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Comment Re:Yup (Score 1) 176

The position where slaves didn't count towards representation was just as good a default, which makes 3/5 looks like a compromise to me. Which wouldn't be surprising; the framers had a real knack for that.

Note also because of the limited, means-tested franchise in many states, the higher property ownership disparity in slave states (because of the plantation economy) concentrated enormously disproportionate power in the hands of planters.

Democracy in the early US wouldn't look very familiar. In 1824 just 4% of all Americans voted.

Comment Re:Rose tinted glasses (Score 1) 176

Another thing you had was a huge body of men who'd been through a massive, life-changing experience together. One that took immense risk and sacrifice but ultimately ended in victory (at least for us Americans).

If you believe that people are capable at all of learning from experience, they must have brought something away from that.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 330

Well, you are ignoring polysemy here; yes "bullshit" can refer to tall tales like your drinking fifty gallons of beer. However there are other senses of the word, including topics of serious inquiry in the field of epistemics.

I refer you to Professor H.G. Frankfurt's seminal work, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-12294-6.) for more information.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 330

I find that Socratic debate usually convinces the other person that you are attacking them and their stated belief fairly quickly even if actually just honestly wanting more information.

Well, you're in good company on that one. As I recall Socrates ruffled his share of feathers.

That said, I'm talking about satisfying yourself. Convincing others necessarily involves making allowances for their muddy thinking.

Comment Re:Umm (Score 1) 330

What you need are citations to trustworthy sources and to be reviewed by trustworthy peers.

You've already lost the fight: no human system outperforms its incentive structure.

Peer review is hopelessly ensnared by academic advancement culture. Entire disciplines can end up publishing bunk, if that becomes the tenure-track fashion of the decade. Tulip bubbles are not restricted to the business cycle. Even hard sciences have been hit pretty bad. Et tu, string theory?

The fundamental theorem of peer review is due to Max Planck:

Science advances one funeral at a time.

The zone of convergence of peer review involves the passing of interested parties. In most of the hard sciences, fifty years pretty much weeds out the crap.

However, if you take a field such as nutrition science, I dare say it's still inadvisable to take fresh "peer review" at face value. John Yudkin was on the right track in 1958. Fifty years downstream, the truth is out there, but it's still far from evenly distributed in the public imagination.

Nutrition science was subverted by a white coat army of industry apparatchiks. These studies are expensive and, oh yeah, replication crisis.

Most human systems can be trusted some of the time. The real art of bullshit detection is figuring which times are those times. Even the best human systems are bullshit on the margin.

Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly

What you need to understand here is that the journalist impulse to publish is directly proportional to the tenuousness of the result in question.

Well, if the speed of light falls derp derp wormholes derp derp Stargate derp derp dusty von Daniken booster spice derp derp human immorality derp derp Omni Magazine alternate-reality cum shot. Well, you got your $4 worth, didn't you?

There's an enormous term in the human condition centered around escape from reality. This makes sense to some degree, because human reality usually contains a giant heal spur of oppression of the downtrodden masses (success has a habit of being highly asymmetric).

Trump's monosyllabic barrage becomes tremendously more convincing if you want to believe the underlying message.

Somehow, one supposes, being suckers for false hope must be evolutionarily adaptive (who, after all, is qualified to challenge the modern evolutionary synthesis?)

And then you get right down to it, the anchor tenants of modern bullshit culture are the major religions (being largely incompatible, at most 1 of N could anywhere close to broadly correct). Because, you know, life without bullshit would be empty and meaningless.

Deep down, most of us don't really want to drain the bullshit pond. And it's not just one pond. It's pond after pond. Never get comfortable.

The fundamental theorem of bullshit busting is due to Richard Feynman:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

Evolution took a long look at Hamlet, and came up with satisficing.

Make happy assumptions that are compatible with medium-term survival (generally best obtained from proven survivors—aka your parents and select community), then behave with the efficiency of assuming their truth, until the shit really hits the fan; then sit back, renounce, regroup, and repeat.

Dawkins pretty much feels about religion the way Einstein felt about cosmic inflation and quantum indeterminacy. Right model, wrong hope, long painful row to hoe. Even when our best minds get something right, they're often left wishing they hadn't.

So there's this unhappy observation about the human condition, meanwhile the creationists are still stuck on our too-close-for-comfort family resemblance to the other apes (none of whom are paragons of family values).

For some reason that I'm still striving to properly elucidate, bullshit is a prized lubricant of human culture.

For forty years I've lived a Mertonesque credo that "godlessness is next to cleanliness" and so I've managed to winnow the standard-issue pint ("but trailing clouds of gesta do we come") down to about a teaspoon of personal bullshit lubricant.

[*] our heritage of gesta (deeds) soon turns to egesta (bodily waste), which completely explains e-gesta (deeds on the internet)

Not long ago, I was reading Amos Tversky on the perils of metaphor, and now suddenly the scales fall from my eyes.

For 99% of the population, bullshit is sugar sweet. And even among the recalcitrant 1%, no-one ever sheds their very last sweet tooth.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 375

Except I have seen no data from the Swedish government, which publishes extremely comprehensive crime data (something we would do well to copy), to support the Syrian crime wave story. I've gone through Brottsförebyggande rådet data and it's just not there.

What I have seen is a lot of sloppy correlation and overprojection of statistical noise. For example Sweden amended its legal definition of "sexual assault" to be much, much broader, generating a spate of spurious stories about a Swedish rape epidemic.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 330

Again, you're confusing "lying" with "bullshitting". Lying is about establishing belief in a false version of the world, which is best done, as you point out, by omission. That's because lying depends on peoples' regard for the facts; it exploits that. Being caught in a false assertion destroys a lie's effectiveness, so a smart liar sticks to the facts.

Bullshitting is about inculcating the desired feelings and attitudes in the audience. While a bullshitter doesn't hesitate to use facts when they suit his purpose, he doesn't hesitate to make shit up either, because it doesn't matter if he's caught. It doesn't even matter if he asserts two inconsistent things in the course of a single sentence.


Because bullshitting doesn't aim to establish belief in propositions; propositions are completely disposable. Once it has done its job, a piece of bullshit (unlike a lie) is a nullity. You can show that it is false, but the bullshitter's adherents won't perceive that as inconsistent; not as long as the bullshitter is conveying the same attitude.

That's why fact checking a bullshitter is a waste of time, once you've established that's what he is. It doesn't matter if you prove something he said was wrong, unless you do it in a way that changes his audience's feelings.

Comment DLMO (Score 5, Informative) 99

The article has a poor to false understanding of how blue light interacts with DLMO (dim light melatonin onset).

I'm pretty sure the entrainment effect of blue light is via direct neuronal connection to the SCN, and I doubt it involves melatonin, except indirectly.

The homeostatic sleep pressure signal builds up (more or less linearly) for as long as you're awake. On its own, this would mean that you taper into drowsiness all day long. So the sleep system has another mechanism that suppresses response to the sleep pressure signal. I vaguely recall that what happens with DLMO is that melatonin onset signals the body to turn off the suppression switch, so that the body begins to notice the homeostatic sleep pressure signal.

DLMO, however, is easily inhibited by exposure to blue light at a point in time approximately an hour before bedtime. If you're outdoors hunting moose in the bright light of late-evening arctic summer, this is a useful adaptation.

You'll get to bed later, which means you'll sleep a bit later (but not much) and then you will get less blue light early the next morning, which will affect your entrainment, gradually, on the slow-drip program.

As a rough, empirical ratio, for every extra hour you stay up, you'll sleep about twenty minutes later the next morning. It's not uncommon to stay up for an extra two hours, then barely sleep in for an extra half hour. (We need to ignore here that modern society tends to run a massive, permanent sleep deficit, which can suddenly turn into sleeping four to six hours late at the first opportunity that allows this to happen. That's a different beast entirely.)

I have a circadian rhythm disorder, and I know from decades of sleep tracking that morning wake-up time is about three times more reliable in estimating my sleep phase than time of retirement.

This is a worthwhile paper from the top of my notes, but it's hard to wade through:

Estimating Dim Light Melatonin Onset (DLMO) Phase in Adolescents Using Summer or School-Year Sleep/Wake Schedules — 2006

I like this paper because it shows how social convention (adolescent schooling) also influences DLMO phase.

The sleep pressure signal eventually overwhelms the suppression of this signal, regardless of the DLMO mechanism.

James Maas is a good representative of the modern sleep science orthodoxy:

Surefire Strategies to Sleep for Success!

I just love the page break at the end of page 6. But then I'm really into microscopic moments of small page-formatting humour. (It's probably not unrelated to all those long, lonely nights, before I found a viable treatment.)

Here's a good summary, I just found for the first time.

Phase Response Curve

The reason I only vaguely remember this mechanism is that all the phase response curves in the literature are dose dependent.

There is no PRC I've ever seen that computes the phase response differential to endogenous melatonin levels. No, what you do is administer some dose/formulation (which can include sustained-release components) at staggered times over several weeks, and then you plot the graph averaged over your test population (which thus includes all the metabolic uptake and clearance variability).

There was a time I desperately wanted to consult one of these curves and then to declare "I am here", but it never happened. These are, in effect, better regarded as qualitative curves than quantitative curves.

The model was never predictive enough to be worth memorizing exactly. And thus I remain slightly dim on DLMO when I really shouldn't be after all these years.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 375

Actually the policy conclusion is not correct, however without a sophisticated understanding of statistics it's easy to be misled.

It is true that a higher proportion of immigrants commit crimes in Sweden than natives. However, if you break down immigrants by socioeconomic status and educational attainment you don't see any difference between immigrants and natives. This is because of something called Simpson's Paradox.

What's happening here is that Sweden is a wealthy advanced country with a low birth rate, and it's been importing low-education poor workers to augment it's own dwindling underclass in filling low-paying jobs. Now poor, uneducated people commit many kinds of crimes at a higher rate that affluent, educated people. Whether they are native or immigrant makes no difference. So what the Swedish statistics actually tell us is that uneducated low-wage workers make up a higher proportion of immigrants than they do of natives, which should be no surprise because that's why the largest proportion of immigrants have been admitted.

This also raises another possibility: you can actually reduce crime rates with immigration, if you let in the right people. In fact there is evidence this is happening in Canada, which places a premium on education and language skills when deciding who to admit.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 2) 330

Actually the defining characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they get you to believe things which contradict things common sense tells you are so unlikely they're bound to be false, e.g., that people do things that are against their interests, that mutual enemies act with perfect trust in each other.

It is no conspiracy theory that the Nixon White House covered up Watergate, even though that is a theory about a conspiracy. In fact Watergate shows you the problem with most conspiracy theories: massive cover ups are impossible to maintain for very long. Something as big as the government leaks information constantly.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 330

As I get older I realize how big and difficult objective "truth" is. It's easy to get hold of bits of the truth, the challenge is to get hold of enough of the truth and enough kinds of truth to make sound judgments.

That said, detecting bullshit is not intellectually challenging -- in fact I'd argue that's the defining characteristic of bullshit. Bullshit is easy to detect when it's aimed at other people. So why is bullshit so hard to resist when it's aimed at you?

Because bullshit tempts you to believe what is easy, convenient and apparently self-serving. A person with perfect moral courage, who is incorruptibly fair-minded and objective, such a person would be completely impervious to bullshit. But all of us, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, fall far short of that ideal.

That's why advance-fee scams hoodwink people who manifestly have the intellectual ability to see through them ... when they're directed at other people. But as soon as the opportunity for personal gain enters the picture it becomes a struggle between greed and intellect. Even if your intellect is formidable it's useless to you once your greed is engaged.

That's why I say detecting bullshit is an exercise in moral character.

Comment Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 330

A conventional lie is detectable because of the network of falsehoods that must necessarily support a consistent sounding alternative picture of the world. Often the best way to detect a liar is to invite him to elaborate on his statements, until the entire fabric of falsehood is unsupportable.

Bullshit doesn't try to create an elaborately self-consistent fabric of false beliefs. Bullshit doesn't even bother being consistent with itself. Bullshit persuade through the power of how it makes you feel in the moment, and as a bullshitter rattles on he keeps his audience enthralled moment by moment even as he contradicts himself.

So to detect lies you need epistemological skills. To detect bullshit you need strength of character.

Comment Re:Hard to read (Score 1) 375

Even anti-Trump people want to hear about something else once in a while.

Actually not. Our appetite for anti-Trump information is apparently insatiable, and that's a problem for us. In fact I think it's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college.

Like everything else, negative information reaches a point of diminishing returns. There comes a point where more bad news doesn't hurt you any more, but crowds out other news. In a divisive election, you win by getting more supporters to the polls than your opponent, and for that you need media bandwidth. So while Hillary's favorable/unfavorable ratings were consistently far better than Trump's even when they were under water, Trump was hogging all the media attention she needed to make the most of that advantage. Trump was ratings gold, because people who despised him as a buffoon simply adored stories which confirmed that fact.

And if you're a Trump supporter, take heart: we haven't seemed to learn anything. We still haven't figured out we can't rely on Trump's buffoonery, that we have to craft a positive message and deliver it into places where he has support.

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