14 January 2024

Fooling Some of the People All of the Time

So, tomorrow Iowa demonstrates its contempt for the electoral process with in-person caucuses held on (ordinarily) business days that are also school nights, in the midst of a major weather event. The results and orientation shouldn't be all that surprising: The Iowan political process gave us the horror show of the Dishon. Steve King (the other one, who was reelected six times after spewing racial abuse at/about then-Senator Obama that could not possibly be excused as either "partisan" or "ideological"). Meanwhile, some in 'bama want to have a football-coach-v-football-coach contest for the Senate, which shows even more contempt for the electoral process. Color me Cynically Unsurprised (closely approximating Pantone 280C Union Jack Blue, but without the commercial branding… or a Manifest Destiny accent in Pantone 11-001 TPX Bright White).

  • Maybe we just need more superheroes in politics. Or at least fewer supervillains. Not. Gonna. Happen.
  • At this stage, I'd probably settle for less overtly commercial exploitation of purported "advice" — even, and perhaps especially, when it comes to advice on cooking steak from a Food Network columnist in what is probably an undisclosed advertorial on CNN. Putting enough salt on a steak to choke a small horse is not helpful, leaving aside the health issues and cultural preferences — especially since many cuts need more than just salt and pepper, and even more complete meals need other accents. Not to mention that "method of cooking" matters one helluva lot more than that article implies (including the question of just how dry the surface of the meat that is away from the heat source should be), as do cooking equipment (broiler, grill pan, skillet? three entirely different cooking methods, times, and appropriate temperatures), heat source (old-school electric, induction electric, and actual flame all require different techniques — and choices of lubricating fats if any), and desired degree of doneness (treatment differs radically for a blue/rare Wagyu bone-in ribeye than for a however-good medium-rare supermarket flank steak than for a no-remaining-pink-for-the-diner's-religious-requirements eye of round).

    No doubt Ms Thompson would blame "bad recipes" for any bad results after following her inane, incomplete suggestions; I'm actually shocked that she didn't take the opportunity to try to sell more marginal-quality overpriced Food Network-branded cookware, or recommend particular episodes from one of the sore-loser hosts. That advertorial is a net of only three, or perhaps four, "mistakes" to avoid after subtracting the mistakes it introduces (like insisting on Food Network steak knives when some cuts, preparations, entire meals demand carving into bite-sized pieces in the kitchen before serving). I'm not sure which is worse for American culture: NYC-based commercial publishing or NYC-based food/restaurant evaluations/advice.

  • As offensive as that article was, it's nowhere near as offensive as using "comity" for a dictator's attempts to suppress criticism (in ways unlawful in the new nation) as a rationale against granting citizenship to a political refugee — in Canada, no less. Really? Whatever happened to considering whether the purportedly "criminal" conduct in nation A even could have led to prosecution in nation B? One wonders if an Iranian teenager who refused to wear her hijab, served her sentence, and then escaped would get the same treatment…
  • Music is under "threat," too, whether from inept and often self-serving canon bullshit (and, to be excrutiatingly clear, almost none of the advocates for various versions of "canon" are themselves either competent composers/writers or musicians — which doesn't make what they have to say meaningless, merely underinclusive) or commercial practices inconsistent with the actual intent and text of the respective copyright statutes (and, to be excrutiatingly clear, there isn't a good basis consistent with post-piano-roll understandings of copyright — here or elsewhere — to tie actual ownership of the authorial right to possession of the master recordings, any more than there ever was to the in-camera exposed film). Purity is apparently necessary, which is rather ironic in that music more than any other form of the arts embraces impure cross-fertilization, whether popular or snobby or anything else.
  • Speaking of "necessarily embracing impure cross-fertilization," Eliza has to learn from something. Part of the problem with the entire conversation is that one word — "learn." Virtually all of the stated positions assume that meat-processor (that is, human) learning is completely analogous to electronic-processor learning. There's a key difference though: The meat need not make a copy to learn; the silicon/whatever-other-material Von Neumann processor, however, must, in the processor registers that are inherent in Von Neumann processors.

    Maybe a future quantum or other system will not copy data into and through registers in order to assimilate its contents; until then, one cannot claim that no copy is made in non-meat-processor learning. This doesn't mean that "all uses of copyrighted materials in machine learning necessarily result in liability for copyright infringement," because the fact-intensive fair-use inquiry could still excuse any infringement. What it does mean, though, is that with present technology one must engage in that fact-intensive analysis and not deny that copying is involved at all. And precisely because it is a fact-intensive inquiry, it is not amenable to a bright-line rule that will either prohibit or excuse all use of copyrighted material to enhance Eliza's conversations.