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December 27, 2012
Overnight Open Thread (12-27-2012)
Paul Krugman says in this Guardian piece that he "grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation." For those of you who have read one or more of the books in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, this makes a lot of sense.
I remember feeling the same way after reading Asimov's Foundation series. But then later I came to understand how complex (and even random) human behavior can be and how the mathematics of even deterministic systems often preclude meaningful long-term predictions. So Asimov-style psychohistory will probably always be science-fiction fantasy.
But as WRM points out Krugman has not only given up on the idea of psychohistory itself but today is now playing the role of Seldon's imperial enemies:
But there is an irony in Krugman's claim to have been inspired by Hari Seldon to take up social science: In his column in the NYT, he often comes off not so much like Seldon but like one of the Galactic Empire's elites, mistrustful of the Hari Seldons out there predicting the collapse of the "empire"-or, that is, the blue model.
[These are actually the old covers for the series but since my copies were hand-me-downs from my father they're the only ones I ever knew]
Because of the incipient fascism in his writings.
You see the real reason why Loomis should be fired-or at the very least investigated for what he said-is that his comments are fascist. Bear in mind, I define fascism as nothing more than a lack of belief in democracy itself.*
Even now a lot of the reporting seems to be guessing and just making shit up:
But as it turns out, a great deal of the reporting in the Newtown massacre was incorrect, whether merely irresponsible or purposefully misleading it's difficult to say. As far as we know now (which isn't very far), the killer's "mental illness" seems to not have been of the commitable variety, and there seems to have been no prior hints of his dangerousness. He took the guns from his mother, but how she stored them and how he obtained them is completely unknown. Reports from a friend or friends that she had taken her son to shooting ranges seem to be unsubstantiated as well (although he visited one, he apparently was alone at the time, and there doesn't seem to be a clear record of him shooting there).
Also can you predict future violence from mental patients? Not really says Theodore Dalrymple:
In fact, psychiatrists are no better than others at predicting violence by disturbed people, except possibly among the psychotic. They tend to overestimate the dangers, and in making predictions, they face the problem of the false positive and the false negative. In the case of a false positive, you think that someone is dangerous when he isn't; in the case of a false negative, that he is not dangerous when he is. False predictions of rare events (such as mass killings) generally outweigh true ones by a large factor-an important point to remember, especially if you wish to grant or withdraw civil liberties on the basis of such predictions.
In March 2011, the USS Ronald Reagan participated in Operation Tomodachi, an American military effort to provide aid and assistance to Japanese tsunami victims. The aircraft carrier, which was equipped with advanced radiation detection devices, kept a safe distance from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. At one point, the media reported that the ship had been exposed to a tiny and non-dangerous amount of radiation:
And now eight sailors aboard the ship are suing TEPCO over potential reduced lifespans due to radiation exposure. Given that the USS Ronald Reagan is itself nuclear-powered I'm pretty sure that the radiation exposure of the crew is carefully monitored and any dangerous levels would have been enough for the ship to move further away and follow decontamination procedures. So count me completely skeptical.
There are helicopter parents and then there parents who really really need a new hobby not involving their adult daughter.
A music theater student has won a stalking order against her parents who admitted they installed monitoring software on her computer and phone to ensure that she succeeded.
Well it's kinda loud.
All of these sadly failed to make the cut - among them my favorite:
You’re probably familiar with this guy from old-fashioned Greek or Roman style text, especially the kind found in churches. It’s even still used stylistically in words today, like æther and æon.
The Yahoo group is looking for a few good moderators. Inquire within.
And my Twitter spew.
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