Chad Perrin: SOB

28 June 2007

I received the Thinking Blogger Award. Your turn.

Filed under: Cognition,Metalog — apotheon @ 02:20

Thinking Blogger Award badge It’s a good thing when I get handed an award for making my readers think by someone whose writing makes me think. At least, I think it’s a good thing. You might think it’s bad, if you’re of the opinion my ego is already overinflated. Thanks, Sterling, for the compliment. For those who aren’t aware, by the way, Sterling was my first (and so far only) guest blogger, and he did a fantastic job.

It’s also nice to get tagged with the Thinking Blogger Award before this pyramid scheme gets anywhere near critical mass. There will come a day when more regular writers of weblogs have them than don’t, I suspect, but at the moment I think most people in the so-called “blogosphere” aren’t even aware it exists. At the moment, people who actually say thoughtful things are still far more likely to get tagged, from what I’ve seen.

As Sterling suggested, following on the footsteps of the originator of the award, the point of being a Thinking Blogger Award recipient seems to be the one makes others thinking by being thoughtful oneself, and sharing one’s insights and questions with others. I know I do a lot of thinking, and sharing of those thoughts, but it’s always nice to know that others are noticing and being inspired by what I’ve said. I’m going to quote Sterling’s comment about me, because of the five people to whom he bestowed the award, I think I got the most complimentary mention. At least, of the five reasons stated for bestowing the Thinking Blogger Award, the one he offered for me is the one I’d find most flattering:

Whether it’s about programming, security, philosophy, or politics — each of Chad’s posts will give you at least one perspective you hadn’t thought of before.

I mean . . . damn. A compliment like that is some pretty heady stuff. Of course, assuming it’s true, I think it assumes that you actually consider what I have to say, even when it strikes you as counterintuitive (which much of it probably does for most people). That’s really the best material, though, in my opinion — the seemingly counterintuitive insights — and that’s why I share those thoughts. That actually makes me think of more to say on the subject of how I got to the point of writing the stuff I do here at SOB, but I think I’ll save that for another time. (edit: Apparently, I already did comment in SOB on the subject of how I got to this point — not just once, but twice.)

Enough about me. Let’s talk about what I think of you. It’s time for me to pick out five weblog writers on whom to bestow the Thinking Blogger Award. Without further ado, here’s a list of five “bloggers who make me think”, chosen from among those you probably don’t know I read, in alphabetical order (discounting “the”):

  • The Agitator: Penned by opinion columnist, frequent expert witness in Congressional hearings, and rough-and-tumble sort of libertarian thinker Radley Balko, the man has a talent for bringing previously ignored contradictions in public policy to the reader’s attention and stripping away obfuscation and irrelevancy to get to the heart of the matter. If you’re a corrupt government bureaucrat, you’ll definitely want to try to fly under his radar.
  • Algo Blog: A Silicon Valley algorithms expert has decided to share his thoughts about algorithms with the world. It not only hones one’s programming skills to think through interesting algorithm puzzles, but helps to sharpen the wit in regards to all of life’s problems. It helps that he really knows his shit stuff (or so it seems thus far), and is good at explaining it in clear terms (as long as you know some programming). It may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.
  • Barely a Blog: I find that Thibor Machan is a well-reasoned, well-written libertarian thinker, and I have a copy of his essay collection Liberty & Culture on my shelf — but he has nothing on Ilana Mercer, author of “Barely a Blog”. She is the single most deep-thinking, thoroughly reasoned libertarian writer of our time, in my experience (except me, of course). In fact, though I had managed to entirely miss that particular article until only yesterday, I discovered that she not only seems to hold the same opinions as I do about copyright and patent law (a rare thing indeed, in my experience, among people who didn’t get the ideas from me), but wrote about it two years before I even arrived at the same conclusions. Smart lady.
    (edit: For the moment, the RSS feed link at Barely A Blog is broken. The correct URL for syndication is here.)
  • Ideas: An excellent choice of title, “Ideas” is full of exactly that: ideas. David Friedman, economist son of that Friedman, is a well-regarded author and a guy with a propensity for applying principles of economics to all kinds of interesting, often surprising, subjects — like the market for marriage in a future where brain chemistry is understood well enough to be tailored at will by prescription. Yes, really, he wrote about that in “Ideas”. Some of what he says really comes out of left field, and is generally in less-poor taste than my recent ponderings on the notion of infanticide as an ethically acceptable form of birth control. It was a tough choice, by the way, between this icon of anarcho-capitalist culture and small business owner Warren Meyer, but in the end the originality of Friedman’s application of economic theory to wide-ranging subject matter won out.
  • Ratha: Ratha Grimes is the woman who introduced me to what was, to me, a revolutionary new way of thinking about copyright and patent law. I was already halfway there, but I don’t know how long it would have taken me to arrive at these conclusions on my own. Thanks to her, I didn’t need to: she metaphorically smacked me upside the head with a cluestick, and introduced an idea that I just never really considered before. She also introduced me to Debian as the obvious best Linux distribution and a number of other interesting and refreshing notions. She moved out of Florida a while before I did, and we don’t talk much these days — busy lives in different states — but simply observing from afar her continual experimentation with self-development and introspection provides a breath of fresh air for an active mind.

Warren Meyer, by the way, wasn’t the only close call. I had about six more on my list as finalists, and another half-dozen or so who nearly made it to the second-to-last cut. Life’s too short to spend too much time reading stuff that doesn’t make you think, and I spend a lot of time reading, so I hunt down a lot of good writers and occasionally have to cut people out of the list that are probably more interesting and thought-provoking than many people ever encounter just because the list gets too long. Thinking is addictive, you know — and it’s my favorite drug.

So . . . for the five of you (assuming you ever notice you were “tagged” by me) on whom I’ve bestowed the Thinking Blogger Award, here are the rules for participation:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to the original Thinking Blogger Award post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the award tradition. It might be a good idea to link to this post, too, as validation of your legitimate receipt of the award.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award with a link to the post that you wrote (TBA badge image available in silver and gold).

(edit: If you want to contribute to my ego-inflation, you might consider swinging by The Z List to upvote me. Unfortunately, you have to register and log in to do so — but that makes a certain amount of sense for purposes of validation. Also unfortunately, the process of registering and logging in was a little less than intuitive when I signed up for the first time, but I’m confident my readers are smart enough to manage.)

22 June 2007

the ethical argument for infanticide

Filed under: Cognition,Liberty — apotheon @ 01:38

If Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is actually economically-motivated infanticide, this makes it seem likely to me (and others) that the decision to get an abortion is more similar to the decision to commit infanticide than you might want to think. On the other hand, abortion is obviously very much preferable to infanticide, at least when it occurs early enough in the pregnancy, so this strikes me as strong incentive to keep abortion legal and socially unstigmatized.

Ironically, this raises the question of how often unwilling Christian mothers’ children suffer SIDS at their mothers’ hands. In other words, I wonder how many “good” Christian mothers commit infanticide because abortion wasn’t an option.

There’s another possible implication of this, because the economics of survival as they’ve played out over millions of years of evolution of the species should always be considered, and this is definitely an evolutionary optimization. Let’s start with what I’ve generally said about abortion:

A logical, self-consistent system of ethics dictates that one must not initiate force against an ethically significant being that has not freely abdicated its rights. An ethically significant being, it seems, should be measured by its capacity for ethical reasoning — which indicates that abdication is dependent upon the exercise of ethical reasoning (or the refusal to exercise ethical reasoning, as the case may be). One of the requirements of a capacity for ethical reasoning is, of course, a capacity for abstract reasoning. So, the point at which an abortion becomes unethical may be the point at which a capacity for abstract reasoning exists in the fetus.

That’s where my thoughts on the subject rested, until I read about the economic realities of infanticide. It begins to occur to me that, even after birth, a child is not necessarily capable of ethical reasoning. Another requirement of ethical reasoning, in addition to a capacity for abstract reasoning, is recognition of context, which of course is related to an cognitive awareness of the existence of other ethically significant beings. This would, in fact, suggest that perhaps a human infant is not necessarily an ethically significant being.

That’s not to say that harm delivered to a living creature that is incapable of ethical reasoning with malicious intent is acceptable. Wanton cruelty is itself a problem, of course. What it really boils down to is that it becomes easier to justify harming some living thing if it is not as ethically significant as an adult human, assuming there is some defensive, survival-driven impulse that motivates that harm. This applies to killing animals for food and, possibly, killing a newborn if the deck is stacked against the primary caregivers’ survival by allowing the child to live.

In today’s world, however, social mechanisms exist for seeing to the survivability of our young even if the mother cannot care for them. Adoption agencies, for instance, provide an out for mothers who simply cannot rear a child under current circumstances. Such options must be taken into account when considering how to judge the actions of an infanticidal mother. So, too, must the possibility that the act of killing a newborn may not in and of itself be unethical.


A number of people who came to this site specifically to disagree with me on the subject of justification of abortion in my SOB entry the anti-pro-abortion argument may, if they see this, be surprised. It probably looks like I’m inconsistently advocating extremes at both ends of the spectrum. Such people will probably disagree with me in this case as well, and may describe their reactions as “horrified” or something to that effect. These people, should they read this and come to these conclusions, would likely have done so by failing to think things through very clearly, refusing to understand my actual points (and thus refusing to understand how they are not actually contradictory) because they want instead to believe that their own ideas are infallible in this case. It would be interesting to see whether any of this happens for the reasons I surmise.

21 June 2007

accent identifier for native-born US residents

Filed under: Geek,inanity — apotheon @ 03:52

I took an online quiz that purports to identify your accent. The quiz is identified “What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)”. Here’s my accent, according to my test results:

Midland (“Midland” is not necessarily the same thing as “Midwest”) The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it’s a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn’t mean you’re from the Midland.

Personality Test Results

I’m curious — how do you rate?

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