Friday, November 30, 2012

The Capacity to Do Good

               Yesterday, I was talking with some friends about the Dark Knight. One of the scenes that we agreed that we liked was the boat scene with the two ships given the choice to blow the other up. I have heard nothing but praise for their choice to not do it, amidst the chaos and fear that takes them when they learn of it. More so, I feel what struck me was not the choice of the “free” citizens (as important as it was) but that of the prisoners. 

                With the prisoner throwing out the detonator, it serves as an example that all men, no matter how corrupt, have the capacity to do what is good. Men have a free will. That means men have the ability to choose the good. Yes, it becomes harder to do good actions if we continue to choose the wrong over and over. However, I have never seen it as far as that a person no longer can do something that is right. As a result, I hold that just because someone is in prison, doesn’t mean they cannot do something to help their society, or should be hated. Everyone’s potential is precious.

                In a similar situation, we must remember that just like there are bad people in good places, there are good people in bad places. We cannot demonize a whole group of people, lest we commit an injustice against an innocent good person. Just like it is harder to do good when we habitually do wrong, it is hard to do good deeds in an environment where everyone does evil. The peer pressure is against them. One can go to the ghettos to see this is true. We could find many people we wouldn’t trust, but we can also find a few that are honorable. These people deserve respect. They are certainly stronger in spirit than many of us.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Right to Not Be Interested in a Popular Series

It's a common occurrence enough. You are talking to some people and the topic of a popular series comes up. It's then you find out one of your friends does not like that series or is not even interested in seeing it for a first time. The classic response is either, "How can you not like _____?" or "Dude, you're missing out." I, however, argue for the right to not care.

It's not too hard to find people who don't care about a popular series like Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. However, fans of those series can be annoying. There is nothing wrong to analyze the mythology and delve into a series, but at the same time, there is nothing wrong with not being interested in the series either. What is wrong, though, is to somewhat "insult" them after they have stated their claims. Sure, it may not be the popular opinion, but that person just stood up for his belief or interests. There is no valid reason to try and make something so trivial an act of villianry.

It's said that probably about half of the people don't like a series like Harry Potter, but they don't care either way so don't really voice their opinion as loudly as hardcore fans. That is usually the case of extremists. The worse part about extremists is that they tend to make it an "Are you in or out?" They never really seem to care about the middle or villainize the out. Now since the fans are the ones with the louder voices, there is something that they have over the nonfans, peer pressure.

It is mainly because of peer pressure that I argue for the right to not care about a popular series. It takes a quite a bit of will power and inner strength to combat peer pressure. To be able to be free from that peer pressure helps make you an individual that can stand up for your beliefs. As meaningless a series may be, it's a big step for strengthening your will to be able to resist the bad peer pressure that you know will get you into trouble. You are a person and you deserve respect for standing up to be one.

For those on the "victim" side, stay strong. There are plenty of other series you can talk about with your friends. If they say you need to "expand your horizons," then you say the same thing back and ask them to give you respect for your stance since you are bound to have to deal with some bullies over the issue as petty as it is. Realizing you don't need to have every interest in common or do everything together to be friends is perhaps one of the most important things to know when standing against peer pressure. If they cannot respect that when you point it out, then they might only want control and don't think of you as a friend anyways.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What You Can Use in a Debate

                When it comes to debating, there are many things that people need to learn. Some of those things are what you can use and when you can use them. It’s a common mistake that very much needs to be fixed, because a person can have the right point, but the lack of prudence on how to present it can completely defeat him. In fact, if it isn’t presented properly, then he won’t even have a chance to go far.

                I recently watched a debate in which some of the people did exactly what they shouldn’t have done. They set themselves up for an easy counterattack and people cheered when the counter happened. Sometimes they talked too much and other times they used something that cannot be used in an argument.

                This one should be obvious. One can rarely, if ever, use religion for the basis of an argument. There are too many diverse religions to have it as a common basis. The only time that religion should be brought in is to correct a misconception about what it thinks. You should never use it to simply back up a statement.  It’s almost suicide in a debate to say, “I believe this, because my religion says so.”

If religion did influence your position, what you need to do is look for relatable evidence to show why it believes that.  However, you cannot refer to the bible, torah, quran or whatever else people use. The more proper way is to find reasoning outside of those sources. The best way is logic and observations.  Use natural philosophy for matters that are not theological or spiritual.  It could be as simple as, “It’s snowing. When it snows, it’s cold. Therefore dress warmly.” Yes, that is not a perfect argument in terms of the study of Logic, but I believe you understand what I mean.

An even bigger taboo in argument is emotion. You cannot make an argument based off, “because I feel that is right.” No, emotions are too flexible and subject to inconsistent change. One action can bring about any emotion. If I kissed my wife, she could become happy, pleased, sad, or angry.

What you can use in a debate, however, is philosophy. Not the kind that is basically considered religion, but the scientific kind. Now the reason why I don’t say science is because science is actually a branch of philosophy if you define philosophy an “attempt to account for the order or cause of things in reality.”

The branches of science take different aspects but don’t account for all. For all I know, people think of science as I defined philosophy just now, but it is important that you know which one I am referring to as which. I consider philosophy to be the broader and include topics such as natural philosophy (which is basically the common sciences now that I think about it), sociology, mathematics, history, logic, or even theology and metaphysics. Those latter two topics do have their place in some debates and so cannot be taken out completely.

The tricky part then is to understand which aspect of philosophy you can use in a debate. That then depends on the topic and what is being addressed. If it concerns the existence of a god, then history probably doesn’t have a place, unless you are referring to what someone said in the past. There will be some overlap of subjects, but you need to learn how much you can use from them.

Now if the topic was a social issue, people have a tendency to use religion. That is stupid as I mentioned before. However, there is a place for it and it is in the preparation stage. At this point, you use religion like a homework problem for Math. Every now and then, they give you the task of proving a theorem. It’s basically telling you that there is a way, but you need to think it out yourself. If a religion, or someone else, holds a position, you should be able to use the other branches of philosophy to come up with a chain of logic. Realize that there is a chance that it was wrong, but then you get to see it for yourself and prepare instead of being a fool in front of everyone. Just remember, do not use sources like the Bible, Quran, or whatever else that is religious based unless they specifically ask for it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kids in the Street

Halloween is that time of the year when kids dress up in costumes and go door to door demanding candy. It’s a fun time enjoyed by all ages, but as time goes on, Halloween becomes a window of change. The saddest change is the disappearance of children.

When I was a kid, there were many kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. However, as I have grown older, I noticed the slow decline of kids coming to the door. We would still buy candy, because there are always at least some who are expecting it. Yet, it is sad to see what once was popular all but vanish, not because people don’t enjoy it, but because the children are gone.

As an adult and with responsibilities, I can see why some people don’t like kids. They can be brats, loud, clueless, unpredictable, or unaware of their surroundings. The latter two are probably the most troubling. Some people don’t like kids playing in the street, because they fear hitting them with their car. I know I have this fear when I back out of a driveway.

At the same time, the lack of children laughing outside is sad. I recall great times enjoying some little game in the street or the yard. The silence left from the absence of toddlers running around is dreary. The lack of life could make any neighborhood a graveyard.

Having children is an important and necessary part of society. Not only does it keep society going, but it reminds us of innocent play. Children remind us that there are ways to have fun without being crude, insulting, or sexual. Sometimes we get too involved with our desire for “mature” content, that we can see no way of enjoying anything that isn’t.

Sure I can now walk around the blocks and hear the peace and quiet. But at the same time, I hear the noises of construction, pollution, and loud motorcycles. I rather hear the sounds of true enjoyable laughter and dreams. Those can make any dreary place come alive. I hope someday soon, they will return to my neighborhood.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Higher Power Through Technology

      The greater our technology gets, the easier it is to think that a Higher Power exists. How can this be? As technology advances, humans are getting closer and closer to developing a great Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not only that, we also get closer to creating bigger and more realistic virtual worlds. Not that many years ago, a megabyte was beyond our comprehension, but now we have terabytes and even that is going to be obsolete at the rate we are developing. In a similar timeframe, AI has advanced as well, even defeating geniuses on a game show.

        What does this have to do with a Higher Power? What it means is that we are becoming a higher power. We are obtaining the power to create without bounds. Even today, we can create worlds that people that play for the rest of their lives. We can create Continents worth of space to explore. All of this we can do on a computer.

          Once we remove the barriers our current technology has, we will be able to create a perfect virtual world. This would mean we can make a world like ours in which we (or even just one) is a “god.” We can already see that in range due to Sims. After realizing this, saying that, “In the Beginning there was nothing,” is not that difficult. For in that world we create, there would have been nothing, but what we create can feel time. At the same time, we would be outside of that world’s time and have the power to manipulate what we created.

            We write stories and watch movies of a possible future in which AI surpasses even our own Intelligence if not at least matching. As much as I am not a fan of Blade Runner, it gives us the question about if androids could be considered human if their intellect was equal. Combined with the knowledge of the Human body that we have and continue to accumulate, it soon won’t be too difficult to create an artificial human in a cyber world. As a result, the idea of making someone in your “image” is not too farfetched.

           Creating something in our image is really not difficult to grasp at all. Whenever we create a world to play in, we generally cast ourselves as the hero. In fact, when we watch movies, we tend to want “someone we can relate to.” Not only that, but we grow attached to our creations. Sometimes we hope in a fictional universe that two people get married or have an honorable end. Many artists also grow attached to what they have drawn or sculpted. If those were destroyed, the “creators” would be sad. They don’t need their creations, but they still care for them.

           Getting back to the supposed virtual world, we would have the power to do whatever we want. However, inside of us, we would prefer the idea of having a friend, would we not? As we care for our creations, if we gave them artificial intelligence that was close enough to a human’s, would we not prefer for them to “choose” to love us? While we could force them to respect us, it would be just as if they were dolls. By having them “choose” us, would we not feel a far greater joy? So would “free will” be absurd? No. Yet with that ability to choose, they also inherit the ability to reject.

             Since they would be allowed to reject us, and if we respected them and their decisions, we would permit that. At the same time, we would not hate them but we also cannot just delete them, because their existence is still something good to us. So the perpetual existence and even Hell wouldn’t be out of the question. The furthest we would probably go in breaking their “will” is just influencing them.

            Now it would a great feat to accomplish this, but what would be even greater? To be able to design something that could evolve to various “life forms” from just an ameba. Evolution is just basically more advanced programming. Since you still have the power to manipulate what you made, inserting AI into one particular “life form” is not just a fairy tale either.

          Angels are not crazy either. With our “Administrative” power, we could designate people in our own world to do stuff and maintain for us. They would still need our permissions to do something, but they can act on our will. Even people who are against us can do evil if we permit it. Yet, we can also think a few moves ahead, and turn whatever evil they did into something good they did not even expect.

           While I am at it, I might as well throw in Saints. Since the AI that was created is very high, if they chose their “creator,” they could technically be elevated to the status of Angels who can help maintain the whole world, but reporting to you. It could go as simple as one coming and presenting a situation, and since you favor these “Saints,” you may listen and do what they asked. Hence even the idea of prayer could be implemented.

So what would happen in this virtual world? If we left it “alone” for a while, would not our creation that has been given “free will” and “intelligence” doubt our own existence? They would because the only way we could tell them that we do indeed exist is through their own world. We could program it into them, but even then they would still have the power to doubt, because they can choose. There is really no way they could “know” of our existence except by the Philosophical Proofs that some of us deny today.

          I am not necessarily saying this is the case of our world today, but I am saying that it is not as unreasonable as some people make it out to be. The fact that we are close to doing it ourselves should give us a reason to think that it already has been done with us being the created. If you argue that as a result of our technology, we can prove there is no such thing as a god, then I recommend you to consider this essay and its possibilities.