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Musing Four

Musing Four

In my first musing, I stated that I wanted to write at least 500 words twice a month. I posted three articles; then hit a wall. So, nine months later I am ready to try again. The wall I hit was not writer’s block, it was not laziness. It was more an inability to decide how to start. I had read Uncle Bob Martin’s blog article “Prelude to a Profession”. In it he argues that programmers “rule the world.” And as a result, programming should become a profession with a code of ethics. The profession would be managed like the medical, legal and engineering professions.

My first quandary was whether I wanted to write about ethics, ethics as they apply to computer programming or the idea of a professional organization. Fifty plus years ago, I minored in philosophy at USF. I don’t recall ever taking a class focused on ethics. I don’t know if the Jesuits offered one. (No black pope theories, please). So, I embarked on a little pondering and a little reading and decided this is not the forum for that type of discussion.

Also, in my 30 plus years as an IT professional, I have been a member of several organizations that propounded a code of ethics (Network Professional Association, Independent Computer Consultants Association, Association for Computing Machinery). I am not averse to ethical standards for the industry. And I don’t believe anything I authored would be any better than theirs.

So, I began to think about Martin’s proposal that programming become a “managed” (my term) profession with an organization like the AMA or the American Bar Association that needs government approval to attain its membership. I saw two issues with that:

First, coding is a creative act. Anyone with a device and a knowledge of that device’s language can code. Think of it as the authoring of a document. If an individual understands a language and has a medium within which to express that language (paper and pencil, stylus and clay tablet), then he/she can express his/her thoughts. Governments might try to suppress publication of the writings; but no organization exists that licenses creativity. (Thankfully, for such an organization would stifle it.)

Secondly, coding is global not regional. With the implementation of the Internet, coders linked the world’s nations. With the invention of social media and search engines, they heightened the awareness of much of the world’s population. But coders also hacked the American elections and the Iranian nuclear program. Obviously, nation states use coders to attack each other and to censor their citizens. Google’s dilemma of 2010 with China and their apparent about face in 2018 further indicates that there must be a global code of ethics adhered to by all firms and nations to make Mr. Martin’s “I will produce no harmful code” possible. And global governance is a long way off.

Musing Three

Musing Three

About six years ago my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic and prone to high cholesterol. I took up cycling. My first bike was a crossroads model that I rode over three thousand miles. But, I wanted something lighter; so, I switched to an endurance road bike. While being fitted to the bike, the shop owner noticed I was having trouble clearing the seat with my leg when mounting. He told me I shouldn’t hold the bike upright; but rather should tilt it towards me at about a 60-degree angle. It was a simple fix that I had never thought of. I believed I was doing it the right way all along.

A few months later, I was with a friend who was having the same trouble mounting her bike. This woman was an experienced group rider who had completed a 100-mile ride around Lake Tahoe to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Yet she didn’t know how to climb onto her bike. Once I showed her, she chuckled and said “Why didn’t I think of that?”
I bring this up because we both believed we were doing it right. And, as true believers, we did not question our methods. And this leads me to today’s musings: what are beliefs; are they just opinions or prejudices; are they all reversible; what does it take to reverse them; what makes a belief worthy of martyrdom?

To me, a belief is a construct that has no basis in fact. I may use facts as a foundation for a belief; but the belief itself will have no truth. For example, if I look at the NBA statistics in any given year, I could formulate the belief that the Warriors will win the pennant. The shooting percentages, win-loss records of all the teams could be the foundation for my belief; but the belief is just a belief. If they do win the pennant, it is no longer a belief; but a fact and a reward for my “faith”. If they do not win the pennant, then I can admit that my belief was wrong; or I can justify my belief by accusing the refs or the NBA of foul play.

Since a belief has no basis in fact; it is by its nature reversible. Its contradiction will also have no basis in fact; and be just as contradictable. When it comes to reversing a belief of mine, I, and only I, can do it. But, I have to choose to do so. This can be quite hard. It is easier to say, “the Warriors were cheated” than it is to say, “I was wrong.”

In his book, The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer writes, “The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.” I would argue that to develop our own humanity, we must disagree with ourselves before questioning the beliefs of others. From humility comes tolerance. If we take the time to understand why our belief system works for us, to question every aspect of it, we will be more likely to understand why it might not work for another. And as a result, we might be less likely to commit violence on ourselves or others.

Musing Two

Musing Two

I recently heard a speaker say that thoughts are things. That set me thinking (or maybe “thinging”). Are thoughts really things? If I ask, “What are you thinking?”; and you reply, “Nothing”, are you really saying that your thoughts are not things? Or, are you saying that at that moment you are thinking of no particular thing or that you are not thinking at all? (Is that possible? Another question; perhaps another musing.)

To begin my quest for an answer, I turned to my dictionary, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2nd Edition. It’s over thirty years old; but authoritative enough for my needs. For the word, thought, it provides eight definitions:
1) The act or process of thinking, reflection, meditation; cogitation.
2) The power of reasoning or of conceiving ideas.
3) A result of thinking; idea, concept, opinion, etc.
4) The ideas prevalent at a given time.
5) Attention; consideration.
6) Mental engrossment; preoccupation.
7) Intention or expectation.
8) A little; a trifle.
And for the word, thing, it gives 13:
1) Any matter, circumstance, affair or concern.
2) That which constitutes an end to be achieved.
3) That which is conceived, spoken of, or referred to as existing as an individual, distinguishable entity.
4) Any single entity distinguished from all others.
5) A tangible object as distinguished from a concept, quality, etc.
6) An item, detail, etc.
7) That which is represented as distinguished from the word or symbol that represents it.
8) An inanimate object; any lifeless material or object.
9) A person (as in “poor thing”).
10) An act; a deed; a transaction; a matter; an event; an action; that which is done, or is to be done.
11) Something mentioned but unnamed as in contempt or because the name is not known or remembered.
12) Clothes; personal belongings.
13) In law, that which may be owned.

Nothing in the definition of thought refers to any object; and the fifth definition of thing, excludes thought (a synonym for concept). So according to Noah thought aren’t things. But, Webster on the web states a thought is “something (such as an opinion or belief) in the mind”. Which implies that the “mind” is an object itself. (And that leads to the whole body/mind conundrum which I do not want to tackle.)

My take is that thought is not a thing but an activity. I think and the outcome of that thinking is a thought. Just as if I walk, the result of that activity is travel. So when you ask me “What are you thinking?” and I say “Nothing”, I am merely saying that my thought activity has no desired outcome. I am not applying it to any concept within the context of our mutual exchange. And if I say “I just thought of something.”, it can mean I have been thinking about a particular object which I am not naming. Or it can mean that I have a concept which I am not codifying; but would probably elucidate if asked.

Musing One

Musing One

A little over 50 years ago, I aspired to be a writer. I even submitted a script to MGM for the television series, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. They returned it immediately. I needed an agent. I didn’t know how to get one; writing was hard; college was fun. The next season, or, maybe, two seasons later, I watched an episode that had a premise similar to mine. I didn’t think I had been plagiarized. I just thought, maybe, I should have tried to get an agent.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, I find writing hard work. This is my third attempt at writing a blog. In one of my attempts, I think I completed three posts. So, I am not promising anything. It’s just that in the last month I have lost two friends to brain disease; and my readings indicate challenging the brain with hard work can help maintain its health. Hopefully, regularly attempting to put down thought on paper (electronic media) will exercise my grey matter.

At this point I have no goal other than to try to post at least twice a month and to have each post stretch to a minimum of five hundred words. I am not expecting a following or that anyone other than myself will read these words. I post them because WordPress has been sending me repeated reminders to update my blog.

Secondly, I have been thinking about the emanation of ideas. I have had the good fortune to travel to Europe, the Middle East and South of the border. On most of these trips, I have visited sites with fortresses built atop a hill and villages below. (Beaufort Castle in Lebanon and Tulum in Mexico are two examples.) Building on a hill provides not only a view but a defensive advantage. Being able to see the approach of marauders from afar leads to a level of comfort and security. Hilltop edifices also served as symbols of wealth and power.

After visiting these sites, I marveled at the fact that civilizations separated by thousands of miles of ocean could deploy the same strategies. I began to wonder about universal concepts and their discovery. Is there a pool of consciousness feeding ideas; or are there just incidents of reality that as we observe we begin to understand? For example, the triangle is common to most cultures. For some it became a religious symbol while others developed an understanding of the right triangle and utilized it architecturally. Was the understanding of the 3-4-5 right triangle (one of Pythagoras’ triples) inspiration or the result of trial and error?

I have been reading Vishen Lakhiani’s The code of the Extraordinary Mind. He writes “There is a model of reality emerging that suggests that the universe comes calling – and your job is to listen.” He goes on to cite different sources that suggest that the universe (or nature as some call it) is trying to create at all times and that it will continuously search out a medium for that creation until it finds one.

With my script, I did answer the call to create. However, I didn’t follow through to publish. Could it be that the universe requires creativity but also recognition? Is an idea not fulfilled unless it reaches some level of dissemination?