Author Archives: Robert Marsanyi

Capitalism as neural network

https://ai.objectives.institute/blog/ai-and-the-transformation-of-capitalism

Peter Eckersley died recently. I didn’t know anything about him, but two bloggers I follow independently eulogized him so I went down the rabbit hole.

He had an insight regarding the difference between intelligence and wisdom; the former as the ability to optimize to a goal, the latter the ability to determine goals. He started an organization called the AI Objectives Institute to push some thinking around the determination of good goals to apply AI to.

A second insight was the parallel between AI as we currently constitute it (back propagation, …) and capitalism as a system of optimization. Not just an analogy, it turns out, there are structural elements of each type of system that are he same (back propagation of price signals, …) that allow him to claim that capitalism is an AI system. So then he goes on to start thinking about applying the same sorts of mitigation that are used in AI to reign in unwanted behaviors.

Interesting guy.

Tipping in restaurants

I just learned something interesting: tipping restaurant workers is a legacy of Jim Crow. Early in the last century, the National Restaurant Association was formed, and one of their innovations was to replace wages for predominantly Black women working in restaurants with tips, so they could continue not to pay their workers. This was later codified into federal law by Roosevelt explicitly excluding restaurant workers from the newly-mandated minimum wage law. They tried it on with the railway workers, too, a predominantly poor Black class, but unionization pushed back and it was never legalized. The practice was further legitimized in the 60s with the creation of a legal “sub minimum wage” for tipped workers.

However, seven states have long had laws guaranteeing fair minimum wages for restaurant workers (including WA), and since the onset of the pandemic restaurants have been forced to offer more than mandated minimum wages for workers to counteract the massive resignations in the industry.

For more info, see the article here.

Transition

Transitioning old energy to new energy is like transitioning mainframes to networks of micros. In the latter case the workforce required came from the old guard who knew how computers work and could learn sand invent the new stuff required. It will be the same with energy. We need the old oil and gas and coal workers to make your new energy systems work. Imagine if all the old computer guys tried to stop the transition in computing; IBM pushed legislation to outlaw small machines or someone passed a law to restrict use of PCs in the workplace. Instead they saw what was happening and invented the PC, and enabled the new regime.

KSR on Ezra Klein

I listened to this:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/15/opinion/ezra-klein-podcast-kim-stanley-robinson.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

while sitting out on the deck with Covid the other day, and it kicked off some many interesting tangents that I had to follow up:

  • Bruno Latour and actor-network theory as an evolution of philosophy of science away from history+theory
  • Cognitive estrangement
  • Appropriate technology
  • The Paleolithic want-list (what makes humans happy): throwing things, watching fire, the thrill generated by accomplishing something hard, esp. with a group
  • stories around a fire -> going to a movie -> watching tv and talking about it with people -> binge watching Netflix, each being a more-hollow simulacrum of the primordial experience
  • A book called “The Knowledge Machine”
  • A seminar with the Dalai Lama in Tibet

So, altogether: work out what we want from first principles (social primate implications), and use technology in a sophisticated way to achieve it.

Overall, I’m impressed again with his gentle but insistent manner in presenting what he thinks. Like his writing. He doesn’t flail.

Not surprised that this guy grew up in the milieu of the Bay Area in the 60s and 70s, and is friends with Gary Snyder. I’m starting to think of that time (and to some extent, the time I was there in the late 80s/early 90s) and place as a sort of Renaissance idea generator that’s going to be historically significant hundreds of years from now, like mediaeval Florence.

The Feds and Climate

The courts have said: no sweeping regulation re: climate from the EPA. The Congress has said: no new money for climate-related projects.

There’s still an opening here. The Congress doesn’t just deal with budget matters, they pass laws. If the law doesn’t violate the Constitution, it’s in.

So: pass a law that embodies the regulation that the administration is not permitted to write off its own bat. For example: pass a law that sets the mileage standard for cars and trucks. No new money, not in violation of the constitution.

Oh. Such a law would not pass, because Republicans won’t vote for it. So, next order of business, flip the Senate or find a way to emancipate Repubs from the tyranny of having to do as they’re told against their better judgement.

I determined that federal action on climate wasn’t possible at the start of the last Republican administration, and switched focus to state law. We’ve done a lot here (WA, CA, OR, BC) in the last six years. It won’t be enough.

The Feds and Climate

The courts have said: no sweeping regulation re: climate from the EPA. The Congress has said: no new money for climate-related projects.

There’s still an opening here. The Congress doesn’t just deal with budget matters, they pass laws. If the law doesn’t violate the Constitution, it’s in.

So: pass a law that embodies the regulation that the administration is not permitted to write off its own bat. For example: pass a law that sets the mileage standard for cars and trucks. No new money, not in violation of the constitution.

Oh. Such a law would not pass, because Republicans won’t vote for it. So, next order of business, flip the Senate or find a way to emancipate Repubs from the tyranny of having to do as they’re told against their better judgement.

I determined that federal action on climate wasn’t possible at the start of the last Republican administration, and switched focus to state law. We’ve done a lot here (WA, CA, OR, BC) in the last six years. It won’t be enough.