Category Archives: SSC Atlanta

The 12th SSC Atlanta meetup

Last Week, Oct 12th, we met for the 12th time at Hodge Podge Coffee House in Atlanta.

The meeting was notable by the addition of lots and lots of new people (thank you SSC mention) – and a very long conversation – which ended with us getting kicked out after four hours (there was another event about to happen in our area).

Topics included

  • China – a long discussion of the current state of china and what is likely to happen to minorities and minority opinion (all bad things)
  • Obligations of corporations – where does silence equal consent/sanction, and what not
  • The Universal Basic Income – without Nathan to defend the notion we reached a negative opinion rather quickly
  • Wage subsidies in general (mixed opinions on this)
  • Health care
  • Voting – obligations to, group participation rites, etc. It sparked some interesting thoughts in me after the meeting on what people get out of voting – more or less and affirmation of self – I need to flesh that out more
  • Addition – specifically the Never Enough book by Judith Grisel – I need to reread the chapter on MDMA – there were several questions on how the recent psychiatric treatments work, or don’t work as the case may be

It was quite a good meeting – with lots of new people, including many who were not directly in the software field, which is sort of rare for us.

The 11th SSC Atlanta Meetup – the longest talk

We had the 11th SSC Atlanta meetup – and I think it was fair to say that it was one of our best. This will probably be a series of blog posts. Notable facts

  1. This was our longest ever meetup – clocking in at slightly over four hours
  2. We had two new people, both in the math field, which is quite weird and cool (not software! Diversity!)
  3. We had the most actual disagreement of any meetup so far (also yay!) – it was all quite civil – a surprising amount of it against Nathan – who was quite up to the task.
  4. No discussion of generational differences (rate for us)
  5. No discussion of guns at all (quite rare for us)
  6. Almost all topics were speculation on the future
  7. We beat the topic of UBI into the ground – it is a good proxy for views on human nature IMHO

Topics

  1. UBI – some talk of Andrew Yang, but mostly UBI
  2. Percentages of intolerance
  3. Global Warming/Climate Change
  4. Technological unemployment (not enough!)
  5. Transmitting DC power (more interesting than it might sound)
  6. Klamath county Oregon
  7. Occasionalism
  8. The velocity of money – and deeper meanings it might have

More posts to come out of this meeting – it was quite stimulating. And the only time I’ve written a blog post on the same day as the meetup.

The ninth Atlanta SSC Meetup – If by Whiskey You Get One Miracle

On Saturday, June 22nd we had the ninth SSC Atlanta meetup. Six people attended (up a bit) and the topics included

  1. The Nile river and the development of the calendar (revising my opinion of the ancient Egyptians a bit upward)
  2. Social Media – it’s purposes and anti-purposes. I’m currently thinking that the main purpose of Facebook is to keep people off reddit so it can still be interesting – that was my conclusion, not the groups
  3. Open Source hiveminds
  4. Neural networks
  5. Failing faster

The quotes of the meeting were “Give me one miracle and I’ll explain the rest” and the “If By Whiskey” speech (as an example of speechcraft) – which is below in it’s entirety

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

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.

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.

and

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.

Natural Aristocrats hire lawyers with their UBI – then get murdered by Bolsheviks – The fifth Atlanta Slate Star Codex meeting notes

The fifth Atlanta SSC meetup was a success – there were two new faces for a total of five. We met at the usual place (Hodge Podge) and discussed:

  1. Industrialization – in a generic sense
  2. Technological unemployment (a lot)
  3. Inequalities in the criminal justice system
  4. Universal Basic Income (a lot)
  5. Gulag death rates – originally quoted as 5% – but that seems to be deceptive – see this link for more (short version – the numbers were juked – they would move the inmates about to die out of the camp when they were near death)
  6. Negative rights
  7. Humanism (I think described as socialism)

Thoughts that occurred to me after the meeting

  1. Is there any evidence that UBI creates something other than the negative social attributes attributed to welfare dependency – I think Native American tribes have something like this with gambling revenue, and Alaskans have something like this with oil – is there any evidence based on that?
  2. The government has a monopoly on the supply of law enforcement and criminal justice. Given how a person feels about that does that make you more or less inclined to give government a monopoly in health care, or anything else? Does that alter one’s opinion on extending government health care, or socialism in general?
  3. Is there a bias to being innocent in the courts? If so, then the point made about publicly funding criminal lawyers weakens.

There were many other topics – there was more ideological diversity at this meetup, but I’m too late in publishing this anyway. We shall begin the next meetup by creating useful definitions of socialism and communism before any other discussion.