Monthly Archives: April 2013

Brother Bill had a razor

For those who don’t know, “Occam’s razor” is a theory of problem solving attributed to a Franciscan friar by the name of William of Ockham, who lived about 800 years ago. It is usually interpreted, in layman’s terms, as “all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the best.” However, while many people believe this is a broadly accurate philosophy, the reality is that it may be less generalizable than commonly accepted.
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Filed under Philosophy, Science

THE TRUTH will not set you free…

…but the pursuing the truth just might.

There are at least two fundamental, philosophical differences between science and theology that will prevent them from ever peacefully coexisting. The first has to do with the underlying processes that drive them, and the second has to do with the central purposes of their existence.
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When the alternative is too scary to contemplate

I’ve said before that, when faced with dire circumstances, people will prefer to find solace in worshiping mythology over accepting hard reality. But this is not so much about stupidity or ignorance as it is about coping with untenable situations.
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Filed under Climate Change, Fear, Riding the Curve, Solutions

War drums

What happened yesterday in Boston was a tragedy. But when the edge wears off, and the war drums start to thump, as they surely will, let us not forget the legacy of the last tragedy:

  • 10+ years of war; hundreds of thousands of lives lost (still going).
  • The Gulag at Guantanamo Bay (still open).
  • Civil rights, shredded (still shredding).
  • The loss of our national soul, through torture and shame (rebranded as enhanced interrogation).

And fear. Endless fear.

If we want to honor the souls lost yesterday, then let us allow law enforcement time to find the people who did this, try them in a court, and sentence them by a jury of their peers. Allow the rule of law a chance this time, and not the horror of war.

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Technology and the opiate of magical thinking

I’d like to start off this post with a little thought experiment: specifically, what answer will we be expecting when we get to ask the AI’s for the “cure for cancer?”

If we simply pose the question as written, we might get this obvious response – in all caps, of course, because that’s how omniscient machines are supposed to talk – “THE CURE IS TO STOP EXPOSING HUMANS TO CANCER CAUSING CHEMICALS.”
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Filed under Robots, Snake Oil, Technology

Your god is something that shall be overcome…

…what have you done to overcome it lately?

— Thus Spoke Gruntathustra

It is an observed phenomena that when a people’s theology no longer works as a means of solace and hope for the events occurring in their daily lives, that they will either seek out a new theology that is more relevant, or they will turn internally, seeking comfort through mysticism, vision quests, whatever. After all, the Buddhists, who have been thinking and writing about this for some 2500 years, believe that the path from sorrow simply exists, both generally and uniquely, within each one of us. But what do you do when even those gods seem lacking?
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Filed under Philosophy, Religion, Robots, Technology

Better than human?

One thing that has always fascinated me is this concept that machines are better than human. Certainly, machines can be made that perform very specific tasks, on average, better than a human doing the same very specific tasks, but does this really make them better than the humans they replace? Or is the idea that humans can be replaced with something better merely an offshoot of this?
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Filed under Fear, Robots, Technology