Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Only Winning Move

So - this is my (temporary?) blog. Since it's tradition to start out with an explanation of the title and purpose...

Anyone who grew up in the 80s will recognize the title as a line from Wargames - a fun but not very profound (or realistic) movie about a lone high school hacker who nearly starts WWIII when he hacks into the government's missile mainframe by accident trying to play some computer games. Disaster is averted when the kid tricks the machine into running simulations against itself. The computer "learns" that there are no winners in a nuclear war and stands down its attack saying "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Well, that's more or less how I feel about politics in general. My views are profoundly Minarchist: some basic frame of government is necessary to keep civilization civilized, but over and above that the best policy is to leave people alone. Most (possibly all) attempts to micro-manage the economy, and with it people's lives and personal choices, end up hurting more than they help. It is no historical accident or coincidence that free societies are prosperous societies. If politics is the game, the only winning move is not to play.

But this isn't meant to be a blog about politics - at least not primarily. Really, I chose the Wargames quote because I grew up in the 80s - and is there a movie more "of the 80s" than Wargames? The year it came out was the year I got my first computer (an Atari 800XL). More than anything, the technology revolution , the computer revolution in particular, is something I identify with my generation. I love technology, and I love progress. I like nature hikes and animals (especially cats) as much as anyone, but I have no patience for the "back to nature" types. Man was meant to solve problems; life is a constant struggle to improve. To an impressionable 4th-grader, Wargames was something like the 80s version of the New Seekers' Coke ad: an announcement that the world was now digital...and younger and faster. (In the case of the New Seekers I guess the point was that everything was going to be lame for a decade...and behold the 70s.) Never mind that it's really just a fun teen flick - that's what it meant to me at the time.

It's true that I'm a computer geek now. I wasn't back then. I spent over half of the 90s living abroad (Japan, Korea, Germany) and learning new languages (another passion of mine). I came home to be a Linguistics professor and rediscovered computers in graduate school. Now, my field is Machine Translation, and I'm working on a PhD at Indiana University.

This blog will be about many things. Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Formal Languages and Logics, Algorithms, Linguistics (esp. Syntax), Machine Translation. And yes, also Politics (especially of the Classical Liberal/Austrian School variety), Philosophy, movies, pop culture, novels, cats, friends, and THOUGHTS ON LIFE.



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