Abraham Lincoln tried to patent ‘Facebook’

Oh, this one is for the ‘neat’ files!!!

Abraham Lincoln tried to patent – unsuccessfully – a hardcopy version of what we now know as ‘Facebook’:  from the profile picture, to likes, updates and ‘sharing’ all the way to who can see how much of the profile.

Really neat!

Which, of course, begs a gaggle of questions:  starting with ‘If Abe Lincoln was denied a patent – why is the Zuckerbaby’s one valid?’



Do you know a ‘knol’?

Wikipedia, look out! 

Google has launched its ‘Knol’ – a site wchich is somewhat similar, though promises to be more ‘Google monitored’, as a rival repository for popular knowledge.   I cannot wait to read some of their write-ups.

Just a quick search showed that -as yet – there is no entry on the Canadian Human Rights Commissions!  Gee, I wonder who would be best qualified to write it up?

Somebody ought to give Mr. Levant a heads-up!

(via TheReferenceFrame)

Obama’s apostasy

It is unusual for me to write about the US presidential race, because, frankly, it is a bit overdone.  We are inundated with the minutest details and the wildest speculations over and over, whether we care or not.

Yet, there is one very important speculation that I have never heard voiced.  Perhaps it is my own fault for shutting out so much of the detail, and it has been covered and dealt with.  If that is the case, then I beg your forgiveness.  But, if it has not been addressed, then I would humbly request that people give this some sober, realistic consideration.

Different people – and nation states – react very differently to identical ‘facts’.  Mundane example: I see a rabbit, I will think ‘pet’.  Another person looks at a rabbit, they may see ‘dinner’.  It would be unreasonable to expect the same reaction from both of us to being served a rabbit-burger.  The same is true of many, many things, not all of them mundane or witout deep impact.

Many supporters of Mr. Obama’s bid for the Democratic nomination, and ultimately the Presidency of the USA, say that he would be well received in the world, and enjoy much more credibililty than either Ms. Clinton or Mr. McCain.  While his lack of experience and specific policies he suggested may have come under attack, his supporters maintain that his multicultural outlook would be great assets giving him (an by extension, the USA) great credibility, especially in Africa.

But are we not overlooking one extremely important point?  Mr. Obama is an apostate to Islam – and much of the Muslim world, including in Africa, consider this to be very bad thing indeed.

This has less to do with the views of Mr. Obama himself.  It does not concern anything a preacher he’d listened to may or may not believe.  All it has to do with is the fact that as a child and young man, Mr. Obama was a Muslim, and now he is not.  He does not deny that – nor has he ever tried to.  By definition, this makes him an Apostate.

The very fact that he has converted from Islam to another faith may make it impossible for many fundamentally Islamic nation-states to accept him.  After all, rightly or wrongly, many of them do interpret The Qur’an, specifically Sura (chapter) 4, verses 89-92: “If they turn away [convert away from Islam], then sieze them and kill them wherever you find them;…”. 

Also, many Muslims use several books in addition to the Qur’an.  These are not given the central importance that Qur’an is, but because they contain the collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and strories of his life, these are often used as a guide according to which the Qur’an is supposed to be interpreted.  One of these is often quoted as to the proper interpretation of the above verse: ‘Bukhari’ 4.52.260 – “The Prophet said, ‘If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him.’

In 2006, a man was sentenced to death in Afghanistan for having converted from Islam to Christianity.  This was well after the Taliban were out of power, but even the moderates in Afghanistan did not understand why people in ‘The West’ were upset by this.  Most of us are familiar with the case of Lina Joy, and others like her.

In fact, four of the major Sunni as well as the major Shia schools of Islam all agree that a sane, adult male who converts away from Islam deserves the death penalty. 

I offer this as an entirely pragmatic consideration:  will some people be able to see Mr. Obama, the man, or will they only see an Apostate? 

How will they react if the USA elects an ‘Apostate President’? 

Symptoms and Causes

Advertizing and politics are some of the most obvious examples of ‘idea bundling’, as I discussed in my last post.  But, these are not, by far, the only fields.  This trend can be seen everywhere around us.

Bundling ideas can be useful by helping us categorize our surroundings, yet it can also hinder us – especially when other people try to do the ‘bundling’ for us.  Sometimes it is intentional manipulation (advertizing, ‘spin’, propaganda), but often, the people doing the ‘bundling’ are not even aware they are doing it…..and these ‘bundles’ are often the hardest to ‘unpack’ into their components, since there is no ‘false note’ to detect!

One of the greatest dangers of this is that when a specific ‘solution’ is a part of a ‘bundle’, it is harder for us to recognize whether it is a ‘symptom fix’ or a ‘root cause solution’.  And mistaking symptoms with causes is so easy…and so unfortunatelly frequent in our society!

Perhaps it is a human characteristic, perhaps there is a lapse in the schooling we received in critical reasoning … but confusing symptoms for causes is just SO rampant!!!!  And so many of us do not even seem to recognize that this is even going on, much less see it as a problem.

The whole ‘banning cellphones while driving’ debate is a case in point: the cellphones are a symptom of distraction, the underlying cause is the apalling disrespect some drivers accord to the act of driving – considering driving an ‘automatic right’ instead of an earned privilege.  And, while bannig cellphones while driving may make us feel as if we are ‘protecting society’, and politicians may get a few extra photops, it does not fix the underlying problem of getting drivers to pay attention to driving….  What’s next:  banning the application of ‘mauve dreams’  shade of lipstick because statistics clearly showe that more people crash while applying that shade of lipstick during driving than any other?

Another example is the alarming attitude in our schools:  volunteers who wanted to help kids who were falling behind in math were turned away, on the grounds that being seen as singled out for extra help would stigmatize a child.  Oh no, the lack of math skills (for whatever reason) was not a problem at all.  No, the problem was being seen getting help!!!  The symptom (potential embarassment) is treated, not the undelying problem (lack of skills).  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. 

It is part of the same absence of critical thinking that ‘protects’ children from being ‘stigmatized’ by having them repeat a grade when they have not learned material, and instead allows illiterate children to graduate from schools.  They will be completely unprepared to face the challenges in life, but they will not have had their feelings hurt along the way…..  We are teaching our kids that it is OK to be ignorant, but not OK to be seen working hard to improve… What was that about ‘learned helplessness’?

Perhaps it sounds like I’m picking on the educators (and they do make it so easy), but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Just look around you – the examples aboud! 

We, ‘the Western society’, seem to be rapidly loosing the ability to distinguish between causes of problems – which need remedying, and the symptoms of problems – which can lead us to the causes, but would which it would be pointless and a waste of time and resources to address in isolation.

 …and don’t get me started on separating valid from silly idead which had been ‘bundled’ together!