Short cryonics talk slides

(Related post)

I had to perform a persuasive speech for a class last week, I decided to talk about cryonics. Here are my slides if anyone out there is interested. It's really basic information due to time constraints, but it might help you see an outline if you find yourself needing to give a similar short talk and aren't sure what to cover.

Also: it's funny how annoyed I am at myself for having a brain-fail during Q&A that I only realized afterwards. For some reason I said something implying "they" don't actually cut off the head, which is true of CI but not of Alcor unless you pay for full-body. I knew that, I even know what spinal vertebra they cut at! (Useful FAQ on the matter.) But it came out too generalized! Ah well.

On rape accusations

Making the rounds of tech news buzz is a story about a certain figure publicly being accused of rape and/or sexual abuse. I hope it doesn't escalate and saturate the weekend feeds, it was happily flagged off the HN front page moments ago. Anyway, the way I see it, this is just another case of a phenomenon that's happened many times over the past few years, and I'm sick of watching it unfold yet again, so that's what I'm going to comment on rather than the case in particular.

I only have one response to such public accusations. I think it's a moderate response that should probably be adopted by others, because I don't see a saner way to approach such news. My response is: shut up or show your solid evidence.

Rape is a serious matter. It's a bad thing, it should be punished. Physical assault as well. Here's the catch: if you, the so-called victim, spend more than a second wondering "was that really rape/abuse?" then no, it wasn't, and you've lost any right to claim so in the future. Especially if you wait days, weeks, or months before mentioning it. If you have just been raped or abused, call the fucking cops. This goes for male-victim-rape or male-victim-abuse too, by the way. If this somehow isn't already ingrained into the public consciousness, it needs to become so pronto.

On plagiarism

I had one incident in my academic history, in high school, where the teacher called my home and talked to my mom, who relayed the teacher's desire for me to come in to discuss a one-page paper she claimed I plagiarized. I was disturbed because I had not intentionally plagiarized, and I think the teacher knew that, so she cleared up for me what she interpreted as plagiarism so that I could avoid it and redo the assignment. I honestly don't remember the details of the assignment, I think it was something about researching some instrument and explaining very basic properties of how they worked, what sound waves they generated, and so on. I was uninterested in the original paper and the subject it was supposed to be about, but I wrote it up. I went to Wikipedia, listed it as my only source, read the article and a couple related articles, then regurgitated the important points in my own words. Is this not research? Apparently not. This bugged me and still bugs me to this day, so much so that when I try and write any "research" paper where plagiarism could be an issue, I write about what I already know, and write it "from memory" as it were, then hunt down references afterwards. I have a broad knowledge base compared to my peers so generally this works out, assignments are done quickly, and I can get back to real research and thought that doesn't require me to write a paper listing every idea that's not mine. I have no original ideas, after all. Everything I've created is just a remix. (Sometimes I'm not even aware of equivalent ideas, i.e. I :came up" with them "independently", but I think that speaks to the easiness with which such an idea can be formed by remixing and extrapolating from common knowledge.)

Sci-Fi and actually alien aliens

This was a final essay for a sci-fi class last semester that I thought I'd share. The tl;dr is that I'm sad there aren't more creative approaches to aliens in sci-fi, but it's understandable why that's the case and why things probably aren't going to change in the near future.

On the nature of reasoning with mathematical models about the real world, E.T. Jaynes in his book Probability Theory: The Logic of Science asserts Anyone who believes that he is proving things about the real world, is a victim of the mind projection fallacy.'' (My emphasis.) In his experience with English speakers, there's an almost universal tendency to disguise epistemological statements by putting them into a grammatical form which suggests to the unwary an ontological statement.'' He was most concerned about people treating their internal states-of-mind as an external fundamental truth about reality, but it generalizes--e.g. the fallacy underlies philosophical confusions about sound in a forest. He insists that probability is a state of mind representing one's absence of perfect information; reality itself is never uncertain.

Is perception reduction sufficient for justifying a belief?

No.

"Perception reduction" is a common phrase amongst followers of Ayn Rand. Their argument is that, ultimately, conceptual knowledge must be justified by connecting it to human perceptions. Sometimes they misspeak and say "sensory reduction", which is very different. What's the difference between a sense and a percept? It's the difference between knowing "button 2513 is down" and knowing "some object is moving toward me at 5 m/s". In other words, perception requires an intelligent agent such as a person, a circuit, or an ant. Mere sensory data does not. A rock receives the same sensory input as an eye. It's important to note that humans are not rocks, and due to our complexity, perception is the base-level interaction we have with reality. Even for babies. (Something Rand did not believe; the science of the matter (perceptual psychology) has been done since her death in 1982. Alas, figures in history whose work did not contain hard mathematics and formal logic are destined to be shown wrong sooner or later on more or less all accounts. The degree of wrongness is varying, of course, and is often proportional to how mathematical an idea is without being pure math.)

Like much of Randian language, "perception reduction" is a moderately vague phrase with a moderately vague interpretation that can change. Is the Christian who insists they perceived God's touch and God's light justifying their belief in God? And indeed the brain is a complex piece of machinery: for mysterious reasons we can suddenly feel cold, or warm, even though we are not physically next to a source or sink of heat.

TSA Patdowns

Here's a short rant I thought I'd share. Every six months or so I visit out-of-state family, and of course I fly. Leaving from Seattle is fine: the security line forks very clearly into a set of paths leading to the naked body scanner, and a set of paths leading to the standard metal detector. You can choose what you like, no fuss. I always choose the metal detector, because it's more secure. I don't care about the radiation, I don't care about naked photos. I'm against those scanners on principle that they're insecure and waste time and money.

On the return trip, however, the Salt Lake City airport has the metal detector and the scanner right next to each other, with a dude blocking the path of the metal detector's exit. You can approach the metal detector, and he might let you through. For me, he has never let me through, and asks I use the scanner. I refuse, and demand a patdown instead. Okay, it's fine.

But here's the stupidity: there's a side-gate he opens and asks me to step through to go to the patdown area. This side gate has neither scanner nor metal detector, so I bypass both. The idea of "security layers" has never occurred to the TSA. Why not make me walk through the metal detector to get to the patdown area? Then you are layering your security and it's harder to get past it. Apart from the lack of layering, here's what really annoys me: the subsequent patdown is a joke. Yes, I'm complaining that their patdown is not invasive nor thorough enough. As has been shouted by nerds ever since 9/11: SECURITY THEATER OMYGAWD!

Now here's why a law against this won't work. Companies that do ask for these details are unethical. There's nothing wrong with a company Googling employees or prospective employees to see what they can find, but they cross the line when they demand such people hand over that information to them or else. Having established that such companies are unethical, in the face of this law we can infer that they will simply no longer ask.