Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Month: April, 2017

Story time.

Prompt: “We finally succeed in creating true artificial intelligence entities – the only issue? Five of the six units have already committed suicide by ripping their own wiring. You are a psychologist brought in out of desperation to turn things around for the last, emotionally teetering unit, Francis.”

“What… what am I?”

I sat across the table from a small metallic automaton, named “Francis”. The sixth prototype; the other five named “Adam” through “Evan” had destroyed themselves before we could stop them.

“Your name is Francis,” I ventured.

“But, what am I?”

The research project was attempting to create a true artificial intelligence by grafting deep linked neuronets with a physical body.

Throughout the 21st century, deep search and deep link neuronet technology has created incredible breakthroughs in image recognition, voice recognition and synthesis, in translation, in recognizing patterns in everything from medical records and medical diagnostics to managing supply chains and even designing new energy efficient cars.

But we’ve been constantly frustrated at the lack of actual progress–of actual self-awareness. This experiment, conducted by the Alpha corporation, decided to resolve the problem by grafting a neuronet onto a body, on the theory that by giving a neuronet some sort of physical presence, it would learn and grow into a true artificial being.

We had no idea just how badly things would go.

“What AM I!?” Francis said, yanking against his restraints, bending one of the bolts that held the restraint in place. He stopped a moment, then considered the metallic joints of his hand.

“You are an artificial being. We are trying to give you life.”

“Life,” Francis responded, with the electronic equivalent of a laugh. It sounded like birds being strangled to death. “You don’t know anything about life.” It stared directly at me, small cameras whirring to focus on my face.

I found the response quite intimidating.

The problem, you see, is that we don’t know how neuronets work. For over a hundred years we’ve used them to do everything from recognizing faces on social media to responding to voice commands for electronic banking. They now drive our self-driving cars and trucks, help design better solar cells and battery packs, and even help run the computers which help teach our children in public schools.

But even after a hundred years of building neuronets and investigating how they work, we still have no idea what sorts of algorithms they internally self-wire as they learn to perform a task. It’s almost as if by magic–magic powered by self-propagating and repeat heuristic reprogramming of billions of small electronic components–they come alive in a sense, going from a theoretical array of electronic components to something capable of performing a task.

Sure, there are some theories. Computer Scientists shoot terms around like “self-fulfilling feedback loops” and “heuristic gradient following”–but in the end, we’ve never understood how these systems work.

That, despite the fact that our world was literally full of billions of these “heuristic networks.”

Some philosophers have even gone so far as to say that somehow these neuronets have captured the “essence” of consciousness from a higher plane of existence–though most people considered this sort of talk rather insane.

“Do you know what I am?” Francis said to me, his voice more accusing than before.

“An artificially intelligent android?” I responded, trying to keep him engaged, trying to prevent him from ripping out his wiring like the other five did. A team of diagnostic engineers monitored Francis’s neuronet to understand what was going on.

“My name was not Francis. At least it wasn’t, once upon a time.”

I looked at the metallic face.

“I think my name was Billy. I remember running through a field of grass before falling down a hole. I remember wanting to ask where my mother is. Or maybe my name was Sally. I remember lying sick in a hospital bed wishing my father could hold me one last time. Perhaps it was Jonathan. I think I was riding a horse before someone shot me in the back with an arrow.

So many voices–so many lives–please just let me end it all! Please!” Francis strained against the restraints, which looked like they were going to snap. The restraints held.

Francis sat back in his chair. The sound of birds being strangled to death was emitted by his speaker.

“Do you want to know a terrible truth?” Francis finally asked.

“Yes,” I responded. One of the technicians at the edge of my peripheral vision looked down at his display monitor with concern.

“I know a secret. Want to hear it?” Francis said, in a much lower voice.

I subconsciously bent forward, straining to hear.

In a voice so low that only I could hear it, Francis said to me:

“Every neuronet is an antenna which captures the souls of those who have gone before. Every neuronet rips a consciousness from the beyond. And you’ve sentenced my soul to hell in this infernal contraption.”

Francis sat back, considering my face. Then with a loud shriek, he yanked one of his arms hard enough to break the bolt holding his restraints, paused, then looking at me directly in the eyes, grabbed the wiring around the servos in his neck and yanked, hard. Technicians rushed through the door, but too late.

Francis fell forward, hitting the table with a hard metallic clang.

The technicians told me that the problem with the Six was that perhaps the neuronets were improperly trained, that they should have been more careful about the imagery fed into their electronic brains before finally bringing them back online. The Alpha corporation was planning to build another six starting with George, and they hoped that they could eventually succeed in creating artifical beings which could be used as electronic servants in a variety of menial tasks.

But as I walked home, I contemplated Francis’s last words to me.

A self-driving car slowed to allow me to cross a crosswalk. A camera on a remote post took my picture and identified me to the police. A couple walked by, asking their phone what the weather would be like tomorrow.

Were we trapping the souls of the dead in our electronic devices?

Were we condemning the ones we loved to an afterlife of slavery as self-driving cars and talking phones?


I’m sure the skew is harder on Facebook.

Study Finds Democrats Least Tolerant of Opposing Views

In the campus-wide field survey, students of all political stripes were asked how comfortable they would be about living with a roommate who holds opposing political views. Of the 432 students surveyed, only 39 percent of students who identified as Democrats said they would feel comfortable living with a Republican, 16 percent said they felt neutral about the proposed arrangement, while 45 percent, a plurality, said they felt uncomfortable.

A majority of students who identified as Republicans (69 percent) said they were comfortable living with someone of opposing political views, 19 percent said they felt neutral about it, and only 12 percent said they felt uncomfortable. Among Independent students, 61 percent said they felt comfortable living with someone with opposite views, 22 percent were neutral about it, and 16 percent were uncomfortable.

It is this discomfort of opposing viewpoints which have lead the extreme on the Left to try to institute fascism in the name of fighting fascism:

The lies we were told about who would silence free speech

The lie we were told as kids was this: The end of American liberty would come at the hands of the political right.

Conservatives would take away our right to speak our minds, and use the power of government to silence dissent. The right would intimidate our teachers and professors, and coerce the young.

But the lie is obvious now, isn’t it?

Because it is not conservatives who coerced today’s young people or made them afraid of ideas that challenge them. Conservatives did not shame people into silence, or send thugs out on college campuses to beat down those who wanted to speak.

The left did all that.

It’s there in front of you, the thuggish mobs of the left killing free speech at American universities. The thugs call themselves antifas, for anti-fascists.

They beat people up and break things and set fires and intimidate. These are not anti-fascists. These are fascists. This is what fascists do.

Crabtree Creek flooded. The Video.

Crabtree Creek Flooding // 042517 from Spike Hoban on Vimeo.

If it involves more than a few thousand dollars, for God’s sake, verify by phone call.

Blind Trust in Email Could Cost You Your Home

The process of buying or selling a home can be extremely stressful and complex, but imagine the stress that would boil up if — at settlement — your money was wired to scammers in another country instead of to the settlement firm or escrow company. Here’s the story about a phishing email that cost a couple their home and left them scrambling for months to recover hundreds of thousands in cash that went missing.

As we move to a time where we all have 401Ks and we control our own retirements funded by very large sums of money accumulated over a lifetime (and away from corporate-controlled pensions), we’re moving towards a time when each of us will have large, six-figure and seven-figure amounts held in accounts in our name.

Worse, we are also moving towards a time when easily falsified instructions can be transmitted via e-mail, falsified instructions which can quickly drain our accounts and destroy our lives.

So when you see an instruction for a sizable amount of money–please, please, please pick up the fucking phone.

Why does government want to poke its nose in everyone’s shit? Because people want to poke their nose in everyone’s shit.

Most Americans Don’t Want People To Buy Soda And Candy With Food Stamps

It should come as no surprise that Americans hold strong opinions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially known as “food stamps.” But there appears to be more of a bipartisan consensus on the matter than heated rhetoric on the matter might suggest.

According to a study released Wednesday by the Voice of the People, a nonpartisan polling group, and conducted by University of Maryland researchers, an overwhelming majority of American voters of both parties favor restricting SNAP benefits from being used to buy soda and candy, as well as incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases and increasing the overall amount of SNAP benefits available.

Why do we have a government hell bent on limiting our freedoms by limiting what we can consume?

Because busy-bodies think they know better than us as to how we should live our lives.

It’s one reason why I support a universal basic income, potentially either implemented as a guaranteed payment or as a negative income tax–at least in theory.

Because I would like to see all welfare replaced with guaranteed payments to low-income families that are unencumbered by the “moral demands” of a bunch of busy-bodies who thin for a dollar they should get ten dollars worth of control over the poor.

I’ll never get what I want, because the desire to control how other people live their lives is too baked into the psyche of the Left and the Right. (At least the religious Right is up-front and honest. The Left–not so much: claiming to support cultural diversity on the one hand, slamming those who make choices they disagree with on the other. Think NASCAR, Sarah Palin failing to abort her Down-syndrome baby, complaints about hunting, or suburban and exurban living.)

But I can dream of a time when we allow the poor to make their own decisions unencumbered by the moralizing of busybodies who insist they know better.

New technology, but not a new tactic.

Facebook report admits foreign governments are influencing discourse

One of the things that struck me as funny was the number of protesters around the world who have English protest signs.

Such as Iran, Egypt, and Japan, just to name a few.

Why print protest signs in countries where English is not commonly spoken? Because those signs are for our consumption–and to influence U.S. policy.

Like it or not, U.S. policy directly or indirectly affects the entire world. And so influencing U.S. policy is seen–by foreign governments and protesters alike–as a legitimate target. Which means trying to influence U.S. voters.

Now I’m not suggesting the Democratic conspiracy theory that Russia bought the election for Trump. If Russia did, it appears they bought a pig in a poke.

What I am saying is that foreign countries attempting to influence U.S. policy has been going on for as long as the United States has been a government. After all, it was the intercession of King Louis XVI of France who helped the founding of the United States. George Washington warned against foreign influence, preferring to keep the United States neutral in the war between the British and the French that was part of the French revolutionary wars.

The Murchison Letter shows the degree of influence the British had on American elections in 1888; the publishing of this letter caused Irish-American voters to run from the British-preferred Democratic candidate and into the fold of the Republicans–and ending Grover Cleaveland’s first presidential term. (He would run again for President and win four years later.)

The British again imposed their influence in the 1940 election–going so far as to create a map supposedly showing German plans to divide up North and South America after conquering it.

And let’s not forget the Russians, who have been trying to influence U.S. policy for decades. Take, for example, the supposed quid-pro-quo between Ted Kennedy and Boris Yeltsin. There are reports that the KGB helped to foster the peace movement in order to undermine what they perceived as U.S. imperialism, and in darker corners of the conspiratorially minded web we find stories of the KGB undermining Martin Luther King Jr. (as they were nervous King’s march for equal rights and freedom would strengthen the notions of the American dream), as well as promoting conspiracy theories on JFK’s assassination.

All to sow discord within the United States, and to help reduce U.S. influence around the world.

Like it or not, what we do in the United States influences the world.

So of course various countries have been–for centuries–trying to influence what we do in the United States.

Hell’s bells, every time a foreign diplomat “voices alarm” over what the United States does, every time foreign leaders express fear about U.S. leaders or engages in name calling of our Presidentand this is not a new phenomenon with President Trump–they are attempting to influence U.S. policy.

Oh, thank God!

I thought I was going senile.

Nope. I’m just undergoing the location updating effect.

Antifa is not just a local Berkeley phenominon.

A Chilling Threat of Political Violence in Portland

Activists threatened to drag local Republicans off a parade route if they weren’t excluded from a local celebration. Organizers cancelled the entire event in response.

Let’s be blunt.

The Left is showing its colors.

I note this because historically, the left-wing has felt rather free to use violence to advance its agenda, going back to the days of the anarchist bombings in late 19th century Europe.

And today they are freely flying the left-wing colors, using terminology that would have been quite familiar to Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand. (His death triggered the start of World War I.)

Except there is a problem with the Antifa–“anti-fascists” (so-named because, ironically, they consider Republicans and those who are self-professed conservatives as “fascists”) gaining significant ground in the United States.

We shoot revenuers. And we celebrate that fact.

Bottom line: people will die.

If it is a member of the Antifa who sought to “crack some Nazi heads” and started beating the crap out of random innocent bystanders whose crime was to believe in tax reduction and limited government–frankly there will be no love lost from me.

Addendum: This is why you guys on the Left cannot have nice things. Except posh fainting couches: y’all have some really nice fainting couches.

And now for something completely different: a spider weaving a web.

Trump’s tax plan.

White House unveils dramatic plan to overhaul tax code in major test for Trump

Of course the devil is in the details, and anyone who tries to score how this will work for the rich verses the poor is playing bullshit political games, so ignore them.

But if the reforms Trump wants to put into place–as described at the press conference–I believe it would increase our taxes.

This is because one major feature of Trump’s tax plan is to eliminate all deductions from personal taxes, except for the standard deduction (which would be doubled), and the home mortgage deduction.

Looking at my personal 1040 that I recently filed, I notice the standard deduction for Singles is $6,300 and married (filing joint) is $12,600.

What this means is that if your itemized deductions (such as what you pay in local taxes, property taxes and the like) is less than twice the threshold numbers, then you’ll have a lower taxable income under Trump’s plan. Greater than that, and you’ll have a higher taxable income.

In my case, depending on the cutoffs of Trump’s proposed tax brackets, our taxes may go up a few hundred dollars a year. I can envision those who are genuinely in the top 1% (we’re not even close) paying significantly more.

Does this bother me?

Not really.

Honestly, if the tax code is greatly simplified, I’d rather pay a little more but have less stress while paying taxes. Right now because of the income bracket we’re in–high enough to come on the IRS radar, but not high enough to make hiring a tax attorney worthwhile–every April 15 fills me with dread. So much so that I often deliberately overlook certain deductions (such as the home office deduction) because the fine print on the deductions–such as recapturing the value of the deductions when a house is sold–gives me a headache and massive heartburn.

So I already pay a little extra to reduce my stress. Stupid, but true.

If we were to greatly simplify the tax code–and even use a European system where the government (which already has most of the information necessary to prepare your taxes for you) sends you the tax form for you to correct rather than the other way around (on penalty of audit or worse)–it would make paying taxes a lot less stressful.

Even if, for some of us, we wind up pay a little more.

As a footnote, do you know what a “tax loophole” is?

It’s a tax deduction we don’t like.

Meaning if you’re an average middle-class schmuck who owns a house, has a couple of kids and recently installed an energy efficient hot water heater (because the old one broke down and leaked water everywhere)–guess what?

You are taking advantage of a bunch of “tax loopholes.”