Ethics and Morals

A trio of topics: Controversy

I’m going to briefly leave three things that popped up on my radar in the last day or so. I’m having a busy, grumpy day, and while I may still do a post on one or the other of these – certainly will, in the case of the organic food report – but today you all get to follow a link if you want, and draw your own conclusions. I haven’t the brain to be witty or anything approaching wise.

The first thing I saw when I went on the book of faces this morning was that a site where you can download some code is being suppressed by that social media outlet as spam, despite it being a free-for-all. I find it ironic, since this topic – 3D printed guns – is one I wrote on back in March of this year, and it’s certainly not new news. Pandora’s Gun has gone viral. Not my post, the concept. You can find it at this link.

And you can find a very interesting and pertinent discussion of the law surrounding Free Speech and computer code here. I’ve included a pertinent chunk of the court’s ruling below.

The court, after discussing the scope of the First Amendment’s protection for speech, particularly for scientific writings, goes on:

   Computer programs are not exempted from the category of First Amendment speech simply because their instructions require use of a computer. A recipe is no less “speech” because it calls for the use of an oven, and a musical score is no less “speech” because it specifies performance on an electric guitar. Arguably distinguishing computer programs from conventional language instructions is the fact that programs are executable on a computer. But the fact that a program has the capacity to direct the functioning of a computer does not mean that it lacks the additional capacity to convey information, and it is the conveying of information that renders instructions “speech” for purposes of the First Amendment. The information conveyed by most “instructions” is how to perform a task.

   Instructions such as computer code, which are intended to be executable by a computer, will often convey information capable of comprehension and assessment by a human being. A programmer reading a program learns information about instructing a computer, and might use this information to improve personal programming skills and perhaps the craft of programming. Moreover, programmers communicating ideas to one another almost inevitably communicate in code, much as musicians use notes. Limiting First Amendment protection of programmers to descriptions of computer code (but not the code itself) would impede discourse among computer scholars, just as limiting protection for musicians to descriptions of musical scores (but not sequences of notes) would impede their exchange of ideas and expression. Instructions that communicate information comprehensible to a human qualify as speech whether the instructions are designed for execution by a computer or a human (or both). {FN193: 273 F.3d at 447-448, 60 USPQ2d at 1964-1965}

Moving on to the second thing that caught my attention… which is also related to the digital world surrounding us, and the daily thinning of the veil of privacy we attempt to wrap around us. Do you know what happens to your most intimate data when you send off your cells to have the DNA within encoded and interpreted? Did you know that with or without your consent, that data may be used for other purposes, including but not limited to scientific research and law enforcement inquiries? “most genetic-testing companies, like social networks before them, have also made a business out of DNA data collected from customers. They have partnerships with companies like Glaxo or Pfizer Inc., giving access to their trove of data for research.”

And finally, only related through the context of manipulation of society at large, just like the social media platforms attempt to do, there’s this report on organic food marketing. I’ve said for years that it’s nothing more than a marketing ploy – there is no health basis to eating organic foods versus… um, inorganic. (which makes NO sense, but hey, none of this does). The report lays out the vicious tactics adopted to push organic foods.

17 thoughts on “A trio of topics: Controversy

  1. Well, technically there is one advantage to eating ‘organic’ food vs ‘inorganic’. Your body can digest the food source containing carbon. . .

    Yeah, pendantic, I know.

    1. Whenever I see food labeled “organic” I feel two temptations:
      1) to ask where the “inorganic” food is
      2) to place a lump of coal or a bottle of motor oil next to it, suitably labeled “organic”. (I also like to point out that coal is usually about 8% “crude protein”.)

      I blame Dr.Olsen, my first organic chem professor.

  2. Many college students will happily assure you that the rolls served in their dining hall are indeed inorganic, namely they are made from reinforced concrete or salvaged battleship armor plate.

    1. College students these days have it easy, and they’re getting soft, soft I tell you! I ate at my daughter’s school caf, and it was actually good stuff. They have a slick setup – it’s more like an upscale mall food court than the badly lit one-line, no choices caf I remember.

      1. Food at my university’s cafeterias (both in the dorms and at the Student Union, which latter was run by a for-really chef) is the only I’ve ever encountered that rivals Mom’s Cooking. Even their bulk offerings were typically delicious. And the SUB’s Hungarian Goulash and Beef Stroganoff… both to die for. And up until they ‘remodeled’ (read: modernized it into a bistro and got rid of all the Real Food, ca. 1980) just a dollar a plate. And 25 cents for dessert. Needless to say, Before Remodel the place was always packed. After, not so much.

  3. The 3D printing issue is such a hot button for gun control advocates because key to their schemes is the illusion that firearms are scarce goods. That illusion, never true, is how they pretend it makes sense to control instrumentalities instead of bad actors.

    But their attempts to so brazenly lie about the capabilities comes from a desire to shut down the AR 15 market wherein the inexpensive lower receiver is the serialized part (ie., “The gun”). That was a now 60 year old decision by the ATF that, together with Eugene Stoner’s engineering genius, is the foundation of the popularity of the rifle. One can buy a lower for $50-100 through an FFL dealer and then but the rest of the rifle mail order and assemble it with hand tools. Even the entire barreled upper in any barrel length and many different calibers. Indeed, one can by a an myriad of customized options for every part.

    Gun control groups want to find a way to stop that to kill the fun of hobby gunsmithing. Fortunately it is too late. But all their futile attempts must be opposed regardless.

    1. well, that’s one of the things they want to shut down at DefDist… they not only have the Liberator, but also a functional AR lower you can print in ABS. I’m tempted to do a .22lr build on one…

    2. Shipton’s/Big R sells lower receivers for about $50. Not something I require, but there ya go. However, I’m highly tempted by a kid-sized .22 rifle at my local Walmart… would fit handily in a backpack or under the seat.

      I need a printed gun like I need someone to shoot me, but downloading the whole mess on General Principles, because thumb-to-nose at the opponents.

      I do wonder why any casual criminal would bother; so long as scrap pipe and rubber bands exist, anyone can make a zipgun. Not to mention those little handheld crossbows, which I gather have no range or accuracy, but still look properly menacing. I wonder if one could be adapted…??

      1. Gun control advocates are ignorant of the fact that black market/stolen guns sell for less than legal ones. Criminals are not known for delayed gratification and have no interest in 3D printing.

  4. Heh, I’ve been saying that about ‘organic’ food for years. What a ripoff.

    And, yeah, I pretty much assumed that if I sent my DNA off, it wasn’t just going to be used to tell me what my ancestry is. I know that already from the years of genealogy I’ve done, but even if I didn’t, there’s no way I’m spitting in a tube and handing it out to strangers. Although, there’s a novel idea in there somewhere…

  5. I just noticed that the “Organic” agriculture report places the origins of the organic food movement in the 1940s in England. Of course, it existed for decades before that in Germany under the name “biological dynamic nutrition” (Biologisch-Dynamische Ernaehrung). However, digging deep into that would turn up some rather unpleasant bedfellowships of the “Blood and Soil” variety. (The same is true of the European ecological movement more broadly— I looked for a book in English, and stumbled upon this. )

    1. Independent double-blind taste tests and nutritional evaluations have been done. Too lazy to look ’em up, but the basic conclusions:

      1) pound for pound, ‘organic’ produce tends to have a slightly poorer nutritional profile than conventional produce, probably because conventional agriculture is anal about perfectly balanced fertilizer (now including micronutrients, which make a huge difference in growing fruit), and optimal production parallels optimal nutrition.

      2) the taste difference lies not in the produce being ‘organic’, but rather in its typically shorter path to market, therefore less time spent in warehouses and transit, and that the shorter timeframe allows later picking and more in-field ripening. Given the same timeframes from field to plate, tasters could not tell ‘organic’ from conventional.

      And if you go back a bit further, you can find the origins, along with the vegan/vegetarian thing, in Marxism.

  6. “Organic” originally meant “free range”, but got subverted to mean “can see a field.” So, you’re right about “no difference.” It’s that True free range actually IS better nutrition. There are studies that show it,

    1. What? No. That’s not what organic has meant at any time in it’s history. Free range is often done in conjunction with organic gardening/agricultural principles, but organic farming has much more to do with the post-Silent Spring rejection of synthetic chemical use on crops. Free range livestock might also be treated organically – ie no treatment with hormones, antibiotics, or feed supplements – but free range implies lack of caging. Not at all the same thing. Are you going to cage corn? Lettuce? You can organically raise hydroponic produce, which is as close to caging as you get on a plant.

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