How to Sound Smart to Dumb People

Reading this article by my friend Zoya Patel, editor of Lip magazine, about people who use the word feminazi, I was reminded of something I used to tell my students about the language they chose to use in essays (though it applies to any written or verbal communication). I told them that they could, if they wanted, use pseudo-formal language, the kind that the police use when talking to the media. The sergeant will say, “Police apprehended the individual”, instead of: “We arrested him.” I told them that this sort of language would make them sound smart to dumb people, and dumb to smart people. Continue reading How to Sound Smart to Dumb People

Perlustrating Asseverations: Evolution

The theory of evolution isn’t complete, what about missing links?

Creationists and advocates of the theory of intelligent design (also known as “ID” or “creationism”) claim that scientists can’t account for the missing links between species and their ancestors. Researchers keep discovering new, intermediate species, but creationists point out that there is then a gap between the original species and the new intermediate.

The problem is that sceptics want to see the evolutionary sequence without any gaps. Well, it’s theoretically possible, although practically difficult to satisfy them. To provide watertight evidence of an unbroken chain of evolution from, say the earliest mammal to Homo sapiens, one needs to observe all the steps and because evolution occurs by random mutation, one really needs to be there for all the steps, from each generation to the next.

So we simply need to arrange for a procession of every single mating pair of the relevant organisms to pass in chronological sequence, before the eye — at the point of insemination — of the creationist in question. Only by observing the ejaculate events of all copulating pairs in the 39 million generation lineage from the earliest mammal to the first Homo sapiens, will the creationist’s heavy burden of proof be relieved.

But to truly guarantee that these inseminations are the ones that precipitate the birth of the ensuing offspring, one need also observe the actual birth, but thankfully not the lengthy gestation in between. This could be achieved, but only with excellent organisation in what amounts to a veritable Noah’s Ark of sex. After a mating pair was brought in front of the observer, pre-fitted with an intravaginal endoscopy, they would be rotated behind, the spent male discarded and the female kept in captivity for weeks or months, until she starts crowning, only to be brought back in front of the discerning creationist to look upon the disgorging of the foetus in a final verification of the genetic legacy from one generation to another.

Because 39 million generations of even brisk orgasms and parturitions will take some time, a truly dedicated Christian voyeur will be required. Assuming a stalwart protestant work ethic yielding 14 hours a day of non-stop observance of mating and crowning mammals (subtracting one seventh of their adult life because it would be anathema to watch thousands of animals coming on the sabbath), it’s possible to fit all this in 92.89 years.

 

The complicating factor will be that once the organisms being watched approach something resembling a human (say, the emergence of the genus, Homo about 2.5 million years ago), the devout Christian may encounter a scriptural injunction: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28). As such the only way to continue to watch the carnal acts of proto-human women without damning one’s soul beyond redemption would be to cast away the offending eye. This would lead, in the final stages of the process, to legions of blinded creationists, unless of course they procured bionic eyes: a technological infeasibility and, until the medium term future, highly expensive.

Accordingly our model shows that it is best to observe the acts in a chronological manner, delaying the observation of the Homo genus until a time where the sin can be offset by bionic eyes that have become effectively free in the post-scarcity world, saving $11.5 billion.  However, as part of the observed lineage yourself, you might consider paying the $11.5 billion lest the final image to burn across the photosensitive electrodes of your cyborg eye be the shuddering head of your own father’s penis.

Q.E.D

The spreadsheet for calculations in this article can be found at: http://goo.gl/Mt848

Letter From Planet Earth: Gay Marriage

Dear Gzorgax,

I should really write more often. How is your planet going? What’s it like having three suns? Is Gzorgax a common name in Gliese 667 or were you teased growing up? Anyway, as you may know, people are getting pretty steamed up about this whole gay marriage thing here on Earth’s sunniest, funniest nation, Australia.

About two thirds of Australians now support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, although apparently it’s still highly traumatic for most parents who discover they have gay children. I guess people use most of their everyday emotional largesse on complete strangers and reserve their special inhumanity for those they love.

The argument against gay marriage is pretty unimpeachable: allowing marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman would change the definition of marriage. If there’s one thing this culture is enthusiastic about finding awful, it’s words that change meaning over time — like culture, enthusiastic, awful and all other words. The queer thing is that people are quite gay about changing the meaning of most words about human relationships, just not marriage. Random.

So the thing that has people, especially religious people, so mad is that you can’t just come along and legally change the definition of marriage. Well not again anyway, not since it was last changed by religious people. Judaism and Islam changed what marriage meant from a perfectly good institution used to allow females to be traded as commodities within and between tribes, to some crap about one man and several woman under God’s love — which, depending on your mood, sounds either saccharine, or kinky; while I’m on it saccharin should mean a sugar substitute and kinky should mean it has bends in it. Then Christians came along and ruined some of the fun and said it had to be one man, one woman, under one god. In fact Christians seem obsessed with the idea of only having one of each thing at a time — it’s like they’re playing relationship sudoku.

Meanwhile our Labor government will allow its members to take a conscience vote on the issue later this year. A conscience vote is when members of the House are given special dispensation to vote on an issue according to what they believe is right and virtuous. You can see why this is an unusual event. Ordinarily our elected representatives who are paid to serve the populous are strongly discouraged to acknowledge, or possess, a conscience.

Personally I’m actually hoping for a tightening of the definition of marriage even further, so that it allows me to marry myself. Maybe Christians will see that as a natural extension of their views and let me do it.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Discrimination

“You should avoid discrimination when hiring people”

There is an assumed opinion that one should not discriminate against people based on their gender, race or beliefs when hiring new people for a job. The idea being that one’s biological, ethnic and intellectual characteristics should not dictate one’s future, be it in their personal or professional lives. This asseverance seems difficult to refute, as discrimination has obvious associations with glass ceilings, eugenics and religious intolerance. But is it actually possible to avoid discrimination?

Because preconceptions, biases and the dominant cultural discourses are bound to cloud your own judgement, the first step in avoiding discrimination would be to remove your personal feelings from the decision making process. The easiest way to do this would be to employ some independent third party to make the appointment. You would require a disinterested, machine-like, humourless person who is willing to just follow your orders of impartiality without ever consulting their own conscience. Unfortunately such uber-efficient people are always prone to fly off into the worst kind of discrimination, cf. Germany c.1945.

You could try and remove people from the hiring process altogether and defer to a rule, by hiring on a “first in, best dressed” policy. Unfortunately, this would only discriminate in favour of punctual, and therefore German, people, which would inadvertently favour the Aryan race, in an act of racial discrimination, oddly redolent of the Nazis themselves.

The next option would be to use random numbers, by utilising the timings of the arrival of cosmic rays, as some theoretical physicists like to do. But leaving such a decision to the minute fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation comes at a cost. Even these fluctuations are tied to a cause; one will be weighing the decision to employ someone based on fluctuations that occurred to the space–time continuum at the very moment of the Big Bang. Making an employment decision based on the whim of the finger of God is to discriminate towards religions with such an idea of God, in a tenuous echo of the doctrine of predestination: the hallmark of the German theologian Martin Luther, progenitor of the very same protestant work ethic which drove the efficiency of the Final Solution.

Finally all that is left is to simply accept that the world is intrinsically deterministic and that your decision was predetermined, based on the initial conditions of the universe — but this would be blatant discrimination on the basis of the initial conditions of what cosmologists call a “goldilocks universe”, in another overt act of favouring blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Aryanist notions of goodness and an egregious example of discrimination against universes which didn’t have the chance to support life or sustain matter for more than a few nanoseconds.

Ultimately your attempt to avoid politically incorrect discrimination in the workplace will result in you inadvertently enacting, at the most fundamental ontological level, the monstrous, Ariosophic ideologies of Heinrich Himmler.

Q.E.D.

Letter From Planet Earth: Kony 2012

Dear Gzorgax,

Down here on Earth we’re tired of this damn Stop Kony 2012 thing. I don’t know if you have Internet fads like this on the planet Gliese 667 Cc, but people here are fed up with this flash-in-the-pan, emotionally manipulative, awareness campaign about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. If there’s one thing we hate it’s lame-arse memes; and no meme is lamer than one about something as lame as children’s faces being mutilated and their parents being killed in front of their eyes. Lame.

Basically this activist dude called Jason Russell made a video about a deranged Ugandan warlord called Joseph Kony. The video has excellent production values and is both distributed via social media and about social media — the medium is the message, which is a popular 20th century cliche. Unfortunately the script of the film is riddled with cliches even more banal and the narrative of the film works mainly as an exposition of the self-indulgent director’s relationship with his cute, but precocious five year old son. Anyway, even you have Facebook now, so I’ll post the link on your wall.

The film’s message is so simple that even said precocious five year old with the annoying face can understand it. Still, you’re probably wondering precisely why people are so affronted by a successful effort to alert the Western population to the existence of a man who induces sexual slavery and possibly even cannibalism. Well, all I can say in this missive is that, luckily, the West has learnt from repeatedly being sucked-in by simplistic narratives from despots. After only a few hundred million resultant deaths in the last few millennia, we’ve now arrived at a stage where most of us are deeply sceptical about claims to truth. Ironically, this same incredulity means we are unlikely to let something like a humanitarian attempt to help Ugandans with their own problems with megalomaniacs go past without it being thoroughly critiqued by jaded commentators.

It doesn’t help Russell’s cause that he has a bit of the true-believer, glazed-eye look about him. But he is also a man who has successfully created a viral video, in an age when people do little else other than try to make viral videos. Most of these videos fall away and we are left with those that have been un-naturally selected by the webosphere for their excellent cats and superb auto-tune. To have cut through this morass and have people learn, however facilely, about a psychopath tyrant, is impressive — but annoying for fans of Shit People Say.

It’s worth noting, however, that Russell once said in an interview that: “If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.” There are many horribly inhumane things that can be done to children and Joseph Kony has explored many of them. But even a man accused of such crimes as enslavement, pillaging, rape and inducing cannibalism has not yet been accused of the base act of inflicting both Bono and Oprah on the same child.

So you’ll see that the 27 minute Youtube video is lacking in that doesn’t account for Ugandans’ agency, the problems with the Ugandan military, or of the ethics of intervening in another culture’s problems. Which brings us to the overwhelming question, Gzorgax: would it have been better for Ugandans that this video hadn’t gone viral? You know the answer to that and you’re 22 light years away.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Karma

“I reckon karma’s definitely real”

Karma, in the contemporary West, is often defined as a belief which holds that: what goes around, comes around. Evidence for karma can be found in the fleeting moments when people find that when they feed someone else’s parking metre or hold a door open for an elderly person, that a pleasant surprise of equal magnitude often comes their way. The converse (i.e.evil actions incur bad luck for the doer) is also often reported. But basing an entire model of the universe on occasional undocumented examples of fairly workaday happenings deserves further scrutiny; an extrapolation of this curious rewards scheme should provide some insight as to its feasibility.

From a scan of the literature there seems to be no clear measure of how “good” or “bad” an action is, which makes it difficult to know exactly how deeds are repaid. Are rewards proportional to the size of the act or do you only get rewards for small acts? If so, why bother with large scale philanthropy? Do you get a uniform reward no matter what the good deed? Again, why bother with large kindnesses? If this weak karma hypothesis is true, then the universe seems to have devised a uniquely poor incentive structure for good deeds.

Worse is if the corollary is true and punishments are similarly non-linear in their relation to bad deeds. For if a heinous act of butchery incurs the same bad luck as littering, then clearly the universe has set up a moral hazard whereby the Konys of this world can slaughter people with impunity while merely having to suffer through a lifetime of butter-side-down toast accidents and birds shitting on their newly washed jeeps.

Of course, the system may be linear, with the lack of correlation being explained by us having incomplete information. Perhaps Bill Gates’ incredible largesse is rewarded handsomely by a lifetime of tantric orgasms, which would explain the characteristic reticence of the CEO: the lucky devil struggles to talk much, being in a state of constant sexual paroxysm. More worryingly the strong karma hypothesis implies that those people suffering horribly are perpetrators of equally shocking cruelty getting their just deserts. Happily this means we don’t have to feel bad for these “victims”. Now that we know the karmically efficient universe is simply punishing the worst, we can step back and applaud justice being done. The woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo who gets raped to death by a machete was previously the object of our pity but, assuming karma is in operation, we should celebrate the punishment of someone who must have committed even worse atrocities herself — her violent, disgusting death should be celebrated as a righteous vindication of cosmic justice.

If karma applies universally, then the connections are impossible to comprehend; if karma is applied randomly, then it is in fact indistinguishable from the randomness it seeks to abjure. The rules aren’t clear and so it is not a game one can play intelligently to maximise the good in the world. However, karma is not all bad. The belief justifies the lavishing of praise on vapid celebrities and financiers for their assumed good deeds; and the spitting in the face of those necessarily evil African AIDS victims – perfectly suiting the affection of the hemisphere that barstadised it.

Q.E.D.

Letter From Planet Earth: Nuclear Weapons

Hey Gzorgax,

Apologies that this is an email; I didn’t have time to write a snail-mail letter this week. But at least I can include some links below to some hilarious shit on YouTube. Also, I’ve CCd in your mate Klangvar who I know wanted those links to the “pinata accident” vids. They’re pretty awesome. XD

Anyway you probs want to know how that Kony thing panned out in the end. Um, quick summary: dude who started it flipped and went all Lady Godiva on our arses; started messing with his own junk on the street in broad daylight; movement now discredited; people back to not thinking about tortured Africans.

I’d give you more but I’ve been pretty stressed this week, thinking about even bigger problems. That North Korea country I’ve mentioned before (the one with the constitution written by George Orwell) has long range missiles ready to point at Australia and may soon have more nuclear capabilities too. FML.

This will only add to the set of nations that have weapons capable of destroying whole cities. Moreover, at least two of those nations have automated systems which mean as soon as a missile is launched against them they will initiate a massive counter strike; this cascade effect of nuclear missile launches would precipitate a short lived war and a resultant clouding of the atmosphere that would destroy civilisation and most of the biosphere. It probably sounds like I’ve gone all preachy and that I should let others deal with it, but just hold off until I tell you our method of prevention.

There isn’t one. The fact of mutually assured destruction is what is supposed to stop mutually assured destruction. Proponents of MAD as a deterrent actually point out that no missiles have ever been launched, deliberately or even accidentally. It’s superb rhetoric because there really hasn’t been a single instance of a nuclear holocaust since the advent of MAD, or before.

But then again, right up until the instant of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, there hadn’t been a single case of dropping nuclear bombs before. The entire course of human history had been the story of not-dropping bombs on Hiroshima. In fact, prior to 1945 every single person on Earth had been constantly not dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima. And even including Nagasaki, if we take averages over time, we have been dropping atomic bombs so infrequently in the last few thousand years that it rounds down to zero. 😉

And now, as we approach the Earth’s 4.5 billionth anniversary of not having nuclear wars, judging MAD solely in terms of whether it has prevented nuclear annihilation happening or not, it has an effectiveness rate of 100%… Which will drop quite a lot, in fact right down to 0%, if a single missile is ever launched. That’s the problem with using only past events to make predictions of the future.

As you can imagine for a problem of this magnitude, it is widely ignored. Frankly, as a trope, the Earth is bored by the hackneyed idea of nuclear winter; we’re much more interested in vampires, tapas and microblogging, all of which are massive on your planet too so there must be something in them.

Anyway dude, chat soon. Oh, and keep sending me those links to “Shit Gliese 667 People Say” — total lolocaust.

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Socialism

“Socialism just hasn’t been done right yet.”

Socialism can be broadly defined as an approach to politics and economics which favours the production of goods for the good of society as a whole; it locates the ills of society in the acquisitive goal of private property, the chaos of the free market and the harmful effects of the division of labour; it is still a significant part of left-wing politics, but found its most eloquent expression in Marx and its practical culmination in the stillborn communist revolutions of the 20th century — supporters maintain it just hasn’t been done right yet, and hasn’t had a chance to fulfil its potential.

Socialism does sound like a more agreeable and egalitarian economic system over the profit-driven capitalist system. However, based on historical data, the hatching of a socialist state will involve much bloodshed. If someone thinks socialism is still worth one more try, then they are asserting that the benefit to the inhabitants of a new socialist society is worth, if not the cumulative total of all deaths from past attempts at socialist utopias (approx. 100 million people), then at least the historical average amount of citizens you need to kill to get one going.

If we include the socialism-inspired experiments of the USSR, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia and the countries in the Eastern Bloc, then we find it’s normally about 19% of the population that needs to die, in order to benefit — in a generous estimate — 80% of the survivors. The 19% fatality allowance is a curious limit considering the typical anti-violence stance of the Left.

Let’s consider another issue close to the hearts of people on the left: capital punishment. It has long been held that no one should be killed by the state, not even if it would remove convicted killers (the bad eggs) from society. This would correspond to a 0% threshold of government murders, literally infinitely less than the 19% rate of government murders socialists give themselves for their revolution, surely a miscarriage of justice.

Applying the threshold to a smaller scale, if the father of a family of six has the bright idea of a fairer, more socialist system of pocketmoney for the children, the observing socialist must be OK with the summary execution of one of the children during the family meeting at breakfast. Perhaps the father could explain the recent death of the child’s sibling as the necessity of “breaking eggs to make omelettes”; this would be more easily explained if they were eating omelettes at the time.

In the spirit of egalitarianism, we should also be fair among government types. This would mean that democracy is owed many, many more murders in order to improve itself. Perhaps Barack Obama, leader of the world’s most iconic free-market democracy, should have the power to personally dole out murder to improve the nation. Such a rampage could only damage his reputation in the eyes of those who already believe him to be a socialist — or those who believe states shouldn’t murder people. However, socialists’ super-moral stance allows them the tolerance to look past the scramble of Obama’s rampage and the resulting mountain of dead countryman he stands atop rather than abort their beliefs for a better future. Ironically, this brings us to the highest death quota the Left accept: the paradigm case of abortion, with a ratio of one death for only two lives improved.

Q.E.D

To see the calculations for this article and to see what your threshold of slaughter would be, an interactive spreadsheet can be found at: http://goo.gl/Mt848

The blog of Jamie Freestone and Mathew McGann