Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?

One of the great things about having children is it reacquaints you with things you have not thought about for a long time. The old Chicken or the Egg paradox is one of those classic brain teasers that children of a certain age love. It is a really good one since the answer depends on how you parse the question. I thought I would list all the different answers my children and I could come up with.

Evolution 1 – Chicken

The first Chicken had to have hatched from an egg laid by a proto-chicken (i.e. a bird that was very similar to a chicken, but not actually a chicken). This means that the Chicken came before the first chicken Egg since only a chicken can lay a chicken egg.

Evolution 2 – Egg

If we consider that a chicken egg is an Egg that a Chicken hatches from then the Egg must comes first. It might have been laid by a Proto-Chicken, but out of this Egg hatched a Chicken.

Evolution 3 – Egg

The Egg is a much older than Chickens. What we now recognise as Eggs first appeared at least 300 million years ago. This was long before the first Chicken which is a domesticated version of the Indian Red Jungle Fowl from sometime in the last 10,000 years.

Evolution 4 – Unanswerable

Given that the definition of what separates a Chicken from a Proto-Chicken is undefined, it is not possible even in theory to say when the first Chicken hatched even if we had access to a time machine. If we can’t know when the first Chicken hatched we can’t answer the question.

Biblical – Chicken

According to Genesis 1 God created all the animals on Day 5 therefore the Chicken was created before the first Egg. It is an open question if the first Chickens were created with full formed eggs inside them and so if the first Egg was laid on Day 5 or not.

Word Order – Chicken

In the question “Which came first the Chicken or the Egg?”, the word Chicken precedes the word Egg.

Word Origin – Egg

The word Egg comes from Old Norse and ultimately back to the Proto-Germanic and before that Proto-Indo-European. It is a much older word than Chicken which is an Old English word of unknown origin.

English Language – Chicken

The original word for Egg in Old English was Ey and only in the development of Middle English did the Norse word egg become the common term. The word Chicken is from Old English and so it appeared first in the English language.

Dictionary – Chicken

In the English Dictionary the letter C comes before the letter E hence Chicken is first. The same applies to Encyclopaedias, although of course no child of today knows what an Encyclopaedia is.

Wikipedia – Chicken

The first entry for Egg was in 2005 while the first entry for Chicken was in 2004. Who would have guessed?

Finish Line – Chicken

In a race a Chicken will always beat an Egg to the finish line.

Drop Test – Egg

Chickens can fly so if you drop an Chicken and Egg off a barn roof together the Egg will hit the ground first. Chickens are surprising good flyers once they are allowed out to roam around for a few months.

There must be more!

The Last Word on Free Will

People have been arguing if free will exists or not for millennia with little progress. You have the Incompatibilists on one side arguing that free will and a deterministic universe can’t both be true, and the Compatibilists arguing that they can. While the heavy artillery appears to be on the side of Incompatibilism (the universe does appear to be deterministic), the inherent nihilism of Incompatibilism has meant most people have opted for some flavour of Compatibilism of varying sophistication. The arguments for both sides washes back and forth and we are no closer to an answer than the ancient Greeks.

Rather than approaching the question of free will from a philosophical perspective, we can just approach it empirically.

  1. The probability free will exists is greater than zero. Our knowledge of the universe is incomplete and so no matter how much evidence there is supporting a belief we can not apply a probability of zero to any hypothesis that negates this belief. All the evidence suggest fairies don’t exist at the bottom of the garden, but there is some finite probability that they do. In the case of free will this means that while all the evidence points to it not existing, we can not say with certainty it does not exist.
  2. If there is no free will then it meaningless what beliefs you hold about free will. There is nothing lost in life believing in free will if it doesn’t exist since whatever beliefs you have it was predetermined.
  3. If there is free will then believing there is no free will is throwing away your life. If free will exists and you go through life believing everything is predetermined then you will have missed making the choices given to you by free will. You will have spent your life in a nihilistic funk when you could have chosen differently.

Given these three statements the only conclusion we can reach is we have to live as though free will exists even if everything we know points to it not existing. Nothing is lost believing in free will if it doesn’t exist, while everything is lost if you don’t believe in free will and it exists. No matter how unlikely free will is, and it appears very unlikely, the conclusion doesn’t change – as long as our knowledge of the universe is incomplete the only rational action is to live as though free will exists.

While I am sure that I am not the first person to propose this solution to the free will problem, I have not been able to find who first proposed it. If anyone knows the source of this argument please leave a comment.

Bitcoin is being set up to fail spectacularly

Bitcoin Price

Bitcoin Price 2017

 

Bitcoin is all the rage at the end of 2017. The interesting question is not why it has risen so high and so fast, but why it has not been made illegal. The most impressive observation about Bitcoin (and its block-chain brethren) is it has been allowed to run free, sucking in all and sundry, most who have no idea what a block-chain is, but who know their friends and neighbours have made a fortune from it. The mass media has been neutral-to-supportive of the speculation.

The question is why those that control the monetary system (i.e. the rich and powerful) have allowed this run given the revolutionary nature of Bitcoin? If Bitcoin succeeds they will lose control of their wealth and power to a bunch of computer anarchists with a cool idea.

The powerful if they wanted could shutdown Bitcoin and all the other block-chain currencies tomorrow – when you are using as much electricity as a medium-sized country you can’t really hide. Despite the risk nothing has happened. They are not stupid (well the people advising them anyway), so it does not make much sense that Bitcoin has been allowed to continue.

The only rational hypothesis I have been able to come up with is the intention is to ensure the general population do not just feel indifferent to Bitcoin (this would be the result of an earlier crackdown), but that they must totally hate it and the whole concept of the block-chain. Hate Bitcoin so much that no future idea like this can ever gain popular support.

With this in mind, the rise of Bitcoin makes much more sense. When the inevitable crash comes it will burn a huge number of ordinary people who have been sucked into the hype and speculative mania. The aim appears to ensure that Bitcoin (and by association all block-chain currencies) are seen as the greatest scam of the last 100 years.

If what I am suggesting is true then Bitcoin has some way to run yet (my guess is at least six months). The risk of overturning the current monetary system (and the wealth and power than comes from controlling it) is far too great to ever let any alternative arise. Bitcoin has to more than fail – it has to fail spectacularly. Everything is on track to ensure this outcome and the pain from the economic fallout will be long and deep (for the little people anyway).

Damnatio memoriae

The last few days have reminded me that we really need to stop “glorifying” the actions of mass murders and actually do something to prevent others repeating their actions. Making losers famous by mentioning them in the mass media just encourages more losers. We can learn from the past and the Roman damnatio memoriae is an approach we would be wise to revive.

Rather than giving those that have stepped outside society’s boundaries fame, let us instead remove them from history. Total and utter obliteration. We have the technology and legal authority to completely delete the historical existence of someone evil. Remove everything about them; their birth, schooling, job history, marriage(s), relationships, photos, phone records, emails, Facebook posts, even the banal like credit records or receipts from Walmart. Remove everything about them such that they effectively never existed as a person. Leave nothing. If we need to refer to their actions then give them a pseudonym such as the “butcher of X”. In a 100 years there will be no record or memory they ever existed while we still remember their victims.

It might seem impractical to follow such a path given the ubiquity of modern media, but in practice it is easier today to remove someone from history than it has ever been. A single authority with determination can track down and remove every fragment of an individual’s existence.

We must do something rather than wring our hands in despair and let history repeat. Let today be the last time evil has a name.