Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Playing God

If I write a program that fills “agents” with behaviors, and then introduce a lot of agents in the system, I know the agents wouldn’t have any purpose. Now think of these agents as drivers. I program them to be able to drive. Their purpose is not “not to hit others”; their purpose is to reach a destination without getting hit themselves. Let's say I assign destinations randomly every some-time-period. I also program them to maneuver left and right, give them a rear view mirror and so on.

Then I fill the system with too many agents to avoid hits altogether. As a last resort, agents don’t become motionless; they hit each other and die. In this program, I can be sure of all the factors that come in play when an agent near misses another agent – after all, I coded it!


  • Can I be sure that the factor of the agent’s purpose of reaching a destination played or not a role in the near miss? In the short term, apparently not; in the long term, definitely yes.
  • Can I be sure that any pattern that arises out of such near misses isn't the manifestation of collective activity of some benign bug that I left in the agents' code?
  • Can I be sure that the pattern in the collective activity itself is not a manifestation of a bigger universal truth like pi?

I am sure, if there is a God, he is one very confused guy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'How to debate on the Internet' by Scott Adams

After yesterday's post, I seriously wondered to what length one can go to find reasoning, once he finds the conclusions beautiful.

I sent the link to some of my friends as well, and few of their responses, while they sit in my Inbox, remind me of an old post by Scott Adams.

- Portion of Scott's post begins -

If you are new to the Internet, allow me to explain how to debate in this medium. When one person makes any kind of statement, all you need to do is apply one of these methods to make it sound stupid. Then go on the offensive.

  1. Turn someone’s generality into an absolute. For example, if someone makes a general statement that Americans celebrate Christmas, point out that some people are Jewish and so anyone who thinks that ALL Americans celebrate Christmas is stupid. (Bonus points for accusing the person of being anti-Semitic.)
  1. Turn someone’s factual statements into implied preferences. For example, if someone mentions that not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, accuse the person who said it of siding with pedophiles.
  1. Turn factual statements into implied equivalents. For example, if someone says that Ghandi didn’t eat cows, accuse the person of stupidly implying that cows deserve equal billing with Gandhi.
  1. Omit key words. For example, if someone says that people can’t eat rocks, accuse the person of being stupid for suggesting that people can’t eat. Bonus points for arguing that some people CAN eat pebbles if they try hard enough.
  1. Assume the dumbest interpretation. For example, if someone says that he can run a mile in 12 minutes, assume he means it happens underwater and argue that no one can hold his breath that long.
  1. Hallucinate entirely different points. For example, if someone says apples grow on trees, accuse him of saying snakes have arms and then point out how stupid that is.
  1. Use the intellectual laziness card. For example, if someone says that ice is cold, recommend that he take graduate courses in chemistry and meteorology before jumping to stupid conclusions that display a complete ignorance of the complexity of ice.
Those are the basic tools that come to mind.

- Portion of Scott's post ends -

I am quite a fan of Scott Adams, regular reader of his blog, like him despite occasional disagreements, and do a good job of recommending God's Debris to my friends. Hence, I think he wouldn't have a problem with my stealing from his blog entry and posting here. I am also counting on the fact that I lack the talent to write anything that'll make people laugh out loud and that deserves some sympathy from the best professional humorist around.

The original post, by the way, is titled Results of Why I'm Stupid, but you need to know the context of past few posts by Scott in order to appreciate this one fully. I have pasted only the part that can be understood without context. You can find the original post here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rest Energy and Kinetic

1. Rest energy of a body - m c^2
2. Kinetic energy of a body - 0.5 m v^2

Leaving aside the formal definitions of these energies, I am linking the formulae to some philosophy:

  • The energy in you defines who you are.
  • Your mass is something you were born with.

  • When you are at rest 'who-you-are' is defined by the universe
    • By the mass it gave you, and
    • By the speed at which it moves

  • When you are moving, who-you-are is defined by two things
    • By the mass the universe assigned to you, and
    • By the speed and the direction in which you are moving

  • Independent of the magnitudes of these values, when you're moving, you're more defined by the speed and direction you choose than the mass assigned to you.