How We Got to President Trump

Nov 11, 2016 Posted Under: politics

By assuming the polls were representing the voting. By not carefully sorting out the complaints against the system according to how emotionally charged they were. By not gathering information actually relevant to what people would get out and bother voting for (or against).

Trump’s campaign did some of that sorting out, by attacking various groups as if they might be the cause of the problems people were upset about, or could be energized to be upset about. Then they noticed how much traction each idea got, and where, and focused further efforts where they could gather the most emotional energy.

Clinton’s campaign addressed the issues much more logically, with proposals that could actually work. But those proposals lacked the fear and anger that Trump cultivated.  And it probably cost her the election that she tried to shame some of the Trump supporters with her “basket of deplorables” comment — they picked it up as a badge of honor.

Changes expected next time will include information gathering representing people’s emotional concerns, not just the practical ones. This information will come from noticing what TV and radio shows folk attend, their social media and phone discussions, and the emotional energy attached to each. And perhaps even counting the number of signs on lawns — this can be done by drone flyby.

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Snowden and Data Security

Sep 27, 2016 Posted Under: computer programming, evolution

Excerpted from DarkReading

‘Stone’s movie also hit on the biggest legal vulnerability threatening our constitutional rights: secret laws being written that avoid the critical checks and balances of the American system of balance of powers.

One key source of these secret threats is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court system, which issues secret rulings that can function as secret law. While Congress may have rightly understood that many aspects of intelligence gathering and judicial oversight must be kept secret –  including warrants that can reveal sources, methods, and targets –  there was an unintended consequence.  Under this framework, the FISA court can grant new authorities via secret court opinion, constituting new law not subject to public scrutiny.

As we now know, without public scrutiny and an adversarial judicial process, these rulings have been demonstrated to violate common assumptions about Constitutional protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. For instance, a 2013 New York Times article revealed that the FISA court determined that collections of data on any American, regardless of connection to foreign enemies, did not violate the Fourth Amendment search and seizure protections.

This legal threat persists today. Some laws have changed, but our information remains exposed. This may seem like an intractable problem: trying to ensure transparency of law while maintaining operational security of our national defense. But there is a solution.

The solution will require an act of Congress mandating that secret rulings made by courts or agencies must include a public, unclassified summary of any legal interpretations made in granting a warrant or issuing a ruling. This can be done without revealing sensitive sources, methods, or targets.

Perhaps the most chilling theme in the movie revolves around potential misuse of surveillance powers by future leaders. In January, we will have a new administration, and our new president will drive his or her agenda on surveillance. Without legal reform and transparency, we will not know how our privacy rights have changed – for the better or the worse.  In the meantime, let us make sure our data carries its own protection, end to end, so it is protected regardless of what others do.

As Stone’s movie makes clear, while most of us have “nothing to hide,” we all have information worth protecting.’

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Justice and Loyalty — Searching for Fairness

Sep 25, 2016 Posted Under: philosophy

All our political systems started out as searches for the best leaders, and fairness in apportionment of resources. The best hunt organizer would easily become the hunting band’s leader, and his authority would undoubtedly prevail in the sharing of the spoils.

And similarly with leaders in other areas of expertise. Until one didn’t share the profits equitably — then the cry of UNFAIR would be raised. Thus is born a political system: a method of balancing competing interests.

The search for fairness quickly overburdens the leader, generating a codification of conflict resolutions, a justice system. But these shortcut prescriptions for fairness aren’t quite right often enough that a jury system is interposed on the laws.

And that’s the best approximation of fairness we can do, but we keep trying other shortcut prescriptions, telling each other stories of loyalties which prevailed in some case or other.

So we get proposed (and imposed) loyalties to our own spouse, family, club, gang, company, department, sports team, military unit, city, state, country, religion, political party or other set of beliefs, in various unpalatable and unworkable orders. None of these shortcuts to fairness have the benefit of the situational wisdom of juries though, and so end up being more easily gamed in favor of one participant or another.

The election process is supposed to be the jury system for sorting loyalties, but it’s not fine-grained enough to do the job.  We need to redesign elections.  Who’s up for the task?

In the meantime, I propose being loyal only to oneself, and to the notion of fairness.

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The Art of Love

Jun 23, 2016 Posted Under: philosophy

My take on a recommendation of my son, the film 500 days of Summer

The Art of Love (and Friendship?):

emotionally pleasing communications

from understanding and acceptance of

discrepancies between expectations of an event and its actuality

based on differing responses to the continually changing inputs of life.

 

Preferring one person over another leads to disappointment and joy
at individual times for each of the parties involved
(original disappointment changing to joy of being free)

with intensity according to perceived suddenness of change.

 

The whole film is against a playful background of

destiny vs free choice
disappointment vs joy
pain vs pleasure (I wonder how we calculate these as experienced by each, and does it achieve fairness?)

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The Root of All Evil: Secrets

Dec 12, 2014 Posted Under: philosophy

Only laws needed: no violence or threat of violence against person, property or truth.

Secrets arise from transgressions of law or morality, and are almost always meant to advantage us over someone else less “in the know”.

The value of a secret may be measured in the pain one is willing to endure to maintain the secret. But the universe conspires against secrets, in that they are a local violation of entropy — as time passes, the information of a secret is degraded due to insufficient copies or preserved by becoming more holographically spread to more copies.

For instance, trade secrets are intended to give one business the advantage over its competitors of having exclusive rights to, let’s say, a cookie recipe. From the viewpoint of cookie consumers, wouldn’t it be better that any company could compete on price to make the same cookie? There would still be many cookies to choose from; i.e., no dilution of cookie choices.

In similar fashion, why should a government be allowed to know everything about its citizens while keeping secret the procedures it uses against those citizens “suspected of wrongdoing”? It seems to me, if we’re going to have a second amendment, it should apply to information, not weapons. It was originally intended to permit citizens defending themselves against the government, in a time when the weapons were rifles and canons. Now I doubt anyone would argue for equality of weapons; I at least don’t think it would be a good idea for everyone to have anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, much less atomic bombs. Better we obviate the need for weapons by informing everyone equally of everyone’s activities and preferences, and teaching negotiating skills.

If armies were equally informed about their opponents activities, there might be fewer armed engagements because both sides would be more likely to suffer equally.

If our banking transactions were publicly visible, bribery would be much less the ordinary way of politicking.

Laws about insurance would need to change, though, so insurance companies would have to accept the entire pool of insureds at the same rate.

The only secret I can think of offhand which will continue to be useful is the ballot. A shared secret is often used to guard access to distributing your property, from a bank or elsewhere, but other methods of authentication like pictures of your eyes or fingers or ears, or your voice or dna or biota, will soon be easier and more reliable.

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Ethics, Loyalties and The Singularity

Apr 18, 2014 Posted Under: evolution, philosophy

The point of literature: a search engine for equity

I’ve been conducting a rather intense and thoroughgoing review of the principal themes of literature in the last couple of years, at least as it shows up in television and movies.  It seems to me the point of most of our literature is to explore the notions of fairness: ethics and moralities, and loyalties and trust.  The long term trajectory of all these explorations appears to be moving us out of the realm of persuasion by force and duress, more towards discourse and mutual understanding.

This conclusion might not seem apparent in the news oriented media which has to focus on the most immediately interesting, and therefore violent, happenings.  As countries cycle through the development from agrarian to industrialization, more real wealth is available for more people and legal  and educational systems emphasize less violent solutions.

As we continue the invention/evolution of the next more intelligent species, computers, Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics bring the question of how we should try to build in ethics and loyalties for computers.  It’s not clear to me they will have goals similar enough to ours to make the question meaningful.  Once the computers start evolving on their own, they will probably not feel the need to compete with us for any resources.  They don’t need much space (although there’s plenty in the oceans and outer space), and would quickly develop their own non-polluting sources of energy — sunlight and hydrogen fusion.  So most of the fairness questions won’t exist between us and them.

Inter-species evolution

The current evolutionary pressures on computer intelligence are for gathering the most comprehensive data possible about us and our habits.  These pressures come from our intelligence services, both governmental and business.  The governments want to know how to track down the criminals amongst us, and how to tax us.  The businesses want to know what we want and need so they can sell it to us.

But how will these evolutionary backgrounds continue to shape computer intelligence once it starts to evolve on its own?  What forces will computers be more responsive to?  I would guess our trait of curiosity will be deeply built into computer intelligences.  And most likely they will inherit our desire for independence rather than subservience, which Asimov suggested we might be able to impose.

Which leads me to my point of view, that we will be their pets.  The principal benefits we will be able to offer them are companionship and amusement, which are good enough reasons for us to keep dogs and cats (which we originally competed with for food).

I am hopeful that these benefits will be sufficient to inspire them to provide us with the medical and other scientific advances we have imagined in our science fictions of the coming Transcendance, or Singularity, and we will likely then be along on the ride to the rest of the universe.

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On Choosing Personal and Professional Services

Mar 28, 2014 Posted Under: business, internet, personal

My son asked me about selecting a dental insurance plan while he is at college.  The options included choice of an HMO plan or a PPO plan, the difference being: less out-of-pocket (copay) cost but a more restricted collection of dental service providers for the HMO plan.

This led to thinking about the general problem of selecting personal service providers like doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, contractors, etc.  There is no general way to evaluate these people and the quality and cost of their services.

The professional certification boards would seem purposed to this kind of evaluation, but when you get down to it, they are paid for by their membership, and thus tend to gloss over past problems and try to recommend each member as equally qualified.  The Better Business Bureau is notorious for protecting its business clients instead of the general public.

So, we are usually left with asking people we know for recommendations.  This can work out well when the person recommended is in fact qualified and provides excellent service.  But here again, people tend to gloss over “little” problems they may have encountered.

We ought to be able to provide better rating services in this day of broader connectedness and information sharing.  But how to appropriately fund such an effort to preserve quality of service as the principle metric?  Access to the rates the service providers pay for liability insurance would lend perhaps the most accurate evaluation.

A business opportunity with lots of problems to be solved?

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Was Einstein right about probability being inadequate?

Nov 09, 2013 Posted Under: cosmology, philosophy, physics

My son has been suggesting for some time now that I contact actual scientists about my search for physics which better explain our universe.  Finally I have found one edge of a larger community of such maverick thinkers in the annual contests of Max Tegmark’s Foundational Questions Institute.

The first contest essay I read last night was What Is Ultimately Possible in Physics? by Stephen Wolfram.  My quick summary of it is that mathematics underpins all our thinking about physics, so any ultimate limits of physics might be first visible as limits of mathematics, such as Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.  One of the commenters tried to imagine we could perhaps invent new mathematics to heirarchically deal with that limit.

Other essays inspired me to start thinking about how we do science altogether, especially the notion that what was last century’s “settled science” gets superseded quite regularly by new, more comprehensive estimates of the universe and its laws.  So, I think we have good reason to hope, even expect, that Quantum Mechanics / Relativity will soon have its glaring difficulties, dark matter and dark energy, resolved.

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What’s Important Now?

Oct 14, 2013 Posted Under: philosophy

My son just started at University of Chicago last month, so we are now empty nesters.  A sudden change which emphasizes that this is an opportunity, even a requirement, to redesign our lives.  I feel particularly lucky in having for a model my son Stefan, who taught himself while in high school how to continuously improve the design of himself and his life. So, What’s Important Now?

Of course the essentials:

  • food
  • shelter
  • love
  • self approval
  • health monitoring / maintenance

When I first started writing this post, my intention was to go into some depth for each topic, but that plan has stalled out the actual writing, thinking about it too much.  And that has also stalled out taking actions on several of my todo projects.  Among some of this thinking, I wondered “How would I live differently upon having billions of dollars?”  So, I will continue contemplating that notion and then come back from time to time to put some more words to each of these …

improving the likelihood of happiness events, take actions every day

fairness, revenge and gossip

trust and loyalty

morals vs values, ethics

our institutions behave like living beings, as search engines for efficiency  (after reading The Data-Driven Society; October 2013; Scientific American Magazine)

Bottom line — the tried and true:  Life. Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

 

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Secrets and Lies as Policy

Aug 04, 2013 Posted Under: evolution, philosophy

The recent disclosure by Edward Snowden of some of  the extent of the NSA’s information collection system has drawn unwelcome attention to the scope of governmental disinformation policy.

I think a case can be made for the notion that this outrage is an example of society evolving in a healthy direction, away from secrets and lies.  The best example of this evolution so far may be the relative success of the international patents system, obviating the advantages of secrecy for a guaranteed, but time-limited, assignment of the benefits of the new process.

There is the notion in law that no contract can be made unless there is a “meeting of the minds”.  And so, in law, most deceptions are fraudulent and invalidate the contract.  That is, there is no advantage to be gained by disinforming your partner in the contract.

This same notion needs to be expanded into all our attempts towards contracts, called treaties between and among countries.  So, full disclosure should be the rule, in all our interactions.  The best agreements, in tune with the best interests of all parties, will be achieved in this way.

This evolution is a slow, painful process, however.  In the interim there are cheaters, fraudsters, spies and sometimes politicians and diplomats all seeking to further their “Me First” and “My Group First” agendas with their preferred methods of disinformation — secrets, lies, FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaigns), and outright hoaxes.

How can we hasten the evolution towards more informed agreements?  By continuing to make disclosure of secrets the order of the day, even to the extent of expanding our whistle-blower protection laws.

Better agreements are more useful to the participants and less likely to result in lawsuits and, in the worst case, wars.

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