Musk Mess

Vox has a piece recounting the Elon Musk kerfuffle around the Thai kids trapped in a cave rescue. It’s not quite as sympathetic as Quora piece they cite, but they’re pretty sympathetic. Well, no one thinks his “pedo guy” tweet was excusable but they try to provide a lot of context.

Meh. Look, people can say horrible things when they are upset, but Musk can easily afford to have a Twitter vetting team. Which, obviously, he should have. Long before this.

Even if you think Erik’s take is a bit off base (ie that Musk’s Republican donations are normal “business costs” donations and his overall donation pattern is positive) the spirit is right. Musk is just a rich guy who gets way more attention because of that. We should be paying less attention to him.


Renata Wassermann on Belief Revision in DLs

I used some of Renata’s work in my thesis and we’ve corresponded on and off. One of her students is visiting us and she came and gave a talk! It was very nice.

One interesting bit was that did some experiments on partial meet vs kernel based revision and found “contrary to computer science intuition” partial meet generally is more efficient. Ok that’s a lot of jargon here’s an attempt to sort it succinctly.

Given a set of beliefs, B, (think propositional sentence ie things which can be true or false), and some sentence S which follows from B, how can we shrink B so S no longer follows? This isn’t easy! S may not be a member of B. S might be entailed by lots of different parts of B.

One approach is to find all the minimal subsets of B which entail S. Since they are minimal, we can break the entailment by deleting just one element. If we fix each subset then we have a fix for B. These subsets are called kernels (or justifications). They correspond nicely to typical debugging approaches.

Alternatively, we could try to build a maximal subset of B which doesn’t entail S. There will be many such subsets but obviously each does the job. Call such a set a remainder. We can just pick one remainder, or take the intersection of several (or all). If we take fewer than all we have partial meet contraction.

Now Renata said something that didn’t make sense to me ie that the reason kernal contraction has been preferred is that computer scientists think it’s more efficient because “kernels are smaller”. But…I’ve never heard that. The concepts are dual but kernels are easier for humans to deal will. They capture the logic of how the undesired entailment works. It never occurred to me to even ask which approach is more efficient. It depends on the nature of the sets!

One interesting bit is that a difference between debugging and revision folks is that debugging folks usually consider minimal repairs, ie, selections from the set of justifications that contain no repairs. This corresponds to full meet contraction which has a number of issues. If you go for partial meet then you have to do a bit of work to get an algorithm that finds desirable contractions compared to the remainder based approach.

Of course, even from a debugging perspective a partial meet approach might make sense. When you figure out a bug, you might make more changes than just the minimum one to fix the focus broken test. After all, you might get an insight about a particular function call and change how you call it everywhere. You might realise that a module is just irredeemably broken and replace it entirely.

Trust Not In Pundits with Too Much Bonkers Confidence

I put all my blogging energy into an LGM comment about the problems with Seth Abramson, Twitter legal conspiracist, albeit against Trump these days:

Seth has done an outstanding job on this.


First, some context:

He wrote a lot of bonkers stuff during the election. Not in the league of HA Goodman or even Greenwald, but a lot of silly stuff all with the same breathless, relentless, overconfident air.

This should give us a bit of pause. It doesn’t mean he didn’t change for the better, but it means we should take care.

Second, that thread:

Trump didn’t “as good as” out himself as a Russian agent—he *literally* did, and his statement about DNI Coats literally proves it.

“Literally” eh?

Trump’s hand-picked Republican Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, has the *same* intel on Russia’s attack on America Trump has—by definition. It’s undisputed.

Say what? I mean, the only sense in which this is true is that Trump has *formal* access to everything Coats has. We also know that Trump reads almost nothing, cannot sit through most briefings, retains little, ignores everything, and makes up a ton more.

So, it’s not undisputed that Trump is working rationally and knowingly off the same information. In fact, that’s certainly not true!

This is the key for some wacko inferences:

Or *would* be, if we didn’t know that there is *one* difference between the two men’s intelligence sources.

Trump doesn’t read, listen, or care about them?

The *one* difference between the intel Coats has and the intel Trump has is that *Trump has met privately with Russians on multiple occasions*. He did so—without the necessary meeting attendees, including advisers and witnesses—in the Oval Office, at a prior summit, and today.

See, this is very silly. This is obviously a difference, but it’s one of a multitude. It’s significant, but not necessarily dominant.

So the only explanation for Trump saying that he “disagrees” with intel his own DNI is 100% on is if he’s relying on the sources *he* has that DNI Coats doesn’t

I mean, what? The right explanation for Trump saying that he disagrees is that the US intelligence communities information is really bad for Trump. In all sorts of ways. That’s totally sufficient for Trump to say it’s wrong. He said that the content of an interview with him from a conservative UK paper was false mere hours afterwards. He didn’t have “intel” the paper didn’t. He just didn’t like the fallout.

So what did Trump do with the additional intelligence he received from the Russians in his three (at a minimum) protocol-busting meetings with hostile foreign actors? He used that intelligence—and the disagreement with Coats it bred in him—to *attack the United States* on TV.

We think that he got “intelligence” from the Russians? I mean, this stretches the meaning of the term out of shape. The Russians aren’t sharing intelligence with Trump! They may be lying to him, blackmailing him, or colluding with him, but not by sharing intelligence that he acts upon. I mean come the fuck on.

And now:

In doing so, Trump *literally* was acting as an agent of Russia, relying on Russian intelligence as his marching orders in spreading dangerous propaganda on international television. *That’s* why Brennan called his actions treasonous—because they *literally* (by law) are.

“Intelligence as marching orders” is incoherent and redundant. Whatever this is, it isn’t a proof that Trump “literally” confessed or that Coats’s statement “literally” proves it. It just isn’t. It’s a bizarre inference which isn’t necessary to reach a reasonably analogous conclusion.

And it’s really doubtful that his actions now are “literally” by law treasonous. The president has enormous power and wide latitude esp in foreign affairs. It’s not determined that he’s given “aid and comfort” to an “enemy” because he has a great deal of influence of who counts as an enemy! So, like with impeachment, whether what he’s doing is treason will be primarily a political determination.

If Seth’s hackery bore useful political fruit, I’d wince and be ok. It’s not at all clear that it does. I’ll leave you with these sage words:

I’ve been a metamodernist creative writer for many years now, but had not seen an opportunity to bring this earnest, optimistic, and loving art practice into my professional writing activities until Bernie Sanders came along. Not only do I fully support and endorse Senator Sanders’ agenda, I see in his political methodology evidence of the metamodern, just as I know for certain when I hear Clinton’s cynical incrementalism that I am in the presence of a postmodern political ethos. The reason we think of Bernie Sanders as impractical or even naive is that he is; what most fail to see, however, is that his is the “informed naivete” of metamodernism. He sees that our economic and cultural markets are in a terminal state of deconstruction, and yes, this makes him angry and “negative” in a certain respect, but he sees too that the opportunity this deconstruction affords us all is a moment in which we can reconstruct everything we’ve known in a way that better reflects our values.

So when I wrote that “Bernie Sanders Is Currently Winning the Democratic Primary Race, and I’ll Prove It to You,” I was offering a “minority report” of the Real:

Nonsense presented as analysis is a problem cf Glenn Greenwald. It often is concealed under a torrent of “evidence”. This irks me as I’m a torrent of evidende sort of guys and I resent people using the form poorly for bad ends.

Music Monday: I Wish the Wars Were All Over

The third “short film” for the songs of Whistle Down the Wind is out:

It is a series of “macro” (keyhole? There’s a round frame) shots of ordinary objects (still lives almost) with motion projection.

I love motion projection but this video is…pretty abstract. I’ve watched it a couple of times and I’m not getting a melding of song and visuals. It feels more like a “here’s some cool motion projection bits!”

The transitions actually feel rather strong to me! But not quite right. The tune is stark but the visuals don’t feel stark or, at least, not stark in the same way.

Thus far, the one for “The President Sang Amazjng Grace” just seems so much better the others (I know, I know). The animation might not be innovative but its superbly executed and follows the song (but not slavishly). The second two seem more “I want to do some cool, arty film stuff” rather than “I want to interpret this song” or “I want to meld sound and visuals into an inevitable whole”.

No Baking

I was thinking of doing scones (peach and blueberry) today but I’m beat. I went to Blackpool and walked around in the ridiculous heat. I did have fresh donuts:

Zoe, being the competitive type, also had a donut in Asheville at Hole Doughnuts. It was also made before her but from a yeast dough instead of a batter. And hers had a glaze then rolled in almonds, sesame, and a bit of cinnamon. It looked like this:

I finally got my spring form pan cleaned from the angel food cake. One handed cleaning isn’t easy!

Trump Protests in the U.K.

There were quite huge protests for Trump’s visit to the U.K. Trump himself was standardly bizarre down to his going to his golf courses in Scotland. Because he’s the worst, he didn’t divest from them.

He also tried to knife May in an interview with the Sun but he perhaps has only torched Johnson. It was all nonsense and obviously so. One key hint about the madness of Brexit is that he clearly wants to push the U.K. around in a trade deal. Remember folks, Trump only likes deals where he’s screwing you.

I toyed with going to London for the “larger then his inauguration crowd” protest but it was just too much. I did go to the standard Manchester one which maybe had 1000 over the course. Not bad considering he wasn’t here.

None of this makes an immediate difference. It can’t. Trump has a shit ton of formal power and a congress that is backing him to the hilt. Protesting didn’t stop the Iraq war. But it seems to help at the margins. You have to keep trying. Trump might help us get out of the Brexit mess by forcing people to recognise the insanity. But maybe not!

Here’re some photosS

The Mehibles

I saw the Incredibles 2 today and was rather underwhelmed.

I wanted to really like it, but maybe I’m so far past my superhero movie quota that there wasn’t any hope. It definitely didn’t feel fresh. The fact that the plot was entirely recycled probably didn’t help. The fact that the character development was mostly recycled as well probably didn’t help. Many of the gags were too, though there’s a pretty fun scene with a raccoon.

They made Mr Incredible really hard to like.

It was common to accuse the first movie of a Randian message. I don’t really agree with that though its message was definitely confused. What does seem to be a running theme is genius tech people with childhood trauma are bad people. So, maybe the films a sneaky smack at Silicon Valley tech jerks?

The villain is really wasted before even being fleshed out.

It was watchable, though the kids in the audience didn’t seem that entertained.

It was probably marginally better than Ocean’s Eight which won the most bonkers tech bullshit award (for a cubic zirconia 3D printer which was wrong in almost every way). Both films were watchable but immediately forgettable.