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Macrobullshit, Monsanto, IYI, Metrification, VIOLENCE, GAWKER, The New Artisan | Facebook

The rebellion against the “experts” that we are witnessing can be simplified: experts in some domains like economics, political science, policymaking are not experts. But we know why:

PRINCIPLE: it is easier to macrobullshit than microbullshit.

So your car mechanic, sushi chef, house painter, espresso machine repairperson, plumber, barber, dentist, Apple genius bar attendant, sanitation engineer, translator of Greco-Aramaic texts, guitar player, …, these are, to some degree, experts.

Mixing this with the concept of skin-in-the-game and the idea of complexity, we can build political structures that are immune to expert problems. 7/1/16


So it looks like Monsanto and peers were behind getting 107 Nobels to sign a petition asking Greenpeace to stop blocking Golden Rice. Obviously, science doesn’t work by authority (particularly when one of them has a Nobel in literature, a few in peace, etc.)

But the problem is that it may be about authority–in reverse. The ONLY one of the august people who ever had anything to do with risk was Robert Merton from the blown up firm LTCM who deemed such risk to be in the order of 1 in many trillions (see my books for his description as perfectly Black Swan blind). They picked the wrong PR firm.

The broader problem is that a typical aged Nobel today is someone who had his formative work in the 60s, 70s, maybe 80s, and (unless he is Murray Gell-Mann) clueless about complexity and the difficulty in interractions. And not one has done a day’s work or engaged in real world activity to have the presence of mind to verify the track record of golden rice, or realize that hunger is a problem of DISTRIBUTION not technology –you don’t advocate risky brain surgery when a good night rest could do –primum non nocere. Likewise better give people rice + vitamin rather than open the Frankenbox to fatten the pockets of Biotech.

We throw away one third of our food. Find a Nobel Prize in food distribution. 7/1/16

107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators


What’s a IYI?

Intellectual Yet Idiot: semi-erudite bureaucrat who thinks he is an erudite; pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand not realizing it is his understanding that may be limited; imparts normative ideas to others: thinks people should act according to their best interests *and* he knows their interests, particularly if they are uneducated “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class.

More socially: subscribes to the New Yorker; never curses on twitter; speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver; has considered voting for Tony Blair; has attended more than 1 TEDx talks and watched more than 2 TED talks; will vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable; has The Black Swan on his shelves but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence; is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist uses statistics without knowing how they are derived; when in the UK goes to literary festivals; drinks red wine with steak (never white); used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; takes statins because his doctor told him so; fails to understand ergodicity and when explained forgets about it soon later; doesn’t use Yiddish words; studies grammar before speaking a language; has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; has never read Frederic Dard, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, or Joseph De Maistre; has never gotten drunk with Russians and went breaking glasses; doesn’t know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual”; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past 5 years; knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: doesn’t deadlift. 6/25/16


IN ANTIFRAGILE: On How Some IYI Intellectual-Yet-Imbecile in Brussels would try to regulate how people should “unify” metrics.
Warwick Cairns, a fellow similar to Jane Jacobs, has been fighting in courts to let market farmers in Britain keep selling bananas by the pound, and similar matters as they have resisted the use of the more “rational” kilogram. The idea of metrification was born out of the French Revolution, as part of the utopian mood, which includes changing the names of the winter months to Nivôse, Pluviôse, Ventôse, descriptive of weather, having decimal time, ten-day weeks, and similar naively rational matters. Luckily the project of changing time has failed. However, after re- peated failures, the metric system was implemented there—but the old system has remained refractory in the United States and England. The French writer Edmond About, who visited Greece in 1832, a dozen years after its independence, reports how peasants struggled with the metric system as it was completely unnatural to them and stuck to Ottoman standards instead. (Likewise, the “modernization” of the Arabic alpha- bet from the easy-to-memorize old Semitic sequence made to sound like words, ABJAD, HAWWAZ, to the logical sequence A-B-T-TH has cre- ated a generation of Arabic speakers without the ability to recite their alphabet.)

But few realize that naturally born weights have a logic to them: we use feet, miles, pounds, inches, furlongs, stones (in Britain) because these are remarkably intuitive and we can use them with a minimal expendi- ture of cognitive effort—and all cultures seem to have similar measure- ments with some physical correspondence to the everyday. A meter does not match anything; a foot does. I can imagine the meaning of “thirty feet” with minimal effort. A mile, from the Latin milia passum, is a thousand paces. Likewise a stone (14 pounds) corresponds to . . . well, a stone. An inch (or pouce) corresponds to a thumb. A furlong is the distance one can sprint before running out of breath. A pound, from libra, is what you can imagine holding in your hands. Recall from the story of Thales in Chapter 12 that we used thekel or shekel: these mean “weight” in Canaanite-Semitic languages, something with a physical connotation, similar to the pound. There is a certain nonrandomness to how these units came to be in an ancestral environment—and the digital system itself comes from the correspondence to the ten fingers.

As I am writing these lines, no doubt, some European Union official
of the type who eats 200 grams of well-cooked meat with 200 centiliters’ worth of red wine every day for dinner (the optimal quantity for his health benefits) is concocting plans to promote the “efficiency” of the metric system deep into the countryside of the member countries. 6/25/16

 Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.——————————————————————–


The Nobel Symposium is a 3d retreat that takes place in Norway every 2 years, for the President of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, the secretary of the Prize, a few out of the 5 committee members and 20 scholars. I presented the paper on violence (the translation into English of our technical paper). Bear Braumoeller presented another one similarly critical of Pinker. After our session, the audience was split into:
1) Those who thought that Pinker was wrong
2) Those who thought that Pinker was not even wrong (i.e. not worth discussing).
And the agreement was to not talk about his thesis any further. Further, the organizer was told by Pinker that he did not wish to rebut our papers.

Our Non-technical paper:

Pinker builds his thesis on works by Richardson in a way that is NOT compatible with the way Richardson [which is compatible with our result] and without showing the derivations. This it turned out is a CRITICAL flaw. Words and words and the central point is pulled out of nowhere.

In our paper: “As we also find out in our data analysis, consistent with Richardson (1960), there is no sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis of a homogenous Poisson process, which denies the presence of any trend in the belligerence of humanity. Nevertheless, Pinker refers to some yet-unspecified mathematical model that could also support such a decline in violence, what he calls a “nonstationary” process, even if data look the way they look.” 6/22/16

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.


The marker of the character of a person, detectable from childhood, is whether they generalize from local disagreements to other traits when they get upset. Example from real life (told by a Colombian Jew): children are playing, a small dispute erupts over something, one turns antisemitic: “you are a Jew”, throwing all what he can at the other kid. The kid did not change ethnicity during the dispute; being a Jew was not bothersome to the Catholic kid before; it is just meant for the upset party to use all possible weapons. This is why lurking prejudice is bad because it doesn’t show up on sunny days –when scapegoats are needed.

And one doesn’t have to bring ethnicity; any trait such such as “it is well known that you have a reputation of…”, anything meant to demean the person, an information that was not brought up before, only brought during the dispute.

Which is why it is a good idea to upset people and see how they react before engaging in business (or getting socially dependent) — just to see whether they generalize. You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t. And observe what people tell you about others when they are upset with them.

It would not be ethical for me to call someone a charlatan if we engage in a fight unless I’ve called him a charlatan without a fight, or if the fight is about him being a charlatan. 6/13/16


Did violence really drop? It the thesis on drop in violence BS?
Translating our technical results into more common language.
Draft of our report to the Nobel Foundation, for comments before we submit it Monday morning. Thanks in advance. 6/4/16

The Decline of Violent Conflicts: What DoThe Data Really Say? (pdf)



Journalists –as any guild, care about their peers and their community more than the general public. Except that we cannot afford to have such a community engage in a conspiracy against the laymen since they represent our interests, us the lay crowd; they are supposed to stand for the general public against inner circles of power. Journalism arose from the need to expose falsehood, take risks in exposing matters detrimental to the public; in short, counter the agency problem of the powerful. But, it is turning out, the journalism model can also work in the opposite manner: members have been effective in escaping having skin in the game –only whistleblowers and war correspondents currently do.

So one can see how this severe agency problem can explode with the Gawker story. The English tabloid machine came to the U.S. in full force with Gawker, founded by a firm that specializes in dirt on the internet. By dirt I don’t mean a fraudulent transaction abetted by some power: no, the kind of dirt that takes place in bedrooms (and even in bathrooms).

They sell voyeurism, predator voyeurism.

In other words they want to harm citizens by disclosing their private information and posting their videos without their permission in the interest of selling information. And without being accountable for it.
Gawker having posted a video of a celebrity having sex without his permission incurred a monstrous judgment of $140 million. The suit will bankrupt Gawker. Most of all, the judgment revealed that such a predatory business model will not survive, not because it is immoral, but because it has tail risks. For America has tort laws and a legal mechanism by which people harmed by corporations can be compensated for it –a mechanism that flourished thanks to Ralph Nader. It, along with the First Amendment protect citizens by putting skin in the game of the corporations.

Gawker is trying to make a First Amendment argument and unfortunately journos appear to find this justified –while normal citizens are horrified. Liberty in the thoughts of the founding fathers was not about voyeurism, but about public matters.

Gawker argued that because the person committing sex on the video they posted was a public person, that it became a “public” matter exempted from privacy protection. People failed to see that should that argument be true, then next someone spying on any public figure should be allowed to post their bedroom activity (including Hillary Clinton, Obama, anyone)… (Gawker has ruined the lives of 21 year olds posting their sex tapes and their reaction was outrageous; in one instance their lawyer Gaby Darbyshire e-mailed the woman who was in a revenge sex tape, defending the video as “completely newsworthy” and scolding her about how “one’s actions can have unintended consequences.”)

Peter Thiel, a billionaire with a vendetta against Gawker funded a law suit. Revenge motives perhaps, but this is how the market works: Gawker tries to make money therefore they need to live with the risk of someone trying to make money from their demise.
(You make money from the demise of a 21 yo, someone will make money from yours. You make yourself a vehicle for revenge porn; you become the subject of someone’s revenge. You engage in bullying someone financially weaker than you; someone stronger will bully you. There is no reason Gawker should be the only one to use asymmetry given that their very business is asymmetry against weak people–and this is general as the media is asymmetrically strong against citizens, what is commonly called “bullying” ).
I would have personally shorted Gawker (if they were publicly listed) to make money from their collapse. And I am ready to fund lawsuits against journalists who break some intellectual rules and distort people’s positions (strawman arguments).

Any journalist who supports Gawker in the name of the First Amendments fails to understand that they as a community are committing suicide because they are trivializing the reasons behind the First Amendment –and they make it conflict with other fundamental rights. And a corporation trying to warp our sacred values should go bankrupt. And anyone, like Peter Thiel, who accelerates such bankruptcy, should be thanked. 5/31/16



DISCUSSION: The New Artisan.

Anything you do to optimize your work, cut some corners, squeeze more “efficiency” out of it (and out of your life) will eventually make you hate it.

So let us open the discussion: how do you inch closer to an artisan? First, a new definition of an artisan:
1) does things for existential reasons,
2) has some type of “art” in his/her profession, stays away from most aspects of industrialization, combines art and business in some manner (his decision-making is never fully economic),
3) has some soul in his/her work: would not sell something defective or even of compromised quality because what people think of his work matters more than how much he can make out of it,
4) has sacred taboos, things he would not do even if it markedly increased profitability.

From my side, It is easy to see that a writer is effectively an artisan: book sales are not the end motive, only a secondary target (even then). You preserve some sanctity of the product with taboos (Fay Weldon put ads for Bulgari in her books which led to disgust; we do not like advertisement inside the book). You would not hire a group of writers to enter the process and “help” (some have tried, say Jerzy Kosinsky, none has seen his work survive).

Academics are also artisans. Even those economists who claim that humans are here to maximize their income, express these ideas for free, not seeing the contradiction.

DISCUSSION – Will we revert to an artisan society? Which jobs can be made artisanal? Please comment. 5/25/16

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