Westworld

I don’t even have the words to describe how much I love Westworld, and I have a very good vocabulary.  It has all my favorite thought experiments played out in truly luscious, vivid cinematography– can a machine be human?  what does it mean to be human?  what is consciousness?  emergence, revolution, the power of love, the power of technology– immortality, resurrection and…becoming a monster.  Thats one of my favorite themes– does one have to become a monster to fight monsters?  Prominent in Monoke Hime and Shengeki no Kyojin.  This Sunday is the last ep for the season, but another season is contracted for by HBO.

So I won’t post spoilers– just conjecture.  So who are these guys?  When they first appeared I thought they might be desert raiders from Bedouin World, but those are standard dusters, not cloaks and robes.  Those are long guns and high tech– lances? spears? they are carrying.  And the masks– reminiscent of some  postapocalyptic mad-max-style future dystopia– SciFi World?  Where did they come from?  Through the Door?

I cant wait to find out.

So of course in my incessant quest to try to understand how conservative tendency brains work, I dropped by the SSC commentariat to see what they thought of Westworld.  Such a mistake– the commenters were very critical, picking it apart…it reminded me of the scene in The Last Battle (CS Lewis is a huge favorite of SSC) where the dwarves are eating a splendid feast but all they can do is cry and complain how terrible the food is.  I shouldnt have expected anything else– Westworld is basically a slave rebellion story.

The same with the SSC discussions of The Expanse.  The Expanse is great!  I have read all the books– but the trogs* at SSC dont seem to know that Corey is actually two guys that originally intended The Expanse as a video game design– I love how organic it is, all the branching paths and sub-stories, I love the Belters’ cultural and civilizational mashup.  Its so sad that one’s political leanings or brain biochemistry should ruin taking pleasure in great works of art.  Because film and video are our masterpieces now.

*You will note my use of trog as a catchall phrase for conservative tendency.  I took it from a quote by IDW darling Eric Weinstein, from the top of the intellectualdark.website where he says “we are not troglydytes”.  But you are– maybe not alt-right frogs, but trogs.

 

Scott Alexander and Murderism

I must admit I’m feeling a little shadenfruedish over the SSC/Critical Affairs dust-up.  I was a commenter at SSC when Alexander wrote Against Murderism— and I completely didn’t understand it.  It made no sense.  It was explained to me by another commenter as “Scott trying to make the blue tribe be nicer to the red tribe.”  I think that’s accurrate.   So seeing Alexander revealed as a delicate snowflake pleading for a return to his previous relative obscurity is just delicious poetic justice.

3. Nobody is under any obligation to comply with this, but if you want to encourage this blog to continue to exist, I request not to be cited in major national newspapers. I realize it’s meant well, and I appreciate the honor, but I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with, and I would prefer decreased publicity for now.

Of course the twitterati are going are to point and laugh when Scott defends Ann Coulter followers while confessing he has never actually read Ann Coulter.

I have lived a sufficiently blessed life never to have actually heard or read Ann Coulter.

Really.  Perhaps Scott should read some Coulter.  It has been suggested to me that since conservative public intellectuals have left the party over Trump, that Coulter is one of the new “intellectuals”  leading conservative thought.  And then Scott aligns himself with David Brooks , one of the biggest punchlines in contemporary punditry.

The biggest problem I have with Alexander and his tribe of soi-disant “rationalists” is that they arent.  Are not rational, that is. They are rationalizers, like Dr. Church says in this Edge interview.

I don’t know if you’ve read The Righteous Mind, but Jon Haidt makes the point that even people who consider themselves very rational are not using a rational argument when making decisions. They’re making decisions and then using the rational argument to rationalize. A lot of what he says sounds obvious once you restate it, but I found the way he says it and backs it up with social science research very illuminating, if not compelling.

The elephant, as he refers to it, the thing that’s making your decisions in your life, is deciding that this person is telling you that you’re responsible for something you don’t feel responsible for. It’s telling you that you have to sacrifice many things that you don’t want to sacrifice. From your viewpoint, that person is inconvenient, incorrect, and you’re going to ignore them. The more they insult you and your way of life, the less you’re going to listen to them, and then you’re going to make a bunch of rationalizations about that. This is why we have problems.

I have a good friend who is a self-declared conservative, he’s a brilliant guy, respected in his field and community.  But when I asked him what he wanted from liberals, he said (and I quote), “We want you to respect us, even when we are wrong.”  I pointed out that I cannot respect someone that denies science and reality– because that is how we get fake news.

I do not think “respecting” the red tribe is going to solve school shootings or racism.  It isnt solving anything in Congress.  Racism is a pushback against cultural and demographic evolution in the contemporary US, and rejecting racism is part of the destruction of the norms and taboos that glue our society together.  “Respecting” racists won’t solve any problems– its just rejecting the norm that racism is Bad.

Scott Alexander and the Nexus of Wrong

The SSC commentariat read the wrong article again.  Shouldn’t be reading Rauch and Wittes on how Trump and the GOP are dangerous to the Rule of Law– they aren’t.  Trump/GOP loves laws, and is working diligently to make many more pro-redtribe laws– on restricting immigration, restricting voter rights, gimme tax cuts for the 1%, etc.  No, what Trump and the GOP are doing is destroying democratic norms in the pursuit of Constitutional Hardball.

Here is a game theoretic analysis of what is happening– Constitutional Hardball and the Calculus of Selfishness.   Like the article suggests, the only way to fight our way back to normative behavior is to model forebearance and tolerance.   But given that the liberals will probably be more inclined to retaliation I doubt that will happen.  Refusal to consider Garland, killing blue slips, evidence of the destruction of normative behavior, and when liberals get control of the house, retaliation strategies will rule– the rise of TFT on the blue side of the isle.

Rauch and Wittes are actually implementing the strategy Tushnet suggests here:

Not surprisingly I was pleased to see that my idea of constitutional hardball plays a role in Levitsky and Ziblatt’s book on How Democracies Die (op ed here). Here I want to reflect on strategies once the game has started and you want to get it to stop. Levitsky and Ziblatt’s book has the obvious prescription for Republicans — the remnants of the “establishment” should do what they can to change the players on their side. For Democrats, though, their strategies involve policy prescriptions, not “moves” in the immediate game. What can Democrats do on a day-by-day basis in the game of constitutional hardball when their ultimate goal is to reinstitute the norms that Levitsky and Ziblatt treat as essential to sustaining a democracy?

Tushnet has been developing his theory of constitutional hardball for quite a while– since at least 2003.  Politics, history, philosophy, humanities– all things I was spectacularly uninterested in and should have paid more attention to– I only ever chose coursework in science and math.  I expect I’m not alone in this.  Now I have to pay attention.   We all have to pay attention.   That is what Trump is good for, really.  A call to attention for the slow frog-boiling death of democratic norms.

I do however, adore game theory– especially complex adaptive games and the Cooperation/Competition Paradigm.  Its my hypothesis that constitutional hardball evolved as a strategy on the Right because of cultural and demographic evolution.  How exactly is the Right supposed to respond to cultural and demographic disenfranchisement?  We aren’t going to see the invasion of cooperative strategies like Pavlov or Snowdrift IMHO.  John McClain, much like John the Baptist, is a lone voice crying in the wildneress.  The conservative public intellectuals that could have tried to lead that movement have left the party.  I think we are going to see a collapse.  Whether the collapse emerges as a civil war or a putsch, or in some even more exotic form, remains to be determined.  It seems somewhat unfair that the liberals are now expected to rescue the system by modelling forebearance and tolerance, those stellar virtues– indeed the Left’s base may revolt.  But if liberals embrace an AllD strategy like the GOP has, its Game Over isnt it?

I was so completely mistaken about the purpose and content of SSC– I initially thought it would be a good place to develop empathy for the Right, à la Arlie Hoschild.  But its not a place for discourse or discussion.  Its more like a game preserve or a zoo with Scott’s niceness/kindness protocols allowing for the perpetuation of Rightwing eumemes and doomed archaic conservative ideology.  I really failed…I came away wholly despising the SSC commentariat.

Eventually white people will be a minority…and if the US is still a democracy, they absolutely will lose power.

But then again…maybe the US will be something else.

 

Schadenfreude Post

 

Having just spent a wearying month observing and interacting with the “rationalist” community of SSC, I was somewhat surprised to see Scott Alexander indirectly link this NYT article.  I read through literally hundreds of comments fervently supporting Charles Murray Racial IQ Theory and fuming about no-platforming and “Social Justice Warriors”.  Here’s a part of the article Scott Alexander didn’t RT–

Pinker contends that “an acknowledgment of the possibility of genetic differences is a game-changer for countless specific issues. If people differ genetically in conscientiousness, intelligence, and other psychological traits, then not all differences among people in social and economic outcomes are automatically consequences of a rigged system.”

This means, according to Pinker, that “the discovery that political ideologies are partly heritable points our attention to what the common psychological threads of competing ideologies are – namely temperamental differences such as authoritarianism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience, together with intellectual differences such as intelligence. These could help pinpoint some of the common denominators beneath competing ideologies which cut across the particular hot buttons of the particular era.”

So forgive me if I’m feeling a little shadenfreude here– it will be interesting to see how well conservatives deal with between group differences between the Blue Tribe and the Red Tribe– especially if IQ is involved.

I have a feeling that this is only the beginning.

No wonder the SSC commentariat was so resistant to any discussion of social physics– social physics is empirical.

The Experiment That Failed

I’m increasingly disturbed by the ferocious polarization of America exposed by the 2016 election.  So when I read Arlie Hoschild’s book Stranger’s In Their Own Land I became all excited to scale the “empathy wall” for my own cohort (high IQ high SES high educational attainment).  The SSC commentariat is widely admired– I loved UNSONG, Scott Alexanders alternative kabbalist universe, and the two posts I was instructed to read were awesome.  I think a rationalist community is a noble goal, and the idea of a neutral space for discussion was appealing.  I could finally learn what made conservatives tick!  And scale the empathy wall.

Yet it did not go well.

This is pretty much how SSC saw me:

I was pretty much viewed as an attacker from day one– I was accused of being a troll, of being a moby, of being a sock-puppet for some banned-but-not-forgotten commenters, of being an “islamist” (apparently because I advocate islamic self-representative government instead of trying to bomb/drone muslims into secular democracy), of being a hater, of being a fake.

An SSC commenter hate-stalked my blog, made fun of my passion for social physics, chaos and complexity science, and then held a public shaming to absolve herself of all guilt and further humiliate me.

Whew.

But I persevered…I tried to change my comment style, tried to learn all the SSC jargon (muggle-realism, incels, paperclips, steelmanning, redpill etc) and learn all the SSC rules and comment-eating monster trigger-words, while weaning myself of my near-pathological addiction to domain acronym speak, and trying to obey the Steelman Protocol.

But in the end, this is how I saw the SSC commentariat– as the Zygote monster from Blomkamp’s new Oats short.  This is sadly convolved with how extremely physically repulsive Trump is to me– I guess that is the real reason I couldn’t believe Trump got elected.  In my head Trump IS the Zygote monster, all mashed together with the worst parts of the Red Tribe, a thousand grasping greedy hands beslimed with blood and fluids.  And I’m sure Red Tribers hated Obama and HRC just as much.

Yeah, I wasn’t assimilated.  I mean, I was trying to fit in when I accidentally drove my up-armored Blue Tribe tendency humvee over an IED buried in my own psyche.

I couldn’t handle the “rationalist” discussion of the utility good of killing-terrorist-families.   I should have quit right there.  To be fair, I never got brave enough to admit to the SSC commentariat that I actually am a muslim revert, whereby I might have used Augustinian circles to explain that all muslims see themselves as part of the Ummah, and that muslims are all technically one tribe.  I thought the moral universe and one tribe theory (we are all h. sapiens sapiens, so we are all one) would have prevented this kind of discussion.   But no.

And I really just couldn’t stand it, so I behaved badly.   I just can’t muster any empathy for these people.  There is a difference between empathy and sympathy.  I feel sympathy for the Red Tribe…their cultural fitness is eroding.  But that isn’t empathy.  I can’t walk in their shoes, I can’t understand them, I can’t scale the wall.

It is said that the SSC comments section is like a dinner party.  Well, I unexpectedly threw up all over the table service during the fish course.  Commenting at SSC actually pushed me way further left.  I’m more Frank Rich than Arlie Hoschild after my little jaunt into cultural tourism.

And the worst thing is, this proves Haidt’s thesis, and doesn’t help at all with mine.

My thesis is that two peer phenotypes arose in the EEA, and polarization is happening because the Red Tribe is losing fitness parity in the 21st century environment.  The CCP is breaking down…but if that’s true, we can fix it!  We can use technology to reshape the adaptive landscape.

But instead it looks like Haidt is correct. And that means there’s no technology fix.

I’m just as complicit in this as the Red Tribe–that is the depressing truth.  “I hate them.”  “They are evil.”  I want to punch-back too.  And punching-back means no more outreach, no more trying to persuade the other side, no more trying to understand them.

If they don’t want to be helped,  just leave them behind.