Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Saw this on Shaul B’s blog “free thought”.

[Click here to watch, if the video doesn’t show]

Made me think of the old paradoxes connected with free-will, pre-destination, time travel and the like. How far do the consequences go? What would happen if you were to fiddle with natural cause and effect?

More down to earth; how far does your responsibility go to mend the wrongs in the world? Can you at some point just pack your bags and run away? 

In the movie, I see the DJ as scared, even fearing for his sanity if he remains. Others may see him as a coward.

I believe he had two legitimate choices; either to fix everything or to dispair, return reality to its course and walk away. He could not leave the scene half fixed because then others would have suffered from his meddling. Once done he could leave because there is a limit to human capabilities.

A hasid (as a opposed to a zadik) would have stayed and cared for his street corner for the rest of his life.

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That is Hebrew PC-speak for “poor people”. In Hebrew “השכבות החלשות” or “HaShkhavot HaHalashot”. I heard on the radio this morning that the proposed imposition of VAT on fruit and vegetables may cause the weak strata to buy less fresh food. Why not just say “the poor”?

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An article I saw in Technology Review. A researcher named Michel Maharbiz at the University of California, Berkeley has fitted out giant flower beetles like the one on the right with electrodes and a receiver. He can then fly them from a remote control connected to his laptop.

Dr. Haharbiz is very proud of his creations that he sees as having extensive military as well as hiumanitarian uses. The hardware on each beetle costs a mere $5 using off the shelf components that he grafts onto the creature using his expert knowledge of both biology and engineering to successfully mesh an animal’s nervous system.

I was reminded of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity. where he predicts that humans will become indistiguishable from robots within the next 50 years.

I think that this technological advance raises several ethical issues:

  1. The ability to perform ubiquitous and invisible surveillance has just taken a massive leap. While possible evil uses of a new technology has never been a good reason to prevent research, the possibility that every common fly could be spying on you and sending a constant video feed back to base is rather frightening.
  2. While I support the (controlled) use of animals for vital experimentation an I also eat animals, the idea of wiring and radio-controlling an animal for the advance of technology seems wrong to me. True the beetle has no self-consciousness and rudimentary senses, but all the same it doesn’t sound right.

What do you think?

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    This was the title of a post on Seth Godin’s blog yesterday. Seth says forget the falling stock markets and get out there and create value.

    In general I agree with him. Everyone, whether they be a creative type or not should be concentrating on creating real value for the World and the human race.

    However, contrary to what Seth says, the direction of the economy and the fortunes of the people who play it out in the investment houses and stock exchanges of the world do make a difference to all of us. If only they were wiser and they too would search for value not wealth then maybe the World economy and the lives and fortunes of its inhabitants would be safer in their hands.

    In Judaism its called tikun olam.

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    I mentioned in my post yesterday that with the start of the Jewish month of Ellul we are entering the annual period of introspection and improvement – a process known in Judaism as Teshuva.

    Teshuva is a very big thing in Judaism. the idea is that we are required to be in a continuous process througout our lives of personal improvement. We have free choice to choose to do good or bad and we are responsible for our choices. We therefore need to be constantly assessing our shortcomings and working on improving ourselves for next time.

    This might sound like hard work and no fun but if you think about it, it is a far more positive and optimistic view on life than that propounded by some other religions. It also seems to me to be a very pragmatic and logical approach to life. Things can be better and we can do it. Fate does not determine the outcome and neither do we need to throw ourselves at the feet of a savior or rely on some supernatural promises. We just need to think about what we are doing and do it better.

    To do Teshuva there are three stages and there is also a test to see if it worked. Anybody can do it, even if you aren’t Jewish and you don’t believe in God. That’s the great thing about it – it is so down-to-earth and pragmatically useful. The stages are as follows:

    1. Verbalize what you did wrong
    2. Feel remorse for it
    3. Decide not to do it again.

    The verbalization is not a confession to another person who then forgives you. It can be even between you and yourself but it is important because as I have mentioned before on the subject of goals, unverbalized goals are rather worthless. The remorse is a difficult part. However without remorse, the next stage of making the decision not to do it again will be even harder.

    Of course Teshuva itself doesn’t actually right any damage you may have caused to others through your past actions, so you are not off the hook until you have put right the damage as well. 

    The test for good Teshuva is straightforward as well. You are in the same situation again, you have the same opportunity and you are able to make the mistake again. Do you live up to your resolution to change, or do you do it over again?

    Anyway, so what’s this annual period of Teshuva about? The Jewish new year is celebrated annually as a special period for reflection on the past year and resolve to do better. Lots of prayers and lots of customs to make us think about ourselves, where we are and what we want to do better next year. We are supposed to be continually improving, but once a year we have a period set aside to encourage us to confront our needs for change.

    So happy Teshuva everyone.

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