markpasc (markpasc) wrote,
markpasc
markpasc

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Words and more (even a little politics)

It may be suboptimal, but at least it's superpessimal. (Super as the opposite of sub, that is, not as in very.)

The world is a happy place now that I can see Japanese characters in my web browser.

I still may buy Trillian Pro. I still don't know yet. I'm still waiting for the media (as in service) plugin API: with Jabber and MUCK support, I'd be all over Trillian Pro.

Cool word of the day: anhedonia (vis).

See also Darwin's Dangerous Disciple, by way of queenofstripes as well, with interesting comments on von Uexküll's animal worlds of perception, of which I've never heard.

However:

Dawkins: If it is true that some of the morality of the Old Testament, say, maximizes somebody's inclusive fitness, I don't think that has anything to tell us about what we ought to do.

Skeptic: Then wouldn't we be better to throw out all this half-baked religious mumbo jumbo and move on to something else?
Dawkins: Well yes, but that's obvious!

The problem is that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater: There are quality portions of most holy books (or they wouldn't be so holy--by which I mean the associated religions would have ceased to be by now, if not for kernels of truth). The adage that the Devil can quote scripture to support his positions only means scripture is diverse and interpretable. There's good advice for maximizing your inclusive fitness by being a good person. Yeah, there are all sorts of evolutionary tactics at play; the trick is to strip the good from the bad, and I sure can't claim to have tried that myself.

Speaking of History of the Global Brain, for finding that link, I'm rereading this part now. It mentions the Taliban--look for "Here's how the rain of brimstone forecast looked at the turn of the 21st century"--so even though it's from last century, it's topical.

History of the Global Brain, by the way, is where I got the idea to call friend Kelly "a heterogenous diversity engine":

When conformity enforcers overwhelm diversity generators, all of us are in trouble. ...

The Kanagawa [neural net] simulation implies that Fundamentalist strategies of beating up on others for their sins rather than controlling one's self drags us all toward authoritarian ferocity. The trick is to reassert the right to self-restraint and to the definition of one's own boundaries of behavior and privacy, boundaries which include that consideration toward those who disagree with us which we call civility.

Dawkins says in the interview he doesn't "think that group fitness is a meaningful concept in evolutionary biology," but History of the Global Brain is all about group fitness and selection. I find it convincing. Even if it's not good evolutionary biology, it applies politically (sorry for quoting the whole last paragraph of the piece):

As in Elm Hollow, the new Spartans are poised for a kidnap of mass mind. Each subcultural army has its weapons ready: the Internet, Armies of Virtue, and instruments of massacre. And each feels chosen to impose its purged and regimented paradise on all humanity. But the mass mind needs its Faustian introverts, its oddballs, kooks, and deviants, its challengers of holy Mother Nature, sectarian Righteousness, and traditional ways. It needs its internationalists, cross-cultural floaters, homosexuals, abortion-supporters, cosmopolitans, explorers, and imagineers, those who extend their reach beyond old boundaries and open new frontiers. The blasphemers the Fundamentalists feel God-bound to eliminate are the mass mind's option-makers, its catalysts of new hypotheses. In an atmosphere of debate, new approaches thrive. But when bullets replace words as disagreement-settlers, the mass intelligence nose dives. The totalitarian Spartans must be stopped by pluralists. This is a task which falls to our century's Athenians. It is a task which falls to you and me.

That's why I don't mind prosecuting* war in the Middle East: They are the most successful modern-day Spartans. Rather than let it alone bloom, we should pull the weed that would choke 1000 flowers.

(* prosecute: "To pursue (an undertaking, for example) until completion; follow to the very end.")

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