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Showing posts from January, 2019

The problem with homophobia

With the term, that is.

The word 'homophobia' originated as a supposedly scientific description of a psychological malady. As such, it belongs in the same category as agoraphobia, claustrophobia, arachnophobia, hemophobia, and so on.

But its main usage, today, is as a way of denouncing someone as evil and worthy of being, say, fired from a job, denied the right to give a speech, rejected as a sponsor of a product, and so on.

But that's not the way we treat people with other phobias! We don't say, "Oooh, he's an evil claustrophobe: force him out of his job at Mozilla!" No, we offer the person sympathy for the psychological difficulty from which they suffer. We might, regretfully, decide that we can't hire an acrophobe to lead our mountain climbing expeditions, but that would not be because we hated him for his acrophobia, but because his acrophobia would render him unable to perform the job. Still, we'd say, "Great guy in all other respects, …

Callahan and Salter on Distributism

here.

Please excuse the mangling of my bio!

Since I apparently banned myself from commenting...

on my own blog, let me respond to this:

"Since the idea for merge-sort first materialized in Von Neumann's brain in the 1940's and he wrote an algorithm for it on a piece of paper , the idea has passed from brain to brain via books lectures , bog posts etc, and from brain to various computer and other implementations. At no time has there been any non-material aspect involved in either the way the idea is transmitted , stored expressed or implemented."

With a post:

Because the statement is blatantly, obviously false: Von Neumann's brain had a certain material configuration, mostly carbon and water and other organic stuff. Then perhaps merge sort was written down on cellulose from trees using graphite. Then perhaps it was programmed into an ENIAC or something like that, which used glass vacuum tubes. Later, it ran in magnetic core memory. A while later, on silicon chips.

Each of these material configurations is radically different. They even involve largely diffe…

Algorithms Are Immmaterial!

I was talking to some who, to my great surprise, objected when I mentioned that algorithms are immaterial things. (And the person has an advanced degree in CS!) I had thought this was so obvious that no one could object to my statement. But maybe not... maybe it is worth demonstrating.

Consider: merge sort can be implemented on an Apple II, on a Cray, on an Android phone, on a vacuum-tube computer at the FAA, and in a human brain. (My students and I actually will run it in class using a deck of cards.) The "material composition" of the implementation is going to be wildly different in each case. And yet we can state with confidence (if we understand the algorithm) whether each is indeed an implementation of merge sort.

Furthermore, merge sort also can't be just a name for the collection of all of its implementations. First of all, if that were so, how could we tell what belongs in the collection and what doesn't? And we can actually use the concept of merge sort to …