Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Citation Needed

  • There appears to be a widespread belief that bloggers should refrain from making wild guesses about general public opinion.
  • A new study confirms this belief and proposes that blog articles should always refer to proper research and include full citations.
  • The authors recently demonstrated that citations are especially useful while referring to the latest research.
  • The citations might as well be probably useful while making suggestions that are likely to be somewhat vague.
  • Trivial remarks, of course, do not need a citation (Iry-Hor 3100 BCE).
  • As a popular example of citation etiquette, the authors point to Wikipedia—a relatively unknown encyclopedia available on computers connected to the Internet.
  • The study is consistent with more than six years of research which has shown that authors who do not provide citations are unaware of more than six years of research.
  • I sincerely hope that the authors’ names are forever remembered for their important contribution.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Facebook is No Trifle

In a Wall Street Journal article “Why Our Innovators Traffic in Trifles”, Nicholas Carr claims that Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are examples of “innovation’s turn toward the trifling”. The evidence, he says, is that such technologies are merely “altering internal states, transforming the invisible self or its bodily container.” Truly big inventions, according to Carr, are directed “outward” and pertain to “changing the shape of the physical world” or of “society”.

While it is true that Facebook is about information and ideas, and steam engines—which Carr puts in the second category—are about machinery, it does not follow however that the former are inherently less valuable than the latter. Contrary to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which Carr invokes, man cannot fulfill even his “primitive physiological requirements” without “self-actualization”. Imitating Boromir, One Does Not Simply Reshape the Physical World. Knowledge is a necessary precondition to action; and Facebook is essentially a tool to disseminate and obtain knowledge.

Historically, it has been inventions such as phonetic language, paper, and Guttenberg press that have served man’s “desire for self-expression and self-promotion”—a desire that Carr finds to be “small” and presumably not noble enough when being fulfilled by Facebook. Yet he could not honestly label the ancestral “complex systems of communication” as trifling, and rationalizes by characterizing those as being “outward” directed, by which he means "selfless". And selfless is exactly what their inventors and users were not. It does not make any difference whether you declare “what’s on your mind” on a remote retina display or a papyrus. Both are acts of “self-expression and self-promotion”. The same goes for the steam engine: there is nothing selfless about creating a powerful machine that reduces your physical labor.

Carr’s harmless-sounding call to “enlarge our aspirations” is a deceptive cover for his call to murder the self—the only entity with the capacity to aspire. Our ancestors had to selfishly choose to lift themselves from the caves. And that makes them big, not “small”.

A steam engine or Facebook can both serve the self. Either technology can be more valuable to a man than the other. The body and mind are integrated; there is no dichotomy between “tools of survival and tools of the self.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ATLOSCon 2012: The Method of Invention

I will be presenting a talk on The Method of Invention at ATLOSCon 2012.

Here is the description:
Did the greatest inventors in history succeed by chance, intuition, or indiscriminate and arbitrary experimentation, as is commonly alleged? Or, did they ask and answer the right questions, and seek the relevant facts? Drawing upon the history of steam engine—the invention that powered the industrial revolution—Atul Kapur will present his hypothesis that each invention requires the identification and integration of three specific and distinct causal relationships, which he terms as “aberrational”, “essential”, and “differential”. James Watt, as well as his predecessors, will each be shown to have sought and successfully identified these three relationships. The topics to be discussed include: the relationship between discoveries, inventions, and concept-formation; the difference between invention and innovation; the crucial role and difficulty of experimentation; and why even the proper use of inventive method does not guarantee success. The lecture will end with an audience-driven discussion on the importance of reinstating the heroic status of inventors as a part of our cultural battle, and a note on why that requires untangling and demystifying the inventive method.
[Slightly modified from original]

The conference will take place May 24-28, 2012 in Atlanta, GA.

Click here to view the information on all classes and speakers. The registration is still open. And, it costs $75 or less!

Further information:
ATLOSCon is an annual conference organized by the Atlanta Objectivist Society (ATLOS).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Objectivist Round Up

Welcome to the 245th edition of the Objectivist Round Up—a weekly selection of posts by bloggers who have adopted Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. It is for the first time that Wit Lab is hosting the Round Up.

This week's selection is rich in politics. Ayn Rand emphasized that politics is not a self-contained discipline. She wrote:
Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics—on a theory of man’s nature and of man’s relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice. When, however, men attempt to rush into politics without such a base, the result is that embarrassing conglomeration of impotence, futility, inconsistency and superficiality which is loosely designated today as “conservatism.” Objectivists are not “conservatives.” We are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish.
“Choose Your Issues,” The Objectivist Newsletter, Jan. 1962, 1
Now we are ready for the content from our bloggers. Here we go:

Roderick Fitts presents Induction of the Principle of Individual Rights (Founding Fathers) posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "In this post, I will explore the facts, assumptions, inductions, and conclusions of the Founding Fathers used or had to know to create their new theory of individual rights, and applied it to the new American nation!"

Darius Cooper presents How Much Social Security Will you Receive posted at Practice Good Theorysaying, "I make a best guess about how Social Security will turn out, and how much you will receive".

Kelly M. Valenzuela presents Famous Immigrant of the Week - Mikhail Baryshnikov posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, "I feature a famous immigrant each Friday, but I particularly love this one.  The video is just a sampling of the dazzling athleticism and artistry Baryshnikov is known for.  I also love how he defected from the cruel and evil Soviet Union to become a proud, productive American citizen."

Paul Hsieh presents Should You Trust Practice Guidelines? posted at We Stand FIRM blog, saying, "Here's why you shouldn't trust medical "practice guidelines" under ObamaCare."

Brian Phillips presents Social Problems and the Solution posted at Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, saying, "Today, the typical response to any social problem, such as education or energy production, is more government intervention. However, there was a time when individuals were free to address such issues voluntarily."

Jenn Casey presents ATLOSCon 2012 Speakers and Classes posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "We have a fantastic line up of speakers and classes for our conference! We hope you'll join us in Atlanta from May 24-28."

Jon Glatfelter presents Affirmative Action: A Solution to Racism—Or its Symptom? posted at The Undercurrent. About the post: "Jon Glatfelter explores affirmative action's deeper implications and motives."

Josh Windham presents Nobody Deserves Egalitarianism posted at The Undercurrent. About the post: "Should all men be afforded certain opportunities? Are we each entitled to our happiness? What does an individual deserve? Josh Windham takes on these questions with this Campus Media Response."

[The entries are listed in the order they were received.]

That concludes the edition. If you liked it, you may want to "Like" the Facebook page of the Objectivist Round Up as well. If you are an Objectivist interested in submitting posts to the upcoming editions of the Round Up, you will normally be asked to do so through the Blog Carnival. However, since that mechanism is not working, consider joining the OBloggers email list, where you will receive weekly instructions and reminders for posting.