.
In a typical example of anti-corporation prejudice, the SF writer Ted Chiang compared corporations to out-of-control AIs. On the other hand, the original speculation comparing an organization to an AI was Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes which compared governments to AIs. (“What is the heart, but a spring?”). Nowadays, online mobs can also be compared to Leviathan. To paraphrase the movie The Terminator:
The online mob is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop …
The best reason to regard democratic governments as preferable to corporations is that they can be controlled by The People. The People also control online mobs, but that doesn't make them good … especially when you recall that Trump was elected by Twitter mobs.
Corporate power is also much less than many people think, some of whom run the corporations. For example, a few months ago, Cloudflare stopped providing DDoS protection to Daily Stormer, effectively kicking them off the respectable Internet. They tried the same stunt with Ghost Gunner. Ghost Gunner is still there. Blacklists don't work unless they're unanimous.
A personal note: I don't believe in corporate power, not because I disapprove of it, but because I think it's much less than many others think. Some of my actions were done in order to make that point. I joined Mastodon, partly to show that Facebook doesn't have a monopoly. I got a Linux computer partly to show that Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly. I started ordering books from Amazon when people were complaining that Barnes & Noble (or was it Borders?) was becoming a monopoly. (It might be time to change that.)
On the other hand, some right-wing commenters disagree with handling monopolies privately.
The recent tax bill has two problems:
- It made major changes a bit too suddenly. Making them more slowly so we know what we're doing might make more sense.
- It looks like it was written for the purpose of raising taxes on New York Times reporters. “The purpose of power is power” is bad. “The purpose of power is revenge” is worse.
“The purpose of power is revenge” might also explain “political movements that appear exceedingly stupid
Is free speech only for the powerful? I had trouble understanding the belief that free speech is a tool for the privileged. As far as I can tell, this is based on the theory that the privileged will always be able to censor. In order to level the proverbial playing field, the downtrodden also must be given the privilege of censorship. I find it much more plausible that the privileged will always be able to speak. (If they can be censored, they were not privileged in the first place.)
Ideas I agree with while opposing the proponents: An opinion you agree with may be a “tribal marker” for people you regard as dangerous. For example:
- Black lives matter.
- It's okay to be white. (It's more worrisome when “white” is capitalized.)
- Allah akbar. (God is great.)
- There's evidence that human action might make the Earth warmer.
- Sustainable anything.
“Cuckservative” and “neoliberal” mean the same thing: “How DARE you pretend to be on my side while believing in individual rights!”
The use of the term “cuckservative” might be due to one of the more bizarre assumptions of the “alt-right,” that anybody who disagrees with them must be doing so in order to avoid being called names and can be forced in the other direction by enough name-calling.
Free Will Denial
I suspect that a large fraction of left-wing ideology comes from a denial of free will: the belief that free will either does not exist or is valueless. That can have several effects:
- If free will does not exist at all, there is little point in defending the right to make your own decisions. If something is desirable, it must be compulsory; if it is undesirable, it must be forbidden.
- I've already discussed the effects of the belief that free will only applies to pointless actions.
- If an individual's free will cannot affect his/her economic status, anybody rich got that way from ‘society’ (“You didn't build that…”) and the wealth can be redistributed.
- Finally, if the combined free wills of all of humanity cannot cause anything good, then either economic growth does not exist or it has bad effects (e.g., global warming).