A New Projectionist

3 December 2019

I am in the process of relocating video embedded in entries to this 'blog. (Only a few and rather old entries have such content.)

My experiences with YouTube have been unhappy. It routinely messed-up the synchronization of sound with image for my content. Without a ready appeal process, YouTube disabled videos that made fair use of copyrighted content. Although my content has not been affected by the political bias of Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of YouTube), it was grossly unethical for YouTube to get people to cluster at their site by representing itself as an honest broker, and then to bring a bias to bear. And, when YouTube disabled a video for one reason or for another, the embedding code responded inappropriately.

For now, I am moving most or all of my video content to BitChute; I don't know that my content will remain there. But any host that does not apply an ideologic filter will attract a disproportionate share of content from those penalized by the biases of YouTube; the main-stream of the media (who share the ideologic bias of YouTube) will seize upon this disproportion to claim or to insinuate a claim that the host and those who use it are sympathetic with the more repellant of those filtered-out by YouTube. The sophistry will be evident to all but the rather stupid, but a much larger share of people will rôle-play as if the argument were sound.

Ideas of Choice

11 November 2019

I have been more actively working on the decision-theory paper off of which the probability paper was spun. And this effort has me thinking about the meanings of choice.

As I noted in an earlier entry to this 'blog, my paper on indecision used choice to mean no more or less than selection. I defined relations of preference in terms of choice functions, which are functions that select a subset from a set of options. Defining relations of preference in this manner seems to explain preference in terms of something called choice rather than explaining the thing called choice in terms of preference. But something called choice is often said to result from preference. Certainly, we want somehow to explain selection by persons of alternatives (even if that which explains cannot itself be observed directly!), and some notion of preference represents an attempt at explanation.

(However, if preference is the proper explanation, then preference must be very changeable; much of real-world behavior does not conform to a constant set of preferences. And people do such things as regularly selecting {A} from a set {A, B, C} yet consistently selecting {B} from a set {A, B, D}; perhaps in such cases we can still contrive an explanation in terms of preference, but we should be dubious of such explanation. I don't think that we should reject the word choice if the selections that people actually make aren't driven by preference. If preference does not provide a proper explanation, then perhaps some more general concept does. And perhaps by teasing-out what people intend by the word choice when they intend something narrower than selection, we can arrive at that generalization. That's one of the reasons that I sometimes press some people, especially fellow economists, to tell me what they intend by the word choice or by coördinate terms, when they reject its application where it seems to me to fit. I'm not trying to catch them in error or Socratically to teach a lesson to them; I'm trying to engage with them in an important investigation. But, important doubts about the use of preference in descriptive theory not withstanding, preference makes considerable sense in prescriptive use. Indeed, that sense in prescriptive use is one of the reasons that we so easily accept it in descriptive use, and even assures us that it must at least approximate a realistic description fairly well, because unreasonable behavior is costly.)

Identification of a preference is sometimes itself called choice; but sometimes preference is instead expressed in terms of whom or of what one would choose, if given the choice; and, sometimes, after a preference is expressed, the response is something such as You don't get to make that choice! In conscious identification of a preference, one selects an ideation; in reporting such an identification, one selects an utterance; and these ideations or utterances are selected in a different way than are their subjects, except in odd, self-referential cases.

In discussion of decision-making in a world of uncertainty, I've found use for an idea that I call practical choice, by which I mean selection of an option which selection causes that option to be effected with certainty.

In a world without uncertainty, there would be a simple division between what one could attain and what one could not. Preference amongst the unattainable would ex definitione be without practical significance. Discussion of preference amongst the possible would be operationally equivalent to discussion of practical choice, and rational agents would always attain that possible state-of-the-world that they most desired.

When we begin to speak and write of uncertainty, we are actually speaking and writing of cases in which we may make practical choices amongst options that would, in turn, affect the state-of-the-world in imperfectly predictable ways. Hypothetically, I might not care about those effects; I might only care about the options that I can practically choose; but, with those options properly identified, that hypothetical is highly implausible and sterile. And, otherwise, it now becomes quite relevant to consider the difference and relationship between preferences amongst things that are subject to practical choice and preferences amongst things that are not subject to practical choice. Preferences amongst things that an agent cannot practically choose will determine preferences amongst things that she can.

(Our practical choices are more limited than some might at first realize. An agent has practical choice of no more than some mental states; and selecting amongst these mental states delivers no more power over other possibilities than to increase or decrease the probabilities of those possibilities. Given the selection of one mental state, one's arm is more likely to move, but there is at least some terrible possibility that it will not. Indeed, given the selection of one mental state, one is more likely to recall a desired datum, but there is a possibility that one will not. Still, in many cases we might, without doing too much violence to realism, pretend that our practical choices include operations that we think almost surely to follow upon our exercise of actual practical choice. For example, one might calculate as if one had a practical choice of whether to propose marriage, while acknowledging that one did not have a practical choice over whether one would marry the other party.)

The concern of my paper on indecision was in identifying a difference in observable behavior distinguishing indecision from indifference, and I didn't want that distinction to be simply self-reported. When an agent was undecided between X and Y rather than indifferent, I needed a difference in selection from a set in which X and Y options, rather than a difference in selection amongst utterances or somesuch. In hindsight, I wish that, in that paper, I'd discussed conceptions of choice more than I did, and had explicitly written of practical choice. Perhaps accordingly I will someday revise the working version of the paper.

Acceptance

23 September 2019

On 22 September, I was informed that my article Formal Qualitative Probability had been accepted for publication by The Review of Symbolic Logic. I do not yet know in what issue it is to be published.

Up-Date (2019:11/03): I have not yet received a galley-proof of my paper nor a copyright-assignment form. I have learned that the journal publishes papers on-line before scheduling them to a specific issue of the journal, so I will probably be in the odd position of having a DOI and a URI before I know the issue in which the paper is to appear.

Continued Waiting

13 August 2019

Four weeks after I submitted a revision of my paper on probability, along with additional responses to each of the referee reports, I am still waiting on word from the journal. The website reporting on the submission is not particularly instructive. Under the heading Status the report says 02/20/19 Waiting; under the heading Last Action the report reads Referee Assignment Request. My guess is that a request to a specific referee candidate has been made by the handling editor. I don't think that the report will be or has been updated to reflect declined requests; it might be updated when outstanding requests have been accepted.

Evidently, a swift rejection did not result from my explaining that the first pair of referee reports involved some major errors on the parts of those referees. But I am not made to feel particularly hopeful; it is pathological that the paper has not already been properly reviewed.

Revision and Resubmission

17 July 2019

I acted where I reasonably could to accommodate the most recent reviewers of my probability paper, but each of the reviewers made some rather dire errors. So, along with a revised version of the paper, I wrote responses to the reviews, and on 16 July sent these to the journal that had requested revisions.

The hope for publication rests upon three possibilities. Possibly the reviewers will acknowledge their errors; possibly the editors over-rule the reviewers, either on principle or to protect the reputations of the editors and of the journal.

I think that the chance of acceptance is poor. If the paper is rejected, then I will undo some of the revisions, and seek another journal to which to submit the paper.

'Blog Blues

12 July 2019

DreamHost, the hosting service that I use, recently broke this 'blog in at least two ways.

First, they deleted one or more files from my installation of Wordfence, which deletion crippled security. Second, they corrupted the database that underlies the 'blog, causing an old entry on usernames to be very imperfectly duplicated, with a date-stamp of 30 June 2019.

I noticed the problems in the wake of an up-dating of the operating system used by DreamHost; I infer that something went wrong in that process.

I contacted DreamHost and then stewed for some days, leaving things as they were to allow the support staff to set things right. They repaired the installation of Wordfence, offering an implausible conjecture about what had gone wrong. They did not repair the database appropriately.

Request for Changes

26 June 2019

Early on the morning of 26 June, I received a set of requested changes from the reviewers for the journal to which I submitted my probability paper about 125 days earlier. I have not read the demands carefully at this point. I am postponing a careful reading until I am better rested, and have had an opportunity to adjust to my annoyance at some of the comments that I encountered in skimming one of the two reviews.

The other of the two reviewers insists that I should write another paper, discussing incomplete preferences. To that demand, I will reply that I have had one paper published on that subject, and that the next paper in the programme is to synthesize such discussion. The lack of awareness of the reviewer about my prior work is an artefact of my selecting a blind review, so that my identity was concealed from the reviewers.

Assuming that the remaining demands of the reviewers can be met reasonably (or that the editor can be shown that any demands that are not met are unreasonable), my paper will be published at this journal.

Fourth Mensiversary

20 June 2019

I've not received a decision about my probability paper from the journal to which I submitted it four months ago, and the journal's website continues to report the paper's status as Waiting.

It might seem that none of the various reasons given by previous journals for rejection could be offered with plausibility after four months, as the supposèd short-comings pronounced by earlier editors and reviewers would quickly be evident. However, my experience is that some journals feel entitled simply to report — Ooops! — that work got lost or delayed in process, but could quickly be seen to be grossly deficient either before it was mislaid or after it was unstuck.

Meanwhile, I think that any reasonable reviewer will make a cursory examination of a paper before accepting it, that any reviewer competent to assess my probability paper would quickly recognize that its potential significance were considerable, and that he or she would therefore be reluctant to delay for weeks before making a more careful reading. Perhaps a long time were required to find a reviewer, or perhaps the paper is once again in the hands of some credentialed fool not competent to review it.

I hesitate to query the handling editor, for fear that, as in the case of the previous journal, the paper would be given-over to a reviewer who promises a quick review and then provides remarks that are careless and wrong. On the other hand, I also know from experience (with my paper on indecision) that some journals will allow a paper to idle indefinitely unless its author rebels.

Third Mensiversary

20 May 2019

I've not yet received a decision on my probability paper from the journal to which I had most recently submitted it, and the journal's website continues to report the paper's status as Waiting, although 20 May was a soft dead-line (and 20 May has passed in Europe).

It was only a soft dead-line because the journal simply declared that they attempt to report a decision within three months. Actually, three months is a target widely adopted by academic journals, though the target is often missed.

In any case, at this point it would not be considered inappropriate for me to query the handling editor about the paper, though I'm not sure what good would currently come of such a query. I'm inclined to believe that some journals will hand a paper to a referee for a quick-and-dirty review if pushed, and I'd rather just withdraw the submission than receive another derelict review.

I continue to regard a rejection as the most likely outcome and a Monday as the mostly day for a decision. I've not yet decided where next to submit my paper should the present journal reject it.

What in the Name of Böhm-Bawerk?!?

7 May 2019

A recent post to Facebook by Timo Virkkala reminds me of one of my peeves.

Eugen Ritter von Böhm-Bawerk died on 27 August 1914. The Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated in 1918. The Austrian state eliminated titles of nobility as such with a law passed on ‎3 April 1919, which law came into effect on 10 April 1919.

Had von Böhm-Bawerk lived into 10 April 1919, then he would have been given various choices as to what to do with his name. One of his choices would have been to change it to Eugen Böhm von Bawerk, which could alternately be spelled Eugen Boehm von Bawerk.[1][2] But of course he didn't, 'cause he'd been dead for almost five years.

Still, the Austrian central bank, the US Library of Congress, and that wretched mess Wikipedia decided to pretend that he'd done just that. He didn't adopt that name, his acolytes and admirers didn't and don't call him by that name, and he might have done something quite different (such as omitting the [Ritter] von altogether, which would have left his name more like its earlier form) if he'd been compelled to make a choice; but the Austrian state, the LoC, and Wikipedia still insist on sophomorically transforming his name into that form.


[1] The umlaut ( ¨ ) is an extremely stylized superscripted e. An umlaut may be replaced by writing an e after the letter over which the umlaut had been written; simply omitting an umlaut without replacement is illiterate.

Unfortunately, the modern glyph for the umlaut is indistinguishable from that of the diæresis, and the louts in Unicode Consortium decided to pretend that the two were the same character. (Yes, we've hit three of my peeves in this entry.) When not written diacritically, a diæresis should not be replaced by an e. (I've not seen that done, so it doesn't count as a peeve.)

[2] The [Ritter] von Bawerk might still look like a title of nobility, but it would not have counted as such. And somehow such reärrangements were seen as important.