Too Weird For Words!
I started with the idea of physical determinism and what it implies about free will and the future. Then I touched on chaos theory, which is sometimes raised as a possible way around determinism (short answer: nope). In the first article I drew a distinction between “classical” mechanics and quantum mechanics because only at the quantum level is there any sign of randomness in reality.
It turns out that the quantum world is decidedly weird, and while we have math and models that seem to describe it extremely well, it can honestly be said that no one actually understands it. This time I’ll tell you about some of that weirdness and how it may (or may not) apply to the world as we know it.
The key question here is whether our brains make use of quantum effects.
Tick-Tock, goes the clock…
Last time, in the Determined Thoughts post, I talked about physical determinism, which is the idea that the universe is a machine — like a clock — that is ticking off the minutes of existence. The famous French mathematician, Pierre-Simon Laplace (the “French Newton”), was the first (in 1814) to articulate the idea of causal determinism.
We now know that quantum mechanics makes it impossible to know both the position and motion of particles, so Laplace’s Demon isn’t possible at the sub-atomic level. (It might be possible at the classical or macro level — that’s an open question.) Sometimes the issue of chaos theory is proposed as a counter-argument to determinism, so I thought I’d cover what chaos theory is and how it might apply.
If you want to skip to the punchline, the answer is it doesn’t apply at all.
I think, I think.
A bit more than three years ago I began this blog intending to write about matters of existence and consciousness (and science and computing). Since then I’ve tried on other hats, stories from my past and present, opinions and views about society, even the occasional post above movies or TV. But those meatier topics — the ones the blog is named for — still attract me.
There are three problems, though. Firstly, other sites specialize in that sort of thing and do it very well. Secondly, they aren’t topics that attract visitors — my meaty posts get even fewer reads than my less weighty posts. And thirdly, I may not be as good as explaining things as I would like to be.
That said, sometimes I just can’t help myself, so here we go again.
I was going to write about something completely different. Specifically: religion, spirituality, atheism, morality and ethics, faith and unbelief… that sort of thing. I like one day of the week to be different from the rest — a Sabbath, so to speak. For cultural and personal reasons (and pragmatic reasons — many businesses take today off) Sunday seems an appropriate day. I’ve got Sci-Fi Saturday; I suppose you could call it Sermon Sunday or something.
But when I sat down to write, something else came out. I thought I’d better grab it and stick it onto the blog wall before it ran away and, due to its youth and naiveté, ran afoul of Unpleasant Business. The thing about letting your mind drift is that you can never be sure where it’ll come ashore. In this case, mental notes about a possible future post morphed into… Well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
And, yes, you have to look below the fold — no cheating!
It’s hard to remember exactly, but I think I first noticed it back in the days of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s even possible it really started in the earlier series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the time of the final series, Star Trek: Enterprise, it was definitely a thing, and by then it went way too far.
In the original Star Trek series, Gene Roddenberry gave us Vulcans. They were, in many ways, better than humans. They lived longer, they were stronger and smarter, and — crucially — they were, in some ways, wiser than us. Rick Berman, Roddenberry’s heir apparent, re-wrote that vision to make them conniving, lying, self-interested bastards. In other words, he made them more human.
My question here is: Why did our heroes turn into such assholes?
I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a special announcement: The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants are going to World Series!
Given that these are both Wildcard teams that fought their way through a do-or-die Wildcard game, a League Division Series and a League Championship series, it’s kind of double-plus cool!
[Those looking for more of the previous two posts, can read this older post about the Mike Judge movie, Idiocracy. Be assured I will resume the topic anon.]
Last time I wrote about willful ignorance as one good definition of stupidity. This time, I want to explore some ideas about why there seems a growing amount of it in modern society. Of course that necessitates first addressing the question: Is there a growing amount of it? I believe the answer is yes, but I also believe a lot of the reason for it is the growing complexity of society.
There was a time when a clever person could fix their washing machine or their car. Our machines were fairly simple then: a motor, a few hoses, some wires and belts. It wasn’t hard to figure out. A clever person with experience and tools could even fix their radio or TV. Replacing a burned out “tube” was a common household activity.
Now our machines bear the warning: “No User Serviceable Parts Inside”
The title above is deliberately a little inflammatory, but people who know me, and people who read this blog, may — not without reason — think this is a common sentiment of mine. And it sort of is, but it’s actually a code for something much more intricate and involved. Last time I wrote about Leon Wieseltier, whose ten-word critique of modern society blew me away, especially his central clause: “Not enough critical thinking.”
This time I’d like to explore — or at least begin exploring — exactly what (to me) the phrase, “People are stupid!” really means. There are some key distinctions to be made. For example, I don’t think people are more, or less, stupid than they’ve ever been; our brains haven’t changed in many thousands of years.
And let’s face it, we all take a Stupid Pill now and then.
Sometimes you encounter someone who seems to really hit the nail on the head in terms of how they see the world. The brilliance of these moments is that — especially if you tend to be a social outlier — you’re given the gift of knowing you’re not alone. There are people who not only see the world as you do, but see it even more clearly and intelligently than you ever could.
Leon Wieseltier appeared on The Colbert Report last Tuesday (Oct 7), and I was so blown away by his words that I kept rewinding and rewinding so I could write it all down and record here what he said.
I was especially impressed by his ten-word critique of modern society!
Last time I gave you the final chapter in the Story of Samantha — the repose of her ashes. Two years ago, I gave you an early chapter, the Tale of the Perfect Day (in part, a tale of a tail). This time, somewhat like a (long-delayed) wake, I’m going to share some random memories from The Life of Sam.
Actually, she was Samantha II. The first Samantha was a puppy I shared with a roommate. That Sam died very young when she lost in an attempt to take down a passing bus. My roommate, who’d left the gate open, was utterly devastated. We buried her beneath a stand of Joshua trees far out in the Mojave Desert.
The puppy, that is; not my roommate.