In the Snow

Life is like a field full of snow…or a campus quad.  The deeper the snow, the fewer paths there will be.  Most people are content to walk around the snow on paved paths.  Some people will follow paths trodden by others.  Only a few will create new paths across the field, either to go to new places or create quicker routes than those that have been established.  It’s up to us how much snow we’re willing to walk through, and who we’re willing to follow.

Posting with my real name

[I just wrote this over at The City Beat. I’m still working through some things.]

Ben T., Information Architects had some good things to say about posting comments with your real name.

I go back and forth on this, and I think it’s a really interesting topic. For one, I like knowing what I said, and now that Google has just about everything I’ve ever written on the Internet, if I always posted with my real name, I could go back and check up on it. So could other people, and this is what irks me about myself: do I want other people to be able to dredge up what I’ve said? A lot of it’s opinion, some of it’s having fun, and some of it reflects me having a bad day, or a bad year (I started blogging in high school, which means all sorts of “angry at the world” stuff.

What bothers me is that I have a problem with that. Shouldn’t I be able to stand behind everything I say, or everything I’ve ever said? I think I should, and yet I still post under a (normally transparent) pseudonym. I know that I want to be proud of everything I say, but it seems like things get blown way out of proportion online, compared to in person. If we met in person and I said “I’m just so pissed off, I’m never eating pickles again” (or something more serious), you could tell that I was momentarily pissed off, and that I probably would eat pickles again. Online, words have staying power, and no matter what you were thinking when you wrote them (“I hate you, I hope you die”), they can get dredged up by someone else and used against you.

This is possible to do in real life as well, but then when I say “I wasn’t serious, I was having a bad day,” how can you believe me, and how can I believe you when you say “I understand, we all have bad days sometimes”?

I’ve said some pretty stupid things in my life, online and off, and I’m trying to stop doing that (things like insulting people because they disagree with me). I’ve found that it’s immensely helpful to post under my real name, because it prevents me from going off half-cocked.

Another question is whether or not I want to have an online presence at all. For someone as opinionated and communicative (sometimes) as I am, that’s a simple question to answer, but things are much more difficult online than they are in person, because you’re interacting with a much larger number of people.

I also forgot to mention that it seems weird to me that people use “throwaway” identities rather than a standard alter ego. If I did that, I’d forget what I wrote if I went back and read something again. Maybe that’s another issue: I go back and read things again, while others seem to do drive-by postings, where they drop their opinion, run, and never look back to see if anyone had something to say in reply. Why post if you don’t want to hear what the other person has to say?

Leonardo was a man, who had a craving for yams

“One of us spent years as an Oxford tutor and it was his habit to choose controversial topics for the students’ weekly essays. They were required to go to the library, read about both sides of an argument, give a fair account of both, and then come to a balanced judgment in their essay. The call for balance, by the way, was always tempered by the maxim, ‘When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong.'”



[EDIT: Read through this before you accuse me of anything.  I’m not as serious about “eugenics” as all that.  2014-02-06]

Eugenics could be a powerful tool if used properly, and there is no need for anybody to die, or become sterilized, or be restricted from mating. If you breed for desireable traits and act lassez fair towards what everyone else is doing, it may take longer, but those desireable traits should come through. Or at least that’s how I understand it.

Before you decide to hate me forever for suggesting such a thing, I just want to note that my interest in such an experimental program was first piqued by reading Heinlein, where everyone has the option (given enough money) to live as long as they wish through rejuvenation (and an ample supply of replacement parts from a personal, non-thinking clone). These aspects are most entertainingly approached in “The cat who walked through walls,” which has little social commentary that I am aware of besides the fact that it allows a small group of people to travel through time willy-nilly, albeit for the purposes of ‘good.’ But most of the book is good rip-roaring fun–and humorous as much as it contains action. I would highly recommend it. The one Heinlein I absolutely hate is “Stranger in a strange land,” called by some the best science-fiction novel ever written, but in my opinion does not ask the right questions about how to form the sort of Utopian society that Heinlein repeatedly advocates.

Back to my point on Eugenics. Positive eugenics would work by the repeated breeding of humans with genetic traits deemed desireable by whoever was running the experiment–in Heinlein the most important factor was originally longevity, as dictated by a group which was prepared to offer good money to members of the ‘families’ to marry and reproduce within a certain (extended) group of people whose ancestors had been long-lived.

Sadly, I doubt such an experiment would work in the real world, mostly because people are people, they often object to experiments such as this, love finds a way, and the important fact that such a long-term project would be inconceivable to most sources of funding.

I edited this post because I realized I was linked to (albeit incorrectly, sorry Rob) by Rob Loftis’ blog, and I decided he would not want me to write such a thing as I stated in the first paragraph without explaining my intentions further, so that there would be no chance of negative misunderstanding.

Articles on Eugenics and Darwinism, by the way, can be found in Steven Jay Gould’s book “Dinosaur in a Haystack”