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About syrakusos

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    Rational Empiricist
  • Birthday 11/10/1949

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    Michael E. Marotta
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    Senior technical writer for enterprise information systems serving complex organizations. Content strategist and knowledge presentationdesigner for projects serving electrical power, telecommunication, insurance, and manufacturing... Post and patrol for large crowd events, as well as for business, technology and retail customers. Responsible for greeting, clearing and directing visitors and employees. Inspection of premises and grounds via closed circuit television cameras.
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    West Wing, Die Hard 1-4, Big Bang Theory
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    Numismatics, Physical Security and Computer Security, Aviation

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  1. Baal's link took me to an anti-aging conference. Here are some of my resources on the Antikythera Device. The device may have been a collaboration among Archimedes, Eratosthenes, and Apollonius. Archimedes is known to have constructed "spheres" that showed the movements of the planets. Eratosthenes was the Librarian at Alexandria. Apollonius was the best geometer of the time. Even if Archimedes built it entirely on his own, the device shows successive stages of work. It also displays remarkable sophistication that did not come in an instant of insight, but long repetitions of better effort. Just cutting the gears was an achievement. Although the device was singular, many similar mechanisms must have existed, yet all are lost. Dr. Anthony Freeth heads the team that has decoded much more of the Antikythera device. Papers are here: ISAW Papers 4 (February, 2012) The Cosmos in the Antikythera Mechanism by Tony Freeth and Alexander Jones Eclipse Prediction on the Ancient Greek AstronomicalCalculating Machine Known as the Antikythera Mechanism by Tony Freeth Building the Cosmos in the Antikythera Device by Tony Freeth & SKA_018.pdf You can view a 2-hour lecture at Stanford here. (I did it in three sittings, but it was worthwhile.)
  2. The libraries at the University of Texas at Austin shelve 83 volumes by Ayn Rand. Of them, 30 have been stolen. Of those, eight are marked in the catalog as “Missing.” In other words, they left the shelves without being checked out. The others were just not returned by the last borrowers who effectively got away with their crimes. I identify these facts as evidence of a deeper political problem, first posited 2500 years ago by Sophocles in his drama, Antigone. More recent, and known well to admirers of the works of Ayn Rand, are the trial scenes from The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Not so famous, but cutting more deeply into the fabric of law is Ayn Rand’s courtroom drama, Night of January 16th. The question is whether or not you have a duty to obey the law. It is important to understand, first, that Ayn Rand was opposed to duty. Obviously, for some admirers of the works of Ayn Rand, the prospect of a free copy of one of her books was stronger than any irrational duty to the public order. However, it is also true that Rand’s dictum above must be placed in its proper context because she was far more eloquent in her condemnation of “looters” and substantially incisive in her praise for their antithesis, the producers. Moreover, the moral and political aspects of her philosophy of Objectivism were primarily about the positive virtues of production, creation, and active reason, against which are revealed the negative, destructive, and empty actions of the irrational and non-productive. The primary concern is not whether the owner of the bookstore sends her children to a government-subsidized daycare center, but where you got the money with which you bought the book. If you did not buy the book at all, if there was no earned money exchanged, then the failure was yours long antecedent to the gross action of mere acquisition of the book. he essential question here is: “What justifies stealing from the public library?” It leads to a far wider set of questions and actions. I assert that if it is acceptable to steal Atlas Shrugged from the library, then it is acceptable to take a tree from a public park, or a computer from city hall, or the President’s limousine from the White House. And, ultimately, it would be acceptable to take anything from anyone who accepted any public benefit, whether a social security check, “land bank” payments for not growing crops, sending their children to public schools, or (of course) borrowing books from the public library (and returning them). Some libertarians claim that it is moral to steal from the library, or any other government entity, because their assets all come from taxation, and taxation is theft. When you steal a library book, you only take back what was yours in the first place. This also applies by extension to stealing back what was yours from any business that benefits from government subsidies, whether General Motors or Tesla, Inc., a local hospital, or the florist whom you spot coming from the library. Moving right along, for a philosophical Objectivist (or simply an “admirer” of the works of Ayn Rand) such justifications, extend to their irrational mystical altruist collectivist neighbors. Their theory is that anyone who goes to church or votes for Democrats is fair game, especially when the risks are very low. Your neighbors who are tax looters or welfare moochers stole from you first; you are just taking back what was yours. If you can get away with it, why not? Among the many accurate and precise tools of logic that Ayn Rand employed in her expositions was identifying the error of context dropping. In terms of the social consequences of personal morality, it is the error of moral equivalency. It also a powerful tool in Objectivism that moral success begins in metaphysics and epistemology. So the moral failing of the looter of the library begins with errors in metaphysics and epistemology. Ayn Rand called it “reifying the zero” i.e., attempting to make a “something” out of nothing. (See “Axiomatic Concepts” in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.) Stealing a copy of Atlas Shrugged from the library is not the moral equivalent of buying one from a bookstore. In Sophocles’ Antigone, the heroine was so outraged by the desecration of her brothers’ bodies, whatever their crimes against the city, that she disobeyed the commands of the tyrant Creon, in full acceptance of the consequences. In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is prepared to go to prison if his appeal to the creative spirit fails. In Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden refuses to hand over his metal and tells the government that he cannot stop their trucks and guns if they come to take it. And he is willing to go to prison rather than to acquiesce in the theft of his property. In Night of January 16th Karen André has committed or conspired in so many crimes that the play does not even come close to a bill of indictment. She makes no appeal to a higher law or a greater good or a better morality. She does not explain herself at all: no outsider’s opinion is consequential to her. On the other hand, the hooligan who steals a copy of Atlas Shrugged from the public library makes no public statements, issues no manifesto, and stands not in defiance of authority but slinks away with loot. It might be informative for a bold privateer to wheel several shelving carts out the door while distributing leaflets condemning the philosophical and economic fallacies of “public goods.” (And when the campus police arrive, he should have a clever cloaking device unless he intends to go to jail for his beliefs.) But that is not the case. Instead, other people whose taxes have paid for goods and services are deprived of the benefit of their bargain by a third party. We call that theft. "Rand fans" are not the only people given to "crimes of conscience." The Roman republican martyr Cato the Younger (Marcus Porcius Cato,Uticensis) became a symbol for Christians and ultimately republicans of the Enlightenment. But, again, Cato the Younger took his own life rather than submit to Gaius Julius Caesar. It remains that the jihadi who kill themselves while they kill others in suicide attacks claim obedience to a higher law, also. The actions are not morally equivalent because the consequences are not morally equivalent. Do you have a duty to obey the law? In the explicit sense identified by Ayn Rand, that a duty is an obligation that supersedes self-interest, you do not. But that begs the question: What is self-interest? Rand devoted herself to answering that question. If you do not understand why productively earning the money with which to buy a book is in your self-interest while the easy pickings of the public library are not, you need to do some reading. It is a common error in our common education that we want even our “story problems” to be short, when in fact, the most important aspects of living well require more than a slogan to explain. (This article originally appeared on my blog, NecessaryFacts.)
  3. I get the point, but it does not address the deeper issue. You can prove that 2 + 2 ≠ 6 because the statement is not isolated from all the rest of arithmetic. All you have done is take one truth (2 + 2 = 4) and misstate it into a falsehood. And your objection does not tie the analytic to the synthetic. You cannot prove that the Moon has not been used as a base by aliens. You cannot prove that God does not exist. And all the rest. How are empirical observations, or the lack of them, different from logical truths?
  4. Yes, of course all of those are only the result of attempting to prove a positive assertion and running into a contradiction that falsifies it. Then, you turn it over and make it a disproof. That is just a subset of how proofs are done in algebra. Andrew Wyles's proof of Fermat's Conjecture is a great example. Perhaps I need a better way of stating my hypothesis, but I do not want to separate the rational from the empirical. .
  5. I patronize the local atheist boutique to buy bumper stickers, pens, pencils, lapel pins, and badges. This one sat on my desk for a couple of weeks. Then, I had a reply. "Watches only prove that beaches were not designed to be watches." The fallacy goes to the root of arguments for atheism. You cannot prove a negative assertion. When you try, you run into non-sequiturs. Complete essay here:
  6. I am always impressed by ARIWatch. They appear to be consistently dispassionate and factual. My only sense of dismay is all the time and effort that goes into it, when the world holds so many other more interesting and profitable pursuits. But to each his own, and, with my thanks for the hard work.
  7. IQ

    Over on Rebirth of Reason, frequent contributor Luke Setzer has had bad experiences at MENSA meetings and just wrote off all of the High-IQ crowd. That underscores Orwell's quip about some ideas being so wrong that only an intelligent person can accept them. I grew up in Cleveland, which still has a Major Work program in 3-12th grades. It was started in the 1920s based on Lewis Terman's theories of eugenics. (I was not in Major Work because I was not smart enough. I went to summer school to catch up. My brother was in it. Fans of "I Love Lucy" reruns, he still denies calling me "Mickey Retardo.") (See "World Peace Through Massive Retaliation" here. And the related links in "Previously" below that, and others, such as "She's Such a Geek!" reviewed here.) In fact, it is an attribute of standard IQ testing that for many problems, no amount of extra time will be enough: you either get it or you do not. That is the nature of intelligence, or at least one aspect of some kinds of intelligence. We all know that standard IQ tests are shot through with conceptual errors and cultural biases. Quart is to liter as inning is to chukker. Old Objectivists know Ayn Rand's endorsement of Banesh Hoffman's book The Tyranny of Testing. As I recall, it was in the SATs of the time that Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" and Strauss' "Emperor Waltz" were both correct answers -- just one out of many... That kind of "intelligence" is just one aspect of human action. We are more than the books we read or music we listen to. The standard IQ test format has no way to measure "natural" ability in the visual arts. That is why the best (yet limited) intelligence tests are administered one-on-one by a trained psychologist over a series of sessions that explore (as I recall) seven aspects of intelligence, including socialization and empathy. As for chess, music, and everything else we do, I have given some thought to the problem of "prodigies" children who are fantastically accomplished at some skill such as playing the piano or mathematics. My theory is that what humans can do is defined by what humans have done and some will always be better and worse at anything along any applicable scale. Someone invented the piano. The piano is within the realm of human action. Therefore, some people will have a "natural" ability to master that device. That applies to everything we have done or can do. And we do not yet know all of the things that we can to. Some child will someday have an amazing facility with warp drive mechanics...
  8. SCIENCE NEWS | Fri Mar 3, 2017 | 6:21pm EST Mars astronaut radiation shield set for moon mission trial: Developer The vest will protect vital human tissue, particularly stem cells, which could be devastated by solar radiation in deep space or on Mars, whose sparse atmosphere offers no protection, StemRad's CEO Oren Milstein said. I mention this because BaaChatzaf has often asserted that colonizing Mars will be impossible because of the intense radiation, both during the trip and then settled on the planet. It is a valid concern, of course, but all along, others have pointed out that such problems get solved. Apparently, this one may be, as well.
  9. (I sent this to CivicAction at Meetup dot com. I also sent out-takes to the groups that belonged to, most of them for computer users.) I am cutting my access to all of my Meetup groups and to as of February 28, 2017, in response to a corporate decision by Meetup to support the Resist political action collectives. “We decided that we wanted to do more to support these efforts so we created a network of 1,000 #Resist Meetup groups with a few special characteristics.” -- While I am sympathetic to many of the social justice causes pursued by Resist, I must object to Meetup’s delivering a special value to them. My comrades on the right wing also have advanced the cause of freedom. Their methods and their successes do not grab headlines. It is a matter of culture. As collectivists, my progressive comrades form strong groups, and groups are easy to see. They grab headlines when they grab other people’s property. But that property had to be created first. The exceptionally great wealth of America was the work of millions of individuals who mostly minded their own business, making their own lives as best they knew how by the standards they chose according to their personal values. That does not make the home pages of news media – unless it is to “doodle” in celebrating the historical birthday of a dead writer, musician, inventor, or scientist. is a tool for those conservatives, libertarians, and Objectivists who advance the ethics and politics of individualism. By creating new, no-cost platforms for one political group, of necessity excludes those of other political beliefs – and those groups with no political agenda. It is also a platform for millions of individuals who share personal – sometimes peculiar – interests of their own, far removed from politics. And that speaks to a fundamental problem with progressive causes. It is critical that this be understood. Dr. Martin Luther King looked forward to a future in which each person is judged by the content of their character. But character is an attribute of a person, not of a group. Choosing not to do business with someone because they are not from your ethnic, social, gender, class, or religious group is irrational. But freedom of association is a fundamental political right. While my collectivist comrades try to eliminate discrimination by engaging the power of the state, my friends on the right go to the root problem: lack of character. If the owners of want to end social injustice, they should empower their customers who meet to build character. But that would mean creating a 1000 special groups for some religions or some philosophies in preference to others. And there is no way to parse that, because, after all, even karate builds character. Therefore, I will delete my Meetup account and switch to some other service or set of services, such as Google Groups, which, in fact, evolved from the age-old Usenet maillists. Ultimately, no one needs That is something to keep in mind. Michael E. Marotta
  10. That's all well and good, but the word "sex" has been dropped from the conversation. Beyond NOIF, what does it mean to be treated "fairly" in sexual encounters. Ethics vary with social context. Can sexual ethics be different for different genders? I assume not, as my primary. But it is easy to come up with social situations in which ethics depend on context. Good ethics are objective, but they are not all the same for everyone in every case. In business, if I am paid by the hour, and it is time to go home, and if I have a family waiting, then punching the time clock and leaving is ethical. If I am on salary and live alone, then leaving when the work is done - not when the clock says 5 - is ethical. I have worked in a lot of places because I am a contractor. So, I know a lot of ways that people get along ethically in business. I do not have much experience in sexual encounters with others. One ethical rule I have is "ladies before gentlemen."
  11. I am sorry, Ba'al, but I find that your description is too reductionist, so it misses the essence. Just for starters, I already pointed out that living things do not necessarily replicate themselves: hybrids are often sterile, but are alive nonetheless. At the cellular level, not all cells reproduce. Red Blood Cells (erythrocytes, which is only Greek for "red cells") are made in the bone marrow. Perhaps your description properly puts them outside the definition of "life". But, evolutionarily, maybe they were independent at one time and just "devolved." Animals without interior bones must have some other ways to transport oxygen. But, again, I regard my own words above as falling into the reductionist fallacy. You can take something apart and never find the "it" that you took apart because "it" is the sum (greater than the sum?) of its parts. As for intelligence, I think that it is possible that intelligence reverses entropy. Ideas are immaterial. That opens the door to our nature as "spiritual" beings. I think that perhaps all other living things are also "spiritual" only that they have less "spirit." And, likely, other living things have more than we do: higher orders of angels, you might say. I went back and read some of the posts by jts in Sports and Recreation about chess programs. How are they not intelligent?
  12. My degrees are in criminology (BS) and social science (MA). In any arbitrarily "large" business, about 20% of the employees are criminals. In addition, many enterprises are criminal by nature, with 100% participation by the employees. The suburbs suffer as much crime as the inner cities, only that the worst crimes are often different, being worse in the suburbs. For a close analogy to inner city crime, you need to go to rural areas. That statement expresses a criminogenic attitude. It is a version of the cultural foundations of Sharia Law.
  13. Thanks. That was sad and compelling.
  14. We need to go back to what it means to be ailve. Binswanger's essential assumption is to be engaged in action to sustain itself. By that definition, all of the cells in a baby are alive, but the "baby qua baby" is not. We might accept crying as an attempt to sustain itself, which I believe is inadequate. On the other hand, is the growth of a crystal an expression of its having life? Back in the mid-1980s, discussing software life, I looked up definitions for "life" in biology textbooks. As you can imagine, they were general and intuitive, not rigorous. The attributes of life do not apply to all living things. For instance, "mules" (real donkey-horses, and other hybrids) do not reproduce their own kind because they are born sterile. (Some exceptions apply. It depends on the species of the jack/jenny and mare/stud. That seems true in other kinds of hybrids. In the wider context, fertile hybrids call Darwinian definitions of "species" into question.) At any rate, Binswanger is just adhering to Ayn Rand's definition, which, again, is intuitively obvious, but perhaps not rigorous. Almost every cell in your body would be alive, of course, but by that definition your gametes (sperm, ovum) are not. I worked in robotics and factory automation in the 'nineties. For one robot show, Kawasaki had two six-axis mechanical units controlled by one computer, to which was also included a vision system. It solved Rubic's Cube in a minute. (Can Binswanger do that?) I built hobby robots since then. Right now, we have this toy for our cat. The toy has a simple mechanical servo to back away and re-direct after hitting a barrier. That is more that a sperm can do. Then, of course, her in this Board, we have discussions of computers that play chess. In fact, as I understand it, we are now at the point where humans are relegated to a different arena because the computer always wins. If not "always" certainly "often." Autonomous machines are important to space exploration. That they cannot reproduce their own kind does not disqualify them as "life." They certainly do perceive and react to their environments to sustain their range of actions.
  15. Sexual ethics derive from morality. Like metaphysics, and epistemology, morality rests on absolutes. Alone on his island, Robinson Crusoe needed morality. Proper ethics are objective, but not absolute. Subjective thoughts and actions, and arbitrary thoughts and actions are destructive. A business dress code is not absolute, but it does define a kind of ethical conduct. So, too, with sex, are the moral rules absolute, and the social rules objective. The worst outcomes are the result of subjectivism and intrinsicism. Socially, we trade value for value. Sexually, your pleasure is primary and as a consequence you find pleasure in your partner enjoyment and celebration. The business rules of creating and delivering the best at the highest price the market will bear have sexual analogs. Getting it done and over with is an expression of failure within, a lack of self-esteem, even a consequence of self-loathing. Again, it is similar to the way people slog through jobs they hate. If a male birth control pill were invented, it would be incumbent on the man to accept primary responsibility for the consequences of sex with a woman, though her own responsibility to herself still exists. Each has a primary responsibility to themselves, from which comes their responsibility to their partner. Not to recognize that and live it, would be like short-changing a customer, or weighing goods with your thumb on the scale. A schoolmate of mine from a social psychology class said that sex is what is between your legs, gender is what is between your ears, and orientation is what goes on between the sheets. That seems like a nice vernacular summation. It addresses some of the errors that have been posted here as claims of truth. On the subject of rape, the claim that women use the false accusation of rape as a weapon against men is completely inadequate. I doubt that in a discussion of business ethics, Dallas Korben would have opened with an assertion that businesses routinely use false accusations of fraud as a competitive strategy, though, historically, you might find some examples of that. Moreover, the other tet-a-tets failed to include male-on-male rape which is more common than most people consider. Male-on-male rape brings into sharp relief that fact that rape is primarily about dominance and control, not about sex. Sex is just the modality of expression. Moralist's traditionalism is likewise unworkable as an approach to understanding and defining sexual ethics. We think of men as hunters. But in an anthropology class, we read about a tribe where the men had long ago convinced the women that fire is a dangerous demon. So, the women leave the men at home to tend the children who are (1) off the breast and (2) too young to be gendered and therefore (3) go hunting with their mothers, while the men tend the home fires and get dinner ready. People have a wide range of possible behaviors and within the bounds of objective good, can choose many paths. The claim that "males must be men" is hollow for lack of objective meaning. On a positive note, a friend of mine who is sexually active told me a time when she picked up a guy and was shocked when he entered without a condom. It stopped right there. "I felt violated," she said. And I agreed. Our society is at a point, personally, where I would be hesitant to have sex with a stranger unless I were wearing a frogman suit. Myself, I think that it is that bad out there... It has always been the case that the best behavior is to get to know someone before you open up to them. In some traditional Jewish culture, the betrotheds were housed together for a month, but, supposedly, without sex. They were to get to know each other while waiting for the woman to have a menstrual period to show that she was not already pregnant, and therefore marriageable. It seems like a workable theory. In our society, while "dating" you learn about your partner, including, and especially, their commitment, at least to to serial monogamy -- while you wait to see if they break out in herpes or something... Interviewing the owner of an manufacturing company that sought Tier 1 contracts with the automotives, he referred to "doing the mating dance" with a potential customer. It did not work out, and they called it off before a contract was signed.