Monday, December 17, 2007

Mankiw's Idiotic Tall Tax

Another day, another idiocy comes spouting out of the mouth of that neo-liberal shill Mankiw. No wonder he has to disable comments on his blog.

As anyone who knows (real, not fake) economics and is willing to rub two thoughts together will be able to tell you, Mankiw's argument is a sham. It's a complete strawman because progressive income tax is based on a concept of equality of outcome. And another little concept about the differential moral utility of money. These may be concepts that Mankiw scorns and wishes didn't exist (he's certainly trying to ignore them) but they do.

So when Mankiw assumes that taxing "entrepreneurial genius" (whatever the fuck that means) is the same as taxing entrepreneurial outcome, he is being a lying whore and a two-faced duplicitous son of a bitch.

That's because taxing "entrepreneurial genius" is all about equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome. Taxing "entrepreneurial genius" is also neutral towards the differential utility of money, something progressive taxation is not since the whole point of it to change people's behaviour. In other words, the two types of taxation are violently opposed.

And despite the fact Mankiw casually treats taxing "entrepreneurial genius" as an acceptable stand-in for taxing revenues, he knows the two aren't equivalent because he prefers taxing opportunity. That's because, as any good shill must, he doesn't like taxes that affect people's behaviours but believes taxation should let criminals be criminals.

As a moral person, I violently disagree with Mankiw's amoral prescriptions. As a systems designer, I violently disagree with needless duplication (between revenue-generation and moral incentives). So I vastly prefer taxing outcome and not opportunity.

Finally, as a dissident, I despise a lying shill like Greg Mankiw.

It is a testament to the utter depravity of mainstream economics that nobody has yet stood up to throw egg into Mankiw's smug lying face.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Complex Systems

I've always known that systems science (aka systems theory and cybernetics) is in a sorry state. But this was driven home to me this morning when a senior professor in the field commented that "systems mean different things to different people". Hmmm, does it, really?

Systems science is supposed to be abstract, so it doesn't matter whether the system you're talking about is biological or industrial or urban. And indeed, all three of those systems are examples of matter-value systems. Well, what other kinds of systems are there?

It turns out there are 2x2 kinds of systems. There are information systems and matter systems. And each of those can be either pure or valued. So physical systems are pure matter, software are pure information systems. And industrial systems in general are matter-value.

What do I mean by a valued system? I mean one which processes the value of its elements. Or put more baldly, a metacircular system. One that redesigns itself to suit an internalized conception of its own purpose.

An FPGA-based computer whose CPU reprogrammed itself on demand would be an example of an information-value system. But there are other, much more common, systems that fit this category: political systems.

So ignoring chimeras like health systems, we have software, political, physical and industrial systems. And that is all.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Unemployment in Europe

These were a couple of the comments in a reddit thread today about European unemployment.

Hang around playing xbox and commenting on reddit about how much the US sucks - much like everyone else in Germany. Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

I know! It's the same in Sweden (i spend some time there)...
Socialised hispeed internet is a killer of motivation!

Which got me to thinking, this is bad? I'd like to point everyone to the fact that natural resources are becoming scarce. All useful jobs have to do with the extraction, transformation and distribution of these natural resources. Which are becoming scarce.

So useful jobs are scarce. Either people must scale back their motivation or they must become destructive. Germans and Swedes have decided on the former, Americans and English on the latter.

As petrol, lumber, land, grain, wool, rubber, steel, copper, and all other commodities become increasingly scarce, we can either be satisfied with less or we can fight more energetically for what's left.

And don't anyone dare say that everyone should become a programmer / engineer or artist / designer. Most people don't have the analytical functioning for the former, or the creativity for the latter.

Mind you, I'm not a doomer. In fact, I consider doomers to be anti-civilization scum. The current scarcity of natural resources is not a permanent fact of life. It's a product of China and to a lesser extent India rapidly modernizing.

When Nautilus Minerals' venture finally comes online, massive new sources of copper, gold and other minerals will increase their supply.

When 2nd generation high temperature superconductors become available, the demand for copper for generators will be vastly reduced.

And when the world starts building nuclear power plants and mass transit systems in earnest, then demand for petrol and coal will be reduced while supply of both electricity and transportation will increase.

Scarcity of natural resources and the poverty it is associated with,, are not inevitable. They're just unavoidable right now. We might as well make the best of our situation by kicking back and taking it easy.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Definitions of Intelligence

I looked through Definitions of Intelligence and I was struck by how contemptible all these definitions, in fact their entire approach, was. None of them says anyhing about intelligence per se.

They serve merely as a heuristic which an intelligent agent can employ in order to gauge intelligence. Making these "definitions" entirely circular since they depend on what they define in order to be meaningful!

This can be seen simply by looking at the properties of these "definitions" of intelligence and observing that none of them have anything to do with intelligence. What are these properties?
  1. goals
  2. success
  3. interaction
  4. environments
Are goals a necessary requirement for an agent to be intelligent? No they are not. An agent could have no goals at all and still be considered intelligent. It might not be considered an agent but that's besides the point.

The point being that whatever makes an agent intelligent can't be the same thing that makes it an agent, otherwise there couldn't be stupid agents.

Is interaction a feature of intelligence? Are environments a feature of intelligence? Is success a feature of intelligence? No, they are not. Not individually and not in any combination. Intelligence isn't what something does, it's what something is.

And that fact is blindingly obvious to anyone of intelligence who has worked or known underachieving gifted children. But perhaps not to imbeciles who wish to deny the notion of gifted intelligence out of petty jealousy.

You see, gifted children are just as likely to become highly unsuccessful in life as they are to become highly successful. So they are "unsuccessful" in "many wide environments". Does this make them unintelligent? Hardly!

Are bacteria intelligent because they can colonize more environments than a human being? Is a single human being stupid because he or she cannot survive in any environment if left alone? Are a thousand idiots more intelligent than a lone genius? Yet this is what the "final definition" implies.

Clearly the standard approach to defining intelligence has deep flaws if it suffers from such trivial counter-examples. The fact these are never noted, let alone addressed, nevermind countered, marks the authors of such work as imbeciles.

Now obviously it's too much to ask an imbecile what intelligence is. Yet this is exactly the absurd situation we are presented with on that page. Definitions produced by imbeciles in a process of group-think. They are entirely unoriginal and the mere aggregation of them adds nothing to them.

Now, if someone capable of originality had been asked to come up with something insightful, they might get "living representation" or something else that would provoke deep thought. Something that has a chance of being right.

Followed up in a formal theory of intelligence.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Choice, diversity and competition

Choice is bad, diversity is good, competition is evil. And the sooner people learn to differentiate between them, the better.


Competition is defined by sociologists as the willful destruction of your adversaries. Competition is making other people lose. It is anti-social and psychopathic.

Economic competition on a large scale is economic warfare. The victims' bodies (bankrupt businesses) litter the landscape to be picked clean by vultures (called consumers by biologists).


Diversity is good because it allows people to use whatever is most closely suited to their needs. If you have a range of numbers from 5 to 10 then none of them are particularly close to 5900. If you increase the range of numbers available to between 0.005 and 10,000 then you'll likely get something much closer to 5900. The same goes for products in general. Diversity adds value, so long as it's actually made use of.


Choice is a cost, not a value. Nobody wants to choose between three different sizes of toothpaste or 4 different brands of Whitening Toothpaste. Choices impose costs on people, the cost of choosing. Something which is definitely a cost since it is not enjoyed and is avoided wherever possible. It's the reason why people develop routines. The reason they take the same seat in the meeting room after the break. To avoid choosing.

So competition for the sake of competition is evil. Too much diversity that forces an overload of choices on people is evil. And meaningless choices that don't add to diversity are evil too.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How Americans Created The Totalitarian State

Americans have this ludicrous notion of "individual sovereignty". Now, in reality, that's the place Americans don't live in, it's easy to see how absurd this notion is because collectives of all sizes are absolute necessities.

You need cities to suppress suburban sprawl and manage utilities. You need city districts to counter the city's tendency to raze neighbourhoods for highways. You need food coops for decent non-toxic food. You need unions to manage employment insurance. And so on.

But with the Americans' toxic doctrine of "individualism" there is no room for these collectives. Now of course, if a rational response to collectives needs are suppressed then the need for collectives won't just go away. No more than the need for sex and liquor goes away just because Americans are prudes. Rather, the need for collectives re-emerges in some kind of fucked up manner.

And that's how American "individualism" has created the totalitarian state. So for all the Libertarians out there, for all the "small government conservatives out there" you created the totalitarian state you fucking imbeciles.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Go Money, Go! -- Why Faster Currency Is Better Currency

Everyone should already be familiar with the negative-interest currency of Worgl, Austria, and the known effects of demurrage. Effects such as being an intrinsically loose money policy (forcing government to rely on fiscal policy and work restrictions to prevent asset inflation, as it should!), realigning the discount rate towards a socioeconomic level and a future-orientation, decoupling currency interest rates from asset interest rates, and allowing the limited production of free money (free of inflation and debt). This post addresses lesser-known effects of increasing the velocity of money.

Inflation is the product of the quantity of money X its velocity exceeding the value of the goods and services in the economy. Theoretically, if you increase the velocity of money you need to decrease its quantity to get the same inflation. However, inflation is only one measure of the health of the economy. Unemployment is another.

As it happens, unemployment is not affected by the quantity of money changing hands as much as by its velocity. So increasing the velocity of money takes care of little problems called 'depressions'. Especially if you can do it in a debt-free manner (without putting yourself in hock to creditors) and without inflation.

Intuitively, circulating and causing exchanges is the FUNCTION of currency, so the higher the velocity of a currency, the better it is at being currency. But so much for intuition. Let's look at all four ways in which faster velocity is a good thing:

  • overhead
  • nucleation from stagnant pools, hoarding
  • high velocity jobs
  • taxes


If you have two currencies A and B and A has a velocity 10x that of B then you can choose to inject either 10,000 of A or 100,000 of B into the economy. Now when you inject money into an economy you usually go through bankers. Either the Federal Reserve Banks or foreign creditors. So if you choose to inject 10,000 of A then you'll owe the bankers maybe 1,000 (10%). If you choose to inject 100,000 of B then you'll owe 10,000 (10%) or 10x as much. This despite the fact that 1 A == 1 B, it's just their velocity is different. Now which would you rather owe, 1000 or 10,000? Of course, this was assuming you go through bankers instead of simply printing the money and spending it, which you can do. But even if you print the money and spend it, printing costs you. And printing 100,000 B costs 10x as printing 10,000 of A. For the exact same effect.


One of the effects of having slow currency is that you end up with large standing (stagnant) pools of currency. This is called "savings" and is supposed to be a good thing. Except it's not, it's a really bad thing. Because it is NOT savings. What it is is hoarding. The difference between savings and hoarding is that savings includes investments and hoarding excludes investments.

So those stagnant pools of money are not doing anything for the economy. They're not being spent and they're not being invested. Now since you're printing so much more money, you'd think those stagnant pools of money wouldn't matter ... except they do. Because currency behaves somewhat like a liquid.

Let's think on that for a minute. Money doesn't behave like a gas because it seeks its own level of return and doesn't fill the space of economic activity equally. Money also sticks together instead of automatically dislodging other money. And most relevant for our concerns, money can undergo a phase transition called a 'depression' where it freezes.

Now as everyone knows from physics classes, freezing occurs around impurities and around already-frozen nucleation sites. So basically, by eliminating all stagnant pools of money and by heating up the money, you are massively increasing your buffer against freezing (depressions). This is a Good Thing.

High Velocity Jobs

Are there any businesses that become viable only with high velocity money? Naively, you wouldn't expect any since businesses still receive money at the same rate either way, and each business chooses for itself how much money it hoards. But upon closer analysis, increasing the velocity of money by setting a floor under it does have some effects on businesses. Specifically, it has effects on businesses that extend credit to their customers and depend on payments.

The reason for this is that by setting minimum velocities for money, customers have an enormous incentive to avoid putting off payments. So long as they have money on hand, they have an incentive to pay off their debts rapidly and promptly. Payments may still be missed if customers don't have money on hand, but they will rarely be late. This greatly reduces the risk for a business that extends credit because they can expect a much smoother and steadier stream of income.

And because of that more predictable income stream, the business needs to keep less money on hand for its own purposes. It can operate under tighter margins, with less overhead, and be more efficient. Thus some marginal businesses that would not exist with slow money, do exist with fast money.


One of the surprising consequences is that government and government utilities are such businesses. While government can't typically go out of business, it can end up compelled to lay off people as a result of tax arrears. And as it happens, this is exactly what happened in Austria during the Great Depression and the exact opposite of what happened in Worgl thanks to its negative-interest currency.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

George W Bush is the new Hitler

It's official folks, GWB is the new Hitler. A variant of Godwin's law has just been made for him.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Plenty of Jobs left to do in the Old Economy

Ahh karma economies, they are wonderful things. If you haven't already done so, you may wish to read Michael Goldhaber's essays on The Attention Economy on First Monday. An attention economy is evolving right now. Attention economies also figure prominently in fiction such as Elf Sternberg's Journals of Kennet Ryal Shardik.

But there's plenty of life left in the old material economies. Especially if we remove some of the perversities heaped upon them. For example, by substituting a decentralized negative-interest currency such as was used in Worgl, Austria to lift it out of the middle of the Great Depression. The bankers wouldn't like that though. Fuck 'em. Such a currency is necessary because there are still a million different jobs to be done in the physical economy. And millions of people unemployed or underemployed or badly employed that could perform these jobs.

A few thousand nuclear reactors have to be built across the planet. Thousands of kilometers of high speed rail track has to be laid in North America alone. Thousands more kilometers of subways and tramways. Fiber optic cables to every home. Sewage systems have to be rebuilt, water treatment plants completely redesigned, desalination plants built in the hundreds if not thousands, the electric supergrids have to be completely revamped. Tens of thousands of parenting centers have to be built. Entire cities have to be built in developing countries, and rebuilt in the USA. Undersea mining of copper and iron ores.

And just for fun, a nuclear-powered Orion spaceship, rebuilding the capital sector to use amorphous metals, 3D printers, and rebuilding companies from the ground-up on an anti-authoritarian basis.

There's no lack of meaningful, valuable things to do. There's no lack of resources with which to do them either. There's plenty of uranium lying around and with that uranium there's plenty of copper and zinc and everything else. There's plenty of potential workers going spare in useless sectors like the military, management, police and the law. They're just being wasted by a financial system that doesn't give a damn about creating meaningful wealth. It's time to change that.

1984's Oceania in 2007

I've often said that totalitarianism and authoritarianism are fully in line with the history and ideals of the USA. The reason Americans don't see this is because of certain other history and ideals of the USA. The history of propaganda and brainwashing.

The USA is an Orwellian nation so just about every single word in Americans' political vocabulary has been twisted and redefined in a way that makes the USA look better. Political words, as Americans know them, are out of line with their meanings as understood by the rest of the human species. They are useless for meaningful communication and only serve to glorify the USA.

So for instance, in the English language 'authoritarianism' means obedience to others' will. In the American language it means something quite different. It means collectivism. Thus, private property which is everywhere regarded as a deeply authoritarian and indeed totalitarian concept, doesn't raise an eyebrow in the USA. Meanwhile, collective endeavours like single-payer healthcare or mass transit or firearms regulations are regarded as "authoritarian" in the USA.

Going on, freedom (redefined as power), democracy (plutocracy), patriotism (fascism), liberty (egotism), free speech (apathy), human rights (civil rights). That last is an interesting one. As everyone should know, and a few people do know, the USA is one of a very small number of nations on this planet that refuses to even so much as recognize human rights. Americans buy into an obsolete and discredited 17th century theory of "natural" rights which none of the rest of the world believes. So-called "natural" rights are gibberish whose "justification" is a primitive State of Nature (ie, anti-civilization).

Furthermore, the American word "liberal" has no analoguous word in the English language. Everywhere else, classical liberals, neo-liberals, and just plain old liberals are right-wingers. Liberalism is an inherently right-wing ideology. As a result, American "liberalism" corresponds to no word in the real political landscape ... except for the term anti-fascism. So if Americans spoke English they would have to admit that their country has been on the brink of fascism continuously for many decades.

Another good example is the USA's being the only country hypocritical enough to use "free speech" as a code word for "end of conversation". How many times do people ritualistically say "I disagree with what you say but will defend with my life your right to say it" when they really mean "I don't give a fuck about what you say, it's never going to change my mind"?

The USA's attitude towards human rights far surpasses hypocrisy. It's a blank stare of non-recognition. Americans don't even comprehend the notion of universal human rights. And when they are told the human rights, they object that "those things aren't human rights!"

The Americans' use of NewSpeak instead of English is itself evidence of a deeply authoritarian culture. Admittedly, it's impossible to say this within NewSpeak errr American so we have to use English! So in the English language, it is fair to say that the USA is a deeply authoritarian culture and has been so since the Great Awakenings which have turned Americans into a nation of total control freaks. The current fad towards overt despotism was begun more than a century ago, not a few decades.

Magical Thinkers

The magical thinker has a complex of symptoms and deficiencies which is variously called Romanticism by David Brin, or Intuitionism, or Intuitive thinking, or Magical thinking, or when I'm feeling pejorative, monkey thinking. They are incapable of reasoning about abstractions because they have a mental handicap similar to but infinitely worse than dyslexia.

A dyslexic sufferer perceives the world as having symbols (barely above perceptions) to be jumping around and not staying still. They'll look at a page and the letters and numbers will be shifting. An extremely strong dyslexic would be incapable of learning to read.

Magical thinkers are much worse off because it isn't symbols that are jumping around but raw concepts. Just like a dyslexic can't read because the letters keep moving, so a magical thinker can't reason (assemble and disassemble ideas out of concepts) because the concepts keep moving around in their head.

Because of this they rely on pseudo-thinking, or lower-level thinking. This lower level thinking, the first three levels of Bloom's taxonomy of cognition, consists of strictly applying the concepts already in their possession. Basically, they are rearranging their prejudices and fitting concrete perceptions to already existing abstractions. Since assimilating (creating) new abstractions is as painful to the magical thinker as learning to read is to the dyslexic (except you only learn to read once) the magical thinker avoids forming new abstractions at all costs.

As a result of this, the magical thinker relies completely on a given set of 'received' abstractions. Abstractions like "nigger". Bingo, there you have racism. But also abstractions like "soul". It should interest you to read Jesse Bering's The God Fossil. Essentially, belief in souls (conservation of qualia / permanence of consciousness) is either innate or learned extremely early. It is only as a young child that most people abandon this belief.

Magical thinkers evidently can't discard such a concept because they 1) rely on it too much, or 2) can't assimilate structural identity. Structural identity by the way is the understanding that a molecule of CO2 is absolutely identical to any other molecule of CO2. Not "the same kind" but absolutely identical. Many (most? all?) magical thinkers cannot understand this concept. They believe that a molecule of CO2 has an essence that designates its identity. That it has a soul.

Other non-abstract "abstractions" which magical thinkers rely on and never learn to discard include emotions and anthropogenic thinking. You see this when religionists anthropomorphize the physical universe in a god. You also see this in eco-zealots when they anthropomorphize nature. Think of Mother Nature, Gaia, "nature will punish us", blah blah blah. You see this also in animal "rights" activists. The notion of assigning morality or rights to animals is self-contradictory gibberish because animals can't reason. That doesn't stop animal "lovers" from saying that animals are "just like us". Or hey, maybe they are. Maybe animals are just like them. Which would give us humans leave to slaughter them like cattle.

That's another problem with magical thinking. Because it is so unsophisticated, it is highly symmetric. It's based on raw associations, correlations, and not more complex asymmetric relations, causations. And the arrow of causality usually doesn't run the way the magical thinker would like it to.

Furthermore, since magical thinkers are incapable of reasoning, but sometimes capable of synthesis, it stands to reason that they would fuck up synthesis. That is, they do not comprehend synthesis. This explains why magical thinkers routinely confuse insight (a product of synthesis) with gibberish. Literal gibberish, sentences that do not have any meaning because they are either not well-formed or are self-contradictory. Generally, magical thinkers do not recognize self-contradiction because they cannot apply modus ponens. The deep magical thinkers think that contradictions are insights. For example: the Mystery of Christianity which is their "three in one" god. "mystery" is just a euphemism for gibberish.

Now consider the fact that magical thinkers confuse gibberish with insight, and that they believe in souls. Suddenly you have spirits and ghosts. If you actually reason about spirits you will realize why they are gibberish. Spirits are not actually non-corporeal because can be seen and affect matter. But they are also not corporeal because they can pass through solid objects. They're gibberish.

The interesting question is why this particular gibberish came about. The answer to this can be found in Lloyd deMause's Foundations of Psychohistory. Humanity was born deeply psychotic and hallucinatory. Hallucinations have many of the traits ascribed to spirits.

The same answer can be found in Julian Jaynes' The Origin Of Consciousness since human beings living three millenia ago constantly hallucinated gods and other divine beings. It was an efficient way for one hemisphere of the brain to communicate with the other hemisphere. And indeed, this explains the importance ascribed to numerology and incantations. Numbers and letters, symbols, are powerful Magic to primitive people. Because they fulfill the crucial function of intra-cranial communication.

Symbols, together with souls, constitutes the whole foundation of any mystical system. Think of JRR Tolkien's fondness for languages and his reliance on Spirits to describe LOTR's cosmogeny. So we see that this explanation describes a great many phenomena.

But the reason why I dragged out Jaynes and deMause is to outline a simple fact. Magical thinkers rely on thought processes and on "abstractions" which have reached us *from the dawn of time*. I do not believe the concepts involved are actually abstract, they are far too innate.

And since magical thinkers are incapable of reasoning and usually incapable of insight, since they depend on others for the few abstractions they can memorize by rote, this explains their obsession with Revelation. And since they have no ability to reason, since they are incapable of evaluating truth, since they have no access to truth, it also explains the various Relativisms. Especially intellectual relativism, where supposedly objective truth does not exist. Recognizing the existence of objective truth would require them to accept they are mentally handicapped and intellectually inferior.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why Europeans Are Irreligious

The more different religions there are, the more power they all have. Religions thrive on conflict and they smother themselves during peacetime. This is seen from the Americans' great diversity of religions and the Europeans' habit of state religion.

And really, how could it be otherwise when a single religion will never fulfill everyone's psychological needs? Multiple religions do not cancel each other by offering "options", they cover each other's lapses, preventing anyone from leaving the religious system.

But there's more. The state religions of Western Europe have transmuted into atheist religions. In France, state Catholicism transmuted into Gaulism. Quebec underwent something similar during its Quiet Revolution. Both are a belief in the power of the state to do good and an expectation that it actually do so.

Ironically, this "naive" belief in the goodness of the state leads to more effective (beneficial) control of the state by its people than the knee-jerk suspicion and animosity that is so common in Anglo countries. People will rise to your expectations or lower themselves to them. You just have to very strongly and consistently expect good out of states.

So the European State fulfills most people's need to subsume themselves in a power hierarchy. And that's why Europeans don't need to invent religions. Because they already have a religion which fulfills their psychological and all of their material needs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Social Implications of technology

The filthy rich and their sellout lackeys would like us to believe the notion that technology, its forms and its uses, are inevitable and socially neutral. They will all roast in the deepest pits of hell for their filthy lies and we will certainly ignore anything they have to say. On the other hand, the notion that technology is inherently neutral but that its development and application are manipulated by the rich and powerful in order to dig in their razor claws into all walks of life is very widespread among the intelligentsia. Now, the fact that technology can be, and is, twisted by those in power in order to benefit themselves is very well documented. But, is technology inherently neutral?

As it turns out, technology is not inherently neutral. All technologies have certain affordances, certain features that cause them to enable certain usages better than others and, this is the key, these usages may be political in nature. So for example, the entirety of firearms technology is suited uniquely to murdering people. And just as the affordances of firearms technology make it inherently evil so too other affordances make certain technologies either inherently oppressive or inherently liberating. And while it is possible to force an oppressive technology to be neutral or to turn a tool of the rich and powerful into a tool of the masses, the inherent natures of the technologies remains unchanged.

With this in mind, we turn to the important question. What is it that makes a technology a tool of the rich and powerful? A technology is such if its cost is high. Conversely, a technology is a tool of the masses if its cost is low. The reason why this is so is simple. Because capitalism is dysfunctional, producers are perpetually at the mercy of customers unless truly extraordinary measures are taken by government to protect producers.

As a consequence, when the customers of any given technology are the poor, the titular owners of the technology are at the mercy of the poor even if they themselves are rich. This is so in the case of phone technology. The converse also holds true, as is demonstrated in the case of fashion designers, butlers and other servants.

Note that customers aren't the same as consumers. The consumers of newspapers are their readers (the poor), but their customers are advertisers (the rich).


Newspapers are tools of the rich and powerful because a daily costs $2-$3 x 365 days = $730-$1095 a year (the price of a daily covers but a fraction of its cost). That's the price of a computer nowadays, and a computer can easily last up to 3 years without becoming obsolete. For $2190-$3300, you'll get an excellent computer and between one and three years of broadband. In addition, computers get you much more information than a single daily, in an infinitely more accessible, convenient, and anonymous manner. So for the cost of a single daily, you get a networked computer that can also deliver music, movies, games and applications. The economics of newspapers simply do not make any sense, except of course as vehicles for state and elite propaganda. We would be talking about what people euphemistically label 'respected opinion' and 'advertising' respectively.

Robert McChesney explains that once newspapers were inexpensive and took on the heavily "biased" flavor that we see with today's blogs -- owners wore their biases on their sleeves. At some point, they became more expensive to create, and choice dwindled to the point where a city might have only a couple dailies. Since such bias stank when there was little competition, journalism schools were created where "professional journalism" was taught. This carried an ideological bias in favor of "official sources" like politicians and businessmen; and journalists would be accused of injecting bias whenever they attempted to provide context along with their reporting. (There do exist useful ideas from professional journalism, but it has very damaging effects which keep the press from fulfilling the role of effective watchdogs. Many have noted that democracy requires an effective watchdog press.)

Public transit is a tool of the masses because it costs between $1000-1500 a year, or $2 per hour, including subsidies and capital construction. In contrast, an automobile costs $5500-7000 a year in direct costs and a further $7700-10,000 in indirect costs. Now, the $2 per hour is probably only operating costs so with other costs that brings it up to $3-$4, but the per-hour costs of an automobile is $40 assuming an average speed of 33 mph. That makes car usage a cool 10x more expensive than mass transit which is itself a cool 10x more expensive than bicycling. And bicycling has the advantages of being much more available, more accessible and vastly healthier. This is exactly why automobiles are tools of the rich. Additionally, automobiles serve as an obscure and overcomplicated means for the rich to literally suck lifetime from the poor.


The internet itself is a powerful tool for organization, for CHEAP organization. The rich and the powerful have never had any trouble organizing themselves, all it requires is manpower & money. Well, there's no shortage of craven power worshippers and eager sellouts hypnotized by the lure of the filthy lucre. The number of people that obediently chant Heil Mein Fuhrer when Dubya commands "go forth and murder" is testimony to this. Cheap organization is something new. This has very important implications.

The most important consequence is that it is becoming impossible to marginalize a majority of the population by disorganizing them. So the traditional organs of the rich, the media, the management, and the sell-out unions, will become increasingly less effective, possibly disappearing entirely. Another consequence is that otherwise completely marginal groups can organize into small but effective groups. All the hoopla about the long tail of market distributionis about exactly this; organizing otherwise completely marginal groups.

We can also observe the Rupert Murdochs figuring out how to extend their media monopolies to the net.

Some argue the Murdochs fantasies' aren't the same thing as reality. There is a very long history of various agencies trying to push through totalitarian control of the internet, with consistent failures and equally consistent bewilderment among the totalitarians about why they are resisted.

Why Has Nuclear Power Not Liberated Us?

As people should know, nuclear energy is the most affordable of all energy sources. And at 5000 USD for a lifetimes' supply of electric power, it is indeed very cheap. Cheap enough to be a tool of liberation. So why has nuclear energy not liberated us?

Aha, it is because there is a complication due to the high upfront cost of nuclear power which makes it crucially dependent on financing. As it happens, there are various technologies available to provide financing. In order of increasing cost:

  1. Self-financing under a negative interest currency regime (declared illegal by the rich)
  2. Sovereign debt
  3. Capital markets
And capital markets are controlled by the rich so long as we have positive interest currency. So that is one reason why nuclear power isn't a tool for the poor despite being extremely cheap. Cheap enough that a large metropolis should be able to buy into it.

Another reason probably lies in the entrenched coal industries of many countries. The coal industry in Germany is powerful enough to have secured for itself billions in subsidies and license to construct coal power plants to replace the nuclear power plants Germany is planning to shut down. With this kind of power in the hands of the coal industry, it is difficult to believe they did not have a hand in the downfall of the would-be coal-killer.

Yet another reason seems to be that the internet is new. The cost of organizing a million people to finance the construction of a nuclear power plant is low enough with the internet. But such massive organizing has no precedent. And in any case, (the American people despise all things collective( future link). Also, positive interest currency strongly discourages self-financing by artificially making it more expensive.

On Technological Progress

Finally, note that technological progress per se is not a tool of liberation. A technology is a tool of liberation only when it becomes cheap enough to be used by everyone. But it's a tool of oppression when it becomes cheap enough (from infinity) to be used by the rich. So when technology first intrudes into a new sphere of human life (such as information processing or surveillance or military hardware) then it is oppressive. But there is reason to believe that (technological progress will make the price of all technologies fall down towards zero (future link).

Further examples


  1. cheapest
  2. expensive
  3. oppressive


  1. condoms: $0.50 to $1.00 each, for < $500 / year
  2. drugs: $2000 + doctors + reduced lifespan + intensive care + other social costs


  1. eradication
  2. pay the social costs


  1. prevention
  2. treatment

Long-distance passenger transport

  1. (trains(future link)
  2. planes

Long-distance cargo transport

  1. trains
  2. trucks


  1. machinina
  2. digital cameras & editing software
  3. video cameras
  4. film cameras

Electronic networking

  1. fiber
  2. wireless
  3. broadband
  4. satellite


  1. single-payer
  2. private companies (eg, HMOs)


  1. negative interest (illegal)
  2. positive interest


  1. worker self-management (Soviets, Syndicates, Shoras)
  2. white collar totalitarianism (Capitalism, Bolshevism)


  1. eradication
  2. class warfare

Economic inequality

  1. eradication
  2. class warfare (pigs and jarheads)

Economic development

  1. agrarian land reform
  2. Structural Adjustment Plan

Land allocation

  1. Community Land Trust: eliminates speculation, disinvestment and overinvestment
  2. private capitalist market: kicks out working blacks in favour of white yuppies who can plonk down a million dollars (5-10x) for a property

Knowledge Store

  1. the web
  2. libraries

Knowledge Distribution:

  1. electronic journals $5 per journal
  2. paper journals: $2000 per journal

Moral Philosophy

  1. Humanism
  2. Christianity
  3. Islam
  4. Hinduism
  5. Tribalism


  1. conservation
  2. shifting demand to off-peak hours
  3. nuclear, hydro
  4. wind
  5. oil, gas; the global warming costs of past usage may easily climb into the tens of trillion USD range
  6. coal


This essay first appeared:

  2. (contains further elaboration of this essay in the comments, especially with regards to killing technologies)

Will be followed by:

  1. Death of Capitalism
  2. the American people despise all things collective
  3. trains

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Coase's Theorem

I just read an elegant presentation of Coase's theorem. It's well-worth reading for what it says at face value but it's even more interesting for the implications it left dangling.

One of those implications is that economists don't distinguish between fundamentally different situations like who pays for pollution controls. So long as pollution controls are paid (or not paid) if it is "efficient" for them to be paid for, the question of who pays for them is considered irrelevant. This is not consistent with people's daily experience.

Indeed, the question of who pays for pollution controls goes back to the initial allocation of property rights. Imagine considering the initial allocation of an apple tree found in the wild to be "irrelevant". Doesn't quite work, does it? Far from disproving the importance of the definition of property rights, Coase's theorem only underscores its importance in pre-choosing winners and losers.

Of course, if one set of investments is going to be winners and another set is going to be losers, if the former are going to be vastly more profitable at the expense of the latter, then it's going to affect the outcome of future investments. The profitable business is going to have more money to reinvest with than the less profitable business. We know from the oil industry that in the real world, companies don't invest far out of their sector. A steel mill isn't going to buy up resorts. And why should it anyways when it is doing a most profitable business?

So the definition of property rights matters. But it's actually worse than this because it's impossible to predict all the ways in which technology and society will evolve in the future. Consequently, it's impossible to predict all of the property distinctions human beings will consider meaningful and important. Who could have known two centuries ago that privacy would be a luxury? Or that airspace would ever become important?

Since we can't define property rights a priori, and Coase's results demonstrate there is no algorithm to decide who is the victim in a situation, it follows that property rights are an AI-complete problem. Only an intelligent agent can determine who can more easily afford to bear the burden of resolving a conflict given the available technology. The neo-liberal agenda dies stillborn.

As if that weren't enough, there is the moral dimension to consider. Certain exchanges simply shouldn't be forced for entirely moral reasons. Organ exchange is a good case in point. Organs may be donated but selling them degrades the value of human beings, degrades the value of living in a society that permits such things. Economists would no doubt like to call this an externality, and in a sense it is, but it's one whose value is entirely unquantifiable.

So Coase's results are extremely interesting but if you want to get a neo-liberal argument out of them, don't even bother.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Americans vs Human Rights

Americans talk a lot about "rights" and how the USA is a "free" country. Of course this is completely absurd, but we will here plumb the depths of the absurdity.

What do people mean by rights? Well, everywhere in the world, everywhere worth living anyways, by 'rights' people mean human rights. And by human rights they mean something like what has been codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So far so good.

Now what's interesting is that the UDHR has no resemblance whatsoever to the American Bill of Rights. And when presented with the UDHR, Americans will usually proclaim that these are not human rights. It is thus obvious that a mistranslation has occurred. Americans mistranslate human rights into their local concept of civil rights.

Natural Rights

It's important to appreciate that human rights are a 19th century invention. They were invented by the European communists and anarchists as part of their rejection of capitalism and private property. It is obvious that human rights are incompatible with the American religion of capitalism. But that's no problem to Americans.

It's not a problem because they can fall back on an obsolete 17th century theory of so-called "natural" rights. This theory has very distinctive features which mark it as fundamentally different from, and incompatible with, human rights theory. The key distinction is between so-called "positive" rights and "negative" rights. A distinction which Europeans, among other people who believe in human rights, almost universally consider to be incomprehensible gibberish.

It is known that there cannot be any meaningful distinction between "negative" rights and "positive" rights since the distinction is a mere linguistic trick. Most "negative" actions, even neglect, can be thought of as positive avoidance.

And in any case, there exist "positive" rights which must be fulfilled for the continuation of civilization. One of them is the right of an infant to be fed and attended to, including having eye-contact, without which the next generation would all grow to become psychopaths and civilization would instantly collapse.

But this shouldn't come as any kind of a surprise since the framework of "natural" rights is predicated on a state of savagery and not civilization. The wishes of wild men in a State of Nature defines "absolute" rights, and the wishes of government defines "civil" rights. The first is contrary to civilization, and the second is ... contrary to civilization.


But there is another ideology of rights common in the United States which denies all rights to human beings. All. Rights! This ideology is Propertarianism. Also known as Satanism since its adherents' ideology of egotism comes right out of the Satanic Bible. Also known as market fundamentalism since its adherents have an unvarnished adoration and worship of so-called "free" markets. Also known as right-libertarianism since its adherents have managed to steal and coopt the anti-capitalist label of 'libertarianism' from the anarcho-communists.

Propertarianism is an anti-human ideology. Literally anti-human since it assigns no rights whatsoever to human beings. In the Propertarian philosophy, all rights are assigned to property. This is why they talk of property rights. Human beings may or may not have property depending upon whether or not they are Owners. If they are Owners then they have the rights, property rights, which come with the property. If they are not Owners then they have nothing.

Propertarians claim that human beings have rights but what they mean is that human beings are objects which makes them property. Thus human beings have rights as property. Including the right to a master. Libertarians claim this master is by default "yourself". But only by default since you can always "freely" sell yourself to another. This is standard right-libertarian philosophy, followed by right-libertarians to greater or lesser extent.

Moreover, this doctrine of humans-as-property is made evident when it is contrasted against what the opinion of the rest of humanity. Because the rest of humanity rejects the notion that humans are objects that can be owned at all, even by "yourself". Not least because if you could own yourself then you could sell yourself (turn over possession of your body for another mind to run) except this is literally physically impossible, which reveals the notion as absurd nonsense.

It is clear that right-libertarian philosophy is organized around things, not around people. This is why there is no room for justice in right-libertarianism because things don't care about justice. What's more, the imposition of an owner onto every object is the manifestation of a psychological problem very similar to magical thinking. Because right-libertarians essentially personify objects. And correspondingly depersonalize human beings.

People in the Autistic spectrum seem to do that and it explains why right-libertarianism is so common among people with Asperger's syndrome. The originator of Thatcherism was an Asperger's sufferer.

[The reason magical thinkers and autistic people both support propertarianism are interestingly opposite. Magical thinkers support property rights because it simplifies abstract relations. There's no need to reason about human rights when you have property rights.

In contrast, autistic people support propertarianism because there's no need to synthesize messy human concepts. They're able to reduce all human-object relations down to 'is owner of'. Sure, they could reason about those concepts, but they can't create them in the first place.]

In any case, it is clear that right-libertarians must be mentally handicapped since their ideology has no connection with reality. There exist so many counter-examples of it that it is trivially disproved by looking around oneself. Right-libertarians would be easy to dismiss, to the psychiatric hospital, if it weren't for the vast reservoirs of magical thinkers who have lapped up portions of their ideology.

And now we have come full circle to Americans. Because Americans buy into the ideologies of Propertarianism and Natural Rights (and also Capitalism and Individualism) it is unavoidable that they are extremely hostile to Human Rights. And that is why the US government violates human rights on such a consistent and extreme basis. Because Americans. Hate. Human. Rights.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why Atheism Is Not A Religion

Recently, some people have gone around claiming that Richard Dawkins is turning atheism into a religion. This is hardly a new attack since religionists have always been claiming that atheism is just another religion. Of course it is nonsense, but why is it nonsense?

We'll start by noting that every religion is an ideology, but that not every ideology is a religion. To be a religion, an ideology needs a power structure. There are plenty of atheist religions, including but not limited to: Leninism, Maoism, Fidelismo, Bushism, Statism, Objectivism, and Buddhism. Maoism in particular had a sufficiently strong personality worship to make it a cult. So did Objectivism. But atheism is not yet nor is it becoming a religion.

There's a bit more than that because otherwise the Boy Scouts would be a religion. There needs to be an element of adoration, veneration or worship tied up in the hierarchy. So that's what a religion is: the confluence of an ideology, a hierarchy and adoration.

Getting back to Dawkins, the atheism movement epitomized by Dawkins just doesn't have the power structure to be a religion. Dawkins doesn't have enough power among atheists and it is exceedingly unlikely that he could ever accumulate such power. To see why, ask yourself what privileges he has gained from this movement. Also ask who his subordinates in the movement are supposed to be.

And although Dawkins is doing all the right things to set himself up as a religious figure, this is an illusion. What he's actually doing is setting himself up as an authority on this one narrow subject. Meaning, he's playing the kind of power politics which is the lifeblood of any respected scientist. His behaviour is hardly unusual.


We've defined religion in a very particular way. What's important here is this is not "yet another" definition of religion. It's the correct definition of religion. And it's correct because it:

  1. includes all the things which are understood to be religions
  2. excludes all the things which are understood to not be religions
  3. creates a meaningful and significant distinction
  4. different from all other distinctions
  5. broadening the utility of language for communication, and
  6. provides insight into the phenomenon

Now, it might seem that Maoism is not commonly understood to be a religion, but things are a bit more complicated. In reality, most people aren't familiar enough with Maoism to be able to judge whether or not it is a religion. Furthermore, most political scientists do consider Maoism to be a religion. So there's more than enough reason to at least set it aside from the class of counter-examples. In the case of Bushism, it's a combination of Americans being too close, not intellectually honest enough, and of their not being familiar with Bushism per se.

When you examine all the things on which there is broad consensus that they are religions or not religions, defining a religion as a power structure wedded to an ideology makes a lot more sense. It then becomes obvious that the supernatural claptrap that comes with religion is incidental to it. This is an important and meaningful insight, well worth the price of using an unusual definition.


Of course, having defined atheism as an ideology, opens it to attack as an ideology. But this isn't much of a vulnerability. Consider the case of anarchism. Some anarchy-ists are very ideological about anarchism, and other anarchs are pragmatic to an extreme. Since pragmatism is an intrinsic part of the anarchist ideology, it becomes clear that anarchism is both an ideology and its own anti-ideology. A notion that will resonate with anyone who's studied physics.

Atheism is in the same camp. It is both an ideology and an anti-ideology. It is a distinctly anti-religious ideology. But it is also its own anti-ideology, contrary to the claims of agnostics and contrary to the claims of the enemies of scientific rationalism. Agnostics being intellectually dishonest and scientific rationalism being an anti-method. Both of which will be the topic of future blog entries.

On these grounds, it's clear that atheism is impervious to principled attack. Principled being the key word here since there's no lack of manpower among the ranks of the intellectually dishonest and the magical thinkers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Buy Slow, Not Organic!

One of the arguments pushed by organics people is that organic foods taste better. This is false and it neatly demonstrates their magical thinking. There are actually several important dimensions to food:
  1. whole foods rather than processed foods
  2. varied vs bland breeds
  3. local vs mass agriculture
  4. organic vs chemical agriculture
  5. PETA vs torture meat

Now, in case you didn't know, torture meat tastes better and PETA kills animals. So that's one argument against treating animals "humanely".

The other thing is that 'varied + local food' is called Slow Food. It's the biggest food movement there is, possibly bigger than organic. And unlike organic, it actually makes a taste difference. And the reason is very simple. If you buy locally then the fruits and vegetables are picked when they are riper. That makes them taste better.

Now, it happens that organic farms tend to be small. So if you buy organic food then you're very likely to get slow food. And that will make a taste difference. The important point is that this is a historical accident which is being reversed as giant mega-corporations buy into the organic label. So no, organic foods do not taste better. If you buy organic from a giant mega-corporation, and there are a few around now, the taste difference should go away.

Another example is organic milk which may have a longer expiration date because it is filtered to higher standards. Again, just an accident that has nothing to do with its being organic.

Being unable to make important abstract distinctions (eg, local vs organic) is a hallmark of the magical thinker.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Green" as Vampirism

A general rule is that I will tolerate any one-time hit on nature and I am in favour of technologies that create new ecologies. But I am strongly opposed to any technology that demands continuous and ongoing consumption of nature to create value.

So I am strongly in favour of deep sea mining which may destroy "fragile ecosystems" of "unique species". These mining operations will put valuable minerals into the economy which will be recycled again and again and again while the affected ecosystems will recover. And I am strongly in favour of bioremediation using mycellia, living machines, urban gardens and green roofs. In contrast, I am strongly opposed to all biofuels, biomass and solar power.

The assumption that underlies this is that nature is different from us. It should be enjoyed at a distance. We shouldn't cover ourselves in nature or ingest it for the sake of ingesting it. Magical thinkers, eco-zealots, don't grasp the concept that nature is different from us and that by consuming it we are destroying it and not "becoming a part of it".

And this eco-vampirism of the "greens" shows up all over the place. It shows up in the greens' love of solar power and their desire to put solar panels on every rooftop. They are willfully blind to the fact they would be displacing green roofs and/or the opportunity for such green roofs. It shows up in their hatred of cities despite their having far lower ecological footprints than "eco"-housing built from "renewable" resources out in the middle of a forest.

It shows up in biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol) and biomass when they seek to consume nature to put it into the gas tank. It shows up in their enthusiasm for thermal depolymerization of manure and agricultural "waste". Because of course it's preferable to consume fertilizer than to give it away for urban gardens, compost heaps and living machines.

It's part of a general trend among "greens" that denies any standing for nature separate from humans. Either humans must consume nature or, in the case of the primitivists, humans must be consumed by nature. This kind of narrow-mindedness is actually broader than the "greens" since it shows up around civil engineers considering water-use issues.

For instance, one of the techniques used to "save water" is to line canals to "reduce water losses" This is good, right? Not so. Because by lining canals you reduce aquifer replenishment. It's not as if freshwater can be lost out on a high plain. Molecules of H2O aren't going to disappear or teleport themselves to the ocean.

In general, there's no such thing as "waste" when the environment is capable of making use of the resource. The environment can't use lead so it's a waste, it can use water so it's not a waste. It can use manure therefore ... it isn't a waste. At best it is being misused. And actually, since lead is used in industry, it too cannot be considered a waste. It can only be a waste if it is removed from the economy. In other words, labelling it a waste makes it a waste.

But even if eco-vampirism isn't restricted to "greens" it is particularly galling to find it among these hypocrites who so love to uphold their "closeness to nature" as a standard even as they are consuming it. Putting up solar panels doesn't make anyone "closer to nature" by the magical Law of Similarity. And living in a concrete jungle doesn't make one's lifestyle "unsustainable". On the contrary, using less of the same resources which the biosphere uses (land, water, sunlight) by relying more on the resources it doesn't use (copper, iron, uranium) makes one more sustainable.

The basic difference between greens and rationalists is the rationalists don't need to consume, or become, nature in order to appreciate it. They can enjoy it at a distance, marvelling at its presence. Nor do they need to put it to any utilitarian purpose. But best of all, rationalists are not scarcity-minded individuals. There is plenty of energy around, nuclear energy, so we hardly need to exploit nature to get it.

Since greens are magical thinkers they do not grasp many logical connections. Such as that by more efficiently exploiting nature, they impose enormous costs on the biosphere. I do grasp it and that's why I'm against biomass and in favour of nuclear power. Because nuclear power does not displace nature and so does not compete against it. Because nuclear power stands apart from nature it also doesn't touch nature.

And that is why "tree-hugger" is the worst possible epithet for an environmentalist. A tree-hugger's compulsion to hug nature to himself is so strong he willingly crushes it. Now if only someone would pull a gun on them and yell "Sir, put your hands on top of your head and step away from that ecosystem!"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Organics, or Why Magical Thinkers Should Be Hated, part IV

Here are the advantages of organic agricultural practices:

  1. more minerals in vegetables
  2. no antibiotics abuse in livestock
  3. much higher biodiversity in farm fields
  4. no dying farm workers
  5. lower water use and topsoil depletion, less desertification
  6. lower expenditures for farmers leading to more reliable profits

The above are facts. And yet these are the half-baked "arguments" which miserable "organic" idiots keep dragging out:

  1. taste better (this is largely the result of processing, breeding, and self-delusion)
  2. use land more efficiently (this one isn't trotted out so often anymore since it has been largely disproved)
  3. save animal welfare (screw animals, what about poor people?!)
  4. less toxic than pesticide-laden food (based on what evidence?)

Organic people are the kind of utter fucking scumbags who care more about some cow or pig's welfare than an immigrant farm worker dying of pesticide poisoning.

Aliens Don't Exist

The reason people keep bringing up ridiculous notions about aliens is their failure to grasp history on an astronomical scale. This is especially the problem of the SETI-type chanting yoyos who keep bringing up Drake's equation to say that other civilizations must exist but be "improbable" so that we haven't "contacted" them. In their ossified brains they've got some small notion of the many billions of stars which are in our galaxy, but not of the billions of years which lie in its past.

We will start with a very simple assumption. The galaxy as we see it is the most probable way for us to see it. And from this assumption we will recover that aliens (other advanced technological species) do not currently exist in our galaxy and will never exist.

To start off with, how long does it take for an intelligent species to rise and colonize the entire galaxy? It takes roughly 100,000 years. Because the galaxy is 100,000 light-years in diameter and civilization arose on Earth a mere 10,000 years ago. Even under the most pessimistic assumptions, within 100,000 years of its rise, an intelligent technological species will have colonized half of the galaxy.

How many opportunities have there been in our galaxy for an intelligent species to rise and colonize the galaxy? In the last 65 million years alone, since the extinction of the dinosaurs, there have been 650 chunks of 100,000 years during which a civilization could have arisen and colonized the galaxy. In the last 13 billion years, since the first generation of stars seeded the universe with heavy metals from which planets and living beings could form there have been 130,000 such chunks of 100,000 years.

What is the probability that an intelligent species will rise and colonize the galaxy? We will not derive this theoretically because we don't have the necessary astronomical data to do so. We will rather derive this statistically using the observations that 1) we exist, and the assumption that 2) the galaxy as we see it is the most probable way for us to see it.

The fact that we exist means that a previous civilization has not colonized the galaxy. It simply isn't to a civilization's benefit to "preserve" a planet for hundreds of millions of years on the off-chance that a species might evolve to intelligence and technology. Far better to colonize the planet and use it productively. Since aliens have not done so, because we exist, it follows that aliens haven't colonized our galaxy in the last 13 billion years.

So the probability of us seeing the galaxy as we do is ((1-X)^650)*X if we unreasonably assume that civilizations could only have arisen in the last 65 million years. And ((1-X)^130,000)*X) if we reasonably assume that such a civilization could have arisen at any time in the last 13 billion years. In both cases, X is the probability of a civilization arising and colonizing the galaxy within a specific chunk of 100,000 years. These two probability functions have maxima which correspond to the value of X that is most compatible with us seeing the galaxy as we actually see it.

So in the 65 million year case, the probability of a civilization arising in any given 100,000 year chunk is about 1.5 in 1000. And in the 13 billion year case, the same probability is about 7.7 in 100,000. This is the chance that we will meet aliens as we colonize our galaxy. So yes, SETI is a gigantic waste of time, effort and resources because the aliens really aren't waiting for us. With greater than 99.8% certainty. If you are very, very optimistic.

See also the continuation What Galactic Colonization Really Looks Like. And the meta-argument SETI types are Creationists.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reddit Censors People

Looking at my comments from my account, everything looks normal. Looking at my comments from any other account and they look deleted. Reddit not only censors people but it's gone to the trouble of building the capability to censor people without being detected. And then the assholes scream up and down about how they don't do that kind of stuff. Lying scum.

More details:

On the day I was censored, I noticed two funny things. First, my comments started life at 0 points instead of 1 point. Second, they didn't get downmodded by the army of cretins that considers themselves my enemies. The first is suspicious behaviour but could have been a glitch. The second, after a suitable period has passed, is solid evidence of censorship. I wrote my suspicions in a comment and another user told me how it looked to everyone else.

My comments were still present on my user page but they were deleted in the threads. EXCEPT for the user whom they were a direct response to. In other words, despite appearing as if they were public, my comments acted as private messages. And what's worse, everything was designed to LOOK normal to the user being censored. The conclusion is inescapable: the reddit team went out of its way to build a capability to censor people while hiding the censorship.

At some point, one of the cretins running reddit must have cottoned on to what an unmitigated public relations disaster they had on their hands and un-censored me. Today, there is no trace that I have ever been censored. Even my day-old comments have been duly downmodded. The only thing that remains is my enduring hatred and enmity of the reddit team. Not for having censored me but for hiding the censorship.

I can trust people who are evil-minded, if only that they will stay evil-minded. But I cannot trust people who lie.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Americans' Self-Deception About America

There's an awful lot of lies about the USA's history which the left-wingers and pseudo-left wingers tell themselves.

Let's start with that line about how guns were supposed to be only owned by militias. Revisionist history! Privateers had access to frigates. That'd be exactly as if Bill Gates bought himself a battleship. Anything short of a first-class military vessel, think of an aircraft carrier, would have been accessible to the rich.

Continuing with the history, the USA never had a social or anti-clerical revolution. It had a coup led by rich landowners against a foreign king. Following which the rich landowners went around stealing all they could from their neighbours the Loyalists, slitting their throats, and driving them to their deaths by the thousands. Typical behaviour for the money-grubbing backstabbers since they had plenty of practice on the Amerinds.

Additionally, the USA was never a democratic nation nor was it ever meant to be a democratic nation. There is a world of difference between a democratic nation like modern Switzerland or ancient Athens, and a republic like Rome or the USA.

The USA also isn't nor was it ever a secular nation. It was founded as an alliance of mutually incompatible theocratic states. Every state had their own version of Christianity and didn't want the others to impose their Christianity on it. They had no problem with theocracy per se so long as it was their version of it.

A secular country is one that doesn't want religion mixed in with politics, period. It's the opposite of a theocracy, such as Islamism. American christofascism falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

The problem Americans have is they assume that 'secular' means "anything but theocracy". Except it doesn't. Secular is the opposite extreme of the spectrum from theocracy. Secular is good, theocracy is bad, and the USA isn't secular.

Which is why Americans don't accept the common definition of the word. It makes them look bad. It's also why they don't accept the common definitions of left-wing, right-wing, fascist, liberal, libertarian, freedom, democracy, human rights, terrorism or even war. Because it would make them look bad.

The USA is Oceania in 1984. Freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, war is peace. Praise Big Brother Jesus and praise the Repocratic Party. PRAISE boy! Now salute the flag. SALUTE it!

The USA was always meant to be the kind of backwards fucked up country it is today. And if you don't like it then stop worshipping the US Constitution's framers. And stop using words like "Fathers" in a reverent tone. The image it conjures is altar boys sucking priestly cocks.

Just because you live in the USA doesn't mean you have to be an American.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Connections, or: My 1573 Pet Peeves

From time to time people ask me why I get worked up over an issue, like say solar power. Well, it's far more general than just energy issues. The thing is, I can see connections between very different fields. When I was an adolescent, I saw the connections between parenting and politics, politics and psychology & biology, and so on. And I couldn't stand, or understtand, how people were so stupid as to "focus" on only one little area to the detriment of everything else. It's all connected so if you don't understand everything then you understand nothing. And it's all connected in ways you can't imagine. There's even a direct connection between quantum mechanics and moral theory.

When I talk to people, I can tell a lot about their thoughts, their way of thinking and their values from things they don't mean to say and the way they speak. And remember, it's all connected. So a solar power enthusiast is someone who doesn't care about industry and doesn't care about economics. It's someone who doesn't care about industrial civilization. It's someone who doesn't care about humanity. They haven't made the effort to care.

And politics plays into it. Because when they talk, they give ammunition (political leverage, space, lebensraum) to the eco-zealots who are magical thinkers who literally want to destroy humanity. You think these people are fiction or exaggeration but I've met them. You probably have too except you don't know what to look out for. And think about this. The Nazis only wanted to destroy part of humanity. The eco-zealots want to destroy ALL of it.

The same for right-wingers, many of whom are mostly sane, who give ammunition to the militarists and the anti-human market fundamentalists. Who are literally mentally handicapped and whose vision would destroy any society they are handed the reigns to. There's all kinds of political connections in a public space. A whole web of thoughts and positions. And violently hacking at a little piece of it is going to tug on distant parts. And you may think they're unrelated but I see the connections. And I wonder how you can not see them.

Think Globally, Act Locally. It's not just a slogan, not for me.

So, you're getting a Delicious account

Since you're about to create a delicious account I'm going to teach you how to use one. Because I'm really annoyed that nobody seems to understand how to use one properly.

If you look into my account, you'll see about 1000 items and 100 tags. And you'll see a grand total of 5 or so tags that apply uniquely to a single item. If you look into comparably sized accounts you'll find 1000 items and about 2000 tags (more tags than items) and you'll find literally hundreds of unique tags.

The end result is that you can see all, every one of them, of my tags on a single web page (in a cloud). You can't even find other people's tags unless you use the search function. Which requires that you know what tag you're looking for. That's an obvious catch-22! Me? I didn't even know you could search for tags because I've never needed to. They have always been just there where I can see them.

How to get an account looking like mine (useful) and not others' (useless)? First when you tag items, try to avoid duplicates (eg, politics and political). If you find out you've made a duplicate, there's functions in delicious to rename or delete tags (in settings then tags then rename).

Second, try to avoid tags you know you won't reuse. Don't tag a video with LaraFlynnBoyle or kittens. Unless you're obsessed with them, you're never going to reuse those tags.

Third, once you've got about two dozen tags, only use your own tags and don't blindly use other people's tags. Only add new tags if you think your existing tags aren't enough. Meaning, there's something obvious (eg, statistics) which you'll run into again and again or something (eg, democracy) which you specifically want to keep track of.

Fourth, tags with hundreds of items are useless, ideally you want each tag to have about two dozen items. So as soon as a tag has become too general (too frequently used) then don't count it in the above calculations, especially the "do I have enough tags" calculation.

Oh, and a really good heuristic to use to answer "do I have enough tags" is "will this item end up in at least one obviously related category (tag) that has no more than two dozen items". If the answer is yes then you have enough tags. If the answer is no, that still doesn't mean you should create one. Especially if you can't think of a good tag.

In summary, think, make conscious decisions, don't just blindly use others' tags. You only use others' tags for the first 20-100 items you tag. After that you need to be up and running on your own. So get into the habit of thinking from the beginning.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reply To People Who've Put Up Solar Panels

So you've put up a bunch of solar panels for 20,000 USD out of pocket, and another 20,000 in government subsidies, and you'll get free electricity for 20 years? Think you got a good deal? Think again. Wouldn't you prefer something reliable that met ALL of your electric needs? Something that worked everywhere on Earth? Something that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg?

You could start a nuclear-consumers' coop. Get together with a million people in your area and build your own nuclear power plant. It would only cost you about 5,000 per person for 2 kilowatts each. This is much, MUCH cheaper than solar panels for equivalent capacity. And it would last a solid 60 years, not 20-30 years.

Because if you live in the USA then you can actually do that. The NRC has several nuclear power plant designs with blanket approval. You need a site license but once you have that, you just build the power plant as designed and run. There's a rogue power company that's willing to build and operate a power plant wherever in the country you want one. They've already considered a nuclear power plant in Idaho so they'd be willing to do it. So you'd just partner with them though you might have to partner with your local utility too. But if your State allows you to specify where your power comes from ....

One problem would be getting the heavy forgings. There's only 8 forges in the world that can cast ingots in the 40 tonne category. You'd need to order (dozens) from one of them. They require a deposit so pretty much as soon as you order your nuclear power plant, long before the parts arrive, 80% of its cost is locked in. You'd also have to manage the permit approval process since it takes a 30-50 million or so just to apply.

The big advantage you have is that if a million people are willing to put up 5,000 each then your cost of money is rock bottom. Even if you give them 5% on their money, that's still rock bottom. Your disadvantage is that you'd need to organize all of this. Your really big advantage is that once it was organized, it would be impossible to kill. Power generation projects by private generators meet a LOT of resistance. With publically-owned utilities, a lot less. With a community owned utility? It'd be a dream come true.

Now let's talk about money. The AP1000, that's one of the designs approved by the NRC, would cost 1000-1400 USD per MW. For 1 million people each with 2 kW that's 2 GW so we're talking two plants for 2000-2800. Construction and financing are 58% of the costs of an AP1000 so at 5000 per person you've covered construction, financing, fuel, maintenance, operation for 60 years and decommissioning at the end of it all.

It's possible, not likely but possible, that you run into political resistance. If you do then you'll want to take advantage of the deal in the Nuclear Programme 2010 which covers part of construction cost overruns. Which would be minimal since those are generally due to delays and the increased cost of financing, which you don't worry about because you've got cheap money. It's also likely you'd get a discount on the 2000-2800 since hey cheap money again. And if you take advantage the the NP2010 then you get some spare change from Congress for your trouble during the first 8 years of operation. A few tens of million each year for 8 years, not a lot of money. If the NP2010 is used up before you get your chance though that's actually even better since other generators will have taken the early risks before you.

And of course, there's always a bailout option. The AREVA consortium ordered their heavy forgings before they had approval even for their nuclear reactor design. Because they knew that if worse came to worse, they could always reuse those forgings in Flammanville, France where another nuclear power plant is going up. They got to cut time at no risk. With a standard design, it's entirely possible you could buy yourself an insurance (a guarantee of a buyer) in case things don't work out.

Doable? Definitely. You just need to get up the gumption to actually do it. Free electric generation for 60 years. Think about it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Problem With Rawls' A Theory Of Justice

Where to start? I could go into how Rawls makes a big mistake in what the people would decide when he claims that 'freedom of religion' would end up a human right. It can't for elementary reasons and they wouldn't anyways because many atheists wouldn't stand for it. That's his liberal prejudices at work, much like Kant's Christian prejudices led him to claim that suicide was immoral. I could even go into how Rawls makes a fundamental, and monumental, mistake in his definition of a 'minimal being' since he describes a database without any motivation (ie, not an agent). But that would be trifling with details.

The big problem with Rawls' A Theory Of Justice is this ... it's impenetrable. If you can pick up a programming language specification and inhale it all in one sitting, then yeah you'll do fine. Otherwise? Forget it. Rawls' actual theory could be written up in 40 pages but his book has 500 pages. Of course its impenetrability is common to all philosophy texts. They're all padded with historico-linguistic shite because philosophers confuse the history and the terminology of their field with its actual subject matter.

This is similar to how physicists screw up physics education by mashing mathematics and history into actual physics. So anyone who's tried to learn about quantum physics will understand what's missing in A Theory Of Justice by comparing mainstream physics textbooks with Scott Aaronson's essays on the subject. Essays like Quantum Computing for High School Students and PHYS771 Lecture 9: Quantum.

But this impenetrability serves to conceal a much deeper and intractable problem with the book. A Theory Of Justice is nothing but a work of propaganda targeted at moral philosophers. It's written in such a way as to ensure that the smarter you are, the less chance there is you'll call bullshit on it. It hammers you over the head with references and tires you out with long-winded explanations. But it's bullshit. Not the "conclusions" Rawls comes to, the universal human rights regime predated Rawls by several decades, but every single step used to get there! A Theory Of Justice fails in its goal and is particularly annoying while doing so.

Why is it annoying? Well let's start with Rawls' attempt to pull a Galileo. He leads the reader down a winding road constantly saying "you know this, you know this, you've always known this" and you end up in a completely different place from where you started and the truth is *no* you did not know any of this shite which is the exact opposite of everything you ever believed. Propaganda can be convincing without being logical but when it aspires to be a work of philosophy then that's fairly damning. Manipulation is, or at least should be, a big no-no in philosophy.

What Rawls Should Have Done

Rawls starts with an individual(istic) human and tries to persuade and cajole this person to accept a collective perspective. But this is utter nonsense and the reason why is because morality is collective by definition. So there, just short-circuit all of that nonsense and start off from the collective viewpoint like any other theorem in mathematics.

Definition $

MORALITY: blah blah collective blah blah

Because all you have to do to justify that particular definition of morality is to contrast it with a very similar definition of ethics. The only significant difference between them is that ethics is individualist and morality is collectivist. Ethics defines a being's (individual or group) relation to other beings that are fundamentally different from it. Morality defines the INTRA-relations of a group of beings who are fundamentally similar, since they're all part of the same group. So all you have to do is set up two definitions, compare and contrast, and bingo you've got collectivity. By definition. And that takes care of a good couple chapters of Rawls' book.

Once you're at this collective point, by simple definition, all you have to do is go 'lo and observe', this is freaking mathematics. You've got a definition, right? Now let's start with our assumptions. What are the assumptions? Let's start with ... nothing. And bingo, you've got something very close to the veil of ignorance. You don't need to go on a long-winded rant about how allowing people to use knowledge of their station in life to determine their station in life is circular reasoning. Which is a weak argument anyways. You don't need to make that argument because it's obvious: any theorem you can construct using the fewest assumptions (knowledge) possible is automatically stronger than a theorem using more assumptions (more knowledge).

And at this point you introduce the analogue of self-consistency and contradiction. And of course you're talking about a meta-structure of morals. Not one morals but a whole set of morals (theories) dependent on what kind of knowledge (assumptions) you made to begin with. And you can reason about this meta-structure.

You can observe that this structure has minima everywhere, infinitely many of them, but only a small number of maxima. So obviously the maxima are more important. And for all you know, there's only one global maximum and at that point it becomes extremely important. And this is all automatic due to familiarity with mathematics. The things that are rare are those that matter more.

And so it "happens" that a society with the most extensive system of human rights possible is a just society. Not because we pulled it out of our ass like Rawls does but because this is what we label the maximum because we really care about that maximum and not because we have any preconceptions about what "justice" is.

Actually, we do have a preconception what justice is, it's what we would expect should happen. But how does this connect with Rawls' notion of "the most extensive human rights"? Oh right, because we're supposed to find these rights in our self-interest, because Rawls has written a propaganda book. Not because ... oh real people in a society must choose a notion of morality and mathematics tells us there's only one special case that stands out. Because hey, that would smack of inevitability and not self-interest. And we all want to keep self-interest in morality, right?

And that's Rawls' work in a nutshell. An attempt by a liberal to rationalize a communist idea, universal human rights, based on egotistic self-interest. Horribly misguided and boring too!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hating the world and the people in it

Look around you at the Earth and you'll see a world of genocide, mass murder, rape, neglect, infanticide, child abuse, sexual slavery, child sexual slavery, impoverishment, insanity, misery, death and slavery.

Who is responsible for this world? It's the people in it, the people who are psychotic and psychopathic, delusional and unfeeling. It isn't "economics" nor "technology" nor "physics" nor "human nature". Economics is what we make it, technology is sufficient, physics doesn't hinder us, and there is no single human nature.

Look around at the world, really look at it, and the only healthy response, the only response motivated by human feeling and reason, is hatred. Frustration with what it could be and deep loathing of what it is. And for this reason the only possible response to the people in this world, the people who make it the living hell it is today, is hatred too. Or just perhaps compassion. But never love.

One cannot love a world of misery unless one is greatly deranged. Nor can one love a world of masochists and sadists and psychotics and psychopaths without being deeply disturbed. One may freely hold hatred and contempt in one's heart, and when the planets align one may find compassion in it, but love of this world and communion with the people in it is nothing short of insanity.

Empathy and mental health do not mean that one is nice, polite, forgiving or accepting of one's fellow man. On the contrary, mental health in a sick world means that you regularly scream in rage and frustration, that one is "maladjusted" and "anti-social", that one hurls imprecations at the casual injustices of the world. And if this great swell of anger falls on other human beings then so be it.

No person can willingly take the pain of this world without being a martyr. And since martyrdom is a sign of insanity, no sane person can be a saint. What matters isn't sainthood but reason, empathy and justice. If you hate humanity for its shortfalls of reason, empathy and justice, then so be it.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

If I were an Evil Emperor

  1. I would not think that war solves every problems
  2. I would not make a laughingstock of myself by posturing
  3. I would shoot all obsequious yes-men
  4. I would not open my economy to competition with a slave holding state
  5. I would not consider the foundation of my industrial economy to be passé
  6. I would not confuse price with value
  7. I would not keep my colonies de-industrialized since they are my colonies and my power base
  8. I would execute every shill economist and political scientist working for the good of some privileged class at the expense of the good of my empire
  9. I would make an example out of anyone claiming my empire doesn't matter because the world is going to end within a few years
  10. I would deal with everyone regardless of their ideology, I am strong enough to let people think they are free while manipulating them for my uses
  11. I would execute the landed gentry, their existence demoralizes the workers who are the foundation of my empire