Archive for June, 2019

Ending Digital Segregation

June 14, 2019

Here’s a great article to catch up on the topic and what we should be aiming for:

When the internet first started, most people thought it would be a fad, like chat lines. (You won’t remember those unless you were there.)

There were two things that we had before the internet of the 90s. One was the university networks that allowed supercomputers to communicate with each other at dreadfully slow speeds. The other were BBS boards you literally dialed into with your modem, downloaded some messages and some files, but you couldn’t do much else.

When the internet first appeared, it was not easy to get connected to it. Dial-up modems were the preferred method, but that meant that you would only access the internet for a few moments at a time, not all the time. You would treat the internet like a better version of the BBS — call up, send and receive your emails, then download a few files, and that’s it.

The next generation saw the idea of “always on” internet, and eventually the familiar song of the modem connecting to the internet faded from memory. This was the late 90s, when people knew you could go to any library and access websites filled with information.

This new technology was really the culmination of many things, and people saw the internet as just a really, really big BBS, with lots and lots of forum posts and emails and such.

Live-chatting became a thing in the early 2000s, I recall, and next thing you know bulletin boards became active and alive. Email became near constant, and we started to enter a new phase of human existence, where we spent most of our waking hours connected to people digitally.

The first revolution that truly swept humanity was something I’d like to call the “wisdom of the crowd”. Before, it would be impossible to ask a million people a question and get a million answers. But with the internet, not only could you ask millions of people a question, but you can ask them many questions. And their answers came in digital form, which meant you could categorize and organize them nearly instantly. This was a new, valuable resource to be mined. We discovered fairly early on that it could likely solve all sorts of problems in human existence, from predicting consumer behavior to even solving mathematical mysteries. The Open Source/Free Software movement that Linux is the poster child of is part of this revolution. We are still living in this movement because now we’re not just collecting answers, we’re collecting vast collections of data detailing every aspect of every life that we can measure, and we’re making tremendous discoveries because of it. (Not all of it good, of course.)

The second revolution came as we started to see the internet as a tool of propaganda and influence. Yes, it was a resource to be mined, but it became a resource that individuals were relying on for their own thoughts and ideas, and now we wanted to know how to use it to influence those thoughts and ideas. It is long rumored that the “flat earther” movement is really an attempt by the CIA to see how hard it is to get a bad idea into society, and how far it will go and what lengths it will take to stamp it out.

We recognize that the internet is now the major component of every marketing campaign, every sales pitch, every political campaign, and every PR campaign. If you want to communicate, you will use the internet to do so. No tool is as effective as the internet in influencing people, and influencing a lot of them. (The truth is that there is a method of influence that is far more effective than the internet — face-to-face contact — but most people ignore this because compared to the internet it is so much more expensive and difficult to get right.)

I think we’re coming out of this revolution at this moment, where it is no longer a new idea to think that we can influence people through the internet, but it is accepted knowledge and now we’re trying to figure out the details of how to do it right. Indeed, conservatives see their bans from these platforms not just as an inconvenience, but as keeping them from the very tools they need to exercise their right of expression.

Early on, we noticed that people would self-select the communities they participated in. This meant that different communities would have radically different characteristics. One would be full of fervent Christians, another full of people obsessed with characters in a particular movie, another full of enthusiasts about a particular piece of technology. Well, people would naturally segregate into communities that identify by politics, but they would also mingle with each other in other communities. For instance, you would have Star Trek fans that were liberal and Star Trek fans that were conservative, and they would participate in their respective liberal and conservative groups, but also come together in the Star Trek group.

We used to live in small communities made up of individuals with wildly different interests, and we used to get along just fine. A village, for instance, would contain all sorts of people. A family with many kids would have kids with different interests as well. But we used to learn how to get along because we had to. A factory didn’t have a very big population to choose employees from, so they would rather their employs learned to get along with their differences than try to exclude one or the other group from participation.

This is no longer true with the internet. As we started to self-segregate, we realized we liked it. Republicans like other republicans. Democrats like other democrats. Star Trek fans like Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans like Star Wars fans. It’s so much easier to stay with the same people than it is to get along with a diverse population.

We are now at the culmination of this experience, where we have an important decision to make: Are we going to eliminate the last vestiges of communal living, and completely divorce our population into highly specific groups that never see each other, or are we going to force people to get along?

Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and others, by banning certain people from participation on their platforms for no other reason than a large number of people find their behavior disagreeable seems to be the direction we are going. We are segregating our society into groups along political lines. Who knows but one day maybe Google will ban Star Trek fans because so many more people like Star Wars? The end of this is an absurd state where people exist as a community of one, never seeing any other person, or at least any other aspect of a person, than that aspect for which they agree. Conservatives will go off in one direction, and liberals in another. They will build their own forums until they begin disagreeing with themselves, and then you will have 4, then 8, then 16, and so on forums and none of them will ever cross. If you want to cross from one group to the other, you have to put on sheep’s clothing and pretend to be one of them, but if you get found out you will be summarily “executed”, which on the internet, means “banned”.

The other direction is the direction that is logically sane and reasonable. In places where people are free to get together and talk to each other, you may not ban anyone simply because they are disagreeable. Now, we may decide certain kinds of behavior are totally unacceptable (IE, sharing child pornography or threatening others and such) but we would have a deep and detailed discussion before changing any of these rules or adding new categories. We would also very carefully consider each case to ensure that it does fall foul of the laws and such, using our judicial procedures. In other words, if we want to ban someone from these forums, we’d need to use the government to do so, relying on the laws as written and debated, and the courts as constituted. No one may be banned, no video may be taken down, no forum closed without a court order, probably after a trial by jury.

This latter part is honestly troubling. I know how fast the internet moves. By the time a lawyer has put together the paperwork for the initial filing to start the motion, the internet has already evolved into the next version of itself, and the point is moot. I don’t know a better way to handle this, other than to turn our judicial system into a program that is open for everyone to see, with an additional layer of review on top for those cases which run afoul of the code itself. This is probably the only way things can be done on the internet.

As such, the following changed would be needed to make:

  1. No platform that provides public access can forbid anyone from participating in it except according to the law. Either you are a closed group (and heavily moderated) or you are open. (We’d need a lot of clarification of what these thing mean, but the general idea I think is sound. This is the way I think most people think of the internet.)
    1. Granted, most internet companies today are going to say, “We are closed”, so either we need to force them to admit they are open, or we impress upon the people who use these forums that they are not open, they are discriminatory and how, and they do not welcome other opinions on their platforms.
    2. We must also provide open forums some sort of protections, maybe even government funding, as these are critical to our future. I am open to even having the open forums run by the government itself, as a proof-of-concept.
  2. If you want to get a legal ruling on a case to ban someone or remove them or their content from an open forum, then you can either use the courts as established, or you can use a program that has been approved by the government to make a decision. You may NOT use any sort of human review, especially by anyone who works for your company, except for the court system. (For closed forums, do what you want, and if they complain, make fun of them for it.)
  3. If there questions about the algorithm for an open forum, you must answer them, so that anyone can understand exactly how the algorithm works and why it banned certain things. If your algorithm is shown to be wrong, it must be fixed, and you may recover damages due to the faulty algorithm, but no change can be made to the algorithm without approval of the government.
    1. In order to expedite the construction and maintenance of these algorithms, companies which use them must have embedded on their team government agents, much like how we handle FCC compliance. Proper procedures and documents must be filed. Laws, guidelines and rules must be kept.
    2. In order to gain visibility into the algorithm, the source code must be published, along with any associated data (such as ML training sets, models, parameters, experiment results). In addition, when a ban is decided, it must explain why the ban was put in place sufficient that someone can reverse-engineer the algorithm and determine where the error was made if they believe the ban was improper.
    3. If they do find an improper ban, they can sue for damages as well as the costs of investigating the ban.

I think something like this is the technical and legal system we need to protect individual rights and get us past this new revolution.

Who knows what the next revolution will be?

The Third Way

June 9, 2019

Anciently, and in modern times, there are two philosophies that completely contradict each other.

On the one hand, you have the philosophy of hedonism. This is the idea that you should do what feels best, as that is what is most important in life — obtaining as much pleasure as possible and avoiding pain.

This isn’t a terrible philosophy. It certainly works well with animals. And you can train them with beatings and treats. (Treats seem to work better, of course.)

The other philosophy is stoicism, which is the philosophy that seems to do much better for humanity. At the core of stoicism is the idea that there are things you can do, and there are things you can’t do. Learn to accept the things you can’t do and thus the things you have no control over, and focus your attention on the things you can do. Stoicks often engage in delayed gratification, suffering a little bit today so they don’t have to suffer so much tomorrow, or so they can reap a reward in the future. Stoicks also think of the “big picture” and their role they have to play in it.

These two philosophies can pretty much sum up all the codes of living that has ever existed, and I think is the root of the “conservative” vs. “liberal” divide.

What amazes me, however, is how wrong these philosophies are in the face of Christianity. I propose a “third way”, a sort of coalescing of the two philosophies that can only happen because of the contradiction that is Christ.

Christ is the ultimate source of justice and the ultimate source of mercy. With a word, he can bring the punishment of all of the bad things you have done in life crashing down on your head. Or with a word, he can withhold some or all of these punishments and reward you for righteousness that you didn’t participate in.

The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Combined with the fact that Christ himself is God made flesh, that he is the walking contradiction of a force of nature combined with a mortal, fleshy body, that he is, as they say, “Fully God yet fully human”, and you have the beginning of a neat little philosophy, that this world is actually pretty important.

Many modern Christian embrace a sort of esoteric sort of Christianity and thus deny Christ’s humanity. They imagine that this world is a temporary stop, a test, and that it will ultimately be replaced with a better world. This is not what Christ taught: He taught instead that this world is indeed the very place where he intends to build his ultimate paradise, and he will do it with a fleshy body that can eat and drink.

The core of Christian philosophy has some very strange ideas worth pondering:

  • The idea that there is no separation between this world and the spiritual realm: They are one and the same.
  • The idea that sin is not only a part of our nature, but a necessary part, a part we must not discard but own and overcome.
  • The idea that there is a reward in this life for righteous living, as well as the next, and that any injustice we suffer here will be ultimately made right.

Stoicks engage life thinking of things they can do and things they can’t do. Christ declares, “Nothing is impossible.” Meaning, you should be engaged in what others would consider pointless exercises in futility. Stoicks learn how to accept the world the way it is, while Christians decide that the world in its current state is intolerable and must be changed into a better state.

Hedonists are often the butt of Stoick jokes, but they are right to a degree: We should pursue pleasure, we should strive to avoid pain. We should seek the good and reject the evil. In addition, Christianity adds that the bodies we have given are not to be denied but to be embraced. For instance, sexuality is not something foreign to out nature, but a very critical element of our nature, something that is good when treated within the bounds the Lord has set, but evil when not.

Indeed, in Christianity, all things have a purpose. We are not to deny ourselves things, but to engage them for a worthy cause.

There is a lot more to say on this, and I think I have only begun to understand Christianity as a philosophy, having lived it for most of my life. I am sure there will be much more to say as I mature and understand the nature of God better.

The Pendulum Swings: A Roadmap

June 9, 2019

Study history, and you see that humanity, or rather, the societies that make up humanity, swing from one extreme to another.

One extreme is the ultra-liberal, idyllic lifestyle where no one seems to care about the enemy at the gates.

The other extreme is the hyper-conservative military machine that conquers because it must for survival.

In between is the sort of happy medium we wish we could live in, but no one has ever experienced but for short periods of time.

As the pendulum swings towards fascism and militarism, I am going to lay out a roadmap based on my study of history and scriptures.

First, you need a law. Without a law, you will just have warlords running around doing whatever they want for selfish purposes. All successful civilizations came through their hyper-militant phase because they had a law which they wouldn’t violate, things that were not even questionable. Those laws need to be God-made, not man-made, and I highly recommend the Law of Moses, the same law that has allowed Israel to survive until the current day. Keep in mind that the Law of Moses is not what the Marxists told you it is, and it certainly is NOT the law that the Jews try to keep today. It is much more practical and simple than that, and far more fair.

Second, you need leaders. In the Bible, the people of Israel would always default to leaders who had a connection with God. These were humble people who were filled with revelation and the spirit of God. These are people like Gideon. They did not seek their role as leaders but it was thrust upon them. These are the sorts of leaders you need. Someone who has a family, who has a connection with God, who has a purpose that far exceeds anything of this world.

That said, do not choose incompetent people to be your leaders, no matter how righteous they say they are! Good leaders are effective, so keep your eyes open for a pious, righteous man who says God speaks to him and who is capable of leading people. They are rare, so pray that God will send them to you in the time of need.

Third, you must, for yourself, live according to the law of God and you must be willing to enforce that law against your neighbor should the need arise. When Moses lead Israel to possess the land they were promised by God, the inhabitants were overcome with fear and doubt as it became clear that Israel was unstoppable and God was on their side. In desperation, it is rumored that they asked the prophet Balaam what could possibly be done. Balaam pointed out how it was the individual righteousness of the people of Israel that gave them God’s favor and thus victory in battle. So they sent prostitutes to pervert the men of Israel.

When God told Moses about it, Moses was also commanded to slaughter all the men taken by these women. There was a huge bloodbath. Those who did not pick up the sword to kill the unfaithful were not counted worthy.

This story should frighten everyone. On the one hand, if you are the sort of person to be taken in by the temptation to sin, you should fear for your life. When hyper-conservatism comes back, there is a good chance that you will be one of the many to be purged. You should be aware of what the laws of God say now so that you can avoid committing the more serious sins for which blood is required. (IE, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and don’t lie.)

But on the other hand, it calls into question whether the righteous are really as righteous as they think they are. If God commands you to pick up a weapon and kill someone, can you do it, knowing that you are in the right? If you hesitate, then you will hesitate in battle, and that will lead to ultimate defeat. When it comes to battle, there is no room for being wishy-washy. It is kill or be killed, and only those who know they are in the right and God is on their side will do the killing. Those who do not have the flame of moral conviction burning in their heart will end up killed.

Even the Romans understood this. Before every war and every battle, they entreated the gods through omens. If the omens were not good, they did not go to battle. Whether the gods existed or not is irrelevant, really — the few times they ignored the omens and went into battle anyway were epic defeats, a self-fulfilled prophecy if there ever was one.

The moral degenerates in our society are being put on notice. We’re not joking when we talk about a purge. It seems the Rubicon in our story is pedophilia. There is no way we’re ever going to accept that, as we know for a fact that it is absolute evil to abuse little children for your own sexual gratification. Even the hardest of criminals knows that that is wrong, and will pick up a weapon in righteous fury to exact justice.

But pedophilia is not even the end of the slippery slope, a slippery slope that began with divorce and extra-marital sexual relations. As long as we tolerate those things, we are on the slippery slope that will take us way past pedophilia. I think our society is waking up to that and wishing we were back in the 1850s.

The scary truth about Hitler is not that he was a totalitarian monster who decided that individual rights were meaningless unless they served the state and society at large. The truth is that what propelled him to power was righteous anger and fury at the absolutely perverted state the Weimar Republic was in. As people came to understand the depth of the depravity of German society, they were more than willing to pick up arms to exact justice.

Had the Germans chosen a God-fearing man who was excellent as a leader, I imagine Germany wouldn’t have lost WWII. Had the people of Germans reminded themselves of the importance of personal righteousness, they wouldn’t have gone off the rails. Had they had a law given by God to guide them, rather than the arbitrary whims of a corrupt leader, they wouldn’t have been lead astray.

Go find your nearest Bible. Read the first five books of the Old Testament, and write down the important bits of the law. Write down what was and was not a capital offense, and how justice was dispensed. Write down what the other crimes were and what their remedy was. (IE, if you menstruated, touched a dead body or ate shellfish, you were unclean, but all you needed to do was purify yourself and you’re good to go. If you stole, you needed to restore what you stole. If you murdered, you had to be executed — by a family member of your victim.)

The Bible is what lead our European ancestors to victory. It is what will keep our society together through this difficult time that seems to lie ahead of us.

Christians Cannot be Victims

June 9, 2019

A lot has been said about victim culture, the “Oppressed Olympics” and such.

Hearing scriptures where the Lord explains what he experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane, how he was treated unfairly and put on trial for no crime at all and executed without even a single corroborating witness, it is clear that the Savior, who bears all the sins of the world despite having committed none himself, is the clear winner of the “Oppressed Olympics”.

We who believe that the Savior exists and holds the world in the palm of his hands have no business playing the Oppressed Olympics. We can’t look on anyone who plays the victim and think they are any worse off than our God. We can’t look at ourselves as comparable to Him in that way either. Feed us to lions. Hunt us down and kill us. Force us to recant or face certain death. It doesn’t matter — we know that our victory is through Christ. Death doesn’t phase us.

This is power. Power is the ability to act, the ability to affect the world. When you refuse to play the Oppressed Olympics, you are free to choose for yourself what course of action you will take. Does the entire world conspire to kill you for no other reason than existing? Doesn’t matter. We will move forward anyway.

I heard a comment online, and I’m afraid no one will be able to corroborate it, but it went something like this. In WWII, the Americans were especially reliable to the allies and especially troublesome to the Nazis. According to the reporter, when their unit, a non-American unit, was in trouble, they would radio for help. If they got any other nationality on the other end, they would talk about how bad they have it and how they just don’t have the resources to help because everyone is having a bad day. When Americans picked up the phone, they would just ask for your location. Then they would move in to rescue you, despite the challenges. The Americans seemed to know where the enemy was and their numbers better than the allies did, or they didn’t seem to care. Only when the Americans got close would they ask for details on what the challenge was, how many the enemy were at and their location, etc…

The Nazis also learned not to kill the American officers. The reason was simple: The officers were telling the enlisted men to stay back, to follow orders, and not pursue the enemy. See, the weakest, laziest and least suitable soldier among the Americans was far better than the most disciplined of the allies. Why? Because they didn’t seem to care. They would execute on their orders, they would shoot the enemy, and they would pursue them if they could. When an American officer was killed, the unit wouldn’t fall apart as the European units would, they would come together, and charge at the enemy. American units with officers were far more tolerable for the enemy than ones without!

This is power: The ability to act despite all challenges, and thus the ability to create the change needed. Who is more likely to act: Someone who pretends that they are somehow winning the Oppressed Olympics, or someone who believes that no matter how bad things are, they are put there for a reason by a God who has seen far worse?

As I ask people, if it came to a shooting war, would you rather have a Christian zealot in your foxhole, or an atheist who has deduced that their cause is just?

Christians should take heart. Go ahead and threaten us with lions and death and torture. It will not stop us from acting and creating change. Indeed, it will inspire us.

The God Pill

June 6, 2019


Why did Tiananmen Fail?

June 4, 2019

Today, June 4th, marks the anniversary of the events that unfolded in Tiananmen Square when students protested the communist party in China. Their goal was to obtain some form of democracy. They failed. Let’s examine why.

Reason #1 they failed was because they did not have an army. I hope this is obvious to everyone. As Mao said, government comes out of the barrel of a gun. He was a third-world tinpot dictator but he was smart enough to recognize this truth which today is forgotten in too many ways.

Reason #2 they failed was because they didn’t know how to organize. I am told that they believed that they needed to operate on unanimous consent. The heritage of the English people includes parliamentary procedures that were developed over thousands of years. In the US, we call them “Robert’s Rules of Order”. If you don’t know how these work and how it bind people together into a collective unit, you need to study them until you do. As long as you don’t understand parliamentary procedure, you will never be more than an individual, easily defeated by people who do know how to organize.

Reason #3 they failed was because they didn’t have a leader. Democracy has been a failed experiment every time and everywhere it is tried. If the first order of business of a democracy is not appointing a dictator, a monarch, to lead the people, then democracy is doomed. The Founding Fathers tried to bring 13 distinct and individual governments together through parliamentary procedure. They saw how the English government was organized and how little the king actually did, and questioned the need for such a person. However, it became readily apparent that without someone who can bring all the information together, make decisions and act on them quickly, everything would have failed.

Reason #4 they failed was because they did not have a plan other than “democracy”. Leaders bring vision and purpose to people, and compel them to action not out of fear but out of shared goals. Leaders drive consensus. They find the things that unite. No leader can succeed without having a plan.

If I were a student in that group, and it was that year, and I knew all I knew now, the first thing I would’ve told them was that their idea was stupid and doomed to fail. If you want to be a martyr, go set yourself on fire. If you want to beat the communist party, you join the communist party. You work on it from the inside. You get power and authority. And when you get enough power and authority, you determine the fate of the country. Will you make a different decision than the leaders have made up until the 1980s? It depends on whether you learn or not.

I am told that when the USSR brought down the Iron Curtain. that the leaders of the USSR could not understand how Western society, government, and economics worked. They couldn’t understand how hundreds of millions of people could spontaneously act in unison to build an economic engine, an unstoppable government, a society that by all appearances would last a thousand years.

The secret to our success is that we don’t need government. We don’t need democracy. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do. All we want to do is get married, have kids, eat food, wear clothing, and keep a shelter over our head. If you let us be, we will create fantastic wealth. If you try to abuse us, we won’t. The self-governing individual becomes sovereign not because other governments recognize them as such, but because they don’t depend on government for their daily bread, clothing, and shelter.

These Chinese students, had they understood this, wouldn’t have wasted six seconds thinking about rebellion. They would’ve worked to build up their families no matter what condition they found themselves in. Communists are people too, just as selfish and greedy as anyone else. They need sheep to be shorn. As a stoic might say, you were born into that position and you can’t free yourself, so just learn to live with it and make your life as comfortable as possible.

The change that needs to happen in Chinese society will happen when hundreds of millions of families wake up and realize they don’t need government anymore, when government officials realize they can’t control the people, that they have nothing the people want. It will happen when the communists realize that they are only a few people, while the people are many. It will happen when the Chinese people learn to turn themselves into citizen-soldiers, when they learn how to self-organize, when they can appoint a leader, and when they have a clear vision. At that point, they will become unstoppable.