The Sci Foo camp:
It appears (Science that Matters, Mariette Di Christina SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 303 no. 6 December, 2010 page 10) the NATURE publishing group hosts an annual camp they call an “unconference.”  People in and with connections with science go there to brainstorm for a bit, putting together sessions on the spot.  The tag line for the article is from Larry Page, co-founder of Google:  Is what you’re doing going to change the world?  If not, maybe you should do something else.”

Hmm.  Well what I am doing on this web log could make the world a lot better.  And it certainly could help keep the world from changing a lot for the worse.  But will it?  I would not give myself one chance in ten.  So by that logic I should give it up. 

But the cost of continuing is finite.  It’s just my life.  The cost of failure is beyond calculation.  How bad things could get has no real limit.  You can cost out the market value of the world and the economic potential of everybody in it, and you would have a very big number.  Losing that would be bad but finite.  But what is on the table is the future.  That has an economic value that can be calculated.  If you could buy a bond that would pay one dollar a year from now on, that bond would have a present value of probably less than $100 even though the total yield assuming an infinite lifetime of the bond would be – well – infinite.  But the future somehow is worth more than its present value.  It will, or might, be valuable to itself. 

That is what is at stake.  You cannot put a number on it.

Sometimes I present my work and the response is more or less, “But can you prove this absolutely?”  I pretty nearly can, but that is beside the point.  Can I be proved wrong absolutely?  No, I cannot.  So this needs immediate attention, not a pusillanimous waiting for the mist to clear. 

My belief is that I have a real chance (never mind that it is incredibly strong, like all science it is still a chance) of being true about a chance (a pretty good one, but even if it were a very poor one the logic would hold) of averting a problem of (potentially, it’s a chance again) unlimited potential harm. 

I have no choice.  The only way is forward. 

So while I cannot take the advice to heart, it would be fun to go to that conference.  They’re looking for this sort of thing.

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