0659: "Lego"

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby thicknavyrain » Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:47 pm UTC

sithwalrus wrote:Whether there is heaven, hell, or the entire world fades into a formless lifeless void, we should all be living our lives with the same ethics and goals anyway.


You are a good person. Live long and prosper, that you may extend your time here before finding out the answer.

I liked the comic, although now the lego urge is deep within me and must be satisfied.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby neoliminal » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:29 pm UTC

thicknavyrain, I always associate your avatar with Magic the Gathering.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby nirvana_grace » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:49 pm UTC

Persona wrote:But the thing I'm wondering the most about is the alt text... Why ask for Grandpa when the comic just implied that the house is gone after disassembly?

Is the house gone?
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Dudely » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:50 pm UTC

How anyone could come up with "she changed her mind and doesn't want to be an organ donor" is beyond me.

This is how I interpreted the comic:

Little girl is playing with Lego. Her dad explains to her that when her Lego house is taken apart it's gone forever and that the house itself was a subjective creation of the pieces, which could be anything- just like you can make all the variety of human beings with the same pieces. Later, when she's an adult and has the opportunity of becoming an organ donor she realizes that she is not the pieces she's made up of, and decides that after she's done with them her pieces can be put to use in another house.

How are you going to keep your pieces together if you're rotting in the ground? What good would keeping your organs do in this respect?


The "Dad where is grandpa right now?" question is a sly reference to the idea that if the house is gone when the pieces are isn't a person gone once they rot into the earth? What then is a soul?

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Dudely » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:55 pm UTC

nirvana_grace wrote:
Persona wrote:But the thing I'm wondering the most about is the alt text... Why ask for Grandpa when the comic just implied that the house is gone after disassembly?

Is the house gone?


The house only existed as an assembly of pieces. We remember the assembly and label it "house". When it's assembly changes into a pile of bricks all we have is the memory and idea, which was really all we had in the first place.

Grandpa is gone too. He was only ever an assembly of parts which you labeled "Grandpa". He was only ever the memory and idea, and remains so after death. The only difference is you can't rebuild him :(

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby rubber314chicken » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:58 pm UTC

Never have I been prouder to go against my parent's beliefs by saying yes to being an organ donor than when I read this comic.

P.S. Even if they build another house out of the Legos, I'll take my chances on it being a bigger, better house with a butler named Chives.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby neoliminal » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:00 pm UTC

Dudely wrote:
nirvana_grace wrote:
Persona wrote:But the thing I'm wondering the most about is the alt text... Why ask for Grandpa when the comic just implied that the house is gone after disassembly?

Is the house gone?


The house only existed as an assembly of pieces. We remember the assembly and label it "house". When it's assembly changes into a pile of bricks all we have is the memory and idea, which was really all we had in the first place.

Grandpa is gone too. He was only ever an assembly of parts which you labeled "Grandpa". He was only ever the memory and idea, and remains so after death. The only difference is you can't rebuild him :(


More over, lego change very little over time, so if you built a house and left it alone for 80 years, it would still more or less be the same... whereas a human changes radically in that time span so that the person "Grandpa" was when he was 5 years old is NOT the person he was at 30, or at 50 or at 80 when he died. You've already pointed out the differenced past death. It's important, I think, to realize that your self identity is an illusion of a sequential memory of self and that you are actually a different "thing" over time. (Barring souls... but then I wont bring unprovables into this discussion.)
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Kua » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:04 pm UTC

ShiningMasamune wrote:
Comic JK wrote:This is pretty overtly anti-Christian (the doctrine of the immortal human soul). Can't say I care for it.

If it gets people to become organ donors, though, that counts more.


Subtle troll is subtle.


Quotable quote is quotable.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby John Romberg » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:11 pm UTC

Love the science of it! Love the antitheism of it! Love the humanitarian message of it! Just love it to (Lego) bits!

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby witty name 999 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:26 pm UTC

Registered just to do a posthumous shout-out on behalf of George Higginson, 10, who tragically died in a road accident in August and made it into the front page of my local paper under the headline
"Crash death boy saves five lives through organs" (google it to find him; interesting chap)
due to following the reasoning in the comic. I have no connection to him but he briefly made me proud to belong to the same species on an otherwise unremarkable day. I was also pleased to see the newspaper putting a clear reminder of the benefits of organ donation on its front page, given the dross that usually passes for reporting on health matters.


Also: had to refresh 4 times to do the captcha just to register. This is getting ridiculous.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby ritvax » Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:38 pm UTC

MrD wrote:That was a little harsh.

The girl is quietly playing with her Legos by herself, when her brother comes along and starts asking her simple questions just to contradict her and make her feel small. In response, she sneaks off and signs him up as an organ donor behind his back.


I totally saw this comic with two punch lines.

1) Girl is moved by the thought of "pieces" living on in new "constructs" and becomes an organ donor

2) Girl is so annoyed and disgusted by her snottty brother's attitude, she decides to donate some of his "pieces" to new "constructs."

the end!
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Furcas » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:28 pm UTC

I don't get it. Why would acknowledging the truth of patternism motivate someone to be an organ donor?

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby DragonHawk » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:57 pm UTC

metatron5369 wrote:This is how I feel about transporters in "Star Trek". :?

Better yet: "Think Like a Dinosaur".
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Sarda » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:40 pm UTC

Persona wrote:Lemme get this straight. When the house is disassembled the pieces can be used elsewhere without damaging the house because the house is gone. It's parallel to how when you die your organs can be donated to someone else without damaging yourself because you're dead.

I think most people who are not signed as donors understand this fact full well. The reason they're not signed is probably the same reason you bother to dress corpses up before burial.

But the thing I'm wondering the most about is the alt text... Why ask for Grandpa when the comic just implied that the house is gone after disassembly?

This person has it. The comic is not referring to the soul of a person, but the body. When a person is disassembled(i.e. dies/donates organs), the body is gone. It doesn't stay with the decomposed remains, nor can you remake it out of the donated organ without significant effort(here is where the comparison breaks down, but then, no comparison is ever perfect.


As to the alt-text, the reason he/she asked for Grandpa is presumably because Grandpa is dead, and the child(I assume it's a child) wants to know where they went.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby AlexTheSeal » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:49 pm UTC

inhumandecency wrote:You could also argue that the house pattern resides partly in the people who see that configuration of bricks and know to interpret it as a house.


Yeah, you could argue that, if you wanted to set yourself up for a lovely reductio against the notion that consciousness is in the eye of the beholder. If the pattern is a matter of interpretation, then anything can be interpreted as the instantiation of that pattern. A tree is conscious, and so is a pile of gravel, and so is the coffee I'm drinking (I guess it knows what it feels like to go into hyperspace now!).

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Cynical Idealist » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:58 pm UTC

Dave wrote:
phlip wrote:Drawing an X in a box is reasonably common way of selecting it... the choice isn't between an x and a tick, rather any mark and no mark.


Whilst I agree with you in terms of how tick boxes/check boxes are dealt with in 'the real world', I imagine it's very difficult to portray that in a single panel of a comic. I think that the intention was to show a tick that has been crossed out - i.e. a yes becomes a no.

If you're going to cross out a check mark, for the love of God don't keep the X inside the box. Personally, if I want to un-check a box in the real world, I put a large, bold X that goes well outside the box and write "no" in tiny handwriting next to the box (or with an arrow pointing to the box). If possible, I'll cross out the question as well. I make it as unambiguous as possible.

Or, if its for something that I *really* don't want messed up, I ask for another copy of the form.

As for it looking like a combination of a checkmark and an X, its probably just a sloppy X (with an odd stroke order, like writing it from topleft-bottomright then bottomleft-topright).

DragonHawk wrote:I came here just to mention Larry Niven's "organ donor problem". (Although props to the person who posted the Babylon 5 quote.) Anyway, Niven pointed out a few decades ago that as medical technology advances, it will become more and more practical to extend life using organ transplants. The demand for organs will continue to rise. At the same time, population continues to rise. We have too many people and not enough organs. Consequences: (1) "Organlegging" (like bootlegging) will become a serious and common problem. (2) There will be pressure to mandate harvesting organs from criminals sentences to death. That will in turn lead to pressure to increase death penalty sentences. By the events in the story "The Jigsaw Man",
Spoiler:
speeding and failure to stop for a red light
have become capital crimes.

Larry Niven rocks.

Also, I think that
Spoiler:
multiple counts of False Advertising
was also a capital crime. And many, many other things, but that's the one that stood out to me.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Random832 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:11 pm UTC

For those who think she's deciding not to be an organ donor...

Which is a worse fate for a Lego: becoming part of a spaceship or train, or staying in the bin forever?

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:18 pm UTC

Random832 wrote:For those who think she's deciding not to be an organ donor...

Which is a worse fate for a Lego: becoming part of a spaceship or train, or staying in the bin forever?


Definately the train; every Lego dreams of becoming a spaceship.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby scottyb » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:54 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Random832 wrote:For those who think she's deciding not to be an organ donor...

Which is a worse fate for a Lego: becoming part of a spaceship or train, or staying in the bin forever?


Definately the train; every Lego dreams of becoming a spaceship.


What if I think spaceships are bad and don't want my blocks in them?

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby tesseraktik » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:56 pm UTC

I must say, I am quite surprised that some people are interpreting this as a religious or political message. I mean, if I really try, then I can kind of see the resemblance between this comic and political ads where a friend encourages a friend to do what is "right", so I guess I can see how a person involved with such issues could draw such a conclusion, but xkcd has a long history of using pseudo-logic to achieve comedy, and that's clearly what was done here. Randall probably wanted to stir some thoughts, but I sincerely doubt he ever meant to push a point.

Personally, I loved it; it's right up there with "Centrifugal Force"! The punchline is so very unexpected, and yet in some absurd way it makes sense. Many punchlines fall flat, but this one hits hard and truly does define the comic!


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Spoiler:
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby SpringLoaded12 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:06 pm UTC

The man has a good idea, but he has forgotten the most important part!

The man believes that the house is gone, but the house is not gone! It has merely transcended, and it lives forever in the instruction booklet! Or, if there isn't one, it lives forever in the photo or two (or ten) taken of it! Unless it was made by a cruel Creator who did not honor the memory of his/her creations, and did not take photos or even leave behind homemade instructions for the masterpiece. We pray that no such fate ever befall one of the beautiful constructions.

The truly immortal constructions are those that were made by gracious, devoted, good Creators, who put them on Lego fansites or places like Instructables.

Thank you all for coming to today's sermon. Bricks be with you. Goodnight.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Amarsir » Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:41 am UTC

It brings to mind Stephen Covey: "All things are created twice. There's a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things."

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Tyr_oathkeeper » Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:43 am UTC

If you donate your heart valves, will you live on in the hearts of others? :D

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Cynical Idealist » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Tyr_oathkeeper wrote:If you donate your heart valves, will you live on in the hearts of others? :D

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Your pun was bad and you should feel bad.

But yes.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby super_aardvark » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:25 am UTC

Dad, where is Grandpa right now?

"Most of him is in the Lego box, dear. There are a few fingers under the refrigerator."

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:28 am UTC

For the hell of things I may as well throw in my $0.02 for my interpretation of this comic, since it seems such a contentious issue:

I interpreted it as a father (or other adult male guardian or role model) posing a thought-provoking philosophical question to his daughter (or other young female ward or some such) in the context of legos (trademarks and mass nouns be damned, they're legos!). We, the intelligent readers of XKCD, are supposed to see the immediate parallels between the man's question about a lego house and the classical philosophical question about what happens to a person after their death, but just in case, the alt-text is there to make the analogy blatantly obvious ("where did the house go?" :: "where did grandpa go?").

I initially interpreted an anti-immortal-soul position in there as well, what with the "it didn't go anywhere else, it's just gone" line, but in light of some of the comments here I can see it allowing room for a neoplatonic "the Form of {grandpa|the house} lives on forever in Heaven, and is not bound to its material instantiation" interpretation as well, though I wouldn't agree with that philosophical position myself.

Either way, the girl gets the message that a thing is not its parts, but the relations between those parts, the arrangement of those parts, and when that arrangement is gone the parts are no longer parts of that thing. Years later (for some reason she's still carrying around some legos), when presented the option to be an organ donor, she remembers this lesson and marks herself down as one, since once she's dead, her organs aren't her (whether or not there is any 'her' left at all), so why should she be attached to them. (Out here in California at least, any mark means yes, no mark means no, always and consistently; I've never heard of this check-versus-cross distinction. Is that a UK/Commonwealth thing?)

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Ghandi 2 » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:30 am UTC

This is just stupid. How does being an organ donor because you no longer believe in eternity make any sense? Is that even supposed to be a joke? Do you sign up to be an organ donor at an empty desk? Why does she still have the Legos? Were they so significant to her she carried them down to the DMV?

I think people are only saying they like it because of the Legos.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Cynical Idealist » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:32 am UTC

Ghandi 2 wrote: Do you sign up to be an organ donor at an empty desk?

I did.

At least, the desk where I signed up was empty at the time. It was one of those little standalone desks at the DMV, and I was filling out the forms.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby LuNatic » Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:26 am UTC

neoliminal wrote:I think the most important lesson of this comic is completely overlooked so far.

The little girl builds a house from lego and then it's disassembled and put away.
Authority figure questions her belief that the house still exists in the box.
Little girl believes authority figure and it changes her way of life.

These are the same basic steps that lead anyone to science (Evolution, as example.)

Person questions existence.
Authority provides answer to questioned existence.
Person changes way of life.

Note that there is no need to prove anything. People who believe in evolution can't prove that it does or doesn't exist and have taken it (the idea of evolution) from some authoritative source. No one is born knowing what evolution is. Someone(s) explains it to them and they believe that person(s). The important point, however, is that it took an authority figure to plant the seed. Almost all faith comes from an authority figure.

The girl takes it on faith that the house no longer exists.


Careful, that logic goes both ways. I'd like to point out that I'm just showing a fallacy in this thinking here, not trying to start an evolution/creation argument.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby SocialSceneRepairman » Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:40 am UTC

Ghandi 2 wrote:This is just stupid. How does being an organ donor because you no longer believe in eternity make any sense?


Let me spell this out to you.

Spoiler:
Organ = Lego.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Lendges » Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:28 am UTC

The house was created, as opposed to being the offspring of sexually viable parent houses. After it's disassembled, though, I doubt the girl really remembers the past design. So therefore it's probably gone.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby dennisw » Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:43 am UTC

All this discussion of what constitutes a proper checkmark and what it takes to retract one reminds me of hanging chads. Remember what a fiasco that whole mess was.

Also, as for the Lego, from somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind the phrase "Parts is parts!" has been regurgitated. Skynet helped me remember that it was from a Wendy's commercial from the 80s for their chicken sandwich.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby toccy » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:03 am UTC

very platonic in the way that it almost suggests the idea lives on somewhere else.

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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby rubber314chicken » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:38 am UTC

Lendges wrote:The house was created, as opposed to being the offspring of sexually viable parent houses. After it's disassembled, though, I doubt the girl really remembers the past design. So therefore it's probably gone.


Meh, if I'm important enough to people that they want to remember me, they'll keep photos, not the body.
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Spoilers hide the meaning of my metaphors

Postby BlueNight » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:42 am UTC

A Möbius strip has only one side, but making one out of paper is not quite as fascinating as the idea itself, because paper is three dimensional, however thin. It is, at best, a simulation of a Möbius strip.

Spoiler:
Our minds are partial free will, enacted in warm, wet meat. Theogenic artificial intelligences, as it were. Perhaps nothing more; the ancients' use of the term "spirit," or breath, referred poetically to a living, breathing person existing materially, until Plato and Aristotle defined things more dualistically.


But you can make a Möbius cut through a bagel, and retain a single, twisted slice of bread.

Spoiler:
An omniscient, omnipotent being can construct a simulated consciousness in such a way that it is continuous as far as it knows. Think of a save-state file generated by a Super NES emulator, but which can be edited to give additional health, lives, ammo, etc.

If the point of being a soul embodied is continuity of life, and we only have a material simulation thereof, one might argue the religious thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. I would respond that in such a case, we'd be no worse off than in an atheistic world. Or perhaps our consciousnesses were designed specifically to be uploaded to new bodies in a different, effectively non-entropic world.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby rpgamer » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:18 am UTC

Mental Mouse wrote:
"We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves."
--Norbert Wiener, mathematician


YES. And, (organ donations aside, dammit) "Grandpa" lives on in our hearts. How will others remember you?

Doesn't matter. Even memories fade.

And that's all we are in the end, is memories.
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Baalthazaq » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:57 am UTC

Erm.

1) I don't really think this was "overtly Anti-Christian", however:
You don't actually have to specify which group you're talking about for it to be obvious who you're talking about. Randall wasn't talking about the Hindu version of Re-incarnation. He just wasn't. If I start making jokes about unemployment, the ability to play basketball, dancing, being at the back of the bus and liking watermelon, it is obvious I am referencing certain stereotypes. It is hugely unlikely to be true that "I'M not making a stereotype! I could be talking about ANYBODY, YOU'RE the one who made the stereotype". Especially if those stereotypes are a big deal in the speaker's culture.

The chance he was specifically referencing the Bahai/Muslim/Hindu version of events is similarly extremely low in my opinion, about as low as the idea that I was referencing Israeli women above (which could be stretched to fit).

2) This doesn't actually make much sense without the Christian reference. Without the reference to say, a soul, the body is still intact on death. The arrangement is unchanged, therefore it is only when you take the pieces apart that it is no longer Grandpa. (There is an obvious counterpoint here w/r decay, but then we move on to point 3).

3) The human body regenerates cells, hair, skin layers, etc. all the time. The only part really staying put in any real sense is the teeth and bones, not counting the atomic level.

Therefore: He does seem to be suggesting that Organ donation is somehow stoppered when it comes to thinking about a soul, which it just isn't. Major religions around the world not only allow, but in most cases encourage organ donations. (Anglican says it is a religious duty, Catholics advise it as an act of charity, Muslims are in favor, Judaism is the same). This is what I think one of the first posters was talking about when he called it Anti-Christian.

The end girl seems like her belief in a soul made her choose not to donate organs. I think this is unfair, the only difference is, I don't think it was an intentional jab at religious folk so much as it is more like some of the passive racist comments I hear from time to time.

Example, I once showed an aunt some home video of the middle east where some Arab family and friends were sitting around at a barbecue. She responded with "Oh look, they're sitting around and eating and smiling just like normal people, that's great". She didn't try to insult anyone, and in fact was trying to be nice. Yet the implications of what she is saying is that her expectations were that those Arabs were sub human, at least before seeing the video. "Arabs don't sit around smiling, eating, playing football in the park and talking".

It isn't a big jump to guess what she expected Arabs to be.

4) Off track a little. Therefore I think the comic's priori and conclusion don't really match. They're all very very loosely tied together with vague references that don't really make much sense when looked at in any level of detail.

5) Sorry fanboys/girls. Don't kill me.

Baalthazaq
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby Baalthazaq » Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:12 am UTC

Sorry just to clarify:

I think Randall's analogy is terrible.
I think the reason people bring up a soul, is because with a soul, the analogy actually works.
I think the reason people then assume this is what he was going for is because the second analogy makes more sense than his.

Hence Christianity discussion in my previous post.

If he actively wasn't referencing a soul at all, then fine, it wasn't anti religious, but then it kinda falls on it's face when it comes to comparable analogy.

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AlexTheSeal
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Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby AlexTheSeal » Sat Nov 07, 2009 9:35 am UTC

thret wrote:I think Randall just summarised the entire introduction to the 20th-anniversary Edition of Godel, Escher, Bach. Well, if he includes a strange-loop reference somewhere.


Hofstadter's really been coasting on his grad-school thesis for a long time now.

Code: Select all

10 REM WORLD'S SMALLEST ADVENTURE GAME
20 PRINT "YOU ARE IN A CAVE (N, S, E, W)? ";
30 INPUT A$
40 GOTO 10

Lulled to sleep by the one-hertz chuckle of Linux logfile writes since 1997.

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EvilDuckie
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Location: The Netherlands

Re: "Lego" Discussion

Postby EvilDuckie » Sat Nov 07, 2009 9:46 am UTC

This comic, along with an item I heard on the radio yesterday morning about somebody who is on the waiting list for a lung transplant with a 7 year wait time and basically a 1 year life expectancy caused me to sign the petition for the active donor registration system, as well as doublecheck my own organ donor registration (the system changed from a card that you carry in your wallet to a centralised system recently).
Quack!


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