Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Statues of Ponds

One of the great figures in computer science, Alan Turing, recently was in the news in that an effort to secure a pardon for his homosexual acts failed. As much as I dislike the symbolism of the failure, I think I agree with some of the reasoning and at least concur with the decision. I philosophically disagree but juristically agree with the reasoning that his acts were criminal and he knew he would be punished; this is a fair legal argument but given the topic I think civil disobedience is understandable enough, and the law was personally-impinging enough, that it would be appropriate to have the law at least look the other way; whether such discretion is appropriate after conviction is a bit more difficult. More importantly, it's impossible to create justice. I am generally against pardoning the dead when doing so can have no legal or practical effect. It is a waste of time, and while symbolism can be important, I don't think its pursuit outside of any practical effects whatsoever is in the public interest.

JJ McCulough recently asked how popular mores modern times differ from those of our youth. This is a bit appropriate in that last night for the first time I noticed touches of grey in my hair for the first time. Kep reported spotting a few "unicorn hairs" but I never really spotted them myself, but now maybe one hair out of 50 on the sides of my head is grey/white. As I've always liked the idea of looking like a mad scientist, this is a good thing, mostly. Anyhow, on the mores question, it's difficult. Difficult because I am not in the same part of society as I was as a child, and I am in a different place. The first difficulty is two-pronged, one definitional and one positional. Are we asking about the mores of children or adults? And if we pick one, I am asked to try to understand how adults thought through the eyes of my younger self, or to understand how children think now through my eyes as an adult. The second difficulty is that I mostly grew up in a small, very very wealthy town that was isolated from mainstream society, and Brecksville's mores are probably not the same as mainstream society (if we even decide on how to measure mainstream society). I'll try anyhow though.

First, I concur with JJ that homosexuality has become much more accepted in the mainstream, although I think it was largely inevitable by the 80s; TV shows like 「Roseanne」 were pushing social mores pretty rapidly on a lot of fronts, and while there was not yet a feeling that gay marriage or other proper recognition of non-traditional lifestyles was on the way, there was a grumbling toleration that came from both second-wave activism and social libertines. Maybe the rise and fall of those libertines is the biggest change I've seen; it was a change I rode early in youth, and left, bit-by-bit, in late-college/early-postcollege. The philosophy of liberty, hyperlogic, elitism, honest/straightforward/radically-open communication, and a hunger to reinvent the world... either there were enough of us to reshape American society, or we were just a particular form of a larger trend that had some vaguer form of these ends. It's possible that this was the most self-aware form of some set of capitalist intuitions; that these values came from MTV, rocky horror, SIGs, the internet, and other new forms of social power flexing their muscles and not having any idea what the fsck they were doing. Oingo Boingo counterculture. The philosophy got worked out later, but by then the magic was fading; the consequences of the worldview and its inner contradictions stole the charm from it (or maybe that was just age as we learned to think).

I sometimes am surprised how much social movements have changed; both those I was involved with back then and those I was not. The religious conservatives have become far more radical, and decided to defend far dumber positions in greater numbers, than I ever thought they would. Feminism remains prone to factionalism but the wrong groups remain often unfortunately the loudest. It is hard for me to see how racism has changed; it's faded into near-invisibility for me in daily life, except in the form of anti-Arab hysteria in conservative circles.

The growth of forms of populism divorced from science is very worrying to me and feels relatively new; general respect for science and academia is not doing very well.

Computers no longer being just business tools or things for geeks, but rather an information (and social) tool for everyone; that's shaped society in countless ways (but is also a pretty obvious analysis I won't bore us with). The destruction of early popular-computer culture in its successive waves has been sad though.

Still thinking about this in general though. It's an interesting question he asks.


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