Saturday, January 28, 2017

Human Value

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
― Aristotle

What is our value as individuals?

Apart from our inherent will to survive, we continuously make a value assessment of ourselves and from that assessment we choose to be happy in degrees. We experience pleasure and pain objectively without lasting effect unless we choose to process that information into our self-image. Some choose to grow stronger by a particular pain and take pride in that experience while others determine that it is a form of semi-deserved oppression--the loathing of our peers for ourselves due to some fault not in our stars. This was Frankl's central point when he wrote Man's Search for Meaning--we choose the perspective in which we live and may find meaning in any circumstance. Learning is a choice, hence our value is what we choose it to be.

This is all very well and good, but we also have a choice in how we direct our lives. We form governments and undertake monumental efforts based on a shared expectation of the value that we might derive from the undertaking. How should we direct our group efforts? Since individuals perceive the effect of human events differently, there will always be valid disagreement on this point. However, it is true that there is a will to "good" and also a will towards enhancing one's self-esteem that seems common to all. We want to think that we are good often by achieving good and we want to feel good. Furthermore, we tend to agree on what is good for ourselves and for others. The only disagreement here appears to come from lack of common perspective. Even a murderer does not want to destroy what he holds precious.

So our efforts toward good are beset by arguments over perspective. Often that discord emanimates from confusion within ourselves in the dichotomy of feeling and thinking towards the good. We should be able to lay this argument to rest if we so choose. All external disagreements will likely be situationally dependent so lets leave those for others to consider. The reigning principle there is that those most closely affected by the choice should be the ones to have the greatest concern placed in their perspective. The question we can settle here is how we ourselves can form a perspective of our own value in the face of external realities. Since each mind is different, we do not expect a common answer, but we should expect that rational individuals will take up the question in essentially the same way.

An observation is appropriate here. The capacity for human accomplishment is dependent on both external and internal factors. As such, all human accomplishment is ephemeral. However, since human accomplishment changes the circumstances for ourselves and others, it has an aggregative effect that can facilitate the good. And this also will be a matter of general disagreement due to the problem of individual perspective. However, in the whole there is an objective measure of goodness that can be used on all accomplishments since it is again possible for individuals to resolve their own internal confusions albeit with different answers. And the resolution of internal discord is nothing but good. Thus it is not the objective good of human accomplishment that is paramount, but the process of striving for the objective good.

We all, in our own places and given our own talents share the imperative to strive for what is objectively good. And from this we obtain our value.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Man Behind the Curtain

The corruption of the US political system has been previously described as the evolution of a small worlds network in the gap of responsibility between the government and the electorate that evolved due to the natural aggregation of individuals by feeling-thinking personality types in a technologically developing country.

The choice to adopt a small worlds network for system control rather than information flow is the primary causal reason for the corruption and ultimate self-reinforcing dysfunctions of the system. Quite simply, this choice is to either distribute responsibility to those with the knowledge to add value to the problem solution or to hold responsibility (and power) closer to select operatives. However, this responsibility is unknown outside the small worlds network--it is only known to adjacent connections which have an inherent interest in keeping the network alive. Thus, the small worlds network is not directly correctible in case of errors or inefficiencies by the system.

Opacity is a necessary condition for the continued existence of a dysfunctional small worlds network. Also, as previously noted, small worlds networks are inefficient for command and control. They adapt to the problem rather than solve it. Why then do the networks tend to displace functional networks? Cowardice--the choice for tangible short term gain over the commitment to a greater good not entirely under our own control.

There is nothing more complex than that. Small worlds networks allow "leaders" to shield themselves from the consequences of their decisions at the cost of huge reductions in the efficiency of the system. Where leaders cannot make mistakes, they cannot learn. Where they cannot learn, they adopt crony networks to shield themselves.

As a whole, the overall leaders responsible for the total system choose cowardice by refusing to devolve authority and grant the subordinate networks the ability to make knowable mistakes. The result is an effective choice for greater unattributable mistakes. These supreme leaders chose to allow the development of ignorance. They chose to increase the "unknown knowns" due to a deficiency in their individual character and infidelity to the system that they lead.

Learning is a moral choice. It always has been. It always will be.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

There is Something Wrong

There is something wrong in the United States. The political system is tearing itself apart and for no discernible purpose and to no appreciable benefit. The system is broken and we don't know why or how, but it is definitely broken. In times such as these, the villains and  heros become indistinguishable by vantage point, but we are sure that they must exist. How else can this situation be explained?

The problem is the system that we have been using to seek its solution. The problem is crony capitalism, or more specifically, cronyism. Cronyism has become the means that we control large organizations; it is the means for control of the US Government as well as large corporations. We have allowed cronyism to supplant our traditional systems because of the overall complexity of the system and our desire to centralize control.

When we know someone that knows someone that is in the business of doing something that ultimately might be turned back around to us for our advantage, we are using a network of cronies. In systems theory it is called a small worlds network and it is very efficient at transferring information over distances. Using a small worlds network, it is sufficient to know that a certain individual is the one to go to if you want something done. That individual knows others that know others and sure enough, ultimately they know someone that can do the job.

The referencing in a small worlds network is done not by competence, but by connectivity.

When crony networks displace functional networks, the problem itself as a problem, is never what is solved. Crony networks are information transmission networks, they are not direct command and control networks. They do not take responsibility for the problem such as it is and they avoid the exploration necessary to add definition to the original problem. Each stage in the routing is a loss of useful information. The network simply routes the information to another location that will deal with the increasingly abstracted problem in return for a price which is again multiplied as the "solution" is routed back to its source in a circuitous quid pro quo fashion. Crony networks respond to problems the way the brain responds to injuries--it routes around the problem.

Thus, we don't fight wars any longer as a country. We adapt to them. The situation was made very clear to me when I had occasion to ask Senator Corker, the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, if he was planning on rewriting the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan seeing that the military objectives all flowed down from this document and at the present time (several years ago), the US military was rudderless. His response was that he thought that President Obama had enough power through the current authorization. In other words, Senator Corker could not even comprehend the problem. Rather he saw the situation as one of negotiating relationships.

We would be right to imagine that the problem of the Iraq war was conceived in similar terms by President Bush. Not until the time when he understood that if we were not winning the war, that we were losing and then making the speedy connection to his reelection prospects, Bush finally decided that a different strategy by different generals was appropriate.

The deficiency of small worlds networks is that they do not simultaneously sense that which they control. Crony networks are ignorant of the larger problem surrounding them. They were never meant to solve problems, they were meant to transmit information across distances.

So today, the crony networks that make up the US Government have been ignorant to the burdens that they have put on the American people over the past many years. Like the absurd Rules of Engagement impressed on our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US Government understands the actual problems of the American people as abstractions that are then routed around. Each layer of complexity justified by the problem is meant to insulate the government from its affects rather than to solve the actual problem.

Thus, in a failing educational system, we are offered common core as a "solution". In response to an economic collapse, we are given more taxation and more government spending. In response to the destruction of the American family, we are given more restrictions on family life. Is it no wonder that labor is imported so readily and lawlessly from Central America when our government restricts the ability of the US worker to profit from his own labors? The system is simply routing around the problem as it sees it.

In a normal functional relationship rewards are distributed to those that contribute productively to the solution of a problem. In situations where crony networks flourish, these rewards are chocked off. Furthermore, the information flows that sense problems are suppressed. Thus a gap has opened between the people and its dysfunctional government just as a gap has opened between the US Government and the reality of problems in the outside world. Our government has no idea of our problems and we are increasingly powerless to represent ourselves to this government in order to have these problems solved.

The crony network has grown to the point that the cumulative costs that are siphoned off at each stage of the quid pro quo network are so much that they are consuming the host. It must be beaten back if we are to survive. Immediately, it requires that the individual voter become responsible and aware for his own vote. The solution to the problem is to regrow our civic structures and save what remains. This work is hard and with little psychic reward. But, it is the reality of the situation. The alternative is worse.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fear and Loathing in D.C.

The U.S. political system can be thought of as a distributed system with relationships between voter and candidate stand-ins for government (and its prospective alternative forms). When distributed systems fail, they fail in a catastrophe. Relationships fail successively in a wave of destruction because the mechanism of failure in one relationship is very similar to that in another within its basin of influence. All that is necessary is to bring the system to saturation and then give it a tiny shove. After this destruction, there is a space minimizing contest to fill the void.

Both political parties in the U.S. are in a state of collapse. After years of steadily increasing pressures, the average voter has reached a level of stress and frustration that is near some saturation point. The polarized system fails at the weakest point and the destruction spreads outward leaving the functional ideological extremes and the remaining locally functional rump of the corrupt structure as cores. In this region of destruction, nearly anything can evolve untethered from the ideologies of the core factions and the quid pro quo relationships of the establishment rumps. Thus we have the Trump phenomenon.

The failure mechanism here is a vote of no confidence in the fiduciary relationship between voter and representative. The bipartisan corruption of crony capitalism, awash in trillions of dollars of taxpayer leveraged debt has simultaneously destroyed the faith and trust of both factions in their government. Primitive sources of failure produce inchoate symptoms. When individual trust is lost, the disruption is manifested in ways that are difficult to identify and impossible to control--until the system learns.

Given that there is no readily known fix, the voter is drawn towards the visceral satisfactions of delusion--democracy without responsibility, ends without means, and rhyme without reason. What other possibility does he have in the near term?

In other systems, we would have civil war. In the U.S., civil war is no longer a possibility. The political forces are too intertwined. So instead we will have turmoil. What comes out of it cannot be predicted in excruciating detail. There are some significant chaotic effects. However, it is true in general that the faction that makes the necessary corrections the fastest without destroying itself in the process will dominate the U.S. political landscape until its competitor does likewise. Until then, both will be thrashed by the groundswell that their failures have unleashed.

Trump rose out of the gap between the two parties that allowed crony capitalism to flourish. After the ideological battles of the 60s were roughly settled (circa 1985 by my estimation), the system reached a stable bipolar arrangement such that thereafter the two poles became move divided to the point that personality rather than ideology was the defining characteristic of the separatrix.

In the 2016 election, Bush and Clinton are the rumps of the old crony capitalistic parties. (Bush is presently losing the establishment rump to Rubio). Cruz and Sanders represent the ideological political extremes. Trump could not come from nowhere and he judged that the right was more fertile territory to launch a populist campaign. It could be said that he sprang from the GOP like Athena from Zeus's head ready to fight (Zeus's head was temporarily split apart in the process).

What can be predicted by this? Assuming that the system learns ahead of its decisions:

First, in the GOP primary race, Trump's popularity as a candidate is strictly bounded and he will not be able to attract many more to his nebulous cause than those already immediately enthused.  Reason is persuasive.  Stupidity, while exhilarating, has a finite shelf life.

Secondly, of the two sentient cores of support in the GOP race, the conservative core led by Cruz will ultimately dominate the establishment rump led by Rubio. In a three way race where Trump is bounded to below 45%, the two other cores will ultimately coalesce. Between the ideological and pragmatic cores, where the two are not mutually exclusive, the ideological core wins what is seen as an insurgent battle.

If Trump was to fail early, the establishment core could reassert itself since the factional threat would once again loom large. This was the traditional game of the establishment core that lead to the crony capitalistic situation originally. Alternatively, if the establishment core was to fail early, then the Trump core would lose part of its reason for existence and the ideological core should prevail.  If the ideological core was to fail, it is anyone's guess since then the relative percentages could push the Trump core over 50%. None of these scenarios are likely.

Third, when the race is contested and the weak muddled core is a minority, the fight ultimately goes to the principled core.  In other words, the Trump phenomenon will fail unless there is a significant influx of liberal partisans into the mix to sustain his bandwagon.  At this point, that possibility seems unlikely.

To summarize: The Trump core exists by its own momentum due to the failure of government. The Cruz core wins by drawing off support of the Rubio core against Trump and simultaneously from Trump against Rubio. The Rubio core wins by some annihilation of the Trump core. In no case does the Trump core win in a three way race although it could potentially be the strongest of a collection of minor players in a fragmented field. But even then, this is a temporary situation.

It's a race to learn now or fall to a demagogue.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thoughts on the Riemann Hypothesis

The Riemann Hypothesis is a mathematical conjecture that the (nontrivial) zeros of the Riemann zeta function all have real parts of 1/2 on the complex plane. Its proof (or disproof) is a millennial prize problem worth a fair amount of money and everlasting fame. Thus it has become over the 150+ years since its inception by Bernhard Riemann, a landmark for mathematic pursuit, but despite the efforts of the greatest minds in mathematics, the hypothesis remains a conjecture.

So I offer a naïve suggestion.

In the work, Principia Mathematica, Whitehead and Russell spend several pages developing the notion of cardinal and ordinal couples to the conclusion that 1 + 1 = 2. That is, there is a dimension of numbers with order arising out of the process of addition together with the concept of unity. Multiplication is another dimension related inextricably to that of addition as the replication of the now existent numbers by each other along the dimension of order. The primes are simply byproducts of this relation.

The Riemann Hypothesis seems complex, but it is a result of the structure of multiplication over addition and nothing more. Two dimensions are required to solve polynomials--the expression of addition and multiplication together--and so the complex plane is two-dimensional (the imaginary number, i,  is just a symbol that marks the relation). No more and no less. The fact that multiplication is an operation quasi-independent of addition necessitates two dimensions for the expression of the solution of a polynomial expression once we have allowed that numbers have a structure that is ordinal.

My guess is that we will eventually find that the density of the primes is nothing more than a representation of the structure of addition and multiplication expressed in spatial dimensions similarly to how we view fractals--apparently complex, but exactly only the generating formula and nothing more in its essence.

The Riemann Hypothesis could not exist without the Euler product formula which is itself an expression of the Sieve of Eratosthenes which is nothing more than an expression of the artifacts of multiplication over the generated dimension of addition.

In short, the Riemann Hypothesis, is nothing more and nothing less than a statement that there is a midpoint created by the new ordinal relation of 1 + 1 and it occurs at 1/2 the distance between the unity of multiplication and the unity of addition. It cannot be anything different and it cannot be anything more or less.

Of course, this is just a thought.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Against the Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank is a taxpayer sourced fund with the ostensible purpose to give the federal executive power to improve the trading prospects of selected US companies in respect to their foreign competition. The benefit to the taxpayer is then supposed to be a return on investment through localizing the creation of the exported wealth (keeping that economic activity local) while focusing the receipt of the trade for that export into a discrete stream of foreign currency which can be attributed directly to that trade.

The benefit of subsidizing free trade for local economic benefit is nonsense on its face. We can consider the fallacy of the benefit of the transaction using the ideas of conservation of mass (price) and the efficiency of the information streams.

1. Subsidizing a trade is a reduction of price of the traded good below the actual market price. By itself, the subsidy transmits economic inefficiencies to the supposed beneficiaries of the trade and sets up structures within the local creation of the traded wealth which result in an apparent price below the market price. This difference in wealth is dissipated through inefficient consumption (e.g. an extra yacht for the CEO of Boeing that he lets rot in the bay through lack of use together with the idea that the extra unused yacht is a good thing).  In short, it makes the US in actuality less competitive. This is the free trade principle in conservation of mass (price) terms.

2. However, there is an argument that if a central authority can direct a game against a foreign competitor, he may be able to direct the transactions so as to win market share and increase the leverage of the local (although necessarily inefficient) company by an effective monopoly. Therefore the immediate inefficiency would be worthwhile in order to create a subsequent greater net positive increase in wealth once the foreign competition is weakened through lack of capital investment. The best example of this is a technical efficiency in the production of a high tech asset such as an aircraft that the foreign competition cannot match through economies of scale, (e.g. the US can build planes with fiber composites at less per airframe in actuality than the foreign competitor because of the US investment in the process).

Unfortunately, in this game there can be no long term winner. If either side gains a monetized technological advantage, then the monetary value of that edge will induce that player to maximize profits at the expense of technological advancement. Eventually, that player will become technologically stagnant as focus on the measurable good (money) attributed directly to the trade dominates the allocation of its resources. Meanwhile, because technology is interconnected and nonlinear in its advacement, other players may discover the means by which to nullify the measured technological edge of the leading player by happenstance if not by design. With this undisclosed technological revolution, a trailing player may take the lead.

For the leading player to reliably maintain the position advantage, it must continue to innovate in necessarily unprofitable ways at a rate that entirely swamps the innovation rate of its competitors. Thus, technological gains are ephemeral since this cost is usually exorbitant and cannot me rationalized for the discrete benefits of the trade. The transitory cost of these gains together with the indirect benefits of the transaction that is subsidized minus the inefficiencies of the subsidy is the equilibrium price difference of the transaction which ultimately goes against the subsidy.

In short, even in the best case, the subsidy reinforces measurable failure at the expense of immeasurable innovations and gains in other areas of the economy. The best strategy is one that is naive in the directed allocation of profits as it is that strategy that maximizes innovation across all areas of the economy. The paradox is that in the face of technological innovation, long term investment in the future should be divorced from the optimization of short term gains.

Thus I am against the use of taxpayer funds in the Ex-Im bank except for the case of preserving a strategic defense capability.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

On "isms"

An "ism", such as racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism, etc. is a shorthand term we use to describe the thinking of people as if that thinking put them in a group themselves.  The people in these groups which we ourselves created by the use of the shorthand are then typically labeled as "ists" as if they functioned as automatons according to our categorization. When we do this, we are very often attempting to justify ourselves by describing what we reject.  Unfortunately, when we extend concepts that we created for our own convenience to the categorization of other thinking people, we are enforcing a relation that is counterproductive to the elimination of the "ism" that we criticize.

In short, calling others racists or sexists or communists etc. tends to sharpen the boundaries against free thinking that we are against. Why?

Useful information is like a virus. It spreads and affects us to the degree that we value it's utility. If the information is contradicted by experience, it loses its veracity and hence some degree of its utility. Curiously, humans do seek out and value thoughts which are often in contradiction with empirical reality when those ideas are useful to our emotional well being. This last statement is simply saying that denial is a natural stage in learning just as it is in the stages of grief.

However, unlike religious convictions that are neither provable or refutable, the utility of beliefs in contradiction to experience is transitory for any learning being that evolves towards it's own tangible benefit. Denial yields to anger to bargaining and ultimately to acceptance of the new experienced truth.  That is, of course, while we allow ourselves to evolve. The ideology of the "isms" act as a learning impairment. When we label others with a derogatory group membership as "racists" etc. we are actually defining in our mind a justification against learning.  What we are not doing is teaching the object of our derision. Whatever the good that we might offer it is effectively nullified by the symmetrical onus that we confer since all people want to feel good about themselves while they think about the things around them.

Learning is its own joy. To the degree that our information is useful, the new found utility of the information is a source of empowerment and so naturally appeals to all. The solution of all the pathologies of the isms is found through mutual learning--not by name calling.

So when you next hear of someone being called an "ist" ask whether one is solving a problem or contributing to it.