Thursday, December 20, 2007

Liberty and ecology

Yesterday I found a debate that I found interesting, a debate between liberty and ecology. This debate sparked because of a quote by Mayer Hillman a senor fellow emeritus for the Policy Study Institute saying basically that totalitarism is better then extinction. That in fact if people did not want to take the measure to solve the environmental problem they should be forced to do so. I think that there is a lot of potential there for conflicting worldview to collide and for people to be in denial of what they value. For example, I’m betting that many of my reader would say that it is a not a bad thing to impose environmentally friendly method to society particularly if it means death for humanity and all life on Earth not to do so. Most if not all of the same people would however argue that it would be immoral for humanity to escape an eventual extinction by colonizing the solar system and the universe.

I think that it shows a strange thing, that some people value “nature” over humanity, “nature” over freedom, hell “nature” over life. I’ve heard people say that if humanity is the cause of the Earth problem the solution is to kill off humanity. As if humanity and “nature” where two completely distinct thing, as if “nature” was only Earth, as if “nature” was only life on Earth as if “nature” was something holy and humanity a monstrosity in the universe. The argument that “nature” is something greater then humanity and that we own it something is weird. Humanity is the product of and a part of nature, a product that apparently can drastically alter nature itself but even completely altered or “destroyed” by humanity it remains natural. For all our talk of humanity ability to destroy the natural world we should consider that everywhere we though life did not exist on Earth, we have found life. Everywhere we though our pollution had made life impossible, we have found life. Life is amazingly more resilient that we give it credit for.

There is also the value of intelligence that we should consider, what is something worth without someone that can appreciate it worth? You might have the most beautiful light show in the universe but if no one can perceive light what is it? Can we really say it exists and if we can how? Maybe we are wrong and every living thing can see the beauty of “nature” and the universe and it is just our ego that makes us thing otherwise but once again does it really matter if we are gone?

Finally, there is the idea that free determination is the problem of humanity, which I think is the main point of the quotation. A large enough number of people cannot understand what some consider as reason and as such they must be forced to follow the rule of an enlighten minority. I once said on this blog that I am very worried whenever someone tells me something is for my protection, or for my own good and this is exactly what this is. Some people think they would be doing me a favor by forcing me to do thing their way. This seems to have a lot more to do with controlling humanity then it as with protecting the environment. It as the typically trapping of using fear to get people to give you power over them…

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Facebook and Canada

How come I only find these kind of news about where I live on other country web site? You see apparently the formation of a fast growing group of Canadian concerned about the proposed reform of copyright laws in Canada managed to stir up a movement that actually got the proposed law delayed and possibly change. I think this illustrate the power of the internet as a democratic tools, how with the interconnectivity of the internet and the accessibility of information it can be a way to motivate, mobilize and inform people. I think we are seeing the silhouette of the next governmental system, after capitalism and representative democracy we might finally have true democracy by the people directly. Hopefully an informed people, with enough wisdom or intelligence to understand and discriminate the information it finds.

L'Âge des Ténébres, movie review

I went to see L’Âge des Ténébres by Deny Arcand last night, and I must say I quite like the movie and how it looks at Quebec society. It might be strange to say that I like looking at Quebec like some kind of political correctness distopia but the emphasis is put on thing that are just a little worse then they are now. Two examples from the movie: the main character is brought before a disciplinary committee for saying that his black colleague was working like negger, and even tho his colleague does not object to the adjective, he is reminded that negger is a non-word and that he risk a lot for having used it. Also, the main character and a few of his colleague are smokers and go on clandestine smoking break around their office (ironically the office is the Montreal Olympic stadium) because of a law that prevent smoking within 1 km of any government building. Of course, it is not just the character’s job that is going to hell the whole society is, we hear about throughout the movie about disaster that are dismissed as normal. Also I did not see the anti-feminism and homosexuality I heard about in the review I saw before so that remove one of the biggest criticism of the movie I’ve heard. So all in all it’s a very interesting movie that is well worth watching.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Campaign Character Death

Yesterday in my weekly game, I had my first character death. The poor Forest Dwarven Cleric of VILEM died when the jaws of a giant crocodile snapped shut and tore is body in two. The critical hit brought the poor little cleric from the positive hit points far into the bloody pulpish negative bellow minus constitution score level. Luckily the rest of the party managed to kill the offending Crocodile (thanks in no small part to the fact that it was devouring said dwarf cadaver) and his retinue of smaller friends.

This marked the first PC death of this campaign world and one if not the first PC death at one of my table. Not that I usually protect pc from death but it never came up before. I must say it was quite interesting to see the other player suddenly realize that this little almost random encounter could turn deadly. They regrouped, though about fleeing the scene as they where almost out of three important resources: hit point, spell and power points and finally decided that they needed to bring the remains of their fallen comrade for a proper burial. A scene I was not really prepared for (the encounter shouldn’t have been deadly, but they were tired and low on spell) but that was nonetheless interesting. So fare well Hanzel Pointepercante, I hope VILEM’s haven is what you where looking for.

Wealth, creation or distribution?

I often hear about two apparently conflicting ideas of social contract, one involve the creation of wealth while the other involve the distribution of wealth. Apparently said ideas are completely incompatible and mutually exclusive. In short they are as follow, the first one implies that wealth is created in a society by some process (I’m guessing that many people have different ideas) and as such we should reward wealth creation as it make society as a whole richer. While the second one implies that thanks to Earth finite resources wealth can only be taken from one place and put into another what should be rewarded is sharing the wealth (or that the sharing should be forced by some institution) to help those that got less then their fair share.

Now what I want to talk about is not the values of each one or argues about the logic of their arguments. I want to talk about the fact that the redistribution of wealth idea tries to be a moral model instead of just an economic contract. You see if wealth cannot be created then we can think that everyone as a “fair” share. It then stands that anyone that as more then this fair shares of the wealth as taken (“stolen”) is increased wealth from someone else. Which bring about what I find annoying: it makes poverty into a virtue and wealth into a vice. People who have less then this fair share are seen as the abused we must protect from the bad people with more then their fair share that stole from them. Now I must be clear I do not think that the opposite is true either, wealth is not synonymous with virtue or poverty with vice. In fact I’m pretty sure that neither has anything to do with any aspect of morality. Now since I really don’t see how this idea can be separated from this moral overtone I am more inclined to put it in the religion pile then the viable economic idea pile.

What do you think? Do I misunderstand the concept? Is their something that prevents the competing ideas from being possible and as much as I don’t like this one it is the only one possible?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Canada and science

The OCDE publish an interesting survey last week, a survey that is very good new for Canada. Apparently Canadian 15 years old are amongst the best in science, ranking 3rd in the world in 2006, while Quebecer rang not far below in 4th place (if Quebec was a country). Canada and Quebec also rang in the top ten for the two other variables studied by PISA for the OCDE. I believe that this is amazing news (even if I am worried that the recent change to our education system in Quebec will throw us way back in those area in the next few years) marking Canada as one of the country where science is the most vibrant and a country that tries to be at the edge of human knowledge trying to understand the mysteries of the universe and life. One last thing, Finland and Hong Kong are both above us in science, we should try to make it that both these country can only look at Canadian kid and wonder, how can they be so good in science. Let’s be #1, not just in science but in reading and math and everywhere else we can be the best, lets not give up until we are, and then let us work to remain the best.

The little Rover that could

Today I’d like to tip off my hat to the engineer at NASA would obviously do not know the meaning of the word operating parameter. The twin rover on Mars have being build to operate for 90 days on the surface of the planet, now more then 1300 days later (more then 14 time their operating specification!) both rover are still uncovering important scientific data. I think that Spirit latest discovery might be one of the most important to date: environment on Mars similar to life filled environment on Earth. (link to BBC story). While this is amazing news for the universe (since it increase the statistical likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe), I need to mention that the BBC article fails to mention a third possibility for the existence of those environments: in way different that anything we have seen on Earth. Still circumstantial evidence that life friendly environment existed in cold, small, dark, dry and radiation scorched Mars, is still great news for the search for life across the universe. Oh and I still want to mention that that Spirit and Opportunity are two amazing machines and humankind should be proud to be able to build and operate such tools.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Evolution(?) of Society

I’ve been thinking following a few posts on the A2EP forum about society and the involvement of government in private life. I think I’ve come to the realization that we are perhaps unknowingly domesticating humanity. You see, the domestication process involve removing traits that are dangerous and increasing traits we find pleasing. Often, those traits are the traits that are possessed by the youth and lost in adulthood (for example playfulness in dogs and cats). In short we could say, as a first approximation that domesticating animals is the process through which we select the animal that keep remains children the longest as our pets.

Now, I don’t know if you have noticed but there seems to be a similar process going on with humanity. We are more and more encouraging adult human to exhibits child-like behavior, we encourage people to play games or to make game a style of living (professional gamers anyone?), for example. We also on a second front, find more and more excuse for behavior that are outside the individual, removing responsibility for action taken willingly and knowingly because of “socials factors”. I don’t know if you realize but technically there are very few humans without responsibility for there actions: children and people with mental defect (psychopath, sociopath and people with disabilities). Everyone else, according to our laws, is capable of knowing the difference between good and bad and making a choice about its action. But being able to make those choice means we are also able to assume the consequences of those action, and inversely. When we as a society remove the consequences of a choice or the responsibility of that choice from a person we are saying that this person is not an adult. We are basically treating him like a child, and when you are treated like a child for long enough you start to look at the people treating you as such as parent. People that have wisdom you don’t have, that will provide for you, that will protect you and that will take decision for you. Sooner or later those people that protect, provide and make decision for you will not ask for you opinion, they will not need it anyway since you will be dependent on them, and once this happen well you are no longer a free man. No, you are then domesticated men, someone that can be a pet for “free man” or whatever entities you are a responsibility of.

Yes, assuming the consequences of our action and responsibility for our choices is much more risky and scary but how else can we be free and adult?

Economics

Interesting clip about economics.