vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
[Include this paragraph if there is any chance that someone may believe you are heretically praying for the salvation of the animal's personal soul. Which is usually.]
I do not know, Lord, and am unworthy to inquire, what plan of salvation you may have for this creature. But I beseech You, who in Your unfathomable wisdom have made even Your sinless creation subject to futility in hope of salvation from corruption into Your glorious freedom, to extend all such mercy You have planned for that with which we have had this privilege of sharing Your gift of life.

[Include this paragraph if we were responsible for its unnecessary death.]
Forgive us, Lord, in our haste and our brokenness, poor and unprofitable stewards of these Your gifts, and ever guide us to repentance that we may do all things in accordance with Your will.

Lord Jesus Christ our God, bless this Your creature in accordance with its kind, as it returns to its dust whence it had been brought forth from Your living earth, that all your creation may be restored to the joy of Your salvation, O Resurrection and Life, in Your everlasting mercies with Your unoriginate Father and All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

[Written for want of anything remotely resembling such an occasional prayer in either the little red Antiochian prayer book or the green Ancient Faith prayer book, and the total inappropriateness of attempting to use any existing prayer for the dead as a base.]
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said ‘What have we ourselves done?’ One of them, the great abba Ischyrion replied, ‘We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.’ The others replied, ‘And those who come after us, what will they do?’ He said, ‘They will struggle to achieve half our works.’ They said, ‘And to those who come after them, what will happen?’ He said, ‘The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them; and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our fathers.’

Abba Copres said, ‘blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.’
Building on this. A speculation on a buildup to the great apostasy.

tw: rape, depression, violence, body horror, middle eastern politics )

Clearly something is not being mentioned here, as it is of course much easier to paint Hell than Heaven. I must take some more time to think about this, but it is my intention that the Church is to be noticeably present throughout, if only as a very quietly hummed ison.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Someone posts a picture of a seal of a demon on Tumblr. I'm curious what the various bits mean. I pull up DuckDuckGo and pray for protection from heresy and delusion, a standard procedure of mine when I am about to look something up respecting occult symbols or demonology.

I fail to find anything explaining the meaning and I give up in a mix of mild awkward discomfort and despair that I would find anything worthwhile (morally edifying, finding the Holy Spirit at work in all things, casting some light on some scientific, mathematical or historical curiosity or other) respecting this sort of thing.

My prayer is answered when about a page or two later in my Tumblr feed I read a science article in which there is an insistence that the only thing distinct about humanity, language, is "a quirk of evolution", when it occurs to me to stop the beginnings of an attempt to formulate an objection to the implied "merely" and recite the Nicene Creed to see just what part of the faith the thing I was reading actually contradicted (spoiler: nothing).
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
It occurs to me that when I indicate that I am a Christian that might mean all sorts of things to people who are not themselves Orthodox Christians. With that in mind, I wish to compile a brief list of the various heresies and paganisms I DO NOT subscribe to. Wherein I DO NOT believe in all sorts of things... )

I think that covers all the big stereotypical ones and anything else can be dealt with as it comes.

In the meantime, here's something I had not thought I would have needed to believe, but should.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
I hope one day you will
forgive me.

The Swarm is a vast, complex, self-correcting set of algorithms executed over the network that takes everyone's opinion on something and crunches it all together into a (usually, hopefully) unified whole that represents the democratic voice.

When people consult the Swarm, they access the network and enter 2 or more questions, each question written by one of the parties immediately involved in the discussion and the order of which is shuffled and the sequences randomly distributed among the viewers. All cameras watching the persons involved relay the last few minutes of footage along with the question, or if the parties are communicating over the network, the last 3000 words of the discussion. A 15-minute break is called and everyone available is expected to comment anonymously to the Swarm; if enough commenters request more time, more time is granted, but still giving a preliminary first-impression opinion is considered "polite" (as far as that concept may apply to faceless network commenting). It is also safe, as requests for more time are seldom granted, or more accurately seldom ultimately requested.

Anyone with the hardware to run it can install a new Swarm. Many specialized communities have a Swarm that only takes information from people in that group, or from that group plus whatever it could mine from other similar groups. Some people can even install an ad hoc Swarm to settle a discussion between 2 people, but the result is usually less than satisfactory (or comprehensible).

Some corporate lobbyists have been trying to get a clampdown on "free" Swarms for years, insisting that such practices be regulated to approved professional providers such as their client entertainment and security firms, but the vast proliferation of Swarms both general and specialized has been such a useful data collection source for marketing and government surveillance that these efforts are generally allowed to be crushed by grassroots opposition (many of whom express their grievances through the lobbying firms' own Swarms).

(Who programs the Swarm? Best not to think too hard on that.)

In other news, the following thought just went through my mind while checking the dominant spelling of a word: "Google was quite happy to give me those results." (emphasis on "those")

In further news, a depressingly conservative futurism, in all senses of both words. )

Still nothing motivating a dramatic, fundamental change, while yet even this cannot possibly last forever.
I may revisit this later on.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
Civil Unions by Another Name: An Eastern Orthodox Defense of Gay Marriage

Every single paragraph of this is gold, so I'll just quote the most important part of the intro.
There will always be Christians who oppose "homosexuality" on moral grounds, but enlisting the state to protect "the sanctity of marriage" is a mistake. Such efforts demonstrate a fundamental - even idolatrous - misunderstanding of the meaning of "holy matrimony," effectively denying Christ by vesting the state with divine authority.

California's infamous Proposition 8 and similar measures sure to make it onto the ballots during next year's election fall prey to the so-called Constantinian temptation. When Constantine legalized Christianity in the early fourth century, some began to see an almost godlike authority in the state. An increasing number of Christians found it difficult to tell the difference between the things that belong to Caesar and the things that belong to God.

No More Steubenvilles: How To Raise Boys to be Kind Men

The whole thing is worth a read, so all I can will be arsed to do is cherry-pick a single quote that happens to continue from a theme referenced in one of the links here:
We must teach our boys what it truly means to be brave.

Bravery doesn’t always feel good. I’ve heard it said that “Courage is being afraid, and doing it anyway”. How many of those young men in Steubenville knew in their sweet boy hearts that what was happening was wrong, but still they remained silent? They were afraid to ruin their own hard-earned reputations, afraid of what their peers would think of them. They were afraid of getting in trouble, afraid they wouldn’t know what to say. Teach your boys that bravery can be terrifying. Courage can be demanded of you at the most inopportune times. Let them know that your expectation is that they are brave enough to rise to the occasion. And show them how.

If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Part Four pretty much explains how between 2005 and now I went from typical Nice Guy to wannabe PUA to whatever the fuck I am now (but I would like to think better than what I was before).

Also, analogy of the week:
Imagine you're reading a Dr. Seuss book about a bunch of beasts living on an island. There are two kinds of beasts: Fleetches and Flootches. (Stick with me here! I love you!) Though the two are functionally identical in terms of intellect and general competence, Fleetches are in charge of pretty much everything. They hold the majority of political positions, they make the most money (beast-bucks!), they dominate the beast media, they enact all kinds of laws infringing on the bodily autonomy of Flootches. Individually, most of them are perfectly nice beasts, but collectively they benefit comfortably from inequalities that are historically entrenched in the power structure of Beast Island. So, from birth, even the most unfortunate Fleetches encounter fewer institutional roadblocks and greater opportunity than almost all Flootches, regardless of individual merit. One day, a group of Flootches (the ones who have not internalized their inferiority) get together and decide to agitate to change that system. They call their movement "Flootchism," because it is specifically intended to address problems that disproportionately disadvantage Flootches while benefiting Fleetches. That makes sense, right?

Now imagine that, in response, a bunch of Fleetches begin complaining that Flootchism doesn't address their needs, and they have problems too, and therefore the movement should really be renamed Beastism. To be fair. The problem with that name change is that it that undermines the basic mission of the movement, because it obscures (deliberately, I'd warrant) that beast society is inherently weighted against Flootches. It implies that all problems are just beast problems, and that all beasts suffer comparably, which cripples the very necessary effort to prioritize and repair problems that are Flootch-specific. Those problems are a priority because they harm all Flootches, systematically, whereas Fleetch problems merely harm individual Fleetches. To argue that all problems are just "beast problems" is to discredit the idea of inequality altogether. It is, in fact, insulting.

Junkfood Science: How we’ve come to believe that overeating causes obesity

Major takeaway points, with the interesting backstory removed:
The last part of the Minnesota Starvation Study revealed perhaps the most important effects. When the men were allowed to eat ad libitum again, they had insatiable appetites, yet never felt full. Even five months later, some continued to have dysfunctional eating, although most were finally regaining some normalization of their eating. As they regained their weights, their suppressed metabolism and energy levels returned, although even three months after ending the diet none of the men had yet regained their former physical capacity, noted Dr. Keys.

While it seemed the men were “overeating,” Dr. Keys discovered that their bodies actually needed inordinate amount of calories for their tissues to be rebuilt:
Our experiments have shown that in an adult man no appreciable rehabilitation can take place on a diet of 2,000 calories a day. The proper level is more like 4,000 kcal daily for some months. The character of the rehabilitation diet is important also, but unless calories are abundant, then extra proteins, vitamins and minerals are of little value.
In other words, they weren’t really “overeating,” it was a biological, normal effect of hunger and weight loss. The men regained their original weights plus 10%. The regained weight was disproportionally fat, and their lean body mass recovered much more slowly. With unlimited food and unrestricted eating, their weights plateaued and finally, about 9 months later, most had naturally returned to their initial weights without trying — giving scientists one of the first demonstrations that each body has a natural, genetic set point, whether it be fat or thin. Despite the fear that with unrestrained eating everyone would continue to grow larger, it isn't true.
When obese people are at the size genetically normal for them, their energy balance and requirements per unit of lean body mass are indistinguishable from you or me or any other ‘normal’ weight individual, said Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel, M.D., now at Columbia University, whose laboratory at Rockefeller University, New York, has conducted some of the most detailed, complex metabolic research on energy balance and the biochemistry of fat. “An obese person is metabolically just like a lean person, except they’re bigger,” he said.
In the years following this classic study, Dr. Keys put no stock in weight loss diets or height-and-weight charts. He called those charts “arm-chair concoctions starting with questionable assumptions and ending with three sets of standards for 'body frames' which were never measured or even properly defined.” And “diet fads are for the birds, if you don’t like birds,” he said in a 1979 University of Minnesota Update. He also noted diets such as those promoted by Adele Davis, based on natural foods and fears about processed foods, are “just full of hogwash.” There’s “no great sense to them at all.”

The Most Ridiculous Scene in Jurassic Park

A piece about people, work, and of course Hollywood getting it wrong again by assuming all techne is indistinguishable from majjick.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Eating In-Vitro: Meat, the Expectations
The Next Nature Lab is currently developing new visions on the production methods, designs and eating habits that might emerge around in-vitro meat. These speculative* designs vary from knitted meat, protein powder fondue and luxurious meat fruit, to kitchen based bio-reactors and colorful magic meatballs for the kids.
*(except the "actually eating" sense, I'm afraid.)
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
A beautiful post about that which makes life worth living.
It certainly wasn’t a textbook example of how a dissection class should go. And even though I’m still improving as a teacher, there are ways in which this class if never going to look like the focused, guided classes I remember from high school and college. And if it ever does, I’ll be doing my kids a disservice.

So why am I ripping animals apart with the help of children as young as five? What could they be getting out of it?
The actual money quote isn't this at all, but rather the five enumerated points towards the bottom. But they should be appreciated in context, and the more people who do, the better a place this world may become.

That said, here's an alchemy kit.
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
Mental health break: here's a picture of Pocahontas as Captain America.

And a gentle reminder.

(I remember when I was your age. We had internet, but it had to be fed through these lines - they were like the cable we have now, but a much thinner, more primitive wire that originally could only transmit a few electrical pulses at a time. They were so narrow you couldn't call on one machine and browse the internet on another - you could only pick one thing you wanted to do. Back then, when you were browsing the web, you could pick up the phone and hear the internet flowing through it...)

Related. If the right to decentralized, accessible telecommunications technology should replace the Second Amendment tomorrow, and were then pursued with the same fervour, only good will result (for the next 19 years anyway).

And one more from that blog, tl;dr Mario was the original Congratulations, You Have Died.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
In a recent WoW roleplay event I had my guild captured and tortured by the Scarlet Crusade (canon religious fanatics modeled partially on the Spanish Inquisition). In my events I often give everyone links to pieces of music to play in the background to enhance or change the mood. In this case, I had people play an incredibly awful kitsch elevator music cover of 'The Lord is My Shepherd', and described it as actually coming from a crude phonograph type device set up in the torture chamber. As the terrified players were strapped down to racks and chairs by goons, I had the chief torturer close her eyes and mouth along to the words of the song in seemingly heartfelt emotion until it ended.

Related. And since, for one of the links below, we've got the not-a-vegan tag already, have some of this as well.

And now for some shit that's been sitting in the linkdump backlog since the dawn of man (for certain working definitions of "dawn", "man" and "of"):

Here's a decision that doubles as a handbook and field guide for helping the Technocracy win dealing with special secrets of the law:
[73] A critical first point is an appreciation that the concepts discussed in these Reasons are frequently a commercial product, designed, promoted, and sold by a community of individuals, whom I refer to as “gurus”. Gurus claim that their techniques provide easy rewards – one does not have to pay tax, child and spousal support payments, or pay attention to traffic laws. There are allegedly secret but accessible bank accounts that contain nearly unlimited funds, if you know the trick to unlock their gates. You can transform a bill into a cheque with a stamp and some coloured writing. You are only subject to criminal sanction if you agree to be subject to criminal sanction. You can make yourself independent of any state obligation if you so desire, and unilaterally force and enforce demands on other persons, institutions, and the state. All this is a consequence of the fact gurus proclaim they know secret principles and law, hidden from the public, but binding on the state, courts, and individuals.

[74] And all these “secrets” can be yours, for small payment to the guru.

When someone asks for an essay for something, this is always the proper format for it.

Glorious White Knight Jon Blyth saves womenkind from all the horrible nasty things in the world. But can he truly wipe out misogyny and sexism with just a cuddle? And why won't you let him cuddle you? Stop squirming, you're just making this more difficult. Oh God mother it's happening again get the towels.

And something to get away from, or at least beyond, all that crap.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
A thing about the rage Obama inspires in "conservatives" and how it fits into American history. I'll leave this quote, which compared to the rest is rather generic and flaccid, but the real stories in this are best left in context.
In a democracy, so the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve. Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick. But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard.

On to lighter matters.

Frites de la liberté, égalité, fraternité et all that. (warning: some comments worth reading)

For some reason this reminds me of various LJ/DW exchanges between me and [personal profile] helarxe. If we were women. Talking about being fucked in the ass. Literally.

Shadows in the Woods. I've got to try this sometime.

And a thing about octopuses and other things.
What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in “attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus).”

Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their “neural substrates”) are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and “are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals,” the scientists noted.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
Hollywood movies generally do a horrendous job of portraying musicians plausibly. (One exception is Katharine Hepburn playing Clara Schumann in Song of Love.) In Gattaca the director has gone to the extreme lengths of picking a piece that requires large hands (Schubert’s Impromptu in G-flat) and then adding several notes to it, such that it could not be played by an ordinary hand. Not only are most audience members unaware of the extent to which the director has strived for authenticity, but even most pianists are unaware of the change, unless they have Schubert’s Impromptu completely memorized.

Slow day at work. Been thinking in circles all day, between periods of form-signing and reading this (which sparked my interest after seeing this protest a while back on my way to work in the office building just across the street from this development), about one "deceptively simple" question:

Do people have to be shaped like humans? Two arms, two legs, head up high, eyes straight ahead, all else is commentary?

Tried last night to come up with something else - came up with something kinda like a roadrunner with a Cthulhu face and a pair of arms that can hoist a thing onto its back to carry it. Real good at fine manipulations and bearing individual loads but I couldn't for a moment imagine two of them moving a bookshelf through a door - and you can't build anything big if you can't have two people taking it (or at least a reasonably large part of it) where it's needed.

Only non-human model I can think of that passes the bookshelf test is an ant, but you scale that up and fill it with books and their heads snap clean off. Anything big that carries things in its mouth, it's either small or dragged along.

The bird-feet thing seems like a popular variant in sci-fi but I've always wondered how much strain those could take.

Maybe there are plenty of speaking-people in the galaxy and we're one of the very few that pass the bookshelf test at all... in which case if anyone's building the hyperspace drive and initiating first contact it'd be us.

Then again... how'd that passage go about Ransom wondering how else he could've expected a boat to look?
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Also apparently strikethrough doesn't show up in titles, not even as the tags

So they did a study confirming what we all ought to know. Key: ought.

Related. Sometimes I guess even nature can take a high road.

Or all the roads.
All the roads.

The beetle always wins. In almost 400 face-offs, the amphibians only managed to get the larvae in their mouths seven times. Even then, they soon spat out the larvae, which quickly turned on them (first video below). One toad even managed to swallow a larva, which moved inside its stomach for two hours. For some reason, the toad eventually regurgitated its catch, and the larva, apparently unharmed, killed and ate the animal that had just eaten it (second video below).

And then nature comes up with the typical RPG player character.

With that in mind:

ABC monsters from La Pompadour on Vimeo.

vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
So folks are going about talking about how prostitution is legalized in Canada now with this new ruling.

Wiki's got a good summary of what's actually going on. Basically: prostitution, in the sense of exchanging sexual favours for valuable consideration, has not been criminalized this whole time. Our Criminal Code only prohibits certain specific expressions of it or certain activities incidental to it, to the effect that, as Bedford&Co. argued, basically ruled out the best and often only realistic ways prostitutes have of screening out the violent scumbags and serial killers. Trial judge decided all the prohibitions were thus unconstitutional; appeal court allowed prohibition of communications in public.

More info here. (written before the appeal decision came out)

And now I dump some unrelated links.

A brief history of my entire moral development between prepubescence and now.

So an allegedly conservative group is trying to prevent Latino assimilation into the American norm, and to harness anti-assimilation feelings and resentment to aid their anti-gay cause. To sum up: divide by race, and oppose assimilation of immigrants. Lovely. I didn't catch this reading at all at first. Maybe there is more to this whole meltingpot/mosaic distinction than I've taken for granted...

"“But the facts are, from my understanding, Miss Havisham is around 50." ::thinks, does some rough math. Bricks shat.::

Still wondering how to respond to someone who posted this a week or so ago. I'm still convinced that the vast majority of pro-lifers I encounter are actually, whether they are conscious of it or not, so concerned about abortion merely or at least primarily because it's a rallying point, a shibboleth, the mark of a particular Christianity-based flavour of the old evil cult of patriarchal violence.

But on the other hand, disregarding the practical effect of acting on such morality I cannot justify abortion theoretically without drawing an admittedly arbitrary line - one far more arbitrary than, say, my refusal to go either cannibal or vegan. Whatever you do to a chicken before or after it hatches, it will not be a person the way even a 2-year-old is: the human zygote does in contrast have that capacity.

And yet intuitively I find it, if anything, even more absurd to care more about the welfare of a human zygote than a chicken, to the point where I am quite reluctant to simply throw out the philosophical high-faluting in favour of an admission that my position is strictly pragmatic. (The conscious mind has an astounding ability to miss obvious things.)

So perhaps, then, to answer the question I saw on a related link, what experiences I've had (as a childless unmarried male with no younger siblings) that I believe have led me to my current beliefs. After some thought, I'd say pretty much all of them - as an ex-fetus.

I understand more now than I used to. My experiences have shaped me, given me the ability to appreciate the world around me, allowed me to develop the capacity for morality that lets me function in this world and at least the capacity to make the attempt to not leave this world a worse place than I found it. I have experienced suffering and happiness, to the point where I can differentiate one from the other and make some inferences about what is good. And I see the same sort of thing happening with the people around me, and I value them for it and hope they can see value in me in a similar way. Actual personality, actual sentience, actual value - it all builds up and develops over time, without which we only have a theoretical potential. I had no value before I could value, except as a particular object bearing the potential attributed to it by someone else.

And if an object and a person are at odds with each other in a zero-sum situation, the actual suffering of the person trumps the existence of the object any day.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
In the beginning of our people's story there was the World, in all its shapes and sizes and layers and forms, and it is the World that is the source of all life and happiness.

The World was created by He-Who-Provides, the great Father to all living things. Through His omnipotent grace He builds layer upon layer over the World, creating food and living-space for our people as we live and have children and die content. He rules over us with a usually gentle but careful hand, and though occasionally a disobedient or greedy tribe is eliminated by His command, the World remains bright and happy for those who live within.

But our people also speak darker legends than this. )
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (g)
6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying by the guy who gave you the Monkeysphere article.
So "anyone can get rich" isn't just untrue, it's insultingly untrue. You can't have a society where everyone is an investment banker. And you can't have a society where you pay six figures to every good policeman, nurse, firefighter, schoolteacher, carpenter, electrician and all of the other ten thousand professions that civilization needs to survive (and that rich people need in order to stay rich).

It's like setting a jar of moonshine on the floor of a boxcar full of 10 hobos and saying, "Now fight for it!" Sure, in the bloody aftermath you can say to each of the losers, "Hey, you could have had it if you'd fought harder!" and that's true on an individual level. But not collectively -- you knew goddamned well that nine hobos weren't getting any hooch that night. So why are you acting like it's their fault that only one of them is drunk?


You're intentionally conflating "anyone can have the moonshine" with "everyone can have it." And you are doing it because you're hoping that we will all be too busy fighting each other to ask why there was only one jar.

And on that note about manipulating those you believe to be your lessers for your own aesthetic satisfaction, here's some microbe art.

(h/t as to both: [personal profile] conuly)

On designing artificial limbs. I like this presentation a lot, for various reasons.

Related: dynamic wearable cat ears. Perhaps a bit more nuanced demo is with live passerby. And a demo in JapanExpo in Paris.

Here's a robot recognizing itself in the mirror. And the same robot recognizing a not-itself not in the mirror. More info here.

The following commentary is fragmented, disorganized late-night fuckery and may be safely disconsidered.

The way this is talked about I'm reminded of an earlier thought I had this week about parenting (and atheism). It occurred to me just how huge a responsibility it is, if humanity is the measure of value in the world, when at once the mere fact of bringing that child in the world you are creating value by creating that which values (with the tradeoff that you've just increased the value of yourself), and everything that child learns contributes quite directly to the nature of human value in this world.

We are nowhere near being able to do this by coding an AI. But I do not see theoretically why we will never get there - and by "there" I mean, at least for the first couple hundred years, something far more primitive than the dullest human mind.

Should we trust ourselves and each other with the power to create minds that attribute value to ourselves? What would that - the mere power as well as actual abuse - actually do, both practically and philosophically? How would the industrialization of such abuse compare with, say, anything we're doing right now besides scale?

Right now it takes about umpteen thousand man-hours of variously skilled and unskilled labour of hundreds of people spanning a period between ten and twenty years, depending on some very exact and arbitrary circumstances of the original unskilled labour to get thing started, to build a generally applicable full-featured problem-solving machine. If we can shorten this process, cut out some of the middlemen, streamline the methods at the expense of mere procedure, make it more results-oriented, make it more efficient for a truly modern economy...

(side note: "R2"-ro. There, now you can't unhear it either, you're welcome.)

Meanwhile, I am also reminded of a snippet of some sermon I oveheard while the TV was left on a Christian station. Something about humanity being a social animal as confirmed by some scientists studying apes and other mammals, the implicit rationale being we must follow similar mechanisms as we are also made by God. I find this sentiment impossible to fit in good faith into any of the usual Internet Arguments on the matter.
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
On the one hand I finally start to understand what [personal profile] helarxe and the Dan were on about back in the early '00s.

On the other:
Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. You cannot think if you are not separate from the subject of thought. Descartes said, "I think; therefore I am." The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, "I am not; therefore I cannot think."
What is the logic behind the jump from the first to the second? An "innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about" has always* been my understanding. What is the philosophic and cultural context I am missing here? The worst I can imagine evolution predicting is that every so often we will have trouble drawing the line between one sort of organism and another and at worst we have to draw a line somewhere and choose something arbitrary - I doubt, having read almost the rest of the book, that Chesterton would have such a crude understanding of the problem to strawman it like that, having not done the same with the chairness of any given chair or any matter of law.

*subject to a rather embarrassing eugenicist phase in my wasted youth, which has nothing to do with the sentiment Chesterton is describing here**

**...does it? D:

The best-publicised, and for some decades, the most popular (and simultaneously, most bitterly-reviled) view of this complex of issues was Richard Dawkins' gene-selection theory. Now, but Dawkins is arguably the best science writer since Peter Medawar, and he is a formidable thinker as well. His argument has a lot of merit, and he has honed and adjusted it in rational reaction to criticism. On the other side, group selection was not very competently presented, and not very cogently thought out. It did not fare well. For a considerable period it was reduced to pockets of resistance among the incompetent and inarticulate.

I exaggerate of course, but certainly the pendulum swung so far that it became quite difficult to find anything like balanced discussions of the theme. That was the good news.

The bad news was, as I saw it, was a confusion of concepts, but it is not my field and in any case I still do not have it properly thought out. It is a difficult conceptual field.

As I see it the key conceptual stumbling-block is in our difficulties in dealing with the concept of entity. That has been a pervasive, largely unrecognised and implicit trap for the unwary in every field of science that I can think of. In spite of the attitudes of exponents of fuzzy logic, that useful and ingenious discipline does not in itself solve the problem, though it certainly has scope for wider application and, I suspect, deeper and wider development. In Darwinism, ecology and related fields things are nearly as bad as they could get. The very concept of natural selection assumes a cogent concept of entity, and no such concept has been established. In fact, I have a nasty suspicion that part of the problem is that no one concept is sufficient for the requirements of this field, or, for that matter, many other fields. And what is more, I suspect that different mental toolkits would be necessary to deal with the concept of entity in say, Darwinism and quantum mechanics.

Part of Dawkins' argument that the gene was the only, or nearly the only, or at least far and away the most important, entity in Darwinism, he modified by an expanded view of the definition of a gene. He did so well and characteristically articulately, but I still think that he fell short.
In other words, stabbing versus kicking tires.

[2014-02-15 EDIT: Just over a year later I'm sitting here trying to imagine an example of a simple discourse about some biological observation or other that makes no use of any arbitrary classification terminology, maximally respecting the fluid nature of what goes on in living populations.

It is impossible to get anything done within a reasonable time. It is like building a watch and having to reinvent the wheel and lever each time a gear is placed.

Our best hope is what we do now, take reasonable steps to pull the bones apart by the joints and divide the meat based on the easiest parts to tear. At which point it is observed that the assumption that there is a roast beast on the table to do this to says a lot.

I'm hungry.]

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.


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