Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category
In a perfect world, when faced with a contentious issue, we would assimilate the facts, weigh them against each other and come to a reasonable consensus (pending further information, of course). We don’t live in a perfect world however and I’ve observed in myself and in others that we often tend to treat our existing beliefs about the way the world works as if it were our favourite football team; we’ll stand behind them through good times and bad, through confirmatory and contradictory evidence.
This is a fairly natural thing to do and if we are aware of our own confirmation bias we can do a lot to gradually eliminate those ideas we previously held to be true but which were, in fact, false.
However, I’ve noticed that when two people attempt to discuss a contentious issue from two very different starting assumptions, instead of fostering a willingness to seek the truth regardless of the impact to our existing beliefs, we are driven further toward defending them against this new ‘enemy’.
I think that if our goal is truth then we ought to spend most of our time challenging our existing beliefs in dialogue with people with whom we have much in common. That way we’ll be less inclined to go into defensive mode and more likely to gracefully discard what was previously an incorrect belief.
This would mean that in many cases there would have to be a certain level of exclusivity to discussions but I think it would go a long way toward self-improvement even though it may take a very long time to unravel long-held presuppositions.
I want to be able to thrash out what I see as difficulties to do with consciousness or first causes without having to deal with the distraction of religious dogma or new age pseudo-science and, more importantly, I’d imagine that there are many conversations that other people would like to have without me jumping in and blurting out what I know must be true.
So, for those of you who have found me an irritation in the past, I hope to be less in your face with what I perceive to be the absolute truth. If you think I’ve got something wrong and you hold very similar starting assumptions to me then please feel free to rigorously discuss your ideas with me. If you hold very different starting assumptions please try to allow for the fact that you may be wrong and I will try my best to do likewise. We may, after all, both be wrong.
In a perfect world we should be happier to learn that we have been wrong than that we have ‘won’ an argument.
I’m not sure whether this experiment has been done before but I was watching some videos on YouTube and noticed that with some speakers/shouters my heart rate seemed to increase. I’m not sure whether this is because I agree or disagree strongly with what they are saying or whether it is some kind of natural human response to emotion or a particular pitch in voices (sort of like the urge to cry when seeing someone else cry or laugh when you hear laughter).
An interesting experiment would be to play a series of audio clips of various speakers to people whilst monitoring their heart rates. It would be handy to have them also rate the clips on how strongly they agree or disagree with the speaker.
Once the results were in I then wonder if you could use software to analyse the audio and make predictions as to how strongly a person is likely to respond on an emotional level to a particular style of speech.
I see that Apple are deigning to release the new iPhone in New Zealand soon. I’ve had an iMate Jam for almost three years now and only use it as a phone and an MP3 player (since moving to Linux I’ve been unable to sync my calendar and emails). I’m not going to be rushing out to get the new iPhone either. Why? Because I already know what I want in a device and I just know I’m going to be deeply dissatisfied with anything for the next ten or twenty years.
Here’s my specs for the ultimate device:
- Small enough to be worn on the wrist (perhaps twice the size of a watch but more fitted)
- An in-built or pull-out screen that suffices and has a minimum 800×600 resolution
- A universal docking port.
- Open source software AND hardware
- Good quality camera (~4 megapixels + optical zoom)
- Audio and Video playback
- Desktop-equivalent processor + 4gb ram (to replace current PC but can be hotplugged into screen, keyboard, mouse and other devices wherever I happen to be)
- At least 160GB storage.
- Bottle opener
- Assorted knives, saws, scissors and picky things (air travel issues here)
- Heart rate and other physiological monitors
- IR and radio remote control and key control for car, TV and house
- Credit card built in
- Solar panel on the back in case I can’t get near a power point
- Emergency beacon
- Tape measure
- Minesweeper and solitaire (isn’t that obligatory?)
- Total lockdown of sensitive information
And that’s all I can think of right now. Anything less is just not going to blow my socks off.
When my iMate finally dies I’m probably going to go back to my trusty Nokia 8210 which pretty much does everything I currently need a phone to do.
Ever wanted to know what blog posts you write require the least effort and get the most comments? No? Well I did and I threw together a bit of SQL to help me identify the areas I can improve upon if I’m to become a serious challenger for the title of the Laziest Blogger Ever™:
SELECT p.post_title, ROUND((SUM(LENGTH(w.comment_content))/LENGTH(p.post_content))*100) AS roi, LENGTH(p.post_content) AS post_length, SUM(LENGTH(w.comment_content)) AS comment_length FROM blog.wp_posts p INNER JOIN blog.wp_comments w ON w.comment_post_ID = p.ID GROUP BY p.ID ORDER BY roi DESC LIMIT 10
It returns the top 10 blog posts ranked by the percentage return on a post measured by the number of characters invested in the opening post compared to the number of characters returned in the comments.
My top 3:
What I want is a keyboard that senses how hard I’m typing and translates it to the varying boldness and/or size of the text that appears.
I’ve been bellyaching for years now about how silly it is that there is no way to cycle from Auckland’s North Shore to the city centre. I discovered getacross.org.nz yesterday and encourage everyone to take a moment to visit and register your support for the idea.
The bicycle is the most energy-efficient machine ever made. You give it a drop of oil each month and all you have to do is eat some food to power it. Bicycles take up far less room on the road and can travel almost half as fast as a car on the open road and it often faster than cars in city traffic. Cycling is also far better for your health than sitting in a car.
The next time you are able to observe a traffic queue at lights try to imagine all the cars gone and the occupants standing on the road exactly where they are. You’ll see that cars are a cumbersome and grossly inefficient way of getting around within a city.
The downside of riding a bicycle in a city built for cars is that you act like a human pollution filter (especially if you are puffing a bit) and it is horrendously easy to get yourself killed.
I’d like to see our cities redesigned to favour walkers and cyclists and have car traffic relegated to motorways and as second-rate citizens within cities themselves. Cars are still useful and are probably here to stay but we need to recognise that there are better ways of getting around our cities and that one of the things holding this back is the fact that our infrastructure is often designed exclusively for motor vehicles without regard to walkers or cyclists.
A recent post on another blog raised a topic that I’ve been mulling on for quite some time now. The way we currently ‘do’ morals is to try to find what we all agree to be common goals and try to protect them. It’s nicely summed up in the phrase “Live and let live”.
The problem is that it’s completely constrained to our current world view and doesn’t come anywhere near covering all the potential issues that are ahead of us (or even many existing issues like abortion, war, stem cells, euthanasia and so on).
Here’s my initial stab at a theory for discussion (read my meme post if you are unfamiliar with the term):
“Morality is the degree to which an expressed meme will affect the survival of the host’s memes and genes.”
I’ve played with lots of different variations and I suspect this one has holes in it too but I’m putting it out there for critique.
I’ve included the meme because non-living objects and organisms that are unable to share ideas are only really directly responding to their environment and so can really do no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. One could argue that we only ever respond to our environments but in a more complex way in which case you would probably have to throw out the concept of morality altogether (or perhaps introduce the meme of morality to further influence how we respond?).
I’ve treated the issue as a matter of survival of memes and genes in much the same way that Dawkins treated our bodies as if they were “lumbering robots” that exist to make more copies of genes.
Please, feel free to pick this apart or even come up with your own all-encompassing theory.
[edit:] I’m becoming less and less satisfied with this hypothesis; it doesn’t cover the ‘wrongness’ we feel when people torture animals (or perhaps it does if the actions that are tied to harming animals are also tied to harming people). Also, we can see that morality evolves (slavery, animal welfare, capital punishment, etc) so it may well be that any definition of morals has to evolve as well?
Living things are made of lots of cells and cells have DNA in them. DNA are long, double strands of molecules made from just four different kinds of molecule that provide a kind of a blueprint for the organism it belongs to. A gene is one of many small regions of DNA that is able to be read (or be ‘expressed’) and contain specific instructions on how to build living structures. If DNA were a blueprint, genes would be the details like “the door handle goes here” or “use concrete for the floor”.
When living things reproduce they are really just making duplicates of themselves. Asexual reproduction means making a direct copy of the DNA and sexual reproduction means mixing up two sets of DNA to come up with a slightly different version. Sexual reproduction has been very successful because each time you mix up the blueprints to make a new organism you have a chance at making a slightly better version than the original which can then go on to make more copies of itself when it reproduces. If, in the mixing process, one of the genes gets changed a tiny bit to say “make the legs bigger” and the creature is born into a world where bigger legs are an advantage the chances are that it’s going to have more offspring than others.