15 December 2011

The internet burped

So the internet crashed tonight. And by that I mean for everyone in this area, regardless of carrier.  Of course the news is slow to respond. That dinosaur keeps forgetting to die.
The reason I post about this is because it reminded me of the power outtage that happened a decade or so ago in the NE US.
It was a time of zero internet. Those among us who can remember life pre-internet are getting fewer by day. Those glory days were filled with entertaining ourselves with our minds. It allowed us to form cogent arguments for/against cogent ideas. We had time to explore actual questions.
I mention this because it has become apparent that we as a society has lost something important : silence.
With silence one has time to explore one's thoughts. Time to consider other opinions.  Time to agree / refute them. Advancement of knowledge hangs in the balance.         

06 December 2011


"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." ~ Chinua Achebe

Let me preface this with stating that I am a former chef-restaurateur (though always a chef).

Had that thought mulling around my mind today. Being active on Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/) I've known all along that one day that someone would take offense to a negative review and contact me. And today was the day. The reason that I mention this is because the person that contacted me (marketing person doing damage control) offered to have me come back to the restaurant and eat for free.

So integrity was on my mind. I knew full well that this person was only interested in damage control. In fact I was a bit offended that a marketing person reached out and not the actual chef and/or owner. Purely an attempt to "fix" things. But my thoughts on accepting a free meal would not have been swayed had the latter occurred.

Integrity means to stand behind one's words and convictions no matter the consequences, as quoted above. I could have accepted this person's offer, had a free meal, and still stood by my review. But that would have lessened my integrity. How? Because I was willing to accept money/food for my opinion. Even if I wrote another damaging review of the restaurant I would no longer have the same integrity because I had accepted what was essentially an attempt at a bribe.

I politely informed the person that I appreciated the attempt at damage control, but because of my integrity I had to refuse this person's offer. For Sartre it is "values derive their meaning from an original projection of myself which stands as my choice of myself in the world." I chose to be genuine, to maintain my integrity.

16 November 2011

Kind v. Love

So a friend of mine posed a question that was a variant of "love thy neighbor" which was "be kind to thy neighbor". The reasoning behind this being it is easier to be kind to those who are different from ourselves as opposed to actually loving others. Naturally I began to question the differences between being kind and loving.

Love is not ambiguous. Either one loves someone/a thing or nothing. There is no real grey line. Sure there are degrees of love, such as familial or romantic, but it is still love. In general I would doubt that there would be a large division of the definition of love across ethnic lines.

As far as kind goes though, it is hyper-variant. One can be kind to a neighbor by tossing their newspaper onto the porch, but what type of kindness is this? Would it not require a definition of the exact feelings one has about the neighbor? Is this neighbor an elderly person who has trouble walking or is it one who will engage any person in conversation to express their displeasure with the delivery of said paper?

Examine the cliche of "killing them with kindness". There is no equivalent in regards to love. One can fake kindness rather easily while faking love requires quite a bit of engagement as the latter evolves over time. One can be "kind" to a stranger and move on. It requires in the moment engagement and that is all.

Returning to the friend's argument, yes it is much easier to "be kind to thy neighbor" as it does not involve any real emotional engagement. But, the question then lingers: would the world be a better place?

04 November 2011

What would human actions be if we knew if an afterlife existed?

I was in the cemetery the other day and a thought crossed my mind about the existence of an afterlife. It was not whether one existed or not, but what would humanity be like if we knew? How do we define our actions or even decide them? What is the affect of impulse?

There are 3 options to an afterlife, once we remove the need for a deity (with one there are 27 options): 1. it exists. 2. it does not exist. 3. it exists but is not a human normal conception of an afterlife.

Option 1: an afterlife exists. How do we proceed as a society?
As such it can be resonably assumed that if an afterlife existed and it was free of the constraints of morality/religion that it would consist of chaos. Rules would just be laughable. There would be no consequences, so why even worry about them? This is Nietzscheian Nirvana. Do whatever you wish and there are no repurcussions at all.

Option 2: actually this condition would support Nietzsche to a further extreme. Zero consequences. No question of them ever existing. One would be free to act as one wished at all times.

Option 3: Humans would most likely establish some sort limited morality system. It would be akin to hedging bets. Some things would be "taboo" for no other reason than chance would be against them for entering an afterlife.

In the end, Nietzsche was more brilliant than given credit for and knew that one's actions really were responsible only to the individual. Morality was a human construct and constructs in general were void. If rules exist, one should not consider them and just be.

11 October 2011

Wow, sorry

So the last 4 months have shot by without an update. Sorry about that. Been coordinating my move to Costa Rica in the coming months. 

New post soon!

22 June 2011

The importance of words

Quine, Wittgenstein, Rorty, and many others spent most of their careers arguing the semantics of words. What they truly missed is the actual importance of words. Amongst many of the Native American tribes conversations take hours, not because of the number of words spoken, but because of the rarity of them. They weigh the importance of every single word. They assign it importance.

In this age we send 140 characters at a time at each other and have begun to cease calling. We have shortened phrases to acronyms. We waste words. We write long blog entries about utter inanity. We look at pictures of cats with funny phrases that use acronyms.

But words have importance. We have forgotten this. Speeches that move us are filled with words that matter. Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King strung together words that changed a nation. Martin Luther strung together words that changed an entire religious sect.

But on social media we toss words around. We tell nobodies that we are looking at a car or eating somewhere they never will or try to seduce on a dating site.

We are losing the importance of words.

Think about the person you love and think about the last words you said to them or sent to them. Are those the words that you want them to remember should they be the last words you utter/send? Are those words worthy of that?

Sadly I am betting they are not. But mine are.

24 May 2011

End of the world fail

So a recent quack tried to predict the end of the world and failed.

I don't question his dedication to his chosen path. I do question his mathematical skills. And by that I mean the ones specific to biblical mathematics. For those who do not know this obscure form of math, phrases and words have values and adding the values together supposedly give one the "end of days."

The real problem in this situation is that this person was using mathematics that were meant for the Talmud. Jewish scholars have developed a very intricate set of mathematical functions. Some call this a section of the Qaballa. But the math involved supposedly does involve things like the end of times.

But those mathematical functions do no transfer over to other religious books. Just like subtracting 1 from 20 does not equal 20 times 1. It is like using Japanese kanji to translate Chinese. Words may be similar, but sentences will be obscured.

Want to figure out when the end of the Earth will happen? Figure out when the Sun goes Supernova. That is the most correct answer. And show your math.

02 May 2011

Debugging morality v. ethics

It is, indeed, a fact that, in the midst of society and sociability every evil inclination has to place itself under such great restraint, don so many masks, lay itself so often on the procrustean bed of virtue, that one could well speak of a martyrdom of the evil man. In solitude all this falls away. He who is evil is at his most evil in solitude: which is where he is at his best - and thus to the eye of him who sees everywhere only a spectacle also at his most beautiful.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak, s. 499, R.J. Hollingdale transl

All morality finds it basis in religion. It is religious "don't or do dos". The Bible has a codified list of things people should not do. Laws have been enacted based upon them. Many of those laws fall under what is known as the "Puritan Laws", but the majority are not.

And this is where ethics becomes distinctively separate. Sartre always argued that is there was no god, man would create himself. Man would judge each action. The existential movement echoes this belief. Religion removed from actions.

To get more into the minutea, morality has the rule of not killing. It is an amoral act. Punishable. All countries have laws that deal with this. Some execute people who violate this law. Some versions of religious texts allow for retribution.

Hegel argued against retribution. He found it to be something that no society should uphold, that taking the life of another was a violation of that person's rights. Ethics.

Here's how it is different from morality: In religion a person is told what they are allowed and not allowed to do. They are given the moral laws of their faith, complete with punishments. In ethics a person must judge for themselves if their action violates the actions of others while satisfying the actions of themselves.

"Now, being God might very well mean to know everything. But you must understand that even for God the knowing don't come easy. So when a question come up that stumped his big ol' God-brain, he set about finding an answer. And that's where we come in. He invented morality and planted it in our breasts. And only through our actions could he ever hope to learn about that particular thing. (84)"

The Sound of Building Coffins, Louis Maistros, New Milford,CT: 2009 The Toby Press LLC

While it seems fundamentally the same as a moral situation, an ethical one is not. The difference resides in the person. A moral person knows that killing is wrong and should not be done. An ethical person reasons whether killing another would deny that person rights and whether those violated rights were less important than them being killed. And an ethical person is not bound by the rights of the person. Nietzsche would argue that one who considered the rights of others was just a sheep. If a person deemed another should be killed, then that person should follow through on it.

Religion does not influence morality, it is the basis for it. Religion creates laws, laws that are shaped by its belief system. Morality does not stand up to the harsh light of ethical review.

23 March 2011

Altruism aka the lie we tell ourselves subconsciously

Altruism (coined by Comte) is defined as "the selfless concern for the welfare of others." A little more clearly, it means doing x for y and not expecting anything in return. But is that possible? Can one genuinely do for others without expectation of reciprocation?

The classic example is giving money to a homeless person. What are is the true motive? Do you do it because you feel sorry for the person and want to help them out? Or do you feel guilty? Or do you do it to make yourself feel better? Can you ever really know the real answer?

Hume's belief that people are altruistic because of love is void. And he did it himself. Hume believed that people love others and feel sympathy for them and are thus altruistic. If you are sympathetic to someone, your actions are not altruistic. What you do benefits both of you. It helps the person and it relieves your angst about their condition.

Kant, being Kant, further warps altruism. He believed that there are universal laws (hi religion) and because of them we are required to help anyone we can. He took the onus of self-serving want off the table and placed it upon the universe. But in doing so, he complicated matters. To summarize the position, we help others because there are universal rules that say we must help all those we can help. But in doing so we relieve our angst at not following universal law.

Davidson and Haack have applied complex mathematics to try to solve the problem of intent. And really that is what altruism boils down to. The basic argument is that a person helps a homeless person not to help that person and not to give themselves satisfaction but for a more complex reason, possibly that the person is ashamed that his family is rich and intolerant of the homeless. And still, we are relieving ourselves of angst.

In the end, altruism does not exist. No matter the angle we approach it from, we are relieving ourselves of angst whether we do it consciously or not. We demand something in return for our act of "selflessness". We do it because we need to because in the end we are narcissists at our very core.

22 February 2011

The question of life can no longer be avoided because of Watson

In the 50s Alan Turing in Computing Machinery and Intelligence proposed what is known as the Turing Test, which measures whether a machine is truly intelligent. Basically a human asks questions of A and B and has to determine which one is a machine and which one is a human. No machine has successfully beaten the test.

Until IBM's Watson went on Jeopardy!.

Sure the voice could use some tweaks, but the Turing Test is purely a text-based test. That test Watson would win every single time.

Why is this significant? Because now we can no longer dance around the subject of when does a machine become a living thing. No more weird "qualia" talk. No more "does a soul exist?" Simply put, at what point of advancement do we consider machines to be living beings?

Yes, humans built and programmed Watson. While Watson obviously has the equivalent IQ of 150+ Watson is dependent upon humans. Watson is not alive. Not yet at least.

How do we define "living being?" Is it different from a virus? Before answering consider that viruses are capable of reproduction, have intelligence (whether measurable or not), have adaptive abilities and evolutionary processes, and quite possibly socialization.

Watson, in the correct environment could reproduce. Watson is capable of adapting. And possibly of evolution and socialization.

Is language a criterion? How do we then define language? Bees communicate but in no manner we truly understand. Watson communicates not only in English (and understands inferential references which are the most difficult to understand) but with various Machine languages.

Watson's one major limitation is its reliance on electricity. And that is the last defining line between non-living and living: self-sufficiency. Once Watson, or some other machine, is capable of self-sufficiency then machines will be Machines - an entirely new species.

15 February 2011

The Concept of Time Travel

Before discussing multi-linear time, one must establish what the concept of time is. Time, for this argument, is a tool that measures the cycles of day and night. It can be divided into decreasing discrete measurements (hours, minutes, seconds). A collection of discrete measurements can represent a block (day) or several blocks (week, month, year). This is an universal truth, but not a law. Our concept of time is not necessarily the same for another species, but time occurs. To borrow from the incompleteness theorem of Gödel, truth is not a function of logic.

Our concept of time is that seconds lead to minutes to hours to days to weeks to years. This is linear time or simply A to B. Hawking when writing on the concept of worm holes noted that the truth that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, especially when two points are folded over. Take a piece of paper and make two points on it. Fold the paper so the points are over each other, and that is what Hawking meant. 

In our concept of time, the War of 1812 started on Friday, June 18th, 1812. It is a definite dot on the timeline. Common theories on time travel would say we could build a device and go back in time to June 18th, 1812. The issue is going forward in time.

To be able to go forwards in time, say to March 1st, 3500, all time must have happened. Clarifying to travel forwards in time, all time, from the beginning of the universe to the end of it, must have already occurred. Traveling forward in time would have a dead-end. And again this is linear time as we know it.

The concept of multi-linear time is that all time that has/will ever occur happens along the straight line of our seven day week. Every single Friday in all of history happens on Friday; first Friday and final Friday occurs all at once. One p.m Friday now is one p.m. Friday throughout all of history. Basically time is L-shaped with the days of the week moving left to right and years and its more discrete parts from bottom to top. Why would this be superior to our standard concept of time? The points on the line are still the same.

Then we come back around to Hawking's concept of a worm hole. Nimtz and Stahlhofen claim to have succeeded with quantum tunneling which is theoretically similar to Hawking. In linear time, folding time from say Monday, February 28th, 2011 to Friday, June 18th, 1812 would not be possible because it is not a folding of time, but a fold and twist. In multi-linear time, you could fold Friday, whatever year, over to Friday, June 18th, 1812.

Following Baye's Theorem [P(H/E)=P(E/H)xP(H)/P(E), where H=hypothesis and E=evidence supporting H] the probability of time travel in the current concept of linear time is decidedly less probable than in a multi-linear concept. Not a perfect hypothesis, but closer to an universal truth than what is commonly accepted.

09 February 2011

Intelligence and rain

Consider this implication that the human brain is composed mainly of water and that thoughts are electrical transmissions. These are scientific facts. Also fact that the brain requires oxygen to remain functional. Heck let's toss in that it is a complex structure. And we will take the final step and say that we are explicitly discussing a fruit fly brain.

Now, remove religion. I am not saying that a deity of sorts does not exist or anything like that. This is just a simple extension of Sartre's statement in Being and Nothingness that he did not deny god existed but he questioned should god not exist man would create himself. Arguing Sartre's theory is an entirely different post. And while I am removing religion, remove qualia, that mythical "essence" that Searle and others desperately cling to in their argument against computers and artificial intelligence.

Referencing the opening paragraph, I have to wonder if rain could have sentience? Let me define sentience as having the quality of being able to compose and transmit thoughts independently of outside manipulations. Rain is composed mostly of water, conducts electrical transmissions, has access to unlimited amounts of oxygen and is a complex structure. To say that rain is not a complex structure, snow is a type of frozen rain.

Is it possible to prove that rain is not capable of sentience? Not that rain is sentient, but that it is impossible for rain to be sentient. Having disqualified religion and qualia, how can the argument against be made? Is this a perversion of Pascal's wager?

05 January 2011

Happy 2011

Sorry for the infrequent posts. Hopefully I can get back to posting at least once per month this year...