Archive for September, 2006

links for 2006-09-30

September 30, 2006 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

A forgetfull Universe

Writes Seth Lloyd: “Flipping a bit transforms information: 0 gives to 1 and vice versa. It also preserves information: if you knew that the bit was 0 before the flip, then you know that it is 1 after the flip.”

Hence as long as something is simply black or white, binary, it is impossible to forget the opposing the position (provided you remember what the opposing position is).

100 equals 4 in binary 010 equals 2 and 001 equals 1. hence if we erase 4 we can have 100, 101, 110, 111, 010, 011, 001, 000 and I think that’s it. So when we step up from one bit to 3 bits we move from being able to recover information intrinsically to having only a 1 in 7 chance of finding the original message. But what if we could nail the 1 in 7 chance every time? Information would be perserved would there still be a transference? Does this mean that when we erase something, the original information is transferred only 6 out of 7 times? This is a niave question, I’m sure but it is interesting.

Why do complicated things allow themselves to forget, but simple things are condemned to remember? Are complexity and erasure part of the same process? Does the complicated algorithim necessarily need to forget, to drink a little to much, pass out, and wake up free from memory? Is this what allows information to mutate, to take on a life of it’s own? Are we in essence complicated becuase we can’t remember? Our memories go well beyond 3 variables in an arguement, does this mean we are always digesting memory to transfer it’s information away? Are we breathing becuase it enables us to free ourselves from information? Where do the memories in our neuronal circuits end up? My guess is the ass.

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September 29, 2006 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment

links for 2006-09-29

September 29, 2006 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Zero Tolerance

Writes Malcolm Gladwell:

“A Tennesse study found that after zero-tolerance programs were adopted by the state’s public schools the frequency of targeted offenses soared: the firm and unambigous punishments weren’t deterring bad behavoir at all.”

In a school obviously not. Being expelled or other severe measures are hardly punishments at all, in fact the number of high school drop-outs that have gone on to great things or equivenalcy degrees isn’t that bad either. Zero Tolerance, “ Zero tolerance protects
law-abiding students and staff members by allowing
for the swift and easy removal of dangerous students,
Ewing says. And it acts as a deterrent to bad
behavior by demonstrating swift and serious consequences
for defying school rules.” The later line rings of rational crime a little, but what works (or doesn’t take your own view) for criminals might not work for school becuase the incentive to stay in school is hardly that great while the incentive to stay out of prison is arguably greater.

But Malcom’s gist, which is that, “You let the principal or the teacher decide what to do about cheating because you know that every case of cheating is different.” is also false. First as a school teacher most cheating is actually the same. Students copy each other and use remarkably similar methods (one class used laughing and giggling to signal answers for a test), secondly Malcom is using a pragmatist’s arguement that context outweighs principle, this isn’t necessarily the case. While exceptions certianly exist, circumstances can easily have deep similarities that do confine them categories and principles.

Lastly, Malcom’s arguement suffers from the idea of tolerating bad behavoir mitigates it, this might be true, I certianly subscribe to this idea in my classroom, but it also misses that you have to target what good behavoir is and reward it. So often with punishment we forget that often students live in a world of no rewards. The rewards for good grades can range from ice cream to toys, but many students don’t get a reward from their parents or even encouragement from their friends (in fact they come close to be mocking for “breaking the curve”). Zero Tolerance has the flaw that it effectively rewards bad behavoir by removing students from a place they don’t want to be in the first place, but it also misses that school should be more than meaningless grades, routine work, and punishment, a situation that sounds remarkably like prison, it needs to include a system that makes acheiving goals in learning more rewarding than the dubious prospect of your parents buying you that video game.. etc.

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September 28, 2006 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

American Energy

“America’s dependence on imported
oil is undermining the country’s
national security by tying the U.S.
economy to unstable and undemocratic
nations, thus increasing the risk of military
conflict in political hotspots around the globe. ”

This comes from a WorldWatch / Center for American Progress report issued here.

Now there’s several problems here OPEC consists of a basket of countries including Indonesia (democratic and quickly growing), Nigeria (again democratic and really a pretty good country), Qatar which began to move to democracy in 1999, Venezula which while socialist is still a democracy, United Arab Emirates not quite a democracy, but a rather nice place to be with a good open press etc., Iran which while controversial is democratic to a certian extent, Iraq which is now a democracy, Kuwait which isn’t democratic at all, but we’ve invaded countries to defend, Saudia Arabia not democratic, and Algeria which isn’t a democracy and not that great of a place right now. In addition to this U.S. energy also comes from Russia and Canada etc. Hence really this comment plays more to Arab-phobia than reality similar to the Dubai Port World Deal which should have gone through (Dubai is 70% immigrant and hardly extremist in the least). In addition to this, it reminds of the Chinese folly of closing their economy to the world, we shouldn’t be opposed to importing energy and by the logic this paper is using the U.S. should close itself off from undemocratic governments, China is arguably a non-democratic country with an increasingly precarious political situation (over 60k riots last year), Vietnam again undemocratic, there’s a lot of examples of imports from other countries outside of energy that come from countries with bad track records etc. While I recognize this report is intended to pander to national security interests in the interest of procurring greater funding for alternative energy (and when you get down to it much scientific research is conducted by pitching it to DARPA) I’m more interested in seeing a report on renewable energy that doesn’t play on theoretical paranoias, and also one that acknowledges we need the rest of the world. We can not exist with out the world and to play on localist politics and a growing sense of protectionist government in the interests of pitching a well meaning cause doesn’t just annoy me, but sours me on the entire enterprise to begin with. I might add the report’s bet on rising energy prices (much like recent bets on natural gas) has gone bust. Oil is back down and alternative energy must learn to compete with the big boys before it can make itself economical again.

p.s. if you do want to pitch alternative energy I might advise playing with it first. While people might not like the economics of it, having a solar panel to help around the house or with other projects is a lot of fun. I have a couple solar kits now and am hoping to make a nice solar pump for my fish tank in the near future.

September 26, 2006 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

Schools suck, but the hospitals are good

National school systems come and go in their ratings, but national healthcare in Canada has surprisingly turned out rather well and in other countries to. One reason for this might be the immedicacy of it. Children can’t vote hence their opinions on the actual experience of school have no weight in decissions on education, but the experience of going to the dentist or the hospital is one that effects people of voting age and hence it makes the voter feel more directly culpable for the quality of the servie they’re receiving. If it takes 2 months to see the dentist, you can be damn sure that you’re going to voice your opinion on that. In essence by putting their lives in their own hands, voters in socialized systems are ensuring that they always receive decent healthcare and that it’s an issue. On the other hand it’s also harder to judge the quality of schools, one teacher might be good, but the others might be bad etc. and education is not a life or death issue or even one as likely to leave cavities, as important as human capital might be, it only becomes a priority when the media begins to pay attention to it.

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September 25, 2006 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

links for 2006-09-24

September 24, 2006 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

Imposition, Rail Guns and Nuclear Bombs, Other Stuff

One of the reasons why we’re here today, surfing the internet etc, was that education was imposed on people through out the world by various governments. Like it or not, you’re going to learn. Cutting down on ignorance or the possibility of feral children etc. While we associate the totaltarian with the holocaust and hence bad, it’s whole sale approach (and nigh marxist optimisim) can also be used to do something that can help society as a whole too. Hence is it discredited entirely for bad reasons or do we have the technologies (and know how) to convince people to better themselves with out having to require it? The totaltarian is rightly feared, but what it takes away (choice) is also what makes it’s anti-thesis weak too.

In terms of ethics lets look at the following: nuclear bombs are bad becuase they can kill millions in an instant, but the choice of killing millions is also what holds them up, you pause for a second, do I really want to eliminate everyone in this city etc? In essence nuclear bombs are hard to justify using because their results push at the upper limits of categories, the people in country X might be bad, but you would really really have to believe that everyone is alike and hence part of the bad people of country Y category to be able to justify nuking them (or perhaps just feel that some people really deserve to die and the others are accpetable casualities). On the other hand let’s say you have have a rail gun, it can kill anyone in the world at anytime painlessly (or perhaps incredibly painfully if you so choose). Now the rail gun is more contextual, it let’s you single out the individual in the mess that you want to do away with. Would this weapon be more likely to be used than a nuclear bomb? Yes, it would and the year on year total of killing would probably exceed those killed by nuclear weapons rather quickly. In essence, because nuclear weapons force the user to consider their actions over a greater diversity of people, they’re less likely to be used than weapons that can single out an individual. But how does this relate to the first paragraph, it’s quite simple.

Totalatarians have done a great deal of damage to the world, but a lot of it is through indirect means, Mao didn’t mean for the Chinese to starve, he just happened to have fucked up the country’s farms with bad planning, it was an honest mistake. Had he approached it from a free market angle, the risk of various different plans would have been spread over a greater area of innovators leading to some people messing up and others suceeding. But the real problem with Mao’s idea was that he wasn’t thinking contextually or individually, his policy killed millions. He was just the wrong guy, at the wrong moment, with the wrong line of thinking. It’s this means of killing that makes totaltarianism bad, but that doesn’t make it ethically wrong or a-moral it took deliberate genocide to do that, but the actual numer of people killed by autocratic genocide is probably less than those killed by individuals in free countries fighting over resources or ideas etc. While numbers do not necessarily make up the impetus of a good arguement, totaltarianism has it’s advantages in both allowing good ideas to be absolutely implemented along with bad, democracies have their disadvantages in letting individuals choose to pursue their own vices and also spreading accountability for choices to their government instead of the voter or tax payer, very rarely do people in a democracy take blame for voting in programs that fail etc. On the other hand every text book has the story of Mao and China’s starvations, hence future dictators should have learned that thinking on the wholesale non-contextual categorical method was a bad thing, while voters should have continued to vote bad policies in and not taken accountability for them. Of course while the later has happened, the former hasn’t happened. Why don’t Dictators learn?

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September 24, 2006 at 2:47 pm 2 comments

links for 2006-09-23

September 23, 2006 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

links for 2006-09-22

September 22, 2006 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

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