Thursday, June 15, 2006

People who can think  

I was going to start this article by tossing up a shout out to taidoblog, andy fossett's in-depth analysis of taido, but it then occurred to me that taidoblog is only the most recent of a whole category of blogs and articles that I've only recently started to notice, and even more recently started to truly admire: people who can actually think.

The object of inquiry of andy fossett's taidoblog is taido, his (and my) chosen martial art. This alone would capture my interest, but what's always struck me is not just andy's subject, but his method. He puts deep thought into his chosen interest: he maps out the landscape of practice, critically evaluates existing opinions, formulates radical new ideas, and puts them all to the test. He's not afraid to boldly throw out bad traditions OR to slavishly follow traditions that work, at least until he has learned all he can and/or developed something better.

Big Jimmy Style is the platform of Jim Davies, a similar investigator whose chosen interest is research and science. He and I don't see eye to eye in areas like healthy eating, environmentalism and voting, but I don't personally know anyone who puts deeper thought into artificial intelligence and cognitive science research - what it is, why it's important, how it should be done, and what it's goals are. Jim regularly holds my feet to the fire in our private correspondence, and in his blog he continues the tradition of calling bullshit when he sees it and constructing frameworks that help him tackle hard problems.

The strength of Gordon Shippey's Vast and Infinite comes from his clear personal philosophy, strong scientific training and strength of character. While at this instant his blog is suffering from Movable Type's "I'm busy this month" whitescreen, Vast and Infinite is the sounding board for G'hrdun's ongoing exploration of what works in the work place, a topic of deep personal interest that he explores from a clear objectivist ethical perspective informed by his psychological knowledge, scientific training and personal experience. If you watch long enough you'll also see scientific/libertarian analysis of modern political and scientific developments.

Scott Cole's The Visual Writer has always been overwhelming to me: there are more ideas bouncing around on his site than I've ever been able to mine. For a long time I read his articles on the theory of writing stories but his philosophical articles are just as interesting. While there are some areas he and I might disagree on particular points, on the majority of writing topics he's explored more issues that I was even aware existed.

And then of course, there's Richard Feynman's blog The Smartest Man In the World. Actually, it's not, and he disliked that title, but we can only wish Feynman hadn't died before blogs came to being. In lieu of that, I can recommend The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, which, despite some people's complaints that it rehashes his other books, does a good job of putting in one place Feynman's essential thoughts about the scientific method, the importance of integrity, the difficulty of not fooling yourself.

The point of me mentioning all these people is that they're good examples of people who are thinking. They aren't just interested in things; they're actually cataloguing what they see, organizing it, judging it, evaluating it; deciding what they want to do with it and formulating opinions on it. In andy's writings in particular he goes further: he's not willing to settle just for opinions, but must go test it out to find out whether he's are full of shit or not. And at the highest level, Feynman integrates challenging his own ideas and reporting the results of his challenges into the very core of the his being - because he who sees the deepest is the man who stops to clean his lens.

That's what I want to be when I grow up.

So go check 'em out.
Because everything is interesting if you dig deeply enough.
-the Centaur

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Thanks for the kudos. Lest anyone think poorly of Anthony, my views on healtful eating, voting, and how best to care for the environment are unusual. Most people think I'm wrong. Revolutionary ideas always sound ridiculous at first! Of course, so do the actually ridiculous ideas, and there are a great deal more of them.

Anthony, on the other hand, has perfectly respectable views on these topics.
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 1:54 PM
  Hm... I'm not sure about that. I thought that Jim's views on healthful eating, voting, and how best to care for the environment were pretty traditional, and mine were the unusual ones. (Jim's views in question were: voting is a waste of time, a view shared with many others (e.g., George Carlin); healthful eating is not actually life promoting, a view shared by most of America over the first two thirds of the last century (and also shared by George Carlin and Dennis Leary); and that individual actions to care for the environment are at best a waste of time and at worst counterproductive, a view shared by George Bush (and Dick Cheney, who labeled such actions as matters of "personal virtue" not relevant to the real debate).

I'd be interested in what distinguishes the revolutionary parts of these ideas from the traditional "populist" view that voting and healthy eating are a waste of time and the traditional "conservative" view that environmentalism is a waste of time.

I'm not convinced there's nothing to what Jim's saying, but I'm far less convinced that the ideas are revolutionary.

Jim, on the other hand, has perfectly respectiable views on the value of creating robotic death machines, views which I myself share. Wait, did I say that aloud?

Comments welcomed. :-)
# posted by Blogger Anthony Francis : 5:08 PM
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