Saturday, August 19, 2017

Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time: But men may construe things after their fashion

The mental disease of postmodernism spreads. The latest afflicted is poor Alice Ristroph, graduate of Harvard Law and in turn an educator, a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. Yet another example of the too prevalent condition of credentialed but not educated. Professor Ristroph has written . . . well, how to describe it? Self-trolling? Stupid seems to crude. Sad? Mind-numbingly foolish? I don't know. Peak SJW Inanity?

Anyway, it is here: American Blackout by Alice Ristroph. Perhaps it should have been subtitled The Transit of Victimhood. Some of the lowlights:
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.

Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system.
If I could do a mocking SJW accent I would (though Siri probably wouldn't understand it). I'll have to suffice with OMG.

Ristroph uses the path of the eclipse to cherish the past injustices of the United States.
Oregon, where this begins, is almost entirely white. The 10 percent or so of state residents who do not identify as white are predominantly Latino, American Indian, Alaskan, or Asian. There are very few black Oregonians, and this is not an accident. The land that is now Oregon was not, of course, always inhabited by white people, but as a U.S. territory and then a state, Oregon sought to get and stay white. Among several formal efforts at racial exclusion was a provision in the original state constitution of 1857 that prohibited any “free Negro or Mulatto” from entering and residing in the state.


From Oregon, the Great American Eclipse will travel through Idaho and Wyoming. (It will catch a tiny unpopulated piece of Montana, too.) Percentage-wise, Idaho and Wyoming are even whiter than Oregon. And as in Oregon, but even more so, the few non-white residents of Idaho and Wyoming are not black—they are mostly Latino, American Indian, and Alaskan.


The total eclipse will be visible from Lincoln, Nebraska, the state’s capital, which reports a black population of 3.8 percent. The city of Omaha has a greater black population, about 14 percent. It is home to many of the refugees from Africa and elsewhere that Nebraska has welcomed in recent years, many of whom now work in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. But Omaha is about 50 miles northeast of the path of totality.


From Kansas, the eclipse goes to Missouri, still mostly bypassing black people, though now much more improbably. About a third of Kansas City, Missouri, is black, but most of the city lies just south of the path of totality. To get the full show, eclipse chasers should go north to St. Joseph, almost 90 percent white and about 6 percent black . . .


Moving east, the eclipse will pass part of St. Louis, whose overall population is nearly half black. But the black residents are concentrated in the northern half of the metropolitan area, and the total eclipse crosses only the southern half.


Former slave-holding states are still the home to most of America’s black population. In Kentucky, Tennessee, and eventually South Carolina, the eclipse will finally pass over black Americans. Even here, though, the path of totality seems to mark the legacy of slavery and the persistence of segregation more than any form of inclusion.


But after Tennessee, the shadow regains some speed and travels over white people only again for a while. It catches the northeast corner of Georgia and the western tip of North Carolina. Though both these states have substantial black populations, both also include overwhelmingly white rural areas, and it is those areas that lie in the path of totality.


After Georgia, the eclipse will pass over a small piece of western North Carolina. The black population of these barely populated counties hovers around 1 percent, falling as low as 0.2 percent in Graham. The path of totality will narrowly miss Tryon, the birthplace of Nina Simone.


The arc of the eclipse is long, and it bends toward Charleston. In South Carolina in the last 12 or 13 minutes of the Great American Eclipse, it will probably pass over more black Americans than it does throughout all of its earlier journey. After Greenville and Columbia, the eclipse goes out where so many slaves once came in: Charleston was the busiest port for the slave trade, receiving about 40 percent of all the African slaves brought into the country.
Oh, dear. The commenters are having a field day mocking this foolishness but I can't help but feel that the editors of The Atlantic are derelict, commissioning such articles instead of staging an intervention.

Ristroph seems to harken to the primitive mind and superstition of past millennia. From Julius Caesar by Shakespeare.

Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds:
But never till to-night, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
Incenses them to send destruction.


Why, saw you any thing more wonderful?


A common slave--you know him well by sight--
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join'd, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain'd unscorch'd.
Besides--I ha' not since put up my sword--
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
'These are their reasons; they are natural;'
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.
Cicero has the last word. And it is a description for today. A pity that the postmodernists gutted education so that only older people might be aware of it.

Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time:
But men may construe things after their fashion,
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
Too bad Ristroph is so mired in the postmodernist fad. Perhaps the madness of King Lear is a more fit model of the mind of the SJW.

Yes, my friends, I say again that you do well to send your children to me with flowers

From Warriors: Portraits from the Battlefield by Max Hastings. Page 3.
The wars of Napoleon produced a flowering of memoirs, both English and French, of extraordinary quality. Each writer’s work reflects in full measure his national characteristics. None but a Frenchman, surely, could have written the following lines about his experience of conflict: “I may, I think, say without boasting that nature has allotted to me a fair share of courage; I will add that there was a time when I enjoyed being in danger, as my thirteen wounds and some distinguished services prove, I think, sufficiently.” Baron Marcellin de Marbot was the model for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional Brigadier Gerard: brave, swashbuckling, incapable of introspection, glorying without inhibition in the experience of campaigning from Portugal to Russia in the service of his emperor. Marbot was the most eager of warriors, who shared with many of his French contemporaries a belief that there could be no higher calling than to follow Bonaparte to glory. Few modern readers could fail to respect the courage of a soldier who so often faced the fire of the enemy, through an active service career spanning more than forty years. And no Anglo-Saxon could withhold laughter at the peacock vanity and chauvinism of the hussar’s account of the experience, rich in anecdotage and comedy, the latter often unintended.
I have read and enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard stories. Excellent entertainment. I had not realized, however, that they were based on a real person. And indeed, Hasting's quote "I may, I think, say without boasting that nature has allotted to me a fair share of courage" seems very like a passage I recall from one of the Gerard books. I think I have commented elsewhere that Gerard is a literary predecessor of the marvelous Flashman books by George MacDonald Frazer.

The self-satisfied nature of Gerard, echoing that of Baron Marcellin de Marbot is given in these opening paragraphs of How the Brigadier Came to the Castle of Gloom.
You do very well, my friends, to treat me with some little reverence, for in honouring me you are honouring both France and yourselves. It is not merely an old, grey-moustached officer whom you see eating his omelette or draining his glass, but it is a fragment of history. In me you see one of the last of those wonderful men, the men who were veterans when they were yet boys, who learned to use a sword earlier than a razor, and who during a hundred battles had never once let the enemy see the colour of their knapsacks. For twenty years we were teaching Europe how to fight, and even when they had learned their lesson it was only the thermometer, and never the bayonet, which could break the Grand Army down. Berlin, Naples, Vienna, Madrid, Lisbon, Moscow—we stabled our horses in them all. Yes, my friends, I say again that you do well to send your children to me with flowers, for these ears have heard the trumpet calls of France, and these eyes have seen her standards in lands where they may never be seen again.

Even now, when I doze in my arm-chair, I can see those great warriors stream before me—the green-jacketed chasseurs, the giant cuirassiers, Poniatowsky's lancers, the white-mantled dragoons, the nodding bearskins of the horse grenadiers. And then there comes the thick, low rattle of the drums, and through wreaths of dust and smoke I see the line of high bonnets, the row of brown faces, the swing and toss of the long, red plumes amid the sloping lines of steel. And there rides Ney with his red head, and Lefebvre with his bulldog jaw, and Lannes with his Gascon swagger; and then amidst the gleam of brass and the flaunting feathers I catch a glimpse of him, the man with the pale smile, the rounded shoulders, and the far-off eyes. There is an end of my sleep, my friends, for up I spring from my chair, with a cracked voice calling and a silly hand outstretched, so that Madame Titaux has one more laugh at the old fellow who lives among the shadows.

Keynes was not as wrong as he is often made out to be

In economic circles it is reasonably well-known that John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist, in a 1930 paper, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren made the forecast that in two generations, with advancing technology, people would be able to get by working only 15 hours a week.

This essay is often held up as an example of the arrogance of the public intellectual and their inaccuracy of predicting the future. And I agree that there is a strong track record of overly confident forecasts from people who are experts in a narrow field, failing to recognize that the factors affecting their field extend far beyond that with which they are familiar.

From Will Robots Steal Human Jobs? by David R. Henderson. Henderson points out that while Keynes was indeed incorrect, there is another way of interpreting his forecast that actually makes him prescient.

If we consider where he was forecasting the possible versus the actual, his forecast is much more accurate.
In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes, reflecting on the progress of technology, predicted that his generation’s grandchildren would have a 15-hour workweek. Assuming that a generation is 30 years, we should have had that 15-hour workweek in 1990. Did we? Not even close. Twenty-seven years after 1990, we still don’t. But why don’t we? Where did Keynes go wrong?

It wasn’t in his assumption about increasing productivity. Rather, Keynes was probably assuming that people would work enough to get the same standard of living they had in 1930. If that was his assumption, then he was quite accurate in predicting our productivity per hour. In the four score and seven years since Keynes made his prediction, our productivity has doubled and doubled again. We could easily have what we had then if we worked 15-hour weeks now.

MIT labor economist David Autor estimated that an average U.S. worker in 2015 could achieve his 1915 counterpart’s real income by “working about 17 weeks per year.” Seventeen weeks per year at 40 work hours per week is 680 hours per year. Spread over a 50-week work year, that’s 13.6 hours per week. And that overstates the workweek required for a 1930 standard of living for two reasons. First, the quality of almost everything we buy that is not produced by government has increased. Second, we can buy things that were simply unavailable then. Cell phones, anyone?

Why don’t we work 14-hour weeks? The answer, briefly, is that we want more. We are acquisitive people. Consider cars. Those few families that had cars in Keynes’s day usually had only one. Even 30 years later, when I was growing up, my father had one old Ford. And we were not poor: Dad’s income was probably just below the median income in Canada. Now, many families have two or three cars. We could do without televisions and smart phones, but we don’t want to. We could settle for being like most Brits or Americans in Keynes’s time, never traveling more than 200 miles from home. But we’ve heard about places called Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Florida—and, we want to go there. Also, antibiotics and other life-saving medicines come in awfully handy—but they cost money to get. The reality is that we want more and we will always want more.
So, if Keynes was forecasting that the same standard of living would be available to his grandchildren by working only 15 hours a week, he was correct. As Henderson points out though, our wants grow with our productivity and the 40 hour work week remains a mainstay.

This observation also answers the question frequently posed. Would you rather the simplicity and community of a hundred years ago or the productivity of today? Everyone could replicate 1917's standards of living if they wished to but vanishingly few choose to do so. Everyone wants the better life.

By the numbers, Keynes is more correct than he is usually given credit for. But from yet another perspective, he is as wrong as ever. Keynes was something of determinist. Without being a Marxist, he falls in that tradition which elevates expertise over the democratic voice, is convinced of the perfectibility of man (blank slatism), considers it appropriate that Plato's philosopher kings decide from the center on behalf of everyone else in the outer circle.

Keynes' paper anticipated the prospect that in the future man's nature would be modified such that people would be happy to work less for the same benefit.
There are changes in other spheres too which we must expect to come. When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession -as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard.

I look forward, therefore, in days not so very remote, to the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings in the aggregate. But, of course, it will all happen gradually, not as a catastrophe. Indeed, it has already begun. The course of affairs will simply be that there will be ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed. The critical difference will be realised when this condition has become so general that the nature of one’s duty to one’s neighbour is changed. For it will remain reasonable to be economically purposive for others after it has ceased to be reasonable for oneself.
We are virtually there. The percentage of the global population who live in absolute poverty keeps falling with globalization and technology and improved governance. Most the world has moved well beyond conditions of economic necessity.

But where Keynes and all totalitarians of the Platonic state have gone wrong is their consistent misestimation of man. Productivity allows people to work less than ever and instead of the Keynes' anticipated ideal, more people work more hours than ever. There appears to be no end to the appetites of man.

Given free people, Plato's utopia will have to wait.

Where line and time and space and distance meet

A Perspective of Mantegna
by Stuart Henson

The sword swings at the soldier's hip and on
his knees the informer begs forgiveness
of the martyr, who needs must stop and bless
the man who broke a trust and brought him down
this road that leads in only one direction.
The crowd presses. They too must bear witness.
Acts they have seen before: the traitor's kiss
absolved on the way to the execution.

They all rest in the frame of the present.
Beyond the city gate, the tenement
whose windows give on the same unbending street:
betrayer and betrayed on one descent
that draws them in towards a vanishing point
where line and time and space and distance meet.

How dangerously easy it was to stir up anti-governmental feelings in the two leading colonies

From The Penguin History of the USA by Hugh Brogan.
What is surprising about these incidents is that they occurred before the end of the Seven Years War (though not before victory was in sight). They show how dangerously easy it was to stir up anti-governmental feelings in the two leading colonies, even without undue provocation. But provocation, of course, was not long in coming. In 1764 Grenville pushed the Sugar Act through Parliament.

No other incident in the making of the Revolution has been more widely misunderstood than this. The Sugar Act made the change in the imperial system, apparent to all. Revenue, not trade regulation, was now to be the purpose of the Navigation Acts. A shout of indignation went up from the colonial merchants. The duty on molasses imported to the mainland colonies from the non-British West Indies was reduced from the notional 6d. to 3d., but Grenville made it plain that from now on the full duty would be collected. In other words, for reasons already given, he was really raising the duty by 2d. a gallon. So in a torrent of pamphlets, newspapers and letters the merchants predicted that they would be utterly ruined; and on the whole historians have taken them at their word. Only Gipson has pointed out that the molasses was required for making rum and that the entire history of taxation imposed on booze shows that, whatever the duty, drinkers will pay it. In other words, it is very easy for brewers and distillers to pass on their costs to their customers. Hence the sang froid with which modern Chancellors of the Exchequer raise the duty on Scotch from time to time. Grenville, in fact, had chosen an almost most painless way of raising revenue; but the distillers of America shrieked as if they had been stabbed.

Orientation towards self-motivated learning is genetic, heritable, and conditional on random chance

Hmm, interesting but concerning. Why children differ in motivation to learn: Insights from over 13,000 twins from 6 countries by Yulia Kovas, et al. Abstract:
Little is known about why people differ in their levels of academic motivation. This study explored the etiology of individual differences in enjoyment and self-perceived ability for several school subjects in nearly 13,000 twins aged 9–16 from 6 countries. The results showed a striking consistency across ages, school subjects, and cultures. Contrary to common belief, enjoyment of learning and children’s perceptions of their competence were no less heritable than cognitive ability. Genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation. Shared environmental factors, such as home or classroom, did not contribute to the twin’s similarity in academic motivation. Environmental influences stemmed entirely from individual specific experiences.
If I am reading this correctly, the degree to which you enjoy and are confident about learning is highly heritable and genes account for 40% of the variance in learning proclivity. The balance of variance was entirely due to unique individual experiences. In other words, you cannot create a school or establish common parenting strategies and expect those to affect the degree to which a child is oriented towards learning.

I really wish this weren't true but it does seem that the preponderance of the evidence is in that direction.

In a diverse world, no one is allowed to speak because their speech offends someone

Hear, hear. From On College Campuses, The Danger Of Playing It Safe With Ideas by Wendy Kaminer.
Outside our circles of intimates, freedom requires a willingness to hear and tolerate wildly divergent, dissenting ideas as well as insults. If we have a right not to be offended, then we have no right to give offense. That means we have no reliable, predictable right to speak, because in diverse societies there are no universal opinions or beliefs that are universally inoffensive. If we have a legal right to feel emotionally safe and un-offended, we have a legal obligation to keep silent, which we violate at our peril. Emotionally safe societies are dangerous places for people who speak.
This is the inherent contradiction within postmodernism/critical theory and highlights its totalitarianism. This is part of the rhetorical effectiveness of postmodernism. Classical liberals are committed to natural rights, including free speech. It is expected that all individuals are entitled to their speech regardless of how repugnant it might be. Consequently, classical liberals are committed to hearing out the postmodernist/critical theory words attacking the belief systems of classical liberals.

Postmodernist/critical theorists, on the other hand, have no such imperative. They have no commitment to free speech and they would very much like for everyone who is not a postmodernist/critical theorist to shut up.

This asymmetry hobbles classical liberals.

On the other hand, as Kaminer is pointing out, the postmodernist/critical theorist position is logically and inherently contradictory. Only if there is no variation in opinion among individuals can it work. Postmodernism is a totalitarian ideology predicated upon all individuals thinking the same, speaking the same, sharing the same goals, sharing the same opinions, sharing the same understanding of the world. For all that postmodernist wield the stick of diversity against classical liberals, it is their ideology which is the least accommodating of diversity. In fact, were there to be any diversity of thought within the utopian postmodernist world, it would collapse into a quivering heap of emotionalism.

The contradiction Kaminer points out also illustrates the bigotry of postmodernism as it exists today. Postmodernists sustain in their minds a pyramid of victimhood depending on race, religion, sex, orientation, age, ethnicity, regionalism, etc. Those designated as preferred groups are allowed to dictate to everyone else. Not based on logic or evidence but based on pre-emptive right founded in the bigotry of the ideology.

Claiming that others are not allowed to say anything offensive can only work if the accuser is granted special privilege. If the principle is applied to everyone (as the universalism of classical liberalism requires), it founders for the very reasons articulated by Kaminer.

If each finds what the other says offensive, then each must remain silent. An absurdity inherent in postmodernist theory but absent from classical liberalism. The classical liberal recognizes the universalism of humanity, acknowledges the natural rights of everyone and expects all disputes to be resolved through evidence, cooperation and compromise. Postmodernism lacks such seamless logic and struggles with its inherent contradictions.

It is a wonder to me that classical liberals, in being shouted down, do not point out the asymmetry of postmodernism, its bigotry, totalitarianism and inherent failure.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Illustrating how AI discredits journalists and forces clarity of human thinking

In the past couple of days I have commented at least a couple of times on the obsessively skewed news reporting which we are currently witnessing. See: Deranged Hysteria and Millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, and Moral arbitrage.

Moral arbitrage looks at extreme claims and emotional communication from an economics of politics perspective. Dramatic, but false social justice claims are rewarded in some circles with increased prestige, or at least admission into in-group status among the coercively altruistic.

And this afternoon along comes an excellent example of just this bad reporting in the instance of AI Programs Are Learning to Exclude Some African-American Voices by Will Knight. Knight casts this in social justice terms and makes two separate claims which get conflated. The first claim is that AI is specifically discriminating against African-Americans because of their accents. The second claim is that AI systems are prone to discriminate against African-Americans for reasons other than accent. A mildly critical reading indicates there is no evidence offered for either claim. It is not hard to see the problems.
All too often people make snap judgments based on how you speak. Some AI systems are also learning to be prejudiced against some dialects. And as language-based AI systems become ever more common, some minorities may automatically be discriminated against by machines, warn researchers studying the issue.

Anyone with a strong or unusual accent may know what it’s like to have trouble being understood by Siri or Alexa. This is because voice-recognition systems use natural-language technology to parse the contents of speech, and it often relies on algorithms that have been trained with example data. If there aren’t enough examples of a particular accent or vernacular, then these systems may simply fail to understand you (see “AI’s Language Problem”).
AI systems are not learning to be prejudiced against African-American dialects as indicated in the headline. AI systems are having difficulty with all variant accents (not dialects and not African-American accents selectively). If you are a southerner, Jamaican, a Bostonian, or from the Bronx, rural, upper midwestern, perhaps even Canadian, Australian, Scottish, Irish, you will initially have trouble because your accent is variant from the received norm, and natural language processing systems will have difficulty processing your articulations. The stronger and more variant the accent, the longer it takes the system to learn. The beauty of AI is that it does learn. The more input, including the more variant input, the faster it learns and the more sophisticated it becomes.

When Siri first came out, my wife, with her markedly South Carolinian accent, nearly got into a fistfight with Siri owing to Siri's rugged determination to insistently misinterpret her. Here is the Scottish duo from Burnistoun illustrating the challenges of voice recognition software with the Scottish accent (click link for YouTube display).

The headline to Knight's article is an intentionally misleading click-bait journalistic stretch to drive readership. The startling thing is that the second and third sentences of the article explain exactly why this is not an African-American issue. It is a general issue. But you have to have a modicum of knowledge about AI to recognize how pernicious is the misreporting.

"Some AI systems are also learning to be prejudiced against some dialects." NLP systems are trained on some standard set of spoken English norms, whether British Standard English with Received Pronunciation or some Mid Atlantic/Midwestern version in the US. There are so many variant accents that it is impossible to pre-train NLP on all possible variations. And of course there are all sorts of stop-points such as how to address pidgin-English and other creole versions, how to recognize variant idioms, etc..

The initial base-training is released and, with AI, the system is gradually able to acquire a greater and greater comprehension of the variant pronunciations and accents. This has nothing to do with African-Americans as Knight and the headline writer ought to know. It is a bog standard issue of natural language processing and AI dealing with variances from the norm.

How about the second claim that AI systems are prone to discriminate against African-Americans for reasons other than accent? Again, tosh. Here is the claim:
The issue of unfairness emerging from the use of AI algorithms is gaining attention in some quarters as these algorithms are used more widely. One controversial example of possible bias is a proprietary algorithm called Compass, which is used to decide whether prison inmates should be granted parole. The workings of the algorithm are unknown, but research suggests it is biased against black inmates.
In this instance, the problem is the loose or undefined usage of "bias". In the vernacular we tend to mean that it is an unwarranted assumption against someone whereas in statistics it means the skew in data one way or another. Knight is conflating the two terms which obfuscates what is going on. There is no way of knowing whether this conflation is through ignorance or deliberate deception.

Lee Jussim is one of the leading researchers in the field of Stereotype Accuracy. The challenge is that for any socioeconomic measure there are going to be accurate statistical skews in the data patterns and which also correlate with race, gender, orientation, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, health, etc.

Some of this we recognize and accept. No one has a problem with accepting that younger drivers have more accidents than older drivers or that male drivers have more accidents than female drivers, or, in a perfect storm of bias, that younger male drivers have more driving accidents than any other demographic cohort. It is a bias in the data (in statistical terms) and it is an accurate bias.

The challenge when you mix statistics and people is maintaining definitional clarity. It is fully accurate, that on average, young males are the worst drivers in terms of accidents. It is also true that that tells you nothing about any individual young male driver. There are certainly some sterling young male drivers with impeccable driving records. Just fewer than the average. Humans have a terrible time keeping the real distinction between what is true for the average and what might be true for an individual. Yet, to be fair, that is what we always should do.

Part of the reason that it is hard to maintain the distinction between the group average and the individual is that we often, and usually for good reasons, ignore the distinction when the risk is perceived as too high.

Say you contract drivers for the local school district bus system. You have two candidates with equally spotless driving records. One is an 18-year old male and the other is a 35-year old mother. You know from group actuarial statistics that the 18-year old male is, on average, much more likely to have an accident than the 35-year old mom. By law you cannot discriminate. By principle, they are equal candidates based on past performance. But on average one choice is more likely to lead to an accident than the other choice. Do you take into account the actuarial reality (which is based on group averages) or do you focus only on the law and the record to date? The law doesn't actually help much. On the one hand, it says that you cannot discriminate based on sex or age. On the other hand, civil law exposes you to law suits if there is an accident and you "negligently" went with the young man.

All of us, routinely, in innumerable decisions large and small, impinge on the fairness of a process, and break the barrier between the individual and the average in order to take into account probabilistic future outcomes which have nothing to do with the individual.

It is complicated when humans do it. But at least with a human there is a chance that an individual approaches such a decision with a 360 degree perspective on the facts, the law, the probabilities, and the ethics.

But even with humans, the claim of systemic discrimination turns out to be a function of real world variance in the data. There is a common claim that African-American borrowers are discriminated against in bank loans because they are denied more frequently. However, those researchers who have looked into this generally find that such accusations of discrimination don't take into account the full picture. Apples are not being compared to apples. You have to consider income, credit history, other capital sources available as security, stability of past income, and various other factors and hold them all equal when doing comparisons between black and white.

It is very similar to the frequently cited gender wage gap which makes a claim of discrimination based on the total income per woman being less than the total income per man without taking into account career field preference, work related danger premiums, full-time versus part-time, fixed hours versus variable hours, flexibility for overtime or travel commitments, duration of work record, past objective work accomplishments etc. Here and in Europe for thirty years, whenever the research takes into account all the variables, there is no discrimination.

The problem for AI is that it will inevitably find variance in patterns on any known factor such as race, religion, sex, orientation, age, etc. It will point out differences we prefer to not acknowledge or otherwise obfuscate. The fault is not in the AI but in our own inconsistency in what we prefer the data to tell us versus what the data actually tells us.

And again, this is not a racial issue unique to African-Americans. There will variances of one sort or another for any socioeconomic variable that correlates with race, gender, orientation, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, and health. AI is forcing us to confront issues we would sweep under the rug. If AI sees from the data that young male drivers have a pattern of more accidents than others, is that a good thing or is it a problem? Neither. It is reality and the degree to which we wish to take account of that reality is a human decision, not an AI problem.

Knight could have written an interesting article about how AI is revealing patterns of behavior correlated with socioeconomic variables and the challenges that that poses for clear human decision-making. Instead he wrote a click-bait article advancing cognitive pollution based on popular narratives of race and discrimination.

The problem is with humans not with AI.

Moral arbitrage

An interesting point being made by Dystopic in Moral Courage and Moral Arbitrage. This is in response to some tweets sent by Marco Rubio taking the MSM position that only national socialists should be condemned for their violence as opposed to Trump's position that both international socialists and national socialists should be condemned for their violence.
Every good capitalist is on the look out for imbalances in the market, opportunities to earn a profit off of a thing that either the market lacks completely, or current businesses do very inefficiently and ineffectively. You can consider it a form of arbitrage.

Today’s politicians, media talking heads, celebrities and the like are moral capitalists, even though they are economic collectivists. That is to say their morality is a form of arbitrage, always for sale to the highest bidder, where each statement they issue is calculated to profit them personally.

Take Marco Rubio, who today issued a series of tweets condemning Donald Trump for suggesting that the Charlottesville attack, and other similar incidents between Antifa and White Supremacists, was equally the fault of both parties. Donald Trump’s position is that both are hate groups, and both are quick to resort to violence to further their political goals, and that putting them together like that was surely going to stir up violence.

Personally, I think Trump is somewhat understating the case. White supremacists are exceedingly rare, even if they’ve received a shot in the arm from SJWs harping on white people all the time (hint: that tends to manufacture more supremacists, not less). What happened in Virginia may very well represent peak white supremacism, the very most such groups are capable of. Antifa and militant Marxists, meanwhile, enjoy far greater support from media, financiers (oh, the irony), and society-at-large. Antifa dwarfs Klansman and Neo-Nazis. Militant Marxists are, by far, the greater threat currently.

But that being said, Trump did put his finger on the central point: both groups espouse violent ideologies that are incompatible with freedom.


This argument is remarkably similar to Antifa and other Marxist groups saying that mean words justifies violence, that speech they don’t like justifies burning down cities and attacking people. It is okay for them to violently shut down anybody right-of-center on college campuses around the country, but it is not okay for anyone right-of-center to speak.

Marco is on a continuum with the SJWs on this matter. He concedes the central point, that violence is an acceptable response to speech deemed offensive. Yes, in the case of Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the speech actually is offensive. But it is still speech. Until it isn’t, anyway.


To be fair, a lot of people are saying this, though, so let’s analyze this a little differently. Why does Marco denounce the white supremacists so readily, yet lets militant Marxists off the hook? As a man of Cuban ancestry, he ought to be very familiar with the depredations and dangers of Marxists. Why is he so willing to assign them 0% of the blame?

There is moral arbitrage here. When some politician or celebrity denounces Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other assorted white supremacists, he is cheered. He is called stunning and brave. He is bashing the fash, taking a brave stand against the most evil ideology of man. In other words, he gets a huge moral bonus in the eyes of the media. It is easy to denounce white supremacists, who probably represent less than a tenth of a percent of the population. And it is profitable to do so, as well.


Meanwhile, taking a similar stand against Marxism is expensive. If a politician or celebrity stands up and denounces Marxism as a hateful, murderous ideology that is at least as evil as Nazism, he is often shot down. Real Marxism, of course, has never been tried. Real Marxism is a good theory, a good idea that maybe just hasn’t been implemented quite right. It’s morally true and righteous, and even if it has some problems, surely bashing the fash has to take precedence, right?

Except Marxism has a much higher share of the population. Marxism is celebrated openly on college campuses around the country. Marxists trash cities, riot, commit acts of violence with frightening regularity, and Marco assigns them 0% of the blame, because somewhere, there is an inbred Neo-Nazi off his meds tweeting from his mother’s basement.

Marco obtains a moral profit from denouncing white supremacism. He incurs a moral cost from denouncing Marxism. Playing the moral arbitrage for profit thus demands he pin the blame for political violence on only one participant. Then he is “stunning and brave” in the eyes of the body politic.

It is socially cheap to oppose Nazism. It is socially expensive to oppose Communism.
Moral arbitrage paired with virtue signaling. Pretty base behaviors.

There they were received by Men who occupied the sixth chamber

From The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
A Memorable Fancy

I was in a Printing-house in Hell, and saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.

In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the rubbish from a cave’s mouth; within, a number of Dragons were hollowing the cave.

In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock and the cave, and others adorning it with gold, silver, and precious stones.

In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air: he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite. Around were numbers of Eagle-like men who built palaces in the immense cliffs.

In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire, raging around and melting the metals into living fluids.

In the fifth chamber were Unnamed forms, which cast the metals into the expanse.

There they were received by Men who occupied the sixth chamber, and took the forms of books and were arranged in libraries.