Other minds are stupid

September 28, 2007

There’s a simple philosophy of mind problem that says you can’t really know that other people are sentient beings. They could be Cylons or simulations in the Matrix. One answer is to assume they are like me by analogy: I have a mind, I think and react; they are similar to me, so they must have a mind, too.  I also assumed other people are as mentally capable and rational as me. So when other people arrive at utterly preposterous conclusions (e.g. intelligent design), I find it confusing. For a long time I racked my brain trying to find the flaw in my thinking. It took me a while to realize that most other people are stupid. Consider this: the average IQ is 100. An IQ of 60 – only 40 points lower – is considered mild retardation. My IQ is around 140, so 50% of the population appears to me to be mildly retarded or worse. It’s easier to accept other people’s stupidity if I recast the issue like this. It’s not their fault they were born with a handicap.

I completely failed to explain to a group why I think C# 3.0’s pile of features are a poor design. Somehow people keep missing my point. Can you believe English is my first language? If anyone is reading this post, please tell me if this makes any sense to you.

Imagine how Anders, head of the C# design team, might think about the next version of C#. Ten different groups within MS propose 10 brilliant features to add to C# 4.0. Things like pattern matching, concurrency, transactional memory, assertions, categories, etc. Big, complicated, cool features. How does he decide which one to implement? Anders would think long and hard about which feature will have the biggest impact. He’ll choose 1 or 2 and the rest will get shot down. C# 4.0 introduces a few big new features, and this process repeats itself for version 5.0.

If I were running the C# team, I would resist adding any features to C# for fear of feature creep. Instead, I would tell all 10 groups to implement their features as libraries. They will grumble and complain, then they will build a prototype using some insane hackery to get around some limitations in C# and the CLR. I would study those gross hacks, not the features themselves, because that’s where they ran into a roadblock with the language. The goal of language design is to reduce the number of gross hacks needed to implement complex libraries. Because if I can fix C# so these guys can implement their 10 great features as libraries more easily, then I’ve magically enabled hundreds of groups outside MS to also implement their very complex features.

The changes I envision making to C# would be much more subtle than a giant feature like LINQ. I would tinker with some dynamic typing features, better integration with code generation tools, and maybe a way to use attributes within the body of a method (i.e. a parallel loop declaration above a foreach stmt). Small, subtle changes that would have wide impact on library writers, but not most programmers. I’m against adding feature X. Instead, I want to change C# so you can write feature X as a library. Does this make sense?

Good Judgement

August 28, 2007

In a recent interview, Barack Obama deflected weak criticisms of his lack of experience by suggesting that he has demonstrated good judgement. If I may toot my own horn, I believe I have pretty good judgement, too. Though there are many, many people who are smarter or more knowledgeable about particular subjects, I still seem to make better decisions. The reason is that I am so obsessively aware of cognitive biases, such that it’s an effort to make a decision. Even though I still make some cognitive mistakes, I make fewer mistakes than most other people and arrive at good decisions more often. I believe Obama is right. The challenges facing the next President will no doubt be new, unexpected events where experience won’t really help. He’s obviously smart enough to absorb the background information provided by experts in the field. The important trait, however, is whether a President can exercise good judgement in unforeseen situations. Bush failed miserably. Maybe Obama will do alright.

The Charlie Rose Show interviewed a bunch of scientists on the global AIDS epidemic. The general consensus is that there will not be a cure or vaccine in the near future, so stop hoping for a quick medical fix. Currently, the rate at which AIDS is spreading is greater than the rate at which people are dying. There exists drugs that can reduce the rate of transmission – the drug company is giving it away for free – but they all said the medical infrastructure in most of these countries is so poor that they can’t deliver the drugs. Since there’s no medical solution, the only thing left is to reduce the transmission rate below the death rate without relying much on long-term medical services. One easy solution is to circumcise the men-folk, because it’s been found to reduce the rate of transmission by 50%. Another quick fix is to regulate brothels (frequently test ‘hos for AIDS) and strongly encourage condoms (free, scary propaganda, spot checks?). Finally, follow the example of Uganda and Thailand and institute a broad social campaign to change people’s behavior. These solutions can be implemented by poor governments at very little cost, but they won’t do it because they are useless morons. AIDS can be stopped, but it will not be stopped.

In many ways AIDS reminds me of obesity. In both cases, reckless and irresponsible behavior leads to a life threatening disease. I know a few people have valid excuses, e.g. improper blood transfusions for AIDS, genetic predisposition for obesity. But the overwhelming majority will die because they won’t take personal responsibility for their own lives. I say let them die. Consider it an easy way to weed out stupid people from our population.

LCD Lottery

June 30, 2007

I received my Dell 2007WFP 20″ widescreen monitor today. Paid $270 on Dell Outlet, regular price is $400. No dead pixels, no cosmetic damage, no issues at all so far. Made in Mexico, revision A04, panel code is V1B22 RT803 (press the “-” button on the monitor). Apparently, this code means the LCD panel is the superior S-IPS, rather than S-PVA. Both are far better than TN panels found on most lower end LCDs. Some people were upset that Dell changes the panel without informing customers. IMO, Dell only needs to provide a monitor that meets the specs they post online. If the slightly inferior S-PVA still meets those specs, than Dell hasn’t defrauded anyone. I’m surprised they don’t always use S-PVA if they are indeed cheaper. Guess I’m lucky, though I couldn’t tell the difference anyway.

Butt wash

June 1, 2007

I love, love, LOVE the automatic Japanese bidets that shoot a warm stream of water at your butt. There is no doubt that washing your dirty ass is more hygenic than smearing shit around with a tiny tissue. You wouldn’t clean an oil spill with just a paper towel, right? And the heated seats are divine. I never crapped so well as I did in Japan.

Boxers or Briefs

June 1, 2007

The purpose of men’s underwear is simple: (1) protect pants from excretions and (2) prevent uncomfortable flopping. Since most teens switch to boxers they are implicitly saying they don’t need (2). I tried switching and found it uncomfortable. Also, my wang would drop down a pant leg and was clearly visible. I opted to stick with briefs. Recently men are switching to boxer briefs, which implies they suddenly want (2). Boxer briefs are just giant briefs, like bicycle shorts, and are to warm in the summer. Obviously, men wear boxers and, now, boxer briefs because they are bowing to fashion. Since I’m immune from such pressures, I considering moving to bikinis because it satisfies (1) and (2) with the least amount of clothing (thongs are ridiculous… a string up your ass doesn’t quite fulfill (1)). Sure I’ll look like a gay porn actor, but I’ll be comfortable. Bikinis are the rational choice for men’s underwear.