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Saturday, November 27, 2010

This is where I live

What's the big news in my neck of the woods? World War III? Couldn't care less, North Korean ballistic missiles can't reach Surrey. The collapse of the euro? Serves them right, that's why we never joined. Tory peer moaning about the poor breeding? What do you expect, it's basic economics. What will get us out on the streets? Well, nothing really. But some of us will be outraged on twitter for a while.


Simultaneously outraged, ripped-off and illiterate.  This is where I live.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.

[posted with ecto]


Monday, November 22, 2010

Left or right?

In the October 2010 edition of Prospect magazine, there is a fascinating article about a simple experiment to explore moral perspectives. I won't go into all the details, except to note that the thought experiment rests on notions of railways, tracks and switches: essentially, people are asked to make choices about life and death. In one experiment, you can set the switch to send an out-of-control train down one branch, where it will kill five people, or down another branch, where it will kill one person. That sort of thing. Quite the most surprising result of the experiments concerns the difference between liberals and conservatives.

In an experiment where subjects could save a Philharmonic orchestra by pushing an African American on to the tracks or could save the Harlem Jazz Orchestra by pushing a WASP on to the tracks, the liberals showed a marked propensity to make different choices, whereas conservatives did not. The lesson that I took from this is that conservatives make decisions according to a set of moral principles and are "colour blind" in the sense that they do not modify their position according to the race, gender, age, nationality or sexual orientation of the actors. A true commitment to equality. I think I fall into that category: things are right or wrong and it doesn't depend on who is doing them. Does this condemn me as a reactionary, permanently out of phase with the world from now on?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


There are two stories next to each other in the local paper this week. I wonder if there might be some connection between them? The first was a story about an elderly gentleman who has been burgled repeatedly over the last three years. He was commenting on the most recent theft (of a motorbike) and said that he had given the police detailed descriptions of the thieves, but so far the police had not found either the thieves or the bike. The second story was about a day-long police crackdown on drivers on a particular road. They gave out a couple of speeding tickets, a ticket for using a mobile phone, found someone driving uninsured (and fined him £200 -- much less than the cost of insurance) and a few other minor offences. Quite how many policepersons and time this all took isn't mentioned.

Someone has to make choices about what the police do. I have no idea whether they should spend time looking for motorists without insurance or reducing burglaries -- but I know that I wasn't asked.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]