Category Archives: Uncategorized

We’re Moving!

To all and sundry, I’m in the process of moving my blog over to http://www.jonathancamara.com. I may try to keep both blogs in sync or I might leave this one to roll with the tumbleweeds. I’m not completely sure.

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Unix and Obamacare

I was working on my Linux machine and thinking about the required insurance mandated in Obamacare when it hit me. Why don’t large companies split themselves up into smaller companies of less than 50 people in order to avoid having to pay insurance for their employees? Now this may be practically impossible but humor me for this article.

In Unix-based operating systems, the real power is found on the command line, where you chain together small programs in order to accomplish complex tasks. It looks something like this:

> # put list of video devices into a file
> lspci | grep VGA > video_devices.log

In this little shell script “lspci” lists all the devices connected to the PCI bus in your computer. This list is searched by “grep” for all lines with “VGA” and those lines are put into the file “video_devices.log”. Now, while this is a very simple shell script, the flexibility and power that is present is enormous. Each program is small, does one thing well, and is able to communicate to each of the other programs the information that they need in order to fulfill their function.  Why should a company not do the same thing?

To put this into better perspective for business owners, the idea would be for the different functions of the company to be split off into different smaller companies rather than keeping everything under one roof. This isn’t very different from what some companies to today, with IT and human resources being outsourced to different companies.  Let’s say I were to take a product from a large technology company like Google (I know there’s probably no chance that Google will do this, but come on, work with me here.) and spin off of Google a group of different small companies with less than 50 people on staff to work on this product. One company could work on the product’s design, another on developing it, a third on testing it.  Each reporting to the others, like a bunch of Unix programs, working together to help form one fantastic product. if one design company isn’t enough, then bring in another company to help work with the product.

Now, this is probably a logistics nightmare, especially if communication broke down between two companies and, because of “corporate secrets” and the current patent system, this kind of arrangement might well be untenable, but this kind of arrangement, if those communication kinks were worked out, would allow companies to be more flexible, increase competition, and possible even create jobs as more employees are needed in order to help keep the different businesses running. It might be ridiculous to have, say, 10 different software development companies working on a single project, but, if you look at the model that has been formed by the Open Source Community, there is a way for such cooperation to happen.

What do you think, Internet?

The Proper Use of Technology: The Genesis of Catholic Human Dignity

In opposition to Kurzweil (see previous post) are some Catholic Theologians, most notably Joseph Ratzinger (Now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), who argue that the dignity of man needs to be defended in this world of technology. When forming their argument on the relation and of man and technology, these Catholic Theologians, first listen to the facts of human biology and the history of technological advances and then point to the agreement with those truths developed or revealed in both philosophy and theology. The first principles of this argument, as presented in the book In the Beginning by Joseph Ratzinger, are found in the two creation narratives that open the book of Genesis.

The very first statement in the first creation narrative, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” indicates one of the most important distinctions: God is separate from his creation, He is entirely other. The second statement, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness wason the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters,” indicates that matter is, of its nature, unstable and without any internal order, and in need of some kind of order that must be imposed from without. This natural tendency toward disorder was postulated scientifically with the theory of entropy, which states that energy, when used up in a particular area, can never be restored, and was confirmed with the discovery that matter could be converted into energy and the theory of relativity. Into this disordered matter, God built or imposed order, separating light from darkness, heaven from earth, and creating moon, sun, stars, plants, and animals. The face of the reasonableness of creation is only confirmed by the presence of the sciences themselves, and so for order to exist in the world as taught by science, something or Someone must have instilled order and keeps that order in place. Ratzinger notes that the Creation narrative is not a scientific or historical account of the formation of the world or the development of life, but an allegory to emphasize that God created the world. Since evolution is only a description of how life developed, God could have created the world directly or through evolution.

In the second creation narrative, “The Lord God formed man of dust form the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” this statement indicates two principles, first that God formed man from unstable matter, that his basic material is earth, and second that the human being comes into existence after God has breathed into the nostrils of the body formed from this unstable matter. From the first principle, there is something both humbling and consoling. Humbling because man is told that he is not God, he did not make himself, he does not rule the universe, he is limited, and he is destined for death as are all living things. Consoling because man is no demon or evil spirit, he has been fashioned from God’s good earth, and despite all distinctions the human race is fundamentally the same and are of equal value. From the second principle, we see that a divine reality is essential to man, a reality more deeply stated in the first Creation narrative “Let us make man in our own imge and likeness.” In the human being, God enters into his creation, for the human being is directly related to God. the fact that each human being is God’s image is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity.

Because of the divine reality essential to man’s being, technological advancement springs both from an urge to create that reflects that divine reality as well as a grasping of man upon the fact of matter’s instability and the order God imposed upon it. The building of robotic and retinal prosthetics and the brain-machine interface demonstrates man’s desire to both understand this order imposed upon matter by God as well as to instill order upon unstable matter. The fact of creation imposes a necessary rational and order upon the world, and man – filled with the breath of God – seeks to understand and imitated those ordered patterns he finds in nature. Of course, the fact that he is matter and is working with matter imposes several limitations on man. He must work within the laws which God has imposed upon matter itself, and thus he cannot make it do anything which God has not or could not do with it. he can limit but he cannot improve Nature. Thus man can imitate but cannot create life because it is an order imposed by God upon matter. This also means that man cannot imposed upon himself or others and order that violates the divine reality, the God-given order of his own soul, since it would lessen or crush the human person. It is from this aspect of the advancement of technology which Ratzinger warns against. Technological advances have given me a certain freedom from anxiety and superstition, a certain power over the world. But this power leads to a temptation to view as reasonable and therefore as serious only what can be corroborated through experiment and computation and to reject as irrational all that is moral and holy. By denying all that is moral and holy, the essential nature of man as made in the image and likeness of God is denied, crushing him to fit within a utilitarian view of the world, and eventually destroying him. Ratzinger posits that man must recognize the existence of two different kinds of reason, the physical-natural scientific and the moral-religious reason, and that the contours and scope of moral-religious reason are not mathematical as it is more fundamental. It is also in the moral-religious reason that man, in his moral freedom, images God and is more than earth. Without moral-religious reason, man will increasingly isolate himself, unable to love or find meaning in life and would eventually destroy himself for existing without purpose.

My next post will be a fictional argument between Kurzweil and Ratzinger using their books, The Singularity is Near and In the Beginning, respectively, as sources for the dialogue.

The Proper Use of Technology: They call themselves Technocrats

After watching the Eyeborg Documentary,  I thought, as probably many who watched this video, that technology is a wonderful tool. Just look at those disabled people and how robotic prosthetics have allowed them to live nearly normal lives and look at the lives we will save with tools like the fireman’s heads-up-display(HUD). How could such technology threaten us with the loss of our human dignity?

Looking at the video again, we see that these prosthetic technologies are ever more closely imitating and more closely integrating into the human body. Because of this fact, the idea of merging man and machine, to the point of being unable to distinguish man from machine, becomes tenable. From this idea naturally springs the question of whether man is a machine.

Those who hold that technology proves man is a machine and applaud and encourage the use of technology as shown in the Eyeborg documentary often call themselves technocrats. They defend their claim using known facts of human biology, modern technology and the history of technological development. With robotic prosthetics, they point to functioning non-biological limbs and organs replacing non-functioning or improperly functioning biological ones. With the brain-machine interface, they point to how we observe how the world is perceived through the biological and non-biological systems and these perceptions can be manipulated much like information is manipulated in a computer. Because the mind can be effected through the manipulation of the brain, technocrats claim that the mind is caused by the function of the brain.

At this point, the technocrat turns from the facts of human biology and modern technology to the history of technological development. The examination of this section of the argument will happen my next post.

What does it mean to be a Catholic Hacker?

For some this makes no sense. How can someone call himself Catholic and associate himself with such groups as Anonymous and LulzSec? But Anonymous and LulzSec are not the whole picture when it comes to hackers.

The term “hacker” was invented in the 1960s by a group of students at MIT, and they defined a hacker as “a person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and stretching their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.”(Jargon File) It was only during the 1980s, after a wave of crimes due to stolen, lost, or corrupted computer data was labeled by the media as the work of “hackers” that the term morphed into its currently narrow definition of “computer criminal.” Since some of those who initially came up with the term “hacker” are still alive and most are still a force in the computing community, I prefer to stick with the original definition.

All hackers are united in the belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing open-source code and facilitating access to information and to computer resources wherever possible. (Jargon File)

As a Catholic, I know my faith is a powerful positive good, and it is my duty to share my faith through good example and good works and should facilitate the means for everyone to grow in that faith whenever possible.

So, with this in mind, I call myself a Catholic hacker. If you wish further information concerning the hacker culture, I highly recommend the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. If you wish for a more updated version you can find it on Amazon.

On a more specific note, this blog will be focused more on my interest in technology as well as my Catholic faith and the highly interesting intersection of the two.