Thursday, 24 November 2016

Patch 0.1

This post starts with pretty horrifying story that describes terrifying antisemitism.

Richard Spencer, a leader of the "alt-right" movement recently gave a speech to a friendly room that has been in the news because of a few "controversial" elements to it. For example, he said, "Hail Trump!" and some people in the audience made a gesture resembling the classic Nazi salute.

As part of this speech, Spencer said "one wonders if these people are people at all? Or instead soulless golems animated by some dark power to repeat whatever talking point John Oliver stated the night before." The "these people" in question were media talking heads who don't like Donald Trump.

CNN looked at this part of the quotation: "one wonders if these people are people at all? Or instead soulless golems" and interpreted "these people" as "Jews" then had a panel where they talked about whether Jews were people. Of course everyone thought Jews were people, but the way the question was treated was scary, as if someone with a different "opinion" on the "issue" could have had a seat at the table.

BoingBoing has a post describing CNN's treatment of the issue without any direct reference to Spencer. Somehow the discussion of that post morphed into a discussion of the fact that Spencer was misquoted. The point wasn't to defend Spencer - the BoingBoing discussion threads are hardly an "alt-right" friendly place. Rather it was to talk about how misquoting someone or quoting someone out of context is wrong and we want to be better than them.

If you care to look, you aren't going to have trouble finding people who think the media is run by Jews. The "golem" is a mythical creature made of clay or mud and brought to life by a rabbi by Hebrew incantations to defend Jews. The implication of the words in the context of the "alt-right" movement is that the media have sold their souls to Jews. Since we don't usually think of humans as being in the soul-buying business, I think the "Jews aren't human" narrative speaks lout and clear from the quote.

He didn't literally say it, though, and so we have a tedious discussion about our obligation to the truth.

I wrote recently about "elites" as a class of people where social status comes from putting reason before emotion. This kind of narrow analysis if typical of the educated/expert class. You look at a big broad situation, then drill down and offer the best critique you can of whatever narrative is forming. It's a bulwark against jumping on bandwagons and making emotional decisions.

But there is no perfect system, every system has defects. Once the code is written and the system is known, the hackers can find an exploit. This quotation is an example of an exploit.

Many or most people who are Jewish is going to hear Spencer's quote and go, "Whoa, that's crazy antisemitic!" Meanwhile the educated/expert analysis is going to say, "We can't jump to that conclusion." The analysis has been pitted against the anti-antisemitism when they ought to be on the same side - we are doing this analysis, presumably, because we believe it makes the world better and not, presumably, because we want to put the breaks on condemning bigotry.

This is the same exploit that has us discussing the particulars of every instance of police violence to see if we can prove from that instance alone that wrong was done. This is the same exploit that has us discussing the particulars of every instance of sexual assault to see if there is a gap through which we could fit a doubt.

We need to patch our reasoning, and the patch looks like this:

1. Listen to the people who are affected by what was said and done. Bigotry is about the effect on the people who are oppressed, not about the intention of the people saying or doing things. If the words someone said had the effect of scaring people who are Jewish because they are Jewish, then it was antisemitic in its effect.

2. People are people, not magical logic boxes. You can't escape humanity and human motivation. I'm the biggest proponent of the idea that people are unreliable sources of information on their own emotions and beliefs, but they are still sources, and are considerably better than your wild guesses. If someone says something threatened them because of their race, gender or religion, the most likely explanation is that the thing was threatening to people of their race, gender or religion.

3. Remember that not drawing a conclusion from a single point of data is fine, but you can't iterate that process because then it's not a single point of data anymore. If someone says, "But maybe this police shooting wasn't racist" for the twentieth time, the point becomes that it is impossible to believe that racism isn't a huge part of what is going on.

4. Double check if your worry about being wrong is racist. Do you worry more about being wrong about what a white man said than you do about being wrong about a minority group being hurt by it? That needs to be fixed.

5. Adjust your thinking about how bad it is to accuse someone of being bigoted. Saying someone's word or actions were bigoted is not as bad as actually being bigoted.

6. If you ever find yourself thinking, "Technically he didn't say that", remember, plain language is not technical, it has no one true meaning, and you are being a complete idiot.

I see a lot of well-meaning people running a lot of racist malware in their brains. It's time to fix this nonsense.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Reverse Projection

Most of what most people think about other people is projection. You get upset when a person does something, so you assume they would also get upset in your shoes, so they are quite morally culpable for doing what they are doing. You get excited when something happens, so you assume that other people get excited about the same thing.

Generally you can use this fact to find things out about people by reversing the projection. If someone constantly thinks that other people might be lying, they probably lie a lot. If someone is unusually vigilant about theft, it is more likely they are prone to theft themselves.

When I was in grade 11 I took the Fermat, a math competition by the University of Waterloo. I had gotten the highest score in my zone in on the grade 8 equivalent, placed competitively in Canada on the grade 9 one, and done quite well in grade 10 as well. Anyway, I didn't do well on the Fermat, by which I mean I only placed 4th in my school. This might not be 100% accurate, but I am pretty sure the people who came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd were the people who had come in 2nd, 3rd and 4th, in that order in grades 9 and 10. The person who came in 3rd - who was accustomed to coming in 4th by this point - came up to me to gloat about having beaten me.

All I could think when he was gloating was, "Is this how you felt I was acting the last two years? That somehow I was rubbing it in your face?" I hadn't done anything to rub it in his face, but it was obvious he was hurt by my superior placement, or he wouldn't have had any reason to try to hurt me with his. Anyway, I didn't write the Grade 12 contest and in my final year I found out that scholarships to Waterloo were heavily based on the competition, so I wrote it, staying for only 45 minutes of the 3 hours to make sure I got a good enough mark on it to get a scholarship. It turned out it was a damn good thing I did since that also let me participate in the advance math program there and I would not have enjoyed the regular math program.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the kinds of arguments that I see from people who have different politics than me. Often I see people adopting the same form of argument that is used by progressive thinkers but with content that doesn't make sense. This morning I thought that however little sense what they are saying makes, what they are being told makes equally little sense to them.

That might sound like I'm calling them stupid. If I can understand what is wrong with the argument they make and they can't understand what is right about mine then I guess that is evidence I am smarter. But it's dangerous to generalize from one skill to general intelligence, and somewhere between absurd and evil to generalize from intelligence to worth. The whole thing makes me think of words that end in gry. We can't just communicate badly and then be smug when we are misunderstood.

Monday, 14 November 2016

This Again?

Recent events have brought how-wrong-everything-is to the front of my mind, and I spend a lot of the day thinking about that. Being a moderately wealthy, white person I generally have the luxury to enter a variety of numbers into a red queen race with a pixelated demons.

It's been a while since I played Diablo 3. I last played season six, and only for a week, I think. I just joined season eight, so I missed seven altogether. I certainly didn't mind the break.

I was going to play a wizard, because I always play a wizard, but the free set for playing a wizard was Vyr's, which is the Archon build, and I didn't feel like doing that again, so I thought I'd check out the other classes. I wasn't very interested in the look of the witch doctor or monk set, but the barbarian set was had permanent pets, so I thought I'd give that a go.

Wizards' absurdly high damage channeled skills make leveling up easy, but I had suspected that the early end game is actually much harder on wizards than other classes. This is largely because of lousy two piece set bonuses that don't really increase the amount of damage you can do. My two piece set bonus with the barbarian was three friends who hit for 540% damage each and used various area effect ability, knock ups and stuns. I practically didn't have to attack in order to get my four piece bonus which let me keep a very powerful self-buff up all the time. The six piece bonus was only 400% extra damage, not 2000% extra damage, but I already did a fair bit of damage. Add on a weapon with a side effect of letting me cast two one minute cooldown attacks on a 10 and a 20 second cooldown, and I was racing through Torment VII rifts about 24 hours after starting a character.

One obstacle I recall being a problem as a wizard in making my way through the season's journey was mastering a class dungeon. When I was in the mid 50's greater rift tiers, I was still struggling to complete a class dungeon because the challenges involved weren't easily out-geared. Having to slow time on 30 enemies at once is trouble when you don't meet groups of 30 enemies. You can kite a group to another group, but because of the timer you have to move quickly, and if one gives up chase then you aren't going to kill all the enemies fast enough. You also have to stand around not killing enemies for a while in order to meet the reflect missiles requirement. My experience in other dungeons was similar.

I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to be fantastically easier as a barbarian. I can't put my finger on it, I just felt that wizards were getting a hard go of things where bad enemy placement could cost you your run. I was literally 2 seconds away from mastering the Immortal King's set dungeon on my first try in gear that was suitable for Torment VII. The goals were basically, "Kill enemies as efficiently as possible." When I came back the next day, having done a tier 50 rift, I missed a couple of enemies and had to scour the entire dungeon a second time for them and still completed it with 30 seconds to spare.

I'm facing a situation where the "hardest" part of the current tier of season's journey I am on is going to end up being leveling 3 gems to 35 just because I will have easily accomplished all the other things before running 35 greater rifts.

And I don't exactly care about any of this. I'm having fun with Mrs. Finn and I've long ago decided that balance in games like this doesn't make the game more fun. I care a little bit about set dungeons being so anxiety inducing for wizards since I found those dungeons was genuinely annoying.

What I really care about is that Blizzard has announced a new class, looks like they won't be releasing that class until late next year, and has new changes on the PTR that amount to next to nothing. I feel like they need to either abandon the game for dead and make a new one or release something exciting within a few months. If they continue at the rate of adding a class every two years, how long can that go on? Then again, maybe that's pretty dumb advice coming from someone who is, apparently, still playing.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

What Can I Do?

Donald Trump's win has been upsetting to a lot of Canadians as well as Americans. It's okay to feel bad, I always try to tell my four-year-old, and if you just need some time to feel bad, that's okay too.

It isn't like I can do anything anyway. I worry for the future of the United States and I worry for how that will affect Canada and the rest of the world, but I don't have a say in how they run things there.

I do have a tiny fractional say in how we run things here, though. If the idea of someone winning an election based on racist rhetoric doesn't appeal to you, and if you are Canadian, there is definitely something to do.

I'm going to be sending the following to Justin Trudeau, my prime minister:

To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

I imagine you felt a range of difficult emotions as a result of Donald Trump's win, and I imagine you don't want the same thing to happen in Canada. I wonder if you think that it could happen here, or worry that it will happen here. I wonder if you are going to do anything about it.

In 2000 Canadians derided the United States for electing a somewhat clownish neo-conservative president. But before he was even out of office we followed suit and elected our own somewhat more respectable neo-conservative to slash and burn our democracy.

About the same amount of time after Donald Trump's election you'll be coming near the to the end of your second term as prime minister, and who will your opponent be? The leadership candidate for the Conservative party I see the most press coverage of is Canada's somewhat more respectable Donald Trump.

During the last election the Liberal party, the NDP and the Green Party all promised election reform and between the three took over 60% of the vote. In May of this year a poll showed 56% of Canadians favour election reform.

I don't want my daughters to spend their teenage years and young adulthood under the reign of racist demogaguery because 35% or 36% of Canadians vote for it.

Will you carry out your promise to Canadians and make sure that if a racist candidate wants 4 years of autocratic rule, they need to at least get half the country on board first?

I look forward to your reply,

But, you know, I'll probably sign it with my human-being name.

I'm also going to write to Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions who is responsible for elections Canada and would likely be the one to introduce such legislation. I'm also going to write to my own Member of Parliament pushing them to press for this, then I will visit the office of my Member of Parliament in person and see if I can meet them in person to express my concerns.

That's what I'm doing for now.

Do the same, tell everyone you know how important this is. There is only one way to be sure we don't elect Donald Trump North here, and it's by allowing the 60% Canadians who don't want that to override the 40% who do.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Taking Responsibility

This morning my daughter told me she had a dream. In her dream she was with other children who had to sing a song for Santa. If they didn't sing well enough Santa was going to make them live in a box and they would never be able to come out. It turned out it was the big bad wolf dressed as Santa. He was wearing a badge that said that if you touched it you would turn into a bag. She can't read so she touched it and she turned into a bag. But she didn't really turn into a bag, she turned into a tiny person who was trapped inside a bag forever.

The symbolism of this is screaming so loudly it is almost hard to take.

When I used to raid, it was pretty easy to spot the people who had a lot of potential to get better. They were the ones who, when faced with an unpalatable outcome to a boss, spoke up about their responsibility for it, if any, and wondered what they were going to do better next time.

Well, there is no next time in life. But next time, I'm not going to teach my daughter to idolize a monster who divides people into groups and picks which is worthy and which is unworthy.

How's that for loudly screaming symbolism.