Thursday, 28 January 2016

Virtual Reality

I think eventually Virtual Reality will be huge. Bigger than TV, bigger than the Internet, bigger than smartphones, bigger than anything ever.

Eventually, after 200 years or so, virtual reality will be come indistinguishable from reality. You'll be able to experience anything you like. Any time in the past, anywhere in the world with bots interacting with you almost as realistically as real people. 

And one will be able to interact with real people in a shared virtual reality.

All this in perhaps as little as 200 years. Can't wait! Quite literally . .


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What we are and why we're here

Just read the following article:
Science and Mysticism

Both the Copernican Revolution and Darwin's theory of evolution have been utterly devastating in transforming the image we had of ourselves as spiritual beings living in a world full of magic and ultimate purpose. The lack of a story of what we are, where we come from, why we're here, has wrought unparalleled damage to our collective psyches.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Atheists claim we are born atheists.

[Y]oung children, regardless of their cultural background, are inclined to believe that they have an immortal soul – that their essence or personhood existed somewhere prior to their birth, and will always continue to exist.

Will Religion ever Disappear


Yes, I remember how utterly shocked I was when at a very young age I asked my father what happens when we die, and he said we cease to exist.

Interestingly atheists frequently claim we are born atheists and we are indoctrinated into believing otherwise. But it seems that we are born with the innate supposition that there's an ultimate purpose to our lives, the Universe and all things. Such an innate supposition seems very far removed from the family of beliefs associated with modern western atheism.




Sunday, 17 January 2016

Neil deGrasse Tyson and the meaning of Life

From here:

In response to a 6 year old asking the meaning of life, Neil deGrasse Tyson responded:

If I live a day and I don't know a little more that day than the day before, I think I wasted that day.


Which means that the meaning of life is constituted solely by the accumulation of knowledge. Not any other satisfactions that one might obtain. In our lives we form friendships and relationships with others, achieve various goals, experience many pleasures. Knowledge is not the only thing, and definitely not for a 6 year old.

Moreover, I'm guessing he's talking about scientific knowledge. Such knowledge is always provisional. Furthermore there are questions pertaining to whether our scientific knowledge depicts a literal state of affairs. And in addition science only describes reality rather than telling us what it really is in its essence.

That's how I would have responded if I were the 6 year old.




Silly notions of God

From here:

The God attacked by most modern atheists, Hart argues, is a sort of superhero, a "cosmic craftsman" – the technical term is "demiurge" – whose defining quality is that he's by far the most powerful being in the universe, or perhaps outside the universe (though it's never quite clear what that might mean). The superhero God can do anything he likes to the universe, including creating it to begin with. Demolishing this God is pretty straightforward: all you need to do is point to the lack of scientific evidence for his existence, and the fact that we don't need to postulate him in order to explain how the universe works.

I would add they think that such a notion of "God" either acts against physical laws or, alternatively, provides explanations for phenomena which physical laws are unable to account for (this latter being known as the "God of the gaps").  Personally I think this is an absolutely ludicrous conception of "God".  Nevertheless it is this concept that all atheists I have heard seem to espouse.  See a blog entry by me in my other blog:

A ridiculous conception of God Part 2


The author quotes Damon Linker who says:  

 
… according to the classical metaphysical traditions of both the East and West, God is the unconditioned cause of reality – of absolutely everything that is – from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God "exists" in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

This seems to reflect my own concept of God.

 

The author exactly expresses the view I've always expressed; namely that atheists only ever attack utterly ludicrous simplistic conceptions of "God". This includes people like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawkings et al.

The excuse they inevitably give is that most people believe in the type of "God" they attack. That's an interesting strategy . . ignore what the most sophisticated thinkers that have ever lived have said about the concept of "God" and attack the most silly and simplistic conceptions of "god" imaginable . .  And attack straw men versions of what the most sophisticated thinkers have said (yes Dawkins, I'm looking at you!)
This is a strategy employed not in just this area but elsewhere too. I get the impression that most people just want to give the appearance of "winning" the argument rather than actually engage with the ideas themselves and seeking to discover the truth about the world.
So much for the rationality of human beings . .

Monday, 11 January 2016

If all Scientific Knowlege were destroyed

Richard Feynman once said:
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied

 I definitely wouldn't say that! I would say:

"Subtract the qualitative from the physical world, the rest follows patterns described by mathematics".


In a thread on facebook people were suggesting things like "know yourself" and mentioning micro-organisms.
 
"Know your self" will not precipitate any scientific discovery. Neither will saying everything is made up of atoms. The ancient Greeks said both. Neither precipitated much scientific progress. I mean "know yourself" has nothing to do with science!

What precipitated modern science in the 17th Century was the notion that physical reality -- at least the quantifiable aspects -- are governed/described by physical laws written in the language of mathematics potentially discernible by us human beings.  See my essay on my other blog:

Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia


 Regarding atoms, micro-organisms and the like. They need to learn to walk before they can run. They need to find out how to conduct science, not tell them about scientific discoveries.

Even if they could make sense of sub-microscopic particles or micro-organisms, remember the saying:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".


Sunday, 10 January 2016

In a million years time

I was just thinking. Suppose we could go into the future exactly 1 million years from now. What would we see?

I would speculate that our technological civilisation will have disappeared and most probably that we will have become extinct and the Earth will have returned close to a pristine condition.
Will other life forms have evolved with limbs and something like opposable thumbs so they can manipulate their environment? Probably not, but maybe. But even if they did arise I doubt they would build a technological civilisation like ours.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

School and Homework

I read with interest this question on quora by someone regarding the excessive amount of homework children are required to do.  It reads:

My oldest child is in 5th grade, and the burden of daily homework is not yet a disaster. But I see parents and children around us struggling with the daily routine and with deciphering why, exactly, is it necessary for us to see our children through this daily torment of mostly rote memorization.

I want my children to succeed. I want them to have a future full of opportunities. I understand that good grades are a requirement (though I wish they weren't as much). But I can't see why it is necessary for us as a society to have teenagers spend 4 hours a day doing homework, including weekends.

Don't they deserve a childhood?

This article in The Atlantic triggered the question: My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me.

It seems that while there has been widespread panic about American students’ falling behind their peers in Singapore, Shanghai, Helsinki, and everywhere else in science and mathematics, the length of the school day is about the same. The school year hasn’t been extended. Student-teacher ratios don’t seem to have changed much. No, our children are going to catch up with those East Asian kids on their own damn time.

Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have. These lamentations are a ritual whenever we are gathered around kitchen islands talking about our kids’ schools.


Homework is a good idea in principle. It allows children to consolidate what they've learnt (or in my case learn it in the first place since I never listened in class). But I certainly don't regard it as a good idea to do it *in addition* to attending school 30 hours a week. My opinion is that children should only attend school in the mornings. In which case a moderate amount of homework would be desirable.

I very rarely did any homework when I used to go to school. It was depressing enough attending school without doing homework too! My advice to children would be to simply point blank refuse to do any. They should politely say to teachers, "no sir I have not done my homework, it is bad enough being forced to attend school during the daytime hours without my evenings being robbed too. Childhood should primarily be about playing, not work".

Admittedly I didn't used to say that. I used to say "I forgot sir".

Also see my blog entries:


Mathematics, Education and School

School and Education





Mathematics, Education and School

I have just started watching a TV programme about peoples' numerical skills in the UK. It claims that around half the adult population has the mathematics ability of a primary school child (ages 5-11 I think).  So if half of the population has learnt nothing about maths from 11 onwards, then it seems to follow that no purpose was served in them attending maths classes from the age 11 onwards.  At least not in terms of their education.

This seems to me to be a deplorable situation when we consider that mathematics is the second most important skill that we should acquire at school; the most important of course being English Language. There again many peoples' English language skills are also equally abysmal and they don't seem to have learnt much in this subject after 11 years old either.

Yet people harp on about how incredibly important school is and claim it's disadvantageous for a child even if he or she misses a single day. Well, if we are to believe this statistic, then at least for half of us this doesn't appear to be true.

Consider also that apart from holidays children are required to attend school 5 days a week from 9am-4pm (in my day, might be 9-3 now?). It seems to me that to a significant degree we are robbed of our childhood and in engaging in childhood pleasures such as playing, or reading, or doing any one of innumerable pleasurable things. Instead we are compelled to sit in classrooms where a significant proportion of us learn very little and are presumably bored to tears. To rub it in further UK Government ministers keep proposing that children should attend school at an earlier and earlier age, and do more homework!

Although this might sound surprising to many, I actually regret not playing truant in my school days. I learnt next to nothing before the age of around 14.  In all honestly being compelled to attend school up to the age of 14 was a lamentable disgraceful waste of my childhood.

It seems to me there's something really seriously wrong with the whole system. I've asked many people what a 1/3 divided by a 1/9 equals.   A good majority of people give me the wrong answer -- most often 1/27.  This suggests that they either do not understand what a fraction is, do not understand what "divide" means, or quite possibly do not understand what either word means.  The answer is of course 3.  1/3 divided by a 1/9 means how many times does 1/9 go into 1/3.  Since 3/9 is another way of expressing 1/3, then the answer is 3.

And many people use "your" rather than "you're", loose rather than lose, "noone" rather than "no one", there instead of their or they're.  The list goes on and on.  I should hasten to add that my grammatical skills are not particular impressive, but the good majority of people have even worse skills in this area.


I don't know the methods by which children have been taught in recent years.  But clearly -- at least for mathematics and English language -- a serious rethink in how children are taught these subjects is in order.  It also seems to me that reducing the hours we attend school might be a good idea -- perhaps attending 9am- 12pm for 5 days a week.  It frees up more time for children to pursue activities of their own choosing, and possibly might ignite a greater interest, and hence a greater understanding in the subjects being taught if  they are not being continually exposed to the same subject matter.  I'm interested in the philosophy of mind, but if I were compelled to think and write about it for hours every day, then that flame of interest might well be in danger of diminishing. 



Your Job Is Pointless

An interesting article:

Your Job Is Pointless


I think capitalism and what it entails is inimical to our fulfilment -- that which truly makes us happy. Even for those who do comparatively well. That makes me "left wing" I guess? On the other hand I'm extremely hostile to political correctness -- the fact that people are not allowed to express their honest opinions etc. So that probably makes me "right wing"? I think these left and right wing labels are largely meaningless.