Monday, December 31, 2007

Evil Vs. Good

Often, humans are unintentionally cruel, but sometimes, they are cunningly, knowingly evil. For example: Virus makers are targeting people who are looking up news about the Bhutto assassination (as well as a lot of other topics). This happened after the tsunami as well. [hat tip to Webb Alert]

This display of remorseless, unapologetic evil in humans is sobering. And, apparently, its true existence is now backed by some research, as described in the book Evil Genes by Barbara Oakly. I got this tome as a gift and am looking forward to reading it. The book's contention seems to be that, yes, though rare, some people really are just malevolent, and you may know one.

On the other side of the spectrum, people are doing good things all the time. Apparently, morals are more than something you must be taught--being helpful and cooperating with others is an instinct even babies possess according to one recent study, and I've heard other similar results.

Here's something that is totally good and cool, too: MIT has put up 1800 courses it teaches at its university for free for anyone in the world to download and take. This sort of changes everything. If you have an internet connection and the will to learn, you can take physics, astronomy, economics, so on and so forth. I've downloaded the lowest level physics course. We'll see if I have time to get through it all.

Finally, speaking of something that is 'good' not in the moral sense, but high quality, I want to recommend the book Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. I downloaded a copy through iTunes (because of an iTunes gift card I got), but you can probably get it cheaper directly through audible.com if you are a member. This near-future tale is well-written, and the audio version is well-read. If you have some iTunes or Audible gift card money to burn, you won't go wrong by trying this.
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