Apr 17

Lawful neutrality

“The laws of physics, I concluded, to the extent that they are true, do not explain much. We could know all the true laws of nature, and still not know how to explain composite cases. Explanation must rely on something other than law.”

–Nancy Cartwright, How the Laws of Physics Lie

Apr 16


The problem with thinking you know more than the experts.

Wrong framing. I don’t think I know more than most experts, but I certainly am not attempting to rip myself off, wrench money from my own wallet for nefarious causes, or otherwise attempting to pilfer, purloin, or prise away some ill-gotten gain from myself.

Experts these days more than ever are attempting to do exactly that if not most of the time, then certainly enough of the time that it is an ever-present and huge risk.

So no, I do not trust experts even if they are more skilled and/or competent than I am in their domain — with the way our society is structured, that makes them more of a risk to me, not less.

Apr 16


Oh hell yeah, The Leftovers is back. Such a beautiful, great, gut-wrenching, intelligent, daring second season.

The first season was ok. Boring in parts, unnecessary in others, great in a few others. (But it had Carrie Coon so I kept watching.)

The second season — I say goddamn.

It’s the most human, most absorbing, most lived-in and most dementedly painstaking show on television. And the greatness of Carrie Coon. That last sentence is incomplete because nothing can complete Carrie Coon.

If season 3 is even half as good as the second one was, it’ll be better than 99% of what’s on TV now.

I might go back and re-watch season 1 in light of what I now know — suspect I was missing a lot, or was not in the groove of the show then.

Apr 15

Neil Before Philosophy

Why do we keep Snell’s law on the books when we both know it to be false and have a more accurate refinement available? There are obvious pedagogic reasons. But are there serious scientific ones? I think there are, and these reasons have to do with the task of explaining. Specifying which factors are explanatorily relevant to which others is a job done by science over and above the job of laying out the laws of nature. Once the laws of nature are known, we still have to decide what kinds of factors can be cited in explanation.

–Nancy Cartwright, How the Laws of Physics Lie

Tell me again, Neil deGrasse Tyson, how philosophy is irrelevant and useless?

Apr 15


Strength in adversity and the need to make a living are not the same thing as freedom.

–Ellen Willis, No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays

Apr 15


It’s strange how realizing the truth of the artificiality of your preferred fiction in no way makes it easier to consume or enjoy fiction that is also just as highly stylized but is non-preferred.

All the fiction is a stage on a stage, and all the players merely types that echo our preferred way of seeing ourselves and our world.

Apr 13

Bibliotheca evanidus

It’s clear why neoliberals and authoritarians want to eliminate libraries. Along with parks (which they also want to eradicate), public libraries are among the last few places where there is no corporate oversight nor profit opportunity. People of all races, ages, and socioeconomic levels can gather freely, under the rubric of no corporatized agenda, to educate themselves on and to discuss whatever they wish without paying directly a singe cent. Even worse in the view of the neolibs, the very poorest and least advantaged benefit the most from the services a good library provides the community.

In addition — and perhaps just as importantly — libraries show government working well, and benefting everyone, which implies that it could (and in fact does so) in other arenas of life.

There is also the disdain for intellectualism, and also relevant to their disapprobation is that libraries contain all manner of unapproved and likely-dangerous ideas and tomes — some that even discuss how much of an evil and bane to the world is neoliberalism.

There is nothing in the world like a really good library, and it is for this very reason that neoliberals and corporation-worshippers wish to be rid of them.

Apr 13

Naturaial Aim

AI is hard not because we lack the hardware, but because we are attempting to reproduce in 75 years something that nature’s goalless but effective optimization and winnowing process has spent hundreds of millions of years to instantiate.