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Geeks In the Public Forum?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the ask-not-what-your-country-can-hack-for-you dept.

Politics 326

cedarhillbilly writes "In his new book The Geek Manifesto, Mark Henderson 'pleads for citizens who value science to force it onto the mainstream political agenda and other main walks of life.' There are some important questions that need answers: 'Do you have to give up your tech practice to undertake a public role?' Also, 'Is political life (compromise, working by consensus, irrationality) antithetical to the "geek" values?'" The Guardian's coverage sums up the idea nicely: "What I desperately want is a move toward an evidence-based culture in politics. Politicians are free to say: 'I think people on drugs should be punished because drugs are immoral.' That's a moral call, albeit a rather stupid one in my opinion. What they shouldn't do is say: 'I want to reduce drug use, and sending all users to prison is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.' That's not a moral call, it's a factual statement; as such it should be evidence-based, or else the person making it should shut the hell up."

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326 comments

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First Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041221)

I see you pleading for Logos, but all I have to offer or want to hear is Pathos & Credos. U MAD?

Re:First Post (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041443)

Ah. Replace Politics with Discourse.

Another fantasy, based on the assumption that the human animal is a brain on legs...

Technocrats (4, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041225)

In short, Mark Henderson wants Technocrats not Politicians running our system. I tend to agree.

Re:Technocrats (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041335)

And the environmentalists want environmentalists running the system, the banks want financial people running the system, large corporations want businessmen running they system, and so on and so on. Yea, we all wish that politicians had our point of view, but it's not realistic. To get elected, you need to be able to convince more than half the population that you would properly represent them. If you're too focused in one area, then you'll have a real hard time getting support from people not in that area.

Re:Technocrats (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041449)

What's always surprised me is why we can't have more pimply-faced, basement-dwelling virgins running the system.

Re:Technocrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041667)

Well, since all politicians tell me that they are highly moral, and that sex outside of marriage is immoral, near as I can tell all unmarried politicians must be virgins. Though generally it's a good idea to get some acne cream before going on to a nationally televised debate.

Re:Technocrats (3, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041723)

Technocracy allows variation within it. It is more a methodology than an ideology. Environmentalists are largely monolithic; they vary on some issues, but it is an ideology. You can still have Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians... but it is about using fact-based arguments over appeals to emotion.

Will that ever work? Doubtful. Is it becoming more likely in the US? Hell no. But it is more complicated than "I want politicians who think like me," and it's disingenuous to paint this that way. We would be much better off if we didn't have the witch hunts, security theater, censorship, racism, and all other unfortunate little problems caused by people thinking with their crotch and not their head.

What an elitist (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041371)

In short, Mark Henderson wants Technocrats not Politicians running our system. I tend to agree.

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”
  Isaac Asimov

Re:What an elitist (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041501)

There's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated
Political scientists think the same one vote that some monkeys are inbred
Majority rule, don't work in mental institutions
Sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions

What are we left with?
A nation of god-fearing pregnant nationalists
Who feel it's their duty to populate the homeland
Pass on traditions
How to get ahead religions
And prosperity be a symbol to culture

-- Fat Mike, NOFX The Idiots Are Taking Over

Re:What an elitist (1, Troll)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041613)

There's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated Political scientists think the same one vote that some monkeys are inbred Majority rule, don't work in mental institutions Sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions What are we left with? A nation of god-fearing pregnant nationalists Who feel it's their duty to populate the homeland Pass on traditions How to get ahead religions And prosperity be a symbol to culture

-- Fat Mike, NOFX The Idiots Are Taking Over

If Fat Mike would like to make statements decrying anti-intellectualism, he should first learn to compose a coherent sentence.

Re:What an elitist (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041679)

If Fat Mike would like to make statements decrying anti-intellectualism, he should first learn to compose a coherent sentence.

No argument against what the poet said, so you resort to lowest-common-denominator, ad hominem attacks on his sentence structure?

Ever hear of artistic license? [wikipedia.org] Obviously not.

Re:What an elitist (0)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041831)

If Fat Mike would like to make statements decrying anti-intellectualism, he should first learn to compose a coherent sentence.

No argument against what the poet said, so you resort to lowest-common-denominator, ad hominem attacks on his sentence structure?

Ever hear of artistic license? [wikipedia.org] Obviously not.

Oh, it was a poem? I think you need to preface it by saying something like, "Yes, Fat Mike is literate - this is just a poem, which is why it has only the most tenuous connection with English grammar." Otherwise it just looks like any other idiot on the internet who can't put more than two words together coherently. It would be especially helpful for those of us who have no idea who Fat Mike is, what NOFX is, or what The Idiots Are Taking Over is (nearly everyone).

Re:What an elitist (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041827)

One line needs correction:

Political scientists think the same one vote that some monkeys are inbred

should read

Political scientists get the same one vote as some Arkansas inbred

So, if that's the one you are complaining about, mea culpa. That's what I get for trusting a website for song lyrics.

Re:What an elitist (3)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041621)

Strange that Asimov spent a lot of time writing about corrupt societies (Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Galactic Empire).

The problem is that a lot of these "technocrats" or regulators as we call them in the U.S. are horribly, horribly corrupt. They use their knowledge not for the benefit of the common man, but for their own personal benefit (and landing future jobs with RIAA or Bank of America). The regulators are in bed with the industries they are supposed to be regulating. And the industries are buying-off the regulators to get favors or exemptions (like MF Global not being prosecuted for stealing funds from customer accounts).

I would sooner put the power in the hands of the People who, in their everyday market decisions, will decide which products succeed and fail. It's the closest thing we have to democracy with people "voting" directly with their dollars.

Of course we need agencies like OSHA to protect the workers, and the EPA to stop dumping of chemicals in waterways, and FTC to keep investment banks (gambling houses) separate from savings banks..... but we should try to keep these things as minimal as possible. When they start arresting people for choosing to drink natural milk, then they've gone too far and need to be downsized.

Re:What an elitist (1)

Outlander Engine (827947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041875)

"Of course we need agencies like OSHA to protect the workers, and the EPA to stop dumping of chemicals in waterways, and FTC to keep investment banks (gambling houses) separate from savings banks..... but we should try to keep these things as minimal as possible. When they start arresting people for choosing to drink natural milk, then they've gone too far and need to be downsized."

Except that they feed that natural milk to their kids, and it has a tendency to do severe and permanent damage. Enough damage that we, as a society, say you have to clean that milk up before you sell it.

Your argument sounds very close to that of an anti-vaccination nut. You might want to rethink your opinion on that one.

Re:What an elitist (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041699)

Another change I would make is to convert the House (half of the Congress) into a direct vote. The representatives would still be there, debating with one another and crafting the actual bills, but when it came to the final vote, the Reps would step aside and the people would vote directly (via computer). If we had that, TARP and the other bailouts would have never passed..... per the will of the people.

The Senate would remain the same as now (the Member States' legislature).

Re:What an elitist (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041795)

Horrible idea. Look no further than California to understand why.

Re:What an elitist (0, Flamebait)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041779)

In short, Mark Henderson wants Technocrats not Politicians running our system. I tend to agree.

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

  Isaac Asimov

There'd be less anti-intellectualism if so many of our intellectuals weren't such arrogant asses. "I'm smarter than you. You should just shut up and do as I tell you" is not a great way to instill confidence on someone's leadership.

If people want a technocracy, go off somewhere and start one. Live in it yourselves. But I'll lay money that most people would leave it after awhile. Because there's always someone smarter than you, and in such a technocratic system, a lot of egos are going to clash, a lot of toes are going to get stepped on, and a lot of styles are going to get cramped. Technocratically-minded people idealize such a system until that system starts dictating their lives. Good for thee, but not for me is what it would be if you want to be honest about it.

Re:What an elitist (2)

Phusion (58405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041825)

"You know I've noticed a certain anti-intellectualism going around this country ever since around 1980, coincidentally enough. I was in Nashville, Tennessee last weekend and after the show I went to a waffle house and I'm sitting there and I'm eating and reading a book. I don't know anybody, I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book. This waitress comes over to me (mocks chewing gum) 'what you readin' for?'...wow, I've never been asked that; not 'What am I reading', 'What am I reading for?' Well, goddamnit, you stumped me...I guess I read for a lot of reasons — the main one is so I don't end up being a fuckin' waffle waitress. Yeah, that would be pretty high on the list. Then this trucker in the booth next to me gets up, stands over me and says [mocks Southern drawl] 'Well, looks like we got ourselves a readah'...aahh, what the fuck's goin' on? It's like I walked into a Klan rally in a Boy George costume or something. Am I stepping out of some intellectual closet here? I read, there I said it. I feel better."

-Bill Hicks

Re:Technocrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041375)

It's good as long as the public policy is not hijacked by the "elite", non-legislative officials who significantly influence the public discussions on the media by their own politically biased views, or that the value of the pragmatism and money always wins when dealing with actual effects on the lives of the subjects. I have witnessed both on my country. I'm sure everyone else has as well, one time or another.
I also would argue that China is a good example of technocracy lying to itself for political reasons.

Re:Technocrats (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041537)

I tend to agree.

But will they? He says he wants an evidence based approach, but how often is the evidence clear and agreed upon by a large majority? Look at climate change. Look at the medical profession, particular mental health.

You would need some way of judging evidence too. Peer review is fine but even then it is often fooled or simply gets the wrong answer and is later itself reviewed and found lacking.

Democracy is highly imperfect but still the least bad choice.

Re:Technocrats (0)

hackula (2596247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041623)

...but how often is the evidence clear and agreed upon by a large majority?

Most of the time, actually. Significant disagreements based on evidence are typically exceptions to the rule. Non-disagreements are simply not particularly noteworthy. The majority of legislation is that way too.

Re:Technocrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041643)

But those are all political-eco issues. It's going to cost (votes or money) to fix them, so we have to ignore them right?

If we hold them accountable (to us, not corporations) - with sanctions if they don't perform, then it might work.

Make their benefits based on a satisfaction vote from their constituents. (Do you think your senator/congressman did a good job, yes/no/don't know/don't care)
If a majority say anything but yes, then they lose their benefits, salary, pension, and have to pay a fine equal to any salary they earn after exiting said job equal to 50% of their earnings for life for screwing off while in office.

For y(x) = -1/x, What is Your Policy at Zero? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041627)

In short, Mark Henderson wants Technocrats not Politicians running our system. I tend to agree.

I haven't read this book and I think the article discussing it doesn't accomplish much aside from briefly agreeing with the author on everything. I think this whole argument is sort of a nonstarter. Oftentimes I try to look at "soft" issues as an ethical engineer and I come to the conclusion that you can approach a lot of hotly debated issues from two sides. And, like the limit as x approaches zero in y(x) = -1/x [wolframalpha.com] , you can sort of logically come to two extremely different conclusions. As an oversimplified example, take anti-trust laws. From the left we start with something really innocuous like it's the government's job to protect an individual's basic rights which means that if they wish to enter a market then other individuals shouldn't be able to collude to keep them out of that market by price fixing which means that we should have government regulations against it ... and we're at positive infinity. But if you approach from the right you start with something really innocuous as well like governments should enable individuals to follow their dreams and if their dreams are price fixing so be it because the free market will decide whose product is better and the consumer will be smart enough to buy the new product if it is indeed made better and the price fixing will result in a loss to the colluding parties and so therefore we need to make the free market freer and truly free to alleviate all these issues ... and we're at negative infinity. Both sides are clamoring for one extreme and the engineer is just sitting there saying "Technically it's undefined."

Basically, two strong narratives will ruin an ethical engineer's best intents.

Another topic that I'm not sure how it is addressed is that you only get one experiment. There is no control group for your political policies. On top of that a negative stigma has been attached to people being used as lab rats so don't even try to divide your populace into statistical experiments -- they have to do that themselves. If an engineer does not have absolute control over an environment, he or she usually considers the experiment flawed and the resulting data potentially worthless. This is one of the defining hallmarks of our political process -- no one person controls all of the variables.

I'm left wondering why any ethical engineer would desire to be a technocrat.

I am 100% behind pushing science in the public forum and seeking more data and more models. I will argue, however, that the first decision an engineer makes in office will likely be as emotionally, personally and financially motivated as it would had Governor Evil been there instead.

Re:For y(x) = -1/x, What is Your Policy at Zero? (2, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041839)

I think Jefferson summed-up your thoughts eloquently: "If it were possible we would have no government. It is only to protect our rights that we resort to government at all."

In other words the ideal would be no government or regulation at all (anarchist), but since that's impractical, we create a minimal government to protect basic rights like not being harmed by others (libertarian). BTW I side with the free market viewpoint, since I don't see why there's need for government to regulate products, except to make sure factories don't abuse their workers, or abuse the water supply via dumping chemicals.

Oftentimes monopolies arise, not through the free market, but via government order: Such as granting Comcast a monopoly in my neighborhood, or DeBeers a monopoly over diamonds, or the Central Bank over interest rates for loans (price-fixing). Those orders should be revoked, and the free market allowed to operate.

Re:Technocrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041689)

I don't think that's it at all. You can make decisions based on evidence and rational thinking rather than gut instincts and not be a technocrat. Personally I don't want government run by any one particular group with a narrow interest. I just want people to be less caught up in ideologies and more focused on evidence. Rule by technocrat would likely be horrible in some different way. There's a strong control freak mentality among many technical people that would be a horrible if it got out of control.

Re:Technocrats (0)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041733)

If only words like "geeks" and "technocrats" actually meant something other than a diverse group of people who *identify* with science and technology... For many people "science" is simply a matter of faith -- they have zero knowledge or understanding, Naturally, it also complicates matters quite a lot that "science" is a term which covers a lot of conflicting/divergent schools of though. IOW, TFA reads like something written by a 12 year old who recently decid he's "a geek".

Manifesto == Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041239)

Way to shoot yourself in the foot! Who has manifestos these days? Lunatics, terrorists and cults, that's who. The word manifesto has a very negative connotation in today's society.

So, while I'm sure this schmuck thinks he's being very clever, what he's actually doing is causing the general populace to associate geeks with lunatics, cults and terrorists. They were already perceived as two of the three.

Way to 'win friends and influence people'.

$100k per prisoner per year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041241)

Jails cost hundreds of dollars a day per person in my country.

$100k per prisoner per year

Policy Analysis (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041249)

Policy analysis generally uses longitudinal analysis as well as qualitative analysis to provide data to decision makers with the information they need to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, politicians generally don't always pay attention to factual evidence but this isn't the fault of the staff working the projects.

There's also the fact that factual analyses are influenced by interpretation of data. This is always a grey area which is impacted by morals, etc, etc, etc.

This is a much bigger problem than most people are willing to admit.

There is only one moral call (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041259)

Coercion is immoral (except in pure self-defense, where it is moral). This would, of course, challenge the very foundation of government, and that is exactly why you will never hear a politician say it.

Re:There is only one moral call (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041355)

Ron Paul talks about this all the time.

Freedom is living without government coercion.

The “Right” to Healthcare is Based on Theft and Coercion

He has a sign on his desk that says "Don't steal, the government hates competition"

Re:There is only one moral call (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041419)

He is a nutjob, thanks for confirming that.

Using taxes to buy stuff for everyone is not theft, no matter how many crazies claim it is. The Right to healthcare is based on many things, not one of them is theft nor coercion. I see no wall keeping him or you in the USA.

Re:There is only one moral call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041597)

The Right to healthcare is based on many things, not one of them is theft nor coercion.

Oh really? Under Obama's plan, if I don't go out and pay for my health insurance, the government will then fine me. How is that not coercion? If I don't do what they want me to do, they will take my money. Is that not both coercion and theft? How is it any different if someone has a gun in my back and tells me to hand over my money or they will shoot me?

Further, you are stating the healthcare money is a tax. So on top of everything else, you now want me to pay for my next door neighbor ('s' actually) healthcare who smoke even though smoking is known to cause cancer and emphysema. Instead of forcing them to quit, you want them to be able to continue smoking while I get to pick up the tab. How nice of you.

There is no right to healthcare contrary to what you and others say. If you want healthcare, you pay for it. Or should I be forced to pay for your car because you think everyone has a right to drive? Funny how a large portion of people on here talk so much about the freedom to choose, yet at the same time a large portion of those same people insist that I have no right to choose whether I want to pay for insurance or not. Funny how that works.

Re:There is only one moral call (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041675)

Heaven forbid a government collect money in order to enable it to do anything.

Re:There is only one moral call (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041885)

>> There is no right to healthcare contrary to what you and others say. If you want healthcare, you pay for it.

If there's no fundamental human right to healthcare, food, and shelter, then there's no fundamental human right to free speech, or association, or any of the those other negative rights that are meaningless when you're dead.

Re:There is only one moral call (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041633)

Ron Paul may be extreme, but he is hardly a nutjob. I doubt that a pure libertarian stance would ever be enacted. However, the amount of tax money misappropriated, lost, unaudited, burned, spent on hookers for the Secret Service... shouldn't the government be held accountable for the necessary burden placed upon its citizenry? Do you think that, perhaps, some common middle ground could be achieved? Take this speech from Pete DeFazio, my favorite local Rep made about trying to pass an audit of the DOD:

DeFazio addresses House committee that blocked Pentagon audit [youtube.com]

I am all for moderate amounts of taxes spent frugally and appropriately and in a completely transparent and open manner. I am not for blindly dismissing ideas from the right simply because they are on the right.

Re:There is only one moral call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041655)

Unfortunately, you are wrong. There is no right to healthcare; we are fortunate to have medical knowledge to have healthcare. The only rights we really have are the rights do do for ourselves what we are capable of doing for ourselves. Whatever happened to self reliance? How many people can be reliant on others before it breaks the collective back of society? There aren't enough docs out there or even healthcare infrastructure for it to be a right.

Re:There is only one moral call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041515)

Said by the same guy who has a taxpayer-funded healthcare plan that would be the envy of most of he population.

Re:There is only one moral call (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041637)

This would, of course, challenge the very foundation of government, and that is exactly why you will never hear a politician say it.

If only it were as easy as merely challenging the foundation of government, the idea that coercion is immoral would have been universally accepted a long time ago.

Stating that coercion is immoral would challenge the very foundation of families, wherein for nearly off human history children have been considered effectively the property of adults.

That's why it's so hard to spread political freedom - because people have been conditioned from infancy to obey the arbitrary dictates of someone more powerful. They learned from an early age that the rules they were forced to abide by didn't apply to the people making the rules. The existence of governments is merely a side effect of this early conditioning.

Religion First (0, Flamebait)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041271)

If you want governments to start basis decisions on logic and sense, you'll need to remove all influence from the religious types first. Until then, we're stuck with some pretty depressingly stupid laws.

Re:Religion First (2)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041485)

The best person I know putting forth the cause of reason and sense is Pope Benedict XVI. Go read his address to the University of Regansburg if you don't believe me. Remember though it's the one that the religions you so deride decided to kill priests and nuns over, because the Pope was stupid enough to tell the truth about how certain religions deny reason.

Lobbyists and Fascists Too (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041489)

Even without religious influences we are going to be stuck with some stupid laws. Drugs are not illegal because some politician thinks they are immoral; drugs are illegal because some fascist racists discovered a convenient way to increase the power of the police, pump up the profits of certain corporations, and attack minority communities while pretending to be working for the benefit of the people. For every idiotic law that you can attribute to religion, there is a dangerous law that can be attributed to lobbyists.

Re:Lobbyists and Fascists Too (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041579)

Oh totally agree. Religion and coprorations write our laws these days.

Re:Religion First (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041629)

I don't think religion is the root of the problem. It's just the most visible sign of the complete irrationality of the human race.

Personally I don't think we can solve this one without leaving behind 99% of the human race, so we're stuck with what we have.

Re:Religion First (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041669)

you'll need to remove all influence from the religious types first

While I agree that we'd be better off without "religous types" such as Pat Robertson and Rick Santorum, I'd like to remind you that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi were also "religious types."

Re:Religion First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041743)

Such a wet-behind-the-ears statement. You really think society will suddenly become logical and reasonable without religion? You are starting to sound like Mao. Idiocy isn't attributable to religion; it's the fallacy of idiots themselves.

Re:Religion First (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041843)

Please re-read your sentence, except this time try substituting "niggers" or "gays" or "jews" for "religious types".

I'd hate to see the laws we'd be stuck with if you were in charge.

Re:Religion First (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041865)

If you want governments to start basis decisions on logic and sense, you'll need to remove all influence from the religious types first. Until then, we're stuck with some pretty depressingly stupid laws.

Yes, because things like "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" are just horrible public policy. Damned zealots.

Some people seem to think that taking religion away will lead to a utopia for humanity. I think it'll just be replaced with something else... communism, fascism, some new-ism. And it would be hellish.

No chance in hell (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041275)

The same skills that get your laid also get you elected...

facts and truth are irrelevant (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041291)

Facts have not been relevant in American politics in a long time. The lawyers are in charge. Lawyers are not taught to find the truth. Lawyers are taught to make the best argument they can for their client. Politicians (who are mostly former lawyers) do the same thing. Instead of "What is best for my country?" the question is "What is the best argument I can make for my party/constituents/re-election bid?"

Engineers are taught to find solutions, so they have a hard time understanding this political reality.

Re:facts and truth are irrelevant (1)

fortfive (1582005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041507)

First, the lawyers are not in charge, and were perhaps significantly influential only at certain times, such as at the founding of the US, and in the 60's and 70's. It appears that the people with money are in charge.

Second, lawyers are taught to practice zealous advocacy within an adversarial system, presenting opposing sides to fact-finder. How well this system works depends on the fact finder. In the US political system, the fact finder is the voting public. This fact is why the founding fathers, especially Jefferson, were so keen on public education. An irrational, non-discerning, non-analytical voter pool will be susceptible to unreasonable arguments.

But even when everything works perfectly, there can still be thoughtful, significant differences of opinion. There are often no objectively quantifiable success criteria, compared to most problems in engineering. But even in engineering, there are still non-engineering considerations that set priorities for engineering projects. Performance v. Battery life, for example.

It's why the US system is often cited as the worst way to come up with an equitable governance ever, except for all the others.

Re:facts and truth are irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041619)

Two of the last three Presidents were lawyers.

You will find many more lawyers in the house and senate.

If the President and Congress are not in charge, who is in charge?

Re:facts and truth are irrelevant (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041693)

"the people with money are in charge."
I wonder if the lawyers outnumber the rich in the federal legislatures.

The ourcome is a different "desired behavior" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041293)

Evidence suggests that: humans don't generally make decisions based on logical choices. They do it based on desires (that may or may not be logical/rational), and then afterwards they rationalize their decision to have it make sense within the context of their world view.

The desire to promote this line of thinking can be applied to specific and formalized venues where you set up processes to ensure that these decision making protocals are followed....

But it is an uphill battle to change human's inate decision making processes to be rational.

Obligatory xkcd: http://xkcd.com/592/ [xkcd.com]

Dawkins Said It... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041305)

I'd never really thought about it much, because I'd spent too much time and effort trying to be "polite" about religion, but Dawkins makes a good point.

People call him a militant atheist. They accuse him of being mean and offensive. But the truth is, religious superstition has all kinds of negative effects on your life, both directly and indirectly. It's time to stop dealing with it with kid gloves.

You want the world to stop with the irrational bullshit? Well there's an international culture of superstitious nonsense and outright denial of science and logic that needs to be dealt with first. We attack people because they're smart. We celebrate the careless oaf. We'd rather have a fake cowboy lead us than a soft-spoken, well read, genuinely smart person. We put the biggest possible jackasses on TV and make them our heroes.

It needs to stop. And treating religion like it's off limits isn't going to get us there. I'm tired of suffering at the hands of stupidity, and I don't want to bite my tongue over it, anymore.

Re:Dawkins Said It... (3, Funny)

slapyslapslap (995769) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041429)

Yeah, you tell 'em Anonymous Coward.

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041487)

We have to confront the climate change cult, once and for all.

We'd rather have a fake cowboy lead us than a soft-spoken, well read, genuinely smart person.

Which is why Americans chose an affirmative-action mediocrity to be their president. Right.

Re:Dawkins Said It... (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041635)

I'm tired of suffering at the hands of stupidity, and I don't want to bite my tongue over it, anymore.

You have a point. But you're missing another. You may suffer just as much or more at the hands of intellectuals.

Let's do Science to it! (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041323)

Okay. I understand logical statements, but what we need is Hypothesis, Tests, CONTROL GROUPS, etc. The scientific method should be applied.

I want to reduce drug use, and sending all users to prison is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.

Who gives a flying fuck what you think. If we did science this way we'd still be fighting against flat-earthers. TEST RESULTS, or STFU.

Re:Let's do Science to it! (2)

fortfive (1582005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041559)

The problem with letting science decide is that science cannot make normative decisions. That is, science cannot tell us whether one outcome is better than another.

Consider water pollution. Science can tell us that if we put *x* mcg of Hg into a stream, *y* number of trout will get contaminated and *z* number of people will get sick, and it will cost the plant *a* number of dollars, which will lead to *b* number of layoffs, and *c* number of people going on food stamps, etc.

What science can't tell us is what value of *x* is the right one.

Re:Let's do Science to it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041683)

Reading comprehension fail

What they shouldn't do is say: 'I want to reduce drug use, and sending all users to prison is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.' That's not at moral call, it's a factual statement; as such it should be evidence-based

This person does not represent... well anything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041329)

So if it turns ou that they do want to resuce drug use and the the most cost effective way to acheive that is indeed to send all users to prison that would be ok?

I think their may be a deeper issue here and if that's the best argument a trained journalist can present I don't think anyone would want them on their side as an advocate.

Re:This person does not represent... well anything (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041461)

If it worked, maybe. It does not work though.

That's Democracy (5, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041333)

Politicians say things that they think will cause us to vote for them. When they say stupid shit, the fault isn't so much in the limited realm of "politics" but rather the much wider realm of all of us. Do most people argue in terms of evidence? You're not going to make politics become evidence-based, until you can answer that last question with a confident Yes.

Re:That's Democracy (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041557)

Excellent points, all.

So then, at this point the question becomes, how do we get most people to argue in terms of evidence (and thus, logic)?

Therein lies the real challenge.

Re:That's Democracy (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041801)

The problem with democracy is that it makes people in general feel responsible for the mistakes of the government, when usually, they had few options and were lied to. It is basically a pressure release to allow corrupt systems to exist without boiling over into revolution.

Test-Driven Government! (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041341)

Every time some politician gets a brainwave for a law, it needs to be tested in the real world. Laws are the programs for social order. To make them and roll them out without testing is as mad as writing a computer program and rolling it out without testing.

Re:Test-Driven Government! (1)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041737)

Every time some politician gets a brainwave for a law, it needs to be tested in the real world. Laws are the programs for social order. To make them and roll them out without testing is as mad as writing a computer program and rolling it out without testing.

Politicians already know better answers but continue with poor policy because a business interest is benefitting. You'll find that's true of most bad social policy. A better way is known, tested and studied, but since that solution is cheap, easy and effective, it's not instituted because the policy conflicts with some entrenched, costly and inefficient business interest. What you're talking about is great and it's already been done and ignored. What you're talking about would require the end of capitalism or a massive reigning in of it.

Lying with math (2)

MsWhich (2640815) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041363)

I agree with Henderson's point. I also think that we should make basic education in statistics part of the math curriculum in schools. When you don't understand statistics, don't know what a standard deviation from the mean is, don't understand the concept of "statistically significant," etc., it's very easy for someone to lie to you by manipulating numbers or misrepresenting study results. Newspaper reporting has never done a particularly good job of accurately reporting study data or scientific findings, but today's news environment (consisting of old-school newspapers desperate for ratings, politically-slanted news organizations, and of course the blogosphere) is orders of magnitude worse. (People should also understand what an order of magnitude is.)

I mean, people are always going to try to lie with numbers and cook their data, but a better-educated public will be inoculated against it to some extent. When a politician says, "Look, this study shows that we save money by sending drug users to prison," you'll have more people who can say, "Wait, those numbers don't look right. How was this data collected? I don't agree with those findings" rather than simply saying, "Oh, okay, someone did a study so it must be true."

Re:Lying with math (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041423)

I agree with Henderson's point. I also think that we should make basic education in statistics part of the math curriculum in schools. When you don't understand statistics, don't know what a standard deviation from the mean is, don't understand the concept of "statistically significant," etc., it's very easy for someone to lie to you by manipulating numbers or misrepresenting study results.

What if the average person doesn't have enough raw brainpower to understand statistics?

Re:Lying with math (1)

MsWhich (2640815) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041567)

We expect the average person graduating from high school to have enough raw brainpower to be able to read, write, and do a non-trivial amount of mathematics. If you can get through an algebra class, you can get through a very basic stats class. Or even just a stats unit in one of your other math classes. I don't think it makes sense to tailor the entire curriculum to people who are too dumb to be able to do algebra. Some people can't manage to write a coherent paragraph either, and yet we still expect students to be able to do that.

Federalism (4, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041409)

Theoretically, this is one of the arguments in favor of Federalism. Local communities can beta-test new ideas before they go into general deployment.

Doesn't always quite work that way, but that's the idea.

Re:Federalism (2)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041859)

Theoretically, this is one of the arguments in favor of Federalism. Local communities can beta-test new ideas before they go into general deployment.

Doesn't always quite work that way, but that's the idea.

I think that was one of the understood and therefore unstated goals of the designer of the US system: to enable n parallel experiments in government, with the ability of individuals to vote with their feet if they realized that too many of their local fellows disagreed with their personal theories. Unfortunately, one of the legacies of the civil war was a drive toward national unification, and not just in terms of keeping all of the states in the federation. Over a roughly 50-year period after the war, states harmonized their criminal and civil codes to a large degree, and we started to introduce lots of federal oversight/interference, culminating eventually in the 16th and 17th amendments which gutted state authority and put the federal government firmly in the driver's seat.

Personally, I'd like to see us go back to much greater local control. I'd like to repeal the 16th and 17th amendments, replacing the 17th with a system of mandatory levies by the federal government on the states, proportioned by state GDP. Each year, the federal budget would be apportioned out to the states, whose legislatures would have to figure out how to come up with their share, whether through taxation or debt. Meanwhile, state legislatures would regain the ability to sack Senators who displeased them. I'd also like to see the federal criminal code mostly repealed, retaining only crimes whose interstate nature clearly cannot be addressed by states.

I'm just dreaming, of course.

Fuck me, this is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041425)

From the Grauniad:

Mark Henderson suggests that we should have an Office of Scientific Responsibility to apply the "evidence or STFU" rule to Parliament. This wouldn't restrict the autonomy of ministers, but: "when science is cited to justify a policy, the OSR would audit it, naming and shaming those who bend it to their political advantage."

Yeah, and exactly WHO gets to appoint the public servants to this "Office of Scientific Responsibility"? The government, that's who. Guess what? The Office will then proceed to find fault with everything oppositions do and nothing the government does.

Why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041445)

Why should any geek stay in the US. They are treated like shit. Move to Singapore or china where geeks are respected and treated right. The US put prision all the real hackers. Do you think we have forgotten. No.

Backwards and dangerous (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041459)

Politicians are free to say: 'I think people on drugs should be punished because drugs are immoral.' That's a moral call, albeit a rather stupid one in my opinion. What they shouldn't do is say: 'I want to reduce drug use, and sending all users to prison is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.' That's not at moral call, it's a factual statement; as such it should be evidence-based, or else the person making it should shut the hell up."

This is a terrifying position. The government should never ever regulate morality. If you think something is immoral, don't do it. When you force your moral values on others, that's tyranny.

Government exists for practical reasons. We are trying to accomplish something by having a government, so every law should have a basis in practicality.

Politicians absolutely should say, 'I want to reduce drug use, and sending all users to prison is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.'. Because if they say that, that's a falsifiable claim that we can disprove with evidence. That means we can potentially change their minds by presenting evidence. You can't do that when someone has made a subjective moral judgement.

Re:Backwards and dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041561)

I wouldn't read too much into "immoral". By "immoral", what they mean is "the social costs / negative externalities of drug use are very high, and causing such high social costs is immoral". It's really a complaint about the social costs of drug use rather an abstract idea about morality.

Re:Backwards and dangerous (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041593)

What you're saying is that the claim of immorality is actually a factual claim. If that's the case, we can and should measure those social costs and compare them to the social costs of prohibition. If we did that, we'd find that it's prohibition that is "immoral".

Re:Backwards and dangerous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041835)

This is a terrifying position. The government should never ever regulate morality. If you think something is immoral, don't do it. When you force your moral values on others, that's tyranny.

Wrong, we have laws against things precisely because they are immoral. Rape isn't prevented becuse it's "cost-effective". It's prevented because it's fucking evil. It's true that not all immoral things should be illegal but it's wrong to say that the law isn't about morality at all, it is. In an ideal world, illegal would be a subset of immoral, and only that which is extremely immoral, enough so that violence is justified in response e.g. theft, rape, assault, etc.

Science and politics don't mix (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041463)

More FORMER scientists in public office is great. But don't start politicizing science. For the same reason you don't want to politicize the military... it has serious negative consequences.

Re:Science and politics don't mix (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041797)

It wouldn't politicize science - it would sciencify politics.

Stop the thread (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041467)

politics and logic have no place together in our time. Except for the insanely rich... and those who have no morals and will kiss butt rather than work hard to achieve success. Oh wait - that's politics.

We need more nerds/geeks/etc in politics! (1)

ckthorp (1255134) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041505)

I am deeply involved with party politics in my state. There is a deep need to get more technical people involved. Many friends I have talked to either "don't have the time" or think "it's so broken it can't be fixed". I say that the only reason it requires so much time and is so broken is precisely because normal everyday people aren't getting involved.

Politics takes time and energy, but it is run by those who show up. Please take time and get involved. I really couldn't care less which party you choose because the more people that get involved, the better the process will work. The SOPA fight was just the start. Let's get involved and show the world what this country can do.

Re:We need more nerds/geeks/etc in politics! (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041687)

Agreed. Let's start our own political party. Who's in?

I'll be happy if... (-1, Offtopic)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041509)

We can get them not to claim the Earth is 6000 years old [youtube.com] !

Re:I'll be happy if... (1)

hackula (2596247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041685)

...the day after the rapture, when all of the Unitarians get sucked up into the sky

Re:I'll be happy if... (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041739)

There was nothing natural about the way she slipped that comment in there. She clearly just slid it in there for her constituents.

my take (5, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041525)

I've been working fulltime in an elected, political position for about six years, so I kind of know what I'm talking about here:

If you get the chance, do it. This is a real win-win for everyone when it happens. It will help you do things with real meaning and bring about some important changes. I'm modest when I say that my approach to the office revolutionized it and most of the methods I developed are still in use today, four years after I left. That is the "evidence-based" approach TFA talks about, but more. Geeks in general have a less ideological approach to methods and procedures: We tend to have it easier dropping stuff that doesn't work instead of clinging to it "because we've always done it this way". That does get you into political fights sometimes, when you unceremoniously dump the pet method of someone, but it works and that's where you get the credit and trust you need to push more changes through.

And it also benefits you tremendeously. My social skills advanced greatly in this time. Instead of sitting at a computer most day with occasional meetings, my job suddenly was mostly about meeting people.

Negotiations are the greatest thing, ever. A geek with some negotiation training is most opponents worst nightmare. Most of us don't care enough about our own image to be tricked with the various ad hominem dialectics, and we have a great ability to cut through the bullshit and hit the facts of the matter. And since numbers and math are our friends, we aren't easily fooled by bullshit statistics.

And finally, you will almost certainly find that law is not the evil enemy, but just a different type of code. After a few years on the job, I was regularily discussing with full-time lawyers at eye level. A basic understanding of the law - not of any particular law, but the way the law in general works - is a benefit that will pay you back for the rest of your life.

So yes, yes, yes - if you geeks find an opportunity to enter politics, by all means do it. It doesn't have to be a for-life choice. I would've certainly been re-elected for a third term, but decided not to run again because I'd had enough. It isn't always easy, and sometimes all the politics and the people with their pet agendas and all the personal crap gets on your nerves, a lot. I wouldn't want to do it for live, but it was more than worth it doing it for a few years, and I know that both myself and the office profited from it.

Did I say you should go and do it?

Speaking of the war on drugs... (5, Insightful)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041531)

Years ago -- maybe thirty five years ago -- around the time Nixon's first War on Drugs was called, there was a big study by the army and the RAND corporation (the main, outside advisory research bureau) analyzing the effects on drug use of various approaches to it. They studied four. The one that came out the most cost effective was prevention and treatment by a large margin. Next, much more expensive and less effective, was police work. Still less effective and more costly was border interdiction. And least effective and most costly was out-of-country operations like chemical warfare in Columbia. Well, the methods that are used are the exact opposite. Most of the funding goes into cross-border operations (least effective, most costly,) next, interdiction and police action, and least to prevention and treatment. Rational people don't keep pursuing a policy that's failing when they know there's a better policy unless there's some other reason, and I think the other reason is not terribly hidden.

Out-of-country operations are just a cover for counter-insurgency, or for clearing land in Columbia and driving out peasants so multi-national corporations can come in for mining, and resource-extraction, and agribusiness, and macra production, and so on. Which is why you have (outside of Afghanistan) probably the largest refugee population in the world in Columbia. The War on Drugs is not effecting drug production. In fact, it's going up.. But it's going to continue because that wasn't the purpose.

Here in the United States, the drug war has been associated, clearly, with a very sharp rise in incarceration. If you go back to 1980, the prison population in the United States, per capita, was approximately like other industrial countries -- kind of toward the high end, but not off the chart. Now, it's five to ten times as high and still going up. And most of it is drug related (also, length of sentences, and repeated sentences, and so on.)

And it mostly targets what are called the "dangerous classes," the poor, minorities, and so on. So like, black males, is astronomical. On the other hand, drug use among wealthy people is barely prosecuted. So it's a class-based form of control of superfluous population, and for that purpose, it seems to be working.

It's also making a lot of money for commercial enterprises. What some criminologists call the prison-industrial complex has been a pretty substantial development, especially for rural counties, it's a Godsend. When they build prisons, it brings in construction work, jobs, and surveillance. A couple of years ago, maybe still, the fastest growing white-collar profession was security officer, and it gets rid of people you don't want anything to do with. They don't have a place in the current industrial system. And there's also racial elements involved. So you can say the drug war is a success for what its real purpose is, but not for its proclaimed purposes. -Noam Chomsky

duh, politics has always been political (3, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041569)

the US Constitution was a result of months of bitter argument and bickering. same with politics in almost every democracy on earth. except that you will normally have a party win 40% or so of the vote and they will have to make a coalition with lots of smaller parties and make political deals as a process

this is called life. the US has 300 million people. say almost 200 million adults who can vote. almost everyone will have different opinions on every subject based on their home location, upbringing, etc.

to pass laws that affect different people you have to make political deals

this childish star trek fantasy of an all wise council making the right decision is just a fantasy. there is no right decision for most people

Re:duh, politics has always been political (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041709)

this childish star trek fantasy of an all wise council making the right decision is just a fantasy. there is no right decision for most people

Many societies in Africa still has an all wise council making decisions for the tribe. Indians are said to have had a council that looked into the 7th generation in the future before making a consequence.

See where it got them.

Re:duh, politics has always been political (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041819)

it might work for a few thousand people, but not for modern nations of tens of millions of people living across millions of square miles, different climates, etc

Re:duh, politics has always been political (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041767)

Then someone should make them all agree. Someone should force logical decisions, rules, and laws. Someone should end this destructive conflict and bring order to this world. Someone wise.

Re:duh, politics has always been political (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041781)

I noticed that while you're comparing the US to its international contemporaries, you forgot to mention that your basis for comparison is completely worthless in a two-party system, such as we have here. Awesome false equivalency, though... barely even felt the bump.

Re:duh, politics has always been political (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041901)

the US two party system is in name only. in effect we have what we always had, the small states vs the big states and cities vs suburban/rural areas. the opinions of republicans and democrats will differ based on their state and where they are within their state. there are democrats from smaller states that are more conservative than republicans from north east states

the electoral college is partly the result of this city vs rural political battle

i live in NYC but the political opinions of those who live in the 99% by land mass of NY State outside NYC will usually be very different from us city people

Moral calls are everywhere (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40041599)

That's not at moral call, it's a factual statement; as such it should be evidence-based, or else the person making it should shut the hell up."

When you say that the person making it should shut up, that is also a moral call. Who are you to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do?

Ummm, no... (4, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041653)

You know who has societies where "geeks" (engineers, mainly) are highly placed throughout government? China, Iran and many other closed societies run by authoritarian states. Geek arrogance toward the common man combined with political power is an extremely dangerous combination. Thanks, but no.

"Scientific government" sounds great until you realize that in practice it'll be run by people who think statecraft and philosophy are nearly worthless endeavors and that it'll likely have an attitude of "hey, let's try this radical restructure of people's lives because the theory sounds great and looks applicable on paper."

Heres your evidence (2)

hackula (2596247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041665)

The "evidence" is typically found in an envelope discretely left on a senator's desk. What more does one need to make a decision? The more zeroes, the better the evidence!

Geeks are as bad as anyone else (3, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#40041725)

"That's not at moral call, it's a factual statement; as such it should be evidence-based, or else the person making it should shut the hell up."

Right there is the problem. Geeks are often, by nature, chock full of hubris. Assuming that you have all the evidence, and that all your evidence is correct, and that you have interpreted the correct conclusion from your evidence, and therefore anyone who questions your evidence should just "shut the hell up", is not conducive to compromise or cooperation. It is precisely THAT attitude that got the U.S. into Iraq, to cite a recent example ("We KNOW there are WMD's, and we KNOW Saddam is going to use them, so we're going to invade Iraq and the rest of you can just shut the hell up.").

This is a constant problem at my office, where the .Net developers are so bloated with hubris that they think their applications are perfect, and always want to blame the DB2 database first when something goes wrong. And they continue to do this, even though evidence indicates that 99% of the time they have a bug in their application.

"Evidence" is not always objective, or correct, and geeks are just as prone to ignore facts as anyone else.

 

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