Category Archives: The Dice

Ethics or morality – Is there a difference?

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‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – – that’s all.’ —Lewis Carroll, Through… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”

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Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »

North Korea and Game Theory

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A recent post on this blog noted that the current North Korea nuclear showdown is not far afield from what I call “the first ethical dilemma.” This dilemma dates from the time in our distant hunter-gatherer past when our emerging extended-family “mini-civilization” was threatened by the encroachment of another extended family group into “our space.” I presented a 2×2 decision matrix… Read more »

The first ethical dilemma

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The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »

The casualties of culture

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How “normal” are you in terms of interacting with the culture around you? A continuing theme of this blog is that we can view a lot of medical and social problems as various aggregations of “probabilistic randomness.” That is, many conditions in nature at least appear to occur randomly, but with predictable patterns to that randomness. And when you see a… Read more »

Me and my homunculus

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Homunculus is one of those great words to have in your back pocket. You never know when it might come in handy, and it is a fun word to say. Traditionally, the homunculus was a small physical representation of a human used in the practice of alchemy during the 16th century to symbolize their attempts to re-create human life by… Read more »

Do bad things really happen in threes?

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In an earlier post about Poisson processes, I teased the question, “Do ‘bad things’ really happen in threes, as the common folk wisdom goes?” The short answer is, “No.” Okay, there is some wiggle room of basis for this myth for certain familiar Poisson processes, where some random timing effects can cause our minds to perceive a natural grouping of… Read more »

The ever-changing river

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was noted for saying that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” He recognized that the fundamental nature of the universe is that it is ever-changing and ever-moving. You might think of him as the first to understand and articulate, long before the idea of “Poisson processes” as explained in an earlier… Read more »

Will you choose the cake or the fruit?

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Call it “choice” or call it “free will,” we struggle daily when trying to figure out why people do bad things. Most of us go through our day thinking we are in control of our own choices, and we assume that others are as well. We can’t even entertain the thought that perhaps some other force if affecting how we… Read more »