EVANS: I’m not blaming my situation on anybody else. It was my debt.

In an article today on NPR about the repulsive expansion of wage and bank account garnishment as a means of forcing people to pay off debt even when they can’t afford it, they found, as they always do, as sympathetic a figure as possible to be the face of the problem. Reporters perceive that what Americans want to hear is about a hard working down to earth American doing their darnedest to make ends meet but just can’t keep up but isn’t throwing around any blame or looking for excuses or anything like that. Someone who sufficiently humbles himself and abases himself before society declaring that it was all his fault and that he willingly takes his just punishment as decided by the powers that be but just wishes please that things could be just a wee bit easier.

Fuck that. Mr. Evans didn’t crash the economy. Mr. Evans didn’t engage policies to ensure that our “recovery” was as slow and anemic as humanly possible. Mr. Evans didn’t make the cost of college and medical expenses and housing so exorbitant that it’s likely to bankrupt people. Mr. Evans didn’t personally dismantle the social safety net and corrupt our bankruptcy laws to make them nearly useless to the average citizen. Mr. Evans didn’t create predatory lenders who charge sickeningly high interest rates predicated on a single mistake.  Mr. Evans didn’t create the deceptive and sneaky tactics that credit card companies use to get default judgments on people who didn’t even know they were supposed to show up in court. Mr. Evans didn’t create a society that shames people for daring to even ask for help or to need to receive assistance of any kind.

All Mr. Evans did was engage in the system exactly the way it was setup for him to engage in and like so many other people out there he was screwed by the system and continues to be screwed by the system over and over again because the system has decided he’s a sucker and they can do whatever the hell they want to him.

Maybe Mr. Evans SHOULD be blaming his situation on somebody else. There’s a lot of people to blame out there. To be sure Mr. Evans shares some of the blame for his own outcomes. But the others are far MORE to blame. The ones who built this system. The ones who continue to profit vastly from it at his expense. So why do we act like every single ill that ever befalls us is solely and completely of our own doing even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary right before our eyes? 

We need people to stop blaming themselves and start blaming others. If not specific individuals than at least blame the system as a whole. It’s a screwed up deadly cruel and harsh system that certain people deliberately (whether they were fully aware of the inevitable consequences or not) built to make it so. Until we come to true grips with that how the hell are we going to get that system to change?

And by the way, the hidden results of this kind of coverage can be pernicious. It makes anyone who cannot claim with certainty that they were at least as responsible and hard working as Mr. Evans feel even worse about themselves and even less likely to assign blame where blame belongs and to internalize the ills as their own personal failings. When one in ten members of the working populace are having this happen to them it’s NOT a matter of individual error, it’s a matter of severe systemic malfunction that we need to take drastic measures to correct.


So, apparently I fused two things I’m addicted to.


Watch —> Someone Made a Live Action Version of the DuckTales Theme Song

It seems a lot less weird that they’re not wearing pants in the live version.

(Source: youtube.com, via jojothemodern)

Being Good at Something

You might expect that all else being equal that if you are an average human being than of all the things out there there’d be some things you are good at, some that you are bad at and a large number of things that you are average at, roughly, clustering around the middle of the bell curve.  Then since roughly 50% of all things that you can engage in you would be better than 50% of the people out there it would be relatively simple to go out there and do one of those things with your life. Easy peasy.

Only that’s not quite accurate. The problem is three fold. One when you engage in an activity you don’t know if you are one of the people who is good at it and indeed can’t know until you’ve spent a substantial amount of time on it. Two, the distribution of things you are good at and the things you both like and want to do are not likely at all to  be aligned. Indeed more often than not you are likely to engage in an activity you want to do and enjoy doing and spend far more than the amount of time you might normally expect to spend on it trying to get good at it even though you might never be good at it. Lastly in every activity there will be over time what I call for lack of a better word drift.

Drift occurs when as people engage in an activity people get discouraged or bored and drop out. This happens when the environment is very negative or when the competitiveness is high. Over time a greater percentage of those who do poorly or averagely at an activity will drop out than those who do well. In competitive activities no one enjoys being the punching bag for the other players even if one enjoys the activity at its base. And of course communities tend to be very hard on activity members who lack the requisite skill or knowledge that they expect community members to have. In effect they engage in a kind of exclusionary practice essentially exiling those who want to engage in the activity but don’t meet their standards. And on top of this there is the effect of one’s mental state on one’s skill development. A constant string of failures may well lead one to fail to develop their skill to their potential due to having a shot confidence. In effect every unit of effort produces less of a return in gained skill meaning a person who starts off bad at a skill or doing poorly at it could require two or three times as many hours of practice to maximize their personal potential at that activity than it would someone who starts off average or above average. Or it may never be possible. The marginal return on effort may well reduce to near zero if one’s confidence is low enough.  And then there’s luck as well. A certain percentage of users in luck affected skill based activities will simply have a prolonged period of unluckiness that results in a shot confidence or quitting even before once can develop the level of skill to reach their potential. That is guaranteed to happen to some due to the nature of randomness.

Over time all of this essentially shifts the bell curve to the right meaning the average activity member ends up having a higher and higher skill level (and confidence level). This can continue until there are a very tiny number of activity members left all of whom are either too arrogant or too deluded to realize their lower skill level, too stubborn to quit despite their lower abilities (perhaps because they’ve devoted so much time to the activity already that they are unwilling to give up), or are actually the most skilled in the population set.

There is no great solution to any of this. If you create amateur level activities, the bell curve just drifts to the right within those amateur levels. If you try to encourage activity groups to be more tolerant and accepting of new activity members or less skilled activity members it MAY slow down the amount of drift but it also may just make those less skilled activity members feel patronized (and in many cases they likely would be correct in feeling that way). Spreading free knowledge may well help people meet their personal potential a little faster but that just pulls a few more people into the elite pool a bit faster and doesn’t solve the problem at its core.

Sophisticated matching algorithms and reduced barriers to entry can help ensure that people find the activities that they are good at. But that just leads to a question. Should society care more about what citizens are good at or more about what citizens WANT to do. Doing something that one is good at but that makes one miserable may well result in reduced output, greater stress levels, and an early death. On the other hand doing something that one is not good at but that one enjoys may well result in the same outcome as drift results in one losing whatever joy they might have received from the activity after repeated failure. And even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t seem like an optimal solution for further human advancement.  

Presumably we could hope that there is some kind of sweet point where one has a maximal enjoyment to skill ratio sufficient to lead one to work hard at an activity to improve their skill without them losing interest or becoming discouraged. Some will get lucky and find an activity that they both highly enjoy and are highly skilled at and the more time they spend on it the more skilled they get and they are always able to stay ahead of the drift. Others will get unlucky and never find any activity for which they find themselves sufficiently skilled that they enjoy to stay ahead of skill drift. They can either make a choice to suffer through an activity that they don’t enjoy very much but they are skilled enough to stay ahead of drift in or accept being behind the drift but at least know they are doing something they enjoy and try not to get discouraged or burned out. Everyone else will be somewhere in between.

In any case we should do everything in our power to ensure that the barriers to entry to try activities are low, that we do our best to match people up with the activities that they most enjoy and are best at so they can at least try them, that we make as much knowledge about activities open and available to everyone so they can ascend the curve as quickly as possible and that communities are as accepting and tolerant of differences in skill level as possible. And on top of that we should create as many stepping stone levels that insulate groups from engaging in an activity with activity members who far exceed their current skill level. We should also reduce as much as possible barriers to exit as well as exiting an activity once one has established that they don’t enjoy it or aren’t good at it can reduce the number of wasted hours and ensure that one find the activities they enjoy and are good at faster. We should do all of this and more because all of these things, although they don’t solve anything, do mitigate these problems at least a little and can make life a little more tolerable for everyone.

But if you are trying for, purely hypothetically a true and complete solution there are several more radical proposals one might examine.

One radical proposal might be to try and essentially cripple the skilled. That is reduce the top of the curve to try and induce a leftward shift. You could do this by trying to introduce a kind of cultural shame upon skill level or trying to deliberately put up barriers to slow down or reduce the capabilities of skillful activity users. But besides being completely morally repugnant this also would not be anywhere near an optimal solution for society. It would result in a lot of disgruntled angry skillful beings out for vengeance in the best case. In the worst case you get kind of a societal drudgery wherein everyone wonders at the pointlessness of striving since no one is ever able to accomplish anything of note or substance and in which no one has role models or even much in the way of hopes or dreams.

Another way to induce a left word shift might be well to force top skill level activity users to essentially retire with accolades. That is once you achieve level X you can’t do activity Y anymore. So the very top actors no longer act, the very top football players can’t keep playing.  This is less repugnant than the above but certainly could still reduce the overall skill output of society (unless retired entities all find other activities that they are top skilled at, meaning it increases skill activity diversity, not overall output). We would have to ask ourselves if it’s worth it.  We would also have to be aware that sometimes it might be difficult to determine where that rational cut off is. Somethings it’s easier to measure excellence in than others. How would you determine for example who the very best person at being interviewed is? And what would it mean to tell that person that they can no longer go on interviews exactly? The accolades part of this would have to be rather substantial too in order to ensure that skilled entities don’t just reject the scheme altogether. That could get expensive. Also you can expect that people will skill hop between related activities winning accolades in each and every one before retiring. That might not be a problem though.

Another even more radical crazy idea would be to use modern technology to create for every individual essentially their own environment wherein they can be faced only with carefully calibrating artificial intelligences to compete against. In this artificial world you can find the activity that maximizes your absolute enjoyment and then the AIs would calibrate around you so that you are provided with sufficient challenge to keep up your enjoyment but in which you always come out on top. In essence you become the most skillful or near the top of the skill chain at all time. You’re always ahead of the drift and you remain blissful and happy. 

Of course everyone is going to have varied opinions on the morality of such a setup with most probably being appalled. Though utilitarians ought think it optimal I think. However, I suspect it would not work in practice for one simple reason. If you are aware that the universe around you is not real then you will inevitably feel less substantive joy out of that universe. If anything you will sort of go through a kind of psychological rejection of the world around you. Your accomplishments wont feel like accomplishments. Your pleasure won’t seem like real pleasure. You won’t be able to take things seriously that are happening to you. In the end I suspect you would start to act out against the simulation sort of as if you were a parasite trying to reject your host simulation tearing it down from the inside.   So if this is going to be viable at all you would have to make everyone utterly ignorant that they are even in a simulation of this sort. 

But there’s a bigger problem here even with ignorance. That is a question of can you truly trust the simulation? It would be in such a world trivial for someone who codes up the simulation to change a few variables and create what is in essence the greatest psychological torture device ever devised by humanity. What’s more, what about bugs? A slight tweak and you could find yourself not living your own personal utopia but some kind of miserable farce that leaves your cynical or depraved or even drives you mad.  Also the simulation creators could just get it wrong, especially if they don’t have first hand knowledge or understanding of the activity you want to be best at or they lack a full and complete understanding of your psychology and mental states.

And even if the simulations could be perfect in theory who would monitor these simulations? Who would develop them? They would have to be self generating, that is AI creating AI or else you have a problem wherein the creators and maintainers of the simulation still being human still experience the very same problems described above. And these AI creators and maintainers would have to be sort of emotionless or otherwise be somehow programmed to not be like humans in order to avoid having their same problems themselves. Say for example they could be programmed to most enjoy building and maintaining simulations for humans and to all operate at precisely the same skill level. In any case I think it’s likely to be a mess.

The last radical idea I can come up with is that we do some kind genetic ninjitsu to essentially make us all maximally skilled at absolutely everything or at least maximally skilled at one thing and then match our enjoyment up with that thing. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible but even if it were it would raise pretty deep and profound moral questions and questions of about identity and soul. I suspect people would reject even voluntary and free manipulations of our genome like that. 

Well that’s enough weird rambling for now. Suffice it to say that I just have no idea how to deal with this stuff and I despise it. All answers are bad but the status quo is also really bad. But then maybe I can’t see the solution for the simple reason that although I greatly enjoy thinking about, speculating about, and writing about various thoughts of this nature it’s entirely possible that I may not be very good at it.

(Source: cutlerish)



About Skeletor | Unquiet Things
So, about Skeletor…

*sits at the feet of Skeletor* Teach us more o sage one



About Skeletor | Unquiet Things

So, about Skeletor…

*sits at the feet of Skeletor* Teach us more o sage one



"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Arthur C. Clarke's First Law - "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination"  in "Profiles of the Future"  (source)

I tend to think there are sort of four types of people and people can move from one category to another throughout a lifetime. But the categories are ordered, so it’s easy to move to an adjacent category but difficult to move to a category two or three away and impossible to move to a category more than one away without passing through the middle ones.

The categories I think are these:

A. Conscientious Actives

B. Conscientious Neutrals

C. Conscience Losts

D. Ass holes

I’m not the best with naming things.  But let me explain.

The largest group by far is those of us in Group B. This is the group of people who largely believe they are good people and are probably more or less correct about that. But their principle motivations are to keep themselves safe and the ones they love safe and seeking stability and happiness in their own lives. 

Group C is the next largest group. These are largely people who have to some degree or another given up on following the rules of basic Justice and morality. They aren’t particularly evil people but they see for whatever reason a need to give up on ideals sometimes because they think that that is the only way to survive and find happiness. Other times they’ve become cynical and come to believe that everyone is a Category C or worse so they think they might as well be.  

Group A’s are those who are trying to fix things that they perceive as moral wrongs. They are trying to solve the problems of the world. They are trying to help people. They haven’t given up on their ideals. Or they developed a degree of rage and anger at injustice to the extent that they feel they can’t help but do something. But Group A’s still have rules. They still have consciences and there are some things that they will not do even in the pursuit of their ideals.

Group D’s are well ass holes. They have no boundaries. Sometimes it’s because they think like life is a game where nothing else is real and they are just trying to win. Sometimes they are people that perhaps simply don’t have a sense of right and wrong or empathy that most other people have. And other times they are people who believe in something so strongly that they feel that there is nothing more important than that thing.

Actually come to think about it, this isn’t a linear list, it’s a circle like this: 

A < —— > B 

^             ^

|             |

v            v

D < —— >  C

Moving from Group A to Group B usually involves being tired and deciding that you just want your life, often finding out that you have too much to lose by fighting the good fight or finding out that the good fight is just too damn hard. Sometimes it’s because you just become disappointed in other people or despairing of ever seeing any real change. Sometimes it’s because you’re having a hard time supporting yourself and you just feel you need to focus on yourself for a while get your own house in order before you try to save the world.

Moving from Group B to Group C is usually something having to do with a hardship so great it penetrates one’s personal moral code. 

Moving from Group C to Group D is usually a more gradual process. The more you try do things beyond the scope of your moral code the easier it gets. 

Moving from Group D to Group C is usually a matter of expedience. One sometimes realizes that there is actual advantage in not being a total asshole all the time or one starts to develop some degree of consciousness of the experiencies of others. Sometimes people have no empathy because they haven’t really come to understand who other people are and once they do they can’t stay as douchey as they were before.

Moving from Group C to Group B is usually when you find a sense of shame in the moral code breaking things you’ve done and want to return to normalcy. Often you won’t move all the way to Group A because you feel you don’t deserve and are unqualified to fight for good things but you think you can maybe hang low and have a normal life.  

Moving from Group B to Group A usually entails getting just so very angry about some injustice that you can’t take it anymore without acting. Or it could come just from feeling restless and wanting to do something. Sometimes it happens when you’ve just got nothing better to do and you care about things. 

And lastly,

Moving from Group A to Group D is perhaps the easiest transition of all. Once something matters so much to you that you need to do something about it, it’s not hard to start to believe that it’s so important that you need to do more to fix it and pretty soon you think that anything is justifiable to get the thign done.

Moving from Group D to Group A I think is the hardest least likely transition. You’d need to build boundaries four yourself even when you’ve been acting without them for, possibly a long time. That just doesn’t happen that often and when it does it’s almost indistinguishable from a self serving pretense of morality. Usually a Group D has burned all bridges and will not be welcomed happily into Group A whereas the reverse is easy. Group D’s having in boundaries will take all the help that they can get.

I’m pretty sure younger people are the most likely to be an A or a D, older people most likely to be a B or a C.  B’s and C’s are more risk averse. A’s and D’s are more risk taking.  I believe that most people are naturally B’s and it takes shocks to move them out of the B equilibrium.

Societal oppression and propaganda are techniques to preserve the equilibrium so it’s trying to keep people in B’s. The more oppressive the society the fewer A’s there are likely to be, the more B’s. Corruption is when a society provides benefits for breaking one’s moral code. The more corrupt the society the more C’s and D’s there are likely to be.  I think our current society in the United States is somewhat oppressive and VERY corrupt so we have way more C’s and D’s then we ought to have and most other people are B’s with not nearly so many A’s as we might normally have. A well functioning democracy depends on having a largely than average number of A’s in the population and that’s why it is so difficult to have and maintain.

Anyway that’s some random musings. Not very eloquently described I know, but I’m pretty sure that this is a large part of how the world really works. There’s probably a better way to express this though.


Bust out this chart the next time some dummy accuses poor people of wasting money on “toys” (x)


Bust out this chart the next time some dummy accuses poor people of wasting money on “toys” (x)