Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, March 31, 2014

Question about ICANN

Isn't this type of central control opposed to the spirit of the Internet?

While I'm at it, the following quote from a few years ago may be of interest:

It might have been better had ICANN never have been created.  But the
alternative would have been to permit a much more uncertain process to go
forward--involving not just competing registrars, but competing registries
or some entity truly evolving from the bottom up--not of the type we are
presently able to imagine.  Whatever happens with this current agreement
between NSI, ICANN, and Commerce, we should be on guard that privately
evolving alternatives--entirely new keyword or name-based methods of finding
Net content, or alternative root servers--are not foreclosed.
It might be necessary to start forming them now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Philosophy is Settled?

We have heard plenty of debates online on whether “the science is settled.” At IO9 we see that some people are claiming “the philosophy is settled”:

"I honestly don't find any inspiration in the three laws of robotics," said Helm. "The consensus in machine ethics is that they're an unsatisfactory basis for machine ethics." The Three Laws may be widely known, he says, but they're not really being used to guide or inform actual AI safety researchers or even machine ethicists.

"One reason is that rule-abiding systems of ethics — referred to as 'deontology' — are known to be a broken foundation for ethics. There are still a few philosophers trying to fix systems of deontology — but these are mostly the same people trying to shore up 'intelligent design' and 'divine command theory'," says Helm. "No one takes them seriously."

I didn't know philosophy could be settled to such an extent. For one thing, it's hard to check philosophy against the real world.

But wait, there's more. We see a few paragraphs later from the same source:

"I think it would be unwise to design artificial intelligence systems or robots to be self-aware or conscious," says Helm. "And unlike movies or books where AI developers 'accidentally' get conscious machines by magic, I don't expect that could happen in real life. People won't just bungle into consciousness by accident — it would take lots of effort and knowledge to hit that target. And most AI developers are ethical people, so they will avoid creating what philosophers would refer to as a 'beings of moral significance.' Especially when they could just as easily create advanced thinking machines that don't have that inherent ethical liability."

So… He disbelieves in ‘intelligent design’ except in one field? Maybe he should recall that biological intelligence happened by the process he doesn't believe can work with machine intelligence.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shorter Mark Bittman

If you believe Mark Bittman (seen via Instapundit, who should really know better), yesterday's food hysterics were all wrong (in a complex field with lots of confounding factors) but this time it's different.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Few Comments on the Possible Wage-Fixing Scandal

I'm sure most of my dozen or so readers have heard of the possible wage-fixing scandal. I have a few comments:

  • This might encourage even more Silicon-Valley engineers to start their own businesses.
  • Are the alleged victims the same people in the buses that Northern Californian idiots are throwing rocks at?
  • Was the article written by this Mark Ames?
  • This resembles immigration restrictions … except that immigration restrictions are a matter of fixing wages in the other direction.
  • This might even be a reaction to immigration restrictions.
  • You cannot keep something like this hidden nowadays. It will leak out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Did Monarchy Cause Social Technologies?

I disagree with Nyan Sandwich's claim that Western Civilization is “running entirely on pre-democratic momentum.” It might look like that if we're only looking at the Anglosphere but Anglospheric democracy was preceded by Middle Francia. The most progressive parts of Europe in the Middle Ages and early modern times were in and near Middle Francia, where the central government disintegrated early. Even England's representative government needed a boost by the Netherlands takeover in 1688.

I must admit that there's one area that less democratic governments do better: accepting new citizens. In Athens in the age of Pericles, it was impossible to become an Athenian; you had to be born one. The Roman oligarchy was more accommodating. The U.S. was least inclined to admit immigrants when it was most democratic. (The easing of immigration laws in the past half century might have been due to the takeover by that aristocratic clique that neo-reactionaries call ‘The Cathedral.’)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Real Problem with the Crimean Annexation

What if it sets a precedent? The nativist claim that Mexican immigration is a prelude to the reconquest of the southwestern U.S. by Mexico looks slightly less insane now. What if Ireland tries to claim Boston? What if China annexes Flushing? What if Sweden announces it owns Minnesota? What if a gang of stooges decides New York should secede and join the United Kingdom? (NY UK, NY UK, NY UK…) What if the people making such claims send armed vote counters to the referenda? (ObSF: The Cosmocrat vs. Nationalist election in First Lensman by E. E. Smith.)

For that matter, in this scenario, what if your ancestry is partly from one area and partly from another? Will the boundary go through a human heart?

This is particularly worrisome for United States considering that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. The takeover might have been based on the predictions of Igor Panarin (earlier discussed here and there). When they didn't come true, the Russian government tried to apply them to a place more amenable to takeovers than the U.S.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

They're Getting Better at This

Now environmentalist wackos recognize they have to cite something resembling historical evidence before making predictions outside of anybody's experience. In this case, they attempted to buttress warnings of “resource depletion” by claiming Mesopotamian civilizations or the Roman Empire collapsed due to resource depletion.

On the other hand, it's still bulshytt. If the Mesopotamian civilizations collapsed due to resource depletion, it's amazing how the resources undepleted themselves in time for the Caliphate. If the Roman Empire collapsed due to resource depletion, it's amazing how the resources undepleted themselves in time for the Renaissance.

As far as I can tell, the major cause of civilization collapses is contagious disease. That might include the contagious mental disease called collectivism.

I suppose I should also include a word or two on why resource depletion is unlikely to be a crisis. Resources, in the sense they are finite, consist of atoms and energy. Atoms aren't usually used up at all, and the two hundred quadrillion watts of solar energy hitting the Earth is vastly greater than that consumed by humans. The only resources that can be depleted are fossil fuels and wild fish. Both of those should be obsolete soon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Will the Rich Grab All the Power in the “Age of the Drone”?

Contrary to Noah Smith, I doubt it. If you look at it as one poor person with a handful of drones vs. one rich person with an abundance, then it's clear the rich person will win. If you look at as the poor as a class vs. the rich as a class, then it's more balanced. In particular, it's unlikely the “1%” will be able to confiscate the property of the “99%” on a large scale. If the top 20% have half the income, we can expect them to have half the drones if a civil war between the classes breaks out. At $1 one vote, the relatively well off will be more powerful than today but not all powerful. I'm more worried about oppression by the 20% (zoning laws, eminent domain, and occupational licenses) than by the 1%.

One last point, nearly everybody in the U.S. is in the top 20% by world standards.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Borders vs. Labels

A few years ago, I recommended that we open-borders people change our rhetoric from criticizing national borders to criticizing national labels. We see a consequence of the belief in national labels in today's news. The excuse for the Russian takeover of Crimea is that it should be labelled Russian instead of Ukrainian.

In other news, today is Open Borders Day.

Friday, March 14, 2014


3/14 1:59.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Brief Note on Qualifications

According to Senator Paul, a promise to use US troops can be best made by people whose lives were on the line on similar occasions. I assume that includes anybody who ever visited the World Trade Center.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's the 21st Century!

One of the commonest progressive cliches is to claim that an advanced society will have characteristic X, point to the calendar, and say anybody opposed to X is on the “wrong side of history.” Let us assume, for the moment, that the first claim is right. Why should our present primitive society—far less advanced than the 22nd century—be considered advanced? Maybe getting rid of rigid gender roles or banning the settlement of international disputes by force of arms would be as counterproductive as banning child labor in the 18th century or banning arsenic bronze 7000 years ago. To quote from Calvin, as reported by Bill Watterson:

We still have weather?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Brief Note on “Eurasianist” vs. “Atlantic” Values

This discussion of the “Eurasianist” ideology reminded me of the World Values Map. It looks like the Eurasianist values are in the upper-left corner and the Atlantic values in the lower-right corner. If this is correct, then the traditional (bottom of the map) vs. self-expression (right side of the map) fight is internal to Atlantic civilization, which also means Atlantic conservatives should not regard Eurasianists as allies even if they sound traditional.

Addendum: The misspelling in the title has been corrected.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Set Paranoia Bit to ON

The left-wing opposition to charter schools looks suspicious. It might be a deliberate attempt to keep a group on the current A list of the Hivemind ignorant. That, in turn makes it possible to use standard anti-racist rhetoric to defend ignorance … at least when they agree with the Hivemind.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Potential Third Amendment Violation

According to Kirsten Powers:

What if an Army sergeant in full regalia is driving through a small town and his car breaks down and it's too late to find a mechanic? There are two hotels in the town; both are owned by pacifist Christians. Do the backers of this bill really believe it should be legal for him to be refused a room and forced to sleep in his car?

The owners of said hotels might live on site. In that case, forcing them to accommodate an Army sergeant would be a violation of the Third Amendment.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

I Was Not Imaginative Enough

A few years ago, I said (with a spelling correction):

Since other forms of gay rights have attracted less opposition than expected, they invented gay marriage in an effort to make conservatives continue to look bigoted. If more conservatives back gay marriage, they'll come up with something else. (I am not imaginative enough to figure out what that will be.)
Now we know what that “something else” is.

By the way, I'd like to know what supporters of the anti-discrimination law think of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

“The Science Is Settled” vs. Texas

Texas recently passed a law that allows defendants to challenge verdicts when the science isn't settled:

In the past, Van Ee’s findings might not have been enough to delay Avila’s execution, or potentially reverse his verdict. But that same month, Texas passed a bill called SB 344, better known as the “junk science” statute. The first of its kind in the nation, it permits a defendant to bring a writ of habeas corpus on the basis of new or changed scientific evidence. In practical terms, this means that courts must grant relief in cases where new scientific evidence has come to light, or where scientific evidence used to convict has been shown to be false, misleading, or inaccurately applied. The statute keeps the court from denying relief even if the defendant had previously confessed or accepted a plea. It also, crucially for Avila, does not require anyone to recant his or her original testimony.

In other words, this is a law based on opposing claims that “the science is settled” and done in such a way that liberals are applauding.

There is the minor problem that judges and juries aren't experts on when science is unreliable. On the other hand, that was true of the judges and juries that convicted the defendants in the first place.

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