16 February 2020

Feels are not policy

At policy scales, it doesn't matter how you feel about something.

It matters what the material result is. That material result is what the policy does.  What the policy's official, actual, ostensible, or apparent intents are do not matter in any way; the material result is what the policy does.

If people are dying, the point of the policy is to kill those people.  That's what it did; that's what it does.

This extends to malnutrition and unable to find work and unable to find a place to live.  That's what the policy does; that's what it's for.

Trying to get people to support politics which have truly awful material results (starting with smoking! the tide of misinformation approach to climate has continuous roots back to smoking) leads to insisting that feels are so a basis of policy, because it's the only thing that works when you have the facts against you; appeal to emotion.

If you want effective policy, well; be prepared to make structural change.  This means "make some people less prosperous than they now are", which is entirely fine if you're talking about the actively rich (are you making more than ten times the floor of the mean or median income? then you) who don't need to be any richer and not fine at all if you're talking about taking the ability to rent housing away from ten or fifteen percent of the population.

Be prepared to try to understand the statistical arguments.  Be prepared to fund the tracking studies and a robust office of statistical facts and to recognize that knowing what is actually going isn't free, especially because a lot of people involved have an incentive to lie.  (They want to go right on having the advantages the current system gives them, and if people freeze to death from being homeless, that's entirely fine with them.)

You're going for making the realizable access to future choice greater and relatively evenly distributed.  (The system we have now is going for zero future choice via "no humans".)


D. C. said...

Sometimes referred to as The Law of Intended Consequences:

If an informed and rational being can anticipate some consequence E from an action A and takes action A, it's reasonable to infer that said being intended E, whether from active intent or indifference. (Barring an assumption of mind reading, which is not on offer)

Moz said...

Two completely unrelated articles from Aotearoa that spring to mind:

The current Labour Coalition Government has prioritised active regulation, investment and construction in housing. ... The key element of Kāinga Ora’s strategy is to increase the stock and quality of public housing in order to reduce homelessness and demand for emergency housing in motels.


Bridges said he would scrap the Government's ring-fencing of rental losses and ease some of the Healthy Homes standards. "I lay the blame at the costs and regulations the Government has piled on landlords, which has either pushed them out of the market or been passed on to the poor renter."


As you say, the point of the National Party policy was to immiserate poor people, kill the weak, and enrich the few. That's absolutely consistently what they did, and they're promising to do it again if they get back into power. Sadly that is a very popular position. Yes, I do blame the voters. Corruption scandals included.

Sergey Rybasov said...

That's easy so say "Climate is to collapse, we all are to die of it, so all of you have to do what we think is right thing to do". That's how religion works, even if it's materialistic religion. I know it well, I was born in such a culture, I have to live in the middle of rotten remnants of it. Frightening people with false threats - that's what it does systematically, and that's a cause of rot.

Climatologists en masse have an incentive to lie because of their richness... well, that's strong assertion. They are specialists, not finansists or politics, they are low-middle class en masse, much of them are in the low end actually, out of indifference on their financial status, and they have now all means to publish freely. And... they are not on your side with this point. There are political activists ("green" ones) and there is quite big mass of rich and very rich people that are almost on your side, but not much of relevant specialists. And statistical facts - that's what specialists have, accompanied by a competence to interpret those facts with the least (obtainable) probability of blunder.

The difference between facts and wishful thinking products are not material vs feelings. It's provable vs unprovable. Feeling _are_ material, that's material brains' attribute, there are means to measure it with polls and prices, so there is no such difference. There are legions of assertions about material things, that are not provable (Russell's Teapots).

Unfortunately, no one can be specialist in all socially important sphere, so we (social we, people) have to evaluate such things with common sense. And the only way to measure somebody's incentive to lie (wishful thinking or cynical lie as itsels) - is to count evident errors they made, that was necessary to back up their point.

Graydon said...

+Sergey Rybasov

A whole bunch of people brought back from Wuhan to Canada have been flung into quarantine on an airbase; it looks like exactly zero of them have Wuhan Novel Coronavirus.

Whether or not that quarantine was a necessary step was unprovable when it happened. The statistical expectation is, after all, that they don't have it, and the future cannot be known with certainty.

That one of those people had an infectious case was way, way less likely than that the Arctic Amplification folks were and are correct; I recommend Peter Wadhams' A Farewell to Ice for a non-technical introduction. (They've made a bunch of predictions, and are spot-on so far.)

Sergey Rybasov said...

"Provable vs unprovable" principle is not about _future_ (that's unprovable before it happens, by definition), the same as "feeling vs material" principle is not about future too. It's all about our methods and means of prediction and correction. There was no way to tell if passengers have WNC or not, but there _were_ practically proven epidemiological protocols and measures. No way to tell for sure if it was applied properly with those passengers, but it seems it was (temporarily isolate-with-proper-support small number of people to reduce small, but obviously non-zero risk of megadeath - that's fair and proven measure). What you write in your posts - that's quite different approach: you demand great and novel (not practically proven) social rearrangement and economic mobilization, that cannot be done in necessary (nigh-global) scale without wars and political terror (and so megadeath), to have a vague chance to reduce a vague risk of (another) megadeath. That's smth like demanding to divide all the world to carantine cells, when you feel that's a risk there might be some sort of new Black Death somewhere (and there might be, undoubtedly!)

And, well, I use a phraze "you feel that's a risk" above. Is that fair? If it's correct, then even your "feel vs fact" opposition is against you. How I can measure it, how _any_ your reader can measure it? For instance, we can measure a "relevance-and-evidence vs emotional-burden" of your reference. Peter Wadhams as a specialist is about ice, not agriculture, and _is_ known for obvious self-aggrandizement and conspiracy "authorities-againt-us" statements, the last is despite they has Margaret Thatcher's open support (look at it! Thatcher was one of those rich and very authoritative nearly-sociopathic conservative hawks, that are quite on your side - were and now are). So, your reference is quite awful, it increases an impression, that you relay on misleading information and emotional burden instead of provable facts.

Even worser, you relay so to back up your preferable social model, the egalitarianism, proving that it's necessary, not only attractive. That's terrifying readers to pen them in your party, where there is no direct relation between climate threat and egalitarianism, so it looks like you fasten it with halo-effect: people to look at your attractive social views and to conclude (driven by vague emotional reaction), that you are right about climate too, and so you have positive feedback loop about it in their minds. Can be efficient at short run, still driving all participants into self-deception, and there is no need to cite Halt about it.

Graydon said...

+Sergey Rybasov Wadhams' predictions about melting in the Arctic are (so far) accurate.

That's how you judge science; do the predictions hold up?

You seem to be insisting on applying some sort of social judgement, and -- given that the circumstances are novel -- that's nigh-certainly not going to work. Custom won't handle something that's never existed in the world before. Presented with the IPCC saying that 2 C of warming breaks agriculture in another thread, you responded with "current agriculture" as though we've got another one lying around unused. That's not a willingness to engage with facts. It might be the unfortunate conviction that technology can solve anything. Technology absolutely cannot solve the rain not falling. (Irrigation is moving rain around in space or time, not very far in either case. This is not a solution to it not falling.)

Catastrophic social change is not an if; it's a how. The weather gets worse for the next hundred years no matter what. (Very likely longer than that.) Somewhere in there, agriculture breaks. Somewhere in there, the cities start drowning. (The current atmospheric carbon load corresponds to a sea level about fifteen metres over the current baseline from a very careful study of marine mineral deposition in a cave in Mallorca. Only it's not a nice even fill-the-bathtub, it's a question of feedbacks and the paleo data's not that indicative because the rate of forcing is unprecedented.)

How do you deal with that?

If you look at similar historical periods, you can find things like the early -- really really early, fifth century -- Irish monastic movement or Alfred's Wessex, where you get small settlements, local production, flat social structures, and an emphasis on education, with things still being medium-terrible but society persisting as this larger co-operative venture. You absolutely don't get an emphasis on wealth concentration in the successful responses. (You do find an emphasis on wealth concentration and central control in the failures, and the "these folks might have made it but..." interactions. One of the problems to solve is how to not get looted.)

Right now, today, fossil carbon extraction is increasing. This is straight-up genocide; kill billions -- non-specific billions -- tomorrow to make a buck today. It's not the democratic choice; it's the preference of an entrenched oligarchy who don't care what happens to anyone else. The idea that, hey, maybe we shouldn't have an oligarchy has come up before. It certainly seems obvious now.

Moz said...

It's only "non specific billions" in the sense that we say "the population of India will be under 1 million" and leave it to the imagination which particular million that might be. Sure, one chance in a thousand isn't zero, but "less than" is doing a lot of work in the prediction.

Peter T said...

There's an interesting recent book by Geoffrey Parker (Global Crisis), looking at the 16th/17th century crises that swept across Eurasia due to climate changes (a plausible explanation is that depopulation due to disease and colonial policies in the Americas led to massive reforestation, carbon draw-down and consequent cooling - the Little Ice Age). Crop failures coupled with warfare led to widespread state breakdown, famine, rebellion and other nasties, with demographic declines of a quarter or more.

The populations that fared best were either cushioned by low density and minimal state overheads or - interestingly - tight states that avoided external warfare but were able to direct resources to mitigate ecological consequences: Tokugawa Japan and Safavid Iran.

Worth a read.

Sergey Rybasov said...

About scientific predictions - yep, it is! But that's quite irrelevant here, because, as I yet wrote above, the point is not about ice, the point is about climate and agriculture. You are saying, that Wadhams' predictions about melting in the Arctic ice are accurate, and so we are to trust them (and/or you) about climate and agriculture. That's not science. Wadhams have no scientific competence about agriculture, nor even about climatology at all, so this reference in not relevant at all, it's trying to misplace unprovable statements A and B with well proven statement C.

I'm absolutely _not_ to insist on applying social-custom judgements in novel (nor traditional) circumstances. There are apt and reasonable customs, there are rotten and dogmatic. I'm about common sense and rationality, not custom. There is no such thing as rotten rationality, and there is no way to be rational without common sense; that's what can unite all generally effective policies and polities.

I'm also absolutely _not_ to insist, that technology can solve anything. That's false dichotomy: if I say that you didn't prove that technology cannot solve _this_ problem (without global political and economical rearrangement) - that's it. And that's not that technology can solve anything, this problem is not "anything", your statements was not about anything, and you are misplacing systematically.

Again and again.

I'm completely with you about AGW as so (that _is_ well proven, 97+% professional consensus, no need to trust someone's judgment).
I'm completely with you about thoughtless irresponsibility of modern global politics (though I think thoughtless irresponsibility of masses will keep it with democratic mechanisms, oligarchy or no oligarchy).
I'm completely with you about social egality and social responsibility (though I'm inclined to rationalize it in a different way).

What I'm against - that's dogmatization and misplacing. No need to dogmatize, no need to misplace. Those moduses operandi are against your deeds, not _for_ it.

As an example:
"Technology absolutely cannot solve the rain not falling."
That's again. Yes, there are regions, where rain is not falling. No, there is not collapce, because those are _rare_, and will be even more rare by all prognoses; arid areas are reducing, not expanding. You are _misplacing_. That's what I'm against.

Graydon said...

+Sergey Rybasov --

You are saying, that Wadhams' predictions about melting in the Arctic ice are accurate, and so we are to trust them (and/or you) about climate and agriculture.

No! Absolutely not.

There's three steps:
1 what Wadhams says about the rate and magnitude of the change in climate forcing from Arctic Amplification. (Bang on so far.)
2 observing the present day/recent history
3 a combination of extrapolating from the present day and the variability of variation work Hansen et al. did

One we agree on.

Two, look at the price of hay. Hay should be getting cheaper; over the last half-century it's gone from relatively small square bales moved by hand to these enormous round things moved by machinery. Production has become mechanically and energetically much more efficient.

The price of hay has trended up.

In general, hay is just grass; people don't typically fertilize their hay fields or do much of anything. (I'm leaving out irrigated alfalfa from Arizona and suchlike here. I'm talking about "hay for livestock in the wet temperate zone" stuff.) And since 2000, the price of hay has steadily trended up while the availability has steadily trended down, and the recent status is "there may not be enough".

That's worrying, because hay production requires rain (to grow the grass) and a predictable sunny period (to dry and collect it). You have to know when those things are going to happen.

Canada exports a lot of food; about three-quarters of net total production. And we're looking at a trend toward a chronic hay shortage. (An acute hay shortage had a lot to do with beef being very cheap hereabouts in 2012.) In late summer of 2019, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warned horse owners in Alberta to buy sufficient hay for the entire winter right away. They were going to have to pay a premium, it was going to have to be imported over long distances, and if they didn't and skimped in the late winter, they were going to be facing criminal charges. This is a region that traditionally exports hay.

The price of hay is a steady trend over half a century over a huge area. (All of Anglo NorAm!) All the information about the forcing we have says "more, and faster".

Then we get into Hansen et al. who produced a short paper in 2012 on variability; decadaly, take each weather station, get its climate excursions, combine them all, and graph it.

The 1950s are a smooth normal distribution; as many hot as cold. 2000s are this slumped over spiky thing leaning to the right; that's just global warming. BUT, and this does not get anything like enough attention, the magnitude of the excursions increases over time. The rate of increase in the magnitude of the excursions increases faster than the baseline temperature does.

The prayer (in the Anglican tradition) is "rain in due season, O Lord", and that's just what we're not going to get.

It's not strictly "rain not falling" purely in the sense of "like Syria, where already dryland agriculture got too dry and failed"; it's "rain not falling when and in the amount we expect". No rain in June and it will not stop raining until September means no hay; it means a questionable harvest. Rain that floods the fields through spring planting means no harvest. It doesn't matter what the annual average is nearly as much as "in known amounts, at predictable times".

So, yeah, we are looking at collapse, because that trend for the price of hay hasn't got any feedbacks shoving it downward; everything that technology can do is being done. (Big bales, more efficient machinery, in-field storage with plastic wrap...) Hay is a representative proxy for general agricultural productivity *without* all the soil mining and pesticide and insect population collapse issues.

Everything we know about the forcing says "more" and "worse". The price of hay trends up, and inflects up; where is that going?

Sergey Rybasov said...

About olygarchy vs democracy, I think that's worthwhile to say too.

You are insisting, that olygarchy/overclass cannot drive socium against global threat, bacause of... well, I cannot say honestly, that I understand it completely, but I think that's smth about panic (terrified with the prospect of loss of control) and utter lack of social responsibility (because of habitual practice of solving their problems at the expense of others).

I cannot say that I'm against you with this point - I'd rather say it's irrelevant, because I think olygarchy and democracy are equally ineffective in such circumstances.

Olygarchy is unlikely to be _more_ terrified, than masses, because olygarchy have _more_ secured position; less reasons to fear. And you say fear is deficiency, so by your principle olygarchy is less deficient, then masses. I'd say - no. Fear is not deficiency. Fear is not a collapce of mind. Fear - and hope/foretaste - are pushing and pulling mechanisms of decision-making; what is cognitive collapse - it's panic: a state of mind, when it's unable to seek for new solution, surrendered to thoughtless reflexes. Bravery is not an absence of fear, nor an inability to feel fear - it's an ability to not fall in panic, when you are frightened, and to not be exhausted with the stress of fear. An ability, that can be inherited, or can be trained, and olygarchy is more likely to inherit it (from parents or more distant ancestors, who conquered their social place in fight), but is less likely to train it (because they have more secured childhood and youth); which is more weighty - that's not easy to assertain, nor it's a question proper for speculative judgement.

That olygarchy is more likely to be sociopathic - that seems plausible, but not imminent: there was aristocraty and olygarchy, that produced Enlightment: the most efficient and stable cultural process in known human history, that was driven by ideas of social responsibility of overclass. Those _can_ be socially responsible, that's not unfeasible, however rare. Responsible demos... well, that seems nigh-impossible: no known instance, no known mechanism of training social responsibility of masses. Habitual practice of solving problems at the expense of others - that's not a property of class, that's property of personality; class is a statistical category, there is no such thing as collective mind actually, and so class will inherit statistically properties of it's members as personalities. Which personalities have habitual practice of solving problems at the expense of others inside high, middle or low classes equally, there is no inherent difference, nor it's a question, too, proper for speculative judgement.

You say - they keep loot. Well, the problem is that it's not all of them nor all of their estates. Most of - that's plausible, but if you are to take it from then without evidence - then _you_ are looting, and it's nigh-impossible in practice to judge about old capitals if and in what part it was loot. And so, we must judge conduct, not estate. As always. To prejudice, to misplace some probability with confidence - is to ruin Ur-law of mankind; you cannot build sane society with it.

In addition, there is a question of skill. We have no Clerks, nor Shape. Overclass is a pool of nearly-specialists of ruling, managing, call it as you wish, but it's nearly all one matter. To throw them all off the boat by prejudice, without proven fault of conduct - that's not only an improbity, that's waste. To pursue decreasing of inequality by proportional means - that's proper, that's not to ruin justice. That was mostly done with aristocracy in Northern Europe, that can be done with modern olygarchy. I hope that's what I'm not against you, because even Halt was not completely thrown off the boat after all.

Sergey Rybasov said...

Returning to climate & argiculture.

Agree, that the magnitude of the excursions increases over time, and that it means lesser predictability. That's not smth questionable, that's statistics.

What I'm not agree with or failed to understand completely:

1. "There's three steps" [...] "a combination of extrapolating from the present day and the variability of variation work Hansen et al. did".

Hansen et al, if I understand correctly, that's it or some close to this:
If it is, that's not about climate & argiculture, that's not what you say, and you (nor me) obviously have no competence to make such an interdisciplinary scientific work by ourself - that's impossible; you are, AFAIK, an IT specialist, not biology, agriculture and/or climatology, so no way to combine such things correctly on our own - that's a way to make blunders, and no more; there are thousands of examples of such blunders - IT guys, and mathematicians, and even chemists and biologists in AGW-deniers camp including, all of them sure they have enough competence to make interdisciplinary conclusions by themselves. No way! It can be done by interdisciplinary comunity only, scientists are to verify and reach a consensus before us; too much counterintuitivity all over the field to use any easy-to-understand-global-principle.

2. "Hay should be getting cheaper [...] Production has become mechanically and energetically much more efficient."

That's it, what I pointed out above - you _are_ trying to make categorical conclusions outside of your professional competence, that's obvious now.

Efficiency of production is not the only factor to take into account with prices! You have to account demand, and non-volatile purchasers paying capacity, and volatility drifts, and information awareness (information asymmetry including), and prices of not only production, but also transport (fuel and drivers fees including) and storing (lease and maintenance), and after it - taxes, and regulations, and there are more of it.
There is a manifold of examples, where some category of goods is getting more and more expensive despite of stable increasing mechanical and energetical efficiency of it's production.

3. "everything that technology can do is being done"

That's it, again.
You are not even agrarian specialist! You have no competence to make such categorical assertions in this field, you have to reference professional consensus instead of it!
That's _not_ a thing, where we have to use our common sense. Common sense - is for those fields, no scientific result can be done and referenced. That's not it, that's agriculture and agrarian technology, there are professional comunities, _they_ are to reach a consensus and after it to make assertions. Before it - we have to wait. To use our own presumptions in such a way - that's awful irresponsible self-assurance.
That's really awful, I have no clue how to express it courteously; that's what I think is the most dangerous thing in moders society - atrocious and fatally disastrous by it's consequences.

Graydon said...

+Sergey Rybasov
Things is, you're combining scientists are to verify and reach a consensus before us and an assertion that the flat statement in the most recent IPCC report that agriculture breaks past a certain degree of warming with a response that's (paraphrased) "but they must mean current agriculture, not all agriculture".

If you want an authoritative big-team detailed thing, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51581098 refers to a recent report sent to investors. It was created for JP Morgan, who are a major fossil carbon investor. It's absolutely not what they want to hear and it was created by an independent team who presumably want to keep existing and keep getting work.

In general I think you could be making a constructive error. I do not need to know precisely when and where I am going to die to write a will; I just need to know that I'm going to die someday.

Same with the increased variability and increased forcing of the climate; we know that more forcing means more variability -- more excursions from the mean -- and that the number, geographic area, and severity are all trending up and that the trend for severity-per-area is not one-to-one with temperature. (It looks suprelinear) We don't have to know exactly when agriculture breaks to recognize that it will break.

Sergey Rybasov said...

Yep, I'm combining "read" and "complete with presuming default" - there is no other way with finite language; we are to complete any statement with presuming defaults. We are just combining with different presuming defaults: you are with "all", I'm with "current". Which seems more plausible about IPCC? That they are thinking they know all about agriculture 50 years to the future, or that they are to proceed from the current practice? I think it's obvious.

About authoritative big-team detailed thing. In the first place, that's not what I want. I want to see _scientific consensus_, not a report of any detached group, however authoritative (and yours reference is _not_ - it's not even named group, not to mention authority). And even it's not what _you_ say above, you are misplacing again.

And again. I _agree_ strongly, that current policy is awfully thoughtless and irresponsible. The point I disagree - it's about convincing and categorical assertions, erroneous absolutization, dogmatization, creating dogmatic social religion - that sort of things I'm against.

Categorical assertions, especially chains of categorical assertions referencing one after the other - that is not to base on guesswork, this practice is an awful mistake, leading to catastrofical consequences, when it's policy. And when you put it into policy, in addition, that requires global mobilization... well, that's nign-certain waste of human lifes in demographical scale.

You do know probability theory obviously much more then well enough, let me use it to explain (however hard it is to mathematically formalize things correctly in social context). Let's suppose, that you can guess correctly (in specified field) with 4/5 chance of success (and that is _very_ good ability to guess). Let's suppose, that you do guesswork of 5 assertions, referencing one after the other. Let's suppose, that those guesses are stochastically independent (that you are not completely fooling yourself, that's mostly mean). The resulting chance that all this chain is correct is (4/5)^5, and that's about 1/3. So, 2/3 chance that you are making mistake, and none the less you are placing it as categorical assertion, that means it's certain.

One of the first lectures on probability theory - our lector was emphatic, that our probability intuition is not very efficient, especially about certainty: we are inclined to be certain with probability guesses about 4/5. There was later full course of (stochastical) series, there was more explains, statistics and emphasises, that our intuition is _very_ inefficient with it; we are inclined naturally to be nigh-certain, when it's long chain of nign-certainties, and it's systematic mistake: logical chain is an accumulative chance of failure!

That is not about some existential despair, that's about necessity of proving-or-correcting independently as much links of those chains, as it possible, _before_ making resultant assertion; and that's about necessity of noting confidence degree correctly: you are making guesswork, you are to reference it as guesswork - not categorical certainty, as you do above in statements about 2C, 50 years, technology and so on.

And about last point. That's you replacing specific categorical assertion (~2C,50y,100%) with another one (smth more like "all come to die"), pretending that it's practically the same. It is not. It is not the same factually, it is not the same as a basis for policy (there are very different things to prognose 50 years of technological medium and 250 years of), and the most important - it is not the same as a habit of misplacing or not. A habit of misplacing is a way to waste, defeat and collapse, the way much more reliable (in the worst sense), then just to flood our ports and worsen our resource base badly.