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A confession to facebook

A while ago, in contravention of facebook’s current policy (though I was too lazy to check every website’s policy on user accounts, and didn’t check facebook’s), I copied what I perceived others to be doing and created a second account in my own name for the purposes of segregating my friends from a troublesome troll with whom I wished to retain facebook contact, but did not wish him to be able to scrawl over the walls of my friends.

Later whilst battling insomnia, and in a fit of boredom, I created an account for my alter ego, Chalisque.  Facebook has detected that this is not a real account, and prevented login, and when prompted with the ‘This is really my name’ box, I could not in conscious deliberate action click the box and take the game one step further. Thus there is an account which has written one status update, posted two photos, friended one person and there is no way I can find to tell facebook about this, come clean and get the account removed.  Anyway, I’ve confessed here, publicly.  I apologise to facebook for any inconvenience.   For me that is the end of the matter unless facebook wishes to take it further.

All the best,

John (aka S. Chalisque, a name I’ve been using online since 2007)

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My Philosophy of Learning, part II

Consider an eight year old playing an old 1980s style platform game, learning where to go.  In effect he or she is learning a long abstract sequence of right and wrong: wrong move means lose a life, lose all your lives and you have to start again.  In many ways this is harder than old-school Victorian methods, but it is fun.  Fun, Joy and Creativity in the avoidance of Boredom are key mental qualities and emotions in this process: master these four and Boredom will become your friend, telling you when you are learning inefficiently.  You should be able to push yourself to boredom sometimes, find the threshold between mind-numbing and excruciating, stroke that threshold lovingly like a cats fur until it purrs, then back off.   This way you Joyfully find the limits of your Boredom.  Equally, work out how much Fun you really need, and when and when not to be Creative, and enJoy the practice of grooving in what works and grooving out what does not.  Of course there’s more to it than this, but this is about as far as I am prepared to go in a public blog.

My Philosophy of Learning, part 1

I consider myself a loving, caring person.  I am also quite strategic and sometimes obsessively efficient about things.  I summarise my philosophy of learning as the Loving Caring Disciplinarian Authoritarian Complete Total And Utter File System Checking Bar Steward school of learning.  Point one is that we do not learn to make mistakes, nor do we learn to tolerate making them in our learning.  This is not Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child, so much as Ditch the Rod, Don’t Spoil the Child, but for XYZ’s sake, make sure he or she gets the wibbly thing right.

When writing, set yourself goals.  The rules are that on your first mistake you write out the wrong word correctly; on the second, you write out the current line correctly, on the third you write out the current paragraph correctly.  At the fourth error, and be judicious about what you deem to be an error, you stop, tell yourself Game Over, and either take a break or start again.  Basically, learn to treat learning as you would the learning of an 8-bit bouncy platform computer game like Monty on the Run.

Second, in everything, Absolute Master of the Basics, and settle for nothing less.  Foundational mental structures need to be driven in to a depth of hundreds of thousands of good repetitions with a success rate of at least 95%.  Settle for nothing less.  Remember that Correct Practice Repeated Often Enough Makes Perfect, and that anything less does not.  Practice alone does not make perfect.

Sense, Nonsense and the Truth of Madness

Things make perfect sense when you’re mad.  Again and again, everything makes sense.  One could say that madness is typified by this: it is only when you return to reality that you lose touch with the sureness and certainty.  Of course, the perfect sense is apparent only to you: others, bound within real life, are too blinkered by their illusion of reality to see the truth.   For the truth is maddening, and only in madness do we truly see it.

Nonstandard Models of Reality and the joy of psuedo-real fiction

People assume things all the time.  We just do that, out of both necessity and habit.  We agree on working hypotheses by convention and then move on accordingly.  Science is a classic case: reasoning logically from empirical evidence and fair assumptions.  But what if at least one of those assumptions is false.  What then?

For example, your average neuroscientists probably assumes that mind is produced by brain function.  But what if we turn that upside down?  What if Mind is fundamental, and material reality is a product of Mind?  What if reality is a great consistency engine that answers questions… where reality eventually relented and gave the CERN scientists a blip so that they could have their Higgs boson, but that in fact it didn’t exist before, and reality was despairing with the clever questions scientific minds was asking of it, and just said ‘bugger it, here’s your Higgs boson, now just let me rewire a few laws of physics to keep everything balanced.’  You see, things could be very different from what science tells us without contradicting any empirical evidence observed to date.  This is not the place of science to investigate, but of fiction.  For in fiction we can have the thought experiment writ large, exploring possibilities in a model universe where, as the author, we have total knowledge and total power, yet in telling a story we are constrained as to what we can actually do.  Such is the fun of imagination.

My take on our distant origins

I have no issue that evolution happens in nature in the here and now. I have no problem that it happened in the near past, when the observations that gave birth to Darwin’s theory were made. I’ve no problem with physics as an explanation about how the material world of the here and now works. But I do have a problem with any attempt to scientifically explain our distant origins based on present evidence.

The problem is that to conclude that our origins are evolutionary, one  effectively presupposes:

1) That our distant past can be accurately inferred from present day evidence given a sufficient amount of it;
2) That there sufficient evidence is effectively available;
3) That we have found such a sufficient amount of evidence;
4) That an extrapolation a few million years or so outside of a data set that spans at most a small number of decades (maybe 20 or so decades) is valid, when in almost every case a straightforward extrapolation out of a data set that amounts to a few million percent of the width of the dataset results in garbage results.
5) That archeological and paleontological evidence dug up today was present in reality yesterday, the day before and all the days going back to the time said evidence came to rest where we found it. (I know this is pedantic, but self-generating dungeon examples from the early days of computer adventure games make me wonder whether or not reality in fact works the same way, generating history on demand from the requirements of consistency with already remembered experience… what I can’t find a way to do from available evidence is to rule out such possibilities and thus one cannot safely assume to the contrary.)

I just do not believe that our actual distant past is within the reach of science. The only thing that the predictions of our apparent past based on extrapolation from present and near-past data give us is a way to test the internal consistency of our current theories and their compatibility with present day evidence. Trying to say where we came from millions of years ago by scientific means is like sampling the trajectory of a plane over maybe a couple of metres of its flight and then trying to work out mathematically where said plane came from, concluding that since the plane hasn’t changed trajectory during those couple of metres over which it was sampled, it never has. The fact is that the distant past is inaccessible to us, since eventually if we try to logically infer what reality was like in the distant past we end up standing on a house of cards of unverifiable assumption after unverifiable assumption.

If you take the view that mind is fundamental, love and emotions of mind are fundamental and that matter is a by-product of experience, as a completely alternative metaphysical foundation to conventional science, then the account of a world created by the postulation of a mind such as that described in Genesis 1 can actually make sense. But whatever you do in terms of deducing what things were like anywhere but the here and now, you need to be careful as to what metaphysical foundations you are standing on.  And whatever you do, don’t blindly assume that the mass of bright minds of today have got it all right… remember how long it took our scientific forefathers to realise that phlogiston was a red herring…

Considering all alternatives

The scientific method is all about eliminating the impossible.  One, as we all should well know, does not prove things true, but merely shows that alternatives are inconsistent with available evidence.  Of course, consistency with evidence is not as easily understood or intuitive a notion as the simple one we call truth, yet it is all that the scientific method can deliver.

Mathematics has, in the past, been described as the study of all statements of the form ‘P implies Q’: one always argues about what necessarily follows from hypothetical assumptions (just look in any serious maths book and look to the theorems therein to see what I mean).

What cannot be denied, what can be said to be true, inasmuch as we can call anything true, is our experience.  It happens, it has happened, and to ourselves at least, we cannot deny that what appears to be happening now is indeed appearing to be happening now.  Thus this, and not a scientific or mathematical approach is central to metaphysical speculation about the nature of the reality we inhabit.

In entering into such speculation, we must be careful to consider all alternative views that could plausibly explain how things could have arrived at what we experience in the here and now.  Principles such as Occam’s razor are useful, but are a double edged sword if you are not careful, and can be applied in multiple ways.  For example, certain materialists would argue from Occam’s razor that ‘divine forces’ (forces external to the universe, or above and beyond what is readily observable in physics experiments) are unnecessary in theory and so should be ruled out on the grounds of simplicity.  Others could, however, argue based on the amount of information required to be kept track of in out reality in order to explain our experience (a much more consciousness centric viewpoint).   Here, one notes that, from a point of view of humans, stars are for the most part just points of light.  One certainly does not need to keep track of the spin direction of every electron flying around in every star to explain our experience, yet that is exactly what the materialist viewpoint would require us to accept.  Thus experience can be explained in terms of much less information if one accepts the non-reality of much of what appears to be, and hence the need for some kind of creative force that creates what is needed for our experience on demand and only retains what information is needed not to be found to be internally inconsistent.  This can be thought through in detail to arrive at an alternative metaphysical model to the material one, with interesting properties into which I shall not elaborate here.  The point is that there are alternatives to the dogma that some present as what ‘science has proven’.