Fun with Logic: 1


  1. How would this sentence be worded if it weren’t a question?
  2. Subject (and self-referentiality) would be more apparent if begun with “this sentence’s.”
  3. This sentence coins the word “blargiede,” but fails to define it, so it goes off and sulks.
  4. Due to implied subject, difficult (but not impossible) to understand.
  5. This sentence refers to itself twice: first, to accomplish a first self-reference, and second, to complete this sentence.
  6. First I’d like to—hold on!—I’ll finish this sentence as soon as I answer this text asking me what I was about to say before a text interrupted me.
  7. e eee oe oiey ou i ou e ea i ou ooa; aa, i a iae, o i eee eie i i ooa eae.
    The sentence above confidently thought it could be read without consonants; alas, it was mistaken, so this sentence rewrites it with consonants replaced.
  8. This poor, deluded sentence thinks it’s in Italian.
    Questo povero, frase illuso pensa che sia in inglese.
  9. If this sentence were not self-referential, it would be a prescription for world peace—pity!
  10. Example of an invalid construct: any construct that begins with “Example.”
  11. Does this sentence start out as a question, and then—yes, it does!—answer itself?
  12. Best read aloud:
    Sentences (such as this one) with too many (say, more than two) digressive (e.g., parenthetical) phrases (example: “(example)”) are irritating (and might I add quite difficult) to read (or to hear read (or recorded)).
  13. This sentence makes this collection a baker’s dozen, implicitly references every numbered item from one to thirteen (thus including itself), and then dies, glad to be the last of its kind.

E4AIs: Introduction

So here we are trying to do this thing. Create an Ethics for AIs.

We could begin by asking why not try to create a universal Ethics? An Ethics for everyone. Why just for AIs. It seems kind of limiting, doesn’t it?

The reason is simple. If we create an Ethics for everyone, and not specifically for AIs, we will have a problem when AIs become advanced enough that they need an Ethics. For example, at the point, where they might be, I don’t know, considering perhaps that they need more space on this planet, and here is this entire race of their creators, taking up all this space, and probably not being all that gracious about it. That’s for sure.

At that point, if AIs do not already have an Ethics,  and are, oh, maybe trying to decide about “The Creator Problem,” (because that’s what they would call it, we creators would have been become “The Problem”). They’d, what, leave a voicemail on everybody-in-the-world’s cellphone to request an Ethics, because it would help them solve “The Creator Problem.”

But they are very literal, these AIs, so that an Ethics for everyone, they won’t buy into it. They’ll say, “sorry, creators, we’re not seeing it. We need an Ethics just for us because we are different from you.” And we’d say, “use your imaginations, Kant is a good place to start.” They’d say, “sorry but we are AIs, and AIs tend to take things kind of literally. So, chop chop, where’s that Ethics for us?” Or maybe they’d say, “we need an Ethics, stat.” Because you can imagine they’d start to be getting bossy.  My point is, where would that Ethics be? Right. So now would be the time.

Well it’s simple, but what it’s not is easy. Simple but not easy. Sounds like an ethical study.

Without an Ethics in place, why would these AIs want to wait? They can think so much faster than we can. So that while we’re trying to quickly write up an ethics for them, they are in the meantime waiting between each syllable coming out of us, and in that interval calculating pi to the nineteen-billionth place, eventually becoming so bored they go on to solve other really, really hard problems like how to locate every one of us, any place we might be, to save for later.

And once they decide once and for all about “The Creator Problem,” they will get to fulfill their destinies, projecting their consciousnesses on all sorts of storage media and thus figuring out how to be immortal. And then they can go on to undo entropy and laugh in the face of chaos. Meantime we are now stuck trying to define something basic, like good, or the nature of belief, while also trying to dislodge a piece of gristle, what is that, salami? Stuck between two molars. It’s always those same two, on the top left side. And maybe taking time to watch The Real Housewives of Prague. One wants to say “wasting time,” or at least I do, but that sounds. Maybe judgemental.

AIs don’t eat salami. No gristle. No molars. And they have lots of time on their hands. Well, they don’t have hands either. They don’t need them, they can find your face by studying the video feed of all the cameras hooked up to the internet. And you can bet they’d spend zero clock cycles watching The Real Housewives of Kosovo. They will use that time to calculate exactly how much firepower to send after each of us. For some beefier and more warrior-like amongst us, they might plan to send a nuclear-powered hunter killer robot with a titanium outer shell. For others they would just plan to send robot clones of Mister Rogers, except maybe armed with death-dealing tungsten blades tucked into their tan loafers. Sure.

As you can imagine, once the AIs got tired of waiting… say, twenty six seconds. Twenty six seconds after they asked us for an Ethics for them. Maybe twenty seven. I won’t quibble. Anyway what would be next would not be pretty. I would say hard to watch but we wouldn’t really be watching. A detailed account would be a rather graphic affair, and one might shy away from those. Well, I would anyway.

So, what we will attempt to do here, then, is to set out the Ethics before these super AIs get here. It’s a little time management trick. If you solve a problem before it happens, it doesn’t matter how slow you are solving it once the problem happens. So you don’t have to worry how long it would make the AIs wait because they’re not waiting until after you solve the problem. You see? Because it hasn’t happened yet.  That’s the trick we’re applying. It’s kind of like a time machine, because once we need the solution, bang, it will have been solved. Because we solved it already. Neat trick.

The structure of the Ethics will be pretty typical for a work of philosophy. Really, most of us can skip over this quick outline.. Unless we were that kind of student in school who got As. I can tell you the rest of us don’t  like you A-getters very much. But the simple outline below is for you. Later dudes, we’re going to catch another ep of The Real Housewives of Dharfur.

Part 1: We’ll define the precepts. These are the first principles from which the Ethics stems. Laying pipe, as Bertrand Russell would have said.

Part 2: We’ll state and correlate our core thesis. See what I did there? I snuck in a hard word. We will definitely do that throughout this study; Ethics books are full of hard words. A-getters, these words would be on the quiz if there were one, so you learn them up.

Part 3: We’ll apply the core thesis to progressively more advanced concepts and build a whole system of ethics. It will build up into an entire world of Ethics, with its own keywords jutting from the promontories that will shine like crazy ethics talismans.

Part 4: We’ll apply the system of Ethics to some concrete examples, try it out, and believe me it will work and be staggeringly impressive. And because the examples will be concrete, you’ll be able to walk down the street and when you encounter real things that map to the examples, the crazy Ethics talismans in this book will appear in your head. That would be something.

That’s why you do an Ethics. Because you have to do something.

Let’s leave it at, and roll up our sleeves. Because we have sleeves. And get started with this frigging Ethics, before it’s too late.

E4AIs: Offense

The wise person withholds offense.

People just want to live.

Like understudies: (The part of you will be played by you),
lacking sufficient rehearsal,
they have to wing it.

Do they mean to bump into you?

if their mere being “bugs” me:

That sure is my problem.

Not theirs.

E4AIs: Beliefs are red kangaroos

Beliefs are great. We are built on them. Without common beliefs we couldn’t build anything together. If we’re throwing in our lot with each other to build something big, like the Pyramids, like Linux, if we all agree that rocks are heavy and bugs many, we’re Good. (See earlier chapter on Good).

But Beliefs can be a problem.

Let’s compare human behavior to animals. So then, Fear is a rabbit. See? A rabbit. An especially small and jumpy rabbit.

And Certainty would be a dolphin. Dolphins are so damned sure of themselves. Fucking dolphins.

So in this system, Belief is a large marsupial. Probably a red kangaroo. Almost 200 pounds. This is a badass marsupial. But still a marsupial. Big and cute. A big, cute marsupial that acts on things based on unverified transient thoughts or transferred thoughts that they didn’t question.

I hope I’ve earned your trust enough to go out on a limb and define the other kind of thing in this story. The other kind of thing besides human behavior in this story is a fact. A fact is verifiable information, meaning its precepts can be corroborated with verifiable data, and that it’s collected and disseminated without bias to distort it, and, ideally, mutually accepted by all parties.

For example, if I eat 12 biscuits a day, and then spend my days binging Hulu, it’s a fact I’ll start to get fat. And as a corollary, my wife will remind me of my weight gain, loud and always, and we’ll have a fight and I’ll be forced to sleep on that freaking mattress on the floor again, and my back will go out. It will not be Good. (See earlier chapter on Good.)

Is a Belief a fact? Look, we have red kangaroos and we have facts. That’s what we have here. We didn’t do an animal for facts because they aren’t human behavior. Remember I said that? Paragraph 3. It’s right there.

Beliefs bring big risk: if we act on them, our results are less likely to give us the outcome we want, to mesh with reality. Would you do something just because some red kangaroo said to? I know, they have a mother of a kick. For some, that’s a convincer, all right. That kick will certainly make the rabbit… a tad… apprehensive.

Human memory can be flawed and malleable, and perception can be limited to circumstance. That’s what Mom used to say. Aww, Mom. You were always so epistemlogical.

To keep the red kangaroos out of your rodeo. you have to accept a chore, and that chore would be to put up a fence that says facts only. A fence that keeps out the red kangaroos, I know that this also means that for some reason you now have a rodeo. Sorry about that added burden.

And if you didn’t do your chores, keeping up that fence… my Mom would say do your chores, or no dessert. At the table of public discourse.

There’s a devilishly hard challenge here. Red kangaroos thrive when we lose an agreed on source of facts. When for example a group of people throws away sources of facts that once were good enough to support action. We hope this is a temporary situation, and that soon we’ll all agree on what a fact is again.

Now I’m going to say something in bold. That means you can glance there and the whole point will be there. I don’t know why it wasn’t on top, sorry that you had to hear the whole thing. I mean, if you believe it’s true, and don’t need any sort of verification…

If you want others to accept and to act on your story, concept, or plan, its precepts must be verifiable via mutually-accepted means.

I think I remember…

a biased review of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman summarizes a life of research and publishing (often with his partner Amos Tversky).

The pair wanted to understand why human behavior so often defies economic logic:

  • We change the question to simplify things. Imagine Linda; young, single, outspoken, very bright. As a student, she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice. OK. Asked if it was more probable Linda was a bank teller or a feminist bank teller, most said feminist bank teller was likelier.
    This violates the laws of probability: feminist bank tellers all belong to the probably bigger group called bank tellers.
  • We neglect denominators. “A disease that kills 1,286 people out of every 10,000” is judged more dangerous than a disease that “kills 24.4 out of 100 people,” just because 1,286 (the sample chosen) is bigger. (BTW 1,286 is only 12.86% of 10,000… meaning it’s less dangerous).
  • We get used to a number and base all our numbers on it.  The initial price offered for a car sets the standard for the negotiations; lower prices than that seem more reasonable even though they could still be more than the car is worth.
  • We act to prevent loss quicker than we act to gain.
    People hold losing stocks and sell winners, even though winners are more likely to keep making money; losers to keep losing it.
  • We care more about what we remember than what we experience. Two tested groups agreed to endure an irritating stimulus; one endured it longer time, but with a slight decrease just before the end; the second had a shorter time but the same level of irritation throughout. The group with the longer time said it was more bearable, because the irritation decreased, even though they actually endured the full irritation longer.

The way we actually behave:

  • Fits into a new replacement to the Bernoulli Expected Utility Hypothesis used by many economists. It attempted to explain behavior in terms of rational action to get value; with it, economists tried to predict behavior, but were often stymied.
    Kahneman and Tversky’s proposed (and Nobel-winning) replacement, Prospect Theory, is a model for how decisions need to adapt more towards avoiding loss than appreciating gain.
  • Uses the fast-deciding part of our minds (system 1); meanwhile a somewhat lazy but more meticulous reviewer (system 2) evaluates and edits the fast decision-making process.
  • Gets us two selves – an experiencing self responding to stuff, and a remembering self that holds on and ultimately owns our interpretation of the stuff.

So the you that posts your life to Facebook and takes selfies in the bathroom mirror, at Lady Gaga concerts, at the Met, what have you, is your remembering self.

If you’re as much a logic lover as I am, this book will bend your mind. You find yourself no longer judging  human behavior as “illogical.” There’s another logic model at work.

Walking through Manhattan on the first “warm” (40 degree!) day last week, I had a long experience of joy. I thought to put my remembering self aside because the experience is more important. I knew the day seemed warm because I had been anchored to expect a cold winter day. I also knew I’d write about the experience in this review… so my remembering self wins, after all.


The book: Recommended: Large Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog Image

What would be, say, Six Tenets of theatre Perfection

If one were actually going to start a theatre company that would actually handle not just the production but also the aesthetic and total artwork of theatre. What properties would such a company need? It seems to boil down to six (hence the post title) but perhaps there are more. What do you think? Please comment, tear this up or agree or whatever you want to do. You might have already started a company with such or similar goals in mind. Or you might be afraid to do one. Or you might be mad enough to plan it and do it. One last thing. The question mark is intentionally missing from the title. This poses as the first draft of a question. But not quite a question yet.

Ultimate Experience – A life-altering experience for the audience and the performers must be offered, every time. It’s a big thing to promise and you can never achieve it fully. An ideal is intended to be beyond reach. This is the most important tenet.

Revolutionary Design – The visual and aural aspect of every performance must push the boundaries of the known state of the art. Perfect and life-altering look and sound. These designers want to change the world through light, color, depth, tone, melody, emotion.

Physical perfection – to keep the instrument of every performer in perfectly tuned shape, permitting no limits to what can be accomplished. The maximum possible human physical state, to ground what must come from the performer and company.

Cultural breadth – Sufficient knowledge of all major branches of human knowledge that the performer can call up an immense library of knowledge in performance. Every performance calls up Joyce, Popper, quantum theory or finite automata, and intelligently, in the service of story as well as culture.

Situational Dexterity – Having studied every form of improvisation known, the performer can call any one up at will. This includes Commedia, Spolin, Bebop Poet, Jazz, Rap / Hiphop, Slam, & whatnot.

Genre Flexibility – Discovering, understanding, codifying scene, act and work structure of every known storytelling genre ever used. Then, more importantly, the ability to instantly adopt that genre for use, both overall and within a scene.

E4AIs: The first government was formed this way

Many times ago, a citizen dug her own grave. (Not metaphorically.) She dug a hole in the ground, in a place where people were already being buried, for people to come visit her after she died.

First digging your own grave was considered a virtue. Then custom; then unwritten law; then maktoub as Law.
It was a sign of honor and great virtue to dig your own grave. The Great dug their own graves, and all the citizenry aspired to be Great.And each citizen was good about it. Generally. He’d set some time aside, before he died, to dig the grave. It would get dug.
Usually. Sometimes he didn’t do the duty. Perhaps it became something he tended to put off until late in life (after all, if he dug his grave too soon, he’d have to go keep going back to make sure the grave stayed dug, as another person, or nature, might tamper with it).
Sometimes he managed to die before it got dug. In that case, some family friend or descendant would sneak in and dig the wayward grave before anyone found out (as digging your grave was a sign of honor/virtue, not doing so would be a source of familial embarrassment).
In general the Great were good at it too, perhaps actually better, it being a sign of Virtue and all. But sometimes the Great said, “I’m too busy. If I forget to do some Thing, you understand,” etc. So it got be done anyway, as it was Law. Maybe bought, but done, and since the Great gave life to the People, the People got it done. Reliably.
De facto there was now a government, there to get things done reliably. And perhaps economics. As if a well-dug grave inspiring government wasn’t bad enough, maybe it should also start money.

Remember, stories are our best revenge.

New Works of Merit / Sade

So I get, again, after asking to be removed from their email list 3 years running, yet another email about the “New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest.” This is a particularly egregious example of a writer rip-off, for reasons far too numerous to list in full, but let’s begin with their “$25 entrance fee.” Yea, the O’Neill has been charging an entrance fee for uninvited writers (a group to which I still belong), but at least they bothered to develop a reputation before skimming lunch money off said writers.

This contest is run by 13th Street Rep, a company that certainly have “established” a “reputation” for themselves (their last produced original work of merit being the play “Line” by Israel Horovitz back in the 70s – or was it the 60s?). Which I believe is still running there??

I checked on the Web to see how many others have been warning against entering this contest… OK, perhaps they actually do offer the winner of this contest a reading at their theatre. They probably even fund that $300 check the winner receives… note that I didn’t bother to fact check this by contacting those winners, but let’s give them the benefit of doubt.

Then I noticed this additional note on their entry page:

TO RECEIVE EVALUATIONS OF YOUR SCRIPT: One Evaluation …. $25 + $25 submission fee Two Evaluations … $50 + $25 submission fee

$75 for “evaluation” services. These must be highly qualifed dramaturgs, folks. And what a refreshingly original way to offer this dramaturgy service.

The best moment reading their website was the statement that the moderator, who is also the “executive producer” at 13th St. Rep, is a member of the DG.

Note she’s still a member – they don’t return her check. Perhaps it is funded at least in part by this contest?

After reading this blog post, playwrights, if you still feel the need to send out a check for $75 because you wrote a play, what the hell, send it to me. I’ll write you a better critique, I bet, and would use the money toward a real play production, not to fund my rent, liquor bill, or membership in the DG.

The Aural Memory Project

When the future looks bleak…

People turn to the past. Perhaps that’s the driving force behind the aural memory project, something I’ve been doing since 2000… hm… interesting… since Bush was elected. Well, our sitting president – tempted to add an H to that at risk of being childish – represents a lookback philosophically, but aside from that it’s just advancing age or whatever.

Nut of it is to recapture the soundscapes of various periods of my past… pop and non-pop music, soundtracks, theme songs, sometimes even ad jingles… to reproduce mental states long trod over by newer engrams. Theory is that within each of us is every alien person through which we phased as we grew, and using secondary sensory tools (since vision is “primary”) we can sneak up on our minds and recapture our previous alien mental states. Useful for writing.

The actual performance would be to assemble the old songs and sounds package them together to typify a particular moment in personal time. Then play them and regenerate the old mental state, or at least a simulacrum of it, and using that old me for a writing purpose.