Interesting Stuff: October 21st 2017

//Contains descriptions of domestic violence.

Compass Rose on Integrity: “Kant famously considers the case of someone who comes to your front door with the intent to murder someone who is hidden in your house. He decides that it is immoral to lie to them and say their target isn’t home … A lot of people object to this because it seems like complicity in murder. However, I think it’s pretty defensible, if you remember that you can much more efficiently optimize your heuristics and habits than each particular act. If your environment is mostly friendly and benefits from people being honest, then it makes sense to invest in a mental architecture optimized for truth rather than expedience … The honest person’s response to the murderer at the door might be to shut the door, quickly, or yell at them to go away, or try and fight them off. If it occurs to them to lie, fine, but you shouldn’t try to become more like the person to whom that idea occurs, as long as it’s an exceptional case, and you want more truthfulness on net.” Acknowledging that humans are flawed unlocks solutions to many longstanding problems in ethics.

The missing persons of domestic violence: “The session was chaired by two sociologists from Scotland who were about to publish their own book on family violence, titled Violence against Wives: A Case against Patriarchy. Much of the session focused on the application of feminist theory, or patriarchy theory, to explaining the extent and patterns of violence towards wives, both in contemporary society and over time and across cultures. Much of the discussion was informative and useful. However, eventually someone raised the question of whether men were victims of domestic violence. The session leaders and many others in the group stated, categorically, there were no male victims of domestic violence. At this point, I raised may hand, risking being discovered as a gate crasher, and explained that I had indeed interviewed men and women who reported significant and sometimes severe violence toward husbands. I was not quite shouted down, but it was explained to me that I must certainly be wrong, and even if women did hit men, it was always in self-defense and that women never used violence to coerce and control their partners, as did men.”

From the above authors own life: My mother’s attacks went beyond emotional devastation. Though her weight of 100 lbs. was no match for my father’s 170 lbs., he never responded with violence. And secure in the knowledge that he never would, she kicked and punched him with impunity. One incident in particular sticks in my mind. My father had chosen paint for the kitchen that was a shade too dark. My mother started out by insulting him, then yelling. As her rage grew she escalated to hitting him in the face with her fists. I watched him raise his hands, not to strike back, but merely to protect his eyes. But she wasn’t expecting it and her hand must have hit a bony part of his wrist. She immediately stopped, and then started whimpering, “You hurt me!” My father was not my mother’s only target. I was a small child when she shook me by the shoulders while my head hit the wall. But spending our entire childhoods walking on eggshells to avoid her wrath was even more destructive to us children than physical attacks. All of us, including my father, were driven to suicidal depression. After several attempts, my sister did take her own life. The only help we children would have accepted was from the parent we looked to for safety – our father.

A system that helped domestic violence victims without regard to gender could have saved my sister’s life by helping our father, but at that time no help was available to anyone. Sadly, the system in place today is even worse than when no help was available. I’ve asked police and social workers what would happen today if they answered a call similar to my parents’ situation. What would they do if they found an uninjured woman whimpering, “He hurt me!” and a man almost twice her size saying that he had merely covered his face and she’d hurt herself trying to punch him in the eye. The police officers and social workers I’ve asked have confirmed this would be their response: the male victim would be removed from the house and probably put in jail for domestic violence.

The WHO appoints Robert Mugabe, defacto dictator of Zimbabwe for the past 37 years, as goodwill ambassador.

AlphaGo Zero: “Previous versions of AlphaGo initially trained on thousands of human amateur and professional games to learn how to play Go. AlphaGo Zero skips this step and learns to play simply by playing games against itself, starting from completely random play. In doing so, it quickly surpassed human level of play and defeated the previously published champion-defeating version of AlphaGo by 100 games to 0.”

The increase in performance has been accompanied by a further increase in efficiency.

Interesting Stuff: October 16th 2017

Beware Isolated Demands for Rigour. SSC on Intellectual Dishonesty

A Vet Remembers: To many of us there, the war was the best time of our lives, almost the only time. We loved it because in those days we were alive, life was intense, the pungent hours passed fast over the central event of the age and the howling jets appeased the terrible boredom of existence. Psychologists, high priests of the mean, say that boredom is a symptom of maladjustment; maybe, but boredom has been around longer than psychologists have.

Play on Hard ModeThe key idea of Hard Mode is to keep your eyes on the prize. You know exactly what you want. You can’t munchkin your way to getting it. Once you start aiming to make a number go up, or get a check in the right box, you have lost sight of the thing you actually want. Proxy measures lead to failure; your value is fragile. That number correlates to what you want, but only insofar as you’re aiming for the goal and not the number. If you break the spirit of the exercise, all is lost. Your values have been hijacked. If you fail to develop skills along the way, you have missed the point, because the game has no end.

Mao ReconsideredWhen Mao stepped onto the world stage in 1945, Russia had taken Mongolia and a piece of Xinjiang, Japan occupied three northern provinces, Britain had taken Hong Kong, Portugal Macau, France pieces of Shanghai, Germany Tsingtao, the U.S. shared their immunities and the nation was convulsed by civil war. China was agrarian, backward, feudalistic, ignorant and violent. Of its four hundred million people, fifty million were drug addicts, eighty percent could neither read nor write and their life expectancy was thirty-five years. The Japanese had killed twenty million and General Chiang Kai-Shek complained that, of every thousand youths he recruited, barely a hundred survived the march to their training base. Women’s feet were bound, peasants paid seventy percent of their produce in rent, desperate mothers sold their children in exchange for food and poor people sold themselves, preferring slavery to starvation. U.S. Ambassador John Leighton Stuart reported that, during his second year there, ten million people starved to death in three provinces.

When he stepped down in 1974 the invaders, bandits and warlords were gone, the population had doubled, literacy was 84 percent, wealth disparity had disappeared, electricity reached poor areas, infrastructure was restored, the economy had grown 500 percent, drug addiction was a memory, women were liberated, girls were educated, crime was rare, everyone had food and shelter, life expectancy was sixty-seven and, by several key social and demographic indicators, China compared favourably with middle income countries whose per capita GDP was five times greater.

The Tragic Failure of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War”It’s the lack of accountability, the failure to prosecute those who lied to get us into the war, who encouraged battlefield tactics that resulted in the massacre of women and children, who authorized the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, who drenched Vietnam in chemical poisons that will cause birth defects and death for generation.

There’s no fire alarm for AIOne of the major modes by which hindsight bias makes us feel that the past was more predictable than anyone was actually able to predict at the time, is that in hindsight we know what we ought to notice, and we fixate on only one thought as to what each piece of evidence indicates. If you look at what people actually say at the time, historically, they’ve usually got no clue what’s about to happen three months before it happens, because they don’t know which signs are which.

Interesting Stuff: October 14th

Privacy offers free virtual credit cards, letting you mask your purchases. Useful for protecting your purchasing history and preferences. Probably not enough to stop the anyone serious from finding you.

Bostrom’s paper on the problems an infinite world poses for traditional ethics. A good start, but ultimately incomplete. It misses the incoherence of fundamental concepts such as life and death in the face of infinite copies of every being existing.

Y Combinator’s essential startup advice. Useful for running any organisation.

Bret Weinstein will receive $500’000 from evergreen state college in a settlement. Weinstein objected to students calling for whites to leave campus for a day, and chose to stay on campus on the “day of absence”. Following this “Weinstein was accosted on campus by students, and was advised by college officials that he should remain off campus for his own safety, as campus security personnel, it was stated, couldn’t protect him. Students also commandeered college president George Bridges in his office, holding him there and subjecting him to more than four hours of verbal abuse before releasing him. A sampling of the abuse: “No fuck you, George. We don’t want to hear a goddamn thing you have to say….You talk so fucking much….No, you shut the fuck up.”” As is to be expected, no one was punished for using public intimidation and harassment to enforce the absence of a race from a public institution.

Effective altruism has a lying problem