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Comment: Re:Embarrassment extractor (Score 1) 330

by janlett (#40425089) Attached to: SOPA Protests 'Poisoned the Well,' Says Congressional Staffer

And your logical fallacy is you spent 30 paragraphs explaining why the GP was wrong, instead of offering your own solution.

Incidentally, you gave no solution, in accordance with your requirement of offering solutions.

I was unblocking the possibility that there are (perhaps as yet unknown) solutions better than capitalism. Very necessary if we're not just going to give up and swallow the notion that capitalism is the best we can do. It's a step forward.

I decided to show the form of the argument as it's useful in analogous contexts, where someone is using proof by limited vision (perhaps with the agreement of others who share that) to move that something can't be done.

It's a hell of a lot harder to actually solve capitalism's problems than to bitch and endlessly complain about it, isn't it?

No doubt it was hard to anticipate capitalism long ago. Just because a problem is hard doesn't mean we should give up. No doubt it's easier or more convenient for some to simply maintain that there is nothing better. But I think that's been dealt with.

Comment: Re:Embarrassment extractor (Score 1) 330

by janlett (#40422217) Attached to: SOPA Protests 'Poisoned the Well,' Says Congressional Staffer

Would it be nice if there's a better way? Of course. But no such ways are feasible.

This statement is of the following form: there are no solutions to a collection of difficult-to-define constraints in a difficult-to-characterize possibility space. Indeed even specifying the problem properly without saying anything about solutions would be a remarkable achievement, circumscribing the potential of humanity.

Fermat's Last Theorem is of a similar form, only the constraints are well defined and the possibility space has a simple mathematical definition. Following the author and those who modded the author up, consider the following statement imagined made prior to the invention of Wiles' famous proof, and all the 20th century mathematics it rests upon.

"Would it be nice if x^n+y^n=z^n has an integer solution for some n>2? Of course. But no such solution exists." How convincing is that? It's merely dogmatic.

Alan Turing was able to establish a statement of a similar form, that no algorithm can solve the halting problem. But first he had the difficult task of characterizing what an algorithm is, i.e. the space of possible solutions. Hence the Turing Machine, and the Church-Turing thesis. Very profound. And illustrative of how difficult ruling out a large space of informally defined possibilities can be.

In the light of the above, "Would it be nice if there's a better way? Of course. But no such ways are feasible." is exposed for what it likely is: an assertion about the limits of its author's imagination, and of the imaginations of its supporters. It would have been more intellectually honestly expressed as, "Would it be nice if there's a better way? Of course. But I cannot imagine such a way.", with the hidden semantics of "I cannot imagine such a solution, therefore no such solution exists" removed because it's a lousy argument.

The original is reminiscent of Lord Kelvin's famous statement, "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible", made less than a decade before the Wright brothers established the opposite. We might call this technique proof by limited vision. Limited vision can be shared! That's what makes it so dangerous. It's a fundamentally negative technique, weighing in as it does against searching for solutions, in situations where there's no known good reason not to do so. It's simply an attempt to block, without basis.

Comment: Re:Until you can prove them wrong (Score 3, Insightful) 1359

by janlett (#40186243) Attached to: In America, 46% of People Hold a Creationist View of Human Origins
> The idea of a divine creator is no sillier than the idea of creation from nothing.

That's because the notion of the creation of the universe is senseless.

Science: time is a coordinate inside the universe or inside a local (suitably defined) part of the universe. Thus a time is a measurable (in principle) part of the internals of the universe.

The notion of the universe is therefore outside of time. What do we know about the universe? We just know that it is. There's no (before, after) pair of times concerning its change in existence. That would require an outside-of-the-universe containing time.

Confusion about this could appear from e.g., "what if there's something before the big bang", say. But we can include any such potential extras now or in the future inside the definition of 'the universe', i.e. keep the meaning universal.

The underlying confusion about creation comes from applying everyday thinking about time to the wider situation, as if time is outside the universe. We don't think of spatial coordinates outside the universe. But experience of time is different, because internally, at a local spot in the universe there is a past and future.

There IS a question to answer: why does anything exist? However, the answer is not that it was created, in any usual sense of that term. And redefining 'created' would simply be an attempt to adjust the brain, not solve the problem.

"Those who will be able to conquer software will be able to conquer the world." -- Tadahiro Sekimoto, president, NEC Corp.