Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Friday, November 19, 2004day link 

 Collective dream diary cartoons
picture At Slow Wave an artist named Jesse Reklaw receives stories of people's dreams, and then he draws cartoons based on them, one every week. They're kind of surreal and interesting. Like dreams are, but somehow it adds another strange dimension to turn them into cartoons.
[ | 2004-11-19 17:50 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Self-driving cars
picture EETimes:
It's shortly before dawn, and the handful of early-morning commuters on the fog-shrouded suburban highway don't see the deer meandering across the road. Luckily, though, their cars see the animal. In an instant, the closest vehicle quickly applies its brakes and turns its wheels, steering around an otherwise imminent collision. It then sends warning messages to oncoming traffic, as well as to the vehicles behind it, which dutifully apply their brakes and slow to a near-crawl as the deer passes.

None of the drivers, however, is disturbed by the near miss. A few are too engaged in their morning newspapers; a couple more are snoozing for a few more minutes before arriving at the office. All are blissfully unaware of the incident because they, the "drivers," aren't driving; they're being chauffeured by their self-navigating vehicles.

Sound impossible? Many automotive experts don't think so. The technological pieces needed for a self-navigating vehicle are already falling into place, they say. But it will take at least two to three decades before those pieces will be assembled into a car that drives itself.

Two to three decades? That's what they said too when I was a kid, you know, more than three decades ago. The biggest problem seems to be that we still don't know how to make good AI. And then there's a matter of having good enough sensors.
[ | 2004-11-19 18:00 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 We're all liars
Interesting article Questioning Authority, an interview with David Livingstone Smith, who's a bit of an authority on lying. He says some fairly eye opening things about how much all of us lie to ourselves and others a lot of the time. And, depending on the circumstances, it isn't always a bad thing.
You say that self-deceived people are often mentally healthier than those who are honest with themselves.

Yes, lying to oneself promotes psychological well-being. Research shows that depressed people deceive themselves less than those who are mentally healthy. Frankly, if we did not deceive ourselves, I think we would go mad from distress. For example, the simple fact that we're all going to die, that there are various people in the world out to get us, that a good deal of the world lives in unrelenting misery and hunger-it's all enough to drive everyone bonkers. Unless we are capable of shielding ourselves from that, we would be constantly disturbed. It's why we worry more about missing our favorite TV show than about a dirty bomb going off in a terrorist attack.

Also, self-deception relieves us from a sense that we're constantly living in contradiction. We each have a set of values that we constantly violate. When you're aware of transgressing one of those values that you hold dear, you tend to feel bad about yourself. In deceiving ourselves, we relieve ourselves of that burden, making life a lot easier and lot more pleasant for ourselves. It's quite wonderful.

Finally, if we convince ourselves we're not really lying, we can lie far more effectively than might otherwise be the case. All of our social lies, like the fake smile, involve the manipulation of how others see us. Our lives are saturated with pretense and dishonesty. Although we claim to value truth above all else, we are also at least dimly aware that there is something antisocial about too much honesty.

Hm, so we kind of make the world more bearable and more pleasant by lying. Optimism is a kind of lying, I suppose. Anyway, he isn't exactly advocating that we should all become better liars. There are some social issues with it, of course:
So should we value lying more than telling the truth, especially since you said that good liars have an advantage in life?

When I'm talking about advantage, I'm talking about what gives an individual organism success. But all sorts of things can give individual success. Killing one's rivals is an example, but just because it gives you an advantage doesn't morally justify it. Put it this way: If one thinks that individual advantage is the ultimate value in life, it would follow that one should work at becoming a very good, calculating liar. But encouraging lying to one's individual advantage will always receive social disapproval, because if you are taught to lie better, that's against everyone's interest. Just as it might be advantageous for each of us to lie, it's disadvantageous for each of us to be lied to. For lying to be advantageous, society has to place an emphasis on honesty. Unless we have a sense that there's truthfulness enough of the time, lying ceases to function. That's illustrated in the old story about the boy who cried wolf. If we get a situation where we're all cold-bloodedly out to lie to each other, we will lose trust in each other, lying will stop working, and the world would collapse under the weight of too much lying.

Well, how about if we said that it really depended on the intention, whether lying is appropriate or not? If I lie to myself and others to make our lives better, and it actually sticks, and there's no big letdown where they discover a different truth. That would be a good thing, no? If you're deadly sick and you walk up to a healer and he puts his hand on your forehead and with a loud and convincing voice says "You're healed!!", and you actually believe it, and you get up and walk out all cured, does it matter if he were only bluffing? If you're presented with an impossible situation, but you refuse to accept it, and you lie to yourself, and thereby you make it possible, and you solve it? Then you'd be a magical manifestor, rather than a liar. But if you lie to somebody else in order to sabotage them and give yourself an undeserved advantage, that would be the bad kind of lying, I suppose. And if you lie to yourself to make things worse than they realy are. Is the glass half full or half empty? Depends. Depends in part on where you're going with it. If you saw it half full, and you proceeded to fill it, your intention reveals itself. If you saw it half empty, and you proceeded to waste the rest, likewise.
[ | 2004-11-19 18:49 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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