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Friday, December 4, 2009

Randall Munroe Is my hero

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpxe7bpaT8o

For background, reference:

http://xkcd.com/114/

With that said, I don't see anything immediately objectionable about computational linguistics. Getting computers to interpret natural language is a worthy field of study; perhaps Randall knows some things about it that I don't. Or maybe he's just being funny and he doesn't actually object to it at all. I just like his boldness and confrontationalism.

I feel like I've been too equivocating recently, I've given too many peoples' ideas a free pass just because I don't want to pass judgment on them (and presumably hurt their feelings). I suppose this is an reaction to my objectivist days when I was convinced that I had the proper knowledge to make firm claims about any philosophical subject. Having realized that some of those foundational ideas are definitely wrong gives me pause in criticizing others.

However, I believe that there are two ineradicable facts: reality has a structure, and we can come to know that structure through observation. If the first is not true, then no intellectual endeavor is worthwhile; all concepts are completely arbitrary. Thankfully the evidence from observation tends to support the hypothesis that there is a structure. Any set of ideas that repudiates these facts, postmodernism for example, I am willing to completely exclude from consideration.

Christmas gifts

If any of you readers (esp. family) are thinking of buying me anything for Christmas, donate whatever you would have spent to Wikipedia instead. Its fast and easy, just do it right now:


I'm totally serious. The only things I'm wanting presently are things that cannot be purchased; I've got all the sweaters, nice scarves, movies, gadgets, books, etc that I need. I'd much rather see your money go to the diffusion of knowledge. If you think likewise, please encourage whoever might be giving you gifts to do the same. Donate to whatever you like; Wikipedia just happens to be something that can benefit all people, so long as they have internet access. The diffusion of knowledge is probably the most powerful tool for helping people to attain self-determination.

Note that I've already gone ahead and done this with the money that would have otherwise gone to gifts for you, so don't worry about quid pro quo. In fact, I'll be embarrassed if you buy me something, so save me from that please.