Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Grr. Christmas, and me without a credit card to max out.
As my schedule quickens and things happen faster, I find it takes more and more guilt to motivate me to do things I don't really feel are very important. And yet, I still try and get presents for my family on christmastime, and spend the day/days with them. Why is that? Environmental programming? Lingering memories of christmas past? Or some editorial filter, that picks those bright and worthwhile things about christmas, and lets me enjoy all of it, for the sake of the pure intent in parts of it.

But for the record, Fuck You, Santa Clause! And your celebratory capitalist pig-dog elves too!

Friday, December 20, 2002

oh, FLENSER is all salvage electronics and materials at this point, so amazingly enough, the only costs I've incurred are some gas charges transporting, and a new battery for my trusty DMM. We may yet run into trouble, but thus far, FLENSER is pretty sturdy for little cabbage. The current design/test phase should cost us little or nothing, and then the debug/rebuild phase will be where the costs start piling up, with the nice batteries, motors, and titanium weapon/armor pieces. ugh. It's cheap, but I hate block aluminum. At least with Titanium I don't have the option of trying to do it myself and I'll have to pay someone else to do it. I can watch them sweat. heh.
More progress on the front lines, I've organized a team to field a combat robot, code-named FLENSER. He'll bear the MadScientistMagazine nameplate, and hopefully compete in either Robot Wars, or Battle Bots (or both) His control and weapon systems are currently in spec with the requirements of both. I'd hate the let out too many details and then be embarassed when we change them later, so I'll just say that while it's mostly a virgin crew, I have high hopes we'll see results quick, and with interesting(if not victorious) results. FLENSER will hopefully get on TV during the next BattleBots season, if we finish him quickly enough, and grab some eyeballs for MadScientistMagazine.

Which of course means I have to work on creating a team for that also. Pending Funding, I'll be recruiting real writers and features soon. "Soon" being within the next two months. Not quite up to internet speed yet, but things are building. Money remains tight, even through these prospective times. I'm full of ideas and projects, but stereotypically low on funding and allies. Christmas will be lean this year. I'm planning on giving mostly self-constructed gifts to those that expect them, and agnostica cards to those that don't.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

I have to also admit a desire to use Mad Scientist Magazine to prove my friend Eliezer Yudkowsky wrong. He said to me recently, within a larger conversation, "But Corwin, mad scientists don't exist in real life." Realizing that he's mostly right, and wondering to myself why that's so is at least tangentally related to my decision to start this magazine.

I also cannot help but think that an organized sub-culture of maniacal rational engineers that communicate and assist each other would be a good thing.

There are two paradigms of Scientific Endeavor just now, one is Science for Science's sake, and perpetuates itself in Universities, research institutions, and the heart of every mathematical platonist. The other is Applied Sciences, and it lives in Corporate Think Tanks, Design Engineering courses, and Product Delivery Systems. I'm trying to discover and promote a third kind of Science and Scientist, the Artistic Scientist, who creates and searches and discovers for his own sake. And if there isn't a sub-culture that puts Nicolae Tesla on the covers of it's books, and has inside jokes about rational madness, well, I guess I'll just have to make one.

Another large reason I'm working on this project is out of a desire to bring my life into sharper focus. The last two years I have spent largely reading, researching, talking to people about things thought to be important, and thinking about what to do. Launching this magazine, I hope to provide myself with a vehicle to effect change, give other people tangible support in endeavors I find important, and furthering my support for realistic and rational outlooks.

I also hope to use this magazine to help myself produce references for other people, share what I've learned so far, and provide myself with more opportunities to learn.

Mad Scientist Magazine is to be a publication about amateur science, in it's application, it's participants, and it's value. I am an amateur scientist, and seek to both promote the lifestyle, and proselytize it's benefits. Ours should be a culture that creates, understands, and improves ourselves and our tools.

An amateur scientist is simply a person who uses scientific principles within his life, performs scientific research, or relies primarily upon scientific methods to made decisions, yet is not a member of that happy group that is paid and tenured to do such work for a living. Almost everyone, at some point in their lives has been an amateur scientist. An argument could be made that everyone is, because even professional scientists are not qualified in ALL realms of scientific thought. But the title 'amateur' need not be bad. Hobbyists and Home tinkerers have a long and distinguished history of adding to, correcting, and complementing mainstream science and scientists, arguably one group: Amateur Astronomers sometimes actually supersede the professionals in some areas(discovering comets, for example). We home engineers, and basement chemists may not have the budgets or focus of 'real' researchers, but creativity, enthusiasm, and the progressive nature of scientific discovery are on our side.

I wanted to start this magazine for a few reasons. First, to provide a voice and community for home scientists. Second, to encourage amateurs within scientific investigation, showing that Truth is there for the discovery with or without mandates and budgets. Third, to foster the spirit of engineering experimentation in myself and others. And fourth, to help struggling Mad Scientists like myself and my friends work more effectively, see more clearly, and build and discover more.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

"Citizen initiatives violate the concept of representative government. Without proper safeguards, our state is in danger of becoming a pure democracy." ~former majority leader Ken Garn, of Utah

Now, doesn't that just keep you awake at night? The idea that citizens might someday play a part in their own lives?

You better believe it keeps some far-sighted politicians up at night, realizing their influence and control of the law might not be iron-clad in a society where citizens make law by initiatives. Or even expect more input in how the law is handled. Dangerous times, my friends, dangerous times...

Less than three hundred years ago, the most powerful people in the world were monarchs and nobles, in Europe and Asia, who controlled what today would be billions of dollars in land, resources, buildings, and even people. These lucky few lived as the dreams of poorer men died around them, and they enjoyed power, prestige and the fulfillment of nearly every wish.

But despite their wealth, their power, and their position over others these men almost all died before their fiftieth year. Many did not know how to read, or the rules of simple mathematics. Few had seen more than one hundred square miles of the world, and none ever traveled faster than twenty miles an hour. Their wealth and position could not buy them what their society did not know, or had not yet achieved. A lower middle class individual in a industrialized nation in this year 2002 is comparitively more wealthy than the most fabulously rich king fifteen generations ago. Such an individual is afforded more choice in cuisine, a vastly superior education and medical care, more comfortable housing with temperature control, can travel around the world with sufficient preparation and saving, and communicate instantly with people around the world, though telephone and the internet. If this individual envies the past king's great mansion or many servants, they may save their wages for a year, and go check into a illustrious hotel or resort, where even Louis the Sun King would be flattered by bustling servants, beautiful artwork, and sumptious surroundings. Furthermore, our industrious vacationer can exchange one resort for another each year, experiencing new and more novel surroundings, and enriching each experience comparitively; though our king has his palace year round, it remains the same, and will for generations. And to heap insult upon this injurious comparison with the proud King, this man of 2002 will have nearly twice the good King's lifetime to enjoy all these advantages, and will remain healthy and well-heeled for most of his life.

While our King has great personal wealth, he lacks greatly in societal wealth: the relative commons of a society, it's technology, resources, and behavioral norms. Small inequalities in societal wealth can be made up in personal wealth, such as wealthy scions in impoverished nations today, who live quite well, even by American standards. But a great inequality in societal wealth provides our proverbial modern man with things a past King simply cannot have, and never will, thoughout the entirety of his short, if prestigious life.

Real wealth is capability, not resources. We measure men in dollars because in the short term, this determines what you can accomplish. But society changes and evolves, and in the longer consideration, the two are no longer the same.

To maximize your real wealth, a balance must be struck, between advancing your personal wealth, and contributing to societal wealth. Personal wealth provides you with comforts, luxuries, and increased capability. Societal wealth is the marketplace from which these things must be bought. If the marketplace is too poor, no amount of money will suffice to purchase what you desire. Conversely, the richest society in the world does you no good if you do not have sufficient coin to enter in.

Occasionally, the universe has a sale, and it is possible to buy a great deal of societal wealth with less effort than is usual. These moments ring down in history, because they are rich in advancement, and the opportunity for the creation of heroes and grand figures. Sixty years ago, a scientist invested less than 10 years of research and production, and saved future billions of lives, when he discovered a vaccine for the great scourge of polio, now almost unknown. Further in scientific history, a Dr. Nobel, sick at heart for his invention of nitro-glicerine which became TNT, offered up some of his uneasy wealth for the inspiration and reward of scientists who furthered humanity, indirectly contributing to some of the most influencial and beneficial accomplishments of humanity(including the aforementioned vaccine). Not only did these men do their neighbors a great service, they helped themselves by contributing to the society that surrounded them, affording themselves new abilities, and greater wealth.

The most critical point in history is always now, because in this fleeting moment, we have the opportunity to effect change, seize opportunities, and grow as individuals in ways that will never be available again. So, with this knowledge, know that there is no more pressing concern than to contribute to our societal wealth at this moment. Contributing to organizations and projects that advance the case of humanity allows you to increase your wealth, in ways that simply amassing more personal wealth does not. It helps you to build a world where your dollars are worth more. Where you can do things that you cannot do now, with any amount of money. Where you may live to enjoy these things longer.

There is no reliable way to calculate absolutely how much you invest in societal wealth, or what you will recieve in return. In this way it is very similar to business investing. Poor investment in charities, medical technologies, or other contributions to those around you are not any better than investing in poor companies or employees. Finding the right way to contribute to the right causes is paramount in receiving a real and tangible return on your investment.

Archimedes is supposed to have said, "But give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the world.". By contributing to efforts to better society, you change the place you live, exchanging it for an improved version, concurrently improving your own station. The accelerating change that our society undergoes ensures that this improvement does not long wait. One thousand dollars buys an ever more capable car or computer, flies you further in a better plane, buys you more competent medical treatment, cooks you safer and more varied foods. Find the right place to be, and the right place to help, and you will make your past self seem a pauper, with a tenth of his gold.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

"When man first achieved the upright position he looked up at the stars, and he thought they were something to eat. When he was unable to consume them, he decided they must be groceries for a larger animal. And so Jehovah was born."

~ E.K. Hornbeck, "Inherit the Wind"

Athiesm and Morality

For some bizarre reason, I've been running into folks lately who equate Atheism with a rejection of morality in general. I assume this is because people have run to Atheism in the past for horribly wrong and twisted emotional reasons, but I could be wrong. just because morality is associated with a spooky ethereal father figure to one person, does not imply that it is therefore instrinsically tied with such a concept.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Some time ago, I noticed that conflict resolution, in order to be successful, often requires that the resolving party be familiar with the nature and character of conflict.

Accordingly, I have researched the matter, and it seems nearly universal. So I am led to an inescapable conclusion, that the successful avoidance and resolution of conflict in my future will require my familiarity and skill with the tools and techniques of conflict, which, for the purposes of discussion will involve hostile intelligences of peer level. (The possibility of hostile intelligences of infra-justin level, and super-justin level are fundamentally different problems and require different solutions.(peer level in this case encompasses the multitude of human level opponnents at this point. I see no reason or inclination to expand this range further, as both a dog bent upon my destruction, and a hostile transhuman seem to bear no real insight in mentioning.))

It is helpful to remember and injunction of Nietzche: "When fighting monsters, one must take care not to become a monster oneself". However, in order to fully understand threats, one must delve (perhaps dangerously) into the psychology, and application of violence.

Violence is something human beings and most mammals are very good at, generally. Our evolutionary history is littered with violent adaptations and such nasty things. Interestingly however, the more structured complicated forms of violence that our abstract reasoning allows us to achieve, like wars, terrorism, and taxes appear to follow similar patterns to the more simple mammal to mammal violence our species developed with. Given this surface similarity, investigating the roots of violence leads one to the urge to categorize. I dont' like categorizing, I think axioms and similar nonsense simplify and badly fit the situations one finds oneself experiencing. However, it's occasionally useful to have rules of thumb to apply.

There are seemingly two basic strategies within violence of various brands.

1. Playing to Advantages You Have; This is a relatively straightforward strategy, you have reach, so you stay far, you have money, so you force your opponnent into a bidding war. Forcing the conflict into arenas where you have relative strengths can take many forms, and it behooves you to employ variations on this theme whenever possible, because it increases your applied force, much like a machine of war.

2. Playing to Their Disadvantage; Similarly, the opposite strategem is to force the conflict into arenas where your opponnent has relative weaknesses, such as pressing a lanky opponent into a corner, or shifting the conflict with a generalist to a specific domain where you hold superiority, like commodity trading vs. money markets.

Perversely, stronger opponnents are better off with strategems within 2. Because their greater resource or skill allows them to force opponnents into unwise arenas more easily, with fewer risks. Weaker opponents are better off in 1. as evidenced by the success of forms like Guerrilla warfare, because weak opponnents cannot employ strategies which rely on the stronger opponent to take actions which may endanger the Stronger. The risk of forcing a move is often too costly for a weaker opponent to bear. Context is important. A weaker boxer often plays strategem 2, because boxing is a fluid sport, where forcing moves is relatively simple. Whereas weaker economic powers almost always play 1. because economics moves relatively slowly, and interactions are weaker, making feints and leading motions more difficult to successfully complete.

Keep in mind that the proper application of the knowledge of conflict is to end it. No thinking being deserves suffering, and the most capable party is also the most responsible. Good hunting.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Someone asked me recently, if outlawpoet daily represented the quality and nature of my thoughts, if it were a window into my thought life and opinions.


Outlawpoet Daily is a way for me to muse online, and contains a lot of assumptions. An invisible audience is one of them, and I edit accordingly. I also add far more context than I find it neccesary to think about. And finally, sometimes I say or wonder about things that I dont' actually believe, as a method of exploration, or to expand a line of thought that I usually leave unturned.

Plus, I find it more useful to adopt multiple points of view for the purposes of my own edification.

So do not think my play indicates my true nature or opinion. But that shouldn't be the real issue anyway, you should evaluate arguments based on their strength and consistency, not who gives them, or who agrees with them. My presentation of thoughts for your analysis is a gift, perhaps I am right or wrong without being aware. You decide.

Monday, October 07, 2002

On being an artist

An artist, particularly a visual one, is something I am particularly proud of being. This is not a pride proportional to my talent, as a pride of achievement is, but a pride that is a little more involved. This may be because of my approach, and may be because I am dissatisfied with my current skill, but believe my progress is sufficient to reach a level satisfactory to such a pride. I am not certain.

Artistry, unfortunately, is usually approached in an intellectual manner with more pretension than skill, and certainly more holism than reductionism. Which leads to unbalanced big theories of artistry that center around the artist being a mutant genius afloat in a sea of experience among the morons and pharisees, inevitably.(If that sentence didn't resonate with you, you haven't read much art theory or worldview statements by artists)

The big issue with Art is communication. It's a transmissive medium, as I see it, and it's purpose is dirtied otherwise. The largest technical issue with making art, is icons, and your mind's predilectation for making them. For example, when you see a tree, rarely do you conciously explore it's details, edges, proportions, and colours. You rather, measure the tree in a basic and self-impactful way, and replace it in your map of the area with a simplified version based on your basic icon for a tree. Which is why when children start drawing, they invariably start with stick figures and similar. Their internal icons are very simple, and almost universal. Autistic children, lacking some higher-order integrative faculties, often are 'good' artists, because they sit and regurgitate details, forming complex pictures from memories. dwelling on details, rather than icons significant to themselves.
The problem is that our internal models rarely interact with other people or even ourselves. To combat being a bad artist in this way, you have two choices. You can force yourself to notice detail, proportion, and line, as a concious-level process, while you make art. This is a reciprocating process, where you duplicate detail, check your art, duplicate another detail, and so on. The other route, which almost all artists do, conciously or not, is to increase the detail level of your internal models of things you see. The more you do art, the more you will notice detail, until you hold your personal limit of visual detail without overloading your working memory. Very good artists often start with very complex internal visual models, others develop them through practice. Both approaches are valid, and both are usually pursued by artists, to varying degrees of reliance and skill. The mechanics of pen, brush, stylus, claymould, and blowtorch control are largely incidental and handled by specialized parts of your brain that everybody has anyway. Artistic talent is largely that of model complexity, and mental techniques for complexity management.

The really tricky bit is then taking the talent, and moving it to an art piece. This largely involves reverse-engineering the detail and line of the displayed object, and re-inserting your removed iconography and emotional subtext, without destroying the integrity of the picture, balancing detail and abstraction in an effort to both resonate and be recognized. The visual mediums have their own vocabulary, and it is within your choices as an artist, to determine which vocabularies you use. Realistic Art uses the terms and icons all are familiar with, objects and people, all close within normative reality, limiting the amount of icon work, and subtext you may insert. Abstract art often takes advantage of vocabularies not everyone has, limiting the potential audience, and how specific you can be, but allowing far more subtext and iconography to be inserted.
Artistic quality of a specific piece is a separate notion entirely, and rest on too many factors for me to lay bare. If I do get any closer to doing so personally, you'll be the first to know.

I've used iconography and several other words recklessly and outside their usual definitions, for this I apologise, and I promise I'm not a pretensetic artist with a tendency for neologisms, just a hapless prole at a librarium without a thesaral reference.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Given our current cognitive architecture, the level of self knowledge that is achievable depends a great deal on your awareness of that architecture. The structure and source of your mind/brain, is one of the central tenets of any philosophy of self that hopes to have any success in allowing real introspection. Understanding your biological basis is the first step to transcending it in a substantial way. (Yes, I did just use the word transcend, please do not misunderstand, This is not an endorsement of the emotional context that the concept of transcension finds itself in these days, it's just the only appropriate word. When your biological substrate is that of a social predator that's sole evolutionary purpose is to have complexly successful progeny, and lots of them, doing maths, and building houses, can all be understood as transcending your design. Real Transcendence, manipulating your substrate, channeling and directing your evolutionary impulses, only comes with understanding, and effort. Unfortunately, we're not at a place where we can flip switches and get better. It takes real time to become aware of the processes of your mind, and move them closer to where you want to be.)

With that in mind, I'd like to discuss daily life. Daily, or moment to moment, is the way most people really experience life. Noble thoughts, and works of poetry can have great emotional impact, but ideas only alter a person, when they begin to intrude upon their actions and a decisions in a detailed way. The Ideas of Rationality, of the Scientific Method, of Altruism, and of Transhumanity, can have great emotional impact, but in many cases, I see it having little impact on daily life. People continue doing their jobs, and driving their cars, and may make plans to do things, but rarely get up the next day and alter. It may be that rationalist thought has a weakness, which prevents it from deeply affecting the majority of humans who encounter it. I'm tempted to say this is a weakness of the human design, that our cognitive architecture is too specialized towards our context and evolutionary environment to embrace rational ways of thinking. But it is more likely that as a memetic trigger, the concept of rationalism has been missing something in it's presentation to most people.

A major, if informal objection to the way I think and formalize and act, is that it has little passion or inspiration. I invariably disagree, and say that I feel very strongly about the things I do and think. But the point is well-taken. I come across to people as dry or unfeeling so often, that there appears to be a pattern I am unable as of yet to correct for. I am not unfeeling. But communication is one of my claimed strengths, and I am evidently failing to communicate. It has it's roots, I think, in the emotional quality of poetry vs. Scientific Journalism. It is said, usually by proponents of emotional quality, that less is more. Perhaps it is the endless qualifications and adjunct specifications that kills the 'passion' of my positions. Or perhaps it's the bad formation. Usually, when I am writing or talking, the subject has a quality of exploration. Because I range so far afield, when I do spend time on a specifics, often, it's for the first time. So my speaking or writing is always littered with new ideas, expressed well or badly, or limpingly explored. Perhaps it is this quality that seems to make my rationalism passionless. Example: Richard Feynman, perhaps one of the best scientific authors I've ever read. His deep understanding of physics paradoxically allowed him to make some concepts absurdly simple, and easy to understand. His talks and writing are both full of excitement and passion, and almost always well thought out. Perhaps as a function then, understanding always progresses towards poetry, simple, exact, and emotional.

I'm not certain, but I don't it's quite that simple. It never is, in my experience. The truth is likely halfway between, that rationalist thought has never really been presented clearly, only being represented in human beings, whose understanding of it has been flawed and oppositional. And our poor evolved brain seems likely to defend against any incursion by concepts that are unrelated to reproductive fitness. Lucky and strange that such mishmashes of adaptations and instincts could converge upon the tenet of rational thought. That doing the right things for the right reasons is more effective and powerful than any shortcut of knee-jerk reactions. Relating to the universe directly, instead of through a veil of abstracted adaptation.

Monday, September 30, 2002

The Below post, besides a desperate grab for webspace, whilst getting kicked out of the Library(which is apparently closing earlier on weekends now.. ) is an illustration of what I call a nested context. Don't bother googling, I'm pretty sure it's a neologism. Basically, this is a simple way of looking at the larger environment which thoughts and concepts live in. If you're familiar with the concept of memes, it's a little easier to explain. In fact, if you aren't, please go read on that..

A nested context is like a matrioska doll. Each memeplex of ideas is contained within another, with the top layer reacting against your base personality. In the below example, Zen is the outermost layer. Not Zen Buddhism as such, but a derivative state of mind or rather, no-mind. It's a mental stance I assume when I'm preparing to do some mental work. So all the contextual feelings and concepts related to this Zen state fill my mind. And then, the next layer, I attempt to focus. Focusing your mind, for me, is a specific process, where I deliberately set aside most concious processes, in a very specific and identifiable mental action. Leaving only the next conceptual layer.

Which is Python. When I think of Python, I'm filled with concepts I've learned recently, code I admire, code I plan to write, and documentation I've read recently. I then turn to my Code, the second to last layer, and possibly the most specific. The code in front of me, completes my focusing of mind, and is where I do most of my work. But there is another layer, of Application, which is the larger purpose of that code. I tend to vacillitate between these two layers, but neither is far from my mind.

Now, obviously, this is not a rigid or literal construction of mind. If I were to be shocked, and lose concentration, I would not, for example, find myself in a higher level of the nested context. But rather this is a way of representing both the process of thought, and of the elements that make up concious processes. And it may be useful to you as a tool, for analysing the real source of thought. Now, I could expand the nested context, and include even more outward layers, all the way to basic processes of mind, but I limited my radius of attention in this case, in order to illustrate the concept. You may expand with this technique as far as convenience and your own knowledge of cognitive science allow.

Friday, September 27, 2002






what is this?

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I'm going to include a post of mine to SL4. This is because it encapsulates an opinion of mine rather well, and I have no wish to rehash the topic. This occurred because of a discussion on the above forum, where it was claimed that psycho-active substances, such as DMT, LSD, or non-hallucinagins such as MDMA, could represent a method of 'mind-expansion' or creative enlightenment. I am not opposed to drug use, I see it as a victimless activity, and people should be allowed to do whatever they wish to themselves if they possess an understanding of the consequences.

What I am opposed to, is irrational behavior, and misrepresentation of irrational behavior as superior to, or even alternative to, rational thought and behavior. With that in mind, I'm going to repost my rebuttal to an apologist for mind-expansive drug use. In an earlier post, he basically re-submits Dr. Leary's suggestion that hallucinagins can function on the level of a re-organization of mental state, which can have beneficial effects in terms of insights, moral transcencion and lasting attitude adjustment. my reply follows.


I am not a neurochemical professional, even so, as an interested bystander,
I am struck by the way that this thread has progressed, with very little
attention having been given to the relative biological danger inherent in
most of the drugs under discussion.

MDMA and it's parent MDA, which David Cake upholds as "quite reasonable for
particular purposes" is a stimulant, and a relative of the extraordinarily
negative Methamphetamine or "Crystal Meth". Even excluding the research of
Dr. George Ricaurte of John Hopkins, which suggests that significant
'structural' damage is incurred through MDMA use over time, we know that
MDMA plays a major role as a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, and the
relatively negative neurochemical effects of this are well documented.

In order to explain my objections to LSD, often touted as a very safe drug,
as it is neither openly neurotoxic, nor does it have well understood side
effects, I'm going to adopt a more narrative tone. Having been involved with
drugs in my youth, I can say with some certainty that there are few, if any,
effects, culture, or side-effects of common psychoactive drugs which I have
not experienced or witnessed first-hand. This experience makes me doubt
people who use arguments to the effect of "If you haven't tried drugs, you
can't talk about them". In my experience, people who are involved in drugs
gain no special knowledge of the safety, chemical aftereffects, or effect
upon intelligence of the drugs, which they believe they are electing to

These "observers" are collecting their special information with minds that
they are simultaneously dosing with unknown levels of psychoactive drugs,
many of which are psychologically and physically addictive. The mind is a
delicate thing. Our primitive cerebrums only weakly support rationality
under the best conditions, and screwing around with hormonal or chemical
balances within that complex system has predictable results. Most drug users
I have observed are under the impression that the insights they produced
while under the influence of psychoactive substances were intensely moving,
complex and significant, and that as they 'come down' they lose the ability
to appreciate or comprehend their previous insights. Some of their
conclusions are, I submit, very weird. Few appeared to me to be either
coherent or inspired instead appearing as permutations, distortions or even
perversions of earlier insights held by the user, or at best irrational

The claim of LSD "opening up one's mind" or allowing "new insights" is a
result I lay mostly upon the fact that it functions both as a seratonin
analogue and increases dopamine production significantly. Both of these
clinical effects lead towards premature, unwarranted and precipitate
instigation of mental closure, which leads the subject to assume that since
mental closure is reached, a conclusion must have been forthcoming. Since
memories are filed according to the observer�s interpretation of events, the
subject remembers such moments as possessing great clarity and insight, when
in fact the biological structures for detecting clarity of thought and
mental completion are merely being triggered inappropriately.

The negative side affects of LSD (other than it appears not infrequently
inspire irrational behavior and beliefs, bad-trip nightmares,
self-mutilation, and dangerous behavior) lie in the fact that it functions
both as a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, and is psychologically addictive.
(I consider most addictions to be bad news, as they introduce irrational
behavior, and introduces a new thought factor not grounded in reality basis,
aside for the desire to repeat the experience).

This above discussion ignores the fact that most psychoactive substances
illegal in many countries, and because of this available drugs tend to be
uncertain composition, and often arbitrary dosage. The wisdom of ingesting
completely unknown substances advertised as psychoactive drugs, obtained
from people who smuggle, steal, murder, and occasionally write incoherent
poetry is a decision, which under these circumstances cannot be entirely
separated from the inherent toxicity of the supposed makeup of said drugs.

(replies and criticisms welcome)

Some editing for grammar, syntactic inclarities, and spelling.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Once more into the breach, as the internet has not yet been restored to my household.

The wonder of the Library is that it's almost free. What you give up, is privacy and a little bit of pride. It's always amusing to see the difference between Barnes & Noble, with it's pristine carpets, new books, wide selection, designer coffee, and the Public Library, with it's dingy carpets,unilluminating help, and ratty reference section. The Library can sometimes have works the store does not, but the funding tends to even it out a little bit.

The perfect marriage between these is the University Library. With the mandate to support their local scholars, a budget to match, and the subscriptions to research periodicals a mad scientist can envy, the University Library is a much more pleasant place to steal internet access, and get a little real-worldish research in. It's sad that when I was a child, my mother was always telling me to get my face out of the book and join the real world. Now I see books, and think of them as more real than where I usually am.

In other news, a recent brush with the MAN has given me a new respect for the powers that be. In respect for that, I've upped my PGP Key size, and renewed my CCW. Kidding aside, I would like to say one thing. It is a dangerous thing when people need not take responsibility for their actions personally. Hierarchy and impersonal organizations allow one to "just follow orders" or be "defending the country". As Bertrand Russel once observed "murder is against the law everywhere, unless it is in large numbers to the sound of trumpets and flags.". Be wary of allowing someone to do for a government or organization, what you could not concience allowing him to do for himself. For he is still doing it, in his name's or another.

That said, lets all be grateful that we have come so far, and improved upon our ancestral situation. To Past Improvement be grateful, and to Future Improvement be helpful.

here are some informational sites I recommend unto you.

Anarchy has come along way, and now, it almost makes sense: The Anarchist FAQ

Some people look past national borders, and try to help or hurt the world. You be the judge if they are succeeding, and at what. United Nations Organization

There are only two things that run the world. Money and Technology.

Be good.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Today, my cable internet is again fritzing, So I hail from the wonder of the public Library. Now, as much as I love the internet, I'm not sure it will replace the lovely ambience inherent in stacks and stacks of books. The problem, is that it's lovely if you know where your desired information is. But if you're searching for information in a library, why it's the most frustrating thing in the world. By the end of your search for a decent book, you're making plans to forcibly install a Google interface.

But it's not all bad. Being a physical person, there has always been something reassuring about the weight and heft of a book in my hands. Unfortunately, there are still many books, and references that haven't been made free to the world yet. And in some cases, the Library is the only place to find them(without purchasing, which everyone can't do).

In more outside news, the force of nature that is Sprint PCS has debuted their 3rd Generation cellular network. For those of us who have been waiting for cellular internet connectivity, this is a big step. Unfortunately, the 3G protocol is not yet fully supported by Sprint's Network, so the latency, and bandwidth available is dissapointing to say the least. But the protocol is capable of DSL line speeds, and price/performance will improve as time goes on. For those of us who have been dabbling in Wearable Computing, this is hot stuff.

On a more personal note, I've been drawing a lot lately, and am going to be launching an artistic online venture(read: webcomic). This will be some time in coming online, but I've got a great deal of groundwork already laid. This project will most likely be hosted by Keenspace unless I can find an alternate vendor. Seeing as I have not been honing my writing talents as much as my artistic, I have secured a scriptwriter, and am looking for perhaps a colorer as well.

Stay Sharp. Here's a site everyone should be familiar with CiteSeer This is one of the most useful research sites on the Web. I put it right next to Google on my custom homepage.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

I've decided to make my first real post on this blog on the subject of rational thought. On SL4 there has been a recent flurry of activity on the subject of rational thought, what it means to be rational, and whether there exist arational/irrational sources of evidence.

The nature of this discussion leads to very high tempers, so I'm going try a different tack. I'm going to use the microuniverse of MineSweeper. Now, MineSweeper is a popular computer game(though not nearly as popular as Solitaire, unfortunately) largely because it comes bundled with lots of Operating Systems. Every Window's package I've ever had the privilige to attempt to use came with one; The Red Hat/KDE package I'm using now came with an implementation; OSX has it's own, IIRC; if you're really without minesweeper, you poor baby, get it here. this is a java game, but it works pretty well.

Minesweeper is an entirely regular and understandable game with completely understandable underlying rules. What concerns me in this discussion, is the way people play and understand it. The information provided to you in a standard minesweeper game is sufficient to solve it, given that you survive long enough to gather some lower bound of information. In fact, most minesweeper games appear to contain the most risk in the first 5 clicks or so. However, the important losses occur after the first 5 clicks, when the game has progressed, yet the player still loses, in spite of, or perhaps because of the information s/he has.

In order to solve this mystery, play a couple of games of minesweeper. Now, when you were playing, after a while, were you absolutely sure you were right, when you clicked on a mine and ended your game?(this paragraph assumes you lost at least once, if you did not, you are either a rational reasoner, or you've already mentally solved minesweeper; go away) . Now, this uncertainty is because you aren't playing Minesweeper as an entirely rational process. I'll explain.

Minesweeper's simple rules lead to interactions, which lead to the numbers and blanks you reveal by clicking. Analysing those numbers and blanks, within that context, gives you information. A rational process is one that takes information about the world(in this case, minesweeper) and assigns it strengths and priorities in keeping with actual facts. ((ex: a 1 implies there is only one mine within 1 block, that's a certainty; you've never seen a mine be in the upper left hand corner, that's fantastically unlikely to be right, and doesn't include a reason why there wouldnt' be, so there is no chance that it's right for the right reasons; ergo, you can rely on the former, but the latter is a fools bargain)). Rational processes are not wrong. They are in line with reality, and thus the world(minesweeper). If you recieve a wrong result, either your process is not rational, you executed your process incorrectly, or you applied your process inappropriately. Irrational Processes, like praying for a blank block, selecting the four corners, blind guessing, or always selecting to the left may in fact succeed occasionally, and may out of statistical anomaly even make more than 50% success. But you are not making the right block choices for real reasons. Irrational actions don't take information, make justified conclusions from that, and generalize, as rational processes do, they either act on information that is invented, percieved(but not extant) patterns, or simple whim.

Only rational processes can allow one to win a game of minesweeper reliably, because rational processes are in line 100% with the larger universe. Minesweeper is very simple, and it's easy to see what processes are rational or not, because irrational ones lead to ended games.

Generalize to the Real World. Suddenly, the nature of the argument changes. What constitutes a justifiable conclusion from evidence? What's really evidence? What about people who seem to have powers or knowledges from elsewhere?(supernaturalism) It seems like the world is too much to deal with 100% certainty.

The real answer is that it's not actually any more complicated to make individual decisions rationally. Lets look at what carries over from Minesweeper.

1. Only one real world. There is only one minesweeper board, and wishing for another arrangement won't change where the mines are. The only way you get anywhere is by abiding by that arrangement, and reacting to it. The world is the same. There is only one physical world you live in. The people next door live in the same world. Soliphists(people who believe the universe to be imaginary) still get killed by trucks. And no amount of wishing or hoping, or thinking seems to change anything about the world.

2. The world is consistent. The relationships within minesweeper, the way numbers translate into mines and blocks, never changes. Next game, the mines don't give different results, and patterns within one game that are applicable, still apply within the next. The world is the same. Gravity remains constant, fields interact the same way, day to day. There is no such thing as a physics of epochs. Time periods always were and always will be subject to the same basic rules. That said, somethings are very variable. Social structures, human relationships, these are high-level dependent structures that change through time, just as the individual positions of mines between games. But there is an underlying consistency that continues throughout.

3. Truth is self-supporting. If something works within minesweeper, it works for a reason. There are no supernatural elements. The real world has phenomena, and all such phenomena, and all objects within the real world, follow rules. If something is true, the surrounding environment reflects this. True facts is the only supportable objects, because all other facts support them.

Rational thought is not a force, it's not an object, and it's not a person. It is a special kind of relationship, between evidence, behavior, and conclusion. A formal exegesis of this relationship exists, it's called the Bayesian Probability Theorem. Basically, this theorem describes how you relate different kinds of evidence into a cohesive conclusion, that remains inline with the universe. (if you are not familiar with the theorem, start here). My friend Eliezer Yudkowsky is what you would formally call a Bayesian Rationalist.(he considers the Bayesian Evidencial process superior to the more traditional Popperian approach). But I would call him a BPT enthusiast. He invokes the BPT at almost every opportunity, citing it as the basis of rationality. As a detail-oriented person, I must disagree. The Bayesian Probability Theorem is not the well from which rationality springs, nor is it the basis of all rational thought. It is a formalization of the relationship that Evidence has to Conclusion within said rational thought.

Formalism aside, Rational conclusions are the only conclusions worth making, because they're the conclusions that work the most. If you aren't using your best judgement, you may as well give up. Otherwise your making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons, even if you occasionally get lucky. And as my friend Eliezer says. "That's worse than nothing."

Well, looks like this might work. Cool.
I've decided to invite a few people I know to post on this blog, if the fancy strikes them. I think that the internet's main strength is it's multiple voices all often in accord or disharmony. This cacophony of Points of View is what allows people to make real decisions on the internet. And what distinguishes it from the weaker sources of information:

you know, like books and newspapers, where you just have to take the author's word for it.

I think that the addition of even the possibility of an alternate voice would make any information source stronger, because it makes it that much more trustable. If a person can edit his way to respectability, you've lost a major source of information about the author and the subject.

In accord with this concept, if you want to contact me, or just to post to the blog, or even to contact someone else who posts to this blog, please email "thesweetestdream@hotmail.com ".

Now, this is just a spamcatcher address, since this is a public blog, but I check it once a day, just put "outlawpoet daily" in the subject line, and I'll read it, i promise.

Welcome to outlawpoet daily! Given my general lack of webpresence, I've decided to open up a weblog to up my visibility, and allow a little more access into my life.

I don't expect too many visitors initially, but I hope that this will eventually give people more insight into the strange and twisted life that is justin corwin.
It's just another communication channel that I haven't attempted yet. So we'll see where this goes. I expect it to be a modest success, as I'm online almost all the time, and typing a journal entry is much more modest an outlay of work than say... making a webpage, or responding properly to a mailing list.

okay, now that I've mentioned both my names: outlawpoet and Justin, let's move on.

I spend a lot of time on the internet, because the Internet has more information than anywhere else. I'm only on one mailing list right now, SL4. But I consider myself an Extropian, and will rejoin their mailing list when I have more time.

I enjoy the webcomics of the world, and hope to add my own to their number.

Roger Zelazny is a much better writer than Greg Egan.