Re: politeness in posting

From: Francois-Rene Rideau (
Date: Wed May 16 2001 - 06:50:44 MDT

On Tue, May 15, 2001 at 07:15:30PM -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:
> But I'm quite far behind many I know, of whom,
> it's inconceivable that they would ever have been found engaging
> in the excesses that so mar our exchanges, e.g., flame wars.

Reminds me of good old Ben Franklin, who wrote in his autobiography:

"(blockquote "
I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradictions to the sentiments of
others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbade myself the use
of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion,
such as "certainly", "undoubtedly", etc. I adopted instead of them "I
conceive", "I apprehend", or "I imagine" a thing to be so or so; or "so it
appears to me at present".

When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the
pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing him immediately some
absurdity in his proposition. In answering I began by observing that in
certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present
case there appeared or semed to me some difference, etc.

I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I
engaged in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I proposed my
opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction. I had
less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily
prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I
happened to be in the right.

NB: Yay, it's a LISP markup language. Down with SGML, HTML and XML!
Oops, I meant, "I apprehend that markup languages based on <tags>
might not be as much of a progress as generally believed they are,
considering that LISP had SEX long ago (*), that seems to me like
they already provide at least some of the structural power of SGML,
and maybe much more -- so it appears to me at the moment."
Or maybe I really meant "{SG,HT,X}ML *SUCK*!", after all (hi, Curl!).

(*) and still has it -- must be tantric.

Well, I happen to know a few living persons who are as good as
that dead Benji fellow, but I admit my puny attempts to emulate them
failed miserably. I suppose it's both a matter of temperament,
and one of the milieu in which you were raised, and how the debates
you took place in or were faced with were framed when you were young,
at which point I have said a tautology: "yay, there are both
inborn and acquired factors" -- doh! Of course, as transhumanists,
I suppose some of you think this is something that can be amended
by suitable self-modification techniques, at which point I'm interested
in hearing about what are these techniques and how to use them.

Another question raised by such considerations is that of the functions
of expression in general and through email conversation in particular.
Who are we writing for?
* Is it just for ourselves, readers not withstanding?
* Is it for those who dare and accept to reply to us?
* Or are we writing for the silent mass of readers? (And goddess knows
 most readers don't write -- I know it because I met her, and she sets
 an example.)
And maybe more pertinently, WHAT are we writing for?
* Is it just as an irrepressible urge?
* Is it a way to induce an emotional effect?
* or a way to build theories?

Now, you can combine mostly combine the WHO and the WHAT:
** Are we just letting words out without any specific purpose,
 "expressing ourselves in a conversational way", as was argued,
 just like we breath or piss?
** Are we trying to affirm our personality in some territory,
 looking for reinforcing (positive or negative) signals that help
 us define our own position?
** Are we fulfilling an urge to tell something we think should be said
 by someone, somewhere, since noone else since to be doing it, we ought
 to be that person? (why are you suddenly staring at me?)
** Are we trying to satisfy our self-esteem by proving ourselves
 how we can write such cool messages?
** Are we trying to induce some well-being or unease or more specific
 emotion in specific people, or otherwise trolling for some reaction?
** Are we trying to spread our practical memes,
 leading people to act in some way? [Let's all fight the CoS!]
** Are we trying to crystallize our thoughts by going through
 the constraining process of writing them into a coherent message?
** Are we trying to gather argumentive information from other people,
 so as to enhance our model of the world.
** Are we trying to disseminate higher memes,
 that constitute our view of the world?

Of course, a same message can have several of these functions (and more)
at once. Actually, these "functions" are more like analytic points of view
we can have on a message than actual synthetic mecanisms that lead to the
message being emitted. Although I'd be very much interested in hearing
some AI guru discuss how his purported AI's communications can be analyzed
through this grill, and what underlying synthetic mecanisms can be

Enough rant for today. See the mindflow, from politeness to AI,
through LISP, sex, self-modification, the functions of language,
and ending with recapitulation?

[ François-René ÐVB Rideau | Reflection&Cybernethics | ]
[ TUNES project for a Free Reflective Computing System | ]
 "Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman
 she meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again."
   - TV listing for the Wizard of Oz in the Marin Independent Journal

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