Ranting

Discordia – Lesson One

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Here I am a Discordian.  Want to know what the religion is about, in as far as it is a religion?  Read The Book.

Alright, if you’re even slightly of a conventional turn of mind, or you like order, or you can’t jump around in thought, of you like linear reading, or any  number of other reasons to do with not like complete chaos, you might not make sense of it.

I’ve been a Discordian for a while in a very non-serious way, as is the case with many followers of Discordia, but coming to Huddersfield, an ethnically and religiously diverse community, (and a very happy one as far as I can see), bought the question of religion into sharp relief.  For the first time in many years I got asked what religion I was, because here it matters to people; you might be of any religion, any, but people think it is a suitable topic for conversation.

Alright, so much for my personal view of the local demographic.

I am a Discordian.  Discordians, as far as I can tell are extremely diverse in their beliefs, and might schism in their own heads about the religion.  I take it very seriously now, it has been a source of great wisdom, once penetrated, for me, and I have come to believe deeply in the lessons it gives us.   I am an unorthodox Discordian, because I take it seriously, as an experiment in finding wisdom; it has not failed me yet.

This then is lesson one.

Exclude no-one.

Let us examine why…

There is a card that Discordians sometimes give out, depending on their mood, penchant for chaos whatever…

The bearer of this card is a genuine and authorised Pope of Discordia

Pope of Discordia Card

Now what an extraordinary thing we have here; this card says that the bearer of the card is a Genuine and Authorised Pope.  We use the term pope to mean the head of a religion, a person with a direct connection God, or Goddess, or Gods, or Goddesses.  It should be clear that each bearer of this card is the head of their own religion, and that they touch the mind of God, (using a short cut term this time).

This is an early card, so it says

So please treat Him Right Good Forever

Later Cards amended the “Him” to “Him/Her” in recognition of the idea that the language clearly discriminates, something that any decent Discordian would not want, and we know this, because of the text on the bottom of the card.

Every man, woman and child on this Earth is a genuine and authorised pope.

In other words, irrespective of being given the card, everyone, absolutely everyone, is included.  I guess astronauts can take some time off if they are in space; but Discordia does not exclude anyone, for any reason.  Anyone can be, and is part of Discordia.  One could disown it, and that would be their choice, and as embracers of chaos, we, Discordian would praise it, because that would be righteous.

So are we forcing people to be part of the movement?  Certainly not, that would go against the very heart of Discordia.  That, in my view is why we have the Pope card; it recognises those we think have embraced, or might embrace, or be appalled by, the Discordian movement.  We do not exclude on any grounds.  Think about that.  Think about the idea that we do not exclude, think of the worst possible cases; heck we would not have excluded Hitler and his cronies.  We wouldn’t have excluded Ghengis Khan.  We don’t do that.  Rememer also, now that you’re a bit feeling a bit appalled that would not have excluded Mother Theresa, or Gandhi.  We are all humans beings, with a little prodding the worst of us might have been better, and the best of us might have been worse.  Chaos makes us all bedfellows in this respect.

This idea has a consequence.  It is important in my view.

The most powerful way to get people to hate, to destroy people, to kill, maim, commit genocide, rape for military purposes, (a foul deed, as if rape wasn’t bad enough), and generally be bad to large groups of other people is to invoke the idea of “other”.  they are not us, they are not in our tribe and thus less than human.  Reduced to the single underlying idea, this is reduction of empathy; it turns out for example that it is important in the training of soldier to desensitise them to battlefield killing…

I’m transcluding this from http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=536561

Originally Posted by Excerpt from “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”, Melanie Joy
Unnatural Born Killers

There is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating humans’ seemingly natural aversion to killing. Much of the research in this area has been conducted by the military; analysts have found that soldiers tend to intentionally fire over the enemy’s head, or not to fire at all.Studies of combat activity during the Napoleonic and Civil Wars revealed striking statistics. Given the ability of the men, their proximity to the enemy, and the capacity of their weapons, the number of enemy soldiers hit should have been well over 50 percent, resulting in a killing rate of hundreds per minute. Instead, however, the hit rate was only one o two per minute. And a similar phenomenon occurred during World War I: according to British Lieutenant George Roupell, the only way he could get his men to stop firing into the air was by drawing his sword, walking down the trench, “beating [them] on the backside and … telling them to fire low”.1 World War II fire rates were also remarkably low: historian and US Army Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall re-reported that, during battle, the firing rate was a mere 15 to 20 percent; in other words, out of every hundred men engaged in a fire-fight  only fifteen to twenty actually used their weapons. And in Vietnam, for every enemy soldiers killed, more than fifty thousand bullets were fired.2

What these studies have taught the military is that in order to get soldiers to shoot to kill, to actively participate in violence, the soldiers must be sufficiently desensitized to the act of killing. In other words, they have to learn not to feel — and not to feel responsible — for their actions. They must be taught to override their own conscience. yet these studies also demonstrate that even in the face of immediate danger, in situations of extreme violence, most people are averse to killing. In other words, as Marshall concludes, “the vast majority of combatants throughout history, at the moment of truth when they could and should kill the enemy, have found themselves to be ‘conscientious objectors'”.3

1: Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in war and Society. New York: Back Bay Books, 1996, 12.
2: Grossman, Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books, 2005.
3: Grossman, 15.

[Spellings corrected]

When empathy is removed, we can kill others, let them die.

I haver to say that the saddest fact of my life is that I avoid adverts about dying people in Africa, because if I empathise too much, nothing else will be important to me, and I will have to leave, because they die, and it is criminal how little the rest of the world does about it.  In Mexico Drug Lords run amok, and we do nothing; the world over Women are Raped, their rights repealed; we do nothing.  I cannot be empathic for everyone because I would have to do something.  Ultimately I would have have to rule the world with an iron fist, in surveillance state the like of which the world could not possibly imagine right now, and it can imagine much; because I want people to be good, but we value our freedoms too much, and so humans are free to make war, rape and pillage.  However much chaos I embrace, those are bad things, and yet I embrace chaos, because NO MATTER what I think, people are going to keep doing their thing.

Can I reject all those people?  No, because each and everyone is a Pope of Discordia, each and every one has a hope of redemption, each and every one is of me, and I of them, however reluctantly.

Lesson one.  Discordia is inclusive.

Notes on lesson one; sometimes inclusion is hard, if one cannot embrace it, it is because the human condition is hard, and chaotic.

On being a girl – What is womanhood?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

It wasn’t until I started this journey, no wait, maybe I have been on this journey for a long time…

Alright, it wasn’t until i started discussing it, no wait…

It wasn’t until I started to think about it.

Hang on I’m not sure what I have been thinking about now.

What is it to be a girl/woman?

I have been talking about this, obviously, a lot recently; but I have been talking about this a lot over the years, because I have worn skirts, in public, without bothering to make an excuse, for the last 20 odd years.  What is it that makes a woman?

Because recently this has become a particular issue, and I have developed the following theory.  Gender is fractal.  Ye gods that is a painfully complicated explanation.  For those of you who are going to look at the article and just say, “sorry, no”, fractals are self similar shapes, only similar not the same necessarily, which as you zoom in, (as the right hand part of the article shows), retain their complicated nature.  Think of a coastline, as you zoom in to it, you get more detail.

I maintain, right now, that as you zoom in to gender it retains its complexity.

In the majority of discussions about gender and gender issues in order to talk about things in broad terms, brush strokes of conversation, if you like, which ignores the complexity, because it is hard to get through the conversation.  Anyone can “zoom in” at any time,  usually by supplying a counter-example or simply being pedantic about definitions.  counter-examples are fine, pedantry is usually an indicator that my protagonist won’t allow another point of view other than their own, and I’m wasting my time talking.

You can always find a counter-example, I would maintain that you can always find a counter-example.  “Men are stronger than women“, but most Olympian women trained in strength are stronger than certainly any man on the street, and male Olympians trained in strength life more weight than the  women.  probably there is a woman out there in the world trained or not who might be stronger than any male Olympian, or maybe we just haven’t found the man who is stronger.  But then a “weak” woman lifts a car off her child who as been run over, a big car, bigger than any man can lift.  You see my point now I take it.

There are one or two areas that are fairly definite, if you want to have a baby you need a womb, (apart from any medical experiments), and you need to have sex with a man or at least get inseminated with material from a man, except of course recently they made a cell that one day could turn into a baby from the cells of two men.  Science confuses many things, but science is still good.

So this area is fairly definite, but anything else it seems is up for grabs.  There is always a counter example.

So what is it that makes me feel that I need to be more “womanly”.

I know that in conversation about emotions and about sexuality and sex and love, I am always told that I am womanly, but I never know what that means really.  I know what I feel, largely, but i don’t know why it makes me “womanly”

Returning to our fractal definition…

What we are as human beings, we are the sum of our experiences, the nature programmed into our brains, and the ghost in the machine, the thing that the scientists think drives us inside, our soul, our inner thinking, the true us if you like.

We live in this body, with our brain which many people think manifests a “soul”, (I do, but what the devil it is I couldn’t tell you), which is the ineffable part of us.  I can accept that, sometimes I think that we are more than the sum of our parts, that, for example, the theory of consciousness which says that “enough” of the differing parts of our brain has to be functioning in a certain mode, “awake” to be conscious, is right.  We have to have particular and sufficient parts of our brain to be “live” to be awake and aware.

Supposing that the same is true in my theory of gender as fractal?  Suppose that, what defines us in gender is not the gross physical body in which we are born, (by gross, i mean the larger entity, not that we are Urg, Gross), but the sum of our nature and nurture?  These influences might be reactionary, largely in my case I think, or they may be a consequence.

If we were to subscribe to a highly deficient point of view, for the sake of the model, that gender is masculine or feminine, (and do please try to remember that this for a model, not the full technicolour expression of life as it really is), then if we look at the border between the two and where to little dots go down, it is complex, not simple.  it is fine and the close we look the more complex it is, and the more likely to find that when we look our dots are not always on the side we thought when we looked at a large scale.  Hell some of our dots might straddle the border anyhow, and when we disassemble those dots we find that we are not m/f even in one area.

Nevertheless, larelgy we seem able to define ourselves as masculine or feminine, and I think  this is because we look at ourselves at a certain scale, we must, because we cannot get bogged down in detail all the time.  We  look at our dots in the male/female sides of our little mental maps and we are something.  (Look if you’re Gay or Bi or something else, you’re largely left out of this discussion for the simplicity of the model, not because I can’t cope, sorry, no derogation intended, life is way more complex that this model, just for the sake of being able to write about it).

We see on the face of the map of what we are and what we do that we are feminine/masculine.  There is no decision, largely, we just are.  I refer to my previous parenthesis again here, because we just are, there is no decide.

So maybe my map has changed, maybe I am looking at it on a different scale, maybe I have moved some dots, but I’m a girl now.  Just live with it.

Shy

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

http://members.optusnet.com.au/pennywyatt/Interests/FlandersSwann/Other/Other03.html

I got sent this last night.  Flanders and Swan are funny, but it did make me think.

I don’t make small talk, I’m not keen on large gatherings, (I prefer people in very small groups), new people scare me.  I’m shy.

Conversely, I like giving lectures and getting my students to interact, (I’m good at that), I like telling stories, I like running roleplay and letting my imagination run wild, and I wear skirts, even though, externally, I’m a man.  (Read this, skirts, it will piss you off or you will agree with it, I think).

Sometimes my words are on auto-pilot, because I don’t make small talk, I know damn well that I will ask people how they are more than once if they seem to expect me to say something and I have nothing to say, or if I feel they have not negotiated greetings properly, or if they have not given of themselves sufficiently for my inner dialogue to be satisfied.

I parenthesise a lot, because I have a pronounced stutter, if you know me, have you ever spotted it without being told?  You’re telling yourself you have right now I bet.  Be honest

All  conversations are circular to me, and none of my parenthetical remarks are irrelevant, I do not make, despite what you might think, non-sequiteurs, you are simply lagging behind the thread.  If you deliberately interrupt the flow of my thoughts, (not the same as interrupting the words, it’s a conversation after all), then you will have derailed me.  I know that people play this game, it’s not funny, it’s never been funny, it’s frustrating and annoying, it’s exactly the same as finishing sentences for someone with a pronounced stutter.  It’s hateful.  I have given up speaking to people who have played this “game”.  I cannot speak to them, they are not listening or participating in a conversation, they are waiting to derail me.  My inner voice knows when they are doing it, but I rarely listen to it, because if I did I would simply stop speaking, right there and then and leave.  I have done it once or twice, and people thought I was rude, and promptly entered self justification mode, (and in one case angry, aggressive and violent mode), when I left.

Conversations are circular and have an end.  You cannot rush me, or I will lose my thread.

People make me nervous, I don’t make small talk.  I like knowing who people are, I ask penetrating questions.

I’m open, people think I’m wide open, I’m not, I’m closed.  I realise that this is a dichotomy, live with it.

I’m a man, but I don’t feel like it, I feel like a girl inside, so people like Maggie Koerth-Baker, a good and brave woman, made me cry and cry because she had to make hard choices.

I’m shy, really shy, I would sometimes like to get to know someone other than my partner, (who is not at all possessive), intimately, deeply, physically, genuinely; but I am shy and when the opportunity has occasionally presented itself, I have demurred; sharing that, my body, my mind, it’s so personal, I’d be so vulnerable, so exposed.  And I don’t want to feel that I’m doing wrong by anyone, and society pressures us that being married and being faithful is the be all and end all of relationships, even though I know that is BullShit, because people go outside of that model of relationships A LOT, even when the face they put on to the world is otherwise.  I’m often berated or judged because I do not lie about these things.  I view the world as highly hypocritical because of this.

While I’m on this, what is wrong with people?  Sex is so much more than just putting the penis in the vagina (or where-ever) and wiggling it all about.  SO MUCH MORE, have you all lost the plot.  What about intellectual engagement, talking, playing, thinking, negotiating, and laughing?  That is why I’m always appalled at sex talk, I expect sex to involve a couple of hours at least, the very least.  Anything else is a just a stress relieving wank with your partner.  Legitimate, but not what I would call sex.

Anyway, because I know she will read this, I have a lovely time with my partner.

__________

Boys and Girls, well, Men and Women.

I like talking to women better than men, generally, it harder to get men to open up, generally.

A lot of my men friends won’t see this at all.  That is because they are open, able to be honest, non-homophobic, non-nervous, chaps who are confident about themselves in conversation, as befits the role-playing, lecturing, teaching crowd I hang out with…

(The pub we RP is also good actually, a few Council worker types hang  out there and just accept us all, so our culture is spreading).

I like talking to women because I can talk about feelings and emotions readily, it enables to me to analyse and understand the human condition and me.  I do understanding only by analysis and experience, I have no innate talent for it, just some very good tools.  Also I can see you thinking.

___________

I’m shy.

In order to be amongst people I pump myself up, mentally, internally, and lose some of my hyper-self-consciousness, the thing that would otherwise cripple me because I am too self aware.  I know people are going to say stupid, unaware, hurtful things to me because they think they are funny or because “He can take it, or he wouldn’t [wear skirts/lecture/be loud right now/tell that joke/do that thing — choose whatever the excuse for insensitivity/crassness is on this occasion]”

I have to prepare, I have to be ready to be amongst people, be mentally armoured, because out there it’s a dangerous world, and without my armour I might come back injured, again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

Friday, December 10th, 2010

I’m writing in the UK and I’m a UK citizen, I was born and bred here.  Any remarks I make have the full set of prejudices that I carry with me as a result of this, and must be considered in this light.

This said, racially I have some Asian background, but no culture because I was discouraged from having any.  I’m aware of it though and it has had influence previously in my life.

_____________________

We enjoy a certain amount of freedom in this country, and although we frown at the CCTV, the actions of the Police, (Protests, photography), we can roam the street with a certain amount of immunity from violence, (generally, there is always the criminal element), random arrests, spying, (but bear in mind what I said about CCTV) and the other trappings of rule that is an indication of an insecure culture and government.

I’m aware that people are fed up with our current government already, if the tweets and news I see are anything to go by, then they are very fed up indeed.  I think the Lib-Dems shall not see power again this century.  I think that people feel betrayed.

There is a time-line here.

In 2008 we had another financial crash.  Commentators doing the analysis called the recovery and rescue of the banks “Socialisation of the debt” and “Privatisation of the profit”.  The banks have us over a barrel, “the best will leave” if we are too punitive.  Banks will offshore their activities, more than they do already, and the government will lose billions in tax revenue.

That’s a problem, where does the power truly lie?  From the little scenario above, it seems that it lies in the hand of the banks who certainly do not answer to the will of the people.

But it seems from the unrest that the government do not actually answer to the will of the people.  There are many fine words about compromise, but they cut no ice when jobs are going, and we are approaching the one in ten of the famous song about hard times in the eighties.  People are angry, very angry.  Angry at the protests, angry at the cuts, angry at the damage, angry.

They have every right to be angry.  We should be angry.

We should be absolutely hopping mad.

Oh look there’s a student or hanger on throwing a half brick.

STOP

I started by saying that we enjoy freedoms in this country, and we do.  We can be dissidents, unlike say, oh I don’t know Liu Xiaobo, who today got Nobel Peace Prize, denounced by China as interference.  China needs to be put under pressure to free Liu Xiaobo, but it will not respond to it.  China was praised by Thorbjorn Jagland, according to the BBC, for “Lifting millions of people out of poverty.”

I’ve met plenty of Chinese Students, they are proud of their country.  I know people who have gone their and travelled freely, taught, lived, loved.  The everyday experience of the Chinese seems to be improving.  The government lets go of control slowly.

Liu Xiaobo should be freed, but rapid change in governmental policy is chaotic, sudden freedoms mean that one is free, as Heinlein once wrote, “free to starve too…” because economic changes come too rapidly for the government of the day to make sure that everyone eats, the trash is collected and that people are not too corrupt.  I invite the reader, and I’m going to apologise in advance to an entire country here, to compare and contrast Russia’s experience with China.  Forward to freedom, but not too fast, because otherwise there are no queues for bread or rice, because is no bread or rice.  Take a look, and I’m NOT apologising here, at North Korea.

The Chinese don’t riot not just because their government will oppress them, but because things are getting better.  Students have told me this.  They recognise that there are problems, but if you change everything all at once, things will go very wrong, and that there will  be unrest.  They have the assurance of a consistent government, even if we in the west think it is a bad government in many ways.  China creeps towards freedom, and Liu Xiaobo pays the price, because China needs activists, but the government will assert its power when it feels threatened, and thus he is in prison.  It is not a travesty of justice so much as a result of an individual losing the argument by might, the government’s might.  Free Liu Xiaobo.

We, here in the UK are changing things quickly, the new inexperienced government thinks that all the changes are necessary and good, and we do not.  We have good reason, people bandy about figures for how much tax is avoided on the part of big companies and rich individuals and I could do that too, but it is just sufficient in my view to say that rich individuals and big companies can afford big lawyers and fat fees and off-shoring to help them avoid tax, and I can tell you that in every contact I have had with the tax system weather as student, a company bod, a consultant or whatever, the same message comes, don’t pay tax if you don’t have to.

Fine, but now we say that there is a moral obligation for companies &c. to pay the tax they morally owe, because we subsidised the banks when they were in trouble.  Are they doing the same for us?   No.

No, they are not. They are in profit once more, and we are suffering the cuts.  And so student fees triple, the Lib-Dems guarantee that they are basically seen as liars, (I get that they are in coalition, but emotionally I feel the same, intellectually, more complex), and students are on the streets protesting.

I have seen interesting pictures around this, school girls protecting a police van, (well done those girls), random protesters protecting policemen under attack, and most clearly of all, someone saying “Wind the  window up !” to Prince Charles and Camilla.

Ah, now we arrive at it.

Remember the miner’s strike?  What happened?  It turned nasty, and new, and in my view pretty draconian laws were enacted to prevent secondary strike action, striking without some pretty severe rules on balloting, (think BA in the summer stopped several times by the courts, because that is what companies turn to now even for the smallest infraction of the ballot rules), and generally tore the heart of the unions, and I feel for the country.

France still strikes, rebels when the people get hacked off.  We laugh at them, then sympathise.

But oh, oh you protesters yesterday, you waste your time and effort, because we have already seen violence, and that is wrong.

Oh deface a building or a statue, these things can be repaired, though you risk offence if you deface, I dunno, the Cenotaph, when soldiers are still dying for Afghanistan, so doing that would be dumb right?

And say, attacking the Prince of Wales, who just happens to be Chancellor of the University of Wales, (as we are reminded in a typically flippant student council agenda), which includes Bangor, which I happen to be an Alumni thereof, and having participated a little bit in student democracy happen to that his Chancellorship is fully supported by the student body and has been for a long time.

I went off on one.

Point is, you dumb-asses, don’t attack the most “right on” eccentric royal and don’t attack the chancellor because now Cameron is going to rain a very large drum of Whoop ass on your heads and prosecutions will follow.  And then there will be new laws.

Stop cocking the protests up.  STOP.

Protest peacefully, give the police the run around, disobey, be dissident, but stop being violent, because you’re making a right mess of it if you do that, because the media does not then get the message across that we’re really really un-happy, it just shows a few more pictures of some arse-hole putting the boot in or swingin on the flag, or god forbid that damned silly still of Charles and Camilla looking horrified.

Stop being stupid, stop getting us in a situation in which the government is going  to punish us all by creating even more draconian and daft laws than the last one did.

And by the way, I’m no great lover of the police as the state enforcers, but these people have lives and families, and some of them even sympathise because they do not live in isolation from the rest of us.  Show them some respect by not beating the living daylights out of them and maybe they will not act out of fear either.

Yes, protest, disobey, be dissident, but do so peacefully; because unlike Liu Xiaobo, you don’t face being locked up just for being dissident.  Remember that you are essentially free.

_

Addendum, and Police, remember that we don’t need this sort of bollocks from you either.  It cuts both ways.

_

Corrected for grammar and spelling.

Rape case woman to appeal against jailing for withdrawing allegations (via The Guardian)

Monday, November 8th, 2010

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/08/rape-case-woman-appeal

I shall  be brief, as is this report.

It’s pretty clear that rape allegations should be taken seriously, both from the point of view of the victim, and the point of the accused.

It is entirely correct that such allegations should be taken seriously, sexual violence is wrong; false accusations of sexual violence are wrong.

(To my greater and greater chagrin, I have had to teach my boys that if they are alone with a woman they are putting themselves at risk; for a man to be alone with a woman who desires are thwarted is to be at risk, because an accusation of rape can colour a whole life.  This is not something I have personally had to bear, and I count my self fortunate, but if I do not alert my boys to the danger then I am being a careless father.  It should be clear that I’m trying also to teach them they must always behave impeccably.  I expect no less.)

What then is this judge thinking when he jails this woman for “falsely withdrawing” her claim?  Does he think this is justice?  Because I don’t.  Her former husband denies the claim, and money has been spent, fair enough, but these things are difficult!  This woman has clearly, IRRESPECTIVE of the truth of her claim, been traumatised.  She has divorced her husband, she maintains that she has been leaned on to withdraw the claim.  Where is the support?  She is being punished because the police CPS whatever cannot secure a safe conviction?  What a nonsense, what a twisted mess of priorities, what a sham of justice.

Whatever has happened to this woman, whatever the truth, it will take her years to get over, and if I were her, I would never have faith in the justice system in this country, and thus anywhere, again.

Here is the purpose of this blog entry, let us never forget this, let us never forget this travesty.  Let’s remember that a woman got sent to jail for this.

Robot Warriors

Monday, October 25th, 2010

This is going to be a reactionary post.  It may not be well informed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/oct/24/nasa-robots-on-patrol?CMP=EMCGT_251010&

So we have robots on patrol eh?  Well paintballs and pepper spray may be harmless, (though as I’m hypersensitive to flavour and smell it could quite literally kill, but I’m at the far end of the curve), but bullets are not, and it seems as though there will be a time shortly when robots are armed.  The Guardian says…

Before you scoff, however, take note that other, more fearsome robot soldiers are also on the way. Israel, for instance, is developing its own version, which goes by the name of the Guardium (no relation). This machine, which looks like an angry tractor, is being built by a company called G-Nius, and will also be highly autonomous, with similar features that enable it to move independently and shout at people. Indeed, it is reported to have been used on Israel’s borders already, and includes the potential for a live machine gun that can be programmed to return fire.

This means, to me, that there will be an autonomous thing on the surface of our world that we, we, have made, that has no moral value, no value at all except that of territory, that can kill people indiscriminately.

Why are we allowing this?

You see I know something about computing and Artificial Intelligence, (AI); one of the things I know is that the idea of intelligence combines many factors about environment, intent and evolution, and moral value.  This factors are not all present in practically any robot design today, there is only intent, and possibly environment.  On my undergraduate degree we were asked, once, to compare what we could do to what we should do.  For us it was in relation to security and banking; we saw that banking sites could be broken or invaded by many means, (This is why I don’t bank on the web, I do shop on the web), we could do that, should we do it?  No.  We should know about it so if we get a job in banking security, we know what the holes are.

This is known in the trade as being a “White Hat.”  There are “Grey Hats”, (In my secret heart I count myself among them, but I am not), who hack things and report them to firms because they like hacking things, but have no criminal intent, even though technically what they do is initally illegal.  They are more useful than the insiders working for companies directly, because they do things that are outside the system.  You can see that “Black Hats” do these things for gain, personal gain, or mischief, or any number of other reasons, but not for the benefit of others.

In this context it’s difficult to place these robots, are they programmed for the benefit of others?  Yes.  Should we be placing an autonomous or semi-autonomous device that recognises enough of its environment to kill humans in the wild, possibly with no intervention on the part of a human operator?  No.

No. No. No.

Some may ask, what is the difference between putting  soldier with a gun in the field to guard a stretch of fence and a robot doing the same thing?

Well for one thing, a soldier is human being with all the environmental, developmental, social and moral baggage that goes with it.  I know that soldiers often have to be, well, de-humanized, because it is a hard thing to kill someone, just to shoot someone is hard, that is why these situations are stressful, because being human is to be around humans, and to know and empathise with other humans, if we empathise too much we cannot take life, which is occasionally necessary, because there is conflict; but we have a duty to minimise this loss of life.  This stress, this reluctance of people to take life is why soldiers will often shoot away from a living target, (I can’t quote the study because I cannot find it, but this is not an academic article, so you will have to take it on faith.)

(You only have to look at a news article like this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10717185 to see that empathy and feeling fail sometimes.  The Isralis shoot at the Palestinians because the Palestinians shoot at the Isralis and so it continues, when I’m pretty sure that IN FACT most (99%) Palestinians and Isralis just want to get on with life, get the bins collected, do their shopping go to school, chat in a café without fear of getting shot or blown up.  There is a territory problem, don’t understand it, but surely there should be a better more peaceful way of figuring it out?  I know that people get very angry, anger leads to hate, hate leads to fear, and well, you get the idea…)

This autonomous machine has no morals, no values, no conscience, no empathy.  That’s fine if it’s just paintballs and pepper spray, but when it’s bullets, rubber or otherwise, then someone will die just because, well just because they were getting their football.

That isn’t acceptable to me.  We should all be rising up in protest, we should all be appalled, but maybe that won’t happen until this thing, having arrived with a whimper, goes bang, and someone dies at the hand of no-one but a machine.

_____________________

A little footnote.

Everything I have just said applies to landmines too.  The only difference is that they don’t move.

_____________

As usual I’m a bad proof reader, look out for missed negations.

Facebook

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I loathe FaceBook.

I suspended my account the other day after FB allowed people to sign other people up to groups without their consent.  FB already secure their information behind their Walled Garden, much to everyone’s chagrin; so advertisers and games get access to information but we do not.  This is breaking down, see for example this article: http://www.downloadsquad.com/2010/03/05/yahoo-can-now-import-your-facebook-contacts/ which is reproduced in other places on the web.

I actually did this, but contact management is a complex issue, and anyway, what I am I going to do, email 300 people?  No.

No, I’m not going to send out mass emails, (even BCC’d which it seems many people don’t know how to do, even companies), every time I want to say something.

Not many of my friends have me on Twitter, though a few do, and they don’t tweet often those that do…

Though I should say that most of my Twitter contacts are people I know or know through friends and I love to hear from them, they are web friends in a way that I have previously avoided.

(Let me just say why, as an aside.  I invariably have a female avatar or representation, see further back in my blog history for why; and I find that on more than one occassion in the past, when we were all a bit more anonymous on the web; after finding out that I’m a guy, some fundamentalist religious type has told me that I’m a sinner or some such.  This usually follows an ASL request which I always deny.  [ASL, Age Sex Location].  Often abused because I wouldn’t ever get into that, in particular I recognised that anyone wanting that before talking to me on the web was looking for a girlfriend; I’m not interested in that, and it used to annoy them that I recognised it and said so…  anyway).

Anyway point is that I’m not going to send a massive pile of emails every time I want to say something, I’m a bit crap at blog entries, though @iskandarv seems to think I should carry on, (respect to you my friend), and a lot of the people I know are not on Twitter.

FaceBook has become the killer app of social networking.

Now, Rory Cellan Jones seems to think that we should be owning our space because the mass of data that is collected about us even when we’re not on a given network, is so massive that any network knows something about us, and FaceBook is  the primary example of this as demonstrated in this article:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11527201 How FaceBook knows your friends.

FB already knows everything about me.  If I’m not participating I’m not controlling my space.

I have the AniaKovas identity all over the web for precisely this reason.  I’ve even started a blog for it, mostly to do with my online MMORPG, (see http://www.perfectworld.com) which I have not done much lately because I have been, well, finishing my Dissertation and doing webby stuff.  And the Star Map.

_____________

BIG ASIDE

Dun duh Daaaahhhhhhhhhh!

Anyone on Twitter already knows this, but I can’t resist, well blowing my own trumpet.

I got a Distinction overall in my Masters, with a Prize too, for which reason I’m still not clear about, worth about £800, (I’d rather actually have the £800, but the Kudos is important too, more important actually).

My Dissertation wasn’t that great actually; feedback is that it was innovative and sound right up until the conclusion where I trailed off a bit…

This was my analysis too. There are reasons for it to do with framing the conclusion in the right terms.  I wasn’t completing a report, (which was how I actually framed it).

Ah, there were a few practical issues as well, normally I get #lovelyGF to help me proof read, because like nearly everyone I’m a bad proof reader of my own work; but she had to be away at a conference that week for two days, and then later at a tutorial, (I still can’t remember now if she was giving it or receiving it); so I had kids and house and blah blah blah…

Oh well, these things are sent to try us.

Point is, I can always do better, and expect to do so because I have been around the block a few times, and know a couple of things.  I’m an indifferent student really, but I get better the higher up I am.

(So I left school with just three “O” levels because I wasn’t interested in anything else, went to college later on to do Five “A”levels AND work, but had to give it up in the second year because it wouldn’t all fit, failed Physics, Maths and Computing at Liverpool because being amongst people after two years in the sticks was just too exciting, and I’m used to breezing what I DO bother to study.  And undergraduate physics is BORING.  I grew up with book on Quantum Physics and have watched the changed as they have happened.  I can no longer pretend to understand all of it, String Theory did my head in).

I work hard at programming, because I never learned Logic until I went Bangor University and got a Computer Science degree, and realised that the thing missing from my life, and practically everyone else’s life was a good grasp of mathematical fundamentals; not arithmetic, which you are either good at or not, MATHEMATICS.  (Trouble is, I can do arithmetic, but the fundamental properties of numbers are not my friend, so I have to work hard at mathematics; but it makes computing so much easier, once you get #lovelyGF to understand that division is a sin.  Fractions are not).

Point is, the more educated I get, the better I do at it.

_____________________________

Where was I?

I am Ania and Friday.  Some people have even called me Ania to my face, but that’s really missing the point; it’s not offensive, but in life, when I am face to face, I cannot be her, because I have a face like John Prescott on dope.  It’s naturally miserable unless I am actively smiling or Laughing, which I do a fair bit unless I am programming.  I say “Girl Inside”, because she is an inner me.

Back to FaceBook.

Thing is, this practice I make, of owning my online space, I have abandoned it if I am not there.

The really important reason, though, the overriding reason, the one which drives me back despite my criticism and constant abuse of FB, and I do swear about it a lot, is that my friends are on it, and I miss being able to talk to them and know what they are doing, even when they are not talking directly to me.

I miss my fwiends.

So I’m going to sign in again.

So much for principles.

Drug User

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Hi my name’s Friday, and I, like literally billions of people in the world, am a drug user  I’m still using, socially and on my own; my girlfriend funds my habit, because I’m a student, (hoping for a job soon), I do it daily, and I feel bad without it, and yeah, sudden withdrawal is bad, real bad.  Strangely, my drug isn’t illegal, and it’s available in much higher concentrations that come in pill form, I don’t use those.

<sigh> I might as well drop the other shoe now, my drug of choice is Caffiene, yes, I’m an inveterate coffee drinker.  I’m dropping the other shoe here because this is after all a public blog and I don’t really want anyone to think I’m taking drugs as such.

Thing is, I’ve been a caffeine user for a long time now, and I say this, rather than “Coffee Drinker” because I do actually use caffeine.  And we were explaining things about drugs to the kids last night, and it got me thinking again about how I use caffeine.

These days I’m not up without a cup of coffee, made inevitably in a French Press, I don’t do instant any more, and not, without being indelicate, functional, (people over 40 will know what I mean), without that second cup.  It gives the old body a kick start in the morning. It also means that I have to be up and doing two hours before work.  I need that caffeine start, because as a long term user I’m always one under, I need my fix to function.  I am an addict.  The difference between caffeine and hard drugs is that I can , with sufficient provocation and mindfulness, regulate what I’m doing.

Effects

Oh you don’t want to be down the pub with me after six pints of Cola.  It’s great amongst students, but while I can still calm down and get in the car,  in company I am terribly nervous and excited; and the bad thing is that while I am aware of it, I can’t stop it.  I will say the most extraordinary things, (driven by my testing of comedy on my student and ex-student friends), simply because I’m hyped on caffeine.  (This is why I often drink fruit juice at the pub.  I don’t do alcohol at the pub generally because I’m driving.  Drive OR alcohol, never the twain shall meet)

That’s alright I suppose, it’s not too bad, but there are darker place you can go on caffeine.  I have Type 2 Diabetes, so balance in eating and general diet is very important for me, I’ll probably write  another rant sometime about how everyone is an instant expert of Diabetes, they;re not, but not for now.  As I was saying, diet, balance, control over that is happening to my body is very important; caffeine often takes that away, as an appetite suppressant it makes me not want to eat, but since I have a very sweet tooth, I have sweetners in it, which drive hunger.  I should give them up.

That’s now.  Most days I drink tea, because I’m rarely more than half an hour without a drink, after the early morning kick start, because I don’t actually want to be hyped up all day.

One reason is that once I’m like that, highly caffeinated all day,  I fall off the plank I’ve been walking all day and crash when I stop for more than an hour.  Really crash, falling asleep now crash.  It can take a whole day to recover from that.  Finishing my Master’s Dissertation was like that.  Still getting over it.

…and you can’t stop caffeine cold turkey if you’re vulnerable to it.

To show this I have to tell you that my dealer, when I was young, was my Gran.  I’ve been doing Caffeine since I was five.  She had some Camp Coffee with Chicory, and I liked it with a lots of sugar, so, since I was “favoured grandchild”, (don’t get me started in on how psychologically unhealthy that was), I got some every day, three or four times  a day.  As a child who was already very particular about texture, it actually meant that I ate practically nothing, but was completely hyper all the time.  I read a lot, I mean a lot, so I read fast!  Three of four books a day for years, and then out cycling and usual sibling rivalry.

I was also, very volatile.  For another time.

By the time I was eleven I was doing ten cups of Coffee a day.  By the time I was fourteen I was doing 15 to 20; I hadn’t slept at all since I was seven, though I had to rest every night for two or three hours at least.

At fourteen I was in the army cadets, and had been since I was eleven and went to a real army camp for two weeks up at Otterburn.  It was a rare privilege.  At this time I didn’t touch tea, but at this camp there was no coffee at all, as far I recall, at least I wasn’t getting any.  I was going cold turkey whether I like it or not.

At the end of the first week, I woke up on the Saturday, and in my little glowy withdrawal world, I couldn’t see anyone, anyone at all.  I couldn’t hear or see any living thing.  So I got dressed, and went for a look around.  No-one.

I heard a truck, I was in the middle of the road, so I had to dodge out the way pretty quick, as the driverless truck nearly mowed me down.  Scary.  Scary? I was terrified!

I looked around some more, and strange winds grabbed at me and buffeted me around, there was moaning and shouting as if from very far away, but I could see no-one.  I went to get some binoculars, and had to kick a locked door in to look around, but I put them back afterwards, (I lose things easily by just “putting them down” and then I’ve “had them in my hand right here and now it’s lost”).

I got some food from the NAAFI, though I had to dodge pans and stuff that were floating around.  Some landrovers nearly mowed me down, I learned to avoid the road, and in particular seemed to follow me, but I disabled it my taking the keys out, those strange winds whistled through the vehicle and buffeted me again.

…and then, most strange and scary, the winds caught me up and three me down on a bunk and tied me down so I could move.  I can’t even describe how scary that was, so I’m not going to try.

Eventually, because there nothing else to be done, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there were LOTS of people around, asking very peculiar questions indeed. It seems I had spent the entire previous day hallucinating, hallucinating that all the people were gone.

Hi, my name is Friday.  I’m a caffeine user; but these days, I try to keep it down to a couple of cups in the morning to kick start me, and maybe one in the afternoon if I’m really tired, or on the road.

I know you’re all out there, I see you; and I’m trying to keep it that way.

Cold Callers and the drawing pin.

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Years ago when I lived in Wales, my office window used to look out at the street, in the evenings I use to keep the curtains closed even before sunset because the filthy daylight streamed in an interfered with my coding by inducing bright reflections on the screen; but during the day, since my office was north facing, I could leave the curtain open, look out to the sea, and the street below.

This post is inspired by a tweet from @wombat37.

So this one day, I saw a succession of callers going from house to house, and being turned away, but I answered the door anyway, and listened to the blonde girl in the red blazer, with the word “Virgin” on the, well, breast of the jacket.  After a moment I realised that I was not actually listening too her at all, but thinking about my code, because losing the thread is a devil, lose the logic and you can’t write the code.

Anyway, so really I was was just looking at her because she was eye candy, and I really feel quite uncomfortable doing that, because I don’t like to demean people, who are complex; but also and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’ll say it again because it’s important, I was coding.  So I said as politely as I could that really wasn’t listening because, because I was coding and could she please go away.  Then I looked out the door and saw the next six working their way around the neighbours.

Well, I couldn’t be disturbed again, and they certainly weren’t the Virgin girl, so I really didn’t want to be disturbed again, so I quickly printed a note, a grumpy note in large letters that could be seen from the road,

“Go away, I’m programming”.

Thing I couldn’t find a drawing pin, and I was getting a bit impatient by this time, because I was about to lose the thread, and I was working on something for a client, so by definition, they wanted it yesterday.  So I got the first convenient thing I could lay my hands on and stuck the note on the door with that.

Everyone else sort of paused at the gate, looked nervous and moved on.

“Good note,” I thought, “well done Friday.”

It was only when I went to get the kids from school that I realised that I had stuck the note to the door using a convenient very large carving knife that I had come across in the kitchen.  You can imagine that this led me to question the efficacy of my note.  I took it out before I took the kids home, I thought probably the boys would ask why, and it might be difficult to explain what had seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.

Still, we got a lot less cold callers after that.  I bought a packet of drawing pins though.

Covering up

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The terrorists have won.

Why do I say this terrible thing?

Because Belgium have passed the law banning the Burka.

Now, there are a few things to be examined here.  First of all, my primary new source is the BBC, I’m trying to convert to Euronews gradually, as I think they are less US centric, and their habit of providing video without commentary is a good one, though also capable of biasing news.

The article from the BBC can be found here:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8652861.stm

and the Euronews take on it here:- http://www.euronews.net/2010/04/30/belgian-parliament-votes-to-ban-burqa/

Secondly, the ban seems to be aimed at the uncovering of identity,

(BBC) The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.

Thirdly, let’s deal with my own prejudices.  I don’t like it.  I hate seeing people concealed and separated from society, as if I’m a danger to them, or they are to me; or as if my leering eye will lead them astray because I have no control over myself, (see my entry on femininism, probably just below).  I hate the idea that some control or old convention leads people to conceal themselves from the rest of society.  I like my western values, such as they are; this level of conservatism is not for me and I don’t like it.

Let’s put that aside now.

The counter argument is of course, that people can choose in our plural society to follow their religion freely, and in our society, (in case you’re reading this internationally, I’m a Brit and I have all the stereotypes and prejudices fully installed, for which I apologise; I try to apply my intellect to things to try and  counter the enormous drag factor of such thinking as “Channel fog bound, continent cut off.”), can choose in our plural society to follow their religion, personal practices etc. as long as no-one is harmed.  It’s a value, and we should remember that.  I value that more than I value my personal prejudices.

So what is going on here?

From my point of view there are two difficulties in this move, (oh and by the way you should also see this:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8658017.stm 500 Euros, appalling), two difficulties I was saying.

One is that the backlash, which let’s face it we knew was coming, is that women are now being victimized as practicers of their religion.  I know of no religion that requires men to cover up as women are required to do, and therefore the victims of these laws will all be women, some of whom are going to feel terribly vulnerable as result of these laws.  And couching them in terms of “not having a hidden identity” just makes it a lame excuse.

And it’s lame, it’s lame because while we have no general need to conceal our identity, the law enshrines a fear, a fear that anonymity is dangerous, that it is not allowed, because be we have no right to privacy in public places.  It enshrines an idea, that we need to be afraid of people we cannot immediately police, (through CCTV etc.), because we need to be afraid.

It victimises women in particular, Muslims in a more general case, and in the broadest interpretation, it makes us all subject to government scrutiny and control, (or at least, inspection), because we might be terrorists.

Our, and by our in this case I mean Europe, laws have become so much more draconian since 9/11, 7/7 and so many other dates that are sadly meaningful in the track of bombings and other abuses that people have practised upon the world.

These laws, however do nothing to improve safety, but do everything to alienate and stigmatise a tiny minority of Europe’s population, and a majority of the population in the Middle East, people who must be looking on and shaking their heads in wonder at our “liberal” society.

I don’t like the Burka, but I don’t  like suppression, distrust, suspicion and racism a whole lot more.  MY values are that we remember that not everyone on this earth lives the same way, that we respect other cultures and value them, because humans need that “hybrid-vigour” that comes from having cultural values that differ.  As a Discordian, I don’t mind if people disagree, in fact, I rather value that; and I don’t want people to have to leave their culture/religion behind just because they are living near me, because eventually I will learn different points of view, and history that I know nothing of, and philosophy that is beyond value.  Let there be a rainbow, and let it be the colours of all the humans.

As usual, if anything comes across real right wing, then I left out some negation somewhere.