Sunday 20 April 2008

Gimbal animation

No real reason for this video except there has been some talk about gimbals lately, with the usual problem how to visualise the rotating parts.

It reminded me of the little animation I did some time ago for my grandchildren. So here it is.

The innermost part is something like a chair with two of its edges corresponding to an axis. It helps to observe how the mutual relationship among the objects changes.

One play covers a 360 degree rotation.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Free Will? Yes and No

The question has been around for centuries. Thomas Aquinas fought with it, so did John Locke, Nietzsche, and may others in between and beyond.

From the technical perspective there is an answer but it is, well, technical. We're talking about neuronal dynamics, and how they lead to the phenomenon of mind. Too big a topic for this blog.

But there is one scale at which the problem becomes easier to handle. When looking at the relationship between the individual and society the issue is more transparent.

Let's assume the individual has free will (whatever this means to you), and even if you deny that it has no bearing on what comes next, as you'll see.

All of us make decisions on any given day, and they have an effect. Sometimes the decisions are unique, sometimes they are common to many: I may decide to climb Mt Everest, or I may decide to see a movie. One is more common than the other, and the difference lies in the facilities my society has provided for me.

And that's the point. For a movie to be shown in a cinema many people have to have come together for a common purpose (if I want to watch the film "XYZ" I can't because nobody has made it, and so I won't).

If I want to start a political party that in itself may be new, but in order to attract others they need to have some affinity with the cause and so again I am tapping into something which is already there.

So a society may sway this way or that, but the ability to sway in the first place depends on individuals who have provided it with the possibility to do so.

Society therefore, in other words the sumtotal of many people bound together by commonly perceived elements (values, priorities, infrastructure, art, education, transport, technology, etc etc), cannot escape the precepts determined by its members.

The members may or may not possess free will; but even if they do, their society doesn't.

Sounds trivial? Perhaps, but it means that the group, small or large, only ever acts according to its own content. If 'free will' means making the conscious decision to step outside one's boundaries, a group will never do that.

No use complaining, or weeping, or protesting on the streets. Unless some individuals see a reason for change (and act on it!), nothing will happen.

Affecting change becomes a matter of efficiency. Who or what needs to be targeted, how or where are resources to be employed?

And once the new has become part of society, this sumtotal will play itself out - it cannot do otherwise.

Whether the result is wonderful or scary depends on your personal disposition.