Category Archives: Ah, Sophia!

Contemporary philosophical musings and their various relatives.

Things to Do Today

  • Working toward any goal is merely a matter of selecting something I can do and then doing it.
  • Brush and floss my teeth.
  • Expend some energy while making my heart race and perhaps sweat a little.
  • Eat some vegetables and maybe some fruit.
  • Take some action which may by its doing make The World a better place.
  • Remind someone I love them, especially those who (maybe) think I am upset with them.
  • Honor reason as my guide and as the guide of others.
  • Respect the evidence.
  • Contemplate the good, the true, the kind, the wise, as these are our best guideposts.
  • Say what I mean and mean what I say.
  • Finish something I already started.
  • “Yes and…” (or at the very least “Yes but…”).
  • I’ll do my best to be my best me.
JamesIsIn

Road Map to Ultimate Reality?

David Deutsch has plotted out a course toward understanding ultimate reality.  His map includes four courses in fact.  Here they are:

Theory of Evolution

Quantum Physics

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Computation

He is endeavoring to move toward a new way of looking at knowing and explaining.

Here is a brief introduction to Constructor Theory of Information.

Constructor Theory

And here is Dr Chiara Marletto discussing this same subject in an interview.

Beautiful, smart, and driven. But I digress.

Get out there and get thinking!

9 July:  Found this clip which is relevant here.

Reason, baby!

JamesIsIn

Contemplating Dreadful Experiences

We often forget that we are not the one who commits suicide but only the recipients of realizations relating to the other’s decision to leave us.  It’s easy to forget.

The media, as a general rule, does not report on suicides.  The reason for this is that when the media reports on suicide there is a corresponding uptick in the suicide rate.  We might think of this as a sort of permissions slip passed around the news rooms and living rooms of this Earth.  However, when the person who commits suicide is a celebrity there is little avoiding that reporting:  we all want to know what has happened, the consequences be damned!

Last night one of my all-time favorite bands lost a singer and friend.  Let us take a moment.

That angelic voice, you will note is silent.  This is the future echoed from the past.

Please take some time out to say hello to your old friends.  They may appreciate hearing from you.

Good-bye, Chris.

JamesIsIn

Autism and the Brain EQ

Here is a great article discussing one particular mental ordering (autism) and how diagnosis changes and does not change lives.  I find this story to be compelling because it lays bare the defining mental orders and how mental ordering defines individuals.

When We Realized My Husband Has Autism

My usual metaphor for brain traits is an enormous equalizer loaded with perhaps billions of sliders.  You could conceptualize these sliders as broad categories like autism or obsessive compulsive disorder, but it may be more appropriate to scale the sliders as individual traits like those which make up the diagnostic criteria for the various mental states we have so-far defined.

In any given individual a particular slider may be higher or lower depending on various contributing factors.  It would be somewhat rare to locate someone who had all the sliders for a particular concept (autism or even masculinity) pushed all the way to the top (or pulled all the way down), but we should expect that for any given individual few sliders would be resting right in the middle.

(This model should work for genetic expression as well.)

Food for thought.

JamesIsIn

The Source of Bertrand Russell’s Famous Tea Pot Argument

I really like Bertrand Russell and so should you.  He’s one of the last great intellectuals.  Sure he’s British but he’d hold his own in any circle of American pragmatism.  He’s got brainy gumption and moxy.

Probably he is most famous for his tea pot argument.  Essentially it stakes out the notion that a lack of evidence disproving something cannot be taken as sufficient cause to believe in the un-disproved whatever-it-is.

Finally, this argument appears in a paper Russell wrote on commission from Illustrated magazine (1952).  This paper was never actually published by the magazine, but it is probably available in a collection somewhere.  (This one looks like a good collection but I don’t see the article in question.)

You can find the text here and here (the second link provides a couple of interesting footnotes).

It’s a short article and well worth reading.  I hope you enjoy Russell too.

Go get ’em.

JamesIsIn

Happiness Just Might Be a Warm Cup of Coffee

Rocky Raccoon may have been satisfied reading that book placed by the Gideons in his hotel room, but I have something better for your reading list.  I read this book  a while back and am just now reminded to say something about it with all this hubbub about Starbucks and guns.

The book (by John R. Lott, Jr.) is called More Guns Less Crime (Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws).  It is the most comprehensive analysis of crime statistics I have ever seen.

More Guns Less Crime
More Guns Less Crime

The gist of his argument is that when a certain kind of liberal concealed carry law is implemented there will be an associated reduction in the rates of violent crimes (both locally and in neighboring areas).  The statistics seem to uphold this theory and provide especial insight into the relationships between these same laws and the protections afforded to women and minorities.

I think folks on either side of this issue (as well as anyone on the fence) will benefit from reading this book.  I make no bones: he is writing (even if from the compulsion of reason) in support of the laws he finds protect us best.  Whether you are swayed by the power of reason is up to you, but you will find much within the pages to respect.

Of course the Starbucks issue is really a non-issue.  It is both opposing groups attempting to get a corporation to sponsor their petty debate.  This is not an issue for a corporate board room decision.  This is an issue for legislation.

I think we have great legislation in Washington state (very much in line with what Lott suggests provides the safest social sphere), so I’m not going to get all up in arms (what?) if cowboys start spinning their spurs while waiting on their capuccini.

I’d rather see Starbucks fix their grammar in whatever language they are under the impression they use.

Lock and load, baby-doll.

JamesIsIn

Storing Errors in the Brain and Creative Sparks

It occurs to me that there could be a connection between those mistakes we make, which we store as truths for even small fractions of time, and the later ability to create or innovate.  As I can at this time conceive of no scientific proof by which this speculation may be either confirmed or denied, it must remain solidly in the realm of philosophy.  First I will outline what I mean and then I will look at the possible consequences should this be true.

The brain stores memories, experiences, and the like as synaptical connections within its neural networks.  Some of these stores data points we can think of as true and others false.  Consider a child who encounters a small furry four-legged animal.  They may, adorably, call that animal a dog.  This experience will become part of their neural matrix relating to dogs and fur and animals &c—complete with many storage points, interrelations, and connections.  When later that child discovers this animal was and is in fact a badger, adjustments will be made across the matrix to allow the child to correctly distinguish between the true dog and the true badger.  However, what is important here is the false badger.

For the duration in which the badger was falsely identified as a dog, pathways were formed and connections were created all of which can be called upon later.  Clearly the person in question will not want to falsely identify the badger as a dog, but these pathways and connections provide alternative routes of thinking along which new ideas and innovations might be prospected.

Consider next that any brain, young or old, will contain thousands upon thousands of these false truths.  They may have been briefly held or long-standing, what matters is that what is false was thought true.  This branching allows for later branching.  It seems to me that this later branching can assist in the creative and innovative processes—branching into new ideas heretofore unthought.

I do not claim that this is the only nor the necessary cause of the creative spark, merely that it can be considered as a partner in the innovative process.

If this is the case, then we might surmise that any brain which was not capable of allowing for false truths of some minimal duration would also be in capable of exploiting those alternate pathways for creation and innovation.  Clearly this would have an impact in the field of Artificial Intelligence.  Such an artificial brain must be able to store indefinitely and use at least occasionally information which is incorrect.

My understanding of the current breed of AI decision making networks is that they are able to learn by adjusting weights over time.  These weights do not store the incorrect pathways; rather, they replace them.  This may well yield positive results in creating brain-like computing devices; however, it may be necessary to allow these artificial brains to maintain databases of false truths, mistakes, and incorrect impulses if we are to see them create and innovate.

This is speculative and probably highly condemnable by stronger philosophers than myself, but here it is anyway, out in the theater of ideas ripe for your consideration.

The Power of Misinformation

Nobody wants to kill their own children.  I mean, that may seem like a good solution at tantrum time, but all kidding aside parents for the most part really want to see their children survive them.

However, the desire to feel good about protecting your children can lead down a path where feelings outweigh reasoned arguments.  Thanks to my friend Eric for sending me this great article on one facet of the crisis in this country concerning the irrational, wish-dream advocates attack on all intellectual and rational pursuits.

This article at Wired (“An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All”) does a good job of summing up the current information about immunization and the alarming trend to ignore the body of science supporting it.  Definitely a good read.

What is interesting to me (and to a number of friends with whom I have discussed it) is this willful embrace of ignorance.  It’s not just present here in this immunization issue.  Anytime truth comes into conflict with emotion there will arise a faction who cling to untruth for the sake of the heart-strings.

While I am certainly capable of sympathy with those many positions which feeling leads us towards, an important part of growing up is recognizing that the world is rarely as we wish it.

It’s time to grow up, everybody.

Though it is likely true what this article posits in its final paragraph: “There will always be more illogic and confusion than science can fend off.”  Nonetheless, we can and should raise our rational voices against the gale of emotive blabbering.

It is no longer enough to rest assured that the truth will prevail in time.  Yes, the Catholic Church did finally pardon Galileo.  But he died blind and separated from his daughters under house arrest in Rome.

Raise up your rational voices.

Time: Unreal or Surreal?

Recently I read A World without Time: the Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein by Palle Yourgrau.  He argues (at least in part) something that I’ve often contemplated, namely that time itself is not real.

I have put forward in conversation the idea that time is not real, that time is an illusion.  “But, wait,” you say, “time is whizzing past me like crazy!”  Well, events are whizzing all around us.  No doubt about that.  But time is merely the framework which we use to explain our ideas of now and later; of past, present and future; of what was, what is, and what will be.  Time is our mental construct to explain the passing of events.

Yourgrau’s contribution is to analyze the work of Einstein and Gödel in an effort to demonstrate not only that they both thought something a little different about time than we might expect, but that they each went a long way toward demonstrating a particular unreality of time.

Simply put, Einstein only stated that time needed to be considered as if it were a dimension in order to work out relativistic events.  It’s sort of like using time as a metaphor (or perhaps using dimension as a metaphor).  It is now common to take that metaphor as fact and fabric of reality.  Gödel comes in handily afterwards in his meticulous fashion and demonstrates that not only are time-looped relativistic universes possible, we may actually be living in one such universe—accidentally spawning the so-called grandfather paradox.

The book is loaded with personal correspondences between some of the brightest minds in the last century.

I have read a lot of books on the history of the sciences and mathematics and this is one of the better written, and I think anyone with even a peripheral interest in these subjects will find this to be a pleasant read.