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Semiformalishmaybe

Rights of the Town Square

If a service comes to be accepted as a dominant social forum, the society gathered there gains some kinds of rights superiour to whomever owns the property or sets the policy for that domain. Society naturally appropriates and colours the soil on which it is based, to the loss of people who used to be able to claim absolute ownership. In such an environment, the owner might expect the ability to initiate changes, but for the community to be able to reject them. This only takes place in relatively property-enshrined versions of society; in general, where notions of the dictatorship of property ownership is weaker, society is healthier.

Recently was puzzled at the self-heroing of someone who thought he was a good person for wandering around his city trying to locate raves and get police to shut them down. As I said there, 「the urge to congregate and throw a big party is a very human one. It's about as pro-social as you can get. Yes, raves do typically have drug problems, but apart from that, it's a very good thing when people leave their boring, ordered lives」. Just like with skateboarding on public property, the people who are trying to shut them down are not heroes; they are anti-social people trying to stop reasonable recreation and fun. On a similar note, was unhappy to see in a recent issue of Philadelphia magazine an article 「bemoaning the fact that "men haven't grown up"」, in particular seeing porn and videogames as markers of failure alongside living with one's mum. The latter does strike me of a failure of sorts (unless temporary), but the first two seem like, in moderation, they're part of a healthy lifestyle. The article's a bit more nuanced, but still bothersome; it suggests that after becoming independent, we all should be judged by getting married and having kids. Some of its criticisms touch on gender relations in interesting ways though.

Grab bag:

  • Santorum recently called Obama a snob for wanting everyone to go to college. Crazy moon logic on the face of it; getting everyone access to the opportunities, learning, and social growth of college sounds more egalitarian than snobby. I suppose I can see how it might feel snobby in that older folk who missed out on college might feel slighted at the idea that education is becoming more of a must. Anyhow, Politifact rated this false and says Obama didn't say that. Personally, I think it would've been a decent thing to say; I believe that college is the ideal topping on our educational system, and helps make us better citizens and people. It should be expected, and it should be provided for.
  • The BBC does a sheet of positions of the remaining Republican contenders. Scary stuff. Romney's the only one there who comes up a bit short of loathsome on my meters, and even there only barely. I am most concerned about Santorum, as he has the looks, brains, and positions to win this and he'd be very damaging to the nation.
  • I am very concerned that Youtube might be censoring videos that offend some of the religious. This is what I'm talking about with the town square stuff above; I don't think we should stand for it if dominant forms of social discourse come to be censored because they happen to be in private hands. If this censorship becomes very visible, hopefully there will be enough private forces to DDOS Youtube to death; it is better to destroy a censored public square than to let it exist. This is why we need groups like Anonymous; one of the chief failures of our form of capitalism is that that private dictatorship of property owners is so strong. If there can be praise of religion, there must be criticism of religion. This idea of spirituality as an automatically positive thing and criticism of identity as rude is one we must reject.
  • On that note but in a different direction, here's a rubbish criticism of current dialogue in the EU criticising financial oversight of Greece (yes, that Greece that's being bailed out) and the rhetoric of immaturity. Some older Greek statesmen have made this very point strongly; they tried (and failed) to have gentle austerity to keep the Greek economy working ever since it managed (through charitable interpretations of the entry qualifications) to join the Euro. Greece was never clearly qualified, and it wanted to keep its vast social programmes without paying for them or planning for the measures needed to keep them affordable. Regardless of one's preferred economic theory, or how many programmes the state has, the books must in the long run be balanced. Greece has failed to do that, and Germany is offering them a bailout. The author likes to paint this as part of the habits of European domination of the world; an easy comparison given European history, but this is conditional on Greece staying in the Euro and it's because of Greece's failures. What else would he suggest Germany do? Simply pay for the Greek vacation?
  • Bothered at systemic spying on Muslims in NYC, maybe. I would not be at all bothered by giving Salafis extra surveillance (for a lot of reasons, many unconnected to terrorism), but Muslims as a whole? The faith is too diverse to warrant such a broad brush. I can accept various types of profiling, but they must be intelligent and not overbroad.
  • Santorum is also against prenatal screening because he notes that the vast majority of foetuses with Down's Syndrome end up aborted. I'm not bothered by that; stuggled with this issue for a few years, and at this point I think that if I were a parent of a foetus with Down's, I would definitely want it aborted.
  • The Wikileaks Stratfor leak has begun. I remain very angry with Wikileaks over the carelessness that allowed the unredacted diplomatic cables to be released; it was an unacceptable risk to various agents, and Wikileaks knew this when they decided to do the redactions in the first place. It was their job, when they accepted the files, to treat them with more care. That said, I appreciate the intent behind the Cablegate release. The Stratfor releases are too soon to judge; I am not yet convinced that Stratfor has strayed far beyond what a corporate information/research/analysis group would be expected to do. The analyses present that I've skimmed seem relatively mundane; a bit beyond the analyses I tend to do here, but not far beyond.
  • Recently, it seems that the expansion of social networks into new parts of the world has brought a number of people online who are pushing pretty hard against western values. For example, people from many hardline muslim countries are trying to demonise alcohol. The opportunity for communication and learning is there; we also need to be ready to speak for our values. If the boundaries between nations keep disappearing, we should be ready to offer criticisms in order to help shape new international consensus
  • One of the great ideas I was exposed to in life in college was the notion that systems that do the right things, statistically speaking, are often as good and certainly scale better than systems that keep a lot of state for individual cases. This is at the cost of the variance from optimal behaviour. For databases attached to web processes, I hold that this is practically always the wrong tradeoff; NoSQL databases (that almost overwhelmingly are not ACID compliant) are turning their back on decades of research that have produced spectacular products (that might need some tuning). In other areas of software, particularly when the span of possible responses is actually an intended feature, there can be reasonable advances on this front. So long as it's never used on user-facing software, anyhow. Intelligence, I think, is significantly building libraries of intuitions like this in specific domains and learning to apply them to new domains.
A dialogue (Prediction dodgers):
  • Make prediction, part of community explores every possible result, when reality speaks, everyone else corrects their errors and agrees with whatever happened That's why we demand a deep theory; a mechanism
  • But that doesn't help us when people believe in psychic powers; a direct connection to truth
  • Then we point out that they're not actually making predictions, they're reacting when the universe speaks
  • Science is listening at a faster rate than the universe speaks
  • Isn't that against empiricism?
  • No, it's a way of listening harder
  • (Yet there is sth mind-blowing about a community that continually reshapes to cover all further developments from every fixed point as time advances. When we consider all paths time could take, their permutations are that much larger)

I need to get back in the habit of communicating with other people by voice. These months of not talking much have led to my means-of-expression defaulting much closer to how I think, and in the new part-time job that's led to some confusion; ordinarily the way I think about a topic is to start with base intuitions and layer on all sorts of points, counterpoints, and intuitions for and against every reasonable conclusion, and I'm inclined to synchronise with others by starting with the set of these I think they know and just adding the "new" content. Unfortunately, any reasonable person hearing this might not know which of the conclusions I'm advocating for (if I even have a conclusion; I often prefer to just lay everything out and let it sit for awhile and communally make the decision). It's like I'm growing a tree or shrub when usually other people just want a solution and single-justification. There's that, and the occasional difficulty in making sure I'm using only-english vocab and only-english sentence structure. Linearising and singularising my thoughts for other is tricky.

Today was the first time in a few weeks when I woke up feeling deeply depressed; I suspect most people who deal with depression know what that's like, like waking up and feeling a hole in one's heart, hopelessness, panic... but over a few hours, particularly with this nice weather, felt a lot better. Almost joyous. Now I'm in a nearby teahouse listening to some nice jazz and sipping on Rooibos while trying to find a temporary apartment in NYC. Not bad. Will know about TED soon either way, I imagine.

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