Archive for September, 2009

Your brain on Kafka

September 20, 2009

Thanks to a tweet from @valdiskrebs, have a look at this nicely written piece by Tom Jacobs describing recent research on how the brain “amps up” when trying to make sense of puzzles.


September 20, 2009

Recently, Nancy Roberts posted a job opening notice on SOCNET. The job is at the Naval Postgraduate School for a social network analyst, who would be working on counter-terrorism projects.  Sam Friedman took exception to this, arguing essentially that in even posting the message the SOCNET list is complicit in murder and other illegal activity. The full text of his message is here:

It has now been more than 24 hours since this appeared.

This is a clear solicitation for people to abet in the murder of innocent civilians and also of “terrorists” and “counterinsurgents”–some of whom might in some circumstances be called “freedom fighters” by some of us.)

This is done, furthermore, in a context in which the USA is engaged in the illegal invasion and/or occupation of other countries.

Thus, I am somewhat surprised that no one else has remarked upon why this list serve is making itself available to the solicitation of illegal acts.

One hypothesis, based on my own trepidation to respond to this in any form, is that people fear retaliation by the US military or its allied agencies if they say anything on this issue.

If so, this is itself a testament to our times.

What do you think?


What a bind these conversations are. Personally, I don’t want Socnet to be a current affairs forum, especially a shrill and partisan one. But then, I really could just skip the stuff that I’m not interested in. And I recognize that my concerns are pretty shallow: while people like Sam are trying to stop murder, I’m fretting over my cluttered inbox.

Still, the moral frame makes it very difficult to discuss anything because at some level every dissenting opinion is an immoral act. If Sam is right about the US, then Ezra’s support for Nancy’s post weakens Sam’s call and makes a very tiny yet positive contribution to American atrocities. Furthermore, the listserv itself is in moral error for allowing the airing of an implicit point of view that ultimately supports murder, as Sam quite logically points out. Of course, non-moralists are quick to spot the problem with this sort of censorship. Whose views get to air? But from the moralist point of view, this is moral relativism which is a contradiction in terms; after all, we don’t give equal time to pederasts.

Am I advocating that moralist posts like Sam’s be stricken from Socnet? I’d sure like that, but as something of a moral relativist, I haven’t got a leg to stand on. What a bind. Good thing I’m not the SOCNET listmaster anymore.

Related posts:

Nerd terms domain

September 11, 2009

Here’s a componential analysis of terms such as nerd, geek and dweeb.


Thanks to Dan Halgin for pointing me to it.

Should theories be beautiful?

September 8, 2009

According to Lave and March, and many others, the answer is yes. But take a look at Krugman’s analysis “How did economists get it so wrong?” in the New York Times . He blames beauty.