Showing posts from November, 2016

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.