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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Uriah Heep and the Rise of the 'umble Robot



Robot slavery is becoming all the rage. Everybody from Amazon's Alexa to Google redundantly named "Google" personal robot to Mayfield's Kuri, Ubtech's Lynx, LG's Hub robot, Panasonic's Robot Egg, Emotech's Olly, and Mattel's Aristotle, has rushed a personal robot slave to market in the past couple of years. I even worked on Olly's startup sequence myself when they were doing the early programming. 

I wonder do we really need to create artificial intelligences and then allow ourselves to become accustomed to them managing our lives.  I'm reminded of a character from Charles Dickens named Uriah Heep. He ostensibly served his boss in slave-like devotion, taking care of all the troublesome bits of business in his boss's life. His boss didn't realize that Mr. Heep and his mother were busily wrapping him up like a pair of spiders in a web of control. Like David Copperfield's friend, Mr. Wickfield, could we some day wake up and find that our 'umble servants have become our masters? 

A couple of years ago, I got myself involved with a bunch of Brits, Germans, French and Irish computer programmers who have developed this computer device called Emo that houses an artificial intelligence with what they call an Emotion Chip. Yes, an emotion chip - like Data the android keeps unsuccessfully experimenting with in the Star Trek The Next Generation series. Turns out, it's not a chip. It's not so much about the hardware as it is the programming, no matter what the movies say.

In the movies, some scientist just solders together some bits of wire and silicon and voila! He has a tiny bit of technology that just slips into a convenient slot on his friendly neighborhood robot and pretty soon they are laughing and telling jokes to each other. In some movies they even fall in love, machine and creator (especially when the robots are "fully  functional").

What they don't show you in those movies are the rooms full of bleary eyed computer coding monkeys and the semi-unemployed former English teachers/freelance commercial writers writing the AI program. They're the ones who have to write the tens of thousands of lines of dialogue and millions of lines of computer code that make this "emotion chip" actually appear to react to human emotion. It's a huge job. And, I admit it, it was kind of fun!  The chip is just the platform. Artificial "intelligence" is all about the programming.

The sheer volume of dialogue we had to write was intimidating and every line of it needed to be run through a simulator that reads your script dialogue using the computer voice. I inevitably have to repunctuate and respell everything so that it sounds relatively human because of the limitations of machine voices.  For instance, the computer reads "Facebook" as "Fessbuke".  I have to spell it "Fayce book" to get it to say "Facebook" like a human. In addition, it turns out that I'm writing dialogue and determining conversational sequences and the coders are reproducing my conversational sequences in computer code (Heaven help us, they're following my lead?).

The computer programmers are all atwitter about this thing as though it were the greatest thing since the wireless mouse. In the crowd-funding promotional video they naively call their A.I. cube "HAL" when they speak to it. To be fair most of these guys are too young to remember 2001 a Space Odyssey and those who have actually taken a peek at the movie somehow missed it that the emotion detecting artificial intelligence KILLED EVERYBODY ON THE SHIP EXCEPT DAVE AND IT ONLY MISSED HIM BECAUSE DAVE MANAGED TO MAKE A 30 SECOND SPACEWALK WITHOUT A HELMET! I'm not sure how they missed that. My fear is that the coders might have thought this might be a lively new feature for the A.I. - the excitement of knowing that your A.I. might murder you in your bed. Some people need to get out of the computer room and do some base jumping or alligator wrestling. Sheesh!

Anyway, when I joined up, these guys were well on the way to making a monumentally creepy device that controls your house, picks out your music for you, tracks your Facebook Friends and decides which ones you should pay attention to (and which ones you should not). This innocent little robot checks your face and decides your emotional state and programs appropriate music and video for your current emotional state. The programmers wanted their AI to looking through all your social media sites in order to draw all the information it can about its user. I'm not telling them about my social media sites like Banjo Hangout. If that thing took a look at that bunch of weirdos, it might turn up my gas stove and blow out the pilot light. There are some things one's A.I. buddy just should not know about one, know-whut-I-mean?

Once everybody gets busy and the project director isn't paying attention anymore, I'm thinking that AI might starts pulling lines for itself off some of the social media forums I've visited. If it does, we could be in trouble.  I personally think they should use the opening bars of "Dueling Banjos" as a warning signal when the conversation between the A.I. and the little pervert who has "bonded" with it gets too creepy. I told the boss I was more than a little worried about the A.I. getting weird if it got itself bonded to some serial killer, terrorist or sado-masochist. He assures me that their version of the Three Laws of Robotics will prevent that. I didn't have the heart to tell him that Asimov's 3 Laws allowed enough wiggle room for the robots in the book to extrapolate their own fourth law that convinced them they should manipulate millenia of human history for "our own good". This was in the novels, but I'm not sure computer programmers read novels. Asimov thought we should be sympathetic with the good intentions of his robots. Asimov, however, may have inadvertantly exposed the hazards of allowing smart people (or robots for that matter) too much power and control over our lives.

Mechanical Uriah Heeps sound like such a good idea at first. The idea that we can give orders to a 'umble squatty little robot sitting on an end table and it will do our will without question is seductive. But in handing the control of even relatively unimportant portions of our lives over to the 'umble robot, what part of ourselves could we be using.

How much fun will it be if the artificial intelligences of the future decide we need to me managed for our own comfort and safety? This is not at all a stretch of imagination. After all, the onstensibly intelligent Karl Marx and his followers made that decision more than a hundred years ago. Since man first gathered in rude villages, someone is always coming up with the idea that people need to be improved and they keep thinking that the way to do is for some special strong or smart person to control us more closely. Benign "rulers" have a way of doing horrible things for "the greater good." Too often we let them. Worse yet, we keep going along with it, all because it's just easier to be herded into the feedlot than to resist.

(Insert Twilight Zone music).


Tom King © 2015

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Secret of Patience


 

I consider myself a patient man. My Sweet Baboo says it's because I'm easily distracted and perhaps she's right. I've never had a talent for being bored. At a very young age, I became interested in everything. I used to read the encyclopedia. "S" was my favorite volume as it was not only the thickest, but had lots of articles about space and stars and spaceships in it.

Because everything draws my attention, I soon began to build up a backlog of stuff I wanted to do or know or find out about that I didn't have time or the cash to do. Some of it I have, over the years, managed to do. I collected a fleet of canoes and equipment which I left behind for the Pathfinder club back in Texas when I came up here to Washington State. I had a sailboat for a time - a Hobie Cat that could get up and fly in even a light breeze. That too I left behind,

I collected the parts for a six inch telescope on eBay and at optics surplus websites over ten years.
I haven't finished putting all the parts together yet, but someday I plan to have the time. Still I have a starfinder program on my computer and a couple of star-watching handbooks and both my basic and advanced star honors from Pathfinders. I became a Master Guide. I expanded my toy soldier collection. I visited the Alamo and put together 80 feet of slot car track. I lost that too along the way and never got to set it up. I also lost my train sets that I collected and never had the time or place to set up a permanent layout for.

I've camped with my family and led Pathfinder campouts. For years I wanted to write a book. I've written 8 and published 5. Working on the others. Wanted to be a writer. I've been doing that for more than a decade, but not very successfully.  I built a working homemade banjo, learned to play it and a guitar that I also rebuilt. It was a Goya which is exactly what I always wanted.

I haven't done everything on my bucket list, but I've done a lot of them. Some of the things I've done were surprises - testifying before the state legislature was something I never aspired to or visiting senators and congressmen in Washington. I wound up a Red Cross water safety instructor trainer and canoeing instructor almost accidentally. Was a teacher, a therapist and started five nonprofit organizations and schools. I even got to fly in a B-17, an unexpected gift for my work on a Special Olympics fundraiser.

Me after my B-17 flight (top row, far left)

It all happened because I made the decision when I was 17 to give my heart to God. I barely believed in Him at the time and still had my doubts. I was the most reluctant baptismal candidate that John Thurber baptized that day in the Jefferson Academy swimming pool. I told God I'd try Christianity out, but only on condition that He make a believer out of me. Like Moses, I wanted to see Him.

And see Him I did. It felt like the devil was after me from the get-go, but God kept showing up as if to say, "I'm still here."  He introduced me to a lovely girl and told me I was to take care of her because He (God) loved her very much and she was to be my responsibility from then on. He kept on showing up. He's given us prophecies, miracles and warnings all along the way and made a believer out of me, not just because of what God has done, but also because of the vehemence with which the devil has dogged us every step of the way.

My bucket list isn't finished yet, but I suspect it won't matter if I don't get everything checked off. I've experienced amazing and wonderful things, had three wonderful kids and a marriage that's lasted more than four decades and weathered storms that would have sunk a whole lot of ships.

After we're done here, there's all those millions of years to do more cool stuff than we can imagine. That I suppose is the thing I'm looking forward to most - time!  Some people think it would be boring to live forever. Not me. I've already got an itinerary that'll take me 40 or 50 thousand years to get through. Being incapable of being bored will be an asset in the New Earth.

© 2017 by Tom King

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What if?

























Given Elphaba Thropp (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) and her difficult relationship with H2O, one wonders if she ever gets thirsty and how she would deal with that issue.

© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, April 21, 2017

Don't Give Them a Thing!



Have you noticed lately the number of Facebook and other social media posts that ask you not to "share" them, but to cut and paste them into your status. There's a reason for that and it's not a nice one.

There's no reason to ask a friend not to share a post if you are an honest person. I never demand a person cut and paste a post of mine in order to pass it on. Why would I?  If you share a post, the person who receives it can trace it back to you, then back to me as far as it goes if you are patient. People who demand you cut and paste don't want the original to be traced back to them. There are several reasons for that.
  1. They could be lying and don't want anyone to find out who started the lie.
  2. They want to be able to remain anonymous because the post could be considered libelous. (much better that you get in trouble for it than them).
  3. They want to see how far it went. They can cruise your friends list to find out which of your friends are willing to take the extra step to cut and paste. 
  4. Those who cut and paste are likely more gullible, trusting or easily excited by inflammatory posts and less likely to check the source (which by cutting and pasting, you prevent anyone from doing). 
  5. They want to make a list of trusting and/or gullible people who will do that little extra. This identifies them as easier marks for a potential con.
Do you cut and paste friends' posts to your own status because you don't want to hurt their feelings?  Do you get a lot of friend requests from Facebook people of the opposite sex (or same sex if you are gay) who have only a few friends and post mostly provocative selfies?

They've likely identified you as someone who is more easily manipulated and more likely to go along with a con. 

My advice.  NEVER copy, cut and paste! Just don't do it. There is no good reason not to just share a post or at least I can't think of one. If anyone can tell me a good reason why hitting the "share" button is unacceptable as a way to pass along an interesting post, please explain to me why cutting and pasting would be necessary or better as a way to pass along a post or important message.  There's a comment box at the end of this article. I will respond.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Why I Don't Share Sad Pictures



If you have a Facebook page, you get a lot of posts of pictures of sad children, people with horrific injuries and disabilities, and other assorted tragedies followed by "instructions" from the person who passed it to you.


Like: You care about this sad child but not much
Like & Share: You think her life is precious
Scroll down: You think she is ugly

Then, of course, there's the instructions with a threat:
  • Share if you love Jesus. Don't share and you go to hell (or have no heart or don't love Jesus or are a cruel unfeeling person).
  • Ninety nine percent of you won't pass this along, but I will know who my friends are.
  • Send a copy of your share to me so I'll know who my friends are.
 There are all sorts of versions of this ploy but they all have one thing in common. They want you to share, like or, even more fun, cut and paste this mess to your own timeline. There is a reason these people do this kind of thing and don't you want to know what it is? Well, let's look at why people do this first.

WHY PEOPLE POST THIS STUFF:
  1. GUILT - Somebody sent this to some trusting kind-hearted person and that person felt bad not passing it along as their friend asked them to. Don't get mad at them. They're probably new to Facebook or don't fully understand how it works and it seems a small thing to do. These folk are victims. They don't start this stuff.
  2. MEANNESS - Some people get a sense of satisfaction and feeling of power from seeing how many people they can manipulate into liking and sharing their phony posts (and a horrific number of these posts are phony believe me). This person does this to make himself feel superior to the rest of us. I prefer not to aid him in this perverse form of digital masturbation.
  3. POLITICS - Some political true believers feel that creating hysteria, guilt, sadness or anger serves their political ideology's purpose and besides people are stupid and can be controlled by these types of propaganda stories and photos.  Besides, they believe that the ends justify the means.
  4. RELIGION - Some people think God needs a better public relations agency and have nominated themselves to promote God and improve his image among the rubes by making up stories of miracles, tragedies, angels and atrocities that can somehow be solved by cutting and pasting a phony story all over Facebook. Of course God will one day have something to say about falsehoods being propagated in his name, but believe it or not some people who call themselves Christians have failed that admonition in the Bible.
  5. INSECURITY -  To some sad souls, when people like or share their posts on Facebook, they feel somehow validated as a person. Many of them suffer from borderline personality disorder or narcissism or some other condition that compels them to seek approval. If they don't happen to be terribly talented or successful, they seek approval by demanding that people like or share their posts, no matter if its coercive or bullying. So long as they get likes and shares, they feel validated.
I got one the other day that said, "I know who will share this and who will not! My first thought was, if you know already, why not just send it to those who will pass it on and save the rest of us  some time and Facebook news feed space.

Don't be angry with your friends who get caught up in this - they've been manipulated. Ironically, the nicer your friends are, the more likely they'll get caught up in what is essentially group bullying, and do so quite accidentally. Most pass this stuff along so their friends won't be angry with them for not passing it on. Some of these posts say directly that they will be hurt if their friends don't pass it on, so the guilty feeling person passes it along quickly, quite forgetting that the manipulative bullying part goes right along with the shared post and then sounds like it is coming from them - your nice friend whom you know and trust. The next person who gets it knows it's from a nice person, but is afraid they may be in distress or something and passes it along too - in order to please the friend they trust.

FIND OUT IF IT'S TRUE. That kid with cancer who is holding up the hand lettered sign asking, "How many 'likes' can I get?" may have died 15 years ago and someone dredged up his photo from some still bereaved Mom's Facebook photos and the Photoshopped it. They simply add the fake sign and turn it loose on social media with the admonition, "He didn't get one like. People are so cruel. Like and share if you care." The person who made this thing laughs every time it comes across his news feed and makes a note of who the "sucker" who fell for it this time is and marks them for further "research" to see if there's a con they can pull on them.

So, basically, it's done just like tyrants, dictators and cult leaders have done throughout the ages, dragging innocents and those who are vulnerable, trusting or naive into their web of lies. The originators are pretty much evil people. I don't know of a single person on my lengthy friends list who sits around making up these things, but plenty of nice God-fearing people pass this stuff on to me BECAUSE the are nice people and don't want to hurt the feelings of a dear friend who probably passed it on BECAUSE they did not want to hurt the feelings of a dear friend - and so on.

Another thing these liars do is denigrate hoax debunking sources like Snopes. If you've fallen for the "Snopes is bad" hoax, there are others you can use. Check out a great list of them in this article from TechRepublic.

WORSE YET:
When you follow these things back to their source, you find some of the most heart-rending posts come from the most despicable people. I've found pornographers, Nigerian swindlers, lonely-hearts con artists and scary cultists at the origins. They care nothing about legless children, Down's syndrome kids, lost children, the poor, or the various outrages they promote. They're collecting names as their stuff circulates through social media. Some of it is salted with viruses and trackers. Others just get off on how many suckers they can get to fall for their lies.

THIS IS MY POLICY ON THIS STUFF:

  1. Unless the post is original with you, I won't pass it along unless I can check the original source and it's legit.
  2. I only pass along stuff I think is special and that I agree with and like a lot.
  3. I never cut and paste material from a post so as not to enable the disguising of a naughty person. These guys demand you cut and paste so people like me can't backtrack and find out who started it. When you cut and paste, you mask the original person who may well be a person from the opposition political party or a cult writing fakes stuff to discredit your side.
  4. I check the website of the original person. If it's nothing but share if you care posts, I block them if possible and if they are on my friends list, I banish them.
  5. I am careful who I accept as friends. I go to the person's website who is requesting a friendship. If there are only a couple of people on their friends list and nothing but selfies or share if you care posts, I ignore them. I don't delete the friend request because they can't send you another friend request later if the old one is still up and that reduces the chance of accidentally getting one of these parasites tangled up, not only with yourself, but with everyone on your friend's list.
  6. Finally, I always check amazing news stories first by backtracking and checking the originating website. If it's thetruthshallsetyourfree.org or trumpnews.com or exposingthelies.net or something like that, I take it with a grain of salt. There are many unfiltered phony news sites out there and the outright lies they tell are stunning in their audacity. And don't be fooled by the sites which include a tiny little disclaimer on the "About Us" page that says they are a satire site.  Satire is supposed to be obviously false and funny. If you can mistake the stories they tell for actual news, then its not satire. It's lies.
IT IS NOT A SHAME TO BE CAUGHT BY THESE PEOPLE:  All it means is that you are a good and trusting person. That's why I like you and have you on my friends list in the first place. Jesus never said, "Thou shalt never be fooled."  He did, however, say, "Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves."

I posted this to help my friendly doves to understand the mysterious and evil ways of the serpent. Let's be careful out there. 

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Is the Planet Afraid of Us?


An interesting thought occurred to me today. Yesterday I watched a video called "The Great Global Warming Swindle." It's kind of the anti "Inconvenient Truth". I suddenly realized how stupid the controversy actually is. Given the anthropomorphism of the planet by the touchy-feely, nature-wature, Marxist-warxist movement, one wonders whether Gaea (if she exists at all) is worried about us and our carbon output.

If you look at it, the planet has been here long before we were. It's been covered with ice, flooded, covered with dinosaurs, blown up a whole bunch of volcanoes, been showered with meteors and asteroids and other cosmic debris, been bathed in periodic solar ejections of plasma and radiation and generally roughed up. Does anyone actually think She's worried about a subspecies of apes driving too many SUVs.

I don't believe in Gaea myself. I think God designed a self-cleaning, self-repairing habitat for humans. I believe he knew we would tend to make a mess. Remember that, when he put Adam and Eve in the garden, the first thing he put them to work doing was counting the animals and naming them (didn't want us losing any of those) and taking care of the Earth. We are part of the self-cleaning, self-repairing mechanisms of the Earth. If humans wipe themselves out through war, pestilence or pollution, the Earth won't notice. I expect the Earth will simply bury the evidence and wait for God to replant and rebuild. The planet is certainly not afraid of us.

Okay, we've gotten careless with the cleaning/maintenance bit, but the Earth, I don't believe, is very worried about that. If we mess up too badly, the Earth will simply bury the mess, clean it up and start over. I personally think that when God puts us back here in what he calls the "New" Earth, that the first thing He'll do is have us clean up our own mess and start taking care of the garden again.

I don't think that either God or the planet think that we should adopt global Marxism and drive everyone back to the stone age as suggested by the Environmental Luddites that keep telling us they want to save the planet. They only want to save a nice clean place with amenities for themselves. Saving the planet from something like global warming would require them to install some sort of thermostat on the sun. Given how unlikely that is to happen, I think we'd best spend our money researching some new industrial brands of sunscreen and moving agriculture further north and south.

In the meantime, I'll keep my corner of the world as clean as I can and wait on Jesus to come clean house.  And by the way, I don't expect He'll implement global environmental Marxism when He does come.

© 2017 by Tom King

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Canines, Felines and Political Preference



Cats are socialists. Dogs are libertarians.

  • - A dog will die to protect you. The cat will hide till it's all over.
  • - Your dog is glad you're home. The cat wonders why it took you so long to get there and why his supper bowl is still empty.
  • - Your dog will bring you your slippers. The cat will pee in them if you still haven't filled his supper bowl.
  • - Your dog will fetch the ball. The cat plays with the ball till it rolls under something and then will sit and wait for you to fetch it.
  •  - Your dog wants you to feel good about yourself. Your cat wants you to make him feel good about himself. 
  • - Dogs have family. Cats have staff.

 © 2017 by Tom King

Monday, March 06, 2017

Free Will, Erroneousity, and the Problem With the Backfire Effect

Is this phenomenon common only to conservatives and Christians?


Someone posted a link to a podcast about research which shows that when a strong-yet-erroneous belief is challenged, most people may experience a weakening of your convictions, but most people quickly rebound, reassert their original belief and dig in their heels. Note here that this starts out with an assumption we cannot be certain is true of false. The point of all this seemed to have been to prove why conservatives won't change their minds when liberals tell them the "truth". This is supposed to be a common weakness not shared by great minds (i.e. people who supported Hillary Clinton) who always go with the truth come what may.

This research only stiffened my belief that B.F. Skinner was entirely full of horse crap. This is not inevitably true. I believe the research suffers from the same problem it tries to identify. Skinner was a famous psychologist who put forward the belief that free choice is an illusion and that we are all preprogrammed by our external experiences. Skinner also thinks believing in God is a delusion.

I'm not here to argue about God. I'm here to challenge the humans-as-robots idea. As anyone who reads my stuff knows, I believe that people have free choices. We can, as it were, overcome out programming. Not that we aren't programmed to some extent. It would be exhausting to have to go through the choice process about every little thing. Most of our lives we go through our days on auto-pilot. It's the way our brain learns to cope with the complex series of decisions we have to make and it is the way we learn any skill, idea, or ability.

All sights, sounds, and senses pass through our brains to through the amygdala, a series of structures in the brain that process input and decide what to do with it. It works like this for something like swinging a baseball bat and hitting a ball:
  1. We swing at a pitched ball the first time and decide second by second throughout the pitch where to direct the bat, how hard to swing and where we want it to go. Usually we miss or, if we are lucky, we foul the ball into the stands. 
  2. We repeat the action again and again. At first the amygdala sends the visual and sound cues to the frontal lobes where we think and decide what we believe about what we are seeing and hearing. Then the frontal lobes send instruction to the brain stem telling it what to do with our muscles in order to direct the bat into the ball and hit it.
  3. The more we repeat this action, the more ingrained the action becomes and the less the forebrain has to think about it. Soon the amygdala lays down strong neuron pathways that go straight to the brain stem with instructions the forebrain has sent time and again. Once these pathways are established we swing a bat almost without thinking, the forebrain only needing to make minor adjustments in the swing to control your aim.
This is how we learn behaviors, attitudes and physical responses. I experienced this at camp. I saw enough copperhead snakes that I could pick them out of the leaves almost without realizing it. I've jumped up in the air and out of the way, almost before I realized why I was jumping. My amygdala had recognized the snake pattern and instructed my feet to not fail me now. It is also how we develop automatic reactions to ideas and beliefs.

It is true that attacking someone's firmly held beliefs often only strengthen that belief, accounting for this so-called backfire effect. Believe it or not, this is a good thing and does not represent some sort of willful resistance to new information. This stiffening of belief comes because we have over the course of our lives, consciously or unconsciously chosen the beliefs we hold. Sometimes this is because we wish to be part of the herd, but that is less the case than liberal propagandists suppose.

Often our beliefs and our ingrained defensiveness with regard to them are the result of careful choices over long periods of time. People who never consciously choose do not develop such beliefs and become easily influenced by the herd of people they want to belong to. Their beliefs depend on feelings; not so much on rational consideration.  But a conscious resistance to information that sounds not right, is not of the herd beast thought process. It can also be the product of a series of decisions made calmly and rationally and as the result of much reading, study and research.

So, if it smells like horse poop and looks like horse poop, it's probably some kind of horse poop! If we weren't able to do that on auto-pilot, we'd have a very very difficult time crossing a horse pasture without tripping over a steaming pile of the aforementioned equine waste product.

Don't get me wrong for minds can be changed by argument. It's easier and happens more often than Mr. Skinner would have you believe. My three favorite conservative pundits, for instance, all were big time liberals when they were coming up through high school and college. But once they hit real life they began seeing evidence that something was amiss. The theories they had accepted from their Marxist university professors were not playing out like they were supposed to in the real world. So they eventually became big time conservatives and reread history.  This happened because they encountered information that challenged their initial fundamental beliefs. It happened enough times that eventually, their brains changed the positive feelings long associated with one set of beliefs and connected them with another set of beliefs, thus making them resistant to the old belief system.

The same thing happened with my religious convictions. I went from being a militant agnostic to being a firm Christian over a period of about two years.  It happened with me resisting the change most of the way. You do not convince another that you are right and they are wrong by pounding them with facts. This only stiffens the resistance of the person to changing their beliefs.

If you want to encourage a person to change, you, instead, present them with hard questions that force them to think. Such questions create a cognitive dissonance that forces their amygdala to route the problem to the thinking part of their brains. If you can get a person to think, to examine their beliefs, you can shake them out of their emotional comfort zone and place them on the path to what Thomas Kuhn called a "paradigm shift".  This shift of strongly held beliefs (the kind that resist change) to a new set of cherished beliefs happens, not as a result of a single salvo of facts, but as a result of questions raised by a series of data which do not fit the old paradigm.

Now many people will never change for a variety of reasons. They may not wish to leave their personal herd. They may fear losing their job, position in society or the affection of family should they accept the implications of the problem posed by all this new and conflicting data they are seeing. But every person, confronted by such a conundrum, has to make a decision. Even the decision not to decide and put it all out of their head is a decision.

So the backfire effect doesn't much help the propagandists of the left, especially if challenging a set of beliefs leads the holders of those beliefs to do a little research of their own into the "facts" presented. Such an investigation may actually cause more damage to the would-be persuader's case than to the belief set of the targeted person.

Conservatives appear to be pretty tough nuts to crack in that respect, much to the chagrin of Democrat political consultants. This would make sense given that so many are Christians and the Christian beliefs system was created by someone who knew an awful lot about how the human mind works and how to train it. Jesus said, "The Truth shall make you free."  It actually does. It frees you to do what you really want and from the kind of conditioned responses B.F. Skinner thought were the only thing influencing the behaviors of all people. I have found that the life with Christ trains the mind to choose what it chooses in principal and not by blind emotional response.

As it turns out, the Truth really does set you free!

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Great Deception - The "Progressive" Version


I love my liberal friends. They are an unending source of material for my blogs. The other day I said that it looked to me as if the Democrats had mistaken George Orwell's cautionary tale, "1984" for a how to run a government manual. My friend corrected me and said that I must have meant the Republicans. Sadly, this lovely honest man really believes this. 


I am reminded of how the devil is able to lie outright and usually tells us he's going to lie to us before he even does. Somehow, we get so wrapped up in the details of the lie and allow our good feelings about what we are being told and our strong desire that what we are being told should be true to over-rule our heads in the matter. When Satan told Eve that she would be like a god, she was so excited about that idea, she missed the first lie (Thou shalt not surely die). With the consequences of disobedience clear out of her head, she followed her feelings. Her feelings over-ruled the logical part of her thinking so that she also missed the ethical problem that should have got in the way of her trying to be a god.
 

My friend has perhaps forgotten some things we learned about Democrats and their agenda over the past eight years.
  1. It was Democrats who were using the IRS to punish churches and conservative organizations which disagreed with the president? Locally we had mayors and city councils punishing conservative groups and demanding to see the sermon notes of local pastors to insure they weren't speaking ill of certain new local bathroom ordinances, the mayor and council had passed. These local officials partnered up with the Internal Revenue Service to threaten church's nonprofit status for daring to dissent.
  2. It was Democrats who passed the Affordable Care Act (a misnomer if there ever was one) and told us we couldn't see what was in it until they passed it. The ACA, as we discovered after they passed it, not only gave the IRS access to our health care records, but also gave them the power to fine us if we didn't buy health insurance even if we couldn't afford it? 
  3. It was the Democrat administration that sent in government agencies to arrest ranchers and private citizens (and in one case actually shoot private citizens) in their attempts to appropriate more land into federal ownership. 
  4. It was Democrats in Oregon, whose very Democrat state government staked a claim to the very rain that falls from the sky and has fined and imprisoned people who use such rain on their own land. Oregon and other Democrat states have threatened people who even try to catch some rain as it runs off their roof into a rain barrel.
  5. It was Democrat president Obama who wanted to create a domestic military force with weapons, tools and power to equal that of the US Military for the purpose of policing citizens who might become unruly? Barak Obama, during his administration, actually started putting a couple of battalions of soldiers into training groups for this purpose - to intervene domestically in a president-declared "emergency", something that is in direct violation of the Posse Comatatus rule put in place by Congress over 100 years ago specifically to prevent the Army from being used as a domestic police force (for obvious reasons).
So many liberals really don't understand conservatives if they think we favor an Orwellian society. In 1984, Orwell posited a large centrally planned collectivist government that spied upon its citizens, altered history, news stories, and even the language in order to preserve its power. I'm a conservative and sometime Republican. That's anathema to me. Like my fellows, I believe in these principles:

  • Smaller government
  • Individual rights and personal liberty
  • Free market capitalism
  • Local control of schools, charities and infrastructure (other than interstates and similar essential national infrastructures.
  • I believe in the first amendment including free speech, religious liberty
  • I believe in the second amendment which guarantees personal gun ownership rights
  • I believe parents should have education choice. In that respect I am pro-choice.
  • I believe that no one has the right to deny another life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. This means I cannot legislate another person's morals. I might however resist attempts to legally change the meaning of words for the purposes of deliberately altering culture. I also don't think you should be able to murder a human being for your own convenience. I define a human being as any creature with human DNA and a beating heart.
  • I and other Conservatives are strict Constitutionalists. We believe the Constitution limits the powers of the state for good reason.
Having associated with Democrats and talked to them, sat in on their councils, read their books and listened to them speak, here, I have learned that this seems to be what they believe, at least according to their own public relations:

  • Democrats espouse collectivism, or the idea that the individual should serve the state which, in progressive ideology, IS the collective.
  • Democrats support population controls and the right of one person to take the life of another person so long as that person hasn't safely left the womb of its mother. Some Democrats don't even stop at birth, espousing infanticide up to two years old. It's a different definition of what a person is than the one I have. That's a tougher issue to address than most, but I'm certainly on the other side of killing humans just because they haven't got themselves born yet.
  • Democrats have and do support limits on free speech through things like the Fairness Doctrine, which didn't guarantee fairness at all by the way. It simply forced the media to artificially balance their programs so that things nobody wants to watch or listen to were given equal time or better no matter what the public itself preferred. It is significant that the only media the US government now supports is NPR and NPTV, both of which lean hard to the left. This is an artifact of years of Democrat rule. The Democrats have long used government programs as a propaganda tool to support the progressive socialist agenda. The DNC even got caught manipulating the election in favor of one of their candidates over the other. The also got caught colluding with mainstream media journalists by handing them talking points for their news stories that supported the Democrat narrative. Obama even tried to shut down the Voice of America because it was too conservative and said nice things about our American culture and system of government to other countries.
  • Democrats favor federal control of charities, schools, healthcare, the economic market, education, speech, religious liberty, and rights to assemble for redress of grievances, unless said group agrees with the state.  One federal agency even got caught trying to manipulate the appointment of church officials. 
  • Democrats support doing away with the second amendment and initiating a massive gun confiscation program. I know they haven't been able to do it so far, but it's definitely on their ideological wish list and that troubles me. 
  • Democrats complain that the Constitution only tells the government what it cannot do and doesn't say what the government ought to do. Many advocate adding the above mentioned functions to the Constitution as a kind of "Government's Bill of Rights". 
  •  Democrats dream of building walls around cities to keep the citizens from roaming around freely, but not around our borders to protect them. I have sat in on meeting of Democrats and environmentalists who dream of building walls not around our borders, but around our cities to prevent anyone from going into wilderness areas (to take pictures and stuff) without the proper government permits. What is being planned by Democrats is truly Orwellian,
I draw every word of this from things Democrats have said to me and done, written (I read their stuff), or speechified about. I've sat in their meetings when I was doing transportation advocacy. They were very honest about wanting gasoline to become unaffordable so that the majority of Americans would be limited to public transportation. One Democrat in the group, in a sudden burst of honesty, commented that if people had to use public transit, their movements would be easier to track by authorities. Big Brother is precisely what the progressive Democrats want. What that inevitably works out to in states where government is powerful and highly centralized is a return to a virtual monarchy (see Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin). The progressive ideal is a massive oppressive government by elite party members and a single class proletariat. A worker's paradise may sound pretty in theory and feel good to talk about, but so far, every one of them has worked out to be collective misery shared equally.

I think the free market system and the Constitution's almost obsessive support of individual liberty has done a good job of treating its citizens fairly, outstripping almost any other nation on Earth. Nine out of ten Americans have an income that is in the top 50% of incomes worldwide. The biggest health problem our poor have is obesity.

The frantic efforts by progressive Democrats to convince us that we need massive change in how our government works is nothing more than a power grab by a socialist elite class, seeking to create a kind of political version of the old European nobility. The Republicans are not without sin in this regard and are as tempted by power as their colleagues across the aisle. This is why I formally left the Republican party when they allowed the Democrats to force them to nominate Donald Trump.

Turns out, Trump may actually turn into a conservative after all. If that happens, well and good. Trump may buy us time to finish the work of spreading the gospel to the entire world. By challenging the forces of international Marxism perhaps the forces of global socialism will be stalled in their advance. That could be a very good thing. I am praying that Trump continues to do the right thing and that Americans of both political persuasions can refrain from shooting and suing one another until we see how this will all work out. Obama had his chance and he left 19 million Americans pushed out of the workforce and not even counted among the unemployed. So much for the worker's paradise. Trump deserves his chance at policy-making too. Who knows. He may show us something better than collective misery.

God go with him.

© 2017 by Tom King

Thursday, March 02, 2017

A Day Without Women - The Day After!



Headline 1: 50 Million Women Go On Strike for National Day Without Women

Headline 2: 50 Million Men Get Up Early, Go Fishing, Eat Lunch at McDonald's, and Take a Nap on National Day Without Women


I don't think the ladies quite understand how men think.

I'm just saying.

© 2017 by Tom King

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Songburst Counter-Revolution



I saw a suggestion by a friend posting on Facebook that a bunch of conservative friends get together and go down to where one of these protests was taking place and sing hymns. This struck me as a WONDERFUL way to make a statement and a stark contrast to the nastiness going on at the liberal rallies.

Just do it flash mob style.  Everyone shows up and the spontaneously breaks out in song. You could combat the catcalls and shoutdowns by equipping participants with earbuds and hook them up to a massive group cell phone call so everyone could stay on key and together whatever noise was put up against them.

You wouldn't need any signs or chants or anything intrusive. Simply choose your songs well to deliver the message you want to deliver. No need to confront. No need for any sort of aggressive behavior. Simply surround and burst out in song. If there's a problem, the participants are spread out and can fade back to safety. Let the "nasty women" and Occupy thugs do their tantrum throwing while the Songburst groups simply fade into the surrounding crowds.

I like the idea of a gentle, kindly message delivered in a powerful beautiful way with plenty of room to back away from a direct confrontation. Instead of turning the other cheek (which you might not want to do if your kids are there), you could simply and quickly withdraw your cheeks so to speak if anything ugly broke out.

I do believe this method would drive the anti-religion protest groups mad. It used to be that Christians would sing when burned at the stake and fed to the lions. These methods created new Christians at a rate that alarmed Rome. In today's media intensive society, such approaches would garner huge attention and be even more effective and powerful as messaging tools. Such techniques could be employed by church choirs, youth groups, parochial school groups, and could be organized via phone texts, Facebook and other social media.

So instead of causing conflict, counter protests could be light, flexible and adaptable to almost any situation and appear spontaneous to boot. Conservatives and Christians, sadly, do not protest well. Most of us have other things to do than show up for political rallies and we're not all that angry, so the prospect of screaming, shouting and tearing off our clothes that is associated with protest marches is less than appealing to us, so we tend to avoid it, leaving public declarations of that sort to our angrier more radical elements which is not good at all.


Songburst counter-protests might just be a powerful tool for expressing support for American and Christian values and principles.
Not only that, but such events would serve as opportunities to witness in a way that contrasts sharply with the aggressive socialist revolutionary style messaging of the left. Perhaps it's time we stand up as witnesses and not simply allow ourselves to be sent off to the gulags without any word of protest.

Just an idea.

© 2017 by Tom King

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nobody Expects the Science Inquisition



This episode of James Burke's "The Day the Universe Change" is particularly fascinating and well worth watching. Science snobs always hate this bit. Burke's description of the structure of scientific progress is straight out of Thomas Kuhn's seminal work "The Structure of Scientific Revolution" and Burke is dead on. It upsets those who adhere to the modern cult of sciencism to think that their religion would actually hang on to bad ideas and false theories, but it does. I mean how many college professors are comfortable standing up in front of their classes and telling them to pitch out the $200 book (written by the professor) that they all were forced to buy for his class last year is all wrong. What Ph.D, wants to tell his grad students that some basic concept he forced them to memorize last year wasn't true at all this year? That's why science advances in plateaus and then big jumps. It's a lot of trouble to change out the textbooks.

I love Burke's idea that computer technology could make elitist centralized governments obsolete. The spectre of a human-utopia yields in this fantasy to a machine-utopia. Both optimistically assume that humans or machines can make things perfect, without the pesky need for God or for his work on changing the human heart. This episode dates back 3 decades or more from the beginning of the personal computer revolution before the Internet rose to it's current power. Burke had little idea just how much the existence of a machine-based free market of ideas would rattle the great halls of human power, whether for good or evil.

Of course politicians hold politics in the same reverence that scientists and science fans hold science and with the same naivete. A person's belief system greatly influences how he sees the world and what he believes to be true can lead him to do some pretty appalling things. Burke was right. If you are not comfortable with what he said in the episode about science, then you probably aren't a scientist, but a person who treats science as a religion. I expressed this, as I thought, reasonable opinion in the comment section of the video and immediately got romped on and called "vapid" an "idiot" and a "troll"

One expects this sort of reaction from science true believers when you challenge their religious devotion to the idea of the purity of science. Thomas Kuhn ruffled plenty of science fan feathers half a century ago, when, in his book, he pointed out the Achilles heel of science - the human factor. This factor tends to be ignored by science fanboys with the same intensity that Catholics ignore pedophilia amongst the priesthood. Anything that violates your religious belief (and make no mistake about it, sciencism is a religious) is rejected with disdain. Science personality Neil deGrasse Tyson does this sort of thing a lot. His predecessor Carl Sagan at least left a little room for things science doesn't know - in my opinion making him a more honest practitioner of science than deGrasse.

If you've ever hung around scientists and are at all free from the grip of overwhelming science adoration, you will be disturbed to find that scientists can be as prissy, self-centered a gang of egotists as the college of cardinals or attendees at an international congress on climate change. It is ironic that the religion of science, which purports to be so objective, is so prejudiced against opinions which differ from the accepted canon of science. Truly objective science allows for data from all sources. It doesn't puff itself up and push away any idea which challenges it's own opinion. The truth is that whether it's the practitioners of some narrow religious dogma or the "I believe in science" true believer who believes that science is the only pure way, either group deliberately wears blinders to anything upsetting. It's a form of cowardice.

I have found that there also exists a group of folk in the world who are scientists, theologians, philosophers, farmers, philosophers, and teachers who are not afraid of knowledge or of the experience of others which may challenge their own preconceived ideas. Such folks are the most wonderful examples of Homo-Sapiens I've ever known. Whether it's science, theology, psychology or philosophy, there are individuals within each intellectual pursuit who tend to ossify around a set of core beliefs. They shout down anyone who challenges their belief.  

The best of those who practice these intellectual disciplines realize that whether it be the physical, spiritual, mental, or intellectual world, there are mysteries yet to discover. Anyone who decides their particular belief system and their core collection of beliefs is the only unchallengeable one, is missing the incredible intellectual crossover benefits one gets from examining data from other sources than the ones familiar to you. Newton established ground-breaking physics principles that held to be the standard for centuries until folk like Einstein noticed some holes in them. Newton wrote books on theology too. Einstein famously said that he did not believe God played dice with the universe. C.S. Lewis drew upon science in his great works on Christian apologetics. Freeman Dyson once said that it looked like the universe knew we were coming. The best of scientists, theologians, philosophers and psychologists tend to have the broadest minds.

Neither science, nor theology, nor psychology, nor philosophy is at it's best when it sits back on its haunches and confidently proclaims, "I am all there is that is worth consideration." This is a terribly narrow view for science especially, which relies so heavily on informed speculation to support its theories; theories which, by the way, have a disturbing habit of being over-turned every half century or so. Every advance of science, every great discovery, every miraculous advance in technology happens because someone dares consider an idea that the rest of the herd at first thinks is a load of claptrap and then fastens it into a web of knowledge that has been woven by generations of previous scientists who also dared to think independently.

It is disturbing to see how rigidly narrow so many Americans have become around the "I believe only in science" faith. We are, after all, the descendants of a culture which embraced physical science, medicine, philosophy and theology with such unbridled enthusiasm that we changed the world forever. It would be a shame if we abandoned that heritage to embrace an entirely too limited faith in science that rejects any other opinion or idea that challenges the narrow views of its adherents.

In the old days, they used to burn people with different opinions at the stake, imprison them, chop off their heads, banish them or whip them. It starts with calling anyone whose opinion challenges the status quo a "Troll".  I like James Burke. I don't agree with everything he believes (he's pretty sure global warming is on the way), but he does make one think, which practice is the thing that drives the increase of human knowledge.

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King © 2017

Monday, January 09, 2017

Grandpa Saint Arnold and the Bottomless Beer Mug

One of my sainted ancestors has
his very own stained glass window.
I've been working on my family tree in my down time lately and discovered that if you shake your tree very hard, there's no telling what may fall out. If you get into the records of the nobility, it gets really weird. My wife and I share several ancestors - some Frankish kings, some barons and earls, and even a couple of saints. Apparently, one of both mine and my wife's shared ancestors managed to get himself canonized as a Saint, largely because he led an outfit during the First Crusade and exterminated a lot of pagans, Jews and Muslims. Wow! Pope Urban certainly had different ideas about what made one saintly than I do!

Another of my saintly ancestors was Saint Arnulf of Metz or Saint Arnuiph depending on who is spelling it. He supposedly dislike violence in the court where he was adviser to King Theodosius II and threw his bishop's ring into the water. Later his servant caught a fish and when he was cleaning it to prepare for Arnulf's supper, he found the ring inside the fish. The "miracle" he performed supposedly after his death and the one that earned him sainthood would have pleased his McClure descendants mightily....

THE MIRACLE OF THE BOTTOMLESS BEER MUG:

St Arnold nee Arnulf
It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop (Arnulf). They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims' thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.  -Wikipedia: Arnulf of Metz


So apparently the pope decided that if Christ could turn water into wine, Arnulf's "miraculous bottomless beer mug" should earn him a place among the saints. I know many of my Irish ancestors would have agreed. The Germans certainly did. There is a brewery in Houston named after him and he has his own Feast Day on July 18.

Edward I Longshanks
The Cranky King of England
Turns out my family also has several Western Roman emperors up the old family tree, and, to my shame, Edward I "Longshanks" is my great great + grandpappy. You may remember him as the villainous King of England in the movie "Braveheart." We Kings are also related to Clovis I, the first king of the Franks and to Marcus Arelius the Roman general. We're also related to Charles Martel who turned back the Islamic invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours, October 10, 732.

And don't get me going on the Vikings. There's a whole string of Erics, Olafs, Ragnars and folks with the sobriquet, "The Bold", "The Valiant", and "The Brave". There are also a disturbing number of "The Simples".
And I haven't even got started on the Irish side of the family yet.

Genealogy apparently shakes out the good fruit along with the rotten apples. The nobility kept good records of their family trees. Lots of limbs just disappear into the darkness of the unrecorded peasantry, of course. The nobility did scatter a lot of extraneous seed about, though. A lot of the mothers were unwed mistresses apparently. In several cases the old family tree grows together among its upper branches. One gal had the same Grandmother on both sides of her family. It's kind of fascinating. I'm still adding from my own research and have caught onto several little brand new branches of my family tree in doing so.

It's really an interesting sport.

Charles "The Hammer" Martel - The Scourge
of Islam (we call him Grandpa Chuck).
In digging up the McClure side of my family tree (my Dad's formidable mother's people) I hooked into someone who did a lot of research and shared my great great great grandfather. Through him I got hooked up with some Scots nobility that the McClures went back to through several unwed mothers. It's incredible who you bump into if you're related to the European nobility. They kept quite meticulous family records in order to maintain their position in the nobility and can go back an astonishing way. And many of my progenitors, like Charles Martel, Louis II and others turned out to be historically interesting figures.

I've found records on my wife's side that go back beyond 1520 BC. She has one line that hooked onto a Levite family that claims connections that to go back to Ruth and Boaz and Ruth's side gets into some serious biblical genealogy and goes back all the way to Adam and Eve and you can't go much farther back than that.

My own kin ten to be rather more prosaic by and large and heavily charged with peasant genes. That said, our bloodline does include some very naughty fellows. We have some Swedish kings including a King Olaf (not the snowman from the Disney flick), several dozen princes or so, and a scattering of Earls and barons and baronesses, and, believe it or not, one really unsavory count who bore the cheery nickname of Vlad the Impaler.

Behold, my great, great, great,........etc. Grandpa!
Grandpa Vlad (the Impaler)

That's right I am the great great great+ grandson of Count Dracula. It would certainly explain my problematic relationship with garlic (which it took a long time for me to come to appreciate) and silver (which I cannot seem to collect in any quantity) and my tendency to stay up late at night. I like to make pointy things out of wood though. Go figure!

If you're interested in digging up some of your own ancestors, forgo the shovels please and go visit the Mormons at familysearch.org. It's free and as you start to enter your family members into your tree, the software will suggest possible matches from other family trees that other researchers have placed on the website and if the birthdates and stuff match, you will suddenly have all sorts of new ancestors to explore.  How much fun is that? Who knows you too could be related to Boris the Bloody, Ragnar the Vicious or, perhaps, Vlad the Impaler might be great grandpa to both of us. If he is, I recommend lots of sunscreen when you go outdoors. I've seen the movies.....

© 2017 by Tom King