11 November 2013, 8:53 UTCReductionism meets Buddhism
Mindfulness techniques are what you get when you do science to Buddhism. Mindfulness strips away the moral and spiritual content of a religious practice, in the process neatly cutting a series of concepts in two. Not only is the functioning of the mind made clearer, the non-scientific remainder can also be assessed with greater clarity.
All religions seems to have some sort of meditative component, so this knife can be applied rather more widely than just to Buddhism.
|Concept||Amoral component||Moral/spiritual component|
|Meditation||Mindfulness. Metacognition.||Prayer addressed to gods. Connection to higher level of reality. Development of qualities such as compassion.|
|Non-attachment||Non-reacting awareness of sensations. Rendering the tendency for one thought to follow from another a conscious choice, ability to drop into a mental debug-mode.||The rejection of worldly needs and love. Destruction of the self. Forgiveness, turning the other cheek.|
|Peace||Management of the stress response. A quiet mind.||Submission to God or Nature, blaming victims (possibly oneself) for misfortune.|
So: You get the amoral column without having to take the moral column with it. You can find peace without rejecting justice. You can sharpen your mind with meditation while still being able to hate and kill. You can control the flow of your mind while still being able to love.
What wouldn't someone do to keep their hard found peace of mind, not knowing that it doesn't need to come with baggage attached, and doesn't that explain a lot?
9 November 2013, 1:36 UTCDemakein 0.12: more example scripts
I've just released Demakein version 0.12. This release includes some example scripts which will hopefully make it easier to get started creating your own instruments. These scripts are for instruments that are simple enough to make by hand, if you don't own a 3D printer.
25 October 2013, 1:01 UTCWe haven't won, we just got enough power to censor them
Not saying that's a bad thing. Censorship prevents coordination, and it's much easier to win over individuals than a coordinated resistance. Censorship has saved a lot of lives, and let a lot more people live fulfilling lives. But it's not over.
Censorship isn't perfect. There are always coded messages in popular culture, and now there's the internet for coordinated action.
Google wants to destroy anonymity. Lots of governments want that too. It would work if they could do it, at the price of everything we believe in, and anyway it can't be done. The Tor Onion Router demonstrates this. The more traffic in the network, the more that can be hidden, and the trend is for more and more traffic.
Historically our beliefs are extraordinarily weird. The dangerous thing about censorship is that we've convinced ourselves that those who disagree with us are merely crazy and stupid and a tiny minority, and that ours is the only possible way of thinking.
Except we've seen enough times a public contradiction of our beliefs be popular by an apparently sane and intelligent public, and our reaction is ugly. We want to physically harm that public speaker, like they're somehow making people believe things they don't want to believe. If they'd just be quiet everything would be fine.
28 July 2013, 5:45 UTCMental clock games
Could a brain be characterized as an organ for coordinating complex cyclic motions, that turned out to have some other uses as well?
1 2 3 4
My mind seems to have a natural clock rate of about half a second, perhaps a little longer. I suspect this is somewhat slower than average. When I walk, I tend to plod. If I try to speed up it takes mental effort, is unsustainable, out of spoons error.
What happens within that tick of the clock is consciously experienced as simultaneous, a lie assembled as a good enough representation of what the brain actually did.
Maybe if I can't tick along faster, I can take, say, three steps per tick
1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a
suppress the mental verbalization, so there's merely a more complex motor program
1 2 3 4
that runs just a little slower than normal.
1 2 3 4
How's that? I sped up and slowed down at the same time.
Except, it's not quite working. How about I add breathing?
1 . . 2 . . 3 . . 4 . .
Ooout Innnn Ooout Innnn
Breathing, like the hypothetical consciousness clock, is somewhat under conscious control, but not the extent that you can ever decide to stop.
For stringing together sequences of more complex actions, this becomes a combinatoric motor skill acquisition exercise. The mental moment becomes the sequence. If decisions need to be made within the moment it becomes a decision tree, again experienced as simultaneity. Failure modes: the illusion of making choices is stretched to breaking point, mistakes may be perceived as deliberate decisions, good luck may be perceived as having made decisions based on the future, potential to undermine personal narrative ("I am a person who ...").
See also: n-back games
See also: Peter Watt's vampires in "Blindsight", which live in an eternal present moment. I don't think this is possible. As consciousness seems to bound up in the ticking of the clock, I'm fine with its absence resulting in an absence of consciousness. However a moment is a unit that's planned and practised for, there's no adaptation within it except practised contingent reactions, and there's too many things that can happen over an extended period.
11 June 2013, 9:46 UTCHumanity has declined
Two interesting recent anime:
"Humanity has declined" is the story of a remnant human population in a post-singular world, and their interactions with the New Humans, which are small fairy-like creatures with more or less incomprehensible motivations. This is a tale haphazardly told in the light-novel form. Humanity's decline is actually kind of a success, humanity no longer pollutes its environment, no longer kills animals. Humanity is not organised enough to engage in self-glorification (there's an ongoing plan to put up some sort of monument to humanity, which never goes anywhere). Pioneer and Voyager have been returned to earth, the aspiration they represented has no meaning now.
"Gargantia on the verdurous planet" is the story of a soldier from an endless galactic war who finds himself stranded on a backwater planet in the company of a more primitive people. Again we have humanity in declined form, here living on a large oceangoing habitat. Similar to the island in Greg Egan's "Distress" and the floating city in China Miéville's "The Scar", this is an anarcholibertariosocialist utopia in physical form. Again we encounter humanity that has declined and yet advanced or even advanced by declining.
I'm not aware of any precedents for this in Japanese fiction, as far as I know it's new.
1 June 2013, 1:40 UTCProgrammer nature
The story of the scorpion and the frog:
The Scorpion and the Frog is a fable about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion explains that this is simply its nature.
I am a programmer. I destroy jobs. It's my nature. Not just terrible office jobs. Nice jobs, craft jobs like making musical instruments, *bam* gone. Because I wanted to have some fun. Because my ground state of being is to make tools that replace people.
Bruce Sterling is advocating that this bubble we try not to give up all the wealth to investors, to try to keep some of it for ourselves. Winners of the last bubble such as Bill Gates are doing philanthropic work. I think this is half right, but it's still within a system that is broken. I think we have an obligation to fix the system that we have become a disruptive, destructive element of. Not just to disrupt within the system, neither to just disrupt the system, but we should also try to make something a little bit better.
Unconditional basic rent would be one possible solution. With unconditional rent, a craftsperson would still be able to take joy in the craft that I destroyed as a business. Would it destroy some people, not having to work? A lot of people have been raised to believe that. How do we transition? How do we frame it? What does it look like from the ground?
16 April 2013, 9:55 UTCAcetone vapour [detonation] chamber for ABS plastic smoothing
There's been some recent discussion of smoothing 3D printed ABS plastic objects using acetone vapour, eg on the RepRap blog. The general approach seems to be to heat the acetone gently. I think this is a mistake, acetone already readily evaporates at room temperature. The real problem is to apply the acetone uniformly to the model.
To this end, I've constructed a simple enclosure containing a fan mounted on the side wall to circulate vapour within the chamber. The lid has a tiny hole in it to release pressure (otherwise the lid pops off). The printed pieces sit on a small metal stand so as not to be bathed in the liquid acetone at the bottom of the chamber.
The alert amongst you will note this is a great way to create an explosive fuel-air mixture. It hasn't exploded on me... yet. Hopefully, if it does explode, the lid will pop off and direct most of the blast upwards.
The recorder on the left is untreated, while the recorder on the right has had half an hour in the chamber. Shiny!
10 April 2013, 8:06 UTCDigital devices for the punk
Analogue glitches well. There's a great deal of nostalgia for it. Steampunk. Our digital devices do not glitch nearly so well. Usually, they either work or don't. The noise level on a channel determines how much data can be pushed through it, the Shannon limit. If that is exceeded, the channel fails entirely. Basic information theory. Except, it doesn't need to be this way. We can imagine digital devices of the same complexity to the ones we have today that don't behave like this. Take digital TV. If the signal is good enough it's perfect, otherwise it's unwatchable. Clearly in reality different receivers have different noise levels. The current design ignores this. It is therefore a poor design. There's nothing stopping us boosting the redundancy of some part of the signal, and reducing the redundancy of another part, so every receiver can at least get part of the signal.
Lossy coding is easy, and receivers can continue to improve after the protocol is specified. A smart receiver could take a degraded signal and make a best guess, degrade toward a cartoon, hallucinate to an acceptable degree. In other words, glitch. Like analogue, only far more wonderfully.
5 March 2013, 1:39 UTCAlternative architecture: Giant roundhouse
Modern architecture is built on squares and rectangles. Variations on the courtyard. Spaces in which people face each other full on.
Can we imagine an alternative line of architectural development from the roundhouse? What would such a building look like once it got large. Low, cosy, like a bowl haircut of a building, a central fire, but vast. Elements of a stadium or a theater or parliament but I'm also imagining something sunk into the earth, bound to the earth and anchored to it with solid pillars. The entrance low and wide, one proceeds slightly downwards to the building's core chamber. Acoustics of thatch, not echoing, defined spaces but less need for walls if the surfaces are acoustically absorbing (but a larger meeting space might need more reflective surfaces). Permeable, a breathing building, adaptive to seasons.
15 February 2013, 13:15 UTCRockstar job market
In the future, the job market is going to look a lot like Valve Software. A company of rock stars, no defined roles, you are either adding value or not. It's not for everyone. It's not for most people. Valve isn't a charity, it doesn't owe people a job.
We've come a long way on the idea that everyone is owed a job, that if they're good enough you deserve a life-long career. We've rigged and rigged the system to keep it going, but it's still falling apart. Capitalism outgrew and swatted aside the invisible hand of nationalism.
So, take that seriously. Let capitalism do the thing that it does well, and let government and volunteer organizations do the other things that need doing. Your employer doesn't owe you a job, a retirement plan, healthcare, a fullfilling experience, a place to get away from the kids, people to boss around. Your academic study does not entitle you to job fullfillment or an academic position. Society perhaps should give you a universal wage, and encourage you to get a hobby. By all means pursue your interests. Publish in a journal! Well, blog. Maybe one day, for a while, you'll have that particular mix of skills that is actually useful, and you'll get a job for a while. Chances are heavily against it. Or maybe you'll help get someone started who is actually useful, teach them the rudiments of a skill they'll soon excel you in. In the meantime, be happy, make a few other people happy, and try not to get in the way of people with real jobs.
This is the good outcome, the one in which most people don't die.
13 February 2013, 8:04 UTCClostridium perfringens story
12 February 2013, 0:23 UTCThings that Professor Richard Dawkins will never say
23 November 2012, 3:20 UTCMixture-model of politics, with application to climate change
4 November 2012, 22:56 UTCPeer learning and gender discrimination
28 October 2012, 20:30 UTCDemakein 0.2 release: shawms
24 October 2012, 6:36 UTCGains and trade-ups
20 October 2012, 22:41 UTCThe technological woods
17 October 2012, 9:10 UTCCan't see the wood for the trees
2 October 2012, 11:59 UTCAnnouncing Demakein
23 September 2012, 0:13 UTCTalking to C++ for the incurably lazy
21 August 2012, 8:12 UTCMilling flutes
25 July 2012, 11:24 UTCPercarity and wealth inequality
8 July 2012, 0:28 UTCLessons learned
4 July 2012, 12:11 UTCReflections on "Revolutions in Reverse"
29 June 2012, 3:21 UTCNotes on Boswell's "Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe"
28 May 2012, 11:24 UTCFlute on thingiverse
25 May 2012, 3:51 UTCArchitectural patterns that would also make great band names
16 May 2012, 0:07 UTCClothing rule of thumb
30 April 2012, 0:02 UTCDomain specific python
21 April 2012, 7:46 UTCLords and ladies