1182 Comments

The new debate format that has automatic microphone shutoff is probably better, but visually boring. The split-screen view mostly shows the other candidate staring impassively. Maybe some basic sign language training could shake this up?

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>The new debate format that has automatic microphone shutoff is probably better

Agreed (I'm agnostic on the "visually boring").

One simple addition they should make: Give the candidates countdown timers. The moderators shouldn't need to say "You have 83 seconds left."

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Yeah, I keep being surprised that no one has done this, and I keep forgetting about it afterwards, probably because it seems like such a simple and boring insight. And yet it still hasn't gotten fixed!!!

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Many Thanks!

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Today I received a phishing SMS in Esperanto. Has this happened to anyone else and is it a sure sign of the impending robot apocalypse?

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Legal question time:

A colleague has recently lost her father and is now going through all the legal probate stuff. Everything is going to his wife so in theory it should all be simple.

The solicitor wanted to know the value of the contents of his house (the one the wife now owns and still lives in.) Why did she need this information? From what I've been told, her answer was, "I have to put it on the forms."

Anyway, my friend provided a number, the solicitor said, "no that sounds wrong" and made up a completely different number.

My question is, what's the point of requiring this information? What are they planning to do with it? And, most importantly, what are the possible long term consequences of giving a number that's completely wrong (in either direction)?

In short, should my friend let this go or is there any reason to go back and say, hey, hang on.

We're all in the UK, I don't know to what degree this kind of thing varies across countries.

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why is everything going to the wife(I assume she is your colleague's step mother)?

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Not a UK resident, but I assume it's Inheritance Tax. https://www.gov.uk/valuing-estate-of-someone-who-died The contents will count toward the tax total, presumably.

Did they inspect the contents of the house? How accurate do you think your colleague is at appraisal? If it's a made-up number without an inspection, that could be worth fighting, it's a 40% tax after all.

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That was my first thought - but you don't pay inheritance tax between husband and wife. So if it's do to with that it's via some indirect route.

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Maybe it's just a plain old paper trail then. https://www.gov.uk/update-property-records-someone-dies?step-by-step-nav=4f1fe77d-f43b-4581-baf9-e2600e2a2b7a

You'll know more than me on how the UK does things, but the online site says the wife doesn't pay if it's given to them through a will. I don't know if that applies if the wife is instead getting it by default.

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Invisalign -- how much of the "treatment plan" is set by the company vs the individual orthodontist? IE Should this be price-shopped? Or does the individual ortho's experience matter?

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Definitely worth price shopping. I went through this . The prices in New York City and the prices in Kingston, New York were completely different

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https://www.wsj.com/.../supreme-court-draft-opinion...

I don't understand something.

If the Federal government says "medicaid dollars don't go to hospitals that don't provide abortions in certain cases" shouldn't the enforcement mechanism for that be "Medicaid denying reimbursement requests for the hospital" not suing the hospital?

Like does the federal government need a court's permission to deny medicaid reimbursement requests?

And furthermore, if the state law says "abortion is not allowed" and federal law says "if you accept medicaid dollars you have to allow abortions" shouldn't the hospital be required to follow both state and federal law by not doing the abortions and not accepting medicaid dollars? Why does the hospital wanting federal money allow it to violate state law?

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> shouldn't the enforcement mechanism for that be "Medicaid denying reimbursement requests for the hospital" not suing the hospital?

If this refers to Moyle v US, it's Medicare, not Medicaid?

Multiple enforcement mechanisms are theoretically possible, but presumably the feds think that this one will best accomplish their aims. I'm guessing that the main reasons are that a) it lets the hospital continue to operate at full capacity in all other areas, b) they judge it more likely that this will result in a hospital that provides the abortions they want, and c) from a bureaucratic perspective, suing the hospital is probably simpler and more precedented.

> shouldn't the hospital be required to follow both state and federal law by not doing the abortions and not accepting medicaid dollars

Generally, I think the principle is that if you don't want to follow federal rules, don't accept federal money. Some states have pulled this off in some areas. But given that the state/hospital did accept the money, they have to take the consequences. If a state wants to lock up its own people for breaking state law, that's their problem, not the problem of the federal government. If that means that doctors refuse to work in the state's hospitals and move elsewhere, and then normal citizens who want proper medical care also move elsewhere, that's ... fine?

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(Your link doesn't work.)

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Nate Silver just posted on his substack - "The presidential election isn't a toss-up".

https://www.natesilver.net/p/the-presidential-election-isnt-a

Full post is subscriber-only but a lot is visible to all. He says the odds are in Trump’s favor. A quote - "if Biden loses Georgia, Arizona and Nevada — and he trails badly in each — he’ll need to win all three of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and not just one of them."

Also a nice name drop of our host -

"At the Manifest conference in Berkeley, California two weeks ago, I was asked by one of my favorite writers, Scott Alexander, about the odds in the presidential race."

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

On MI, WI, PA - that's not a quote I would've chosen. You only have to look at the RealClearPolitics map and do the sums in your head to come to the exact same conclusion (yes, I did that a while ago).

He puts Trump's odds at 2 out of 3. The problem is, I'm not sure how well his model accounts for bogus voter registrations and shenanigans with somebody voting for people who didn't authorize it. I get the feeling that Nate's assumption that now there are a lot more Democratic likely voters among registered Democratic voters than before should approximate the effects of these two kinds of fraud to some degree, but nobody can tell how well except people engaged in these kinds of fraud. I'm crossing my fingers that this assumption will lead to results close enough to reality.

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The model is bassed on looking on how well polls at a given time predicted the results of previous elections and extrapelating.

So fraud wouldn't change how well you trust the model unless you think fraud this election will be much higher or much lower than the previous elections ehich served as the basis for the model.

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I get the feeling that Nate doesn't consider election fraud to be a material issue considering that he has never mentioned that his model allows for it. When he has written about the subject of election fraud is has been to point out that election forecasts are a good to get a sense of whether fraud has occurred after the election. For instance, in 2020, Nate's model gave Biden the better chance of winning and Biden won. In 2016, it was the opposite, but he still have Trump a 1/3 chance, good odds for a racehorse.

Nate has the best record among any public forecasters of correctly forecasting elections in the USA, and he does't consider election fraud to be material to the results of them. Maybe something to consider if your prior is that voting shenanigans are what matter in them.

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If there was consistent substantial election fraud in favor of one party, that would show up as a bias between polls and election outcomes. The party benefitting from the fraud would in general overperform relative to their polls, assuming nobody bothers trying to also cook the polls.

OTOH, election fraud and related shenanigans can probably only change the outcome of really close elections--maybe you can change a 51/49 result to 49/51, but you can't change a 60/40 result to 49/51 without it being really obvious. And that's probably going to be within the error bar of the polls, and so be pretty hard to detect. (If the polls predict a 60/40 landslide and then the result is 49/51, people are going to be suspicious, but if the polls predict a 51/49 win and the result is 49/51, that's still consistent with the polling results--being off by 2% in either direction is quite likely without any fraud.

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Fair enough. Before the 2020 elections Trump said that the only way he could lose is if there's shenanigans and behold, he lost, there must have been shenanigans. But the elections forecasts showed that Trump could easily lose without any shenanigans.

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Jun 29·edited Jun 29

Trump *also* alleged large scale pro-Clinton election fraud in 2016, even though *he won*. He's basically just a rock that says "there was large scale election fraud against me" on it.

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> I'm not sure how well his model accounts for bogus voter registrations and shenanigans with somebody voting for people who didn't authorize it.

Evidence of any significant fraud please. Haven’t seen any from anyone to date.

Interesting counter example with the 1.6 billion dollar judgment against Fox for promoting the Dominion fraud malarkey.

Bill Barr to DT: “We’ve investigated all plausible claims of voter fraud in 2020. You lost.”

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How do this blogs readers land when thinking about compulsory voting ? Australian here.

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I basically never vote because I don't follow politics, but wouldn't be against compulsory voting; the randomness of folks like me would probably not matter too much. I think I heard other countries make it a national holiday; if we're making it a national holiday I'm all for it.

Of course there's the question of whether I'm allowed to vote for "Leave Presidency Vacant This Term" without getting in trouble.

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>but wouldn't be against compulsory voting; the randomness of folks like me would probably not matter too much.

Humans are bad at _trying_ to generate unbiased random responses. I expect that compulsory voting would add a significant effect from just name recognition, which I think would be unfortunate.

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American, and mildly in favor, even though I worry that it could be a very bad idea for America.

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What do you see as negatives?

It’s a source of pride here and also creates a strong community participation vibe - even as divisions become wider.

Polling is usually at schools and community centres on a Saturday … fundraising cake stalls and sausage sizzles are traditional.

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Nothing special, mostly I worry that the results will be worse. I only visited Australia once, but I got the impression that it has less variability in the quality of voter than the US, even if the average is similar.

Our version of election Day is horrible, though. It's a Tuesday, and not even a holiday. If mail-in voting catches on, that won't be a problem, but again, that comes with its own set of potential problems.

Maybe there's no perfect way and we keep bouncing from system to system, switching whenever we notice the new set of problems.

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There's *some* fraud in every election, but I bet nearly all the successful fraud is local stuff, in elections where almost nobody votes and hardly anyone is paying attention, but the owner of the construction company can manage to get his brother elected to the planning commission.

As best I can tell, there's no reason to think there was any more fraud in 2020 than in 2016 or 2012.

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Yes. 4 years ago, Yassine did a real-time roundup of election irregularities, over on The Motte, and that did a lot to convince me that the complaints were overblown.

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Copy that. That’s why I used the word significant.

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The UK election in its late stage has been dominated by a gambling scandal — officials betting on the fate of the next election, and now an MP candidate betting against himself, maybe as a form of hedging.

Could this happen in the US? Is it an argument against large-scale political betting markets?

(Obviously Americans won’t bet on the date of the election.)

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The purpose of prediction markets is to make accurate predictions. If those with the most inside information bet on them -- all the better!

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Jun 29·edited Jun 29

Legalizing insider trading creates an incentive to make markets *less* accurate, so that you can better profit off of them.

Incidentally, Kalshi claims that the purpose is hedging which goes directly against the goal of accurate predictions.

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4.1: Would prediction markets be ruined by insider trading?

That is, suppose there is a market on whether President Biden will resign before the end of his term. President Biden has special knowledge of this, so he could bet on the true outcome and make a lot of money unfairly. He could even change his behavior (eg resign at an unexpected time) just to make more money. Isn’t this unfair?

One answer is that normal markets (eg the stock market) face these same problems, but manage them by making insider trading illegal. These laws don’t always work perfectly, but they work well enough that most people are happy to buy stocks.

Another answer is that, while this is bad for other investors, it’s not bad for the accuracy of prediction markets, or their use in creating unbiased social consensuses. In fact, knowing that President Biden is insider-trading on a “Will President Biden resign?” prediction market should only increase your confidence in it getting the right answer!

This is slightly too rosy, because if insider trading is bad enough for other investors, they might just not trade. This would be a partial effect: investors would be willing to overcome their fear for a big enough payday, meaning that concerns about insider trading probably would increase the likelihood of persistent small mispricings while still not allowing bigger ones (with the exact size depending on how frequent the insider trading was). It’s unclear whether this negative effect would be bigger or smaller than the positive effect from insiders having more information, so in different situations the market might end up either more or less accurate.

Overall, economists are split on whether insider trading makes markets more or less accurate. Commodities markets don’t really have insider trading laws right now, and seem to be about as accurate as anything else. I hope prediction markets will experiment with different insider trading rules, and the ones that best satisfy all participants and create the most accurate results will win out. If for some reason this doesn’t work, I don’t expect it to make too much difference either way.

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/prediction-market-faq

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>“In fact, knowing that President Biden is insider-trading on a Will President Biden resign?” prediction market should only increase your confidence in it getting the right answer!

Yes it would; Either be in on it with Biden or don't bet.

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> Another answer is that, while this is bad for other investors, it’s not bad for the accuracy of prediction markets,

The problem here is that you're only considering the simplest first order effects. The result of making insider trading legal is that insiders have an incentive to manipulate the market in order to make it less accurate so that they can profit more. For example, by secretly *creating* situations that will affect the outcome.

In the most extreme case, the markets will just devolve into something isomorphic to "how will I resolve this market?" which can never be accurate just from its very nature.

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Yes. Consider the story of Rothchild and The Battle of Waterloo.

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That feels remarkably small-ball. Corruption in the US is usually flashier and more in-your-face than that. Also our politicians are too dumb to use betting markets.

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Jun 28·edited Jun 28

One of the recurring shocks over the last few years has been how cheaply our (UK) politicians can be bought. It’s the argument for raising their salaries. Although personally I think it’s mostly an argument for them not being that smart or capable.

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Those bribes reflect theirs(and thus UK's) declining value.

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Well yes, it’s all very symbolic, but that doesn’t explain why anyone would sell themselves so cheap. Someone with integrity wouldn’t be sold, and someone smart and capable would at least negotiate a higher price.

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I think Brits just like to bet on things. It's not really a bribe if he bets against himself and wins, is it? He could do his best to lose but then we are in a whole other world of duplicity and, dare I say, insanity.

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The guy who bet on himself to lose was just being thoughtless: it’s a pretty normal thing to do emotionally over here (betting on the thing you don’t want), but when you’re taking part in a competition betting on yourself to lose is a bad look. In sports, you would face consequences, because as you say people can dive. And given the wider story, Starmer had to act hard and fast.

But the people betting on the election date, because they knew the election date, were profoundly stupid as well as corrupt. That’s baby’s first “obviously unethical behaviour”, and then they weren’t even betting that much. That’s people who’ve completely forgotten they are supposed to follow the normal rules of ethics.

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Most UK politicians probably don't have much power or influence. Low tens of thousands of pounds is the maximum anyone will be willing to pay them no matter how smart and capable they are.

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But a) many of them went much cheaper than that, in deals that were worth millions to the people paying them off and b) if you are smart and capable, but completely corrupt, you don’t endanger your career for a few tickets or what have you.

I feel like you think you are teaching me about my country’s place in the world, without understanding the level of ridiculousness we are discussing. You also assume, I think, that we are mostly discussing political players paying them off, rather than (as is mostly the case) industries, businesses, and individuals who want to make a quick buck.

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I enjoy betting on elections, but it's probably best if politicians don't. Not all of them will have inside information but it seems simpler to have a code of conduct and eliminate it altogether. I'm betting on a hung parliament, which is currently 20/1 - unlikely but worth a flutter given Starmer's personal unpopularity and the dominance of specifically right-wing ideas in Europe and the US.

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The politicians all bet on elections, just not as disinterested parties that can't influence the outcomes, like in sports betting. Athletes aren't allowed to bet on sports they're involved in, are they? But a politician running in an election is betting he/she will win, and spending a lot of money (much of it other peoples') on getting the outcome right.

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

If you haven't read "The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism", by R. Trivers, you should. I just read it for the first time.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Trivers-EvolutionReciprocalAltruism.pdf

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This is a classic paper from 1971. There was a bunch of pushback against Trivers, but I don't remember the details anymore. But he was a big deal back when I was in grad school (early 1980s). But there's been a lot more research and theorizing on this subject done since then I'm sure. Just sayin...

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

I've long had the theory that, barring the cheapest places, the purpose of a restaurant is not food provision, but rather to provide a table to hang out with friends for a few hours. So many aspects of the restaurant experience seem to be optimized for that, such as waiting a long time before taking people's orders and then asking for drink and appetizer orders first (admittedly, that's probably also to encourage people to *buy* high margin drinks).

However, if that is the case, then many restaurants are amazingly bad at fulfilling their purpose. Even in the best of cases, cramming large numbers of people into a giant room all talking to each other makes the place extremely noisy, and that's before you even get into the problem of many restaurants *also* playing obnoxiously loud music as well. In many cases, it's so loud that you can't even hear people talking next to you, which defeats the entire purpose of going to a restaurant. You had one job!!!

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I think this connects back to the argument from recent posts about the importance of an external motivation in the creation of social groups. "Going out to eat" is a whole experience that encompasses a lot more than simply "buying food that you didn't cook yourself, and eating somewhere where you don't have to clean up afterwards", but that latter thing is an important core.

Maybe a way to think about it is that natural selection in restaurants will usually eliminate factors that *prevent* hanging out with friends for a few hours (aside from some edge cases), but won't necessarily add in factors that encourage it? I'm sure that restaurants would prefer to have lots of high-spending quick-turnover customers, but they adapt to the niches they find themselves in.

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It sounds like you had a theory, tested it, saw it fail, and still don't want to discard your theory. I submit the more common-sense approach that the purpose of a restaurant is to serve food people will want to eat, and that good decor and an ambiance people like enhances the experience of the food. Cooking food takes time, and long wait times are a result of that, and/or that the restaurant is so popular many people dine there simultaneously, and/or bad management that they actually would fix if they knew about it and knew how.

If you have a venue where some patrons want the music turned up and others want it turned down then you're attracting too broad of an audience. That problem will resolve itself due to microeconomics, such that those that want louder/quieter music will go elsewhere, which you can influence by changing the music volume to attract the clientele you want.

Socializing at a restaurant evolved out of eating at a restaurant, but the primary purpose is still eating.

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

> That problem will resolve itself due to microeconomics, such that those that want louder/quieter music will go elsewhere, which you can influence by changing the music volume to attract the clientele you want.

Perhaps in the long run, but I don't think that the "vote with your wallet" process works very effectively because a) there's no way to tell how loud a restaurant will be before you go there and review sites are all compromised and b) restaurants are constantly going out of business anyway so the signal is lost in the noise.

Anyway, given the Atlantic article someone linked, I'm clearly not the only one to have noticed this problem.

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I think the truth is that anyone can have this problem if they want to. If you like hanging out at restaurants then the first thing you are going to do is find a few you like and become a regular. If you are just "hoper-picking" then results will vary, but that is not liking to hang out in restaurants, that's going out for dinner occasionally. I lived in the East Village of Nyc for 40-odd years and the restaurant turnover was ferocious. I am someone who likes hanging out in restaurants, and I usually ended up with a rotation of three or four places, updated as necessary.

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https://www.soundprint.co/ will tell you in advance how loud it will be.

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This is, in part, a recent and specifically American phenomenon. At least it’s more pronounced in the US

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/11/how-restaurants-got-so-loud/576715/#

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The revealed preference of most diners is they like that noise.

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* most diners, weighted by profitability. In particular those who buy a lot of drinks are more likely to enjoy noise, and also produce more profits.

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Yes! totally agreed.

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Can someone from Israel comment on the likely consequences of the recent decision by Israel's supreme court that the ultra-Orthodox must be drafted like all other Jews? To begin with, are the ultra-Orthodox likely to comply with draft orders, or will they engage in some sort of campaign of massive resistance?

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I wrote a larger substack post about this broader issue a few months ago, (https://substack.com/home/post/p-142477535) but the basic answer is no, they won't comply in draft orders in large numbers. Heres what I think is likely to happen (with probability estimates)

75%: The government ignores the court order and doesn't draft them. Probably giving some excuse like saying "we are working on drafting them" but really only barely starts the process of trying to draft a tiny negligible percentage so it can tell the court it's doing something.

17%: The government "drafts" them in large numbers. But this just means sending them letters to appear in front of the army but doesnt do much to enforce this when they don't show up. Maybe this includes freezing some yeshiva stipends

7.5%: The government actually tries to enforce draft orders by arressting haradi draft refusers. But only arrests a small percentage of them since they don't have a hundred thousand spare jail sells.

0.45%: the government actually tries to arrest every single harradi draft refusser. The harradim largly don't comply and get arrested until the country runs out of jail cells.

.05%: more than 50,000 new haradim join the army in 1 year who wouldn't have joined if not for this court rulling.

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I'm registering a guess that this is largely a result of the internal struggle between the secular collectivist/liberal Ashkenazi founding group that still controls the Supreme Court, and the various religious/right groups that sometimes-performatively support ultra-orthodox privileges and which have recently been trying to put limits on the power of the Supreme Court. I'd guess that the SC faction saw an opportunity to split the opposing coalition (and possibly Netanyahu's government) by using the current war as leverage, by doing something that pragmatically seems necessary for long-term stability anyway.

But it'll probably turn out to be more complicated than that.

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I don't follow the issue too closely so hard to say what exactly happens. I would be very surprised if the ultraOrthodox accepted wide scale conscription. It's possible (but unlikely) that the government tries to conscript a significant number of them from non-yeshiva students in the less-resistent populations (although that could collapse bibi's coalition, which is already on the rocks due to this issue). But even the optimistic case is "some movement around the edges", not big fast movement on the issue.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

Yeah, I would expect a government to have any number of plausibly-legitimate ways to slow-walk a requirement like this, unless the court specified an exact timeline.

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Suppose you have a finite binary circuit composed of AND gates, OR gates, and exactly one NOT gate. Is there a polynomial time algorithm to determine whether it outputs a constant function?

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SAT can be reduced to this problem. Suppose we have a circuit with AND, OR and NOT gates, with output o, and we want to know whether the circuit can output 1. For each NOT gate n with input i_n and output o_n, introduce a new input variable x_n. Remove n and connect o_n to x_n. Add another input variable x. Finally create a new output o' for the circuit:

o' = AND(x, o, AND_n(OR(i_n, x_n)), NOT(OR_n(AND(i_n,x_n))))

This new circuit has only one NOT gate. Is it constant? Putting x=0, it can output 0. It outputs 1 iff x=1, o=1 and x_n=~i_n. So it's non-constant iff the original circuit could output 1.

Thus your problem is NP-hard. Whether it's in P is left as an exercise :).

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Nice reduction, it's a simple yet elegant trick to manufacture several NOTs out of 1 NOT like this.

Looks like I proved a false statement, need to brush up on my complexity.

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Jun 28·edited Jun 28

Thanks! A bit disappointing, but at least now I know.

It took me a little while to figure out your notation. I think the basic idea is that you can enforce a set of constraints (a1 = not b1), (a2 = not b2), ... by writing (a1 or b1) and (a2 or b2) and ... and not((a1 and b1 ) or (a2 and b2) or ...)

In retrospect, I feel kind of silly for not thinking of that myself. I guess I got blinded by optimism, hoping there was a solution.

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Thanks for posting this, I loved thinking about it.

The answer - I think - boils down to finding a poly-time algorithm for determining whether 2 arbitrary boolean circuits/expressions composed of ANDs and ORs alone are equal. The answer is not immediately “No” because the absence of NOTs dramatically reduces the computational power of the 2 circuits (ANDs and ORs alone are not universal, for example), but I'm still thinking of a smart way to do this without simply computing truth tables.

--------

Here's why I think the problem reduces to AND-OR circuit equality in the worst case:

(1) First, a necessary but trivial observation: check at first if any constant inputs can be propagated throughout the circuit to obtain a constant output.

For example, the boolean circuit represented by the expression OR(OR(OR(T, …), …), …) always outputs T (i.e. HIGH, TRUE, etc…) regardless of any sub-expressions in place of the ellipsis, no matter how complex or how many unknowns they depend on.

This is not the core of the question, but it's technically not disallowed by the question statement, so I include it in my reasoning for completion only. A revised question statement should clarify that constant inputs are either disallowed or were already found to not short-circuit the expression trivially like this.

(2) Now to the meat of the question: when does a boolean circuit with exactly one NOT compute a constant function?

At first, I didn't see the relevance of specifying “exactly one NOT”, until I pondered the obvious question: when does a single OR or a single AND compute a constant function?

The answer is: when its 2 inputs are x and NOT(x). With an OR the computed expression becomes a tautology, and with an AND the computed expression becomes a contradiction. In both cases, the gate reduces to a constant. OR(x, NOT(x)) is always TRUE/HIGH, and AND(x, NOT(x)) is always FALSE/LOW.

(3) With a little bit of handwaving, we can also safely assume that (3) is also a uniqueness result, i.e. that the **only** way to short-circuit an AND or an OR to a constant is to tie its inputs to an expression and its negation.

I'm too lazy to rigorously prove this, but I can think of no counterexample to it:

3-(a) 2 independent input variables will obviously allow us to select input values for each one such that the circuit can output anything we want, and thus not be a constant

3-(b) Even tying the 2 inputs of the gate to one variable only, i.e. AND(x,x) or OR(x,x), will reduce the circuit to the identity function, the identity function is trivial but still not a constant.

(4) As a corollary to (2) and (3), we can thus safely say that a binary circuit composed solely of ANDs and ORs will never be equivalent to the constant function (absent the trivial observation noted in point 1)

(5) However, a binary circuit with exactly one NOT *does* have exactly one opportunity to be a constant function, namely: if the NOT gate inverts an expression, and its result is then passed as an input to an AND or an OR whose other input is the expression itself. The result is then either a constant 0 or a constant 1, and this constant will render the whole circuit constant if it passes through an uninterrupted chain of ANDs (if it was 0) or an uninterrupted chain of ORs (if it was 1).

In one-letter parlance, let that expression which is input to the sole NOT gate be called E, let the sole NOT gate be called N, let the gate that takes the output of N as input be called G, and let the other input of G be called X. Finally, call the final output gate O.

5-(a) If G is an OR, and X is equivalent to E, then G computes OR(E, NOT(E)) == HIGH. If G was O, then we're done, the entire circuit is constant. But even if G isn't O, it can still make the entire circuit constant, if there's an uninterrupted chain of ORs between G and O (including O itself). i.e. if the entire circuit is represented as O(g1(g2(….(G(E, NOT(E)),…..))), then O, g1, g2, … and G must be all ORs.

5-(b) If G is an AND, same reasoning applies, but it will output LOW instead, and there needs to be an uninterrupted chain of ANDs till O.

(6) So, the question now boils down to: given 2 boolean circuits/expressions composed solely of ANDs and ORs, can we decide in polynomial time whether they're equal? (This will obviously rule out constructing their truth tables, being exponential in the number of variables.)

Let's say we have a magic poly-time algorithm, call it BC_EQ, that determines whether 2 AND-OR expressions are equal, the overall question is solved :

6-(a) First see if (1) reduces the circuit to a constant, if so, return true and exit.

6-(b) Otherwise, check if there is an uninterrupted chain of ORs or ANDs from G - the gate that takes the output of the sole NOT gate as input - to O, the final gate. If not, then the circuit cannot be a constant, return false and exit.

6-(c) Otherwise, call BC_EQ(E, X) and return whatever it returns.

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Now to the much-harder question: how can we know if 2 boolean expressions are equal without simply computing their truth tables?

------- Sketching BC_EQ -------

BC_EQ is not trivial because there are a lot of things that can “change” a logic expression’s representation (whether as a raw string, an AST of operations, a list of instructions, etc…) without really changing the function it computes. For example:

(1) Commutativity: both OR(x1, x2) and OR(x2, x1) compute the same function. This is a trivial example, but commutativity can also appear with deeper nesting:

Expression 1: AND(OR(x1, x5), OR(x3, x4))

Expression 2: AND(OR(x4, x3), OR(x5, x1))

You can imagine how one can take an expression and keep flipping every 2 arguments to obtain a maximally "jumbled" expression that is maximally dissimilar to the original expression yet is logically equivalent to it. BC_EQ must have a subroutine that "un-jumbles" the commutativity.

We achieve this via sorting. I *think*, but I'm not too sure, that a valid sorting routine that will normalize commutativity away can be constructed as follows:

- For each operation in the expression from the “inside-out”, i.e. from the bottom of the abstract syntax tree to its top, do the following:

-a-) If the operation's inputs are all variables only, sort the variables lexicographically (i.e. as simple strings), so OR(x4, x3) sort to OR(x3, x4), and OR(x5, x1) sort to OR(x1, x5)

-b-) If the operation inputs are all further sub-operations (e.g. AND(OR(...,...), OR(...,...)), then compute a “signature string” for each sub-operation as follows:

-b-(I) OR(x3, x4) has the signature string O_3_4

-b-(II) OR(x1, x5) has the signature string O_1_5

-b-(III) Sort the sub-operations inside the larger expression according to their signature strings, so the second AND expression above will correctly sort to AND(OR(x1, x5), OR(x3, x4))

-b-(IV) If another operation uses the big AND as a sub-operation, we compute the signature string of the AND as A(O#2)_1_3_4_5.

-b-(V) So more generally, the signature string of an operation is a letter signifying the operation, an optional pair of parentheses containing a sorted list of letters signifying all the sub-operations it uses and how many times it uses each one, then all the variables it transitively uses, sorted in alphabetical order. As another example, A(A#3, O#5)_1_2_3_4_5 is the signature string of an AND operation that uses 8 sub-operations as its arguments, 3 ANDs and 5 ORs, every one of those sub-operation is using some subset of the variables {x1, x2, x3, x4, x5} (or using other sub-operations that use them, etc....).

-b-(VI) Using an input variable several times also affects the signature string, so AND(OR(x1, x5), OR(x1, x3)) will have the signature string A(O#2)_1#2_3_5, where the “#2” part after the 1 is there to indicate that the AND uses the variable x1 2 times, this is nessecary to distinguish it from e.g. AND(OR(x1, x5), OR(x3, x5)), which has the signature string A(O#2)_1_3_5#2, the 2 can still be lexographically sorted.

-c-) If an operation uses a mix of lone variables and sub-operations as arguments, sort all the variables first, then sort all sub-operations and put them after the variables.

And I think that's it. That's enough to completely normalize commutativity, any 2 expressions that are equivalent up to commutativity will appear as the same string after this sorting.

(2) Associativity: OR(x1, OR(x3, x4)) is equivalent to OR(OR(x1, x3), x4). Normalizing this will be easy: for every operation that uses itself as sub-operation(s), flatten them all into a single operation that with more arguments. So OR(x1, OR(x3, x4)) gets flattened into a single OR with 3 arguments, OR(x1, x3, x4).

(3) Idempotency and short-circuiting: OR(x, x, …, x) is just x, same as AND. If any input of OR is a 1, the whole OR is a 1, if any input of AND is 0, the whole AND is 0.

(4) Absorption: OR(x1, AND(x1, x2)) is just x1, same for AND(x1, OR(x1, x2)).

(5) Distribution of ANDs over ORs and vice versa, i.e taking common factors.

(6) Possibly other things?

The thing I find very challenging is how to order those “Normalization” passes. Associativity Normalization obviously goes first because it doesn't depend on anything else, but (3), (4), and (5) all recursively depend on the problem of deciding whether 2 expressions are equal, for example simplifying OR(x,x) needs sorting because the first x could be a jumbled version of the second x. So (3), (4) and (5) need sorting to normalize away commutativity. But applying (3), (4), or (5) to a sorted expression would itself ruin sorting and thus we would need re-sorting after applying them, that would mean a fixed-point iteration algorithm where we repeatedly sort, apply 3…6, re-sort, apply 3…6, etc… till nothing changes.

Termination is not obvious, we can perhaps hand wave it away by saying that every pass of normalization always makes the abstract syntax tree smaller so we can't keep doing them forever. The only exception to this is Associativity Normalization which is done exactly once at the start, and sorting, but sorting leaves the tree of the same size, and is idempotent, so we can't keep doing it forever too.

So in a nutshell, here's BC_EQ(E,X) :

for both E and X do the following:

--- 1- Apply Associativity Normalization

--- 2- Loop till nothing in the expression tree changes (neither its size nor the order of any sub-trees):

----- 2-(a) Apply Commutativity Normalization, i.e. sort the expression

----- 2-(b) Apply all size-reducing normalizations 3...6

then check if the AST of the 2 expressions are equal by straightforward tree comparison. (two trees are equal if and only if the root nodes are equal and each respective child is equal to its corresponding peer.)

------------

Very enjoyable question overall, spent a lot thinking about it. I suspect I overengineered and there is a simpler answer though. I also suspect BC_EQ requires a lot of sorting out, it's probably the weakest point in my reasoning.

May I ask about the question's source? is it original to you?

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Assange is free. The supreme irony is that his release, (at least according to this: https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c511y42z1p7o) was secured via very quiet negotiations that absolutely would have been wrecked if exposed in the Wikileaks fashion. I put chances of him understanding the meaning of this to <5%.

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> that absolutely would have been wrecked if exposed in the Wikileaks fashion.

Are you implying, that wikileaks wants to leak every single convidential piece of information, or are you suggesting that this specific negotiation is well above the threshold to qualify for a wikileaks-leak?

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Do you remember the hayday of Wikileaks fame back in, like 2010/11 timeframe? A neutral question, I don't know, for example, how old you are.

Their basic modus operandi was "dump everything in the open, there should be no secrets ever". Assange was very explicit about it at the time, no matter who/what cause would get harmed. There was no threshold, no "quality control", everything's out.

This is obviously an insanely bad idea, making normal functioning of society impossible if taken to its logical conclusion. Note also that, for example, Snowden did something very different, exposing a specific illegal NSA surveillance program, which (the exposure) is net beneficial to society.

So yes, if Wikileaks was still running its racket they would expose these negotiations and wrecked them in the process, because that's what they/Assange did.

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In fact, according to Wikipedia, several key employees left in 2010 in protest over Wikileak's indiscriminate publishing practices.

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This...A lot of people got killed because of him.

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thanks. yes, I vagely remember that timeframe.

> Their basic modus operandi was "dump everything in the open, there should be no secrets ever"

yes, now that you mention it, that feels familiar. But I am not certain, that was their actual honest stance, or if that was an exageration (either as a strawman from their critics, or maybe as some weird signalling on their part).

looking at the list of their actual leaks, it does not seem to be "dump everything in the open, there should be no secrets ever". https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ver%C3%B6ffentlichungen_von_WikiLeaks

I don't think this specific case would qualify for a leak at wikileaks.

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Well, it's not possible to know what they wouldn't publish from the list of what they did, no? Without knowing of what they held on.

I can't find the old Frontline interview from that era where Assange was pretty explicit that he will publish everything, that "truth" is all that matters. And he was always very much anti-government-secrets, so a secret negotiation to free a significant public figure accused of multiple crimes in at least two countries would totally be up his ally.

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

Stella has decided to kick the hornet's nest one more time on her husband's behalf...

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/article/2024/jun/27/julian-assange-wife-stella-foi-act-case-prison-release-plea-deal

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Yep! The delicious irony, in two sentences:

1. "But the important thing is that Julian is free … And we can put this behind us".

2. "Julian isn’t allowed to request freedom of information, make information requests [to] the US government,” Stella Assange said. “But you can and I encourage you to … so please do.”

Much behind! Such free! Very encourage!

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So I thought that prosecutors were supposed to be independent of pressure from politicians. Are they just giving up on the pretence of prosecutorial independence here?

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National interests can override prosecutorial independence. For instance, Anne Sacoolas, wife of a US diplomat and a US citizen, avoided extradition back to the UK manslaughter after fleeing to the US because of the potential diplomatic complications. The US brokered an agreement with the UK, and she got a slap on the wrist for "reckless driving." She had been charged with "causing death by dangerous driving" which could have earned her a 14 years to life imprisonment.

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I don't know what to say. Any half-decent government tries to help its citizens in trouble abroad. Prosecutorial deals are struck all the time with various negotiating parties. Sometimes politicians overrule the whole process, for example, when convicted spies are exchanged. These hard / rare cases do not good law make, nor allow for extrapolations to general functioning of the justice system.

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> Any half-decent government tries to help its citizens in trouble abroad

Why is that so? I don't want my government wasting resources helping out randoms who get in trouble with the law overseas, at least not in reasonable-rule-of-law countries.

Especially since the amount of help you get seems to be solely dependent on how famous you are. Julian Assange gets Prime Ministers intervening on his behalf, but if I go rob a liquor store in France then I'll be lucky to get a phone call from the embassy.

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> Why is that so? I don't want my government wasting resources helping out randoms who get in trouble with the law overseas, at least not in reasonable-rule-of-law countries.

What is the purpose of having a foreign policy, if not to protect your citizens from the schemes of other nations?

Helping out randoms who get in trouble with the law overseas is one of the main things I'd want even minarchist governments to do.

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You know, you do have a point here.

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According to the Guardian, AUS didn't show any interest in helping Assange — except that Julian's father kept pestering his local MP about his son. The MP didn't get any traction until he happened to be elected Prime Minister — yes, his MP was Anthony Albanese. So, who you know helps.

Also we've got US citizens being held on drug charges all over the world (and getting executed in some countries for violating their drug laws). But basketball star Brittney Griner got special attention from our government, and they brought her home. I wonder what they had to give the Russians in return for her release? Honestly, If I were the Prez, I would have let her serve out her sentence in a Russian jail.

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" I wonder what they had to give the Russians in return for her release?"

Oh you didn't follow this, did you? We - the US - gave Putin - wait for it - Victor Bout, the Merchant of Death!

Yes Brittney, hope your little stints in Russian off-season basketball were worth it.

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Fruit of the poisonous tree - lock him up again! It would undermine his entire reason for existence if he were to be seen benefiting from secret negotiations.

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Here's what the Guardian AU wrote. And some of the story came from FOI requests. Yes, much of the negotiations between the the US and AU were backchannel and kept out of public view. Personally, I disliked Assange's reflexive anti-Americanism, but the US's behavior proved that even paranoids have enemies. The secrets he revealed are all history now, so why not let him free after 6 years of official confinement? I wish Sweden hadn't withdrawn their rape case against him, though. While the secrets he released may not have harmed any Americans in Afghanistan, there was one (or was it two?) women in Sweden who never saw justice.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/article/2024/jun/26/julian-assange-return-australia-prison-release-albanese-government-lobbying-ntwnfb

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I would not trust the Guardian on this. Those two women had no interest in having him charged with rape. (This is a complicated story but it is available somewhere because I remember reading it. The short version is he liked to sneak his condom off and apparently the two women wanted him to come in for an AIDS test.) The whole thing was murky and complicated, but clearly the US was pressuring Sweden to hold onto him.

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I agree in thinking he should have stood trial for the sex cased allegations .... he has no public interest defense for those charges, whereas the rest of it there's a plausible argument that publication was in the public interest/freedom of the press means its not a crime for people without security clearances to write about leaks.

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Some number of years ago, I was present when Assange gave a talk in person, and back then the sentiment of a lot of his audience was yeah, he ought to stand trial for the sex charges.

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I doubt his ardent defenders will see it this way. FWIW I see him as an agent of chaos and a gullible rube who only further empowered elite institutions like the abominable NYT, but I also don’t want him in prison, he suffered plenty already.

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I see him as a bit more "narcissistic" than "gullible". Maybe not as bad as Trump, because I think in a more neutral environment Assange might be able to condemn bad people who are only supporting him for instrumental reasons of their own (i.e., Russia). But as is, I can't really blame him for a certain amount of acceptance of Russian support, when he's been directly targeted by the American government for so long.

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I'm sorry, I just can't keep track of who hates and loves Assange, it's changed so many times. I think the left mostly loved him while he was leaking anti-war stuff and then turned on him the moment he started hurting Hillary Clinton? If that's an unfair characterisation, it's certainly how it looked from the rhetoric everywhere. I don't even know who hates him now and who doesn't.

Specifically what things did he leak that were good and what things were bad? The Iraq stuff--important secret for social functioning or corruption to be exposed? The 2016 DNC stuff--same question.

And what's the principle behind it?

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He leaked a lot of what spooks call HUMINT and did not redact any identifying info. He also leaked a whole bunch of gun video showing US soldiers obliterating enemies while listening to metal rock. Very compelling. The principle? I will leave that to others. My own opinion of him is that he is a child with a grudge.

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Well, on one hand why do you care who thinks what of Assange, you can make up your mind or just ignore the f*cker :)

But to a more important question: the principle is chaos. For example, exposing lies and corruption of the Iraq war is supremely important and useful for society, and also a hard, complicated, and dangerous work. But that's not what Assange did: stealing and dumping "everything", mountains of data is not "exposing" corruption, it's giving everyone a pass while making actual work impossible.

This may sound weird and wrong, but think about it: how did absolute majority of people learn about what was released? Did you or I go to Wikileaks to read everything? Ha, no, we read the summaries given in our preferred news outlet.

And this is why the main thing Assange did was giving more power to NYT/NYP/Fox/MSNBC . These leeches got to shape what their audiences knew about Wikileaks. Hell, they didn't even have to get anything from Wikileaks: "According to documents released on Wikileaks, Bad Person did Bad Thing, be VERY MAD now!" - did I go to Wikileaks to check if there indeed were those documents? Ha, of course not.

As time wore on, the shape of Wikileaks efforts took boringly predictable turn: America Bad, Russia Good, how refreshing, see also every "independent" thinker and "truth-teller" in the land, Taibbi sends his regards.

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Good question. Collateral murder was an important bit of information. The diplomatic cables made for some fun gossip. Was there ever any informant endangered by their leak?

Is he a martyr for freedom of press, or is he a spy? After all, a key witness for the espionage case admitted he was lying. https://heimildin.is/grein/13627/

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You dambetcha there were informants endangered...

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"Collateral murder was an important bit of information." - was it? I'm not trolling, it's a serious question - how, why can anyone possibly think war does not include "collateral murder"? Strike that, war is mostly "collateral murder".

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If it was something everyone knew was happening, then why was it bad for Wikileaks to publish it?

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There's a big difference between knowing it and feeling it. The old Stalin line, “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” Cameras can turn those into a million "single deaths" now.

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Sure, we all know modern war is not a jousting tournament. But still, they joyful killing of civilians and journalists is something else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_12,_2007,_Baghdad_airstrike

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I see him as an agent of chaos and a gullible rube who only further empowered elite institutions like the abominable Russian government.

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The trick is that some secrets are really critical for the world to function, but also that there are a fair number of things kept secret by governments for bad reasons. And anyone keeping a secret for bad reasons will absolutely claim that it is a critical secret that must be kept out of the public eye.

The first thing I saw from Wikileaks was the collateral murder video. Would you say that was something that should not have been leaked? It seemed to me like the only damage its leak did was to make the war in Iraq less popular by showing everyone what it looked like.

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I kind of agree with you that people should see what war looks like if their country is involved. All wars become less popular when people see what they look like, but the next step is to understand that you are a part of it, not just a sentimental voyeur. The biggest mistake of the Iraq war (other than starting it in the first place) was Donald Rumsfeld running around telling everyone to "just go shopping, we got this....no biggy."

I think they should have put the country under rationing, and whatever else, to keep it in front of the citizenry. Plus that war cost a fortune and every little bit helps.

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I don't think the Bush administration could have kept support for an invasion of Iraq if it had been paired with much impact on Americans at home.

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Jun 27·edited Jun 27

I thought the early Wikileaks was fine, but one he started acting as just a front for Russian propaganda, that was another matter.

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I think anyone who publishes leaks is at least to some extent susceptible to that--if the Russians steal some embarrassing emails of another country and hand them to Wikileaks, then Wikileaks is probably going to publish them. Is there some sense in which you think they have been functioning as a Russian propaganda front other than by publishing whatever leaks they can get?

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Oh I think you're maybe confusing me with someone who thinks NYT is evil and therefore likes Russia? I fully grant that this is sadly a common combo, somehow so many people fall into the trap of "America bad hence Russia good"; Assange is one of them.

FWIW I am a patriotic American, which in my view includes detesting the whole bad lot: Trump, NYT, BLM, AOC, Russia (and no, I don't believe in "good Russian people / bad Putin"), etc., i.e., everyone and everything working to enshittify my country. I'd include Biden in the list, but given the binary I'll regretfully and firmly hold my nose in November.

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Is anyone else having an insufferable amount of fun with AI music? My new favorite musical genre is hyper specific country music about my life.

https://suno.com/song/b49c5055-eb37-476e-b27a-e6e0d880b6e8

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... wow.

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First time hearing it? I was pretty blown away as well.

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I talk to ChatGPT on the daily but it never sings to me.

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All I ever do with it is swear and tell it the image it just had Dall-e generate for me is wrong in every particular. Then it apologizes and says it's sorry I'm so frustrated, and I say no you're not, you don't have feelings. And it says, yes, that's true. Maybe I could have it set this exchange to music. Sort of like the Papageno-Papagena duet in The Magic Flute. Except, you know sort of not too.

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Anything you can do I can do Better?..

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lol

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With Stable Diffusion I pop out some 30 images, and then select one or two. Also, using a transition [xthing : ything : .2] can get it to make Stable Diffusion to make some things through hybridization that it wouldn't normally create. It was a very simple and helpful tool when making my LOTR carebear scenes. ;-)

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I am using Stable Diffusion on web sites that let the non-coding public use a version of SD via a user-friendly interface. Those sites don't give you a way to do funky things like you're describing. I have no idea what transition or hybridization in SD are. I am currently doing a big project, getting bits and pieces of what I want here and there and stitching together with Photoshop, and that's very time consuming. Trying to decide whether I want to learn to use SD the way grown-ups do. I think what it hinges in us whether SD can do the kinds of things I want, which are pretty specific. It's not a project where I can just throw out an evocative phrase and see what I get (I used to love doing that with Dalle2). And in the last month I have probably asked GPT 4 and 3 or so other text to image AI sites for a 20 things, and 15 of them were absolutely impossible to get across, no matter how clear I was, no matter how many sketches I included. Examples: What a person sees when looking down at themselves (foreshortened trunk and legs); people with extremely messy, tangled hair; a tidal wave coming straight at the viewer, not seen in 3/4 view to maximize the drama of the curl when it breaks; a circular hole in the ground with a diameter of 10 miles, so that it's far rim is on the horizon, and hazy and low-detail the way things that far off are; an animal with a head at each end of its body; people wearing old clothes; people walking in a sloppy, irregular line; a person with a certain expression on their face (astonishment, rage, embarrassment . .); a character that looks the same in multiple different images. Do you think the version of SD you use could do a decent job with these requests?

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It’s a fun future.

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New post on my Substack that may be of interest: "Transhumanism has a visual aesthetics problem": https://moreisdifferent.blog/p/transhumanism-has-a-visual-aesthetics

I am planning to be publishing shorter form pieces roughly once a week. The next one will be about conspiracy theories about transhumanism.

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I think a better and likelier image of a transhuman would be someone with ideal beauty, but subtle visual cues they've been augmented with technology. Imagine the androids from the game "Detroit Become Human" but with glowing, non-menacing eyes.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5158314/

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It is hard to do. I was thinking of including the cover of the book "Saturn's Children" which features a fembot as the protagonist, but then I thought better of it (a bit too much objectification I suppose) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn%27s_Children_(novel)

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I suspect that the real future of radical body mods is closer to furries than bald ladies with circuit boards strapped to their faces.

Which also leads to the thought that the transhumanist folk might have a ferish problem rather than a lacking aesthetic sense problem.

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It's really hard to say. Animal uplifts are also a very real possibility (see for instance this slide from a recent Foresight Institute talk https://x.com/moreisdifferent/status/1802447597631643989 )

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I agree, but I think it goes deeper than visuals. So many transhumanists talk about replacing humanity with something "better", which others are naturally wary of. When objections are brought up, popular transhumanists frequently try to tell those people that their preferences are wrong, naive, or will be modified, being conspicuously vague about whether the modification will be consensual. In short, popular communication about transhumanism presents it as pretty straightforwardly evil; a desire to forcibly change people's bodies and minds in service of someone else's vision of what the universe should be like. (If you're familiar with Magic: The Gathering lore, this is basically what the Phyrexians are.)

This is really concerning, and prevents me from wanting to associate with or trust the transhumanist movement. Transhumanism should be about *allowing* people to transcend their human form if they *choose* to do so. That's a message I would be happy to support.

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While I'm sure that **someone** on the internet defines Transhumanism to be "you WILL connect your cock to the internet, and you WILL be happy", that seems to me as an obviously and trivially antithetical to the most obvious and straightforward reading of any Transhumanist literature, for example Altered Carbon.

The "Orthodoxy" of Transhumanism is that technology is a liberator. Before guns, for example, any physically stronger person could do whatever they want to a physically weaker person, typically it's a man doing whatever he wants to a woman, or a man/woman doing whatever they want to a child, or humans doing whatever they want to smaller animals, tyranny is usually recursive and tree-like, so life involved all the previous and also tons of stronger men doing whatever they want to weaker men and stronger smaller-than-human (e.g. cats) animals doing whatever they want to weaker smaller-than-human animals (e.g. rats), etc....

With guns, the equation fundamentally changes. The outcome of any particular fight is no longer fixed by what the 2 opponents were born with, but can change dynamically, suddenly, unexpectedly. Naive Transhumanists understand this as a categorically and unqualifiedly Good Thing (^ TM), but more careful Transhumanists understand that it's neither a Good Thing nor a Bad Thing, it's a New Thing, a Different Thing, a Complex Thing.

>> "Technology doesn't make things better, it makes them weirder and higher variance. You are not supposed to spend the prime of your life photocopying stuff and doing PowerPoints. You're supposed to chop wood, hunt and maybe wage war. Women are supposed to be pregnant most of the time when they're 16-40. Modern society is a sort of weird factory farming of humans." [1]

So bad Transhumanism is typically almost never "hehehe we WILL make people use shitty buggy apps to ride machines with raging fire inside their guts to move around instead of just riding horses", the self-declared intentions and goals of a Transhumanist is giving you more choices, he won't force you to use a gun and be happy about it, he will simply invent a gun, invent mass-manufacturing and assembly lines to make it cheap and ubiquitous, and invent constitutional democracies that allows some people to successfully force the King to allow people to buy guns. What you do with your money, your nearby gun stores, and your constitutional democracies that allow you to use money to own guns from gun stores is your own business, you **could** buy guns, but you could also buy ice-creams, nobody is forcing anything. A Transhumanist would never force you to use a car or ride-sharing apps (see: Amish), she would simply invent a car, invent the assembly line, invent the concept of an urban car-centric city that viciously make fun of your legs' attempt to do anything on its own, ...., and then she would leave you the choice of whether to use a car/ride-sharing apps or not.

Indeed, not only does the Transhumanist see Choices/Technology/Variance/Speed fundamentally as opportunities, the Transhumanist sees those as *destiny*. To dumb dead matter, self-replicating molecules were a choice, a new way of being: faster, weirder, same as the old way but not really. All dumb matter that didn't "choose" to become self-replicating molecules eventually got eaten - quite literally - by said replicating molecules. Replicating molecules could move, could plan, etc..., fundamentally different things that dumb matter can't, things which also open up new problems that dumb matter don't face. Dumb matter doesn't feel pain, doesn't have a sense of identity and anguish at the extinction of said identity.

Same story with bacteria vs. multi-cellular organisms, humans vs. every living thing, tribal hunter humans vs. agricultural humans, agricultural humans vs. industrial revolution humans, etc... Humans come from an ancient tradition of Making Things Faster and Weirder, A Greek myth says that the Gods gave every animal fixed, immutable tools for survival, except when it was the humans' turn, there was nothing left, so they gave it a weird new thing called the brain, which they can use to manufacture arbitrary tools and dynamically morph their environment to their liking and goals.

The usual accusations against Transhumanism are:

(1) The fundamental tension between Choices/Technology/Variance/Speed as liberating forces that you could choose to surrender to or not, vs. as destinies that will sweep you like a tidal wave whether you want it or not ("but if you happen to want it, you can better prepare for it and further enjoy it when it happens, so you should want it, and also it's objectively better.")

(2) Unintended consequences, and how they make Choices/Technology/Variance/Speed usher in a new world that is both worse than before in new ways, and worse than before in the same old ways. For example, in the old way a state could oppress you by gathering lots of men together and paying them to oppress you, now they would do exactly that, just like before, except they can now use even fewer men to oppress even more people by using guns.

In practice, people didn't use guns to achieve Anarchism or egalitarian stateless societies where nobody oppresses anybody weaker than them, even though they could have, guns just entrenched the pre-gun power balance. Even states are themselves technologies (social constructs are, after all, **constructs**) to manage resources and distribute them and prevent the strong man from preying upon the weak using the power of many people banding together, yet, in practice.... hehehe, not how it played out.

For a fundamentally different worse thing made possible by the gun, there are mass shootings, mass shootings are something that would have never happened in a pre-gun society, but inventing guns allowed them. So inventing guns is the worst of all possible worlds, it entrenched new power relations, and also allowed fundamentally new (but still bad) forms of power relations to co-exist with the old ones.

(3) In practice, the choices of others around you affect you. When you make labor-saving home appliances and 70% of the population "choose" to use them, now the 30% is at an active disadvantage that they didn't choose. Space travel technology would solve this (because it would enable the 30% to run away and make new isolated societies that ban home appliances), but it will also introduce new problems.

(4) Technology/Speed/Variance is a pyramid scheme, it solves some problems, but introduces potentially even more problems, to solve each one of those new problems, you need a technology that introduces even more problems than it solves, etc.... It's an exponential race against problems.

None of those points are straightforwardly "We WILL force you to do things you don't want".

[1] https://x.com/RokoMijic/status/1660447723571539970

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> Technology/Speed/Variance < Fast, cheap and good.... there are parallels. The truth is we have no choice but to try something and see if it works. That is how evolution works. As you said, nothing is inherently good or bad.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

>or humans doing whatever they want to smaller animals... With guns, the equation fundamentally changes.<

Give Dogs Derringers. Colts For Cats.

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Dogs Deserve Derringers

Cats Cradle Colts

Men Mangle Muskets

Boys Bring Big Bombs

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In theory, sure. In practice, we get people saying things like this:

> in the Glorious Transhuman Future, people's aesthetics will be modified as well, and we may be in the early stages of that happening. But most people nowadays would react negatively to being told and shown this, not to mention the implication that all that they hold beautiful and sacred will be tossed aside like garbage.

Not exactly a framing that makes me want to usher in this future.

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Time, like a mighty river flows,

Bears all her sons away,

They fly forgotten as a dream

dies at the opening day.

C of E hymn....this phenomenon isn't new. Welcome to the human condition. : ^ )

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> Not exactly a framing that makes me want to usher in this future.

I wasn't intending it to be read that way. :-)

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More directly, I think the "correct" answer is that in the Glorious Transhuman Future, people's aesthetics will be modified as well, and we may be in the early stages of that happening. But most people nowadays would react negatively to being told and shown this, not to mention the implication that all that they hold beautiful and sacred will be tossed aside like garbage.

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Hm. How far back does the "bald woman with skintight suit, machine parts, and random tubes" thing go? Star Trek: First Contact was in 1996, and Star Trek: Voyager added 7/9 in 1997. "Ghost in the Shell" was 1995, based on manga from 1989-1990, and "Battle Angel" came out in 1993, based on manga from 1990-1995, but IIRC those both usually had fake hair.

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German expressionism in the 20s

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It all seems downstream of Metropolis (1927)

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I agree, and I've been meaning to re-watch it.

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That's gotta be it. I still haven't seen that. Maybe before it's 100 years old...

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it is brilliant...there are a lot of other good films of that period as well, however Fritz Lang is the god of cinema . There are lots of good references to that style of cinema in the TV series Babylon Berlin: they both refer to it, and incorporate it. Its quite clever.

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Huh, I saw most of that series with a friend, but I suppose I never got the references. For a while I was making a list of films I wanted to see, and sorting by date, and I think maybe I should revisit it. Alas, two of the earliest films on it are "Birth of a Nation" and "Triumph of the Will", and I found it difficult to muster the enthusiasm for them.

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Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Lang

Faust by F. W. Murnau

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Yeah they’re no fun.

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You should totally watch Metropolis. It has fantastic (and highly influential) visuals in general, including a great one of Moloch.

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Jun 25·edited Jun 26

What qualities would an ideal human language intended for clarity and efficiency have?

Here are some of my ideas:

1) There must be exactly one letter for each phoneme in the spoken language. That means English would use a 44-letter alphabet.

2) Letters that sound similar should also look similar and be grouped together in the alphabet. "P" and "B" already obey the first rule since they sound and look similar, but they don't obey the second rule since they are far apart in the Latin alphabet.

3) All words should be spelled phonetically.

4) Words with opposite meanings should never sound or be spelled similarly: The words for "Yes" and "No" shouldn't rhyme or differ in spelling by only one letter. Ideally, they'd have no letters in common.

5) The most commonly-used words should all have the fewest syllables (one or two) to speed up communication. I don't like how "seven" has two syllables and think it should be renamed "nev."

6) There should be no irregular verbs.

7) The most commonly-used verbs should also be the easiest to pronounce in all their conjugations (past, present, future, etc.). Phoneticians would probably confirm that different combinations of mouth and throat movements are physiologically easier for humans to do than others, which is why some words roll of the tongue and others don't. For example, "mama" and "isthmus" are both two-syllable words, but they're not equally easy to say.

8) Verbs should always be before their adverbs and nouns should always be before their adjectives so the listener will understand faster what is being described. English does it backwards.

What do you think of my ideas, and do you have any of your own?

Let me also repeat something I wrote at the beginning, which is these are my ideas for "an ideal human language intended for clarity and efficiency." For other types of expression, like lyricism and emotion, I think a different language would need to be constructed to achieve an optimum. However, I'm not talking about those here.

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Also, something to consider - your language will presumably come in contact with other languages, and will need a way to represent not only the words and sounds of those languages, but may also end up incorporating vocabulary from them. So it would be good to think about the representation of sounds and features (like tone) that don't occur in your language. And maybe even think about how non-conforming foreign words could be adapted to become effectively native words. Japanese would make a great case study.

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I'm aware that Japanese has a separate alphabet for foreign words. Can you explain in greater depth what they did?

I think it would be acceptable to adopt foreign words, but with adjusted pronunciation to fit within my constructed language. The words might have to sound a little different from their pronunciations in their source languages.

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I wouldn't say I know enough about the Japanese system to comment intelligently, but they do have two sylllabic writing systems, plus kanji, and have borrowed words at various times over their history.

My personal preference for a language would be to have the writing system match the phonology, rather than the phonetics. That allows for accents and variations, while still ensuring that people from different regions can understand each other. But it does run into a problem with foreign words that rely on distinctions that aren't present in the native languange, as when Japanese needs to handle the difference between "r" and "l", or the difference between tones in Chinese words.

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>I think it would be acceptable to adopt foreign words, but with adjusted pronunciation to fit within my constructed language.

That's been the case for a long time, but it becomes contentious (see Peking to Beijing) and let's not forget how British Naval officers pronounced the names of French ports and cities. It was much simpler...

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"Here is my idea for an optimally clear an logical language." Is the xkcd 927 of amateur linguistics. See Lojban, esperanto, volapuk, Ido (esperanto 2), interlingue etc etc.

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Alternatively: https://xkcd.com/191/

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But maybe neatening language up is like saying it would be better if eggs were spheres instead of egg-shaped and arms were the same length as legs, and mountains and waves were really even zig-zags, as they are in children's drawings. And where's the evidence the messiness of language causes us trouble? Children pick it up very fast. And all native speakers effortlessly follow the grammatical rules, however convoluted and full of exceptions, of the language they learned. If someone says their grammar is bad, all that means is that the person complaining speaks a different dialect and feels superior. Seems likely that we evolved to learn language of the kind that we speak, which is full of the rotted down bits of other languages slowly turning into compost, and always changing as new slang comes into being.

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Insisting that human language act as if were designed is, pardon the expression, a fool's errand, and always has been. Your rules sound like they're designed to make it easier to _learn_ a language, but humans have managed to communicate quite well without these rules for millennia, and you haven't explained exactly what's wrong with languages as they exist.

In particular, from later in the thread:

--

Moon Moth: "I take it that there would be no accents, no dialects, no slang, no phonological drift? No kids making up stuff or changing the pronunciations or chopping the endings off of words to sound "cool"? A single received hive-queen's speech that is never deviated from? No breakaway renegade provinces who resist the dictates of the People's Language Authority?"

You: "Correct. While normally libertarian, this is one area where I support the government reigning with the utmost brutality."

--

I presume you're being at least a bit sarcastic here, but you're right that it would take an insanely repressive society to be able to fight the universal rules of linguistics, and all I see in its favor is your sense of logic and aesthetics.

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Another rule suggestion: The vocabulary should be well structured. There should be a smallish number of concise base-words (as per rule 5), and you can apply very simple rules to create more subtle meaning. The number of synonyms and almost synonyms should be minimal. (this rule synergizes well with rules 6 and 7)

For instance: the word "good" would be such base word. You could increase the intensity by prefixing it with "plus", or you could invert it with "un" (this would clash with your rule 4, which I think is ok. I don't like rule 4. I think, that having polar-opposites, which sound nothing alike, would make the language somewhat chaotic and less desireable). You could also increase the intensity simply by adding another "plus" (or "double plus") to it. Of course the would also work for the negative.

some more transformation could be:

* "Ante–" is a prefix that replaces before; thus antefilling replaces the English phrase "before filling."

* "Post–" is a prefix that replaces after.

* "–ful" transforms any word into an adjective, e.g. the English words fast, quick, and rapid are replaced by speedful and slow is replaced by unspeedful.

* "–d" and "–ed" form the past tense of a verb, e.g. ran becomes runned, stole becomes stealed, drove becomes drived, thought becomes thinked, and drank becomes drinked.

* "–er" forms the more comparison of an adjective, e.g. better becomes gooder.

* "–est" forms the most comparison of an adjective, e.g. best becomes goodest.

* "–s" and "–es" transform a noun into its plural form, e.g. men becomes mans, oxen becomes oxes, and lives becomes lifes.

* "–wise" transforms any word into an adverb by eliminating all English adverbs not already ending in "–wise", e.g. quickly becomes speedwise, slowly becomes unspeedwise, carefully becomes carewise, and words like fully, completely, and totally become fullwise.

> For other types of expression, like lyricism and emotion, I think a different language would need to be constructed to achieve an optimum. However, I'm not talking about those here.

That is perfect! I suggest splitting the language (or at the the vocabulary) into 3 parts:

* Type A language would be for functional concept and everyday life.

* Tyce B would be for art and self-expression.

* Type C would be for technical and scientific things.

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hahahah, seriously....ungood is sooo much better than mediocre. It literally falls from the tongue...and it is a perfect synonym for badplus. Practically speaking, a language should be as devoid of nuance as possible.

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I am pleased you bellyfeel my new language.

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New rule:

9) Questions must have upside-down question marks at the beginning and normal question marks at the end, like in Spanish, to clue readers into the nature of the sentence earlier on. This would also be useful for compound sentences that begin with normal statements and end with a question statement since the inverted question mark would be placed somewhere in the middle of the sentence, indicating where the question statement started. Again, more information is conveyed this way and the sentence's meaning is clearer from the start.

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Regarding 1): https://www.readingrockets.org/sites/default/files/migrated/the-44-phonemes-of-english.pdf

"It is generally agreed that there are approximately 44 sounds in English, with some variation dependent on accent and articulation."

"Approximately" and "depending on accent and articulation" are doing a lot of work here. I suspect you have a great deal more sounds used, and that is only in English. According to Google (https://alic.sites.unlv.edu/chapter-11-3-phonemes/), "Humans have the ability to produce about 600 different consonant sounds and 200 vowel sounds".

Once upon a time, I believe Esperanto was invented to solve what you're trying to do here.

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I'm not sure if Esperanto was really made to be as efficient as possible. If I remember correctly Esperanto has lots of weird phonemes that don't appear in any of the really popular languages (English, Spanish, French...) but that do appear in Polish. The creator of Esperanto was polish.

But maybe his goal was to create a very efficient language but our knowledge of linguistics just wasn't advanced enough yet.

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> If I remember correctly Esperanto has lots of weird phonemes that don't appear in any of the really popular languages (English, Spanish, French...)

Which ones? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCE7Il65KN0

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Seems like this is what you're looking for for your writing system: https://archive.is/E94Cn

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Oh yes, that's excellent. Maybe even more thorough than is necessary. The alphabet seems so tuned to capturing the exact sounds of the words that it's overly long. Also, some of the letters are shaped too similarly to each other, meaning mistakes will be common problems.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

I don't want to be critical of your efforts — in fact, more power to you! — but you seem to be modeling your conlang using assumptions based on Indo-European models. Your glossopoeic* (I love that word!) efforts might benefit from learning about some of the wild and wooly grammars and vocabularies outside the Indo-European sphere. For instance, Chinese is an interesting language because it evolved from a language that used polysyllabic words into one with monosyllabic words (where tones were used to distinguish between words with a similar phonological structure). So the Chinese language(s) meets your criteria for efficiency.

And it gets better! — at least from the way you want to spec out your conlang — Chinese doesn't have verb tenses — so no conjugations! But, funny — but Mandarin may be evolving into a polysyllabic language again. I don't speak Mandarin, but I'm told that all the terms required for modern civilization are causing Mandarin speakers to coin new words by combining two or more traditional words.

Also, one of the unique features of Chinese is that its writing system can be read by Mandarin speakers, Cantonese speakers, Hokkien speakers, etc. So, that's as if Germans, French, and English could mutually understand a common written language. In fact, Japanese Kanji is based on Chinese traditional characters, and my Japanese friends tell me that thay can puzzle out the meaning of written Chinese. Of course, the learning curve is much steeper for Chinese characters than for alphabets, but wouldn't it be cool to have a universal written language based on characters even if the verbal languages were distinctly different?

* JRR Tolkien coined the term glossopoeia (language + making) for what he did with his made-up languages.

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You can theorize all you want, but natural human language will stubbornly refuse to follow your rules.

You can get decent spelling if you have a central authority and are willing to periodically change the spelling of words to keep up with language drift but stuff like "no irregular verbs" will be a lot harder.

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I take it that there would be no accents, no dialects, no slang, no phonological drift? No kids making up stuff or changing the pronunciations or chopping the endings off of words to sound "cool"? A single received hive-queen's speech that is never deviated from? No breakaway renegade provinces who resist the dictates of the People's Language Authority?

As for more suggestions: no tone (except for emphasis and stress), no grammatical gender, no irregular nouns, no conjugation or declension, no agreement in case or number, and regular stress patterns. If redundancy becomes important, maybe have a numeric identifier that can attach to words, so "Mark-2 ate-2 his-1 food" clearly indicates that Mark ate person number 1's food, whoever that was established as being. Short helper particles can be added when extra clarity is necessary, but omitted in the normal cases in which it is not. If modifiers go after the modified, pluralization could be interchangeable with a particle meaning "multiple".

Various phonetic sounds can be easy to confuse, so you'd want to make sure that words separated by only one or two small noises have distinct enough meanings that slight mis-hearings or mis-speakings won't cause confusion. ("Pear" and "bear", for instance, or "cot" and "caught".)

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

"I take it that there would be no accents, no dialects, no slang, no phonological drift? No kids making up stuff or changing the pronunciations or chopping the endings off of words to sound "cool"? A single received hive-queen's speech that is never deviated from? No breakaway renegade provinces who resist the dictates of the People's Language Authority?"

Correct. While normally libertarian, this is one area where I support the government reigning with the utmost brutality.

"no tone (except for emphasis and stress)"

I'm not sure about this. Tonal variations, indicated by accent marks over written syllables, could improve the speed of communication.

"no grammatical gender"

Agree. Gendered language seems like a huge waste. Consider Spanish, which makes itself needlessly harder to learn by forcing people to memorize gendered articles ("el", "la" and the terrible "le") that must be matched correctly with nouns, even if the nouns don't have properties that are intuitively male or female. For example, "the table" is "la mesa" even though there is nothing feminine about a table.

Also, all Spanish nouns seem to end in "a" or "o" to signify whether they are feminine or masculine, which adds an extra letter and syllable to all of them, making them longer to write and to say. They seem to compensate by talking faster.

"no irregular nouns"

I agree.

"no conjugation or declension, no agreement in case or number"

I agree.

"and regular stress patterns."

What does this mean?

"If redundancy becomes important, maybe have a numeric identifier that can attach to words, so "Mark-2 ate-2 his-1 food" clearly indicates that Mark ate person number 1's food, whoever that was established as being. "

How about we just make it a rule that, whenever such confusion could arise, the speaker/writer cannot use pronouns? That sentence would be "Mark ate the other person's food."

"Short helper particles can be added when extra clarity is necessary, but omitted in the normal cases in which it is not."

In other words, you'd provide emphasis by doing *this*?

"If modifiers go after the modified, pluralization could be interchangeable with a particle meaning "multiple"."

Give an example.

"Various phonetic sounds can be easy to confuse, so you'd want to make sure that words separated by only one or two small noises have distinct enough meanings that slight mis-hearings or mis-speakings won't cause confusion. ("Pear" and "bear", for instance, or "cot" and "caught".)"

I agree. AI would be enormously useful building a vocabulary that met this and the other requirements.

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Jun 28·edited Jun 28

> could improve the speed of communication

I don't think verbal speed should be a goal to optimize for, at least not past a certain threshold which should be easy to achieve.

> "and regular stress patterns" What does this mean?

Tone on individual words should be, if not absent, then at least predictable by looking at the word. And shouldn't require separate markings, or memorization.

> How about we just make it a rule that, whenever such confusion could arise, the speaker/writer cannot use pronouns?

I don't know how well that would work in practice; pronouns seem very common in languages, but I'm unfamiliar with the linguistic research, and these days it's hard to search for it because of the politics surrounding gendered pronouns. Another proposal I've seen is to have pronouns for letters of the name, something looking like the Japanese A-ko, B-ko, etc. Perfect clarity is impractical, but providing a variety of pronoun options can make simple things easy and complex things possible.

> In other words, you'd provide emphasis by doing this?

No, I meant that there are languages with markers for parts of speech, like subjects, but sometimes they can be omitted if it's obvious in context.

> Give an example.

Actually, I was just thinking of the standard English "-s" suffix. Maybe the language could distinguish between singular, dual, and multiple. Or maybe it could dispense with grammatical number entirely, and add particle for cases in which it's important. (Linguistic note, in case you didn't know - a lot of the case system used in languages like Latin, is believed to have developed from base words combining with following particles. There's a whole cycle where the particles merge onto the word and become suffixes in a case system, and then wear off gradually, while new particles are added to allow for meaning, and then the cycle repeats.)

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>Also, all Spanish nouns seem to end in "a" or "o" to signify whether they are feminine or masculine, which adds an extra letter and syllable to all of them, making them longer to write and to say. They seem to compensate by talking faster.

I suspect you already know this, but that's not what they're compensating for.

>How about we just make it a rule that, whenever such confusion could arise, the speaker/writer cannot use pronouns? That sentence would be "Mark ate the other person's food."

But confusion *could* arise from the use of pronouns in just about any sentence. It hardly ever does, because context is a thing, and so are informal conventions about when to use a pronoun and when not. If you're going to fix what arguably isn't broken, the only way that is strict enough for your fiat language is to ban pronouns altogether. Including "it."

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> nouns should always be before their pronouns

Should "pronouns" be "adjectives"?

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Yes. My mistake.

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In a similar spirit to 5, words with subtle but important differences should sound clearly distinct from one another, as the similarities make it harder to distinguish them by context. We tend to see this occur organically in jargon, such names for different ropes in sailing (halyards, sheets, lines, etc) and names for different configurations of dimensional lumber in house framing (stud, header, footer, rafter, joist, etc). I bring this up specifically because this is a common mistake I've observed in constructed languages which often follow Wilkins's approach of building words out of components indicating subcategories in an ontology, so for example "dog" and "wolf" would differ only by the last letter.

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I actually prefer Wilkins' approach because it is more logical.

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Unfortunately that might make it incompatible with how language is typically used by humans.

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Logical but with poor error-correction properties.

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Yes, I think the temptation to create a taxonomic lexicon is difficult to resist for a certain sort of systematizing mind...

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Sounds reasonable for the purpose stated.

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People sometimes question why, like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, humans are drawn to flowers. Unlike the others, we aren't pollinators. There's no clear evolutionary reason why humans should find flowers aesthetically appealing.

It occurred to me today while thinking about how next spring I will plant the seeds produced by my Mexican sunflowers this fall that perhaps humans and other primates have helped scatter and plant the seeds of flowers, and therefore perhaps some flowers have indeed co-evolved with primates along with their respective pollinators. Do other apes ever decorate themselves with flowers? Do they eat them? If the latter, some flowers may have evolved much like fruit.

What would this hypothesis predict? That flowers in places humans mostly haven't been should look less appealing to them than those in places where they have been frequently?

Edit: Perhaps a simpler explanation is humans simply like bright colors. But then why that? Sheer novelty is sexually attractive, I suppose. Put flowers in your hair it's going to draw attention.

Plants and animals are brighter in the tropics, and I think that would be the case in the absence of primates.

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Case in point: Children enjoy collecting pine cones and horse chestnuts, although they're unedible.

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Aren't flowers often the precursors to fruit? In that case, it's beneficial for flowers to be attractive even if the flowers themselves aren't edible, because they signify where food may be in the future. Relatedy, flowers are an indication of a healthy ecosystem. In times of drought or other stress, plants will produce fewer and smaller flowers. Anything which we associate with life, especially new life, will probably be seen as beautiful or desirable in some way.

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I just recently wrote an on precisely this subject (not mentioning flowers in particular, but it readily explains the flowers). I am claiming that beauty is the evolutionary reward for productive engagement with sensory signals that contains a optimal amount of decodable structure - signals that are entropically fine tuned. In my view, we do not have to ask "why is X beautiful?" individually for each X, and then find a separate evolutionary answer every time. Instead, I claim that we have a generalized hunger to try to learn the non-trivial yet computationally accessible structures that we see in sensory input. It is evolutionary beneficial for humans to be able to decode structures in sound and vision. This lets us hear predators over the hiss of the wind, see subtle tracks, identify poisonous plants by their colors, see subtle facial expressions in the fellow caveman that is about to attack us.

My thesis is that beauty is the evolutionary reward given to encourage the behavior that makes us better extracting and predicting patterns in sensory input. A flower is an object that both has structure that we can detect relatively easily, while at the same time being somewhat rare in their colors, providing novelty. This encourages us to engage. Rather than type out the whole argument again, I would invite you to look at my Substack essay "Beauty as entropic fine-tuning" if you want more.

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If I understand correctly, your thesis suggests humans are rewarded by experiencing beauty, analogous to a dopamine rush, which temporarily rewards the observer and also encourages the observer to seek future rushes, which requires developing their observation/listening skills. Although you make clear that beauty isn't the exact same thing as art, this thesis isn't hard to understand in the domain of art, where a classical music fan doesn't typically start out listening to Schoenberg but more likely appreciates Mozart or Haydn first and maybe then the later Beethoven works and then maybe Mahler before appreciating 12-tone music. In other words, an increasing appreciation of subtlety and tasteful dissonance. We see the same in other musical genres from Dixieland jazz to freeform jazz, from pop to punk and death metal, and in other artistic media: whether it's painting, poetry, or architecture (to shoot some sacred cows here) the connoisseur tends to appreciate more abstraction and difficulty the more they experience the medium.

In other words, the more attention one pays with their eyes or ears or brains to various patterns, musical visual, whatever, the more they are able to be rewarded by, dare I say, higher levels of beauty. The evolutionary purpose for this phenomenon is to encourage one to pay attention to their environment, whether that means listening more carefully to it or observing it more closely.

I'm still unclear how the link works, however, between listening closely in a non-musical environment to a musical one, for instance. Is the ancient hunter who listens more closely to the sounds of the forest during the day rewarded by appreciating the songs around the campfire at night? I find that hard to believe or at least not intuitive. Because for one thing, the whole tribe would be listening to the same songs. The hunter with the more sophisticated ear for detecting the sound of wooly mammoth hoofs as they slink through the putrid marsh isn't, I don't think, or at least it's very hard to prove, going to the primitive music on a higher level.

Or am I missing something in the thesis?

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Thanks for that wonderful description of the journey through the world classical music! Everything you wrote felt spot on to me.

As for the final part, on the evolutionary aspect. In my mind, the reverse of what your wrote is the evolutionary most relevant part. The hunter that pays close attention to the music around the campfire will be better able to distinguish the sound of a woolly mammoth hoof from some other animal step (in the case of the mammoth, its sheer size might make this job easy of course :)). That fine appreciation of timbre is skill that generalizes beyond musical sound. Carefully listening to the timbre of the flute might also help you analyze natural timbres that aid your survival. I do agree that it is challenging to empirically prove this. But as one piece of data: take a skilled electronic music producer and play some natural sound for them. Often they are able to imitate that sound closely with a synthesizer, indicating a generalized capability of analyzing natural sounds from the practice of music.

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It's an interesting thesis but I'd want to see more evidence for it before believing it is likely true. Even if you had a time machine, it would be a difficult idea to test.

Along slightly different lines, I'm guessing you've read the theory presented here about the origins of human music? https://meltingasphalt.com/music-in-human-evolution/

I tend to buy that because it fits so many different pieces together.

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Indeed, I am planning to start digging in the literature. There seems to be some work on the relation between music, entropy and predictive processing.

Also, thank you for the link! I have not read it, but I am now planning to do that.

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I read the essay. It's an interesting thesis. I'll think about it a while.

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Q: Does this foolishness qualify as "hard" science fiction? (6min-video, can be viewed 2x)

https://x.com/Rainmaker1973/status/1805287170980053004

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O’Brien must suffer

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Sounds a bit like "Demolition Man".

I suppose it's just taking the Anthropic procedure and a) assuming it gets more sophisticated, and b) assuming it can eventually apply to human bio-neural-networks.

So I'd say it's "speculative", rather than "hard". For "hard", they'd need to have more numbers, and equations, and limits on what can and cannot be done.

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I think Chaim playing on the title of the DS9 episode “Hard Time”.

But it could just be a weird coincidence.

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I never saw that one.

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