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Archive for January, 2009

These crimes between us: the musings of a romantic

I am going to admit right off the bat that–for better or worse–my ideas (ideals) of romance stem from two primary sources: Hollywood and Dave Matthews. Undoubtedly there are other sources that I am less aware of, but those two are front and center for me (Hollywood is no doubt on the list of every American (Westerner?)). The only reason I am saying this is because I am about to quote a passage from a Dave Matthews song that I find intriguing. It goes like this:

We look at each other
Wondering what the other is thinking,
But we never say a thing.
And these crimes between us grow deeper.

I just wonder how often two people meet, are attracted to one another, and yet fail to find the words or the body language to express their feelings (or perhaps they don't even fail at that but simply fail to make a more direct move). That's a genuine question that has no hidden suggestion as to the answer. And I don't just mean two people who meet once. I am talking about people who have been acquainted or have been friends for a long time. I find the language Matthews uses–"these crimes between us"–not only to be a power description of these situations, but an accurate one. The very idea of two people being drawn to one another and yet not letting each other know and not making a move to find out "what the other is thinking" seems so paradoxically beautiful and tragic. Perhaps only beautiful if the crime is overcome and only tragic if it is not. But perhaps even regardless of the outcome. Beautiful. Tragic.

Perhaps this is the reason why girls, and not just guys, should make a more direct effort to make it known to their counterpart what they are thinking (or, I suppose, feeling): for the very purpose of preventing these crimes. Or perhaps the system works fine. The girl smiles, the guy breaks the ice, and the flowers bloom from there. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous Tags: ,

Three most detestable types of people in the world

Here is the my list of the top three most detestable types of people on the planet. My ordering is tentative. I may switch the first with the second but otherwise this list is final. Starting with the least detestable type of person:

3) Murders (people like Hitler)

2) Paid programmers: namely, those that involve pills (see Extenze) or books (see Natural Cures They Don't Want You To Know About and its author, one of the most evil and detestable humans to ever walk the planet, Kevin Trudeau)

1) Computer virus programmers

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How truly bizarre is Facebook?

Here is an hilarious video I came across the other day concerning what Facebook might be like if it were to happen on a more face-to-face level? No matter how ridiculous the video may seem, it raises some interesting questions about these vast online social networking sites–like Facebook or MySpace. Such as questions dealing with the nature of friendship: in what ways are such sites beneficial and in what ways are they determinental to one’s friendships or to one’s conception of friendship? Or with self-other perception: to what extent is our social networking self an accurate representation of our “real ” self (or our non-social networking, non-digitalized self)?

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Categories: Comedy Tags:

Identity Crisis: An informal presentation of the problem of personal identity.

01/10/2009 9 comments

Here is something I wrote a few months ago but never posted. It is my pre-research thoughts (partially edited) on the problem of personal identity. As such, it is quite informal and perhaps easier to understand than the paper I recently wrote for my philosophy seminar.

Here is a problem:

I don’t want to die (no, this isn’t the problem yet). Or more precisely, I want to live forever. So I devise a way for this to happen. First, I clone myself down to the smallest detail. This is not merely a genetic clone. This clone is an exact replica of myself, including memories, personality quirks, and the rest of my psychological traits. To make this work, I am examined by all the necessary scientific experts and their machines that copy all of the necessary information and store it in a hard drive. They can then use their “God” machine that uses the stored information to construct a copy of myself: flesh, bones, and the rest.

The initial plan is to delay the creation of a clone until I have died. Once that happens, scientists would then be given permission to create another me. As I was cloned at the age of (say) 25 years old, a 25 year-old me would walk out of the machine. And once that person died, the process would repeat and I would, presumably, have the potential to live forever (or nearly so). (Also, let’s assume that upon each death, scientists copy all of my newly acquired psychological traits and store them so that each new clone is always exactly similar to my previous self.) But I am curious. I want to see if it works now. So these scientists test it and to my surprise it works. I walk out of the machine.

But wait, I don’t walk out of the machine. A clone of me does. As myself, I am still having the first-person experience of seeing a machine and a person who looks like me emerge from it. I am not having the experience of emerging from a machine and seeing a person who looks like me standing still. And I am certainly not experiencing both.

Then I think to myself, “That makes sense. This is a clone, after all. I am myself and he is himself.” But this poses a serious problem to my life-after-death solution. If this clone–which looks and acts and thinks and remembers exactly like me–is not me, then what makes me think that a new clone, constructed after my death, will be? It seems to be the case that when I die, I die. There can be an exact replica of me living–and to outside observers it will seem as if I am indeed still living–but I won’t be. I will have died and my first-person experience will have ended.

As an interesting thought experiment, imagine that one of your closest loved ones dies but is replaced by an exact replica without you knowing it. So as far as you are concerned, your loved one is as fine as ever. But then imagine that, eventually, you come to find out what has really happened and that your loved one has been dead for a few years or months. Although on all appearances it certainly seems that your loved one is still alive, you come to realize that somewhere along the way the person you loved is gone. This is an intuitive way to show that although A and B might be exactly similar, A is not identical to B. If this is right, this poses a serious problem for films like Deja Vu and perhaps even The Prestige…although in the case of The Prestige I think the problem is acknowledged, which adds to the overall impact of the ending. More importantly, however, it poses a problem for our conception of personal identity: if the clone is merely exactly similar to me and not identical, then what does personal identity consist in (our psychological traits, our brains, our bodies)? In other words, do we even know what personal identity is: what makes it that the person I am now is the same person 10 years ago or 1 day ago? The test case given above concerning the clone is formally known as the Reduplication Problem. Such a problem has served to completely and utterly destroy our intuitive conception of personal identity.

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