Recently, I joined the Github Copilot Preview which has been of great interest to the software and AI community since it's release, promoting discussion and criticism from many corners. In a recent interview with Yuval Noah Harari and Audrey Tang, Yuval mentions something that stuck with me about the decisions embedded within how we program:
Social reality is increasingly constructed by code. Somebody designed it so that on the form, you have the check "male" or "female", and these are the only two options. And to fill in your application, you have to pick one. Because someone decided that this was how the form was, this is now your reality... And maybe it's some 22 year-old guy from California who did it without thinking that he is making a philosophical or ethical or political impact on the lives of people around the world.
Sometimes, I dream of places. When the memories of those places persist after I wake, sometimes I want to try and create them. I dreamed this place a long, long time ago, but it has stayed with me since. White walls like Mykonos, but with arched roofs. Stairs, flight after flight leading up to the refuge above the waves. A boat rocking gently at the dock. Seagulls in the sky. You can find a poor and miserable recreation of that memory below. Music is by Drakensson. Use WASD to control the camera. Or, if you can't play a Unity browser game, check out a short video below.
People With Privileged Lifelong Access to Trustworthy Public Institutions Confused Why Anyone Wants Cryptocurrency
Citizens of immensely rich nation-states with historically stable and trustworthy public institutions expressed frustration and anger today at the rapid growth and growing impact of cryptocurrency.
"I just don't understand it all," said Melbourne resident Mary S. "I can go to my bank any time and deposit or withdraw good old-fashioned hard cash, as can literally every other person on the planet. And if you don't have trustworthy institutions around you, you should just wait for your government to make them for you. It's called pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, people!" Mary produced a $20 bill to demonstrate. "This is money you dumb-dumbs. If you don't have any, just remortgage one of your houses with a bank!"
This weekend, I did the GMTK Game Jame. It's a 48 hour event where people make games matching a theme. This year's theme was "Joined Together". I made a game called "Cold Weld". I used the little Unity tool I've been tinkering with that I just wrote a post about, voxul.
If you like it and you're reading this before the 21st of June 2021, you can vote on this game here. If you didn't like it, er... forget that last sentence. Play it below:
Utility & Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical system based upon maximising or minimising some utility function. A utility function, in this sense, is some operation on a set of information that produces a value. In other words, it is a function that makes statements like "state
A of the universe is less desirable than state
B". In conversations around human ethics, this utilitarian utility function is often vaguely expressed in terms of "well-being" or "happiness". On occasion, I've been called a utilitarian because of my discussions of heuristics, ethical systems as any systems which rank the future, and "maximizing" or "minimizing" things, but I'm not quite sure I understand what it means to be one.
It seems to me that all ethical systems contain utility functions, by their very nature of being information systems which rank future states of the universe. Someone driven by a religious ethical system might take their utility function from an ancient holy text. Someone driven by egoism centers their utility function entirely on their own pleasures and desires. A nihilist may choose to implement an entirely random utility function. All of these ethical choices are driven by some concept of utility. What then distinguishes these systems from the label of utilitarianism?