Cat: Too Many Secrets

As would be expected, I am still depressed and still trying to sort out my trilemma from Monday. The plan is to taper down off caffeine again, over the course of two-weeks. It’ll give me time to be a lazy meat puddle and introspect. Besides which, I’m missing the old buzz and needing only a shot or two to get it.

A More Perfect Union

I discussed previously how I was impressed by our current analyses of First Past The Post voting and the side effects it has on government (which are observable today in the US), and this inspired me to look for other bugs in the system — ideology-neutral* changes we could make that would naturally result in better representation of the public by the government.

After the Trump election, I’ve been in damage control mode, which I don’t think has been more productive, though among my many rants about specific events, I was able to get across some of the several ideas that might make for better governance. Most of my notions never became an essay because I was writing about something else at the time. Others are kinda incomplete.

One of the things I will try to do in the near future is enshrine them here. That way when some future archeologist finds my work and is still dealing with government corruption and decadence problems, my ideas may still serve, much the way the scholars of Rome have informed modern philosophies.

I should clarify and disclaim: In 1945, Einstein reflected on the dropping of the atomic bomb and his contribution to that event. If only I had known he thought I should have become a watchmaker. I’m not Einstein. To be fair, Einstein wasn’t Einstein (in that way) either. If he hadn’t discovered relativity, eventually someone else would, maybe not in time for the end of WWII, but it would have happened, and someone probably would have dropped a couple of nukes before we decided this was a really bad idea and we should avoid using them. My ideas on how to build nations that hold together are not unique to me, and if I am doing anything unique, it’s juxtaposing ideas together so that they make a certain sort of sense. (Such as our objectification of actresses and our objectification of football players.) Nothing that I say is new, but is only expressed in one more way, by one more person.

Sunshine Laws

One incomplete idea that a nation should have crazy extreme sunshine laws. Air Force major reports a UFO? You’ll have the transcript tomorrow. A senator is writing up an abortion bill? The current version is available on his website. Arkansas woting machines are getting new software? A link on the government site will direct you to the code. Clinton and Trump both colluded with Russia? Any of us can look up their email history and see who said what to whom. There’s no executive privilege: state business is the people’s business.

Our government agencies are addicted to overclassification, which not only covers the butts of our officials, but also conceals their corruption. By keeping government action hidden, it doesn’t have to be explained to the public. It also allows for subversive activity that more serves the personal interests and intra-state political interests of our officials than it does the the interests of the public. Overclassification, insufficient oversight and obstruction to FOIA requests have lead to some really scary official policies (such as torture and mass-surveillance). It’s allowing the United States to turn monstrous in ways it couldn’t (at least without a fight) if these policies were forced into the public eye via extreme sunshine laws.

Granted, that would make all the states seem like Florida, where weird shit happens all the time. Some Floridians suspect that it’s not that Florida is where weird shit happens, but that sunshine laws assure that they get made public when they happen, which news agencies comb for and report. A greater concern is operational intelligence: where our military units are, and what they’re doing. But these can be often declassified in a matter of days or weeks after the fact. Our police would complain because their methods often rely on security through obscurity which causes problems by disallowing for public penetration testing also leaving the police open to espionage by organized crime.

But in this case, I don’t know everything, and while I can’t think of other reasons we might need to keep secrets, that isn’t to say they don’t exist. Hence I can’t fully endorse extreme sunshine laws, and I don’t know if endorsing such a thing is even possible. But if it is possible, it’s a thing government by the people needs to stay by the people.

* Curiously, some things that I imagined once-upon-a-time would totally not be ideologically neutral have become full on identity-flagging platform positions: Support for the US policy of Extrajudicial detention and torture of alleged enemy combatants (in violation of the Fifth Amendment as well as the Geneva Conventions) is now a GOP and conservative flag. Strict gun control (in violation of the second and ninth amendments) is now a DNC and progressive flag, even though it runs contrary to liberalism (that is, the preservation of liberty). Right now identities are more important than platforms, and voters are willing to condone atrocity when it targets political-identity enemies or is endorsed by identity leaders. Our politics are getting very culty.


Uriel’s Wager

Blaise Pascal imagined in his notorious Wager that we are all betting with our very souls on the existence of God. (That is, the Judeo-Christian god.) It goes like this:

If Pascal bets that He exists, and he’s right, he is rewarded with infinite happiness.

If he bets that He exists and Pascal is wrong, he suffers finitely trying to conform to a morality that doesn’t suit him well.

If Pascal bets that He does not exist and is correct, Blaise is free to live his mortal life as he pleases.

If he bets that He does not exist and is wrong, our hapless mathematician is punished with infinite suffering in the afterlife.

Given these outcomes, Pascal argued, the position of behaving as if God exists is the better wager. God might be unlikely, or God might be opinionated. Pascal was a Jansenist Catholic, and God might think Jansenists are heretical. God may even only prefer some fringe Protestant sect. But even with those contingencies, the limited chance of getting it right multiplied by an infinite reward is still an infinitely good wager, in contrast to betting against God, which is an infinitely bad wager.

Consider This the Hint Of the Century

As a point of disclaimer, Pascal’s Wager was likely not meant as an argument for faith. Yes, Pascal was was fond of writing Jansenist polemics. Yes, Jansenism does regard almost everything fun as sinful or at least intemperate. (Pascal got lucky for liking math. Jesus is on board with math.) Yes, Pascal was big on devotion to God in general. But in the case of his Wager, Pascal was fiddling with infinities. Math thought experiments often feature God or The Devil in their circumstances, as they both are able to supply situations with infinities and unending recursions where our mortal earth does not.

It doesn’t really matter. Pascal’s intentions didn’t stop his Wager from being used as an argument for faith in the centuries to come by apologists. It wasn’t the most sound of ideas: Pascal’s wager taken seriously raises the matter of practicing faith for fear of Hellfire and hope for Heaven, which paints us as a shallow, desperate species. It also paints any alleged creator in a bad light for having created us this way, let alone that He might actually want to capitalize on our despair and pretense. (It would not be the first time the squalor of human mudpeople had been acknowledged.) The discussions that follow the Wager often challenge the authenticity of such a deity but then questions the mercy of one that that would punish its own creations rather than repair them.

It’s better to think of Pascal’s Wager as a math thought experiment.

Oh No I’ve Said Too Much

The Wager was then repurposed in Roko’s basilisk.

The basilisk is another thought experiment. It supposes a super-computer in the future. We’ll call it BOB. Among BOB’s many processes, it runs a super-accurate simulation of this time and place (right now!) and all the people that presently exist and come into existence. As this simulation runs, BOB meticulously watches for each person who a) knows about BOB, even if only as a remote concept, and b) fails to help create BOB. That is, if the sim-person donates one American dollar to the cause of designing, assembling and running BOB, or donates one dollar’s worth of stuff, or does one dollar’s worth of work towards making BOB happen, then that sim fulfills his or her obligation.

When BOB finds a sim that isn’t with the program (knows about BOB but never puts in that dollar), BOB then runs the sim through a torture mill for a very very long time. Considering BOB controls how the sims perceive time and pain, it’s going to be an unimaginable amount of suffering. Well, BOB can imagine it, and will.

Now that you (my reader) know about BOB you are obligated to put in your one dollar to help BOB come to exist. It makes very little difference if you don’t care about the sim-you that BOB would hypothetically torture. But what if we are in BOB’s simulation right now?

Cue, of course, Uriel introducing his Patreon, the proceeds of which (at least one dollar) will go towards the design and construction of BOB. Note that all the arguments against Pascal’s Wager also apply to Roko’s basilisk, and if we’re in ANNA’s simulation and not BOB’s, we’re just screwed.

That’s Me In the Spot-light

And this brings us back to my own dilemma. Pascal’s Wager is not exactly applicable, but the questions raised from Pascal’s Wager intersect the questions raised from Uriel’s Wager

Uriel’s Wager starts on this pretense: Human civilization is doomed. It may be a partial doom, in which many but not all of us die, and civilization will have to downscale when our infrastructure is no longer sustainable. It may be an existential catastrophe, in which the entire species is ultimately wiped out. It might be something in between in which humans are few and scattered and reduced to a neolithic agrarian existence for a century or five before being able to organize once again. (There also remains the possibility, getting less likely with each day, that someone will think of something! or we engage in some amazing feat of geoengineering, avoid ecology collapse and evade a food crisis. It’s the best outcome, if on long odds.)

So what do I do, now that I’ve reconsidered the value of my work? Humanity is already insignificant on a universal scale, but now it’s brought down to the global. All I create will be lost and meaningless in a foreseeable time frame. All the good I do (and all of my moments of total dickishness, even those of arson, murder and treason) will be lost to oblivion. By 2100 if things continue on our current trend, I will be entirely as relevant as Beethoven or Einstein or Madonna or Elvis or Jesus, without even trying.

It is a lesson in absurdism. Sisyphus looks at his stupid boulder chooses what he wants to do:

To take a page from the hedonism of Robert Baratheon, I can totally goof off with my life, play video games, pet cats, walk dogs, love my sweetheart and spoil my family rotten as best as I can. I’ve talked about the old world tradition of Christmas (the Stark motto, Winter Is Coming) When body-counts were inevitable after the thaw, we spoiled our kids drunk with delight (and booze), knowing that influenza and famine would take mostly children during the frozen months.* When the going gets tough near 2040, children will perish at the highest rates again.

I can keep doing what I’ve been doing for last year. I’ve gone a bit crazy since Trump got elected trying to resist his isolationist, xenophobic, destructive agenda. Of course, I was pretty crazy before Trump: Torture, drone strikes, police brutality and mass surveillance were still big problems during the Bush and Obama eras, and my inner naïve patriotic child had long become accustomed to a steady diet of shattered ideals. But even then I still had an inkling of hope that we could reform the nation from within. Not since Trump’s election. It has consistently looked like it will take a societal collapse (at least the threat of one) before we will see real reform in the United States. So on one hand, my response to the Trump era has been reactionary. I’ve been writing stuff I feel need to be said. But I’ve also been burning out trying to triage all those ideas. But then, if I stop, I feel like I’m giving up. I lose hope and I go to a really dark place.

I can go back to what I had been doing before this year. I still have a game near completion. I can revel in mystery tropes and game-related topics and other writings of whimsy. Part of the problem is arting for an audience. I don’t expect my game to be popular, but if someone takes one of my new mechanics and uses in in their game, it means I’ve contributed, if only a modest amount. But again, in the face of apocalypse, this is something of a pipe dream. At this point architects and engineers in the real world may have no greater hold on the future than I do when I create my corruption breaks in Terraria or my floating solar farms in Subnautica.

To be fair, there was never much difference between the Burge Kalifa and a termite tower, as both are features on a speck of dust in a vast uncaring universe. The former might have made a difference only after the human species navigated their way through a couple more great filters and started colonizing other worlds, or space.

But this raises the matter of ego. I was raised with the notion that passing my genes to a younger generation is less important than adding to our society’s body of knowledge. But I don’t feel the need to sign my work. I much rather enjoy the irony of Rumsfeld’s Law, and would prefer the context stay known than it be known as Uriel’s Yetis of Avarice Law. If my identity is lost but my ideas are retained, that part of me that needs credit is satisfied. Especially if it’s funny.

And then, I started this blog merely to sharpen up my prose. I figured I’d give it purpose at some point, or graduate to a blog with focus, or organize it somehow, or write a book. It’s not like I started this as an attempt to save the world. Maybe it’s freeing knowing that the Golgafrinchans corrupting the Earth are going to be annihilated by the Vogons on schedule.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do. Or to what degree I will commit to a decision. I’m still processing the doomy bit.

* This is actually something that never quite felt true about the world in A Song of Ice and Fire. The northern realm of Westros is prone to long winters much like the long runs of bad winters and inclimate summers during Europe’s little ice age. Where the cold was responsible for repeated mass dyings in Europe due to poor crops and famine, the kingdoms of Westros have flourished despite their winters. Given the tendencies of the Baratheon / Lannister tendencies to underprepare for winter, I’d expect they wouldn’t be able to sustain the populations necessary for the huge fighting forces in the War of Five Kings, and the societies of Westros might be only a century from being migratory.

Technically, if it weren’t for anthropogenic global warming, we’d still be in the little ice age today. Famine is less of an issue because mass freight allows food to be grown int he equatorial band and exported to wherever it is needed (to the poles, as necessary). Modern famine occurs not because of short food supply, but political tension and economic ideology. (We don’t like giving stuff away.) Cold periods are terrible for agrarian societies, but not bad at all for industrial societies.

Cat: Sick day and Subnautica Considerations

I was planning on taking a break from the news starting November. Then the Sutherland Springs Church Shooting happened. Today I’m fighting a migraine. I’m still depressed about the short time we have until eco collapse and global food crisis. The sharp reminder that we’re murdering each other in Kings Landing while ignoring ice zombies gathering for the march north of Winterfel is not really helping me sort out my head.

So it seems I’m not going to use the turn of the month this time as a marker to develop a blog plan. Regardless, I need to recover first, and then decide what to do. And how to process the news of our limited time when I’m not grieving about the end of humanity (or at least the end of civilization as we know it).

This weekend I’d been playing Subnautica (new less-buggy, build. Yay!) which tells the story of being trapped alone on a paradisaical water planet. It features tons of pretty, edible fish and bio-luminescent flora and fauna that light up the night shallows. And the technology I have allows for the printing of fancy undersea / surface base segments rife with windows and viewing rooms. It makes for really swanky digs.

That’s when I realized I don’t mind all the alone, if I can live like this.

The correspondence and chats revealed in data cards from the wreckage imply an overly distrustful, utility-minded society in which interaction is tedious and is encouraged to suit more purposes than to express regard and love for one another. No one really seems to share emotional intimacy at all, even when they’re sharing physical intimacy. And the notion that this is the people to which I’d be returning makes for yet another disincentive for leaving my happy ocean home.

Oh and after I get back Alterra Corporation is going to charge me for all the minerals I mined and resources I used while surviving. They are going to screw me over much the way Weyland-Yutani screwed Ellen Ripley. So yeah, I think I’ll stay here.

Cat: Stepping Back

I feel thinky, but I may not be able to write things today. I’m just so angry.

Theoretical physicist Brian Greene, in his endeavors to unravel the mysteries of the world, has had to confront and address the limits of human capacity. The huge masses of stars and the vast expanses of space are not conceivable to the human mind. (We use symbols to process huge quantities, often never having a visceral understanding of how big they are.) Similarly, sometimes we’re not capable of cognitively retaining all the mechanical events necessary to understand a complete function. When this happens, we have to face the reality that it’s just too big and complex for the human mind. (At least for my human mind.) String theory, climatology and biological evolution suffer from this problem: each of these fields is very complicated, and even the experts who study them often have to resign themselves to understanding only a small window of the whole field. And we human beings are often tempted to trust more in a simpler model we can understand rather than in a more accurate, more comprehensive model we cannot. For most of us, it’s not a big deal, but it becomes one when we need the more complex models to develop technology or reduce existential risk.

For now, though, I’m just pissed. Anger presents one of the known limits of my capacity to retain thought and commit it to comprehensible language. I get too angry and then I can’t hold onto a single thought long enough put it to words. Different ideas will run together in my mind and combine and stop making sense. Then I get frustrated.

It’s one of the weaknesses of being a piece of meat that thinks: We overclock as a means to survive and escape danger, but it makes complex thought buggy as hell.

Cat: End Of Days

I’m frustrated and overwhelmed. There’s just too much going on and I want to rant about it all and I’m frustrated at how susceptible to manipulation people are.

Part of my blogging effort has been to create some ideas for the next regime. For this regime (that is, the society of the United States) if I was to be very, very optimistic.

To form more perfect union

Years ago, I was impressed with CGP Grey’s early videos on voting systems. I thought we need more of this. and I aspired to make more, if in essay, not video form.

I figured the US is going to destabilize and fragment or become such that it can no longer retain the illusion of democracy. We’re corrupting faster than we’re reforming. It would be nice to think by some miracle of political science we could, at some point, implement major anti-corruption reform within the current system. But indeed it would be a miracle of human cooperation. Rather, It will probably take a suffering by a lot of people through a period of ruthless authoritarianism before enough people realize are driven to take action and set things right once again. But when this happens, we need to get it right, as national constitutions are hard to debug after-the-fact. The fewer bugs we have, the easier they are to debug, either by amendment or by the next iteration.

So that’s a thing I’ve been doing. I try to identify and pinpoint problems with the current system and consider ways to solve them. In so doing, I hope to contribute to a better future in this way. It’s much the way that mad poet Percy Shelley was able to contribute to notions like socialism and nonviolent resistance. By growing out these branches of philosophy, it’ll be easier to Reddit a New Constitution, and maybe, when the big revolution comes, we’ll already be there with a foundational document ready to sign. That’s my fantasy, at any rate.

We hold these truths to be self-evident

But instead, we’re probably going to die.

We humans are too easily polarized in what we think. We have to train ourselves to check our facts habitually, to be willing to evaluate new facts, to cling less quick to old outdated data that confirms our beliefs, rather than newer, more accurate, better-verified data that contradicts them. We need to train a few generations to think, and to believe they are obligated to think critically about everything that might influence policy.

But we’ve run out of generations.

All my missives to a future regime may as well be missives to future cockroaches. Whatever taxonomic family survives to have the next chance to socialize and develop rational intelligence. Sadly, they’ll probably figure all this out themselves long before they uncover and decipher my notes, or worse, they’ll see them as holy scriptures and go to war over disagreements in interpretation.

To dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another

Some of our Republican officials (John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake) are announcing their retirement and then speaking freely (speaking their consciences) regarding the trespasses of decorum and justice and decency by the Trump administration, claiming that silence about and complicity with the Trump administration is toxic. The sentiments were also affirmed by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

But here’s the thing: If our representatives are incapable of speaking or acting their consciences without committing political suicide, that indicates the system is hacked, corrupt beyond repair, since our representatives are unable to actually represent, but are held to specific action through extortion or coercion. This isn’t a representative democracy, it’s a hostage situation. It’s enemy occupation.

A long train of abuses and usurpations

Our global average temperature is currently T🌐+1°* (NASA tracks it here.) where T🌐° (or, if you rather T🌐+0° or 14°C) is the average temperature from the 1960s to the 1990s. (We use this as the base temperature because it’s been an average for human history. The earth was also T🌐° from about 500BCE to 500CE with very little deviation).

But thanks to global warming, it’s now at T🌐+1°.

Climatologists can’t compute an exact point when it’s too late. Higher is worse, but there’s no clear too high point like Devil’s threshold, where Hell opens up if slightly over one billion people on Earth simultaneously masturbate. So we can’t say the world is going to explode at T🌐+9° (which the Earth experienced during the Cretaceous hot periods.) but there will be no glaciers, and the sea level will be 200 meters higher, and that might get uncomfortable without some pretty amazing permanent life support.

So, at what point do things get too bad? It’s hard to say. But our existential risk experts figure we’re not going to be able to safely reach T🌐+2°, which is confidently in a global Mad Max apocalypse threshold.**

That’s to say, by T🌐+2°, we will have gotten used to an annual onslaught of droughts, wildfire and crazy hurricane seasons. But approaching T🌐+2° we’ll suffer from a massive food crisis, and after a number of food riots wars. Famine will kill most of us. Plagues will mop up its own share. The disease-control infrastructure we depend on today will have long-since been overwhelmed and depleted, so even easily treatable pathogens will be able to take root and spread. The few and proud survivors will become post-apocalyptic (probably cannibalistic) road-warriors.

We were already failing to reduce gas emissions adequately during the Obama administration. But at least we were working to get our emissions under control. We were trying to make our lifestyles more sustainable. With Trump / Pruitt style policies going into place, where industries are rolling back environmental protections to around 1950 standards, we’re probably going to see T🌐+2° before 2040. Some are saying 2034.

My grandson will be 20. Miss Taz will be 31. The recently-showered baby will be 16.

So, yeah. I’m freaked a bit.

* Apparently our astronomical symbols for the Earth are not standard yet in Unicode. Officially, the Unicode symbol for the Earth is 🜨 which my WordPress / Firefox default fonts don’t recognize. There are similar symbols, ⊕ and ⨁ which are circled-plus operators. I could also use a globus cruciger (♁) though that is a bit similar to Venus (♀). Now, we also have emojis 🌍, 🌎 and 🌏 except they’re too difficult to recognize when they get too small. The globe emoji (🌐) seemed a reasonable compromise.

** Then again, Randall Munroe suggested T🌐+2 will probably be no big deal… that is if we can stop and reverse the thermometer at T🌐+2. I’d like to share Munroe’s optimism (though he may just be being generous for the climate-change denialists), but regular hammerings by extreme weather alone should be enough to change society and reverse the course of development. Past T🌐+1.5° it’s going to be a rough ride, and now an inevitable one. With massive emmission reductions we might be able to limit disaster (that is, lower existential risk) but our (remaining) descendents get to live in a post-apocalyptic world. Atlantis is doomed to fall.

Edits: Cleaned up for clarity and style. I published a draft while still in rant-mode.

Cat: Productivity Fail

WordPress or Mozilla Firefox ate my copy. I usually try to do most of my writing on a text editor, but sometimes when special characters are involved I have to switch over early. That’s what happened and then boop! all gone.

I am outraged and depressed and am going to crawl into my hole

Cat: Another Stress Inventory

It’s been another day that I haven’t been able to focus. I’m less depressed than I was yesterday, but I’m not out of that proverbial woods yet. Also while my worries are mostly non-local (news, government, not looming fires and smoke), there’s a lot of specific horrible things which look like they’re not going to get better.

Though I’ve been surprised before. Please. Surprise me.

My sweetheart’s been having an atypically long run of bad migraine days. Work multitasking and job insecurity are part of it, though field trips, baby showers displaced needed R&R and family drama (see below) all compound the problem.

Some of Miss Taz peers are exhibiting sexually aggressive behavior. There have been incidents of stalking. Police reports have been filed. It’s a problem.

Other friends with other troubles. (Roommate difficulties, dying parents, lack of professional caretakers, etc.)

A relative of mine whom I respect, religiously believes the President is doing right by the nation, which is disconcerting considering I expect him to be an irreligious, rational man.

The Trump Era itself. More specifically:

The looming North Korea crisis in which Trump seems to be rejecting non-military options.

White Supremacists which Trump condones and encourages, and in some cases, pardons. Trump has also clearly shown disregard for grievances by non-whites

Related to above, Trump has limited aid to Puerto Rico, devastated after Hurricane Maria. Curiously he doesn’t seem to understand Puerto Rico is a part the United States, and is entirely entitled to federal aid and protection.

Less specific to the Trump era, The Las Vegas Strip shooting, yet no one seems to be willing to look at mental health in the US. Instead, we’re restricting a gun part.

Harvey Weinstein was the latest rich, powerful guy to be massively accused for sexual harassment (coercion and assault). (Since followed by more Bill O’Reilly revelations) The thing is, we make our men that way based on how we treat them as teens. And again, no-one wants to look at this.

On a much closer-to-home note, the most recent Subnautica build is frustratingly buggy, and I’ve decided, unplayable. So I need to reconsider what I’m going to use as a distress-tolerance game. I’ve been back to Saints Row titles with 😻, which helps. Still, looking for something solitary to fill the gap.