Category Archives: design

On Matthen’s Intelligibility Argument

Mohan Matthen’s post Teleology in Big Systems brought up two options explaining how someone — Tom Nagel in Mind and Cosmos — would choose a teleological explanation over a naturalistic one. The first, below, got me thinking:

First, he might be saying that though it is physically possible (by a fluke series of mutations, for example) for mentality to have come about, it would be better explained by teleology. (Let’s call this the “intelligibility” argument.)

Though Matthen was referring to doubts about Darwinism being sufficient to lead to consciousness, there is another way to understand this intelligibility argument. If we grant that consciousness is something very special, though not unphysical, someone might consider the laws of physics to be constructed, teleologically, to permit consciousness. This is to say that our physics is teleogically directed to account for consciousness. The claim is not that consciousness was necessitated by our physics, but that our physics must conform to allow the possibility of consciousness. What is one philosopher’s Nature is another’s Teleology.

Now, I can’t see any philosophical motivation for this outside of a very deep belief that consciousness is exceptionally special. But if we grant exceptional status to consciousness, then it wouldn’t be ridiculous to consider that our physics must somehow be subject to the requirements of consciousness instead of the other way around. Whereas there may be infinite other possible physics that do not allow for the possibility of consciousness, we live under a physics that does.

My immediate, knee jerk response to this sort of move is that it is just a semantic shift about the meanings of teleology and nature, nothing deeper. If what the teleologist means by teleology is what others mean by nature, then there is no difference of opinion, only word use.

However, this semantic response does not engage the motivation for the teleological argument. The motivation is that consciousness is exceptional. So, if the naturalist believes that consciousness is exceptional and entirely natural, then the naturalist is left with no natural explanation for why it is so exceptional. However the teleologist may say that consciousness is exceptional, subject to the laws of physics, but unsurprising, since the laws of physics itself are directed to allow for consciousness. Since the teleological account does a better job at explaining something as special as consciousness, it is preferable.

This conclusion about preferring the teleological explanation to the naturalistic one is based on the absolute assumption that consciousness is exceptional. But how exceptional must it be? Since we are making physics, and presumably the rest of science, subject to our assumption, then the reasons for our assumptions must then be ontologically more basic and more certain than our entire scientific understanding of the world.

Personally I do not have any basis for thinking consciousness is so special that all of science must be made to account for it. From my perspective, claiming that science must conform to consciousness is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, since I’d have to arbitrarily assume consciousness to be a fundamental substance and science to be constructed to allow for it.

However, there could be people who do have beliefs that strong. For them, they would not be arbitrarily assuming consciousness to be the more fundamental substance in the universe and hence it would follow that science should conform to it. Instead it would be a direct causal link: consciousness, therefore science that teleologically allows for consciousness. This kind of teleological naturalism is special in that it does not appeal to the unlikelihood or complexity of consciousness evolving, as is wont to happen nowadays, but is based on an ontological claim about consciousness. I don’t know if this is more defensible than the Intelligibility Argument based on likelihood, but, as it is different, perhaps it has a chance to fair better.

Posted in biology, design, evolution, ontology, philosophy, physics, science. Tagged with , , , .

For the Classy Wittgensteinian

Stylish Wine Filled Fly-Bottle

Posted in design, products, wittgenstein. Tagged with .

links again and again and again…

science/ world



random stuff I think is of interest

  • New York
    • How Polite Are We?
    • A survey where NYC comes out as the MOST POLITE city. I am actually unsurprised because it takes more time to argue than to be polite.
    • City Fits, Eventually, for New Arrivals –
    • “Sometime over the course of new arrivals’ first year in the city, they find themselves becoming New Yorkers.” Also confirms above survey with anecdotal evidence.
  • writing_philosophy.pdf
    Two and a half pages on how to write better, not just for philosophy.  I like, “You should assume that the first draft of each sentence will have to be fixed up.” (my emphasis)
  • Shareholder Letters
    Warren Buffet’s letters to his shareholders. Makes for surprisingly good reading… I just wish I had his sort of bad news, like, there’s no way you can expect us to keep doing this well. – I’m sorry that our predictions from last year were off. Of course, we did much better this year…
  • I recently had a discussion with Mr. R. Brown about eating meat. He tried to maintain that vegetarians have the moral high ground. Even though I successfully defended my omnivorous position (even against his cannibalism tack), I’m thinking Zizek’s ad hominem is now the way to go (26s) [via]:
  • Last but not least: Fox Developing Cowboy Bebop Live-Action Feature Film
    Please let this not suck.



… you don’t want to know how long it takes to put these link pages together.

Posted in design, fun, internet. Tagged with , .

Video Game Design 4: Matrix Bullet-time

Johnny Chung Lee pretty much shocked the entire video game world (and lots of others) with this video (5.8 million views, 5/5 star rating with 21,000 votes):

This is a pretty nifty bit of engineering, using the off the shelf Wii Remote and a relatively cheap extra (safety glasses with IR leds <15$) to provide a very high level virtual reality setup.

Secondly Nintendo has recently come out with the Wii Balance Board. This peripheral can accurately measure your weight distribution.

If we combine the potential of head tracking with weight distribution it would be possible to create a very accurate Matrix-style dodging bullets experience, simulating what is seen in this clip:

This would be a damn sweet feature if integrated into a full action game. It could likely be accomplished with head-tracking alone, but the combination of board, head-tracking, and Wii Motion Plus makes for near full body integration. The Matrix franchise is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the technology, seeing as everyone wears sunglasses in the movie anyway.

Posted in design, fun, products, Wii. Tagged with , , , , .

Links, lanks, lunks

Interaction Design, Etc.

Science, Etc.

Aesthetics, Etc.

I’ll be gone for a week visiting my bro in the Southwest… at least y’all will have something to do in my absence.

Posted in art, biology, design, evolution, fun, internet, science. Tagged with , , .

Video Game Design 3: Golf Practice

The Wii has a lot of potential as a golf simulator/ practice program. With the introduction of the Wii balance board the opportunity for using weight distribution has become a real factor, and, though I know nearly nothing about golf, balance and weight distribution during a club swing has to be critical.

Now using the balance board to monitor weight distribution is somewhat obvious. However, very accurate motion sensing from the controller would also be required to really pinpoint the motion of the swing. By some pretty basic reasoning about cost and manufacturing I heard once, it is fair to say that Nintendo is providing middle of the road accelerometers- they are good, but there is still a lot of noise (inaccurate random data) to be dealt with. Lots of noise means that a lot of processing of the data from the motion sensors is required to get a clear picture of what is going on, and if lots of processing occurs, then the nuances of the motion are also getting smoothed over. My solution is to connect the nunchuck controller to the main controller in a rigid way.

Connected Controllers
A mockup of the connected remote and nunchuck in the
shape of a traditional controller.

The nunchuck controller is incredibly light and would add almost no bulk to the main controller, while doubling the number of accelerometers. With double the accelerometers, a clearer picture of the motion would be provided.

Secondly, to get a more complete picture of the orientation of the Wii controllers, the sensor bar which is normally placed near the television should be placed on the floor where the golf ball ought to be. With the sensor bar on the floor where the golf ball should be the controllers would be able to pick up the location of the sensor bar and provide non-inertial data about its velocity. As the controllers swing past the sensor bar, the location of the infrared lights would act as fixed points with which to measure velocity.

A picture of someone on a Wii balance board with
the sensor bar on the floor.

All on-screen menu navigation can be done in the traditional way by using the directional keys; pointer-enabled functions are nice but unnecessary for this sort of game. Moving the sensor bar around the room would be a clever way to also have a swing trainer for baseball.

Posted in design, fun, technology, Wii. Tagged with , , , .

Video Game Design 2: Marionette Theater

Apropos my first post on video game design, I have thought up a new “game” for the Wii. It is a marionette theater simulator: you would get to create virtual marionettes, with customizable bodies and outfits (Mii integration if possible, lots of different clothing options), and levels would include performing different scenes from plays or entire plays. The accelerometers of the Wii controllers would function as the strings on the virtual marionettes. As you tilt the controllers different ‘strings’ would get pulled or slackened moving the different parts of the marionette’s body.

Interactive audio effects would be crucial: recorded voice acting for characters, dynamic background music and sound effects (e.g. when a marionette hits a wall, a thud could be made), with karaoke-style text of the characters’ lines scrolling across the screen, as an option (voice recognition, if possible). A scene/play creation mode would allow players access to creating their own sets, characters, and lines, giving the game infinite replay value (online sharing of new sets, characters, etc., and entire plays, if possible). Buttons could trigger effects on stage, change the motion control to different characters, have the marionettes pick objects up, change camera angle, etc.

If saving a marionette performance and text-to-voice is included (with user-defined manipulations – angry, soft, loud, etc.) a playwright could produce his or her play on the Wii and immediately distribute its virtual staging. This could be done by recording the output of the Wii, but if the Wii could upload and download complete performances, it would become an artistic platform.

A good puppet show is something amazing. Check out these scenes from Being John Malkovich done by Phil Huber:

Posted in design, fun, products, Wii. Tagged with , , , , , , .

More links, again….

More ID. Industrial Design and Interaction Design, that is. Some random links.

A Chat with the Designer of the Google Logo | WebProNews

Advice posters 2007 – a photoset on Flickr

Clarence Larkin Dispensational Charts Really well made charts for explaining heaven and the like.

Shaker’s sweet success – Los Angeles Times: CONSIDER this humble sugar shaker, a staple of kitchens and coffee shops across the land. About 35 million have been sold — maybe double that if you include all the knockoffs — and not one of them labeled a work of art.

Interaction Design:

“Guitar + Vox + OhMiBod” on NOTCOT

Clever interaction design in this DJ equipment to go

Core77 – Interaction Design and ID: You’re alreay doing it…don’t you want to knowwhat it’s all about?: Interaction Design and ID: You’re already doing it…don’t you want to know what it’s all about


Frozen Grand Central at Improv Everywhere We Cause Scenes (Improv Design?)

BBC NEWS | Education | McDonald’s ‘A-level’ is launched

“Fast-food giant McDonald’s becomes one of the first firms to offer its own nationally recognised qualifications.” Whereas Thoughts Arguments and Rants seems to think this is a bad thing, I think this is great. Besides offering lots of people opportunity to get a recognized degree, this will relieve some financial burden on the university system. And McD’s gets good press. Win-Win-Win.

The world’s rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan – Environment –

Happiness is a state of mind :A quick cartoon.

fig crumbs: One each Watch the video below after reading this (only 4 lines long) to counteract the effects.

Posted in design, fun. Tagged with , , , .

Creativity is giving away a db clay wallet for the best tip on how to be or stay creative.

Here’s what I said:

Creativity comes from ruthlessness.

Being thoroughly ruthless with what you have and what has been done will allow you to create something new. If there is something that is equal to your abilities, i.e. you do not have command of it, then that thing is something new, at least for you.

If you are unwilling to be ruthless then you will know that the work you are doing does not require your full attention and you will be selling yourself and your creativity short.

Posted in art, design, motivation, products. Tagged with , , , .

I will not write any more boring philosophy

I will not write any more boring philosophy


Posted in art, design, motivation. Tagged with .