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The Entropy of Power & Human Relations

During the Second World War the Imperial Japanese believed that it was natural for them to conquer other surrounding countries, since the highest concentration of power was in Japan. Thus via a kind of osmosis in human relations this power naturally spreads out, or so the theory goes. Ian Kershaw explains Japan’s reasoning in a fantastically simple way in ‘Fateful Choices’. But Huntington’s clash of civilizations is based on exactly the same premise: that when power is consolidated in one single area it is inevitable that it seeks to exercise that power on/in the surrounding areas. And this has a vast following today (the ‘War on Terror’ follows this logic, even though it claims it doesn’t). Darwinian logic also says similar things, particularly social Darwinism. And furthermore if you trace human thought back long enough you can even find these ideas in the works of early thinkers like Thucydides.

But why entropy i hear you say? The reason why entropy is included in the title is that entropy basically involves the transition from order to disorder. What is consolidated at point one gradually spreads out into the surrounding dis-entropy. And this is very close to the above argument. Yet you very rarely get scientific explanations of human relations. Why not? Do human relations mimic science or not?

What is the primary motivation behind group formation, actions and interactions?

Group psychology focuses on how groups come to be, how their identities are forged and shaped, how they grow, and ultimately even what they come to do e.g. if they tend towards violence or arm theirselves why do they do so?

Given that these questions are so wide ranging the subject obviously finds ground in various other subjects. Yet for example in International Relations there is a lot more research needing to be done. The main theoretical branches of IR use almost no psychological justification, and yet all are willing to base their ideas upon very profound psychological components of human nature. Realists cite power and security as the main motivation for group actions, Liberals cite utility or wealth maximization, and constructivists call human nature nothing more than a social construction.

Do any of these views hold true to you? Or would you need to see the data? Why do you join and/or start groups? And if there could be one then what do you think is the primary motivation behind group actions?

After Pragmatism and Agnosticism

The words pragmatism and agnosticism are very popular in today’s society. In fact they form a large part of modern society’s identity. But they are as ideological as any other mode of thought from human history. Indeed neither arose from simple ‘common sense’ as people often like to say. Pragmatism for instance, arose thanks to a large amount from the works of theorists such as John Dewey et al.

But given that we find it hard to even identify such things as ideologies it seems impossible that we might be able to guess what we will be thinking and saying 50 years from now, right?
In actual fact there have always been clues as to what the next leap in human thought would be through history. And they were almost always found in our beliefs about reality.

It is therefore quite profound to note that ideas such as the above are based on outdated beliefs in science. As Henry Staff (theoretical physicist from Berkeley) said “orthodox quantum mechanics insists […] that the physically described world is not a world of material substances, as normally conceived, but it is rather a world of potentialities for future experiences.” To this extent modern science completely rejects the very bedrock of pragmatic and agnostic beliefs, for both are built upon a materialist conception of reality. Or to put it another way both would have a hard time explaining Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

The important question that remains therefore, is what will replace such beliefs? What do you think?

>New World of Business

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If you read the techie news then you would have seen recently that there is a new hacker tool doing the rounds. It’s called Firesheep and it intercepts communications over public wireless networks, like the free wifi in cafes etc, to obtain cookies from sites you’ve visited such as email and facebook.

With a copy of this cookie it can then log back into the password protected site you have just visited.

The inventor is a typical computer guy who says he released it to expose the vulnerability of current websites, i.e. he had an altruistic motive for causing harm, in that the short term pain will lead to longer term gain and improvements.

No more than a few days later a piece of software that protects you from Firesheep, called Blacksheep, comes out as a fix.

Now here is the issue I want to discuss. It is in my mind that both pieces of software are made by the same guy. And if they are not, then they could easily have been.

Now this man has basically invented a problem to which he also has the solution. In effect his illegal act has created a market for his legal solution. Yet of course he won’t be prosecuted.

Now had he just released the solution then it would have gone un-noticed, but by causing some hysteria by releasing malicious code, he has gained a lot of free publicity, and then in a suspiciously timely manner, appeared with a solution.

And apparently there is no law against this.

So what would prevent other businesses taking the same approach ?

Can a biologist discover an anti-dote to a disease that doesn’t exist, and then release the disease enmasse in order to sell his anti-dote ?

Can a glazier help fuel french protest rallies in order to swell business the next day ?

I’m serious that the computer guy was not and will not be prosecuted, so with some discretion why can we not all play this game ?

obviously you can not set fires to peoples houses in order to sell fire insurance, but this is exactly what it seems like the computer guy has done.

Its not so much that he hasn’t been prosecuted, its more the idea that you can invent a problem. As the problem will be brand new, there may not be any laws specifically relating to this kind of detrimental invention. Then if you have the solution waiting straight after, you have effectively held the world to ransom and are a rich man.

>Thebigqs Challenge

>This is just a bit of fun, as a reward for answering all the tough questions. Answer as many as the following questions as possible:

  1. Which was the first chocolate bar created by Forest Mars in 1923?
  2. In what year was Magna Carta written?
  3. What was Genghis Khan’s childhood name?
  4. How many states are there in the United States of America?
  5. The whale, unicorn, lion and elephant are among the animals that feature in the titles of essays published between 1936 and 1941 by which author?
  6. Which word derives from the Greek meaning ‘to harden’, and is used in medicine to refer to conditions involving a hardening, thickening or scarring of a body part?
  7. Before the first move in a chess game, how many of the pieces standing on the board occupy black squares?
  8. Euripides won four Greek dramatic competitions and Aeschylus won fourteen, but what prolific dramatist won twenty-four?
  9. Simon Bolivar is known as a hero throughout Latin America. He led Bolivia, Columbia, Peru, Panama, Venezuala and which other country to independence?
  10. Who was the Sage of the Sakyas?
  11. What does Vishnu hold in his hand?
  12. What is the capital of Australia?
  13. Who was the first European to discover New Zealand?
  14. What mathematical symbol did Ferdinand von Lindemann determine to be a transcendental number in 1882?
  15. Which European country is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, and Austria and the Czech republic to the west?
  16. In politics in the UK, what term describes a member of the House of Lords who demonstrates political neutrality by not taking a party whip?
  17. Name 4 English football teams (from any division) that start with the same letter they end with.
  18. In 1819 Prussia set up an economic/customs union, to which other German states steadily joined. This union laid the foundation of Germany’s unity. What was its name?
  19. Aristotle came to the conclusion that the highest good that man could pursue was the ‘eudaimonia’, which can be translated as ‘having a good spirit’, or as happiness. But in which book did he set out this argument?
  20. What colour are a Zebra’s black stripes during the first 6 months of life?
  21. What caused half of all deaths from 1945 to 1986?
  22. What creature’s tongue weighs as much as a fully grown elephant?
  23. How many days can an ant survive under water?
  24. What country started the Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts?

The first person to find all the answers wins absolutely nothing … except pride. Good luck!

P.S. Please try not to use the internet to find answers the first time round.

>Is Wikileaks righteous ?

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Was the release of information by Wikileaks a good thing or an ignorant effort by amateurs that has endangered lives of Iraqi civilians and coalition troops ?

If it was a good thing, does it highlight the feebleness of the international media in causing so little previous consternation for the Pentagon during the war ? If so what is the point of the current media if they can not bring the truth to the people ?

On the other hand, have the established media been just and considered in their reporting of the war and used only credible and verified reports for their stories, rather than illegally sourced materials ? 

Finally, was the information Wikileaks published really that significant ? All it seems to have done is said that a few more thousand people were killed than had previously been acknowledged.

As per Abu Ghraib, these seem minor trivialities compared to the perversion of democracy in the first place that led to the US led invasion. Should Wikileaks not spend it’s time hacking into the UN servers to discover who the ring leaders for the war were ?

Also, in the bigger picture, where does this leave freedom of speech ? The pentagon classified the information as sensitive but Wikileaks say that the truth needs to be heard. Should Wikileaks be allowed to report whatever it likes ? 

>Why is Israel on my TV news ?

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This question is in the context of why is the media serving us certain dishes over and over.

Do you think that there is any basis for the newsworthiness of a border dispute between two countries that are not European, not economically strong, and not culturally significant to Europe, to be constantly on our TV news ?

Once or twice I could understand, in the same way some African dispute may make the headlines initially. But these African disputes are very quickly consigned to the newsman’s dustbin if there has been no resolution or progress within a short space of time.

On the other hand, the Israeli conflict has been stagnating for decades, and yet almost every night it is on our television as though it was breaking news !

I expect that more than 90 % of the BBC’s viewers do not care for anymore news about Israel, so why do you think British viewers are constantly subjugated to having to hear about it ?

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