All posts for the month November, 2004

In an effort to reduce and control the level of spam and junk mail, I’ve activated my newish Google Mail account and changed details on my contact page. Which also gives me a web-mail capability I didn’t previously have.

Be useful if people could start using the new address.

Talking of spam, why not go on the offensive ? “Make Love not Spam” campaign.[Lycos via BBC]

Update 2nd Dec [via BBC] The Lycos anti-spam screensaver is so successful it may constitute a denial of service attack on the spamming organisations. Well done Lycos.

And finally, update 6th Dec [via BBC] Lycos withdraw under criticism for fighting spam with spam.

Listened to Hans Blix speaking last night at the faculty of law in Cambridge. Fairly dry matter-of-fact talk on the history and practice of weapons inspections & treaty verifications as an international law subject, from Victorian exploding bullets and dum-dums, via nuclear test bans and proliferation treaties to … well you know what.

In summary “It is just not possible to prove a negative. You cannot verify intentions. A doctor cannot give you a clean bill of future health. Uncertainty, who gets the benefit of any doubt, is entirely discretionary and political. It’s all If this is …, then that may … So-called facts always need critical thinking to interpret. Few, if any, hard facts.”

What, with Kyoto and world trade treaties, as well as security threats, there will be no shortage of verification work for international lawyers in the foreseeable future. Blix is a Cambridge (Selwyn ?) old-boy, his original tutor was in the audience.

Alex has recordings of all three lectures here [link dead Alex].

[Post Note 27 Aug 2013 – at the time it was Saddam’s “WMD” in Iraq which included chemical weapons. Interesting to hear Blix talking recently on the Syrian case.]

Martin Ryder at the University of Colorado.

Amongst many other gems, this includes this Alan Alda interview with Gerald Edeleman. Has a grand narrative theme like this previous Steve Jones & George Monbiot piece. Also recalled this openness and closure theme from Hilary Lawson. Most of the world of knowledge is actually “open”, probably only 1% is actually definitively described by science, the other 99% being plugged with good stories and convenient working metaphors.

In preparation for following up all the neuroscience pointers to the existence of pre-cognitive “qualia” being processed in the brain (at least I think that’s what’s being pointed at – I may be misunderstanding something) I was updating my link to David Chalmers’ Univeristy of Arizona site, and the expected upcoming consciousness conference, when I noticed he’s moved …. back to Australia. Since August 2004 apparently.

On-line consciousness papers collected by Chalmers.

The hard problem of consciousness is described by David as follows

[QUOTE]If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. In this central sense of “consciousness”, an organism is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism, and a mental state is conscious if there is something it is like to be in that state. Sometimes terms such as “phenomenal consciousness” and “qualia” are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of “conscious experience” or simply “experience”. Another useful way to avoid confusion (used by e.g. Newell 1990, Chalmers 1996) is to reserve the term “consciousness” for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term “awareness” for the more straightforward phenomena [described earlier]. If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about “consciousness” are frequently talking past each other. The ambiguity of the term “consciousness” is often exploited by both philosophers and scientists writing on the subject.[UNQUOTE]

Found this problem with Zeman, less so with Austin and Edelman.

In explaining “Consciousness, the Hard Problem” David summarises these approaches.

  • deflationary approaches (e.g. Dan Dennett, Pat Churchland),
  • nonreductive analyses (e.g. Colin McGinn, David Hodgson),
  • neuroscience or cognitive science approaches (e.g. Francis Crick & Christof Koch, Bernard Baars),
  • physics-based perspectives (e.g. Stuart Hameroff & Roger Penrose, Henry Stapp),
  • new fundamental ontologies (e.g. Benjamin Libet, Piet Hut & Roger Shepard),
  • phenomenological approaches (e.g. Francisco Varela, Max Velmans).

Closer To Truth entry here.
All In The Mind entry here.

I wonder what will happen to the Arizona Consciousness and Quantum Mind conferences? The next Science of Consciousness conference is in Copenhagen, August 2005.

Apparently such a thing exists and people can do courses on it. [Google cross-hit]. Not heard of it before but, call me cynical, I don’t like the sound of it, sounds doomed to failure of planned objectives, with plenty of solid blame-shifting, Brunsson-hypocritical, arse-covering, “somebody else’s problem” problems.

[Post Note Sept 2010 – I have researched this and can find no clear text on “Rational Comprehensive Planning” by that name. Rational Planning models, Synoptic Planning models, Incremental / Evolutionary Planning models, Individual Rationality, Social Rationality and an unspecified “third mode of rationality”. If anyone commenting could please provide relevant reference links. I stand by my point that “rational comprehensive” as a concept is doomed to fail due to its dependence on a presumed core metaphysics. That is, I still favour an evolutionary view, where planning guides and provides the environment for activities, but does not (cannot) comprehensively plan outcomes on any scale where the planner / manager cannot actually control all the individual activities. “All” being a very large and complex word.

And here we find (Luzzi 2001) “Although it has a myriad of names … It has been identified as the ruling or normal paradigm that governs the practice of modern planning.” Received wisdom, as I said, and “It is in the exportation of the model into the social world of practice that the assumptions prove problematic.” ie great in theory, not so good in practice as anyone would predict starting from a less scientistic metaphysics – the kind of model that requires hypocrisy to make it work.]

Great Books, here at WindsOfChange.

WindsOfChange. motto “Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.” is a communal blog headed up by Joe Katzman in Toronto. In this interview he points out how 9/11 spurred him into blogging action.
“I was already maintaining a resource site focused on the Internet and business. Then 9/11 hit, and the in-depth geopolitical, military and intel understanding I had put aside for a decade politely kicked down my front door and re-introduced itself. The seriousness of what was to come was immediately clear to me – as was the importance of intelligent, informed discussion on the choices our countries and peoples would have to make”
(NB. Know what he means. See the footnote on every page of my blog.)

Toronto again – nuff said. Interestingly, if you’re interested in that kind of thing, is that Pirsig has a connection with Anapolis, the location of St Johns University, the subject of the Great Books link at the start of this post.