Monday, January 30, 2012

The Decline of Originality?

I'm pretty firmly anti-elitism of any sort.  So the vague snobbery inherent in claims that movies are increasingly derivative grates at me.

I see it said with some frequency in a variety of ways that Hollywood has become decreasingly innovative.

Not every book written before the twentieth century became a classic.  Not every movie we produce today will be remembered a hundred years from now.  And most of the classics we know today are merely -better written- imitations of stories which were written before them; quite frequently entire stories were ripped wholesale from other authors.  Shakespeare is the best-known example of this, but was hardly the only one;

Comparing the best stories produced in the entire history of mankind to the best stories produced in the past century, we actually get a very flattering view of the past century.

The reason history looks better than today is that time and public opinion has swept away the original - and generally inferior - versions.  It has swept away all stories which could not stand up to the test of time.

But favoring those things which have long been favored isn't a risky operation - whereas to declare a thing good which has not yet been so measured is indeed quite risky.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Smallest Nation on Earth... the individual.

This is the summary rejection of political ideologies which favor smaller and more efficient - but more totalitarian - regional governments.  Smaller is more efficient because it has fewer philosophic/political externalities; there's no point where this ceases to be the case.

This is -not- a rejection of minarchism, which is a binding mutual defense pact with exit penalties and provisions for dealing with the aggressions of non-signatory nations.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fermi Paradox...

...fails entirely to interest.


Anthropic principle.

Not in the trivial "Intelligent life may be a hell of a lot less likely than we think" sense, although that's a perfectly valid proposition as well.

But in the sense that "Some of the conditions of the universe we think to be universal and independent of our existence may exist solely for us."

For example, time.  Is time as we understand it a universal concept?  Our existence in time can be conceptualized as a pattern propagating through four dimensional space; assuming this is a valid model, should we expect similar patterns to be propagating in a direction orthogonal to our own, never even minding parallel?

How do brains work?  I'm not the only person considering the brain as a quantum computer.  Although the people trying to show Einstein-Bose condensate in the brain clearly don't understand the implications of this -  the Einstein-Bose condensate would merely be the point where matter no longer has enough energy to wiggle in fivespace, and crystallizes; it looks like a smear because we're perceiving matter which in a threespace brain  model is overlapping (even though in the fivespace our brains and eyes occupy it doesn't).  More specifically, if the brain is a quantum computer, it must occupy a certain amount of fivespace.  (Which suggests we have anatomy in fivespace we're not even aware of.)  Why should we expect aliens which happen to exist orthogonal to us, and more parallel to us, to also occupy the same fivespace as us?

We tend to assume the universe is, and we happen to exist within it.  The universe cannot be separated from the observer.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Affirmative Action is Wrong...

...without going into how social justice is the opposite of justice:

It's solving the wrong problem.

That's it, full stop.

How can I completely demonstrate that affirmative action solves the wrong problem?

Its goals would be complete if you made every white person systematically worse off.

Hence.  It's solving the wrong problem.  Any social problem which is soluble by making society worse is a poorly defined social problem.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Post on Libertarianism

The real problem with libertarianism:

It doesn't solve your problems, or perhaps more accurately, it offers no internal solutions for them.

The remarkable thing about those who complain about libertarianism is that the alternatives they promote -also- don't solve your problems; the problems they promote as inherent to libertarianism are invariably problems which were or are encountered in governmental systems which definitively were or are -not- libertarian.

First and foremost, a libertarian government IS A GOVERNMENT.  It's a limited government (the precise limits vary by libertarian - some favor social safety nets, some, like myself, favor a minimal government whose domain is limited to that of violence), but it is a government.  Most libertarians hold that government should have taxing power - those who do not favor arrangements such as lotteries or other voluntary fundraising mechanisms.

It's not lawlessness; indeed, libertarian principles are rooted in the concept of rule of law, and hold as a prime principle that the government must be subject to the law even as it is its enforcer, which is why their favored governments are constitutional.  (A constitution being the set of laws which dictate how the government must behave.)

We don't favor rich people, we just don't think government should hold them in disfavor in order to provide some sort of cosmic balance for the way they've been elsewise favored; libertarians believe justice must be blind, and any justice which isn't isn't justice at all.

In general, we're not particularly fond of corporations.  A lot of us are accustomed to defending them from baseless assault, a habit which can lead to defending them from reasonable criticism, but most of us dislike the way they indemnify the people who run them against tort, a legal privilege which runs against the rule of law.

As a rule of thumb libertarians oppose collectivization.  This leads us to oppose both racism and affirmative action, both of which treat people as collectives rather than individuals.  Statistics are frequently devoid of information which is personally meaningful to us, although we're not opposed to using them in arguments with people for whom they are meaningful.

Many, but not all, of us regard trade in something the same manner that others regard religious beliefs; a personal matter.  No trade is fundamentally different than two boys in a cafeteria exchanging trading cards, or anything else of mutual value.  A company is as a church, a collection of people sharing similar purpose; and as the freedom for the individual to pray in his home is no different from his freedom to collect with others to pray together (or to abstain from such activities), so to is a group of people working to mutual benefit no different from those boys.

Contracts are enforceable as a matter of ownership, a principle common law agrees with us on.  (Common law on contracts can only enforce by principles of ownership; a contract without mutual trade of value is unenforceable.  For an example of how and why this matters, if you sign a contract to let an oil company dig a retention pool on your property in exchange for them filling it in later and planting some trees, and they refuse to fill it in and plant the trees, common law provides only the difference in property value, not the cost of doing what was agreed upon.)

Because there's a variety of positions of libertarian, the reasons for diverging from other political philosophies also vary.  Pragmatic libertarians believe the best government for (X criteria) is a smaller government; principle libertarians are generally closer to the minarchistic side, and most frequently abide by the non-aggression principle.

Many anarchists also cite the non-aggression principle as a reason for their political position; libertarians and anarchists are at odds over who better abides by it.  Anarchists hold that forcing people to abide under a specific government is a violation of the non-aggression principle; libertarians hold that anarchistic modes of governance effectively make the non-aggression principle optional (or in some modes of anarchy, negotiable), and so violate it by default.  I don't personally find that there's a clear winner there, and default to libertarianism on pragmatic grounds.  (Granted, my personal conviction that anarchy is untenable depends upon armchair logic, but their conviction that it is tenable is no different in that regard.)

Some libertarians believe the right rules can make a libertarian government permanent; I personally hold that no governmental system is permanent, and regard the slow shift to a social democracy unavoidable, albeit correctable.  (I hold that there is entropic decay in any government which will eventually lead to its destruction; entropy can be countered by a constant effort by a determined populace, but I hold in addition that the societal structures which produce this effort themselves are also subject to entropic decay; you can add as many layers of protection as you want, they'll each eventually collapse in turn.)

Libertarians don't hold particularly interesting views, once you look at their reasons.  Just different ones.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Seeing God...

One of the things I cannot relate to, in any sense, is seeing God's work.

That is, perhaps, why I'm an atheist.

I do see the work of capitalism everywhere - I guess I'm a convert to capitalism, because as I started to grasp it, smokestacks and warehouses and farmland took on a subtle beauty, and I hold them in a kind of reverence - this is industry, this is life, this is everything that makes the life I live possible.

So I can sort of see where they come from.  Once you start Seeing, it's hard to stop.

I guess statists see a highway and See - central order, organization and efficiency flowing down and making our lives possible.  And environmentalists See corpses in the very industry I myself see beauty in.

If I were, tomorrow, to decide - fuck capitalism, I'm not doing this anymore - I don't think I could.  Because I'd drive by a factory one day and remember - this is life!

Affirmation?  I suppose so.  It does illuminate how religion takes such a deep hold in somebody's mind - because how do you stop Seeing?  And why those who have renounced religion tend to take such a bitter view of it - they cannot.

I See death, in abandoned factories, overgrown with vines.  Perhaps somebody else Sees something beautiful in the resilience of nature.

How does our Sight change the way we view fellow human beings?  A curious question.