dredmorbius's recent activity

  1. Comment on How do we want to handle Podcasts? in ~tildes

    dredmorbius
    Link
    Episode link works best for context or transcripts. Posting a direct link to the media is tremendously useful. I tend to pick those up using mpv these days, which is amazeballs. mpv, a...

    Episode link works best for context or transcripts. Posting a direct link to the media is tremendously useful. I tend to pick those up using mpv these days, which is amazeballs.

    mpv, a terminal/shell media player, can source directly from local or remote media, and can make use of the youtube-dl URL handlers to pull from a huge range of online multimedia services, well beyond Google's viral disinformation video channel.

    Cross-patform, runs on Linux, MacOS, Windows, etc. Also Android, under Termux.

    4 votes
  2. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature. One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would...

    Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature.

    One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would be intrinsict to almost any comparable system. That is, most instances are not specific, and most especially, moral failings of individual or collective humans, but intrinsic systemic and emergent properties. The field of cybernetics as originally conceived by Norbert Wiener gets to much of this.

  3. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Any particulars or references you recall? And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list. OT: the...

    Any particulars or references you recall?

    And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list.

    OT: the interplay between lead, fossil fuels, isotopic dating, the age of the Earth, and environmental pollution is an interesting one. Short version: the addition of lead to petrol created pervasive contamination that frustrated attempts at dating rock samples and directly contributed to the identification of lead contamination as a major environmental problem, at the same time that the age of the Earth and effects of CO2 concentrations and greenhouse gases were becoming known.

    I think Naomi Oreskes addresses this in her work on the history of the development of the theory of plate tectonics, also fascinating.

  4. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link
    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent. mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big...

    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent.

    mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big Crunch" as a Big Problem. That is, of course, arguable, but isn't entirely what I'd had in mind.

    His comment does address the semantics and ontology of just what "big problems" are, which is to say, what is a problem?

    I frequently turn to etymology as a guide. Mind, not a definition, but as a hint as to what understanding has been. And we find:

    late 14c., "a difficult question proposed for solution," from Old French problème (14c.) and directly from Latin problema, from Greek problema "a task, that which is proposed, a question;" also "anything projecting, headland, promontory; fence, barrier;" also "a problem in geometry," literally "thing put forward," from proballein "propose," from pro "forward" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/problem

    (NB: The Online Etymological Dictionary is an Internet treasure, and operates on user support.)

    The question of heat death of the Universe ultimately isn't solvable (we can't avoid that), though forming a proper model of that does matter, somewhat. Rather, it defines a total bounds of what might happen within the Universe, the possibility space in which we and all other entities within it might operate.

    I prefer to look at degrees of freedom within some bounded space or sphere of influence. Strongly guided by a definition from sailing:

    The Art of ship handling involves the effective use of forces under control to overcome the effect of forces not under control.

    -- Charles H. Cotter

    That also defines my ontology.

    • If all the forces are not under control, then there is no problem, there is an inevitability.
    • If all of the forces are under control, there is no problem, there is only will.
    • If forces under control cannot overcome those not, again, what exists is an inevitability.
    • Where there is the option of influence and some scope of control, you have a Problem.

    Related to this is the hierarchy of failures in problem resolution, which also gives something of an anatomy of problems:

    1. Awareness of the problem.
    2. Diagnosis of the type of problem.
    3. Often, though not always, understanding of the problem's cause.
    4. An objective, an idea of where you want to be.
    5. A path to that objective: how to get there from here.
    6. Communication where enlisting the assisstance of others is necessary.
    7. Execution toward resolution.
    8. Often, though not always, assessment of performance.

    The next question is what "big" is.

    Lunch is not a Big Problem.

    A Big Problem is one that is not readily tackled, especially not by a single individual, organisation, or at the scope of what I'm considering, even single nations. Rather, a Big Problem:

    1. Involves multiple parties. People, organisations, institutions, models, disciplines, countries, belief systems.
    2. Involves major inputs or resources. Time, money, material, energy, understanding, coordination. In a word, sacrifices.
    3. Has a large and probable consequence. This distinguishes from butterfly effects, which are large, but cannot be probabalistically addressed. The consequence of failure would typically be a serious disruption or destruction of current working systems or order. The consequence of success would be either a continuation of that order or a transition to a better or more sustainable alternative state.

    There should be some rough ordering of Big Problems based on these criteria.

    There's a term, global catastrophic risk which is similar, though I'd argue that the set of Big Problems is probably a superset of these, including GCRs, but going beyond them. Issues of human nature (and defining what exactly "human nature" is), or understanding, or belief systems or world models, might be among the Big Problems, though not necessarily considered as GCRs.

    4 votes
  5. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is. Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

    Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is.

    Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

    3 votes
  6. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem? Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large...

    Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem?

    Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large portion of it.

    Nothing against hard problems. And if you do see this as a big problem, I'd be interested as to how or why.

    1 vote
  7. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above. But the key point I'm looking at...

    So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above.

    But the key point I'm looking at is that we've had a few bodies of knowledge in the past, most notably in the past 300 or so years a distinction between knowledge of means, or technical knowledge, and knowledge of causes, or scientific knowledge. AI seems to be a different, possibly a new, class: it provides answers to questions, but without explanation. Hence: non-explanatory knowledge mechanism.

    And the answers it provides can be to difficult problems, or performed at speeds or rates that would be difficult to independently vet or check or verify.

    And again, this operates a level or two deeper than the bias effects you mention, or other concerns posed: deep fakes, killer robots, content generation or self-driving/flying systems, to give just a few cases.

    2 votes
  8. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms. (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question...

    Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms.

    (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question here, I'm interested in how people define and approach the concepts as well as what specifically they come up with.)

  9. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and...

    My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and profound limitations. Among those is that it is what I call a non-explanatory knowledge mechanism -- AIs can often achieve spectacular results in some domain, but they can't tell you how they got them. Jonathan Zittrain has explored this space.

    I've also recently discovered Rappaport's Philosophy of Computer Science, which goes well beyond AI, but also looks at it, specifically, in a context of structured philosophical understanding. (And yes, that's 930 meaty pages long.)

    4 votes
  10. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    This has definitely been on my radar for a few years. The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems...

    This has definitely been on my radar for a few years.

    The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems (mechanisms, rate, sensitivity, control, biases, modalities) have profound impacts. Books such as McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy and Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change are strongly recommended.

    (There are many, many more, of course. These are good starting points.)

    And yes, the Internet, Social Media, mobile media, and viral media, as well as media and social manipulation and disinformation certainly are game changers.

    5 votes
  11. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where...

    The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where either is equally defensible?

    That might be over something as apparently benign as chirality, driving on the left or right side of a highway, say, where one or the other works, but both don't, or as complex as dietary and cultural traditions. There are both cultural traditions and religious prohibitions, or slighly less strict but still strong cultural aversions, to eating specific foods: pork, beef, dog, horse, or increasingly, any meats or animal products. How do two different cultures get along when they can literally not sit down to eat together?

    Mutually conflicting land (or space) use patterns create similar dilemmas. The Commons is an attractive notion but fails many specific cases. There's a place for exclusive private control and dominion, though even that as an absolute doctrine faces limits.

    3 votes
  12. What are the Big Problems?

    What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses. I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your list before reading...

    What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses.

    I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your list before reading others' contributions would be preferred.

    Optionally: who is (or isn't) successfully addressing them. Individuals, organizations, companies, governments, other. How and/or why not?

    I've asked this question periodically on several forums (G+, Reddit, HN) for seven years now.

    I've written fairly extensively on my own views, reasonably findable if you wish, but my interest here is in gaining fresh input, resetting my own biases, and not colouring the discussion overly myself.

    34 votes
  13. Comment on Blame Economists for the Mess We’re In: Why did America listen to the people who thought we needed “more millionaires and more bankrupts?” in ~science

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    You'll find many of the usual suspects rounded up in the line "In the four decades between 1969 and 2008". Newspaper editorials offer a large audience but limited space, and an exhaustive listing...

    You'll find many of the usual suspects rounded up in the line "In the four decades between 1969 and 2008".

    Newspaper editorials offer a large audience but limited space, and an exhaustive listing of all and sundry, or even more than a very few major players. Volker, Martin, Keynes, Burns, Kahn, Schultz, Schultze, Lucas, Friedman, and Scrooge McDuck are specifically mentioned. That's an extensive dramatis personae already for a 1,400 word essay.

    Though yes, I agree with you on Greenspan's culpability. He'd issued a pretty remarkable mea culpa for that, actually.

    1 vote
  14. Comment on Hacker News is unable to discuss the difficult subject that Hacker news is unable to discuss difficult subjects in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    The post in question initially was not in fact mine. The meta post on what topics HN cannot discuss was mine. The problem generally is one I've tracked on HN for some years (mostly at G+, where...

    The post in question initially was not in fact mine.

    The meta post on what topics HN cannot discuss was mine.

    The problem generally is one I've tracked on HN for some years (mostly at G+, where ... the posts are themselves no longer available publicly, though I have archives).

    I'd intended the meaning in your 2nd sentence, though with an implied criticism: what is it about HN that makes the site unable to discuss difficult, and often political, topics.

    1 vote
  15. Comment on Hacker News is unable to discuss the difficult subject that Hacker news is unable to discuss difficult subjects in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Given that the site itself doesn't care to discuss the matter, side channels are all that is. The question of how to have difficult discussions is one that online fora need to face. At a meta...

    Given that the site itself doesn't care to discuss the matter, side channels are all that is.

    The question of how to have difficult discussions is one that online fora need to face. At a meta level, this includes Tildes.

    Again, the matter at HN itself extends well beyond this post, story, or topic.

  16. Comment on Hacker News is unable to discuss the difficult subject that Hacker news is unable to discuss difficult subjects in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    I'm very familiar with it. And in a majority of cases, it is not a problem. That leaves a very problematic minority, however.

    I'm very familiar with it. And in a majority of cases, it is not a problem.

    That leaves a very problematic minority, however.

    1 vote
  17. Comment on How do you find new books to read? in ~books

    dredmorbius
    Link
    Generally: bibliographies of books or articles I've read of interest. This typically works better for nonfiction than fiction, though there are exceptions. Reverse-citation searches (works citing...

    Generally: bibliographies of books or articles I've read of interest.

    This typically works better for nonfiction than fiction, though there are exceptions.

    Reverse-citation searches (works citing those I'm impressed by) and general subject searches likewise.

    Worldcat rocks (mobile interface excepted). Bang !worldcat on DDG.

    Google Scholar, Microsoft's similar tool, Google Books, and a massive metric fuckton of Sci-Hub and LibGen downloads -- also Intrnet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and others.

    I am on zarrow dangers of running out of things to read.

    4 votes
  18. Comment on Hacker News is unable to discuss the difficult subject that Hacker news is unable to discuss difficult subjects in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Many, though not all. Reddit has TheoryOfReddit, beta, and AskTheAdmins, though TBF it also has SRS. HN seem to be following the Slashdot principle of declaring metadiscussion off-topic. I've made...

    Many, though not all.

    Reddit has TheoryOfReddit, beta, and AskTheAdmins, though TBF it also has SRS.

    HN seem to be following the Slashdot principle of declaring metadiscussion off-topic.

    I've made a point of not commenting on negative treatment of my own posts, as a rule, this being a notable exception.

  19. Comment on Hacker News is unable to discuss the difficult subject that Hacker news is unable to discuss difficult subjects in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Addresed directly in the thread: There are numerous specific isues in the report concerning Internet, Web, Silicon Valley, and related technologies, firms, practices, and concerns, most especially...

    Addresed directly in the thread:

    There are numerous specific isues in the report concerning Internet, Web, Silicon Valley, and related technologies, firms, practices, and concerns, most especially Facebook and Twitter.
    Among other outcomes, the consequences and repercussions are all but certain to include massive changes to self- and externally-imposed industry regulation. The Net's age of innocence is over.

    Blanket declarations that the story is off-topic seem at best parlous thin.

    And further: the discussion on the linked post, as memorialised at the Internet Archive, is distinctly free of the spamming [that comment's parent] describe.

    Contrast a current front-page story on ... college football.

    1 vote