Come the dawn I'll wake to see
Bright evening lights in gay Paris
Perfect infidelity
I shall be hers forever

What drove me crazy when you split
Was how you both could not admit
Our triangle had turned to shit
Divergence is forever

I loved you both, but saw the day
When you would drive yourself away
To save me from her selfish sway
And make me yours forever

Now I lay me down to sleep
With nano-scanners probing deep
Multi-meating's safe and cheap
I'll be both yours forever

Squid Sonnet

My love is like a red, red, rising fear:
"Diablo Rojo!" seeds divers alarums.
And though her compass barely spans a year
One night lasts like a lifetime in her arms.

Her myriad lips leave more than bites of love
With pointed pearls to ring each puckered cup.
A full commitment's what she's thinking of;
I understand she'll never give me up.

Too clingy? Maybe. We both know the rules
And she won't get this from another guy.
My siphoned siren scorns those beak-shy fools
Who thrash and gurgle as they say goodbye.

   They're naught to her. I'm sure she'll never hurt me
   'Cause I'm her main; I know she won't dessert me.

Beyond Godwin

Ok, this parable goes right through Godwin and out the other side. However, it drives in its barb with disturbing accuracy, because it's not trying to call anyone a Nazi. (If you come away with that view, then you've really missed the point.)

Reductionism is not a dirty word

Approving nods to Prof Zeki, who writes about "Reductionism...the hate word."

For some years now I've considered myself pro-reductionist, and unashamedly so. Patterns are apparent at every level in nature but there's no magic in between levels. The behavior of a system observed at any particular level of detail can be understood in terms of the aggregation of behaviors observable in a more detailed view.

No exceptions. Everywhere we look, nature rewards the reductionist by gradually unveiling her mysteries to persistent students.

Nature doesn't have levels of detail. It's we who have to break systems up into digestible chunks and look at behaviors at various zoom levels in order to gain some understanding. We lack the mental computational power to be truly holistic. When someone says they take a holistic view, all it usually means is that they want to look at an outside, low detail view to see if they can identify regularities at that level. I've no problems with that approach. It can lead to some useful ways of predicting the behavior of a system, but it only takes understanding so far.

The "holistic" word has garnered at least a few positive connotations. It's a lovely all-inclusive, I'm-a-big-picture-person type adjective to apply to your field of study, but a holistic approach needs to be acknowledged as a superficial study. It's an approach that will leave lots of unexplained results and provide a model that lacks any suggested mechanisms for more detailed study.

In my experience the holism advocated by anti-reductionists is not actually a rejection of the discipline and methodology of reductionism, but a rejection of the possibility that the system under study might be reducible -- a premature conclusion driven by ideology, not evidence.

Future Enhancements

We substitute technology at will
to engineer away the strange and weak
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

First horns, then aids, ear implants, next: a pill?
New spectacles? Now lasers trim and tweak.
We substitute technology at will.

With help now Jack can bend his way to Jill
and saline slugs lend jugs a fresh physique
so long as she has funds to foot the bill.

Most drives our genes had honed us to fulfill
we've seen subsumed by our hedonic streak.
We substitute technology at will:

from barbell tongues to toys that throb to thrill,
to plastic partners styled in cyborg chic,
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

Soon brain enhancement should extend our skill
to help us guide the docile and the meek.
We'll substitute technology at will
so long as you have funds to foot our bill.

(Villanelle inspired by a discussion on Making Light)

A wormhole barfed my homework

News feed. May 11, 2027. Mind Science Daily

Yesterday a 13 year old enhancer from Chile released structure schemata for masked and semi-masked emotional memories - a problem that had stumped neuroscientists for months. Within minutes of release, Naomee Sanchez's breakthrough was blogged, integrated and cheered by the world's foremost mind authorities. Research funding markets were severely churned.

Today, a whole day after the schemata release, Naomee's 400 page thesis is still the meatiest meme, followed closely by emo about DIK download server slowness. Early adopters are ecstatic, noting the ease with which they can excise trauma and grief reactions but still leave clear memories of having experienced pain, linked with only micro-pangs of nostalgia.

Sanchez did most of her work in isolation using a self-modded Nintendo DIK (Deep Introspection Kit) that her bio-mom gave her a year ago. After breaking up with her long-term personfriend in January, Naomee set her mind on ways to keep all her memories of the relationship, but remove the painful associations.

Rather than taking the traditional teen hacknfeel approach, she spent all of February and March integrating the NeuroTechWiki, and most of April integrating an applied statistics module. So buffed, she only took a week "DIKing around" her most painful memories to grok the rough form of the structures using Chile's public Correlator Cloud for crunch. After that, she says, "it was all mechanical detail mapping and polishing my write-up" - a job she relegated to her coprocessor while partying hard.

Naomee Sanchez is considering Nintendo's offer of a tenured no-obligation guruship, but will wait another 24 hours for counter offers.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

I simulate my death in different forms
in alleys, in the parks and public places
where no one wants to see. The stoic Norms
keep eyes averted, busy signs for faces --
they quench their need for drama with a screen
that's passed the censors, children's moral guards,
and focus groups. My deaths are all obscene
invasions of their trembling house of cards.
Perhaps a little morbid girl? Oh, no!
I want the contrast cranked right up to ten,
to clock the whole dynamic range, to throw
the switch and die and die, then try again.
Who cares if passers-by refuse to look?
Death makes an awesome coffee-table book.

Sense of Entitlement

When Australia wants to improve its position on human rights, one of the big hurdles is Christianity. Yes, while there's a prominent Christian lawyer and active human rights campaigner on the committee to garner input from Australians, there's also the Australian Christian Lobby that really aren't happy with the idea.

Let's look at some of the spin:

It delivers increased power to vested interest groups who have failed to win their case for change with voters

Ummm, hang on. There's some code here. What they really mean there is that it grants normal human rights to same sex couples.

It turns rights into a tool for conflict through rights assertion

Translated: Conflict is bad. Leave things the same. Anyone who actually needs help with their rights should just shut up and stop making waves.

It fails its stated objective of protecting the vulnerable in society

Which means: it doesn't protect us vulnerable right-thinkers and our insufficiently insulated children from the invashun of teh gays.

However the point that tugged on my heartstrings was bullet point #3

It puts at risk important freedoms Christians take for granted by putting them on a level playing field with other "rights"

Oh cripes! This human rights business is all about bringing specially entitled Christians down to a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD!
Wouldn't that mean that Australian Christians end up with merely equal rights? The sky is falling!


I just finished reading Gary Drescher's Good and Real, in which he demystifies a lot of subjects that have long been very muddled. While presenting lucid explanations of physics, time, choice, determinism, and foundations of ethics, he stays well clear of religion through most of the book, touching only briefly in his final chapter:

Finally, many religious individuals attest that their belief in God imparts an optimism that is otherwise beyond reach. This is a subjective matter, but for me the opposite holds. I can accept that we inhabit a world of both splendor and squalor, of comfort and brutality, and that we can work to improve the balance. But if I were convinced that a universe created by an all-powerful, all-loving deity could still be marred by recurrent agony and atrocity, then I would likely surrender in despair. Moreover, the notion that God is necessary for hope implies that life, back in godless reality, is hopeless. But it is not--it most emphatically is not--and I protest both the defeatism that says otherwise, and the escapism that denies the finality of physical reality, for better or worse.

I suspect Gary's wrong here in his counterfactual "if I were convinced..." since if he were to be truly convinced of a religious outlook with an afterlife, he'd do exactly what a lot of religious folk have done: focus all hope of happiness onto an ineffable afterlife, and give up any real hope for this tainted world. If one believes in a perfect, blissful afterlife, then there is no comparable earthly hope available, so the unrealistic dream itself denies the possibility of any other optimism worth having.

Of course, positing an unrealistic ultimate hope in no way blocks the possibility of a realistic optimism--an optimism I share with Drescher.

Quantum Confusion

Versified argument continues over at The Digital Cuttlefish.

What it has shown me is that, as staggering as it seems, there are still working physicists who insist on a Copenhagen interpretation with a strict requirement for a "conscious" observer. *sigh* It's enough to drive one to Kuhn. At least the bulk of the physics community has given up on anthropocentrism.

I also stumbled across David Chalmers' (tongue in cheek?) Law of Minimization of Mystery: "consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source." It seems about as useful as Tim Minchin's
Peace Anthem For Palestine.

Quantum computing abhors decoherence;
It's there with no conscious observer to see.
Still there are mystics with stubborn adherence
To quantum descriptions that need me or thee.

Puzzles abound at the limits of science:
Mysterious cans full of worms to mislead.
Why mix up disparate cans in defiance
Of reason, experiment, logic or need?

Mind in behavior and cells and potentials
Is yielding a torrent of useful results.
Clutching at yet unexplored non-essentials
Works better for book-deals and starting new cults.

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