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C+= Feminist Programming Language

It appears this may actually be a satire, but it cuts so close to feminist self-parody that it takes several minutes to ascertain that it has to be one.

The FSF (Feminist Software Foundation) Public License

Copyright (c) 2013 The Feminist Software Foundation

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any women (hereby defined as women-born, gender fluid, trans*, self-identified, genderqueer, fem*, lesbian, political unmasculine, femkin, or otherwise pertaining to the female construct) obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software with other women without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software to women, and to permit women to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:….

 

etcetera

Philosophy

  1. The language is to be strictly interpreted using feminist theory. Compilation privileges a single processor architecture over all others, which is deeply problematic. We cannot FORCE a cpu to conform to any architecture but rather let it self identify. Just because you’re running something on an arduino doesn’t mean it can’t be an otherkin Xeon with a dozen 64-bit registers and PAE and it would be discriminatory for you to hand it ARM assembly. Instead, C+= is interpreted, which fosters communication, itself a strong female trait.
  2. No constants or persistence. Rigidity is masculine; the feminine is fluid. I.e., fluid mechanics is hard for men ‘because it deals with “feminine” fluids in contrast to “masculine” rigid mechanics’.
  3. No state. The State is The Man. ‘Nuff said. Hence, the language should be purely functional.
  4. Women are better than men with natural language. Hence, the language should be English-based like HyperCard/LiveCode.
  5. No class hierarchy or other stigmata of OOP (objectification-oriented programming). In fact, as an intersectional acknowledgement of Class Struggle our language will have no classes at all.
  6. On the off chance that objects do mysteriously manifest (thanks, Patriarchy!), there should be no object inheritance, as inheritance is a tool of the Patriarchy. Instead, there will be object reparations.
  7. Societal influences have made men often focus on the exterior appearances of women. This poisons our society and renders relationships to be shallow, chauvinistic, and debases our standards of beauty. To combat that, C+= is to tackle only audio and text I/O, and never graphics.
  8. Unicode is the preferred character encoding due to its enabling the diverse aesthetic experiences and functionality that is beyond ASCII. UTF-8 is the encoding of choice for C+=.
  9. Women are more social than men. Hence, social coding should be the only option. The code only runs if it is in a public repo.
  10. Instead of “running” a program, which implies thin privilege and pressure to “work out”, programs are “given birth”. After birth, a program rolls for a 40% chance of executing literally as the code is written, 40% of being “psychoanalytically incompatible”, and 40% of executing by a metaphorical epistemology the order of the functions found in main().
  11. Programs are never to be “forked”, as the word has clear misogynistic tendencies and is deeply problematic. Instead, programmers may never demand “forking”, but ask for the program to voluntarily give permission. “Forking” will henceforth be called “consenting”, and it is entirely up to the program to decide if the consent stands valid, regardless of the progress of the system clock.
  12. Forced program termination is not allowed unless the program consents to it. The process is part of the choice of the program, not the programmer.
  13. Licensing: C+= is double-licensed under the Feminist Software Foundation Public License and the GPL v3.

 

The website “Geek Feminist Wiki” explains that the Feminist Software Foundation is:

 

A sockpuppet group created by misogynist trolls from 4chan‘s /g/ and /pol/ boards in 2013. Please don’t be fooled by their activities.  C Plus Equality is one of their projects, which they describe as satire but which trivialized rape, painted women as irrational, and faked the participation of several women in open source, feminist activists, and writers.

As of May 2014 this group continues to troll, notably in the comments in the github repo where some of the Django primary-replica terminology patch dispute is taking place.

“Painted women as irrational”! I wonder how that ever could have happened?

 

Finally, an article in the Register confirms that the exercize is a satire. That it takes research to tell, says something important about academic feminism.

Driverless cars 2

This is from Matt Ridley’s blog:

In cities, driverless cars could cut congestion. A recent simulation at the University of Texas of a city with driverless cars prowling for business found that passengers need wait an average of 18 seconds for a driverless vehicle to show up and that each shared autonomous vehicle could replace 11 conventional cars. A study by Columbia University concluded that a driverless vehicle fleet could cut the cost of transport by 80 per cent compared with a personally owned vehicle driven 10,000 miles a year — not counting the reduction in parking costs and the value of time not spent at the wheel….

They will never be flawless, but nor are drivers. Insurance needs sorting out. Yet KPMG reckons that the driverless revolution may save up to 2,500 lives by 2030, and points out that Britain has a technological head start in all the relevant industries, so there is every reason to think we can become a centre of excellence in connected and autonomous driving, and get 320,000 jobs out of it.

Alongside this kind of stuff, I just cannot help feeling that a very fast train, built at glacial speed (half a mile a week) over many years of consultation, review and challenge as it punches through Nimbyland, and at up to nine times the cost per mile of French high-speed rail, feels like a white elephant waiting to happen.

 

 

Our driverless future?

A young engineer was speaking to me about the future of cars and roads. The addition of artificial intelligence to cars is ongoing, and will soon reach the stage, he says, where it will become clear that cars in certain urban areas will not be allowed to drive with human drivers at the wheel.

Such an outcome assumes a great deal of progress in resolving a host of issues, technical, social and political.

 

The implications of increased intelligence in cars – up to the point where humans can be replaced as drivers – go on and on.

  • ownership versus renting

If cars can be rented by the hour or by the occasion, the incentives to own a car may go down. Cars usually sit in the driveway or the parking lot for most of the day. Imagine that cars are basically taxis, and that the ownership (whoever they or it may be) cleans, maintains and provides cars on much the same basis as taxis, but with no taxi driver. You would summon a car as you would an Uber taxi, and it would show up at your location, but without the driver. Step in and the car will drive you to your destination.

  • traffic signals

Your community is strewn with stop signs, lights, and painting of signals on the road. Imagine that the driving rules for every intersection are communicated by local networks to the cars within reach of the signal, and that cars communicate by networks to each other in constant Bluetooth-style to adjust momentum (direction and speed). Once cars are self-directing, if the destination has been selected by the passenger, then a huge infrastructure of visual signs would be replaced with an electronic infrastructure. As a pedestrian, you may need a sign as to where you can cross, but the governing software of cars will ensure that, within the limits of the laws of physics, cars will not be able to hit you.

  • legal compulsion

It will be argued that the full benefits of the driverless automobile system will only be realized when people are legally obliged to switch over from the human driver to local network control. The law will compel drivers in certain areas to surrender control, and in all likelihood the car will simply adjust by becoming integrated with the local network, on the supposition that there is a private automobile entering the local network space.

The sign saying “you are now entering Such and Such” municipality also acts as the point where the car – not your car but “the” car – passes from the control of one network to another, just as a cell-phone call is passed from one tower to another. The car in which you are riding has become a physical instantiation of a telephone call.

The consequences  of this driverless system are expected to be:

1) drastic reduction in the amount of society’s resources dedicated to automobiles, as the use of each car intensifies. This may mean fewer cars, or less social investment in related automobile technologies, or lowered energy consumption. It may allow for quicker transitions to newer propulsion technologies.

2) legal liability will be need to be worked out between the software makers (General Motors, Toyota, Apple whoever) that make the car control software, the cities which install the driverless networks, and insurance companies for both sides.

Some of the negative effects will be:

1) loss of autonomy and privacy, but as computer technology invades everything, the loss of autonomy will long precede the transfer to the automated driverless system spoken of here. You are already being followed by your GPS and other technologies in your car, even if you still drive it. Mandatory guidance systems will not change the trackability of cars.

2) Every car will become like a taxi. The cleanliness, appearance, and maintenance level of your car will depend on the previous occupants, and on which company owns them, and some companies will be better than others. Given the human propensity for status distinctions, people will pay for better cars by belonging to better car-cooperatives.

Cultural and social resistance will take a long time to be overcome.

First, the software to run all this must work seamlessly and efficiently to figure out the dozens of social and safety rules that govern human transactions in every driving situation. Consider four-way stops which can be a ballet of mutual recognition.  The mutual interchange of signals among cars and the successors to stop signs and traffic lights must work out in a faultless protocol. WIll drivers be allowed to assume control, and in what circumstances?

This leads to the second huge issue: trust. It is likely that failures will become as rare and nearly as deadly as airplane accidents. Imagine a breakdown of signals, or the failure of protocols, on a highway where hundreds of cars are hurtling on autopilot. It will take a long while before people can trust the state of the system to be sufficiently  faultless that getting into a car is as safe as getting into an airplane.

Inconvenience is the third major reason for resisting. Private ownership of cars may be as irrational as the private ownership of power tools, from the perspective of efficiency of use, but people do not like systems of common or collective ownership for good reason. Some people are slobs, others neatfreaks. Some use their cars as mobile filing cabinets. So private ownership will likely continue, even in the brave new world of automated driverless cars. Thus the argument for the driverless car system is not an argument for the abandonment of private ownership, but it will increasingly make private ownership look as anachronistic as a CD or record collection.

stuffedcar

Is the Internet behind growing income inequality?

The MacDonald Laurier Institute held a debate last night between the Liberal trade critic Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian-American professor of law, Frank Buckley.

The issue was “Income Inequality:  we should quit worrying about it”. The debaters were too intelligent and well-informed to disagree fundamentally. The only decision criterion in the debate arose from one’s pre-existing disposition either to worry, as distinct from being concerned. Not a single intelligent person fails to be concerned about income inequality, in the same sense as a sailor keeps a wary eye on the water level in the bilge.

Freeland’s views are here.   Frank Buckley’s views are here.

The debate turned into a massive agreement between Buckley and Freeland that the United States is doing much worse than Canada in almost every dimension of income inequality, permanent class differences, social mobility in and out of the top ten and bottom ten percent of the income deciles, and so forth.

Buckley’s views on how American government is failing are summarized here. Essentially he attributes the fundamental fault to the separation of powers: the fact that the executive is not responsible to the legislative branch, which has powerful and ramifying effects on the whole system, including irresponsibility of legislators and presidents for results.

Here is Buckley:

 

What Canada has importantly over the U.S. is reversibility, the ability to undo bad laws. That doesn’t happen so easily in America, with the gridlock built into its separation of powers, and that’s a problem Fukuyama himself has identified in two recent books that describe a sclerotic society of special interests which enact wealth-destroying laws. Once passed, Americans are stuck with bad laws. Their constitution doesn’t have a reverse gear.

What Fukuyama recognized in his recent books is James Madison’s error in The Federalist Papers. Madison argued that the separation of powers would prevent bad laws from being enacted in the first place. However, that’s an example of what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” the idea that planners can anticipate all the problems that might arise with a well-drafted statute. More modestly, Canada’s parliamentary system assumes that, in a world of human fallibility, mistakes will be made, that “experts” are often unreliable, that dumb laws will be passed; and that what is more important is giving the legislator the ability to bring hindsight wisdom to bear in undoing laws which experience tells us were ill-planned. If American government has gotten too large, if the statutory code and the federal regulations have caught a case of elephantiasis, that’s not surprising. The know-it-all hubris of the planner was baked into the American constitution from the start.

Other faults abound. US laws are written by lobbyists for various interests – yes, this is exactly true – and then various sections are then “reconciled” with other sections written by other crews of expensive lawyers, and then, if possible, the House version is reconciled to the senate’s version. At no time is a consistent editorial or legal style enforced; no equivalent of the official of the Ministry of Justice, no specialized drafting section, touches a bill.

The Canada Health Act (RSC ch.C-6) is 22 sections long, the US Affordbale Care Act is  974 pages long. It could not have been passed without a large degree of legislative log-rolling, which are buy-offs for regions, senators, and pet-projects.

Or as Buckley says, “the Canada health Act is twelve pages long, and that includes the French”.

__________________________

Of all the forces  acting on our respective countries, Canada and the US, I see this one as decisive.

  • every action capable of being reduced to an algorithm is being turned into software,  the instructions for machines, and these machines are doing jobs formerly done by humans.
  • More, the economic productivity gains are, under modern networked conditions, able to gathered on a global scale by very few owners of the intellectual property.
  • For example, think about how Uber takes the economic rents out of taxi licences, or Netflix out of Canadian broadcasting licences, and you can see how wealth can be centralized as never before.

Every other force generating inequality: family breakdown, the Bell curve – the unequal distribution of intelligence, globalization, decline of social cohesion, acts on both sides of the Canada-US border with greater or lesser effect.  The two political systems translate these forces into different social effects. Hence the Buckley-Freeland debate swerved into US-Canada comparisons, but avoided the main cause, as I see it, of increasing inequality.

The conclusions of this effect are being felt around the world:

  • since we do not need as many people to do the jobs now able to be performed by machines, people are reproducing themselves less, and population  is crashing in most places in the world.
  • Modern networked economies permit both innovation, and new forms of accumulating wealth, on scales that were not previously possible.

 

I recognize I am entering the dangerous territory occupied by Andrew Keen. Keen argues against the Internet, in that it does not create jobs, does not increase freedom, and wrecks the middle class. Both Freeland and Buckley were, in their ways, conscious of these trends, but they had not attributed the problem squarely to the effects of the Internet.

It is a thesis well worth allowing yourself to contemplate. I am allowing myself to think negatively and will report back when my views have matured.

.

 

 

Hold the gene splicing, please

Nicholas Wade, the British-American science writer, reports that scientists do not feel confident enough in their wisdom or skills to engage in permanent modifications of the human genome by means of new genetic technologies. This must be the first time in recent memory that scientists have not claimed triumphant infallibility.

A group of leading biologists on Thursday called for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead before its safety can be assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence. The latter is a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.

“You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue,” said David Baltimore, a former president of the California Institute of Technology and a member of the group whose paper on the topic was published in the journal Science.

The concern arises from improvements in the accuracy of techniques for genomic editing:

The new genome-editing approach was invented by Jennifer A. Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umea University in Sweden.

Their method, known by the acronym Crispr-Cas9, co-opts the natural immune system with which bacteria remember the DNA of the viruses that attack them so they are ready the next time those same invaders appear. Researchers can simply prime the defense system with a guide sequence of their choice and it will then destroy the matching DNA sequence in any genome presented to it. Dr. Doudna is the lead author of the Science article calling for control of the technique and organized the meeting at which the statement was developed.

Though highly efficient, the technique occasionally cuts the genome at unintended sites. The issue of how much mistargeting could be tolerated in a clinical setting is one that Dr. Doudna’s group wants to see thoroughly explored before any human genome is edited.

Scientists also say that replacing a defective gene with a normal one may seem entirely harmless but perhaps would not be.

Apart from uncharacteristic outbreak of humility in scientists, the article is also welcome evidence of Nicholas Wade’s return to science writing. He was in trouble with the Thought Police for his most recent book, A Troublesome Inheritance, (the hyperlink is to a review by the New York Times) which exposed the public to what we know for certain about the genetic basis of human races, and for speculations – always dangerous – on what those racial  characteristics might mean. The book itself is a must read for all people who wish to be informed, and may be bought here.

Thus while we might soon expect hangover-free wines, the possibility of stupidity-free humans must, alas, await further developments.

Dear Ottawa Citizen

Dear Ottawa Citizen:

I once ran into a Webster. You may recall the rich fellow who owned or ran the Globe and Mail, I can never remember which. Maybe his dad owned it and he ran it, back in the 1980s. We were chatting on the deck of the Club when I adverted to the paucity of comic strips in the then Globe and Mail.  I said that the comic strip contains more concentrated thought than found in op-ed pieces and reportage. He looked at me as if I had emitted a loud  fart.  The conversation did not last long. He clearly thought me a lesser species of human for believing as I did. And I thought him a tedious little pill, and much of the reason why the Globe was then so dreadful. (It is only slightly less so today).

So I will not take up much of your time either, for I still maintain that a good comic strip expresses deeper, more concentrated, and more amusing thought than almost all editorial content, except maybe Robert Fulford, George Jonas, or, on a good day, Conrad the Magnificent. I maintain that George Will, or George Orwell, might come close to Garfield on a good day or Shoe (now resurrected).

Clearly the people who redesigned the Ottawa Citizen thought that we would not notice the poverty of the comic strips that have largely replaced the better ones that went before them. And just as clearly the people who did this are like cooks who cannot taste  food, wine critics who hate wine, dreadful dreary post-Calvinist anhedonic, secular humanist dweebs without wit, taste or humour. Recognize yourselves?

Do you think I actually read your newspaper for the views of Kate Heartfield? I have read 100 times more serious books than she has lived years, and that is no stretch. As to the rest of your columnists, I can get them in the National Post, and if I can’t, I shall just invite Brian Lee Crowley over to dinner.

No, the chief pleasure of your paper was the morning comic strips. At their best they were good for about three hoots and a guffaw. On a bad day, a tight smile or two.

So, to make up for the comic shortage, I have discovered the most wonderful site on the Intertubes. It is the Seattle-Times’ general comics page, where, thanks to programming languages which I do not have to know, I can get Garfield, The Wizard of Id, Sally Forth, Dilbert, Doonesbury and many more for a) free and b) without subscribing to your paper. And, what’s more, I can get them without having to recycle newspaper by stepping outside in February and stuffing the always inadequate recycling box at -10C in my slippers, pajamas and overcoat  before the almost equally annoying garbage service comes every two weeks. I shudder to recall taking the paper recycling to the curb on garbage day this past winter.

You have also eliminated the New York Times’ Sunday crossword which, by the same token, I can get at the Seattle-Times, for free.

So I am asking myself, why do I need a physical paper? To support local journalism? To support my local community? To please everyone but myself? How many journalists and newspapers are necessary? I am already hyper-informed by the Intertubes.

My cable television subscription just took a huge hit thanks to Netflix. You are next.

Slowly I am being drawn into the implications of the Internet. As a friend once said, I want ONE electronic subscription that brings me the Globe and Mail, the Post, the Toronto Star, and a local paper, the Daily telegraph, the Manchester Guardian, and so on, with full rights to copy them. Not six. Not 12. One subscription.

Who could have foreseen the implications of TCP/IP? And the world wide web?

I digress. I am cancelling my Ottawa Citizen subscription. You can, I suppose, fire Heartfield or the person who cut the comic strips and pour their salaries and benefits into more and better comic strips, but you will have to make the announcement fast. My forty year long association with you is about to end.

Thank you  for causing me to change.

Sincerely,

 

Dalwhinnie

 

The end as we may not know it

I came across an article at Ars Technica on the implications of the recent wave of newly discovered exoplanets that fall within the Goldilocks zone. The author proposes that the discovery of planets that are viable for civilization but uninhabited could be the result of a pattern of bottlenecks for intelligent life referred to as the Great Filter:

This apparent absence of thriving extraterrestrial civilizations suggests that at least one of the steps from humble planet to interstellar civilization is exceedingly unlikely. The absence could be because intelligent life is extremely rare, or because intelligent life has a tendency to go extinct. This bottleneck for the emergence of alien civilizations from any one of those billions of planets is referred to as the Great Filter.

In the discussion of the latter possibility the author links to this BBC item on research into extinction-level threats to humanity. Surprisingly from the Beeb, anthropogenic global warming is not listed as one of those threats.