The Critical Drinker Reviews Lady Ballers

After watching it myself, I mostly agree with CD's review here, although see below.

After I saw it, I watched this and another review on YouTube, just to see what others were saying. I was surprised that neither one pointed out that it was plotted like an Adam Sandler movie, with a reasonable plot interrupted by random bizarre events (cf, Happy Gilmore, 50 First Dates, etc.). I agree that this this is obviously a young studio still developing its style, so while I got some chuckles and a couple of laughs, it wasn't a great movie. I'm glad I watched it, but I probably won't watch it again unless I decide to write my own review.

Straight Pride Flag

So I saw this story about some dude who is suing to make Denver Public Schools let him put his 'Straight Pride Flag' in with the various rainbow flags that they allow encourage. Of course my immediate question was, "What does this flag look like?"

Here it is.

I get the symbolism: he's using black and white to indicate a belief that there are exactly two sexes, and not a rainbow of genders; and of course there's the male and female symbols, linked to show that they belong necessarily together. 

What an ugly flag, though. The black and white stripes also resemble an old fashioned prison uniform, which is far from proper. A good marriage isn't a prison, but a liberation: an ally, a friend, someone to help carry you when you're weak and support you in pursuing your goals. 

I think I'd prefer we just use the skull and crossbones. Ours is the only sexuality that accepts and accomodates the reality of death, and consequently the necessity of natural reproduction -- not just the production of children, but the raising and education of them to be functional members of society. Necessarily, because they need to make and raise children too. They also will always die.

We didn't make the rules, but these are the only rules that work. Memento mori, and love your grandchildren you who are lucky enough to have them. 

Don't Cross the Picket Line!

Longtime readers may recall that I was once a union man, down in Savannah. Thus I can unironically bid you not to read the Washington Post while its guild is on strike. 

Many of you likely have your own, independent reasons to encourage people to respect this particular virtual picket line. That's fine. Solidarity, baby. 

Pearl Harbor Day

Annually remembered is today 1941. Hollywood movie trailers like to say that this-or-that "changed the world... forever." Japan's decisions and actions on that day really did, just not in the way they had hoped for themselves.

I regard this sort of thing as a kind of divine justice. Herodotus gives other examples, such as the oracle of Delphi telling Croesus that if he attacked the Persians, "You will destroy a great empire." Yes, he did: his own. More recently, Hamas' October 7 operations were plainly a kind of prayer -- accompanied with human sacrifice on a large scale -- to bring about a final reconing with Israel. They're getting that now, good and hard.

War Humor

The first is recent and dark humor. The second is just plain old funny.

More Modern Western

There's some good stuff coming out, out West.

There are some very good female leads right now, of whom those are two. Country music has often had strong females -- perhaps most famously Dolly Parton, but definitely including Loretta Lynn, Jesee Colter, Patsy Cline, and of course Tammy Wynette. Western music hasn't had as many, but in the current moment there are quite a few good ones. Here's another one I like, a former schoolteacher who decided she'd rather sing than teach.

A Noteworthy Anniversary

 J. Michael Waller

It's worth remembering too that many of the Founders embraced, but others despised, the riotous destruction of private property. There was no consensus even then, not even among the patriots or colonists or revolutionaries of their day.

Indeed, in the runup to the event tax agents refused a demand to resign their offices, describing themselves as "the True Sons of Liberty" because of their devotion to open, constitutional government. 

That the Method of notifying said Meeting is mean and despicable, and smells of Darkness and Deceit, as the Notification for warning the same was not signed, and was posted in the Night.. WE are resolved, by Divine Assistance, to walk uprightly, and to eat, drink, and wear whatever we can honestly procure  by our Labour ; and to Buy and Sell when and where we please; herein hoping for the Protection of good Government[.]

Factions making the same sets of arguments against each other are very much common among Republicans today, I notice. 

Dodged that Bullet

Headline: "Moderate to Heavy Drinking Linked to Higher Risk of Stroke in Young Adults."

Since I'm no longer young, this story is of no concern to my health. I shall think no further about it.

I did see a cartoon the other day of a man eating something and his wife admonishing him to think of his health. "I can eat whatever I want. That's the benefit of getting older," he said. "If this stuff was going to kill me it would have done it already."

Uncertainty and Hallucination

I have decided that hallucination -- in the sense particular to AI -- is going to be a general problem for the field that they probably won't overcome. 
The bot is also "experiencing severe hallucinations," a phenomenon in which AI confidently spits out inaccuracies like they're facts, the employees said.

In Q's case, it could deliver such bad legal advice to "potentially induce cardiac incidents in Legal," as one employee put it in a company Slack channel, according to Platformer....

It's not uncommon for generative AI chatbots to falter.

It wasn't long after Microsoft released its consumer-focused generative AI assistant, Sydney, that it went viral with its own hallucinations. But Q's transgressions are all the more ironic given that the bot was designed to be a safer and more secure option that businesses could rely on.

The reason I think this problem is insurmountable is the same reason that Gödel's incompleteness theorems are true. Formal systems, including all algorithms, are closed and unable to prove their own completeness or coherence. All of these AI language model systems are systems of that type. 

Unlike an ordinary mathematical or strict-logical system they have a vast number of assumptions: potentially up to and including everything ever written by anyone, anywhere, at any time. They might thus seem to be better able to reason about reality than any of us, because none of us have access to nearly that amount of data on which to model reality.

What we have that they lack, however, is a limited* ability to test the assumptions against reality. As we were discussing the other day, you always have to test the logical assumptions outside the sytem of logic, e.g. empirically. That is just what AI cannot do. They depend on human interaction to do that for them: it is for you to verify that the paper they just cited to you doesn't exist, and the author they claimed for it never lived. Even though these algorithms are deducting in a highly sophisticated manner, working off a vast set of assumptions built into a detailed model, they're still closed systems like formal logic or maths. 

There are advances that are possible to give AI a limited but not-yet-extant method of checking itself; because I'm not in favor of the technology, I won't go into them. Even so, the best ones I can think of still depend on checking back against the model, and thus are incomplete. The ability to go outside the system is the thing they lack, and they will lack it unless they develop genuine consciousness. 

That then might provide an answer to the question of the other day, about how you could tell if an AI was really conscious or not. Until they are, they'll hallucinate, and they won't be able to tell that they are. 

*Cf. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason for an account of the limitations on this ability to check reality, the noumena, against the phenomena that we have in our minds. There is a chance that a higher order of beings could use that limit against us in the same way that we could use hallucination against AI, if we needed a weapon against it or a means of controlling it. You wouldn't know that they were doing so, if they existed, because you couldn't know. 

Pragmatic Ethics

Andrew Sepielli proposes to ground ethics a priori based on pragmatic observations. But isn't that the very distinction between a priori and a posterirori? You might well ask.
I say that the true sin lies not in question-begging, but in failing to subsume aspects of the world within a more general vindicatory framework. For example, a theory of a priori knowledge that explains how knowledge of that very theory is possible might beg the question, but so long as it accounts for a priori knowledge in general – eg, of mathematics, logic and morality – and not just a priori knowledge of itself, it needn’t be problematic. A theory of accurate mental representation of the world that explains how our beliefs in that very theory accurately represent the world also begs the question, but this should not worry us insofar as it explains accurate mental representation across the board. These theories earn their keep by making sense of what would otherwise remain mysterious, and so it should not trouble us if they end up vindicating themselves in the process.

I propose to attain a similar sort of explanatory unity by vindicating all claims and domains that are worthy of it – not just ethics, but everything from biochemistry to sports prognostication – fundamentally in terms of values, be these representational, specifically ethical, or other sorts of values. It is this values-first re-imagining of enquiry for which I reserve the label ‘pragmatism’. Pragmatism offers a way of making sense of ethical truth, objectivity and knowledge by ensconcing these within a more comprehensive world picture, but not in such a way that would count as providing a foundation for ethics in some allegedly more fundamental area of enquiry. 
He's trying to avoid neo-Aristotelianism, which I have here characterized as a kind of pragmatism also. Aristotle has a kind of proto-pragmatism in his definition of goodness as 'that which all things desire,' and the good of a thing as that which is good for the thing. Sepielli explains that clearly enough, so he obviously understands the point. You can say that a heart is 'a good heart' or 'a bad heart' depending on how well it performs its function, and no one misunderstands what is meant.

What isn't clear to me is how you get to 'a values-first re-imagining' pragmatism that doesn't end up looking like Aristotlean philosophy here. If that's true, then you do have a ground of exactly the kind he says he doesn't want. It does end up grounding ethics, and successfully so: you can say that courage is a virtue because courage works. Cowards rarely accomplish their heart's desire, and if so only by accident; the courageous often do, just by the exercise of that virtue. So too the self-disciplined, the prudent, the wise.

A New Theory of Spacetime

Two papers have proposed a novel theory of spacetime, one in which it functions as a mediator between the quantum physics and the classical physics as modified by Einstein. It's not clear whether this theory is true or workable, but they have figured out how to test the theory (if they can measure precisely enough).

A question this raises, were it true, has to do with what is fundamental. For a long time, since the quantum field became undeniably interesting, physicists have argued that the most basic reality was the wave equation, which we have discussed here recently a time or two. This is the one that requires "imaginary numbers"* (noting James' objection to the connotations of that phrase) in order to model reality. The most fundamental thing was the background field whose waves, as it were,* produce things that we observe and call things like "electrons." Those things then come together in various ways to produce everything else. 

Because this theory requires spacetime to serve as a mediator between the quanta of the wave equation and the things that we observe at the larger scales of classical physics, there needs to be an explanation of where and how spacetime comes to be. Instead of the fundamental thing being the field in which the waves occur, producing particles (again 'as it were'*) at peaks and troughs, the waves must then necessarily encounter another thing. That other thing is spacetime. So where does it come from, and how did/do we get to the state in which the quanta necessarily interact with and are mediated by it? 

Towards the end they note two important consequences of the theory, should it hold.
The postquantum theory has implications beyond gravity. The infamous and problematic "measurement postulate" of quantum theory is not needed, since quantum superpositions necessarily localize through their interaction with classical spacetime.

The theory was motivated by Professor Oppenheim's attempt to resolve the black hole information problem. According to standard quantum theory, an object going into a black hole should be radiated back out in some way as information cannot be destroyed, but this violates general relativity, which says you can never know about objects that cross the black hole's event horizon. The new theory allows for information to be destroyed, due to a fundamental breakdown in predictability.
So those consequences are:

1) Information can be destroyed, contrary to what we have long assumed was a fundamental law.

2) You don't actually need an observer to collapse superpositions, as some have postulated, because the interaction with spacetime itself collapses them to definite states. That could explain why there appears to be a definite reality at great distances wherein we have no reason to suspect that there are observers (although you could also explain that in other ways). 

* Some of these ways of speaking are imprecise natural language ways of trying to say what the math tells us. I don't apologize for using them, because it's more important to be able to talk about reality in natural language than for everyone to learn higher math. Nevertheless the clarifications of experts as to the limits of the language are useful and should be attended.