The Science of Morality

I’ve [relatively] recently come across some very interesting pieces of information regarding morality and the brain:

Philosphy Bites Podcast: Morality and the Brain (mp3)

TED Talk: Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

Pedophilic urges caused by brain tumor (scientific paper referred to on this link)

The more we study the brain, the more we understand how and why people make the decisions they do.  As incredible as it may seem, it’s beginning to look like mankind could conceivably achieve moral perfection through technology.  It might be possible to cure things like pedophilia via brain surgery, or maybe genetically engineer people to be less apt to behave in certain ways that are harmful to society.  One day we might be able to simply engineer evil out of human nature.

As mentioned in Sam Harris’ TED Talk above, I think such a step would have to be predicated on a global mutual agreement on what is right and what is wrong.  While that may seem an insurmountable task, it’s possible that such an agreement could eventually come about as a natural consequence of technology.  By this I mean the connecting of people throughout the world via whatever the internet ends up evolving into.

Instantaneous, long-distance communication — most notably its current apex epitomized by the internet — has connected humanity in a way that was likely never even conceived of before the invention of the earliest telegraphy devices.  But what if further advances in technology start to connect us all to a more intimate degree.  Instead of just communicating through text, pictures, voice, and video, what if our understanding of neurobiology eventually leads us to learn how to build devices which enable us communicate to each other via thought?  How cavalier would we be about starting wars when, instead of some poor faceless statistic in some foreign nation arbitrarily labelled as an “axis of evil”, our enemy’s thoughts and reasons for his behavior and beliefs could be understood on a level more personal than speech?

And perhaps the whole world would not need to come to an agreement on what constitutes right and wrong.  What if it only takes “enough” people to make such an agreement and engineer morally perfect progeny?  Likely a society of people so perfectly able to work as a group (and what is immorality but the antithesis of a functioning group dynamic?) would simply out-compete other cultures, in an evolutionary sense, and eventually dominate the planet.

And what would the future hold for a humanity engineered to be perfectly moral and able to do the right thing whenever realistically possible; a humanity perfectly able to work together in harmony?  What would be beyond its grasp?


One more video on the science of morality: The second annual God Debate features atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris and Evangelical Christian apologist William Lane Craig as they debate the topic: “Is Good From God?”

Things I learned this week

Things I learned this week:

  • It’s surprisingly easy to turn a $700 phone into a very expensive brick when you’re messing with things the average person is not meant to mess with. (I managed to finagle my way into getting a free replacement, though ;-)
  • Barbecued intestines taste exactly what one would expect them to taste like. (imagine a cross between calamari and liver)
  • It is an exercise in futility to try to teach a three-year-old what “the future” means. (Statement: “You’ll get more toys in the future”, Response: “No, the toys aren’t in the future, they’re in a box”)

Setting up a Samsung Galaxy Note for MTS

Samsung Galaxy NoteI just bought myself a Samsung Galaxy Note.  I’m still getting used to it and discovering all its wonderful features, but I’ll leave that for another post.  With this post I’d like to record what I did to get the phone working with my carrier, MTS, which does not sell the phone.

First of all, some details about the phone.

The Galaxy Note comes in several different versions:

  • N7000
    • European version
    • the original version of the phone
    • uses a dual-core 1.4GHz Cortex A9 processor
  • N7003
    • South African version
    • a special, low-power version
    • uses a single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8255T processor
  • LTE
    • South Korean version
  • SGH-I717
    • North American version
    • uses a dual-core 1.5 GHz Scorpion CPU
    • also supports LTE
    • variants include:
      • I717 (sold by and locked to AT&T)
      • I717R (sold by and locked to Rogers)
      • I717D (sold by and locked to Telus)
      • I717M (sold by and locked to Bell)
      • The only difference between these variants is what “crapware” comes pre-installed on the phone

I was tempted to buy the N7000 at first because I found a good deal at, but MTS is planning to roll out LTE support later this year, so I figured it was probably a good idea to spend a bit more to get the I717 version since that will support LTE.  This will allow me to take advantage of the higher speeds LTE will offer later on.

Anyway, the first thing I did after fully researching the phone was to go to an MTS store and talk with a rep about network compatibility.  I brought along a printout of the phone’s technical specs and I spoke with a manager there who assured me that the Galaxy Note would work fine with MTS (provided it is first “unlocked“) and that he had hooked up many Samsung Galaxy phones.  I made sure to ask about extra charges (I was two years into a three year contract and wanted to be sure I wasn’t “breaking” the contract by switching to a new phone) and I was assured that, as an existing customer, all I would have to pay was $10 for a SIM card, which is necessary for the phone to be able to connect to the MTS networks as it contains all of your subscriber information.

A few days later I went to the store again and spoke with a different rep, and this one confirmed all the information which was given to me previously by the manger: the phone will work with MTS (provided I unlock it first), and the only extra charge is for the $10 SIM card.

I went to a Telus store and inquired about the phone that same day and I was just about to buy a Galaxy Note when I was told that unlocking the phone would void the manufacturer’s warranty.  Since this was such a pricey phone, I immediately got cold feet and cancelled the purchase.  That night I went to Samsung’s website and looked up the warranty information for the Galaxy Note.  No mention of “unlocking the phone” voiding the warranty.  Stupid salesman.

So, last night I went to a Rogers store and bought the phone.  The clerk tried to tell me that unlocking the phone would void the warranty, but when I corrected him that it would not, he clarified that it was Rogers’ policy to refuse to honor the warranty if the phone was unlocked (If that’s not illegal, it should be).  Being, at this point, a fully informed consumer, knowing I could contact Samsung directly for warranty work, I confidently purchased the phone after giving the clerk a mild browbeating.

After buying the phone, I went to an MTS store and purchased a SIM card.  They put my subscriber information on the card and told me that once I put it in my new phone (after it was unlocked) it would work immediately. My current phone (a BlackBerry Pearl) was disconnected from MTS then and there when they set up my SIM card, so I was without cellphone service until I got my Galaxy Note unlocked.

I got home and played around with the phone a bit (making sure it actually worked and wasn’t defective out of the box), then went to to buy an unlock code.  This is how the unlocking process works (Note: alternatively, you could skip all this and bring your phone to a store that will unlock it for you, but then you’ll be paying in the neighborhood of $50.  Don’t waste your money; unlocking a phone is easy.):

*Without* putting the new SIM card into the phone, start the phone normally.  I skipped past the setup screens and all that because I figured I could do that all later.

Once on the main screen, press the call button on the lower-left and enter in *#06#

Dialing that special code will cause the phone to display its IMEI number.  This is basically the phone’s unique ID.  Write this number down.  Make sure you write it correctly because it’s pretty long.

Once you have your phone’s IMEI number, go ahead and shut it off (or play with it for a while until you’re ready to unlock it, at which point you’ll need to turn it off first).

Go to (it’s a scammy-looking site, but it’s legit), enter in your phone model, the network it’s locked to, and your IMEI number.  If you bought the phone used or something and don’t know what network it is locked to, remember that the I717 variants tell you this information (i.e. I717 = AT&T, I717R = Rogers, I717D = Telus, I717M = Bell).  You pay $8 via paypal or a credit card, then they send you the unlock code in a few hours (it takes time for them to look it up or something, I don’t know).

Anyway, once you get the unlock code for your specific phone emailed to you by (NOTE: I never received the unlock code via email from them, but I kept checking their order tracking page and it eventually showed up there), crack open your phone and insert the SIM card you got from MTS (you have to pop the little card out of a larger, credit-card sized “holder” that it comes in).  Now when you start up the phone, you’ll be presented with a screen asking for a “Network Lock Control Key”.  Enter in the unlock code here.  Once that’s done, let the phone continue starting up.  Congratulations!  You can now make cell phone calls via the MTS cell network with your Galaxy Note!

Ah, but wait!  Phone calls will work, but your internet browser and internet-enabled apps on the phone will not.  This is because cell phones and internet data gets sent to and from your phone on two separate networks.  The SIM card contains the information for the phone network, but you still have to set the phone up so that it can connect to MTS’s data network.  You can either bring the phone in to MTS and get them to do it (and maybe get  charged for it), or you can do it yourself.  It’s pretty simple.  To set up MTS data network access on your phone, you have to do the following:

On your phone, go to Settings and select Wireless and Network.  On that screen, scroll down and select Mobile Networks.  On that screen select Access Point Names.  This will bring up an empty screen.  Hit the physical lower-left button on the phone (the “menu” button) and select New APN on the menu that pops up on the bottom of the screen.  On the new screen that pops up, enter in the details for both of MTS’s network access points.  Once you’ve done that, your phone should be connected to MTS’s data network and the internet applications on your phone will work.

So, there are a few steps involved, but it’s totally doable and relatively easy to get a Samsung Galaxy Note working on MTS.

The Last Transport Is Away

Space Shuttle PatchToday’s successful launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis marked the final American Space Shuttle Mission (STS-135) and the end of the Space Shuttle Program.   After thirty years and one hundred thirty-five launches, the dream is over.  So far there is no official replacement program for launching people and materiel into space.  With the American Empire already in a steady decline, it’s a real possibility that no replacement program will ever come about.

I remember when I was a kid and shuttle launches were a big deal.  In school, the teacher would wheel in a TV and we’d interrupt the class to watch a launch.  Nowadays the “news” spends more time covering inane garbage that shouldn’t even be televised.  It’s like our society’s spirit has died and we, as a people, are just an empty husk.

Anyway, I’m glad I was able to catch the launch on NASA’s live web stream this morning.  I’m also glad everything went smoothly.  Good luck, brave spaceonauts aboard the Atlantis!



Final Space Shuttle Launch