Pseudorandom Notes

A post to collect  brief remarks on stochastic matters. Because calling random things random is so mainstream.

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24 Responses to Pseudorandom Notes

  1. Artir says:

    (De “Contra la Renta Básica”, Juan Ramón Rallo, cap. 5)
    Comencemos analizando la alienación en el comunismo primitivo. A diferencia de lo que sostiene el materialismo histórico, el modo de producción del comunismo primitivo no estaba vinculado tanto al grado de desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas (a la tecnología disponible) cuanto al clima y a la ausencia de presión demográfica: durante el Paleolítico ya se disponía de conocimientos para practicar la agricultura o domesticar animales (de hecho, el hombre paleolítico ya contaba con algunos pocos animales domesticados), pero simplemente no interesaba hacerlo a mayor escala por cuanto la vida como cazadores y recolectores nómadas o seminómadas era mucho más conveniente, relajada, segura y sana que la agraria y sedentaria; al fin y al cabo, el alimento de cazadores y recolectores lo produce autónomamente la naturaleza (sólo es necesario cazarlo o recogerlo), mientras que la agricultura es un sector muy intensivo en trabajo (Sahlins, 1972, capítulo 1; Harris, 1977, capítulos 2 y 3). Ahora bien, para poder disfrutar del modo de vida de los cazadores y recolectores resulta necesario que la densidad de población no sea muy elevada: se estima que el límite de densidad poblacional para conseguir un adecuado abastecimiento nutricional era de una persona por kilómetro cuadrado, si bien lo habitual era mantener a la población por debajo de 0,5 personas por kilómetro cuadrado (actualmente, la densidad de población en todo el planeta es de casi 50 personas por kilómetro cuadrado: 100 veces más que el máximo aconsejable para poder «vivir de la naturaleza»). Y, con tal de garantizar que esa densidad poblacional límite no se rebasara, los pueblos paleolíticos solían recurrir al infanticidio y gerontocidio tanto activo (asesinato) como pasivo (abandono, restricción alimentaria…): por ejemplo, durante el Pleistoceno se estima que el infanticidio alcanzó entre el 15 por ciento y el 50 por ciento de todos los nacimientos, concentrándose especialmente en las mujeres (Birdsell 1973). Asimismo, la presión demográfica también sometía al hombre paleolítico a un contexto de alerta continua de guerra: en aquellos territorios donde todos o algunos recursos escaseaban para el conjunto de los grupos, la libre circulación de personas estaba prohibida o muy restringida entre grupos; por ejemplo, los inuit de Alaska mataban a los extranjeros que invadían el área geográfica que consideraban propia. Asimismo, uno de los principales motivos para librar una guerra, aparte de responder a agravios o señalizar poder, era capturar territorios ricos en recursos (Diamond, 2012, capítulos 2 y 4).

    – En el comunismo primitivo sí había propiedad privada-

    A este respecto, y a diferencia de lo que sugería Marx, en la mayoría de las comunidades de cazadores y recolectores sí existía propiedad privada; no ya con respecto a las cabañas, las armas, los ropajes, los ornamentos o las herramientas (éstas incluso reconocidas por Marx), sino también sobre la tierra. Como decíamos, muchos grupos de cazadores y recolectores no consideraban que cualquier individuo o grupo foráneo tuviera derecho a circular por sus territorios y a explotar libremente aquellos recursos que se hallaban en su interior; es más, incluso aquellos grupos de cazadores y recolectores que sí permitían la libre circulación por su territorio exigían que los extranjeros les pidieran permiso antes de explotar los recursos internos, generándose a partir de ese momento una deuda de favores entre el grupo visitante y los nativos (los visitantes les «debían» algo a los locales). La lógica parece ser la siguiente: si los grupos habitaban territorios distintos y con niveles similares de fluctuaciones en los recursos (cuando un territorio tiene recursos abundantes, el otro también los tiene; cuando un territorio carece de ellos, el otro también), la circulación de personas solía estar restringida; cuando, en cambio, los grupos habitaban territorios distintos y con niveles divergentes en las fluctuaciones de los recursos a ritmos divergentes (cuando un territorio tiene recursos abundantes, el otro no y viceversa) y además existía cierta confianza entre ambos grupos, entonces se permitía la libre circulación recíproca, para así reducir el riesgo de quedarse sin recursos en un momento dado (Smith, 1988; Kelly, 2013, capítulo 6). Es decir, si bien no existía una concepción individualista de la propiedad privada sobre la tierra y sus recursos, sí había una concepción de propiedad privada comunal sobre la misma; esto es, unos grupos se creían con el derecho de excluir a otros grupos del uso y explotación de los recursos de la tierra (aunque no siempre lo ejerzan).

    -En el comunismo primitivo sí había división del trabajo-

    Por último, la profundización de la división del trabajo, lejos de ser una consecuencia de la generalización de la propiedad privada y de la institución de clases sociales, fue un dispositivo evolutivo que permitió una mejor adaptación evolutiva al entorno. La división del trabajo por sexo y por edad practicada en mayor medida por el Homo sapiens (los hombres se especializaban en la caza de grandes animales y las mujeres y los niños en la caza de pequeños animales y en la recolección de frutas y verduras) permitió maximizar las opciones de supervivencia de mujeres y niños (se los resguardaba de los mayores riesgos de la caza mayor y se les proporcionaba una dieta más diversificada y regular), favoreciendo que su expansión poblacional lograra desplazar a la de los neandertales, los cuales aparentemente optaron por concentrar a todos los individuos en la caza mayor. Engels, por ejemplo, supone que la división del trabajo por sexo era una elección natural entre todos los cazadores y recolectores (Engels, 1884, capítulo 9), pero no es así: aquellos que optaron por una mayor especialización y división del trabajo triunfaron, y quienes no lo hicieron fueron desplazados.

    Tal como explican los antropólogos Steven Kuhn y Mary Stiner: […] la ventaja competitiva de la que disfrutaron [los Homo sapiens ] no procedía solamente de contar con mejores armas y herramientas, sino del modo en que organizaron sus vidas económicas en torno al aprovechamiento de las ventajas de la cooperación y de la complementariedad de las tareas para la subsistencia entre hombres, mujeres y niños. Las consecuencias demográficas de una mayor diversidad en las ocupaciones económicas y en las dietas fueron probablemente imperceptibles en un comienzo, pero con el paso del tiempo fueron suficientes para marcar la diferencia […], una población de especialistas (nuestra hipótesis para la población del Paleolítico Superior) puede desplazar a una población de generalistas (la población del Paleolítico medio), donde todas las personas desempeñan un mismo rol, incluso aunque la eficiencia individual media fuera inferior entre los especialistas (Kuhn y Stiner, 2006).

    -En el comunismo primitivo no se repartía la comida igualitaria y desinteresadamente-

    Acaso se piense que, si bien la producción se caracterizaba por una rudimentaria división del trabajo, la distribución del producto sí era totalmente igualitaria entre los miembros de un grupo (tal como se describe en el modelo idealizado del comunismo primitivo). Pero no: es verdad que los grupos de cazadores y recolectores compartían la comida mucho más que las sociedades actuales, pero la distribución no sólo distaba de ser totalmente igualitaria, sino que además tenía un propósito muy concreto, a saber; la minimización de riesgos en la variabilidad de los alimentos. Primero, el reparto de la comida no era igualitario: dado que la grasa de un animal no está uniformemente distribuida, los cazadores solían quedarse (frente a los no cazadores, como niños y mujeres) con aquellas porciones con un aporte nutricional más elevado, ya sea porque así lo establecía la costumbre del grupo o porque devoraban el alimento nada más cazarlo y antes de compartirlo con el resto del grupo (Speth, 1990); además, incluso entre no cazadores la distribución distaba de ser igualitaria: las familias de los cazadores tendían a quedarse con una mayor porción de la presa y, a su vez, la distribución de la presa fuera del entorno de los cazadores solía ir acompañada de la prestación de otro tipo de «favores» a los cazadores, como relaciones sexuales extraconyugales o cuidado de sus hijos (Kelly, 2013, capítulo 6).

    Es verdad que el reparto de la comida no estaba absolutamente condicionado a la reciprocidad de los intercambios, ya que parte de la comida se distribuía a aquellas personas que ni habían contribuido a obtenerla ni prestaban inmediatamente ningún favor a cambio de ella, pero incluso buena parte de esta generosa distribución hacia los no cazadores se explicaba como un mecanismo dirigido a minimizar el riesgo. El motivo es el siguiente: imaginemos un grupo donde una persona no es capaz de cazar todos los días pero que, cuando él fracasa en su caza, el resto de grupos suelen triunfar (y viceversa: cuando él triunfa, el resto suele fracasar); sería la situación de una persona que no fuera a cazar todos los días o de una tribu que dividiera a sus efectivos en varias expediciones de cazadores para tratar de que al menos alguna de ellas tenga éxito. En tal caso, resulta evolutivamente inteligente que se redistribuya la producción: hoy por mí, mañana por ti. En cambio, en aquellos entornos donde los individuos suelen tener diariamente asegurada la provisión de alimentos o donde cuando un individuo fracasa en la caza el resto también lo hace (imaginemos un grupo especializado en pescar salmón: fuera de temporada ninguno lo logrará), entonces las pautas de redistribución «altruista» del producto solían ser mucho más débiles y ésta solía depender mucho más de la contribución individual a la obtención de comida o de lo que podía ofrecer a cambio de ella (Winterhalder, 1986).

    En suma, lo que tenía de igualitaria la distribución del producto logrado a través de la división del trabajo lo tenía a modo de aseguramiento grupal para minimizar los riesgos de sus necesidades evolutivas. Por consiguiente, el comunismo primitivo podía ser primitivo, pero no exactamente comunista (Major, 2012): sí existía propiedad privada individual y comunal, así como una rudimentaria división del trabajo tanto en la producción como en la distribución. Ahora bien, el uso y extensión de la propiedad privada y de la división del trabajo se adaptaba en gran medida a las exigencias del entorno y, por supuesto, también al grado de desarrollo de la tecnología (como vimos, admitir que la tecnología desempeña un papel importante en la determinación del marco institucional no equivale a aceptar las premisas del materialismo histórico). Del mismo modo que en la actualidad la división del trabajo es mucho más intensa que hace doscientos años sin que ello signifique que hace doscientos años vivíamos en una especie de comunismo decimonónico, o del mismo modo que hoy existen recursos que no son objeto de apropiación privada, como el oxígeno, debido a que resultan superabundantes (sin que ello tampoco signifique que vivamos en un sistema comunista global), el hombre paleolítico tampoco vivía inmerso en un comunismo primitivo por no extender hasta límites innecesarios o inconvenientes la división del trabajo o la propiedad privada.

  2. Artir says:

    About Superintelligence:

    In general terms, I find the book an adequate treatment of the theme it tackles. The prose is readable, altough dry at some sections, and definitely this is no book for a newcomer to the AI field. Well, it could be, but the newcomer wouldn’t really extract all the juice from it.

    In general, I agree with Bostrom of much of what he says. Points I would criticize: The orthogonality thesis (That intelligence is orthogonal, or independent from, values) and therefore you can have paperclip maximizers. We know that for humans that’s not quite true (IQ correlates with moral values, propensity for crime, etc.). Of course, as he reminds, we should not antropomorphise sAI: Maybe the intellgence-values relation holds for humans, but not for computers. Certainly it doesn’t hold for the computers, we know, but again, computers are more powerful at doing computation, but still dumb in terms of intelligence, from a human point of view (And Superintelligence is defined to be super-human-intelligence, in a broad range of relevant cognitive fields).

    The thing is that even if there is a metaphysical difference between intelligence and values, and theoretically it is conceivable that they are not correlated, it can be the case that in practise they will be. That is: The feasible way to construct sAI involves a procedure that, as a subproduct, endows the system with certain values. Say, suppose the only way to build sAI were to grow a giant human brain in a vat. Then, predictabily, you would have human values there, if the brain is allowed to interact with its environment, at least. More could be said here, but these are supposed to be brief remarks, not a review.

    Now, other interesting issue covered are the different ways to get the AI to do what we want it to do, and controlling what it does: These range from keeping it boxed, to trying to implant a moral code in it, to installing failsafes of sorts. Bostrom finds all of them wanting, given that we have a sAI that just wants to implement its utility function, and it will apply its cleverness to disabling the restricting mechanisms. What is needed here is a way to make the sAI not do certain things (Or do certain things), such that the sAI doesn’t want to change the way it acts. (i.e. Most reasonable people wouldn’t take a pill to change their minds into thinking murder is right, and enjoyable, in order to have fun, even if they could get away with it).

    I missed a more detailed discussion of ways to implement digital SI (He discusses several types of SI, not all of them involving artificial intelligences). That is: What are top scientists working on right now? Is Bayesianism relevant for this? Quantum computing? Neural networks? What interesting, and what discouraging results are we getting?

    In conclusion, Superintelligence is a landmark book for the field of Artificial Intelligence. While it’s not the last word, it surely will become part of the core literature, and will feature prominently in related debates, sort of when Nozick proclaimed of Rawls’ Theory of Justice. “Political philosophers now must work within Rawls theory or explain why not”. Same goes for superintelligence theorists.

  3. Artir says:

    Comentario sobre http://aeon.co/magazine/society/why-born-gay-is-a-dangerous-idea/

    Básicamente, el artículo dice que el movimiento pro derechos de los homosexuales ha aceptado la idea de que la identidad está biológicamente determinada: La gente nace con una identidad sexual, que es imposible, o extremadamente difícil cambiar. Es la idea del born this way, y cada vez más gente piensa eso, al menos en EEUU.

    El artículo cae en el error de vincular lo que llama ‘determinismo biológico’ (la genética importa; nadie dice que todo sea genética) con el nazismo, y de las consecuencias de aceptar esa idea. Luego pajas mentales sobre construcción social all the way down (El autor dice que el amor romántico es una invención occidental, eso es falso http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773618?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents )

    En resumen, el artículo es bastante malo, y lo recordaba mejor. El argumento que realmente hay que hacer es este:
    “Debe respetarse la orientación sexual porque la gente nace así y no se puede cambiar” es un argumento potente pero problemático. Es problemático porque es análogo a un argumento del tipo “Alguien con retraso mental, o ciego de nacimiento no debe ser estigmatizado por serlo: no han elegido nacer así”. El argumento es potente porque permite que los conservadores lo acepten, pero la forma de aceptarla que tienen es problemática “No criticaré a los gays porque sean unos enfermos, que lo son, pero no es culpa suya. Nacieron con esa tara y no puede cambiarse” El born this way lleva a pensar eso, y es un completo equívoco. Porque pongamos, por un lado, que sí fuese una elección, o incluso que en el futuro existan maneras de cambiar la sexualidad con procedimientos médicos. Entonces los críticos, mantenidos a raya con un mal argumento volverían. El argumento sólo esconde el debate debajo de la alfombra, no lo pone sobre la mesa y lo resuelve debidamente.

    La razón para respetar a los LGBTIA(y demás siglas) no es que no puedan cambiar su sexualidad, es que tienen una y al expresarla no hacen daño a nadie. Si se acepta la validez de una relación heterosexual, no hay argumentos filosóficos para que cambiando el género de alguna de las partes tenga que verse de manera diferente, de la misma manera que si se acepta la igualdad de derechos entre hombres blancos no hay argumentos para no dársela a nos negros.

  4. Artir says:

    Does Mazzucat explain why some countries are more innovative or entrepreneurial?
    She talks about the State shaping the economic path of, at least Germany, Japan, the USRR (She discusss what they did wrong, basically focus in military spending, not allow diffusion of tech, communism, etc…), the UK and Finland (NESTA and SITRA, but this is a mainly minor point), South Korea

    It’s mainly USA, actually, what she discusses, and I remember something she says at some point that went like “Well, yes, I’m focusing mainly in the US, but…”, but I can’t find the exact quote right now.

    But here is another, talking about the Schumpeterian vs the linear model of innovation:

    The causation that occurs in the steps taken between basic science, to large-scale R&D, to applications, and finally to diffusing innovations is not ‘linear’. Rather, innovation networks are full of feedback loops existing between markets and technology, applications and science. In the linear model, the R&D system is seen as the main source of innovation, reinforcing economists’ use of R&D stats to understand growth. In this more non-linear view, the roles of education, training, design, quality control and effective demand are just as important. Furthermore, it is better able to recognize the serendipity and uncertainty that characterizes the innovation process. It is useful for understanding the rise and fall of different economic powers in history. For example, **it explains the rise of Germany as a major economic power in the nineteenth century, as a result of State-fostered technological education and training systems. It also explains the rise of the United States as a major economic power in the twentieth century as a result of the rise of mass production and in-house R&D. The United States and Germany became economic powers for different reasons but what they had in common was attention to developing systems of innovation rather than a narrow focus on raising or lowering R&D expenditures.**

    The thing is: So if the State is really entrepreneurial and has a high absolute R&D investment or GDP-relative R&D investment ratio you get innovation and nice products? Not necessarily. While the US government has DARPA, IARPA, the National Labs, Public Universities, the NSF, the Army and the Navy funding things, it is also a nation that attracts the world’s top geniuses, plus the cultural factors are probably relevant. I would have to delve more in detail into data (Mazzucato does not provide the details), but at a first glance, having an Entrepreneurial State does not seem necessary or sufficient for innovation. More factors come into play.

    Venture Capital is one such difference http://i2.wp.com/www.indianweb2.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/vc-funding-startup-stage-global.jpg?resize=600%2C850 (Not intending to overrate it)

    Also, the distribution of startupism in the US is nonuniform http://bothsides.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/LA-3rd-largest-ecosystem-in-the-US-1024×753.png

    My preliminary remarks on some of this are here and the tl;dr is that has quite a lot to do with cognitive capacity (Necessary but not sufficient, in this case) https://artir.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/una-breve-teoria-de-la-innovacion/

    US inmense GDP means that a not-huge % of GDP spending in R&D translates into lots of investment
    http://t.co/x7uEZtzwUZ

    R&D is an impure public good: expertise and hands-on knowledge is needed to use it. You can read journals and science in Gambia, but getting from that to building iPhones is really hard

  5. Artir says:

    Conservative rhetoric in the Left
    So I was reading The System of Liberty and noticed what arguments the absolutist theorists used against early liberals who argued for democracy and separation of powers. In that time, democracy had never been tried before, save for some small scale experiments, so to speak, in ancient Greece.

    Robert Higgs also has some of this kind of arguments related to slavery:
    http://fee.org/freeman/ten-reasons-not-to-abolish-slavery
    1. Slavery is natural
    2. Slavery has always existed
    3. Every society on earth has slavery
    4. The slaves are not capable of taking care of themselves
    5. Without masters, the slaves will die
    6. Where the common people are free, they are even worse off than slaves
    7. Getting rid of slavery would occasion great bloodshed and other evils
    8. Without slavery, the former slaves would run amuck
    9. Trying to get rid of slavery is foolishly utopian and impractical
    10. Forget abolition (it is too extremist)

    The point being, these arguments can be used to defend whatever exists and is generally in place. You can use them to defend, say, patriarchy, the welfare state, playing with dolls, or baking bread.

    These arguments are mostly logical fallacies, appeals to emotion, and while they contain some practical advice not to rush change, they appear to demand inmovilism instead of change at all.

    My claim is that the Left has basically won, and by that I am thinking of Progressivism or Liberalism as understood in the US. They accept economics, they don’t want communism, and they endorse relatively free markets, but they see the role of the State not as an evil to minimize but just as a tool that can be used to foster growth and so on. They accept free transactions not because they are good, but because they are efficient, and or lead to fair outcomes, or something like that. Their ideal system would be something like the Nordics: market based prosperity, but with plenty of redistribution. Against this ideology, only libertarianism stands a chance in the realms of intellectual debate. Currently, most smart people endorse some version of social democracy, I think, and given that the world is basically like that (mixed economics that need fixing to approximate them to the Nordic ideal), they can use the abovementioned rhetoric to confront libertarians. Thus they can call it extremist, utopian, never tried before, claim that government has always been there and is necessary, and so on. These arguments apply for both limited government and anarchy. While they work better for anarchy, they can claim limited government was tried and failed, or that there are no limited governments today, and respond to the Hong Kong/Singapore examples with “Sure, but that’s because they are small, surely you wouldn’t want to apply that system on a larger scale”.

    Another claim is that these arguments are the last resort of a threatened ideological system, when better arguments have failed (Such a fairness or economic arguments against libertarianism), and if libertarianism is to succeed in the future, the good arguments will be defeated. Thus they will resort more and more to these arguments in the future.

    And we will see the Left using conservative rhetoric, while libertarians will use more aggresive, leftist, so to speak, rhetoric, talking of change and new ways of doing things. Opposite to what happened in the past!

  6. Artir says:

    Retributivismo y Restitución
    Un experimento mental:
    Imagina que el mundo va a explotar dentro de unos minutos. En una habitación está Adolf Hitler o algún equivalente moral. Tienes un botón que si lo pulsas le infligirá intensos dolores. Si no lo pulsas, no pasa nada. Un minuto después, ambos morís. Por hipótesis, no eres un sádico.

    La perspectiva retributivista optará por castigar a Hitler, porque se lo merece.
    La perspectiva no-retributivista optará por no hacer nada, pues sólo incrementas el sufrimiento en el mundo, sin ganar nada a cambio.

    En la vida real, la no-retributivista puede asemejarse a la retributivista porque lo que se decida en un caso afecta a casos subsiguientes. Castigar a un Hitler quizá evite futuros Hitlers.

    En un caso real, la borrachera se considera en españa un atenuante si se cometen delitos. Para un retributivista (y la mayoría de sistemas penales son así), esto debe ser así porque el borracho no es consciente de lo que hace, y por tanto no merece ser castigado, o no tanto.

    Por contra, para un no-retributivista, la borrachera, o factores manifiestamente incontrolables pero internos (los genes siendo otro ejemplo) no es un atenuante a priori. Lo que habrá que hacer será estudiar qué norma legal elegir para cumplir objetivos tales como:
    a) Que las víctimas regresen a la situación previa al crimen (restitución)
    b) Evitar futuros crímenes, disuadiendo (prevención)
    c) Evitar que el criminal cometa más crímenes (reintegración)

    Que en la práctica no van a ser tan diferentes? No serán radicalmente diferentes, pero un sistema tenderá a tener más cosas como cárceles usuales y pena de muerte, y otro tenderá a tener más prisiones donde sus prisioneros trabajen, y terapia, además de multas y atenuantes elegidos con fines distintos a los del puro castigo.

    El principal problema con el retributivismo es que la razón para castigar a alguien es que merece ser castigado en virtud de haber hecho algo malo, y lo que la neurociencia y demás aportan son razones para dudar de que uno merezca ser castigado (Como uno tampoco se merece la inteligencia que tiene, que es el mismo argumento).

    En suma, no se trata de castigar o dejar a hacerlo a alguien por tener o no tal gen, o por padecer o no cual enfermedad mental, sino de los principios que deben estructurar las sanciones de un sistema legal.

  7. Artir says:

    Some notes on war and innovation.
    Mowery, D.C. 2010 Military R&d and Innovation
    1. Effects of war on innovation are mostly negative. War demands production of tried and tested technology, it retards innovation
    2. No consensus on military R&D on the economy in general
    3. It is harder to launch spinoffs from highly advanced military technologies (very specific technologies, so harder to generalise)

    In general, **
    With some important exceptions (Ruttan, 2006), most economic historians assess
    the effects of war on technological innovation as largely negative.
    Paradoxically, one of the primary reasons for the limited effects of war on technological change is the
    tendency for hostilities to engender a more conservative approach by the military services to technology
    management. As Milward (1977) and others have pointed out (indeed, this point is acknowledged at several
    points in Ruttan’s discussion), mobilization for war since at least the mid-nineteenth century has involved a
    surge in military demand for existing weapons and systems that available in a crisis situation and are
    compatible with established tactics and strategies. Wartime mobilization therefore relies on the increased
    production of weapons that were largely designed and developed prior to the outbreak of hostilities. 4 The
    pressures of wartime mobilization focus R&D and related investments in weapons development on improv-
    ing reliability and performance of existing systems, rather than developing radically new technologies. In
    addition to its effects on the focus of R&D and innovation, of course, Mokyr has highlighted eloquently the
    tendency for wartime’s “collateral damage” to retard innovation in most modern and premodern economies
    **

    As for the effect of war itself on R&D, there is an article analysing the poster child case of war induced increased innovation and post-war prosperity: World War II. In The impact of the Second World War on US productivity growth (2008), A.J. Field argues that evidence is not consistent with this view. Increasing demand for manufacturers or spillovers from military technology don’t seem to have been helpful to post-war productivity. He also makes a case that so far I’ve ignored, and is that war can modify the path of technological advancement, inducing some technologies to develop faster than others, decoupling this path from consumer demand.

    The scientific and engineering community, in cooperation with government officials, managers, and workers had, by all accounts, and based on our experience with war mobilization, done a superb job in helping to expand the potential output of the economy between 1929 and 1941. This community was then asked to drop much of what it was doing and focus on challenges central to the war effort. In the process, some discoveries and learning useful for civilian production took place. But these were incidental to the war effort, and entailed opportunity costs in the form of disruptions to the trajectory of technical advance in the civilian economy. On balance, it is unlikely that the stock of economically relevant knowledge (both technical knowledge and production knowledge) was higher compared to what it would have been in the absence of war.

  8. Artir says:

    Moral change, IQ,
    I just saw the paper [1] on cultural change and homosexuality. I see massive IQ confounding (My pet theory is that IQ, or at least cultural elite IQ is a strong driver of moral change (via influence on factual knowledge and on moral knowledge itself). Improvement of econ conditions boost IQ up to a level. Then the new norms diffuse to lower IQs, but for them to accept them, incentives have to be there, and weakening of familiar ties and seeing reproduction as less necessary means homosexuality is not even a problem. But even here I would argue that the idea of pursuing different things in life different from narrow hedonic and reproductive stuff is also IQ driven)

    On the origin of norms, to the extent that lower animals have almost no culture (save for apes), it could be argued that those human norms that can also be found in animals are genetic, and the rest are culturally evolved and transmitted. This cultural process can overturn the genetic norms in humans. The effect of genetically transmitted norms (kin altruism, say) is presented to the individual as intuitions about what to do. “It just feels appropiate to do X, to regard my family as more important than anyone else, just because they are my family”. This norm is widespread, and for most people the source of it is genetic. People do not reflect on why they are supposed to care more for their family, they just do it. But reflecting upon the intuition leads you to realise that genetic similarity is morally nonsignificant, and that the significant part is the caring relationship family and child have (among other things). Thus someone who overturns that norm will think that an adopted child owes nothing to his genetic family, and that the relationship between child and new family is morally equivalent to the genetic family-child one. Also, the special relation is conditional on the family really caring.

    If a genetic norm is already established (a child is born into a kin altruist world), that will be cultural reinforcement of a genetic norm, as it will be perceived as normal by the child.

    Genetic beliefs will be more present in tribal societies, thinking about the comparison between historical and contemporary tribes vs modern civilizations would be helpful to see.

    [1] http://t.co/xgnmjKaAox

  9. Artir says:

    Comments on Sam Bowman’s http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/jeremy-corbyn-inequality-myth-sorry-labour-lefties-your-new-messiah-will-not-help-poor-1519216

    He argues:
    1. Inequality doesn’t matter in and of itself. What matters is reducing poverty, and one is not a proxy for the other
    2. Perceptions of inequaity are not connected to actually existing inequality (research shows this)
    3. The idea of poverty has changed over time (example of the mobile phone), but this is different from an idea of inequality
    4. The Spirit level is wrong (Snowdon)

    Then there’s Branko Milanovic’s http://glineq.blogspot.com.es/2015/08/all-our-needs-are-social.html
    1.Our needs vary in function of what is considered to be socially acceptable. Poor in a rich society vs rich in a poor society
    2. Needs are necessarily relative. The concept of absolute poverty makes no sense.
    3. We do not know our needs until we live in a society and compare ourselves to others

    A possible answer: Try to change people’s reference groups so that they don’t compare with groups richer than them, as to reduce ‘subjective poverty’. At a societal level, make sure people think there isn’t much inequality (In a way, that’d revert them from comparing to the rich, and comparing to their neighbors, or something) (But would this work? Is it sincere to hide info from people this way?)

    My answer: Contra Milanovic, not all needs are socially constructed. People have a sense of some needs being more basic than others: food, water, shelter, etc. Furthermore, if Milanovic were true, we’d see that the fraction of people who consider themselves poor does not vary with GDP (adjusting for inequality). We should also expect people to prefer to be rich in a poor society than poor in a rich society (with this second case being richer than the first). The first prediction is falsified by data such as https://twitter.com/bill_easterly/status/628583392158875652 (Not adjusted for Gini, but I don’t expect that to change) plus research on happiness and similar measures growing with absolute income. People do have a sense of absolute needs. Our nature dictates that to merely exist we require a series of things. Above that, there are grey areas where social construction comes in. Thus yes, the definition of poverty will be redefined as time goes, but that does not mean we should care about inequality. Let’s make sure everyone has water, food, and shelter. After that, let’s go for health, education. You can’t really go much upwards from there.

  10. Artir says:

    La palabra meritocracia puede inducir a confusión sobre la misma.

    Por un lado, su etimología, mérito-cracia puede inducir a pensar que alguien que defiende la meritocracia defiende que los que tengan más mérito deben gobernar, o progresar en general. Recordemos que mérito es más o menos lo que uno consigue, restando el punto de partida (Alguien que llegue a ser millonario desde la pobreza tiene mucho más mérito que alguien que es más rico aún, pero que sólo ha heredado).
    Sin embargo, no sé de nadie que defienda algo así, que normativamente el mérito debe ser el que determine la posición social.

    Por otro lado, el uso corriente de la palabra meritocracia es contrario a su etimología. Alguien que dice defender la meritocracia tiene en mente sitios como Finlandia o Singapur https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meritocracia donde se supone que si eres bueno (independientemente de cómo hayas llegado a ser bueno, ya sea con esfuerzo brutal desde la pobreza o no haciendo nada y partiendo de una posición social acomodada) llegas arriba. Esto se logra, por ejemplo, con exámenes de capacidad, o tests de inteligencia. Todo el mundo que dice defender la meritocracia defiende esto segundo. Al meritócrata qua meritócrata (en el sentido ampliamente usado de meritocracia, el segundo presentado) le da igual que unos sean mejores en los tests que otros por tener mejor familia o genes, le importa sólo la capacidad, no el mérito (en el sentido que he definido arriba como mérito).

    Disclaimer: No entro a valorar la conveniencia o no de estos conceptos, sólo los explico.

    • Artir says:

      From twitter debate on meritocracy spawned by this. It is argued:
      1.Charles Muray supports that there exists (or ought to be) a meritocracy in the first sense: those who have the most merit reach the highest places

      From The Bell Curve, how Murray uses meritocracy and merit
      GIVING MERITOCRACY ITS DUE

       
      Part I mostly described a success story—success for the people lucky enough to be part of the cognitive elite but also a success for the nation as a whole. Before turning to the dark side, we should be explicit about the good things that flow from the invisible migration.
      […]

      So what’s the problem? The old stratifications are fading, erased by a greater reliance on what people often call merit. Millions of people have benefited from the changes—including us. Would we prefer less of a meritocracy? Put that way, no—but “no” for larger reasons as well. The invisible migration is in many ways an expression of what America is all about.
      […]
      College admission is not, has never been, nor is there reason to think it should be, a competition based purely on academic merit.

      Murray elsewhere http://www.wsj.com/articles/charles-murray-why-the-sat-isnt-a-student-affluence-test-1427238664

      I haven’t used the word “meritocracy” to describe this because it doesn’t apply. Merit has nothing to do with possessing a high IQ. It is pure luck. And that leads to my reason for writing this.
      —————-
      So it seems to me that in The Bell Curve, he means meritocracy in the sense of those more able (high IQ) going higher, and that is a good thing (more productivity and everyone benefits). That is, he seems to endorse type 2 meritocracy.

      But in the article, he says that just having high IQ isn’t meritorious. He criticises type 1 meritocracy (Because he endorses type 2).

      I think that meritocracy, for him, means being able to do stuff, to rise high, period.
      So, he defends type 2.

      However, he doesn’t talk much about the word meritocracy itself

  11. Artir says:

    Norcoreanos:

    Sea un norcoreano , que ama a su lider, que piensa que la economía nacional va bien, y que el líder es un hombre justo, sabio, y inmejorable para su posición. ¿Hay algo que decir? ¿Vive mal?

    Podría parecer que no hay nada que decir. Es como alguien que, pongamos, vive en medio de un bosque creyendo que la civilización es el mal.
    Pero por otro lado, la situación también podría ser comparable a la de un niño que quiere comer dulces todos los días. El niño realmente los quiere. ¿Deben sus padres impedírselo?
    Caso similar es el de una persona que va a cruzar un puente. Sabemos que el puente está mal construido, y pongamos que tenemos la opción de impedirle cruzarlo, incluso sin explicarle nada. ¿Estaríamos justificados en restringir el movimiento de esta persona?

    En estos casos, creo que la inmensa mayoría de norcoreanos en un caso y niños en otro, y cruzantes de puentes en el último, tendrían preferencias radicalmente diferentes si supieran todos los detalles de su situación, si pudiesen observarse en posesión de plena información y racionalidad. Prueba de que esto es así es que todos, o casi todas las personas que han pasado por situaciones así estarían de acuerdo con que en su pasado hubiesen aceptado las restricciones expuestas. (Todos los norcoreanos exiliados dicen que realmente NK no es como pensaban, todos los adultos suelen estar de acuerdo en no cebar a los niños con dulces, todos los que han sido salvados de caer en puentes estarían de acuerdo con evitar que gente los cruce).

  12. Artir says:

    Turbulence and the Knowledge Problem:

    *Navier Stokes equations are a model that describe how fluids behave in a wide range of conditions. They can only be solved for some simple cases, no general solution is known.
    *Then, to solve the NS equations numerically, you’d need so much computing power that (almost) no one does it.
    *So NS are simplified with turbulence models to make the turbulence solvable in a reasonable time, but this introduces inaccuracies.

    *Hayek’s knowledge problem: data required for economic calculation is dispersed, cannot be centrally managed

    Making a simile between the Knowledge Problem and turbulence:
    *An analytical solution to the Knowledge Problem would be sort of like devising a way for central planning to work, but that is not solved.
    *Approximate solutions to that (like what the Soviets did) are so bad that are not even worth considering, the simplifications introduced are not able to get you to the solution (What the market would do)
    *If the simile goes all the way down, if you had infinite computing power, and mind-reading devices installed in everyone’s heads, you may be able to centrally plan a such a dystopian society. And I say maybe(!). But that doesn’t seem feasible right know or the foreseeable future.

    Some discussion of the problems of turbulence here http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/56496/what-is-the-mystery-of-turbulence

  13. Artir says:

    Why some topics become politicized and others don’t?

    Haidt’s, Tuschman’s, Kurzban’s, etc books try to explore why some people have some ideologies instead of others. They mostly address the conservative/liberal distinction.

    That is not however what we want here, and I personally don’t find them that useful.. What we want to know is why some policies become politicized, at a particular moment in time, and not others. If ‘There are conservatives and liberals and they want different things’ is our explanation, then we don’t need a biological explanation for that, as that is already subsumed under those ideological labels. (We would need that to explain why are people conservative and liberal and etc in the first place) And that explanation is just the beginning of what an explantion should look like.

    If I were to identify politicized issues systematically, I’d try to see what pundits are talking about, and discount arcane intellectual things only they care about. That, contrasted with mainstream media plus some insight into the twitter ideologues echo chambers may give a good enough list.

    For the US: We could think of guns, free speech, inmigration, and Obamacare.
    For Spain: austerity, public healthcare and education

    From my experience, it seems that it happens because some issues become part of the defining identity of the relevant group. So if someone thinks of himself as a Republican, he will come to believe that yay guns! yay free speech! (except maybe when it conflicts when other Republican totems like flag burning) and boo inmigration, boo Obamacare.

    Politicised issues also tend to be issues in which the empirical data is not clear, or the models underlying the theory used to interpret the data are complex and hard to grasp. If it were truly crystal clear, you’d still have a value distinction to overcome,but in most of these debates there is one side arguing that one thing is great and the other side arguing that it is bad.

    Even then, there are counterexamples, like climate warming, so maybe facts matter even less, but this is more of a US issue. The thing here is not just that both sides disagree, it is that one side denies that the consensual evidence is true at all. Why? If climate change is true, then the party’s totem falls, and a part of one’s identity is shattered, and that has to be psychologically painful (Not only me, but also my team is wrong!!)

    In reality, they aren’t dramatic policies, so it can be that the level of outrage they generate is justifiable.

    So the model would be like:
    0. Biology influences point 1.
    1. There are people with different sets of preferences, generally aligned with some political party
    2. Each party has totemic items, that are usually there for a long period of time. Aligning with a party means adopting said items as sacred
    3. An exogenous shock ( 😛 ) brings one of the totemic items to public relevance
    4. Angry debates ensue

    Next step: Why some totems and not others? That would be harder, but it doesn’t probably hard a tidy explanation.

  14. Artir says:

    Pseudoerasmus 101

    Variation in human traits
    -The Nurture Assumption
    -The 10000 year explosion

    Culture and Institutions
    -Why not a political Coase theorem? (Acemoglu)
    -Culture and the Historical Process (Nunn)
    -Culture and Institutions (Alesina)
    -The secret of our success (Heinrich)

    Industrial Revolution in Britain
    -The Enlightened Economy (Mokyr)
    -The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (Allen)
    -A Farewell to Alms (Clark)
    -Bourgeois Dignity
    -The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain (Vol 2, 2nd ed.)
    http://pseudoerasmus.com/economic-history-books/

  15. Artir says:

    A country where everyone is a travel agent is nonfunctional, as there is no one to travel.
    That’s a problem for utilitarianism

  16. Artir says:

    Sobre lo de BCL y la paradoja EPR:

    La metáfora de la ecuación (x+y=1, si uno sabe x, se sabe automáticamente y) tal cual está dicha sólo asume que las propiedades de ambas partículas están relacionadas por la ecuación, no dice nada sobre la ontología de las mismas (si son reales antes de la medida o no). Personalmente, como buen contrarian, soy fan de las interpretaciones de Bohm y las de colapso objetivo. Estirando mucho, llegaría a aceptar la de múltiples universos. La de Copenhagen no puedo tomármela en serio.

    Sobre si se comunican o no. Tuve un minidesliz diciendo que se comunican. Corregí y dije que ‘las correlaciones impiden comunicarse’, en referencia al no-communication theorem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-communication_theorem

    La metáfora de x+y=1 a su vez viene de alguien en twitter que en su día estaba aclarando la paradoja EPR, pero no recuerdo quién.

  17. Artir says:

    Comentarios sobre https://medium.com/@raven_neo/3-monta%C3%B1as-d4014323902a#.qbwpy5190

    Algo parecido pasa con los productos FairTrade, que benefician a los más ricos de entre los pobres
    http://www.mruniversity.com/courses/everyday-economics/fair-trade-economic-development
    (Por eso elijo no comprarlos deliberadamente)

    (O con los sweatshops)

    Realmente la mayoría de lo que parece ser injusto no lo es tanto. En el ejemplo de las minas de coltán, “las colas de niños que esperan un hueco en el que meterse para poder llevar dinero a sus madres y hermanas en casa.”, si esos niños quieren ese trabajo es por algo. En Bolivia, se intentó prohibir el trabajo infantil y los *niños* protestaron porque les quitaban el trabajo, que necesitaban
    http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2013/12/25/actualidad/1387985009_067644.html . Históricamente, el trabajo infantil no ha desaparecido porque se prohíba, sino porque aumentos en la productividad permiten a los padres ganar suficiente como para mantener a la familia y enviar a los hijos al colegio en vez de al campo de arroz o a la fábrica.

    Lo que sí debería ocurrir es prohibir cosas como el esclavismo, que por desgracia sigue existiendo. Con una mina que emplee mano de obra esclava una posible solución de compromiso es que las empresas que compren de esa mina dediquen parte de sus beneficios a luchar contra la esclavitud, o no comprarles directamente, aunque esto último lleva al problema de que otros que sí lo hagan expulsarán del mercado a los que no, salvo que la gente tenga cierta preferencia por productos libres de esclavitud que estén certificados. Por eso esas cosas habría que prohibirlas por la fuerza, la cuestión es cómo. El crecimiento económico es la única salida sostenible, pero no sabemos cómo generarlo ‘mágicamente’ (Excepto quizás con una invasión militar, la conquista total del territorio y la implantación de instituciones externas durante un periodo prolongado (décadas) de tiempo).

  18. Artir says:

    Discrepo. Con el nivel de intervención que tienes en Venezuela, controles de precios, permisos para producir tal o cual cosas, controles cambiarios y nacionalizaciones, es difícil hablar de capitalismo.

    Aunque sobre el papel los medios de producción puedan estar en manos privadas, eso dice poco de qué quiere decir ese ‘estar en manos’. Uno puede ser propietario de un terreno, pero luego tener prohibido venderlo, y poder usarlo sólo para cultivar maíz, y venderlo a un precio estipulado. El propietario retiene cierto control sobre su propiedad, pero es bastante tenue.

    Los sistemas económicos existen en un gradiente, y no todo es socialismo soviético y capitalismo. En la propia URSS, la propiedad nominal de los medios de producción era mayoritaria pero no totalmente pública (Porque había koljozes, había gente que tenía ciertos terrenos para pequeña producción, y ciertas actividades no productivas (para el marxismo) dentro del sector privado podían llevarlas a cabo individuos privados (como peluquería). Incluso en la industria pesada, los directores de las fábricas tenían cierto grado de discreción para manejarlas y negociar con los sovnarkhozes que luego reportaban al Gosplan cuánto producir y cómo. Al final debían someterse al plan (aunque nuevamente, tampoco del todo: soft budget constraint), pero participaban en su elaboración, ejerciendo cierto control. La gran mayoría del pueblo soviético tenía poco control sobre la actividad de su economía, y también de su propio gobierno.

    Por otro lado, tenemos la economía fascista, donde las empresas también eran de propiedad privada, y en contra de lo que suele pensarse, no estaban obligadas por el Estado a hacer lo que este quería, simplemente lograba que produjesen a base de incentivos (compartir parte de los riesgos, préstamos, etc). Esto sí es más próximo al capitalismo que Venezuela.
    https://pseudoerasmus.com/2015/05/03/fascism-left-or-right/
    —-

    Yo diría que puede definirse un capitalismo ‘ideal’ y un sistema planificado ‘ideal’ y ver dónde encaja un sistema realmente existente.

    En el capitalismo ideal, existen múltiples propietarios de los medios de producción, que son libres de operarlos (con la limitación de no interferir en la operación de MdP ajenos). Las relaciones económicas entre propietarios están compuestas a partir de contratos voluntarios, y todo o casi todo bien económico tiene un precio formado por un proceso de mercado

    En el sistema planificado ideal, existe un único propietario de todos los medios de producción, que decide cómo se utilizan. No existen relaciones entre diferentes propietarios (no los hay), ni hay precios al no haber un sistema de mercado entre medias.

    En ambos casos, obvio el fin de los sistemas (En un sistema planificado ideal hay un fin (el plan de producción), mientras que en el sistema capitalista ideal no (El sistema es un agregado de planes varios), y la distinción público/privada (No es relevante a efectos económicos, como apunto en mi blog).

    Entonces, Venezuela, al tener un nivel más reducido de separación en el control de los medios de producción, es menos capitalista que, por ejemplo, Suiza, que a su vez es menos capitalista que, por ejemplo, Cuba – que también tiene mercados y propiedad parcial de los MdP-.

    Una posible escala sería Sistema planificado(1)-Sistema fuertemente regulado(4)-Sistema ligeramente regulado-(7)-Sistema descentralizado(10) según cómo esté dispuesto el control de los MdP.


    That said, recordemos que en Venezuela, el Estado es propietario directo de trozos importantes de la economía
    http://www.el-nacional.com/economia/Gobierno-empresas-alimentos-podido-escasez_0_662334004.html
    El petróleo supone el 19% del PIB
    http://www.oecd.org/corporate/ca/corporategovernanceprinciples/35657640.pdf
    Dada la ideología que sustenta al PSUV, una suerte de marxismo descafeinado, su objetivo a largo plazo parece ser la propiedad estatal de los MdP estratégicos, y hasta cierto punto eso se ha logrado.

  19. Artir says:

    Sobre https://curiouscat.me/Mylestring/post/24937913 y https://curiouscat.me/Mylestring/post/24823532

    Malthus tuvo razón hasta la revolución industrial

    Básicamente, la humanidad vivió en ciclos de más población->hambrunas->menos población, etc, donde el crecimiento poblacional hace que se viviese en condiciones bastante paupérrimas hasta la revolución industrial. Pero a partir de ahí, el modelo de Malthus deja de ser válido: la producción en general pasa a acelerarse mucho más rápido que el crecimiento poblacional (debido a un cambio en la cultura, o mentalidad de la gente respecto al comercio. -> Mokyr y McCloskey son las referencias para esto). Además, las preferencias familiares respecto a la descendencia cambian, y se prefieren menos hijos: la transición demográfica. Más riqueza a repartir entre (proporcionalmente ) menos gente, es una mayor riqueza per cápita. En el modelo Malthusiano, se asume que las especies se reproducirán invirtiendo todos los recursos que tengan disponibles, y los seres humanos no hacen eso.

    Sobre ‘el modelo que siguen’ (Quiénes?, qué modelo en particular?), los recursos son limitados, pero aún estamos lejos de haber alcanzado el final de los mismos. Avances tecnológicos hacen que cada vez necesitemos menos recursos para lograr algo, incluyendo una menor contaminación por producción de energía. Hay ya empresas estudiando cómo hacer minería en asteroides para extraer sus recursos. Los precios de aquellos recursos que sean escasos ajustan su oferta a su demanda. Si, por ejemplo, preveemos que quedan 40 años de aluminio, los precios del aluminio irán subiendo (Y esa información ya está incorporada en los precios presentes; si no uno podría sacar beneficio comprando aluminio hoy y vendiéndolo en el futuro). Eso hará que dejemos de usar aluminio y usemos otras cosas, o que busquemos fuentes de aluminio fuera de la Tierra, o que se produzca un incremento sustancial en tecnología de reciclaje.

    Con todo, la preocupación no debería ser un exceso de población, sino una carencia de la misma. Si la tasa de reemplazo se mantiene por debajo de 2, una población termina extinguiéndose. La población mundial llegará a un máximo de unos 11 bn de personas en un siglo or so y a partir de ahí empezará a decrecer (Según la ONU). Si a la gente no le da por tener más hijos, o si no hemos curado el envejecimiento, la especie humana podría extinguirse por falta de reproducción.

    Dinero de las pensiones-> No es posible lo que planteas. La corrupción, mala gestión del presupuesto, etc, son porciones ínfimas de los gastos a los que hace frente un Estado moderno. La mayor parte del gasto son precisamente pensiones, seguidas del sistema sanitario y educación, y desempleo. A su vez, eso se financia fundamentalmente con impuestos a la clase media. (No hay país donde prime la transferencia vertical ricos-pobres). Los nórdicos gastan más en parte por tener un IVA sustancialmente más alto.
    http://juanramonrallo.com/2015/11/el-mito-del-gasto-social-en-los-paises-nordicos/

    Biología, sentido común: La biología pinta poco en economía (Y se hace difícil ver cómo podría tener que ver). Esto me suena a cuando algunos físicos critican a los economistas por no tener en cuenta la termodinámica. Suenan (y suenas, debo añadir) bastante prepotente al criticar una materia que (por admisión propia) no dominas. Por verlo de otra manera, es como cuando un creacionista dice algo así como ‘Hemos de ir más allá del dogma neodarwinista y reconocer que la complejidad irreducible es prueba irrefutable de la existencia de un Creador’. Como bióloga, esto debe ser facepalm-inducing. Las críticas que quieres hacer pueden intentar hacerse, pero ten en cuenta que mucha gente ya ha debatido sobre esos temas, y hay datos disponibles al respecto. Una vez tengas una idea del estado del debate y los datos relevantes, es cuando uno puede aportar algo. Es lo que hago yo, al menos.

    Inicialmente puede parecer sentido que la biología tenga algo que decir en economía, porque el ser humano es biológicamente tratable, pero de igual manera los ordenadores son fruto del ser humano, y no aplicamos biología para estudiar computación. Surely hay potencial para investigaciones interdisciplinares ‘in the margin’: ahí están las redes neurales, o arquitectura de hardware bioinspiradas. En economía se puede usar la biología para la gestión medioambiental, por ejemplo. Pero no parece (a mí, al menos) algo que deba ocupar un lugar central en la disciplina.

  20. Artir says:

    ‘Is contraception a form of eugenics?’
    If one says that it is not, a reply is that it is, but that eugenics need not be coerced. It can be positive eugenics.

    ‘Do I discriminate if I don’t let jews in my house’? ‘Do I censor if I don’t allow people to post certain things in a facebook group?’. Yes to both. Nowhere in censorship it is written than it has to be state based, or in discrimination, that a business has to do it.

    With violence, the same. If I punch someone, that is violence; however, that violence may be justified (in self-defense). With eugenics, contraception and killing people with high #polygenicrisk for a series of diseases are both forms of it. With censorship, A State forcing certain newspapers not to publish X is one type, me not allowing you to publish X on twitter is another.

    The core of eugenics (as I see it) is to improve genetic quality, and the core of censorship (as I see it) is to impose on others a limit of a flow of information in pursuance of a given goal.

    In the end, it is a matter of a nominalistic debate. But I tend to prefer to have my definitions as normativeless as possible, so that we can have allowable violence, eugenics, and censorship, and wrong eugenics, censorship, and violence.

  21. Artir says:

    Note regarding

    To an extent, I provide an explanation of what it means for a capitalist to earn their income here:
    https://nintil.com/2016/05/05/the-role-of-capitalists-in-capitalism/ One tl;dr is that others value future money less than you, and are willing to exchange present money for more future money. I, for example, could enjoy here and now my savings, but I reduce my consumption and invest.

    The capitalist whack-a-mole thing is interesting because some people do resort to such tactics of switching between frameworks. Some comments regarding the piece:
    1. I disagree that desert is a good moral argument for anything. Here I argue against desert https://nintil.com/2015/08/29/huemer-contra-caplan-why-bryan-caplan-should-abandon-desert/ , also here https://nintil.com/2015/08/06/sobre-el-merito/ (In Spanish).
    2. But then, accepting that premise, Bruenig says that earning capital income is not possible because there is no work involved. Imagine a simple case where there are two fishermen. One (A) catches one fish per day, other (B) catches two fish. A would like to stop fishing for some days, and build a net to be able to catch more fish. For that, he asks B to give him one fish per day, and then he will repay the fish, plus interest. The deal is done. Now, here one could criticise interest itself as sinful like the Church centuries ago. But if not that, then what? B has accepted a decrease in his standards of living in expectation of a greater future reward. Surely it is not work, but it is a cost paid by A. Bruenig says sometimes that capital income comes just from owning stuff, not from doing anything productive. I’ll come to that at the end.
    3. Not to mention that his argument doesn’t go far enough: If we are going full Rawlsian, one could argue that our bodies (and our different talents) are also undeserved, and so are accidental features of our lives such as family or friends. Clearly you can’t possibly deserve your family and friends, yet would it be okay to redistribute family and friends, if there were a way to do so?
    4. Re transactions, they are voluntary, and it would seem like Bruenig is an incredibly mean and selfish person projecting his view of the world on the rest of us, for this sentence ” You only trade with someone because there is a gun at your head to keep you from simply grabbing the thing that you trade for”. Property per se is not coercion. I have a laptop, and I’m not coercing anyone by having it. But, if anyone were to take it, then I could try to coerce that person into giving it back to me. Property is not force. Ultimate enforcement of property rights is, but that is a tautology. Here’s an alternative: we respect other people’s properties because we respect them and their lives. Bruenig seems to accept that in the grab what you can world you can protect your body. Why make this property special? (More on that later)
    5. Regarding that, the argument is disputable. Compare Singapore, or Switzerland with the Nordics. Laissez Faire wins. If we do a USA vs Denmark, ok, Denmark wins. But is the degree of redistribution the only difference? Some even argue that Denmark is *more* laissez faire. This is, however, a claim that deserves further exploration. I’ll happily concede whatever the results of that exploration are.

    Finally, the bodies thing: Bodies are just one more type of property, only we all are born with one attached to us. (Us as in the mind, which is a brain process). You can see every productive asset as capital, deep down. What is the difference between I, an engineer who has to go to work everyday and another version of myself, who has developed a software that does my job? Just the fact that I am attached to the piece of capital that does the productive stuff. Imagine being able to transfer your consciousness to a computer, and surf the internet, play videogames, etc, while your body is out there, on autopilot, doing some work. It’s just an unfortunate (But not metaphysically necessary!) fact that we can’t easily detach ourselves from our default piece of capital equipment.

    Bruenig’s argument falls apart once we consider this: If we say that capital income is unearned just because it comes just from owning, so can we say that wages are unearned just because they come from owning , in this case, a body. All income comes from owning (Or, having some ownership socially recognised). A slave does work, but earn nothing.

    If there is any point in his critique that can be rescued is that it seems unfair that most people only own one income generating asset, and the rich have more than that, and so they can derive income from those, rather than from the use of their body, which entails tying your conscious experience to work.

    One reply to that is that those rich guys did arrive to their passive income due to their past hard work, to which Bruenig will reply: But parents! (30% of billionnaires did inherit their wealth) or But not-worked-for good genes, or good luck, or good family, etc. But then, we go not to work, but to a desert based argument (Perhaps someone could write a socialdemocratic whack-a-mole post): that no one deserves anything, and thuse everything should be equally shared, etc. I have three posts debunking Rawls here https://nintil.com/series-de-articulos/ (Section Rawls, in Spanish…).

    —————-
    Additional links:
    https://nintil.com/2016/03/24/nnlibertarianfaq/
    https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/private-property-two-kinds-force (3 parts)

  22. Artir says:

    Q: If someone steals from you, you have the right to get your stuff back or be compensated. If someone steals from your father, do you inherit the right? And: your gran-gran-gran-father?

    Why would one have a right to restitution? Why would one have property (inc. body) that can be stolen in the first place?

    My working theory has to do with personal projects, having a sphere of the world that is under the control of our will, employed to create meaning (Rather than happiness. Happiness is overrated. But I digress 😛 ). The things most vital to our projects are more property than those that aren’t. In practise, a legal system will have to settle these frontiers. [[This makes more sense once one has read my draft paper about this view]]

    When something is stolen from someone, they are thus prevented from using that with the end they had in mind.

    The one who has stolen something has done something wrong. Doing something wrong, I’d argue, generates the obligation to undo the wrong. Effectively what happens then is that the item taken mostly disappears from your life plans, but you get something else: a claim on the thief. But in different ways. Suppose money is stolen. Then the ownership over the money is lost, but a claim is gained. The reason being that you don’t care about that specific money, any equal sum (other banknotes, a deposit, etc) will do. Once the thief pays compensation, the prior situation is restored.

    In the case of the father dying, you would inherit the right, as the debt from the thief is still an asset of your father’s estate. Interestingly, I argue that you would not inherit his debts, if any are remaining after using the assets to pay whatever debts standing there might be.

    But suppose then that what is stolen is an item that you value intrinsically. It can be an item handed down over generations of your family, a painting, or even a spot of land. Then that thing would still be part of your personal plans, so the loss wouldn’t appear on your balance sheet as an asset as before. The fact that the thing is still under your sphere of influence directly grants you the right to take it back. The fact that it is troublesome to get, and that effort is caused by the thief, gives you to exact further compensation beyond returning the item.

    But suppose the painting is stolen from your father. There you would inherit the legal right to the painting (which your father held), but potentially the painting might not be part of your personal projects. You can just not care about it. On the other hand, someone who has knowingly stolen it wouldn’t have it fully integrated in their life, as they’d know is the result of theft and thus not fully theirs. So while initially you could claim the painting back, after a while it will stop being yours (essentially, when you mostly forget about it), having been assimilated into other person’s personal plans (the thief, potentially). Most typically, imagine that the painting is then sold to someone, who thinks the painting has been legally acquired. Then that person will begin to slowly capture the right to the painting. And so it could happen that if you have mostly forgotten about it, and then you want to claim it back, it won’t be yours anymore.

    This is consistent with the concept of usucapio in civil law: acquisition through posession in roman law.

    The gran-gran-gran-granfather case: My g^4 takes money from yours. Do I owe you something? No I don’t. My g^4 takes money a painting from yours. Do I have to give it back? Typically yes, if you know that the painting was stolen, and so do I. No if you are totally unaware of the painting and I think the painting has always been in my family. It is a greyer area if you still want the painting back, the knowledge of its robbery having been handed down through the generations, and in addition it is the case that I am unaware that the painting I own came from theft, or viceversa. If I know it has been stolen, I have the moral duty to give it back. If you know it belongs to you, you have some trace of ‘the painting being part of your projects’ (discounted through the ages), but the trouble is that so will I. This is an issue a legal system would have to settle, and I could see there being a clause saying that ‘Items stolen and not recovered after 50 years stop being property of the original owner’ with an additional article ‘Unless the item is intrinsically tied to the owner (A painting of my gran-gran-gran-granfather looking cool).

    Discuss.

  23. Artir says:

    Some gods are more probable than others.

    I say that “The Judeochristian God is more plausible than Cthulhu”. Why?

    I have a list of reasons not to believe in those: conflict with science, the second one was known to be invented.
    But there are also reasons to believe in God: Lots of people throughout history believing in God, theologians -very smart people- giving arguments for God, etc.

    There are more things in the first case than in the second. There is lots of thought and argumentation in christianity, and little for Cthulhu, plus the amount of believers for each is quite different.

    How probable are they? One can say, they are not probable at all, P(God)=0. This would be the case if atheism were a necessary metaphysical truth, that in no possible world it is possible that such a thing as God exists. For example, the probability that 1+1=3 or that there are square circles is zero. They are simply not possible. Some people argue that God is incoherent as a concept and that is also ruled out by the rules of logic alone. If this is so, then the probabilities for all Gods are equal to zero.

    But there could be a possible world where praying to the Judeochristian God does yield the promised reward. Imagine for instance that there are aliens that acted as God, or that we are living in a simulation, and that only the believers will get to live in the afterlife. Or imagine that what we know about science is wrong, and God is indeed possible. What is needed for Pascals Wager to work is that there is a being such that if you believe in it, you’ll get a great reward. Perhaps this God is not omnipotent or omniscient. If one can construct a notion of God that is logically possible, then God is empirically possible, and propositions about the empirical world get probabilities between 0 and 1, due to the problem of induction. We can never be 100% sure of them. (Can we?)

    If one agrees that the probability of a God is nonzero (even if infinitesimal), then one has to see if having more believers gives something more reason. This is true in so far as people are more likely on average to be right than wrong, and because they also have given some thought to the matter -like yourself- and come to that conclusion. If not, consider only those people as intelligent, reflective, and rational as you. Some of them, historically and actually, believe in God. Do you believe yourself to be better than them? I do, of course, believe that. I take my opinions more highly than those of anyone else. But I do not assign zero credence to the opinions of other smart people who do not agree with me.

    Why should we increase our belief in something if someone tells us that? Assume a cosmologist tells us that black holes have some property. You would probably believe it. Maybe black holes do not have that property and she was joking. But in principle, it is reasonable to believe her.
    Now, assume that I tell you that. I am known to be generally reliable, and I rarely lie. So you would believe me, probably. But I’m not a cosmologist, so ceteris paribus you should believe the cosmologist more than me. But would you assign zero credence to what I say? That also seems dubious. You then have the person who has read some pop science books and tell you the same thing. Your credence would be lower. And then you have someone who just tells you that because a friend told him. And your credence would be lower still. Trusting someone’s judgement is a continuum, not a yes/no matter.

    With God, either if one takes into account the judgement of all of the believers in God or only the rational, intelligent, and reflective, there is more intellectual weight behind the Christian God than Cthulhu. You have to weight Richard Dawkins et al vs Alvin Plantinga et al, and both camps are human and fallible.

    Imagine, however, that you live in a world where EVERYONE, literally, is a believer in God. Even then you would not believe in God -I would not-. I would not assign a zero probability to God, but I would assign a higher probability in that situation. The reason I would not believe is that it seems implausible to me, and I have no reasons to believe. I have gone through the arguments for God and found them wanting.

    But if one does not believe in God because of its logical inconsistency, then the above reasoning does not work. Then assume a logically consistent God and go again to the beginning of this text 🙂

    TLDR There are X reasons (on net) against God A and X minus epsilon against God. X is greater than X-epsilon. Hence there is more reason to believe in God A than God B.

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