Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two varieties of anarchist sentiment

There are many ways to categorize anarchist groups, and many systems of categorization are in conflict. This will not be covered in this blog post, because not only am I not an expert in the history of internal ideological schisms within anarchist philosophy, but I am more or less uninterested in the politics of anti-politics. Instead, I am categorizing anarchist sentiment more grossly, into two large chunks.

There is one type of anarchist who believes that anarchy is something to be achieved. Maybe it's something that was lost in the genesis of the first state. Maybe it's something that has never been tried, or never been attempted seriously. Maybe it's something that has been tried but has been crushed by statist forces external to itself. The bottom line is that this type of anarchist considers anarchy to be something that isn't, but should be.

There is another type, far less visible. This type considers anarchy to be omnipresent already, at the base of things. All states are structures built on top of anarchy, and obscuring it. The goal of this type of anarchist is not to bring anarchy into being but to make people aware that they have always lived in anarchy, and that this isn't a bad thing. This type of anarchist sentiment is in a sense even more subversive, and even more dangerous to the state. The first type can be pitted against the state in a kind of imaginary war of ideas, and can be manipulated to give statism even more ideological power; the stereotype of a bomb-throwing adolescent lifestyle anarchist is always accepting the existence of the state and by working against it reinforces the sense of its power. A state, however, cannot effectively fight a war of ideas against those who believe the state itself to be imaginary, nor can it effectively be seen to fight against a system of which it is a small part.

For a long time, I thought the second type was extremely rare, rather than merely underrepresented. Today, I saw a quote on the liberationfrequency tumblr:
Anarchy is every time you share a stick of gum. Every time you help someone with their homework, or with their bags. Every time you hold a door for a stranger. Every wallet returned to the lost and found. Every borrowed cup of sugar. Every driveway you helped shovel. Anarchy is people helping people not for the glory but for each other. Anarchy is for the people by the people; not this ballot-box nonsense. Anarchy is you and me... on the purest of all levels.
This is very much the essence of the second type, which I term epistemic anarchy. You could consider epistemic anarchy a subset of voluntarism, but it differs in that it talks about what is rather that what should be.

Keep in mind that this is also a key difference between Gnostic and mainstream Christianity, between Zen Buddhism and several other flavours, and between many forms of mysticism and those traditions that present the same texts and myth systems to mundanes. The difference is between going to heaven if you are good and being good in order to remember that you are already in heaven. The former makes people fairly easy to manipulate, but the latter is more difficult to impart to people. Mystical traditions often actively turn down the induction of people who they don't think are capable of fundamentally grasping the latter, in order to avoid the mutation of their tradition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Energy drinks and I^2

Much has been made (mostly by Malcolm Gladwell, which isn't necessarily a stunning endorsement) of the connection between the enlightenment and the broad use of coffee in Europe. Coffee houses were about the only social gathering place where people were taking stimulants rather than depressants, and so they were extremely productive intellectual centers. This post will not discuss the social aspect except in passing, but I will be spending part of it claiming that energy drinks are better than coffee so I figured I'd get that out of the way. (Full disclosure: I hate coffee with a passion, so I am biased.)

Today, the social aspect of coffee houses has atrophied. Coffee houses aren't really meetingplaces anymore. The same amount of socializing taking place in coffee houses is taking place on the internet, and most of the socializing in coffee houses takes place on the internet anyway. All we have that remains is the caffeine, and that is now taken care of by other methods.

What do energy drinks have that coffee does not? I'm not counting things like b vitamins or taurine, or horny goat weed, or any of the other various and sundry ingredients that are hyped. Most of them don't have well-documented results, and they all balk in nootropic function in comparison to something else that's common to all energy drinks: a wide variety of types, most of them disgusting.

Bear with me here. There has been a lot of talk (and several seemingly legitimate studies) about the correlation between intelligence and novelty-seeking behavior. Most of the people who know the difference between correlation and causation seem to assume that intelligence causes novelty-seeking, and perhaps it does. I would go for the opposite explanation, however: those behaviors which we consider intelligent are largely the product of a novelty-seeking disposition. Someone can be extremely innately intelligent, skilled, and clever, and they can still be so stuck on a single model of the world that they avoid any activity that we'd consider the hallmark of a great intellect. Someone can be innately fairly dull, but through a drive to learn about the world come off as intelligent. One of the things an area like energy drinks encourages is novelty seeking behavior.

The likelihood of the first energy drink someone tries being tasty is minimal, but the likelihood of it being highly caffeinated is great. The moment someone tastes it, two things happen: he realizes that it's disgusting, and he is rewarded for trying it. He may not want to try that particular variety again for a while, but there are plenty on the shelf, and when he tries the next one the same thing happens. By exploring the many varieties of energy drinks he is performing operant conditioning on himself to become a novelty-seeker.

From what I understand, this was something like the state of coffee houses in London in the nineteenth century -- most of the coffee was terrible but still caffeinated, and you had to do a lot of exploring of the city to find a coffee house that served edible coffee. This may partially account for the success of Babbage and Lovelace, among others.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Increasing Signal to Noise Ratio in Markov Chain Output

The usual way of doing a markov chain bot (first order) is that for all pairs of tokens p and q, the likelihood of p following q is:


This gives us a probability graph that looks more or less like a line. The most common pairs are up top, and the least common are at the bottom. This is actually directly equivalent to the inverted graph of information entropy, where the least common would be up top and the most common at the bottom.

The problem is that in language, the most common sequences tend to be meaningless (or exist only for redundancy). Search engines filter these sequences out because they do nothing but make more work for systems that operate based on finding the sequences closest to unique. The outliers on the other side tend also to be meaningless, for a different reason: they tend to be errors. So, the optimal signal is actually of middling entropy.

How do we make bots that will (without special-case coding) automatically avoid succumbing to the usual exploits (such as the twelve year old troll who spams it in PM with the token “mantits” repeated eleven thousand times)? How do we reliably and elegantly improve the signal to noise ratio?

If you try to graph how likely something is to be signal-heavy in such a system, you’ll probably get a parabola that peaks about where the graph of probability and the graph of entropy cross. The goal is to make the graph of this weighted markov probability (which might be called cooked-model probability) quickly approach that of the signal. The easiest way to do this is, rather than incrementing both p and q when p follows q, doing the following:

Pn(q|p) <- Pn-1(q|p) + ((Pn-1(q|p))2-(Pn-1(p))2)1/2



Pn(p) <- Pn-1(p) + 1

As should be clear, the graph will rapidly approach resemblance to the signal graph, and it will slow its mutation as it gets closer to the signal graph, for a known sequence of tokens. This means that such a bot should be capable of operating at a similar signal to noise ratio as some standard with a much smaller training input set.

graph of raw markov model of phrack