Time-off notice: no new posts for the time being

Plurality of the self

Seth R. Bordenstein and Kevin R. Theis’s “Host Biology in Light of the Microbiome: Ten Principles of Holobionts and Hologenomes” combines impressive qualities.  It suggests no less than a holistic redefinition of zoology, botany, and biology.  And they are careful to re-state historical achievements of Darwin, Mendel and modern scientists in this new framework; animals and plants are more appropriately understood as a mutli-species association than autonomous individuals.  Both at biologic and genetic level.

As a sense of justice welcome the new status of our former ‘junior’ associates, I wonder how the implosion of the self into a multitude of beings fits well in a society that may overvalue individuality.  Instead of a dissolution of the self into a common spirituality, we see the multiplication of ‘I’ into multiple individuals.  The untold story of mitochondria et alii paints egocentric narrative in a more altruist light.

This does not take the great service such reconstruction may do to science.  Excerpts below:

Continue reading

Plenty of robots

It appears we can’t keep their pace.  In a recent batch of news a friend found robots painting Van Gogh style, robots beating us on rock-paper-scissors (below, and btw that’s cheating on my playground), writing adventures and so on.

On the more troubling strain we try to make sure we control military robots, and wonder how great an idea is it to build system that deceive us, or how good an AI boss can be.

And while we can’t make ethical robots, and they are not yet out there firing (at) us, humans may enjoy treating robots like Yo-Yo Ma’s cello — as an instrument for human intelligence.

Recent evidence of Ape’s morals

Watching chimpanzees reactions to infanticide imagery bring evidence of Chimpanzee’s sense of right and wrong.  Not far from what humans would deem relevant:  From Claudia Rudolf et alli paper “Chimpanzees’ Bystander Reactions to Infanticide

“we presented chimpanzees with videos depicting a putative norm violation: unfamiliar nonspecific engaging in infanticidal attacks on an infant chimpanzee. The chimpanzees looked far longer at infanticide scenes than at control videos showing nut cracking, hunting a colobus monkey, or displays and aggression among adult males. Furthermore, several alternative explanations for this looking pattern could be ruled out. However, infanticide scenes did not generally elicit higher arousal. We propose that chimpanzees as uninvolved bystanders may detect norm violations but may restrict emotional reactions to such situations to in-group contexts. We discuss the implications for the evolution of human morality.”

This latter behavior described is not unheard in humans, as Kitty Genovese murder case, when many bystanders failed to help to her as she was murdered and raped in two separate attacks.  Not to mention mobs, lynching and other human habits.

Evidence at least as old as the bible is a reminder of how getting the sense of what is right is not enough – in case anyone say chimpanzee’s morals shouldering human’s is a clear upgrade.

“Atheism on Trial” by Stephen Anderson

From article by Stephen Anderson:

“There was a time – some years ago – when to profess disbelief in a Supreme Being could be hazardous to one’s health. (…). Today, atheism has taken its comfortable seat by the fire and has its feet up. (…). Atheism has never been so respectable.

That is why perhaps we now ought to pause and ask if it has actually earned the easy place it enjoys. (…) Before we begin the trial, perhaps we ought to clarify the case. What is ‘atheism’?

(…) It claims there exists no kind of god.

That’s basic. But we might ask, ‘Is it really necessary to understand atheism as so categorical? Can’t we make room for softer versions of skepticism, so as to be more inclusive?’

(…) But secondly, and more importantly, including agnostics in their position is going to give away the game at the start (…),  it is a personal declaration of doubt, not a categorical one. In its strongest form, agnosticism says something like, “I really, really, really strongly don’t think there is any God, because I’ve seen no evidence anywhere near sufficient to make me think there is one.” But the savvy atheist is going to detect the problem: as a personal declaration, it fails to bind anyone else.Continue reading

On unaccountable algorithms that watch and profile all

Digital star chamber” featured on aeon magazine – by Frank Pasquale:

“The infancy of the internet is over. As online spaces mature, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, and other powerful corporations are setting the rules that govern competition among journalists, writers, coders, and e-commerce firms. (…)

Algorithms are increasingly important because businesses rarely thought of as high tech (…) are collecting data from both workers and customers, using algorithmic tools to make decisions, to sort the desirable from the disposable.(…)

For wines or films, the stakes are not terribly high. But when algorithms start affecting critical opportunities for employment, career advancement, health, credit and education, they deserve more scrutiny. (…)Continue reading

1971 driverless car

like mother, like son

vires in numeris