The website of Pitcairn Island.
Pitcairn is a
tiny UK dependency in the Pacific Ocean with
a population of around 50, all descendants of the men who mutinied
on the Bounty in
1789 and their Tahitian wives. Pitcairn has
no airstrip and extemely limited phone communications (i.e. only via
Inmarsat at certain times of day) to the outside world; it does, however,
have a nice line in stamps.
Salon article on Japanese teenage culture.
The Burning Man Opera.
Via Strange Brew.
Nice personal site.
I especially like the online role-playing
Gay for a Day - I actually felt I
learnt something from it. :)
It's done in an entertaining and attractive way.
Read all the disclaimers before you play it -
not for under 18's, not a counselling service, etc.
Now it's time for a rant!
I've been doing some research into
Prisoner's Dilemma game theory today,
as described by the biologist Richard
Dawkins in his book 'The Selfish Gene'.
The scenario is this :- You and a colleague
are being interrogated, under suspicion
of committing a crime. You do
not know how your colleague will
respond to interrogation. The detectives
try to persuade you to confess to the
crime (to 'defect'). What happens depends on what
both of you do. If both of you remain
silent (i.e. 'cooperate' with each other),
you both get a short sentence for a lesser
crime. If both of you 'defect' (i.e.
grass each other up) then you will both
receive a longer sentence. If one of
you 'cooperates' and the other 'defects',
the defector will get off scot-free while
the cooperater will receive the heaviest
If the game is played over a few rounds,
the most sensible option is to 'defect';
you will generally get a lesser punishment
than you would by 'cooperating'. Over a longer
time frame, however, 'cooperating' makes
more sense. Dawkins ran simulations of the
game where different strategies were played
off each other - some more cooperative,
some tending more to 'defect', some making
random moves, some cooperating until the
other player 'defects', after which they
bore a 'grudge' and defected. The most
successful strategies tended to be basically
canny cooperative strategies which also took
into account whether its colleague
defected, in which case they would
be more likely to defect. This way, the
'cooperative' players built up a circle
of 'friends' who would cooperate with them;
players who continually defected were
gradually isolated and lost ground.
This came as a surprise to a lot of
biologists and economists who assumed
that the more competitive strategies
would always tend to win out. Actually,
cooperation, altruism and friendship
worked out better as a survival strategy
than more selfish, egoistic strategies!
Survival depends on other people, and
no one wants to cooperate with someone
who is always selfish. In this way,
Dawkins seemed to show that altruism
and self-interest are extremely compatible.
I actually suspect that altruism is more
important to long-term human evolution
than egoism. Devotees of Thomas Hobbes
may assert that there is 'no such thing
as altruism', but values such as love,
friendship and empathy are ultimately
essential for the survival of our species,
and maybe life itself. I'm a devotee of
the Gaia philosophy; the Earth and all
the living beings on it can be seen as
a gigantic, self-regulating super-organism
that protects its own.
Nature is not red in blood and claw; actually
extreme egoistic lifestyles always self-
destruct in the end.
Empathy and altruism
have evolved and they work in the interests
Whether you see this as an evolutionary
process or as something that comes from
God and is hard-coded into the structure
of the Universe doesn't really matter.
The conclusion, in short, is that in the
long run, nice guys finish first. The meek
really shall inherit the Earth. It is
better to be kind than to be selfish.
I find this conclusion both heart-warming
and intellectually satisfying.
That was quite a long rant really ;).
Here are some related links :-
The Prisoner's Dilemma game online.
You can play Prisoner's Dilemma here.
Why are we nice to other people?
A review of Richard Dawkins' book,
'The Selfish Gene'.
The amazon.com entry for James Lovelock's
'The Ages of Gaia'. This is the book
in which Lovelock proposes that the Earth
and all living species are part of a
singe super-organism which changes
environmental conditions to ensure
survival. Dawkins has rejected Gaia
theory in the past, but I believe that
an evolutionary theory of altruism is
entirely compatible with the Gaia
Be generous at freedonation.com.
Ken Livingstone wants to be mayor of London.
I'm still undecided on who would be best
for the job. Whilst I believe Blair's
Labour government is much, much better than
its predecessor, I also think that so many
years out of office, when Labour was divided
between its left and right wings, have made
the Labour leadership far too afraid of
tolerating different opinions within the party.
(For people outside the UK, Livingstone
was the last leader of the Greater London
Council, which the Conservative government
abolished in the 1980's. He is a leftwinger
and a colourful character - he is known
as 'Red Ken' - who is now running
for the mayoral position in defiance of
the Labour Party's leadership).
The candidates for mayor of London include :-
Frank Dobson (Labour),
Steve Norris (Conservative),
Susan Kramer (Liberal Democrat),
Darren Johnson (Green Party).
The Cockney singers Chas 'n' Dave and the
Sex Pistols' svengali, Malcolm McLaren,
are also running. McLaren is running
on a libertarian platform, with lots of
policies I approve of such as supplying
free alcohol to public libraries
(well, it may improve literacy).
For the 'serious' candidates, I'd give
Livingstone, Norris and Dobson reasonable
chances. Livingstone is well to the left
but personally very popular, Dobson has
the London Labour Party machine behind him,
and Norris is much more liberal than
most Conservatives (London is a liberal
city) and likely to benefit
from a split Labour vote.
Anyway, enough politics!
A half-million year old building has
been discovered in Japan.
scientists have taught cells to grow in
a chemical trail. This has implications
for the idea of growing tissue 'to
George Bush Jr. appeared on the David Letterman
show the other day and
apparently it was squirmworthy!
I find US presidential candidates making fools of
themselves amusing, though.
Via Bird on a Wire.
Bob Jones University explains that
the ban on interracial dating isn't
racist, but actually a stand against
Satan. Um, right. Via Bird on a Wire.
If I had a vote in the US presidential
election, it would probably go to
He's sincere and compassionate,
and he doesn't go in for the mawkishly
patriotic rhetoric so common amongst
As an activist, he's had a major
impact on the way people see green
and consumer issues - even though
he's never actually won any
elections. I also like the way
he says he's opposed to the 'individual'
death penalty (for human beings) but
in favour of the 'corporate' death
penalty (i.e. closing down a corporation
which commits crimes). Nice :).
Let's not forget that people are more
important than things.
A real democrat
(with a small 'd'), if you ask me.
Yesterday was Girls' Day in Japan.
New mammal found in the Andes.
A new genus of tree rat. :) This makes
me happy. However, the news isn't all
good; take a look at
threatened animals of the world.
Via Meme Pool.
Lots of astronomical images
from the European Southern Observatory.
Via Meme Pool.
The ever-wonderful MonkeyFist now
its own search engine for past
A quiet day zzzz :).
I've been following the latest LAPD police corruption/
brutality scandal; the best
coverage I can find is in the
I've also uncovered this
logic problems page.
Dodgy politics too (the webmaster lists Creation Science and
Family Values Politics - whatever that is -
amongst his interests).
I can't really see much logic in Creation Science...
However, I like logic problems,
so I'll link to it anyway. Logic and creationism... wow ;).
Never let it be said I don't allow equal time...