Aprendizaje

Uno de los medios que tienen los genes para resolver el problema relativo a las predicciones en ambientes impredecibles es construir una capacidad de aprendizaje. En este caso el programa puede tomar la forma de las siguientes instrucciones dadas a la máquina de supervivencia: «He aquí una lista de cosas definidas como recompensas: sabor dulce en la boca, orgasmo, temperatura suave, niño sonriente. Y he aquí una lista de cosas desagradables: diversos tipos de dolor, náuseas, estómago vacío, niño gritando. Si da la casualidad de que haces algo que provoca una de las cosas desagradables, no la repitas nuevamente pero, por otra parte, repite cualquier cosa que proporcione una de las cosas agradables.» La ventaja de este tipo de programación es que reduce, considerablemente, el número de reglas detalladas que debían ser especificadas en el programa original; y es también apta para afrontar los cambios en el medio ambiente que no pudieron ser pronosticados detalladamente. Por otro lado, ciertas predicciones tienen que ser hechas todavía. Según nuestro ejemplo, los genes predicen que el dulce sabor en la boca y el orgasmo serán «buenos» en el sentido de que comer azúcar y copular es probable que beneficie a la supervivencia de los genes. Las posibilidades de la sacarina y la masturbación no serían predichas de acuerdo a este ejemplo; tampoco lo serían los peligros provocados por comer demasiado azúcar en nuestro medio, donde existe en abundancia.

Richard Dawkins, El gen egoísta.

Especiecismo

Me cuesta horrores elegir una sola frase de este libro, que me tiene abducido.

Recently there has been a reaction against racialism and patriotism, and a tendency to substitute the whole human species as the object of our fellow feeling. This humanist broadening of the target of our altruism has an interesting corollary, which again seems to buttress the ‘good of the species’ idea in evolution. The politically liberal, who are normally the most convinced spokesmen of the species ethic, now often have the greatest scorn for those who have gone a little further in widening their altruism, so that it includes other species. If I say that I am more interested in preventing the slaughter of large whales than I am in improving housing conditions for people, I am likely to shock some of my friends.

The feeling that members of one’s own species deserve special moral consideration as compared with members of other species is old and deep. Killing people outside war is the most seriously regarded crime ordinarily committed. The only thing more strongly forbidden by our culture is eating people (even if they are already dead). We enjoy eating members of other species, however. Many of us shrink from judicial execution of even the most horrible human criminals, while we cheerfully countenance the shooting without trial of fairly mild animal pests. Indeed we kill members of other harmless species as a means of recreation and amusement. A human foetus, with no more human feeling than an amoeba, enjoys a reverence and legal protection far in excess of those granted to an adult chimpanzee. Yet the chimp feels and thinks and-according to recent experimental evidence-may even be capable of learning a form of human language. The foetus belongs to our own species, and is instantly accorded special privileges and rights because of it. Whether the ethic of ‘speciesism’, to use Richard Ryder’s term, can be put on a logical footing any more sound than that of ‘racism’, I do not know. What I do know is that it has no proper basis in evolutionary biology.

The muddle in human ethics over the level at which altruism is desirable-family, nation, race, species, or all living tilings-is mirrored by a parallel muddle in biology over the level at which altruism is to be expected according to the theory of evolution. Even the group-selectionist would not be surprised to find members of rival groups being nasty to each other: in this way, like trade unionists or soldiers, they are favouring their own group in the struggle for limited resources. But then it is worth asking how the groupselectionist decides which level is the important one. If selection goes on between groups within a species, and between species, why should it not also go on between larger groupings? Species are grouped together into genera, genera into orders, and orders into classes. Lions and antelopes are both members of the class Mammalia, as are we. Should we then not expect lions to refrain from killing antelopes, ‘for the good of the mammals’? Surely they should hunt birds or reptiles instead, in order to prevent the extinction of the class. But then, what of the need to perpetuate the whole phylum of vertebrates?

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.

Transporte

The problem with most forms of transport, he thought, is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. On Earth -when there had been an Earth, before it was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass- the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm´s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another -particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e., covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.

Douglas AdamsThe Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Especulación

Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet – people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the number of the shoe shops were increasing. It’s a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result – collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few who had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds who cursed their feet, cursed the ground and vowed that no one should walk on it again.

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Creo que Adams se olvidó comentar la subida del precio de los zapatos y la aparición del fenómeno de los nuncabajistas. Por otro lado, la descripción es certera.

La inteligencia de los delfines

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Efectos del calentamiento global

Va os cuento otra, hicieron un estudio los de la Universidad de Bristol y descubrieron que el 46% de la población inglesa cambia los paños de cocina cada seis meses o más, ¿ y ahora qué? Y luego venga a dar por culo, perdón, por saco con “food poisoning” e historias varias. Pero si el problema son ellos que son unos guarros. Y hasta ahora porque con el frío que hacía las bacterias estaban congeladas, pero esto del calentamiento global se va a cargar a todos los británicos.

Raquel, comentando la entrada sobre lo guarros que son los ingleses.

Pequeño héroe

There is more on you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Thorin Oakenshield, moribundo, a Bilbo Baggins.
En The Hobbit de J. R. R. Tolkien.

La crítica viaja en el tiempo

Me ha llegado, de manera accidental, la opinión de un reputado crítico de cine que piensa que mi primera película es «mierda». No deja de ser vertiginoso, teniendo en cuenta que el lunes que viene me marcho a Vitoria A TERMINARLA. Pensándolo bien, teniendo en cuenta que la película es de viajes en el tiempo, el que haya críticas antes de que exista no deja de ser consecuente.

Nacho Vigalondo, en el tercero de su serie de posts sobre el cine español (1, 2 y 3).

Refran inglés

When you are a nail, everything looks like a hammer.

Mi jefe, en medio de una conversación sobre compiladores.