Wednesday, February 04, 2009

mala tempora currunt

PhD update (now there's an excuse for not blogging)

Is there a rule that every blog entry should begin with a (Smiths) song lyric, or a latin phrase?

I've omitted the song lyric and I couldn't figure out the latin for "told ya so". And anyway that sounds petty and immature, and as readers, you will no doubt be aware, that I'm trying to not do petty and immature anymore. Call it a New Years resolution if you like.

Well, when I s
ay every blog entry, I guess I mean... um, just my blog entries. I wouldn't expect that rabble of kiwi political bloggers - the boring lot that seem obsessed with blogging about current affairs and what John Key is doing and etc. That incestuous crowd that all quote each others blogs and use such tiresome bloggese like, "hat tip", or "blog roll". oops there's me going all petty again. (yes, that was meant to be so unfunny as to be funny - weird how circular humour can be)

Mala tempora currunt means something like bad times are upon us.

Upon me I mean, no I'm not talking about the "credit crunch" or the "global downturn", "banking crisis" (whatever), we "talked ourselves into this recession" don't you know. And we're now busily talking ourselves into a depression (apparently) - yippee. I love natural disasters, I remember racing off to view the Hutt River in full flood as a kid wondering what it would look like if it actually broke it's banks. I remember in my mid 20s being fascinated by
an approaching "dangerous" cyclone whilst living on the Gold Coast.

Perhaps a Samuel Butler quote would work. I discovered this by reading Norbert Wiener's, Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation. Wiener is generally credited for bringing to our attention, in the 1950s, computer ethics - he contended that "machines can and do transcend some of the limitations of their designers (and today we'd probably have to add, their users) and that in doing so they may be both effective and dangerous".

However, Butler's predictions were far more extreme - in 1863 he wrote an essay which was published in the Christchurch Press, he said

Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life.

I think it was, to some extent, Butler who inspired Wiener. A few years ago I walked past Butlers Forest Stream hut. Forest Stream is a tributary of the Rangitata, it runs up into the Two Thumb range, for a summer expedition i traversed the range solo - a far more satisfactory pursuit than blogging under any conditions. Which reminds me, I need some mountain time. I didn't go up to Butlers hut, it was on the other side of the river and I didn't feel like crossing it - not that it was overly dangerous, just the previous year I'd had a minor scare in a swollen MaCauley river (on the Lake Tekapo side of the two thumb range) and crossing swiftly flowing streams unecessarily (a kind of natural disaster) wasn't on my wish list.

Anyway, back to the writing. (progress report - literature review of Information Ethics)

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