Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Notes From My Daily Reading

Reading Dalrymple again.


Are the proponents and providers of vaccines responsible for the adverse side-effects? This is the exact case an examination of my anti-Christ(special) is supposed to make clear. We have, for the sake of the preservation of the lives of many, damage to the lives of few, and a different few. It's the hard choice; how do you feel when the child you just administered a 'life-saving' rubella vaccine to goes into convulsions and dies?* How much worse is it when you realize that child may never have gotten sick with rubella at all?

*(I have no idea how long they actually take to die.)

I think vaccines are really amazing. They're low-tech, extremely effective, and such side-effects would be vanishingly rare except that death doesn't exactly vanish for quite some time.

So it's rather important; are they responsible? Obviously, even if they are, we cannot let them be sued for murder or even malpractise.

Reading New Scientist.

"It's giving neuroscientists something of a headache. Most of what we know about the brain comes from studies of male animals and male human volunteers. If even a small proportion of what has been inferred from these studies does not apply to females, it means a huge body of research has been built on shaky foundations."

No. In addition, no! We had to do that research anyway. Now we've just realized that it's half the research, not the whole.

Also, this sits poorly with the idea that men and women's mental aptitudes are identical or close enough. There are going to be some very uncomfortable scientists in the near future.

"Give a man a sheet of paper printed with tangled streets and he can tell you where you need to go. But don't be afraid to ask a woman for directions. Chances are she'll get you there, too, but using a different technique. Drawing on her hippocampus, she'll offer you physical cues like the bakery, the post office and the Chinese restaurant."

One of those techniques is better than the other. But you can count on scientists and journalists swearing up and down that they're the same.

Journalists suck.
"To do that, he would have to venture into the nascent field of social neuroscience, a discipline that has been described as the next big thing by the founder of cognitive neuroscience, Mike Gazzaniga at the University of California, Santa Barbara."
We are completely bombarded with predictions by all these dilettante historians. Apparently by putting 39 almost meaningless letters after Gazzaniga's name, it turns this groundless prediction into not a waste of time. Are you going to UofC soon? Going to track him down? No? Then you're nearly everyone who will read this article, and all you need to know is that this guy has no more idea of future trends than you do.

And I like New Scientist.

Scientists suck.

I've already covered how journalists suck, so I won't go over how the title is retardedly sensationalist.

"Haynes also raises the prospect of "neural marketing", where advertisers might one day be able to read the thoughts of passers by and use the results to target adverts. "This [new research] specifically doesn't lead to this - but the whole spirit in which this is done is in line with brain reading and the applications that come with that," he says."

No. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooo. No.

To see why, re-read this bit.

"Kamitani starts by getting someone to look at a selection of images made up of black and white squares on a 10 by 10 square grid, while having their brain scanned. Software then finds patterns in brain activity that correspond to certain pixels being blacked out. It uses this to record a signature pattern of brain activity for each pixel."

Add this;
"Subjects were shown 400 random 10 x 10 pixel black-and-white images for a period of 12 seconds each."
So, to get shitty pictures of 'neuron' in black and white, it took 4800 seconds of individual training, or 80 minutes each. (The images were shown one letter at a time, if you didn't notice.) To get high-resolution images of abstract colours would require the individual to sit in a machine and train the advertiser's computer for thousands of hours.

Even without all this, the technique is fMRI, which requires enormous magnetic fields. Like, don't-bring-your-keys-into-the-room-with-the-machine magnetic fields, let alone your cellphone. You going to set up these fields so that random passers-by are going to walk through them?

Next, look how bad it is. The encoding is all over the board because it's basically ad-hoc. Brains are the opposite of standardized.

Even beyond all this, it isn't actually detecting their thoughts. It's just detecting their ocular impulses. To detect me thinking about the image of the word 'neuron' would be a different beast entirely. If for some reason someone tries to make you sit in a room for a month so they can train their lie detector on you, just think contrary thoughts, and you'll defeat it. To make a lie detector out of this requires you to have a lie detector so you can calibrate it...

Oh God. Haynes is so wrong. It hurts. Make it stop.

How wrong is Haynes? And, by extension, New Scientist?
"But it shouldn't be possible to do this for commercial purposes."
Frankly, fuck you Haynes. Science is not somehow the opposite of commercial activity. I read elsewhere that someone didn't like a shopping cart icon because it sent the wrong metaphor for 'shopping' for classes, that these classes were somehow above that. All bullshit. Do the classes cost money? Then they're commercial. Even if they're free they have monetary opportunity costs; every moment you're in a class you're not flipping burgers for minimum wage, and thus sacrificing money. It shows Haynes incredible lack of thought; there are simply too many ways that science and education are commercial for me to even conveniently list them all, and yet he hasn't stumbled upon even one of them.

What Haynes means is that you shouldn't read someone's mind against their will. Well, duh. You also shouldn't read someone's diary or even talk to them against their will. Immoral act is immoral. And hence, fuck you Haynes. And second, 'it shouldn't be possible.' Oh, you want God to come down and make it impossible? Oh, you mean the State should stop it. That's not impossible. That's just illegal. (And then people get confused when someone realizes progressivism is a religion.)

There's another one from the same set, but since I go into it in depth I'm going to make a new post out of it.

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