I can be wrong, but

You’ve heard it before: the robots are going to take your jobs – from truck drivers, through store and restaurant staff all the way to journalists and beyond as the tech gets better. The economy is getting worse, the profits from capital are raising while the profits from work are in decline, if trends continue as they do we are all doomed! People need to live, bloody capitalism demanding that everybody has to have a job in order to be self sustainable doesn’t cut it anymore, things have to change, and they have to change now!

I don’t want to discredit people that raise an alarm, most of them are correct in spotting the symptoms, I am not quite sure if they are correct in spotting the causes of those symptoms, but whether they are correct or not, one thing is for sure: if there ever has been a growing socio-political knee jerk reaction, it is calling for Universal Basic Income.

If implemented today, Basic Income will kill a lot of people

Here is just one reason why. There is a lot of boring jobs on the job market, one of them is garbage disposal and all other sorts of jobs related to keeping a city (any city) clean. Those are the potentially the most boring and unsatisfying  jobs out there, but they are very much necessary for our survival. Drowning in trash not only isn’t pretty, it’s snowballing bio-hazard. Should Basic Income be implemented today, I can’t imagine anyone but maybe very few public workers responsible for garbage disposal to stay on their tolls, and the few madmen that will stay certainly won’t be enough.

Solutions? Volunteers! Phew! Now I don’t have to worry about throwing out all the trash I produce, since some volunteers will come and take care of it for me without a blink of an eye, isn’t that what altruism is about? Well… let’s get real. While perfectly capable of taking care of the trash in their own living spaces, people simply won’t be so eager to do it where public space is involved – you throw your trash into the container and now what? This is an age old problem – if something is public, owned by the government, or by the collective if you wish, it is in fact owned by no one, and thus nobody has any incentive to take care of it. You might think that “deal with it or die under tones of old leftovers and plastic” is a good enough incentive to act, but social diffusion goes much deeper than that.

The real problem with economy

It feels like Zeitgeist and Occupy Wall Street was just yesterday, and yet when I look around and listen to what people say, it seems like nobody has learned the lesson. Technological progress increases productivity, that is a fact, it’s axiomatic for the advocates of Basic Income, and if technological progress is exponential, so should be the overall wealth produced. Why then do we have inflation and raising prices? If everything goes so well, why do we have a chronic economical crisis in the first place?

Gimme an F! / Gimme an E! / Gimme a D! *crowd goes crazy*

How to lend someone money you don’t have? If you try to do it as an individual, you either won’t be able to do it at all because you don’t have the money, you lend someone else’s money and go to jail for fraud/theft, or – if you have some nice hardware – print the money and go to jail for counterfeiting. Those rules apply to you, the individual, but they don’t apply to governments, nor do they apply to government backed banks (read: all of them – I’ll continue labeling FED’s influence as government’s influence, since it is the government that gives FED the monopoly to print money). When Murray Rothbard wrote his For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, he pointed out that not only do governments have monopoly on printing money, but they extend the money creation power to banks which can lend out 6 times the money they have in reserves. The reason why we have inflation, is because governments increase money supply – taxation in a disguise – and they do so at a rate faster than wealth is produced on the market, thus prices continue to go up despite production costs going down. It seems governments really don’t like to stay behind, as the ratio is now 10 to 1 in US, but this shouldn’t be news to anyone who watched Zeitgeist movies – as much as I dislike their magical solutions, they got that part right.

The problem with the economy is not capitalism, the problem is that we have a mixed economy. Big business is not getting shafted by government and taxation, contrary, big business loves government, that love relationship has nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with corruption, corruption made possible by the power to intervene in economy that government holds. How many car brands do you know? How many car companies came into existence in the last year? 2 years? 5 years? 10? I might not have the most accurate information, but my guess is that there weren’t many. Why? Because making a new car company is expensive, you can’t just build a car and sell it, that’s so last century! You need permissions, certificates, you need to build a test model and then do a crash test with it, possibly more than one, if you want to start a new car company there is a huge financial and paperwork cliff that you have to jump through first, a cliff that established brands don’t have to worry about – that’s government enforced unfair advantage, this is not capitalism. Every regulation, every subsidizing plan, every intervention into economy that government commits creates asymmetry and betrays the ideals of capitalism. A company employing a lot of people going bankrupt? Quick! Subsidize it with tax payer’s dollars (or just freshly printed ones)! We can’t afford losing the jobs after all, can we? And while we try so hard to keep the jobs, nobody is there to protest in the name of all the companies that could have risen and given jobs in places of the inefficient, subsidized zombie behemoths. Granted, a factory providing vast majority of the jobs for a local community closing is a local tragedy, but it’s the consequence of community building around the factory in the first place – these things will happen, and even more so as we decentralize production with 3d printing.

One thing I see often when it comes to advocating Basic Income is this: “In its heyday, Kodak employed 140,000 people. Today, Kodak’s replacement Instagram employs under 30.” While the data is true, it does not mean that Instagram has replaced Kodak, if anything – Apple did. Instagram produces software, and not amazingly robust software to that, they have done the right thing at the right time and came out as a success, the story is amazing but there is a catch – Instagram still needs a camera to work, a camera that the company does not produce. Anyone who have given more than 20 seconds of thought to that one example can see why it’s fallacious, which makes the fact that it’s brought up again and again and again as if it had some merit absolutely stunning. Yes, it is true that more and more wealth is produced by less and less people, but it’s not a ratio of 140,000 to 13, not just yet. Somebody, somewhere, still has to assemble your iPhone so you can take a picture of your lunch (where that iPhone gets assembled is another issue). You can take your tinfoil hats off now.

This is all just scratching the surface, but the bottom line to all of this is – we can’t afford Basic Income yet. Not in the monetary sense of finding the money to pay for it, but rather in the sense that we can’t afford rendering the jobs that still do exist on the market obsolete by making them unwanted due to Basic Income. The welfare state, the regulations and the corruption – all consequences of big government – is the main problem here, not technological progress. The solution to being sick is not taking a full glass of poison that’s making you sick in the first place.

The “best” case scenario

The future has arrived, advances in cognitive computing, robotics and nanotech made all blue collar jobs obsolete. Concentration of wealth eventually lead to very few individuals owning and maintaining all the life necessity providing industries with armies of robots at their command, those few individuals where getting progressively more and more taxed and at some point the Global Government stepped in and collectivized their companies altogether. Every month as a citizen of the Earth you get 3,000,000 credits (we had to go through some form of hyperinflation sooner or later), which you can then spend on anything you desire or trade it with fellow citizens for their services such as performing art or writing custom software. Those credits do not come from taxation, there is no need for taxation anymore as the global government owns all the material assets and all the critical services and owned by the Global Government itself, instead credits used to purchase food, electricity so on – being just arbitrary numbers in the network they are – disappear in /dev/null, while new credits are issued to citizens from thin air. Welcome to paradise!

Well, not exactly. You can fine tune details as much as you want, but the consequences of pumping government issued currency into the economy for the basic needs of anyone’s survival (the level of that existence can vary, too), means that in order to avoid inflation the Global Government has to steer the prices for it’s services so that the more or less same amount of credits gets removed from and added to the system. Additionally, the government issued credits have to compete with other currencies, most notably Bitcoin or it’s descendant in one shape or another, a competition where the government money is fighting a lost fight, thus the government issued currency will be reduced only to the means of acquiring the government provided services and nothing more. It doesn’t matter whether government gives you 30,000,000 credits or 100,000,000,000 credits, it will never buy you a luxury item, not even if you save that money through your whole life, simply because luxury items are not going to be sold for government credits.

Here is the embarrassment of Basic Income as a principle, while money in the free market economy represent a claim on a portion of wealth on said market, money issued by government and given away for nothing represent no value other than the claim on whatever wealth the government can acquire. That means if you want this utopia to work, the government has to – directly by producing it with it’s army of robots, or indirectly by claiming ownership of every product ever made with 100% taxation – distribute wealth and collect payment for it, the former I doubt can be efficient, the latter I doubt can be executed. By each according to his ability, to each according to his credits. All while putting even more power into even less hands, are you are concerned about inequality? You have seen nothing yet.

Trying to fix economy with one sweeping change is a noble idea, but with every radical change you have to be very careful about consequences as well as issues of feasibility and implementation. Fixing economy by giving everybody money for free makes about as much sense to me at this point as trying to get rid of AIDS by making it illegal. I’m sorry, but you can’t bend reality to your wishful thinking.

There is a dangerous notion in our society of praising altruism and condemning selfishness. In this post I will attempt to convince you that not only is such attitude immoral, but also irrational, and I’ll attempt to do that while not praising selfishness either.

The common argument is that morality talks about what ought to be done, rather than what is, and thus it cannot be tackled on by science which only tells us about how things are, rather than how they ought to be. Can morality be a fruit of nothing but reason? Go home Kant, you’re drunk.

There are many moral scenarios that we might contemplate, some are really tough nuts to crack and it’s hard to have an unanimous judgement about them. I’d like us to consider a scenario that doesn’t go that far, a scenario that may be on the edge of our imperfect moral judgements but shouldn’t be difficult for anyone, I hope: A patient with a fatal heart disease arrives at a hospital, he will die unless he immediately receives a surgery, at which point there is an 80% chance he will die within a week. At the same time, in the same hospital there are 5 other patients in a need of organ transplantation who will otherwise die within a week. Our heart disease patient happens to have same blood group and is otherwise compatible with all of the 5 other patients in need of organs, and his organs can save them all. In such a scenario, is it moral to let the patient with heart disease die and save the other 5?

Attempts at rational morality have been done in the last century, and there are some done this century – most notably by Sam Harris who, in his Moral Landscape, claims that morality is the maximising of wellbeing of conscious creatures. Such notion, although it might sound correct at first, fails when confronted with our case above. I’d argue it is immoral to sacrifice the patient with heart disease in order to save any other life, and I think I might have a good reason to believe so.

What if our patient learns that there are the other 5 that he might help, and he decides to sacrifice himself to help them, is that moral? As someone who strongly believes in freedom, I cannot see a reason why such a sacrifice should be forbidden, people kill themselves in less meaningful ways – being free includes the freedom to end own life, thus such act of altruistic self sacrifice is perfectly acceptable. Would it, on the other hand, be moral to try and convince said patient to sacrifice, not to mention to force it upon him? I’d argue that demanding altruism, in this case at least, is immoral. Is it selfish of the patient to want to keep all his organs intact for as long as there is a chance he might live? You may argue it is, I’d argue it’s not that simple and that it is by no means immoral of the patient to wish to live.

Game Theory describes four different relations between agents that affects their wellbeing:

  1. Selfishness – the act of harming others for the sake of helping oneself.
  2. Altruism – the act of harming oneself for the sake of helping others.
  3. Spite – the act of harming oneself in order to harm others.
  4. Cooperation – the act of helping others and oneself.

Selfishness and altruism are in conflict with each other, can thus someone be both selfish and selfless? Here lays the trap that so many fall into. We like to deal with absolutes, and we like things to be white and black, but it never really is so simple, is it? What will save us from ambivalence? Maybe we shouldn’t be saved from it. Maybe we should rather cherish it.

The truth, usually, is somewhere in between. Aristotle argues that the golden mean isn’t necessarily in the exact middle between two states, but can be closer to one extreme than the other. It might very well be that virtue is somewhere between selfishness and altruism, but if it is so – where is the border? Aristotle also claims that one doesn’t need to have exceptional intellect to figure out the golden mean, but rather that it can be achieved by nothing but common sense. I hate arguments from common sense, as common sense has proven to be insufficient or even downright inconsistent with reality in many fields of science, Quantum Mechanics for one. However, since common sense is a product of evolution, and so is all of our emotional hardwiring, empathy and will to live in packs, then it might be so that common sense is the proper tool for solving problems of morality.

If asked which of the 4 relations listed above is the best case scenario it doesn’t take a lot to point at cooperation. Why is that? What is the unique trait of cooperation that all other relations lack? Is it that it’s beneficent? Maybe, but so is selfishness or altruism (the question is: to whom?). No, the unique trait of cooperation is that it is the only relation that doesn’t produce harm. And here, I believe, is where Sam Harris got his premise wrong:

Maximising wellbeing is not the virtue of morality, avoiding doing harm is.

Does our patient with heart disease hurt others by willing to live? Maybe, but helping others would harm himself in ultimate way, too. That, I argue, excuses him completely – as it does the doctors that perform a surgery on him with only 20% chance of survival within a week. I wouldn’t claim this to be a revelation, after all it is nothing new - Primum non nocere.

In the age of science and exponential technological progress, in the age where majority of the people on this planet still latch onto one kind of superstition or another, I think we need proper morality more than ever. We need a reasoned out morality, rather than one based on faith or emotion. Whenever we jump on our judgements too fast, either due to emotion or faith, the result often can be more harmful than expected. I could bring on many examples of this, and many could be arguable by one group or another. I was therefore when watching a TED talk from this year which, among many of it’s values, perfectly exposes the errors of our social so called morality:

We need a morality based on reason, a morality thought out and discussed. If we fail to achieve that, what does that make us?

Sorry guys, I had quite an overload due to moving IRL, then not having internet, then being busy with other affairs. But I’m back now!

A wave of protests has gone through USA, Wikipedia went black and US politicians finally woke up, shaken their heads and shelved not just SOPA but also PIPA. I’m not a fan of democracy – but this was the very good side of a democratic system.

Meanwhile in Poland starting from last weekend protests ignited over signing ACTA January 26th, first in the cyberspace with Anonymous taking active part in taking government websites down. Websites that were not hacked were DDoS’ed to hell and so on Sunday 22nd Polish state ceased to exist in the Internet. The first reaction of the government was quite astonishing, the Minister of Digitalization (sic) Michał Boni came out pale on Monday saying how sorry he is, that it was a mistake to push ACTA forward without doing proper public consultations. This didn’t last long as we soon learned that our beloved Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that Poland will, regardless of anything, sign ACTA. For the sake of clarification, this does not mean that ACTA is live yet, it’s only a first step towards ratification of the law here, it can be still rejected by the parliament or the president (who is from the same party as the government), plus it has to be voted in EU parliament too,  and the powers that be all around Europe slowly (much slower than Americans) wake up as to what is going on.

On 24th and 25th Poles went out to the streets, this has not happened when TAXes were being raised, this has not happen over changes in health care that removed a whole bunch of drug refunds (in some cases sentencing people to death). No, this has happened only over ACTA. Poles love freedom because we either still remember or were taught by parents what it means to not have it. We are being governed by morons.

Clips from protests all across the country:

{ slurp } update!

To make it short:

  • The name “slurp” (all lower case, I don’t like capital SL) is going to stick after all, seems people like it, despite the (or maybe because of ;)) the meaning.
  • The compiler has been re-written from scratch and got a bit of a face lift :).
  • The compiler can be considered to be in Alpha stage at this point, parser is still lackluster, but it is aware of all LL functions, events and constants now.
  • A full featured Beta should come later this week! All points I made in my last post stand.

I tend to say that working with LSL makes me want to murder kittens, that might not be very accurate (it’s more like killing babies than kittens) but this week after a little chat with Ash I figured out I can either keep complaining about it forever (since the project of implementing C# or some variation of it got shelved), or do something about it to make my life, and potentially other people’s too, easier. I gave it a working title “Slurp” (yes, really), and got to work to produce a proof of concept demo/prototype of it.

The general idea is to create a python-esque script language that, much like CoffeeScript for JavaScript, compiles 1 to 1 to LSL. The python-ness is mostly about abandoning semicolons at the end of  a line, and using tab (or space bar) indention to create blocks instead of curly brackets. This achieves a couple of things: the code is more readable and requires/teaches some more discipline, it frees up the curly brackets as a syntax mechanism for me to be used elsewhere, and last but not least – it’s just easier to make a parser for such code.

What I totally want to do:

  • Add a dictionary or dict variable type to store key-value paired data (associative array if you wish).
  • Make accessing list and dict elements easy with variable_name[key] common in all modern programming languages.
  • Make variable converting in function calls automatic – yes, I really want to just print out an integer via llOwnerSay() to debug my code – I just think we can all give coders some more benefit of a doubt and assume they are not complete idiots and know what they are doing.
  • Add ability to call functions with less arguments than there are required (rest gets filled with their respective null values, handy with llListen() and the likes).
  • Add ability to define events with less or no arguments at all (more often than not you don’t even use the detected_num in touch events and what have you), and if you do define them – not having to declare their types (not like you can choose what type they can be anyway).
  • Quality of life: state keyword no longer required when declaring a state (it already works this way for default, which just creates inconsistence IMHO).
  • Quality of life: rename state_entry event to just entry, because I can!
  • Quality of life: vector being declarable with less than 3 parameters (you often need only two when dealing with llSetPrimitiveParams() and the likes), or no parameters at all making <> equal a null vector. Note: rotation will still require a set of four.

Things I wanted to do but will probably abandon:

  • Renaming linden functions. I don’t like them being in global namespace and I don’t like how they are camelCase when the  rest of the  language seems to utilize underscores, but for the sake of not having people re-learn everything about LSL I will most likely keep the function names the same.
  • Loosely typed variables – lack of strong typing can create issues when declaring custom functions and further development for me – not worth the effort.

In the unforeseen future:

  • Ability to nest dictionaries and lists (possibly not lists but a nest-able array alternative).
  • JSON parser, fuck yeah.

I’ll need to write my compiler from scratch (the idea behind writing a prototype was to actually learn how to do it properly and figure out what problems I’ll face), so at this point nothing is set in stone. Also, if you have an idea for a name let me know! “Slurp” is a nice name, because it has “SL” in it and all, but I  don’t think it will stick ;).

So here is my new profile picture instead!

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