My name is Isaac David. Most of the time I'm interested in having my perception and reasoning improved, my ontological models corrected and expanded, and my value function and corresponding behaviors reprogrammed by an inquiry of experience and nature (and the nature of experience);1 so as to procure the happiness of subjective beings,2 of whom I'm certainly one. Whose else happiness indeed? There goes the mission statement.
Following up on the former, among my instrumental interests more precisely figure science; notoriously cognitive science and neuroscience. Other subjects include computing, the occasional battery of mathematics, philosophy, art —mostly, enjoying and sometimes practising music and painting—, and to the extent that I can bring myself to digest the disheartening bullshit orbiting it: politics.
I have a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes. Upon graduation I worked for a while for Centro de Investigación en Geografía y Geomática, doing research on certain applications of machine learning. I briefly transitioned through a postgraduate programme in cognitive science at Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Cognitivas from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, and now study neuroscience at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico).
I am an amateur pianist with a taste for all sorts of art music and quite a few others. I used to devote much of my spare time to drawing and painting. The appetite has vanished in recent years though.
Many of my practices are met with bafflement and a sort of inquisitive
indignation, so I thought that my curious acquaintances and audience
deserved that I
virtue-signal drop a bit of a rationale
If you read the first paragraph on this page you'll know that I don't support torture and unprovoked coercion. Not even according to arbitrary in-group/out-group criteria unrelated to the actual cognitive capacity to suffer in various ways and degrees. I couldn't care less if a God not just permitted, but commanded me to treat sentient beings like ordinary objects.3
Because factory farming is the norm, in practice this value
often translates into a vegan-ish diet.4 This has nothing to do with the orthogonal issue of nutrition. Both omnivorous and herbivorous diets can be healthy or unhealthy. I wouldn't mind using the full range of animal products, provided that my use didn't commend mistreatment. Costs of animal products would certainly rise; supplies wane, and taste turn suboptimal in yielding to the toughness that comes with normal levels of muscular strain seen on free-range, aging animals. Yet I wouldn't refuse those. In fact, it would be unconscionable not to put dead bodies to good use, like alleviating hunger.5 Nor do I take the option of synthetic equivalents off the table, even if germinated from engineered tissue and myostatin inhibition run amok. We would need to be extra careful when producing a synthetic taco de sesos though.
If there's any one widely available class of edible animals I can stuff my belly with while offering the fewest apologies, it ought to be the bivalve molluscs, as their semi-diffuse neural ganglia don't hold a candle to other nervous systems on menu. Coincidentally, they are a rich source of the deeply coveted cobalamin. To say that the current scientific picture of consciousness is far from settled is an understatement — as superior as it already is compared to the many discrepant folk narratives. This is why it is so urgent to embark on the quest of squashing open problems in philosophy of mind... so that we can truly grasp what squashing a bug means.
I don't own a car. Cycling and walking have been my means of transportation almost exclusively since 2011. I resort to public transport for travels so long that they would surpass my stamina (or the ability to arrive reasonably dry to my destination). I will take a private ride only for those once-in-a-blue-moon instances where I'm too loaded; or for which the logistics are more, or about as, cost-effective as public transportation (or when public transportation isn't available to begin with). With this I have prevented an estimate of over 12000 kilograms of CO2 (as of 2017) from
entering the atmospherescrewing everybody.6
This actually saves me time, contrary to what intuition might say, once recommendations on dedicated workout sessions have been factored in. Those are in the order of hundreds of minutes per week; a number that I probably wouldn't meet otherwise. It's puzzling that so many people need to invest extra time and money (most of which is apparently wasted again) countering the undesirable effects of transportation and food they paid for in the first place! It makes me have a hard time taking the stated purpose of the whole fitness mantra at face value. Strikingly disingenuous; as though normal life couldn't come with the alleged goal of health built-in.
Nor do I think the overwhelming majority of people really give a heck about climate disruption, or at least understand the solutions. Affecting substantial change in the right direction — through changes in lifestyle and consumer behaviour — is so simple that focusing solely on the scandalous state of legislation and corporate meandering makes one look like a sham. This is not a matter of having the privilege to afford a green lifestyle. Citizen capacity is underused at all socioeconomic strata;6 although it's probably true that the rich are more capable of pushing the levers of purchasing power (plus, they are on average more guilty; and the least vulnerable to consequences, not just because of increased resources but as a matter of geographical accident).
Besides, I imagine the computers on wheels that have been flooding the car market in the last decades are inscrutable to their "owners", like most computers out there. You wouldn't buy a car that only a manufacturer's employee could steer, whom you would beg in the hope that he will accept to take you to your destination in a manner that won't infringe too much upon the company's desired profits. Why would you pay for a computer whose software doesn't serve you then? There's no such thing as personal computing unless users are the ultimate software overlords.
It is said that computers run programs, when in fact programs run computers. That's why they are so useful a machine, why we want to put them everywhere; Turing's secret sauce of universal computation: a limited set of ingredients (your device) is capable of producing an infinite number of dishes. May it suffice to avail yourselves with recipes to recombine the same ingredients the right way (software). Recipes are unlimited after all, we need no stinkin' new appliance for every new necessity. What we want is a single machine that will follow orders.
This is why I make an effort to only use programs that users could in principle control (even if only by taking them to a friend or a specialist in the free market). We call such programs "free software", or sometimes by the less ambiguous loan adjective "libre", to make it clear that freedom/liberty is what's at stake. This is not a matter of paying more or less. I'm happy to pay for free software and thus support conscientious like-minded businesses; whereas those who claim a right to spit on my face in order to make a buck won't ever see me use their damaged goods, not even gratis.
Supply is really lacking in the hardware department though. My only general-purpose computer right now is a $100 USD laptop from 2006 with which I replaced a slightly newer one;7 because from the moment it turns on, not a shred of proprietary software ever touches its CPU.8 2018 update: I am now also begrudgingly using one of the Replicant-supported "phones". As praiseworthy as Replicant is, all of the existing mobile networking protocols are fatally flawed privacy-wise.
The cost of losing freedom to someone else is often abuse, and computer programs are no exception since they don't grow on trees. This is why your run-of-the-mill non-free (a.k.a. proprietary) software like iOS, Windows and the systems on popular video game consoles are blatant textbook definitions of malware.
Most of the ethically-motivated topics discussed in these paragraphs took me years of gradual refinement or consideration before I could arrive to a state that I would find satisfactory. In some cases I still see room for improvement.
For instance, long had the reality of the horrors of factory farming loomed triumphant in my mind; out of the hippy mysticism and wacky eco-terrorism in the vicinity. But it wasn't until I began buying and cooking my own food that I found the perfect excuse to implement a behavioural change. In the case of my tech choices I've already been through many stages of asymptotic improvement; from installing a mostly-free operating system all the way to becoming extremely picky as to what devices to use.
Many will reject these analyses on the fallacious grounds that they find the pill too hard to swallow, which is why I take the more vigour to de-normalize the status quo. Mostly by example. I have a hard time going into face-to-face rants if not pressed about it.
Go to the contact section if you think you have a question or a great objection. Yes, I'm also extremely interested in being challenged, as I expressed at the beginning of this document. I can't trust mediocre accounts of reality with making us the happiest. Once introduced to the concept of truth, forever immune to whatever bliss might be found in faith.
I am a volunteer in the Free Software community, more prominently for Parabola, a variant (also known as distro) of the GNU+Linux operating system. There I helped develop the ARMv7 port, rescued the i686 port from abandonment, maintained packages up-to-date, helped improve some of the development tools; among various things.
I have been editing Wikipedia every now and then since 2011. Not unlike my passion for free software, I believe everyone deserves greater rights over the rest of their goods than posited by the swats of propaganda coming from the monopolistic copyright industry. This includes educational material and culture in general. We've been so duped to conceive of seizure of private property as simmering from socialist dystopia to the point of becoming oblivious to the real encroachment concerted before our eyes.
Wherever I go on the Internet identifying myself I use the nickname
isacdaavid. I'm testing and assembling a more copious list of
communication channels I'm comfortable in using and recommending, by
virtue of their respect for users' freedom and privacy. In the
meantime, you can write me a good 'ol decentralized and federated
isacdaavid@at@isacdaavid@dot@info. Newer platforms in wide
use have only gotten worse ever since.
Learn to use GPG (the libre de facto implementation of the PGP standard) to thwart data-mining/surveillance from email providers and be able to make and verify digital signatures on any piece of data. Bear in mind that GPG users like me feel more unfiltered and eager to respond to encrypted emails than non-encrypted ones. Should you pick it up, you might even become the next person to hear from Edward Snowden and run with the next major headline. It's also one of the preferred methods for getting in touch with Wikileaks, which means GPG has become increasingly important in the upbringing of responsible citizens.
My public key is here. Its
38D33EF29A7691134357648733466E12EC7BA943, which you
can use to conveniently ask GPG to download and import my key from one
of the public key repositories. Never download from them based on
anything other than fingerprints; for purported addresses are only of
commentary value, and faking them is as easy as creating a new
key. Shorter fingerprints are discouraged too, because of collision
Notice how free will — the meaningless assertion that volition is neither random nor an effect but causa sui — is unnecessary for morality and justice. Every statement of the form "X could have done otherwise but decided Y" can be replaced by "We can't help ourselves react to Y with reward/punishment Z in the interest of such and such". Any further reference to freedom is to be taken as a metaphor for not subjecting certain physical systems (like ourselves) to causes other than learned neural connectivity (negative freedom); or as a metaphor for exposing them in addition to a rich causal stream full of opportunities (positive freedom). ↩
By "subjective beings" I mean "basically conscious", "capable of experiencing"; not necessarily "irrational". ↩
Sentience, phenomenal states, qualia, subjective experience, consciousness, awareness, etc., is not to be conflated with life, intelligence, or membership to our species. None of the latter phenomena seems to imply a capacity to feel and draw preferences among feelings. ↩
Not so often nowadays. I plan on retaking it as soon as possible. ↩
No. Using land to produce fodder for animals we will in turn feed from is still inexcusable. In fact it's an extremely inefficient solution to alleviate human hunger. ↩
See Seth Wynes and Kimberly A. Nicholas' "The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions". Environmental Research Letters 12 074024. 2017. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541. ↩↩
It was pretty darn luxurious back then though, and still takes most modern models for a ride in domains other than speed and memory; like display and input ergonomics. ↩
In fact, the earliest software to run upon boot and other things that don't go on your hard drive (but on dedicated ROMs and peripheral microcontrollers) are always the hardest to replace with free software. We have the best operating systems in the world (intensively relied-upon by experts and IT giants, but misteriously absent from their clients: you), and a reasonably mature humongous array of applications to cover most kinds of users. Firmware and drivers remain elusive because here cooperation from hardware manufacturers is critical, yet almost nonexistent. ↩