Showing posts from 2016

Understanding the Russian "hacking" meme

The election of Donald Trump as president was a (legal) coup against the military-industrial complex that has dominated the US for decades. The people who have benefited from that dominance are now staging a counter-coup. In staging a coup like the one we have just seen, the coup leaders, even if moved by genuinely populist concerns, have to enlist the aid of many, many powerful people, in order to resist the counter-coup, or they will fail. The resistance to any such coup will be fierce: there are trillions of dollars at stake here! The leaders of the counter-coup have a multitude of resources at their disposal: they have already corrupted most of the "free press" to act as their toadies, so they can easily spread anti-coup propaganda in national media outlets. They understand psychological manipulation, so they will enlist the aid of many well-meaning but naive people by making them believe they are opposing "racism," or "sexism," or "homophobia.

And the Mises moocher

The mathematics lecturer said he was next going to discuss "the Menger sponge." "Ah," I thought, "he's going to discuss that bloody socialist Wieser ! I'll bet he sponged off of Menger all the time!" But no, it turned out he discussed this: (Actually named after Carl Menger's son, by the way.)

Don't slight propaganda

My math lecturer just called this: A "map of England"! A few of centuries of propaganda can be quite effective!

Market exchange and welfare

I just read an intelligent economist (not an oxymoron, I swear!) claiming that market exchange "guarantees" that in an unfettered free market, goods go to the people with the highest valued use for them. Sigh. What about the ability to pay? Let's say we establish a market in human organs, as many libertarians advocate. And further imagine this market is unregulated, something of which they would no doubt approve. In such a market, there will be many poor people who need kidneys. But imagine that George Soros likes to have a dozen grilled human kidneys for breakfast every day. Poor people in need of a transplant might very well value those kidneys much more highly than Soros (i.e., if we gave them each a billion dollars, they would easily outbid him for them on a free market) -- but they simply lack the funds to compete with his voracious kidney appetite. It is reasonable to contend that the price we pay for the benefits of free markets is that sometimes rich peo

The problem with intelligence "arising" from mechanical operations

In the comments on this post , rob argues that a bunch or "circuits" (or neurons, I guess) behaving according to deterministic, mechanical laws is exactly what "gives rise" to intelligence, in humans or computers. The problem with this view is Occam's razor . Let us consider a door lock. If the lock is set, one can't open the door without a key (at least without breaking it). We can see why this is so on simple, mechanical principles. Now, it just could be that the door "knows" when it is supposed to let people in who don't have the key, and when it shouldn't. But generally we reject any such hypothesis as superfluous: once we understand how the door mechanically does its job, we simply don't need to posit any "knowing": it won't "do any work" in our explanation of when we can get in the house and when we can't. Now let's say we add some biometric feature to the door: the owner can still get in by f

Chipping away at the illusion


Learning assembly: the cure for AI delusions?

I am searching for an assembly language simulator for I can teach my Operating Systems students how processes work at the CPU level. In the course of doing so, I came across this site , and found: 10110000 01100001 The first few bits (10110) are an instruction to copy a value into a register. The next three digits (000) identify the register which the value will be copied into. The rest of it (01100001) is the value which is to be copied. Of course 10110 is meaningless, and the computer doesn't "know" that it means "copy the value." The processor is designed so that the series of electrical impulses represented by 10110 (on-off-on-on-off) causes the desired result. This is part of what is meant by "mechanical." Yesiree. Maybe if all of the AI true believers had to program in assembly for a month, they'd all realize, "Oh yeah, it's just a bunch of circuits performing that exact mechanical operations I set up for them to perform."

The poverty of experts

When I first began programming on UNIX, in the late 1980s, the computer press was filled with stories about how "old-fashioned" UNIX was, and how its death was imminent. Nearly 30 years later, between Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, and other UNIX variants, UNIX-based systems completely dominate the operating system market. The "experts" were computer journalists, with no "skin in the game." They had never actually tried programming on a UNIX-based machine and also on any of its rivals. They had no idea that the geniuses at Bell Labs had created the ultimate IDE, and that the inherent superiority of the way of developing software that they had pioneered would only become clearer as the years passed. Do not trust "experts" with no skin in the game.

The OS Song

FIFOs and LIFOs and core device drivers IPC, RPC, threading and scheduling Memory-mapped files, filled up with strings These are a few of my favorite things! When the disk breaks When the RAM fails When I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things And then I don't feel so bad

Operating Systems,

the web site, is being born .

"That's Medieval!"

The great conceit of our time is that by being"modern" we are smarter than all humans who came before us. This belief is most often adopted by people abysmally ignorant of the past, and what people were like in the past. And this myth has been embraced for little more reason than that we modern people have been told it is true by someone who seemed smart, and it flatters our egos. Ironically, it is this extreme willingness to adopt a self-flattering belief, based on no evidence, that shows that "moderns," on average, may be the stupidest people who have ever walked the earth. And that makes sense: no people so stupid could have survived as hunter-gatherers or subsistence farmers.  It is only our great wealth and the mind-numbing tasks by which it is today possible to make a living that permit so many zombies to survive. Is it possible to imagine an aboriginal hunter so dull-witted as to deliberately block off his own hearing, restrict his own vision to within a f

AWKward? Perhaps...

Just wrote my first awk script in a dozen years. Here you go . If you don't know awk, it is a very useful tool in a programmer's arsenal, and you ought to learn it.

Test Your Knowledge of Algorithms

Try my final exam for this past semester.

I like alcoholic beverages

However, I don't think it is a good idea to allow unlimited amounts of alcoholic beverages to be poured down my gullet every night. I also like immigrants.* However... The idea that anyone who wants reasonable control of immigration is a "xenophobe" is every bit as sensible as the idea that someone who does not want to engage in unlimited consumption of alcohol every night is an "alcoholaphobe." * For instance, I happened to have a party at my apartment tonight: 13 out of 15 attendees were immigrants.

Chipping away at the illusion


Another "Hate Crime" Bites the Dust

I called this one the day the story came out in November. It was obvious that burning a black church and painting "Vote Trump" on the wall, right before the election, was the worst Trump campaign ad ever, but a great Clinton campaign ad. "Cui bono?" folks, "Cui bono?"!

Loss of knowledge

"An animated world, divine intervention, the 'openness' of the soul's life are not preconceptions or errors or results of a superficial approach, but clearly recognizable components of this [Homeric] experience of the world, and their elimination constitutes an elimination of important knowledge." -- Paul Feyerabend, Philosophy of Nature , p. 90.

Yogi Berra understood rationalism perfectly

"In theory, theory and practice are the same. But in practice, they are different."

Next AI Task: Teach Watson ">"

The Weather Channel site now boats that its site uses Watson. Watson apparently doesn't know that if it is 20 degrees at this very moment, the low for the day can't possibly be 26.

More philosophical nonsense from Adams

As I keep repeating, I've learned a lot from Scott Adams on persuasion. But every time he tries philosophy, he babbles nonsense. Consider : "As a hypnotist, I doubt any of us can see reality for what it is. My worldview is that we were in one kind of illusion before and some of us moved to another. When it comes to understanding reality, the best we can do is pick a version that does a good job predicting." This makes no sense whatsoever: if we are always living in an illusion, than we have no possibility whatsoever of determining what "version" does "a good job predicting"! Because whatever we perceive as having happened according to our illusions' predictions is also, itself, an illusion! So Adams is suggesting we can test an illusion against another illusion and by doing so, refine our understanding of reality!

Graphics Software Bleg

What is the best (best = 1 / cost * features) software out there (for a Mac, or online) for generating graphics of the sort one might find in a mathematics or computer science textbook? Right now I am cobbling things together with Python graphics packages plus post-editing with Acorn, but I'm sure I can do much better.

Greedy, greedy, greedy...

algorithms, that is .

Of course Zeus existed (and exists)

"The gods are there. To side with the Greeks in recognizing and acknowledging this as an accepted fact is the first requirement for an understanding of their beliefs and culture. Our knowledge that they are there rests on a perception, be it internal or external, and be the respective gods perceived directly are only via the recognizable effects" (Wilamovitz-Moellendorff, quoted in Feyerabend, Philosophy of Nature , p. 71). Quite so: if you tried telling a Greek in 600 BC that Dionysus does not exist, he would simply think you must have never gotten drunk or even been around people getting drunk. One could perceive the god entering into oneself, or the others drinking, and feel one's own (or their) enthusiasm  (the entering in of a god). Similarly with Aphrodite: the Greek would ask how you could possibly avoid feeling her presence when you fall for some pretty young thing? It is interesting to note in this regard that scripture certainly does not deny the existen

If mothers can't kill their own children...

then sex will be less fun ! And nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of that!

What is "hate"?

Apparently, if you don't want your country to become Muslim, that qualifies . If only Charles Martel had known this, he could have turned Europe over to Islam 1300 years ago!

Fake neuro-social-evolutionary-bio-psycho-science

Robert Cialdini's Pre-suasion , despite its touting by Scott Adams, is just OK. It has a number of good tips, and some nice stories, but the whole thing could have been a forty-page pamphlet or e-book. (As it is, the book ends at page 233, and the last 180 pages are references, notes, and the index.) One thing particularly annoying in the book is its regular, phony invocations of neuro-this and evolutionary that. For instance, "kin selection" is invoked in a section on why being like people whom you are trying to persuade is a good idea. But it does absolutely no work: everyone knows that "blood is thicker than water," and evolution is conjured up to give a fake veneer of science to this commonplace knowledge. Every time neurology is brought up, it is the same: none of it does any work. This name-dropping plays the same role that mentioning "Oh, and the Pope likes it" would have played in an astronomical argument in 1300.

Comparative advantage: a partial truth

I believe I mentioned that I am sitting in on Nassim Nicholas Taleb's lectures on "Strange Risk" this fall. He brought up a slide on things we could throw out once we properly took account of volatility, and one of them was Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage. That prompted a question from me as to what he meant. I thought the answer was interesting: once we take price volatility into account, it would be foolish to "obey" the law of comparative advantage to slavishly. Why? Well, he explained, imagine you are France, and you produce only wine (your comparative advantage) and export it in exchange for everything else you need. What happens if, say, everywhere you are exporting to falls under Sharia Law? Or you are Saudi Arabia, in reality producing pretty much only oil, and some great new source of clean energy is developed? If your nation has hyper-specialized in one good, and the market for that good collapses, your nation is in deep trouble.

Worst computer analogy ever?

Because basically, every single thing said on the computer side of the analogy is false: "These concepts have been previously primed for influence. By analogy, think of almost any computer program you use. It is likely to contain transfer links [Transfer links? WTH?] that you need to click twice: once to ready the link and once to launch it. [Double-clicking is a single mouse gesture: from the program's point of view: the program just receives notice that the user double-clicked. There are not two phases, one during which the "transfer link" could be "readied," whatever the hell that would mean.] But the program also likely contains links that launch with just one click [that's because the programmer triggered the event associated with the link on a single-click mouse event, and not a double-click], because they have already been readied -- that is, hyperlinked [' hyperlink ' just means links within hypertext: nothing to do with 'prefetc

Pizza, pizza, get your piping hot pizza!

I had paid little attention to the "Pizzagate scandal" until a few days ago, when certain people forced it onto my radar. As a trained researcher, I know not to pay too much attention either to the people who accept such stories uncritically, or to the people who reject them uncritically. A trained researcher does not "believe" or "disbelieve" his sources: he interrogates those sources and treats them as evidence of events that have occurred, and not as descriptions of events that have occurred. So, for instance, no one should take the wild conspiracy theories emerging from the darker corners of the Internet at face value. Nor should anyone take an uncritical piece of garbage like this at face value. Amy Davidson basically declares there is not even any point in trying to figure out why the conspiracy theorists believe what they do: the conspiracy theory arose from nothing at all, and focuses on the things it does for no reason whatsoever. But ev

Voice recognition oddities

Two words I can't get Apple's voice recognition software to recognize when I say them: Than : I always get "then," unless I really consciously stress the difference, in which case I get "van." Will : This comes out as "we'll." This one is especially puzzling to me: if I listen to myself say the word "will," my pronunciation of the vowel doesn't sound very much like a long-e to me.


I got some pushback on my piece on ethno-nationalism from people who said, "No, an ethnicity must be characterized by a common bloodline!" Oddly, this pushback came both from racists who wanted to exclude non-whites from being "true Americans" and from their critics. First of all, racists define ethnicity as being identical (almost identical?) to bloodline. So what? We now have to turn to racists for our word definitions? But more importantly, if we define things that way, there pretty much are no nations for the racial-nationalists to "preserve." Consider England: Far from all being descended from a common bloodline, the English people are descended from Picts, Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Norman French and more. Two of the most prominent Englishmen of the 19th century, Ricardo and Disraeli, were the descendants of Portuguese and Italian Jews, respectively, and yet both were clearly English. James Callaghan was of Irish and Jewish

Philosophy of Nature

I am currently reviewing Paul Feyerabend's Philosophy of Nature  for The British Journal for the History of Philosophy . Feyerabend worked on this book in the 1970s, but it was only released this year. This promises to be a wonderful review experience, since Feyerabend was a brilliant man, and in this work he reviews the "philosophy of nature" from the Stone Age to Bohm. And here is my first quote of note from the work: "The assumption that humans of the Stone or Bronze Age would have had only the most primitive knowledge of nature may be flattering to our progressivist self-image. But it has little plausibility since Stone Age humans were already fully developed members of the species Homo sapiens , and it is incompatible with recent research. The environmental and societal problems that the early Homo sapiens had to face were incomparably greater than the challenges facing our contemporary scientists. These problems has to be solved with the most primitive

My book reviews

I've assembled a partial list .

A great explanation of Berkeley

Here . (Courtesy of David Lull.)

Trump's Tremendous Trolling

Trump just riled up a bunch of his opponents with his tweet about "taking away the citizenship" of anyone who burned the flag. Of course this is absurd: he's not going to do anything like that: he's trolling. A friend recognized this, and said Trump's trolling is "Not nice." This is an understanding of politics as a big kindergarten classroom: If you're just nice to Johnny and let him play with your truck, he will let you play with his. Unfortunately, real politics is nothing like kindergarten: the new prince, as Machiavelli taught us, must consolidate his rule. If he is overly "nice," his foes will see it as a sign of weakness and oppose him all the more fiercely. And as Machiavelli noted, to be "nice" and fail to establish one's rule is really not nice at all, since civil unrest and ultimately civil war result, and they are very not nice. So Trump trolled those claiming "Trump is not my president," and

Wisdom from Scott Adams

As anyone reading this blog consistently knows, I do not "worship" Scott Adams, or anything of the sort. As soon as he starts to talk philosophy, he talks nonsense. But in understanding persuasion, he is a true pro. And in discussing the "pizza-gate" "scandal", he notes : "Here’s what I know that most of you do not: Confirmation bias looks EXACTLY LIKE a mountain of real evidence. And let me be super-clear here. When I say it looks exactly the same, I am not exaggerating. I mean there is no way to tell the difference." And of great importance here: Adams is de-bunking an anti-Clinton instance of confirmation bias. He doesn't just see confirmation bias when he wants to see it, and deny its possibility when he likes its implications. This is what is so hard to accept about what the "Godzilla" of influence, Robert Cialdini, describes in his book Pre-suasion . We are all susceptible to being primed, by pre-adopting a certain fr

Algorithms and the concrete universal

(A follow-up to this post .) Hegel's notion of the "concrete universal," later adopted by British idealists (like Bosanquet , Collingwood and Oakeshott) and Italian idealists (like Croce ), and important to a modern philosopher such as Claes Ryn , is difficult to grasp. We are used to thinking of the concrete and the universal as opposites of some sort. So what on earth is a "concrete universal"? This passage from R. G. Collingwood expresses the idea philosophically about as well as I have seen: "The concept is not something outside the world of sensuous experience: it is the very structure in order of that world itself... This is the point of view of concrete thought... Too abstract is to consider separately things that are inseparable: to think of the universal, for instance, without reflecting that it is merely the universal of its particulars, and to assume that one can isolate it in thought and to study it in this isolation. This assumption is a

What Is "Ethno-Nationalism"?

I let you know .

My Macroeconomic Models

Now have their own page at GitHub.

Chipping away at the illusion


The other-worldliness of CLRS algorithms

I'm teaching algorithms from Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein , which is the current standard for advanced algorithm courses. I'm working now on coding up their rod-cutting algorithm. Supposedly we are solving a practical problem for a company, Serling Enterprises (Rod Serling pun), that buys long steel rods and wants to know how best to cut each rod to maximize revenues, given that different rod lengths sell at different prices. CLR&S offer an algorithm that determines the best cuts, and then... returns the maximum revenue possible, using those cuts. Can you imagine a manager at Serling actually using this code? She has a rod of 120 inches in length, and an list of prices for various rod lengths on the market. She feeds this items into the CLRS algorithm, and gets back the answer... $43. Say what?! The manager wants to know how she should cut the rod . Yes, it is nice to know, also, what revenue she will get from those optimal cuts. But an algorithm that retur

Nausea and the Revelation of Arbitrage Opportunities

I am regularly shown job listings by LinkedIn. Tonight I saw one for a quantitative researcher at the Sartre Group. I think this might be my kind of job: I picture sitting around on an open office floor with my colleagues, smoking Gauloises, sipping red wine, and asking "What is the point of quantitative research in a cold, indifferent universe?"

Holiday anxieties

On campus this year, I've noticed that people are now afraid of saying "Happy Thanksgiving!" People are saying to me "have a happy," or "happy holiday!" Because who knows, maybe there is a religion that is offended at the idea of thanking people? Perhaps turkey lovers will be angry with you if you mention Thanksgiving? Better safe than sorry.

Who will do better later in life?

Case 1 Thelonius, a child of two mixed-race parents, but who identifies as black, comes home from Amherst College for break. Thelonius : Dad, I think I might be failing history: the teacher (who is a white male, and probably heterosexual as well!) keeps trying to push us to read all of these dead white guys. It's white privilege! Dexter : (Thelonius's dad, a public school diversity administrator): Son, yup, that is indeed white privilege in action! You get out there and lead some campus protests, and I'm sure you can get the situation changed. Case 2 Emmanuel, the child of two Nigerian immigrant parents, comes home from Texas Tech University for break. Emmanuel : Dad, I think I might be failing Calculus III: the teacher, a white male, keeps talking about all of the theorems of these dead white guys. It's white privilege! Olawale (Emmanuel's dad, who works a day shift at a chip fabrication plant in Houston, and then drives a cab at night): Son, you

Chipping away at the illusion


Graph algorithms

A new lecture posted online.

Maximum daily allowance

Someone was telling me that the FDA had set a maximum daily allowance for sugar of six grams. "No," I told them, "that's cocaine you're thinking of... for sugar it's a bit higher."

Statistical fallacies

A correspondent recently suggested to me that, since the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, it makes no sense to screen potential Muslim immigrants more carefully than any other immigrants for terrorist connections. This is statistical nonsense. The vast majority of heavy drinkers do not get liver cancer. But if we are screening for liver cancer, it makes perfect sense to pay special attention to heavy drinkers when screening for liver cancer. I have two Muslim students whom I work with closely. They are like sons to me. My closest colleague at work is also a Muslim, and he is like a brother to me. But, unfortunately, we have been waging war against Muslim countries at an alarming rate, naturally generating great resentment in those countries. As such, we should not falsely conclude that the majority of Muslims are anti-American terrorists. Instead, we should correctly conclude that the vast majority of potential anti-American terrorists (currently) will happen to be

Why Aphorisms Beat Rules

Aphorisms are often criticized for their ambiguity: "Look before you leap." "He who hesitates is lost." But that is exactly what makes them better than rationalistic rules for guiding practical actions. They correctly bring to the forefront the uncertain nature of practice, rather than giving us a false sense that we don't have to make the final call, but can just let "the rules" handle life for us.

Fighting with the cast of Hamilton

Much, much better than fighting with Russia. Let's have all of our nation's battles be Twitter battles from now on!

Trump Distortion Field

Crain's New York Business has published an editorial in which it claims that Donald Trump ran on a platform calling for "kicking out Mexicans." Why do people feel OK about spreading such rubbish? Trump is proposing "kicking out" illegal immigrants who have committed a felony . This seems like a no-brainer to me. Someone came here without permission and then committed a major crime? They should leave. But in any case, the policy says nothing whatsoever about "Mexicans," and certainly will have no impact on the millions of Mexicans living here legally. Why spread a lie like this, when people are already panicked? UPDATE: Just after I posted this, I find NBC claiming that "Trump... called Mexicans 'rapists' and 'killers.'" The lies that didn't work during the election are going to be continued anyway, aren't they?

Donald Trump, Egomaniac

I think Trump is some form of "egomaniac." (I'm am very loosely using psychological terms that probably can't really be sharply defined even by the pros.) And so, when this egomaniac claims: "And at the end of four years I guarantee that I will get over 95% of the African-American vote. I promise you." I believe he is being very sincere. He is an egomaniac. He wants to be loved by everyone . Including Hispanics: "I’ll take jobs back from China, I’ll take jobs back from Japan. The Hispanics are going to get those jobs, and they’re going to love Trump." Including LGBTs: I see no reason to doubt that Trump really wants to be loved by all of these groups: that's what an egomaniac would want. So let's work to stop the fear mongering!

Bleg! Bleg!

Consider this image (a PNG file): It has a white background. I would like to remove it, with some relatively cheap tool. All the tool has to do is remove white pixels, and... voila! But every tool I have tried attempts to do some fancy "AI" pattern recognition of what should be removed, and winds up removing half of the graph edges. No, just the white pixels! What could be simpler? Does anyone know something that does this?

The most important thing you will read today

Here . Take the ten minutes needed to read it!

How the Cultural Marxists Failed by Winning

Here .


The great Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor examines how "civility" rose to prominence, during the last few centuries, as a lauded virtue in his book A Secular Age . (It is interesting to note, as Taylor does, the etymologies of "civilized" and "savage": basically, the first refers to people who live in a city, and the second to people who live out in the woods. And the terms were, of course, created by those who live in cities. Contemplate that distinction while thinking about our recent U.S. presidential election.) The virtues stressed while "living in the woods" are those like courage and loyalty. But in a densely packed city, there are fewer situations that require physical courage, and intense loyalty to one's own in-group can be a barrier to getting along with the many outsiders with whom one must live in close proximity. Instead, in a city, "civility" emerges as the foremost virtue: the ability to "get along,"


Is there decent tool out there that converts PowerPoints to easy-to-modify HTML5 code? I tried a couple of touted tools last night, and they seemed to focus on creating very elaborate HTML5 code that duplicates the slides down to the nearest pixel. So, .e.g., I had a bunch of centered text on one slide, and what the tool produced in HTML was a series of styles for each bullet point that laid out exactly where it should be on the page, like this (I am quoting code from memory):

Why the polls were wrong: The undecideds

I have been attending Taleb 's lectures on " silent risk " this semester, since we now both work for Tandon . Tonight he was talking about how foolish were Nate Silver's efforts to pin a precise number on the election odds, when there was so much volatility. Taleb recommended modeling an election as a binary option, that pays one if your bet comes in, and zero if not. And with volatility so high, the right price for such an option is about .50... so Silver should have been calling things a toss-up all along. The volatility was created by the vast undecided or "barely decided" population that kept tipping back and forth.

Interested in Divide-and-Conquer...

algorithms? Look no further .

The mainstream media still won't stop lying

Here : "[Trump] questioned the fairness of Hispanic judges." Trump said that one particular judge , who has been an activist for Hispanic immigrants, might be biased against him in the Trump U. lawsuit, due to his background. He never, ever said anything about "Hispanic judges." These lies did not work during the election, but mainstream journals apparently are going to double down on mendacity.

Electoral facts of note

Trump improved on Romney's total number of black voters in Florida by 140% . Not everyone was hypnotized by the media!

Does the result prove The Huffington Post wrong?

The Huffington Post , on the morning of the election, gave Hillary Clinton a 98% chance of winning . Boy, do they have egg on their face! Or do they? They didn't give Trump a 0% chance. A 2% chance is a chance. How do we judge when a probabilistic prediction of a one-time event was wrong? Not an easy question!

The Third Adams Presidency

After Donald Trump himself, who was the most important person to Trump's victory? I vote Scott Adams. The man had quite a year!

"We like to think the earth is important..."

I was watching show on "The mysteries of the solar system," and an astronomer said, "We like to think the earth is important, but if viewed from outside, our solar system would appear to be made up of four giant planets and a bunch of rubble." So here is the "Importance is determined by size" trope again. I wonder if this guy thinks Shaquille O'Neal is twice as important as Barack Obama, since he weighs twice as much?

Dumb explanations

Poor, rural, white Pennsylvania was carried by Barrack Obama twice. This year, Trump carried it. The left's explanation: racism! So, given the choice between a black candidate and a white candidate, they chose the black guy. Given the choice between two white candidates, they chose a white candidate. And "racism" is supposed to be a plausible explanation for this?!

Through a glass darkly

When one asserts that there is a transcendent moral order, and that the idea of quote "personal, subjective" morality is nonsense -- that would not be morality at all, but just whims! -- that claim is often mistaken for a claim that one sees that transcendent moral order perfectly. But each and every one of us, down here in the cesspit of the universe, sees only through a glass darkly. The difference is like this: the subjectivist astronomer argues that believing in the Andromeda galaxy is just a "personal choice." The astronomical realist says "No, it is really out there, 2.5 million light years away." That does not mean the realist thinks he knows every star and planet in that galaxy!

Keep repeating this to yourself, and to everyone panicking..

Trump did worse among white voters than Romney. He did better than Romney among blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. This one was for ALL ordinary Americans. The only losers were the elite looting our country.

The best prayer ever

Is, of course, the Lord's prayer. Throughout the night, I kept saying: "Thy kingdom come Thy will be done" Every Christian should keep repeating this to themselves again and again and again.

Media bias

Some lady on ABC just said that "making America great again" is a "dog whistle" for racism. Another guy says there's a real fear among Latinos about the election results: well, who created that fear? Clinton did!

An idiot on ABC

Just said that a sinking US dollar would be "bad for US exports." Do these people even care what they say, so long as it is anti-Trump?

The poor media

There is some blonde woman on ABC who every time she mentions that Trump is going to win, breaks down in tears.

The Democratic Party is now the party of the rich

Hillary Clinton is dominating in the richest states. Donald Trump is dominating in the poorest states. Poor people know that Hillary Clinton is a representative of the globalist elite that is looting them.

Early election commentary

It is clear at this point that: 1) If the Trump hot-mic tapes hadn't dropped, he would have won in a landslide. 2) All of the people who said that Trump would lose in a "historic landslide" have been shown to be idiots. All of the people who said Trump would not get "a single Hispanic vote" have been shown to be idiots: he is getting about a third of the Hispanic vote. Or, to put it another way, about 100% of the non-hypnotized Hispanic vote.

The Therapeutic

"Casting off religion was meant to free us, give us our full dignity of agents; throwing off the tutelage of religion, hence of the church, hence of the clergy. But now we are forced to go to new experts, therapists, doctors, who exercise the kind of control that is appropriate over blind and compulsive mechanisms; who may even be administering drugs to us. Our sick selves are even more being talked down to, just treated as things, than were the faithful of yore in churches." -- Charles Taylor, A Secular Age , p. 620

No, You Have to *Agree* to Let Us Take Your Money Involuntarily!

One of my unions just sent me a letter. My paying them dues, it turns out, is a condition of my employment. OK, so just take my money, then. No, they have to have a letter from me authorizing them to take my money. It's like a mugger who demands his victims say, "Take my money, please!" as they hand it over.

Theory versus Practice

"The great economist Ariel Rubinstein... refuses to claim that his knowledge of theoretical matters can be translated -- by him -- into anything directly practical. To him, economics is like a fable -- a fable writer is there to stimulate ideas, indirectly inspire practice perhaps, but certainly not to direct or determine practice. Theory should stay independent from practice and vice versa -- and we should not extract academic economists from their campuses and put them in positions of decision making." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile , pp. 211-212.

And why you?

A weird Apple dictation bug that has persisted over multiple releases: I say something like "NYU." The dictation software writes, "and why you." OK, understandable. But it also has another reading "in mind," and when I tap that area, I am helpfully offered the option of choosing "NYU." Great. Except when I chose it, I get "and why NYU." The software clearly "understood" "NYU" as an alternative to the whole phrase "and why you." But over a number of iPhone OS releases, it has continued to incorrectly substitute the alternative for only the last word of the phrase! I can understand this bug getting released into production. But I would expect it to be fixed in about a week or so. How in the world has it persisted for months?!

Religion will outlast all of its critics

"If something that does not make sense to you (say, religion -- if you are an atheist -- or some other age-old habit or practice called irrational); if that something has been around for a very, very long time, then, irrational or not, you can expect it to stick around much longer, and outlive those who call for its demise." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile , p. 335

More on alpha levels

The α = .05 cutoff for "significant" results is a case of spurious "objectivity" trumping scientific judgment. The fact that scientists have an "objective" standard to adhere to gives the appearance of being more rigorous. But consider another objective way of deciding between the "null hypothesis" and the hypothesis being tested: flip a coin. Heads, we reject the null hypothesis, tails we don't. Completely objective! We could videotape the coin flip, and all sane observers could agree as to whether we got heads or tails. Next, think about the following two cases: We do a study and find that reckless driving correlates with early death with p = .08 (greater than α). We are told to accept the null hypothesis: there is no significant correlation. We do a study and find that sunspot activity correlates with American League victories in the World Series with p = .04 (less than α). We are told to reject the null hypothesis: there is a sig

Why So Many Statistical Studies Are Worthless

The findings of statistical studies are usually considered "significant" when there is smaller than 5% probability that their findings were the result of mere chance in the selection of a sample to study. Keep that in mind, and let's first just consider sociologists: the American Sociological Association claims 21,000 members in its various sub-groups. Let us guess (the exact numbers don't matter for my point) that each member undertakes two statistical studies per year, and half of those show a significant correlation. That means that by chance alone, this group will produce over a thousand studies per year which appear to show a significant correlation between different phenomena, but in which the significance was really only the result of the luck of the draw in picking a sample to examine. Next let us turn our attention to the bias that exists in academic journals towards results that are  positive (no one cares much about studies that show no connectio

"How can you be so certain you are right?"

Let us begin by distinguishing between political liberalism and metaphysical liberalism. Political liberalism is focused on the activities and institutions of governance. Its rough outlines include insistence on certain basic rights, such as free speech, some level of respect for private property, the right to free assembly, etc.; and a preference for a certain type of governmental institutions: democratic, republican, non-hereditary, accountable, and so on. Many, many people are political liberals who are not what I would call "metaphysical liberals": these political liberals' own metaphysical beliefs may be traditionally Christian or Jewish or Muslim, for instance, but they believe that the best form of state is neutral between such commitments, and is broadly liberal in character. While they might strongly believe that, for instance, pre-marital sex is wrong (and not just "wrong for me"), they don't feel it is the place of the state to correct such mis

The Sinkhole of the Cosmos

A very good article making at length a point I've made several times here: the Copernican Revolution did not displace man from some exalted spot at the center of the universe. Nope, before Copernicus, Christian Europeans understood themselves to be living in: "the excrementary and filthy parts of the lower world... the worst, the deadest, and the most stagnant part of the universe, on the lowest story of the house, and the farthest from the vault of heaven." To join the planets and stars as a celestial body was a huge upgrade for man's dwelling place. And a corollary: anyone who you hear saying that Copernicus "displaced man from his exalted place at the center" is a charlatan : they are willing, for ideological purposes, to simply make things up without having any idea what they are talking about.

I Cast My Vote

Here .

Making Do with What We've Got

My review of Claes Ryn's novel is now online .

Expecting Julian Assange to deliver the coup de grace

Assange is obviously not an idiot. He has massive material documenting Hillary Clinton's corruption, and has been leaking it out slowly. What are the odds that that he did not save the most damaging revelation for this week? Watch for it. UPDATE: It seems my guess was wrong. It happens.

And Yet One More GitHub Book Page

Here . My friend Nathan Conroy says I am like Julian Assange, leaking out a new release every few days to intimidate my opponents.

Another GitHub book project

Is now online .

My Review of _Philosophy Between the Lines_

Has been published at last . (This link will work for the first fifty readers, I believe.)

"I have a right to my opinion."

One hears this a lot from liberals. Indeed, it could be taken as another of the key facades of liberalism. (Facade because liberals don't really mean this when they say it. If the people of some state have the opinion, say, that men should use the men's bathroom, and women should use the women's bathroom, liberals are quite happy to try economically ruin that state for believing that.) Legally, of course, one has a "right" to any belief whatsoever. But liberals usually mean much more: they mean that morally , everyone has a "right" to their own opinion. That is nonsense. If one's opinion is in error, one has an obligation to correct it, and bring it toward the truth. As Thaddeus Kozinski puts it : "Of course, the existence of a pluralism of 'truths' is not a good thing, for there is only one truth, and error is the result of sin. Pluralism, in short, must be seen, per se, as a grave defect of spiritual, intellectual, social, and po

My GitHub home page

Is here . Of course, one purpose of my linking to this is to publicize my work! But also I want to convey how easy GitHub and GitHub Pages make putting up this sort of site.

My forthcoming book on Berkeley

I've greatly expanded the coverage of the existing material . This is a book I have a contract for already, so I hope in two years you can see it in print.

Indra Agent-Based Modeling

We now have a web site up for Indra .

Just go ahead and multiply

You have some probabilities: 70% chance a consumer will want to go to a store of type x , and 30% the consumer wants to go to a store of type y . you have some mechanism in place to take these percentages and cause them to result in the appropriate proportion of actions. But what if there is no store of type x ? Just write a function that returns one if a store of that type exists, and zero if it does not. Then multiply the percentage times that return value. You need the function anyway, so that is no overhead. But you might be tempted to write an if statement that zeroes out the % value when the type of store in question does not exist. In general, simply going ahead and multiplying, even if you are only multiplying by one, makes for tidier, easier to maintain code. Don't unnecessarily multiply entities! (The conditional statement being a new, unnecessary entity.)

Thinking for one's self

The other day I was talking to a woman professional who had gotten involved in a "women in business" network. She went off on how she was so tired of men telling her what to think, and that she was going to be thinking for herself, etc., etc. What was amazing was that this was all standard boilerplate material that you could find handed out at a "women in business" network dinner: there was not an original thought in the entire speech. By the way, there is a very straight-forward solution available to women who think they are discriminated against in large companies: start your own company! This is especially the case in the financial industry. Stocks, bonds and options have no idea if it is a woman or a man buying them. If your ideas are better than those of the jerk in a suit for whom you are working, go out and trade yourself!

Another book project...

going up on GitHub  here .

Yet Another GitHub Project Page Is Born

Studies in Rationalism . Now that I've taken the time to figure out GitHub Pages, I realize this is what I've been waiting for. The big thing is that this isn't just a way to put up web sites: it is a way to put up web sites for collaborative projects that can involve a multitude of contributors, and it can track and reconcile changes made by multiple people to shared documents.

Remembering the order of the CSS margin property

You give the style margins in the following order: top, right, bottom, left. But I kept having trouble remembering this and had to keep looking it up. Until I thought of Charles Barkley. The order is what Charles would tell Kenny Smith about how the Warriors played against the Spurs: "The Warriors played trbl, tonight, Kenny, just trbl."

Popular economic idiocy

Midsomer Murders is a kind of silly British crime show. For one thing, it is supposed to take place in an idyllic, rural English county. But this county seems to suffer about three murders per week, and nobody but nobody ever murders just a single person. But you know me… addicted to plots. And so sometimes I watch anyway. The other day, the murder involved the local noble family, the residents of the village manor. One of them was going to buy the local pub, and then backed out. The detective interviewing the pub owner was shocked at the agreed-upon price: "You were selling at well below market value!" The implication is that, being the lords of the manor, members of the noble family had extra-market power to semi-coerce sales from the villagers. And then the discussion turns to the sale going south. The pub owner complains, "When he backed out, we were devastated!" For the writers, "market value" is apparently some abstract number, perhaps on

Psychiatric drugs and fragility

For those of you who haven't read Antifragile , Taleb's final book in his Incerto quartet, it is very much worth your time. It's central idea is simple: uncertainty and ups and downs are an essential part of life, not accidents to be corrected. But what's more, the attempt to eliminate them and make life all pleasant smoothness (like an automobile ride in a luxury car commercial) produces fragility . For my Austrian friends, you will like the fact that Taleb takes the business cycle as a paradigmatic case: by trying to smooth out all ups and downs in business activity, central banks produce huge crashes like 1929-1932 and 2007-2008. But this principle applies in many, many other domains of life as well. In fact, once you see it as a general principle, you start finding it everywhere. This morning I was thinking about it in terms of psychiatric drugs. The idea behind these drugs is that no one should ever feel bad. Just look at the TV ads: once you get hooked on thes

How did this happen?

Yesterday I used Google translate to translate some Polish text. Today I got asked to apply for a temporary job as a Polish-English translator for some legal documents. That can't be a coincidence, can it? But if it's not a coincidence, how the heck did this translation company find out I was doing this? Does Google sell this information? It seems like that would freak people out. UPDATE: I understand targeted ads, and have received them often. But in those cases, I understood Google to be doing something like promising, "We'll put your ad for X in front of people who have searched for X." But that doesn't offer the specific names and email addresses of people who have searched for X. If people are searching for hemorrhoid cream, the advertiser gets ads in front of them, but without knowing specifically who those people are. What I got was a personal email .

A Great Piece from Claes Ryn

Here .

Small Is Beautiful

"A rule then hit me: with the exception of, say, drug dealers, small companies and artisans tend to sell us healthy products, ones that seem naturally and spontaneously needed; larger ones -- including pharmaceutical giants -- are likely to be in the business of producing wholesale iatrogenics, taking our money, and then, to add insult to injury, hijacking the state thanks to their army of lobbyists. Further, anything that requires marketing appears to carry such side effects. You certainly need an advertising apparatus to convince people that Coke brings them 'happiness'..." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile , p. 402

"Computers represent numbers as...

sequences of 0s and 1s." It is amazing how many times I have heard the above nonsense. Folks, there are no 0s or 1s inside your computer: There are flows of electricity and magnetized plates. Humans interpret those electro-magnetic states as 0s or 1s. The only 0s or 1s your computer has are in the serial number written on the outside of the box, or on the surface of a microchip inside it, giving its model number!

Another web course

I've almost completed cutting my course materials for statistics and probability over to HTML stored in GitHub. Here is the course as it stands. UPDATE: I had to move the site. The old way of serving pages proved to be buggy.

Can globalization be stopped?

I heard a student ask an economics professor the above recently. His answer was, "No, of course not!" The best way to get someone to passively accept the beating you are giving them is to get them to think it is inevitable. The right question is, "HOW will globalization be stopped?" The possible answers are: 1) The globalizing elite will be defeated politically. 2) We will suffer a global economic or ecological catastrophe. Reference: See Babel, Tower of.

I know that the hypnotized never lie

If you've been hypnotized by a good persuasion campaign, you can be certain of this: whatever it is they want to make you believe, you will be quite certain that you came to believe it all on your own, and you will be convinced you have very good reasons for believing it. That's what makes it hypnosis, rather than just ordinary marketing. The tell is how contrived those reasons turn out to be if they are examined closely: in fact, you are drawing on your clothes in green magic marker not to show solidarity with imprisoned environmentalists, but because you are hypnotized.

Playing a machine

When I play my computer chess program, at a certain point in the game, it will begin to simply throw pieces at me: "Here, have my queen! Here, have my rook!" It does this when I have a forced checkmate, in order to delay the checkmate by a couple of moves. This is silly, because: 1) If I have seen the check mate, it should not matter to my opponent whether it happens in five moves or in seven. 2) If I haven't seen the checkmate, the computer has just alerted me to the fact that there is one. 3) If I still can't find the checkmate, the computer has handed me the game anyway, since it's given up all its pieces except the king. Of course, I excuse it: it is just a machine. It doesn't even know that it is playing chess. It doesn't know what an opponent is. It doesn't understand the idea of winning. Like a marble rolling down an inclined plane, it is just mechanically doing exactly what it was built to do. And Silas, just relax and watch a football game or


I was dictating posts from my phone today! Siri was clearly having an off day.

Did any new rock group ever...

(setting aside groups made up of well-established musicians, like Crosby, Stills, and Nash) ever come out with a first album as sophisticated as Steely Dan? Put on some earphones and check this track out:

One good thing about pseudocode

It never hangs your pseudo-program, nor makes your pseudo-computer crash!


An interesting post from Scott Adams. As usual, as soon as he talks philosophy, he talks nonsense. But his point about hypnotism is good. An example: Trump says that because he is a celebrity, women let him do anything: even grab their... Women (celebrity obsessed women, at least) don't mind if he does this. Now this is all pretty crude and doesn't show Trump in a good light. Well, almost immediately, Team Clinton and its allies (meaning 95% of the media) began repeating, again and again, that Trump had boasted of sexually assaulting women. And even though Trump quite explicitly said that women let him do these things, many, many people are actually sure that Trump said that the women were unwilling, and that he was assaulting those women. After all, if something is said again and again in the New York Times , the Washington Post , Slate , CBS News , CNN , etc., etc. how could it possibly be false? That's hypnotism!