Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Virtú/Knowledge, Transhumanism, と Cyberpunk

As is often the case, last night's dream had me in a university classroom learning things I don't know that are likely the imposition of order on random gibberish floating through my head.

I believe this may have been inspired by noticing that SqHill's main intersection, Forbes and Murray, usually sees more pedestrian traffic diagonally than across only one road. I thought it might be possible to do something better.

In the exaggerated world of dreams, this resulted in a class on higher-dimensional geometric optimisations. Toy domain was like reality, with roads acting as twistable hinges (the midpoint of any segment acting as a potential swing point, and the result of a swing being the entire landscape around them being rotated through the fourth dimensional plane until it lands back as its mirror image in three dimensions... with some provision for things being reshaped to match the edges on the other side in a way that does not destroy road structure (even as it may displace it). Alternative formulation was a rotating within space of abstract structures, which would reorient themselves so ground and sky were in the right places after a rotation. We were asked to solve a number of problems to optimise various intersections to lessen the number of actual roads crossed by pedestrians, and then to optimise a number of these at the same time.

In the class, there was some transformation we could do that allowed us to use SVDs to get something that we'd feed into some clean and simple Linear Algebra equation for most of these kinds of problems. It felt mathematically clean and good to practice that equation, which isn't a feeling I've felt for years (but then I haven't done a lot of math-y learning for awhile. I have an odd association of that feeling with some kind of pepperminty smell and skin lotion which I don't fully understand - working through the equation and letting it sink into my mind: similar to massage oils I used to put on my hands before giving a S.O. a massage). Remembered insight - adding "null roads" that co-run along existing roads allows for the X-based twisting (which the class called second order) to devolve into simple rotation along the length of the road - kind of obvious, but it seemed clever at the time.

While waiting at bus stop today was wondering why I haven't been thinking much about Transhumanism recently, given that it is at least theoretically a position and interest of mine. Answer: Without radical improvements in virtue and knowledge, transhumanism will be kind of empty (or at the very least will be a subculture). A hick with improved senses and memory and the like wouldn't be able to meaningfully make much use of what the tools offer. As a minority movement, it has potential, but it would lack the economies of scale or supportive infrastructure. The cyberpunk vision is a narrow one, born of the search for individualism and a strong narrative in a large species and society where our narratives rarely are significant - it is also unrealistic in that anarchist way of neglecting that many repressions civilise us and that without that civilising process our base urges make us brutes (brutus?) to each other. Even as we should reject the strongest forms of individualism, we can imagine Freud's interplay will continue to exist for the far future - transhumanism will not be cyberpunk, it has very real challenges in letting our improper wishes harm us (wish to withdraw from society, wish to redefine human nature, thoughts that people might mutually agree to relation styles and that that consent makes false the harm of some of those forms, etc), but it will change our lives in fundamental and potentially wonderful ways. The issue: to make the most of it we should have excellent education and advances in virtue beyond what we have now. These, maybe not coincidentally (given my fixation on both topics) are also things I desire as prerequisites for socialism (maybe they're prerequisites for many notions of societal good though). To spend a lot of time on transhumanism itself in forms other than "I am a dreamer" modes serves very narrow interests - when it comes to actual advocacy or work, our time is better spent advocating for things like:

  • Class sizes of 15 or less
  • Radically increased teacher salaries
  • Ensuring that school boards never produce bad curricula
  • Universal mandatory public education
  • Heavily subsidised university education
  • Continuing education over one's life as a societal norm
  • Societal emphasis on education (as being more important than finance, for example)
  • Critical thinking, civics
  • Longer school years
Unless transhumanism just means cool toys built into the body (which is aiming very low), we will need education to use it, and we should have more thoughtful and mature people to handle the enhanced capabilities it would give us. Ideally, we would want a people good enough that we would leave doors to our house unlocked, as the transhuman will have more personal capability than what that means today.

Plus... unless we either give up on democracy for a bit or a number of people develop some sense very quickly, we face global challenges that would make transhumanism in the long run moot.

Looks like my friend JasonM likely will be out of here by the end of the month - I've read that Pittsburgh's air quality is quite poor, and he's sensitive to that. He's likely to move to SantaBarbara, which we both consider one of the nicest towns in the US. I've been too depressed to do more figuring out the job situation, but hopefully I can wrap up my research and send out letters soon -- there's at least some chance I'd end up there as well (or UrbanaIllinois, or Berkeley, or Eugene, or Austin, all depending on which if any professors bite). Was nice to have someone else I know in town, but interacting with people has left me highly frazzled and unstable.


  • Recently signed up for Android Dev program - need to replace my phone is increasingly urgent and maybe I'd end up writing a few phone apps. Still waiting on buying the actual replacement phone - the NexusOne is being made into the new dev phone but it's not available yet on their marketplace.
  • Dresden CodakのAaron Diaz recently started a blog where he talks about webcomics as an expressive medium. I guess I consider my first foray into webcomics mostly done, not that I've really exhausted the idea (it mirrors my life in a way, and I could probably keep working with that story for a long time) nor have I stopped extending it on my own, but because nobody read it and I wanted to play with different styles that I've been trying to learn. The style of art was too much a part of Oyschlisn to let me draw more realistic figures - the main character had been in their place so long that they had forgotten the face of humanity (or at least found it, like everything else, difficult to sustain without continued mental effort). The other stories (haha, there are now 8 of them) give me more room to change my style. I am tempted to go back and study my earlier work to see how the metrics Diaz provides (and by extension Truffaut/Hitchcock now that Diaz has me thinking in that direction) measure what I made and to see what can be learned from that. Heck, if there were some way I could make it swing, I could imagine being entirely fulfilled and happy being a combination philosopher/webcomic person for the rest of my life (provided, of course, I am not alone - that kinda takes priority over anything else). Pity it's unrealistic.
  • I am sometimes surprised when it becomes clear that I introduced something to CMU social circles. This has become clear increasingly often, even given my high isolation from CMUfolk nowadays.
  • Been thinking about why I find Mad Scientists and the like so much more interesting than goody characters in theatre - example: character of "Scar" in the Lion King. Maybe it's the juvenile morality of the "good" guys that puts me off - it's not necessarily that I like what's portrayed as bad either, but those notions of good are offensive in the HaysCode (no no not the Hayes Command Set - entirely different). I can't sympathise with the bad guys or the good guys in the Batman universe - the bad guys are too bad and Batman is a bloody idiot with a stupid philosophy. In other series it's not so hard - forgiveness is admirable sometimes, but not as an absolute rule - only as subordinate to judgement. The notion of it being morally proper to be deeply pacifist is rubbish - likewise other aspects of Disney morality. When people in a story arn't looking at the big picture, their pretensions of morality strike me as highly offensive (even as in real life I recognise that one is always choosing the least bad at every option while aiming to win in the long run). At least in a story, I'm often willing to root for the "bad" guy, while this is not the same in politics (while I can give a detailed and nuanced analysis on Chavez, for example, I think he's overall bad for his country and should be removed if suitable means come about). Likewise, in the Lion King or in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, the good guys take insensitivity and status-snobbery to intolerable levels - reasonable people with non-inflated egos could not bear to be around the protagonists. Simba's 「Just can't wait」 and Joseph's 「Joseph's Dreams」 make the plots against them entirely understandable (in that their insensitivity to others creates or enhances the twistedness of those others' personalities)
    • I sometimes wonder if there might be a character flaw in me in this. Some kinds of intuitive complexities are not necessarily a good thing
  • Kind of amused at the whack-a-mole aspect of ugly people showing up on the "recent events" part of OkCupid and the game of hiding them.
  • Interesting question that came up in a conversation yesterday with JasonM - how many people could come up with a reasonable answer to "what useful role does the stock market theoretically play in society?"? My estimation is that practically no non-college graduates could come up with a satisfactory answer and that while we'd see a lot of variation between different majors among university grads, a fairly small percentage of post-university university grads would have a reasonable answer. JasonM has a much higher estimate. In that same conversation, I asserted that civics is not generally taught anymore in American schools and that people generally don't know how government works, which enables groups like the Tea Party in having such a distorted worldview. I would love to be wrong on these points, but...
  • DilbertのScott Adams on conversation. I've long known my habits in conversation on this front tend to be a bit deficient, although the systemic distortions(?) in how other people evaluate me are more effectively a social barrier. Still, interesting stuff. Adamsのblog in earlier times wasn't that interesting but it's become very worthwhile recently. I imagine that voting thing he has to get feedback may have been helping? At the same time, taking that too far might be counterproductive cheating - art as substitutable for science in that quote, 「Science does not emerge from voting, party politics, or public debate」
  • Difficulty with my drawing tablet - so far haven't figured out how to get the buttons on the side to be assignable to functions in GIMP. I've determined that the lack of ability to zoom without the keyboard is one of the major things that hampers me in using the tablet, but GIMP for Windows is unable to see the device that represents the button and slider interfaces on the tablet. Regretting that my laptop doesn't have a DVI interface - mildly tempted to get yet another Linux box to run the tablet (maybe recent versions of Fedora would handle it better?) .. curious as to whether the "professional drivers for professional tablets" export devices differently than the other drivers - Wacom's docs indicate that the drivers are orthoganal enough that if one has both a professional tablet and a non-professional tablet of theirs, one should install both drivers(!). Maybe they figure that (*begin snark*) people with a professional tablet don't mind suffering Photoshop rather than enjoying GIMP (*end snark*)? I bet on Linux it wouldn't be an issue.
  • Hoping the latest migraine meds my doctor is having me try will be effective. For chewy tablets, the things taste terrible.
  • Top Secret America has surprisingly little that one couldn't find without a little bit of nonprofessional digging on one's own through academic sources, but people are treating it as if it's a big deal. Same with this. Still, this goes to show the importance of librarian/presenter type activities - there is tremendous value in filtering and presenting information as attention is a scarce resource.
  • The recent episodic Sam and Max games have a fantastic soundtrack! I feel slightly dirty for having paid for music, but I ordered the CD sets for seasons one and two. The 「Zombie Factory Rave」 is particularly good (It reminds me a little bit of Melotron's 「Erwartungen」). I suppose I should not be entirely surprised to find out that neither the 「Serious Sam」 or 「Max Payne」 series have anything to do with Sam and Max.

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