Friday, 22 June 2012

New blog

Hello. I'm Ernesto Posse. I'm a Computer Scientist/Software Engineer/Programmer by training. In this blog I'll be writing on a wide variety of subjects which interest me, including software, mathematics, logic, language, philosophy, geography, history, and even movies. I am by no means an expert in these subjects. This is a blog to express personal opinions and thoughts. Sometimes I will be talking about techie stuff such as my favourite programming languages or operating system. Other times about technical stuff such as process algebra and formal semantics. On occasion, I'll talk about things I'm trying to learn about such as logic, epistemology and metaphysics. Sometimes about things I don't understand, such as probability and quantum mechanics. At times I may write about some non-controversial topics like religion (I'm not a fan). And sometimes about my pet peeves on people's geographical and historical ignorance, and annoying movie snobs. It will be a hodgepodge. On purpose.

I have never been a big fan of blogs. Most of them seem to be a vapid manifestation of narcissism and vanity, combined with condescension and snobbery, and trying (and failing) to be too clever. I am afraid that by starting a blog it will end up being like that. Nevertheless I have decided to take this risk for a number of reasons. There may be some narcissism involved, but hopefully not too much. I am a bit of a snob with respect to a few things, such as programming languages and operating systems. But there are other reasons that have motivated me. There are a few, very few, well written and enlightened blogs which I have found and which have made me see that it is possible to write a blog which is not absolute rubbish. Although I'm not sure I will succeed, I will try to write a relatively decent blog. A blog provides a more in-depth venue for expressing ideas, specially in a world of inane Facebook status updates and insipid Twitter pseudo-cleverness. There are also some personal reasons. It has partly to do with finding a venting outlet. And the rest are, well, with all due respect, none of your bloody business. Hence the adjective 'personal'. I feel an entry on privacy in the age of Facebook and blogs brewing already. In any case, I am not really looking to get any readers. In fact I'd be surprised if I get any at all. Most blogs, if not all, are really irrelevant, and this one will not be an exception. But I am not aiming for relevance. It is to me first and foremost a personal experience. If someone else notices, fine. I just hope I won't feel too embarrassed about it, or if I do get embarrassed, I hope I can get over it.

One of the aspects I strongly dislike about blogs and internet forums is the level of aggressivity, negativity and hatred out there. The "everyone is an expert" syndrome. We all tend to think, naturally, that we are right, and those who disagree with us are wrong. Online, one finds very often people expressing disdain, contempt, condescension and offence towards those who have different views. People naturally tend to think they are smarter or more knowledgeable than others and vent with emotionally infused language. I am not saying that one should not criticize opposing points of view. Quite the contrary. All too often very bad ideas and arguments go unchallenged. Nevertheless, this does not mean that to challenge an idea one must be obnoxious. It is important to distinguish between attacking an idea and attacking a person. Recently I found a very interesting entry on critical thinking: I agree with much of what the author says about criticism. It is an essential part of good thinking. However I find that the tone and language of some of his statements are unnecessary. He uses expressions such as "This is bullshit" and "savage criticism". I understand the frustration against the blandness of political correctness, where "every point of view is valid". Such belief is nonsense of course. The stronger language, which I have also observed elsewhere (and which is not too strong to be honest) is possibly rooted in such frustration. I often feel like that myself, and I will likely write a few entries with a similar tone. Nevertheless, it is possible to make good arguments, and criticize without making a personal attack. The author of that blog rightfully points at the dangers of falling under the spell of logical fallacies. It is essential to remember that one of the most common fallacies is known as "Ad hominem", attacking the opponent rather than the idea. Using language which is a bit provocative risks such fallacy. So using moderate language is not a matter of being "politically correct", being bland or avoiding confrontation, but a matter of avoiding fallacy.

I have as a personal goal in this blog to avoid emotionally infused language and to avoid negativity when criticizing. I will no doubt fail on occasion. But I definitely think we all must make an effort towards having civilized discussion even if, or rather, specially if we disagree.

A word about language. This blog is written in English. Although English is not my mother tongue, it is the language I am most comfortable writing in. Even though I should not have put that preposition at the end of the sentence. I shall make a few mistakes here and there, but hopefully not too many. (At some point I may write about what I think about obnoxious language snobs who speak only one language.)


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