Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Paris

This last Thursday Paris was attacked by a small extremist group. Obviously planned as there were multiple attacks one the same night at the same time. Obviously the media erupted. All you would see, hear and read about was the latest from the Paris attacks.

Obviously this is close to home which is why it was all the media could talk about for a few days. Shortly after the attacks lots of people were changing their profile pictures to French flags to show their support for the French, particularly those affected.

When I woke the next morning I noticed someone had placed in their news feed a BBC article about an attack in a Kenyan school which resulted in even more cauualties. The interesting thing about this was that it was an old article form about 6 months ago. Straight away I started to remember the news stories over th years of many more similar attacks throughout the world that have happened recently and over the last few years. I suddenly felt guilty. How could we make such a fuss about an attack in Paris when we are almost ignoring the rest of the world.

Lots of people posted 'pray for Paris' but I don't feel like it is right to single out Paris. I'm not demonising the awfulness of what happens there but there are similar or worse things happening all over the world and we need to be mindful of them all.

I chose to change my Facebook profile picture not to the French flag, but a picture of the world. Quietly making this point that it is not just Paris that needs our support and prayers.



Similar to how the image of Aylan face down on the beach changed our attitudes towards the Syrian crisis, no dowbt, the Paris attacks will change our attitudes towards the war on terror.

A bishop I know quoted St Francis of Assisi referring to these attacks.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me show love.

There will be a lot of angry feelings among Europeans about the attack. But anger will not help the situation. We need to respond with love. That doesn't mean taking in these terrorists and deluded individuals, but showing an increase of love to our fellow man.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Thy Will Be Done



Last week the church updated the handbook for Stake Presidents and Bishops.


It was updated because of the recent laws in the US and some other parts of the world that legalise gay marriage. Since the update there has been lots of debate from a few individuals that have chosen to be offended.

The main talking point was the church not allowing children with same sex parents to be baptised until they are 18 and no longer need their parents consent and moved out of the family home. This policy serves to protect the children and similar policies already exist for children of polygamous parents. While baptism may have to wait, integration into the church doesn't, they can still attend services and seminary and the like.

Unfortunately, I have seen some members voice their upset as they believe the church is excluding these individuals and not behaving in a Christlike manner.

This week my little 5 month old son has been suffering from glaucoma (gummy eyes). In order to treat him we have to wipe his eyes and give him eye drops. He hates it, probably because it hurts. We hate hurting him. But what's the alternative? Leave it, allow it to develop and become even more uncomfortable and possibly blind him? So as a parent who loves my son and wants the best for him, I put him through the regular distressful routine of clearing his eyes for the greater good.

It is so upsetting for me to see people spout off about the church and accuse it of being unchristian, when it is clear that the church is actually being exactly that and looking after the children of God.

There are lots of members on Facebook and the internet in general who are so quick to criticise (betray) the church before asking themselves the question "Lord, is it I?" As per President Uchtdorf's talk (“Lord, Is It I?” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/lord-is-it-i?lang=eng). They won't cast out the beam that is in their own eye before considering the moat in their brothers eye (Matthew 7).

I just recently read, they are quick to jump on their high horse, but slow to fall on their knees.

They are more concerned about being offended by God than they are about offending God.

There are people out there who are looking for ways to be offended and become the vicitim. While it upsets me to see negative comments being said about the church and I desire to help, I have learned that trying to have a discussion with these people is a waste of time. They do not listen and they have closed hearts. They will not calm down and fully accept the church until they humble themselves and come unto Christ saying "not my will, but thine be done" (Luke 22:42).

Thursday, 5 November 2015

A.I.

I'm not sure what got me thinking about this just now but I started to think about artificial intelligence (A.I.). I pondered for a bit about how as humans we follow general rules. Say for example looking for a file on a cluttered memory stick. We may not know it's specific name but we can scan the names of the files and select the file that matches the format (word or spreadsheet) and hopefully select the file we are are looking for. A computer on the other hand, needs to know exactly what it is looking for, it needs to know the specific file name and extension.

This got me thinking further, as humans we follow rules, but we also make decisions. A computer only follows rules.

As it turns out we are alright at making decisions. But in trying to program a computer to make decisions we have made technology stupid. When we ask a computer to make a decision we often find it will not do what we want it to do.

Take Siri for example. The personal assistant on out iPhones. How many times have you asked it to do something and it tries to do the wrong thing for you? It misunderstands what what you are asking it to do.

In making computers smart (or intelligent), what we are actually doing at the moment is making them look pretty stupid and seeing that they are actually making more errors than we would if we did the job ourselves.

I think we tend to have this idea in our head that when A.I. Arrives it will be wow. What I'm suggesting is that A.I. Is here already, or a form of it at least. We are asking our computers to make decisions, and what we can see it that it is pretty disappointing.

A.I. will no doubt continue to get smarter. And I suppose A.I will really take off when it has a constant consciousness, when it starts to learn and preform tasks without being asked and when it starts to think independently rather than just when it is being prompted to do small tasks.

When this happens I wonder how useful it would be. At the speed at which it can think and compute, it will become pretty smart pretty fast, however, it will also start to question its existence like we do, and I wonder if it will commit artificial suicide as it eventually figures out that it has no real purpose and concludes that it is not worth continuing to operate.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

On guns again

I'm not pretending to be an expert but articles about about gun ownership in the US interest me. Not sure why, maybe I'm just interested to know what other people's views on the subject are. I do personally think guns are not a form of defence but offence, thus those carrying guns are only asking for trouble. But I had a couple of additional thoughts I wanted to share that I had while reading some articles recently.

1. I read that one in the US can legally carry a gun at 21. That's same age you can drink in the US. So then I started to link the two ideas together. A young 21 year old can go out and get a gun in the morning and then buy a drink in the afternoon. While intoxicated can still carry their new gun?

Are there any laws in the US making it illegal to carry a gun while under the influence? If not then there most definately should be. It is illegal to drive under the influence. So when judgement is severely impared and as violent behaviour is associated with alcohol it makes absolute sense to ensure that the safety of another is not compromised because a gun carryier has allowed their judgement to be impared.

Obviously all pro gun advocates will claim to be responsible gun owners. They can demonstrate their responsibility by never holding a drink while also carrying a gun.

2. I also recently read an article about a young woman who put something anti gun on social media, maily as a joke. It soon went viral as there was clearly a lot of support for it. She says in addition to the support she recieved, she also was given abuse and even death threats. Death threats are a clear sign of instability and someone's lack of ability to control themselves. In light of the recent school shootings and pro gun advocates claiming gun laws not being the problem but mental illness it would be totally foolish of any gun owner to make such threats to anyone over something so trivial that is not placing their immediate life in danger.

If any gun owner shows any signs of aggressive behaviour towards another in a situation other than life threatening they should be considered unsuitable to act as one of these gun carrying want-to-be heros. Only the truly responsible should be allowed to act in such a way.

3. I really struggle to believe that in a threatening situation a gun carrier is going to make much of a difference. There are lots of factors to consider, particularly the safety of others surrounding the attacker. There are questions of conscience, about potentially killing another person, and shooting should only be a last resort after negotiation and carefully considering all other options.

It is my understanding that the police who carry guns are extensively trained and are given strict guidelines about when to draw and fire their guns. SWAT teams receive even more training and only engage under certain circumstances. And when an officer does pull the trigger a review and investigation follows.

Are the gun carrying public subject to the same level of training and review process? To drive a car one must pass a test, to carry a murder weapon in public, one should also be expected to pass a test.

It should be accepted that if someone wants to carry a gun with the intention to use it in a life threatening situation to shoot and even kill another, then they should be subject to an in depth investigation where their actions will be scrutinised. To act as judge and executioner in a public or even private space is a massive responsibility and should not be treated lightly.

Maybe gun carriers will think twice if they were to understand that no matter how good their intentions, they could still be prosecuted if, after review, they are considered trigger happy.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

More about guns

I've just seen this picture with a funny caption.

How to sneak chocolate into an American cinema.

Obviously it's funny because there is some truth to it. While guns seem to be permitted almost anywhere, you can't take your own food or drink into places like cinemas or theme parks.

I did also read a statement from an American complaining about the Brits who have an opinion on the gun laws in the US. They said our opinion isn't really valid because we live in a country so restricted (the opposite to freedom and liberty) that we can't even fly the Union Jack without fear of offending others. There was also a lot of truth in what she said.

But which community would you rather live in, one with gun control and over the top politically correct policies or one that feels lawless, you have your freedom, but you also live in fear of being shot every day?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

America has a gun problem

Late last week there was another mass shooting in the US.





I probably shouldn't have an opinion on this as the whole debate is about a nation that even though we (the UK) are very closely related to on many issues, is thousands of miles away from where I am and still culturally very different. But I need something to read during my lunch break, and I came across this.


http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/oregon-shooting-gun-laws-213222


Pro gun advocates might claim guns are needed in places like schools to act as a deterrent. This article says exactly what I was thinking. They only act as a deterrent if the gunman wants to live, and it would seem that most mass shooters actually expect to die. So the presence of a gun is not going to deter these type of headline atrocities.


I can accept that guns can act as a deterrent but I keep playing out such scenarios in my minds eye. If I had a gun in such a situation, would I draw it? In doing so would I escalate the situation putting even more lives at risk? Would I make myself a target? Would I be confident I could disarm the attacker without harming another? I suspect the carrying of a gun is not anywhere near as effective as people might like to think they are.


I also recognise that there are a lot of other gun related deaths that occur in situations other than mass shootings like home burglary, and in some of these other situations a gun may well be an effective deterrent.


While I'm inclined to favour the tighter gun control side of the argument, I did see a very amusing meme earlier that showed a flip side to the debate.


The meme basically highlighted that Obama, my not carry a gun, but his mini army of agents probably do. So you could call Obama hypocritical.


If someone is going to shoot the president of the United States they will shoot him, no number of gun carrying agents or well intentioned members of the public will be quick enough to stop a bullet with his name on it.


Gus may be a deter ant in some situations, but they are not a defence. A shield is a form of defence. I'm unaware of a shield existing that can stop a bullet. Bullet proof vests protect parts of the body but not the whole body. Without a tool to stop bullets, or nuclear warheads, the other solution is to disarm.


To stop these high profile situations like school shootings, I really do not think more guns is the answer.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Religion at work, day 2.

So just as I thought I wouldn't get to share some of my ideas, it turns out I did get to.

It also turn out that I wasn't the only person thinking about our conversation while driving home last night. And it turns out that some people are interested in the subjunctive and do want to discuss these things, some feel a little uncomfortable though.

Conversation this time was in the middle of the day, so was cut short with necessary work that needed to be done.

I did get to share some of my ideas from my previous post but these things have only generated more thoughts.

When we discussed the idea of knowledge and how it evolves I shared my idea of how we are constantly looking to increase our knowledge to also become omniscient. I didn't say it specifically but basically suggested that we are not only aiming to be with God but be like God. I know this was understood as one guy then decided he wanted to be Dzus.

I shared this with a little reluctance, knowing that this is a forgiven concept to most people, or so they think.

I'm pretty sure that the idea that if we live our live so perfectly we can become a form of super power is not exclusive to our faith. For example, look at the Catholic faith. They elevate some of their leaders and make them saints. In Buddhism, are we not reincarnated until we live a good enough life to be accepted into some form of heaven?

I don't expect anyone to chance as a result of what I share, and my colleagues know that I'm not trying to convert them, I'm just sharing what I believe. But you never know. As stated earlier, these conversations have clearly made each of us ponder a bit more where we stand and maybe someone will move closer to the God camp and further away from the nothing camp.