Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Confirming the Consequent

This is a relatively simple formal deductive logical fallacy. There is a valid form of propositional arguement called modus ponens. It takes the form "If p then q", and "p", therefore "q". This is logically valid, and if one precedes from true premesis, one will reach a true conclusion. An example would be "If it is raining on my front yard, the pavement of my sidewalk will be wet", "It's raining on my front yard" therefore "My sidewalk is wet".

However, there is a desire many times to make the argument "If p then q" and "q" therefore "p". This is the fallacy of confirming the antecedant. The truth of q in no way supports or denies the truth of p. If I say "If it's raining on my front yard, my sidewalk will be wet" then observe "my sidewalk is wet", I cannot assert "it is raining". My sidewalk may have gotten wet because someone sprayed it with a hose, or the snow is melting, or there's a big puddle in the street that was splashed onto the sidewalk.

However, confirming the consequent is a fallacy perpetrated commonly in the world. A more complex example would be to say "If Obama deceived the American people about his eligibilty to become president then he would run for office and win." and then to say "Obama ran for office and won." and then conclude "Obama must have deceived the American people about his eligibility."

Googlebombing for a cause: www.minnesotangos.org 

Fallacy of the Temporary Name

This is a formal logical fallacy that many, many otherwise bright people fall into from time to time. In formal symbolic logic, of one has asserted or proven an existential quantifier, it is a valid line of arguement (known as E-elimination) to imagine an object that fulfills that existential quantifier.

For instance, I was riding the light rail yesterday. At that time, I could assert the premise, "Someone is driving this train." It would follow in a valid way that I could argue "Let's call the driver of this train 'Elvis'." Something similar happens in geometry: One begins (for instance) by asserting "A triangle exists", and then one can assert in a valid way "Let's call said triangle 'ABC'." So good so far.

How is E-elimination useful? Let's take a more comlex arguement. In our light rail arguement, we can accept another premise - a universal one this time - that "For all x, if x is a light rail driver, then x works for the MTCO." Taking our previous premise of "Someone is driving this train", or more formally "There is an y, such that y is a light rail driver". Then E-elimination allows us to say "We'll call y 'Elvis'. 'Elvis' is a light rail driver." This assertion then allows us to say "Since 'Elvis' is a light rail driver, and all light rail drivers work for the MTCO, then 'Elvis' must work for the MTCO." Then we wrap things up by asserting "There is an x, such that x is an employee of the MCTO" A valid arguement. If we had a more complicated arguement, we can continue to assert in a valid way that 'Elvis' is an employee of the light rail - that's a quality 'Elvis' has been proved to have working simply from already established premises. The limitation to 'E-elimination' or as it's sometimes called 'giving a temporary name' is that no other information can be asserted by the temporary name than what has already been proven from the arguement, and the choice of the temporary name should reflect that.

The fallacy of the temporary name is when that limitation is violated. Let's go back to our example. We could add another premise, "For all z, if z is Elvis, then z is the king of rock and roll." Wow! We've already named our light rail driver 'Elvis'! How convenient - we can use our new premise to prove that the light rail driver is the king of rock and roll. The king of rock and roll is alive and well, and driving light rail trains in Minneapolis.

Ummm.... not so much. That's the fallacy of the temporary name - an incorrect choice of the temporary name has led us from true premises to a false conclusion. We have an invalid arguement. With Elvis and the light rail train, it's pretty easy to see. But consider another arguement (sometimes known as the 'watchmaker arguement':

Premise 1) "For all x and n, if x is a system above a number n, then that system requires a designer" (We'll postulate that this is true)

Premise 2) "for all n, n is an arbitrary measure of complexity,"

Premise 3) "For all b and m, if b is the system of biological life on Earth then b has a complexity of m"

Premise 4) "There is a b, such that b is the system of biological life on Earth"

Premise 5) "Both m and n are numbers, and m is equal to or greather than n"

Premise 6) "For all y, if y requires a designer, then there must exist q, such that q designed y"

Premise 7) "For all z, if z is God, then z so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son."

What comes of this arguement? Well, Premise 3 and 4 together say 8) that there is a b* that has a complexity of m. (b* being a temporary name for the object whose existence is asserted in 4). Lines 8 and 5 say 9) that b* has an m larger than n. Lines 9 and 2 assert that 10) m is a measure of complexity. 10, 4, and 1 all come together to say that 11) the system of biological life on Earth requires a designer. 11 and 6 together say that 12) there is a q such that q designed the system of biological life on Earth. This is all kosher so far, and if one accepts the premises as true, then one has reached a true conclusion. But if we use E-elimination incorrectly and say "Let's call q 'God'", then we go on to argue "Since we've proven that there must have been a designer of biological life on Earth, and that that designer is God, and since we know God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, then God must exist as stated in John 3:16!"

This is a fallacy of the temporary name. The only thing we can use this arguement for is proof that something designed the system of biological life on Earth. We can say nothing else about that something unless we can prove that those qualities adhere to the something, and aren't predicates of whatever name we arbitrarily selected. If we had selected 'George' as the temporary name of the designer, then we would only be able to say that something exists that we've decided to name 'George', not that the God of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed must exist necessarily exist because of the complexity of life on Earth.

Googlebombing for a cause: www.minnesotangos.org 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Some Paradoxes of Subjectivism

"Consensual Reality" is the other side of the coin of "Groupthink"

"Wikipedia.org" is the triumph of the vox populi

"Cognitive dissonance", "bisociation", and "doublethink".

Orwell and Neitzsche were speaking the same language. I wonder if either of them knew?

Googlebombing for a cause: www.minnesotangos.org 

The Seven Deadly Sins of the Information Age

1. Confirmation bias

2. Selection bias

3. Correlation without causation

4. Argumentum vox populi

4a. Argumentum vox non populi

5. Argumentum ad hominum

6. Confirming the consequent

7. Fallacy of the temporary name

Googlebombing for a cause: www.minnesotangos.org 

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Article on editing one's own augmented reality.

First, on augmented reality itself, I have mixed feelings. While it would be nice to have encyclopedic recall of major landmarks, maps, events, and so on, I'm leery. First of all, because such content would likely be generated one of two ways: it would be developed and published by already established content providers, in which case the subjective nature of such content would lead one to question and think critically of the motivations, accuracy, and reality shadings of such content. Or the content would be developed 'wikipedia' style, by the collected writing and editing of large numbers of self-selecting people. In which case the danger of non-factual information, urban legends, rumors, and irrelevant trivia becomes substatially greater. If I were trying to navigate downtown LA, for instance, I would feel no need to to have my augmented reality system point out everywhere the current manufactured starlet performed some act of questionable taste.

On the other hand, if given the ability to self-edit and self-generate the content, I would find this form of augmented reality much more useful. It would allow me to finally overcome the "service industry effect" and remember people's names. The ability to add directional signs and notations of my own on buildings, notes on people who I've met but can't quite recall, and so on is something I could find useful.

However, such self-editing comes to the subject of the article linked to above: the ability to edit oneselve's reality and the affect that such has on the ability to think and reason critically. Such is not only a concern of augmented reality. The ability to censor our inputs is a dangerous one when not used critically and with great discretion. It is too easy, especially given the glut of information of our current Information Age, to disregard any information that does not fit in with our prejudices and preconceptions.

This is dangerous. Proper critical information input requires deviant data from time to time. One cannot learn anything new when one hears only what one already believes. This is the path that leads to groupthink, doublethink, and poor decisions and information management. I believe that it is vital for every thinking person to experience some form of cognative dissonance at least once a day, and to read, see, or hear something that offends them at least once a week. The ability to make each other angry is a precious gift we're losing by the day, so the next time someone says something that shocks you and makes you think about the world in a whole new way, thank them!

Googlebombing for a cause: www.minnesotangos.org 

An odd phenomenon

I think we all have people we don't necessarily like. Yet in an ever-changing social environment, those people can come tofeel like old friends: though we may not like them, we know who they are, what they've been up to, and what to ex[ect from them. Odd that.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Historiscope, now with Cleovision!

Hypothosise the invention of the historiscope, an insturment that permits a person to percieve any past event anywhere in the world as it actually happened. However, the historiscope does not allow one to have any effect on the past, nor is the viewing percieved in any way by the objects of study. What would be on the list of events to investigate? My list:

Approx 33 CE; in the Roman province of Palestine: the life and death of one Yeshua ben Yosef. How many of the stories are accurate? Was the crucifiction, as some have claimed, faked? Was Yeshua a priest in a Near-Eastern mystery cult?

1963 CE; Dallas, TX, USA: An obvious one: what actually happened on the day that President Kennedy died?

2001 CE; Manhattan, NY, USA: Another obvious one. What's the true story of the towers?

1st century CE; Near East: The gospel of Simon Magnus. The early church found his writings so offensive that they burned every known copy. What did he write?

1955 CE, New Jersey, USA: Albert Einstein's last words were in German, a language the nurse in the room did not speak. What were they?

Time unknown; Oak Island, Newfoundland, Canada: The Oak Island money pit. Someone went to great lengths to bury something here and keep it from being dug up. What was it and why was it buried?

1885 - 1917 CE; Rennes-le-Chateu, France: Priest Beranger Sauniere discovered a number of parchments containing excerpts from the gospels with non-sensical messages in French highlighted on them. Shortly afterward, he became immensely wealthy through means he divulged to no one but his housekeeper. What did he find?

1968 CE; Chicago, Illinois, USA: Major Daly of Chicago shouted a number of things into a muted microphone at the Democratic National Convention. What did he actually say?

Approx 1972 CE; Washington , DC, USA: Seventeen minutes is missing from one of Richard Nixon's "Watergate tapes". What was on it?

Unknown; unknown: Men's shirts button with the buttons on the right. Women's shirts button with the buttons on the left. There has never been an adequate explanation for this.

Unknown; unknown: What's the origin of the ring shaped pastry known as the donut?

Unkown; Greece: The Phaistos disc is the earliest known example of printing in the world. What language is it, what does it say, and why was this technology not adopted by the pre-Hellenic world at large?

10th century BCE and earlier; the Aegean: Linear A, the inscriptions of the Minoan culture are still indecipherable, and very little is known about the Minoans, including their cataclysmic end. Were they the inspiration for Atlantis? If so, why does Plato place Atlantis "beyond the Pillars of Herakles"?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And now, a brief shout out to What Really Happened.com which found my last post interesting enough to link to. WRH carries a lot of analysis you just won't find elsewhere on the net. I don't take it as gospel, but it's certainly worth thinking about.

Aloha, Hawaii!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Death of the Internet

More and more I'm hearing alarmism about the "takeover of the internet" or the "death of the internet". Some in the survivalist and patriot movements fear that any day now, the Federal Government is going to move to take down half of the sites on the World Wide Web, and restrict access to the other half.


Let's remember what the "internet" is. It's nothing more than several suites of protocols for transferring data from one computer to another, or from one newtwork to another; and it's any set of (say it with me now) inter-networked computers running those protocols. Thanks to the boys at DARPA, the internet we know and love (based largely around the TCP/IP protocol suite) is desinged to be decentralised, with realtime compensation for changes in the number and positioning of functioning routers and nodes.

If I have a computer publishing a web page using HTTP and another computer across the room reading it, that's the internet. If I maintain a file server that exterior clients can access using VPN, that's the internet. If I work out a means to shift packets using AM radio, and such packets can cross from one network to another, that's the internet.

In essence, the internet is like a road system. Sure, and interested party can put up roadblocks at strategic locations, and they can try to lock down or tear up any routes they don't like. But others can build new roads and new roadnetworks as well, and it's impossible to control the whole thing at once, as long as the equipment and the people who know how to build and use it are scattered throughout the populace.

Now, possibly, the World Wide Web as we know it might be able to be co-opted. But the www is not the whole internet. I recall the salad days of Usenet - a decentralized method of collecting public information. In fact, I recall the atomic bomb board. Either a legitimate means for nuclear engineering students to share infromation or an elaborate joke, the atomic bomb board (Usenet designations varied) held actual real-world information on nuclear weapons design. Not the kind of thing that the Department of Energy, the Secret Service, or the FBI liked to see.

However, they couldn't get rid of it. Not just because of the perfidy of computer savy students, but because of the nature of Usenet. Usenet consisted of directories of files stored at various nodes. Periodically, each node hosting a Usenet directory would enquire if any of the nodes it was connected to lacked any of the files in it's host directory. Any missing files (or the whole directory) would be transferred to the other nodes.

So for instance, the University of Illinois would ask the University of Wisconsin if there were any Usenet files the UofI was lacking, or the UofW was lacking, and they'd copy and transfer files. Simple enough. So if the Secret Service tried to take down all of the atomic bomb board files at the Univeristy of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin would just copy it's files over to UofI, and service would be restored. If the University of Wisconsin suffered the same treatment, then the Univeristy of Illinois would fill in the gap. If, somehow, there was a co-ordinated attack at both of them simultaneously, then it was likely that the Univeristy of Minnesota would update both UofW and UofI after the fact. The atomic bomb board became almost impossible to remove.

Now, interestingly, that was the model of the late 1980's and early 1990's. The hacker/cracker credo was "All information wants to be free". Using a redundant, decentralised, self-correcting model, the information was in a sense free.

But something changed. E-commerce. The World Wide Web came into general use, and with it attempts to sell things online. The need to control access to information (paid sites, credit transfers, personal financial information) led to information no longer being free. Gradually, the server-client structure became commonplace, as it is easier to control information that way. Web-mail has edged aside traditional email, Chat clients have overtaken IRC, Web forums have replaced newsgroups and mailing lists. Websites have replaced gopher sites.

But we remember. We remember Usenet. We remember SMTP and POP3. We remember Gopher. We remember Telnet and the BBS. In the 21st century, the information we need is canaled, damed, and piped. It's controlled because it's easier that way, because money can be made that way, and free information doesn't drive an economy well. But all that can change. If anyone tries to "control the internet" we remember how to set that information free.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Neitzschean Aphorisms pt.1

Human ethics and morality may very well be reduced to two conclusions:

"Be excellent to one another and party on dudes!"

The devil, as usual, is in the details.
Truth is stranger than fiction because

1) Fiction must make sense; reality is not bound to such limits

2) Fiction begins and ends at discrete moments; reality goes on and on

3) Good fiction shows all of the central, important facts; reality is filled with enigmas
Uzzah the ox-cart driver may have been the most compassionate man in the Old or New Testaments.
Good people inclined to do good things will do them regardless of their specific religious profession. Bad people inclined to do bad things will do them despite their specific religious profession.

There are good Christians and bad Christians
There are good Moslems and bad Moslems
There are good Athiests and bad Athiests
There are good Buddhists and bad Buddhists
There are good Jews and bad Jews

Religion and morality are parallel but seperate.
I'd rather not die like Jesus, thinking I had all the answeres. Rather, I'd prefer to die like Socrates, knowing I had only the questions.
The worst thing to happen to the profound moral speculations of Yeshua ben Yosef was to re-write them under the pen name "Jesus the Christ".

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Exercises in Identity pt. 3: Identity crises

I define an identity crisis as an event in which some element of a person's identity is in doubt. The most general form of identity crisis occurs when one element of identity does not correspond to another element of identity - they do not identify the same person.

One example is the use of an identification card to obtain some restricted but desired substance or item. In some Western countries, especially the United States, access to alcohol or tobacco is restricted to those over a certain age. Usually, one's age is proved by presenting a form of government issued photo identification complete with date of birth. This process can lead to an identity crises in a number of ways.

One form of such crisis is misrepresentation. The person presenting the identification produces an ID that is valid in all ways, but not that of the person presenting. The intention is to decieve, usually by using an ID bearing a picture that is similar to the presenter's face - their biometric identity.

In this form of identity crises, the misrepresenter hopes that the examiner of the identity will believe that the misrepresnters biometric identity will be misunderstood to correspond to the document identity presented. Failing that, the misrepresenter hopes that fear of a false positive during the identity examination will deter attempts by the examiner to confront the misrepresenter.

When the identity examiner suspects misrepresentation, it is common then to resort to other means to confirm the identity. The examiner may ask the identity user to state their name, address, birth date or other trivia, whose correspondence to the data listed on the identification card will be confirmed. Such trivia are intended to represent a weak form of data-point identity, where an identification card user will be expected to produce these data unrehearsed. However, in actual practice, a misrepresenting identification user can be assumed to have rehearsed or memorised the data, causing such recitation to become instead a weak form of codestring identity, albeit involving a codestring that is known by more than two parties.

Oddly enough, one more significant form of resolving this form of identity crises is to involve law enforcement, in many cases deputies of the local county's sheriff's office. Strikingly, such law enforcement has few tools in their arsenal unavailable to the earlier ID examiner. While law enforcement may use a magnetic strip or RFID reader to obtain information stored electronically on the card, such information only asserts the validity of the printed information on the card. On site examination still cannot prove or disprove the correspondence of the present person's biometric identity with the photo presented on the identification. Theoretically, more precise means of biometric analysis could be called into play, probably by digitally scanning images into a computer programmed to analyse them. Such a process is only as good, however, as the accuracy of the process involved, which cannot be experimentally confirmed to be 100% accurate.
Another form of identity crisis occurs regularily at the radio network at which the present author is employed. The nature of such work involves daily communication with a number of radio hosts over various forms of audio telecommunications equipment, or via computer text internetworking media. There is in the network studio no corresponding video or visual means of communication. Therfore, the radio hosts must rely only on audio or textual media for identity cues. However, many of the network employees sound similar to the common human ear. Their nominal identies must be commonly reaffirmed once per day, so the show hosts know with which network board-op they are interacting.

One apparent solution would to be to rely on codestring identity; that is, to give each network board-op a unique inernetworking (Instant messenger, e-mail, or both) identity, with a unique codestring attached (a unique login and password). However, pragmatic demands of scheduling and intra-board-op communication often requires their collective use of such assets, and so such media do not uniquely correspond to an individual board-op.

One possible solution to this recurrent identity crisis would involve narrative or stylistic identity. Given enough samples with which to work, it is quite likely that unique features of narrative style and content might be discerned for each individual board-op, and so each board-op might be identified by their unique features. To date, I do not believe that the process has been completed.
"In 1962, the Fogg Museum of Harvard University arranged an unusual art exhibit, in which some of the paintings were fakes and most were genuine: "experts" were invited to come and pick out the fakes. Among those who authenticated at least one fake were the chairman of the Art Department at Princeton and the scretary of the Fogg itself. Most of the guests kept their opinions private, just making otes, but when the truth was revealed they 'quietly crumpled their papaers.' " [Wilson, Robert Anton; Everything is Under Control, HarperCollins books, 1998. ISBN 0-06-27317-2]

It is a conceit of art critics and art historians that the works of many noted artworks may be identified by the hallmarks of the style of their creators. That is, a painting can be identified to be the work of a particular painter by examining the style of the work. This is a use of stylistic identity. Similarly, literary critics and analysts attempt to identify writing style when determining if a given work is by a known writer writing under a pen name. As well, a moderator for an online forum may attempt to discerne if a new poster may be an older poster working under a new screen name by analysing the style of anything written.

However, as the Fogg experiment demonstrates, actual use of stylistic identity to identify a unique individual is not necessarily accurate, and should be used with caution, even by acclaimed experts.
Nicholas Bourbaki

He was at one time hailed as a new polymath, producing excellent work in many fields of theoretical and applied mathematics, and publishing a number of journal articles. However, he was never seen to attend conferences or otherwise emerge into public. Many claimed (accurately) to correspond with him, but no one outside of a select few actually claimed to have met him.

Because Nicholas Bourbaki did not exist. He was the invention of a circle of French mathemeticians. Expressed in our terms of identity, Bourbaki enjoyed stylistic and narrative identity, as well as a nominal identity. He however lacked a biophysical identity, or a psychological identity outside of the conituity of memory of his "creators".