Dmytro Taranovsky
Back to my homepage.

Special Notes

These notes contain valuable information that is not well known. Since I frequently add new information, not all parts are thoroughly verified. Scroll down the page for various topics.
Contents:
General Notes: Suggestions for Governmental Action, Art and Fiction, Other
Computers and Software
On the USA Constitution and Laws: general, Human Rights (general), Equality, Freedom of Speech
Philosophy

General Notes

Suggestions for Governmental Action

Key Issues:
Government: Assuming that it is safely achievable, a properly functioning world government is best. Alternatively, there is more international cooperation and global institutions have more power. The government is a democracy, and it respects human rights. The people and their elected representatives are aware of their own ignorance. The election winners and government officials are selected mostly on the basis of competence rather than on specific policy views. Human rights are protected by an impartial judiciary, with the general understanding that political majorities are sometimes wrong about which rights are fundamental. The world government structure is federalist -- to allow experimentation and additional protection that individual governments choose to give.
Human Rights: See my other writings (below and here and here).
Morality: Utilitarian (as properly understood; see my other writings).
Sexuality: See my other writings.
Education: Well-organized online resources allow universal free education, which is high-quality and individually customized. Human teachers enrich this system.
Capitalism: Free markets are valued. The government uses taxes and incentives to deal with market externalities.
Research: Research is recognized as a key function of government. There is emphasis on comprehensiveness and diversity, long term vision, and the development of tools that will accelerate the research. A key purpose of government is to accelerate the likely arrival of a positive "technological singularity". Software plays a key role as a research-accelerating tool (along with its role in empowerment and productivity). Also, poverty is mitigated through research on affordable living.

Voter Turnout: [Update: I no longer believe that voter turnout is the key problem; instead, lack of knowledge, bias, and unawareness of bias are the problem.] Democracy requires participation of the general public, and is threatened by the low voter turnout at many elections. To increase voter turnout, incentives (such as a few dollars per voter) should be given to voters when they vote (regardless of for whom the vote was cast). However, a partial counterargument is that turnout reflects motivation; with differential turnout, stronger preferences get more votes and thus the result may better reflect the sum of all preferences. Deficient rationality and knowledge by the voters are a problem regardless of turnout.

Broadcast Licenses: Broadcast license costs should provide incentives for valuable (such as educational) programming and reduced commercials.

War on Terrorism and Secrecy: The current "war on terrorism" is too secret. It is essential for the public to know what the government is doing so that the policy (and the government) can be evaluated and abuses corrected. Note: (Added Aug 5, 2009) This issue was improved but not resolved under President Obama.

Overregulation and Overcriminalization: Overregulation, including overcriminalization, is a substantial problem, impairing freedom and innovation. The government has a natural bias towards regulation: Those in authority naturally tend to have an authoritarian bias, the government is overconfident in the correctness of its opinions, freedom is often not treated as an important value, and there is insufficient consideration towards unexpected and new actions. A common government behavior issue is (to exaggerate a bit) that instead of holding that laws are meant to be enforced, one holds that everything really wrong has to be criminal. The prevalence of unenforced laws promotes arbitrary punishment and undermines the rule of law. Admittedly, however, finding the right regulatory balance is often hard.

Taxation and public good: The government should increase taxation of negative externalities. Such taxation both collects revenue and causes better decisions. Economically, there is little market incentive to take externalities in account, so taxation and government funding are needed to provide the incentives and thus cause better behavior. Manufacturers (and manufactured imports) should be taxed based on the pollution the process creates. Energy power plants, rather than subjected to a complex set of regulatory permits, should be subject to a pollution tax, which would reduce damage to the environment in the most efficient way. The government should add a moderate tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. The tax will raise revenue and reduce global warming, and it is more transparent than a cap-and-trade system. Reasonable tax incentives should discourage wasteful sports utility vehicles. Some of the government revenue must be used to fund positive externalities and public goods. Selective taxation should also correct personal decisions--unlike many business decisions, personal consumption decisions are often irrational. For example, fast-food that is bad for health should be taxed. The government needs taxes to spend the money on projects that would not be cost effective for an individual business but whose total benefit (including third party benefit, for which the business would be unable to charge) is much better than the cost. However, taxes decrease incentives to do what is taxed and hence are in most cases inefficient. The government should pick the most efficient places to tax and tax until the marginal inefficiency of taxation corresponds to marginal benefit over cost of government funding.

Shadow Environmental Pollution Tax: While an outright tax is preferable, in its absence one option for EPA is to deny permits when the project would have been economically unsound but for lack of accountability for environmental pollution, including pollution through greenhouse gasses.

Limitations of free market economy: Free market economy is generally efficient. However, it fails to account for externalities (both positive and negative). Key to longterm success is information (especially, research and technology), and free market economy does not by itself adequately deal with that (except to some extent, personalized information). Thus, a key role of government is to improve knowledge and other positive externalities. Free market also functions suboptimally in the case of a single buyer or seller on a market.

Privatization: Privatization of industries (to achieve efficiency) is appropriate but only if the companies must obey basic laws, are forbidden to engage in fraud or deception, and are taxed based on the external damage (such as pollution) they make. Moreover, for certain fields, such as education, regulations (which are meant to be obeyed) and incentives (meant to influence decision making) must ensure public good (essential, but very difficult to measure), consistency (different customers receive the same quality of service), nondiscrimination (and safeguarding basic due process rights), reliability, and security against disruptions. If there is a deficiency of meaningful competition, price controls (or, when appropriate, break-ups) are to be applied as needed. Privatization must be constrained to ensure that are people are safe and secure (from erratic private decisions). The government must also provide incentives for people to make right choices: For example, library access should be free to encourage research and reading. The government should ensure that every person has resources (such as money) to receive basic service and have meaningful opportunities for advancement. The resources come from taxation and from licensing of public property. It is preferable to license rather than to sell public resources to provide continuous revenue stream and flexibility, and to allow cancellation of mistakes. However, the above is not meant to disparage free market, properly constrained.

Welfare: To the extent that it is feasible, the government has an ethical / human rights obligation to provide for basic needs of the people. In the USA today, it is possible to satisfy everyone's nutritional needs: The trick is to mass produce foods from cheap ingredients (which are altered as the market changes) mixed in the proportions to satisfy nutritional needs; since the food produced will not be exciting or tasty, demand will not be too large and incentives to earn money will be retained. It should be possible to make second class medicine cheap and available to everyone; however, much of medicine will remain for pay and perhaps expensive. Computers (with appropriate accessories and internet connections) will provide inexpensive opportunities for societal participation and advancement.

"War" on Drugs: While it is essential for the government to protect people from harms and dangers of drug use, the primary purpose must be to protect, not to punish. Long sentences for drug users do not provide the protection, but impose severe hardships on people, cost much, and harm the society as incarceration prevents people from working and contributing to the community. More emphasis should be on education and treatment. Moreover, the total damage from illegal drugs is much less than that of tobacco and alcohol. The government must shift focus from illegal drugs to tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana should be legal because it is (somewhat) less dangerous than tobacco, is non-addictive, and has medical uses. At least some hallucinogens should be legal because of their mind-expanding effects and low damage and addictiveness. I am unsure about drug legalization in general.

Health care reform: (Added Aug 5, 2009). Health care reform in the United States should consist of research, deregulation, and expanded access to medical care. In the long term, scientific and technological research is the main factor in improving health care. We should also specifically research ways to lower health care costs. Deregulation implies greater freedom to develop and use new therapies and drugs; it also includes patent law reform. The problem with simply expanding health insurance is how to deal with its cost. The government should place a floor on the monetary value of a year of healthy life, and ensure that universal health care in the United States is available accordingly (without preventing persons with money from buying additional care). Also, as others said, emphasis should placed on disease prevention, including nutrition and exercise.

Importation of Prescription Drugs: As long as imported drugs are clearly labeled, people who are afraid about the safety can choose not to buy them; other people--especially the poor--will save money by buying imported drugs.

Overpopulation: Poverty can be eliminated only if there is technology that helps people and the world population is not too large. Technology is needed to convert natural resources into goods for human consumption. However, technology can succeed in eliminating poverty only if there are sufficient natural resources so that each person has the necessary resources and large inequalities, being a necessary incentive for work, continue to exist. The goal can only be achieved by strict population control so that natural resources on earth would suffice. Moreover, at some point, usage of natural resources must become self-sustainable, and the environment, being necessary for human life and happiness, must be preserved. Since these goals cannot be accomplished with the present technology and population of over 6 billion, world population should be reduced. Appropriate measures (such as free (and sometimes mandatory) birth control and education) should be taken now, because continued use of natural resources can cause irreparable harm and because all moral population control measures are limited to reduction of creation of people and thus require a long time. (Eliminating people who are already created is immoral.) Because of the population explosion, the number of people who live in poverty increases despite the advancement of technology. Without government mandated population control, the size of population will probably be controlled by natural factors, such as poverty and disease.

Eugenics: Animals receive good genes through evolution--animals with bad genetic material cannot survive or reproduce. Evolution is a necessary process since preventing genetic defects is necessary for survival. Medicine prevents human evolution from working properly since medicine (and other technology) allows people with bad genes to reproduce. The problem should be corrected by the government. The government should encourage people with good genes to reproduce, discourage or prevent people with bad genes from reproducing and encourage genetic engineering to improve genes. Such policy would be highly beneficial since genes are very important in determining a person's physical (and to an extent mental) qualities, and thus such policies will greatly improved the quality of people created. However, because of potential side effects, genetic selection should be adopted cautiously.
Note: (Added Aug 5, 2009) Eugenics raises difficult human rights issues. Also, in a few decades, rapid technological progress will completely transform the issue.

Species Conservation: Genetic material from sufficiently many individuals of every endangered species should be saved: Extinction of a species constitutes an irreparable loss, but future technology is likely to allow restoration of a species from genetic material. Many chemicals that to led to creation of important medicines were first discovered in rare species of plants (but this is not the main benefit of conservation).

Language and Culture Preservation: Globalization is in the process of causing most human languages to become extinct and most cultures absorbed into the mainstream. Scientists should study and digitally record every language and the aspects of culture, including artistic and literary work. Such recordings would provide a wealth of linguistic and sociological data. In addition, various cultures may have accumulated valuable insights(including works of art) that are unlikely to be discovered spontaneously in modern cultures because the insights depend on the conditions in which the aboriginal cultures developed, and such conditions may be absent in the modern society.

Indecency on radio and television: The government should drop indecency regulations since "indecent" content is often useful or enjoyable. In place, the government should mandate an indecency flag so that those not willing to see or hear indecent content could set their equipment not to display it.

Regulation of Human Interaction: The government may prohibit certain interactions as a punishment for a crime, for lack of consent of a person involved in the interaction, for physical harm (including property harm) or danger, for absence of proper psychological guidance, or for unfairness (or failure to pay sales/income taxes) in cases of compensation or payment. (Altering chemical balance in the brain through mind altering drugs or preventing normal functioning of the brain is physical harm.) However, the above reasons are probably the only legitimate reasons for prohibiting human interaction; and the prohibitions should be based on criteria that are directly relevant to the reasons above. The government has a duty (not necessarily enforceable in courts) to prevent, whenever feasible, poverty, serious harm (including harm from neglect) to people's bodies, and unbearable suffering.

Immigration: In ordinary cases, decisions by the USA government on whether to accept an immigrant should be based on whether the benefits (what the immigrant is likely to do or bring) of the immigrant outweigh the resource consumption by the immigrant. Assuming optimum population, this occurs when the immigrant is better than an average American. Salary is an important indicator of the net benefit (the value of an individual as judged by the market typically corresponds to salary), but other factors are often more important.
Subject to safety constraints, the government should be admit anyone who pays or otherwise compensates for the resource use.

Laws of War: War is a breakdown of civilization, so ordinary laws do not entirely apply. For the same reason, wars should be used only when necessary and to the minimum extent and with minimal harm and abridgments of rights necessary. Certain tactics and weapons should not be used since they cause harm (particularly, to the civilian population) that is disproportional to the need. These ideas are incorporated in international law since while their enforcement is needed, unilateral compliance puts the party at a military disadvantage and is thus uncertain.

War in Iraq (2003): United States easily won the recent (2003) Iraq war partially because of its great military abilities but also because sanctions prevented Iraq from remilitarizing, Iraqi military command was ineffective, and, more importantly, the regime collapsed because of lack of support of the people. The vast majority of Iraqis surrendered or did not try to fight in the first place; had the Iraqi done their best against the USA, the war would have been much more difficult and military occupation would not be so easy. While the war was beneficial as it removed from power an inefficient and abusive regime, I believe it was wrong because it was initiated without due process of law. It was alleged that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but no compelling evidence was shown (despite the unlimited UN inspections to which Iraq agreed) and no independent tribunal evaluated the allegations. It appears that Iraq abused human rights, but its abuses were presented simply as a side reason for the war. The Coalition never presented Iraq with specific human rights demands, and there never was an impartial evaluation of which rights were abused and what Iraq must do about human rights.

Patents: The benefit of patents is to provide incentives for innovations. However, patents are inefficient as they cause prices to be artificially above the production costs, and prevent or restrict competitors from using beneficial innovation. Mandating that patents be licensed under reasonable and nondiscriminatory (RAND) terms will preserve the incentives (in the form of loyalties) but greatly limit the inefficiencies and anticompetitive behavior. Current patent law is overbroad and should require a meaningful invention before patenting.

World Government

I support creation of world government, provided that human rights concerns (and other requirements) are addressed.
* A key function of the government is to support research (discovery of information), but since the benefit is usually global, individual nations (and corporations) acting in self-interest do not have sufficient incentives. International aid is similarly being neglected.
* With improved communication and other factors, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and the problems increasingly global, and thus deserve a global response; in the future, national boundaries will become increasingly artificial.
* Human rights must be protected globally, and a world government can help with that.
* The greatest threat to humanity comes from future technology. Specifically, there is substantial existential risk that destructive potential of some future technology will overcome our ability to defend (and even a one-time temporary imbalance is sufficient for annihilation). A world government can help to police dangerous technologies. (However, for the most part, it is important for new technologies to be created as soon as possible.)

The risk of world government is that it will become a dictatorship or otherwise ignore human rights, which is particularly dangerous since with the government being global, there might be no one to overthrow it. Another risk is too much centralization and reduction in government structure experimentation, but this can be addressed through policy.

With regard to human rights and weapon control, an alternative to a world government is an international framework to enforce the requirements that is supported, when necessary, by military action. However, to be effective, this comes reasonably close to a world government.

One possibility for world government formation is rapid technological change combined with a government or entity obtaining a certain technology ahead of others, and creating a world government unilaterally. However, there is a high risk that a world government formed this way will not protect human rights (including the right to vote).

As of 2011, no nation (and certainly not USA) meets human rights requirements for a world government. Moreover, human rights violations are regularly committed in the name of protection of human rights. Nevertheless, there are processes and structures that may effectively protect human rights against world government. For example, if certain global surveillance is needed to prevent creation of weapons of mass destruction, such surveillance could be authorized for just that purpose only, and information gained used only for that purpose and not even to stop murder or rape.

Art and Fiction

About art: A work of art is an item that causes pleasure not directly but indirectly through information. The information itself is also referred as a work of art. The pleasure is caused through association of the information with pleasant feelings and through the intrinsic beauty of the information. Information is made beautiful through variety and order, and occasionally through presentation of profound truths. Without order, the information would be random and useless; without variety, the information would be monotonic and useless.

The pleasant feelings are sometimes that of freedom and power. For much of popular music, as well as for some movies and video games, the pleasure is caused by captivating the mind on the sensation, that is through a temporary altered state of consciousness in which the brain is concentrated on the music. Some people like loud or extreme music (and extreme movies and video games) because such music presents strong stimuli and thus effectively captures the mind. The unusual qualities are also associated with freedom. Music is particularly effective for causing emotions (directly or indirectly) because of the close association in the brain between sound and thought--thoughts themselves are often perceived as imaginary sounds. Some people like nonfiction because nonfiction is viewed as truth rather than imagination, and thus may produce stronger feelings.

The distinction between 'popular' and 'cultivated' art is in the amount and level of mental processing expected of the audience. 'Popular' art relies on simple mental associations. For example, pornography relies on the association of the images with pleasant sexual feelings, thus vicariously bringing the feelings to the audience. 'Cultivated' art does not cause strong sensation or strong direct associations in the brain, but instead relies on thought and subtlety to bring pleasure. For example, 'classical' music causes pleasure through understanding of the structure of the music. Because 'cultivated' art relies more on intrinsic beauty than on direct pleasant feelings, it tends to have more variety and order than 'popular' art.

Some of the best works of literature, music, and art were written centuries ago even though at present there are many more people and much more knowledge available. It seems that what the present authors are missing compared to authors centuries ago is the required culture: Authors and artists in previous centuries were immersed in different cultures from today; today's cultures are missing some of the good elements of the past. (Of course, today's cultures are more advanced and on the whole better than the past cultures.)

What makes a novel great: A great novel has an integrated multilevel plot--numerous small events smoothly integrate into or with large events. The story is very rich and involves adventure, suspense, special moments, humor, and great psychological depth with some philosophical content. Suspense (with information disclosures to keep the suspense) should cause the reader to want to continue reading. The descriptions are exciting and are neither too short nor boring. The characters are psychologically real. What makes Harry Potter novels special is extensive use of magic to make the plot incredibly rich and not boring while retaining the psychological accuracy that makes the novel feel real.

Children's books are characterized by a type of simplicity and their liberal use of appealing imagination.

Theorizing about Fiction: A work of fiction partially, but not completely, specifies a world of human imagination. A theory about the work adds more specifications about the fictional work. Technically, different theories about a single work of fiction simply refer to different sets of imagined worlds. In practice, the same mental structures that from partial description of our world create additional descriptions and evaluate accuracy of proposed theories are responsible for theorizing about fiction and for evaluating fiction theories. Accordingly, some theories about a work of fiction appear to be more accurate than others, and just like being unable to decide on a crucial aspect of our world is dissatisfying, readers are dissatisfied when they cannot infer a crucial aspect of the fictional world.

Other

Note on the future: (as of 2012) Not far from now (before 2030) automation will come full-circle, and factories will become self-replicating. Material production will no longer depend on human resources. Solar cells (and/or other sources of energy) will produce petawatts of electricity; with sufficient energy and automation, plenty of minerals can be mined and goods created. The long term risk is not from climate change (which can easily be controlled given sufficient capacity), but from dangers from future technologies.
Also, my rough projection is that human aging will effectively be solved (including for world's poor) around 2040. For those who cannot survive that long, cryogenic storage can be used with high (but not certain) prospects of eventual recovery.
However, in the short term, poverty and environmental damage are major problems. Government support is key for accelerating the technological transformation. Also, the rate of future development is uncertain with "expert" predictions ranging from singularity around 2030 to global warming still being a problem in 2100, so some resources should be used for the slow-technological-development contingency.

Altered states of consciousness are appropriate if and only if the following conditions are met: no evil purpose, safety, no damage (to oneself or others), the state is voluntary (and can be left at any time), fundamental rights of other people are preserved, the state is very limited in time, key decisions in life are made logically, not in the altered state of consciousness.

An altered state of consciousness is a state in which the person does not think logically, and thus, in a way loses humanity. While there is nothing inherently immoral about such states, strict guidelines are necessary to prevent serious harm due to the lack of logic. Because mind-altering drugs are unsafe and produce prolonged and partially involuntary altered state of consciousness, the drugs (with certain medicinal exceptions) should not be used.

Sexual activity is moral if and only if it is consensual, it is safe, and proper psychological guidance is given if there is a likelihood of psychological harm.

When being "teased", try to just enjoy the attention and dissociate the self from the teasing. Try to ignore the apparent damage to dignity as a universal level of dignity is inherent in every person. If there is no substantial physical damage, then why be upset? (Actions against teasing are also appropriate, of course.)

Cloning: Currently (2006), research on cloning is best done on animals: This way important information is learned while ethical and scarcity problems are avoided. However, eventually, cloning might be the easiest way to replace aging body parts. Ethical issues would mostly avoided by ensuring that the clone does not develop the higher brain.

On Reversing Aging: The most difficult problem in reversing aging is preserving the brain. The brain is delicate and with cells susceptible to damage, is very difficult to regenerate, and can only partially reconfigure itself. The brain is the most important part of the body, and unlike other parts cannot be replaced.

Formality in Language: Sentences in formal language mean exactly what they state according to the rules of semantics. Informal and figurative language is converted into formal language through special transformation rules, which are often unstated.

Importance of Formalization: Many fields of knowledge are plagued by disagreement even in the most basic aspects. By contrast, in mathematics, mathematical results can be verified mechanically by computer programs, so there are essentially no disagreements on the validity of various theorems. This occurs because mathematics can be formalized as what can be derived from given axiomatic systems, and such derivations checked mechanically.
The lack of (and disinterest to) formalization in physics is unfortunate.

Points of view that appear shocking and radical in one society can be generally accepted in other societies. Gradual introduction of a non-conventional beneficial view can gradually repeal the apprehension and cause acceptance.

About Heroism: A hero is someone who faces a difficult struggle for an important and good purpose, and succeeds. Personality traits of heroes are determination to achieve the goals, careful logical thinking (and high intelligence), and a deep commitment toward helping the world. In accordance with my main beliefs, any person has a potential to become a hero. Heroes are often idealized and are a subject of people's imagination. In people's imagination, heroes are often beautiful, healthy, and (physically) strong. In popular American imagination, heroes are often entertaining and fun.

About Vengeance: Revenge may harm the object of hate, but it does not undo any harm. There is no reason to harm a person, unless the harm brings special benefit. The desire of vengeance occurs because the harm to the object being hated is associated with correcting the bad actions of that object. However, when the associations are fictitious, the feelings of vengeance should be ignored. Instead of hate, people should love because hate is self-destructive (and harmful to health) and love is constructive.

Disagreements:
There is a paradox associated with disagreements. Suppose that A and B have different opinions (say, A holds P and B holds not P) based on what they know, excluding arguments from authority. Why is the disagreement likely to remain even if arguments from authority are not specifically excluded? After all, if A trusts A's judgment more than B's judgment about P, why should not B do the same?
(Note: Here, 'authority' is used as in expert rather than as legal authority.)
Here are factors that explain the disagreement:
- Confidence Bias: Humans tend to be overconfident in their views.
- Self-serving bias: Tendency to believe what one desires to be true.
- Problems with authorities: To a large extent humans use arguments from authority, but different people have different authorities. Different authorities have different views and it is unclear how to find the right authority. Also, partially avoiding arguments from authority helps one to achieve a coherent set of beliefs.
- Truth finding process: Selective exclusion of arguments from authority is essential for truth finding for humanity as a whole. A view of authority is only as good as the the supporting information, and thus ultimately, the right position must be justifiable without argument from authority. Moreover, this process is essential to prevent authorities from abusing their authority and to find the right authorities.
- Avoiding cognitive load: Since it is essential to think through issues, using arguments from authority would require at least two sets of beliefs: beliefs arrived without certain arguments from authority, and beliefs based on argument from authority. Having two sets of beliefs is difficult, so there is a tendency to avoid it.

Specificity of Personality: One's behavioral traits, personality, can wary widely depending on the situation: A soldier may trivialize killing people, yet at home, strongly support personal rights; an apathetic person can be very motivated in a specific field; a loving and supportive family member can be a rapist and a serial killer. However, given a situation, one's personality is very consistent between different instances: A businessman can be consistently selfish in business relations; a person can be consistently polite in specific (such as business) situations; one can be consistently disinterested in one's appearance when there is no special event, and so on.

Managing Complexity: One of the main challenges facing civilization is the managing of complexity. To a large extent, technology improvements are based on high complexity and precision; and to a large extent, precision requires complexity. Managing complexity involves recognizing costs and benefits of complexity, reducing unnecessary complexity, creation of tools and social structures to work with complexity, and ensuring robustness in the face of complexity.

For a community, whether an action is short term beneficial heavily depends on the system of values, but long term, whether an action is beneficial depends on whether it improves the community and is mostly independent of the particular system of values used to evaluate the net amount of benefit.

One way to get insights is to learn about the opinions (including supporting arguments) of various world-class experts, and then process the opinions to help find your own.

To a large extent, the world's problems are about finding the right human structures and processes -- processes that will promote innovation, welfare, and human rights.

Suicide: There are two conflicting considerations. On one hand, prohibition of suicide is important for protecting the right to life: People can be killed by being coerced (including indirectly) into committing suicide. Also, one can wrongly commit suicide because of a temporary lapse of judgment. On the other hand, death is natural and, until technology improves, unavoidable. Control of one's body is important for liberty, and forced intense suffering seems wrong. It also appears inconsistent for a government to ignore people who are poor and suffering while not allowing them to die. Suicide can also help conserve resources (but the total practical impact of this is likely to be small).
I support allowing suicide for terminally ill patients (where suicide is more a question of timing than life v. death), and (given the current (2012) state of technology, etc.) I am inclined to support allowing suicide in general. If suicide is allowed, safeguards should include required competency examination, required counseling, and prohibition on killing on request. Individuals should also be allowed to impose a mandatory waiting period (during which suicide is prohibited) on themselves.

Newcomb's Paradox (philosophy): The correct answer is one box. Consider what may happen in practice: A trustworthy authority claims that the contents are determined before you pick the number of boxes, but for the last 1000 times, the contents are $1000 with 2 boxes and one million with one box. One box is the best choice here. It is not possible to determine with certainty the participant's decision before it is made.
It is instructive to consider the following modification: (1) You learn about the boxes, (2) then a high-accuracy entity predicts whether you will pick one or two boxes and the money is set accordingly, and then (3) you pick one or two boxes. The optimal behavior actually depends on how the entity behaves, specifically whether (a) the box has one million if the probability that you pick one box is above 50%, or (b) the probability that the box has one million is the probability that you pick just one box. For (b), the right behavior is to pick one box, while for (a) during (3) you may choose to toss a biased coin and then pick one box with probability clearly above 50%, say 60%.
To see that you should not just pick two boxes, consider stage (1). Since your intent will be used to determine the money, you should intend to pick one box, and it would be cheating (and thus wrong) to pretend to intend to take one box while intending to take two. If there is a risk that you will find taking 2 boxes irresistible, then you may want to make a contract with a third party providing for a penalty (above $1000) if you take 2 boxes (this also applies to Kavka's toxin puzzle). Also, absence of explicit stage (1) should not affect the results (the box has a million in reliance of your intention to take just one box, and the right choice is to uphold that reliance).

Trolley Problem (philosophy and law): The necessity defense should be available because the death is merely incidental in that one would still pull the switch even if no one is in the way of the new route.

Alien Life: An advanced civilization is likely to spread quickly, very likely faster than light. Absence of signals from alien life implies either that we (humans around Earth) are alone or that aliens deliberately hide their presence and prevent their individuals from contacting humans on Earth. I think that the later is morally wrong for essentially human rights reasons, and that therefore we probably are alone. Also, while aliens, if they exist, are likely to be much more advanced than us, they are still humans in the fundamental philosophical sense. Also, search for extraterrestrial intelligent life is important even though the result is likely to be negative -- among other things, ruling out extraterrestrial life will improve our understanding of the universe.
Since stars and planets are common, there is a bottleneck preventing formation of alien intelligence. Possibilities for the bottleneck include life, eukaryotic life, complex animal-like life, and intelligent life. Evidence for intelligent life bottleneck includes failure of animals such as elephants and whales to get human level intelligence despite brains larger than human and many millions of years of evolution. This implies that human level intelligence requires a special pattern, and not just large brains and evolution. Additional evidence comes from mind-body dualism and the special and immaterial nature of the mind/soul. There is also a possibility that any civilization reaching a certain point is very likely to destroy itself.

Motto: God. Love. Logic. Freedom.
Explanation:
God — one consequence is that in a sense, including the potential, we live in the best possible world, and that our potential is limitless.
Love — loving God (including the potential) and humans (even if they hurt you), and with equal consideration to everyone's happiness, except instrumentally (in the sense that one's happiness helps others; see my Utilitarianism paper); also (though this is technically separate) doing what is right.
Logic — using rationality as the basis of knowledge; striving to revolutionize the world through logic and rationality.
Freedom — free will, personal freedom, and human rights (the later as constraints on government power and not just maximization of effective freedom).

Computers and Software

The technical purpose of computers is automation. The majority of employment in developed countries is in services. By automating much of the services, computers will greatly improve life.

Future of Computation (Hardware): The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics imposes a fundamental limit on non-quantum computation:Energy per unit 1-bit operation ≥ ħ/(time that the operation takes), assuming about 75% confidence level. In addition, thermal motion places a lower bound on the energy: (Landauer's principle) Erasing a bit at a temperature T is require sat least kB T ln 2 energy. The fundamental limiting resource will probably be power consumption (and dissipation). For efficiency, parallel computing will be used to the extent that the relevant problem admits parallelization: N-way parallelization reduces power consumption in up to N times (assuming that the allotted time remains as in the sequential case). Many problems are massively parallelizable, while others (examples probably include linear programming) are effectively parallelizable only to a limited (but substantial) extent and may require close interaction between the parallel threads. Although error correction codes can make reliability very high, the default case is low reliability, so applications that tolerate numerous individual errors will be able to run at a substantially lower power consumption. Already, the various levels of memory (L1 Cache, L2 Cache, RAM, etc.) demonstrate the speed versus cost / power consumption trade off, and graphics cards act as coprocessors for parallel computations (mostly image rendering). However, Landauer's principle severely restricts savings from massive parallelization.
To go beyond these limits, one must use quantum computing, which is reversible. Quantum computers will effectively solve the discrete logarithm problem (and hence break all major public key encryption methods) and allow a quadratic speed-up in computing inverses of “black box” one-way functions. However, there are probably efficient (belonging to BQP) algorithms for digital signatures that withstand quantum computation.
Even if the progress in raw computing speed stalls at the quantum limit, computers will still revolutionize our lives. The revolution will be in software, which will automate most of human work; current software explores only a small part of the potential of computers, even assuming present day hardware.

Complexity Theory: (assumes technical background) A key question, both for theoretical computer science and in general, is whether P=NP. While most likely P≠NP (and P=NP does not automatically imply a practical algorithm), effective P=NP would be revolutionary, and (roughly speaking) allow us to solve any problem for which we can test a solution on a computer (subject to resource constraints that depend on the efficiency of the algorithm for NP). While most likely the canonical complexity classes are distinct, we cannot (at least not yet) rule out that major complexity classes are comparable -- just like canonical Turing degrees are comparable. It remains open whether all problems in linear space (or even, at present, nondeterministic linear space), including function problems (with output length linear in input length), can be computed by, say, quasilinear time linear space multitape Turing machines.

Philosophy on Computers: A computer is a tool. For a tool to be effective, it must be under control of the users. Computers are revolutionizing human civilization and are becoming indispensable. Because computer software and the tasks it performs is so complex, there is a real danger to the civilization from inability to control computers. Software must be designed so as to bring the users in control. Software must be secure, reliable, and do clearly defined functions. The users must be in control of their computers and all the data on them. Hardware must be reliable and follow open standards so that its actions could be predicted and thus controlled. Recent (as of 2002?) Microsoft software has great features and is user friendly, but at a fundamental level it lacks control.

Program Design: Large programs should be modular and multi-threaded. The programs should be organized in a coherent and logical way without unnecessary or undocumented interdependencies of modules. Large modules should be composed of smaller modules. Failure of a non-essential process should not cause the program to crash. For example, failure of a plug-in or of the HTML renderer should not cause the web browser to crash. The user interface (including menu) of a word processor should not stop responding when some function goes into an infinite loop. Poor design is the major reason why large software becomes delayed and gains features slowly while having many bugs. The other reason (besides lack of effort) is incorrect selection of features to add, which is again caused by lack of design. Figuratively, good fault-tolerant design transforms a complex project into many simple ones that work in harmony and quickly improve.

Open-source programs: The government should fund open-source programs because of the great benefit of the programs to the community and because of the difficulty of profitably developing open-source programs. People often refuse to develop open-source programs because the development is a poor business model even though it is a great development model and great for the users. Government funding will greatly reduce the problem. Proprietary software is already subsidized through copyright laws.

Reliability of Servers: Servers should allow dynamic replication of functions onto different physical computers. This way, downtime can be avoided and unexpected popularity (or denial of service attack) remedied with additional computers providing the service. Distributed denial of service attacks can be remedied with controlled bandwidth caps, to be applied when such an attack occurs.

Passwords: Better password security can be achieved by keeping track of all attempted log-ins; by using a delay (such as 0.2 seconds) before confirming or denying authentication; and by issuing alerts when the software finds suspicious usage of the log-in system--such as too many wrongly guessed passwords. The file with the information about correct passwords should be encrypted and be readable only to the administrator.

Working with Slow Internet Connection: Modems and Internet Service Providers should support the V.92 standard for faster uploading, quicker connection, and greater compatibility with telephone usage along with V.44 standard for better data compression. Telephone lines' "central offices" should not be too far from telephone terminals. Most importantly, websites should not be bloated--the text should be presented with the minimum mark-up necessary to ensure simple and adequate layout. Browsers and plug-ins should incorporate newest and best formats. Images, sounds, and video should be compressed using the best format. Unfortunately, most multimedia on the internet is stored in very inefficient formats. Automatic background downloading should allow gradual download of huge files. While broadband connection will be common, Internet access "on the go" will still be slow, yet it will become very common. Moreover, broadband access is scarce in third world countries. "Lean" websites also reduce(expensive) bandwidth costs and are easier to archive.

Some Features Lacking in Computers (as of April 3, 2003 and Sept 2004): Operating systems and programs are not secure--a malicious program, if executed, can control the computer. Moreover, users (especially on Windows) lack the ability to control the programs. Displays' dot pitch is too large for some applications. Displays cannot sense touch, making hand-drawing incompatible with computers. Ideally, typing and drawing by hand on displays would be combined.
High resolution should be used for aesthetics, convenience, and efficient information display. However, items appear unacceptably small on high resolution. Therefore, full implementation of zooming is necessary for computer programs and the operating system.

Resolution Independent Graphics and Video: It is common for the source to be high resolution; for different users to view/play the file at different resolutions, with some users using high resolution playback; and for bandwidth to be low and depend on the user. To address this situation, the image/video should be stored in a resolution independent format (for video, resolution includes frame rate). Items in video are delocalized and three dimensional. For example, every item could be a wavelet or (for video) a 3-dimensional wavelet. To allow for streaming, items may be presented out of order, with skipped items downloaded on the second pass.
Future of Video Compression: The worst flaw of current image compression algorithms is poor performance at the edges. It will be remedied by using curvelets or other transforms specifically to represent edges. 3-dimensional wavelets are computationally expensive, but ultimately will deliver better video quality; after all, human eye sees video as motion, not as a sequence of frames. In the medium term, video will shift to model based coding, that is (visually realistic) recording of positions, textures, and light sources. High quality video conferencing will be possible at a dial-up speed. In long term, textures will be generated by artificial intelligence from descriptions, and video coding will become much more semantic. However, traditional video coding may continue to be used because of future enormous storage capacities and bandwidth (such as 100terabits/second per optical fiber).

Window Management: (The paragraph describes how computers in the future should handle window management. Many of the features are expected to be present in Microsoft Windows codenamed Longhorn.) The graphics space consists of the screen(s) and numerous virtual graphics repositories, called windows. Each application is responsible for the content in its window(s). A window consists of one or more two-dimensional arrays of virtual pixels, the layouts of the arrays (a window provides a virtual rectangle into which the graphics are placed), and, optionally, texts with font and placement information. A pixel has red, green, and blue value, and translucency value (or, alternatively, values of red, green, and blue translucency). Up to 16 bits per channel should be supported. Each array of pixels may use a different color depth (many windows do not use translucency, some use a color palette, and 16 bits per channel is usually not needed) and may have different scaling (some parts of the window may be more detailed than others). To allow graphical user interfaces over a (limited bandwidth) network, compression maybe used for the arrays of pixels.
The window managements system, whose activities should be transparent, applies transformations to windows such as moving, rotating, anti-aliased zooming (in and out), color transforming, and overlapping of windows to produce output on one or more displays. The system is also responsible for rendering texts and may use subpixel rendering. A window may request particular transformations (or their absence) and may (unless denied permission) obtain which transformations have been applied; it may also obtain which parts (or even the entire window)of the window need not be drawn as they will not be shown on the screen. The security system decides which transformation requests to allow--for example, a window may be denied the request to be full screen. The user has control over window placement and transformations.
The video card acts as a graphics coprocessor, helping to achieve the window transformations. In addition, a window having the required permissions can use the hardware acceleration to help create its array(s) of virtual pixels. For low end computers, only basic transformations are allowed.
Note: Because bitmapped images, especially bitmapped fonts, transform (especially, scale) poorly, it is often necessary for a window to be a combination of arrays and texts rather than a single array. However, high-level user interface widgets are handled separately from window management. A window may substitute its own scaling algorithms for the anti-aliased scaling provided by the window management system: If the resolution of a pixel array provided by the window matches the resolution at which the array is to be displayed, then the window management system does not perform scaling. Elements that may not fit into the main window, such as menus, should be considered as special separate windows synchronized with the main window.

On features and options: For software, the more useful features and options the better: Some users will benefit from the features, and assuming proper design of interface, the extra features and options will not be obtrusive and thus will not harm those who do not need them. Customization allows features to be both easily accessible and (for those who choose different options)completely unobtrusive. Multiple levels of customization (with good default choices) allows customization to be both simple and very flexible. Functionality does not mean cluttered user interface. Of course, developers should strive to provide all basic features first; and program design should not be sacrificed to add a few unimportant features.

Opera web browser is good because it offers control to the users. Users can easily cause the page to display the way they want and navigate easily to wherever they want.

Standardization of Hardware: Hardware devices (such as a CD-ROM drive or a digital camera) must become standardized so that they would work properly on almost all computers and so that device drivers need not be numerous (same device driver should work on different hardware that performs the same function) but could be made high quality.

Software loading can be speed up by using disk compression (extra error correction will maintain required reliability).

Microsoft Windows and Linux can join or at least become more compatible if Microsoft releases the required windows libraries for Linux. Then, a Windows program would run under Linux with the help of these libraries. Additionally, emulation can allow old programs for non-IBM-compatible computers to run on IBM-compatible computers.

Document Processing: Since paper is being replaced by computers, document processing should center not on the printed text layout, but on special document structure and features (such as hyperlinks), which, while meaningless on paper, can greatly assist readability on computers.

E-mail Spam: Decreasing bandwidth costs causes a proliferation of e-mail spam. Spam should be addressed with strict laws (mandatory labeling, prohibition of deception, allowing easy opt-out), treaties (spam is an international problem), full law enforcement (to make the laws meaningful), convincing businesses that spam is an unacceptable practice, securing computers against remote access trojans (that may be used to spam), state of the art filtering software (including dependable artificial intelligence algorithms and optional auto-updating), and optional spam filtering (moving spam to a special junk folder) by ISPs. It might become very difficult to both keep the spam problem acceptable and allow free, anonymous, and uncensored e-mails (that do not get lost due to filtering). Note: The extent to which unsolicited messages may be regulated without abridging freedom of speech is a delicate Constitutional issue.
Update on Spam: Decreasing bandwidth prices make the marginal cost of sending an extra copy of the message very low (and much lower in the future), causing the amount of unsolicited and unwanted bulk email to reach crisis proportions. Solutions that make electronic communication acceptable will be found; the issue is preservation of an email-like communication medium that retains freedom of speech and anonymous communication. The CAN-SPAM Act alone is unlikely to be effective. However, authentication of email senders will make senders of spam identifiable and hence anti-spam laws enforceable. Note that the authentication is compatible and in fact complimentary to using email for private encrypted communication. Anonymous (the recipient does not know who the sender is) communication can survive provided that the email provider of the sender restricts the number of email messages per day (or another unit of time) with each additional recipient of an email message counted as an additional message. Since for each person only the number of messages needs to be tracked, no records of the recipients or message contents need to be kept, thus allowing private anonymous communications. The limit will make bulk email (and hence spam and email bombs)impossible, but will still allow exponential proliferation of valuable ideas through resending. Bulk distribution of information from an anonymous source will have to be done through a moderator (or a publisher) who will weed out spam.

Duplication of Software: Much of software development is duplicated--different programs have the same features--and thus very inefficient. The number of different software projects doing the same complex thing must be decreased. However, it is all right to try and (and spent time developing) different approaches so that the best one will prevail. Using different approaches may be necessary as it cannot be known a priori which of the approaches are acceptable.

Software Archiving: Software must be archived (with copy "protection" removed) along with the required operating system or libraries or emulators. Lack of archiving would cause irreparable loss of knowledge and cultural heritage. Each piece of software is a work of art; it represents the ideas of the designers. The displays and sound of a software, particularly of a game, may have great artistic value. However, the great value is in the work as a whole; it is the interaction that makes software special. Moreover, software exists as a tool, as a unique solution to a problem in information manipulation.

Backward Compatibility: Many pieces of software, especially games, are not actively maintained but may be very valuable. Backward compatibility layers (which can be made with minimal intrusiveness on the main system) should allow users to benefit from such software. Valuable documents are stored in obsolete formats and media. Import filters for obsolete formats should be developed and retained to preserve the documents. In addition, affordable services should exist to recover data from obsolete media.

Experiments v. Computer Simulation: Computer simulation is also an experiment, but usually with special benefits: Ease of performance and precise reproduction, and ease of control.

Frame rate: Instead of measuring ordinary average frame rate for games and other programs, it may be better to measure harmonic average (or even something more slightly more skewed towards noting high latency). Also, ideally, for a monitor, the timing for each frame would be adjustable (with a minimum frame interval), thus ensuring maximum fluidity given limited frame rates, at least for full-screen applications, such as games.

Future Camera Technologies: (added 2012) Angle-dependent focusing distance (apparently not yet fully practical) may allow all parts of the picture to be in focus without sacrificing other camera aspects. Per-pixel effective exposure times will largely solve the exposure time problem. Also, stereo/3D cameras will become much more common.

Augmented Reality and Humans: In a few years (perhaps in 2020), with augmented reality, for most strangers on the street, you will be able to see their profile, with information selection customized based on your preferences.

Phone plans: Ideally, there would be a single charge based on the amount of data, and time and location, as opposed to separate charges for talk, messaging, and data.

Monitors: The 3 primary limitations of today's (as of 2012) computer monitors are color accuracy, size, and resolution. What one would want -- and should be achievable in 2 years -- is a reasonably priced 30in 3840x2160 (alternatively, 4096x2304) monitor with high color accuracy.

Notes About Law and About the USA Constitution

Interpretation of Laws: A law means exactly what it states. It does not necessarily mean what the creators intended it to means, and it does not automatically evolve with time. For example those who thought they voted by for Gore (in the 2000 presidential election) but voted Buchanan have their vote counted as a vote for Buchanan and not Gore. In another example, if a law states that the tax rate is 25%, then the tax rate is 25% regardless of what the legislators wanted the tax rate to be and regardless of economic conditions. Similarly, if a provision of a law was passed which most legislators did not read (and hence did not intend to pass), then the provision is still valid. When a law is voted on, the vote is on the language and not on the intent--different people have different intents for the law. The intents of different legislators contradict each other, and even the intent of any single legislator involved is likely to be self-contradictory. What is passed and signed is language only, the intent is not written anywhere in the law. Thus, the intent is not part of the law and can only influence the meaning if the law is truly ambiguous. (In rare cases of true ambiguity, the meaning is decided to serve the interests of the society, and to an extent, to follow the intent.) Moreover, what evolves is not the law but the courts' interpretation of the law and the factual circumstances on which the courts' decisions depend. Note that a constitution is also a law.
In certain cases, however, a law may be unconstitutional (statutorily or as applied) by virtue of its formal meaning being different from its intended meaning: Passage of such laws arbitrarily deprives people of liberty not to have the law since there was presumably no notice, debate, or consideration of the law's unexpected meaning.

Political Questions: Courts are obligated to resolve all questions properly before them. A court may not refuse to answer an otherwise proper question on the grounds that no judicially manageable standards exist because the law itself is the standard (whether or not it is difficult to interpret). Although other branches of government may be best for certain questions, the decision on whether particular judges should decide certain questions is embodied by the jurisdiction and by the presence or lack of the legal basis. The ability to deny relief (to which the plaintiffs are otherwise entitled to) based on the inherently vague "political questions" doctrine is an awesome power that is not and should not be inherent in the courts. The courts do not and should not have the authority to dismiss questions whenever the questions seem too difficult or when the questions do not appear to have a satisfactory answer. However, suggesting that a question is best decided by a political branch of government may be used to help to explain why a particular action is legal (or constitutional).

Vagueness: Regulations on conduct that is normally left unregulated and regulations that threaten important liberties are much more susceptible to be found unconstitutional for vagueness(or over-breadth) than prohibitions on mala in se conduct.

Fourth Amendment: The fourth amendment prohibits all unreasonable searches against persons by authorities--its language does not leave any room for exceptions. Thus, prisoners (and other people without a "reasonable expectation of privacy") are still protected; however, a type of search that is unreasonable for an average person might be reasonable when performed on a high danger person, such as a criminal. Note that the criteria is whether the search is reasonable, which requires an examination of all relevant factors and a value judgment.
The text of the Fourth Amendment requires that search warrants issue only based on probable cause; and the framers certainly did not intend to require a lower standard for warrantless search than for issuing search warrants. Ordinarily, for a search to be reasonable, probable cause is required if and only if the search would have been illegal had it been conducted by a private citizen.

Seventh Amendment: Since common law is created by judges, to achieve separation of powers, the amendment requires that evidence is to be considered by the juries if the defendant so desires and the controversy is more than $20 (even if only $21 are disputed). Perhaps, though, $20 means 20 of 1791 dollars and is adjustable for inflation.

Eleventh Amendment: The amendment only restricts lawsuits by citizens of a different state or subjects of foreign nations. The current Supreme Court interpretation ignores the plain language of the amendment. Moreover, it restricts lawsuits only against "one of the United States", which perhaps means the state as a whole as opposed to its agencies or employees.

Microsoft Antitrust Case (as of early 2002, outdated): The judge should approve the settlement because the settlement will provide a prompt remedy. The judge can then decide what additional remedies should be imposed on Microsoft--such decision is meaningful since nine states will not be bound by the settlement and could continue the case. The remedies should include public (and non patented) specification of all protocols and file formats of Microsoft Windows.

Contracts: A contract is a legal obligation requiring the signatories to do certain actions in certain circumstances. When two contracts signed by a person conflict, the earlier contract has precedence. However, a contract may specify legal obligations in case of a breach of contract. Default obligations in case of a breach of contract may also be specified by law. By consent of all signatories, a contract may be modified; however, an obligation in a modified contract that was not present in the original contract has lower precedence than obligations in other contracts signed before the contract was modified. Technically, a contract is initiated when an action is illegal but for the presence of the contract. Most often, a major contract is initiated by explicit agreement. Signing an agreement without assuming the responsibility is generally illegal if there is no coercion. Parts of a contract may be implicit. The law may specify implicit obligations (which can be overridden explicitly) for various contracts, such as warranty of merchantability for purchases. Enforcement of a contract may occur through orders to comply and award of damages, or, in cases when the contract cannot be enforced directly or the defendant insists that the contract not be enforced, the enforcement is by punishment and award of damages for the activity that initiated the contract. Under common law, for a contract to be valid it must not be unconscionable, must satisfy a minimum standard of fairness, may not oblige illegal activities, and not be in conflict with public interest (narrowly defined). The limitations on validity of contracts are needed because of (among other things) imbalance of power that can effectively force a person to sign an unfair contract.

Clickwrap licenses: Contracts can occur by explicit agreement (both parties sign the contract), or by action--when an action would have been illegal in the absence of the contract then the action itself constitutes an acceptance of the contract. However, an action, if it is legal in the absence of a contract, does not amount to contract.
Because a typical license agreement is clicked only by one party and because the signed (if the click on "I accept" can be considered a signature) agreement is not submitted anywhere, the contract is not by an explicit agreement but by action. Therefore, if the use of software is legal in the absence of a license, then the use of software does not amount to acceptance of the license. However, when the use of software would have been illegal but for the license, then the license agreement is valid.

Standing and the USA Constitution: 'Controversy' means that one person wants something and the other refuses. 'Case' means something filed in court. Standing is primarily a statutory and common law requirement. The constitutional requirement of standing is satisfied when A demands B to do something, but B does not do it.

Citizenship: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside" (First sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment). Citizenship may not be deprived even if the person gives informed consent to the USA government. Deprivation of citizenship amounts to a severe deprivation of liberty, and it is important to prevent such deprivation, even to people who previously shortsightedly or under influence of coercion renounced citizenship. Besides, documents of renunciation of citizenship can be faked or coerced, but the right of citizens to continue being citizens is inalienable and must be preserved.

Filibusters: Article I Section 5 of the constitution includes "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings," which allows the rules to be made by a simple majority of the house instead of a 2/3 majority. Consequently, under the Constitution, a simply majority of the Senate has the right to end a filibuster. The Senate may still maintain a supermajority cloture process, but only until a majority decides to suspend that process.

Perhaps, in the federal appeals courts, the three-judge panels should be selected to be ideologically balanced to make the decision less likely to depend on the random selection of the judges.

A state has an ethical but not legal obligation to recognize marriage in its laws. However, the right of people to be married in view of their church, as opposed to in view of the law, and call themselves married (as long as there is no confusion with legal marriage) is fundamental.

The Constitutional right to control people's behavior (except as to preserve personal rights, or prevent government abuses) is extremely limited because of the possibility of court ordered abuses. The right usually arises in relationships between parents and children.

Sanctity of human life and fallibility of judgments on who is a person requires protection not only of people but of non-people who may be persons or who are uncomfortably close to being persons.

The amount of due process currently granted is irregular: In some aspects, defendants are given plenty of rights, but some basic rights are denied as the courts refuse to review actions of arbitrariness or deny relief on the theory of procedural foreclosure.

In most criminal cases when there is a reasonable doubt, the jury convicts anyway. It is natural for human brain to suppress uncertainty, so jurors are overconfident about the guilt. In addition, the jurors' often strong desire to do "justice"to the crime may suppress the doubts on the guilt.

Forcing payment for a service to which one does not consent is a violation of due process. Forcing prisoners to pay for the imprisonment is constitutional only if the stay is truly voluntary or if the payment is a part of the sentence.

Retaliation in employment for reporting illegal activities should be illegal: It is essential to enforce the laws and to remove obstacles to their enforcement. For public organizations, retaliation for reporting illegal activities of the organization constitutes arbitrary discrimination in violation of the due process.

Prisoner Litigation Reform Act: Much of the act is unconstitutional. The 3 strikes provision unconstitutionally denies access to courts (note that prisoners do not have a general right to work to get money and thus cannot be expected to pay the filing fee), and the frivolous litigation burden (to the extent that it is compelling) can be mitigated using less restrictive means. Physical injury requirement imposes immunity on many unconstitutional acts, and violates the constitutional right to an effective process to protect constitutional rights. The exhaustion requirement could have been construed reasonably, but the erroneous construction by the Supreme Court to require proper exhaustion is unconstitutional. Prisoners are ill-equipped to know whether their constitutional rights have been violated and protect their rights, and thus cannot be denied compensation just because (for example) they learn that there was a violation only a month later, especially given that non-prisoners are not subject to the same preclusion.

AEDPA: The habeas corpus provisions are unconstitutionally overbroad because they often deny protection from unconstitutional incarceration and deny effective remedy for trials that violated constitutional rights. Moreover, they are misguided since their primary purpose and effect is to enable an unconstitutional practice (death penalty).

Child Support: Current child support system in the USA is arbitrary in that its does not require proof of fault for the male to pay child support. While a female may choose to abort or have a device (such IUD or a pill) to prevent pregnancy, such options are effectively unavailable for males, and semen can be used without one's consent. At a minimum, child support should not be required when the activity (such as oral sex) based on information available to the male is unlikely to lead to pregnancy or the female waived child support rights, except when there is a contrary agreement (including an agreement such as marriage in which child support is implicit), misconduct, or assertion of parental rights by the male. To protect male sexual freedom and avoid the unfairness that only a female may cancel the child and the resulting obligations, one option is to go even further and treat absence of child support agreement as a conditional waiver of male's child support obligations, but on the other hand this would sometimes be unfair to the female. Also, due process protects against arbitrary deprivation of property and thus prohibits requiring child support when the male is not at fault, and is not related (i.e through marriage) to the female, and the female (or someone else) is at fault (for example, through unauthorized cloning).

Supremacy of the Supreme Court: The USA Constitution provides for a supreme court. The court has a constitutional right to review (when the issue involves a federal law or the Constitution) all decisions of other courts: Otherwise, it would not be "supreme", and other courts would not be "inferior".

Judicial Review of Treaties:
The authority of the United States is derived from its Constitution. Accordingly, it is bound by the Constitution, and its authority is limited to what it can constitutionally do. A treaty is the supreme law of the land if it is done under the authority of the United States (Clause 2 of Article 6), that is if it is constitutional. Otherwise, since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, a treaty would be legally void (the same way that it would be void if not ratified by the Senate). However, in making treaties, the government is not limited to the enumerated powers.

Healthcare mandate and tax power: The constitutional constraints on Congress are about substance of laws and not their wording. Thus, the constitutionality should not depend on whether the mandate is called by Congress a tax or a penalty. In substance, the mandate consists of an additional tax (which is like ordinary income tax) plus exemption for those that have health insurance (which is analogous to many other tax deductions, such as mortgage deduction or employer health insurance deduction), and is thus constitutional.

Human Rights (general)

Human Rights: Human rights are restrictions of powers. Mere privation of needs is not a violation of human rights, the arbitrary use of power to achieve the privation is. Freedom of speech concerns the power of organizations to stop people from speaking, and not merely the availability of knowledge.

National Sovereignty: All actions and choices are made by people. Acts of nations are simply a measure of actions of the people. Thus, rights are granted to people, not nations. National sovereignty is the right of people to rule themselves democratically without undue external influence. Thus, sovereignty applies only to democratic countries. Practical expedience, however, requires consideration of many nondemocratic countries as sovereign. Fundamental rights are best viewed as a whole: Meaningful protection of one right requires protection of all of them. For example, the right to elect leaders is meaningless without the right to criticize them; the right to criticize is meaningless if the government can punish people arbitrarily. Accordingly, a country that abridges fundamental rights is not democratic, and thus (technically) not sovereign, at least to the extent that it violates fundamental rights. Individuals and nations may enforce the rights by military means, subject to proportionality and other constraints (which in practice ordinarily make military intervention a bad idea).

Protection of Human Rights: Unfortunately, most people have a poor understanding of human rights, and protection of human rights ultimately depends on the will of the people (to uphold the constitution, etc.). However, even when that is the case, human rights can still be protected as long as (1) there is recognition that fundamental rights must be protected, and (2) there is support for proper judicial review, that is for allowing questions about scope of fundamental rights to be decided by impartial experts.

Human Rights and Obedience to Laws: Basic functioning of the society requires, in ordinary cases, obedience to laws. However, the mandate not to break the law is not absolute. If an action is illegal, but nevertheless constitutes a fundamental right then the law need not be obeyed: Preservation of human rights is essential for human civilization and laws that violate fundamental rights (such as laws that outlaw Christianity) must be destroyed. The benefit of contributing to destruction of laws that violate fundamental rights outweighs any harm to the functioning of the society that the breakdown of such laws would cause. (Of course, exercise of human rights should ordinarily be restrained when it is likely to lead to harm, such as getting caught. In the United States, the Constitution (and hence the law) protects all fundamental rights; however, the courts sometimes falsely conclude that a particular right is not protected by the Constitution.)

War on Terrorism and Due Process: Due process requires something more than "some evidence" to detain an alleged terrorist. Searches can be verified for reasonability only if the public has access to the reasons for a search and has opportunity to dispel fallacious claims of reasonability; the due process requirement and the Fourth Amendment require public disclosure of the reasons that a search was made in cases when the results of the search are used in criminal cases. Deportation and detention of immigrants must not be done arbitrarily or secretly.
The current stature prohibiting material contribution to terrorist groups is unconstitutionally overbroad. Advice is protected by freedom of speech ("Fundamental Rights" explains the exact extent). Humans cannot survive without food and basic necessities, so preservation of the right to life requires the right to give such necessities to humans, even alleged terrorists. However, the greatest failure is lack of due process--the President can designate groups as terrorists--however, such designation is severe punishment, and as such requires full judicial review that the organization is in fact likely to be terrorist.

Enemy Combatants, the Constitution, and Human Rights: The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus includes the right by an alleged enemy combatant to access the courts as it would be meaningless without access to courts (such as if the person is held incommunicado). The Constitution is "the supreme law of the land" "the land" includes all areas under permanent total jurisdiction and control of the United States, which (at present) includes Guantanamo Naval Base. Ultimate sovereignty is meaningless without jurisdiction or control; and the use of ultimate sovereignty to decide if the Constitution applies at that land would mean that the government will be able to ignore the Constitution by transferring ultimate sovereignty (and nothing else, thus retaining de facto sovereignty) of a part of the United States to another country, thus violating the rule of law and preservation of human rights. An arrest of a person ordinarily requires probable cause; because detainment of a person arrested in the United States as an enemy combatant amounts to a deprivation of rights at least as great as the deprivation of rights in an arrest, such detainment must at the least be based on probable cause. What distinguishes torture from ordinary suffering is that torture involves coercion; torture is a violation of human rights because it is coercive and thus (effectively) forces a person to completely obey the torturers. For these reasons, coercive interrogation also violates fundamental rights for it amounts to a totalitarian power of the society on the individual.

Self-Incrimination and Encryption Keys: Forcing defendants to decrypt a device to get incriminating information is unconstitutional--the defendant is protected from disclosing information held in his mind that will help solve the crime, and the dynamics is similar to other cases of forced self-incrimination. Also, the privilege applies even if it is clear that the defendant knows the answer to a question.

Criminal Intent: Protection from arbitrary punishment requires a culpable state of mind for criminal cases (and this is supported by long-standing tradition).

Rules of evidence: The defendant's due process right to present evidence includes the right to present such evidence that the defendant deems proper (but with reasonable time constraints). This right is necessary to allow admission of all relevant evidence. If evidence is irrelevant, then (usually) it simply will not affect the verdict. A determination of relevance is necessary to force production of evidence, including testimony of an unwilling witness. Moreover, a reasonable view of the constitutional guarantee to jury trial is the right of the defendant to say to the jury anything he or she likes, including asking for jury nullification. However, rules of evidence can be instituted to ensure fairness. Rules of evidence amount to mildly varying the standard of proof to prevent, for example, racial disparities in judgments. In any case, evidence by the defendant must be admitted unless it (based on the totality of circumstances) is only marginally important and is outweighed by the prejudicial effects. At least in criminal cases, the defendant must be allowed a strong presumption in favor of admissibility.

Equality

"Affirmative action" is unconstitutional because it discriminates based on an irrelevant criteria (in most cases, race). While the government may promote cultural diversity, culture refers to a person's tendencies to act and not to the color of the skin (or some other irrelevant criteria). While many people belonging to minorities are discriminated against and the government may and should remedy discrimination, many people in the minorities are not discriminated against and many people who are not in a (racial) minority are discriminated against. Compensation for discrimination must be determined on an individual basis; to collectively determine compensation based on irrelevant criteria would violate the prohibition on arbitrary punishments. The right of people not to be punished arbitrarily is fundamental and the benefits of arbitrary punishments are illusive. In the long term, affirmative action would promote the message that races are different and should be treated differently and thus fuel racism and preclude racial equality.
Small number of minorities in certain jobs indicates a problem, but by itself, it is a symptom, not a problem: Race--and thus racial composition--is irrelevant. Racial diversity per se is as irrelevant as diversity of shapes of nose. Thus, remedy to discrimination must be neutral on race and other irrelevant factors.

(Racial) Profiling: Laws are meant to be enforced. Discriminatory enforcement of laws is unconstitutional. If enforcement is needed against a particular group, then the government should simply enforce the law against all groups. If complete enforcement is impractical, then the law should be changed. The government may not retain a law primarily for discriminatory enforcement. In carrying investigations, however, the government may use apparently irrelevant features to find suspects--suspects are found by their features (such as physical description), which are ordinarily irrelevant. However, race may be used no more than necessary in such cases. In courts, statistical evidence that members of a particular race are more likely to commit crimes of the given type may not be used as evidence of guilt.

Gerrymandering is unconstitutional because it arbitrarily discriminates against certain groups by effectively diluting their ability to vote. In multilevel elections (such as when people elect representatives who then elect other people or vote on issues), the outcome depends not only on the will of the people but also on the location of the people who vote for and against candidates with certain positions on social issues. Gerrymandering manipulates the outcome of the election by drawing districts in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner and thus overruling the will of the people on issues for which the people are the ones to decide. At the least, district boundaries must be rationally related toward a legitimate governmental interest where advancement of a particular political party does not constitute a legitimate interest.

Indirect racial discrimination is discrimination based on irrelevant criteria with intent to discriminate based on race that disproportionally affects members of a particular race. Such discrimination in employment violates the civil rights laws.

Sexual Orientation: If sexual orientation refers to desires (which is what it ordinarily refers to), then discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation amounts to punishment for thoughts and as such is subject to strict scrutiny under the Supreme Court precedents. If sexual orientation refers to actions, then discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation amounts to discrimination on account of sex (conduct by person A with person B is treated differently depending on whether A is male of female) and as such is subject to heightened scrutiny under the Supreme Court precedents.

Marriage: The right to marry is deeply rooted in the consciousness and legal traditions of the American people (and is central to the lifestyle) to have been found fundamental by the Supreme Court. Because the Constitution (at least the due process clause) does not discriminate on the basis of sex, that right must include the right to same-sex marriage. Moreover, discrimination against same-sex marriage is discrimination on account of sex. (Because the Constitution protects persons, not classes, it is not necessary to demonstrate that the discrimination substantially disadvantages a particular sex in the aggregate. In any case, marriage was substantially intended to maintain gender-specific roles and the subservience of women to men.)
A civil union that gives all of the protections of marriage is simply marriage by another name: Much rather like different countries use different languages and hence different words for marriage, different locations use different terms for same-sex marriage. These terms should be interchangeable when a couple moves from one state to another.

Establishment of Religion: The first amendment prohibits respecting an establishment of religion, that is providing special treatment to a religion or a group of religions. The special treatment can be either physical or verbal: An official endorsement of a religion or a group of religions constitutes special treatment. For a religious organization, official endorsement of its beliefs is a much greater respect than merely supplying funds.
In general, the government may not fund benefits made available by a private organization only to members of a particular faith or church or sect, and it may fund only secular benefits or aspects of a religious activity; however, it may not deny funding to a person or organization solely because the entity practices a religion.
Note: Although the First Amendment only restricts laws passed by the Congress, the due process clauses has been (correctly) held to extend the First Amendment to federal, state, and local officials.

Freedom of Speech

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act: The act is mostly constitutional. Monetary contributions are protected only to the extent necessary to make speech. However, the restrictions on issue ads are arbitrary and unconstitutional: It is arbitrary to prohibit naming a person who runs for an election; it is arbitrary to selectively suppress election advertisements while allowing advertisements on (almost) all other issues. The prohibition on coordination of expenditures on political speech between individuals and political parties is unconstitutional because the actions prohibited are discussions on how much to (legally) spend, and such discussions being speech and nothing but speech, and are protected by freedom of speech. Note: If the discussions (coordination) did not take place, then the spending would be legal, so it is the speech and not the money that is being targeted.

Trade Secrets: Commercial secrets prevent other companies from using superior methods and from researching based on the secret information, and in this way hurt economy and innovation. However, competitive advantage based on certain secret methods may prompt a company to research the methods, and thus help economy and innovation. Actual publication of secret information may not be suppressed as it is protected by freedom of speech. However, enforcement of trade secrets may acceptably occur by (1) punishment for violating a nondisclosure contract (2) punishment for illegal activity (such as robbery) that improperly "acquires" a secret and including damages from the disclosure as damages from the activity, and (3) if someone pays a spy to acquire a secret (illegally or by violating a contract), the payer can be held liable for (financially) encouraging the activity.

Software, Law, and DeCSS: Software cannot possibly have functional components because, physically, it does not exist--it is merely a sequence of zeros and ones, an abstract object. Thus, software patents are unconstitutional. Functional components are the physical properties of the medium of communication. The current (as of early 2003) state of prohibition on DeCSS is clearly irrational because some channels of distribution (such as protest shirts or the gallery of CSS descramblers) are not prohibited. Moreover, a prohibition on DeCSS is not enforceable. The dangers of DeCSS are exaggerated by courts since there are other simple ways to make unauthorized copies and, despite availability, DeCSS is not often used for making such copies. Moreover such copies benefit the users and have no direct impact on the movie companies.

Filtering Software in Public Libraries: Current Internet filtering software uses secret lists and algorithms. The algorithms are arbitrary, discriminatory, and not subject to public or judicial review. Accordingly, use of such filtering software by the government violates due process.

Patents and Speech: Decision making is protected by freedom of speech, as it is nothing but thought and speech. Thus, decision making procedures, or business methods, may not be patented. However, actions (such as manufacturing) can be patented.

See also my paper on Fundamental Rights.

Philosophy of Existence

See also my other papers on philosophy.

The world consists of God, of souls, and of the physical universe. The physical universe consists of physical objects, and is described by physical laws. A soul consists of its core existence and of feelings and thoughts. A person is a soul that is strongly attached to a physical object, the body. A person’s feelings and thoughts are linked to the body and the processes inside it. The body, and thus essentially the person, is bound by the physical laws.

As a body develops, it may gain cognitive abilities. At some point (for Homo sapiens about three years after birth), it may become able to think and to be rational. At that point, a soul is created and is joined with the body. The soul remains linked with the body until the body becomes incapable as a rational host for the soul. (During periods of unconsciousness, the soul is simply forwarded in time.) After that, the soul is released from the body and at some time, resumes its thoughts.

The soul is not destroyed since a soul is supernatural and a body is merely a physical object. Moreover, from the point view of a person, the soul and feelings form the key of existence, and the body is secondary; in fact, the body may be regarded as a physical model to help explain the feelings.

A person starts with feelings, and nothing more. Science cannot deny feelings since the feelings form the basis of existence, and the existence and properties of the world (and thus science) are derived from feelings. The person (that is a child) learns that the world is real since objects that left the view (but are not destroyed) later reappear again, and since the person is unable to directly control the aspects of experience corresponding to the real world. Moreover, the person learns that he can change some but not all feelings through actions. Thus, the world is real and the person is a part of the world. The person associates feelings with actions. From these associations and from actions of other people, the person infers that people can feel.

The beliefs of a person can only come from feelings and thoughts. By themselves, feelings (such as eyesight) do not tell much. Instead, the knowledge comes through logical application of feelings. Since logic is the only way to derive knowledge from feelings, logic is the only valid way of thought. All knowledge (including religion) comes from logic.

When two people logically discuss a question, eventually the will agree on the most likely answer since the basic factual information is available to both of them and since logic (being logic) gives unique results that are the most likely results based on the information used. (In practice, incomplete exchange of information, aggravated by deeply held and unchallenged incorrect beliefs of some people, often prevents such agreement. Moreover, the time needed for such complete discussion may not be worth the agreement on the issue.)

Problem solving is done by logical thinking based on the information known. Since humanity is limited to solutions that can be logically obtained and since each person has the power of logic, every person can potentially solve any solvable problem. However, some people are better than others in solving a problem because they know more information or because they have a greater unconscious ability to think in a way so that the problem is most likely to be quickly solved.

The Modern Story of Genesis

In the beginning, there was God. However, God without anything else could not give existence its meaning. Therefore, God created the universe. However, the universe without people would still be meaningless since then it would merely be a set of mathematical relations. Thus, God created people. A person is a creature with soul that is tightly related to a physical object, the body. The world could thus be given meaning, but only when there is struggle. To create struggle and to create meaning, God confined physical actions of people within physical laws. To make the universe orderly and subject to understanding, the universe is made to evolve according to the physical laws. If the presence of God would be obvious, then the people would refuse to fight for good and instead rely on God, or perhaps, even die so that their souls would be released. Thus, God made His presence a mystery, and confined the universe to physical laws even when they effects are terrible. With infinite skill, he made the universe to appear as though it has evolved entirely through physical laws. Yet, to give people love, wisdom, and hope, God appeared to the people in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ taught about God and about right and wrong, and his life and teachings are written in the New Testament.

God exists since the universe could not have been created out of nothing. Yet, the universe must have been created. Thus, the universe was created by a being. That being we call God. Since God created the world, he can alter and destroy it, so God is all-powerful.

The teachings of Jesus Christ were made to the uncivilized people of two millennia before us. To make the teachings work for the people, he taught figuratively. Most importantly, he taught about the power of universal love.

He taught about heaven and hell to motivate people to do good. He taught about the end of the world so that people would hasten to change their practices. He explained that not even he knew when the world would end. Instead, the predictions of the End caused people to struggle and to avoid a terrible ending. The change in human behavior is the reason that Christ taught about the end.

The nature of God, the nature of heaven, the presence and nature of hell, and the end of the world shall remain profound mysteries.

Some of my philosophical beliefs

Every object that feels is a person; every person is a supernatural being fully capable of being rational and logical, and fully capable of universal understanding and problem solving, and having absolute freedom of thought in all cases. The feelings and thoughts form the identity of the person.

Feeling is meaningless without logic. Logic is the only valid way to learn in the sense that other ways are invalid when the results contradict with logic. Science is logical building of models through observation; science gives accurate predictions and useful models, but reality is obtained through religion combined with science for science alone gives only models.

The world was created by God. To make the world meaningful and challenging, the God left people to themselves but allowed the people to know about God through his reincarnation--Jesus Christ. (Jesus Christ is described in the New Testament. Existence of God and of Jesus can also be inferred rationally without relying on any religious text.) The New Testament was written partially for the people who lived at the time it was written, and it thus includes figurative language instead of being purely formal and logical. People who believe in God, who love the God and the people, and who strive to help people (helping people is serving the God) will enjoy salvation after death.
Added Sept 20, 2009: I continue to believe in the divinity of Jesus. However, I do not view the New Testament as substantially infallible. God hides its existence, and thus surviving accounts of Jesus must be plausibly of human origin for those who reject Christianity, which means that the moral message cannot be completely true in all of its aspects, and that it should not be accepted uncritically. It is probably best to read the Bible as if it was a human creation, that is the divine inspiration that contributed to the Bible is not a strong argument that particular biblical verses (or even themes that are reinforced by many verses) are true. On a different note, with respect to life after death, I am inclined to believe that the dead will be resurrected by the human civilization once it becomes sufficiently advanced (but I am not sure). The reason for the resurrection-by-humans belief is that it seems right for there to be some way for imperfect beings (as opposed to God alone) to resurrect the dead.

Conform in behavior (instead of having pride), but never in thought.

My goal is to make the world better, and I shall never give up. Hate and vengeance are wrong. There is always hope, even if it is hope in death; love is universal and is to be given to all people. When in trouble, think of heaven and of love, and of the universal power of God. It is good to take action against enemies and evil, but the purpose of action must be to bring good and not to destroy the enemy.