Saturday, June 11, 2016

End of the Day round-up for 6-11-16

Here were a couple of things that I thought about today, or interacted with.

I listened to most of Tim Ferris' interview with Kevin Kelly today.  It was super interesting, and more than a little inspiring.  It sounds like Kevin Kelly has a desire to make impactful changes in the world via technology and statistical analysis.  I found his enthusiasm contagious.  He spent some time talking about the impact that AI and robotics would have on the workforce of the developed world.  While it seemed dire in one sense, I was struck by how exciting it would be to have our world have another industrial revolution.  It would be uncomfortable at first, but at some point we would have made it though a major upward change.

In my mind I linked the interview to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast that aired a little while back.  In that podcast Dubner talked about a guaranteed national income and the effects that it would have on a nation.  The precipitating factor for the discussion was the same advance in technology that Kelly was referring to - a lack of available work because of the "rise of the machines".

One of the points that was made in Dubner's podcast was that some of the great advancements in science and technology were made by people who didn't have to work.  Isaac Newton was an example of someone who lived off their parents' wealth, giving him the time to make a number of important scientific discoveries.

One of the theological thoughts that I have been entertaining for a long time is the function of "sin" as a reaction to need.  For example, gluttony is an unhealthy response to the need of hunger.  A lot of the "sinful" behavior that we observe in the world can be conceptualized this way.  So, imagining a world that is progressing toward fewer and fewer human needs is amazing.  It could be one of the ways that God is redeeming this earth and causing us to become more like Christ.

Political thoughts I posted on Facebook

This is my post on Facebook as it appeared:

Here's a rant about our political system in the immediate context:
In the United States we use a "first-past-the-post" (FPTP) system for most of our elections. Basically, this means that winner takes all. If a republican wins a district with 51% of the vote, that whole district is red. If a democrat wins a district with 80% of the vote, that district is blue. Winner take all. This seems reasonable, and has been the tradition of our country for a long time. It is difficult to say that it is without worth or merit.
However, this system has some negative unintended consequences.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo - this video gives a great explanation of the problem, but essentially it boils down to this: in a FPTP system the voters are eventually incentivized to vote for the candidate that they hate the least, rather than the one they like the most.
In addition to this, FPTP systems also tend to collapse into two-party affairs because it is in everyone's best interest to ally with each other. If you have two conservative-leaning parties and one liberal-leaning party, the chances are high that the liberal party will win and the two conservative parties will merge for the next election. It's just good game theory. It's also considered a law in political science known as "Duverger's law" -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law

The result of this is that the diversity of political thought evaporates and the two parties become more and more polarized in their view in relation to each other. Political platforms become more and more defined by how opposed they are to the opposite party than their own merits.
And that influence is deep and long lasting. Our high-level elected officials are the product of more than two centuries of this political inbreeding. They have found success by being more and more extreme, opposed, and disparate. I blame this on the FPTP model.
Here is a current example of the effects: https://fivethirtyeight.com/…/americans-distaste-for-both-…/
 - The strongly unfavorable ratings for both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are higher than any other major party candidate since 1980. And it's not JUST that they are polarizing - in terms of just strong feelings, both of them have an historic unfavorable bent.

So why are they the nominees? I would suggest that it's because they were considered to be the candidates most likely to not lose to the other. That is what our political system has devolved into - voters holding their nose and voting for the "least-bad" candidate.
In addition, our ability to communicate political thought has deteriorated. If a person is pro-gay marriage and is fiscally conservative, who do they vote for? They have to pick one issue and vote on just that issue. And then via the process of Cognitive Dissonance -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
 - people will do their best to achieve internal congruency. How does a politically active person achieve internal congruency when the two political parties have such established platforms? Well, either people live in the tension (which is excruciating,) or they slowly conform to one of the two offered political ways of thinking. An article about that here: http://www.people-press.org/…/political-polarization-in-th…/

The same guy that made the video in my first link has made a bunch of other videos outlining different electoral processes. Please check them out. This year for president we are choosing between a demagogue and a secretary of state who mishandled confidential information. This is not a choice that we should have to make in a country that values free thought, logic, research, and ethics.
I know I have some politically interested friends and family on Facebook, and I hope that what I have has been more thought-provoking than offensive. I tried to back up what I said with some articles, and if you want more citations let me know. Feel free to share this yourselves - I would much rather see a debate about the electoral system that has caused our political inbreeding than a debate about the two descendants of it.