Saturday, October 24, 2015

Anonymous Quote #2

"It is the right of all beings to live without fearing for what their predecessors may have done before their time. They had no control over the outcome, and cannot be blamed for that which they had no hand in. With that said, it is still the responsibility of humanity to respect one another and their idiosyncrasies - whether it be in concurrence or in discord. In addition to this, however, it must also be understood that almost anything that we say or do can be interpreted in numerous ways. Therefore, almost anything can offend almost anyone, within some stretch of the imagination. While it should be so that all of mankind should have respect for one another, it is also the responsibility of all to mutually assume that we are not out to blatantly offend one another. Within the assumption of the condition opposing such lies the loss of our right to self-expression. A race that cannot do or realize such is doomed to conflict and division."

Original date of origin - 2015

Anonymous Quote #1

"We do not inherit obligations due to our pasts. It is simply the responsibility of humanity, in general, to enforce proper ethics and goodwill toward man (meaning mankind, not just men). The fact that someone's ancestors did wrongful deeds in the past does not mean that the future generations owe anything to a generation that can now benefit from an environment influenced by reflection and improvement from a malevolent system of the past. Modern, first-world society has moved on from the archaic ways of slavery and forced labor, and now provides more opportunities than ever for aspiring minds. The fact that the "white man" enforced slavery in the past, by no means, makes it so any caucasians have to pay for what their distant relatives did - they had no part in it. If it were otherwise, we would also have to chastise and punish other races as well - in many tribal areas across the globe, at one point in time or another, slavery occurred whenever one group won, in war, over another. This would include the Native Americans, numerous African nations, and even parts of the Middle East. The victors took the beaten group(s) as slaves and/or servants, and took many of their freedoms away in the process. It's an issue of how people treat each other when they are noticeably different from one another. It's a hatred of anyone that is different from you. It's the lack of empathy for any part of mankind that doesn't act like you. It's as simple as a lack of love, a lack of ethic, and a lack of Jesus, who tells us to care and love one another as brothers and part of the living church. It is truly the root of 'racism' - the nature of sin."

Original date of origin - early 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Thoughts :: The Virtual Landscape

The world has changed substantially from the 1980s - esp. in terms of technology. Hardware was of just as much importance as the software that ran on it. Changes in hardware and software has pushed the boundaries of computing at an exponential rate - but now, changes in hardware won't have quite as much effect as they formerly did. Now, everything will be outsourced and virtualized, leaving users with less hardware in-hand, and focusing the modern experience more-so on software. But, it is important to take a step back occasionally - computers have been in existence since the time of World War II. They started out as mechanical counters and calculators, with primitive timing mechanisms denoting how fast they could operate and limited programmability. Machines like the Colossus, the world's first programmable, electronic, digital computer, were large enough to fill an entire room, and were not used by the public. The Colossus computer was a set of ten computational machines used by the Allies during World War II to crack the Lorenz cipher. Later milestones, such as ENIAC and EDVAC took computing a step further by introducing the concept of storing both data and programs in the computer itself rather than using removable media to do so. To add on to the mounting milestones set by these three machines, they were all Turing complete, meaning that they were able to emulate the functionality of a machine with the following traits:
  • having a limited set of states
  • having a (medium) with storage cells and a read/write device that can move along the medium
  • having a transition function that allows the machine to switch states
  • having its own working-alphabet (set of characters)
But the mentioned machines all suffered one subtle problem - they were multi-ton monsters, and could not be moved. While this wasn't an issue during the time of their use, modern computers would not exist today if they had stayed the way they were in the 40s to 60's. Even with the advent of the BRLESC and ORDVAC machines - whose computational power dwarfed their 20-years removed predecessors, they were only capable of up to five million operations per second (the BRLESC), and still had the problem of size. Companies with the likes of IBM and HP would have to change the scene, providing some of the first personal computers in the industry. This was the 1980s - the so-called Digital Age. The next major companies to appear afterward were Apple and Microsoft - Google arrived approx. 20 years later, in the late 90s. These companies initiated the development of the modern PC, which still is Turing complete to some extent, but can accomplish way more than their older counterparts - by leaps and bounds. But, even after all of these years, all of these machines have certain characteristics in common, including:
  • having an input-output mechanism for accepting and returning data (or an acceptable set of characters)
  • a central processing mechanism for modifying the input and performing calculations (limited set of interchangeable states, for processing)
  • a form of storage for data that is either in use or saved for later (storage medium)
With this in mind, while no two computers are alike, all computers follow this model, which appears to be an indirect derivative of the Turing requirements.
With the advent of modern computers, the hardware has advanced substantially. Instead of flops measuring the number of calculations per second, gigahertz tell how many timing oscillations a computer's processor goes through in a second - in which billions of computations can be accomplished. The wires and circuits are not vacuum tubes, but instead silicon and fiberoptic. Soon, they'll even have diamond wire. It's highly unlikely that we will be able to see this first-hand, however. With the change in focus switching to software, having hardware might not be a common sight in the future. With the focus of technology switching from personal hardware to hosted software, what will be the effect on personal ownership, and when will it become more of a hindrance than a benefit? Is allowing someone, that we don't know, to manage our personal life and files on the network a good idea?
Virtualization is a branch of Autonomic computing (a self-managing computing model based upon the physiological autonomic nervous system) that emulates a specific environment, esp. when in an effort to increase efficiency and/or ease of use. By pooling various resources in calculated manner, virtualization allows for systems to exist that would otherwise be immensely uneconomical in physical implementation, and nearly impossible for the average person to understand or utilize. Cloud and web hosts use network and storage virtualization to allocate bandwidth and digital storage, from accross multiple servers, to various users. The catch is, the users never have to be bothered about where their data is stored or how their website is served. All of the heavy calculations pertaining to where data should go, which IP addresses should host which websites, and who should have what amount of bandwidth at any given moment are all handled by the servers' subsystems. Emulators, another form of virtualization, involve emulating hardware with software, to run legacy programs that required older systems to operate on. A more common form of virtualization is called a virtual machine, and it allows users to run multiple operating system images simultaneously on almost any modern computer in existence. With this advancement, those with the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft would never need to purchase spare computers to test their latest operating systems, curbing potential costs tremendously.
In this manner, computing power and resources can be efficiently rationed to tasks as needed from a network, without having to set up more network resources to handle the same load - esp. if the existing network/resources can already handle the load with whatever's left. It's like putting the unused cookie dough that didn't go through the cookie cutter to work - instead of tossing it, all of the dough gets used, reducing the amount of resources wasted. The newest forms of virtualization even allow you to run applications requiring a certain runtime environment on other operating systems, from a cloud-based instance on another server - removing the software compatibility issues that computers once had. In addition to this, one key feature must be noted - the system acts as one machine, making it difficult for the user to be able to tell that multiple machines in multiple locations are handling the task. While you sit at your desk uploading a file to an online backup server, the online backup server could be creating multiple copies of your files to protect against data loss, or storing parts of you folder on various servers to optimize space allocation and usage. And all of this is done without you having to lift a finger - quite different from the days of old.
As mentioned before, the virtual cloud has an immense list of benefits for the taking - with the best being that your personal computer doesn't have to do most of the work. With that said, here's a swift recap on the best parts of the Virtual/Cloud experience:

  • Three types of virtualization/cloud services exist, all of which can partially or fully replace the need for local services that would normally need to be on your computer.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) provides common computer applications online for use on almost any platform available, removing the runtime compatibility issue
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides one of more frameworks, runtime environments, and APIs for customers to use in application development and/or providing virtual systems online that can replace desktop systems in some cases (VPS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the most common one you can come across, and includes a myriad of basic cloud storage and internet protocol - providing services, such as VoIP and Amazon AWS.
  • With SaaS, organized collaboration becomes one of the easiest tasks on the internet - getting group projects done in an efficient manner is no longer a chore
  • Due to hardware efficiency, Virtual/Cloud is also greener in cost and environmental impact than traditional IT

The virtual world of the cloud has never looked so attractive. But, there is a bad side to it.
Some of the largest drawbacks to the virtual cloud are also related to some of its shining features. Data ownership and rights in the cloud varies from service provider to provider. Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus are examples of providers whose terms and conditions change constantly - esp. those relating to data ownership and content privacy on their networks. Data Privacy in the cloud also varies. It's hard enough dealing with the fact that you're tracked every time you open the web browser (cookies). Now, any data that you upload can be looked through as well, depending on the provider. If your provider says that they'll remove any copyrighted content you upload, or even revoke service from you if you choose to upload content that's questionable, that's a good indicator that they can (and possibly are) looking at your data - esp. Google. Reliable service is also key as well. If the service provider that you are using suddenly goes out of business or changes their service in a detrimental way, you have to migrate your data to another network. This field in general is ever changing, and service providers sadly come and go.
You also need to have reliable internet service to be able to use and access the cloud as well. Without an ISP (Internet Service Provider), you will end up dead in the water in some cases Places with bad internet reception become your worst enemies. The worst worry of dealing with the cloud is worrying about the safety of your data - if you don't have a local backup of your data, it's even worse in your case. The stakes couldn't be any higher, esp. with the new cracking methods and threats arising daily. Things like HeartBleed and ShellShock (of the past) quickly become the least of your concerns as newer forms of technological invasion are developed everyday. But the worst of this is, many breaches occur on an accidental basis in the corporate world. Typing in an incorrect URL while on your work network could accidentally reveal something confidential that you never wanted to know in the first place. For these reasons and more, many businesses and people in general have chosen to resist moving to the cloud, and simply work with whatever hardware they have available. By restricting use of the virtual cloud, they can avoid the pitfalls of allowing outsourced management of their bandwidth and data. But they lose the opportunity to utilize the virtual cloud's power as a result, which is a problem as well. With this in mind, it seems as though there has to be a functional median between these options.
The composite Hybrid Cloud uses a combination of local, private resources and cloud/public servers, with synchronization between the two platforms to provide more flexibility in operations. Where it may cost more to use the cloud, you could just choose to host locally instead. And vice versa. One instance could involve a business that makes use of local resources to host a private cloud for sensitive and critical services, and uses a third-party service, such as Amazon AWS and Google Compute Engine, to host less-critical, development workloads. Synchronizing software can facilitate the connections between the two halves, and the system as a whole can run as one machine. Systems of this design tend to be:
  • More adaptable to changing conditions and workloads
  • More reliable with processing of 'Big Data'
Ironically, however, the Hybrid Cloud also retains many of the same pros and cons of its constituents as well - the local and the virtual cloud. In fact, it may also introduce a few new issues as well:
  • "...Hybrid cloud requires API compatibility and solid network connectivity" - because no network is ever 100 percent perfect.There will be connectivity problems - unless you're willing to act as your own ISP and manage every data packet that traverses your network (no one ever gets this anal about it). Also, APIs can have bugs/flaws as well.
  • The public portion is esp. prone to having issues as well - "for the public cloud piece of hybrid cloud, there are potential connectivity issues, SLA breaches and other possible public cloud service disruptions."
While many of these issues can be accounted for and handled by capable IT, most people might not be able to pull off everything listed in this paper.
Upon further analysis of the given points, it is quite apparent that the decision becomes a matter of what you're willing to put up with in terms of the benefits and pitfalls you will experience. While the cloud has the advantage of being the newer and more efficient option, the environment itself is more dangerous. On the other hand, local networking is somewhat less efficient at times, and isn't as ubiquitously available. Hybrid networks attempted to fix the issue, but instead are faced with the compounded issues of both the local and the virtual realm. As it stands, the best choice is the one that you are willing to use, based upon your circumstances and limitations. With this said, I leave the decision to you the reader.

Sources and other content behind this paper can be found here:

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Thoughts on Science, Philosophy, and Religion

What is philosophy?

Before going any further, it is important to uncover what philosophy does (or at least is meant to do). Philosophy includes, but is not limited to: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, ethics, aesthetics, and logic. Metaphysics is the study of sensual reality versus transcendent (not necessarily spiritual) reality. Epistemology is the study of theory and knowledge of truth. Value theory is a broad class that involves the study of subjective and objective values of all types. Ethics is defined as the study of moral values, placing this concept in the same class as value theory. Aesthetics is the study of the value of art and subjective concept of beauty. Before the last object is studied, it is important to note a significant difference between the former classes and Logic, the final topic to be discussed. While the former concepts listed were classes that referred to various fields of philosophical thought, Logic is more of a tool that is used, in conjunction to the others, to make sense of reality. Logic is defined as the formulation of principles of right reasoning. Now that reasoning has been mentioned, it is time to mention important factors of philosophy: reasoning, criticism, examination, and analysis. Philosophy is considered to be a rational and critical enterprise, involving the use of sound reasoning, logic, value analysis, personal examination, and an open mind to have full effect. One final item to note before reaching the definition of philosophy is the notion of philosophy not applying to modern life and everyday issues. That notion is incorrect. Such a notion overlooks the very structure of the human existence. Modern, complex issues stem from simpler issues - such as the basis of political issues stemming from personal ethics and populism, clashing in a struggle to decide the fate of a population via the actions of the individual. Philosophy,in the Greek, is equated to the "love of wisdom" and "pursuit of knowledge". Philosophy urges people to attempt to think rationally and critically about the questions deemed most relevant to human existence - especially the question of what is and isn’t (reality). The way in which philosophy is performed and practiced resides in that which is known as Philosophical methodology. Wikipedia:

"Systematic philosophy is a generic term that applies to philosophical methods and approaches that attempt to provide a framework in reason that can explain all questions and problems related to human life. Examples of systematic philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Hegel. In a meaningful sense, all of western philosophy from Plato to the modern schools of theoretical metaphysics. In many ways, any attempts to formulate a philosophical method that provides the ultimate constituents of reality, a metaphysics, can be considered systematic philosophy. In modern philosophy the reaction to systematic philosophy began with Kierkegaard and continued in various forms through analytic philosophy, existentialism, hermeneutics, and deconstructionism.[1]

Some common features of the methods that philosophers follow (and discuss when discussing philosophical method) include:

-Methodic doubt - a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs.
-Argument - provide an argument or several arguments supporting the solution.
-Dialectic - present the solution and arguments for criticism by other philosophers, and help them judge their own."

What is Religion?

Religion, according to philosophy, is a concept involving the binding of a person to a subjectively ultimate concern and/or god-like figure. In terms of philosophy, it has not much to do with what one thinks, but more so what one does. However, religion is more like philosophy than one would assume from the given description. Religion also attempts to answer the ultimate questions of existence as well, but then proceeds to enter the metaphysical and spiritual realms of the human mind and decision-making processes. Religion is an organized collection of beliefs and views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Philosophy, in contrast doesn’t necessarily suggest the existence of a deity, but instead an ultimate reality and the existence of the perfect forms that exist in the “Ideal state”, theorized by Plato. Philosophy also bases ethics and value more so upon logic and what is deemed good, according to logic and certain basic truths. With philosophy’s method, more than one interpretation of right and wrong could emerge. Religion attempts to make only one set of ethics, for all who follow. Philosophy and religion both attempt to make objective the topic of ethics. If one were to infer which of Williams James’s philosophical inclinations/mindsets religion most closely follows, it would probably be the tender-minded. In limited terms, the tender-minded tend to relate more to conviction and belief, interpersonal unity, the realm of spiritual existence, the existence of free-will, and a base of general reasoning.

What is science, in relation to philosophy?

On the other hand, science is the empirical study of the natural world, with its Latin etymological origin coming from the word for knowledge - "scientia". While both science and philosophy are pursuits of knowledge, science is a more specific field that can only apply to the natural world and universe. Both science and philosophy have static methods of processing information and discerning truth. While philosophy is open to change in results, science is less flexible. In addition to this, science makes no attempt to delineate the the properties or nature of the metaphysical. Science does not delve into the realm of metaphysical and unexplained phenomena. Philosophy, on the other hand, cannot accurately do what the scientific method does - they are two different things. It could, however, use logical processes and reasoning to interpret and analyze data and empirical results to reach conclusions. If one were to infer which of Williams James’s philosophical inclinations/mindsets science most closely follows, it would most-likely be the tough-minded. The tough-minded philosophical mindset is associated with the existence of the "ultimate reality", the non-existence of free-will, the pointlessness of human and world history, the importance of disparity and evidence, and a general base of empirical decision making. Long story short, science can't go anywhere near the realm of metaphysical and unexplained phenomena without labeling it a randomly-calculated coincidence. But, science does have something that appears to mimic the Philosophical Method(ology) - the Scientific Method.

"The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[2] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning...

A linearized, pragmatic scheme...:

Define a question
Gather information and resources (observe)
Form an explanatory hypothesis
Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
Analyze the data
Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
Publish results
Retest (frequently done by other scientists)"

What Does This Mean?

Science and Philosophy, in order to revise knowledge that we know, works with a process that involves questioning the known/given, hypothesizing or arguing a new approach or view, and testing of the new hypothesis - in many cases, performed in a cyclical process, as both practices are everchanging and never complete.

Is there such a thing as a higher power?

While it is widely assumed that religion, esp. Christianity, is misplaced belief in lofty and/or unproven assertions, it is important to note that in multiple instances, scientific research and studies have proven parts of the Christian Bible and its claims to be correct. Moreover, religion in general has never actually been disproven. Science, on the other hand, has had its share of trashed theories and failed experiments. Even some of the Earth's brightest, non-religious minds have suggested, at the very least, the existence of a higher power. Those with the likes of Socrates and Paul Dirac have even touched on the possible existence of a higher plane of existence and a higher power of divine attribution, giving those very aspects of religion as the possible source of life in the universe and reason for the existence of the universe itself. Those with the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were looked down upon by their very peers for having religious/Judeo-Christian ties, and never doubted the existence of a higher power. In Socrates' case, he was executed for his  views. Paul Dirac got off scot-free.

But what I would like to ask of the topic of ethics is this - what is the purpose of ethics, beside leaving people with a subjective veil of grey to navigate. Surely, there must be a reason to why we hold them dear to us, even when their subjectivity causes more conflict than peace. Could it be that at some time in the past, ethics were more universal than what we've made them out to be? Religion provides a dogmatic purpose for such moral values, in particular, Christianity. If one truly cares for another, why would one sin against another. The concept of sin now becomes an issue; one that I will not discuss, for the matter of right and wrong is a discussion for another day.

What does philosophy say about Christianity? Is it right or wrong?

Philosophy sees Christianity as a dogmatic religion. To an extent, it is correct to say so. But, so are some philosophers in their rejection of the existence of a higher power. One can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god. Even scientists cannot fully disprove the concept; therefore, those who are opposed to it simply mock those who think otherwise. In a sense, science has become a faith as well. In modern times, it has become an attempt to explain the forces of nature while explaining away the "preposterous thought" of the existence of a higher power - that of which has been unsuccessful thus far. Nonetheless, philosophers do have the right to claim that Christians are dogmatic; Christians have a sturdily-supported faith thus far, in both the realms of the scientific mind and the tender-minded alike. A true faith requires a certain level of dogmatism from its followers, especially in holding strictly to what is stated in text - in this case, the Bible.

Concluding Thoughts

To compare the two, this paper will start with science. Science starts reality with the the singularity (also known as the ‘BigBang’) providing all matter and energy and the theory that states all things are made of matter and energy - the former being another form of the latter. Lacking any assumed truths (aside from the unexplained nature of the singularity), science follows the tough-minded side of philosophy quite well. It’s primarily empirical approach limits all of detectable, observable reality to the will of explainable calculation and provable theory. Contrary to such is the approach of religion. In many cases, based upon the existence of a higher power and certain fundamental assertions that underlie all of  existence, religion takes to the tender-minded mindset, and follows the line of philosophy referring to the existence of certain existing truths that simply can’t be proven; like mathematical postulates that scientists may use time and time again. Religion also provides a basis for objective values/ethics and the fact that there is distinguishable good and not-good (bad), with good being the basis for what humanity will inevitably concentrate toward, and the existence and impact of free-will. Science, in some cases, suggests against that of either the latter or both. In overall concept and structure, religion appears to more-closely follow the intended path of the pursuit of truth, set forth in the field of philosophy.

To conclude this flow of thought, philosophy shares a common link with all knowledge-seeking disciplines - the pursuit of knowledge and truth. How they go about their search is what distinguishes them from each other. While science uses an empirical, tough-minded approach that involves the scientific method, religion is tender-minded, and involves the use of certain assumed truths that underlie the rest of reality. Philosophy is the search for truth that, while having certain assumed truths, also has to abide by logic, and also extends into the metaphysical. While both science and religion seek truth, religion more closely follows the philosophical method.

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