It's strange how one's interests change over time. In high school I was very interested in psychology, and chose my university major, Cognitive Science, based in part on that. The three required first-year courses included math, computers and psychology, and that sounded just fine to me. In any case, the more I studied psychology, the less interested I became in it. There is way too much speculation and not close to enough hard science for my liking.
In any case, in the realm of not-hard-science, there are a number of personality tests floating about on the internet, including this online Myers-Briggs test which is a simple yes/no questionnaire that doesn't take long to fill out. Try it out, if you have a few minutes. If you feel like it, post a comment with your personality type. If you're feeling really lazy, there's a quick four-question test that does the same thing. I fearlessly predict that when you look at the description of your personality type, you'll see many little details of your personality.
Anyway, I'm an INTJ. According to this careers page for INTJs, computer programmer is a suitable career, so I guess I got that right. I remember taking a different personality test in high school, and the top two career choices for me were religious worker (odd, since I'm an atheist) and social worker (maybe they got my form mixed up with someone else's in the guidance office).
The result of the test is a four-letter code. Each letter is chosen between two alternatives. The first letter is an I (Introverted) or E (Extraverted), the second is an N (Intuiting) or S (Sensing), the third is a T (Thinking) or F (Feeling) and the fourth is a J (Judging) or P (Perceiving). These are the four dimensions of personality that the test tries to indicate. The longer test gives you a score on each of these dimensions. The higher the number, the more distinctly expressed the personality facet is. My I and T dimensions are fairly strongly expressed, while the N and J dimensions are more moderate.
Recently a group of scientists at a company called Clonaid announced that a human baby has been born, that is a clone of another person. This is, of course, big news.
Let me go on record (potentially setting myself up for looking silly) by saying that if I had to bet $100 on either (a) Clonaid is faking everything or (b) Clonaid has produced a clone, I'd put my money on (b). The CEO of Clonaid, Brigitte Boisselier, was on Crossfire (link leads to a transcript) tonight and frankly I thought she sounded sincere. She was not defensive in the least. I am a skeptic by nature, and of course I am eager for the real scientific proof that the baby is a clone, but hey, why not? I am a definite layman in this field, but if they cloned a sheep six years ago, why would we think that cloning a person would be so much harder? Why not more "that sounds interesting, let's see the evidence" and less "she looks like a soap opera star, they're UFO freaks, they're Dr. Frankensteins"? In any case, hopefully this will all be resolved one way or the other in a week or so, once the necessary tests have been done.
I thought Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, the two Crossfire hosts, got really sidetracked, posing all sorts of rather condescending or irrelevant questions. In the introduction to the show, Carlson even called her actions "indefensible", which is a pretty strong term, one I don't expect to hear when the outcome is the birth of presumably normal baby. Then there were the ad hominem remarks and smirks about the Raelians, the cult / religion / sect to which the scientists belong. Raelians believe that humans are the result of a scientific experiment by aliens. Now, I highly doubt that, although I don't know what their evidence is for that, but noone dismisses scientists who practice mainstream religions, with equally unprovable tenets. Can we not leave their beliefs out of the matter for a little while and examine their claimed actions?
They showed a poll which suggested 90% of people believe cloning is "morally wrong" (7% believed it was OK, the other 3% presumably undecided). I find that pretty amazing. Polls are almost never that one-sided. If you had a poll asking if Michael Jackson would make a good babysitter you'd probably get more than 7% of people saying yes. Anyway, count me in the 7%. It's having an identical twin, on purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. No one's going to create clone armies. The clones would be human beings just like the rest of us and no one would need to know the difference. People will continue to have kids the normal way, when they can. News at 11.
Even if Clonaid is full of hot air, as everyone else seems to think, human cloning is going to happen within a few years. The time is now to discuss this issue rationally and look at the potential benefits as well as possible risks.
A few entries ago I made a remark that there's no such thing as art. Now, nobody wrote to complain, or anything, but I thought I'd defend my side of this imaginary controversy. The way I see it, there is a set of items, such as sculptures, songs, movies, paintings and so on which I will call "objets". Now, Joe Art Snob is going to say something like (*sniff*) X, Y and Z are art, and A, B and C are not. My problem with this is that this is basically a meaningless statement, because it's not falsifiable and Jane Art Snob may well disagree. So what are we left with? "Art" is little more than one person's opinion. How could it be defined? If art is anything it is an individual's response to an objet. It's very pretentious to imply that other people should have the same response as you.
None of this is meant to say that I don't enjoy objets, or think other people shouldn't enjoy them. Nor am I trying to deny that things people say about art could be true. What I'm trying to point out is this whole subject known as art is a very personal one, and calling something "art" is basically an attempt to elevate one's own experience to something more universal. I object to this presumption, since everybody perceives differently, and these perceptions are colored by many different factors in our lives.
There is obviously a practical benefit to knowing which objets one might be interested in, for example, which movies (or "films", in the vernacular) one might be entertained by. An obvious way is to share experiences with others and find people who have similar tastes as you. I ran into an interesting example of this on amazon.com. My five favorite movies (note, I do not claim these are the "best" movies) of all-time are American Beauty, Fight Club, Memento, Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects (with a very honorable mention to the two made and one unmade Lord of the Rings movies) . I was at the American Beauty DVD page on Amazon and noticed the other four movies in my list in the "Customers who bought this DVD also bought:" list. Amazing! Fortunately it appears that systems that collect preferences from a large number of people can help us find objets we are likely to enjoy.
It's late; I must get some sleep...
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