Archive for the 'Religion' Category

The curse of a blessing

August 1st, 2011 — Wordman

According to Genesis 1:28, after God created humans, he did some version of the following:

  • And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (King James)
  • Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (New Living Translation)
  • God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (New International Version)
  • benedixitque illis Deus et ait crescite et multiplicamini et replete terram et subicite eam et dominamini piscibus maris et volatilibus caeli et universis animantibus quae moventur super terram (Latin Vulgate)
  • כח  וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם, אֱלֹהִים, וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְכִבְשֻׁהָ; וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם, וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבְכָל-חַיָּה, הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל-הָאָרֶץ. (JPS 1917 Edition)

Ignore, for the moment, that God is bestowing a blessing here, not issuing a command (that is, God is imbuing man with fertility). Also, ignore the multitude of translation problems something like this has.

Instead, assume for a second that this verse means what many in the modern world think it does: God commanding to humans to breed. You can even bring all the baggage you want with that, like the implication that, therefore, birth control is a sin, and so on. Pretend that the first instruction God issued man was to conquer the earth by having lots of babies. Hey, guess what?

Mission Accomplished

We did it! Humans have “filled the earth”!

Can we slow down now?

I don’t know much Hebrew or Latin, so I can’t be sure of the translation, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say “be fruitful and multiply, then keep multiplying to the point that you start killing yourself with your own waste”. It seems like self-extermination through overpopulation would seriously hamper the mission to “reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Even if you think we are not choking on our own waste already, how long do you think it will be until we do? How will you know? Think about it this way:

Say you have a jar. In this jar, you will be breeding some sort of organism (yeast or bacteria or something). Let’s say these organisms breed really quickly, with the population doubling every minute. You start breeding at 11am. By noon, the jar is full. Given that the population doubles each minute, what time is it when the jar is half-full?

People who don’t understand the problem (or exponential growth) will naïvely say 11:30. This is wrong, of course. What is not as obvious is that the mathematically correct answer (11:59, one minute before noon) is also wrong. It’s wrong because the population would never actually fill the jar at all. In the real world, the waste products produced by the existing organisms would kill the whole population long before the jar got anywhere near to full.

Now, imagine you are one of the organisms in this jar. What time would it be when you started saying to yourself “man, it is getting really crowded and smelly in here?” And once you notice, is there anything you can do about it? Or is it already too late?

One last thought: suppose waste doesn’t interfere and the jar really does fill up. Then, right at noon, the population finds three more jars, identical to the one they are already in. Hurray! The population is saved! They can expand into the new jars! Well, at least for two more minutes, until 12:02, when these jars fill up as well.

In an alternate reality

October 11th, 2010 — Wordman

In our own world, Spain sent Hernán Cortés and others to conquer the New World. Soldiers slaughtered civilians. Priests single-handedly destroyed nearly all of the written word of a culture in some ways more advanced than Spain’s, largely erasing it from history. And smallpox and other European diseases killed tens of millions of Native Americans.

In an alternate reality, a more enlightened Spain instead enters the New World as partners, negotiating a mutually beneficial co-existence with the Aztec, Inca and other native civilizations. Trust and respect rule the day, making both New World and Old World stronger for the sharing. Each culture shares knowledge the other lacks, to the benefit of all. Everyone holds hands and sings songs, and there is much rejoicing. Then, smallpox and other European diseases kill tens of millions of Native Americans.

Posts you will never see

June 25th, 2009 — Wordman

Looking at my blog’s “drafts” section reveals a number of posts that have been languishing, half-formed, some of them since before I made this blog public. Many of these occupied my mind at the time, but since have lost their timeliness. Some needed a bit more polishing. Some didn’t have enough legs to turn into a real post. Others I just haven’t fully formed in my head. Rather than keep them in the “maybe someday” box, they will be pasted in raw form into this post for posterity, and the originals will be deleted, just to get them out of my head.

In these descriptions, text in italics represents text added today for the purpose of explaining the post’s idea. Any original text from the draft will remain un-italicized. The are presented youngest first. In some drafts, text is fairly close to final. Some are only scattered notes. Most are a mix of lucid sentences with random phrases to remind me what I was thinking.

If these scattered thoughts trigger any musings in your own brain, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Fighting illiteracy

Initially created April 2009

A post about how what’s really going on in the Middle East is a conflict of knowledge vs. ignorance. The main point here was to suggest a strategy in Iraq of taking over their educational system, under the assumption that educated masses are less likely to buy into fundamentalist attempts to manipulate them. Also, the point was to change the rhetoric of the United States to be more about enlightenment and opportunity, rather than the stupid “war on abstract concepts” language they use now. I never really got this working in my head.

In the modern world, intimidation and intolerance is the only is the only real path the illiterate have to power.

US pitches the war stupidly: “they hate us for our freedom” “evil-doers”, “war on terror”.

Symbol: the destruction of the Buddhist statues looked like nothing more than “boys with toys”.

Counterargument: reading doesn’t help US fundies from being idiots.

The vegetarian case for cannibalism

Initially created August 2008

In the later chapters of his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan spends a great deal of effort thinking about the morality of eating animals. In particular, he wrestles with a moral argument laid out by Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation, claiming that it “demands you either defend the way you live, or change it.”

Aristotle. I don’t remember the point I was going for with Aristotle. Possibly something about the risk that using reasoning based on assumptions depends significantly on the bias of your assumptions. (I also have a pet theory that at least some of the dark ages was created by the seemingly complete inability of people to doubt what Aristotle said, even when it was obviously wrong, and that the Renaissance happened when people got over this. Uh, and stopped being set on fire for heresy. Anyway…)

Essentially their logic leads to “point A”, at which time they ask “given that most people object to exploiting the retarded, why is it mortal to exploit animal”.

But using the same logic, you can ask “given that most people have no problem with exploiting animals, why is it immoral to exploit the retarded”.

To be convincing, a line of reasoning needs to lead inexorably to a single conclusion. Singer’s argument doesn’t: it leads to many. Worse, most of these contradict each other. So, while there may be some logic to it, it is not a tool for reasonable conclusion of anything.

Singer says “we have a strong interest in convincing ourselves that our concern for other animals does not require us to stop eating them”. It seems to me this should be turned around. Our strong interest in continuing to eat other animals requires that our concern for them is not convincing.

All this rambling was intended to illustrate how, using the same techniques that zealot vegetarians use to “prove” that all should stop eating meat, you can just as easily “prove” that all should start eating human flesh. I pretty much just lost interest in this one, though, so it doesn’t really form any coherent point.

Wheat and chaff

Initially created July 2008. I have no idea what the point was supposed to be.

Things which let you see bias:

The “whiners” comment, exposes party parrots.

Apple’s MobileMe launch.

Atheists for Jesus

Initially created May 2008

Basic idea is that it is possible to embrace many of Jesus’ teachings even with the spiritual side of them removed. Much of the rationale for Christians following them is that “the only way to heaven is trough me”, but that is a “why should I do this”, not a “what should I do”.

There is some meat there, but seems like others have probably tread over this ground before.

The Dread Pirate Roberts

Initially created September 2007. Back when bin Laden videos would surface every once in a while, but there was question if it was really him, etc. I realized that it probably wouldn’t really matter if it was actually him or not. Just like the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride, maybe he could be turned into more of an office than a person:

Well, Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. So he took me to his cabin and told me his secret. “I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts,” he said. “My name is Ryan. I inherited this ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Dread Pirate Roberts, either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia.” Then he explained the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley. So we sailed ashore, took on an entirely new crew and he stayed aboard for awhile as first mate, all the time calling me Roberts. Once the crew believed, he left the ship and I have been Roberts ever since. Except, now that we’re together, I shall retire and hand the name over to someone else.

I’d hoped to get excerpts from these videos and show the different people that were carrying the “office” of Osama bin Laden, but it was sort of hard to find decent clips, and by the time I gathered some, the videos appeared with decreasing frequency. Still, I gathered a bunch of links.

Juries are stupid

Initially created May 2006. Post intended to vent about the reality reported by two articles; however, I’ve yet to find even a half-baked solution to this problem, so I never turned it into a real article (as per the rules).

Take heed the court stenographer

The second link used to point somewhere interesting, but now is just a place to buy drugs, which pisses me off all over again.

Making sausage

Initially created May 2006

A memo to my employees, the members if the United States Government:

I approach politics the way most Americans do, with lots of opinionated complaining a no real action. Sure, I’ll talk by the water cooler about which intern blew you when and where, or how much coke you did while attending an Ivy League school you weren’t really qualified to attend, or how they finally fished your girlfriend out of the river, or how old your former slave employee was when she bore your bastard child, or what contributor got which favor, or which particular lie you got busted for this time, but I don’t really care.

Most of my fellow Americans and I seem perfectly content to sit back and mostly ignore you, content in the knowledge that you are out there extending American hegemony.

The problem is: you suck at it now.

Sure, you’ve stumbled before….

Don’t make me get off the couch and overthrow your ass.

In darkest Mordor

Initially entered April 2006. This was meant to be the expansion of an offhand comment I made in an IM conversation about the “cartoon controversy”. The post has a central idea, but I could never make anything intelligent out of it.

How the Cartoon Protests Harm Muslims

If the Muslim world really desires the severing of all ties, maybe we should just surrender and put a wall up. Within 500 years, either they would have a renaissance of their own (see “Breeding the white out”) or they’d basically become orcs.

What do they import?

When the Sizzle is better than the Sausage

No relation to reality, indeed

Breeding the white out

Initially entered February 2006. I never turned this into anything more than an observation about the inevitable elimination of the palefaces.

A solution for Iraq

Initially entered February 2006

Get the “shadow government” to convince big wigs in Iraq that they should not fear democracy, because they’ll be able to manipulate it.

Another solution: leak a memo stating how glad we are that the sects are killing each other.

Things noticed from Fahrenheit 9/11:

  1. There is a scene showing a group of soldiers knocking on the door of a house and eventually detaining a guy living within, in view of his crying family. I think Moore intended for this scene to show how the “brutal fist of the evil U.S. Army” was smacking down the poor innocent civilians of Iraq. I took away something different from it. What struck me was, to my eyes, the complete overreaction of the crying civilians. Basically the soldiers knocked on the door and said “we’d like to talk to you” and the immediate civilian reaction was seemingly genuine terror, as if they were positive they were all going to get hacked into pieces and eaten within seconds. (What that means is that we are getting completely crushed in the propaganda war.)

    The Bush administration clearly thought (if they thought at all, which seems increasingly unlikely) that the reaction of most thinking Iraqi civilians would be something like “look at what the Americans did in Germany and Japan after World War II, maybe they’ll do the same here”. Instead, what reasonable Iraqis seemed to think was “here comes another bunch of white people to ‘colonize’ and oppress us.” Given Iraq’s history, this is a completely rational assumption.

  2. Compare the scene where a distraught Iraqi woman is crying hysterically and saying “please, God, kill them” with the crying of the American who lost her son.

Suggestions for virtual gesture standards

Initially entered January 2006

Eventually, and probably within the next few decades, a growing body of computer users will have reason to interact with 3D environments in a way that feels like manipulating actual objects in space, rather than clicking on a 2D screen. While the virtual reality concept of Neuromancer, Snow Crash and The Matrix seems to occupy the attention of pop culture, it’s probable that ‘immersive reality’, where computer generated objects are displayed overlaying real life, will become popular first. The most accessible demonstration of this idea takes place in the early portions of the film Minority Report, where the lead character uses ‘light gloves’ to interact objects he perceived to be floating in front of him (thanks to holographic screens). While holograms are a ways off, systems based on this idea (originally suggested by John Underkoffler) are already being built. I’m not sure what gesture interface these systems use, and I’ve remaining deliberately ignorant of it while writing this post.

I’ve been thinking about how you might use such as system (perhaps with glasses to give the illusion of objects floating in space) to sculpt three-dimensional objects. It seems to me that the gestures detailed below are the most natural for such a task. Most modelling systems can create basic shapes (cubes, spheres, etc.) but build a lot of complex interface to handle three basic properties of these primitives once created:

  • position: exact placement of the object in 3D-space
  • orientation: how the object is rotated relative to the xyz axes.
  • distortion: how the object deviates from its initial shape relative to other shapes (for example, being scaled larger) or within itself (for example, if part of the object is stretched from its initial position)

One of the less obvious problems in 3D modeling is that when altering one property, it is often difficult to control, or even identify, how your action might change the other properties. For example, if you click on a point on an object, then drag in some direction, will the object shift its position, keeping its orientation? Will it rotate around a central point? Will the part that you clicked pull away from the rest of the object?

The answer to this is usually that it depends on what tool is selected. I think a gesture system could make this much easier, by having the gesture being used imply the operation you want. As someone who “draws pictures in the air” during conversations, I think the following gestures are fairly intuitive (bear in mind these are specifically for manipulating 3D models, not a generic 3D interface):

Never got around to sussing these out. I now lack the desire. For some reason this link was at the end of this draft.

Poser data for RPS-25

Initially entered January 2006. It would have been world-shattering. For free, the world would have Poser data for all the hand positions of RPS-25, to render the epic battles in high definition, 3D goodness. Unfortunately, even I apparently don’t have that much time to waste. I’m too busy playing RPS-101.


Initially entered September 2005

I am a dangerous man. In my Home Depot bag, I hold a substance so devastating it is kept under lock and key, only sold to those the government has deemed worthy of it.

This article was supposed to be an attempt to paint me as an Orginal Gangster for the “edgy, high-crime” lifestyle of buying goddamn spraypaint, which was kept in locked cages in my county, requiring a manager to open, due to a dumb local law. It was actually supposed to be a sort of investigative journalism type piece, doing interviews with both the managers of the stores affected as well as the idiots who signed it into law. I never did figure out what the reason was, though graffiti and huffing seemed like popular bugbears. In any case, it looks like this law got either overturned or exempted to the point that Home Depot no longer has the cages. So my wrath as been quelled, for the moment.

Billions shift from side to side

Initially entered July 2005. As you will be able to tell, I never really figured out what I was saying here.

Sometimes I get images in my head that make perfect sense to me, but have difficulty explaining them.

People are sheep.

If you modeled advances of the human population as a flow of particles that gathered around specific memes, the result would look fluid, but unlike a fluid, all the advances come from those who do not follow the herd, pulling the collective in a different direction. Could this idea be used to predict things? In other words, model as a fluid that has these attractors on the fringes.

[Liberal graph that Rob mentioned, Economic and some other axis as example]. Now imagine there were more than two axes. Things like “degree of religious observance” and “feelings about self-image”.

I hate the word meme, because it seems like you only ever hear it from the same people that say stuff like “if hierarchy presupposes sameness…”.

When whoever it is decides that “pink is the new black”, the masses shift toward a point in the space representing this idea. I’m not sure what the flow would look like, but instinctively it seems to me that it would have some characteristics of a fluid. Thinking about it now, the picture in my head sort of looks like Galactica.

There would be an unfluid characteristic though: innovators.

O’Reilly’s alpha geek strategy. Fashion industry tracking “cool people”. But that’s social. What about using math?

Visual debugging

Initially entered July 2005. This is another picture in my head that I cannot quite articulate.

Existing debuggers seem to think that what people need is more and more features. Wrong. What they need is vision, the ability to see what is going on in a malfunctioning process.

Shows a time line of a value weaving through the code. Blocks of data that expand when you look at them. Lines indicating a path through the code (would remember even if you didn’t step). Threads as threads of code on the screen, controlling them visually.

No little panes.

Order vs. Chaos

Initially entered May 2005

Reading Swarm Intelligence recently, I was struck by a comment that nature tends to organize. While this seems true to me, it flies in the face of the second law of thermodynamics, which holds that everything moves toward disorder. These two concepts can easily be combined into a flaky pop philosophy, which I will spell out now.

Part of this philosophy was to involve the weird kind of numerology that nature seems to use, where it tends to spontaneously organize things in particular ways, with certain units clustering in certain numbers. Those numbers are “two” (e.g. quarks in a meson, parents in sexual reproduction), “three” (e.g. quarks in a proton, licks to the center of a Tootsie-pop), “a few” (e.g. atoms in a molecule, wolves in a pack) and “a hundred billion or so” (e.g. atoms in a DNA molecule, stars in a galaxy, cells in an organ). That is, when natural parts gather in certain numbers, they become something greater. The pop-philosophy would fixate on what sort of ascension happens when 100 billion human brains come together.

Other parts of the idea were to focus on the natural tension between emergent order and entropy, but I couldn’t make it sound like anything other than the metaplot of season four of Babylon 5.

Computers in role-playing

Initially entered May 2005. I think laptops at a gaming table have still not really reached their potential. Seeing this projection system made me want to gather a bunch of ideas about using computers in tabletop role-playing together, but it never happened. Maybe someday.

Things I will never see

Initially entered August 2004.

  • A reenactment of the Nazis marching into Paris, but using the music and choreography of Michael Jackson’s Thriller instead of goose-stepping.

The black horse

May 9th, 2008 — Wordman

Now that idiot thugs are refusing disaster relief and rice shortage prophesies are being self-fulfilled, it won’t be long until famine starts to rear its head. While many people are busy dying, those that aren’t will be spreading blame around. Blame will fall on bad weather, bad crops, bad luck, even on Al Gore. But the truth will be none of these. While starvation is (obviously) caused by a lack of food, famine—that is, widespread starvation over a large area—is the result of bad government.

As far as food goes, governments fail their people in two ways: by failing to plan for bad times and by bungling (or, all to often, profiting from) crises when some external event triggers a food problem. Usually, famine involves both. In its 2002 coverage of Ethiopia entitled “Bad weather, and bad government”, the Economist said:

Bad weather is rarely enough, on its own, to kill large numbers of people. Famine usually requires bad government, too…. In Ethiopia, the food crisis has been aggravated by the legacy of a senseless border war with neighboring Eritrea between 1998 and 2000. It killed tens of thousands, forced 350,000 to flee their homes, blasted both countries’ infrastructure and prompted foreign donors to freeze a lot of aid. In all, it cost Ethiopia an estimated $2.9 billion—almost a whole year’s output for every farmer in a country where 80 per cent of the population lives on farms. Such a monumental man-made disaster has made it harder for the country to cope with a natural one.

The millions of Chinese that starved from 1958 to 1961 also owe their deaths more to their government’s response to natural disaster than to the disasters themselves, even by that governments own admission. Research into other famines by Amartya Sen reached similar conclusions. Even black swan events, such as fungus unexpectedly killing potatoes needs bad government to become the Irish Potato Famine.

Our modern reaction to famine in other countries is to send relief aid and “keep them in our prayers”. This probably saves a few lives (at least in countries where the government isn’t stealing the aid), but treats the symptom, not the disease. You will continue to see famine in country after country until we change this “we sympathize” tune we sing into an accusation of incompetence against the government causing the problem, even our own (especially our own). Some, for example, are taking the World Bank to task, claiming it created policies that encourage governments to create famine. This is a step in the right direction, but a better step would be to also blame the governments themselves.

Art “Four Horsemen: Famine” by Greyskin666.

Growing up, sort of

March 18th, 2008 — Wordman

The general reaction to the Eliot Spitzer “scandal” strikes me as an interesting stop along a fairly recent road toward a (sort of) more mature public treatment of sex. It wasn’t that long ago (say, a century or so) that nearly all of the public would have laid the blame for the whole scandal solely at the feet of the prostitute. Only recently has the “scarlet letter” mentality shifted to force men to bear the weight of their transgressions. Some parts of the world still stone prostitutes and adulteresses.

So, it seems encouraging to me that virtually no one has been trying to lay blame at the feet of the prostitute in this case or claiming that, somehow, Spitzer was somehow powerless to resist her feminine wiles. In fact, it seems that she has become something of a hero, with lots of people buying her music.

It seems like a good sign that the U.S. is starting to grow up a little bit, sticking a toe out from under the smothering history of Puritanical idiocy that has shaped so much of the region’s politics for centuries.

Of course, a nation that really had a mature attitude toward sex (and loves the free market as much as the U.S. claims to) wouldn’t be so bent out of shape about prostitution in the first place, so we still have a long ways to go.

Another counterexample to open source

January 3rd, 2008 — Wordman

As reported by Fake Steve Jobs, an article recently penned by Jaron Lanier makes an argument in favor of closed source development. This is not necessarily an anti-open source stance, as Lanier claims it has its place, but…

…a politically correct dogma holds that open source is automatically the best path to creativity and innovation, and that claim is not borne out by the facts.

Why are so many of the more sophisticated examples of code in the online world—like the page-rank algorithms in the top search engines or like Adobe’s Flash—the results of proprietary development? Why did the adored iPhone come out of what many regard as the most closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop on Earth? An honest empiricist must conclude that while the open approach has been able to create lovely, polished copies, ithasn’t been so good at creating notable originals. Even though the open-source movement has a stinging countercultural rhetoric, it has in practice been a conservative force.

A couple of years ago, my friend MV mentioned another, more encapsulated example of how closed source can build better solutions. I haven’t seen it mentioned much, so will repeat it here.

The example comes from the very early days of the graphical user interface. Once you start to build a system that has “windows” that can move around, you have to contend with the idea that these windows overlap. Even if each window is a rectangle, it doesn’t take many windows to make some complicated shapes. Even two windows can do so. Consider this image of an early Mac desktop from the Apple Museum:

Mac desktop

The “System Folder” window is easy enough to represent, but how do you describe the shape of the visible portion of the “Mac System Software” window? What about the visible portion of the gray background? It’s just a collection of intersecting rectangles, but think about it for a second: how would you describe such shapes to a computer? Oh, and you only have 128K of Memory and an 8MHz, 16-bit processor. When building a GUI, you have to deal with this issue at some level. For example, something is painting the desktop background; how does it know not to paint over the windows? (For those that know a bit about graphics, double buffering doesn’t help you here, because a) you don’t have the memory and b) it is to slow on chips like this.)

The general concept for describing such shapes became known as “regions”. There are a number of different ways to implement regions. It was clear that Xerox PARC had one when the Apple team famously visited. It wasn’t at all clear what that implementation was, however, as it was closed source. Lacking access to Xerox’ methods, engineer Bill Atkinson took a look at the problem, figured out how they must have done it, and coded his version into the drawing system that would become QuickDraw.

It turns out, however, that Atkinson’s region code wasn’t really anything like Xerox’ code. It was much better. Better, in fact, than most other systems that came along, particularly the implementation used later by Windows. In an anecdote about Atkinson and regions, Andy Hertzfeld says that Apple “considered QuickDraw’s speed and deftness at region handling to be the most significant ‘crown jewel’ in Apple’s entire arsenal.”

This brilliant system (now supplanted by code that takes better advantage of modern hardware, particularly video cards) probably wouldn’t have happened if the Xerox code had been open source. Atkinson most likely would have started with their solution and refined it, and a bit of genius would have never been born.

Roosting chickens

October 19th, 2007 — Wordman

Call me cynical, or maybe godless, but I’ve never really bought into the idea that suicide bombers are in it entirely for the 72 virgins, mercy from sins and eternal life in heaven. Though anathema to me, maybe that really does matter to some of them. I suspect that what matters much more, however, is the large quantities of cash that are promised to their families.

The average life expectancy in, say, Pakistan, is 62 years. If you take out, say, 15 years of that average life where working is nearly impossible (either to old or to young), you get an estimated 47 “working years”. Multiply this by the average yearly income ($690) and you get a loose estimate of lifetime earnings for the average person in Pakistan of $32,430. Given that 32.6% of Pakistanis (~54 million) live below the poverty line and 17% (~28 million) live below $1/day, quite a large number of Pakistanis will make significantly less than $32k over their life. To such people, $25k would be a lot of money, much more than they will ever see. Even to those with average incomes, it’s quite a lot of money. (Figure out how much you might make over you life, and decide what you’d be willing to do if someone offered you 75% of that amount at once.)

I don’t know if bombers are really responding to that financial incentive, but it is fairly powerful. I suspect it is at least a factor in their “vocational choice”, and probably an important one. If this is true, it suggests a method of prevention: make it clear that those who take such money don’t live very long.

By “make it clear”, I don’t mean that politicians should issue sternly worded warnings. I’m talking about assassination, with signs pinned to the body saying “profited from suicide bombing” written in English, Punjabi and Arabic in their own blood, and tapes sent to CNN and Aljazeera. Preferably, in large numbers all at once. If there really are secret satellites that can vaporize human targets from space, fire them up. Perfect targets. At the very least, send special ops to steal the money.

This probably wouldn’t stop all the bombing, but I bet it would help. It doesn’t score high on the morality meter, but it’s much more moral than killing civilians at random or with collateral damage. If you have a better plan, I’d love to hear it.