#29 On post-truth politics

Dear Mat,

This is the letter where I’ve had the least to disagree with so I’ll expand on something you wrote: “Many would disagree but I think truth is alive and well in our civilisation”. Amen. Talk of fake news and post-truth politics seems crazy to me. When the fuck was the golden age when there was no propaganda, misinformation, spin, or lies?

I find that on this point reading about WWII and totalitarianism is always a good refresher. Indeed, sometimes I think that the stuff I was reading when I was 17 pretty much locked-in a lot of how I see the world, which is unusual and disappointing. Back then I studied Stalin in history class and read the kinds of things one is told to read by English teachers when one is 17. Actually, because I’ve been keeping a reading log since I can remember, I can consult the record and tell you exactly what I read ages 15–17. Continue reading #29 On post-truth politics

#28 On wilful blindness

Dear Jamie,

At the moment I’m into Jordan Peterson’s ideas and his theories about morality and how to live so let’s pull that in. He says that we must act in a way so as to win multiple games. One must simultaneously question oneself as to how to play the “will I survive the day?” game, the “can I feed my family?” game, the “is my community stable?” game, the “is my nation going in the right direction?” game and the “is humanity going to survive the next decade?” game. I’ll call it the contribution hierarchy.

Notice that this is a perfect inversion (and I would say perfect alternative) to the despicable Bedouin saying: “I am against Continue reading #28 On wilful blindness

A Satire Manifesto

 

#27 On satire

Dear Mat,

I’ve tried lamely over the years to make fun of leaders for doing stupid things. Pretty standard really. I’ve always felt that something like, say, mutually assured destruction 1)Re: your last letter. Your second claim about doomsday was that “we’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming”. But I gotta say, although we obviously can’t predict Black Swans because they will include unknown unknowns, that doesn’t imply we’re more likely to be wiped out by one of them than some more mundane reason like nuclear annihilation. Sure, there are things we can’t anticipate or prepare for (save for diversifying our portfolio by colonising other planets as you point out), but that doesn’t negate the point that there are known knowns that could kill the fuck out of us. is so insane that maybe very harsh mockery is the way to tackle the apathy and the status quo bias on this issue. Ditto for climate change, wars, treatment of refugees or any other thing where people in power need to have their actions subjected to a much harsher burden of proof.

Satire for me is an extension of scepticism or falsification. Ridicule everything and the really stupid ideas will sink and those left floating will be, not perfect, but passable. Obviously you share this view as well, hence the momentous and world-historical publication of our satire manifesto this week. But does satire work? Continue reading #27 On satire

Footnotes

1. Re: your last letter. Your second claim about doomsday was that “we’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming”. But I gotta say, although we obviously can’t predict Black Swans because they will include unknown unknowns, that doesn’t imply we’re more likely to be wiped out by one of them than some more mundane reason like nuclear annihilation. Sure, there are things we can’t anticipate or prepare for (save for diversifying our portfolio by colonising other planets as you point out), but that doesn’t negate the point that there are known knowns that could kill the fuck out of us.

#26 On snoozeday

Dear Jamie,

I think about it with the following constraints.

  1. I think Doomsday would be the worst thing not in the world, but in the universe, so pretty bad,
  2. We’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming,
  3. I have the usual cognitive biases and limitations that all humans do, that mainly ignore the above.

Point 1 is something I’d love to rant about, but I’ll keep in on the topic of doomsday as you seem to think it so important, jeez. It basically comes down to Continue reading #26 On snoozeday

Dammit I’m mad

I’m a complete amateur at this stuff but I try to keep my hand in, because it seems important. In fact, the most important thing there is: good old Cold War-style mutually assured destruction.

Nukes often get put at number one on a list of existential threats by the kinds of nerds who actually take the time to think about such things. In his last term Obama had been floating the idea of a no first use policy, so the US would only deploy nuclear weapons if another nuclear state did first. This sounds great but there are two sides to the debate, even among non-proliferation fans. Continue reading Dammit I’m mad

#24 On not needing to know

Dear Jamie,

I knew we’d crack it. While you could “judge political systems” according to your rule, let’s consider a system that embraces this rule:

Make decisions according to how great a chance they have of discovering and thereby achieving new goals, in perpetuity.

My logical consistency sense is tingling, so I pause. The structure of your system has kind of a Bertrand Russel ring to it. If we support all goals that achieve new goals, Continue reading #24 On not needing to know

The blog of Jamie Freestone and Mathew McGann