Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Gnomon": the System and the Witness

Amazon link

There are in excess of half a million CCTV cameras in London today. Most are old-fashioned, low-resolution, not networked and operated under disjoint authorities.

Project into the middle-future: many more cameras with microphones and speakers, online and linked to one central authority. Realtime oversight by an AI system - no people involved so no privacy issues - (right, Google?).

This is not just a sensor system, although it has input from the ubiquitous Internet of Things. This AI comes with apps: it can talk to people, warn them, nudge them.

So the AI needs social policies. Naturally they should be prosocial, intolerant of  negative -isms. Something like the BBC or The Guardian made flesh.
"Mielikki Neith is an enthusiastic proponent of both the System and the Witness.

The first is a government of the people, by the people, without intervention or representation beyond what is absolutely necessary: a democracy in the most literal sense, an ongoing plebiscite-society.

The second is the institution for which Britain perhaps above all other nations has always searched, the perfect police force.

Over five hundred million cameras, microphones and other sensors taking information from everywhere, not one instant of it accessed initially by any human being. Instead, the impartial, self-teaching algorithms of the Witness review and classify it and do nothing unless public safety requires it. The Witness is not prurient.

The machine cannot be bribed to hand over images of actresses in their baths to tabloid journalists. It cannot be hacked, cracked, disabled or distorted. It sees, it understands, and very occasionally it acts, but otherwise it is resolutely invisible.

In the gaps where the cameras cannot scan or where the human animal is yet too wild and strange, there are intervention. The majority of the Inspectors' cases concern acts of carefully considered violence, international organised crime and instances of domestic or international terrorism. Some few crimes of passion still occur, but hardly require deep scrutiny, and most are headed off early and preemptively when tremors of dysfunction give them away.

The Witness does not ignore a rising tide, a pattern of behaviour. It does not take refuge behind the lace curtain of non-interference in personal business. No one now shall live in fear of those they also love. Everyone is equally seen. That's how the System works and what it means."
A system like that is going to need state-of-the-art user authentication to access its internals.
"Even so, the protections around it were ferocious, and Annie insisted - in a rare moment of straightforward technical lecturing -that I know them off by heart.

`Authentication on steroids,' Annie said. `Username and password, that's standard. We start there, then we add a dongle.'

`Excuse me,' I asked, 'a what?'

`A physical key. Don't ask why it's called that, no one knows. A physical object that proves your right to access a given resource. These days it's usually your phone. In our case it's a little doodad you wear around your wrist.'  ...

`Yes,' Annie said. 'If you're a total lunatic, you can have the chip encased in plastic and implanted in your arm so that you can Obi-Wan your way around the office. I don't recommend it.'  ...

I slipped the dongle around my wrist, next to the bracelet. ...

All right. Something you know and something you have. Two factors. Okay? But we need more than that. The dongle itself has a biometric scanner. Most people use fingerprints or retinal scan, even aural topology scan, but there are issues with those. Once they're compromised, that's it - you have a finite number. And they lend themselves to rather ugly forms of violence.

We're trialling microbial cloud analysis. The sensor in the dongle is actually patterned after canine nasal cells, which always sounds a little bit weird.'

Yes. To these silicon children, biology is outré.

'Anyway: everyone has a distinct collection of biomass on and around the skin. Recognition is about ninety-six per cent accurate, so not perfect, but it's incredibly hard to fake.

'For full-access login, we have predictive neural modelling and response.'

`What's that?'

Colson shook his head. 'It's the absolute creepiest thing in the world.'

`The machine asks you a string of random questions,' Annie said 'and measures your answers against its analysis of your personality. It's not predicting your answer, it's determining whether it's the sort of answer you'd give. Over time, it also notices if you're changing in significant ways. That's why Colson hates it.'

`It's fucking intrusive,' Colson growled. 'In theory, it could decide you're emotionally unstable and tell your boss. If you vary too much from your previous behaviour, it might lock you out of your own files.

'There's potential for abuse, Annie, and you know it. The alcohol-anklet people could use it to say you're backsliding. And those probation future-crime fuckers, they'd love it: if your connectome gets too much like the one you had when you were a sinner, off to jail you go!

'And sooner or later, someone's going to say it can detect defections and whistleblowers before they can decide what they're going to do themselves. Maybe you see something, I don't know, you're an oil exec and you see the results of a spill. The system might lock you out for insufficient faith in the corporate ethos. Loyalty-based access.'

Annie glanced at me. 'Colson believes the world is on the brink of a collapse into pre-liberal government. The erasure of the twentieth century.'

It is,' Colson said firmly.

`Be that as it may -'

'Loyalty-based access. It's the automation of the merger of a religion of the state with corporate power in the form of information.'

`We'll code it out.'

'Someone'll code it back in.'

`They won't be able to.'

`They'll try.'

`That's why we haven't sold it,' Annie said, a little exasperated, and then to me once more:

'Five requirements. It's like putting ingredients in a cauldron for a magic spell. A significant object, your name, a secret word, your body. Then eventually, connectome: your soul.'

Turns out the last of these is the hardest to hack.


In the next post I'll say something about the novel itself.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A winter wonderland

Having been terrorised, terrorised a few nights ago by 70 mph winds (in the morning the bird bath had blown away .. ending up under the car .. imagine!) - this morning saw us whitened by hail.

The back garden

The front drive

Surely we must blame climate change.

We were up at 7.30 am because the local furniture shop, Haskins, had given us a window (8am - 1pm) for the delivery of our new sideboard. Clare was so looking forward to it.

I think it would have been about half past ten when the two burly delivery men drew up in their large van. I didn't envy their porterage of such a heavy piece of furniture up our steep drive (this was thankfully just before the hail storm hit).

We had speculated whether delivery people these days stay for coffee and biscuits, or just do the job and depart on some insane schedule. But that's just Amazon. We tried the experiment and treated the men to Waitrose-sourced coffee bags and shortbreads. They were very grateful and one of them was even somewhat conversational.


Clare is delighted with the new sideboard

The cutlery, plates and sundries have now migrated: I find it confusing. Apparently it takes two days to rewire the brain. At least that's what Nick Harkaway claims in the excellent and deeply weird "Gnomon" (of which more shortly).

Amazon link - Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I haven't quite finished his novel but I'm meditating on authors who are: off-the-scale Intuitive, who fail to find an editor to complement their insane research-depth and hyper-associative writing, who seem to have uncritically internalised hyper-liberalism, who are plainly very, very smart but still don't delve beneath the linguistic category of 'totalitarian surveillance'.

Mr Harkaway is by turns intriguing and infuriating.

But ultimately quite thought-provoking, this AI-powered panopticon of total automation. There's more to it than who gets to decide the boundary conditions and classification rules.

Here's the Kirkus review (no spoilers).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The dream of 'designer babies'

Some things in the media are so mind-numbingly stupid that I feel frozen into dumbness: 'Where would I start?'

Where is the politician or pundit who simply states - in exasperation:
"Why wouldn't we want designer babies? Is random better? And when you choose your partner with care, aren't you trying - in  part - to optimise your children? Listen people, we already do designer babies! And that's good and indeed evolutionarily obvious."
OK, I never heard that. Ever.

But we will soon be able to make more informed choices about the genomes of our offspring. Three obstacles:
  1. We need to understand the phenotypical effects of alleles (existing or even new)
  2. We need certainty about the effects of genetic engineering - no mistakes
  3. We need to make it easy and convenient to access and then implant the modified cell.
So, once fixed, my question is: what do we want to do?



Firstly, there seems to be a biological recognition of kin-similarity. Babies swapped unknowingly at birth who grow up with unrelated 'parents' do seem to feel that something is wrong. I don't think we understand causally-genomically what is going on here and changing too many alleles, increasing the genomic distance between parents and child, may start to impact the relationship.

Secondly, you can't optimise everything. It may be true - as Steve Hsu has insisted - that high IQ tends to correlate with general health and superior performance in most areas. And if it's a question of minimising genetic load you can see why.

But beyond a certain point, high IQ seems to require that more of the brain is devoted to the processing of abstractions leaving less for other things. This is probably part of the underlying etiology for different personality types.

There seem to be few highly-intellectual axe-wielding warriors.

Thirdly, there is a feeling that although some parents might want their children to be great athletes or painters or musicians or novelists or priests or therapists or .. parents, there is something special about IQ.

Without intelligence we are sunk, none of the rest is going to work as our civilization will collapse. And that has been true up to now: all that smart fraction stuff - that you need a lot of folks with IQ 105+ just to run a complex society. And that the real innovation comes from those world-class people with IQs in excess of 160.

But .. I have not the slightest doubt that by the time we are able to routinely engineer the genomes of our offspring, we will have AI systems which are conceptually-competent way beyond the smartest humans that we can envisage.

We know what really smart people do: they internalise and extend a vast set of abstractions and manipulate them in interesting and complex ways to engage with problems. The lower foothills of this space are already colonised by deep-learning systems: their future seems pretty scalable.

It's not at all clear that the destiny or destination of the human race is or should be unbounded smartness, once we correct the errors of mutational load.


I've just finished reading "The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius" by Graham Farmelo.

Amazon link

Dirac was plainly one of the smartest people who have ever lived. He is also generally assessed as autistic (Asperger's syndrome). In Farmelo's account, although not chronically unhappy, he hardly seems to have led a fulfilled life. His total, obsessive focus on developing theory seems to have led to a final disillusionment with the state of physics when he died (1984) - and with his own life's work.

I suspect that the first epoch of empowered genomic engineering will not be a mad rush for ever higher IQ, with the target of the ubiquitous production of von Neumann equivalents. Instead, I suspect we will edit out the obvious errors and reinforce the talents already latent in the specific underlying genome.

Let a thousand flowers bloom.


I suspect the second epoch of genomic engineering will be entirely different.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Our solar panels (Hanergy) - failed FIT meter

Dear Hanergy Customer Services,

Our solar panels were installed in February 2014. We went with IKEA, because we trusted their brand, and their subcontractor was yourselves, Hanergy. We were pleased at the time with your service.

On December 4th 2017 I called you to report that our Feed-In Tariff meter, the Elster meter, had ceased working. This is a problem because it means we can't claim revenues via the FIT. You said you would contact the local installer and get the meter replaced.

Eight days later (Dec 12th) I contacted you again, as I had heard nothing. You replied in an email that you would chase the installers up.

It is now January 15th 2018, almost six weeks from my original fault report. I have heard nothing from the installers, nor is there any evidence that you are progress chasing them.

Given this unacceptable level of service, we need to move to more effective measures.
1. Please let me have the contact details for your local installers so that I can chase them up myself.

2. In the event that they are as unresponsive as they have been to you, I reserve the right to appoint a qualified engineer to replace the Elster meter myself.

3. Please confirm that you will cover any charges incurred in the latter case and let me know the best process for billing you.
I understand that you are no longer subcontracting to IKEA, and that you have moved out of the residential solar panel business. Nevertheless you have a contractual liability to your existing customers and I intend to raise this matter shortly with IKEA.

Please feel free to escalate this issue within Hanergy.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Seel.

We shall see ... .


Update: Tuesday 17th January 2018.
Dear Nigel Seel,

We are very sorry that you have not been contacted and we have called and sent several messages to the contractor who coordinates with the installers. Will continue to chase them and try my best to get you an appointment asap. If you have not heard from the installer by Monday we will use a local electrician to replace the Elster meter.

If you hear from the installer, please let me know.

Kind regards,
Hanergy Customer Service

More to come. ...

Friday, January 12, 2018

British military strategy will converge to Russia's

In The Times today Edward Lucas writes about the dire state of British defence spending ("We can’t afford to rule the waves any more").
"Britain faces a £20 billion budget gap between what we want and what we can pay for. Worse, we do not know what our armed forces are for.

For decades, we tried to match America across the military spectrum in quality, if not in quantity. Anything our ally wants to do we aim to help with, from special forces to nuclear weapons.

That approach may be good for morale in Downing Street, where politicians enjoy looking like a superpower or at least strutting in the shadow of one. But it does not lead to sensible decisions. Our armed forces are expected to do everything but increasingly fail to do it properly. ..."

" .. we have broadly two options. One is to stay global and retain the ability to fight expeditionary wars, albeit mostly alongside the Americans and against weaker, poorer countries. We will devote the Royal Navy to protecting the two new aircraft carriers. We may maintain our token deployment in Estonia (where our force lacks air defences, naval backup or logistical support). But we will no longer be able to fight land wars against Russia. If things go wrong, we will hope, along with the rest of Europe, that the Americans can deter a military attack or, failing that, that they turn up in time to prevent defeat. ..."

"The opposite choice is to shed our global ambitions and concentrate on properly defending ourselves and our allies from Russia. That will mean a smaller but more heavily equipped army, most likely based in Poland (otherwise our troops will arrive too late for any likely conflict). It requires scrapping our amphibious warfare capability, which cannot operate against an advanced threat like Russia. The Royal Marines will be repurposed and probably slimmed down. The navy’s main task will be dealing with Russian submarines, meaning that the aircraft carriers will be white elephants. They can be lent to the Americans (who will be grateful, and have the fleet to protect them). Or they can fill some glorified trade-promotion and disaster-relief role.

The east European allies will be thrilled. So will non-Nato Finland and Sweden. None of these countries relishes being dependent on France. None views with equanimity a Europe in which Germany might eventually become the military as well as the economic hegemon. Moreover, the Trump administration has cast a grave shadow over the Atlantic alliance, and the Americans yearn in private for us to do one job properly rather than lots of them badly. ...

"My preference is for the second option. The Continent is our neighbour whether we like it or not, so we had better be involved as much as possible. Defending our own shores (not least against Russia’s nosy, quiet, modern submarines) is the top priority. Better ties with European allies could help."
Lucas concludes that there is not a chance in hell that the British Government will take his advice.


The problem we face is that, as with medical care, outfitting a first-world high-tech military is getting exponentially more expensive. The British economy simply can't afford it.

Does it matter? Well yes. As the Americans demonstrated in the Gulf, a state-of-the-art military can obliterate any adversary with anything much less.

Those states with leading-edge high-tech militaries include the US, Russia, China and - at a pinch - the UK and France, (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council).


We are not the first state to be torn between the desire for a first-class military and the reality of a second-class economy.
"The Soviet Union was famously described as "Upper Volta with rockets", a catchphrase that was updated by the geographically precise to become "Burkina Faso with rockets". It was a powerfully succinct description. The United States was rich and space-age powerful; the Soviet Union was poor and space-age powerful."
The Russians may have invested in their military in recent years, but their GDP is still only about the size of California. How do the Russians deal with this problem? They use a lot of people in the ranks (we can't do that) .. and their doctrine says 'go nuclear' pretty early.

The Russians perceive themselves to be encircled. They have inimical states to their west (NATO) .. and (hush!) they have a populous and competent rising-superpower on their depopulated eastern frontier.

I'd be worried too.

We Brits don't apparently have proximate enemies of any real capability right now, so our middle-tech military serves for anti-terrorism and police actions. But let's get real. If ever a first-class power were to move against us, on the current doctrine we'd be toast.

The really smart move in the upcoming defence review would be to follow the Russians. Work up a rich portfolio of multi-role nuclear options: to be deployed early and deployed often.


A lifetime ago, when I was in the International Marxist Group, I asked a senior comrade whether we really did support CND (The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) at all those demos.

"Hell no," he replied, "When we take power, we'll need those nukes - it's the only way we'll ever stop the Americans!"

The Bishop's Palace in Winter

We dropped in this afternoon. It was five degrees, a kind of damp, insidious cold, and there were very few people around.

The lawn from the curtain wall overlooking the moat

This swan has just woken up

They raised the sluice gate to lower the pool for winter maintenance

Afterwards, we repaired to Costa in the town for a hot drink. They now have three kinds of Mocha: mine was a latte.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"The Zone of Interest" by Martin Amis

Amazon link

This is, I think, the first Martin Amis novel I've actually read.


I guess I had him pegged as a North London liberal, one of the golden generation who probably couldn't actually write that well, or who was transfixed by self-referential Islington-angst like Ian McEwan (am I being unfair?).

But no. Amis can write, he's interested in big questions and he's not restrained by bien-pensant shibboleths (or not much).

Hence a novel concerned in minute detail with human relationships between the Nazis at .. Auschwitz.

Very brave.


Here's a plot summary.
"The novel begins in August 1942, with Thomsen's first sight of Hannah Doll, wife of Paul Doll, the camp's commandant. (Doll's name is similar to Otto Moll, a notorious camp commandant in real life.)

He is immediately intrigued and initiates a few encounters with her. In time their relationship becomes more intimate, even though it remains unfulfilled. Despite their attempts at discretion, Paul Doll's suspicions are raised. He has her followed by one of the camp's prisoners, and is informed by him that they did indeed make two exchanges of letters.

While spying on Hannah in the bathroom (as he does regularly), Paul watches her read the letter from Thomsen secretly and rather excitedly, before destroying it. From that point onward, his wife becomes increasingly contemptuous of him, viciously taunting him in private, and embarrassing him in public.

Paul decides to assign Szmul, a long-serving member of the Sonderkommando, to the murder of his wife. He does so by threatening to capture Szmul's wife, Shulamith. The murder is scheduled to take place on April 30, 1943 - at Walpurgisnacht."
Thomsen is the nephew of Martin Bormann and leads a rather charmed life. Not that this saves him in the end.

In his afterword, Amis writes about the paradox of Nazism. Why the final solution? Why did they do it?

And quotes Primo Levi:
"“Perhaps one cannot, what is more one must not, understand what happened, because to understand [the Holocaust] is almost to justify ... no normal human being will ever be able to identify with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, and endless others. This dismays us, and at the same time gives us a sense of relief, because perhaps it is desirable that their words (and also, unfortunately, their deeds) cannot be comprehensible to us. They are non-human words and deeds, really counter-human...”
and then comments, "Historians will consider this more an evasion than an argument."

But Amis offers no analytical thoughts of his own.


Martin Amis is a novelist, not a sociologist. We look to his characters for explanations .. that is to say, their personality types. And here the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey schemes add value once again.

In the novel, Auschwitz presents itself as an environment of selection for Nazi staff. They are physically located at the gas chambers, the ovens, the pyres, the slave-labour factories and the centres for vivisection. It is impossible to ignore the smells, the screams and .. just what you see in front of you.

The primary screening attribute is empathy coupled with imagination. No-one with any degree of generalised empathy could possibly tolerate the place. Few Idealist NFs amongst the camp-Nazis.

Next focus on role: these are either abstract (policy and strategic) or concrete (operational).

Amis's hands-on characters, those who conduct 'selections' and 'actions' at Auschwitz are concrete ST types, generally logistical Guardian STJs. They have internalised that the jews, 'untermenschen', the handicapped and insane are to be classified as 'other', and are inured to 'the process'.

They're rule-followers.

The 'racial purity intellectuals' (like Goebbels and Hitler himself) do not physically attend the camps: for them, the raw physicality of death never intrudes. Their lack of empathy is abstract - the same as that of any military person or politician who is prepared to carpet bomb, or detonate nuclear weapons over cities.

For these people in themselves, Nazism is only an act of the intellect: either a deduction from certain principles or the righteous struggle on behalf of one imagined community ('the Aryan race') against its outgroups (the 'untermenschen'). Yes, the Nazis have their own version of SJWs - call them Racial Justice Warriors.

There is a third category of person: those who are caught up in the process but not directly involved in implementation. IG Farben business executives who are allocated concentration camp slave-labour, the protagonist Thomsen who serves as liaison between Auschwitz operations and Bormann's Party Chancellery. Thomsen describes his position as a 'Mitlaufer', (p. 148),
".. we were obstruktive Mitlaufer. We went along. We went along, we went along with, doing all we could to drag our feet and scuff the carpets and scratch the parquet, but we went along. There were hundreds of thousands like us, maybe millions like us. "
I think people like that, trapped by circumstance, were of diverse psychological type - though naturally all exhibiting an overarching deficit of empathy and imagination (few NFs then).


It's both interesting and sad that none of the four temperaments leads to good governance.

  • The rule of Rationals, Plato's Republic, leads to (always over-simple and inadequate) grand theory dominating humanitarianism. It doesn't have to be fascism .. Stalinism is another example. And the neocon-sponsored Vietnam and Iraq wars.

  • The rule of Idealists, which we have - at least ideologically - in the West at the moment, imposes (very selectively!) a normative model of human nature which sterilises human relationships. It's also profoundly reactionary in scientific terms, demonising research which 'feels uncomfortable'.

  • The rule of Guardians, as seen with Theresa May, is the domain of the concrete - without insight and imagination, politically ballistic, focused on operations over strategy. Destined to hit the wall when new thinking is required.

  • And finally, and perhaps most scary, the rule of Artisans. Those thrill-seeking adventurers who shoot from the hip, are easily bored and crave excitement. Welcome aboard, Mr Trump!
Yes, we are truly doomed to stumble from trap to trap.


What was Hitler's type by the way? Apparently INFJ, Of course, he never personally visited a death camp.

Hitler was an emotional and chaotic Idealist leader, whose moralistic drives had to be turned into policies and strategies by Rationals - and then implemented by Guardians and Artisans.

Reading his Wikipedia entry, Martin Bormann comes across strongly as a Guardian ESTJ.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Autism & IQ, Deep Learning, Quantum Computing

Three papers (PDF) for you today.


1. Autism As a Disorder of High Intelligence - Bernard J. Crespi

Alterations of function in the autistic brain

Crespi's paper attempts to synthesise what is know phenotypically about mental pathologies such as autism with the genetics of intelligence. His thesis is:
"... alleles for autism overlap broadly with alleles for high intelligence, which appears paradoxical given that autism is characterized, overall, by below-average IQ.

This paradox can be resolved under the hypothesis that autism etiology commonly involves enhanced, but imbalanced, components of intelligence. This hypothesis is supported by convergent evidence showing that autism and high IQ share a diverse set of convergent correlates, including large brain size, fast brain growth, increased sensory and visual-spatial abilities, enhanced synaptic functions, increased attentional focus, high socioeconomic status,more deliberative decision-making, professional and occupational interests in engineering and physical sciences, and high levels of positive assortative mating."
".. autism represents most broadly a disorder of high intelligence (and low imagination), and schizophrenia a disorder of high imagination (and low intelligence) .. ."
I think his argument works best at the Asperger-end of the spectrum, where brain architecture imbalances have not yet led to major social dysfunction.


2. Deep Learning: A Critical Appraisal by Gary Marcus

Gary Marcus says "I present ten concerns for deep learning, and suggest that deep learning must be supplemented by other techniques if we are to reach artificial general intelligence."

He begins by observing starkly that "Deep learning, as it is primarily used, is essentially a statistical technique for classifying patterns, based on sample data, using neural networks with multiple layers."

Deep learning typically "knows" no more than can be inferred from regularities in the offered datasets (images, sounds, texts). With such limited data it's generally going to be impossible to infer background theories such as folk physics and folk psychology, let alone the physical and social properties of objects, people and behaviours which condition our everyday lives.

He then examines in detail just how consequentially-brittle deep learning systems are at generalising correctly outside of their training sets. This does not augur well for applications in open domains (such as self-driving cars, Internet censorship and the construction of competent social companions such as chatbots).

I completely agree with this paper, together with its conclusions that some serious new thinking is desperately required.

[Via "The Wild Week in AI"].


3. "Quantum Computing in the NISQ era and beyond" by John Preskill

From the abstract.
"Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) technology will be available in the near
future. Quantum computers with 50-100 qubits may be able to perform tasks which
surpass the capabilities of today’s classical digital computers, but noise in quantum
gates will limit the size of quantum circuits that can be executed reliably."
This is a useful review of the field of quantum computing, aimed at (technically-minded) venture capitalists. It's accessible and describes what quantum computing is, the various ways it can be implemented and what a quantum computer can - and cannot - do.

Almost the ideal introduction.

[Via Scott Aaronson].

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The desert of diversity

Last night, ten thirty, and I was on the couch, flicking between BBC News and Sky News, and their respective reviews of the forthcoming Sunday papers.

Sky had a female and male journalist; the BBC two media women. They were all (including the hosts) fully paid-up liberals.

The main topic of the Sunday press was the continuing fallout from the Wolff book, "Fire and Fury", with Trump tweeting in rebuttal what a 'genius' he was.

The pundits were to-a-person in full triumphalist mode. Their eyes were gleaming: Wolff had sooo nailed the pig! They were outbidding each other in retelling juicy quotes from the newspaper excerpts. They were shocked, shocked!

I was going quietly crazy.

Wasn't it obvious that Wolff was not a disinterested analyst but a partisan liberal himself? Obviously he was going to use his weaselly-gained access to the White House to put the boot in.*


We're uniformly told that television is a warm, not cool medium. Translated, this means that feelgood emotionalism works well while objective analysis stresses and upsets the audience: they switch channel.

As a consequence, television has become (in Keirsey terms) an Idealist colony. More objective, dispassionate, and analytic personality types have been classified as outgroup .. and ejected. Toby Young is just the latest iconoclast to feel the antibodies clustering around him.

Truly they have made the media an ideological desert, and called it diversity.

I rejected throwing my shoe at the TV, and changed channel.


*  It is not that liberals/Idealists are stupid - far from it. It's that their intellectual powers are the servant of their primary emotional drives. Which are those of compassion and empathy towards imagined communities .. to the exclusion of most else. And vitriolic hostility to those who appear to question or violate those naïvely-inclusionary values.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Why liberals hate Trump (cont.)

Note: if you're unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs Type Theory or Keirsey Temperament Theory you might want to review this.


While researching yesterday's post on Donald Trump, I came across "Donald Trump ESTJ Personality?" by Ross Reinhold. Apparently quite a few students of personality type have been assessing Trump as an ESTJ.

It's quite an easy mistake to make: Trump can do a very good authoritative CEO impression when he feels like it. But there is more to it than that: his core (ST) authoritarianism hits a deeper nerve with the psychotherapeutic community, who are extremely liberal.

I equate liberal (in the Jonathan Haidt sense) with the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey category of Idealist.

Ross Reinhold writes:
"While we are supposed to respect and celebrate the values of all 16 personality types, deep in the hearts of many fans of personality typing ESTJ and ENTJ types are the bad guys in the type world.

The “types” of people most often reacting negatively to ESTJ/ENTJ (and to the kind of behavior Trump frequently exhibits) are what David Keirsey has labeled as having an Idealist temperament (see his seminal book “Please Understand Me”).

Keirsey also studied Myers work and identified four personality types who share the Idealist temperament: INFP, INFJ, ENFP, and ENFJ. All Intuitive Feeling types.

Since both ESTJ and ENTJ extravert their Thinking and are by nature “command and control” folks, by their very nature [they] are easily off-putting to all Feeling types.

Feeling types who also favor Intuition can be particularly sensitive. When they see some evidence of what they consider as improper behavior or attitudes they will tend to “intuit” there is more of the same, that what they observe is only the tip of the iceberg.

In a 1996 landmark study of Personality Type in the general population, researchers Allan Hammer and Wayne Mitchell found that 15.7% of the adult population fit into the four Idealist personality types. In a 2004 compilation of the type distribution of the membership of the Association for Psychological Type (at the time the largest worldwide association of type professionals) showed that these four Idealist personality types comprised 46.3 % of the membership.

While a minority in the general population, Idealists are easily the dominant temperament among professional users of and teachers of personality type. So when you understand that there is natural conflict between Extraverted Thinking types and Feeling-Intuitive types you can see how even among professional “experts,” the negatives associated with ESTJ and ENTJ can loom large.

Because Trump does exhibit some characteristics associated with ESTJ and he also offends a number of people (and a large number of Idealists I suspect) it is easy to conclude he must be an ESTJ because it is perceived as one of the two most offensive personality types.

... continue reading.
The author (who wrote the piece I linked to yesterday) suggests Trump is actually an ESTP.


Dick Cheney is an ENTJ - a classical hate figure for liberals. Incidentally Cheney is the main villain in super-liberal Charles Stross's "Merchant Princes" trilogy I was reading over Christmas.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Way too much Fire and Fury

Amazon link

I think it was David Keirsey in "Please Understand Me II" who observed that the feminism of the sixties and seventies was driven by female ENFJs.

Amazon link

The Keirsey/Myers-Briggs NF ('Idealist') temperament describes a combination of abstract-intuition and compassion which forms the essence of liberalism. The extraversion (E) and Judging (J) work to turn that abstracted-compassion loose on the world - let the campaign begin!

Rationals like myself (ineffectually inclined to Libertarianism) tend to value truth and logical coherence. We are prepared for our ideas to be refuted.

Idealists, by contrast, are driven by moral fervour, not intellectual rigour. When they meet opposition, their opponents get classed as heretics, their positions a value-atrocity.

It's no fun debating SJWs.

So when the liberals got their claws into Donald Trump for not being one of them (and for refusing to sign up to their agenda - as Obama and Clinton had done), it was very tempting to defend the current POTUS.

But the political enemy of my enemy can also be .. my enemy.


Trump is most likely an ESTP. The lack of interest in ideas or coherent policy-making is not unusual for a self-indulging, prickly and egocentric Artisan.

The higher ranks of modern society tend to be overpopulated with intellectuals. Rationals do strategy and policy; the Idealists focus on the people stuff: the media and the campaigns. People who traffic in ideas usually write off concrete types (Guardians and Artisans) as stupid.

But Trump has made a successful business and television career and by all accounts has a mesmerising eye for detail. Stupid he is not.

Out of his depth, aggressive and unintellectual? - Well, we are where we are.


I would advise to dial down the panic. Trump is not Hitler. There is no American fascist movement of any consequence. One person alone does not control what happens in any modern society. Trump is undoubtedly the boss from hell - Wolff can be relied upon in his numerous anecdotes of glazed eyes and childish petulance - but the managing of such people is a well-trodden path.

You give them options and ensure the right one is the most attractive. It does require a good chief of staff as butler-in-chief, supported by a solid team across the silos of government.

The military, however, excels at developing senior officers with that kind of talent. This last year has seen a Darwinian process operating in the White House to form a senior government leadership team which actually kind of works.