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This is an open thread to discuss items of interest. I may also use it to drop thoughts as they occur to me as well -- something of a replacement of my former "tab closure" posts, as ... well, it seems tabs are simply running away from me. Consider this an experiment that's been mulling for some time.
If you've got a question, observation, link, or anything else, feel free to post it, with a thought to the lair rules
-- like house rules, but larrier.
An evolving conversation....
Kafka as Epistemist
From "The Kafkaesque Process of Cancer Diagnosis
", the concept applied here to cancer diagnosis, and in Kafka's The Trial
to a process of judgement, strikes me as profoundly epistemological:
The patient continued, “You understand that the many tests and the elusive information of the recent weeks remind me of Franz Kafka's words in his famous work Der Prozess, meaning both trial and process.” “The verdict does not come suddenly, proceedings continue until a verdict is reached gradually.”
I am looking for tools to make sense of HTML DOMs
The primary goal is to extract document metadata
(title, author, publisher, date, URL), and include the body
of a document whilst excluding, or at the very least marking as secondary
the ancillary bits. The though occurs that frequency / similarity analysis of the constant bits might help.
The extant tools of Readability's parser (it's survived the fall of the service), Pocket, Instapaper, Outline
, etc., may be useful.
Inquiries elsewhere have also brought up Pilgrim
, a project of the Knight Foundation (as Outline may also be), which isn't exactly what I'm looking for, but it's interesting in its own right.
On nuclear power and safety
There's an article making the rounds, poorly argued, IMO, extolling nuclear energy. I've been heartened by the critical response it's triggered at Hacker News
, including my own contribution
, previously submitted at G+ on Joerg Fliege's thread, drawing comparisons to the Banqiao Dam disaster of 1975. In part:
Proponents of nuclear power assume that we can assess risks with tails not of the decade or so of Banqiao, but of 100, 1,000, 1 million years. Utterly outside the scope of any human institutions, or of the human species itself.
Our models of risks and of costs fail us....
The problems with nuclear power are massive, long-tailed, systemic and potentially existential. The same cannot be said of a wind farm or solar array. There is no significant 10,000 year threat from wind power, or solar power. We're not risking 30 - 60 km exclusion zones, on an unplanned basis, of which we've created at least four in the half-decade of significant nuclear energy applications: Hanford, Washington, Three Mile Island, Pennsyvania, Chernobyl, Ukraine, and Fukushima, Japan. And this is with a global plant of some 450 operating nuclear power plants as of 2017....
If the total experience has been, say, 500 reactors, over 50 years, or 25,000 reactor-years of experience, and we've experienced at least four major disasters, then our failure rate is 0.016%.
The global share of nuclear power generation in 2012 was about 10%. Which means that without allowing for increased electrical consumption within existing or extending to developing nations, the plant count would have to increase tenfold.
Holding the reactor-year failure rate constant would mean 80 core meltdowns per century. Reducing that to the present rate of four meltdowns/century would require reducing the failure rate to 0.0008%. That's five nines, if anyone's counting.
Five nines on a process involving weather, politics, business, social upheaval, terrorism, sabotage, individual psychology, group psychology, climate, communications, response, preparedness....
"8 Lessons from 20 years of Hype Cycles"
A look at the Gartner Hype Cycle
, and lessons derived therefrom:
- We're terrible at making predictions. Especially about the future.
- An alarming number of technology trends are flashes in the pan.
- Lots of technologies just die. Period.
- The technical insight is often correct, but the implementation isn't there
- We've been working on a few core technical problems for decades
- Some technologies keep receding into the future
- Lots of technologies make progress when no-one is looking
- Many major technologies flew under the Hype Cycle radar
Michael Mullany, "8 Lessons from 20 Years of Hype Cycles".
David Gerard at the Financial Times on Bitcoin and Blockchain
David Gerard, author of Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain
, interviewed by Izabella Kaminska about Bitcoin, /Buttcoin
, and Tulips, among other topics. There's a bunch of great information in this podcast, of which I'll highlight two items in particular.
I've been reflecting a great deal on information, truth, and that boundary between
information and belief, most principally trust
. Gerard nails the value proposition of trust, and a problem with the Free All the Things trope of decentralisation:
Decentralisation is the paramount feature in bitcoin, but it turns out that that's a bad idea that's really, really expensive, because it turns out that a tiny bit of trust saves you a fortune.
"Decentralised" isn't a useful buzzword in a lot of ways, because it turns out that you want to be a part of society.
He also points at the invalidity of market capitalisation
as a concept. It's an arithmetically inexpensive value to obtain (multiply total quantity by present price), but, especially
in the thin markets typical of Bitcoin, it is essentially a fantasy value with no real meaning. From a conversation at The Other Place
[C]rypto "market cap" is a meaningless number. Even on Bitcoin, the most popular one, about 100 BTC will clear the order book on any exchange. Crypto "market cap" is not a number you could realise, it's not how much money went into it, it's not anything useful. If you want to compare cryptos by interest, you'd need to measure daily trading volumes, which is a harder number to gather, and market cap doesn't turn out to be a good proxy for it. So billions of dollars in free money weren't actually just created - instead it's millions of tokens that may or may not be tradeable for ordinary bitcoins or for cash, if you don't go very fast at all.
This evokes my own explorations of cost, price, and value
, and what exactly they mean.
One analogy that Gerard, Alex Kudlick, and I are leaning toward is that of electric circuits. Price is analogous to pressure, or potential (voltage). Volume would be current. This raises the question of what resistance, capacitance, and impedance would have as analogues.... FT: Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain with David Gerard
(Soundcloud: 65 minutes). Highly recommended.
And you'll find Gerard on Reddit as dgerard
Yonatan Zunger on the evolution of U.S. "court costs"
In "The history of “court costs”"
, Zunger writes of "a system that [you might think] has gone out of control, a mechanism that started with a good purpose that got eaten by corruption and incompetence. But you would be wrong."
In the post-Civil War South, a system came up when plantations, factories, or mines needed workers. It was based on that clever little exception in the 13th Amendment:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Note that it doesn’t say what kind of crime you have to be convicted of.
The short of it: slavery is not
illegal in the United States, just somewhat regulated.
My own main commentary ... probably worth posting in its own right, is that whilst Zunger raises excellent points about the intentionality of this system and its antecedents to Nazi Germany's concentration camps, the fact is that none
of these phenomena are particularly American, nor particularly new. This isn't to excuse the United States of its guilt. Rather: these behaviours, systems, and dynamics seem to be deeply rooted. Whether they're merely cultural (the examples I've given are all from cultural antecedants or siblings to US tradition), part of human behavioral psychology, or deeper even than that, this is not simply a matter of bad laws and bad people. Rather: It is a case of such rules and dynamics actively succeeding and crowding out alternatives.
There are two
good discussions at The Other Place from the original Tootstorm
and from the Medium essay
When your political opponents are made of money ...
In politics, a growing problem is the dominance of interests who apparently have nothing but money to throw at problems
Utilising this fact in judo fashion, the thought occurs that that one possible response is to create a vast wall of problems for which they find it necessary to throw money at.
The less ease with which to discern between actual problems and fantasmic simaculra of problems, so much the better.
Have fun storming the castle!
Bill Browder: "It turned out that in Putin's Russia, there are no good guys."
At NPR: "Businessman Paints Terrifying And Complex Picture Of Putin's Russia:
In what one senator called one of the Senate Judiciary Committee's "most important" hearings, [William] Browder, a wealthy businessman-turned-activist-turned Putin-adversary shed a chilling new light on a Russian system of government that operates ruthlessly in the shadows — as Browder described it for lawmakers: a "kleptocracy" sustained by corruption, blackmail, torture and murder with Putin at its center.
"Effectively the moment that you enter into their world," Browder told senators investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, "you become theirs."
Oh, and "Russian adoptions" are one of the dog whistles for the Magnitsky Act
, legislation passed in the U.S. in 2012, named after Browder's now-murdered Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitski
, imposing sanctions on human-rights violators.
Also the topic of a certain July, 2016 meeting featuring Donald Trump, Jr., and senior members of the Trump campaign, of recent memory.
The distinction isn't "online vs. offline" but "direct vs. mediated"
Articles and books on the impacts of digital and mobile media are a dime a dozen, and may be as laughable, or prophetic, as previous gerimiads on new media. "Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation
" is fairly typical of the genre, if better than most.
Reading it, a thought recurs to me: the distinction isn't of online vs. offline
, but or even screen time
, but of mediated vs. direct
experience. Media mediates
. It is literally that which is between the observer and the observed. And with increasingly smart media, those exchanges are very directly mediated
, interposed, by third (and fourth, and fifth, and ...) parties.
This has multiple effects, a few:
- Direct is present, mediated is (often) remote.
- Direct is strongly causaul and deterministics, mediated is fuzzy, indistinct, and often capricious, failing in unanticipated, or inconsistent, ways.
- Direct is filtered by location, mediated is filtered by selection -- your's or another's.
- Direct is attentive, mediated is amplified.
I'd argue there are degrees
of mediation as well. Analogue devices such as the telephone are less mediated than digital feeds such as Facebook or YouTube.
And this isn't the first period to have such experiences. I have frequent cause to point out that intellectual, academic, and creative experiences were very often epistolary
, exchanges of letters. Though generally with less rapidity than today's 'round-the-world-in-a-second emails.
But that whole "online" and "cyberspace" distinction? Lose it.
The etymology of "data" ... peculiarly uninformative
I'm rather the fan of looking at etymologies of words. They often reveal interesting origins, connections, or evolutions. The etymology of data
would be a peculiar exception:
1640s, classical plural of datum, from Latin datum "(thing) given," neuter past participle of dare "to give" (from PIE root *do- "to give"). Meaning "transmittable and storable computer information" first recorded 1946. Data processing is from 1954.
By way of definitions
a collection of facts, observations, or other information related to a particular question or problem; as, the historical data show that the budget deficit is only a small factor in determining interest rates.
Which raises the question of whether data is the collection of facts
, or the symbolic or other representation
of those facts.
Arising as discovered that there is a philosophy of data
and I've encountered its philosopher, Brian Ballsun-Stanton
Amathia: Unteachably stupid
There are a few concepts on the harm or danger of stupidity. In "One Crucial Word"
, Massimo Pigliucci explores the Greek term Amathia
Amathia. It is often translated as “ignorance,” as in the following two famous quotes from Socrates:
“Wisdom alone, is the good for man, ignorance the only evil” (Euthydemus 281d)
“There is, he said, only one good, that is, knowledge, and only one evil, that is, ignorance” (in Diogenes Laertius, II.31)
But just as in the case of other ancient Greek words (like “eudaimonia,” about which I will write later this week) the common translation hardly does the job, and indeed often leads people to misunderstand the concept and quickly dismiss it as “obviously” false, or even incoherent....
Very much worth reading. Via /Philosophy
and Paul Beard.
I've made good on a year-old threat and opened up Miranda's Knitting and Tea House
Enjoy! Welcome to the Tea House: Knitting. Tea. Discussion. Intelligence. Sunshine. "We Do Things Different"tm
This is a sibling subreddit, with more open submissions, though still in a controlled manner. More at the notice.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on stupidity vs. evil
From The Other Place: Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice:
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous....
Read through to the source for the full quote.
I've dug a bit deeper into the backstory. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
was a contemporary and friend of Reinhold Neibur, of "Serenity Prayer" fame. He served in the Abwehr
, the Nazi intelligence service, during WWII, headed by Wilhelm Canaris
. Bonhoeffer and Caneris were executed by the Nazi regime on 9 April, 1945, only three weeks before the fall of Berlin and Hitler's own death. And it turns out that the Abwehr, centre of relatively unfiltered information during the regime, was an active centre of resistance to it, from within.
Bonhoeffer was one of eight children. A brother, and the husbands of two of his sisters, were also executed by the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer's twin sister Sabine survived until 1999.
Strongly related to the previous item on amathia
, and observations from Hanah Arendt.
The Edge Question, 2017 "What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to be More Widely Known?"
I find The Edge
to be a bit hit-or-miss, and there are some misses here. But there's a heck of a lot of hits on topics that have been floating through my brain-space, and a few names I've been following as well. David Christian ("Big History"), confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, networks, information pathology, ... Daily Nous has a promising list
as well. I've got the essays lined up to ... hopefully, read. And this note as a reminder to do that.
John Stuart Mill: A Few Words on Non-Intervention
By way of Wikipedia
There seems to be no little need that the whole doctrine of non-interference with foreign nations should be reconsidered, if it can be said to have as yet been considered as a really moral question at all... To go to war for an idea, if the war is aggressive, not defensive, is as criminal as to go to war for territory or revenue; for it is as little justifiable to force our ideas on other people, as to compel them to submit to our will in any other respect. But there assuredly are cases in which it is allowable to go to war, without having been ourselves attacked, or threatened with attack; and it is very important that nations should make up their minds in time, as to what these cases are... To suppose that the same international customs, and the same rules of international morality, can obtain between one civilized nation and another, and between civilized nations and barbarians, is a grave error...
Oil is other people's money
I was thinking through the history of the Indiana natural gas boom -- oh, yeah, what
Indiana gas boom, you ask? This Indiana gas boom
, lasting from about 1884 to 1903. Basically, people realised you could stick a pipe in the ground and burn what came out. Which people did.
As free-standing, natural-wonder flambeaux
-- flaming torches, visible for miles around. After all, such a God-given abundance would surely last forever, right?
The field burned out, literally, in two decades.
But why waste that resource? I'm thinking of a typical Analyst's Matrix, describing spending your own, vs. other people's money. Let's do that in a table:
| ||Your money ||Someone else's money |
|Your use ||High quality / Low cost ||High quality / Cost irrelevant |
|Somebody else's use ||Quality irrelevant / Low cost ||Quality irrelevant / Cost irrelevant |
When it comes to natural gas, or oil, or coal, the majority of the cost
, that is, its initial formation is not borne by you
. Only the extraction cost is. That un-borne fraction is effectively other people's money
. You care about the quality
of the use (its use value
), but not the full formation cost
Oil, coal, and gas, are other people's money
The legacy of the Indiana boom lives on in a few ways. Ball Glass Company originally formed in the state to take advantage of cheap gas for glass blowing, as did numerous other manufacturing concerns. They eventually shifted to coal. And you'll find the word flambeau
turning up in place-names and the odd company name to. Relics to other people's money
Limitations on Free Speech -- revisiting "shouting 'No Fire!' in a theatre that is in fact on fire"
The dynamics since the American Fascists riots in Charlottesville, VA, and the ACLU reconsidering its position on free speech reminds me that I had started, quite uncomfortably, revisiting my own views on this about three years ago. "Shouting "No Fire" in a Warming World as a Clear and Present Danger
" was my thinking at the time.
Further developments -- Charlie Hebdo attacks, "punching vs. punching down", questions over revisionist history, the amazingly good two-part YouTube set by Contrapoints: "Does the Left Hate Free Speech? (Part 1)
" (video: 16:53) and "Does the Left Hate Free Speech? (Part 2)
" (video: 17:46) (I'm surprised I hadn't already mentioned it), various research (Jill Gordon, "John Stuart Mill and 'The Marketplace of Ideas'" and Jill Lepore (Kansas City Public Library lecture) both address parts of this. Karl Popper's "Paradox of Tolerance". Many, many discussions, mostly on G+.
The history of free expression / free speech itself is interesting and surprising, particularly the role between Protestant and Catholic factions -- the latter being seen much the same way as Fascists are today, as constitutionally opposed to tolerance, and therefore not
subject to the benefits of free speech themselves.
Jeff Schmidt on salaried professionals and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives Disciplined Minds
by physicist Jeff Schmidt has been in my files for a while. Per Unwelcomed Guests Wiki
This book explains the social agenda of the process of professional training. Disciplined Minds shows how it is used to promote orthodoxy by detecting and weeding out dissident candidates and by exerting pressure on the rest to obey their instructors and abandon personal agendas such as social reform -- so that they, in turn, can perpetuate the system by squeezing the life out of the next generation.
This ... is strikingly similar to the critique of John Stuart Mill of England's educational systems in the 1860s. Hans Jensen addresses this in "John Stuart Mill's Theories of Wealth and Income Distribution
" (available via Sci-Hub
). Several prior Reddit mentions
So no, Sonos! Palindromic boycott of privacy-skewering IoT ToS change
Wireless, cloud-connected speaker manufacturer Sonos have retroactively changed terms of service and
product owners monitoring subjects
accept the new terms or the devices will cease to function
. And this, boys and girls, is why you don't buy Sonos products, ever.
(Or any Internet of Things that Spy On You devices.)
Palindrome courtesey Sakari Maaranen
Alexander Hamilton Church and cost accounting: Capital-Labour analysis Alexander Hamilton Church
(28 May 1866 – 11 February 1936) was an English efficiency engineer, accountant and writer on accountancy and management, known for his seminal work of management and cost accounting. In particular, it was his work which expanded the concept of factors of production
from just labour
to include capital
and other inputs.
Among his works, Production factors in cost accounting and works management
(1910), from whose introduction:
From the earliest days of manufacturing there has grown up a custom of considering labor as the main and only direct item in production, and of expressing all other expenditure in more or less vague percentages of wage cost. The fact is, however, that labor, while always important, tends to become less important relatively to other items as the progress of organized manufacture develops and the use of specialized and expensive mechanical equipment increases. Very few concerns have come to grief by ignoring labor costs, but many have passed into the hands of receivers by ignoring the relative imiportance of the other factors of production.
On social media and online tools as "optional": Facebook required for AirBnB
Via The Guardian
, "I didn’t have enough Facebook friends to prove to Airbnb I was real"
: At the other end of the Airbnb helpline in Colorado, “Casey” sounded incredulous. “You have how many Facebook friends?” she drawled. “Er … about 50,” I replied. Long pause. “Well, you don’t have enough for us to verify you. You’d need at least 100.” “But”, I squeaked, “I post every now and again … I’m on Facebook most days to check on my friends and relations.” This, however, was not enough to convince Airbnb I existed. And, as I didn’t exist, I could not book a room.
Keep this in mind next time someone declares "nobody forces you to use Facebook
". Despite the many other refutations of this trope
, we can now respond unequivocally: "AirBnB do".
Milestones: the 900 club
Just to memorialise this, and to bury the item as I close out this thread: the Dreddit has crossed the 900 subscriber threshold for the first time. Thanks to all, again, I will strive to be worth your time. It's interesting how much I prefer not
to note such things, and yet do in fact note them. The days of teetering just on the edge in particular.
One last thing ...
Do you like what you're reading here? Would you like to see a broader discussion? Do you think there are ideas which should be shared more broadly?
The Lair isn't a numbers game, my real goal is quality
-- reaching, and hopefully interacting with, an intelligent online community. Something which I've found, in several decades of online interactions, difficult to achieve.
But there's something which works surprisingly well: word of mouth. Shares, by others, to appropriate venues, have generated the best interactions. I do some of that, but I could use your help as well.
So: if you see something that strikes you as particularly cogent (or, perhaps, insipid), please share it. To another subreddit. To Twitter or Facebook or G+. To the small-but-high-quality Metafilter. To your blogging circle, or a mailing list. If you work in technology, or policy, or economics, there as well.
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