Archives for category: Intent

Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 conviction for sexual assault,

Let’s recap the events, as described in the NY Times article.

2004 – Ms Constand was raped by Mr. Cosby.
According to the 2018 sentence!
Please note that the Pennsylvania High Court didn’t say the 2018 jurors had ‘seen things”. Only that the trial shouldn’t have taken place!

2005 – The district attorney prosecuting the case “announced in a news release at the time that after an investigation he had found “insufficient” evidence. He later testified that he had given Mr. Cosby the assurance to encourage him to testify in a subsequent civil case brought by Ms. Constand. (A civil suit she filed against Mr. Cosby was settled in 2006 for $3.38 million.)”
As he was convinced he didn’t have enough evidence to make a penal case against Mr. Cosby, the prosecutor promised the defendant he will not be further prosecuted if he testified (a.k.a. ‘told the truth’) in the civil suit.
“In that testimony, Mr. Cosby acknowledged giving quaaludes to women he was pursuing for sex.”

2006 – The civil case was settled for $3.38 million. As in Bill Cosby agreed to pay that amount of money for something the prosecution wasn’t sure that it was able to convince a jury that he had actually done it.

2015 – The next district attorney reopened the case. And got a conviction. Despite the fact that the ‘main’ evidence had been provided by the defendant himself. Given after he was promised he wasn’t incriminating himself in a penal way.

2018 – Mr. Cosby is convicted for something he had done 14 years ago.

2021 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides that Mr. Cosby had been practically duped into incriminating himself, found this to be unacceptable and released the former prisoner.

What are we, ordinary citizens, to make out of all these?

Be glad that our individual rights have been upheld?
It makes a lot of sense!
After all, upholding individual rights is what makes the difference between a free society and an authoritarian one.
Between people being free and finding themselves at the whims of the government.

Ask ourselves ‘what about the individual rights of the victim’?
That also makes sense.
But my experience of living under a dictatorship strongly suggests that letting some guilty people walk free is a small price to pay for making resonably sure that a government – any government, doesn’t accrue too much power over the individuals making up the people.

Ask ourselves ‘what happened to us’?
What drives so many of to use constitutional rights as loopholes?
Is this OK?

No legislation will ever be perfect!
That’s why verdicts are given by ‘peers’, judges are given so much ‘leeway’ and why, in general, the law is administered by highly trained responsible people and not by ‘machines’.

After all, how we use whatever we have at our disposal – legislation included, speaks more about ourselves than about the things we use and the circumstances in which we make our choices.

According to a certain George Herbert, 1640, “For him who will, ways are not wanting“.
According to those who have spent their lives observing natural phenomena, ‘Where ever there are enough resources present, something will happen’.

Morally speaking, there’s a huge difference between those two.
When we need to apportion merit – or blame, we do need to know whether something was a natural occurrence or the consequence of somebody’s actions.

But following a more practical approach… people would better prepare themselves to deal with the aftermath of that something taking place, regardless of what/who had caused it.

Let me put it in a simpler manner.
An investigator will/should do everything in their power to determine the cause of a fire. But that will be possible only after the blaze has been put down by the fire-fighters.

For some time now, people have been trying to determine whether machines will ever be able to develop consciousness. To ‘feel’ anything.
Some even pour over the moral implications …. will sentient machines have rights? As in ‘the right to not be turned off’?

I expect most of those people have been jolted by some recent developments pertaining to their field of expertise…

In a sense, this is a ‘natural’ development.
We’ve been purposely transforming tools into weapons since … before we parted ways with our closest cousins, the chimpanzees.

But it’s for the first time that we’ve developed weapons powerful enough to kill every human being on Earth. And capable of achieving their given task without human assistance.

What next?
How about a weapon capable of assuming a task?
Capable of consciously determining – through diligent AI/ML computations, that a certain ‘target’ ‘needs’ to be ‘taken care off’.
Which weapon, being a ‘sentient machine’, will come with the built in right to not be turned off.

How did we get here?
Stay tuned.

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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Having an unlimited supply of flour might be helpful but never enough.
What you really need is bread!
Which also demands yeast, skill and some work thrown in for good measure.

Same thing about the relation between money and happiness.
If you’re not wise, and diligent, enough, no amount of money will ever be enough for you.
Nor will it bring you any closer to happiness.

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Good Old Politics used to be about identifying the common ground.
And making it wide enough to harbor the foundation for a stable – as in ‘sustainable’, future.
A future where ‘everybody’ could claim a place. As in ‘fulfilling the American Dream’.

Nowadays, politics is about identifying the most effective way to pull the rug from your opponents’ feet.

How wise is this?

How sustainable is it?

We learn from Michelle Obama’s book – Becoming, 2018, that her father, a blue collar worker, was the only breadwinner who provided for the family. A family of four, leading a decent life in a decent home. Who was earning enough to send both kids to school.
Is this still possible today? In America? The Land of Opportunity?

Trump got elected after a huge number of well paying blue collar jobs had been exported.
After wealth disparity had become ridiculous.

What convinced so many people into believing that Trump, the billionaire, was the answer to their plight?

Historian Nancy MacClean has just published “Democracy in Chains”, a book in which she looks at a group of ultra free-market thinkers who have been working to change the government systems of the United States since the 1950s. While Donald Trump was not part of their plan, MacLean says “there is no way Donald Trump would be in the White House were it not for their strategy”, which includes gerrymandering and taking control of the judiciary. She joined us for Perspective to tell us more.

No, this is not yet another post about Trump.
This is about Political Science.

You see, physics and chemistry are hugely important sciences.
Physics has taught us how to build planes. And atomic bombs.
Chemistry how to make life saving drugs. And deadly explosives.

And so on.
Science is nothing but a formalized method of gathering consistent information.
What we subsequently do with the technology built around the above mentioned ‘consistent information’ is something else.
It no longer depends on ‘science’.

It solely depends on us. On what plans we have for the future.
On how we – the ‘meaningful’ amongst us, to be more precise – chose to use the above mentioned stash of ‘consistent information’.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father of the atomic bomb’, had eventually figured out that “Never before had mankind possessed destructive power that truly posed a threat to civilization“.

Nowadays we’re toying with even more powerful tools.
Tools which are able to turn back the flow of history.
To make a joke out of the fabled ‘checks and balances’.

The H bomb is such a blunt tool that nobody in their right mind would ever consider using.

Tools made possible by political science are way more insidious.
So insidious that most of those who wield them ignore the true amount of fallout their actions will unleash.

Compromise – give some to get some, is debatable to start with. But, ultimately, workable. History is full of successful examples.
Kompromat is nothing but mutually assured destruction. MAD. Made worse by its trivial appearance.

By engaging in compromise, you give hope a chance. The other has a scope. For as long as negotiation is going on earnestly, both sides have a fair chance of getting out alive.
By engaging in Kompromat, the aggressor actually sends the message: ‘I’ll stop only over your dead body’.

Sustainable?!?
Are you kidding me?

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Later additions:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, displaying continuing party loyalty to former President Donald Trump and firm determination to shift the political focus away from the violent insurrection by his GOP supporters.”

“Antonio, who wore a patch for the far-right anti-government militia group The Three Percenters, is charged with five counts, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder.
Joseph Hurley, Antonio’s lawyer, said he won’t use his client’s belief in false claims of election fraud in an attempt to exonerate him. Instead, Hurley will use them to argue that Antonio was an impressionable person who got exploited by Trump and his allies.
“You can catch this disease,” Hurley said. Misinformation, he said, “is not a defense. It’s not. But it will be brought up to say: This is why he was here. The reason he was there is because he was a dumbass and believed what he heard on Fox News.””

“Many of us have been disappointed of late by the actions of some people who’ve chosen the easy way, playing to the crowd, itching the ears of the resentful with conspiracies and accusations,” the Utah Republican said Wednesday. “I take heart in the fact that such displays are still newsworthy and are generally met with disdain.”
The domestic political squabbles are having a real impact, Romney said, by diverting the nation’s attention away from three great challenges facing the country: the rise of China, global climate change and the “degradation of the national balance sheet.”
Romney said there’s plenty of blame to go around.
“Some of us on the right infect the nation with claims of election fraud, tech and media outrages, even vaccine fantasies. From the left come hyperwoke accusations and antipathy toward free enterprise, the very means of our prosperity,” the Utah Republican added
.”

‘Handicap’ has become a dirty word…
Somewhat strange, given the breadth of its meaning. Horses get handicapped in order to even their chances to win a race. Yachts get handicapped so that different makes might participate in the same race… In these situations, its an ‘honor’ to be handicapped…

Then why has this concept, ‘political correctness’, become so ‘popular’?

You might already be familiar with the ‘upfront’ explanation.

“political correctness has reset the standards for civility and respect in people’s day-to-day interactions.”

Rethinking Political Correctness, Robin J. Ely et all, HBR Magazine, 2006

I’m convinced there was something more.
Civility and respect haven’t been invented yesterday. We’ve been polite for quite a while now.

Yeah, only politeness had been invented, and polished, when society was way more hierarchical than in is now.
In those times, when a ‘superior’ told somebody ‘you idiot’ that somebody paused to think. The ‘idiot’ could not dismiss what the ‘superior’ had just told him. The ‘idiot’ really had to make amends. He was so busy trying to correct himself that he couldn’t allow himself to feel offended. If anything, he was grateful. The ‘superior’ had made the effort to help the ‘idiot’ improve himself instead of dispatching him altogether.
In modern times, even before PC had become fashionable, calling someone’s attention about how idiotic he was behaving only made him angry. Hence dismissive and unresponsive. In an era when all people had become peers, a new ‘manner of speaking’ had to be invented in order for ‘information’ to be made ‘palatable’.

The process had been successful.
So successful that the same approach had been used when dealing with other ‘hot’ subjects. Race, gender… ‘inclusion’ in general…

In fact, the process had become too successful for its own good!

Some of the ‘enthusiasts’ have reached the conclusion that ‘everything’ is open for reconsideration.
That ‘everything’ should be closely reexamined.
According to the ideological lenses worn by the examiners, of course…

Unfortunately, the end result is rather messy.

Instead of facilitating the dialog, the stiffer and stiffer set of ‘appropriate’ ‘rules of engagement’ has almost stifled any transfer of meaningful information.

“Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines.”

Ibid.

Not only that people find it harder and harder to understand each-other, ‘things’ themselves become blurry.

Let me give you a recent example.

In the US, many of the ex-confederated States have started to reconsider the statues commemorating ‘famous Southern figures’.
The vast majority of which had been built between 1890 and 1950, during the Jim Crow era.
Simultaneously, like minded activists have recently toppled Edward Colton’s statue in Bristol, England.

Are these two ‘developments’ similar, as PC would mandate us to understand?

Jefferson Davies – a very ‘familiar statue’ in the US, had been the President of the Confederate States of America. A slave owner himself, he was a “champion of the unrestricted expansion of slavery into the territories.” And the statues glorifying him had been erected, during the Jim Crow era, as a reminder to the fact that the Confederation may had lost the war but things hadn’t change that much.
Edward Colston, on the other side of the Atlantic, had not been a slave owner per se. In the sense that he didn’t put slaves to work for him. He was ‘only’ a purveyor of slaves. He had ‘only’ kidnapped African people and then sold them, as slaves, on the other side of the Atlantic. 10 to 20% of which had died, in horrible conditions, during the voyage. As a consequence of his ‘efforts’, Colston had become a very rich man. He had ended his involvement in the slave trading business some 30 years before his death – 1721, and used much of his wealth for charity. His statue had been built in 1895 and many of the buildings which had been raised with the money bequeathed by him bear his name. Some of those buildings are used to house schools, others as almshouses.

Now, do the statues of these two people stand for the same thing?
And no, I’m not trying to discern between two villains!

Each of them had done an immense amount of harm and had produced endless suffering. People are still smarting to this day because of what both of them had done.
Only there are some differences between them. One had also done some good in his life. While the other had been used, after his death and without his consent, as a symbol. After he had, directly, kept people in slavery he had also been used to further the sufferings of black people.

Are we capable of seeing any of these differences?
Or are we too angry to differentiate?

Do you remember why we had invented political correctness in the first place?

Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines. Companies need to equip workers with skills—not rules—for building these relationships.


“The popularity of authors like Deutsch, Sandbrook and Foote – men of very different calibre in many different ways, but all wordsmiths who form history into desirably unchallenging packages for certain kinds of audience – is undeniable. It points to a conclusion that the wider historical profession, from schoolteachers to internationally renowned critical scholars, struggles to overcome. People, and specially people from priviledged groups, do not want historians to tell them bad things about their tresured identities. They will, indeed, forcefully react against such challenges, when given the political rallying-calls that allow them to do so. In that sense, it must be said, they do not want history. They want what they are increasingly getting: a cosy blanket of half remembering and convenient forgetting that is cushioning their slide down the slope to full-blown cultural dementia.”

Cultural Dementia, David Andress, 2018

If you have the stomach for the whole of it…

Where there’s a will there’s a way

According to the internet, this proverb is way older than the American Constitution.

Now, will ‘they’ find a constitutional way to set a precedent?
That a guy who had so horribly – and tragically, misused the sacred notion of “freedom of expression” has no place in such a powerful position?
Or, by failing to do so – for whatever reasons, will ‘they’ leave open the ‘opportunity’ for an even more callous ‘political animal’ to climb into the Oval Office?

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Abraham Lincoln, 1838

Imagine an ‘outside observer’. From, say, Sirius.
Who had just arrived. Didn’t have enough time to become familiar with what’s going on here.

Thailand.
Ballots had been cast in November. A party had lost. And pretends, without proof, that the elections had been rigged.

“In his first public comments after the coup, Gen Hlaing sought to justify the takeover, saying the military was on the side of the people and would form a “true and disciplined democracy”.” GETTY IMAGES

When the parliament was about to be convened, and the electoral results formally confirmed, the backers of the loosing party – which had happened to be the army, declared martial law and annulled the electoral results. The leading general announced in public that the measure had been adopted in pursuit of a ‘real and disciplined democracy’.

The US.
Ballots had been cast in November. The looser pretended, without proof, that the elections had been rigged.

When the parliament was convened to certify the results, a mob had stormed the House of the Parliament, at the bidding of the loosing President. Order was finally restored and the dully elected President installed into office.

What would the ‘outside observer’ think about our planet? About us…

What if their job is to asses whether we should be allowed to roam the Galaxy?
To be entrusted with some very powerful technological ‘secrets’. Which would help us solve some of our very stringent problems. Feel free to name a few…

Well… Money doesn’t get spoiled as easily as bananas do…

On further consideration, money can be understood as a tool with many uses.
Hoarding, for instance. Bananas, among other things …

And, as with all other tools, the responsibility for its use falls squarely on the user, not on on the tool itself.
Tinkering with the tool won’t change that, ever.

My point being that monkeys would also hoard bananas if bananas were hoard-able.
There’s nothing wrong with that. For as long as the hoard is meant to feed the hoarder till the next crop, of course.

Hoarding is bad only when done for its own sake.

And this is something for philosophers to study, not for scientists.
The teachings of the Chicago School of Economics had been very scientific yet following them was what brought us where we are now. Into a very uncomfortable cul-de-sac…

Blindly following them… mislead precisely because of their scientific nature!