Just another * hacker
8,008 words

Delete your Facebook account

Don't read this, just delete your Facebook account.

Violet Blue:

New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose spotted that the "top 10 stories on Facebook over the past 24 hours" were all from Fox News, "Blue Lives Matter," and similar sources.

Meaning: the slant of all stories in FB's "top 10" (surfaced to the masses) were pro-police and Trump's agenda. Roose documented that FB's daily specials were "about Trump declaring antifa a terrorist group," he wrote. "One is a feel-good story about a trucker cleaning up after vandals, another is about an officer calmly listening to protesters, one is about violence against law enforcement," tweeted Roose. "If Facebook was your sole news source," he correctly noted, "and you saw only the most popular links on the platform, you'd think that what happened this weekend was a violent, unprovoked attack on law enforcement by a left-wing terror group."

jwz:

If you work for Facebook, you are a white supremacist.

If you have a "friend" who works at Facebook, cut them out of your life, like you would your racist cousin.

You can do it. I believe in you.

'Oh', you say, 'well, I'm unhappy about the way Facebook behave even though I'm addicted to it, and look, it's obvious that deleting my account makes no real practical difference, and I am addicted, so, well, I'll just keep my account. It's just one more cigarette, after all. And, really, there's millions of people, what does my vote count for? Will it, really, make any difference if I vote? No, of course not: why should I bother?'. And suddenly: Trump.

Thinking like this is called 'one-bit thinking', and it is both wrong and extremely harmful. One-bit thinking kills people: stop it.

Every person who stops having a Facebook account reduces their ability to track them, and everyone else, by some amount, and that amount is not zero.

Define a function T(n) which is their ability to track people as a function of the number of people who delete their accounts, from some baseline (say today). Then there's a corresponding ΔT(n) = T(0) - T(n): the change in their ability to track people as a function of n. Three things are obvious:

  • ΔT(0) = 0;
  • there is an N such that ΔT(N) = T(0) – they can no longer track non-users if they are bankrupt for instance;
  • and ΔT(n) is essentially strictly monotonic, and in particular ΔT(n) doesn't remain constant up to some critical value of n and then fall off a cliff, which is what the one-bit thinker believes.

ΔT is certainly not linear – it's probably closer to some exponential thing – but it is monotonic decreasing. That means that ΔT(1) is a small negative number. It may be ever so small, but it is not zero: each person who deletes their Facebook account hurts Facebook's ability to track everyone, including them, and thus also hurts Facebook a little bit.

This should be so obvious it doesn't need saying: obviously Facebook's ability to track non-users declines as the size of their network of users declines.

It also should be obvious just by looking at Facebook's behaviour even if you can't do the maths: if it makes no odds to them whether or not you have an account, why are they so keen for you to have an account?. After all, accounts are free to users but they cost Facebook something to provide, so they must be getting some benefit from each person who has an account.

Each person who deletes their account hurts Facebook a little bit, and makes everyone's life a little bit as a result. It may be only a little bit, but it is not zero.

Stop supporting white supremecists and just delete your Facebook account. Do it now: not tomorrow, not in due course, now.

And you will know him by the trail of dead

I'm interested in how many people will die because of what Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson have done: Cummings by treating the lockdown rules as something that apply to other, lesser people, and Johnson by demonstrating that doing that is just fine. The result will be that people take lockdown and social distancing less seriously, and some of them die as a result.

So I wrote an epidemic simulator. It's fairly simple-minded, but it does the susceptible / infected / immune-or-dead thing. And I modelled three scenarios:

  • a mitigated epidemic where lockdown followed by some weakening happens;
  • a version of the previous model where, after the initial lockdown, things are weakened by about 5% more, with this declining over time to 2%
  • a version with 10% weakening, declining to 4%.

So this is meant to model the case where, because of what Cummings and Johnson have done, people are about 5% or 10% less likely to obey the restrictions.

The numbers below are worth what you paid for them: I hope that someone with a serious model will run equivalent scenarios, and I'm sure they have, but I could not find any when I looked a few days ago.

The model runs used a population of a million: I've scaled the results to 70 million. The figures are for deaths: it assumes a death rate of 1% of infected people. Figures are averaged over 5 runs, and lasted for 3 years.

The initial results indicated that the actions of Cummings & Johnson will cause tens of thousands of deaths. This seems far too high to me. However my epidemics are slower than the real one seems to be, so I also did some experiments moving the effect later in time as well, to see if I could reduce the effect.

when unmitigated mitigated mitigated + 5% mitigated + 10%
early 554,000 64,200 91,900 125,000
late 551,000 63,800 70,900 80,900

The figures without the Cummings-Johnson effect vary because the model is statistical and there is some variation.

The late figures indicate between a few thousand extra deaths and perhaps ten thousand. Everything is to three significant figures, which is less than the variation between runs: bigger populations have less variation but take longer to simulate, and I got bored with my machine being hot.

I really want to see someone with a proper model publish estimates. But I am sure that Cummings and Johnson have been privately told the probable results of what they have done, and I'm sure Johnson knew them before he chose not to sack Cummings. Johnson may not fully understand them ('numbers, what? jolly boffins deal with those'): Cummings may do.

What neither of them do, of course, is care: so they've killed some little people, does it matter?

If we could only move on

from the 1950s and design technology around people. We could have programming editors which treat code as a structure which can be dynamically reformatted depending on the window width the person editing or reading the code wants, and programming languages designed to accommodate that. Well, in the late 1980s I will use an editor like that and it will be fine, although somewhat curiously constructed, as things written by the fae often are. But none of that will exist until the late 1980s: thirty years in the future. Because today, it's still 1956.

Last year was 1956, next year will be 1956: it will always be 1956.

Intelligence

And of course, the eugenicists also like to make claims that various groups have more or less innate intelligence. And of course it is always the groups that they don't like which turn out to have lower innate intelligence: how convenient for them.

And, of course, when you actually look, you find that measured intelligence in given groups has changed enormously over periods of less than a century. Which is far, far too short a time for any genetically-driven change to happen.

Because, of course, the measures of intelligence are junk.

Again: the only safe thing to say about eugenics is that people who believe in it are not very smart. And they're usually racists.

Eugenics

Sometimes people will say that the reason we're all doomed is that stupid people outbreed smart people. For this to be true you need three things:

  • intelligence can be defined in a useful way;
  • intelligence is largely genetic;
  • more intelligent people have fewer children than less intelligent people.

Let's just assume all those things are true, and see where it leads us. A little bit of maths will show you that, if there are two groups, where couples from one group have on average cs children, and couples from the second group have cd children, then after n generations the ratios between the groups will change by

en(ln cs - ln cd)

So, OK, what does this mean? Well, let's assume a generation is 20 years, and 10,000 years ago there were equal numbers of intelligent and dumb people. Let's also assume that cs = 2.1 and cd = 2.2 (so each dumb couple has 2.2 children and each smart couple has 2.1).

Today there would be about 1 smart person for every 12 billion stupid people. There are about 7 billion people in the world. In other words there would be no smart people left.

Well, in fact there are lots of smart people in the world. So at least one of the assumptions above is false. I suspect that, insofar as intelligence can be usefully defined, very intelligent people do tend to have fewer children than average. So that leaves, really, two options: either intelligence can't usefully be defined in any useful way, intelligence is not genetic, or both. I think both.

It took me less long to do the maths involved here than it did to work out how to format it in markdown, and I am not a god-like genius: the only safe thing you can say is that people who believe in eugenics are not very smart (Dominic Cummings: I'm looking at you).

A banner drenched in blood

I am the one, Orgasmatron, the outstretched grasping hand / My image is of agony, my servants rape the land / Obsequious and arrogant, clandestine and vain / Two thousand years of misery, of torture in my name / Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law / My name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore

I twist the truth, I rule the world, my crown is called deceit / I am the emperor of lies, you grovel at my feet / I rob you and I slaughter you, your downfall is my gain / And still you play the sycophant and revel in your pain / And all my promises are lies, all my love is hate / I am the politician, and I decide your fate

I march before a martyred world, an army for the fight / I speak of great heroic days, of victory and might / I hold a banner drenched in blood, I urge you to be brave / I lead you to your destiny, I lead you to your grave / Your bones will build my palaces, your eyes will stud my crown / For I am Mars, the god of war and I will cut you down

– Ian Fraser Kilmister

If we'd known then what we know now

What Cummings did will kill people: probably hundreds or thousands of people as people think that if he can ignore the rules, so can they. Johnson did not sack Cummings.

Dominic Cummings is more important to Boris Johnson than the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people.

Drive blind

So Dominic Cummings has said that he drove to Bernard Castle (having previously lied and said he didn't I think) to test his eyesight.

Because that's what you do if you're worried about your eyesight: you get in a car, with your wife and young child, and you drive 30 miles. Risking your life, your wife and young child's lives, and the lives of anyone you hit along the way if it turns out that your eyesight isn't so good after all.

Something seems to be terribly wrong with his mind:

  • if he thinks this is a reasonable thing to do then, well, something is badly wrong that is making him think this;
  • if he is lying then this is the kind of lie a child would come up with – an adult with a properly functioning mind would come up with something which might actually fool an adult – and again there must be something wrong with his mind.

Or, perhaps, nothing is wrong with his mind. Perhaps he knows people will see through it immediately, and he wants them to see through it, because it's a way of saying that he just does not care what the little people think about him. The linguistic equivalent of the Salisbury nerve-agent attack: a lie so obvious that everyone would know he could just make things up and there would be no repercussions, except for a bunch of little people getting all cross, somewhere far away where the little people live.

And this is the man running the country in all but name. This is why we're going to fall off a cliff in December. This is why so many of us have died of CV19 and why so many more will die of it.

Government by psychopath turns out to be just as bad an idea as it sounds.

Collateral

Collateral

  1. [mass noun] something pledged as security for repayment of a loan, to be forfeited in the event of a default: she put her house up as collateral for the bank loan.

What does Cummings have over Johnson?

It could be just that Cummings is Johnson's brain: Johnson is not very smart, may have been brain-damaged by CV19 and without Cummings he's in quite deep trouble.

But it could be more. The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament delivered its report into allegations of Russian interference in British politics to the government on the 17th October 2019. This report has not, so far, been published. It's extremely likely that Russia has attempted to gain influence in the Conservative party, and fairly likely that they've succeeded to some extent. But we don't know if they have, and if they have we don't know to what extent.

Obviously democracy would have been better served if the report had been published before the 2019 election, but Johnson very thoroughly demonstrated that he is not a supporter of democracy when he prorogued parliament. It was unrealistic to expect him to allow publication of something which might reduce his chances of keeping power, even though it was in the national interest to do so: Johnson cares only about Johnson, not the national interest.

Cummings lived in Russia from 1994 to 1997. Since his return he has played an important role in the brexit referendum, causing huge, long-lasting damage to the UK. And now he is, apparently, indispensable to Johnson, where he is guiding the country to the most harmful kind of brexit possible. What he has done since 2016 is in Russia's direct interest, although this does not mean he has been consciously working for Russia: probably he is just a useful idiot.

Now he has probably significantly increased the number of people who have died and who will die in the UK due to CV19. We don't know what he did when he sat in on SAGE, or what the advice he has given to Johnson in private is. But what we know he has done, again, is in Russia's interests. But, again, this does not mean he is consciously working for Russia.

And yet Johnson has not sacked him: why not? Is there some reason other than that Johnson needs Cummings to change his nappies?

Well, this is a conspiracy theory and conspiracy theories are almost always junk, but it is tempting to ask some questions.

  • What did Cummings do in Russia between 1994 and 1997?
  • Is Cummings working directly for Russia?
  • Or do the Russians have some hold over him, in which case he is effectively working for them even if not voluntarily?
  • What hold does he in turn have over Johnson? Over other people?

Well, this is a conspiracy theory: I don't think it is necessary to assume Russian interference to explain the casual psychopathy of Cummings and Johnson.

It's just a conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theories are almost always junk.

Almost always.

The little people, like ants below us

Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Tell me: would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays. [...] You're just mixed up about things in general. Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we?

Harry LimeDominic Cummings & Boris Johnson

Dominic Cummings: Boris Johnson's brain

So Cummings, his wife and young child, drove from London to Durham while both he and his wife were infectious. If his child didn't have CV19 at the start of the journey they did at the end, after 5 hours in a car with two people who definitely had it. And, again, it's a 5 hour journey, with a small child in the car: they definitely stopped on the way at service stations, and definitely took the child to the loo, probably infecting lots of other people. And they made this trip so his parents could look after the child, because of course child-care is not available for senior government advisors in London. His parents must be in their 70s, and therefore extremely vulnerable. Looking after a child who was now definitely infectious. What sort of person would do that to his own parents? He's either a psychopath, too stupid to live, or both.

How could he?

He should be sacked. But of course he won't be. How can Johnson sack his own brain? OK, it's not a very good brain, but it's the only brain he has.

And of course lots of people will look at what Cummings did and think 'well, if he can do this, why can't I?', and of course this means people will die. How many people has he already killed because of his arrogant stupidity? How many more people will now die because people think it's OK to do what he did? Perhaps Cummings, who thinks he has self-taught himself to 'postgraduate level' in maths (no, Dom, you haven't: you're just a crank) would like to run a model to tell us? No, of course he wouldn't, even if he could, because Cummings, Johnson and their loathsome colleagues and enablers do not care about how many people die. They are entirely happy to let any number of other people die – including their own parents – and dance on their graves so long as the party goes on and they don't get blamed for the deaths.

Well, here's someone blaming you for the deaths.

With golden ears they came

So, I've just discovered that some of the more silly1 Hi-Fi people use valve2 amplifiers with valve rectifiers, because they are, apparently higher fidelity. I have no problem with valve stereo amplifiers – I own two, one of which I made – although I would hesitate to call them 'high fidelity': they sound wonderful, but so do records (records played through valve amplifiers sound even better), but they both sound wonderful because they have significant distortion. 'That warm sound' ... is distortion. But valve rectifiers in amplifiers which claim high fidelity are a joke, in two ways.

Firstly the only reason you can still buy rectifier valves is because some guitar amps use them. In fact, probably the only reason you can still buy any audio valves at all is the same. Of course the golden eared are not aware of this because they live in a world only tangentially related to this one, an invented world with an invented past.

Secondly, why do some valve guitar amps still use valve rectifiers? Solid state rectifiers have been available for a very long time: the very famous Marshall 1959 'plexi' from 1965 had a solid state rectifier, for instance. So why do some guitar amps still use valve rectifiers? The answer is that valve rectifiers have a rather high internal impedance, and this means that under heavy load they suffer from what's called 'sag': the output voltage of the rectifier drops or, well, sags. This in turn means that the power valves in the amp, particularly, see lower plate voltages, and (since the amp is already being driven hard) this causes more distortion. This is a desirable characteristic for a guitar amp as it means the amp becomes very responsive to playing dynamics: play a note harder and there is more sag & hence more distortion. And guitar amps mostly exist to add distortion of various kinds to the sound of the instrument.

So, wait: valve rectifiers still exist because they sag under load, and sag dramatically increases distortion from the amp, and makes that distortion depend in complicated ways on programme level. So, if you wanted high fidelity, well you wouldn't be using a valve amplifier in the first place, but you definitely wouldn't be using one with a valve rectifier. Oh.

It's hard to find words for the level of stupid here.


  1. 'Silly' is a very mild term for these people. 

  2. Tube. 

The road to truth

is paved with good experiments.

The cool river gleaming before him afar off

I’ve spent my life trying to build elegant tools to solve hard problems. Now I am old and tired and somehow I find myself in a world of mud where the only tool is a club with nails hammered into it, used by swinging it wildly about, spattering the ground with fragments of skull and brain of friend and enemy alike. The nails, formerly rusted iron, are now stainless steel scavenged from a vast, broken needle made of strange metals: no-one now remembers it was once a spacecraft.

This is the sum of my achievement: stainless steel nails stolen from the ruin of a forgotten technology. And I am too tired to fight in this endless war against the future.

Because of the eyes without gold

It may not work well, but I wonder. But when other worlds exist and even when they are almost forgotten, there are still debris in this world. At least I think it's important to recognize that the other world already exists.