Thursday, June 23, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: The membrane between private and public life

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The membrane between private and public life.
An issue that seems to be very topical these days of social media,
networking and the internet. But as I try to show in my short essay the
issues concerning private and public life are at the heart of moral
philosophy and political philosophy.
In the meantime I am including an email from Carlos who is looking for
speakers for the 2011-2012 programme of the Club of Free Men:
Hi Lawrence:
I hope you are doing well.
Could a person of your group make a short presentation an all the
dedications of our conferences? (Total of 9 from September to June next
(Ie: Kant, Hippies?), on how they relate to freedom?
Enclosed is the program.
Club of Free Men
See you Sunday
See you Sunday,


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
tel 606081813
Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
The membrane between private and public life.

We are tempted to interpret membrane to mean a barrier that will keep
one's privacy and one's public life separately. And in a way we would be
justified in believing this since at least today we place a high premium
on our privacy.
To wit, we are constantly reminded how online services have mountains of
information about us and what we do. And anyone who participates in any
social media portals would be aware of the privacy implications of what
they put on their accounts.
Employers, we read in the media, will now look up a prospective
candidate in these social media portals to really find useful
information about that person. And of course, one of the biggest fears
we have is to suspect that our governments are basically spying on us,
on everything we do and everything we think of.
So the idea of a barrier to keep intruders out of our life makes sense.
Indeed, the Wikipedia article on Privacy does point out that in the
European Union member countries have to legislate law to guarantee the
right to privacy of their citizens. However, in the introduction the
authors of the article point out that the idea of Privacy is mostly an
English-American cultural concept. And then go on to say that there is
even a difference between English-American privacy and Western European
concept of privacy, if it exists at all in Europe.
In a very brief and interesting document by the Association of Corporate
Counsel* they include a brief analysis of the differences between the
Common Law Legal System (English-US) and the Civil Law Legal System
(European Law). What is important for us here is what is described in
the document as Primary Source of Law: under Common Law this is cases,
or results of court judgements, and in Civil Law it is legislation.
However, it is recognised that today there is a great deal of cross
references to the methodologies of both systems. And no one for a
seconds believes that one system is absolutely better than the other,
both have their good and bad points.
But why is this important for us as philosophy. Firstly, because
philosophy has no boundaries, there is nothing out of bounds for
philosophical investigation, and secondly because I believe that here
lies the problem with today's privacy issue.
Apart from privacy, and therefore private life, we believe that there is
an even more important concept than privacy itself, that is liberty and
freedom. We believe that we are free agents to go about our business as
we feel fit. This does not mean that we are free to impose our will on
others, and unfortunately, this does not mean that every human being is
indeed free or regard themselves as being free. But the real tragedy is
not to know that one is not free, but rather not knowing that one is not
If we accept the principle that we cannot expect privacy unless we are
free, then the challenge we have to deal with is who or what is
responsible to guarantee our freedom, and by expressed or implied
measures, is responsible to guarantee our privacy. The philosophical
issue, or paradox, here is how can we impose a duty on others so that we
can enjoy a personal right. By having our privacy protected we are the
only ones that benefit from this, but, however, there must be a system
or mechanism in place that will protect this right. In fact, I would
argue that there ought to be a system guaranteeing this right even if we
are not philosophically savvy to know that we have such rights:
unfortunately the UN Human rights charter is as effective as a damp squib.
Which of course, makes sense for the European Union to legislate laws
establishing our right to privacy, since under the European system you
can only have a right if it is backed by legislation, contrary to the
Common Law system (at least in theory) that you have a right unless a
judge has decided against it . Unfortunately, the very same legislators
and unelected commissioners, fail to see the paradox and irony of this
policy of legislating privacy rights and by implication freedom and
liberty rights. The paradox is of course the idea that some omnipotent
power and authority such as the European commission or a parliament
enacting a law giving us privacy, and by implication, liberty. It is
like saying we've got ways and means to make you happy even if we have
to impose happiness on you.
In the real life, at least in Western society, we do not believe that we
should be free or made free, and hence have privacy, but rather the
opposite, we believe we are free and we do have a right to privacy from
the very first second we are born. And these states of being, and not
rights, are inalienable ; they cannot be taken away or given in the same
way that a lung can be harvested or transplanted.
I would therefore say that, at least in theory, Case law does not need
legislation nor a case to establish freedom and privacy. In today's real
life the theory is as far away as the North pole is from the South pole.
Precisely this is background problem between Britain and Europe; the
European Union has opened a back door for UK governments to introduce
legislation which in many cases might not have seen the light of day
under the common law principles.
This brings me to the second paradox about privacy, and as I keep
saying, by implication liberty. If we accept the principle of
Parliamentary sovereignty
( then the idea that
such rights are to be legislated is as solid as a sand castle on a
Fukushima beach. Basically, the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty
means two things, the first is that Parliament is the highest supreme
court (never mind that the EU has tampered with this principle) and the
second is that one Parliament cannot bind a future parliament. It is
this second principle that most interests us, since what parliament
today can legislate to give citizen the right to privacy, tomorrow's
parliament can easily take away.
So the question we now have to ask ourselves is, what purpose or
function does a membrane have in keeping privacy and public life apart?
Presumably, the membrane, albeit legislation or philosophical theory, is
there to prevent the public life from interfering with the private life.
Even though we might have a good idea of what we mean by private life
and public life, we might still need to define these for our purposes.
Earlier I said that the right to privacy seems to imply a duty on others
so that we can enjoy a private right and benefit. Is there also some
kind of social or legal duty that we have in our private life?
We can safely assume that no one is really interested in what you and I
do at home. What we're planning for our holidays, what to wear this
Sunday, and what books we buy and read in our spare time. So far so
good. Of course, what bothers the authorities is what we plan in our
private life that will have a detrimental effect on society: crime,
terrorism, crime against minors, a coup d'état and so on.
We instinctively agree that such activities, no matter how much they are
carried out in private, ought not to be accorded the status of private
life and thus protected by the mantel of privacy. So, maybe the membrane
is not, does not, and ought not protect unsocial acts of the most
heinous kind. Maybe, the membrane is there to protect normal people
doing normal things. But there is a slight problem with this argument,
even though it is as sound as they come. The problem is that we are
supporting this scenario with logical and rational arguments, but real
life is anything but logical and anything but rational.
So how certain can we be about an act that ought to be disapprove off
and the act that we are actually investigating is an act that falls with
the right category? In other words, it is one thing to say stop all
criminal acts, and actually discovering criminal acts. By definition,
any human investigation comes with the health warning of possible error.
It is not that we are always mistaken, but rather that sometimes we
might be mistake. And the sting is that we won't know until the mistake
is evident or actually performed.
Thus even if the legislative membrane is there to protect the innocent,
by virtue of investigating anyone we run the risk of mistakenly
investigating the innocent. There need not be any malice in this
mistake, since as I said, it is human nature to err.
It seems to many people that in today's social environment the
authorities are prepared to take the risk that they might be wrong when
invading the privacy of others. Today's politics is based on pure
utilitarianism underwritten by pragmatism: catch those who pose a threat
to society at all costs even at the cost of innocent people. This state
of affairs might indeed be seen as incongruous, in the sense that the
body that is bestowing and guaranteeing the right to privacy, is also
the same authority that seems to be prepared to take risks with this
right; I called this the second paradox above.
In theory, we can accept situations where the membrane between the
private life and the public life can be breached in the case of a threat
to society. On the other hand, as they say in the movies, if you've done
nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about.
But as I have just argued, in today's climate, maybe there are reasons
to worry. Maybe, today's rule of thumb might be, if you're not on the
radar screen of some authority, you need not worry. Which today does not
mean, are you innocent, but rather are your credible. (Check the stories
through Google)
Indeed, case law (and Civil law if you must), at least, recognises the
principle of public interest as a justification to breaching the right
to privcy, for example the media are allowed to reveal private
information about people if it is in the public interest. And it might
be argued that what is part of our public life is accessible to everyone
else. Another principle that the media operate under is that if
something or someone is in public than they can be reported as part of
the news or editorial content. And not to get confused here, although
the media can report what is public, that same information (for example
a photo of a person eating an ice cream) cannot be used for commercial
purposes ( the same photo used to sell ice cream).
The big issue is what is the status of those who put themselves in the
public eye, for example, politicians, pop stars, famous actors and so
on? On the one hand these people enjoy certain privileges in society by
being in the public eye; actors make big money, politicians have power
and access to people who command resources and so on.
I guess that the same rules that apply to you and me apply here , even
these people have a right to privacy, but that right, I would argue,
only covers what is considered normal for a private person. But one of
the problems with people in the public eye is that many tend to use
privacy rights to hide what in not normal or misdeeds carried out in the
public domaine.
Now, whether we create laws that make it difficult for the media to
publish photos of people in public (theoretically in France and up to an
extent in Germany) or create super injunctions that prevent the media
even from mentioning the fact that they are not allowed to publish
something (England), the end result is that they serve those who are
corrupt or who abused their position, rather than the average person
going about their lives doing average things.
So the crux of the issue is not so much keeping the private separate
from the public, nor legislating rights which in theory we already enjoy
from birth, but rather when is it alright to breach the membrane?
As I said earlier, the first paradox is that our right to privacy
implies a duty on others. Maybe we can solve this paradox by accepting
that those in power and with authority have no rights but rather duties.
The individual as a private person, of course, have rights, but the
individual acting as a holder of authority has only duties. How
practical this is, is an other matter, but nevertheless the principle is
sound. Those in authority have to justify breaching the membrane rather
than having the right to breach the membrane.
Whatever else we think about the subject, it is evidently clear that the
right to privacy is not something that is legislated since what is
legislated into law can tomorrow be legislated to be taken away by law.
Thus, the right to liberty, and by default the right to privacy, are
inalienable rights, that simply cannot be taken away. And by default
therefore, those in authority have only the duty to protect such rights,
since they have no jurisdiction to bestow such rights; we cannot be
given something we already have.

Take care

*501 Common Differences between Civil & Common Law Jurisdictions

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: The membrane between private and
public life

Thursday, June 16, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: The influence of technology in our emotional life, + NEWS for today and Maths tertulia

Short essay + gospel choir TODAY and Maths tertulia
Dear friends,
It was a natural progression to move on from Artificial Intelligence to
"The influence of technology in our emotional life" which we will be
discussing this Sunday.
The subject is vast, and the philosophical issues and relevant and deep,
but what matters for us is that this is a subject that could only be
idiscussed today in the technological paradise we live in. But
technology comes with its own duality which is as unpleasant as
technology is useful.
In the meantime the news:

----- Marga-----
Próximo concierto: 17 de junio, Madrid
Estimado tertuliano,
Te envío adjunta la información de la conferencia que ilustrará la
próxima Tertulia de Matemáticas:
Como verás se trata de un tema de mucha actualidad. Esperando verte por
allí, aprovecho la ocasión para enviarte un cordial saludo,

See you Sunday,


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
tel 606081813
Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

The influence of technology in our emotional life

Hopefully we can progress this discussion beyond Error 404 and Fatal
Error. Indeed some of the most emotional influence technology has on our
life is the frustration and feeling or horror and helplessness when it
does not work.
I mean, early this week I was able to write six paragraphs of an essay
on my new smart phone, but unfortunately it was not smart enough to
remind me that I had to save the document. It is not that I did not
remember to save the document, but rather that in the three weeks I have
had the mobile phone I have become used to it doing everything
automatically for me.
If Error 404 is bad enough, then the maximum emotional influence must be
Fatal Error, since there is nothing more emotional in our life than life
and death, especially death. Frustration aside, when technology breaks
down we are caused a lot of inconveniences.
But when some technology fails, lives could be at stake and in many
cases this does happen. Ships breaking up and sink with all hands on
board, planes crashing and killing everyone, and today we have nuclear
power stations contaminating large parts of Japan that would be
uninhabitable for many years to come. So when technology goes wrong it
influences more that just our emotional life.
But technology need not break down to have an emotional influence on our
lives. In fact, nuclear technology has been one of the most emotional
subjects in modern life. We are now all familiar with the negative side
of nuclear technology. But to give up nuclear technology would imply
that we need to find some other technology to fill the gap. After all we
will need even more electricity due to an increasing population and
increasing standards of living.
On the one had we can accept that technology that by its very nature of
being physical has an inherent weakness: the weakness of a probable
break down. This idea basically reflect the principle of the second law
of thermodynamics. What is relevant for us here is that any instrument
based on technology will sooner or later breakdown. Needless to say that
this scenario presents a number of questions that can be examined
philosophically. For example, is it possible to have a technology that
does not break down, and would this go against any known laws of nature?
However, there is an even more pressing problem about nuclear energy,
and by extension technology in general: what are the necessary and
sufficient conditions at which we do not assume a risk no matter how
useful the technology? In other words what is an acceptable risk when it
comes to technology? Unfortunately, most times we can only answer this
question with hindsight. After the event we are all clever, and the
Japanese should have build a 20 meter wall. But should they?
In an article on the Al Jazeera English website, the author quotes Dr
Shoji Sawada, a Japanese theoretical particle physicist, on three
important issues. The first is that in the 1950 Japanese scientists
advised their government from using nuclear technology because it was
not yet well developed. Secondly, by adopting, at the time, power
stations that used enriched uranium as fuel this automatically made
Japanese stations subject to US nuclear policies. And the third issue is
that most of Japan's power stations are of US design. But the key factor
in this article and according to Sawada, is that these US designs just
did not consider the implications of earthquakes. (Fukushima: It's much
worse than you think -
Reading some of the comments about this article it would be an
understatement to say that this article is very controversial. But what
is of relevance for is this: when assessing risks related to technology,
should we limit ourselves take into account reasonable risks (all known
risks) or absolute risks (all possible risks)? The fact that in the 50's
there were no giant tsunamis in Japan and the idea of outliers was
itself a far off outlier did not help. And although we now know that
Fukushima was an accident waiting to happen, how about technology which
we do use intentionally to cause harm and to discriminate in the most
vile way.
I am of course not referring to cluster bombs but rather to medical
ultrasonography (see Wikipedia) which is used to identify female
foetuses so they can be aborted; a practice very common in some Asian
countries and also in countries not too far from our borders.
My issue here is not that of abortion, but rather the use of very
important and vital technology in gynaecology to discriminate against a
particular gender. If the politicians had the excuse that tsunamis were
not common in the fifties, what excuse do they have in 21st century,
maybe they never needed a ultra sound test because they are mostly males?
But there is even a third class of technology that can affect us even
more emotionally than the other two classes I mentioned above. And this
third class is technology that is used to sustain a person alive but
without hope of ever recovering, and even more, should this technology
be withdrawn the person would die.
The dilemma here is of course, all parties involved with these patients
strive to achieve the best for them. And the single most important right
we will ever have, that of the right to life, is being jealously guarded
by the carers, and yet whatever anyone will do, including sometimes the
patient, would result in an unacceptable outcome: pain, vegetation or death.
It is not surprising that in today's technological paradise, we find
equally devilish terminology as System Failure and Reboot. What is not
clear is whether we need to reboot the technology or the human users and
abusers of technology.

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: The influence of technology in our
emotional life
+ NEWS for today and Maths tertulia

Thursday, June 09, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: Artificial Intelligence

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Artificial Intelligence.
This is a subject more about intelligent machines rather than will
machines rule the world and us included. The problem with this science
fiction type of contemplation is that machines are created in the image
of human beings. And hence, I would argue, would also inherit some of
the weaknesses of human beings.
Indeed we have to distinguish between intelligence and computational
power to reach to a probabilistic conclusion based in inductive input in
a very short time. Even more important, data is king when it comes to
artificial intelligence which in a way reinforces the inductive method.
However, machines can do wonderful things with the right data set and
the computational program.
In effect I would say that any attempt to argue that machines will over
take the world has to contemplate two issues: first, are we intelligent
enough to see when we are in real danger of being obliterated? The
chances are that some virus will obliterate the human race than a
machine, even considering nuclear bombs and power stations. The second
issue is that if we accept the premise that even artificial intelligence
is a reflection of human intelligence, and we have to accept this since
this is the only intelligence we know, then it suffers from a really
serious weakness. Artificial intelligence is not infallible intelligence.
Take care and see you Sunday


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
tel 606081813
Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).
from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: Artificial Intelligence

Thursday, June 02, 2011

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: Is the past chasing us? + news

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Is the past chasing us?
I'm afraid that this week the future caught up with me and was not able
to finish the short essay I started writing.
In the meantime Maria has sent me details on a Workshop/Taller: EL
I am including below the text of Maria's pdf, but if you want the pdf
file please let me know.

See you Sunday,


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
-Yahoo group >> <
-Old essays:
- Blog:
tel 606081813
Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).


Próximo TALLER de crecimiento emocional
¿Tienes control sobre tus emociones? ¿O tus emociones te controlan a ti?
¿Te has sentido NO escuchada/o, NO comprendida/o?
¿Conseguís expresar lo que verdaderamente sientes y deseas?
¿Te has decepcionada/o de ti misma/o tras no conseguir lo que buscabas?
¿Sientes que estás descuidando alguna de tus relaciones más importantes?
¿Cómo te comunicas con aquellas personas que más quieres?
¿Cuál es tu lenguaje de amor?
Si te has sentido así, si desconoces algunas de estas respuestas y,
QUIERES mejorar tu SABER Escuchar y SABER Expresar.
Te esperamos!!!
¿Qué vamos a hacer?
Vamos a explorar nuestros estilos de comunicación y nuestro lenguaje de
amor. Te ofrecemos herramientas y
recursos para que puedas mejorar tu entorno y tus relaciones a través de
una comunicación empática y
Nos daremos permiso para conocernos un poquito más a nosotros/as
mismos/as, en un entorno especialmente
creado para ello: lúdico, divertido, creativo, de confianza, de escucha
incondicional (sin juicios) y
¿Cómo lo vamos a hacer?
A través de una metodología vivencial centrada en la persona, en tus
emociones, pensamientos y acciones;
desde el psicodrama, el coaching, la inteligencia emocional, el enfoque
sistémico y el constructivista.
Datos del taller
Fecha: Domingo 12 de Junio
Hora: de 12 a 14,30 y 16,30 a 19hs.
Precio: 40€. Precio especial lanzamiento!!
Dónde: Raíces del Mundo. Espacio
Multicultural. C/ Galileo 78 bajo. MADRID
Carina Sampó Franco
Psicopedagoga. Terapeuta y directora psicodramática.
Especialista en intervención psicológica.
Especialista en coaching e inteligencia emocional.
Facilitadora de cambios y gestión emocional.

Plazas limitadas. Confirma tu reserva.
Información y contacto:
C/ Galileo, 56 • 28015 Madrid
Tel. 91 5916278

Tel. 644487513

from Lawrence, this Sunday meeting: Is the past chasing us? + news

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