Tomorrow, Oblivion!

"Toad-licking crazy."

Does causality as a concept exist naturally? Or did we develop it as we learned about the world? Certainly some animals have a very basic notion of causality, like some birds, primates, dolphins, and cephalopods, because they can all solve problems creatively. So I suppose organisms had been adapting to causality, maybe since the origin of locomotion? In fact, we could say that the origin of locomotion was the direct result of the causal nature of reality, right? Or at least any sense of controlled, or reactive motion (completely random motion would seem unrelated to causality).

Skoot skoot?

Don't let them ruin you.
I like the phrase, "abortion on demand", as opposed to what, scheduled abortion?
Not worth the powder to blow it up.
If only I knew sooner!

Exquisitely sensitive.

For intelligence: somehow, under certain conditions, the brain just accepts symbols, and perhaps a set of rules to govern the interaction of symbols (probably just more symbols). Need to know how to make "memories" as symbols, in GP.

As always, Sam Harris is excellent.
Sean Carroll gave his take on a TED talk given by Sam Harris.

I think we might be using the concept of morals in two different ways, first, to mean right and wrong, how we should behave, etc. (which it turns out is an imaginary concept, like the popular conception of time travel. It turns out that morals are not absolute, the way they were most often perceived historically). The other meaning is the specific properties of behavior that belong to a species, formed by millions of years of evolution and the way we interact with our modern environment.
Yes! He's found a way out of the trap of relativism! (I think.) Furthermore, science can obviously aid us in determining how decisions about morals (as a society) play out in the real world, whether they work as expected or not, have unforeseen side effects, etc. Also, studying many individual's specific moral attitudes could help us understand where they came from, what exactly they are, and so on. Science also is our best bet at an informed understanding of what I consider to be new moral questions, which is essential to us making good decisions as technological progress marches on relentlessly. (Such as stem cells, for which our traditional sources of moral guidance, e.g., religion, have absolutely nothing to say. Which is no surprise, considering all the major religions are more than two millennia old, born at a time when humans knew nothing and archaic superstitions held by desert goat herders were the law of the land.)

Is there a difference between feeling moderately committed to some principle, and having a very strong reason to commit, and a weaker reason to not commit, such that they balance out to a moderate commitment again? I don't think I have an example, unfortunately, and I can't recall what sparked the question.

Is there any way to measure the rate at which people change their minds about a particular topic? I imagine that that rate increases dramatically after some threshold. I don't see a clear way to quantify this phenomena. But it is integral to understanding how people, as individuals evolve their thinking.

I don't get mad OR even. Wait, what? Maybe it's XOR? I certainly don't seem to get even. Or maybe this is all a joke.

The good is gone from the word goodbye.

"I'm comfortable with the unknown, thats the point of science."

Do we remember words as strings of letters? Or as strings of phonemes? Or probably neither? I imagine our brains hijack the circuitry used for auditory processing, and run a simulated auditory signal, same with mental visualizations.

Hmm, I can't tell if I guessed or knew that.
Joint subcommittee meeting.
"Evil was a word we could not do without."

Something about the way humans learn and think allows us to develop and manipulate fuzzy concepts in our head. Case in point: on The View, one of the women said something along the lines of believing in evil and satan, but not that it's a guy. And honestly, I see this very often, especially among religious belief, where people have a strong opinion, but lack the details of the concept to provide a coherent explanation of their feelings or beliefs. This happens frequently with words; for instance, I might have a vague notion of what the word stigma means, based on the context in which I have seen it in the past, but without having an exact definition. What is interesting is that these concepts in our heads do seem to require a degree of consistency between one another, (admittedly this is much stricter in some, like scientists, than in others, like creationists), and when new concepts are introduced, they typically need to avoid contradicting the existing concepts. Also, it appears that many of the concepts we have are built out of smaller sets of concepts, though the details of these symbols and the relationships between them are still very unclear. Plus, this is all entirely speculation based on my own introspection, meaning it is scientifically worthless.

Aspire to intellectual honesty.

How am I ever supposed to learn if no one will teach me?
I think there might be some really severe consequences to too much solitude. Though I suppose if one makes it through with cognitive abilities intact there can be some advantages to it too.

Everything was going light and dark all at once.
I want to get a plaid bow-tie.

Mostly I'm an optimist, by any measure of the word. More accurately, I'm a cornucopian, which is usually use derogatorily against one's opponent, but I am comfortable admitting that I am in fact exactly what the phrase is intended to discredit. Essentially it means I think "everything will be just fine," which actually is a conclusion I arrive at by considering how humans don't typically "take it lying down," but rather, if something is threatening their very existence, they tend to work hard, innovate, and persist. This certainly seems true on a global scale, and so I've always figured humans will persist into the distant (tens of thousands?) future, (barring some truly insurmountable environmental disaster, such as an extinction-level-event astroid or a volcanic event like yellowstone). But recently it crossed my mind that there are other ways for us to end ourselves… most especially by our attitudes changing. One obvious difference over time is that we have fewer and fewer children, which makes perfect sense in light of technology and resources management, healthcare, etc. Though obviously it seems unlikely that we could reach a point where no more children are born. But that isn't really what I'm thinking… at the same time, from the other side, we have computers becoming increasingly competitive with humans. I'm not invoking the old "war with machines" story from so many movies and books, but I do suspect it could spell our eventual demise. More sinisterly, it might be by us convincing ourselves of our own obsolescence. Prevalence of autism continues to rise, and no one really knows why, but it has me thinking about the end of the world again. I've harbored suspicions for years that autism is heavily influenced by the way we treat our children, though no one would want to say that, since it places blame on parents and that is just a terrible weight to even suggest. When I first read, I suppose 6 years ago now, how autism is significantly more frequent among "geek" parents, (which was suggested implied a genetic cause, the implication being that geeks had historically been spread out and rarely procreated with one another, but that places like Silicon Valley or Palo Alto were Meccas of geekdom and hence lead to selection of the responsible gene; again, all theory, no one knows yet what is going on). My immediate thought was, "how do we know that geek-type parents aren't doing something to trigger it?" But again, such a suggestion is unlikely to improve the situation.

This reminds me of something I read years ago on the underlying causes of schizophrenia—it occurs most frequently in the youngest children, with higher rates in boys, if I recall correctly. Because it was most often observed in the youngest child, the theory was that the mother (who at the time was still rarely thought of as anything other than a homemaker), after raising a few boys, treated the younger boys in some different way, causing this disorder. By the time I read this, they had rejected that notion and there was mounting evidence that schizophrenia is heavily influenced by the age of the father, suggesting mutated sperm may play a role. (This also explains the youngest-child aspect, since obviously they are conceived when the father is oldest, and mutant sperm are heavily correlated with a man's age.) In this case the burden was removed from the mother, though placed onto the father, but not in much of a way that can be considered correctable.

I'm also reminded of another thought I've been having lately, about the claims of homophobes that homosexuality is a choice. Even if we assume it is not a genetically 'pre-destined' trait, it is still something that forms entirely without your control, and hence, not a choice. Even if it is your very young mentors, or your environment, or the TV, or whatever, it's entirely out of your control. Of course, even if it were just a flat-out choice, even if I could just decide to be gay on a whim, right now, that would still not be an argument against equal rights, marriage, etc.. Because who are you to tell me who I can love or not? I'm sure there are plenty of people who would ridicule societies that still have arranged marriages, and yet would "forbid" their own children from loving the person of their choosing without a hint of irony.

David Attenborough on music and Bach.

Tomorrow, oblivion!
(He actually said, "to moral oblivion," but I like this too.)
How beautiful. May I?
Very good isn't good enough.

If thrown early, grenades can be picked up and thrown back. Much like fish.

So that's me, finished.

I watched Kinsey recently. Finally. I think I had been somewhat afraid to watch it for a long time. Apparently most people who I know, don't recall ever seeing anything about it, though I clearly remember when it came out I was very interested. It was only recently that I felt willing to confront my own discomforts on the subject and actually watch the movie. And what an excellent movie it is! Superbly done (acting, writing, directing...), but also just a beautiful subject! There is nothing more in this world I am more bothered by than our society's attitudes about sex. And more specifically, the effect such attitudes have had on me personally. A deep conflict exists between how I feel, and want to behave, and how I actually behave, and it has been the source of much torment in my life. (Possibly even more so than religion, which I hold accountable for the persecution of many scientists throughout history, something I find deeply offensive, and antithetical to the progress, and wellbeing, of humankind. Though obviously religion has played a integral role in the twisted taboos we are raised to accept.) Interestingly enough, the movie also instilled a sense of the dangers involved in more liberal attitudes of sex, (not a real concern for me, I have a very long way to go before my attitudes would run the risk of generating such conflicts, I naively believe). There are a million more things I'd like to say on this, but I'd like them to be more organized, rather than this sort of stream-of-consciousness, rambling drivel that I typically present. Drivel is an excellent word, my dictionary defines it as "silly nonsense."

Is anyone against free healthcare to all children under, say... 18? Or if you'd like, make it 12, or 15, or whatever. Am I missing something? What kind of society doesn't care for it's young?

Jean Meslier was an interesting fellow, allegedly the first person to write seriously about atheism, and the originator of the most excellent quote (more or less), approximately, "...wished that all the great men in the world and all the nobility could be hanged, and strangled with the guts of the priests." In fact, I like the quote so much, I think I'm going to figure out how to turn it into a fancy tattoo and put it somewhere as yet to be determined. Though I don't really want it to be text, because that's never appealed to me, and I might try to put it in the original French, even though I don't speak a word.

This is from a few days ago, but:

More thoughts on the Chinese room argument against the turing test: realize that the notion of "understanding Chinese" is fuzzy, like the Sorites paradox. Intelligence suffers this exact problem as well. The resolution of the sorites paradox is that the notion of a heap is ill defined, and the belief that a clear line is implied by the original fuzzily-defined word is simply untenable. It is a notion we created to approximate reality. There is no reason to believe that there should be a word which means heap, and is defined in such a way as to resolve the paradox, because such a word is not very useful (except to very picky philosophers).

Wanna mess around?

I wonder what it is that leads to a phone cord getting wound up? Is there some bias process that the operator performs causing individual twists, repeatedly, in one direction, such that over time the cord is very much twisted up?

"Then we'll all go to jail together."
-Dave (the movie) (I forgot how many big names are in this movie.)

"In the present, the categories "real person" and "fictional character" are pretty distinct. But when we look retrospectively at the first historically documented centuries in any given area, things get fuzzy. And it's even worse if we look at people who are supposed to have lived before the introduction of writing to an area, and who are mentioned in early or foreign texts. These centuries to either side of the introduction of writing is known as protohistory, and protohistorical information is strictly speaking not factual knowledge. Not because we know that it's wrong, but because it is impossible to corroborate. Protohistory is information of indeterminate value, which is extremely frustrating to many amateur historians who Want To Believe."
Martin R, from Aardvarchaeology...

I've been using the word 'fuzzy' a lot lately. I think because it makes me feel all warm and hairy inside.

"That attitude continues today, says Roy. 'What can you say? Physicists are professionally contemptuous,' she says."
Hmm, I already knew I am shallow, and superficial, and arrogant, but am I contemptuous too??? And if I'm not, is it something I can learn? and do I need it to be a real physicist? Or will my nose keep growing otherwise?

Suddenly it seems like the word "monopolies" is an oxymoron. At least in plural form.

We all like to think of ourselves as the good guys... have you ever experienced the realization that you are not? That moment in which you realize you're not here to help. But just to get in the way and cause trouble? I'm not sure I've had that yet either...

I've always assumed that over time, humans have gotten more rational, but the other day, on the rare occasion in which I shower (which is usually a great source of ideas, which ironically can't be recorded in the moment), it occurred to me that there is no reason to think that the average human is more rational now than they were 50, 100, 1000, 10e4, 10e5, etc., years ago. This is unfortunate, if true. Though I have no idea where one would go to even begin to answer that question.

Anyway, enough silly nonsense for tonight.

Oh, one last bit before I go! This man is fighting against a book in his child's school that calls creationism a myth. My favorite part is when he says he's not smart enough to have found this himself, that it was the kids that brought it to his attention. How does one harbor an awareness for one's ignorance, and also a mouth so loud? I get embarrassed about misquoting the slightest detail of any point I argue. I try so very hard not to be wrong, and yet, frequently, I remain so.

No comments: