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Touch Pu'uhonua
I'm passionate about design, partnership, the possibility of being human.
I'm passionate about design, partnership, the possibility of being human.

Touch's posts

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There are gems here:

The Burning Man Organization (BMORG) seems to think that it would require a lot of work to have refundable tickets which could not be transferred except through them. I think that the entire process could be automated. Ticket takers need a way to verify that a presented ticket goes with the presenter. Suppose ticket buyers were to upload a picture of the recipient and suppose ticket buyers received a printable automatically-designed ticket image. How should the ticket image be designed and what would ticket takers need to verify it?
My phone can scan a barcode and then download an image of the item from a server - is there a simpler way ticket takers could operate?
To avoid delays, would a two-stage process be better, e.g. scan the tickets at the first station, then check the images at a second station a few minutes later?
--> Let's design something that would work well and present it to the BMORG!

I've been reading Bryan Magee's "Confessions of a Philosopher" with relish. He makes it clear why most 20th Century philosophy seems empty (it is, and he explains why) and has given me an avenue to appreciate the "great" philosophers such as Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, Russel, Heidegger, Popper, etc. and get value from their inquiries despite most of their arguments and conclusions being (from my perspective - and his!) quite obviously flawed and fallacious. All of this is quite wonderful and enriching, yet at the same time, I'm left wondering at the huge disconnect between all of the philosophers he presents and the ones I think of as modern whom he never mentions, e.g. (my favorite) Daniel Dennett. The best 20th century philosophers he showcases are supposedly well versed in physics, mathematical logic and evolution. They view the human mind as an evolved biological mechanism. Yet their arguments and conclusions seem to me to be closer to the flavor of their classical colleagues than to a modern understanding of these things. I think that they were still trapped in a pre-modern paradigm.

When I arrived at the University of California I was immediately steeped in the computational view of psychology - it fact it was called "Human Information Processing"! I studied computational complexity, schema theory and the precursors of what we now call evolutionary psychology as an undergraduate. I became usefully obsessed with knowledge representation and artificial intelligence which I continued in graduate school and in working life until Neural Network Naivety and the "AI Winter" collapsed the field. I am not just philosophically aware that intelligent entities only have access to models of "reality", never to "reality" itself: I have been engaged with this fundamental distinction as part of practical engineering! The philosophers think that it is a big deal to say that we can never know reality directly and many of them follow Plato in denigrating the imperfect understanding we can achieve, but I think that it is a huge deal that the Universe allows us to be and to build systems which are intelligent despite this limitation.

I have had a longtime love affair with Physics and was planning on becoming a physicist before I was seduced by Computer Science. In college I would often solve exam questions by ignoring the formulas we had been taught and applying fundamental symmetries directly. I was sometimes lazy about learning the mathematics, but my physical intuition was very good. I was therefore surprised when Magee presented as a fact that Time (not even Space-Time) is an inescapable concept for human understanding. Mathematical physicists have been exploring models of how Space-Time might emerge from a more fundamental structure since at least the 1960s and have suspected such a thing for much longer, yet Magee and the latest philosophers he covers do not seem to be aware of this. I'm thinking of Penrose's Twistor theory, Loop Quantum Gravity and Julian Barbour's theories in particular, but Einstein and Goedel's block models would also qualify. If you're committed to thinking deeply about the foundations of the natural world (which Magee says serious philosophers are) then you've got to get beyond classical notions of both Newtonian Space and Time and Einstein/Minkowski Space-Time.

I was also lucky enough to be exposed to Eastern naturalistic philosophy, especially Zen and Taoism in my early twenties. These (along with Jainism) are the oldest philosophies which eschew the supernatural. I was delighted to discover that Schopenhauer, Magee and others have been inspired by the Upanishads, but I think that they've missed the best Eastern philosophical sources and so have maybe all Western philosophers until very recently. I owe a great debt to Alan Watts and Raymond Smullyan and also to the workshops of Landmark Education. It was in the latter that I also learned Heidegger's distinction of distinguishing vs. defining things, i.e. referencing things you can't (yet or maybe ever) define or delimit. Because of this background I can follow a lot of Magee's arguments for Transcendental Idealism, but I think that they are pretty muddled! Penrose gives the best modern apology for Transcendental Idealism I know of which Dennett pretty much discredits if not outright destroys, but Magee seems unaware of either.

Years ago as part of Landmark's Wisdom curriculum I had to read Foucault. Although I greatly dislike his style I was intrigued with his notion of Epistemes, essentially super-paradigms inside of which all thinking of various eras takes place with the episteme limiting what can be thought. He distinguished three epistemes in Western history: the Renaissance, Classical and Modern epistemes. We speculated on the possibility that a new episteme might be opening up at this time. As I've been reading Magee's roundup of so called "modern" philosophers and philosophy I am thinking that maybe the classical episteme needs to be expanded to cover most of the 20th century and that the real "modern" episteme has only opened up since his death. In any case, it is clear to me that the best philosophers of today are truly working in new territory and now is a great time to have a curious mind.

I'm sitting on the observation platform high above our dome at Burning Man. The night is warm, the sounds and sights fill me with wonder. I am blessed to be here and to be part of this community year round!

My friend +Trouble Sturm is still trying to find a Burning Man Ticket. Do you suddenly find yourself with an extra ticket? Perhaps Will Call? Trouble is an amazing contribution to the Playa and his contribution will be huge if he can get a ticket. Thanks!

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A profound and delightful 4-part talk by Alan Kay - they guy who invented the personal computer and much else.

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Largely true, I think.

There is something the Burning Man Organization (the BMORG) could do to greatly reduce ticket scalping and let more people attend the event:

They could offer to (1) buy back any unwanted tickets for the full amount paid for them including shipping and handling or will-call charges and then (2) offer those tickets at the current ticket price level, will-call only, non-transferable and fully refundable.

Without this mechanism, it's hard for burners to avoid accidentally selling their tickets to a scalper posing as a burner-in-need.

The Burning Man ticket issue is more serious than I thought. A number of people who have invested heavily in preparations for the Burn have gotten caught by the unprecedented closing of ticket sales without any warning that sales were close to any limit. If you're in that situation, speak up and ask for spare tickets!

I tried to comment on a friend's post and when I pushed the "Post" button I got
There was a problem updating your comment. Please try again.
Trying again over several hours produced the same result. When I tried to "Send Feedback" and got to where you have to push "Preview" I got taken to a login page, despite being logged into G+ already.
G+ continues to display poorly on my netbook and abounds in infelicities.
I'm not sure that G+ is even beta yet.
Oh, great, now when I try to "Share" this post, I get
There was a problem completing this action. Please try again.
Google is telling me to "try again" but maybe they need to try again. Let's see what hoops I have to jump through to get this to post - if you're reading this, some weird contortion made it through.
And I'm using Google Chrome to browse G+, too!
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