15 July 2011

How to make the masses obey

 Suppose you are a leader of a big country. Say the Roman empire. Or Russia. What do you do to make people follow you? One way is to identify their religious tendencies and amplify them. You adopt, as state religion, the one which the majority of the people like. You then do a bit of marketing, preferably indirectly, and convince people that you, as a state leader, are chosen by the god(s) of the promoted religion. Then you are on a good path.

This is an almost sure recipe for success. Despite the fact that it has been employed hundreds of times in the human history, it still works! Why? Simply because people cannot reason independently of an authority.

Take, for instance, Constantine I, a.k.a. "Constantine the Great" or "Saint Constantine" (none of which adjectives has anything to do with his true nature). He sensed that his subjects were falling victims of a religion known as Christianity and so he declared he had a vision in which he was told to adopt the religion as official one for his empire. So he did. The devastating consequences are well-known.

Or take Vladimir Putin. A former KGB agent of the, supposedly atheist, Soviet Union, current prime minister of Russia, has been, for a few years now, officially endorsing Orthodox Christianity as official religion of Russia. Vladislav Surkov, Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, a staunch Putin supporter and one of Russia’s most powerful men, declared:
“I honestly believe that Putin is a person who was sent to Russia by fate and by the Lord at a difficult time for Russia.” “(Putin was) preordained by fate to preserve our peoples.” 
You can find the full story in Reuters, but I first saw it here. Reuters also reports that:
Two months ago, a nun-like sect appeared in central Russia claiming that Putin was a saint and a saviour. A spokesman said Putin "does not approve of that kind of admiration".
Indeed, Putin is modest. He does not approved that kind of admiration. Not yet, that is. However, recall that he wants to be buried next to Stalin, and that Stalin is often viewed as a "saint" by many Russians. See my earlier posting titled "Saint Joseph Stalin" for more information.

In order to justify their behavior, they turn their theories into dogmas, their bylaws into First Principles, their political bosses into Gods and all those who disagree with them into incarnate devils. This idolatrous transformation of the relative into the Absolute and the all too human into the Divine, makes it possible for them to indulge their ugliest passions with a clear conscience and in the certainty that they are working for the Highest Good. And when the current beliefs come, in their turn, to look silly, a new set will be invented, so that the immemorial madness may continue to wear its customary mask of legality, idealism, and true religion. --Aldous Huxley

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant