October 17th, 2004

NIF report

Samantha Johnston gave a fascinating look into the world of the Human Rights Watch and the International Criminal Court which is now trying Slobodan Milosevic.  She raised interesting and important questions about the possible loss of U.S. sovereignty if we were to submit our citizens to such an international tribunal.  She also made clear that "human rights" as used by global activists often include welfare rights that clearly contradict individual rights.

This led to a lively discussion, which included Iraq 1, Iraq 2, Afghanistan, and World War I.  We also, on Stephen Hicks' suggestion, tried looking at it from the analogy of American West settlers trying to solve problems among themselves when they were outside the reach of the law.

Somehow I kept thinking of that new puppets-with-guns movie: Team America: World Police.

Rhyme of the Day:

Somehow our policing
Keeps increasing.

[Update for clarification as to location] She gave her talk at our house last night, for our monthly Objectivist-oriented discussion group, known as NIF (for "the New Intellectual Forum").

Darpa Grand Challenge

My son, an engineering grad student at UCLA, informs me he is involved in work on the Darpa Grand Challenge, which is a competition for a 2 million dollar prize.  To win you have to build a self-directed robot vehicle that will navigate 175 miles in the desert and beat its competitors to a destination in less than 10 hours.  He's not doing it all himself, by any means, but he's involved with serious people who are looking at what's involved.  The big trick is programming the vehicle so it can make its own decisions.

He's interested in Control Theory, which deals with the behaviour of dynamic systems over time.  That sounds innocuous enough, but I have seen the pages of formulas, and I know it gets complicated fast.  What's funny is that I have a brother who also was interested in control theory on a professional basis, so interested he co-wrote a textbook on the topic.  I guess it runs in the family, but somehow bypassed me.

Rhyme of the Day:

I hope his team can build a bot
That wins the pot!