Archive for the ‘ Philosophy ’ Category

How the Computer Helps Us Understand the World

Our minds are what make us uniquely human, and the most successful animal in the world. We can understand the world, as no other species can.

The Computer expands our minds in these ways:


Abstraction is the act of perceiving an entity from a narrow perspective. For example, in the context of education a person can be reduced to a student, and in the context of employment a person can be reduced to an employee. Each abstraction reduces the attributes of a person to a subset of relevant information.


Encapsulation is a technique that encourages abstraction by purposefully hiding information. For example, the mechanical details of a car engine are encapsulated behind a steering wheel and floor pedals. Anyone familiar with this interface could drive a car without knowing what type of engine was under the hood.


Polymorphism is a technique that encourages abstraction by allowing an entity to assume multiple forms.For example, a smartphone is polymorphic because it can assume the role of a camera, web browser, music player, or digital clock. Each application exposes a relevant interface to the user.


Mutability refers to the ability of an entity to change its state. An iPod is an example of a mutable entity because its contents frequently change. A vinyl record is an example of an immutable entity because its contents are permanently engraved.


Coupling refers to the level of dependency that exists between two entities. A husband and wife, for example, should be tightly coupled. Casual friends are loosely coupled.


Cohesion refers to an entity’s level of focus.A specialist is tightly focused on his speciality – and he has a high cohesion with it.   A generalist knows more things, but does not have as high level of cohesion with each subject.

I got much (but not all) of the above from Java Interview Guide. The material here will apply to any computer language (such as Java) or operating system (such as Windows).

I wanted to so show how the Computer has expanded our minds – and will be useful for the people whose minds can be expanded. Perhaps 20 percent of the population.

You can add to it, based on your own experience.

The Romantic vs the Technical

My example for how manage this conflict, when I was a boy was my Father. Who did play in a band (preferably a Military band). And had a Romantic notion of the wonderful future technology was going to provide for us. He never noticed, when this future never arrived.

His hometown (and mine also) was Ft. Madison, Iowa, a typical Midwestern Industrial town – with the Santa Fe Railroad on the West End of town – and the Sheaffer Pen Company on the East End. He owned a photography studio there – where newly married couples went to have have their picture taken – in dazzling black and white. Ft. Madison is now part of the Rust Belt – with all its buildings standing vacant. It was a city with a future – it now is a city with a past.

Americans have never asked themselves “What happened?” Answering this question would meant taking a careful look at what happened, and why it happened. Americans have decided instead – that the proper approach, would be to not think about it at all. Thinking would only make them feel bad – and they want to feel good.

It never occurs to them that an honest appraisal of their past might make them feel good also.

Being stupid feels so good, they cannot imagine anything better.

What Do We Think of People?

This might seem like a stupid question – but it seems to me, to be the most important question we can ask ourselves.

Sometime in the middle of the 19th Century, we started to think of ourselves as better than people. And in a sense, we were.

We had discovered Objective Reality – as contrasted to the Subjective Reality that we had lived in before. New concepts of space and time that let us think about the very big and the very small. And let us plan for the future.

Living in Costa Rica, part of Latin America, I can see how they are handicapped by not being able to do this. Americans can do a cost/benefit analysis for any problem that comes up – and select the best solution. Latinos cannot.

On the other hand, they do have a big advantage – they still like people, and consider themselves people. When Americans do not.

I am finally getting to the main thing I wanted to talk about in this posting – America’s attitude toward people. They consider themselves superior beings – better than people, and able to take advantage of them.

They acquired this attitude directly from the British, and their British Empire. When this ended, at the end of WWII, the Americans took over.

American organizations (especially American Corporations) moved into positions of power, and took control of the global economy.

Americans identified with this power, not with the people it subjugated – including many of their own people. The people in control of any organization, had power over those below them, and considered them secondary beings.

It’s Not Working Because They Don’t Want It To Work

These words came out of someplace in my subconscious.

This part of my mind can use language, and can think. But the rest of my mind runs on emotions, much like that of any other animal. Getting these two parts to work together is a job – and the most important job that any individual, or any society, has.

A job that we have failed at.

Which failure we are aware of, deep in our minds – and have concluded that we are defective, and must be destroyed.

There you have, for free – my analysis of the world situation.

Is the situation hopeless? No – all we have to do is change some attitudes in our collective consciousness. Attitudes toward ourselves.

A sister of mine was part of the Women’s March on Washington, yesterday. They had a good time, she said. I have nothing against people having a good time – but I am asking them “Did you learn anything, or decide to do anything differently?”

She might have said “Maybe,” And I would have to agree with her. The March may be part of a larger trend – that may become important, or may not.

But I would have prefered that those women had made some conscious, written decisions. There are huge advantages to having something written down.

Trying to do this. would reveal that their movement is composed of many movements – some of them in violent conflict with each other. About abortion, for example. Ignoring these differences, is not going to make them go away.

We must be realistic – and see our situation for what it really is.

What Feels Right

People do whatever feels right to them. And they get these feelings from the people around them.

But it is not quite that simple – people can react to their surroundings in many ways, some of them unpredictable and original.

Take the Industrial Revolution – that changed us suddenly and completely. This felt right to the people of the time – but what does that tell us? Practically nothing.

Except that human behavior is hard to understand. Somewhere in the dark, some kind of emotional reasoning is going on that is difficult to comprehend mentally.

We seem to be divided creatures – with a mind and a body that do not cooperate very well. Which gets me into the Mind-Body Problem – of which far smarter minds than mine have written copiously. What on earth can I add to this?

I can add my own experience of a painful, frustrated and high-tech life. That was not at all unusual. Only my reaction to it was unusual.

Everyone else’s reaction to my reaction, however – is typical: they are not interested in it. And we can take that as our starting point – people (most people) are not interested in much of anything. But are absolutely determined to ignore their ignorance.

This is an overstatement, of course – this is not a black and white situation. There are many shades of grey. But this spectrum does exist. Entertainment has taken the place of knowledge.

And this is what we should be paying attention to. Somewhere along the line, we blew it – and blew it big-time.

We Are Are Not Important

We could have been important – but we decided not to be.In fact, we have decided not to be at all. However, I cannot speak for everyone – some of us are succeeding in all kinds of remarkable ways.

Perhaps I should speak for myself. I can say, first of all – that I am not important. And I am comfortable being that way. I wore myself out trying to be important, and got nowhere. I can be unimportant with no trouble at all.

Becoming this way was not easy – I had to give up nearly everything in my previous life. But what little I have left – works!

Why is Everyone Nothing?

Why is no one anything?

This question has been bugging me for some time. But it does not seem to be bothering anyone else.

Perhaps I have inherited some Aristocratic blood somehow – but I cannot imagine from where.

I dabbled in Early American History for awhile – and I noticed there that some of the Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton, for example) were extremely capable – but had modest origins.

That gave me the clue I needed. The success of a country depends on the quality of its leaders – and on whether those leaders will encourage other leaders to rise from the common stock.

Everyone can see this. But they cannot see what happens when the upper layers of society decide the lower layers must have no power – and indeed, must not exist!

I’m sure this has happened, and I now must ask when and how it happened.

The when question is easy – sometime in the 19th Century, and continuing into the 20th Century.

The how question is also easy – the pernicious effects of Industrialization, that produced the very rich and the very poor – the rule of the rich – and their determination to keep things that way.

This is common sense. But it  was hard to notice. because it happened so gradually, over such a long time.

And because it was a one-way process. Once it started, it could not be stopped. Until recently, when a collapse of everything appears imminent.

Allow me to summarize. People (nearly everyone) were told not to be – and that is what they became – nothing! The rulers who gave these orders, so confidently, were then overcome by forces they could not control, either.

We have come to the end of a historical period – and considerable chaos is bound to happen as a result.