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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:54 am 
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(One could argue that humanity isn't exactly humane---humanity is a one word oxymoron.)


What about civilization?


(Plenty of civilizations have gone extinct)


What about individuals?


(I'm reminded of a story of a woman who was walking at the beach throwing starfish back into the sea. A passersby inquired why she was doing this since there was no way she could save all the starfish so it didn't matter. "It matters to this one," she answered.)




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:14 am 

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No. Next question?




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:54 am 
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If two trains start 50 miles apart and approach each other on the same track each going 25mph and a fly flies between them at 40mph starting from the front bumper of the first train and turning around and flying back every time gets to the other train, how far will the fly have flown before it gets squished between the trains?




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:34 am 

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Wow, your second question is complicated. My brain hurts thinking about it. (Edit: ha! You got me!:))


To your first question, I would say yes, it is worth saving, if one can even do that. I read a quote recently, "you can't boil the ocean", but we can take care of our own sides of the street to the best of our ability. Like your starfish quote.


Here is a quote which has been attributed to Socrates:


"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."


Just like kids today have no attention span, text too much, are addicted to Facebook, etc. So it's cycles, no? Nothing new under the sun, as Solomon said.


There are bats that live in their caves. Then there are these cockroaches that live in those caves and survive on the bat guano. A completely parasitic existence these cockroaches have, only surviving from the bat dung. In nature there is room for a lot of chicanery, tomfoolery, and all kinds of variations, cycles, etc..


Right?




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:40 am 
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Assuming constant speeds and instantaneous turnarounds, the fly will travel 211,200 feet. (40 miles)


(it will take one hour for the two trains to meet in the middle and hit the fly, which will be moving at 40mph for that hour)




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:45 am 

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Does humanity need saving? Granted we have our problems, but I'm not sure that we're at the point of needing a huge rescue.




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:30 am 
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I'm worth saving!


Don't throw me in the ocean though.




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:54 pm 
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How long is a piece of string?


http://www.generalsemantics.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/gs-for-children-by-martin-h-levinson.pdf




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:01 pm 
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I'm with Mike!


I read an anecdote once -- it may be apocryphal -- that John von Neumann solved that math problem in his head by creating a series and calculating its sum, as opposed to determining time to crash and multiplying by fly's speed.




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:39 pm 

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"What about individuals?"


I think you can only say no to this question if you are willing and able to sacrifice yourself and your closest friends and family.


Conveniently suggesting the sacrifice of"others" is morally wrong.




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:49 pm 

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People don’t have the power to save themselves, much less others. But from the divine point of view, the answers are somewhat mixed:


The first big NO to the question still saved Noah and family, i.e., individuals. And there is no record of any starfish so much as lifting one of its pointy little arms to help.


For the second NO, Abraham bargained God down to 10 righteous people but Sodom and Gomorrah couldn’t meet terms.


In Jewish tradition, there are always 36 righteous people alive and hidden in the world (I think a mystical number) who’s existence keep it from being destroyed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim


I suspect that this question of humanity's value is more likely to surface when one moves to a large city; much more empirical evidence becomes available : )




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:59 pm 
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I find it interesting that in the eastern religions, sages, upon reaching enlightenment, mostly seem to retract into the mountains and become hermits. Maybe they're onto something ...


The stoic approach is somewhat similar: live and let live.


The recently, I [re]found http://longnow.org/ ... now I gotta ask; what's the ultimate point in considering whatever happens far in the future? I grant that there's some advantage to the future in the present considering the future ... but there's little advantage to the present (per se)... So is this another genetic trap that causes altruism?


Also, there seems to be a difference founded in personality whether to consider "your own street" or something abstract "like humanity".


It's tricky ...




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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:43 pm 

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Well, I could go on and wax eloquently about the lamed vov, the difference between the Chassidim and Mithnagdim (Yin and Yang, ascetic and worldly), Ethics of our Fathers chapter six: "Such is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, water in small measure you shall drink, and upon the ground you shall sleep; live a life of deprivation and toil in Torah. If so you do, "fortunate are you, and good is to you" (Psalms 128:2): fortunate are you in this world, and it is good to you in the World To Come.", and whether or not I think PEP could continue to manufacture their products if they run out of oil as fuel.


But I need to grade and lesson plan, so I'll say this: Jacob, if my implication is correct and you have any ideas about how to save or help humanity, I urge you to pursue them. You are a genius and your ability to synthesize numerous studies and concepts into your ERE book is profound. Have at it, you have my blessing and encouragement. If humanity is your own side of the street, do it.


longnow.com remind me of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series...A nice if not quaint idea. Stirs the imagination, might be donation-bait.


I too was reminded of God's question to Abraham regarding Sodom though:)




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:00 am 

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@ Jacob - You might be interested in reading 'The Origins of Virtue' by Matt Ridley. He looks at the genetics behind human behaviour, why humans are both selfish and selfless, cooperative and conflicting. Its a pretty fascinating read.


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Origins-Virtue-Penguin-Press-Science/dp/0140244042/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5#_




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:36 am 

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To pour some vinegar into the soup, see Ralph Adams Cram's 1932 essay titled "Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings"

http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~ckank/FultonsLair/013/nock/cram.html


Cram essentially argues that we don't behave like human beings because we aren't; human beings being an artifically constructed category formed of imaginary reconstructions of various historical figures and events. A dispiriting point of view to say the least.




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:36 am 

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Are you worth saving?


I'm with mikeBOS on this one.


A brush with death, whether it be through war, crime, accident or diease, tends to form an incontrovertible mindset with most people.


"Dream like you'll live forever, but live each moment as if it's your last."


Civilization is made of individuals.




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:44 am 

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Being human, I want to preserve my species. It's a biological imperative or something.


Civilization, by definition (a network of cities large enough to require the importation of resources) leads to population overshoot and resource scarcity.


If we're gonna have humans, we gotta ditch civilization.




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:36 pm 
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I don't think we can answer this question from dusty century old texts.


I would sugget that the answer might change depending on what fulcrum events are going on at any given time. When the "good guys" are fire bombing Dresden in 1945 that might suggest a poor future. But, maybe, that level of destruction was a peak and has bettered humanity in a slight way.


The major powers have not fought a war like that in over 60 years. This kind of restraint is hard to find in history. While, there have obviously been dumb wars and atrocities by the major powers in that time frame, there also has been obvious restraint in these conflicts.


Another potential argument is the slow march of progress with slavery. Yes, it still exists, but on a much smaller scale as each year passes (yes, there are always events that cause an uptick, but the overall trend is what matters).


The amount of charity towards poor countries also suggests humanity is improving. Who in 1850 was willing to give resources to a poor country such as Ethiopia? No one.


I'm not suggeting humans are perfect or will remain on the current "good" arc of improvement we are on, but it at least gives a glimour of hope.


Admitedly, the current fulcrum event of cheap energy/climate change could cause a bad backslide, but it could also force further good to occur if the right decisions are made. It's kind of race to see if the good or evil viewpoint truimphs this time.




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:57 pm 

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@Jacob,


Actually Christianity, both Eastern and Western, had both in the past and present, an eremetic tradition. The Carthusian, Camaldolese, Carmelite and Cistercians are still going strong after a thousand years. I think the hermit life, or even the cenobitic life, offers much to modern humanity.


djc




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:23 pm 

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Don't know about "humanity" but my own butt is definitely worth saving to me. Heck, would even be happy to save a few others while I am at it ;-)


Regarding the fly...40 miles if speed of fly is relative to the ground..65miles if speed of fly is 40mph relative to the train. But since this is likely a super accelerating (@100mph/h) ERE type fly..the total distance traveled would be (40x1)+(0.5x100x1x1) = 90 miles.


But then just before the moment of final impact the fly makes an instantaneous 90 degree turn and avoids being killed.


Are flies worth saving? :-)




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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:23 pm 
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I can take the 100 - 200 people I can say anything meaningful about and overgeneralize it to over 7 billion people, add a bit of prejudice and dry theories I learned about history and psychology and give you some sort of unfounded guess, I suppose.


Given the lack of foundation for any condemnation of mankind, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.




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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:52 am 

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There's an important distinction to be made.


Do I want to be saved? Hell yes.


Do I deserve to be saved? I'm not so sure. It's like asking a serial killer facing death row if he deserves to die or not, or if a CEO of a bankrupted company deserves a $50 million golden parachute. You'll pretty much get the same answer, because they're really saying what they want, and not what they deserve.




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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:02 pm 

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@Jacob,

Too much time to spare? Is your submitted algorithm job for a trading strategy taking too long to finish? ;-)


> I find it interesting that in the eastern

> religions, sages, upon reaching enlightenment,

> mostly seem to retract into the mountains

> and become hermits. Maybe they're onto something ...


Yes, they were definitely onto something. I am glad you discovered it by yourself :-)


@Chad,

+1 for the most original and vainglorious (in a nice way?) answer.


@mikeBOS,

Never at a loss for words, are we? :-)


@secretwealth,

I liked your thoughts on this topic, the best of all.


I come from an "eastern religion" background so my usual response is to go and flip some hoary old texts. I found this:



Paritranaya sadhunam, vinashaya cha dushkritam |

Dharma sansthapanarthaya, sambhavami yuge yuge ||

(The Bhagavad Gita)


For the up-liftment of the good and virtuous,

For the destruction of evil |

For the re-establishment of the natural law,

I will return in every age ||



A secular interpretation of that verse, without violating the overall meaning is that "when there is an imbalance, the Universe will send out an appropriate mechanism to balance it".


According to vedas (watch Carl Sagan's "cosmos" for a discussion on their validity and authenticity), humanity is meant to go on for a long time (I am skipping the details). One of the things the vedic texts also elaborate is that the age of abundance is definitely not going to be there (I am skipping the details) -- moving forward. Overall, with the onset of peak oil, desertification, deforestation, la ninas and el ninos, AGW (climate change), resource depletion, and all other human generated excesses, I can see that the texts got our future trajectory right a looooooooooooooong time ago.




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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:33 pm 
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Eh, i'm starting to negotiate a house in the mountains right now...




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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:45 pm 

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In general, the question of saving humanity runs aground on Dunbar's number. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number


Some of those 19,000 followers on Twitter may "friend" you on Facebook, but they probably aren't willing to save you from drowning or share their home and food with you in a post-Katrina scenario.


For myself, I confess that I stopped listening regularly to BBC Radio because I developed compassion fatique over the relentless nightly story about the African tragedy du jour. As a former monk, the urge to head to the desert hermitage [Western tradition c. 4th century A.D.] is always a temptation. My personal Dunbar number is probably much lower than 150 people.




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