Sunday, February 28, 2016

117. Apple, Privacy, and the State (6)

It's hard to say the state cannot touch a convict's mind, especially if that mind plotted against the state. But the test between the liberal and the conservative is precisely at this hairline boundary. Let's assume first that the state has the ability to open up a criminal's brain and find out from its parts the data that it needs to uncover the plots and conspiracies in the criminal's mind. While at it, the state might as well find out how to turn this criminal into a Buddhist so it won't kill any living being. All of a sudden, the promise of peace is in the horizon;  what with all the criminals in the world becoming Dalai Lama adherents? But is that how we want to do it? Every criminogenic mind becoming a Buddhist? The state tweaking people's brains? Yet, what if the state becomes good at this tweaking job and to prevent revolution and reform, it does it to everyone who has problems with the status quo? The citizens would lose their power over the state, such that the citizens would be the beings of the state. It's not going ro be pretty. Speculation? No, its applying Nietshche's will to power. The state would do everything for power, its actions would be dictated by its desire for more power. Humanity will not stand a chance if it allows the state to encroach the data in the human mind. So, the state should never be allowed to access the human mind, regardless if it's the mind of the most notorious criminal. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

116. Apple, Privacy, and the State (5)

Exploring the brain is not equivalent to controlling it. In the context of the Art of War, however, assuming we consider the tension between the state and the individual as a state of war, exploring is intelligence gathering, which is the key to victory. When Sun Tsu says be like water which follows the curvatures and holes of whatever it contains, he is talking about intelligence gathering in the context of war. So, if we allow the state to explore the inner workings of the brain, we are empowering the state to defeat the citizen's brain in the event that the state and the citizen ends up in a conflict like a war. Nietzsche would agree that to know the brain is to have power over the brain. Should we allow the state to have power over our individual brains? No. It's an Orwellian scenario I'm painting, but this is  pretty much what will happen to us if we allow the state to be governed by paranoia and empower it take over our brains. Thus, the state should never know what is in our brains. The physical matter? Sure, in the interest of science. But it should never have access to our thoughts. It should never know how, why, and what we think. It's our last inch of power against the state. If we give up that little space, we give up our freedom. We give up our humanity. We become mere creatures of the state.

Friday, February 26, 2016

115. Apple, Privacy, and the State (4)

There is a Gary Larson cartoon which depicts a couple awake in bed in the middle of the night and the wife holding a pillow with which she apparently hit her husband's head.  The husband is muttering, "I'm not responsible for what I do in your dreams." And I won't explain that further in order not to kill the humor, but move straight with an event I remember from our law school days. Manuel Morato, then Chair of the Movie TV Radio Classification Board, was brandishing his idea to the law school lot about his legislative proposal for his agency to have the power to approve movie scripts before they are actually made into movies. I was outraged by the proposal which explains why I still remember that incident. Censor scripts before they are made into movies, this is a proposal for mind control after the dictatorship has fallen in the Philippines. Morato's bill never made it into law, but you'll never know, as the old guard of morality is hovering around the portals of power. The point is the state should never be allowed to control the inner workings of a citizen's mind. It is the most private of a person's private domain, the last frontier where the individual can assert his individuality and humanity against the state. In the citizen's mind, the citizen and the state are equal. It is where free will resides and it is only through the exercise of the free will by citizens that a state can exist. The state does not exist by itself; it exists because citizens with free will decide that they want the state to exist. Thus, the state should not encroach on the domain where a person's free will resides -- the citizen's brain. This is the core of the right to privacy, the human brain. It should be off limits to the state, now and forever, a categorical imperative that saves the citizen and the state as well. So, Apple it's not about the customer. It's about the citizen. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

114. Apple, Privacy, and the State (3)

Let me start by saying that my iPhone is an extension of my brain. Of course, the extension is not physical, albeit I do not think that can be discounted in the foreseeable future. Everything on my IPhone came from my brain. It has the data from my brain, the names of the people I deal with, my conversations with them, my correspondences, even drafts of my intended communications, drafts of my thoughts, blogs, ideas, notes, images not just of people, but also places and institutions. Not only does my iPhone have my brain's data, my iPhone also does some of my brain functions, like keeping my memories, communications, mathematical  calculations, brain mappings, even logical circuits for logical thinking. It is part of my brain. The phone does not have my entire brain, but a lot of my brain functions have been outsourced to my iPhone. As a matter of fact, if I lose my phone, I'd be crippled. It would probably take me more than a month to get a normal life, and I would need another iPhone to do it. Somebody said what technology extends, it amputates. That is a fair statement and sadly my brain functions that have been extended to the iPhone have sort of mortified. I cannot add or subtract without an iPhone, neither can a write a freaking sentence or a paragraph without the iPhone. I cannot remember what day it is in the week without looking at the iPhone or remember what I'm supposed to do tomorrow without my iPhone.  Thus, the iPhone is indeed an extension of my brain. I have a feeling this is the case  with a lot of other people, especially those with iPhones. So, I'm saying for some people, and they could be a lot, the iPhone is an extension of their brains. Thus, if the government messes with my iPhone, it's messing up part of my brain.  Now, Apple why are you not arguing it this way, you capitalist pig? 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

113. Apple, Privacy, and the State (2)

In the previous paragraph, we said Apple's stand on the right to privacy is motivated by its promise of privacy to its customers. By approaching the issue this way, Apple is doomed, legally and morally, so to speak. For all intents and purposes a private contractual obligation is subject to compelling state interests and this has been carved out in the jurisprudence on the US Constitution and probably in the Constitutions of other countries as well. It's the same idea that underlies the prohibition on trading of illicit goods, such as drugs and other contraband. The freedom to contract is limited by what the State permits as legitimate contracts. Thus, by anchoring its objections to the order to decrypt on a contractual obligation, Apple is headed to defeat. Even if we do the test of the categorical imperative on the clash of values between state security and inviolability of private contracts, there is no contest that state interest would prevail for it can be argued that  the right of the state to protect itself against illegal contracts, especialy those which jeopardizes the state's existence, is fundamental. Without the state, there would be no room for rights, as there would be no social order. 

112. Apple, Privacy, and the State (1)

Apple refuses to decrypt a terrorist's iPhone because of privacy concerns in spite of an order from a court which is ordering it for national security reasons. Let's be Kantians for a while and tackle the issue as a purely secular problem. Apple is arguing that the universality of the right to privacy applies even to criminals whose purpose is to kill people in support of a political or social agenda. Kant's categorical imperative urges people to act only according to the maxim by which people can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Apple seems like it is acting like the American hero, protecting the right to privacy of everyone, good or bad people alike, because it believes in privacy. Yet, the Apple statement anchors its position on privacy on the customer-businessman relationship of trust. It has  sworn that its customer's data is private and therefore it would stand by it, regardless if one of it's customer turns out to be a terrorist. In effect, Apple is putting forth two things on the table: (1) the universality of the value that compels it to honor its word to its customers which binds its to 2) protect the universality of the right to privacy of its customers. Yet, the way Apple words its statement appears to be that were it not for the promise of privacy, it would have honored the court order. Tim Cook says, "Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn't come easy. That's why we have and will always work as hard as we can to earn and keep it." Thus, if we break down this dilemna further, it appears not to be about privacy but about the promise of customer experience. In other words, it's really what about they promised the customer. Aye, there's the rub. My iPhone sucks at battery life and I'm hunting down the  Apple marketing material that addresses the promise of how my battery would work and pin down Apple to it for a breach of its promise, the point being, this is not about the right to privacy, but a play for more iPhone customers -- hey look at us, we would defy the US Government for you and your iPhone dollars.  Baloney.  Where is the fun in that? But for the next paragraph, let's assume Apple is sincere...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

111. The Eternal Warrior

The Lakers were playing the Spurs Friday night (Saturday morning in Manila) and I arrived home just in time to watch the last two quarters. I wasn't expecting the Lakers to win, but at the very least I wanted them to give a good fight. The Lakers were down by a few possessions and I decided to hang around and see if this game would be one of those come from behind wins for the Lakers. Everytime the Lakers are playing the Spurs, I always remember the magical Fisher shot, 0.4 second shot in the 2005 play-offs that gave the Lakers the 74-73 win. I've always wished I would see that moment reincarnated in every NBA game I watch, especially with a Lakers-Spurs match. But Saturday was different. Down by 5 late in the fourth quarter, the Lakers needed a basket to stay in the game. Kobe took a three point shot that bounced off the rim, and Brandon Bass tapped him the rebound. Kobe reached down the floor, and I saw him wince. He ran after the ball but didn't try to get it;  he was just protecting it from a Spur who might run a fastbreak on it as it went out of bounds near the Spurs bench. Kobe then clutched his hand. The announcers speculated that he might have hurt his finger, but his face was expressionless. Gary Vitti, the Lakers's trainer, approached him and they were talking nonchalantly.  Then, Gary held Kobe's right hand as Kobe bowed. Gary appeared to be pulling the hand while looking away and Kobe jerked as if in sudden pain. Then, Gary tapped Kobe's head saying something like, you'd be fine. And just like that, Kobe was back on the floor. No nothing happened. Apparently, Kobe dislocated his right middle finger and asked Gary to put it back in place. In the ensuing possession, Kobe scored on a lob shot. The effort would be fruitless however as the Spurs pulled away.  The Spurs won 119-113 but Kobe owned the night. I got what I wanted to see, a good fight from the Lakers. Yet, more than that, I realized I have learned another lesson in life. What you're gonna do if you dislocate a finger? Ask someone to pull it back in place and carry on. No whining. No cursing. No blaming. As Stoic as can be. Like many other injuries or setbacks in life, get it healed or get it fixed and carry on. With my aging body at forty-five, I would be injury prone and sickness prone too, but I'd take it from Kobe in his last game with the Spurs, leave it to the experts, take it all in style, and carry on. As Stoic as can be. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

110. Debates are useless

The logic of adversity is the logic of deceit. That's why debates hardly ferret out the truth. Candidates put in adversarial positions are going to slug it out like roosters in a cockfight, each one vying to be the best in sync with the metrics set by the organizers of the debate. The casualty is the truth. Let's have a dialogue instead. Put the candidates in their most relaxed state, tell them there are no grades, no one gets credit for anything, let them put their best ideas on the table, and let them decide which ideas the winners of this elections would push. It's one country after all. No more debates. Let's have a dialogue. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

109. Homo

My metaphysics teacher, Fr. Roque Ferriols, S. J., used to digress a lot from his daily lecture topics to inject his views on social issues, and more often than not he held the unpopular view. One morning he was raging about contraception and his principal argument was that the reproductive purpose of sex should not be divorced from its pleasures. They go together in the human body's sexuality, pleasure and conception, otherwise it was a subversion of man's sexuality. I never heard him speak about homosexuality and I am tempted to predict his opinion based on the same premise of his argument against contraception. Instead, I would use the same premise to argue that homosexuality may be a threat to human existence.  A human homosexual union would not produce an offspring. If everyone becomes a homosexual, conception of a baby would become a medical procedure. This is a consequence of  sex divorced from reproduction. Nobody would get pregnant unless a doctor intervenes. In other words, if homosexuality becomes the norm, humanity will not stand a chance of surviving. Now, I'm going to invite bashers here who would take shreds of this argument and bloat it out of proportions. But, at least, keep this premise intact: human sexuality cannot be divorced from its reproductive purpose.  It is not just a Catholic view, it's also the teleological view. I am betting, however, that homo sapiens have superior intellect and we should be able to direct our erotic desires to return to heterosexuality when homosexuality has become the norm and has shown that is indeed a threat to humanity. In the meantime, when homosexualty is enjoying its reputation of being the revolutionary idea, the human telos is in crisis. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

108. Conspicuous Consumption in Social Media

Purely theory and nothing personal folks: social media has become the platform for displaying conspicuous consumption. When we post our expensive meals on instagram, or our recent trip to Disneyland in our Facebook timeline, or our new gadget conquests, aren't we doing it to elicit envy? Perhaps, we are genuinely happy and grateful about our blessings, but shouldn't we be sensitive about how others might think? Thorstein Veblen observed that in an American neighborhood in the 1920s people buy stuff they don't need to make others envious of their social status, and I'd like to believe FB, Instagram, and Twitter, are virtual neighborhoods of the 21st Century. The advent of digital photography and smartphone apps that make it easy to display our simple pleasures, which to others, might be more complex and expensive, have made us insensitive about how others might feel seeing us with our trophies as we climb social brackets. But it pays to be cautious about these things, lest things get out of hand. We might not be intending it, but with each upload of those expensive stuff, like Bryan Poe-Llamansarez's Marty Macfly Nikes, we are falling into the world that Thorstein Veblen observed. Fine, if you're not prepared to agree, but at least be wary of the tax lady, Kim Henares. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

107. Name a Book that Changed Your Life

Pambungad sa Metapisika by Roque Ferriols, S.J. is that book. An intellectual adventure can ruin you, but this one would always ground you and keep you from sliding to extremes. I have been blessed to have encountered this book in my studies, as it had sufficiently armed me for a lifelong path of critical thinking. What wisdom can there be in a statement that goes, after having said everything that can be said, the most important thing has not been said? Beyond concepts, words, and  abstractions is being, and it is in the pursuit of being, after reading this book, that I have decided to chart my life and resources. The book tamed my intellectual conceitedness, which is the common weakness among beginning thinkers, as it introduces the reader early in Socrates's words, "I know that I know nothing." When any activity, intellectual or orherwise, begins with this premise and attitude, there is hope for dialogue and peace in the world. 

106. Not by Bread Alone

The peasants have no bread? Give them yeast and flour. Teach them to make dough. Government should build community ovens and supply the fuel. The bakeries will go out of business, but the people will never go hungry. They will have bread, of their own baking, for breakfast, dinner, and lunch, even for a midnight snack, or a snack at any time of the day. Marcos had a similar idea with the nutri-buns. But only the bakers made money, and the children, no longer hungry at the belly, were hungry for Voltes V. So, Corazon Aquino ignored the nutri-bun project, and gave them democracy. Voltes V returned and we finally learned it's a rip off from the history of the French Revolution. And we face the hunger problem again with babies getting nourishment from coffee creamers made with cornstarch instead of milk. So, I propose the community oven. The government supplies the materials for dough, keeps the oven burning, and mothers will bake bread for their kids. Yet, bread is not enough. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

105. Ave Maria

Getting inspiration from National Geographic's December 2015 issue which featured an impressive article on Mother Mary in history, I drew up a playlist in Spotify called "Ave Maria". I have so far listed 22 songs.

The most familiar song in the list is Bach's Prelude No. 1, which has been recorded by Pavarotti, Bocelli, the Vienna Boys' Choir, and Yo Yo Ma. Franz Schubert's Ave Maria is particularly meditative and Pavarotti's version sends a certain chill down the spine. The Three Tenors' version is in there too, but Pavarotti's powerful voice shows he really owns this song. Bocelli's version of Guilio Caccini's Ave Maria is amazing, and it is the kind of song that sticks to your head, as the two words "Ave" and "Maria" go up and down the scale, while you go about your day uncertain of things but assured someone like your mother has got your back. Charlotte Church and Julian Lloyd Webber have their versions, and if you put the three versions on repeat shuffle, the day is fully covered. A note in Wikipedia says it was actually Vladimir Vavilov who first published it and credited it to "Anonymous" in 1970. But subsequently after his death, someone credited it to Caccini. It has since become very famous worldwide. I can understand why this is so because the beautiful melody highlights the singer's range and tone and the simple lyrics gives it a hook that stays with the listener forever. I have listed three Filipino songs from the Jesuit Community's Bukas Palad. My personal favorite is Stella Maris which my wife, Maria Celeste, sang in the last night of the wake of her late grandmother Maria Corazon. I've often wondered how this song will sound without a sophisticated choral and instrumental arrangement, but just a duet, harp or guitar and a flute, accompanying a soprano. I will be on a hunt for more Ave Maria songs, and I hope to make this a gesture of my lifetime devotion to Mother Mary. The Spotify link to the playlist is here:

Update: The list is now up to 38 songs as of Feb 13, 2016.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

104. Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday means we are all going to die. When a priest crosses ashes on our foreheads, he mumbles the words, "Remember that dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” which comes from Genesis 3:19. As a kid reared in a Catholic upbringing I have often found this disconcerting. Youth kept my mind off mortality, and my energy, I was sure, was not go going to give up suspending entropy. Indeed, it is unlikely that a kid will have a death mindset, and yet every year the Ash Wednesday service puts it on my head, physically and symbolically -- I'm going  to die. This reminder of death, however, forshadows Christ's death on Good Friday, and hope beyond death as preached in Easter Sunday, when Christ's resurrection is celebrated. This year as I go on my 46th year on this earth, Ash Wednesday, speaks to me more clearly of death and pain, which is no longer a remote eventuality. I will die, as everyone will, sooner than later or later than sooner, but more certain than certainly. It is time to embrace life and welcome its challenges and pains as it is time too to embrace death and welcome its promise of renewal. 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

103. Scene in search of a story

The man was tied to a hospital bed, diagnosed with terminal cancer, weak, but able to communicate. His friend travelled a long way to be with him. As his friend stood before him and he, a weak septuagenarian in contrast with his past as a warlord of his town, said, "Friend, no matter how large the ocean,  I realize it has limits."

His friend was quiet as the words were spoken. 

"I told you before, we should not abuse our power."


"But it's too late."


"I don't have much time to live. I would not last two weeks."


And the memory of the crime for which the man was jailed and tied to his hospitable bed was the unspoken word that engulfed them. No one could speak.

"I never approached you when you were up there. I knew it would be trouble. But I am here now, my friend, to visit you because you are sick. I pray we will see other again."


The friend kissed him on his forehead and quitely left the room.