Lord Acton Was Right

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We won't even quibble about the truncated quote and the extra comma in Andy Kessler's headline: Power Corrupts, Absolutely.

On a recent podcast with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, two-time OpenAI CEO Sam Altman suggested that a “global regulatory body” was needed to monitor artificial intelligence. This is a colossally dumb idea. But Mr. Gates doubled down: “If the key is to stop the entire world from doing something dangerous, you’d almost want global government.” Wait, global what? Mr. Altman responded, “That feels possible to me.” Oh no. In fact, of his 2023 world tour meeting heads of state, Mr. Altman noted, “there was almost universal support for it.” Well of course there was. Demand for power is insatiable. (Microsoft is a major investor in OpenAI.)

Governments don’t like to govern, but they like to control. Human freedom always takes a back seat. I’m reminded of something P.J. O’Rourke told me in 2009: “Think about the kid-has-to-put-a-hockey-helmet-on-to-answer-the-phone society we live in now. Government is filled with people who come and tell you that everything you do is bad for you, bad for other people, insensitive, divisive, harms the climate, unsustainable, leaves too large a carbon footprint, tangles things in the tuna nets that shouldn’t be tangled in them. Whatever. They’ve always got some reason to tell you what to do.”

Why? “Government is just a form of bullying for weaklings,” O’Rourke said. “Politics is the art of achieving power and prestige without merit.” Bingo.

Which one is more dangerous:

  1. AI; or
  2. A “global regulatory body” to monitor AI?
I'm pretty sure which one I'd pick.

Also of note:

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    Coming next season on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Rachel Ferguson headlines her review of Thomas Sowell's latest book "Spock versus the Social Justice Warriors". I never really made the Sowell/Spock connection myself, but… "Fascinating." A snippet:

    “Social justice” is a notoriously vague term. Early eighteenth-century Jesuit philosopher Luigi Tapparelli originally used the term to refer simply to a just social order reflected in a well-crafted constitution. But Sowell uses the term as it is understood more often these days, as referring to “an assumption that because economic and other disparities among human beings greatly exceed any differences in their innate capacities, these disparities are evidence or proof of the effects of such human vices as discrimination and exploitation.” Sowell is explicit that these vices have indeed played a role, but he also knows that they can’t possibly be the full explanation since so many oppressed minority groups have actually thrived economically, sometimes far beyond members of the majority culture. Considering that Sowell proffered an endorsement of Charles Murray’s exploration of genetic science and intelligence, one might think he’d join in the recent right-wing resurgence of genetic explanations. But no.

    Just as Sowell uses his skill as a social scientist to poke holes in the Kendian view that all disparities result from racism, he uses his research into IQ to debunk that explanation for group disparities as well. Ready for some classic Sowellian data that leads to counter-intuitive conclusions? I was surprised to learn that first-born children tend to have significantly higher IQs than their siblings, presumably because of parental attention. Perhaps you are not aware that IQs, in general, have been changing drastically over the last century, as nutrition and medical care have improved. Most interesting (and relevant for the question of group disparities), all mountain peoples tend to have lower IQs than others, especially urban dwellers. Yep, you read that right. Sowell claims that this has to do with the social isolation of mountain life and could therefore also explain average lower IQs in groups that continue to experience more artificial forms of social isolation. Attachment theorists in psychology will resonate well with this explanation.

    I don't really do "reviews" but my book report on Social Justice Fallacies is here.

    And a hearty "Live long and prosper" to Thomas Sowell.

  • Surprisingly, this headline is not from the Babylon Bee. It's from J.D. Tuiccille at Reason: Americans Unhappy with Politicians They'll Soon Vote Back into Office.

    The choose-your-doom game that is American politics continues to be one in which everybody loses. Voters don't think President Joe Biden deserves to remain in office, but they're really no happier with his leading opponent, Donald Trump. People consider Congress even less worthy of continued employment than the current White House resident but seem destined to keep most lawmakers in office, with only minor tweaks around the edges to a body that's likely to remain largely unchanged.

    Trying to predict political outcomes these days is best reserved for those who have a high tolerance for public humiliation, but it's a fair bet that dissatisfaction will prevail through and after the upcoming election.

    "Fewer than four in 10 U.S. registered voters say President Joe Biden deserves to be reelected, while less than a quarter say the same about most members of the U.S. House," Gallup reported last week.

    Those are impressively awful numbers, and you'd expect them to herald a changing of the guard. But Americans tend to be fickle in their contempt.

    "As is almost always the case, voters are more inclined to believe the U.S. representative from their own district should be returned to Congress, with 55% holding that view," Gallup adds.

    I'd like to be like the kid in the classic joke and think "there must be a pony in here somewhere". But I can't find one.

  • Helpful hints. David Director Friedman has 'em: How to Learn What is True.

    You come across the claim that some contentious issue has been settled, that it has been shown that capital punishment deters (or does not deter) crime, that right wingers are authoritarian and left wingers are not, that legalizing concealed carry reduces crime, that increasing the minimum wage reduces employment opportunities for unskilled workers, that the U.S. army deliberately spread diseases in order to kill off Indian tribes. Following up the claim you come across an article, perhaps even a book, which does indeed support that claim. Should you believe it?

    The short answer for all of those examples, some of them claims I agree with, is that you should not. As I think I have demonstrated in past posts, claimed proofs of contentious issues are quite often wrong, biased, even fraudulent.

    One of the things DDF is skeptical about is the danger of secondhand smoke. He links to a post from 2013 on his old blog about it. I note that the CDC currently claims:

    There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS); even brief exposure can cause immediate harm.


    Note one of the strategies DDF holds out:

    3. Recognize that you don’t know whether the claim is true and have no practical way of finding out, at least no way that costs less in time and effort than it is worth. This is the least popular answer but probably the most often correct.

    I think that applies here.