Ten Things I Have Learned: Milton Glaser

Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between scepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one???s openness to the world as passionate belief is.

Certainty is rare, or should be.

CFP: Feminist Philosophy and Pornography

Pornographic speech does not prevent women from making utterances. Rather, the thought is, pornographic speech may create communicative conditions that result in illocutionary disablement of women’s speech in specific contexts. Particularly this may be so with respect to women’s refusals of unwanted sex: if pornographic speech prevents the locution “No!” from being seen to be a refusal in a sexual context, due to which sex is forced on the speaker, she has not successfully performed the illocutionary speech act of refusing the unwanted sex. In this case, there may be a free speech argument against pornography.

Deus vult!

Richard Mourdock’s moral theology leaves Jeremy Paretsky, O.P., Professor of Scripture at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, unimpressed. Fr. Paretsky writes:

There is a problem with people using theological language loosely, in that the principles tacitly invoked can come back to bite them in the ass. Specifically, to say that anything that happens is by God’s will says everything and nothing: it says no more than that creation as such exists by the will of God, who in a single act incorporates all contingencies. Will is confused with desire, which is a function of the human will. No distinction is made between God’s providential will (whereby he cares for creation) and permissive will (whereby contingencies are incorporated into that care). To say that life begun by rape is God’s will fails to make this distinction. It is equally true by the same loose use of language to say that abortion subsequent to rape is also God’s will. And for that matter any inanity uttered by a politician is also God’s will, a contingency which I hope the Almighty will take into account in his providential will for us all.


Schneier on Security: "Liars and Outliers"

How has the nature of trust changed in the information age?

These notions of trust and trustworthiness are as old as our species. Many of the specific societal pressures that induce trust are as old as civilisation. Morals and reputational considerations are certainly that old, as are laws. Technical security measures have changed with technology, as well as details around reputational and legal systems, but by and large they’re basically the same.

What has changed in modern society is scale. Today we need to trust more people than ever before, further away ??? whether politically, ethnically or socially ??? than ever before. We need to trust larger corporations, more diverse institutions and more complicated systems. We need to trust via computer networks. This all makes trust, and inducing trust, harder. At the same time, the scaling of technology means that the bad guys can do more damage than ever before. That also makes trust harder. Navigating all of this is one of the most fundamental challenges of our society in this new century.

Given the dangers out there, should we trust anyone? Isn’t “trust no one” the first rule of security?

It might be the first rule of security, but it’s the worst rule of society.

Tree of Life is Far

People describe the movie as spiritual, uplifting, and awe-inspiring. This all fits with our understanding of near vs. far thinking. Far mode is evoked by large space and time scales, smooth textures, small numbers of types, high level goals, moralizing, metaphor, and positive mood. And all these things evoke each other. A vivid near death is about the most negative and intense thing we can experience, and we naturally want to escape that. As the quotes above suggests, ???awe??? is a positive experience of far/big things. In far mode we can experience awe, and gain comfort. It seems to me that if our experience is awesome and comforting enough, we feel we have ???transcended??? our usual concerns, and we call that experience ???spiritual.??? And if we don???t understand the source of this feeling, we call it ???mysterious.??? ;)

Q&A: Hacker Historian George Dyson Sits Down With Wired’s Kevin Kelly

Dyson: Turing, as a 23-year-old graduate student, derived the principles of modern computation more or less by accident???as a byproduct of his interest in something called the Entscheidungsproblem, or Decision Problem. It can be stated as: Is there a formula or mechanical process that can decide whether a string of symbols is logically provable or not? Turing???s answer was no. He restated the answer in computational terms by showing that there???s no systematic way to tell in advance what a given code is going to do. You can???t predict how software will behave by inspecting it. The only way you can tell is to actually run it. And this fundamental unpredictability means you can never have a complete digital dictatorship with one government or company controlling our digital lives???not because of politics but because of mathematics. There will always be codes that do unpredictable things. This is why the digital universe will never be a national park; it will always be an undomesticated, unpredictable wilderness. And that should be reassuring to us.

Reassuring, it is.