2018 O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference NYC   Leave a comment

I went to the O’Reilly AI conference this week.

I particularly went to sessions about finance. A very big problem with using machine learning for finance (and with machine learning in a lot of applications) is that, with the state of the art of machine learning, the reasoning isn’t very transparent. The point was made that transparency wasn’t just a problem for finance, it was a problem generally, for people trying to debug machine learning systems, too.

This is a big deal with using machine learning to evaluate applicants for loans. This process is heavily regulated, and when you deny a loan to someone, you are required by law to explain exactly why, to prove that you weren’t discriminating illegally. And if the reasoning is based on a neural net with thousands of interacting floating point values, that’s not human-readable.

One presentation was a guy who would try to coax an explanation out of the neural net by perturbing the inputs and seeing how that changes the result. He was reporting progress, but it still seemed to be on the drawing board and a long way from convincing the regulators it was ready for prime time.

Some applications, like fraud detection on credit card transactions, are lightly regulated, so neural nets can be applied. If you call someone on their cellphone to ask them if they really made a certain credit card charge, you don’t have to explain your reasoning or prove that illegal discrimination wasn’t a factor, so it’s really the wild west.

It turns out that when credit card transactions are flagged for fraud, only about 1% of them turn out to be really fraudulent, so they’re trying hard to reduce false positives. They found that by applying machine learning, they could reduce the number of false positives by a factor of two.

It turns out that machine learning can make huge mistakes. One case is “adversarial attacks”. They showed us two pictures, one of a school bus and one of a dog. Both were correctly identified by the machine learning, as a “school bus” and a “dog”. Then they modified a lot of the pixels very slightly, in a way known to confuse the machine learning, and showed us the pictures again, next to the original pictures. The change, even with the pictures side-by-side, was not noticeable to the human eye, but now machine learning identified both as an “ostrich”.

In a less malicious but more serious case, they showed us a machine learning that had been taught to distinguish stop signs from speed limit signs, and placing a yellow post-it pad on the stop sign (and not blocking any of the letters), confused the machine learning so that now it identified the stop sign as a speed limit sign.

Another application was for agriculture. The main way we apply herbicide is that we genetically engineer crops that can tolerate herbicide, and then douse the whole field with it. This one company was working on a rig that would be towed behind a tractor, and would optically be able to distinguish between crops and weeds, and squirt the herbice on only the weeds. They were working on being able to distinguish between different sorts of weeds, because some weeds, like “pigweed”, are resistant to most herbicides and would need application of special, more potent, herbicides that you really wouldn’t want to be applying indiscriminately.

One lecture was about a Stanford project to use machine learning to replace some datastructures, and he was claiming that a neural net could outperform a binary tree in some cases (since a binary tree would depend on performing log n ‘if’s that can’t be performed simultaneously, while the machine learning can be based on many simultaneous multiplies). It wasn’t just binary trees, that was just the main example he talked about, he felt that many of the data structures we are familiar with could be addressed, but in a lot of cases you would want to mix the machine learning with familiar, traditional datastructures.

Google had an interesting project. Machine learning experts are in very short supply, and there are different strategies for machine learning that have been published. Google has a project where they will trying several different machine learning strategies at once, see which ones are working best, and try those again, and iterate in a loop. The strategy consumes absolutely huge amounts of compute resources, but you get results comparable to if you had inaccessible machine learning experts.

One German was talking about the GDPR. His whole view was very European, and it was about these rules the European Union has adopted related to privacy and the responsibility of programmers and companies to uphold liberal democratic values. He talked about the 2016 US election as if no one would have voted for Trump except that Cambridge Analytica performed some sort of mass hypnosys on half the US population (I voted against Trump, but I have relatives who voted for him, I understand why they did, and Cambridge Analytica had NOTHING to do with it). I asked if implementing the GDPR would be constitutional in the US because a “right to be forgotten” would conflict with freedom of speech. He said Europe has freedom of speech (which I find preposterous) and gave arguments that the right to be forgotten was a good thing (which is plausible) without explaining how forcing websites to remove accurate statements did not in fact conflict with free speech. I didn’t argue with him any more because it would have been hogging the floor.

The most exciting presentation was by http://ctrl-labs.com, a company working on an enhanced brain-machine interface. Reading electrical signals directly from the brain is very difficult. Even if you put electrodes on the scalp, the signals in the brain are still the thickness of the skull away, and very weak, and the nerves on the scalp are much stronger and closer, so the noise to signal is just horrendous. To really get anywhere, you have to drill through the skull, which is not a terribly popular idea.

This company just has a bracelet that you wear on your wrist that detects signals in the nerves leading to your hand, and can read what you’re doing with your hand. The signals from the bracelet go to a neural net to figure out which nerve is which, and they can then figure out with a very high degree of accuracy what you’re telling your hand to do. They had a demo where the founder was wearing the bracelet, and there was a monitor with a picture of a hand in it, and as he moved his hand around, the hand cartoon in the monitor mimicked his actions. Then a friend grabbed his hand and held it in in fist, and the monitor continued to display what he was telling his hand to do, even though his hand was forced to be in a fist.

Then they had a very cool demo of an iPhone playing the video game “Asteroids”, which only had a few degrees of freedom, and someone had learned to play the game by moving one hand, but with training, they were able to send subtle signals well enough to play the game, while in fact their hand was completely motionless.

I asked how much CPU power was involved — if in fact there were 1000 GPU-assisted CPU’s in the cloud facilitating these demos. They said No. I asked if there was enough CPU power in a smartphone to do the demo. One guy said Yes, the other guy said there was enough CPU power in the average digital watch to do the demo. He said there were only 16 values read by the bracelet, it wasn’t that much data.

They claimed they could read the equivalent of a six-fingered hand, and a user could learn to manipulate a robot arm with more degrees of freedom than a human arm with this bracelet.

Another application was amputees. If you lose a hand in an accident, they’re pretty good at transplanting hands, but a problem is that since the nerves that control the hand are unused while you’re waiting for a hand to transplant, the nerves atrophy, making it difficult to learn to use the new hand once you have it. If you wear the bracelet and do things with it while you’re waiting for the new hand, the nerves won’t atrophy so much.

They’re going to start shipping bracelets in 2018, you can register on the website I gave above to be put on their waitlist.

 

Posted May 3, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

Sam Harris & Charles Murray vs Vox   Leave a comment

In about 1993, two Harvard-educated intellectuals, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, published The Bell Curve, which described, among other things, racial differences in IQ and the social policy implications.

Less than 10% of the book is about race. I haven’t read the rest, as I understand it, they have a lot of Libertarian social policy prescriptions that liberals naturally hate.

The liberals threw a hysterical shit storm over the book and vilified the authors as “white supremacists”, which was strange, given that the book reported that Asians have, on average, a higher IQ than whites, not something one would normally expect from a “white supremacist”.

Herrnstein passed away, and Murray became a pariah to the left. He works for some right-wing think tank. In about 2011 he wrote a book “Coming Apart”, which I read and is quite good. In that book he bends over backward to avoid discussing race — he makes no mention of anyone other than white people, and the focus of the book was on the growing cultural divide between lower-class and upper-class whites. It is a very useful book to read if you are an upper-class intellectual having difficulty fathoming the mindset of the Trump voter.

Sam Harris is one of the 4 most famous Atheists in the world, he was dubbed one of the “4 Horsemen” of the New Atheists. As an atheist, his job is to criticize religion, and he feels that Islam is one of the most dysfunctional and destructive religions around. 10 years ago, he belonged firmly to the political left, but since then, the left has decided that no one should criticize Islam for any reason, and he’s gotten a lot of flak.

When the Bell Curve came out and the liberal shit storm happened, Harris thought “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That must be a terrible, maliciously racist book.”. But when he came under criticism from the left, he started seeing parallels between the left’s treatment of Murray and their treatment of himself. He read The Bell Curve for himself, and invited the author, Charles Murray, onto his pod cast and introduced him as “The most misunderstood and unfairly treated intellectual of our time.”.

Vox published an article critical of Harris’s interview. The authors of the article were Eric Turkheimer and Richard E. Nisbett, who are both authorities on the subject of intelligence and particularly the relative influence of genes and environment. They are both very extreme on the environment side, while Murray is very extreme on the genes side.

I have read Nisbett’s book “Intelligence and How to Get It”. I thought it was disingenuous in that it mentioned many ways that environment can influence IQ, but never, ever, brought up a very important point — studies have found that when a child born to dumb parents is adopted and raised by smarter parents (something that happens a lot), when the kid is about 12 years old, the high IQ of the parents rubs off on the kid in a pretty significant way, but as the kid approaches adulthood, their IQ converges on the IQ of the biological parents. So it’s important to distinguish between short-term and long-term effects, which the whole book never even touches on.

I have also read some of Turkheimer’s published papers (he has them all on the web). Prior to him, adoption studies were generally finding that there was very little difference in IQ between kids adopted into homes of different incomes. The problem with this research is that there are very few really bad adoptive homes. Adoptive homes are rarely poverty stricken — they range from solid lower middle-class to upper class, and many researchers found that the difference between the two makes little difference to the kid. Turkheimer’s work establishes that a god awful home can really negatively effect the kid’s IQ. But his papers were dishonest in that they showed a lot of graphs that weren’t plots of experimental data, but rather artist’s depictions showing IQ raising steadily as income raised across the spectrum from poor to rich, which conflicts with everybody’s else’s research on the subject and which Turkheimer’s research did not establish.

Murray, on the other hand, is extremely on the “genes rule the day, environment has little impact” end of things.

So after these two wrote the article critical of Harris’s pod cast, labeling The Bell Curve as “Junk Science” and “pseudo science”. Harris felt that this was extremely unfair, and had an email exchange with Ezra Klein, the editor of Vox about it.

Calling something “Junk Science” and “pseudo science” is very extreme, and I think Harris had a good point. The racial differences described by “The Bell Curve” are facts. While Murray’s position that these differences are genetic in nature is on the extreme side, he is not far from the consensus of psychologists in the field of intelligence testing in this regard. Few rule the possibility out.

So Harris and Klein had an argument over email, and eventually Harris got so annoyed that he put the whole email conversation on the web, which I and a lot of other people felt was not good form.

So now, a year after the Harris/Murray podcast, Harris had Klein on his podcast, which was over 2 hours.

Harris felt that race and IQ was something that people should be able to talk about and have honest disagreements without either side getting vilified. He felt that the search for truth was paramount.

Klein felt that a perception that blacks had lower IQ’s and that the cause of this was genetic is so harmful, and has enormous potential to justify injustice, that it was a pernicious belief and that was the dominant concern. He also felt it was objectionable for privileged whites to be passing judgment on the lack of talent of vulnerable people. And he felt that a scientific discussion of race and IQ should include a lot of discussion of the history of racial injustice.

Harris replied that the history of injustice and the potentially harmful social policies that a perception of genetic racial differences in IQ are irrelevant. To him, the discussion was about science, and he felt that people should be allowed to focus on getting to the truth of the matter.

The claim that discussion of race & IQ should spend a lot of time on history reminds me of when I read Steven Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, which claims to debunk the assertion that IQ varies with race.  Gould spent half the book quoting 19th century white male non-scientists saying racist things, which I felt was totally irrelevant, and I was frustrated that Gould got through the whole book without giving any biological reason why populations that had been isolated long enough to develop obvious genetic cosmetic differences could not also have evolved genetic cognitive differences.

Harris also said that it was counter-intellectual to say that the race of the speaker had any bearing on the truth of a statement.

Klein made several arguments to the effect that The Bell Curve was wrong, but he never denied that truth was not his top priority.

One point Harris made was that the article said that The Bell Curve said blacks were “inferior“, and he objected to that use of the word. Harris pointed out that there was almost no doubt that he personally had a lower IQ than John Von Neuman, one of the brightest minds of the twentieth century. He asked Klein if it was therefore fair to say that Harris was “inferior” to John Von Neuman. Klein really didn’t answer that question.

A couple of times, Harris made the point that he had spoken to well-known, well-respected intelligence researchers who told him, off the record, that they agreed with Murray, but they weren’t willing to say so publicly because they didn’t want to be treated the way Murray had. Klein didn’t have a response to that, and I think that he probably felt that this level of intimidation was a good thing.

Harris made an excellent case that the Vox article was intellectually dishonest, and Klein was pretty clearly of the opinion that the potentially pernicious policy implications of the truth was of more importance than intellectual honesty as an ideal.

There were some points that neither of them mentioned:

    • The dogma that there are no cognitive or behavioral differences between ethnic groups could itself be pernicious, particularly if it is inaccurate. Social policies based on science that is wrong are not going to work very well.
    • Even if there are no genetic differences in IQ between ethnic groups (which I feel is a possibility, but not a strong one), everyone agrees that significant differences currently exist.  And if the cause of the differences is not genetic, we really aren’t sure what it is.  If we can honestly discuss race and IQ, we might be able to identify the cause and fix it.  If we can’t have that discussion, we’ll never identify the cause, and the tactics we employ to fix inequality of outcomes will be the wrong ones and those differences will persist.
    • Even if the causes of the observed differences in IQ are entirely environmental, these differences should have a profound impact on how we should interpret observed differences in outcomes.  Liberals have a habit of citing unequal outcomes as proof of discrimination, but it is well established that differences in talent do exist, regardless of their causes.  Given that differences in talent do exist, perhaps egalitarian efforts would be better invested in eradicating the causes of the talent gap, rather than constantly vilifying whites for discrimination that is not really the driver of differences in outcomes.  This is extremely relevant to charges of discrimination made against STEM fields, which are very meritocratic and where a high IQ is a key ingredient of success.
    • Do the liberals really believe that they can conceal the intelligence gap from everybody? A lot of American students are in integrated schools, and they can tell who is contributing intelligently to class discussion, and they see who is in honors classes and who is in the remedial classes, and they can see whether observed group differences are because of any great injustices being imposed by the school faculty. Isn’t the liberal policy of telling everybody that they are terrible people if they believe their own eyes and ears going to backfire at some point? Isn’t the current state of American politics, where much of the public has become anti-intellectual and revolted against the intellectual leadership of the highly educated, due to the fact that liberals have been indulging in obvious lies?
    • Liberals have been saying, very loudly, that discrimination and historical injustices perpetrated by the whites are responsible for all the suffering of blacks. This is not only an excuse for the poor performance of blacks, it’s also an accusation against the whites. And isn’t the right of the accused to speak in self defense and offer alternative explanations, even in the form of insults, a fundamental human right?

Posted March 29, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

New TV Show ‘American Sloth’   Leave a comment

There’s a popular TV show out, “American Greed”, usually about people who commit crimes to make a lot of money, and all the harm they do.

I propose a new show “American Sloth”, about the millions of lazy Americans who are dragging society down.  Featuring:

  • The teenager who has to repeat 10th grade because she’s on Facebook on her phone for 60 hours a week and completely neglects the rest of her life.
  • The 35 year old man who lives in the attic over his mother’s garage.  He can’t afford to move out, because he’s working part time at a crummy minimum-wage job.  He never gets around to looking for  a better job because he’s watching ESPN for 10 hours a day.
  • The 55 year old man who told his doctor he has “back pain”.  The doctor can’t prove whether he does or doesn’t, but it’s enough to qualify for social security disability insurance and food stamps.  It pays much less than honest work, but it’s enough to survive on and buy weed.  And internet porn is free.
  • The mom who lives with the father of her child and deliberately doesn’t marry him so that she’s technically a “single mom” and, as such, qualifies for welfare.  She works a little, but makes sure she keeps her working hours low enough that it doesn’t jeopardize her benefits.
  • The 27 year old man who’s living in his parent’s basement where he’s been since graduating from college in the liberal arts 5 years ago.  He feels he’s qualified to be a philosopher king, but unfortunately for him, there are very few job openings for philosopher kings in constitutional democracies.  And to tell the truth, with the grades he got, especially in economics, he would suck at it.  He’s achieved the highest rating at World of Warcraft.
  • The wife of a middle class working husband who means to get around to looking for a job someday, once she’s figured out what she wants to do and has caught up on binge-watching all the awesome TV shows on HBO, Netflix, and Showtime.

Posted March 20, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Internet is not the Problem   Leave a comment

There is a narrative, particularly among Democrats, that much of American society has been driven insane by the Internet and social media, and particularly, base instincts have been unleashed by the Trump campaign. I think this narrative misses out on how the rise of the alt-right and Trump’s victory represents a backlash against injustices that were previously being perpetrated in the marketplace of ideas.

Prior to the 2016 election, there was a consensus within the more liberal media about what could be said and what could not. This had been worked out over a long time. An ethic had emerged where violating the rules laid down was a sign of low origins and lack of education. So most educated people adhered to these rules, in order to avoid compromising their social standing.

The consensus was designed by leaders in the mainstream media, otherwise known as journalists, who lean left, and academics, who lean strongly left. As a result, the bounds of acceptable discourse favored the left.

Since the early 1990’s, to an ever-increasing extent, the far left has embraced identity politics, a world view where the central core of a person’s being is defined by their group membership by birth, their actual deeds and accomplishments coming second to that. Groups were on a spectrum ranging from “victim” to “privileged”.

“Victim” groups were generally above criticism. This suited the left, because the left wants to see poverty and indeed any indignity to be the consequence of luck, rather than being caused by anything under the control of the individual. So dysfunctional behavior of “victims” could not be discussed. Furthermore, not even dysfunctional behavior of the “privileged” could be discussed, because the speaker would then be accused of “coded racism” or “dog whistle politics”, and really talking about “victims” while only claiming to be talking about the “privileged”.

While “victim” groups were thus above criticism, “privileged” groups were beneath self-defense. Any attempt by a member of a “privileged” group to defend their identity against slander was deemed “white supremacy” or “sexism”, terrible sins. This made it open season for all the “victim” groups to blame all their problems on discrimination by the “privileged”, without any fear of cross-examination.

In the meantime, dysfunction was rampant. The social revolution of the 1960’s/1970’s tore down a lot of social structures that had had positive effects on society. The sexual revolution resulted in widespread incurable STD’s and a rash of out-of-wedlock births. Widespread marijuana use resulted in many people lacking ambition and performing far below their potential, if not leaving the workforce altogether. A lot of lower class people looked to movie actors and rock stars for leadership, those groups often making an art form out of setting the worst possible example.

Thus public debate within the bounds of acceptable discourse, including all debate in the mainstream media and in the academy, strayed further and further from reality, and became more and more abusive to those deemed “privileged”. People were hearing things from the mainstream media and from the academic elites that insulted their intelligence, not to mention that insulted them personally if they were among the “privileged”. Eventually the mainstream media and the universities lost credibility with American whites from the lower classes, who gravitated to the newer right-wing media on cable TV and the Internet.

The biggest miscalculation the left made was that they thought they had the “privileged” outnumbered, so that the “privileged” could be safely outvoted in elections. But it turned out that more white women identified more strongly with “white”, and therefore “privileged”, than as “women”, and therefore “victim”. As one female white Trump voter told me “I don’t think I’ve suffered for being female. I think I’ve gained more than lost from being a woman. And there were other things at stake in 2016.”. So the left had deliberately abused the crap out of the biggest voting block in the country. Not a smart campaign strategy.

The American right is in a mess. The right-wing media they have created are generally very new, and have yet to mature and develop high journalistic standards. The right is following Trump, but he lies so frequently that he’s hard to keep up with. Many right-wing intellectuals went on record as being vehemently opposed to Trump during the primaries and therefore can’t work in his administration.

The left is in worse shape. Prone to interpret anything that violates their cherished and skewed bounds of acceptable discourse as “bigotry”, they seem to feel that the solution to the problem is to somehow re-enforce those bounds, by physical violence in the streets if need be. Most of them have not even accepted that they rightfully lost the election in 2016 or that a very large fraction of the population has legitimate grounds to disagree with them. They jealously guard their space, vigorously censoring debate everywhere within their reach, keeping out the new ideas that they so desperately need if they are to regain touch with reality.

Posted February 19, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

Can we Restore the Pre-Trump Boundaries of Discourse?   Leave a comment

The consensus on the left is that Trump got himself elected by appealing to the basest instincts of white people. He totally violated what had previously been the boundaries of acceptable discourse, and the left argues that the fact that he was elected by majorities of every white sub-demographic shows that American whites are much more bigoted than had been previously believed.

The solution to this, according to the left, is to somehow re-establish the pre-Trump boundaries of acceptable discourse, to put a lid on all of that seething racism. Some on the very far left feel that the solution is to “punch Nazis”, that is, re-establish and enforce the pre-Trump boundaries by rioting any time someone violates them. One problem with “punching Nazis” is that the people who want to do it are so far left that they can’t tell a ‘Nazi’ from the average Romney voter.

The NRA is ready for leftist rioting:

If the left wants violence in the streets, the right is ready for them. The right has more guns, and they know how to use them. “Punching Nazis” is a fast track to fascist Christian theocracy.

A lot of attention was given to a video that went viral a couple of months ago of 100 men marching with tiki torches and chanting Nazi slogans.  This, the left said, was proof the time for free speech was over, and we need to somehow clamp down on all this “rampant white bigotry”.  Bear in mind that 100 men is one out of every 3.3 million Americans.  A phenomenon of the internet is that pretty much any kind of nut cases can find each other, organize, form societies, and demonstrate, as evidenced by the fact that the flat earth society is alive and well when everyone has been seeing photos of the earth from space for 50 years.  Naziism is an utterly discredited philosophy that should not be taken seriously.

What the left completely fails to understand is how unreasonable the pre-Trump boundaries of acceptable discourse were.  The way it was run, the far left had monopoly power to designate any group it desired to be “victim” or “privileged”.  All groups were placed on a spectrum ranging from “victim” to “privileged”, and your place on that spectrum determined your speech rights.  In any conversation about identity politics (and the left dragged identity politics into every imaginable topic), the “victim” was entitled to say anything they wanted, however insulting to the “privileged”, and the “privileged” was allowed to say nothing other than how sorry they were.

“Victim” groups were all to be seen as innocent little angels, no matter  what they did, and none of their problems were to be seen as there own fault — as a matter of fact, all of their problems were to be blamed on the “privileged”.

While all “victim” groups were encouraged to wallow in ethnic pride, the “privileged” were strictly forbidden to like their own ethnicity in any way.  Any attempt by the “privileged” to refute the wanton slander their ethnicity was receiving from the “victims” was interpreted as “white supremacy” and a severe crime.

And our immigration policy was disastrous for low-skilled citizens.  The intellectual elite told them “Unskilled immigrants take only jobs like picking fruit that you don’t want, and anyone who says or thinks otherwise is a stupid ‘bigot'”.  And poorly educated citizens looked around them and saw jobs in construction, landscaping, cooking, waiting tables, and delivering food, jobs those citizens wanted, being filled by Hispanics who were obviously foreign born.  “Don’t believe your lying eyes” the intellectual elite were telling them “and if you do believe your lying eyes, you’re a terrible person“.

Webster’s defines “stereotype” as basically a false rule of thumb about human beings based upon group identity.  So it is impossible for a “stereotype” to be true.  Let’s redefine “stereotype”, for a minute, as something that might or might not be true. Research shows that, for the most part, stereotypes don’t persist unless there is some truth to them. The validity of most stereotypes is in fact upheld by census data, crime statistics, and the like.  But the intellectual elite, through great effort, managed to make themselves vehemently believe that stereotypes were all false, leading to a really, really distorted view of reality.

It got to the point where really intelligent, highly educated people were saying incredibly stupid things whenever they talked about identity politics.  And they linked identity politics to everything, so they were constantly saying incredibly stupid things, about everything.

The intellectual elite thus basically forfeited credibility with about half the US population.  Because of the internet, that half of the US population were able to form a myriad variety of their own news sources, most of them pretty unreliable, but not crazy the same obvious way that those outlets controlled by the intellectual elite were (those outlets being the traditional mainstream non-Fox news media, the entertainment industry, and most of the teaching profession).

Because the left controls so much of the flow of information, everyone, to the left or right, has heard the left’s take on identity politics, over and over and over again.  Everyone understands it.  But half the population rejects it.  The left interprets this, as it interprets all criticism of its view of identity politics, as “bigotry”, which just reinforces the vehemence with which they cling to their paranoid fantasy view of reality.

The pre-Trump boundaries of acceptable discourse were not working for about 100 million voters.  It will be completely politically infeasible, not to mention unconstitutional, to re-impose them.

For the left to regain their credibility, they have to do a combination of two things:

  • Not be so obsessed about identity politics.
  • Allow a 2-sided debate about identity politics, questioning cherished dogmas, and with speech rights based upon two assumptions: firstly, no one should be above criticism, and secondly (and especially) no one should be  beneath self-defense.  That means a sentence that begins with “Excuse me, I’d like to say a few words in defense of the white race …” should be allowed to be completed.

The left is currently in such a state of hysteria about a supposed “wave of hate” sweeping the country, that they are extremely unlikely to consider either of these recommendations.

I am very concerned about global warming.  I think the intellectual elite is right about global warming, but they lack the credibility needed to get the whole population signed up for the needed sacrifices.

The right is in a mess.  Their consensus hasn’t matured, they haven’t really figured out who among them are the smart and reliable people to listen to.  There are some pretty intelligent right-wing news sources, like National Review magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and some right-wing think tanks, but most of the right isn’t tuned in to those sources.

Trump was elected on the basis of a very large set of promises that he has no hope of delivering.  He might not even get the border wall, his number one promise, completed.  He takes dishonesty to a level that is unprecedented in the oval office in living memory.  He is intellectually and temperamentally unfit for the office, and especially unfit to be in charge of nukes.  If we make it to January 2021 without any major cities on the globe being nuked, I’ll be relieved.

Posted December 3, 2017 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

Should All Beliefs be the Basis of Protected Classes?   Leave a comment

In 2016, a tow truck driver in South Carolina refused to do business with a stranded customer who had waited an hour for him to show up. Why? Because there was a Bernie Sanders sticker on her car, causing him to believe that she was a “socialist”. He also said he had experience with Bernie fans stiffing him on their bills, and he just didn’t want to do business with any more of them.

“Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and he just said get in the truck and leave,” he said, “and when I got in my truck, you know, I was so proud, because I felt like I finally drew a line in the sand and stood up for what I believed.”


The day after Trump was elected, Matt Maloney, CEO of Grubhub / Seamless, sent an angry, ranting email to his employees:

“While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that his behavior – and these views, have no place at Grubhub. Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination.” he said. “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team.”.

This was met by an instant Twitter campaign / boycott of Grubhub / Seamless, and Maloney backtracked and claimed his statement had been “misconstrued”. Yeah, right.

We have the secret ballot in this country, and it’s important we maintain that. So Maloney had no way of knowing how his employees voted so long as they had the good sense to keep their mouths shut. But your party registration is a matter of public record — it would be very easy for Maloney to determine which of his employees were registered Republicans and start firing them.


In 2008, Brendan Eich, the inventor of Javascript and the founder of Mozilla, donated $1000 (which would have been a very small amount of money to him) to the campaign of California proposition 8, an anti-gay marriage initiative. At that time, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton agreed with his position.

In 2014, Eich became CEO of Mozilla, and news of the donation surfaced. A massive boycott of Mozilla ensued, forcing Eich to resign.

One wonders, suppose Eich had defended himself by announcing that he had converted to Islam in 2006, and his opposition to gay marriage was based on the Islamic religious doctrine that gay sex among men prior to the afterlife was a sin punishable by death? Then the pressure to force him to lose his job would have been religious persecution, wouldn’t it?

Let’s modify that, and suppose that Eich were a Fundamentalist Christian, and that he announced that his opposition to gay marriage was based on Christian scripture. Would this still put him in a protected class? With most liberals nowadays, Muslims are a protected class, but Evangelicals aren’t somehow.

Let’s modify that again, and suppose that Eich had just said he didn’t like gays marrying because of some non-religious, but very sophisticated, scientific theory of his. Legally, that wouldn’t put him in a protected class at all. So it seems your beliefs are only protected if your reasons for harboring them are stupid enough.

The lesson of the Mozilla boycott is “if you want to get ahead, you best say nothing about any controversial political issue, which could affect your career, whether now or years from now in a changed political environment.”.


This article lists 10 Right Wing Companies That Every Progressive Should Boycott. Liberals are very fond lately of boycotting companies they disagree with. Isn’t trying to drive a company bankrupt by refusing to do business with it the same as firing someone because you disagree with their opinions?


We can’t make any opinion the source of being in a protected class. If you express stupid opinions on a job interview, you won’t be hired, and rightly so. Similarly, saying stupid things on the job can cost you your livelihood, as it should be. But it gets gray. Biologists have been fired for expressing Creationist views, because their managers honestly believed that they were either stupid or intellectually dishonest, but then they sue for religious discrimination and sometimes win. Similarly, I would never hire a Marxist to teach economics, in light of the fact that countries run by them usually have extremely poorly performing economies and Marxist doctrine shows ignorance of even the most fundamental economic realities. To be considered a member of a protected class, a Marxist who had been fired as such would have to make the case that communism is a religious belief system, actually a pretty defensible claim, but not one they would enjoy making.

We seem to live in a world where you’re either in a protected class, in which case your protection from discrimination is formidable, or you’re not, in which case you have no protection from discrimination at all. Wouldn’t it be better for us to have an ethic that we should tolerate our differences of opinion and not make economic decisions based upon people’s beliefs unless those beliefs are relevant to the task at hand?

Posted May 13, 2017 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

How Can Identity Politics Be Safely De-Emphasized?   2 comments

The Democrats received a real drubbing this last election.  They lost the presidency, the House, the Senate, a majority of governorships and a majority of state legislatures.  29% of Hispanics voted for Trump, as did a strong majority of white women.

One idea that has been floated a lot is that liberals should tone down the identity politics.  This has met with fierce objections that this would be tantamount to complete surrender to “white supremacy” and homophobia.  In this article I will address how we can tone down the excesses of the social justice movement with the least compromise to the interests of minorities and unpopular groups.

Central to this essay is the “social justice” world view.  It is a world view in which individuals don’t have rights except through membership in groups, and groups have rights in proportion to which they are classified as having been somehow “victimized” in some way.  The opposite of a group being in a “victim” class is a group being in a “privileged” class.  Not only does being in a “privileged” group bring no rights with it at all, “privileged” groups are to be downright vilified and blamed for all of everyone else’s problems.


Identity Politics Provoke, Rather Than Prevent, Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are a law enforcement problem.  The perpetrators are idiots and criminals who are immensely unpopular, and the laws on the books carry extremely severe penalties.  We have police to deal with these acts if they extend beyond expressing opinions.  It is extremely unlikely that anyone will move to strike down hate crime laws and if anybody tries we just have to vigorously resist that.  This essay is assuming that hate crimes are not going to amount to more than a few anecdotal violent incidents, a few philistines shouting slurs, and a few naughty kids spray painting swastikas here and there, and not enough of any of these things to affect the average person’s daily life, although on the rare occasions when such things do occur they will get a huge amount of press attention by liberals eager to cast the election of Donald Trump as the end of the world.

An important thing to remember is that when some juvenile idiot spray paints an anonymous swastika somewhere, the motivation is probably a desire to push back against the excesses of identity politics.

Prioritize Which Rights Protected Classes Need Most to Keep

We should try to maintain, and continue to advance, protections against job discrimination.  That is one of the most important things that a minority or group needs in order to get by.

As I understand it, gays and transsexuals may still lose their jobs in many states.  During the election, Trump said he was pro-LGTB rights.  Whether he will consider that binding is anybody’s guess, but the chances are fairly good that if federal congress tries to undermine LGTB rights, he will veto it.

Free Speech: No One Should Be Above Criticism, No One Should Be Beneath Defense

An important part of how a democracy conducts itself is that there must be open public debate. Statements should be evaluated strictly according to two criteria — whether they are true, and whether they are relevant and constructive.

Identity politics conflicts with this. To a social justice warrior, far more central is whether a statement is “punching up” or “punching down”. Any statement criticizing a “victim” party that is made by a relatively “privileged” party is “punching down” and therefore automatically wrong, regardless of whether it is true, relevant, and constructive. The opposite, “punching up” is always to be commended, and any attempt by a member of a “privileged” group to defend themselves against such atacks, however unfounded they were, is promoting “white supremacy”, or “sexism”, and therefore automatically wrong.

Thus, according to the SJW’s, to be in a “victim” class is to be above criticism, and to be in a “privileged” class is to be beneath self-defense.

The “privileged” are not completely lacking in virtue, and the “victims” are not completely without fault. It is in the public interest for debate to be able to reflect reality, so these restrictions on speech are intolerable.

Rights Should be Based on Individuals, Not Groups

In Martin Luther King’s famous speech, he said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.“.

The current SJW movement has been pushing us in exactly the opposite direction — we have been arriving in a world where the central core of everyone’s identity is their group membership, with what they’ve actually achieved in their lives being a distant, secondary consideration.

Promoting the SJW world view that rights, especially the right to free speech, were not inalienable rights of all individuals, but rather, belonged to groups, and only certain groups, where specifically the group representing the largest voting block in the country had no rights at all, was not a politically stable situation.  It was inevitable that eventually someone would run against this world view and win.

Burden of Proof, Part I: “He’s a Bigot”

One tactic that the SJW’s have pursued is making the accusation of “bigotry” very frequently, usually on the basis of unbelievably flimsy evidence.  Once any “privileged” person has been accused of “bigotry”, the only way to make a denial that is taken seriously at all is to have extensive credentials as having been a SJW themselves.

These accusations flew so far and wide, with so little justification, that basically every white Republican in the country, if not every non-SJW, had been tarred with the brush, especially when Hillary was quoted as dismissing most Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”.  When you call someone a “bigot” and they don’t think it’s true, they’re not going to listen to you when you make the charge against others.  The SJW’s had been calling “wolf” so often, and for so long, that they had completely lost credibility with a very, very large share of the voters.

Burden of Proof, Part II: “Dog Whistles” and “Coded Racism”

If someone expresses alarm about too many people abusing the social safety net, they are not necessarily talking about blacks.  There are more whites on welfare than blacks.  But any discussion of abuse of the social safety gets met with immediate accusations of “dog whistle politics” or “coded racism” from the SJW’s, so that the issue, and many others like it, cannot be discussed with the SJW’s present, which means it cannot get discussed in the public media.  This does not mean these problems don’t exist, and don’t warrant being discussed.

Any time any form of dysfunctional behavior is brought up, the SJW’s shut down the debate with gratuitous accusation of “coded racism”.  And dysfunctional behavior is rampant.  40% of the children being born in the country today, of all races averaged together, are out of wedlock.  Raising a child properly is a daunting task for two people with two incomes, it’s drastically harder for one person alone.  This is an epidemic and a recipe for disaster, and thanks to the SJW’s, it’s hardly discussed.

It’s overwhelmingly in the interest of society that we be able to talk about our problems, and what we can do to address them.

Burden of Proof, Part III: Discrimination is not the Only Possible Cause of Differences in Outcomes Between Groups

There are many differences between different groups.  Ethnic groups all have cultural differences.  Men & women have different instincts.  A difference in outcomes between two groups may or may not reflect discrimination.

Elementary school teachers are overwhelmingly female.  This doesn’t prove that elementary school principals are sexist against hiring males.  It may just reflect an intrinsic difference between men and women, where women are more likely to want to spend all day surrounded by little kids.

Men and women have different arrest rates for violent crime.  This doesn’t prove unwarranted bias against males by cops.  While cops are probably more suspicious of males than females, the difference in conviction rates probably just reflects the fact that men are more violent than women.

Younger men are convicted of street crime at a higher rate than older men.  This doesn’t prove unwarranted bias against the young by cops.  While cops are probably more suspicious of young men than old, the difference in conviction rates may well reflect maturation of the brain, which continues into the late twenties, and the fact that older men have had more time to learn that street crime doesn’t pay.


These suggestions aren’t going to make life intolerable for anybody, would result in fewer voters being alienated from the Democratic Party, public debate that is able to face our problems squarely and realisticaly, and as a result, a healthier society.

Posted December 11, 2016 by xyquarx in Uncategorized