News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 5/12/97
I like your article on programmers, but I think you're wrong in stating that programs are proofs and then equating this to the scientific method.
From: email@example.com (Tonio Loewald);
Sent at 5/13/97; 8:35:13 PM;
The way that programmers live the scientific method is by HYPOTHESISING that their programs will do something given some input, and TESTING their hypotheses with EXPERIMENTS (i.e. varying datasets). They consider their job done when the program _seems_ to work given what they consider a reasonable amount of testing. Now that's the scientific method alright, but there ain't no proofs involved.
If proofs were used (and sure, some highly mission critical programming is done via proof) we'd be talking maths or pure logic and not science or the scientific method.
Dr. Weil's approach "works" because he's a folksy oversimplifier, writing on a sixth grade level about material that warrants a much more thorough examination. Many of his recommendations are merely his opinions, lacking any but the most cursory knowledge of the subjects about which he rants. The Dr. Deepak Chopra of the suburban vitamin-n-herb-popping subgroup. A fin-de-siecle folly. This century's MESMER. A snake oil salesman for the Silicon Valley Smart Set.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Van Virden);
Sent at 5/12/97; 1:52:32 PM;
Hmmm, so why do I always end up browsing his HotWired homilies? Similar to salty snack food I presume. Quick, crunchy, empty calories that always leave me wanting MORE.
The humanity of the Web is a given. Despite the fact the Internet is just signals travelling through electronic equipment of one kind or another, the Web and every other part of the Internet has always been about people. Look at the examples you gave; Search Engines (used by people to find things they care about), Stocks (making money is a uniquely human concern), Sports (played by and for humans) and Erotica (do I even need to comment)?
From: email@example.com (Jack Bell);
Sent at 5/12/97; 2:52:32 PM;
Re:"Davenet -- 'Do Galaxies Dream?'"
As a budding Science Fiction writer (if you can still bud at forty) I can tell you the single most important lesson I am learning; all stories are about people. If they are not, then no-one will want to read them no matter how good the ideas are. No matter how cool the space-ship or fantastic the setting, unless it is peopled with characters who react in a realistic way to the situations (a way the reader can imagine reacting) then it isn't a story. It isn't even a good travellog.
So, your question "What does it mean to be human?" is both valid and meaningless. Valid because it is the basis of most art. Art that does not reflect humanity in some way is ultimately without value. Meaningless because to be human is an individual thing, experienced by each of us in a unique way. And yet we still share attributes. We all want love even if we cannot experience it ourselves. We are all existing somewhere along Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
My point? The story of the Web has, is and will always be about humanity. It has already become part of our popular culture, in America anyway. I can state this positively for one simple reason; my parents (who live in about as isolated a place as you can imagine and who have never been on-line) know what a URL is and can recognize it by either the 'http:' or the 'www'. Even though I do what I do for a living (the Web) I have never taken the time to explain this to them. It seemed to be a useless factoid in their lives. And yet they have absorbed this information seemingly by osmosis.
I will be greatly surprised if you get any argument on this thesis. Even a dyed in the wool techie like myself knows that the Web is just an expression of human values. One with some interesting overtones of multiple authorship and distributed collaboration. What is bothering me here is the inference that in some way Big Blue's win over Kasparov has made a difference in how we view human values. As you stated so well, Kasparov did not lose to a computer -- he lost to a programmer. Not only that, a programmer who studied Kasparov's moves and programmed the computer specifically to beat him.
But Dave; asking if Galaxies dream? If they love? Are we not getting a little metaphysical here? At the very least isn't this anthromorphizing? I see such questions as the exact opposite of the Web (a creation of humanity and dependent on it) because you are assigning human values to something that manifestly is not human. This is a problem in writing Science Fiction as well. After all, how do you create truly alien beings without losing the interest of the reader? You cannot. Possibly you cannot forego your own humanity enough to imagine truly alien aliens anyway.
For that matter you really cannot realistically imagine humans and the creations of humans past about 2040 or so; a time we may just live to see. Why is that? Too long for this email, use the following keywords on your favorite search engine "Vernor Vinge", "Transhumanism", "Posthuman", "The Singularity".
So, I would argue that if a Galaxy were in some way aware (even imagining it as a getsalt entity of all the life it encompasses) that the feelings it might have would not be 'Love' and the random thoughts moving slowly through it would not be 'dreams'. Or at least, not exactly.
Of course galaxies dream. A galaxy emcompasses all that it contains, including the beings who live within it and dream. We are not separate from the universe, we are part of the universe.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Steve Michel);
Sent at 5/12/97; 10:24:21 AM;
Re:Do Galaxies Dream?
Now what would happen if the Deep Blue IBM computer were to play a game of chess against another identically programmed Deep Blue IBM computer? (Say the state of the computer at the end of the six-game match just ended.) Would it be a perpetual draw?
Sent at 5/12/97; 12:05:35 PM;
Re:Do Galaxies Dream?
Would whether one computer got white or black make the difference? What if Kasperov had one of the IBM computers--and a chess-savvy programmer at his disposal, and he was playing another Deep Blue and the fellow who just beat Kasperov? What then? I assume Kasperov would win? Would it matter?
DaveNet is at its best when you take all this computing stuff and try to put it into context, as you have been doing of late. Food for thought. Put down those life stories and then we will have some content. Excellent.