Monday, May 26, 2014

2014 AIR Forum: Correlation, Prediction, and Causation

I've put my slides for my AIR presentation on dropbox. You can access them here. The text of my remarks is included as comments under the slides.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Twelve

Previously: Part Zero ... Part Eleven

Last time I compared organizations to biological organisms competing against Nature and against the rest of the ecology for survival. The battlefield is physical and virtual. Arm & Hammer's factories producing baking soda with less energy cost is good for the company. Convincing consumers that they need to buy a new box to put in the fridge every month is gold. Members of an organization are valuable to it in ways parallel to these two dimensions. Engineers that can improve efficiencies or design new products are valuable. So are accountants that can make profits tax-free. At the top of the organization, the role is entirely virtual. Generals push around symbols on a map while privates sweat in foxholes. A janitor who shows genius-level proficiency with a mop is not going to become CEO due to that skill. However, a CEO who doesn't understand how the physical world works--insofar as this affects the business--is probably not going to make very good decisions.

Higher education does a fantastic job of teaching students about physical reality (assuming said students want to learn about it). There's no substitute for experts in theory and practice, and the labs and equipment needed to engage physical reality in sophisticated ways. If you want to become an expert in what happens to molecules when you "ring" them with a sudden electromagnetic pulse, you can learn all about Fourier Transforms and whatnot, but you need a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machine to actually do it.

The Enlightenment victory over shy Nature justifies the role of universities, but I think it also lends itself to the argument that education should be about physical stuff--learning how to stick needles in someone's arm or design a turbine blade OR low-complexity information-shuffling, like learning two-column accounting or how to integrate partial fractions. These are all safely science-y, easy to verify when accomplished, and straightforward to teach.

The victories and failures of The Enlightenment in the informational co-domain do not seem to be of as much interest in the public discourse on higher education. Ideally, this is where liberal arts education provides a benefit, but this message isn't being conveyed, and perhaps the institutions themselves haven't really internalized it.

With this lens in place, let's look at the signal-domain role of education as preparation for life in an organization. The latter might be a business, the military, a government bureau, or it might mean "to be a citizen," which can be restricted to a nationality or not. The Cynics invented "cosmopolitan," and we might agree that the highest calling of any educated person is to be of service to humanity as a whole (like Elon Musk, who brilliantly navigates both the physical and virtual landscape).

These respective roles are sometimes mutually exclusive. A citizen of a country may be at odds with a citizen of the world, and be the same person. Governments do bad things sometimes, and we might agree that the role of the citizen sometimes is to correct that in the name of some more abstract notion of what it means to be a citizen. It's the same with any organization.

Imagine this hypothetical advertisement from a college:
Our business school produces graduates that have the training to meet your most stringent demands in management, accounting, marketing, business law, international relations, and many other areas. In addition, they have been indoctrinated to be completely loyal to your organization, no matter how far you want to bend the law or even human decency--you can count on them to do the right thing!
This imaginary school is trying to guarantee that any cognitive dissonance in a new hire's mind between what the business wants done and any other role (e.g. citizen, human) will be resolved in favor of the business. I don't mean to demonize businesses with this example. In a real organization, including the military, loyalty is probably limited by intent. For example, a soldier swears to uphold the constitution, not to do what generals tell him/her to do, which allows a loophole for higher order goals (like preventing coups). The point is that it's important to an organization's survival to have a "signals" strategy in order to manage the virtual battlefield it competes on. And since most organizations still have humans in them, this means being intentional about the abilities and intentions of members or employees. The later Bush administration's Justice Department hires and fires did this rather crudely, and people noticed. Machiavelli talks about the idea in The Prince. Paraphrasing: when your enemies are physically beaten back is the best time to beat them at the information game too.

Separating signals from motivations is impossible because we only care about signals we care about. So any "coin of the realm" comes as a package including:

  • A signal (the coin as a denomination of exchange value, if taken literally)
  • Whatever the signal signifies in the physical world.
  • A realm (the organization that relies on, and probably enforces, the signal)
  • Attitudes toward the signal and realm:
    • An organization's official stance (may or may not be the 'realm' that endorses the signal)
    • An organization's practical stance (e.g as enforced)
    • The stance of individuals who come in contact with the signal, which may not be a single attitude.
If this seems complex, it is! Take the US dollar as a simple example of a signal (packaged in different informational form as currency, bonds, electronic accounting, etc.). It's clear that different nations have different intentional stances toward it, including outright debasement (North Korea). 

As a more complex example, consider an anecdote from Nadezhda Mandelstam's Hope Against Hope, where she describes spending the night at a friend's house during The Terror:
They were on the seventh story, so you couldn't hear cars stopping outside, but if ever we heard the elevator coming up at night, we all four of us raced to the door and listened. "Thank God," we would say, "it's downstairs" or "it's gone past." 
In the years of the terror, there was not a home in the country where people did not sit trembling at night, their ears straining to catch the murmur of passing cars or the sound of the elevator.

Stalin was sometimes presented with lists of names, beside which he would--or more likely would not--place a check mark to spare the individual. This informational signal filtered its way through the corridors of the NKVD and eventually manifest as a knock on the door at night for the unfortunate people who were identified. The Terror originated in the signal domain (to affect behavior by getting to the source of it), with physical effects (people killed or sent to the gulag). There are many rich complexities, such as the definition of "Kulak," and the show trials (see Darkness at Noon). I have written more about this in "Nominal Reality and Subversion of Intelligence."

Compared to engineering problems, where Nature may be cruel but not fickle, understanding the role of individuals in toxic situations is a hard problem. The Great Terror was not the work of Stalin alone, and it's easy enough to demonize the NKVD agents, but since they were presumably human beings too, it makes more sense to try to understand the signal/motivation balance that made them behave as they did. What were the signals and debasements thereof? What competing realms? What intentional stances toward these?

A liberal arts curriculum is bound to include more of this kind of wrestling with hard problems. I think it's mostly done on paper, as thought exercises, but this is better than nothing. There are ethical limits how what sorts of practice we can engage in (a 'lab experience' in Great Terror sounds pretty dicey), but there may be a homeopathic "The Small Fright" that can be experienced by undergraduates without damaging them, and that would let them try hands-on Cynicism.


The 'Cynic of the day' award goes to NPR's "'Mischievous Responders' Confound Research On Teens," which gives an amusing account of epistemological struggle.

The runner-up is the BBC's "Should we all be a bit psychopathic at work?", which asks how far we should prune back our internal signals for getting along with others.

Next: Part Thirteen

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Eleven

See also parts: [Zero] [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten]

The line of thought so far is that:

1. Cynicism is powerful and can be beneficial or detrimental to the individual, to society, and employers,
2. Cynicism is better learned or cultivated at liberal arts colleges than professional programs, and in particular there is a better chance that through diluted exposure, graduates are more likely to be responsible critics and users of the philosophy.
3. That this is not obvious to employers, despite what they say on surveys, and
4. That the employability deficit can be overcome by liberal arts colleges themselves.

We start by showing that organizations breed Cynicism. Because I have cast classical Cynicism as a solvent for epistemology, allow me to describe organizations accordingly. The Darwinian understanding of the production and memory of novelty is fundamentally about information and its relationship to the world, which is an ideal tool for us here. In biology, informational signals are transmitted through time by genetic and epi-genetic states that get translated into phenotypes (the bodies of plants and animals and their behavior), which then compete with each other for survival and reproduction. The result is a competitive truth-finding exercise that randomly explores the natural world (including the ecology itself) for relative advantages. Evolution only proceeds non-randomly where these truths are discoverable. For example, it may be in the long-term interests of bacteria to figure out how to travel to other planets, but this ability may not lie within the discoverable landscape of genetic traits.

Modern organizations are similar to biological entities. They encode information into processes, procedures, paperwork, job definitions, and so on, which I'll refer to as an ontology. The ontology loosely represents the way the organization "understands" the world. Of course, it's not really intelligent the way people are--it's more like a machine, which is the metaphor I began with. The machine has a certain amount of randomness in its behavior, but it will probably have well-defined ways of perceiving the world and encoding those perceptions into the bureaucratic language of its ontology. For example, a team of accountants that produce an audit report create an official understanding of the organization's monetary value, cash flow, and so on. This information can be transmuted into reality too, for example a company with solid financial statements can get a loan to build a new factory. There's nothing in the ontology that requires morality (Google's "don't be evil" aside), which lies within individuals, the not organization per se.

Just like in biological ecologies, most organizations compete for limited resources. This is truth-finding when advantages are discoverable, which implies that they can be perceived by the organization. Those with limited ability to understand the world will be at a disadvantage. You can watch this play out in real time at a basketball game. Motivations are clearly understood through the rules of the game, and the ways of knowing success are deliberately clear--the basket even has a net hanging from it so that it's obvious when points are scored (compare this to rating figure skating). This creates a competition between the two teams for truth-finding, which in this case means finding more effective ways of playing the game (better strategy, tactics, training, players, etc.). This would not be the case if points were scored entirely at random. From this point of view, the fans turn out to see the evolution of team ontologies. These unfolding histories are the subject of counterfactual conjectures ("what the coach should have done was..."), which the fans are unlikely to think of as metaphysics, but it fits the mold.

Cynicism is the life and death to organizations. If its conception of reality is sufficiently undermined, say by an enemy general using deception, an organization may make bad decisions. It can also easily fool itself. I wrote a series of articles about this for the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, which you can find here, here, and here, and I'll pass over this point, called "wireheading" in computer science literature.

But Cynical attacks on the reality of others is so effective that it can be a means of keeping an organization alive too. This morning a colleague walked in, and in our conversation volunteered the following story. I have no way to verify it, but it illustrates the point.
"Joe" gets a degree from an online college, and is delighted when an school-arranged internship turns into a real job upon graduation. He is happy at the job, but is fired after six months and a day for unspecified reasons. A new graduate is hired in his place. He discovers that the CEO of the company is also on the board of the college he graduated from, and hypothesizes that  the company is used to inflate gainful employment percentages for the college.
In this tale, the college is debasing what "gainful employment" means to the department of education. The next story should also be treated as apocryphal. It illustrates how tangled these signals get, and how Cynicism naturally emerges. The story was told to me by a historian friend who said it originated with someone in the State Department.
As the story goes, the leadership of the cold war USSR needed good information about the size of their economy. But they couldn't trust their underlings because Cynicism was a survival trait: tell the boss what he wants to hear. Instead of accepting the bloated over-optimistic estimates of their own people, they relied on the CIA to tell them the truth. On the other side of the world, the CIA had indeed calculated what they thought the size of the USSR's economy was, but the number was so small that they thought no one in Washington would believe them. So they artificially doubled the number. Therefore the Kremlin used an estimate of their own economy that was about twice as big as it should have been.
These stories, true or not, illustrate the kinds games that are played within and between organizations. When they have happy endings, sometimes we call them "disruptive technologies" or "competitive advantage." On the other hand, sometimes we call them Enron and Bernie Madoff and mortgaged-backed securities.

Bureaucrats are usually thought of as boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. They handle, with their copy-fluid-stained fingers, the neurology of the organization. The reality by which it lives and dies is contained in those forms and procedures for acting on forms, and the relationship between the content and actual reality is constantly being subverted. People (gasp) lie on paperwork to get what they want. A sufficient break with reality leaves the organization in a state like psychosis. Or like the dodo bird--choose your metaphor.

For a vivid development of a psychotic break with reality, read Michael Lewis's The Big Short, where he describes how the ratings agencies were 'gamed' to bless crummy investments with the official stamp of worth. These ratings are almost literally "coins of the realm," since they limit the behavior of institutional investors. A quote from page 98 of Lewis's book:
The big Wall Street firms [...] had the same goal as any manufacturing business: to pay as little as possible for raw material (home loans) and charge as much as possible for their end product (mortgage bonds). The price of the end produce was driven by the ratings assigned to it by the models used by Moody's and S&P. The inner workings of these models were, officially, a secret: Moody's and S&P claimed they were impossible to game. But everyone on Wall Street knew that the people who ran the models were ripe for exploitation.
This is epistemological warfare, and you want the most capable Cynics on your side.

Update: The image below is taken from the SEC's 2008 report "Summary Report of Issues Identified in the 
Commission Staff’s Examinations of Select Credit Rating Agencies", and has been reformatted around this single bullet point.
Next: Part Twelve

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Ten

See also parts: [Zero] [One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine]

In contrasting liberal arts education and 'jobs training', I've compared the latter to the construction of robots. This is fair for some kinds of jobs--like assembling parts to make a consumer product--where it's clear that automation is well-advanced, but what about those "high-paying" jobs that college is supposed to prepare people for? According to AAC&U's LEAP initiative, which included surveying employers [source], the liberal arts comes out looking pretty good. According to the report::

  • "Ability to innovate" is overwhelmingly important
  •  "Capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems, [which] is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
  • "Ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning."
  • "When read a description of a 21st-century liberal education*, a large majority of employers recognize its importance; 74 percent would recommend this kind of education to a young person they know as the best way to prepare for success in today’s global economy."
We should note, however, that:
The mission of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.
Also, what people say on surveys is not necessarily indicative of how they act. I went looking for contrary opinions, and found "What's a Liberal Arts Education Good For?" at This article reinforces the survey with a philosophical argument, but some of the comments that follow are from unhappy liberal arts graduates. Here are some edited samples, emphasis added:
This is the same sort of garbage that got me where I am today, the poorhouse.
A liberal arts education is a hideous waste of time for nearly all those who get one. It prepares the graduate for absolutely nothing. If you emerge from 4 years of college with a degree and no one is recruiting you for a job, you just wasted 4 years of life, a lot of money and a whole lot of effort. --newsreader64

Liberal arts do not translate to making any money so that had better not be a factor in the choice. It is for rich people. --escobar
Recent personal events have led me to a rather different conclusion. I have a BA from a small liberal arts college, and an MA in a mushy semi-science (anthropology). [...] Now, without a professional degree, I can't even get an interview for positions which I could do with ease. I suspect this has a lot to do with the sheer volume of job-seekers on the market and the handy shortcut that a professional degree offers the HR person tasked with reading hundreds of resumes. So, despite my fervent belief in liberal arts, I am contemplating a return to school to get a law degree. -- kpod

This last comment has a kernel for the Cynic to chew on, and more fodder is served up by this last one:
As a newly minted grad with my Masters in History, fortunate enough to be teaching a a community college this semester, I am a big booster for Liberal Arts. I spent the first 25 years of my life pursuing a very successful career in a fortune 500 company and always wondered what it was about engineers and MBA's that left me feeling that some aspect of their education was lacking. After returning to school and starting with an associates degree in Liberal Arts the answer is now very clear. On the whole most of them had had the creative skills driven out of them by empirical doctrine and a value system of conformity. Give them a project or a goal and they were fine, immoral to a large degree when it came to people management but perfectly capable of meeting their objectives. --Paulo1
Although these samples are not guaranteed to be representative, it's worth considering these bullet points:

  • Some liberal arts degrees may not signal value to employers because of their apparent mismatch to job descriptions, and therefore these candidates for jobs are automatically screened out.
  • Professional (non-liberal arts) training may lend itself to conformity (or attract those kinds of people) and in the context of the job, immorality.
The first of these is just signalling, and as such is amenable to cynical or Cyncial attack--something liberal arts colleges ought to be good at. The second point is an argument that education in the humanities produces graduates with more humanity, and gets back to the 'employee as robot' metaphor. 

All of this boils down to the argument that liberal arts education can create valuable outcomes (those in the survey at the top), but that these are not easily marketed to employers. It's like they are saying they really want to eat healthy food, but belly up to the fast food counter in practice. Next time I'll walk deeper into the weeds. I find the more substantive issue more interesting: what place does a Cynic have in a bureaucracy?

Next: These Go to Eleven

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Nine

See also: [Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five] [Part Six] [Part Seven] [Part Eight]

The awareness we have of the world is mediated through signals from sensory organs and the meaning we make of these. As a practical matter, the information we receive has to be compressed in order to make sense of it. For example, we receive more than a million bytes per second through vision alone, and formulating cause/effect hypotheses about the world without compression would be practically impossible. Right now there is a fork laying on the table to my right, but the tines are hidden by a bag of dried fruit. That sentence comprises a hundred or so bytes of information, but communicates many possible ways to visualize it (decompression)--picking one makes it concrete enough to build a narrative from. This is only possible because of very high data compression.

We also have simplified internal signals. We can be "hungry for red beans and rice," but when our stomach grumbles, it just signals a generic need to be indulged. Pain too certainly comes in flavors, but an itch on the back is pretty similar to an itch on the leg--the most important information (an itch, a burn, a bug crawling up your neck) is signaled efficiently. By contrast, imagine if you were presented with a full account at the cellular level of all the relevant activity and had to sort through it all for meaning.

Perhaps one of the fundamental attributes of being human is the ability to recognize perceptual signals on this meta level (as abstractions, in other words) that can be manipulated. New ones can be created, for example by slipping small magnets under the skin to directly feel electrical/magnetic flux, or developing a taste for Scotch whisky. More familiar is the interdiction of signals, as with pain medication. A more fanciful idea is described in NYmag's "Is It Possible to Create an Anti-Love Drug?".

Two heirs to classical Cynicism, the Stoics and Epicureans, addressed internal signals. For example, ideas about the nature of grief and what to do about it is described in "How (And Maybe Why) To Grieve Like an Ancient Philosopher". The signals-based viewpoint also leads directly to the idea that death is not something to be feared, because it is simply an absence of signals. Contrast this to religions that recommend optimizing actions in life so as to produce the attractive signals in the "afterlife."

We can think of internal signals as "coins of the realm" and proceed to debase them. Drug addiction is one way to do that, but also meditation, counseling, and meta-cognition can subvert our out-of-the-box internal signals. Traditional liberal arts curricula explore this idea from many angles, even if it's not usually packaged that way. For example, our intuition versus rational thought (signals of what's real) are topics in psychology (e.g. see Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow). Add social, political, ethical, and biological signals: these are all explored from innumerable angles in the sciences and humanities. These perspectives--if taken seriously--can create in the learner a sophisticated meta-cognition that can be practically applied as an existentialist project. It goes like this: all signals are abstract by definition, which means there is a fundamental arbitrariness to them from the point of view of the receiver of the signal. Given the possibility to prefer some signals over others, we imaging a project of internal engineering to attenuate or amplify signals according to our most demanding desires.

This is a caustic process, and fully as dangerous as any Cynical enterprise. If one strips away too much, tossing aside all social and moral guides, for example, one could become a sociopath (this resembles Marquis de Sade's Cynical project, as described in The Cynic Enlightenment, starting on page 106). Or strip all the signals away and you get nihilism or suicide. But, more positively, the ongoing process of constructing a personal ontology can produce a freedom of mind that was modeled by Diogenes.

Liberal arts curricula expose internal signals and ways of attacking them, with relativism, post-modern thought, critical theory, and simply the exposure to many ways of thinking, historical decisions, and thought experiments. And so on. As with the academy in general, the approach is mostly theory and exposition rather than active mind-engineering. There is undoubtedly more colleges could do to enable self-subversion, but it would also be dangerous. I think there is some middle ground where we could operate in sandbox mode, so that students could gain some experience, and there are some experience like this available. For example, an assignment to sleep on the street for a couple of nights or practice asceticism in some form. My daughter's high school history teacher runs a project for weeks that consists of secretly identifying students as being 'communist' or 'capitalist', and prohibiting one side from communicating with the other. Students don't know which side they are on, and the teacher has spies everywhere--he shows them photos and social media screenshots of their interactivity, and deducts points accordingly. This is Cynical in that it undermines normal discourse--designed to loosely model The Terror, I'm sure. The benefits to students potentially includes reflection on the active management of feelings of unfairness or even fear. Anyone who can't see the applicability to a work environment isn't trying.

Beyond dramatic life-changes, internal freedom to attenuate and amplify signals has the potential to produce better workers too. How many of our new graduates are going to fall into their dream jobs right away? How many workplaces are unfair to employees or have abusive bosses or mean co-workers, or arbitrary rules or demeaning requirements? What, exactly, in "jobs training" is supposed to prepare a young mind for these assaults? Wouldn't it be better if they'd read and internalized The Prince? Wouldn't it be better if they knew about Foucault and the evolution of ontology and power, and how signals are ultimately arbitrary and malleable, and constantly being subverted by those who can do so to further their own ends?

Well, no. That's probably not what the employer wants. Foxconn's  replacement of humans with robots apparently involves collaboration with Google to design an appropriate operating system. This is, in effect, an attempt to specify in code what a perfect employee is. You can be there won't be a subroutine named for Machiavelli or Diogenes. (Update: apparently Google's self-driving cars have never gotten a traffic citation.)

Next time: signals and subversion at work, or "Diogenes as assistant to the regional manager."

[Go to Part Ten]

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Eight

See also: [Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five] [Part Six] [Part Seven]

If we want to claim that liberal arts education is as important as jobs training, it's fair to ask for specifics. Even employers say they want 'critical thinkers', so what's the real distinction in practice? A definitive answer is well beyond my scope here (and beyond my ability to deliver), so I will stick to the single idea under consideration: in what ways does liberal arts education, as typically practiced in private colleges, inculcate Cynicism? It's easiest for the moment to take the (straw man) position that jobs training does nothing in this regard, but we can revisit that later.

At first glance, the picture isn't very encouraging. Cynicism, you'll recall, is a lived philosophy, not given to theory. The academy is deeply steeped in theory, and for the most part asks students to demonstrate accomplishment by writing things down. There are exceptions: labs and performances, visual arts, practica and internships, travel, and so on. Compare this list to Henry A. Giroux's recent op-ed "Noam Chomsky and the Public Intellectual in Turbulent Times," where he writes:
Chomsky is fiercely critical of fashionable conservative and liberal attempts to divorce intellectual activities from politics and is quite frank in his notion that education both in and out of institutional schooling should be involved in the practice of freedom and not just the pursuit of truth.
On higher education, Chomsky has been arguing since the '60s that in a healthy society, universities must press the claims for economic and social justice and that any education that matters must not merely be critical but also subversive.
Criticism leans on (little-c) cynicism, impugning sources of information in order to construct new ones. The deprecation of "pursuit of truth" is particularly biting. The "practice of freedom" and "subversion" require action, and (big-C) Cynicism is a perfect tool for both.

I think that the homeopathic Cynicism in liberal arts experiences are superior to the straw person "jobs training," but it's hard for me to muster much enthusiasm for that argument. Chomsky's charge hits home there. However, as I mentioned before, I think the liberal arts provides a safe haven for students who come to us already subversive, who already want to practice freedom and not just write papers about it.

Internal practice of freedom is the second of the two domains we identified back in Part Two. We can subvert the realm by debasing its coins, but we can also use Cynicism introspectively. Here, the liberal arts education is obviously superior to jobs training. For example, the study of the history and practice of philosophy might be compared to "technology for the mind." Yet, for some reason it is one of the liberal-artsy targets that business newspaper writers find irresistible:
Most college presidents would love to find a practical use for philosophic studies and for the rest of the liberal-arts curriculum. Colleges are expensive. Reading Kant is hard -- and he doesn't seem to be the perfect preparation for a competitive job market. [source:]
The article quoted above is more nuanced than the text above suggests, but the sentiment is one echoed with regard to the study of humanities subjects: how can I convert this into dollars? There is a deep irony here, because the facets of material ambition is richly illustrated in philosophy, literature, art, and history. Yes, we want things. Why? What can we do about it? What are the consequences?

If the realm just needs workers, and the purpose of education is to produce them, there's no advantage over simply employing robots instead. With robots, we can engineer their internal signals so they don't become subversive (Asimov's visions aside). If we want, we can program them to go home after work, drink a beer and watch TV. The point is that if the quality of mind is not a consideration, we don't need people at all. This is the image I attempted to conjure in Part One. The jobs argument is simply defeated by asking "why" until the answers stop coming. If you try the same attack on a humanities-based education, you just get the humanities recapitulated.

Next time: mind-diving to see how Cynicism works inside the head, and how this is a liberal arts thing.

Finally, here's your daily dose of real-world Cynicism: "Cisco CEO warns Obama NSA 'load stations' threaten the entire tech industry."

[Next: Part Nine]

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Seven

The preceding installments have described a tension between organized human effort and individual freedom. The former entails the adoption of a machine-like way of processing observations and acting on them (nowadays a techno-bureaucracy) that has no inherent morality: human values lie entirely with the people who make judgments within this machine. These individuals, however, are bound by the rules of the system, and recent history shows that state juggernauts are capable of enormities. The epistemological and ontological constraints of system-work were described by George Orwell in his 1946 "Politics and the English Language."
When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine.
On the other hand, our species has a rich history of struggle within and without, and  higher education--particularly the liberal arts--is in a position to help new humans adopt an intentional stance toward the systems they find themselves in, as well as creating and awareness and response to internal biases resulting from our evolutionary and social history. Classical Cynicism closely-read from the charge to "debase the coin of the realm" is a solvent for the calcification of system-rules. It is also too a dangerous an idea to administer to young minds without care.

My argument has been that education that resembles jobs-training lacks the most essential ingredient that young minds need in order to be free. Liberal arts education does not have a single definition that everyone will agree too, but broadly speaking it encompasses intellectual discovery of the "big questions" of what it means to be human. The distinction "liberal arts versus jobs training " is described by Noam Chomsky  as [source]:
 The first kind of education is related to the Enlightenment  - highest goal in life to inquire and create; search the riches of the past; try to internalize ;  carry the quest  ---  help people how to learn on their own; it's you the learner;  it's up to you what you will master.
The second kind of education is related to Indoctrination - from childhood young people have to be placed into a framework where they will follow orders that are quite explicit.
I have framed the "jobs" versus "liberal arts" dichotomy as it often appears in the media (part of their epistemology is to make things that are similar seem more different so that they can create controversy and sell web-clicks), but in reality those who work in higher education are more nuanced about it. For example, "Bentley University Tries to Make Business and Liberal Arts Pay Off" at
Colleges are in the cross hairs of a debate over the relative value of a liberal arts education versus a business degree. But Gloria Cordes Larson, the president of Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., says students don't need to choose just one path.
"It's not about pitting lifelong learning skills against professional skills," says Ms. Larson, a former lawyer and economic policy adviser at the state and federal levels, who took the helm at Bentley in 2007. "A college degree should reflect both."
There are also examples of the opposite. One of our projects at my institution is creating pedagogy that engages students with external audiences in meaningful ways (see "21st Century Liberal Arts"). My math classes do a survey of campus traffic each semester and report to the safety council, for example. In networking with other colleges, we found that some professional programs eschew a portfolio-like approach because all they really care about is the pass rates on standardized tests, for example in nursing and accounting. This is an example of how system-reward-seeking produces Cynicism as a matter of course. Presumably what we really care about is having nurses that can do the many varied tasks with professionalism, skill, and humanity. The system signal for this (the coin of the realm) is a test score, which is not a very good way to asses what we want to know. Optimizing test scores is always a slippery slope, and it inherently adds noise to whatever (little) signal was there to begin with. See "Former Atlanta schools superintendent reports to jail in cheating scandal" for a full-blown example. This is Cynicism on two levels: first accepting a poor epistemology (using tests instead of demonstrations) and then the secondary noise resulting from "optimizing" this easily-debased signal.

Broadly speaking, liberal arts education is our hope for injecting critical analysis into society. This presupposes that we care about things like preventing atrocities and maintaining individual freedoms. If you buy that, the next question is how are we doing with current methods, and what can we improve?

[Part Eight]

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why "Correlation doesn't imply Causation" isn't very sophisticated

At you can find graphs of two variables that are correlated over time, but aren't plausibly causal. For example, the divorce rate in Maine versus margarine consumption. On his blog, David R. MacIver argues that coincidences like these are inevitable in large data sets. He's right, but there's a more fundamental problem with "correlation doesn't imply causation."

Causality is a widely discussed topic by researchers, and Judea Pearl gives a historical perspective here. Correlation is a statistic computed from paired data samples that assesses how linear the relationship is.

Causation is one-directional. If A causes B, we don't normally assume that B causes A too. The latter implication doesn't make sense because we insist on A preceding B. Correlation, however, is symmetrical--it can't distinguish between these two cases. A causing B or B causing A give the same numerical answer. In fact, we can think of the correlation coefficient as an average causal index over A => B and B => A [1, pg 15-16].

What we should really say is that "implication doesn't imply causation," meaning that if our data supports A => B, this doesn't necessarily mean that A causes B. If we observe people often putting on socks and then shoes (Socks => Shoes), it doesn't mean that it's causal. The causes ?? => socks and ??? => shoes may be related somehow, or it may just be a coincidence. (We can mostly rule out coincidence with experimentation.)

Everyone knows that even if A and B are highly correlated, it doesn't necessarily identify a causal relationship between the two, but it's even worse than that. A and B can have a correlation close zero, and A can still cause B. So correlation doesn't work in either direction.

Example: Suppose that S1 and S2 control a light bulb L, and are wired in parallel, so that closing either switch causes the light to be on. An experimenter who is unaware of S2 is randomly flipping S1 to see what happens. Unfortunately for her, S2 is closed 99% of the time, so that L is almost always on. During the remaining 1%, S1 perfectly controls L as an on/off interface. The correct conclusion is that closing S1 causes L to be on, but the correlation between the two is small. By contrast, the implication [S1 closed => L is on] is always true. Note that this is different from [S1 open => L is off]. The combination of the two is called an interface in [1], and methods are given to generate separate coefficients of causality.

This masking is very common. Your snow tires may work really well on snow, but if you live in Florida, you're not going to see much evidence of it. Because correlation is blind to the difference between [A => B] and [~A => ~B], it is an average indicator over the whole interface. It's heavily weighted by the conclusion that ~A does not imply ~B, and therefore the statistic doesn't accurately signal a causal connection.

One last problem with correlation I'll mention: it's not transitive the way we want causality to be. If A causes B and B causes C, we'd like to be able to reach some conclusion about A indirectly causing C.  It's easy to produce examples of A and B having positive correlation and the same with B and C, but A and C have zero correlation.

Tomorrow I'll resume the "A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts" series with part seven.

[1] Eubanks, D.A. "Causal Interfaces," arXiv:1404.4884 [cs.AI]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Six

[Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]
We have taken the Cynical charge to "debase the coin of the realm" to mean interference with signals of all sorts, from coins themselves (a promise of a future good or service) to emotions (pain as a signal from the body). More traditionally, the classical philosophy of the dogs has been dismissed as unimportant (Hegel), used as a model for social critique (Diderot, Foucault), adopted into Sadism (de Sade) or romantic primitivism (Rousseau), and as a guide to self-enlightenment (Sloterdijk). All attempts to completely civilize the Cynics necessarily leaves out the dog's bite, argues Louisa Shea in [1].

As we have considered it here, Cynicism is a sort of weaponized philosophy, having little to do with the academic philosophy that peeks out of books and journals. The coin of the realm for academics is convincing other academics of something. In other words, a socially-constructed "truth" ripe for cynical attack [2], [3],[4]. A famous description of Diogenes going about by day with a lantern to look for an "honest" man might seem to point to a common ground. In fact, some describe the Cynics as searchers for Truth. At face value, this seems backwards: the Cynical project is the debasement of coins, not the minting of them. A counter-argument is that by debasing coins, the Cynics show that they were valueless to begin with except as tokens of the king (state-sanctioned signals), and this deconstruction is the real Truth.

At the least, signal attacks are a method of "truth-through-conflict". A good example is Diogenes' plucked chicken challenging Socrates' definition of humans as featherless bipeds. The most effective challenge to any claim of Truth is physical evidence to the contrary.

In a liberal arts curriculum, students ideally receive instruction in what we might call homeopathic Cynicism. It is so dilute as to be safe for the classroom, but still useful. Examples include competitive truth-finding in critical analysis of texts or art, or other exchanges where students and teachers challenge each other to find meaning. This is practice is social truth-finding, and the corrosive power of Cynicism to turn signals into noise is there waiting to be rediscovered. Society is too tame to embrace it as pedagogy, although I think even liberal arts programs would benefit from adding more Cynical doing to the curriculum. Theory is too easy and too easily (little-c) cynical, too easily dismissed. Having a plucked fowl tossed at you makes an impression.

By contrast, jobs training doesn't benefit from producing graduates who question authority or are self-reflective. A job is a cog in a gear in a box, and what it needs is a consistent interface. The best employees are efficient machines that absorb their employer's epistemology. There are three problems with this.

The first problem with jobs is that computers and robots are taking them. It turns out that machines are better at being machines than people are. The second problem is that bureaucratic systems are amoral, and may do bad things. In the "homework problem" from last time, an employee became dissatisfied with his job on moral grounds (blowing up strangers based on what phone chip is in their pocket). The recent history of our species is strewn with far worse examples. Jobs training (writ large) works by inculcating a amoral epistemology, and what we see time after time is that the establishment of these ways of knowing and doing gives moral cover for individuals. "I was just doing my job" may end up being the epitaph of The Enlightenment.

Third, the "education for jobs is good for the economy" argument may be true in the short term, but invention and entrepreneurship don't come from 'jobs training', they come from disruptive impulses by people who don't want to scan groceries.  Liberal arts education is far from perfect, but even heavily diluted, the few molecules of Cynicism that remain are enough to make a difference. Even if the education doesn't change anyone's mind, it validates those who come looking for something they can't find in jobs training. Few are going to be full-blown Cynics, because that lands you in jail these days. But even a whiff of the vapor can be intoxicating.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. --Steve Jobs
Anyway, the focus on jobs just detracts from the big picture, because the jury is still out on The Enlightenment as a long-term survival strategy for humans. We don't just need consumers and producers--we need Cynics to dissolve all but the most essential truths for us so that we might have a chance of constructing a system of living together that doesn't kill all of us. Or perhaps we look at the epistemological coffee grounds and conclude that this is impossible [5]. That would be major progress.

Next: Part Seven

[1] Shea, Louisa. The cynic enlightenment: Diogenes in the salon. JHU Press, 2010.
[2] "Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers," Nature, 24 Feb, 2014
[3] "Read Derrida's Response to the Sokal Affair," Critical Theory, Aug, 2013
[4] Latour, Bruno. We have never been modern. Harvard University Press, 2012.
[5] Eubanks, David A. "Survival Strategies." arXiv preprint arXiv:0812.0644 (2008).

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Five

See also: [Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four]

So far we have established the necessity of  laws and convention in the creation of civilization, and which grew in amount and sophistication due to The Enlightenment. It should be noted that many Cynical acts contributed to these advances. The progression of Copernicus to Galileo to Kepler, for example, shows the development of empirical thought by direct attack on existing epistemology.

The "coins of the realm" that comprise system signals exist not only externally, like a which side of the road to drive on or when to pay your taxes, but also internally. We noted this back in Part Two, and it's time to consider this aspect of classical Cynicism.

Kepler makes a good example. He worked from received wisdom from the ancients, particularly Aristotle, who taught that the heavenly objects were perfect, and moved in circles. This had been a problem for a while because the observations of planets did not support this view very well. Compromises were created using circles within circles (a Fourier series in modern terms), and Kepler 'approximated' orbits with ellipses even though he knew this wasn't right according to Aristotle, but it was a mathematical convenience. Eventually this internal convention was overcome, and everyone nowadays knows planets move (more or less) in ellipses. [1]

Although Diogenes of Sinope supposedly started off by literally debasing coins, after he got out of prison for that crime, he applied his craft to social conventions. But he took the principle within himself. For example, he analyzed his needs and decided that a bowl was unnecessary to have because he could cup his hands and drink. There is also no evidence that Diogenes used Cynicism like an investment banker--for self-advancement. In fact, when Alexander asked him what he would wish from the king, Diogenes insulted the ruler with "Get out of my light," which can be read as "darkness follows you." This is not just a social critique, Diogenes also reveals that his motivation is not freedom through wealth, as if to say that real freedom came from within. Since the Cynic supposedly also sold himself into slavery at one point, this must be a very potent kind of internal freedom!

Internal signals are insidious because they construct our reality. I "know" our dog is laying on some towels that were outside to dry because of the conventions buried deep in my brain. I snapped the photo below with my phone so you can play along.

Can you see the guilt-ridden expression? That's another signal, born of evolutionary psychology. We've been living in groups so long we've internalized conventions like guilt and shame and glory and many unnamed punishments and rewards for 'doing right' by the group.

Diogenes turned his sights on these internal signals as well as the external ones that critiqued society. He apparently knew no shame himself, or excised it somehow. Internal well-being is one of the two strands commonly offered up in articles about the value of higher education (the other being job-readiness), so we will consider the effects of this internal critique and then connect to the liberal arts in higher education.

Internal signals include our basic ways of knowing the world, including emotions. All of these are influenced by external conventions and constantly reinforced. A combination of social conventions and biological hard-wiring comprise the signals by which we know reality. Within this epistemological cauldron, the Cynic offers us a demonstration of how to exert control over our own respective internal worlds (what R. M. Rilke, in his First Elegy, calls "der gedeuteten Welt," the interpreted world [3]). The Cynics didn't theorize about this seeming self-debasement, they tried to live like dogs, from whence 'Cynic' comes.

So how do we control signals? We have seen some examples of external signal debasement (usually to satisfy some motivation, like taking money from other people), but what about internal signals? Let's consider the question generally first, and then apply it to mental states.

The most basic recipe for control is signal interdiction by denying its validity. If people stopped taking dollars in exchange for goods and services, it debases the coin quickly and thoroughly. This is why hyperinflation is so damaging, and why we value our credit scores. When countries don't accept each others' currency, it's a denial of reality, and money exchangers get paid to navigate between those separate worlds.

A signal only has informational value if it varies. Denying its validity debases the signal by setting it to null (a constant). Alternatively, if the signal is 'always on', it has the same effect. Runaway inflation combined with printing presses that add more zeros to denominations of bills is an example. (Read Der Schwartze Obelisk for a wonderful fictionalized account of inter-war Germany.)

Internally, these methods lead to different examples. Taking pain medication is signal interdiction. A constant euphoria produced by other kinds of drugs debases pleasure by overdoing it. That is, both pleasure and pain presumably exist for evolutionary reasons, and by attenuating or amplifying the signal we interfere with the associated control mechanisms. Football players on pain medications can happily go about damaging their bodies, and crack addicts can ignore everything in life except the next hit.

Those are both crude examples. It's much more interesting to consider an individual's internal recognition and use of a social signal like embarrassment. The Cynics apparently overcame this impediment! This line of thought suggests a liberal arts agenda:
  1. Identification, classification, and science behind internal signals. This is a vast domain, and only a fraction of it could be done in a general education curriculum. For example, what are the internal signals of citizenship? From the personal point of view, glory, patriotic zeal, and self-righteousness (opposed by shame) might be in the list, whereas external signals include formal citations (or firing squad), and social signals include fame (or notoriety). 
  2. Prioritization of signals. This is personal; the first active step to Cynicism. If you prioritize social responsibility, this is different from prioritizing a life of contentment. This comprises a conscious attenuation of some signals in preference to others. It's an existentialist project. 
  3. Creation of intentional stances for the most important signals. This is an exploration of ethics. Stoicism has much to offer for the driven social changer, whereas Epicurus might be more attractive to others. Even variations of classical Cynicism itself could be considered for a few brave souls. 
  4. Identification of behavioral change that logically follows, and acting accordingly.
The Cynics hid 1-3 within wit and ridicule, and expressed their lemmas and theorems by their acts.

Next time we examine the opportunities college and universities have to model and develop productive self-reflection. This is important for two reasons: one is that Cynicism (as I have defined it) is ubiquitous and dangerous to civilization, so understanding and controlling it is a matter of survival. The second reason is that if colleges are to help their students unlock their full potential, it should include the ability to know thyself.

Homework! For the sake of this exercise, assume that this article is factual. Analyze the use of SIM card activity. In what way is it a "coin of the realm?" How is it debased? What other external and internal signals are evident. Are there signs of them being subverted?

Next: Part Six

[1] Ferris, Timothy. "Coming of age in the Milky Way." Coming of age in the Milky Way., by Ferris, T.. Morrow, New York, NY (USA), 1988, 496


[3] Example of an English translation here: 

Friday, May 09, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Four

See also: [Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three]

The agenda from last time is:

  1. What is the role of signaling within the realm?
  2. What are the effects of Cynical attacks on those signals?
  3. What is higher education's actual and potential role in the above?
Last time we saw that reliable signaling ("coins of the realm") enable modern systems like governments, and that asymmetrical control over these is empowering. See Foucault for more in that vein. Now let's look at the effect of Cynical debasement these coins of the realm.

The power that is inherent to signaling can be co-opted by clever individuals. Probably anyone could create a so-called "mortgage-backed security" that was bound to fail, but to then get it blessed by a ratings agency is a work of Cynical art [1]. Speaking of art, Marcel Duchamps' The Fountain, poked the very notion of art (a social convention-type signal) in the eye with a sharp stick by entering a urinal in an exhibition. This is not only Cynical, it's a nod to the original Cynics and their habits. Modern epistemological challenges to the notion of art have successfully debased the traditional meaning beyond recognition.

My hometown of Pinckneyville, Illionois is famous for basketball. One story, as I received it, is that back during the glory days, the P'ville team had a strategy that drove opposing fans nuts. Late in the game, if they managed to get ahead a few points, in order to prevent the other team from evening the score, the five players would stand at the edge of the court, arms out-stretched over the out-of-bounds and pass the ball back and forth. This way, the opposing team couldn't get to the ball without fouling, and meanwhile the clock ticked down to a Panther's victory. Of course, this debases the meaning of "basketball game" to something silly, and new rules eventually put a stop to it. But it won a lot of games in the meantime.

Or take patent law. The sub-reddit /r/nottheonion accumulates stories that seem to be parodies but aren't--a good marker for Cynicism. One link there today is [US Patent Office Grants 'Photography Against A White Background' Patent To Amazon]. This is a case of Mutually Assured Derision, as big companies try to patent everything they do (no matter how trivial), so another company doesn't get there first and sue them. This ongoing Cynical destruction of the idea of intellectual property may finally end when no manufacturing or services are any longer possible, and the only business of the country is patent arbitration. You'll pass a friend on the street and think "Hello, how are you?" but are unwilling to pay the licensing fee, so you pass in silence.

You see the possibilities? What kind of general do you want leading your army--one who abides by the conventions of war (McClellen) or one that bends, breaks, spindles, folds, and mutilates them in order to get what they want (Lee, Jackson, Sherman)? What kind of lawyer do you want? What sort of lobbyist? What sort of CEO?

Cynicism as I have described it so far is an amoral strategy--it doesn't come pre-packaged with values. Driving down the wrong side of the road to make a point is evil. Finding a way to get out of a traffic ticket is good. That discussion will be deferred until we talk about signals that are internal to our own minds.

Cynicism is a powerful tool, and its better to have the Cynics on your side than the other side. This is where the liberal arts (finally, you say) comes in. There is a simple-minded perception that studying things like art and music and literature (and math and science are liberal arts too) are somehow useless. The contrast is made between such frivolities and "gaining the skills to get a good job." This is a dangerous viewpoint. Cynicism is fermented in the liberal arts--you can tell by all the alcohol consumed in those departments. It's dangerous stuff, and you aren't going to get it from "skills training," but by rubbing your nose in things that you disagree with, that keep you up at night wondering if you've gone mad. Because then you have a chance at seeing through convention and understanding that the whole thing's a put-on like the Wizard in Oz. If you put your hands on that font of signal, it is power.

Steve Jobs put a nice spin on it, taming the Cynics for a speech where their rudeness wouldn't be welcome:

In [Part Five] we begin to look inside as well as out.


[1] Lewis, Michael. The big short: Inside the doomsday machine. WW Norton & Company, 2011.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Cynical Argument for the Liberal Arts, Part Three

See also: [Part Zero] [Part One] [Part Two]

A statement of fact is an act of violence. Established signals within a system ("coins of the realm") represent a peaceful efficiency because they create conventions for nominal realities: we agree to agree. Everyone wins if we all drive on the same side of the road instead of running into each other and arguing about who's right. The Cynic is dangerous to any such establishment because he actively undermines the convention. The Cynic is in effect saying "this is not my reality," and behaving accordingly. You have to take someone seriously who drives on the wrong side of the road.

Higher itself education is ripe for Cynical challenges, but the title topic refers to the role of higher education in the realm. Accordingly, we ask:
  1. What is the role of signaling within the realm?
  2. What are the effects of Cynical attacks on those signals?
  3. What is higher education's actual and potential role in the above?
The first of these was the subject of the prose poem in Part Zero. The Enlightenment has allowed construction of physical and virtual machines of ever greater complexity because of the establishment and maintenance of reliable signals [1]. This is the effect of organized and sustained inquiry into the nature of the world. But science is not the whole of The Enlightenment project. Humanism has not seen such obvious success. The computers that we love for their life-changing conveniences were created in order to solve shock wave calculations so that governments could kill more thoroughly [2]. 

So successful are the advances in signaling and the iron enforcement of convention, that in the West Cynics cannot function in the classical form. Diogenes was a public Cynic. The example of the teen tweeting a veiled threat shows that public mocking of official signals (no matter how absurd) is dangerous. Currently it's safer to be a (lower-case) cynic, mocking rather than debasing, but history shows that even this is not to be taken for granted. At a time when practically every form of digital communication is probably being archived and indexed, even cynicism may find itself underground. At that point we may as well entirely diminish the 'c', and merely think about absurdities but say and do nothing: Joe the Ynic ponders the absurdity of life, but dares not utter a cynical remark. By capitalizing the letter, it gives us seven more retreats before we come up blank. (Joe the ynic doesn't dare think about absurdities, but would like to, etcetera). 

This state of affairs is because of asymmetry in epistemology. The police officer with the radar gun gets to create your velocity-reality. No wonder devices that interfere with radar are illegal. The Cynic would laugh his socks off (if he wore any) at a typical traffic stop. The citation has a precise speed on it, but the system doesn't know who you are unless you produce a little laminated rectangle with your name on it. The fact that the systems are rapidly becoming smarter is more, rather than less, worrying to the Cynic.

In the latter twentieth century, official identity as defined asymmetrically by the state became the currency of life and death in many countries (Aryan/other, Bolshevik/other, Communist/other, Hutu/other, on the depressing list goes). It's clear that the humanist project is as much impeded by the progress in science and technology as it is aided by it. This isn't surprising in retrospect because machines have no humanity themselves; they can only amplify the wishes of their masters.

Although Cynical acts have undoubtedly saved some when the machine noise shifts register from white to ultra-red, for example by faking credentials, classical Cynicism has been impotent for a long time. Shea quotes Diderot in The Cynic Enlightenment [3, pg 42], snipped here from Amazon's preview (I bought the book, but this is convenient):

(The footnote indicates that the quote is the author's translation from Diderot's "Cynique"). If classical Cynics were gone in Diderot's time, it is no wonder that the common meaning of the word has retreated from acting to debase system signals (Cynicism) to merely complaining about them (cynicism). Even lower-casing was noticeably weak in the national news coverage of the impending invasion of Iraq in 2003, where the system classification "enemy" was being sold to Americans. There was, however some reflexive cynicism by the press afterward.

This brings us up to date on the state of affairs of the first item on the agenda at the top of this page. Next time we consider whether  or not classical Cynicism or its lower-cased offspring have the potential to make systems operate with more humanity.

Next: Part Four

[1] Gleick, J. "The information: a history, a theory, a flood." (2011).
[2] Dyson, George. Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Random House LLC, 2012.
[3] Shea, Louisa. The cynic enlightenment: Diogenes in the salon. JHU Press, 2010.