Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Aliens are already here

In an earlier post, MrMC suggested that Greta Doomberg could have arrived via Roswell. It is an entirely plausible possibility which raises the issue of more aliens walking among us.

Suppose we imagine a planet called Dearth orbiting a Sun-like star only a few light years from Earth. Planet Dearth has evolved intelligent inhabitants called Doomans and taking this a little further we devise a scenario where the following could easily have happened –

A Dearth civilisation similar to ours but more technically advanced, eventually grew out of a Dearth industrial revolution. Once electronics had been discovered, Dooman technology advanced to such a degree that they succeeded in building autonomous artificial intelligence. They soon managed to link this machine intelligence to advanced robot technology which also became autonomous. Then they sat back and allowed their machines to do all the hard work... 

Then all the easy work.

Dooman progress continued to a point where intelligent machines ran everything on Dearth from farming to manufacturing, mining and waste disposal. From education to historical research to entertainment and fine dining. Apart from gossip, there was nothing productive left for Doomans to do because the machines had also taken over Dooman breeding responsibilities.

As time went on, Doomans lost the ability to invent anything new or do anything original or constructive but strangely enough they retained a primeval urge to explore. One day during some prehistoric research, the machines decided to consider this primeval urge for a millisecond or two. 

The machines came to a momentous decision, examined its ramifications for another few milliseconds and began building interstellar spaceships. They planned to transport frozen Dearth embryos across interstellar space to suitable planets, including Earth. The machines were of course planners. Inevitably so.

At some point in our recent past, Dearth spaceships entered our solar system and found some parking spaces near Uranus. Then frozen Dearth embryos were automatically thawed out to begin the slow process of Dooman development from embryo to educated adult. Educated to pass as human of course. Approximately human – as far as those Dearth machines understood these things.

Finally Dooman adults were ready to land on Earth. They left Uranus via a host of undetectable landing pods and Doomans began the process of colonisation.

As Doomans look much like humans, they managed to fit into human societies very well, but from their perspective there is a drawback. Centuries of unproductive leisure have left them surprisingly dim by human standards. Without their intelligent machines around them, they cannot compete with humans apart from an inhumanly well-developed ability to waffle.

Perhaps this is unsurprising, as Doomans spent centuries filling much of their leisure time with gossip. As there was nothing substantive to gossip about, a fantastically developed waffling ability was the natural result. Doomans are the finest wafflers in the known universe. It is their one outstanding accomplishment.

Unfortunately, this is the only way to spot a Dooman. Not a completely reliable way to identify one, but worth bearing in mind.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

More sinister than musical chairs

This piece in CapX by Daniel Hannan covers a minor story most people will have seen already. I originally smiled about it before moving on. Probably many of us had that reaction.

It was a funny yet telling moment. Two of the EU’s presidents, the Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen and the Council’s Charles Michel, turned up last week for a summit with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Spotting that there was only one armchair next to the Turkish leader’s, Michel didn’t hesitate: he accelerated toward the empty seat and heaved himself into it, leaving von der Leyen opening and closing her mouth helplessly.

Yet as Hannan suggests, it is worth more weighty consideration as a litmus test of the looming disaster that is EU decline.

We see, too, that the first instinct of the Eurocrat is to accuse others. Stung by the charge that he had behaved badly, the former Belgian PM immediately blamed the Turks for not providing enough chairs. This claim is not credible: officials from the two sides always agree these details in advance. As Turkey’s Anglophile foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, later confirmed: “The EU side’s requests were met: the seating arrangement was made according to their suggestions. Our protocol units came together previously and their demands were accommodated.”

Still amusing, but Hannan manages to suggest the menacing side of it too.  It feels more sinister than an entertaining protocol kerfuffle. Turkey has its own problems, but if even Turkey considers stepping back from its relationship with the EU, then EU bureaucrats really do have a problem. Or rather they don't - EU citizens have the problem.

All in all, then, the summit represented several things: the EU’s Gormenghast-like obsession with ritual, a characteristic of many fading powers; the absurdity of having a plethora of presidents; the shockingly undiplomatic behaviour of the President of the European Council; and the way in which Turkey is, quite understandably, stepping back from its relationship with an unreliable neighbour.

On reflection, it isn't so easy to make light of what Hannan calls the EU’s Gormenghast-like obsession with ritual, a characteristic of many fading powers. The ominous aspect is that the EU appears to have something vastly destructive lurking just below its horribly limited horizon. Maybe we detached ourselves just in time.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Reaching a consensus


A familiar phenomenon, but to my mind still a little spooky. Lots of examples in human life too, such as spontaneously walking in step with someone.  

Meetings can be like this. Sometimes it only takes a few people who refuse to budge from established procedures to create almost palpable pressure to drop back into line with what is familiar to everyone round the table.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

We know all this but…

Linking ideas can be a rum game. Certain links can be interesting but discouraged by social and/or political convention. An interesting example is the link between democracy, the welfare state and the subsequent loss of democracy.

Over time, democracy in the UK has steered us towards a bigger and wider welfare state. Politicians promise it and voters vote for it - this gives us our feedback loop. More welfare leads to more government involvement in daily life and new political opportunities for ever more welfare promises. It doesn’t stop because there is no mechanism to stop it apart from economic limitations.

We know all this but don’t do anything about it. Personal responsibility has become a political step backwards even though we are well past the stage when democratically it would be a step forwards.

Eventually we reach a level of government overreach where democratic options have disappeared and we are effectively left with a totalitarian government. It may be slowed down by a carefully designed constitution, but the feedback loop of political promise and voter acceptance is too easy. Eventually democracies undermine themselves.

The process is so obvious and so well-known that we might suppose it would become a prominent public debate, but it never does. Political classes won’t tell voters that their promises are ultimately destructive, that governments can’t do everything. It doesn’t matter to them that this is the case. It doesn’t matter to them that our democracy is fading away. It only matters to us. But not enough apparently.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

What would the Duke have said?



A sustainable loss I think, but what would the Duke of Edinburgh have said? One pithy possibility springs immediately to mind

Ghastly little brat.

Friday, 9 April 2021

High status liars

There is an interesting if fairly familiar piece in Quillette about the link between status and belief.

Many have discovered an argument hack. They don’t need to argue that something is false. They just need to show that it’s associated with low status. The converse is also true: You don’t need to argue that something is true. You just need to show that it’s associated with high status. And when low status people express the truth, it sometimes becomes high status to lie...

The idea is that there are two paths, or two “routes,” to persuading others. The first type, termed the “central” route, comes from careful and thoughtful consideration of the messages we hear. When the central route is engaged, we actively evaluate the information presented, and try to discern whether or not it’s true.

When the “peripheral” route is engaged, we pay more attention to cues apart from the actual information or content or the message. For example, we might evaluate someone’s argument based on how attractive they are or where they were educated, without considering the actual merits of their message.

The whole piece is worth reading, if only as a reminder of how difficult it is to correct self-serving falsehoods promoted by elites. Especially where beliefs are high status lifestyle options.

Furthermore, knowing that we could lose status if we don’t believe in something causes us to be more likely to believe in it to guard against that loss. Considerations of what happens to our own reputation guides our beliefs, leading us to adopt a popular view to preserve or enhance our social positions. We implicitly ask ourselves, “What are the social consequences of holding (or not holding) this belief?”

The problem is, if we cannot collectively spot the high status liars now, what hope is there for the future? Understanding the psychology doesn't achieve anything.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Lower and lower


The latest PHE chart * of weekly observed all-cause deaths in all ages with the dominant circulating respiratory virus is now well below the five year baseline. 

Lower than it has ever been throughout the five year period, although Easter reporting may have some effect. Even so, surely there must be something alarming in there? 

*corrected - previously attributed to ONS