4 months ago in Quotes
The sad irony is that the pattern of

  • knowing the science enough to know they're contributing to others suffering
  • knowing what might happen with reasonable certainty
  • but compartmentalizing that awareness internally to avoid acting
  • hiding it externally
  • and keeping doing what they were doing

describes the reactions of most individuals about climate change.
 4 months ago in Quotes
any app/tool/etc. that's "designed for the average user", will only help its user be(come) average and below average!

Now try imagining selling a product with the slogan XYZ - Helping you stay mediocre, and even drop below the average! Use us every day, keep greatness away! ...if you're doing data-driven-product-design targeting the "average user", you're building just such a product
 4 months ago in Quotes
It feels as though much of tech has gone from helping people accomplish their goals efficiently to a business model of extracting rents while providing no or little value.
 4 months ago in Quotes
Nobody at any time is cut off from God.
 4 months ago in Quotes
My Lord told me a joke. And seeing Him laugh has done more for me than any scripture I will ever read.
 4 months ago in Quotes
In the midst of all my bitching, you might have noticed that I never complain about politicians. I leave that to others. And there's no shortage of volunteers; everyone complains about politicians. Everyone says they suck.

But where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky; they don't pass through a membrane from a separate reality. They come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, and American businesses. And they're elected by American voters. This is what our system produces, folks. This is the best we can do. Let's face it, we have very little to work with. Garbage in, garbage out.

Ignorant citizens elect ignorant leaders, it's as simple as that. And term limits don't help. All you do is get a new bunch of ignorant leaders.

So maybe it's not the politicians who suck; maybe it's something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: "The public sucks. Elect me." Put the blame where it belongs: on the people.

Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don't have people like that. Everyone's at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.
 4 months ago in Quotes
In 1952 I spoke of the civilization of make-believe, the one we must shake off, myself, the the first of all! I spoke of columns of gray men on the march toward sterility and self-destruction.
The same year I used the term "transautomation" to show the way beyond the rationalism of technocrats toward a new creation in harmony with the laws of nature.
In 1953 I realized that the straight line leads to the downfall of mankind.
But the straight line has become an absolute tyranny.
The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling; it is a line which does not exist in nature.
And that the line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilization.
Even if there are certain places where it is recognized that this line is rapidly leading to perdition, its course continues to be plotted.
The straight line is the only sterile line, the only line which does not suit man as the image of God.
The straight line is the forbidden fruit.
The straight line is the curse of our civilization.
Any design undertaken with the straight line will be stillborn. Today we are witnessing the triumph of rationalist knowhow and yet, at the same time, we find ourselves confronted with emptiness. An aesthetic void, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power.
Even creativity is prefabricated.
We have become impotent. We are no longer able to create. That is our real illiteracy.
 4 months ago in Quotes
[3 letter agencies] weren't able to spy in bulk when communication was primarily offline, and they won't when it's primarily encrypted.

Don't let them frame the brief, anomalous period when they could listen in on everyone, as 'normal'.
 4 months ago in Meta Collection

everything matters, nothing counts

These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing. He must learn to listen to his own inner voice. He must learn to say "No!"

Finally, it is the act itself that matters. When instrumental reason is the sole guide to action, the acts it justifies are robbed of their inherent meanings and thus exist in an ethical vacuum. I recently heard an officer of a great university publicly defend an important policy decision he had made, one that many of the university's students and faculty opposed on moral grounds, with the words: "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)
The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound. He could hear the woman singing and the scrape of her shoes on the flagstones, and the cries of the children in the street, and somewhere in the far distance a faint roar of traffic, and yet the room seemed curiously silent, thanks to the absence of a telescreen.

[..]

She knew the whole drivelling song by heart, it seemed. Her voice floated upward with the sweet summer air, very tuneful, charged with a sort of happy melancholy. One had the feeling that she would have been perfectly content, if the June evening had been endless and the supply of clothes inexhaustible, to remain there for a thousand years, pegging out diapers and singing rubbish. It struck him as a curious fact that he had never heard a member of the Party singing alone and spontaneously. It would even have seemed slightly unorthodox, a dangerous eccentricity, like talking to oneself. Perhaps it was only when people were somewhere near the starvation level that they had anything to sing about.

[..]

He would have liked to continue talking about his mother. He did not suppose, from what he could remember of her, that she had been an unusual woman, still less an intelligent one; and yet she had possessed a kind of nobility, a kind of purity, simply because the standards that she obeyed were private ones. Her feelings were her own, and could not be altered from outside. It would not have occurred to her that an action which is ineffectual thereby becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. When the last of the chocolate was gone, his mother had clasped the child in her arms. It was no use, it changed nothing, it did not produce more chocolate, it did not avert the child's death or her own; but it seemed natural to her to do it. The refugee woman in the boat had also covered the little boy with her arm, which was no more use against the bullets than a sheet of paper. The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world. When once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel, what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no difference. Whatever happened you vanished, and neither you nor your actions were ever heard of again. You were lifted clean out of the stream of history. And yet to the people of only two generations ago this would not have seemed all-important, because they were not attempting to alter history. They were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life he did not despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert force which would one day spring to life and regenerate the world. The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside. They had held on to the primitive emotions which he himself had to re-learn by conscious effort. And in thinking this he remembered, without apparent relevance, how a few weeks ago he had seen a severed hand lying on the pavement and had kicked it into the gutter as though it had been a cabbage-stalk.
"Nineteen-Eightyfour"
 5 months ago in Quotes
Suffering is not the source of creativity. The desire to escape suffering is.
 5 months ago in Quotes
I've tried to get into anomie repeatedly. So many great programmers seem to love it, so I feel like it might help me code better. But I just can't do it. There's so little substance.
 5 months ago in Quotes
Emperor G built a beautiful walled city, inviting everyone in, encouraging them to paint their houses whatever color they like. A year later, Big G banned blue houses. If you didn't like the rules, you were more than welcome to build your house outside the city and paint it whatever color you like.

Only most people don't leave - blue is just one color and they weren't very interested in it anyway. Besides, the city is so beautiful and provides for their every need. In the coming years, people who want to paint their house blue badly enough to leave paradise are heavily scrutinized and eventually considered outcasts.

Over the years, more and more colors are slowly banned, one by one. People start to notice and complain once their favorite color is outlawed. But decades have passed since Emperor G's generous invitation. Entire generations have lived, died, and raised children inside the city. No one knows how to navigate the wilderness anymore. And even if they could, why would they want to? Thorns and weeds have overgrown the wasteland; it's much safer to stay inside the city walls. Besides, it's cozy and we have everything we need in here.
 5 months ago in Quotes
Your silence and self-censorship won't matter in the end. The Soviets often just targeted random people because it chilled dissent overall.

Silent or not, party member or not, you will be dragged from your home in the night and never seen again. This is the reality of what it was like.

So you might as well be brave and speak out against it because that's the only actual defense you have.
 5 months ago in Quotes
People have a series of rationalizations. People say for example that science and technology have their own logic, that they are in fact autonomous. This particular rationalization is profoundly false. It is not true that science marches on in defiance of human will, independent of human will, that just is not the case. But it is comfortable, as I said: it leads to the position that "if I don't do it, someone else will."

Of course if one takes that as an ethical principle then obviously it can serve as a license to do anything at all. "People will be murdered; if I don't do it, someone else will." "Women will be raped; if I don't do it, someone else will." That is just a license for violence.

Other people say, and I think this is a widely used rationalization, that fundamentally the tools we work on are "mere" tools; This means that whether they get use for good or evil depends on the person who ultimately buys them and so on.

There's nothing bad about working in computer vision, for example. Computer vision may very well some day be used to heal people who would otherwise die. Of course, it could also be used to guide missiles, cruise missiles for example, to their destination, and all that. You see, the technology itself is neutral and value-free and it just depends how one uses it. And besides -- consistent with that -- we can't know, we scientists cannot know how it is going to be used. So therefore we have no responsibility.

Well, that is false. It is true that a computer, for example, can be used for good or evil. It is true that a helicopter can be used as a gunship and it can also be used to rescue people from a mountain pass. And if the question arises of how a specific device is going to be used, in what I call an abstract ideal society, then one might very well say one cannot know.

But we live in a concrete society, [and] with concrete social and historical circumstances and political realities in this society, it is perfectly obvious that when something like a computer is invented, then it is going to be adopted will be for military purposes. It follows from the concrete realities in which we live, it does not follow from pure logic. But we're not living in an abstract society, we're living in the society in which we in fact live.

If you look at the enormous fruits of human genius that mankind has developed in the last 50 years, atomic energy and rocketry and flying to the moon and coherent light, and it goes on and on and on -- and then it turns out that every one of these triumphs is used primarily in military terms. So it is not reasonable for a scientist or technologist to insist that he or she does not know -- or cannot know -- how it is going to be used.
 5 months ago in Quotes
Recipe for getting things done:

1. Place every new & cool technology into mental quarantine for 3-5 years. 2. If, after that: a) the tech is still widely used, and doesn't seem to be getting overtaken by something else b) you're about to start a NEW project where the tech would help c) you're not in a rush and feel like trying something new

...then go for it.

Learning complex tech that just arrived is a waste of your life, if you want to accomplish things. It's only useful if your aim is to appear knowledgeable and "in the loop" to your developer peers.
 5 months ago in Quotes

God Bless the Grass

God bless the grass that grows thru the crack
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru
And God bless the grass

God bless the truth that fights toward the sun
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air
And after a while it is growing everywhere
And God bless the grass

God bless the grass that grows through cement
It's green and it's tender and it's easily bent
But after a while it lifts up its head
For the grass is living and the stone is dead
And God bless the grass

God bless the grass that's gentle and low
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow
And God bless the truth, the friend of the poor
And the wild grass growing at the poor man's door
And God bless the grass
 5 months ago in Quotes
The driving idea behind denialism was always to delay action for a few decades. Well that worked perfectly. Now they will move on to saying it's all too late for gradual mitigation, and they can swoop in with highly expensive adaptation measures, publicly funded in perpetuity. This stage of rentier/disaster capitalism could be what pushes our global civilisation off the cliff.