Concerns II

(Previously.)

"I'm concerned about the socially-undesirable implications of the correlations documented in these published studies, which seem consistent with my own observations and personal experience."

(studying them) "Hey! These correlation coefficients are not equal to one! In fact, all of them are substantially less than one! How dare you try to construct predictive models about how the world works, when you yourself admit that your model won't assign literally all of its probability mass to the exact outcome?!"

(in despair, as if realizing that the nature of reasoning as an adaptation for arguing with conspecifics in imperfectly-deceptive social organisms implies that no one can ever have a serious, grown-up conversation about anything important) "Just kill meeeeeeeeeee"

Wicked Transcendence II

went to the genderqueer support/discussion group at the Pacific Center again; showed up early to change into my Pearl dress (it would be a waste to only wear it once) and surreptitiously slip a copy of Anne Lawrence into the library

I think I mostly enjoy being the token conservative/TERF (um, relatively speaking); I say that my pronouns are he/him "because I don't perceive myself as having a choice in the matter" and probably smashed the record for most uses of the phrase biological sex at one of these

Bayesomasochism

Physical pain is the worst thing in the world, and the work of effective altruists will not be done until the last nociceptor falls silent and not a single moment of suffering remains to be computed across our entire future light cone.

But the emotional pain of discovering that your cherished belief is false, that everything you've ever cared about is not only utterly unattainable, but may in fact not even be coherent?—yeah, I'm pretty sadomasochistic about that. That's rationality; that's what it feels like to be alive.

RustConf 2016 Travelogue

(Previously on An Algorithmic Lucidity.)

sfo_reflections

The other weekend, excited to learn more and connect with people about what's going on at the forefront of expressive, performant, data-race-free computing—and eager for a healthy diversion from the last two months of agonizing delirium induced by the world-shattering insight about how everything I've cared about for the past fourteen years turns out to be related in unexpected and terrifying ways that I can't talk about for reasons that I also can't talk about—I took Friday off from my dayjob and caught a Thursday night flight out of SFO to exotic Portland (... I, um, don't travel much) for RustConf!

The conference itself was on Saturday, but Friday featured special training sessions run by members of the Rust core team! I was registered for Niko Matsakis's afternoon session on lifetimes, but I arrived at the venue (the Luxury Collection Nines Hotel) early to get registered (I had never seen socks as conference swag before!) and hang out with folks and get a little bit of coding done: my coolest Rust project so far is a chess engine that I wrote this time last year (feel free to go ahead and give it a Star!) which I wanted the option to show off (Option<ShowOff>) to other conference attendees, but the pretty web application frontend had broken due to a recent bug and my JavaScript build pipeline having rotted. I fixed it just in time for the lifetimes training session to start.

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The Roark–Quirrell Effect

Education increases altruism up to a point (as you increasingly understand that other people are real too and have moral value for the same reasons you do even if you don't experience it from the first person), until you accumulate so many seemingly unique insights that the entire rest of the world looks so abominably stupid that you no longer want to waste a single precious dollar or minute on the concerns of these creatures that can't even see the Really Obvious Thing.

(Or, maybe this is just a form of mental illness specific to high-psychoticism males that can be cured with the appropriate drugs. We'll find out!)

The World By Gaslight

In the oneiric methodlessness of my nightmare, I am a lieutenant commander posted to the Glomar Explorer; I am pacing the deck while opining that taking the correct, minority position in a scientific controversy necessarily feels just like early-onset dementia (which I can't help but notice makes a perfect pairing with a late-onset case of the other d------ia word).

Something is wrong with the ship's computer. Before I can figure out whether it has to do with HTTP Strict Transport Security or the Accelerated Graphics Port (it has to be one or the other), we sink, and I drown.

Is There Affirmative Action for Incompetent Crossplay?

So I was at San Francisco Comic Con the other day. I don't think I find conventions themselves to be as fun as a lot of other people seem to (I didn't even last all of Saturday at BABSCon 'fourteen and 'fifteen before getting ponied out and BARTing home, and didn't even bother attending this year), but I had never cosplayed before, and had been thinking lately that I have exactly the right body type to play Pearl from Obnoxious Bad Decision Chil—I mean, Steven Universe, on account of being my being tall, thin, white, and having a big nose. (She's even pretty flat-chested!) So I ordered the Pearl dress from Hot Topic (I maybe should've gotten the XXXL instead of merely the XXL), a pink (really should be more peach, but close enough) wig, yellow gym shorts, and pink socks; improvised a gem from medical tape and the bowl of a plastic spoon; and set off Saturday morning to catch the train to the city and a short walk to the San Francisco Marriot Marquis.

The con itself was about what you'd expect, with the usual events and the usual vendor hall. The part that I found striking (enough so that I'm bothering to blog about it) was just how many compliments and photo requests I got for my costume, wholly disproportionate to its actual quality. (I enjoyed the opportunity to ham it up, proclaiming "We are the Crystal Gems!" or singing a few bars from the extended theme during photo ops.) Since this was my first time cosplaying, I don't have calibration, so it's quite possible that I got the ordinary amount of positive attention given costume quality and character popularity, but I suspect that there was something more than that going on having to do with gendered cultural expectations.

Femininity in males is stigmatized more than masculinity in females; that's why I changed in the bathroom at the con rather than wear a dress on the train, and why I don't feel like including any photos in this post despite having shared them on Facebook (visibility settings: "Custom: Friends; Except: Family") and sent them in for the next Beach City Bugle cosplay compilation post. So incompetent MtF crossdressing is "loud" relative to men playing male characters, women playing anyone, and the competent crossdressers (who were clockable on the timescale of ten seconds, but didn't instantly read as "man in a dress" the way I did), and loud things that would be stigmatized in everyday life (probably even everyday life in the Bay Area) are celebrated at Comic Con. Thus, "man Pearl is best Pearl," as I was told by a young woman (who was cosplaying a male character), even after I insistently pointed out that the other Pearl was way better than me.

Prescription

"Maybe my real problem is that I take myself too seriously—from my perspective, that other people don't take themselves seriously enough. Like I'm off in my corner going mad, unable to comprehend why, why doesn't the world understand that words mean things. But when you actually talk to people, their anticipations of experience are all just about as well-calibrated as mine; they're just really bizarrely cavalier about using words to mean whatever they feel like at the moment."

"So basically you're going mad over ... prescriptivism."

"I know, usually I'm not the type to get into linguistic prescriptivism debates, but I guess I had assumed that those were always about obscure things, like when to use comprised instead of composed. I wasn't expecting people to redefine a top-20 noun out from under my feet."

"And yet!"

Ineffective Deconversion Pitch

Growing up in an ostensibly reform-Jewish household that didn't even take that seriously, atheism was easy for me, so I don't know how hard deconversion is, how much it hurts, or how much of one's entire conception of self is trashed in the process and can't be recovered.

As an atheist, it's tempting to say, "Look, it's not that bad: God doesn't exist exist, but you can still go to church and praise God and stuff if you want; it's just that there are benefits to being honest about what you're actually doing and why."

Somehow, I suspect that this is not a very convincing sell.

Applications to other topics are—as always—left as an exercise to the reader.

Quotations V

MINUETTE: So, uh, what are you studying these days?
MOON DANCER: Science, magic, history, economics, pottery. Things like that.
MINUETTE: Yowza! You planning on being a professor or something?
MOON DANCER: No.
MINUETTE: So you're just ... studying!
MOON DANCER: Can I go now?

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Amending Fences"

However, this corresponds to a general pattern of causal relationships: observations on a common consequence of two independent causes tend to render those causes dependent, because information about one of the causes tends to make the other more or less likely, given that the consequence has occurred. This pattern is known as selection bias or Berkson's paradox in the statistical literature (Berkson 1946) and as the explaining away effect in artificial intelligence (Kim and Pearl 1983). For example, if the admission criteria to a certain graduate school call for either high grades as an undergraduate or special musical talents, then these two attributes will be found to be correlated (negatively) in the student population of that school, even if these attributes are uncorrelated in the population at large. Indeed, students with low grades are likely to be exceptionally gifted in music, which explains their admission to the graduate school.

—Judea Pearl, Causality

"It would be nice if implementation languages provided extensible string-indexable arrays as a built in type constructor, but with the exception of awk, Perl, and a few others, they don't. There are several ways to implement such a mechanism.

Modern Compiler Design by Dick Grune, Henri E. Bal, Ceriel J. H. Jacobs, and Koen G. Langendoen (2000)

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Apostasy

I should have listened to my model of Aaron Burr, I think in the oneiric methodlessness of my nightmare as the first bullet enters my back. It's not fair that everyone else gets to have all the fun in what they erroneously believe to be their post–involuntary-gender utopia, whereas I'm stuck being that guy pointing out all the cracks in the papier-mâché sky. I never wanted to be—here I hesitate for a moment wondering whether to use an indefinite or the definite article—the guy. No one does. (A second bullet enters my abdomen. A beam of radiation whitens a simple plough.) Why should I be punished for not being delusional about the reason?

Type Theory

We never know what people are actually thinking; all we can do is make inferences from their behavior, including inferences about the inferences they're making.

Sometimes someone makes an expression or a comment that seems to carry an overtone of contempt; I know your type, it seems to say, and I disapprove. And there's a distinct pain in being on the receiving end of this, wanting to reply to the implication, but expecting to lack the shared context needed for the reply to begin to make sense—

"Yes, but I don't think you've adequately taken into account that I know that you know my type, that I know your type, that we can respect each other even if we are different types of creatures optimizing different things, and that I know that this is all relative to my inert, irrelevant sense of what I think you should adequately take into account, which I know that you may have no reason to care about."

"What Can I Do For You?"

"I think we should set aside some time to discuss how I could provide more value to you."

"That's an awfully disingenuous way of proposing a negotiation; you're not that altruistic."

"The function of speech is to convey meaning to the listener. I speak of providing more value to you because that's all you should care about; if it happens that the means by which we arrange that I do so involves you providing more value to me, well, that's as irrelevant as it is obvious."