Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Forum "Objectivity and Induction"

A bit a while back, I've created a new forum, because I wanted to have a place where I can filter out people who bring intellectual garbage, and at the same time be able to say that they bring it. (Very often, Objectivist forums have admins who fall into a trap of not being Objective by not judging enough, and thus allowing idiots roam free.)

But the main goal is to have a quiet place where I can write out my thoughts that are better placed on forums, because I want to present in some kind of structures.

The last drop that made me create the forum was lectures by Leonard Peikoff "Objectivism through Induction" and "Induction in Physics and Philosophy."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Self-Esteem and College Assignments

I used to have a particular approach to college assignments.

Anytime I was given an assignment in class, I took it without knowing explicitly as an absolute. I used to take it the same way I take reality. In reality, a fact is a fact; and there can be no deviation from the truth. That was and is my way of approaching the world.

In the context of college I turned it into "An assignment is given. Completing this assignment is now for me like a facing a fact. I must respond to 'this fact' in a timely manner. The same way I would respond to gravity by placing my foot forward every time I make a step."

Of course, an assignment isn't a fact of reality. It's not a physical or moral law. It's an assignment and nothing more. However, I took it as something it is not because that's how I preferred to deal with things in my life - as facts of reality that have a reason and logic behind it. That means that reality makes sense; it's rational; so I should act appropriately.

Through my personal expectation of what college ought to be I took it to mean that college is rational as well. And thus it became self-evident for me to approach it in the same way.

In the beginning of my college education I took assignments as things that come from the facts of reality. In this context, it means that the existence of man has requirements. Thus, in order to live, I need to learn those requirements. Since I have chosen my way of honest earning of my existence through Computer Science, I had to learn it through rational means. So, it would make sense that the education should be rational as well, since that’s the only way to learn the material and the only way to teach it. Thus, by accepting assignments as ‘facts,’ I was accepting the actual fact of existence of myself.

However, college education I entered was not rational.

This led to some interesting collisions that were a result of this contradiction. From one hand, I was expecting and acting as if the education was rational, since it had to be applied to the world that exists. And from another, the education was not rational. It did not, in fact, teach the material or skills I needed to be in a profession of Computer Science.

While facing such contradiction I had continued to stay with my idea of living – of relying on my own judgment as I had done in every moment of my profession of computer programming. As I looked at my classes I saw them as being boring and useless to my goal, thus it led me to lose focus on them just as I lose focus on boring things. Thus, I began to be sometimes late on deadlines of assignment and tests.

However, I had not yet realized the full picture. It turned out that to me missing the deadline of an assignment still felt like failing to face a fact of reality. While not always clear, it almost always felt dimly negative. I did not feel guilt – the assignment was not a contract I signed with anybody but myself. Instead, it was a feeling of potential self-doubt. However, self-doubt could not enter my mind either. So, instead, something else remained suspended between me and college life. I could not find myself to find college practical to this world, and yet I could not accept any loss of self-esteem by seeing my lack of full focus on college.

This problem didn’t exist for long. I had quickly resolved that the problem is in the college and not me. That was obvious.

But until recently, I had not seen the full meaning of my realization.

While I concluded that college is impractical for my programming career, I did not apply this idea fully. I had still viewed college assignments as something that belonged to reason. I still saw college as it ought to be – an educational system that teaches one how to live and work, and so I had proceeded to accept college assignments as something I had to complete correctly and on time. And when I failed to do so, even by a minute, I felt like I had failed at something.

I no longer feel so.

A ‘failure’ presupposes a goal and the means to accomplish it. If a goal and the means are separated or don’t exist at all, then no ‘failure’ can occur. I used to accept that a college assignment has a goal of teaching me new knowledge that I can later use in my career, and thus completing the assignment correctly and on time is the rational means of achieving such a goal.

However, this isn’t true in my college (and most colleges as well). The goal that most colleges have is not to prepare the students for their career. The college degrees and programs are developed in such a way that it teaches student how to be a ‘proper’ ‘cultural’ citizen and only afterwards be the professional in the chosen field.

That was not and is not my goal in regards to education. I had joined college to learn how to be a programmer not to learn the details about “Social Problems.”

Since it’s clear now that the goal of the college is incompatible with mine, its means are completely wrong.

Instead, the college now turns into something different. It turns into what it is right now – an institution of giving out degrees without correct rational meaning I was expecting. Thus, the only goal that keeps me there is the goal of acquiring a degree by complying with its requirements.

Now, my goal with college is different but I knew it long before. But it’s the first time when it is crystal clear to me now. I’m there to get a degree. The only ‘failure’ I ought to accept is a failure of getting a degree.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


. . .

He does not see people around him. He sees pieces of what Man can be. His analytical faculty identifies among many components of a person the pieces that matter, that are right, that are good. But men have a low quality; they don't take care of themselves. They lay like a stone on a sand, never touched by the sea, never brushed by the water, never smoothened by the particles of salt. They lay on the sand, a few feet away from the ever-changing waterline. They corrode under the blazing sun, weakened by the shifting wind, scarfed by all into a thing that never was and never will be.

He glances at a girl as she goes by. He does so in a quest to find a full being. One that is not stitched, but is self-built, where pieces are not assembled by a random event, but a product of a concrete goal set forth by a conscious mind aware of its action and its product.

He looks for a few moments longer. He does not like her, but he sees a part of her that is close to an image he has in his mind, the perfect woman, the equal. He judges, he pays attention, but not to her. Instead, he studies a quality that he has chosen. He ponders and plays with a concept, fitting it into his knowledge, taking it apart and combining again, validating and checking. Once more, an image appears before his eyes, a description of someone he's looking for, a template he automatically applies to women he sees and hears about. Most don't pass even a shape test of their minds. He has found that is the way - most are of no value and no concern. He is astonished again by their being.

His eyes drop back to his work.

He knows the one exists. He's sure of it. He can see himself gravitating along a path that brings him closer to his ideal, his equal, but for now he turns back to his thoughts - much to think about, much to do. The person he's looking for must be earned, must be matched, must be awaited.

. . .

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Atlas Shrugged" as a Spark

Note: this post is actually an old one. It was written in Summer 2006. It was written when I discovered Ayn Rand. The following is the modified version. I had decided to rewrite a few parts for clarity.

Reading "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand has caused me to think. Think a lot, think a lot more about things I've stopped thinking about, or didn't think much, things I should be thinking, things I was wrongly positioned on.

In some ways, it's scary, in some ways, it's awesome. It's as if my current view lies somewhere in between, and my mind keeps jumping between two states unable to find a stable position, but I feel the distance between jumps is narrowing down to some certain point. I don't feel it yet, but I know it will come, as I parse through the book.

Reading "Atlas Shrugged" isn't reading, but looking through numerous points of views, logical chains of thoughts, ideas, philosophies, description of problems and their solutions. I'm reading it very differently, as I've never read a book before. It's not the plot that I'm after - I don't care what and how the plot will turn out and I feel no need to jump back and forth through pages. What I'm trying to grasp are the thoughts in the book. It's what's called between lines, but also something much deeper, it's not the lines, but maybe the entire page or a chapter that I look in-between.

What's really scary though is the change that it brings into my mind. And what makes it worse is the rate of that change compared to the usual flow. The change brought upon by the book is huge. It tears through many old and establish ideas, approaches, and my views on life.

But the change doesn't come from the book itself, or even the ideas discussed in the book. I bring the changes myself, by thinking about what I've read, what I think, how I thought or used to, and how it applies to something. So, in reality I am the one tearing down all that I hold wrong or inconsistent, or just plain bogus.

What it feels like is finding something that you've always had but never noticed, or ignored, or denied to have it. And now that it is found, it explodes without barriers. Not calmly and orderly, but explodes all around the mind, causing chains reactions in other thoughts, topics, views, assertions - anything and everything.

Some reviews have called the book dangerous, and it is. But not in the way they call it, but in a difference context: it is dangerous to those who wish for everyone to be a non-thinking robot. The book gives the mind a chance to re-discover itself. It feels as finding or creating another layer of your own mind that you weren't aware of before and to find spots that were never consciously used.

All that is a very Good thing.

P.S. Enormous thanks goes to Ayn Rand, who wrote the book and created philosophy of Objectivism.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Proper Relation between Government and Space

My previous post was discussing Burt Rutan and private space industry. This post is a follow-up. It will answer the following questions: Why is Burt Rutan's achievement worth mentioning if NASA has achieved more than him? Should government be involved in Space development at all?

Burt Rutan achievement is very important because his achievement is a private one. NASA has landed on the Moon, and does make a few space flights every year (this number has remained the same for couple of decades, though, which is pathetic), but NASA is a publicly funded organization. Its budget are billions. Burt Rutan's budget was 25-27 million dollars for SpaceShipOne, most of which came from Paul Allen. I won't speak of the ratios here (budget/achievement), as they are irrelevant to the discussion, even though they are in favor of SpaceShipOne.

Before I tackle second question concerning government's role in Space, I need to identify basic premises. Why is getting into Space good? Who benefits from it? Whose effort will be required to achieve it? What is the best way to reach Space?

The first two questions deal with humans. The proper standard of value is a human life. Every value judgement must derive from it. Space provides humans with more resources and chances to improve their lives. Thus, Space is good, and it is good for humans. So, Space is good, however, one must remember that this alone does not mean that any way to get into Space is good. The end does not justify the means.

What does it take to get into Space? The answer is the effort of individuals. Getting into Space is not an easy task, and requires individuals with solid and clear grasp of reality. No amount of praying can further this task. Furthermore, there is no set amount of money that will do the job either. An example is NASA that has spent billions of dollars across several decades without accomplishing goals it was designed to do - get humans in Space. As for right now, it can send a dozen a year at a price of around half of billion dollars and a death rate of 1 in 60. Clearly, this is not a solution. It is a failure.

The solution is indicated by the success of SpaceShipOne. It was developed with very little money and in just a few years with zero help from the government. What does this indicate? It indicates a flaw. In its simplest description it can be stated as: government sucks at reaching Space, private effort does not.

So, why does government work in Space anyway? It is a common idea today that the government should "help" people. From what I've seen, those who thinks so, rarely define what that "help" entails. It is usually described as something good without considering the details or requirements for the action of "help." This view is important to understand as it is commonly used as the reason for government Space program.

Under this idea, social security is "good," since it helps poor. Free education is "good," since it helps all kids (including poor ones) get education. Space program is "good," since it shows the might of humans. The essence is that whatever is good for someone must be good. Of course, here the error is made by ignoring the question: at whose expense? Neither social security, nor free education, nor Space program grow on trees. Goods and resources must be produced, collected, invented, etc. by someone else, by somebody else's effort. Therefore, these things cannot be free. There is only one way to make them "free," and it is by taking them away by force, and then claim them to be free, and for the good of the "people." (Note, that in this rationalisation, the term "people" is not used to define all the people of a particular group, but only those that need whatever product is being stolen.) This approach is immoral, of course, as are rationalization that use it.

So, public Space program is not "good," if it is accomplished through a stolen effort. A good example is Soviet Space program that was done for the "bright future" and "for the people" while starving most of the country. NASA programs are funded with taxes. Taxes as such are not good. They are products that are taken away from individuals without their consent. Government does need funds to defend individual rights, so some form of support is required. Modern taxes are badly designed, however. There are better ways.

But lets assume that tax system has been redesigned and greatly improved. Would Space program be OK then? It would be OK, if the program was funded through non-compulsory funding, such as an additional optional tax that an individual could pay to support government Space program. If, however, it is funded via compulsory program, then somebody's products are being used against their will or consent, which would be immoral.

So, coming back to my second original question ("Should government be involved in Space development at all?"), I can answer that government should not be involved in Space. Even if some people really want to spend their own money into such program, it must not use the resources of the government that are in any way funded by common taxes.

So, what is the correct way to approach Space development and exploration? The way is via private effort and private funds. Those who want to achieve it, who want to risk their money and time on it, are the ones who should be working on Space program, and they are the ones who should profit from it as well.

Coming back around, this is the reason why SpaceShipOne is such a great achievement. It may be the first successful step in the chain of events that finally leads to a private exploration and exploitation of Space. And this is the only way that the rest of us can get into Space as well, by paying for those services.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Burt Rutan at Idea Festival

I was very glad to find out that my town, Louisville, Kentucky, hosted IdeaFestival conference this year. It is really awesome primarily, because of the kind of speakers it drew this year.

My previous post was about SpaceShipTwo. On this conference, however, I got to see and listen to Burt Rutan, himself, the man behind this project. The man who won Ansari X-Prise by privately developing a manned spaceship that flew into space twice within two weeks. Mr. Rutan is a hero for engineers, including me. I know some general history of space exploration due to reading various books, one of them is Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age by Greg Klerkx. From this book I learned that NASA has been very inefficient about developing manned space programs. And having seen space developments going nowhere for a few decades now, ever since the moon landing, I was extremely thrilled to see an individual reaching to space with private funds (by Paul Allen). Now, this was couple years ago now, in 2004. And to me, he was somewhere elsewhere, not quite on this Earth. The chance to see this man in person looked very slim to me.

But, alas, he came to IdeaFestival to talk about his achievement and the future direction of private space business. This was a right time for me to see him as well, since I had recently discovered for myself Objectivist philosophy and had successfully integrated into my mind. What will follow is my analysis of his speech. Keep in mind that I did not have a recorder of any sort. I simply sat at his speech, and listened to everything he had to say and answer during QA session. However, I have decent memory, and went over the speech afterwards around several key points that he made during his speech.

First of all, people like Burt Rutan are a philosophical fuel for the mind, for the right kind of mind. The mind that is looking to achieve rational goals. The simple fact of seeing someone achieve a rational goal, gives one something that is usually acquired only through one's own achievement or a romantic art.

There is a quote in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which strikes the right note to express what I mean. There is a scene where a college kid finds a product of Howard Roark, the great architect, and leaves the place with an owe that he was not fully aware of. However, the narrator, Ayn Rand, put it very precisely with a description of Roark's action: "He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime."

This is what seeing Burt Rutan means. It means 'the courage to face a lifetime.'

Amazingly (or necessarily?), Burt Rutan understood that as well. One would expect him to start from the description of his great success. However, I was astonished when he began explaining what it takes for an individual to make a breakthrough. (I suspect he thought quite a while on this topic if he decide to brought it up in the very beginning.) Burt Rutan explained that It was not the money, not the call or need of society. According to him, It all starts at a very young age where a child receives an inspiration from a great achievement at the time, such as Moon landing. Later a child grows with a courage to achieve, to strive for things that would seem impossible for mediocrity. He did not call it the courage, however, but spoke of belief in impossible. I did not like that description, but did like what he meant by it later, when described it again in some detail. He meant it as a belief in things that are deemed as impossible by others. It is unnecessarily skewed definition towards society, however, it does hold true.

His next point was debunking a popular myth that big things are accomplished by big organization, especially such as government. (Interestingly, before Burt Rutan appeared, an introduction video included a scene with SpaceShipOne and a guy standing on top of it, holding up a sign that read "SpaceShipOne, Government Zero." Audience cheered. I did, too. ) He led us through history of aviation to show that the breakthroughs were accomplished by individuals in a very short period of time. I did not know this, but in 1908 only 12 men had flown in an airplane, but by 1912, the number grew to tens of thousands. Quite amazing when you think about it. Burt Rutan made an explicit statement, if achievements were left to government, we would not even have airplanes now. The state of airlines that is present today was created by private effort, while NSAA, government organisation created for airplane development, had barely any participation at all in the process.

He made a further accent on this fact, by showing pictures of his team, only about 250 individuals had achieved something that NASA is struggling to do with all its billions of tax payers money, and thousands of employees - a cheap way to get into Space. It is true that NASA had gotten to space, but only at a ludicrous cost, and it had not improved its position for over two decades now.

It was amusing to see Burt Rutan calling NASA as Nay-Say when he first mentioned it. He clearly did not like NASA at all. It seemed to me that to him NASA was a giant road block that would not move away from the clear path for humans to space. (OK, I agree, this interpretation has a touch of my own view :D )

Mr. Rutan was a very good and engaging speaker. He easily won the crowd over. Burt Rutan spoke clearly, simply, concrete, straight forward, and with confidence. It was a pleasure to witness a man of his kind with my own eyes. It is not often that I get to see people who achieved as much as he did it. Reading news of his success on the Internet is like seeing an airplane fly far, far up in the sky, while seeing him in person is like seeing the might of an airplane within one's grasp.

I shall store this experience in my bank where I store the rest of the courage to face my own life. :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Space = Wow

Here is an update on SpaceShipTwo.

It is definitely awesome to see the progress of private companies in space exploration and development. Too bad NASA was getting in the way for too long (since its beginnings actually), but this is another topic.

Here is something tasty from the article, though.

Virgin Galactic officials said more than 65,000 people have registered their interest to ride a SpaceShipTwo vehicle into suborbital space, with more than 200 already reserving their seats by making a payment deposit.

... to carry paying passengers into suborbital space at a starting ticket price of $200,000 each.

The article does not mention what is the size of deposit. It might be available on their website. However, it follows that folks at Virgin Galactic (or one of their branches who handles this) can already see a flow of cash and interest. Speaking of interest,
Virgin Galactic also keeps in mind the big money here, check this out:

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicles ... could even be modified later to carry a 1,763-pound (800-kilogram) science payload into suborbital space for about $2 million should the market demand warrant it, the spaceline’s president Will Whitehorn said.

This would definitely be the way to go for Virgin Galactic. And at a 2500 dollars per kilogram, it sounds like a very good price for those who need to deploy relatively small space objects into near orbit. Although, SpaceShipTwo does not sound like a ship to deliver something into orbit (it doesn't have enough angular speed at the rise of its travel to actually launch something into orbit). This can be adjusted if the load was capable of self-propulsion.

This is definitely a good update on the progress of SpaceShipTwo.