Posts Tagged ‘quantum’

Quantum vegetarianism

Friday, April 16th, 2010

First, a brief note: people forget that quantum does not denote something in physics or science fiction. A quantum is a small, discrete, indivisible unit of something. Just because the word has a science-fiction connotation does not mean it’s justified.

Most (if not all) dietary restrictions are binary. That is, you are either vegetarian or you’re not, you’re vegan or you’re not, you keep kosher or you don’t. I’m not sure why this is, but it probably has to do with ease of use. It would be cool if you could succinctly express something like “I derive 20-40% of my calories from meat, excluding delicious, delicious bacon.” Ignoring complications of language, it would be difficult even to ensure you’re sticking to your own weird dietary guide — another example is how difficult dieting is. Now I’m thinking how cool it would be to have an augmented reality system that would pop up red X’s over food you shouldn’t eat, and like, smiley faces with nutritional information over the stuff you should eat, while it keeps a tally of how you’re doing over time. But, I digress.

I think there should be more effort made into breaking down the continuum between pure vegetarianism and pure carnivorousness into more sizable chunks. Notice here I’m assuming that we define vegetarian as “someone who doesn’t eat meat”, so take that into account. Of all the different ways to break it down, we need metrics for thinking about partial vegetarianism that are easy to compute, easy to track, and easy to observe. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

For me, the easiest unit of aggregation is to not eat meat on certain days. The Catholics got to this one first. It used to be no one ate meat on Fridays, and now during lent some still don’t eat meat on Fridays. The next step I see is restricting meat consumption by meal, by either only eating meat during a certain number of meals over a period of time, or not eating meat during certain meals. Going by meals doesn’t scale well, since there’s only 3 meals in a day but 21 meals (avg) per week, so every week you would need to tally how many meals you ate meat. Then again, even when you avoid meat at the day level, you still need to remember how many days you didn’t eat meat. Unless you make some proclamation that you won’t eat meat on certain days, which is inflexible, quantum vegetarianism will probably need external systems to track meat consumption over time.

Yet again I find myself wishing for the time when we will all have chips implanted in our brains, in this case to track meat consumption over time. I may yet be the cause of the singularity.

Quantum of optimism

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

As a child I wondered where units came from — physical units, like amps or pounds or furlongs. I didn’t know what a volt was, and I had this desire to come up with another unit. For that, I needed a quantity that needs to be quantified, and soon discovered that all the good ones are taken.

All the easy ones, that is. But what about qualitative units, the ones that are hard or impossible to quantify? Like love, or happiness? I don’t know how to do it. I got this idea from a book I read: “Great Feuds in Science,” where the author suggests naming the unit of optimism a Leibniz. Because, I guess, Gottfried Leibniz was a really optimistic guy (and with a name like Gottfried, who wouldn’t be?).

So how do we attack the problem of qualitative units? Observability is one problem: one meter is the same length in any reasonable inertial reference frame, but one man’s happiness cannot be easily observed. But subjectivity looks like the biggest stumbling block. A unit of pleasure or pain has to mean the same thing to all people.

Here is my first proposed solution: massively better measuring techniques. And cyborg-quality computer chips in everyone’s head. Scientists first need to become experts at figuring out which brain chemicals make us happy, sad, angry, etc. Then they need to set up a scale based on relative proportions of brain chemicals or something. At last we’ll be able to make statements like “oh man, I am sixteen Leibniz’s optimistic about the future right now!”

I can’t wait.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.