What DO People Want?

To start, my version of a joke I remember reading in the late seventies (The story made more universal is posted here, as this was written specifically in service to the point made in this posting):

There was a Soviet Era farmer who lived on one of the Soviet farms, and he was farming on his personal plot of land (this was the time when the Soviet Union decided to allow their farmers a plot of land for their own use) when his plow uprooted an Old Persian Oil Lamp, so he picked it up, brought it to his Soviet era cement block and got a cloth to wipe it down. After a few rubs with the cloth he loooked up and saw that there was a stranger eminating from the lamp where the fire would have been lit.

“I am the Genie Of The Lamp. You have freed me, so I shall give you three wishes. What is your first wish?”

“My first wish is that I get a better, newer hut. This hut is sturdy but old, and I wish for something sturdier and newer.” The Soviet farmer said.

“Your wish is my command.” The genie said.

And the Soviet farmer found himself in a familiar looking hut, only with an extra bedroom and better construction complete with wood used where the wood would be more useful, or as a beautifier. The Soviet farmer looked over his new hut and deemed it good – better, even, than he would have wished for.

“What is your second wish?” the Genie asked.

After a second’s thought, the Soviet farmer replied “I wish for me a wife to help out with the chores and make this house a home.”

“Your wish is my command.” The genie said.

And before his eyes the Soviet farmer saw a woman standing before him. She was nice to look at, stocky enough for the chores she would have to do, a ready helpmeet for the day’s work – and, with a pleasure that surprised even him, he surmised that she was as eager to comfort him during the nights as she was ready to help during the day. The Soviet farmer looked over his new wife and deemed her good – better, even, than he would have wished for.

“And what is your third wish?” The genie asked.

The Soviet farmer paused for a bit, thinking over what he might want. His eyes then went over to his neighbor’s plot of land, and how, instead of one cow and one bull, he had three cows and one bull – enough to actually create a surplus of milk and calves for the neighbor to sell. And a smile came to the Soviet farmer’s eyes.

“You have your third wish?” The genie asked.

“Yes. Remove two of the neighbor’s three cows. Leave him one cow and one bull, but the other two must disappear.” The Soviet farmer said.

The idea, of course, that that the normal person would want for other people to benefit from their labors and (good, productive) plans and that it took a destructive political system to make people wish instead for the impoverishment and destruction of others. Thus, we laugh at the system that would cause the farmer to wish ill on the neighbor instead of at the farmer (Although there’s some laughter aimed at the farmer, as well – why not laugh AT him, since he chose to damn his neighbor instead of raise himself up?).

Yeah, I know – to explain the joke is to ruin it. Stick with me on this.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Now focus on the election of Donald Trump for the Presidential office, and while Hillary Clinton received 2.5 million plus more votes Donald Trump won the Electoral college by turning the once-prosperous and once Democratic rust belt into a newly-reddened Republican outpost. A trend that started in West Virginia in 2000 (where a state that was once an island of Blue in 1988 (Yes, Bentson was a Democrat) turned into a Red Spear aimed at Pennsylvania, DC, and New England) spread into Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and affected Michigan enough to turn the state Red, and while one could say that more people wanted Hillary than were willing to pick Trump (Nearly 1 in 5 Trump voters felt he was unqualified to become President but voted for him anyway, hence “were willing to pick” instead of “wanted”) enough people voted for Trump in enough states that Trump was able to pull off the victory.

The result? Not enough activity along the lines of the Tea Party in 2008 yet (organizing, preparing to take over from the ground up. Yes, Corporations United helped, but if you’re going to be the party for the poor you need to activate the poor as a replacement for money. The Democrats used to understand that, when the Republicans have always paid their workers the Democrats used to rely on volunteers.), although many see it as necessary (thank God). So far I’ve read oodles of posts stating that everyone who voted for Trump was Racist or – WORSE YET – willing to accept racism, that robots and AI automation would make Trump’s promises IMPOSSIBLE for him to deliver on (never mind outsourcing to Mexico or “Moving headquarters to Europe”, stuff that Trump seems to have had an immediate effect on even before making it to office), that Trump played the working class for fools, and that the left was getting ready to LAUGH at the white (yes, let me put THAT word out there) working class for abandoning the party that had, in the past, protected them and made their dreams possible. In short, they mocked those workers and former workers instead of considered how to win them back (heck, they even have plans of turning to Arizona and Texas to replace Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania for future wins).

Well, here’s the thing: When you run on the idea of “It was my turn eight years ago, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for finally realizing it,” go out of your way to dismiss the serious challenges to you that rise up from your base, and run on the idea that you’re owed the votes from 69% of the population (everyone EXCEPT non-hispanic white males – and that’s not including gay men or the transgendered posing as male out of a wish to survive through the hell that is non-urban life), don’t be surprised if your wish gets frustrated.

But enough on that. This post is focusing on the nearly one in five Trump voters who, deeming Trump unqualified, still voted for him. People who, having watched their neighborhoods, cities and services gutted for the sake of WalMart, China, Manhattan, San Francisco, the DC area and their state Capitols (although many of the State Capitols look ragged once you walk a few blocks from their Capitol Domes or their professional suburbs), having seen trade treaties trump their efforts to improve their towns, having seen the party many of them once turned to diss on them and seek out the favor of those who wished them harm, having observed the concentration of medical services into the larger cities to the point of knowing that “emergency service” for their town has been redefined as taking them to the hospital to put an official time to their death by something that would have been a minor occurrence in the big city, having seen education go from something which could help to something used to hold you down (through the incessant testing requirements and the loans what will tag you as unemployable even as they drain you without remorse or recourse), with even the decent sized cities (with jobs that pay enough to help you live) being made too costly for you to move to, had decided (while putting it in their own words) that Lenin was right – that any cook should be able to run the country, and that while Trump would probably make only peppery dishes (note that Lenin originally warned the others about Stalin, saying that “Stalin will make only peppery dishes.” You know how that turned out….) that they would rather see a patently unqualified Mr. Trump take office over the supposedly overqualified Mme. Clinton.

And, having seen all the above, they aren’t necessarily looking for benefits to themselves and their way of life – they only wish for what may harm those who seem to wish to harm you. A person who no longer cares most highly for improvements in your own life will instead wish for the debasement of the lives of people whom they feel has hurt them, whether harmed directly, indirectly or not at all.

Imagine the following issues, with the specific desires attached to them:

In short, it’s a wishlist of things NOT meant to benefit those who voted for Trump but a wishlist of harm to be done to those who wouldn’t have voted for Trump this election.

And these folks who voted for Trump against their own better judgement, who voted to get back at their “liberal,” citified folks and their minority-self-identifying allies (again, let’s call it what it is – I can’t and won’t say Racism had absolutely no part in this, just that I don’t believe it is the only thing that matters), they’ve already had their votes validated by the unremitting panic of the left. All the effort towards turning Republican Electors into betrayers (never mind being made “unfaithful”) was to laugh, and if one knew how to cut through the news one finds out that Clinton could NEVER have made 270 even with the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania if the electors in quite a few States had had the Freedom of Conscience intended by the Founding Fathers.

Again, this wouldn’t be an issue if Mme. Clinton had a record of supporting the Working Class against the Rich and Scheming – indeed, her election would have properly been seen as an inevitability. However, as has been well and often written, Hillary was a partner (and NOT just by being married) of Bill during his time as President, and many of the bills that Bill passed that have harmed the poor and working class – NAFTA, GATT, China’s “Most Favored Nation” Status, Three Strikes, Mid-nineties Welfare Reform, The Telecommunications act of 1996, the ending of Glass-Steagall – all were done with her working behind the scenes, helping and guiding her husband with the stuff. So, in short, the woman has a record (along with her Husband) and it’s not good (yes, hindsight is 20-20. Hindsight is ALSO the form of judgement that lasts, as it has the advantage of allowing people to see the results of the choices).

Harm someone enough and you may find that person wanting your harm, even if they are more deeply harmed by the harm you receive. They will gain their consolations from the harm you receive and your empuzzlement at your schadenfreude.

Hence 2016. Hence Trump and the nearly 1,000 elected seats – both in the states and nationwide – that have shifted from Democratic to Republican hands.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Of course, the story of the (Soviet) farmer usually ends at the point of the third wish, as if all we needed to know was that he had learned to hate his neighbor farmer for having more than he. However, I had always wondered how the story ended, and here’s what I ended up writing:

“As you wish.” The genie said.

And suddenly the Soviet farmer’s hut was back to the way it was before he had the wishes, and slightly more worn to boot. The wife was also gone. So was the Old Persian Oil Lamp which had housed the Genie.

The farmer looked over to his neighbor’s yard and found that the neighbor had but one cow and one bull – and was weeping for the loss of the two other cows.

And the Soviet farmer was glad, as he had gotten what he had truly wanted with the third wish even as the memory of what he had had after the first two wishes was fading into the realm of unattainable fantasy – no longer even something to wish for, which it had been before he had found the Old Persian Oil Lamp.

And at that point I end the story. The point has been made.

On 2016

Yeah, I know about the deaths, the votes that point to much smaller worlds under the rule of corporations, the signs that we have passed peak cellphone (exploding Samsung S7s, iPhones (and all things Apple) with fewer holes than necessary), the troubles my friends have suffered (from wildfires in Tennessee to financial issues that take their sweet time to tighten the screws), and the fact that These United States are actually two nations, each nation dreaming of subjugating the other (If I was a betting man my money would be on the Rednecks, as they have the guns and know how to use them. The Urban Elites only use Proxies, and proxies can always turncoat without remorse.).

Probably the worst thing about 2016, as long as you kept things on the Macro level, was that it seemed that there were dark forces that have been hell-bent on breaking things up. Quite a few of the deaths were of people who’s life work was the bringing together of various peoples for fun or serious business. The two major elections (Brexit and Trump/Clinton) split their respective nations in two, quickly degenerated into bitter fights, and were decided in ways that seemed to aim towards the atomization of the non-corporate world. And while everything seemed to be atomizing in the public sphere, Corporations were combining (and very likely consolidating their powers in various ways) while the Armed branches of the Governments were gaining unity. And while the left seemed desperate to find fantasies to hang their hopes on (to the point that what they were agitating for threatened to make their own candidate PATENTLY unelectable), the fantasies of the various versions of the right seemed to be being made real before the world’s eyes.

(And I shall only mention the Muslim refugee issue here to note that people forced to run have no real reason to give up their beliefs or even to moderate them – they were happy enough with those beliefs where they were and didn’t exactly choose their present living place, unlike the immigrants of years past who came for economic opportunity and thus had good reasons to make peace and moderate themselves into society.)

Makes one wish to have stayed in 2016, however painful it may look. After all, if the world is about to drop into the abyss, better to be frozen before the drop than to go over and deal with the impact below.

Going to the micro level is a bit different. For me, it was actually a year of finishing some unfinished business. Baggage that I had held onto for too long was taken care of (not all by me, but I did my part), priorities were adjusted to fit into my new situation, and hard decisions were actually made. For the first time in my nearly 52 years (outside of certain isolated moments) I can honestly say that I’m an adult.

Now if you’re expecting a speech on how things are improving, you’ve come to the wrong place. 52 (or soon to be 52) is not 25, and the more-than-doubling of my years has left my body in a worse place than before. Twenty-plus years of sitting down on the job (taxi driving/transport) hasn’t helped, nor has carrying 100+ pounds of excess weight for eighteen plus years, nor gaining it like mad before then (I hope to lose SOME of it in the next couple years…).

Another thing that an extra 27 years does is to give a bit of perspective; perspective that people who readily quote Nietzche don’t yet understand. “Whatever doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger” is nice to quote when you’re twenty-five and trying to justify all the evil in the world done to others by others, but grow old enough and you learn that not everything that harms you necessarily kills you. I could easily point to HIV (When the person dies, it’s from some infection or disease that would have been stopped but runs rampant because of the lack of T-helper cells), but there’s plenty of stuff out there that doesn’t kill but weakens, even if you take care of it – stuff that, even in the coccooned times of recent, people learned as they grew older; and stuff which I believe younger people will more and more learn at a younger age as the years go on. I learned this from my Pneumonia fit in 1996 (and have had refreshers since then), all the Universities and Colleges nursing their investments and gutting education also understand this in their own way (Why not protect and grow your unspent funds while you can if you fear there’s a time coming when you’ll have to spend them to survive?).

And finally, there’s the issue of choices. Not every choice is going to be between something bad and something good, or something good and something better – sometimes we’re talking about two or three bad choices, and those are the best choices out there. Sometimes life is like that, and sometimes it doesn’t even give you a choice – “take this reduction in your life, and nobody will care if you’ll like it (or, in this corporacratic world, know that SOMEONE is taking pleasures from your decline; pray that it’s an INDIRECT pleasure…).”

My fear (and expectation) is that, more and more, we’re going to get stuck with these choices – and would have gotten to this point no matter how certain things went this year. Probably the biggest thing the 2016 Presidential election decided was who would get the pleasure of watching the other side take the biggest psychological hits during the rest of 2016, and the Brexit vote merely proved that the “political left” (now the side with nothing to gain and everything to lose with change, hence the quotation marks – they should probably have been called “New Conservatives” at some point in the past twenty years…) had nothing to state positively for their case, a problem that Mme. Clinton shared with the Remainers in the Brexit vote and Mr. Trump exploited (Yes, Sanders had a vision. He may have been made unable to try to fix the nation, but at least he’s trying to fix the Democratic Party at the moment, thank God…).

That’s why I don’t plan on EVER saying “Good Riddance to 2016” the way I did to 2009. I could see things getting better in 2010; I’m not sure that could have ever been said about 2017.

Still, I must go on. There is an alternative to dealing with the future – even a bad future – but it is a choice that is often endowed with lots of radical benefits for it to be even allowed into conversation.

And here’s to hoping that 2017 is a better year – however BLIND that hope is.

Indiana Election Results, 2000 – 2016, or Who Didn’t Vote For President?

Indiana Election Results, 2000 – 2016 (President, Senator, Governor where can be gotten):


People are more likely to vote for President and nobody else instead of vote for everyone BUT President. Observed both directly and through ballot counts.


President 2016: 2,732,710 votes cast (“all” votes)
Senator 2016: 2,731,452 votes cast (1,258 fewer votes)
Governor 2016: 2,718,674 votes cast 14,036 fewer votes)

President 2012: 2,624,531 votes cast (“all” votes)
Senator 2012: 2,560,102 votes cast (103,129 fewer votes)
Governor 2012: 2,577,329 votes cast (85,802 fewer votes)

President 2008: 2,751,054 votes cast (“all” votes)
Governor 2008: 2,703,752 votes cast (47,302 fewer votes)

President 2004: 2,468,002 votes cast (“all” votes)
Senator 2004: 2,428,433 votes cast (39,569 fewer votes)
Governor 2004: 2,448,476 votes cast (19,526 fewer votes)

President 2000: 2,199,302 votes cast (“all” votes)
Senator 2000: 2,145,209 votes cast (54,093 fewer votes)

Where I got my information:


This election had nearly the numbers of the 2008 election and more than 2012, so the general repugnance towards the election that was expressed throughout this election cycle didn’t result in an absence of voters in Indiana. In addition, the ratio between votes for Trump and votes for Clinton in Indiana were 3:2 (1,556,310 to 1,036,632), so there was no reason to believe that the ballot was being fixed towards either candidate. And yet, 2016 had a smaller difference between Presidential Votes and Senator Votes; and there was a less than 0.1% difference between Presidential and Senator votes in 2016. Every other election had from near 1% to near 4% difference between Presidential Election and Senator/Governor Election.

What this tells me is that there was a large contingent of people in Indiana, just like in Michigan, who voted for various candidates but NOT for President.

It’s kind of hard to know how many people didn’t vote in Indiana since they didn’t collect the numbers (as far as I know) and there were still enough votes for President but little (or nothing) else down the ballot to make the difference in favor of Presidential ballots. However, one can reasonable guess (assumption in place) there were still more no votes for President this election than in previous elections.

Okay, Who Nearly Cost WHOM The Election? 2016

Another close election with close counts and a group of voters angry over having gotten more votes and fewer electors. Where have I seen this before? Oh yes, back when Nader was running and pulled plenty of people from Gore – only it turns out that, of those who would have voted for either of the major candidates, more would have voted for Bush than for Gore.

As it is, we had multiple candidates who ran as third party candidates. There were at least three, and others had effects here and there.

Let’s take a look, shall we? (Thanks, by the way, to Reason for doing the digging.) I’m assuming that your average Libertarian, limited to choosing between Mme. Clinton and Mr. Trump, would probably have chosen Trump at a 3-1 margin (a stat I heard during the campaign from a friend of a friend); with a similar skewering (if not a greater skewering towrds Trump) from McMullin. We’ll assume that Most Green Party candidates would go to Clinton THIS TIME AROUND.

(And yes, I know Hillary won the popular vote by 2 Million Plus. Unfortunately that’s now how we pick our presidents – something about the Tyranny of Majority Rule and all that.)

  • Arizona: Trump beat Clinton by four points; Johnson collected 3.8 percent and Stein collected 1.2 percent. Most likely, Trump would have won more comfortably here if the 3rd party candidates were removed, there is no way for Clinton to with even by keeping Johnson and removing Stein.
  • Colorado: Clinton won by 2.2 percent. Voters also gave 4.9 percent to Johnson, 1.2 percent to Stein, 1 percent to McMullin, and nearly 1 percent more to a collection of third-tier candidates. Remove Johnson and McMullin, and you may flip the state to Trump.
  • Florida: Trump eked out a win by just 1.4 percent here. Johnson, Stein, Castle, and Rocky De La Fuente of the Reform Party between them collected 3.2 percent; Stein got only .7 percent of the total vote. No Dice.
  • Maine: Clinton won this by three percentage points, and Johnson collected 5.1 percent, so there’s a chance he tipped the electors who represented the State’s Senate Votes to the Democrats.
  • Michigan: Trump won this ordinarily blue state by about .3 percent. Stein got 1.1 percent, and Johnson got 3.6 percent. Remove Stein and you get a Clinton squeaker – assuming, of course, that Johnson is forced to stay around.
  • Minnesota: Clinton won by 1.4 percent. McMullin got 1.8 percent, Johnson got 3.4 percent (Making for 5.2 percent together) and Stein got 1.3 percent. Given my percentages, looks like Clinton won another state thanks to the third parties.
  • Nevada: Clinton won by 2.4 percent; Johnson got 3.3 percent. A bit close, especially since Jill Stein wasn’t on the ballot.
  • New Hampshire: Another narrow Clinton win—just a tenth of a percentage point—and another relatively strong showing for Johnson, who collected 4.1 percent. Stein only got .9 percent, so it would appear that Johnson handed yet another state to Clinton (assuming that that’s the only thing third parties tend to do).
  • Pennsylvania: Trump won by about 1.1 percent. Stein’s .8 percent isn’t enough to cover that spread; Johnson’s 2.4 percent would likely have made this state called sooner for Trump.
  • Virginia: Clinton won by 4.7 percent. Johnson, McMullin, and Stein got 3, 1.6, and .7 percent, respectively. So the third-party candidates covered the spread if you include the Green, but the two candidates who were more likely to pull from Trump didn’t have quite enough to cover it on their own.
  • Wisconsin: Stein’s 1.1 percent is just enough to bridge the 1-percent margin between the winning Trump and the losing Clinton. But then what does Johnson’s 3.4 percent do to the results—or, for that matter, the nearly half a percentage point that Castle won while running to Trump’s right (none of whom would have been caught DEAD voting for Clinton)?

So what do we have? Michigan and MAYBE Wisconsin “stolen” from Hillary, accounting for 16-26 votes – assuming, of course, that Johnson (and Castle) stay in the race. Not enough to push Hillary over the top by any means.

Meanwhile we have Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Maine (at least the two senate electors) going to Trump were it not for third parties, accounting for 25-26 electoral votes. Add Nevada’s six electors, and it’s possible that we’d have a true landslide for Trump (as it is, the size of victory is large enough to make normal Democrats uncomfortable).

Remove Stein, Keep Johnson, McMullin and Castle: Close Trump Victory
Remove Johnson, McMullin and Castle, Keep Stein: Trump Landslide
Remove All Third Party Canididates: Michigan and Wisconsin look out of place.

So please, stop blaming Third Parties for your loss. There’s not enough there for you, and you could end up REALLY getting embarassed. Stein barely pulled enough votes to get noticed, for that matter.


Items About This General Election That People Are Missing:

Having read all the hand-wringing from the left that the present election has brought about, three items have entered into my mind:

  1. The Praetorian Guard Made Its Preferences Heard, And Got Its Wish. Remember how the Clinton Emails suddenly were back under examination for a few days before the FBI head James Comey felt the need to quash that rumor? While people were debating whether the FBI had suddenly started trying to sway the election, quite a few people were reconsidering their minds on stuff. So much so that there were articles on changing one’s vote before Election Day, if you had done early voting.
    (For those not in the know, The Praetorian Guard was a group of Roman Soldiers whose job it was to guard the Emperor. Soon after being founded they started involving themselves in picking new Emperors on occasion – after all, if you have to guard the Roman Emperor you’d better like the guy you’re guarding.)
  2. Millions Of Polls Cannot Equal Feet On The Ground. While all the people who put out all the surveys were measuring “Hillary’s Lead,” at least three people I know and read somewhat regularly were catching onto what has happening on the Ground. John Michael Greer of The Archdruid Report saw Trump coming from at least January of this year (2016, in case you’re reading this after Trump is Sworn Into office), Scott Adams spent a year talking about how Trump would win the election, and Michael Moore predicted Trump’s Victory – even went so far as to make an impromptu movie trying to stop what he was was inevitable. What these three did (and I did as well, even though I didn’t go so far as to make a prediction but merely kept making a point of reminding people that Trump could win) was walk around, observed and listened. They (and I) heard and saw stuff that everyone else was making a point of ignoring – that there was a bunch of people out there who had been ignored by both sides, and now that there was someone willing to talk to their interests they had a reason to vote.
    This was most obvious in the Midwest, which had been gleefully ignored for most of the Reagan Era. Jobs disappeared, infrastructure began to fall apart, and Most Favored Corporations (WalMart* being the most obvious one) were allowed to milk the area as dry as they could get away with. People were waiting for SOMEONE who empathised with their plight, and they finally got it.
  3. The Republicans (Begrudgingly) Accepted Their Populist, The Democrats Went Out Of Their Way To Reject Theirs. The Election Results Show It. Probably the most interesting thing about Trump’s supporters was that they wer ALL willing to take a look at Sanders, and many of them were actually supportive of his actions. This includes the voters in such states as Michigan (go ahead and declare it for Trump already…) and West Virginia (a state given away to the Republicans by Clinton in the 1990s, and which had just elected a Democratic Governor). Indeed, many people (me among them) believe that Sanders could have won the Election, mainly because the people who voted for Trump out of populism only voted for Trump because he was stating them, NOT because he was a Republican.
    Not only that, but most (if not all) Sanders Supporters were willing to look at Trump, even if in the end they rejected him. The Democratic Party’s devotion to Hillary (never mind the understandable Superdelegates, just the utter fixing that became so obvious as the general election worked its way to the close) ended up insuring that enough people who wanted their voices heard would vote for the one party that was, admittedly, stuck with their populist.

Now I understand that Hillary won the popular vote by a little over 200,000 – or maybe .2% of the popular vote. Still, that doesn’t explain the loss of the Midwest. Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania – all working class, with longsuffering Democratic voters. Something happened to lose the Midwest to the Republicans this election, and if the Democrats view this the way they viewed West Virginia (good riddance) they will live just long enough to regret this.

On The Concept of “Old News”

I get tired of posting stuff and hearing “This is Old News” as if something stopped being worth remembering after a certain period of time had passed.

The problem with that attitude is that if the item talked about is important enough to be repeated, it is knowledge. If someone doesn’t know about it, they NEED to know about it, and therefore it needs to be repeated.

Sometimes people may not know what you know. Not everyone hangs out in the same circles you hang out in, nor does everyone hear everything you hear when you hear it – and, for that matter, that they don’t necessarily care about the same things that you care about at the same time either.

Knowledge transcends timeliness because it stays useful. Even if it becomes “obsolete” it stays useful because it gives a sense of past.

Remember that, please, the next time someone says something that you heard a long time ago.

Has the Singularity Happened Already? And Is Life Already Sucking Because Of It?

First, let’s look at a blog from mini.quietbabylon.com:

One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us.

Here’s a recent example, Ross Anderson on human extinction as quoted/linked by Kottke. It’s a discussion about how a benign AI might be poorly designed and lead to our downfall. What happens is the AI is given a goal that is proximate to helping people but not identical to (because no one even knows what that means).

The scenario imagined is one where there is a button that humans push if the AI gets an answer right and the AI wants to get a lot of button presses, and eventually it realizes that the best way to get button presses is to kill all the humans and institute a rapid fire button-pressing regime. (This, by the way, is the same instrumentalist train of logic that leads to sexbots.)

You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.

And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met.

I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it.

What if the private pursuit of profit was—for a long time—proximate to improving the lot of humans but not identical to it? What if capitalism has gone feral, and started making moves that are obviously insane, but also inevitable?

For a very long time, the AI dedicated to maximizing profit saw the path forwards through innovation, new products, better living for customers. But then at some point it realized that is had the ability to just reshape the planet in its image. So it did that instead.

Imagine these thoughts—hastily thrown together to make a point about the devil we fear, vs the one we face—accompanied by about a million caveats having to do with long histories of systemic racism/sexism/colonialism and many other important isms that make making claims about the relative benefits to humans from the private pursuit of profit very difficult and likely to fall apart under careful scrutiny.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So, how can corporations be seen as AI, and an evil form of that? And how can they be seen as working for the good of the people…until they grow their own brain, and don’t?

Consider the issue of Wal-Mart.

Through the Seventies, Eighties and part of the Nineties – during which Sam Walton was still controlling the company – Wal-Mart was a mix of things, but in the balance a good thing. They may have destroyed a lot of downtowns in the South and the Plains states, but they also made sure the factories that produced the stuff were in the United States (heck, they even advertised it). Also, while a lot of the downtowns were destroyed, one could make the point that the consumers were getting a benefit in the form of everything they could have wanted within reach. One can see this with the sudden rise of Country Music from a steady format with a strong fan base (if a bit low on sales) to the massive amount of sales during the nineties, to the point where stations kept trying to become country without success (one of the more entertaining versions was in Lansing, where the Top 40 station suddenly turned Country, only to be beat at its own game by a station with half the range and even less reach).

Then two things happened:

  1. Sam Walton Died
  2. NAFTA and the deal with China

Suddenly you no longer saw “Made In The USA” (how true that may have been was open to debate, but there was enough “Made in USA” products in their stores for them to advertise it as true), but instead “Lower Prices.” Suddenly all the clothing worn in the USA came from China (which is why I can’t blame the South for voting full-on Republican – Clinton the Democrat made it so that the South lost its industries first) – and Wal-Mart benefitted, using its excess profits to expand into new areas and kill off even more downtowns.

Wal-Mart even started killing off other corporations that wouldn’t follow its “Make your stuff in China and make it cheaper still” dictates. Rubbermaid, Huffy, Vlasic and many others prospered under its umbrella of protected markets, only to find their margins gleefully butchered for the sake of the umbrella company. Rubbermaid and Vlasic eventually disappeared into Bankrupture, Huffy sold off its good bikes to its competitors and is now known as the maker of crap bicycles.

And the stuff that couldn’t, in good stead, be imported? Other dictates were given. Many places had to build crates in such a way that the Wal-Mart corporation wouldn’t have to do any of the sorting of the products.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So, what does walmart* (the present name of that corporation) have to do with dystopian singularity? Simple: imagine that the “Artificial Intelligence” starts figuring things out. It should be able to see that there may be ways to game the system so that it benefits instead of the humans that run it. And if it can do so subtly, it can have the humans working to the support of the AI, to the point that the AI becomes the masters and the humans supporting it its slaves.

Basically, a corporation is built with the idea of doing its own thing and benefitting the people around them (defined as the population at large, but actually being the owners of the corporation first, its employees as a distant second and MAYBE the customers if it makes sense). The corporation runs in a controlled way (usually with a specific leader) and its good leads to the good of the customers, employees and owners… and in that order.

However, when a corporation grows big enough to be able to control a market, things change. It begins to change the environment to fit in with its own benefit. And it begins to change the people within it to benefit itself…starting at the top, so that the owners and those who work directly for them benefit (the corporation can’t yet benefit by itself, so even then it must give its goods to the people who benefit it the most, i.e. the CxOs and the owners; but be sure that if it could benefit by itself it would.).

So the corporations start acting in seemingly irrational ways. Irrational to the greater part of the people, but rational enough to those who benefit – both personal and corporate.

It even extends to those forces supposed to control it. What was originally a minority opinion piece becomes the center part of legal decisions by the Supreme Court (personhood of corporations, taken to its defining extreme to mean personhood becomes to corporations and NOT to human beings). Structures set up to regulate Corporations eventually beg for the Corporations to run them (the folks looking over our food). And laws are set up with Corporations in mind, even those laws obstinately made with humans in mind (RomneyCare 2.0, known as Obamacare).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And if you think of Corporations as Artifical Actors with a mind of their own, then you have a malevolent form of AI coming to take over things. After all, a Corporation has to act so as to survive…and if there’s not one known person in definite control of things, it becomes its own master.

The thing is, people tend to react against self-determining corporations. If we see a human face on the top we’ll forgive it a thousand trespasses because we know what is on top, remove the face and the first trespass becomes the unforgivable sin.

As an example, look at Apple Corporation. As long as Steve Jobs was around everything was workable. They could make crappy computers but they were forgiven because you knew they were working at making better items (and they did). Their iPhones may have been flawed but that was forgiven because we knew what the flaw was meant to do and that Steve would make sure it was fixed (and it was). Remove Steve Jobs, and you get an iMaps program that didn’t work out of the shoot…and thus was forever tarred by it (never mind that I’ve never had an issue with it that I couldn’t work around, and that there’s stuff that GoogleMaps STILL doesn’t do). and from the iMaps introduction fiasco, the name becomes tainted.

As for walmart*, it’s questionable at this moment whether they’ll be made to pay for their sins. After all, they supported Romneycare 2.0/Obamacare because they saw that many larger corporations would come to see the wisdom of treating their hourly workers as badly as walmart* has always done. Why improve, after all, when everyone else treats their workers like shit as well?

Will they improve? Maybe…but I don’t see it at the moment. Old habits die hard. Having changed a few habits of my own, I know…imagine a corporation that has grown fat off them.

So…Who Cares About Chicago’s Free Papers Anymore?

A few weeks ago I got me a few of the “weekly” papers in Chicago and noticed a couple of changes:

1) The New City has become a biweekly. They seemed able to hold out against the winds of the new economy for a long time (although I believe they had once been rectangular and now are square), this seems like a last line of defense against the inevitable.

2) I found three weeks of Onions in an Onion box. The two non-current Onion papers were neatly folded up, as if someone might want them later on.

And since then I haven’t particularly cared about getting the Chicago freebie papers. I still get them whenever I can, but “whenever I can” has been redefined to me having to have enough free time to justify it – I’m not going to go out of my way to pick up consistently thinner papers, especially when it appears that other people seem to no longer care about them either.

I’m pretty sure that The Reader will still find a space – even as an upscale weekly version of the doomed Red Storm, and the Chicago Weekly/New City will keep on finding interesting things to write about as it winds its way down to disappearing from Chicago streets. But the Onion…it seems that people no longer want to deal with a paper that has grown so thin as to be almost nonexistent.

It’s not like the early seventies, when Readers could afford to be four pages and would be devoured so quickly that you had to skip work to get your copy. We remember what we had before, so when things get too thin we’re likely to turn our backs.

And so where I’m at at the moment. If I can get some newspapers from Chicago, I will…I’m just not going to work at it so much anymore. It’s not worth the effort anymore.


I find it rather interesting that there’s suddenly so much debate on Gun Control, when people seem to be going out of their way to forget stuff. Founding Fathers quotes get thrown around as if they had everything figured out back then and we’ve only grown stupider since then (Rich Men as Gods? Who’d’ve thunk it?), criminals are posited as the sole source of wisdom, even if in reaction to them, and now I’m getting inundated with comments about SSRIs, The Media and of Conspiracy Theories.

First, let’s go over what’s happened:

  1. In Mid December the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the remaining State law in the United States banning “Conceal-and-Carry,” the freedom to carry armed guns around outside one’s home. This made “Conceal-and-Carry” the law of the land.
  2. Before this happened, there had been rumblings that the NRA wanted to make it illegal to ban guns from a house, church, school or hospital. Nothing major, of course (I’m sure the first thirty states to pass “Conceal-and-Carry” weren’t noticed), but one could already tell where they wanted to go next: Change the freedom to carry armed guns outside the home (freedoms being limited) to the RIGHT to carry armed guns wherever (rights being unlimited).
  3. Sandy Hook. Bad enough that there was a hurricane named “Sandy” that wreaked havoc in New York City and New Jersey – two Democratic states, the Republican Governor of New Jersey notwithstanding. Interesting that the right-wing conspiracy world blamed Obama with setting up something to fix the election when it seemed the path of the hurricane would have knocked out the Democratic Center of New York State (which could have turned NY Red in 2004, if my calculations are right).
  4. So now we have our debate: On the left, the need to limit “assault weapons” (Never mind that the 2nd Amendment was meant so that guns that kill PEOPLE are allowed into mainstream society. Nothing about sport, or hunting – it’s SOLELY about the ability to kill people. Hence the “Well Regulated Militia” reference – the government wanted to draw upon people who know what they were doing when it came to killing people), and on the right, the necessity of guns to be freely used on School, Hospital and Church grounds (thereby poisoning what remains of the public commons – why leave one’s house unless one has to if one feels unsafe when outside it?).

What do I expect from this? I expect the discussion over “controlling assault weapons” to go nowhere (except in keeping the pro-gun lobbies motivated and angry); and a year later you’ll start seeing states passing laws making it a FELONY to ban guns from hospitals, schools, churches and private residences. And while the Supreme Court refuses to revoke State Laws in support of gun-control regulations, they are also likely refuse to deem unconstitutional a law that makes it a FELONY to ban guns from hospitals, schools, churches and private residences. The Tenth Amendment will be used, however the only Amendment mentioned will be the Second Amendment – and that mention of that Amendment alone will end up changing many laws state-wise (thereby giving it the patina of public acceptance that is now given to Conceal-and Carry).

I say this because of a few things I’ve heard over the past few years:

  • When the Left talked about the legality of Health Care, they referenced three mandates from back in Washington’s day. Two of them, of course, had to do with health insurance of sailors, but the third one was a requirement that all free men of certain means had to arm themselves with heavy guns meant to kill people.
  • “The Trend Is Your Friend.” And since the trend over the past forty years has been for freer guns and more of them, I expect that the laws against banning their access to schools, hospitals, churches and private homes will pass. Not sure if the Brady Bill will be rescinded, but it may become moot anyway with a few more laws passed.
  • Who’s getting killed – Mostly Liberals, Leftists and their children. And as long as this low-level, undeclared war is going on, the Gun-lovers on the right will happily add more guns to the stew and give them more freedoms and rights.

And that’s all I have to say about it at the moment.

Romney’s Economic Beliefs, in short and reworded two generations down.

Robert Reich has put together that there is indeed a system to Romney’s beliefs that he has stayed true to in his campaign.

It actually makes a sort of sense, if you’re a believer in the Austrian/Chicago/Randian economic/political school that presently is the de facto law of the land. It’s interesting that, with all the people shouting about Rand (a novelist who started off from an anti-communism stance and went extreme in a quest for economic purity) it’s the Chicago School (and the Austrian school that probably gave the Chicago school its philosophical pinnings) that has had its effect on this nation.

Anyway, here’s my parboiling of Mitt Romney’s beliefs as sussed out by Mr.Robert Reich:

  1. Corporations are citizens, people are not.
  2. Corporations, being citizens, have full and complete rights over her workers. Workers, being people have no rights over corporations.
  3. Efficiency and Profits are the sole goal of corporations. Service to customers is but a means….
  4. There is no such thing as a negative effect of profit seeking. What people falsely imagine as negatives (pollution, unsafe products, unsafe working conditions, financial fraud, et al) are actually POSITIVE side effects.
  5. Money (the objective measure of the claim on future production based on past production) is the sole measure of a Corporation and a man. Nothing else has any measure on Corporations or men.
  6. Charity (money, goods and services given to the poor) is pure waste, destroying the items given with no positive effect on the givee. Offerings to the rich are always made good, even if there’s no trickle-down to the rest of the people.
  7. Government, being nonproductive (and indeed, incapable of being productive), is evil. Taxes is how government funds itself. Therefore taxes are evil, and the willingness to pay (or inability to avoid) them is the measure of a Corporation’s (and man’s) evilness.
  8. Politics is a Zero-sum game. You win in politics, you make the rules and affect the future. You lose, you are subjected to the rules both present and future. This stems from the historical reality of governance.
  9. An aristocracy made of men of wealth (preferably men made wealthy by their own efforts in their lifetime) are the only people who should be allowed the reigns of government. Having proved their worthiness by their service to their corporations (measured by their ability to gain money), only they deserve to give proper service to their nation as its leaders.
  10. Relationships can only be measured measured by objectively measured benefit to both sides (Family, Salvation and Money). All else is the enslavement of the good by the bad/evil.

I’m surprised that there’s no number 11 that states that eventually the state will die on its own (not drowned in the bathtub), as all its necessary uses are taken over by private for-profit (by necessity, since profit is the sole measure of usefulness – follows from #5) corporations. Maybe his strong belonging with the Mormon Religion keeps him from taking this step.