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Mentat

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About Mentat

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  1. Mentat

    Catalan thread continued

    Sorry to necro this thread, but the sentencing against the Catalan politicians involved in the secession referendum just came out today (as reported generally in the news, here's a link to The Guardian). A bit of a mixed bag. They were found not guilty of rebellion but guilty of sedition, misallocation of public funds and disobeying a court order, with sentences of between 9 and 13 years prison and bans of holding public office for most of them. That said, though the prosecution requested the court rule the defendants should spend at least half of their sentence in jail the court refused to do so, which means after having spent a quarter of their sentencing in jail they could be out on probation. Since most of them have already spent two years in prison, this could be relatively soon. Likely there will be a human rights violation case bought before the ECJ on this issue. There do seem to be some irregularities regarding the judicial process (though in my opinion they're quite minor), so the Catalan politicians might have a case (though the ECJ will only rule on any possible violation of human rights or lack of due process, it will not review the sentencing given by the Spanish court).
  2. Mentat

    The Charitable Deduction and American Anti-Statism

    In Spain you can get a deduction from your income tax of up to a 10% of your liquid income for donations to approved charities. Since the % of your liquid income that is paid as tax is progressive, the deduction is progressive on paper, though people with low income obviously have less disposable income to spend on charities. I'd guess a good amount of charity donations goes to the Catholic Church. This is interesting. Do you have some numbers or stats available you can share?
  3. Mentat

    The Simulation hypothesis

    In the first possibilities there are two 'me'. The original 'me', who is a human out in the really real world and the second 'me' who is a simulation of the original me built for nefarious or scientific reasons. The second 'me' is still a conscious entity independent of the real me (which might well continue existing after the biological 'me' is dead). It doesn't really matter if it's some lines of code, a brain in a vat or a digital scanner of my brain. The physical reality behind the ghost is irrelevant (though going back to my original post, a digital scanner of my brain seems like the easiest way to go about this). In the second example there is also a 'me'. I might be nothing more than some lines of code in a computer, but in terms of individuality that doesn't really make me any different than, say, HAL 9000 or the Terminator. Moreover, remember that a simulation as an experiment doesn't offer any valid data outside of its frame of reference, so the really real would have to be similar to the simulation for it to have any purpose. A good example of this is the Black Mirror episode 'Hang the DJ'. Though we never get to see outside the box there is a heavy implication that what is out there is very similar to what is in there, otherwise the whole thing makes no sense. The Sims are also a good example because, while the individual Sims aren't currently self-aware, their world is an abstract representation of the real world their creator (programmer) inhabits. If, in a thousand years, The Sims 800 includes self aware Sims for the player to coddle or abuse, each Sim will think of itself as 'me', and they won't be wrong. The personality of these future Sims might well be a digital copy of the personality of actual humans. No, in a simulation scenario there must be a 'creator' entity from the really real who is (or was) responsible for the simulation existing and a conscious entity that exists within the simulation and is unaware of the fact that it lives in a simulation rather than in reality (hence, is being tricked or fooled). Your Xbox is not a conscious entity (and neither is Kait, though she would be more akin to what I was thinking of if you want to use a video game as an example).
  4. Mentat

    The Simulation hypothesis

    But there has to be a 'you'. Otherwise who is being tricked? It might be that I'm not who I think I am, but there must be a ghost within this simulation or the whole proposition stops making sense. The ghost might be an AI, a brain in a vat, a human in a pod a la Matrix or whatever else you fancy, but that doesn't really matter. If reality is a simulation then whatever is outside the simulation (really real) is unknowable, as is the nature of the ghost in the simulation. There must be something out there to support the simulation, though, and something in there to be fooled by it. Otherwise you have, indeed, lost me.
  5. Mentat

    The Simulation hypothesis

    Why do you think that?
  6. Mentat

    The Simulation hypothesis

    The easiest way to simulate a human experience would be to interface with the brain and make the brain believe it was seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling something that it wasn't. Creating an entirely fictional experience in the way someone creates a Hollywood movie may seem complicated, but it doesn't necessarily have to work that way. Imagine you can record an hour of my life with a device and that someone else can then relive that hour with a similar device experimenting everything I felt just exactly the same way I did. Why, you could even record a persons entire life and then have that be the simulation. You could have millions of people living that one same life in a simulation. It may seem that this wouldn't work because it would be a completely passive experience (the person in the simulation just gets to live a life vicariously, but doesn't get to make any decisions), but I think there's a good chance it would (the person in the simulation would simply get 'overwritten' by the original person who lived the life and come and regard their personality and decisions as their own).
  7. Even if he really, really wanted to do this, I can't see Boris Johnson conjuring up a majority in the current HoC to pass anything. He has alienated the opposition and a good chunk of his own party to extents Theresa May never did. He really needs a GE and a different HoC (and he knows this perfectly well, hence his insistence on a GE).
  8. See, if I was a remainer I'd want to have the GE before October 31st. At that point it's become perfectly obvious that there are no alternative arrangements and no possibility of a deal being put in place. The Conservatives would effectively be running on a pure No Deal Brexit platform. Of course, if they win the GE they might well be able to take back the request for an extension or do something else that ensures Brexit on the 31/10... but as much as I hate the idea of Brexit, the UK is a democracy, and at that point I think it's fair enough. The turkeys have voted for Christmas and then doubled down. Let them have their day. An election post-October with an extension may make some of Boris' foibles more apparent, but Jeremy Corbyn has also been known to put rope to good use when he's given some, and it basically allows the Conservatives to run a campaign based on going back to Brussels and forcing them to accept a New Better Deal which Boris Johnson will force down Brussels throat, because he's not afraid of No Deal, and that means Brussels will ultimately cave to whatever his demands happen to be. Of course this is utter hogwash, but since Labour also secretly hopes to go back to Brussels and get a New Better Deal from Brussels which the HoC and The People will overwhelmingly uphold when put to them, they won't contest it too much. I think this muddies the waters enough to give the Conservatives an electoral advantage they wouldn't otherwise have.
  9. The problem with Ref3 would be there's no level of concreteness to add to the Leave option, and by now I should hope most Leavers have realized there really needs to be one. Would Leave be with No Deal (an unpalatable option), with Theresa May's Deal (another unpalatable option) or with a New Better Deal to be negotiated really soon by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (a both undefined and unlikely option)? After the rejection of Theresa May's deal, Leave needs the pipe-dream of a New Better Deal to remain alive to be really viable. Even with only two months to go, Boris Johnson keeps saying he's confident in negotiating a Better, Backstopless Deal if the HoC will only give him free rein to do so (despite this being a ludicrous assertion). No Deal is still only the fall back option if all else fails. Labour, on the other hand, still appears confident that, if it wins a GE, it will be able to negotiate a New Better Deal that will win over the Conservative and Labour voters (at least they have conceded they will put it to a referendum, I think...). Revoking A50 is a clear and unambiguous option, but what's behind the other door?
  10. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    I think you might be right, but it seems extremely risky. Frightened people are not good decision makers, and counter-productive decisions seem just as likely as productive ones, if not even more so. While that's fair enough, I think since we mostly agree on what is needed (massively reducing carbon emissions) questions of implementation (how exactly should we go about it) and political viability (how to push the needed reforms through the current political system) are the more productive and interesting discussion. I understand you advocate that part of pushing the needed reforms through the current political system is introducing changes in the system itself, and I don't really disagree with you, even though I might disagree with some of your specific proposals. It's not without it's problems (said quota could easily become a commodity, and it would encourage a black market), but it's an interesting proposal. Choice is definitely a good sell. Maybe if I install solar panels on my roof I can take two flight a year instead of just the one or if I change my SUV for a Prius I can have a steak once a week. I think your argument would benefit from some concreteness. How does the current socio-economic system prevent the resolution of the climate emergency and what can be done about it? See, intuitively I'd say it's very hard to have one without the other. Start sharing ideas and the rest will follow naturally. I could be wrong, though, as this isn't something I know much about or have given much thought to. I'm really not interested in convincing anyone else of anything, or "winning" an argument... well, okay, I guess I enjoy a rhetorical scuffle as much as the next guy... but I enjoy it just as much when I myself I'm convinced of things I previously ignored or misunderstood. I'm not always easy to convince, though. I can be biased and stubborn just like anyone else.
  11. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    I was going to say you might want to give yourself a bit of wiggle room for compromise in case your campaign doesn't work as well as you want it to... but no, you're right. Diluting the message would be a mistake. Accommodate political reality as far into the process as you can afford to.
  12. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    I agree with everything you've said. Political viability is a hurdle that must be overcome, but it's not impossible to do so. Educating people in the reality of the climate emergency and the necessity of adopting environmental policies is the best way to do it. A canny politician will take into account what is currently politically viable as a starting point, though, and then plan from there how to better win over hearts and minds so that the policy has the best possible chance when it hits the floor. A very radical proposition will be a tougher sell, so it might require a more intensive propaganda campaign, gradual or progressive implementation or some other way to sugar-coat it. As I think I said in a previous post, how to better raise awareness of the issue so that the inevitably harsh measures that will be needed to address the climate emergency are more politically palatable is one of the most interesting aspects of the "how to deal with climate change" challenge.
  13. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    No it isn't. There's no argument in your statement that would allow you to make this leap of logic. Since people have access to "the relevant information" (hasn't the scientific information about the climate emergency been around for ages?) they will consider (and more than consider, right? You mean support politically and implement, not simply wonder about them in their head) radical solutions. They might and they might not. This was an example of what I was saying. You use expressions like "it's quite clear" and "it's quite obvious" as rhetorical devices and then follow them with statements of opinion which you expect people to take for granted despite the fact they're neither clear nor obvious. As the climate emergency gets worse and is felt more, people are bound to be open to progressively radical solution to address it, but whether they will be radical enough or timely enough is anyone's guess. Political viability will always be a consideration. There will always be politicians who are irrationally optimistic, willing to sell snake-oil solutions based on unreasonable estimates or simply willing to bury their head in the sand, and there will be people who will follow these politicians because all these things are very human. Again, you misread me. I'm not saying the discussion about the climate emergency or the measures which will be needed to address it is not needed. I never have. I am saying that any solution will have to be politically viable, and that, although I agree the growing pressure of the climate emergency will eventually make politically viable what might have otherwise seemed extreme, it is not clear it will do so fast enough for our response to be effective. I'm also saying that many solutions will be proposed from many different viewpoints, and that anyone who thinks that the climate emergency will grant them a mandate for any specific policy, socio-economic structure or world-view is very deluded. No, I'm not demonstrating anything and neither are you. Consider the following counter-argument (which may or may not be me playing devil's advocate): "The current global economic system has nothing to do with the climate emergency. The climate emergency has two obvious causes: industrialization and over-population. This is clear and obvious. If I was to magically cull most of humanity to a reasonable number or magically make all post-industrial revolution machinery disappear, then that would solve the climate emergency immediately, would it not? If you, on the other hand, could magically swap our global economic system for a different one, would that solve the climate emergency? It's anyone's guess! Nations with very low industrial development have very low carbon emissions, regardless of who owns what or how they trade. A steam-punk feudal society where knights and lords joust atop humongous machines and millions of serfs slave away in their lord's factories rather than in their fields, would be just as polluting as our modern capitalist society. Moreover, the climate emergency is not only due to industrialization, but to very specific technological developments and alternatives, like the use of fossil fuels to produce energy. If, a 100 years ago, a genius scientist had discovered a clean energy source running on water that could power anything from a small motorcycle to a large factory, I can say with no uncertainty that the climate emergency would not exist. Can you say that the great grandchildren of this scientist wouldn't be mega-rich CEOs of WaterEnergy Inc., earning exponentially more money than their companies employees and selling motors and generators based on their great grand-father's patents all over the world? No, you can't. Q.E.D." From globalism to isolationism in the blink of an eye So Trump is rich, and Trump is bad, hence rich people are bad? Sorry, still not buying it. We can agree that those who possess more means have a greater responsibility to contribute towards a solution. I think I have argued extensively why I think this isn't the case. All policies are eventually (meaning in cases of reiterative violation) imposed by force, even if the government enforcing them was democratically elected, but people will be more willing to comply with policies coming from governments they view as legitimate. As I said before, I don't believe a military junta will be any more effective at tackling the climate emergency than a democratic government.
  14. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    The current socio-economic structure may suck balls, that is not contentious and has never been my point, but it has a massive advantage over the future hypothetical socio-economic structure: it exists, it is currently in place and those within it have the power to effect actual changes if they want to (even if their record sucks so far). Future hypothetical socio-economic structure may be a thousand times better than current socio-economic structure at tackling climate change... or maybe it won't. It's currently a nebulous pipe-dream that is no way near to happening. Regardless of its potential, this is enough of a drawback that, given the urgency of the climate emergency, I think we will be better off operating within the current frame of reference. Proposals that are beyond the political pale may be fun to consider (Lets make Greta Thunberg the dictator of Earth!) but they belong in fantasy. Though as things get worse people will become more aware and more desperate and might be willing to consider more radical solutions, at that point it will probably be too late. As much as it might suck, we need to act within the current socio-political structure because we don't have any other and we wont in the foreseeable future. Also, Musk and Thunberg were named by me as examples of private actors within the current structure that were trying to tackle the climate emergency (together with national governments and NGOs). I do not believe in messiah. None taken. My thoughts and opinions are indeed cheap, but on one hand I'm not charging you a penny and on the other I'm under no delusions that my thoughts or opinions are inherently superior to anyone else's. I'm happy to defer to hard facts and experts, and have more than once changed my mind when faced with arguments that I find more coherent than my own. Currently there are quite a few leaders of democratic countries that suck badly and that are detrimental to what efforts are being made tackle the climate emergency. Again, no discussion there. Public opinion must be swayed and politicians must be judged on their environmental policies as the priority it really is. This is definitely something that needs to happen, and how it can better be done in the current climate of scepticism towards the media and science is, I think, a very interesting discussion. Regarding optimism, I've never been specially optimistic. I don't argue the severity of the climate emergency or the very real possibility that we will prove unable to solve it. Eh. I'm not going to pretend outsourcing or planned obsolescence aren't a thing, but I don't think you're disproving my point. A cooperative may not want to move to China, but if it can't compete with China it will be put out of business. It will still need to make a profit, so planned obsolescence might come up if its products are too durable (otherwise they will need to expand their market and export their products further away). The fact of the matter is, their factory will have a chimney with smoke coming out of it. Again, I don't believe in your dichotomy where the powerful and wealthy are evil villains doing everything they can to stop us (us here would be The People, I'm guessing...) in our relentless fight to save the world. The privileged certainly desire to retain their privilege, but no one can want the climate hell that can potentially happen (the rich have children, and often entertain the notion of their legacy). Many people aren't doing enough or don't care enough, but it's not a matter of wealth. I'd say this is a serious problem, and one I don't have a good answer to. Yes, the West must lead. Those with more resources bear more of a responsibility. I think this burden of proof thing is a bit cheeky. You make lot of unsupported statements (some of them pretty controversial) and treat them as fact. That said, and for the purpose of constructive discussion: Eco-taxes have been ineffective in the past by design. They targeted goods with an extremely rigid demand curve (mainly fuel and electricity), and though the environment was the excuse, the goal was always to produce a revenue (which then wasn't returned to environmental policies). That said, studies on their results are mixed. While some say that they have been largely ineffective (at reducing emissions, not at their target goal of producing public revenue), there are studies (such as this one) that argue that high fuel taxes have made people more conscious about economizing their use of fuel, and the European Environmental Agency considers Eco-taxes as effective instruments of environmental policy. I'll give two specific examples of policies that have worked: One of them is a minimum fee on plastic bags in stores. Though not an actual tax, this has managed to reduce the usage of disposable plastic bags by forcing people to pay for them. The other is a tax imposed in Catalonia on sugared drinks. Though not specifically an Eco-tax, this works on the same principle (dissuading the use of a particular product because of its negative externalities) and, according to reports from the Catalan fiscal agency, has managed to reduce consumption of sugared drinks by 25%. Anyway, it is my, cheap, opinion that Eco-taxes can work if done properly. Feel free to disagree. Again, while I don't disagree with any of this, the politicians at the head of these political parties whose heart is in the right place must consider the political viability of the measures they propose. Otherwise they will not get into office. Banning things tends to be unpopular. If we're talking about a ban that people will resent, then I'd expect a canny politician to consider all the possible alternatives. Can we dissuade people from doing this without an outright ban? What alternatives can we offer? How can we educate people about the negative externalities of this product or service? Can it be done progressively? Etc. Harmless is not a dirty word (it is better than its opposite, harmful), I believe Thunberg to be more than a cute schoolgirl and a voice which people will heed can be a very powerful weapon indeed.
  15. Mentat

    What should be done... about climate change

    Yes, we don't agree on this. While I respect where you're coming from I think you're making an extremely complex issue to solve even harder by compounding it with another, different, extremely complex issue. I think that's excessively simplistic. A factory will contaminate just as much regardless of who owns the means of production. What brought us into this mess is a complex combination of hubris, ignorance, carelessness, selfishness, arrogance, etc. As I pointed out, 'The Handmaid's Tale' paints a society with a good deal of inequality and injustice, but very environmentally conscious and where nature is recovering from the ravages of the past. I'm not saying it's easy to convince people to make sacrifices for the environment... but this will be needed. The wealthy and powerful must be made to foot their part of the bill, and it will obviously be a larger part than those less well off, but if you intend to make them the scapegoats of the climate emergency then you will face their full opposition on any policy you attempt to implement, and the wealthy and powerful can currently flex quite a bit of muscle. Finally, though the wealthy and powerful may have benefited disproportionately from the system, Western lifestyle has benefited everyone who enjoys things like the Internet, mobile phones, hospitals, running water, eating out or the Avengers movies. That's a lot of people. I'm not a market apologist. Eco-taxes have had varying measures of success for lots of different reasons. Some were poorly designed, some were purposefully designed with loopholes, etc. Give me a reason why they shouldn't work if properly designed and you'll have my ear. As to what "cool" high tech solution we will sell to the masses, I'm not a high tech guy, but when it comes to, say, transportation, anything from shoes to bicycles to public transport to more efficient cars to electric and hybrid ones... If a better technological solution can't be found and an activity will necessarily cause a lot of environmental harm then we will have to consider banning it, taxing it out of the market (yes, some super rich may still be able to afford it, but there aren't many of those, and we can publicly shame them a la fur coats) or imposing so many regulations and red tape on its production that producers quit out of exhaustion. Why does producing clean electricity, recycling and using sustainable packaging, buying local, etc, somehow require taking away the sources of wealth and power from the people currently profiting from the current socio-economic organization? I think it doesn't. I completely agree with this. I'm not a neo-liberal, I'm pretty left-wing. I'm not a fan of either Trump or Macron and I don't support cutting taxes (specially taxes directed at the wealthy), but I remain unconvinced. The super-rich have many advantages, and it must be relatively easy for them to have a class consciousness as they're a pretty homogeneous group (unlike the working class, which is increasingly heterogeneous). That said, looking to protect your own interests seems pretty normal. I do it all the time, and I find it hard to believe anyone whom fortune had placed in their (privileged) situation would do differently. The working class would do well to take a page from their book. Ascribing moral qualities to having money is as much a logical fallacy as ascribing moral failings. I think more than dogma, what we need is simply awareness, but otherwise I agree with most of this.
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