Tuesday, February 22, 2011


(annual odds, arranged from most unlikely)

Death due to a meteor landing on your house: 1 in 182 trillion

Death due to a car accident after winning a Texas Lotto jackpot: 1 in 480 billion

Death due to fireworks: 1 in 55 million

Death due to ignition or melting of nightwear: 1 in 30.6 million

Death due to being confined to or trapped in a low-oxygen environment (not including drowning): 1 in 18.3 million

Death due to shark attack: 1 in one in 11.5 million

Death due to foreign body entering through skin or natural orifice: 1 in 7.65 million

Accidental death while warming up your car in your garage (carbon monoxide poisoning): 1 in 1.45 million

Death due to inhalation of gastric contents: 1 in 720,696

Accidental death due to poisoning by and exposure to antiepileptic, sedative-hypnotic, antiparkinsonism, and psychotropic drugs: 1 in 391,060

and finally...

Being wrongly declared dead as a result of a data entry error by the US Social Security Department staff: 1 out of 23,483

Friday, October 15, 2010

uncertainty makes life worth living

it's ironic that most of us would like all our desires to come true, even to the extent that we want to be able to control everything that happens to our lives.

would we really be happy if everything we want actually happens? that situation would be equivalent to perfect certainty -- if i want a raspberry cake now, i actually get a raspberry cake now.

let's examine this line of thought from a slightly different angle for a while.
ask yourself: would you enjoy reading a novel you've written yourself? would you be thrilled what would happen to a character when you can write what exactly would happen?

with perfect certainty, life would have no meaning. instead of a heaven that we think it would be, it will actually be a never ending hell, and a hell where we have full knowledge of what horrors would happen next.

Friday, February 26, 2010

why we're doomed to fail

there is a LIMIT on the capacity of stuff our minds can handle.

at the very basic level, our short term memory can only handle 7 +/- 2 units of information, that's why phone numbers are usually seven digits long, or truncated into chunks that are less than seven digits each.

this chunking is a technique to increase our innate limit on short term memory. so while we cannot remember more than 7 +/- 2 numbers, we will be able to remember longer sets if we chunk them provided each chunk is within the "magic" 7 +/- 2 limit. thus, we can remember 0919-457-3217, but it's hard to remember 36481247512 even if both contain 11 digits.

so, short term memory is a very basic limit, one that is innate to almost everyone of us. we're just taking bits of information here. and even with chunking, it's easy to realize that we will soon reach a limit on the levels of chunking that we can do.

for example, we can chunk bits into sets containing less than 7 bits each. then we can chunk those sets into sets less than seven chunks each -- like memorizing seven phone numbers per set. but as we go up each level, it becomes more difficult (try memorizing 5 sets of 4 groups of 5 phone numbers per group).

sooner or later, we will reach the limit of chunking as well.

then, for more complex phenomena, there's this little thing called the Dunbar Number. this is a theoretical number that researchers are postulating to be the limit of social group sizes. that is, this is the hypothesised limit of meaningful connections we can have.

we can think of this number as a limit on the number of close friendships a random person can have. when you consider the number, 150, it makes sense. after all, these connections are supposed to be close. how many of us really have 150 close connections? it seems our brains are not capable of handling the complexities of 150 close social connections.

sure, we can have 5 million entries in our phonebooks, but how many are really close to us?

the point is, simple or complex, our brains have certain limits.

and as our world moves into more and more complexity, we will soon hit that brick wall of cognitive limits. our machines may help us for a while, letting us remember gigabytes of info, and organizing our lives into manageable chunks. but sooner or later, those chunks will reach their own fundamental limits. we cannot chunk 7, to 7, to 7, and so on, ad infinitum.

as complexity grows without bound, our capability to handle them shrinks proportionately.

we are doomed to fail. brace for impact.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


world leaders are now in Copenhagen to decide if it's a good idea to spend a huge amount of money in order to limit the global increase in temperatures by less than 2 degrees Celsius.

they are planning to spend untold billions on a goal that's based on a bunch of "what if scenarios" that are far from certain. not to mention towards a future pay off that is much farther from certainty that the premises are.

even if the billions that they plan to save will be successful in limiting the global temperature rise by 2 degrees, there no evidence that this limitation will actually be beneficial or even worth the amount and effort spent.

some people always propose this analogy: that it's better to spend money now and buy insurance that watch your house burn and realize you haven't got protection.

unfortunately, that cannot be applied in the context of influencing climate change through financial intervention.

one, it is not correct that an increase in global temperature is analogous to a catastrophe such as burning one's house. in fact, there is evidence that global COOLING is the climactic event that would be disastrous for most life on earth.

two, it is far from certain that spending billions now will actually "insure" against a potential catastrophe if the rise in temperature exceed 2 degrees. the climate is such a complex system that reducing carbon emissions is only one of the million other factors that affect it. a single large volcanic eruption will cancel out years of CO2 savings from the so-called carbon emissions trading scheme.

in the same analogy as the fire insurance, it's the same as buying fire insurance that will not pay up if the fire is caused by lightning, electrical fault, children playing with fire, crazy neighbors, meteor impact and a million other reasons.

wouldn't it make much more sense if these bunch of band-wagon, publicity-seeking idiots spend the same amount of money on something that can certainly and actually help people right now?

i don't know, something like global poverty and hunger... or even smaller stuff, like controlling malaria.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

why work?

A few bits of wisdom on reasons NOT to work...

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Luke 12:25-26

Take no thought for your life,
What you shall eat;
Nor of the body,
What you shall put on.
Life is more than food,
And the body is more than clothing.
Consider the ravens:
They neither sow nor reap;
They have neither a storehouse nor barn;
And God feeds them.
Aren’t you much more valuable than the birds?
Luke 12:22-24

In The House at Pooh Corner, Christopher Robin has just asked Pooh a question:
“What do you like best in the world, Pooh?”
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best –“ and then he has to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey WAS a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you begin to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
--- The Tao of Pooh

The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?
--- Japanese haiku

You can find teachings from almost every religion and philosophy in the world something of this sort: Just be and everything will be all right. This Principle is most prominent in Taoism and Zen Buddhism but it can be found also in most of the world’s major faiths.
It seems a nice Principle but it also makes you stop and think if it is really feasible. You will begin to think after a while: “If I will just spend my time sitting and contemplating the passing clouds, how the heck would I survive? Would God really send ravens to bring me scraps of bread to eat?”
I think the Principle does NOT suggest that one cease to make a living completely. It only emphasizes that the main reason for our existence in this world is to LIVE and not to make monthly reports, or attend meetings, or worry about things that are beyond our grasp.
Work is essentially time spent for others, be it for your boss, for your co-workers, clients, or for humanity. I believe that when the time spent for others exceed the time spent for oneself, something is amiss in the Order of Things.

We work like mad because our society tries its best to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it. Whether it’s up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite – it’s somehow always further along than we are.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Monday, August 03, 2009


lenient sentences are just fucking lame! stoning to death should be adopted for hardened criminals. and if there's an aggravating circumstance such as if the criminal is a retard, small stones should be used so death takes longer.

here's just one example taken verbatim from the news:

A TEENAGE burglar who terrorised Melbourne for more than a year, breaking into dozens of homes, has escaped with no jail time, no fine and no conviction.

"I had a good lawyer. My lawyer told me I would probably get off," the 15-year-old has boasted.

Victims of crime supporters and residents are dumbfounded after a Children's Court magistrate put the teen on a youth supervision order.

He admitted to a staggering 65 offences in a 13-month crime spree - committed while he was on probation.

During his rampage he stole about $100,000 worth of property from homes and businesses, including cars, televisions, computers, jewellery and motorbikes.

We cannot report who he is, where he lives, publish a picture or pixelated image of the criminal - because of increasingly severe legal restrictions designed to protect the identity of young offenders.

We are also barred from even naming the court where Magistrate Jane Gibson made her ruling.

The youth's rap sheet included two counts of aggravated burglary, 24 counts of burglary, 24 counts of theft and three counts of intentionally damaging property.

for the judges who hand lenient sentences, i hope you or your families will be victimized by the criminals you so leniently let go. you're a shame to the justice system as much as the fucking criminals are a shame to humanity.

Random thoughts on politics, social issues, money, finance, sex, humor, stupidity, or just about anything, of a hatemonger, an obsessive-compulsive, and a schizophrenic forced to live in a cramped and humid apartment.