Wednesday, October 17, 2018

TANSTAAFL Decoded


TANSTAAFL Decoded

TANSTAAFL stands for “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”. This sound-bite, popularized by Heinlein in “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”, has some serious problems.
For one thing, almost half of it is filler. “Such Thing As A”: those four words, out of nine, add nothing. They aren’t needed, even for grammar. Without them it reads “There Ain’t No Free Lunch”, which says the same in 5/9ths of the words.

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From the personal log of the leader of an Expedition into the Heinlein Desert:
Word 1, “Such”. We have entered the Heinlein Desert. The landscape is bleak and supplies are low.
Word 2, “Thing”. We are out of food and low on water.
Word 3, “As”. Water gone. Morale low. Conditions desperate.
Word 4, “A”. Most of us dead. A curse on the Heinlein Desert.

*******

And even if we bypass the Heinlein Desert, “there ain’t no free lunch” has a double negative in it. Now, I ain’t against “ain’t”: it’s a wonderfully warm word, which deserves greater use; but alas, it is a class signifier. It is used naively by poor country folk, and ironically by urbanites such as Heinlein and myself. The double negative has the same dual role; it’s a class signifier unconsciously signalling uncool outsiderhood, or archly signalling hip insiderhood. From the mouth of a hedge-fund manager, “ain’t no” is grammatical blackface.
TANSTAAFL tries to seem backwoods and folksy when in fact it is urban and corporate. An authentic version of TANSTAAFL would be TINFL: “There Is No Free Lunch”. Grammatical, sincere, and economical.
So why TANSTAAFL? From a hedge-fund manager? With an expense account? That last detail is not an incidental hypocrisy; it is the key hypocrisy. When the hedge-fund manager eats an expense-account lunch, then for him “there ain’t no” translates to “there is some”; for in his native tongue, double negatives cancel.
“There Is Some Such Thing As A Free Lunch”: TISSTAAFL! That is the plaintext decoding of TANSTAAFL, as spoken by its 1%er fans. Now even the Heinlein Desert makes sense; for its pointless blather is another class signifier, denoting effete elitism.
In summary:
TANSTAAFL is grammatical blackface, and it blathers; TINFL is an authentic and concise alternative to it; and it decodes to TISSTAAFL.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Simulation Trilemma


Simulation Trilemma

There’s a theory that this universe may be a simulated universe; that in fact there will be so many simulated universes that this is probably not the real one. Of course there could also be simulations within simulations, etc.; so we may be many levels up.
Suppose that there is a real universe that simulates all the others; call that the base-level universe. Is there a universe that simulates the base level? Call that a sub-base level. There are three possibilities:

The Line. The universe is simulated by another universe, which itself is simulated, and so on in an endless line, so there is no base-level universe.
The Ray. There is a base-level universe, but no sub-base; so it simulates all others and is not simulated.
The Loop. There is a base-level, and a sub-base level, and they simulate each other.

Of Line, Ray and Loop:
2/3 say that some universe simulates all others;
2/3 say that every universe is simulated;
and 2/3 say that there are no simulation loops.

This is a trilemma; they cannot all be true; so any two implies the negation of the third.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Mowing the Thousand Flowers


Mowing the Thousand Flowers


One persistent danger to elite society is its own overproduction. When too many elites chase too few elite positions, someone has to lose. So how do elites prune out excess fellow elites?
One method is to periodically rewrite the rules for being a member of respectable society. For instance, make sexual customs cycle from puritan to libertine and back again. Let a thousand flowers bloom, then roll up the lawnmower. This way one can eliminate as many fellow elites as you wish, during the puritan phase, for offenses against propriety committed during the libertine phase.
This method tends to select for hypocrisy. Consider the case of Al Franken, exiled from the Senate after photographic evidence of groping a woman; and Brett Kavanaugh, promoted to the Supreme Court after credible accusations of sexual assault. The former resigned right away, the second fought back with angry self-pity, perjury, and cover-ups. The orange conman himself compared the two, and derided Franken for his sucker’s integrity. Thus the President sets the moral tone of the age; in this case, downwards.
The puritan-libertine elite-pruning cycle selects for hypocrisy. To the system’s believers, this is a bug; to the system’s critics, it is a feature; and to the system’s masters, it is the core process.