Ideas to explore

  1. Ideology as the usable consensus of extreme personality types – see my “Let’s Kill Hitler” book idea. Basically the ideology evolves not as the continuation of first principles, but as a series of compromises on the part of part of the extreme personalities involved – basically the ideology is whatever allows a certain collection of extreme personalities to work together. Cooperation is the important thing – not the consequences. An extreme ideology will be composed of extreme members and so forth. See the the alt-right and modern wokeness. This seems graphable.
  2. Historical changes and atmospheric pollutants – this idea needs more research, but ideological and religious extremism tracks quite nicely with leaded gas and high tobacco usage. A doubtful relationship – but seemingly possible.

Quote of the moment – big data edition

From HP Lovecraft

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

The looming specter of the Murder Ghandi

One of the things that came up at the last SSC Atlanta meetup was the notion of the Murder Ghandi (read the link for an explanation). It’s easy to think of the whole concept as a good example of slippery slopes, i.e. where the same person faces different incentives over time. However, I think the true point is a bit more lasting than that – and much more useful and interesting.

The “make me 1% less pacifistic” pill does not just change the incentives – it is fundamentally a transformative experience for the pill taker. The person who takes the second pill is not the same as the person who took the first pill. The person is different, not the incentives. This should be explained by mathematical formula.

The Seventh SSC Atlanta Meetup – the Devil Advocates!

I’ve waited a bit too long to write this up, as I’ve forgotten the salient links I was going post – the gist of it

  1. We did not make technological predictions
  2. I did my best to play the devils’s advocate position and come up with any defensible restrictions on free speech – it was quite difficult and I did not succeed.

One thing that did occur to me is that that everyone who goes to these sorts of things is all on one side of the “Atomized individual vs member of society” spectrum. I need to explore that a bit. And as promised, for a view from very much the other side of that spectrum, here is the long memory. It’s good to listen to people who don’t agree with you, and indeed are playing an entirely different game.

The turnout was good – five people IIRC.

Zucked – as summarized from the Sam Harris interview

I listened to the Sam Harris interview with Roger McNamee – author of Zucked – Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. It can be summarized as follows

Facebook takes something we should (in McNamee’s opinion) value, but don’t (in this case, privacy) and converts it into something we actually do value, but shouldn’t (in McNamee’s opinion) (in this case a sense of hyperbolic community), all the while making tons of money in the process.

Not that much deep thought involved – lots of willful ignorance centered around the central dilemma: if person A and person B have a conversation, then that conversation is practically (perhaps not morally, but practically) owned by persons A and B. It is NOT just person’s A data. If they decide to have it via Facebook, then it (for all intents and purposes) belongs to Facebook too.

I’m in the anti-Facebook camp, and I listened to this feeling very unimpressed with my own side.

Rest in Peace Zadoch

Yesterday about 1:30 PM (on March 31st, 2019) I had Zadoch put to sleep at Briarcliff Animal Hospital. I took the above picture the day before (March 30th, 2019)

His back hips had slowly been deteriorating for about a month. I took him into the vet two weeks ago and discovered that he definitely did have arthritis, which German Shepards are very likely to get, and maybe some other more severe hip problems that are difficult to diagnose and not treatable that German Shepards are likely to get as well. The vet put him on a prescription and dietary supplement and we were going to regroup in a month to see how well it worked.

Fast forward one week. The medicine does seem to be helping with the pain somewhat, but it does not seem to be making his hips any better. In fact, his hips continue to deteriorate. What was before just a problem with one leg now seems to be a problem with two legs and he continued to have greater difficulty standing and sitting. There were a few falls too, which never happened before. Also he would drag his back legs sometimes.

Then last Wednesday we start having the power issues, which necessitates us leaving for an AirBNB and then later the apartment. We left Zadoch at the house with a battery powered light – he seemed happy to not have to move and just slept a lot – we added some painkillers to his medical routine and kept up the other medicine.

He then got progressively worse and could only stand with my assistance, or so it seemed anyway – he could drag himself around on just his front legs, but as for walking with his back legs for very far… that was out of the question. He could not lift his back legs up far enough to propel him forward and the top of his feet was pointed toward the ground for some reason (more on that later).

Then came Saturday night – I went over to get him – and take him back to the apartment and he was suffering terribly. His back legs weren’t working at all, but he dragged himself to get in the car with me. I made a judgement call to take him to the apartment so we could spend one more night together and all say goodbye.

At the apartment he felt even worse (though the pain meds did help a bit) He whimpered in obvious pain but once he settled down and realized we were all together I think that made him feel somewhat better. He had good and bad moments throughout the night (I would wake up during his bad ones) and I made the call to take him in that day (Sunday, his normal vet is only open Monday through Saturday). Then I took him into Briarcliff.

I could not have asked for a better vet at Briarcliff Animal Hospital. The vet techs had to help me get him into the clinic (they “wheelbarrow walked” him to the clinic by putting a towel around his midsection and letting him use his front legs – I thought that sounded weird but it worked very well). And then I met with the doctor who was very kind and reassuring. Basically the situation: If there was a fix for the problem then the medication the first vet gave me would have worked, and the only other possibilities were non-fixable. Also, for big dogs, mobility problems are more or less fatal – there is no way they will stay off their feet and they just make a bad situation worse. I think the phrase she used was death sentence. The tops of his feet pointing towards the ground was also indicative of a blood circulation problem.

The procedure went fast and he went peacefully knowing I was there.

We got him on March 15th, 2010, slightly before Staci and I got married and well before Marleigh was born. His name from the original owner (it was a reseller/rescue operation of some kind) was Bam-Bam, but we renamed him Zadoch after an obscure relative of mine. Everything started off well – he was our third dog at that point (Drex was still living and Dagney was just coming off of puppydom). He happily settled in as the Alpha dog, and since he could jump the fence we went on many, many long walks together (averaging about five miles a day the first spring/summer/fall).

He calmed down a little over time and at some point developed the skin allergies that would bother him off and on for his whole life (though less in his later years). When Marleigh was born they became fast friends at even a very young age – he was always hanging around her crib and bed, and she was always drawn towards him. She renamed him Z-Dog when she was two or three – and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

He had some problems with the neighbors dog, jumping the fence at one point to get into a territorial dispute. He would also jump our fence periodically and for some reason jump into cars and wait to be driven somewhere.

We had many happy years of family and dog life – he and Marleigh grew ever closer and he was a constant 100 pound fixture of the house – always with a great happy personality, always great with children – always ready to protect if need be. Life with him was a happy normal.

Zadoch was a great dog and he will be missed. Marleigh has taken it quite hard, and I guess Staci and I have too. I thought we would have several more years with him, but that was not to be. Rest in peace.

Small groups produce abstract thoughts – the sixth SSC Atlanta meetup notes

It was a small group this time – just three of us, but good conversation. Out main accomplishment was to conclusively determine that the use of the word socialism as too vague – old school socialism of the 1920s Soviet sort will be referred to as “planned economy” or “central planning”, whereas the new “socialism” as espoused by millennial and their dreadful habits of using the same word to mean different but related things will be replaced with “Bismarkian social insurance” or some better term we come up with later.

Notable topics in their absence

  1. Guns
  2. Psychedelic medicines
  3. The Soviet Union
  4. The deeper meaning of infrastructure costs

And here is a better explanation of Tyler Cowen’s thought on infrastrcture costs – from his book “The Great Stagnation

ow let’s think about government in this framework. Let’s say government spends $1 million fixing a road: How much does that contribute to measured GDP? $1 million. No consumer “buys” the road, but the expenditure counts nonetheless toward the output of goods and services. In other words, in measured GDP, we are valuing the expenditure at cost. Sometimes governments sell their outputs in the form of goods and services (think of user fees for national parks, or toll roads), but mostly that’s not the case, and fees account for only a small part of what our government does. We typically resort to valuing government outputs at cost, and indeed it’s not clear how else we could do it.   Sometimes government outputs are worth a lot more than what we spend on them, and sometimes they are worth a lot less. The proper role of government in society is beyond the scope of this discussion. But still it is a general principle that the most fundamental functions of government are worth more than the extra, addon, or optional things that governments do. A dollar spent on very basic police and courts and army protection is worth more than a dollar spent on refurnishing a warehouse in Minneapolis under the guise of urban renewal. A dollar spent on welfare for the poorest is more valuable than a dollar spent extending the program to better-off but still poor cases. And so on. Yet when it comes to national income accounting, and measuring GDP, we are valuing every one of these different expenditures at $1.


Have you ever wondered why so many developing economies—the successful ones, I mean—rise to prosperity through exports and tradable goods? There are a few reasons for this, but one is that the external world market provides a real measure of value. If you are exporting successfully, it’s not based on privilege, connections, corruption, or fakery. Someone who has no stake in your country and no concern for your welfare is spending his or her own money to buy your product. Trying to export is putting your economy to the test every day with measurable results. If you can pass this test, it is a sign of better things to come. The successful East Asian economies, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, understand this point well. Again, the market is a pretty clear measure of economic value. The more we move away from market tests, the harder it is to tell how we are doing in productivity.