node created 2019/09/29
Discussion of Apple topics here on HN almost always gets reduced to the argument that Apple is not a monopoly, so what they are doing is OK. I want to present an alternative viewpoint. It's not a monopoly issue, it is an anti-competitive issue.

In Canada, we have three major cell carriers. None of them has a monopoly, or anything close to it. None of them has even 50% market share.

You can have a 10 GB smartphone plan with Rogers for $75. If you don't like that, you can switch to Bell's 10 GB plan for $75. If you don't like Bell, of course you can switch to Telus's 10 GB plan for, wait for it, $75.

The Big 3 operate smaller brands with fewer bells and whistles and lower costs. You can get a 4 GB cell plan from Koodo (Telus subsidiary) for $50, or from Fido (Rogers subsidiary) for $50, or from Virgin Mobile (Bell subsidiary) for $50.

Sometimes one of them has promotional pricing, like $45 instead of $50 for 4GB. The other two offer the same pricing for the same duration. Sometimes one of them increases their prices by $5 a month citing reasons such as infrastructure investments, lower Canadian dollar value, or inflation. The other two increase their prices by the same amount a couple of days later.

And none of this is collusion in the legal sense. They don't gather in smoke-filled rooms and decide how to screw over their customers. There is not back-channel communication whatsoever. And it is not because the competition is so perfect the prices have been commoditized. In fact, Canada has some of the highest cell plan prices in the world, even adjusting for factors such as population density and GDP.

It's just that the big companies have decided to stop competing. If you live in, say Alberta or Ontario or BC, you have three options and they are all the same overpriced crap. Cell carriers in Canada are not a monopoly, but you don't have to be a monopoly to harm customers with anti-competitive behaviour. Apple and Google, Android and iOS do not have a monopoly or a collusion agreement. But they are harming the customers all the same.
The difference between a theory, a conspiracy theory and the truth are best described by varying levels of evidence. A theory is not currently accepted as the truth, but it might be the truth. A conspiracy theory is something that has been proven to be untrue, but people still believe it and pass it on. The truth is the internally consistent and fact supported state of the world as it was and as it is.

There were many people who were going out on a limb with the assertion that the NSA was probably vacuuming it all up, they had means, motive and opportunity handed to them on a golden platter, on top of that it corresponded with what we would expect to do ourselves when in that position (not that there was any such temptation). The hacker community was well capable of seeing this as a theory, rather than as a conspiracy simply for absence of proof. That didn't stop others from labeling the hacker community as a bunch of conspiracy theorists simply because they could not imagine it to be the truth, but a lack of imagination is not the same as proof and the output of such a process is better described as wishful thinking than rational thought.
It's surprising to me how people consistently try to discourage traits in children which they at the same time glorify in adults.

I suppose considering how much effort society puts into raising meager people, it's only right we glorify those who manage to manage to grow as a person regardless.
Free speech and anti-corporate attitudes are traditionally liberal values. Nowadays, you see arguments from bigots that oppose corporate power over free speech. We shouldn't be forced to withdraw our positions on free speech or corporate power just because they're associated with bigotry now.
Given the track record of institutional science and the ever-growing list of regulatory failures, moral failures and outright abuses pushed in the guise of scientific expertise, why do so many people seem to think that simply doubling down and bullying the general population into compliance with expert consensus will ever work? What if institutional science in the US has a legitimacy crisis because it has failed to police its own corruption and failed to address its own limitations and vulnerabilities? What if everyday people can see this more clearly than those striving on the margins of these institutions?

Personally, as a scientist, I am comforted that there are enough others out there who doubt the entire notion of a scientific establishment that the population should "trust" to make decisions without oversight. Our numbers are growing, and I know many people who fight every day to ensure we will never be ruled by unquestionable expert consensus. Anyone who has been inside these institutions knows exactly how petty and arbitrary the hierarchical structures can be. I'd rather be ruled over by elite families than squabbling, territorial, overconfident scientists who can be bought off for nothing and blackmailed easily.

I think the constant stream of these articles just illustrates the massive social blind spot that comes from training STEM professionals solely for careers rather than for citizenship, communication and community membership. STEM training itself has sadly become a hierarchical, cult-like, anti-intellectual system that deprives students of critical thinking skills.
I cannot see any implementation of UBI working any better than things now unless the predatory nature of those in power is put in check.
I'm sick of reading internet arguments about polymorphism and browser monoculture and borrow checking and static linking. Someone please tell me where I can go on the internet to read biologists arguing about their favorite animals.
Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.
"Deschooling Society"
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
"A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles"
Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
Philip K. Dick
Why not just cut out the middleman and eat from a bag of sugar directly?
For if the doctrine of free-will has raised up fanatics and persecutors, who, assuming that men may be good under all conditions if they merely wish to be so, have sought to persuade other men’s wills with threats, fines, imprisonments, torture, the spike, the wheel, the axe, the fagot, in order to make them good and save them against their obdurate wills; if the doctrine of Spiritualism, the soul supreme, has done this, the doctrine of Materialistic Determinism has produced shifting, self-excusing, worthless, parasitical characters, who are this now and that at some other time, and anything and nothing upon principle. “My conditions have made me so,” they cry, and there is no more to be said; poor mirror-ghosts! how could they help it! To be sure, the influence of such a character rarely reaches so far as that of the principled persecutor; but for every one of the latter, there are a hundred of these easy, doughy characters, who will fit any baking tin, to whom determinist self-excusing appeals; so the balance of evil between the two doctrines is about maintained.
Another part of me wonders if they were being positive to the point of lying about it lest they be seen as a "negative person". Why? Because as the sewer rats have shown us, speaking the truth about badness brings out the teeth and the claws. They will take you apart for daring to pipe up about something that just does not make sense.

They can have their dishonest positivity. Someone has to deal with the actual problems in the world, and it starts by admitting they exist.
The general idea of [the Green New Deal] was to mobilize some kind of cooperative fight to defeat the very real threat of climate change, and to overcome our addiction to fossil fuel and the consequential CO2 emissions and pollution. Many very talented people have created a lot of good ideas and solutions to the oncoming disaster.

I don't think that people realize how much this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to whats coming down the road. I don't think people want to think. I think they want to stick their head in the sand and ignore the fact that there have been many calamities in human history. Perhaps they never heard of the 10s of millions of people who starved to death in Asia less than a century ago. That was a walk in the park by comparison.

Finally, I think that people don't realize how many of the technologies that they so happily embrace (without understanding how they work or where they came from) are the result of the same scientific process that has led 11,000 scientists to tell us that our time to act is growing very short.

That's the general idea of it. And I feel sorry as hell for today's wonderful kids who will have to pay with a miserable life (those who survive) for the willful ignorance of their parents and grandparents.
note how the whole story was flagged off HN
This kind of "meritocracy" is more like if we held an arm-wrestling tournament, declared the victor to be our new feudal lord, the next 6 runners up to be knights, and everyone else to be peasants. Our position in this new society was based on "merit", but that can't necessarily justify the difference between nobles and serfs.

We could even re-run the tournament every year. We could make sure no child gets extra time in the weight-room because of her noble parents. We could decide that arm-wrestling is stupid and brutish and so, in a glorious revolution, switch to speed chess. None of it would address the question of justice.
Half of Reddit has their own political ideas that they are sure will make the perfect society, but if any one person was given absolute authority to realise their perfect society, then it's gonna be a shitshow no matter how smart they are, because society is way too complicated for any one person to have a fully rounded view of.
We may underestimate, perhaps half on purpose, the camp-like quality of our cities even in ‘normal’ times, and accept that it is sometimes necessary for cities temporarily to become camps. But bare life is not enough. We don’t just want to be preserved, we want also to live.
Virtuous intelligent people, the wise, are habituated and developed in the direction of truth and away from lies, deceit and bullshit. They have a sensitivity to the truth and the value of truth. Bullshitting requires and in turn reinforces a kind of mental dullness and blindness. It leads to a kind of degeneration of the mental faculties. If you don't care about the truth—only the parochial effects of your petty machinations—then you are frustrating the intellect and its grasp of reality. You are reinforcing vices while weakening the capacity for discernment and the strengths and virtues needed for proper intellectual function and receptivity.

It's a bit like what happens when an intelligent coward is met with contrary evidence. He will turn away from the truth and go to great lengths to rationalize it away, and in doing so, he will blind himself to the truth. Making that a habit through repetition only deepens the vice and unravels the mind, making it increasingly difficult to dig yourself out.
In the United States, we have 260,000 billboards; 11,250 newspapers; 11,556 periodicals; 27,000 video outlets for renting video tapes; more than 500 million radios; and more than 100 million computers. Ninety-eight percent of American homes have a television set; more than half our homes have more than one. There are 40,000 new book titles published every year (300,000 worldwide), and every day in America 41 million photographs are taken. And if this is not enough, more than 60 billion pieces of junk mail (thanks to computer technology) find their way into our mail-boxes every year.

From millions of sources all over the globe, through every possible channel and medium — light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing presses — information pours in. Behind it, in every imaginable form of storage — on paper, on video and audio tape, on discs, film, and silicon chips — is an ever greater volume of information waiting to be retrieved. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we are awash in information. And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom.

Information has become a form of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems. To say it still another way: The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose.

All of this has called into being a new world. I have referred to it elsewhere as a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again. It is an improbable world. It is a world in which the idea of human progress, as Bacon expressed it, has been replaced by the idea of technological progress. The aim is not to reduce ignorance, superstition, and suffering but to accommodate ourselves to the requirements of new technologies. We tell ourselves, of course, that such accomodations will lead to a better life, but that is only the rhetorical residue of a vanishing technocracy.

We are a culture consuming itself with information, and many of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which, of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms.
"Technopoly"
The Screen and the Job have displaced almost everything else is our lives. Loneliness is just a primary symptom.

The Screen, whether it’s TV, computer, or phone, has supplanted almost all social interactions. This manifests itself in things like SitComs on TV (just a bunch of friends or family hanging out) or Social Media on phones. It’s very easy to fill the social needs of right now with a Screen. But under even a minuscule amount of self reflection these are revealed as hollow substitutes for real human interaction.

The Job has completely taken over as a driving force in evaluating choices. The average person has to consider all options in the light of both the current employer and the specter of tomorrow’s. Moving across the country for a high paying job? Great! Moving to be closer to friends? That’s a career killer.

No wonder we are lonely. We make choices in the short term that optimize happiness, often at the expense of our relationships. Ghosting is not just for dates now. Then turn around and make choices in the long term that optimize employability at the expense of all else.