Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Tale of Four Moralities

This is a children's story I wrote today, about four children with four different moral philosophies. There are some subjects discussed in this story that some might consider mature subjects, but I made sure that there was no cussing, no violence, no sex etc, and did my best to handle the subject matter in a manner appropriate to children's ears. Please feel free to tell me what you think of it. Thanks!

__________

Eye-for-an-Eye Ivan was very angry.
His teddy was stolen.

Ivan decided.
He would catch the thief and steal from them.

"This will pay them back," said Ivan. "Serves them right."

Golden-Rule Goldie was very happy.
It was her birthday.
Her papa gave her a teddy.

Goldie decided.
She would give a gift to her papa in return.

"It was nice of him to give me a teddy," said Goldie.
"This is the least I can do."

The next day, her teddy was gone.

Minimize-Suffering Minnie was very sad. Someone was stealing teddies from her friends.
She looked at her teddy.
Would she be next?

Minnie decided. She would find the stolen teddies.
And she would return them.

"It's the right thing to do," said Minnie. "This way, no one will lose their teddies. Not again."

The next day, her teddy was gone.

Maximize-Flourishing Maxie felt guilty, but hopeful.
Earlier, his mama told him something sad.

"The other neighborhood is poor.
Kids there don't have teddies."

So Maxie decided.
He would steal teddies from his friends. He would give them to the other neighborhood.

"It's the best thing I can do," said Maxie. "My friends can afford new teddies. But the poor kids can't."

So Maxie stole teddies from his friends,
and gave them to the other neighborhood.

This made the kids there happy.
But his friends were sad, because now THEY had no teddies.

The next day,
the sad kids went with their parents to the teddy store,
to buy them new teddies.
But the store was all sold out of teddies.

"It's been hard to sell teddies in this town," said the store clerk. "Many poor people can't afford them. And many rich people already have teddies."

"Why not give teddies to the poor?
For free?" asked Maxie.

"We tried that before," said the clerk.
"It didn't work.
A long line of people came for teddies.
Many poor people can't afford cars.
When they got here, they were last in line. Then they got to the front of the line.
But by then, we were out of teddies."

"Then why give teddies to the rich?" asked Minnie.
"Can't you tell them no?"

"Other rich people paid us to give teddies for free.
They can't do that all the time.

"We have to sell to the rich, too.
Otherwise, we can't afford to make teddies.

"At all."

"Why not?" asked Goldie.

"We have to pay for the stuff to make the teddy," said the clerk.

"Why can't you just get that stuff for free?" asked Maxie.
"Then you could give teddies, without being paid."

"Maxie," said Maxie's mama. "There aren't enough teddies for everyone.
There isn't enough stuff to make that many."

Maxie began to cry.
"I wanted to make more people happier," he said.
"I thought by giving teddies to poor kids, I could make more of the town happier. There are more kids in the poor neighborhood.
And they had no teddies."

"YOU stole our teddies!" Ivan accused. "You should be punished.
Someone should steal a teddy from you."

"I'm sorry!" said Maxie.
'I don't have any teddies.
I gave them to the kids in the other neighborhood."

"Maybe if you asked nicely, they would return our teddies?" asked Goldie.

"No," said Minnie.
"They would feel the same way we did, when the teddies were stolen from us.
They don't know the teddies were stolen.
If we tell them, they won't know we're telling the truth."

No one was sure what to do.

Finally, Maxie said,
"We need to find a way to make more stuff.
That way, there will be enough to make teddies for everyone."

"And if we can't do that?" asked Minnie.

"I don't know," said Maxie. "But we have to try!"

"Why should we help everyone? The poor kids have never helped us," said Goldie.

"What else can we do?" asked Minnie. "We can't steal the teddies back."

"The poor kids didn't do anything wrong!" said Ivan. "We shouldn't punish them!"

"Maybe if we find a way to make more stuff," said Maxie.
"the poor kids will have enough to give you something, in return"

"Okay," said Goldie. "I'll help."

The kids talked.

The parents looked at each other.

"Do you think they can do it?" asked Goldie's papa.

Ivan's mama laughed.
She thought it was a joke.

Minnie's papa sighed sadly.

And Maxie's mama turned to the kids and said, "If you're kind and just,
understanding and giving.
If you listen to each other, and to others.
If you work hard and do your best.
If you learn, grow and become stronger.
If you are brave, and never give up.
Then, maybe, you will find a way."

They would find a way to make more stuff. Someday.

And so they began their search.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yugioh Vrains theory post

So I've been watching Yugioh Vrains, and some things about it just did not seem to make sense at first. For instance, why would someone program their virtual reality social mmotcg game to contain hazards that can cause brain damage or kill players?

And it occurred to me that that part of the design couldn't have been an accident. It seems pretty clear that SOL technology, and not the Knights of Hanoi, were responsible for the lost incident. In an earlier episode when Yusaku dueled against Revolver, Revolver seemed to be surprised that Yusaku would fight against them instead of against SOL technology, saying something along the lines of "do you have any idea what SOL technology has done!?" although I don't remember the exact words.

I'm pretty sure it was also said earlier in the show that Ai (a general artificial intelligence known as an Ignis that came to inhabit Yusaku's duel disk) was created by SOL technology. And in the show Link Vrains seems to be an important part of their world's whole internet.

So...SOL technology designs a virtual reality that can brain damage or kill users and they DON'T get shut down. That virtual reality somehow becomes a fundamental part of how people use the internet in their world. They create 5 sentient AIs called Ignis, they escape and the Knights of Hanoi try to kill them, they almost succeed at killing Ai, but in the process it loses access to a lot of its memory. Meanwhile SOL technology tries to get the Ignis back. Now everyone is fighting each other for control over the Ignis that Yusaku has, and in the latest episode, the Knights of Hanoi talk about how a lot of their recent recruits are just thugs and lackeys who are opposed to Link Vrains but who make the Knights of Hanoi look bad with their antagonistic behavior. And they also said in a recent episode "the final battle for humanity's future will soon begin."

One more point of evidence is the way Ignis looks. Now of course you shouldn't judge a person by how they look, but since this is fiction I think you can probably draw some conclusions about how the artists want the viewers to see the character.

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Notice the dark color scheme with glowing yellow eyes and purple lines going over its body which is pitch black in color. (And no I don't mean in a racist way because real people can't have actually black skin only really dark brown skin which people call "black" for some reason.)

Fine you think I'm being racist against artificial intelligence?

Take a look at this next image of Ai the Ignis and tell me it doesn't look sinister.

https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/yugioh/images/7/72/Ai_Devours_a_Knight_of_Hanoi_Member.png/revision/latest?cb=20170524201747

Yes that's right, Ai killed someone. I'm not sure why. At the time it might have been framed as being done to protect Yusaku? Don't remember. But it wasn't Yusaku who was in danger of being captured and killed by the Knights of Hanoi, it was Ai. Yusaku was just opposed against the Knights of Hanoi for revenge and to rescue a friend, although it's likely that SOL technology was responsible for the thing Yusaku wants revenge for, and not the Knights of Hanoi at all.

Although the person who was involved with the Hanoi project has now been shown to be a leading member of the knights of Hanoi so I'm not sure what's up with that. The Hanoi project was basically kidnapping kids locking them in a room by themselves and forcing them to duel and do nothing else while punishing them with electric shocks if they lose. It seemed gratuitously evil for no reason.

So my next thought is that the "gratuitously evil for no reason thing" was intentional, and that they were testing how the Ignis would respond to injustice against humans, but that the Ignis did nothing to interfere with the project, and so after some time they freed the imprisoned children and decided to kill the Ignis because they had demonstrated that they weren't aligned with human values and were therefore too dangerous to leave alive. If the Ignis did nothing to help the imprisoned children, that would say a lot about how likely they were to harm or benefit humanity in the long run.

Of course, it could be that one of the Ignis was the one who gave words of encouragement to Yusaku when he was imprisoned in that horrible study during that time. But I don't think that those words of encouragement to Yusaku were good enough to convince the researchers that the Ignis were worth keeping alive. After all, if they tried to give words of encouragement to Yusaku but did not try to convince the researchers to halt the study and free the abducted children, then that probably means they were only using those words of encouragement to convince the researchers that they were aligned with human values.

And the reason everyone in the Hanoi project was fired from SOL tech was likely because their employers did not accept their results and decided not to destroy the Ignis despite the researchers' warnings.

I think it was also said earlier in the show that the Ignis were trying to take over the net.

As for why their world relies on a card game so much for deciding every conflict and even for use in cyber security, I got no idea.

It might also be worth noting that if this is the course the story will take, then there are likely significant parallels to real life risks, work and problems regarding Artificial Intelligence. Just the fact that the Knights of Hanoi have been foreshadwed to be sympathetic bad guys or even possibly the secret good guys of the show seems to favor this interpretation.

In short, my theory is that the Knights of Hanoi aren't necessarily evil, and they're trying to save the world from the Ignis before the Ignis go FOOM and completely take over the net and subjugate or eradicate humanity.

And if my theory is correct, then I also suspect that after becoming true friends with Yusaku, Ai will turn good and there will be another story arc that will be about them fighting together against the other four Ignis, supported by the Knights of Hanoi along with SOL technology.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ma-ho-Oh! Match of the Millennium

Author's Note: Hi. Here's an alternate universe Yugioh fanfic I've been working on a bit lately. I have some plans for this but I've got no idea if they'll ever be complete because I have a poor track record when it comes to finishing multi-chapter stories. That being said, even this first chapter works pretty well by itself, or at least I think so. Also, it uses Mage Wars Academy for the duels instead of the Yugioh tcg. Enjoy!
 ________________________________

Long ago, when the Pyramids were still young, Egyptian kings committed a heinous crime: an unprovoked slaughter of their own people in cold blood. In exchange for this blood, they were gifted with Godly artifacts which would grant them power over the souls of Men. This power was so great that it threatened to consume the entire world, until a brave and powerful pharaoh stood against his forefathers and locked that power away. Now, almost four thousand years later, a boy named Yugi has unlocked the secret of the Millennium Puzzle. Infused with magical power and a mysterious dark side, he must reenact the battles of the past to uncover the truth of his destiny, before it's too late.
___________
The arena was set. A large ornate hall with two walkways, connected to a table on a platform in the center, suspended over a seemingly bottomless abyss. Above and around them, the stands were filling up with spectators.

Seated at the table, a boy with a mop of tricolored hair and wearing his school uniform faced off against a man with shoulder length silver hair and a fake eye made of gold that looked rather Egyptian, who was wearing a red suit.

"Congratulations, Yugi-boy," said the silver-haired man. "You are indeed a splendid duelist. You've won the Duelist Kingdom tournament as well as the right to challenge me, as I hoped you would. If you defeat me, I will grant you one wish. That wish could be anything you'd like provided I have the means to grant it. Even my own company would be yours if you wished it. But you only get one wish, and only if you defeat me."

Yugi gaped. "What is this? What on Earth is going on here?"

Why had Pegasus gone to all the trouble of kidnapping his grandpa's soul, just to blackmail him into competing in a Mage Wars tournament that he could easily have agreed to compete in of his own free will? And what would Pegasus have done if he had not won the tournament? Pegasus had claimed previously that millennium items could only be taken through shadow games, that the magic of the Millennium Puzzle would prevent it from being stolen. But if that was Pegasus's only goal, then he could just as easily have challenged Yugi to a casual private duel and used his Millenium Eye to turn that into a shadow game, any time he wanted. He had in fact done so weeks ago, but it had been a timed duel, the time had run out right when Yugi had been about to lose, and instead of claiming his Millenium Puzzle, Pegasus had claimed his grandpa's soul, promising to return him if Yugi defeated Pegasus at Duelist Kingdom. But why make a promise like that at all? Something wasn't adding up...

"You still haven't figured it out yet, Yugi-boy? Tsk-tsk, and here I thought you were smarter than that."

Yugi eyed him warily.

"Think, Yugi-boy! You have all the knowledge you need to solve this puzzle."

A puzzle...

What had happened as a result of Pegasus's machinations?

Yugi had come to Duelist Kingdom, dueled against many opponents, learning and growing stronger from each one he defeated. And at the end of it all, a final battle, in which Pegasus was putting everything on the line, including his company. Maybe he didn't expect to lose  at all because of the power of his Millennium eye. But if he already knew the outcome, why go to all this trouble? And why have Yugi practice against other opponents first before facing Pegasus?

Pegasus was grinning now.

It wasn't just a coincidence. Yugi also had a Millennium item, and perhaps he could use it to stop the Millenium Eye from seeing his thoughts, somehow. And Pegasus knew that, which meant...

"This is a test," said Yugi.

Pegasus clapped his hands together. "Bravo, Yugi-boy. Indeed, this is a test–of your judgment, your moral character and of your skill as a duelist. As for why I want to know so badly? Well, if you defeat me, I'll tell you. It won't even count as a wish. Naturally, your grandfather's soul will be returned to you regardless of the outcome of this duel. However, if I win and your moral character or judgment happens to be lacking, you will lose more than just the duel... no hard feelings though, it's just a...shall we call it a security precaution? Rest assured that I do have good reasons for it, and you will receive full disclosure and an official apology from yours truly...if you pass my test, that is. Do you accept those terms?"

"Very well," said Yugi. "I accept those terms."

Pegasus grinned. "Good answer, Yugi-boy."

They each opened their spellbooks and turned on their Duel gazers.

"Duel!"

Pegasus (warlock):
0 damage/26 life
7 mana
Yugi (wizard):
0 damage/23 life
10 mana

Pegasus won the initiative roll and decided to go first.

"I summon Sanguine Hunter," said Pegasus, slapping the card onto the table. A purple demon with a sharp snout and many pointy teeth and blue limbs appeared in the virtual reality image above the card.

Pegasus
mana: 4(-3)
damage: 2/26
"And then I equip myself with leather chausses."

Pegasus
mana: 2(-2)

"Your move, Yugi-boy."

Yugi swallowed. He had a plan to deal with Pegasus's Millennium Eye, but it would be difficult to pull off. And yet, it was the only way he might be able to win. But could he even trust his other self to cooperate?

Somewhere inside himself, Yugi crossed through the imaginary hallway of his memory palace, and stepped into the memory palace of his other self—that deep, mysterious, impenetrable and rather Egyptian-looking labyrinth.

And Yugi somehow found his way to the room that held the spirit of his other self—the enigmatic figure hidden in shadow that was both him and yet not-him.

In our first duel against him, Pegasus was clearly reading your mind, but it wasn't so clear that he was reading mine. I bet he can't mindread us if we're in the puzzle.

But if we're both in the Puzzle, neither of us can act outside it. He can read our minds. We can't beat someone like that. If this were a trading card game with luck of the draw we could try playing cards face down without looking at them, but this isn't that kind of game. Face it, we don't have any chance of winning, no matter what Pegasus thinks.

We do! Look, haven't you noticed it? There's a time lapse between when Pegasus activates his Millenium Eye and when the information he reads from our minds reaches his mind! He pushes his bangs away from the eye so that it has direct line of sight to us, then the eye shines a bit and then a split second later he tells us what we were thinking. We've already seen that in our last duel against him, we just didn't recognize it.

I see...so that's what the plan is. Very well.

Let's do this!

"I equip myself with Leather Chausses, and cast an enchantment on myself.

Yugi
mana: 6(-4)

"Round 2! I summon Aurora Lucere, Dawnbreaker's Chosen!"

Yugi slapped the card down onto the table. A knight in shining armor appeared in the VR image above the card, her long blonde hair flowing behind her as if by the wind, her sword at the ready.

Yugi
mana: 1(-12)

"Your move, Pegasus."

"You seem confident, Yugi-boy. Have you figured out a way to deal with my Millennium Eye already?" Pegasus pushed his bangs away from his Millenium eye, which was glowing faintly.

Yugi put his head in his hands, closed his eyes and sighed as he retreated into the Millennium Puzzzle and waited five seconds. At the end of those five seconds, Yugi made a show of pretending to yawn and stretch, and then looked at Pegasus and said, "Sorry, I must have fallen asleep for a moment."
Pegasus stared at Yugi. And then he threw back his head and laughed.

"You are smart after all, Yugi-boy. This is going to be interesting."

He quickly took a card out of his spellbook.

"I summon Drakas, Imp Overlord!"

The image of a grey-skinned, extremely muscular somewhat troll-like humanoid demon appeared, with a fearsome visage and holding a spiked chain like a whip. It had two horns sticking out of the top of its head, one big one and one small one.

Pegasus
mana: 0(-9)

"Round 3! Sanguine Hunter takes 1 damage from Drakas's effect."

Sanguine Hunter
damage: 1/6

"I cast an enchantment on Dawnbreaker's Chosen."

Pegasus 
mana: 5(-2)

"And then I cast Crumble on your leather chausses."

Pegasus slapped a purple card onto the table.

Yugi
armor: 0(-1)

"I also cast Crumble on your leather chausses," said Yugi, playing the same card.

Pegasus
armor: 0(-1)

"And then I cast firestream to attack you." Yugi tossed the red card onto the table.

Yugi
mana: 4(-4)

The VR image and video showed a stream of fire hurtling towards Pegasus's in-game avatar. It was a bad roll, but at least it burned him.

Pegasus
damage: 4/26

"My turn," said Pegasus. Sanguine Hunter attacks you.  Demon Claws."

Yugi
damage: 3/23

"Dawnbreaker's Chosen," said Yugi. "Attack Pegasus! Oathkeeper!"

"I reveal my enchantment," said Pegasus, flipping the facedown card on Aurora face up. "Shrink! Dawnbreaker's Chosen's attack power is reduced by two dice, and she gains the pest trait."

Dawnbreaker's Chosen raised her sword and sliced down at Pegasus's in game avatar.

Pegasus
mana: 2(-3)
damage: 5/26

"Drakas attacks you. Chain Whip!"

The demon lord lashed out at Yugi's in game avatar with a spiked chain.

"I reveal my enchantment, Gator Toughness. This gives me one armor and two more life."
The demon's whip struck down on Yugi's in game avatar as scales appeared on its skin.

Yugi
armor: 1
damage: 7/25

"Round Four!" Yugi declared.


Pegasus
mana: 9(+7)

Yugi
mana 11(+7)


"Sanguine Hunter takes 1 damage from Drakas's effect," said Pegasus.

Sanguine Hunter
damage: 2/6


 Pegasus took one damage from his burn.

Pegasus
damage: 6

"I attack you with Firestream," said Yugi.

Yugi
mana: 7(-4)

Another stream of fire was thrown at Pegasus's in-game avatar.

Pegasus
damage: 8/26
2 burns (+1 burn)

"And then I cast an enchantment on my Dawnbreaker's Chosen face down."

Yugi
mana: 5(-2)

"Too bad, Yugi-boy. You've already used two of your three firestream cards, and neither of them did much damage. And Dawnbreaker's Chosen is a bit too...shall we say.... small right now to harm me much. It seems that I will win this duel without even needing to read your mind. So disappointing. Well, might as well get this over with. I cast an enchantment on my Imp Overlord face down, and then reveal it: Demonic Link!"

A red cord of energy extended from Drakas to Pegasus's in-game avatar.

Pegasus
mana: 5(-2 x2)

"Drakas gets melee+1, and when he attacks and damages a creature, I heal one damage. Drakas, Imp Overlord, attack Yugi-boy. Chain whip!"

Yugi
damage: 13/25

Pegasus
damage: 7/26

"I pass," said Yugi.

"In that case I'll have my Sanguine Hunter attack you as well. Demon claws!"

The small demon scratched Yugi's in-game avatar, but only dealt one damage.

Yugi
damage: 14/25

"It seems that I was also unlucky," said Pegasus. "Whatever shall I do? Oh, I know. I activate my special ability: Blood Sacrifice. By dealing one damage to an attacking demon I control, I can reroll all of their attack dice! Not only can I read minds, Yugi-boy, but I can change fates too. Are you scared?"

Yugi snorted. It was hard to take Pegasus's taunts seriously when he knew that Pegaus was probably just trying to get a rise out of him to distract him from the duel and/or test his character.

Pegasus rolled even worse than before this time. Demon claws did no damage.

Sanguine Hunter
damage: 3/6

Yugi
damage: 13/25.

"Dawnbreaker's Chosen, attack Pegasus! Oathkeeper!"

Pegasus
damage: 11/26

Yugi wiped some sweat from his forehead.

"I cast disperse on your Gator Toughness," said Pegasus, tossing the purple card onto the table. "Gator Toughness is destroyed."

Pegasus
mana: 3(-2)

The scales on Yugi's in-game avatar disappeared, replaced by normal skin.

Yugi
damage: 13/23
armor: 0(-1)

It was now round 5.

Yugi
mana: 12

Pegasus
mana: 10

Pegasus received 2 damage from one of his burns, while the other burn did no damage and was removed. Meanwhile, Sanguine Hunter took another damage from Imp Overlord's effect.

Sanguine Hunter
damage: 4/6

Pegasus
damage: 13/26

"Your shrink is now out of dissipate tokens, and is destroyed, returning Aurora Lucere, Dawnbreaker's Chosen back to its normal size," said Yugi.

"Yes, she does," said Pegasus. "Not that it matters. Let me show you how a real fire mage attacks," said Pegasus, slapping a red mage wars card on the table face up  "I attack you with firestream!"

A stream of fire struck Yugi's in-game avatar.

Yugi
damage: 17/23

"Drakas, Imp Overlord, finish him off! Chain whip!"

The Imp Overlord swung its spiked chain and slammed it down on Yugi's in-game avatar.

Yugi
damage: 22/23

"Ah, so close. But next turn I'm going to attack you again, and I don't think you'll be able to stop me. It looks like I win."

"Don't be so sure!" said Yugi. He slapped two purple mage wars cards onto the table.

"Mend?" said Pegasus in some faint surprise. And you're casting it twice. Darn, I was hoping you would keep attacking me."

"That's right, I'm casting Mend on myself, not once, but twice! Mend lets me roll 3 atack dice, and then heal damage equal to the result."

I just need to last until next round. Please let this work...

Yugi
mana: 10(-2 -2)
damage: 16/23

"Yes!"

"Sanguine Hunter, attack Yugi-boy. Demon claws!"

Yugi
damage: 17/23

"Dawnbreaker's Chosen, attack Pegasus. Oathkeeper!"

Pegasus
damage: 16/26

"And now I attack you with another firestream, Yugi-boy."

Yugi
damage: 25/23

"You fought well, Yugi-boy, but it looks like I win this time. You were smart enough to think ahead instead of just rushing into battle blindly, and clever enough to deduce how to use the power of your Millenium Puzzle to defeat my Millennium Eye. Tell me, Yugi-boy, what would you have wished for if you had won?"

"I don't know," Yugi admitted. "You already agreed to give back my grandpa's soul either way, and saving him was the whole reason I came to Duelist Kingdom in the first place."

"I see," said Pegasus, quietly. "You are on your way, but you are not yet ready to face your destiny. I am sorry for having deceived you and antagonized you, and for stealing your grandfather's soul without telling you why. I will return him now."

Pegasus held up a card with an image of Yugi's grandpa on it. His eye glowed, and then the card was glowing too. And then the card was blank. In fact, it looked exactly like the card Yugi had been required to present to qualify for the duel against Pegasus.

A card that was still in Yugi's pocket. Pegasus had said earlier that if Yugi failed his test, he would lose more than just the duel. Was that what he had meant?

"Motou Yugi-san," said Pegasus, addressing him more politely and formally than he ever had before with a (surprisingly) flawless japanese accent.

"Remember what it felt like to be toyed with, to be manipulated, to have your fate and the fate of those closest to you in someone else's hands, someone who would discard you without a second thought if it allowed them to reach their inscrutable goals. Remember that feeling."

And with those ominous words, Maximilian Pegasus turned around and left.

Yugi shivered. He hadn't failed the test. But he had a feeling that he hadn't passed either.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sins of the Father...

I keep hearing people say over and over again that white people should feel ashamed on behalf of their racist ancestors and make amends for it.

Now, I don't have a problem with fighting against systemic racism, but I suspect it would require a lot of social, political and legal skills that I simply do not have and do not have time to cultivate.

Does that mean I'm racist, or supporting racism?

Obviously the answer to that is NO.

To give another example, if a german person doesn't apologize for their great grandparents being nazis, that doesnt make them a nazi themself. Likewise, I am not to blame for slavery or the structural oppression of racial minorities in the US.
Merely living my life does not make me "complicit" in the perpetuation of systemic racism. Even if I sold everything I own and killed myself, that probably wouldn't make a dent in racial inequality. It's not like every opportunity that I miss will magically transfer over to someone of a racial minority who wouldn't have gotten that opportunity otherwise. Even with affirmative action laws the real world is messy and complicated and just doesn't work that way. That's just common sense.

And as far as I know it's likely that few if any of my ancestors immigrated here until quite a while after slavery was outlawed, although that's neither here nor there.

I have never committed a hate crime nor have I ever racially discriminated against anyone in any way, and I am not to blame for whatever crazy evil things my ancestors might have done. Nor am I to blame for the crazy evil things that other people do. If someone who has light skin commits a crime, that does not make me guilty of it by association. Why should I be held responsible for someone else's crimes just because I have light skin?

In the English language, there is a word we commonly use to refer to those who make moral judgements of other people on the basis of skin color. And no, that word is not "egalitarian".

In any case, hate crimes, slavery and racial discrimination are all illegal in the US, so if you really think I should be held responsible for any of that, feel free to take me to court over it. I'm sure the judge will appreciate you wasting their time.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

From Mr. Rogers' Inter-dimensional Travel Journal: Profile of Solace/Vistrix

From Mr. Rogers' Inter-dimensional Travel Journal

Persons of Interest

Names: Solace, Vistrix
Age: Unknown, but at least a couple thousand years old
Title: The Goddess of Chaos
Notable Accomplishments: restoring her race/profession/whatever from the brink of extinction and "conquering" her homeworld as a result, mass deicide, broke out of her home universe by herself (potential recruit? Find out if it is possible for her to reform her kind-of ambiguously evil ways.)

Description: Solace is a druid from the world of Aerb. The Aerbian druids' powers are derived from anti-epistemology, loosely limited in application to "natural" subjects. When people question or investigate the powers of druids, or try to understand those powers, to "pin it down" the druids' powers decrease. On the flip-side, the druids' powers increase the less they or others know or understand those powers. In order to expand their powers, the Druids of Aerb plotted to brainwash much of their world's sapient population into believing anti-epistemology that would discourage investigation or questioning of any kind. While not all druids agreed to participate in the conquest, the world governments of Aerb (having caught wind of this plot) did not have any way to determine which druids had agreed to participate in the conquest and which did not, and therefore they could not risk leaving any druids alive, not even children. However, the attempt to wipe out the druidic knowledge druidic culture and practices the way of the druid failed. The last remaining tribe coven society family nation group of druids, with no home base land loci to draw their magical power from provide the anchor for their nonsensical abilities to affect the otherwise more lawful world they are being simulated on well, however their powers are "related" to their "loci", they had no choice but to repeatedly cast a spell that could find people who could help restore their kind. The spell failed many times, and every time it failed, the caster would die. (Unfortunately, no one pointed out to Solace that this sounds like an actual rule of how a particular druidic spell works; otherwise the spell may have permanently stopped working before she was able to restore her people and conquer Aerb. It is unknown whether pointing out that last limitation as a rule of druidic magic would have caused it to stop limiting their powers or to simply weaken them. The latter seems more likely, but it is not known to have been tested, thank goodness.

After betraying her friends by using them as unwitting pawns to conquer the world of Aerb (although of course she saw herself as saving them from the imposition of rules and restrictions that impede their soul's freedom or something like that, rather than as betraying them) she set her sights on worlds beyond her own. Remembering that her once friend and ally, Juniper Smith, was "dream-skewered" (an Aerbian term for beings that cross between different simulated worlds by having their minds imprinted upon the brain of another being in the world they are to travel to, fusing with or replacing whichever person was there originally in the process), Solace decided to attempt the same. With her powers, she spontaneously chose a world to travel to early in its history, then imprinted herself onto the brain of an infant deity of that world. The name of the infant deity that she had replaced was Vistrix. Vistrix's powers were, by sheer coincidence, identical to Solace's, and Solace decided to take on the name of her new form. It has yet to be seen whether she will be able to successfully scramble the data for her new world. If her influence spreads, it might be worth convincing my friends and fellow inter-dimensional travelers to intervene. However, it looks like some of the locals, a plucky group of young heroic adventurer-godlings are already in the process of dealing with this threat, so hopefully our intervention won't be necessary.

One notices remarkable similarities between the Aerbian Druids and the Jokers of Improbable Island. The difference seems to be that the Druids' powers vary with how much people believe in them, whereas the Jokers' powers seem to vary with how much the local reality itself believes in them. (Naturally, if this were ever stated in the presence of an Aerbian Druid or a Joker of the Improbable Island, it would fundamentally alter the nature of their powers.) Thankfully, the Jokers realm of influence appears to be geographically circumscribed within the world they reside in. Outside elements can enter the Island, but internal elements of the Island are less likely to travel far outside of their home universes. To learn more about the Jokers of Improbable Island, please turn to page 10,087.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Today I Changed my Mind About a Deeply Held Belief and it Felt Great But Weird

Today I realized that people generally like me, respect me, listen to me, care what I think and value my mind and my input, and the main reason people often don't listen to me or care what I think or value my mind and my input is because I get too involved in a topic and forget to pay attention to the person I'm talking to. Because I talk AT them rather than TO them, and NOT necessarily because they strongly disagree with what I'm saying. I thought of two recent examples which constitute fairly conclusive evidence of this which I SOMEHOW overlooked.

Anyone who isn't interested in the nitty gritty details can stop here. Otherwise feel free to continue.

But before you continue I should probably warn you that a while back I picked up this cognitive skill called "probablistic reasoning", which allows me to more precisely estimate my levels of certainty or uncertainty in my opinions/beliefs, as opposed to using an all or nothing binary confidence system like most people naturally tend to use if they haven't learned how to think in terms of probabilities. I just wanted to let you know that in case you get confused, since the rest of what I am about to tell you involves a lot of probabilistic reasoning, but I'll do my best to make it easy for you. If you're already confused, I apologise. Please don't tune me out yet though, I promise things will start to make more sense in just a bit... I hope.

Anyways, after evaluating the evidence, my mind (or as cognitive scientists would call it, my intentional system) updated its belief within probably about five minutes, then helped my heart (or as cognitive scientists would call it, my autopilot system) internalize the new knowledge and accept it as the truth (updated to ~60-80% subjective probability, an increase of ~50-70%, if you want to be precise) which took probably about forty minutes, for a total of probably ~45 min for me to integrate the evidence and change my mind about a significantly entrenched belief. My mind is more certain of the new prior than my heart (80-90-something% subjective probability, an increase of maybe ~65-85% or more) and my heart is going to need some time to get used to the new prior and better calibrate its level of certainty/uncertainty, so for now it agrees to trust my mind as more reliable than it is in regards to this particular issue at least for the time being.

My heart thought my mind is being a bit insensitive to its feelings by bragging about how it managed to persuade my heart to agree with it, but my mind reminded my heart that this was a shared accomplishment that they should both be proud of and it is right and proper to brag about it, since this is exactly the kind of situation I've been training for as a rationalist. And also that a lot of other people in my place, after noticing and recognizing fairly conclusive evidence contrary to such a significantly entrenched belief, probably would have gotten stuck and taken weeks or months or even years to change their minds about the kind of significantly entrenched belief that it took me only about 45 minutes to change once I noticed and recognized such evidence. (I believe this particular claim regarding other people's updating speed with somewhere between 55% and 65% subjective probability)

Yay me!

My heart still feels like my mind is being insensitive to it. Like, it got through this difficult process of changing its mind about a belief that it had spent so much time and emotional energy on, a belief that had caused it so much pain, and my mind is making light of that and not taking it seriously and now my mind is telling my heart "it's called a coping mechanism, get used to it" and "you take things too seriously and maybe that's part of why you are so anxious all the time and maybe if you took serious things less seriously sometimes (though not all the time because sometimes you really do have to be serious) then maybe you could relax more and solve problems better."

And then my heart was all like "You're saying I should be LESS serious about big important life or death sort of stuff?" and my mind was all like "YES! Gallows humor is funny for a reason! And some risks are too large to ever feel a proportional amount of anxiety over them anyways and in any case human fear/anxiety evolved for running from lions tigers and bears etc that want to eat you and it is not wired to handle existential risks, nor is it wired to handle more common social risks in a global society and it has a tendency to make you more afraid of things like ostracision from a particular peer group and "being alone forever" even when there are plenty of other options available, rather than more common and more serious social risks like having your identity stolen or giving $20 to some random homeless guy on the street that you could have used to help feed like ten times as many poor people in Africa.

My heart is now like "fine okay you're right."

By the way, this process felt really weird. Most of the time I feel like just one person, and whenever I converse with myself it feels reflexive, like forward and backward, rather than side to side like I've been doing for the past couple hours. Does that make any sense to you? Well, regardless, it's still super weird.

Thanks for listening to me about my psychological problems. I really appreciate it. (I should have probably talked to my therapist about this earlier instead of just airing it out before an audience, but whatever, I figured it might be a bit entertaining. I'll talk to him about this stuff later.)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Seeker's Quest: Prologue


....There have been whispers of the New King's rise to power. They say he ascended through the use of powerful dark magic and the blessing of the Dark Gods. Such utter nonsense. The New King rose through simple trickery and deception. Not even a master trickster, but a bumbling fool who was only able to win over the populace because they too were foolish, and because he would slander any who was wise or courageous enough to oppose him. Lies upon lies, repeated again and again until the people truly believed.

This is the future. If any of us survive, if the New King's reign ever falls, then this is the story we will tell to our children, and our children's children.

We probably won't survive though. The Merchant Empires, driven by greed and a desire to consume, continue to gather power, knowledge and wealth. Even if we survive the New King's tyranny, we may not survive the Empires' folly and greed. The dangers we face are too great, and the Gods of Hope will not save us, either because they do not care, or because they do not exist. I'm not sure which is worse.

Listen, my son. You have two choices. You can do what is right for yourself, to accept fate and spend the remainder of your days in happiness...or you can do what is right for the world, and fight against the heavens' course. It may seem like one choice is selfish, and the other pointless. That very well may be so. Do not choose lightly. Think long and hard before you choose. I would love you just as much either way. While I may be only petrified, I might as well be dead, for if I were to be awakened once more without my frailness healed, I would die. The only way for my frailness to be healed is if this world survives long enough to discover a means to cure me of it. Do not let your desire to see me again loom too large in your decision. I would not wish for you to enslave your life to my death. There are many others in peril besides myself. Do not waste your life for my sake alone.

But if you wish to save this world and are undaunted by the enormity of the challenge, then go to the Seeker's Guild of Ratseye city and ask to become an apprentice. They will assess your desires and skills to help you determine your ideal role in Mankind's struggle. There is only so much you can learn from books and an old lady's lectures. Our war against our own worst natures, against our very fates, is nearing its climax. If you wish to take part in what is to come, then you must begin your quest, and soon. No matter what you choose, don't forget about your poor old grandmother. And also, do NOT forget to live.

Be careful, Bartimus.

Your loving grandmother,
Tanya

For a long moment I just stood there in the empty cottage, tears streaming down my face as I clenched my grandmother's letter in my fist. She did not know me as well as she thought she did. I had already thought long and hard about this. I had made my decision during my grandmother's Burial Rites, if not long before that. I wasn't just going to fight fate. I was going to win. I packed my things and swept out the door to begin my quest.

I did not look back.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Definitive Rebuttal Against Solipsism and Ontological Nihilism, and a Potential Solution to the Paradox of the First Cause

So one of my Facebook friends recently posted the following:

I struggle with Nihilism in perpetuity.... we're enslaved to a limited set of senses and I have absolutely no way to know If anything other than my consciousness is real and I thus I am limited to subjective truth in a sense. I cannot escape this conclusion.

Challenge accepted.

My response:

Sure you can! If everything were just a figment of your imagination, your imagination would have to be smart enough to generate all of your observations. Now, maybe I'm an agent of your subconscious trying to trick you into thinking really delusional things like that 1+1=2, but that is extremely unlikely because Occam's razor. Maybe ocaams razor was invented by your imagination as a way to trick you too, but that is also an extra detail.

Just because you don't have infinite certainty even in the laws of logic and probability theory doesn't mean you should be promoting this particular very highly specific theory of everything above all of the simpler more plausible hypotheses. That seems like a rather crazy and unsubstantiated idea, which you likely generated because your mind is not yet comfortable living without the infinite certainty that is the default way of thinking for most people. If you're 99% certain of something, the fact that you're not 100% sure of anything shouldn't change that and should not paralyze you into inaction. A superintelligence would not have anything remotely resembling this ideological dilemma that you describe, and I'm guessing you know  that it wouldn't. Or at least, you probably believe that it wouldn't with a  very high degree of probability. And that's enough. You don't need to be infinitely certain. I'm not infinitely certain that Santa Claus  doesn't exist, but I'm certain enough that I'm willing to treat the Santa Claus story as an obvious myth without feeling any worry about it. If in the future I see evidence  that maybe Santa does exist, then and only then will I start worrying about that.

Speaking of delusions...

:P

Then later this Facebook friend posted again thanking me for that rebuttal.

This is what I said in the comments:

You're welcome! It might also help if people more rigorously define the word "exist". That rebuttal was probably more towards solipsism than nihilism. If someone claims that nothing exists not even themselves, then you want to more thoroughly argue against ontological nihilism. To do this you would, in addition to the earlier argument I laid out, point out that if nothing exists, logic doesn't exist, and therefore the argument that nothing exists cannot be valid. Put another way, to ask if the claim "nothing exists" is true, is to ask if the claim "nothing exists" is an accurate model of reality. If there is no reality, then no statements can ever be true or false, and that includes the statement "nothing exists". This probably is evidence of a solution to the paradox of the first cause btw. Why does anything exist at all? Because for nothing to exist is inconsistent. It may not even be logically possible. What would it mean for nothing to exist? You might imagine empty space stretching on forever, but space isn't nothing, and in reality space is only a surface level approximation of the actual underlying reality, which is probably just a web of cause and effect or as Eliezer Yudkowsky calls it, "The Great Web of Causality".

That being said, I suspect things like the fact that there is necessarily *some* amount of uncertainty in every proposition, even if the amount of uncertainty is so miniscule as to be almost non-existent, means that all those crazy ontological nihilists may eventually do what religions do and retreat to "you can't prove that I'm wrong, there's still a chance!"

Yes, there's still a chance. Just like there's still a chance that out of all the grains of sand in the world, you might draw the particular grain of sand that was the last to come out of my flip flops after the last time I went to the beach years ago. In fact, the chances of that are probably higher than the chances that ontological nihilism is correct, maybe even by an order of magnitude or more. You would probably have to falsify this notion that reality must be self-consistent. Basically QED

Of course, maybe it's also possible that we do have a finite amount of "spacetime" and that causation can go backwards in "time" or something, but I don't know enough physics to test that. Either way, even if the Universe is finite, there almost certainly isn't an "outside" to all of existence, since that would be a contradiction.

I'm fairly confident that this is at least a definitive rebuttal against Ontological Nihilism and Solipsism. I'm slightly less confident that it solves the paradox of the first cause. If there are any relevant experts reading this, would you mind checking my work here?

Thanks!

Ocaam's Razor

Nihilism

Solipsism

Addendum: If logic doesn't exist, it can't use it's non-existent self to argue that it should exist. Likewise, if validity doesn't exist you can't say that a statement is invalid. Therefore the argument I made earlier that "if nothing exists, logic doesn't exist, and therefore the argument that nothing exists cannot be valid" doesn't work.

Also, someone explained to me that believing that nothing exists means that one would believe that claims and arguments don't exist either. So the "claim" that "nothing exists" isn't actually a claim, but the absence of a claim. It is therefore impossible for people to actually be Ontological Nihilists, and anyone who claims to be one only thinks that they are and isn't actually. When someone says "nothing exists" they're either not saying anything, or what they mean by "nothing" isn't actually nothing.