Archive for October, 2011

Now We are Seven Billion! La, La, La

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Despite the evident threat to the well being of our descendants some idiots keep asserting that the “Population bomb theory is a myth“.

What complete nonsense! For one thing China’s “economic miracle” comes after 30 years of having a one child policy, for another, despite improvements in some areas we still can’t provide decent standards for a substantial fraction of the world’s population, and for a third, to maintain the standards of those who do now live in luxury is already having environmental consequences (eg ocean acidification and global warming) that appear to be beyond our control. It is thus grossly irresponsible to keep betting on future technology to provide an acceptable standard of living for a population that keeps growing faster than we can bribe it into satiated infertility. Shame on those who continue putting all of our children at risk!

Free Will and (Divine?) Foreknowledge

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Various defenders of academic philosophy  are offended (see, eg Jean Kazez and Daniel Fincke)by the contempt expressed by some for the idea of  “Divine Foreknowledge” as a topic of serious philosophical investigation (especially when funded by the “notorious” Templeton Foundation).  But while I think the question of whether and how some entity having potentially complete foreknowledge of one’s behaviour may or may not be reconciled with some concept of “free will” is actually not without interest(and so agree with much of what Fincke says in his more extended rebuttal), I still sympathise with those who call the proposed study into question.


Use of the word “god” and reference to foreknowledge as “divine” are red flags for hard core “atheists”, and legitimately so as they  imply something beyond what is apparently being addressed in the study and thereby appear to be sneakily endorsing an unstated (and unnecessary) assumption. The unqualified use of that loaded term for a hypothetical fully informed entity is unfortunate, and combined with the source of the funding it does, in my opinion, at least bring the study into question if not into outright disrepute.


Selfish Blogger Syndrome

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The Selfish Blogger. Well that could certainly be me! So I’ll stick to form and post my thoughts here rather than in Tony Bates‘s comment stream.

I have not been following #Change11 except through the blogs of people I found interesting in previoous MOOCs like #CCK11 and #PLENK2010, so without Jenny’s (selfish?) post I would never have read Tony’s piece or the presentation it refers to. And part of what I took as takeaway from the CCK experience is that what Tony describes as selfish is in fact the best way for all of us to be sharing. One thing I did not like in PLENK was the difficulty of recovering my own thoughts from the Moodle comment stream and I liked the CCK11 emphasis on facilitating communication and connection between individual blogs.

Tony is concerned about not being able to see and follow the comments on his work but I think we now have the technology to address that without forcing everyone to give up ownership of their own contributions.  It is true that once, in the absence of appropriate technology, it was always necessary for people to meet in person to exchange ideas. Then we invented writing, and all that was needed was a common location for all the written material. Then we invented telecommunication and computers, and the libraries and discussion threads became accessible remotely. And now we have trackback…

It seems to me that whatever the limitations of trackback, the issue is one of technology and the answer to Tony’s complaint is not to force everyone back into the domains of recognized “leaders” as in a prehistoric centralized community, but rather to appropriately extend and use the technology of networking to allow each voice its own home while collecting whatever is relevant to any particular individual’s interest in a particular chain of discussion for easy access as needed.

What seems to me to be needed is to integrate trackbacks and pingbacks into the comment stream (rather than listing them separately as an afterthought) and displaying a more useful excerpt  so that they actually do contribute tot he conversation. (This might require some slight extra work from the responder when posting so as to identify an appropriate “teaser”,  and ideally the technology should be extended so that eg replies to me in Tony’s comment stream would appear also here as comments and vice versa)



When 99% is really 0.01%

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The Tyee ( Wall Street Occupiers, Don’t Forget Ballot Box) says it rather too gently. The protesters and their direct supporters are more like a 0.01%  than 99%, and the other 99% of the real 99% were too stupid to do anything in the various elections where all of them have had plenty of chances to do so in the years since 2008 (let alone in all of the many decades before that).

One value of the protests though is that they may help move one edge of the frame in which those without minds of their own always try to center themselves.  When everyone starts repeating the mantras of “counterproductively asymmetric risk-rewards systems”, and it becomes commonly believed that everyone understands them, then perhaps the electorate will venture to try out policies and tax systems which encourage a fairer distribution of wealth. I hope it happens soon, but I won’t be holding my breath.

No Liability for Linking

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Michael Geist – Supreme Court of Canada Stands Up for the Internet: No Liability for Linking. Well, duh! In one sense it’s amazing how this could ever have been an issue, but on the other hand publishing a link/reference to something could legitimately be seen as promoting whatever the target contained at the time the link was created, and so if “promoting” a point of view were illegal, then perhaps links would sometimes be liable.

What is most interesting to me about this is on the converse side. Justice Abella’s  comment that she “would conclude that a hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as “publication” of the content to which it refers” appears to provide protection against those who would presume to declare that others should not link to their material. Such declarations are clearly nonsense as it is the responsibility of the publisher to control access if that is what they want and if they choose to make their material freely accessible via a public address then anyone else is free to refer to that address.


Is Religion Above the Law?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

What intrigues me about this is what appears to be the choice by various Supreme Court justices to use quite naive language to express questions which cannot fail to have occurred to anyone who has really considered this issue at any time over the past several centuries.

Are we really just now noticing for the first time that language assigning legal protection to the idea of freedom of religion is inherently problematical?

Surely that has always been obvious  – both because of the lack of any definition of what, namely religion, is being protected, and because of the difficulty of defining a protected freedom to engage in activities which may include the restriction of other protected freedoms of other people.