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Philosophy

Sir William Blackstone – the beginning of the intellectual collapse of liberty?

However, good an 18th century university administrator and judge Sir William Blackstone may have been, and however personally well disposed he may have been to liberty and property, the rights of the latter being the essential foundation for the former, his doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament was radically subversive of the principles of liberty – leading, in the short term, to war with the American colonies, and, in the longer term, the undermining of liberty in Britain and elsewhere.

The central “Whig” principle is that there are some things that the ruler or rulers, Kings or Parliaments, may not do – that natural law – natural justice to-each-their-own-liberty, expressed in the Common Law and other traditions, forbids fundamental attacks on liberty and property, either by private criminals or by the government.

This was the position of Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke in “Dr Bonham’s case”, it was the position of Ralph Cudworth and others against the unlimited government doctrine of Thomas Hobbes (whose mentor was that servant of unlimited government “The New Atlantis” Francis Bacon – the great enemy of Sir Edward Coke) who held that humans were not moral agents, and it was the position of Chief Justice Sir John Holt and the other “Old Whigs” of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Sir William Blackstone’s doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty destroys this Whig foundation stone of liberty – destroys it utterly. Blackstone might pay lip service to the principles of natural law, the legal principles of Cicero and the view of humans as moral agents of Aristotle, but his doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty negates them. If the “legislature” can do anything it likes – then liberty is naught, and natural law is just an empty term. Things are reduced to the level of the Roman Empire – where no legal thinker denied, in theory, that liberty and natural law, natural justice – to each his own liberty, existed, but held that positive law, the will of the Emperor, trumped them – which was the same, in practice, as denying that the rights of liberty and property existed at all.

Blackstone may be held up as one of the great Common Law thinkers – but his fundamental conception of law was essentially Roman, and that of the Roman Empire, just with a Parliament in place of an Emperor.

Many Americans, holding to old Whig principles, were profoundly shocked and rejected the principle of Blackstone, and those who held the same view, – but in Britain it carried all before it.

The principle of Blackstone simplified law by holding that, at a fundamental level, law is whatever Parliament and Francis Bacon “lions UNDER the throne” style judges say it is – with no appeal to natural law, natural justice (to each his own – liberty) principles against them.

It also flattered Parliament (Thomas Hobbes had always said that the supreme unlimited ruler could be one person or a group of people – thus hedging his bets in terms of the Civil War by trying to flatter both sides, like Francis Bacon before him, he would be a lickspittle apologist for whoever was in power) – it gave them delusions of grandeur, indeed of infallibility, and made them unwilling to compromise with the American colonists. After all the law was whatever they, Parliament, said it was – they were Gods upon this Earth who could do no wrong. At least that is how his doctrine was, inevitably, interpreted. So war was made inevitable – and with war the division of the English speaking peoples, a division that continues to this day.

The tradition of the Bill of Rights, American or British, runs directly counter to this doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty – which is why the British Bill of Rights, oh yes it once existed, is not much talked about any more. What is the point of talking about the right to keep and bear arms – if Parliament can take away this right with a statute? It means that the right, for all practical purposes, is negated. Ditto freedom of speech or anything else. If Parliament wishes to, for example, “redistribute” the property of the Duke of Portland this may be sad – but he has no rights against the “legislature”. As Mark Twain was later to say, but not as PRAISE, that “no man’s life or property is safe when the legislature is in secession” the legislature being the only true “criminal class” in United States – the fact that British opinion would have been shocked by a statement like this in the 19th century shows how much damage the doctrine of Sir William Blackstone and others had done – spread by Victorian legal writers such as Maitland, who pretended (with breath taking dishonesty) that not a single Act of Parliament in history had ever been fundamentally unjust or irrational.

By the 19th century more and more people were starting to use the words “the State” in the same awe struck way that German philosophers had in the time of Frederick the Great and before. The State seen as some sort of God on Earth, with, in this case Parliament, being seen as at least semi divine – infallible.

Sir William Blackstone may not have shared some of the “new”, there are actually ancient precedents for its errors, philosophy that was bubbling up like a witch’s brew in his time – but he opened the door for it. David Hume had made his name by being “sceptical” about everything (whether he really was, or whether it was a performance, to wake people from their dogmatic slumbers, is something I will not try to answer here), even the most obvious self evident things such as the existence of the self (the “I”) as a moral agent. If nothing was secure, if there were no principles that one could “prove”, if even the existence of oneself, as a moral agent free to choose to do otherwise than we do was in doubt, what would step into the chaos? Why the state of course – “the euthanasia of the Constitution” the end of “Whig”, Old Whig, principles. This philosophy horrified some Tories – such as Dr Johnson, who expressed his horror when someone said to him that both he and David Hume were Tories. Dr Johnson believed in the principles of Church and King because he believed they were true, objectively true, not because he believed that nothing was objectively true – that is why the Tory Dr Johnson was more of a friend of the Old Whig Edmund Burke than he was of political “allies” such as David Hume.

Jeremy Bentham, and the rest of the “Bowood Circle” of Lord Shelborne (Lord Shelborne, Sir William Petty kinsman of that other Sir William Petty – the friend of Thomas Hobbes, who wanted to mathematically “plan” Ireland in totalitarian fashion) had nothing but contempt for the principles of the Old Whigs – which were “nonsense on stilts”.

13 departments of State should control most aspects of life, according to Bentham – in this way the “greatest happiness of the greatest number” would be achieved, and pleasure and pain (not traditional right and wrong) should be the only guides to policy. If wickedness produced more “pleasure” than “pain” then it was not evil it was good – so if, according to Bentham, control of most aspects of life via 13 departments of State produced more pleasure than pain then it was to be done – and no silly “old rights” allowed to stand against it. The interests of “the people” trumped the silly (indeed “nonsense on stilts”) old rights of individual persons. The fact that this is a “category mistake” that, for example, one does not work out whether rape or gang rape is morally wrong by sitting down with a “calculator of pleasure and pain” to try and work out if the pleasure of the rapist or rapists was greater or lesser than the pain of the victim, escaped Jeremy Bentham. He made the elementary mistake, which would be shameful even in a young child, of mistaking “good” as in pleasure, with “good” as in moral (as they are the same word they must mean the same thing – NO THEY DO NOT). Just because it may be pleasant to torture someone to death it does not mean that it is morally good to torture someone to death – and this has nothing to do with the pain of the victim being greater than the pleasure of the murderer.

This is the principle of the French Revolution, of Rousseau – not of the Old Whig American Revolution. It is why the French Revolutionaries did not believe that their murdering, plundering, rape and other crimes were crimes at all – as the “welfare of the people” trumped, negated, everything else.

And the belief of Bentham and others in intellectual government administrators taking control of various aspects of Civil Society harks back to Sir William Petty and Francis “The New Atlantis” Bacon, and may even have been foreshadowed by Thomas Cromwell in the reign of Henry VIII – although his schemes, on education and so on, came to naught.

The “liberals” who followed Bentham, there were other factions of liberals of course, included people such as James and John Stuart Mill who endorsed the views on land of David Ricardo, which led to people attacking the rights of property – down with the Duke of Portland and other “Old Whigs” I bet he did not “justly acquire” his property, and he expects rent and rent is evil. This view was refuted by Frank Fetter a century ago, but one still hears it – just as one still hears demands that the state expand the money supply to maintain a “stable price level” as if Frank Fetter had never refuted Irving Fisher (let alone the absurd Lord Keynes).

And there was the Labour Theory of Value, also an interpretation of Ricardo, that holds that factory workers and so on are “exploited” – if private landed estates are, somehow, wrong and large scale non-landed property (factories and so on) are also, somehow, wrong – then the old Whig principles have been utterly destroyed there is nothing left, apart from empty chanting of the words “freedom” and “liberty” (as “liberals” still do today) based on no foundations, philosophical or other.

Of course there is a good side to both James Mill and to John Stewart Mill – but there is also a bad side, a very bad side. And it must not be hidden away – because it did great damage.

A liberal of the 19th century “Westminster Review” type (not other types) may have hoped if nothing is objectively true then there is no justification for state attacks on liberty, and may have held that denying everything, including selfhood, is the ultimate freedom – but, in reality, someone who believes that nothing is objectively true is likely to seek the STATE to fill the void (the “myth” of William James, Sorel or Mussolini). Besides the state NATURALLY expands (those who have power seek to use it – the “Dark Side” tempts them) – and if there are no principles to oppose them with……….

And Sir William Blackstone, whatever his intentions were, has in practice helped get rid of the principles limiting the state – by getting rid of all principles limiting Parliament.

“Ah but Paul – Blackstone trusted Parliament to limit the state” – then he was profoundly foolish and also ignorant, not understanding the typical nature of such statutes as the one that Sir Edward Coke struck down in “Dr Bonham’s Case” – where it was held that someone practicing a trade without a piece of paper called a “license” could not be a crime, because it was not aggression against anyone. The fact that the “Royal College” had both King and Parliament backing it, being irrelevant. If this is a crime whose person or possessions has Mr Bonham attacked? He has attacked no one – so him not buying a “license” CAN NOT be a crime.

Ditto the “Stature of Labourers”, seeking to enforce serfdom, and a thousand other wicked, and unlawful, statutes of Parliament.

But it is more than this – the decline of the respect for Parliament, and there has been such a decline, has not led to the restoration of the principles of the Old Whigs – far from it.

The worship, and “worship” is the right word, has been transferred from Parliament and Congress, Prime Ministers and Presidents – to an ideal state, the public power, “the people” which will impose “Social Justice” (the opposite of real justice – to each their own). Modern “political philosophers” say that they DO believe in liberty, in freedom against elected politicians – but, it turns out, that their “rights” are like the “rights” of the French Revolution, under the mask of “freedom” terrible tyranny, plundering and murder. The words “freedom” and “liberty” chanted endlessly – but divorced from their foundations.

When American judges, and the university class generally- the Harvard Law School, the Imperial German loving Johns Hopkins, the Frankfurt School of Marxism Columbia and on and on, first started to turn against the Old Whig principles of the Founding Fathers they first held that rights and natural law were nonsense (perhaps nonsense “on stilts”) – beasts such as “Justice” O.W. Holmes jr were open friends of Harold Laski and other totalitarians, they held (Buck V Bell) that a screaming woman, who had committed no crime, could be held down and cut up by the servants of the state – because they judged her to be “inferior”. But at least such beasts did not pretend to serve “freedom” “liberty” – they were open followers of Thomas Hobbes and other such creatures.

This sort of “judge” did not, for example, in the gold confiscation and voiding of contracts cases of 1935, hold that they were serving “liberty” and “freedom” when they tore up the Constitution of the United States.

Today Blackstone may be discredited – few would pretend that Parliament, or any other institution of government can do anything it likes. But the Old Whig principles that he helped to undermine have not returned – instead the forces of evil (for that is what they are) have taken the words “freedom” and “liberty” for themselves, and use them to force politicians to expand statism (tyranny) even when they do not wish to do so.

The book shelves groan with books on legal thought that seek to twist the concept of liberty 180 degrees – using it as a justification to destroy liberty, to expand the size and scope of government. The “intellectuals” can get away with this because the old principles have been forgotten – even the very word “right” is no longer understood to be a limitation on government power (under the natural law principle of to each their own – as the late Ayn Rand put it “hands off”), rather a “right” is now seen as an invitation for government to intervene – to enforce “anti discrimination” doctrine (that to “discriminate” is another way of describing freedom of choice, the right to associate or refuse association, is forgotten) and to give people their “rights” to goods and services at the FORCED expense of others.

This is because the old principles are out of sight and forgotten – and, however good his intentions may have been, Sir William Blackstone was one of the people who started to bury them.

The mistake of John Jay – believing that the governement could make people virtuous.

The American Founding Father John Jay was fond of reading Plato in his youth (often not a good sign), and even named one of his slaves Plato (I am not attacking Mr Jay over slavery – I know he did more than anyone else to end slavery in New York State, even losing an election over it).

It is not likely that John Jay was fond of the economic collectivism of Plato (after all John Jay was the man famous for making “those who own the land should govern it” his maxim – although it was actually G. Morris who supported a strictly limited franchise, as long you owned a little land, say your own home, you should have the vote according to Jay), so what was he getting from Plato?

Not the idea of the importance of virtue – that was a commonplace of republican (small “r”) thought, that only a moral people could remain free (that a people addicted to vice and waste would either not notice government getting more powerful – or would actively welcome a despotic government, if it promised them lots of benefits “bread and games”).

Nor was John Jay some sort of “Puritan” in the Hollywood sense – he did not believe that such things as drink and dancing should be banned, he liked a drink and he employed tutors to teach his children to dance (and the only reason he did not go to the theatre was that he believed there was so much suffering and humiliation in real life that he did not want to see it on the stage as well). Again “virtue” was a much broader concept than the Hollywood mockery of po faced Puritans.

What Plato would have given John Jay is that idea that people can (and should) be made virtuous by THE STATE.

We today are used to prisons and government schools (especially in New York) being dens of vice – and that is not funny (rape and so on should not be a matter for nudge-nudge, wink-wink jokes). Places where vast amounts of taxpayers money are spent – and people come out vastly worse than they went in. Indeed the only thing that government schools in America appear to be good at teaching people is that government should control everything and that business (especially “big business”) is evil (needing to be controlled by noble government), and the churches are evil too, and…… (well any alternative to the state in any area of life) is evil – how odd that government schools should teach that government should control everything (well actually not odd at all).

However, dens of vice was not the Platonic vision (although what American schools and colleges actually teach would have pleased Plato).

In the vision of John Jay the government prisons he established (to replace the old policy of either hanging or flogging criminals) were meant to “reform” criminals.

And the government school system he longed for (it was not really established till after his time) would take children and turn them into virtuous citizens of the new republic .

What if someone from the state had come to Mr Jay’s farm (the house he had built shows his reputation as an aristocrat is false – it is a rather ordinary house with a front pouch where someone can sit on a rocking chair and chat to passers by – the house that “Common Man” Jefferson had built is vastly grander, but then Jefferson did not mind borrowing money, John Jay hated the idea of borrowing for luxury, he would only spend money he actually had) and started to order him about in farming matters?

I think such a government official would have got a cold stare from the man who attacked price controls and other such nonsense (John Adams would have lost his temper and set the dogs on such an official). But why should government be better at forming human character?

If would not trust the government to be in charge of your carrots, why would you trust them to be in charge of your children?

Governments are often better than private individuals and associations for destructive things – killing people, burning cities and so on (as a man who had lived through war – Mr Jay knew that), but for constructive things such as reforming human character? That does not seem very likely.

Evil (force and fear) has its place in human affairs – remember the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is divided between good and evil. His good side has many things (for example a sincere love of knowledge for its own sake) – even his courage (the evil Kirk is a coward – terrified of losing his own skin), but the good Kirk is also useless as a Star Ship commander (he will not take risks with other people’s lives – and he is horrified even by the suffering and death of enemies). It is the evil Kirk who has the “power of command” and the delight in torment and destruction that gives him the incentive to think up clever ways of destroying foes (the pleasure a cat has). And these-things-are-necessary at times.

The state (force and fear – the Sword of State) is the negative (destructive) energy of human life – you can burn a city with such a force, but you can not make people better (not really) you can not create new and good things. Force and fear has its place in human life (the good Kirk can not command the Enterprise – although the evil Kirk can not be trusted to do so) – but it can not turn a child into a good adult, or turn criminals into honest people (it can just turn them into hypocrites like Mr Heap – pretending to be “ever so humble” as they plot fresh crimes).

If one tries to use the state for positive (for constructive) purposes the negative energy feeds back on itself – the tormented child becomes a vile adult, the criminal leaves the prison worse than when he went in (and so on). The state can punish crime – but it can reform people (and the effort to use state power to “make people better” leads to the most terrible tyranny, as C.S. Lewis pointed out).

Those people (such as John Jay) who supported setting up state prison systems and school systems sincerely believing that they would promote virtue were making an error – a terrible, fundamental, error (an error for which the world is still suffering  – and will suffer more).

The three principles of the Western tradition.

The Western tradition is based upon three principles.

That the physical universe is real and can be investigated – that it is not an illusion or unknowable.

That the human self (the mind – the investigator, the reasoning “I”) also exists, and that this does not contradict the first principle.

And that right and wrong (good and evil) really exist (are not just “cheer and boo” words) and that humans (as beings – reasoning “I”) can CHOOSE between them – can do otherwise than we do.

All these things can be found in Aristotle - although much error can be found in Aristotle also.

And they can also be found in the “Common Sense” philosophy (sometimes known know as the Scottish Philosophy of Thomas Reid to Noah Porter and James McCosh – but within which I would include such English philosophers as Ralph Cudworth, Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross and Antony Flew).

It is rather more doubtful that these things, the three principles of the Western tradition, can be found in some more academically fashionable philosophies.

Dr Bonham’s case.

A man by the name of Bonham refused to pay for a license to practice medicine from the London College Physicians.

The College pointed out that not only did it have authority granted by a King (Henry VIII) , but also a specific Act of Parliament upheld medical licensing. So it fined Bonham (half the fine going to the college – half to the government, just as the Statute said it should) and ordered him to be imprisoned.

In the modern world that would be it – consumer protection upheld, and the evil “Dr” Bonham shipped off to be raped to death in prison somewhere (to the applause of the media – and the education system, the schools and colleges with their “protect the consumer” and “protect the worker” textbooks). However, this was 1610………

Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke (with his wicked, reactionary “Medieval mind”) was outraged by the whole thing. Not owning a piece of paper (a “license”) was not a crime under Common Law (to the Common Law a crime was an aggression against the bodies or goods of someone else – not failing to buy something). Also how could a body (the college or the government) sell licenses and, at the same time, sit in judgement over the case? This would mean that those who profited from the sale of licenses (had a financial interest in it) could punish those who did not buy them! – Which (to the modern minds of both the college and the government) is replied to by “well yes you Feudal nutcase – THAT IS THE POINT”.

Sadly (in spite of the work of Sir Francis Bacon, the author of the Progressive classic “The New Atlantis”, and mentor of Thomas Hobbes – the great philosopher who spread the enlightened notions that “law” was just the whims of the rulers, and that humans were just machines, not beings – not moral agents). The reactionary Sir Edward stopped the imprisonment of Dr Bonham – and declared that he did not have to pay a fine for refusing to buy a piece of parchment (a “license”) as the Common Law (those DUSTY CENTURIES of Year Books full of cases about one man hitting another man over the head with an axe – or damaging a local church by using its windows for target practice for archery……) knew of no such “crime”, and that it was an outrage that those who sold these pieces of paper could fine (indeed imprison) those who refused to buy them (Sir Edward’s “medieval mind” just did not understand the Progressive modern world……).

Nor did this reactionary bigotry end with Sir Edward Coke.

Chief Justice Sir John Holt (late 17th century – the generation that produced the English Bill of Rights and other hopelessly reactionary documents. with their right to keep and bear arms and so on, that are affront to the modern Progressive world) held to the same view that Acts of Parliament do not overturn fundamental principles of natural justice embodied in the centuries of tradition of Common Law reasoning (in spite of Progressive Legal Positivist Thomas Hobbes “proving” that there was no such thing as natural justice or natural law in a moral way – and that the judges of the Common Law, in seeking justice over the dusty centuries, were just lost in illusions – true law being just the will of the ruler).

Chief Justice Holt – even cited judges as far back as Bracton (did he not understand that only what has been said in the last five minutes matters?) and openly stated that Acts of Parliament do not trump fundamental law – indeed it is the other way round. And that it was possible (although difficult) for legal reasoning to find justice. Not that all judges would always agree (YES – there are other cases in the centuries of Year Books that contradict the cases that Sir Edward Coke cited, he knew that and it does NOT undermine his position), but that legal reasoning (fundamentally reasoning in justice – after the manner of Aristotelian reasoning) was possible – that law was NOT just the ravings of Kings and Parliaments. That fundamental law was different to (and higher than) “legislation”.

Chief Justice Holt even tried to apply this to slavery – which to him (as to the 19th century American lawyer and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase) was the Common Law crimes of false imprisonment (dragging someone back if they ran away), and violent assault (whipping someone for refusing to work – no more acceptable in Common Law than throwing someone in prison for refusing to buy a piece of paper, a “license” or an “insurance policy” as with “Obamacare”).

In the United States this reactionary tradition continued with, for example, Justice Pierce Butler of the Supreme Court who held (by dissenting in “Buck Versus Bell”) that a State (even after it passed a “statute”) could not hold down a screaming woman and cut her up for the “crime” of (allegedly) having a “low IQ” out of fear that the women might give birth to babies who also might (allegedly) commit the “crime” if having a “low IQ”.

Justice Butler did not even believe that the government had the right (even after passing a statute) to exterminate “inferior races” – he had clearly never read the noble Progressive writings of the Fabian socialists H.G. Wells (the teaming millions of blacks, browns and yellows must go, forms of gas could be developed and…..) and George Bernard Shaw (every person should be made to justify their existence before a government board, “like the income tax tribunal” and if the board was not happy with them, they should be executed), friends of fellow Supreme Court Judge – O. W. Holmes Jr who wrote the Progressive view of Buck V Bell.

To a Progressive such as Holmes  the old American saying (attributed to Mark Twain) – “no man’s property or liberty is safe – when the legislature is in session” (a much realistic attitude that the deluded British faith in Parliament) is replied to with “and a jolly good thing to!”.

Well where do you stand gentle reader?

With the vile reactionaries such as Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice John Holt, Edmund Burke (see his writings on Ireland and India), American Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, 20th century Justice Salmon P. Chase (and the others of the “Four Horsemen” who opposed such Progressive things as Franklin Roosevelt “National Recovery Agency” – General Johnson’s Jackbooted “Blue Eagle” thugs who tried to set the prices and business practices of every enterprise in the United States).

Or do you stand with the noble Sir Francis Bacon (of The New Atlantis), Sir William Petty (the creator mathematical “economic planning” in the mid 17th century), Thomas Hobbes, the Bowood Circle of the late 18th century (funded by Lord S.) with such lovely people as Jeremy Bentham – with his 13 Departments of State controlling every aspect of life (as it is the duty of government to promote pleasure and oppose pain – and natural law and natural rights are “nonsense on stilts”, law being simply the will of the rulers), and with the Hobbes lovers among the “Westminster Review” crowd of the early 19th century (with their “land question” – i.e. the view that the state could plunder the ancient estates, overturning “feudal” notions going back to the ninth century, as David Ricardo had “proved” that….. let us ignore the fact that Frank Fetter refuted David Ricardo on land a century ago, the Ottoman Empire, and Eastern Despotism generally, rocks, it is “Progressive” to attack the estates of “feudal” Western land holders). And the “New Liberals” of the late 19th century, and the Fabians and the American Progressives and………….

Ignore the warnings of old reactionary Common Lawyers such as Sir Edward Coke and John Holt that Progressive Francis Bacon stuff is really the dark side of Roman Law – the “Civilians” with their doctrines that the will of the ruler has the force of law, and that no law binds the government (because the government can change the law as it likes).

After all such warnings are repeated in the speeches of reactionary (and “corrupt”) President Warren Harding and reactionary (and “stupid”) President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s (see the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents) when they pointed out that  such things as the Progressive “New Freedom” of Woodrow Wilson which claimed to “evolve” beyond the principles of the Constitution of the United States, are (in fact) a product of German collectivist political philosophy (see J. Goldberg “Liberal Fascism”) going back as far as the 18th century philosophy (see the works of Hayek on this – for example the “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty” – although Hayek can never free himself from the general philosophy of the very people whose political ideas he attacks – and, contrary to Hayek, their politics comes naturally from their philosophy) and that this political philosophy is (in turn) a return to the ideas of the “civilians” – the Roman Law scholars with their doctrine that the government is limited by no law (as it can create any law it likes – and change any existing law) and that one must hope for wise rulers to promote the happiness of the people… The reactionary Harding and Coolidge claiming that those who seek to “evolve” beyond “vulgar” or “primitive” views of freedom (the property rights view embodied in such things as the British and American Bill of Rights) actually collapse back into the darkest tyrannical despotism.

Surely no one (but the most hardened and bitter reactionary) would deny that governments should promote pleasure and prevent pain (prevent the little darling people, children really, hurting ourselves) – without letting any silly “old right” stand in their way?

Maybe Women are Some Good after All?

But really, they should also include K-9 officers and enlisted.

From Clash Daily, via Weaselzippers, who got it from WSJ, where it’s only available to subscribers:

BOOM: Kurds Send All-Female Soldiers To Fight ISIS, The Reason Why is Hilarious

Posted on August 21, 2014

Kurdish women are bad-ass. You’ll never guess why they’re the ones on the frontline’s against ISIS. Check this out…

The Kurds have adopted a rather unique strategy for not only eliminating their targets, but also humiliating them along the way.

According to WZ, Kurds are deploying whole units comprised of female fighters to the front line, which has boosted their recruitment numbers, and given them a psychological edge over ISIS. One female fighter explained why the Kurds have decided to put women in the thick of the battle, and it’s sure to make radical Islamists go crazy.

“The jihadists don’t like fighting women, because if they’re killed by a female, they think they won’t go to heaven.”

Awesome. The Kurds have an understanding of what it will take to stop ISIS, and it isn’t peace talks or goodwill offerings. It’s bombs, bullets, and brute force.

Some observations of foreign types in crowds

There was some strange behaviour outside my hotel this evening, instead of the usual languid European-style pavement restaurant with a few, mainly elderly residents enjoying their café under an iridescent evening sun as a few blonde haired goddesses drift by aimlessly on bicycles, there was a massed throng of unruly teens and drunken men filling the square in front of my hotel.

I presumed that it was some form of political protest as they were uniformly dressed alike, but apparently not, it was in fact an opportunity to get utterly paralytic on Heineken served in plastic cups while watching a giant TV screen erected at the end of the not-so-very-grand place. I initially presumed they were there to watch the local version of “America’s Next One Hit Wonder” or whatever it is called in The Land of Clogs.

(more…)

I don’t believe you want to do that Dave…

Well it would appear possibly, arguably, a computer at the Royal Society in London has passed the Turing test.

Read the whole thing. It is interesting. Alas I seem unable to copy and paste from the Guardian otherwise I’d dissect this because I am less than impressed. It would appear they haven’t released the transcripts. And it was impersonating a 13 year old boy. All very fishy. Certainly it ain’t as tough a test as proposed by Kurzweil. This had to be believed by 30% and got 33%. The Kurzweil test is much more rigorous.

Oh and Prof. Kevin Warwick was involved. Hmm…

My fave comment though on the Graun is this (I seem to be able to copy those)…

For a moment, let’s just forget whether and why some computer might pass the test and what that might mean. Suppose instead you wanted to decide whether a human is intelligent… What criteria would you apply? What rigorous and material or empirical definition could you come up with for “intelligent”? Or for “thought”, “objective”, “emotion” or any other noun relating to individuals inner lives for that matter?

Of course there’s no real definition for “intelligent” that doesn’t rely on other abstract nouns, e.g. if you decide it’s “problem solving ability” then you only shift the question along to “what’s a problem, then?”.

But we all agree as a linguistic convention that there is such a thing as intelligence and that humans possess it. But if that’s true and a computer and successfully disguise itself in some open-ended way as a human then we’ve no grounds for denying the title of “intelligent” to the machine.

You may still deny that this has any metaphysical significance. On the other hand, you can’t deny that in that hypothetical the computer has transcended your ability to distinguish it from other entities you agree to be intelligent. That makes the machine categorically distinct from all others in history, at least from your perspective and is surely a significant fact in itself. Without the Turing test, you’d be stuck in a quagmire — what the test does is isolate this significant observation from all metaphysical or linguistic confusion, reducing the matter to observable behaviour.

In the end, it’s a definition of intelligence. Do you have a better one?

No, I don’t but I have never felt sure about the Turing test in general – and yes I have read a lot about it. Does it have agency? Does it have imagination? Can it make mistakes? Mistakes are important for creativity. They seem to me to link tightly with creativity. I have for a long time thought it is probably in principle to compare genuine thought with the perfection of computers in a way almost analogous to quantum complementarity. I have no idea why I feel this except I feel it which perhaps is the point. I also tend to think the Turing test is just too instrumentalist. It in a sense doesn’t get to the heart of consciousness. It’s Searle’s Chinese Room. It is sort of a search for pure empirical proof without theory.

I never trust pure empiricism without theory. I think that might have been Eddington but I can’t track it down and I am writing in a rush. There is a saying (a joke really) in the AI biz about whether you can take it apart with itself? And that is the problem. Can we really understand ourselves properly, scientifically? I feel it is an impossible task and more to the point pointless. Shakespeare couldn’t predict comets arriving but he knew humanity better than any trick-cyclist. Just look at Freud. Or Kinsey or any of those preverts. I’ll believe in the Turing test when it can explain why I love Donne’s 20th elegy but can’t stand Tennyson’s romantic musings. I’ll leave the last word to Albert Einstein…

It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.

This explains a lot

In a comment here Julie near Chicago makes mention of the Drake Equation, an estimate of the number of communicating civilisations in the galaxy at any one time.

This, of course, raises the issue of the Fermi Paradox – where are they?

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Libertarianism and Conservativism – foes or friends?

F.A. Hayek at the end of his “Constitution of Liberty” (1960) wrote “Why I am not a Conservative” – which is odd as Hayek had (perhaps without knowing it) a good grasp of what actually is a positive conception of conservatism, and a poor grasp of libertarianism.

Hayek rejected the word “libertarian” as “artificial” which is just as well as he was not a libertarian – philosophically or politically.

Philosophically Hayek was a determinist (like so many 19th century and early 20th century thinkers, he assumed that “science” mandated determinism). Hayek took David Hume literally (whether Hume should really be taken literally is a hotly contested issue), the “I” (the human person) is an illusion, as is human choice – a thought does NOT mean a thinker (a reasoning “I”) and as there is no agent (no human being – no reasoning “I”) there is no agency (no free will), actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects that go back to the start of the universe – and humans (who are not beings) can do no other than we do (we could not have done otherwise – as choice is an illusion).

Politically Hayek claimed to an “Old Whig”, but is hard to see how his philosophical views are compatible with the Whig point of view – which was based on the MORAL value of human free will (it is not an accident that David Hume was not a Whig) . The determinist (such as the Thomas Hobbes) holds that “freedom” is just an absence of external restraint – for example when a dam fails the water is “free” to rush out and destroy towns and so on. “Freedom” (in the determinist view) is not a matter of moral choice (remember choice is an “illusion”) so “freedom” is like taking one’s hand off a clockwork mouse and letting this clockwork mouse go around on the floor. It is hard to see how this “freedom” can be of any moral importance at all – if any view of politics can be based upon it would be a politics of tyranny (exactly the politics that Hobbes did base upon it), after all walls of water from broken dams (and so on) does not sound very nice.

Still does Hayek say anything else about his politics? Yes he does – again in the “Constitution of Liberty” we are told that he supports the “limited state” not the “minimal state”, because (according to Hayek) the minimal state can not be defined and the limited state can be defined.

Hayek is just wrong – the minimal state is easy to define (although very hard to achieve or maintain – an anarchist would argue impossible to maintain or achieve). The definition of a minimal state is one that just uses force only against the violation of the non aggression principle (attacks on the bodies or goods of people or groups of people). It is actually the “limited state” that is hard to define. Limited to what?

Hayek does make some vague efforts to define the “limited state” – for example he says that such a state applies “general rules” that apply to everyone.

O.K. then – everyone is to have their head cut off. Is that a good example of a “limited state”?

Hayek also says that a limited state does not seek to have a monopoly of any service.

O.K. then – everyone but the children of Mr Smith of 25 Silver Street to go to a state school?

Unfair example? O.K. – how about the state hands education and healthcare “free” (at the expense of the taxpayers), but you are free to pay twice (i.e. pay again on top of taxation) to go private? Is this the limited state?

How about you can go to any doctor you like and send your children to any school you like, but the state pays the bill (no matter how big it is), is that the limited state?

Such a state (one that seeks to provide or pay for education, healthcare, old age provision and on and on) will end up spending half the entire economy (and still fail). That does not sound very limited or sustainable – and Hayek (in his attack on the Welfare State) shows he understands this. However, his “limited state” is not defined in a way that prevents it.

Oh dear this post seems to have turned into “why Hayek is crap” which is unfair as anyone (even the best of us) looks terrible if one just concentrates on errors and weaknesses. I will leave the above out if I ever give a talk on this subject (because it sounds terribly negative) – but it needed to be put on record.

So why is Hayek (perhaps without knowing it) insightful about Conservatism?

Hayek’s own definition of Conservatism (given in “Why I am Not a Conservative”) is not good. He just defines it as being opposed to change – so (for example) a North Korean conservative now would be a socialist (or that is the system they have) and a British conservative I (say) 1870 would be a free market person – as this was the system of the time.

Whatever Hayek may have believed that is not a serious definition of Conservatism. But Hayek (again perhaps without knowing it) does give a description of Conservatism – in “Constitution of Liberty”, “Law. Legislation and Liberty” (and other works).

Cosmos not Taxis – spontaneous order (evolved over time) not top down planning. What Hayek called the results of “human action not human design” (it would be have been better to say the results of voluntary action not forced action – but Hayek had philosophical problems with even voluntary design).

Or (in the language of the conservative writer M.J. Oakeshott) a Civil Association not Enterprise Association, a Societas not a Universitas.

Institutions and customs that evolve over time often without people knowing the reasons they are useful – till they are broken.

As Tolkien’s (Tolkien being a Catholic Conservative) character “Gandalf” puts it in the “Lord of the Rings” – “he who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom”.

This is what Conservatism is about – a preference for evolved custom and ways of doing things (ways of living) over imposed “rational” planning by the state.

The state (in the Conservative view) is like the Thrain of the Shire (Tolkien’s) and the Mayor.

The Thrain does nothing in peacetime (in war it is different) – he just farms his estate. And the Mayor is the leading figure at formal dinners (like those of the old Closed Corporations that were the only “urban local government” before the Act of 1835 in England and Wales), he does not order folk about. Families govern their own affairs and do not attack each other (police forces were not compulsory on the counties of England and Wales till 1856). There is plenty of (moral – traditional) authority, but little naked “power”.

I think it is obvious show this view of Conservatism is close to libertarianism (hence “Tory Anarchist”) – a friend not a foe. But is it tied to Hayek and his philosophical opinions?

No it is not – which is why I mentioned Oakeshott and Tolkien (two Conservatives with very different philosophical opinions to Hayek). Both Oakeshott and Tolkien believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise).

Even in the 18th century Conservatives did not follow the philosophical opinions of David Hume (again IF they were his opinions – I repeat this is hotly contested). Neither the Tory Conservative Dr Johnson or the Old Whig Conservative Edmund Burke (a real Old Whig – unlike Hayek) accepted determinism and the denial of human personhood (moral choice – the ability to choose to do otherwise). Edmund Burke and Dr Johnson (the Whig and the Tory) both believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise) and were moral universalists (not just Dr Johnson – but Edmund Burke also, for the T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson view of his is totally wrong, to Burke it did not matter if something happened in the Middle Ages or right now, in India or America – right was right and wrong was wrong).

Is this the only view of Conservatism?

Of course not – there are other views of Conservatism. For example the statism of Disraeli (with his life long commitment to “social reform” – yuk).

However, that is hardly “doing nothing” (against those who do not themselves aggress against others). The Tauist Old King Log sitting in the shade – rather than Young King Stork “helping” his subjects by eating them.

Agorism

A New Libertarian Manifesto

Chapter 1

By Samuel Edward Konkin III

Read by Mike Gogulski

Ken Ham takes his dogma for a walk

Bill-Nye-vs.-Ken-Ham-Debate

Periodically, the intellectual conflict between science and religion comes to a head in the form of a debate and the results of such debates are often quite interesting and lead into areas of enlightenment that are surprising. Those who say scientists should not take part in such debates are fascists, morons and idiots.

I classify myself a lapsed-Catholic agnostic atheist (that is someone who fundamentally does not believe in god, but as a good scientist cannot prove or disprove his/her non-existence, it’s a very good form of rhetorical macramé), as such the debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy and Ken Ham CEO of the Creation Museum piqued my interest.

At 2½ hours it is quite a long debate, but you need to go through it all to get a real flavour of the thing, the excerpts simply do not do it justice. As you would expect, neither side expected to win over their opponents, but this was a genuine debate for serious stakes, with the minds of children in classrooms at stake.

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How to be human 101 – Empathy

Bad RobotIn my early years I had an all encompassing belief that the universe revolved around my arse. Apparently this is quite common among single children and ‘tail end charlies’ like myself, whose elder brothers were nearly 10-years older than me.

It also didn’t help that I came into my mothers life at a very difficult time when she was being physically abused by my father, as she told me in later years, I was the raft that she clung to during the storms of her turbulent marriage. She finally divorced my father when he was coming up for retirement as she couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck in the house with the miserable old bastard 24/7. (more…)

How William James of Harvard helped undermine moral responsiblity – agency.

Most libertarians (and conservatives) have some idea of the harm Harvard University (in spite of the good elements that have always existed there) has done to the United States and (by extension) the rest of the West.

For example, Harvard (via its relationship with Cambridge in England) helped push Keynesian “economics” thus undermining real economics – and leading to the credit bubble nightmare the world now faces.

Before this Harvard Law School actively discouraged study of the text of the Constitution of the United States and the other writings (showing the intentions) of those who wrote that text – pushing the study of “case law” instead, thus undermining constitutional limitations on government power in the United States.

It is true to say that both in economics and law many other American universities followed the example of Harvard – because of its prestige (based, in part, on its being the first American university and its vast resources).

However, before the harm it did in economics and law, Harvard did great harm in the study of human beings themselves (in what was called the study of the “nature of man”) – in philosophy and psychology.

Once American philosophy had been dominated by those who believed and defended three great principles.

The objective nature of the physical universe.

The objective nature of good and evil.

And the ability of humans to choose between good and evil – that humans were beings (agents) that they had the capacity (if they made the effort – a big “if”) to choose good and reject evil.

Both the Aristotelians who dominated Catholic education and the “Common Sense” thinkers who dominated Protestant education (sometimes called followers of “Scottish philosophy” of John Reid and so on – although the principles go back to 17th century thinkers such as Ralph Cudworth and before).

Harvard took the lead in attacking these principles – by the rise of the American “Pragmatist” School.

The “Pragmatists” are best summed up in the words of William James (one of the leading members of the group) “the right is just the expedient in our way of thinking” – and by this William James meant both “the right” in the sense of truth (there was no objective truth – whatever it was useful to be “true” was “true”) and in the sense of “good and evil” (right and wrong – in both senses), to the Pragmatists objective good and evil did not exist – they were “myths” just as objective truth was a “myth”..

The European “philosopher of violence” Sorel, was later to make use of this doctrine of “useful myths” – what did it matter if one told lies (to incite violence) if truth and lies did not really exist? If what was “true” was just what was “useful” to  the cause.

Mussolini did the same thing – what did it matter if both reason and evidence had refuted socialism? So much for reason and evidence! He might move from strict Marxism (because it was too easy to refute – at least for people who believe in such things as objective truth), but his new form of socialism (“Fascism”) would do – it would be based upon “myths”  and if there was no objective truth. lying was O.K. (indeed a new “truth”).

One can even see this in the writings of the Oslo murderer (he wanted his name to be famous – so I never use it) – William James was his most favoured philosopher (on his Facebook page – before it was taken down). So what if the people he murdered were unarmed kids – if his “truth” was that they were armed foes, and he was a “Knight Templar” was not his “truth” as valid as the “truth” of anyone else? And was not his “good” (murdering unarmed kids) not as valid as the “good” of anyone else?

Not even religious people were immune from the spell of William James – as Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out, one was more like to hear the name William James than Saint James in the Churches of the Progressives.

How can it be objectively wrong to murder millions of helpless people – if there is no such thing as objective wrong (or objective right)? Besides it is not convenient to try and save the helpless people being murdered – one might be hurt (or even killed) trying to save them, so it may be “your truth” that they should be saved, but it is not “my truth”.

Besides “modern scientific thought” had “proved” that one could not choose between good and evil (which do not objectively exist anyway) – choice is an “illusion”, one is really controlled by impersonal social forces of “class” and/or “race” in one’s “historical period”.

The Schoolmen (the scholastics) had been fond of saying “natural law is the law of God – but if God did not exist natural law would be EXACTLY THE SAME” – the “new” way of thinking (actually this evil is as old humanity – but I will not go into this here) held that natural law (right and wrong, good and evil) did not really exist for the religious or for atheists – and that (even if they did exist) humans were not beings (not agents) and could not choose between them anyway – choice (morality) being an “illusion”.

Thus the fury (righteous fury) of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the “Christians” who either murdered the innocent (after all “what is innocence?” said the smooth talking scum) themselves, or stood by and did nothing as the innocent were murdered in front of them.

And it was not just in Germany. in the United States the eugenics movement was welcomed by the “religious progressive” – both the holding down and cutting up of women for being “inferior” (only Justice Pierce Butler, the “arch reactionary”, voted against forced sterilisation – the other eight Justices on the Supreme Court thought it was fine) and even plans to actively exterminate the “inferior” – even if this “inferiority” was actually a “useful myth”.

And even if is evil (although objective evil does not exist……) we do not “really” choose our actions – choice is just an “illusion” (so it is not my fault that I pushed these children into the gas chamber and then murdered them).

But how did William James (and his “intellectual” friends) undermine moral responsibility – agency. the courage to choose good and reject evil? To stand against the “social forces”?

How did the philosophy (and the psychology) of “Common Sense” thinkers such as James McCosh (the once famous President of Princeton) and Noah Porter (the once famous President of Yale) get replaced?

One looks in vain for in “Psychology” (1892) for a formal refutation of (for example) Noah Porter’s “The Human Intellect: With An Introduction Upon Psychology And The Soul” – which, before the work of William James, was the standard work on psychology in the United States. Indeed the name “Noah Porter” is not even mentioned in the book.

Instead we get this……..page 457 “Psychology” by William James (1892).

“But a psychologist cannot be expected to be thus impartial, having a great motive in favour of determinism. He wants to build a Science; and Science is a system of fixed relations. Where ever there are independent variables, there Science stops. So far, then, as our volitions may be independent variables, a scientific psychology must ignore that fact, and treat of them only so far as they are fixed functions. In other words, she must deal with the general laws of volition exclusively; with the impulsive and inhibitory character of ideas; with the nature of their appeals to the attention; with the conditions under which effort may arise, etc.; but not with the precise amounts of effort for these, if our wills be free, are impossible to compute, She thus abstracts from free-will, without necessarily denying its existence. Practically, however, such abstraction is not distinguished from rejection; and most actual psychologists have no hesitation in denying that free-will exists.”

The word “psychology” goes back to Ralph Cudworth in the 17th century – the great defender (against Thomas Hobbes) of human agency, the great denier that humans were just machines (not beings). And. by the way, the great attacker of the “chopping up” of the human mind between “will” and “reason” ( a perhaps mistaken practice of the scholastics). Noah Porter (the most famous writer on psychology in America ) had only died a couple of years before this book by William James was published, James McCosh (the great “Common Sense” philosopher) was actually still alive (he died in 1894). Reason (agency) had defenders (at that time) in almost every university in America – yet William James comes out with this tissue of lies – and that is what (thanks to Harvard – and its influence) future generations of students would be taught.

I will now translate what William James wrote into English – I will give its “practical” sense, to use his term. “Practically” (without his cowardly evasions – such as “without necessarily denying its existence”).

Humans are not beings, human volition (agency) does not exist. Humans are just machines – all of whose actions are predetermined. There is no real “choice” (it is an “illusion”). There is no moral difference between a human and a clockwork mouse. And we need not be concerned with enslavement of humans by the state – because humans are slaves (indeed machines – not beings) by nature anyway.

The utter denial of human freedom – no agency, no moral responsibility.

The victory of evil – total and absolute.

That is at the heart of modern academia (of “Nudge” by Cass Sunstein and all the rest of it) – and it came long before (indeed was the cause) of the corruption of such things as law and economics.

Why should humans make the great effort (suffer the terrible pain) required for agency (for standing against evil) if this is impossible? If humans are not really beings (not really agents) at all.

This is the heart of evil.

What happens when a Turing Machine meets a Blackhole?

A while back I promised to write this. It has taken some time.

Well the short answer is nobody knows. In principle. Let me explain…

But seeing as this is not QI and I am not the curly haired loon Alan Davis I’d best try to explain why…

There are questions that are unanswered and there are the unanswerable.

Magic don’t exist. Science does and it is a kinda magic (or is that Queen?). Robert Oppenheimer certainly proved that. Well, with his pencil he certainly wielded more power than Dumbledore did with a twig. Real science is magic and it is magic beyond anything these sort of numpties could dream of.

In 1995 at Nottingham University a geezer dressed in a manner that would make Arch-Chancellor Ridcully look under-dressed handed me a piece of paper that was the official recognition of my getting the keys to the Universe. It was emotional, I can tell you. It was a BSc in Physics.

So what I am getting at in this preamble is that magic is real and it’s magic because it doesn’t always make “common sense”.

So, to the point!

Black-holes are essentially collapsed stars that have all their mass within their Schwarzchild radius. This is the radius which even classically, light can’t escape from because as you know Neil, Buzz and Mike had to go rather fast to get off this rock but seeing as the speed of light is a cosmic speed limit once the gravity of a collapsed star gets to that having an escape velocity above that of light then you are in it for the duration. By the way I’m sticking with the non-charged, non-rotational solutions here. Hence Schwarzchild will suffice.

If you really want to muck about with Kerr-Newman metric then knock yourselves out. We’ll keep it without angular velocity (or charge). Now I appreciate the revolutions of Beyonce’s twerking her fundamental singularity as much as the next person but for the current porpoise the entertainer on the stage might as well be Noel Coward in a dinner-suit singing some old nonsense that the late Queen Ma would like.

Because the simple truth is black holes have a property which is awesome. It brings information theory (one of the grandest achievements of C20 maths) into a kind of conflict with one of the grandest achievements of C20th physics. And it’s dead simple. By which I mean it lacks complexity. Now, modeling weather is complicated because modeling multiple processes is. This is a different kind of hard. It does not involve the kind of recursive computation that gets a Julia Set on screen. It is conceptually hard rather than computationally so. Hold that thought – it will matter. There are incredible complicated things that are hard and there are simple things that are hard. Things can be hard in qualitatively different ways.

Now, in the 1930s Alan Turing came up with a theoretical model for computers. I’m typing on one now. Now Turing proved (as did Alonzo Church) by a different route (and Kurt Gödel had a look in too) proved this. Now some of this was purely formal such as the disproof of Peano Arithmetic which set out to prove essentially that the mathematics of integers can be based on a single finite and logically consistent axiom-set. That this was a bit of an embuggeration (especially to David Hilbert) is to say the least. Hilbert had proposed a program in which he hoped all mathematics could be reduced to a single axiom set. Peano Arithmetic was a jolly good punt at that. Essentially he’d proposed an idea to develop something much like the characteristica universalis of Leibniz. Essentially an attempt to reduce everything to rule-following. The idea was this…

When the Peano axioms were first proposed, Bertrand Russell and others agreed that these axioms implicitly defined what we mean by a “natural number”. Henri Poincaré was more cautious, saying they only defined natural numbers if they were consistent; if there is a proof that starts from just these axioms and derives a contradiction such as 0 = 1, then the axioms are inconsistent, and don’t define anything. In 1900, David Hilbert posed the problem of proving their consistency using only finitistic methods as the second of his twenty-three problems. In 1931, Kurt Gödel proved his second incompleteness theorem, which shows that such a consistency proof cannot be formalized within Peano arithmetic itself

That’s from wikipedia

So it is entirely a bust flush. Or is it?

Anyway, I realized I’m hundreds of words in and haven’t answered the question! Sorry, but I had to foreground and the essential problem is to do with words like “definable”, “consistent” and especially “infinite”. Now the final one is the impenetrable. Now way back when Galileo realized infinity was a tough nut to crack when he put as an aside the idea (which is true) that the set of Naturals had exactly the same cardinality as the set of Perfect Squares. Now the first set is {1,2,3…} and the second starts {1,4,9…} but both have the same number of members. Huh? You might be thinking there are more of the first because of the gaps in the second? But as Galileo argued and Cantor proved the cardinality (the size of the sets – sort of) can be proven to be the identical for both because both can be put in an exact 1-1 bijection – essentially for each member of the first set there is a one on the other side – kinda like the perfect tea-dance – with integers He (Cantor) called this number Aleph-null. The first of the transfinite cardinals (there are many more cardinals – more than they have in Rome – and some are fucking enormous – a technical term I owe to a Leeds University number theorist). I am getting a bit OT here but I must mention a collection known (and I know this sounds rather “Father Ted” but there are, amongst many others, ineffable cardinals. Please read this because it conveys the total Woo-Woo.

Yes, there are numbers that are infinite in ways that can’t be uttered but must exist, logically. Yes this sounds mystic and it is but it is provable. This is not homeopathy. This is reality.

What was that paragraph about? Well it was really about trying to say (and this is relevant) that there. In an arguably similar way General Relativity contains solutions (such as those due to Kurt Gödel which include the possibility of time-travel but whilst mathematically impeccable do not pertain to our Universe, but could in principle, just don’t). Now that is interesting. So interesting I wrote an MSc thesis on it. What was dear old Gödel up to? Fuck knows! I don’t know fuck so I don’t. It is all a piggy-rotten mystery and no mistake. It’s like Windows 8. No bastard groks that one.

Anyway Blackholes are simpler. Once you cross the event horizon you is doomed and I mean proper Frazer doomed. Not only are you not getting out but you can’t really communicate out either. Because nothing can get out of an event horizon. It’s kinda like dropping car keys down a toilet. Now I’m on my uppers here (but promised to write this piece) but my understanding is that in the vicinity of an event horizon time slows as seen by an external observer but seems the same for the subject falling in. They also get gravitationally red-shifted and dim into the IR. So if you chuck your mate into a blackhole and they wave back at you it seems ever slower and ever redder until you can see nothing of them. Now this time dilation is kinda like working a 36hr day and then a 48hr day and then a 72hr day so you get more done. Essentially any computable problem accelerates (i.e. breaking a code and not whether Miley Cyrus ought to wear pants) because the effective time the Turing machine’s rate of knots has becomes asymptotic because time has slowed for it – though not for the observer at a safe distance. So it can actually solve or get round the likes of the Entsheidungsproblem

Except. As the Turing machine (and if you are reading this – you have one – just not a local blackhole – I hope) hits max and goes infinite it is going beyond the event horizon so you never get to know the results. I know. It sucks. Of course you could leap in after it but you’d never be able to get the data out so what is the point?

Now I have no idea whatsoever where my trash goes. But if it were to be chucked in a blackhole then nothing of it would remain to the external observer other than mass, electric charge and angular momentum. This applies to anything. This applies to pork bellies, gold ingots, the works of Shakespeare and your Aunty Gladys. All meaningful information is lost to the Universe. In a very real sense that is why blackholes are something else. And that is why a Turing machine can achieve infinite speed (even that dreadful Acer you bought five years ago) but anyone outside the hole can do nothing with it. And if you are past the event horizon neither can you.

And for my next trick I have this cat and this box ;-)

The New Shadow

JRR Tolkien started writing a sequel to the Lord of the Rings.

I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall [of Sauron], but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless – while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors – like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow – but it would be just that. Not worth doing.

I think that says as much about our World as Middle Earth. No moment of triumph ever lasts. It’s a second law of thermodynamics for societies.

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