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2004-02-20 meltdown (utc)

Giant Electronic Brains, slightly India

One of the stock ideas of SF back in the days of Giant Electronic Brains was that the Giant Electronic Brains, being very large (hence the name) would not be especially nimble, and thus would need to keep puny humans around to sweep their floors and change their valves and what have you.

Now that the InterWebNet has made it possible for Indian persons to demonstrate how much cleverer per unit currency they are than puny westerners, this is also pretty much the situation we are now facing: cleverness is geographically fungible, but plumbing very certainly is not.

You could claim prescience for our SFian predecessors here, or - as I much prefer - stomp about the room shouting "CHANGE MY VALVES, PUNY HUMAN!" in your best comedy Indian accent. This will probably not reverse the inexorable tide of hollowing-out that will shortly put your career and mine on the scrap heap, but it passes the time.


2004-02-20 sam! widge! (utc)

On looking into Bloomfield's Language

Published in 1933 for the original Merkin flavor and 1935 for the Britished-up version, which is the one I have. And very excellent it is, too:

The word board had in Old English apparently the same central meaning as today, "flat piece of wood", and, in addition to this, several specialised meanings. One of these, "shield", has died out entirely. Another, "side of a ship", has led to some isolated forms, such as on board, aboard, to board (a ship), and these have been extended to use in connection with other vehicles, such as railway cars. A third marginal meaning, "table", survives, again, in elevated turns of speech, such as festive board. Before its general obsolescence, however, board "table" underwent a further transference to "regular meals", which is still current, as in bed and board, board and lodging, to board (at a boarding house), and so on. This use of board us so widely isolated today from board "plank" that we should perhaps speak of the two as homonymous words.


Of course 'Wegian bord "table" lives on as the usual word for a table, and certainly also encompasses "table (laden with food)", as in smrgsbord ("samwidge-table"). Semantic change is a very marvellous thing, certainly, but Bloomfield points out, which is just as true now, that the big problem is the difficulty of specifying meaning with any precision.


2004-02-20 Friday! (utc)

A Yoorpean mug's game

I seem to have talked myself into playing the lottery, not least because there is now a shiny new YooroLotto (T, very probably, M):

The new game, called EuroMillions, is being run in conjunction with lottery operators in France and Spain. More countries could join next year.

That is, if I pass a vendor on my way to Chesterfield, where I am heading later, and they have a Lucky Dip (T, for all I know, M) facility to relieve me of the onerous task of choosing numbers for myself. I refuse point-blank to choose numbers.

And so what if it is a stupidity tax? I'll consider myself lucky if they don't demand arrears.


2004-02-20 morning (utc)

On reading the small print

In a Frenchy-French car advert (VW, I think): Le servotronic n'abolit en aucune cas les lois de la physique . ("The servotronic in no way abolishes the laws of physics.") Not even, and let's be quite clear about this, on full moons in leap years.

My group at a former place of work had as its unofficial slogan "Policing the laws of physics", generally against acts of design - you'd be amazed how many persons think a facility with swooshy curves makes them immune to the second law of thermodynamics, although it by no means does, and it was our job to break the news to them, which was often only reluctantly accepted since our shirts were typically far from being examples of the latest style.


2004-02-19 foo! (utc)


We're on half-term ("sportlov") from Swedish class this week, but it's dark by then, and it's nice out now, but at universitetetetet we don't get froliclov.

It is such a hard life that it is!


2004-02-19 samwidge (utc)

All aboard the Gravy Train Express, toot toot!

This sequence of posts is by no means intended as criticism, incidentally. Translations and cultural projects benefit persons other than are commissioned to produce them, after all. Here's one now for film-makers:

Det sker med projektet 'Visions of Europe', hvor 25 instruktrer fra hver af de 25 EU-lande giver hver deres personlige vision af livet i Europa nu eller i fremtiden

It [a Danish project]'ll me part of the project "Visions of Yoorp", where 25 directors from the 25 EU countries give their own personal visions of life in Yoorp now and in the future.

UPDATE: And Birgitte points out that it isn't the EU splashing the cash at all:

Oops, it says: "EU som institution har ingen penge i projektet." and most of the comes primarily from "tv-stationerne ZDF i Tyskland og Arte i Frankrig".

The principle of subsidiarity, isn't it?

I think it would be good if they (for more-or-less arbitrary values of "they" - I'm far from fussy) commissioned 25 bloggeurs from the 25 EU countries to write pieces commemorating the event also, for which I am available at a really very modest fee, especially compared to the Common Agricultural Policy.

[Linkage via Birgitte, tak]


2004-02-19 kaffe (utc)

Belgium, man, Belgium

Isn't it?

1.915.000 Flemings, almost one third of the Flemish population, watched the final of Eurosong 2004 resulting in a market share of 65,3%. [...] [T]he final of Eurosong 2004 is the most watched TV programme in Flanders since 2000 when two football matches of Euro 2000 reached some thousands of viewers more.

Belgium, from memory of gossip (so corrections welcome and please don't sue) alternates between Flemish and French entries on a strictly cyclical basis, and one language (language A) generally does OK, while the other (language B) invariably tanks horribly, which used to mean Belgium sat out a year in the ante-chamber of ignominy before the A speakers could get another go, about which they were other than pleased. (I genuinely don't remember which language was which in this account.)

I'm thinking that this year might perhaps be a Flemish year, and that the Wallonian viewing figures might look somewhat different.

(Imagine: Language, identity and Yurovizhn - an EU-funded study by Des von Bladet. C'mon EU, splash me some cash!)


2004-02-19 09:26

Gravy train blues

Oh gravy train won't you stop and let me on
Said gravy train won't you stop and let me on
I got to rush before the gravy train is gone

"Gravy train blues", Blind Spacefish Slim

All that EU money sloshing around, and none of it for me. It's a crying shame, is what it is.

Officials say expanding from 15 nations sharing 11 languages to 25 nations with 20 languages would almost double the number of interpreters needed. The EU, whose translation budget was 105m euros ($134m) last year, says it needs at least 180 more interpreters. But officials have admitted there is a shortage of translators in the Baltic languages, Slovenian and Maltese.

(Do you think giving the dollars (rather than pounds) as subtitles for the euros is them having a bit of a gloat on the sly?)

And Turkish is coming up on the rails as well:

Mr Benedetti [the EU's director general for interpretation] said Turkish could soon become an official EU language if talks to re-unite Cyprus succeeded and the entire island became a member state.

Chinese is the language of choice for the increasingly global world in which we live, but I bet the Lithuanian->Engleesh translation competition is less fierce...


2004-02-18 afternoon (utc)


I seem to have lost the knack of afternoons. Also, spring is in the air.

My faith in causality has lately been in abeyance, so I do not propose to speculate on a connection between these. Especially not in, as it currently is, the afternoon.


2004-02-18 th (utc)


A spammiste has thoughtfully alerted me to the alleged existence of this journal. Highlights include:

  • "Manuscripts should be strictly prepared in MS WORD from MS WINDOWS with .rtf (Rich Text Format) file extension on A4 size paper" (Mathematicians hate word and never use it for real work.)
  • "Authors should suggest two names of Indian Referees with their complete addresses."
  • "There will be page charges for preparing printing blocks etc."

On the other hand, they should pretty much sew up the market of patriotic penguins with extensive Indian connections, dubious "proofs" of the Riemann hypothesis and cash to burn, and good luck to them. I would certainly rather people sent their circle-squaring breakthroughs to this lot than to me. (I don't get much kookmail, but I don't get none either.)


2004-02-18 samwidge (utc)

Yoorp, stitched up

BBC Yoorpean press round-up more essential than ever:

The European press is paying close attention to Wednesday's EU "mini-summit" of Germany, France and Britain in Berlin.

The Czech and German papers react rather differently, you will no doubt gape in bewilderment to discover.

Where Yurovizhun leads...

After careful consideration by the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, and the members of the Television Committee, it has been decided tochange the Eurovision Song Contest to a two day event from 2004 onwards.

There will still be guaranteed places in the Grand Final, on the Saturday night, for the hostbroadcaster, the big four contributing countries (France, UK, Germany and Spain), and the 10highest scoring countries from the year before.

... Yoorp follows.

And remember - if the result matters, they're not going to give you a vote.

[Based on an original analogy by Comrade B, hurrah!]


2004-02-18 10:16

The Monday Review of Stuff

L'criture chinoise, Viviane Alleton, Collection "Que sais-je?", PUF) ISBN: 2130529216.

They've updated the cover since I got mine and put a 2002 date on it, but it's been updated periodically since 1970 and I doubt that the changes between the current and reviewed copies will be extensive. (Perhaps someone may have figured out how to spell "ASCII" and that ISO isn't an acronym. That would be good.)

The Que sais-je collection is one of the highlights of French publishing for me; each volume is a kind of extended encyclopedia entry/essay on its subject by a prominent scholar in the field, designed to be read by the interested layperson. Standards are uniformly high, in my experience, and they're the first place I look for a non-trivial introduction to a field.

This volume is no exception to the general rule - if you want to know about Chinese writing and you read French, then this will do the job. Note, though, that it's about Chinese writing - it won't teach you much of how, and there really aren't even all that many characters illustrated, just enough to make the point on each occasion. (Probably in 1970 it wasn't so trivial to sprinkle a text with Chinese characters, and maybe not even in 1999.)

I've mentioned before that Chinese syllables are each morphemes (meaning-bearing units), and almost every morpheme has its own character; there are far more morphemes than syllables, so many distinct morphemes share syllables, but usually have their distinct characters. The characters often (misleadingly at best) called ideograms, but morphemes are parts of language, rather than "ideas", and "morphograms" is a much better term.

Alleton discusses the various kinds of character, and the ways in which complex characters are made up of smaller elements, and is very good on the question of how characters are classified in dictionaries and so on, but one of the most interesting things about the writing system is that it can be used, in many cases, across mutually unintelligible spoken dialects*:

Le vocabulaire de la langue administrative, philosophique, politique, scientifique, est, dans l'ensemble, une epoque donne, le mme dans tout le pays. Abstraction faite de la pronunciation, un texte de ce type est comprhensible d'un bout l'autre de la Chine. Par example, un expos conomique rdig par un Pekinois aura un sens pour un habitent du Sud-Est, non seulement s'il a des charactres sous les yeux, mais aussi s'il entend lire a haute voix dans son dialecte. C'est ainsi qu'il peut y avoir m'importe o en Chine des sances de lecture des ditoriaux du Quotidien du People, publi Pkin. C'est probablement l'unique cas d'une traduction qui peut s'oprer valablement syllabe syllabe.

[The vocabulary of the administrative, philosophical, political and scientific language is, on the whole, at a given period, the same in the whole country. Ignoring pronunciation, a text of this type can be understood from one end of China to the other. For example, an economic report written by a Beijingite will be meaningful to an inhabitant of the South-East, not only if he is looking at the characters, but also if he hears it read out loud in his dialect. This is what makes it possible to have public readings across the whole of China of the editorials of the People's Daily, published in Beijing. This is probably the only case of a translation that can usefully be carried out syllable by syllable.]

I have been known to translate Swedish to English morpheme-by-morpheme, and it generally comes out intelligible, if slightly contrived, since the syntax of the two languages is very similar. With the morphogrammatic writing system of Chinese, you get this essentially for free for formal registers, and this is not a small thing to get.

So, hurrah for Chinese writing, and hurrah for Collection Que sais-je? and hurrah for Viviane Alleton's excellent book!

* "A shprakh iz a diyalekt mit an armey un a flot" ("A language is a dialect with an army and a navy") - Max Weinreich. The Chinese government says they're dialects, and they have an army such as with which you would not wish to argue, I suspect.


2004-02-17 dark o'clock (utc)

A thunk I wouldn't've

On my way to the Shoppingharbourwebcam I was ambushed by some advertising with an overdeveloped sense of irony urging me to VisitBritain, and in particular Vind en weekend i Newcastle Gateshead. You know you want to:

Paradis for shoppere. Newcastle Gateshead har i hundredevis ("hundreds") af mrkevare- og specialbutikker og to af Europas strste ("biggest") shoppingcentre - Metrocentre og Eldon Square. Og husk ("remember") , at priserne er billigere ("cheaper") end i London, s her fr du noget for pengene ("money").

(I can't bring myself to "translate" a passage that claims the shoppingcentre are paradise for shoppere.)


2004-02-17 tea (utc)

We'll always have Bruxelles

N'est-ce pas? How many languages must a functionary speak, before you call for an interpreter?

Le minimum serait de pouvoir s'exprimer dans les langues des trois cultures europennes, latine, anglo-saxonne et germanique, savoir le franais, l'anglais et l'allemand.


Il va nanmoins falloir faire des choix parmi les vingt langues de l'Union. L'Allemand est difficile, son usage suscite la jalousie des Italiens et des Espagnols. Les Franais cherchent donc prserver leur avantage, l'usage de l'anglais et du franais sans traduction dans les runions techniques. [...] Paris a ainsi form au franais 3 200 fonctionnaires dans les pays de l'largissement en 2003 et organise des sessions spciales Avignon pour les ambassadeurs, futurs commissaires et hauts fonctionnaires, dans une atmosphre o l'on essaie de faire oublier les brouilles du pass : ainsi l'ambassadeur de Pologne a t invit commente, cet t, la vido au cours de laquelle Jacques Chirac expliquait aux pays candidats qu'ils avaient "perdu une bonne occasion de se taire" en soutenant les Amricains sur le dossier irakien.

The minimum would be to be able to express oneself in the language of three European cultures, Latine, Anglo-Saxon and Germanique, namely Frenchy-French, Engleesh and German.


It's nevertheless going to be necessary to make choices among the twenty languages of the Union. German is difficult, its usage incites jealousy among the Italians and Spanish. The French thus try to preserve their advantage, the usage of Engleesh and French without translation in technical meetings. [...] Paris has thus tranined 3 200 civil servants in French in the entry countries in 2003 and organizes special sessions in Avignon for ambassadors, future commissioners and senior officials, in an atmosphere which attempts to smooth over past awkwardness: thus the Polish ambassador was invited this summer to comment on the video during which Jacques Chirac explained to the candidate countries that they had "missed an opportunity to shut up" in supporting America over Iraq.

With Finno-Ugric speaking Finland already in and Estonia and Hungary joining the Evrolken (European Onion) along with Slavic-speaking Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Poland and the Baltic-speaking Baltics, Lithuania and Latvia, the idea that Latine, Anglo-Saxon and Germanique span the cultures of the EU is very silly indeed.

[Via PF, tack, from miladus, tack also.]


2004-02-17 aprs-samwidge (utc)

Flood of illegal immigrants belatedly addressed

Filed under 'A' for 'Arts', not necessarily equal to 'A' for 'Archeology' dialectically or otherwise, comes news of a shipful of dead vikings.

One of the great missing pieces of Britain's archaeological jigsaw may finally have fallen into place with the discovery of swords, ship nails and a silver Baghdad coin in a Yorkshire field.

Tight security has been put on the site since metal detecting enthusiasts came upon what is thought to be the first known Viking ship burial south of Hadrian's Wall.

They're claiming it's an innocent Viking ship burial, but we weren't born yesterday. With lethal weapons and Baghdad coinage - remember all those museums looted by Ba'athiste elements from outta town? - this is surely the work of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. You will note, of course, that the finders are 'anonymous' and the location is 'undisclosed'.

Secure your tinfoil helmet, Varied Reader, there's turbulence ahead!


2004-02-17 kaffe (utc)

A.S., T.S. and B.S.

A S Byatt has a long essay in the Manchester Grauniad on the mind-body problem, especially from the point of literature. (T S Eliot famously had these terrible dissociations in the sensibilities all down his left side, which is said to be of great consequence. By Eliotistes.) This leads to some very odd results, since literaturistes are most preoccupied with that which is most distinctive in an age, which is to say that which is most idiosyncratic, which is to say that which is most inessential with respect to our common humanity. But literary and ideological fashions may be a thing you find very interesting, and I certainly won't say you shouldn't, and seeing familiar territory from an unfamiliar perspective is certainly intriguing:

For a long time I felt instinctively irritated - sometimes repelled - by scientific friends' automatic use of the word "mechanism" for automatic bodily processes. A machine was man-made, it was not a sentient being, a man was not a machine. Understanding the flow of electrical and chemical signals - or at least knowing that they were there - changed that to an extent. Before computers there were images of mechanical beings - touching like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz , nightmarish like HG Wells's Martians, sloshy organisms in killing machines, like brains in bodies, whose descendant was the Lord of the Daleks. Jean-Pierre Dupuy's brilliant The Mechanization of the Mind (1994) describes the origins of cognitive science in the meetings of the Cybernetics groups between 1946 and 1953. The scientists involved wanted to construct a science of mind that would describe the relations between mind and matter. They assumed that the mind operated like a machine, and that physical laws explain how nature can appear to have meaning. Dupuy argues persuasively that our sense of cybernetics as a deterministic inhuman system is a travesty. Machines and minds can reveal each other to each other, if we get the algorithms and the metaphors right.

That's the second and decisive recommendation of Dupuy's book. I am so very cyberneticiste, in any case. Later Byatt goes from baffling to barking mad in one swift swoop:

Has all this burgeoning of thought about the body-mind had any effect on literature? Here are a few arbitrarily selected examples of mind-bodies in the moral and social world of the modern novel. I am aware that I don't know the science fiction, where I imagine Hacking [a philosopher]'s Cartesianism proliferates.

"I haven't read any Chinese literature, but it is probably mostly about noodles", isn't it? There is no essay so long that it couldn't profitably be made shorter by leaving out stuff like that.

But still, there it is.


2004-02-17 morning! (utc)

Upmakeability, slightly lacking

Yurovizhun, that imaginary land of peace, plenty and coperation, offers many important cultural insights even in its preliminaries. F'rinstance, while most countries (even newcomer Belarus!) are content to let their citizens flex their democratic muscles at least here, old habits die hard in "the" Ukraine:

Yuriy Melnyk, spokesperson of NTU, said the following about their song for 2004 to our colleagues of "If you give it another week, I'll be ready to tell you precisely the name of our artist and related information. Right now we are in the process of negotiating the deal, but we don't expect it to take too much longer".

Shadowy apparachiks meeting secretly in smoke-filled rooms before making the public an offer they can't refuse - Yurovizhun truly has it all, nyet, tovarich?


2004-02-16 tea (utc)



From Nicholas Lezard's review of a new translation of Mr Ovid's Metamorphoses:

So a new verse translation from Penguin of the Metamorphoses is an exciting prospect. The now-redundant prose translation was perfectly serviceable but it was, after all, in prose. And ever since I read Allen Mandelbaum's amazing translation of The Divine Comedy (published by Everyman), the game has changed: you can actually translate from an ancient tongue and retain not only fidelity but poetry.

Let's overlook the claim that Mr Dante's Tuscan is "ancient", and instead rejoice: I have been waiting a long time to be informed which, if any, translations of the Divine Comedy I should read, and now I have been.


Easyjet has seven new routes!

Passengers will be able to fly to Basel in Switzerland and Ljubljana airport in Slovenia from Stansted in Essex. Luton Airport in Bedfordshire is to offer new flights to Budapest in Hungary. Other new routes,to Naples, Ibiza, Faro and Prague will depart from Gatwick.

Ljubljana, Budapest and Prague are all eligible (especially as of May 1st when they get Onionised) for celebrating the International Year of Yoorp, although none of those airports is especially handy for me.


2004-02-16 kaffe (utc)


1. Take the Fourier transform of the autocorrelation function!

This is in fact simply the recipe for calculating the spectrum of a time series, but it is also one of my all-time favourite things to say in Mad Scientist mode.

2. Banned in Tennessee!

Hoorah! has been identified as inappropriate and blocked by your Tennessee Department of Education Internet Usage Policy.

Access to web sites that have been identified as providing inappropriate content will be blocked. This determination is based upon various content categories. Content identified as inappropriate includes:

  • adult-oriented material,
  • extremist-militant material,
  • racist or hate-oriented material, and
  • incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority (seditious material).

Since I don't do adult, militant or racist (so far as I know) I am provisionally assuming that my world view is considered seditious in Tennessee, which is certainly greatly to its credit.

3. 'A' is not, dialectically speaking, equal to 'A'

Leon Trotsky says so (whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?):

At first glance it could seem that these 'subtleties' are useless. In reality they are of decisive significance. The axiom 'A' is equal to 'A' appears on the one hand to be the point of departure for all our knowledge, on the other hand the point of departure for all the errors in our knowledge. To make use of the axiom 'A' is equal to 'A' with impunity is possible only within certain limits. When quantitative changes in 'A' are negligible for the task at hand then we can presume that 'A' is equal to 'A'. This is, for example, the manner in which a buyer and a seller consider a pound of sugar. We consider the temperature of the sun likewise. Until recently we considered the buying power of the dollar in the same way. But quantitative changes beyond certain limits become converted into qualitative. A pound of sugar subjected to the action of water or kerosene ceases to be a pound of sugar. A dollar in the embrace of a president ceases to be a dollar. To determine at the right moment the critical point where quantity changes into quality is one of the most important and difficult tasks in all the spheres of knowledge including sociology.

"Quantitative changes beyond certain limits become converted into qualitative." This is the essence of the sorites paradox, as you will surely agree, and of much else, as you may well not. The question of what those limits are belongs, I claim, to the disciple of cognitive metaphysics, which I have just invented.

4. Minister for king-sitting

Had to happen:

I fortsttningen ska en minister alltid flja med p kungens statsbesk. [...]

- Kungen r vldigt angelgen om att inte behva ta de hr politiska samtalen, sade [Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg].

In future a minister will always accompany the king on state visits.

"The kind is very keen on not having to address political matters", said [court spokesperson] Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg [for it is she!].

The king will instead be focussing on his core strengths of waving and smiling, dressing up and shaking persons' hands, and quite right too.


2004-02-16 early (utc)

Rationalisme, slightly ir

How many grains of sand do you need to make a pile? A single grain of sand isn't a pile of sand, for sure, and if you have add one more grain of sand to something that isn't a pile of sand, you still don't have a pile of sand. Except that at some point you surely do, since any pile of sand is made out of a finite number of grains of sand, and you can make any finite number by starting at one and adding one a bunch of times. This is a venerable kind of philosophical problem known as a sorites paradox, and it is still an active area of research. The concept of a "pile of sand" seems to be vague in ways that seem to be explicitly hostile to being made precise. Only a very sophisticated philosopher would say, however, that there is therefore no such thing as a pile of sand or that to speak of one is quite unreasonable.

A related problem occurs with the word "rich". My Varied Reader may well have had occasion to discuss the question "How much money do you need to be rich?". This is clearly a sorites problem at heart; there isn't going to be a number (N, say) of UK pounds (GBP) such that someone with N GBP is not rich while someone with N+1 GBP is rich. Nonetheless, all but the most philosophically sophisticated have an understanding that there is such a thing as rich and such a thing as not rich, even if there is a very considerable grey area in between.

Now consider the UK national lottery. Many rationalistes will argue that it is foolish to play the lottery since the expected gain of a player is negative. The expected gain is a kind of weighted average of returns, weighted by probability. Suppose for the sake of example that a stake of 1 GBP gets you a probability of 1 in 100 of winning 100 GBP - that would have an expected gain of exactly zero: You gain -1 GBP by paying the stake plus 0.01*100 GBP (=1 GBP) as the probability of winning times the amount won, and these exactly cancel each other. If the prize were 101 GBP you would have a positive expected gain, and should (according to rationalisme) play; for a 99 GBP prize you shouldn't (ditto) play.

It is obvious that the expected gain from playing the National Lottery is negative, since money from the stakes is used for "good causes", and the amount given out in prizes is therefore certainly less than the amount spent on stakes. (It can be and has been calculated accurately, of course; from memory I think it's about -0.5 UKP, but I'm not swearing to that.) Rationalistes therefore say you shouldn't play the lottery.

But the theory of expected gain doesn't take into account some things which many players of the lottery might consider important. For one there's the Finite Lifetime Hypothesis, namely that the player can only expect to live for a finite human lifetime. Suppose you have approximately 50 years to play the lottery before you die and the lottery happens once a week of which there are approximately 50 to the year - the amount you would save up by putting your 1 GBP stake into a piggy bank would be 2,500 GBP.

This, a rationaliste will insist, is a whole lot better than your expected gain over the same period from the lottery. Quite so, but it also isn't going to make you rich.

Now assume that the payout of a jackpot from a lottery will indeed put you well into the rich zone beyond the grey area of sorites problems. (It hovers around 10 million GBP in the UK, which certainly works for me, but I have inexpensive tastes.) Suppose secondly that you would like to be rich in precisely this sense.

We have established that the probability of getting rich by putting the lottery stake in a piggy bank is zero, and the probability of getting rich by playing the lottery, low though it is, is certainly bigger than zero.

Note that this argument fails if you expect to live forever - you can expect to sorites your pile of money up to any finite value before you win that amount on the lottery as long as you are in no hurry and don't die - getting to 10 million GBP will take you a mere 200,000 years, after all. The argument will also fail to convince you if you are too philosophically sophisticated to acknowledge the idea of being rich, or too spiritually sophisticated to consider such a thing desirable.

But otherwise, if you want to be rich and you think the values of a lottery jackpot would be enough to make you rich and you want this to happen within your finite human lifespan, then playing the lottery isn't such a bad idea, at that.

[Rationalistes! Your puny logics are no match for my cran and monkey style dialectic! Surrender before you get hurt!]


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