junho 25, 2013


Os direitos humanos apenas fazem sentido num contexto social. Um direito que force -- para que seja respeitado nos seus detalhes -- uma sociedade insustentável a médio ou longo prazo, torna-se assim contraditório. Infelizmente não é trivial saber de antemão quais as consequências não intencionais dos direitos que optamos defender e implementar. Ainda mais infelizmente, nada de diferente acontece quando as sabemos.

junho 23, 2013


Blindsight é um livro de SciFi do autor Peter Watts cujo principal tema é a consciência. Fundamentado em leituras de vários autores de ciência cognitiva -- em especial no trabalho de Thomas Metzinger -- é um livro que faz refletir o leitor sobre o que é ser humano. O livro pode ser lido online em www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm. Algumas citações (e eventuais spoilers):

[...] you had a point about language. When you get right down to it, it's a workaround. Like trying to describe dreams with smoke signals. It's noble, it's maybe the most noble thing a body can do but you can't turn a sunset into a string of grunts without losing something. It's limiting.
It's not about trust, Major. It's about location. Nobody gets a good view of a system from the inside, no matter who they are. The view's distorted."
"And yours isn't."
"I'm outside the system."
"You're interacting with me now."
"As an observer only. Perfection's unattainable but it isn't unapproachable"
There was a model of the world, and we didn't look outward at all; our conscious selves saw only the simulation in our heads, an interpretation of reality, endlessly refreshed by input from the senses. What happens when those senses go dark, but the model—thrown off-kilter by some trauma or tumor—fails to refresh? How long do we stare in at that obsolete rendering, recycling and massaging the same old data in a desperate, subconscious act of utterly honest denial? How long before it dawns on us that the world we see no longer reflects the world we inhabit, that we are blind?
"Not talking about case studies. Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. If self-deception promotes fitness, the brain lies. Stops noticing— irrelevant things. Truth never matters. Only fitness. By now you don't experience the world as it exists at all. You experience a simulation built from assumptions. Shortcuts. Lies. Whole species is agnosiac by default.
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Maybe you think it gives you free will. Maybe you've forgotten that sleepwalkers converse, drive vehicles, commit crimes and clean up afterwards, unconscious the whole time. Maybe nobody's told you that even waking souls are only slaves in denial.
Make a conscious choice. Decide to move your index finger. Too late! The electricity's already halfway down your arm. Your body began to act a full half-second before your conscious self 'chose' to, for the self chose nothing; something else set your body in motion, sent an executive summary—almost an afterthought— to the homunculus behind your eyes. That little man, that arrogant subroutine that thinks of itself as the person, mistakes correlation for causality: it reads the summary and it sees the hand move, and it thinks that one drove the other.
But it's not in charge. You're not in charge. If free will even exists, it doesn't share living space with the likes of you.
Insight, then. Wisdom. The quest for knowledge, the derivation of theorems, science and technology and all those exclusively human pursuits that must surely rest on a conscious foundation. Maybe that's what sentience would be for— if scientific breakthroughs didn't spring fully-formed from the subconscious
mind, manifest themselves in dreams, as full-blown insights after a deep night's sleep. It's the most basic rule of the stymied researcher: stop thinking about the problem. Do something else. It will come to you if you just stop being conscious of it.
Every concert pianist knows that the surest way to ruin a performance is to be aware of what the fingers are doing. Every dancer and acrobat knows enough to let the mind go, let the body run itself. Every driver of any manual vehicle arrives at destinations with no recollection of the stops and turns and roads traveled in getting there. You are all sleepwalkers, whether climbing creative peaks or slogging through some mundane routine for the thousandth time. You are all sleepwalkers.
Don't even try to talk about the learning curve. Don't bother citing the months of deliberate practice that precede the unconscious performance, or the years of study and experiment leading up to the gift-wrapped Eureka moment. So what if your lessons are all learned consciously? Do you think that proves there's no other way? Heuristic software's been learning from experience for over a hundred years. Machines master chess, cars learn to drive themselves, statistical programs face problems and design the experiments to solve them and you think that the only path to learning leads through sentience? You're Stone-age nomads, eking out some marginal existence on the veldt—denying even the possibility of agriculture, because hunting and gathering was good enough for your parents.
Do you want to know what consciousness is for? Do you want to know the only real purpose it serves? Training wheels. You can't see both aspects of the Necker Cube at once, so it lets you focus on one and dismiss the other. That's a pretty half-assed way to parse reality. You're always better off looking at more than one side of anything. Go on, try. Defocus. It's the next logical step. Oh, but you can't. There's something in the way. And it's fighting back.
A vampire folk tale: "A laser is assigned to find the darkness. Since it lives in a room without doors, or windows, or any other source of light, it thinks this will be easy. But everywhere it turns it sees brightness. Every wall, every piece of furniture it points at is brightly lit. Eventually it concludes there is no darkness, that light is everywhere."

junho 16, 2013


When Americans not equipped with ecological concepts tried to describe and explain the contrast between their land of opportunity and the old countries from which they had come as immigrants, it became conventional to emphasize the political and ideological contrasts. We tended to forget that the freedoms America offered were not exclusively political. Even more, we forgot that the political differences between America and the older nations in Europe was full of people; America was full of potential. 

When population density was low, human equality is feasible and even probable. Each individual is economically valuable to others; it is, accordingly, hard for others to subordinate him. Class distinctions fade in such circumstances. [William Graham] Sumner tried to get us to see that democracy in Europe as well as in America had been fostered by the New World's low population density. His low density had relieved Old World pressure. Abundant land in another hemisphere influenced the European labor and land markets. Wages went up, food prices were held down, and land rents were kept lower than they would otherwise have been. The power of each European landed aristocrat was reduced by the availability of land elsewhere on the globe, not under his control. Still, Europeans tended to attribute their new freedom to new institutions and new doctrines, not seeing that the institutional and doctrinal changes were responses to the effective reduction of population pressure.

Homo Sapiens mistook the rate of withdrawal of savings deposits for a rise in income. No regard for the total size of the legacy, or for the rate at which nature might still be storing carbon away, seemed necessary. Homo Sapiens set about becoming Homo Colossus without wondering if the transformation would have to be quite temporary. [...] The essence of the drawdown method is this: man began to spend nature's legacy as if it were income. Temporarily this made possible a dramatic increase in the quantity of energy per capita per year by which Homo Colossus could do the things he wanted to do.

Population pressure can be defined as the frequency of mutual interference per capita per day that results from the presence of others in a finite habitat. [...] Population density in the ordinary sense is simply the number of people per square mile. Two nations with equal population density could differ in population pressure if their peoples differed in level of activity. A population using more prosthetic equipment would tend to subject its members to more pressure by doing more things. [In America] more people had been pumped into our finite living space, to make demands upon our finite resources. But our pace of living had also been greatly accelerated. We traditionally welcomed such acceleration as a sign of progress, seldom recognizing that it meant people had increased the ways in which their co-presence resulted in mutual interference. The loss of independence and the failure to understand how it was lost can be illustrated by a fundamental change in the occupational structure of an industrialized nation's labor force.

It is high time to learn that the wisest "use" of coal and oil may be to leave them underground as nature's safe disposal of a primeval atmospheric "pollutant" - carbon. By our ravenous use of fossil acreage to extend carrying capacity we not only prolonged human irruption but also began undoing what evolution had done in getting the atmosphere ready for animals (including man) to breathe, and ready to sustain the kind of climate in which present species (including ourselves) had been evolved. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution had produced the oxygen-rich and nearly carbon-free atmosphere we need [...] We need to accept the earth as it was when our species evolved upon it. had it been different, Homo Sapiens could not have emerged [...] Barring human extinction, there will never come an end to man's need for enlightened self-restraint - the conservation ethic.

OvershootWilliam R. Catton

junho 10, 2013

Quality Data

Every time an official statistic, like inflation, unemployment of GNP growth is presented in the media, we should remember Campbell's and Goodhart's «laws» and take the data with a grain of salt:

"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor." -- Campbell's law

"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." -- Goodhart's law

Imagine if there was corruption in the reporting of scientific data. Would, say, Physics or Chemistry advanced as they did? It's much harder to do Science, Economic or any other, in such biased context.

junho 04, 2013

Tweet discussions

‏@philosophytweet: A reminder of philosophy’s embarrassing failure, after over 2000 years, to settle any of its central issues.
@rudivanetteger: The goal of philosophy is not to provide definite answers, but to provide reasons for individual choices, which it does.

@svarricc: Philosophy is a process not a product. Assess results for value based on the quality of their reasoning.
@rudivanetteger: if you equate philosophy to process of reasoning, does that not reduce philosophy to rhetoric, processing the facts of science?

@svarricc: I never said reasoning had to based on science - although scientific methodology is a popular form.

@rudivanetteger: I spoke of philosophical method: rhetorics and possibly logic, and of scientific results. To me philosophy as process is empty

‏@svarricc: A process is necessarily empty. Its a form for perspective and dialogue but needs content.

‏@rudivanetteger: Does philosophy provide its own content? Or who does?

‏@svarricc: We provide content. We do philosophy. It does not exist without us, and is only as effective as the craftsman who uses it.