The Management Committee

Its members all have their own specialized roles;
They report and direct their divisions
While checking for external threats to their goals
And making reactive decisions.

Some archive significant outcomes and actions
(And trivia, flukes, noise and guesses)
To look for the patterns in business transactions
In hope of repeating successes.

They argue and quarrel; they bicker and fight,
But unite for their public display.
They rest all together for six hours a night
And then meet eighteen hours each day.


parts of me
take not me
make more me
parts of me
take excess me
make less me
parts of me
control me
sense me
invent a Me
beyond me
only it's me
it's only me
it's all me...
or was that meat?

Searle's Pointless Room

I see long discussions on John Searl's Chinese Room thought experiement, and I still fail to see why anyone should spend time on it. The experiment tells us nothing.

In essence, the experiment has us force a human to perform a menial, mindless role in a larger machine. The role of identifying symbols, processing them according to rules and transferring the results to the outside world is something we already know a computer can do--mindlessly. So why would we expect a human performing those actions to have to understand anything in order to play that role?

Searle's experiment purports to comment on the Turing test and whether any machine can exhibit understanding, but all he's illustrated is that you can subdivide a large intelligent system into smaller ones that perform according to fixed rules and have no understanding of what they manipulate. Any surprise there? Having split the apparently intelligent room into a thinking part (the reference/algorithm) and a purely mechanical communication part (the man in the room), Searle focusses on the tediously boring and obviously unintelligent part. The man is a distraction: "Ooh look, there's a man in there, but he doesn't understand any of the symbols!"

I wish Searle had spent more of his time on the thinking part rather than misleading people with pointless arguments focussed on mechanical processes.

For Kicks, a Cinquain

I'm not
I sit on the table,
Waiting for the tendon hammer--
To blame.

This came out of some thoughts that ran through my mind as I was reading a discussion of moral agency in Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves. I initially envisaged it as something around sonnet length, but the concept boiled right down to a snapshot of self-delusion.


Researcher Cramer (John)
Thinks we can change our own
History now

Using the physics of
Plans from the future to
Tell himself how.

[Edit from later on: 

This edit is one that I'm writing retrospectively from January 1st, 2009.

Is it me composing the message? I'm copying it from the text that's already there and has been there since October 2006. The words feel like my thoughts, still new even though they're so familiar. They're fresh because I'm experiencing them as the writer, not the reader. The gulf of meaning between sender and receiver, bridged by frail text, is visible now. When I first read my words, I had no clue how I would be (am) feeling now.

As I write, I know that I must write it, because it's already there, and I assume that I wasn't (am not) lying to myself about the date. It's the strongest compulsion I've ever felt. I keep pausing, toying with the idea of stopping, breaking causality, even though I know it can't be broken, but I just can't stop myself. I can stop myself from eating one more chocolate. I can stop myself from blinking in bright sunlight. But I don't have the willpower to leave this entry incomplete. I must finish and activate "RetroEdit".

Part of it must be fear of losing control. If I stop myself, then someone else must be responsible for this addendum, because I've seen it published on my blog. If I'm not to complete it, then someone else wrote it, either in real time or in retro. Who could've hacked my account? Who would want to post on it? A FriendOfVirge playing mind games? Once I've posted it, I've restored my illusion of control.

Or perhaps I am going to be self-deceitful. Maybe I'll succeed in stopping myself, but come back in a day or two to do it anyway. How long can I stand this self-induced tension between will and reality? Can it continue to feel as crushing as it does now, taking all of my concentration, draining my determinism in one stupid defiance? Even as I plan to delay posting, I find that I'm still entering the text. Can this discrepancy be maintained indefinitely, based on the sure knowledge that it must eventually be resolved? Will my life be extended pending closure of this retrocausal loop? Will stubborn denial send me completely insane? Maybe my perceptions and memory are already distorted, and I've imagined this post for the last couple of years. If I stop myself, will it become a false memory of an action I never executed.

Time will tell, will have told, will be telling. 

End edit from later on.]


How to know when your religion is a fabrication:

  • When your omnipotent deity, for some reason, relies heavily on fallible human followers to perform physical actions.
  • When the natural events that you attribute to your deity affect believers and unbelievers alike without discernable favour.
  • When you know it must be true because of all those other intelligent people who believe it.
  • When you interpret people's dismissive reaction to it as being proof that you're onto something.
  • When the only way you can understand modern science is to assume all scientists are conspiring against your deity.
  • When the only way you can understand other religions is to assume that a malevolent entity is blinding or influencing their followers.
  • When the only place you need to look to improve your understanding is within your religion's published literature.
  • When you know that scholars who share your religion are inherently more trustworthy than other scholars.
  • When you think that a few provably true statements in its teachings validate the rest.
  • When your unchanging deity, on record as having demanded complete slaughter of an unbelieving tribe (including babies) is your definition of love, mercy, and justice.
  • When the other religions are based on stuff made up by people, but yours is based on divinely inspired teaching delivered through divinely selected prophets.
  • When there are definitely no inconsistencies in it, but it does have difficult issues that are beyond mere human understanding.
  • When you know that its teachings were misapplied in the past with horrible consequences, but believe that your current interpretations and their social implications are correct.
  • When figures claiming to speak for your religion express foolish and intolerant views, but you won't publicly denounce them for fear of either (a) presenting a divided view, or (b) being seen as having less faith or piety.
  • When it teaches you to ascribe all happy experiences to your deity, and all unhappy experiences to other sources.
  • When any good you do is merely an expression of your deity's goodness, but any evil you do is of your own sinful nature.
  • When speaking against it would break your relationship with your parents.
  • When it tries to make you happy about a loved one's death.

If any of the above signs are evident in your religion, seek advice from a freethinker.

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