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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Consensus Who Cried Wolf

Once upon a time there wasn't any oxygen. It was all CO2 and other oxides. So what about this "runaway greenhouse effect?" Why aren't we in the same boat as Venus? Simple. Somehow plants evolved which could convert that prehistorically massive volume of CO2 into Oxygen. [At this point somebody invariably spouts off with the factoid that plants don't directly convert CO2 into oxygen. That it's more complicated, involving H2O, and sunlight, creating carbohydrates, etc.] If you wade into the morass of chemical transmutations that occur, what you eventually discover is that plants take the carbon out of CO2 as a part of of their food creation and respiration. Like I said, plants convert CO2 into oxygen.

Global Warming, Climate Change, Armageddon, these are just a few end of the world scenarios that could conceivably come to pass in the near or distant future. A consensus of environmental scientists—i.e. most environmental scientists—claim they believe that rising CO2 levels threaten life on earth with catastrophic possibilities, from massive flooding to increasingly violent weather patterns to extinction level events around the globe. It could be true. Nevertheless, in spite of increasingly strident claims to the contrary, the science is not in fact settled, at all. The clarion call from the ecological hoi palloi may simply be nothing more than the bored little shepherd tricking the gullible villagers with yet another wolf cry.
Donald Trump will be about the only head of state who does not believe in climate science or the responsibility of his government to act,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, which signed up more members in the week after Trump won the election than during the rest of 2016 combined. “This makes the Bush-Cheney administration look like it came from an environmental training camp.”

But Trump may be picking a tougher fight than he knows. The last time the White House made the kind of retreat Trump envisions – when President Bush walked away from the Kyoto protocol in 2001 – the policy landscape of climate change was drastically different.

Much of the action on climate change in this country no longer plays out in federal agencies but at local commissions enforcing laws in 29 states that push public utilities to go green. Their mandates are to encourage investment in cleaner plants and technology development.

Major U.S. trading partners that signed on to the nearly 200-nation accord reached in Paris last year are already signaling that they will retaliate if the United States backs out, possibly by slapping environmental trade tariffs onto some American products.

To put it simply, because plants grow more swiftly in the presence of more CO2, the total surface area of photosynthetic effect increases at a nearly geometric rate as more CO2 becomes available, thereby rapidly metabolizing the excess CO2. Life on Earth is not in fragile balance. We don't walk a tightrope. It's more like a Golden Gate Bridge. Sunlight—heat—is used as an energy source to create food and Oxygen. We know for a fact that long before there was enough Oxygen on Earth for animals to exist, plants of various kinds were busy doing exactly that. As life on Earth began, consider how much CO2 was floating around. Then plants started doing their thing. The amount of CO2 before life began was vastly more than 0.04%, the level that scientists are busy shitting themselves over today.
Global greening is the name given to a gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet over the past three decades. The climate change lobby is keen to ensure that if you hear about it at all, you hear that it is a minor thing, dwarfed by the dangers of global warming. Actually, it could be the other way round: greening is a bigger effect than warming.

It is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated. Four years ago, I came across an online video of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University in which he presented an ingenious analysis of data from satellites. This proved that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, and only a little bit was getting browner. In fact, overall in 30 years, the green vegetation on planet Earth had increased by a rather extraordinary 14 per cent. He said this was occurring in all vegetation types — from tropical rainforests to arctic tundra.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Predictive methods may accurately predict yet still be incorrect

You're probably aware of the troubling behavior exhibited by insensitive police officers of profiling potential law-breakers by taking into account such unrelated factors, as race, sex, age, and demeanor. After all, what's really more important, treating everyone equally no matter their ethnicity sex and age, or preventing crime? (That was an obvious rhetorical question which you should have answered by shouting "treating everyone equally," of course.)

All the science, the statistics, examining trends, behaviors, attitudes, patriotism, educational backgrounds, marital status, economic achievement, etc., is irrelevant, when they make us lose sight of the bigger picture. That "bigger" picture is everyone of all races, walking hand-in-hand into a brighter future. Would you rather be proud of your open-minded inclusiveness, or safe? (Another obvious rhetorical question ... who needs safety when you can have sanctimony?)

Forget for a moment that in certain areas of town you are much more likely to be beaten, raped, murdered, mugged, or maybe just randomly shot in a drive-by. Pay no attention to the overwhelming likelihood that the criminals who harm you will probably be males age thirteen to twenty-five. The natural inclination to view the overwhelmingly predominant racial make-up of more dangerous neighborhoods, the criminality exhibited by the various age groups, the criminality displayed by the respective genders, etc., is called profiling, and while it may be accurately predictive, it's still wrong!

Perusing the various new-feeds, the following headline jumped out. "TROUBLING STUDY SAYS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CAN PREDICT WHO WILL BE CRIMINALS BASED ON FACIAL FEATURES." The article goes on to thoroughly debunk the "study." How—you might well ask—did the journalist writing for—Sam Biddle—debunk the quoted "TROUBLING STUDY"? Well, let's find out, shall we?
THE FIELDS OF artificial intelligence and machine learning are moving so quickly that any notion of ethics is lagging decades behind, or left to works of science fiction. This might explain a new study out of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which says computers can tell whether you will be a criminal based on nothing more than your facial features.

The bankrupt attempt to infer moral qualities from physiology was a popular pursuit for millennia, particularly among those who wanted to justify the supremacy of one racial group over another. But phrenology, which involved studying the cranium to determine someone’s character and intelligence, was debunked around the time of the Industrial Revolution, and few outside of the pseudo-scientific fringe would still claim that the shape of your mouth or size of your eyelids might predict whether you’ll become a rapist or thief.

Not so in the modern age of Artificial Intelligence, apparently: In a paper titled “Automated Inference on Criminality using Face Images,” two Shanghai Jiao Tong University researchers say they fed “facial images of 1,856 real persons” into computers and found “some discriminating structural features for predicting criminality, such as lip curvature, eye inner corner distance, and the so-called nose-mouth angle.” They conclude that “all four classifiers perform consistently well and produce evidence for the validity of automated face-induced inference on criminality, despite the historical controversy surrounding the topic.”

The study contains virtually no discussion of why there is a “historical controversy” over this kind of analysis — namely, that it was debunked hundreds of years ago. Rather, the Authors trot out another discredited argument to support their main claims:, that computers can’t be racist, because they’re computers: Absent, too, is any discussion of the incredible potential for abuse of this software by law enforcement.

Kate Crawford, an AI researcher with Microsoft Research New York, MIT, and NYU, told The Intercept, “I‘d call this paper literal phrenology, it’s just using modern tools of supervised machine learning instead of calipers. It’s dangerous pseudoscience.”

Crawford cautioned that “as we move further into an era of police body cameras and predictive policing, it’s important to critically assess the problematic and unethical uses of machine learning to make spurious correlations,” adding that it’s clear the authors “know it’s ethically and scientifically problematic, but their ‘curiosity’ was more important.”
Well, there you have it. This study was debunked because a quasi-related field—"phrenology"—was debunked more than a century ago. Case closed. Nothing to see here. Did they succeed? you might ask. Did the authors of the study accurately predict whether the subjects in the study exhibited criminality? You're missing the point. It doesn't matter whether the science works, what matters is how we feel about the fairness of that science.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's time for war! It's time for a draft!

I'll start by saying that it'll never happen. Instead our country will continue to die the death of a thousand stupid decisions made for every good one. Our rulers will continue throwing good money after bad, and telling us who we aren't.

The truth is, that whether the President of the USA is Trump or Hillary, at this point, doesn't matter. Does it really matter at this point which way somebody decides to rearrange the deck chairs? Does it make a difference whether it is this turd or that one which disappears down the bowl first?

President Trump could turn things around, but he wont. He wont or he wont be able to. In order to save America, Trump would have to move both houses of Congress to make a decision that would almost certainly cause all of them to lose their seats in the next election. He would also have to convince a shrill and selfish population that their own desires, wishes, and personal situations would necessarily have to be supplanted by the vastly more important needs of our descendants. To every American, Trump's response to those who are hungry today because they have no food, would have to be this: I'm not going to let you selfishly trade your children's freedom tomorrow, for a full belly today.

Gluttonous couch-potatoes wouldn't hear Trump's actual words, they'd only hear the diabolical echo of a mad queen from the past: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche ... "Let them eat cake."

I'll lay it our for you in plain terms which you wont like, wont agree with, and certainly wouldn't accept if it actually happened—which it wont.

We have to raise taxes. Taxes on everyone. On the rich, the middle-class, and the poor. For the rich this would happen by eliminating a host of write-offs and raising capital gains taxes. For the poor it means a national sales tax. For the middleclass ... it means a higher social-security contribution.

We have to cut expenses. We can't afford forty-seven million people living on food stamps. (EBT cards) We can't afford to spend half-a-trillion dollars a year for the war on poverty. We can't afford to let able bodied Americans retire at 65. We can't afford to be the world's police ... unless the world is going to pay us for being their police. We can't afford millions and millions of non-working college graduates, non-working high-school graduates, and non-working high-school drop-outs to live in their parents' houses and contribute nothing at all.

Let me stop there, because it doesn't matter. Even if some genius could figure out some way to gainfully employ 92 million people who could work but choose not to, and another 15 million who are unemployed but looking for work, how would we get all these losers off their couches? How would we ever be able to pry those x-box controllers out of their selfish useless hands? How could we ever manage to make dyed-in-the-wool-worthless human beings suddenly become worth something?

It's hard to imagine, but there's 107 million able-bodied adults in America simply existing without a job. Of course a certain percentage of these are housewives, but that percentage is historically small, only 14 percent. That still leaves America with ninety million useless adult consumers of limited resources. These millions pay not a dime in taxes, yet still consume a basket of resources from a host of public and private sources.

Imagine it ... ninety million useless adults who have the freedom to do nothing at all. Ah, but these non-producers actually do certain things, don't they? These loud parasites feasting on the blood of our nation aren't sitting quietly in some corner. No! They complain; they apply for handouts; they protest; they camp out on Wall Street; they spread sexually transmitted diseases; they fornicate; they get abortions; they fornicate some more; they wear rainbow themed attire; they get high on drugs; they beg their parents for money; they beg random passers by on the street for money ... and oh they're so busy doing nothing at all that it would make your head spin to contemplate it! The list of useless things the useless do only for themselves is long and varied, but in the end, only selfish.

We've had lots of silly wars. Lyndon Baines Johnson began a "War on Poverty." If we could get back all the money spent on that sisyphean boondoggle, who knows, America would probably own the rest of the world by now. Whether it's a war on drugs, a war on terror, a war on crime, a war on this or a war on that. From time immemorial, we've gotten rid of our excess useless population by sending them to war against other useless populations. Then we discovered nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. We can't afford any more real wars. So what do we do with all these useless people?

I'm calling for a draft! A draft to fight a war. This will be the war to end all wars. It's a war against uselessness. It begins at the community level. Seasoned census workers combined with an army of failed pollsters, will hit the streets, knocking on doors. "Who lives here? Who has a job? How old are the ones who don't? What skills do they have? What jobs have they had?" Crosscheck the data from the Selective Service System. All this information is put into super-computers, and crunched. A new army is born. Call it whatever, something catchy and focus-group approved. Have them paint, clean, sweep, pull weeds, mow, carry this and that here and there. Make them security guards, dog-catchers, fireman helpers, train them, bid them out.

In fact a model already exists which at first blush seems ideal. If it was simply expanded on a massive scale ... who knows what they could accomplish! Americorps.