Monday, October 31, 2005

God and time

Mathetes asks if god is eternal :

Thre are a nmber of issues I have with his arguments
1) If god is not eternal it means that there is something outside of God on which God depends.

This I think is a bit trival in that that thing would be "time". It also sets up a bit of a poor conception of time that he has with god infinitly extended in time which in itself implies he is controlled by time.
I suggest the following imagry.

A god beyond time and space would need to look down on the universe as a set of universes each representing each instident in time.

2) If God changes, it would mean that God lacks something.

this has interesting implications for a god - Ie a god can then never change his oppinion or take any action now because he would already have had that thought and already have taken that action at any instant in time. How could you expect a god to help you if he would already have known your choices and already have helped you if you needed it before you could even had had the hope ie having the hope implies he doesnt want to help you.

Furthermore I reject the implication that a god must be omnipotent to be worthy. a god that is ALMOST omnipotent this would change little regarding if it was worthy god to worship or seek potection from. Perfection is not required - just like men in the past have worshiped gods that they thought were vengeful all they need is somthign greater than themselves.

3) he argued that hte universe cannot be infinite in time - he says "if “right now” had to wait infinitely long to occur, could it actually do so? No."

I think this is wrong because it is an interpretation from within time. you would not have to "wait" for anything to happen because there would be no one to do the waiting - least of all you.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Global warming

I propose we have a problem even with current proposed solutions.

The problem (I expect you may find many Americans pointing it out in this regard due to self serving bias - but there is some truth to it) is that your desire to achieve the second aim of encouraging the thirds world to be able to develop to the levels of the first world via copious energy consumption cripples the ability to achieve the first goal (and even promotes a culture counter to what you want).

I am concerned about this mixing of goals within a single proposal - and think that both could be achieved with a different approach (although I see why it is politically easier to build such things into every proposal in an American "pork" sort of a way).

For example if third world countries per capita usage were to go to an arbitrary amount like half of the USA's total usage would rise by a bit more than 10 times (ignoring effect like population changes that would make it larger) and reducing the US consumption to zero would have an insignificant impact in such an environment obviously we don’t want that from an environmental perspective even if from a equality perspective it might be fantastic.

But there is another effect that makes this worse. You can see for example the per $ usage of oil (i.e. the effective value of the stuff that is being produced by each set amount of oil) where countries like Japan have very low oil usage (and USA is moderate) and countries like china (etc) have very high usage. I.e. when a third world country uses some extra fuel to raise its standard of living it costs a lot more in fuel than it does in Japan(or maybe the usa) Kyoto actualy makes this problem worse since it increases the distance between productive production and consumption (for example if africa lets say was a place of cheep production due to cheep energy and that displaced domestic suppliers in canada).

So there is a question whether a system that restricts the use of carbon fuels in the first world but not the third world will encourage the movement of wastage from first to third world without providing much benefit to the third world actually encouraging them to waste large amounts of it. And the earth as a whole may get less for more cost (environmentally speaking) with the movement of dirty production activities to third world countries.

In addition it creates the problem that a third world country may be made highly dependant on the abuse of fossil fuels and slam into the Kyoto barrier at a terrific rate. I.e. there is no incentive to not pollute and then all of a sudden there is a massive one - this will test their commitment.

Now this is just an explanation of the problem as opposed to defeatist talk - I suggest that there is a question whether exemptions are not just an inferior method of passing two laws

1) A restriction on carbon fuels (e.g. a tax on any attempt to mine or extract or export oil) or a tax on carbon usage.


2) an aid package designed to encourage the third world to develop in a sustainable manner (or even to just make certain types of portable environmentally friendly energy production almost free, imagine if you had an arrangement to build a wind generator anywhere it was viable in the world - minimal use to rich countries but fantastic for poor ones)

Or one could decide that environment was the priority and needed to be solved now at whatever cost or that poverty is the problem and that ets say 4 degrees of temperatue rise worldwide is a acceptable cost.

Either might be is a reasonable position. But what we need is a clear debate on the facts and the potential concequences ans opposed to just two sides trying to sell their assumptions at any cost.

Barriers to Free Thinking

NZphilosophy looks into bariers to free thinking

I propose Self serving bias is the dominant barrier to rational thought. Almost every debate i have ever had has been filld with self serving bias - ie the peopel have believing a certain thing because it suits them to believe it.
things such as religion are far less common but ma also be bariers to free thought.
So also are habits where the person is being in a sense lazy to chalenge old ideas.

The human mind

What are the boundaries of the human mind?
Richard asks the question and asks what is the seat of the mind - the brain of course is the initial starting point.

I propose that the mind is not significantly different from anything else in that it is just some mater that is held together in a certain pattern. Human continuality (i.e. you remembering who you were a second ago) is a result of your pattern now being almost identical to your pattern then plus a little additional information. And clearly since we probably share basically no atoms with the individual that we were 20 years ago surely it can only be the pattern that is consistent in the way in which we refer to human continuality anyway.
Furthermore from a physicist’s point of view if you were to absolutely duplicate a person (for example by deleting them and recreating them (imagine a teleportation device) then they would still really be the same person.

So my point is that it is the pattern which is most important. In a sense you do indeed live on in your children and in your own works. But of course these sorts of "living on" are disjointed from the main art of you and are much looser forms of continuality - for now.

In this regard a human mind is partly contained within the brain and also the body of the person and even outside the body. But in part the mind is something that we define ourselves - for example we might say "I am a good person it is just that at times something forces me to drink" it is a sort of a psychological trick to alienate oneself from their own bad habits - but it is also true in a sense that that is not "you" because you can legitimately define what part of "you" you are.

If you do that then you are some arbitrary part of the pattern associated with your body. And this may reside largely in the brain or somewhere else.

An interesting experiment is to imagine what would happen if your brain was connected to other persons - would you become the same person or be separate people?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Arguments vs. Discussions

I was on NZ philosophy discussing philosophy (of course) when I apparently found myself within an argument with a person named Patrick.

I raised the question that the debate was not going anywhere in as far as Patrick "saw it as a way of scoring points in some theoretical game."
To which he responds "Isn't that what an argument is? A "theoretical game"?"

The latter I guess is correct in a sense but it doesn’t have to be the sort of game where one scores points nor does it have to be an argument.

The implications of having such system is that you and the other party enter a discussion trying to "win" and get the other side to believe, or act as if they believe what you believe (or possibly a third party).

The problem of course is that if you enter the debate in this frame of mind you are not very likely to learn anything yourself - and neither is the other person. In fact you may end up forgetting things you already knew. This is probably evident in our discussion that Patrick stopped really listening to what I was saying because he was arguing as opposed to discussing.

My approach to debates is
1) Never take anything personally, if the other person insults you or tries to turn the discussion into an argument the easiest thing to do is to just fail to take on board the insult.
For example if a person uses a world like "immature" there are two aspects to it - the first is "to have the traits of youth" and a second part "that youth is bad" (particularly interesting when youth use it)
This word is often used by parents as a generic insult to a child who does anything they don’t want them to do and few people can put their finger on specifically what it means. This means that it is wise to treat the second part of the word as meaningless and take the first part as something to consider with all the other available information.
It seems odd to me to call anything other than "nah nah na nya" immature.

2) never get too uptight about "wining" people on the net usually have fairly fixed positions - you will only make yourself depressed if you care too much about that - the debate needs to be a learning experience or at least cathartic. Anyway surely one wants to find the correct answer as opposed to being very sucesful about convincing peopel of somthing that is outright wrong.

3) If you get the urge to try to hurt the other party step back and ask yourself exactly how is that going to help you? Usually it is jsut your anti-social side coming out - and of course any social advise like this is going to reject that.

I believe that arguments are fundamentally inferior forms of discussion (I also oppose the adversarial judicial system and that at least has rules) and only result in a sort of an arms race that ends in people hitting each other.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Moral high ground blog

Reuben asks a list of questions so here are my answers (all things being equal)

should i buy new clothes or op-shop? Op shop ideally - less wastage should be able to get the same for less.
which OS should i use? (should i pay for it?) No - marginal cost of a new OS is close to zero marginal benefit of any particular OS is generally not great (might mater to some people).
should i keep my promises? Usually - but break where this contradics more important things (ie dont keep a promise if you have to kill someone to do it).
should i go bush? - Depnds on lots of things but generaly i would say no - not sure the point of it.
should i grow my own veges? - you are probably less efficiant than a big farm but if it saves you money good on you.
should i keep fit? Generaly yes - it will probably benefit you in the long run.
should i wash spiders down the plug hole? No - althings being equal.
should i download mp3's - as long as you pay thier marginal cost ($0)
should i hand in the $20 i just found on the ground? Yes - but careful who you hand it to!
should i use a dishwasher, or use handwashing? hand is better all things being equal.
should i buy a slave? Depends on if you are emancipating him.
should i sell my self into slavery? No
should i own a pet? (what should i feed it?) - yes and the normal foods.
should i teach philosophy to young people? I guess so... try not to teach them how to be evil.
should i teach philosophy to old people? I guess so... try not to teach them how to be evil.
should i do charity work? Yes particularly if you have nothing else to do - depends on the charity a bit though.
should i give away part of my income? depends on to whom.
should i compost? If oyu have your own garden and can use it all then sure.
should i turn out the light when i leave a room? Yes
should i pick up litter when i see it lying on the foot path? maybe not
should i let homeless people sleep on my couch? I would advise against it, but if you know the guy - ok.
should i become a homeless person? If you want.
should i show my parents this blog? yes
should i wear leather shoes or senthetic shoes? Dont worry.
should i hunt rabbits? No (kiling animals for fun is moraly degrading)
should i drink? No
should i smoke? No
should i try other rereational drugs? maybe once
should i buy fair trade coffee? Not sure - maybe not.
should i pay for my coffee in the philosophy dept.? No (ok - you should probably collectively pay for the beans and stuff but not $1 a coffee)
should i let google put adds on my blog? Doesnt bother me
should i give public speachs on my beliefs? Why not - if nothing else it is cathardic
should i write into local media to express my views? Why not - if nothing else it is cathardic
should i speed or stick to the speed limit? stick to the limit (unless it is an emergency and you are wiling to pay the fine - don resent it if you get it).
should i share my last lollie(candy)? Yes (people like that)
should i play online video games? Yes it is a comunity
should i pay to play video games? Yes good for coordination adn quite fun

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Business crime

I hear through the grape vine of a number of companies and people that are repeatedly involved in crimes along the likes of illegal immigration minimum wage and so forth. Surprisingly these businesses and people seem to spring up again almost immediately doing the same things again.

I am reminded of the fine for a few thousand dollars received by the fellow who had an illegal gambling establishment. Clearly the punishments for these things are not always sufficient deterrents and some people seem to basically make a business out of breaching them.

I suggest version of three strikes and your out (my partner sugests two strikes and you are out) in regards to these sorts of crimes. Where you basically kill the business if it has a third breach and effectively bankrupt a person for their third offence.

What do you think? Would it work?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Dirty deeds done with fluffy animals

Yet another NZder charged with loving animals too much.

existing bail conditions, which include that he report three times a week to Waverley Police, continue seeing a psychiatrist on a weekly basis and not go within 50 metres of any pet shop.
The order includes McMahon not entering rural lands.


As weird Al would say "diry deeds done with sheep" (or in this case rabbits)

iIlegal immigration

NoRightTurn notes how bad it is for refugees to be sent back to zimbabwae.

And I agree - it seems very odd that you would return anyone to Zimbabwe – you actually have to fly them quite far in order to put them in a hell hole. there is no need for your disincentive to be that strong and also that awkward. SoI have a better solution.

I suggest you could have a third country that can act as a haven for an unlimited number of refugees. Something in the order of Botswana (or whatever stable countries is most willing to accept the deal). And you can give them whatever money is required to ensure this doesn’t harm them economically (Botswana might jsut be happy with free AIDS medication for ever).

That way an illegitimate refugee can get a free ticket to go to Botswana and live happily (no persicution!) there and any economic refugee will also go to Botswana and be pretty upset (so you encourage the former and discourage the later). Therefore there will be the correct incentives and you could have an almost unlimited capacity to take refugees.

Bus lanes

I was driving down dominion road the other day in yet another traffic jam partly created by the bus lane to my left. But initially this did not bother me - I considered the saving in petrol public transport promises and all the associated benefits. Then I realized that there were only a coupe of buses using the bus lane and a few hundred cars using the car lane each stopping and starting all the time using significantly more petrol than they would usually use. I see no indication peopel are going to give up their cars yet so strangely these bus lanes seem to be achieving the exact opposite of what they are supposed to achieve in addition to making me late for work. Can anyone explain?

I would be happy to suport bus lanes if they worked but we seem to have a half way solution. Cars wasting petrol and buses largely unused. Ie there is no point creating bus lanes untill whatever else is preventing people using busses is adressed.
And if it is a step in the process I want to at least see some progress being made.

Are big companies good or bad for workers?

big companies often get a bad wrap as sould destroying monsters that force people out of empowering jobs into less empowering ones. but it isnt always the case.

1) Some people will just gain jobs as opposed to loose an empowering job in exchange for a less empowering one in part this is because I can walk into a "the warehouse" store and get a job right away I could be completely unexperienced and very slow and their systems should be able to teach me to be useful - a small business would probably not have the time or ability to train me although a government organization might.

2) others will loose one job in a small store and gain a job in a large store doing the same thing and find that the union and so forth make it more socailly rewarding. I have found the social opportunities in large firms to be quite rewarding when the company supports its social club. A small firm just can't offer that.

3) Others might find that the big company provides freedom of movement with job security they could not find in small companies.

4) large companies can potentially have more efficient systems - doing a job worse than you could be doing it is not particularly rewarding to some.

that doesn't mean large companies are good things they may still overall be bad (I am sure we can list a hundred problems) but I note they have some benefits.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Posting needs to be cathartic in the bogging world because people's views are usually rock solid. You can have some vague influence and if you are lucky one day a big influence on some issue but you can’t rest your self image or happiness on this.
To me bogging is just a matter of getting my thoughts out there, testing my mind and learning about things through debates.

It doesn't really bother me much when someone disagrees or if I fail to convince them of anything - the debate itself is enjoyable enough.

I guess that is why I have almost never ended a debate - other people almost always give up and go away first either because they don’t know what to say to a good point, because they just get tired of trying to keep up or because they are not getting what they want out of the debate (for example maybe they get enjoyment by converting people).

I also often find my debates wander a little because I am eager to follow others onto topics where they are the strongest and debate them there and because often positions depend on unstated assumptions making it meaningless to debate the first question without addressing the second. I have a very non specific information gathering method and am almost as comfortable debating Islam (based on the Koran - even though I am not Islamic) as I am debating politics or anything else.

Pity I have never met anyone who has both the inclination and ability to have a similar aproach.

TV1 News

Apparently "concerned residents" plan to oppose the setting up of craches in the suburbs. what is the problem? well too many cars on their street and the annoying noise of children playing.

Anyone else think that the environment court is about to put its foot in a bear trap?

I hope this complaint does go to the court and we can see just how bad the "not in my back yard" attitude is for those of the left as well as the right.

Al Quaeda

NoRightTurn argues the UK is Destroying freedom in order to "save" it

he finishes with
"If Al Qaeda's goal is to destroy western civilisation, then they couldn't have dreamed of a better way of doing it in the UK."

I note this is a classic error often in right leaning circles but clearly also in left leaning circles also. Destroying the west "per se" is not Al Quaeda's goal. And the CERTAINLY do not suport strict laws that restrict their ability to achieve their goals (if they did we would't have to worry about them because they would be useless).

It is easy to paint a group like this as pure evil and then assume they wil always take the evil side in any argument but they do have goals they jsut happen to be goals most of us would reject -

Alquada's main goal is to unite the Muslim world under a single Caliphate (empire).

To demonstrate how they are reasonably pragmatic about this note how they reprimand the terrorists in the iraq for attacking iraqi muslims (the future citizens of their capilate!)

The point is that I don’t think "destroying the west" features as a significant first order goal. And it is misleading to think that it is one. Pretending this is true jsut gives fule to the organization that to those who know it is being somewhat unfairly maligned.

the real problems with the rganization are the secondary goals
1) that it sees force as the way to create teh caphilate
2) it sees western interfearance (the right trying to bring democracy to the middle east and the left trying to bring human rights) as a threat somthing that needs to be prevented (with force again).
3) there are quite a few islamic peopel in certain western countries in need of liberation which might, debatably, deserve to be in the caphilate.

However whatever the details are Al Quaeda would be firmly in the camp of the leftists in regard to the new UK laws. The liberal vs. conservative argument would be a "weak enemy" vs. a "strong enemy" debate rather like that quote from Osama (I think )about how the US/democrats retreated in Sudan and that they might have lost if it was a republican government. Rather like how the fact that nazi germany was a thorn in the side of of the allies hardly made it an friend of communism.

I.e. you can still say the conservatives groups are wrong but you can’t call them the friends of terrorism.

thoughts on suicide bombers

Considering Tim blair's post on suicide bombers

Muhammed Khozin, younger brother of 2002 Bali bombers Amrozi and Mukhlas, provides an answer:

"Alcohol, bikinis, that kind of thing makes Muslims angry. Don’t do that when visiting a country with a Muslim majority,” he said. “I’m sorry, Australian culture makes war on morality. They come to Bali with bikinis, they make war on morality. Not physical war, morality war. Respect the culture and religion of Indonesia."

Interesting since bali is a hindu area - but nevermind...

When considering what to do about suicide bombers we should consider not how to stop a suicide bomber but how to stop the people who train and send people to be suicide bombers.
The problem with trying to understand the bomber himself is someone who is willing to blow them self up for these sorts of causes obviously isn't very bright or rational. In order to do it they must effectively have declared themselves (or been nominated if they are too stupid) to be the most expendable/stupidest person in their community.
This means even if you did everything they wanted they might still suicide bomb you because they aren't really rational actors.

Now the people who send these poor idiots to their deaths may well be a bit smarter and we can consider what it takes to discourage them instead.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

NZ Meritocracy

Interesting site my m'lud
Running over some posts
"Goddam liberal cowards"
He notes that they are going to ban the English flag from British prisons apparently because there are too many Muslim people there who might take offense at it. Something about it being associated with the crusades.
OK we don’t want to cause offense but not using our flag because they might make some ancient inference? That’s just stupid - seems the easier thing is to help them to get over it just like we (eventually) got over their conquering the area in the first place.
Cabinet making
why oh why are people considered for cabinet rank not on the basis of ability, but by gender and/or race? It's a sin not restricted to Labor I might add, but a sin nonetheless. I don't give a damn how many women there are or aren't in cabinet. I have not the slightest interest in the range of skin pigmentation in the Executive Council. What I DO care about is that the people sitting there are competent and dedicated to being as frugal with taxpayers' money as possible.,2106,3434018a6160,00.html

All I can say to this is that I am in total agreement!

Green party hypocrisy
The Greens am saying that oil companies should absorb the latest price rises, rather than passing them on to consumers. Funny that they feel the prices will be unfair, but don't ask the Crown to reduce its considerable portion of the browser price. Why is it only the private sector that should make the sacrifice?

I find the funny thing here to be that the greens have just slammed into the problem with being environmentalists and socialists at the same time. They want prices to be lower despite the fact that they actually want to discourage the use of petrol... Can anyone else see a contradiction here?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stupid inefficient Universities

It looks like Victoria university plans to raise fees and the student magazine wants to tell students about it. frankly I have great difficulty finding any sympathy at all for the university.

1) Universities are incredibly inefficient.

2) This is partly about the university trying to hide the fact that they are raising fees and prevent people from spreading that information, information that might be used to make purchasing decisions. Frankly that just doesn't sound right.

This particular rise in costs goes largely towards staff pay rise and promotion together with the usual wastages of money of course.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Iran threatens to hold back oil sales

Iran is threatening to hurt us by not exporting so much oil if we continue to hassle them about any of those petty little things like nuclear proliferation.
Here is one of the best arguments for everyone to get behind this.


Well the right can be quite happy about it - Iran is effectively punishing itself for its own attempts at nuclear proliferation. Besides that it is up to them to trade or not trade with their oil and the increase in price will be felt fairly evenly across the world although maybe a little more in Europe and Asia and a little less in America (due to Iran’s location)

The left however can also be happy - Iran will push up the cost of oil and thus increase incentives to use clean alternatives.

even if they only do this a little Iran's self flagulation is still somthing to be celebrated.

So Iran - bring it on!

Bali bombing

Looks like it might be the end for bali as a tourist destination.
3 bombs went off almost simultaniously at three tourist locations.
then again I didnt really know why tourists ever started going back there.

Boycotting Yahoo!

The latest story is that Yahoo has been used by the Chinese government providing email records of journalist Shi Tao to the cops, who promptly arrested Shi.

hat tip instapundit

As usual we have two camps those that propose boycotting Yahoo! and those that propose it will do no good in promoting free speach.

I suggest that a boycott would be effective if applied sensibly.

There are two ways of looking at this
1) The individual...
Lets say I am looking to influence others to do the right thing (i.e. help humanity) and that this makes me feel better about myself (surely most people would agree).
Under normal situations I will give my business to those firms with the highest moral standards (after factoring in selfish things like price). If I support a company with slightly higher moral standards than yahoo with my dollars then to an extremely small extent I create an incentive to be moral (to both companies) and also cause a slightly more moral company to become slightly more influential.
The situation might be mroe complex than that but that would generally be a rational asumption for anyone considering such action.

2) The big picture
If we encourage companies to stand up for human rights China will then be faced with a world where the internet companies it has available to deal with are slightly more likely to take moral stands on such issues or it needs to accept the disincentive of inferior service in exchange for keeping their protections.

To counter two arguments used against the boycott
1) This has almost zero potential to create a world where Chinese have no internet access so it is nonsense to say internet access is more important and use that as an argument.

2) Those who oppose such a boycott might say that china will not be influenced by such activities but
a) the argument is one that is just as effective in reverse. If those who are willing to do such things as boycott yahoo have resolve and are numerous the Chinese should be faced with the same objection - they should give up their attitudes towards privacy.

b) Furthermore it is unlikely to be the case in practice. This sort of a policy will create a policy path of least resistance, which, in particular, a pragmatic leadership like china's will be able to follow. All parties in volved will bend a little even if they dont realise that is what they are doing to accomidate each other. the basic principle is that if you push somthing in one direction generally speaking you will have some positive effect (even if it is tiny).

So - the positives are that you SHOULD have a slightly more moral business environment if one engages in such a boycott.
The negatives are - you will probably have marginally less service and have to change services.

If you don’t mind paying the later or in particular if it is out weighed by you feeling good about yourself for supporting free speech then go ahead and boycott!
But I do warn people I they want to use such methods to influence morally to consider if they are indeed pushing in the right direction --

Where is your business going now? Is the company you are now supporting morally better than the other business that you are boycotting? Or are you promoting other bad habits or trends you perceive as negative with your change? In addition to political things consider you might be promoting bad service or something else that you might oppose.

hurricane solutions

transterrestrial musings considers the possibility of putting an iceberg under a hurricane to slow it down. (warm water powers the hurricane)

I think it would be easier to stick a huge pool cover over a section of the carabean. If you want you could make it silver and just leave it on over the daytime...
now we only need about 4000 sq kilometers of pool cover...