Bias and Payoff

A random piece generated the following:

We know but try not to believe that it is impossible to erase bias in anything created by a human, as human bias is inevitable. Some engineers (social, civil, name your kind) will offer to detect bias and correct for it article by article, act by act. Yet, to solve for evidence of bias in how people choose articles, or acts or words or deeds, is to solve for a math problem without first clustering a set of laws or hypotheses that pertain to the problem at large, i.e. without encompassing the problem holistically.

The only way to control for bias in anthropomorphic products is to have a series of anti/corrective procedures, fading into multiplicity, perhaps somewhat like solving for the value of pi. The right way to run that ‘evidence of bias and correction for it’ experiment would be  to solve for both hypothesis and application problems simultaneously. Otherwise, the solution to problems would be equivalent to examining already-biased data and piling up evidence of certain degrees of bias without looking at why those biases exist.

The missing problem — in the whole field of machine learning, deep learning, AI and cognitive manipulation of political-economic populations, socio-political power and attribute-signalling furore — is why, given a choice (and not just between yes/no, such as in business or consumer choice models, or controlled experiments) individuals and groups choose one way and for one type of eventual result rather than others.

The calculation of outcome is not quite as cerebral as in chess. And people often choose to keep or return to homeostasis, i.e. to maintain what keeps them happy and fulfilled or to engineer outcomes in the common world that would bring them (as preferred group, not just one participating group) the lost homeostasis. Rarely do people choose for an outcome not yet imagined, and rarely are they willing to follow along without cognitive pictures of what the future will look like.

Bias is linked to payoff; ethically, it is impossible to remove human bias as long as we cannot solve the gnarls of human motivation.

It would perhaps be more desirable and fruitful to control for bias and payoff rather than attempt to remove the bias at all (even by cancelling out a negative with a positive). The calculation of payoff and satisfaction is a long derivation, and only a long game will ensure evidence that stands up to scrutiny as well as means to manage that evidence.

The real game in the digital world now is the vast experiment of controlled human emotion and behavior, which can be played by anyone who wants to ‘make an impact’ in the worlds linked up to social media, but are especially visible and truly formidable as platforms under names such as Google and Facebook. Data-driven regimes are perfect for both (1) convincing digitally docile populations to believe in the veracity of small steps and changes and choices as narrated within the framework of justice (righting wrongs, reversing damage) outcomes, and (2) gradually manipulating them to think and believe in digitally calculable ways. The Panopticon meets The Foundation trilogy.

All Hallows’ Eve


The dark half of the year begins.

Demeter is most distracted. Persephone must be found by us, lest our cycle halt, so we hold out payment to her spirit-children. Here is my sweet fruit, take and eat.

In spring, Time, per Sacred Law, you may have my body along with the corn king’s and spring queen’s. Tonight, it is merely a carnival of the cycle of life and death, the skull is a lit lamp, and we open the thin shade of our skin over this burning life.

The world turns its other face and its legion merry host don new garb to show they are someone else, somewhere else, for this vigil night. They would have been anyone else and nothing else, and for one tentative evening they show it, panting.





I have loved you in each leaf of spring, each death of winter, till the turning seasons rose like dust beneath our bodies.

I still walk in the sun gazing at shadow, and there is no one behind me to bind my arm, to say, ‘Wait.’ I have looked for you in every face, mistook the face for you. Whoever you are, these dreams have loved you well.

I, too, have loved before. This world, its creatures and their fantasies, their swirling cosmos of act-word-intention, those brittle wishes, all the dreams lost to others — all that I have spun from my self, my translucent untied life.  In my waking dreams I see their luminous marks. Murals that become graffiti, buffed nails, the prison walls chalked and hatched, stone upon kalend stone.

But this remainder I will lodge in my self, will shelter there as long as you wish it. I made you with everything I am not, an entire fall of water and desire, the sure direction of a riverine prayer.

I shall deny this.

And if there is no eternity, nor any other birth to tumble into, I shall still miss you.

I knew you by the shape of all absence. And savored

your scent like the sea-salt.

Life is still unperturbed by these folded knees.

The sea (or you) struck my tears, but slipped my hold thereafter. This took me for everything,

but the balance is still unmoved.

If there is only eternity, I will call you Krishna, and honor the illusion between the stars.


So much for shadow work

Did you find it, what you were looking for, all the time you were using the perimeter of the ring, the stage, the self, the world?

What did you see after you threw yourself against the ropes, launched yourself from them? Did you find anything? Did they crawl over your wrists, the ropes, tie you in knots when your knees bent climbing them? Did you meet that other body you raged against? Were you subdued before you hung from those arms?

Did your senses return you to yourself? Did you ever reach the limits of that body?

You never forgot yourself, did you? And you wanted to, but not when the forgotten piece would become another fragment of yourself, bartered, fingered, passed from craving, crazed buyer to buyer. Teller of tales, you become coin in their tellers’ hands. (That would be cinema in this late decade.) You are still looking for something more.

Your face when you are not guarding it.


Mother, I will build for you a ceremony of words.

Intonations, as I gather the brick-dust fallen from the heads of those burnt men and women filing tearless in the heat. They were building the bricks some of us will use to build our ‘havans.’ And I will chant under my breath as I run to gather the threads fallen loose from the dyed fabrics and the dyed hands of those who make our celebratory garments. I will, Mother, pant alongside the cattle being driven to market, waiting for the celebratory feast. I will walk with the farmer who dons his drums and feathers and travels to the city to make coins for his fickle harvest. I will heave and shout with the dark energetic boys on lorries who run the neighborhood shows, a few days to focalize youthful energy and rage. I will watch the crowds and the carnival, their emotions and their doubts sharpened by display. I will watch those who religiously abstain from such topsy turvy opiate festivals.

And I will etch with a little stick the altar I want to make for ‘you,’ the bricks of my lists, the chants of my queries. For nothing else makes sense of this senseless earth, its thrashing lives, its vast solitude in the cosmos. Without an accounting, this mind-hull of heaven is Nothing.


Ref: Durga Puja in West Bengal, India. They say it assumed it present ‘sarbojanin’ or community-affirming celebratory form in the 18th century, when it was a means of uniting the countryside against the British Raj. Sometime in the last few decades in Calcutta it became a carnivalesque city-wide festival. For the Bengali diaspora, it became a means of re-creating the social-hierarchical structure they knew in their childhood and youth, usually in conscious contradiction of the meaning of the festival. Recently, it has become a way to re-affirm culture and unapologetic heritage. Here, above, I have tried to wrest prayer from festivity. 

Changing the World

When we say we wish to change the world we merely mean that we want to fix it in a form of our own making. For the world is always changing, and we enthrone shadows in the end.

All our battles of work and love come to mean the preservation of what we wish the world to be. We suspend it between this or that heaven or hell and try to chastise it into being.

When it is not to our liking, we punish it, or ourselves. We die when we punish what we love in the name of something else we would love. Utopias (nowheres) are by their definition the projections of our desires.