понедельник, 26 января 2015 г.

The Dunning–Kruger effect

  The investigations of Dunning and Kruger found that incompetent people tend to overestimate their competence, unlike more competent people. In other words, incompetent people are more confident in their competence than the competent people (this is an exaggeration; it would be more correct to say that incompetent people think they’re much better than they actually are).
  Speaking more generally, it seems that smart people are often less self-confident than stupid people. And I find rather convincing the idea that smart men are often less attractive for women, than common men (because women like self-confident men). Of course, intelligent men often achieve more success with women because their intellect helps them to be successful in life. In Russia I have often heard the thesis that nerds are less attractive for women than common men.
  In the second article the conclusions of Dunning and Kruger are criticized to some extent, but they are not rejected.
  I have also found an interesting graph; for me, this graph seems to be quite convincing, though here is a mistake in the picture - Dunning and Kruger have got the Ig Nobel Prize, not the Nobel one:

It is interesting that this effect is possibly less marked in East Asia. Wiki says that East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities, and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and get along with others. I have seen some mentions that the Asians are either more intelligent than the Caucasians, or more prone to be nerds, or both.

Criticism of the book “Cloud democracy” by L. Volkov and F. Krashninnikov

In my opinion, the book is permeated too much with the belief in democracy. Even I do not fully share this belief. I think that currently in the Western countries there exists pseudodemocracy instead of the real democracy. Probably, the western democracy worked enough well during the last 200 years, but for the recent 10-20 years it is not the case.
The authors write correctly that the local government in Russia does nothing constructive (possibly this is not true with the USA).
The authors write that the main problem of the monarchy is the “fortuity of birth”. I don’t agree with this; I am not sure if in modern democracies the politicians are more intelligent that a randomly chosen monarch or a randomly chosen citizen. The main problem of monarchy lies in another field – if a human gets the unrestricted power, he always uses this power excessively, and this power corrupts him.
Chapters 2-6 – mostly agree. Chapter 7 – not fully agree: only in theory the Internet gives access to a diverse high-quality information, in fact one must search for it thoroughly, and a common voter usually cannot afford this (not enough time, etc.).
The authors write that the Internet offers the following advantage – one can visit a social networking service and ask the classmates of a politician “what a guy he was”. I must say that I partially disagree with this idea. It looks, to some extent, like rummaging in one’s dirty underwear. The politicians will not appreciate such interest to them, so less people will be motivated to become politicians. Besides that, there is a fundamental problem that honest politicians will often lose, because the level of education within the politicians is much higher than that within common citizens. In particular, in the USA the politicians prefer not to tell whether they are atheists, because the percentage of atheists among the politicians is much higher than among the voters.
Chapters 8,9 – rather interesting, but not sufficiently close to the subject. Chapter 10 – agree, the electronic signature is of course necessary.
Chapter 11 – the examination for the knowledge of constitutional law, or a “symbolical filter”, can be useful to some extent, but it will not change the things radically: when a voter votes, usually he needs not the knowledge of the constitutional law, but some other knowledge related to the subject. If an economic reform is suggested within a referendum, the voter must have the knowledge of economics; if a judicial reform – he must understand the jurisprudence, if a prohibition of alcohol is suggested – he needs the information about alcohol and economics, etc. Besides that, instead of the examination it is simpler to include the course of constitutional law into the school program.
The “live measurement of the trust to a representative” – I think, this idea will cause more harm than benefit (see below). The “matrix delegation of the trust” – in my opinion, this is quite a silly idea (below). The “compulsory honesty” – in principle, right. But this can be implemented in a more easy way – let all sessions of the parliament be taken down in shorthand and published in the Web, together with the information about each deputy – whether he has come to the session and what he voted for.
Chapter 12: the compulsory non-anonymity and honesty – this sounds good, but who will gather and publish the information about politicians? Evidently, this must be the work of mass media and amateurs (bloggers, etc.). I am not sure if the mass media conduct anti-corruption investigations sufficiently often.
Chapter 13: I think, the suggested system will cause more harm than benefit. Between the elections, at least 4 years must pass (see below).
Chapter 14: I think that the vote delegation in combination with the matrix division and the possibility to recall the delegated vote at any time is a silly idea (see below).
Chapter 15: There are many unnecessary points, in particular, who is an expert? Currently any person can become a politician or a journalist, and publish his position – what is different between this and the work of an expert?
Now, the criticism of the authors conception. Here is briefly what they suggest. A kind of social networking service is created, in which all citizens are registered. Every person can post an initiative (e.g., a bill) on this site, and if his initiative gathers a sufficient amount of “Like” votes, it is shown for every member of the site. Every person can write his suggestions. Then, the members vote for this initiative and it is accepted.
Every member can delegate his vote to another member. The delegation can be either full (members get the opportunity to use this vote at any voting), or partial (in this case the second member can use this vote in a voting of a specific field, e.g., science, culture, sport, etc.). One can delegate the science to an academician whom he knows, etc. The member who has got the delegated vote can delegate it to another member, the latter – to another and so on. At any moment a member can recall his vote.
It is supposed that soon there will appear “thousanders” and “millioners”, who have gathered many votes. They will make the main decisions.
What are the faults of this scheme? Firstly, the division of the votes into categories will lead to a situation, which described in a Russian fable “The swan, the crawfish and the pike”: one delegate will hardly deal with the other, and they will impede each other.
If scientists will take decisions in the field of science, producers – in the field of culture, and sportsmen – in the field of sport, each category will try to get maximum funding for their own projects, i.e., they will grab the biggest piece of the pie. Besides that, the categories will be periodically changed: today we have the sport, tomorrow the “cybersport” , and then somewhat “parasport” – who will regulate these categories? Then, who will decide which category an initiative belongs to (take, for example, such initiative as the taxes for costly cars or fighting alcoholism)? If some group of persons will take these decisions, how can the abuse of their power be avoided?
In principle, the vote delegation is not needed, because each man, when he votes, can take into account the opinion of the other people. If you are voting in the field of science, you will probably listen to the advice of a known academician. When a referendum is conducted, usually the voters attach much importance to the opinion of the President. Everybody understands that the President is more competent than a common voter.
Furthermore, the possibility to recall a vote in each moment is a very bad idea, because it will increase the profanation of politics greatly. Currently a good politician can take an unpopular, but right decision, and there will be a chance that by the end of the 4 years the voters will admit that this decision was right. In contrast, if the voters will be able to recall their votes at each moment, this politician will be unable to complete what he has started. Probably almost every initiative will arouse a lot of voices of irresponsible demagogues, and this will inevitable lead to the recall of some part of the votes.
Here is one more moment. Nowadays, usually no politician gets an overwhelming majority of the votes; mostly often the number of votes varies near 50%. If some of the votes could be recalled, the initial “controlling interest” of votes will inevitably be lost.
In general, this book is of course an utopia, but a useful utopia which should be read.

вторник, 13 января 2015 г.

Charlie Hebdo and the terrorists

  The terrorist attacks of Charlie Hebdo are, of course, bad crimes. It is more correct to call them not terrorist attacks but murders on a field of hatred. At the same time, the magazine itself is not “white and fluffy” – it was really insulting people, inflaming the national and religious discord. You may look, for example, at these pictures produced by this magazine (sorry for a link to vulgar images):

Bad pictures

  The magazine has protest demonstrations and many trials in its background – it rises hatred not only from the Muslims. The predecessor of this magazine, magazine L'hebdo Hara-kiri, was already closed by the French powers for humiliating Charles de Gaulle.
  The magazine generated a monstrous trolling, so a monstrous answer to this trolling was produced. Of course, I don’t say that the journalists deserve their deaths.
  As far as I know, the European leaders are talking their usual rhetoric about the terrorism and freedom, and they are just unable to pronounce 3 words: “threat”, “radical”, “Islam”. The Muslims will continue to settle in France and other countries, until they eventually replace the indigenous population or some great disaster occurs – for example, a civil war between the Muslims and Christians.
  This is how I see this situation from Russia.
  Finally, one picture from the Russian web:
  Here at the left posters it is written "Charlie Hebdo", "Freedom of speech", etc, and on the sign at the right - "Donbass" (Donbass is the Donetsk region).

A homeless man plays beautiful music

A reporter was walking through Churchill Square, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, when she heard nice music. She saw a piano outside of a building, with a homeless man playing it.
Then she approached to listen more closely, and began to film the concert. The video of his play was uploaded to youtube and quickly became a hit.
The player was a 43-years man who looked like he was homeless. His name is actually Ryan Arcand and he was taken from his parents and placed in foster care as a 4-year child.

His music:

понедельник, 12 января 2015 г.

A book "Mechanisms of working of internet democracy and other institutions of efficient society"

  This book contains mainly a set of ideas, how the internet democracy (E-democracy) might work. It continues the ideas of the book “Cloud democracy” by Russian authors Leonid Volkov and Fyodor Krasheninnikov. 
  Modern democracy was instituted long ago. The US constitution was written more than 200 years ago, by a few people, who were unaware of the technological developments which we have now (e.g. radio, television, internet on one side, and the rise of financial “aristocracy” and other problems on the other). It is evident that a more efficient constitution can be developed and accepted. The author does not think that his book offers an ideal version of democracy, but if this book finds some approval and interest, he will spend more time for appropriate education and elaboration of this book.

  Currently the book is available in Russian only:

 The author plans to translate it into English in future.
  Below are the main ideas from the book:

1) Direct democracy: referendums initiated via the internet. A kind of social networking service will be created, where any user will be able to post an initiative; and if this initiative gathers enough votes, it will automatically initiate a referendum.
 The main problem of direct democracy is the profanation of politics (usually a common citizen is not competent enough to make serious political decisions). To minimize the profanation, several ideas are offered. In particular, if a bill is initiated and the government does not support it, two referendums must be carried out (with the interval of 1 year), and only if in both referendums the people say “Yes” to the initiative, it will be accepted. If this initiative is incompetent, the government and other advised people will have one year to persuade the voters to reject it. This year between two referendums will be the year of public dispute between the people and the government, and this dispute will give birth to the truth;
The initiatives from the Internet should be divided according to the branch of power they belong to:
- "Executive" initiatives (belonging to the sphere of executive branch of power) should be accepted after 1 referendum;
- "Legislative" initiatives should be accepted after 2 referendums with the interval of 1 year, as written above;
- "Judicial" initiatives cannot be accepted. The nation have the right to change the laws, but not to violate them;
- One more branch - initiatives concerning the public television (see below). They can be accepted without referendums, only by a voting in the internet.

2) Implementation of public television (and other mass media). The main idea is that a TV channel gets a fixed funding from the state (and the government does not have the right to decrease this funding), but the director of this channel is elected for 2 years (like the President or governors) via the internet. This director will be also able to spread money for any other ways of informing the society (e.g. advertising a video uploaded on youtube), and he will be also able to pay out grants to scientists, sociologists, ecologists, etc. for gathering useful information.

This is a very important idea, and relatively easy to implement, so you can read a separate article on it:

3) Support of strong individual power. Several ideas on how to provide the possibility for clever and worthy people to become serious politicians. The author thinks that concentration of power in the hands of legislature, rather than individual leaders, is a bad trend.

The people, who don't strive for power much, often become good politicians. The main idea is that for political parties, finding a person who can become a good president must be a kind of "business"; they must get money depending on the rating of their president or their candidate for the presidency. The President should earn much money too, proportional to his rating, and this money should be given to him during all the time until his death ("presidential pension").

4) Public questions to the government.
The people who vote through the Web will be able to ask the President (and other people having power) public questions. When a question is posted, other people can vote for it, and the more votes it gather, the higher it is shown in the sorted list. If a question have gathered sufficient number of votes (and a good percentage of approving votes), the next stage is initiated - the President is obliged to publicly answer this question. If he does not answer this qiestion, the collective guarantor of the constitution (see below) can impeach the President.

5) Collective guarantor of the constitution.
According to many constitutions, the President is called the guarantor of the constitution. The author thinks that one person is mostly unable to serve this role - protection of the constitution. One man is always weaker than an elite, even if he has a lot of official power. The idea of the author is to create "artificial elite" using a lot (random selection, "lottery by the passport number"). They will be the people interested in protecting the laws and the constitution and having some judiciary power and the possibility to get appropriate education.
The author thinks that that the lot is a rather good alternative to elections. The lot was widely used in ancient  Greece, Rome, medieval cities, but the constructors of modern democracy somehow abandoned it. Generally speaking, the lot and the elections both have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the author thinks that combining them for different tasks is the best decision.
The author thinks, that the "artificial elite" created using the lot will be less prone to corruption, than such elite as the elected deputies, because people, who strive much to get the power, are often prone to corruption (while the people gathered using the lot will be usual, "average statistical" persons, so they will represent the nation well).

6) Competent elections
To fight the profanation of politics, the following idea is suggested: for some or all elections and referendums, only some part of the population (e.g., 1/1000 of the population) would get the right to vote. This part would be chosen by the lot (again, "lottery by the passport number"). Besides that, the selected people will be able to get some money from the state for studying literature, gathering information concerning the field of the election or referendum, and this studying will give them the possibility to vote. For important and difficult referendums, e.g. concerning the change of the country's constitution or introduction of the juvenile court, probably the preparing for competent voting, during which the randomly selected people will study literature, get appropriate education, gather on conferences, etc., will last for several years.
One question arises with this idea - what information will the chosen electors be obliged to study. I think, the best desision is the following - these electors will be able to study ANY information, which, in their point of view, can be useful for chosing a desision on the referendum. These electors will gather on conferences, communicate via the web forums, etc to exchange this infornation. And they will be obliged to spent their time for studiing the field, and a mechanism for controlling their assiduity must be implemented (they will have to write reports what have they studied).

7) "Consultative" branch of power
The author thinks that it would be better if both legislative and executive power belonged to the President. The main problem with this option is that one man can often make mistakes - a collective is in common more competent and less prone to foolery. To solve this problem, the author suggests to build a "Parliament" under the President; this "Parliament" will not have the legislative power, but it will be able to postpone the President's initiative for 1/2 years. During these 1/2 years, the "Parliament" will be able to persuade the President and the society that the former initiative was incompetent. One more resource of the "Parliament" - it will be able to ask the President public questions, and the President will be obliged to publicly answer them.

8) Other use of informational technologies for fighting criminality and corruption;

9) Other ways of fighting corruption: 20th article of the UNO convention, rewarding people who provide the police with the information on corruptors, judicial rotation;.

If you want to support this book somehow, you may write to the author's email shown at this webpage:


Self-curing society

  We live in an age when the society encounters a lot of new problems. The globalization leads to appearance of new types of corruption when big companies can commit abuses (e.g. ecological) without being punished (because there is no global center of power which can protect common laws). The technological progress will possibly cause more harm than good in the near future. The beginning of the digital era leads to new problems not met by the society before.
  Probably, the science is able to help solve these problems. But the main disadvantage of the science funded by the state, I suppose, is that this research work is funded by people who are not motivated enough to work well (maybe even bureaucrats). This is true mainly for the fundamental and humanitarian science (the applied science in the West is funded well by business).
  Here is an example. A national problem in the US is obesity; as far as I know, currently the state is not solving this problem efficiently. There are a lot of private gymnasiums which offer some help, but the sport eliminates the effect, rather than the cause. I am not sure that the market economy is in general able to efficiently obliterate any problems. If efficient “tablets against obesity” could be created, developing these tablets would evidently be an overprofitable business, and best researchers would work on this; but researches on finding the reasons of obesity (these reasons can be mostly social and psychological) are not efficiently supported. It would be great if finding and eliminating the reasons of problems became a kind of “business”, and my book describes how this goal can be achieved.
  It is considered that one of the reasons of obesity is fast food. This hypothesis can be verified using experiments; but yet I didn’t find the information about such experiments in the web. At the same time, I have watched one such experiment in a TV show (Russian) about obesity in the US: the authors of this program asked a few people to start eating fast food and weighing themselves (the result was that this diet didn’t increase their weight very much, so the causes of obesity can be mostly social, maybe in conjunction with the fast food). It is demonstrative that a TV channel has performed a more efficient research than scientists. The problem, as written above, is that people who provide grants are not interested enough in the result.
  Ecological problems are significant too. I have heard that the ecologists who perform researches can be considered “prostitutes”, because someone pays them for these researches and is interested in a particular result. Funding ecological researches by the state is not efficient enough, because the politicians have more urgent affairs.
   A significant problem in Russia (I don't know about the Western countries) is the corruption in private medicine. Our doctors prescribe to their patients drugs, which are not really needed by them, but sponsored by the drug manufactures. If somebody struggled with such corruption by giving people valid information about the medicaments, it would be very good for the people. But this somebody must be really interested in the result of his work and earn enough money for it - currently this condition is unachievable.
  One more problem in Russia (I suppose, all developed countries face similar problems) is the degradation of the Russian language because of the Web communication (people who communicate at Web forums and social networks get used to write improperly). The government do not think about this problem, and almost nobody is motivated to address it. At the same time, this problem, in my opinion, is very serious - the language affects our thinking and our whole life. Again, somebody must be motivated enough to work on it and earn money for such work.
  The society could be able to cure itself, if fighting against such problems was a kind of business. Below I write my ideas on how this can be achieved.
  The main idea is as follows. The state must spend some money from the budget on social programs. It must be written in laws (in the constitution) that a fixed sum of money (e.g., up to 2% of the national GDP) can be spent on social programs, and the government do not have the right to decrease this limit. These money will wholly belong to the nation. The social programs will be initiated via voting in the Web; each program will be devoted to a specific task - fighting against corruption, obesity, etc. The directors of these programs will be elected via the Web, e.g., with an interval of 2 years. These directors will be the politicians interested in bringing the benefit to the nation.
  Each director will receive a fixed flow of money, and this sum will be prescribed in his program. He will be able to spend half of these money for gathering information - e.g. providing research grants, or paying for anti-corruptional investigations (he will choose how to spend these money himself). Another half of these money will be spent for distributing the information in the society - e.g. maintaining a TV channel (or, for example, the director will have his own website and spend most of the money for advertising this website).
  These directors will be able to help solving every problem of the society. For example, the director of the program against obesity will spend grants for finding the reasons of the obesity. Let's consider he will find its cause. If this cause is the fast-food, the director will inform the society using his mass media, and everybody will be able to solve the problem for himself. If the cause is social and psychological factors, the director will be able to affect the actions of the government using his mass media - owning a mass media gives the opportunity to affect the public opinion, and the government depends on the public opinion.
  Below are my considerations on why this system must be very effective. I think, the community of directors will be better for the society than one government for the same reason why market economy is better than planned economy. The history of the USSR, China, DPRK shows that the planned economy is ineffective. Why is it so? The answer which I hear most often is that the directors of private companies are more motivated in the result of their production than the directors of state companies. This point needs to be clarified some more. The directors of the state companies obey the government, which is interested enough in the result. But the government do not have the possibility to keep an eye on the work of every factory. Respectively, if the government tries to solve the problems of the society, it is unable to spend much time for each of the problem, especially such problems as the degradation of the language. At the same time, if the system with the proposed social programs is implemented, each director will be able to work hardly in his field. Possibly there will be hundreds of thousands of social programs (most of them will have a very small funding, and the director will just hold a website), and the directors will compete with each other. The sum of the funding of these social programs, as written above, will not exceed a fixed percent of the national GDP.
  A similar idea is the "crowdfunding multiplication": if a person earns sufficient sums of money by crowdfunding (public donations), he will receive additional money from the budget. As with the scheme described above, some problems with crowdfunding multiplication need to be solved (its main problem must be the corruption, or self-funding, and "sectarian" projects). In particular, it will be fair if the people are able to pay not only to support a particular project, but to suppress it too.
  One more question is how to choose whether the initiation of a social program requires a very large number of voters or the percentage of "yes" votes can be crucial too. If the percentage of approving votes does not affect the possibility of initiating this program, only widely-known programs will be adopted; if this percentage affects it, not known well but popular programs will be initiated too. But in this case, sectarian programs will be adopted too (e.g., a program for propagandizing a religious sect will be popular among those who take part in this sect, and they will take much greater part in the vote than people who are unaware of this sect). I think I have found a solution on how to solve this problem, it is written in my book. Maybe there will be other such problems - voting through the Web is yet an unaccustomed trend in our world.