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Author: Briggs

January 13, 2018 | 2 Comments

Insanity & Doom Update XVIII

Item German government wants ‘backdoor’ access to every digital device: report

Germany’s Interior Minister wants to force tech and car companies to provide the German security services with hidden digital access to cars, computers, phones and more, according to a media report from Friday.

The RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported that Thomas de Maiziére had written up a draft proposal for the interior minister conference, taking place next week in Leipzig, which he has called “the legal duty for third parties to allow for secret surveillance.”

They don’t have an NSA in Germany, nor their own Wang Huning. Hey, if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn’t you want to let a beneficent and loving government staffed with credentialed experts read your emails?

Item Harvard Hosts Anal Sex Workshop Entitled ‘What What in the Butt’

As a part of Harvard University’s sex week, the Ivy League Institution hosted an anal sex workshop entitled, “What What in the Butt: Anal 101.” The workshop taught students “how to put things in their butt,” according to a report from The College Fix.

No word if Bill Nye was invited.

Item Revolt of Cambridge cry-babies: Freshers’ fury over threat to their ‘mental health’ after professor dares to tell them to stop drinking and start studying

Cambridge students accused a professor of ‘damaging their mental wellbeing’ by asking them to work hard and avoid getting drunk.

Eugene Terentjev sent out the advice in an email to first-year physical science undergraduates to prepare them for the ‘very hard’ course ahead.

He told them they would need their ‘full brain capacity’ — and even that might not be enough for some.

The email was seized upon by campaigners at Student Minds Cambridge, who said it was ‘not appropriate or acceptable’. ‘No matter how much work you have, no matter your current levels of attainment, there is nothing more important than your mental health,’ they said.

Any who would make or support the argument made by the students is brain damaged and would therefore be unlikely to benefit from the good professor’s class.

Item College chancellor: Requiring students to take algebra is a ‘civil rights issue’

A community college chancellor in California is proposing to get rid of the requirement that all students take intermediate algebra in an effort to boost the graduation rate at his institution.

Under Equality standards are always lowered, absolutely always. After lowering the standards are said to have never been needed. You bigot.

Item LGBT Student Activists Demand Christian College Change Policy Banning Same-Sex Relationships

LGBT activists at a Christian university in California are demanding that the school remove clauses from its student conduct policy that they believe discriminate against LGBT individuals….Although students do not have to be Christian to attend APU, all students are expected to comply with “lifestyle expectations” outlined in the student handbook, the Undergraduate Catalog and “any additional policies related to living in the APU community,” according to the school’s website.

Sodomy is banned. But it is desired. It can’t be long before demands of the Bible and Quoran (which also writes of the destruction of Sodom) be expurgated to conform with modern desires.

Item Danica Roem, Andrea Jenkins, more: Is this election a moment for the transgender community?

Tuesday night, voters elected at least five transgender candidates to government offices around the nation. It’s not a large number, but it’s a meaningful one.

“Last night was a victory for so many remarkable LGBTQ candidates, but it was also a victory for inclusion and acceptance,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, on Wednesday. “This is a clear repudiation of President Trump’s hate-fueled politics of bullying and browbeating. Yesterday, Americans took to the polls and chose optimism, hope, and new leadership — and this is only the beginning of our resistance.”

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people said in a statement that “2017 will be remembered as the year of the trans candidate.”

So it will be remembered. Remembrance, though, is value neutral. We remember Genghis Khan, Mao, and Robespierre. Let us hope we do not forget.

It’s always difficult in these “trans” stories to know if the individuals written about are men pretending, or who are deluded into believing, they are women, or vice versa. That makes accurate counts difficult or impossible. My guess is that gender dysphoric men far outstripped women. It might have even been all men. There is one case I can’t any sense of.

Anyway, it matters little. The great and terrible weakness of democracy is there, laid bare for all to see.

January 12, 2018 | 5 Comments

Similarities Between ESP, Cold Fusion & Global Warming

Stream: Similarities Between ESP, Cold Fusion & Global Warming

At the climate website No Tricks Zone, there is a picture of various estimates of CO2 climate sensitivity estimates. These are the guesses of how much the temperature would increase if atmospheric carbon dioxide would double from its pre-industrial levels.

This sensitivity is measured as a “transient climate response” (TCS), noting the near-terms effects, or by “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS), which are the long-term effects, assuming that CO2 stops increasing. The higher either of these numbers is, the more we have to worry about.

Each estimate is taken from a peer-reviewed scientific paper. The first comes in 2001 from the authors Andronova and Schlesinger, with the estimate of 3oC. The highest estimate (in this graph) is 6oC in 2002 from Gregory.

Not All Jokes are Funny

Then something funny happens.

Frame puts the estimate at about 2.8oC by 2005. Skeje guessed 2.8oC in 2014. Not pictured is a paper I co-wrote in 2015, which put the estimate of ECS at 1.0oC. (This paper led to a witch hunt and hysterical accusations of “climate denial”.)

Finally, Reinhart brings it down to about 0.2oC in 2017.

From this picture we can infer at least three things. First, the debate about global warming was not over in 2000, nor in 2001, nor is it over now. The sensitivity estimates would not have changed if the debate were over. Second, the good news is that we clearly have less to worry about than we thought. This is something to celebrate, right? Right?

The third inference is that we have seen this same graph before. Not once, but many times!

You Can’t Read My Mind

It looks exactly like the graph of extrasensory perception ESP effect size through time. (I wrote a book on the subject, available free at the bottom of this page.)

J.B. Rhine in the 1930s showed the backsides of playing cards to some folks and asked them to use their ESP to “read” the frontsides. Rhine claimed great success, as did Charles Honorton and Sharon Harper in the mid-1970s using the so-called ganzfeld. The 1970s were a time of high excitement in ESP research, with extraordinary claims coming from every direction.

But then came the 1980s and 1990s, a time when []

Unless you possess the ability to remotely view objects, click here to read the rest.

Addenda US cold snap was a freak of nature, quick analysis finds. If global warming can’t explain it, it’s a “freak”, yet global warming was supposed to be a theory of how the atmosphere worked.

Also, ignore those lines and shaded gray envelopes on the plot. These are examples of the Deadly Sin of Reificaiton. They substitute what did not happen (a model) for what did (the dots).

January 11, 2018 | 4 Comments

Facial Recognition Makes Mistakes. No Big Deal, Right?

Stream: Should Big Brother Watch Us If He Would Keep Us Safe?

China like Britain is installing cameras in public places to track its citizens. Britain already has at least 1 surveillance camera for every 11 people, a fraction that is rising. China wants in on the photographic fun. The Washington Post reports:

The intent is to connect the security cameras that already scan roads, shopping malls and transport hubs with private cameras on compounds and buildings, and integrate them into one nationwide surveillance and data-sharing platform.

It will use facial recognition and artificial intelligence to analyze and understand the mountain of incoming video evidence; to track suspects, spot suspicious behaviors and even predict crime; to coordinate the work of emergency services; and to monitor the comings and goings of the country’s 1.4 billion people, official documents and security industry reports show.

Computers Make Mistakes

“Artificial intelligence” (a.k.a. “deep learning”) always sounds scary, but it is nothing more than old-fashioned statistical modeling done on a large scale. Because it is a form of modeling, it is imperfect. That means that when an algorithm designed to look at a picture of Mr. Wong and say, “This is Mr. Wong”, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it will say it is you.

What harm could there be in that?

Consider that you have been incorrectly identified as standing outside a certain building where known troublemakers have been seen. The algorithm that said you were there then looks to the “Police Cloud” database that has “such data as criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchase and even social media comments.”

The computer next looks up the “meta data” from your phone records. This tells exactly where you were when you made every call, who you called and for how long, on what device you and the other party used, whether the call was followed by any data (say, a Snapchat), and so on. The only thing the computer does not admit to knowing is what you said.

The algorithm now updates your “social credit” score, lowering it. Not only does it ding your score, but the people you called also take a small hit.

The entire process is automatic, with no way to check errors, so you’ll never know why the hiring manager rejected your application. (You won’t know at Google, either.)

We’re All Guilty

There is another possibility. The facial-recognition algorithm does not make a mistake. It really was you standing there. You may have had an innocent explanation for being at that suspicious corner. But we’re talking public safety here. Why take a chance? A suspicious corner was involved. And it’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?

Here we recall the words []

Click here to read the rest. Clear your cookies after to maintain plausible deniability.

January 10, 2018 | 18 Comments

Falsifiability Is Falsifiable

We’ve talked many times before, and at greater length in Uncertanity, about the concept of falsifiability. It has come up again lately.

The term shouldn’t be but is equivocal. I mean it is used in an equivocal sense, which is always a danger, because it happens that an argument is started with one sense of the word, but finished with another, invalidating the argument.

The first, and what I say should be the only, is the logical interpretation. To falsify is to prove something false. To prove is to demonstrate by a sound, valid argument. Thus if a man holds the proposition “7 is less than 4”, we can falsify that proposition with a simple proof which takes as its premises basic arithmetic. Indeed, for every proof we have (in math, logic, philosophy) we have also proved a contrary is false. Falsifications are thus not rare—but they are restricted, as we shall see.

Theories make predictions, or rather it is possible to infer predictions from theories. If a theory says, “X is impossible” and X is observed, then the theory has been falsified, i.e. proved false. We here take impossible in its strictest sense.

But if the theory merely says, “X is very unlikely” and X happens, then the theory has not been falsified. Not according to the logical definition of the word. Rare things will happen. The theory admitted this rare thing was not an impossibility; it admitted that the rare thing was possible. The rare thing did happen. Therefore, if anything, the theory has been given support!

Falsification was, as we all know, made popular by Karl Popper. He relied upon it for both philosophical and practical reasons. About the latter, he was frustrated by certain ridiculous theories that could not, by the use of the common tools of the day, be shown to be false. Every observation, said the believers in these queer theories, was consistent with their cherished models.

Take the theory that UFOs have visited earth. The lack of clear or unambiguous photographs means that the UFOs are clever in evading cameras. That NASA denies the existence of UFOs shows the government is in on the conspiracy. And so on. There is no way to falsify the theory that UFOs are real.

Indeed, there does not exist a definitive proof, in the logical sense. Such a proof would have to demonstrate both why other spaceship-building lifeforms could not exist or that even if they could, they could not have got to earth. These demonstrations cannot say such feats are unlikely; they have to say they are impossible. And that’s not possible. UFOs therefore cannot be falsified.

True theories also cannot be falsified; and they have the happy bonus of being right about everything. That is, every observation also supports true theories. No observation anywhere falsifies the theory “7 > 4”.

Enter the second, and incorrect, use of falsified. People will say that the UFO theory has been “practically falsified”, because no evidence of little green men has ever withstood scrutiny. These people are right about about the lack of evidence, and even right according to my lights about their judgement not to take UFOs seriously. But they are wrong to say that the theory has been falsified, practically or not.

Practically falsified is to falsified as practically a virgin is to virgin. They are not in the same philosophical ballpark.

Back to our rare X. A theory has said X is rare, but not impossible. X is seen. Depending on the rarity, for rarity is a loose word with many interpretations, people will incorrectly say the theory has been “practically falsified”. Suppose it was judged Pr(X|theory) = ε > 0, and X is observed. If ε is “small enough”, the criterion for “practical falsification” has been met. Yet once people allow themselves the phrase “practically falsified”, they generously given themselves permission to strip off the qualifier and say just plain “falsified”.

If this doesn’t sound familiar, then you have not been paying attention, dear reader. For this is the basis of the use of p-values — where ε stands in for the magic number. As some of us recall, it was Fisher’s intent to follow Popper’s lead here.

Now it may be the case that every other theory that we know also says X is rare; in notation Pr(X|other theories) = rare. Or we may not know of any other theory; or the theories we know do not allow us to compute a numerical probability.

In the logical sense, all we can say about X is that, perhaps, some theories give it higher probabilities than others. It is natural also to think that the theory which said X was more likely is itself more useful, which it might very well be. But that depends on the use of theory, and how the probabilities affect our decisions. This is why I said I agree about the decision to treat UFOs as unimportant (mistakes or hoaxes etc.), and why I did not say UFOs are false.

We are on the familiar ground of the predictive method, where we recognize that probability is not decision, and understanding how a theory can be useful to one man, but useless to a second, and so forth. See the on-going class for details.

This leads to the conclusion that “practical falsification” is an act, a decision, and not a demonstration. Nothing has been proved with “practical falsification”; something has been judged. “Practical falsification” is in this sense an opinion. In statistics, p-values are a one-size-fits-all decision, because the magic number is, well, magic. One theory is judged false (the “null”), while another has been judged true (the “alternate”).

Wait. Not judged true. Judged “not falsified”. Popper could never bring himself to believe anything; all theories were to him temporary and waiting to be supplanted. That accounts for the screwy “not falsified”, which isn’t wrong, but it is odd. See Uncertainty for more details on this.