l33tminion: (Forgive Yourself)
"Question assumptions."

I said I'd talk about my feelings more here, which is hard. But without going into specifics:

It is way, way too easy to assume that you're on the same page with someone because of fear. Fear of rejection on the one hand, fear of embarrassment on both. Worry that you won't be able to speak clearly without sub-communicating the wrong thing by speaking clearly. Fear of responsibility (that plotting, defensive thought-thread): If you don't speak up, any misunderstanding is "not your fault". If talking about such subjects is awkward, awkward memories are tempting to put out of mind, without proper examination to note what, exactly, was left unsaid.

One key bit of the philosophy of polyamory is the emphasis on explicit communication instead of reliance on shared assumptions from the social milieu. Which nowadays may not be so shared; if I ask several friends, I get two or more sets of mutually-exclusive answers about what the assumption about a particular situation "should be".

So at least one of my relationships may be toast, or on the road to being better than ever. Not sure which. But boy do I feel like an idiot. Embarrassed, and embarrassed about being embarrassed.
l33tminion: (Revolution!)
(Cross-posted for the comments.)

One of the things I've been listening to lately is a series of video essays by Stefan Molyneux, an anarchist thinker.  I have very mixed feelings about his arguments for a variety of reasons.  I am in some ways sympathetic to anarchist polticial philosophy (which includes concepts like volunteerism, consensus decision-making, and free association while managing to avoid some of the pitfalls of naive libertarianism), but on the other hand I'm a big fan of democracy.  He rants a good rant, but his argument can be less than watertight.  For example, in Molyneux's first "Statism Is Dead" essay, he states:
[presenting an argument for statism] "People won't be voluntarily charitable, but they will vote for the violent theft and transfer of their wealth."  I mean, it's like a Kafkaesque dream sequence, these arguments, right?. People don't want to help the poor, but they will vote for people to put a gun to their head and force them to help the poor.  [...] The existance of the wellfare state is certain proof of the fact that people want to help the poor, and will.
It's a bit of a straw-man, that argument.  I can think of two reasons why people might pursue policies democratically instead of through volunteerism.  First, they might think that a democratic government is better able to carry out that policy than a non-governmental organization. Second, they might be more willing to support a policy in a decision process where everyone is bound by the results, as opposed to volunteering to support a policy supported only by the volunteers.

Of course, the uncharitable way of describing that is to say that people will voluntarily support charity so long as they can require the "violent theft and transfer" of non-volunteers' wealth (Molyneux does not say that, presumably, because he's trying to persuade and does not want to (indiscriminately) insult his audience).  A better way of describing that, in my opinion, is that people in a democracy participate in a decision-making process where they pre-commit to be bound by the result of the process, even if they don't get their way on a specific issue.  In the world as it is, that may not be a voluntary pre-commitment.  Moving to another democracy can be hard, moving to a libertarian/anarchist society may be impossible.  Still, I would argue that people have a right to participate in a democratic decision-making process and a corresponding responsibility to abide by the results or willingly face the consequences, even though current conditions don't allow for participation in society to be truly voluntary.

(But here's a recurring idea of mine, which might apply to this situation:

Idea #3:
People tend to worry too much about freeloaders.

So maybe you could run a modern society on volunteerism and consensus without tax collectors and then the police knocking on someone's door when they say, "Screw the decison-making process, I didn't agree to that policy," and that would be even better.  I'm skeptical, though.)

* Of course, to hear Molyneux say it, it's even worse than that:  Democracy is a sham, all political progress merely granted to the masses by a monolithic political class to improve productivity, the equivalent of "free-range" livestock.  Even given his argument that the US is that sort of government, I don't think that's reason to support anarchy over democracy in the abstract.  Nor do I think a bunch of virtuous non-voters will be very effective at achieving political change.
l33tminion: (Default)
Air travel news this week has been heavily disrupted by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. (Best reaction to that so far, and best response by stranded travelers.) As of today, the ash cloud is still causing trouble, though most countries have reopened their airspace. Previous eruptions in the last 2000 years have all been followed shortly after by an eruption of the neighboring Katla, an even bigger volcano. That would be bad news for the airline industry, to say the least.

Roger Ebert created a stir by writing a post arguing that videogames can never be art. (By "art" he seems to mean something like "high art" or "good art", though he seems to imply that it's about more than his personal taste.) Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku pointed out the obvious with eloquence, that Ebert is hopelessly inadequate as a critic of videogames. Mike Thomsen of IGN provides a brilliant answer to why the question is important, if video game fans, critics, or creators bought Ebert's argument, they would be intellectually impoverished when it comes to thinking about games. Tycho and Gabe were eventually compelled to comment, but seemed to decide that Ebert wasn't even worth a solid rhetorical crushing. Speaking of games and art, here's one recent title that you should be aware of.

Facebook announced new features which will bring their site to the rest of the internet (moreso than previous). Among them, easy ways to update your profile (to put more data in the hands of advertisers) and a "Login with Facebook" box that automatically shows users which of their friends are already using the site in question (bringing the forces of social obligation that make a terrible game like Farmville to bear on everything on the internet). Speaking of Farmville, the intersection of game design and marketing is indeed pretty scary, I think Jesse Schell is right to say that hasn't even begun to be explored. And Facebook is at the center of that. They really should be the one company Google is afraid of.

Twitter announced the addition of annotations for tweets, which will be what client developers make of it. The clear thing is that the future of Twitter has little to do with SMS and everything to do with mobile computing devices. (140 characters will be "length of a tweet" long after SMS is forgotten, probably.) Speaking of Twitter, Google's Follow Finder for Twitter is quite useful.

Various people are angry at the iPad's crazy terms of use for developers, which specify the language that apps must be "originally written in" (presumably to try to discourage automated porting, or to force people to use just Apple's suite of tools?), in addition to the people angry that the iPad hardware is closed. Brett McLaughlin argues that the iPad being closed isn't a big deal because it's not that hard to hack, missing the rather significant fact that doing so is now a felony due to the DMCA. Personally, I don't want an iPad that much, but I'm looking forward to the competition.

A few bonus links:
l33tminion: (Mad Scientist)
I promised a post on this book, so here goes:

Strangely, Bill McKibben's Enough, surprisingly, seems to fail in that it's overly optimistic about technological change. Cloning, germline genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and the like, he seems to think, would send us hurtling singularitywards too fast to adapt.

Post-technosauce, McKibben asserts, people will never know the joy of running a marathon. (Actually, people exist who aren't really challenged by marathons, and they don't seem to have any problem finding even cooler ways to test their limits.) After the singularity, perhaps we'll devote all our time to contemplating philosophy, and there will be no time for down-to-earth matters such as dinner or love. (Though he complains about the bitterness of the singularitian cool-aid, McKibben seems to have drank a bit too much.) Neo-Luddites might be uncomfortable in a more technological society, or worse, ridiculed by their peers. (Oh, boo hoo.)

McKibben also gives little indication that preventing technological development is even possible. Sure, the Amish are quite technologically savvy regarding what they adopt and reject, but they have the outside world as a safety valve, those dead-set on lifestyle-changing technology leave rather than fight entrenched community norms. His other examples are China's dismantling of Zheng He's fleet (which resulted in them getting carved up by those who didn't reject such technology) and Japan's three-century-long rejection of guns. None of those examples involve avoiding the development of new technologies. In trying to get back to the actual point, McKibben undercuts himself even more thoroughly, noting that nuclear deterrence has been mostly effective, DDT and CFCs have been banned, and certain sorts of GMO crops are being rejected (after the technological genies of nuclear power, engineered chemicals, and plant genetics have been thoroughly debottled).

McKibben's strongest argument, perhaps, is that powerful technologies tend to widen the gap between rich and poor. This still has a few weaknesses, though: Avoiding technological development does nothing to help the poor, and many technologies that widen that gap initially end up helping the poor later. Also, that effect is contingent on social structures, and after being so alarmed at the power of these technologies to change society, McKibben neglects to think that they might do so in a way that helps end that trend.

At any rate, staying where we are is not an option. The end of easy, non-renewable energy means the inevitable reduction of the scale of human enterprise. Anything easily predictable from the current mindframe of industrial society is in doubt. In some sense, it's singularity and/or collapse. So when McKibben suggests rejecting certain "high technology" because the former might be a little unpleasant, he seems to be missing the point. A little powerful technology in the right places can make all the difference.

In other words, when you see danger on the road ahead, it might be better to consult a map and adjust your course than to stop, turn around, decide you've had enough.

Polyamory

Feb. 24th, 2009 10:12 pm
l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
I keep mentioning the Diesel Meetup, but leaving out important context. The Diesel Meetup is a weekly get-together associated with Polyamory Boston. Given that said relationship philosophy has been on my mind a lot lately (I agree with it, and I seem to be associating with more and more polyamorous people (not surprising given that I run in geeky circles)), it's odd that I haven't mentioned it much in my journal. (I consulted the Goog, and it says I mentioned the word once, in passing, in the context of PiCon panel topics.)

So this isn't a particularly thoughtful post, just providing some back-context and saying a bit about what's on my mind (so I can have more awkward conversations with my parents in the future, presumably). Questions, thoughts, arguments, and irrelevant ramblings (if applicable) go in the comments, per the usual protocol.
l33tminion: (Error)
The market is up this week on news that unemployment is up, consumer confidence is down, etc. In related news, I'd make a lousy day-trader.

Also, ha ha at these guys.

I've been reading Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, which combines the optimism of Kurzweil with the pessimism of Kaczynski. It seems pretty weak so far, but I'm still in the middle so I have yet to really arrive at the meat of his argument (the "what are the actual implications of these wildly (but maybe not totally) inaccurate predictions" part).
l33tminion: (Chaos)
Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] realcdaae comes this survey of controversial questions. May be disturbing:

Controversial questions meme )
l33tminion: (Junpei)
Links to share:
l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
Something else I've been meaning to write an entry on for a while: Last week, I finished reading Dennett's Consciousness Explained. (For those of you not familiar with Dennett but familiar with Naruto, Dennett is basically the Rock Lee of modern philosophy.)

Dennett is an excellent writer, albeit somewhat wordy and extremely arrogant (well, maybe not more so than your average philosopher, but he's more obvious about it). The title is a bit misleading (a more accurate title would be Why All Your Intuitions About Consciousness Are Totally Wrong), but it's an interesting book for anyone interested in philosophy of mind or cognitive science.
l33tminion: (Default)
I watched The Corporation in FILM, yesterday. It's clearly biased (a bit less so than, say, Michael Moore) but it does manage to provide a pretty good sense of historical perspective, and I don't disagree with it's thesis.

It seems that life is trying very hard to turn me into a Marxist radical. I still blame Camp Tavor.

And if you haven't read this essay already, you really need to (read the whole thing, it's fairly short). I read it for Bioethics in 9th grade, and my recent wanderings have brought me back to it again.

I sent my GameCube in for repairs about a week ago (I think I neglected to mention that). I'm still impressed at how durable those things are; I bought it used and it still worked without problems for many years. They returned it to me today, functional as ever. So, yay.

Life still confusing / pretty good / absurdly busy.

COMMUNISM!

Jan. 30th, 2006 12:23 am
l33tminion: (Devil)
The Communist Manifesto was a lot better than I thought it would be. It seems that most people get their idea of Communism from Soviet Russia and the like, and Soviet Russia was pretty damn far from the ideas of Marx.

For example... )

Marx's argument centers around one question: Is it acceptable for person A to buy the means for person B to earn a living, for the purpose of getting person B to give them (most of) the value B produces? (Marx's answer, obviously, would be no.)

Here's an analogous situation: Is it acceptable to stockpile seeds in a famine for the purpose of reselling them at an even higher markup? (If this is not an analogous situation, explain why.)

I'd like to see all you commie-haters out there put your best argument forward. Why should people have the right to own capital? If they don't, why is allowing the ownership of capital a good idea? (Of course, if you're a pinko socialist, a Marxist radical, or a fence-sitting moderate, I'd like to hear your reasoning as well.)
l33tminion: (Hope)
After a few days worth of research, I'm really freaked out about peak oil. I don't think that the situation is hopeless, but it's going to be rocky. I can see it going one of two ways, a rough transition to a sustainable society or a Malthusian catastrophe that means the end of the age of technology (perhaps forever). You know which one I'd prefer.

There's still hope, though, if people take action. I request that you all read:I'm going to take this issue seriously and take whatever action I can to mitigate or avert the upcoming trouble. Not that I think I'll have any effect, but I might as well try.

What can we do? I thought of a few things we can do to make things easier for our communities and ourselves.

Now, people don't want to admit that trouble is coming. If this issue is ignored, action will not be taken, even though the government is well aware of the coming trouble. And once trouble arrives, it will be a lot harder to take action.

Other people think that nothing can be done. Nonetheless, that should not prevent us from trying, even if we are certain, because we are fallible. Even when we are sure that disaster cannot be averted or mitigated, we should still act because we could be wrong.

This is no conspiracy theory and there is no cabal (fnord!). Nor is it a "minor adjustment" or a problem that will solve itself.

Read, learn, take action, and do so as soon as possible. Do something, even if it means being a doomsayer!
l33tminion: (Default)
So, I've been having a debate with my good buddy [livejournal.com profile] kai in a thread on [livejournal.com profile] religiousdebate. He argued that my ethical beliefs are in conflict with my eating meat, and he also argues that my whole ethical system is merely a psychological defense mechanism that I use to justify my behavior. I disagree with him on both counts, but I see where his arguments are coming from.

However, things got really confusing when he attacked the ethical distinction that I drew between real people and fictional characters as "arbitrary" and "unjustified". Kai can rightly claim that he doesn't draw an ethical distinction between the two because Kai doesn't draw ethical distinctions at all. I think that ethical systems need to distinguish between the real and not real, but I can't begin to make heads or tails out of Kai's argument. It strikes me as insane.

What do you think about this argument?

Edit: Added links. I meant to do that in the first place...
l33tminion: (Default)
In "What is I?" today, we talked about computational intelligence. The discussion brought up three topics that I think are of note. But I won't discuss them yet, because I'm wondering what your opinion is. Please, discuss! I'll post my own opinions later, in a long winded philosophical post. (I'll put it behind an LJ-cut to spare your virtual ears.)

1. Artificial Intelligence
Could a computer ever be conscious? Is there something special about human intelligence that could not be replicated by AI?

2. The Teleporter Problem
Is consciousness inherent in the object or the pattern? If you have a teleporter that disassembles someone at one end and replicates them exactly at the other, does it move a person form one place to another? Or does it just kill people at one end and produce deluded clones at the destination?

3. Is Science a Religion?
To get you started, here are three points of view on the topic, all short, all worth reading. The latter two are in response to the first. [1] [2] [3]

On a somewhat related note, I will note that there are no scientists who scare me as much as these people.
l33tminion: (Default)
So, I've figured out the topic for my "What is I?" project, and that topic is the same as the subject line above. I'm going to do a telling of my personal story, focusing on issues of logic and illogic, rationality and irrationality, knowledge and personal faith.

I'll do some examination of myself through examining belief structures as crazy as or crazier than mine. So far, the project is turning out to be a lot of fun.

A few things to point out:
  • The Principia Discordia is the funniest (i.e. best) religious document ever.
  • This parody of intelligent design made me laugh.
  • A piece on disability inspiration. I'm not sure exactly how to feel about this one. But perhaps that deserves an entry of it's own, if anyone is interested.
Well, that's it for now.
l33tminion: (Default)
Yesterday was awesome! I took Markos to see the gigantic Van de Graaff generator at the Museum of Science (he was awed... and shocked *rimshot*) , and we also went to this military surplus store that Markos wanted to go to (he bought some shiny new boots).

We spent some time hanging out at MIT, as well, although Xave and Patti were not interested in joining us for the parties that night, even though I thought they were going to hang out with us. Markos and I went to the First East party (Andre from ISSI was there as well) and Markos stopped by Deli Haus to have a Haus Brownie.

A few other highlights:

1. Street musicians (actually that was from the day before, but I forgot to mention it. I saw a band called "The Third Life" performing in the T station, and they were quite good.)

2. The disco dance floor was working at the First East party. (On that note, that's got to be the ultimate peripheral. I want a USB disco dance floor.)

3. Anna's. Better than Chipotle, even.

4. Ancient nerd traditions.

Two other things. First, Xave, I'm sorry if you were inconvenienced by Markos coming to town, I just figured it would be a good idea for him to take a trip out of Cleveland.

Second, I bought some ice cream on the way home from the army surplus store, and was eating it on the way into the subway station, when I was (as is standard in Boston) confronted by some pan-handlers. I gave one of them some change. He said he was hungry, and it just seemed so unfair, especially since I was standing there eating ice cream. Anyways, what do you guys usually do when confronted with beggars. Give them change? Say that you're sorry? Ignore them completely?

Anyway, Markos and I decided to return to Olin early, so we took a cab, which was expensive. At any rate, we just ate breakfast, and I'm going to give Markos a tour of the place before he has to head home. Plus, I've still got some work this weekend...

po-TAY-toe

Mar. 12th, 2005 03:41 am
l33tminion: (Default)
Today was a crazy day. Highlights:

1. I went to bed at 4 AM last night for no good reason. I overslept and missed all of my 8 AM Calculus lecture. I almost missed turning in my exam. O_o Note to self: Don't do that again.

2. Engineering Discovery at Newman School: Building telegraph circuits (with a switch and a buzzer). Cool lesson, went well, very hands on. The kids were happy.

3. Arrived at MIT. Met up with Markos, Xave, and Patti. Enjoyed a potato feast (in preparation for tomorrow's potato famine).

4. Roof hacking. W00t!

5. This conversation, between me and Mads (Madeline):

Mads (to Patti): Where did you get those lockpicks?
Me (calmly): Lockpicks.com.
*some conversation follows where some people think I was joking and Xave insists I was telling the truth.*
Mads: I couldn't tell if you were joking or not.
Me (calmly): Yeah, I do that. Sometimes I sound like I'm joking when I'm actually being serious.
Mads: Oh... wait, was that a joke?
*laughter*
Me: Exactly.


Also, a pinch of philosophy. Smullyan is an awesome philosopher, who chooses to write in the form of parables. I suggest you read this and this. They're both fairly short pieces, and the stories are quite funny.


Edit: Edited because I'm confused...

True Nyms

Mar. 11th, 2005 03:01 am
l33tminion: (Default)
So, in "What is I?" today we were discussing electronic identities, identity theft, and anonymity (our readings included the essay "True Nyms and Crypto Anarchy" by Timothy May). From that, I have a question for you. How do the ways you interact online differ from how you interact in real life? Do they differ at all?

Also, I had a math exam today, and I think I did well. W00t!

Markos is in town, so Markos, Xave, and I will be hanging out at MIT tomorrow. Double W00t!
l33tminion: (Default)
Conspiracy
Philosophy
What do you think?
l33tminion: (Default)
Still sick, very snowy.

There's been quite a bit of work in the last few days getting feedback on the Freshman curriculum. Some things are great, some are glitchy, the school is incredibly diverse, it's hard to have something for everyone. Still, it's pretty cool to remember that we're building a college here.

In the middle of a very interesting discussion with [livejournal.com profile] alienus. I'll post more about that when the discussion has come to a conclusion.
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