Saturday, August 30, 2003

The Hunger Site : Give Food for Free to Hungry People in the World

You should run through this simple and helpful series of websites everyday. I have it on my personal homepage along with the webcomics I read to destroy my mind. It costs little of your time, and boosting their traffic both helps directly, and encourages other charities to help out.

It's rare that it costs so little to make a positive difference, but this is really almost something for nothing. Advertising revenue is supported by the traffic through the site, and as the traffic increases, so does the revenue. And the higher the numbers, the more advertisers are attracted to it. Such displays of created wealth almost make one forget all the horrible travesties that capitalism creates. But we must do what we can.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Dennis Kucinich for President Campaign, 2004 - Official Website

very rarely am I impressed, but this guy has a pretty slick campaign and he manages to be in favor of both helpful government AND privacy. He promises to make a point of repealing anti-terrorist legislation (PATRIOT and friends) and reinforcing individual rights, and withdrawing from WTO and NAFTA, while actually paying attention to the treaties we sign with other countries.

If you've gotta vote for someone, vote for this guy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

On love.

It's come to my attention recently that a lot of people have dubious opinions of romance. To these people I say that romance is an enduring thing. People keep and inflate what is important to them, and so romance grows. People investigate and practive what is interesting to them, and so romance grows more skillful. And people make mistakes and so romance grows more thoughtful.

Romance is both a function of biological imperatives and information theory. Suppose you have an intelligence, who looks around, and tries to figure out why things act the way they do. And suppose there is another intelligence who does the same thing. What do you think will happen? They begin to pay attention to each other. As intelligences they are some of the complex AND unpredictable behavior in their local environment. And as they learn, they become more complex. Becoming more complex forces the other intelligence to try harder to understand, growing itself. And so these two happily spend ever increasing proportions of their time on each other, growing and learning. A simple story, of love? Love is the story of two people growing together, but it seems like more than that. But weakly, already we begin to see a basis for fascination with other within even simple expressions of people.

Love is not an emergent thing, but it is something that has great basis in our identity as thinking beings, and as such, it will endure so long as that remains so. Love is important to people now for a wild variety of reasons, the greatest of which is emotional. But important and beautiful things are preserved, even through great change. So we can expect love to outlast our simple emotions in some form or another. As we grow up, we only lose those things we no longer want or need.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

frustration reaches an all time high, when relatively intelligent folk resort to knee-jerk and unhelpful ridicule in a significant arena. I think nothing is more maddening than knowing a person is being profoundly less discerning than they are capable of being. Being handicapped is one thing, but laziness or selectivity is another. life deserves your complete attention here, folks. Bring all the intelligence you have to bear on each problem.

At least, attempt.
you know what I like about critics?


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Utah is a nice place to live mostly. We've got central location, independent water supplies and power. Big mountains, low population density but high urbanization, republican gun laws.... hmm, paranoid thinking.


So, what a summer it's been. My limbic system is still roiling from losing a girlfriend of two years, so the last two weeks have been a little sub-optimal. But work continues in saving the world. More and more, I'm discovering what a complicated place we live in. Longtime readers may remember a Threats file I wrote. Unfortunately due to some negative reader experience and other factors, it's not available online despite my usual views that more information is better. But the act of researching the document has lead to me spending most of this year expanding Threats-ish information about our local environment.

People ask me, if I'm not an altruist, why I care or spend time on improving the lot of others. So, let's suppose you're a member of a fairly specific population, say, legally blind people who live independently in the US. Now, individually, these people may not be very similar to each other, but their situation makes them a specific and known population. You're one of these people, and you note that legislation is about to go through that will legally restrict the activities legally blind people can embark on unaided. You obviously grab your stuff and try and stop this legislation. Why? The primary beneficiaries, in and ultimate sense, will not be you, but other people. But the attack is against a set of people whom you are a part of, and any threat against this group of poeple is a threat against you. It's only common sense.

That's the logical justification, in a crude sense, of my efforts to help people out. Improvements to the group that I belong to(humanity) are improvements to my situation. My fate is for better or for worse inextricably entangled with the present and future of humanity. We're interdependent, and very very fragile. So to survive, I must view myself as a part of a larger situation. And every little bit helps.

Now, this is all very good, but it's obviously not the initial reason I help people. I am not a rational person yet, and I dont' plan all my actions to my full predictive horizon. I am not an altruist, in an ultimate sense, because I don't feel I need to help people. But sometimes I want to. Becuase I was born into a horrific situation. Lots of people die every day, lots of people are involuntarily subjected to things every day, craploads of complexity is lost every day, wonderful novels go unwritted every day because their possible author is starving or working for food, or being beaten or shot at. This is a situation that demands rectification, even from relatively uninterested bystanders, much less orphans born in the middle of the war zone. It is entirely likely that after a successful uplift of humanity, I won't spend much time helping people out or crusading for good causes. Well, maybe, but habits die hard. And child abuse is known to instill certain repetitive behaviors in human-like minds.

So, I may not be a philosophical altruist, but I help people anyway. You can take your simple characterizations and shove them. Pragmatism may not be a pretty philosophy, but sometimes it leads to nice morally uplifting results, particularly when pragmatism is at best a weak characterization of tiny differences from human standard, rather than some big ivory formal system that outputs actions. But you already knew that. I am a pragmatist because it works. Much like I'm a rationalist because I get better results from it. They also seem to conform to a pattern of relationships I've come to associate with 'truth'. A pattern, I hasten to add, that I'm not very good at recognizing yet, but I try.

Anyway, that question aside, My work this year has been very private, which bothers me. Privacy concentrates productivity into a single point of failure, much as I hate to view myself as a risk. So little outlets like this blog, or my chatting on IRC, or emails to other people help me keep my privacy to a managable level. But of course, it's not enough. What I would really like is to be in a position where privacy was not an option. Unfortunately, given my position, so far it's the only option. So that's probably what I'll be doing the end of this year. Working on ways for my side-projects to be less private. That means, hopefully, some of my CAD designs will be going online permenantly, rather than just emailed to people. As well as some theses and other wonderful stuff. Stay tuned.