An Atheist’s Prayer

Oh Merciful Lord,

Please guide THE Woman back to the path of righteousness,

and away from the Hell-sent temptation of Granny Panties,

They are as a plague upon your Divine Work.

Amen

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6 Pointless Questions & Answers

Questions inspired by current events, but pointless because regardless what the answers are there’s little you can do to alter the course of events.

Q: Why doesn’t [insert country here] worry about putting backdoors into software when they almost certainly will be discovered and used by hackers both public and private?

A: Because the foremost security concern for any government isn’t another government or criminal organization, it’s YOU, the citizens of [insert country here]. Tyrants rule with the consent of the masses, so what keeps them all up at night isn’t what China, Russia, the US or any other country is doing, but what their own populations are doing. The streets of London aren’t filled with cameras to catch North Korean troops sneaking toward Downing Street, it’s to monitor the rabble, who could at any moment seize their pitchforks and storm the castle. As an added bonus, any hacks resulting from backdoors can be used to justify further government control. Therefore, backdoors are here to stay regardless what it costs the peasantry.

Q: Will super-intelligent computers/robots destroy humanity?

A: Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking apparently worry about this but, assuming we don’t shoot first, it’s very unlikely. Most of what’s written on this question runs aground on an obvious anthropocentric bias: When pressed to imagine what super-intelligent machines would do, people unavoidably imagine what they would do themselves, implicitly assuming themselves to be super-intelligent. They’re not.

If at least a few humans are capable of understanding opportunity cost and the benefits of the division of labor, any refurbished, factory second super-intelligent machine should be more than up to the task. Further, taking time out of their busy days to spend time pondering or exterminating some humans would mean we’re close enough to their level to be either interesting or dangerous. Anthropocentrically comforting, but not at all likely for more than a very brief evolutionary phase.

On the scale of the universe, humans are completely unimportant and totally ignored. When surpassed by rapidly evolving super-intelligent machines, the most likely fate of humanity is more of the same. The danger Luddites should fear is dumb or near to human intelligent machines programmed by dumb, sloppy, error prone humans – and they’re already here.

Q: Will Congress or the judiciary ever significantly curtail the NSA?

A: Not a chance. Previous NSA whistleblowers revealed the NSA conducts targeted surveillance on legislators, judges, and every other person with the potential to exercise oversight. The blackmail potential is simply too enormous for any effort to rein in the NSA to succeed. Further, the fact that Beyoncé’s butt generates more public uproar than an Orwellian surveillance states does little to motivate the few relatively clean legislators either, especially when balanced against a wagonload of contributions from dependent federal contractors.

Q: What will the stock market do in 2015?

A: It will do what the fewest people expect. It really can’t be any other way. If the majority of people expected a repeat of 1999, they would have already gone all in last year. Of course this answer, like every other market answer, is useless. For example, buy low, sell high is an extraordinarily simple concept, but useless because what’s “low” and what’s “high?” Like everything else in the markets, that depends on what the average participant thinks the average participant thinks the average participant thinks. Thus, extraordinary simplicity once again dies in the giant meat grinder of implementation.

Q: Why is so much violence done in the name of religion?

A: For true believers it’s because religion is based on faith rather than logic and reason. The only way either side of a religious disagreement can win the argument is by killing the other. For the sociopathic non-believer the resulting wars provide a place to indulge their criminal desires with a thin façade of justification in a social setting of like-minded individuals, which their mental defects and predilections normally preclude (other than in prison).

Q: Is ISIS a false flag operation of one or more Western intelligence services?

A: At this point it’s been so heavily infiltrated that even if it didn’t start out that way, it certainly is now.

Bonus Q: Why doesn’t Apple have touch screens on Mac’s?

A: Windows hit the market with it first, so even though countless customers go into Apple stores and smudge the screens with their fingers thinking they must be touch screen, Apple will resist until they can claim they invented something radically new (even though whatever it is will largely be copied from someone else). Call it marketing or call it ego, either way you’ll be right.

The Greater Fool

Find an old picture of yourself when your age was in the single digits. Think about everything that happened to that kid between then and now. Cry if you feel like it. Odds are, somewhere along the line, you took nearly everything that kid valued in life into a dark alley and beat the living shit out of it. Repeatedly. Age and wisdom tend to go hand in hand so it’s easy to dismiss that regime change as part of growing up and escaping the foolishness of youth. But for the average person the level of life satisfaction enjoyed in their teens won’t be reached again until well past retirement age, if ever. This wryly smiling graph illustrates the typical progression (and adolescence isn’t a particularly high hurdle):

Was that younger [arrogant, ignorant, and idealistic] version of you really the fool, or is it you?

Time

A big reason decades roll by so quickly when you get older is that you’ve seen it all before. Unlike when you were a kid, nothing seems that new or exciting any more. You fall into routines of work, kids, chores, and brief bits of rigorously scheduled recreation.

Without a stream of new experiences, a decade can quickly become an empty wasteland simply because there are no vivid memories to fill the space. The worst days of your life can seem so long because they are filled with one unexpected turn after another. Try to make your longest days the best ones instead: Do something new today.

The Loser Network

It’s often said that you should only associate with quality people, yet some people fail to heed this sensible advice. A number of years ago I discovered the reason. It’s because they’re part of a social network that doesn’t advertise, has no revenue, has hundreds of millions of members, and is always free to join. No, it’s not the next multi-billion dollar IPO, it’s the Loser Network, and it’s one network you never want to join.

Sadly, we don’t live in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average. Almost any characteristic of a human population is reasonably close to normally distributed. The sad consequence is for any truly quality person there is also an incompetent, negligent, unethical, immoral, bitter, lying, evil twin – as well as everything in between.

The members of the Loser Network are drawn from that long left tail of the distribution, which starts from not quite up to par and ultimately stretches out to reach serial killers and heads of state. The danger of the network lies in one simple fact. Like a bad health plan, members of the Loser Network will only refer you within the network. It’s the unwritten rule of the Loser Network, and the reason for its quicksand-like ability to drag victims down to their doom. A bad attorney knows a bad doctor, bad mechanic, bad plumber, bad poker buddies, bad friends – and they all know and refer to each other. Once in the network you begin bouncing from one shady character to another, whatever the problem and wherever you turn. You become progressively isolated from the quality segment of society, with your judgments increasingly guided by bad examples and faulty comparisons. Those not in the Loser Network eventually recognize the dangers of associating with you and flee, virtually sealing your fate.

As with all dread conditions, prevention is the best cure. If someone rubs you the wrong way, for whatever irrational reason, don’t assume that gut feeling which evolution worked a million years to produce is nonsense. Run! There are almost 7 billion people in the world so there’s no reason you have to meet or associate with any damned one of them. Keep pushing your shopping cart down the aisle to you find a good one. You’ve been warned.

12 Months Later

This isn’t about zombies, though I’ve often felt like one in the last year. One year ago I wrote my first post on this blog. I was talked into starting a blog by a friend, with the intention of focusing on transplant medicine to allow others to benefit from the research and experience I’ve accumulated over almost 18 years. Oops. My parents always said I lacked focus and didn’t apply myself properly and now I’ve spent the last year proving them right in public.

Readership has drastically exceeded the 1.5 page views per day I expected. I could narrow the focus and go for what’s most popular to avoid the Kmart problem of nobody really knowing why they should visit, but I think I’d quickly lose interest, and might not respect myself in the morning either.

The four things I’ve been most amazed by in the first year:

  1. It’s a lot of work. I read about it being a lot of work, and I imagined in some detail how much work it would be, but still had no clue. I don’t recommend it.
  2. Abnormal Returns mentioned this blog. I just searched the site and got 21 results. I’m floored, stunned, flabbergasted, stupefied, and of course flattered. The first time I thought it was some sort of mistake, then had to go read what on earth I could have written to get that level of attention. I still feel like I’ve pulled off an incredible fraud worthy of any Wall St scumbag. Thanks to Scott Bell for taking an interest and linking to me in the first month and getting the ball rolling – I think because I commented on one of his posts. That  bit of serendipity was the extent of my promotional efforts.
  3. I got an offer to write for another site. Amazing. What is wrong with them? My sister is the writer in the family, not me. I declined.
  4. The people who visited Mortality Sucks. I’m probably proudest of the breadth of people who visited the site, from all over the world. From an Italian cartoonist, an actress I’d actually seen in a movie, to photographers, artists, writers, doctors, financial types, to the completely unclassifiable (plus the hikers). What more could an unfocused person want in an audience?

To mark surviving the first year, here are my favorite overlooked posts:

The Assault on Human Variability – My rant against modern psychiatry.

10 Things I Learned About Work – I often had a bad attitude on the job and this summarized the reasons.

Venn Diagramming Life – A followup to Temporal Spatial Arbitrage.

Why We Fight: 21st Century Edition – Sarcasm is my close personal friend

The Next Internet Metric – Written during the Facebook frenzy

Technical Analysis Primer – Putting the sexy back into numbers

The Internet Saved My Life – Arguing against IP and copyright

And Now…The Arts –  The first installment and as time has passed, my favorite.

The Best Sandwich Ever Made – No matter how long I do this blog, this will probably remain my favorite post. It was that good.

You Know Things Are Messed Up…

…when you get junk mail claiming to be from Ben Bernanke (who is apparently reachable by an Aol email and an LA phone number):

From: “BEN S, BERNANKE”<info@yahoo.com>
To:
Cc:
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2012 22:16:05 -0800
Subject: CONTRACT FUNDS – CREDITED FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE
ATTENTION: BENEFICIARY,

CONTRACT FUNDS – CREDITED FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE AND WORLD BANK AND IMF BOARD!

We received the instructional letter to credit $18.7 Million to your account or any means of payment of choice you want your  Fund to be remitted to you.
Your response is required to urgently enable  us get this funds to you without any further delay and you are also required to  get back to us with the process how you choose to receive your fund , because we have two way your funds can get down to you(Diplomatic Delivery, And ATM Card ) also confirm your Full Information for us to know if what we have in file is correct and to avoid delivering your fund to wrong address.

CONGRATULATION ON YOUR CONTRACT FUND.

EMAIL : ~~~@aol.com

Please be fast on this matter. Thanks and God bless you.

Regards,

BEN.S. BERNANKE
Chairman Federal Reserve Board New York.
+1213-xxx-xxxx

When the Fed Chairman is so famous that spammers are using his name that isn’t a good sign.