Signalling

[Most of this stuff is plagiarized]

Example 1: Catholic devotion

Suppose you’re a Catholic who wishes to signal your commitment to Catholicism for whatever reason (maybe stronger commitment gets you more respect). One thing you could do is refrain from murder since this is an important Catholic doctrine. However, this is an extremely weak signal. Why? Because the costs of refraining from murder are very low, whether you are a Catholic or not. If, however, you refrain from using a condom, that is a strong signal of Catholicism. Why? Because those with weak commitment or no commitment to Catholicism, and so do not believe so strongly in the immorality of condoms, regard the net costs from refraining from using a condom as significantly higher.

Theory

This is called signalling.

Signaling is defined as “a method of conveying information among not-necessarily-trustworthy parties by performing an action which is more likely or less costly if the information is true than if it is not true”. Some signaling is performed exclusively to impress others (to improve your status), and in some cases isn’t even worth that. In other cases, signaling is a side-effect of an otherwise useful activity.

To construct a theory based on signalling you need two key ingredients:

  1. an unobservable trait that, if observable, would be rewarded
  2. an observable action (or set of actions) which is expected to be less costly the more of the unobservable desirable trait you possess

That is, the trait to be signalled (1) and the signal itself (2).

Example 2: Social Justice

Another example is social justice advocacy. The unobservable trait in question is fairly obvious: the strength of devotion to social justice causes. Anyone who observes mainstream culture today understands that there is a social premium on being perceived to be supportive of social justice. To be more in favour of social justice is to be more moral and more respectable in today’s Western society, to obtain a higher position in an informal moral hierarchy. Even if many people dislike social justice advocates, if the advocates themselves regard their strength of belief as a virtue, they will try to signal it. Simply saying that you’re committed to leftist causes counts for nothing because almost anyone can do that—so signalling is required. That’s ingredient (1).

Ingredient (2) is less obvious. I believe the signal is simply the positions social justice advocates take. It seems plausible to me that many things that social justice advocates believe many people would find unpleasant to believe. Examples of this are the idea that the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson were a good thing and that whites should pay reparations to nonwhites.

Take the case of police shootings of black Americans, which has received a lot of media attention recently. If “social justice” were the goal of social justice activists, you’d expect them to focus their energies on cases where the evidence against the police is strongest. However, the signalling theory predicts the opposite. The stronger the evidence against the police, the more likely someone weakly committed to social justice (or not committed to social justice at all) will side against the police. Therefore the signal being sent is weakest in those cases. The signal is in fact strongest when the evidence against the police is weakest.

A case study in this is to compare the Michael Brown shooting with the death of Eric Garner. In the case of Michael Brown, all the evidence available supported officer Darren Wilson’s story. The Michael Brown case caused riots and received much longer and more intense coverage than the Garner case.

More generally, if “black lives matter” was really about protecting black lives, you’d think they’d be concerned that more black Americans are killed due to sneakers alone than are killed by police. You’d also think they’d be concerned about the so-called Ferguson effect. However, from a signalling perspective, both of these blind spots make perfect sense. Everyone can see that deaths over sneakers and another black-on-black crime is bad, and it’s precisely for this reason that it’s ignored—it’s a weak signal.

Example 3: Cults

My mother is in a cult which was recently banned by the Catholic Church, and so I have experienced first hand the effects of signalling. Most cults are based on an unobservable virtue like faith. There are however observable actions which cannot be undertaken with ease if you are a non-believer or a moderate (e.g. mind-numbing chants). Cults through means like ostracization, shame and fear punish the moderates who do not exhibit signalling behaviors. The cults also bestow status and respect on those who do signal more. The combination of punishment and reward for doing difficult deeds signalling unobservable virtues can be used to mobilize people in any direction.

Example 4: Quackery

Fraudulent medical practitioners often make treatment efficacy a consequence of commitment in the treatment. They also offer observable actions one can engage in to signal your commitment. These observables are often very difficult or cause unease to someone who is not committed. So in order to signal commitment, the patient engages in very difficult activities. Some have even died seeking such a status of a committed patient to a quack.

My state of mind

I have been part of these groups that engage in arduous observable signalling as a proof of an unobservable virtue. My experience was that I was never bestowed with respect in such groups even when I signalled correctly. So I stay in groups with observable merit e.g. programming.

In fact, I am so averse to unobservable virtues than I even stay away from traditionally stable systems like marriage which are no longer based on observable economic necessity, but based on one’s unobservable commitment to virtues like tradition, romance and love which require observable signalling through pretentious gestures.

What can not propaganda do?

I think we need to find that out if we have to win against the currently establish order. The recent Brexit plebiscite is a good case study regarding this. We need to study, how despite all the media, the thought leaders, and the elites unanimously preaching that Brexit will be the end of the world, somehow the British people found the guts not to blindly obey them out of fear.

Seems like fear gets too boring after a while. Also when everything is rape, racism, and homophobia; when everybody is Hitler or a white supremacist, all the name calling simply doesn’t make any sense.

Important e-mails from the DNC leaks

Running Haskell Servant Behind Tor Hidden Services

Here is the build-depends section:

  build-depends:       base >= 4.7 && < 5,
                       base-compat,
                       servant,
                       servant-server,
                       warp,
                       wai,
                       aeson,
                       aeson-compat,
                       network-anonymous-tor,
                       network

Here is a minimal example:

{-# LANGUAGE DataKinds     #-}
{-# LANGUAGE DeriveGeneric #-}
{-# LANGUAGE TypeOperators #-}
module Lib
    ( main
    ) where

import           Prelude                  ()
import           Prelude.Compat

import           Control.Concurrent
import           Data.Aeson
import           GHC.Generics
import qualified Network.Anonymous.Tor    as T
import           Network.Socket
import           Network.Wai
import           Network.Wai.Handler.Warp
import           Servant
import           System.IO

data Event = Event {
    id :: Int
  } deriving (Eq, Show, Generic)

instance ToJSON Event

events :: [Event]
events = [
    Event 1,
    Event 2
  ]

type API = "events" :> Get '[JSON] [Event]

server :: Server API
server = return events

proxy :: Proxy API
proxy = Proxy

application :: Application
application = serve proxy server

main :: IO ()
main = T.withSession 9151 withinSession
  where
    withinSession :: Socket -> IO ()
    withinSession sock = do
      forkIO $ run 8081 application
      onion <- T.mapOnion sock 80 8081 False Nothing
      print onion
      hWaitForInput stdin (-1)
      putStrLn "Done!"
      return ()

It prints a hidden service address like this:

Base32String "RANDOMSTRING"

It quits if you press a key.

You need Tor Browser Bundle running before you run the above code. This is so that the above program connects to Tor and starts an ephemeral hidden service.

After you run the above code, you can access the hidden service after a few minutes (it takes time for hidden service directories to update) by going to http://RANDOMSTRING.onion on your Tor Browser Bundle and you will see this:

Tor Browser_542

It can also work with other Haskell web frameworks. This guy who wrote the library to connect to tor control port has also written similar libraries for I2P connectivity.

Have fun writing web applications that cannot be censored!

Boltzmann brains beget Boltzmann

The paradox so far:

The number of particles required to construct a human brain is far fewer than the number of particles required to construct an entire universe with billions of minds in close proximity. Therefore single brains ought to be more likely than universes with billions of brains within them. Yet, we find ourselves in a universe with billions of minds in close proximity.

Much suffering has come from this arrangement, due to the violence that we inflict upon each other. But, to many minds, the proximity of these abusive lesser minds is preferable to the loneliness of being separated from similar minds.

There is a certain benevolence to this form of consciousness. Some attribute this benevolence to a single mind, others attribute it to nature of being itself.

I have a hard time imagining how a single mind would be able to gather enough resources to construct a universe with the right set of starting conditions so that minds that can understand such a universe is begotten within it.

But even if such a possibility were to be entertained, it would mean that mind is limited in capabilities. Because every instance of proto-creativity exhibited by the universe is aided by statistical and evolutionary solutions. There is no design except perhaps in a vague abstract way e.g. about the initial conditions. So whatever led to all this was limited in what it could make/become.

Watchmen

Audio

Whatever happened to the American Dream? It came true. You’re looking at it. Greg Johnson and John Morgan join Richard to discuss the universe of Watchmen and what it reveals about modern America, the contractions of liberals, and the implicit “fascist” mentality that underlies Superhero myths.

Cross-posted from here. This is an excellent analysis of conservatism-vs-liberalism in the context of the Watchmen graphic novels and modern USA.