Showing posts with label humanity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humanity. Show all posts



so i got punched over the weekend. no big deal, you're thinking, suck it up, you weak-ass cripple; thing is, it was w3dyt. the guy who was one of my best buddies, who i trusted pretty much with anything, smashed me one in the back - him being twice my strength and a whole fucking lot taller, me being just in a towel at the time and having refused to sleep with him. i got a fist-sized bruise on my goddamn ribs now.

basically, i'm fucked when it comes to fighting. i have no built-up muscle. i'm five foot three, i weigh 115 - i'm a featherweight at best, an immunocompromised wimp in reality. pretty much anyone i know could kick my sorry ass in a fistfight, and even though he only hit me once, i was so fucking shocked i didn't even hit him back. i'm ashamed to say i started crying, took a shitload of my pain pills to KO myself and slept on the floor, just with a blanket. i haven't talked to him since.

it's pathetic, but i felt so fucking betrayed. he was my best buddy, like a brother to me, and he did that just because i wouldn't fuck him. i trust my crew with everything - with the meat when i'm unconscious, with money, with my house keys, fucking everything - they're my family, more than my blood relatives are, and the idea that a brother would wanna hurt me never came into my head.

i guess i'm just too fucking naive.


why we don't ever debate laymen

so i tried to get through a family visit without starting a fight with any of my, uh, scientifically illiterate relatives... well, i got to the last night before i lost it and ran over a verbal landmine talking to my ma and sis.

they're watching Paranormal Hunters or Ghost Hunt or Mediums Gone Wild or some such shite, with a woman who is quite blatantly cold-reading people for a hundred Euro a pop. me, i'm lying on the floor in a medically useless attempt to alleviate the eighty-year-old's spine in my twenty-year-old fucked-up body, given that neither the codeine (pretty much prescribed with no other purpose than to keep my addiction under control) or the about a half a bottle of irish cream i'd drunk by then could do shit about it, only half paying attention to the conversation. the other half of said attention span is being wasted on trying to devise a test for a real spirit medium that would both be scientifically valid, and at all comprehensible to the layman.

eventually, i get bored. "If she was a real spirit medium," i point out acidically, "she'd be able to give him the messages from his dead mother without him answering any questions. If he sat there and said nothing, she'd be screwed. These people are retarded," and i leave it at that, imagining like the autistic idiot i am that my blood relatives would have the fundaments of logic at least in their minds when considering this shit.

nope. my ma is suddenly looking a whole lot less happy. "I can't believe you're saying that," she says shakily. "Are you calling me retarded?"

see, here's where me and J. Random Neurotypical diverge. the normal thing to do, i learned, would be to go, "No ma, misunderstanding, there are too spirits," apologise, and leave it at that. that's about as far as you can get from what i did.

"Damn right I am," i said, expecting the mental ping-pong of a fun debate with educated people who can take having their beliefs insulted. good holy fuck was that not what it turned out to be.

in the ensuing heated argument, i tried to make the point that although i respect all humans, yeah even rapists and murderers, as humans, i don't have to respect anyone's beliefs. that got them so angry they started to become inarticulate, and seems to have translated into the following in their minds:

"You're wrong because you think differently to me. Ergo you are not allowed to think anything that is wrong, ergo you are worthless. CONFORM TO SCIENCE'S HEGEMONY NOW."

trying to assure them that i don't think difference is bad was utterly futile, as was pointing out that science doesn't dictate, that you can't prove that anything doesn't exist (only that it does), that i don't disagree with them because i don't like their ideas but because there is no evidence for them, etc. i could not get it through to either woman that having blind faith in X irrational concept 'just because you want to', is cognitively fettering yourself.

so i tried to compare it to religion, since they're both non-theists. "How is your belief in the spirit world any different to a Catholic's belief in Heaven?" i asked. by this point my sister, a nineteen-year-old with a hatred of academia, is shouting at me constantly that i'm an asshole and i'm never gonna get anywhere in the world, nobody's ever gonna respect me because i'm a jerk, etc. my ma doesn't answer the question, instead getting more and more upset that i used the word 'retard', saying that it's a kick in the face after all she's done for me and she can't believe i'd be so ungrateful as to call her names. by this point both are in tears, and my sis is trying to shout "It's just your OPINION! It's JUST YOUR OPINION!" over anything i say.

then i really threw the napalm at my stupid ass. "Shut up a second and let her talk," i tell her, trying to get some sort of turn system established so we can all get a fucking word in. turns out neurotypicals prefer the format of debate where the winner is the guy who shouts down all the other guys and is still refusing to listen to their first logical point. she screamed at me that i was a fucking asshole with no future who didn't have any feelings and would never have any friends, and still yelling that she didn't want to even be related to a cunt like me, stormed to her room (she still lives with my ma) and slammed the door. my ma went upstairs in tears to talk to her, still thinking i'd called her retarded and refusing outright to let me explain that i hadn't. and all i was doing was starting a mental fencing match for pocket change; it's as if they suddenly got tired of my fancy prancing, took the balls off the foils and cut the shit out of everyone in the room. nobody 'won', but everyone had to have stitches. i'm pretty much back to square one with trying to make them not hate me now.

and that is why you should never, ever debate people who don't have degrees.


the outgroup homogeneity bias

i shouldn't peoplewatch. it just makes me despise people.

i'm sitting in the corridors of the huge labs, next to a power socket, happily plugged in and listening to Rabbit Junk while i write a paper about the role of artificially intelligent techniques in machine security. i'm wading through a paper on CycSecure when i'm interrupted by an infuriating stream of banality that streams from the seemingly unthinking head of the bint who's wandered out of the lab to invade my space. "Okay... Tesco... so basically yeah... football?, I'll see you later... no I don't think so sweetie... mum, yeah... I don't wanna go by myself, no..." and on and on, all punctuated with giggles and spoken in an artificially soft, girlified tone that makes me want to crush her throat against the wall until she stops talking like that. it's another sports clone, in the standard uniform of expensive running shoes, joggers, over-feminine pink shirt and bodywarmer, with the same boring plain face, same old brown hair pulled in a ponytail and the same gold necklace they all seem to pass around like a joint. i swear these fucking people are all identical.

so while i'm sitting there, partly fuming that i've cranked my music up to obnoxious volumes and i can still hear this retard blathering about fuck all for an hour, and partly desperately wanting to send them all a long, detailed, ranting letter about how they don't have to look like they're the High Ambassador of Bland or totally eschew any kind of clothing or decoration that might express their personalities or give me looks that might as well spell out in neon over their heads, OH GOD IT'S THAT FUCKING PILLHEAD AGAIN, it occurs to me that my own thinking is spectacularly biased.

see, not everybody looks like me. i've got skin divers on my face and hands, my hair is spiky and dyed weird colours, and my clothes are about as old as i am. on top of that, i just look sick; it's the white skin and the permanent eye-bags at twenty years old, i scare people. the thing is, whilst i'm not neurotypical, in a way everybody thinks like me, everyone despises the masses that drift in oceans of samey-samey facelessness around their ragtag group of misfit friends. that's called the outgroup homogeneity bias.

so maybe i don't have a right to call their hobbies boring. i can't stand small talk or nights on the town, and i hate myself for getting suckered into video games, purely because i have better things to do, like finish the prototype of my thermistor implant or improve the procedure for inserting neodymiums. but they'd probably see it the exact same way, in reverse. what the fuck's Lepht doing sat on its ass drawing circuits all night when i was out with my friends having real fun? the same goes for thinking your friends are all totally crazy and unique and nobody else has buddies like yours. they do. everybody thinks their buddies are the craziest people in the city. the reason i'm on about all this, of course, is that i think it's fucking awesome to notice the biases and prejudices your own perception is subject to. more you see, the more you can reduce your dependency on that kind of thing.

so maybe i should just see the jocks for what they actually are and do some goddamn work.


transhumanism and pain

i mentioned last time people's objections to cybernetics, specifically one that has to do with humanity. it's a common idea that the more someone works with technology, especially implants and biotechnology, the less 'human' they get; hence the usual stereotype of a cyborg as an uncaring, robotic soldier, the creation of irresponsible scientists in some sterile white laboratory. i often get flak about "losing my humanity", and although i don't exactly agree with it, i think that stereotype is where it comes from, and also from people's equation of 'human' with 'natural'. images of the enhanced tend to include assumptions like cyborgs will all be contemptuous of unmodified humans and cyborgs will want to make everyone into other cyborgs and even cyborgs will be people who have lost their feelings and ability to empathise with unmodified humans, which is more widespread than you'd think. damn you, Hollywood, for filling people's heads with this crap and making them less willing to accept real technological advances. damn you. there's only one tiny grain of truth in that picture, and that's the unfeeling part.

i don't mean that i'm an uncaring jerk because i have an interest in cybernetics. i'm a jerk with an interest in transhumanism, just like i'm a jerk who eats chocolate spread straight outta the jar; they're unconnected. what i do mean is that this shit really raises your pain tolerance, as well as making you seriously reexamine your concept of not damaging your body. i noticed that yesterday, when i was reopening a wound on my hand with a scalpel to stop it healing over before i could get a skin diver into it. the wounds are made with a biopsy punch, and i'd inserted a no.10 blade horizontally and swivelled it round under the skin in a circle, having gotten all the way to pulling out the loosened flesh and clots with a pair of tweezers before it occurred to me that maybe that's kind of fucking weird, and a normal person would have just put a plaster on it and given up on that piercing until they could get it redone. me, i bought another diver and reinserted it myself; after the magnet, and with me planning to do nine more in the comfort of my own home, it just didn't register as painful. or rather, it did, but i just don't care anymore. it needs to be done, damage in the short term that conveys an advantage in the long term.

so, You're gonna hurt yourself isn't really a valid objection either. i know. i don't mind hurting myself in exchange for a little more knowledge. in order to get subdermal components in place, right now a scalpel is necessary. in order to get transdermal ones to stay in place, you're gonna need to make incisions. the pain is bad at the start, but the longer i do this kind of thing and the more experiments i do, the less i seem to care about the pain at all. eventually i don't think i'll even consider it to hurt.

cybernetics: if you're not in pain, you're not doing enough science.



so i'm sitting in the lecture theatre yesterday, playing with the magnetic stylus for my touch phone, pushing and pulling it along the desk without touching it like i'm Uri fucking Geller and generally not paying attention to anything else. this important work for the cause of the betterment of humanity is interrupted halfway through the lecture by a terrified whisper of, "Lepht, what are you doing?" from one of my housemates, say D, who's sitting next to me. she's a great caring type, but cybernetics isn't her bag at all and turns out she didn't know i had the neodymium.

"Psychic powers," i tell her as seriously as i can, and give myself away with my usual i'm-not-lying-guv shiteating grin. when i showed her the scar on my fingertip, she twigged that it was another backstreet modification, and freaked. holy shit, do people around here hate the idea of implants. in D's case, it's 'unnatural'; but i get a lot of people who have a lot of weird reasons for telling me i should stop experimenting with these things. viz.

1. That's just disgusting/scary/weird.
i get this one most of all, and it's the one i understand the least. i can get that self-surgery would be disgusting to watch, or maybe even to think of, if you were a squeamy bastard. but why is it disgusting for me to have implants if you don't have to watch the surgery? are people with pacemakers and blood glucose meters disgusting? same with 'scary'. are you afraid of people with artificial legs? if not, why are you so scared of me, and if so, what the fuck is wrong with you?
as for 'weird', well, brand me with a W. of course it's considered weird before everyone's adopted it.

2. There's no point until you have (insert ridiculously advanced technology here).
i've talked about this one before. saying we shouldn't experiment with cybernetics until robot shells and cyberjacks have been invented is like saying that we shouldn't have experimented with canoes until nuclear-powered destroyers were around. we've got components, soldering guns and minds, what's the holdup?

3. You don't know what you're doing. You'll hurt yourself.
well, yeah, i probably would hurt myself if i just jumped in at the deep end of each project and went for self-surgery before i'd designed the systems. i'd also get a lot more work done a lot quicker if doctors could do all the surgery for me, but that ain't gonna happen, so i don't have an alternative. it's not a reason to stop, it's a reason to be really fucking careful and study the anatomy of an area properly before i site things.
and if i knew what i was doing, i wouldn't call it research, as they say.

4. You're going to lose your humanity and become a soulless robot.
demonstrate to me that i have a soul to lose and i'll accept your evidence that cybernetics will make me lose mine. you do have evidence of those things, right?

5. It's not natural.
neither is chemotherapy. next objection.

6. You're just an undergraduate.
yeah, i am. in fact, i'm an undergraduate repeating an entire year, and my grades aren't at the top of the class. but a degree doesn't magically confer the ability to do science, and if i can experiment now, why should i wait? if this means i can get some interesting system working two or three years earlier, what difference does it make whether i'm Lepht Anonym or Lepht Anonym, BSc?

i'll probably hear more than this before my career is over. i hope i do; it'd mean i got somewhere and did something worth criticising.


i'm a bastard

i am. i and a few other people made a guy storm out of our Grand Challenges of AI tutorial today just by questioning him.

the tutorials are pretty simple for GCAI, which is an introductory, non-technical artificial intelligence primer that i take for giggles (can't get any credit for it, for various reasons.) you get a source book of articles, you bring it to each tutorial, and each time, you read through one of them and a sort of informal town-hall debate arises around it. today it was Turing's seminal paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, from way back in 1950. it's basically the original introduction to the field of AI, where Turing defines intelligence, presents the concept of machine intelligence, and demos the common arguments against the possibility of deep AI. he then rebukes each one, apart from the last, which is (hilariously) the 'argument from telepathy'; at the time, it hadn't yet been discredited, and Turing was a firm believer. it shows in the paper, with a genius like Turing asserting the existence of evidence for telekinesis and telepathy which he doesn't provide and suggesting the necessity of 'telepathy-proof rooms' for testing AI in.

that wasn't the argument we had problems with, however. Turing's first cited objection to AI is religious, the 'Theological Objection'. people apparently didn't like AI, back in the day, because of their ridiculous conviction that only people could think because only people had souls. of course, a machine could never have a soul, so how could it possibly ever be intelligent?

i pointed out that this shouldn't even have been included in a scientific paper in the first place. it's just pandering to the deluded, pretending that their silly beliefs are legitimate enough to warrant consideration in a serious scientific journal, but it was the norm in Turing's time to pamper these people. i get that, but, i explain, you can't argue from God unless you've previously proved God, and you can't make arguments involving souls unless you've demonstrated their existence already. which nobody has.

crazy two rows down from me pipes up. "Just because it involves God is no reason to automatically say it's bullshit," he tells me sternly.
"It is," i throw back. crazy goes on to explain that we have souls, animals don't have souls, machines don't have souls, and that therefore we're fundamentally different from either one and the only intelligences possible.

why is this guy studying AI? it being pretty harsh to say that, i stick with asking him for evidence of his batshit claims, and with giving an explanation of neural nets and how the ones we have are tiny arrays of perceptrons compared to our trillions of neurons. we're not anywhere close to creating an analogy of the human brain, but if we did get that many perceptrons, there's no reason to write off the possibility that they might approximate a sentient intelligence. "If we can build nets as big as our brains," i ask him, "then how can you be so sure that they won't come close to intelligence?" somewhere in this i used the phrase 'biological machines' to describe us. it turns out this was a big fucking mistake. crazy didn't like that one bit.

"We're pointless then," he says, over and over. "We're just pointless then aren't we."
"We're not pointless. That doesn't follow at all," i cut him off when he starts to annoy me. "Knowing how our brains work doesn't mean we're devoid of all meaning. Or are you trying to tell me we need a soul to have meaningful lives?"

at this, crazy finally has enough. he turns round, points at me and the people who've been agreeing with me like we were witches, and goes, "I don't like this, this is just fucking shit. Fuck this. You're all getting so overemotional. Fuck this. Fuck," and he shoves his way out of the lecture theatre and stomps away down the corridor, leaving me feeling like a total asshole and my comrades giggling their asses off at this guy.

"We're getting emotional?" snorts the guy just in front of me as the crazy's footsteps die away. i still feel like a shit about it, but i can't just sit there in those sessions and let people spew bullshit unchallenged. i guess some people just can't cope with being asked to actually prove what they're claiming is true.


chillin' in 1954

i'm a transhumanist, someone who believes that technology can and should be used to improve the human condition, and specifically, the human body. this is why i have all these implants, and why i design more - i want to learn something about how to use technology to help me, and in doing that, maybe help someone else to improve themselves too, or even create something that helps millions of us.

my view of the future of such implants is completely bottom-up, in that i'm for creating implants that can do a fraction of what i want an entire transhuman body to be able to, and then combining them in my research subject - yours truly - as science and i progress, to eventually add them together and get closer to what i want. hence the tiny, homebrew components i've sited and had sited are simplistic and monofunctional; but an array of tiny, monofunctional devices is what we call a computer, and i hope the whole human who has many modifications like these will be better than the sum of their parts.

a lot of people don't agree with me. go to a discussion on transhumanism like the ones started by my buddies at Atheist Nexus, and you find people wanting downloadable silicon brains, full-conversion robotic bodies, cybernetic jacks into virtual representations of the Net, ad nauseam. now these are wonderful dreams, sure, but we're not living in a manga or a game, we're adults alive in 2008 and we're probably not gonna live to see this shit. i see so many people totally unmodified, hanging around in cyberspace waiting for Masamune Shirow's prosthetic robot bodies and electronic ghosts. it's not gonna happen in your lifetime, awesome as it'd be if it did. it's like we're sitting around in 1954, waiting for our robotic house servants and our flawless machine translation, before any of us has even taken a look at a neuron.

so we don't got ageless, beautiful super-cyborg shells, and we don't got mathematically enhanced solid-state brains to put in them. what we do got is various electronic components that aren't averse to being immersed in a wet environment, soldering guns, electronics knowledge readily available to anyone who can get to a library, and curious, inventive, spectacular human minds. what we do got is the curiosity and the resources to start creating those dreams.

so if you're a transhumanist as well, and you always wanted a cyberdeck, you can't have one yet. sorry. but don't sit on your ass waiting for someone else to invent them. experiment for yourself. design a few circuits, try an RFID security system out, see what today's technology can do for tomorrow's dreams and see what you can do to bring about some tiny part of that transhuman species you wanna see. get the fuck out there and put our philosophy into practice.



an anecdote:

so i was working the labs a couple hours ago when a kid stumbles in, can't be more than about five, with this expression of rapture on its face as it surveys the machines - which must look pretty cool if you're five, what with the masses of dangling cables and the huge shiny black monitors. at this point i'm the only fucker left in the lab, and i've got neon spiked hair and a glowing laptop screen alongside my monitor. to add to this, i'm listening to PTI at full volume and i'm surrounded by a glut of shiny objects, thus making me the most interesting object in the room. kid therefore makes its way towards me, grinning, and install itself on the floor by my chair where it stares up at me as it plays with my RFID equipment, which is under the bench.

i hate children usually, but this one isn't making any noise, instead connecting and disconnecting the USB cable of the RFID reader board with reverence and occasionally trying to press buttons on my Zen, so i let it be. i figure it's lost or something and somebody's gonna come find it eventually.

well, eventually, a guy who turned out to be its dad did. he was pretty pissed at the kid, and pretty damn scared of me even though i was being goddamn polite - i didn't ask why he let his kid wander off around the Engineering Faculty, which features the heavy industrial equipment labs, the chemical labs and storage, big balconies with gaps wide enough for a kid to fall and kill itself, and plenty of machines with loose cables to pull down on top of you if you're stupid and two feet tall, and i told him the kid was fine and wasn't causing any trouble. i thought he was just scared of me cause of the pallor (my anaemia's gotten a lot worse in the last month, so i pretty much look like Bela Lugosi dressed up for a rave) and the bags under my eyes (they're pretty bad) until i heard him say as he dragged the kid out of there, "You don't disturb those people! Here's your Bible."

they left in the direction of the University chapel. religious parent, and i'm pretty notorious around campus as a member of the Atheist Society committee and picker-on of religious delusion, not to mention i've got the society website up on the main monitor. i felt pretty bad for the kid, which obviously liked the machines and my equipment, getting dragged off to church after being abandoned by its dad.

just goes to show the virtues of religious values in childrearing, i guess.

thermistor system in development

i traded two thermistors for a quantum mechanics primer today, from an absolute legend of an engineering buddy of mine. i'm siting them in the back of my left hand or wrist - haven't decided which yet; it's a question of practicality - in order to artificially replace (poorly, but better than nothing) my natural temperature sense, which has been pretty much obliterated by my painkiller use. the idea is that i'll be able to develop a small circuit with a lithium cell and a pair of LEDs, one for each thermistor, whose brightness will increase as the resistance of the thermistors decreases, meaning the hotter it gets, the brighter the LEDs should be.

i have a long way to go, including building the system, siting the implanted components, and testing it all, before i consider this a success, but the idea is pretty much there. i have no idea if my concept of how accurately the thermistors respond to temperature shifts is accurate, and that needs testing too.

the reason there are two sensors is (in my relatively worthless opinion) also pretty cool: one is in the ohm range, for sensing the temperature of things i touch, whereas the other is in the kiloohm range, for ambient temperature. combined, they should give a rudimentary picture of the temperature of my environment.

if i succeed here, the next step will be to replace the LED indications with a proper LCD readout of the temperature, which needs a microcontroller to calibrate the thermistors and perform the calculations necessary to translate their resistance values into grokable Celsius ones. that's a pipedream, for now, but the first setup i'm actively developing. more news as it evolves... this is gonna be one hell of an experiment.


to the general public:

yes, that is me biting a hole in my arm on the street. yes, those are all bitemarks up my limbs. yes, that is what people like me do when we get that fucking frustrated; i can't do anything else, unless you want me to take it out on one of you instead of on myself, or you wanna see me smash my head into a wall instead. i used to do that before i realised it was fucking my career up. so please, don't give me that 'Please don't bite me, Lepht, you fucking psychopath' stare on the street; i can't help it, alright?

... aite, i'm done. just gettin' my angries out, like they say. i gotta start again, again, and i'm a little down about it - i've been upchucking my pills, my food, all the acid in my stomach every day for about the last month and a half, and pretty much feeling shit for it. as a consequence, my partner hasn't let me outta his sight for about that long as well, so i've been living out of a carrier bag like a transient in a place with no connection and i've had no way to carry on with studying hacking. so like i said, i gotta start again; i feel like such a useless douche when i'm not learning, especially since i don't have the natural talent most hackers do.

so, i'm gonna start again, again. gotta go reintroduce myself on my old hangouts, gotta review what my head's half-forgotten and the drugs have half-erased. i've got so many buddies to get back in touch with, and a hell of a lot to apologise for, but Lepht Anonym ain't dead yet.


ps. to the other guy called Lepht, two things. 1. i'm sorry, but i can't give up my name, it's my name too. 2. if there's anything else i can do, let me know. i don't want no hard feelings over this.


boku wa user ga hanasemasen

man, i now know what the word overload truly means. i'm trying to make a C program display tag output correctly, prototype a game-selling system interface, build (and understand) analogue sensors for my team's stupid-ass Lego robot, figure out how many photons per second are given off by a fucking 200W lightbulb (undergraduate quantum physics course), do laundry, read Anderson's seminal security engineering text, fix my damn Atheros card and calculate a dosage of dihydrocodeine that results in neither me bitchslapping my robotics team because the pain is pissing me off nor passing out in the corridors and getting groped and/or looted by the unscrupulous. it's a riot, sure, i'm as wired as i've ever been without the use of schmethamphetamines (fuck you, Google spider), but without stimulants, i just fucking collapse.

so instead of actually working, i'd like to point y'all to LSO's challenge server, that's why i'm still up at 3:30: it feels so good to get root, you'll forgo sleep.

which leads me to my actual point: techheads are always percieved as being isolated from "real life" (i'm not gonna go into the semantic idiocy of that phrase right now), but up until now i've seen that as a kind of stupid myth. this last month or so has really changed my mind.

starting up, people's reactions to the kind of shit that doesn't even get a shrug from a hacker. the chip in my hand inspires about 1 "hey that's cool" or "you could use that for X random application" for every 99 "oh my god that's so fucking gross get that the fuck out of your body you fucking headcase". i've been seeing weird discrepancies in how tech people react to the world compared to the machine-illiterate, too: walking into a classroom with two unlabelled doors, i say to the guy next to me, "you know, that's really bad interface design", and then realise that's a fucking stupid thing to think. likewise, i keep trying to hit Ctrl-C Ctrl-V when faced with having to copy out bits of meatspace paper, and forgetting not to use the word meatspace when that's where i am, and i know there are guys out there way worse than me.

the problem is, that doesn't only isolate you from students, it gives tech itself a bad image. it also makes it virtually impossible to interact with endusers and clients meaningfully - you write in your docs, "bitsetq -a -f -x -q" and your users look at you and go, "hay lepht wtf is terminal anyways?" equally, students who listen to you won't ask questions if they hear one huge pile of jargon and unfamiliar concepts, they just give up. i'm gonna have to learn to act like a normal human being if i wanna deal with these people, and that's a huge part of what my job involves.

i think i've been in denial about that, trying to convince myself i think the same way as a social scientist or a historian, and it's seeming more and more like i was bullshitting myself. i guess we all gotta learn to speak user; seems to me like otherwise, users won't speak to us.



long live science, Lepht not so much

when i die, my body's never going to get buried. i'm proud of this.

i realise how fucked-up that sounds; i ain't gone nuts, though, and i'm not doing the whole viking pyre thing (as cool as that would undoubtedly be.) i don't go in for the valhalla scenario, and i ain't so sure i've exactly distinguished myself enough in combat to get there... what i do go in for is science, and that's what my body's gonna be for once i'm dead. it's gonna be preserved in formaldehyde and dissected by professors, then put back together and prosected time after time by medical students - people who can actually get some benefit from it - and eventually, bits of it will be plastized and put in the University's anatomical museum, and the bones will be wired back together, both for use by more students, for decades. this is a good thing.

so why does it get such a visceral reaction from non-medical students? i've been trying to get other people to do the same thing - either become organ donors or anatomical ones - and so far, all i get is That's fucking disgusting, Lepht or Oh, you'll change your mind about that soon enough, once you've thought about it. the registrar at the Anatomy Department asked my proxy about three times if i was "sure i wanted to do this": i even got "You know they'll cut you up with saws and scalpels, right? You know you're not going to be left in one piece?" from one particularly moronic onlooker. i have a vague idea of what's going through their heads as regards that process, but it's totally fucking illogical - those reactions make no sense.

for a start, yeah, i do know what's gonna happen to the corpse. i'm not going to be there: ergo, it doesn't phase me. i'm the collective function of a brain's multiple systems, and once the brain ceases to function, i will cease to be. my knowledge will have been passed on to the larger matrix of what humans know, my job will be over, and hopefully, i'll have taught as much in life as 'i' will after it, but i'm never going to feel those bonesaws; i'm not going to be there while people poke over my open chest. i won't be hurt by any scalpel.

second, it's not disgusting. it's science. you can't learn about the human systems if you don't have the balls to examine them in vivo, and even though i can't watch anatomy videos, other people can, and they need cadavers more than i need to protect people's pathetic victorian-era concepts of "eww gross". if no fucker donated their bodies because it's "nasty" to cut them up, we'd have no doctors.

third, i'm not gonna change my mind about this. this is the logical lead-on from my (much) earlier logical conclusion that there is no afterlife - my reasoning is as sound as human reasoning can ever be, and unless someone shows me repeatable, solid evidence that i could a. exist independently of my own neurons and b. might somehow need to keep their useless rapidly-decaying mass untouched after death as a result of this, i'm not gonna feel the need to revise my logic.

so i'm not gonna be buried. i specified in my will that i don't want any christian funeral like cadavers are usually eventually given, either: i don't want people thinking i ever subscribed to that bullcrap. i'm honoured to be able to be of use without it. all i want is for, in a hundred years' time, someone to look at my flayed and plastic-infused hand in a dissection room and be able to marvel at its workings, like they would anyone else's; that, and for me to not be the only one with enough sense to have let them see that. i just want people to benefit from medicine while they live, and benefit it in kind once they die.

is that so fucking disgusting?



lesson learned:

if someone yells at you, pick yourself up and carry the fuck on. if someone yells at you for not knowing anything, keep learning shit until one day, you do know something.

i need a drink.



covered in holes and electrode goo

dear algorithms students:

please just do what i told you to do when you find me passed out. i said don't call Security, fuck's sake. you called Security. i've been through this a lot, so i knew what had happened when i was woken up from my semi-overdose stupor on the lecture theatre floor by a black leather boot to the chest and a fucking megadecibel of Scots voice sounding like Billy Connolly on crack, informing me that I WAS OK NOW DID I HEAR HIM I WAS OK NOW I WAS GONNA BE OKAY DID I TRY AND KILL MYSELF THE AMBULANCE IS ON THE WAY OK.

it is not a good thing for the ambulance to find me. i have told you this, students, and you forgot, you bastards. i get taken to hospital, my entire fucking gastroenteral system and then some gets flushed (that's two cannulae, one in each arm, four IV bags to go on each one, and bedpans, fucking bedpans) in case it was a paracetamol overdose (what am i, twelve?), i gotta see a goddamn psychiatrist and they keep me in for a night and a full fucking work day, usually two.

now, unless you fuckers wanna find yourselves being yelled at by undereducated health professionals with room-temperature IQs, listening to more kinds of maddening constant noise than Guantanamo in a hospital that makes Soviet Russia look luxurious - you gotta love the NHS - with a Glaswegian trainee stabbing holes in your arms and muttering gibberish about you've got so much to live for, just do what i told you: sit me up, slap me round the face, and get me the fuck outta there.

(is covered in holes and electrode goo as it types)


idiocy surpasses itself

straight after i say it can't get stupider than using no AV, no less. this month, people have been mostly searching for:

4. solpadol - i'm not even on Solpadol anymore.
5. ilove you - i get the feeling this guy might want my underwear or something.
6. ilove you 2 - he should just get together with this guy.
7. tramadol fuck you up? - i heard this in a Chinese accent. oh ya, fuck you up real bad, really sick, fuck you guts up nasty, mm.
8. anonym for understand - not when you talk like that i fucking don't.
9. can i crush solpadol tablets? - categorically, no. crushing them results in something that tastes like a sluice farm smells, i can tell you.

you gotta wonder, don't you.



that's the Golden Rule

i just have a simple point to make. the other day i was sitting calmly on my ass in the labs, listening to the excellent Fresh Body Shop, when i was surprised by a guy doing his PhD thesis who wanted a hand working MS Office. glad to help, and knowing Office and as well as the next guy, i spent a few hours showing him how to work the flowcharts, draw diagrams and import/embed objects into Word. after a while, it transpired that said PhD involved the "faith equation", about which i decided to keep my mouth shut, despite the fact that you can't do algebra with religion and get the same answer twice, never mind a meaningful one (it's like trying to do algebra with anything else that isn't numbers - it's just not gonna work.)

after a while, he asked me if i was still okay with the length of the words and their spellings (at this point i was doing the typing, having taken the keys off the noob in a fit of bad teaching several minutes beforehand.) i was, yeah, i replied, since i'm eidetic, but i wasn't used to seeing so many theological terms in a mathematical context; i said the last person i saw doing that was Behe, and that wasn't good. i went on to add that even if i was a theist i'd still have been able to see the holes, and enquired whether he too had read said bad tract.

"Atheist?" he repeated, obviously perturbed and evidently never having heard of Michael Behe. "You're an atheist?" it was as if i'd accidentally let slip that i was a vampire or a leper. he actually shifted away from me in his seat like he might catch heresy and asked me, bewildered, "Well, why are you helping me then?"

teeth clenched, i explained that you don't have to be Christian or even theist to be good. i put it to him that there is a basic human moral code that exists above holy books and word-of-god, and that we use it, for example, in deciding not to follow the rules in the Qur'an that tell us to stone heretics and behead unbelievers, or the ones in the Bible that involve bull sacrifice and pigeon-killing and the whole gay-hating thing.

unconvinced, he wanted to know what had made me an atheist. i've always been an atheist, having never been convinced by the state religion, the mainstream alternatives or the new-age dross of my hometown as a child, and i said so. i pointed out that i follow the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have others do unto you - and that i was helping him because of that. i'd like to think other people would help me with, say, Maya if i wanted to do some 3D modelling, and so i help people out with what i know.

i think i managed to convince him eventually that we're not baby-eaters, though he might have thought it was just me. that's one of my aims in life - to show that most atheists are not assholes, and most Christians are not assholes either. just because we're either side of a debate doesn't mean that Hitler represents all Christians, or that Stalin stands for all atheists: we're all human, and humans should help each other out regardless of who believes in Yahweh and who doesn't.

that's why i'll help Christians, Muslims and anyone else that can't work a compiler, and that's why i'd expect anyone else to help me if they see me passed out in the lab. that's the Golden Rule.



the ueber-rant

i had a debate with a Philosophy student yesterday. it went like this:

Lepht (on way to coffee shop, having ended up in casual conversation in transit): ... of course, that's a faith-based conclusion, and if that's all she's got -

Student: You know, this thing you've got against faith is something you should really work on before you really insult someone.

Lepht (momentarily taken aback): What? I don't care if I insult people with faith, Harry.

Harry: You should care. You've got to respect it, even if it's not right for you. You always seem to write things off if you disagree with them, just because they're not right for you, and that doesn't seem fair.

Lepht (by now absolutely astounded): It's not that it's "not right for me". It's that faith is based on an absolute lack of evidence. That doesn't make it "not right for me" and "right for some others", it makes it wrong for anyone who lives in the real world. By your logic, everything's right for someone - hell, Nazism is "right for some people". You can't say it's wrong, just "not right for you".

Harry: That's not the same. I'm talking about spirituality, not religion.

{i usually do end up in this kind of fight with students. in this case i ignored his blatant change of subject and went with his next point.}

Lepht: They're both based on faith. Where's the difference? Why should I leave one alone but not the other?

Harry (becoming agitated): No! Religion is, is dogma and rules and regulations. Spirituality is about... (turns away) It's about personal (inaudible).

Lepht: Look, what do you even mean by spirituality?

Harry: They're not the same!

Lepht: But what does the word mean?

he just wouldn't, or couldn't, define "spirituality", or tell me how it was at all different from religious faith, or why i should respect either of them. i've had thousands of these conversations, with all kinds of believer, and none of them can ever tell me why either faith or spirituality deserve respect.

that's it, of course: every human being deserves respect. the human genome is so beautifully adapted, the body such a wonderful product of evolution over an inconceivably long time, that i couldn't conclude otherwise; it's one of my core tenets, that everyone on the planet has a brain worthy of the most complex theories we can imagine, and then some. i respect all people for what they are, no matter how foul and reprehensible their behaviour or stupid their choices.

what i can't respect is their silly, mushy beliefs. i won't sit back and be told that Jesus will save my soul. i won't be sermonised about my immorality. and i won't allow philosophers and Pagans to demand my tolerance of their vague and ill-defined notions of non-religious faith, either, no more than i would tolerate someone touting Peruvian creation myths as truth or trying to stop my security classes because they're against the teachings.

i respect humanity. i serve humanity. but i despise faith, and i'll afford it no tolerance.

it doesn't deserve tolerance.

(about to be blown off the face of the earth by angry Pagans)


not forgetting

this is the kind of thing i really can't forget if i'm gonna get anywhere in life in this state. i write this more for myself than anyone else, though it's probably decent advice for anyone.

yeah, i'm broken, so to speak. i can't go a day without taking pills unless i wanna limit myself to one room's movement because it hurts too fucking much to walk around, and when i do take them, they periodically knock me out at my terminal. i throw up in public litter bins, i piss blood, i fall off my chair in tutorials; my skin's bleached and blemished and my sleep cycle is almost nonexistent. i can't manage twenty pressups. i'm not a healthy human being.

but i'd give health up every time. i'd give up the ability to walk in order to see what anyone with intelligence can see; i'd give up anything my body could offer. whatever happens to me, no matter how many times i think, man i don't wanna live like this my whole life, i'd never do anything else. if this is how i gotta live, so be it.

i ain't gonna forget that.



yesterday, walking under an underpass in the city where i live, i saw this graffiti in simple red hand on the concrete:

How dare you paint over these walls when you have bigger fish to fry.
Re-educate the racist, avenge the battered wife, house the poor, end the tyrannies of war and religion and sickness over our lives, then wipe my paint off the walls.
For then it will not matter; I will have everything I ever wanted.
We will have won.

it is rare for my city to spew such beautiful reminders of humanity and intelligence. i only wish i had a camera.