Let It Burn

I think this may be the best way to help folks help themselves. “If you want our help, clear your damn property of trees and shrubs!” If they don’t, let the house go to briquets and a night of regret to a learning experience.

House on fire with family looking on.

In fact, Southern California, my home for sixty years, has had laws in place to that very end. And, year after year, homeowners ignore that rule (with corollary fines) and suffer losses when firefighters arrived to find homes engulfed from general conflagrations whipped up during Santanna Winds in the early (and now late) Autumn.

Of course, none of this would be necessary if firefighting was privatized as part of part of a home security plan. Your monthly premium would include fire protection (inspection and extinguishings,) insurance, supervision of design and execution of repair for in-kind replacement. (A good firm would, after all, cover their assets, too!)

Public firefighting has always (except possibly volunteer associations) had difficulty doing a bang-up job.

Firefighters risk a lot and suffer much. In fact, they do a great job. They would be the same people doing the work for the private firms, too. But the management would be responsible, as much as the guys on the ladders, swinging the axes, and administering oxygen to choking and overwhelmed victims to run the system and take the blame for failures.

The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice | National Review

This is the real friends. And it ain’t about science.

I don’t agree with NR on much even though I have my roots in Burkean conservatism, even they know that police are a reactionary arm of a police state and that officers are sworn to serve the state and enforce its dictates. They do not serve the public irrespective of slogans and mottos and glittering generalities and songs sung in preschool.

When a conservative magazine, born in an era of fear for the future of America, where the threat of the Cold War was real and the state was the last line of defense, comes to a realization that police are ill-trained it means only one thing.

Our country is rushing to fill its ranks with domestic soldiers regardless of quality to enforce the massive amount of rules, regulations, and statutes that pile higher and deeper and smother us. Officers seem poised to pick off those of us lucky enough to escape with breath and a beating heart.

Please read the link to see an unusual take from a conservative magazine. Even they see the truth of this ridiculuous verdict.

Burn a candle for Philacdo and the Castile family.

Source: The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice | National Review

An AnCom’s Mixmaster Brain

Here are the words of the Mixmaster mind of the everyday AnCom alone in his room, the everyday AnCom who gave up a good mind for me.

(Sung to the tune of, The Everyday Housewife by Glen Campbell)
Note: Sorry for the jargon. Among libertarians, the terms AnCap and AnCom have very specific meanings. Both imply anarchy. In the case of AnCap, not the crazed bewhiskered bomb-throwing anarchy associated with other anarchies. No, this is more of a peaceful, surprisingly organized anarchy. Anarchical only in that there are no coerced exchanges in the economy as there are in a governed society. An AnCap in an anarcho-capitalist. One who believes in the freedom to act in ways limited only by a) contractual limits and b) limits placed on the actor by the existence of the natural rights of others.
AnComs, on the other hand, are Jekyll’s Hyde, Samson’s Delilah, Socrates’ Hemlock. They, if we allow them, can remind us of the chaos that abounds in the Cosmos and, the substrate it grows upon as a virulent bacteria grows upon an agar bound to the base of a Petri dish.
The big difference, however, is the ‘Com.’ Communism, more generally, collectivism. An AnCom believes in the collective, not individual ownership or individualism in general. Judaism, Christianity, and number of other religions are not collectivist in nature although some Christian sects have determined  different interpretation is appropriate. most collectivist societies, however, resort to methods of religious pacification to insinuate their “one-for-all and all-for-all” litany into the State Hymnal.
I saw this piece on my Tumblr feed to which I repair every time we run shy of Syrup of Ipecac. It worked like a charm this time. Upon re-reading it, I should have left the Hemlock down.


What’s the difference between classical liberalism, modern liberalism, and neo-liberalism?


Classical liberalism involves the original values espoused by the bourgeois revolutionaries of the 18th and 19th centuries, an elevation of liberty and freedom of speech and stuff. Nine times out of ten, advocates aim for a representative political system and a market economy with “little to no government involvement” (i.e. little to no democratic economic presumptions or social welfare reforms that could help tip the scale of power towards labor and away from capital). In this way, it really is the complementary ideology of the capitalist system – an ideology that seeks out “liberty” to the extent that capital can still remain firmly in charge of society. Some people, like Noam Chomsky for instance, believe that the actual logical conclusions of classical liberalism now imply libertarian socialism, since material conditions have changed a good bit since CL’s conception. I’m skeptical of this idea – I think it’s a very capitalist framework. (This isn’t to say that I don’t think a libertarian socialist society shouldn’t champion many of this things (sic) classical liberals champion, like freedom from political tyranny and a great respect for the individual. I just think that classical liberalism stops way short of a more holistic conception of “liberty, equality, solidarity” that achieves ACTUAL human liberation, something that libertarian socialism is actually consistent on via economic democracy and the abolition of class domination.)

Modern liberalism generally implies some degree of social liberalism, which in turn is an ideology that takes many of the assumptions of classical liberalism for granted and further argues that greater equality is needed before liberty can be fully utilized. This is why modern liberals/social liberals will generally approve of welfare policies and some concessions for workers’ rights; working- and middle-class social liberals usually support these policies from a genuine perspective to bring about more equality, but upper-class liberals will support them to an (sic) extent that capital still remains firmly in charge and class stratification becomes normalized. That latter point is important – nominally about equality, social liberalism is structurally about “reforming so that you can preserve”, essentially passing bigger and better-tasting scraps down to the masses so that they feel more content with their position in life (i.e. still lacking fundamental control at work and in living arrangements, still having to foot colossal bills, but receiving nice benefits and some social prestige).

Neoliberalism is a set of policies and practices that seek out the privatization of economic utilities – a “new liberalism” that essentially just repackages the old ways of pure class domination from capitalists. Neoliberalism took form in the late-70s and early-80s under Reagan and Thatcher and others, and it was mainly a ruling-class response to the 30-year period of social liberalism after World War II. Trickle-down economics, “free trade”, job-outsourcing for cheaper labor, the War on Drugs, etc. – these are all policies that the ruling class pushed to undo any progress being made, especially after the growing revolutionary attitudes of the 1960s. By no means is neoliberalism limited to Republicans; Democrats will happily embrace it, from Bill/Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. Some say neoliberalism is on its last legs now that Trump and other proto-fascists are gaining power around the world, giving way to a new divide between populists on the left and the right (rather than the old 40-year divide between Whole Foods neoliberalism and 700 Club neoliberalism); I’m not entirely sure about this claim, but my instincts are telling me it might be the case.

Capitalism is now pushing two phenomena that will ultimately lead to its own destruction if we’re sufficiently organized: automation and global climate change. Proto-fascist right-populism can’t address these problems (since it’s merely a front for elite domination), but a socialist left-populism can. Harness the automation for human need/use rather than elite profit, put an end to the unceasing accumulation of capitalism that’s accelerating climate change. All of this taken together might mean that liberalism itself is on its way out. Only time will tell in that regard.

Hope this was informative/answered your question sufficiently!

The Apotheosis of Jane Roe and John Doe

Last year, I entered a drugstore in a nearby town, made my way to the pharmacy, and stood in the empty waiting line. An attendant called out, “Hi Mark; it will be a few minutes. I have a slight emergency.”
“No problem!”, I replied. “I’m used to waiting. I had to replace my lost driver’s license yesterday.”
“Hear that. Bet Pam found the license when she got home.”
Chagrined, I sheepishly was about to respond when I heard, in a slight, but audible, voice, “I was in line, sir!”
I could barely hear the exclamation. “Hello?” I said as my head swiveled swiftly. (Yes. It is damn difficult to say. It is also damn difficult to type!) “Where are you?” I implored.
“Back here.” The little echo returned.
“Where here? Can you step to a location where I can see you? That would be very helpful to me.” I was ready to buy a flare gun. Throw a gold carp. Anything to let her know where I was.
She moved away from the wall she was standing near and suddenly appeared, no longer hidden by the outstanding bend in the wall. Ten feet from that corner.
“Why are you back so far?” I was quite interested in this.
“Why, it’s just common courtesy.”
“I agree that it is quite nice, but there was no one in line! To whom was the courtesy being paid?
“Well, I couldn’t tell if anyone was there, so I thought I should stand back here just to be certain.” Her answer, well, that line was odd. I told here she could move to the front of the line, so she began to make her way there. Before she got to the corner, another older lady arrived at the front of the line.
Our Lady, lady one said, “I was here first!”
Of course, lady two, the elder, was rather brusque. “Who the hell are you kidding?” I sought to intervene. The situation was going downhill quickly. The prospect of blood frightened me, and I am not easily intimidated.
Lady two had already assumed a position of power, feng shui anyone, which sent lady one back to her corner saying, “OK. Take your front. I’ll take second.”
“Wait a minute!” I shouted. Lady two just waved her cane menacingly, while lady one stood akimbo looked my way indignantly. My way? All I could see were mental images of me in the local weekly advertisement pick-up being hauled off for inciting violence.
I went to lady one. “Sorry for all this.”
“You should be. People could have been hurt!”
“Yes, ma’am. How far back should I stand?”
“Fifteen feet would be fine.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
One hour later, I decided to leave, the line having grown. I was still at the rear and now out into the parking lot. Luckily, I was standing next to my car.
Back in the late 80’s, I learned about the concept of boundaries. Boundaries had two senses. One was the kind of boundaries that people can envision for themselves to help themselves avoid the emotional pain associated with verbal attacks by others. They’re something to stand behind. Something that John Bradshaw or Pia Melody, New Age children of Western Esotericism, pitched this and other tools. But it wasn’t tripe. Some panned it because of the roots it came from, but based on my experience I found it a very helpful model.
Then there were the other boundaries. The type that has transmogrified into personal space. The one that while there is no law we are nevertheless expected to respect. And upon what objective criteria is this space defined? None! It is subjective. Whoever owns the space determines the area. It is their “safe” area. Their “Elysian Fields.” How sweet it must be, to be so fragile that we get to carry around our space that no one else gets to enter!
Man’s second skin inflated now compares to Macy’s Parade.
The person owning holds their “safe space” possesses a positive right if they can enforce it. In this case, there is no law (at least not yet), so there is only a virtual positive right.
If I seek to hand a summons to the man or woman claiming the positive right above, were there a law making it defensible, they would have a negative right against me. I would be out my fee. However, were I to wait in line, at their bus stop so as to prevent them from entering until they take the summons, I win! She either takes the warrant or walks. (Of course, she then will go to the consulting psychologist mentioned below, and the law will get changed and so for forth.)
Needless to say, the negative right is, in this case, only a virtual negative right. Virtual only because of the aforementioned consulting psychologist with the bureaucracy who hasn’t finished their report.
In general, negative and positive rights are held by all people based on laws in the presence of a State plus contractual agreements (be they formal or otherwise) whether a State exists or not.
A positive right gives you the power to do something. A negative right allows you to prevent another person from doing something.
A hold harmless clause in a contract gives you the negative power to prevent the person you have contracted with from suing you for damages if you have made errors. Architects, engineers, and builders use them in their contracts where they have warned their clients that site difficulties make the budget impossible.
Remember the pharmacy? Lady one claimed a positive right and granted a significant positive right to whoever she thought was already was in line until I got there. Then she changed her mind.
Naughty lady one. The positive right she had tacitly granted me, she ripped from quivering fingers. Luckily I had good emotional boundaries. Thanks, John Bradshaw. Thanks,
Lady two then asserted her positive right over Lady one’s protests and stared her down. She stared me down, sort of, too.
So I ended up with no rights. I gave up bewildered. Whoever came in just got in front of me. All I heard was, “Excuse me, sir. You’re in my way.” I hear it still after the flushing is over, as the Restoril dissolves, as the Night takes over ending the day, I hear it still…
All the way to my car.

Written by Mark E. Deardorff, © 2016, 2017 by ScienceViaMarkets and Mark E Deardorff, All Rights Reserved.

#Musk, The Scent of Progress and The End of The Individual


I am waiting for Elon #Musk‘s new dark #Comedy.
Arsenic and #Neural #Lace. A Study in #VR #Autocracy.
Appearing in a brain stem near you.

— Mark E Deardorff (@medeardorff) February 20, 2017


Large mainframe computers proliferated in the 1960’s. Industry after World War II put demands on computation that could no longer be handled entirely by rows human calculators with slide rules, adding machines, or Burroughs Comptometer.

The public-at-large knew little other than what the wagging televised tongues and wrinkled words on fading newsprint bespoke of the world less run by the electrochemistry of organic man and more by the artifice of minds leaving many of them behind to toil as their support and not, they believed, as equals.

Hollywood, just as much then as now, take an opportunity to exploit fear to turn a profit. Profiting itself is not the problem. The fact is that Hollywood was prescient. The science-fiction community was and always has been, for the most part, very farsighted.

There were the idealists like Wells who saw great things that man would evolve away from in The Shape of Things to Come (1933) or Clarke who, twenty years later, believed that interdiction was the only way. Aliens steal humanity’s children in Childhood’s End. Wells, no friend of liberty it should be noted, argued for the pacification of religion.

The truth, however, is far more (without attempting to sound bizarre) worrisome. With the Seventies came DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. Operating research through a series of universities there was a need for high-speed communication of information between researchers thus ARPANET was created. It was a network of computers including a node at my alma mater USC that I found myself using occasionally. (It was the first network on which the ubiquitous HTML was used to make references between documents simpler for scientists to use without a lot of damn typing and the concomitant swearing.)

Ultimately, DARPA-Net was extended to commercial use becoming the Internet, blah, blah, blah. Eight years ago, websites talked to devices (including telephones) attached to networks connected to the internet. Now we add machines like refrigerators, TV’s washers, dryers, automobiles, D9 Caterpillars. All of the devices are computing and sharing computational results to assist our convenient living. Now, in the most recent year, a flood tide of Virtual Reality has washed the internet into our very eyes.

But wasn’t that what the guys in the Sixties were worried about?

Computational technology has done wonders for us scientifically. It extends our sensoria to the infrared boundary of the Cosmos, the point past which light recedes so fast that the Red Shift has moved the light out of the visible light spectrum. We can no longer see it without the help of spectrographic analysis. And even that won’t help past a certain point.

Tech has expanded our senses to hear things where human aural capabilities do not tread. Low pitches we can feel but not hear or high pitches “only dogs” can hear or visual flutterings so fast that the rods and cones of our slowly responding corneas see as a blur. Temperatures, pressures – high and low – the Marianas Trench and the surface of the Moon. Technology allows us to experience all these things.

Oh, and this is something only the human species can do. We are, at present the pinnacle of evolution. There are those who argue we are not the most intelligent. All I need to do is ask them to tell their favorite species to build a rocket and fly it, build a submarine and sail it under the North Pole, build a bathyscaphe and sink into a deep ocean trench, etc.

But even with that, Humanity is at risk. We must face certain facts. As technology boosts our abilities, our bodies are jetsam in its wake. The evolutionary power we as humans once provided, as Emma Goldman so eloquently put it, has been replaced by artifice. Now the Stentorian voices shouting over Rohland’s Horn in the computational dystopias no longer sound like Chicken Little.

Human Evolution is grinding to a halt as we put on our Oculus VR™ and shriek our way into an oblivion built by William Gibson. Falling into the Neuromancer (1984) maelstrom with no way out is one futurist’s answer to the Fermi Paradox. Why hasn’t SETI heard from all of George Lucas’ aliens? Maybe they’ve all gone VR. Could be.

Or, as Fermi proposed, they’ve destroyed themselves, the pat answer in the Fifties, 1950 to be precise. Today, other disasters beckon. Some offer environmental as the flavor of the last two decades. Celestial are a favorite of mine – asteroid or comet strikes (been there, done that,) gamma-ray bursts offer hope, however, instant death, sterilized planet, tabula rasa. Nevertheless, the likelihood that intelligent life exists in our galaxy other than on our planet is well below one percent. Despite the overzealous Frank Drake who in 1961 came to the conclusion based on a mass of massive massively optimistic estimates that up to 50,000 alien civilizations existed in our galaxy alone. Alas, the real odds fall far from that set of adventurer’s dice.

Nevertheless, the likelihood that intelligent life exists in our galaxy other than on our planet is so small as to be negligible, for none of the fell strokes above or for reasons poetic.

Here now enters the unwitting Elon Musk. The founder of Space-X, Tesla and other, some would say farsighted, speculations fears that humanity may become irrelevant. Technology wearing the countenance of Artificial Intelligence will surpass humanity’s mental attainments. Man’s Athenian eminence eclipsed by Spartan algorithmic precision. Artificial Intelligence able to learn to think like humans but without some of the special sparks of genius and esemplasticity that mark humanity’s greatest minds.

What is the cure to triviality? Mr. Musk carries his black satchel with him at all times. The bag with all the code – the Irrelevancy Soccer Ball. His lieutenant fumbles for the keys opens it and pulls out the Neural Lace, the Ultimate Solution. It pops open revealing, once the pupils adjust to the blinding glare, the syringe. Swirling withing the golden inviscid fluid are the components of the neural lace ready for injection.

Neural lace, to be fair, is not an active electronic component. It is a formwork, a scaffold on which brain tissue can grow. Designed with therapy in mind, it has no nefarious purpose.

But, given that a biological organic compound injected works to enhance thought, the scientific steps from inactive to a neuro-active element are direct. Once the system improves our view into a virtual world and enacts a loving convergence, we are hooked. Why leave? Other than the necessities of life – consumption of comestibles, expurgation of excess, maintenance of muscle mass, general health, staying alive. One could forget. The way addicts fail in self-care.

Copacetic in all this turmoil is the market potential. In particular, a connected person could work anywhere in a virtual world. She would be with any worker, alone, in a group, at a conference, delivering a paper, even serving time in prison.

And there’s the issue. Philip K. Dick hinted of it in A Scanner Darkly (1977). The story, while not set in a virtual world, was set in what amounted to a police state very much like what we have today, with the NSA and FBI watch and listening to all that we do. The protagonist, a man with two personalities neither of which are quite aware of the other, end up on a prison farm husbanding the drug that he was sworn, as an officer of the law, to destroy.

More recently, The Matrix series (author’s identity contested) has been much more direct in its clear depiction of an autocratic virtual state.

This final loss of liberty is so frightening that it simply cannot be overlooked. But legislation is not the answer; laws rarely are the answer. The state is usually more of a problem than an answer.

The answer, if resolution exists, rests with the individual. It is no different than the care we take (or fail to take) against those who would harm us through our electronic records. Identity thieves, electronic burglars, government snooping, encryption backdoors, shredding our records, properly erasing our files on our storage media are all ways we can protect ourselves. And they are all pretty darn easy.

There are some who wander among us who know the truth from fiction. These wanderers have a zeal to speak truth to small groups about freedoms and how you can protect yourself and help you to carry that forward. Look for them on message boards like Facebook. Computer security is more important now and will grow exponentially (not without limit, however) as technology makes an assault on our pre-frontal cortex on its way to our brain stem.

But is there a Deus Ex Machina laying in wait? A Dudley Doright, finally unentangled by bureaucratic Canadian red tape crossing the electronic frontier? Probably not. Probably not even necessary. Why not use options available today upgraded for the new age?

Specifically, backup systems have, passively and actively, been protecting important data (including personal data taken intrusively and illegally by the State) from accidental and more sinister forms of destruction.

Solid state memory is becoming more efficient and cost-effective. By the time the trend to large-scale virtual reality is upon us the ability to backup personalities, memories, and rational and motor skills will be essential. Of course, the ability to reboot a human to a life free of bondage to a malevolent autocracy is more than efflorescent. These are problems yet to be solved.

Neural Lace is but a scaffold. Neural Lace 2.0 could easily be a fully neurological network designed to connect the neural Man to the Virtual World. We the humans only maintain our humanity, the possessors of Natural Rights, those imbued with organic life, true life, by maintaining the balance of Nature by retaining control over our inventions.

I wish to state that I am not claiming that any form of conspiracy is involved here. Just the opposite. The desire, the excitement of man for new, the untried, and unknown engages our minds. It drives toward the next dawn. It conducts our symphony of dreams, and poetry of physics.

But though all our eagerness, we must never forget the primacy of the individual is without peer. Isaac Asimov was prescient when he wrote The Three Laws of Robotics which I will reprint here.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

At a later date, Asimov revised the Laws by adding a Zeroth Law as follow,

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

It may do humanity well to heed Asimov’s prescience and encode into all Artificial Intelligence and the Virtual Worlds that the AI control with the Four Laws of Robotics. That plus a backup fail-safe might just be humanity’s protection from ultimate oblivion.

Written by Mark E. Deardorff, © 2016, 2017 by ScienceViaMarkets and Mark E Deardorff, All Rights Reserved.