Apr 20

New idea (to me)

Consciousness as result of sexual selection – a showy peacock’s tail, a bower bird’s staged abode — functional purpose being attractive to a potential partner but in this case not (only) resident in one sex.

As such like most sexually-selected traits, it reduces fitness but also advertises one’s high levels thereof.

This is probably not a new idea. Truly novel ideas are very, very rare. But I thought of it myself and I’m pretty proud of that.

Chances of being true, even partially? I’d say five percent. Or about the same or better as any other idea about consciousness.

Apr 20

Loose

“Loosening up” isn’t something I do.

I’ve never done it. I’ve seen others do it, yes. But I have no idea what it feels like.

Not when I’m sleeping. Not when I’m resting. Not when I’m wide awake.

Even alcohol doesn’t work. It changes my demeanor not one whit.

Yes, I can feel its effects. I hate that it makes me slower. Mostly alcohol just annoys me because it means I could not fight and could not run very well if needed. But I don’t really feel any different other than slightly stupider. And grumpy at my slowness.

Even with four glasses of wine in me.

Reasons I don’t mingle with normals: this one is among them.

Apr 19

Cog without the nition

Though I am very interested in AI, I think the focus on consciousness is probably misguided.

I used to believe the direct opposite of this by the way, but I’m not sure anymore that consciousness is even important, much less necessary to create even a human-level AI.

Cognition without consciousness. Intelligence without same. Seems outlandish — because we get to define “consciousness.”

But consciousness itself just might be an adaptive trick to boost limited mental capacity to something actually useful in the world. More useful than not possessing it, that is. Not necessary for anything less limited. Or it might be something else altogether. But I’m no longer convinced it’s necessary. In fact it might even be harmful.

Of course one can argue that if you’ve simulated consciousness, then that is no different than consciousness.

I don’t have a strong rebuttal to that contention.

But.

It’s only contingently the case that the withdrawal reflex is adaptive. It’s completely unconscious. I don’t see any reason why other more complex actions that in humans are “conscious” could not be arrayed just as the withdrawal reflex.

I know, it sounds ridiculous to talk this way as our entire mental architecture is against it — but I can imagine an “empathy reflex” or a “navigation reflex” with no gestalt, with no “thinker” needed or present.

It seems to me that what we think of as higher-level thought is just an accident of adaptation, that this can exist just as well without the architecture of consciousness in a different environment.

Meaning without a “meaner.”

These ideas could be completely wrong. I don’t know. But I’d rather have big questions out there than spend my life in boring certitude.

Apr 18

Piste off

The problem with utopian visions like these is not that they are impossible. No, they are completely possible. There is nothing in an economic system like that incompatible with human nature. (The hunter-gatherer thing is outlandish, but let’s ignore that for the moment.)

The problem is that there is no credible path from here to there. None at all.

We are at a local maximum. There are several very dreadful local minima nearby that it’s easy to roll down into from here — such as climate-caused collapse, or nuclear war, or ecological collapse separate of climate change.

There are better local maxima — far better — but they are up slopes so steep that the chances of climbing them are basically nil. Not now, not ever.

I don’t believe there is a way around this. And perhaps that itself is human nature, that it’s impossible to transition to other much-more-beneficial local maxima without utter disaster.

Apr 16

Beyond space oddities

What’s also supremely bizarre in those infected by some sort of Hillary malady is the contention in previously-sane people that millions of dollars donated to her campaign will have absolutely no effect on her policies — and that even discussing it is absurd.

What are these people smoking? Especially since some of these same people have argued in the past against the corruption that results from campaign “donations” (aka bribes), and have advocated reforming campaign finance laws as the process is inherently corrupt and corrupting.

I can’t understand any of this. Is it really that scary that your house price might fall 5% or that poor people might get something a bit better, or that SSI might be improved?

Apr 16

Elections do weird things

Paul Krugman Doesn’t Understand The 2008 Financial Crisis.

Neither does Kevin Drum — everything he now writes about the financial crisis, NAFTA and trade is either wrong, misleading or an outright and obvious lie.

Hillary Clinton-itis is an chronic and persistent infection whose symptoms include extreme historical retrograde amnesia, disconnection from reality, frequent hallucinations and the tendency to now ignore past shenanigans of an entire class of financial parasites because the status quo might be altered a bit.

It is mostly indicated in older white males, but its etiology being unknown sometimes it appears inexplicably in younger white females. Though the disease is currently untreatable, post-election trauma care such as intensive cognitive behavioral therapy after said candidate turns out to be a Goldman Sachs myrmidon with warmonger tendencies no different than her predecessor and his predecessor can ameliorate and sometimes even completely reverse the effects.

At this time little to no research funding is directed at this life-altering ailment, and further treatments are not expected.

Apr 15

Nom

If I had a daughter, I’d name her “Moniker.” Everyone would think her name is “Monika.” However, her name is actually the name of her name.

Her middle name would of course be “Recursion.”

I am sure she would murder me by her early teens for all this.

Apr 15

Sanders standers

There were hints of it in 2008, but with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy it has become completely obvious that many people who term themselves “progressives” are about as progressive as John Boehner.

Among them are Paul Krugman, Sarah Kendzior, Charles Blow and so many others.

I don’t support Sanders. I won’t vote for him and I think he’d make a fairly ineffective Carter-esque president.

Nevertheless, he’s the nearest thing America has had to a true progressive politician in many years. That his proposals aren’t seen as “realistic” in the current political climate is the entire point.

American progressivism is just a variant of neoliberalism these days.

Not sure why I’m writing about it. I don’t think the current system is tenable or fixable. Sanders won’t and cannot fix it. But pretending HRC is the safe choice is just delusional. She’s the safe choice if you like even faster collapse.

Apr 14

Hard lessons

Things I learned the hard way in IT:

  • If a user claims there is “no vital data” on a computer, never believe them. Even if they insist, even if they claim you are wasting their time. Image the fucking hard drive if you are upgrading. Just image it. Users are completely clueless about where their data resides, or even if there is data.
  • If a department claims “no one uses this server, it can be decommissioned,” first power it down. If no one complains after a month, remove it from the server room (if physical) or the virtual environment (if virtual) but DON’T GET RID OF IT for at least two years. I’ve had servers in environments that are only used once a year (at tax season, for instance). Two years full retention of server image (not just data) is usually enough.
  • If a telecom vendor tells you 30 days, expect 90+. If they tell you 90 days, count on 180+.
  • If a programming group complains about performance and blames infrastructure, learn enough about their code and their databases to be able to read the code and to debug their programming and DB issues. It’s almost never an infrastructure problem, and anyway throwing more hardware at a programming or database issue gets very, very expensive very, very quickly. In some environments, I’ve understood more about what the code was doing at the machine level than the programmers themselves did. (This is not actually uncommon among really good systems administrators. SAs have to know nearly everything about everything — programmers only have to know how to code.)
  • If you have a manager in IT with an MBA, chances are you are going to have a bad time.
  • If a user claims they have rebooted their machine, also never believe them.