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Getting our machines to be politically correct

Everyone knows that society chooses to believe things which are manifestly not true. Like, for instance, various false ideas of race or ethnicity that we pretend to believe to keep the public peace. Yes, the only valid explanation of why 11% of the US population commits 56% of murders is the legacy of racism. While at the same time race is a social construct and has no significance. You know the drill. We are adept at believing one thing in some circumstances while adapting our behaviour so as to keep alive. Double think.

 

Thus I notice the embarrassment of AI developers when they cannot prevent their AI machines from saying or writing politically incorrect things. The Wall Street Journal reports today (Google Launches Bard AI Chatbot to Counter ChatGPT) that

“Bard comes with a disclaimer at the bottom of the site that reads: “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views…..

Google executives said Bard would sometimes also produce inaccurate or fabricated information, a problem common to large AI models that researchers refer to as “hallucination.” As one example, Google said Bard provided the incorrect scientific name for the ZZ plant when asked for examples of easy indoor plants. It also said large AI models could sometimes replicate biases and stereotypes present in the physical world.”

Watch the cascade of euphemisms here. “Biases and stereotypes present in the physical world”. What is a bias present in  the physical world? A mental approach – which is what a bias is – confirmed by the facts of the physical world?  What is a stereotype?  An attribute that applies to the an object,  person or phenomenon that may not endure but is provisionally valid.

In short, the authors of AI have not yet managed to cause their AI to lie successfully or persuasively about certain facts, persons or phenomena. So Google issues a legal warning ““Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views.”

I am reminded of the problem of Egyptian water clocks. The ancient Egyptians believed that time ran slower in the hot hours of midday. Getting their water clocks to flow more slowly during the hot hours of midday was a considerable technical challenge. Notice that technology in both cases, AI and water clocks, is made to conform to pre-existing cultural ideas.

 

 

Go away and come back

Monday 12 September 2022 at 7:45 in the morning

We went away this past weekend to a fishing camp which was located at the end of a fifty minute drive along a rough track over Laurentian rock. We drove at somewhat better than a walking pace. I recommend the periodic withdrawal from wider society, and the fishing camp was the perfect retreat: no yoga, no periods of silence, no meditation. Just reasonable people conversing on a dock and occasionally going boating on paddle boards and canoes. No fish were caught or harmed, it being the wrong season for trout on the surface . Plentiful food, wine and booze, though less than we  did in our forties.

In the time away, Her Majesty the Queen died, the Russians suffered a large defeat in Ukraine, and Pierre Poilievre was decisively affirmed as Conservative leader.

I don’t think that it is possible to exaggerate the immense stabilizing influence of Queen Elizabeth on the United Kingdom or the world. For seventy years she maintained a discreet and effective role as advisor and occasional admonisher to the great. She lived a life of unimpeachable dignity while still showing that she was not deceived by earthly pomps and quarrels. She was a devoted Christian and I think some of her annual Christmas messages were in fact sermons of profound relevance.

When we got the news we were in a restaurant in the village of St Jean de Matha, surrounded by French Canadians having lunch, who treated the matter, as I suppose legions of other nations would have,  with courtesy and respect. The Queen had earned the respect of people of many nations, including republicans of the breakaway United States. I think everyone naturally measures life ‘s events in terms of the life and death of Sovereigns, however powerless they may be in constitutional terms. Like the passing of Queen Victoria, the death of Queen Elizabeth will be marker between one era and the next.

Then we left the village to go to the the fishing camp. We drove along an atrocious rock- strewn path at 10 kilometers an hour. An hour and a quarter later, we unloaded cars and went by pontoon boat to the ancient fishing camp, an artifact of the era of lumber barons picking out choice lakes for their buddies to fish in. Huge beams, gas mantle lamps, and low to non existent internet connectivity, coupled with copious quantities of alcohol and food.

 

We heard the news of Poilievre’s decisive victory on Saturday night, by which I was greatly gladdened. Unfortunately I was surrounded by five  devotees of the milquetoast conservatism – if that is what it is – of Jean Charest, who are persuaded that Poilievre is the sure path of defeat for the Conservative Party. You know the type, I am sure: all reform is acceptable short of actual change. In terms that a western Conservative would be happy with, they were perfect exemplars of the Laurentian consensus. Highly intelligent people of good faith, the lot of them, but politically clueless, as far as I am concerned. If Poilievre fails, they will be sure to crow about my so called radicalism in leaving the sure path of Jean Charest. 68.15% of my fellow conservatives agreed that Poilievre was the better candidate, which should be enough to silence the whining of advocates of the losing candidates, even in a party that romanticizes losing.

Predictions are difficult, especially about the future. Nevertheless I think that the abhorrence I feel for the current Liberal government in Ottawa is shared by a possible electoral majority. We will either succumb to the Woke shit of Trudeau the Lesser, after we go down fighting it, or we will rescue the country. The Liberals and their media allies are asking us to acquiesce in the ruin of Canada,  and I for one will not abide it.

As to the Russian defeats in Ukraine, I am as surprised as I am pleased. I had thought that the Russians would take over Ukraine in six weeks.  The fact that large piles of equipment are being abandoned, so much so that this offensive marks the largest weapons transfer by far since Lend Lease, indicates that Russian morale is collapsing. In World War 2 , Allied soldiers noticed that the German soldier began to abandon usable equipment only in the Falaise Pocket in July-August of 1944, six years into the war. The Russians may rebound; the war is by no means over, but I think the recent defeats of Russian arms show that the era of Russia as a great power is over.

It is evident that the drone has come to be decisive. In many case the drone is substituting for an air force at a small percentage of the cost. Russians are abandoning equipment because, if they flee in their trucks and armored vehicles, they will be killed by drones. So they flee on foot. Drones are still not cheap enough to waste on individuals. They are however, sufficiently cheap to offer the less powerful an air force at a price they can afford. Much as I loved them, the tank has become too cheap to destroy relative to its utility as an offensive weapon. They talked of the foolish bravery of Polish cavalry attacking columns of German tanks; they will soon talk of the folly of tanks attacking across open fields  against anti-tank missiles and drones.

 

 

The pleasures of Youtube

As the universe starts to unfold as it should (I refer to Elon Muck purchasing Twitter) I have a confession to make. I am confident that you, too, waste time on Twitter. I know I do, and I like it.  Examples:

Marty T. – who finds bulldozers and tractors in New Zealand forests and brings them back to life;

Post 10: A public-spirited weirdo who goes about unclogging blocked culverts with a rake and, if necessary, an axe;

Andrew Camarata: the upstate New York maintenance contractor who fixes, demolishes, cuts down, and repairs nearly everything mechanical, and who has a giant following;

Another mechanic, Jesse Muller

Sawing with Sandy-  the Ontarian woodlot operator with a Kubota tractor and a sawmill, and a thick Canadian accent

Mr. Chickadee – the Japanese-inspired fine hand-tools only carpenter from somewhere in the Carolinas

Cabin in the woods guys: Erik Grankvist, Sean James (pretentious poseur), Finnish Playground, The Outsider

Smiths and tool makers : Torbjorn Ahman , Robinson Foundry, Black Bear Forge 

Farmers: Millennial Farmer (who runs a huge operation in Minnesota), Laura Farms,

Colin Furze – Lunatic construction and mining projects, and very funny

 

What do these people have in common? They handle practical problems of repair, installation, creation, assembly, and maintenance. They do not discuss ideas. What do I learn from them? Respect, in the first place. Also, patience. Persistence. Some skills. I have been able to undertake projects now that I would not have felt confident enough to engage in before, not because I know more things or skills, but because I am better able to face difficulties, and that has transformed my approach to risk. I accept failure more easily because I am ready to risk more,

I also watch Triggernometry, Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying, Sabine Hossenfelder (bossy German physicist), various discussion shows about physics, and religion, the obligatory Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, So What you’re Saying Is, Veritasium (science), Theories of Everything, Lex Fridman, Joe Rogan, The New Culture Forum, Dave Rubin, After Skool, Dr. John Campbell (epidemiology), Rupert Sheldrake (philosophy of science), Rebel Wisdom, and lots more. While these shows (largely interviews) are often fascinating, they don’t tell me things I don’t already know.

All of these shows appear on a platform, and all are user-generated. The Canadian government believes that they should come under the obligation of government licensing or various forms of regulation. See bill C-11 for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Internet is broadcasting, therefore let us regulate!

The new Broadcasting Act, Bill C10, may be stymied in the Senate of Canada, but the actual content of its policy objectives has just been released. Heritage Canada has published “Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content online”. The Guiding Principles have several advantages over the policy objectives of section 3 of the Broadcasting Act. They are not legislated, they can be revised and adapted according to the how the technologies or the societies that adopt them evolve, and they have no legally binding force. They have only the force of the large platforms to back them, if they sign on to the Guiding Principles.

It was Tim Wu in The Master Switch who pointed out that the structure of an industry mattered a lot more than any other factor in determining whether there could be censorship. Vertical integration of the movie-making business with distribution and movie theaters meant that the censors could govern the industry through the code of conduct, one that lasted from Mae West in the 1930s to Easy Rider in the 1960s.

The basic idea of the Guiding Principles is the achievement of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is a set of principles that its signatories are expected to work towards. The most important signatories will be the Internet platforms, because without their compliance, the Principles will be mere hot air.

The private sector companies to which the guiding principles are to apply particularly include “services operating online, whose primary purpose is to broadcast or distribute content or share user-generated content online.” Governments, media sector representatives, regulators and civil society organizations are likewise to be included as signatories.

The goal is to promote diversity on-line, understood as

  • Creation access and discoverability of diverse content online
  • Fair remuneration and economic viability of content creators
  • Promotion of diverse, pluralistic sources of news and information as well as resilience against disinformation and misinformation
  • Transparency of the impacts if algorithmic treatments of online content.

 

Signatories are to agree to implement these goals within the scope of their responsibilities and to develop specific commitments by December 2022 at the latest, to show concrete actions they will take to implement these guiding objectives”.

There follow a number of principles which assume, as a matter of fact, that

  1. There are “equity deserving groups” whose access is limited
  2. Hate, racial prejudice, disinformation and misinformation “can disproportionately affect indigenous people and equity deserving groups”.
  3. “Equity deserving individuals and groups” are defined as those facing significant barriers to participation in different facets of society, a marginalization that could be created by attitudinal, historic, social, economic, legal and environmental obstacles.

Having seen the cartoons of the kids of various heights standing on boxes of various heights to see the baseball game over a wooden fence, “equity” may reasonably be interpreted to mean active measures to overcome the consequences of inequalities, natural or artificial. The term ‘equity’ involves, in modern parlance, an ongoing governmental interference to achieve goals that might not otherwise be achieved in the absence of governmental actions.

The Principles are organized around themes:

  • Creation access and discoverability of content
  • Fair remuneration and economic viability of content creators
  • Promotion of diverse, pluralistic sources of news and information as well as resilience against disinformation and misinformation
  • Transparency of the impacts of algorithmic treatments of online content.

 

The last-mentioned goal says that “content recommendation algorithms and their developers should minimize potential systemic biases and discrimination in outcome, related to such things as race, sexual orientation, gender identity and ability.”

Content recommendation algorithms now seek to interest me in what is related to what I have previously expressed an interest in. If I have expressed interest in videos of Andrew Camarata fixing bulldozers, the algorithm is likely to recommend other machine-oriented males fixing tractors, chainsaws, and building log cabins. Inevitably the algorithms will direct me to things of interest to males, such as myself. I imagine the same happens with videos on golf, tastes in music, physics, flower gardens, or cooking, Japanese art or any taste whatever. How then, it may be asked, will an algorithm correct for systemic bias in male oriented videos if I am a male, and female oriented videos if I were female?

The Guiding Principles do not say, but they expect content recommendation systems to “respect freedom of expression in a way that allows for safe and diverse content.” In other words, safety and diversity, as defined by governments or the platforms, are to constrain freedom of expression.

The Guiding Principles are a kind of Broadcasting Act for the Internet, or a set of objectives that the platforms are expected to implement  By this I mean that the system it envisages is systemic, organized, comprehensive, global (as far as Canadians will see) and subject to government regulation, and that in Annex A to this document, the signatories are expected to develop by December 2022 at the latest “concrete actions they will take to complement the guiding principles.  These specific commitments will remain evergreen and continue to evolve”.

The great advantages for the government, in its efforts to regulate the Internet, are that the Principles utterly bypass legislation, need no Parliamentary approval, require the cooperation of the platforms but not of society, and subject large areas of private tastes to algorithmic manipulation.

The Guiding Principles are creepily totalitarian, and yet one imagines the authors of this document think of themselves as being great public benefactors. In order to explain what I mean, I ask you, as a thought experiment, to replace the content of the particular goals to be achieved by the guiding principles. Look at the whole thing, and ask yourself what the document, conceived as a whole, says. It says in short, that speech carried across the Internet is to serve particular purposes. All speech, everywhere, that is carried on the Internet.

Agreement or disagreement with the guiding principles as they are stated is less important than the whole purpose of the document. Take out the language about diversity, equity and inclusion (the new modern woke credo) and replace it, in this thought experiment, with any other set of goals to be achieved. These goals could be anything: the divinity of Christ, the supremacy of the Aryan race, the sanctity of the Roman Church, the triumph of scientific socialism, the grandeur of the Aztec Sky God Huitchilopotchtli, the preservation of the British Empire, or the values of the Enlightenment. So let [x] stand for the content of the Guiding Principles. Forget whether you agree with them or not. Just think of the Guiding Principles as a block of ideas that can be lifted out and replaced with some other set of desiderata. In effect, by calling the Principles an evergreen document, Heritage Canada virtually guarantees that they will be revised in time.

Then perhaps it becomes clearer that my point is not the DEI principles, though they are creepy enough. It is the idea that everything on-line should be aimed at any guiding principle at all.

Would you think it normal that the publishing industry in Canada be enjoined to publish books that exclusively promote a certain political agenda?

Would you think it right that speech across various telephone and voice applications be organized to conduce to the achievement of diversity, equity and inclusion?

To make the point even clearer, I recall the story of a Canadian diplomat who served in the Soviet Union, as it then was, in the Brezhnev era. I asked whether there was freedom of speech in the Soviet Union. He said ‘yes there was, absolute freedom of speech’. I was startled.

-What do you mean absolute freedom of speech?!!

– If you are out on the ice fishing in winter, and in your shelter, and out of range of prying microphones, and talking with people whom you have known all your life or from high school, and you have developed trust over decades, you can talk about anything. And they do. They talk about stuff no one talks about here, like whether Hitler was right to invade Stalin’s USSR, or whether Communism is a pile of crap, or whether the USA is actually imperialist. There is complete freedom of discussion. You just have to be careful with whom and where you share your ideas.

People need to look at the Guiding Principles from this perspective. Canada will have complete freedom of speech. Just not the kind we have been used to. Thank you, Peter Grant.

 

Eric Weinstein talks to Glenn Beck

I can’t say it better, so I will let Eric Weinstein say it.

  • Kletopcrats have been in charge for decades
  • We are cannibalizing the people who are capable of generating growth
  • Magistan summons forth Wokistan, and Wokistan reinforces Magistan.
  • Nationalism is destroyed as the nation is destroyed.
  • Moral sentiments are the basis of social unity, and we are destroying it.

At last! Something interesting to report

Dear Charles:

Your last words to me before you died were “Call the instant anything exciting should happen!”. Unfortunately for the world, your friends and me, you departed to Valhalla before anything of sufficient merit occurred. Now I am pleased to report that something of interest has occurred, twenty years after your departure.

A 12-foot tall steel monolith has been spotted in the desert of southern Utah by a passing helicopter that had been intent of counting bighorn sheep. Investigation has not revealed whether it is an art project or an alien artifact. Naturally we should not call it a monolith because it is not made of stone, but let us not quibble, dear Charles, for this is actually interesting.

The report is here.

Charles Fisher (1914-2006) was always a poet and at various points in his life a soldier (Welsh Guards), spy (MI6) and stenographer in the Canadian House of Commons. Friend of many, mentor to the selected few. He died at 91 in Bangkok on vacation. I would like to think he was bedding a young lady at the time. He was famous for having people over for dinner and disappearing. “Where’s Charles?” someone would ask. Through the kitchen pass-through someone called back from the liviing room: “he’s gone to Cambodia”. “What do you mean he’s gone to Cambodia?” “He has gone to Cambodia” was the reply. He left the guests and acolytes to clean up.

I feel I have fulfilled my obligation, Charles, to report anything exciting, even if fourteen years late. You will have ways of getting the message. Of this I am sure.

His obituary in the Guardian is here.

His funeral was the only one I have ever attended where the mourners left the church walking an inch of the ground, so elated were they by the many recollections of this extraordinary force of life.

Now would someone please tell us what the monolith is?

The failure of the 737 Max – evil software

 

 

 

An interesting read is available about the cumulative failures of the Boeing 737 Max. The author is a pilot and a software developer Gregory Travis.

“So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737’s dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.

None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the “OK” pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER.

That’s not a big strike. That’s a political, social, economic, and technical sin.”

The article makes clear that the failure is essentially regulatory. Boeing’s goal was to make the 737 Max look like it was not a new aircraft but a continuation of the previous design, when it was not. The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) does not have the engineers to detect the changes and blow the whistle.

“As airplanes became more complex and the gulf between what the FAA could pay and what an aircraft manufacturer could pay grew larger, more and more of those engineers migrated from the public to the private sector. Soon the FAA had no in-house ability to determine if a particular airplane’s design and manufacture were safe. So the FAA said to the airplane manufacturers, “Why don’t you just have your people tell us if your designs are safe?”

The airplane manufacturers said, “Sounds good to us.” The FAA said, “And say hi to Joe, we miss him.”

and further:

“The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn’t come first—money comes first, and safety’s only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that’s all too easy to manipulate: software.”

 

 

The rotary dial cellphone

Justine Haupt’s rotary dial cellphone

Justine Haupt explains the cellphone which she made:

“Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting. 

The point isn’t to be anachronistic. It’s to show that it’s possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional. More functional how? 

  • Real, removable antenna with an SMA connector. Receptions is excellent, and if I really want to I could always attach a directional antenna.
  • When I want a phone I don’t have to navigate through menus to get to the phone “application”. That’s bullshit.
  • If I want to call my husband, I can do so by pressing a single dedicated physical key which is dediated to him. No menus. The point isn’t to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use. The people I call most often are stored, and if I have to dial a new number or do something like set the volume, then I can use the fun and satisfying-to-use rotary dial.
  • Nearly instantaneous, high resolution display of signal strength and battery level. No signal metering lag, and my LED bargraph gives 10 increments of resolution instead of just 4.
  • The ePaper display is bistatic, meaning it doesn’t take any energy to display a fixed message.
  • When I want to change something about the phone’s behavior, I just do it.
  • The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.

So it’s not just a show-and-tell piece… My intent is to use it as my primary phone. It fits in a pocket.; It’s reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call is faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.”

More on her cellphone in Gizmodo here.

Susan Ray’s kitchen, Nantucket, 1875 and Bill Gates

Occasionally a picture is worth a thousand words. This painting would have been made sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, around 1875, on Nantucket, a prosperous whaling island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts,

You will note the absence of everything that makes a modern kitchen convenient. Start with the absence of pipes and of cold (not hot) running water. No sink. No wood stove, only an open fire. Mrs. Ray emerges from a larder in which  food is stored.

No electricity: and thus no dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or lights. Scarcely a counter-top on which to cut and prepare a meal. In case you wonder about what is hidden at the other end of the kitchen, the painter did the other end too. You can see a sideboard, a small table, a mirror, a sconce for a candle, and the fireplace. Not even a wood stove!

These were prosperous people of the time. Not rich, but not suffering either. Note the fine piece of furniture below the mirror. Note the wide (16-18  inches?) sawn planks of old growth pine and the lack of water stains on the whitewashed ceiling. They lived in a comfortable house, by the standards of the time.

All this is a world before fossil fuels or electricity. Doubtless it had a very low carbon footprint.

When I read about carbon taxes, and rich magnates like Bill Gates saying we have to get carbon neutral by some date in the near future, I ask myself, do these fools understand what it was like to prepare a meal in Susan Ray’s kitchen?

Says Bill Gates:

To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years—and as the IPCC recently found, we need to be on a path to doing it in the next 10 years. That means dealing with electricity, and the other 75% too.

50 years is nearly twenty years less than what I have lived already. Two hundred years would be a more reasonable time horizon.

Read him, he exemplifies a kind of insane rationality that fails to understand that the world cannot get to carbon neutrality at any price we can afford, political or economic, in fifty or a hundred years, if ever. Insanity is not the absence of rationality, but the excess of it. Just think of Susan Ray’s kitchen when you think of a low carbon footprint, but  you should take out the fireplace and replace it with a wood stove, if the authorities will permit it. That is a low-carbon footprint kitchen. Why is it so difficult for the intelligent of our time to understand that they have embarked upon a course of folly and destruction?

Global warming catastrophism is a disease of the intelligent, like Communism in the 1930s.

_____________________

Wikipedia relates

Eastman Johnson, (July 29, 1824 – April 5, 1906) painted “Susan Ray’s kitchen”. Hewas an American painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance. He was best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters, whom he studied in The Hague in the 1850s; he was known as The American Rembrandt in his day.