Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Voyager Spacecraft

From the following article:

NASA marks 40th anniversary of Voyager launches

[O]n board each is a golden record with sounds and pictures from Earth, as well as spoken greetings in dozens of languages.
It’s almost certainly the case these records will never ever be listened to or viewed. The spacecraft will be drifting through space long after the extinction of humankind. It will drift for countless trillions of years. All other signs of the human race will have long since been obliterated. In fact, the whole Earth will have been swallowed up by the death throes of the Sun as it expands into a red giant. Just those discs that no-one and nothing will ever view or listen to as a lasting memento of human culture and life on Earth.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Fully autonomous cars

I'm reading a lot in the past couple of days essentially saying that people are being irrational for being afraid to use fully autonomous cars.

I don't agree it's irrational at all. We have to bear in mind that computers can't actually see. It's difficult for them to make sense of their environment; certainly if they merely go by light as we do. Of course, hopefully, they'll use lidar. But there's cheap lidar systems, and expensive one's. You can be sure that they'll use the cheapest ones they can get away with. Their number one priority, after all, is to make a profit

Pot holes, debris on the road, crisp packets, rabbits running across the road. The number of unknowns the environment can throw at the car is unlimited. How do you program the car to distinguish between an empty carrier bag which it can drive through, and a rock? If they brake too suddenly, cars behind driven by people might well crash into the back.

What happens when ambulances, fire engines etc with the sirens blasting are in the nearby vicinity? What happens with road works? What about the possibility of remote hacking? How are they going to negotiate inclement weather conditions like heavy snow?

And these cars will be complex. Mechanically complex like other cars, but also complex in terms of all the programming. Suppose a few lines of code cause problems? Happens all the time with computer games and they have to issue patches (which might resolve the original problem, but cause a whole new load of problems). But your life is at stake, you cannot afford to have them programmed incorrectly!

It just seems sensible to me to wait until many people have travelled safely in them, and their track safety records exceed that of people driven cars, before getting into one.

Also see my blog post:

Self-Driving Cars

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Meeting a stranger to have an argument

Back when I was in my mid or late 20's, I was around this guy's house. He was this guy that I had known years ago, but had just met again. Anyway, I was talking about intellectual topics and he was listening in astonishment and said that he had never ever known anyone talk like me before, not ever. He tried to persuade me to come downstairs and have an argument with his girlfriend. Apparently she was always outarguing him and his friends so he wanted me to come down to outargue her.

I declined. But I can imagine if I'd agreed. I'd come downstairs, and say "hi, I've come downstairs for an argument". She'd reply "no you haven't". I'd say "Yes I have"!

That would have been such a laugh. Dunno why I declined!

Bill Nye, life after death, evidence

Bill Nye says there is no evidence for a life after death.

[Bill Nye] is bound by truth and science, and admits that there has been no evidence for [an afterlife].
All materialists/skeptics tend to say this. Obviously there's a great deal of evidence (NDEs, memories of previous lives, mediumship, apparitions, phenomena near death etc). Perhaps he means as in the sense that an afterlife doesn't play any role in our scientific theories? There again, unless we presuppose materialism, neither does embodied consciousness.  But, even if materialism were intelligible, that would of course beg the question. 

Let's imagine that every one of us could remember an apparent past life with the emotional identification to that past person and the memories mainly checking out. Let's also imagine that every single person that dies gives evidence of experiencing a deathbed vision, and that every one that nearly dies experiences a near-death experience.

If what we currently have constitutes zero evidence, so too must there be zero evidence in the scenario painted above since that just represents the same type of evidence -- albeit more extensive -- that we currently have ( 1,000 times 0, is still 0).

But, then it seems to me saying that there is zero evidence fails to convey anything.  The problem here is that Bill Nye and other skeptics are defining the word "evidence" in an unreasonable manner.  See my previous post
what is evidence?


What is Evidence?

Questions that need to be asked and that people never answer:

a) In what sense is something an extraordinary claim? Presumably that some physical laws are being contravened? Is it being assumed that such physical laws can describe the whole of reality to arbitrary accuracy, or might such physical laws only be applicable to a certain domain eg like the physical laws making up classical physics only being able to accurately describe the macroscopic realm?

b) Anecdotes are not scientific evidence, but they are certainly evidence. So it depends on whether someone is saying that some phenomenon should be scientifically accepted, or whether it should make someone more inclined to believe something or even perhaps compel personal belief.  So are those who claim that anecdotes are not evidence in agreement that anecdotes can be compelling evidence to believe something?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Going to Mars?

Going to Mars is a bit expensive? Time consuming? Nothing to do when you get there? Can't get back and therefore doomed to live on a bleak desolate barren lifeless rock for the rest of your life?

I have a brilliant idea. Take a virtual trip there instead!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Science has next to nothing to say about moral intuitions

I read the following article.  I quote the most relevant parts:
Recent research, [scientists] say, suggests that many of our moral intuitions come from neural processes responsive to morally irrelevant factors – and hence are unlikely to track the moral truth.
The psychologist Joshua Greene at Harvard led studies that asked subjects hooked up to fMRI machines to decide whether a particular action in a hypothetical case was appropriate or not. He and his collaborators recorded their subjects’ responses to many cases. They found that typically, when responding to cases in which the agent harms someone personally (say, trolley cases in which the agent pushes an innocent bystander over a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five other people), the subjects showed more brain activity in regions associated with emotions than when responding to cases in which the agent harmed someone relatively impersonally (like trolley cases in which the agent diverts the trolley to a track on which it will kill one innocent bystander to stop the trolley from killing five other people).

According to Greene, this indicates that our moral intuitions in favour of deontological verdicts about cases – that you should not harm one to save five – are generated by more emotional brain processes responding to morally irrelevant factors, such as whether you cause the harm directly, up close and personal, or indirectly. And our moral intuitions in favour of consequentialist verdicts – that you should harm one to save five – are generated by more rational processes responsive to morally relevant factors, such as how much harm is done for how much good.

As a result, we should apparently be suspicious of deontological intuitions and deferential to our consequentialist intuitions.This research thereby also provides evidence for a particular moral theory: consequentialism.
Greene’s results, however, don’t offer any scientific support for consequentialism. Nor do they say anything philosophically significant about moral intuitions. The philosopher Selim Berker at Harvard has offered a decisive argument why. Greene’s argument just assumes that the factors that make a case personal – the factors that engage relatively emotional brain processes and typically lead to deontological intuitions – are morally irrelevant. He also assumes that the factors the brain responds to in the relatively impersonal cases – the factors that engage reasoning capacities and yield consequentialist intuitions – are morally relevant. But these assumptions are themselves moral intuitions of precisely the kind that the argument is supposed to challenge.

Yes, I agree with this. When we purely use reason and shun our emotional reactions in our assessment of that which is moral, we presumably will conclude it is those actions that bring about the best consequences.  But the question remains why should brain activity in regions associated with emotions yield false conclusions in morality, and in contrast, the brain activity in those areas of the brain associated with reason give correct conclusions? It presupposes that emotions will lead us astray in our judgment as to those actions that are moral. But perhaps our emotional reactions, or at least when certain characteristic emotions are engaged, point to some objective morality?

Essentially this research is presupposing consequentialism. But sometimes that conflicts with our intuition. Consequentialism can be kinda cold-blooded sometimes. Consequences are important, but perhaps they are by no means the sole criterion?

The Voyager Spacecraft

From the following article: NASA marks 40th anniversary of Voyager launches [O]n board each is a golden record with ...