“Stop treating abortion like a moral issue”!

Pro-abortion folks typically go on about how abortion is a “difficult decision” that is only taken reluctantly.  But now a pro-choicer is waxing indignant about pro-choicers who do that.  She says that if women talk that way, it makes it sound as if abortion is a moral issue. [Read more...]

The island that time forgot

Back when I was in graduate school, I took a course on American English.  We studied the history and characteristics of the various American dialects, including that of Tangier Island.  This little island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay was settled by English folks from the Cornwall district back in the 1600s.  They and their descendants were so isolated–today it’s an hour-and-a-half boat ride from the mainland–that their language and culture have hardly changed over the centuries.

As a 17th century scholar, I have always wanted to visit Tangier Island.  So we did. [Read more...]

Rise of the Conservatarians

There is a new word in the political lexicon, gaining currency as Rand Paul builds a following in the high-tech crowd:  Conservatarian.  A combination of “conservative” and “libertarian.”

So would any of you describe yourselves as Conservatarians?  What are its tenets?  How is it different from regular old “libertarian”?  Or regular old “conservative”?  Might this become a winning political ideology? [Read more...]

Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more...]

How God uses the imagination

More from my interview with Mathew Block, who asks how God uses our human imaginations to reach us. [Read more...]

Associated Press will shorten the news

We’ve blogged about the findings that the internet has diminished people’s ability to read long, complex texts.  Now the leading practitioner of print journalism is giving in to the trend.  The Associated Press wire service has ordered its reporters to keep their stories no longer than 500 words. [Read more...]


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