Fiction, Politics

If you wanted to steal an election…

Let us say that you were in charge of the Ministry for Shenanigans, tasked by the Supreme Leader with interfering with the democratic elections in Freedonia, not to ensure the current Prime Minister of Freedonia remains in power, but to sow dissent amongst its people.

The current Prime Minister of Freedonia is known for saying random nonsense, but is not actually known for having the competence to pull off any of the conspiracies everyone knows he would like to engage in.

If anything, he is so mindbogglingly incompetent that nobody would dare try to involve them in a conspiracy, because everyone knows that if you tried, he would boast about the plan the next morning in the middle of a breakfast TV interview that was supposed to be a fluff-story about cheese exports. Everyone knows this, because during the last election he openly asked you to interfere, and then went on to boast about getting your help, even though you actually didn’t bother that time. The fact you genuinely didn’t help him then is the only reason he has not already been removed from office and inserted into a prison cell.

So, what do you do given that it is absolutely vital that all of your actions are deniable? Remember, the goal is not to get this moron elected, it is to cause civil disorder within Freedonia. To make Freedonia care more about its internal affairs than whatever the Supreme Leader is doing.

You wait.

You wait for the Prime Minister to say or do something corrupt and stupid. Perhaps he will claim that suicide bombers are plotting to blow themselves up in the polling stations, and therefore all voters must be naked, even though the election is in the middle of November. Perhaps he will make spurious claims about postal voting. Perhaps he will require people to show a voting-specific ID card but only send those cards out to people likely to vote for him.

It doesn’t really matter what nonsense he comes up with, because Freedonia has a constitutional separation of powers that limits the damage the Prime Minister can actually inflict.

What does matter is that he will say these things, and many voters will see this as a threat to their vote and (quite understandably) be very angry. They will organise. They will suggest ways around his schemes. They will think themselves very clever. Broadly, they will also have no idea how anything works.

You will use your fake social media accounts to join in. You will seem real, genuine, pro-democracy. But… the ideas you will be feeding the Freedonian electorate are those which sound good and yet do not work. Ideas like “online voting with blockchain” (you know how easy it is to break into a Freedonian government website) or “posting your vote directly to the $insert_address_here” (oh, but post that goes there never gets read).

Most of the public won’t be able to tell which advice is good and which is bad, so if experts warn against listening to bad advice, the public are still just as likely to do the wrong thing as the right thing.

Either way, an increasing number of people start distrusting the result. When the results come in, they have an excuse ready and waiting for why they lost: not because their politics were unpopular, but because the other lot corrupted the vote.

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Opinion, Politics

Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy confuses me.

How can someone someone be angry to be called a “TERF” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), how can they denounce it an anti-feminist insult, when in the next breath deny the existence of Trans-* people? That’s what the acronym means.

How can someone claim that it’s justified for a police officer to shoot dead a child holding a toy gun in an open-carry state where it is not only legal to be walking around with a real gun, but the freedom to be so armed is considered a right worth fighting for specifically to protect against a government that will oppress you?

How can someone denounce one politician for having a multi-million-pound patch of land while they boast about another politician also having multiple millions in property? Or similar with different people for getting close to breaking quarantine rules.

Why do these people call me an “ex-pat” for leaving their country, but denounce anyone arriving as being an “economic migrant”?

Why is it that some will cheer when one person who donated a lot of money to charity and got a knighthood as a result has his statue and name removed from public use when his crimes came to light, yet boo and hiss when the statue of someone who killed tens of thousands is pulled down?

Then there’s the way one presidential candidate was criticised because her husband committed adultery, but the other candidate personally committed adultery and that was apparently fine?

It’s not just right-wing talking points.

I’ve watched people condemn Tesla as if it were unadulterated evil while being adamant that the only reason electric cars aren’t more popular is that billionaires exist.

I’ve seen people scoff at the idea that the UK might not be unified behind Brexit while simultaneously being exasperated that not everyone in the UK is unified behind Brexit. (Brexit isn’t a left-right split, even though quite a lot of loud-mouthed right-wing people think any dissent has to be from the left).

And I’ve seen supporters of the UK Labour party’s previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn, insist that Corbyn was doing better than Blair despite the fact that Blair won elections and Corbyn did not.

I know my left-wing list is shorter than my right-wing list. I can’t tell if that’s me, or the media I consume, or if it’s a difference between the typical supporters of left-wing and right-wing politics. (I certainly doubt the leadership are different, but the supporters must be).

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Futurology, Politics, Personal, history

Mistakes

It is important to keep track of one’s mistakes — you can’t learn to be better if you don’t.

Here is one of mine from 2016:

“Trump and Clinton are both equally awful”.

Ye gods, how I wish that was so. I saw each as just two more in the same mould as all other American politicians: a rich narcissist, out of touch with the lived reality of the average person.

Here’s another, also from 2016 — my reply to a blogpost asking various questions about Brexit, with my 2020 annotations as emphasised text:

My expectations:

The UK votes to leave, Cameron resigns. One half of the population hates the other half. Redacted person name very happy. Correct.

France very relieved, they didn’t much like us anyway. Comme ci, comme ça.

France tries to set up a financial centre to attract all the business currently in the City of London; mostly this fails and they go to Zurich, Luxembourg, Geneva and Frankfurt in that order. Eh, close enough.

House prices collapse as Russian oligarchs move to New York, Frankfurt (or Zurich, if they are able to buy property there). Nope!

German citizens regard us as kids who threw our toys out of the pram. Politicians treat us accordingly. Correct.

Politicians, by necessity, have a number of sociopathic traits. Therefore they take a brutal approach to us in order to discourage other nations from leaving. (Our politicians are no better, and would be as obtuse as possible to Scotland if Scotland left the UK!). Greece is terrified, stays where it is. I’d say ‘wrong’, but it is notable that the most vocal Leavers say this is exactly what has happened.

We remain in NATO, Interrail. We probably don’t stay in EUHIC. Still in NATO, left Interrail (though this is apparently not Brexit-related?), will leave EUHIC at the end of the transition period, so 1.5/3 correct.

Businesses campaign to keep our standards in sync with EU standards to keep their costs down. Hard to tell. I keep hearing that Businesses are afraid to rock the boat, but hate everything that’s going on. How true that is, I do not know.

After 2 years, we leave EU. We stop paying into the CAP, receive no rebate. UK food producers upset their goods no longer given “protected region” status (or whatever the name is) in the EU. Two years? Incorrect. CAP/rebate? Correct. Geographical Indications? Looks like the UK is keeping them, despite some news stories saying otherwise. Either that or the UK government is giving incorrect advice, a possibility which I only even mention because of how it is acting throughout the Corona virus pandemic. 1/3.

Welsh economy collapses further as it no longer receives money from EU as a “severely deprived region”. Hard to tell, what with the Corona virus being a much bigger problem for all the economies everywhere.

British Islamic fundamentalist terrorists find it more difficult to reach EU countries, commit acts in UK instead. Again, hard to tell because of the Corona virus.

Britain replaces Human Rights Act with something that doesn’t mention the right to life, the right to privacy, the right to free association, or the right to trade unions. I still think this will happen, but after the transition period is over.

Commonwealth states further away than EU, not as rich. This makes for less effective trade. I still think this is the case, but no way to tell until after the transition period is over.

Fish stocks replenish as Spanish no longer allowed to fish in UK waters. This is enforced with at least one gunboat, leading to Spanish newspapers calling for the Spanish government to kick out all the Brits living in Spain. The Spanish government debates this, to the surprise of nobody except the English (on the one hand they no longer need to allow us, on the other the expats might be the only ones preventing further house price collapse). I am surprised to find I wrote this, so count this as “false” even if it later comes true — nobody deserves points for predicting a coin toss will be “either heads or tails”.

All those “twinned with” signs disappear, from a combination of vandalism and a lack of will to replace them. I think this is plausible, but less than 50% chance that more than a handful will be so affected in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, rapid automation messes around with every economy at once. This is blamed on Brexit, despite having nothing to do with it. (Alternative: we remain, the economic mess from automation is blamed on the EU by the UK and the UK by France). Corona virus doesn’t count. Check again around 2025.

One of several reasons I no longer talk to the person I was replying to back then, is that their response to this was:

“Given your general stance seems to be that everything is doomed whatever anybody does, it’s hard to take seriously your claim that one course of action will doom us more than any other. :-p”

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Futurology, Minds, Philosophy, Politics, SciFi, Technology, Transhumanism

Sufficient technology

Let’s hypothesise sufficient brain scans. As far as I know, we don’t have better than either very low resolution full-brain imaging (millions of synapses per voxel), or very limited high resolution imaging (thousands of synapses total), at least not for living brains. Let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that we have synapse-resolution full-brain scans of living subjects.

What are the implications?

  • Is a backup of your mind protected by the right to avoid self-incrimination? What about the minds of your pets?
  • Does a backup need to be punished (e.g. prison) if the person it is made from is punished? What if the offence occurred after the backup was made?
  • If the mind state is running rather than offline cold-storage, how many votes do all the copies get? What if they’re allowed to diverge? Which of them is allowed to access the bank accounts or other assets of the original? Is the original entitled to money earned by the copies?
  • If you memorise something and then get backed up, is that copyright infringement?
  • If a mind can run on silicon for less than the cost of food to keep a human healthy, can anyone other than the foremost mind in their respective field ever be employed?
  • If someone is backed up then the original is killed by someone who knows the person was backed up, is that murder, or is it the equivalent of a serious assault that causes a small duration of amnesia?
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Opinion, Politics

The worst form of government except for all the others

(Does this sound fair? I’m not formally qualified in politics).

Democracy

The only way to get a government which wants to do the sort of things the public are OK with.

Technocracy

The only way to get a government of people who know what they’re talking about.

Industrialism

The only way to provide a government with the capability to do things.

(Not “capitalism” in general, industry in particular).

Diplomacy

The only way to provide a government with awareness that other nations can have their own desires and goals which differ from it’s own.

Journalism/Police

The only way to fight corruption.

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Futurology, Maps, Opinion, Politics

Oh no

I didn’t make this blog to rant about politics, yet that seems to be a thing I’ve done all to often, and with this post I will have done it again.

Brexit. Ugh.

When the results came in, I thought it would be minor — why else would anyone be willing to put it to a referendum? — and so, despite losing, didn’t feel dismay or despair or anger.

Then Cameron resigned, then the pound dropped more than the stated worst case scenario for economic damage and stayed low, then May promised an outcome so extreme that Leave campaigners had previously dismissed the possibility as “project fear”, then… you know what, it doesn’t matter much how or why I got scared.

What matters is that for the last few years, I’ve been alternating between a few different models for how this will work out. Which one I expect depends on part on which of cancel/hard/WTO I think most likely:

  1. D20 × 100,000 (100k-2M) fatalities.
    figure_1

    Graph showing all sixty possible numbers from the set of dice rolls D6^D10, sorted by how big the number is (y-axis is logarithmic)

  2. D6^D10 fatalities (see graph, 1-60,466,176 fatalities)
  3. Population-adjusted Troubles:
    ~165k fatalities, 2.2 million injured
  4. Population-adjusted Irish Potato Famine: 20-25% depopulation, half by death the rest by emigration, 6.6M-8.3M of each.

If these numbers seem unreasonably high to you, ask yourself: why?

But that’s just a summary of where we’re at, it’s not news, not really.

What is news is a recent survey by the university of Cardiff which shows that about 2/3rds of both Leavers and Remainers think that political violence in support of their side is justified if it means “winning”. I’m sad to say that matches my gut instinct that one side is sincere when it claims it’s living in a humiliating dictatorship and leaving will do no real harm, while the other is equally sincere when it claims that leaving will leave many dead.

  • Most Leave voters across all three countries think violence towards MPs is a ‘price worth paying’ for Brexit – 71% in England, 60% in Scotland and 70% in Wales. The majority of Remain voters across all three countries think violence towards MPs is a ‘price worth paying’ to Remain – 58% in England, 53% in Scotland and 56% in Wales.
  • A majority of Remain voters across all three countries think protests in which members of the public are badly injured are a ‘price worth paying’ to stop Brexit and remain in the EU – 57% in England, 56% in Scotland and 57% in Wales. Even larger majorities of Leave voters in all three countries think protests in which members of the public are badly injured are a ‘price worth paying’ to achieve Brexit – 69% in England, 62% in Scotland and 70% in Wales.

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/1709008-future-of-england-survey-reveals-public-attitudes-towards-brexit-and-the-union

This survey does not say that 2/3rds will commit political violence. It also does not say that 2/3rds will accept the corollary, of violence done against them as a cost for winning.

However, even if nobody is violent (please, for Christmas, I wish nobody was violent), given that only 3.5% have to quietly and persistently be disobedient for even a belligerently totalitarian dictatorship to fall (https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/the-3-5-percent-solution), the UK is unsustainable in any possible outcome. Leave, remain, the UK is over, it’s finished… ugh, and it’s not going to be as simple as splitting up into Scotland, Wales, England, and re-unifying Ireland, as each region is itself divided:

img_6534

Map of the United Kingdom showing the voting areas for the European Union membership referendum, 2016. Areas marked in blue show a majority of votes in favour of leaving the European Union, while areas marked in yellow show a majority in favour of remaining a member. Credit: various Wikipedia contributors listed in link.

…which basically means people everywhere in the UK other than central London, Oxbridge, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Gibraltar, Derry, and Brighton in the Remain side — and Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Southend-on-Sea, and the three general areas of The Wash National Nature Reserve/Clacton-on-Sea/Lowestoft on the Leave side — could well be facing deep-seated interpersonal violence (hopefully no violence, but Brexit has the habit of finding new ways to disappoint) from their neighbours. The Remain parts aren’t pure Remain and the Leave parts aren’t pure Leave.

I’m expecting the political map of the UK to look something like this by 2030:

Possible British Isles political map 2030.png

Political map of the British Isles circa 2030. Don’t take this too seriously, I briefly considered illustrating the point with a map of chip-shop sauce preferences, which isn’t much less sensible than having the city of York independent from an independent Yorkshire.

That said, there is a way I can be wrong. This is all predicated on treating people’s words as sincere, and my repeated mistake over all this has been to do just that. I didn’t have the right concepts in my mind to properly understand my mistake, but I do now: Mistake theory vs. Conflict theory.

Mistake theory is roughly how science works: if two people disagree, at least one of them made a mistake, and if they discuss things openly and with humility they will become less wrong.

Conflict theory is roughly how politics works: there is no real “right side”, only “my side” and “their side”, and any argument is a conflict. There are no real rules in this conflict — lies, propaganda, crimes, whatever — only empowering victory or humiliating defeat.

I believe Leave voters and campaigners are generally in Conflict theory mode. I don’t know whether Remain voters and campaigners are generally Mistake theorists or Conflict theorists, but I suspect Cameron was a Conflict theorist.

The leader of any Conflict theory… tribe?… might be able to prevent that tribe from engaging in violence by merely claiming — without regard to truth one way or the other — victory.

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history, Politics

History, according to the British

If you’ve ever wondered why the UK acts the way it does, consider that my formal history lessons at school went like this:

  • Boudica had a perfectly justified but ultimately futile fight with the Romans
  • Saxons exist
  • “William the Conqueror” came, saw, and conquered liberated and/or unified the country
  • “The” Manga Carta
  • Civil war War of the Roses
  • Henry VIII
  • Civil war Catholics or Protestants argue about which one is sent from God and which is the unholy spawn of Satan’s armpit hair
  • Witch hunts
  • “The civil war”
  • The Spanish Armada is defeated by Britain being awesome in a totally unspecified way
  • Britain decided to end the slave trade but only after profiting from it greatly and at around the same time as everyone else in Europe, probably because the industrial revolution had started and manual labour was becoming less important
  • The Industrial Revolution, which according to this version of events consists entirely of “Steam Engine → power loom (that it exists, no description given) → one specific picture of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Queen Victoria, who never smiled, perfectly embodied the essence of what it means to be British by calling herself “Empress of India”, marrying her first cousin (Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and being the head of state when the Great Famine hit Ireland and a million people starved to death
  • World War 1
  • World War 2, where the UK stood alone against the Nazis with only the help of USA, the USSR, the British Empire, the French resistance, the Danish resistance…

In addition to my sarcastic strike-through comments, notice what is missing:

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Humour, Politics

Brexit RPG

You are in a maze of twisty-turny tweets, all alike. You are likely to be eaten by a GRU.

Encounter!

You meet a Tarot reader. Roll a d6:

1. The fortune teller predicts the UK will cancel Article 50 and remain in the EU.

2. The fortune teller predicts Westminster will reject May's Deal, but instead call for the UK to join the EEA.

3. The fortune teller predicts Westminster will agree May's Deal.

4. The fortune teller predicts Westminster rejects May's Deal. Project Fear turns out to have been an understatement, as 10% of the UK's electricity is supplied by France under EU-specific rules, and the UK requires a reliable electricity supply to keep water mains running because it doesn't use water towers to pressurise the system.

While Westminster isn't paying attention, NI has a referendum under the Good Friday agreement and decides to reunify with the Republic of Ireland; Scotland unilaterally becomes independent and takes the nuclear submarines with it; and Wales, Yorkshire and Cornwall give it a go too.

5. The fortune teller predicts Westminster considers repeating the trade strategy that was highly successful in China in 1839–1842 and 1856–1860.

The UK accidentally becomes a military dictatorship after the British armed forces say "no" to this plan on the grounds that the Opium Wars were in fact wars, and as most of the EU is in NATO and the UK is also in NATO, the UK would have to declare war on itself.

6. Like 5, but instead of the second paragraph, the fortune teller predicts the UK is forced to declare war on itself under NATO article 5.

America takes over and the UK is forced to have a written constitution. Lots of people very unhappy because it's a copy of the American one and the UK population hates guns so much even the police aren't routinely armed.

=-=-=

If you have ITEM:NEWS that COUNTRY:NORWAY has rejected UK membership of the EEA, then if the Tarot reader rolls a 2 you may instead collect ONE BOWL OF POPCORN as compensation.

 

No, it’s not a prediction. It’s just a text adventure…

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Politics, Psychology

Brexit as an example of failure to comprehend conditional probabilities

It’s been 2 years 5 months 12 days 12 hours 25 minutes since my first post about Brexit, and I still don’t really know what will happen.

Almost everything is conditional probability: “If there’s a hard (no-deal) Brexit, then the traffic jams from Dover, Harwich/Felixstowe, etc. will be about as long as is physically possible given the number of trucks in the UK.”

Conditional probabilities suck for human-human interactions.

Any pro-Brexit person who reads that will tend, I think, to remember that prediction without the “if” clause; and if there is a deal, they will be much more likely to crow about it as “yet another Remoaner failure”. (Also often missed: “much more likely” doesn’t mean “will”, but I keep seeing people read it that way).

This sort of prediction tends to be used by propagandists as a modern-day Cassandra: the worst case scenario is so bad that everyone strives to prevent it — in this case by not countenancing a no-deal scenario — and so it becomes just another reason to distrust experts who fought against a no-deal scenario. In turn, this increases the chances of something as bad as a no-deal scenario next time. I see the same thing with the Millennium Bug, and as a kid with global warming (no, it wasn’t scientists who told you we were heading straight into an ice age, it was newspapers; any scientists actually talking about an actual ice age were talking about the end of an interglacial warm period and were even then outnumbered 6-to-1 by those concerned about things getting warmer).

I can only think of three post-Brexit-Great-Britain (yes I do mean GB, not UK, I know too little about NI) predictions that are not conditional on the final form that Brexit takes:

  1. The UK population will still be arguing about it
  2. These arguments will involve at least one large march (≥10,000 people)
  3. At least one building will be set on fire (or an attempt will be made: they’re designed to not be on fire)

I put at least 1-in-3 odds that events 2 and 3 will be performed by both angry Leavers and angry Remainers.

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Politics

Falsifiability

The 2-4-6 game is there to teach falsifiability. It’s an important skill, because otherwise you just get confirmation biases.

For the entirety of my life, never mind the Brexit negotiations, I have assumed “the EU is good” — at least, as far as ‘good’ can be attributed to any government. Nothing the EU have done during these negotiations has changed that, as all the things pointed to by Very Angry Leavers are things which I would also do in the EU’s place (that is: it decided what its objectives were, told everyone, and focused its negotiations around them). However, this doesn’t actually prove anything, as it has all the usual problems that come with any other ‘confirmation’.

In order to test the morality of the EU, I have to predict what an Evil Moustache-Twirling Union would do, and see how the EU’s behaviour differs from that. So:

  1. EMTU would seek to punish and harm the Other, meaning that it would not focus on maximising its own strategic interests but rather on causing negative outcomes to the Other. They would disregard any advice from their own economists and business groups if they say the EMTU’s response is not the best (or least-bad) option available, given those strategic interests.
  2. EMTU would not attempt to negotiate with the Other, or if it was forced to negotiate it would have red-lines which the Other cannot ever accept. It would not provide the Other a range of options and ask the Other to choose which it would prefer. It would highball any and all estimates of payments due from the Other, and not consider counterclaims from the Other. It would not be open and blunt about its strategic interests and demands, just in case the Other could figure out a way to meet them. It would move the goalposts and threaten to go back on any deals it had already agreed to.
  3. EMTU would insist that leaving the Other requires leaving all associations connected with EMTU, anything where the EMTU had clout. This does not mean ‘trade deals’ given the explanations I’ve read tend to agree such matters are entirely down to the third parties, but rather things like Euratom, EEA membership, fishing rights, etc.; I don’t know if it would or would not include aircraft safety certificates, mutual recognition of pilot licences etc., as I don’t know how complex those are to agree on, nor if those generally require things like “both parties agree to follow judgements of the other party’s courts” — heck, I don’t even know how to characterise that, given one of the problems with the real-life version of this is that although the EU/Remain position is that EU courts are neutral international courts for sovereign countries to resolve their disputes in, the UK/Leave position seems to be that the EU is the sovereign entity and those very same courts are domestic courts.
  4. EMTU would continuously denigrate the Other, comparing it to dictatorships that half its members remember fighting to overthrow; they would then follow this up with bombastic militaristic references.

So far, the EMTU as I’ve described appears to be closer to the UK than the EU.

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