20180527 – Life 3.0
The main idea here is to present the wide range of issues related to Artificial Intelligence in the very clear and digestible form and prompt everybody in the world to understand that humanity is on the brink of huge change when human monopoly on intelligence and probably consciousness is coming to the end. It also kind of invitation to get involved in discussions of these issues and link with the new organization that author and his cooperators created to handle these issues.
Prelude: The Tale of the Omega Team
The book starts with author’s fantasy about team of super intelligent and super benevolent group of geeks that take over the world using Artificial Intelligence and its ability to outperform humans in all intellectual and artistic areas. In process author provides 7 slogans that he believes could make the world wonderful:
1 Welcome to the Most Important Conversation of Our Time
This is a sample of philosophizing about conscious as a necessary condition of the beauty of universe and approaching of new era of AI when the consciousness will move into overdrive.
A Brief History of Complexity
Here author discusses evolution of consciousness that is, meaning the biological human consciousness and where it came from.
The Three Stages of life
Here author provides a nice picture of what he means by this:
- Aftermath: The Next 10000 Years
This continuation of future scenarios review, this time with long-term perspective:
Epilogue: The Tale of the FLI Team
The epilogue is about organization that author and his friends created: Future of Live Institute (FLI), its goals and activities.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I think that this book wonderfully overstates both dangers and importance of Artificial Intelligence. The reason for this is misunderstanding of intelligence as something standing alone outside of human beings who possess it. In reality intelligence is unalienable part of human being and is painstakingly developed by this human being over dozens of years with the use of highly flexible and adjustable biological hardware, provided at birth, for processing and interacting with multitude of external entities. The ability to solve problems, to prove theorems, and build one’s own hardware is not really that important as long as the entity in question is directed from outside to do this activity. So, AI engine is not really intelligent, it is just a piece of software designed to use pattern recognition in order to develop data processing and problem resolution skills required to achieve whatever objectives humans assign to this piece of software. Correspondingly self-driving car is not intelligent because it does not decide where to drive and does not possess any internal motivation to drive anywhere. Correspondingly it is as unlikely that humans would decide to enhance their intellectual ability by modifying their biological brains as it is for human to underwent genetic reengineering of their DNA to have wings to fly even if technologically it is becoming quite possible. I think it is possible to create artificial human, let’s say on the material base of silicon chips by providing sufficient data processing power and raising this thing as human. However, it would be just another human, albeit with more computing and physical power, different material design, but still human. In short, I think AI would be just another tool added to human abilities, but not much more than that.
20180520 – Saving Justice
The main idea of this book is to present author’s point of view on what actually happen before and during his tenure as Solicitor General in Nixon administration at the time of Watergate. Author demonstrates complexity of the legal and administrative process behind the scenes and somewhat dysfunctional operation of American legal/administrative/political bureaucracy with its struggle for power and influence over the country.
This is a brief description of functionality of The Office of Solicitor General and its functions. These mainly include arguing cases before Supreme Court on behalf of Executive Branch of government. In 70’s – the period author describes, it was just a few lawyers processing some 1700 cases in 1973. Author also discusses his attempt to streamline workflow and make the office more efficient. He defines the most important part of his job as “assist Supreme Court in the development of legal doctrine”.
Chapter 1 – Getting the Job
This is a story of author’s getting job of Solicitor General in Nixon administration. It started with author’s published article supporting Nixon for president in 1968. It follows by description of several interactions with Nixon himself and then his people with stress on Nixon general dislike of Ivy League professors. As a bit of distraction, author refer to a bad omen for his role when during swimming in ocean resort just before being sworn in, he was pulled by the current into the see and when he was frantically waving for help, getting instead of help, some joyful wave back because people on the beach though he is waving just to show how much he enjoys swimming. He refers to this situation as very similar to his future experience related to Watergate.
Chapter 2 – Nixon’s Defense Attorney Offer
This chapter is about the apex of Watergate scandal when author was offered place on Nixon defense team, but was able successfully avoid taking it. It is interesting because author’s note about his conversation with Haig who suggested that Nixon would rather burn tapes than give them. He was tempted to ask why Nixon did not do it yet, but did not ask. He characterized it as the best sentence he never pronounced. It would obviously be not good for author if tapes were burned on advice of Solicitor General.
Chapter 3 – William O. Douglas War
This is an interesting chapter about the role of Supreme Court discussed around actions of judge Douglas who supported stay on military operation in Cambodia. It involved some disagreement with other judges and eventually was overwritten by judge Marshall and then by telephone conference.
Chapter 4 – L’Affaire Agnew
This is about a little discussed part of the Watergate coup when rather feeble attempt was made on double impeachment of President and VP so the Executive powers were transferred to Democratic speaker. Author seems to agree that Agnew was as crooked politician as they come, but not that much more crooked than all others. The double impeachment was avoided by getting Agnew to resign as part of the plea bargain.
Chapter 5 – The Saturday Night Massacre
Here author discusses the whole issue of special prosecutor and his power and then goes through events of Saturday night and what happened right before that. Very interesting point here is that Nixon’s first choice for new VP was not Ford, but very popular John Connally who was wounded in the car with Kennedy and in 1973 switch to GOP. Democrats in Congress would not agree because of fear that he really could win the next election. Also, there is an interesting description of complexity and logic of the resignations of this night and author’s decision to take responsibility as Acting AG and fire Cox. He also stresses his concern to avoid any hint on personal benefit from this decision, all the way to refusing use of limo assigned to AG.
Chapter 6 – After the Massacre
The aftermath of the deal was mass resignation of staffers who unsurprisingly were able to use it as career enhancing vehicle. However remaining staff did a good job and author stresses that it was not an easy thing to do. Author also discusses storm outside which he deems to be saturated with “poverty of moral rhetoric” presented by constant calls from other Yale graduates accusing author in degrading dollar value of Yale law degree by his actions. Another one was inability of press and public to assess legal side of situation and appropriateness of author’s actions. Author also expresses his disappointment in many lawyers who failed to act professionally.
Chapter 7. – Restoring Justice
Here author discusses the selection of the new special prosecutor and the changes in legal environment that occurred in this period. Specifically, he discusses FBI issues with legality of surveillance that resulted in creation of FISA court. Other issues were War Power Resolution, Campaign finance prompted by Eugen McCarthy campaign based on very large donations by rich activists, and attempts to make special prosecutor into permanent office. He also describes final stages of impeachment saga.
Here author briefly describes his live after these events, including participation in Ford and Reagan administrations. Interesting also is his reference to Supreme Court nomination that he believed was a sure thing because of his qualifications, the fact that none of his decision as judge was overturned by Supreme Court, and history of bipartisan support for qualified judges. Obviously, he was wrong because he was the first appointee who was attacked by democrats on the political basis and defeated. At the end author refer to Obama’s statement that he would appoint judges with empathy to a little guy, which completely rejects the very notion of impartial jurisprudence. Author warns against judges who used their position to exercise power, but not authority and affirms his believe that the remedy for America legal ills is Originalism that provides hope to maintain constitutional structure of the country.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I read Bork’s work before and found myself mainly in agreement with his legal ideas. This book presents narrative of his exploits as Legal bureaucrat at the very interesting point when political bureaucracy represented by Nixon was attacked and defeated by American elite combining professional formally non-political, but really deeply politicized in support of big government bureaucracy, legal, and media establishment. The whole Watergate saga demonstrated power of this alliance, which success assured their control over the country for the next 40 years. As could be expected, this control led to material deterioration of American quality of live both economically and in international affairs, leading to massive deindustrialization, terrorist attacks, massive debt, and overall unhappiness with the state of affairs. Now this fight is renewed in much more interesting form with Trump winning presidency and the elite dropping any pretense of unity and commonality with their opponents. It would be interesting to see how well Trump and his team learned lessons of Watergate and whether they will be able to repel the attack and win battle with bureaucratic/ legal / media / big corporate leadership united forces.
20180513 – Left Turn
Author explicitly stated the main conclusion of this book is based on extensive research and demonstrates that the left leaning media shifted American political opinion by approximately 8 to 10 points, keeping Democrats and their ideology relatively competitive, which would not be possible without media influence. Author introduces a notion of Political Quotient as scale from 0 to 100 with top left being 100 and top right 0. Here is how author describes overall methodology and intermediate conclusions:
PART 1. Political Quotients and the Science of Politics
- What Are PQs and How Do They Reveal Media Bias?
Here author describes methodology of defining PQ for individuals, and media published opinions based and case-by-case calculation. He even provides tools to calculate one’s own PQ and presents results for some specific politicians and media outlets:
- Caught in a Trap: Problems in Judging Media Bias
Author here discusses one of the most important indicator of such bias – circular sourcing of the media. Interestingly enough “intellectuals” are more prone to be disoriented in this way because they believe in their own capability to recognize it. Th real way out of this trap in to find independent source of the story.
- But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Author starts this chapter with reference to his own upbringing as conservative and notes that he stays one with PQ13. Then he moves to more interesting point: the difference between normative and positive questions with the former being about opinions that could not be factually confirmed, while latter render themselves to factual and logical confirmation. After this author discusses reality of positive questions being better answered by people who actually imbedded in related environment. For example, the people who lived among military and their relatives could give the best answer to why people join military. Similarly, people of racial group against which it is directed could give the best answer about reality of racism. Finally, author discusses why conservatives are more interested in analyzing media bias. He makes an important point that this bias is positive question and therefore could be answered with data so formal and scientific analysis would demonstrate that liberal bias exists, making such research rejected by liberals and embraced by conservatives.
- Ps and Qs of PQs
Here author discusses what and who are liberals and conservatives by using leftists Americans for Democratic Actions (ADA). Here are liberal positions:
Correspondingly, the negation of these position is conservative, so these attitudes exppressed via voting and/or support become measurable signals allowing PQ identification for a person.
- Defining the “Center~
This is about methodology of defining PQ, its centers and extremes based on voting records of legislature. The graph represents result of such calculation demonstrating successful move to the left over recent decades:
Author also answer to some challenges posed to his methodology and then presents reasons why middle is more interseted in being truthful than extreme ideologues on either side.
PART II, A Distortion Theory of Media Bias
6.Lies, Damned Lies, and Omitted Statistics: A Case Study in Distortion Theory
This case study is about media distortion of student admission in UCLA when admission of blacks to university was considered too small, when in reality the number of applications was correspondingly small. This represents use of statistics to mislead people.
7.Hidden Under a Bushel
This chapter is about another technic – hiding relevant information. The examples here are Katrina, and Obama’s pastor of “god damn America” fame. Van Jones, and finally Obama’s election by the color of his skin.
- An “Alien” Conservative Injected into a Liberal Newsroom and the Topics She Might Cover
This chapter presents story of conservative journalist joining regular newspaper and how it demonstrated different approach to the same story, in this case imams on airplane.
PART III. Evidence of Liberal Media Bias
- Political Views in the Newsroom: Viva Homogeneity
This chapter is response to criticisms of author’s work on bias:
- Surveys of journalists irrelevant
- They are inaccurate
- They tell nothing new
In actuality surveys probably underestimate bias because journalists are conscious about demands for objectivity. Author provides pretty funny examples of this approach.
- The Second-Order Problem of an Unbalanced Newsroom
If the direct political attitudes of journalists is the first order of bias, the pressure on minority opinion holders, tendency of overwhelming majority to move to extreme positions.
- The Anti-Newsroom, Washington County, Utah
In this chapter author analyses counterfactual of journalists being as conservative as some of the counties in Utah. The results would be the same pressure on individual to stay in line with majority. Author also looks at idea that corporate media management easily override liberal inclination of journalists, concluding that reality as presented by real media output is opposite – journalists express their views, rather than management’s.
- Walk a Mile in the Shoes of a Centrist
Here author looks at centrist regions of the country and provide an interesting graph for representatives / vote correlation:
There is also a number of table demonstrating PQ distribution by states.
- “Wise Men from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Say…”
This chapter is about author’s methodology and its critics. It also provides results of analysis for some news outlets:
- The Language of Journalists and the Special Case of Partial-Birth Abortion
This chapter is about language manipulation in order to frame some issue in positive or negative form. It obviously works pretty well and author uses it to measure media bias using a specific case of “partial birth abortion”. He provides a very enlightening table to demonstrate it:
- The Language of Journalists and the Centzkow-Shapiro Measure of Media Bias
This is continuation of language discussion and reference to another research when computer analysis of 2-3 words combinations produced typical use of language by sides:
PART IV. Effects of Media Bias
- Measuring the Influence of the Media I: Many Methods False and Spent, and One That’s Not
Here author moves to evaluating effects of media bias, stating that his previous believes in the negligence of such effect were disproved by evidence. In order to discuss his conversion author presents some scientific issues such as endogeneity problem and demonstrates how it could and does influence results of economic and sociological research. The only really good solution is natural experiment. As example of such experiment author refer to Della Vigna and Kaplan study of Fox network expansion demonstrating how it influences the voting patterns around the country.
- Measuring the Influence of the Media II: Two More Groundbreaking Experiments
This is about two more research projects: Washington Post vs. Washington Times experiment when free subscription for randomly selected individuals led to 3.8% gap in voting. Another one Cai Wang laboratory experiment with messaging demonstrated 0.282 variations from the middle of 5, when rational-choice theory predicted variance of 0.
- The Media Lambda
In this chapter author introduces a quantitative measure of media influence:
- Rendezvous with Clarity
Here author refer to Reagan’s “Rendezvous with History” to present his findings as “Rendezvous with Clarity”, providing the following table to stress the conservative nature of his assumptions:
Epilogue: Small Steps Toward a Better Media
Author suggests here that the main method of fixing the problem of media bias should be transparence – effort to force journalist to openly present their views so news consumers could understand the probability of bias and make correspondent adjustments to whatever message is transmitted.
MY TAKE ON IT:
Ii is a very nice scientific analysis of media bias to the left. Until now I mainly agreed with rational- choice approach. It seems to be too much to believe that media is capable to move public opinion and voting behavior in any significant way. Unlike others I did not think that it is because the media is ineffective, but rather because people are not really interested in what media has to say and mainly ignore it. It is seemingly supported by the fact that political media is not really watched and listen by too many people. Enough to say that in the nation of 300 million just some 10 millions are actually watching news. Add to this my experience of growing up in highly politicized totalitarian state where agitation and propaganda were compulsory parts of live and education generally ritualized into meaningless flow of words and images that vast majority of population was completely ignoring regardless of whatever was propagated at any given moment. By demonstrating that the media bias is actually moderately effective, this book forced me to change my mind and accept the need for active and effective countermeasures against the ideological success of leftist movement. These measures could not be effective if conducted at the level of logic and scientific explanation of facts. It should be based on generating emotional response to leftist ideology by bringing up its murderous character demonstrated everywhere where leftists took complete power and stressing that any liberal bias is not based on journalists’ good intentions somewhat misplaced, but on their evil strive to power to control population and in process transfer to themselves products of other people’s efforts.
20180506 – Happiness for All
The main idea of this book is to review results of research about happiness and wellbeing of people with objective to define how it changed over the time in America and in the world. Author attempts to demonstrate how it depends on income inequality, availability of opportunities, and that it seems to be better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick. Also, the point is made that situation in USA seems to be deteriorating at least based on pools, while in other places, especially Latin America it gets better.
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION; Happiness for All: Living the Dream?
Author starts by immediately switching topic from American creed of “pursuit of happiness” to generally liberal creed of equal availability of American dream and general well being. She refers to research that shows that subjective wellbeing is linked to availability of opportunity. After that she moves to inequality of opportunity and its dynamic character, if perceived as access to opportunity. Then she discusses research data from polls demonstrating that despite decreasing numbers of brainwashed population from 64% to 56%, the majority still believes that they pay fair share of income in taxes. She also discusses technical issues of dimensions and metrics of wellbeing, role of believes and what she intends to present in the following chapters of the book.
CHAPTER 2. What Happened to Horatio Alger? U.S. Trends in Inequality and Opportunity in Comparative Perspective
The reference to Horatio Alger is used mainly to profess that his story about making it from the bottom to the top of society are not really describe realities of contemporary live when children born to lowest strata of society tend to stay there. She consistently points out that Americans generally overestimate societal mobility of their society. She provide graph to demonstrate that with increase in Gini mobility decreases:
After that she moves to explanation of reasons of inequality growth:
- Aging of population that increases share of retired people, who do not make a lot of money
- Single parent families
- Increase in compensation in high cognitive demands employment: finance, professions, medicine, and decrease in compensation for low skill labor.
At the end of chapter author provides technical review of measuring mobility rates and states that American practically lost its status as the land of opportunity.
CHAPTER 3. Who Believes in the American Dream? Public Attitudes about Mobility in the United States and Beyond
This is about different attitudes to American dream and it starts with discussion about relationship between inequality and wellbeing. Somewhat contrary to general leftist understanding, author points out that there is no prove of negative impact of inequality on wellbeing everywhere, but it is highly dependent on the country. Author looks at multiple studies and concludes that America generally lost its exceptional character when people believed in opportunity as sufficient benefit to overcome negatives of inequality. However, graphs provide seems to show small difference in well-being:
Author provides quite extensive comparison between USA and Latin America and then discussesd attitudes to hard work and opportunities accross the world. She provides a very interesting result demonstrating that American rich have attitudes close to general population of Latin America where people across income levels believe that hard work is beneficial, while American poor much more close to Europe where a lot less people believe in it, also acrossall levels of income:
CHAPTER 4. The High Costs of Being Poor in the Land of the Dream: Stress, Insecurity, and Lack of Hope
This is about high psychological cost of being poor in America, even if purely material conditions such as food, housing, transportation, and such would be considered at the level of rich in other countries:
There is also a very interesting graph demonstrating impact of assistance on satisfaction: people without assistance are generally more satisfied with their live:
Author then looks at detailed picture in USA with somewhat higher concentration on stress, which she defines as being good (mainly for rich with creative and intensive work), and bad (mainly for people who sterrssed by lack of funds). She repeants the trope of two Americas, but with an interesting quirck – blacks are more optimistic than poor whites.
CHAPTER 5. Well-Being, Aspirations, and Outcomes: What Do We Know?
This is about knowing where one wants to get in order to decide direction of effort. Author explores how effort depends on believe in opportunity. The main point is that good situation prompts people to do things that will improve the future situation and vice versa. For example: good health -> joy of movement -> more exercise -> even better health or sedentary life style -> poor health -> hard to move -> no exercise -> even worse health. Important thing here is also locus of control: internal means “If I want something I need to do something because it depends on me” external: “If I want something it is somebody else’s responsibility to produce it so I just need to demand it louder and louder”. Finally, time horizon is also important: long term much more effective because leads to education and sustained effort.
CHAPTER 6. Can We Save the Dream?
The final chapter is about all these new happiness and other metrics, whether they are useful or not.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I do not think that happiness is that much linked to material conditions. It is a lot more complex notion and is extremely subjective, personal, and changeable over the time. Nevertheless it is a good review of material subset of causes of happiness including comparative approach of how one is doing compare to peers. I think a bit underexplored is a very important issue of agency, which in my opinion playing a very important role as soon as subsistence level material needs are met. It also seems to be missing another very important component of happiness – satisfaction from affirmation of one’s self-image. The person who believes that he is number one in something would be unhappy if found himself in the second place, while person who believes that he is in the top 100, will be happy if found self at number 25. In short it is interesting, but extremely limited approach to the issue.