Annals of commerce: product downgrades

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 3:26pm in

Not everything you buy is getting better. Here are a couple of pet peeves:

I. Unfinished cast iron cookware

Cast iron skillets have been popular for decades. Properly seasoned and cared for, they last pretty much forever, are easy to clean, and are especially good at browning meat owing to the Maillard reaction that is catalyzed by iron. They used to be made with two well established technologies. The first is sand casting, and it’s the same way the engine block of your car is made. First, a wood pattern is made in the shape of the desired pan, but larger by about 1/8″ per foot because the pan will shrink as it cools. This pattern is embedded in damp sand in a mold with two parts, removed without disturbing the sand, and molten iron is run into the space it leaves.

The result of this process is a (1) rough casting with a very scrabbly surface of mill scale, ready to machine to the required dimensions and finish (the second technology). Back in the day, the skillet was (2) put on a lathe and  the inside turned to a perfectly flat inner bottom and smooth sides. This removes the hard, sandy layer on top and exposes the cast iron. You can find these pans at garage sales and on Ebay, and if they’re not too old and used, you can still see the spiral track of the lathe tool on the pan.

The skillet you will find today at your hardware store is probably Lodge, a company that used to make its wares correctly, but they have discovered a wonderful way to cut corners: just skip step (2), give the rough casting a coat of black paint, and call it “pre-seasoned”!  Here is what a new skillet made this way looks like.

You might make this smooth trying to get your fried eggs off it with metal spatulas–after a century or so.   

There is a workaround, but most people aren’t equipped to execute it. My lathe isn’t big enough to chuck a 12″ pan even with the gap bed open, so I broke out the angle grinder with a coarse flap wheel and cleaned it up the hard way.

Wear eye protection!  A second pass with a finer grit wheel left this finish:

The fine scratches are not a problem, and all the exposed surface is clean cast iron:

Here’s what such a pan looks like after a couple of months’ use:

Now you just have to season it for real, which is not a big mystery,simply a matter of heating it up with a generous coating of cooking oil to frying temperature and letting it cool. Never wash it with detergent, just hot water and the least aggressive scrubbing pad that works, first choice plastic.  If it gets rust spots, just sand it and do the hot oil thing again, and keep cooking (always with an oil coating).

If you can get an old one used, and Ebay has lots, that’s probably the best move. If it isn’t seriously pitted, all it needs is a light sanding to be ready for another century.

These guys seem to have it right (haven’t seen one up close, but the pictures look OK) however at a very hefty price, and “lighter” is not necessarily a virtue for cast iron, whose mass and thermal inertia is a feature, not a bug.

II. Men’s trousers…

properly made, as they have been since I’ve been wearing them, have a zipper about eight inches long. My favorite haberdasher (Costco, of course) now seems to stock chinos with only 6″ zippers, which are really awkward for their intended use. 8″ zippers cost a little more than a dime; how many pennies per pair can this sleazy trick save?


Stephen Hawking to Play The Book in New Series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 5:26am in

The I newspaper yesterday reported that the physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, is set to play the Book in a new radio series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Entitled ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Edition’ the series will commemorate the original show on Radio 4 back in 1978, featuring the original cast.

I loved the original series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the first two books based on the show, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. However, I lost interest in it after the third book. I tried reading the fourth, only to give up. I think by that time Douglas Adams himself was growing tired of writing them. I’ve heard someone say on an interview that he was only lured back to write his last Hitch-Hiker book by the publisher’s promise that in it he could destroy every possible Earth in every possible universe. So I’m not sure I’ll listen to it, especially as the series is being carried on by other writers.

I also wasn’t impressed by Adams’ expressed contempt for the genre he wrote in. Back in the 1990s he was interviewed on the radio by Paxo, who said his book was Science Fiction, but different. It was good. Adams replied by saying that he didn’t write Science Fiction. Which is odd, because that’s what Hitch-Hiker is. But I guess Adams wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as a genre writer.

At that time the prejudice of the literary establishment towards Science Fiction and Fantasy was much stronger than it is now. I can remember seeing Terry Pratchett speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, saying how the organisers looked on him as if he was going to talk to people about fixing motorcycles. There’s a clip of the BBC arts programme, The Late Review, in which the Oxford lecturer and poet, Tom Paulin, and a female litterateur are asked to review one of Pratchett’s books, where they both make very disparaging remarks. The woman states that she felt like writing across it in big lines ‘I cannot read any more’. Paulin compared it to lifting up a stone to find all these weird people doing weird things underneath it. And going further back to the 1950s Brian Aldiss commented in The Trillion Year Spree that at that time, despite being championed by Kingsley Amis, pornography had a better reputation than Science Fiction amongst the literary elite.

Pratchett had to fight against that literary snobbishness throughout his life, but is now being taken very seriously by critics. I think Adams avoided it. Back in the ’90s he and Hitch-Hiker were the subjects of one edition of the South Bank Show with Melvin Bragg. But perhaps the price of that critical acclaim was his denial that he wrote Science Fiction at all.

But other people are different, and so I’ve no doubt that there are millions of Hitch-Hiker fans out there, who will be delighted to hear the news. They know who they are. They’re the people, who bought merchandising, like the Hitch-Hiker bath towels. This was a large, white bath towel with the text from the HHGG talking about how every Hitch-Hiker really needed to know where their towel was on it. I found one of those in Forever People, the comics/ SF shop in Bristol. The show’s fans are also the people, who organised conventions with dubious names like ‘Slartibartday’, after one of the creators of the Earth, Slartibartfast.

Hawking is in many ways an ideal choice for The Book after the death of Peter Jones, who was its original voice on Radio 4 and then in the BBC 2 TV series. He already has an electronic voice to fit the character of an electronic book, and is a world famous space scientist and advocate of space colonisation. But you wonder how massive his ego will be after playing a publication, which the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes as, amongst some people, having displaced the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom.

Experiments in Virtual Philosophy (guest post by Erick Ramirez)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/02/2018 - 2:39am in

The following is a guest post* by Erick Ramirez, assistant professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University. Among other things, Professor Ramirez has been working on philosophical issues related to the limits of our capacities for empathy and taking the perspective of others, and he has been developing exciting new tools to help us somewhat overcome these limits in our philosophical investigations.

Moving Beyond the Thought Experiment Paradigm: Experiments in Virtual Philosophy
by Erick Ramirez

Thought experiments are a deep part of philosophical methodology. In the classroom, we use thought experiments to help students better understand complex (usually moral) arguments or to try and get students to actively engage as moral agents. In our research, thought experiments often serve as arguments in and of themselves.

We might ask our readers to ‘suppose that they were kidnapped by the Society of Music Lovers’ or  to ‘imagine they find themselves at the switch and a runaway trolley car is headed their way.’ If we’re especially ambitious, we might ask readers to ‘imagine that a terrorist has hidden a bomb somewhere in Paris.’ Whatever the scenario, philosophers often ask audiences to take part in these sorts of thought experiments as key parts of a classroom lesson or argument. For at least one broad class of thought experiments, what I have elsewhere called ‘perspectival thought experiments,’ I’ve argued that this is a mistake and, more importantly, that we can do better.[1]

A thought experiment is perspectival because of what it requires that we do to successfully complete it. In a perspectival thought experiment, we must mentally simulate a point-of-view different from our current one and then make decisions (or gauge our feelings) from that new perspective. All of the experiments I’ve listed above are perspectival. The problem with such thought experiments is that they presuppose a capacity for simulation that is all but impossible for us. Why “all but impossible”? In part this is due to the nature of first-person perspectives. Such perspectives are composed (at least) of two parts. The most obvious are doxastic elements: this is a tree, that is a cat, I’m in California. Less obvious are subdoxastic elements: positive or negative mood influences, implicit biases – assuming they replicate-, and other such sundry elements that influence how we conceptualize and frame our doxastic states. Because subdoxastic features of experience are, well, subdoxastic, any attempt to simulate them will rob them of this feature (simulation being a conscious, effortful, process) and alter their effects on our experience.

This is one reason why we are so bad at getting our own future behaviors right (ask any of Stanley Milgram’s subjects whether they thought they would be willing to deliver a 150 volt shock to their peers and they would have all said no). For these reasons, we believe that philosophers, and psychologists interested in moral decision-making, should try to move beyond the thought-experiment paradigm if possible. Having said this, thought experiments can have many uses above and beyond the generation of new data (they can function as examples, they can be used to illuminate unclear features of a concept, they can function as useful bits of rhetoric) and my arguments don’t extend to these uses.  What I’d like to see us do is move away from thinking that perspectival thought experiments generate new (or realistic) data about our moral judgments and to consider how new technologies can enhance our ability to teach, and do, philosophy.

In collaboration with my colleague Scott LaBarge and a pair of intrepid students with computer coding experience (Miles Elliott and Carl Maggio), I have been producing Virtual Reality (VR) analogues of many classic perspectival thought experiments. We believe that VR technology has the potential to help us move beyond the error-laden thought experiment paradigm to get a clearer, more realistic, picture of moral decision-making. Why do we think that? Here are three reasons:

  1. VR simulations can, if well-designed, keep many of the subdoxastic features of our experiences in the background (where they belong) and thus lead to more faithful experiences than imagined experiences.
  2. VR allows for far greater control over what our students and fellow philosophers experience when we ask them to engage in a thought experiment (how are you imagining the people tied to the tracks in the trolley problem?). In other words, assuming that at least some forms of biasing factors are subdoxastic (those based on race, gender, class, profession, etc etc), a VR simulation can help to control for variation in subject imagination and subject bias.
  3. VR simulations already conducted suggest that well-designed virtual worlds can produce experiences that are treated as if they were real by those who experience them. What is a well-designed virtual world? Those that present subjects with a non-gamefied world that operates under the same sorts of rules as our own operates and in which information is diegetic and virtual characters have the appearance of being responsive to reasons. To give an example of a recent study that generated virtually-real experiences: a VR replication of Milgram’s study conducted by Mel Slater and his colleagues not only replicated Milgram’s original data (receiving ⅔ compliance) but also generated noteworthy stress and concern in his experimental subjects.[2]

We have currently produced VR simulations of Philippa Foot’s trolley problem and Judith Thomson’s Violinist Analogy. These simulations are free to download at the PhilPapers index; anyone with access to an HTC Vive and a VR capable computer can experience them and use them in any way they wish. Versions optimized for the Oculus Rift will be uploaded soon.



A scene from the virtual reality version of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Violinist thought experiment, by Ramirez, LaBarge, Elliott, & Maggio

A scene from the virtual reality version of Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment, by Ramirez, LaBarge, Elliott, & Maggio

A scene from the virtual reality version of Philippa Foot’s Trolley Problem thought experiment, by Ramirez, LaBarge, Elliott, & Maggio


[1] Much of this can be found in my (2017) “Empathy and the limits of thought experiments,” Metaphilosophy, 48 (4), 504-526.
[2] Slater, M., Antley A., Davison D., Swapp D., Guger C., Barker C., Pistrang N., & Sanchez-Vives M.V. (2006). A virtual reprise of the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments. PLoS ONE, 1, e39

The post Experiments in Virtual Philosophy (guest post by Erick Ramirez) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Embedding STEAM into K-8 classrooms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/02/2018 - 12:52am in



STEAM education is a way to teach how all things relate to each other, in school and in life. It’s more fun than traditional learning styles and makes more sense to all types of learners because it is based on the natural ways that people learn and are interested in things.

STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. Integration of STEAM into instruction provides an avenue for formally teaching the inter-relationships of how subjects relate in real-life. STEAM-style education can be enjoyably and meaningfully delivered in more engaging and deeply embedding ways within the already well-established realm of education.

The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, & work through the creative process. These skills are necessary as we create the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century.

STEAM lessons do not require expensive equipment or special classrooms, spaces or equipment, most of them use common items, some of them will certainly benefit from having things like 3D printers and greenhouses, but there are ways to implement this in standard styled classrooms.

Learn more from Tracey Hunter-Doniger in the video below.

Embedding STEAM in the K-8 classroom

To help provide guidance on how to embed this curriculum in the K-8 classroom, I worked with my colleagues Tracey Hunter-Doniger and Nenad Radakovic to help facilitate these discussions with some great teachers at Eagle’s Nest Elementary and River Oaks Middle School in Summerville, SC.

In this work, it is important that we identify what is known about STEAM, as well as effective teaching, learning, and assessment. From there, we facilitate dialogue to have the educators define these terms for themselves, and identify work already being done in the classroom that evidences these elements. We conclude with an identification of plans and next steps for implementation.

The slide decks for the day are available below.

STEAM – Introduction

STEAM – Connect

STEAM – Explore

STEAM – Create

STEAM – Closing

If you want to continue to be the expert, I’d suggest subscribing to my weekly newsletter to learn more about technology, education, & literacy.

Image Credit

#1379; In which a Document is discovered

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/02/2018 - 4:00pm in

His wartime diaries are all about the songs he'd liked on the radio as a child. His childhood diaries are all about how much he'd liked being in the womb

TNT Nation: Daily Mail Racists Freak Out as Cheddar Man Revealed as Black

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/02/2018 - 12:16am in

One of the big stories last week was the unveiling of the reconstructed face of Cheddar Man. As Jeff Waldorf points out in this clip from TNT Nation, this is a prehistoric man, named after where he was found, and not a man literally made of cheese. Cheddar Man, or rather, his skeleton, was found in the caves in Cheddar in Somerset, England, way back in 1906. The skeleton’s 16,000 or so years old, and so dates from about the end of the last Ice Age. The scientists reconstructing his features also used for the first time DNA analysis to gauge his skin and eye colour. And it turns out that he had ‘dark to black skin’ and blue eyes.

They scientists were able to do this using DNA they were able to extract from the skeleton. This had genetic markers similar to those for dark skin, which is also present in ten per cent of the modern British population. Cheddar Man’s colouring was a surprise for the scientists, as they expected him to have white skin and blond or light hair, as an adaptation to the extreme cold. Commenting on the revelation that he was black, one scientist said that it showed that British has not always been associated with Whiteness. It had changed, and would change again in the future. I think they were also able to trace the ultimate origins of Cheddar Man’s people, as they entered Britain from a route across southern Europe ultimately going back to Turkey.

I’m not surprised by this revelation. It’s been suggested since at least the 1990s that the first anatomically modern humans – Homo Sapiens Sapiens – who entered and colonised Europe, were dark-skinned. Back in the 1990s a Channel 4 series on human evolution showed a reconstruction of these people, as they would have looked 40,000 or so years ago, edging along the primeval European countryside as Black. The programme also consciously reversed the idea, promoted in many past books and articles on them, that the Neanderthals were Black. The programme instead argued that they would have had light skins as an adaptation to the arctic temperatures in Europe. If you also look at the remains of our ancient ancestors, you also find that they have more archaic features, like a strong brow ridge, than the other humans in Africa, who were much more gracile. I think its these archaic features which led some archaeoanthropologists to state that some of these humans were of the same physical build as Aboriginal Australians, because these ancient people have also retained some features of archaic humanity.

The real shock, as one of the articles about Cheddar Man said last week, is how recently White skin and hair evolved – in the last 10,000 years or so. It’s much more recent than they expected. However, I can remember reading in a review of the film The Clan of the Cave Bear in Starburst one of the criticisms of that movie. It starred Daryl Hannah as a Cro Magnon woman growing up with a family of Neanderthals. Hannah’s blond, and the article pointed out that blonde hair is only supposed to have evolved 10,000 or so years ago – much later than the age the film, and the book on which it was based, by Jean Auel, is set.

The revelation that Cheddar Man was Black, however, set the racists off. And here Waldorf reads out and tears to pieces some of the comments about this story left on the Daily Mail’s website. And they go from the reasonable, to the completely mad.

Waldorf begins with the comment from one individual, who wonders if the genetic reconstruction is accurate, given the age of the skeleton and difficulty of extracting genetic information from remains that ancient. He states, however, that he isn’t a scientist, but has simply watched a lot of documentaries. Waldorf mocks him for this, which is actually unfair. It’s a reasonable question, as the impression I’ve had from watching the same kind of documentaries is that ancient DNA can be extremely delicate, and is very often fragmentary, so it can actually be very difficult to extract useful genetic information from human remains. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, which made this point when discussing the Neanderthals to show why scientists have not tried to recreate them genetically.

And then there’s the completely bonkers. Another commenter wondered if there wasn’t something deeper going on here. They smelt a conspiracy, as the revelation that Cheddar Man was Black came after, so this person believed, the collapse of the ‘out of Africa’ theory of human origins, and the proof that the Ancient Egyptians weren’t African. First of all, if the theory that humans first evolved in Africa and then spread outwards across the globe has collapsed, then no-one’s told me. Or any of the anthropologists and archaeologists working in this field. The only people I can think of who reject the theory are, er, marginal thinkers. Or cranks. Waldorf takes apart the claim that the ancient Egyptians weren’t Africans, by pointing out that ancient Egypt actually had a very diverse population, and that in the south they tended to be darker than in the north. Also, Egypt is part of Africa.

This comment seems to echo back to the views of some of the White racial supremacists that the ancient Egyptians, as the citizens of an advanced ancient civilisation, couldn’t possibly be Black, and were instead White and European in appearance. This is, of course, vehemently rejected by AFrocentrist historians, who argue instead that they were Black. If you look at the way the ancient Egyptians depicted themselves in their art – in the tomb paintings, for example, they are lighter than the darker skinned Nubian peoples to their south. Male ancient Egyptians are portrayed as having reddish brown skin, while women are yellow. Nubians are painted with black skin. Even so, they are still darker than the Europeans, which appear in their art, such as the people of Minoan Crete. These are depicted with pink skin. The scientifically accepted view is that the peoples of North Africa, including ancient Egypt, were White.

However, way back in the 1990s or the early part of this century some anthropologists reconstructed the faces of people from Roman Egypt. This found that their features were more strongly African than the portraits of them painted on to their mummy cases, which made them look more European. There were definite cultural and economic reasons why an ancient Egyptian really wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Black’. Roman Egypt was a horrible, racist, apartheid state, where the indigenous Egyptian population was taxed more than those of Greek or European descent. This would have left many Egyptians with feelings of inferiority about their African features, which they would have tried to cover up.

There was also the suggestion by one archaeologist that the ultimate origins of the ancient Egyptian civilisation lay in a Black tribe from further south, which migrated to the north. This archaeologist came to this conclusion through examining some of the early henge monuments, which predate the ancient Egyptian civilisation proper by thousands of years. I think these were similar to those in the Black African nations further south. One of the stones in these monuments also seemed deliberately shaped to resemble a cow. Hathor was the ancient Egyptians’ cow goddess, and so there’s the suggestion that she was a survival from this ancient, pastoralist Black African culture.

I also came across another story in the paper recently, which said that the ancient Egyptians weren’t African after all. I didn’t get the opportunity to read it – I only glimpsed the headline in passing – and so can’t really comment on it. But it seems unlikely to me. The Egyptologist John Romer criticised the notion that the ancient Egyptians were White way back in the 1990s in his Channel 4 series, Great Excavations. In one episode, he discussed the various diffusionist theories of human evolution and progress, and how they were influenced by 19th century theories of racial supremacy and conquest. Diffusionism is the archaeological theory that advances in civilisation occur through successive societies and races conquering their predecessors. Early archaeologists were busy examining the remains of these past cultures, and especially their skull and head shapes, in order to develop a classification of the various races these different physical types represented. As the ancient Egyptians were an advanced civilisation, they confidently expected them to have their origins in the lighter skinned peoples further east.

Except that they didn’t. The ancient Egyptian people remained the same stock, unchanged, as their culture developed and flourished around them. They created their culture themselves, without any other invading race creating or imposing a superior culture after them. Of course, at times ancient Egypt was conquered by outside nations, such as the Semitic Hyksos kings and the Nubians, who produced a line of Black pharaohs. They were also an important power themselves in the ancient Near East, at one point holding Syria and Palestine. But ancient Egyptian culture was their own creation, and not the result of invasion by some biologically superior race. And as far as I know, the only people, who believe that the ancient Egyptians had blonde hair and blue eyes are neo-Nazis.

Now I think there is a subtle message behind this recent discovery of Cheddar Man’s complexion. I think some of the comments made by the experts about his colouring and Britishness – that it is only relatively recently that White skin has evolved, and that Britishness is not necessarily connected to Whiteness – have been made to make an anti-racist point. It wasn’t just the scientist quoted by the TNT clip. There was another quote in the papers by someone saying that we may have to rethink the relationship between Britishness and Whiteness. It’s a reasonable, scientifically informed comment. But the recreation of Cheddar Man with dark skin clearly touched a nerve amongst the racists reading the Daily Heil.

As for Cheddar Man himself, he still has descendants in the area. Or at least, a descendant. A few years ago scientists sampled his DNA, and then tested the other people in Cheddar to see if they were related. It turns out one of them was – the headmaster of the local school. He was quite happy about it, but his mother was really upset, worrying what people would think. Well, if they’re sensible, they won’t think anything disparaging. As I said, these people were exactly like us modern humans. They had the same physical features and the same intelligence. They weren’t lumbering ape-men by any means. The only difference between modern people and them is that they lived over 10,000 years ago, when much of Britain was a frozen wilderness. I can even imagine some people being slightly envious, that this chap has an ancestry that can be traced back to this incredibly remote period.

Amazon Invents Vibrating Wristband to Control Workers’ Movements

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 5:07am in

More on the steady progress of western industrial management towards Orwellian totalitarianism. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his guest, Ron Placone, discuss the invention by Amazon of a wristband, which uses information technology to monitor where workers are in a building. The wristband is intended to be worn by warehouse workers. If they don’t have their hands in quite the right place when they’re reaching for a product on the warehouse shelves in order to fulfil an order, the wristband vibrates in order to nudge them in the right direction. The company is promoting this as a way of getting its workers to get the requested goods from their shelves and off to the customer, and then move on to the next order.

Dore and Placone make the point that this is indeed deeply totalitarian, with Placone mentioning the theory of inverted totalitarianism proposed by one academic. This states that while previous totalitarianisms were all about the state ordering you what to do, the new, inverted totalitarianism is also all about absolute control, but this time it’s done for your convenience and benefit.

They also make the excellent point that Amazon is a company worth billions, but in America many of their workers are so poorly paid that they have to subsist on food stamps.

They also joke that this wristband will allow Amazon to control exactly what their workers are doing, right up to the point when they decide to replace them all with robots.

I put up a piece last week about the growing threat of totalitarianism in the workplace, noting the ways various companies from call centres to the Torygraph are using technology to try to control their workers’ movements. In the case of call centres, it’s done through motion detectors fixed to desks, so management can tell when their galley slaves are moving about. The weirdo Barclay twins, who own the Torygraph, tried to introduce it there, but the hacks revolted and their bonkers plan had to be abandoned. These schemes are increasingly getting to resemble the fictional, evil totalitarian corporations in dystopian Science Fiction, like that in Jack Womack’s cyberpunk novels Ambient, Heathern, Random Acts of Mindless Violence and Elvissey.

And it also gives Brits another reason to despise Amazon, apart from the fact that despite doing much of its business over here, it doesn’t pay any corporation tax.

Computer Science Ethics: A Growth Area for Philosophy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/02/2018 - 1:09am in

An increasing number of universities across the country are beginning to offer courses in “computer science ethics,” The New York Times reports.

This semester, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are jointly offering a new course on the ethics and regulation of artificial intelligence. The University of Texas at Austin just introduced a course titled “Ethical Foundations of Computer Science”—with the idea of eventually requiring it for all computer science majors.

And at Stanford University, the academic heart of the industry, three professors and a research fellow are developing a computer science ethics course for next year. They hope several hundred students will enroll.

The idea is to train the next generation of technologists and policymakers to consider the ramifications of innovations—like autonomous weapons or self-driving cars—before those products go on sale.

While the article says that some of these courses are being offered through philosophy departments, none of the specific courses mentioned in the article were philosophy courses. If you or your department offer such a course, feel free to share a description of it in the comments.

Philosophy departments often partner up with other units on campus to meet curricular needs, for various reasons. Perhaps after biomedical ethics, business ethics, and engineering ethics, perhaps the next growth area is computer science ethics.

Oh, and if you haven’t yet seen this:

The post Computer Science Ethics: A Growth Area for Philosophy? appeared first on Daily Nous.

Elon Musk’s Launch of Sports Car into Space, and Fear Factory’s Version of ‘Cars’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 11:36pm in

And now for something a bit lighter.

This week, Elon Musk’s Space-X company launched a sports car into space, complete with a dummy pilot. This was supposedly inspired by David Bowie’s Starman, and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger. You probably saw the pictures in the paper.

What it reminded me most strongly of, however, was the video for Fear Factory’s version of the Gary Numan hit, Cars. Fear Factory are an American Heavy Metal/Industrial band, and Numan himself appears in the video as a driver of a car in space.

The video includes scenes of the band driving through a futuristic network of brightly tunnels, while alphanumerics scroll down the screen, which is clearly inspired by The Matrix trilogy. Then Numan himself drives at speed through a city. He’s also driving a car in space and collides with a satellite. This is then followed by the scenes of a crash, and the lead singer walking towards an upturned car from which a woman and the firemen are fleeing. It ends with a shot of the other wrecked car in space floating away.

And in between the lead singer inserts one of the band’s CDs into the car’s player, and there’s a creepy kid in the back, who looks just like he came out of Village of the Damned.

Take a look at the video, and see the similarities between it and Musk’s venture. He really should have had this on his playlist, as well as Bowie and Iggy Pop.

Standing Up to a 171-Year Prison Sentence—For Facebook Posts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/02/2018 - 8:03am in

Prawais Praphanukul, a longtime human rights lawyer in Thailand, faces life in prison for a series of Facebook posts allegedly insulting the king. His decision to fight the charges is testing the limits of repression under the country’s increasingly authoritarian regime.