Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thoughts: Does Free Will Exist? (Part 2)

There are some interesting facts about this abstract argument (does free will exist?) that I didn't cover in my previous post about the topic. Just some quick points:

  1. We are not free to choose where we are born, in what socioeconomic status, our race, our gender, etc.
  2. We are not free to choose whether to be born or not.

Both are very true. But, presupposing the existence of a Creator (for argument's sake), both can be addressed (although not fully satisfied, in my opinion) by the fact that we are free to kill ourselves if we are not happy. The problem is, though, that some of us have more reasons to kill themselves than others. One could also argue that there is upward mobility in life or that God is benevolent and helps us achieve our goals if we are deserving or ask for forgiveness. I don't know. I'll let you know if that's true.

It seems like an impossible question to answer.

Just some thoughts.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughts: Why Are We Here?

I've been thinking lately of the parallels between hypothetical artificially intelligent beings (thinking machines) and humans (thanks to recently watching the movie Tron: Legacy), and why we humans seem so determined on creating life through them. Why is that? Does exploring this question lead usto conclude anything about why a hypothetical creator (I'm not religious) would create us?

Life is tough. We suffer, we grow old, we die. Yet knowing this, why would so many (as it seems to me) rather live and suffer than never have lived at all? Faulkner is quoted as saying: "Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief." It's a counterintuitive statement. Grief sucks. Nothing is nothing. But what he is talking about is feeling, living, being; that it is better to live and feel than not to live at all. I think most people would agree.

It seems that we humans have a hardwired belief that life, despite the suffering and pain, should be experienced, that there is something valuable in life itself. This seems to be the same sort of mindset that is behind artificial intelligence research. Yes, we want to see if we can. We are hardwired scientists (most of us, anyway). But, assuming we could, and many believe we can, we seem to be eager to do so, regardless of the complex ethical issues ahead. As if we want nothing more than to share life.

Can we extend this idea to the concept of a creator? Is this why we're here? To live. Because life, despite the suffering and pain, should be experienced, shared? Or is this all just an experiment? Or chance? Or are we just batteries for machines in the Matrix? :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Writerly Update: 7/12

The first of probably quite a few updates on my writing, just in case you'd like to know.


I've sent out a few things to editors. I've sent a batch of poems. They're good poems. Personal. Some hopeful. Some not so much. But very me. The ones that'll get rejected, I'll probably continue working on, 'cause I'm very much like that. They say stories/novels/poems are never finished. They're abandoned.

I've also sent out a story, the earliest one I've made that I still have, called "Homesick." A short story about Thom. He thinks he's an alien. And he doesn't like it here on earth. Only, his mom won't let him move out till he's eighteen.

Working on

I'm finishing up a draft of a short story about my early life, an attempt by me to probe the question: what is the origin of my perceived difference? I've struggled with the title a bit. Right now it's called "Imitating Life." It's funny. It's sad. It's funnisad.

I'm also still working on two short novels. One started some time ago, called Guardian. An SF story about the coming Singularity. I've done several drafts, but I'm still unhappy with it and have much work to do. Striking a balance between humor and seriousness has proven to be a challenge for this one. But it's currently "on the shelf" while I finish a few shorter pieces.

The other short novel I began last semester as part of a course called Narrative Structure. It's very autobiographical. It's about a guy named Jonah who thinks people are after him. Maybe he's just crazy. It's currently only a few pages long, though and "on the shelf," as well. Be patient my friends.

That's about it. Of course, I do weekly postings here. I'll keep ya posted.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Free Online Storage: Dropbox

Use this link to give me more free online storage - you get additional storage as well since you've been referred. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mini-Reviews: The Metamorphosis and The Secret Agent

I've decided that I won't be doing full reviews of books that are well known or are like a hundred years old. Not too useful. Instead, I'll save more in depth reviews for books published, say, in the last 5-10 years (by the time I'm finished reading). Saves me some time too. So just some thoughts about these two fine books:

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My first Kafka read. I was expecting quite a bit from Mr. Kafka. And I was not disappointed. This is really a virtually flawless tale. Really enjoyed it. The focus is not the language (I read a translation, so I guess I didn't miss much - despite what people say about translating German to English) but on the plot, the actual story, on Gregor Samsa, who overnight becomes a giant insect and has to confront (or be confronted with) his family in this state.

I felt all of Gregor's pains. In the micro scale it is a rather simple story. Gregor is an insect. He has to deal with that. His family has to deal with that, with him. But in the macro scale it is quite an interesting and thought-provoking scenario that examines the attitudes of others in a society and in a family toward individuals that disrupt the order of things. It is interesting how completely myopic people are to the feelings and suffering of such individuals, and how self-absorbed they are. It seems that individuals, in being different, though through no fault of their own, are an inconvenience to society, which, like a natural law, seeks self preservation through conformity and, counterintuitively, through self gratification. It is by seeking their own needs and wants, in a very Smithian way, that the wheel continues to turn. At least, that's what I got out of the tale.

I'll definitely be reading more Kafka.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

Very well written, especially considering English was Conrad's third language. A very good

However, a bit longer than it needs to be. Some of the chapters drag on. Not without reason. Usually, they're to add to the suspense, but I don't think it's necessary to stay inside a character's head for a whole chapter just to get the idea that she's terrified, for instance.

Still, a very keen analysis of the psychology of anarchy and terrorism. Force, to the Professor, a character Ted "Unibomber" Kaczynski expressed deep affinity with, is strength. Strength in a society that is weak. Crime, then, is an expression of force, force that society needs to "wake up." Nothing can happen with society in its weak and dull state. Science, technology are to blame. Nothing can move the masses. Except force. (Kaczynski read the book dozens of times, which obviously motivated his murderous acts.)