Category Archives: Philosophy

How to Win a Social Media Argument

The definitive guide to being one of those smug (or perhaps ***LOUD***) bastards that annoy you so much online …

Disclaimer: A few of the examples in this piece are from memory of particularly ‘interesting social media posts that have struck me over the past month or so. They won’t be exact and I can’t remember who it was anyway so there’s no attempt to have a particular go at anyone!

It’s frustrating isn’t it? You’ve got an idea, a thought, a suggestion perhaps, maybe even an opinion. And you’ve thought it through (actually, that might be your first mistake but let’s leave that for now). You venture into an online discussion and what happens? You get shot down by … yes, by what exactly? Swearing? Threats? Witty (but irrelevant) one-liners? *****AGGRESSIVE LANGUAGE USING CAPITALS AND RANDOM PUNCTUATION – DON’T(!!) ***INSULT*** MY INTELLIGENCE BY …*****? It really doesn’t seem as if they’ve any more knowledge than you on the topic (maybe even not as much) and the flaws in their reasoning are pretty visible but, somehow, they still seem to get the better of you. How does that happen? Are they just more forceful? Wittier perhaps? Better at expressing themselves? More experienced? Is their true genius hidden behind their apparent muddled logic? It’s probably simpler than that: more likely they’re just fundamentally different to you.

So, does that mean, to get anywhere, you have to become like them? Do you really want to? Perhaps not: by and large these people don’t lead rewarding real lives (it’s basically why they’re like this online). But, just in this context, there are some easy pointers to follow that will mostly see you right. You almost have to be a different person on- and off-line. (With any luck you can still keep some friends in real life.) It starts with mental attitude then a small number of simple steps and you can win any argument on social media. But before that, a little bit of context …

The irony is that a social media argument really should work the way an ideal face-to-face conversation would. Someone listens while the other speaks, digests what’s been said, then responds. At that point, the roles reverse and it continues from there. Of course, in practice, it never works like that in real life but you’d think that the enforced half-duplex nature of text-based exchange really would enforce that structure on its participants. Why doesn’t it?

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Incompleteness, Inconsistency and Those Pesky Words!

With the exception of an image demonstrating an argument so utterly and awfully illogical, it deserves public shaming, this post largely works with abstract cases as examples in the hope of not upsetting quite as many people as it otherwise might.

We start with the background stuff …

Kurt Gödel, in 1931, dropped a bit of a bombshell on a mathematical and logical world (that was quietly believing the opposite) by showing that there are things that can’t be proven or disproven.  In other words, in all ‘vaguely normal’ systems, there are propositions that can be either true or false and it doesn’t really matter.  ‘Mathematics is incomplete‘.  In 1936, Alan Turing proved that there are problems that can’t be computed/solved and the rest of the computer science research community spent the next few decades realising that these were kind of the same thing.

Pretty disastrous, huh?

Well, no, not really.  The mathematical and computer logic world dusted itself off and got on with it.  And anyway, other branches of science – and beyond – had similar problems.  In physics, for example, there’s a limit to how closely you can measure something before you change what you’re trying to measure.  Turns out, in one form or another, ‘incompleteness’ is pretty normal in life.

So, no, incompleteness, isn’t that much of an issue.  (it just means we don’t know everything – in fact, can’t know everything: there’s some bits of science, philosophy, etc., we can’t do from our little three-and-a-half-dimensions backwater of the universe; or we’re not God, if you like.)

However, rather than ‘incompleteness’, something called ‘inconsistency’ would be a problem.  Why?  And what does that look like?

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You’re Not My Dad! (The Kettle Said So)

So what are the chances of a global, on-demand, real-time, publicly-accessible DNA database?  (Or what are the chances of stopping it?)

The increasing simplicity and speed with which DNA testing can now be performed has already changed lives.  Not only can simple issues of parenthood be resolved (sometimes disproved) quickly – often causing great distress, the gradual expansion and combination of DNA databases has exposed relationships previously unrealised and even potentially compromising in private and working lives.

How far could this go?

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Call for Papers: ‘The End of Privacy?’

I’m editing a special edition of the journal, Information, with the title, ‘The End of Privacy?’

https://www.mdpi.com/journal/information/special_issues/End_of_Privacy

Contributions welcome!

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 December 2019

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We all know how hard technological forecasting can be. The technology itself, even in isolation, can be difficult to predict a few years into the future, but taking into account the wider social, legal, political, economic, environmental and demographic fallout, and throwing in some ethics and morality too, it becomes next to impossible. There’s too much to think about. Whilst some of us might have an idea of where, for example, the Internet of Things might be in five years’ time or, separately, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, big data analytics, network connectivity, etc., putting it all together into a vision of this fully-automated, AI/big-data-driven, always-on/always-connected world is probably beyond most of us.

Thus the plan here is to focus on one issue that all these factors impact upon, personal privacy, and to pose a fairly simple question: Will it be possible to have personal data (secrets) in the world that future technology will bring us into? What possibilities (benefits and threats) will new technology open us up to? From individuals up to governments and corporations, how easily will information be shared and (how) can it be secured? To what extent can we realistically be protected by legislation? Where will politics and economics be brought to bear? Ultimately, what control will we have? Continue reading