A Bit of Fry

I confess that I am a youtube glutton. If ever there was a reason for my lack of progress at work, it’s youtube. But as they say, wasting time doing what is fun is not a waste of time. There are hundreds of topics that interest me, and scores of amazing people whose videos I simply love. Too many musicians, thinkers, teachers, and on and on. One of those people is Stephen Fry. He’s funny, wise, interesting, a brilliant raconteur and an

amazing debater.

One of my favorites is where Stephen Fry opposes the motion “The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World.” in an Intelligence2 debate. It’s 20 minutes of sheer delight. The man’s eloquence is breathtaking. Watch.  Continue reading

Why I will not pull the lever

The trolley problem posits the scenario that the trolley would kill five unsuspecting people along its tracks but by pulling a lever it can be sent along a different route where only one person would get killed.

Would you pull the lever?

The trolley problem is a hypothetical intended to provoke discussion and to illuminate moral dilemmas that people face in real life. In my view, it is good to work through hypothetical so as to arrive on general principles that could be applied if the situation arises. It could spare one pointless agonizing and indecision. Continue reading

Lysander Spooner

Whom do you really respect that most people don’t know about? Who is your hero that very few of your friends and family know about? For me, that’s Lysander Spooner. Let me introduce to you Mr Lysander Spooner. Why? Because he recognized the true meaning of human freedom and dignity. That means he was justifiably suspicious of majoritarian democracy. “The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves.”  Continue reading

Ask me anything – The disclaimers edition

Summary

Sky Map comes with no warranties! If you choose to use it to navigate the high seas and you hit an iceberg, it’s your responsibility. If you tell your kids that the bright thing in the sky is Jupiter and it turns out to be a UFO and you are subsequently kidnapped by aliens – not our responsibility. If your kids subsequently fail their science homework – not our responsibility. If it wipes all the data in your phone, including the photos of the UFO that were going to make you rich – not our responsibility. If it causes your phone to tear a hole in the fabric of space and time, OK – that one is on us. Any other calamities not listed above — not our responsibility. Don’t use it while driving or carrying scissors.

Continue reading

Human Population

In a comment to a previous post, Happy 4th of July, Akshar wrote, “in 1789 George Washington became the first democratic president of such a large nation directly at odds with the largest empire on earth.” What caught my attention were the words “large nation” and “democratic.”

Today when we talk of large nations, we figure hundreds of millions of people. But things were different in the past. By today’s standards, the newly minted United States of America was tiny, Around 1776, the total population of the 13 former colonies was around 2.5 million people. That’s less than the present population of Pune (a moderately big city by Indian standards), which is over 3 million people.

And how big was Great Britain at that time? Estimates of the population range from 7 to 10 million. That means the combined population of England, Scotland and Wales was less than half the present population of Delhi or Mumbai. Those countries had tiny populations.                            ∇

What about democracy?  Continue reading

Happy Fourth of July

July 4th is generally observed as the “independence” day of the United States of America — and deservedly so. However, people usually wish each other “Happy 4th of July” and not “Happy Independence Day” (as they usually do in India instead of saying “Happy 15th of August.”)

For Americans, July 4th is special. On that day in 1776, exactly 242 years ago today (if I have my sums correct), the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Here’s a bit from the always dependable wikipedia:

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4.[1]

So that funny fake quote above has the wrong date. Jefferson should have exclaimed that on the 1st of July, not the 3rd.  Continue reading