Oct 31, 2005

Political parties, Part 1

Bah. Confused my blogs. This entry moved to Flog of the Prokonsul. Feel free to read if you are interested in my thoughs on an academic paper about edemocracy and political parties.

10 top trends

KurzweilAI.net reports:

Wired News, Oct. 25, 2005

Mobile socialization, disruptive technology in the hybrid car market, growing demand for information-sensing devices that can reduce energy consumption, and an IT revolution in 2006 are among the forecasts by futurists.

Read Original Article>>

Will comment on the article when I have time to read it in few hours :)

Oct 22, 2005

Return of the Proconsul

Finally I found an English translation of my favourite poem, 'Powrót Prokonsula' by Zbigniew Herbert. So, without further due, here it goes:

The Return of the Proconsul

I've decided to return to the emperor's court
once more I shall see if it's possible to live there
I could stay here in this remote province
under the full sweet leaves of the sycamore
and the gentle rule of sickly nepotists

when I return I don't intend to commend myself
I shall applaud in measured portions
smile in ounces frown discreetly
for that they will not give me a golden chain
this iron one will suffice

I've decided to return tomorrow or the day after
I cannot live among vineyards nothing here is mine
trees have no roots houses no foundations the rain is glassy flowers smell of wax
a dry cloud rattles against the empty sky
so I shall return tomorrow or the day after in any case I shall return

I must come to terms with my face again
with my lower lip so it knows how to curb scorn
with my eyes so they remain ideally empty
and with that miserable chin the hare of my face
which trembles when the chief of guards walks in

of one thing I am sure I will not drink wine with him
when he brings his goblet nearer I will lower my eyes
and pretend I'm picking bits of food from between my teeth
besides the emperor likes courage of convictions
to a certain extent to a certain reasonable extent
he is after all a man like everyone else
and already tired by all those tricks with poison
he cannot drink his fill incessant chess
this left cup is for Drusus from the right one pretend to sip
then drink only water never lose sight of Tacitus
take a walk in the garden and return when the corpse has
been removed

I've decided to return to the emperor's court yes I hope that things will work out somehow

Oct 18, 2005

They own you!

A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities (full story).

I don't know about you, but *this* has me worried. It's high time we revised our patent laws.
When The Economist, whom none can accuse of anti-capitalist bias, writes: It is becoming ever more apparent that the patent system isn't working (The cost of ideas) and carries articles with titles like Patently absurd? or Monopolies of the mind, it is high time for the governments to do something. So unless you want this patent nonsense (pun intended) to continue, take a minute and send an email to your representative or relevant government office (here are some links: United States Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Office).

Let me finish with a part of one of my favourite poems (by Greg Egan):

It is not true that the map of freedom will be complete
with the erasure of the last invidious border when it remains for us to chart the attractors of thunder
and delineate the arrhythmias of drought to reveal the molecular dialects of forest and savanna
as rich as a thousand human tongues and to comprehend the deepest history of our passions
ancient beyond mythology's reach

So I declare that no corporation holds a monopoly on numbers
no patent can encompass zero and one
no nation has sovereignty over adenine and guanine
no empire rules the quantum waves
And there must be room for all at the celebration of
for there is a truth which cannot be bought or sold imposed by force, resisted or escaped

- Greg Egan, Distress

Oct 10, 2005

Return of the Renaissance Man?

After reading the Wired News story: The Future Needs Futursts, my responce was: Finally!. Companies, politicians, think tanks, NGOs - all have been making various trend analysis and prognosis for many decades now - but with the incresing speed of changes, limiting oneself to only one or few areas is a sure recipe for being wrong, especially on any time scale larger then few months. It is high time futurists got the respect (and paychecks) they deserve.

But not everybody can be a good futurist. Imagination is not enough. Even being a sci-fi fan is not enough (although it is important - I doubt you can make a good futurist without reading it). Extensive knowledge in ALL fields is essential, and when we need to look at the future not as specialists, but as generalists, it means that a good futurist has to be know a lot of stuff - from physics to economics, from history to geography... In other words, we need polymath aka 'renaissance man' again. Extensive editing on Wikipedia is definetly a good way to expand your horizons, when I come to think of it :)

Btw, I was fairly suprised having read in the WN article that "The University of Houston Clear Lake and the University of Hawaii at Manoa run two of the better-known programs offering master's degrees in futures studies and alternative futures, respectively." That's a good sign - I'd love to see their syllabuses.

But honestly, I wonder if anybody can be a perfect polymath now. While there are some good ones, like Alvin Toffler or Ray Kurzweil, I would think that the best results would be created by a think tank of several futurists. I wonder if there are any? That's definetly worth doing some research.

In any case, I am looking forward to the future - I think it will be bright.

Expect more predictions soon.

Oct 4, 2005

A few jokes

After the philosophy course, I decided to give you some economics info, in the form of a few jokes to lighten the mood.:

Q: What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?
A: Capitalism produces an unequal distribution of wealth. Socialism produces an equal distribution of shortages.

Q: What would be the biggest problem for a communist building compnay in Sahara?
A: The shortages of sand.

Q. What is the difference between a democracy and a social democracy?
A. They both look the same, as do a chair and an electric chair.

Seriously, I am pretty happy about recent Polish election results. While Germany muddles, it seems Poland had decided to brave the needed reforms. Hopefully, other EU countries will follow Poland - EU economy needs all the help it can get. The issue it faces is not overtaking the US, but staying ahead of the Asia...

Oct 3, 2005


"Man's quest for knowledge is an expanding series whose limit is infinity, but philosophy seeks to attain that limit at one blow, by a short circuit providing the certainty of complete and inalterable truth. Science meanwhile advances at its gradual pace, often slowing to a crawl, and for peiriods it even walks in place, but eventually it reaches the various ultimate trenches dug by philosophical thought, and, quite heedless of the fact that it is not supposed to be able to cross those final barriers to the intellect, goes right one.

How could this not drive the philosophers to despair? One form of that despair was Positivism, remarkable in its hostility, because it played the loyal ally of science but in fact sought to abolish it. The thing that had undermined and destroyed philosophy, annulling its great discoveries, now was to be severely punished, and Positivism, the false friend, passed that sentence - demonstrating that science could not truly discover anything, inasmuch as it constituted no more than a shorthand record of experience. Positivism desired to muzzle science, to compel it somehow to declare itself helples in all transcendental matters (which, however, as we know, Positivism failed to do).
The history of philosophy is the history of successive and nonidentical retreats. Philosophy first tried to discover the ultimate categories of the world; then the absolute categories of reason; while we, as knowledge accumulates, see more and more clearly philosophy's vulnerability: because every philosopher must regard himself as a model for the entire species, and even for all possible sentient being. But it is science that is the transcendence of experience, demolishing yesterday's categories of thought. Yesterday, absolute space-time was overthrown; today, the eternal alternative between the analytic and the synthetic in propositions, or between determinism and randomness, is crumbling. But somehow it has not occurred to any of our philosophers that to deduce, from the pattern of one's own thoughts, laws that hold for the full set of people, from the eolithic until the day the suns burn out, might be, to put it mildly, imprudent."

-- Stanislaw Lem, His Master's Voice

Lem is a genius. Oh, I just can't wait to show this to some of my more philosophicaly-oriented friends :) There will be a reckoning... :)

Oct 1, 2005


Academic, educational and research blogs. This is another interesting subfield of blogging. Internet is a very useful tool in education, but learning html (not to mention xml and other even more complex syntaxes) is a crippling barrier, barring many schoolars from entering the online world (I don't have time to learn *this*...).

And blogs offer a great solution: they give you the ability to publish anything online without all the hassle involved in learning html and related software. Blogger user interface is less complex then that of an email program, and definetly friendlier then that of an avarage text editor.

And so the scholars are beggining to blog. Tentatively at first, but there are more and more of them (see Professors Who Blog and list of Academic Blogs) for some links.

Hopefully over the next few years we will see educational blogs spreading through all classes and courses, and research/academic blogs will replace the boring and static scholar homepages.

Even today, if you are a scholar and have no blog, you have no excuse. You can easily communicate with your students. You can easily share your ideas and research with others. Why don't you?
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