I went outside, walked a few blocks, entered a building, asked for some food, handed over a piece of paper, was given hot, good food 2-3 minutes later, and left. I didn't bring ID, and I didn't give my name.

It's wonderful.

Sitting in the public area were bins with hot sauce packets, napkins, sporks, drink tops, straws, and a soda machine. No security.

My order was set on the counter. I walked up and took it. No one checked my receipt.

It's amazing how peaceful our society is.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (3)
Just read this. I guess I agree that the government agency doing this stuff will probably get it all horribly wrong, and it's very abusable. But I was thinking, something similar could be right and good:

What if police see something suspicious, and just ask the guy what's up? I think our laws say you don't have to incriminate yourself or answer, and if you refuse, the police can't do anything. But a good person will recognise that what s/he did *was* a bit suspicious, and, taking into account privacy concerns, will want to tell the police some info to let them rest easy knowing s/he didn't do anything wrong. A good person will not say "I refuse to answer." At worst, a good person will think a bit and say "I really can't think of anything I can safely tell you b/c of privacy concerns, sorry." So, like, the general idea of trying to go after people who have all this nice shit and won't tell us where it came from and otherwise act like bad people, does make some sense.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)
Getting answers wrong isn't the only way to look an idiot. It's striking how effective asking the wrong questions can be.

"Is it invariably wrong to act selfish?"

"Is consequentialism or deontology right?"

"How certain does induction make us?"

"What's a certain statement?" (as in come up with one)

"What would make a good foundation for our knowledge?"

"What's more important, my joy, or starving children in Africa getting a meal?"

"Is love or happiness more important?"

"What if I have to go to the doctor, but my child doesn't want to wear his seatbelt, and I'm in a big hurry, then can I beat him?"

"Did you know that two thousand rain forest species go extinct every year?"

"Did you know that if we don't anchor Australia, a sea snail might be crushed?"

OK, some of these are kinda cheating, but some are incoherent philosophical garbage that a lot of otherwise reasonable people waste time thinking about.

(I don't think these examples are very good. As I don't spend my time on this kinda question, I'm not all that familiar with many of 'em. I tend to stop reading in disgust when I encounter them, and then forget about it.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
Relationship Theory

Some people like monogamy and marriage because it makes them feel safe. Their partner is not allowed to leave them, and not even allowed to look around for something better. And, if the partner does anyway, these people can now play victim, and most everyone will agree they were wronged. This is a bit perverse. For one thing, it seems to say "I'd rather you stay with me, than be as happy as possible, because I'm just that selfish."

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)
By reader request, Asceticism

Ascetic is the opposite of hedonistic. It means scorning worldly desires and pleasures, and self-denial. It's sometimes thought to create spiritual discipline, or sometimes just someone's tendency.

The spiritual discipline version is on the same order of magnitude of absurdity as theism.

One common cause of ascetic qualities is arrogance. Another is anti-capitalism. TV is for the masses of capitalist drones, to keep them mindless. Products are a trap for lesser people, and I shall avoid them. Toys are for low brow kids; mine will enjoy nature and possibly some books and be free. Look at all those Joe Schmoes wasting the money they slaved away for at McDonald's for a few minutes of pleasure, they won't fool me. blah blah blah

Joy is a great thing.

I suppose there is an important distinction that needs to be made now: some ascetics don't value joy, others simply have trouble creating much.

Feh, this isn't going well. Write comments with questions, I'll just make this really simple.... To those who don't value joy: you're silly. To those who have trouble finding joy: I sympathise.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (11)
Here's an explanation for why, in some domains, women may find they need to work harder to prove themselves than men do (it works in reverse too, for other fields):

Parents (wrongly) gender-stereotype their children, and treat boys and girls differently. This results in boys and girls, on average, having different skill-sets. Employers and bosses know this.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
Dale Amon of Samizdata writes:

I don't always agree with what SecDef Rumsfeld says and I find his statements on volunteer human shields to be particularly wrong:

"And I want to note, again, it is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets -- even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law but could be a -- could be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

There is no such thing as a "voluntary human shield".

But there is. If I voluntarily use myself as a shield, I am one.

The words cancel each other out and leave... just another ordinary enemy combatant.

Not a combatant (no gun...), and not ordinary, but yes an enemy.

Any British, American, Australian or person of whatever nationality who makes a decision, of their own free will, to intentionally place themselves in harms way in defense of a combatant's facilities should be treated like any other member of that combatant's forces.

Rumsfeld is completely right. Their attack on America is to try and hurt the US politically, through immoral means. It's committing suicide and blaming the US. (Reminiscent of suicide attacks in Israel). So, it definitely should be a war crime, and they should not be treated like any other enemy combatant. You don't shoot people without guns without a damn good reason. And we won't go around killing these people. That'd be horribly immoral. They know that. That's the whole point of their attack: they want to remain in a position where they shouldn't be killed, while doing everything they can to provoke their own deaths. (Think Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and tanks.) Rumsfeld is right that if some die because they get in the way, it's not our fault (morally), but that's true only as long as we don't intentionally kill them.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)
On LGF, it said protest organisers estimated 200,000 thousand people at the one in San Francisco. Aerial photos show about 65,000 peak. (Source Here)

How should we explain the protestors ignoring the facts? I suggest my anti-theory explantion: because they are more focussed on their cause then on morality. And they think lying will further their cause.

And in a direct sense, it's hard to tell. Lying has advantages (because people will think the ideas are more popular than they are) and they disadvantages (because people will get annoyed with their exaggerations and stop listening). And thus, calculating whether to lie, based on how it furthers their cause, is at best, an expensive calculation prone to error. Not at best (and in reality), their approach is, even in the limit, divergent from morality aka wrong.

If we just look at the morality of the situation, though, it's easy. They are attempting to mislead and manipulate people. End of story.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
Minimum Necessary Force

A certain variance *on either side* of the right amount of force is reasonable -- only people who use significantly more than the right amount should be prosecuted. Also, the right amount to aim for is more than the "necessary" amount, strictly speaking, because we shouldn't have to take undue risks. The minimum necessary force concept pulls against both these points, and is thus highly misleading.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)


curi: Yay! The camera's on! Look at me!
Others: -_-o
Isyn: I just read this. Help!
Elliot: Morality is knowledge about making choices.
Isyn: Uh huh.
Elliot: So what does that have to do with God?
Isyn: If God didn't decree which choices are better and worse, then who did?
curi: Me.
Elliot: No one did. Just like no one decreed that there is a keyboard in my lap. But it is there.
Isyn: So how do we know which choices are right?
Elliot: Well, ummmm, the thing is we don't really know that explicitly and fully.
Isyn: If you don't know what is right and wrong, how do you know right and wrong exist?
Elliot: Kill Lia.
Isyn: What? No!
Elliot: Why not?
Isyn: I don't want to.
Elliot: Why don't you want to?
Isyn: I don't know that explicitly.
Elliot: You prefer some things to others.
Isyn: Yes.
Elliot: So you act *as if* morality exists.
Isyn: What?
Elliot: If some choices (ie not killing Lia) are better than others, then morality exists.
Isyn: Oh. But isn't that just my self-interest?
Elliot: What does self-interest have to do with anything?
Isyn: Well, isn't it different from morality?
Elliot: They aren't mutually exclusive.
Isyn: I mean, what if I follow my self-interest instead of morality?
Elliot: Then, I'd say you have a moral theory along the lines of: whatever is in my self interest is morally right. But you don't have that theory.
Isyn: Where do you get off telling me what theories I hold?
Elliot: It's just interesting that a number of people *claim* to hold a self-interest based morality, but do not.
curi: You need a thesis.
Elliot: What?
curi: Just saying a bunch of random true things is confusing. And you don't expand them very much.
Elliot: How should I expand them?
curi: Like, explain them more clearly..?
Elliot: They are clear to me.
curi: Not to everyone.
Elliot: But I don't know what points others will miss.
curi: Oh.
Elliot: Yep. Not gonna spend my time slaying random false theories. Need good reason to think someone actually holds it and is listening. Or for it to come up in explanation of something true.
Elliot: Am gonna spend my time sleeping. Bye.
Lia: Sleep well.
curi: She finally said something.
Isyn: Shut up.
curi: Make me, bitch.
Elliot: shhhhh
curi: Are you trying to tell me what to do?
Elliot: Turn off the camera, now.
curi: *turns camera off*

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)
The importance of morality in every day life is striking. For example, in team games of Warcraft 3. Players will be paired with people they don't know, and required to coordinate their forces and share their resources for victory. Teams that bitch at each other, and refuse to defend each other's bases, tend to lose badly. Teams that get along, prosper.

Or, compare these two scenarios:

I need 5 more gold to buy an item. I ask my partners for the money, and wait a while, and eventually they tell me they "need the money" because they are saving for something they'll get later. I explain I'll pay them back soon. After a long delay, and wasted time, I give up. I go kill stuff and get 5gp, walk back to town, and finally get my item.

Alternatively, a partner gives me 5gp right away. I get the item, use it to kill stuff faster, and then pay my partner back, and need not return to town.

(Not that paying each other back should be important, everyone should just give all their money to whoever happens to be at a store ... but that's just too much to expect of random people.)

Another way morality helps, is over the course of many games, moral people improve more. They are accustomed to solving problems, and when something goes wrong, they figure out how to do better next time. Alternatively, some people, upon failure, get mad and resentful.

Like, some people think advice is an insult, as if they aren't good enough. Well, truth is, they are not perfect, and their arrogance only makes them stay bad.

The effect of all this is so great, that simply by figuring out what to do, sharing gold, and coordinating our efforts, my friends and I can easily win with 2 or 3 players vs 5 players on certain maps.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
Some people expect lots of collateral damage in the war on Iraq. They are wrong, but let's ignore that a moment. Would this actually be any reason to oppose the war?

Well, if the dead civilians come from immoral leaders ordering schools bombed .... yes, that's something to oppose.

But if it comes as part of the fight, as part of the unavoidable cost to defeating evil, then of course it is no reason to oppose war.

So, what we discover is, this "reason" has no substance. It depends on another claim. And it adds no useful information: we already know to oppose wars by murderous folk, and support wars by the righteous.

So, opposing the war based on too much collateral damage, is just judging the US to be morally bad, combined with hiding one's meaning behind a smokescreen.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)
Anti Theory

Morality is more important than any other concerns. It should come first in our thinking. It should come last in our thinking. And it should dominate over our thinking.

(To avoid confusion, for many issues, like doing science, morality usually just says to use true epistemology and do a good job, or something rather minimal.)

Many people oppose the war. And virtually all of them do not temper this opposition with morality. First, the war is wrong and will be opposed. Then maybe later we can talk about little detailed bits of morality that pale in comparison to The Cause. This leads to the anti-war folk saying anything they can to oppose war, moral or not. And thus they say false things. And dishonest things. And meaningless things. And things that sound catchy. And things they don't understand. And demonstrate no intellectual integrity.

Of course, most of them deny morality exists, and few value anything. Many would claim morality is a matter of opinion, or that it's just a religious idea (as if the source of an idea could make it wrong). Why do I say they value nothing? Well, we know they don't value peace, happiness, liberty, non-violence, or getting their facts right. (Those tortures taking place in Iraq right now sure are peaceful...) They defend the unsuccessful, but I don't think they actually value failure. It's just an easy way to pretend.

Morality first applies to perfectly good people to, in realistically useful ways. Like I want hits. And if that was primary, I might be tempted to lie, or spam, or ... well I don't know, but if I was a bad person I'm sure I'd think of something. And throwing these out because of self-interest (well, if I spam, maybe that will annoy people and I'll get less hits) is not the way to go. Even if that calculation, in the limit, gets the same answers, it'd be wrong to waste that much computing resources on it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)
The non-aggression principle (NAP) is one which many libertarians accept, but few can defend. It states that it is wrong to initiate force or threat of force. This is, for situations where it applies, meant to replace a moral analysis.

Morality is knowledge about making choices. It tells us which are right and wrong to make. It tends to be quite complex, and we certainly don't know everything about it.

Now, to assert the NAP requires some argument that, in all situations, the right choice is not to initiate force. Regardless of the details. I've never heard such an argument. Does anyone know it?

(I know some people like the spirit of the NAP, and don't actually pay attention to what it says. I don't think they should support it, but acknowledge they don't need the argument I request.)

And don't tell me the NAP is right because it's self-evident, or I will have to WRITE BIG CAPITAL LETTERS AT YOU. mwahahaha!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)