All of Alex_Martelli's Comments + Replies

There is, of course, a rather large random/unknown component in the amortized present value of the amount of good any action of mine is going to do. Maybe my little contributions to Python and other open-source projects will be of some fractional help one day to somebody writing some really important programs -- though more likely they won't. Maybe my buying and bringing food to hungry children will enhance the diet, and thus facilitate the brain development, of somebody who one day will do something really important -- though more likely it won't. Land... (read more)

One category of cases where self-deception might be (evolutionarily) adaptive would be for males to be over-confident about their chances to pick up a female for a one-night stand (or, alternative, over-confident about how pleasurable that dalliance would be, and/or about how little they would be emotionally hurt by a rejection of their advances).

Suppose that in reality the potential utility to the male of the 1-night stand (if the seduction works) is twice as much as the utility loss (if rejected) and the actual chances of success are 20%; in this case th... (read more)

By the way, I should clarify that my total disagreement with your thesis on WW2 being single-handedly caused by A. Hitler does in no way imply disagreement with your more general thesis. In general I do believe the "until comes steam-engine-time" theory -- that many macro-scale circumstances must be present to create a favorable environment for some revolutionary change; to a lesser degree, I also do think that mostly, when the macro-environment is ripe, one of the many sparks and matches (that are going off all the time, but normally fizz out b... (read more)

"In sober historical fact", clear minds could already see in 1919 that the absurdity of the Treaty of Versailles (with its total ignorance of economic realities, and entirely fueled by hate and revenge) was preparing the next war -- each person (in both nominally winning and nominally defeated countries) being put in such unendurable situations that "he listens to whatever instruction of hope, illusion or revenge is carried to him on the air".

This was J.M. Keynes writing in 1919, when A. Hitler was working as a police spy for the Rechsw... (read more)

I just find it interesting that the event is scheduled for St. Crispin's Day -- is that a reference to "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers", OR to "half a league, half a league, half a league ahead" -- or total indifference by Singularity experts on the subject of ancient battles which happened to inspire great English poets?-)

I guess that Bay Area Bayesians who are also Pythonistas are out of luck, since on Thu 21 Feb Guido van Rossum will be speaking at BayPiggies (meeting at Google in Mountain View as usual) with a much-expected talk on the status of Python 3000...:-(. Worse luck: we always meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month -- but for this one month only we moved the meeting one week later, in order to leave Valentine Day's evening free for other pursuits!-) What a difficult choice...!

If you're interested in the Blues and the Greens, check out Alan Cameron's "Cirus Factions" (Oxford University Press), a reasonably thorough monograph. There were originally two teams in chariot racing (Reds and Whites), then four (adding Blues and Greens), then six (Domitian added Purples and Golds, which faded shortly after the end of his reign), and then the Reds and Whites kinds of merged into the Blues and Greens by the 3rd century AD and those remained important for a millenium as Byzantium endured. They were handy "parties" that were often grabbed by the issue of the day (e.g., monophysites took over the Greens for a while) and eventually institutionalized as citizen militias.

If you're looking for awesome atheist poetry, Lucretius' "De Rerum Naturae" will supply it -- in Latin, that's true, but, it CAN be translated, you know;-). Yes, it DOES start with a hymn to Venus -- "hominum divomque voluptas", and the rest of the wonderful opening Hymn to Venus -- but that's just keeping the paying sponsors (the Caesars, Augustus in particular) happy, as they claim descent from Venus -- look around the "tantum religio potuet suadere malorum" part for some juicier materials;-).

Dryden even gave us a rhyming translation [] (although in some respects Lucretius isn't very transhumanist []y at all).