Grey Matter

Deity Makeover

I've been staring into the headlights of a fast approaching Christmas. I wanted to write a little seasonal verse but nothing worth writing has crossed my mind. Maybe it'll happen in the next few days.

In the meantime, here's a pastiche that I threw together for a comment on Making Light. (Not exactly thrown together, since it took me a couple of hours, but it's definitely not polished.) The topic under discussion was how fictional characters feel about the way authors manipulate them.

"You are old, Father Yahweh," the fabulist said,


I am a child of a western democracy and I've inherited the luxury of infrastructure and industry built on generations of unwitting exploitation of Earth's resources. For this I feel no guilt, but a sense of obligation to the rest of the world.

I want my government, the Australian government, to commit serious amounts of money to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the mitigation of the effects of climate change in developing nations. I understand that this will reduce my current prosperity. I reject the ignorance or greed that expects to enjoy the inheritance of a developed nation while denying the debt on which it was built.

Dennett - understanding the evolution of religion

It's a long talk, but it's good to see Dennett tackling questions like "How does a clergyman become an atheist but still remain a preacher?" and "Is it possible to go through a theological seminary and still believe in God?"

The Evolution of Confusion.



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.

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