I had an argument last night with someone as to whether altruism exists or not. Their argument was essentially “of course it does”. They used the example of a car accident they were in a while ago, in which they were very nearly killed, but they still consoled the driver of the other car (whom they feel was at fault). They ask what they could possibly be getting from doing something like that.

My argument is that human’s are incapable of rationalising in an altruistic way. For example, giving to charity is not altruistic, because we do it knowing full well it will make us feel better about ourselves. If we didn’t feel better, we wouldn’t do it.

Long story short, the argument was never resolved as my opponent simply shouted me down in the end, but I’ve continued thinking about it to myself. I do agree that there is some actions that appear altruistic, but I wonder if they “count”… for example, in the car accident situation posed above, she was deep in shock – she was unable to remember any details when questioned by police at the scene, and couldn’t even be sure she hadn’t been drinking, despite the fact that she never drank anyway. So, it is unlikely she was getting anything out of it consciously. That leaves three possibilities:

1) Humans look after their own interests subconsciously, and she was thus aware her actions would have positive consequences for herself (at a later date, even).
2) She was not acting rationally and was simply going through motor motions that seemed suitable for the situation.
3) She was being altruistic.

Now, the first one is kind of true and kind of silly. Humans do tend to protect their own interests subconsciously – observe physical defence mechanisms that are reactionary and unconscious. Yet it sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-ish, and beyond that it blurs the line between conscious and subconscious, which defeats the purpose of their definition.

The second one I prefer. It implies selflessness in the literal sense, but still agrees with my personal feelings on the subject, as altruism is something I believe must be consciously engaged, by definition. So any subconscious actions are of course irrelevant.

The third option is pretty straight forward, but can be disproved in two ways. Firstly, observe that the two other alternatives are more explainable and more logical by their own semi-proofs. That’s not enough, though. The clincher is…

…and that’ll learn me to stop in the middle of something and not resume it ’till several days later. I have no idea what I was about to say. Hopefully it’ll come back to me at some point.

Wasted memory by Foundation & AppKit


It bothers me that the iiUsage menu item, which takes up an entire 50mm^2 on my menu bar, uses 20 meg of memory. All it does it connect to a web server periodically, perform some sort of [probably trivial] parsing to extract it’s numbers, and display those in it’s menu. What on earth does it need 20 meg of memory for?

I still remember my first computer having 4 meg. And that was more than enough to multitask happily in System 7. Am I really to believe that iiUsage requires five times the power of my first computer, which was used for graphic design work at the time?

I think the problem lies in Cocoa, the set of frameworks used by most MacOS X applications. Most notably, Foundation and AppKit. Looking through the output of top, it seems that all apps which use Foundation and AppKit require at least 18 meg of memory. Yet I’m sure they never actually use whatever occupies this memory – it would be all the bits of Foundation & AppKit, regardless of which are used.

I currently have at least a dozen processes on my computer wasting memory in this way. I could save at least 200 meg of memory if these overheads were removed. Imagine what that would do for the Mac computing experience – low-end machines would suddenly fly along, free of the perpetual disk swapping of yesteryear.

I’m sure Apple have tried somewhat to reduce memory wastage by Foundation and AppKit, but I wonder if they’ve done nearly enough.

Worst Sex Scenes Ever


It’s good to see it’s not just me thinking the sex scene from Matrix Reloaded was pretty damn poor. According to Empire magazine, as reported here, the Matrix Reloaded scene comes it at ninth worst in a movie ever. It’s interesting that 40 Days and 40 Nights makes the cut as eighth… personally I quite liked that “sex” scene. Although I think it was the sentiment and intimacy more than anything else – the idea that a lotus flower is going to have that effect is probably laughable. That or I keep meeting the wrong women. 😉

And now I’m going to have to go download Showgirls to see what all the fuss is about, since it claimed the #1 spot.