Saturday, December 5, 2015

GOP Dream Ticket (update)

Four years ago I wrote about the apparent insanity of the GOP candidates.  I thought at the time that it was as bad as it could get.  Wrong.  Things are really getting even stranger. 

Mike Huckabee has said that President Obama was raised in Kenya, sympathized with Mau Mau’s anti colonialism all because he wasn't a boy scout and there were no Rotary Clubs there, only madrasahs.... Wow, Mike that's amazing! The facts are: President Obama was raised in Hawaii, not Kenya. He was raised by his (WHITE) Kansas Republican grandparents. He was a boy scout. There are plenty of Rotary Clubs in Hawaii, and as for anti colonialism sentiments; The Tea Party folks, one assumes, also sympathize with anti colonialism; last I heard, that's what The Original Tea Party was all about. But never mind the facts; make up stuff if it serves your purpose. 

What we, the rationally thinking people, must remember is that; 51% of Republicans don't believe that Obama is an American citizen. And, some 50 % of the GOP voting base doesn’t believe in evolution, or planet earth more than 6,000 years old, or likely that the earth is a sphere that circles the sun in a galaxy in an immense universe.  Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs (somehow Noah missed them), but climate change is a hoax.

We must remember that the "polling" of likely Republican voters is a fraction of the American electorate, and that people that make up their minds early... well, their minds are made up; they're not necessarily paying attention to the complexity of planet earth.  Plus, if you look to the Bible for your science, you can't be rational.  The Bible was written by a committee trying to please King James in 1611.  They didn't even use original texts.

I can't imagine where the GOP's votes are coming from. Apparently, their dream ticket is an amalgam of Huchabee's truthfulness, Trump’s understanding of the Bill of Rights, Carson’s view of reality, Ann Coulter's compassion, Ted Cruz’s consistency (immigration), or Jeb Bush’s belief that his brother was a good president. At some point these kinds of beliefs (opinions) have to matter, at least unless you're willing to disregard all religious belief. 

That's something that I fervently wish we could do. After all, any and all religions are equally ridiculous (See: But oh boy, can they cause troubles for us all.   I give up.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When the best just isn’t good enough number 2

I found myself shouting at the radio again.  (Chris even came out to my shop wondering if there were people in distress in our woods).   I was listening to Science Friday (one of the best programs on NPR, the best network radio station in America)... and it just wasn’t good enough... again.  There he was, a respected, highly intelligent and educated expert pontificating on the future of artificial intelligence and robots. I kept hearing his premise that AI’s and robots would be able to learn ethical behavior and empathy from human beings...   I expect just a little push back from the interviewer when an a priori position of the guest has massive flaws.
I had a problem with this sort of thing way back in 2002,  (see: ).  
In this recent case the speaker seemed to be ignorant of a few obvious facts.  1).  Presumably, most humans are born with emotions and at least some capability for empathy.  These two things lead to compassion and hopefully, ethical behavior. AI’s are supposed to be able to learn these “higher functions” from us, their creators.  HAHAHAHAHA.  This gentleman was ignoring the fact that even given our innate (human) ability for emotion, empathy, the concepts of ethical behavior, and rational thought; we humans are slaughtering each other’s children all over the world.  Which system of ethics?  Which human beings?  Empathy for which group of people?  When do we start?

Asimov had it figured out 70 years ago.  He knew that robots would have to have better ethics than we humans have.  All these years later the experts don’t seem to have recognized the reality of their logic.  IA and robots are unlikely to be any better than humans, their creators.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sometimes we have to say that we're sorry

 I realize that I have been in error.  I’ve committed a terrible lapse in personal moral behavior, and I have to apologize for every negative thing that I have ever said about Dick Cheney, the former Vice President of the United States of America. 

It has become clear to us from many of his recent statements, that we who are rational beings have criticized Mr. Cheney by holding him responsible for his statements, actions, and positions on current events.  Although Mr. Cheney undoubtedly took advantage of his powerful position to commit terrible transgressions against humanity; we must not hold him responsible nor judge him by our simple moral standards.  This would be as ridiculous as holding a 10 year old deranged child who has killed his parents, his siblings, and all of his childhood friends in a paroxysm of glorious self delusional drama.  That would be wrong.  We should never judge nor punish those individuals who are incapable of discerning good from evil.  

I have been insensitive in my judgments about Mr. Cheney.  I regret that I have lacked compassion in my past statements about him.  I sincerely apologize for my short comings.   I can only hope that you will all join me in this sincere change in our behavior towards this poor man.  I believe that he needs our love and understanding far more than any other human being on earth.  He doesn't deserve it, he just needs it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

So you don't believe in Resistentialism?

“ARRGH!” you say, or maybe “drat, darn, damn, crap,” or something stronger as you missed that spring time housefly with your swatter.  Is this an example of the religion/philosophy of Resistentialism*?   Maybe it’s that insecure grip on your $0.89 fly swatter.  Is the Universe mocking you?  DO DO DO DO DO DO DIDLY DO, Look!  Up ahead, there’s a sign post…. You’ve just entered the “Niggle Zone”.  Why miss that fly with your cheapo swatter when you can buy a cheapo swatter and spend just three hours of your time crafting a beautifully customized fine hardwood handle?  And then miss the fly!

Ah, and *Resistentialism?  Resistentialism is as rational a philosophy as any that may be derived from thought or religion.  If you have ever been angered by an inanimate object, then like or not, you are an adherent of the creed.  Modern credit must be given to M.R. James' horror story "The Malice of Inanimate Objects", first published in 1933, and Paul Jennings for his article titled "Report on Resistentialism", written in 1948.  Even Stephen Vincent Benét paid homage to the concept in his poem; “Nightmare Number Three".  But to believe that the ancient Romans, Hittites, and Abyssinians didn’t gnash their teeth when apparently simple things went terribly wrong is to deny the universality of the human condition.  Thank you, Sir Terry Pratchett for “Anoia” the Goddess of things that stick in drawers.  Anoia is summoned by rattling a drawer and crying: "How can it close on the damned thing but not open with it in there?  She shows up smoking cigarettes like a chimney and telling you bluntly that she doesn’t really give a shit about your problems.

There are numerous corollaries to Resistentialism, such as Murphy’s Law (that which can go wrong, will go wrong), Coat’s Axiom (the interesting parts are just off the edge of the map) and, “Why me, Why now”? 

Now, I feel really sorry for all those people that don’t embrace the essential truth of these concepts.  I am tempted to invoke the names of Polly Anna and Pangloss.  How can anyone deny the reality that is before their very eyes every day of the year?  I suppose that wishing and hoping that wars, murderers, and global warming will go away will be sufficient to keep us all safe and happy.  Good luck with that.