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Everything posted by softwareNerd

  1. Amazon says it is to be released on Sept 4, 2012.
  2. Their main influence is transitive -- because they influenced your parents. For example, a person may be a Muslim because his great-great-granddad converted to Islam. For most people, the religion they practice goes back to a choice or a forced change made many generations back. There are more subtle impacts too. For instance, a person living in Cedar Rapids may be influenced mostly by his community; but his great granddad might have been the one who decided to move from Ukraine to America. The person's current existence in America (indeed his existence itself) is a product of that old choice.
  3. It depends on what one is interested in. Personally, my interest is more about the parents who brought me up, and the parents who brought them up. The biology of it is way less important. If I were to find out I was adopted, I might be curious about the circumstances of my biological parents, but I wouldn't bother investigating or even proactively seeking information.
  4. Most people are Christian or Muslim etc. because that's what their parents were. Obviously that's not universal or we wouldn't see change, let alone see something like Objectivism. Religion is just one thing people learn from their parents. How people construe who they are, and thus what they aim for, and thus what they achieve is heavily influenced by their parents -- in the typical case. So, I wouldn't say it is minimal, if one is looking at broad impact, across society. Of course, peers and the general culture have a big impact too. Indeed, what people call "American exceptionalism" is not so much a chosen quality in Americans, but more a set of values that is mostly absorbed by cultural osmosis. Immigrants actually are a special case, and are atypical. Immigrants are displaced, and this makes them question who they are, and forces them to choose. They're confronted with the values of their native place and the values of their adopted place. Since they have this new cultural force working on them, it isn't surprising that they choose mix. (Some do the opposite and go looking for their "roots" in a way that their parents do not, but tat's a different topic.) In general, parents and larger society impact most people. Not taking the time -- or not knowing how -- to figure out a philosophy of their own, they end up with a mix of influences from those around them.. with parents and close family being important contributors.
  5. I assume you are not questioning the string impact that parents have on their kids, at least in a majority of cases? Rather, you're pointing out that such "inherited" traits are not a reason for pride because they're just there. So, for example, a person could be proud that he adopted some positive trait even though his parents taught him the opposite; but, if he got some trait from his parents, without making a decision himself, there's less reason to be proud. Is that your view?
  6. My own curiosity on this did not start with my own ancestry, but about the ancestry of humans in general, and curiosity about race and impacts of nature vs. nurture. Reading about Haplogroups got me curious about my own personal genetic profile. This goes centuries beyond what the OP was probably thinking about: where were my ancestors 10,000 years ago? Were they part of the second human migration out of Africa, and which sub-migration? Just curiosity, though do like the fact that everyone is African in some sense, and that the myth of Adam and Eve has an element of truth. When it came to my more immediate ancestors, I was uninterested most of my life, and have never been close to extended family either. Only recently did curiosity got the better of me. and I found out the little I could from living relatives. To me, it is mildly interesting to know a snippet or two: the profession of my Great Grandfather, something about the way he grew up, and similar facts about other family members. There;s really no story to be told, though one can always weave whole cloth from a few facts. I could spin a fact-based family mythology: I come from a family where an ancestor found himself as the eldest son in an orphaned family at 14 and he went to work and figured out how to take care of a large brood of siblings. It would be mythology, because it appears to assert "this is who he was...and thus this is who we were", when both are pretty shaky, based off the few facts that are remembered and passed on. An Indian with a lastname that signifies a long line of village chiefs can tell you that he gets his confidence from his long line of warrior leaders; but, another, with the lastname from an "untouchable" class can spin his own myth: how his dad was a professor of agriculture who refused to be held by by societies expectations and has bred children who will defy expectations again. Even a child of a jailed criminal can spin a family myth: "I get my balls and my devil-can-care attitude from my dad, even if I chose to be an honest person." I don't grudge anyone their mythology, as long as the tail does not wag the dog: as long as you do what you ought to be doing, and spin a mythology to motivate you on occasion, I see no harm in it. The positive approach boils down to this: select certain good things from what you know of your ancestors; then, ask yourself "if they had those virtues, what excuse do I have not to?" The choice here is your own: you choose what is a virtue and what you want to follow. Needless to say on this forum, there can be irrational approaches too.
  7. Integration -- if there's one word to point the direction, it is "integration". There's a certain amount of knowledge in your head and organized in some manner. When learning new things, you need to plug the new stuff into the old stuff... integrating it. Something you may need to reorganize the way you think about a topic, to better integrate the new stuff. That's pretty abstract, but I find it helps to keep that thought in mind. Meanwhile, the concrete things I do: If a topic is important, highlight or make notes. This could be a couple of sentences you write down about each chapter. I like Kindle books because they make it simple to highlight text and share the highlights across all my access points. After reading a book I often go back over the highlights I have made. Often, I'll come back when I'm reading a similar book. I don't always do this. Sometimes, I'll pick up a book out of curiosity about a topic, knowing I don't to pursue it more than that open book. In that case, I'll simply read and make notes only if I find them relevant to other topics of closer interest. On the other hand, I sometimes go beyond highlights and simple notes. I might diagram something -- or I might draw a time-line -- if I want to get a better grasp on the material. You need to make things concrete and you also need to abstract. Authors vary in their styles. Some present a high diet of concretes and one needs to spend time drawing out the abstractions. Others write abstractly and one needs to visualize concretes. Something you can try asking (a trick I learnt from Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lecture) is to ask: what other writer make a very similar point to this person? Once you have a similar author identified, ask: what is special and different about what this person is saying, compared to that other writer. Those are just a few top-of-mind things. Will post more if I remember.
  8. Or, they could bring some other sun nearer. But, why live on these poorly designed planets. They could make nice planets with just the right mix of terrain that humans and other aliens like. And, medicine would have ensured that humans and aliens can live in the same ecosystem: even if we're breathing carbon dioxide. And, since orbiting a single sun gets to be a bore, they could make an alternative, and have these new "Earths" roam all over the galaxy. In a billion years, anything is on the table: except a free-market in healthcare
  9. While this is about the epistemological foundations of Investment Theory, I think it might be of wider interest... Most students of "Modern Investment theory" (as taught in most business schools) come away with the idea that above-average returns [known as "positive alpha"] are not possible to any investor (or, at very least, are not possible to most). This is not about students being told that knowledge of investing is still in its infancy; that's not the point. Rather, they're taught that in principle, regardless of such knowledge, it is impossible to make above-average investment decisions. Indeed, if anything, further improvements in knowledge actually reduce the chances of making above-average decisions. In effect, the knowledge is futile in this particular field. This post is not a critique of modern theory. Instead, I want to make the positive case for modern theory, to explain its plausibility. I also invite comment on the accuracy with which I portray it -- for I do not intend to build a strawman. At this point, I am not interested in explanations about what's wrong with the theory. I want to understand it before launching into criticism. Context-setting: The context here is the buying and selling of tradable financial instruments, in a non-managerial fashion. Things like starting one's own business or owning art-work include other factors and are outside the scope of this discussion. The "modern" position: The futility of making investment decisions is simple to explain with an example. Suppose there are two companies: A and B. For the sake of argument, suppose that Investment Science has reached a stage where we can make excellent estimates about how the shares of each company are going to perform. Can we then use this knowledge and buy shares in the better company (say, Company-A)? I submit that we cannot. This is because enough investors would have gone to college and learnt the same Investment Science. They too will know that Company-A is better and will have reached similar conclusions as to the relative worth of the shares of these two companies. In this situation, the prices of the shares of these companies will reflect the underlying estimates of their worth. So, if the shares of A are estimated to be worth twice the shares of B, then the price will reflect this. Therefore, with a given amount of cash, one would be able to buy a certain number of shares of A, or twice the number of shares of B. Paradoxically, a person who knows nothing about investment theory could do just as well as the experts because the price at which the shares sell are always fairly close to the best-estimated value as calculated by the experts of Wall Street. A common metaphor is that a "monkey throwing darts" at the stock-listing page of the Wall Street Journal can come up with a portfolio that will do "just average". Even if experts are a little better than average, we are told, one has to pay them for their services. Doing so, brings the net result back to average. We're also told that most Wall-Street funds do worse than average after one deducts the commissions of the experts. This has led to the advocacy of index funds. Importantly, while modern theory might lead one to index-funds, rejecting modern-theory does not mean that one must reject index-funds. At this point, my questions are as follow: Have I represented the modern position correctly? Is there a better pro-Modern position to be made? Can anyone think of a good analogy to MPT, in an unrelated field
  10. Yeah, let's just ignore the bleeding obvious that is being said to you multiple times and play these games instead. If you have no clue what people are referring to, you clearly are incapable of carrying on a sensible conversation.
  11. Someone had to say it, I guess, breaking the social rule that you resist giving harsh advice unless the person s paying you for the wake up call Anyone who speaks of making 10 million dollars by following some fairly guaranteed business model is deluded. Worse still, you may be a patsy in a scheme being spun by your "friends". It sounds almost like an Amway opening pitch.
  12. There've been a few pekple who tried to secede here and there. They usually figure on the news when the cops surround their homes with military style vehicles and persuade them to come back into their voluntary, consensual citizenship,
  13. Maybe you're thinking of it this way: Premise: citizenship is a consensual contract Conclusion: consent to the laws flows directly from that premise In that case, your premise (as now restated is false). You explicitly said that one should pay taxes. Now, if you come back saying that one is free to leave, and think that you're demonstrating your premise then you've got to think about what freedom really means. People are often "free to leave" as in "your money or your life".
  14. Yes, that's what I said in my last post, with one exception: you aren't arguing, that is simply your premise.
  15. I doubt you expected that, eh? But, at least for me, Epistemologue's position is clearer: he says that he not arguing about the morality of the law, just about whether one should follow it. He says the same would be true of an immoral law on slavery. He's not arguing that one should follow the law because it is practical not to go to jail (as an Objectivist might), but basing it on his fictional concept of an agreement to be a citizen, and also a fictional agreement between countries (e.g. Canada and US) when it comes to foreigners. The argument is the same as saying: "God says you should follow laws, so you should" The formal structure is: "Fictional thing is true" --> therefore --> "False conclusion follows" There's really no way to argue once this structure is revealed, unless someone wants to attempt the impossible task of showing that the fictional premise is fictional.
  16. On the topic of activism and advocacy, I think this is an issue that our grandkids can address. If we can make some headway toward a much lesser end -- reduce government to some core functions -- it would be huge. The rest is gravy anyway.
  17. Let me restate my point this way: Epistem is praising/advocating tax on a certain premise. He supports that premise. That premise can be used -- with very similar arguments -- to support any populist law that violates individual rights. Espistem is rejecting the fundamental building block of Objectivist political theory, but he is going much further too. He is rejecting the entire "natural rights" concept that predates Objectivism and informs the flawed, but better-than-most, US constitution. Not the first time he's rejected natural rights and individual rights in favor of a fuzzy notion of "voluntary agreement"... Which always boils down to populist democracy in practice. Of course he would reject this characterization since he hasn't yet sorted out the contradiction for himself, He seems to ignore it and move on to the next thread, to restate it like it'll become true by repetition!
  18. What do you know of Objectivism? What books or articles have you read?
  19. I only have a vague, mostly second-hand idea of Sam Harris; but, I agree that he differs from Objectivists in pretty fundamental ways. Indeed, a decade ago, most Objectivists who point out his good bits would probably have focused on his bad bits. I think the reason is that one picks one's battles: and, I assume more Objectivists who listen to Harris, link to him, etc. would also acknowledge his flaws. Analogously, the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan took the west from fighting an enemy whose philosophy was based on explicit naturalism and reason (the commies ) to an enemy with a mystical belief in the "uncreated" nature of an ancient scripture.
  20. I agree I don't think Epistem is speaking of the current situation as such or that taxation is voluntary today. The topic of taxation is completely secondary in my perspective when his primary notion of the morality of laws is so flawed.
  21. The core issue here is not taxation as such, but the concept "voluntary". For example, some have argued that taxation is necessary and that if they're only spent on legitimate roles of government and are fair, they are moral even if one must pay them under penalty of force. However, Epistemologue's argument is far broader than that. He says that one must pay them because they are voluntary... based on his concept of a voluntary contract that is implicit in being born in a particular place. This is broader, because it essentially says that laws are moral, just because they exist. Presumably, he limits himself to democracies making laws, but even this is not clear.
  22. The crux of your argument is that citizenship can be renounced. It is unclear whether you mean in the way one can do so today or something different. For instance, today, a Canadian citizen in the U.S. is protected by U.S. law and subject to U.S. tax. Given that you argue being born in the U.S. somehow enters a person into a contract which he never gets to see, read...and in fact does not exist, I assume you will argue -- analogously -- that a Canadian coming to the U.S. is subject to whatever taxes the U.S. imposes. If so, you should make it clear in your argument that you're saying that anyone born in the U.S. who does not want to pay tax, should actually leave. Is that what you mean? Also, taxes are just one part of the law -- not even the most important part -- so, I presume you think this applies to all laws? The implication would be that if a majority of U.S. citizens want to bring back slavery, this is moral and legitimate? If this mis-states your position, then how?
  23. The implication of ceasing to be a citizen is that one should be able to choose a different government. That's the true Netflix analogy. Are you for multiple competing governments? if not, ceasing to be a citizen is a meaningless phrase.
  24. Your ARI watch site is swill. You shouldn't be spamming the forum with your links.
  25. It is also relevant that the focus on purpose is not unique to Objectivism. Evangelist Rick Warren speaks of purpose as a primary we should drive toward. In his concretes, and in his justification, he might be totally opposite of what an Objectivist might say. Yet, these popular evangelists are worth learning from -- as arepop-writer advising people how to be happy. Most are hitting at a certain core need that we have as humans. Here.s a quote: "The three grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. — Alexander Chalmers