Monday, July 18, 2011

Remember Your Chocolate - corrected and expanded!

We sang "Remember Your Love" by Darryl Ducote and Gary Daigle as the Communion hymn at Mass yesterday.

I rather like the first bit of the song because it sounds kind of like chant.

But the hook always makes me think of Willy Wonka, and I really want to know the back story there.

Had Darryl been battling a 3-day fever with nothing but Gene Wilder movies in the house to watch? I like to watch G movies when I am sick. Maybe he does too.

Were Gary's kids playing it all the time in the background? "DADDY! Can we please watch Willy Wonka for the 47th time?" "Yeah, yeah, just let me write this hymn and I'll be right there!"

Did it inspire one or both of them so deeply that, after seeing it only once, it floated to his conscious mind years later as the perfect hook for his song about Our Lord and his Mercy?

I like to think they woke up, hungover, to find the following version on a cocktail napkin, and then edited out all the chocolate references they could, leaving only the tune as a reminder of one crazy night in Hershey, PA.

"Remember Your Lo-ove
And Your faithfulness, O Lord!
Remember Your Fact'ry
and make chocolate for us, Lord!

V1. In a world of pure imagination
The Lord is ne-ear!
Though others turn into blueberries,
I shall not fe-ear!

V2. Don't get too close to chocolate rivers;
Shun gluttony-y!
Don't constantly demand more presents
So brattily-y!

V3. The prophets who will give you warnings
Will show the wa-ay
Their orange faces may be scary
But they're oka-ay!

V4. Avoid unhealthily obsessing
About TV-ee!
Obey all rules and regulations
And you'll go fre-ee!"

Hymnals could be so much more entertaining if they included tracknotes. Alert GIA!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trolley Problems, or A Great Way to Spend My Time

DarwinCatholiclinked to a great Trolley Problem that I just had to draw in Paint.

On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley. There are only two options that the brain can take: the right side of the fork in the track or the left side of the fork. There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys. The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.

On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If the railman on the right lives, he will go on to kill five men for the sake of killing them, but in doing so will inadvertently save the lives of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans’ bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans that will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who would make good utilitarian men do bad things. Another of the orphans would grow up to become G.E.M. Anscombe, while a third would invent the pop-top can.

If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley will definitely hit and kill a railman on the left side of the track, ‘Leftie,’ and will hit and destroy ten beating hearts on the track that could (and would) have been transplanted into ten patients in the local hospital that will die without donor hearts. These are the only hearts available, and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows hearts. If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he too will kill five men, in fact the same five that the railman on the right would kill. However, ‘Leftie’ will kill the five as an unintended consequence of saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men rushing the ten hearts to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of ‘Leftie’s’ act would be that the busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by ‘Leftie’ are both the man responsible for putting the brain at the controls of the trolley, and the author of this example. If the ten hearts and ‘Leftie’ are killed by the trolley, the ten prospective heart-transplant patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives of twenty kidney-transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer, and one of whom will grow up to be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis machines available; however, the brain does not know kidneys, and this is not a factor.

Assume that the brain’s choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains-in-vats and so the effects of his decision will be amplified. Also assume that if the brain chooses the right side of the fork, an unjust war free of war crimes will ensue, while if the brain chooses the left fork, a just war fraught with war crimes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a manner that the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

What should the brain do?
Excerpted from:
– Michael F. Patton Jr., “Tissues in the Profession: Can Bad Men Make Good Brains Do Bad Things?”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, January 1988

I think that drawing diagrams is a great way to work through complex problems.

When I drew this crazy thing out, I noticed right away that the 5 people are doomed and the orphans will be saved in either scenario. Thank goodness, the author of the problem and the idiot who put a brain in charge of a trolley are doomed along with an orphan murderer (too bad for you, 2 other nameless victims). We're now guaranteed to have a tyrant queen Orphan Annie, a GEM Anscombe Orphan, and an Inventor-of-the-Pop-Tab Orphan grow to maturity.

So, I blocked out that whole section.

What if the brain KNEW about the extra 20 kidneys outside the scenario? It could block out that whole section, like this...

Then there's an unjust war with no war crimes, a just war with war crimes, 10 people who will or won't receive heart transplants, a nice man and a mean man. Under a strictly utilitarian scenario, the justness or unjustness of the wars may not matter if they kill different numbers of people or render them unhappy or if the "wrong" side wins. Outcomes, not justifications, are important. The war crimes sound really bad, but if the war crimes are committed against fewer people than the regular waging of the other war happens to kill, then a purely utilitarian brain would favor the criminal war. Since the brain doesn't know the numbers, it can't make a decision, and would ignore that section of the problem.

In this case, we can see that sending the trolley down the right side of the tracks will kill only one man and save 11.

HOWEVER, remember that I said that the brain is actually ignorant of kidneys, so it would NOT ignore the kidney patient problem.

I used the World Health Organization estimation of cancer deaths in 2008 to factor the worth of a cure for cancer. For Hitler, I used 12,000,000 deaths from the Holocaust (6 million Jews + 6 million others-- Gypsies, political prisoners, disabled people, etc), a number I may have underestimated, especially if you put in all the millions killed in combat in WWII. In 2 years, according to a utilitarian brain in a vat, a cure for cancer would "balance out" the Holocaust, so it would send the trolley down the LEFT side, killing the nice man, destroying the hearts, and allowing the 20 kidney patients to be saved. The brain was ignorant and made the "wrong" choice.

All this, of course, ignores both the Cartesian demon confusing the brain intermittently and the unknown ultimate effects of the brain's choice on the other brains.


I just realized the brain may be ignorant of all future outcomes of the people involved in these scenarios (from the car crashes on). If so, one might think it would kill the man on the right to save the 10 heart patients and the man on the left. If the brain is a strict utilitarian ignorant of kidneys (other than that each person has 2), though, it will destroy the hearts of 10 (plus the man on the left) so that the kidneys of 20 might be saved. So it will send the trolley down the left.

Friday, July 1, 2011

25,000,000,000 flavors

It seems that whenever someone wants to make a plug for adultery -- or to at least knock monogamy -- he asks "What if you could only have one flavor of ice cream for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE???!!!"

There are so many stupid things about this metaphor, I thought I'd write up a few approaches to answer this.

1) Holding out for better

If we did courtship like we do ice cream, it just wouldn't work for me. Internet dating sites are kind of like that. You see a bunch of guys' pictures and get a little info, and you can pick which one you want to write to. Naturally, it's up to both of you to decide whether you meet, and whether you keep dating, but the initial process seems more like choosing an ice cream flavor or pair of shoes online. When I go in an ice cream store, I never leave because the flavors on offer aren't as thrilling as I'd hoped. I have frequently left online dating sites because the men just didn't interest me.

2) Too many choices actually kind of sucks
I have been eating ice cream for 28 years, since I was weaned off formula.
I've tasted a lot of flavors. I've eaten at local ice creameries that make up flavors each week. I've explored the multiple variants of gelato, yogurt, ice cream, and custard.

I've probably had about 25 flavors in my life, and I probably won't add much more to that.

I like the mint, I like the chocolate, I really like pistachio and butter pecan if I can get them, I like berry flavors and sometimes mango or watermelon.

I've probably sampled over half of the possible flavors. I don't know if I will sample the full range, and I don't care. It's not really a top goal of my life.

I have found that when I visit an ice cream store that offers only two flavors, I don't really care. I pick the one that sounds good, I eat it, I find it cool and delicious. When I visit a place that offers 50 flavors, I actually get kind of annoyed because it is so hard to choose. I only spend about 30 seconds deciding, and about 10 minutes eating it. But when I eat it, I find it cool and delicious, and I don't wish I had actually gone with another flavor.

I have not treated men the same way. There are billions of people in the world, so there are billions of men, and I definitely don't want to sample them all. Ugh. It would be impossible. I actually want to spend more than 15 seconds deciding which one I want. People aren't products.

3) Do you take this ice cream company and flavor?

If I swore an oath and signed a legal document saying I would only eat Blue Bunny Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream for the rest of my life, munching on no other flavor, whether in cold weather or hot, on holidays or Tuesdays, with bananas, toppings or plain, in a cone or a bowl, until my tongue crumbled unto the dust from whence it came,

And if all of my religious upbringing had emphasized the importance of fidelity unto ice cream flavors,

And if Hollywood films for the last hundred, and novels for the last several hundred years, and legends and tales of the last several millenia, had explored the wonders of finding the perfect ice cream flavor and the tragedy of ice cream infidelity,

And if one was traditionally supposed to discern this flavor -- not on tasting it -- but on sight, smell and nutritional packet information alone, because it was gravely improper to eat the flavor without having first sworn the Lifelong Consumer oath, so that a person would not only commit to an ice cream for life, but would have tasted no other ice cream previously,

And if I knew that other ice creams could be tainted, that if I strayed I might get food poisoning because other flavors were not as carefully preserved and other ice cream companies were not as scrupulous about testing,

And if -- should I break my vow and be discovered -- the Blue Bunny Ice Cream company could kick me out of my home, take my children from me, run about trashing me to all my friends and family, keep me in court for months, and send a representative mascot dressed as a mint chocolate chip cone to weep, curse, and throw things at me,

I might occasionally wonder about the other flavors, but I don't know how other ice cream flavors could possibly be so attractive to me that I would throw away my life for a couple of seconds of taste. And in such a society, a person who did would be considered a freak, someone with no foresight or self-control, who lived purely for their tastebuds and was pitifully selfish and foolish.