Friday, December 21, 2012

A Lukewarm Apocalypse

For people making disaster preparations for the 'apocalypse', as far as things go, I'm not certain how helpful a few tins of food and some tea candles would be in the event of, say, the end of the world.

If the world is doomed, I wouldn't want to live. Imagine the total loss of modern infrastructure; I don't think we'll be able to climb out of such a mess anytime soon, if anything on that scale happens.

Now of course most people taking in the end of days nonsense will say, well, we're not expecting a disaster on that scale. Maybe something less severe, but a disaster nonetheless. A sort of lukewarm threat, perhaps.

I find that the scenarios where the 'disaster preparations' would come in useful are pretty much on the harmless side of the continuum. Surely, anything worth worrying about such that it deserves a special mention must have a greater impact, otherwise the Mayans are not only alarmists, but alarmists with a great tendency for omission.

Of course, it's much easier to say that everyone is nuts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Binaural Hearing

We have, of course, two ears which jointly allow us to localize the direction of incoming sound. But our ears are much more than simple point hearing devices; there must be some more advanced mechanisms contained within. Why? Because we can tell whether a sound is coming from our back or our front.

Imagine the case in our ears were replaced with two simple mono microphones of appropriate sensitivity. Any sound would be picked up by the two microphones, though at different delays. Knowing the speed of sound, it is simple to calculate the distance of the source from each microphone and hence, the intersections (locii). Note the word intersections. With two point microphones, there are two intersections (in a 2-D scenario) and infinite intersections (dispersed in a circle in a 3-D scenario).

If our ears were only point microphones, we would not be able to differentiate sounds coming from behind us. 

But of course, we can. That is because our ears are directionally sensitive, or at least, structures in our ears serve as directional filters.

One interesting result of this line of thought is that with headphones, it is not possible to duplicate full directional sound. Headphones are merely two point sources of sound; there will be ambiguity of direction, leading us to confuse front-back sounds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hashing Web Services for Spam Detection

For many web services, it is necessary to provide your email address as well as other related personal information, such as your name or date of birth. The problem with this is that you have no idea what they do with your information.

One approach that several people use is to put in false information, which sidesteps the privacy issue. Still, for several web services an email address is still required, if only to provide an authentication link to verify your account. A secondary email address dedicated for such purposes is often used.

It is possible to detect the origin of the spam by clever selection of the personal details provided. For example, when prompted to provide a name or user name, the title or address of the web service can be used instead. Thus, when the information is sold and used to address spam to you, the name the spam mail identifies you by can be used to determine the source.

Similarly, more complex hashing schemes can be used to encode such identifier information into birth dates.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Age of Contention

The main battleship design during the Terran era was a cylindrical vessel body where one end housed the propulsive drives and the other end, the main laser batteries; this design is retroactively known to us as the Lance-type battleship. Contrary to popular perception, Lance-type battleships were not armed with a single very massive laser cannon, or even a small number very large lasers; rather, the main laser batteries were formed of a sizable number of heavy (in terms of output, not size) lasers recessed into the main weapon receptacle, each of which contributed to a large beam of immense firepower. However, since the laser batteries themselves are hidden within the body of the cylindrical vessel body and only exposed in combat, it is easy to understand how such a public misconception came about.

This battleship design resulted in a ship that could output heavy forward fire, but only presented a small cross-section that was difficult for enemies to hit. This was excellent at siege warfare against immobile orbital or planetary targets, but difficult to use against naval targets. Admirals relied on flanking and ambushes to place their ships at optimal positions where damage could be properly inflicted on enemy fleets, but such tactics were rarely effective. However, the very impotence of battleships ensured that battles during the late Terran era were relatively bloodless, even though wars large and small broke out all the time. Hence, the late Terran era was also nicknamed "The Era of Inconsequence".

The status quo was eventually broken by an innovative battleship design, pioneered by the Caled. The primary weakness of old Lance-type battleships was an inability to target (and consequently damage) anything that did not lie in the narrow arc of fire directly forward. This problem stemmed from the cylindrical vessel design, which made it difficult to situate weapons of any effective size on the sides of the ship. The Caled overcame this problem by constructing spherical ships (though in practice the ships were polyhedral rather than pure spheres) with weapons facing each possible direction except the rear (where the engines were). Such ships were considered ugly and were named "Spikeballs" according to their spiky appearance. However, their combat potential was very high, compared to the earlier battleships.

Though some naval designers recognized the value of the Spikeball-type battleship, politicians and naval planners were unconvinced by the advantage of this new design. The Caled themselves secretly doubted the unproven worth of their new ships, and did not pursue construction of Spikeballs on a massive scale. This turned out to be a massive error, though, as it gave rival powers some time to begin their own experiments in battleship design.

The value of the new battleships was proven in the battle of Proxima Delphi, where a fleet of Spikeballs-type battleships was able to inflict decisive damage on a fleet of conventional warships, while suffering little damage themselves. Henceforth navies everywhere adopted the Spikeball design over the older Lance-type battleships. The sole exception was the Terran navy, which found itself in the unenviable position of being stuck with a large fleet of outdated vessels and having insufficient resources or industrial capacity to modernize its fleet on a large scale. This led to the diminishment of Terran power and prestige and the loss of its position as the galactic superpower, though in any case it was still a first-rate power of prominence.

The Spikeball battleship brought about a new era in naval warfare. Though no power was especially advantaged by the introduction of the Spikeball (with the minor exception of the Caled, who unfortunately due to their initial hesitation only retained a small numerical advantage in the number of modern battleships), since all powers had equal access to the design and production of Spikeball-type battleships, the galactic scene was changed forever. Where naval battle in the Terran era was inconclusive, the newer battleships were much more capable of dealing damage to each other. Battles could once again be won or lost, and wars were once again bloody.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Defence versus Attack

In several games, in particular RPGs, defence is quite boring when compared to attack. I tend to skip defensive skills or traits, unless death is penalized in gameplay.

Imagine two characters, one who specializes in defence, and the other attack. If properly balanced, we expect both characters to be equally successful in combat. Yet, most probably the attack specialist preferred by far. Why? Because killing the enemy is more enjoyable than surviving the enemy. This is particularly true if combat is repetitive, or if it is necessary to fight some trash mobs. Defensive skills simply extend the length of combat.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Elections and Cognitive Costs

Research has suggested that the prevailing economic conditions are a strong predictor of the incumbent's reelection chances. 

I don't think that people are optimizers when it comes to elections. That is, people don't immediately begin to evaluate the various choices available and to compare and decide on the best candidate(s) or party to vote. That's cognitively expensive. Elections are not about choosing the best person(s).

Instead, I think the very first question people ask themselves is, 'Is everything good?" If nothing is really wrong, then most people would consider that acceptable and vote for the incumbent. It doesn't matter if the other candidates have a possibility of being superior; if it's not broken, why fix it? That's the power of the status quo. It isn't exactly wrong; cognitive costs and information costs do exist, even if it trivializes elections.

That's why challengers face an uphill battle; something needs to be wrong for them to have a good chance. Only when people have doubts about the incumbent does the second question come in: 'Which of these choices is better?' As a gatekeeping rule to conserve cognitive resources, this seems to be a valid strategy for making decisions, though it is somewhat reactionary. 

Of course, there are still many who rely exclusively on the first judgment. If things are good, they vote one way; if not, they vote the other. It suffices to say that such a simplistic, binary thought process fails to achieve much. Some of us only have the capacity to know that things are wrong, but not why, and not how to fix it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frequent Polling to Encourage High-Information Voting

Of the several polls available on the US presidential elections, the RAND poll is probably unique in that it samples the same, consistent group of potential voters each week over the course of the election. By tracking the preferences of the same people, it is possible to obtain a less noisy estimate of how public opinion on each presidential candidate has changed over time in response to their campaign efforts and other events.

One criticism of the RAND poll is that because the same voters are being polled on a weekly basis, this act of constant polling has itself an effect on the results. It may create a psychological incentive for the polled to pay more attention to the current state of the election, and to consider more deeply the merits of each candidate.

In other words, they are more likely to be high-information voters. 

This final conclusion seems interesting to me. One often cited flaw with democracy is that of the electorate; we all hope for the wisdom of the crowds, yet we also secretly doubt the intelligence of our compatriots. Low-information voters are more easily swayed by irrelevant variables, and may waver towards poor choices and decisions. At the same time it does not seem right to impose tests of any sort, as that is prone to manipulation and abuse. Of course, what should be done is to raise voter education, or at least attention and interest.

Constant polling seems to force this attentional factor, and may be helpful in reducing voter apathy.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Broken Windows and the Internet: Why Civility is Dying

Few things can ruin our internet experience as much as internet trolls. It doesn't matter what you do or say to them, you'll only get madder. And they'll delight in that very fact. Ignoring them preserves your sanity and emotional well-being, but still, there's always that lingering sour aftertaste.

It's not only the trolls. There's flamers too, people who can't seem to respond without an insult and a fiery word. Joining the party are grammar nazis and their related nazis. Why is incivility so prevalent on the Net? Of course, anonymity and the low-barriers to entry possibly encourage such behaviour. But I think part of the issue lies in social norms or what is or is not acceptable; in simple words, the broken windows theory.

The broken windows theory is a criminological theory which suggests that vandalism and littering, basically signs of poor estate upkeep, have a signaling effect that serves to increase rates of crime and anti-social behavior. Well maintained and clean estates therefore have lower crime behavior. The argument is that 'broken windows' signal to people that anti-social behavior is tolerated or not penalized, hence logically criminal behavior is similarly not monitored or policed. In effect, the condition of the environment reflects the acceptable social norms, and affects the behaviors of those in the same environment.

The theory is not difficult to believe. I think we have less hesitation to, for instance, litter if there's rubbish all around us, or to jaywalk if others are already crossing the road before us. We all act based on cues of what's acceptable. Of course, the bad thing is that this tends to be self-reinforcing, after some important threshold has been reached.

My (no doubt tenuous) argument is that this threshold has already been passed. Civility, while still important to most of us, typically disappears in the online arena. A sarcastic remark or failed joke misinterpreted, and tinder sparks go off in the Balkans. Somehow it's become the (unacceptable) norm to respond with an inflammatory reply to a blog post, a caustically cynical jeer, or just a crude, belittling remark.

What's even more terrible is that the Internet generally doesn't go away. It stays there. If it's bad enough, it even spreads and is replicated across several parallel channels. We can probably find the ramblings of the first ancient troll, I think, if we look hard enough.

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Extrasolar Ark

In the scenario of planetary extinction, it does not seem out of humanity's technological capability to build an ark to seed life on other (extrasolar) worlds. Granted, of course, that no higher life forms will survive.

Several micro-organisms are hardy enough to tolerate the harshness of space conditions, such as severe radiation and the lack of water or oxygen. They may not thrive, but for the purposes of an ark survival is enough. 

I imagine a large vessel filled with several chambers, or pods, each vacuum sealed. No additional protections are granted to it, save the hull of the vessel, which provides some measure of radiative shielding. This vessel is targeted at a particular system, being propelled at very low sub-light speeds. It is slow, but it is expected to survive it.

Several redundant computers, each set to wake at infrequent intervals, maintain the minimal systems on the vessel. There is little to do for the journey, since there are little to none life support systems, and the ship is not actively propelled. 

On arrival, simple planetary analysis procedures are used to study the planets in the system. Then, the target site and lifeform combinations most likely to sustain life are chosen, and the appropriate pods launched to seed the site with life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A doctrine for helplessness

What is the best course of action if we are truly powerless to affect our circumstances?

How can we act if we are powerless? We cannot. Yet, however weak we are, we should always be the masters of our mentality. Whatever influence others hold upon us, it is surely possible to limit our perceptions and attitudes; failing to even have dominion over our minds, how are we even sentient?

It is foolish then, in the face of overwhelming circumstances, to wallow in self-pity and despair. However alien it may be, adopt a happy mindset! If thing are indeed so dire that such self-deception is impossible, then at least take the time to laugh on the joke that life is.

How cynical, you may say. But of the two alternatives, a) to accept facts and be tormented b) to deceive yourself and be happy, surely b) is preferable.

However ridiculous these words may sound, it should be considered. Too often we are confronted with things beyond our power to change or effect. Then we sulk and rage at these very things that are beyond us, as if our outburst changes anything. It does not. It is merely venting. Rather, we should recognize these very occasions for what they are, and to accept that there was nothing we could have done. Why burden yourself with the impossible?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Worse than Death

I mean, of course there may be things that are circumstantially worse than death. However, I think that there are very few things that are absolutely worse than death.

Which is why I think it is absolute bullocks to claim that being a victim of a crime X (fill in X yourself) is worse than murder. There are those that make the claim that victims of X continue suffering the effects of X after the crime, and X is therefore worse than murder (which presumably just stops there).

Well if it causes more suffering to live then it's a very practical decision to just die, isn't it? Or how about this: ask the victim if she'll be better off being murdered.

Not to be callous, but living on is better. It doesn't mean trivializing X; it means not trivializing the quite wondrous gift of life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Actually, humans don't need to sleep. If you practice, you can survive without sleep. I learned of the secret technique when sleeping.

The theory is sound; If you accumlate enough sleep, you don't need more sleep. The typical novice approaches this by sleeping in preparation for not-sleeping. Clearly, this method is quite lousy !

The question is what is the best way to sleep. The secret is:
When you are sleeping, dream also that you are sleeping. Therefore, in a single moment of time, you have 2x the amount of sleep. Once that is mastered, when sleeping, you can dream that you are sleeping and dreaming of sleeping. In that case, 3x the amount of sleep is obtained.

It suffices to say that with practice, this method can be improved to infinity. One nap is enough to last you forever!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Killing Newborn Babies

According to this article, a paper has argued that “newborn babies are not ‘actual persons’ and do not have a ‘moral right to life’”. Their line of argument appears to be that babies are not appreciably different from foetuses, and therefore since it is acceptable to abort foetuses, it is similarly morally acceptable to kill babies.

The argument is interesting, though not particularly novel. Often there is no clear distinction between a state where an action is morally tolerable, and another state where the same action is clearly immoral. At what point does a baby acquire sufficient relevant properties such that becomes a human (which is immoral for us to terminate)?

However, I think that there are morally relevant characteristics between a baby and a foetus. Consider the “bodily rights” argument, where the right to abort is justified by the mother’s rights over her body; the foetus does not have a right to force the mother to carry it. However, we should note that this particular argument does not apply to the baby! The right to abortion should not be interpreted as the right to kill the foetus; the death of the foetus occurs as an undesirable side-effect. Therefore, a strict equivalence would not be to kill a baby, but instead to leave it unattended (and presumably perish).

However, one important distinction still exists. Most people find the death of the foetus to be regrettable, even those in support of abortion. The key is that abortion inevitably results in the death of the foetus. Abortion may be morally justifiable if the rights of the woman to her body are adjudged to be of greater importance than the foetus’ right to life. In the case of an infant, though, no such counterbalancing right exists to justify the taking of the infant’s right to life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Channel Limit of Human Senses

I think it is interesting to conduct experiments to determine the channel limit of each human sense; that is, the maximum amount of information that can be conveyed by each sense. It is commonly said that 80% of the information we process comes from vision, which makes sense. For example, reading text is much more efficient than hearing text, which is more efficient than reading Braille.  However, the statistic itself is quite useless without knowing the information capacity of sight. 

Actually, in hindsight, I am beginning to doubt the 80% figure, as the visual channel is clearly much more capable than the other senses, not only in sheer capacity, but also in responsiveness. In contrast, taste and smell have poor responsiveness and poor differentiation ability. I am, however, very much interested in knowing the dynamic range of smell (the maximum and minimum concentrations detectable for a given substance). 

Why is this important? Most likely it is not. However, it is possible to develop special assistive devices to replace damaged senses by transmitting through the other still functional senses. The fundamental transmission limits of the senses should provide a useful guide as to the full potential of the assistive device.

Knowing the transmission capacity of each sense should also allow us to design better machine-human interfaces. I posit that an interface providing visual, aural, and tactile feedback would be better than one that provides the same capacity using only the visual channel. In particular, the additional sensory channels may be used to provide interrupts or higher priority signaling, as they may not use the same attentional channels as vision does.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Capital Punishment

Regarding capital punishment, I can imagine a number of crimes so heinous that they are almost certainly unpardonable. Such black deeds can so shake our faith in humanity that we must instead draw the conclusion that these are the acts of no human, but instead of a monster. 

Human rights and protections should only be extended to humans. 

For those who universally reject the death penalty, they must be willing to forgive even the worst of acts. I do not believe that many have that capacity, only that they claim to.

Of course, the law is not, and should not be, determined solely on the basis of morality.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happiness Drugs

There are a certain few drugs that can alter brain chemistry, temporarily granting feelings of happiness and euphoria. The problem is that after a period of use, the body builds up a resistance to those chemicals, and the drugs lose effectiveness. A higher dosage is necessary to compensate for the acquired tolerance. There are two main problems associated with this. First, the acquired resistance persists, even after a long window of time. Second, frequent use of these substances produces the contrary effect of making you feel miserable when you're not on the drug.

I am thinking of a ridiculous but somewhat plausible idea. Let's consume pain-causing pills that simulate the chemical receptors associated with pain, in the hope that the body builds up resistance to the pain signaling chemicals. If the body's mechanisms work in a similar fashion, after a period of use, the body would be more tolerant to pain, even in the absence of the pain-causing drugs.

Similarly, let's create sadness-causing drugs. Then, after a period of acclimatization, by stopping the drug-regime, we would be in a state of anti-sadness (happiness?).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Suicide and Refusal of Life-Extension

What is the difference between the refusal of life-extension procedures and suicide? Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. By this definition, the two seem distinct. But is there a philosophical difference between an act that reduces one's potential life span from X to zero, and refusing an act that increase one's potential life span by X?

The idea seems to be that there is some natural life-span whereby it is immoral to willfully reduce, but perfectly acceptable to refuse to extend. This seems indefensible. If suicide is deemed wrong because it robs us of future choices (as per some arguments from liberty), then it is also wrong to refuse life-extension as it prevents us from enjoying the same future choices. If life is sacred (as per deontological argumenst) and has value in itself, then the loss of this life due to the non-adoption of life-extension procedures is also immoral.

Now, consider this thought experiment. Assume that one's remaining life span can be perfectly predicted in advance, and that that amounts to X years. Now, also assume that there exists some full treatment that can increase one's lifespan by Y years. One also has the option of taking a partial treatment that has a lesser effect, and extends life by only Z years, where Z is less than Y. Now, there are four people.

Person A refuses treatment, and lives X years.
Person B accepts partial treatment, and lives X+Z years.
Person C wants a partial treatment, but the center only offers full treatment. He accepts full treatment, but at the same time he swallows a poison that he knows will kill him in X+Z years time. He lives X+Z years.
Person D accepts full treatment. After X+Z years, he kills himself. He lives X+Z years.

If we accept that A is not immoral by his refusal of the life-extending procedure, then we must accept that B is not immoral by choosing a partial treatment. There is little practical difference between B and C; both live an additional Z years. Can we consider C to have committed suicide? While he has intentionally caused his own delayed death, his motivation is not to die, but instead to extend his life by Z rather than Y years. Therefore we do not consider it suicide.

What about D? Most would class it under suicide. But what are the philosophical differences between D and B,C? In all cases they do not want to live past X+Z years; the difference is only that D has made his choice rather late.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Revival of Extinct Species

Lonesome george died. Well, ok, that's only one extinct subspecies. What's more, it might not be gone forever.

Apparently, one animal has been un-extincted, though only briefly. The Pyrenean Ibex, which first died out in 2000, was subsequently cloned in 2009, though the clone lived for only seven minutes. Still, fairly promising. One factor in favor of reviving Lonesome George is the fact that only the particular subspecies was extinct. Subspecies can capable of interbreeding, that is, they are not differentiated by reproduction. In other words, other subspecies still exist, that are capable of surrogancy for cloning.

While that's fine and good, the thought of reviving extinct species made me wonder if we could indeed resurrect creatures even more far gone, where no direct genetic material, or no subspecies of the like, exist.

Typically, we might imagine evolution to be a one-way process, where species change with time into forms that are more adapted to the existing conditions. Such changes are brought about by recombination and mutation, the reshuffling and flipping of genetic material into new forms. Conceivably, the process is irreversible, or at least difficult to reverse. It is hard to imagine a modern creature evolving assuming ancient, extinct forms. 

Yet, it seems possible to revive extinct species, or some approximation of, through 'devolution' of a modern descendant. First, imagine if environmental conditions were reset to the time of the extinct species. If so, then the optimal adaptation is no longer of the modern evolved creature, but rather of the extinct form! Natural selection therefore favors the evolution of the modern creature towards the ancient, extinct predecessor. Just like how the final products of chemical reactions can vary with temperature and pressure, the direction that evolution takes can be redirected by varying the conditions under which evolution occurs.

Given a supervised hand, the revival of extinct species from their modern descendants can be made even more viable. If the path of evolution is known, for example the amounts of environmental change, and the corresponding change in the species, it is possible to perform directed artificial selection. By seeking incremental regression along the known evolution history of the species, one can create a ratchet-effect to gradually skip backwards.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Artificial Language

Words shape our thoughts. It is difficult to imagine things that we have no words for; at the same time creating new words for the specific enables our thoughts.

In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, an artificial language is used to dampen thoughts of dissent and rebellion, simply by removing the words corresponding to such thoughts. Of course, it is still possible to achieve the same thoughts through negations of the opposite concept, but the very convoluted nature of such thinking hampers dissent. After all, the human mind has a finite working memory, which ultimately places a ceiling on the complexity of thoughts attainable. Creating new words to condense complex concepts into a single, concise form is one way of side-stepping the problem.

Current languages are evolved more than constructed, born out of a series of conveniences rather than deliberate steps. I wonder if it is possible, in a fashion opposite to Nineteen Eighty-Four, to manipulate language in a benign manner. Would the removal of words related to race destroy discrimination? Would naming all implements of war with a single word reduce our taste for war? Would excising  words referencing the supernatural help us clear our minds?

I suspect it may.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Missing Keys in the Pocket

I have recently encountered an interesting problem online, which requires knowledge of conditional probability to solve.

You leave your apartment groggily one morning, closing the door behind you. Suddenly, you are hit by a terrifying question: Do you have your keys, or are you now locked out?

You stand there thinking about it for a few seconds, before deciding that yes, you probably have your keys, further estimating that 80% of the time, you have them. You also decide that there is an equal chance of your keys either being in your left pocket or your right pocket, and if they aren’t in either pocket then you don’t have them at all.

Slowly, perversely enjoying the sweat, you slide your hand into your right pocket, and find that your keys are not there. What should you now think is the probability that your keys are in your left pocket? 

The answer:
Two-thirds. To solve this without (much) explicit calculation, imagine all the scenarios where your right pocket is empty. 60% of the time, your right pocket will be empty (20% of the time because you forgot the keys, and 40% of the time where you remembered the keys but they were in the left pocket). The given information puts you in this 60%. Of this 60%, 2/3 of the time you actually have the keys. 

Of course, the above could be expressed more elegantly in equations.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tabula Rasa

Let's assume that utopia is possible, or if it’s not, let's instead imagine the state closest to utopia. Nobody would assert that today's world is that utopia. In fact, my suspicions are that it is impossible to ever arrive at that utopia via incremental steps.

One essential property of a utopia must be stability; it must be robust to degeneration into a state of non-utopia. I believe that achieving this single property requires the elimination of several unbalancing factors in today's world, as there are simply too many causes for conflict that would otherwise result in a collapse of the utopian society.

I then considered the design of an ideal society, without constraint. One important feature must be sustainability. Several ills can be attributed to the over-extended reach of humanity, which results in sub-optimal assignment of resources. If the population is to be distributed and controlled according to reasoned principles, then human numbers would be small, but localized to the most habitable regions where resources are ample and the incidence of natural disasters minimal.

My suspicions are also that social and familial structures would be different under a utopia. Social and familial structures are institutions founded on principles and assumptions that may not be the most optimal, but are merely too costly to change en masse.

A final, though dangerous, thought is that the people of an ideal society must themselves be superior to modern humans, not only in manner and philosophy, but perhaps, also in nature. There may be several genetic traits most conducive to an ideal society. Two properties that should, if possible, be selected for are empathy and restraint. Other physical advantages, such as resistance to disease or improved physical and mental abilities, are also boons that are almost certainly beneficial.

These lines of reasoning lead me to believe that it is difficult to form an ideal society, due to inertia and resistance. It is not possible to change social structures overnight, nor can the world population be reduced or redistributed. Incremental changes are simply not feasible.

Granted that the utopia is stable, any utilitarian must surely conclude that it is acceptable to usher in such a golden age via any means. Imagine if a dark age were declared specifically for the execution of 'any means', and any atrocity pardoned if it follows the grand plan. Utopia should then be treated as if it were founded on a blank slate.

The sole weakness of this idea is that it royally screws the present for the eternal future, which is why Utopia will never be realized.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Personal Writing Challenge 2

Last year, I challenged myself to write a hundred words a day.

I succeeded, though with no assurances on quality. In 2011, I wrote 40239 words for the challenge over the span of 11 months. Averaged over the year, that's 110 words a day, though there were 3 months where I wrote less than 100 words a day.

This year, I aim to write more than the last.