Monday, October 31, 2016


Completely unintentional but when I noticed, I just had to take a screenshot. I figured today would be a good day to share it. R U SPOOKED?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tired are your splendid soldiers – To the future turned, we stand!

Just finished the third season of Black Mirror, a hip, smart, and modern* take on the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits. American adaptations of foreign programs often lose a lot in translation, but Netflix has done a great job of keeping the general feel of the British originals, e.g., minimalist pastel aesthetics, slow-motion-backed-by-ostinato-soundtrack sequences, etc.** while integrating certain themes unique to the American milieu.

It's got technological alienation and dehumanization, The Singularity, emulated minds, big data, social media, law, politics, AI, robotics, augmented/virtual reality! It fills a niche that has been empty since Star Trek: The Next Generation (sorry, Fringe doesn't count). It's all there. Almost.

 However, the dystopian outlook towards technology is predictable. This series really could have used input from someone like Robin Hanson to provide depth. Not balance, but depth; though, a portrayal of the genuine benefits of future technology would go some way to providing that depth.

* I.e., ticks all the focus group approved boxes

** Broadchurch also did this. Maybe it's a British thing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Imperium Mendaciorum

I like NPR, or at least I used to when I was growing up. There was a lot of unique reporting that you couldn't find anywhere – stuff like flute making in Kazakhstan. 

"We're here in a remote village on the outskirts of Astana, Kazakhstan with Kiril Kurobayev. [market chatter, distant muezzin, pots clanking] Kiril lives with his wife and three children and extended family ... [Kazakh dialogue fading to translator]"

Basically a science fiction short story, except it was real. The previous excerpt wasn't real; I just made that up for effect. Now NPR mostly pushes a hard left line. Not that it wasn't always leftist; it was. But it wasn't always so overt.* That used to be the style of right-wing radio. Good ol' right-wing talk radio. Entertaining in its own way. NPR might report about the four trillion dollar National Debt (under Bill Clinton), but Rush Limbaugh could make you get mad about how high it was getting.

Twenty years later, NPR is doing its best to make you mad about not increasing the National Debt past the nineteen trillion or so it is now. And the methods that NPR and the normally left-leaning media use are veering away from their older dispassionate stance towards emotional "win at all costs" propaganda. This bit of insight from a recent Intelligence Squared debate.
Ben Domenech:
... the things that were printed about Mitt Romney in 2012 in the New York Times by Paul Krugman called him a "charlatan," "pathologically dishonest," "untrustworthy." He said he didn't even pretend to care about poor people, that he wants people to die so that rich people get richer. "He's completely amoral, a dangerous fool, ignorant as well as uncaring." 
Male Speaker:
Sounds familiar.
Ben Domenech:
If you cry wolf long enough, sometimes the beast actually shows up, okay?
And when that happens, they no longer had a vocabulary that could be used, because everyone tunes them out and says, "Well, you were saying that about this nice Mormon businessman, you know, four years ago."
That's Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in economics writing in the most prestigious newspaper in the US and possibly the world! I don't know if the WSJ said similar things about Obama, though I wouldn't be surprised.

But I'd be doubly unsurprised if Wikileaks showed active collusion between Krugman and the Obama campaign the same way the recent Wikileaks releases of the Podesta e-mails show the New York Times (et al) and even the Justice Department colluding with Democratic Party hierarchs to help Hillary Clinton.

It's not all bad since these releases presumably contain the truth, or at least what people really think is the truth. I'd go for a jab about private versus public convictions, but I don't think it's a big deal. It's even SOP in Japan and probably most European countries too. Except France, judging by the etymology of frank.

Most interestingly, the releases support a hunch I've had regarding our economic health. Things are worse than the headline figures suggest and that labor participation rates, contrary to what Matt Phillips over at Quartz believes, support this idea. But I'll spend some time showing why he's wrong in greater depth later.

* About the only NPR program worth listening to these days is Goats and Soda.

Also, why have the TED talks gone from introducing the public to genuine innovation and novel insights to vapid vaguely leftist pop-psychology? Everything else gets dumbed down so you'd expect the niche that the TED talks provide to flourish.