Blog: Sleeping in the Truck tonight

Sleeping in the Truck tonight
Sleeping in the Truck tonight
Date: 2019-Mar-31 19:00:45 EST

Pigged out on a videogame for most of Saturday - a satisfying game of Endless Space 2. Today I'm hoping to be a bit more productive - at Art Lovers Cafe right now, eating a cookie that seems bo somehow be both stale and burned. On the way here, I passed by a large group of women, one of them telling a story to the rest. The only bit I caught (didn't stop) was: "Chaim whispered to me: I'm sleeping in the truck tonight", at which they all laughed. Not sure about the name (not implausible in NYC). I spent part of the rest of the walk wondering what the rest of the story was (may have been a scary or fake-scary story based on her intonation).

Earlier this week I went to an IQ2US debate between 2 never-trumpers (one of them Jeff Flake) and two FoxNewsers on whether Trump should be nominated again for President. It was a surprisingly lively debate (wasn't sure what to expect). Covered:

  • Pragmatism versus long-term for the party
  • Some discussion of concrete policy shifts that have long been conservative wants
  • The fragility of policies over the years
  • Concerns about radicalism frm the Democratic party and a need to keep them down in particular for the next election
  • The importance of having a president that is personally decent and has their government act as an example for the world
I felt a lot of sympathy for the never-trump side, in that those ideals are (at least outside of economic topics) often things I also want. I felt a little weird with some of the specific policy gains, in that at least two of them (lowering the corporate tax rate, and a return to due process in allegations of sexual assault in colleges) are things I also believe in. Not that I have some common groumnd with them, but that they held these as examples of particularly conservative thought. It's not actually that surprising in an era where populism is suddenly making big inroads in both parties that I find I have a lot in common with technocrats on the other side. My identity as a liberal is solid in my mind, based on gradualist socialism, a belief in cradle-to-grave programmes to support people's (economic/material) needs, and a belief in structuring society to limit the power that comes from wealth and ownership. That doesn't bar common ground with other political philosophies. One question I wanted to ask in the debate but I wasn't called on was whether between the Trump and previous administrations, they see a systemic difference between the use of hard power and soft power, and if so whether any shift was warranted. I was having trouble getting the phrasing together so maybe it's better that I didn't get to ask it.

I've been thinking further about soft and hard power since the meetup; it's obviously a spectrum, the chief differences coming from at one level actual force, another ruinous shifts in economics or other necessities, leaning towards the soft a concrete opportunity, and then at softest promises of consideration, goodwill, and things shaped like that. In an ideal world, hard power would be a rarely used thing, merely understood as an ultimate tool to safeguard the most vital interests of people or as a response to egregious violations of strong in-consensus norms. It's difficult to talk about these nuances in the abstract (at least, comparatively, where someone would criticise someone else with nearby-but-not-identical views on soft-vs-hard power in the abstract; the mapping is difficult. I wonder if it has to be, or if there are frameworks we might find to clarify the grounds.

Also been thinking - if someone had the ability to savescum IRL, is there a way we could detect it? First - savescumming is a term for player behaviour in some kinds of games that allow easy load/save, where they'd save the game, try something, and if it didn't go the way they want, they load and try again (often many times, usually in games where people are expected to start a new game when they lose something, and especially if they're running the game in a weird environment (e.g. an emulator) that lets them save far more freely than they usually would. So, if we imagine either a general trying to win a war, or someone playing chess, or even someone trying to navigate through the significantly-random early bits of a relationship, where at the end of every day they have the ability to rewind and try it again, could we somehow detect that? The challege being, I think, that it's hard to know someone's mental state and analytical abilities and information sources to reliably tell in the general case if they're breaking reality, or just very intuitive, good at parsing information, and lucky. So in the general case I think it'd be hard, but perhaps there are tricks and traps someone could use catch it (countering it may be impossible unless the rewind is limited). Figuring out tricks and traps like that is an interesting intellectual exercise.

Been thinking further about my earlier idea of how IQ2US relates to argument maps or other ways of approaching disputes that are resistant to misrepresentation of facts (primarily hoping to deal with this by stretching the discussion out so people can go back and factcheck, or for independent factcheckers to get involved). Many of these ideas would also allow for a more methodical exploration of possible arguments to make and respond with. I was initially pretty sure this would be better, but I brought a line of thought in on how I think about democracy - one of the ways I reject the "we'd be better off if dumb people do not vote" argument I've heard from some people is that voting makes people vested in the decisions made and partly illegitimises violence against the system - with in this context it taking the form that these debates are important as debates at least partly because they're social events, and so they help reconstruct civic life here.