Tuesday, March 28, 2006

multiply disordered personalities

one's reaction to a given phenomena says more about oneself than it says about that to which one responds.

take a man, named joe for example, and ask what kind of person this is. if you look at the person strictly as a biological entity, you may define this person as a set of digestive disorders, muscle pains, and patterns of neurological firing that may or may not make more or less sense. but you also have to look at what a person says and what a person does, because, as observers, this is the only information we have about who joe really is.

the motivations an observer, jane for example, ascribes to joe is a product of what jane has heard or seen from joe. the associations jane's mind forms between joe's statements and behaviors become the basis of joe's personality - which, in this sense is really something in jane's mind.

for jane to ascribe a motivation to joe is for jane to formulate a hypotheisis relating jane's model of joe's psychology to how joe, as a biological entity, will respond to a given stimulus.

personality is an empirical thing, but any number of people trying to evaluate joe will identify as significant different utterances and behaviors; and in virtue of each person's own experiences, any observer might form different types of associations between these actions and phrases. in a sense, joe has as many personalities as people who are acquainted with him.

and while this may sound like a sort of solipsism, if all my friends are really just constructs in my mind, what it really means is that personality, if it is a single thing, is a kaleidoscope. and it may sound frightening, to think of things this way, but really it underscores the role of trusting one's own sense and intuition about things.

personality may be a kaleidoscope; and it may be difficult, looking through a kaleidoscope, to figure out which way is up...

but personality is nevertheless an empirical thing, and those who touch and turn the kaleidoscope through which they view the world may have trust in what they are feeling

Monday, March 27, 2006

big brotherly advice

Microsoft says Windows users should "take care not to visit unfamiliar or untrusted Web sites that could potentially host the malicious code"

everybody cower in fear, keep away from anything unfamiliar, and don't ask too many questions you won't understand the answer just do as you're told.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

pavlovian conditioning and the calculation of social paranoia

"only by manipulating humans ever more into skinnerian rats, robots, buying automata, homeostatically adjusted conformists and opportunists (or, bluntly speaking, into morons and zombies) can this great society follow its progress toward ever increasing gross national product..." (p.206 general system theory, ludwig von bertalanffy)

"a dynamic order of parts and processes standing in mutual interaction..." (p.208)

thinking of whole internet as turing test... generally the turing test is conducted by humans interacting through a terminal either with another human or with a specific software program. the object, for human participants, is to determine whether they are interacting with a piece of software or with a human.

an alternate approach may be to set up a terminal where an individual interacts with a piece of software that filters input from many participants, whose combined understanding can more closely approximate the behavior of a single individual.

this approach could be exploited by a malicious entity who, by gaining access to an individual's computer via undocumented exploits installed by any variety of benign plugins or security flaws in the operating system, uses software that examines all electronic transmisssions, looking for patterns and associations in the use of individual words (or the syntax of information that has been encoded in different ways), and with occasional input from "judges," recombines these symbols (the product of patterns and associations) in a manner calculated to elicit certain responses (via the mechanisms of behaviorist psychology).

are you really visiting the web pages you think you are?

are you really afraid of terrorism, or are you conditioned to feel fear whenever you hear or see that word? everybody is afraid of terrorism because, as a concept, it can be used to invoke a variety of thoughts and emotions, from patriotic love to feelings of rage; but few people have any direct experience with terrorism beyond its impact on how their tax money is spent. even so, few people seem to think twice about the cost of the symbolic war in iraq (as opposed to the urban war), or to seriously question whether such an enterprise is worth the expenditure.

conversely, many people are affected by traffic accidents (which kill 40,000 americans every year), but never think once about what the money spent in iraq could do to get drivers off the highways (intercity mass transit would reduce traffic accidents, new urbanism invests in the fabric of the city to promote walkable neighborhoods, etc - fewer drivers=fewer accidents, fewer drunk drivers also = fewer accidents). this is perhaps intentional: the standardization of education in schools emphasizes memorization over analytic abilities. schools don't teach people to form their own opinions, but teache them to react in specific ways to specific stimuli. the centralization of school curricula only makes it easier for a distributed and interconnected media landscape to influence people all over the country in exactly the same way.

quite a few lefties were up in arms when there was talk a few years back about putting reagan on the $20. i find the prospect of putting regan on the $20 infinitely preferable to the indian killer on there now. as a formerly devout lefty myself it took the perspective of a russian linguist from soviet moscow to point out the the fact that, while regan may have made big mistakes (aids), he basically ended the cold war by climbing atop the berlin wall and, without the aid of bodyguards, demanded that the wall be torn down.

if we are to use money, as an abstract form of valuation, to evaluate such disparate entities as love, comfort, shelter, and sustenance, ought we not consider the symbolic value of our metric?

p.s. why should we be afraid of cameras everywhere, in atms, gas stations, and on traffic lights? because software that identifies statistical regularities that correspond to such traits as an individual's characteristic way of walking can gather input from many cameras to accurately track an individual's movement from one camera to another. a central database could be used to track an individual's global movements, to evaluate their behavior, make assumptions about how individuals use the symbols they are given in school to construct value... the federal government is very aware of this: ever wonder why you've seen the planes crash into the world trade center over and over and over again, but you've never seen what hit the pentagon even once? whatever hit the pentagon was recoded by some 80 security cameras around the pentagon, and every private citizen's recording of this event was confiscated by the federal government. this is how the symbolic war on terror is being constructed.