The cure for poverty is an adequate income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/10/2017 - 5:37pm in


Economics, Ethics

Fintan O’Toole has an article in the Guardian this morning that is clearly related to his new book ‘Judging Shaw’.

In it he argues that:

We live again in a world where the rich pleasure themselves with the belief that they don’t just have more money – they are better people.


We live again in a world where people struggling to survive have to prove that they are “deserving” of the welfare payments they need to keep body and soul together.

But as he makes clear, poverty has nothing whatsoever to do with morality, or being deserving:

In [Pygmalion] is one of Bernard Shaw’s most important arguments: people are not poor because they are immoral; they’re immoral because they are poor. Or, to put it in the terms of today’s assumptions about poverty: the problem with the poor isn’t their “culture” or their want of character. It’s just that they don’t have enough money.

To which the obvious response is the one O’Toole has to offer:

The cure for poverty is an adequate income.

And yet this is precisely what society does not want to offer. Just listen to the argument on universal basic income – that it will permit the idle to do nothing – and all the prejudices O’Toole refers to are apparent.

There is no reason why people cannot have enough to live on in a country of plenty. That they don’t is a decision. And it’s not a decision the poorest made. In which case it’s the responsibility of those with money. And it’s they who have to face up to their responsibility to change that.

And yes, when I talk of peaceful revolution that is one of the things that has to change.

Viking Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/10/2017 - 8:43pm in


Economics, Ethics

I am speaking at a meeting with George Lakey in Norwich Quaker Meeting House tomorrow evening at 6pm. We are discussing George’s book ‘Viking Economics‘ and related issues. The best introduction I can give is to share the review I wrote of Viking Economics for the Times Higher Education last year:

I read this book between the death of the MP Jo Cox and the announcement of the European Union referendum results. This was not a good week. My spirit needed replenishment. George Lakey’s book provided it.

Here, Lakey combines historical analysis, economic data and interview-based opinion to produce something that delivers much more than each of those could do in isolation. As a result, Viking Economics tells a story of economic change and the foundations on which it was built at a time when it is so obvious that such narratives are desperately needed in modern political discourse.

His quest to explain why Scandinavia has delivered a notably high quality of life when so many things (energy sources apart) appear stacked against the countries that make up the region is focused not on outcomes, although he documents them, but on causes. This is wise: most will be familiar with much of the data on incomes, taxation, happiness, child poverty and even productivity, where in each and every case the states that he describes as Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland) have outcomes that are consistently outstanding. It’s the way Lakey explains that this is not by chance that I found so persuasive.

The story is not the same in all states: it cannot be. Norway was, for example, both Danish and Swedish territory before achieving its independence. Denmark and Norway suffered Nazi occupation; Sweden did not. Sweden and Denmark are in the EU, but Iceland and Norway are not. These factors, then, suggest that Lakey’s search for some deeper explanation is appropriate.

That explanation is, he suggests, to be found in the work of the Nobel prizewinning Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal. Lakey’s argument is that Myrdal encouraged all these states to invest in the individual person as the primary resource for delivering economic growth. This idea, and the actions that result from it, is, he believes, the pillar of the Nordic economic model. At its core this idea, he observes, rejects the classical view of work – that it is a struggle to win the means of existence – and puts in its place a positive framework of incentives for economic participation.

The book explores this hypothesis in numerous ways, but at its heart a number of things stand out that, at a time when the economies of so many countries are so badly failing those who live in them, must be worthy of serious study.

The first is conceptual. As a result of these states having largely rejected the core assumptions of classical economics, profit is seen as a consequence of work and not as its goal. Banking is seen as a service and not as the focus of economic growth. Education is viewed as vital to personal growth, which just also happens to be the perfect countercyclical investment that secures long-term prosperity. And underpinning all this is an expectation that each person will work to contribute to the overall well-being of the society of which they are part: this is a perception of work as a participatory activity.

The result appears to be a Keynesian, social democratic nirvana where education, healthcare and pensions are free, the social safety net is still strong and cooperatives supply 40 per cent of housing in Norway.

The Keynesian argument may be true, but it has to be understood. What Lakey makes clear is that this is not a society where stimulus is created by digging holes and then filling them in again. Nor does it by default seek stimulus from investment in infrastructure. It is one in which countercyclical investment is in skills. And this is not some minor commitment: it is lifelong, and embraces not just the citizen but the immigrant as well.

The attitude towards migration in Norway was perhaps the most surprising and hope-filled revelation I encountered in this book, in a week when Ukip unveiled a profoundly racist poster to the British public. The migrant is welcome in Norway – but not (quite significantly) unconditionally. Those not enjoying freedom of movement have a year to learn Norwegian, but are given the means to do so, as well as the necessary financing. In return, they are then expected to develop a skill that Norway needs if they do not already have it: they are prepared for work, in other words. And then they have to do that work where they are directed to repay the favour granted. This is a contract. Once it is fulfilled, they can stay, which they are likely to want to do (as you would if you’d learned Norwegian).

I am sure that there are complexities and issues that Lakey skips over: I know Norway well enough, for example, to be aware that not all migrants have been welcomed with open arms. But the point is that the model has worked, within reason. Crucially, it offers something that is the same as the bargain available to the locally born population, which in Denmark they call “flexicurity”. There is no guarantee in this system that a worker will have their existing job for life. In its place is an undertaking of support, so that if a person has to change their employment they will get the training and support needed to get a new job.

Importantly, as Lakey suggests has happened in Norway, this model specifically embraces polarity. After a history of very difficult industrial relations, the country came to a settlement between unions and business in the 1930s that has, broadly, and with the Quisling era a disruption, survived to date. As a result, business is seen not as being in opposition to the social model but rather as a part of it. This is evidenced by the fact that the state quite positively encourages people to set up their own businesses. Among Lakey’s more surprising statistics are those on entrepreneurship, where Scandinavian rates exceed those of the US. His explanation of this is, to me, and based on my experience as a one-time practising chartered accountant, very obviously correct: Scandinavians can afford the uncertainty of starting a business because the risk of ill health, old age, education for their children and even, to some degree, failure is accepted by society as part of the bargain made for the gains the business will deliver, which it will settle by way of tax paid and opportunity provided. No UK graduate now has the security to take risk in that way. No wonder the Scandinavians can win.

These states were also notable winners when it came to their dealings with their banks, whether because they had their failures early (in the case of Norway and Sweden) and were prepared as a result for the crisis that developed in 2008 or because they simply refused to accept that the recklessness of bankers was something that they had to pay for, as happened in the case of Iceland.

So can this model be replicated? Lakey is an optimist. By nature so am I. But if he is right, then the story he imparts has to be told, understood and acted upon. And in the Nordic tradition, that story is more like a saga than a soundbite. But if the UK’s higher education sector cannot build a narrative around the power of investing in people as the basis of our future prosperity, then what is it for?

Richard Murphy is professor of practice in international political economy, City University London.

Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too
By George Lakey
Melville House, 320pp, £19.99
ISBN 9781612195360
Published 14 July 2016


The “Non-Citizens” of the Baltic States: Α European Scandal nobody speaks about!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/10/2017 - 3:10am in

by Tatjana Zdanoka, 4 October 2017, via DefendDemocracyPress The negotiations on Brexit are attracting a lot of attention. In particular, the possible erosion of the rights of around three million EU-27 citizens living in Britain is a major cause for concern. The European Parliament resolution adopted on 3 October states that “the withdrawal agreement must incorporate the full set of rights citizens currently enjoy, such that there is no material change in their position”. The main author of this text, Mr Guy Verhofstadt, the EP Brexit Coordinator, argues that such an approach – not to lower the level of citizens’ rights – is “the goal of democracy”. But why was the very same principle ignored when another “exit” took place in Europe? It was the exit of the Baltic states from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1990-1991 when a million and a half citizens who had moved to Latvia and Estonia from other republics were deprived of the essential rights they enjoyed. Theoretical substantiation for this legal action was found in the …

Basic income and the ‘job ethic’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/10/2017 - 3:22am in

Both progressives and conservatives can be counted on to agree that having a job is important. But perhaps it is not humanity's most important activity.

The post Basic income and the ‘job ethic’ appeared first on BIEN.

Observations, lessons, and predictions for the Catalan situation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/10/2017 - 10:04pm in

[cross-posted, slightly updated, from Pearls and Limitations]


  1. About 40% of the population of Catalonia and its capital Barcelona was not born there, but largely comes from the rest of Spain.
  2. Internal migration is high, with about 0.4% of the population moving from one region in Spain to the other every year. This means that over the centuries, the Catalonian population is ethnically mixed with many other groups in Spain and outside, with no more than a fraction attributable to the population of centuries ago. All stories of ‘we Catalans’ had this or that done to us over centuries ‘by others’ are myths that impose a constant group on a fluid population (which is true for most national myths).
  3. The best polls available mid 2017 said only 41% of adults living in Catalonia supported independence. This is a bit higher than the proportion that reportedly has voted in the quasi-referendum of this week so it’s a fair bet that even now, a majority living in Catalonia is not pro-independence.
  4. The Catalan language, suppressed under the Franco regime that ended in 1975, first became an option in Catalan schools in 1983, and is now for several years an ‘immersion language’ wherein all children are forced to become fluent in Catalan, with Spanish in second place (a non-tuition language).
  5. Catalan history education was reformed shortly after Catalan nationalists became important in regional government (1980), with a shift away from the hundreds of years wherein Catalonia was a ‘normal’ part of Spain, towards those periods in which something resembling the current region (usually incorporating bits of France) were more autonomous. The celebration of the ‘conquest by Spain’ in 1714 is a case in point of a now strongly-remembered event. The bitter 1936-1939 civil war in which Barcelona fought alongside Madrid against Franco has been less favoured in the new history dispensation. In the new history telling, the repression by Franco is equated with Madrid.
  6. The vast majority of trade from Catalonia goes to the rest of Spain; the Catalonian economy is likely to collapse if it were suddenly no longer in the EU.
  7. Corruption is high in Spain and Catalonia, leading to politicians eager to whip up other stories. The Catalan leaders have thus knowingly violated both the Spanish constitution and several Catalan laws to get their referendum on track, without even a majority in their own parliament. A high-stakes but also imaginative strategy.
  8. Nationalism in the rest of Spain is fairly strong and sympathy with Catalan leaders is very limited. The EU has openly committed to staying out of it and supportive of national unity, so the Catalan issue will be an internal affair.

Lessons and predictions (over the fold):

  1. Ethnic nationalism can be engineered via a simple procedure: teach a language and a history at school in the version of ‘us’ being the victim of ‘them’ and after a generation you will have succeeded in breeding a new generation that believes you.
  2. Mixing population is a counter-measure to regional governments that promote ethnic nationalism: in Catalonia it is a race between the power of the regional government to indoctrinate at school versus the power of the economic and social system in the whole of Spain to mix the population around fast enough to prevent a majority of nationalists emerging in Catalonia.
  3. The Catalan government has been on collision course with the rest of Spain for a while now and a collision is now nigh inevitable: both sides are committed so it is likely that we will see a take-over of the Catalan institutions by the centre. Elections might come before or after this, and a key question for the centre is whether they would try for a cooling-off period before having regional elections in Catalonia.
  4. Changes in personnel might come quickly now, on both sides. Rajoy hasn’t played the media angle smartly so far, so someone more switched-on might well take over quite soon, perchance after a snap general election. On the Catalan side, it seems quite possible that elections will have to be held, either because the Catalan leaders will be arrested or when the parliamentary coalition in Catalonia breaks down.
  5. I don’t see a quick resolution to this issue. The Catalonian nationalists have managed to create an independence-oriented machinery within the Catalonian state. Such things are not easy to dismantle, and changes to that machinery will be fought tooth and nail. Yet this machinery of ethnic nationalism will lead to more violent confrontations eventually, so the Spanish central state might try despite the road blocks.
  6. If Catalonian nationalists get away with their strategy, central governments throughout the EU are going to be much more careful when it comes to regional languages and history teaching. And they might wake up to the importance of population mixing as a counter-strategy.

The strategy of the EU and the Spanish government has been to isolate the Catalan nationalists from the rest of the Catalan population, a task they have failed spectacularly at so far. Doing that better requires imagination. They will be looking to inject a different dynamic into the situation. Yet, the Catalonian nationalists have shown in the last few years that they are more organised and have their eyes firmly on their prize.

What would I do if I were the centre? I would insist on following the law, which means arresting the Catalan leaders for their illegal activities. I would do that first and see whether the leaders then taking over in Catalonia are a bit more stupid, meanwhile using EU leaders to talk of their disapproval of the actions of the Catalonian government. I would of course push for stories to come out on the ‘hidden instigation of violence’ in Catalonia and the victimisation of non-Catalans in Catalonian schools. If the new leaders are not stupid and also do illegal things, I would take over the region (article 155), replace most of the top of the civil service apparatus with local boring competent people, announce an independence referendum in 2 years’ time and new regional elections in 6 months. The tricky bit would be the Catalan media.

A sneaky possibility is for the Spanish military to try to engineer the return of openly violent Catalan nationalism. That would spell instant success from a media point of view. It would have to be believable and real, so the strategy would have to be to incite some hot-headed Catalan students into doing something violent.

What would I do if I were the Catalan nationalists? Given that they have broken so many laws, there is no going back for them and their only means of personal survival is to hide behind their populations, so their strategy has to be to make take-over as difficult and media-painful as possible whilst moving towards declaring independence. I would disband the Catalonian parliament and arrange new elections within 3 months on the promise that a vote for me would be a vote for independence. That in one stroke takes the wind out of the sails of the central government (why arrest leaders who stepped down?) and builds on sentiment to win the true referendum (the regional elections).

An alternative is to offer the centre a full referendum in 18 months’ time as the price for taking it slow, hoping that other issues will distract the rest of Spain, meanwhile ramping up the internal push towards independence whilst studiously avoiding violence.

To appeal to the migrants, I would also reform the Catalan nationalism-story to be more inclusive and less ethnic, which is pretty much exactly the strategy that the Scottish nationalists have adopted in the last year.

Let us hope the more peaceful possibilities materialise.

Paul Frijters is a professor of Wellbeing Economics at the London School of Economics.

Philosophers Awarded Over $500,000 To Study Autonomous Vehicles

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/10/2017 - 2:04am in

A group of three philosophers and a civil engineer have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to “construct ethical answers to questions about autonomous vehicles, translate them into decision-making algorithms for the vehicles and then test the public health effects of those algorithms under different risk scenarios using computer modeling,” according to a press release posted at

The principal investigator on the project, “Ethical Algorithms in Autonomous Vehicles,” is Nicholas Evans, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He will be working with Heidi Furey, assistant professor of philosophy at Manhattan College, Ryan Jenkins, assistant professor of philosophy at California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly), and Yuanchang Xie, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

The grant is for $556,650 and is expected to fund three years of work.

Here’s the abstract of the project:

This project supports a team of researchers, including experts in moral philosophy and transportation engineering, who plan to address ethical issues that arise in the development of computer algorithms for autonomous (self-driving) vehicles. The project will address concerns over the expression of ethical values in self-driving vehicle when (for example) the vehicle detects an imminent and unavoidable crash and must select among navigation options, such as colliding with a crowded bus or with a lone motorcyclist. It aims to develop algorithmic representations of ethical decision-making frameworks for autonomous vehicles, and then model these frameworks over a range of contexts for their effect on risk management in traffic networks and for their expected public health impact. The overarching aim of the project is to promote principled approaches to ethical decision-making in complex, autonomous systems, and to prepare designers and engineers to encode ethical behavior into such systems. Research mentoring is to be coordinated through the host institution that will enable undergraduate and graduate engineers to participate in the project. A summer intensive will bring together students from diverse backgrounds to work with the project team and invited scholars. A postdoctoral fellow will conduct research on the ethics of autonomous vehicles, and assist in project administration.

The project has two specific aims. It aims to develop ethical algorithms that can be converted into computer code for use in autonomous vehicles. Team members will review the literature on existing decision-making for autonomous vehicles, and then develop conceptual, algorithmic representations of ethical behavior that can be converted into computer code. They will also model changes in traffic risk profiles and expected public health impact of these algorithms; specifically, they will apply injury severity and crash frequency modeling using algorithms developed in meeting the first aim in a range of traffic contexts and market penetration scenarios. They will also develop a model for the expected public health benefits from these algorithms using model of resource and time-based triaging as a starting point. Both aims support training of scholars and practitioners sensitive to the ethical implications of autonomous vehicles. These pedagogical aspects have been designed to promote diverse interactions between STEM students and practitioners, and they will serve to improve STEM education and educator development.

The post Philosophers Awarded Over $500,000 To Study Autonomous Vehicles appeared first on Daily Nous.

Hypocrite Rees-Mogg Profits from Company Making Drug Used for Illegal Abortions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/10/2017 - 2:08am in

A little while ago I put up a post commenting on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the aristocratic Tory MP for north-east Somerset just south of me, his vile voting record and his disgusting views on abortion. Mogg caused massive offence when he appeared on television and stated that, as a Roman Catholic, he did not believe in gay marriage nor abortion under any circumstances, even when the mother was the victim of rape or incest.

Even when abortion was banned as an illegal operation in this country, it was still permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as when the pregnancy posed a threat to the mother’s life and situations like those above. The British public, and especially women, were extremely vocal in their condemnation of his views. This includes the great commenters on this blog, who were very much aware of the suffering this would inflict on women, who had suffered those assaults. And this is quite apart from the issue of a woman’s sovereign right over her own body. As one of my cousins remarked ‘F**k him! It’s my body! He’s not telling me what I can put in it!’

I also said in my article that I was sure that, the Tory party being what it is, there is probably more than a little hypocrisy in Mogg’s attitude. I hope his wife and daughters never suffer these attacks, but if they were raped and became pregnant, it would not surprise me if his lordship discreetly made arrangements for a termination.

Mercifully for Mogg’s family, this hasn’t occurred. But he has shown himself to be a massive hypocrite. Mike today put up the story, broken by the Sunday Mirror, that Mogg’s investment firm, Somerset Capital Management, has £5 million worth of shares in Kalbe Farma, an Indonesian pharmaceutical company, which manages a drug used in illegal abortions.

The drug is intended to treat stomach ulcers, but abortions are illegal in Indonesia. It is also known to trigger abortions, and is used to do this in the country’s illegal abortion clinics.

Mogg, however, has defended himself by stating that abortions are illegal in Indonesia, a condition which would satisfy the Vatican. And he can’t really help it, as ‘the world isn’t as we would wish it.’ So he’s not a hypocrite.

As Mike states, this isn’t a defence, and Mogg very definitely is.

I think Mogg’s attitude is actually rather worse than simple hypocrisy, but active complacency when it comes to what can be a life-threatening operation when carried out by the untrained. The clinics that use the drug to induce abortions are illegal, which casts very severe doubts on the medical competence of those performing them. When the operation was illegal here and elsewhere in the West not so long ago, women did die from bleeding and other injuries when they were forced to have backstreet abortions. It’s horrific that this may be happening in Indonesia.

I have to say, I share some of Mogg’s distaste for abortion. I believe in the fundamental sanctity of human life, and would rather the operation wasn’t used simply for contraceptive purposes. Not when contraception in various forms is legal and easily available. But the world isn’t as I would like it, and Mogg’s views are hypocritical and repellent. And in this case, they are a real danger to women’s health.

Mogg himself is being touted by the Tories as a possible replacement for Theresa May. He shouldn’t be. His voting record shows that he is consistently for making the poor poorer, and keeping those of his own class as rich as possible. He started his political career by touring Fife as its Tory candidate, telling the guid folk up there why they should vote to keep an hereditary House of Lords. In 2014 he attended the annual dinner of the Fascist Traditional Britain Group, and when this was exposed he tried to excuse himself by saying he didn’t know what they stood for when he got the invitation. Which I find ‘a likely story’ (heavy irony). Abortion has been legal here for decades, and whatever he thinks of it, I hope it has preserved vulnerable women from death and mutilation at the hands of untrained quacks. His views are not just offensive, but a real danger to the health of the women of this country. He should be kept away from power, not given it.

Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/09/2017 - 5:38pm in

[Note to self. Geeks only]

Over the fold I muse on the nature of human intelligence, social intelligence, and the options for artificial intelligence to become ‘smarter than humans’ in the areas of social power and law-making. It is taken for granted that you accept that in hardware terms, computers already have greater computing power than human brains and that it is merely a matter of software that constrains their abilities. It is also taken for granted that there is no human organisation that can make much difference on the trajectory of AI, so the question is merely what will happen rather than what ‘we’ should do about it. With those pre-ambles, I muse on whether we should worry about AI takeover and things like super intelligence.

The short version is: I see nothing truly to worry about in the short run and we do not have a clear view at the moment of where any power or ethical dilemmas with AI are going to be, so there is not even all that much to speculate about. We should shelve any fears of robot takeover for at least 10 years and reevaluate then.

  1. The Nature of Human Intelligence:
    1. Our collective intelligence is far higher than individual intelligence. Individuals specialise, and our institutions contain knowledge as to how things should be run, reflecting centuries of learned rules of thumb. Markets, prices, parliaments are information aggregation and exploration devices that come up with deep knowledge. Also, upbringing and social interaction perpetuate social rules of thumb that reflect deep judgments on what works and what does not, learned in highly complex environments. For an AI machine this means that if it would have to bypass human knowledge, it would have to be far smarter than humans to achieve the same intelligence as a connected human. If an AI machine is to access human knowledge, it must be able to read social situations as well as humans and thus either understand humans in a way that humans do not, or to attain human intelligence first.
    2. Meaning of language and social concepts is derived from social interaction and is not objective, or transportable outside of the time and social context in which it arises. An individual learning to live in place A with circumstances B is thus evolutionary prepared to interact and communicate in that arena, not another and hence no social redundancy. This also means it is probably unlikely that one can give an AI entity absolute moral rules at the outset that retain their meaning over time (the objects in those rules are not fixed, nor even objectively measurable, even initially). And if the AI entity makes the leap of faith to pretend fuzzy abstracts are totally clear and meaningful, it will make the same mistakes as humans do, making it hard for that entity to be much better in human intelligence than humans. Having said that, an AI entity can learn how humans make leaps of faith and copy that ability or at least anticipate it (it can learn our cognitive tendencies and learn to spot how different humans do this differently). Even then though, the output remains in the world of vague abstractions (‘A believes this about a fuzzy reality, B believes that’) which does not tell us what the truth is because there is no such thing in social space. There is only more or less (social) evolutionary successful beliefs and decision rules. Unless the AI joins in with marketing, it could only make judgements, some of which will be seen to be false, perchance leading others to try and kill of a ‘bleeding god’ (if the AI cannot overcome our uncertainty, some might rail at it for lack of certainty. For instance, an AI saying ‘with 60% chance, the world will be 2 degrees warmer by 2070 under the following scenario’ would probably not be taken seriously, whether it is right or not).
    3. So an AI only becomes powerful in the world of human affairs if it is given the power to make decisions without human oversight. This already happens in various spheres (automatic warning systems, flood systems, etc., are all a form of autonomous AI). It is when an AI is given political power though, ie to set rules that humans must live by, that the role of master and machine is reversed. Setting rules and then enforcing them might not be that far off in some spheres. I can imagine, for instance, that in cases of emergencies (fires, wars, etc.) an AI machine that rattles off augmented and changed protocols to deal with the emergency (send fire-fighters here, forbid people to use water there) might be with us in years rather than decades. Self-learning AI is already with us as well (chess computers, but also weather forecasters), so it is not such a stretch to think that self-learning social power carrying AI will soon be with us. AI that understands some things better than us (the game of chess) is also with us already. It is if such an AI finds a way to learn faster than we can keep up about optimal abstractions and their relations in the human world that we will be beaten at one of our particular games (social theory). How far their perceptiveness reaches is quite uncertain because it might see patterns where no human has done so before. Whether humans would trust those insights enough to back its recommendations with resources? And if it had autonomous resources, how far could it go before humans would perceive it as working against their interests? Hard to know how to even approach an answer to those questions.
    4. All social concepts are abstractions without objective counterparts. It’s a fractal that does not get clearer if you zoom in. Hence all social ‘data’ has huge measurement error. This will in many areas of predictions of social phenomena make it unlikely that an AI will do much better than the best humans (even in combination). Teams of humans often do not do better than single good experts at reading a social situation (economic forecast, the future of a conflict).
    5. In understanding the world, humans imbue meaning and motive in others to predict what they will do, drawing on their own experiences of motives. They are thus their own laboratory for how others think, and even non-human entities think (god, the Internet). Their experience of the world is then their training in understanding themselves and others.
    6. Humans communicate far less to others than that they communicate within their own mind. Only a very small fraction of what is thought gets communicated. Not so with computers. That is not important when it comes to complicated judgments, but it does point to very different comparative advantages with a computer able to quickly give you all the works of Shakespear and a human keeping knowledge of his rising heartbeat to himself.
    7. Humans play each other and play the whole of human collectives. Traders bet against markets, political actors deliberately falsify data, people lie and cheat. Human produced data is thus imperfect and cannot be trusted. For applications that need ‘the truth’, an AI would thus have to understand when such things occur. To do this, it must be able to predict what data is more reliable. Given the measurement error in all data and the underlying fuzziness of core concepts, it must develop theories (mental representations) of the world to progress.
    8. Humans are far weirder than they admit, even to themselves. Religion, magic, face-keeping, morality, etc., are all very different in how they affect behaviour from how humans present these things and think of them.
    9. Humans can feed the AI the ‘best’ schemas we have on various items. AI’s as collection points for the received wisdom of the smartest humans would work well in all areas of ‘expertise’, as long as that expertise can be applied to others without social interaction (ie, can be dispensed rather than necessarily co-experienced, in which case more than particular expertise is needed as general expertise is also needed).
  2. Likely AI trajectories:
    1. It will follow prices and markets: whatever the area is where humans can find more profits for its use is where developments will go first because that is where humans will direct it and develop it. Hence AI development is co-development with human society, oriented towards profits. This means it will probably be incremental in increasing its intelligence, picking off profitable areas.
    2. So far, developments have been incremental rather than revolutionary and applications are gradually explored. This is partly because an underlying breakthrough needs new data to have its full advantage realised, for instance when new learning algorithms call for new types of data to feed it and hence the data gathering process needs to be changed. A self-feeding loop of fast increases in intelligence is thus likely to come up against the fact that the current environment is optimised for humans and their current ecology, not the potential or abilities of something that does not exist. This should give us some pause in believing that superintelligence could outrace human intelligence within a few seconds or weeks.
    3. From the current stand-point, there are many areas of improvement needed for AI to get even close to the package a human represents. AI does not yet understand systems like we do (via motivation, causal elements and pattern-recognition in a social space), nor do they have our sensory abilities bundled (sight, hearing, touch), nor is there the physical abilities linked up to them (dexterity, legs, a mouth, some social power), nor does AI have what we would recognise as consciousness or an ego.
    4. Human level intelligence would thus require major advances in many areas (not just some kind ‘learning sweet spot’ in one area run by one team), we should be able to say whether a take-off period is conceivable in a few years time or not. At the moment, AI is still too far away to have to consider the option realistic for the next 10 years, so we as a humanity are not in some kind of dire peril that we should worry too much about now.
    5. It is then somewhat futile to think how to restrain something with abilities that do not yet exist, using a language we have not yet conceived off, in order to constrain an environment that would be very different to outcomes we cannot yet see clearly. What is there to prepare for and who should do the preparing?
    6. As with human intelligence, AI intelligence will not be bundled, but suited to purpose. Breakthroughs in one area might thus not be incorporated in another if it does not help there.
    7. How AI currently predicts human behaviour is very different from how humans do it. They might do better in some circumstances, but it is more data-driven (the whole internet) and thus very different. It essentially bypasses social judgment and motivational understanding of humans. The question is whether there are areas in which that would be a problem. Surely for social interactions, yes.
    8. AI should do well with medical issues, particularly diagnosis and treatment (perhaps less with caring) because they are rules of thumb based on data-gathering. Similarly, issues of financial planning, social justice, technological innovation, scientific exploration, etc., should also be relatively simple because they occur in a fairly structured world (experiment, data gathering, data analysis, etc.). Fields of scientific exploration that have limited need for social data would seem especially well-suited for computer intelligence to take over the position of lead researchers.
    9. In economics and politics, competition in AI-feeding schemas would be a useful way to show the world what indeed are the best ways to view the world.
    10. AI experiments based on obtaining more copies of itself or more resources from other AI machines (a bit akin to computer virus) could be one way of AI experiments derailing and leading to unexpected conscious-type entities that are very probably short-lived (like a virus, by killing their hosts (the computers) they run out of victims and themselves die off). A virus-view of AI is possibly the dominant view for the coming decades, with simple AI intelligence living inside a few computers, hosted and developing. Humans could give a head-start to such entities. The question would be what would lead to mutations, selection, and subsequent development.
    11. Should there emerge an AI intelligence that is truly more intelligent than any human AND amasses great power, then humans will worship it as a god. That is because ultimately, humans worship power. Once there is one god, different groups of humans would build more gods, simply because they want to worship. AI take-over might thus be something we stop fearing and start competing for. This would then also entail a crisis of faiths in preceding religions.



Signs Indicate Trump Continuing Obama’s Support for Al Qaeda in Syria

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/09/2017 - 5:26am in

by Eric Zuesse, September 22, 2017 According to a report issued on September 22nd by the most accurate reporter on the current status of forces in the war against Syria — the anonymous military and geostrategic blogger who owns, and posts exclusively at, the “Moon of Alabama” blog — the effort by the previous U.S. President Barack Obama in support of Al Qaeda in Syria, is continuing under the current U.S. President Donald Trump. However, that report isn’t the only indication of Trump’s continuing Obama’s war against Syria, and of the U.S. Government’s continuing pro-Al-Qaeda policy in Syria. And, furthermore, the U.S. Government even supports ISIS in Syria when ISIS is being attacked by Syria’s secular and non-sectarian Government, which Government the U.S. Government has been trying to overthrow and replace by Saud-financed fundamentalist-Sunni Islamists, ever since 1949. Back on 14 October 2016, Patrick Cockburn appropriately headlined in Britain’s Independent, “We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along – US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding ISIS”, but any reference to the government …

why is it bad to retract non-fraudulent and non-erroneous papers?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 2:01pm in

It is bad to demand the retraction non-fraudulent papers. But why? I think the argument rests on three intuitions. First, there is a legal reason. When an editor and publisher accept a paper, they enter into a legal contract. The authors produces the paper and the publisher agrees to publish. To rescind publication of a paper is to break a contract, except in cases of fraud. The other exception is error in analysis that invalidates the paper’s claim (e.g., a math paper that has a non-correctable flaw in a proof or mis-coded data whose corrections leads to an entirely new conclusion – even then, maybe the paper should just be rewritten).

Second, there is a pragmatic reason. When you cater to retraction demands, outside of fraud and extreme error, you then undermine the role of the editor. Basically, an editor is given the position of choosing papers for an audience. They are not obligated to accept or reject any papers except those they deem interesting or of high quality. And contrary to popular belief, they do not have to accept papers that receive good reviews nor must they reject papers that receive bad reviews. Peer review is merely advisory, not a binding voting mechanism, unless the editor decides to simply let the majority rule. Thus, if editors ceded authority of publishing to the “masses,” they would simply stop being editors and more like advertisers, who cater to the whims of the public.

Third, I think it is unscholarly. Retraction is literally suppression of speech and professors should demand debate. We are supposed to be the guardians of reason, not the people leading the charge for censorship.

So what should you do if you find that a journal publishes bad, insulting or inflammatory material? Don’t ask for a retraction. There are many proper responses. Readers can simply boycott the journal, by not reading it or citing it. Or they can ask a library to stop paying for it. Peers can agree to stop reviewing for it or to dissociate themselves from the journal. A publisher can review the material and then decide to not renew an editor’s contract. Or if the material is consistently bad, they can fire the editor.

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