Well I love life

Sometimes you merely have to look at what ideas each side in a battle supports. I’m not going to tell you what to decide, only what’s at stake. It is explicitly a battle of those on the side of life vs. those on the side of death.

As someone who loves life, this credo of the Islamist totalitarians scares me to the core: http://www.mrc.org/articles/times-omits-hasans-chilling-we-love-death-more-you-love-life

The Israel Test

Prager University has put together a video that points out the root cause of why Israel is hated by many of its neighbors. The moral point here is to illustrate Ayn Rand’s observation of destructive envy and hatred, hatred of the good for being the good.

It’s also a good distillation of the history of the State of Israel before it was founded. The common belief is that Israel was hastily founded as a refuge for Holocaust survivors, which is not the case. The nation was built up by 19th-Century “Zionists”, who performed title searches and peaceably bought the land when the area was under the control of the British Empire. The settlers then cultivated the land, and made it possible for all peoples to flourish and prosper, long before the 1948 founding of Israel.

My Sentiment Exactly

Today’s Coding Horror, Nobody’s Going to Help You, and That’s Awesome, is about how generally useless self-help books are. Now, self-help books are about as American as Apple Pie and the Pursuit of Happiness, but most of them are drivel (see Sturgeon’s Law).

I’ve been taking steps to climb out of a rut that I’ve dug myself into. I’ve been exercising regularly again, I’m coding recreationally—and not just in World of Warcraft—and now I’m going to take the concrete advice of that blog post, and write a short little email to myself every day about what I’m going through, as taken from 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot. The key is to take what is implicit, abstract and unformed in your mind, and make it explicit and concrete.

Some of my recent troubles have been caused by implicit abstractness taking a life of its own, and this exercise was just what I needed a long time ago in order to stem this off.

Some Quick Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence

I had read and filed away Why Minds Are Not Like Computers, which has revived some of my past mulling over what the problems with Artificial Intelligence are.

At root in the current debate as to whether AI is achievable is the soul-body dichotomy, i.e., “Mind is software, brain is hardware”.

I’m convinced the modern approach to AI is on the wrong track. Intelligence is our means of survival as humans. It is used in the service of our lives, which happens to be by means of solving problems related to meeting the requirements of life. As far as the popular scientific press goes, it seems like AI studies all focus on solving “interesting” problems, like pathfinding, or stomping on human opponents on Jeopardy.

I think it would be a fruitful line of research to develop autonomous artificial life, give it a survival condition, and let that new entity figure things out on its own. That would be the truest form of AI there is.

Atlas Rising

I am pleased as punch that Atlas Shrugged is getting more media attention these days. It’s even the positive kind of attention.

I enjoy digging into new people and ideas and learning everything I can about them, especially if the people have profound ideas. The most lasting passion that I have had has been for the ideas and stories of Ayn Rand. It started off as a side research foray into learning more about Rush, whose drummer and lyricist had dedicated an album to “the ideas of Ayn Rand”. That album was 2112, the novel was Anthem.

Now, in my years since I read Atlas Shrugged, I’ve come across a few people who read it without picking up on the deeper plot, that those who are committed to living their lives in this world owe everything to keeping their minds in touch with reality, and owe nothing to the people who won’t raise a finger to help themselves and use guilt in the living to eke out their so-called survival. One person remembered it as “that book about trains”. Oh well, let’s hope that this upsurge of interest in Ayn Rand’s writings will be the “fountainhead” of a surge towards a continuation of the enlightenment’s true goal.

Guilds and taxes

Where it comes to World of Warcraft economics, the Greedy Goblin resonates the strongest with my thinking. He posted recently on guild “taxes”. I put taxes in square quotes because there’s a major difference in what a guild does to collect these “taxes” versus what a government does to get money out of their citizens.

A guild is a voluntary association, set up in the game by using the various amenities that Blizzard provides to guild leaders to provide for pooling of resources. A government is “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” The guild leader can enforce his rules by restricting a person’s access to these pooled resources, or to even kick the offending player out of the guild. A government can use its police powers to extract a person’s property and worse.

So if a player doesn’t pay their “tax”, the worst that can happen is they are not in the guild anymore. Calling it a “tax” confuses the difference between a guild and a government.

As far as what it takes to fund a government, I can tell you what I learned in the way to get my economics degree. Along the way, I took a course that discussed and analyzed taxation. The fixed fee, “head tax”, is the economically best means of taxation.

The reason why the head tax is considered best, economically, is that other taxation schemes influence and distort individuals’ economic behavior. Flat taxes, sales taxes, VAT, progressive taxes, you name it—all these give people a reason to reevaluate their consumption and labor choices.

In the case of a guild, similar reasoning applies, but you have to keep in mind the voluntary nature of a guild, the nature of raiding, and also personal motivation. It is a travesty that a commenter on that Greedy Goblin post has mentioned along the way that BoE greens, blues, and epics all go to the guild bank instead of being put up to a roll for the raid participants, yet requiries that raid participants bring their own consumables. Another commenter said his guild bank is sitting on a cash pile worth 32K g, plus tons of enchanting mats. These are the spoils of raiding, but they’re not going to the raiders.

Raiding does have a cost, and people prefer that the costs be more predictable than not. If there is a “fee” that covers a base amount of consumables and provides insurance for repair costs, that is preferable to having everyone suffering huge losses due to repeatedly wiping. Everybody in the raid is there for that next piece of gear and the badges serve as a good consolation prize, and every extra bit of loot a player can bring home from the raid is a return on their investment for their own consumables, so what I will call guild bank communism won’t work to keep the best players around. Having a voluntary system in place that lets people smooth out their raiding expenses will.

This is your retirement on government bailout drugs

Here’s a visual metaphor of what government intervention in the economy will do to your life savings.

How could a reasonable person who has found their way into this country’s legislature be for any of this, if they had a sliver of sense left knocking around in their skulls? Forget about any moral questions that it’s the role of a government to protect individual rights, that is, only acting to defend its citizens against predators in human clothing. Ignore the fact that one of the first things you learn in a macroeconomics course is that public spending crowds out private investment. Pretend that the mounting public debt has deleterious effects on everyone in the world. The driving idea here is that the individual is not important, the group takes precedence, and that if the individual must be sacrificed for the sake of the group, sacrificed by way of forcible taxation and inflation of the currency. And the politicians reflect this in their campaign strategies and promises, all so they can kiss babies and get reelected, all while standing on the grave of individual rights, personal responsibility, and the growth of the free market.

This all goes to show that unless there is a deeper change in the ideas that people hold in this culture, this country will continue to be legislated into the grave, and the rest of the world will go down with it.