Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Born to do Math 152 - The Limits of Human Computation in Modern Institutions

Born to do Math 152 - The Limits of Human Computation in Modern Institutions
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
January 8, 2020

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Have institutions moved beyond human competence?

Rosner: In the specific instance that we're in right now, Russia - a shitty country - has exploited people's susceptibility to social media messaging to move people politically and make people distrust the news, institutions, and the government.

This is in concert with political parties within various nations and people who like to stir things up, paranoids and lunatics. Right now, in America, it feels like institutions have been highly compromised. It probably feels like that in the U.K., France, and other countries where White Nationalism has been on the rise, abetted by social media, making people crazy.

People wonder whether this is a new normal, whether it can be healed. 

Jacobsen: I would argue the fact things are more compromised now: things are more compromisable now. That is, from my point of view, indicative of things getting more out of human control.

Rosner: Is this something that can fix itself if we're lucky? Or does it mean that we're going to need to build new institutions? I believe that there are a whole set of problems. A whole set of problems facing humans on this planet, which will be solved by combining humans with A.I. over the next couple of centuries.

Jacobsen: To clarify, as I am hearing that, I am interpreting that as actual biological and synthetic integration rather than the time delays seen now.

Rosner: Right, the integrated, augmented humans that are to come, or the conscious beings who are able to live in a variety of vessels, including entirely in some kind of cyberspace. 200 years from now, there will be a bunch of ways for conscious beings to live. A lot of these won't be as hard on the environment.

It will less of a carbon footprint. Although, while a lot of today's problems will be solved by beings to come, the change in society will create a whole bunch of new problems. But the capture of institutions by assholes and idiots, and grifters, we still have to address this in the short term.

Even though, humans won't be replaced entirely. The unaugmented human population will continue to be in the many billions for the next 400 or 500 years while the augmented human population and the population of conscious beings that aren't human will grow into the many billions and tens of billions in the same time period.

We're talking centuries. We still have to wonder what will happen in the next 40 or 50 years or the next 5 to 10 years. In America, we have an election that people who don't like Trump having captured all three branches of government.

For people not in America, the American government is designed to be divided between three branches: the Executive (the President and the people around him), the Legislative (the House, Senate, and Congress), and the Judicial (the Supreme Court and the lesser courts). 

Trump through corruption and anti-democratic practices has captured all three branches. People who don't like this hope that the election that is happening in less than a year will drive him out of office and help, or give, Democrats control of Congress.

So, we'd be able to make moves to clean this stuff up. But when you look at previous examples of presidents misbehaving in office, they and their people once out of office tend not to be prosecuted. It is in the interest of healing.

Lip service is made to the healing of national wounds by not being vindictive. But in the case of Nixon, while president, there are a bunch of things that you cannot be charged with, criminal things. After out of office, you can be charged with things that you did while president, criminally.

While this happened, President Ford pardoned Nixon, a big swath of the nation hated that. That happened 46 years ago. How that played out has largely been forgotten, Clinton was disbarred, had to give up his law license for lying to the F.B.I. about getting blowjobs.

But that wasn't a big deal for the Clintons who made tens of millions of bucks writing books and giving speeches. Also, that somebody should be held criminally liable for blowjobs is questionable anyway. Reagan and his people were not held to much account for Iran Contra, which was this complicated scheme to sell weapons to Iran and use the money to finance the Contras.

These were a scary right-wing paramilitary group in El Salvador. Few were prosecuted for that. It may be that there will be enough of a national outcry. A bunch of people have gone to jail who worked around Trump.

Nowhere near as many as went to jail after Watergate, which was 4 dozen or so. I think 6 or 8 of Trump's people have gone to jail so far. Anyway, is this a blip of human incompetence? Or is this a thing that we have to deal with from here on out until human society reaches the point where shitty government doesn't matter, as societal structures form in a Cory Doctorow way?

What do you think?

Jacobsen: I think a lot of stuff that you're talking about is pointing to a trendline of the old institutions staying and being corruptible in newer ways. That's due to newer tech. That's probably what you find, where you have these long-term political institutions as the baseline, which are more or less fixed.

The ways that technology evolves really, really fast around it, changes the kind of corruption that you see. One potential example might be very extreme forms of manipulating voting booths in the future with the types of processes that go into counting digital votes. 

Falsifying that, hiding record, deleting any records of it being done, but, finally, the count not being the true winner - who got the most votes - but another 'winner.' 

Rosner: Yes.

Jacobsen: So, here you have the same democratic institutions, same American constitution and political setup, you have people voting as per regular democratic processes. Although, there might be different types of barriers, don't need to go too deeply into those. But all that tech leaves it vulnerable in newer ways, sort of stuff. I think you could see this all over the world.

Rosner: How's Canada doing?

Jacobsen: Cold.

Rosner: You guys haven't been attacked. Is it because you have fewer than 40,000,000 citizens and aren't a big enough target?

Jacobsen: Well, our economy is bigger than Russias. 

Rosner: Everything in Russia sucks, except for their ability to fuck up other countries.

Jacobsen: That's part of the reason that they're poor. That's why China will last and Russia won't last. Putin can't keep this game up forever. I think the way that a poor country, like Russia, can mess up other countries says a lot about the power of technology and the increasing power of technology.

Rosner: Are technology and social media permanently in a position make a huge percentage of the population crazy?

Jacobsen: I think yes and no. I think authoritarian structures have their same structures. I think democratic structures have their same structure. I think the world is still trending towards democracy. We have more democracies than any other time in the history of the world. That's a really important point.

Then you'll see cases. There's El-Sisi in Egypt getting rid of term limits until 2030. Benjamin Netanyahu is in office probably longer than any democratic leader, which is akin to the length of power of many dictators. Not to call him that, to make a time length comparison. Putin is functionally finding ways around that. Xi Jinping got rid of term limits, and on and on.

Those are trending towards authoritarianism with the ability amplified to control the population. I think there is enough of a contingent in the democratic parts of the world, where you are seeing the trendline of more freedom of expression to call bullshit, bullshit, to call a spade, a spade. 

That leads to things that were called democratic being more true to the name. Maybe, what we'll find is a polar setup, on the one antipode, you'll have more and more freedom. On the other end, you'll have less and less freedom. 

On one side, you'll see decentralization, not anarchy, with more direct democracy without the need for public representatives, so not anarchosyndicalist. 

Rosner: Do you think society will rearrange itself to circumvent the corrupting of older institutions?

Jacobsen: Yes, then there will be ways those can be taken advantage of too. With direct democracy, the coalitions for funding particular projects, "We want a pipeline here," "We want a solar panel installation or field here," and so on. People want it, vote on it.

The funding then goes proportionately to it. Say everyone has a UBI of $10,000 a year, people say, "Do you want to give $1,000 or $5 of your UBI towards this project in Long Beach, California?" People go, "Okay, yeah." 

The funding goes to the project. It gets built and based on the majority of votes, or the amount of votes. Those that didn't vote for it. They don't pay for it. Their money is funnelled to other projects or their private interests. This gives a baseline.

This is a direct democracy without formal representation seen now. But this could be exploited, as these are very, very temporary coalitions. Temporary coalitions are fleeting.

Rosner: There's going to be more volatility. Things can go from good to bad faster. There's a higher probability of institutions being corrupted than there used to be.

Jacobsen: I would call it the Bitcoin-ing of democracy. Things are volatile, as you said. But there's a capacity of digitization there, infused right into democracy. We are seeing the start of that. I don't think we're even close to seeing what that can do.

With the digitization, it is more vulnerable because it is more networked, but faster too. It will be another stage up in terms of speeding up regular human processes. We have spoken word. We have hearing. those are fast, but not moving at the speed of light. 

With Alexander Graham Bell, you cut the distance to speak to someone while able to speak farther to someone instead of horseback, chariot, or yelling. These verbal or auditory outputs-inputs are limited.

Rosner: The big time thing was, as you said, the telephone or the telegraph. Anything that reduced everything to the speed of electricity. Now, you get the ability to immediately transmit high-bandwidth information, video basically.

Jacobsen: I would add another thing to this. If you tap all these different ways of speeding things up, including Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, the printing of books, the internet and digitization of print, audiovisual media for everyone. I think another aspect of that is a lowering of the transmission of things with the centralization of this.

We're seeing this in our phones.

Rosner: You mean being able to do things out of our phone.

Jacobsen: Yes, one of our efficacies as a species in spite of crummy single aspects, e.g., no sharp claws. We have centralized functions in one unit. We are a 3.5-billion-year-old iPhone, so to speak. Things are centralized from the single-celled to multiple celled organisms performing plural functions through automated development of an immune system, and, more importantly, the developing of centralized processing units to guide all of the organisms to-ings and fro-ings.

I think you could argue the same of the phone in the way it has taken human inventions and then putting them in one place. It is not only spoken word to auditory intake. It is all of the other channels. Let's say 10 times in some, 20 times in others. You combine those. It becomes efficient input-output and in terms of noise.

Rosner: There's also getting the exact information that you want.

Jacobsen: Fidelity, yes! There are probably the three things: speed, centralization of channels, and the fidelity of things.

Rosner: What about clarity? People can't get an understanding of what is going on that is accurate and trustworthy. 

Jacobsen: Maybe, that would be the combination of centralization and fidelity. Ease of comprehension, if you don't know, someone can explain it to you. If you can't do the math, Mathematica can do it for you.

Rosner: I heard the noise on our phones described as censorship by confusion. You don't stop the information from going out. You just swamp the information with a bunch of bullshit, so you can't tell the information from bullshit.

Jacobsen: That would be one of the unforeseens. This centralization permits more intakes in one place, the central place. It is like how a neuron has all these different dendrites to intake - 1,000 to 10,000 intakes.

Rosner: But the brain cleans itself out by letting the bad dendrites shrivel.

Jacobsen: That's your Norton Antivirus.

Rosner: We don't have it, yet.

Jacobsen: Maybe, that is the unforeseen thing that developers have to robustly get done. Or if it can't get done technologically or assisted that way, it has to be done through another channel: a culture that imbibes a certain sensibility in people of critical thinking.

Rosner: There are too many people trying to exploit. There's too much money and power to be had to by bullshitting people right now. Various factions are going to fight being held to being truthful.

Jacobsen: That's true.

Rosner: So, are you optimistic about the next 10 years and humans' ability to organize themselves in such a way that they can fight the corruption of existing institutions?

Jacobsen: I would say one thing. If you aren't optimistic, then you aren't getting things done. I am not a prognosticator, divine, or some expert in all these fields. But it seems there is a lot of ways for things to become better, as we're talking about centralization and reductions in time, the clarity of the message, and the prevention of adding noise to all those extra points of contact as we are finding in misinformation campaigns. So, yes and no [Laughing].

Rosner: Let's end this with a numbers game, 0 to 10 game, the corruption of the institutions in the U.S. with zero corruption being 10 and complete descent into Nazi Germany being a 0. The U.S. used to be at an 8 and dropped to a 6 with the potential to be a 5 or a 4 depending on how the next year plays out. That's my estimation.

Where would you put Canada?

Jacobsen: The only highly corrupt area is in Ontario with the Ford family. There's a little in Quebec and a little in the prime ministership. I think Canada has a much lower chance of becoming anti-democratic and not being oriented around anti-science, misinformation, gullibility, superstition, than America. However, caveat being: America was already twice as much there if not more.

It is off the charts compared to other nations.

Rosner: Is it that there is such a large population that is exploitable in that way that makes it fertile ground?

Jacobsen: I don't think necessarily. But it is a factor. In the United States, it could be more vulnerable with its size. It is the second biggest democracy in the world outside of India. Although, people have question marks about India. It is the freest in terms of ideas, in terms of speech.

No country is completely free. Canada has hate speech laws, in some ways for good reasons. America is so free in terms of ideas. You see people expressing those behaviours so freely, and often in coalitions. You can see the mentally ill acting out.

There's a common meme coming out of real mental illness in Florida with "Florida Man..." Here are serious cases of seriously ill, often, men entering the news cycle.

Rosner: Do you have better structures in place in Canada to deal with the mentally ill?

Jacobsen: We have a robust medical system, but we do not have a pharmacare system due to an accident of history. 

Rosner: Do you have more laws to institutionalize people?

Jacobsen: That's a good question. I know there is an orientation to more punitive laws and systems. However, there is a movement working against the punitive forms of treatments, including, say, drug issues. I think this relates to issues of regular mental illness, including depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and so on.

Rosner: In Canada, does anybody with a drug problem get adequate rehab or get into a rehab program?

Jacobsen: Not anybody, but there are dissenting people, brave, morally upright, and poor, in fact, people who will make up makeshift tents and tell the city or municipal government, "We're not moving." Some of this reflects formal policy in the Four Pillars initiative of Vancouver.

There are a few names. If you look at these news articles, their names come up over, and over, and over again. Mostly women, a few are extremely involved. There is Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, CSSDP. It has a group of smart, leftwing students. 

They work on campus initiatives. In Canada, we have the language change from saying "drug abuser" and "drug abuse" to "drug misuse" and "drug use." Someone who has a problem. You'd say, "It is drug misuse." You don't label them as criminals automatically. You say, "They are sick." It says, "A drug or substance misuser who is sick." It is more accurate and compassionate and humanistic.

The other perspective would be a drug abuse who is a criminal. We need to imprison them to make an example to themselves and others. That's the United States example. That's where you get even famous examples of people getting very hefty sentences for simple possession of marijuana. 

You don't get that as much in Canada. You do get drug problems. You do get drug trafficking. You do get them mixed up with sex trafficking, which is, mainly, the dehumanization of girls and women mostly with sexual abuse, rape, even forced pregnancy by, most often, men. You see these initiatives and issues tied up. 

It ties to women's rights. If we look at the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), if you look at a map of who has signed it, who has ratified it, and who hasn't done either, you get these colourings for them. 

There's one major outlier in North America, in North America and Europe combined, probably. It is the United States, only signed rather than ratified.

Rosner: The Equal Rights Amendment is back in play after 40, 50 years.

Jacobsen: Yes, the United States is a big country and a free country, and a democratic country. The biggest or the second biggest democracy, I think, statistically, that is where you will find more data points for a bigger curve and a flatter curve, so more extremes on either side of things.

Places like New York and Los Angeles. Also, on the other end, places like Texas and South Carolina. That's different in a small country like Canada, which is already progressive in its orientation. 

In the United States, you will find places that look like the third world. Several ten million Americans who are functionally illiterate. Then you will find others like Yale, Harvard, MIT, UCLA, UCBerkeley, and UCIrvine that are the most intelligent or motivated and intelligent with the funding and stability of mind to be amongst the best minds in the world.

My optimism is confirmed by history and also by pragmatism. In that, if you are pessimistic, you don't shit done; if you are optimistic, you, at least, have a fighting chance for things to get done.

[End of recorded material]


American Television Writer

(Updated July 25, 2019)

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.*

According to some semi-reputable sources gathered in a listing hereRick G. Rosner may have among America's, North America's, and the world’s highest measured IQs at or above 190 (S.D. 15)/196 (S.D. 16) based on several high range test performances created by Christopher HardingJason BettsPaul Cooijmans, and Ronald Hoeflin. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Awards and Emmy nominations, and was titled 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Directory with the main "Genius" listing here.

He has written for Remote ControlCrank YankersThe Man ShowThe EmmysThe Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercialDomino’s Pizza named him the "World’s Smartest Man." The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named "Best Bouncer" in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.

Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. Errol Morris featured Rosner in the interview series entitled First Person, where some of this history was covered by Morris. He came in second, or lost, on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time-invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.

Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los AngelesCalifornia with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceVersusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing

(Updated January 1, 2020)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:


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