Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for June, 2014

Thought of the Day: “The Internet will not be so much a technological revolution, as it will be a social revolution”

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The Internet will not be so much a technological revolution, as it will be a social revolution” – Jacob J. Walker, circa 1995

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Written by Jacob Walker

June 22nd, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thought of the Day: “In an age when humankind has the hope of world peace…”

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In an age when humankind has the hope of world peace, but the technology for total annihilation, it is now more important than ever for every human to have as relevant and accurate understanding as possible of this interconnected world, and this understanding must start with education. – Jacob J. Walker

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Written by Jacob Walker

June 14th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Posted in Original Quotes

Two Economists Articles Relevant about Ex-Offenders

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Cartoon of an inmate being kicked out, from the EconomistThe there have been some excellent articles recently that is quite relevant to the work I’m doing with helping ex-offenders get rehabilitated, so that society does not continue to pay the price of recidivism and re-incarceration.

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Written by Jacob Walker

June 9th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Excel VBA Code to Scrape California State Job Openings

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I have become interested over time in web scraping and potentially using this to do a massive job market study to determine what education should truly focus on to ensure that we are providing the right skills to our students.   While I’d ultimately like to do this with a website like Indeed, and probably would use something like Python and PostgreSQL, I did a quick VBA script in Excel this morning to scrape the California Job Openings, putting a new opening per sheet, and I thought I’d share the code.

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Written by Jacob Walker

June 7th, 2014 at 9:27 am

Deep Thought of the Day: Free Will

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Science relies upon evidence as the arbiter of truth.  And it must start with the evidence that we innately experience, thus comes Descartes “I think, therefore I am“.  Then evidence suggests that others exist, but the evidence of this is not as strong as that of our own existence, as we can see people on TV, yet know they are not really people in the TV.  So when it comes to the question of free will, the inherent evidence is that we have a free will.  It is not necessarily purely quantifiable, as I have discussed previously.  But other qualia such as how we experience colors cannot also be understood as purely a quantification.  A color blind person will never understand the color I see, and it actually may never be possible to really know if two people ever see the same color when looking at the same object.

So to go back to the question of free will.  When we decide upon truth of something, if we are wrong, we are generally making a Type I or Type II error.  Such that we either believe something to be true when it is false, or vice versa we believe something to be false when it is true.   So which should we believe about free will?  Well, we know that psychologically we tend to be less happy if we don’t believe in free will, so a pragmatist would say we should believe in it.

But, what about scientific skepticism?  The question is whether we should be skeptical of pure destiny where everything is determined, or should we be skeptical of free will.  Given the inherent evidence of our thinking which seems free, then it would seem that the skepticism should first be on the belief in predetermination, and that only great evidence would overcome that.

Of course, there is a great deal of evidence that suggests we cannot fully have free will.  Physics affects the brain, and brain disorders exist.  But this still does not conclude that things are fully without some qualia of free will, in fact because the universe has properties that as best as we can tell cannot be predetermined (such as quantum physics), then this should make one even more skeptical that free will does not exist.

So with that, I am partly choosing to go to bed, but that choice is highly influenced by the fact I’m tired 🙂

Written by Jacob Walker

June 5th, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Philosophy