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About Sporefrog

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  • Birthday 02/19/1988
  1. Sporefrog

    Under Zhethron's Aerie

    So there's a big lava pool in the center of the underground area below Zhethron's aerie. It has several small islands with chests on them. I figured teleport would be the way to get to the little islands, but I can't seem to make it work. Anyone figured out how to get them?
  2. Sporefrog

    Looks Geneforge could become reality...

    To elaborate on HIV, which was aptly mentioned: a disease absolutely can produce negligible symptoms, be latent for 5-10 years, and then be extremely deadly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hiv-timecourse.png Now if a HIV-like pathogen were able to travel by aerosol or some other faster and less containable method than bodily fluid exchange, that could be problematic. As far as a new pathogen simply being used as a terrorist's scare tactic and not actually wiping out large swaths of humans: sure, but I don't think Venter's research fundamentally changes the game from what terrorism resources are already available.
  3. Sporefrog

    Looks Geneforge could become reality...

    Smallpox or Spanish flu would certainly be pretty bad, but we have a much better understanding of how to contain (and treat, to a lesser extent) viral infections than we did when these pathogens were problematic, and our knowledge in this regard is only increasing. Basic steps towards stopping the spread of disease, such as through hand-washing, and not wandering around in public places while you're hacking out virus particles, would certainly even make something like the Spanish flu a lot less devastating. Maybe the most dangerous pathogen wouldn't be something that is incredibly deadly or toxic right away. Perhaps someone could engineer a pathogen that has, say, a 5-10 year-long dormancy, but is highly transmissible so that it infects large portions of the human population only to suddenly erupt with near-100% deadliness. Anything else I imagine would get quarantined without causing too much harm. Is something like that even possible? I'd say definitely not with our current knowledge. And by the time it is I hope we will have better means of treating (or rapidly developing new treatments for) viruses. Edit: Smallpox treatment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox#Treatment
  4. Sporefrog

    Looks Geneforge could become reality...

    I know I'm a bit late to the party, but I have to give my thumbs up to Alorael's first post, which I think was spot on. Venter is absolutely a king of overhyping a discovery. I must say, to the people who think this is a bad or scary thing, as somebody who has spent the last two years of his life genetically engineering microbes, there is really nothing unexpected or particularly worrisome about this research. I think it's certainly cool, and a step in the right direction, but all he really did was streamline the process of genetic engineering, and make a philosophical impact. People have been adding, deleting, and modifying the genes of microorganisms for decades. All Venter's group did was to synthesize the bacterial genes in the lab, and then add in his watermarked genes. He didn't make any of the stuff of the cell, like the cytoplasm or cell wall, he simply put a large amount of DNA into a already made cell. This is a far-cry from "synthetic life" and a far, far cry from creating new organisms from scratch. The only philosophical breakthrough here is if you actually think there's a difference between taking a "natural" genome and adding in a little extra section, which we've been doing for decades, as opposed to "synthetically" making the genome and adding in the watermarked section. Anyone who still is impressed by the fact that there is nothing special or magical about the building blocks of life is over 50 years out of date. But anyway, as far as danger goes, to my mind this in no way creates a situation that is any more dangerous than our previous situation. Nature has created some pretty scary beasts, none of which have wiped out all life on the planet. And let me tell you, at least for the next few centuries, no human is going to have the knowledge to make something that devastating. There are just too many factors to consider. Most life is constantly mutating and changing, particularly some of the worst pathogens. The idea that we could randomly string something together that would destroy the world is being played out by nature constantly. If we don't have to worry too much about nature doing it on its own, we certainly don't have to worry about us figuring it out anytime soon.
  5. Sporefrog

    Northern Isles Game 12

    Gladwell can't compel anymore, as far as I know, actually.
  6. Sporefrog

    Northern Isles Game 12

    Originally Posted By: RCCCL BTW, Sarachim, your way of listing known roles is a give away to you as a player. If I bold known roles again, you guys are going to figure me out immediately
  7. Sporefrog

    Northern Isles Game 12

    So I just shouted "stupid bug" and flicked Marlenny's avatar. Sigh....
  8. Sporefrog

    Northern Isles Game 12

    Thanks for running the game again, by the way, *I =) I personally feel like it's improved drastically since its inception.
  9. Sporefrog

    Northern Isles Game 12

    It was fun having you in the game again, Diki I hope you stick around. I really can't comment on the merchant roles. It sounds like it's hard for them to generate wealth to begin with, with regular players only getting two trades, and them starting with rather modest loot. I had 100 coins and nothing to buy, but maybe that was simply because two of the merchants weren't doing much. Even Pearl, who won, had basically nothing much to offer. Edit: Marlenny, next game, you and me need to be DLs, then we can get revenge.
  10. Good discussion Synergy, thanks for having it Originally Posted By: VHC I think your view is clouded by what has happened in North America, parts of Europe and other first world countries. I seriously doubt violence has decreased at all. Most of the world hasn't advanced much in the last 100 years. Certainly the places with the most people have not. If anything things may have gotten worse for them. I'm certainly not just taking into account North America and Europe. Let me give you a few quick facts that hopefully will provide enough evidence. 1) World average life expectancy varied between 20 and 35 from Paleolithic times to classical Greece and Rome (around 28). In the 19th century it was only 30-45. It is now 66.58 (2009 world average). Life expectancy surely isn't entirely related to violence, but I would posit that it certainly is related a bit. 2) Studies of violence, warfare, and aggression have consistently shown that they have all been steadily declining on any timescale. This includes the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture, the transition from tribes to larger civilizations, and the evolution of laws over time. This evidence is presented by Steven Pinker here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html This really shouldn't be all that surprising. Civilizations have been incredibly unstable in the past, and violence was almost written into laws (flogging, cutting out tongues, etc). Yes there's still a lot of violence, especially in certain regions, but it's definitely been consistently on the decline.
  11. First off, I totally agree words like better are simply relative, and not absolute. This follows from there not being any overarching purpose to the universe. Originally Posted By: synergy I think in some ways, our genetic explanation/excuse for our behavior is merely an updated, materialistic variation of "the devil made me do it." No less conveniently designed to absolve us from the consequences of the choosing we are doing. Psychologically, our very clever ego loves anything that takes the threat of shame from itself, and that includes accountability. I think one of the most prevalent misunderstandings of genetics is the idea that there are "genes for" certain behaviors. Genes just make proteins, nothing more, and they work in very large meshes to accomplish anything substantial. It is a true statement that due to our genetics we will always have the capacity to do nasty things to each other just as it is a true statement that due to our genetics we will always have the capacity to do nice things to each other. None of these are inevitable, so in that respect I agree with you. If we can say one thing, it is that our genes have made our brains very capable of thinking for themselves. This is made apparent by the fact that many of us are free users of contraception. But what determines how we behave is certainly a little more complex than changing our beliefs. I imagine many social and economic circumstances make it a heck of a lot harder to not divide people into groups, and in a lot of cases I can see the desire to do harm to others as totally understandable. And again, our same basic set of emotions (jealousy, hate, etc) are always going to be there, and many of our inclinations (sex is fun, certain foods are tasty, etc). Originally Posted By: synergy If we've lived under a belief system that something other than ourselves is deciding, creating and controlling our experience for ourselves, then it can be threatening, even devastating, to consider the stark, awesome responsibility we actually hold if we embrace that it is in our own hands and no other's. It can be a major existential crisis. I'm speaking from experience here, because I've been through something like this in my own life, having spent my early years believing in a traditional sort of God who was shaping my life. It is not easy to go through Totally agree, and that's why I don't think it's worthwhile to try to convince most people that their idea of a God probably isn't real. Better to get to the children before they've been molded Originally Posted By: synergy The bottom line again, is no matter whether we believe in an outwardly mandated, universally existant morality or not, we collectively wind up deciding as humans what is moral for ourselves and order our world around these decisions. When our concept of morality is shaped dominantly by fearful beliefs about ourselves or our gods, we are going to get results that...well, we've seen the results so far. Mixed at best. Utterly horrific at worst. I actually think I'm a bit more optimistic than some of the other posters here and inclined to agree with you. Violence has done nothing but decrease steadily over the centuries, health has been increasing, and the sorts of other circumstances that bring out our more violent nature have been steadily diminishing as well. There's certainly more work to be done, however.
  12. Sporefrog

    Now what?

    /agrees completely with Alorael.
  13. Originally Posted By: synergy As conscious, self-directed beings now, must not the focus be on the beliefs we hold which drive all our choices? Are you suggesting that our genes drive and override us despite what our minds are doing? I'm trying to figure out the specifics of some of the various things you are suggesting. That's why I might be addressing certain things that you do not actually think -- as you say, you do not believe in anything supernatural. But if someone who believes in witches and green aliens on mars says they don't believe in the supernatural because witches and green aliens actually exist, you can see how that would be confusing In the same vein, when you ask whether I believe our genes drive what our minds are capable of doing, in some sense I'd absolutely say yes. I certainly agree our minds are capable of a near limitless breadth of imagination, but take this statement: Originally Posted By: synergy "I believe something startling and compelling enough took place to capture a lot of people's imagination and change the world. How? The only way. By changing our beliefs about ourselves and what is possible for us." If you're suggesting we can try to understand our tendencies towards anger, violence, tribalism, and our quickness to focus on the immediate future instead of the longterm, and work to minimize them, then sure. If you think, through the power of our minds alone, we can telepathically harness the sun's energy, violate the laws of physics, and eliminate the need to breath oxygen (or the capacity to be a jerk), then no, our biology (and genes) place tenuous but real limits on what we are capable of. Maybe we can change our biology some day, but for now everything we can do is because our genes build our brains/bodies, which give us the capacity to do it. That includes all of our emotions, all the colors we can see, and certainly the starting framework for how our brains function. Babies learn the language they are exposed to because it is hardwired. Gene's obviously don't place ideas in our heads or any other such oversimplifications, however. Originally Posted By: synergy that there is no true separation or natural betterness between us based on beliefs or cultures or national boundaries or skin color or gender or sexuality or anything else. Aren't you, in some sense, suggesting your beliefs are better than many of those who came before you? I think treating everyone better is a better idea than enslaving people who have a different skin color than you, and I am willing to stand up and condemn the practice of dumping acid on women who show skin in public. I will certainly say that many beliefs are better than those. Originally Posted By: synergy It might be presupposing to suggest anyone with beliefs has them without evidence. If you mean materialistic evidence that we can measure with our machines, sure, we'll likely never have evidence. This is just us not agreeing on what we mean by the term evidence. But what I was really getting at here, is many people will say something to the effect of, "If nature really has no purpose or there really is no God or my favorite supernatural explanation isn't real, then morals don't exist, or there's no reason for people to be nice to each other, or my worldview no longer has any foundation." And I think this is a silly argument. I was simply suggesting that advocating a more inclusive general mindset, or explaining the existence of figures like Buddha does not require anything outside of human nature, and does not require an overarching purpose to the universe. There is plenty of "materialistic" evidence to support this, and there is plenty of "materialistic" evidence to caution us against our own inclinations to see design and purpose where there probably isn't any. Oh, and I just read the second half of your post, and to comment really quick your statement about us operating on autopilot or something like: that isn't what I believe at all. I'm off to bed now though, so it'll have to wait 'til tomorrow Until then, cheers.
  14. Hopefully I've addressed this in my first post, but to clarify: Originally Posted By: synergy I also see the exceptions in the mix, pointing to another way. What do we make of the anomalies, if we even have eyes to see them? If you believe accounts of figures like Jesus or Buddha being at all as described, do they represent human nature, because they didn't behave according to what you describe as human nature. First off, have you noticed how descriptions of people and their actions tend to get more and more fantastical the further back they happened to live? I don't for a minute think it's likely that all or most of the things ascribed to Buddha or Jesus actually happened, but I don't want that to confuse the issue. Take a more recent, well-established example like Gandhi. Everything that I am saying is totally compatible with someone like that, or any non-supernatural account of someone like Jesus or Buddha (i.e. a revolutionary moral leader) existing. The sheer recognition that our genetics have, for all intents and purposes, not changed in a few tens of thousands of years, yet we have gone from tribal hunters and gatherers to our present day society certainly speaks to the plasticity of the human brain.
  15. I'll respond to your first post, Synergy, then get to the second. Originally Posted By: Synergy I see this behavior as a largely unconscious result of the survival of the fittest/I am separate from everything else belief system. When we believe, as some like that Jesus fellow or Buddha or others came around claiming, that we are one, connected, inseparable from one another and therefore would do well to treat each other as ourself, it leads to very different behaviors. While I do agree with you that some people are certainly selfish, I'd also like to point out that there are a great many other, less sinister, explanations for something like taking a parking spot. One is being angry for another reason, another is simply not seeing another person waiting (I have mistakenly done this), another is just not taking the situation all that seriously, since there's really no negative result from taking a parking spot other than a few seconds inconvenience, and so forth. But beyond that, I do totally agree with you that we would be well-served to start treating each other more like ourselves. But let's be clear: by this statement, one can mean something like believing we are all connected through some invisible energy that binds us all together, or that we really are all one being, and all sorts of supernatural stuff like that. Or one can simply say that everyone is better served in the longterm when we work together. Two heads are generally better than one, the most prosperous times in history have been when war is minimal and cultures trade information rather than fight for it, and mutual destruction is certainly a situation to avoid. It sounds like your real argument is that the belief system you propose would be useful for everyone to adopt. That is a separate question from whether or not it is true. What I want you to consider, is that you can reach all of the conclusions you're making about how such a belief system might look without presupposing anything without evidence, like the existence of a God-ish force integrated into all life. The major culprit (we're complex organisms, so it's obviously not the only reason) behind our sometimes selfish attitude, as I've said before, is tribalism, and it has very distinct and easily-understandable evolutionary roots. It explains both our altruism and love of people we consider like us and part of our group, and it explains the incredible aggression and horrors we humans are capable of inflicting on those not like us. Just like acknowledging our love of sugary foods paired with the knowledge that overeating them can cause serious health problems shows us that we should be very careful about how much of them we eat, knowledge of our ability to separate people into groups can be a cautionary tale of how easy it is to do harm to others. This is made manifest by millenia of slavery and racism, and is easily recognizeable in the many clearly intelligent and generally good people throughout history who have felt basically no empathy for some of their fellow humans -- to take a recent example, take the treatment of African-Americans over the past few centuries by people who wrote a document saying that "all men are created equal." The fact that we have these tendencies to begin with is clear evidence to me that there is nothing but neutrality at work in nature. Evolution cannot see into the future to decide that there is a better way, but we can. I don't mean to suggest for a moment that we are doomed to continuously behave tribally, just because we have the capacity to do so. This is no more true than it is to say we must uncontrollably eat sugar just because it's tasty. Violence has decreased enormously century by century. We can consciously recognize that our differences are miniscule, and our future better off by expanding the "us" in "us vs them" to everyone, as is made clear by Carl Sagan in this youtube: And I do think there are certainly some ways in which we are all, in fact, connected. Our ability to learn from one another is nearly limitless, and even a quick glance at the last few thousand years shows that the transmission of culture though books and stories (and now the internet) has been incredible. Every word in our head was created by someone at some time in history. This is one of my favorite quotes from someone on another forum: Zapski posting on skepchick.org: Quote: "In seriousness, I as an atheist think that there is no soul in the dualistic sense. However, I think that what is essentially us leaves our bodies at all times, every time we interact with others. Like raindrops in a pond, the ripples we make affect all the other drops, and all the ripples that hit us are changed by our ripples. Humanity has one giant soul-soup in which we all make bigger or smaller ripples. What I say shapes you, what you say shapes me. When I recall something you said or did, or if some action of yours consciously or unconsciously affects me or my actions or ideas, that is your “soul” having its effect. Carl Sagan (for example) made a big splash in the soul-soup. Many of us are shaped by his words and actions. Religion has it backwards: Your soul doesn’t leave your body at the moment of death, it stops leaving your body, and echos in the lives of others. We are the heaven in which our dead reside." This reality exists with or without a belief in the supernatural. I think one lure towards magical thinking is that people often conclude that a "scientific" or "materialistic" view of the world necessarily means it's simple, boring, and unmajestic. This is nonsense. As Carl Sagan often said, our current understanding of the science is that we are one of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given 13.7 billion years time.