motto lotto

Saturday, January 30, 2010

on technology and AI

Carl Johnson pointed me to this essay on technological thinking in Heidegger and Borgmann apt with all the flutter surrounding the iPad.

I also hadn't heard of Moravec's paradox -- it's easy for us to teach computers to think, much harder to teach them the "simple" perception and mobility we share with the animals.

Friday, January 29, 2010

yelling Stop

George Packer provides a nice meditation on the technological entanglements of the historical moment.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

the ladder, the circle, and the rest

The talent for friendship. - Among men who possess a particular gift for friendship, two types predominate. One is in a continual state of ascent and for each phase of his development finds a friend precisely appropriate to it. The succession of friends he acquires in this way are seldom at one with one another and sometimes in dissonance and discord: which is quite in accord with the fact that the later phases of his development abolish or infringe upon the earlier. Such a man may be jocularly called a ladder. - The other type is represented by him who exercises an attraction on very various characters and talents, so that he gains a whole circle of friends; they, however, establish friendly relations between one another, their differences notwithstanding, on account of being his friend. One can call such a man a circle: for in him this solidarity between such different natures and dispositions must in some way be prefigured. - For the rest, the gift of having good friends is in many men much greater than the gift of being a good friend. -Nietzsche (HAH I, §368)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

many eyes

source: wikimedia commons

At this point I'm at least vaguely familiar with Nietzsche's perspectivism (GM 3.12 below, HAH, I, 618 or "argonauts of the ideal" GS 382) but I wonder about Nz's view in comparison to, say, a Keirkegaardian or Dostoevskian perspectivism. In Kierkegaard's case we have the pseudononymous authorship which must reflect some similar commitment though I don't know the extent of it. In Dostoevsky's case, the Brothers Karamazov stands as a monument to perspectivism (especially "The Grand Inquisitor") about certain views. I get the feeling Dostoevsky thoroughly understood each perspective he presents personally. Where Nietzsche articulates a perspectivism in pursuit of knowledge, I see Dostoevsky as articulating a perspectivism as an extension of a troubled psychology in the service of art. The idea being that a more troubled psyche may have the capacity for deeper commitment to alternate perspectives (think Tyler Durden). He embodies one and then the other; this is not at all healthy but it is at the core of what it means to be human.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this subject.
But precisely because we seek knowledge, let us not be ungrateful to such resolute reversals of accustomed perspectives and valuations with which the spirit has, with apparent mischievousness and futility, raged against itself for so long: to see differently in this way for once, to want to see differently, is no small discipline and preparation for its future "objectivity" -- the latter understood not as "contemplation without interest" (which is a nonsensical absurdity), but as the ability to control one's Pro and Con and to dispose of them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge.

Henceforth, my dear philosophers, let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a "pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject"; let us guard against the snares of such contradictory concepts as "pure reason," absolute spirituality," "knowledge in itself": these always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing"; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity," be. But to eliminate the will altogether, to suspend each and every affect, supposing we were capable of this -- what would that mean but to castrate the intellect?

Nietzsche GM 3.12

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

the meat shall inherit the earth

Udder Maddess - Woody Allen (

Kierkegaard scholar answers questions from the internets

A real, live, Kierkegaard scholar is answering questions on reddit.

So far, Kierkegaard scholar: 1, internets: 0.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Camus' notebooks

I read The Fall, The Myth of Sisyphus and his Reflections on the Guillotine (excellent discussion of the death penalty) over the holidays. So far nothing I read was quite like The Rebel. Maybe a more pressing situation creates a better work or maybe it's just me. Not that the rest isn't worth reading; it's all worthwhile reading.

Camus' Notebooks from 1951-1959 have quite a few gems in them. Like most people's journals, they're all over the place. Still making my way through them.
There is not one talent for living and another for creating. The same suffices for both. And one can be sure that the talent that could not produce but an artificial work could not sustain but a frivolous life.

Why women? I cannot stand the company of men. They flatter or they judge. I can stand neither of the two.

One of B's secrets... is that she could never accept nor stand, or even forget, illness or death. Hence, her major distraction. She becomes exhausted, already having to live alone like the others, having to simulate the little nonchalance and innocence that is necessary to continue living. But deep inside her she never forgets. She does not even have enough innocence for sin. Life for her is nothing more than time, which itself is disease and death. She does not accept time. She is engaged in a battle already lost. When she gives up, she is there with the waves of water, with the face of a drowned girl. She is not of this world because she refuses it with all her being. Everything starts from there.

I realized that it was true that there were people greater and more genuine than others and that throughout the world they made an invisible and visible society that justified living.

Totally eliminating criticism and polemics - From now on, the single and constant affirmation.

Understand them all. Love and admire but a few.

The "limit" must be everyone's truth. It is mine as long as I am for everyone. But for me alone: the truth one cannot say.

Humanism. I do not like humanity in general. In myself I sense primarily solidarity with it, which is not the same thing. And then I love some men, alive or dead, with so much admiration that I am always jealous or anxious to protect or defend in all the others that which, by chance or on some day that I cannot foresee, has made or will make them like the former.

Two common errors: existence precedes essence or essence existence. Both march and rise with the same step.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

letter Vonnegut wrote home in 1945

Steve send me a link to this letter posted in full at Letters of Note. That letter and the essay with the same name as the title are what I liked best from Armageddon in Retrospect.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pierre Hadot loses his faith

I came across this short biographical piece on Pierre Hadot losing his faith. The blogger stumbled upon an intractable problem for Christianity:
The question of whether we use Latin in the liturgy is ultimately of little importance since even when translated, liturgy and Scripture on a fundamental level no longer make sense to modern man. Sure, we can try to extract dogma and morals from them like juice from an orange, but in the end, I fear, all we will get is an inverted, crypto-pious image of ourselves staring back at us. Some may call this: “inculturation”. Pardon me if I give it what I feel to be a more accurate name: “narcissism”. (my emphasis)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

griznog for president 2012

He's running on the "earth is a finite resource" platform. He's also made clear his opinion on Abortion.

how is the internet changing the way we think?

It's The Edge Question for 2010.

Slashdot has a related story: Tech Tools Fostering Mini Generation Gaps. "People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology".

Friday, January 8, 2010

device that would make Camus proud

God in the middle ages

They had saved Him up within themselves,
Wanting Him to be in place and govern,
Even settled their cathedrals' hovering
Mass and heft on Him like granite shelves,

Barring his ascension. He was free
Just to "tell" like clock-hands and revolved
Through his numbers' rank infinity
As a pointer, and--thus their resolve--

Furnish signals for their chores and times.
Of a sudden, though, His wheels were spinning,
And the people of the awestruck town

Fearfully imagining His dinning,
Kept him running with suspended chimes
And fled headlong from His dial's frown.

- Rilke (translated by Walter Arndt)

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My mom's cousin is called "El Comanche" because he would set up dances and have his kids dance (in full headdress) with the Toas Pueblo Indians during the Taos fiestas. A photographer recently took some photos of El Comanche and crew. When I was 5 or so we visited Taos around the fiestas and they got me all dressed up to dance. I think they liked watching the red faced redheaded kid dancing around in the midst. A photo of that cousin-

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

my uncle's furniture

My uncle in Logan has been making his own custom furniture for a while. These are his most recent creations. He also made us a coffee table based on my design not too long ago. I'll post some photos when I take them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Uganda: where ideas have consequences

A lot of U.S. Evangelicals like to think our morality is based on the Bible. A few are now getting a taste of what that would be like.

Also, it looks like stupidity is still trumping evil as a cause of human suffering.

h/t News from Butterflies and Wheels

Saturday, January 2, 2010

David Brooks and Glenn Greenwald agree on something

And both seem to understand the problems inherent in fear driven governance/policy. Now if we could just get the politicians and public to come around on this issue. Maybe we could stop spending so much money on "Security Theater". Gods know we could use the money elsewhere.

Greenwald's article in reference to Brooks' article.

Also, a related Schneier interview on

Friday, January 1, 2010

what can the artist do in the world of today?

He is not asked either to write about co-operatives or, conversely, to lull to sleep in himself the sufferings endured by others throughout history. And since you have asked me to speak personally, I am going to do so as simply as I can. Considered as artists, we perhaps have no need to interfere in the affairs of the world. But considered as men, yes. The miner who is exploited or shot down, the slaves in the camps, those in the colonies, the legions of persecuted throughout the world--they need all those who can speak to communicate their silence and to keep in touch with them. I have not written, day after day, fighting articles and texts, I have not taken part in the common struggles because I desire the world to be covered with Greek statues and masterpieces. The man who has such a desire does exist in me. Except that he has something better to do in trying to instill life into the creatures of his imagination. But from my first articles to my latest book I have written so much, and perhaps too much, only because I cannot keep from being drawn toward everyday life, toward those, whoever they may be, who are humiliated and debased. They need to hope, and if all keep silent or if they are given a choice between two kinds of humiliation, they will be forever deprived of hope and we with them. It seems to me impossible to endure that idea, nor can he who cannot endure it lie down to sleep in his tower. Not through virtue, as you see, but through a sort of almost organic intolerance, which you feel or do not feel. Indeed, I see many who fail ot feel it, but I cannot envy their sleep.

This does not mean, however, that we must sacrifice our artist's nature to some social preaching or other. I have said elsewhere why the artist was more than ever necessary. But if we intervene as men, that experience will have an effect upon our language. And if we are not artists in our language first of all, what sort of artists are we? Even if, militants in our lives, we speak in our works of deserts and of selfish love, the mere fact that our lives are militant causes a special tone of voice to people with men that desert and that love. I shall certainly not choose the moment when we are beginning to leave nihilism behind to stupidly deny the values of creation in favor of the values of humanity, or vice versa. In my mind neither one is ever separated from the other and I measure the greatness of an artist (Moliere, Tolstoy, Melville) by the balance he managed to maintain between the two. Today, under the pressure of events, we are obliged to transport that tension into our lives likewise. This is why so many artists, bending under the burden, take refuge in the ivory tower or, conversely, in the social church. But as for me, I see in both choices a like act of resignation. We must simultaneously serve suffering and beauty. The long patience, the strength, the secret cunning such service calls for are the virtues that establish the very renascence we need.

One word more. This undertaking, I know, cannot be accomplished without dangers and bitterness. We must accept the dangers: the era of chairbound artists is over. But we must reject the bitterness. One of the temptations of the artist is to believe himself solitary, and in truth he hears this shouted at him with a certain base delight. But this is not true. He stands in the midst of all, in the same rank, neither higher nor lower, with all those who are working and struggling. His very vocation, in the face of oppression, is to open the prisons and to give a voice to the sorrows and joys of all. This is where art, against its enemies, justifies itself by proving precisely that it is no one's enemy. By itself art could probably not produce the renascence which implies justice and liberty. But without it, that renascence would be without forms and, consequently, would be nothing. Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.

From that book which had a couple additional essays by Camus. This quote is taken from The Artist and His Time (1953).