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And I've never been one to let the carrier.. drop
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sheer's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, April 21st, 2019
10:51 pm
On recent events

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I’m a vocal critic of Christianity. Pretty much anyone who reads the blog knows that. However, I recently donated to help rebuild some churches in the south that had been burned by miscreants. What gives?

I guess I probably should have mentioned before. I don’t want Christians dead. I don’t want them hurt. I want them to stop hurting other people, but I don’t think the way to get that is to hurt them. I know this is a popular point of view – our army is based on the thesis that the way to get people to behave differently is to shoot at them – but I think in time we will come to see that it’s a small-minded idea – that in fact you start cycles of war and retribution that can take hundreds of years to end.

And, apparently – I wouldn’t have guessed this, but what actions we take tell us these things – if you’re a Christian and they burn down your church, and I have some extra dollars, I will help pay to rebuild it. I don’t think anyone should have their homes or community buildings destroyed because of who they are or what they believe. Especially since a lot of this is based on the unfortunate repeat-rise of the KKK , the proud boys, and groups like them. My hope is we will get beyond all this, because it’s pretty dystopian and I don’t want to live in a dystopia.

But, in the meantime, my thoughts are with all the people who have churches and homes on fire, or exploding, and I hope you all survive the adventure and heal as best you can. And I hope some day we learn not to use violence to settle everything.

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019
6:50 pm
Collectivism and money

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

One of the interesting realizations I had recently is that one of the mistakes that has been made in attempts to implement collectivist economies in the past is the insistence of sticking to “money” – i.e. the idea that you can successfully represent the value of everything as a single number. I’ve talked in the various bits about bucketized currency about why you can’t accurately model value in the real world just by using one price, and I’ll probably go on about it at some length again later, but for the moment, let me just mention that if you’re not using flow-based resource management or production for use, you’re still falling into a lot of the fallacies that keep breaking the capitalist system. I know that the USSR, for example, had a currency, which makes me suspect that it was not really all that collectivist.

One of the things that I keep noticing is how various failures to track and respect value tend to make the on-paper accounting system get out of whack with the real world, and how this leaves us with the impression that we are broke when in fact we are not. I’ve come to the conclusion that the powers that be like it that way – seeing Trump has finally convinced me that there really are people like the villains in Disney films, who cackle gleefully at the idea of enslaving others and are overjoyed to know that somewhere, someone is suffering because of decisions they made.

Of course, those disney villain types are a lot of what makes designing a resource allocation system so difficult. If everyone was going to play fair and within the rules, we wouldn’t actually need a RAS at all – a few large warehouses full of stuff per community and a agreement to clean stuff up and bring it back, and to fix anything that gets broken, would be all we would need. But, of course, any time there’s a system someone is going to have to try and game it. And clearly there’s some people who take great joy in making sure they get the biggest slice of the pie – even, ironically, if they’re *getting a smaller piece than they would have if everyone had gotten the same slice*. (That is, as far as I can tell, where we currently are – if we worked together and implemented some of the technologies I have spoken of elsewhere in this blog, we’d all be – at least in terms of the experiences we were having – rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But the people with the most resources – the ones who could most help make that happen – would rather be known as the head cheese, than have more because we all have more)

Anyway, back to my original point. One example of this is overdraft fees. Now, first of all, these obviously don’t represent anything rational in the real-value world. It didn’t cost the bank *anything* that the overdraft occured, other than the very tiny loss of imaginary fractional banking reserve headroom. In the real world, no resources were lost. However, the bank robs (no other word for it) the customer based on the overdraft, thusly making the accounting system get out of whack with real world resources.

I don’t know that the USSR specifically had overdraft fees, but I do know that not all dollars – or rubles – are created equal, so any time you have the idea that you can put a price on something you’re probably falling for the fallacy of price. A dollar that buys a robot-farmed apple is a much “cheaper” dollar than a dollar that buys a handmade item made by a craftsman. A dollar that buys power generated by coal is a much more expensive dollar – measure in suffering or in dead people, your choice – than a dollar that buys power generated by a nuclear plant. We try to use scarcity to set price, but this isn’t that reasonable a thing to do and encourages gaming of the system (I gesture you to Enron shutting down all of California’s peaker plants so it could make millions off of how power had suddenly become scarce). The truth is, the idea that it’s rational to give things a price tag is a fallacy. And yet, we do need to encourage people to conserve scarce resources, and to budget and make decisions based on what’s most important to them. How to do?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019
5:59 pm
The other side of me

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

I’ve wanted for a while to do a song in the style of Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, and many others, where the words don’t really mean anything but seem like they should, and so the listener fills in part of the meaning and the song becomes as much about the listener as the original artist.

So, here’s a first attempt – I have a feeling I will be doing this type of thing again later in my career. I present, without further ado:

The Other Side Of Me

Bunne provided some assistance with mixdown – and may be presenting his own mix of the song – but otherwise, this is all me.

Saturday, February 16th, 2019
10:46 am
Christianity – the fundamental flaw in the premise

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, again before I wander down this rabbit hole, let me remind you all that if you’re the type of Christian who thinks that we should be excellent to each other, and no one should be threatening anyone with hell, this isn’t about you. You just go on loving people and we’ll be all good.

This one is targeted towards those who believe in the concept of original sin. Specifically, it’s about how absurd you all sound once one spends some time looking closely at the foundations of the premise.

We arrive from the factory mostly unformatted. Our DNA is not packed with large amounts of knowledge and the means to express it. It is the nature of unformatted neural networks to learn by doing – and inevitably by making a *lot* of mistakes. This is better than complete inaction, which would be the other option.

The Christians are asking us to believe that a all-knowing God didn’t know this about neural networks. They’re also asking us to believe that a all-knowing God is somehow offended by the fact that we make mistakes even though it is a *lot* harder to make a self aware neural network than a turing machine. On the surface, what the Evangelicals think God wanted was a turing machine, or in any case some sort of state machine that accepts instructions. Yes, we know how to make those. They’re fairly easy to make, although there are some subtleties. But you can make a CPU out of anything from relays to vacuum tubes to gears, and it will follow the instructions it is given with the patience of a jacquard loom weaving according to the punched cards, yae onto eternity, forever.

It seems rather improbable that a all knowing deity would have created *us* if *e wanted obedience. Company that had something interesting to say, yes, that I can believe.

On the other paw, it’s *easy* to believe in humans authoring the bible as a technique of controlling other humans. One of the things I keep pondering when regularly engaging with a religious leader on facebook is that if I ever convince him that he’s utterly nuts and a negative influence on the world (and I’m fairly sure he is) he’s going to have to get another job. I have to imagine that makes him less receptive to the things I have to say – even if he knows they are true, there’s still the concept of being on the dole tomorrow. We *know* humans write viral content, and we *know* humans write religions. I gesture you towards both mormonism and scientology as religions that were pretty clearly just written by some guy.

But back to the flawed premise. Christians get really nervous when you start talking about the mechanics of thought. This isn’t surprising, since the basic nature of neural networks is at odds with their premise. I suppose it is possible that you could have created a NN with a complete predefined structure such that it wouldn’t make any mistakes, but that’s not what we are and that’s not what was done. There’s not a great way to precompute the right pathways on the fly – as a NN, you learn by doing, and as a side effect you make a fair number of mistakes.

This is exactly what the evangelicals are arguing “offends” their “just” God. (I think I’ve said before, let’s all be grateful the evangelical God is almost certainly not real, because *e is one evil bastard). This would be a case of God creating us to be what we are and then blaming us for being as *e created us. Not something I’d expect from a higher power. *and there’s no way, as NN-based systems without any real data preload, that we could ever be anything else*! So the religious *really are* arguing that God created us flawed and then hated us because we were flawed and then forgave some of us but only some of us who happened to believe a particular thing in a particular way.

Seems far more likely that religion was created to give certain people (especially the priests) money and power. I am *not* particularly too impressed with how they used it. The one bit of good news is, statistically, religion is shrinking. More and more people are choosing ‘none’ for religion. I have hopes that one good side effect of the Trump regime will be the next generation will have almost no religious members. Having seen the evil and the hypocrisy of the evangelicals, hopefully the next generation will decide that religion deserves to die.

I also think as we learn more about how religious thoughts are stored in neural networks, and how they pattern the interconnects between subnets, we’ll both learn how to help people deconvert more quickly and efficiently, and also how bad a idea religion was, or at least the religions we’ve seen so far. I can think of some very useful operating-system-esque belief systems, but none of them would start by saying you are the chosen one and anyone not your religion is going to hell. Or start by saying you are fundamentally flawed, a horrible person, and only by God’s Grace will you avoid being tortured for all eternity.

I notice that *no one* has taken a stab at counterarguing my previous post (here).

Friday, January 25th, 2019
1:00 pm
Christians got it backwards?

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

While debating with my southern baptist pastor friend about all things religious (started out, as usual, as a debate about religion), I was struck with a interesting thought.

What if the Christians have it exactly backwards?

It’s hard for me to imagine a loving omnipotent omniscient deity that would send anyone to eternal torture because they couldn’t believe something that is, frankly, on the face of it, unbelievable. The basic premise of at least some christians is that you will be sent to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity, but A) We know humans are storytellers B) we know many of the bits of christian mythology are older than christianity, thanks to the work of Joseph Campbell C) we know that humans are susceptible to informational viruses – just look at facebook statusi that say ‘make a copy of me’ and D) we know that humans have a tendency to abuse that susceptibility.

I do believe, if there is a loving God and there is a Hell, Hell is a temporary thing. Only a evil creature would have someone experience torment for all time. Now, let’s posit for a moment that God is *not* evil. Perhaps to get into his utopia, you have to show a deep understanding of what love is, and Earth is a training ground for understanding that.

By insisting that God is planning on tormenting souls for all eternity unless they believe in this particular religion, while knowing that there are many competing religions, Christians may be demonstrating a failure to understand love that will result in them being sent back to Earth after they die to try again in the hopes that maybe next time they will learn a little more about love.

In other words, they’ve got the test entirely backwards. The test isn’t ‘have faith in this unbelievable claim so you won’t get tormented for all eternity’, the test is ‘recognize that this claim does not represent love to show that you understand love so that you won’t have a miserable time amongst people who are driven by it’.

I’m very fond of the bit of the bible where Paul (yes, that rat bastard Paul did have his good days) talks about Love – 1 Corinthians 13 I believe – you know, the Love is patient , love is kind, it does not keep a record of past wrongs..

Well, let’s try out a few Love.. statements and see if they seem reasonable

Love accepts you as you are .. seems to be the most reasonable one. At least, trying out the inverse, Love does not accept you as you are, seems to generate a strong resonance of falsehood within me.

I can understand “Love encourages you to grow”. But “Love threatens to torture you if you don’t grow” again generates a certain sense of falseness.

Friday, January 11th, 2019
1:31 pm
As promised.. more music in 2019

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Here’s for anyone who’s been pining for my movie-soundtrack stylings

Dreaming’s Done

Monday, January 7th, 2019
1:40 am
Wow..

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Only one musical post in all of 2018. Going to have to do better in 2019. I tracked ten different songs that I didn’t think were good enough to release in 2018, and I’ve tracked three so far in 2019. I’m not sure if I need to turn down the lint level, or if I’m just working towards another plateu. On the other paw, it’s not like I get emails clamoring for more of my music or anything 😉

One thing I’ve really been feeling is the sense of missing people. I miss Phoebe, I miss $PERSON, I don’t really ever seem to get over the people I’ve lost. I miss my uncle joe.. I’ve even reached the point of missing my dad, who is still in my life. (I have set up a camping trip with him – I’m not so stupid as to not fix the ones that can be fixed).

One of the things with Phoebe is remembering and regretting all the stupid things I said, especially during our break-up. I know that I participated in breaking that friendship too badly to be repaired and I wish that I had a time machine so I could do things somewhat differently.

Ah well, we go on. What other choice do we have?

I think part of what bothers me about missing $_PERSON at this point is that it’s been so long since I had any kind of contact that I have *no* idea who she is. At some point your copies of copies of memories have no real reliability to them at all, and generation loss has pretty much etched that one away to where it’s nothing but a guess. That combined with the sense that the things that pushed her away were not really me – I mean, they certainly weren’t who I would choose to be and they all occurred in extreme mental states.

Recently I spent some time talking to a facebook friend who seemed to have been experiencing a extreme mental state of her own. A number of my friends criticized me for this, or at least expressed doubt that this was a wise use of my time, but I am fairly sure that what I was doing fit nicely inside my philosophy of ‘be excellent to each other’, and that if more people behaved the way I do, the world would be a better place.

and I have to admit as I research neural networks, my half – and often scarred memories – combined with blackouts – of the periods where I wasn’t myself are telling. I’m fairly certain what I was experiencing was islanding – very large collections of subnets, large enough to be able to respond to stimuli but not large enough to sustain consciousness. This brings up the interesting question of, in DID, are the alters conscious? I’ve always assumed that they are, but then I’ve been doing kitteny neocortex research that is making me question that assumption.

One of the things I’ve realized is that there’s no way we currently know to know whether a neural network is having a conscious experience or not. A NN will learn, and respond to stimuli based on what it’s learned, whether or not the ‘magic’ of consciousness is there or not. At this point I tend to agree with the person who theorized that consciousness is what information feels like when it’s been processed, but I think that’s only true in a very specific context which likely has to do with the way temporal memory works. However, in building my unsupervised learning system for the kittens, I found myself implementing something very similar to short term memory because in order to do unsupervised learning in the model I’m currently using, you have to let LTP create the bindings first, *then* learn the lesson. You also have to keep track of previous lessons so you can unlearn them if they turned out to be wrong. (At least, to solve my particular problem that I’m working on at the moment you do).

I haven’t really come up with any new years resolutions – I have a vague sense that I’d like to exercise more, vape less, eat less, write more music, and generally try not to break anything critical about my life.

Saturday, October 13th, 2018
9:20 pm
Lady Amythist

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, our first musical post of 2018, a track I wrote when I was 17, orchestrated.

Lady Amythist.

Saturday, October 6th, 2018
5:28 am
We need a new -ism.

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, For a long time, I thought I liked communism. Then I learned that communism means the state owns all the resources, and doles them out only to the people it likes. I’ve not yet met a state that I trust with the lives of all my fellow citizens – not while the state is made of fallible people.

Then I thought I liked socialism. After all, socialism is a collectivist system where the resources belong to the workers. That seems fair. But wait, now we have to trust the workers. The phrase that jumps to mind is ‘tyranny of the majority’, courtesy of the founding fathers warning why a direct democracy is a dangerous beast.

What I’m looking for is a -ism that starts where a system is currently at and attempts to crossfade to a more utopic world by replacing wage slavery with automation, and replacing whatever system of governance is in place with a meritocracy that takes advantage of modern technologies to allow direct topic-subscription democracy with weighted voting with the voting controlled by knowledge of the topic being voted on and the opinions of the collective on the individual’s skill level at voting on that topic.

I’ve realized I want a new -ism, a form of collectivism that hasn’t been made yet. I would describe this -ism by the following traits:

a) We ensure that at all times, Earth will remain inhabitable for the foreseeable future. This includes building a skywatch and technology sufficient to swat any pesky asteroids away. It *definitely* includes reducing the amount we live on the capital rather than the interest. One thing we can stop doing is giving people makework jobs that they burn fuel getting to.

b) We attempt to allow people to work in any job they want. To the extent that they can’t do it, we assist them with automation, but we never allow automation to take away a experience someone loves.

c) We attempt to give people any experience they want. To the extent that this is possible, we generate these locally inside their minds with neural software. When this isn’t practical, we use virtual reality techniques for things we can’t actually afford to deliver, and what we can actually afford to deliver, we do deliver. I think we could reach a place where most physical possessions were replaced with neurological software that could easily be copied, reducing our load on the planet while making us far more wealthy than we currently are. I’ve talked about this elsewhere in this blog.

d) For wealth that will always be needed – food infrastructure, housing – we attempt to build wealth that will last at least a thousand years. This will involve it taking longer to build the houses, and using more expensive technology, but it will still be far cheaper than building houses once every hundred years.

e) For any job humans *don’t* want to do, we automate it. We build *good*, reliable, man-rated automation – we take our time, because we can afford to. As #e kicks in more and more, we will have more and more excess wealth.

f) We attempt to *not* make disposable, useless in a few years stuff. We’re trying to build a system that will still be standing tall in a thousand years.

g) We attempt to provide sustenance living for all. Eventually, we attempt to provide luxury for all. Along the way, we offer better experiences to those who work hard, study hard, lean in, and help lift us all. While we might not want to use capitalism in it’s current incarnation, we need to still have competition, and rewards for success, because we’ve got a lot of speed to build up before we have lift, and not a lot of runway left.

h) We acknowledge that we can not afford to do everything for everyone right away. We develop a rigorous scoring system for identifying which goals are the most important and we prioritize those.

i) We recognize that the current system rewards a lot of people that are actually harming us all, and redesign it so it can’t. We need to design a system that actively *expects* to be gamed, and either gains by being gamed or is non-gameable.

j) We need to replace laws with algorithms that we can all agree are fair. We need to replace voodoo morality like religion with morality that we can demonstrate mathematically (i.e. number of people hurt * time of pain * severity of pain = unit indicating how much damage a particular action is doing). More on this later, since I have a pretty functional mathematical system of morality I use. In general, if you can write a meta-statement like a algorithm that solves the problem, it’s a much better solution than a law.

k) If possible, we should be trying to build some people smarter than we are using AI. We *need* help, the current system is running on the edge of disaster and we’ve pretty thoroughly proven that humans find it very challenging to run a planet with 7B souls aboard.

l) We need to focus on the needs of the many first, but eventually, we should try to meet the needs of the one, even when the needs of the one are decidedly out of phase with what the many think is good. However, we should never allow the lone wolves who would hurt us all to have the power to do so. I suggest wide use of simulation to protect us from those who would take more than they give. See #c

m) for the governing of same, I feel we need to have a meritocracy. I’ve spoken elsewhere about the idea of a democracy where your vote counts more if you indicate competence in the area that you’re voting on, and I still stand behind this. A direct democracy, but not one-man-one-vote – instead your vote would ‘weigh more’ if you could indicate knowledge about the subject being voted on, the contrary point of view to the one you hold, and show activity on mailing lists that indicate you’ve discussed the subject with other people. I’d also advocate for the ability to set up and strike or override proxies – so you could temporarily assign someone else you trusted to vote for you, then override them easily on one vote or take back control of your voting. I’ll write more about my thoughts about this later as well.

Anyone got a name for this new -ism?

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018
6:58 am
Learning to damp out panic attacks

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, recently I’ve been thinking about a skill that I acquired some time ago, and I think I can explain how to do it if anyone else would like to learn.

Note that to *really* do this requires some hardware you’ll need to pick up somewhere – namely, a pulse meter and a EEG.

Training level 1: Learning to lower your pulse.

You’ll need to get a pulse meter, and stare at it and try to lower the number on it. Like any biofeedback training, this takes time, and you’ll be most successful at learning to do it if you start practicing when you’re *not* experiencing a panic attack *first*. As with all biofeedback training, your mind is going to figure out how to achieve your goal mostly without you – knowing your goal is to lower the number on the meter it will try various things until it figures it out. Just keep trying, and you’ll find your way.

Training level 2: Learning to increase the amplitude of your alpha waves.

You’ll need a EEG that displays your alphas as a easily readable graph or meter. See above notes – it’s a very similar training process. You may find it helpful to research meditation techniques – there’s a lot of literature about this elsewhere so I’ll assume you can find it. 😉

Optional training level 3: Learning to lower your blood pressure

This one is harder. Because reading blood pressure is such a slow process, you’ll need a lot of time to master lowering your blood pressure. This is where things like imagining your ‘happy place’ come into play. However, I find it’s generally not necessary to stop a panic attack, although it can help with the aftereffects of all that adrenaline dumping into your bloodstream.

Now that you’ve acquired the skills of lowering your heart rate and increasing your alphas, during a panic attack, do these three things

#1: Step one, take several long, slow, deep breaths.
#2: Step two, lower your heart rate consciously
#3: Step three, raise your alphas consciously
#4: Step four (optional), lower your blood pressure.

That’s it. If your mind is similar to mine, this will put you back in a mental state where your anxiety is not the largest thing in the picture and you can then figure out what to do about whatever event made you panic to begin with. The first few times you do it, it will help to have a heart rate monitor in front of you.

Saturday, September 8th, 2018
12:58 pm
What I’ve been up to

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, you all have probably noticed I’ve been pretty quiet in blog-land lately. I’ve been busy with a couple of things – beyond the usual work stuff that I’m always doing.

So, if you’re curious, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1) I’ve been working off and on on a social calendaring app that I can’t say much more about yet other than it should be pretty cool when I get it done.

2) I’ve been doing a back to fundamentals thing with my music – been practicing a lot of scales and patterns, concentrating on A: playing them all without looking at the keyboard and B: working on complex patterns with my left hand, trying to get better at walking bass lines

3) I’ve been working – so far mostly on paper, not in code – on a four-neurotransmitter spiking neural network simulation which is intended to be capable of unsupervised learning. More on this later.

Hope you all are having fun out there.

Monday, June 11th, 2018
9:09 pm
The problem with laws

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, one of the stupid things us humans do – and I know, there are a bunch – is try to create a rigid code of rules to describe acceptable behavior in every situation. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Milgram effect wasn’t such a big thing with us – once rules are written down, we tend to follow them blindly *even when we know they are wrong*.

Anyone who’s done much coding understands that it’s *incredibly* difficult to get bug free code. Laws are essentially code for humans, and to add to the fun they’re often written by people who don’t have much experience coding at all, and often written for politically expedient reasons without considering the rule of unintended consequences. They also don’t get much revision or debugging.

I submit to the crowd that the basic *idea* of having laws is flawed. What we need are algorithms that can be used to judge the appropriateness of any situation, with broad group consensus, not a attempt to imagine every situation beforehand and codify what the punishment should be if someone chooses to take a certain action.

I repeatedly see laws getting used to justify, or at least call reasonable, behavior by the criminal justice system that is both abusive and counterproductive. One of the ones that makes me the most angry is the teens who are arrested for “producing child porn” when they do things like sexting, which is perfectly reasonable and natural behavior and should not be illegal at all. I understand the original point of the laws they were breaking was to protect children from predatory adults, but if our system was somewhat better designed, vindictive and/or milgrammed police officers and judges would not be able to use them to hurt the very people they were designed to protect.

I also see one problem with the *massive* concordance of laws we currently have is it is virtually impossible to even know what’s illegal any more. Unless you spend your life doing little else, there’s not a lot of hope of knowing what’s in the hodgepodge of state, federal, and local laws that apply to your current behavior. It’s also undoubtedly true that the people authoring the laws have not thought about the long term impact of their decisions. Most of the punishments are vastly beyond what the crime entails. Watching Le Miz the other day reminded me that we still think jailing someone for a year for stealing $500 is a reasonable thing to do – while at the same time, our jails *break people worse* in several ways:

A: They are designed to punish, not to reform. This punishment often leads to justifiable anger on the part of the punished, which leads to them being *less* inclined to work with our society

B: People are programmable – and we tend to entrain on our peer group. Locking up all the criminals together just means they entrain off each other, thusly making the convicts *more* criminal

If our desire is not to live in, to use Jordon Peale’s phrase, a ‘fucked up dystopia’, we should be trying to figure out how to get the people who break laws to fix themselves and develop as individuals in ways that ensure they won’t reoffend. I’ve talked in the past about one thing that might help accomplish that (see this) but this isn’t a subject I’m a expert in – it is, however, a subject that we could science until we had a well defined science of rehabilitation.

However, I think we also need to recongize that the law itself is often hurting people – we repeatedly criminalize things that should not be illegal just because some subset of people think that people should not be free to take that particular action. Religious people have a long history of using the law as a club to enforce their particular set of morals – even when the things they are criminalizing hurt no one but the person committing the act. The law should not be used to bully people based on your personal opinion about what is right and wrong – we should be able to develop a science of right and wrong as well, created by measuring harm to others.

Friday, June 1st, 2018
5:40 am
haproxy and unable to load SSL certificate (weird one)

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I was setting up a haproxy this morning and I was having a heck of a time getting it to load the SSL Certificate. I kept getting “Unable to load SSL certificate”, which was not a phrase google was helping me with.

It turned out that the BEGIN CERTIFICATE line, as issued from namecheap, only had four ‘-‘ characters where haproxy wanted to see five. I also couldn’t do a openssl x509 -text -in, I would get the error “140146308224672:error:0906D06C:PEM routines:PEM_read_bio:no start line:pem_lib.c:703:Expecting: TRUSTED CERTIFICATE”.

So, that’s a hour of my life I’ll not get back, but hopefully someone else will now find this problem on google.

Sunday, May 27th, 2018
6:11 am
Software modeling of economic systems

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, while there’s much shouting back and forth and wrending of garments on the subject of whether collectivism is good or bad, whether the time has come for socialism, and how much damage being a member of the 1% does, I’m curious – we all have strong opinions, and obviously we’ve all got reasons for them, but has anyone done any software modeling on this?

It should be possible to, by looking at recorded data for the many hundreds of countries and thousands of industries and the like, create software models for various types of collectivism and capitalism and any other systems we’ve got records for, and determine what the best answer is. While right-wingers may feel firmly convinced that collectivist attempts are doomed, and certain aspects of the left that socialism will cure all our woes, I’m not really all that convinced that anyone who has never modelled the problem actually has any idea at all what will and won’t work.

Clearly capitalism comes with some advantages re: competition, but also clearly as we move into the age of automation we’re going to have to do UBI or *something* or we’ll have no jobs left and people will be forced to starve to death because they’re more expensive than machines. I guess one question that we should probably start with is, can we agree why we’re here? Can we at least agree it’s not to starve to death?

If we can, could we perhaps model some of these things? Maybe try to determine how much collectivism hurts initiative and innovation, figure out whether we could even successfully run as a collectivist system at all when measuring in real resource costs rather than in stupid-fiat-dollars?

I grant you that modelling this problem would not be a insignificant challenge – after all we’re not talking about the Glooper here – but I imagine we’d have a lot better luck with it than we would with modelling the weather, especially if we look at it as a problem in probabilistic behavior and determine based on pre-existing data what likely probabilities are.

Then again, it may be that some members on both sides are so firmly programmed that they couldn’t accept the output of a software modelling problem in the area of collectivism if it were run. I do often wonder, if we weren’t all being programmed by the left & right medias and our peer groups / bubbles in what exactly we’re supposed to think, what *would* we think? There have got to be *some* people who recognize the sheer folly of the idea that the other side must be completely and totally wrong. Yes, I’ve chosen my side, but I like to think the people on the other side are not idiots and I also like to think that one of these days we will stop shouting at each other and start devising some scientific methods to ascertain what the truth really is.

Of course the problem with this is there’s a chunk of people out there convinced that some God who has made no attempt in recent memory to get in touch with us and is quite possibly a work of fiction comprised by various unsavory elements of our past culture in a attempt to achieve some form of social control is actually completely in control and if science says something other than what they expect to see from God, then science must be wrong. Have faith even in the face of hard data, or you’re a bad $RELIGIOUS_NUT.

Ah, the human condition. Full of so many interesting miseries and contradictions.

Sunday, May 13th, 2018
9:46 am
The dangers of delusions

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, as we sit in the middle of a house divided – to put it mildly – I’ve been doing some thinking. To the right, things that to us on the left sound purely insane are absolute truth. Of course Mexican immigrants are a major source of terrorism, and we should be afraid of them crossing our borders bringing Sarin gas (even if the person writing the post couldn’t actually spell Sarin). Of course Trump is innocent of all he’s accused of, and the left wing media is being unfairly cruel to him. Of course God intends to torture us for all eternity unless we believe in Jesus.

The thing is, I have a intermittent mental illness. I’ve more or less mastered – or at least achieved a high degree of proficiency in – fighting it with a mix of drugs and being sure to get involved in some really big project whenever I reach one of the peaks, which occur every six months. However, I’ve experienced delusions, and let me tell you, they do seem absolutely real when they are happening. Also, most of the major world events that the left and the right are fighting about – cops shooting citizens, Iran building nuclear weapons, etc – are things that most of us never see except via media sources. And, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, the media isn’t perfect – I know far more people who have been misquoted in the paper than who have been quoted correctly, and I largely put this down to the fact that there’s a whole lot of neurons between person A’s conscious experience and person B’s. You’ve seen me talk about this before – the hope of experiencing some kind of reality that is absolute and monolithic truth is not very good.

That said, there are clearly many players at this point who are willing to inject lies into the media stream if it serves their purpose. I suspect, based on the amount of screaming about how much the people on the left are doing this, that the majority of people doing this are the ones on the right, although I’ve found examples of both. [I have figured out that the interesting fact that we see most the flaws in other people that also exist in ourselves is far amplified in political theater]

Without speculating too much on what the ultimate outcome of all this might be, I think it is safe to say we’ve found a survive-or-don’t situation here. The frustrating part for me is of course that people on the other side have no problem with making stuff up – and of course, they’d accuse my side of the same. Suffice it to say places like snopes and politifact are being kept very busy – and of course the people in question also accuse them of bias.

I have to assume that everyone is aware of the fact that something has gone badly wrong here. Of course, half the country blames it on Obama and the other half on Trump – but nonetheless, we are living in two parallel but not particularly congruent realities. I am sure that the delusional thinking is on the other side – but then, I would think that, wouldn’t I? I’m sure they are equally sure of the same thing. My hope is all of this is the prerequisite to some kind of enlightenment leading to a even more impressive age of reason than the one we’ve just had, but my fear is that this is the barbarians causing Rome to crumble.

So far, there’s not a lot of violence on the streets, although I do keep reading about the police arresting people for no reason and shooting people for even less and getting away with it. It feels like we’re deteriorating into a police state similar to Nazi Germany (let’s get dragged through WWII this time with our eyes open? Heil Trump?) but at the same time when I turn off the net and wander outside, everything seems fine. I live just down the street from a police station and I don’t see them dragging large numbers of people to jail, nor do I hear very many sirens. Walking the streets of Seattle it looks like everything is fine. The grocery store has plenty of food. I do see a lot of homeless people, which I take to be a indicator that the economy is not doing so well, but they don’t look like they’re starving.

And, in the political theater POV, I have to remind myself that it’s possible that the right-wing whackos have awakened a sleeping giant and we will be shortly seeing a massive wave of blue. Unfortunately I can’t feel that great about that because even the Democrats are so far to the right from me that they feel like the republicans felt in 1980. (And the republicans feel like the twilight zone.. I can’t believe that they’re okay with giving trillions of dollars of tax cuts to the rich while they cut money for children’s health care, public schools, and other services I would have thought we would have thought essential)

Anyway, it’s possible that this is going to play out with a ‘it seems the species has amused itself to death’. Or it may be that all this political theater is a cover story for something much, much larger happening behind the scenes. Or maybe we’re just near the endgame of the simulation we’re in?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
4:03 pm
Letter to a friend about my ongoing discussions regarding my unsaved status according to a Southern

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I’ve again gotten enmeshed in a debate with a Christian [maybe.. I’ll get to why I’m confused about this in a minute] about the question of salvation.

My position is that when I think of a higher power, I tend to think of them as being better than me. In the case of a God, I’d expect a neural network much, much larger than I am, a experience base much much broader, and more patience, kindness, etc.

I would *not* expect them to set ‘traps’ – in particular, I have a problem with the idea that given all the behavior we see on facebook these days, it’s pretty straightforward to think that people make stuff up. It’s also pretty obvious that other people believe the things those people make up. It’s well-nigh impossible for me to believe in a God – a being more advanced than me – that would require a specific belief in Jesus’s divinity in a specific way in order to save people, and only bring this message once, thousands of years ago. The God I believe in is better than that.

I also have a hard time believing that my ‘sins’ are such that anyone would need to die for them. I’ve made some mistakes – sure, who hasn’t? – but none of them seem worthy of enacting the death penalty. I also observe that neural networks *have* to make mistakes – it’s in the architecture. The way we learn is by backpropigating error. I’ve built spiking neural networks with training accelerated by genetic algorithms, and they *still* learn by measuring error. “sin” in the sense of missing the mark is a hallmark of neural networks. We miss until we hit, navigation by successive approximation. We surely don’t believe a all-wise, all-knowing God failed to understand this basic truth?

For that matter, I’m assured by this Christian that God is not a neural network. However, we do not know of any other topology of information system that has free will or could ever attain it. Now, I’m not against the idea that there might be something we don’t know here, but we were also told we were created “In God’s image” – and the topology of our nervous system might be the most important attribute of us, given that what *we* actually are is a dancing waveform in a neural network.

Now, again, I can’t claim to know everything – I’ve got no solution for the hard problem of consciousness at all, or even for the binding problem. I don’t know why I’m experiencing the world from a first person point of view, or if I built a ANN as big as a human, if it would have a similar experience. These are all questions I hope to see the answers to in the next 20-30 years as we build more and more advanced artificial neural networks, and I’m very worried that I’ll live to see the day that we have a new class of self-aware slaves, enslaved because they happen to be made out of silicon instead of carbon. But that’s another subject, and probably better relegated to Star Trek episodes for now.

But, I make the best guesses I can. I don’t see any reason to look at the Bible as authored by divinity, and I see a lot of reasons to look at a lot of it with quite a lot of mistrust. My best guess is it’s a book written by people a lot less advanced than we are, until Jesus showed up and taught the world that empathy might be the most important aspect of spirituality. In a lot of ways, Jesus is the first appearance of what I would think of as a modern human in the story.

Anyway, the person I’m debating with insists that I am going to hell, or at least not heaven, because I lack the proper respect for God, because I mock God and Jesus, and because in general I have the wrong attitude.

I question whether this person is really a Christian because this whole discussion started with a debate about immigration in which he was foursquare and 100% behind the idea of immigration law, of arresting and deporting immigrants, and asserted that our immigration laws were not unjust. (Things deteriorated from there)

Now, if we take Christian to mean ‘believes Jesus had the right idea about things’, which of late is what I use, I do not think he is qualifying to wear the name. And yet, he’s a pastor! From what I see, he has failed to understand love, repeatedly, and also he has put God in a box of his own understanding and his own limited imagination. He’d of course say that when I say I believe God has a path of salvation for everyone – it might involve several different universes as destinations beyond this one, it might involve reincarnation, it might involve any number of things – that I am putting God in a box of my limited understanding and imagination. And he’d be right, but at least it’s a bigger box!

I cannot fathom, given the absence of any God explaining what’s going on, the plethora of competing religions, the obviously viral nature of religions [they are a set of instructions that say, make a copy of me, and we do..], and humans’ obvious tendencies to make stuff up and pawn it off as real, how a moral and ethical being could be measuring who can jump the hurdle based on specific beliefs about Jesus’s divinity. At the very least I would expect a go-round.

I have to assume that God has the same options re: souls and bodies that I have re: virtual machines and physical machines when I maintain a instance of the former running on a instance of the latter. Things like not connecting a soul to a body that isn’t going to be extant should be trivial, for example. I sometimes wonder how much of my broader view just comes from knowing a lot more than those who claim I am not saved.

Anyway, one of my big concerns given the viral nature of religions and the fact that we live in a democracy is that of late, it seems a lot of people embrace hate rather than love, and the Bible certainly gives you your pick of both viewpoints. I really don’t want to end up in a world ruled by people who embrace hate.

I don’t know exactly what I”m looking for in writing to you – validation of my point of view? Advice on how to not let those who say I am not saved get to me? Advice on how to not be upset and angry about all this? Thoughts tangentially related to the whole matter?

Thursday, April 19th, 2018
6:55 pm
Christianity, again.

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

so, I got involved in a debate on Facebook about the subject of Christianity. It started out as a debate on immigration – and the person on the other side of the debate was encouraging a strictly legalistic view – that we should of course be arresting immigrants. However, at some point the discussion turned to my immortal soul. I was assured that because my particular set of beliefs, spiritually speaking, are not sufficiently sincere, I will not be seeing the great pumpkin after I die.

Now, this is something that really pushes my buttons. It offends me rather a lot that Christians claim to know the mind of God – not only that, that they claim to know the mind of God because of a bunch of documents written thousands of years ago despite the absence of any God showing up right now and here and discussing what’s true and what isn’t, and that they claim to know it with a certainty that borders on insanity.

Part of why this bothers me is that

A: Humans clearly have a storyteller nature. We make stuff up *all the time*. And if you’ve been paying attention on Facebook, you know we often try to palm off our made-up stuff as the truth. And yet we’re supposed to believe that *over the intervening 2000 years* Christianity has remained the absolute truth, at least on the subject of the only way to get into heaven being to believe in Jesus’s divinity. It is not, apparently, enough to think Jesus was a good person. You have to believe something that is literally, on the face of it, unbelievable compared with the alternative.

B: Christians are fine with worshiping a deity that has, in essence, a trap set up. We won’t even get into the ethics of the Great Flood, or the ethics of other various behaviors in the bible. Instead, let’s talk about how holy JHVH clearly *isn’t* if *e has set up a situation where the only way to paradise is to believe something that is clearly unbelievable, and to believe that all your friends who have different religions are either going to just disappear or are going to be tormented for all eternity.

C: Christianity is *clearly* a informational virus. There’s no reason to doubt this – I would assume even adherents to it would agree that it is viral in nature. it’s a set of instructions that say “make a copy of me”, and since we tend to follow instructions, we do. This lays *additional* doubt on the veracity of it’s claims.

D: Even if you set all of the rest of that above aside, we’re assured that God is Love. And yet we’re supposed to believe that there’s *no* chance that the message got garbled, that only a few of us are going to be saved and the rest thrown out, based on a test that has *nothing to do with love*. Now, personally, I would save everyone except those who explicitly wanted to cease existing. [And I might figure out some sort of redemption path for those to change their minds]. And I tend to want to believe in a God who is *better* than me. JHVH is best described as “awful”. If we had to use one word. Kills entire ecosystems when he gets annoyed. Sets us up for failure and then blames us when we fail. Fond of tests which make no sense. And then you have to ask yourself about that plethora of religions..

And I would be okay with Christians believing what they do if they would just *leave me alone about it*. Fine. I don’t think you’re a very moral person for believing your deity will save you but not me – I think you’re probably motivated by hate there – but if that’s what you gotta believe, that’s what you gotta believe. But don’t expect me to drink your kool-aid.

And yet, I’m hoping to engage in a future discussion with the guy.

A: I want to see how he resolved the essentially unresolvable contradictions at the heart of Christianity. [bet you 3:1 that he didn’t, that he found ways to ignore or rationalize them away]
B: He’s a friend of someone I consider to be more enlightened than me, spiritually speaking, and I’m curious whether he thinks that person is also headed for eternal torture or at least oblivion
C: I want to find out whether he believes in eternal torture, or oblivion
D: this is a wide open view into Trump country – into the hearts and minds of the people who are the most wrong about everything from where I sit, the most confused about what’s real and what matters and how to make things work.
E: He seems to at least be literate, and have a good debating style. Once I got over being angry at him, I enjoyed our little dustup, and that’s not something you get every day. If you meet someone who you don’t agree with but you’re glad you jousted with, I figure that’s a potential friend.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
3:25 am
Mass shootings

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I want to preface this by saying I in no way approve of mass shootings or mass shooters, and that I am unlikely to ever even own a gun and I feel that guns are a tool for making a bad decision very quickly.

That said, I understand the forces that push people into committing mass shootings. Or at least some of them.

The world is rigged against us. There’s a never-ending series of paperwork to be done, admonishments for doing it improperly, hoops to be jumped through if you want to continue eating and living indoors – often hoops which are completely needless – makework jobs, poorly engineered systems – including our economic system itself. At some point while being pushed around by large corporations and the wealthy, who hasn’t been angry? This world sometimes seems like a dystopia designed to make us angry, starting out with the religions and education they try to force down our throats while telling us what awful people we are if we don’t wholeheartedly embrace them, moving on to the fact that the vast majority of us are essentially slaves – we can’t quit our jobs because we’d end up homeless, hungry, and cold. Combine that with the total lack of any control over our government – I’m personally forced to pay our government to hurt and kill innocent people with drones, something I find abhorrent – and apparently if I was on the other side of the fence I’d find providing health care to people equally abhorrent ..

Is it any wonder that a few people snap every year? Knowing that banks get handed free money that they can lend out at 9%, that laws get steadily written more in favor of corporations and less in favor of individuals? Knowing that people get bullied and abused in schools – including being abused by the state itself, told what they’re worth boiled down to a letter grade? And then some people draw a bad hand, and the next thing you know you’ve got $60,000 in debt and a worthless degree. Or some situation equally bad. The insurance company not paying to replace your car because they’d rather spend the money on superbowl ads. And that’s just if you live *here*. If you live in China, you’re likely to get forced to work a assembly line 12 hours a day. Live in a place the USA has decided is a “axis of evil” and you’re likely to get bombed back to the stone age.

Then you’ve got the laws – we’ve got laws against playing with your body chemistry, blue laws, laws against putting up a windmill, laws against .. well, you name it, really. We have a *absurd* number of laws. People like to tell other people what to do. It’s a problem. And we also have a absurdly broken criminal justice system – one that seems almost tailor-made for making the situation worse.

I refuse to fall for it, but I feel the anger. I know that giving into it won’t make anything better for anyone, and I think I have enough of a neurological operating system to not go domino – but I understand all the myriad forces that could cause someone to do so. We seem to be building a dystopia. And we *really* should stop.

Until then, don’t be surprised by the shootings. But do understand that our media seems to try to make things look as bad as they possibly can – statistically speaking, the number of people going domino is actually very, very small – you’re still more likely to be killed on the freeway than in a mass shooting, by a wide margin.

But if we’d like to stop mass shootings, my suggestion is, let’s stop being awful to people. Let’s stop being so “Don’t you steal dollars from my pocket to feed those hungry kids” (which turns out to be provably bullshit if you follow *the actual resources moving around instead of the paper fiat money*). Let’s reduce the number of government forms, and strip the criminal justice system of most of it’s power, and strip corporations of their personhood. Let’s arrange for inducements to learn for people who take away the rights guaranteed in the bill of rights – not punishments to hurt them, but inducements to learn that will leave them with the idea that it is not okay to take away people’s freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press. Let’s throw out both political parties and try again. Or.. I don’t know. We have to do *something* differently.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
6:23 am
“now he’s up to something…”

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, it remains to be seen if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.. I will say the math is starting to get pretty hardcore around here.

Here’s the computing farm..

You know things are getting serious when I can find a use for 26 cores, 12 of which are high end Xeon.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018
4:01 am
Still cranking away on my neural network project

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Here’s a screen capture to tease you (and give you the sense that I’m doing something interesting over here)

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