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What can possibly go wrong?

AI assisted porn video is, it seems, now a thing. For those of you who don't read the links: you can train off-the-shelf neural networks to recognize faces (or other bits of people and objects) in video clips. You can then use the trained network to edit them, replacing one person in a video with a synthetic version of someone else. In this case, Rule 34 applies: it's being used to take porn videos and replace the actors with film stars. The software runs on a high-end GPU and takes quite a while—hours to days—to do its stuff, but it's out there and it'll probably be available to rent as a cloud service running on obsolescent bitcoin-mining GPU racks in China by the end of next week.

(Obvious first-generation application: workplace/social media sexual harassers just got a whole new toolkit.)

But it's going to get a whole lot worse.

What I'm not seeing yet is the obvious application of this sort of deep learning to speech synthesis. It's all very well to fake up a video of David Cameron fucking a goat, but without the bleating and mindless quackspeak it's pretty obvious that it's a fake. Being able to train a network to recognize the cadences of our target's intonation, though, and then to modulate a different speaker's words so they come out sounding right takes it into a whole new level of plausibility for human viewers, because we give credence to sensory inputs based on how consistent they are with our other senses. We need AI to get the lip-sync right, in other words, before today's simplistic AI-generated video porn turns really toxic.

(Second generation application: Hitler sums it up, now with fewer subtitles)

There are innocuous uses, of course. It's a truism of the TV business that the camera adds ten kilograms. And we all know about airbrushing/photoshopping of models on magazine covers and in adverts. We can now automate the video-photoshopping of subjects so that, for example, folks like me don't look as unattractive in a talking-heads TV interview. Pretty soon everyone you see on film or TV is going to be 'shopped to look sexier, fitter, and skinnier than is actually natural. It'll probably be built into your smartphone's camera processor in a few years, first a "make me look fit in selfies" mode and then a "do the same thing, only in video chat" option.

But with procedural speech mimicry on top of face/body substitution, all video evidence turns questionable. We can no longer believe the evidence of our own eyes and ears, unless we are in-person witnesses to a politician's speech. Everything becomes deniable, and in an age of state-sponsored infowar waged in social media it'll be trivially easy to discredit anyone. The political consequences of this toxic metastasis of "false news" I leave for discussion in comments.

And then things get surreal.

For a while now there's been a very weird phenomenon on YouTube, whereby popular childrens videos are pirated, remixed, and reuploaded as advertising delivery vehicles. The content and keywords on these ad-videos is largely algorithmically composed, and optimized for maximum eyeball draw. (The preceding link is long and deeply creepy in its implications: it's a must-read.) And when algorithms go hog-wild to maximize eyeballs and/or sales you get weird and unpleasant results like this:

Keep Calm and Rape A Lot - computer-generated tee shirt ad

(This came up because some idiot wrote a bot to sell tee shirts via Amazon, with the caption "Keep Calm and [X][Y]" where [Y and [Y] are phrases some sort of machine learning system scraping lists of verbs and pronouns. Most of the output was random gibberish, or inoffensive at worst: the same can't be said of "Keep Calm and Knife Her" or "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot". It's possible the perpetrators don't speak or read English; this is a side-effect of machine learning tools gone feral.)

Maximizing views is easy if you decide to go for the shock value. Spamming YouTube keywords for ad revenue? Also possible. The point is, we're close to going beyond simple recaptioning/keyword addition of pirated kids' cartoons, and getting into AI-assisted remixes of real people with TV/movies/game content, optimized to compel the viewer to watch it. Forget troll armies harassing people they don't like by 'shopping their heads onto snuff movie victims and posting this on social media (so that if you naively go searching for person X, your first thousand hits are videos of person X committing horrific acts or being dismembered). Once we combine procedural video generation with toolkits for promoting social media addiction and good old web tracking, we're on course to all be parasitized by our own AI stalkers, helpfully generating video and other content tweaked iteratively to compel us to pay attention, whether due to arousal, disgust, happiness, fear, or whatever. It doesn't matter how insanely CPU-intensive this sort of application is: some dipshit with no social insight and an underdeveloped sense of morality is going to deploy it in an attempt to monetize us. The low hanging fruit is procedural porn tailored to appeal to the micro-targeted audience's kinks, even if they don't think they have any (use A/B testing to see which random fetish images get their attention, then converge). What are the high-end applications, beside destroying all trust in news media forever?

Discuss.

(PS: This blog entry was delayed because I needed to finish and formally submit "The Labyrinth Index". Which is now with the editors at Tor.com and Orbit. Phew!)

583 Comments

1:

We're getting there on the faked speech front.

2:

Anybody want to Kickstart a Butlerian Jihad?

3:

Apple published a paper on how they use deep learning to make Siri sound more natural. It's definitely only a matter of time before someone starts using similar techniques to imitate the voice of another person. Personally, I don't really want to think about the implications; it gets into Black Mirror territory worryingly fast.

[[fixed html - mod]]

4:

[grumpy old git]
I knew the internet was better when it was text only.
[/grumpy old git]

On the plus side, at least it's not basilisks.

5:

I now admit that I'm afraid for my child, given the way things are going. I'm reasonably computer savvy but this new algorithmic trend combined with the children's videos linked above make me incredibly twitchy. Not letting our kid use the internet is not an option - the school is demanding a tablet for them in two years time, and you can't let kids be this unprepared for our brave new world.

My most paranoid thought is that one of these algorithms will find Langford's Basilisk, and then we have our answer to Fermi's paradox.

6:

On the plus side, at least it's not basilisks.

My biggest fear is that algorithmically-generated attractive video content could converge with basilisks in terms of a threat to a human cognitive system: basilisks in the classic Langford sense probably don't exist, but something you can't look away from? Consider how people interact with smartphones today, then exponentiate.

7:

Like you theorized in the ending of rule 34, the use for this tipe of tech can go into really dark territory really fast, think child porn with all the sick fucks personal fetishis staring a specifically selected subject.

8:

So, any way out? Because this makes me fear that we will end up looking back fondly on the Trump administration.

And the current levels of marketing. We'll leave the planet to people who don't use the internet, at all.

9:

Larry Niven came up with the story idea of pleasurable direct neural stimulation causing people to starve to death. I'm wondering whether this is going to obviate the need for the wires in the brain.

On the other hand, the human cognitive system may just be both buggy enough and robust enough to escape this. Here's hoping anyway.

10:

Currently if you look at [class of product] on some site a few times you'll start seeing ads popping up for it around the place.

One fairly obvious and fairly trivial application of the same idea might see algorithms picking up when someone looks at photos of someone they had a crush on seamlessly adjusting the models in advertisements to match your crush. That guy driving that car in the ad looks just a little bit like you and the girl next to him looks just a bit like the person you never plucked up the courage to ask out.

The same process could see porn seamlessly merging in features scraped from photos of people you're attracted to.

One oddball side effect might be a decrease in the stigma around someone working as a porn actor/actress since it gradually becomes almost completely deniable:

"of course that's not me. It's just merged my face in, also how come my face is being merged into videos you're seeing huh?"

Someone finds their friends porn folder, [future pornhub] has altered the features of many of the models to be quite like the finder. The owner of the folder may not even be aware that's the case and may not realise that algorithms processing security camera footage from the mall are picking up on the little glances and just think they're picking videos that appeal to them without making the connection to the person they actually have a thing for.

Or perhaps a source of future marital fights: "why do the people in the ads targeted at you look like your friend Steven and not like me?"

11:

Porn is already suffering from (a) too much amateur/free content and (b) the gruesomely unforgiving effect of HD video on showing up every blocked pore and zit on the pro actors.

I can see it going two ways: total post-processing of porn starts for airbrushed perfection (focus on the skin/hair, to make them look attractive), or stunt doubles having sex while wearing motion capture suits and then the producer CGI's the "actors" in on top.

But the traditional skin flick industry is in deep trouble already because of (a) and (b) — it was never terribly profitable — and most likely any high production values are going to have to be funded from somewhere else.

12:

Even if 50% of the population went for something like that it's inherently a self limiting problem. Similar to a large fraction of the population signing up as shakers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakers

A generation or 2 later the people most vulnerable to that kind of thing have been auto-weeded out and everyone else is the people most resistant to it.

Even if 90% of the population signed out, worked just enough to support themselves and spent their most of their lives in some kind of tailor made virtual reality where everything presses their buttons perfectly the people most inclined to avoid that kind of stuff would replace them a few generations down the line. It probably wouldn't even be terribly economically traumatic as long as it's slow enough.

13:

So when do I start writing out one-time pads for my family so that we know that we are really talking to each other?

Wait, crap. That won't work. A good AI will spot when we've used the one-time pad word and then click over into lying to me. Encrypted audio streams and walkie talkies it is then.

Good grief, I really did not need to read this today.... this can go an awful long way down, and it's possible now and not 'in the future'.

14:

Individual producers may be in trouble but when you see a sector that's unprofitable because competition is so fierce with countless outfits.... I'm not sure that it's a sign the industry in general is failing. Almost the opposite.

If people don't enjoy the HD content they won't consume it.

Obsession with airbrushed perfection is a bigger thing in fashion magazines, it's a safe bet that almost anything anyone might consider an imperfection has an entire sub-genre in porn with people who are really into that specific thing.

15:

Presently I see it as the new gold mine for advertisers and the estates of various dead famous people: "This is Elvis Preseley and I only use Clorex Toilet Scrub!", Humphrey Bogart's head morphed onto Bruce Willis's body in "Die Hard", Vladimir Putin hawking "extra absorbent & comfortable" tampons -- endless possibilities. As the tech gets cheaper "revenge porn" goes mainstream: "That is NOT my mother with Joseph Stalin, Nero, and a herd of randy goats!" Once it's reduced to an AR app, the internet will collapse under the weight of Godwin's Law as every argument devolves into people scraping each other's social media pics and applying them to the future "Downfall" loop.

It will be the height of black humor should human language degrade in a few short decades to "no, YOU'RE Hilter!"

The "audio sync" issue seems to have already been bypassed -- witness the continuing obsession people have with GIF loops of their favorite movie quotes. History shows that as the tech improves we might actually get useful "agents" scraping someone's public voice samples, normalizing them against a word list, drop in some canned "oooohhhs" and "aaahhhs", and Robert is your father's brother.

Your fear of a "basilisk hack" would seem valid given the above.

A new tech that amoral folks can use to whatever purposes they're paid to apply it to. Add some cyclical history of abusing such things, and, ta-da! Futurama's "Hypno-toad" made real and used to convince you that our new Cybernetic Overlords are just fine and dandy...or your a right berk for not using Old Mother brand toilet paper.

16:

IN RELATED NEWS (calling back to a previous comment thread): Poppy makes it into The Guardian, has an album out (with zentai-suited backing musicians, naturally).

18:

Unfortunately for objective reality, the technology to manipulate speech and lip sync to 3D models already exists.

Speech editing: #VoCo. Adobe MAX 2016 (Sneak Peeks) | Adobe Creative Cloud
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/11/adobe-voco-photoshop-for-audio-speech-editing/

Audio -> lip sync video: AI Learns Lip Sync from Audio | Two Minute Papers #194
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsuAQcvafCs

20:

Of course, there is now also a market for "amateur p0rn", driven at least in part by the thought that this way you know that the actors are enjoying themselves!

21:

Hmmm...then maybe this helps with (a) AND (b)?

(a) The amateur/free content becomes more professional, or at least the quality improves overall ("Statistical analysis recommends adding a 5% gamma correction to these 120 frames to improve overall viewing", "Corrections to images for Io's actual surface have been applied from NASA archives", etc.)

(b) Visual improvements level the playing field for amateurs and pros ("Surface mapping has removed all skin abnormalities", "Your selection of a 1970s era "Porn 'stash" has been applied", etc.); however one can easily imagine the obvious downsides of "overly exaggerated body parts."

The usual comparison to "VHS vs. Betamax re: Porn" debate goes here somewhere (myth or not? shrug Not sure it matters anymore...), but maybe this bootstraps us into quicker A/VR adoption.

Sadly, all of this will lead, inevitably, to the only real winners: lawyers.

Once someone's "publicity rights" are violated, anyone in any way connected with the offending content will get slapped hard. Especially in America ("Land of the Free[-ish], Home of the Litigious")...

22:

See also Connie Willis' book Remake - actors can only get jobs as mo-cap for classic stars whose estates license out their likenesses. Great satire turned all-too-real.

23:

If the lie is indistinguishable from the truth, then anything and everything can be denied as a fabrication. Which is perhaps good news for innocent victims, but not so good when considering those who actually do have something shameful to live down. What might Trump do with this?

The late Iain Banks touched on this in "The Player of Games" although his assertion that a recording at high-enough fidelity couldn't be faked undetectably is starting to sound less and less reassuring as time goes by.

24:

The French have the beginnings of an idea:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/11/france-impose-total-ban-mobile-phones-schools/

But I can tell you, from teaching, it will be very hard to enforce.

25:

That's also key plot background in my own EMPIRE GAMES (the novel of that title, and the trilogy as a whole).

26:

It'll probably be built into your smartphone's camera processor in a few years,
I recall talking about real-time phone-side cosmetic processing for video chats, both sender and receiver, several years ago with friends. So the idea is out there.
The A/B testing approach is terrifying though.
The twist that just occurred is with the "makeup mirror mode" for phones; this will very likely become a "narcissism mode", and with A/B testing it would become extreme. Likewise for any images of external non-self faces/people/objects - A/B testing could be used to tune a person's view of the entire world to maximize its attractiveness to them.
Karl Schroeder did a world like this in the later parts of Lady of Mazes (2006), where peoples' perceived surroundings are their own personalized self-consistent narrative. (also - Speculative Realism which I recall has other names.)


27:

Basic surface blur does a reasonable job on things like zit reduction and it has been possible to do that in real time on a GPU for ages.

You can also use it for local contrast enhancement, which does a good job of giving people bad skin if you want to subtly make pictures unflattering.

28:

" . . . it'll probably be available to rent as a cloud service running on obsolescent bitcoin-mining GPU racks in China by the end of next week."

(sigh.) Yes, probably.

29:

Automated lawbots already exist. If CGI porn using other people’s images grows to be a problem a counter might be bots with visual recognition software that crawl through the web looking for hits, DMCA’ing any they find.

That might help for the bigger sites but it would be the typical game of internet wack-a-mole with the rest. On top of that it would be damn annoying when the law bots inevitably take down legitimate uses of someone’s image.

30:

50p says the whack a mole bots would be running on the same servers and administered by the same people as the fake porn bots.

31:

A nice dream, though.

32:

Prompted by #29 ISTR an early attempt at a p0rn nannybot deciding that pictures of Murray Walker and Telly Savalas' heads were p0rnographic!

33:

My biggest fear is that algorithmically-generated attractive video content could converge with basilisks in terms of a threat to a human cognitive system: basilisks in the classic Langford sense probably don't exist, but something you can't look away from?

As a nit-pick on nomenclature, and because I've been rereading the Odyssey, I suggest that would be a siren rather than a basilisk.

And as an interesting coincidence, the 1990 story collection Digital Dreams contained both David Langford's What happened at Cambridge IV, which introduced the idea of a basilisk, and Neil Gaiman's Virus about a computer game so addictive you can't stop playing.

Like gravity wave telescopes, the ideas have been around for a while, but the technology is now catching up and making the ideas implementable. Fortunately I think the rather ad hoc and fallible nature of wetware will preclude a "one algorithm attacks all" solution.

34:

Where "high enough fidelity" is arbitrarily high I could argue that it will take a fairly long time to reach the point of being totally undetectable.

Not because of it being impossible to detect tampering but because everything is at least a little tampered.

A few years back I looked into making tools for detecting image tampering. The problem wasn't detecting tampering, it was distinguishing malicious from routine tampering. Unacceptable photoshoping from typically accepted alterations like cropping, rotating, lightening, darkening, recompression etc.

If almost everything is just very slightly airbrushed, lightened, darkened, resized, stabilized and re-encoded and re-compressed a few times it becomes a lot harder to distinguish that one recording that's maliciously materially edited from the thousand that have minor edits.

something super-high quality where you have access to the original camera/lens etc claimed to have recorded it with a guarantee of no mundane edits can be extremely hard to fake perfectly. But real world recordings hidden in the noise? much easier to fake.

35:

Well, undoctored, raw images as a thing? Bonded cameras and chains of custody?

It's going to get scary weird.

36:

wow, websites showing those sorts of videos sound terrible, just terrible... what websites are they?

37:

Cthulhu is here and he lives in your smart-phone. Ia, Ia Nagh'wagl Android. The more real that thought is, the more boring it becomes.

Now we can see the Trump pee tape. And the Obama pee tape. And the Clinton pee tape, and the Carter pee tape. And the Grant and Lincoln and Disraeli pee tapes. Everyone will be pissing on whores all the time, in the same Russian hotel room, from morning 'til night and also in your dreams. Ia Shub Niggurath, we are all your Dark Young now.

Hold your eyelids open so it gets in your brain.

Fhtagn.

38:

If anyone wants a great example of how "doctored" even normal video looks just needs to watch some IP-camera footage of snow falling. h.264 encoders running on limited hardware trying to hit a moderate-low bitrate have a horrid time dealing with many small drifting motions in their stream.

39:

"undoctored, raw images as a thing?"

They already are. I was signing in to respond to Charlie's comment about photoshopped models on magazine covers, but your comment appeared in the interval. There exist a not insignificant number of people who get really pissed off about the inevitability of routine photoshopping, and the attitude of photographers who don't seem to even understand the concept of not doing it. These people strongly desire the Cromwell versions of the images, straight out of the camera, and sometimes - though it does take one heck of a lot of shouting, mainly to get it through the thick skulls of the photographers that you don't have to automatically photoshop everything as a matter of course - they succeed in actually persuading someone to produce a Cromwell set (or at least something as near to a Cromwell set as the hard-wired prejudices of the photographer can be suppressed into allowing).

The problem isn't the demand; that already exists. The problem is getting the suppliers to drop their hidebound ideas and cater to it.

40:

So, when near perfect kiddie porn can be generated, will the real thing die out?

41:

I remember when researching cameras a decade ago that Nikon offered SLR bodies with hardware crypto and traceable signatures for legal purposes as an alternative to polaroid-style cameras. Not sure if these things are still available, and they were expensive at the time but it may make a comeback.

43:

Auricoma @ December 12, 2017 17:01

Like what they are trying to do with fake rhino horn to ruin the rhino horn market?

Murphy:

SirenWare™ will do this for susceptible people, but only the ones who have at least some money. What happens to all the people who aren't worth it because they can't buy anything?

Scenario A) They are all slaughtered by the automated killbots the authorities assure us don't exist, all those videos of machine-gunned mobs are fakes made for the extreme murder porn sickos.

Scenario B) They are all given free phones with SirenWareLite™ just to shut them up and keep them out of the way.

44:

Yea, locking down youtube is essential parenting right now. My son started to watch minecraft videos whenever I turned my back, which I didn't much like (just because it is garbage content). Then I realized that that was going to link 'watch this next' right into game streamers who are thoroughly infested with awful people, alt-right, worse, nope, nope. So I locked up all the devices.

Ideally let em watch only pbskids.

45:

Just ran across something relevant, MIT is working on how to alter pictures to induce empathy.

Now I am wondering if I got shown that because I posted or browsed this thread.

46:

Siri sound more natural? Amtrak's automated responder, Genie? Julie? has been amazing for 10 or 15 years.

47:

I certainly agree that it's a red hot mess out there, but I'd quibble over AI porn marking the starting date. People with mad Photoshop skills have been able to alter images beyond the ability to detect the alteration* for at least a decade; all you have to do is be patient and careful. Ditto for sound; it's easy to sample the body of speeches of any public figure and relatively easy** to separate out whatever words or phrases you want and blend them into a seamless final version.

* If you can get a copy of the original, tampering can usually be detected. But a smart forger will start with an ultra-high-res original and then downsample it to high or medium res, thereby destroying most or all of the evidence of tampering.

** Harder if all you have are public speeches, since the background noise will change between snippets and that's difficult to account for; easier if all the speeches are recorded in a studio, with essentially no background noise.

The implications haven't changed from the days when people manually dodged and burned and multiply exposed black and white photos in their home darkroom or banged together coconut shells to simulate a horse on the radio: You need to apply a strong reality check to any evidence, whether that evidence is textual, visual, auditory, or other. We've already seen the problem with text in the form of tweetbots and their kin, not to mention simulated dating partners on several dating sites. (Ashley Madison, for instance.) The fakery will only get better as software and hardware improve.

The social implications are scary: we're already having a society-wide crisis of faith in the credibility of sources, and the new AI techniques will only lend fuel to the fire. People will increasingly rely on people they see as trusted commentators -- with the obvious problem that some of these commentators will be Neil de Grasse Tyson and some will be Rush Limbaugh. So much for the consensus reality we need to operate a society. And that doesn't even account for hacking of trusted sources (e.g., government Web sites) to present a credibly faked message in support of a private agenda.

I suspect we'll muddle through, as we always do, but the collateral damage is likely to be significant.

48:

Oh, yeah? I have t-bird set to read email as PLAIN TEXT. Only if I get one from someone I know is for real, and care to bother to see what all's there, do I view->message->original html, then turn it off when I'm done.

HTML email, *great* for scams and spreading viruses!

49:

On the upside, just think how it'll help reduce the massive overpopulation of the planet by humans!

Why, yes, I do only have a flip-phone....

50:

I'm sorry, I've always had an issue with all the DANGER! KIDDIE PORN!!!... that being, I have trouble believing that there's actually that big a market for kiddie porn.

Well, unless it's right-wingers.

51:

On the positive side, it might become possible to input a script and acting directions, and have your computer spit out a fully acted movie, featuring simulacra of whichever actors you chose, indistinguishable from a Holywood blockbuster (depending on your talent as a writer and director, of course).

That seems like a small comfort in comparison to the total destruction of the concept of truth, but at least we'd get Firefly season 2 (or rather millions of variations on the theme of Firefly season 2).

The copyright implications would also be somewhat interesting...

52:

You don't need Basilisks. A society that essentially demands internet use combined with an AI that "helpfully" creates more and more addictive ... sites isn't quite correct, so I'll say videos, but that's wrong because they'd be interactive ... videos is quite sufficient. If 99% of the populace turns into hopelessly addicted "viewers", then society collapses. 99% is probably easy, and you probably don't need more than, say, 80%.

P.S.: My browser is reporting that Moveable Type is an insecure connection, so make sure you don't use the same password on it and on anything else you care about.

53:

ObSF: The 15,000 AD chapter of The Man Who Awoke. Most of the population spends their life in virtual reality via surgical implants.

54:
whitroth @ 48:
Oh, yeah? I have t-bird set to read email as PLAIN TEXT. Only if I get one from someone I know is for real, and care to bother to see what all's there, do I view->message->original html, then turn it off when I'm done.
HTML email, *great* for scams and spreading viruses!

whitroth @ 49:
On the upside, just think how it'll help reduce the massive overpopulation of the planet by humans!
Why, yes, I do only have a flip-phone....

I do the same with my email. Everyone that I wish to correspond with knows to use plain text. There are a few commercial correspondents who still haven't gotten the message, but I told them once that if they wanted my business they had to use plain text. Those that can't conform just get their emails deleted.

This whole topic sounds like another good reason I don't have facebook. My original reason for not having facebook was just that I already have too many ways to waste time already. Recently I realized my ex-wife must surely have a facebook account. Now I have three good reasons to avoid it.

I also have a flip-phone, although my newest phone does have a camera my old phone didn't have. Duct tape fixes that.

The carrier kept badgering me to "upgrade". I resisted for as long as I could, but they finally sent me a new phone (no cost to me, no contract required) that was almost identical to my old phone and told me that the network that worked with my old phone was going to be turned off.

55:

The SOOC* movement is being a bit disingenuous, as cameras do a lot of processing. Including mapping dead pixels and dust and averaging those spots with the surrounding pixels before recording the raw file.

In the old days of film developing involved making decisions about what to emphasize and what to ignore. Even selecting the film changed how the scene was recorded. (Fuji was more saturated, appealing to the tourist market, etc.)

A raw digital image is processed before you see it. Change the settings in the raw developer, change the image. Not to the extent of adding or removing a person, but emphasizing or smoothing wrinkles can certainly be done in raw processing.

Printing a film image is a bit like using Photoshop (at least the old cropping, dodging, burning, exposure, etc). If you didn't do that yourself the lab (or Kodak machine) did it for you. Remember Ansel Adams' saying: "The negative is the score, the print is the performance."

*Straight Out Of Camera

56:

I do get the impression that the article is further abusing the already-much-abused buzz"word" "AI" to give the impression that this is a lot newer than it really is. But the mathematics behind it has been well studied for decades, pretty much since the invention of digital computers gave people the idea that it would actually be possible to implement it. The opencv library, for instance, has provided a free implementation for many years. Video game hardware that can synthesise reasonably realistic human forms in real time has also been around for quite a while. And, of course, the movie industry has been actually doing it for a good many years, despite having only more primitive (but less itchy) technology than Charlie's. :)

But what also doesn't seem to be new is that the automated implementations still require considerable manual assistance to paper over the cracks. This isn't too much of a problem for the movie industry; they used to do the whole thing by hand from scratch, and it's a huge improvement over that. But for an individual it still means a huge amount of incredibly tedious effort - 25 or 30 images per second is a fuck of a lot of editing.

It's also a huge pain in the arse to get the software to do what you want - in the same way that just having some paints and brushes doesn't make you a Rembrandt. The article seems to indicate that the enthusiast who made their sample video did expend that part of the effort, but still neshed out of the really long and boring crack-papering process; it tries to play it down, but it still says the video is full of artefacts, and the synthetic-porn image that got posted on twitter last night (which I assume is a screenshot or similar) was frankly shite and obviously artificial.

It has of course long been well known that anyone these days can readily do it to still images. But it still doesn't happen all that much, because even though it really isn't all that hard once you've had a bit of practice, it's still far too much effort for most people to bother. Instead it tends to be something done by a minority of enthusiasts, or by commercial organisations who can pay people to be bored out of their skulls. I can't see lots of people starting to do it to videos until it becomes a lot easier than it currently is to do it to still images, and given the rate and nature of the progress in the video version so far, I think it's going to be a long time before it becomes a mass problem. Hopefully by then we'll all be so used to not believing anything we see anyway that it won't matter.

57:

I have trouble believing that there's actually that big a market for kiddie porn.

I wish I was as optimistic about humanity as you evidently are.

I keep seeing tabloid newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express drooling over how much T&A some celebrity's 12-year-old daughter is showing, with colour photographs on the front cover. It's stuff that'd be seriously creepily stalkerish if they were 21; this is newspapers that have no problem sexualizing pre-pubertal kids in public.

It's just one symptom of a disturbing tendency to sexualize kids, from toddler beauty pageants to ear-piercings for baby girls. And it has knock-on effects throughout society, such as rampant sexual harassment of girls in schools going largely underreported, or worse, discounted and swept under the rug.

This sits on top of substantial evidence that child abuse is an inherited social problem, running in some families, because abuse victims are socialized during upbringing to think it's normal or acceptable and often become perpetrators later. There's more evidence that adult abusers train kids to accept their advances by using porn to normalize it; more evidence that abusers like to record their activities, both to blackmail their victims into keeping quiet about it, and to pass it round and use it for grooming.

Putting it all together: like the current scandal over sexual harassment [of mostly-adult women] in the entertainment biz, there's a lot more going on under the waterline than those of us who are total non-participants are willing to believe.

58:

Yes, I realise that cameras these days are getting more and more deeply into the usual computer morass of insisting on doing "helpful" things that aren't helpful. Some internal processing is necessary, because the way the image sensors work means you don't get a usable image straight off the sensor, but then you don't get a usable image straight off film either, you have to dunk it in chemicals first. Processing that takes the logical place of the chemicals is inevitable, but if it is going as far as altering wrinkles then that has way crossed the line.

(Fuji/tourism... not so sure about that. I like Fuji because it gives better rendition of greens, so it is useful for taking photos of landscape with a lot of chlorophyll in, but shops in areas of photogenic landscape almost always sold only Kodak, which is brownish and quite unsuitable. These days, of course, the problem is to find a shop anywhere that sells it, and the same applies to finding one that won't cock the processing up.)

60:

Machinima already exists and is getting good enough to match Pixar animated movies of 2-3 years earlier. However, there's a lot more to making movies than a script plus acting directions. Think set design, lighting, costumes, speech, 'actor' skins, music ... I watched a friend make a two hour machinma feature movie a few years ago, and it turns out that having the CGI animation tools is only the first step.

Yeah, maybe we'll see it come together eventually, but the main tools for making movies will be a bit like Garage Band. Most people will make crappy doodles/sketches with them, and it'll be pretty obvious what they were made with. A few genii will master the entire repertoire of skills needed to make a real dramatic experience, and get gosh-wow eyeball attention. And the good ones will promptly upgrade to Logic Pro and a wide array of tools made by companies with names like Korg and Roland instead, rather than fighting the limitations of the all-in-one kit.

61:

A society that essentially demands internet use combined with an AI that "helpfully" creates more and more addictive ...

You're looking for a real-world implementation of Robert Nozick's philosophical thought-experimental experience machine (an attempt to refute hedonism as a valid philosophy).

You are now advised to go and re-watch The Matrix, one more time.

NB: On my to-do list whenever I get a spare week is getting the server upgraded to handle HTTPS for multiple virtual hosts. (Now Internet Explorer 8 is pretty much dead, there's a clear path forward: I believe in staying backward-compatible as long as possible, for accessibility's sake.) In the meantime? Your password is only needed for posting comments here to block the 99% of spambots that don't try to register a password. Weak passwords are fine as long as you don't use them anywhere else in the web, and I don't keep tabs on you via your logins.

62:

How about

Scenario C) Authorities declare and fight violently War on SirenWare. Producers are hunted, users are stigmatized. Nevertheless SirenWare sits on the phone of anyone susceptible because this is just a piece of software.

There is an extensive black market around it because someone have to hack out phones free from authorities' spyware antivirus software, run darknet distribution hubs etc.

63:

The bigger issue I’m seeing with kids (with cash anyway) is that some
of them are using Apple Watch and their ilk to cheat in exams.

64:

Text to speech, with various accents and emotions - Edinburgh company https://www.cereproc.com/en/products/voices

65:

Next stage, competing blockchains with warring agendas:

  • AI-assisted blockchains specializing in "custom porn" accepts inputs (files, links, etc.) to process anyone/thing in any situation ("We make your wildest dreams cum true -- for a price!")
  • International teams of "truthers" work to tag or destroy known fake vids (with a lot of good will from others who donate time, money, resources, & AI time) run their own "counter-coin" network
  • Running battles to keep "undesirable content" offline vasilate between auto-generated DMCA takedown notices and open conflict across the global network
  • Bidding wars develop among competing tokens to prop up their ideologies
  • ???
  • Profit!



    At this point we're either back to the Internet collapsing under the weight of a trillion "Hitler fuckin' yo Momma" GIFs or a nuclear near-miss caused by a series of photo-realistic, audio-synced "fake news" reports about terrorist attacks in global capitols.

    Odds are good we never figure out that the videos were made by "simple AIs"...

  • 66:

    Mcgill noted: "The bigger issue I’m seeing with kids (with cash anyway) is that some
    of them are using Apple Watch and their ilk to cheat in exams."

    It's not so simple an issue as some believe. (Note: Not attributing any blame to you here... just building on an interesting point that you raised.)

    In the real world outside the classroom, most ethical adults collaborate with colleagues for any intellectually demanding exercise, and have access to many resources (e.g., the Internet) that they sometimes cannot access in the classroom. The problem is that between clear-cut non-cheating situations (e.g., consulting experts and expert resources for advice) and clear-cut cheating situations (e.g., watching p0rn while a paid expert takes the test for you), there's an enormous grey area.

    I have considerable sympathy for the "ban aids to cheating perspective", on the defensible but not ironclad logic that school should teach us how to think our way through problems rather than getting used to asking someone else to do that for us. I know that -- scary though the notion may be -- I'm a much better thinker than I would be if I hadn't been forced to think problems through by myself.

    67:

    Both lines converge somewhere(-when?) in future at the point where all professional porn is generated on the fly tailored to the consumer's tastes and without human actors involved in production.

    68:

    Logical extension of Photoshop, as I said to a colleague at the time. He couldn't understand what worried me. I wonder if he gets it now?

    69:

    Now I am thinking of all the snarky Culture ship names that he couldn't put in the books.

    What?

    70:

    "...there's an enormous grey area."

    Brief because irrelevant, but the fact that we're talking about exams thresholds the whole thing to black. Your "clear-cut non-cheating example" absolutely definitely is cheating in an exam, because the rules for exams are that you do it entirely on your own using nothing but what you carry inside your own head. Internet-connected watches are just as "out" as is microscopic pale yellow writing all over your shirt cuffs embodying a completely detailed set of crib notes.

    71:

    In the short term, high-end application for combined video and audio spoofs is the revocation of the security clearances of targeted members of The Beige or deep state. This could be by either internal or external enemies. It is possible due to the speed with which the rules governing The Beige can change - they don’t move as fast as the technology we are talking about. They’re still working to address “proper” use of social media!

    After an initial batch of irrevocably removed clearances the rules will adapt in acknowledgement of such fakery and deniability. But before then the security checkers will see the spoofs as either legitimate proof of potential blackmail weak spots or reputational risk and perceived weak spots nonetheless.

    Certain leaders may already been looking for time on those freshly redundant bitcoin rigs.

    Add to this professional acting and scripting, the machima++ gets even more attention worthy. Imagine the discussed tech plus state interest plus the work of creative minds like Oats Studio [https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3QcqPUxgE2A] and dream away.

    72:

    Disconnect alert:

    We're talking about exams.

    To those of us aged over 40 and with out offspring, that means pen and paper sitting at a desk in a drafty sports hall.

    To those of us with kids, or aged under 40, it means something you do on your laptop or tablet via the internet.

    73:

    Uhm. Well, even if arbitrary video can be faked, it should still be possible to generate records that are credible because they have an audited history. But will anyone outside the court systems care?

    74:

    Now I am thinking of all the snarky Culture ship names that he couldn't put in the books.

    This thread is rich with such, even ones that could be put in books.

    @67: Both lines converge somewhere

    @68: Logical extension

    And, of course, glyphical/emoji ship names of NSFW or SFW kinds.


    75:

    Just as a point of interest, I wrote about most of this in a story called "The Picture Business" written twenty years ago.

    76:

    tabloid newspapers .. drooling over how much T&A some celebrity's 12-year-old daughter is showing

    That's pervasive now, even in less sexist countries. Australia has long since got over their momentary alarm at padded "sexy bikini" etc for the under-fives, and any notion that a 15 year old is too young to be seen as sexual by 40 year olds has vanished into the mythical past (I am not convinced that it ever really existed. For all the the Christian Bible isn't a great historical record, the rules there suggest that somewhere between 5 and 10 a girl becomes marriageable, while the Muslims tend to wait until she's 7 or older... if nothing else that suggests that 16, 18 or 21 are unrealistically old estimates of "sexual maturity").

    I dropped out of a photography group a while ago because when one of the members shot a "children's catalog" for a department store that was controversial (see "padded bikini") his response was "they paid me", and the rest of the group agreed that his ethical obligation was limited to the payment. We had a really interesting discussion during which numerous images of sexualised under-10's were produced. I decided that wasn't my thing.

    Where I draw the line is that I don't think I have any business offering opinions to specific parents, but I'm definitely not supporting those who sexualise children.

    Sadly, I think fake stuff just drives demand. Partly through the whole point of advertising, and partly just by normalising it. When the equivalent of Marks and Spencers says that five year old girls should have boobs and want to look sexy... can you really argue that "society" disagrees?

    77:

    I'm 6 years out of uni and while many of my exams were pen, paper and nothing else a lot of them were computer based or open book. I appreciate that there is some need to test whether or not students know the fundamentals by heart, but by far the best exams for me (in terms of score and stress levels) were the open book ones. Because all of the questions were practical, interesting questions that you needed to creatively solve. Questions like "Professor Smith comes to you with 25 biomaterial samples for an artificial heart valve project. She wants to know the biocompatibility of the chosen material. Design a three month study that would best address the question".

    These sorts of tests are much more representatives for what universities and schools should actually be trying to evaluate. How good is student X in field Y? You get better answers if your exam is representative of what working in field Y is like than just asking the student to reel off memorised facts.

    Anecdote alert but a colleague of mine has been working as a teaching assistant on a module that is purely focused on creative problem solving. All the tests and coursework are built around this. These are 1st years and he's noticed a striking difference between students of different backgrounds with some of them flourishing and others being absolutely stumped to the point of silence. The latter students don't try to think their way around questions, they just try and wrack their brains for if they've been taught an answer before. Chatting to them they've complained that they haven't studied the particular question, even though with their knowledge and general intelligence they should at least be able to write down something.

    I'm hesitant to delve in more because it is anecdotal but there does seem to be an obvious disadvantage in this situations for students who are from more traditional schooling environments where regurgitating the textbook is the key to success.

    78:

    WTabsoluteF? That is bonkers. You could 100% crib the whole thing. I shall abandon that sub-thread, citing the Schiller pretext.

    79:

    Also, there's an interesting circularity there: five year olds want to look sexy/sexier/like mommy, so there's demand, thus "we're just satisfying the market" and "it's dress-up, you pervert" is the obvious defense. So then advertising of "how to get your five year old looking sexy" is necessary, because the product is there and we have to tell people about it. Which means ads targeting five year olds start pushing the ":you need to look sexy"...

    80:

    Often computer tests are done in a set room with access to the internet restricted, but in other types of tests the questions themselves nullify the internet as a cheating tool. A well designed test question wouldn't be "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow" but "examine the following text; i) identify any impedance to the avian velocity and ii) suggest appropriate methods for measurement in flight". All the while doing such tests there will be a timer ticking in the top right.

    It might also surprise you to know that plagiarism detection software exists that compares student submitted coursework with a database of texts and coursework submissions from other universities and previous years. It isn't perfect (and the back-end is a pain in the arse to use) but the idea of cribbing an answer and getting away with it doesn't fly. Of course cheating and cheating detection is a constant arms race (just last week a student was telling me about how they'd "heard" that pasting in a plagiarized paragraph as a slightly lower resolution jpeg before converting the document to PDF fools the anti-cheat software into not reading it) but that's true of any age.

    81:

    One of the major early applications will be making the daily heil and all it stands for omnipresent in the purchasers life.

    This technology is clearly also enough to forcibly destroy society, as people are less and less able to trust what they see or hear about, the net result being that only the dictators win, because they can force you to act as if you believe what they say. FOr dictators insert politicians, big business etc. Wasn't it Arendt that had the comment about people believing nothing under the bombardment of propaganda? Thus are perfect citizens for dictators.

    82:

    So in the future we might get people trying various physical and chemical hacks of hteir own body in order to lead an individual life? from wearing eye patches to being permanently sozzled to special ear plugs, probably sold on the black market, that block out many sounds, and so on.

    83:

    As an example of what fake news can do:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/fake-news-on-facebook-fans-the-flames-of-hate-against-the-rohingya-in-burma/2017/12/07/2c1fe830-ca1f-11e7-b506-8a10ed11ecf5_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.932d6803c298

    Now imagine more widespread use of highly realistic faked photos, videos, and sound clips in the future as technology improves.

    Pigeon noted that my "clear-cut non-cheating example" "absolutely definitely is cheating in an exam, because the rules for exams are that you do it entirely on your own using nothing but what you carry inside your own head."

    That's your personal definition of the rules, and I've definitely encountered it before. And to be clear, that's perfectly legitimate for many applications. For example, you really don't want an ER doctor to leave you bleeding out on the gurney while they consult Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine for a preliminary diagnosis of your problem. But in most real-world cases, professionals must prioritize clear thinking and problem-solving skills over rote memorization.

    For example, I've taken many exams where the goal was to realistically simulate what I'd do after graduation, including having the course textbook handy to consult during the exam. As another example, PhD theses are supposed to be completely original works of art (in the techne sense of "art"), so some universities will not allow non-English PhD candidates to have their thesis edited by an English editor. Other universities recognize that the important point is the thought and research that went into creating the PhD, and that no graduate will ever write a paper without any aid whatsoever from coauthors and editors. I consider the latter philosophy far more realistic, but those times I've edited a PhD, I've insisted that the university clearly define which set of rules they're applying.

    In short, YMMV about the rules. Define the rules first, and then you can more easily determine whether a given action is cheating (i.e., violating the rules). But don't "assume" the rules without defining them.

    84:

    Re: Kiddie porn (Polly and anime)

    Although no overt sexuality, there are so many visual and audio signals suggesting that the characters are (underage) youngsters, that such works are at least subliminal kiddie porn. Add in Polly's desire to please and her learned (because she thinks/says it's socially desirable) helplessness and hello the next generation of ready-made and self-made victims. Truly sick.

    Overall, excepting their pre-70s stuff, think I'll stick with Disney/Pixar for the kiddies.

    Kids dressing up as or even pretending to be their parents has been going on forever. What they exaggerate in their dress-up play says a lot about what they think an adult is. Sorta an echo of what their parents and other adults in their lives most consistently communicate.

    85:

    Re: Fake news

    I'm thinking that maybe the best way of determining reality is live-streaming everything from multiple unrelated sources. (Unless the new tech can edit in real-time from multiple sources at once ...?) No idea what this might mean in energy use though.

    Keeping history real and unfaked is already at least partially underway in the UK.

    https://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/uk-web-archive

    86:

    Wars and rumors of wars.

    Having grown up in the modern age, it's hard to imagine that the mightiest kings of Earth were stuck with relying on traveler anecdotes for news of far-off lands. The bloody Mongol invasion could be going on and some potentate in Sub-Saharan Africa will just hear of it as stories that are too impossible to believe, surely if based on anything they are embellishments by the tale-teller to pull the legs of credulous listeners. It still kind of boggles me to think that a king may be no better informed than someone drinking in a tavern by the docks, not unless he's actually paid for agents he trusts to seek out and verify the information.

    When we try to piece history together, all we have are written records to go by. We can possibly corroborate some of the details with archeological finds but the finer details could just as easily be fake. Some historians think that what we know of Tiberius in the record is actually just the slanders of his political opponents. History literally being written by the victors, we're not likely to find evidence to the contrary. There are plenty of documented cases of leaders willfully altering public monuments and histories to remove vanquished opponents, burnings proscribed books, etc.

    It seems clear that even our digital data will not exactly be trustworthy in the future. The literal edit wars in Glasshouse really got me thinking about that. It's implied some really bad stuff went on, Holocaust-bad. But the public information space was so badly sabotaged it became impossible to know who was even responsible. (For those who haven't read, attacks were made both on public databases and the minds of citizens. And for those where mere edits were insufficient, killbots were dispatched for door-to-door assassination.)

    It's too early in the thread to bring up American politics so I'll simply observe that what we're seeing in the mainstream media (on both sides of the pond) is clear evidence a political figure did something horrible. Are his supporters supporting someone who did something horrible, thus bearing a psychological cost in doing so? No. They support good people. Public figure is thus good person. Therefore the accusations against him are fake news, lying media. All of that will get ramped up bigtime when there are no more smoking gun photos, audio clips, videos. I still can't believe there were no serious consequences for the Brexit guys clearly lying to the public and then openly admitting to it.

    It makes me think in a situation like this, the only way a given tribe can be truly sure of what they know is storing all of their information on write-once media. I've heard talk that Deep Future data storage ideas could include laser etching data into non-corrodible metal plates. You keep this stuff physically secure, there's no way hackers can remotely alter your data. Then the trick is making sure absolutely nothing is committed to the permanent record unless you have vetted it twelve ways from Sunday. And to transmit the information without fear of alteration would require physical copying and movement.


    87:

    Got a kindle copy of Lady of Mazes (K.Schroeder, link above) just to look for quotes, and oh my is it on topic. Looks like it's worth a read-read. Here's a sample quote, retyped:
    "My humble narrative", said Sophia as she sat on a moss-covered ottoman nearby. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes: it would be considered rude not to leap ahead of ourselves. We don't much tolerate old views here -- like 'objective reality' and physical bodies and such.
    ...
    "Well, anyway, versos are people who don't want inscape to weave a coherent narrative of their lives for them." said Sophia. "They disable inscape's narrative function and do horrid things like allowing accidental events to happen to them."

    Rather Utopian, yes. Our personalized narratives, if we go like sheep down the paths Charlie describes, will be tuned for the benefit of multiple competing recursive hives of greed and selfishness, with very little regard for our well-being. IMO.

    88:

    Simpler solution: asceticism. There's an odd parallel with the late classical period, when the Egyptian desert monasteries (and Irish monasteries) sprang up, St. Simon Stylites became famous for living on his pillar, and so on. The Roman Empire at its height ran on conspicuous consumption, and as things got tighter (and more Christian), there was a hard swing from conspicuous consumption and lavishing material wealth on the divine to trying to get to heaven by shunning the material world altogether.

    We're already in an era when former Facebook execs don't let their kids have an account on the service, and there are rumors that Apple execs send their kids to low-tech schools deliberately. I suspect this kind of disconnection will spread down the income ladder too.

    89:

    Sheesh, don't run away, there are two whole profit centers here:

    One is the whole business of selling term papers to kids. This has been around forever, and the most exclusive version is when rich parents hire poor grad students (or poor good students) to write papers for their feckless offspring. This practice probably goes back to Victorian times, but now it's a business, where a kid can buy a paper for whatever it's worth now.

    Then there's the counter-business, which is services that universities contract with. Professors run term papers and take-home test results through these services, and the services tell the Professors which term papers were commercial products and which test answers were cribbed, at least according to their databases.

    It's all very Red Queen, and I suspect that paying for stuff like this is one of the many things that are driving tuition costs to rise faster than inflation.

    Now let's see what happens when net neutrality gets minced and the digital divide grows more stark. That should be very interesting indeed.

    90:

    Actually, I wonder if AI porn can be weaponized.

    What I'm thinking is that Russia et al. have demonstrated that various media hacks effectively industrialize the mass tactics that used to be the sole province of large groups of organized non-violent actors. For example, a single person with a bot net has a similar effect with a DDoS attack that strikers had shutting down a plant or store, just like a machine gun replaces a squad or even a platoon with muskets.

    What I'm wondering is whether the sirens/basilisks/etc. can be weaponized to the degree that they either critically distract soldiers and others from their tasks, or make citizen such couch potatoes that they're untrainable for military service. If that's the case, we've taken non-violent action (e.g. weaponized distraction) in some fairly scary directions. As noted, the solution will basically be ascetic (detox, then learn to live without), but it may take a web war or similar to make this possible.

    Fun times.

    91:

    Uhm. Well, even if arbitrary video can be faked, it should still be possible to generate records that are credible because they have an audited history. But will anyone outside the court systems care?
    Blockchain. Just saying. There would be issues with the speed of light, but if there are multiple video streams of an event, the sooner one is committed to the ledger, the less opportunity for nefarious motive-driven editing. Still a Red Queen/arms race problem though.

    Re You could 100% crib the whole thing. I shall abandon that sub-thread, citing the Schiller pretext.
    I shall not, because I'm now briefly obsessed with finding any instances of cheating on such exams using Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
    Haven't found any yet - basically the exam taker would have money to burn (e.g. a trust-fund kid, being groomed for "leadership") and would be a manager of Turkers.
    Big time Red Queen problem, as Heteromeles notes.


    92:

    One will also David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest entertainment.

    93:

    Actually, I wonder if AI porn can be weaponized.
    It arguably already is, just in the pursuit of profit and not personalized. Much of the porn currently available is catering to kink genres that have been clearly constructed, via iterative feedback from aggregate levels of demand, from simple existing or generated initial kinks. (Rule 34 type stuff, often.) It's nowhere close to Charlies "The low hanging fruit is procedural porn tailored to appeal to the micro-targeted audience's kinks," yet.

    94:

    On one hand, the whole pedo obsession with the British papers is a way to sell copies because it's a universal taboo and everyone can feel good about hating on child molesters. So it's the sort of thing you think they might be trumping up like the Satanic Panic in the US in the 80's.

    On the other hand, all the scandals are popping open like Jim'll Molest It! The details of that creep beggar the imagination. if it were in fiction I'd tell the author to learn how the real world works because nobody that vile would be protected for so long by so many people of stature. Shows what I know.

    Space Lizards Icke was seemingly right about the pedo scandal stretching to the highest levels of government. If you doubt it, just look at the big busts made by law enforcement and they'll tell you the social positions of who was busted, people in what would pass for the respectable reaches of society.

    Why is it such a thing? I think it's broke sexuality. Sex and power go together, it's not one or the other. Normal people don't get off on the idea of imposing one's self on another against their wishes. The American commentator Bill O'Reilly paid $32 million to one of his victims. That's a lot of money. That could pay for some mindblowing sex with the best professionals. And for what he did, nobody took him up on the offer. He didn't have sex with them. They listened to him do his bit, were disgusted and that was that. It's the same pattern for a lot of the recently revealed offenders. So the kink is not so much getting the sex but the imposition. I'm in a position of power and I can say these things, do this in front of or to you and you can't do anything about it. A paid professional has agreed to it. It's not even the same thing in their minds.

    So going for kids has aspects of the imposition of will, violating social norms and taboos and the ability to get away with it marks you as a social superior. And given just how many powerful people are involved in it, I think that it a) scratches an itch shared by many people who have a craving for positions of power and prestige and b) is a bonding ritual and leverage. You admit someone into your club, you make sure they do something heinous so the entire weight of that keeps them in line.

    If we ever got to really do a deep psych analysis on the rich and powerful abusers there's going to be miswired sexuality. Look at arsonists and there's a very high correlation to setting fires and achieving a feeling of sexual gratification. So even stuff that otherwise would not seem sexual (cutting benefits for poor people, privatizing public assets, austerity programs) probably is scratching a kinky itch for the people in charge.

    95:

    Not in Canada (at least public schools). I proctor exams every year, including the mandated standardized tests*, and they are all administered on paper — which we are legally obligated to retain for 2+ years in case the student (or more likely their parent) decides they want to review the exam at a later date** and argue for marks.


    *Insert rant here.

    **There is an exam review day scheduled after exams where students can come in and review their exams. Most don't bother.

    96:

    OGH @ 57: that is the single most depressing thing I've ever read from you. A colder war was positively uplifting by comparison.

    97:

    My students just spent their morning in a draughty sports hall with pen/pencils and paper. So did most of my colleagues's students. This has proved the easiest method of ensuring that they don't use smartwatches/phones/laptops to cheat on their exams.
    Interestingly enough, when I mentioned the option of doing online exams, with lockdown browser installed, most of the students said they preferred the pens and paper.

    98:

    OK, I've finally watched the videos. I know this problem will be fixed eventually, but they totally screwed up the hair. If you look where the blur between the real face and the ML face exists, you'll notice that the hair is of the real woman; it was not CGI.

    It might seem like I'm nitpicking here. If you remember that in the CGI world, the hair was a real problem which took over half a decade to solve (though my memory is fuzzy here). Even now, I think the hair is the most unrealistic thing about CGI figures after the eyes and the skin. The creator probably did not even try to deal with the hair, so I can't really hold it against them. I realize that this problem might be solved in the next few years, but it's still important not to get carried away by the hype. For now, it's much more realistic to fake something using a look-alike instead of machine learning.

    Another thing to consider, when you were talking about the death of retail in 2012, it was considered a small detail to make online shopping good enough for groceries. Yet that small step has not been crossed, and grocery online shopping continues to remain a niche in online shopping. Same with buying clothes solely online. In other words, don't dismiss small steps in technology evolution.

    99:

    Oops. I meant to say that the hair is not put in by the bot.

    100:

    Well, it looks like at least one sexual harasser of teen-age girls has got his comeuppance. Multiple media outlets are reporting that Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in the Alabama special Senate election.

    101:

    On the other hand, hair is often surprisingly easy to photoshop, so maybe that step will not be long in coming; it just needs someone interested to make the same observation and translate it into algorithmese.

    On the third hand, CGI in movies still sucks, even when the fat hairy toad spends zillions on it and everyone goes on about how great it is, apparently unable to perceive why it isn't. Yet at the same time other computer algorithms were demonstrated to produce exactly the right sort of output to desuckify it, and nobody noticed and adapted that. So maybe it will take a long time after all...

    102:

    1. "hair is often surprisingly easy to photoshop" in a still image. In any moving image, the photoshop is obvious. The movement isn't natural, even if it's correct. That's the same problem you have with mouth movements in today's CGI.

    2. The hair's one thing that still eludes modern CGI, despite over a decade of resources being thrown at the problem. I remember earlier this decade reading about CGI-effects people complaining about how difficult it is to deal with hair. I repeat, I'm not convinced they solved that problem.

    3. Hair took a long time to solve in photoshop as well. I wonder if there are edge cases where it hasn't been solved even for still images? Unlikely...

    103:

    Re the Youtube Kids piece in particular: Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram, and probably Twitter and Snapchat and others are going to have to get on top of this quickly, or they risk the heavy boot of government coming down on them.

    There is no profit, and therefore no profit motive, for child-oriented meme mashups, if ads are not allowed by law on those companies' websites. That leaves revenge porn and weirdos' doings, which are combated by requiring G/Y, F/I et al. to submit all videos to national film censors for approval before they can be made available on those platforms.

    That does no good at all to these companies' business model.

    On the bright side, this might finally make enough people realise that curation is needed that it becomes a viable business model. (Apple is doing a half-hearted imitation of curation in support of its hardware sales, not the real thing.)

    104:
    first a "make me look fit in selfies" mode and then a "do the same thing, only in video chat" option.
    FaceApp and Snapchat filters already do this - sometimes obviously (flower crowns, animal ears and noses) sometimes subtley. The neotonous transformation making eyes bigger and chins smaller is very popular. It may well be that for current teens, most imagery and video they see is processed by these kinds of filters. Apple's newest phone has 3d motion capture of faces in hardware, currently used to create animated emoji faces that you are the puppeteer of, but combine this with what the prettifying apps do and we will have this next year.

    As for basilisks, the silos tuning personalised nest feeds by ai based on watching your facial reactions through these cameras and 3d motion capture are coming, and the feed addiction problem is already real.

    105:

    On the other hand, the whole “sekrit powerful paedo rings” thing is catnip to the conspiracy theorists.

    I went to a military boarding school in Dunblane; one former member of the teaching staff has now spent twenty years claiming loudly that the place was riddled with child abusers. He’s variously persuaded the Police, the Military Police, and more Police to investigate (and given that pupils’ parents were RMP SIB, others were RAF Police, others were Intelligence, unlikely to be a skimpy investigation). He’s made some pretty wild claims, that have all failed scrutiny. The School was quite small (over 100 years old, so far only 5000 former pupils) and a lot of the pupils kept/keep in touch, particularly from the time period he’s making allegations about. There is absolutely zero supporting evidence; not a single allegation by any pupil; just assertion on his part.

    And yet... every so often, he persuades another journalist to print his claims; and the background level of rumour, goes up by enough to suggest fire from the smoke.

    106:

    Yes, Fuji for landscapes and Kodak for portraits used to be the rule.

    107:

    Para 3 - There's no-one delivers here, and even if there were I'd still want to physically go to the shop to buy stuff like baked goods, cheese, fruit, meat and veg where condition and "use by" dates are significant factors.

    I'd have fewer issues with packet and tinned (and frozen if I trusted the vendor to keep it that way in the shop and van right up to my door).

    Even then, unless the site did "You buy instant ramen; here are some new flavours you might like" I could see it getting in my way as much as it would help.

    108:

    "Processing that takes the logical place of the chemicals is inevitable, but if it is going as far as altering wrinkles then that has way crossed the line"

    Both film developing and digital *require* that some decision be made about wrinkles, even if that's just accepting the decisions of the manufacturers. Sharpness, contrast, gamma, colour balance, they're all someone's decision and they all change the appearance of skin tone, wrinkles, blemishes etc. SOOC usually means 'accept the manufacturer's defaults'. For many cameras, switching to portrait mode means they've applied settings they think will probably have a flattering result. In fact on my phone the *default* or SOOC setting produces what I think of as an absurd level of automatic 'photoshopping' using facial recognition to do the work. It actually realises that you're shooting a face and applies smoothing to the skin on the face, sharpens the eyes and leaves the rest of the photo with the default sharpening. To avoid that I have to select non-default options.

    109:

    @Ioan (104) :

    So the temporary protection against video doctoring for our "great leaders" and other people politically involved is too start wearing long flowing hair and other hard to CGI model clothes and accessories.

    Just imagine BoJo with long hairs in a flowing silk dress with lots of ribbons that move harmoniously with any air flow... all that as a protection measure against fake videos.

    110:

    Wear clothes covered in blinkenlights that encode a digitally signed timestamp and location. For proper protection these can be surgically implanted.

    111:

    If you can tell that it's faked, then so can machines. All it will need is a bit of adversarial training. Machine one makes a porn video. It gets jumbled up with a bunch of other porn videos and shown to machine two. Machine two picks the odd one out. If it's the fake, machine two gets a reward and machine one gets marked down. If it's not the fake, machine one gets the reward and machine two gets marked down. So machine one makes better fakes and machine two gets better at spotting fakes.

    Given that machines are already *significantly* better at spotting details in complex data (images, waveforms etc) it hardly seems like it will be long before machine one will make porn that humans cannot spot any better than chance.

    112:

    On the bright side, this might finally make enough people realise that curation is needed that it becomes a viable business model. (Apple is doing a half-hearted imitation of curation in support of its hardware sales, not the real thing.)

    Proper curation is very labour-intensive, insofar as it requires human judgment (although you can probably do a lot of first-pass weeding with image recognition), and educated human judgment at that (e.g. if curating content for political bias, you need curators who understand what the dog-whistle signals are/mean, and you need enough redundancy in your curators so that if you're filtering for X and one of your curators is a closet X-ist no X gets slipped through.

    Indeed, if we don't develop some sort of general AI (and I don't expect we will) we could end up with content curation being a mainstream occupation like "factory worker" in the late-19th century.

    113:

    As for basilisks, the silos tuning personalised nest feeds by ai based on watching your facial reactions through these cameras and 3d motion capture are coming, and the feed addiction problem is already real.

    One of the things that gives me the creeps about the iPhone X is realtime authentication by face mapping and recognition.

    Good aspects: Apple put a lot of effort into it. You can't fool an iPhone X with a photo or even a simple mask, it does depth mapping to ensure your eyes are in the right place (and can tell whether they're open or closed) and recognize your face from underlying bone structure through makeup/bruises. And it's running continuously, checking pretty much as often as every time you'd hit the home button on a more traditional smartphone UI. Makes it very difficult for a phone thief to get anywhere; also means continuous real-time authentication of the user is possible. The equivalent in trad computing terms is, imagine you had to use 2FA authentication pad EVERY time you typed a command, and the computer rejects it if it doesn't recognize you.

    Bad aspects: if the API leaks, or if it's ever deliberately opened up to app developers, they can monitor your facial expressions and correlate it against app usage, which gets us straight into self-improving basilisk territory.

    114:

    Trump and BoJo are already set in the hair department. I never said that the hair has to be long ;)

    115:

    Apple have released an api already, though it is apparently not the full resolution.

    116:

    Four supermarket chains offer online ordering and home delivery to my address with a fifth coming soon. At least one of them offers same-day delivery. There is also Amazon Pantry for non-perishables. The supermarket pickers can cope with loose and weighed items like fruit and deli cold cuts and you can return items with unsuitably short use-by dates or unsatisfactory substitutes (if you allow substitutes). I get one home delivery a week for most of my groceries and top-up at a walking-distance co-op.

    What’s more, the proportion of Brits who say they do all of their grocery shopping online has doubled in recent years. As many as 14% of Brits currently do all of their grocery shopping online, up from 7% in 2014. Meanwhile, the proportion claiming to do most of their grocery shopping online has risen to 13%, up from 10% in 2014. Overall, 48% of Brits do at least some of their grocery shopping online, up from 43% who said the same in 2014.

    117:

    How do you get on with a "complex request" like, say, "4 slices of pork tongue if it's a nice pink colour but none if it's already gone grey"?

    118:

    Thinking back on this discussion, I have to say that how to define cheating is the wrong question to ask. Rather, the whole notion of standardized tests should be questioned. My take based on what I've read about pedagogy is that insisting on such tests creates skilled test-takers, not people who can think and solve problems.

    In practice, a more supportive and less intense version of how PhD studies are designed would work better for educating students throughout the school age years. Why? Because it teaches students to learn new skills when they're required to solve a problem, to think creatively about how to use those skills to define and solve real-world problems, and to understand that learning is a continuous, lifelong journey, not something you do only long enough to pass an exam so you can then forget the information. The main problem with a PhD-style approach is that it requires really good teachers (who are in short supply) and an enormous amount of time to review the student work. In an educational culture that privileges multiple-choice tests because nobody has time to grade essays, this seems unlikely to happen on a broad scale.

    SFreader wondered if "...maybe the best way of determining reality is live-streaming everything from multiple unrelated sources."

    Wouldn't work. Burying a few sips of fact in an ocean of disinformation sewage is an ancient practice, now enhanced by technology (witness the recent discovery of an ocean of faked letters to the FCC about net neutrality). As anyone can see from watching the U.S. news services (probably others around the world, but I don't have access to them), the quality of the liquids that are emitted depends on the politics of the owners of a media conglomerate and other managers of the news source.

    SFreader: "Keeping history real and unfaked is already at least partially underway in the UK."

    It's a noble effort, but it won't work because it's never worked. The ancient saying that "history is written by the victors" reveals the problem: the losers aren't around anymore to promote their perspective on what happened. Nowadays, the "losers" are anyone who doesn't control the media outlets. And even when the original historians are people of impeccable character and vigilant about holistically portraying the truth, there's no guarantee their heirs will be equally ethical. On the contrary, history suggests the opposite.

    Heteromeles: "Actually, I wonder if AI porn can be weaponized."

    Easily. Let's say someone Photoshops a photo of a politician doing something reprehensible, distasteful, illegal, or all of the above. Optionally, they then down-sample the image to a lower (Web-ready) resolution to hide signs of tampering, and eradicate the original photo (ditto). The politician can deny the photo from here to eternity, but no matter how convincing the denial, the question "what if it really were true?" will haunt them forever. For example, there have been a few cases in which teachers were accused of sexual harassment by students who later admitted the accusation was pure extortion intended to get them better marks. Too late: the careers and sometimes lives of those teachers were ruined.

    Before someone jumps down my throat on this point, let me be clear: I completely get that sexual harassment is a real thing, and is ubiquitous and severely damaging to the victims. I'm only providing *an example* of how false information can be weaponized.

    119:

    Paras 1 and 2 - And how do you test things like arithmetic, grammar and modern languages using a thesis system like you propose?

    120:

    By coincidence I bought pork tongue this week but I haven't opened it yet as I'm still finishing the haslet. I'm fairly sure they wouldn't give you grey pork tongue in the first place but you could write in the 'special instructions' box for that item on the order just to be sure. If it did turn up grey then the online order complaints system would give a refund and probably a credit voucher too. Supermarkets seem pretty keen to give good customer service here - there is plenty of competition after all. One time I went to a physical store of the chain that I get deliveries from and a bottle of wine I bought fell through the bottom of the plastic bag they gave me while I was walking through the car park to the car. I went back in to the customer service desk and they got me a free replacement bottle without any quibbling whatsoever. OTOH if you allow substitutions online they can be a bit odd sometimes (but they price match the item they didn't supply so last week I got a carton of luxury assorted salted nuts with macadamias costing £4.50 but only paid the £2.00 the bag of ordinary mixed salted nuts and peanuts I ordered would have cost). You can always return unsuitable items with the driver for a refund - they call out substitutions and short dates when they deliver.

    121:

    OK, then this varies by country.

    In the US, 9 percent buy online groceries once a month and 4 percent buy groceries online weekly. By comparison, all buy groceries at least once a month and 83 percent buy groceries once a week.

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/215597/far-american-grocery-shoppers-buck-online-shopping-trend.aspx

    122:

    All the scams become more effective with fake video and audio:
    - Help, I'm stranded in a foreign country. Send money
    - We're holding your loved one hostage until you send a ransom
    - This is your Prime Minister. I need your help smuggling a billion dollars into my Cayman Islands account in exchange for a 5%
    - This is the Canada Revenue Agency. We have a warrant out for your arrest. Transfer us some bitcoins for an instant pardon

    123:

    Looking at that poll more closely, it seems that only 2 percent do their grocery shopping exclusively online. That rises to 4 percent on the East Coast.

    124:

    Objective reality exists, says UK minister Matt Hancock

    Facts that everyone can agree on are the cornerstone of democracy and do exist - despite the rise of "fake news", a UK minister has said.

    Matt Hancock said it was "something of a disappointment" that he had to state publicly that "objective reality exists".

    But it was "incredibly important" to hang on to that principle in the "unregulated space" of social media.

    The digital minister was giving evidence to a House of Lords committee.

    125:

    The thing is, in The Matrix society was automated enough to not need people working to keep *it* working. We're a long way from that point. And this may cause a collapse before we get there.

    ----

    And my note was because many people use the same password lots of places. So insecure password handling at one site can expose them elsewhere. I agree that "those who know" *shouldn't* be in danger because of the problem with Moveable Type.

    126:

    As for teaching, we've always known what the best method is: tutoring, one-on-one or few on one. It's massively more efficient than classroom teaching. What we're arguing about isn't the best method it's the best suboptimal, classroom based method.

    The problem with discovery-based methods is what the students fail to discover. We had two biology tracks where I got my PhD: traditional and discovery-based. In the discovery-based path, the students did a few experiments that took several labs to complete, rather than running through a bunch of standard lab exercises. To paraphrase one of the undergrads who worked on my PhD research and took this track: "what we learned was that we did something, stuff went wrong, we wrote it up, never repeated it, and forgot about it." That's the critical difference between PhD research and undergrad: they've got to cover so much ground that they never repeat experiments, so they end up learning less, and many get the impression that they are failures as scientists. It took some tutoring to help the undergrads who worked for me catch up in upper-division classes to be equivalent (or better) than their peers who had taken the more traditional courses (often against the advice of their advisors, oddly). That tutoring was part of my pay for them.

    Biology classes tend to have as much vocabulary as your average foreign language class. Rather than doing purely discovery-based learning, you've got to teach the material as an immersion, where the students use the terminology enough to have some idea what it means. Running a single experiment and hearing a bunch of terms in a lecture fails to do this. As for forgetting material after a test, that's normal if you never see the material again. The only way it sticks is if it gets used somehow. In this regard, I tend to think of college as the memetic equivalent of a plague ward. Education consists of exposing you to as much contagious information as possible, and the stuff that infects your brain is what your education is. In this model, fools and idiots simply have overactive intellectual immune systems.

    127:

    There was also "Big Ball of Wax" by Shepherd Mead, though that was more about the porn possibilities of virtual reality. Still, the implications were there.

    128:

    re: 112
    When you say you don't expect a general AI, you need to include a time scale, even if you mean never.

    The assertion that it won't ever happen is probably true, but only if you accept that people aren't general intelligence (which I would assert). A superhuman AI will almost certainly happen unless civilization collapses first. The time scale is important.

    So... The truck drivers are put out of work by automated trucks and become video curators, which means that the curators will have the common biases of truck drivers. Which means... And then as this is happening the automated curation continues improving, so fewer and fewer of them are needed while at the same time vehicle automation continues improving, so fewer drivers are needed...

    But time scale is important. If it takes 50 years to develop a good-enough automated curation system and 10 years to develop an essentially good-enough truck driver, then there won't be the same problem as if the two improve to "good-enough" at the same time.

    129:

    Which makes me wonder if this is another side-effect of overpopulation.

    Back in the eighties, I made a guesstimate as to the optimum carrying population of humans on the Earth. Based on some (forget the popular author who wrote about such things) estimate, the early human bands (and proto-human) were using about 20mi^2 as their territory, and assuming that half the land surface of the Earth is habitable (no such thing), it worked out to be about 1 USbn (1,000,000,000), which I read we'd achieved in the 1820's. Now, I'm not just talking carrying, but psychological space.

    And I remember being in my teens, when we hit 3bn. Where do you go to get away from it all?

    I also saw stuff about experiments with rats and overpopulation, with them neglecting or eating infants, lots of fights, and the inverse, giving up, etc.

    Sure sounds like today.

    130:

    Hi, Walter!

    Hey, completely unrelated to this thread: I'm *really* ticked at B&N: I bought several of your books, sequels to "This Is Not A Game"... and the sob's not only put DRM on them, they *hide* it on my Nook, such that connecting it to my Linux box at home, I cannot find the files to back them up, in the event my Nook gets wet and dies....

    131:

    Since no one's mentioned this yet and it is related ... how about recent headlines re: 'Google to hire 10,000 humans to check YouTube'?

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/05/technology/google-youtube-hiring-reviewers-offensive-videos/index.html

    BTW, bets are that the only reason Google is doing this is due to an increase in the number of ads pulled. Seems their automated system for ad placement can't tell whether a video is offensive or not.

    Am curious whether these humans will be jotting down reasons for finding a particular ad offensive. Would make sense to combine such feedback with the ads, forward to an AI for training and test/retest to see how well the AI learned as well as whether the AI is able to generalize in spotting offensive materials presented somewhat differently. Then repeat the process each time a sub-genre of vile upsets ad revenue.

    132:

    Re: Overpopulation leads to stress

    Not necessarily so: the most densely populated countries in Europe are also among the happiest as per World Happiness Report. Like the old joke - it's what you do with what you have that counts.

    133:

    I was recently talking to someone, and they were telling me they'd lived in Japan for a while, and that younger Japanese tend to look a *lot* younger - like late teens looking like they're 12 to Western eyes, so that's where the anime gets it.

    134:

    paws4thot wondered: "And how do you test things like arithmetic, grammar and modern languages using a thesis system like you propose?"

    First, note that no suggestion such as mine should be considered monolithic and applicable to all situations with or without modification. We're talking humans here, not laws of physics. Second, note that each subject requires an analysis of what aspects require rote memorization, what aspects require exploratory learning, and what aspects require a combination of both. That's how good teachers define the learning goals and design lessons around those goals.

    In answer to your specific questions, simple arithmetic does require mostly rote memorization, although there are many methods (e.g., long division, breaking seemingly complex problems such as 29 times tables into 20 times tables plus 9 times tables*) that can be taught as a way to solve problems much more easily.

    * That is, 29x = 20x + 9x, and 20x = 10x +10x. Much easier for mental arithmetic.

    There are also examples of applications (e.g., using log and trig tables) where the goal should clearly be to teach students that reference works exist and how they should be consulted when memorizing is impractical.

    Grammar and languages (two things that are key aspects of my working and private life) require some memorization, but also benefit greatly from learning to recognize patterns; good teachers teach their students how to take advantage of those patterns. For example, verb conjugation for most languages follows a series of standard rules that are easy to memorize and apply to most verbs, plus a series of exceptions that must be memorized. Recognizing parallels with English makes some languages easier to learn (French, Spanish, and Italian); a lack of parallels makes others depend more heavily on memory (Chinese, Japanese). Rhymes and other mnemonics help if teachers make them explicit and share them with the students. (Speaking as someone who speaks English and French fluently, Italian tolerably, and Chinese and Japanese poorly...)

    The optimal approach to learning depends on knowledge of the individual student's strengths and weaknesses and how those relate to the learning goals. The way I learn languages differs greatly from how my wife approaches the task; she can memorize easily, whereas I have to seek out patterns and mnemonic aids and beat my head against the language until it begins to soak in. Each of us needed to find strategies that worked best for us.

    Heteromeles noted: "The problem with discovery-based methods is what the students fail to discover."

    Definitely, and my replies to paws4thot apply equally to PhD learning. For exploratory learning to work, it must be relevant to what you're trying to teach the student. Experiments done once and never repeated aren't useful because the student will never use them again; that's different from experiments that will be done repeatedly in the future.

    Also note that there's a huge difference between guided exploration, which is what teachers should do, and laissez faire exploration, in which the whole burden is placed on the student. PhD programs often fail students because supervisors assume the student can learn everything on their own. (This is based on personal experience in grad school and many stories from friends and colleagues. But also there was a large study published a few years back on how PhD programs systematically fail their students: "Leaving the Ivory Tower" or some such.) So you have to distinguish between good and bad teaching too. The things I learned well in grad school were often taught directly, with ongoing supervision, by my profs.)

    One thing most academics forget is that most students were never taught how to learn, and that their educational outcomes improve greatly when they're taught how to learn effectively and how to explore productively. For an excellent discussion of this, see: http://www.geoff-hart.com/articles/2017/review-mcguire.html

    135:

    The only semi-good side to this is the old cyberpunk ethos: the street finds uses of its own.

    And a lot of the tech and sources are easily accessible. Wonder how soon we'll see Trump & co, or May, BoJo & co, etc, in, ahhh, "interesting" positions....

    136:

    For that matter, I certainly don't intend to ever buy boots online again, and I'm not sure about most clothes.... Food? No way.

    137:

    Re: FCC - 'fake' net neutrality letters

    Hadn't read about this before and am wondering why the FCC decided that now would be a good time to reject form letters esp. as there's plenty of precedence for allowing form letters when submitting a protest/requesting public input. Next, looked up who the head honcho is: Ajit Pai. Interesting CV.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajit_Pai

    'He has served in various positions at the FCC since being appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in May 2012, at the recommendation of Mitch McConnell. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on May 7, 2012,[1] and was sworn in on May 14, 2012, for a five-year term.[2]

    Pai left his Department of Justice post in February 2001 to serve as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc., where he handled competition matters, regulatory issues, and counseling of business units on broadband initiatives.[1]

    Pai left Verizon in April 2003 and was hired as Deputy Chief Counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. He returned to the Department of Justice to serve as Senior Counsel in the Office of Legal Policy in May 2004. He held that position until February 2005, when he was hired as Chief Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights.'


    138:

    My first reaction was to jump up and down with the report from the Guardian that Sen. McCain's daughter had a tweet that rang 'round the country, "Suck it, Bannon".

    But by the time I got out the door on my way to work, I had a more positive spin: with the appropriate theme music running through my head, and for one of the few times in my life, I can say this and mean it: Trump? Moore? The rest? Welcome to truth, justice, and the American way! (Of *course* the picture is Chris Reeve in a blue suit with a red cape....)

    139:

    *snicker*, *snicker*, *snicker*. And then there's the times that their robocalls get the wrong person... like the several to my cell phone about them being the IRS, and there was fraud detected in my return, and to call their number....

    As this *is* interstate wire fraud, I called the US-appropriate number: the US Secret Service (yes, they have other jobs than just protecting government officials). And then I wound up going to report it to the IRS criminal investigation website for the purpose. With the phone # of the scammers....

    140:

    Charlie:

    Heads up! You've got until 2049 before some AI replaces you as a best-selling author.

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.08807

    When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts

    'Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, finance, and the military. To adapt public policy, we need to better anticipate these advances. Here we report the results from a large survey of machine learning researchers on their beliefs about progress in AI. Researchers predict AI will outperform humans in many activities in the next ten years, such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high-school essays (by 2026), driving a truck (by 2027), working in retail (by 2031), writing a bestselling book (by 2049), and working as a surgeon (by 2053). Researchers believe there is a 50% chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks in 45 years and of automating all human jobs in 120 years, with Asian respondents expecting these dates much sooner than North Americans. These results will inform discussion amongst researchers and policymakers about anticipating and managing trends in AI.'


    Since 'The Bible' is still an all-time best-seller worldwide, I'm guessing that it would make for the likeliest first authorial target revenue-wise. Could be interesting to see/read an AI version of the 'holy book'. I'm assuming the AI would probably use/plagiarize/source currently existing scripture across religions/sects.

    141:

    Geoff, you don't need the Rohingya to show what happens with fake news. European views on Jews from medieval times onwards have basically set the standard for it. Blood libel, "they killed Jesus", conspiracies, and of course through to the Holocaust which could never have happened without the entire country being persuaded into thinking that Jews were all freeloading vermin. All you need is an audience without a good context for critical analysis of the message.

    142:

    The only semi-good side to this is the old cyberpunk ethos: the street finds uses of its own.

    And a lot of the tech and sources are easily accessible. Wonder how soon we'll see Trump & co, or May, BoJo & co, etc, in, ahhh, "interesting" positions....

    Probably soon, if the medical industry gets hold of the technology. They'd probably sell well as non-prescription, reusable, emetics.

    143:

    Graham noted: "Geoff, you don't need the Rohingya to show what happens with fake news. European views on Jews from medieval times onwards have basically set the standard for it."

    Being Jewish, I'm amply familiar with that phenomenon. I used the Rohingya purely as an example of how computers make the spreading of hatred more efficient than "traditional" means.

    Graham: "Blood libel, "they killed Jesus", conspiracies..."

    Not to mention having to enlighten several Catholic classmates that Jesus died a practicing Jew (the last supper was a Passover seder) and was crucified by the Romans (though not the Vatican at that time). Apparently they didn't teach these inconvenient facts to Quebec Catholics before the 1980s. Heck, they may still not teach this. Haven't checked recently.

    Graham: "All you need is an audience without a good context for critical analysis of the message."

    Or an audience looking for an excuse to legitimize what they already want to believe.

    144:

    to ear-piercings for baby girls.

    Just to point out how slippery some of these slopes are, this would be considered a racist comment, by your standards, if uttered in the US a few years ago.

    For a long time this was almost exclusively a thing in the Hispanic communities so when most people saw it you tended to think Hispanic and put the family in a certain box. (Yes there were various boxes but most people only had one they used.)

    145:

    Yes. But the New Testament account of the crucifixion is itself fake news, as that was the Roman punishment for rebellion etc. - the punishment for (Jewish) heresy was stoning - the historical and Christian Jesus don't match up. However, Graham is wrong about who set the standard, because it has been SOP for thousands of years.

    146:

    Think set design, lighting, costumes, speech, 'actor' skins, music ... I watched a friend make a two hour machinma feature movie a few years ago, and it turns out that having the CGI animation tools is only the first step.

    Yep. I was on a private tour of Disney Animation Studios a few years back. The amount of computing they threw at movies ONCE THEY WERE "DONE" is a bit staggering. And that was just to get the final result from TV cartoon levels to things like Frozen and Big Hero 6. I have in my memory something like 9 billion ray tracings per scene. And it still looks like a cartoon.

    At the time they had 2 data centers doing renderings with a 50" or so TV screen graphically showing how busy the rendering farm was in real time. A small dot for each rendering engine. And all the animators had apps for their phones so they could see the status of submitted work and when it was likely to be available. Of course different scenes got different priorities. And this was not the final work, just getting it to the point people could agree with a scene or decide how to change it.

    147:

    school should teach us how to think our way through problems rather than getting used to asking someone else to do that for us.

    Agreed. But at some level people need to understand things like 2+2=4 and how decimal points work. Taking it further I expect people working with electricity to understand ohms law and volt amp equations.

    148:

    Your "clear-cut non-cheating example" absolutely definitely is cheating in an exam, because the rules for exams are that you do it entirely on your own using nothing but what you carry inside your own head.

    Nope. I learned more math in a short time in a 12th grade trig class (pre university US system) where the teacher said all exams were open book to any books you wanted to bring. Just show your work.

    Now this was before computers and Mathmatica.

    149:

    Christian Bible isn't a great historical record, the rules there suggest that somewhere between 5...

    I'd like too see where you get that. Never heard of that before.

    150:

    Charlie wrote about iPhone X: Bad aspects: if the API leaks, or if it's ever deliberately opened up to app developers, they can monitor your facial expressions and correlate it against app usage, which gets us straight into self-improving basilisk territory.

    Already here! I gave a user experience talk a couple of months back about new forms of user experience and one of my examples was Microsoft's emotion analyser for images. You can try it out yourself (free) at:

    https://azure.microsoft.com/en-au/services/cognitive-services/emotion/

    One of my possible future scenarios for where'd we end up was the roleplaying game Paranoia and "Happiness is Mandatory", another is where your computer won't let you open your email until you've viewed a minimum number of cute kitten images.

    151:

    We have already seen a preview of how this works.

    AI will replace charlie as a best selling author at the same time as it replaces us as bestbuying readers. Both will optimise their responses to the other. After a few iterations the AI will be publishing gibberish tuned to synthetic preferences and Charlie will be back in business.

    The only real difference is that he will be self published because 99.99999% of all reading will be done by machines and human consumption is but a rounding error.

    152:

    Elderly Cynic notes: "But the New Testament account of the crucifixion is itself fake news, as that was the Roman punishment for rebellion etc. - the punishment for (Jewish) heresy was stoning - the historical and Christian Jesus don't match up."

    Whether or not that's true, I can't say. But it's not relevant. The important point here is how the Bible is being interpreted -- or misinterpreted, if you prefer. Foundation myths rapidly acquire a far greater weight than the historical "facts" that inspired them.

    153:

    Your system was a newcomer. I go back far enough that mental arithmetic and Euclidean geometry were examinable subjects - though both were removed from the exams before I took them. Before Mathematica? Heck, before Macsyma. But not before computers - the first modern computers date from 1948.

    154:

    Agreed. It would be a great improvement if the so-called Christian fundamentalists actually tried following the teaching in the Gospels.

    155:

    Christian Bible isn't a great historical record, the rules there suggest that somewhere between 5...
    I'd like too see where you get that. Never heard of that before.

    Sorry, you are correct to be sceptical. The correct answer is three years old at marriage, not five. My mistake.

    "Rebecca when she was married off to Isaac? According to Rabbis in medieval history, she was no older than three 3-years-old. The Rabbis deduced this age number for Rebecca, from the Bible itself."
    https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/10/26/the-age-of-rebecca-when-she-married-isaac-biblical-perceptive/

    If you put together the pricing in Leviticus with the various rape/sexual abuse of children/adultery clauses they suggest that children under five could be married as well as sexually abused. Which is where I got the five years number.

    But seriously, reading that stuff gives me the heebie-jeebies, it's why I struggled so much when I was at high school and the local cultists were all "you can't criticise it unless you've read it". If you want to know, why don't you read it yourself.

    156:

    Apparent phone number of the scammers, unless you have something better than standard Call Display. I've had scads of calls from chaps with Indian accents offering me duct cleaning services, and the number they are supposedly calling from is never thier actual number. (As in, call it on the cell phone while talking to them and get a "not in service message", or a wrong number because it's someone else.) I've even had their calls supposedly made from my own number!

    More than past time to change the phone system so that calls from non-trustworthy exchanges are labelled as such so that we can screen them out.

    157:

    It would be a great improvement if the so-called Christian fundamentalists actually tried following the teaching in the Gospels.

    HELL NO! The bits they like are the "I bring not peace but the sword" and "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" bits, not the Jesus-was-a-hippy bullshit. I grew up around people who sincerely and loudly believed that they should be allowed to publicly kill me, and that is not cool. I've seen precious little evidence that theocracies can work at all, let alone work well for people not of the dominant religion.

    As people keep pointing out, sodding Buddhists in Myanmar are something of a cliche in the genre.

    158:

    It's worth reading Wikipedia's article on Buddhism and violence to get some ammo.

    Now...

    On the theory that, if you have one murderous thug promulgating an ideology, then the ideology is corrupt and should be avoided, I give you Stalin and Mao. They were both passionately atheistic, and on that basis, I could use the same anti-religion arguments seen here to argue (as was long done by the US during the Cold War) the erroneous slander that all atheists are murderous thugs.

    The fundamental problem with this argument is that if you look hard enough at any group big enough to contain a murderous thug, you will find said thug. It's almost as if they're rare, broadly distributed, and capable of attributing their actions to whatever ideology they randomly turned up in. Odd, isn't it? It suggests that, just perhaps, things like ideology and religion don't play as big a force as one might think in determining where the massacres start and end.

    159:

    I suggest that you (a) read the first quote in context and (b) learn that Exodus is not one of the Gospels. The Gospels aren't all lovey-dovey, by any means, but teach the opposite of what both the so-called Christian fundamentalists and you seem to think they do.

    160:

    Heteromeles notes: "The fundamental problem with this argument is that if you look hard enough at any group big enough to contain a murderous thug, you will find said thug. It's almost as if they're rare, broadly distributed, and capable of attributing their actions to whatever ideology they randomly turned up in."

    Elegantly summarized. Religion is just one of many forms of ideology, and people choose ideologies that help them cope with their lives -- or in the case of the aforementioned thugs, justify their actions. The typical ideological thug understands on a gut level that if they can identify the dominant ideology of a crowd, they can adopt that ideology and use it to manipulate that crowd. This is true of just about any ideology you care to name: all that's required is that it be accepted unquestionably by a large group, who then become vulnerable to manipulation by the thugs among us.

    It occurred to me to wonder whether capitalism is not just an ideology, but rather a true religion. Unquestioning faith in its teachings, not to mention the seemingly supernatural "invisible hand" that guides capitalism, makes it seem awfully like a religion, particularly in terms of its persecution of nonbelievers and its abuse by thuggish zealots. If it quacks like a duck...

    161:

    I wasn't aware that any major sect of the Christian faith had disavowed the old testament or was even dominated by a gospel-following theology. Can you link to some? I'm somewhat aware of Quaker doctrine and the Metropolitan Community Church but even they have some funny ideas. And to describe them as minorities within Christianity is charitable.

    The same sex marriage debate in Australia which I've just been exposed to featured a great deal of "despite what our faith demands we won't try to impose that on you" rather than the more gospel-based "Jesus loves everyone, and homosexuality isn't even on the list of naughty things". Hence my objection to fundamentalist Christians being encouraged to follow the teachings of the Bible, because it advocates all sorts of things that I find objectionable from capital punishment and slavery down to relative trivia like forced marriage.

    So any attempt to pretend that Christianity today has discarded all the nasty things from the Bible and is strictly "modern" in the Council-of-Nicea sense of we only follow the modernised, expurgated gospels has a bit of a hill to climb.

    162:

    On the theory that, if you have one murderous thug promulgating an ideology, then the ideology is corrupt and should be avoided, I give you Stalin and Mao.

    You left out Obama and the Bushes with their imposition of democracy via war crimes. Talk about discrediting a political system, guv.

    I think that's a silly theory. If I suggested that that's what I think I apologise.

    My objection is that I haven't seen an example of a theocracy that works, or of a religion that doesn't have more inclination to evil with power than more modern alternatives like democracy - and I say that as a citizen of Australia, where 90% of the voters support torturing refugees to death. Yeah, that's bad, but then I look at empires and think "would I rather be forced to live in China, the US or Russia"... it's not exactly a conundrum. The good news on that front is that I may be able to afford to move back to Aotearoa in about 10 years time.

    163:

    To clarify: I'm talking about political systems in the "how do you run a country" sense, rather than "what weird thing Norma round the corner believes". Feng Shui, horoscopes, phrenology for all I care. But when you start mandating them as the organising principle for a nation is when I draw the line. Which is why I'm less concerned with, say, the Papal defence of pedophilia than I am with the Islamic preference for theocracy. I've read way too much about the nasty side of living with religious police to ever want to do that myself.

    164:

    if capitalism is not just an ideology, but rather a true religion. Unquestioning faith in its teachings, not to mention the seemingly supernatural "invisible hand" that guides capitalism, makes it seem awfully like a religion

    To me the religious side is more the neoliberal stuff - Thatcher, Reagan, the various ideologies that have taken root round the world. Capitalism per se seems more like an observation that people trade and money makes that easier.

    I'm aware of the communism-vs-capitalism dichotomy but it always seemed a bit artificial to me, they're both about how to use money and markets to arrange the flow of trade and neither can exist in a "pure" form. Even the most outrageous fiction involving a supernatural AI doesn't pretend that central management of every jot and tittle of production and consumption is possible, and likewise the only "what if everything was a market" fantasies I'm aware of still use state control for some things (notoriously the Randian state controlled police and military). Ursala Le Guin likewise posits anarchist government running foreign affairs etc.

    I suspect that the free market extremists seem more faith-based now that the limits of their theories have become inescapably obvious. Especially now that ecology has gone from a fringe semi-science to observed reality. But then, from the neoliberal side, the "green religion" seems equally stupid, it's obvious that we can live without wilderness and so-called "ecosystem services" because if there's demand the market will provide (it sounds very cargo cult when stated that baldly).

    The various "we" being defined as followers of their faith in all cases :)

    165:

    You might want to talk to the Aborigines about the history of Australia and to others about blackbirding, but I suspect you know that already.

    In any case, "theocracy working," has to include the Japanese, Chinese, and Roman emperors, since all were explicitly high priests of state cults with unique rituals to perform. Probably the pharaohs fall in here too. Without getting into the craziness about how one defines longevity in systems that see multiple dynasties with decade to century long breaks as still being continuous, I think we can agree that some dynasties lasted longer than the US has so far. On that basis, I'd suggest that theocracies can endure as long (or as short) as modern democracies. That doesn't make them better. Rather it suggests that the problems that pull down systems are, as with murderous thugs, randomly and rarely distributed.

    For example, the Middle East and Egypt have different rain regimes, the Middle East having the Mediterranean wet winters and dry summers, while Egypt was watered in large part by the Indian Monsoon hitting the Ethiopian highlands on a different schedule. It was fairly common for a drought in one of those rain systems, but droughts in both were rare, and that's what allowed empires in the Mediterranean and Middle East to flourish, because the empires could depend on wheat from either the Mediterranean, Egypt, or generally, both. However, on the rare occasions when there was a double drought, there was widespread famine and regime change, if not crash. The point here is that external factors can drive politics, and attributing longevity to the fundamental politics of the system is a problematic exercise.

    166:

    I wouldn't want to live with North Korean police either, for exactly the same reasons. It's the bit about having bits chopped off for holding your fork the wrong way that I object to; I don't really care whether the political organisation that ensures there will always be more of them than there are of me tags itself or is tagged as "religious" or not.

    167:

    It occurred to me to wonder whether capitalism is not just an ideology, but rather a true religion. Unquestioning faith in its teachings, not to mention the seemingly supernatural "invisible hand" that guides capitalism, makes it seem awfully like a religion, particularly in terms of its persecution of nonbelievers and its abuse by thuggish zealots. If it quacks like a duck...

    As well as the tendency of its fundamentalist believes to misquote its core texts :-/

    What Adam Smith actually said about bankers is quite cutting.

    168:

    Whitroth>> assuming that you downloaded one of the ebooks I produced (and which have been available since October 15), that shouldn't have happened. I very clearly clicked "No DRM."

    So if that's the case you should contact B&N, because it's their fault.

    If you downloaded Orbit's ebooks before they pulled them, you're probably out of luck.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled speculation.

    169:

    But not before computers - the first modern computers date from 1948.

    OK fine. Before you could in any practical way use a computer in a classroom testing setting.

    Yes I know the history. That same year I and some others were assembling TTL logic into primitive logic sequences and such. One of us came up with a very low tech computer but we couldn't afford to buy enough 74xx chips to make it.

    170:

    If you want to know, why don't you read it yourself.

    I might. But I was asking for a reference to start looking. It is more than a few words long.

    171:

    More than past time to change the phone system so that calls from non-trustworthy exchanges are labelled as such so that we can screen them out.

    Good luck with that. SS7, which the entire planet uses for interconnections between everyone's big switches[1], is flawed in that it assumed the only people who could connect at that level were trusted phone companies. Bad assumption that went totally off the rails when IP telephony showed up.

    And now that we have computers running Windows and Lunix controlling these SS7 based systems, many with unpatched OS's and tied to public Internet points, well, ugh.

    [1] Yes there are lots of smaller systems, and I bet entire countries, that don't use SS7 internally but still connect to everyone else via SS7.

    172:

    Nice pivot.

    EC said it would be nice if people followed the Gospels. You kept talking about the entire Bible and religions that don't follow only the Gospels.

    First 4 books of the NT. They paint a very different picture than the earlier and some of the later books.

    173:

    "I wasn't aware that any major sect of the Christian faith had disavowed the old testament or was even dominated by a gospel-following theology. Can you link to some?"

    I've got a school friend who claims to be Christian and I did mention some of the old testament stuff. They said that they don't follow any of that sort of thing anymore. They just use 'common sense'. Urgh, "so you pick which bits of the bible you want to follow and which ever bits don't suit, you just ignore?" She said she "wouldn't put it like that" but essentially yes. So my follow up question was "well if you just pick the bits you like, and you don't use the book to tell you which bits, what's the book for?". I got "Ohhh Jaaason" as the response.

    So it seems there are at least some sects where you basically think whatever you damn well please and by divine spirit or something, whatever happens to come into your head is automatically 'Christian'. Must be a bloody miracle I say...

    Strangely 'Christian values' seem to be rather anti poor, anti foreigner. (which is a little weird as she's a penniless half Chilean half German) However they are big on Christmas Trees and Snowflakes with 8 sided symmetry as the "true meaning of Christmas".

    174:

    AH, OK, we are actually in agreement now I see the specific cases rather than the initial statement.

    175:

    That's because 8 sided snowflakes are a miracle!

    176:

    "I tried the new McJumbo just like you recommended over the phone so many times, mum."

    "The what?"

    Protect phone neutrality.

    177:

    Rambling off-topic, but:

    Buying shoes online: I have done this, but only because I was looking for a new-for-old replacement for an existing pair that had worn out. I found the same style from the same manufacturer in a slightly different colour: I call that a win. But buying footwear is normally an exploratory process for me, and the overheads of online ordering, trying them for fit, and (critically) returning the unsuitable ones is a non-starter. (Big boxes, lots of stuff to carry up and down stairs and queue with at a post office only accessible by foot half a mile away.)

    Buying food online: I now buy online non-perishable items that I can't get in local speciality stores or supermarkets.I also place supermarket orders online under a couple of circumstances: (a) I'm about to come home from a long trip, the pantry is bear, and I need the kind of bulk-buy that'd normally mean driving to a supermarket and filling the car boot; or (b) I've broken a bone in my foot and can't get downstairs for a month. (b) happened just the once, and (a) happens maybe 2-3 times a year.

    Otherwise, I shop local and try to avoid supermarkets entirely. But I admit I'm not buying food for a family of four or five including kids, and I'm not on a tight budget.

    178:

    Heads up! You've got until 2049 before some AI replaces you as a best-selling author.

    I'm not really a bestseller (my books scrape over the threshold of the top 100 in their launch week; that's a very tenuous claim to bestsellerdom). By 2049 I'll be 85, so probably dead or half-retired at best. And "write a bestselling book" covers a multitude of sins — I suspect they mean a relatively simplistic pot-boiler, or a work in a genre with highly stereotyped conventions (Star Wars Universe franchise as a setting for a cookie-cutter heist caper, two plot twists coming up; or maybe a regency romance with HEA assembled from a database of Georgette Heyer).

    So no, I'm not worried about being out-competed by AI. Or if I am, then I'll happily sit back and read the stuff, if it's so much better than what I can write for myself.

    I'm more worried about my audience being unable to afford to buy my books because their jobs were automated away first ....

    179:

    There have been and still are some - e.g. the Quakers. But I accept they are a small minority, the general situation is as gasdive says in #173, and I stand by my position that the so-called Christian fundamentalists do not follow the Gospels. Inter alia, militarism, monetarism and neo-libertarianism are incompatible with the Gospels.

    More relevantly to this thread, I agree with you in #164. Monetarism / neo-libertarianism (like most forms of cold-war era communism) IS a religion, because it believes in subservience to a supernatural concept or concepts, which it is heresy to dispute. The Free Market (like Proletariat) is an abstract concept which bears little or no relationship to what it is claimed to represent, and its desirability may not be challenged.

    This IS relevant to this thread. I don't see any moral objection to AI sexbots as such, nor even modelling them on actual people - but it's the way that our society encourages zero-sum games in human relationships that means that they will be abused. Unfortunately, as with so many other social ills, the 'solution' will be to attempt to cauterise the symptom, and that solution will rapidly become dogma. And, yes, I am comparing them to recreational drugs, from which I see no great difference.

    180:

    Perhaps only tangentially related, the unfortunate habit of retailers culling slower selling sizes seems likely to accelerate as more of the business is automated, maybe Douglas Adams was only half-joking about "The shoe event horizon". Commerce will eventually adjust, but not before a lot of inconvenience.

    181:

    For a long time this was almost exclusively a thing in the Hispanic communities

    This is me, blinking bemusedly.

    Here in the UK, we don't really have Hispanic as a recognizable ethnic category; people from Spain and Portugal code as 'white Southern European', and South/Central America might as well be on Mars in terms of how frequently you see folks from that part of the world.

    182:

    If someone built an internal combustion motor with the same attention to detail that contemporary capitalism gives to the society it exists in, it would have faith-based lubrication...

    183:

    OGH wrote:

    "...the pantry is bear..."

    The wildlife of Scotland is more dangerous than I realised :O

    184:

    I agree about the lack of a category, but I have met several people from South America (especially Argentina). Of course, the Cambridge research arena is as cosmpolitan as you can get, and nobody bothers to categorise.

    185:

    I think you may assume the bear has been suitably butchered and is in no ways still alive.

    (I have eaten bear in Estonia and can testify that it's tasty enough, though I might prefer boar.)

    186:

    Christmas Trees and Snowflakes with 8 sided symmetry as the "true meaning of Christmas".

    Well yes, those snowflakes would constitute a miracle ... or at the least an alarming warning sign of quantum electrodynamics breaking down (hey, there's a reason the bond angle in a water molecule is about 104 degrees)

    187:

    Doesn't bore taste rather ... gamey?

    188:

    First 4 books of the NT.

    Which are mutually contradictory in many places. John especially seems to have been tacked on to the other three at a much later date (and is rarely if ever referenced in theological discussions). There's no Gospel of Peter, the Rock who Jesus supposedly entrusted the church to, a glaring omission. Instead we have the sex-obsessed hairshirt Paul (who was not a disciple and never met the Messiah) doing his rock-promoter tour throughout the middle east who ended up running things and creating the basis for Christianity throughout the ages. Yes I know his Letters are not officially part of the Gospels but they're the most influential part of the New Testament in Western Christian thought (well, them and Revelations but...)

    189:

    Don't you bet on it. Round about 1960, the only way a retailer could restock was by sending the card back from a pair of shoes that was sold; many of them had everything except the common sizes, because their cards had been lost. The same thing applies today, because a shoe that is out of stock clearly isn't selling, so it is likely to be culled. It also applies to garments, and I have seen it apply to food. Th is particular idiocity seems to be enshrined in the mindset of the bureaucrats that run the retail businesses in the UK.

    190:

    Boar tastes a bit gamey, bore is just tedious.

    191:

    Boar is after all wild pig, so it will depend to some extent on its diet. The bear was about as strongly flavoured - i.e., I don't remember it being as much so as goat. However, the two times I had it was in sausages and in a stew, both of which will have disguised gaminess.

    Hmm, game. I think I've just decided to have venison tonight. Alimentum has that on the menu.

    192:

    Hi
    Completely off subject but of interest to commentators here, Disney buys 21st Century Fox
    Ref http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42353545

    193:

    On this subdivision of the topic, this just appeared on my twitter timeline; it looks like JK Rowling is already redundant...

    Harry Markov and the Chain of Probabilities

    194:

    Charlie wondered: "Doesn't bore taste rather ... gamey?"

    Wouldn't know. I try to only eat interesting foods.

    195:

    On the other hand they have 80-day aged steak as well. 80 days! What can possibly go wrong?

    197:

    I'd agree that many "born-agains" don't follow the gospel. Like the Roman Emperor Constantine, many of them have a religious experience ("in hoc signo vinces" for Constantine), get baptized, get told they're going to heaven as long as they stay faithful, then get handed a Bible and told that they should read it some time (or in Constantine's case, he convened the Council of Nicaea to get Christians to agree on what they believed in so they could tell him), but as long as they go to Church and give money regularly, they believe they're okay. They don't read that little bit about "faith without works is dead" or any of the more squirmy parts of Jesus' teaching. Indeed, ministers who preach the Way of Jesus in Church have been known to be reprimanded or fired by the elders of Churches.

    Apparently, one of the big problems "born-agains" have is that their children get taught to "know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," and similar. They actually read the Bible, and many of them leave the Church they grew up in. For some reason, many "born-agains" see this as the fault of public education, which is why many of them put their kids in Christian schools where they get an incomplete education, and why they want to cripple or destroy the public education system.

    Now, not all of them do this, but I simply wanted to point out that these there's a reasonable chunk of people, many of whom are ardent "Christians," who haven't read the Bible and don't know what it says. I'll admit, I haven't read all of it either. I do know that it's hard, in modern society, to follow all the rules in Leviticus (especially the ones about slavery), so I'm pretty sure everyone selectively reads it and follows some but not all of the rules in that book.

    Despite this, I've known some highly educated people who were good Christians. My personal favorite (not least because he gave me a job) was a systematics professor who took care of foster children with his wife and adopted at least two, one of whom he got (in his late forties) as a premature black infant (this professor is white). He is also active in his church, and none of us could figure out how he found the energy to do it all. He's one of the unfortunately rare people that you want more of in the world, and he's one of a number of reasons why I don't uniformly condemn Christians.

    198:

    Since most people who claim membership of a religion haven't actually gone themselves to the original sources to find out what that really entails it is quite possible for someone to be a good person despite claiming to be a member of a religion.

    Also since religion is just made-up nonsense without trademark protection it doesn't really matter what any version of it says since followers can just schism and write a new version that suits better like Joseph Smith did with the Book of Mormon.

    199:

    Same is true for atheism, actually. What is it an atheist don't believe in? If the atheist have no idea what it is they are against (or even for), are they any better than the born agains?

    200:

    I think the Church of Scientology would dispute that.
    Their made up nonsense has numerous trademark protections.

    201:

    "There's nothing an agnostic can't do as long as he isn't sure whether he believes in anything or not."

    - Monty Python

    202:

    I simply wanted to point out that these there's a reasonable chunk of people, many of whom are ardent "Christians," who haven't read the Bible and don't know what it says.

    In my youth I dated a fundamentalist Baptist. While in church one day (and it was usually the whole day) one of the guest preachers was a woman who was very proud of humbly* covering her hair like it says in Corinthians (or on of the letters). When I pointe out that the rest of the verse said that women should be silent in church I got my ribs elbowed something fierce. Apparently THAT part of the sentence was not to be taken literally, while covering your hair was.

    This denomination was one of those that believed they were the only true Christians. They referred to other denominations by their denomination name, themselves as Christians. (Eg. "I was Catholic before I became Christian and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour.")

    *Many of the preachers were very proud of how humble they were. It was like whoever displayed the most conspicuous humility had won bragging rights :-/

    203:

    'Sfunny, but I can think of someone else who used to complain about stuff like that a lot.

    204:

    Being an atheist is just not believing in deities. That ought to be simple enough not to get wrong but I'm sure many do nevertheless. Indeed it seems to be conflated with irreligious by many. I'm irreligious, atheist, non-superstitious and sceptical.

    205:

    Being an atheist is just not believing in deities. That ought to be simple enough not to get wrong but I'm sure many do nevertheless. Indeed it seems to be conflated with irreligious by many. I'm irreligious, atheist, non-superstitious and sceptical.

    What's a deity? presumably, this has to be defined so that belief is relevant.

    Just to make this more clear, some religions (Tibetan Buddhism and Discordianism, for example), don't necessarily believe that deities are real. It's the practice of devotion that's important to them, because of what being devoted does to the practitioner.

    This is one reason I think it's worth razzing atheists. It's not that not practicing devotion is inherently good or bad, it's that atheists are saying a whole body of practices are worth not understanding, and that's problematic. Here, problematic means not studying how everything from political power to development of virtues like compassion arise from what people are devoted to and what they are trained to do as acts of devotion. You may not want to practice devotion, but in the current world, I'd strongly suggest it's wise to understand it as much as possible, even as a bystander.

    206:

    Re: Learning how to learn

    Found this PPT synopsis. No idea what other helpful strategies the book might offer.

    Personally know someone who came up with the same approach as an undergrad because previous education never provided explicit how-to-study instruction. (Very effective approach, i.e., aces exams, term papers, etc.)

    https://www.broward.edu/sacs/qep/SiteAssets/Lists/Teaching%20and%20Learning%20Resources/EditForm/Saundra_McGuire_BC_Tutors_Mentors.pdf

    207:

    I agree that there are atheist religions, that is why I also describe myself as irreligious. From their pronouncements it would seem even many Anglican vicars are atheists - the whole supernatural thing is quite a leap for a modern educated person to believe.

    There are several thousand currently active religions. Is it necessary to understand them all in order to be irreligious? I don't think so. Not even the top twenty. I don't need to know what Zoroastrians or Jains, or Bahais or Tenrikyoists believe in order to not believe it, same for Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs or Jews. To really find out about religion I'd suggest a brain scan of one of the afflicted would be more useful than their words.

    208:

    Th is particular idiocity seems to be enshrined in the mindset of the bureaucrats that run the retail businesses in the UK.

    What makes you think this is only an issue in the UK?

    Says he of wide feet with more and more stores seemingly going medium width only except for those ugly things over "there".

    209:

    Re: 'Jesus was/died a Jew' -

    At least a few RC schools in Quebec (Montreal, specifically) did teach this as per family who've lived there and have maintained 50+ year long friendships with what some family refer to as 'friends that practice the 1.0 religion'. As someone also educated within the same era at an RC parochial school system complete with nuns, priests/Jesuit teachers/profs, I can also attest that this was covered in my religion class. From what I recall, such teaching was a key initiative of Vatican II intended to close old divisive inter-faith wounds. Post-Vatican II was also when you started seeing the Pope sharing the dias/altar with other major world religion leaders. (Not sure when this started exactly but recall watching it on TV at school because it was a big step forward in ecumenism and making the RC more small 'c' catholic.)

    Lots of room for misunderstandings and over-generalizations when folk don't talk or mix with anyone outside their immediate group for whatever reason. Recall the first time I was invited over to a Jewish friend's home for dinner during Hanukkah. Not wanting to be gauche/commit a faux pas, asked what I could bring over like maybe a wine to go with the main course (note: fishing for info). Roared out loud when my friend said her mother was making their traditional Hanukkah ham for dinner. (Another myth/stereotype bites the dust!)

    210:

    many of them put their kids in Christian schools where they get an incomplete education

    Not all get an incomplete education. But for many who do and get to college life becomes a rough ride for a time. Many leave at that point.

    211:

    But it is soooo much easier to fold a piece of paper in half twice then cut it out. :)

    60 degree angles are much harder than 90 or 45 with little kids.

    212:

    people from Spain and Portugal code as 'white Southern European', and South/Central America might as well be on Mars in terms of how frequently you see folks from that part of the world.

    As I meant. It gets complicated. In the US Hispanic to those of European decent means those of ESL and/or obvious (to those judging) DNA to some degree from South America.

    Those people you see all over Univision or Telemundo don't register as Hispanic to many.

    Marco Rubio would not be considered Hispanic if you didn't know his name or hear him talk. And even then maybe not.

    Which makes the immigration fights even more amusing if not so tragic.

    213:

    I don't. I merely can't speak for other countries, due to limited experience with buying shoes or even clothing there.

    214:

    SFreader responded to my comment that many Catholics I'd met in Quebec didn't know that Jesus was and died a Jew: "At least a few RC schools in Quebec (Montreal, specifically) did teach this as per family who've lived there and have maintained 50+ year long friendships with what some family refer to as 'friends that practice the 1.0 religion'."

    That's good to know, and it's a useful reminder to all of us (myself included) to be careful when we generalize about religion: even when the generalization is broadly correct, it ignores a potentially large minority (sometimes even a majority) who defy the generalization.

    215:

    60 degrees is easy... simple math (half way from the center to the edge of the circle, draw a chord. the chord will intersect the edges at 60 degrees)

    it's one of the easiest sine/cos relationships to remember!

    216:

    i'm atheist and humanist.

    My devotion is to humanity (and to everything that we need to maintain healthy societies - so also to being kind to the planet, and to animals, etc).

    Devotion to religion appears to me* to be often little more than self-celbratory masturbation. Devotion for the sake of devotion. Demonstration of devotion to the religion being more important than anything else.


    * raised catholic, west of scotland; currently living in the US South. YMMV

    217:

    On the plus side of the ledger, the alt-right community is apparently lousy at Web design: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/11/technology/alt-right-internet.html

    Color me surprised... not.

    That suggests they'll also be lousy at AI and internet porn, since they seem to be an unimaginative, joyless, sex-negative group on the whole. *Fe*So it'll be puppies (not puppy porn) and pizza for the rest of us, of course.*/Fe*

    218:

    72 degrees is the classic example :-)

    219:

    but that won't make you an authentic looking snowflake!

    (I made some snowflakes with my soon when he was in pre-k. He then proceeded to make them that way every year in school - his were obvious, as they were the ONLY six-sided flakes, versus the vast assemblage of octagonal oddities)

    220:

    we did use that to make a 'geodesic dome' out of paper for a high school project once! (I wanted him to call it a buckyball - no such luck)

    221:

    Yup Read that in Marvin Harris' book from the '70s, Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches. That was treason against Rome. He went on to note that they certainly didn't do that to "thieves", and so the other two were probably Zealots, terrorists against Roman rule (and who's ever heard of terrorism in the Middle East, I mean, really....), and so they saw him as a leader.

    222:

    Dunno, but the phone # they gave to call them back was the same as they were allegedly calling from, and of course, I was not going to call.

    223:

    You may have missed the joke! 72 degrees (i.e. division in 5) is provably impossible using paper folding. Which makes it interesting that pentagonal symmetry is fairly common in nature.

    224:

    Capitalism, a true religion? For the US GOP, maybe the extreme Tories, and certainly for Libertarians and other Randists, and all "the Free Market Will Solve All!, hallelujah!"

    225:

    I've known some highly educated people who were good Christians

    I've also known some quite nice people who are Christians. One blog I follow is "The Weekly Sift" which is a kindly take on US events. The guy is a preacher of some sort, but amusingly failed to make the link (or at least, failed to mention it) between voluntary poverty and Christ.

    I simply wanted to point out that these there's a reasonable chunk of people, many of whom are ardent "Christians," who haven't read the Bible and don't know what it says.

    It's kind of annoying, especially because the Bible is very well covered by search engines. The stuff I found above about marriage went very quickly from "the bible sets prices for women that vary by age" to the weird Rebecca rabbinical scholar stuff in the first 3 links on DuckDuckGo. Viz, it is not hard to find if you want to.

    I recall being bemused at high school when the people telling me to read the bible blatantly hadn't done so themselves when I started reading it and asking questions. "so, on page one..." "{duh?}"

    226:

    You might want to talk to the Aborigines about the history of Australia and to others about blackbirding, but I suspect you know that already.

    Yeah. Also no, no, I would very much like not to hear about them at all. Unlike a lot of people in Australia, though, I want that because I know far too much about them already.

    There's another generational divide in Australia, but it's somewhat less obvious because there are the "angry young (white) men" who get the disproportionate attention. But younger Australians are increasingly inclined to less racist attitudes. Not least because they're less white than their predecessors.

    One symptom of the recent "change the date" outcry has been the Triple-J "hottest 100" album now being released the day after we celebrate genocide rather than as part of the celebration. Youf radio responding to angry youf... whodathunk the youf would want to recogise crimes committed by other people's ancestors against people they don't know?

    For those who can tolerate rap/hip-hop this track is informative (and lyrics) and will help you find the entrance to the rabbit-hole of progressive youth music in Australia if you're interested.

    227:

    I have known a few folks over the years who had no problem when I referred to them as "followers of Yeshua". Not knowing each other, all agreed that the "New Covenant" *completely* replaced the "Old Covenant", and that the NC could be summed up as the Golden Rule., so, nope, no picking and choosing, no "eye for an eye", and no "suffer not a poisoner (of wells) to live".

    228:

    Hmmm... these were older, the next two? three? books following Dagmar.

    Still, Tor's stated position is no DRM.... If I don't get satisfaction from B&N, I'll talk to the folks from Tor at Worldcon (unless they show at Balticon).

    And if you'll be at Worldcon, I'd be pleased to buy you a drink, in appreciation for good stories.

    229:

    You prefer boar? But do you deliver menhirs?

    230:

    And on a silly blog I follow, fark, it's been noted that since Alien is a 20th Century Fox property, that this makes the Alien Queen a Disney princess... and Frank N. Furter an Evil Queen....

    231:

    Or, since the angel he allegedly wrestled was named Moroni, perhaps he should have wrestled another angel, but since he didn't, this leaves it open to me, and many other snarkers, to refer to it as the Book of Morons.

    232:

    An old fan friend of mine, Lew Wolkoff, told me his family, though keeping kosher, that his mother declared bacon (not ham or pork) kosher....

    233:

    all agreed that the "New Covenant" *completely* replaced the "Old Covenant"

    Now I'm thinking about the basilisk version of the bible, the "New Revised Updated Bible, With AI Assistant" that you literally can't put down.

    234:

    Actually, I think it is worth understanding what they believe, at least the face they're willing to present to outsiders. I'd put it in the column of tolerance. For example, was the violence inflicted on the Yezidis by ISIL warranted? If you believe ISIL, Yezidis are satanists. If you know anything about Yezidis (and Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is a good, non-religious book on many of the Middle East's more obscure groups), then the violence was and is horrific, and the Yezidis are yet another small group who want to keep to themselves, and who are slandered by outsiders for profit.

    Now you might claim that of course, everyone deserves basic human rights, but the hypothetical is if it turned out to be a persecuted minority group was into, say, sacrificing unwilling humans to Cthulhu (or to an Aztec god, or to higher profit margins even). Would persecuting them be warranted then? Where do you draw the line, especially when you have inadequate knowledge?

    It's also worth considering that people in Religious Studies programs in universities regularly argue about what it is they study. Christianity is a religion, but if a Church is run as a for-profit and for-sex scam (naming no names) is it still a religion? What if the parishioners don't know what the preacher is up to?

    Going further afield, there are arguments about whether Yoga (originally a mystical tantric sex practice) is a religion? How about Tai chi? Jedism? 'Spiritual' martial arts in general? Long distance running (and does the latter have to be done by a priest of an indigenous group to qualify as religious practice, or does ultramarathoning count?), etc. The range of things claimed as indigenous or other religious practice is fairly mind-boggling. The question "what is a religion" is far from settled, and trying to figure out what falls under that category is a perennial debate.

    Many people think Christianity is a religion, therefore all religions are like Christianity, and since they don't like the version of Christianity they were exposed to, they don't like all religions. This leads to some problematic discussions.

    235:

    he range of things claimed as indigenous or other religious practice is fairly mind-boggling

    Australia currently has a(nother) federal government inquiry into religious freedom going on, because the same sex marriage stuff has made the bigots uncomfortable.

    My suggestion that the religious members be chosen from minority religions was ignored (I made it as a formal submission and only got the "your comment was received" email). Rather than having Christians asking whether the dominant religion (the one whose prayers open parliament etc), we should hear from religious groups who are currently persecuted. Rastafarians, for example, face criminal prosecution for carrying out some of their religious rituals. The status of Scientology as a religion has even been challenged! Talk about constraints on religious freedom.

    At the less generally-accepted-as-criminal end, pagans who like the naked dancing bits don't qualify for exemptions from the indecent exposure laws on that basis, nor does burning offerings skate past restrictions on air pollution (although incense inside religious buildings is generally ignored). Chinese New Year fireworks[1] need the same permits as secular offerings do (although, per above discussion of capitalism-as-religion, burning money may also count as a religious act).

    [1] note that one of the very few times you're allowed to burn heavy metals in a major city is for a fireworks display. That doesn't make them less toxic, just less illegal.

    236:

    Thinking about the intersection of emotional face recognition and AI real time optimization of what your seeing, which gives rise to things like the basilisk or siren app. It could also be used for things like psychological screening, testing for responses to (in)appropriate images and text. Just think, a real-time test that politicians (and other government officials) would have to pass before being sworn into office. (yeah, I know, dream on...)

    237:

    Alien Queen a Disney princess
    Been imagining little-girl (or boy, perhaps) Halloween costumes since first seeing that (host's twitter).
    (e.g. an adaptation of something like this, also searches of google images are fun.) (If link doesn't work for people, please say so; have neve tried to share such a link.)

    238:

    yes... unless you make a knot! (technically not a simple fold, but it IS a fold, and is a bit difficult in practice)

    lots of geometric solutions for building pentagons exist, luckily (simplest being the root5+1 / 4...method [was that euclid?]. regardless, that method makes it easy to build the first pentagonal chord in a circle of radius 1 - and then the rest are simply arc intersects).

    239:
    It's also worth considering that people in Religious Studies programs in universities regularly argue about what it is they study. Christianity is a religion, but if a Church is run as a for-profit and for-sex scam (naming no names) is it still a religion? What if the parishioners don't know what the preacher is up to?
    Does that mean the Catholic Church was a fake religion under the Borgias? When did it become unfake again? Alternatively the Sxxxxxxxxxxxs actually have a schism with the breakaway group being true believers in X*nu and all that who think the official wing of the Sxxxxxxxxxxxs is corrupt. Dooes that mean the breakaways are a real religion? Since they have the same beliefs as the official Sxxxxxxxxxxxs doesn't that mean the official Sxxxxxxxxxxxs are also a real religion with (allegedly) corrupt leaders?
    240:

    Does that mean the Catholic Church was a fake religion under the Borgias

    There's a persuasive case that it's an organised criminal entity under Australian law right now. But even without a Catholic Prime Minister they appear to be under no threat of being treated the way similar groups are.

    "What is a religion" is one of those challenging questions even when you're only talking about major organisation - God Emperors and the like. From the somewhat humorous "is England a theocracy" (the head of state runs her own personal religion) to Vatican City (let us not discuss a "nation" composed almost entirely of nominally celibate old men), to the cross-over between cult-leaders like the Il family to the historical Aztec and Japanese examples.

    When I did one paper at univeristy in philosphy of religion we used a very broad and sketchy definition, largely I think to avoid offending all the fresh out of school christian kids (who still managed to make themselves obvious). We also uses non-Christian comparison points for many things, again to make it less confronting for the culturally-Christian kids.

    241:

    Sorry to break in again.

    Whitroth, the books are not with Tor. They =were= with Orbit, but now they're with me. I issued my own ebooks on October 15. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

    Oh, and my story had porn, too. It contains multitudes.

    242:
    There's a persuasive case that it's an organised criminal entity under Australian law right now. But even without a Catholic Prime Minister they appear to be under no threat of being treated the way similar groups are.

    Is that for the money laundering or for being the world's largest pedophile ring?

    243:

    Is that for the money laundering or for being the world's largest pedophile ring?

    Yes :)

    244:

    The interesting context is that much of Australia's own institutional anti-Catholic discrimination was dealt with by the end of the 19th century (or not until the end of the 19th century, as you might cast it).

    I've just finished reading this book by the current senior crown prosecutor for NSW about how his predecessor managed to hang 7 out of 12 perpetrators of one of the better known (because it was actually prosecuted) mass murders of Indigenous people, Myall Creek, in 1838. It's worth a read, giving quite a lot of context around the events and the trial.

    The outcome didn't stop the practice so much as drive it underground, and in various times and places it was more or less state-sanctioned anyway (especially in Queensland and SA including what's now the NT). There is a growing movement to recognise white settlement as a 120 year long war of invasion, and these incidents should rightly be regarded as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

    On a brighter note, we just elected a Green to Queensland Parliament. Sadly without a balance of power, but it's the sort of thing that makes one hopeful. The present and immediate past criminal treatment of refugees is technically a federal issue. The proposed Carmichael coal mine is very much a state issue, though.

    245:

    I was thinking of 8 year olds, give or take a few years.

    246:

    Oh help - 245 comments in the day-&-a-half I'm off on set for "Good Omens" - looks like being a hoot, eventually.

    247:

    Yeah
    DON'T go near Arsebook.
    Twitter?
    You can get piccies on Twotter, can't you?
    Video?

    Maybe Tw dying on my pohne wasn't a bad thing to happen ( I have no idea, how/why actually ) & there doesn't seem to be any way at all of communicating with them to sort it out ...

    248:

    this is newspapers that have no problem sexualizing pre-pubertal kids in public.
    I thought that was illegal & got you jail, or at least a VERY LARGE fine ....

    249:

    "asceticism"
    EXCEPT
    We are a social species ....

    250:

    So going for kids has aspects of the imposition of will, violating social norms and taboos and the ability to get away with it marks you as a social superior.
    T Ronald Dump ... & didn't someone mention Tiberius, earlier?
    Yes

    251:

    You found somewhere that still does Haslet?
    Dribble

    252:

    UNFORTUNATELY
    Ther are far too many peole, sociologists & religious believers, usually who deny this.
    I was forced to publicly humiliate a fellow-student, once, when doing a teacher-training course, who mocked my belief in "OR", by picking a simple example.
    He didn't like it - tough.
    [ Because that level of brain-rot shouldn't be allowed out in public & certainly not in charge of children

    253:

    Yeah
    Filming on "Good Omens" is right now - release in 2019, I'm told.
    Incidentally, I wonder if the US christifundies will blow a gasket, same as they did over "Golden Compass"?

    254:

    well, them and Revelations but...
    "John, who was a nice enough chap, but rather fond of odd mushrooms" - mis-quote from Good Omens ...

    255:

    Hi, long time reader, first time poster! o/

    Sorry if what I'm about to say has already been posted here, but I just don't have time right now to read all the 254 previous comments...

    I've been worried about this kind of thing for several months now,
    to the point that I started to train myself to view ALL videos with suspicion,
    *especially* those featuring public figures and contentious issues.

    Funnily enough, your post reassured me a little bit, as I didn't think about the fact that simulating speech might be quite a bit harder than faking video.
    But it also seems to me that while synthesizing voice from scratch might be quite hard, it might be easier to do a patchwork of words/phrases/intonations taken from the appearances of public figures (or recorded in secret), stitched together by neural networked AI's to sound natural!
    And state actors (with their large databases and resources) might already have these capabilities and might even possibly be already using them !

    P.S.: I'm a bit disappointed that Black Mirror, with their track record, did not predict this several years in advance...

    P.P.S.: Haven't the Chinese gotten into Bitcoin mining years after GPU's became obsolete for it?

    256:

    Given that the British government's SOP has been faking news and even faking evidence in court (usually by denial) for centuries, and that is continuing unabated, that smacks of hypocrisy.

    #248. "this is newspapers that have no problem sexualizing pre-pubertal kids in public.
    I thought that was illegal & got you jail, or at least a VERY LARGE fine ...."

    Not if you are a large USA-controlled company.

    257:

    You might think that; you'd be somewhat wrong.

    Non-sexualized photos of kids are entirely legal. Photos of children being raped: definitely illegal. But there's a murky grey area around photos of scantily-clad 12 year olds who nevertheless have coverings over their nipples and genitalia, presented with captions like "ooh, isn't so-and-so [daughter of famous star] going to be as bangable as her mum when she's older!"

    That sort of thing may be creepy, but it's not actually illegal and we should probably think very hard before making another category of thoughtcrime an imprisonable offense ... but when newspapers engage in it to boost circulation? We have a serious cultural problem.

    258:

    I have utterly no words to express how strongly I agree with both the underlying facts and your stated opinions here! In fact, I was composing my own reply to Greg, but read the other comments before making it!

    259:

    Yes. The criterion is whether a reasonable man would consider the material indecent, but the law as enforced is rather different. Calvin Klein wasn't even forced to withdraw its advertisement, but quite a few people have been hounded over non-sexual nude photographs of their children. I can think of several ways to improve the lunacy, but we aren't likely to see them.

    260:

    ...presented with captions like "ooh, isn't so-and-so [daughter of famous star] going to be...

    Agreed that it's deeply unsettling - but don't forget the creepiness of parents who encourage it.

    The newspapers are generally careful not to present pictures of children unless it's an agreed photo-opportunity (or at least a public event at which said children appear alongside their parents) e.g. Gordon Brown - the first and only pictures of his children were when he walked out of 10 Downing Street with them.

    261:

    I know I'm changing the topic, but

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-un-special-rapporteur

    According to the Guardian, 41 million people are in poverty in the US. I'm assuming that they're using the official US poverty rate, not the supplemental poverty rate. The Guardian has not done the research, but 41 means a return to the historic norm after the recession, slightly less than 13 percent of the population.

    https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/faq/what-current-poverty-rate-united-states

    If you look at the first chart in the link, you notice that in good times, the US poverty rate fluctuates between 11 and 13 percent of the population. Note that it approached 11 percent twice in modern history: in 1973 and 2000. It's also interesting that in the recession, the official poverty rate maintained its historic ceiling of 15 percent.

    262:

    To quote the classic Dan and Dan "Daily Mail" song (check it out on Youtube if you've not seen it): "Bring back capital punishment for paedophiles. Photo feature on schoolgirl skirt styles." Sam Fox says the photographer who made her famous said she was a success because she had a child's face on a woman's body. It's not a new thing either - Juliet was 14 in the play, and her age wasn't particularly controversial at the time it was written.

    Slightly more controversially, a large part of kink is about power imbalances and older-man/younger-girl is a *very* standard trope there, even if the "younger-girl" part may actually be roleplay and not actual age. The difference there of course is consent - even if you're roleplaying as below the age of consent, both sides know you're actually older, and you've both agreed to the terms of this. But that's still a way of putting safeguards around something which is pretty deeply built in.

    263:

    Since all religions are false what does it matter if some of them are also fake? And being fake doesn't logically imply that it's false - supposedly fake religions could be divinely inspired by deities with a sense of humour :) Maybe Pastafarianism is the one true religion...

    264:

    Re: Child's face/woman's body

    A couple of years ago there was enough public outcry directed at modeling agencies, designers and cosmetic/perfume corps using under-age models that the industry formally changed its policies. Ditto anorexic models. Maybe it's time to 'remind' the genpop and producers that such behavior is unacceptable regardless of medium, i.e., CGI and/or AI-produced shows.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/07/27/sofia-mechetner-dior-sheer-dress-14-year-old_n_7877860.html

    In this scenario, we've a bunch of narcissists directly feeding egos/wallets of other narcissists even as both groups desperately need to show the more numerous don't-haves/plebes how outre, avant-garde, hip, rich and entitled they - the world's elites - are. Narcissists need plenty of reminders on how to behave (they have very short attention spans when forced to look at anything other themselves or their shinies) but will toe the line (for a while) if denied their audience which is why large public outcries work.

    265:

    Re: Religion - definition

    IMO, 'religion' was and remains a catch-all term and seems to continue to accrete more and more roles onto itself. It includes spiritualism (states of being/feeling/knowing), rules of conduct and behavioral expectations (self, inter-personal, social/caste, inter-clan, outsiders, individual-vis-a-vis-nation/state, etc.) history, rituals and rites of passage based on consensus values, safety info (dietary laws, copulation, etc.), ownership, and lots more.

    To me, religion is the first step toward becoming mythology - interesting but less and less factual with each retelling. Was still a kid when first got interested in mythology. After reading some Greek/Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology didn't take long to conclude that my then-religion (RC) was also a mythology. The narrative is an interesting way of talking about why some things are the way they are or why things happen, but it's not actually explanatory.

    Usually self-describe as atheist, sub-type humanist.

    266:

    I need to get a new, preferably hard-back copy of that ... My previous copy went wealkies a long time ago.
    Recommended

    267:

    I THOUGHT that public (as in "Newspaper") photos of specific children required parent's permission?
    There was certaibly a couple of warnings about it concerning minor-royals kids a year or so back, with heavy hints of prosecution, if tabloids crossed the line ....
    However, if you are correct, it ain't funny, or clever.
    Euw.

    268:

    The low hanging fruit is procedural porn tailored to appeal to the micro-targeted audience's kinks

    A retrospectively obvious application for this is fanfic (and not necessarily slashfic). Leaving aside the inevitable Star Trek porn, people who do amateur fan productions now could bring in canon characters (legal considerations notwithstanding).

    269:

    The "reasonable person" test in law works when most people are similar and share a generally common set of experiences and values that are relevant to the case. There's no "reasonable person who has also been raped" test or "reasonable person who grew up as an Indigenous person in Queensland during the 1950s" test, and that leads to skewed outcomes.

    270:

    It also fails when most people have strong views about things other people do which are of no concern other than to the specific people doing them, like having homosexual inclincations or variant melanin levels. The failure is especially insidious when the strong views are not expressed in public for reasons of social propriety, but still exist unspoken to inform decisions. For instance the amount of naked xenophobia that has been brought out of the woodwork in the UK by the current EU-related shenanigans makes me wonder whether any reasonable-person decision on a case with a racial element since we "stopped being racist" is anything like as valid as it is held to be.

    271:

    ...Or jury decisions either for that matter. Who was it who said that the idea of being tried by a jury of your peers was one of the most frightening prospects imaginable?

    272:

    This post/thread is better/more speculative, but since it's out there (wired.com):
    Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp on Reality
    Has some links, including a few papers.
    Farid imagines a near future in which a convincing fake video of President Trump ordering the total nuclear annihilation of North Korea goes viral and incites panic, like a recast War of the Worlds for the AI era. “I try not to make hysterical predictions, but I don’t think this is far-fetched,” he says. “This is in the realm of what’s possible today.”

    Reality will be what's uncanny, not too far into our future. (src)

    273:

    "schoolgirl skirt styles"

    When I was living in Bedford the local paper reported that the town's girl's school was changing the type of its uniform skirts because of the number of girls who were rolling the material of the skirt round and round the waistband until it was more like a belt than a skirt. (How it would be possible to prevent that without going the whole hog and replacing skirts with trousers the article did not explain.) Where I am now the route from my house to the local shop intersects routes to and from local schools, and if I pop out for some milk at the wrong time of day the street is full of girls who look very underage but are nevertheless not far short of naked from the waist down because they're doing the same thing.

    The prison in Bedford is in the middle of the town, and the windows of the top floor of cells are high enough to look out over the wall; but prisoners in those cells still do not get a view of the town, because there are panels of frosted perspex fixed to the wall, spaced about a foot outside the windows, to block the view. Originally these panels were not there, but the abovementioned girl's school is right across the road from the prison, and before the panels were emplaced girls used to hang out of their own upper windows topless and jubble their jugs at the prisoners. (So I was told by a prison guard who could remember it happening.)

    (Being a male teacher of a class of teenage girls, especially in today's legal climate, must be the kind of nightmare job you really wish it was possible to do without having to actually be there.)

    Indeed it is true that Juliet was 14 in the play and no-one thought that was out of order. I also remember being taught that the biblical Mary was probably about 12-14. (And that Jesus nicking off to the temple at age 12 and holding an extended discussion with the priests would have been regarded as a young man having an adult conversation, not as a misbehaving kid as we (being under 12 ourselves at the time) instinctively thought.)

    Single point from modern times... DJ on radio: "You were having full-on sex at fourteen?!" - Woman on phone-in: "Wasn't everyone?" (And indeed, while I have known very few people well enough to have any idea of what they used to get up to, of those that I do it does rather seem that if we exclude those who simply weren't in a position to find anyone to shag, the woman would be closer to the mark than the DJ.)

    In the UK at least, the "legal age of consent" is a 19th century innovation (AFAIK); it was 10 to begin with and was then gradually ratcheted up with a new Act every couple of decades or so. The purpose was mainly to try and clobber that part of the epidemic of child labour (slavery would be a more accurate description) brought about by urbanisation which manifested as child prostitution.

    I find it quite odd how a purely artificial restriction introduced less than 200 years ago has taken such a hold of the popular imagination that complete denial of what one would have thought was a very obvious fact - that the young of Homo sapiens begins to take an interest in bumping uglies years before reaching the age of 16 - is so nearly universal. Especially since it must logically involve an even more complete denial of one's own memories and experience. Yet it is so pervasive and incites such powerful reactions that I feel somewhat uncomfortable about pointing out that it is an artificial contradiction of reality, because so many people would rather shoot the messenger than confront their own irrationality.

    Particularly these days when proponents of internet censorship seem to think that (a) a kid's head will immediately explode if they see so much as 2mm of areola, and (b) that that "fact" is so obviously beyond argument that it is an unanswerable winner of any discussion, it is evident that a huge number of people (despite their own experiences) think both that it is "natural" for a kid to remain as ignorant of such matters as the day it was born right up until its 16th birthday, and that it is not only realistic but actually desirable to try and ensure that that is what happens.

    Yet not only is it patently daft to try and achieve this, the rare cases in which it does happen, as well as demonstrating how difficult it is, also make it quite plain that it is not desirable unless one wants the kid concerned to embark upon adulthood thoroughly confused, ignorant, and screwed-up. For a worked example see Gavin Maxwell's autobiography of his childhood, "The House of Elrig". In his case it arose out of him spending an incredibly isolated childhood, with essentially no contact with anyone apart from his mother and siblings until he was 10, then a succession of all-male boarding schools with retreats to the isolation of Elrig between terms. He writes, both in that and in other books, of numerous experiences of his youth where he just had no clue what the heck was going on at the time, and couldn't make sense of it until the experience of many years of adult life had enabled him to figure it out.

    (Worth reading all his other (semi-)autobiographical books too; he was a fascinating chap and one of the few authors I've read who I really wish I could have known in person.)

    So while I certainly regard the kind of "reporting" in question as a solid brick in the wall of evidence for the Daily Mail being a hideous grotty little scum-rag, at the same time I find it - and the reactions to it - a powerful demonstration of just how ready humans are to believe someone else's words in contradiction both to blatantly obvious reality and to their own experience.

    It isn't just modern reporting that suffers from this psycho-legal confusion, either. Historians trying to figure out exactly what the deal was with Thomas Seymour and the future Elizabeth I tend to come over as not realising how mentally hobbled they are by their modern reaction to "but she was only 14!"; it's quite hopeless to try and understand the true significance of any historical event without some ability to think yourself into the mindset of the people experiencing or hearing about it at the time, and knocking 500 years off your reaction to the idea of playing slap-and-tickle with a 14-year-old seems to be one of the hardest bits of ancient-mindset-emulation to succeed at.

    274:

    "I started to train myself to view ALL videos with suspicion"

    I don't watch videos - apart from anything else, in the case of a "reportage" video I usually can't figure out anything of what is supposed to be going on unless there's some decently detailed textual description provided that I can relate it to - but I have long been in the habit of viewing ALL news reports with suspicion. Starting from when I was a kid, my grandparents drove their car into some unexpectedly deep floodwater and it floated away, and the report of the incident in the local paper was so insultingly at variance with what had actually happened that they had to stop me writing an angry letter to the paper for making them look like divots.

    The problem isn't so much a new channel becoming competent at publishing bullshit, but the general tendency of people not only to fail to question what they're being told or exactly why they're being told it, but also to not listen to any subsequent contrary information.

    Which comes back to something I'm sure has been debated on here before - the desirability of ensuring that the education system should have made it very clear to pretty well everyone by the time they leave school that 99% of anything you are told by any kind of public channel is someone trying to bullshit you into believing something untrue in order to gain an advantage over you. (And it can approach that percentage in what people tell you face to face.) Demonic possession is a standard trope of horror fiction, but nobody seems to realise that it isn't fiction, it's real, and people neither regard it as horrific nor make the slightest attempt to identify causes and avoid/negate them; were this not the case neither the endemic mendacity of the news media nor the advertising industry would be able to exist.

    275:

    As part of an exercise for new graduates when dealing with the media I ask if they have ever personally known the details of a story that they later read/watched about in the mainstream media (other than sports). Then I ask them, was it reported accurately and fairly, inaccurately (aka badly), or in complete contradiction of the facts.
    I've yet to have a group that said it was fairly and accurately reported, and I think it's above 90% 'in complete contradiction of the facts'. It's and eye opener when a fair number of the current bunch think being famous is a thing that you would actually want.

    It's also helpful when someone comes in and wants to talk about something they read in the news that is 'outrageous', and I remind them that if the topics they know about in detail are actively misrepresented, what makes you think any of the other topics are being fairly reported.


    276:

    Oooh-errr, missus!

    I remember the story of a young lady living very close to the Zonenegrenze in the old E Germany, whose room could easily be seen from the BRD side ...
    She used to slowly & deliberately undress in front of the window, every night.
    Always followed by a sign saying (when translated) bra-size, waist size & "send stockings etc" ...
    She got a lot of post-parcels!

    277:

    This came up in discussions in our office last week. Apparently all the schools out Medway way have dropped skirts as a uniform option for exactly that reason - now everyone wears trousers. The teachers were sick of telling girls to roll their skirts back down. No idea where the trend came from, but it seems rife throughout England. According to one female colleague it wasn't deliberately sexual, it was just the fashion. And it wound up the teachers.

    278:

    Consider the ethical question of how many of a jury in a rape case should be people who had been raped versus people who had been falsely accused of rape, and who should have the right to decide that. If you have a simple answer, you either haven't thought it through or are severely prejudiced.

    279:

    In the early 1970s, the Army established observation posts on the roofs of some of the apartment blocks in Belfast; the better to restrict the free movement of weapons, equipment, and those "of interest".

    One response from the varied terrorist groups was to ask young ladies in line of sight to leave their curtains open while changing; the better to distract the observers...

    280:

    "Doesn't bore taste rather ... gamey?"

    You stepped into it :)

    Bore actually is quite bland.

    281:

    René Lévesque, Québec's premier in the mid-70s to mid-80s, was quoted at least once as saying "All journalists are liars." Since he had been a journalist in WWII, he knew how many compromises had to be made to make the news sound like a purposeful narrative, rather than a near-random jumble of things happening all at once, with little connecting rhyme or reason.

    282:

    I think the restriction on having sex with young teenagers has little to do with the age of sexual maturity. It has to do with a more abstract concept, that being the age of consent.

    We want (or should want, I think) young people of both sexes to stay in school and gain an understanding of the world that gives them the knowledge they need to be capable of a rational and truly informed consent. We don't want them to have kids and leave school due to a rush of hormones because we need (or think we need) to raise citizens.

    We've become rather good at having babies and raising them to adulthood, not so good yet at raising rational adults.

    When we were hunter gatherer's or farmers it made sense to get the women pregnant while they were young and let the grannies (who also weren't that old) to do much of the raising while training the women who survived to be grannies how to successfully raise the babies to adulthood.

    But times change. Times have changed.

    Of course it's a difficult pull, and we're really not doing that well, but I suppose it makes sense in our present circumstances to at least try this.

    283:

    I think the restriction on having sex with young teenagers has little to do with the age of sexual maturity. It has to do with a more abstract concept, that being the age of consent.

    Explain, then, why the introduction and gradual rise in the age of consent precedes general schooling and then the rise in school graduation ages by roughly a century.

    284:

    What does the school leaving age have to do with either the age of sexual maturity or the age of consent? I am baffled. Also, the age of sexual maturity DROPPED as the age of consent was RAISED. For example, see:

    http://www.mum.org/menarage.htm

    The purpose of the age of consent laws was and is to discourage the abuse of vulnerable children by manipulative adults, and a teenager's judgement develops more slowly than sexual ability in the developed world of today.

    285:

    That I happen to agree with. A lot of "legal age" legislation (drinking, driving, etc.) seems to flow from (purported?) studies of human brain development. Considering that I know two boys who died in drinking related car accidents before they hit 18, I can see the point.

    In any case, this doesn't have a lot to do with age of sexual maturity, which varies more with nutritional status traditionally and concentration of modern environmental contaminants now. Apparently, sexual maturity and mental maturity aren't as linked as one might expect.

    ...

    As a side note on the topic of the sexualizing of kids in media, I'd like to point out that we're mostly adult males, so we're of an age where young teens are squicky as sex objects. Some of this is certainly conditioned cultural norms--for instance, young girls still get married off in places like Pakistan--but I'm not going there.

    Rather, I want to point out something else about sexualized children and teens: advertising. This isn't advertising aimed at us older guys (we've got different buttons to press), it's advertising aimed at children and teens, because advertisers believe (know?) that if they can get teens as loyal customers, they're likely to keep them for life. The companies couldn't care less if we're squicked out by these ads, because we're irrelevant to them. Our loyalties are set, and our filters are too good for them to crack with such tactics.* That's not the case for more impressionable youngsters trying desperately to figure out who they are and where they fit in.

    *We can be better manipulated by shiny, clever, successful, secure, and a few other things.

    286:

    Re: Age of maturity

    There's increased data that male prefrontal/social conscious development lags female development. Also some evidence that social/interpersonal development is tied to communication skills including literacy/ability to read. As to why these are relevant:

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Damage-to-brain-limits-empathy-Prefrontal-2608556.php

    'The ventromedial prefrontal cortex processes feelings of empathy, shame, compassion and guilt. Damage to this part of the brain, which occupies a small region in the forehead, causes a diminished capacity for social emotions but leaves logical reasoning intact.Mar 22, 2007'

    Can also be stated: So although your teen is acing his/her high school physics/math (logical reasoning), this means zip-all with respect to his/her ability to navigate physiological/hormonal/interpersonal issues like sex, drinking, drugs, etc. These are different systems that mature at different rates, i.e., have different rates of learning. It's like saying: because I can see a penny at 300 feet, my sense of smell must also be terrific! Yeah, they're both senses, but they're different senses.

    BTW, the 14-year old female non-virgin is atypically young based on this multi-country study:

    http://chartsbin.com/view/xxj

    FYI: Average age at first sex among 44 countries: 18.4 years old.

    287:

    Explain, then, why the introduction and gradual rise in the age of consent precedes general schooling and then the rise in school graduation ages by roughly a century.

    I wasn't meaning to suggest a direct causal relationship. The AOC is a social construct of course, only indirectly related to age of sexual maturity. And of course the need for educated adults is only one of the reasons behind the change.

    Also I live in Canada where things happened more recently than they did in Europe, so perhaps my view of this is skewed.

    288:

    What does the school leaving age have to do with either the age of sexual maturity or the age of consent? I am baffled.

    So am I, but that's a logical interpretation of the drive-by comment I was responding to. (Commenter was asserting that the age of consent exists, and has risen, because we want to educate our kids for longer. My point is, that's nonsense on stilts.

    289:

    "Age of consent" issues are deeply tricky. As is the case in voting, it would be great if we could objectively determine that someone is "ready" -- but in a democracy, the "adult" majority would never vote for a method that would exclude many of them from the group that's legally considered to be capable of giving consent while letting a great many of their children vote. (I'm pretty sure Heinlein pointed that out at some point.)

    The age problem is compounded by an inconvenient fact: young children are deeply sensual beings, and at some point, that sensuality begins shading over towards sexuality. That makes most adults deeply uncomfortable, witness how eager most parents are to leave sexuality education to the school system so they don't have to deal with it. Most days, when my misanthropy kicks in, I actually think that's a good thing.

    Age issues are deeply culture-bound, and constantly vary as cultural trends change, so it's hard to establish and defend any single monolithic rule. In my great grandmother's generation, nobody considered it unusual to be married at 14 and cranking out a family a couple years later. (That's what my great-grandparents did; it seems to have been a common thing for Russian peasant families of that era.) A few centuries before that, Quebec's population got a boost from French exports of the Filles du Roi, young women aged 12 and up, for the purpose of marriage and building the colony's population rapidly. (Until recently, the legal age of consent in Quebec was 14, with a recent caveat that one's partner had to be less than 5 years older; now it's 16 years.) Perfectly normal for the culture of that time, whatever we may think of this practice today. More recently, a large proportion of my cohort became sexually active by the time they were 13 or 14; many have told me they subsequently regretted that choice, but didn't consider themselves seriously harmed by it.

    Power differentials are always an issue, since consent is not possible when coercion is sanctioned or ubiquitous. But a significant age differential is not, per se, a reason to assume coercion and rule out consent. Emmanuel Macron, France's president, was 20-some years younger than his future wife (he was still in high school) when they fell in love; they married later and it seems to have been a happy and laudable marriage.

    As others have noted, sexual maturity tends to arrive well before emotional and intellectual maturity. (Speaking as a parent of no-longer teenagers? ***Hell*** yeah.) That further complicates the issue of consent. It would be lovely if we could devise an objective and universally accepted "you're ready" test and persuade teens to take it and adults to honor the reuslts -- implausible, but this is, after all, a forum for SF/F fans.

    All this in support of the notion that this is a really, really complex issue and we should distrust facile summaries.

    290:

    If you want to get an idea of how hard it is to do coming-of-age well, I'll give you a thumb-nail of the Chumash rite of passage (told me by an actual tribal shaman): they gave their kids jimson weed.

    Here's the background: jimsonweed is a holy plant to them, and they don't goof around with it, because they know full well that it can kill them. The purpose of the ritual is to see if the kid is ready to pull their weight and become a productive member of society. They were (are) given about six months training and preparation, then they are given the drug to prepare and take in the correct fashion. If all goes well, they "talk to god" get something from the spiritual world perhaps, and anyway survive to go on and become adult members of the tribe. If they screw up, they die.

    Now, here's how it works: the local jimsonweed take many hours to take full effect. If you follow the ritual properly, you take just enough of the drug, wait that very long time until it takes full effect (with hallucinations, smooth muscle relaxation, and so forth), and come out the other side. If you're not paying attention or you are impatient, you take the drug, feel nothing for awhile, figure it didn't work, take some more, overdose hours later when it finally kicks in, and it kills you. The point of the ritual was (to paraphrase the shaman) that the kids that were ready to be adults, they survived. The ones that wanted to be kids a little longer, not so much.

    In modern southern California, instead of giving kids jimson weed, we give them cars. While I suspect fewer kids die in car wrecks (I knew only three), the problem is that, unlike jimsonweed, teens failing the car ritual have a higher chance of killing others as well as themselves. I'm not sure which one is the better choice.

    291:

    ...how many of a jury in a rape case should be people who had been raped versus people who had been falsely accused of rape, and who should have the right to decide that[?]

    That isn't a hypothetical: jury selection is a negotiated process. There isn't a single decider, the defence and prosecution each get to reject jurors who might prejudice their case. This is a procedural rather than an ethical question. It shows up one of the strengths of systems which allow trial by jury.

    But my comment wasn't about juries. The reasonable person is a legal fiction that relates mostly to such an entity's hypothetical behavior and whether the defendant's actual behavior is consistent. What would a reasonable person do in these circumstances? My complaint is that context is everything and behaviors one person, especially someone who has experienced certain advantages in life (advantages that remain largely invisible to them), might find incomprehensible are often entirely explicable and even reasonable with a little more knowledge or experience. The effort of projecting oneself into such a hypothetical seems like one might be going to great lengths to understand the situation. However there are minimum educational requirements to be able to do this even passingly adequately, and the study of law doesn't (usually) provide these on its own.

    This mechanism can perpetuate entrenched inter-generational disadvantage, even while its users regard it as the sophisticated height of progressive ethics. I have a specific summary by a recent Chief Justice of Queensland in mind, but it would take too many words to explain in detail here.

    292:

    I don't think eating bore is very filling.

    293:

    In modern southern California, instead of giving kids jimson weed, we give them cars. While I suspect fewer kids die in car wrecks (I knew only three), the problem is that, unlike jimsonweed, teens failing the car ritual have a higher chance of killing others as well as themselves. I'm not sure which one is the better choice.

    Of course we're wrapping the kids on cotton-wool these days since cars are a lot safer than they used to be what with crumple zones and airbags and seatbelts etc. A few years back the folks across the street from my friends place outside Atlanta gave their daughter a bright shiny new pickup truck for her sixteenth birthday. A week later it was parked in their driveway with the front smashed in -- it looked like she had hit a telephone pole at speed. She came out of the accident without a scratch as did her boyfriend who was riding with her. I assumed they got rid of the booze before the cops turned up.

    294:

    I've never had straight bore. Around these parts you're much more likely to get the infusion, bore water, rather than pure bore.

    295:

    Slight return to subject...

    This stuff is starting to move amazingly quickly now. We've had chess computers for 30 odd years now, and they came out of a lot of work that involved help from chess masters. The best chess computers have been better than humans for decades now. They have strategies and brute force look ahead, tuned over decades of competition between different teams.

    Recently AlphaGo Zero was given the rules and 4 hours to think about them before being put up against last year's top ranked chess program. Starting completely from scratch, it went up against the end result of hundreds of years of human research and decades of computer research, armed with 4 hours of fooling with the pieces. In 50 games starting as black it won 3 and drew the remainder. In 50 games starting as white it won 25 and drew 25. It didn't lose a single game.

    296:

    Except the odds were stacked in AlphaZero's favour from the start.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/14/deepmind_alphazero_ai_unfair/

    The 4 hours time is pretty meaningless when you can scale up and down the amount of compute hardware involved.

    297:

    Ah, yes, Datura stramonium Grows quite well in my window-boxes & front edging ...
    Very pretty flowers, but the seed-capsules have suprisingly sharp thorns.
    Slugs & snails "think" it's a tomato (Closely related, of course) & soon find out the difference ...

    298:

    I was selected for a jury, and it was an enlightening experience. My number came up as juror sixteen, but the obvious fruitloop in the group was rejected (the judge knew her, thankfully), and so I got pulled in to a rape trial. I haven’t been raped or accused of such; but I both knew of a false accusation, knew someone whose drink had been spiked, knew someone who put herself at risk helping an abused wife, and had tried to help one of my soldiers who had been sexually assaulted.

    Over several days, the jury appeared to be entirely reasonable - not a hint of victim blaming, not a hint of “can’t trust them, their eyes are too close together”. Sorry if this disrupts the thought experiment, but the “reasonable person” hypothesis looked to be working rather well from my perspective.

    299:

    Sure, except it's one thing when facts are being misinterpreted due to bad journalism, but it a whole new level when the raw video itself (that could seem to come from independent sources) cannot be trusted !

    When you get a public/controversial figure jailed because the judge(s) / jury members *can clearly see in the video* that figure doing illegal acts (including speaking forbidden words), things become serious.

    I'd expect the Russian government to be the first ones to take advantage of these capabilities -

    (even though the American secret services probably already possess them, there are likely at least *some* checks and balances preventing them to use them on their own citizens, even with Trump president.
    Foreign citizens on the other hand... We won't even hear in the West about some high-placed Iranian politician violating some important Qur'an precepts on video...)

    - the Russian government / secret services don't need fancy technology like that for propaganda against their own citizens, and to put opponents in jail -

    - and on the other hand are *already* tampering with Western media, with one of the goals to destroy the trust the Western citizens have of their medias (and governments).
    So it's only logical that they would use this technology for the same goal (even, and perhaps especially, if it's clear from a superficial analysis that the video has been tampered with).

    And civilizations are built on faith, trust.
    Will our democratic regimes manage to build a strong "immune system" against these kinds of attacks,
    or will we succumb to a sort of "auto-immune disease"?
    (In which case, the kind of critical thinking demonstrating that 90% of the journalism is "fake news" (see also Sturgeon's law), might end up counterproductive !)
    I wonder, did the same thing happen to Ancient Greek and Roman republics (and others we don't have enough knowledge about)?

    300:

    That isn't a hypothetical: jury selection is a negotiated process. There isn't a single decider, the defence and prosecution each get to reject jurors who might prejudice their case.

    Maybe it is in your native jurisdiction, but it ain't the case in Scotland: a jury consists of at least 15 jurors selected strictly at random, requires a consensus of at least 8 jurors to return a verdict, and can return three verdicts (proven, not guilty, and not proven). There is no mechanism for negotiating who sits on the jury.

    In England/Wales, there's a hard limit of 3 peremptory challenges to members of the jury (of at least 12 jurors). So, not much wiggle-room for negotiation between defense and prosecution there, either.

    301:

    Sure, but my complaint about the reasonable person hypothesis has nothing to do with whether individual members of the jury are reasonable people. If there's a thought experiment involved, it isn't mine and I am not simply inventing the concept here. It's the hypothetical question that lawyers ask themselves (and ask jurors): What would a reasonable person (not you personally) have done in the same situation as the defendant? I'm not speaking hypothetically, but describing a hypothetical question that is in common use.

    A rape case may not be a good example[1], but it might come up in a case where a person has been charged with assaulting an attempted rapist in the course of defending against rape. In that case I'm sure it often is a very effective test, though perhaps not always. Indeed, I'm not saying that it is intrinsically, always or even usually a bad thing. I am saying that it is sometimes a bad thing, as the perspectives of the people to whom this is put (no matter how reasonable they might personally be) can shape the outcome and this can lead to miscarriages of justice. Applicable to judges as much as to jurors. And that last point isn't hypothetical.

    [1] If only because the ways in which it might come up as a defence strategy are too reprehensible to dwell on here.

    302:

    That's really interesting - though it seems to be unique to Scotland? I will surely read more on the history and premise later. In Queensland it's 8 peremptory challenges per side. Other states vary a little, but for most it is 5 or 6. Still need a jury of 12 and the pool isn't infinite, which means the amount of vetting they can do isn't exactly what it says on the box.

    This is slightly tangential to the point I was trying to make (not that that is important, of course). If anything it is somewhat supportive of it. But I think that considering whether the reasonable person hypothesis is a mechanism that works, is related to but not at all the same thing as the question whether an individual juror is "reasonable". One doesn't need to be overtly prejudiced for one's world view to shape what one might imagine. This also applies to judges.

    I haven't been on a jury, but I know people who have and have heard many nightmarish stories. I'm sure it often really does work out well, but that is not a universal experience.

    303:

    Ah but ... isn't there also the abillity to deny a juror seating for that particular trial, "for reasonable cause"?
    ( I think )

    304:

    Yes. Especially as some people are excluded as jurors, and undisclosed reasons are occasionally brought up by lawyers. And the judge (in England) has considerable discretion - up to and including only women. Whether that might be grounds for appeal, I don't know. But there is NO right of questioning etc. by the lawyers.

    305:

    Talking of what can go wrong ..
    Today's Sunday BBC Radio 4 extended lunchtime Sunday news ... has interviews in Bilborough, NW of Nottingham where 66+% of the population voted "leave"
    Frightening ... the swallowing of every single lie by the right-wing press, in spite of the fact that it's a solid "Labour" area, the complaints that we "are still in" ( No comprehension of any problems AT ALL ) the total refusal to accept that services (esp the NHS) will collapse without EU staff ...
    Yet, surveys are showing that a repeat referendum would probably now vote at least 54 % & probably up to 58% to "Remain".
    Also political commentators saying - "What happens post-neo-liberalism & post-populism? Does the uneducated mass then go even more extreme & follow the Austrian model ( Though they very carefully didn't say any of that directly, of course ) - & start voting for people much closer to fascism? Or its mirror-image, communism?

    306:

    Scotland does indeed have a uniquely weird legal system: while England, Wales and NI run on Common Law, the Scottish system is descended from Roman law but took its own unique direction after the Act of Union in 1706. Loosely (I'm not a lawyer, much less a legal historian!) legislation passed in Westminster is tailored to fit both Scottish and English systems, but the Scottish system is procedurally different, and while most other Roman law systems got steamrollered by the Code Napoleon, Scotland carried on. So Scotland is like a unique hold-over to continental European law prior to Napoleon but with added chunks of UK-specific legislation on top.

    Anyway: the point is, even among English-speaking nations, and those that didn't successfully rebel against the British government in the 18th century, legal systems vary greatly.

    307:

    Communism isn't the opposite of Fascism. Fascism is radicalised authoritarian nationalism. So the mirror would be some sort of social liberalism.
    The mirror of communism is probably libertarianism - opposition to the state and the championing of the rights of the individual.

    308:

    And that's before you get onto the systems on the Isle of Man and Channel Islands :-)

    309:

    I was aiming to say, obviously not too well, that will the next move be a semi-repetition of the period 1922-39 where people drifted/herded themselves twoards th authoritarian murderous right ( Fascism ) or the authoritarian murderous left ( Communism ).
    Having just read the biography of really totally bonkers wierdo, who was never quite the instigator of fascism, nonetheless gave Musso all the pointers that he needed, I'm worried.
    Oh, yes, who? ... Gabriele d-Annunzio

    310:

    There's no "reasonable person who has also been raped" test

    More importantly, there's no "reasonable woman" test except in a very tiny number of situations. So we end up with law based, still, on the "reasonable man" because the great majority of lawmakers and judges are men. Rich, white, men. It's thus reasonable that someone suffering a crime will call the police promptly and expect to be taken seriously, because when a rich white lawmaker does so that is what happens. So when a rape victim waits a few days, or doesn't have her story straight, or whatever, she's "not reasonable" and thus the law is ... not well equipped to deal with that situation.

    Most blatantly, in USA we see the legal system insistent that the "reasonable response" to Police arriving is to become a compliant white man, and a black man running the hell away is evidence of a guilty mind rather than being a perfectly reasonable response to an imminent threat to life and limb.

    The same happens to cyclists, most obviously in the "didn't see them" response to murders... sorry, "accidental deaths" where the standard demanded of cyclists is often impossible to meet but the requirements imposed on motorists to take due care and pay reasonable attention is "tired judge driving home after a couple of sherries". You're operating a dangerous piece of machinery, of a class that kills thousands of people every year, a task that is demonstrably at or beyond the limits of the "reasonable person"s ability, so you should be 100% focussed on doing that. Since we know it's not possible for a reasonable person to actually do that, one questions why the law continues the pretence that driving safely is possibly... scientific illiteracy?

    311:

    Who was it who said that the idea of being tried by a jury of your peers was one of the most frightening prospects imaginable?

    The legal jargon term "peer" has a very specific meaning, one that is not intuitive to a reasonable person :)

    Again, a case where bias and prejudice often act against the interest of justice, and if we had system whose goal was justice that would be unacceptable. But we have a legal system instead. Like the tax system, its goal is in entrench and expand privilege, which it often does through superficial neutrality which on examination proves to be of the "rich and poor alike are forbidden to beg in the streets and sleep under bridges".

    if nothing else, requiring the jury briefing to make explicit that the jury can refuse to convict because they think the law is wrong or the prosecution unreasonable, would greatly improve the process.

    312:

    ...Or jury decisions either for that matter. Who was it who said that the idea of being tried by a jury of your peers was one of the most frightening prospects imaginable?

    Oddly enough the U.S. Constitution (as amended) doesn't mention "a jury of your peers".

    It says "impartial jury" from the State & district where the crime was committed.

    Amendment 6 - Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

    313:

    Indeed it is true that Juliet was 14 in the play and no-one thought that was out of order. I also remember being taught that the biblical Mary was probably about 12-14.

    Left out of that discussion is how old was Romeo? A 15-18 y.o. Romeo hitting on a 14 y.o. Juliet is a whole different kettle of fish from 30+ y.o. Lotharios trolling teeny-boppers at the Mall.

    314:

    Consider the ethical question of how many of a jury in a rape case should be people who had been raped versus people who had been falsely accused of rape

    If you can form an entire jury out of people who've been falsely accused of rape I would be shocked. Possibly you could do it in the UK, but doing that in New Zealand would be impossible. Even in the UK it would be an unreasonable imposition on those people to demand that they continuously perform jury duty.

    As has been pointed out with the response to #metoo, almost all women constantly fear they will be sexually assaulted, so seeing a few men whining that they now have to fear their "innocent" approach to a woman might result in social trouble... the shoe is on the other foot now, buddy.

    Note that there have been so few judicial ramifications for those men that they're extreme statistical outliers. As an MP pointed out the the Guardian recently, the House is still full of known sexual assailants and there is no likelihood that the majority will be forced out. Any talk about #metoo resulting in more convictions is at best optimistic. Based on past experience it's actually a fantasy. But, you never know, it might happen.

    315:

    This came up in discussions in our office last week. Apparently all the schools out Medway way have dropped skirts as a uniform option for exactly that reason - now everyone wears trousers. The teachers were sick of telling girls to roll their skirts back down. No idea where the trend came from, but it seems rife throughout England. According to one female colleague it wasn't deliberately sexual, it was just the fashion. And it wound up the teachers.

    At a guess, it's an imitation of Japanese Anime/Manga styles; particularly Sailor Moon.

    316:
    “What does the school leaving age have to do with either the age of sexual maturity or the age of consent? I am baffled.”

    So am I, but that's a logical interpretation of the drive-by comment I was responding to. (Commenter was asserting that the age of consent exists, and has risen, because we want to educate our kids for longer. My point is, that's nonsense on stilts.

    Might it be the other way around? ... that the rise of public education has influenced the change in the "age of consent"?

    I see "age of consent" laws as an imperfect attempt to protect children from predatory adults. Just because someone is sexually (physically) mature doesn't mean they're intellectually or emotionally mature enough to make an adult judgment about whether or not to have sex.

    317:

    No, there's no need to suggest that. Schoolgirls rolling their skirts up by the waistband has been a thing for decades. I know of it personally from the 1980's and 90's, through speaking to people and my own observations at the time, being a teenage boy myself. I've read of it in stories and books from before that time, and I'm sure if you know a number of women who were teenagers 50 and 60 years ago they'd probably mention doing it, although less likely to have done so at school because they usually stricter about that sort of thing back in those days.

    Rumour had it that at one Edinburgh private school they had to enforce skirt length particularly hard because male teachers were getting distracted.

    318:

    Ah but ... isn't there also the abillity to deny a juror seating for that particular trial, "for reasonable cause"?
    ( I think )

    The way it works here in the U.S. the prosecution and defense are each allowed a certain number of "peremptory" challenges.

    They are also allowed to challenge a potential juror "for cause". The other side can object to such a for cause challenge & the lawyers for both sides then tell the judge why they think their side should prevail. The judge decides whether or not to remove the potential juror.

    If the judge rules against the for cause challenge, the lawyer who made the challenge can still use one of his/her peremptory challenges (if there are any left) to remove the potential juror.

    319:

    The same happens to cyclists, most obviously in the "didn't see them" response to murders... sorry, "accidental deaths" where the standard demanded of cyclists is often impossible to meet
    Bollocks
    I'm still cycling, after starting in 1957 ... but the number of local cyclists in dark clothing, without lights is (IMHO) increasing ... indeed, one ran into me when I was walking on the pavement last week & then threatened me, because I hadn't got out of his way.
    When I go out after dark on the bike I have bright led's front & back & usually wear a yellow-reflective vest ...

    320:

    Dark clothing seems to be a thing now. As well, aggressive driving/riding/walking seems to be more than when I moved to Toronto in the 90s, but that could be a faulty memory.

    321:

    Pish.

    Regarding your claim about "Reasonable woman", I listened to the taped interview of the accused by a Detective Sergeant; and was genuinely moved by his skills in drawing out what had happened. It was a truly awesome demonstration of the interrogator's skills; gentle, persistent, sympathetic, and you heard the point at which the accused suddenly understood the impact of his actions. For you to dismiss the Police as "mans' justice" is an insult. In that case, a young, drunk, working-class woman made her complaint, and was taken seriously from the very start.

    Regarding cyclists? "Judge after a couple of sherries"? Utter bollocks. The case where I know of "didn't see you" resulting in significant injury (a colleague following the same route I did, at 0530 for an early shift; broken arm where the wheel went over it, trashed bike), the police were involved, and the driver was immediately prosecuted for negligent driving; and that was twenty years ago.

    Your assertions are great polemic, but in my experience untruthful. If you're suggesting that the course of law in the Antipodes runs awry, then you should qualify your assertions by location. Unless, of course, you can demonstrate widespread statistics to support you for the UK.

    322:

    I dunno... it seems to me they've always been around. If anything people are more likely to have lights these days, now that you're no longer limited to a thing that eats big expensive batteries like there's no tomorrow and still only gives you a crappy glimmer.

    Dark clothing, too, seems to me to have always been the default, at least for blokes. Hi-viz or no viz at all and nothing in between... I'll never forget the time I nearly hit a walking bloke because I could see literally nothing of him whatsoever apart from two faint vertical lines where my headlights were reflecting off his heels.

    Come to that, there's a chap round here who is very hard to see buzzing up the middle of the road with no lights on his mobility scooter...

    At least though if you do have lights, they probably will be seen because they are conspicuously distinct from the reduced background clutter of a scene of darkness. SMIDSYs in daylight are a much less tractable problem because so much of it is down to the human perceptual system becoming overloaded, and it's hard enough to overcome people's denialism of that kind of thing at the best of times, let alone when they're yelling and screaming at each other about "whose fault" it was (as if it mattered).

    SMIDSY = Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, which is what every car driver says when they hit a motorcyclist, and while it sounds exasperatingly pathetic (especially if you're the motorcyclist, and especially squared if you just saw the car driver look straight at you) it is often entirely true. It may well be the case that an inverted real image of the motorcyclist was focussed on the driver's retinas, but the subsequent signal processing did not include that visual signature in its fast-match set, so it would only have been detected in the general analysis stage - which was aborted when the fast-matching returned a negative result and boosted the "OK" potential to an active level.

    People don't look at a scene and see what there is to be seen, especially in a dynamic situation like driving; they don't even - directly - see what they expect to see. They know the background is there already, and they see a handful instances of specific kinds of changes or anomalies which are easily-recognisable signatures corresponding to the things at the top of their brain's list of things that are important to notice at the moment. (Such signatures are "simple things that are found to work well over a large number of tests", and both in biological and artificial computation they tend to be, when looked at intellectually, bloody weird things that you'd never hit on if you were trying to imagine what good ones might be.) They then think they saw a car coming even though they actually haven't yet (if you could halt them with a debugger at that instant and ask them to describe the car they wouldn't be able to, although they might guess). That gives them the clue to not go but instead to sit there and keep looking, and it is in this period of less urgent processing that they fill in the details of the approaching car and actually see it as such. It is also in this period that, possibly, a motorbike appears in between them and the car.

    Or if they didn't see a car coming, they get the "go" signal, and off they trundle. Crunch.

    This is part of how the biological systems cut down what seems like an incredibly complex analysis to something that can be done in real time even by creatures that barely have brains at all (and don't therefore do the later stages). In dealing with the situations existing over the timescale evolution has been tuning it, it works bloody great. In artificial situations where the relative speeds are much greater, the manoeuvrability much less, and the consequences of mishap much more serious, it isn't so good.

    You can watch this all happening, but most people don't, and indeed can't conceive that it even might be; precisely because their perceptual system does produce results that are nigh-on perfect (by an evolutionary standard), they think the results are actually perfect perfect and you can't tell them otherwise. (I've tried to explain how laws against mobile phone use while driving are justified because the few hundred ms audio transmission delay is in just the right range to crash your analytical faculties and you don't even notice it happening, and you can just see it going in one ear and out the other.) But of course being aware of the imperfection is a necessary prerequisite for doing something about it - which is also quite possible, you just have to teach your brain to use a better set of fast-match signatures.

    Driver education ought to include setups designed to poke tentacles through the holes in people's perceptual shortcomings, in order first to demonstrate incontrovertibly that they exist, and then to provide feedback for learning to do something about it. VR would of course be ideal for this, if you can get high enough resolution to reproduce things that are a fraction of a pixel on any normal screen.

    323:

    I wonder if Google can apply these lasers to get around the repeal of net neutrality?

    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/12/alphabet-wants-to-deliver-internet-access-via-laser-beams/

    324:

    You can watch this all happening, but most people don't, and indeed can't conceive that it even might be; precisely because their perceptual system does produce results that are nigh-on perfect (by an evolutionary standard), they think the results are actually perfect perfect and you can't tell them otherwise.

    Yeah, I'm amazed at the number of people who think they can see everything happening in the traffic around them. They just don't seem to fathom that they could miss something important.

    Also, here in Finland at this time, I'm also amazed at the number of people who walk (or bike) around in dark clothes with no reflectors or lights. Luckily I don't drive currently, because I wouldn't like to be the one driving over them.

    I'm amazed by the number of people trying not to hear sounds in the traffic, too. I have gotten more and more dependent on the sound of the traffic while moving around and willfully covering my ears and listening to something that covers everything I could still hear frankly makes me scared.

    325:

    Oh, goodness, yes, on foot or on a bicycle my ears are my primary warning system. Omnidirectional detection does much better for that than line-of-sight.

    It is a shame it can't be like that on a motorbike. Even if the machine itself is quiet, there is the helmet in the way, and furthermore at speed the wind turbulence around the helmet tends to make a frightful racket, so loud that many motorcyclists wear ear plugs to mitigate long term hearing damage from it.

    326:

    Yeah, I don't have much experience with motorcycles, only cars, walking, and bicycling.

    I could imagine a sound system which would have microphones on the motorbike and some sound processing before feeding it to earphones in the helmet, but I'm not sure how practical that would be. As I understand it, when driving a motorbike one needs to be very aware of the surroundings, even without hearing well.

    On the other hand deaf people are able to move about in traffic, so hearing is not mandatory. I just prefer hearing things around me, but it's also difficult in a car.

    327:

    on foot or on a bicycle my ears are my primary warning system.
    BEWARE ... silent elctric cars.
    The death & injury rate, especially for children & animals is going to go up very singificantly, once these start appearing in significant numbers.

    Going back, just a little, one reason some cyclists round here are becoming a pain is the local "mini-holland" scheme, supposed to promote cycling ( Hint: It doesn't, I'm walking more & cycling less ... ) It does this by shittng on the local motorist residents - & also pedestrians - & backed by the lycra brigade. AFAIK, no prosecutions yet, but there have been several peds hit by aggressive cyclists in the past year
    "I'm on a bicycle, therefpore I'm pure & true & good & can do no wrong" ...
    The two-wheeled equivalents of J Bonnington Jagworth, in fact.

    328:

    This is what both excites me and scares the crud out of me with self driving cars (and their reliance on deep learning). They do see everything, in multiple spectrums at 120fps, and are going to be inherently more conservative than your average 17 year old driving their boy racer.

    But they don't yet recognise the way we do and can be potentially gamed (that turtle is a rifle https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/2/16597276/google-ai-image-attacks-adversarial-turtle-rifle-3d-printed).

    Now that would be a fun version of AI hell, kids creating camo pattern stickers that are recognised as a person holding a stop sign by certain makes/models of car.

    Or the police state version, people on wanted lists, and then slapping them on old ladies shopping trollies, all the fun of swatting someone, in a simple to apply sticker form.

    329:

    I read that article in full before I posted. I didn't find their idea that a computer with no outside help getting further in it's research of chess in 4 hours than thousands of humans (who have an exaflop processor each) did in 1500 years plus thousands of humans+computers for an additional 30 years didn't count because it used more processors somewhat hard to swallow. A TPU2 pod has 11.5 PFLOPS. They used 64, So that's 736 PFLOPS (0.7 Exaflops) in total. If you divide them all up in some way and then place them end to end, you can make 4 hours be 2 years. What happens if you take out thousands of human brains and dice them up and place them end to end, does that make 4.5 billion years? I guess it must.

    Apparently there was also the issue of it being speed chess and the existing state of the art is optimised for a slightly different rule on timing moves. Most (but NOT all) competitions use the other system for timing, so it wasn't fair to use this one. Had the existing state of the art been not utterly thrashed, I might have found that argument slightly more convincing. However they may be looking at different data. Everyone else is saying AlphaZero won 28 games, and drew the remainder. They're saying "AlphaZero beat Stockfish 64–36" which is a very different thing.

    330:

    Well, eyes are also important. Even now, the hybrid cars around here can drive on electric where I walk, so listening is not everything. I swivel my head quite a lot when near or on zebra crossings, and of course the lycra squad is very very silent (some of them don't even have bells), so it's important to be aware.

    331:

    Most if not all programming for chess and other games like go in the past has been optimising look-ahead, speeding up and improving "next move" processing capabilities. Stockfish and its companions like Crazy Stone (a top-rated Go program) have been hand-optimised by humans to make the best next move(s) this way.

    The AlphaGo and AlphaZero systems aren't tuned by humans, they start from the basic rulesets of the "problem" (which is a tightly constrained baord game) and develop an optimal "result" which is a flexible game-playing strategy that can match or beat the human-optimised systems already programmed and well-tested.

    Everyone else is saying AlphaZero won 28 games, and drew the remainder.

    Stockfish couldn't win a single game against AlphaZero, man-years of research, effort and expertise unable to beat a hands-off learning system with a limited period of (intensive and hardware-hungry) development after it is supplied with the ruleset.

    332:

    @Martin I did jury service too, a while back. There were no downright idiots in there, but there were some interesting biases based on inexperience. The case involved a scuffle outside a pub. One guy was winning, but slipped and broke his leg when he went down, and when he went down the other guy immediately kicked him once in the face. We all agreed "a plague on both their houses", but it came down to whether it was reasonable for the loser (who was a good head shorter and about 3 stone lighter) to put the boot in when the other guy went down. A number of witnesses, all friends of the guy who went down (so hardly biased) said that this happened basically immediately, so it wasn't premeditated and no-one knew at that point that the guy had bust his leg, and the prosecution made no real effort to prove it.

    I spent a while doing karate, on and off, and the one thing you are always trained for in every martial art is "finish them". You use it to defend yourself. It's about saving your life, not about playing fair. Trouble is that there were a number of people, most notably a 50-something granny who'd never even seen a fight in her life, who said "well I was always told that you step back when they're down". That's all very nice and civilised when you don't have a 16-stone 6-foot-4 guy belting hell out of you in a pub car park who luckily for you just happens to slip.

    The result was a hung jury. I'm happy to say that it might not have gone that way without me. I can't say it was the perfect decision - we all agreed that the defendant was a nasty little piece of shite - but I certainly did see people who would use their preconceptions to let their disapproval of the defendant affect their view of the evidence.

    333:

    Yeah, I'm amazed at the number of people who think they can see everything happening in the traffic around them. They just don't seem to fathom that they could miss something important.

    That's one of the reasons I'm glad I got a dash cam. I knew my situational awareness wasn't terribly good, but reviewing a dash cam video right after a trip let me know just how bad it was, and where some of my perceptual blind spots are. (Which is the first step to working around them.)

    334:

    Martin noted: "I listened to the taped interview of the accused by a Detective Sergeant; and was genuinely moved by his skills in drawing out what had happened. It was a truly awesome demonstration of the interrogator's skills; gentle, persistent, sympathetic..."

    A few years back, I was at an SF/F con that had invited a constable from the RCMP as their special guest. He had some interesting things to say. First, to echo what Martin said: He pulled a volunteer from the audience, sat her down, and began his "interrogation". He was clearly very good at this, and within minutes, had her confessing all kinds of secrets she hadn't intended to reveal. I'm reasonably certain she wasn't a plant, as I've seen my brother-in-law (an officer of the provincial police) do much the same thing. It's a startling change when he puts on his "cop hat".

    For what it's worth, the police and armed forces clearly have had a significant number of members with behavior problems, but the people I've met over the years impressed the hell out of me with their calm, patience, and professionalism. It helps to remember that these people are in the only professions where you're largely required to let people shoot at you first before you return fire; that's true in most cases for the police and in many cases (e.g., peacekeeping operations) for soldiers. That's a gross oversimplification, but it helps provide some empathy for these people; it's not the "wild west" you see on TV police shows.

    Graham noted: "the one thing you are always trained for in every martial art is "finish them". You use it to defend yourself. It's about saving your life, not about playing fair."

    Yes, with a footnote I may have mentioned here earlier, in another blog entry, that was reiterated by the aforementioned RCMP constable: Muscle memory is a dangerous thing. Two police officers from different forces have told me that when they train in how to disarm someone, they're now taught to kick the weapon off the mat and make their sparring partner retrieve it, or bring it to an imaginary police car so the weapon is out of play. This policy was implemented after a few officers successfully disarmed a perp and then obligingly handed back their weapon, just like they'd do in the gym. If memory serves, one died as a result.

    335:

    Re: Human attention

    This is the classic selective human attention test video and the test situation is nowhere near as complex as driving/riding a bike but makes the point.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

    Maybe other posters here don't do a long daily commute but it's a thing where I live. More than once I've arrived at the office/home having driven over an hour on automatic-pilot (90%+ highway driving). Whenever that happens I make a point of being much more deliberately attentive to my surroundings and actions the next time I get in the car. We're wired to expend as little energy as possible including our attention/memory. So the trick is to not let what you're doing become routine - harder than it sounds esp. if you're also tired.

    336:

    Re: rolled up skirts

    The nuns used a ruler to measure hem length: it could be only x inches/cms above the knee. Anyone wearing a too-short skirt was sent home with a note. Guessing that the rolled up skirt waistband thing probably goes back to the 1920's. Every generation has its naughty/rebellious fashion statement: going bra-less, piercings, tats, etc.

    Since no one's mentioned the male teenager equivalent: the crotch almost as low as the knees, with the option of some of the butt exposed (a fashion nod to the 'plumber crack'?). Aside from looking uncomfortable, probably impossible to run or go up and down stairs in such trousers.

    Lastly: Why are kilts still a thing among Scots? Esp. given the climate - cold and windy.

    337:

    Why are kilts still a thing among Scots? Esp. given the climate - cold and windy.

    A properly made filleadh beag is woven from wool, pleated so it's effectively 2 thicknesses, and as a result is pretty much wind and water proof. If that's not enough then it's also common to wear an Inverness cape ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverness_cape ) over the kilt in poor weather.

    338:

    BEWARE ... silent elctric cars. The death & injury rate, especially for children & animals is going to go up very singificantly, once these start appearing in significant numbers.

    Wrong.

    We have a Tesla dealership in Edinburgh and for some reason we get a number of them around here and I have been crept up on by production electric cars. Can confirm: they are not silent. What they are is quiet — as quiet as a petrol powered vehicle that's idling, except when accelerating under load (at which point the electric motor is audible. They don't rev, they don't roar, they don't rattle, but there's rumble from the tires and a low hum from the motor and the regular wind noise.

    Additionally, they're very new and heavily equipped with sensors; the obstacle-avoidance radar is going to be ubiquitous on electric vehicles. (Admittedly such safety systems may lead to more accidents caused by inattentive drivers ...

    339:

    the male teenager equivalent

    Trousers with the crotch by your knees, belted below your butt cheeks. Bum mostly covered by fancy underwear, with the crack exposed if you're careless or looking to wind your teachers up*.

    On the bright side, they look like penguins when they try to move any faster than a saunter.


    *Which some of them are trying to do, looking to play the discrimination card because the teachers are only hassling them and not the non-XXX boys (who by and large follow the school dress code).

    340:

    Admittedly such safety systems may lead to more accidents caused by inattentive drivers ...

    And inattentive pedestrians who assume the car will give them right-of-way even if it's physically impossible…

    Assuming there's anything to risk homeostasis, I'd expect pedestrians to be affected as much as drivers and cyclists.

    341:

    Lastly: Why are kilts still a thing among Scots? Esp. given the climate - cold and windy.

    Speaking as a kilt-owner who lives in Scotland: firstly, a proper Scottish kilt is about half a metric ton of wool. It's ridiculously hot. It's traditionally worn with kilt hose, which are knee-length thick woolen socks. So unless you're out in a serious winter gale, you're fine. Oh, and the ladies love them. (Also the lads, if they're that way inclined.)

    Modern kilts are not the original ancient highlander great kilt, by the way (which was more like a sari or toga). They were (re-)introduced as part of Scottish formalwear during a largely Walter Scott inspired Scotophilia fad in the 1840s, following a royal visit in which Prince Albert wore one (if I remember correctly), and they kind of stuck because, probably, the ladies love them.

    NB: the stuff about clan tartans is ahistoric guff designed to extract money from tourists.

    342:

    NB: the stuff about clan tartans is ahistoric guff designed to extract money from tourists.

    But entertaining.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/jewish-tartan

    343:

    Well, there's a copule of Teslas round here & a lot of Prius on electric mode & though not completely silent ( Tyre noise) they can creep up on you.
    Besdies I remember large electric buses in London & they were pretty quiet & fast & pollution free & ( INSERT RANT HERE... )

    344:

    ... pleated so it's effectively 2 thicknesses...

    Rather more than that. A "traditional" kilt (note quotes, see OGH comment about the tourist trade being masters of marketing even back then) involves around 8 yards of material for a 1-yard waist, you do the maths...

    Add to that, the material involved...

  • I was given my grandfather's kilt (a heavyweight wool kilt, allegedly involving unknown payment and a friendly Quartermaster in the HLI) which is now sixty years old and in fine condition - it's several kilos in weight, and quite warm enough.
  • I bought a kilt in "my own" tartan to get married in; this time, in a mediumweight material. It's a finer wool, less material (possibly only 6 or 7 yards, I can't recall exactly) and far more comfortable indoors - and suitable for dancing.
  • I was issued a team uniform kilt in a lightweight material, suitable for hot climates, in an eye-searing set mostly involving blue; but I wouldn't want to dance in it, it would fly up too easily. Oh, and you had to be careful when you sat down.
  • :) And regarding the obvious and inevitable question, no. Nothing. It's all in perfect working order. :)

    346:

    "Age of consent" there are really two issues: first, that someone older is in a position of power, either to make the younger person's life really unpleasant, and so rape by intimidation; or the younger person desires the elder's power/prestige/etc.

    The second is even more blatant: the massive anti-sex meme of the more religious, esp. in Christianity (I suspect Islam, as well, but don't being ton have enough familiarity with it to be able to say).

    Were it up to me, I'd make a cultural norm, if I couldn't do it by law, to have kids get a five-year birth control implant for their 16th b'day. And hand them a couple/three boxes of rubbers, for the prevention of transmission of disease.

    347:

    I've been selected for juries twice, and called several other times. In the US - I'm saying this from experience in Philly, Chicago, and DC - they call about 400 people (no, I'm not exaggerating) per day, and march 30? 40? randomly chosen, to the courtroom, and they then chose a dozen, with three backups. Criminal cases decisions *must* be unanimous; civil, just a majority.

    The two cases I was on were both criminal. The first, long ago, in Philly, wasn't exciting, or horrifying, just sad and tawdry. An older (to me, then) black guy and I (early 30's) had to argue with a white woman on the case to get convictions... and even then, it was 3 of 4 charges (and the charge of burglary doesn't mean what you think it does).

    The other, in DC... it was blatantly obvious to me that the cop in the stakeout car was lying (without x-ray vision, there was no way he could have seen what he said he saw). We heard the case, talked a bit and had lunch... and lunch went on, and then the judge came in, to tell us the prosecutor had decided to drop the charges.

    There did tend to be more older folks - a lot of working people begged off for work, but I really didn't see anyone obviously idiotic.

    348:

    AFAIK, that idiocy started in the US: with guys who'd been in jail/prison, and "wear that, or go naked, we don't care if it fits, take the one that's too big)"). Then black kids were doing it to look tough. Then white guys started doing it, 'cause it was tough and cool.

    I've heard of muggers who tripped over their own pants running away, and were caught. It's stoopid. No, neither my son nor stepson did it, nor did they think it was cool, though I must admit, they probably heard my ultimate criticism: that they're trying to look like the losers, who got caught, rather than the smart ones that got away.

    349:

    Here in Finland, the Family Federation of Finland and other entities have been campaining for over a decade for free contraceptives for people less than 25 years old. It's finally getting some steam. Many municipalities do offer some kind of contraceptives for some time, but mostly for under 20-year olds. The times are often something like six months.

    I'd prefer those free contraceptives, for many reasons. One trick parents can do is to buy a big box of condoms, put it in a slightly away place, and tell the teenager(s) that they can take them when they want.

    350:

    I was perhaps under the misapprehension that the traditional kilt was 7 yards, and that in Ye Olden Days, they'd lay it on the ground and roll up into it to put it on. For that matter, what just struck me is that modern kilts don't have the up-over-the-shoulder section.

    A number of years ago, I made myself a green kilt (cotton, thankyouveddymuch) for summer renfaires. No pleats... but it goes around almost two times, and does also go over the shoulder, and down past the waist. (As I said, green, since unless you want to claim my ancestors were East Scottish - that's about 1200 or 1500 mi. east, I'm not making a false claim).

    Though I could, technically, wear what I believe I remember is a *Welsh* Stewart plaid, since my late wife's mom was a war bride from Wales....

    351:

    I want one with paisleys on it!
    (signed) old hippy

    352:

    a copule of Teslas round here & a lot of Prius on electric mode & though not completely silent ( Tyre noise) they can creep up on you.

    We walk a lot in a similar suburban environment -- couple of Teslas and a bunch of Prii -- and you're right. They're good reason to walk on the oncoming side as they can creep up from the back.

    353:

    Toyota and other hybrid/electric manufacturers have implemented "noise makers" for their cars which, well, make noise at low speed when they're moving in urban areas and around pedestrians. The noises aren't conventional engine noises nor are they the angry "beep beep" of commercial vehicle reversing alarms. The engineers spent quite a lot of effort in designing the noisemakers to be unobtrusive but distinctive so as not to annoy people nearby.

    Some sportscar manufacturers have gone the other way with "performance noise generators" to provide the driver and passengers with a supercar sound experience inside the cabin without disturbing the neighbours (again).

    354:

    They're under mandate by US regulation (unless that's another thing the fascist has done away with) to have electric-driven cars produce audible external noise at low speed (including reverse). The main problem the car makers seem to have is coming up with something that is durable enough to last for the life of the car.

    My Z4 has a noise maker for inside the car. At some point I may remove it, as that's the only way to disable it.

    355:

    Yep, to all that*, though not sure that the tartan business is complete guff—the modern ones certainly are.
    This past Saturday night I wore one of two 'self-coloured' kilts that I recently made to a "Latkes & Vodkas" party at our shul. It definitely gets you noticed. And yes, at least one "You know there's a Jewish tartan?", which I reply that there are actually a half dozen (not counting specific commisioned ones like Epstein), but you need permission to use them—never mind having to get them specially woven.
    Also was reminded that I don't like vodka.

    *An Olde Scottish saying, I made up years ago: If cannae stand cold knees, ye got nae business wearin' a kilt.

    356:

    I'm afraid that if it doesn't pleat it isn't a kilt, it's just a toga or sari. A Welsh Stewart sett sounds interesting, do you remember more?

    357:

    I was perhaps under the misapprehension that the traditional kilt was 7 yards

    The whole 8 yard kilt thing is about having more than enough fabric to make the kilt. The size of the tartan sett in part determines the amount needed for the pleats, and the girth of the wearer determines the rest. Much of the fabric is worked into the pleats and the over and under aprons. Any excess gets trimmed off, from what I've seen the average kilt is around 6 yards. I think it's also a way of charging for the while 8 yards.
    The two I recently made are 6 yards, being self-coloured I didn't have to worry about sett. Self-coloured kilts are usually 4 yards, from what I've read.

    358:

    I'm sure some of you have been researching this issue more carefully than me. Does the tool that splices the face of your choice onto the porn attempt to translate facial expressions as well as doing orientation, position, and lighting?

    359:

    Reading the comments out of order.

    And regarding the obvious and inevitable question, no. Nothing. It's all in perfect working order. :)

    Read this article: It's not cute, and kind of decided, particularly with the recent harassment news, that it's a really rude question. And you can wear anything you want underneath.

    360:

    The whole 8 yards. Obviously.

    361:

    As long as we're going for the obvious, I remember my father singing along to this one when I was a lad:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yw0bLHTOb0

    (Andy Stewart singing "Donald Where's Your Troosers")

    362:

    For you to dismiss the Police as "mans' justice" is an insult.

    Absolutely, intentionally and accurately. Can you suggest some means by which a person wishing to make a complaint about a sexual assault can identify your "good cops" in advance and avoid those who feature adversely in the media?

    For all that anecdote suggests there are police who do very well at impressing well-off white men, there is ample anecdote from people more likely to be sexually assaulted saying that many police are utterly horrible in practice. But It's also common in our society to dismiss womens experience in favour of what men think they should have experienced. Viz, I'm not reporting my experience, I'm reporting what actual women actually experience. If you'd care to read the Guardian on sexual assault you'll find that their selection of anecdata favours the "police should do better" side. Actual research bears that out and a little searching will discover many reported problems.

    From my point of view, getting on a bicycle also involves a step down the liked-by-police scale, and my experience of reporting offenses to them is almost entirely one of "oh really? What did you do to provoke that" followed "it's their word against yours, we will do nothing" if they do eventually decide that it's easier to take a report than put up with me. The one time I did get action was because the motorist who I filmed abusing and threatening me after he hit me, repeated the abuse to the offer who rang him. But... no ticket, no charges, the "offer" to pay for the damage turned out to be unenforceable. So in return for two or three hours of my time I got... nothing. It's considerably more effective to smash up the car then ride away, if you're inclined that way (note that the police have a different approach when its 'a motorist like me' getting their car vandalised ... a friend was told by police that even gently touching the car was an assault on the motorist,, but immediately before that the motorist deliberately ramming the bike causing the rider to fall to the road was not an offense).

    So again, mere anecdote, but this from someone who actually needed the services provided by police, and over several occasions the total result is: police are time wasting morons.

    363:

    the standard demanded of cyclists is often impossible to meet
    Bollocks
    I'm still cycling, after starting in 1957

    Greg, once again you're replied to my comment with something unrelated and appear to be attacking me for something I haven't said. If I'd said "no-one who started cycling before 1960 is still doing so today" then your reply would be a useful counter-example. But... I didn't, and it's not.

    The existence of law-breakers in a group should not deny them access to justice. That's true whether it's politicians, judges, cyclists or poor people. If you disagree reasoned argument is more likely to persuade me to change my mind than further abuse.

    364:

    http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2016/10/christchurch-truck-driver-sentenced-for-second-cyclist-death.html

    A Christchurch truck driver who struck and killed a cyclist has been sentenced to four months community detention and 200 hours' community work after failing to give way at an intersection.
    ...
    This isn't the first time Connell has been behind the wheel of a truck in similar circumstances.

    In 2005, he was responsible for the death of Stephen Avery on the Kapiti Coast.

    On that occasion Connell pleaded guilty to the charge of careless driving causing death. He was fined $2000 and disqualified for nine months for the first time offence.


    So, tell me more about how effective the legal system is at providing justice, especially in this case by keeping cyclists safe. They're not even willing to talk about preventing the guy from driving again after he's killed two people by driving over them.

    365:

    Specifically with regard to sexual offences, it's worth reading the following couple of links:

    https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/practice-resources/commentary/law-reform-background/jury-out-on-proposed-criminal-justice-reforms

    https://www.adls.org.nz/for-the-profession/news-and-opinion/2016/2/5/sexual-violence-reform-change-at-last/

    (I note that in both cases they use the offensive and misleading characterisation of the legal system as a "justice system" while discussing at some lengths its inability to produce justice and the difficulty of reforming it to produce less injustice. As the anarchists say "there is no justice, just us".. to which the philosophers reply "ah, but what is justice?")

    In the UK even the most positive reports seem to be mixed. This on the 2003 reforms for example: https://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/features/Barristers’-Perspectives-Rape-and-Sexual-Offences-Act-2003

    And even The Telegraph in a pro-rape piece says that's it's entirely understandable for a woman to want to be press charges after she's been raped: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11914775/Our-rape-laws-need-urgent-reform-to-prevent-injustice.html

    if the girl changed her story because she simply couldn’t face the ordeal of a rape trial (not uncommon, given the level of physical and emotional intrusion)

    And confusingly: “Every single false accusation does immense damage to the cause of those trying to get higher conviction rates for rape.”... in a piece suggesting that failure to convict is evidence that the complaint was false.

    366:

    > Everyone else is saying AlphaZero won 28 games, and drew the remainder. They're saying "AlphaZero beat Stockfish 64–36" which is a very different thing.

    Actually, it's not different. The standard way to assign points in chess is 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, and 1/2 for a draw, so if you won 28 games, drew 72, and lost 0, then the final score is 64-36.

    The main complaint I heard about the match was that they disabled Stockfish's opening book. The result is still impressive, but I'm really puzzled that they would have done anything with even a whiff of cheating when they had such a crushing advantage.

    367:

    And now this: https://theconversation.com/finally-police-are-taking-family-violence-as-seriously-as-terrorism-88939

    Evidence based policing has apparently noticed that men killing their (ex) partners is way more lethal that terrorism, and also causes way more actual terror.

    The article notes that the change in focus away from by-men-for-men policing has already happened, and that it's an ongoing project. Reading between the lines there's a degree of "in contrast to other police" and "oh isn't this remarkable". But that equally reflects on society in general, where boys will be rapists and it's only natural to lash out. Viz, the culture is changing, but slowly. For example all the #whataboutthemen responses to #metoo {eyeroll} Women fear inappropriate sexual behaviour, now some men fear being taken to task for that. #theskyisfalling.

    368:

    http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2017/12/17/cat-blindfolds-salted-caramel-and-algorithmic-kitsch/ apparently it's not just stupid things on T shirts, there's a new world of keyword-based manufacturing.

    369:

    "Viz, the culture is changing, but slowly. For example all the #whataboutthemen responses to #metoo {eyeroll}"

    So what is the appropriate response for men to make? I really don't know, and I'm really asking, not as a rhetorical question intended to excuse male rapists. I've been the victim of domestic violence, and raped. A close male relative was bashed over the head with a fire extinguisher by his then partner, and had the flatmates not intervened, would have surely been killed. Another close male relative endured physical assaults, stalking and harassment. She was so brazen that she assaulted him in front of several uniformed police at a music festival. (I don't know if she'd gone there expressly for that purpose, but that's all she actually did at the festival, having sought him out and attacked right at the start).

    So when men say "this stuff is happening to me too" it's treated as a statement that it's *not* happening to women, or that somehow it happening to women doesn't matter. I'm asking you as an activist; How does a man cry for help in that environment? Women who are subject to violence claim that they're not believed, but men who admit to being victims are shamed as supporters of rape. I'm left bewildered at how I could have ended up in that category.

    370:

    So when men say "this stuff is happening to me too" it's treated as a statement that it's *not* happening to women, or that somehow it happening to women doesn't matter.

    Well, if it was said by itself, not as a reaction as something women say is happening to them, it'd have more value.

    I've found out that when there are complaints about the equality in our compulsory military service (that is, men have to address that somehow, the common options being a) going to the military service b) going to a longer civil service c) getting a medical discharge d) going to prison, but women don't have to do anything but can do a) ), they are very often voiced only as a reaction to a discussion about equality and/or feminism. Not by itself, and nobody really seems to be wanting to do anything about it after the feminism discussion ends.

    The same people can, five minutes later, fondly tell amusing tales about their military service. Then they get angry when confronted about the fact that they might have whatabouted the feminism discussion.

    371:

    Harry Connolly, who has been a guest logger here in the past, just put out another Twenty Palaces piece. Good thing it's a novella, because I read Twenty Palaces pieces compulsively just like I read new Laundry Files episodes. I enjoyed it -- Ray Lilly seems to be doing the predator-hunting job better, and to be getting more respect.

    372:

    And, yes, violence done by women to men is a problem here, too. A year or two ago there was some furor about the fact that the emergency services responded something about "are you letting a woman hit you?" to a man calling for help. The phone calls are recorded, so the proof was pretty clear. Also, the police don't seem to take that seriously (though rapes are not taken seriously either).

    373:

    Well, darn. I posted claiming I enjoyed Connolly's recent Twenty Palaces novella. Actually, I recently enjoyed his recent Twisted Path novella. Bleah, the recent titles in the series do tend to blend together too much. The novella itself was enjoyable, though.

    374:

    "Well, if it was said by itself, not as a reaction as something women say is happening to them, it'd have more value."

    I don't think I've ever seen a discussion of domestic violence that wasn't framed in terms of men as violent and women as victims. I guess I could start such a discussion out of the blue.

    I've just had a look at what was available online for males in a domestic violence situation. It's nearly 20 years since I was in that situation and it looks like things have changed for the better. Though the vast majority of support is targeted at men as the abusers, I did find a page designed to help men as the victims and one that said any gender can be subjected to domestic violence. That wasn't the case the last time I looked, about 5 years ago so things have improved. When I was the victim I literally had no idea what was going on. I didn't even realise I was being subjected to domestic violence at the time. Probably not for 5 or 10 years. I didn't even know men could be victims. I just felt really confused, depressed and isolated. I thought I was doing something wrong.

    375:
    The main complaint I heard about the match was that they disabled Stockfish's opening book. The result is still impressive, but I'm really puzzled that they would have done anything with even a whiff of cheating when they had such a crushing advantage.

    I have been looking for evidence for the claim that the Alpha Zero vs Stockfish test was done with Stockfish's opening book disabled. Everything I've found so far was hearsay I couldn't track back to the source. So far it was two YouTube videos that said it was disabled without offering sources, and the Arxiv paper about alpha zero didn't seem to mention it, and your post here that I'm responding to.

    Can you say how you discovered that Stockfish's opening book was disabled?

    376:

    > I note that in both cases they use the offensive and misleading characterisation of the
    > legal system as a "justice system"

    They aspire. Not a bad thing.

    377:

    "Harry Markov"

    Didn't everyone build those sort of text-producing markov chain things at Uni? Maybe it was just my comp sci dept.

    I and the other philosophy students (yes, we had a comp sci dept whose graduate program had a lot of philosophy grad students - what of it?) found that you get the most amazingly realistic-seeming Kant out if you feed Kant in.

    378:

    I suspect feeding Hume and Kant both in could end up with... interesting output. Hume remains the master (abuser?) of footnotes, having (in the edition I have) two pages with a total of six (or so) lines of body text, otherwise filled with footnote text. Makes Pratchett seem like a compulsive non-footnoter.

    379:

    Yes. The original belted plaid was just a length of woven wool, and was used as a blanket at night. I have such a length, which I occasionally wear as one to parties (together with a home-made 'saffron shirt' etc.) - not exactly authentic, but good enough for costume. While tartans are almost entirely a Victorian invention, different clans and septs did tend to use different colours and patterns; I can't remember which ones have SOME historical justification, though it's only a few and pretty meagre for those. I know that most don't (mine included).

    380:

    I can agree with all of your sources, noting that they say "the Police must do better". I agree - they should be doing better, they've improved massively*, there's undoubtedly a long way to go. Except you're not framing this as a "most Police officers" or "a significant number of Police officers", or even "Police officers in New Zealand". You've chosen to frame your summary as police are time-wasting morons.

    So my point remains - you're indulging in polemic. You've chosen to take a simplistic position on a complex situation. Now, you might dismiss my experience because I'm a "well-off white man"; perhaps I have the bias of knowing several police officers on a personal basis.

    My point is that while there is a way to go, and there are people treated very badly who deserve far better, and that there are undoubtedly corrupt, and incompetent, and racist Police; that there is a far larger middle ground of "decent but average", and that there are some damn good police officers out there who are trying their best, and doing good work. For you to dismiss the latter and their efforts with your absolutist position is narrow-minded.

    * As a student, I even had a senior policeman decide that I was behaving suspiciously (it was the mid-80s, at a time of teenagers wearing car badges as necklaces; I was waiting for a driving instructor just outside the university, next to a row of parked cars). I was lucky enough to be able to smile inside as the situation developed, safe in the knowledge that the Sergeant he'd called for backup was going to be telling the story of how said senior policeman had made a fool of himself, while trying to show the younger cops that he still had "it" / "street smarts".

    381:

    As a note: Martin's account of a sexual offenses trial is a nice example of confirmation bias; the Procurator Fiscal/CPS only bring prosecutions to court when they're reasonably confident of winning, so this particular case was implicitly pre-filtered: decent case, investigating officer who gave a shit and did his job properly, and so on. For every case where Officer Friendly conducts a sympathetic and effective cross examination, there may be any number (from zero to infinity) of cases where Constable Savage either dismisses the allegation or intimidates the victim into silence: but by the time it comes to a day in court, we only see examples of the former.

    382:

    Actually, you're wrong. Go look up toga, and sari. Look at the pics. I have a kilt. Skirted around the *waist*, down to the tops of my knees, and the part that goes over my shoulder and comes down to be *belted*. So, yes, it's a belted kilt.

    So there. (Shall I include "nyah"?)

    383:

    the few hundred ms audio transmission delay is in just the right range to crash your analytical faculties and you don't even notice it happening

    Do you have a reference for that?

    I teach a lot of kids who are just getting their learners permits. Sounds like something they should know.

    (Activities they could try to realize it happens to them would be useful, if you have a reference that includes them.)

    384:

    As a note: Martin's account of a sexual offenses trial is a nice example of confirmation bias

    Indeed. I'm under no illusion that we have anything like the prosecution rate for rape / sexual assault, or success rate in prosecution, that we should have.

    I've a friend who told me (when she was a student, in the 90s) of having her drink spiked, and waking up next to the spiker's friend who had taken her home and raped her. She knew both of the men, and had until then thought of them as friends. What really hurt her at the time was the response of her other "friends" when she told the story; they were dismissive of it, rather than supportive of her (I didn't hear about it until long afterwards). Victim blaming of the most depressing kind. She never even took it to the police, well, because...

    Scots Law has a fundamental principle of corroboration - so in the absence of a second witness, there needs to be some physical evidence to support the prosecution. AIUI the SNP's Justice Minister has suggested that this principle should be removed from Scots Law, to address precisely this situation. The lawyers I know are rather opposed to this, and I can see why (it seems to be the wrong approach - we should be working on better training, better facilities, building more confidence in "the system", trying to reassure victims to come forward).

    Another depressing example was to see someone avoid an investigation by hiding in an Embassy and claiming that it was all a plot to secure an extradition... and having people believe him.

    385:

    It's one of these things I've known about for so long I can't remember where I first came across it, but I do remember the context - telepresence techniques for international surgery. You're limited to countries that are not too far from each other because otherwise the speed-of-light delay between doing something and getting the feedback from your action becomes enough to bugger you up.

    Should be straightforward to set up a simple demo with a PC and a microphone and some earphones. Use your favourite audio kludgery toolkit to send the microphone signal to the earphones via a delay which you can vary continuously on the fly (with a slider on the screen or similar), and then get someone to wear the earphones and talk into the microphone while you adjust the delay. When it is somewhere in between "too short to notice" and "where's that parrot", they will find it really difficult to talk properly.

    386:

    No, I shoulda said, "so sari".

    Note that both togas and saris are ankle length, and not fastened around the waist.

    387:

    That would be a speech jammer, one application of Delayed Auditory Feedback.

    388:

    Re: 'historically female victim, so male victim is dismissed, i.e., not man enough'

    Add breast cancer to this. Affects something like 1-in-1,000 men but because most men don't think about breast cancer as possibly affecting them, they tend to ignore the signs which translates into a lower overall survival rate.

    Okay - most discussion so far has posited the stereotypical male-female relationships and roles. But since many/most posters here now live in societies that are aware that there are far more variations on the sex/gender theme maybe this new awareness will translate into taking the cue from the deed/behavior instead of the 'victim' across more situations. (Basically, a behavior or result is bad because it harms a human.)


    Re: Kilt

    Never owned a real kilt but almost bought one that I saw at a Highland Games Fair: leather with interesting metallic top-stitching simulating a plaid design, metal fasteners and other decorative and possibly even useful doodads. Unfortunately, have absolutely nowhere to wear something like this. Still think this was an excellent example of a 21st century techno-street update of a classic.

    389:

    _Moz_ wrote: the total result is: police are time wasting morons.

    Just checking, you are aware that people who agree with you include the hard-core libertarians who want to privatize the justice system, and the "an armed society is a polite society" gun owners who want everyone to carry firearms in public?

    It's easy to proclaim "X is useless, tear it down!" and get support. The real problem is what gets put in place of X, and progressives need to remember that other people can have quite different ideas.

    390:

    It's one of these things I've known about for so long I can't remember where I first came across it, but I do remember the context - telepresence techniques for international surgery. You're limited to countries that are not too far from each other because otherwise the speed-of-light delay between doing something and getting the feedback from your action becomes enough to bugger you up.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/10929080500228654

    For places connected by optical fiber, I suspect that switching delays might be more significant than speed of light in fiber, which IIRC is around 2e5 km/s. Geosynchronous satellite relay is a different matter, of course.

    Lessee...

    http://www.lightwaveonline.com/articles/print/volume-29/issue-6/feature/network-latency-how-low-can-you-go.html

    391:

    From what I've read, tartans that you can buy with so-called Ancient coloring are based on samples found by archaeologists at Culloden, so obviously pre-Victorian, though no one seems to agree whether tartan patterns were associated with clan, region, individual families, or just a pattern somebody liked. As for the age of setts, I've heard that the fewer the colors the older. Basically any with colors that couldn't be produced naturally are modern. And I believe there's a theory that natural dyed tartans could be used sort of like camouflage, maybe along the lines of Razzle-Dazzle. Wrap yourself up in your great kilt and hide on the hillside.

    Here's an example from around 1820: The Kingussie Kilt, which happens to be in one of my family tartans. Unfortunately there's nothing about its provenance. I came across this after I had decided to make my second kilt with inverted Kingussie pleats, that is with the box pleat on the inside.

    392:

    _Moz_ wrote: "the total result is: police are time wasting morons."

    While this is likely to be true for some members of any profession (Sturgeon's law applied more conservatively but no less misanthropically to humans), I think you're overgeneralizing greatly beyond what the evidence supports. (I recognize that behavior, since I've been guilty of it myself times without count. I'm getting better... slowly.)

    Do you really want to live in any society without a competent, professional, largely ethical and law-abiding, government-mandated but semi-independent police force? I sure as hell wouldn't. Literature citation: pretty much any mainstream newspaper or news broadcast that covers Africa and the Middle East.

    Granting your point that there are systematic problems with most police forces around the world, I don't consider it a waste of time that they keep the worst idiots off the roads or at least constrain their worst excesses, respond rapidly to accidents and injuries by providing first aid (since they're usually first on the scene), capture perps ranging from murderers to petty criminals and remove them from the streets, and try to keep people safe in large crowds.

    This in no way grants them absolution for their occasional sins and definitely not for their systematic sins, some of which you and others have noted. But like democracy, having them in their present imperfect form* may be the worst possible solution -- except when we consider all the alternatives.

    * Yes, that sentence is a grammar geek joke. Sorry.

    393:

    Nah, I am Scottish and have a kilt, as well as varios books. If it isn't pleated, it's not a kilt.

    394:

    Also a quick check of the internet to reassure me indicates that the definition of a kilt include the word 'pleated'.

    James #390 - as far as I have read, and also I just checked with a Jacobite friend, no tartans have been recovered from Culloden, that would mean disturbing war graves in which eberything had decomposed a lot.
    Rather, as far as I can tell, ancient colourings are based on older 19th century tartans before the bright modern dyes took over. Or to put it another way, my muted hunting stewart is very similar to my grandfarthers hunting stewart from the 1960's, and different from my dad's hunting stewart of the 1970's.
    As for pre-Victorian tartans, there are plenty of paintings that survive showing people wearing tartans, so we can go by them. Just to add to the fun, there are often conflicting and confusing tartans worn by the same person, i.e. in the 18th century no definite clan tartans. The clan tartan thing is down to David Stewart of Garth, who in the 1820's or so wrote round various clan chieftains etc asking what the clan tartan was, and got a variety of replies, including, so I am told, variations on the theme of "this is the one I like" and "This is the one a lot of us wear".
    There seems to be some evidence that tartans varied by region because of the locally available dyestuffs, but also people liked to show off as much as possible so plenty of tartans include very bright colours achieveable using expensive imported dyestuffs.

    Box pleat on the inside? That's weird and unnecessary.

    395:

    I am beginning to think that the Land of the Long White Cloud is not as noce a place to live in as London, from your comments ...
    On both traffic, cycling & the police .....

    396:

    IIRC (and I probably do not), one of the old Celtic rules on a plaid was that the more colors one had in a plaid, the higher rank one was, presumably because it took more work to make a pleasing multi-colored garment than it did to make undyed homespun.

    Just guessing wildly, but I suspect that, when you get away from the dour Protestant practice of making mess dress drably, that the desire for polychromatic display might be present in the older tartans.

    397:

    I can't say I've ever heard of any such Celtic rules. This isn't my main topic of interest, but I do keep an eye out for things and the first issue with your comment is, what is the definition of 'Celtic' that you are using?

    The oldest agreed tartan in Scotland is the Falkirk one, a scrap of black and white checked tartan from roughly 2k years ago. However there is evidence for tartan like woven patterns in cloth in 13/ 14th century London and Spain, so at the moment the idea is that they spread to the Highlands in the late Medieval period, the great kilt being invented in the late 15th or 16th century.

    398:

    when you get away from the dour Protestant practice of making mess dress drably

    Mess Dress, drab? Never! Scarlet box-cut jacket with black cuffs and facings, and Hunting Stewart strapped trews. Smart enough for a Ph.D, and we were a Lowland Regiment... get to the Highland Regiments, and there’s sufficient gold braid and accoutrements that young officers got an additional grant to cover the
    extra costs.

    ...our 9th (Highlanders) Battalion wore kilts; the “Dandy Ninth”, an old Edinburgh unit based just around the corner from Charlie’s gaff...

    399:

    James #390 - as far as I have read, and also I just checked with a Jacobite friend, no tartans have been recovered from Culloden, that would mean disturbing war graves in which eberything had decomposed a lot.

    I must've misremembered the location, but am pretty sure I've read of 18th Century samples being dug up. A quick search didn't help any.
    And let's not get into the likely fraudulent Vestiarium Scoticum

    The pleats of the Kingussie kilt have a box pleat outside in the center, with knife pleats going in opposite directions from it. Which to me looks odd. The inverted version looks more like regular knife pleating, and doesn't require an inverted pleat (really a large box pleat) at the inner apron—because the pleats to the right going under it. Don't think I'm explaining that well.
    Lately I've been seeing kilts with all box pleats, which just remind me of cheerleader/tennis skirts.

    400:

    So when men say "this stuff is happening to me too"

    I'm sorry, that's not at all what I'm talking about. Much "but men might be accused for innocently fondling a coworkers breasts" has been written by men to whom the mere idea that women might get to set boundaries is offensive.

    I mean, Paul Fritjers seemed quite serious when he wrote from a Democrat funding perspective, it’s a train wreck. What do you think other male millionaires, who outnumber the female variety by a huge multiple, are going to think? Do you think they will like the Democrats more, feeling looked after and amongst loyal friends who believe in innocent-till-proven-guilty? Or do you think they will feel that they are suspect for being powerful males, rapists until proven otherwise?. The whole diatribe is disturbing and I have selectively quoted a more reasonable passage. There is a great deal of similar nonsense online. Apparently women being allowed to talk about sexual harassment will lead to the end times.

    As far as men who are also assaulted, I don't have a lot of useful advice. Being very careful about who you talk to is the obvious step. Things are apparently slowly improving from the days when after I was assaulted I was sent to a program for men who had been convicted of sexual assault. FWIW "Rape Crisis" in NZ now officially acknowledge the existence of male victims and female perpetrators, not least because they had some nasty incidents involving woman-on-woman violence in refuges.

    Sadly the best I can offer is that the 80/20 rule should eventually affect male victims too - measures to reduce sexual violence in general will percolate through.

    401:

    That said, I do write letters and make submissions, and one of the sad consequences of the various sexual abuse inquiries in Australia has been a widespread understanding that boys are also targets for sexual abuse. I've had positive responses from a range of people to those letters and submissions, but thankfully have not had to actuyally go through the various official processes so I have no idea how that plays out on the ground.

    The queer community is also fairly good in general but obviously that isn't going to work for everyone.

    But yeah, standing up immediately after a famous man is accused of habitual sexual offending and saying "men are victimised too" isn't going to win you many friends. And you may not like the friends you do win. Unfortunately right now it's always "just after" another (series of) accusation(s).

    402:

    You've chosen to frame your summary as police are time-wasting morons.
    So my point remains - you're indulging in polemic.

    As I said, without some means to ensure in advance that I will be dealing with one of the good officers, the odds have consistently been not in my favour. I therefore repeat: how do I make sure to deal only with good police officers?

    Without that key bit of information I can only go off my own experience and the experience of people I know and trust. For sure, there have been times when I could rely on a specific officer to help me in whatever manner was lawful, but saying "there's one cop I know in Christchurch who's a decent bloke" does not help me even slightly when I've been knocked off my bike in Nelson.

    Remember that there is always a price. It might just be one, or two, or ten hours of my time chasing the legal system around until I get some resolution to my problem, but it could equally be an hour of my time, a year in jail, then "a criminal conviction is for life, not just for Christmas". Like I said, I had one friend who touched the car that knocked his daughter to the ground then was threatened very seriously with assault charges. A decent cop would have said "sir, you showed commendable restraint. Now please, I need to arrest this motorist".

    403:

    police are time wasting morons.
    Just checking, you are aware that people who agree with you include the hard-core libertarians

    Actually, from what little I know of Libertarians most of them seem to be closer to fascists than anarchists. Viz, they all believe in a strong state that violently enforces *their* property rights against the worthless scum who want what is theirs. I may be wrong, but that's the impression I have.

    Possibly I'm suffering confirmation bias by knowing the history, though, since one foundation of Libertarianism is "anarchism, but with police". I do admit that my exposure to actual libertarians comes mostly through being talked at by merkins whose understanding of political philosophy appears no deeper than "I got mine, screw you".

    But at the same time, you're aware that every position has this problem? Stalin didn't much like pedophiles, for example, while Mao was notoriously short with monopolists. "the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy" as the Australian philosopher Urth Boy once put it.

    404:

    Do you really want to live in any society without a competent, professional, largely ethical and law-abiding, government-mandated but semi-independent police force?

    No, but I would very much like to live in a state that has one, provided that the legal system also met those criteria (the fairest and most ethical police in the world enforcing Putin's laws would not suit me even slightly). As Icehawk pointed out, some members of the legal professions in our various countries do aspire to have a justice system and work to move what we have in that direction. As I keep saying, others not so much.

    In the UK right now we see the classic Dickensian contest between "the rich must have more, so the poor must suffer" and the Marxist "we have enough for all, if it were fairly distributed" (and amusingly, also disagreeing with the democrats who say "a fairer world is better for everyone" and the capitalists who say "if even the poorest can buy our goods we will become even richer"). I find it challenging to imagine that your Conservative party even conceive of themselves as being pro-justice, its members are too often caught "slipping" into selfish greed. Somehow imagining that the people who see the social welfare system as a source of profit have a completely different view of the legal system is beyond me. The existence of private prisons suggests otherwise.

    405:

    On the grammar jokes front, I feel obliged to say: it's raining, men, hallelujah!

    Sydney is in the midst of a summer thunderstorm, it's gone from 35 degrees at 10am to less than 30 at 4pm, buit with scattered showers and much "god took my photo" going on. I feel the need to unplug my device and go read a nice paper book in my faraday cage (my backyard bedshed is made of coolstore panels - thin steel sheet sandwiching EPS... and yup, with the door shut there's not wifi or cellphone reception unless you press the device up against the window)

    406:

    I am beginning to think that the Land of the Long White Cloud is not as noce a place to live in as London

    It is possible, indeed fairly easy, to live in Aotearoa or Australia while having little to no contact with the legal system and especially the police (provided one is, of course, a well-off white man, which privilege I happen to possess through no great effort on my part (viz, I have avoided dying)).

    My impression is that London would not suit me overmuch, I prefer warmer weather to cooler and greatly appreciate being able to grow veges in my garden year-round. I get half hourly train services half an hour from the CBD, with a 600 square metre section... and a mortgage that I can afford to pay off. It's all about trade-offs, and I think I have made fairly good ones. In London I'd be looking at a couple of million pounds, possibly more, for a similar house, and I fear the sort of job I'd have to take to afford that. Also the sort of neighbours I'd get... we have at least two close neighbours with chickens, meaning no-one complains about ours :)

    NSW Police are periodically ordered to "clean the scum off the streets" and have laws to enable them to do so (bizarrely, someone was ticketed for "furious cycling" for doing a track stand at a red light). But social media has greatly impaired their ability to set up checkpoints and issue bulk tickets, so it becomes a cat and mouse game that annoys a few cyclists and a lot of police. But I've not been caught up in that, my commute is back streets and off-road bike paths beside a concrete creek and through a necropolis.

    Australian politics are corvid-like (faaarked) and the legal system is still trying to decide whether it's a war crime if they don't declare it as a war (is it genocide if it's done by police rather than the military? What if the concentration camps are run by a foreign corporation? Is coal really good for humanity?). That stuff is horrific but also remote. Day to day life is fine (said Rev Niemöller)...

    407:

    "Being very careful about who you talk to is the obvious step."

    Yeah. I mentioned it here first a few weeks ago. After that I felt I should really mention it to my partner of 15 years. So I did. The first person I've told face to face.

    I still feel ashamed and I still don't know why.

    408:

    "I was sent to a program for men who had been convicted of sexual assault"

    I can't even imagine what that was like. It was bad enough 10 years ago when I first wondered if there was any help available, simply finding that the domestic violence help organisation's only help for men in domestic violence situations was anger management classes.

    409:

    ( & Moz )
    You would have thought, given the centuries old disgusting "tradition" of bullying, thuggery terrorisation & torture of small boys by larger ones ...
    That men being assaulted, sexually & otherwise would have been instantly recognised. But it hasn't been, has it?

    411:

    Actually, from what little I know of Libertarians most of them seem to be closer to fascists than anarchists.

    American libertarians align with the right because they're almost entirely capitalist market-fundamentalists whose philosophy boils down to "screw you, I've got mine"; what I find disturbing is that over time they've also aligned with the red pill/MRA/PUA weaponized misogyny crowd and picked up a lot of crap from the neo-Nazis, with the result that they're mostly blurring into the neo-Nazi end of the spectrum these days.

    I'm not sure whether this is because they've been deliberately targeted by neo-Nazis like Steve Bannon, or because they're just racist shitheads to begin with (who didn't feel empowered to express their racism verbally until Trump's minions brought it out under the media spotlight) — probably a bit of both — but these are not your happy fun First International left anarchists.

    412:

    Greg: policing of gender roles is carried out by men, against men, through fear of beatings. Queer bashing and "corrective rape" don't happen in a cultural vacuum; some men are afraid of their gender identity being questioned so they beat up any other man they see who might undermine/devalue it, and the fear propagates. Playground shit, quite literally: "men" in this context means "males aged 3-4 years old and up".

    413:

    Having had a number of encounters over the years on both sides of the law, I would say that in general the rural police in NZ are pretty much good blokes, fairly tolerant and very good in a crisis. They are a bit hamstrung by the quota system for traffic offences etc that central government imposed back in the late 90s, but you can regularly get a ticket downgraded to a lower category if you aren't a raving nutter - they have some flexibility.

    The urban police are much more hit and miss, probably because they get to deal with a wider range of shite on a daily basis, and have to enforce a much wider range of rules. I've met quite a few petty gods and petty enforcement (my record was a ticket for 56km in a 50 zone at the bottom of a steep hill), and the burglary department is often pretty frustrated and that comes out at times - I know they tracked three different burglaries around us back to the same property but the culprits were 15 so they couldn't do much about it.

    414:

    Cory Robin is useful on this in "The Reactionary Mind". His take is that most libertarians are in fact disciplinarians who want to be free to create and impose their own hierarchies of authority in their homes and businesses. Obviously, fascist rhetoric of authoritarian social Darwinism is going to appeal to them. And it's also worth noting that libertarians are generally resentful middle-class men looking for something to blame for their lack of (in their terms) success... a classic recruiting-ground for fascism.

    415:

    Yes Charlie ... guess how I already know all of this?
    Though I suspect, even in these circles, some of the readers may not have appreciated it.
    What has suprised me is that this has not changed, whilst a lot of other things have, at least to the reconition of problems that were perviously denied.

    416:

    Re: Tartans

    More dyes equal to higher status makes sense. Older, more powerful clans also had a larger number of tartans (Stewart).

    https://www.kinlochanderson.com/tartan/stewart

    If you get a chance, recommend attending a Highland Festival. Apart from the bits of history you can pick up, hearing massed bands playing Scotland the Brave is a moving musical experience. (This from someone with not a dram of Scots in their lineage.)

    417:

    You wrote:
    I mean, Paul Fritjers seemed quite serious when he wrote from a Democrat funding perspective, it’s a train wreck.
    -----------
    I don't know who Fritiers is, and google doesn't seem to be helping, but my instant reaction is that he's a Republican, or fellow traveler - they're the only ones who have this grammatical stutter, and seem to be unable to write "Democratic". And, for that matter, the Dems got a *huge* amount of funding *not* from millionaires, but small donors. The GOP, on the other hand.... Is it the same with the Tories?

    418:

    I've met a good number, including co-workers, and the well-known ESR is a very long time acquaintance, and all seem to be either rabid suburbanites, or from small towns, whose parents were comfortable or well off. Haven't met one who was an hourly employee....

    They also don't make sense on their own terms, though: it was in the papers that Trump broke contracts left and right (hell, I personally know someone whose father does industrial contracting, and he was shorted by Trump personally on a job)... and yet, there no attacks by Libertarians on Trump the contract-breaker.

    Actually, they're more like pre-US Civil War slaveholders, with "it's my property, and I can do *anything* I want with my property."

    Hell, explain why we shoot looters - is human life worth that little, or property that much?

    419:

    Um, well, no. I managed to get to the Maryland Renfaire this year, and saw and met the Piper Jones Band. Amazing lungpower... and I not only got a handshake, but a high five, when I found and thanked him for the fact that other than for very special occasions, he NEVER plays Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace....

    420:

    You are correct about pipe bands, but regrettably horribly wrong regarding number of tartans. The number of tartans for a family or clan is correlated only with how many tartans the makers think might sell to the public. The setts listed in that Kinloch Anderson page were mostly created in the late 19th or early 20th century and have no historical basis, although you can argue that many of them have cultural significance based on their uptake.

    421:

    Scotland the Brave is a military march and not suitable for a single piper or a small number of pipers on a stage. Amazing Grace is a hymn (and based on a drinking song), not a pipe tune to start with and doesn't fit into the limited octave-and-a-half-note range of the pipe's chanter anyway so there's a major key shift that grates. I blame That Movie for it even being considered a pipe tune by some. Flowers of the Forest, a proper military dirge would have been a more appropriate tune but Americans would never have recognised it so we got Amazing Fucking Grace "played" by a Canadian.

    The local pipe band's pipe major played Flowers of the Forest at the graveside at my father's funeral.

    422:

    Yes, well...
    "FLowers" is best played by starting with a lone piper, then the rest of the ( preferably small ) band joining in, gradually.
    Very moving.

    423:

    Now that you mention ESR, I suppose it's worth pointing him out as an example that shows the connection between the US Libertarians and racism has always been there. Both share a sort of schoolboy misunderstanding of basic science and economics. It isn't necessarily a misunderstanding about the facts, methods or outcomes; rather it's at a slightly more abstract level about what knowledge is for, how it can be used and what claims you can validly make based on other claims.

    I suppose I broke with the idea that geek culture was representative of people in STEM, or never really accepted it. It's a massively conformist self-policing enclave that can itself only be an outcome of a (perceived) hyper-masculinised broader culture. The misogynistic nonsense coming out of that now is hardly surprising.

    424:

    No. Flowers of the Forest is a solo pipe tune. It is never accompanied and never played (properly) by a group of pipers. It should never be played in public at other than commemorations, Remembrances or funerals. Teaching it to up and coming pipers and in practice the only other time it should be played.

    This is IMPORTANT.

    425:

    Oops, I'd better qualify that lest more hilarity^H^H^Hmisunderstanding ensue.

    Where I say "geek culture" there I don't mean what we call geek culture now, which I think has a huge range and a built in scope for nurturing difference, giving a voice to the subaltern and all that.

    What I mean is the cultural representation and celebration of stereotypical American "nerds", one which includes a narrative about competition with "jocks" for female attention. This seems to have been a bigger deal in the 80s (with movies like Revenge of the Nerds), but that could be my cultural blinders. There's more to it than that, and obviously it refers to something that came up through US culture in the 60s and 70s that was real, though how that is represented may be very off. It's main expression now is material like Big Bang Theory.

    428:

    Amazing Grace is a hymn (and based on a drinking song), not a pipe tune to start with and doesn't fit into the limited octave-and-a-half-note range of the pipe's chanter anyway

    Errrr.... are you sure about that? I've certainly played Amazing Grace on the pipes; thinking about it, there's no grating key change. Perhaps you're thinking of "Flower of Scotland"? A chippy dirge written in the 60s*, and requiring just such a false note.

    Secondly, "octave and a half"? We should be so lucky. Nine notes on a pipe chanter (low G to high A), legato, not particularly "well-tempered" either. I'll grant you that C-natural and F-natural make an additional appearance in a bit of Ceol Beag** and lots of the Galician / Breton stuff.

    * Frankly, I dislike "Flower of Scotland" as a song. Depressing and chippy, and unfortunately the leading contender for "Scottish National Anthem" (as decided by the Scottish Rugby Union). Until the early 00s, you'd hear "Scotland the Brave" played at medal ceremonies, but the words are plastic rubbish (the lyrics are all "purple headed mountains and roaming in the heather" tartan tat, so absolutely nobody knows them). Now, if they were to suggest "Scots Wha' Hae"? Pipe tune (check), lyrics by National Poet (check), job done.

    ** "Little Music", fun dancing stuff, as opposed to "Ceol Mhor", aka "Big Music", aka Piobaireachd, aka terribly serious and boring as hell; but a real test of a piper's ability (you take a phrase of music and embellish it; and keep on embellishing it until your fingers can't keep up, thus demonstrating that the piper making Crunluath a Mach fit into the tune and still sound tuneful, is a truly awesome player). Piobaireachd was largely rescued from near-oblivion (and arguably reinvented) in the late-18th/19th century by the Scottish Regiments employment of pipers and Pipe-Majors - otherwise the Highland Bagpipe might be in similar straits to the Northumbrian pipes.

    429:

    I think I can shed a little light on how Libertarians became Alt-right supporters having mingled with Southern Californian Libertarians for most of my life. (In the late 80s, I went to parties that had a mixture of Libertarians, Socialists and Communists. The reason for such an odd mixture was that Socialists and Communists were the only people Libertarians could argue philosophy with as the average American didn’t have a clue.)

    Libertarians evolved out of the hippy commune movement (which is basically anarcho-syndicalism) with the addition of the idea of free markets. There were varying degrees of collectivism vs individualism in the group, but they all had one thing in common: They despised Randians because there was a fundamental philosophical difference between the two.

    Libertarianism has at its basis the idea that all men (and women) are basically created equal whereas Randianism’s closest philosophical cousin is Nazism. Both are the bastard children of Neiche with the idea of a master group, which has rights to overrule others prerogative. In the Nazi’s case, it’s the Aryan race. In Rand’s case, it is the Capitalist-Industrialist.

    During the 90s, under the influence of Reganism, Libertarianism drifted rightward, and because it had a common cause against big government and the Democrats, it became co-mingled with Randianism. After running unsuccessfully under its own banner in the 90s, part of it decided to sell itheir soul and join the Republicans. The Republicans were in the process of heading in a socially reactionary direction (Its liberal wing having entirely died by then.) so the socially liberal attitudes like legalizing drugs got nowhere. Instead, the Republicans sucked out its ideas about small government and low taxes and tossed the corpse aside.

    It was also now cojioned with Randianism, which is a philosophy liked by certain wealthy Capitalists who find it an excellent justification for not paying taxes and who make big donations to the Republican party.

    At this point the left-wing and even the moderate center of the Libertarian movement bailed out. (If you want to see what a moderate, center Libertarian looks like, read David Brin’s blog.)

    When it comes to political philosophy, Americans are not very discriminatory. They don’t examine political philosophies. They don’t formulate political philosophies. They buy them off the shelf like a can of spaghetti and meatballs because they like the look of the label.

    Libertarianism has always appealed to white male resentment because of its leave-me-alone philosophy, but after it got got co-mingleed with Randianism, the idea of a special group got introduced. Then the Alt-right came along with its idea that white males have a special place because they are more competitive in a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest sort of way (The people who formulated this philosophy have obviously never studied evolutionary biology).

    If you find someone who started as a Libertarian and is now a follower of the alt-right, they took a train called Ayn Rand to get there.

    430:

    Re: Bagpipes

    Interesting background info - thanks!

    Just heard/watched Flower of Scotland on YouTube - yes, a dirge and don't recall hearing it at the last highlands festival I attended.

    What's your opinion of this version of Scotland the Brave? It's the version that most reminds me of what I recall from the Highland Games. (Ask because quite often when a traditional anything becomes popular in NorthAm it then gets transformed by those NAs into something quite different from the original. Seasonal example: Father Christmas vs. Santa Claus.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSH0eRKq1lE

    For a massed band effect, play this on two or three separate windows simultaneously. I usually end up with a 1-second delay between videos which seems to enhance the massed-band effect.

    431:

    This article is appropriate in talking about sexual assault men experience

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/11/the-understudied-female-sexual-predator/503492/

    432:

    You are 100% right, Nojay. I hadn't thought about it before, but it's blatantly obvious - there's no reason that a Vulcan would have a Christian hymn played for him, and if there were other choices, either Flowers of the Forest, or the American Taps would have been correct.

    And I hate the damn song. In the mid-seventies, every bloody other folksinger/group recorded it, and I was rapidly sick.

    Well, until I joined the SCA back then, and learned their version, and I was Saved. Ever since, my mind does a global search and replace on the words:
    A grazing mace
    How sweet the sound
    That felled a wretch like thee!
    Thy helm is flat
    That once was round,
    Thou'rt dead that all may see.

    433:

    Um, er, uhhh... I agree, completely, that with 90% or so of Americans, you have to define your terms before a political discussion, because what they know of actual politics is on par with what a Marvel Comics fan knows of actual Norse myth....

    But... that is the strangest description of the development of Libertarians I have ever heard.

    It also makes no sense.

    1. Speaking as an old hippy, they ranged from left wing political to anarchist. They were *never* pro-capitalist.
    2. Republicans have been the right wing party of the rich for wayyyy over a century.
    3. Reagan was in the 80's, not the 90's.
    4. I *think* I started hearing about libertarianism in the 70s. I know I read Anthem around '67 (GAH, what *terrible* writing!), and right wingers I knew loved it.
    5. All the [Ll]ibertarians I started running into in the later 80's were *all* into Rand, 100%. Around '92, a co-worker who was a Libertarian shoved Atlas Shrugged at me, as, apparently, their bible.

    So, I don't understand how you came to that history.

    434:

    What's your opinion of this version of Scotland the Brave?

    It's the same as if massed Scottish bands had played it...

    A bit boring, though. Once through with pipers only; then again with drummers; then again (at least twice) with a full military band accompaniment. With no other tunes in the set. Yay... Typically, if you're playing for an audience, there will be multiple tunes played in a set; "Scotland the Brave" alongside "Highland Laddie", for instance. And for performances, once is enough for anyone.

    Another thing to consider is tempo - Pipe Bands will typically play at 90ish beats per minute for a quick march; it gives time to add some expression to the tunes. If playing for marching troops, however, the tempo needs to be up towards 120 bpm, because otherwise the troops start going out of step. This means simple tunes that can be played uptempo - and the second part of "The Black Bear" (a truly awesome tune) is a sod to play correctly at speed...

    My favourite memory of "Scotland the Brave" comes from the 1984 Scotland rugby team managing a Grand Slam in the Five Nations (as it was at the time) - our school pipe band used to play at all of the home internationals at Murrayfield. The teams were supposed to run out to their National Anthems; the Scots to "Scotland the Brave", and the French to the Marseillaise*. We had 25 pipers or so; 8 side drummers, two bass drummers (with hard sticks, to cut through the noise of the crowd); and a full military band standing next to us. 62,000 people in the stadium, all looking in our direction and shouting their heads off, and I couldn't hear my own pipes at a range of two feet. All I could faintly hear was the tune, and a faint drumbeat to keep tempo. I only knew for certain that I was playing because I could feel the slight vibration in my fingertips...

    * except in a fit of gamesmanship, the Scots would always stand at the end of the tunnel, and wave their opponents out first. The visiting team would thus run out to "Scotland the Brave", followed by a massive increase in volume as the Scots came out after them. When the military band played the visitors' anthem, the Scots were generally still being cheered...

    435:

    Well, if you want your head messed up, Garrison Keillor once did a version of Amazing Grace where he demonstrated that you can sing the words of Amazing Grace to the original tune of the Mickey Mouse Club. It's quite the mashup.

    436:

    Nice memory to have!

    Had to look up what La Marseillaise sounded like on pipes. Nope - not the best match-up between notes and instrument.

    437:

    "Scotland the Brave" is a pipe tune others like, it's not a favourite of most Scots in my opinion but then again most pipe tunes set to lyrics are a bit meh, especially ones that reference the pipes themselves. The Bear is a squaddies favourite, what with the audience-participation stomp and also because it's the return to barracks tune at the end of the day, hence its ubiquity at the end of the Edinburgh Tattoo. You'll find that on Youtube, film shot from the top of the High Street as the participants come out down over the bridge after the Esplanade performance is finished with the massed pipes and drums gein' it laldy and glad to be getting back to the buses.

    Flower of Scotland is a "We hate the English" tune with extra "Just wait until next time" hence its place as the sports National Anthem, in part because most Scottish history as taught in schools was of that nature. "Scots Wa Hae" is _Flower_'s direct lineal ancestor with less depressing remembrances and more gutting of English foemen to look forward to. I particularly appreciate Princess Anne singing "Flower of Scotland" with gusto at Scotland home matches though.

    As for Murrayfield, it's designed acoustically that way. It you take the stadium tour (well worth a tenner of anyone's money BTW) you get led out into the bowl when it's empty, the tour guide shouts and the sound of a single voice comes hammering back at you at pitch level. Multiply that by 60,000 plus voices shouting "Scotlaaaand" and you can imagine what it does to the players.

    Oh, and I said "octave and a half-note", not octave and a half. The voice version of Amazing Grace starts with an octave shift and gets worse which leaves the piper in a mess hence the strangled version written for the pipes.

    438:

    Even worse: nearly all of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

    439:

    Sorry - I’d read it as “octave-and-a-half notes”...

    I suspect that whatever the guides say, any acoustic benefit was largely accidental. When I first started playing there in 1979 or so, there was the old main (West) stand, and three sides of terraces. Then they built the East stand to the “new” style; and it became a rather effective and chaotic wind tunnel. Rather fun trying to stand still in strong swirling winds, and it made you appreciate the skill of the kickers.

    Eventually, they built North and South stands (higher than the East, look at the roof line); and finally replaced the West stand. I agree that it’s rather impressive now (we went as a family to the recent Scotland v Samoa match), although my old school pipe band got dropped a decade ago or so. Shame, they’d been playing continuously since they played internationals at Inverleith in the 1920s...

    My personal taste in piping tends to Gordon Duncan end of the spectrum - too long spent hanging around with players from the Vale of Atholl... I’d realised that I wasn’t willing to put the effort in that I needed, in order to be as good as I wanted (I’d found other things for my limited free time that I enjoyed more)

    440:

    for men who had been convicted of sexual assault"
    I can't even imagine what that was like.

    Me neither, luckily. I made enquiries about who was running the thing they sent me to and was told that as I hadn't been convicted I would probably be better off not going. At that point I realised that a fundamental mistake had been made and decided not to further engage with the system. I may have *said* I was the victim of an assault, but they heard "sexual assault", went "category: male" and decided "offender".

    One of the things that still gets my back up really quickly, in person and online, is people who respond "oh, you say you are/think/feel X? That's clearly impossible, you obviously are/think/feel anti-X". I grew up with that, I get it regularly, and it pisses me right the f off.

    441:

    I don't know who Fritiers is, and google doesn't seem to be helping

    He's allegedly an academic from Queensland, but given his repeated failure to do basic research I can't help but wonder whether it's someone impersonating an academic online in order to pollute search results.

    That link was one of the negative #metoo responses I read that was not worded in a grossly offensive way. Far too many leap from "that's a bit harsh" to blunt pro-rape arguments in one quick trip down the slippery slope. Rather than arguing "this degree of sexual discomfort is acceptable but no more and here's why" they go all in and "no woman should ever be believed" or "unless it's rape corroborated by a male witness it's not something worth mentioning". Admittedly I read those with a nicely abstract question in my mind "what legal standard are they arguing for" because wondering "what does this man do that makes him so defensive on this subject" makes me really, really uncomfortable.

    442:

    Ayup. When I was in high school, I had to memorize a chunk of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Following a classmate's lead, we learned it by singing it to the tune of Gilligan's Island. It worked great for almost all of the verses.

    If you really want to dive into the semi-musical swamp, Tim Blais ("A Capella Science") uploaded a YouTube mashup of the "Circle of Life", "Blank Space" and "We Are Young." Don't say I didn't warn you.

    443:

    with 90% or so of Americans, you have to define your terms before a political discussion, because what they know of actual politics is on par with what a Marvel Comics fan knows of actual Norse myth....

    Harsh, but accurate.

    1. hippy, they ranged from left wing political to anarchist. They were *never* pro-capitalist.
    5. All the [Ll]ibertarians I started running into in the later 80's were *all* into Rand, 100%.

    That matches my experience, mostly. I have met a couple of "OMG please stop using that term" traditional libertarians at anarchist events but they described themselves as pro-state anarchists rather than the L word for much the same reason the national organisations of socialist groups don't call themselves the obvious thing.

    But oddly, John Howard was thrilled when George Bush called him "my man of steel" because apparently Stalin was a great bloke after all. Or, maybe, neither of those men was historically literate. Howard definitely wasn't, he hated the "black armband view of history" and tried to whitewash all the bad things out of Australian history lessons... leaving pretty much "Australian Federation and granting the vote to women, hooray!".

    One of the cool things you'll be able to do with AI soon is construct wikipedia-scale plausible alternate histories on the fly. More or less what the far right in the US is doing, but more quickly and more rigorously.

    444:

    Yes, worth reading especially if you're still thinking that it's mostly or always "he raped her".

    445:

    Also, one of the horrible things that can happen is a rape victim being made to pay child support. While aborting is often available to female victims, legislation is often worded such that even a conviction doesn't void child support obligations. There is similarly no exemption on the grounds of youth. I won't quote cases because I'm not really keen on performing the searches. Sorry, it's a bit close to home for me, that was one of the threats I've been subjected to.

    446:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/21/police-misnahdling-evidence-rape-cases-liam-allan

    This contrasts with the law, which says a woman can withdraw her consent to sexual intercourse at any time.

    I do hope this is misreporting, and that in fact any person engaged in a sexual act can withdraw their consent at any time. If not I am somewhat curious about where the line is drawn, though I fear the answer is "men are assumed to consent to sex".

    Bizarrely, the CPS has guidance on charging women who falsely allege rape and/or domestic abuse but not any other serious crimes.

    I'm going to guess that that is because they rarely to never get asked whether a complaint might be false. Partly because "so, you allege you were murdered" is unlikely but largely because there are few other private crimes that come down to credibility contests. It's hard to know whether the witch-hunts that occur with sex crimes are a cause or an effect of this, but I don't see the same thing happening with, say, slander or even tax avoidance (wouldn't that be funny, the crime of "maliciously and falsely reporting tax avoidance with the intention to cause a time-consuming tax audit" - I'm sure those do happen, but I can find no record of someone being prosecuted for so doing).

    447:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/dec/21/all-uk-police-forces-should-adopt-welsh-approach-to-videos-of-dangerous-driving

    the public can report road traffic offences they have witnessed using camera footage (including helmet, bar, dash or mobile) and still imagery through a single portal. Forces will then take action where a crime has been committed.

    What could possibly go wrong indeed.

    448:

    Sorry, logged back in because I do feel the need to reply, but I'm not quite sure what to say. My main advice is to do what feels right to you (within reason).

    Talking to people can help, especially if you can find someone to talk to privately. Being more public can cause problems. I generally don't, because my experience has been that it's easy to be "that guy" in various ways, and for reasons I have ... I'm going to say considerable knowledge of feminism (and know that that statement from a man is a bit fraught), but when I was most actively interested the dominant response from feminists was "men need to sort their own shit out, we're busy". Which is in a lot of ways fair enough.

    But "men's groups" at the time were odd, less offensive than now to some extent, but definitely odd. It was hard to avoid aggrieved ex-husbands, put it that way, rather than the unhappily single virgins that dominate public discourse now. Trying to find supportive men and pro-feminist political action was difficult. Easier these days with more internet, and I suggest that would be the place to start. But I would say that, wouldn't I, coz I choose to spend a lot of time on the internet. So... do what works for you :)

    449:

    "Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
    (Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?)"

    Saw that one coming, I had it stuck in my head before reading the G and I words.

    This is on a level with Adam Hills' observation that Advance Australia Fair works perfectly to the tune of Working Class Man by Cold Chisel.

    "Whoa-oh-oh-oh our land is girt by sea!".

    450:

    Yeah, I think just keeping my head down is the best. Lots of people live with worse. Most men's groups seem toxic, and I don't seem to have much in common with most men anyway so that's pretty much out. I've survived 20 odd years, and most days, indeed most weeks, it never crosses my mind. Just an annoying sore spot in my history I suppose.

    Anyway, thanks for the support.

    451:

    Oh wow. Thanks.

    452:

    I don't think all men's groups are toxic, but I agree it may be a challenge to tell which are not. Also, it seems that any men's group is vulnerable to infiltration from the toxic side at this time so inevitably a bit fraught, as Moz said above. I do hear good things about MensLine.

    On the other hand there are all sorts of groups, resources or simply social loci where you might find you have access to what is basically a non-toxic men's group, without it necessarily being declared as such. To me in a real sense it doesn't matter whether it is mostly men involved - the presence and the general readiness for including women, young women and queer people of any age or gender is probably not a bad thing anyway. There's a lot to be said for "people who've survived the Merde" as opposed to a gendered subset.

    Talking to someone one-on-one is still a good idea. While I don't know exactly the right way to find such services, sites like DV connect must surely help.

    453:

    "maliciously and falsely reporting tax avoidance with the intention to cause a time-consuming tax audit" - I'm sure those do happen, but I can find no record of someone being prosecuted for so doing"

    Funny you should mention that...

    There is a crime of making a false statement to a public official. I experienced a long and rather traumatic audit as a result of what I eventually proved to be false statements provided to a public official. After being told by the investigating officer that I had nothing to worry about as my story checked out, I asked what would happen to the person who'd made the false statements (they'd made them on a form that had the phrase "Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence." printed on it). I was told "well we can't be discouraging people reporting things to us". So no, no prosecution for causing a multi month audit going back over a decade despite a law saying it carries a two year prison term. I can't imagine what it cost the public purse to check the several hundred pages of evidence that I submitted in my defence. I know it cost me over a thousand dollars in bank fees alone to obtain copies of records from their archives. Trying to report the crime to the police was *hilarious*. (not in a good way of course) I've never been told to fuck off and die quite so politely.

    Still, I guess I was lucky. The false accusation that I was falsifying my tax returns wasn't the one I feared. I didn't feel all that lucky at the time though.

    http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s307b.html

    454:

    Yes, probably talking about it is a good thing. I realise that I'm actually using Charlie's blog as a discussion group. After all the discussion of electric cars, WWII battleship strategy, trains and bagpipes, it sort of felt natural.

    I probably shouldn't take over an SF blog for such a thing, but it does feel like a safe space. We violently disagree here, but good naturedly I think, or hope. I feel more among friends here than most any other place. I've certainly said stuff here that I wouldn't and haven't said anywhere else. Which is weird as it's completely non-private.

    Anyway, I've got more off my chest in the last little while than I have for decades. I think I need a bit of a rest now. Ioan's link was really good. The reader's stories there were so familiar. The weird unreality and the 'what just happened?' feeling. The 'did I do that or did that get done to me?'. 'Was that my fault?'. It's nice to know I'm not unique. I might digest that for a while and I might just fold these feelings up and put them in a corner where they can gather dust for a while.

    Anyway, thanks to all, and thanks for sharing that I'm not alone in these experiences.

    455:

    Re: Tim Blais ("A Capella Science")

    Agree, the TSwift parody video is completely on-topic re: toxic, narcissistic female predators.

    However, anyone needing a breather from inter-personal toxicity, here's a sock-puppet 'Wicked' parody featuring Newton & Einstein re: gravity from the same artist's other channel (acapellascience2).

    "For Good" feat. Puppet Einstein & Puppet Newton
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpgepZKtoXI

    You might want to keep a tissue handy.

    456:

    When it comes to political philosophy, Americans are not very discriminatory. They don’t examine political philosophies. They don’t formulate political philosophies. They buy them off the shelf like a can of spaghetti and meatballs because they like the look of the label.
    There's a single word for that:
    STUPID

    457:

    DON'T!

    "Advance Australia Fair" ...
    Alternative version follows ( Highly impolite & probably politically incorrect, but hey ...
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Our ancestors were criminals
    Sent far across the sea;
    Their recreations alcohol
    And bestiality;
    The perfect Sheila’s four foot tall,
    Flat-headed,with no hair;
    I rest my lager on her head –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    We sodomoise the bandicoot,
    We rape Kaola bear;
    No furry creature’s safe with us –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    Our cultural diversity
    Goes on and never stops:
    We may have killed the Abos, but
    We’ve let in Greeks and Wops;
    We rule not just the swimming-pool,
    Nor yet the cricket-square;
    We top the melanoma leagues –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    We mount the duck-billed platypus,
    Pork-sword Echidnas rare;
    No monotreme stays virginal –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    Our interests intellectual
    Are broad and wide and deep;
    From group projectile vomiting
    To buggering of sheep.
    We’ve urbanised green coastlines, and
    We’ve turned locations rare
    Into a blight of bungaloids –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    We masturbate marsupials,
    Screw dingoes in their lair;
    The native fauna’s safe with us –
    Advance, Australia fair!

    458:

    I still like Scared Weird Little Guys take on the national anthem (Waltzing Matilda): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCkbELNsN7U (lyrics from a random internet site)

    Lyrics for Cleaning Out My Tuckerbag by Scared Weird Little Guys

    G'day there, This song is dedicated to all the
    homeless, Suicidal thieves who've made this country
    great.

    Once a Jolly Swag man, was not a Bag man, camped by a
    Billabong, he looked like Larry Hagman, beneath the
    shade of a tree called a coolabah, it wasn't far by car
    from Maloolabah.
    he sang as he waited for his billy to boil, he was
    sitting on the soil, it was gonna take a while.
    When he could see the steam on his tea, he said "you'll
    come a waltzing matilda with me."

    Waltzing matilda, she came from Saint Kilda, her middle
    name was Hilda and her Daddy was a builder.
    When he could see the steam on his tea he said "you'll
    come a waltzing matilda with me"

    Yo come a waltzing matilda with me

    Down came a jumbuck and he was dumb struck
    He jumped up and picked it up and hot his thumb stuck
    He flicked out the dag, and rolled up his swag and
    stuck that jumbuck down in his tuckerbag.
    I can't quite remember what happens next, I'm gonna
    revert to the original text.

    "down came a stock man mounted on..."

    ok, I got it, I got it

    Down came a stockman, Turned off his walk man, went to
    the swaggie and said "yo, whats up man?"
    you dirty smuggler, I ain't no sucker,
    what's in the bag with your tucker mother fucker?

    up jumped the swaggie and said "It wasn't me"
    The stockman called on the troopers one, two, three

    The cops came at last and chased him down the grass, to
    nab his thieving. skinny, white homeless ass

    but they won't catch him, because he jumped in, the
    billabong for a never-ending swim and as he took his
    dive, the listened to him jive, saying "you cops are
    never gonna take me alive!"

    Yo come a waltzing matilda with me.

    The Swaggie,
    The Jumbuck,
    The Stockman,
    The Coolabah,
    The Tuckerbag,
    The Troopers,
    The Yo-Yo,

    Ah, geez I'm sorry Mum, I didnt mean to hurt ya, I
    didnt mean to steal that jumbuck, but tonight,
    I'm cleaning out my tuckerbag.

    459:

    I can imagine a large and quite possibly major proportion of the resulting prosecutions being of the person who submitted the video for the way they were driving/riding while recording it. I could even imagine that that's the real point.

    460:

    "... or make citizen such couch potatoes that they're untrainable for military service."

    Actually, there is an easier way to do this, that has already been implemented in the United States.

    Change the nutritional guidelines so as to emphasize foods that are well-known to lead to obesity.

    You think I'm joking, but the research on this has been done. The current wave of obesity in the US started RIGHT AFTER THE NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES WERE UPDATED to emphasize carbohydrates over protein and fat.

    461:

    Let me reply to your points:

    1. Speaking as an old hippy, they ranged from left wing political to anarchist. They were *never* pro-capitalist.

    I agree with you that hippies were never pro-capitalist, but they were anti-government and so were the libertarians of the time. (I did meet a few libertarians, who disillusioned with the commune experience, saw the light of the free market on the road south to Los Angles.) It was a fairly easy step from one to the other.

    2. Republicans have been the right wing party of the rich for wayyyy over a century.

    The Republicans like the Democrats are a coalition of interests, and while wealthy business interests were always been a part of the party, there were other sides to it. The part did have a liberal wing. I point to Teddy Roosevelt. His policies were considered progressive, and he was know for his trust busting.

    When Johnson passed the civil-rights act in 1964, a larger percentage of Republicans voted for it than Democrats.

    The Liberal wing of the Republican party pretty much died after the run of John Anderson against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980. What an independent candidate does in American politics is to allow a group of voters to transfer their allegiance from one party to another. George Wallace allowed southern whites to transfer their allegiance to Republicans. John Anderson’s liberal Republicans went over to the Democrats.

    3. Reagan was in the 80's, not the 90's.

    True, but Reaganism and the ritual deification of Ronald Reagan extended well into the 90s.

    4. I *think* I started hearing about libertarianism in the 70s. I know I read Anthem around '67 (GAH, what *terrible* writing!), and right wingers I knew loved it.

    But were those right-wingers serious libertarians who could debate philosophical minutiae, or just anti-governmentarians.

    5. All the [Ll]ibertarians I started running into in the later 80's were *all* into Rand, 100%. Around '92, a co-worker who was a Libertarian shoved Atlas Shrugged at me, as, apparently, their bible.

    By the late 80s, in the parties I went to, [Ll]ibertarians and Randians shared the same room, although the [Ll]ibertarians maintained a slight air of superiority, regarding the Randians as coming to the correct conclusion, but by way of a nut. Remember, these libertarians could quote their Herbert Spencer, Karl Hess, George Smith, Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Misses. (Incidentally, George Smith calls himself an anarcho-capitalist.)

    They certainly became associated together by the early 90s and anybody who wasn’t really into libertarian philosophy i.e. your average Ayn Rand reader/believer, wouldn’t see the difference.

    Also, in the 90s, a number of libertarians got jobs in right-wing think tanks funded by wealthy individuals like the Koch brothers, and this may have affected the views they espoused.

    462:

    2. Teddy Roosevelt was also one of the early conservationists, thus in direct opposition to evrything DT stands for

    463:

    Err, Greg, DT stands in direct opposition to nearly every Republican president I can think of, though I'm somewhat divided about Nixon, which might say something.

    Think about it that way, I really can't stand people making assumptions about USSAmericans as uncultured, ahistorical, conglomerated and totally homogenized, especially since I know US history goes back 100 years more than the history of a unified Germany[1], and most of the people decrying "American culture industry" are not that much better, actually usually they're worse, and like their secret idol, they couldn't stay on their seat during Wagner if nailed to it. But unlike their secret idol, I think they wouldn't like Lehar either. Guess you get the reference. ;)

    Look at it that way, DT is like every old Anti-American[2] cliche about the USA embodied in a person, and strangely, large portions of the American public (not the majority, as we know) appreciate this negative view of themselves, like a troubled teenager embracing a diagnosis of "anti-social personality disorder" or "borderline personality disorder" and becoming even more careless or cutting even deeper.

    BTW, not that I think Germans or British are that different, my usual comment on talks about Trump is "Robert Geiss for chancellor"...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Geiss

    Actually, when reading this

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/its-very-gold-the-presidential-coin-undergoes-a-trumpian-makeover/2017/12/22/23c8b11e-e5bb-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html

    I even felt quite some sympathy for George W., quite a few stories indicate he really feels sorry for the soldiers killed in the aftermath of his decisions, though of course it just might be PR. But as the saying goes, "the opposite of good are good intentions", and like I said to a friend who said my stoner flatmate at the time had a good heart, "you can say the same about Jar-Jar Binks." It's like this story of Tilly saving a boy in Magdeburg, it shows you're not a total sociopath or narcissist. And I really doubt we could find a similar story about Trump, and I guess his PR department would have a heck of a time making one up...

    In other news, I guess you and me don't really care for this whole Christmas thing. and for a real Christian, not that I know a lot[3], Eastern would be more important.

    I'd like to use another festivity I cited 12 years ago, when my parents pestered me during one of my SAD periods and asked if I knew which day it was, which would indicate a "hail Mithras", but

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithras_in_comparison_with_other_belief_systems#25th_of_December

    says this is an urban legend.

    So maybe "natalis invicti augusti", to mangle my Latin somewhat,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus#Festival_of_Dies_Natalis_Solis_Invicti

    though again, this seems doubtful, and I have a troubled relation to neo-folk...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus_(band)#Controversy

    Err, could I just say I really like the days getting longer, since this means my SAD might cease soon, and I wish you the same?

    [1] Early German unification was somewhat intertwined with the USA, quite a few of its proponents emigrated there. And the play that gave its name to the whole period young Goethe belonged to is actually set during the American revolution...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang#Origin_of_the_term

    [2] Funny thing, "Anti-Germans" are usually the only ones quoting Adorno nowadays...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Germans_(political_current)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_industry

    Er, no, I'm not Anti-German, it's just I still read "konkret" from time to time...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konkret

    Guess I mentioned I lost one friend to GegenStandpunkt for a time, BTW?

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/GegenStandpunkt

    Err, sometimes I think I'm like that nebula in Babylon 5 witnessing every major event...

    [3] Guess I met one in Italy this year, he said my body language and posture was like a (Northern) Italian, and I still don't know what to make out of that. We talked about the Italian translation of G.K. Chesterton I bought for a friend (some "Father Brtown", and "The Man who was Thursday"), about Chesterton and Tolkien, and about some Medieval scholastics. I guess I mentioned I'm an agnostic, but as you might know, sometimes we can't escape our upbringing, even if our parents didn't understand the culture they were transmitting...

    464:

    Well... Adolf should have learnt from what happened to Rienzi, shouldn't he? Not to mention the fate of Wotan & the other gods - but he didn't.
    As for the "Anti-Germans" they seem like a funhouse mirror of the (Even wilder shores of) Momentum, rabid-left traitors, cosying up to the very things they profess to hate, shades of Oscar Wilde in fact.

    As for the day & the season, well, no problem: Happy Humbug/Midwinter/Saturnalia/Yule/Mithra's birthday to y'all.

    Oh yes, reference:
    Mithra's Birthday ... Try This Which inncludes a free-downloadable pdf-file on the re-opened remains of the Temple of Mithra in London, following reconstruction of the site & lots of archeology.

    465:

    Err, I have some objections to your account.

    First of, I wouldn't call the hippie commune movement "basically anarcho-syndicalist". The commune movement has quite some diverse manifestations and roots, for the agricultural variety, I you like, you can go back to the final chapter of Voltaire's Candide ("we must cultivate our garden"), or even "ora et labora", with some life reform thrown in, if you like, you could even cite this paragon of German petty bourgeouisie, Moritz Schreber and his allotment gardens:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moritz_Schreber

    On the other hand, anarcho-syndicalism developed in the context of the industrial worker movement in the late 19th and early 20th century and was prominent throughout the Spanish Civil War, where I'd have to do some reading, but I guess the CNT was not just centered on agricultural workers. There have been some anarcho-syndicalist communes, but than, there have been some fascist ones, too:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CasaPound

    Please note that fascism and some forms of anarchism, the violent ones focused on direct action, have quite some ideas and persons in common, which is one of the things quite a few leftists bring up against anarchism, but then, Mussolini was in the PSI, e.g. a social democrat, not the Unione Sindacale Italiana. BTW, you might look up this guy

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Sorel

    Going back to your example, I can see the appeal "free market" etc. had for some people disillusioned with the hippie movement but wanting to keeo their ideal of "individual freedom". Actually, I know quite a few "anti-Wallstreet, anti-America" folks still wanting to keep a free market but e.g. without money lending. They don't see the problem capital accumulation might pose in the long term:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_accumulation

    Usually at some point the capitalist dies without heirs, or the heirs lack his talent, or they are divided. Legal persons are potentially as immortal as the matter their information is encoded in.

    Coming back to your experiences in SoCal (they might have been different in Ruby Ridge, for example), to quote a story from my own somewhat misspent late youth in late 90s/early 00s Germany, there was a time she with the Cobain poster and the junkie ex-boyfriend, she who according to old schoolfriends always wanted to be avantgarde and who for some reason thought me interesting to be around ditched her Satre (and some time later biology for chemistry) and started to read John Stuart Mill. And I guess we both agree classical liberalism is not an offshoot of French existentialism or Grunge. But it might be a viable alternative when you realize you might be at something of a deadend.

    Speaking from an European perspective, I would say libertarianism is in some ways another offshoot of left hegelianism

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Hegelians

    embodied by one Max Stirner,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Stirner

    whose "Der Einzige und sein Eigentum" is on my ToBeRead-list since I'm 18. Usually, he's described as the first "individualist anarchist".

    As for his European pedigree, well, Hegel begat Stirner, Stirner begat Nietzsche, and Nietzsche begat, well actually Nietzsche begat a whole bunch of guys who didn't understand him, actually I guess Nietzsche didn't understand himself, for his writing is highly associative thinking, and when Nietzsche writes about our consciousness being a smallleaf on a bigger ocean, lately I come to think about Kahnemann's "two systems" or some of Peter Watts ideas in "Blindsight" and "Echopraxia".

    So if you look at the Nazi followers of Nietzsche, I'm also not that surprised libertarians turned to the alt-right, but as another left hegelian once said,

    “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
    - Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

    Actually, I don't care that much for Hegel, but I quite like reading Nietzsche. In the end, he didn't like German unification, thought himself a Pole and thought antisemites should be shoot on sight. His sister on the other hand got in touch with one Rudolph Steiner, and if you don't know what German Anthroposophy is I envy your American innocence. Whatever, I guess Nietzsche would have objected to the critique I cited when talking to a guy and later friend I would call a Nietzsche wannabee at 21:

    "[The youth of today is Nietzschean because, as you so aptly put it, Nietzscheanism is a "spurious" individualism. It is bourgeois individualism which cannot exist unless the masses are oppressed and-note this well-without lackeyism, servility towards tradition and the obliteration of the obliteration of the individual of th oppressor, as well as in the oppressed masses.] The "beautiful blond beast" is, after all, a slave to the king, to the priest, to law and tradition, another possession of the exploiting clique, without individuality."
    - Peter Kropotkin, "Letter to Nettlau"

    Though I guess this critique is quite apt for some libertarians.

    (Damn it, I don't know what happened to my writing style lately. Hope it doesn't upset people here too much, does it?)

    BTW, Nietzsche is not talking about "master groups", he's talking about the "Übermensch". Where "Über" might be translated as "over", so "Übermensch" might be "over human". You could further explain it as "superman", but in the context of this blog, I think "transhuman" might be a better translation...

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1998/1998-h/1998-h.htm#link2H_4_0081

    466:

    Hey, AFAIK Hitler couldn't sit still through any Wagner, so he likely missed the ending. That's one of the things usually cited in support of Hitler's "attention-deficit, oh, shiny", but then, I sat through Tarkowski's Solaris and quite enjoyed it, and that was long before methylphenidate...

    As for the Anti-Germans, in Germany one of the alternatives were the Anti-Imps

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-imperialism

    and since I don't like to cozy up to the developing-country fascist-painted-in-red authoritarian, err, popular leader of the week, personally I have a soft spot for the AGs, watch from afar and think about establishing reeducation camps in Saxony or Mechlenburg-Vorpommern.

    And then, with the fun in Yugoslavia and like, at some point I myself explained that maybe we should just watch Western Capitalism getting rid of those nationalist regimes, all in the name of dialectics, of course. Might be some parallel ideas to Accelerationism,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerationism

    and yes, i see the problems, and I guess I shouldn't feel too proud about me coming up with that.

    Actually it was these and similar ideas a friend borrowed when talking to the GegenStandpunkt guys, and they said it was a fringe opinion, but interesting, and if he wouldn't like to show up more. No idea if the guy is angry with me for this derailment of his career in biology...

    AFAIR Anti-Germans and Anti-Imps developed in the context of the Gulf War (the Kuwait one), and there is a German hardcore punk song from that time:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjK4BLtvED0

    Lyrics at:

    https://www.lyrix.at/t/but-alive-krieg-keinen-frieden-102

    As for the Mithraeum in London, it might be some time before I go to London again, I did so in high school. If I do, well, you have an email address or similar? ;)

    There are mithraea in Rome and Ostia, but either I didn't visit them, or it was during one of my depressions, or the Italian summer heat made me sleep too little and the memories were not encoded, or they were somewhat unimpressive, so I can't remember them. Me being somewhat slim on photos from the time hints towards depression, and I guess I would have visited them.

    Maybe I'll visit Rome and Ostia next year, though.

    467:

    Damn it, I totally forgot to mention those guys from the 1920s:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensreform

    and

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Verit%C3%A0

    Actually, there are quite some problematic offshoots from the hippie movement in the context of modern business; NLP started with the Human Potential Movement, but then, any aspiring acidhead worth his Water Rings knows anything Timothy Leary endorsed might be a mixed bag (I quite enjoyed Illuminatus, though).

    And MBPT developed out of Jungian psychology, though then, if you career options are limited by your results, you might retest, for it's not that inter-test reproducibility is not that good.

    And since I already mentioned to some friends I might be listening to New Model Army too much lately (no army boot till now, thankfully), what about some Crass, though I discovered them only recently:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7D9aoq6wfc

    468:

    SMIDSY...

    There was an informal experiment conducted in California many years ago.

    The local police had purchased some motorcycles. They were a standard police design. The local city council ordered them to get rid of those dangerous motorcycles. The hero of the story bought one, for a very good price. He repainted it in the colors used by the California Highway Patrol, put a white Star of David on the sides, and mounted a CB antenna. He then bought shirt and trousers in the same color and style as the CHP motorcycle officers wore, and a helmet of the same style, and a pair of gloves.

    At first glance, from a safe distance, he looked like a CHP motorcycle officer.

    Result: He NEVER had less than ten car lengths of clearance. Nobody hit him. Nobody ever came close. Nobody EVER cut him off. And... (This was in the days of the double nickel) When he drove 55 mph, EVERYONE maintained 55 mph.

    It was, of course, too good to last. After some weeks, representatives of the local PD came to him and said "You haven't broken any laws, we sympathize, we understand what you're doing and why, but you're going to have to stop, or we're going to be forced to find an excuse to arrest you and stop you. We don't WANT to have to make your life hell, but we won't be given the choice." He understood, changed clothes, repainted the bike, and was immediately back to being crowded on the freeway and cut off in traffic on a routine basis.

    Drivers DO see motorcycles. They see them and they make a conscious threat evaluation. When the threat evaluation came back "CHP - he could cost me a LOT of headache", they DON'T crowd and they DON'T cut them off.

    469:

    At first glance, from a safe distance, he looked like a CHP motorcycle officer.

    Yep. Many US police forces have used Crown Victorias for many years. I'm currently driving one that is not just the right model but an actual retired police car, picked up for a relative song at an auto auction. (It has many fine qualities; these don't include the back seat, which was custom made for the previous owners and doesn't suit the needs of any normal user.) I noticed that other drivers got polite and, if I didn't watch my speed, backed up behind me.

    My local police are switching over to rather ugly SUVs now and I'm noticing less blatant avoidance of misbehavior (I even saw a guy run a red light this morning!), though I'm still especially worried about people hanging back in my blind spot when I want to change lanes.

    470:

    Anecdata: A classmate back when I was in university about 30 years ago bought the Canadian equivalent of a police-owned patrol car. The departmental logos were still visible as ghost outlines on the door (due to sun fading of the paint that was not covered by the logos). He reported that so many drivers had internalized their image of the shape of these cars that they would slow down to the speed limit and pull over to let him pass whenever he overtook them. Presumably, they thought he was in a very poorly concealed undercover car. The police never bothered him because it was clear, on even casual inspection, that it was not a police vehicle and that he was no police officer.

    471:

    Re: 'A 15-18 y.o. Romeo hitting on a 14 y.o. Juliet is a whole different kettle of fish from 30+ y.o. Lotharios trolling teeny-boppers at the Mall.'

    Wasn't Juliet about to be married off by her parents to Count Paris who was at least 25 years old? Recall from EngLit class that Shakespeare's plays can be interpreted at more than one level because of social/political commentary that could not be voiced otherwise. So in R&J, the parents are the trolls.

    Also - 'married' did not always mean consummated. To some extent, the meaning depended on social status. Plenty of European royalty were 'married' off as children and only consummated their marriages when they became adults and prodded into producing heirs.


    Re: That other literary classic, i.e., 'The Bible'

    Probably a few linguists here, so:

    Has anyone confirmed that the Bible (OT and/or NT) actually still means what it was intended to mean when first written? From what I recall of my EngLit courses, English which is considered a very modern language has changed enormously even since Shakespeare's era and did so despite increased literacy in every generation since. To expect ancient Hebrew (or Latin, Aramaic, Greek, etc.) to have remained unchanged for millennia seems unrealistic.