Questions, fragments, and quotes-out-of-context from the last quarter of last year's Philosophy Breakfast — Friday-morning conversations among friends:

October 1999:

  • The Internet is like a library where somebody has taken all the books off the shelves, torn all their covers off, and then thrown them randomly on the floor. (from Steve Cisler)
  • Reading Machiavelli, "... it's hard to tell if he's genuinely despicable, or just posing" ... sometimes in managing a real-world project, "... a little manipulativeness seems to be necessary..." — a leader needs to keep a secret engineering reserve of untapped resources ... or to play schedule games and hide progress in order not to see impossible goals imposed after early success. Are these "white lies"? Are they ethically wrong to do?
  • "Lying is stealing control from someone."
  • "All the really interesting problems don't have a 'right' answer." — "That's why socialism sucks!"
  • The Ethical Culture Society — tongue-in-cheek definition: "Judaism without God, Israel, or Jewish peoplehood."
  • Can one learn about consciousness by studying nerves? Where does consciousness reside?

November 1999:

  • Is consciousness a computational phenomenon? (What else is there?) Are there unknown fundamental phenomena associated with mind? Could these be "emergent phenomena" — or is that just bogus obfuscation? Is consciousness substrate-independent? Must one mimic human inputs and neural systems, or is that just the "Wetware Fallacy"?
  • "The whole game of science is figuring out what to leave out." — that is, identifying the critical factors and isolating them, in order to build comprehensible explanations of messy situations.
  • The big problem of Artificial Intelligence: early success that doesn't scale ... promising solutions to "toy problems" that don't work for larger and more complex challenges.
  • "Every problem that you can solve, in the right representation, has low dimensionality."
  • When tying somebody up, "The more rope you use, the easier it is to escape!"

December 1999:

  • Is it OK to hurt oneself? Commit suicide? How about neighborhood effects — the impact on one's dependents, friends, colleagues? What about someone who is temporarily mentally deranged — can one legitimately stop them from self-damage, knowing that they will thank you when they recover?
  • The "slippery slope" argument versus the danger of blurring distinctions between radically different situations.
  • Freedom of the Press is not a simple concept ... in Colonial times, for instance, the Press was incredibly "free" — and there were huge amounts of libel and scandal-mongering.
  • Would Socrates be comfortable today?
  • What will our attitude toward animals (and "animal rights") be 1,000 years from now?
  • "The quality of life is, to first order, determined by energy consumption." True? Why?
  • We have a lot of nostalgia for the past ... for farm life ... for small towns ... etc. Is this realistic?
  • John Stuart Mill's On Liberty ... critical need to seek out objections and difficulties, to test one's ideas against the toughest opposition
  • Is there a perfect form of organization (or government)? Or does it count far more simply to have really good people?
  • "I'm really ignorant." — profound insight of the millennium?!

Thanks beyond measure to BD, GdM, AP, BW, JC, JB, JJ, TA, MK, DW, JMcC, GS, et al. for their thoughtful help. (see QuestionsWithoutAnswers1 and QuestionsWithoutAnswers3)

Tuesday, August 01, 2000 at 06:41:17 (EDT) = 2000-08-01

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(correlates: BlogAndWiki, SteveCisler, TouchdownToRevelation, ...)