Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dostoyevsky and the function of one variable

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
In his novel The devils (or The possessed, for there are two versions of the title), published in 1872, Dostoyevsky appears as a political prophet who displays a surprising knowledge of Communism and communists. In this book, 45 years before the fact, he predicted correctly that Russia would be the first country where Communism would win, an idea disregarded by Marx and Engels due to the lack of an industrial proletariat in that country. Let us listen to one of the characters in the novel:
We know that a mysterious finger is pointing to our delightful country as the land most fitted to accomplish the great task.
The communists in the book, the possessed, or the devils, have the same aims as their counterparts who triumphed in the Soviet Union, such as the elimination of religion. To reach their objectives, they propose two different procedures. Let us look at the words that Dostoyevsky puts in their mouths:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Darwin’s mistake

Charles Darwin
Consider the following paragraph by Darwin in The descent of man (chapter 5):
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.
It seems incredible that, after a lifetime devoted almost exclusively to meditate on his theory of evolution, Darwin made the mistake of applying it wrongly to humans, as is clearly demonstrated in the paragraph I have just quoted.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Inside Out

The materialist atheist philosophy has a problem: it cannot explain human free will, the existence of which has been a universal consensus among philosophers and individual human beings. So, they are bent on denying its existence. Is there an easier way to solve a problem that deny there is one? Thus they offer a number of theories to explain it away. I will cite a few:

  • Free will is just an appearance. We are really the toy of our feelings (joy, sadness, fear, anger, disgust...). The Disney-Pixar film Inside Out could be an example of this philosophical stance.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

We are not living in a simulation: a note on Nick Bostrom’s proposal

Simulation of the collision of two galaxies
In a paper published in 2003 [1] Nick Bostrom proposed the following reasoning:
A technologically mature “posthuman” civilization would have enormous computing power. Based on this empirical fact, the simulation argument shows that at least one of the following propositions is true:

(1)   The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero;
(2)   The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero;
(3)   The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ikiru, or the power of abduction

A scene from Ikiru
Ikiru (To Live) is a great movie by Akira Kurosawa, one of the best two Japanese filmmakers of the mid-twentieth century (the other one is Yasihiro Ozu). Perhaps not as well known as Seven Samurai or Dersu Uzala, this film has many followers and its argument lends itself to curious considerations.
The protagonist, Kanji Watanabe, has been working for 30 years in the bureaucracy of the City of Tokyo. As the narrator says at the beginning of the film, in these 30 years he has not lived. Or in the words of Toyo, his young employee, he has behaved like a mummy. Then he learns that he suffers from stomach cancer and has less than a year to live. As I mentioned in another post in this blog, by 1952, the year the movie was released, a cancer diagnosis was equivalent to a death sentence. Watanabe discovers the value of life and tries to start living.After trying without success to drown his sorrow in pleasure, he decides to start a crusade for the sanitation of some land and the building of a playground. Although it costs him a huge effort, because the bureaucracy makes a tooth and nail resistance, he finally succeeds. The last fifty minutes of the film are devoted to Watanabe’s funeral, with several flashbacks showing his fight against the bureaucracy.