Neuralink is 99% hype

A couple of years ago, Elon Musk bought a company called Neuralink, which is trying to build a bigger, better brain-machine interface. The hype was incredible. Here’s a small sample (note: the author confuses a concept called a “neural lace” from Ian Banks’ science fiction novels with Musk’s Neuralink over and over again, which tells you how unreal every thing is):

As an immediate application, Neural Lace could potentially help patients suffering from brain injuries and certain illnesses. However, the utimate goal and mission of Neuralink are to successfully merge the human brain with machine, fusing human intelligence with Artificial Intelligence. As a result, this is expected to bring humanity up to a higher level of cognitive reasoning.

At some point, Neural Lace is going to enable humans to upload and download information directly from a computer. Just in a similar way how Neo from the Matrix does in order to learn new skills and acquire new information.

In order to insert Neural Lace, a tiny needle containing the rolled up mesh is placed inside the skull. The mesh is then injected and unveiled upon injection, encompassing the brain.

The Neural Lace integrates itself with the human brain. It creates a perfect symbiosis between human and machine. This technology could be the catalyst for the technological Singularity.

Nope. None of that is true. It serves Musk’s interest to have these absurd claims floated about. I wrote about this nonsense at the time. I pointed out the reality then: “Elon Musk has bought a company, and is cunningly trying to inflate its value by drowning the curious in glurge, techno-mysticism, and making shit up, which, because he has this mystique among young male engineers, will probably succeed in making him more money and fame.” That’s what it’s really about, not science, not cool biomedical engineering, not even impractical wish-fulfillment. It’s a game for Elon Musk to pump up his ego and pretend to be cutting-edge in yet another thing, while skimming off lots of money.

Also, he’s got this bizarre paranoia about artificial intelligence, which he doesn’t understand either, and he thinks this is a way to combat the existential risk of the robots taking over.

Anyway, I bring this up again not because Musk has done anything useful with his hype machine, but because a pretty good video came out explaining the details.

She also makes the very good point that this is not gadgetry to benefit the masses, but to make the rich richer and widen the divide between the haves and have-nots, if it worked. Which it doesn’t.

Children are to be sold quietly to billionaires, not heard

In case you were wondering what the worst reaction to Greta Thunberg might be, let’s look in on a Libertarian Communist Catholic’s (what?) opinion:

He’s not even being provocative! He just thinks girls can’t have credible opinions if raping them makes you a pedophile.

That’s probably the Catholic side of his bio speaking. Well, maybe the Libertarian side, too.

By the way, he’s quite proud of his tweet, and is bragging that Twitter didn’t see any problems with it, either.

Silverman, Sargon, and the ongoing self-immolation of the atheist movement

The last time I saw David Silverman was in October of 2016, in China. We’d both been invited to speak at a small conference in Beijing, and we were treated like royalty. For an hour of talking, we got swept off to fantastic restaurants, to guided tours of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and basically treated like heroes. For me, it was something of the last gasp of the glorious atheist movement, but it had started dying years before. Silverman was a dead man walking, guilty of betrayal of our goals even then, and I was so irrelevant I had no idea of the stories swirling around him that would lead to his abrupt downfall.

All I knew was that, despite his bombastic style, he was effective at getting attention for American Atheists. I was annoyed by his efforts to woo conservatives to atheism at CPAC — I considered their values antithetical to the egalitarian, pro-science views an atheist movement ought to endorse — but at the same time he was a prominent atheist leader openly (one could even say bombastically) promoting feminist ideas of social justice. He was an annoying combination of good words often said badly, and lip service to high ideals contradicted by his courting of people who opposed them. But hey, it got his face on the news.

All that fell apart when he was fired by American Atheists, and suddenly (to me) all the behind-the-scenes unsavoriness was exposed. He was accused of financial malfeasance, using the organization’s money to promote his book, and worst of all, of an ugly history of sexual abuse of women, including young students. He was unemployed and unemployable, his false front was exposed, he was a meteor falling from the sky with his ass on fire, in possibly the most spectacular act of self-destruction I’ve ever witnessed. He’s gone and nobody wants him back.

But he’s still trying, still the eager self-promoter. If respectable organizations won’t give him the time of day, well, there’s always the bottom of a barrel to scrape for sustenance for his ego. He has announced that he’ll do anything for anyone who’ll give him air time.

Anything. So now he’s appealing to misogynistic fascist YouTube. He has appeared on Sargon’s channel.

I’m sorry, but as you can see, I’ve only listened to one second of that poison. The blurb was enough for me.

After falling victim to the #MeToo movement, ex-leader of American Atheists David Silverman had his life totally destroyed by false allegations made by feminists in the atheist movement.

His life totally destroyed! That seems to be a common refrain by all the Harvey Weinsteins and Louis CKs and Lawrence Krauss’s who got wrecked by their own selfish, self-destructive acts. How dare well-off abusers and exploiters get exposed? It’s all the women’s fault.

As for “false allegations”, ask the women. Silverman’s depradations have been documented.

She and Silverman had known each other for years, and he flirted with her throughout the evening, she wrote in the complaint. After the other guests left, R. wrote that Silverman asked her to join him in smoking marijuana on the roof. But before they left the room, he suddenly forced himself on her.

“He physically pressed me to the wall and began to kiss me forcefully, grabbed my breasts, and put his hand into my leggings where there was actual penetration of my vagina,” she wrote.

R. believed Silverman knew she was interested in BDSM and wrote that he began using insulting language, calling her a “dirty little whore.” He then pushed her to her knees, “where his penis briefly made contact with my mouth,” she wrote.

R. got her feet and said “no,” she wrote. Silverman then lightly slapped her face and said, “You don’t get to say no to me.”

At that point, R. said the widely used BDSM safe word, “red,” which stopped him, and then she left. The next day, R. took photographs of bruises where she said Silverman had grasped her, and these pictures were included in her complaint to American Atheists.

Or how about this?

The third allegation reviewed by the American Atheists board involves a student, Rose St. Clair, who alleged that Silverman used his position of power to pressure her into having sex with him. “At several points during this encounter, I hesitated to continue,” she wrote. “I believed that if I did anything to upset him, my chances at being involved in the secular community, especially with American Atheists, would be ruined.”

In 2012, St. Clair was an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Virginia who hoped to make a career in the atheist movement. At the annual convention of the Secular Student Alliance in Columbus, Ohio, she was invited to go to a bar with a group of speakers at the conference, including Silverman.

St. Clair said that she quickly became drunk, but remembered Silverman flirting with her and then suggesting that they go to his hotel room. “I don’t believe I was in a position to be able to give consent. I was very intoxicated,” St. Clair told BuzzFeed News. She said that Silverman did not have any condoms, and pressured her into having anal sex.

Afterward, St. Clair said that Silverman told her she would have to leave early in the morning because his wife would be arriving at the hotel. She said he told her not to apply for an internship with American Atheists because appointing her could be seen as preferential treatment.

“I felt my interest in working for the organization was used as a way for him to have power so that I would have sex with him,” St. Clair said.

Silverman has admitted that these events occurred, has even elaborated on the unsavory details in interviews, but is trying to claim that they were entirely mutually consensual.

“I certainly behaved sometimes in a manner that was unworthy of the office of president of American Atheists,” Silverman, 52, said in a phone interview this week, the first time he has spoken publicly about being accused of nonconsensual sexual contact with two women, one of them a student, at atheist gatherings.

Silverman denies the women’s allegations that their relations were nonconsensual, and American Atheists say he was not fired due to sexual relationships.

I’ll say that he certainly was unworthy of the office, with the caveat that if American Atheists did not find those particularly incidents sufficient to fire him, then the office wasn’t worth much. What actually got him finally fired was this:

American Atheists placed Silverman on paid leave while it investigated a complaint from staff concerned that he had not disclosed financial and personal conflicts of interest relating to the promotion of his book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, and the appointment to a senior position of a woman with whom Silverman was allegedly having a sexual relationship. (That appointment has been rescinded.)

These scummy activities had been going on in 2012-2015, at least, so when Silverman and I were being good buddies on a junket to China, all of this was playing out in the background, and this ugly history was a missile waiting to explode on him. One of our touristy events was a tour of a silk factory, and I remember him ordering a set of gorgeous silk sheets that I would never be able to afford (although they really were a bargain) that he thought his wife would love, but all the while he had betrayed his family and the cause I thought we were both working for, and the whole thing was a charade.

And now he’s pandering to anti-feminist YouTube. Sargon and Silverman deserve each other, and perhaps the best and most appropriate use of Silverman’s talents is his current occupation, selling insurance. Although I would never buy insurance from him.

My disillusionment with the atheist movement continues.

Legal wrasslin’ indefinitely prolonged

Hello, everyone. How was your day? I got to drive all across the state to sit in court and quietly listen to a little man call me a liar twice, and then drive back again.

Briefly, today’s hearing was strictly procedural. Richard Carrier filed a defamation lawsuit in the state of Minnesota against me, after the statute of limitations on such suits had passed. He had to argue that tolling the statute was a reasonable thing to do do.

He had sued a bunch of us in Ohio, and failed because the venue was inappropriate — none of us lived in Ohio, and he had only just moved there himself1. Ohio basically told him they weren’t going to let him move to their state for the purpose of suing a lot of random people in other states. He argued that because, while he was out of the statute of limitations for Minnesota, but was still within the statute of limitations for Ohio, where he was ineligible to sue me, we ought to pretend the part of Ohio law that defines when you can sue someone in Ohio ought to apply here in Minnesota, and that because he was busy suing us in his failed effort in Ohio, that ought to have stopped the clock for purposes of his Minnesota lawsuit. It was very twisty. It must be fun to pick and choose pieces of different state laws to cobble together a legal justification for doing whatever you want.

Our lawyer, Marc Randazza, argued that that rather defeated the purpose of Minnesota’s statute, and that there were good reasons to limit how far back you can go to fish up mean things someone said about you and sue them for it, and it opened the door to endless suits. How can you apply an Ohio law to Minnesota when Ohio has already been determined to not have jurisdiction?

Another excuse Carrier had was that I had displayed the post he was suing me for in a YouTube video, and that should count as resetting the clock on the defamation. That’s interesting, because it means he gets to silence me no matter what — any mention of my accusation means he gets to sue me again. He even said that: if this hearing rejects his tolling of the limitations, he’ll just refile another lawsuit based on the last time I mentioned his banning. Infinite harassment! Yay!

I also learned what he specifically objected to in that post. It was this paragraph, and specifically the mention of “persistent, obnoxious sexual behavior in defiance of specific requests that he cease”2.

Whoops! Guess I just reset his imaginary clock again!

Anyway, Randazza pointed out that everything I said was a statement of what I’d been told, that it was even backed up by documents that Carrier himself put in evidence (the emails between Carrier and Dadhaboy are clearcut examples of persistent obnoxiousness, for one thing). The whole suit is going to get thrown out eventually, so why not cut it short? The judge said that his role there was just to make a judgment on merits of his procedural argument, unfortunately. Which is fair, even if these procedural technicalities allow him to carry on his legal harassment indefinitely.

That’s where it all stands, unsatisfactorily. Randazza made his arguments that Minnesota limitations apply, Carrier made his that he gets to bring in Ohio law, there was some discussion of the contents of the suit that Carrier brought in in his own filing, and the judge said he’ll make a ruling when his workload permits, which may be months and months away. So we wait. If the judge agrees with my lawyer, we’re done, the lawsuit is thrown out. If the judge decides to let Carrier have his way, the process will linger on, we’ll have a trial and discovery and all those fun things which will drag the sleaze in Carrier’s history into the light. Both have their advantages — Randazza would love to bring this to trial on first amendment grounds — but I’d rather just have it over and done with.

It’s not over and done with yet.

1He accused me of lying when I said I thought he lived in Northern California, where he had been living up to something like a week or so of filing suit. I guess he thinks I should know where all the bloggers here are living all the time*, especially him, because he’s so special.

2He accused me of lying and making that up, that it was just my opinion. Nope. It’s what I was told when I asked his accusers. We’ve got the receipts. They’re in his own legal filings, actually.

*I don’t have a clue, mostly. I put the tracking devices in their heads, like I was supposed to, but I told them they had to change the battery every year, at the same time they changed them in their smoke alarms. Just stick the AAA battery in their right ear, positive end first. They keep screwing it up! Wrong ear, wrong way around, I suspect some are stuffing the battery in a different hole altogether.

Don’t forget our legal defense fund!

She’s mad, really mad

Why aren’t you?

She seems to be the only one making an honest response to our situation.

My wife is leaving me!

Yep, she is. She has been drawn to the siren call of grandbabies, which is far more potent than any lure this old poopyhead could possibly put out, so in a few weeks she’s taking off to San Antonio to hang out with Knut. For THREE WEEKS. I might descend into total madness in that much time. She might return to discover I’ve turned the house into a haven for spiders to escape the chilly onset of winter, and that I’m releasing swarms of fruit flies to feed them while I gibber and caper within the silk-shrouded walls of our once lovely home. It’ll be all her fault.

What really annoys me, though, is that she’ll be away over Halloween, and will get to take Knut out trick-or-treating for the first time. That’s my job. Meanwhile, the kiddies will be fleeing in terror from our house in Morris, except for the ones that get snared and wrapped and drained.

I don’t think my students will let me cancel class for three weeks so I can tag along.

Shades of Paul Nelson!

Wow, this is so familiar. Jeff Shallit, who studies information theory, asked a simple question of those intelligent design creationists who love to pretend information theory is on their side.

Five years ago, the illustrious Baylor professor Robert Marks II made the following claim: “we all agree that a picture of Mount Rushmore with the busts of four US Presidents contains more information than a picture of Mount Fuji”.

I didn’t agree, so I asked the illustrious Marks for a calculation or other rationale supporting this claim.

After three months, no reply. So I asked again.

Can you guess what their answer was, can you, huh? No prizes if you guess correctly though, because this is way too easy.

The bane of plastic packaging

It’s overdone, overused, and ridiculous. We could greatly reduce our garbage output if there was less packaging, and if more of it were biodegradable. So this is a good step, that at least one gaming company is switching to cardboard packaging.

The new packaging replaces the now-standard plastic DVD case used for most game discs with a folded, reinforced cardboard sleeve made of 100% recycled fiber. The shrinkwrap surrounding that package has also been replaced with a low-density LDPE polyethylene that’s highly recyclable. Even the ink on the cardboard has been changed out for a vegetable-and-water-based version (so it’s technically vegan if you’re desperate for a snack).

I haven’t bought any games or DVDs, so this isn’t going to make any difference to my purchasing habits. What would, though, is food packaging. We’ve been having those Beyond Meat burgers* maybe once a week, and they’re ridiculous — I think they throw away any ecological advantage by the absurd packaging. They’re individually nestled in plastic wells, sealed in plastic, and then enclosed in a cardboard wrapper. Why? Are they fragile or something? Or are they just trying to make them look like a prestige item? Whatever, stop it.

*Also, on a completely different point, I’ve been noticing that there’s been significant variability in the texture, week by week. It makes me wonder how they’re made, and whether there might by some pressure on the process by their popularity.

See you in court!

The next step in the never-ending nonsense that is the Carrier lawsuit takes place tomorrow, a hearing at the Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in St Paul, at 1:30 in the Devitt Courtroom. Richard Carrier will be there — he has to be, since he’s acting as his own lawyer (there’s some common phrase that ends, “has a fool for a client”). Our lawyer, Marc Randazza, will be there, because that’s his job, and I’m looking forward to seeing him perform. I don’t actually need to be there, since it’s going to be a battle between a lawyer and a “lawyer” on some point of law, but since I’m the one getting sued for over…

…I should at least be there to witness the fate of my financial future. Besides, Randazza has a reputation for arguing well, and I’d like to see him in action.

If anyone else would like to witness this war of words, it is an open court and you can sit in attendance. We’re absolutely not looking for cheerleaders or any kind of rousing participation by attendees, but if it doesn’t go on too long maybe we can meet up afterwards to talk about it.

As always, we’re still looking for donations to support our resistance against this SLAPP suit. Our colleagues at Affinity and sterr have also been carrying out sales and auctions to raise money for the effort. Lawyers are expensive. I just want the foolishness to end.