On Thursday, October 25, 2012 2:33:58 PM UTC-4, John Clark wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 6:20 PM, Craig Weinberg 
> <whats...@gmail.com<javascript:>
> > wrote:
>> > Accumulating wealth is hardly an achievement of human progress. 
> Wealth and human progress are strongly linked and only in very rich 
> western cultures can anybody afford to say that material things are not 
> important, and even then it's clear from their actions they don't really 
> mean it, and people in the third world don't even bother to say it.

Wealth can be used to generate progress, and it is important, but an 
individual person's ability to gather financial resources in a large pile 
does not constitute an achievement of civilization in general. It's 
important, sure, like going to the bathroom is important, but it isn't a 
measure of progress.

> > Driving a car is not an abstraction, but aside from being dangerous if 
>> performed badly, it really isn't particularly difficult.
> That is incorrect, at a absolute level driving a car is extremely 
> difficult. 

Compared to what? Driving an a molecule is a lot more difficult. What kind 
of 'absolute level' are you referring to?

> The problem is that until the mid 20'th century nobody understood what was 
> intellectually easy and what was hard at a fundamental level. We find it 
> easy to figure out how to move our appendages to catch a thrown ball, or to 
> recognize objects from any angle even under strange lighting conditions, 
> but we find it hard to solve partial differential equations or to play a 
> good game of chess. In 1950 everybody figured that was because one class of 
> tasks was fundamentally more difficult than the other, but when we tried to 
> reproduce both chores from square one we learned that catching a baseball 
> was far more difficult than playing a good chess game. There must be 
> machinery in our head (constructed from genes) that makes even the most 
> clumsy among us to be masters of hand eye coordination compared with 
> today's robots, but there is no such dedicated machinery for being good at 
> chess, so we find that hard. In fact I think it is only a slight 
> exaggeration to say that at a fundamental level a janitor has a more 
> intellectually demanding job (requiring more FLOPS) than a professor of 
> mathematics. 

This is the fallacy of the quantitative bottom up worldview. If you let 
inanimate objects define the universe, then yes, behaving like a toddler is 
incredibly hard. You can balance that realism however with our native frame 
of reference of what is easy and what is hard. Just because we know that 
from far away the Earth is round doesn't mean that locally on the surface 
it isn't also flat. The universe isn't measured by one ruler, it is also 
that which measures.

> > Computers were much more exciting in the 1980s than they are now. 
> People always say that the world was better when they were young, but what 
> they really mean is that they personally were happier when they were young. 

Um, no. I was in junior high school in the 80s. Happier is not a word I 
could use to describe it. Computers had so much going for them in those 
early days. You could hack into them easily, make your own games, there was 
a lot of new development all the time. Everything was on a more human level 
so that you could easily understand the nature of how things were done, 
from programming languages to character sets, player/missile graphics and 
scrolling, sound generation, peripherals. Every part of the technology was 
open for inspection and customization. Today's computer world is really a 
kind of screen based mall experience. It's better than nothing, but really, 
it's pretty dull by comparison.

> You could still get some of those old antique computers on Ebay, but if 
> you did I think you'd find that they were not nearly as much fun as you 
> remembered them to be.

I have played with emulators like MAME, but like any artifact from the 
past, the fact that it has no future limits the possibilities for 
enjoyment. If anything, it is the stark realization of just how awful the 
21st century has turned out to be which is depressing enough to make me not 
want to indulge too much in nostalgia. It's not that it isn't as fun as I 
remembered, it's that I remember exactly how much more fun it was then and 
will never be again. Remember Napster? That was fun. 


>   John K Clark

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