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Semiformalishmaybedachte wrote
on March 3rd, 2012 at 04:16 pm

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One kind of bad loop: When one is sufficiently verbose in an intent to be clear, one gets into TL;DR territory, and one often then becomes even more verbose to try to counter. This has a number of counterparts; too much emotional intimacy at an unwanted juncture leads to the other person pulling away, leading to a perceived distance, leading to more exposure. In each, it easily leads to a kind of false-Asperger's; while the lack of ability to notice the distancing or misunderstanding might easily replicate the behaviour, it's more painful when self-aware but the compounding response happens anyway, out of need. Like the Hedgehog's dilemma, it's a tragedy inherent in the human condition.

Every few years, I disable flash in my browsers for a day or two to see if I can give it up yet. Every few years it gets a bit easier but isn't quite there; there's a lot of video out there that's still not migrated to HTML5, most notably the Daily Show (but also a few other sites I like). The video format war between Mozilla and Google probably doesn't help. It's long been a nightmare trying to portably display video on the web, and generally when asked how to do it I've suggested people upload their video to Youtube and let it handle the formatting. Maybe someday we won't need that anymore.

Ken MacLeod (my favourite science fiction author) recently wrote a book called Intrusion, and it's a political/philosophical thought experiment (in much the same way that Clarke/Baxter's 「Light of Other Days」 is on privacy) exploring something very near the vaccine/creation-science controversy.

I first note that I have not yet read the book; I'm analysing the thought experiment in its stated form.

MacLeod imagines a pill that prevents a number of birth defects, widely accepted in society. It then imagines a pregnant mother who refuses to take the pill, and the community (and law)'s response to that. I analyse this in light of my positions on the following matters:

  • Abortion (particularly, rights of the unborn)
  • Christian Science (a christian faith that rejects all medicine)
  • The anti-vaccine movements
  • Parental rights versus child rights
Initially, I would be tempted to decide immediately in favour of the child's health; parental stewardship is relatively weak and provisional on the best interests of the child; it is not an intrinsic/inviolable right. But there remains the matter that we're not talking about a child; we're talking about a foetus, which already by my philosophy doesn't have full human rights (right after conception, it has literally no rights, and slowly accumulates them as its brain develops). There is an interesting argument: what if the pill could only provide benefits to a foetus? We don't want to erode rights to abortion by creating substantial rights to entities that might never have the brain development needed to be considered people, but could we say that if/when such an entity is developed, it retroactively gaims rights to the best treatments possible to ensure its health? I think that's just too weird an argument to entertain (even if it's feasable). I would be comfortable with a societal "should" of "if you intend to give birth, you should provide this treatment", but I don't think I'm comfortable legislating that (especially given that intent is not always black-and-white).

What does the other side look like? I suspect some people who reach a clear "the would-be mother is right" position believe in a strong right to self-determination as a family; even if the decision is clearly medically worse for the child, they would claim that the psychological harm done to a family in not being able to make its own choices outweighs the medical benefits that might otherwise compel the best treatment. That's an understandable position (that I reject). Likewise, people might have different frameworks on foetal rights than I do.

Grab bag:

  • I'm rather fond of the recent American Atheists billboards. I generally prefer tact and convincing in these discussions, and AmericanAtheists sometimes feels tone-deaf, but AA generally does express what I'm thinking
  • I'm very concerned that the Tories seem to be trying to privatise police and prisons in some parts of the UK. State functions should not be performed by non-state actors; we don't have the tools for accountability, and there is too much deniability for improper action by such groups. Plus, there's cost concerns; if there is room to perform these functions while leaving room for profit, there should be room to do it in the public sector cheaper. Whatever corners are being cut by the private sector to make it profitable are either things the state should do or they are things that should not be done.
  • The EFF has an interesting take on censorship on facebook and tumblr. I still would rather assert some rights-of-the-commons to sufficiently large social media sites and deny them broad-ranging censorship rights (or at least consider it a tension between the public interest and site-owner interest in setting agenda).
  • In a case of time-delayed fridge logic, I've come to be a bit uncomfortable with one of George Takei's PSAs on gay rights. It's just this particular one; in general they have been positive, restrained, and well-thought messages, but this one bothers me because it includes a joke that feels a bit normative, suggesting that Takei will rape a bigot for saying stupid things about gays. It's meant as a joke, but does feel a bit normative, hence my discomfort.

Next week I'm heading to NYC to camp the apartment spawn points; tired of missing out on great opportunities because it takes me a day or two to make it into town to tour the place. Also will spend some time at the part-time employer's office to meet coworkers and spank some bad hardware. I'll be around Mon-Wed; I'm not sure how much spare time I'll have to meet with people, but if *you* have time, ask. I'm probably staying up in the ColumbiaU area, working in midtown-Manhattan, and apartment-hunting in Brooklyn (and possibly Queens). With any luck I might also get an interview for the dream job while I'm there too.

I'm presently working on a post on a hard topic in gender relations; it's on a topic where I'm dealing with an uncomfortable liberal-leaning conclusion (that I still agree with) and trying to reconcile it with my notions of theory and justice. My take on it is more limited than certain other noisy strands of feminism, and it ties in to why I thought ZSpark's positions in an earlier debate are so reprehensible (unrelated to his also-reprehensible conduct). It's generally pretty interesting when our broad theory and our specific conclusions are in tension; that tension helps us learn how we work with our values. Post coming soon.

I'm amused that my "todo" file, which contains a lot of random notes but is mostly sketches of things to blog about, is well over 3000 lines now, although I started this one ages ago.


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