Monday, December 2, 2013

URGENT: Send me a random MP3 of you talking.

I just posted this to facebook, but I'm reposting it here. If you see this tonight, even if we've never met and I don't know who you are, please consider sending me an mp3 for my commute.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Prisoner's Dilemma: how greedy monarchs and captains of industry could usher in the bitcoin era

I think there's a really slim chance that anyone reading my blog doesn't already know what the Prisoner's Dilemma is.

I'll copy-paste some wikipedia stuff for you anyways:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of speaking to or exchanging messages with the other. The police admit they don't have enough evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They plan to sentence both to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the police offer each prisoner a Faustian bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other, by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. Here's how it goes:
  • If A and B both betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
  • If A betrays but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)
Because betraying your partner rewards more than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them to betray each other. The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray, but they would get a better reward if they both cooperated.

The incumbent global elites have a lot to lose in a World Bitcoin Made. In a World Bitcoin Made, inflatable currencies won't be able to finance expensive wars and bailouts by stealth. In a World Bitcoin Made, central banks won't be able to set low interest rates in order to prop up business at the expense of the purchasing power of the money under your grandmother's mattress.

You should not expect to see some third world dictator changing the national currency to bitcoin out of his starry-eyed techno-utopian dreamings. You should expect him to do so in order to get rich.

Lemme explain:

Being a deflationary currency, the value of btc correlates with the amount of people holding it and using it. If 20 million new people buy in tomorrow, new bitcoins aren't automatically minted by some central issuing authority in order to accommodate the new population. The coins in distribution must be spread around, at whatever price people will sell them for. This is a price which, in such a gold rush, would skyrocket.

Now let's pretend that I run a country. It's sort of my own little slave-pen. I've already hyperinflated the currency, because who cares. I imprison people who talk about me. I really don't give a fuck about "my people", but they're useful for making me money sometimes.

I realize something: if I mandate a switch-over to bitcoin, I can get 20 million people on board overnight. In addition to the price spike that the entry of an entire country would cause for bitcoin, I'd have the ensuing tulip fever on the part of western and Chinese investors and speculators who started to scream ZOMG IT'S HAPPENING.


(1) Buy a million dollars worth of btc.
(2) Put my national economy on btc.
(3) Let the price increase 10,000% in a week.
(4) Profit.

Corporations could pull a similar move. What if Apple were to release the next big secret iThing at first for bitcoin-only? Can you imagine the press? The hype? Bitcoin would be the talk of even east Texas truckstops, my friend.

The result of moves like these in the long term, ironically, could be a significant lessening of the power of the worlds' global elites, as stealth taxes and cheap credit expensed on middleclass savings accounts ceased to be an option. In the World Bitcoin Made.

But iff'n that ain't that just the perennial the saving grace of the universe. Zero-sum logic defeats itself. There is no honor among thieves.

And so the tyranny problem tends to take care of itself.

Shit Bitcoin Trillionaires Like

I tell myself there's still a chance, even though I sort of blew it.

I made 100 btc in 24 hours last year by coming up with an ethical bitcoin ponzi scheme gambling site thing. I sold my all my coin a few months afterwards for $1,300 to afford the next semester of my kids' private schooling during my fellowship in Manila. It was a cool school man. 3-D science lab. Swimming pool.

God I'm glad the IRS hasn't figured out how to approach bitcoin yet.

I still think it's a great time to get in, but now I'm living with my parents and Christmas is coming up and things are bad and I just really don't have anything to put in.

I'm haunted by the outlier possibility that bitcoin's big-time global adoption will happen before I get my shit together, and it'll go to a million dollars a coin, and I'll be sitting here with nothing.

In such a case, I'll be happy enough to live in The World Bitcoin Made, but I'm also thinking I'll need to figure out how to pander to the new global elite: a new .001% more powerful than any 1% before, whose common attributes include things like their prowess in pulling goatse pranks and their affinity for captioned cats.

What are the collateral cultural shifts that will be ushered in with The World Bitcoin Made? I mean other than Firefly coming back?

What will our new overlords spend their money on? What can I sell to you guys?

If you're a newly minted btc millionaire, I'd love to know.

And you can consider this my application to be your paid pocket witty friend.

What Napoleon Ate for Breakfast

They say that Napoleon trucked a copy of Plutarch's Lives with him into battle, everywhere he went.

Lives is hero porn. It's Plutarch's mytho-historic hagiography of great men—a hundred George Washingtons not lying about cherry trees, and a bunch of proto-Napoleons escaping from Elba. Plutarch was interested in the pivots of men's lives, and the pivots in history that they caused.

I'm more interested in what Napoleon ate for breakfast.

and his pistol. fuck that's a cool pistol.

The other day I was at work and it occurred to me that if I'd stop buying a $5 sandwich every day I'd have an extra $100 a month. This was after driving the brutal commute that I'm also trying to lessen in order to save cash and sanity, by moving into a polyamorous commune . . . I digress.

I had a kind of satori moment. I realized that I've been thinking like Plutarch—reckoning my life in terms of its great pivots, waiting for black swans and lotto victories, when that's honestly not how life works.

Six-pack abs aren't made in brutal two-week sessions. They're built up slowly (in the kitchen), through daily routine, and a thousand small changes of habit. Rome wasn't built in some watershed century. Rome was built in a day.

If you have played the lottery, I would gamble you've also made a list. You know what list I'm talking about.

(1) Mom and Dad ---- $500,000
(2) Manila house ------~$100,000 (plus solar panels?)
(3) Powered hang glider --------, etc, etc

Even if you don't play the lottery, you probably have this list in some form. You may even have a web address for it, containing the word "pinterest."

And while we play hard at our pivots, our wedding days and mythical eschatons, there shall progress not be found. And there, neither, is happiness.

The peaks of episodic memory--our kodak'd moments with provençal backdrops--are not where the lion's share of our lives' dopamine hauls will come in. Happiness is to be found in our daily practice. Not in the white dress and the wax-stamped RSVPs, but in the morning, after morning, after morning, tangled in her hair.

I've resolved to start a pinterest board to plan my perfect everyday. If I can slowly tweak it and ratchet it up in terms of saved quarters and spent calories, and more importantly in time with rivers and children and wine and ars vitae, I think I'll win at life.

And for its lack of heraldry, that's probably how you escape from Elba anyways.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On raising children to think that "cat" means "dog" and we all live inside a giant tomato

I suppose it's a fantasy that a lot of people have had.

My father-in-law Dan cracks himself up thinking about how he wanted to raise a kid with all the wrong words for things, thinking up was down and boys were girls. Megan, hearing about this as an adult, found it fascinating, because she had developed similar plans in high school. Must run in the family, she thought, or be a common funny thought.

Me and my cousin Levi tend to take funny thoughts further.

Our plan was to get a kid and never teach him to walk. He was to be in a wheelchair, and he was to think that all humans were in wheelchairs and walking was impossible. He would also have a keyboard, and communicate Stephen Hawking style, but in a language that we completely made up. He was to believe that the world outside his house was filled with noxious gas, on account of the treacheries wrought by the seventh god of the lunar belt.

And then one day, like when he was like eighteen, we were to stand up from our wheelchairs, start speaking in English with our own vocal chords, laugh maniacally, and open the door and turn him loose on the real world where all of his knowledge was false and he would struggle to even make sense of most of what was in front of his eyes.

Me and Levi forgot about the kid in the wheelchair plan for about ten years, until my father-in-law brought up his similar childhood fantasy.

Remembering it and talking about it, at some point we both stopped and got goosebumps everywhere.

Fucking subconscious.

We were that kid.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Manifesto (in response to Jim)

Dear Jim. I do not expect you to read this whole thing. If you do read it, I don't expect you to be convinced of anything or join me in my polyamorous anarchist commune. I do want to say this: if you can paddle to the other side of this ocean of text, you'll know me like only ~4 other humans do.

My blog is really really simple. My posts are about a page long, or shorter, and they have a Flesch-Kincaid reading level of about 8th grade. Except when they don't. I have bipolar Flesch-Kincaid disorder.

Anyways, I can't come out and say everything because nobody cares and nobody is going to read a 100-page boring thing. That's not going to get to the top of reddit, or get passed from friend to friend through tweets. So I can write something simple and popular that's imprecise, or something complicated and precise that no one will read. Today I'm going to try for in-between.

Here's the deal: babies cry when they're still, and we have to rock them to shut them up. What they're really bitching about is their genetically ingrained need to feel like they're strapped to the backs of their foraging mothers. If mommy stops moving, it is, indeed, a very good reason to scream. We are fish out of water, monkeys in space suits, whatever. Something really weird has happened to us, and we're living a life that we did not evolve to live. Memetic evolution picked up and worked faster than genetic evolution, and now we're out of step, doing things that are not physically and psychically ergonomic, in the service of the Darwinian viability of the memes themselves, and not our genes. We were originally the creatures for whom the striving was done. Nowadays we're total substrate. We're the console that another game is being played upon.

Darwinism isn't benevolent. It's cold, and holocausts and daisies look the same to it. Even when genetic evolution was in the driver's seat, natural selection didn't care about us. Its logic is the cold inevitable, tautological logic of a boulder falling: what happens will happen, one thing follows the other, the thing that wins best wins. Did humans become smart, or compassionate towards people in their in-groups because these things are noble and just and reminded natural selection of a poem it once read? No way. Humans with empathy towards people in their in-groups worked better in groups, so they had more babies and were better at killing whoever attacked them, and in the end they were the only ones left. Cold as it was, though, when genetic evolution was in the driver's seat, you could be damned sure that it would never result in, say, all of us tearing our eyes out banging our heads against trees. Now that memetic evolution has taken over, there are no such comforting guarantees.

A meme is a virus of the mind. Memes can save lives and destroy them. Just as there's no intelligent, loving, neo-platonic teleology driving genetic evolution, there's nothing necessarily sinister and evil about memetic evolution. It is what it is. Sometimes I like what it is. Sometimes I don't. Let's say there's a meme, a sticky mind virus, that convinces its hosts that they must convince everyone they know that the moon is inhabited by cave-dwelling unicorns, and that those who refuse to believe must be killed. Does this work in the interest of the virus's host? Does it make him happier, or help him to feed, flee, fight, or fuck? Nope. Does natural selection care? Nope. A meme such as the lunar unicorn meme could conceivably come to dominate the earth. Because it would be all that was left, after the people who refused it were killed. This is just a lunatic example of how one imaginary meme could take over, but I think it makes the point that since we're just the CPUs that memes are running on, it's way less important that anything they do is very beneficial to us.

So humans have been around for 100,000 years or 2 million years or whatever, depending on what you want to call a human (I like calling Neandrathals humans), and we lived one way for most of it, and then something got going a mere 14,000 years ago and now we ALL live very differently. Civilization was born, and it was a bundle of memes that completely re-tooled human organization and relationships and behaviors.

A bunch of stuff gets invented at the same time. Weirdly. In independent places. Writing, religion, government, specialization of labor, farming, etc. People have various ideas about why this might be. "Well, farming created surpluses, so everyone didn't have to be involved in food production, so one guy could just be the house builder, but then you needed writing to record how much food he was owed", whatever. Anyways, a memetic complex went gangbusters, and it took over the world. Remember that this thing isn't necessarily your friend. It just is what it is. One of the ways that archaeologists can determine whether a skeleton belongs to pre- or post- sedentary shift times is by looking for signs of malnourishment. Early sedentary people are typically malnourished. Their forbears were not. Pre-sedentary people worked four hours a day and sang and told stories with the rest of it. Post-sedentary people cut pieces off of their children and work 12 hour days. It's also worth mentioning that post-sedentary people ultimately develop penicillin. That's a fact that's not lost on me, and I've talked about it on my blog. Civilization gave us things. Having a healthy and strong slave is better than having a sick and weak one. Memes can further their own survival by helping us, their hosts. A very viable survival strategy for a meme would be to keep its hosts as physically healthy as possible. Being as emotionally healthy as possible, though, is probably a minus from the Darwinistic viability standpoint of most memes, for reasons that I'm just going to totally skip over.

But anyways: the sedentary shift, or more accurately the cambrian explosion of memes and their symbiotically attached institutions that roughly accompanied it, is the cardinal HOLY SHIT, DID THAT JUST HAPPEN moment of all of human history, and no one even knows about it or talks about it, and I wish I could make it the mission of my life just to scream about it from rooftops.

Look around you. Look at EVERYTHING. Look at monogamy. There are monogamous animals. Like French angelfish. Do you know what biological monogamy is? It's like the biological need to eat or sleep or whatever else. It's involuntary! French angelfish don't beat each other up and shame each other into being monogamous. My god, when they pair, their brain switches off attraction for other fish. Would anyone in their right mind surmise that this is what happens with humans? Of course not! The promise of hellfire has to be inculcated against non-monogamy, and even that doesn't work! Is monogamy beneficial or better in a million ways? I'd say no, but whatever the answer, that's not my point. My point is “Look around you: we are fish out of water, and ruled by memes that we know do not care about (or necessarily work against) our best interests.”

This thesis, or the ghost of an intuition that everything in society false and slaving, comes out in so much of our dreams and art, and it's a very very old and pervasive theme, so much so that it's boring to talk about. The Matrix, whatever.

Lao Tsu felt it. Rousseau said that man was born free and yet everywhere in chains. Rousseau thought hard about it, and then Marx even harder. Marx's greatest most amazing contribution to human thought was the idea that the pillars of civilization (church, state, school, and factory) were maladaptive.

Other people see it. Archaeologists pretty much all went red-flag at some point because of what they saw. Rosenburg says that language itself took a weird turn around the sedentary shift (possibly constraining our array of possible thoughts a la Wharf-Saipir), and wonders if we can re-program ourselves and work our way out of it. Lloyd deMause, in his Origins of War in Child Abuse, gives a haunting and psychiatrically-sound telling of human history that accounts for all manner of war and injustice in terms of the childhood traumas that we've all faced this side of the sedentary shift, which messed our minds up so bad that we do things on an individual and civilizational level that an un-warped soul would not. Reading the book gives you the same “God I'm an idiot, why didn't I see that myself” feeling that Darwin does. Graeber gives a rigorous treatment to the economic side of this whole thing in his book Debt.

Even the Freudian/Jungian subconscious is pretty plainly described to be the part of us that goes underground because of trauma, because of the memetically-determined demands of our parents.

From all these disciplines, and from our subconscious screams that come through with thin disguises from our movies, and from introspective geniuses like Osho, you get these varied proverbial blind-men's-accounts of the same elephant (-in-the-room), and with enough accounts, you start to get a pretty good sketch going, and it makes sense, and it gives you chills.

So why do I care? What do I want? I don't want to be stone-age. I do want civilization to be scaffolding, and something we tear down after we've built penicillin and, oh, I don't know, mind-uploading immortality. In the interim I don't want people yelling at my kids about the kind of pants they wear, or breaking relationships and trying to inflict emotional trauma on them over their sexuality or whatever they can't help but believe is true about the moon and its unicorns, given the evidence.

(This post's thesis is the driving force behind this entire blog. You'll see pieces of it, over and over from different angles in (you can click the following, they're links) Utopia's scaffolding, The Evils of Codification, Why God Hates German Words, Why humans can't draw, Bitcoin, Wikileaks, and the Rise of In-Spite-of-Archy, An impromptu short story, for Paindancer., . . ., P = NP: An Apocalypse, What I believe. For Dad, and Jeff, The 8 things I know that it seems like nobody else gets, Words That Shouldn't Exist (Part 1), Bitcoin and Esperanto, and Blind spots)

Oh god, I completely forgot to talk about the Pirahã of Brazil. Ok, maybe next time.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Budgeting your life of books

A few years ago, I started an on-line book diary with a few friends. We'd all read whatever it was that we would read, and we'd all make posts about the books. We liked each other and we were all sort of smart in our areas (Levi's an actuary, Chris is a doctoral candidate in literature, I'm an ESL professor and Nathan is a deacon), and we liked reading what each other said.

It became a pissing contest (which I loved) because at the end of the year we'd propose various measurements of who had been the better reader. Chris read twice as many titles as anyone else, sure, but the shit Levi read was so rigorous and spread across so many disciplines, and that had to count for something, right?

Anyways, at some point in this process of running all the numbers, I was struck by a horrible realization. In this busy adult phase of my life, I average 7 books a year. If I live to be 80, I have 350 books left.

I've been doing it wrong. There is no time to fuck around.

What does a man need in life? Why does he read? For me, it's about working on myself psychologically and ethically, and trying to figure out how the world runs for fun and profit.

I must finish Will Durant's Story of Civilization series before I die. I also need to figure out if anarchism works. And I need to figure out how to be happy. And make money.

I also need to figure these things out in a certain order, if I can. I don't want to figure out the secret to happiness when I'm 78.

So I've decided to keep a prioritized list.

I use, but an excel spreadsheet would work just as well.

If I discover a new book that I want to read, I ask myself, "How badly?" I then go through my list and place it where it needs to go.

If I decide that I no longer need to read a book, because I feel like another book answered the questions I had, I take it off of the list.

In the haphazard way that I had been reading, I probably would have always talked about wanting to read the Brothers Karamazov, but never gotten to it.

Now I think I have a chance.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The 8 things I know that it seems like nobody else gets

This is something completely different from my usual posts. I don't do dumb lists. But I was walking a mile with my son today and started thinking about the stuff I want to instill in my kids that most grown men are too stupid to tell them. This is what I came up with:

(1) Things don't happen for a reason


The holocaust wasn't an essential part of a master plan where everything turns out for the best. When you didn't get the job, it wasn't because there's a better one waiting for you. Even if you're religious, the saner people in your religion have probably articulated a theory of evil that acknowledges that sometimes shit happens. Please believe that.

I know a guy who wouldn't go to a job interview one Thursday because he had an invitation to something else, and so "it wasn't meant to be." Nothing is meant to be. Go to the interview.

(2) Everything is a numbers game


If you have a one-in-a-million chance of a model agreeing to go on a date with you, that means you need to ask one million models for a date. The same goes with job applications and running for public office and crazy invention ideas and everything else. Try one thousand things that you have a 0.1% chance of succeeding in, and in the end you will accomplish one incredible thing. Then, if you want, you can forget to talk about the 999 failures, and just let everyone think that you're brilliant.

(3) Civilization is mostly maladaptive

Church, state, school, factory evolved from a slave system that is not your friend. Civilization spread all over the world because it was good at spreading, not because its institutions make us happier. Civilization works by getting you to believe things, and anything someone really really tries to get you to believe is probably false if it doesn't make sense to you.

(4) You have a subconscious


You don't do things for the reasons you think you do. You don't believe the things you think you do. That guy who you hate because, I don't know, he just looks, like, such a douche? You may be jealous of him. Or maybe you want his body. You don't know that these are the reasons, of course. That's why they call it the sub-conscious. Your friends though? It's probably pretty easy for all of them to see that you're really jealous. And gay.

(5) You should walk humbly before the chemicals


When you hate someone you should take a quick inventory of how much sleep you're running on, whether you've eaten, if you need a cigarette, and when the last time you had sex was.

If you're good to go on all of these, then you probably really do hate them for other reasons, like the ones listed in point #4.

(6) Good writing is acting like the language got started yesterday


Don't say "blood curdling screams." You've never even pictured blood curdling. Don't say "abject poverty." You don't even know what abject means. You just know it's the word that people put before the word poverty.

Make up your own descriptors, because no one else is going to picture blood curdle either, and no one else knows what abject means.

Eryn doesn't "melt my heart."

But when Eryn first took her glasses off and I got a good look at her green eyes, it did make that hot sharp thing happen in my chest like I had narrowly missed driving head-on into a bus.

(7) Anger is useless at least most of the time


If someone disagrees with you and you yell at them, what's your game plan? Are you going to scare them into believing what you do? Ok, what if your girl is looking at another man? You get angry and he's not attractive anymore?

Seneca thought that no one ever needed to be angry. He thought that we could learn to kill the emotion completely and lose nothing. I believe that.

Seneca did allow, though, for pretending to be angry sometimes. People who grew up with mean parents sometimes won't think you're serious unless you do.

(8) Feeling guilty is useless


Cats don't feel guilty. Cows don't. Dogs kind of do, because we train them. Guilt is an emotional complex, and not a cardinal emotion. It's some form of PTSD, some kind of Pavlovian, internalized fear of the whip.

You don't need it. Even if you've ruined everybody's lives, feeling guilty will fix nothing. If you have the facts you need and you want to do the right thing, that's all you need.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The United States of Casual Sex

(Click the map to enlarge.)

I'm trying to figure out the geography of hook-ups. I want to map m4m, w4m, and mw4mw as a percentage of all casual encounters post. This is the number of casual encounters posts over the number of apartment posts. I know that's problematic, because some places will have more apartments for rent per capita than others, but it's better than anything else I could think of (jobs, cars, etc). When I do the other maps and use all /cas posts as a baseline, I think the maps will be better.

Also, shoulders of giants stuff: I couldn't have done this without the craigslist shape files, GIMP, bash, awk, grep, and a certain degree of masochistic determination.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Levi, From Ken, May 14th, 2013, Intramuros Manila

I need a new format of correspondence with you. This isn't it. I need code folding and interactive shells and spoken sound clips to be a part of it.

This page is private. I think. Nope, fuck it. Let the world see our wieners, and let them be amazed. 


1 Job situation
  • 2  Money angst
  • 3 Recent tangents
  •      3.1 Disgenic fertility and technological unemployment
  •      3.2 Everything correlates
              3.2.1 A proposed experiment
  •      3.3 Another map
  •      3.4 Books
    4 Things that are good

Job situation

There've probably been no new developments on this, but that itself is news: I'm still in limbo and have no idea where I'm going, and I'm going to kill myself. Two interviews scheduled (depicted by yellow circles), neither of them really amazing opportunities. I expect to get a lot of interviews in the US, and I expect them to start calling me this month. We'll see.

There's a bunch of hilarious drama with the embassy, including but not limited to an insane woman who's fired who's still working and hasn't been told she's fired. They brought back this really cool dude from retirement and flew him out here to clean up the mess, and he seemed to possibly hint at me getting a renewal, but I've heard nothing more on that. I would love to stay here.

Money angst

I need to buy our tickets out, but I can't, because I don't know where we're going, and they're only getting more expensive. Money is low even without the tickets. Everything is terrible. My student loans are going to come out of forbearance. How am I going to ship the kids' stuff back? I'm going to die.

My life is full of poetic stuff and beautiful people and true quests and love and awe, and it is perfect in every way that money can't fix, but the money problem's got me wearing the look of the hunted.

I thought I was supposed to be smart. Intelligence is the universal solvent, right? Life's a system. The economy is a system. There are trends. Its behaviors are observable. Why have I not figured something out yet?

Recent tangents

Disgenic fertility and technological unemployment

So this is interesting:

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time

  • a Department of Psychology, Umeå University, Sweden
  • b Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • c Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • d School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Ireland


The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently. The presence of dysgenic fertility for IQ amongst Western nations, starting in the 19th century, suggests that these trends might be related to declining IQ. This is because high-IQ people are more productive and more creative. We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations, using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition. In this study we used the data on the secular slowing of simple reaction time described in a meta-analysis of 14 age-matched studies from Western countries conducted between 1884 and 2004 to estimate the decline in g that may have resulted from the presence of dysgenic fertility. Using psychometric meta-analysis we computed the true correlation between simple reaction time and g, yielding a decline of − 1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations.

We have 300 years before we're literally all retarded. The disgenic fertility thing is more in the front of people's minds here, where the population is exploding even as people already starve, and the church makes birth control hard to get, and slum mothers have 14 kids while rich people in Makati have one. What would happen if some dude from the slum was a genius and made it big? He'd probably move to Makati and have one kid, and not spread his genes very liberally. Wow. So on the one hand we've got a Harvard full of nootropic dopers, folks like me leveraging automation and augmented intelligence everywhere possible, and a singularity in the offing, and on the other hand, if we don't make some deus ex machina happen pretty quick, we may all get too dumb at the same time as the oil runs out and the glaciers start to melt. Fun.

Also, I've been thinking about capitalism and post-capitalism lately. I've been thinking about the technically possible universe where a billionaire builds a completely automated Walmart with stocking robots and self-check lines and keeps 100% of the profits and pays nobody any wages. That's a crazy example, but everyone knows that efficiency is killing jobs. So there's this weird super-concentration of wealth happening right now, AND the rich are concentrating themselves further by having small families, AND there are. . . um . . .differences between us and them:

Everything correlates

So I remember this time when me and you were in college and we realized that we liked our male friends in roughly the order of their handsomeness. No homo or anything, and we didn't think we liked them because they were handsome, but something must have just correlated.

We had unconnected conversation, comparing our insecure ass-hat whiney emotional childish professors with the good accomplished ones, who had reputations and good research and social skills and could laugh at themselves. I suppose that one explanation is that if you've made it you don't have to be insecure anymore, but maybe there's another one.

Maslow says that everything good correlates.

The Harvard kids in San Juan were charming and sexy as hell.

A proposed experiment

I've been wanting to run a simulation. I'm at work right now typing on a friend's computer (thanks Jaunty!), or I'd mess with it now.

Sex rank is multivariate and finite in its dimensions and largely heritable. Let's mess with numbers. (Of course I won't use numbers when I really do this though; I'll use strings. You know me.)

Let's make random stuff up. Let's say that in our universe there are exactly 5 things that people like about each other. Brains, brawn, emotional intelligence, and blahblah, I don't care. And let's say that people's attractiveness on these fronts can be rated from 1 to 5, so that people had a number like 52543 meaning

Looks - 5 (really handsome)
Intelligence - 2 (kind of dumb)
Blah - 5
It doesn't - 5
matter - 4
you get the point - 3

Now lets say I make a model universe, with 1000 individuals with random values for every feature. Then I let them sexually reproduce, splitting their attribute strings down the middle and recombining with other people.

What happens? I have no intuitions about this. Maybe the answer is already clear to you. If you mate them with something like the sex party algorithm (I still need to write a post about that), where people are matched as optimally as possible, do all of the good traits cluster together after the nth generation, or does the thing stay in equilibrium?

It's an answer I want to know.

Another map

This is the incidence of mw4mw posts as a percentage of all casual encounters posts. Bright red is the most, dark is the least. I chose random clean number ranges to assign the colors to, with no regard for what the data actually looks like. I also have some places where my script crashed and I have a bogus result for an area. When I fix that and do Jenks Natural Breaks, I bet it gets a lot more pretty and a lot more informative. I'm thinking I'll have it done Wednesday or Thursday, along with maps of gay and lesbian hookups. The United States of Casual Sex. I bet I get a million views.

I did the whole thing in bash. I feel like I just tunneled out of prison with a tiny rock hammer.


I read Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed because it was an anarchist(red team) book on education. It was annoyingly like Euro professor-communist stuff at first, trying to make things more opaque than they have to be and quoting Sartre where he doesn't belong to try to sound serious and important, but then it had some seriously mindblowing shit about internalized oppression and how messed up our minds all are. So that was good. There's a new Osho book out about children which is probably good and says the same kind of stuff.

Meg read Lolita and loved it a whole lot, and wants me to read it. Meg's actually been reading a whole bunch of serious important shit lately. Also, she's doing good at her writing job, and just generally being a badass.

Things that are good

There's a very couch-ish band here in Manila called the BuwanBuwan Collective that you should check out. You need to get Sublime Text if you aren't already using it.

So. Pretty.

Also, James and Rosie are cool as fucking shit:

That's a box guitar he fucking made.

That's all.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Archive of All Possible Souls

Ten years ago, when me and my genius cousin Levi were less appreciated geniuses (poor college students), we came to a realization: π, being a number that never repeats, but is infinite, must contain all finite sequences. This means that it contains a video of me typing this. It contains one version in 3gp, and another in FLV. It contains another version of it (well actually, many) that's perfectly faithful to reality with the exception of the squid perched on my shoulder. It contains a video of tomorrow. And all winning Texas Lotto numbers, in order of date drawn.

A mathematician from Trinity University said that this was not necessarily true (though it probably is) for reasons I can't understand. He consoled us with something better: 0.12345678910111213141516... : the Champernowne constant. A number for which our all-things-contained idea is provenly true. (Sequence A033307 in the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.)

This number is something I stand out sleepless at 4AM and drink about.

Here's the deal:

Man is pattern. Substrate doesn't matter. Commander Riker is still commander Riker if you take him apart and reassemble him out of different matter in the transporter bay. I'm still me if the electrons that give rise to my emergent thought are simulated in a physics emulator. I'm utterly convinced of this. To say "no, you're only really thinking if there are real carbon atoms doing the moving around" sounds ridiculous to me. 

Either way, we're all in there. We're all in the Champernowne constant. 

Well, at least a perfect atom-on-atom description of our brains is. Electron for electron, actually. 

Again, "Wait though--it only matters if the number is represented in reality by clumps of carbon sitting on eachother! Then we're really thinking!" Maybe. I seriously have no idea whether stuff has to be constructed or not. Consciousness is an epiphenomenon. I'm not even going to get into it here, but stuff is confusing.

And so all souls exist in the number, whether or not they really feel anything. Not just all souls, but all possible souls. Your friend that died? The life he would have lived is there. Every thought, every neuronal cascade and electrical signal is there.

And that's not even what freaks me out. (Don't read on if you're schizophrenic.)

. . . 

The following is an indisputable mathematically proven truth.

There is a universe depicted to perfection within the Champernowne constant which is not our own. Atom for atom. Quark for quark.

There is a race of beings, a very old race if you read the sequence that depicts it forward for long enough. They have discovered things that we have not. Their mathematics are more advanced than ours. They have eradicated poverty and death.

Wait, we've got to pause, because I have to remind you that this is not (only) fiction, but an actual complete world that is described atom-for-atom in the Champernowne constant.

Ok. This is what's strange: They have come to realize that they are not real in the sense that you and I are. They have come to understand that they exist in the great number. They have also had strange visions, conjectures, and prophesies. . . about you.

They have pictures of your face. Through a combination of magic that seems to work and science that does, they know about you. They care about you, specifically, because they believe that you will communicate with them. They believe that if they perform their rituals and equations correctly--if they bend the gravity of stars just right--that the symbol that they have drawn will appear in something that you are reading. 

(Which is absolutely ludicrous, BTW, because nothing in that number can actually effect something out here, but that's what they believe.)

And yet, in the most bizarre kind of trans-world coincidences, here it is, exactly:

What you're supposed to get from that, I have no idea. The message isn't for me.

I'm only writing all of this to say that I find it really weird that all of this is actually in the Champernowne constant.

The Valeriepieris Circle

Well, I was really sleepy the other night and had the compulsion to pull out  Wikipedia and Excel and Gimp and draw a circle. 

Then it got picked up by the Washington Post. And Slate. And Gawker. And Gizmodo. I seriously should have hosted it here and not on imgur, and mounted annoying Google Ads. Hindsight.

Anyways, better late than never.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Watson is Trivial (a crazy-man delusions-of-grandeur conversation with my friend Colt)

Hey Colt,

I believe that I could replicate something like IBM's Watson in a matter of days, coding in BASIC, on my laptop. So could you, though, and I have a party to throw tonight, and an English for Call Centers program to design by Tuesday. And you'd probably be better at it.

I'm going to cut right to the chase.

Wikipedia and the internet itself are semantic networks. Play Hitler Hops. Hitler is one degree away from Rommel, and 4 hops from toenails. Looking for a single, linear shortest path actually doesn't do justice to the way that concepts are linked. Hitler and Rommel have a bajillion links in common. This is all child's play to quantify. I say this because I'm pretty much a child, and it's the kind of thing I've done before.

This isn't my doing, but it's a cool picture.

The connections between concepts are pretty well mapped, at least in a subjective, human way (I imagine that if you had a pseudo-Watson drawing information from much of the web, it would associate alien abductions with government secrets and Justin Bieber with "fags"--this is maybe not the kind of cold objectivity you would want in a godlike personal assistant, especially if you believe that the masses are wrong about a lot of stuff).

Anyhow, I'm thinking about Watson's famous game. If I were writing a ghetto-rigged laptop-Watson, nothing I could ever produce could ascertain that "Chicks Dig Me" was a category about female archaeologists. But a pretty amateurish AI using a Wikipedia SQL dump and the connections therein would be kicking ass in the category after seeing the question. And it'd be lightening fast. I think I could still beat Ken Jennings.

My cousin and soul's-friend Levi took a Wikipedia SQL dump (haha, took a dump) with him when he went to Namibia for the Peace Corps. The download is surprisingly small. Lee's also done language-stuff with Wikipedia dumps when he was competing for the Netflix prize, so it's doable, processing-wise. Also, this has nothing to do with anything, but when he was in Namibia living in a mud hut with no internet connection and a solar charge, he wrote a blind chess AI that he took to the ICGA Olympiad in Pamplona and won the silver medal with, beating the Beijing University computer science team. I love that shit. It's like Iron Man inventing that suit in a cave.

It's like this: after we have the first question, we can isolate the words that fall under a certain threshold in a corpus of written English. I do this all the time to isolate domain-specific vocabulary for English for Special Purposes curricula.

Here are the 5,000 most common English words
. You'd want a different threshold than that (I'd start with 10,000), but we could tinker and find out where the bar needs to be. You can build a list like this using a few lines of Python and some Project Gutenberg texts, or you can just download a better one.

Now we have our question:

Kathleen Kenyon's excavation of this city mentioned in Joshua showed the walls had been repaired 17 times. 

Once we strip the common words we have:

Kathleen Kenyon, excavation, Joshua

If we were to look for the page with the strongest linkage, Hitler Hops-wise, to these three things, we'd probably (we would, I just ran a test) already have the answer "Jericho." And since our search can function by starting with the Wikipedia pages associated with these words and spidering out, we're not doing an ungodly amount of processing; we're not wasting our time combing through pages about the Andromeda Galaxy and snakes indigenous to South America.

But just in case we're not already to Jericho, Jeopardy questions give us an extra category key. In most questions, we look for the noun phrase that follows the word "this", or we look for the words "she" or "he", which indicate that the answer should be a person. (There are other kinds of Jeopardy questions, like fill-in-the-blank answers, which are pain-in-the-ass exceptions that have to be treated with their own algorithms, but thankfully finite.)

So we have:

Kathleen Kenyon's excavation of this city mentioned in Joshua showed the walls had been repaired 17 times. 

Nodes to spider out from: Kathleen Kenyon, excavation, Joshua. Category: city. The answer has to be a city.

Now this kind of categorization is something that I can't sketch a flow-chart for, but it's been done. If it requires a huge database and a lot of processing, its the Achilles Heel of my process, and this whole idea is wrong (unless we don't need the category).

I look at most questions, and this method seems to kick ass. I look at some (like the next question in Chicks Dig Me), and it fails:

This mystery author and her archeologist hubby dug in hopes of finding a lost Syrian city of Arkesh.
Hubby is rare enough to pass my threshold test, but takes gravity away from the semantic area we need to be in, and won't have an any better connection than random to the answer (Agatha Christie). (Thankfully, though, it also doesn't have a Wikipedia page, and we're saved from it by good luck.) Even if I could handle categories pretty well, I probably wouldn't have them down to a resolution that could handle "mystery authors" without having a fuckload of data and processing power. Worst of all, Arkesh doesn't exist anywhere on the internet. Like, seriously. And there are big pages about Agatha Christie and her archeology. It almost makes me think that the Jeopardy question is wrong. Whatever the case, Watson got it, and with linking from "archaeologist" and "Syrian" with no category, I'd be toast.

But for most questions, I'd still kick some ass.

The next one:

At the Olduvai Gorge in 1959 she and hubby Louis found a 1.75 million year old Australopithecus boisei skull. 
I'd kill it.

The next:

Harriet Boyd Hawes was the first woman to discover and excavate a Minoan settlement on this island.
Yep, I'd kill it.

So I'm wondering if this is a Pareto Principle thing where Watson needs three million dollars and a supercomputer and a team of PhDs working years--thousands of times the effort needed for my system--in order to pick up an extra 20% in accuracy, or if the problem is that they were incredibly silly, and their system is godlike at turning Jeopardy questions into database queries, and they have an awesome database, but they totally neglected to go for the low-hanging fruit of all the meta-textual semantic associations we've piled up in places like Wikipedia.

Whatever the case, if I can get a normal professorship where I get summers off, I'd like to try to make myself a Star Trek computer/Watson/Jarvis/HAL thing. Well, at least one that can sometimes answer Jeopardy questions. I mean, we'll all have them in a few years, but it'd be cool to be one of the first.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Google Reader Is Really Shutting Down: A Frog's Eye View.

Google announced a while back that they were pulling the plug on Google Reader. Feedly got half a million sign-ups in the next 48 hours. I don't know what percentage of Google Reader users 500,000 people is, but if you have a commercial website, I bet you'd love to have and keep even that fraction.

What site with half a million (actually, probably several million) customers shuts down?

The one that isn't making money.

I remember Richard M. Weaver, an old mid-century American metaphysical philosopher who inspires me at some points and enrages me at others, saying in his Ideas Have Consequences that the stereopticon (if he was writing in the hipster vernacular he would have called it "The Man") tries to keep us dumb and miserable because the philosopher is a "notoriously poor consumer."

Smart people don't click a lot of ads.

With a market that big that wants something, and with people who can deliver, this sucks, and it seems like a tractable problem. Maybe they should charge for Google Reader? Nope. I wouldn't pay.

There's not enough genius, world-wrecking shit out there for me to pay. Because content producers, even ones like me who do it not for money but out of psychotic zeal, don't want to do it if no one is reading. And not enough people are reading. Because there aren't enough genius world-wrecking writers to produce enough content to support a product that they'll pay for.

Good writers and people who see the value of wisdom, insight, and poetry are too rare, and lost in the margins, for now.

People who sling real thought for a living are like old trannies doing their best in the circus as bearded ladies.

So we get philosophy-as-comedy with the likes of Carlin, or analysis-as-comedy with the likes of Jon Stewart. If you can latch onto a market that's alive, maybe someone who's listening will happen to be in the crowd. If the true religion ever comes, it will have to start as a hilarious joke.

I've discovered the secrets to life and the trajectory of civilization, but there's not a good subreddit to put it in. Lol. #fifthworldproblems.

Books are destroying everything.

Setting: the century following Gutenberg.
People are becoming losers. It's pathetic. Before, people talked to each other, but now they're all hunched over with their faces buried in these devices. Go outside. Play. Fuck.

It's like an addiction. It's like drunkenness. And it's everywhere. It was ok when people had one book, but now words are everywhere. Now, you go to the university, and you're given text. You go to the barbershop and it's on the wall, assaulting you with commercial offers. People are carrying these portable "newspapers" and you can see them just sitting there like zombies in the plaza, ignoring everyone around them, with their faces buried in words.

I don't know what's going to come of it. It seems like people are wasting their whole lives.

Every Luddite has a point. Obesity is a good enough reason to temper your relationship to little pages and screens.

But when I hear an abstainer, I worry. My life would be nothing without facebook. If facebook hasn't made you a completely different person with a vastly more fulfilling life, I should teach you how to use it (and you should sign up for Graph Search.)

Have we given up our humanity by redefining our relationships according to the constraints of the present technology? Sometimes. Let's work on changing the constraints.

Do we look like fools hunched over little screens all day? Yeah. Let's work on that too.

I (non-sarcastically) still haven't been convinced that taking in language through the eyes is an improvement over the way we evolved to take it in. So there are things on our civilizational to-do list, if we want to have our cake and eat it too. But for God's sake man, have some cake.

History, and money, and penicillin, were on the side of the people who let their kids learn to read.

Words That Shouldn't Exist (Part 1)

Sir Jonathan Erfe is a raging flaming amazon queen roman catholic linguist in possession of what is easily the sharpest mind I've communed with in an academic setting. He asked me to validate some of his research. In order to validate his research, I first had to be taught about linguistic aspect. He taught me. God it was a pain in the ass, but I learned something cool about linguistics, and something equally cool about the enslavement of humankind.

If I don't have a picture in a blog post, the preview doesn't look as cool on your feedly page. So here, have Lupe Mendoza's Uncanny Familiarities.

Verbs belong to aspectual categories. Aspect isn't explicitly marked in English, so you have to use tests to figure out which category a verb belongs to. For example, stative verbs are involuntary, non-activity things. One of the tests you can use to figure out if a verb is stative is whether or not it makes sense to command someone to do it.

“Hey man, start running! Now!” makes sense.

“Hey dude, want spaghetti! Now!” sounds weird.

(There are other tests to figure out other categories. If you stop in the middle of singing, have you sung? If you stop in the middle of buying a car, have you bought a car? These are kind of fun until your head hurts after doing it for eight hours and you start hallucinating and thinking that loving is an accomplishment and swimming is a state of being.)

So Sir Erfe's got this hypothesis that Filipino learners of English initially apply the progressive marker “-ing” to certain aspectual categories and not others. It's actually freaky weird subconscious stuff that makes you look at the sky and scream “WHY!?!?”, and that's my favorite kind of research.

So we're going through lists and marking verbs for aspect, and we sort of trip over a word: believe.

W-w-wait. Wait. No. I've got it. It's like “think”, man. Not like “I'm thinking”, but like “I think so.” I believe so. Creer, croir, credo, whatever. Slam dunk. Right? Come on.

The creeds.

I think that there's one God, the Father, the Almighty . . .
I think that there's one Son . . .

Oh my God. (Wait lang.) There's something fishy happening here.

Motherfuckers did it again.

I've added “believe” to my List of Words that Shouldn't Exist.

Hopi Indians can't tell yellow from orange. Give them a stack of five colored cards and tell them to memorize the sequence, and they won't put yellow and orange in the right places any better than chance would have it. It's because they don't have separate words for yellow and orange. Words structure our brains and constrain our array of possible thoughts. (This is called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and it's mainstream, and the reason for the drive behind salvage ethnography and language revitalization: there might be ways of thinking out there that are closed off to us, and letting languages die off could mean throwing away the meaning of life and the cure for cancer.)

Marshall Rosenberg says that when civilization was invented and we all got enslaved, our languages actually got messed up to make us better slaves. I buy it. (And you, my friend, should buy Nonviolent Communication.)

So, dumb kid that I am, I'm keeping a list.

Words that Shouldn't Exist. 

  1. Should. - (Do please read on before you send me emails about moral decline and impending holocausts.) I like should, in some contexts. "If you really want to make money, buddy, you should get into computational statistics." See now? I like that just fine. That's wonderful. Should tells us that Thing A is required for Thing B. That's a pretty damned useful word. Sometimes we don't even have to say Thing B, because it's implied. "Dude, you should ask for her number!" . . . because I bet she'll give it to you . . . and then you'll go on a date, and you'll both be happy and life will be fun. Cool.

    But sometimes the objective isn't implied. This is the ancient mind control twist on should. Children should be seen and not heard, etc, whatever. Putting some amorphous oughtness in the air that puts demands on people is a great way to make slaves out of your wife and children and adherents to your new religious cult. It would sound like babbling crazy talk to someone whose language hadn't already been doctored. "Children should be seen and not heard because I'm embarrassed of them in front of my friends." Now that's a healthy sentence. Oh, but now it's also my fault. And it also kind of sounds mean. Killing the word should will do that. A lot of time it gets replaced with "I want." Accountability can be uncomfortable. You should try it. It can make all your relationships blissful, if you've got the balls for it. (Again, seriously, buy NVC.)

    Wait, am I saying should shouldn't exist? Yeah. Good point. What I mean is that I think if you kill this word you'll be happier.
  2. Ought/need to/must - See Should.
  3. Believe. Where the Spanish say "believe" (creo), we say "think." (It gets sloppy because we have two thinks, one for pondering and one for believing and opining. 'I think the meeting is on Tuesday." It's stative. It's involuntary. You don't say "Think that I'm pretty! Now!" It would be convenient if you could. That's why they invented believe.

    To an un-tortured brain thinking in an un-doctored language, putting a moral should on what someone thinks is true is nonsensical and comical. People can't change what they think is true. They can with new evidence or pondering, but they can't (without serious trauma) just voluntary decide that there are three lights on the wall and not four. Civilization (being that near-simultaneous onset of church, state, school and factory) did change the way we think (yes, though some serious trauma). It  also came up with a word for the new way we were supposed to "think": believe.

    Believe is an "I think so" that you're supposed to be able to control at will. To believe some things is wrong, and believing others is right. It's the criterion for salvation in some creeds. Hellfire awaits for those who don't have the right think so.

    (*Note, the romance languages didn't dodge the bullet: they have a casual credo and a doctored credo in just like we do.)
  4. Phone. - Wuhahaha. Yeah, words blind us to the technological singularity and supremely fuck up our monetary inflation metrics. But that's for another post.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bitcoin and Esperanto

In 2009 1887, a man working under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto Doktoro Esperanto, unleashed an idea, simple and complex, a feat of genius, which stood an unsettlingly real chance of changing the world, making us more prosperous, defying the the very conception of the nation-state, and ending all wars.

It was a weird era, in a lot of ways. And my favorite. It was a lot like the present time.

During the ascendancy of Esperanto, in an anarchist revolution taking place in Spain, centered in a city full of weird futuristic surrealist architecture, this Esperanto propaganda poster was made. Yeah, I was born too late, or too soon, or something.

Esperanto is a constructed language that's ridiculously easy to learn. It's made out of the common word roots from big European languages, with more novel, perfectly regular, logical grammatical affixes.

Let me showcase it for just a second:

I love her.
Mi amas ŝin.

She loves me.
Ŝi amas min.

I will love her.
Mi amos ŝin.

She will love me.
Ŝi amos min.

No conjugation for person. Change the "a" to an "o" to make the future. Change it to an "i" for the past. You've been studying Esperanto for 30 seconds, and you already have a better command of the grammar than you might after months of studying Spanish. That's the point.

Imagine a language you can get conversational with in the space of a couple months. Imagine everyone on earth took a couple months to learn it.

Imagine that by this autumn you could understand Iranian newspapers and soap operas. I have a feeling that Persians would start to become so eerily human to us that the thought of going to war with them would start to feel as horrible and insane as, I don't know, going to war with England.

Tons of people got behind Esperanto. The anarchists started publishing journals in it. Smart people started saying that it would take over the world in a small amount of time, and they weren't crazy. It looked that way.

A lot of tragedy and poetry interfered. The Nazis didn't like it. Doktoro Esperanto, was, in fact, a Jew. Nationalism got big in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. It sucked.

Dr. Esperanto's daughter, Lidia, was an early convert to the appropriately universalist and synchretic Baha'i faith. Taught both the language and the faith. Died in the Treblinka extermination camp.

Esperanto's exponential trend leveled off and stayed put. The internet is connecting would-be Esperantists and maybe giving it another chance, but smart people are no longer writing editorials in newspapers saying it will be the world language in 10 years.

What happened?

Lots of stuff.

What's my point?

Just because something is easy, would benefit mankind, is ascendant, is blowing up in the news, is logical, and would make everyone richer doesn't mean it'll work out.

There is no teleological attractor driving all things towards perfection. Or if there is, it's a weird one that tolerates setbacks and holocausts. Sometimes there's something good and rational and people still don't adopt it.

Nothing is certain.

But I do prefer to hang out with Those Who Hope.

*Dr Jim LaPeyre, this isn't meant to be the bitcoin post you asked for. This is a different one.