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The Free Dictionary Language Forums
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 2:25:31 PM
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 2:25:31 PM
Since the technology is still in it's infancy we do not yet know its limits. However it seems to have the potential to profoundly alter nearly every aspect of life. It has the potential to not just end diseases, but perhaps end and reverse ageing as well. New materials with properties we can only guess at could become common place. They might be able to assemble quantum computer networks of unimaginable size and power. They will eventually create atomic scale 3-D printers, doing for manufacturing what file sharing has done to the music industry. Here's an example of that.
The end result of all this, assuming we can do the things we think we can do, is that my grand or great grand children may live in a world where disease and old age are a thing of the past, artificial intelligence with god level intellects are a fact of life, and the economy is one of abundance instead of one of scarcity. People who write what is called hard sci-fi, that is science fiction that does its best to restrict itself to known or suspected science, are not only scientists and engineers, they are really our best futurists. For the last couple of decades people who write hard sci-fi have had a problem. When they look to the future, look at where science and technology are going, they see a future so strange, so divorced from what we as a species have known up until now, that they have a hard time writing a story true to what they see coming and at the same time allows us to connect to the characters and setting. In other words, the future they foresee is so fantastic and strange that to our eyes it seems, perhaps, inhuman.
If you are feeling up to the challenge, try reading Wright's "The Golden Age." I rather liked it, but it is one of the more extreme visions of a post-singularity future.
Who Defends the Koch Brothers?
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:09:12 AM
So evil they're funding a program to create more public defenders and increase the education of those that already exist. Eeeevvviiiiiil.
Does Western Hypocrisy Prolong Israel and Palestinian Conflict?
Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:03:17 PM
It is hypocritical, but not for the reasons you outline. The truth of the matter is if a group of religious fanatics in northern Mexico were openly dedicated to killing American citizens, regularly kidnapped and killed them, regularly shot rockets into San Diego and south Texas, reliably broke truces, cease fires, and other agreements, and on top of all that used their own women and children as human shields to screen such attacks, hoping to use the corpses as propaganda weapons when they were inevitably killed, all the while the vast majority of Mexicans cheered them on ...
If these things were going on there would quickly be a smoking crater where Tijuana now stands and every town and village between the Rio Grand and Mexico City would have been levelled by artillery fire and armoured bulldozers. Once it became clear that those south of the boarder wanted us dead more than for their own children to live, the American people would demand such action, and those expressing outrage in the inter-national community could go hang themselves. It is hypocritical to demand restraint from someone that you yourself would not exorcise in similar circumstances.
If the Palestinians truly just want to live in peace or go back to live in homes that their parents once resided in, then they could get a hell of a lot closer to that goal by adopting the tactics of Gandhi. But they won't for two reasons. One is that their religion and culture teaches that war is the only way to achieve their goal against what they see as a blood enemy, while compromise and negotiation is weakness, dishonourable. And two, they want dead Jews more than anything else, more than the right to return, more than a chance for their children to have a better life, more than land or a removal of settlements. When someone wants you dead, period, I fail to see how there's any room to negotiate with such a person.
Islam: The kids just love it.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:48:17 PM
By their fruits will you know them....
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 11:59:11 PM
Term limits would be a good start. A better one would be a law that forbids anyone who has held public office from doing any lobbying for 5 years or more. That's where a good chunk of a politician's wealth is earned these days.
But I'm becoming more convinced as time goes on that universal voting rights is at the root of most of our governmental problems. Stupid and greedy people end up voting in stupid and greedy politicians. I know that's a radical notion, but consider the old saying "No democracy long survives after the people discover they can vote themselves money", or something to that effect. And I say that as someone on disability.
We have those who pay no taxes, who often produce little or nothing, who have no interest in current affairs or fail to learn even the basics of the policy or law being currently debated, indeed often they can't even name one of their own senators, governor or the vice-president - in other words the proverbial low information voter - these people have a say in how the government runs equal to those who actually educate themselves on government and history. People who produce nothing voting to give themselves an ever growing amount from people who do. People who have little if any idea what the Constitution says or awareness of history voting for or against laws based on shallow, spur or the moment feelings.
There was a reason beyond simple racism or sexism the right to vote was restricted to property owning males until this century. It was because they wanted to make certain those who had a say in the direction of the country had skin in the game, had a stake in their home's continued prosperity and safety and had demonstrated a minimum level of competence. I would never suggest we restrict the vote now based on race or gender. But maybe it would be a good idea to allow only those who actually pay taxes to have the franchise. Perhaps being honorably discharged from the military would be another way to earn the vote.
At the very least I would make potential voters - and those seeking office! - pass the same test we make people from other parts of the world take before they can become full citizens. If you have to know the basics about our history and how the government and law is supposed to work before you can become an American, you should have to do the same before you can vote in an American election. I'd also throw in a need to understand the basics of the Laugher Curve too.
Monday, March 3, 2014 1:03:25 PM
When Russia invaded Georgia a few years ago C-SPAN held a panel discussion on the topic. On the panel was a former American military intel. officer who had spent several decades focusing on the Soviet Union/Russia. To roughly quote him: "Now that I am safely retired I can state plainly the conclusion I came to long ago. That is, the Russians are a horde of drunken barbarians that occasionally vomits up a genius."
While insulting - surely it doesn't apply to all Russians - it can not be denied that Russia has been a warlike, hard, empire seeking culture from it's beginning. For Putin and many like him the fall of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe, a loss of prestige and power that should have never have happened. When communism collapsed the pretense of a higher ideology went with it. All that was left was the old desire for power, gansterism as government, a return of the Czars of old without the peasants and fancy titles.
When the ruler of Ukraine was driven out Putin lost a crony and the money he brought it. Worse, the Ukrainian people made him look bad. Mobsters don't like it when the shop keeper who was paying them protection suddenly tries to chase them away. Examples must be made.
I haven't been watching the news, or any TV the last few days, instead following all this on the radio and the net. Consequently I didn't hear any of the talking heads going on about how Putin wouldn't invade. As soon as I read that the ousted leader had fled to Russia I thought Putin would go in. It's what a gangster would do. The oh so educated and safe intelligentsia of the West believe the intelligent and educated the world over are reasonable, that smart people every where think like they do and can thus be reasoned with.
They don't. Different people have different goals, value different things while not caring for others that you may hold dear. And some times smart people are willing to be very brutal in pursuit of those goals. Sadly, it seems this simple lesson must be learned by some in the West again and again, much to our sorrow.
Friday, February 28, 2014 7:47:56 PM
I believe what Parser and you are talking about is tribalism. Such can't be avoided. It is part and parcel of the human condition. It once served - and some would argue still does serve - an evolutionary purpose. While we are aware of the dangers of tribalism, the Holocaust or the slaughter in Rwanda for instance, these days we don't often think of it in any terms but 'evil racism'. Tribalism is key to social cohesion and insuring that other cultures don't move in and displace the one already there. For instance, you might say that as the Romans lost their sense of self, their confidence in being 'Roman', they lost what made them great. As they lost their social cohesion the important psychological state that drove them to keep the barbarian tribes at bay was also lost, eventually leading to the dissolution of the empire in the west, and thel sack of Rome itself.
It could also be said the same thing is at play here in America. In our rush to not be seen as racists, to be enlightened and better than our oh so crude forbears, dare I say it, to be fair, we have changed critical self analysis from a vital tool needed to succeed and turned it into a fetish. We habitually doubt ourselves while making excuses for the poor behavior and shortcomings of others. All the while less advanced(yes, the term is vague, no I don't mean it as a pejorative, define it as you will) but more confident cultures have begun to move in and occupy the psychic space we have abandoned. The sack of Rome and the Dark Age that follows isn't some unexpected disaster, it is the logical end result of a process that began in the minds of a formally great peoples long before. A confident Rome, a Rome that doesn't succumb to decadence and self doubt, a Rome that maintains at least a small measure of disdain for and suspicion of the barbarian is a Rome that does not fall.
But this is all off topic.
As a Libertarian who seems to be in the process of falling away from the faith, I find my highest good has begun to shift from freedom to stability. Freedom only works as a credo when the majority of the people cherish it more than being taken care of. What was the old saying, "No democracy can long survive when the people realize they can vote themselves money from the treasury"? At this point I might just trade in the America I find myself in for a stable Hungarian Empire destined to live intact through 8 centuries.
Thursday, February 27, 2014 4:24:30 PM
Yes, although there are many (most) who are disengaged from any deeper debate or thought and there are crusaders - Jihadists, actual Crusaders of a thousand years ago, a Shining Path fighter in the jungles of South America, or some Storm Trooper battling for the father land - we all have our qualifications for what makes up the good. Discernment is always there, whether we acknowledge it or not. The intensity of the feeling and what we believe is 'good' are the only things that change.
You're also right in that it's unlikely in the extreme that a person can convince someone that 'fairness' or 'honor' is the wrong metric to use. But what might be helpful is that if we can lay the basic thought process bare for all to see and understand. Expose the code that lies beneath the program as it were. If people, broadly speaking, were to start to think in terms of first principles instead of getting lost in the weeds of individual fights like abortion or the tax code, there is a chance that a person might come to change their own minds. You rarely accept truth, or even new knowledge, from someone you are fighting. Truth is something that usually comes when you honestly go looking for it.
As far as consensus, again, you're correct again. I misspoke. Clarity would be a better word. Half of my frustration from most political/cultural debates or discussions is the muddiness of thought. I, and I suspect most others, would be less agitated during such discussions if those involved truly understood why they believe what they believe. As one of the few radio talk show personalities I can listen to likes to say, "I prefer clarity over agreement."
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:45:05 PM
The story with the VP is a good example of what I was talking about. Although it could possibly be argued that he, like others, take this stance on this particulate topic for purely political grounds - allowing for a greater potential for those who would normally be legally barred from voting to do so anyways, thus increasing the chances for victory for his party in a given election - the true key here is his use of the word 'hate'.
If fairness is the underlying metric one uses to measure the right or wrongness of a thing, then it is natural to assign foul motives to those that argue against your position. After all, if you're arguing for what's fair and the other person is against it then it would reasonably follow that the other person is against fairness itself. Who could be against fairness? Only someone full of hate, stupidity, greed, or some other dark motive. Conversely, if you're arguing in favor of the most honorable stance and someone argues against it, that can only mean that they are either misinformed, slow witted, or dishonorable.
While there are certainly hateful or dishonorable people, they can only be a tiny portion of the population. Yet it is so much easier, politically expedient, and even, on some level, emotionally satisfying to demonize those you disagree with. After all, if the other side is on the side of the devil doesn't that mean you're on the side of the angels? The truth, as it often is, both simpler and more complicated - easier to say, harder to deal with.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:14:28 PM
I want to put something out there for discussion.
The problem of what I've called the tribalisation of politics and the culture in general in America has bothered me for a number of years now. We've always been cautioned to not talk about politics or religion in polite company least we stir up harsh feelings, but it seems in the last couple of decades the acrimonious feelings have grown beyond a certain dangerous threshold. I find myself avoiding discussing politics, things going on in the culture, and any number of other topics around my brother and his wife least I alienate them. I believe I've even lost a friend over what I thought was a simple, fun discussion about the last presidential election.
Why is this? Why do otherwise reasonably intelligent people, raised in the same culture, with access to the same information come to such radically different conclusions about matters of law, economics, culture, foreign and domestic policy? And perhaps more importantly, why do we end up concluding that those that differ from us are dangerous, almost alien entities that threaten the fabric of everything we hold dear? Why what should be rational discussions over the day's events lead to such harsh feelings? Liberals often end up believing Conservatives are greedy and evil, while those on the right usually conclude that those on the left are bleeding heart simpletons or just hate the nation as it was founded and formed. Both believe the other is, on some level, just plain stupid.
Neither can be the case. While there are low IQ individuals or people of bad will in any group, just as there are always a few bad apples, I know too many intelligent, good hearted people of all political stripes to simply assign mental deficiency, or bad motives to such large groups solely on the basis of differing opinions. And yet, the problem remains. Same information, roughly the same people, the same logic, but radically differing views, often leading to so much hard feelings and hatred.
I think I have an answer. I believe it has to do with what a person holds to be the highest good, that thing, whether we know it are not, that we ask first about a new situation. This happens at such a deep, even gut level that I think few people consciously think about it. When presented with a new law or other situation a person tends to ask himself a binary question - is this thing good or bad in relation to X, X being the highest good.
For example, those of a libertarian persuasion seems to hold freedom as the highest good. Freedom is a fairly objective quality, that is, it's a pretty straight forward problem to figure out if a policy promotes or degrades individual freedom. Since many libertarians tend towards logical thinking, often almost to the point of seeming a bit autistic, it's usually a straight forward process for a libertarian to figure out whether something is 'good' or not.
For an American conservative the highest good is usually honor. Honor is a subjective thing. But within the context of Western culture, thanks to thousands of years of written history, myth, common religion, commentary, and debate, it is not overly difficult to conclude whether something is dishonorable or not. So while honor is a subjective thing, within the context of ones own culture a person can follow a sort of internal logic when using honor as X to answer the question.
Lastly, liberals or progressives, from the most staunch Scoop Jackson Democrat to the ruthless Maoist guerrilla fighter, tends to use fairness as their X in the equation. The desire for fairness for all people and in all things is a laudable, even desirable thing, but fairness is perhaps the most nebulous qualification one could use for a highest good. I can think of no way a person can logically conclude what exactly is 'fair' in a given situation. It is a term that really only has meaning to the individual, subject to change over time, and only has meaning for the broader group insomuch as a majority can be persuaded to a particular definition of fair on a given topic at a given time.
Almost no one, outside of a few serious libertarian thinkers perhaps, thinks in terms of highest good when making policy decisions. As I said, this mostly happens on the gut level. The conservative or liberal reads about a new proposed law and quickly comes to decide if they like it or not if it seems 'right' or 'wrong'. But if we stop to think about it, such a process would not only explain why a person leans a certain way politically or culturally, it would also explain why we so often fail to persuade those of differing opinions, and even why we tend to assign bad motives to those we disagree with. For those who are most concerned with fairness, a conservative can seem harsh or greedy. For the conservative, those on the left often seem foolish, illogical, and self-destructive.
The truth is neither is evil, but rather the two groups are following, to the limits that logic allows, what they see as the highest good. For the liberal, fairness is axiomatically honorable. For the conservative what is honorable is axiomatically fair, or at least as fair as the world allows. Since definitions of fairness change over time, liberalism seems more dynamic, or to the conservative's mind, more disruptive and destructive, often doing away with what is good in pursuit self indulgence. Since matters of what is honorable is largely settled, the conservative seeks to maintain what he sees as the best state of affairs. Thus to the liberal the conservative seems stodgy and hide bound, either slow witted or greedy.
And thus I believe arguing over individual policies are pointless. What is the point of trying to convince someone you are right and they wrong when you are using two different definitions of what is good? Instead I've come to believe that we should be having discussions over just what is the highest good. Consensus would follow, at least as much as is possible. At the very least such an understanding may help in reducing the amount of distrust an even outright hatred those in the different political/cultural camps have for one another.
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