"During my long journey through the world of evil, I had discovered three sources of power: the power of an individual's inner freedom, the power of a free society, and the power of the solidarity of the free world."-- Natan Sharansky, "The Case for Democracy"

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June 23, 2017

ThreeSources Movie Night!

Here's a nice example of that last point that comes from a silent film made all the way back in 1911! (Ironically, it was a tweet by Clive Thompson that brought this clip to my attention.) The short film is calledThe Automatic Motorist and here's how Michael Waters summarizes the plot in a post over atAtlas Obscura: "In it, a robot chauffeur is developed to drive a newly wedded couple to their honeymoon destination. But this robot malfunctions, and all of a sudden the couple is marooned in outer space (and then sinking underwater, and then flying through the sky--it's complicated)." In sum: don't trust robots or autonomous systems or you will probably die. -- Adam Thierer

Bug or Feature?


Quote of the Day

If the Democrats were smart, they'd give [Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] a gold watch and some eye drops and get rid of her. -- Jonah Goldberg (All Hail!)

UPDATE: Honorable mention, from the same G-File, ending his "Wonder Woman" review:

Last, and crucially, what the Hell was an armadillo doing in Themyscira?

I Thought the Science Was Settled?

Danmned Reciprocity Deniers!

Resonant and wave-guiding systems are present in the vast majority of optical and electronic systems. Their role is to temporarily store energy in the form of electromagnetic waves and then release them. For more than 100 hundred years, these systems were held back by a limitation that was considered to be fundamental: the length of time a wave could be stored was inversely proportional to its bandwidth. This relationship was interpreted to mean that it was impossible to store large amounts of data in resonant or wave-guiding systems over a long period of time because increasing the bandwidth meant decreasing the storage time and quality of storage.

This law was first formulated by K. S. Johnson in 1914, at Western Electric Company (the forerunner of Bell Telephone Laboratories). He introduced the concept of the Q factor, according to which a resonator can either store energy for a long time or have a broad bandwidth, but not both at the same time. Increasing the storage time meant decreasing the bandwidth, and vice versa. A small bandwidth means a limited range of frequencies (or 'colors') and therefore a limited amount of data.

But johngalt thinks:

"...can either store energy for a long time or have a broad bandwidth, but not both at the same time."

Long-time readers may recall my objection to a similar "law" postulated by Werner Heisenberg. The "HUP" (Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) makes a similar declaration of impossibility about measuring the position and velocity of subatomic particles. I continue to maintain that science will progress beyond this self-imposed (and, in my opinion, self-important) limitation. The linked discovery tends to reinforce my position.

However, in defense of Mr. Johnson, his Q factor describes a property of passive resonators. Manipulating a material with magnetic fields requires the input of external energy. While the new discovery does have novel applications, disproving an established law is not necessarily one of its achievements.

Posted by: johngalt at June 23, 2017 4:23 PM




One more Father's Day tribute -- as I was blessed with two. My Father-in-law was a big fan of Jobim Antonio Carlos Jobim ©1967

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


June 21, 2017

How much safer?

I took my blog brother at face value when he reported here that the number of automotive-related deaths would "plummet" from self-driving cars, with "most analyses suggest[ing] that autonomous vehicles will eventually prevent over half of the 35,000 deaths that occur on American roads each year, and some reports are much more optimistic."

For its part, Tesla Motors has said "Brown's death is the first known fatality in over 130 million miles driven with autopilot, while there is a U.S. traffic fatality once every 94 million miles for cars not using autopilot."

So if the number of traffic fatalities was cut in half, or more, by autonomous vehicles, wouldn't autopilot have to log, on average, 188 million miles or more between individual fatalities? (Assuming just one person dies per Tesla crash, of course.) It's true that the one Tesla autopilot fatality is statistically insignificant, but if Brown had had a passenger who also died, autopilot would be demonstrably less safe than non-autopiloted vehicles.

And this simple analysis assumes that all of the vehicles on the road would be autonomous. And that all of the fatalities on the road are caused by vehicles that would be made autonomous, and not by the negligence of pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, medium and heavy truck or light truck and van drivers, to name a few.

No, it seems like the life-saving effects of self-driving cars are only a slight improvement over the old fashioned distracted human driver, with its natural self-awareness and instinct for self-preservation, at least while sober. Although this beneficial conclusion is reached before a statistically significant number of interactions between autonomous vehicles and roadway flag men. How exactly do you make eye contact with a self-driving car anyway? Maybe the safety comparison is closer to unity after all.

But jk thinks:

No. No. No. No. Nooooo! I mean, I disagree somewhat...

The 94 million figure is, sadly, based on sound statistical sampling thanks to those 35,000 data points. The denominator in 1/130,000,000 is borderline random. it could have been 4 or 200,000,000 -- n'est ce pas?

I refer you to "Getting Risk Right" [Review Corner] to see the pitfalls of comparing probabilities of unlikely events. One death of one woman almost spiked the promising technology of cell phones.

The Luddites were beaten back and millions of lives were saved -- and incredible prosperity and productivity unleashed. But how's this relate to our discussion? I forgot...

My larger argument is the improvement (dare I say "perfectibility?") of machine algorithms. People will drive just as badly in 50 years, but machines will be better.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 10:37 AM
But johngalt thinks:

We haven't had a dustup in a while, and I almost sprained my tongue with it pressed so hard into my cheek for a five paragraph post. But we have to acknowledge that self-driving deaths do occur, and it didn't really take very long for the first one.

You may rightly say that it resulted from human error, but at the same time I'll point out that the autonomous driver required human intervention.

I'll concede that machines are more perfectible than human drivers, but my assertion has always been that the operating environment is not and will never be perfected. That's where I object to the car "driving itself." What in the world is wrong with just assisting the human driver? The answer, of course, is "nothing." It's just not as sexy sounding and futuristic as "autonomous vehicles." Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying they don't have their place. I'm just saying they should not be intended to replace all human self-reliance. And driver assistance features will make human drivers far safer too. Some might even be bold enough to say, "half or fewer fatalities per mile driven."

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2017 11:30 AM
But jk thinks:

We have a proximate technical agreement in the idea of AI-assistance in, well everything. I highly recommend Kasperov's Conversations with Tyler. Yes, man-machine partnerships will bring much of the safety benefits of autonomous vehicles.

I hate to take a side-road, but I am truly burning with the question "when will the first deaths occur from vehicles which stop themselves?" That's a popular feature, if commercials during sports are any indication. And it does not take much imagination to see its providing a bad outcome.

The answer to your "why not a driver?" is the productivity gains, not the safety gains. Y'know, cowboy, they wanted to keep elevator operators for the same reason. "What in the world is wrong with just assisting the human operator? The answer, of course, is 'nothing.'" Like the cell phone, the Luddites were beaten and we do not have to pay a union wage to a guy who punches buttons and prevents you from plummeting to your death.

True autonomy changes the landscape -- I want to reclaim commuting hours, move to a shared capital model instead of trillions sitting dormant 95% of the time, empower the disabled and blind, and turn the parking lots into wild animal refuges, where the deer and the antelope can play.

What's wrong with keeping a human behind the wheel? It precludes all those benefits I mentioned.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 11:56 AM
But johngalt thinks:

How do you answer the closing question in my post: "How exactly do you make eye contact with a self-driving car anyway?"

Will flaggers ever feel safe again? Or pedestrians in general?

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2017 2:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I do not think that is insuperable. People did not feel safe in automated elevators for awhile, but they changed the technology to provide better indication.

Perhaps some lights on front, like the "Liddy Dole Lights" in the back window, could flashs to let you know you're "seen." I certainly think they'll be pretty effective at stopping at crosswalks and lights before they get too far.

Heck, we might automate the flaggers.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 3:54 PM
But jk thinks:

Funny that I do not fear this, but I saw a "Roomba for weeds" video on Facebook and thought "Skynet. That's how it starts..."

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 3:56 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

I can't wait to hear cockpit recordings of the human arguing with his AI driver. :-) IMO, assistive technology will wait, b/c the market will demand auto-taxis for the busy-busy and showoffs.

Honestly, the simplest way to be safe is to go slower, so there will be classic all2human resistance to the AI's control... but also human laziness can't be understated!

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 23, 2017 1:06 AM

June 19, 2017

Energy Sec Expresses Opinion!

¡quel horreur!

The Denver Post in incensed (oh, is that that smell) because "Rick Perry just denied that humans are the main cause of climate change " Some denier:

Perry added that "the fact is this shouldn't be a debate about, 'Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?' Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?"

I know what you're thinking. "Effect with an e?" but never mind that now. The truly disturbing part is that no dissent will be tolerated. Let's measure the Secretary's stunning dissent:
"It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," the IPCC said in a 2013 report

So, something the UN said was "extremely likely: in 2013, Perry suggests may not be true. Stop the presses.

It's funny but it is not. It is a shot across the bow. The Dr. Manns of the world control the dialog and heterodoxy will not be tolerated

In completely unrelated news -- I don't know why I even bring it up -- this week's Econtalk about Churchill and George Orwell is quite worthwhile.

June 18, 2017



Stars Fell on Alabama

Dick and Diane joined me in the LiveAtTheCoffehouse.com "A" Studio for a tribute to our Dad, his birthplace, and one of his favorite keys (four flats): Stars Fell on Alabama.
Frank Perkins & Mitchell Parish ©1934

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


But johngalt thinks:

Well done, kids. Nice harmonizin'. I'm sure your dad shed a tear of joy. :)

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2017 11:42 AM

June 15, 2017

All Hail Freeman

A violent assault can leave far more than mere physical scars. And it appears that Wednesday's attack on Republican lawmakers and their associates has proven to be particularly traumatic for the editorial page staff of the New York Times . -- BOTW
Posted by John Kranz at 2:56 PM | What do you think? [0 comments]

June 14, 2017

Glad My Lefty Buddies Are Not my Gun Buddies

Sorry, but I know a dozen guys fitting this demographic and philosophical/economic profile. Thankfully, they tend to be anti-gun.


Photo credit Photo: Derik Holtmann/Associated Press (Click for WSJ version).

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 5:54 PM | What do you think? [2 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

In a family PM yesterday I wrote, "He was a middle-aged white guy who couldn't get ahead in private business. He gravitated to Bernie's "equality" message. But others like him became the "Trump Train."

I further explained, "It's a matter of worldview - am I envious of the success of others, or not? Do I believe in fixed wealth inequitably distributed, or limitless wealth created 'by each according to his ability' restricted only by government and one's own ambition?"

But what provokes a sign-waver to become a mass murderer? When does it become "okay" to kill people because they disagree with you? Or even because they seek to change policies that you think save people's lives, and therefore lead you to conclude that "they're killing people?"

I can remember a case in Colorado Springs, and another in Kansas, where a right-winger murdered doctors and/or patients at abortion clinics, motivated by the belief that it was protecting the lives of the unborn from being murdered.

In both examples, the moral justification is the same - "The end justifies the means."

Ayan Hirsi Ali describes it as an appeal to the "pure principle"... in the case of Islamists, the pure principle of the prophet; in the case of pro-life extremists, the pure principle of assisted self-defense; in the case of committed socialists, the pure principle of equality.

But all of these pure principles have something in common - they expressly refuse to acknowledge an absolute individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property.

Posted by: johngalt at June 15, 2017 11:09 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Circa 2014: "Non-egalitarian-socialist teaching is forbidden."

Posted by: johngalt at June 15, 2017 11:34 AM

June 13, 2017

Firefly Cancelled Again.

This time, some ThreeSourcers will be pleased that Firefly is cancelled.

Firefly is the autonomous Google car with no controls so mistrusted by ThreeSourcers not named jk.

Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) retired its self-driving prototype dubbed the "Firefly," a tiny test car with no steering wheel or pedals, to focus on building its self-driving technology into mass-produced vehicles.

I don't care, I'm still free. You can't take self-driving cars from me.

But johngalt thinks:

I see what you did there. Twice. No, three times.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2017 11:22 PM

Quote of the Day

Just once it would be nice if [Jared] Bernstein and the other class warriors he runs with would explain how individual achievement that leads to wealth harms those who aren't rich. What he would find were he to replace emotion with rationality is that in capitalist societies, people generally get rich by virtue of producing abundance for everyone. In short, we need more inequality, not less, if the goal is to improve the living standards of those who presently earn less. -- John Tamny
But johngalt thinks:

Go try telling that to James Hodgkinson.


Posted by: johngalt at June 14, 2017 11:14 AM
But jk thinks:

Well, with 93 million a day, your odds are not good.

Posted by: jk at June 14, 2017 1:41 PM

A Sensible View of President Trump

Professor Victor Davis Hanson knocks it out of the park in "The Endless Ironies of Donald J. Trump."

I've felt rather adrift since the inauguration, seeing little commonality with either my apoplectic lefty friends nor #45's thoroughly dedicated supporters. National Review, if I am not mistaken, started the "never Trump" movement, and they have not been bashful about opposition.

And yet. While I hate to put words in someone else's mouth, VDH's piece, better described by the FB subhead "President Trump's Wrecking Ball to American Politics Was Long Overdue" seems to artfully lay out the defenses I've heard on ThreeSources.

Dr. Sawbones Trump smelled a festering wound, ripped off the scab, and proclaimed that the exposure would aerate and cure the gangrenous mass below.

I also see quite a bit of myself in the piece: being forced to accept the uncouth, skeptical of underlying motivations and dedication to principle.
Never have so many bright people proved so dense. Never have polls and politics proved so unreliable or partisan. Never have unintended consequences so replaced predictable results. Yes, we are in chaos, but we sense also that the pandemonium is purgative of the worse that prompted it -- and it is unpleasant mostly because it has so long been overdue.

And so forth. In a mid-length piece, he captures the current positions of the teams. And I feel that I am not in bizarre world after all. I highly recommend a complete read.

But johngalt thinks:

Looking forward to a complete read. But the sub-title has me kneeling and bowing in praise:

Pandemonium can be a revivifying purgative.

Way over my literary pay grade. But I'll shamelessly partner it with my [8th comment] "The administrative, or "deep" state is so entrenched that some china must be broken before things can be put on a proper rights-respecting course, for Americans and for the rest of the world. I truly believe this."

Posted by: johngalt at June 14, 2017 11:20 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Finally read the whole article, including the part where VDH employs my "bull-in-the-china-shop" analogy. Here's an interesting thought that he spurred in my mind when I read:

"It may not be that Trump earns hatred for unnecessary provocation and vitriol, but instead that he or any other Republican would have earned such venom anyway;"

Whether brilliantly intentional or beneficially accidental, the opposition to Trump's style and persona overshadows the opposition to his agenda. A suave and erudite Republican president, by contrast, would suffer the same slings and arrows with nothing to blame them on except his "heartless and racist" policy efforts.

So in a very real way, being obstreperous and uncouth makes Trump a more effective president, not less. It just feels a little smarmy, that's all.

Posted by: johngalt at June 21, 2017 7:14 PM
But jk thinks:


Now, if we could do something about trade, immigration, and -- increasingly -- thwarting AG Sessions's efforts to reinvigorate the war on weed.

Posted by: jk at June 21, 2017 7:24 PM

June 9, 2017

My Kind of "Disastrous Day"

CNN, MSNBC and their ilk salivated over fired FBI Director Comey's Senate testimony. When the day finally came, despite a string of curious yet inconsequential revelations, they called it a "disastrous day for this president." The financial markets said differently.

The hearings were yesterday, June 8. Markets up. Today, June 9, markets up more aggressively.

All three indices currently trading above all-time record high closes. Not bad, considering we're under "ignorant" leadership.

But jk thinks:

"The Pence Rally?"

(.. forgive me brother, I know not what I'm typing...)

Posted by: jk at June 9, 2017 11:39 AM
But jk thinks:

In support of your theory, Ann Althouse points out that the NYTimes and WaPo led with UK elections.

Posted by: jk at June 9, 2017 11:40 AM
But johngalt thinks:

And my (biological) brother points out that Good Morning America led with:

UK election
"some girl falling in a hole while walking and reading her phone"
Miss Chelsea Manning

"When they finally got to Cromey (sic) they acknowledged Trump was never under investigation but concluded he must be now."

Posted by: johngalt at June 9, 2017 4:49 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Personally, I now consider Comey a Swamp-Weasel beyond compare. Only takes notes with GOP-POTUS types (conversations with W were published in Angler), gleans important insights to 'intent' but can' figger the 'intent' of deleting 30,000 eMails while under investigation. Nice quote here:

My view of Trump hasn’t changed, but my view of Comey has. Clearly, he is far from the straight shooter he holds himself out as. His primary interest isn’t the truth; it’s having his way. Kind of like Trump, but without the electoral mandate.
sayeth PL's Never-Trumper, Paul Mirengoff.

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 12, 2017 12:38 AM

June 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

In the absence of evidence of wrongdoing, Mr. Comey treated the gathered lawmakers to a lengthy description of the atmospherics of his conversations with Mr. Trump. The Senate panel heard about Mr. Trump's "body language" and about awkward silences. There were trust issues. Lawmakers also learned of Mr. Comey's deep desire not to be alone with the President. There appears to be some useful material here for a movie on the Lifetime cable channel but it's not clear this investigation has anywhere to go. -- James Freeman BOTW

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