Category Archives: Blue Sky Thinking

Framing and Perception: Using Skepticism to Avoid Being Deceived

We’ve all heard the expression there’s two sides to every story. It implies that one side is the truth, and the other side is lying. While that can be true, it can also be that both sides are right, and are both just leaving out crucial factors. It could be that neither side is right, and the truth is something else entirely. It could be that one side is right, and the other believes they’re right, but are simply mistaken. And most commonly, it could be a matter of opinion, and there simply isn’t a right or wrong in the first place.

The point of skepticism, is to be able to consume information in such a way that you are least likely to be deceived, or make bad assumptions. Thus leading to more intelligent decisions, and typically better outcomes for you. Let’s look at some examples.

In April of 2019, it was reported in several news outlets that just eating one slice of bacon can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. You can see one instance of this report from CNN here. CNN was not dishonest in this reporting, that data is true.

But when you click the actual study, and apply a little skepticism (and some math), you might look at it a little differently.

There were 475,581 participants in the study, and a mere 2609 case of cancer reported among all participants. So if one group is 20% higher than the other, that means it’s approximately 45.4/54.6 split (45.4/54.6 = 120.2%, or 20% more).

54.6% of 2,609 = 1,425 (0.29% of the total group)

45.4% of 2609 = 1,184  (0.24% of the total group)

So while 1,425 is indeed 20% more than 1184, out of the total group or people observed (475,581) a mere 0.55% contracted colorectal cancer. A total of 241 more were the bacon eaters, or a mere 0.05% overall increase (0.29% vs 0.24%).

An almost entirely insignificant 0.05% or 241 out of 475,581 people doesn’t sound nearly as scary as 20%, does it? But scary sells news media, and journalists are rarely scientists.

This problem isn’t entirely about science, because you can apply these same skills to a myriad of things you’ll read or see in the media.

Imagine a news story we’ll call statement A with a headline that reads, “Woman courageously does all that is needed to put food on the plate for her child.”

Female Shoplifter

But then imagine a different news outlet runs a different headline we’ll call Statement B that reads, “Woman fired for drinking while at work, stole unhealthy snacks and booze from a grocery store.”

Statement A makes her sound like a hero, but Statement B tells a very different story. Both can be 100% true, but the context changes how you feel about the story entirely.

The point of all this are to make you think about any news story you read, and maybe think about changing the way you consume information. So here’s a couple of ideas on how to improve how you consume information.

  • Avoid click-bait headlines from sources you’ve never heard of, or that you know are openly biased. You know they’re all almost entirely bullshit. So why waste your time on them? The good ones will link to credibly sources, and you should click on those to read the whole story, if you do go down that road. But in general, if people stop clicking on clickbait, the people doing it will respond to the lack of demand for it, by ceasing to make it.
  • Read the article and not just the headline. Even reputable sources have resorted to click-bait headlines just so you’ll read their stories over the nonsense from non-reputable sites. You’re missing a lot of context and nuance if you don’t read the story. Not to mention, you look silly when you add your own comment that clearly shows you didn’t read the article.
  • Any story that says something like, “The such-and-such that such-and-such doesn’t want you to know” or “Person A destroys person B” is bullshit. All of it. Like every single one of them.” Stop sharing that nonsense. Seriously.
  • If you see a story and it seems pretty amazing, but you aren’t seeing it on reputable sources, I assure you, some podunk website did not scoop Reuters or AP. It’s bullshit that they didn’t vet properly, or worse, that they just made up.
  • Check a second source. This one is huge. If you see a story on a site that’s kinda reputable but not great, look for it on a site like Reuters or AP. If you confirm from multiple reputable sources, then it’s probably true. But if it’s multiple sources with the same bias, you should probably still avoid it.
  • Think about what’s being said in the story, and could there possibly be another way of looking at it.  For instance, if I told you France gets 75% of its energy from nuclear, where the United States only gets 20%, you could easily assume that France is a leader in nuclear energy compared to the United States. But if I told you France has 58 nuclear power facilities whereas the United States has 98, you’d think the US is the leader. Both are true, but both tell a different story. So it pays to dig into the data when you can, and form your own opinion based on all the information.

    Nuclear Power Plant Emits Only Water Vapor

Hopefully this helps you think about how to consume news differently, and prevents you from being that embarrassing friend on social media always sharing bullshit articles everyone but you seems to know isn’t true. You’ll thank me later. 🙂


A Critical Look At Political Correctness, the Easily Offended, and Why We Should Change This Culture

Political correctness is a term that typically evokes annoyance and hatred from almost anyone who hears the term. Yet despite this nearly universal hatred for it, political correctness seems to be as pervasive as ever.

As an example, in 2017, the TV show Bates Motel, a TV adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 epic thriller Psycho, opted to rescript what is arguably the most famous scene in movie history. The story is about a man (Norman Bates) who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Aside from his own personality, he would also take on the persona of his mother, a psychopathic killer who would murder women she felt were immoral.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1622408a)
Psycho (On Set)
Film and Television

When Norman became his mother, he would often dress up as her, and in the original and now famous shower scene, where a young woman is stabbed to death by Norman during a schizophrenic episode, he was wearing his mother’s dress.

However, the Bates Motel show runners, for fear of offending the trans-gender community it seems, opted to not have Norman (played by Freddie Highmore) wearing his mother’s clothes. The argument being they didn’t want to paint transgender people in a negative light. On the face of it, this can sound fair, but political correctness always does at first.

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates – A&E Series Bates Motel

The first issue should be glaringly obvious. Norman Bates wasn’t transgender, he was schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder. He wasn’t a man who identified as a women. In his mind, he was his mother. So the show runners, for fear of offending people they weren’t even depicting, made the scene less accurate, out of irrational fear.

The referenced article above shows the writers clearly understood this, but the fear of offending someone and having the show be attacked by those who misunderstood the show’s intent was so great, they decided not to risk offending them.

In general, the idea of political correctness can be broken down into a couple of camps.

  • One is a selfless reason—you don’t want to offend someone because you’re a good person, and you just don’t like offending people.
  • The other is selfish—you have concerns that it might harm your brand or business if people happen to be offended. You don’t so much care that they’re offended, but if they make a lot of noise in attacking your business (or you personally), you’re concerned it could harm you financially when they do so. The above example falling into the latter camp.

If either camp is genuinely trying to avoid offending people, why is this a problem, then? Shouldn’t that be a good thing? The answer is a little murky, but let’s dig into the dirt a bit.

The Straw Man Argument

You may have heard of the logical fallacy known as the straw man argument. If not, click the video above from PBS. But the Straw Man Fallacy principle also applies to those who are easily offended.

Imagine I said, “I like Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president in 2012 and 2016.” Full stop. Now imagine a Trump or Clinton supporter who hears my statement, then gets offended and responds to me, “Oh, so you think Hillary/Trump is a bad person then? You’re a horrible person.”

Hopefully you see the problem here. I didn’t say anything about Hillary or Trump, and it’s genuinely quite possible I like all three people. So they’re mad at a straw man version of my argument, not what I actually said and intended.

This is why being easily offended is often the problem of the person who chose to mischaracterize your argument and be offended by it, and not the problem of the person who said something they were offended by.

For this reason, it’s important we not coddle such people, and give their behavior credence. They’ve made a mistake, and condoning and/or excusing that mistake doesn’t help anyone. Worse yet, it creates a whole new problem.

Factitious Disorder Imposed On Self (Munchausen Syndrome) is a condition where people claim to be ill in some way, when they’re either making it up, or they’ve actually harmed themselves, in order to gain sympathy for their illness from people who don’t know they’ve done it to themselves.

Many people who claim to be offended may not actually be offended per se, but much like those who suffer from factitious disorder, have learned that by proclaiming they’ve been offended on social media or some other public forum, gain sympathy from their followers, fans, or friends. They’re being conditioned to be offended about things going forward to attain even more attention (sympathy), creating this downward spiral of dishonest dialogue, fake outrage, and people who are afraid to be speak their mind.

So just by the virtue of it not even being honest outrage, or an honest assessment of the thing that outraged them, it’s already an illogical and potentially immoral condition. But this isn’t where the negatives end.

The Wisdom Of The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

U.S. Constitution: 1st Amendment

As most people know, the first amendment of the US Constitution wasn’t written so we can discuss the weather freely, nor to believe things we all believe. Our founding fathers understood you should have the right to say something offensive if it’s what you truly feel or believe. You should also be encouraged to speak truth to power when leaders say things that simply aren’t true.

This was of course about freedom from prosecution by government for saying such things, but the logic of protecting that speech is important outside of first amendment constraints as well. If people are afraid to speak their mind, you’ll never learn what they’re thinking. They might have ideas that could change the world, or at least maybe your world view—hear them out.

Martin Luther King Jr. for instance, was saying things we understand are true and not controversial now, but were quite controversial then. So much so, he was murdered over them. But you can go a lot further back in history to see why this is important. Galileo for instance, was famously convicted of heresy, and sent to jail for his arguments about the nature of our solar system. He described heliocentrism—the idea that our sun is at the center of the solar system, and not the Earth, as the Catholic church believed at the time. Not only is this not controversial now, only the most delusional of people think it isn’t fact.


While some things may be controversial forever, many things that are edgy today, will almost assuredly be commonplace tomorrow, and this should be deemed as typically a good thing. People are often afraid of change, but adaptation is the key to survival, and free speech is key to having the discussions that help us to evolve our way of thinking as time goes on.

Political correctness and being easily offended are the biggest detriment to these discussions, and reasonable people should make an effort to ensure such discussions aren’t quashed by aggressive social justice warriors.

As for how to fix this, the answer isn’t attacking people verbally with insults and such, that’s not going to win over hearts and minds. Technically, I’m arguing that you do nothing. No really, don’t do a thing. if someone gets upset, and demands apologies because they were offended, don’t say a thing. Let them realize no one agrees with them by not agreeing with them.

If you see attention-seeking behavior like this in general, the best thing you can do is simply not respond to it. It’s like the urban legend version of Ferberizing a baby, letting them cry it out alone, but with adults. (Ferber didn’t actually argue for letting kids cry it out. His actual arguments are here.)

These people are seeking attention. If you don’t give them any, they will be conditioned to not waste the energy for their ineffective technique. We made it effective in the first place, we can make it ineffective, too.

Internet Troll

There will surely be a knee-jerk reaction  to respond by either giving in, if you’re not buying into my idea that it’s a problem, or to troll by lashing out at them for behaving childishly. You would think that those options are opposite each other, but the fact is that they’re both attention. And if you respond negatively to it in an effort to get them to “grow up,” others who don’t share your view (and mine) will sympathize with them even more because you were such a meanie to them.

Now that we’ve talked about how to stifle the political correct and easily offended, how do we promote the reasons for stifling them in the first place?

Also a pretty simple answer. Talk. Not yell or attack, but have respectful discourse with people. If you’re the type to avoid discussions that might get contentious, don’t. If they can’t respond in kind, then again, go back to not responding.

You can also stand up for facts. If someone says something you know isn’t true, chime in respectfully, and let them know they may be incorrect. Cite sources for extra credit. If at any point the conversation devolves, again…walk away. If enough people do this, eventually, reasonable discourse can and will prevail.

How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

Will Computers Catch Humans?

By the year 2030, famed inventor and Google futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts a singularity. The idea that because of Moore’s Law, an idea proposed by Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore, which states that the number of transistors that can be packed into a given unit of space will roughly double every two years, that humans and machine will become one, indistinguishable being.

Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil

You may be wondering if Ray is somewhat like a modern-day Nostradamus, but that would be rather insulting to Ray.

Where Nostradamus had predicted very generic events that could have been attributed to just about anything, and thus people often correlated to very specific events and called his predictions a hit, Kurzweil predicted very specific things to occur in very specific time periods, and has a success rate of about 86%.

So much so, that Google hired him as their futurist, to help guide their own corporate endeavors in the direction Ray predicts the future is going.

Ray’s singularity prediction is rather interesting, because what he’s ultimately arguing is that because of the advances in memory technology, computers will meet the human brain’s computing power in this time frame.

While I don’t profess to have the knowledge Ray has, one thing I would like to point out, is that humans are not just a product of our memory, we are also a product of our intellect. Let’s look at how we’re different from computers, as an example.

Kim Peek - Autistic savant; the man the movie Rain Man was based on.
Kim Peek – Autistic savant; the man the movie Rain Man was based on.

Imagine a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with 1,000 rows and columns in size. Your computer remembers them flawlessly; every single character, like a mechanical Rain Man.

But ask a human to do this feat, and nearly no one can. So the argument that computers haven’t caught humans yet is somewhat misleading.

The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons, and many more glial cells. If we think of neurons as computer bits; the smallest level of computer memory, or the thing that is actually a one or a zero; then we can extrapolate how much memory a computer must have to match the human brain.

Four computer bits make a byte, 1,024 bytes make a kilobyte (KB). This 1,024 successive unit pattern then progresses as follows: megabyte (MB), gigabyte (GB), terabyte (TB), petabyte (PB)…and the list goes on.

This means, that the human brain has about 12.5 gigabytes of memory in the neurons alone. Add in the glial cells, and that number grows by at least double, since there are more of them. The above link references that opinions vary wildly about the real storage capacity of the human brain, but put it somewhere between 1 to 1,000 terabytes, the latter of which seems awfully high to me based on the number of neurons.

But the point I think that is missed in Ray’s hypothesis is that where computer memory is virtually flawless, the human brain seems to have mastered what it should and shouldn’t forget in a rather advantageous way. Where the human can’t remember the aforementioned massive spreadsheet data, it makes up for in its ability for inferring things not provided to it. This being the difference between memory (or knowledge), and computing power (intellect).

It’s this human ability to forget, that actually makes it better at processing information. For instance, you might talk to a co-worker all day, and entirely forget what color their shirt and pants are. Why? Because your brain has developed the ability to know that’s not important information, and immediately dumps it into your brain’s recycle bin.

But if your co-worker misspells a word in an email, your brain doesn’t crash and end its comprehension of the data like a computer might. Instead, you quickly understand what was inferred.

The fact is that there are computers with 1,000 terabytes, or nearly one petabyte already; they have the brains memory power. And one look at IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy, shows you that computers can already beat humans in knowledge alone quite easily.

IBM's Watson
IBM’s Watson

So how is it that a computer could beat Jeopardy’s best competitors, yet still cannot replicate human behavior?

One point to remember is that computers are digital, whereas the human brain is analog.

For instance, think of today’s modern digital cameras, which store a massive amount of mega pixels. We marvel in how much memory they can store, yet an analog camera from 50 years ago, effectively stores more, because it isn’t storing it digitally, as ones and zeros, but instead, as just one big picture on a film. Effectively, each molecule of film is one pixel, and that’s a significantly higher amount of data.

Blow up a digital picture, and eventually, you will see it displaying in its smallest constituents (pixels).

Example of a normal digital picture, when blown up, showing the individual pixels.
Example of a normal digital picture, when blown up, showing the individual pixels.

But if you blow up an analog picture, it never pixelizes, it just becomes so small of an area you can no longer make out what it is.

It’s this difference between analog and digital, that makes Ray’s prediction so uncertain for me. While he may be right, as long as computers rely on digital memory, I’m not convinced they’ll ever be on the level of humans. But instead, machines, and natural life, will always be somewhat separate.

A complete overhaul in the way computers memorize and process information will be needed, not the Moore’s Law doubling of memory in the digital realm.

But it is also worth noting, that Moore’s Law is inappropriately named. It is not in fact scientific law, nor even scientific theory, it is simply something Moore noted, and a pattern that has simply been repeated over the last 50 years, but is not by any stretch going to continue for eternity.

As the Journal of Nature reports, after fifty years, it may indeed be starting to break down. Whereas actual scientific law, such as gravity, and Isaac’s laws of motion; Moore’s “Law” almost invariably must fail at some point, once a transistor has been shrunk to its smallest level.

Speaking theoretically, a transistor, having two states (on and off), if it were shrunk down to one atom, with either one or two electrons depending on whether it’s “on” or “off;” making it smaller would likely prove impossible, and in that moment, Moore’s Law is no more.

Do I believe Kurzweil is crazy? Heck no, the man’s a genius. Do I believe he’s wrong? Not necessarily. More than anything, I would love to ask him about the things I pointed out, and just have an amazing discussion with an amazing man.

Instead, what I’m offering is that you should always be skeptical, and question everything. Whether it’s someone you respect and consider more brilliant than you, or someone you suspect is more likely to be wrong than you. It’s how you learn, and occasionally, it’s how they learn as well. Even the smartest of people can over-analyze something, and miss a simple key aspect, a lesser mind might have caught.

Drug Testing For Government Checks? How About Work For Government Checks?

For nearly as long as we’ve had government entitlements, we’ve had people wanting government to drug test the people receiving them. The purpose being that if I have to take a drug test to get a job to pay into this system, they should have to take a drug test to get the money out of it.

Aside from that, many would like to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not going towards buying drugs instead of food, water, and shelter—the things these programs are supposed to be for. It’s a fair point that I used to agree with it. However, as I see the issue, this is frankly a red herring.failed-drug-test[1]

If our concern is about misspent monies, then why give them money at all? With food stamps for instance, they would just get actual food, not cash to buy food. While that still doesn’t prevent trading food for drugs, it would at least make it significantly more difficult since most drug dealers are usually not apt to take two steaks for a dime bag.

What about the people who use the money for new Air Jordans, wheels for their car, fur coats, or other frivolous items. These are no more what that money was intended for than drugs, but no drug test will sniff out other frivolous waste like this. Not to mention, alcohol is equally wasteful, equally mind-numbing, and very commonly where money from government entitlements ends up.

Getting away from those who rightfully qualify for these programs, what about the fraudsters? Many people do side work under the table, easily make enough to support themselves, but because there’s no W-2 to rat them out, they get a government check because it appears they qualify for assistance.

These people could be people doing illegal work like selling drugs or prostitution (which should be legal in my opinion), or these could be people who are doing legal work, but just getting paid under the table for it tax-free.prostitution-car[1]

The system, no matter how you work it, is always highly corruptible, and thus the reason most limited government advocates like myself feel government should not be in the business of salvaging the lives of those who have chosen a path that doesn’t afford them their basic food, drink, and shelter needs.

If we move off of the corrupt things people might do with government entitlement monies, does someone failing a drug test mean that they used taxpayer money to buy drugs? Not necessarily.

For instance, pot smokers in general are usually rather friendly in my experience. While I’ve never used marijuana myself (no joke), I’ve been offered it more times than I can count. Maybe this person who might fail a dug test was just at a friend’s house Friday night and benefitted from some “puff-puff-pass.”

Insuring that government money is used for the purpose intended is nearly impossible, and as such, a fool’s mission. This is why libertarian-minded people like me would simply argue that you can’t corrupt what doesn’t exist in the first place, and end all such programs. As heartless as it may seem, we honestly believe charities would do a better job, and people would be more charitable if given those tax dollars back.

But there is another way. While most libertarians want to quash entitlements altogether, there may be a more capitalistic way we all benefit from them doing it, and the answer is in community service.

Instead of offering money for doing nothing, why not offer government on-the-spot labor? Instead of having to apply for government handouts, you simply go to a government office, and say, “what can I do?”help-wanted-marijuana-legalized-jobs[1]

In any town around the country, there can be litter and trash lying around, infrastructure that could use improvement, graffiti that needs cleaned off walls, schools that could use adults standing guard, or any other myriad of things we’d like to do, but we don’t often have the money to do it.

Local citizens might contact their government office with needs that these people could fill such as help mowing a lawn or shoveling a driveway even. Or companies could broker deals to get on-the-spot labor through local government assistance office. Local businesses often need an extra person due to employee illnesses, random promotional events that may require extra help, etc. The citizens or companies would pay the people directly, the welfare office would simply connect the two parties.

No one has a right to get paid for doing nothing, and government is a guarantor of rights, not a

The jobs they’d be assigned would be menial, difficult, unrewarding tasks that no one else wants to do, thus  ensuring that people will seek gainful employment elsewhere, doing community service for no longer than is necessary to bridge the gap between jobs.

It has never been, nor ever will be government’s business to know what you put in your body, and suggesting we should drug test people to get government assistance is a violation of their rights after my rights were violated by stealing from me to assist them, despite my objections to it.

Under my proposal, I frankly don’t care what they do with that money. If they provided a valuable service, they earned it, and like me, should be able to spend it however they see fit. They win, the taxpayers win, and nobody got something for nothing.



Dream Theater Better The Beatles? A Lesson In Art vs. Science.

I have a confession to make. I cannot endure country, Top 40, or hip-hop music for any lengthy period of time. You might as well waterboard me before subjecting me to their overly repetitive and simple riffs.

When I was younger, I would rail against these genres mercilessly, ridiculing the artists and their fans alike for being musically ignorant amoebas who can hardly count to four, nevertheless keep a 4/4 beat.

But as I got older, became a skeptic, and embraced the idea of critical thought, it dawned on me that I was wrong for doing this.

Aside from the fact I was just being a jerk, one must first understand that claims are generally broken in to two groups: quantifiable or subjective, and I believe they are essentially, mutually exclusive.

Quantifiable claims are things that can be proven to be true—a scientific claim of fact. But subjective claims have no right or wrong answer, they are merely opinion.

The reason I was such a music snob, is largely due to the influence of my former high school band director. A charismatic man who taught us the value of striving to be greater tomorrow than you are today, no matter how good you may already be.  Think of Dr. Lee played by Orlando Jones in Drumline, and you’re really close.

Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee from the movie Drumline (left)
Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee from the movie Drumline (left)

It’s not that he taught us to be music snobs, it’s that he taught us the incredibly complex challenges advanced music can offer, the science of music—or what’s known as music theory.

Along the way, I learned about great musicians like Steve Morse, a guitarist and jazz major from Texas A&M, so talented, that from 1988-1993, he was voted Guitar Player Magazine’s Best Overall Guitarist. After winning it five straight years, including 1993, a year  he didn’t even release an album, he was removed from the competition.

Let’s be clear, that was not best rock, jazz, classical, or country guitarist, that was “overall” guitarist. The things he can do with six strings and a block of wood are scary. See just a smidgen of his prowess in this video.

The more I learned about great musicians like this, the more it upset me that people like Eddie Van Halen were hailed as the best guitarist ever. He’s good, but not “Steve Morse” good, and I believe Eddie himself would agree. But where Van Halen sold millions of albums, someone like Steve Morse was hardly known outside the music community. The idea that the most technically proficient musicians are rarely the most famous is a travesty of justice to me, so how could this be?

Larry Bird
For instance, if we look at sports, Larry Bird was one of the greatest NBA shooters of all time. He was also one of the most popular. His raw talent, just like Michael Jordan after him, garnered him the recognition he deserved. So why is this often not true of musicians?

It boils down to understanding the difference between quantitative versus subjective claims.

For instance, here’s a claim I would happily make that would garner a lot of opposition. Dream Theater, a band who met and studied at the Berklee School of Music, who now employ a keyboardist (Jordan Rudess) who was accepted and studied at Julliard at the tender age of 9, and who have won several Guitar Player Magazine, Modern Drummer Magazine, etc., awards are a better band than the Beatles will ever be, and I can essentially prove it.

Dream Theater
Dream Theater

First things first though, if we’re making a quantitative claim, the word “better” has to be defined—the word is quite ambiguous. In my claim, it refers to more technically proficient.

We would quantify that Larry Bird was better than other NBA stars by using his career statistics. But how can we quantify one musician as more technically proficient than another?

It’s simple. I could choose any Beatles song (and I do mean any), and challenge Dream Theater to play it. Knowing both band’s works as I do, I can all but guarantee that Dream Theater could easily perform the chosen piece within an hour or two, playing it note for note at the same tempo or faster than the Beatles recorded it at, without breaking a sweat.

Now if we flip the tables and ask the Beatles to replicate a Dream Theater song, the Fab Four would be hard pressed to replicate more than 1-2% of them, even if they were given months or even years to achieve said goal. This song should illustrate my point.

I’m not being overly mean to the Beatles, nor overly generous to Dream Theater. Any knowledgeable musician, if familiar with both bands, knows I’m being very fair and accurate here. It’s not that Dream Theater are superhuman (although it seems like it at times), or that the Beatles are incompetent, it has everything to do with the amount of hours both bands put in to mastering their instruments.

The Beatles, like many other famous bands, made catchy songs, sold a lot of albums, and did all they needed to do to make a damn good living as musicians. They likely never felt the need to go further.

Aside from Dream Theater’s Julliard and Berklee educations, something the Beatles did not do, having met Dream Theater on a couple of occasions, I can tell you that they are driven to challenge themselves technically and musically; there is clearly less focus on just selling records.

So why was I wrong for calling Dream Theater “better,” and behaving like such a music snob? While I defined “better” as more talented, I could just as easily have defined it as most record sales—then the Beatles obviously win in a landslide. I began to understand that the whole concept of “better” in relation to art, is innately flawed. If you’re going to use that word, you cannot use it for subjective things.

This was the impetus for my understanding of the difference between art and science.

While sports statistics are quantitative, music is an art form, and therefore largely subjective. It can be quantified to some extent as I did above, but unlike sports, technical prowess is no guarantor of success in music because art as a whole is not about achieving a measurable goal, but merely satisfying the artistic thirst of the user. This is something the Beatles must assuredly be declared the winners of, much to my dismay.

The Beatles
The Beatles

This knowledge began the transition of my love for music into my love for science, as the latter began to seem infinitely more attractive and important.

Art is like science without the burden of having to be correct and accurate. So in my mind, unlike science, art can never truly be important.

When lives are at stake and problems need solved, we don’t call painters, musicians, poets, or philosophers, we call doctors, engineers, and physicists. A 911 call will never yield the work of an artist.

So then I asked myself if science is “better” than art. Are art and science at odds with one another?

Actually, many scientific endeavors started with arts like philosophy or movies. A person simply dreamed without limits, and those dreams posed challenges that science brought to reality. Many scientists were inspired by the arts as children, such as scientists inventing things they saw in sci-fi movies as a child.

So how does this all affect me? My love for complex music is still great, but I no longer insult those who love the simpler stuff. My preference for the conservative-biased Fox News doesn’t prompt me to insult MSNBC watchers. My passion for Ferraris and Corvettes no longer prompts me to insult people who drive Porsches and Lamborghinis.

Corvette ZR1
Corvette ZR1

While I still maintain my preferences, I understand the difference between what I can quantify, and what is truly subjective. Not only am I more accurate in my perception, I’m no longer compelled to insult people for their varied tastes, but instead, often ask them why they appreciate something I do not.

Their answer may not sway me, but many times, it opens my mind to new and interesting things, some of which, allow me to grow my own creative mind by pointing me in a direction I would have never discovered on my own. If there’s anything a scientifically oriented person likes most, it’s learning new things.

So if you find yourself being a snob, calling one artistic endeavor better than another—stop! More often than not, claiming something is “better” is an inherently flawed thing to do. It is an ambiguous word, that without being clearly defined, and applying only to a quantitative bit of data, should never be used to compare one thing to another.

Coke isn’t better than Pepsi, but Coke’s sales are. Know the difference.

Consenting Adults Amendment: How Columbus City Council Screwed The Little Guy

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Like many internet writers, I’m an amateur—I do this for the joy of spreading the liberty and rational thought message to any who will listen. If you’ve ever gotten the impression I’m rich, your hypothesis regarding my financial status, is indeed quite flawed.

Many on the left champion more regulation because they say such things protect and/or help the little guy, the underprivileged guy, the poor guy—that’s me!

So let’s see how this is working out for me so far.

In order to help lift myself out of financial distress, I ultimately need to either get promoted, find a new job, or obtain a second job—I’m ruling out the lottery due to statistical improbability. Of the three choices, the latter is the easiest and least risk-involved, so I endeavored to find additional ways to pad my pocketbook.

As I was watching an episode of The Independents on Fox Business, host Kennedy did a segment on Lyft, the peer-2-peer app based car service. It’s a very novel, yet simple, idea.Pinkout81-640x426[1]

  • You have a car and want to earn some extra cash.
  • You download the Lyft app and apply to be a driver
  • They do a quick background check to ensure you’re not one of Charles Manson’s kids.
  • Then a Lyft mentor comes out, shows you the ropes, inspects your vehicle, then gives you a big pink mustache to put on the front of your car signifying you’re a Lyft driver for users to easily identify
  • Once you’re ready, you launch the app, then signify you’re a driver awaiting a rider
  • Any riders needing a lift would launch the app and select a driver who is available and closest to them
  • You meet up, a ride is given, and upon completion, money is exchanged
  • The driver and rider then both rate each other on the experience. If either rates the other below three stars, they’ll never get matched again

Immediately I thought, this was for me. I have a very clean, well-maintained, low-mileage 2002 Honda Accord sedan that would be ideal.

2002 Honda Accord: According to Columbus City Council—death trap
2002 Honda Accord: According to Columbus City Council—death trap

So I installed the Lyft app, went on to the website, and signed up. I’m a personable guy, I love to talk to people, I can work when I want, and I don’t mind driving. Plus, I get to be self-employed again (I’m a previous small business owner), no jerk boss to deal with—it couldn’t be any more perfect, right? I was genuinely excited!

So Lyft contacted me, set me up with my mentor, but then an overreaching government hit me like a ton of bricks.

My 2002 Honda Accord is two years older than the 10-year-old or newer requirement a recently passed law by Columbus Ohio City Council requires, which meant that legally, I could not be a Lyft driver with my car; I’d need to buy a newer one. Generally speaking, if we had the money to buy newer cars, we likely wouldn’t be looking to drive for Lyft, right?

So these bureaucratic do-gooders, either guided by ignorant benevolence, or pressure from much-richer-than-I taxi company lobbyists (or both), who claim to be out for the little guy like me, took away this little guy’s right to go into business for myself in this manner.

Columbus City Council: AKA People Who Violated My Right To Earn A Living
Columbus City Council: AKA People Who Violated My Right To Earn A Living

I’m sure the Columbus City Council patted themselves on the back for their chicanery, touting out how they have protected would-be victims from someone with an unsafe automobile. But this assumes many things which cannot be deemed true with any certainty.

  • It assumes any car 10 years old or newer is safe. (False)
  • It assumes any car 11 years old or older is unsafe (False)
  • It assumes a would-be adult rider cannot make a reasonably intelligent decision about whether to get into a car and accept a ride from someone (Typically false)
  • It assumes that people who want to earn some extra money have the money to buy a newer car (Typically false)
  • It assumes Lyft mentors safety inspections aren’t good enough (Typically false). Remember, unlike Lyft,  government isn’t even inspecting your vehicle. Their regulation’s assumptions are solely based on the age of your car.

As I ponder the idea that I live in a free country where government exists solely to protect my rights, I am appalled that my city council, in a misguided effort to protect others, have harmed me with no legitimate justification—both me, and my car, are quite safe.

While I generally believe our Constitution’s framers did a pretty good job, if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll recall I’m not afraid to propose constitutional amendments that I think would advance their principles of limited government, and deny power-hungry rights-infringers that which pleases them most.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

That said, as a result of this incident, it got me thinking about a new amendment I wish legislators would adopt which would solve this problem and many like it—I’ll call it the “Consenting Adults” amendment.

The right for adults to engage in any agreement among themselves, barring any affected and unwitting third party, shall not be infringed.

It’s simple, and quite consistent with the Constitution’s intent as a limit on the how the government may deny your right to pursue happiness. Whether it be me providing a ride to someone for money; two or more people wanting to get married, regardless of their sex or preference; or any other act wherein consenting adults wish to engage. “We The People” should be able to do whatever we want to do, so long as we’re not hurting anyone else doing it. Libertarianism 101: No victim-no crime.

To be fair, I do understand our government usually acts with the best of intentions when they pass these laws. But sadly, many politicians neither have the intellectually capacity or knowledge to understand the ramifications of their actions to their full extent. Nor do they have the honor to admit when their actions have failed or had detrimental unintended consequences. Such instances should prompt them to repeal these regulations, but they rarely do.

They’re also sorely lacking in the understanding that everything they do, is ultimately done so, at the point of a gun. If such proposals were thought of in this manner, they would often be rejected.

Would you support cops showing up, guns drawn on me, screaming “Don’t you dare give that person a ride in your twelve-year-old death trap, or we’ll shoot!”? I sure hope not. But ultimately, if I defied this regulation long enough, that is precisely what would happen.

SWAT team: AKA People I'd eventually see if I used my 12 year old death trap to give people rides via Lyft
SWAT team: AKA People I’d eventually see if I used my 12-year-old death trap to give people rides via Lyft

Politicians should honestly understand that much of what people ask them to do is simply none of their business. Most of the time, when people say, “there ought to be a law,” they’re wrong. These days, our country is sadly free-ish at best thanks to such people. But if you vote for libertarian-minded politicians, we can correct that.