I'm atheist. I think religions should be wiped out as an idea at least to the extent that Nazism has been wiped out as an idea, but I would be happier if there were no practitioners left at all of any faith. I don't think even a sizable minority of the world's religious people are evil, let alone bad. I like some ideas religions have taught, but I dislike the reasons they want you to follow the ideas (e.g. God says so). I think anyone who gets their moral guidance from the Old Testament has either never read it, are cherry picking unfairly, or are morally messed up.
Math and Science
I love math, and I love science. And in general I've gotten high marks in classes for these subjects, but I don't consider myself a top person in either, just above-average. I took Algebra 1 in 7th grade, Geometry in 8th, Algebra 2 in 9th, Pre-Calc Honors in 10th, AP Calculus BC (score of 5) in 11th (so I know about Taylor series and so forth which are epically cool), AP Statistics (score of 4) in 12th, and Linear Algebra this last semester in college. I continue to study Bayesian Probability Theory on my own, with E.T. Jaynes' book on my list. Next semester I'll be doing Discrete Math. Now my math background is public.
I've done the three tiers of high school science: physics, biology, and chemistry, with physics being my best and favorite subject. I took an honors biology class in 9th grade, honors physics in 10th and then AP Physics C in 11th (score of 5). In 12th I did a basic chemistry class. I've been going through some Quantum Mechanics stuff recently, with Relativity on the schedule, and Electricity and Magnetism is my next scheduled physics course in college in a couple semesters.
I believe math to be the pinnacle of human intelligence. If you look back through all history, the smartest people around were mathematicians, and the greatest eras of humanity were when mathematicians were free to practice and devise new math. Our high-level math is so great now that we even need computers to help us with it. The creation has grown far beyond the creator.
I believe science to be a great method of finding truth. It's not the only method, but anything going against it is likely to fail. Throughout our short 500ish years of science, people have continuously said "X is beyond the reach of science [or human understanding]!" and yet science folk have continuously proven those people wrong. Science is powerful.
I believe the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.
At least 90% of philosophy is bullshit. Of the good kind, it's usually math-based and has some science backing it. At the very least it has a formal logic structure using notation that's been around for years.
My own "philosophy" is a collection of various thoughts from various sources. It's better to categorize them separately, though. Everyone has a "philosophy", but when you talk about that "philosophy" it gives the word too much meaning. The word you're looking for is "belief". Everyone has a set of beliefs. The bad philosophies are the ones with names, even if they might have a few good ideas.
People whose philosophies consist of one person's ideas are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than people who have a single religion.
Gandhi's a personal hero of mine. I've never been the kind to advocate eye for eye retribution. I currently don't agree with violence in any situation, however I'm not confident that I'm strong enough to hold on to that belief in any situation. I am human, and I have weaknesses, and I haven't yet purged anger and hate from my heart, which is in my view key to really living up to non-violence. How do I plan to purge them? Through disuse. They may end up being there but unfocused so if they ever arose they'd be swiftly quelled.
I used to think that only killing was never justifiable, but some situations are amenable to violence. But that's a cowardly position to take, I think. To that me and me now, we would both agree violence is bad. Where we disagree is that I have the stronger statement in that violence is so bad you should never use it. It's worse than rape, which is just a special case of violence in general.
I see video games with high violence as a potential outlet to ease the transition to non-violence. I've felt the feeling of just wanting to slaughter a ton of people, and there are video games which let you do that. It's important to distinguish fantasy from reality, and I've looked at games and thought "this is just horrible..."
I like video games. I like Nintendo the best of all. I've wasted time playing them, but I also tend to find a good balance of gaming and getting things done. I think some people play too much video games and fail to do anything productive.
Video games can be very helpful on many levels. They probably helped me read, helped my reflexes, helped my critical thinking skills, and perhaps helped me tolerate different personalities in the real world. They are also a great escape when life's feeling crappy.
I'm currently a student at DigiPen, where people go to learn to make video games. Except I'm in the Computer Engineering degree, so my list of classes is broader than for other students. I've done a handful of games in Python and PyGame, which I may organize some day and put on github, but I'm really not all that proud of any of them.
My favorite video game is probably Star Fox 64, but it's really hard for me to rank my top picks. I can easily tell you which games I like, and which games I don't like, but organizing the ones I like is often hard.
I run Gentoo Linux. I hate Windows, all versions. I had to use Windows 95 until Christmas 2002 or 2003, when I upgraded to XP (on a crappy Dell Inspiron 1000). Around 10th grade I went to the Linux side with Ubuntu, and since then I've explored several distributions and settled on Gentoo. BSD is cool, but not really worth my time at the moment. OSX irritates me, but the commercials are funny (because of the Bashing of the Enemy Microsoft--things can get funnier when they're aimed at Common Enemies).
I finally upgraded to an awesome desktop this October that I built after buying parts on NewEgg. i7 processor, 6 GB ram, nVidia GTX 260 card, 1 TB hard drive, and I even got a new wide-screen monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse set to go with it. For the first time in my life I have a decent computer for the times. Even my Windows 95 machine never had a sound card.
I love technology. I sometimes wish I had more money to but things to play with.
My feats of programming haven't been all that much. Web applications like this blog, things that interface with Twitter, things that interface with Facebook, and fairly simple video games are pretty much what I'd put on my resume. I feel like I'm capable of writing more complicated things such as an interpreter for a language, or a big web app, but I get motivation problems easy when I do large programs. Breaking them up really helps. AI stuff is on my backburner, since I think it's really cool.
I try to express the three great programming virtues: laziness, impatience, and hubris. But I think many people are waaaaaay too arrogant for their abilities.
I've always believed in the Be Nice principle, but I can still be an ass. It's fun most of the time. Being above average, that means there's at least 50% of the population I can torment intellectually. :) I'll bug people about their spelling and grammar or about their stupid ideas. Arguing is a form of entertainment to me. I'm generally smart enough that if I'm arguing with someone smarter than I am I can recognize it and if they're really right I can believe what they believe after not too long. Most of the people I argue with are not smarter than me, which is a shame. I've always wanted a programming mentor, for example. I'm just finding it harder to motivate myself for self-learning..
I want to be nice to people for the sake of being nice to people, and I want to do things for other people, even if they're of no benefit to me, for the sake of doing things for other people. I call this altruism, and so do most other people.
Objective Reality and Knowledge
In the end, everything we think or sense must pass through a number of filters before we can even bring it up into the conscious echo-chamber we hear when we read to ourselves. Therefore, no knowledge can be said to be truly "objective". Not even science, not even math. There are only states of mind that better correspond with reality. There is a sharp distinction between the map, your state of mind, and the territory, which is reality. We can observe (indirectly) reality, and think about reality, and our thinking and observing exists within reality, but whatever we believe is not necessarily what reality actually is. It's a reflection, and thus subjective. When you have a map that corresponds with the territory, you get good results on various things, and you are less surprised by what reality throws at you. Beliefs that correspond well to reality, I call knowledge. I love knowledge.
I don't believe in absolute knowledge and absolute certainty simply because of the map-territory distinction. The map is never and can never be the territory (am I absolutely certain of that? No, I'm at least 99% certain that "the map is never and can never be the territory no matter how long we live and what we learn". I admit the possibility that my map may be so screwed up that there's some way it can become the territory, and the math is so wrong, but that likelihood is smaller than the existence of God). Nevertheless, I believe in knowledge, and I believe in certainty. I'm certain the sun will rise tomorrow, but of course I can't be absolutely certain.
I'm an Anarchist. Just as I believe humans can be non-violent, I also believe humans can function without government.
I'll admit to some idealism, but I also have practical views too. I'll be lucky if I ever see Anarchy, so in the meantime I might as well have practical views on the current government. I think the government should be useful if it's going to be around, so I don't mind some "socialist" ideas such as universal health care or helping the homeless with tax money. What I really dislike is tax money being used to kill people. Most of the budget goes to the Pentagon and war-related places. I want the government to back off and let people live, but step up and help people who need help living.
I like capitalism. I don't like monopolies, but the natural-monopolies and arguments for monopolies on water/sewage/gas/power lines are fairly strong, so I don't mind those so much. Government regulation can be a blessing and a curse, in general it's bad but not always. I think most big business aren't great things, and most of them get there by really dumb and questionable means. I think businessmen aren't very smart in general, but some can be quite clever, especially the startup-oriented ones who actually need to be intelligent unless they're just good at bringing people together.
Economists are cool people. But you can sound like you know a lot about the subject just by spouting Economics 101 material.
I'm not very confident in actually living forever, seeming how the universe probably won't last that long... But I am confident that I'm not going to die of old age. When I get a job again I'm going to sign up for cryonics, since it's really not that expensive, and the medical technology of today is always getting better. Nanotech is on its way, which (if we don't kill each other with it permanently) will bring vast improvements for everything. Cure hunger, poverty, and disease! Then live a couple billion years! This is all possible, and I expect it to happen within the century. I look forward to the Singularity, too. (Intelligence-explosion variety.)
Money's nice. I wouldn't call it evil, but it can certainly corrupt people: both it and the lack of it. I think it'd be nice if we didn't have to live in a zero-sum world, and when cheap nanotech arrives I expect it to destroy the money system. We can always go harvest some asteroids if we need raw material for the self-replicating nanobots after we run out of resources on Earth (hard to imagine). The principal of making money is nice, but it's just a special case of the principal of putting forth effort into something, which is nicer. Getting money through less-than-purely-honest means isn't damning, actually in many cases it's morally neutral. I think the whole concept of the stock market is a pretty weird way to "make" money, but hey it works and makes some people really rich.
I like pizza. I like steak. I like eggs. I like cheese. I like ice cream.
I'm in college now, though, so I have to moderate my food consumption. I'm going to try dumpster diving one of these days.
I think all software should be Free as in Freedom. Open Source.
School's useful for having people teach you stuff instead of you spending your own motivational power to learn it yourself. It's also useful for interacting with other people. High schools are horribly inefficient, though, and colleges are too expensive. You're paying for the degree, not so much the education. Sure, a little bit goes into paying the school to teach you, but not most of it. I think school should be "free" and professors paid with taxes, along with school resources being funded from taxes. People who want to go to school or went to school pay the taxes, those who don't, don't. In Anarchy, it'd work under a standard capitalist system of people paying tutors to teach them something. I wish degrees were cheaper and not required for so much. (A Bachelor's is the new high school diploma.)
I'm not a fan of uselessness. Uselessness comes in the form of useless entertainment, useless pleasure, and useless information. Our society suffers from too much uselessness, I think. I'm not excusing myself from the pot, but I try to indulge in less uselessness than others.
It really wouldn't surprise me if I end up becoming a college or high school teacher. I've been trying to improve my teaching style, but I admit I don't have strong evidence now to determine how much I've improved. I've done a few lectures before, and I thought I presented the material clearly, but I don't know if the students understood it in the end. I also have tended to expect too much prior knowledge from people, so while my lessons would be great for someone at a certain level, it might be beyond the actual audience. This has happened when I've tried teaching math to people who just really don't get the foundations of algebra. I have a Yahoo Answers account (tedon_bone is my username) that I use to experiment with conveying information, as well as a way of venting and self-esteem building when I'm having a bad day.
I like the environment. Since I was a kid I've always gone camping and fishing and as I got older hunting. I respect Nature, and I love Nature. I think too many humans don't, and that's a bad thing. But instead of going Backwards to a primitive society which just decreases our bad foodprints on the world, I want to move Forwards to a nanotechnological society where our bad foodprints can be eliminated entirely, not just reduced.
I'm overweight--not obese--and I could stand to exercise more, but I'm not a weakling. (Being 6'4" helps.) I often question my sanity. I could eat better, but I try taking a centrium fairly frequently.
I have strong introvert tendencies and I'm somewhat shy around new people. This blog is helpful in letting me announce to the world things I would normally keep to myself. Perhaps it's better I keep them to myself, but what use is having an interesting thought if no one else knows about it?
I think copyright, trademarking, and patents should be abolished. I can agree with more compromising outcomes, though. I'll be writing a small series on this in the near future.
I'm kind of tired now, and this is enough for now. I'll either edit this post with more or make a new post as I see fit.
Posted on 2009-12-25 by Jach
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