alien-character   40

Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language functions such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are typically lateralized to the left hemisphere, especially in right handed individuals.[3] While language production is left-lateralized in up to 90% of right-handers, it is more bilateral, or even right-lateralized, in approximately 50% of left-handers.[4]

Broca's area and Wernicke's area, two areas associated with the production of speech, are located in the left cerebral hemisphere for about 95% of right-handers, but about 70% of left-handers.[5]:69

Auditory and visual processing
The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability are represented bilaterally.[4] Numerical estimation, comparison and online calculation depend on bilateral parietal regions[6][7] while exact calculation and fact retrieval are associated with left parietal regions, perhaps due to their ties to linguistic processing.[6][7]


Depression is linked with a hyperactive right hemisphere, with evidence of selective involvement in "processing negative emotions, pessimistic thoughts and unconstructive thinking styles", as well as vigilance, arousal and self-reflection, and a relatively hypoactive left hemisphere, "specifically involved in processing pleasurable experiences" and "relatively more involved in decision-making processes".

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres:
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded.

The LH is for narrow focus, the explicit, the familiar, the literal, tools, mechanism/machines and the man-made. The broad focus of the RH is necessarily more vague and intuitive and handles the anomalous, novel, metaphorical, the living and organic. The LH is high resolution but narrow, the RH low resolution but broad.

The LH exhibits unrealistic optimism and self-belief. The RH has a tendency towards depression and is much more realistic about a person’s own abilities. LH has trouble following narratives because it has a poor sense of “wholes.” In art it favors flatness, abstract and conceptual art, black and white rather than color, simple geometric shapes and multiple perspectives all shoved together, e.g., cubism. Particularly RH paintings emphasize vistas with great depth of field and thus space and time,[1] emotion, figurative painting and scenes related to the life world. In music, LH likes simple, repetitive rhythms. The RH favors melody, harmony and complex rhythms.


Schizophrenia is a disease of extreme LH emphasis. Since empathy is RH and the ability to notice emotional nuance facially, vocally and bodily expressed, schizophrenics tend to be paranoid and are often convinced that the real people they know have been replaced by robotic imposters. This is at least partly because they lose the ability to intuit what other people are thinking and feeling – hence they seem robotic and suspicious.

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West as well as McGilchrist characterize the West as awash in phenomena associated with an extreme LH emphasis. Spengler argues that Western civilization was originally much more RH (to use McGilchrist’s categories) and that all its most significant artistic (in the broadest sense) achievements were triumphs of RH accentuation.

The RH is where novel experiences and the anomalous are processed and where mathematical, and other, problems are solved. The RH is involved with the natural, the unfamiliar, the unique, emotions, the embodied, music, humor, understanding intonation and emotional nuance of speech, the metaphorical, nuance, and social relations. It has very little speech, but the RH is necessary for processing all the nonlinguistic aspects of speaking, including body language. Understanding what someone means by vocal inflection and facial expressions is an intuitive RH process rather than explicit.


RH is very much the center of lived experience; of the life world with all its depth and richness. The RH is “the master” from the title of McGilchrist’s book. The LH ought to be no more than the emissary; the valued servant of the RH. However, in the last few centuries, the LH, which has tyrannical tendencies, has tried to become the master. The LH is where the ego is predominantly located. In split brain patients where the LH and the RH are surgically divided (this is done sometimes in the case of epileptic patients) one hand will sometimes fight with the other. In one man’s case, one hand would reach out to hug his wife while the other pushed her away. One hand reached for one shirt, the other another shirt. Or a patient will be driving a car and one hand will try to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. In these cases, the “naughty” hand is usually the left hand (RH), while the patient tends to identify herself with the right hand governed by the LH. The two hemispheres have quite different personalities.

The connection between LH and ego can also be seen in the fact that the LH is competitive, contentious, and agonistic. It wants to win. It is the part of you that hates to lose arguments.

Using the metaphor of Chaos and Order, the RH deals with Chaos – the unknown, the unfamiliar, the implicit, the emotional, the dark, danger, mystery. The LH is connected with Order – the known, the familiar, the rule-driven, the explicit, and light of day. Learning something means to take something unfamiliar and making it familiar. Since the RH deals with the novel, it is the problem-solving part. Once understood, the results are dealt with by the LH. When learning a new piece on the piano, the RH is involved. Once mastered, the result becomes a LH affair. The muscle memory developed by repetition is processed by the LH. If errors are made, the activity returns to the RH to figure out what went wrong; the activity is repeated until the correct muscle memory is developed in which case it becomes part of the familiar LH.

Science is an attempt to find Order. It would not be necessary if people lived in an entirely orderly, explicit, known world. The lived context of science implies Chaos. Theories are reductive and simplifying and help to pick out salient features of a phenomenon. They are always partial truths, though some are more partial than others. The alternative to a certain level of reductionism or partialness would be to simply reproduce the world which of course would be both impossible and unproductive. The test for whether a theory is sufficiently non-partial is whether it is fit for purpose and whether it contributes to human flourishing.


Analytic philosophers pride themselves on trying to do away with vagueness. To do so, they tend to jettison context which cannot be brought into fine focus. However, in order to understand things and discern their meaning, it is necessary to have the big picture, the overview, as well as the details. There is no point in having details if the subject does not know what they are details of. Such philosophers also tend to leave themselves out of the picture even when what they are thinking about has reflexive implications. John Locke, for instance, tried to banish the RH from reality. All phenomena having to do with subjective experience he deemed unreal and once remarked about metaphors, a RH phenomenon, that they are “perfect cheats.” Analytic philosophers tend to check the logic of the words on the page and not to think about what those words might say about them. The trick is for them to recognize that they and their theories, which exist in minds, are part of reality too.

The RH test for whether someone actually believes something can be found by examining his actions. If he finds that he must regard his own actions as free, and, in order to get along with other people, must also attribute free will to them and treat them as free agents, then he effectively believes in free will – no matter his LH theoretical commitments.


We do not know the origin of life. We do not know how or even if consciousness can emerge from matter. We do not know the nature of 96% of the matter of the universe. Clearly all these things exist. They can provide the subject matter of theories but they continue to exist as theorizing ceases or theories change. Not knowing how something is possible is irrelevant to its actual existence. An inability to explain something is ultimately neither here nor there.

If thought begins and ends with the LH, then thinking has no content – content being provided by experience (RH), and skepticism and nihilism ensue. The LH spins its wheels self-referentially, never referring back to experience. Theory assumes such primacy that it will simply outlaw experiences and data inconsistent with it; a profoundly wrong-headed approach.


Gödel’s Theorem proves that not everything true can be proven to be true. This means there is an ineradicable role for faith, hope and intuition in every moderately complex human intellectual endeavor. There is no one set of consistent axioms from which all other truths can be derived.

Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem proves that there is no effective procedure for finding effective procedures. Without a mechanical decision procedure, (LH), when it comes to … [more]
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september 2018 by nhaliday
Becoming a Man - Quillette
written by William Buckner

“In the puberty rites, the novices are made aware of the sacred value of food and assume the adult condition; that is, they no longer depend on their mothers and on the labor of others for nourishment. Initiation, then, is equivalent to a revelation of the sacred, of death, sexuality, and the struggle for food. Only after having acquired these dimensions of human existence does one become truly a man.” – Mircea Eliade, Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth, 1958

“To be a man in most of the societies we have looked at, one must impregnate women, protect dependents from danger, and provision kith and kin.” – David D. Gilmore, Manhood in the Making, 1990

“Keep your head clear and know how to suffer like a man.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, 1952

There are commonalities of human behavior that extend beyond any geographic or cultural boundary. Every known society has a sexual division of labor – many facets of which are ubiquitous the world over. Some activities are universally considered to be primarily, or exclusively, the responsibility of men, such as hunting large mammals, metalworking, and warfare. Other activities, such as caregiving, cooking, and preparing vegetable foods, are nearly always considered primarily the responsibility of women.


Across vastly different societies, with very dissimilar political systems, it is often similar sets of skills that are considered desirable for their (predominately male) leaders. A man can gain status through displays of key talents; through his ability to persuade; by developing and maintaining important social relationships; and by solving difficult problems. In his classic paper on the political systems of ‘egalitarian’ small-scale societies, anthropologist Christopher Boehm writes, “a good leader seems to be generous, brave in combat, wise in making subsistence or military decisions, apt at resolving intragroup conflicts, a good speaker, fair, impartial, tactful, reliable, and morally upright.” In his study on the Mardu hunter-gatherers of Australia, anthropologist Robert Tonkinson wrote that the highest status was given to the “cooks,” which is the title given to “the older men who prepare the many different ceremonial feasts, act as advisors and directors of most rituals (and perform the most important “big” dances), and are guardians of the caches of sacred objects.”

Anthropologist Paul Roscoe writes that some of the important skills of ‘Big Men’ in New Guinea horticulturist societies are, “courage and proficiency in war or hunting; talented oratory; ability in mediation and organization; a gift for singing, dancing, wood carving, and/or graphic artistry; the ability to transact pigs and wealth; ritual expertise; and so on.” In the volume Cooperation and Collective Action (2012), Roscoe notes further that the traits that distinguish a ‘Big Man’ are “his skills in…conflict resolution; his charisma, diplomacy, ability to plan, industriousness, and intelligence” and “his abilities in political manipulation.” In their paper on ‘The Big Man Mechanism,’ anthropologist Joseph Henrich and his colleagues describe the common pathways to status found across cultures, noting that, “In small-scale societies, the domains associated with prestige include hunting, oratory, shamanic knowledge and combat.”


In his book How Can I Get Through To You? (2002), author Terrence Real describes visiting a remote village of Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania. Real asked the village elders (all male) what makes a good warrior and a good man. After a vibrant discussion, one of the oldest males stood up and told Real;

I refuse to tell you what makes a good morani [warrior]. But I will tell you what makes a great morani. When the moment calls for fierceness a good morani is very ferocious. And when the moment calls for kindness, a good morani is utterly tender. Now, what makes a great morani is knowing which moment is which! (Real, 64)

This quote is also favorably cited by feminist author bell hooks in her book The Will to Change (2004). While hooks and Real offer perspectives quite different from my approach here, the words of the Massai elder illustrate an ideal conception of masculinity that may appeal to many people of diverse ideologies and cultural backgrounds. A great warrior, a great man, is discerning – not needlessly hostile nor chronically deferential, he instead recognizes the responsibilities of both defending, and caring for, his friends and family.


As anthropologist David G. Gilmore notes in Manhood in the Making, exhortations such as “be a man” are common across societies throughout the world. Such remarks represent the recognition that being a man came with a set of duties and responsibilities. If men failed to stay cool under pressure in the midst of hunting or warfare, and thus failed to provide for, or protect, their families and allies, this would have been devastating to their societies.

Throughout our evolutionary history, the cultures that had a sexual division of labor, and socialized males to help provide for and protect the group, would have had a better chance at survival, and would have outcompeted those societies that failed to instill such values.

Some would argue, quite reasonably, that in contemporary, industrialized, democratic societies, values associated with hunting and warfare are outmoded. Gilmore writes that, “So long as there are battles to be fought, wars to be won, heights to be scaled, hard work to be done, some of us will have to “act like men.”” Yet the challenges of modern societies for most people are often very different from those that occurred throughout much of our history.

Still, some common components of the traditional, idealized masculine identity I describe here may continue to be useful in the modern era, such as providing essential resources for the next generation of children, solving social conflicts, cultivating useful, practical skills, and obtaining socially valuable knowledge. Obviously, these traits are not, and need not be, restricted to men. But when it comes to teaching the next generation of young males what socially responsible masculinity looks like, it might be worth keeping these historical contributions in mind. Not as a standard that one should necessarily feel unduly pressured by, but as a set of productive goals and aspirations that can aid in personal development and social enrichment.

The Behavioral Ecology of Male Violence:

“Aggressive competition for access to mates is much
more beneficial for human males than for females…”
~Georgiev et al. 1


To understand why this pattern is so consistent across a wide variety of culturally and geographically diverse societies, we need to start by looking at sex differences in reproductive biology.

Biologically, individuals that produce small, relatively mobile gametes (sex cells), such as sperm or pollen, are defined as male, while individuals that produce larger, less mobile gametes, such as eggs or ovules, are defined as female. Consequently, males tend to have more variance in reproductive success than females, and a greater potential reproductive output. Emperor of Morocco, Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty (1672–1727) was estimated to have fathered 1171 children from 500 women over the course of 32 years,6 while the maximum recorded number of offspring for a woman is 69, attributed to an unnamed 18th century Russian woman married to a man named Feodor Vassilyev.


Across a wide variety of taxa, the sex that produces smaller, mobile gametes tends to invest less in parental care than the sex that produces larger, less mobile gametes. For over 90 percent of mammalian species, male investment in their offspring ends at conception, and they provide no parental care thereafter.7 A male mammal can often increase his reproductive success by seeking to maximize mating opportunities with females, and engaging in violent competition with rival males to do so. From a fitness perspective, it may be wasteful for a male to provide parental care, as it limits his reproductive output by reducing the time and energy he spends competing for mates.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
'No Man is an Island' - John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Olde English Version
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI:

A new recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialist:
Our rough guess is that it would be useful for there to be at least ten people in the community with good knowledge in this area within the next few years.

By “good knowledge” we mean they’ve spent at least 3 years studying these topics and/or living in China.

We chose ten because that would be enough for several people to cover each of the major areas listed (e.g. 4 within AI, 2 within biorisk, 2 within foreign relations, 1 in another area).

AI Policy and Governance Internship:
Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

Europe’s AI delusion:
Brussels is failing to grasp threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence.

When the computer program AlphaGo beat the Chinese professional Go player Ke Jie in a three-part match, it didn’t take long for Beijing to realize the implications.

If algorithms can already surpass the abilities of a master Go player, it can’t be long before they will be similarly supreme in the activity to which the classic board game has always been compared: war.

As I’ve written before, the great conflict of our time is about who can control the next wave of technological development: the widespread application of artificial intelligence in the economic and military spheres.


If China’s ambitions sound plausible, that’s because the country’s achievements in deep learning are so impressive already. After Microsoft announced that its speech recognition software surpassed human-level language recognition in October 2016, Andrew Ng, then head of research at Baidu, tweeted: “We had surpassed human-level Chinese recognition in 2015; happy to see Microsoft also get there for English less than a year later.”


One obvious advantage China enjoys is access to almost unlimited pools of data. The machine-learning technologies boosting the current wave of AI expansion are as good as the amount of data they can use. That could be the number of people driving cars, photos labeled on the internet or voice samples for translation apps. With 700 or 800 million Chinese internet users and fewer data protection rules, China is as rich in data as the Gulf States are in oil.

How can Europe and the United States compete? They will have to be commensurately better in developing algorithms and computer power. Sadly, Europe is falling behind in these areas as well.


Chinese commentators have embraced the idea of a coming singularity: the moment when AI surpasses human ability. At that point a number of interesting things happen. First, future AI development will be conducted by AI itself, creating exponential feedback loops. Second, humans will become useless for waging war. At that point, the human mind will be unable to keep pace with robotized warfare. With advanced image recognition, data analytics, prediction systems, military brain science and unmanned systems, devastating wars might be waged and won in a matter of minutes.


The argument in the new strategy is fully defensive. It first considers how AI raises new threats and then goes on to discuss the opportunities. The EU and Chinese strategies follow opposite logics. Already on its second page, the text frets about the legal and ethical problems raised by AI and discusses the “legitimate concerns” the technology generates.

The EU’s strategy is organized around three concerns: the need to boost Europe’s AI capacity, ethical issues and social challenges. Unfortunately, even the first dimension quickly turns out to be about “European values” and the need to place “the human” at the center of AI — forgetting that the first word in AI is not “human” but “artificial.”
US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

US military: "But... maybe just a computer vision app."

US AI researchers: "NO."
AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
The Roman Virtues
These are the qualities of life to which every citizen should aspire. They are the heart of the Via Romana--the Roman Way--and are thought to be those qualities which gave the Roman Republic the moral strength to conquer and civilize the world:
Auctoritas--"Spiritual Authority": The sense of one's social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
Comitas--"Humor": Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Clementia--"Mercy": Mildness and gentleness.
Dignitas--"Dignity": A sense of self-worth, personal pride.
Firmitas--"Tenacity": Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one's purpose.
Frugalitas--"Frugalness": Economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly.
Gravitas--"Gravity": A sense of the importance of the matter at hand, responsibility and earnestness.
Honestas--"Respectibility": The image that one presents as a respectable member of society.
Humanitas--"Humanity": Refinement, civilization, learning, and being cultured.
Industria--"Industriousness": Hard work.
Pietas--"Dutifulness": More than religious piety; a respect for the natural order socially, politically, and religiously. Includes the ideas of patriotism and devotion to others.
Prudentia--"Prudence": Foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
Salubritas--"Wholesomeness": Health and cleanliness.
Severitas--"Sternness": Gravity, self-control.
Veritas--"Truthfulness": Honesty in dealing with others.

"FIDES" is often (and wrongly) translated 'faith', but it has nothing to do with the word as used by Christians writing in Latin about the Christian virute (St. Paul Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13). For the Romans, FIDES was an essential element in the character of a man of public affairs, and a necessary constituent element of all social and political transactions (perhaps = 'good faith'). FIDES meant 'reliablilty', a sense of trust between two parties if a relationship between them was to exist. FIDES was always reciprocal and mutual, and implied both privileges and responsibilities on both sides. In both public and private life the violation of FIDES was considered a serious matter, with both legal and religious consequences. FIDES, in fact, was one of the first of the 'virtues' to be considered an actual divinity at Rome. The Romans had a saying, "Punica fides" (the reliability of a Carthaginian) which for them represented the highest degree of treachery: the word of a Carthaginian (like Hannibal) was not to be trusted, nor could a Carthaginian be relied on to maintain his political elationships.

Some relationships governed by fides:

VIRTUS, for the Roman, does not carry the same overtones as the Christian 'virtue'. But like the Greek andreia, VIRTUS has a primary meaning of 'acting like a man' (vir) [cf. the Renaissance virtù ), and for the Romans this meant first and foremost 'acting like a brave man in military matters'. virtus was to be found in the context of 'outstanding deeds' (egregia facinora), and brave deeds were the accomplishments which brought GLORIA ('a reputation'). This GLORIA was attached to two ideas: FAMA ('what people think of you') and dignitas ('one's standing in the community'). The struggle for VIRTUS at Rome was above all a struggle for public office (honos), since it was through high office, to which one was elected by the People, that a man could best show hi smanliness which led to military achievement--which would lead in turn to a reputation and votes. It was the duty of every aristocrat (and would-be aristocrat) to maintain the dignitas which his family had already achieved and to extend it to the greatest possible degree (through higher political office and military victories). This system resulted in a strong built-in impetus in Roman society to engage in military expansion and conquest at all times.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The idea of empire in the "Aeneid" on JSTOR
Let's see...Aeneid, Book VI, ll. 851-853:

tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere morem,
parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.'

Which Dryden translated as:
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee."

If you wanted a literal translation,
"You, Roman, remember to rule people by command
(these were arts to you), and impose the custom to peace,
to spare the subjected and to vanquish the proud."

I don't want to derail your thread but pacique imponere morem -- "to impose the custom to peace"
Does it mean "be the toughest kid on the block," as in Pax Romana?


That 17th century one is a loose translation indeed. Myself I'd put it as

"Remember to rule over (all) the (world's) races by means of your sovereignty, oh Roman, (for indeed) you (alone) shall have the means (to do so), and to inculcate the habit of peace, and to have mercy on the enslaved and to destroy the arrogant."
And thou, great hero, greatest of thy name,
Ordain'd in war to save the sinking state,
And, by delays, to put a stop to fate!
Let others better mold the running mass
Of metals, and inform the breathing brass,
And soften into flesh a marble face;
Plead better at the bar; describe the skies,
And when the stars descend, and when they rise.
But, Rome, 't is thine alone, with awful sway,
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee."
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Comparative Litigation Rates
We suggest that the notoriety of the U.S. does not result from the way citizens and judges handle routine disputes, which (different as it may be in developing countries) is not very different from in other wealthy, democratic societies,. Instead, American notoriety results from the peculiarly dysfunctional way judges handle disputes in discrete legal areas such as class actions and punitive damages
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Religious persecution in the Roman Empire:
The religion of the Christians and Jews was monotheistic in contrast to the polytheism of the Romans.[16] The Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire. This being so, they were generally tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.[17] This general tolerance was not extended to religions that were hostile to the state nor any that claimed exclusive rights to religious beliefs and practice.[17]

By its very nature the exclusive faith of the Jews and Christians set them apart from other people, but whereas the former group was in the main contained within a single national, ethnic grouping, in the Holy Land and Jewish diaspora—the non-Jewish adherents of the sect such as Proselytes and God-fearers being considered negligible—the latter was active and successful in seeking converts for the new religion and made universal claims not limited to a single geographical area.[17] Whereas the Masoretic Text, of which the earliest surviving copy dates from the 9th century AD, teaches that "the Gods of the gentiles are nothing", the corresponding passage in the Greek Septuagint, used by the early Christian Church, asserted that "all the gods of the heathens are devils."[18] The same gods whom the Romans believed had protected and blessed their city and its wider empire during the many centuries they had been worshipped were now demonized[19] by the early Christian Church.[20][21]

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire:
"The exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar's claims to his own exclusive sovereignty."[4]:87 The Roman empire practiced religious syncretism and did not demand loyalty to one god, but they did demand preeminent loyalty to the state, and this was expected to be demonstrated through the practices of the state religion with numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.[6]:84-90[7] The nature of Christian monotheism prevented Christians from participating in anything involving 'other gods'.[8]:60 Christians did not participate in feast days or processionals or offer sacrifices or light incense to the gods; this produced hostility.[9] They refused to offer incense to the Roman emperor, and in the minds of the people, the "emperor, when viewed as a god, was ... the embodiment of the Roman empire"[10], so Christians were seen as disloyal to both.[4]:87[11]:23 In Rome, "religion could be tolerated only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state" which would "brook no rival for the allegiance of its subjects. The state was the highest good in a union of state and religion."[4]:87 In Christian monotheism the state was not the highest good.[4]:87[8]:60


According to the Christian apologist Tertullian, some governors in Africa helped accused Christians secure acquittals or refused to bring them to trial.[15]:117 Overall, Roman governors were more interested in making apostates than martyrs: one proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, when confronted with a group of voluntary martyrs during one of his assize tours, sent a few to be executed and snapped at the rest, "If you want to die, you wretches, you can use ropes or precipices."[15]:137


Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Roman religion revolved around public ceremonies and sacrifices; personal belief was not as central an element as it is in many modern faiths. Thus while the private beliefs of Christians may have been largely immaterial to many Roman elites, this public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political well-being of both the local community and the empire as a whole. Honoring tradition in the right way — pietas — was key to stability and success.[25]
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Blind men and an elephant - Wikipedia
A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable". So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said "This being is like a thick snake". For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, "elephant is a wall". Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Language Log: French syntax is (in)corruptible
One of the most striking ideologies of linguistic uniqueness is the belief that French exactly mirrors the inner language of logical thought. A few minutes of research led me to the conclusion that the source of this meme, or at least its earliest example, is an essay by Antoine de Rivarol, "L'Universalité de la langue française". In 1783, the Berlin Academy held a competition for essays on the subject of the widespread usage of French, and its prospects for continuing as the lingua franca of European intellectuals. Apparently nine submissions argued that French would continue; nine that it would be replaced by German; and one that Russian would win out. (English got no votes.) Antoine de Rivarol shared the prize with Johann Christoph Schwab.

De Rivarol's essay is the source of the often-quoted phrase Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas français ("What is not clear is not French"). My (doubtless faulty) translation of the relevant passage is below the jump.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Halsey’s Typhoon | West Hunter
Halsey fucked up, repeatedly. It’s obvious even to fictional characters, like Marko Ramius in The Hunt For Red October. If not for pressure from the top, Halsey would have been relieved. But Nimitz had reasons for sparing him. Not ones I agree with, but reasons. Halsey was an important symbol of the Navy to the general public, and it was thought that letting it all hang out would hurt the Navy in the expected budgetary fights after the war. And to be fair, Halsey wasn’t a traitor or anything: he was just dumb. Or, as a kinder person than I once said, by 1944, the war had become too complicated for Halsey.

Christ, they gave Halsey five stars, more than Spruance.

Problem is, this seems to be standard policy. Once you soar above a certain level, you never get punished for fucking up. Mangle a major company (like HP) and they whip you with hundred dollar bills – your failure is the stepping stone to a Presidential campaign. Invade the wrong country, turn another into an anarchic sand pile, misread the Soviet Union as the coming thing – you have foreign policy ‘experience’. Reminds me of an 11 year old’s definition of experience – what you have after you’ve forgotten her name..
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Bridge: 数字化 – 网络化 – 智能化: China’s Quest for an AI Revolution in Warfare
The PLA’s organizational tendencies could render it more inclined to take full advantage of the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence, without constraints due to concerns about keeping humans ‘in the loop.’ In its command culture, the PLA has tended to consolidate and centralize authorities at higher levels, remaining reluctant to delegate decision-making downward. The introduction of information technology has exacerbated the tendency of PLA commanders to micromanage subordinates through a practice known as “skip-echelon command” (越级指挥) that enables the circumvention of command bureaucracy to influence units and weapons systems at even a tactical level.[xxviii] This practice can be symptomatic of a culture of distrust and bureaucratic immaturity. The PLA has confronted and started to progress in mitigating its underlying human resource challenges, recruiting increasingly educated officers and enlisted personnel, while seeking to modernize and enhance political and ideological work aimed to ensure loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. However, the employment of artificial intelligence could appeal to the PLA as a way to circumvent and work around those persistent issues. In the long term, the intersection of the PLA’s focus on ‘scientific’ approaches to warfare with the preference to consolidate and centralize decision-making could cause the PLA’s leadership to rely more upon artificial intelligence, rather than human judgment.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Hubris - Wikipedia
Hubris (/ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις) describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence.[1] In its ancient Greek context, it typically describes behavior that defies the norms of behavior or challenges the gods, and which in turn brings about the downfall, or nemesis, of the perpetrator of hubris.


In ancient Greek, hubris referred to actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser.[3] The term had a strong sexual connotation, and the shame reflected upon the perpetrator as well.[4]

Violations of the law against hubris included what might today be termed assault and battery; sexual crimes; or the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Greece. These two examples occurred when first Midias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theatre (Against Midias), and second when (in Against Conon) a defendant allegedly assaulted a man and crowed over the victim. Yet another example of hubris appears in Aeschines' Against Timarchus, where the defendant, Timarchus, is accused of breaking the law of hubris by submitting himself to prostitution and anal intercourse. Aeschines brought this suit against Timarchus to bar him from the rights of political office and his case succeeded.[5]

In ancient Athens, hubris was defined as the use of violence to shame the victim (this sense of hubris could also characterize rape[6]). Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, not because of anything that happened to the committer or might happen to the committer, but merely for that committer's own gratification:

to cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: naive men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.[7][8][9]

Crucial to this definition are the ancient Greek concepts of honour (τιμή, timē) and shame (αἰδώς, aidōs). The concept of honour included not only the exaltation of the one receiving honour, but also the shaming of the one overcome by the act of hubris. This concept of honour is akin to a zero-sum game. Rush Rehm simplifies this definition of hubris to the contemporary concept of "insolence, contempt, and excessive violence".[citation needed]


In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride combined with arrogance.[10] Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility. Sometimes a person's hubris is also associated with ignorance. The accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek mythology. The proverb "pride goeth (goes) before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (from the biblical Book of Proverbs, 16:18) is thought to sum up the modern use of hubris. Hubris is also referred to as "pride that blinds" because it often causes a committer of hubris to act in foolish ways that belie common sense.[11] In other words, the modern definition may be thought of as, "that pride that goes just before the fall."

Examples of hubris are often found in literature, most famously in John Milton's Paradise Lost, 'where Lucifer attempts to force the other angels to worship him, but is cast into hell by God and the innocent angels, and proclaims: "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." Victor in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein manifests hubris in his attempt to become a great scientist by creating life through technological means, but eventually regrets this previous desire. Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus portrays the eponymous character as a scholar whose arrogance and pride compel him to sign a deal with the Devil, and retain his haughtiness until his death and damnation, despite the fact that he could easily have repented had he chosen to do so.

One notable example is the Battle of Little Big Horn, as General George Armstrong Custer was apocryphally reputed to have said there: "Where did all those damned Indians come from?"[12]
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june 2017 by nhaliday

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