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Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism: The clockwork computer
Sep 19th 2002
From The Economist print edition

An ancient piece of clockwork shows the deep roots of modern technology. . . . MORE

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28 Responses to Antikythera Mechanism

  1. It seems that what we have here may be an example of irreducible functional complexity, and the general problem of inferring the overall structure of an intelligently-designed machine from a mere section thereof. A full understanding of the mechanical interrelationships among machine parts often requires a structural and functional understanding of the whole machine, whereas useful information regarding the whole machine can often be inferred from the local properties and mechanical interrelationships of its parts.

    IDT needs to characterize the extent to which a whole machine is structurally and functionally constrained by its local structure. Localized relationships among the parts constrains the whole with respect to both structure and functionality; in contrast, no overall relationship can be inferred from a mere collection of independent objects. As in the biological realm, it is the sheer specificity of this corroded mass that permits engineers to meaningfully speculate on its overall function.

    Now for some parallel observations regarding the sociopolitical ramifications of the irreducible complexity of modern technology, which is at least as fragile as the civilizations that nurture it.

    This article speculates on a chain of technological preservation stretching from ancient Greece through the Middle East and 18th century Europe to the present. Due to the relative simplicity of the technology, human intellectual tenacity and sheer good fortune, this hypothetical chain crosses multiple overlapping civilizations and extends for over two millennia.

    Disturbingly, modern technology would be far harder to preserve. The designs of advaned machines are too complex to be verbally transmitted or contained in a small handful of compact sources. For any given modern technology to survive, an entire spectrum of supporting technologies must also survive. On the other hand, one disadvantage of living in a small world is the speed at which collapse can spread. This suggests that if the world is in store for any further upheavals on the scale of some which have occurred throughout the span of recorded history, complete technological collapse is a distinct possibility.

    Unfortunately, given the increasing difficulty of accessing certain natural (especially mineral) resources, it is questionable whether mankind could ever fully restore modern technology after any upheaval precipitating global infrastructural collapse. It follows that further major upheavals are to be avoided with great prejudice, and that mankind needs an ideological source of social stability for that purpose.

    Now ask yourself a question: can mankind afford to rest its future on the blind, brutal, atheism/materialism-friendly neo-Darwinian picture of human nature and society?

  2. “Now ask yourself a question: can mankind afford to rest its future on the blind, brutal, atheism/materialism-friendly neo-Darwinian picture of human nature and society?”

    That’s a very subjective and loaded question. Afford, blind, brutal, atheism, materialism, neo-Darwinian, human nature and society all have their own responsive flavors. I don’t even think you’re sure of what you’re asking :-)

  3. On the other hand, I’m now quite sure that you aren’t.

    By the way, do you have anything constructive to add?

  4. “By the way, do you have anything constructive to add?”

    Well, your definition of “constructive” will vary according to your biases, so it doesn’t matter what I say so long as I agree with you. I refuse to subjectively load my questions as you do. I won’t stoop to that level.

    Pay attention please ;-)

  5. So the answer is no, then. In that case, why don’t you take your act on over to the Panda’s Thumb? It ought to play well there.

  6. You answered yourself. Which is exactly as I predicted when I said, “Well, your definition of “constructive” will vary according to your biases, so it doesn’t matter what I say so long as I agree with you.”

    You’re obviously easily offended. That’s OK. Just remember that it’s physochology you should be addressing, not ID or evolution ;-)

  7. Oops, typos, I meant “psychology.” hehe, typing too fast

  8. …for the speed at which your mind works.

  9. “…for the speed at which your mind works.”

    See? This is good and funny. You prove your mental state: childish. Thank you (not that it was evident before that statement)!

  10. No, I was serious. But since you clearly have a lot of very weighty things to say – very, very weighty things! – why don’t you just come out with them instead of attacking me personally, in an ad hominem kind of way? If you have any ideas of merit, I’m sure somebody around here will notice. Maybe even paste a little gold star on your forehead.

  11. That’s funny, talk about “weighty things”: “Now ask yourself a question: can mankind afford to rest its future on the blind, brutal, atheism/materialism-friendly neo-Darwinian picture of human nature and society?”

    You’re simply acting too childish to have an intelligent conversation with. I don’t think you need this blog to help you cope with such a state. Here’s a more fitting conversational medium for you: http://www.healthboards.com/bo.....y.php?f=87

  12. “…if the world is in store for any further upheavals on the scale of some which have occurred throughout the span of recorded history, complete technological collapse is a distinct possibility…are to be avoided with great prejudice…mankind needs an ideological source of social stability for that purpose…can mankind afford to rest its future on the blind, brutal, atheism/materialism-friendly neo-Darwinian picture of human nature and society?”

    The existing ‘atheist’ population of the US remains at about 4%, while the World population of ‘atheists’ comprises approximately half of the 16% of ‘non-believers’, the balance, by definition are theistic, not deistic.

    Eighty-two percent of the US population is Christian.

    Your point?

  13. Ilib, just agree with him. I don’t think he’s taken his meds yet ;-)

  14. Ilib, here are some polls for you: http://evolutionnomore.blogspo.....ys-by.html

  15. Ilib, it takes more than one highly questionable statistic regarding one nation among dozens to stabilize a global civilization. As far as concerns my “point”, maybe you should confine yourself to the two lead paragraphs of my post (even if you don’t get the rest of it).

    sharpguy: Mmm…more “physochology”. The topic of the thread is IC. (By the way, were you informed that you were a “sharpguy” by a real physochologist, or was it simply an application of your own deep physochological insight? See if you can give a simple answer without excessive physochological divagation.)

  16. “sharpguy: Mmm…more “physochology”. ”

    See? More childishness! Keep it coming. It does more harm for you that it does for me I’m afraid ;-)

  17. “even if you don’t get the rest of it”

    You are a pompous ass, nimrod. I addressed your ‘suggestion’ as the ‘grunt’ of your argument.

    “…parallel observations regarding the sociopolitical ramifications…”

    Consider social base, the dire situation said ‘society’ faces, and the ideological solution you suggest, where does the responsibility lie?

    Converting the few remaining godless won’t do it.

  18. But sharpguy, you were the one who introduced “physochology” to the thread! I’m just following your lead.

    Now, you may not know this, but certain famous physochologists have theorized that typos and slips of the tongue, especially bizarre orthographic mutations like yours, starkly reveal the inner workings of the subject’s mind. I speculate that your mind has a very hard time with polysyllabic words. My advice: keep it simple. And above all, try to stick with the topic of whatever thread you find yourself having wandered dazedly into the middle of.

    The topic of this thread is “Irreducible Complexity”. Now, you don’t have to say something smart about IC; we wouldn’t do that to you. But can you at least say something that doesn’t have nothing to do with IC?

  19. “But sharpguy, you were the one who introduced “physochology” to the thread! I’m just following your lead.”

    Thank you again. Your incessant need to point that out time and time again further proves your childishness.

    Maybe the medicine you need, to stop that incessant chilishness, is unconditional agreement with your biased views.

    If that helps you feel better, and consequently allows you act out less childishly, then I will.

    Nimrod, I agree with you 100% You are great!

    Did that work for you?

  20. Preserving technologies should be the least of your concerns. Resources, as you mentioned are limited and being rapidly converted into useless ‘crap’ to be buried or burned.
    Technology is hurtling this ‘society’ into ‘landfills’.

    Morality took the backseat the moment flint fired the future of ‘man’s’ design for the natural.

    It is unthinkable what this species is doing. It doesn’t appear any ‘ideology’ is capable of ‘preserving’ much more than the technology.

    On topic, you have successfully reduced your complexity, but you haven’t evolved.

  21. ‘physochologist’

    What is it?

  22. That was my typo. I admitted to the mistake as a result of typing too fast. Because he’s childish, he felt the incessant need to point at the mistake in an effort to make me look “bad”. It only and obviously backfires. He’s a child.

  23. What I think we need to bear in mind, Ilib, is that a negative attitude like yours – a blaming attitude in which you seem to fancy yourself an outsider bearing no responsibility for the problems of mankind – is counterproductive. Were everyone to express it and behave accordingly, civilization would unravel overnight.

    Another thing we may want to consider is the inordinate weight attached by academics, publishers and the media to atheistic and materialistic viewpoints on everything from history and sociology to cosmology. Too much of it is showing up in the “scientific” literature. It goes without saying that young minds who encounter such a bias in and between the lines may be adversely affected by it, and may even be encouraged to adopt a cynical or withdrawn attitude because of it. (Young minds can be adversely affected by too much blind religious fundamentalism as well, but the scientific literature isn’t quite as full of that these days.) People now pay a lot of attention to science, and any pervasive philosophical coloring apparent in the scientific literature must inevitably percolate through society.

    I hope this helps you understand where the second part of my post is coming from.

  24. “Another thing we may want to consider is the inordinate weight attached by academics, publishers and the media to atheistic and materialistic viewpoints on everything from history and sociology to cosmology. Too much of it is showing up in the “scientific” literature. It goes without saying that young minds who encounter such a bias in and between the lines may be adversely affected by it, and may even be encouraged to adopt a cynical or withdrawn attitude because of it. (Young minds can be adversely affected by too much blind religious fundamentalism as well, but the scientific literature isn’t quite as full of that these days.) People now pay a lot of attention to science, and any pervasive philosophical coloring apparent in the scientific literature must inevitably percolate through society.”

    I agree completely. What is really needed is a rigorous ‘Separation of Science and Ideology’ Too many scientists seem to put their duty to their personal ideology ahead of their duty to Humanity.

  25. Neurode, neither your reluctance to engage me, nor your condescending arrogance reinforce your ‘positive’ intentions.

    “Another thing we may want to consider is the inordinate weight attached by academics, publishers and the media to atheistic and materialistic viewpoints on everything from history and sociology to cosmology. Too much of it is showing up in the “scientific” literature.”

    I suggest ‘it’ has been ‘showing up’ because ‘it’ is science. IC is reasonable hypothetically and should be pursued scientifically, objective and uncertain.

    When you slap any ideology on the back of a system of questioning questions, you limit the experimentation to one ‘controlled’ sampling.

    “…mankind needs an ideological source of social stability…”

    That is what I find ‘problematic’.

  26. Neurode

    You have a problem, buddy. You might want to try taking a couple Imodium tablets for it. It’s supposed to work well for stopping crap from pouring out of you.

    Was that constructive enough?

  27. Get this thread back on topic or else excommunications will follow. –WmAD

  28. This machine is SO obviously designed. Yet how more designed must the real solar system be, which can manage the same movements without depending on crudely manufactured parts such as gear wheels. Little wonder that biology should also eshew such crudity in favour of superior intricateness.

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