Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2016

pessimal miscellany

From 2008: the first original philosophical argument I remember making:

Searle: "all purely syntactic systems lack subjective experiences."Searle: "I have subjective experiences."So Searle: "I am not a purely syntactic system." (modus tollens, 1&2)
The only system that Searle has knowledge about the subjective experiences of is himself.So if Searle is not a purely syntactic system, he has no knowledge of what it is like to be a purely syntactic system, He cannot therefore cannot assert premise 1. (5 & the knowledge account of assertion).If Searle is a purely syntactic system, (1) is false. (by 2)
Therefore premise (1) is either unwarranted or false. (by 6&7)
(These days I wouldn't use infallibilist knowledge as the baseball bat I did; I'd go at him with probabilism instead. And I'd do something against Searle's odd dichotomy between representational machines who are 'pure' syntax vs those which are fully semantic. But …

Implicit social theory in Civilization

Poster for Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)

The fact remains, though, that Civilization V, with thirty million man hours recorded on Steam alone, is among the most popular “historical documents” today, and the values implicit in its many systems have been and continue to be communicated to millions of players.
- Will Parton

'what did I learn in high school about history?' The Pyramids. The Great Wall. Things like that. Those things have got to show up in the game, because when you see them, when you run into them, you go, "Oh, I know, I've heard of that, I'm a smart person, I know this stuff." So we wanted to put in the game, but then the question was 'What effect would it have?' If it was going to be a Wonder of the World, it had better be pretty dramatic. That was another rule of the game: stuff had to really feel important...
- Sid Meier

Further to intellectualising a computer game, this time Civ V:

The tech tree has all kinds of inte…


the only beautiful object, event, or abstraction
of any kind within shooting distance of Riga airport
is the spew of a squat smokestack,
a pure grey stream of hot sideshow.
parthenogenetic and progeroid.

a boiled definition, lit to make
many monochromes wash out,
a collective paling, lines breaking, becoming
the static milk-blue back of this, a winter.
beside it snow is mute. clouds don't intrude.

and I could study this! Really; not by eye
or for mere art. Given the itch persisting
I might spend a week with the profound and careful dead.
the vapour painting has a million twins running
the selfsame script of physical law, an amortised script probably known.

on average each twin seen truly.
we found out the world without us. after finding, made it reel.
components written in the flames underneath
choke mutely. my stoichiometrist mate
can code its dead language in a trice.

it solves for seven unknowns, but can be given
in the eternal manner too, since Boyle and Navier-Stokes

Been Reading, Q4 2015

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and recgular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.– GK Chesterton
When you become frustrated with computers, please remember they are only cleverly-arranged sand. (When you become frustrated with people...)– Gwern Branwen
1/5: No.4/5: 4/5: Very good.2/5: Meh.4*/5: Amazing but one read will do..3/5: Skimmable.5?/5: A possible 5/5.3*/5: Mind candy.5/5: Encore. A life companion.

I continue to overthink this model which has relevance only to me and even then only sometimes. This time: if I reread a book, need I then award it a 5/5, since it has in fact proven to be re-readable? Or only if I subsequently think I will read it again? This p…

Behind the Wall (1987) by Colin Thubron

Arhat statues surfing at Qiongzhu Temple,
(c) Li Guangxiu (c.1890)

A stunning travel book in the best aristocratic tradition of wandering about talking to people and expecting monasteries to put you up unannounced. But it's as much moral as geographic or historical. China had only just opened up to foreigners, again; the Cultural Revolution, just 15 years past, looms large. A lost generation. In fact the book is obsessed with the difficult question, "How could they do that to themselves?", a focus which makes it excellent, informal long-form journalism as much as gentleman's what-ho travel narrative.

The man went on: 'We found a porter who had been reading novels with a love interest. I don't mean porn. Just a personal story. This was decadent. We beat him unconscious, and burnt the books. Then he died.'

I looked at him in astonishment, mesmerised, for some reason, by his immaculately pressed trousers. Once the armour of social constraint had been…