Monday, March 23, 2009

Should I buy a new printer?

My old printer died somehow when I shipped it to my apartment in NYC last May. That was no great loss since I do very, little printing these days. In fact, in a typical year my only printing is travel itineraries and paper copies of e-tickets. I have managed to do without a printer since the middle of last May. But today I wanted to buy a bus ticket to the airport online and they require that the ticket be printed. My airline e-ticket and Priceline hotel reservation did not require a printed confirmation, but the bus ticket does. Oh Well. So, I decided to buy a new printer for $100 or so. But then I thought about it and did the math and decided that if I paid cash for my bus tickets over the next three years I would still not lose the amount I would have saved by buying the tickets in advance online once the price of the printer was factored in. Part of the calculation is that I do not bother claiming cash business expenses when I do my taxes. So, I changed my mind and decided that a printer would not be a good investment. I had already found a nice HP monochrome laser printer for $99 (originally $189), but money is money.

I checked the bus line's web site and found that there was a ticket office at Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) here in NYC. The bus line is CoachUSA, but the tickets are sold by Gray Line. I walked over to the office just inside the 42nd Street entrance and charged a round-trip ticket (NYC to Newark Airport) on my credit card for the same price as online ($25 roundtrip.) So, now I am all set for travel and without the need to purchase a new printer.

Maybe next year I will come up with a valid reason to buy a new printer.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What are the biological requirements for intelligence?

For some time I have wondered about the differences between plants and animals, two distinct "kingdoms." Maybe someday I'll have enough spare time to look into the matter (so to speak.) A variation of that question popped into my mind today: What are the biological requirements for intelligence? Man evolved intelligence in the animal kingdom. What specifically enabled that evolution of intelligence in man? Not the "pop", superficial explanations, but what exactly is it that permits man to exhibit intelligence? Put another way, why were plants unable to evolve in a parallel manner into "intelligent" individuals? Are there in fact biological requirements for intelligence that only the animal kingdom has to offer? Or, could intelligence, in theory, occur in plants through some path of evolution within the plant kingdom? In any case, in short, what exactly are the biological requirements for intelligence? And I do mean intelligence in the sense of human-level intelligence. That does beg the question of other forms of "intelligence" that may be wholly incomparable to human intelligence.

Now, this also broaches on the question of machine intelligence, computational intelligence, or artificial intelligence. If in fact there are biological requirements for intelligence, can those requirements in fact be met by non-biological entities such as computers as we know them. Of course that does beg the question of whether we could simply develop a computer program which is a simulator for biological life. That then raises the question of whether plants could evolve a machine-like structure which in fact was such a simulator for animal life.

In any case, we are left with the question of what the requirements would be for human-level intelligence in machines, and whether there may be biological functions that cannot easily (or maybe even possibly) be simulated in machines.

By "machines", I mean computers as we know them today, a device which can execute what we call computer programs or computer software.

That begs two questions. First, are there radically difference computer software architectures that might enable programming of human-level intelligence? Second, are there radically different device architectures which would permit software architectures that cannot easily (or maybe even possibly at all) be developed with computer devices as we know them.

To phrase the initial question another way, could we in theory genetically engineer plants to develop forms of intelligence?

More abstractly, could another "kingdom" develop which was neither plant nor animal, but capable of exhibiting human-level intelligence? Maybe in another solar system, another galaxy, or a parallel universe? Or, is there in fact some fundamentally basic requirement for intelligence which even in theory can only be satisfied within the animal kingdom?

One final question... What biological requirements would need to be met for artificial devices, presumably capable of reproduction by themselves, to in fact be considered "biological" and a new "kingdom" paralleling the animal and plant kingdoms?

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, March 13, 2009

Death of my mother

My mother passed away suddenly Thursday evening. That puts me in the "club" of those who have lost both parents.

My blogging (and Twittering) will probably be rather light or even non-existent over the next week or so as I deal with a variety of arrangements.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is morality relevant to either thought or fantasy?

Morality is normally all about conduct. I take that to include actions, words, and other forms of expression and treatment. In some cases, inaction or failure to say something or failure to raise an alarm could be immoral. Either way, it is conduct or lack of expected conduct that constitutes morality or at least moral behavior.

Is morality relevant to either thought or fantasy? Can a thought or fantasy (as opposed to behavior) be "immoral"?

Is it equally relevant or equally irrelevant to thought and fantasy?

Granted, morality certainly is relevant when we turn thoughts into actions or even words, but is there a difference before that point?

Can malevolent thoughts or fantasies be considered dangerous? Again, granted, if they are expressed or acted out they could be considered dangerous, but is there a difference before that point?

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is truth a fantasy?

Is truth a fantasy?

Maybe, sometimes, we actually are able to verify that some of our beliefs do in fact correspond to reality, but until then, aren't they mere fantasy?

Can we in fact actually "think" about truth, or can we only merely fantasize and otherwise conjecture about our alleged "truth" until we actually discover a method for verifying it? Or, maybe the parlance is that we can think about our alleged truth once it has been "realized" as images in our minds.

Could the ultimate purpose of fantasy simply be as a tool for seeking truth? Or, more appropriately, a tool for constructing theories of what truth might be? Or, a tool for discovering paths to truth?

-- Jack Krupansky

Cafe Philo in New York City this week: "What is the difference between thought and fantasy?"

The discussion topic for the next Cafe Philo in New York City this week, on Thursday, March 12, 2009, is "What is the difference between thought and fantasy?".

As usual, Bernard Roy will be the moderator.

Catch on on preparatory online discussions in the Yahoo group for Cafe Philo NYC.

In addition, Ron Gross will be there to give a pitch for Conversation Week, March 24-30.

As usual, the meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the back room at Bamiyan Restaurant (Afghan food) at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and 26th Street in New York City. In exchange for free meeting space, it is expected that each attendee will purchase a minimum of $5 of food or drink.

There is also usually some number of attendees who go across the street to McCormack's Bar for drinks and food and extended discussion after Cafe Philo, but not limited to the scheduled discussion topic.

There are a number of small groups in the U.S. and Europe who meet regularly to discuss topics related to philosophy. Some of these groups go by the name "Cafe Philo." There is one here in New York City that meets every two weeks, every other Thursday. It is organized and moderated by Bernard Roy, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Each meeting focuses on a specific topic which was suggested and voted on by the participants at the last meeting.

Also, there is an online discussion forum for the NYC Cafe Philo at:

There is also a new web site for NYC Cafe

I have been attending the NYC Cafe Philo off and on since 2004. Previously I had attended the Cafe Philo in Washington, D.C. starting in 2001.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My Gary, Indiana solution

Back in January of 2000 when I still had a small mountain of financial assets, I actually considered whether I should go to cash and permanently retire. One option, the one I chose, unfortunately, was that "I only need one more year of decent stock market returns (15-20%) and then I will be set for life", but we know how that movie ended. That was all I needed, one more year, and then I could live "forever" on income from Treasuries. In fact, three-quarters of my net worth was in Treasuries at that point anyway due to my call option strategy that was working so well in the bull market. But, that is water over the dam now. The other option that I briefly considered, but rejected as unattractive, was what I called "my Gary, Indiana solution". Briefly, although I did not have enough money to retire in New York City, I could have retired forever if I could have stomached relocating to some godforsaken place that was really, really cheap, such as I imagined Gary, Indiana to be.

I actually had no idea what Gary, Indiana was really like, but being part of the so-called "Rust Belt", I imagined that everything was much cheaper there. I could easily and quickly get to Chicago, Illinois if I ever had a desperate urge to be somewhere other than "nowhere" and fly from Chicago to "anywhere." Meanwhile, I would not have to burn through piles of cash for living expenses, or so I imagined. In truth, even if Gary was only moderately cheaper I actually would have been able to life, even if not thrive, on Treasury income.

The big obstacle to implementing "my Gary, Indiana solution" was simply the fact that for me personally it had the feeling that I would be imprisoned or at least exiled away from anything that might interest me. Joliet would not have sounded much worse to me. The Internet and Web were still relatively primitive even in 2000 compared to all the online social networking we have today. Maybe with Web 2.0 I could have envisioned living in a bubble, like living on the moon or Mars.

Alas, today I do not even have the financial resources for that "ambitious" Gary, Indiana "solution" that I had back in 2000. I would need to have some kind of job, but I might be able to pull it off with a more menial type of job, if something were in fact available.

In any case, my immediate goal here is simply to record for my own reference and for posterity this idea that I had back in 2000. Whether I can reuse it in some way remains to be seen.

When thinking anew about the concept, two immediate questions come to mind. First, where in the U.S. can you live very, very cheaply? Second, and which of those places have significant acceptable and palatable employment opportunities. The goal here is not to find a place to spend the rest of my life, but finding an "economic refuge" until technology employment opportunities once again become plentiful.

-- Jack Krupansky

Contemplation of life off the grid

Although I personally have no desire to "drop off the gird", the current economic crisis implicitly raises it as a very real possibility. Obtaining satisfying and well-paying work (or even entrepreneurial opportunities) is no longer anything even remotely resembling a "slam dunk." Maybe life off the grid would not be such an unconscionable alternative.

But what would it mean to live off the grid, as a general proposition? Somehow, the primary constraint would be to dramatically limit expenses:

  1. Rent. Maybe free lodging. Or camping.
  2. Meals. Consider growing some own food.
  3. Health care. Only real option is that you need to be in great health.
  4. Entertainment. Need to entertain yourself. Use the library, including free Internet access. Free cultural events.
  5. Socializing. No longer quite so easy to socialize with those on the grid. Network with others off the grid.
  6. Keeping up. Including current events, work opportunities, and training opportunities. Once again, the library may be a best solution.

Thoreau tried to live off the grid, for awhile, but he had some land, a cabin, and a life he could go back to.

At this stage I am certainly not seriously contemplating going "off grid", but if May rolls around and I have no serious employment opportunities (contracting, full-time, part-time, or whatever), suddenly going at least partially off-grid will become a possibility to consider. I will still have significant cash (and stock??) resources at the end of May (when my current apartment lease is up), so I actually will not be "forced" to go completely off the grid, but maybe a partial off-grid lifestyle might be a possibility.

Some kind of semi-nomadic lifestyle may in fact be more appropriate for me.

Or, finding some locale where I can live really, really, really cheaply until the economy stabilizes at least a little.

In any case, I have my living expenses for the next three months covered and can "merrily" sit back and watch the economic storms swirl around me, as if I had not a care in the world. Or something like that.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What is thought?

After doing a little reading in preparation for the upcoming Cafe Philo NYC discussion on "What is the difference between thought and fantasy?", I'll offer my own synthesized definition of "thought":

Thought is the collection of mental processes which are active in the conscious mind, operating on images, some of which come from the real world via the perception of our senses and some of which are created within our minds though imagination.

Some points:

  1. I would not consider dreams to be thought.
  2. Perception is a "conduit" for information from the real world into the conscious mind. Or, perception is the passive mental process of accepting "images" from our senses and making that raw information available to our conscious minds.
  3. Even "abstraction" is "thought" based on images. There are two forms of abstraction: aggregation and generalization. With aggregation we see an image of the parts of a whole and how they come together - an image of the whole linked to images of the parts. With generalization we see the commonality of a number of different images and construct categories.
  4. I would suggest that imagination and fantasy are not "thought" or "thinking" per se since "thought" requires images to be present, while imagination and fantasy are mental processes which create images. Or, thought is the reflection on images, whether those images were perceived by our senses or created by our imagination.
  5. The "sources" of imagination are... mysterious and unclear -- simply not visible to our conscious minds directly and not available for direct observation and reflection. Sometimes, conscious thought is able to intentionally "will" new images into the mind. Other times, images appear to simply "pop" into the mind, unwilled, unbidden, and possibly even unwelcome. Maybe it is those unwilled images that constitute "fantasy." Or, maybe our "will" simply plants a seed in the mysterious "source" of unbidden images and the imagined image "grows" from that seed, once again in a mysterious process. Maybe the point is that the "source" for imagination is not the mental processes that we are consciously aware of.
  6. Mind would appear to consist of both conscious and unconscious mental processes. Thought is the activity in the conscious processes. Creativity is a result of the unconscious mental processes.
  7. My definition of thought does not require that imagination be a conscious mental process, at least not a mental process for which we have self-awareness of its operation. We can only "see" its results - images.
  8. We sometimes refer to "thought vs. action", which would suggest that thought would include imagination, but maybe that is more of a casual misnomer or lack of precision in speaking. I would suggest that we really mean "mental vs. action", and that "mental" includes both conscious thought (an oxymoron) and unconscious mental processes of the mind which includes imagination.

I am refraining here from delving into fantasy per se.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Made my Kiva micro-loan for the month of March

I just realized that it is a new month, so I went ahead and made a new micro-loan through Kiva for the month of March. My intention is to make a new micro-loan every month, in large part from repayments for past micro-loans.

This one was for a woman (married with three children) in Atakpame, Togo who is a retailer of cereals (maize, millets, beans, and peanuts) for ten years now, to expand her business. It is a 20-month micro-loan for a total of $1,175, of which I lent $25. Its first repayment is scheduled for May 15, 2009. The micro-loan was already disbursed to her on February 19, 2009 by the local partner. Kiva is raising funds to essentially buy that loan from the local partner.

Here is my Kiva public lender page:

Note: This is all real and good, but these micro-loans do not net any interest to us micro-lenders.

-- Jack Krupansky

Another Kiva micro-loan payment came in

Last week I noticed that another payment came in for one of my Kiva micro-loans. For all of the economic trouble that we are having in this financial crisis, it is amazing that these "working poor" are doing such a great job of keeping up on their payments, and even paying ahead of schedule. They probably don't even know what the word "stimulus" means. Citibank eat your heart out!

-- Jack Krupansky