Sunday, November 29, 2020

Machine Learning and Physics

Machine Learning has in use in the Large Hadron Collider for long enough that there is now a Coursera online course about it. Basically, machine learning is used to help handle the approximately one petabye per second of data collected from particle collisions. That is one kind of use of machine learning.

 Neural networks do the job of recognizing the content of images and video, and speech recognition much better than the traditional type of computer algorithms that people can write, so it is absolutely the right technique to give computers the senses of vision and hearing. The detection of "cat" or "utility" pole from two-dimensional arrays of bytes, which is computer vision, is generalizable to "seeing" patterns in data sets in N-dimensional arrays. This "data pattern sense" is a sense organ humans lack. Neural networks can help provide humans this sixth sense. 

 Beyond that, neural networks have to connect up with some type of symbolic representation, in order to be able to handle concepts, even simple relations like "bigger than", "smaller than", "behind", "above", etc.. The seventh lecture, Neurosymbolic AI, in the MIT introduction to deep learning, 6.S191 is from where I learned about it back in February, and a regret this year is that I have not been able to follow up on it. The idea is something like this (words added to clips from David Cox's slides):

I believe that the computer will have to connect what it can sense with its "data pattern sense" to symbolic representations, and then, what the computer can do will be no better or worse in its performance than whatever automated reasoning can do today, for instance, in mathematics theorem provers. So, if mathematics falls to Artificial Intelligence, then physics may follow, but not otherwise.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Brink Lindsey: The Dead End of Small Government

A center-right party in America no longer exists, one whose primary values are (small government, fiscal responsibility, family values, personal responsibility), and that sees the importance of actual governance.

In his essay posted at the Niskanen Center, Brink Lindsey, traces through how this came about. "Deep-seated intellectual errors" of the Ludwig von Mises/Ayn Rand/Murray Rothbard/F. A. Hayek/the Chicago School of Economics meet the American society with its particular politics and history, and: 

 Here then is what the ideals of free markets and limited government have come to stand for after small-government ideology was filtered through American political realities for a few decades: 

  •  A dogmatic attachment to tax cuts, especially tax cuts for the rich, as the appropriate response to virtually any conceivable circumstance; 
  • A strong pro-business, as opposed to pro-market, tilt on regulation, too often attacking needed pro-market regulations because they impose costs on business while ignoring anti-market regulations that benefit favored constituencies; 
  • A focused hostility toward government efforts to help the poor, pursued with much greater vigor than any opposition to subsidies for the middle class and rich or government policies that injure the poor; 
  • A general aversion to government transfer payments that has resulted, not in significant reductions in social spending, but in the redirection of social spending through tax preferences to provide lopsided benefits for the well-off;
  •  Incessant bashing of the public sector and public service as inherently dysfunctional and dangerous, while attention to how public policy might actually make Americans’ lives better has dwindled toward zero.
 This is actually existing small-government conservatism, and it is not a pretty picture. I know this is not what a lot of smart and talented libertarian and free-market intellectuals and activists stand for personally. This certainly wasn’t what I saw myself standing for during the more than two decades I worked as a professional libertarian at the Cato Institute. But as libertarians are always fond of reminding us, good intentions aren’t enough. Efforts to influence politics must ultimately be judged by their consequences, not their motives, and the fruits of libertarian anti-statism have grown rancid and unhealthy. 

 This is the diagnosis of the problem and description of its symptoms. In other essays, Lindsey talks about the intellectual remedy to this problem. Before the election, I had hoped that there was a strong rejection of Trump that would lead the Republican Party towards this resolution. Instead Trump won about ten million more voters than he did in 2016; he won more votes in a Presidential election than anyone not named Biden. But Brink Lindsay's essays should be read anyway in this suggested order.
To egg you along, here's where he is headed:
When we see that markets work best, not in the absence of government but in the presence of good government, we are able to see the ideals of free markets and limited government in a new and clearer light. Freeing those vital principles from the misunderstandings created by libertarian ideology, we can reconceive them so that they serve, rather than undermine, the cause of effective government on which our freedom and prosperity depend. 
Thus reconceived, the concept of “free markets” is no longer associated with the overall size and scope of government. Rather, the “free” in “free markets” describes certain key attributes of a well-functioning market system. Markets are free, not when they are unregulated, but when the rules that define them allow for wide freedom of action along a number of key dimensions: free entry, free exit, freely moving prices, free trade across national boundaries, freedom to hire and fire, freedom to take a job or quit, freedom to introduce new products or production methods without prior permission, and freedom to invest. The commitment to free markets is based on evidence, not ideology....

Friday, November 27, 2020

Cartoon - in it together

Joel Pett cartoon

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Rangoli 2020


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Can/should we talk to each other?

 Guest wrote some weeks ago: 

I despise Trump and all his works, but once you stop talking to your opponents, the only further possible step is violence, so I reject that.
Here are a pair of essays on how we need to talk to each other, and one essay on why not. 

George Ball: 
A little from each side.

We better start talking to each other, even if we often can’t find common ground. Because if groups this large {Trump, Biden voters} and this divided do not work harder at validating and accepting each other as human beings, then we will not have a country. Or a future.
You do not have to be a moron to share Trump’s vision of America, or an antifa cancel culture socialist to support Biden’s.  There are millions of well- meaning people with different life experiences that inform their views.  We can agree to disagree without questioning each other’s humanity.  And many of us are willing to listen so long as they, too, are heard.  Whether you do so is a matter of individual choice about how you want to live and what you want this country to be.  No group or movement can make that decision for you.  In America, we are that movement. All 330,000,000 million of us. And we always have been.

The letters editor headed this section with, “In my decade editing this page, there has never been a period when quarreling readers have seemed so implacably at odds with each other, as if they get their facts and values from different universes. As one small attempt to bridge the divide, we are providing today a page full of letters from Trump supporters.” The implication is the usual one: we—urban multiethnic liberal-to-radical only-partly-Christian America—need to spend more time understanding MAGA America. The demands do not go the other way. Fox and Ted Cruz and the Federalist have not chastised their audiences, I feel pretty confident, with urgings to enter into discourse with, say, Black Lives Matter activists, rabbis, imams, abortion providers, undocumented valedictorians, or tenured lesbians. When only half the divide is being tasked with making the peace, there is no peace to be made, but there is a unilateral surrender on offer. We are told to consider this bipartisanship, but the very word means both sides abandon their partisanship, and Mitch McConnell and company have absolutely no interest in doing that.    


Nevertheless, we get this hopelessly naïve version of centrism, of the idea that if we’re nicer to the other side there will be no other side, just one big happy family. This inanity is also applied to the questions of belief and fact and principle, with some muddled cocktail of moral relativism and therapists’ “everyone’s feelings are valid” applied to everything. But the truth is not some compromise halfway between the truth and the lie, the fact and the delusion, the scientists and the propagandists. And the ethical is not halfway between white supremacists and human rights activists, rapists and feminists, synagogue massacrists and Jews, xenophobes and immigrants, delusional transphobes and trans people. Who the hell wants unity with Nazis until and unless they stop being Nazis?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

An Account of A Press Conference

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

In an alternate universe

Imagine, had Trump merely said consistently, wear a facemask in public, wear sun glasses or a face shield, wash your hands before touching your face, and follow whatever your local government asks you to do, he’d have been re-elected. No only would Trump have been re-elected, but tens of thousands fewer would be dead or struggling with the long-term after-effects of a bout of the corona virus. I'm leaving out social distancing, staying at home if you have a fever or if you know you were exposed to someone infected, and any appeal to a public spirit of let's help keep each other safe. I'm leaving out all the other measures that could be taken like setting up contact tracing or an app like "Aarogya Setu" or federal co-ordination between the states.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

How did we end up here?

 What could be more non-partisan than wearing face masks in public during a pandemic caused by an airborne virus?

Yet, in the US of A, this has become a marker of partisanship, with none less than the POTUS mocking the use of face masks.

Then see the clip here on the Ari Melber show on MSNBC, of Michael Moore (extremely left) and Michael Moore (former chairman of the Republican National Committee).  At around 2:30 in the video they go through a catalog of issues on which they agree - equal pay for women, climate change, a living minimum wage,...  Incidentally, public opinion poll after poll suggests that more than a two-thirds majority of Americans want action on all of these issues.

So my thought is that just like with the face masks, these issues have been made partisan, precisely to block them.  Murdoch and Koch blow the partisan trumpets a bit, Trump and the easy-to-purchase-in-small-states Senators pick it up -- it used to be the Tea Party in Congress too -- and suddenly what is a non-partisan issue becomes solely a "progressive" or Democratic one.  And now the forty percent who are out to "own the libs" will oppose it with every last MAGA and poster they've got.