I was born from the Sixth Pillar of Pain, ejected naked from the mighty tower of living obsidian, its surface steadily oscillating and reaching towards the fiery sky. The light of the living world blinded me, and when I regained some of my vision, I felt compelled to look up and gaze toward the skies. There, burning with an unholy flame I could see the heaven and at that moment realize what I was staring at. For even with my mind of a newborn, I knew then that I was looking at the terrible being that had created me, that I was staring at the horrifying visage of what I would always worship as my god.
It was only later that I would learn of the history of the thing, of the being that had slain the old blue sky and taken its place, of how the beast had twisted all that was and remade it in its own image. But even now some ancient instinct within me was whispering the hints of those things, some ancient fragment from the old world that even the beast had not managed to extinguish. It was whispering me those things and telling me to run away, run as far from the burning sky as I could; but I knew I could never flee from the beast that had brought me to life. And I was not afraid, for I knew if it wanted to take my life it would, and then I would go without pain and before even realizing it.
This is my earliest memory, the memory that all those living under the unholy sky will always carry the deepest in their hearts: the memory of birthing.
This work by Kaj Sotala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
In addition to making a public comment, you may also send me anonymous feedback.
If you like my writing, you can also support me via GitTip.
> It was once thought that when a reasonably wealthy country achieved democracy, it would almost certainly maintain it. No more.
> Democratic backsliding is far less rare than political scientists used to believe. In a recent academic paper, we identified 37 instances in 25 different countries in the postwar period in which democratic quality declined significantly (though a fully authoritarian regime didn’t emerge). That is, roughly one out of eight countries experienced measurable decay in the quality of their democratic institutions.
> Scholars used to argue that democracy, once attained in a fairly wealthy state, would become a permanent fixture. As the late Juan Linz put it, democracy would become “the only game in town.” That belief turned out to be merely hopeful, not a reality.
> As a result, the global trend for democracies — the other categories being partial or complete autocracies — does not look positive, as the following chart shows. While we are not yet to the point where democracies are rare, as in the 1970s, it is quite possible that the “third wave” of democratization has peaked. And the recent de-democratization trend stands out
How to lose a constitutional democracy
> The head of Google DeepMind is worried that technology companies and individuals will fail to co-ordinate on the development of artificial superintelligence — defined by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom as "an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills."
> DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, whose company is arguably at the front of the race to develop human-level artificial intelligence (AI), said at The Future of Life's Beneficial AI conference in January that he wants (and expects) superintelligence to be created.
> But it's important that technology companies and individuals are open and transparent about their AI research, according to Hassabis.
> When superintelligence is close to being developed, the Cambridge graduate and chess grandmaster said that there might be a need for the leader of the AI race to "slow down ... at the end." This would give societies a chance to adapt to superintelligence gradually, while providing scientists with the opportunity to carry out further research that could mitigate the risks of developing harmful AI.
The CEO of Google DeepMind is worried that tech giants won't work together at the time of the intelligence explosion
> I was a co-author of a paper back in 2007 in the BMJ on medical myths. The first myth was that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This paper got more media attention (even in The Times) than pretty much any other research I’ve ever done.
> It made no difference. When, two years later, we published a book on medical myths that once again debunked the idea that we need eight glasses of water a day, I thought it would persuade people to stop worrying. I was wrong again.
> Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”
> Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Before anyone writes me to tell me that coffee is going to dehydrate you, research shows that’s not true either.
> Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.
> Contrary to many stories you may hear, there’s no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits.
No, You Do Not Have to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day - NYTimes.com
> My younger daughter is something of a handful, so I’ve been thinking a lot about things like obedience, virtue, loyalty, and authority lately. These are often associated with martial arts training, so I thought I’d share my views here.
> I think it is important to distinguish between skills and virtues. Skills are abilities cultivated by practice, which are valued because of what they enable you to do, and should be deployed when its advantageous to do so. Virtues are inherent characteristics, which can be deepened or resisted through practice, but are considered good in and of themselves. A lot of trouble comes from confusing the two.
> For example, obedience is not a virtue, but it is a very useful skill. A person who cannot behave obediently when necessary gets into all sorts of unnecessary trouble, and is excluded from all sorts of beneficial activities. For example, if you can’t follow orders, you’re not safe to have on a sailing boat. No sensible person would welcome you into any kind of dangerous activity if you are unable to follow safety regulations. Obedience is really useful, but obedience cultivated as a virtue is utterly deleterious. It is not virtuous to obey, it is virtuous to do the right thing.
> Loyalty is a virtue that often gets confused with obedience. Let’s take it in a martial arts context. Many instructors of my acquaintance would say that a good student is loyal and obedient. I don’t agree; I think that a good student is loyal, yes, but obedience is grossly overrated.
> Of course, a disloyal and disobedient student is a waste of everybody’s time. But a disloyal and obedient student is worse: they will follow your instructions right up to the point that you make a mistake; their thoughtless obedience prevents them from calling you on your mistake, and so they follow you blindly into error. Then their lack of loyalty leads them to cast you as a villain or a fool, and storm off in a huff. A loyal and obedient student makes things easy for an instructor, but their obedience prevents them from helping you to grow. The best students are loyal but disobedient. They are not inclined to blindly accept anything, and will call you on every error. But their loyalty keeps them training with you, and you grow together.
Obedience is not a virtue
> The older generation of Trump supporters the press often focuses on, the so called “forgotten white working class”, are in this sense easier to explain since they fit into the schema of a 1950s-style electorate. Like the factory workers in Factotum, the baby boomers were promised pensions and prosperity, but received instead simply the promises. Here the narrative is simple. The workers were promised something and someone (the politicians? the economy? the system itself?) never delivered. Their horse never came in. [...]
> [Younger] Trump supporters hold a different sort of ideology, not one of “when will my horse come in”, but a trolling self-effacing, “I know my horse will never come in”. That is to say, younger Trump supporters know they are handing their money to someone who will never place their bets — only his own — because, after all, it’s plain as day there was never any other option.
> In this sense, Trump’s incompetent, variable, and ridiculous behavior is the central pillar upon which his younger support rests. [...]
> Pepe [the Frog] symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.
> We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.
4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump