Ignorance

One of the great ‘right-wing’ theories is about keeping the masses in ignorance.  This is not thought cruel; rather to let them learn would be cruel – they just can’t take it.  Better to peddle religion and great nation stuff – the opiates of the masses.  They are better off this way.  After all, it is depressing to discover there is probably no god, and the shameful history of almost every country that rose to power, including one’s own.  There was probably a more decent and advanced society in Persia before the hideous and violent European smuck we are taught.  We might even have to give up even on our notions of WW2 as a virtuous anti-Nazi war if we want the truth.  I’m no historian, but you can’t help noticing that the only winner was the United States.  The Russian, British, Germanic, French and Japanese imperialist empires all lost – and were no loss.  The Americans continued building one.  This may not have been a bad thing.

Ignorance is brilliantly defended.  Accuse someone of it and you may get a smack in the mouth or worse.  Try to explain that the British Empire, which peaked in landmass in 1922 at a quarter of the Earth, was based on gunboat diplomacy and drug trading, and you risk something nasty from the lager lout and most of our population.  It’s not all the story, but is true.  I doubt any of us is qualified to know whether the world needed defending against communism (really Sino-Soviet imperialism I guess – both were grim state-capitalist dictatorships).  What we probably can say is we would like to try a world without war, something unknown in history.

We don’t argue this well.  We can get to the notion of laying down our arms, but this is just dumb.  Even if 99% of us do, we risk becoming ‘North Korean’.  If we all do it, we become prey to any rise of mad sects of bandits, or some alien race smart enough to build inter-galactic ships, but dumb enough to still like hurting people.  Utopia almost means ‘what isn’t anywhere’, and would need policing.  We need to think smart not dumb on stuff like this.

There’s a general thinking point here.  We could do with economics that helps us build stuff we want and need like hospitals, television worth watching and so on.  We obviously have some other form of economics, which as with democracy, just justify on the grounds it’s better than other crap we’ve tried.  None of us want to be North Korean, but you must have noticed how hard their soccer team played.  Western economics and democracy are vaunted as the best of possible worlds, even as the only game in town until China showed another hand.  The thinking issue is that we can get to knowing we want something better, but then enter the fear of practical reasoning, realising we are contesting “religion” and will face a tour of the “instruments of torture”.  Only nutters believe in world peace and rational economics as build-able realities, after all.  You may be lucky to get away with ridicule as an idealist, but you are going to feel like whistle-blower and we know what happens to them.

Thinking out-loud is a political act.

Keeping people in ignorance, believing in gods and national greatness, the myths of origin that give false identity gives us a strange body-politic that reason cannot appeal to.  Foucault and others have referred to the formation of docile bodies and govern-mentality – the ‘mechanisms’ being everything from schools, a biased press, soap-opera and detective fiction.  A populace kept in ignorance and democracy needs some thinking about in terms of a rational, open society.  The Enlightenment idea was very different, aimed at people thinking for themselves and confident in it.

Everywhere, we have institutions that demonstrate we dare not have people thinking for-themselves.  Courts and policing are a good examples.  Bobby to judge, rather than local meeting to strung-up on a lamp-post.  They aren’t keen on referendums either, are they!  We once managed without the institutions we have now and might again.  The return of lynch mobs ain’t it, yet technology, spread of education (however inadequate) and more has changed since many institutions formed.  We might be able to do more, cheaper and better with more direct public decision-making and scrutiny now.

In fact, we are going the wrong way.  More fear is being introduced to prevent plain-speaking and to make people use thought simply for competitive advantage.  Students still thank me for encouraging them to think for themselves, but I wonder how long it will be until Sklar and the single Gaussian copula is advertised as ‘how to make money on illegal side bets with hedge funds for your bank’.

You may well be happy to remain ignorant of  a copula being used as a general way of formulating a multivariate distribution in such a way that various general types of dependence can be represented. The approach to formulating a multivariate distribution using a copula is based on the idea that a simple transformation can be made of each  in such a way that each transformed marginal variable has a uniform distribution. Once this is done, the dependence structure can be expressed as a multivariate distribution on the obtained uniforms, and a copula is precisely a multivariate distribution on marginally uniform random variables. When applied in a practical context, the above transformations might be fitted as an initial step for each marginal distribution, or the parameters of the transformations might be fitted jointly with those of the copula.

I’m sure you don’t need to know.  What I would say, is that until you notice all the bookies have closed down. no one has found a real way of beating the stock market or doing anything so clever with money that the stuff starts printing itself.  It’s how we remain so ignorant that we believe Sooty’s Magic Wand is real that we need to know.  The relevant maths and models are in the public domain.  If they really worked for the purposes claimed, I’d have stung all the bookies by now.  I’ll have to attack ACPO instead, with some dud software that is guaranteed to identify burglary hotspots.  When it doesn’t work, I’ll tell them it’s because the computers are too slow and sell them a batch I’ve picked up cheap from Canary Wharf where people have noticed this junk doesn’t work in financial markets.  Some years on, they may notice all it does is draw pretty diagrams from input by local cops.  No one will want to admit they were sold through their own ignorance.

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