Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ron Paul hilariously associated with V, Guy Fawkes, et cetera

One blogger has dissected how crazy it is that V, of V for Vendetta, and by extension Guy Fawkes, has been associated with Ron Paul and his fund-raising campaign. He posits that there are layers upon layers of symbolic inversion at work.

Article published to the Virginia Sentinel

I am proud to report that my editorial has been published in the Virginia Sentinel.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dr. Larry Sanger's talk

Dr. Larry Sanger visited the University a couple of weeks ago to give a talk about the politics of information in the digital age. He is a cofounder of Wikipedia along with Jimmy Wales, but now he has become one of Wikipedia's most vocal critics. He expressed in his talk his concern how the lack of deference to experts and the ability of anyone to contribute anonymously has plagued Wikipedia and is its chief flaw. Even people banned from Wikipedia can circumvent procedures to block them. Dr. Sanger aimed to start up another project that would indeed give deference to experts, with anonymity being impossible.

His project, Citizendium, is run on the same software that Wikipedia uses, but to activate an account, one must submit a short biography. This eliminates Wikipedia's problem of credibility and anonymity. Yes, Wikipedia can be completely anonymous. Though I.P. address can be traced to people that don't register an account, all one needs to do to really post anonymously is create an account with a nonsensical name, and the I.P. won't be traced.

Because of the required information on Citizendium, no one is anonymous. Consequently, vandalism is simply not present in the project. The possibility that this could grow to anything comparable to Wikipedia's popularity is frightening to Sanger, as it would mean that the sum of all information would be reliably and freely available on the Internet. This would be pushing human civilization in a direction never considered before. It's certainly a noble and incredible goal, but worthy of fear nonetheless.

Dr. Sanger's primary fear though, is that as online communities like Wikipedia grew more powerful, governments would feel the need to intervene if abuse flagrantly continues, abuse like the vandalism Wikipedia suffers from every day. This isn't so far fetched. Germany shut down the German Wikipedia temporarily for a scandal involving the naming of a deceased computer hacker. Myspace has been used by the government to target convicted sex offenders. A fear of government intrusion into online communities does not arise out of a vacuum.

Wikipedia's irresponsibility would serve as the entry point for government regulation. Of course, Dr. Sanger wouldn't wish this on anyone, including Wikipedia, but has himself taken on the initiative to create a community that would avoid this pressure, because of excellent self-regulation.

The outlook is cynical. Innovation should be driven by a desire to succeed and create a superior product, and advance the greatness of civilization for its own sake, not out of a fear that the government might try to step in and assume control by force. How can anyone expect to innovate under such stressful conditions, by a threat in the back of their mind that they're close to being slaves of the state? No, this motive is weak. Citizendium is a great project and the goals are laudable, but neither Sanger nor anyone should create and innovate out of fear of the government. Such a mindset would be symptomatic of a far greater problem than Wikipedia's irresponsibility.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kaine cuts abstinence-only sex education

This is good news, a signal that the religious right has decreasing influence.

From, 1070 WINA Newsradio,

Gov. Kaine has cut abstinence-only sex education programs
Governor Tim Kaine has cut state money for abstinence-only sex education programs. The Democratic governor says recent research shows teenagers also should be taught about condoms and birth control pills to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. His decision impacts only groups that offer federally funded sex education courses. School systems and organizations that did not get the money still can teach a locally based sex education curriculum. Planned Parenthood of Virginia had pushed for the policy change and is praising Kaine for joining a national effort to cut abstinence-only programs. The Old Dominion is the 14th state to refuse to endorse abstinence-only education.
It's good news, but it's only 14 states. There's still work to be done.
Of course, we wouldn't have this problem if education was privatized, but that's just too nutty an opinion to be mainstream.

Potential breakthrough in fuel cell technology

Our own UVA researchers, physicists Bellave S. Shivaram and Adam B. Phillips have come up with a potentially amazing technological breakthrough regarding fuel cells. Of course, it's always good to be skeptical. The article concedes, "'Many people who work in this field are excited, while others are skeptics,' [Shivaram] said. 'That’s OK. That’s the way science works. No one accepts results until you test it and it’s proven.'" I could not agree more.

With this in mind, this is pretty exciting stuff. The sooner the U.S. gets to energy independence, the sooner we can tell the Saudis to choke on their oil, because we won't need them for anything. We could tell them to come back and talk to us when they're civilized.

Oh, and fuel cells are good for the environment too. Global warming is the mother of all externalities.

I found this news via the Virginia Sentinel.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The truth on marriage

I am proud to report that my letter to the editor was published in the Cavalier Daily. It was a response to an article attacking the notion of gay marriage.

Pat Robertson endorses Rudy Giuliani

There's one more reason not to vote for Giuliani. Attracting this kind of support should raise some red flags.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Photos of Iran

Forget politics for a second. Iran is stunningly beautiful.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Virginia Sentinel

In my obliviousness, I had missed all the flyers around Grounds promoting the brand new Virgina Sentinel. This promising blog is expected to flourish into a great publication, and it has a very strong start as a blog. Check it out.

Also, an article about it is here.

Segment on Talk Objectivism

With some technical difficulties, I called into Talk Objectivism tonight, on Episode 33, to ask how ethics aren't a priori.