Contingency and Determinism

Salamualaykum,

Bismillah, the new semester has begun :) I wanted to share some thoughts on my classes which I think are going to be fantastically amazing inshaAllah. For one of my optional minor courses, I decided to take criminology. The class is almost entirely discussion based with a few papers here and there. For my research, I want to look into the debate about whether a crime is worse if it is committed out of hate. I chose this because there are more than enough examples from the past year indicating the rise of hate crimes against many different population groups. The opposing argument is that if someone murders an individual for a different reason that is not related to the victims’ race, religion, orientation, etc., then that essentially means society is determining whose life is worth more (as if we don’t do that already). It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of evidences people use to support either sides.

For my second to last honors course, I decided to go out on a limb and take something that seems like the farthest thing from my interests–the concept of cybernetics. As soon as I walked into class, I wanted to turn around immediately and head over to my advisor lol..mostly because I realized that nearly everyone in the class looked like a sci-fi-reading, ping-pong-playing, comic-book-loving DORK! …but, I thought.. let me give this a try. It’s nice to get out of your comfort zone every now and then (both externally and internally) because it helps you get out of the group think mode and think critically about your own views and ideas. Alhumdulillah, all of my honors courses so far have pushed me to think outside the box and I’ve learned a ton about totally random but fundamental concepts from wonderul professors. Anyway, so the class is based on two books–The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Weiner, and The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. I’m just getting into the first book and so far it’s pretty pessimistic. He talks a lot about what technology means for us and how the relationships between human-human, human-machine, and machine-machine are essentially the same.. as in, the same theories apply. He hasn’t convinced me yet, but I’m keeping an open mind. The book gets into some philosophy, a little theology, and some engineering/math concepts that I’m sure will go right over my head (what the heck is chaos theory?). I like that he uses his pessimistic conclusions to indicate what could happen if we don’t realize where this technology might take us. For example, there are programs out there now that were never created by programmers.. we wonder, how that could ever happen but think about it.. technology has been increasing exponentially, not linearly.. so at some point, it’s very possible for machines to start doing everything humans can and should do, but much better in every way.. till ultimately, it’ll be the machines that will run the factories in which humans will work.. not humans running the machines in which both humans and machines work together. So he goes into these kinds of issues to help us understand how we can protect ourselves from the abuses of the systems we have created–the systems of control, communication, and information. Does any of this make sense so far? If not, don’t worry, the next book is even wilder! Ray Kurzweil is an interesting fellow. Death is something even an atheist believes in, it’s really not something disputable. However, this man is an exception. He is probably the only person on earth who doesn’t “plan to die”. He eats about 200-300 vitamins every day, he has successfully cured himself of type 2 diabetes, and his logic is that as the life expectancy rate increases, he’ll be able to live till about age 150-180.. and at that point he plans on uploading himself (thoughts, memories, ideas, personality, interests, etc.) onto a machine so that way, he’ll never die. It’s quite a plan if you ask me. Look him up, I doubt he’s got much longer though :p So that’s the class on cybernetics. I’ll try my best to post reflections as I get through the reading, but I think this might not be of too much interest to the rest of you lol. Khair. I’m sure I’ll find some way to relate all of this back to Islam.

My other classes are just part 2’s of what I did last semester so there’s not much new stuff. For policy, I’ll be researching rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents–what’s being done, what needs to be reformed, and how to stop the cycle of imprisonment.. because studies show that children of inmates usually end up in the prison system themselves. =/ I like the idea of mentor programs for kids, but for some reason, they’re really not enough, so I want to look into what could be changed about the programs already in place, rather than doing a policy brief on new ideas.

So there’s my semester. I pray it goes well inshaAllah, academically, socially, physically, mentally, and all the other -ly’s :)

No idea why I chose the title that I did.. the words stuck with me.

Allahumma infa’ni bima ‘allamtani, wa ‘allimni ma yanfa’uni wa zidni ‘ilma.

-Fi Amanillah-

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2 thoughts on “Contingency and Determinism

    • Thanks! :) I’m pretty psyched about them as well.. even though most of the terminology my cybernetics prof. uses goes right over my head lol.
      I’ll try to post reflections from time to time inshaAllah :)
      I pray you are doing well!

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