It’s Been a Weird Day

If you look at the timestamp on this post you can pretty easily make a general inference about where its title comes from.  Clinton has lost the election to Trump and I think myself and a lot of others are spending the day coming to terms with that.  It feels like nobody really knows what’s going to come next or what actions we should take.

Last night and this morning my girlfriend and I talked about both leaving the state and country, largely out of fear of political violence by the Trump White House, but it’s not clear to me how likely that outcome is and over what timescales we might expect it to develop.  There doesn’t seem to be an obvious calculus for this kind of decision making.  It certainly reminds me of Pascal’s wager, where an outcome is so overwhelmingly costly  (in Pascal it’s eternal damnation, but in this case it’s death/worse) that pretty much any decision algorithm returns only one choice (believe for Pascal, flee for me).

However as the day has gone on I’ve begun to get a “stand together” kind of vibe from my liberal corner of the social media, and I think this changes the decision calculus a little.  Staying offers the opportunity to effect positive social change (or at least neutralize negative social change) among the people I love and care about.  In many ethical systems I’ve encountered this is something that is considered to be of equal worth to ‘life itself’, but it also seems like the balance between this benefit and the cost of death or persecution is still modulated in some ways by the various probabilities of the outcomes.

Furthermore it’s deeply unclear to me what actions I can take to effect this change.  I see vague things like ‘participate’, and more specific suggestions such as volunteering for worthy organizations, but on some selfish level this feels beneath me?  That’s not an easy thing to admit, and I would like to qualify it a little bit.  I’m fairly well educated, and I have a number of ‘valuable’ skills (the standard ones that they present when they’re trying to shill a STEM education), and so ‘just volunteering’ feels a little like I’d be under-utilizing my talents.  On the other hand it’s not clear to me that these are talents that facilitate creating positive social change, nor is it clear if I possess them in sufficient strength to be using them in a productive way.

It’s possible that I’m going too all-or-nothing; that I see only the option of devoting myself to social progress against a lifetime of sequestering myself away from any social goal, and that maybe true progress comes when I find a way to compromise between these lifestyles.  Maybe volunteering for 5 hours a week or something is enough.  When I type it out now that seems obvious, but still feels vaguely unfulfilling in some ways.

I’ve always felt like there’s some kind of fog in my head causing me to jump to conclusions or decisions all at once, and then fixate on or around them without regard to other possible perspectives.  It’s like once I have an answer to a problem I can no longer develop alternatives in my head.  Something like functional fixation, but all the time for everything ever.  I’m not sure how this directly relates to the main post, but it’s certainly a factor somehow.

Long story short, I think this blog is going to be about how I relate myself and my background to promoting good.  I originally wanted to do some stuff on how algorithms are dangerous when they intersect with our lives unchecked, but I got beat to the punch by blogs like mathbabe.org, alas.  So it’s all kind of a work in progress.  More to come for sure as I wrap my head around all of this.

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