31 December 2010

Defining race and ethnicity in South Africa

This is part 1 of a 2 part series. You may find the full series here:
  1. Defining race and ethnicity in South Africa.

  2. Defining race and ethnicity in South Africa, part 2.

This is shameless linkbaiting on my side. A recent troughleader post (We are not all Africans, black people are!) asserts that only black people can be truly African. I'll reserve judgement on whether this is true or not, but this post is such an easy target for a sadist like myself so I couldn't resist dishing out a few slaps on the wrist. What can I say? Give me a barrel of fish and a shotgun and I have a fun-filled afternoon.

I'll quote segments from the blog post in bold, and debunk them blow by blow:

Neanderthal skull

A Neanderthal skull. Any species that had dentistry advanced enough to survive death for a couple of hundred thousand years is obviously superior to ours. Then again, our mammaries tend to be non-biodegradable so maybe we show potential.

Historical revisionism is generally a legitimate re-evaluation of existing understanding and knowledge of particular historical aspects in order to correct any distortions; but there are also those with deliberate motives to revise history in order to mislead or reflect them in favourable light.

Historical revisionism does not have a general status as either legitimate or illegitimate. Historians know that, as Winston Churchill once noted, victors are the writers of history. Revisionism is a term used to describe a process of historical speculation. In most cases, there is no objective means to determine which version of history is more accurate than another. The American Historical Association offers some illumination:

History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable "truth" about past events and their meaning.

Historical revisionism is thus not a process that necessarily corrects distortions, it is the process of studying history and merely offers different viewpoints of an assumed history. History is a narrative, descriptive, humanist endeavour and should not be confused with science in the true sense of the word. History is not a quest for truth, but a quest for deeper understanding of human nature. It is largely the study of mythology, in the epic of evolution sense.

Historically, the term “African” never had any ambiguous meaning.

This is demonstrably false. The term Africa is considered to be a Latin term, given to Africa by Roman conquerors. One possible root of the word is aprica, which is Latin for sunny. Another possible root is Afer, which means of or related to Africa. During the time when Africa was baptised Africa by the Roman Empire, this term referred specifically to Carthage, or Phoenicia, in modern day Tunisia. The term Afri referred to several Semitic people who lived in the Northern parts of Africa during this time. Originally, then, the terms Africa and African have absolutely no bearing on black people, but referred to the Semitic natives of the African continent who dealt with the Roman Empire.

Historically, the term African is as ambiguous as it is today. It is thus a convenient blanket term for the Roman Empire to refer to that sunny continent, or a way to refer to the Semitic people who lived there.

The term originally did not describe a racial group or even a specific ethnic group. The term African merely described people of or related to Africa in some way.

This 'some way' is vague, as it originally referred to Semitic people who very much are Afro-Asiatic, depending on the historical revisionism you'd like to believe.

The fight against colonialism was to liberate Africans from the thuggery visited upon them by Europeans who had arrogated to themselves the power to rule with brute force and dominate vast territories of the African continent.

The history of slavery (or if Wikipedia is somehow a questionable source, try the BBC's History of Slavery), particularly in Nigeria, proves that thuggery was native to Africa long before European colonialism reared its head. In their case, European colonialism liberated the slaves and brought much more freedom to the populace than it discovered there. Colonialism is not the mainstay of the Caucasian race. Colonialism is very much native to Africa, as it is to the entire savage homo sapiens species since they obliterated the civilised Neanderthal species, historical revisionism besides.

Mbeki recognised and acknowledged that other cultures and the acquired knowledge of the history of various races had shaped his being and person as an African.

Before putting words in Thabo Mbeki's mouth, it is perhaps best to read the famous I am an African speech. Let Mbeki speak for himself:

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.
My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

We see thus that Mbeki very much includes any racial or ethnic group born in Africa - that is, native to Africa - as Africans, in much the same way that the original meaning of the word African means of or related to Africa (be it sunny skies or Semitic people, your choice).

Our historical revisionists who want to be reclassified as Africans and no longer as Europeans or white, tend to look north at Arab countries and claim, in their state of bewilderment, that Arabs are Africans, therefore, they too have the right to proclaim themselves African.

No white person who wants to be classified as African ever conflated the term African with being black. African and black are not synonyms and never were, given the ambiguity of both terms. The term African means of or related to Africa, while black may refer to a race or ethnic group with a dark complexion, sometimes with a Semitic genetic lineage like the Lemba.

It is thus a misconception that white people are trying to be black when they claim, like Thabo Mbeki did, that they too are African if they are of or related to Africa. The reason is obviously that African and black are two separate, ambiguous, emotionally loaded terms that means different things to different people.

Most white people in this debate claim that they are African purely because they are native born in Africa and nothing more.

Popular theory among whites has been that their ancient ancestors came from Africa. However, palaeontologists after an analysis of more than 5 000 ancient teeth, concluded that first Europeans were from Asia, not Africa.

The author does not provide any links to the palaeontology sources. What is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Neverteless, the Smithsonian Institute does not seem to buy the idea that homo sapiens evolved in China.

No white person can either through birth or naturalisation assume an identity of African. African is not and has never been a national identity.

This simply does not make sense, unless one decouples the terms African and black. As a race, no white person can either through birth or naturalisation change races any more than any other person can socially construct their genetic heritage. However, one person born in Africa and of Africa is just as African as the next, precisely because the term African is not and has never been a national identity - or a specific racial or ethnic identity.

Once the penny drops that African and black race are not synonymous terms, it makes sense how one can be black but not African, and African but not black.

If this historical revisionism if to continue, soon whites would find the racial identity as African not enough, and proclaim themselves “black” and accuse those who refuse to recognise them as such to be racist and intolerant.

On the contrary, if one decouples the terms African and black with the aid of any dictionary, one realises that the two are not synonyms. Then it makes sense how one can be African regardless of ethnic or racial heritage, but not black. It also makes sense how one can be black but not African, as the people of Oceania and Australia with dark skins can be black but with no relation to Africa.

It would appear rather that the only historical revisionism that is racist and intolerant in this regard is on the side of those who would like to do a reverse pencil test to determine who is African and who is not (black or not).

12 December 2010

Tragedy of the Commons: Game Theory for Noobs

The tragedy of the commons refers to a problem encountered when public resources are shared for private gain.
Commons here refers to a collective resource, which in its original context referred to a pasture for sheep.

Blaring it all out

The tragedy of the commons was first described by Hardin. Hardin observed a patch of green pasture surrounded by very barren land in North Africa. He investigated and found that the green pasture was privately owned land, while the surrounding barren nightmare was commonly held land, or commons.

sheep protestants catholics flock
A flock of sheep. Their behaviour is characterised by the donning of ceremonial Che Guevara t-shirts, a fondness for the band System of a Down and selective mind filters which only allow the writings of Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, Jacques Derrida or Slavoj Žižek to leave its sediment inside their hive mind. My name is bleating heart liberal and I approve of this message.

The owner of the green patch in the centre had immediate incentive to protect his own land from devastation for his sheep. The surrounding barren land was commonly held, where individual sheep owners could let as many sheep loose as they could, without having an immediate incentive to take care of the commons. This means that they achieved a greater incentive from squeezing as many sheep as possible on the common lot (no Australian or New Zealander jokes, please). From their perspective, despite the No Free Lunch theorems, their sheep managed to get a free lunch.

The tragedy of the commons is a controversial topic, but it is valuable because it raises questions about environmental economics and how we are to deal with global warming.

Greed is good. Or is it?

As we've seen with the prisoner's dilemma, greed is good for you, in that particular context. This is because the incentive was greater while being selfish than what it was for being considerate and hopeful. When it comes to a commonly shared resource, like the commons, or the commonly owned coffee at the work canteen or water from the water cooler, being selfish and greedy is good for you in the immediate future but not so good in the long run.

Since the devastation of adding one more sheep does not immediately show, it is easy for individuals to always add one more sheep on a commons. Taking care of the resource is not explicitly your own problem so it implicitly becomes someone else's problem.

It is convenient to ignore the cumulative, long term effects of seemingly insignificant events, but once they accumulate and take their toll, the result is a depleted resource and massive sheep starvation. Or programmers without coffee. Trust me, code monkeys without coffee are far more devastating than sheep that can't graze.

Taxation: A tragedy of the commons scenario?

This makes me wonder about taxation. Taxation is similar to the commons that is supposedly to the benefit of everyone, but since nobody feels the cumulative effects of small tax increases immediately, it is always easy to hire one more minister, have one more department, or bail out one more bankrupt institute like General Motors or the SABC (as if going without television in South Africa would be a great loss to primate kind).

Small, private gains like flying your family around at the government's expense are easily dismissed as being negligible. Especially when compared with the intuitively worse effects of executive bonuses, even though they are few and far between and in reality have far less impact than a meagre wage increase for a few thousand workers, or a few hundred fat cats zipping around in private jets paid for by tax money.

It's easy to justify raising the taxes on the rich just a little to compensate for the Greater Good, while lowering the burden on the poor. Meanwhile, since some abstract like public interest takes care of the resource, each middle man in the loop can easily pass the hot potato of responsibility to the next middle man. Ensuring that public funds are handled responsibly becomes someone else's problem.

But small, seemingly negligible increases in taxation add up, as do small, seemingly negligible acts of corruption and incompetence. Once the straw has broken the camel's back, the sheep will be without a place to graze.

For a related topic, see Roznik's Utility Monster, which I should have included in my list of demons.

30 November 2010

Prisoner's Dilemma: Game Theory for Noobs

The Prisoner's Dilemma is a fairly famous scenario in game theory. The dilemma occurs when two alleged criminals are captured by the authorities. Both suspects are handled by some tough customers in their own holding cells, but the police do not have enough evidence to put either of them away for good just yet. In order for either of the suspects to go to jail for a significant time, the other has to deliver testimony. The authorities are stuck between a rock and a hard place, so they come up with a plea bargain.

Should you take the plea bargain?

The plea bargain gives each captured suspect a few options:
  • Deliver testimony while your partner keeps silent, get out of jail free and leave your partner rotting in jail for a full decade.

  • Both keep silent. If your partner doesn't spill the beans, this is the best scenario for both of you as the police wouldn't have enough on you to put either of you away for good, but both of you would spend 6 months in prison.

  • Spill the beans, have your partner spill the beans and share the decade between you. Both of you would thus spend 5 years imprisoned. Time to learn the harmonica and get used to orange jumpsuits.

Should you take the plea bargain, or hope that your partner in crime shuts up too?

Greed is good for you

It turns out that the best course of action is to cooperate with the police and leave your friend to maybe rot in jail. You might think that being selfish and greedy is bad and that you should consider other people's feelings. If you do think so, you are wrong in this case. Wrong because defecting from your partner and cooperating with the police is a dominant strategy. A dominant strategy is a strategy that is a clear winner, regardless of how you feel about it and what else you consider in your equation. Why is this?

To see why, it is often helpful to construct a normal form (or payoff matrix) representation of the strategy. This is the normal form of our prisoner's dilemma:

prisoners dilemma game theory payoff matrix normal form

I found the normal form of the prisoner's dilemma confusing, because it seems unnatural to me to label cooperation with the authorities as cooperation from the viewpoint of allegedly hardened criminals. Surely, cooperation should refer to honour amongst thieves and defection to cooperation with the authorities? Regardless, cooperation here means defaulting on your accomplice's friendship and signing whatever the police put in front of you. To defect means to keep your mouth shut least you sleep with the fishes.

To see why cooperation with the police is clearly dominant strategy, count the numbers for each player in each column. I have colour coded them for your benefit. Since most people would like to spend the least amount of time possible in prison, the column with the lowest number is the dominant strategy.

Danica McKellar model mathematics hot and smart

Unless of course you are lucky enough to get locked up with Danica McKellar and she could explain mathematics to you.

27 November 2010

Game Theory for Noobs

Game theory is not so much about Playstation as it is a science about strategy. The purpose of game theory is to determine the most rational course of action. Rational in this sense means the course of action that results in the highest amount of possible gain, or in the lowest amount of possible loss.

Christina Aguilera Christina Aquilera Hollywood Star
Christina Aguilera. She recently received her own Hollywood star. Not sure why, but it must mean she knows a thing or two about strategy.

John Nash is frequently associated with game theory. His tragic bout of schizophrenia is often abused to ridicule game theorists and to discredit the science of game theory, as is the case in the BBC documentary The Trap. However, John Nash was a fairly latecomer to the field as John von Neumann established the science in collaboration with Oskar Morgenstern with their book, Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour. This book reported a means to quantify the qualitative notions of expected utility, so in a way von Neumann and Morgenstern gave us mathematics for hope just like Bayes gave us the mathematics for faith with Bayesian analysis.

Nash Bridges
Nash Bridges. Not really relevant here.

The Nash equilibrium

Nash's contribution is the Nash equilibrium. Nash equilibrium results when all players involved know the strategies available to themselves and the other players, but no player has anything to gain by switching strategies. This appears superficially similar to the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which is an ethical concept based on the premise that “I am what I am because of who we all are”.

Thus, my strategies are limited by your strategies and your strategies are limited by my strategic choices, but neither of us have anything to gain by changing our current courses of action. If a Nash equilibrium is available, the most rational course of action is to cooperate and not to change your strategy. A Nash equilibrium is however not possible in all kinds of games. In these games, one can maximise gains by not cooperating (that is, by “cheating” or defaulting).

“Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win”

Strangely scientific lyrics from Iron Maiden in Moonchild. Seven of the games in which cheating or defaulting may be beneficial to you and detrimental - fatal, even - to other players as identified in Len Fisher's excellent book Rock, Paper, Scissors are:

  1. The Prisoner's Dilemma

  2. The Tragedy of the Commons

  3. The Free Rider Problem

  4. Chicken

  5. The Volunteer's Dilemma

  6. Battle of the Sexes

  7. Stag Hunt

In the next couple of posts, I shall deal with each of these and elaborate in my usual sombre tone.

09 October 2010

Thought experiment in economics from biology

Since discovering Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand and Karl Marx's Das Kapital, I've been interested in economics. In a previous post, I claimed that the big hurdle in South Africa's economic environment is transaction cost. This is due to the dismal results of the state intervention in the economy and the conclusion of Coase's Theorem.

Yet we as humans still have to abide by the laws of the jungle since we are at our roots animals and nothing more. This made me wonder if some known biological phenomena could apply to the economic environment of human beings. Two such phenomena are the paradox of enrichment and the paradox of pesticides.

Socialism, Social democracy, Communism and its aims

The difference between these is of degree and not of ideology. All of these aim for the greatest common good. The methods that they employ are geared towards creating a classless society where decisions are taken from a centralised point in order to benefit the majority. Traditionally, this means applying some Robin Hood tactic, whereby the rich are taxed to payroll the poor in a variety of means and equality is enforced, whatever the costs. Resources are thus gathered and rationed by the government, meaning you'd have to be nuts to work hard and gather resources if the government just takes it and gives it to those who don't cooperate.

Karl Marx socialism communism das kapital naomi klein
Karl Marx. So what if his ideologies caused the suffering and death of millions? He has a great big bushy beard.

Somehow the distinction between governmental and non-governmental classes is not deemed a paradox when the government is established by a Pop Idols style popularity contest called democracy. This also makes a socialist/communist system acceptable because the greedy money grabbers who make up the majority of the population voted what is to be done with rich people's money.

The paradox of enrichment

The paradox of enrichment is a phenomenon in population ecology whereby increasing the food supply of prey has the undesired effect of also increasing the food supply of its predators. This is because giving more resources to a certain kind of prey causes its numbers to increase, which also inadvertently results in more food and resources for its predators. The predator numbers may increase beyond control and they may even cause the extinction of the prey. Thus, making things more comfortable for prey does not necessarily equate to taking care of its best interests.

The paradox of pesticides

Suggest then that you are a rich bitch and you aren't too happy with being taxed towards the breadline in order to feed the mouths of the barely literate. The solution is obviously to cull the numbers of the 'prey'. You'd need some kind of pauper pesticide because that would get rid of the spongers and moochers, right?

The paradox of pesticides occurs when a pest is given a pesticide and its numbers dwindle, but this inadvertently causes a decrease in the food supply of its predators. Thus, a pesticide may actually increase the numbers of a given pest in the long run due to dwindling natural predator numbers.

Princes and paupers by means of analogy

Suggest that the Gini coefficient gives you an indication of how the predators are distinguished from the prey in your economic population (it's not a good indicator but it's the one in common use).

If you were a pauper, your solution would be to move this coefficient more towards a straight diagonal line. Yet this puts you in danger of inadvertently increasing the number of princes who could exploit the paupers, so you'd be at the mercy of the paradox of enrichment.

Suggest that you'd rather be a prince, then your solution would be to edge the line more towards the bulging side. Yet this may drop you in the clutches of the paradox of pesticides, as there are less paupers to exploit.

What does this tell us about human economics?

Both paradoxes are a result of a third party that is above the laws of both predator and prey but that serves as a kind of referee of the entire system. Thus, humans who administer pesticides or who protect prey are inadvertently causing an imbalance in the natural, optimal equilibrium. Throughout nature - and throughout even human society for as long as we are organic beings - there is but one general law:

Charles Darwin evolution social darwinism
One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die. - Charles Darwin

Of course this argument only applies if it were true that the rich get rich at the expense of the poor, namely if the 'rich get richer while the poor get poorer' statement isn't complete crap. If you believe that this isn't complete crap, the paradox of enrichment and the paradox of pesticides trap you at an equilibrium somewhere in a scenario where rich people are rich and poor people are poor anyway.

It is thus futile to allow a third party that is independent to interfere with processes that do not affect it directly. Like they say: in the bacon and eggs equilibrium, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.

This reminds me of the debate on the disgraced Media Tribunal, which is meant to be an independent statutory body (stop laughing, the South African government is really under the impression that it can appoint an independent statutory body) that has to take care of the predator-prey dynamics of a system where it is only involved, and not committed.

Whether government is happy about it or not, a self-regulatory system really is the best possible system for as long as we are organic beings. The only logical conclusion is that beer should be our currency.

31 August 2010

Coase Theorem and property rights in South Africa

The Coase theorem is a curious anomaly that most economists seem to ignore or dismiss. From what I've read on economics, the field is mainly divided between the Monetarists and the Keynesian economists.

Monetarists view currency as another product subjected to the laws of supply and demand. They conclude that government intervention in the economy distorts the market price for currency, thereby exasperating economic cycles.

Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman, the man associated with monetarism. He blinds you with science. And his bald patch.

On the other hand, Keynesian economists view currency as a tool that governments may use to influence supply and demand. Government intervention in the economy is thus justified to address social issues by influencing levels of inflation or unemployment statistics, among other hardships. Yet there are more obscure economic theories out there. One such a theory is Coase's Theorem.

John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, the biggest economist of the last century. In more ways than one.

Definition of Coase's Theorem

If there are no transaction costs, the efficient outcome will occur regardless of the initial property rights.

Coase's theorem seems to me especially applicable to South Africa's land redistribution policies, which has seen some very inefficient outcomes like a drastic drop in agricultural production and having South Africa become a net importer of food. The inefficient outcomes are not based on lack of skill, but rather on lack of certainty with regards to property rights.

It appears that government wants to stimulate growth and nurture black ownership of farms on the one hand, while simultaneously not offering reasonable prices for farms. The result of such a situation is lack of investment and commitment on the side of the farmers - both current owners and new owners. This is perfectly understandable, especially with the threats of nationalisation and land appropriation (they'd call it theft if they had the balls) coming from the ANCYL.

In turn, the net result of such a situation is increased transaction costs and lower agricultural production. A transaction cost is a cost associated with making an exchange. It's the cost of doing business, which could prevent economic efficiency.

What is economic efficiency?

Economic efficiency refers to a situation whereby the most goods and services are provided with the least amount of resources. Naturally, transaction costs and externalities would have to be kept to a minimum to facilitate efficiency.

The redistribution of wealth is essential, we are told, to address the imbalances of Apartheid South Africa. But what if it were absolutely justifiable, but did not lead to the desired outcome? Should we not stop and question policies before we enforce them? Perhaps the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, and perhaps one such golden intention is the redistribution of wealth?

Should we not address transaction costs?

Coase's theorem explicitly states that initial property rights are inconsequential if one desires economic efficiency. The best course of action to me seems to be to work towards decreasing transaction costs instead of plotting nationalisation and land grabs. We all know what happened to Zimbabwe. As a developing nation, surely we'd like to compete with India, Brazil and China instead of losing our position as the economic powerhouse of Africa?

25 August 2010

Media Appeals Tribunal Update

I've received some insightful comments on my Media Tribunal posts. Here's a quick summary of them:

against media tribunal twitter twibbon facebook protest
More than one thousand bloody agents have joined the No Media Tribunal campaign.

A summary of the Media Appeals Tribunal debate

  • The Media Tribunal and the Protection of Information bill are two separate concerns. The Protection of Information Bill is already on the table, while the disgraced Media Tribunal is fast becoming a political liability so it's unlikely to even reach parliament.

  • Neither of these bills appear to be founded on constitutional values and many experts agree that they will not make it past the Constitutional Court in their current form.

  • Nevertheless, the ANC claims that there is overwhelming support for the Media Tribunal and thinks that going ahead with this bill is still a great idea. This despite the fact that it's been shelved before due to overwhelming opposition to the bill and the current backlash from the public against the notion.

  • The media is aware of its own shortcomings, but disagrees with the idea of a statutory body that oversees the press. In any event, the notion of such a statutory body is in direct conflict with the Bill of Rights.

  • Some believe that the media should be censored to attenuate certain ideologies in favour of spreading certain different ideologies. I do not think this is relevant to the debate at all. It certainly isn't the function of any democratic government to dictate ideology with statutory bodies.

    Many of the catchphrases border on sloganeering and have no rational basis. Some of these include ill-defined terms such as addressing inequalities, neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, public interest and national security.

    Some of the claims are demonstrably false, namely that market profitability drives all media (the SABC isn't profitable and it's the biggest media mouthpiece in the country), a cartel owns all South African media (besides the SABC, there are two major syndicates and many independent papers, not counting community newspapers), or that there is overwhelming public support for the Media Tribunal and this justifies a little compromise on the side of our constitution (the backlash against both the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunal proposal has been incredible).

  • If the ANC were really concerned about its image, it would focus on radio since radio has the highest penetration of any medium in South Africa. The ANC already effectively controls radio as radio belongs to the SABC - one of our many beleaguered parastatals. It does not make sense to try and censor the local press, unless perhaps the government has something to hide from the foreign press? Like, say, a white genocide or two?

  • The argument that the Media Tribunal is not a personal vendetta against the press is incredibly weak - laughable, even. Especially in light of the public sector strike that is out of control, the doings of the Don Jackie Selebi, the current state of our national defence force... I could go on but you have a free press for the time being and you don't have to look hard.

Meanwhile I have gone from exponential growth to linear growth in the support of my No Media Tribunal campaign. If you'd like to pledge your support, feel free to do so and please keep in mind that pledging your support does not mean that you agree with my views expressed here (or anywhere else) in any way. In fact, the point of freedom of speech is that we may allow differences of opinion and opposing views, because ultimately this results in a wise crowd.

Suggested reading on South African Media Freedom

  1. Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils drafted the original Protection of Information Bill and claims not to recognise the current one in Defend democracy - don't gag it!

  2. Journalists highlight their concerns with the onslaught on South African press freedom.

  3. A recent Wits debate on the Media Tribunal where Action Jackson of the ANC got his behind handed to him.

  4. The Committee to Protect Journalists raise their concerns about South African media freedom and suggests that president Jacob Zuma is in a position to stop this madness before South Africa loses its position as a leader of the free press in Africa.

21 August 2010

This could save your life

Just a thought, use it, don't use it.

The age of consent chart from Wikipedia. Absolutely crucial information for any traveller. Don't forget your towel either.

19 August 2010

Latest on the disgraced Media Tribunal

Since my last post, No Media Tribunal, over 500 followers have joined the fray to oppose the Media Tribunal. I didn't realise there were so many irate internet nerds in South Africa.

media tribunal don't touch me on my media
More than 500 South Africans are against the Media Tribunal. I know, I counted them all.

Prominent people oppose the Media Tribunal

Some of the sane people opposed to the Media Tribunal include Pick n Pay's CEO and the US Ambassador.

People at grassroots level oppose the Media Tribunal

This is ironic because according to Jacob Zuma, the Media Tribunal is designed to protect ordinary people who he thinks are too stupid to know about the ombudsman or who cannot afford court proceedings against the boogy man media.

Well, if us ordinary, grassroots level South Africans are such high flyers that we need a Media Tribunal that censors the press to protect our anonymous reputations then why do we feel this way about the proposed media tribunal?
  • YES to Media FREEDOM. NO to Hitler's sentiments over the journos!

  • Don't touch me on my media.

  • I think someone once said something about history repeating itself. This farce is a bloody tragedy.

  • Most certainly - it's the run up to the Fourth Reich - The African Chapter.

  • This is exactly what the ANC fought against in the APARTHEID years, now THEY are simply re-branding it as DARKER APARTHEID!

These gems were taken from the comments on the No Media Tribunal twibbon page.

The ombudsman is jacked up

Smart, educated, experienced black people are the last kind of people the ANC wants. It's not so easy to sell them the revolutionary rhetoric of 'we're the liberation party, if you don't vote for us apartheid is coming back'. More like the libation party because they all seem drunk to me.

This is why the current press ombudsman, Joe Thloloe is having such a sweaty time in the hot seat. This is why Mzilikazi wa Afrika is having such a tough time to stay out of jail, and why convicted fraudsters like Schabir Shaik gets parole. Jackie Selebi will probably catch something like a near-lethal ingrown toenail soon. We need this Media Tribunal like a fish needs a bicycle.

It's up to you to guard our freedom!

Thank you so much to all those who have joined the debate and have voiced concern over the Media Tribunal. I know many of you felt patriotic when you stuck those retarded condom flags on your car mirrors and I laughed at you for turning your cars into twat mobiles. Now it's my turn to feel patriotic, not because of some liberation movement or some politician, but thanks to ordinary South Africans who realise that treating free speech you dislike with censorship is akin to treating dandruff by decapitation, like Saint Frank Zappa used to say.

Feel free to leave me a comment!

14 August 2010

No Media Tribunal

The ANC seems hell-bent on this censorship trip. Even though they've already decided that the media tribunal will be implemented, apparently more debate is needed surrounding the issue. I say CENSOR that. If it's unconstitutional, it's non-debatable.

If you are a lamer on Twitter, please join my campaign

I started a haphazard No Media Tribunal campaign to try and get lots of irate Internet nerds to oppose the proposed Media Tribunal. If you are one of those nerds, first, get some sun. Please. You need Vitamin D.

Joseph Goebbels ANC Media Tribunal Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda

This is Dr Joseph Goebbels. No, he does not work for the ANC although you may be forgiven for thinking so. To the Illiterati, this picture is meant to be ironic. As in, a difference between what is meant and what is portrayed. See, just like the ANC, Dr Goebbels was not a fan of free speech. I wonder why?

Secondly, please join my No Media Tribunal twibbon campaign. Now get some sun before sunlight becomes regulated by the Ultra Violet Radiation Tribunal.

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

From the No Media Tribunal page:

The South African government is trying to establish a Media Tribunal to censor the press. I believe this goes against the spirit of what it means to be South African. It also tramples on the sacrifices made by many during Apartheid so that we may enjoy freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is absolute in my mind, because what you do not know can hurt you much more than what you do know.

Blog what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law

If you have a blog, please consider mentioning your thoughts on the proposed Media Tribunal. Feel free to link back to this post, or to the twibbon campaign. Also feel free to add me some comments at the bottom of this post.

External links relating to press freedom

09 August 2010

Free Mzilikazi wa Afrika

The free Lindsay Lohan post was a bit of a joke. To you, perhaps, but not to me. With Lindsay Lohan behind bars, who is going to flash their tits in public?

However, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, a journalist for the Sunday Times, has been jailed because some chop in Mpumalanga did not like his face. I happen not to like his face either but the man has a job to do, namely report on newsworthy events. If our one party state does not like what the media prints about them, perhaps they shouldn't conduct themselves so newsworthy?

Like George Carlin once said, the Germans may have lost the war but fascism won. Seems like the ANC forgot what life was like under Apartheid with the security police watching the media like Hawks.

I hope the Specials haven't retired yet because South Africans who value their personal freedoms still need them to make more remixes. I took the liberty of making a new cover for them:

the specials aka free nelson mandela free mzilikazi wa afrika

03 August 2010

Free Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is in rehab

Again. Before entering a rehabilitation centre, Lindsay Lohan was in prison. This is an outrage. When fine, upstanding citizens such as Nelson Mandela spent unjust time in prison, there was an international outcry to have him freed. There is a famous song (apparently, we never really heard it in South Africa back in the day) called Free Nelson Mandela. That's free as in release Nelson Mandela from prison, not free as in you get a free Madiba with your McDonalds happy meal. Sorry.

free lindsay lohan rehab specials nelson mandela madiba prison 46664

I took the liberty of creating my own campaign to Free Lindsay Lohan. There can be no justice in the world until Lindsay Lohan walks free!

31 July 2010

Dog Soldiers DVD Review

Dog Soldiers film poster

Dog Soldiers: British horror cult classic

The Brits are no stranger to horror. Their classic Hammer films (such as Plague of the Zombies) rate amongst the best creature features in the history of cinema. Dog Soldiers carries on in this proud tradition. A no nonsense, splatter flick that manages to create tension and be entertaining while still sticking to the commandments of horror. No surprises, just stylish cinematography, lucid editing, quirky dialogue, blood, guts and werewolves.


Yes, there is some of that. I think.


I accidentally stumbled upon the term Splat Pack on Wikipedia. This term refers to the new breed of directors who make excessively gory and violent films - as if there were such a thing as an excessively gory film.

What a ridiculous and absolutely unnecessary name for something that's already been labelled splatterporn or torture porn. Besides, the first Saw film can hardly be described as horror porn. Similarly, Neil Marshall's films can hardly be described as containing themes that glamorise violence. If anything, Quintin Tarantino films are horror porn. Or perhaps his films are best described as horrible porn. Splat Pack must be some homage to the Rat Pack or the Brat Pack. Well, pack is apt when it comes to Dog Soldiers.

Quintin Tarantino award image wikipedia
Quintin Tarantino winning an award. When you start winning awards like this, chances are your films suck.


Central to the plot is the idea of transformation. This lycanthrope theme is something that reminds me of the ANC's attempts to start a media tribunal. The aim of this media tribunal is allegedly to combat the dangers of pornography. Specifically, the South African Film Publications Board is pushing for legislation whereby internet service providers would act as censors to filter pornography from the interwebz.

As we all know, the internet was made for porn. Regardless, let's not get ahead of ourselves and be hoodwinked to talk about pornography - which is exactly what the FPB and the ANC want. This is not about pornography. It is mind numbingly obvious that it is not the government's nor the FPB's role to dictate to parents what is appropriate for their children to watch.

If one looks at the recent media scandals on the political scene, such as the release of Schabir Shaik from prison due to a terminal illness that's about as terminal as an oxygen mask, the scandalous portrait of Nelson Mandela as the topic of the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (which only the savage mind can find offensive in any way) and the so-called tenderpreneurs riding the gravy train, it becomes abundantly clear that pornography is the last thing on the minds of our custodians of morality.

Similar to the werewolves in Dog Soldiers, such a censorship board can easily transform from an anthropomorphic friend to a zoo-tropic fiend. Half our government is already a bit far on the flea-carrying, animal side for my liking and in no position to lecture anyone on morality. Not even Hannibal Lecter.

No porn here

Fortunately, there is no porn in Dog Soldiers. None. Not even a werewolf dragging his nut sack across the lawn. You don't even see tits. Even if this retarded legislation goes through, we'd still be able to see films like Dog Soldiers in South Africa. In theory, at least, but in practice this is the coming of Zumababwe, or the return to the good old says during Apartheid when even Black Sabbath got banned.

Censorship means everyone loses

I really have no sympathy for children being exposed to porn. If you are a child living in a household where your parents don't even care to know you well enough to know what kind of material you download from the internet, then bare bottoms and naked breasts are probably the least dangerous things you get exposed to. If you are such negligent parents, you shouldn't be breeding. And the only thing government can fix is the national election.

The whole principle is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak. - Robert Heinlein

Enough of the morons who run the country. If you aren't a savage then perhaps you'd appreciate some of Rembrandt's art. This is the painting that was referred to with the allegedly scandalous Nelson Mandela painting:

Rembrandt Anatomy Lesson of Dr Pulp image

For bonus marks, put two and two together and try to understand what the artist was trying to say with his inter text.

As for Dog Soldiers, it's brilliant (not the same kind of brilliance as the old master Rembrandt) and you can pick it up for a paltry sum in the bargain bins in South Africa because the FPB probably redistributed some of their busted pirate goods.


Neil Marshall


Emma Cleasby
Liam Cunningham
Kevin McKidd
Sean Pertwee
Thomas Lockyer as Cpl. Bruce Campbell, no less


29 July 2010

Artificial Intelligence Anonymous part Deux Ex Machina

This is my attempt at providing a brief introduction to another subject I know nothing about. Much to my dismay, I never took AI. Ignorance hasn't stopped me from blogging on topics before (see my Lojban, income inequality, lottery and capitalist ideology pages) and it surely isn't going to stop me now.
  1. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part one.

  2. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part two.

How do you make artificial intelligence?

To make intelligence is easy. You look at what Homer Simpson does and do the exact opposite. To make a machine realise that being intelligent means being the opposite of stupid all by itself is a different story, however.

Homer Simpson quote brain unquote
Homer Simpson. Artificial? Yes. Intelligent? Well..

There are three main approaches to creating artificial intelligence. These are symbolic, sub-symbolic and statistical.

Symbolic AI is sometimes called Good Old Fashioned AI or GOFAI. This approach is based on the premise that human thinking is largely based on manipulating symbols. All our thoughts require symbols and the relationships between them. The first wave of the rise of the machines was heavily based on lambda calculus. Lambda calculus involves a kind of bootstrapping thinking where a function can call itself. It is meant to simulate the human ability to think about thinking. Symbolic AI is still intimately tied with programming languages that can support this mode of thinking such as LISP.

Sub-symbolic AI is concerned with describing human thinking processes algorithmically in order to simulate these processes on a machine. Algorithmically means that the process is describe in a step-by-step manner like a cooking recipe. Sub-symbolic AI is thus based on simulation of specific thinking processes instead of on the underlying thinking process of symbolic processing. Neural networks fall under this category.

Statistical AI is an extension of sub-symbolic AI in the sense that it is heavily steeped in mathematics and algorithmic thinking. Certain tasks are solved mathematically and then implemented in a machine so the machine may exhibit the same intelligent behaviour. While GOFAI researchers are often contempt with having some fuzzy logic, statistical AI researchers require that their solutions are determinable and optimal. This means they require that the machines try to do something constructive by attempting problems that do have solutions and that they do so in the best way possible.

Computational intelligence is the new blanket term for AI. While it incorporates all the waves of AI so far, it relies heavily on mathematical and statistical techniques without much regard for replicating the fuzziness of human logic.

The three main approaches are still far from creating general intelligence, even though they've made progress in creating very smart artificial thinkers for specific domains.

The lunatic fringe of AI

By lunatic fringe, I don't mean emo hair. Of course you always get those people who aren't satisfied with the norm. I am one of those people so I sympathise with the lunatic fringe of AI. Two fields that I admire are artificial life and technological singularity.

Artificial life researchers are not satisfied with merely simulating one aspect of humanity. Nay, nay, they want machines that smoke, drink and fuck. Provided of course that they evolve to this amazing level of civilisation by themselves.

Singularity researchers reason that we need not be content with creating human-level AI. We can reach further and create superintelligent beings so we can worship them. This is much the same as any other religion except you can actually reach out and touch Far-fetched Artificial Intelligence Theology or F.A.I.T.H. No, not really, I just made up that acronym.

Artificial Intelligence Anonymous

This is my attempt at providing a brief introduction to another subject I know nothing about. Much to my dismay, I never took AI. Ignorance hasn't stopped me from blogging on topics before (see my Lojban, income inequality, lottery and capitalist ideology pages) and it surely isn't going to stop me now.
  1. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part one.

  2. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part two.

What is artificial intelligence?

Pope John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence for the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. The idea behind AI is that every learning process available to thinking, drinking, smoking and fucking humans can be described so accurately that a machine may also exhibit the same learning behaviour. It is thus artificial because it is a machine doing what humans tend to do (minus the drinking and fucking, although I do wonder where computer viruses come from). Or more precisely, it does what humans are supposed to do, namely learn.

John McCarthy
John McCarthy. In the land of hobbits, he is a dwarf. The John McCarthy homepage is simple yet efficient and oh so wholesome.

There are as many definitions for artificial intelligence as there are artificial intelligence researchers, which is great because ultimately there can be no true AI until machines exhibit a general intelligence factor. Regardless, I find the quick and dirty definition of John McCarthy as valid, meaningful and descriptive so I'll go with that.

Why artificial intelligence?

Because whenever humans get a mathematical problem with decimal points, we tend to look like cowboys. Not the Brokeback Mountain kind of cowboys, but the gunslinger cowboys who reach for the hip and try to be the quickest on the calculator draw.

qbo harkopen open source hardware

Qbo, an open source hardware project with AI listed at Harkopen. Notice the uncanny resemblance to John McCarthy.

Since the abolition of slavery humans have been looking for new slaves. Computers solve this intricate masochist/sado-masochist equation in an ethical manner. The idea behind artificial intelligence is to relieve humans of mundane, repetitive thinking tasks so we can focus on more important aspects of humanity. Like drinking, smoking and fucking.

17 July 2010

Respect the dead

WARNING: This post is about Death and entirely inappropriate. But you must be used to that by now.

Death Index chart

The Chart of the Day death index from Business Insider. It shows the best spot for your final meeting with the Grim Reaper.

Why must we respect the dead?

In most cultures, it is bad luck to speak ill of the dead. When someone dies, everyone has to pretend to be upset, whether you are or not. Even if the person was a complete dud of a human being like Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who caused the suffering and death of many, we must pay respect and pretend that it's a sad event that this person passed away.

The only notable exception to this rule seems to be the Adolf Hitler biography. In that case, it was perfectly acceptable not to be upset but to call the spade a fucking shovel. His biography didn't change when he shoved off.

The dead cannot do anything to you

Unlike in films like the Poltergeist and Drag Me to Hell, the dead cannot do anything to you. They are not going to do unsolicited interior decorating while you are trying to sleep. They are not going to take your place in the queue at the supermarket. You're clear on this one.

It's too late for them to change

If he died an asshole, he's a dead asshole. He's not suddenly a dead saint. You can find any number of Kurt Cobain creeps out there who also know 4 chords and who also sound like they're chewing on their own gallbladder. Yet Kurt Cobain had the common courtesy to remove himself from the gene pool, so his songs are genius while the others who sound exactly the same are commercial or uninspired, regardless of when they started writing their camp fire classics with distortion songbook.

It's too late to bury the hatchett

If you had a grudge against them and they died, it's too late. It's pointless to be concerned over how they felt about your feud when they died, because they're dead. Maybe you want to pay respect now to ease your conscience. That's all good and well, but it doesn't change anything.

You can't do x because someone died

The most bizarre aspect of this sudden sainthood that death brings is that we, the living, are not allowed to be happy or to partake in any debauchery for an unspecified amount of time. Why? Out of respect for a bag of bones. Out of respect for slowly decaying flesh that's only different from the same you find in a butchery by virtue of the fact that it did more than respond to its name by sometimes using yours back at you.

When someone close to me dies, that's exactly when I need debauchery to cheer me up the most.

If that's how you feel, people won't respect you when you're dead

I don't need respect when I'm dead. I'm dead. In fact, let it be known that I would not want any kind of religious boredom or default metaphysical posthumous vibes towards me at my funeral whatsoever. I'd like my funeral to be a bring en braai with headbanging strippers and an open bar. The first person to get arrested would inherit my estate, but only if they do not respect me all of a sudden because I'm pushing daisies.

12 July 2010

Hacking Lojban

Those familiar with Godel's incompleteness theorems would recall that certain formal systems that are sufficiently complex contain paradoxes. Two particular paradoxes are of concern, namely:

  1. Such systems that are complete are also inconsistent (Godel's first theorem)

  2. Such systems that are consistent cannot be complete as such a system cannot prove its own consistency (Godel's second theorem).

Predicate logic, how pretty delicate thou art

Natural language is not a formal system. Partially due to this reason, ambiguities arise which renders natural language somewhat inadequate for formal expression, but rather appropriate for planting memes in the impressionable. Ask Roman Polanski.

In an attempt to rid ourselves of the ambiguities of language, projects arose to establish language based on the principles of first order logic. That is, these projects aimed at formalising natural language by injecting a set of formal rules into a mixture of natural languages. Two of these projects are:

  1. Loglan, which is one of the first of its kind and copyrighted.

  2. Lojban, which is similar to the open source nemesis of Loglan because what good is a language if you can't speak it with anyone?

In my previous post on nerd bands, I lamented the fact that I couldn't find any bands who sang in Lojban. I went through a few Lojban lessons and noticed the following:

Lojban nouns

In Lojban, there is a class of word called cmene. Cmene is the Lojban term for name. This is similar to the existential quantifier in predicate logic. In other words, without the jargon or the batty symbols:

There exists one something with one particular name. The name for this name is cmene

All cmene follow the format of CCVCV, or five letters consisting of Consonant Consonant Vowel Consonant Vowel. Even cmene, so that's pretty sweet as this barber shaves himself.

Edit: this is incorrect. All gismu (root words) follow the format of CCVCV or CCVCV. Cmene is the gismu that refers to proper nouns in Lojban. All cmene that are first names are preceded by a full-stop if they start with a vowel and end in a consonant.

Lojban verbs, or what functions as verbs

Words that function as verbs in Lojban are called selbri. In the lesson on selbri, the authors explain that a selbri and a verb are not the same thing, as a selbri merely functions like a verb does. A selbri is usually a root word from a class called gismu. Gismu is a type of word that indicates a root word in a similar way that verbs have roots, though a gismu is not necessarily a selbri, or vica versa.

All gismu have one of two forms: CVCCV or CCVCV. This means that all cmene are gismu, or that all names are root words. Right?

Edit: Since I was mistaken and cmene do not have the form of CVCCV or CCVCV if they are first names, all cmene are not gismu.

What is the hax?

Cmene (name) is a gismu (root word) because cmene is a root word that indicates a name for a group of words that indicates names.

Gismu (root word) is the cmene (name) for root words in Lojban. It has the form CVCCV. Yet all cmene are meant to have the form CCVCV. This barber does not shave himself. Maybe it's a bit of a long shot as all cmene are gismu but all gismu don't have to be cmene? Fine.

Edit: I was wrong here so the above hacks does not apply.

Selbri (connective that acts like a verb) is the cmene (name) that refers to a group of words that function like verbs in Lojban. Thus, selbri is a cmene that has more than five letters. Selbri also breaks the rule that all cmene have the format CCVCV, as it has the format CVCCCV. This barber does not shave himself either. Hello, Russel's paradox.

Edit: Selbri is not a cmene in the first name sense, but a cmene for connectives that act like verbs. This means the only cmene rule for selbri is that it has to end on a vowel, which it does.

Is Katie the cmene of Katie Price or Katherine Jenkins?

Well, this is not so much a paradox as a set on its own. A couple of nice sets within the set, though.
Katie Price Jordan twitter set rack image picture

Katie Price Jordan. I wish she'd make up her mind about her cmene.

Katherine Jenkins image picture twitter singer

Katherine Jenkins. Too classy for this blog.

I can just imagine the kind of selbri you have in mind for these two ladies, but please let me imagine it's an empty set, thank you.

11 July 2010

10 Nerd or geek bands: Fanfare for the uncommon man, part 2

This is an ode to ten of the geekiest, nerdiest bands on the planet. If you like more than three of these, chances are your idea of a walk on the wild side includes a batch of energy drinks and retro video games on a Friday night. And you don't think that is sad.

  1. Nerd bands, part 1.

  2. Nerd bands, part 2.


Due to Jon Anderson's discouragingly high vocals, Yes has often been described as the most annoying band in the world. This did not prevent them from making music - and lots of it.

Definitely not the most accessible band in the world, Yes tackles what appears to be inane subject matter and takes it to new heights, or depths. For example, their Tales from Topographic Oceans is a double album based on the Autobiography of a Yogi. I can't think of any book more boring, except perhaps something written by the Dalai Lama.

Autobiography of a Yogi book cover

The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. No drugs, no sex, no rock 'n roll. Chaste people remove themselves from the breeding populace. By the principles of universal Darwinism, we should thank them for the favour.

Yes is perhaps equally famous for featuring the art work of Roger Dean on their covers.


Yes, we Can, apparently. Can is one of those bands that change their tune with each album. Relying heavily on instant compositions (or improvisation), the music is surprisingly coherent. Especially considering that the band is very multi-cultural and probably stoned out of their brackets. The influence of jazz and Karlheinz Stockhausen is apparent. Less apparent is how dangerous it is mixing jazz and Stockhausen.

Notable albums include Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago.


Gong is known for their two most famous strands, namely the hippie commune psychobabble of Daevid Allen and the caffeine-themed jazz of Pierre Moerlen. Don't worry, it's all good.

Daevid Allen lesbian
Daevid Allen. "Nobody knows I'm lesbian".

Of course no nerd band list would be complete without a guitar hero or two. Gong features Allan Holdsworth during their marimba and caffeine stage, on such albums as Gazeuse! and Expresso II.

Ozric Tentacles

The Ozric Tentacles relies on space rock to infect the minds of their unsuspecting audience. Since they've never had major label support and yet managed to sell over a million records, they must be doing something right. Their music is instrumental, which is a bit of a relief after listening to Yes.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Emerson, Lake and Palmer is conspicuous because they are frequently noted on heaviest bands of all time lists even though they do not have a guitarist.

Comprising of insane drumming and some of the wildest keyboards you're ever likely to hear, they frequently cover classical repertoire in their, well, repertoire. Some muzak hits of theirs include Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

The cover of ELP's Brain Salad Surgery. This is artwork by H.R. Giger. The original featured a massive schlong that had to be airbrushed out to please the censors.

But rest assured, the band is really loud despite classical pretentiousness. Keith Emerson's party trick is playing keyboard with daggers. I'm not sure if he's tried it blindfolded on a wheel of fortune but he should look into that.

I couldn't find any bands who sing in Lojban. Sorry.

03 July 2010

The Demon of Morton

South African author Joan De La Haye offers Demon Friday. Surprisingly, it's each Friday and it involves a demon from one grimoire or another. She also greets us as 'freaky darlings', similar to Vampira. Top class!

This is my own take on Demon Friday, except it's not always on Fridays and it doesn't feature real demons or pictures of real demons. Sorry.

These are all my posts on demons:

  1. The demon of Laplace, regarding probability.

  2. The demon of Maxwell, regarding thermodynamics.

  3. The demon of Descartes, designed to invoke skepticism.

  4. The demon of Morton, designed to make one aware of confirmation bias.

"I knew I had a problem, and I couldn't admit it." - Lindsay Lohan, showing possession by Morton's demon.

Morton's Demon

This demon is similar to Descartes's demon in that it is a demon intent on fooling you. Except, instead of fooling you that the world is real and that you are wrong for not conforming to the world, Morton's demon convinces you that you are right and the world is wrong for not conforming to your ideals. To put it succinctly, Morton's demon is a personification of confirmation bias.

Paris Hilton pictures ganya weed pot bust South Africa world cup soccer football fifa
Paris Hilton. She knows all about critical thinking.

How to combat Morton's Demon

Naturally, combating Morton's demon involves admitting that you are wrong. This is not as easy as it seems, especially since you're already convinced that you aren't wrong. In other words, you rely on faith instead of on reason. It is deceivingly simple to substitute reason with faith, as is evident by the success of the law of attraction and the common misconceptions regarding the incompleteness theorems of Kurt Godel. A good way to combat Morton's demon is with critical thinking.

Filchers: A field guide to critical thinking

Filchers stands for Falsifiability, Logic, Comprehensiveness, Honesty, Replicability [sic] and Sufficiency. You may read all about Filchers in James Latt's excellent post on critical thinking. I shall only give a brief description of each aspect here:

  1. Falsifiability: Falsifiability means that the assertion is testable. In order for an assertion to be considered scientific, conditions have to exist that would render the assertion false. It is not always applicable to Morton's demon, especially since different degrees of belief are under scrutiny.

  2. Logic: Arguments presented to support a claim must be sound. This means that your assertions should necessarily follow upon each other. To paraphrase John Reed, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but everyone is not entitled to their own facts and logic. To paraphrase Paris Hilton, see you at the debates, bitches!

  3. Comprehensiveness: All the available evidence must be considered. This is where Morton's demon meets his match.

  4. Honesty: Evaluate evidence objectively. This means that all the evidence is evaluated without self-deception. Honesty means you come to a rational conclusion after evaluating all the evidence. Honesty is essential and complements all the other components of Filchers.

  5. Replicability: If the assertion is based on an experiment, then the experiment must be repeatable. Repeatability means that accurate predictions about future results may be made.

  6. Sufficiency: The evidence has to be sufficient to justify the assertion. Ordinary claims are supported by ordinary evidence, whereas extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

In addition, it is helpful to keep some common logical fallacies in mind when evaluating evidence or when doing some soul searching to cast Morton's demon out of your own house. Marilyn vos Savant, one of the people with the highest recorded IQ, has a great article on logical fallacies for the layman.

Suggested reading

  • Morton's demon discussed with regards to creation science.

  • Morton's demon showing how beliefs alter reality.

  • Panda's thumb cartoon on Morton's demon. "You reach a conclusion to a theory first, then just ignore all evidence that proves you're wrong".

Google sucks piles I'm moving to Steemit

Short and sweet, Google isn't allowing me to post ads on my blogs here on blogspot any longer. Not that I provide my angry nerd rants fo...