Saturday, March 29, 2008

Natural vs Artificial

From a lovely little discussion I just had.

There is a fundamental magical difference between anything artificial and anything natural.

In fact, this magical difference is even enshrined in physics in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The laws of physics are deterministic until human beings get involved at which point they become magically non-deterministic (whatever that means).

It is also enshrined in the Lockean doctrine of "natural rights" which the USA believes in. Negative rights are natural (don't require human action) and positive rights are artificial (do require human action). In the communist doctrine of human rights, there is no distinction.

This magical difference is why watching someone drown to death is okay but drowning them yourself is wrong, as every red-blooded American is taught to believe since true freedom is the freedom to drown.

This magical difference is why 4 to 8 milliSieverts per year of natural radiation is perfectly acceptable. But 0.05 milliSieverts per year due to standing outside of a nuclear plant 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year is totally unacceptable.

So now you know the reason why the actions of quadrillions of natural cosmic rays is unimportant compared to a few dozen artificial beams in the LHC. Obviously the latter are much more threatening to us in magic-magic land.

So if a black hole 'just happens', its okay, but if we make it ourselves: no way!

If it just happens then it's nature's revenge or proof of the sinfulness of humans.

Nature is Mother and God is Father, you know. And they LOVE us even as they beat us. In fact, that's WHY they beat us. Because we deserve it!

Magical thinkers "reason" using magic because they're incapable of using logic. In fact, they're incapable of grasping any abstract concept at all.

Hence why they have to recycle the few concepts they do have. Which invariably turn out not to be abstract like "mortality risk" but rather concrete anthropomorphizations like "mother won't be pleased".

Mother won't be pleased with us making black holes on our own. In fact, mother won't be pleased with us doing anything, being independent like and saying what a murderous fucking bitch she is.

Why economics isn't a science

Some unredeemable fools claim that various and sundry economists, notably Friedrich Hayek, are "empirical". This is unbelievable bullshit, but to appreciate the absurdity of that statement, one must know what 'empirical' means in the first place. Which is something economists uniformly don't know.

What does empiricism mean?

Empiricism means that you collect experimental evidence in order to test theoretical models. Those theoretical models are then verified or disproved to the extent that they conform to the experimental evidence. Most crucially, a single mismatch between any part of a model and the corresponding experimental evidence is sufficient to disprove the model.

What do economists mean?

Economists mean that they dream up whatever model they like and if some tiny subset of the model happens to match the experimental evidence then it is verified. It is by no means necessary for a model to match all of the evidence or even most of the evidence. It is sufficient for the model to match some of the evidence for it to be considered "empirical".

For instance, it is possible (and it has been the case) that a model whose every single assumption is violated by reality is still considered correct because some of its conclusions (the ones the economists particularly like) happen to match the evidence.

In fact, it's worse than even that because economic "models" are not even required to be causal. This is actually what the economists mean by "empirical". They mean that the models they dream up are purely analytic tools that have no basis in reality, logic or causality.

To an economist, not only is it perfectly acceptable to model the real physical world as an AD&D fantasy, ignoring the fact that elves, orcs and goblins don't exist. No, far more than that, it's acceptable for the proposed AD&D fantasy to be fuzzy and ill-defined. It doesn't even have to be coherent!

Economics is what you get when you get people to manipulate a bunch of meaningless symbols and numbers. Symbols and numbers which they've had to memorize because they don't actually mean anything. Not in the real world and not in any world since economics falls short even as pure mathematics.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Modern Myths

Someone asked me what are the greatest myths that people hold today.

The biggest myths are probably this:

first, that popularity is more likely to make something true rather than false.

second, that authority is more likely to make something true rather than false.

third, fourth and fifth, that there is something called the scientific method which the scientific community uses which grants it legitimate authority.

These are the main epistemological myths. The number of domain-specific myths are legion.

There is the myth that democracy is electioneering, thus that Cuba is less democratic than France, let alone Canada, let alone the USA.

In physics there is the myth that nondeterminism is intelligible and meaningful.

In metaphysics there is the myth of functional eliminationism, that qualia do not exist.

In politics there are the myths that human rights are anything other than a communist programme and that property is in any way compatible with human rights.

In economics, that financial (aka mainstream, Austrian, Chicago, etc) economics has any bearing to reality and is anything other than a rationalization for economic predation.

There is the myth of Relativism in anthropology, the myth that anthropology is a science instead of an anti-science. The myth that history is a science instead of record-keeping.

There is the myth that human cognition is unitary, that it can't be categorized in levels.

There is the myth that morality applies universally to all humans regardless of cognitive capacity.

There is the myth that genetic diversity is more important than intellectual diversity.

There is the myth that physical reality is magically different from mathematics.

There is the myth of magic, of descendance, of origins, of provenance, of essence, which inflicts all magical thinkers.

There is the myth that the past was better, that the elitism and exceptionalism of feudalism is "grand".

There is the myth that sacred (fearsome and incomprehensible) is good and profane (understood and controlled) is bad.

The most personal myth is that your parents weren't abusive when you grew up because hey, you love your parents right?

The greatest of all domain-specific myths is that complex systems (humans, cities, societies, countries, economies, even transportation networks) are linearalizable. That they can be reduced down to linear superpositions of component parts.

But if you give up the first five, the rest fall down one after the other like dominos.