Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

On Maieutic Machines by Michael Kinnucan

In languages, philosophy on October 31, 2013 at 01:49

From: On Maieutic Machines by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader,

Socrates asks the young Theaetetus: what is knowledge? He says he really wants to know. Theaetetus hesitates a bit (he’s heard rumors about this guy), but answers in the end: Knowledge of geometry, of astronomy, knowledge of shoemaking and leatherworking—these, and things like them, are knowledge. And let’s be fair to Theaetetus: it’s not as though he’s wrong. Geometry is knowledge, or a knowledge anyway, in one extremely common and useful sense of the word “is.” It’s not an ignorance, certainly, nor is it for example a tree. It is knowledge. He knows his shapes.

Socrates is not satisfied, however. He raises two objections. First, when he said he didn’t know what knowledge was, Theaetetus evidently did not take him at his word: he keeps using the word “knowledge” in his answers, just as if Socrates knew what “knowledge” meant, when Socrates (unless he’s lying, which is likely) well and truly does not know what “knowledge” means. Second, Theaetetus offers a longwinded answer, or rather an indefinite one—presumably there is a knowledge of every fish in the sea, and we could spend our lives listing them off and never come to the end of it, but surely there’s a simple way to say what all the things share that we call knowledge. Surely in some sense they’re all alike. We don’t call them all knowledge by consulting some monstrous heterogeneous list.

Socrates gives the example of mud. You can do all sorts of things with mud—jump in it, wipe it off your feet, make bricks. But saying all the uses of mud would be neither necessary nor sufficient to define it. There’s a short way around: mix water and dirt, you’ve got mud. So (he seems to imply), what do you mix to get knowledge?

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader


Information, Knowledge & Intelligence by Alistair MacFarlane

In information, information science, internet, philosophy on September 30, 2013 at 21:20

From: Information, Knowledge & Intelligence by Alistair MacFarlane, Philosophy Now,

Anybody reading this will have interacted with a computer. These exchanges can hardly be called conversations. One no more converses with current computers than a soldier on parade converses with a drill sergeant. However, when working on the Internet using your personal computer as an intermediary, things are rather better. Searching for a book, inspecting its contents online, then ordering it, can be a much more satisfying form of interaction. You are never, however, under any illusion that you are dealing with a fellow human: you don’t ask the Internet, “What’s the weather like down there?… Have you read it yourself?” Computer-driven machines can now carry out a huge range of very highly skilled tasks, from navigating and landing aircraft, to manufacturing and assembling a wide range of products. How feasible is it that, in a few decades, one might have great difficulty in knowing whether or not one was talking to a computer? And if unable to finally evade all your attempts to engage it in stimulating conversation (“I’m sorry, but I’m too busy to chat with you right now, what was it you wanted?”), it could answer virtually any general knowledge question, provide detailed guidance over the whole range of literature and science, do seriously advanced mathematics, and play a mean game of poker, should you call it intelligent? After all, it knows the capital, population and main exports of every country in the world, and you don’t. Furthermore, are there serious implications for society if computers linked to machines and communication systems could run all the railroads, fly all the aircraft, manage all the traffic, make all the cars and other products, act as vast reservoirs of factual knowledge, and perform almost any other activity requiring great skill? These are not merely interesting philosophical questions. Should machines reach the requisite levels of knowledge and skill, their integration into society could pose very severe problems.

To address these questions we need to define carefully three basic concepts – information, knowledge and intelligence – and explore the relationships between them. A good way to begin to distinguish between them, is to note how they reflect our relationship to present, past, and future. Information describes: it tells us how the world is now. Knowledge prescribes: it tells us what to do on the basis of accumulated past experience. Intelligence decides: it guides, predicts and advises, telling us what may be done in circumstances not previously encountered, and what the outcome is likely to be.

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Reposted with permission from: Philosophy Now

Death & Data by Matthew Bulger

In copyright, government, information, information science, internet, society on June 23, 2013 at 20:45

From: Death & Data: What should the punishment be for a crime that’s often benign in nature and consequence? by Matthew Bulger, The Humanist.

This past January Aaron Swartz, a brilliant young computer programmer and activist, committed suicide after apparently being harassed for over a year by federal prosecutors. Swartz, the twenty-six-year-old who helped develop the social news site Reddit and founded the Internet activist group Demand Progress, was a technological pioneer who cared as much about the next big digital breakthrough as he did about social justice.

Swartz was also very interested in how knowledge is shared in modern society, and how the concentration of knowledge behind pay-to-view barriers could cause entire segments of the population to be less educated and therefore less likely to succeed in an information-based economy. With this concern in mind, he set out to share a virtual treasure trove of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR. Swartz downloaded several million academic articles and, while he never actually published them online for anyone to see, he did receive an unwelcome visit from the government and several law enforcement agencies. Swartz was promptly charged with thirteen felony counts of hacking and wire fraud, charges that mandated decades in prison and some pretty monstrous fines.

It’s apparent now that the laws Swartz was accused of breaking are as draconian as they are obsolete. The most flawed is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which contains provisions that are just plain unworkable in our interconnected world. For example, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to computers or websites “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.” Unfortunately, authorization is never really defined by the CFAA, and that ambiguity has allowed federal prosecutors to stretch the law in order to put more people in jail.

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Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

The Future of the Internet by Vint Cerf

In government, information science, internet, interview, politics, privacy, society, space on February 26, 2013 at 05:28

From: The Future of the Internet “Freshwater Will Be the New Oil” by Vint Cerf, The European Magazine,

The European: When you started working on the Internet, did you have an idea of how big it would become one day?
Cerf: Bob Kahn and I had a sense of how powerful technology is. But we couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be like when 1/3 of the world’s population would be online. When we came up with an original design in 1973, we knew that new communication technologies would come along. At that time we couldn’t think of what they would be like – but we wanted the Internet to work on top of them.

The European: How will we debate truth, or argue about what is most important to us?
Cerf: I would ask: what will be our utopia? We don’t know. People call me chief Internet envangelist. Some misunderstood this and thought that it meant I was using the Internet to promote religion. I have to explain that I’m geek-orthodox. I see many good things in the world, but I also see some bad things. I believe that we really have the choice to use technology and the infrastructure of the Internet towards very positive ends. But like any infrastructure, it is open to abuse. We are reaching a point now where governments are concerned about the impact of the Internet infrastructure on citizens and on society.

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Reposted with permission from: The European Magazine

Anaïs Nin on Why Understanding the Individual is the Key to Understanding Mass Movements by Maria Popova

In books, humanities, psychology, society, sociology on January 1, 2013 at 19:09

From: Anaïs Nin on Why Understanding the Individual is the Key to Understanding Mass Movements by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings,

There is an opacity in individual relationships, and an insistence that the writer make the relation of the particular to the whole which makes for a kind of farsightedness. I believe in just the opposite. Every individual is representative of the whole, a symptom, and should be intimately understood, and this would give a far greater understanding of mass movements and sociology.

Also, this indifference to the individual, total lack of interest in intimate knowledge of the isolated, unique human being, atrophies human reactions and humanism. Too much social consciousness and not a bit of insight into human beings.

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Reposted with permission from: Brain Pickings

It is a duty that we should save seeds for the future by Vandana Shiva

In Asia, biology, community, culture, ecology, ethics, nature, research, science on November 9, 2012 at 00:16

From: It is a duty that we should save seeds for the future by Vandana Shiva, America Latina en Movimiento,

(…) Biodiversity is not empty, it is not pure nature, none of the varieties that have been evolved over centuries by peasant societies, particularly the women, are landrace. I think it’s just a wrong term to use because there’s intelligence in every bit of their breeding.
And as we think of how do we achieve systems of development, particularly rural development, there can be objectives of providing food of high quality, good nutrition, how do we assure that rural communities are not excluded, that women are not excluded, I think the first step along with development [is] food security as well as social inclusion, it is to start removing the boundaries and walls that have lead to exclusion. In my view the most important wall is a very invisible wall that gets higher and higher and higher.
This is a wall I have called the creation boundary. This is a wall that is destroying our biodiversity, that is pushing our rural communities to marginalization and poverty, and it is a wall that has discounted the knowledge of peasant societies, especially the women.
And this wall started to get put in place when knowledge was suddenly demarcated between scientific knowledge and other [types of] knowledge that aren’t knowledge.

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Reposted with permission from: America Latina en Movimiento

Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff

In civilisation, economics, education, Europe, North America, politics, South America, universities on August 18, 2012 at 15:08


From: Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff, America Latina en movimiento,

Muniz Sodre, titular professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is a well learned person. But what is different about him is that he, as few others, thinks about what he knows. The fruit of his thinking is a just released, very notable, book: Reinventing education: diversity, decolonization and networks, (Reinventando la educación: diversidad, descolonización y redes, Vozes, 2012).
In that book, he tries to confront the challenges to pedagogy and education that derive from the different types of knowledge, from the new technologies and transformations advanced by capitalism. All of this begins with our social place: the Southern hemisphere, once colonized, that is undergoing an interesting process of neo-decolonization, and a confrontation with the weakened neo-Eurocentrism, now devastated by the crisis of the Euro.
Muniz Sodre analyzes different currents of pedagogy and education, from the Greek paideia to the world market of education, that represent a crass conception of utilitarian education, transforming education into an enterprise and a market, at the service of world domination.

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Reposted with permission from: America Latina en movimiento

The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis

In academia, philosophy, politics, society, universities on June 17, 2012 at 01:21


From: The end of the belief in education (Peter Sloterdijk, 1983) by Philippe Theophanidis, aphelis,

The message was simply that one has to learn something real so that life will be better later. A petit-bourgeois belief in schooling had dictated the slogan. This belief is disintegrating today. Only for our cynical young medicos is there still a clear link between study and standard of living. Almost everyone else lives with the risk of learning without prospects.

The somehow provocative remarks of Peter Sloterdijk about the actual state of our systems of education shouldn’t come as a surprise for at least two reasons. First, he’s a well trained provocateur and has the reputation of producing uneasy thoughts. The publication in 1999 of his conference Règles pour le parc humain (Rules for the Human Zoo1) provoked a significant controversy in France and Germany intellectual circles (it is known in French as “l’affaire Sloterdijk”).

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