16 July 2015

last one turn the lights out

my mother's mother's mother's ....185 millionth mother was a fish.
A good watch if you're trying to understand why there never was a first human. or chicken. or egg...
Speaking evolution is an old post about where saying mother's mother's mother for a 1000 years will get you.

Here's some comments from this post on facebook that I think are worth logging:

22 March 2015

time to grow up

Synthetic biology and nanotech are just some of the first technologies that will make catastrophic destructive ability available to more that just the very powerful.

So the survival path for our species becomes more than just restraining the powerful from causing catastrophic destruction. It becomes eliminating the conditions that cause pathological behaviour for the rest of 'us' too.

And I think this means eliminating injustice in total - as well as the more visible pathological behaviours from the powerful.

So our best hope of surviving, once our tech begins delivering immense destructive power to ever smaller and smaller groups, will be a world that ensures a thriving and well adjusted population as a whole. One with no injustice and poverty,  the best education for all, and a global population that is productively engaged.

Luckily, I think that there is nothing in our nature or the nature of the world we live in, that rules out even such an optimistic vision. And as for how we start building toward it, like with all change in complex systems, a good idea would be robust experimentation with little constraint.

So bring on as much experimentation along the lines of truly sustainable and just societies as possible...

24 February 2015

bob was right?

IFRs and some of the other newer nuclear fission technologies are probably safer now, taken as a whole, than continuing to build fossil fuel burning power stations.

Is that right? ...
The danger/safety of things at scale are shifty notions - using plastic packaging might prove orders of magnitude more harmful to global ecosystems than the worst possible nuclear power plant disaster.

Not so sure about this ... but I'm feeling that this might be another example of how bad we are at guessing about threat; like when we drive our children to school out of concern for their safety, but expose them to much more probable danger associated with the reduced exercise.

31 January 2015


It happened on our shift - this mass mistreatment of ourselves and the systems that came before us. Self-parasitism left unchecked, unchallenged. There can be little doubt that we will be seen as the neanderthal or homo-erectus of this past. Hardly human, because we were capable of behaving with so little humanity towards each other, and with so little respect for the complexity that birthed us that we could destroy it.
For dozens of generations, we let emergent power and self interest shape our will - teach our children, and we hardly noticed as it turned suicidal.

22 November 2014

trying not to fool ourselves ...

The scientific method is our best hack so far for building knowledge around some seemingly built-in and hard human problems:
1. We trust authority.

2. There is social reward for compliant thinking.

3. There is social reward for innovative thinking.

4. There is social reward for being believed to be right.

5. There is internal reward in believing yourself to be right.

6. Repetition and exposure to ideas in our formative years exaggerate the value of those ideas. 

7. We over-value our personal experience. The things we have experienced and have spent time thinking about influence our thinking.

8. Our beliefs influence our thinking - we over-value that which we already think to be true.

9. Our senses and intuitions restrict our thinking.
10. Profit, power and other reward affect our thinking and beliefs.
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself."
― Richard Feynman

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts"
― again, Richard Feynman

 “The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know."
― Robert M. Pirsig

06 September 2014

the non-physical and the copy function

The thing thats most unfortunate about treating ideas (and the digital) in the same way as we do things made out of atoms, is that you have to work against the best attribute of the non-physical: That they spread so effortlessly - as readily as anything can copy, mutate and spread them. Multiplying, growing and evolving, only as fast as the rate of copying ...
zero cost copying is potentially the predominant design feature.. 

14 May 2014

gods for science's sake

As opposed to the popular view that science followed long after religion - early science might very well have been key in the formation of our first myths and religions.
Think of the early gods and myths as narrative containers that would have helped with the storage and transmission of important survival information about complex natural patterns from one generation to the next, before there were other forms of storage and transmission such as the written word.
For example: most early cultures had myths and god-stories of one form or the other that would have helped us remember changing star positions and how they predicted the changing seasons - essential for agriculture.
Nothing new, but I liked the twist.

20 March 2014

let's just not go there...

Friends, New Yorkers, I have some good news and then I have some bad news.

The good news is that tonight you get a chance to see a bright star turning off in realtime, and then 14 odd seconds later, turning back on as an asteroid passes in front of it - something that apparently hasn't happened for a naked-eye star in all of recorded history - and in my thinking just goes to show how short our recorded history actually is (http://www.theatlanticcities.com/arts-and-lifestyle/2014/03/tonight-star-will-disappear-over-new-york-city/8678/)

The terribly bad news is that my deranged/delusional(?) personal boycott against travel to the USA has been ratcheted up and so I can state for the record that I will not be visiting any of you in the foreseeable future, nor most likely, ever in my lifetime.

Yes, I do realise that to my friends and possibly everyone else who lives there, this is just going to be seen as just more astoundingly good luck. And besides, most of you know that I'm never ever going to break out of a lifetime of habits and priorities that keeps me happily broke, and this 'boycott' therefore, completely theoretical.

But fuck it, I'm calling it a boycott anyway, because apart from temporarily vanishing stars, tonight is also the 11th anniversary of what must surely be up there for the crime of the century - the for-profit invasion and slaughter in Iraq which began tonight in 2003. ... And surely it wouldn't be so crazy to ask those that can, to desist from holidaying there while all this madness goes on, and on, and on, and on.