Tuesday, March 25, 2008

deguessifying conjecture


Sunday, March 16, 2008

great minds think alike, and shit happens

Why do great minds think alike? If we assume that the thoughts of great minds tend towards truth. And that there are more ways to be wrong than right. Then there are simply less ways for thoughts to be true. Thus there are less ways for great minds to think, provided they think true thoughts. How constrained are the thoughts of great minds! (actually not, i'll go into that later)

Why does shit happen? "Shit happens" because of the space of possible scenarios, those which we would prefer are an infinitesimal proportion.

So if shit is no less necessary than non-shit. Is truth anymore necessary than falsity? No, but true thoughts are no more necessary than false ones. The larger our imaginations the greater the possibility of mistake. But like falsities,truths are also limited to our imagination. There may exist certain truths our faculties simply don't equip us to grasp. Logic is simply the failure of imagination. It is necessary not because it cannot be otherwise, but because I cannot possibly imagine how it could be otherwise.


Friday, March 14, 2008

the profound and the arbitrary

The more profound something is, the more arbitrary it will be. This is because what is more profound has more depending on it but depends less itself on anything else. Like the fundamental axioms of mathematics. Profound as they are, are themselves quite arbitrary.

Perhaps this is why people tend to stay away from philosophical musings? Meaning requires scaffolding. In the rarefied air of philosophy it gets hard to breathe. Perhaps those with a mutated genotype leading to philosophical inclinations simply went insane or did not bother to reproduce....

I realize this is contrary to the received intuition that what is more profound is closer to the Truth. But arbitrariness has actually little to do with truth. Furthermore the capitalized Truth has more to do with subjective significance that with verisimilitude.


Monday, March 10, 2008

logic and personality

the more logical people are the less there will be systematic differences of personality between different positions on an argument. i.e. the more uncorrelated personality and position will be.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

numerical method

from math import atan2

def iterate(ans):
return 0.5*atan2(1,2*ans)

def iterator(ans,x):
if round(iterate(ans),3) != round(ans,3):
print 'iteration no.',x,'is',iterate(ans)



iteration no. 2 is 0.448027692286
iteration no. 3 is 0.420082425036
iteration no. 4 is 0.436019928837
iteration no. 5 is 0.426822664718
iteration no. 6 is 0.432094882111
iteration no. 7 is 0.429060919042
iteration no. 8 is 0.430802986936
iteration no. 9 is 0.429801433113


Thursday, February 28, 2008

the personality-Web

Let there be such a thing as the personality-Web whereby each possible path from the home-page defines a particular unique personality such that there would not be any 2 person on this Earth that navigates through this Web the same way. Now what would this personality-Web look like? Hmm.....

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

up the stairwell

Friday, September 07, 2007

pro- nouns/verbs/adjective/adverbs

Besides pronouns, English also contains pro-verbs, such as the ‘did’ in ‘Mary ran quickly, so Bill did too’, and pro-adjectives such as ‘such’ in ‘The happy man was no longer such’; and pro-adverbs such as the ‘so’ in ‘She twitched violently and, while so twitching, expired’.

KIRKHAM, RICHARD L. (1998). Truth, deflationary theories of. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved September 07, 2007, from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/N062SECT2


Monday, May 28, 2007

expertise and genius

Intelligence is just general mental health. With that, expertise is achieved through directed effort. Genius is creativity plus expertise. So:

Intelligence + Effort + Creativity = Genius

Genius - Creativity = (plain old) Expertise


Thursday, May 24, 2007


How exactly do those lyrics from Colin Hay's song describe exactly how i feel? Let's do a simple line-by-line analysis.
I drink good coffee every morning
That would simply mean I actually enjoy life! Strange isn't it? How can somebody like me possibly enjoy life?
Comes from a place that’s far away
Esoteric experiences, eclectic tastes and abstruse ideas i guess...
And when I’m done I feel like talking
And of course, it is human nature (i'm human) to want to share how we experience our lives.
Without you here there is less to say
The reason why i am seen to be so quiet is because i realized quite some time ago that people just don't get what I try to say. Or they don't see the point of getting so excited over the things i get excited about. Now that's not entirely true, i say and share many different things to and with many different people. But such narrow bandwidth! As such my messages are robbed of context. The reason why I see as beautiful the things I see as beautiful is in large part the way I see the world. Most of what i try to say thus is misquoted... So remember, i'm not incoherent, you are just not properly tuned in.


(exactly) how i feel

I drink good coffee every morning
Comes from a place that’s far away
And when I’m done I feel like talking
Without you here there is less to say

—"i just don’t think i’ll ever get over you", colin hay


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ego - the secret to happiness

To summarize, traditional conceptions of mental health assert that well-adjusted individuals possess relatively accurate perceptions of themselves, their capacity to control important events in their lives, and their future. In contrast to this portrayal, a great deal of research in social, personality, clinical and developmental psychology documents that normal individuals possess unrealistically positive views of themselves, an exaggerated belief in their ability to control their environment, and a view of the future that maintains that their future will be far better than the average person's. Furthermore, individuals who are moderately depressed or low in self-esteem consistently display an absence of such enhancing illusions. Together, these findings appear inconsistent with the notion that accurate self-knowledge is the hallmark of mental health (Taylor and Brown, 1988).


the messiness of human nature

From Rehabilitating Introspection, Phil Roberts, Jr.
Presumably, Mother Nature has gone to a lot of trouble to evolve our capacity for reflective thought precisely because it renders it possible for us to have a fairly good idea of what will be in our long range best interest and, just as crucially, to be able to act upon that information when undertaking a prudent course of action. But if this is so, why then are there motivational states such as fear, anger and sexual arousal, that urge us to engage in random acts of strategic stupidity on those innumerable occasions when, at some later point in time, we end up having to ask ourselves, "Now why did I do that?" If prudence is such hot stuff from an evolutionary standpoint, why isn't Mother making it a bit easier for us to exercise it more prudently?

The answer, I believe, is pretty much what you might expect. The reason the lower emotions seem so out of context with our more reflective concerns is precisely because they are remnants of a prereflective survivalist heritage -- vestigial remains of ancient stimulus response mechanisms which, prior to the advent of prudential insight, were chiefly responsible for perpetuating ourselves and our genetic blueprints. And their lack of continuity with our more reflective concerns is because, at some point in our dark and distant past, survival was not the result of any overall intention or "will" to survive, but simply the non-intentional cumulative effect of a number of independent intentions or "wills" to exhibit stereotypical responses to immediate stereotypical stimuli, but which were probably undertaken with little if any understanding of the overall objective they were “designed” to achieve.

In other words, the reason the lower emotions so often urge us to do stupid stuff is because, in a manner of speaking, they don’t know what they are doing. Their strategic incoherence is due to the fact that the id is not so much an evil monster as a bunch of bungling idiots (Larry, Curly and Moe come to mind), and in which case Freud's mistake was not in positing little men in the brain (the id, ego and superego), as Ryle (1949) and Dennett (1969) have maintained, but in not positing enough of them.
3. To further confuse matters, it appears that, in her infinite wisdom, Mother Nature has apparently exapted (jury-rigged) a number of the lower emotions to assist in the shepherding of self-worth (fear of asking for a date or giving a speech, anger over an insult, sex as a basis for endearment, etc.), a task for which they are often understandably illsuited. But then what else would you expect from a blind mechanical process?



Even Einstein thought this...
Physical concepts are the free creations of the human mind and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. —Einstein
But this is not idealism. Note that he said "physical concepts".
What is reality then? Well I don't know. I just see it as something that is "just there". Something that behaves in a certain way. Something that we are forced to live with.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


You would be just as insignificant if the universe were billions of times smaller. If you are not lonely, your life would be just as meaningful if the universe were infinitely larger than it is already infinitely large. Similarly, your life would be just as meaningful, and just as meaningless, if God were to exist or not.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


I present a sketchy theory of overcompensation here.

Paradigm shifts, fashion, moral sentiment, social and economic theory, religion. They all obey the "Law of Overcompensation".

This law states that (almost) every time we dispense with a perspective on an issue, we overcompensate (or at least have the tendency to).

Behaviorism after introspection. Laissez-faire capitalism after Communism. "Culture" (or Nurture) after Biology (Nature). Relativism after Racism. Modernism after Romanticism. Postmodernism after Realism. New Age after traditional monotheistic religion.

Why do we overcompensate? I think it's because we tend to view perspectives as factions, like in tribal warfare. Our tribal legacy definitely manifests in our argumentation. From "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson:


Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument.

His criticisms were right on target.

I demolished his argument.

I've never won an argument with him.

you disagree? Okay, shoot!

If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.

He shot down all of my arguments.

It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument--attack, defense, counter-attack, etc.---reflects this."

So instead of the logic of the argument prompting a change in perspectives, it is the subjective evaluation of the credence of artificially dichotomized polar-opposite sides of an issue. Whereupon the "winning" side would be absolutely and unequivocally accepted, and the other side absolutely and unequivocally rejected. Thus leading to overcompensation.

Even synthesis (after thesis and antithesis, in Hegel's theory) can overcompensate. Relativism is an example. I'm right. You're right. We are both right (in our own ways, yet absolutely so).

Nature? Haha. Yes but through conscious effort and with awareness, we can (somewhat) ameliorate or avoid overcompensation.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007


It is said that for ourselves to exist, the physical constants of this universe have to be exquisitely fine-tuned. But here, probability only makes sense as frequency. I'm not trying to be a frequentist. Only the frequentist interpretation of probability makes sense here. Do we have access to other universes? If we do, we would be able to see in which of all these universes, life did form. Could it really have been any other way? The universe just is. Asking why only makes sense if asking "why not" is worse. "Why is the universe so?" and "Why not?" are equally good questions, of which the answers are equally hard to imagine.

Are necessary truths really necessary? Hardly, they are only the accidental workings of our minds. But if we take that into account, then anything is possible! Anything at all. Even God! To a lot of people, unfortunately, the existence of God is already so obvious as to be impossible to doubt. That's why I advocate apathetic atheism. Emphasizing the irrelevance of God in our lives, even if He does exist. There really is no "ought" from "is"...

Fortunately though, our universe seems to be consistent. And there are necessary truths. But only within this particular universe. Anything outside is just...anything. Conclusion? Only what affects us can possibly matter. Therefore only what does affect us matter. The supernatural is thus necessarily irrelevant. As irrelevant as (but not more than) fiction.

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Hallucination in Education

Besides teaching informal logic and cognitive biases. It would also be helpful if students can experience (safe) induced hallucination to show them how phenomena such as near-death experiences or mystical experiences can be so convincing. This is of course, not yet possible. Haha. But it would be great if it does become so.

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protectionism and creationism

What do protectionism and creationism have in common?

They are a defense of outmoded institutions in spite of more efficient ways of achieving exactly the same thing.
Creationists believe religion integral to morality and the meaning of life. Protectionists believe preserving (artificial) local market conditions to be protecting the livelihoods of local suppliers.

Both seek what they want in the wrong places. Morality and meaning doesn't exist in how life came into being. Demand doesn't exist in the non-existence of import supply.

Both need to find proper solutions for the pursuit their own true cause. The morality inherent in human nature. The meaning inherent in a good life. Real demand available through participation in the global economy.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

truth and knives

“Anything not inherently precious is not precious at all.
Anything truly precious is immune from the truth.”

I was inspired to say this from reading Eliezer Yudkowsky's Twelve Virtues of Rationality. And from people's common notion that the truth can sometimes be dangerous.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Origin of Meaning

Most spiritual systems point followers to a higher realm or being as a source of meaning and significance in our lives. But what is this meaning? How does it make our lives meaningful?

It may be of help to first ask, what would make our lives meaningless?

What makes a talk show meaningless? When it is on mute, we see mouths open and close repeatedly uttering words that non-lip readers cannot discern. Hand gestures, body language, and other non-verbal communication taken out of context. Most importantly we don’t know what they are talking about! So perhaps meaninglessness is about not understanding what is going on around us.

When we study an abstruse math concept, we question its practicality. Its applicability in the real world. We expect the math to be of some purpose. When we ask why we are learning this stuff, we expect an explanation into how it enables us to achieve a particular goal or outcome. We fear studying it might be pointless.

So possibly, meaning can be the combination of both understanding and ultimate purpose. Let’s consider cases in which one is present but not the other. A young child undergoes a dull traditional education. She knows somehow, from what her parents told her, that education is important for her future. But she doesn’t understand how education can be relevant to her future. An example was already given of the math topic which illustrates a situation in which there might perhaps be understanding but not purpose.

Quite clearly, understanding and a sense of ultimate purpose are both crucial in the meaningfulness of anything. How does spirituality or religion usually satisfy these requirements?

Understanding, besides being a state of comprehension, is also a subjective feeling. Like how we can feel happy when we get good grades, but also when we take certain drugs. An illusory sense of understanding can be achieved simply by giving a name to something that is to be causing the phenomena in need of explanation. For example, one of the characters in Moliere’s play The Imaginary Invalid, is asked by his physician-examiners to explain the means by which opium induces sleep. He replies that it induces sleep because it contains a “soporific factor.” This answer is applauded by the doctors. The playwright is, of course, satirizing the false expertise of these apparently learned men by showing their knowledge to be no more than sophistry1. Such nonexplanations are commonplace in spirituality and religion. “God” for example, “explains” the existence of the Universe. “Sin” “explains” evil.

How should we live our lives? Why should we live it in one way rather than another? Most religion provide an ultimate purpose of some kind, which’s fulfillment requires the believer to act or believe in a certain way instead of others. Entry to Heaven, and avoidance of Hell, requires believers to be faithful and avoid sinful actions or violations of God’s commandments.

Drawing from an analogous situation inside the natural world, we satisfy the role of God to our children. We have purpose for them in mind which they do not yet understand. Going up some levels, the government administrates the nation of which we are part. Although we do not fully understand their policies, they give us a framework in which we can live out our lives. Lives that for the most part, we feel are meaningful. But does the government then give our lives meaning? Do we give meaning to our children’s lives? Of course not! We only provide for the possibility of our children’s lives, as do the government for ours. No, our lives are meaningful only because we have meaningful relationships with other humans like us.

But you might then ask, what makes these relationships meaningful? This yet again emphasizes the point that meaning cannot come externally from outside a system. To an outsider, an inside joke doesn’t make sense. Nothing but ourselves and our relationships with each other can make life meaningful. Suppose there is no humans, or that there is no human interaction, or there is no framework for human interaction that in this case is provided by the government. If any number of these entities exists without all of the others would life be meaningful? This is the reason why like age peers bond together. It is however, an indirect result of the fact that like-minded peers that bond together. Amongst themselves, our children understand each other, and they have common interests which serve as purpose around which their activities play out with significance.

Do cogs have meaning? Do cogs in a machine have meaning from inside the machine? Do they have meaning from outside the machine? Did you know that there is transistor #00812340 in your computer crucial for its operation? You don't because you are not in the system. What is important to you is the resulting function of all the system's interacting components. Their collective function; the ultimate purpose they serve. Not how they work. All you want as a user is to type up a report on a word processor, or play some computer games. God may very well exist, and we may very well be useful to him. We may actually mean something to him. But he is irrelevant as to whether our lives have meaning.

Mundane everyday situations are what make life meaningful. Not because they serve some ultimate purpose outside of the immediate system, but because they have a structure of relationships which human nature finds expression in. Within the system.

Nothing outside a system can mean anything to anything within it. A pure but abstract example illustrates this general fact. The Liar paradox: “This sentence is false.” If the sentence is true, since it says it is false, it is false. If the sentence is false, it would then say that its falseness is false, which makes it true. Where does the meaning of a sentence originate? Simply in what it describes. However, that particular paradoxical sentence describes itself. That sentence is referring to something outside the system it is meant to describe. It is describing its description. When you describe a system, its description is outside of it. Or more exactly, the description is one level above the level of the described. Like in a family tree of relationships. Which is a hierarchy, each generation being a level. The relationship “father-of” applies from one level to the level below it. It makes no sense when I say my uncle is the father of my aunt. Or even, Bob is father of himself.

There is however, a distinction between the qualitative feeling or sensation of meaning, and the conscious apprehension of it. Sometimes, we see life from a less involved perspective. Like when brushing your teeth you might suddenly realize that you have been doing this countless times, every single day of your life thus far. You realize that all your routines and habits are just like that. Endless patterns that seem to lack ultimate significance. How about passing buckets of water along to help put out a fire? The repeated senselessness of the immediate action can put you in a trance-like state. With all your attention focused on bucket-passing, the whole affair can seem quite meaningless. But you forget that you are working in a team to help put out a fire, to save lives. Lives that you know give meaning to people related to them. Lives that enable us all to share our thoughts and feelings however profound or mundane, with others like us. Deaths illustrate the importance of this fact best. We don’t mourn the dead because they go to Heaven or Hell, or will reincarnate in the future. We mourn the dead because besides our relationship we had with the deceased, we know that all their thoughts and feelings, their experiences in life, their experience of sharing such experiences with us, all that was there to give each of our respective lives meaning, is gone. Gone forever.

Where did we make such a mistake of seeking meaning where it cannot possibly be found? Humans acquired intelligence in our evolutionary history as a general purpose problem solver. Most other life forms solve problems instinctively, they respond to environmental stimuli very much like how a mousetrap springs on the rat. Humans however, despite having for most part the same desires, react to novel situations in a goal-directed manner. Which enables them to better cope with varied and varying environments.

Before the advent of civilization, although specific actions were as numerous as they are today, they play a more immediate role in achieving goals. In the past, we searched for food by hunting, or by gathering. The act of impaling an animal with a spear brings the immediate reward of sustenance. But today we manipulate numbers and symbols and produce squiggles and squoggles on paper, which gains us sheets of paper currency or even mere bits and bytes stored in some piece of silicon somewhere in a strange institution that supposedly holds our material wealth in various intangible forms. Then to satisfy our hunger, we give these ethereal representations of abstract wealth to someone else who does nothing but exchanges his ghostly wealth with someone else down there along the production chain to pass the food along! Of course, in the end, all these exchanges and specialization all brings us what we need and want. Life goes on as it has always done. Problems arise however, when we stop to think about it.

We hardly understand what is going on in our economic, social, and political systems. Our interaction with the world, and often even others, are mediated by layers upon layers of esoteric intermediate mechanisms. The satisfaction of our ancestral lives lies not only in the more direct relations of means to ends, the means themselves were significant. Someone who doesn’t like to run, but needs to do so to hunt, would not fare as well as someone who enjoys running. In fact, physical activity increases the level of dopamine in our brain, which elevates our mood, and gives us a sensation of pleasure. Our hunter-gatherer lifestyles provided for a harmonious interaction of means and ends, where there is no significant difference in the desirability of former or the latter. In the past, the journey was as good as the destination.

Civilization marked the transition to a lifestyle that brought to our familiarity the separation of Work and Play. Civilization destroyed the harmony of means and ends. Work is now required to meet those ends. The pleasure of meaningful physical exertion is thus relegated to Play, where upon further reflection, we realize serves no purpose. What is necessary is meaningless, what feels meaningful is purposeless. Is it any wonder why so many of our modern people feel lost?

Is civilization the problem here? Our proudest achievements arise when we deny ourselves the satisfaction of instant gratification and immediate sense of meaning, to create something of greater significance and value beyond the immediate time and place and people involved. The benefits we all gain from scientific research being just one such example. No, the problem is with us. Our failure to keep in mind the purpose of our endeavors. We still live to satisfy the cravings of human nature, through however longwinded a path. But are we thus merely like animals? Just a little smarter perhaps? But did we ask such questions on the ultimate purpose of our existence before there was civilization? Perhaps we didn’t have a higher awareness then? What is the ultimate purpose of you playing with your dolls and toy cars when you were a child?

The idea that life would be meaningless because it is ultimately for nothing is but a fallacy. In this ever complex world, it is even easier for various sources of religion and spirituality irresponsibly prescribe “meaning” from virtual-superrealities that even if existed, would not be relevant to our lives here anyway. With “understanding” and “purpose” satisfied, a believer feels as if life has “meaning”. Their lives however, do feel meaningful, despite what they believe in not being the thing that is actually giving their lives meaning. Yet it is only their beliefs that give them the satisfaction of meaning to their lives. Like how Prozac gives its user happiness, even though it is not really the Prozac, but its effect on the brain. Which, I’m sure we all agree, is better satisfied by experiencing a social life where there is love, family, friendship, understanding and all the other eternal human relationships that prevail through all time and place, culture and contexts.


1. example ripped from Chap.1 of The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain By Terrence W. Deacon

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

rabbit shadows

Holyoak and Thagard 1995,14.


Monday, February 05, 2007





Sunday, February 04, 2007

bronkiole and alveoli




zebras grazing


Saturday, February 03, 2007

lakeshore of impressionistic flamingos