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Showing posts from 2014

what I said to you in 2014

I reviewed a huge number of things because I was unemployed (Oliver Sacks, China Mieville, Clive James, David Foster Wallace, David Graeber, Ed Glaeser, Daniel Haybron). I argued against a new popular kind of intellectual puritanism. I set out my consequentialism, which tries not to squash other goods than justice (DRAFT!). I talked about my life goals in the context of death and politics (DRAFT!). I calculated the highest wage a strict consequentialist can keep for themselves. I thought about the net-negativity of most jobs. I made a playlist that tries to get you to save yourself. I tried to dress up my maths education in ordinary transcendent meaning. I wrote a poem in pseudo-SQL. I reviewed Rousseau, LeGuin, Giddens, Fukuyama, Gleick.

I made a scrapbook of semi-scientific thoughts. I made a scrapbook about epistemology and harm harm harm.

I reviewed Chomsky's sloppiest book. I wrote a poem about the impulse of criticism. I wrote a poem about the former. I reviewed Gellhorn, …

On the saying "Alisifuyejua, limemwangaza", Roger Scruton, and Stephin Merrit

"Alisifuyejua, limemwangaza" is a Kiswahili proverb meaning "the sun shines on the one who praises it".* I like it a whole lot; it says a couple of things about human happiness. (I admit there's a suggestion of positive-thinking woo to it — as if the world responded causally to devotion — but I encourage you to discard that in favour of the following):

People are the loci of value; value is produced by the interface of minds with certain parts of the world; it is not written into just us or the order of things.
Receptivity, responding to stimuli, is needed for value to exist.**
Misery candestroy much ofthe lived world.
Other things I take it to not be saying: "Fake it til you make it"; "misery is the fault of the miserable"; "hope is enough to be happy". (The conditional is: if not receptive, then not value. The amount that our receptivity is under our control is the key question. But it will take some odd psychology work to capture …

multifarious miscellany

Stable breeder in Conway's Game of Life. Original author one 'Hyperdeath'

One of my computer science lecturers does philosophy in passing while discussing superficially unphilosophical things like Harvard vs Princeton and the gubbins of molecular computing. (Molecular as in Hofstadter's comment: "Looking at a program written in machine language is vaguely comparable to looking at a DNA molecule atom by atom.") It is gigantic stuff:

"People always define computers as 'data-processing machines' - which they are not and cannot be, because data are mental events. Machines process representations - and all this is is us using the physical world to help us with the mental world we have such limited range within (usually to help us with the physical world we have such limited control over). (This is also why the infinite cannot be properly represented, because there is nothing usably physical for the purpose.) (In the reified field that gets called "…

Been reading, Q3 2014

The basic tenet of multiculturalism is that people need to stop judging each other—to stop asserting (and, eventually, to stop believing) that this is right and that is wrong, this true and that false, one thing ugly and another thing beautiful… The problem is that once you have done away with the ability to make judgments as to right and wrong, true and false, etc., there’s no real culture left. All that remains is clog dancing and macramé. The ability to make judgments, to believe things, is the entire point of having a culture. I think this is why guys with machine guns sometimes pop up in places like Luxor and begin pumping bullets into Westerners. - Neal Stephenson
to say that love is what motivates most of us who are neither complete bastards nor distracted by secondary concerns such as “what other people will think” – to say this is not to say anything very neat or tidy. But that too is as it should be. - the Unknown Anti-Ethicist

Why not write down what you’ve been reading?


presumably unnecessary ambiguities in Java

[WORK IN PROGRESS, noob bashing welcome]

Its specification allows accessibilities to conflict.
Java lets you control how much of your program can access any given variable or class. However, the default level of accessibility doesn't have a closed specification, that is, it can be 'overloaded'; this causes problems when you have more than two packages and mix certain accessibility modifiers with inheritance between them. (The problem with the linked case is that it's syntactically correct and but the resulting output varies depending on the compiler you use. This matters not for the small number of programs it cockblocks or crashes, but because compiler writers are scarily devoted and prescient, so to see them failing to resolve ambiguity is a blow to human pride and existential security.)

Escape characters and directoriesYou can't use certain directories within strings, cos backslash is used to mark escape characters and the beginning of Windows directories (e.g. for…

the Scotland question

(c) "The Ship Comes In", JD Fergusson (1931)

The dark dry questions are breaking heads.
And what have the red and blue to do
with that dark river in which we swim?"

- Iain Crichton Smith

In case you haven’t heard, the Scottish questions are “Why independence? Why the Union? Who needs to prove what?” People usually get fixated on just one issue – whether fear of new borders, fear of the Euro, fear of losing arms jobs, boo the monarchy, boo the expenses scandal. I've tried to get all pros and cons into view; as a result, this post stretches on. If you refuse to sit through 4000 words of amateur political analysis, please skip to the punchline here.

I was undecided before writing this. This time last year I was dead against independence, on the grounds that nationalism is 1) bullshit and 2) dangerous bullshit. That’s still true, but the first thing to notice is that supporting independence doesn't make you a nationalist. (That sounds obvious, but everyone makes t…