Thursday, May 28, 2009

Voodoo History and Slow Time

to summarise david aaronovitch's fine book on conspiracy theories, then,
conspiracy theorists are losers,
who develop paranoia as a way to gain (or believe that they have gained) attention

you can detect a conspiracy theory by (at least these) two failings:
first, failure to apply occam's razor (principle of parsimony) in choosing between the official story and the alternative;
second, failure to develop falsifiable theories (i.e. insufficient self-criticism or adversarial argument).

Common other failings: ellipsis (turn a blind eye to inconvenient facts); repetition of early erroneoys data; beggaring belief ("there is no evidence" == "there is a cover-up").

on the other hand, "In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed", by Carl Honore, confuses speed with synchrony - the problem for socieity of time is the problem of synchronising disparate activities and places - wander, jitter and skew in a large system lead to inefficencies which are pleasant for humans, whereas the lockstep mechanism of clocks on all railway stations so that the UK became the first synchronous society was the real culprit behing the "sense of urgency" in modern society.....

I think we need to start a campaign for bad time-keeping

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

voodoo history and imagination

i used to love watching tales of mystery and imagination - now I am reading the very good Aaronvitch book about Voodoo News (conspiracy theories) and it is clear that a lot of people who sustain conspiracy theories by writing best seller books that take them seriously are basically wannabe scientists and novelists who fail in some way to be either - but there's a legitimate genre here - a bit like SF< detective and horror genres, where writers lack some specific skill (famously, characterisation in SF), in these pseudo-science pieces, which are after all massively popular, whether docu-drama, or "historical" fiction like da Vinci Code, obviously have some of the requisite skills but just not all. And while Aaronovitch's book will do quite well, I bet he doesn't sell any where as many copies as all the Monroe doctrinaire - and that;'s sad as he actually can write:)

Meanwhile, I think that "imagination" (as portraied by Arthur Clark or Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett) is clearly in fact a sign that someone's mind is bing controlled by a vast eldritch distributed articifial intelligent force from the other side of the lesser Megallanic Cloud - the origins of AI meets Cloud Computing...and intelligent design

Friday, May 22, 2009

lashback MPs - insulting our intelligence

so i continue to watch MPs try to defend their positions with increasing astonishment - viz question time on TV twice now

don't these fools realise we are both their employer and their customer so criticising us for criticising them
is about the biggest career limiting move that they can possibly make.

the data


so if (as some apologists have argued) this happened as a "stealth" pay rise, then why don't they pay tax on it like the rest of us would? If it is expenses, then how come it isn't supported on a receipt only basis, and only justified for costs incurred as a result of the job that would otherwise not have been incurred. these guys want it both ways and are surprised everyone else doesn't see it their way, and yet (as we know) many MPs also have other jobs where such behaviour would be audited and quite possibly erported to HMRC and the police if they engaged in it, so the idea that they didn't know it was an unusual practice is also bogus....

i've been saving up some insults for people like this
may your mother's milk be long life
may you lie on your mother's grave

etc etc

I mean like get a load of this dude who clearly is some kind of dinosaur!
what an insufferable basterd, to parafrase Tarentino

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

counterfeit novels...and other forgeries

steve toltz' very excellent "fraction of the whole" contains the alarming observation that while people forge paintings, they never forge novels.

in jazz, a lot of us use the "Real Book" which is a huhe tome with the words , chords and melodies of lots of "standards" (songs from the classic era's of jazz from dixie to swing to beop and cool and back again) - far as I know, the "real book" is a massive breach of copyright - luckily, nowadays, sheet music is not the Evil EMpire that it used to be when a) there wasn't P2P file sharing MP3 recordings to blame and b) people used to play the latest hits themsevlves on the piano in the "drawing room" - so slack has the copyright protection on sheet music become that people can get the "Fake Book" whcih is an "illegal" photocopy of the real book!
[bill bruford, in his amusing and interesting autobiography, cites some muso-socio-journalist as wisely pointing out that the "value" in music moved from medieval times being vested in the player, through vitorial times being vested in sheet music, to the 20th century being locked up in frozen recordings - a recent article in the guardian talked about new models of direct composer/player to audence via the web, which may be a final reversion to the oldest model, but usng the newest tech, which is a fine thing in my opinion)

in the world of software, you get things called "counterfeit" copies of Windows - but more interestingly, you get reverse engineered programmes...which actually involve some skil and are, basically, legal...

so why is the same set of law applicable to all these walks of life? weird.

george soros on recession &behavoural economics 101

so geo. soros, a man who has several cles, has a new edition of his book on "a new paradigm for financial markets" out - along with lots of other people he is saying "I told you so", although the original publication's date actually gives him provenance / prior art proof that he did so

but is his message so new? not really - basically he says that the model used by economics is flawed because it doesn't account for what he calls "reflexivity" - basically (my interpretation) this is that the idea that there is a "ground truth" to a value for goods/servies doesn't work with financial services since the "ground truth" is based in himan estimates - the humans doing the estimation (who think that laws of supply/demand and game theory based on a) those laws and b) rational selfish players) actually are flawed and unlike traditional goods and services, the financial instruments are all as much of a figment as the supply/demand figures.....

this is philospically a bit like Heisenberg (the observer perturbs the system so the observed value may not be what they thought) but is extremely familiar to psychology researchers (and therefore to peopel who do behavoural economics) since it is encountered daily in their experiments (tell a human that they are a subject, and they modify their behaviour - surprise - this is know to GPs who offer a DIY blood pressure test in the UK - some patients systematically produce a very high reading even when perfectly well - known as the "White Coat" reading, as their presure is raised by being in the doctors practice and about to see their GP...)

anyhow, the book is a good read for people that want to understand

meanwhle, I wish I lieved in a high tax country like sweden, finland or switzerland where they seem to have industry and be weathering the storm ok, and not everyone leaves the country at the drop of a hat - some sort of patriotism can be good (e.g. based in love of the culture and place one is from) and is not conditional....
and some industry (e.g. volvo, saab, nokia) doesn't seem to walk away from being created in countries which believe in progressive taxation and social servies.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

National Treasure de-moated

Stephen Fry appears to have annoyed a few journalists - the guardian contained a particularly stupid piece claiming that the news had made him a "national treasure" and how he was "not getting it" about public anger over MPs bogus expense claims.

there are two things almost all the "angry of fleet st" articles on this topic tellingly omit from Mr Fry's remarks

1. he started by saying (and listing) some more important things in the world we should worry about that MPs did wrogn (the SAME MPs) - so he wasn't letting them off the hook on this - just saying that if we want to take them to task, lets start on something more serious (this is not the same as saying that this isn't serious - just that life&death might be more so)
2. he pointed out that journalists (who are the people drumming up more news about this than, say, Sri Lanka, where there are matters of life and death) are prone to exactly the same sorts of claims - he also tried to defuse any accusations of getting off the hook by pointing out that he too fiddled claims (and he is, in the main these days, a journalist)

I think the "national treasure" backlash folks should be VERY VERY careful - we will want to see your expense claims in detail real soon AND ask why you don't actually do the journalism job of reporting things that actually matter most, first

Thursday, May 07, 2009

conservation of imagination

it is clear to me that there is a conservation law for imagination

the more there is somewhere, the less somewhere else

there may even be a field connecting the two in some way

Monday, May 04, 2009

the underserving rich

there's this lovely phrase about the working class which shews a marvelously British contempt - the "undeserving poor" - the "great unwashed" is another term of abuse for people that keep things like rubbish collection, primary school teaching, nursing, taxi driving, and other essentials working.

so i have a new one - the undeserving rich

this is not people in senior surgical jobs, or people that wrote a great tune or acted well in a great movie, or invented a cool new thing (for work or play)

these are the ultra rich and the people that inherited everything and added nothing.

this is to clarify - I am not against people becoming (or being) wealthy

this is to declare my utter contempt for those people who degraded a generation, and in the process, took the spoils. These guys would embarass Atilla the Hun or Ghenghis Khan
let alone Bill Gates or Frederick Sanger. Or even Paul McCartney or Steve McQueen (either actor or artist:)

Those are the people that should be paying 99% tax after the first 5500 pounds

the other guys deserve every penny - well quite a lot of them anyhow....