Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good is so good.

And by Good I mean Good Magazine. I am actually thinking about subscribing to an honest-to-god paper magazine for the first time since approximately forever, because every article they write is exactly a thing I want to read.

A couple things on my mind:
Don't travel, because you're just an obnoxious tourist
. Plus a link to a story about a guy who was an obnoxious tourist. Now, my party line has always been "I don't agree with anyone who says this." But do I really believe that some people are obnoxious, but oh no, not me? (and regardless of whether I believe it, is it true?) I mean, there's something messed up about tourism. I've been over this a few times (in real life if not on my blog) but the point is, it just feels wrong. The tourist industry is a way to get money from foreigners. There's nothing about it to encourage, you know, friend-making between people of different cultures.

How do I know I'm not just a nuisance? Look, if someone came to Seattle, hardly spoke English, and wanted to chat, and I was at a restaurant or something with him, it'd be fun. But we wouldn't become good friends- there's nothing to talk about, especially with a language barrier as thick as it always is. You end up with a lot of shallow connections. (granted, the few deeper ones I've made have been awesome...)

But in between that, you're gawking at the Eiffel Tower or stomping around Angkor Wat or climbing up to Machu Picchu or whatever, and you're probably not having fun, and you're eroding a world heritage site, and you're making it worse for everyone else there. Think about it: when's the last time you were at a tourist site and didn't wish for fewer people? Or hell, when's the last time you saw tourists anywhere and didn't just want them to disappear?

And maybe sometimes you say screw it, I just want a little comfort, and then you make everything even worse by patronizing the tourist industry, be it a hotel or a restaurant or whatever, and rewarding people who get rich by selling up a fake version of this country. You bring your whiteness to the world, offering nothing but your tourist dollars and (hopefully) a friendly conversation, bringing the world one step closer to all-English-all-the-time, and carboning up the atmosphere horrendously with your airplane while you're at it.

Discuss.

Okay, another thing that's on my mind: I would love to see more facts about this guy who predicts stuff. Granted, it's the real world, so the truth is probably more in-the-middle, he's pretty smart but he's not actually so crazily accurate about everything, etc., and the Good folks only think he's so great at predicting because they've seen a limited sample of his picks. And you know, game theory blah blah, sounds really neat because "it's theories about games" or some nonsense and John Nash loves it but it's actually kind of boring, doesn't actually solve the world like you think it will.

BUT: he sounds cool anyway, and I'd like to learn more before making up my mind.

And people are saying "ooh he predicts stuff, then do we really have free will?" answer: yes. But my (sort of related) question is: how much free will do we really have? And how much of it is chemicals?

Sidetrack: cereal again. I've recently started eating cereal with more or less reckless abandon. I haven't been eating it until I felt terrible, but I have been feeling kinda ehh. And poor Jared- I think I ate about 3/4 of the last box of Quaker Oat Squares he bought. Why do I do this? I know my life would be better if I never ate cereal. Somehow, every time I think about eating cereal, I come up with a way to rationalize it. It doesn't help that every cereal box screams how healthy it is (even if you don't believe something, hearing it a million times makes you start to believe it) and I keep hearing about the benefits of whole grains blah blah.

So why do I eat cereal? Maybe I (and all of us) have less free will than we thought. Or we have free will in the sense that you could do a lot of things but you probably won't. Maybe I should be less judgmental towards {fat, nerdy, financially-careless, addicted, etc} people.

2 comments:

Kemal said...

Regarding free will: it is ALL chemicals; or rather, all physics. However, it all adds up to normality.

That article about Bruce Bueno de Mesquita was interesting. It shouldn't be surprising that game-theoretic modeling of political scenarios can produce accurate results.

Nevertheless I'd like to read MUCH more about this guy before I have the same level of respect for him as the article seems to imply. Like you said, there are all sorts of ways that his results could be simplified, or may not be as impressive as they sound.

Also, although he's published many papers, his model seems to be proprietary. It would be nice to examine it.

Dan Tasse said...

About free will: yeah, that's true. Which is weird to think! I feel like I can choose to eat a piece of toast or read a book, but at the atomic level, it's atoms doing their thing.

Argh ugh though, I feel like I'm with you in this argument, but then I extend it a little bit and it stops making sense. Like you said, it does add up to the world acting like it does, which means, we can act like people have choices; how can we punish them for acting badly? Or does morality not exist either? (to dredge up an age-old argument. I'm interested in your take on it.)

I guess we can't even punish people for acting badly; we can't punish people period, because we can't actually choose to do anything.

(or, you know, maybe we're all wrong, maybe there's some sub-quarkey thing that we privileged humans can influence to make choices.)

As for Bruce Bueno de Mesquita: It shouldn't be surprising that a good-enough game-theoretic model would predict politics. But it WOULD BE surprising if someone actually came up with this model. It's like the weather: give me all the inputs and I can predict the weather perfectly, but if you forget one little butterfly in Brazil blah blah. I feel like maybe some crazy dude in Topeka, Kansas is like the butterfly in the traditional chaos-theory weather model: you forget one person, or one group of people, or whatever, and all of a sudden your model predicts us electing Jerry Seinfeld as president or something.