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1. Save the World TAGS: Art. Beauty. Books. Chemistry. History. Legal. Money. My Stuff. Philosophy. Ramblings. Reading. Science. Sustainability. War. World.
20091231 145630 Z 10 things you should know about USB 2.0 and 3.0 blogs.techre … 10things/?p=1265 digg.com/har … _USB_2_0_and_3_0 Hardware, Software, Standards, TECH Good news: USB 3 is almost here! Bad news: It may not catch on until 2011.
20091224 172621 Z Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus www.informat … s-the-consensus/ Geography, Images, Politics, Science, Sustainability, TECH Nice graphic that looks at both sides of the the issue. This related graphic is nice too: Climate Change: A Consensus Among Scientists?.
20091218 163303 Z Ten years of .NET - Did Microsoft deliver? www.theregis … t_net_noughties/ developers.s … omises?art_pos=5 Computers, Microsoft, Programming, Sun Microsystems, TECH I must have blinked, because given the article and the comments, you'd think that Java lost the war and Microsoft .NET has won.
20091214 001535 Z Scepticism's limits www.economis … trust_scientists www.reddit.c … so_for_the_time/ News, Politics, Science, Sustainability, USA Climate-gate? Smoking gun? My arse.
20091209 203150 Z Manners and Etiquette www.rfc791.o … lit/manners.html Julia Relations, Self Improvement Straight forward, no tricks, common sense. Courtesy is given; Respect is earned.
20091208 153706 Z Standard ECMA-262, 5th edition www.ecma-int … rds/Ecma-262.htm developers.s … proved?art_pos=1 JavaScript, Programming, Standards, TECH Whoot! After 10 years, this is finally out. JavaScript 1.9 in Firefox 4 should be ECMAScript 5 compliant. JScript 5.8 in Internet Explorer is still on ECMAScript 3. Funny to see the battle between IBM's 754r and Douglas' DEC64 still raging.
20091207 202005 Z Climatologists under pressure www.nature.c … ull/462545a.html science.slas … -Leak?art_pos=41 Politics, Science, Sustainability, USA, World There is no conspiracy, no real story in the Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident [W]. The investigation will be more thorough than any investigation into things like child abuse by the Roman Catholic church or the assassination of JFK. The sad part of it is that there are Republicans and such out there who want to see the climate issue as something like a political conspiracy by Al Gore. Scientists are all about openness and "how do we know?" and peer review. What motivation would scientists have to create such a conspiracy?
20091207 200041 Z 'Accidental' Download Sending Man To Prison cbs13.com/lo … n.2.1346842.html yro.slashdot … rison?art_pos=39 Legal, Sex, TECH I found the Slashdot thread fascinating because of its mix of sex, tech, and legal stuff.
20091207 194503 Z Coding Practices www.omninerd … Coding_Practices ask.slashdot … tices?art_pos=24 Programming, Standards, TECH I love articles on coding practices and conventions.
20091207 013456 Z "Lumberjack 20" www.crossfit … ive2/005100.html Conditioning, CrossFit, Military, Training, Violence Favorite workout that I did in the past few days: "Lumberjack 20" in honor of those who fell at Fort Hood, TX on 2009-11-05. 11 of the wounded were members of the Lumberjack CrossFit affiliate. My right knee always hurts during and after runs these days, but thinking about what it would be like if 11 people I personally knew were shot helped me think beyond myself.
20091201 200608 Z Men and Women May Respond Differently to Danger www.scienced … 091129125131.htm Biology, Mind, Psychology, Relations, Science, Security, Self Defense, Survivalism, Violence Yet another study supporting the male "flight or flight" response and the female "tend or befriend" response. This new study used fMRI to examine responses to positive and negative images.
20091201 015005 Z Best Tool For Remembering Passwords? ask.slashdot … words?art_pos=23 Cyber Life, Security, TECH Filing away here. A few good jokes, tips, and site recommendations like http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/, http://keepass.info/, http://www.steganos.com/us/products/for-free/locknote/overview/
2009-12-09t19:14:20 Z | TAGS: Art, Beauty, Books, Chemistry, History, Legal, Money, My Stuff, Philosophy, Ramblings, Reading, Science, Sustainability, War, World
Save the World

I am often embarrassed to write. The concept of wabi sabi (imperfect, impermanent, incomplete) helps, but feeling or knowing that I could write/think/process better tends to make me not write at all. I have to constantly remind myself that it's better to try and fail, than to never try at all. There are thoughts buzzing around in my head connecting science and morality and global/personal actions, but these thoughts haven't gelled together and they may never gel --especially if I don't write about it. So here goes another one of my free association scribbling sessions.

• The current United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 [W] (2009-12-07/18) and the Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident [W] which I already wrote about briefly.
• Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) by Jared Diamond.
• Karl Popper [W]
• Charles Darwin, especially The Descent of Man (1871), the source of this quote:
As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.
• Technological singularity [W]
• The loss of our polar ice caps, polar bears, and the great apes.
• The isolation of Cuba: The political, economic, social, and environmental effects.
• Robert Greene with his Machiavellian books on power, seduction, and war.
• My "List" that I started in my post called 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. I'm going to quickly copy that list here and quickly tack on a few things:
• Health
• Education. Wikipedia.
• Sustainable and Robust. Solar.
• Maximize Signal-to-Noise Ratio
• Global. Personal.
• Tech and Science. Nanotech. Space Elevators.
• Epistemology
• Beauty
• Orange
• Save history. Build future.
• Introversion
• Standards. Metric System.
• Martial Arts. Fun.
• Freedom. Tolerance for all but the intolerant.
• Non-fixation
• Maximize power as in more work in less time.
• Math. Statistics.

Acck! Too many lists! I have problems with too many lists, too many quotes, too many qualifications, etc. There are times when I need to just jump to the meat.

One of the things is that while things like morality and sympathy seem warm (as opposed to cold), spiritual (instead of material), etc., such things are actually both. I have always maintained that it is statistically advantageous to be "good" instead of "evil". If you are good, then the society supports you, but if you are bad, then society is against you. Clearly you can do more as an agent of good. The scientists and economists have been working on all sorts of studies and models and tests that seem to support this. This story Social Scientists Build Case for 'Survival of the Kindest' is a recent one that supports that idea too.

There are various related ideas swirling around here:

• There is power in numbers, and vice versa.
• There is power in morality and sympathy, and vice versa.
• There is power in sustainability, and vice versa.
• There is power in luck, and vice versa.
• There is power in variety, and vice versa.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond showed that luck (the right mix of geography and local species) allowed some societies to grow in numbers and have variety and laws and technology and art, which translated into powerful civilizations. Volume of numbers is powerful, but so is the genius and uniqueness that can be found at the tail ends of the bell curve. When there is a crisis or a catastrophe, a majority of the populations suffers and sometimes the only salvation is found in the minority, the oddballs, the mutations.

Right now fossil fuels are the cheapest and most accessible source of power. That is an economic fact that is not in doubt. In contrast, what some folks (like Republicans) seem to disagree upon is the degree of danger presented by a fossil fuels. In any case, whether or not you believe that fossil fuels are poisonous and existence-threatening in nature, the fact is that fossil fuels will remain in wide use until something cheaper and more accessible comes along. Given the near-sightedness of people, the issue is one of presentation, non-free market economics and politics. It would be much simpler if it were simply a matter of science, technology, logistics, and free market economics.

In one sense the environmental problem is similar to the Cold War: There is the threat of genocide, but the problem is more political than technological. The difference is that masses believed in the extreme danger of nuclear weapons, but the masses do not believe in the extreme danger of human induced climatic change. Human technological cleverness unlocked the utility found in both nuclear and fossil fuels, but in order to survive the dangers found from both, it's not a matter of human technological cleverness, but a matter of consciousness raising. Saving the planet is not up to scientists and engineers, but up to those who can influence the people: parents, teachers, politicians, artists, and so on.

In case there was any doubt, I want to explicitly state that I do believe that we are indeed in great danger in fossil fuels. Why? Well, although I am a programmer now, my college degree was in Chemical Engineering. We studied chemical reactions yes, but the real thing we studied is simply the bathtub model: Stuff goes in, stuff goes out. Simply put:

• We're putting more carbon dioxide in, than is taken out: The level in the bathtub is rising!
• We're putting catalysts in the system: Catalysts tend to stay and their effect is magnified!

As far as the accuracy and details of the models, the degree of danger, the time frame of the danger, the possible actions, and so on, that's what these scientists who are studying the issue in an open, peer-reviewed manner are doing.

I believe in the fossil fuel danger, but it's not as terrible as nuclear annihilation. We can lose coastlines and ecosystems will change, we can lose species, artifacts, and human lives, but it won't be nuclear winter. Fossil fuels took millions of years to make and accumulate. We've only really started using it for around 150 years and yet we're nearly running out. But we'll adapt to life without natural fossil fuels. The issue is mitigating this stuff, as in coming down soft instead of hard. If I want to "save the world", I'll need to think some more.

Now and then I fall into this laissez-faire attitude. Just let it be; It'll be fine. The numbers will work things out. Morality will be encoded in laws. The concept of tolerance for all (except for the intolerant) will become mainstream. We'll have the trial-and-error of the masses and the geniuses in the tail ends of the bell curve. It will all work itself out. Eventually our artificial intelligence will self-improve and we'll hit The Technological Singularity, so all that's left will be for us to play.

If this is the case, then why wait for the future? Make a living. Interact and care for your family, friends, and planet to whatever degree you're comfortable with. Seek the beautiful. Don't worry. Be happy. All the science, art, technology, philosophy, and so on will advance whether you do anything or not. It won't matter to the rest of us if you're powerful, popular, successful, introverted, extroverted, talented, etc.

Is this all good? Is there anything truly interesting anymore? Is it just a matter of being and then dying? I don't know. I don't care. I may just be too hungry for lunch right now. If you don't eat, then you don't live (or write).

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