Friday, August 17, 2007

On a less serious note: DnD

Ok, enough philosophy for a while.

One of my Hobbies is D&D. I effectively have my DM on speed dial. Stop laughing.

My favourite part being character creation. The downside of this is I'm not always honest with my DM, and it doesn't nurture an atmosphere of trust. For example, I might ask something simple like "Can I ride my animal companion?" I might neglect to mention my animal companion is something like a sparrow and I'm a Half-Orc. That's a bit extreme, and I think the DM might actually hurt me for doing that, but you see my DM is generally a bit hesitant to take back things he has said ok to. So tricks are often worthwhile.

Right now I have a pretty kickass character riding a large wolf animal companion.
The wolf is the animal companion equivalent of a level 10 Druid.
I'm level 9.
I have no ranks in Druid.

This was garnered from quite a few "Hey would it be alright if I ....." without fully explaining the consequences. Needless to say, my wolf recently fought an undead Tyrannosaur and won.

Something fun I might try next: Artificer/Alchemist
We run simultaneous scenarios so that more people have a chance to DM.

We usually boost characters up to level 6 rather than start at the beginning and we usually spread out 13'000gc. What I plan to do next is basically ask if I can use up my "Free XP" I get from Artificer levels, to create items to put in my backpack. (Articer would get 650 "Free XP"), which to me just means about 15 uses of dust of dryness in the pouch in my Handy haversack.

Change that to 1 big ball of used dust of dryness and you have 1500 gallons of water you can instantly unleash, (That's about 42 bathtubs worth, or 100 kegs of beer, and would weigh about 3.5 times as much as your average car), all just waiting for the next time a Tyrannosaur tries to swallow me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Human understanding part 2.

Introductory philosophy 3) Causation.

There is a lot of confusion about causation and how it works.
The issue isn't under debate. Things cause other things, that's all pretty straightforward. There's a logical flow to it.

The problem comes when you're not analyzing it and how people talk about it.

Problem 1: Correlation.
When things correlate, that doesn't mean one causes the other.
For example (to take an old example) there has been a reduction in the number of pirates over the years that correlates with global warming.

The two are unrelated, but they correlate. It's a coincidence. There is no causation. (FSM followers feel free to disagree, just do it in your heads).

Problem 2: Links, Proof, Evidence.
If there's correlation that is evidence of causation (and incidentally, evidence of a link).
Not proof.
Not a link.

There may also be a link, without evidence and without proof. (I.e. There's a link, but we don't know about it. If we know about the link, there must be evidence).
There cannot be proof, without evidence and a link.

These are 3 separate words that are used interchangeably when there shouldn't be. Proof means it has become fact. Evidence means it is just possible that one causes the other. A link again means a possibility that one causes the other.

Problem 3: Direction.
Even with a complete proof of causation, that does not necessarily mean we know which way the causation is occurring.

For example, lets say there is a proven link between depression and alcohol.
That does not necessarily mean we know if depression causes people to turn to drink, or if drink causes people to be depressed. It could be either, or both.

Problem 4: Deceit.
People, Politicians, Lobby groups all take advantage of these other to try to push agendas and issues that they want to see changed. This might not always be with bad intentions. Someone might philosophically feel the only moral choice is ______ and then go out of their way to find anything at all to support their case.

This could be for religious reasons. (Banning a sensitive movie perhaps).
This could be for political reasons. (Belief in Free Trade, Democracy, Capitalism, a specific constitution).
This could be for monetary reasons. (They get some personal gain).
This could be for family reasons. (Boosting the spending on medical treatment may save a family member of theirs).
This could be for any ideal. (Belief in Freedom of speech, getting rid of the death penalty, etc).

People may feel any of these (or many more) are worth lying for, because the ideal itself is philosophically sound. Someone could (understandably) believe the death penalty to be wrong no matter the crime or effect on society.

Problem 5: Proof of Absence.
Just because there is no proof does not mean it is false. No proof means we don't know.
People sometimes say "There is absolutely no proof whatsoever" to try to say there is no link, or there is no causation. The truth is we have not devised a reliable test for it yet. That's all. In the meantime, there may be evidence and a definitive, demonstrable link.

There even may be proof of causation but they may add in deceit yet again and say "There is no proof that X causes Y" to make it seem like there is no link, when in reality, only the direction is in dispute, and everything else is fully established.

I think that's it...

Human understanding.

Introductory philosophy 2) Empathy is the greatest component of debate.

Theists and Atheists have a tendency to argue. Whilst they have a lot in common, there are several fundamental differences which creates a barrier between the two sides.

A specific example might be the use of the word "Faith".
Theists use it to mean a different thing than an Atheist.

That's fine. You don't have to necessarily use the same terminology, or you might disagree over the "true" meaning of the word.

What is idiotic, is the way define their opponent's word for them. "What you mean is......".
You are no wiser, your opponent isn't swayed. You made yourself feel good with a PR trick and fooled yourself into thinking you've won.

"My cat climbs trees"
"What you mean by cat is a gray thing with flippers. Cats cannot climb trees."
"Yes they can......"
"How can they hold on with the flippers?"
"I call that thing a Dolphin.... what I mean by cat is..."
"Shut up! I use the correct terminology so that's what you must have meant."

You can have the same conversation with the word Dolphin and Cat swapped. The point is not who is correctly using the words. The point of empathy is determining what your opponent means, not necessarily what he is saying.

In the case of faith, I have never come across a regular theist who does not apply the word faith in a different way to how every atheist I have ever met defines it. Furthermore, they enforce that definition on others.

That's why theists say atheists have faith(type 1).
That's why atheists take great offense and deny having faith(type 2).

That however is not the point of this post. This post is to say, pay attention to what your opponent is saying. Pay attention to how he is using the words. Figure out what they mean. Then go about the argument using *their* definition, or concede that you misunderstood what they meant.

You are not entitled to your opinion.

Introductory Philosophy 1) I believe in essentially a discrete, rather than analog universe.

Everything can be summarized as right and wrong, black and white, once the complexities have been dealt with individually. I don't believe you can justify anything by saying "That's my opinion".
Saying "I don't think _____ hurts anyone" for example, is never an opinion. It either hurts people, or it doesn't. Just because we don't know the answer doesn't stop the thought being either true, or false.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have freedom of speech. I'm not suggesting we are capable of discerning the truth out of every situation. I'm saying that the only "valid" opinions are those that have no bearing on a truth value.

Deciding what food is the tastiest, what color is nicer, those are opinions.
Taking complex issues, fudging them, then answering them half-ass and defending that with "Well it's just my opinion", is the equivalent of guessing maths answers because the sums are too hard to actually do.

That's fine for personal use. Maybe I don't care how close I get to the real answer so my guess will do. Forcing my guess on other people on the other hand.....

In short, you are not entitled to your opinion. Go away, and come back when it's not an opinion anymore.

Introductions are in order.

Well, this is going to be my personal blog.

I suspect it's going to be your typical blog where I whine about things as they annoy me to give me an outlet for my frustrations. Those things in question are likely to be Middle East politics, religion, work, the usual suspects.

I'll try to limit my complaints to subjects I know about though, although I doubt that'll actually work. (As we all know, people on the internet are experts on everything).

I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Omar, I live in Dubai and I work with Telecoms investments.

I suspect all that I complain about will center around a few key philosophical points. I'll make those my next blogs.