Feb 172021
 

There’ve already been a dozen+ well-written and thought-out pieces about the complete moral deprativity of the NYT’s Scott Alexander piece, and I can’t add anything of value to those. However I can pass on an observation of just how low the NYT has sunk.

Scott Alexander has haters that congregate online. Some of them hate him personally, some of them merely hate the community he belongs to and the way he speaks eloquently for and about them. Regardless, for multiple years there have been groups of people that spend a lot of time online discussing their shared hatred of Scott Alexander and posting about how terrible he is (Sneerclub and RationalWiki come to mind immediately).

And yet, even these internet trolls, basically dyed-in-the-wool internet shitlords, had the decency to use his psyduonym of Scott Alexander and not doxx him. It took the paragons of social responsibility at the New York Times to doxx one of the most socially generous and intellectually charitable writers of the modern day. It wasn’t until several days after NYT shit themselves that RationalWiki finally updated their entry on Scott Alexander to include his full name.

Good work, NYT. You’re literally worse than the internet.

Feb 112021
 

Gina Carano has been disavowed by Disney, and fired by her agent.

On the surface level, this really bums me out, because she’s the only actor filling a niche I love. She is one of the very few believable female action heroes. ScarJo is great, but you have to suspend a bit of disbelief in any action scene she’s in. Gina is strong and badass and looks like someone who can kick real ass in a physical confrontation. Plus I love her charecters. She can act very well and is super charismatic.

On a deeper level, it bums me out because Disney owns like half of the entertainment industry, and they are going for Deep-Blue branding. Which means people who are Red Tribe and out about it can’t work there.

 

I.

Let’s first address the lie that Gina Carano is being turned out due to anti-semitism.

As pre-emptive throat-clearing: Anti-Semitism is not acceptable. Racist, bigotted, and mysognistic people don’t need to be indulged.

But not only is Red Tribe not typically anti-semitic, Carano specifically is not anti-semitic. Every allegation I’ve seen points back to this tweet:

“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children. :(
Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

 

Now, this is super cringy. Republicans have no idea how to do the “is this oppresion?” thing, and it’s cringe as hell whenever they try. But I’ve had people say to me personally that this isn’t just cringe, it’s “inherently anti-semitic” and “holocaust denialism” on par with neo nazis! Literally said that to me! So….

Calling Corana’s post holocaust denial is a worse take than Corana’s post! It trivializes actual neo-nazis that actually deny the holocaust. She at least demonstrated a knowledge of how the holocaust was made possible, that it was a bad thing, *and that it happened.*

And let’s take a second to acknowledge the root of where this is coming from. It’s a form of the “First they came for the Socialists” quote of (checks internet) Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If one is sufficiently misinformed, one can feel they are at the beginning of this process.

Obviously no one is rounding up conservatives. But there are a lot of Red Tribe people who honestly believe that they are being cast out of broader society. That they’re being portrayed as sub-humans that no good American would associate with, and that even being friendly with them (or patronizing businesses owned by them) is enough to get those good American’s a lot of side-eye from their friends.

Of note – they aren’t completely wrong. People who don’t hide their Red Tribe-ish opinions often can be kicked out of their friend groups, or fired from their jobs. Gina Corana, for example, as will be shown below. Furthermore, for even saying that I think she’s being smeared and defamed, I also worry that certain people will think *I* am Red Tribe-ish and I should be avoided. So there is some truth to this.

Some Red Tribers see this process of outcasting to be similar to the dehumanization of minorities that often happens in the build-up to an ethinic cleansing campaign. They are really wrong about the situation on the ground, and what sort of “danger” they are in. But their news sources are things like Fox and InfoWars and other crazy shit that feeds into this paranoia. So yeah, I aboslutely believe someone could be very conserative and… pro-semitic(? Is that word?) and compare the treatment of conservatives to 30s Jews. They’d be wrong, but not holocaust denialists. Certainly not anti-semitic.

II.

So no, she’s not anti-semetic. What she is, is strongly Red Tribe, and not afraid to be public about it. Every single tweet that has been linked in every article I can find about this has been Red Tribe flag-waving. None of them are Bad or Racist or whatever. I’ve had people tell me personally that she’s a “racists, sexist, bigoted, conspiracy theory spewing, science denying […] terf.” More than once, and using those words.

I dug for a while, and these are the tweets I could find. I admit, I haven’t put hours into this. This is just what was readily available. I assume that it’s about the worst anyone can find though, otherwise the even-worse stuff would be what’s being amplified, rather than this.

This is Right Wing. It hints at cheating in the voting system. It’s not remotely evil. It is true that 40% of the country was left feeling cheated by the recent election, and that’s a bad thing. I disagree as to what the cause of that feeling is (*cough* lies and propaganda from the Liar In Chief and Right Wing media *cough*), but I agree that this is a shitty feeling and a shitty result which endangers our system of government. It certainly needs to be addressed. Sweeping it under the rug by saying 40% of the country are conspiracy-theory-believing lunatics and should be ignored or shunned is NOT FIXING the problem. It will only get worse unless it’s addressed.

First of all, this ISN’T EVEN A CARANO TWEET! It’s someone else, and she “Liked” it. You know how often I Like stuff? All the time. I don’t always agree with it. Often I do. Sometimes it’s just to show support for someone saying something that was hard for them to say. Sometimes it’s even stuff I disagree with, but I want to acknowledge that I read their comment and it was civilly-phrased. Or that I disagree in broad strokes, but there was a good point made. But let’s assume that she does agree with what’s said here.

This is Right Wing. It’s not evil. It speaks to a lived experience of feeling physically threatened and powerless. The left would understand this if it was phrased using their words. We can disagree on the truth of the statements in question, but they are obviously someone’s real experience, and quite a lot of Someones if we’re being honest.

 

This is Red Tribe. It’s also just plain true? Except for maybe the “working is a right” part, that’s just silly optimism. Sometimes things are true and also unfortunate, and we have to find some way to balance interests and trade off costs. But where is the lie?

LOL. OK, this is just funny. :) Funny Red-Tribe signalling.

LOL again. :) This is also just funny. This is apparently the height of her “TERF” phase. After months of pressure for pronouns, she added joke pronouns to her profile. Not only was this a fun way to handle the hate she was getting, it was pretty witty too. I don’t even think it’s Red Tribe to think pronouns are gauche, it’s just not DEEP BLUE, and I guess that’s a sin too.

 

Common Red Tribe complaint. Not evil, just waving the flag of “Hey you guys, I’m Red.” Oh noes, her political party isn’t our own, whatever shall we do?

 

And…. that’s it. That’s all the worst stuff I could find.

Maybe she’s like, really really racist IRL, and people have been covering for her because Disney was telling them to keep quiet about it? Dunno. Kinda doubt it though.

III.

You Can’t Be Red (and out) In Disney

So, she’s not a “racists, sexist, bigoted, conspiracy theory spewing, science denying […] terf.” Unless, of course, one uses the definition of “anyone who is Republican is a racists, sexist, bigoted, conspiracy theory spewing, science denying […] terf.” In which case, OK, but also, Fuck You. People using that definition are the reason our politics are in the state they’re in now. That’s the voice of the hate-filled-but-in-denail populace that needs an Outgroup to loath.

Assuming that whoever reading this isn’t one of those people, we now see that Carano wasn’t fired for any sort of extreme bigotry, but for being Red in a Blue Company. Disney is obviously going for deep-Blue branding, so there’s no way this wouldn’t happen eventually. Maybe they didn’t vet her politics before they hired her? More likely, they didn’t expect her character to become so popular. (why would a strong female badass be popular, after all. lul.)

Disney is allowed to fire people if it hurts their business to keep them employed. This is a well-enshrined principle of the entertainment industry, and has been since its inception. Firing an entertainer due to audience demands is pretty common. Moreover, she signed a contract saying she would keep Disney’s best interests, including but not limited to keeping her opinion to herself. So, in legal and business terms, Disney is in the clear.

Her public firing is probably better for Disney, at least in their leadership’s opinion. But I’m more concerned about society than Disney. I don’t like that courting a Deep Blue audience is a thing. I don’t like that we have Blue Businesses and Red Businesses. I don’t like that a company that owns like half of all the entertainment in the world is dedicated to holding a Blue image and a Blue audience and actors have to stay silent or be blacklisted from a huge swath of work opportunities.

Most of all, I really dislike that someone like Gina Carano can be exposed to the toxic underbelly of the internet, and decides to push back against it rather than ignoring it, and is punished by her employer for it. Craven-ass corporations folding to the whim of the worst recesses of the internet makes all of society worse, in a horrible spiral. People standing up against it, even when they are wrong on individual policy matters, are at least fighting the good fight. I admire that sort of strength of character. I hope she finds another good role soon. Preferably one in a show I’ll enjoy watching. :)

Feb 032021
 

This post has WandaVision spoilers through Episode 4. So don’t read it if you aren’t that far and don’t want spoilers. Also, it’s a damned fun show, you should watch it. It has lighthearted humor mixed with creepy horror and that’s *totally* my jam.

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I.

In Rationalist circles there’s a bit of a theoretical/fictional divide between people who want their ultimate endstate to be living in a utopic simulated reality cut off from the rest of the universe, and those who find this horrifying. I’ve always been on the side of those who find it horrifying, in large part because I don’t want my continued existence to be at the mercy of unknown powers that I will never fully trust. One of the arguments on the other side is “but you just don’t realize HOW GOOD a utopia can be!” Now WandaVision has presented me with a truely tempting offer.

A lot of utopias are presented basically like what I think of as a Forever Burning Man. Life is great, everyone is happy, there’s fun things to see and do, and basically there’s no strife or problems. It’s a wonderful experience, and I could do it for months, I think. Maybe even years? But I wouldn’t want to cut myself off from reality for it.

WandaVision, OTOH, takes place in sitcoms. And sitcoms aren’t constrained by things like “having to actually exist” like Burning Man is, so they can really dial up the idealism. Nothing too terrible can happen, and you have a wonderful life full of friendship and love. But there’s still enough conflict to make things seem meaningful, enough aspiring one can do to have a purpose, and sometimes plot twists! You get the fun of “having a job you’re good enough at to be promoted, as long as you can get through a high-stakes dinner with your boss” without the drudgery of doing the job. You never have to poop, unless it’s for a bathroom joke! Life is only the good parts, which doesn’t mean just the pleasant stuff, but also the conflict and suffering parts. Except those “bad” parts never lead to death or permanent crippling, and come with things like character growth and ultimate triumph.

If I were forced to be in a cut-off simulation, I would want it to be a sitcom style life. It seems the most fun and fullfilling without being too repetative.

II.

I do kinda wish that the Episode 4 reveal had been closer to the end of the season/series. I was having a lot of fun with trying to piece together what was happening. WandaVision is basically everything Lost promised to be, except it ACTUALLY DELIVERS. It was creepy weird shit with an answer. The writers knew what was causing it and how it would resolve from the very beginning. Suck it, JJ Abrams. This is how you make actual good art!

But now that we’ve been given all the answers, I’m kinda sad. The rest of the show seems fairly predictible. I think it’ll still be a fun ride, but unless Marvel REALLY surprises me and springs something innovative on us, we’re gonna get the tearful reconciliation with reality at the end.

III.

Speaking of which, is yanking Wanda out of her utopia immoral?

Let’s ignore for a moment that she’s imprisoned other people within it to act as her cast members. *IF* she hadn’t done that, *AND* she had left a note to the outside world that this was her choice (so they wouldn’t get the mistaken impression they were rescuing her from some dread curse), would forcing her out of her utopia and forcing her to engage with the rest of the world be a bad act? Adults should be allowed to do what they want, including hiding from their emotions and cutting off contact with everyone else, if that’s what they choose. I can see maybe if they were driven to do it because they need her help for some existential threat, at least they have the self-preservation excuse. But otherwise?

One could make the arguement that creating her own world like this is similar to going full wirehead. A person that’s just in constant pure bliss can’t really be called a person anymore, IMHO. Going full wirehead is akin to suicide. I think people should be allowed to commit suicide if they want to, but I wouldn’t call someone evil for trying to convince them not to. Trying to reach Wanda in her utopia could be seen as the equivalent of trying to talk someone out of suicide?

But that’s assuming that her world can reasonably called equivalent to full wireheading, and I’m not sure it can. She’s still a person in there, right? With experiences and hopes and dissapointments and a variety of mental processes. Maybe her personhood will slowly get sanded down to nothing, as living unceasing centuries in a sitcom fantasy atrophies away the parts of a human that make them real people. It’s an interesting question. Probably one we could only really answer with actual experimentation.

Actually, damn, that would make a really interesting season 2. 1000 years from now, the creepy horror of WandaVision is now “how much of Wanda is left?” and we get to try to figure that out.

I’m all in for that.

Feb 012021
 
Say you lived in a small community centered around a church that provided most social services. Gross, I know, but you can’t help where you’re raised. If you became very successful and covered half the annual costs of the church, well, that’s good for everyone I guess. But if the church villifies you and people like you (gay, or black, or whatever) and every sunday preaches about how bad you and people like you are… I would kinda expect you to want to move away from that place. And if that leaves the church with a big hole in their budget… well, too bad?
The wealthiest 1% of Californians account for 46% of California’s tax revenue. And seeing how much California despises its wealthy tech industry, they’ve started moving away. I’m starting to think the combinationg of “Tax the wealthy to pay for everything” and “Villify the wealthy as monsters” may not be sustainable.
Jan 312021
 

OMG I have a year to catch up on?? What have I done to myself?

Brutal:
from last SSC – quoting a critic speaking derisively of EA/rats
> Until recently, much of the analysis and funding emerging from the [Effective Altruism] community has pointed towards a focus on extremely unlikely but potentially catastrophic risks, such as alien, asteroid or biological catastrophes.
Scott replies —
Weyl wrote this essay a few months before COVID, so his pooh-poohing of the idea that there might be a biological catastrophe is an unfortunate anachronism. But I think it’s important to note that we got this right (and he got it wrong) precisely because we “privilege rationalist approaches over all other forms of knowledge-making”. People like Toby Ord tried to calculate the risk of every kind of disaster and how bad it would be – and at the same time Weyl was making fun of us for caring about biological catastrophes, Ord was writing about how the numbers suggested zoonotic diseases from bats could cause catastrophic pandemics. This kind of work ultimately led to EA flagship group Open Philanthropy Project spending almost $50 million on its Biosecurity And Pandemic Preparedness Program between 2014 and 2019; if other people had taken a few minutes to read our arguments instead of chiding us for how naive it is to prioritize things based on rational methods, maybe the world would have been more prepared

 

Schwarzenegger 2024.

 

Footage from inside the capital building as it was being stormed.

 

“Bets and bonds are tools for handling different epistemic states and levels of trust. Which makes them a great fit for negotiating with small children!
Over time, they’ve learned that my being willing to bet, especially at large odds, is pretty informative, and often all I need to do is offer.”
 

At the level of true mastery, duels between Force-users are fought primarily inside Force Vision, in recursive precognition, in futures that both parties foresee including the effects of the other party’s foresight […] Obi-Wan mostly makes small movements of his lightsaber, to which Darth Vader responds with other small movements. […]  At the end, when it’s clear that Darth Vader wins in every visible path through the future, Obi-Wan raises his lightsaber, closes his eyes, and lets Darth Vader strike him down, accepting his loss with dignity.
This looks exactly like a duel between precognitives should look, and nothing like how a life-or-death duel should look otherwise.

 

“hospital and public officials in Riverside, Calif., have been forced to figure out how best to allocate unused doses after an estimated 50% of frontline workers in the county refused the vaccine.
55 percent of surveyed New York Fire Department firefighters said they would not get the coronavirus vaccine
approximately 60% of [Ohio’s] nursing home staff declined the shot
Frontline workers in the United States are disproportionately Black and Hispanic…the fact that [President] Trump is in charge of accelerating the process bothers” those individuals who refuse to be immunized, adding “they all think it’s meant to harm specific sectors of the population.
“I’ve heard Tuskegee more times than I can count in the past month — and, you know, it’s a valid, valid concern,” said Dr. Juvvadi.
less than 3 million Americans have received the first dose of the vaccine”

 

 

I’m agender, in that when I google ‘agender’ everything that’s said about it sounds right to me. I have no sense of internal gender, womanness feels like a suit I got put into. But the concept of telling people I’m “not cis” feels so bizarre. […] if I used they/them pronouns that wouldn’t *mean* anything. I’d still look and act like I do, and nothing else would change, and nothing about the way they viewed me would change. She/her pronouns are part of my woman suit, and like sure, whatever man.

 

The Haunted Vagina is a book that exists, and apparently it’s actually pretty interesting.

 

A fantastic short, extremely good Halloween fare. No gore, no jump scares, just existential dread.

 

Oh gosh this song is good. Billie Eilish – my future

 

Car Seats as Contraception
“Since 1977, U.S. states have passed laws steadily raising the age for which a child must ride in a car safety seat. These laws significantly raise the cost of having a third child, as many regular-sized cars cannot fit three child seats in the back. Using census data and state-year variation in laws, we estimate that when women have two children of ages requiring mandated car seats, they have a lower annual probability of giving birth by 0.73 percentage points. Consistent with a causal channel, this effect is limited to third child births, is concentrated in households with access to a car, and is larger when a male is present (when both front seats are likely to be occupied). We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017. Simultaneously, they led to a permanent reduction of approximately 8,000 births in the same year, and 145,000 fewer births since 1980, with 90% of this decline being since 2000.”

 

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority – “The Kosher population represents less than three tenth of a percent of the residents of the United States. Yet, it appears that almost all drinks are Kosher. Why?

Someone with a peanut allergy will not eat products that touch peanuts but a person without such allergy can eat items without peanut traces in them.
Which explains why it is so hard to find peanuts on airplanes and why schools are peanut-free

you think that because some extreme right or left wing party has, say, the support of ten percent of the population that their candidate would get ten percent of the votes. No: these baseline voters should be classified as “inflexible” and will always vote for their faction. But some of the flexible voters can also vote for that extreme faction, just as nonKosher people can eat Kosher, and these people are the ones to watch out for as they may swell the numbers of votes for the extreme party.”

 

An interesting thread, “Woke anti-racism is child abuse.” It’s the story of a Mistake Theorist married to someone coming out as a Conflict Theorist. I find it relatable and heartbreaking. My main complaint is the use of the term “child abuse.” That’s bad hyperbole, and I hate it, tho I guess it’ll generate more clicks. 😕 All parents fuck up their children emotionally some how, and some ways are much worse than others. We usually reserve the term “child abuse” for the extreme end of that fucking up. (original tweet has since been deleted)

 

Coco’s Feel-Good Oppression. Good throughout, and it really ramps up in part 3.

 

Those who like government least govern worst. “When you don’t respect, or even like, the institution you lead, you lead it poorly. When that institution is incredibly, globally important — as the US government is — leading it poorly can invite global catastrophe. And sure enough, under the last two Republican administrations, it has.”

 

ROFL. Could American Evangelicals Spot the Antichrist?

 

A great interview (in audio) with Stuart Stevens – “one of the most influential operatives in Republican politics. He was Mitt Romney’s top strategist in 2012, served in key roles on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns”

 

Jesus this song is intense and awesome. Nick Cave – The Mercy Seat 

The vicious cycle. Thanks youtube recomendations for this random horseshit. XD

 

My GPT-3 Blog Got 26 Thousand Visitors in 2 Weeks – “I would write the title and introduction, add a photo, and let GPT-3 do the rest. The blog has had over 26 thousand visitors, and we now have about 60 loyal subscribers…
And only ONE PERSON has noticed it was written by GPT-3.
People talk about how GPT-3 often writes incoherently and irrationally. But, that doesn’t keep people from reading it… and liking it.
In fact, the very first post made it to the number one spot on Hacker News. ”

 

Burger King addresses climate change by changing cows’ diets, reducing cow farts. “The chain has rebalanced the diet of some of the cows by adding lemon grass in a bid to limit bovine contributions to climate change. By tweaking their diet, Burger King said Tuesday that it believes it can reduce a cow’s daily methane emissions by about 33%.”

 

On White Fragility – “White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. This is an important passage because rejection of King’s “dream” of racial harmony — not even as a description of the obviously flawed present, but as the aspirational goal of a better future — has become a central tenet of this brand of antiracist doctrine mainstream press outlets are rushing to embrace.”
“DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.

 

Fuck yes. Colorado governor signs police accountability bill, ending qualified immunity defense in the state.

 

Scott Alexander shows that literary criticism has very little to do with the literature, and is mostly about making the critic interesting/impressive and entertaining the reader. It’s absolutely fantastic and funny as hell.
“After spending way too long investigating this, I find strong evidence [that] My Immortal is a description of the Great Work of alchemy. Its otherwise-inscrutable symbolism is a combination of three traditions: the medieval opus, the 17th century Rosicrucians, and the native German traditions encoded in Goethe’s Faust. We’ll start by going over these traditions, then delve into the text to unveil the hidden meaning.”

 

Can you own the minor scale? Why the Katy Perry/Flame lawsuit makes no sense. This answers the question “Should Todd Decker have his tongue cut out?” (Spoiler: yes.)

Best part? This video then got a take-down notice *by Warner* (the party being sued) for “infringing” on their copyrighted material. Thus implictly asserting that someone CAN own the minor scale, and they are correctly being sued for basic music-making activity. Mind-blown. This is some “sell the capitalists rope, they will use it to hang themselves” bullshit. Nuke ’em all.

 

A video
>Trump: “I think mail-in voting is horrible, it’s corrupt.”
>Reporter: “You voted by mail in Florida’s election last month, didn’t you?”
>Trump: “Sure. I can vote by mail”
>Reporter: “How do you reconcile with that?”
>Trump: “Because I’m allowed to.”

 

A great Batman retrospective (starting at 40sec)

 

On “armchair epidemiology”
“A viral article implores us to “flatten the curve of armchair epidemiology”—that is, to listen only to authoritive sources like the CDC, not random people spouting on social media. This was notable to me for being the diametric opposite of the actual lesson of the past two months.

My faith in official pronouncements from health authorities, and in institutions like the CDC and the FDA, was clearly catastrophically misplaced—and if that doesn’t force significant revisions to my worldview, then I’m beyond hope.

if I could go back in time, I’d probably send a slightly different message … DO NOT RELY ON OFFICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS, OR REASSURING ARTICLES FROM MAINSTREAM SOURCES LIKE VOX OR THE WASHINGTON POST. THEY’RE FULL OF IT. […] THE MORE SNEERCLUB WOULD SNEER AT A GIVEN PERSON, THE MORE THEY’D CALL THEM AN AUTODIDACT STEMLORD DUNNING-KRUGER ASSHOLE WHO’S THE EMBODIMENT OF EVERYTHING WRONG WITH NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM, THE MORE YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THAT PERSON RIGHT NOW FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR AND YOUR LOVED ONES’ FUCKING LIVES.”

 

This a basic encapsulation of everything wrong with sequel/spin-off culture. No one cares about art. 🙁

 

“bringing the economic system of Denmark, Sweden and Norway to the United States would mean embracing more flexible labor markets, light regulations and a deeper commitment to free trade. It would mean a more generous set of social benefits — to be paid for by taxes on the middle class and poor. If Sanders embraced all that, it would be radical indeed.”

 

“In 1985, the typical male worker could cover a family of four’s major expenditures (housing, health care, transportation, education) on 30 weeks of salary. By 2018 it took 53 weeks.”

Can a 6 year old write better poetry than William Blake? Yes. (follow link for extra commentary)

 

Aella, again. Awesome stuff. “if you’re an extremely masculine woman (like me!), this doesn’t make you less of a woman. In the nonbinary gender framework, it seems like this *does* actually make you less of a woman. This is totally foreign to me. My conception of gender has a lot to do with common knowledge appearance – how do you read in the world, and how does the world treat you based on how you read? This mostly equals your ‘gender’. In this perspective, your gender doesn’t belong to you, but to your society. […] the word ‘gender’ is really confusing things for me. I think when I overlay the word nonbinary onto the base gender, like “nonbinary woman”, THEN it makes total sense to me.”

 

Principles for the Application of Human Intelligence – “the replacement of algorithms with a powerful technology in the form of the human brain is not without risks. Before humans become the standard way in which we make decisions, we need to consider the risks and ensure implementation of human decision-making systems does not cause widespread harm. […] Various techniques have been developed to reduce human bias. Unfortunately, these techniques have limited demonstrated success at scale and may even backfire. Until these human debiasing techniques reach the efficiency of our regular auditing, review, and modification of algorithms, we should not implement these human decision systems.” (much more at link)

Jan 222021
 

Does it count as interacting with Twitter if I still refuse to use Twitter, but I reply to it on a blog? Dammit, maybe I’m doing this wrong.

Karen Hao is the senior artificial intelligence reporter at MIT Technology Review. If you feel trepidation at seeing the word “reporter” used in proximity to “tech,” congrats, you’ve been paying attention to the last half-decade. Karen is no exception. In a Twitter thread she says we shouldn’t cure cancer because rich people with profit from this first. Obviously a stupid argument that isn’t worth engaging. But to further my narrative of “Twitter literally makes people stupid, we should check to make sure it isn’t actually an eldritch god trying to destroy humanity,” check out this claim:

name one technology in history that has successfully been redistributed completely equitably from the bastions of privilege and power to the have-nots in society

I can name two without pausing to think – mobile communication and vast computing power. Both used to be exclusive to the ultra rich, and now permeate even typical third-world country populations via cellphones. There are literal homeless people with cell phones. Maybe this still doesn’t pass some strict definition of “completely equitably,” but whatever. That a so-called tech reporter couldn’t come up with “cell phones” before making a public proclamation like this is mind-boggling. Avoid Twitter folks. It may be Literal Evil.

While we’re in her twitter thread, notice this smuggled premise:

Concentrating resources away from the marginalized in society to the richest in society so that the rich can then decide who to bestow those resources to doesn’t make the world a more equitable place.

Many of these techs concentrate resources to the poor, benefitting them, and the innovator takes a tiny cut. Amazon has been bad for traditional retailers, who aren’t marginalized. It’s been good for actual poor people, letting them get stuff cheaper and with less time/effort investment. This isn’t tech-reporting, it’s luddite propaganda being pushed with a kill-the-rich excuse. Only saving grace here is that by using the rich are the current hate-target that you can use to rile people up at least you’re picking a target that can do something to defend themselves, rather than stomping on sex-workers or something.

Jan 202021
 

During the past year I didn’t completely give up on getting published, continuing to send out stories and even writing another one. As a result, I had two stories published in the later half of 2020! For those interested, here they are:


 

“Give Me My Wings” is published in Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. It’s a very short story (only 2000 words!) about not fitting into the world, and a human-created afterlife. Like most of my stories, I have very mixed feelings on the choices the protagonist makes, but this one moreso than most.

The anthology is full of optimistic stories in a bright future. Before you ask, I don’t know what’s up with that cover… the pay rates for the writers were really good, so I don’t think it’s a lack of funding? I asked about that, but I think I offended the publisher, so…. :/

 


 

“Not Fade Away” is published in Aurealis #136. It’s a piece about remaining useful even as you age and degrade. It’s one of the first stories I wrote, and it took a fair bit of polishing and rewriting to get it to the state it’s at today. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this one.

Jan 142021
 

Most people know that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG. I still have my old copy, and I decided to take a look to compare how the last 30 years actually went vs how they would have to go to get us to the neon & chrome cyberpunk future.

To the left – the cover.

To the right – what Johnny Silverhand looked like before he was Keanu Reeves.

Before we begin, one interesting note about the present’s view of the future —

The copyright of Cyberpunk 2020 is 1990/1991. That means it was considered plausible for this setting to be 30 years in our future. Cyberpunk 2077 came out in 2020, putting the plausible window for the setting 57 years into our future. That’s nearly twice as long. This means people are more pessimistic about the speed of technological improvement, and estimate that we’re progressing at HALF the rate we used to! Quite a change in the zeitgeist.

However it also means people are more optimistic about the rate of civilizational collapse, and think it’ll take us twice as long to get to Night City. Seeing as the cyberpunk genre was born before the 1990s rennasaince, when everything seemed to be spiraling, this isn’t surprising (the collapse of the USA was slated for 1996, just 6 years out from publication!). And since CP2077 was born in Trump America, this means that even in Trump America people on average didn’t feel as anxious about everything coming apart at the seams.

Anyway, on to the Timeline!

1990-1995 highlights:

First Arcology built in 1991
EU established in 1992
New York gets nuked in 1993

 

1996-2002 highlights:

Collapse of USA in 1996
Middle East destroyed in full nuclear exchange 1997
Plague kills 100s of thousands in US/Europe 2000

 

2003-2009 highlights:

Orbital war in 2008, Colorado Springs is wiped out

2010-2020 highlights:

Humans on Mars in 2011
First true AI in 2013
Human cloning in 2017
Orbital colony revolt in 2018

 

 

Jan 132021
 

It’s been a bit of a year. Not just politics-wise and corona-wise (though those have been huge), but personal-health-wise as well. But a couple weeks ago Google mailed me to say that I’m still getting 1k visitors a month to this site, and I’m like “wtf? Really? I haven’t updated it in months, who are these people?” And it turns out I have some new comments on some old posts, and well, that’s kinda cool. So I’m gonna get back into blogging. Just a little bit at a time, maybe catch up on the book club book reviews I haven’t posted, maybe archive my FB links again, maybe a rant here or there. Thanks for still being around, even sporadically. :)

I do podcast with a couple friends of mine twice a month, if anyone’s into that sorta thing, over here.

Jun 232020
 

The following is an email I wrote to New York Times technology editor Pui-Wing Tam, whose email is pui-wing.tam@nytimes.com. Inspired by Wesley Fenza.

Dear Ms. Tam:

Yesterday I learned that one of your reporters is planning an article about Scott Alexander and his blog Slate Star Codex. In this article he plans to reveal personal information about Scott, including his true name, which could jeopardize his career, and will put both his safety and the safety of his family at greater risk.

I was appalled to discover this is the standard policy of the New York Times. Doxxing anyone is considered default harmful among all people who have taken the time to consider the question, and is not done in civilized forums without strong extenuating circumstances. That such a pro-doxxing policy is still on the books at a major institution in these days is scandalous, and I can only hope that it is the result of a lapse in attention, rather than intentional malice.

In an effort to protect himself, Scott Alexander has deleted the Slate Star Codex blog. The loss this represents is hard to overstate. The blog frequently posted in-depth reviews of highly regarded books on topics ranging from historical figures to state governance. He has described in painful detail the experience of working in a hospital and watching how the modern medical system treats those dying of old age. He frequently reviews current pharmacological research. These can be salvaged with some work through archives, but far more importantly is all the great work that will now never be produced due to this silencing.

Scott Alexander is a leading thinker of the modern day. He has produced more influential work attracting many otherwise-mutually-hostile audiences than nearly any traditional journalists. He has done more to influence my life in the last five years than any other person I do not personally know. His blog is one of the cultural touchstones of my community, and the loss of it will be felt as a bleeding wound for years. It is astounding to me that such a loss of human insight and knowledge, including all the lost future decades, is being done in the name of upholding a policy that is itself a vicious holdover from a crueler time.

Please reverse the decision to dox Scott Alexander, and update your policy to one that doesn’t perpetrate violence upon the vulnerable. Thank you for your time.

Eneasz Brodski