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Hal

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  1. Hal

    Net Neutrality

    The best analogy for this is the private roads thing I was talking about in another thread. Imagine the government sold the entire road (and sidewalk) network in the centre of New York city to one company. This company would then have pretty much unlimited power - they would be able to go up to any large business and say "pay us $X million a year, or we will refuse to allow anyone to use the road or sidewalk outside your shop, and you will lose all your customers as a result". And the shop would be powerless to do anything about this - they could either agree to the extortion, or go out of business. You cant just say "well, in that case car drivers/pedestrians would just use other roads/sidewakls". There arent any other roads. You arent going to be building a new road network to compete either, since the road network is a natural monopoly - it just doesnt make sense to start talking about 'free market competition' in the context of the roads in New York city. The net-neutrality/telecom thing is pretty much the same. And again, you can argue that road privitisation si a good thing anyway because the government has no right to own roads, and so on. But while this may even be true, it doesnt change the fact that its going to be disasterous for everyone who doesnt end up owning the roads (or the telecom lines).
  2. Hal

    Net Neutrality

    As I said, the communications frameworks are a natural monopoly. Its not like opening a new shop that sells cheaper pencils than all the major pencil sellers - the model of market competition doesnt really apply here. Why not? Here's whatll happen: large telecom company X, who owns the communications infrastructure in a certain region, decides that they want to make some extra money. So they go to Google, and demand that they pay them 2 million dollars a year or they will limit their bandwidth to 56K speeds, and promote one of their competitiors instead (altavista or yahoo). Google now has 2 options - either grit their teeth and comply with this extortion, or refuse. If they refuse, 2 things can happen: either the telecom company can go through with their plan to limit Google's bandwidth, in which case Google is pretty much finished as a business in that area. Or, they can instead decide to limit Google's bandwith to 56K in standard cases, but then charge their customer's a few dollars extra in order to access Google at higher speeds. And of course, the logical extension of this is the picture that I posted above. It's vital to realise that this isnt just a case of 'if customers dont like Google being slow then they can go to another telecoms company instead". This isnt how the telecom's "market" works. The beauty of the internet is that anyone can start a site about anything, and anyone in the world can view it. Its the ultimate expression of free-speech, and probably the single most important invention in human history. There's no reason why this will continue to be the case after net neutrality goes - large telecom companies will be able to restrict access to sites they dont like, and you'll probably see the internet start to become centered around a few major corporate sites (who can afford to pay extra to have their sites promoted by the telecom companies) rather than the beautiful anarchy which we have now. In other words, itll end up a horrible corporate mess with vastly reduced consumer choice, just like mainstream radio. The other thing that could happen is that telecom providers may start being held responsible for the content that their customers access. At the moment, telecom companies cant be prosecuted for allowing their customers to view child porn, because they are not filtering content - they are allowing their customers to access whatever sites they request. But once net neutrality goes, this will no longer be the case - telecom companies will be actively filtering content, and hence its possible that they will be held legally responsible for what they end up providing. Which means that theyre likely to start censoring material which could be deemed offensive, and again, free speech dies.
  3. Hal

    Net Neutrality

    I just reread the article in the original post and I'm genuinelly curious where he thinks this 'free-market competition' is going to magically appear from. Communication lines are largely a natural monopoly - its not like there are several telecom companies in each state each with their own framework which the consumer can choose between. The writer seems genuinelly confused, especially since he mentions wi-fi as being an alternative - wi-fi lines still have to connect to the standard backbone at some point. The death of net neutrality will pretty much mean that telecom companies will be free to blackmail individual websites and users. Now you can argue that they have the right to do this if you like, and you may well have a reasonable argument. But dont try to pretend that its going to be good for the end-user - its likely to be disasterous and theres a chance it will end the days of largely free-expression on the internet. edit: ah, it makes sense now, they arent confused, they are just shills How surprising that the only people who stand to gain from this are the ones claiming it will have a good effect.
  4. Hal

    Manners

    Well yeah, I do - people who find these sounds offensive regardless of context are acting irrationally. There are legitimate reasons to object to these words (eg if someone calls you a 'c*nt' in a hostile manner then its disrespectful), but just hating the sound of them makes no sense. Perhaps a better example here is 'n*gger', which seems to cause certain people to have a very visceral reaction when they hear it. Again, there are rational reasons to be offended by 'n*gger' if its being used (eg) in the context of a racist attack on a black person, but having a physical reaction or recoiling in shock just from the mere sound alone is pretty silly. To go back to the ettiquette point, there are valid reasons when you might want to say 'n*gger' in "polite company" - for instance if you were quoting someone else, or talking about the word itself. But a lot of people would be too scared to even say it out loud, regardless of the context, just because they think theres something dirty about the word itself. The may decide to refer to it as "the n-word" instead. And this sort of thing makes no sense. I've always found our cultural attitudes towards 'swear' words interesting, because they seem to be based on ideas about language that are found in primitive societies, where certain linguistic sounds are thought to have intrinsic meaning, and almost magical qualities. Several cultures have myths about 'words of power', and the idea that knowing a person or an object's "true name" gives you control over it seems to be quite common in mythology (the Jews with their 'G-d' thing are a pretty good example here). The objection to swear words seems to be rooted in the same tradition.
  5. Hal

    Manners

    No, I think the real question is "should you care if you are unintentionally insulting others through your ignorance of social convention?". If someone's ego is so fragile that they get upset about you eating with the wrong fork, or not asking how their day went just to make conversation, then you have to ask whether this is someone whose opinion you should care about anyway. The best fictional example of this is obviously Howard Roark, whose indifference towards arbitrary conventions tended to insult those around him, even though he wasnt doing anything wrong (although theres perhaps a difference between being genuinelly ignorant of conventions, and deliberately ignoring them). Another example would be Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose character is awesome and I wish that I had the balls to ignore conventions the way he does. Now, I dont deny that in some situations it could be best to go along with a social convention you think is silly in order to achieve some definite goal - for example if you are on a business lunch with people you want to impress, or trying to get a girl to sleep with you, or whatever. But this all goes under the general heading of "When is it moral/acceptable to massage someone's irrationality in order to get what you want?" rather than being specific to etiquette.
  6. Within the context of the behavioral scienceis, altruism normally refers to any actions taken by a creature which diminish its reproductive fitness, while increasing that of another. A textbook example would be animals which cry out when a predator is near in order to warn their group, even though this may attract attention to themselves. However the idea of an 'altruism gene' is very very silly, and I imagine that was the invention of the article writers rather than the scientists themselves. As far as I know, most people working in evolutionary theory have moved away from the simplistic idea that "one gene controls one aspect of behavior".
  7. Yeah, I think reductionism is fairly silly outside of the hard sciences, and it smacks of scientism. The specific problem here is that youre not distinguishing between morality in an abstract sense, and the particular beliefs that an individual person holds. It may well be true that my next door neighbour Joe holds his ethical beliefs as a direct result of social pressure, and perhaps you will be able to invent a semi-plausible story about why some forms of cooperation are evolutionary advantageous. But this has very little to do with what Objectivists mean when they talk about morality and, as a purely scientific model, it fails to explain why a significant subset of people (eg those on this forum) hold beliefs which are obviously not socially approved. I imagine that most of my ethical views are "socially unacceptable", so its hard to see how I could have ended up holding them if it was all just a case of positive reenforcement. What youre essentially saying is "people necessarily hold the same moral beliefs as the society around them", which is just obviously false. I dont think 'social approval' is especially meaningful when it comes to choosing a personal moral code. It might be interesting in the context of cultural anthropology when we're investigating the historical reasons why a society holds the beliefs it does ("How did Christian ethics become prevalent in the West?" and so on), but its not terribly important when it comes to an individual person deciding what course of action will make him happiest, which is what Objectivist ethics is all about. There is never going to be a good answer to the question "Why should a person do what society wants him to when it will be detrimental to his long term happyness?", although perhaps you can explain why some people do choose to do things that arent in their best interests, by making reference to indoctrination, manipulation, cultural history, theories of power, and yes, maybe even evolutionary psychology.
  8. Hal

    An Ode To Free Verse

    I'm not even convinced this is true. Sure, you can write a piece of awful free verse in a few minutes, but then you could write an awful rhyming poem in the same time. I'd call this free verse, and I dont see why it was easier to write than most sonnets. I know you said 'on average', but I'm honestly not sure what you mean. I'm not a poet so I dont want to start speculating about the construction process, but I would guess that writing terrible poetry takes very little effort and writing great poetry takes a lot, regardless of whether you use free verse or a great deal of structure. Although there's one sense in which free verse is trivial to write (in that you can just stick whatever you want on a bit of paper and call it a poem), making it interesting to read is quite another matter. Personally, the fact that there's no structure actually makes me assess free verse harsher than I would assess traditional poetry, because it doesnt have anything else to justify it other than the content. If I read an utterly generic love poem written in a 'traditional' form then I'm likely to say something like "this is terrible but at least it makes an effort", whereas with a bad piece of free verse I'm more likely to dismiss it as having no value whatsoever. Actually, I think its possible that writing good free verse is even harder than writing good traditional poetry, just because its so difficult to actually make it worth reading (I would struggle to name more than a handful of free verse poems that I liked)
  9. Hal

    An Ode To Free Verse

    Yeah, I'd probably be prepared to go that far. As long as something is written in a manner which I'd call 'poetic', then I view it as poetry. I'm not prepared to draw a rigid boundary here, because I think theres just too many borderline cases. To take an example, I class certain passages from Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations" as being poetry, even though they occur in the middle of works of 'prose' philosophy (that is to say, if you took these passages out of their original context and just wrote them on a bit of paper, I'd call it a poem). I view poetry as being a certain kind of writing style, where an excessive amount of attention is paid to 'word colouring' and tools like metaphor, creating images, and so on, rather than having anything to do with structure. I do agree that most 'free verse' is awful, but I also think that most traditional poetry is equally bad. edit: I'm not 'against' structure or anything like that - there are many poems which are only good because of their structure/rhyme, and would just be stupid as free-verse. I think this is fantastic for instance, and it would be far less awesome if it didnt have the rhyme scheme and so on. But I prefer to judge each piece on its own merit, and I'm not prepared to say in advance that every poem 'has' to have X, Y or Z. I'd rather just get on with the task of seperating the good from the bad, instead of getting hung up on how to categorise things. I dont see the point in arguing over whether stuff like this is real poetry when we can just agree that its awful, whatever it is, and move on. This may be so, but I dont think theres any reason for drawing that distinction today. I suppose we can categorise things as 'poetry geared towards recitation' and 'other', and this may be useful for certain purposes.
  10. Hal

    "the Dagny Song"

    edit: never mind
  11. Hal

    An Attraction To Underage Girls/boys

    Because the only actions which deserve 'moral condemnation' are those which are chosen, and I havent seen any evidence to suggest that being attracted to children is a choice. People who are attracted to young children yet manage to control their urges throughout their life deserve a huge level of respect, not condemnation. konerko - I'm curious why you chose the 12-15 age range? 16 as the minimum age for sexual intercourse is a fairly arbitrary convention and theres no real objective reason why its wrong to have sex with 14-15 year olds. Obviously when you start talking about actual paedophilia involving pre-pubsexcent children, under the age 13 or whatever, then it can properly be called abuse. edit: I suppose you can say that 20 year olds sleeping with 15 year olds is wrong due to the age difference alone, but then I'd expect you to also believe that 30 year olds sleeping with 18 year olds is wrong for similar reasons.
  12. Hal

    Alice Miller

    So how do you know about it? Sounds to me like youre just making it up to support your extremely dubious claim.
  13. Hal

    Necessary And Contingent Truths

    Well yeah, exactly Thats pretty much all that's needed for some form of the 'true by fact' and 'true by meaning' distinction to get a foothold. It is theoretically hypothetically arbitrarily possible that we could find a superbaby that can actually read Atlas Shrugged, but we it is literally impossible for us to find a square triangle. Our concept of 'triangle' rules out the possibility of it having 4 sides, while our concept of 'baby' doesnt rule out the possibility of a baby being able to read Atlas Shrugged. Well in one sense, you can say that the meaning of the concept 'dog' is actual real dogs. But this isnt the meaning of meaning which is meant here. Saying that 'dog' means dogs is true, but it doesnt really get us anywhere here because it doesnt identify the criteria we actually use for deciding that a certain entity is a 'dog'.
  14. $15 is pretty ridiculous for a 50 page pamphlet, given that you could pick up the whole of Frederick Copleston's history of philosophy for the cost of 10 Peikoff lectures :/ However I'll probably end up buying one of them when they publish his lectures on later philosophy (eg Hume/Kant) because I'm mildly curious about his writing style.
  15. What sort of explanation do you want? Drugs are ingested, the chemicals interact with our brains in ways which are becoming more understood, and this produces changes in conscious experience in a way which we currently know very little about, but about which future science can hopefully enlighten us. If youre not interested in the Cartesian question and accept at least a basic materialism (our consciousness depends on, and is affected by, reactions in our brain) then I dont think there are any purely philosophical questions left here. I suppose it depends on the person, and type of experience involved. For instance, some people claim to learn things about themselves during lsd trips that profoundly affects their outlook even after the drug has worn off, whereas others just take it because they think its fun and enjoy experiencing freaky things, even though they attach no real significance to them. A hallucination that just involves seeing trails follow your hand when you wave it through the air is likely to be interpreted very differently from one where you experience talking to the ghost of a dead relative and decide to be more loving towards your close family as a result. I dont really think theres any general principles here - its too context dependent. edit: A lot of this is probably related to familiarity also. Someone who has had regular experience with hallucinations may well attach less significance to things he encounters on them than someone who is experiencing it for the first time. When you know that strange things are to be expected youre probably less likely to treat them as being 'real' (compare how adults react to nightmares with how young children react). There are also relations to a person's basic belief system and epistemological outlook - someone who believes in supernatural entities may well interpret his hallucinations as bringing him into contact with another world, whereas someone who is a strong materialist may react to the exact same thing by saying "this is just the drugs, its not real". Along the same lines, someone who takes hallucinogenic drugs today will probably be more inclined to interpret his experiences as being unreal and caused by the drugs since he has grown up in a fairly scientific/naturalist culture, whereas someone taking hallucinogens 1000 years ago would probably have been more likely to interpret the things he saw as being real, since less was known about (eg) how drugs worked, and supernatural beliefs were more widespread.
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