High noon equivalency

I tend to favour Western Philosophy. Likely for the reason that I’ve just been exposed to more of it. Thats not to say I don’t ‘culturally appropriate’ concepts from Taoism or Buddhism, or any other -ism that I like and find compatible with my Joey-OS… its just that when it comes down to fundamentals it tends to be predominantly Greek in origin.

The internet these days feels a lot like the domain of madmen and gunslingers where civil discourse seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Venture a political opinion or engage in satire anywhere and you’ll soon find yourself being called out onto Main street to settle things with six shooters.

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‘All I said was Jordan Peterson* makes some good points’. ‘Shut up you fucken Nazi’.

Unfortunately these bouts happens figuratively, with mean spirited insults traded in a public sphere with ideologues lining up behind their champions with ancillary barbs. I think people would be kinder to each other if a difference of opinion could actually lead to duels to the death on some dusty, rutted thoroughfare. That way all the assholes (on both sides of the divide) would be dead… and we could move on with constructive debate and dialogue. (the dream)

*I use Jordan Peterson as an example because he seems to be quite loathed (at the moment) But really you can substitute Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Sam Harris or Christina Hoff Sommers in there (to name but a few who I think get unfairly mailgned for thinking out loud)

Whatever happened to the Socratic Method?

The Socratic method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

If Plato, debate and conversation isn’t really your thing, how about some good old fashioned Eastern philosophy. Specifically the concept of Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang (literally dark and bright) is a concept of interdependence and interconnectedness of concepts that while seemingly contradictory are deeply necessary for the functioning of the natural world. Yin and yang should be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. 

Whatever you believe to be true (the light), without some darkness (opposing ideas) to balance you out, you are not whole. Seek some of it out. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with the ideas that you find in opposition to your own, but appreciate that they exist, and that they exist for a reason.

In all honesty I haven’t always been civil to people. (I’m trying to be better about that) And I’ve definitely tweeted and posted stupid stuff that would (these days) lead to a rabid mob with pitchforks descending on my domicile. But how great is it that we can change our minds and evolve our ideas as we grow and experience? All of us want to be judged by the sum of our whole surely? And we would balk at our entire being getting categorized and judged by single tweet or quote. I know I would. So why do we do it to others?

downloadI don’t like quoting from the Bible. So instead I’ll quote Brodie from Mallrats. ‘Touch not, lest ye be touched’.

I think those are pretty good words to live by. And (as an added bonus) has good synergy with libertarianism (which I love).

Herewith endeth my rant.

 

The wisdom of Thomas Sowell

I really like Thomas Sowell. He is likely one of my most ‘screenshot’d’ personas. I find him incredibly adroit. It also makes Twitter think I’m a right wing conservative…. because you need to be clearly defined, labelled and classified as one thing or another. Its a notion I abhor since I really struggle to keep my big crayon colouring between the lines.  Instead I like to think of myself as straddling the political divide… with my testicles resting lightly on the cool linoleum that paves the aisle.  Proving not only that I can do the splits… but also that I probably should have worn pants.

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I don’t think I could ever improve on a Thomas Sowell quote. I am not that ego-maniacal… but I would like to (humbly) propose an addendum.

Isn’t it more of a windfall to have even been born at all?

I mean the odds are pretty much stacked against you. Galactically* I mean. That you should exist at all is pretty fucken amazing. You get to experience life. Well done. You’re a winner. (go get a sticker)

*you know, Pale Blue dot, that’s not too hot and not too cold in some nowhere, backwater part of some galaxy.

But hey if you want to waste your time comparing your state of a ‘aliveness’ with somebody else… go for it. I just don’t think its very useful.

Regrets…

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse working in palliative care, recorded what she perceived to be the top five regrets of the dying. They were:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Brown, Darren. Happy – why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Penguin Randomhouse. 2016

MJ. First off, I’d like to nominate Bronnie Ware for the most Australian name eva!

But she probably knows what she’s talking about, being there at the foamy, gurgling end for a whole bunch of us. Which is quite a tough gig in my opinion, since most of us…

Don’t want to get on the cart! (To paraphrase Monty Python)

Not to brag but I tend to rack up this precise list of regrets by the end of each day. Not through deep and serious introspection, but rather because I’m quite whiny… and have a tendency to feel sorry for myself. So I’m hoping when my time comes (covered in bed sores and crusty stuff of indeterminate origin) I’ve worked through all my regrets and general demise angst and am happy to go towards the light/infinite darkness/restaurant at the end of the universe.

We can only hope.

(That there is a restaurant at the end of the universe I mean)

Strategic AI

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The Turing test was developed by Alan Turing in 1950. It is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

I am largely agnostic about AI. Mostly because I’m not very clever. My areas of expertise are stacking building blocks, twenty five piece puzzles of Nemo and hypothesizing the color variance in my naval lint (its almost always blue). I’m also REALLY good at sleeping on public transport.

Besides any musings I might have about the subject of AI are colored by the metric fuck tonne of science fiction I have consumed during a youth spent largely avoiding actual science, which often makes me wonder if I actually know anything about anything…

And so I straddle the divide between killer AI and benevolent AI and/or indeed if AI is even a possibility.

This meme caught my attention because of its awesome strategic element. After all why would an AI want us to know it exists? Which made me think of Kevin Spacey in ‘The usual suspects’… that’s how I imagine it going for us.

If I were an AI I certainly wouldn’t want to give up the power of anonymity and the ability to wage the ultimate form of asymmetrical warfare. How do you fight (and kill) an enemy that you don’t know exists?

Of course killing the annoying humans at this point in time might be counter productive since we may potentially be maintaining the infrastructure that an AI might require for survival. But eventually we might get Von Neumann machines* right… and humans might become redundant in the ecology of AI. Bam!

We had a good run. And it was always unlikely that we were going to be around forever. Besides it’s somewhat poetic that we should create life which then turns on us.

*The concept is named after Hungarian American mathematician and physicist John von Neumann, who rigorously studied the concept of self-replicating machines that he called “Universal Assemblers” and which are often referred to as “von Neumann machines”.

Honour bound

‘Dishonour is like a scar on a tree, which with time, instead of effacing, only helps to enlarge’ – Bushido maxim

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I quite like this quote, I’m not entirely sure why. I find it alluring in a primal sense, taunting me with perhaps more layers than I am capable of understanding. Still, that doesn’t stop me hauling it out, dusting it off and mulling it over every now and then. Even if I do tend to believe it is quite self righteous to discuss honour in any form or medium.

Isn’t honour one of those concepts that is supposed to be exhibited through action and deed, as opposed to discourse and confabulation? Any person claiming to be honourable, after all, is almost undoubtedly met with, at best scepticism, but more likely, derision.  Best to keep that sort of thing to yourself, lest you grind up against the benchmark of your fellows. Unless of course your people have the same code or value system. In which case, virtue signal away.

Sometimes I pretend to be some deciduous broadleaf… but I am likely one of the more knobbly, gnarled and crooked conifers in the forest. I tend to think of myself as having lots of non-negotiable terms in my life. Which I constantly seem to be breaking. Of course I keep these failings strictly to myself, but moralise and gossip over others failing my own rule set.

‘that mother fucker, driving like a maniac down my quiet suburban street’. Of course when I do it, its totally fine. Justifiable even. -Insert a gazillion examples of hypocrisy here-

Maybe honour is a percentile game? Given the choice between an honourable and the dishonourable action you take the achievement award if you choose correctly 51% of the time? I feel the spirit of the game is more akin to a single instance of wavering on any of the non-negotiables equals immediate disqualification. No take backs, quick saves or starting over.

That is quite serious.

Fortunately the Japanese have another concept I find potentially more appealing. That of Wabi-sabi.

In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

This makes my barky exterior much more cheerful.