Max Wagner

Karlsruhe, Germany

About Max

Bio

Computer science student from Luxembourg, currently living in Germany. I'm a rather militant atheist and rationalist, and don't believe in the preservation of cultural legacy for the sake of "tradition" (which is basically just a nice word for old and unreasonable cultural legacy)

An idea worth spreading

Maybe we should stop trying to preserve the way the world is and trust that we'll make the right decisions when the time is right. The world is getting more and more connected, and maybe there's just no raison d'ĂȘtre for our old constructs. In my opinion, the idea of gender should be abolished. If you see me posting in a general manner using male pronouns, never mind - I'm talking about humans in general. Using his/her is just far too tedious, and most people get tipped off more by an unexplained 'her' than by an unexplained 'his'.

I'm passionate about

Technology, computer science

Comments & conversations

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Max Wagner
Posted almost 3 years ago
Paul Zak: Trust, morality -- and oxytocin?
I don't know what to say about the scientific content of the video, but I really don't like Mr. Zak's talking style - he keeps on saying that "he" did things. He doesn't say "we at our lab did this", but "I did this". He has this talking style that makes you think he's talking to a child he thinks is stupid. Then, I would have loved more of the scientific details behind the talk, (which is probably the reason for Mr. Zak's somewhat condescending talking style) but I guess that's just the format of the TED talk being broken.
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Max Wagner
Posted almost 3 years ago
Paul Zak: Trust, morality -- and oxytocin?
If not chemistry, then what? Free will? Come on. There is no such thing as free will. When talking about brain chemistry, the notion of "freedom" is ridiculous. Chemicals make you hungry, they make you thirsty, they make you angry, calm you, make you generous, excited, or sleepy. We're all slaves to our chemical makeup.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Is our destiny to be one world with one language?
Now, you're probably using the teachings of your mentors mostly as guiding advice. That's a good thing, but why do you believe that there's anything more than what we can detect in the universe? I'd kindly like to point you to the idea of "Russel's teapot" to illustrate how irrational such a belief is. Mysticism, in every incarnation I have ever heard of, bears you more questions than answers. The idea that something is "unknowable" or "inexplicable" not only leaves us empty-handed, but opens the mind's gates for any other irrational concept to be allowed in. If living things have a "soul", then do other apes? Dogs? Bacteria? Viruses? Fungi? Is there a bacteria heaven? If we all get reborn from the same pool of souls, how can population grow? What are souls made of, and if they don't interact with the physical world, how to they control bodies? If souls interact with the physical world, why haven't we found them? If fate exists, what is free will? How does free will come about in the first place? We can pretty much calculate what a given neuron does on given input in the brain (it'd take a lot of time to calculate, but the standard model is good enough for that), so who says the brain is anything but a big computer? You may laugh well about foolish religious people or people who believe in homeopathy, but every irrational belief is as arbitrary as any other. What is this force guiding the universe? Where does it come from? Does it have a mind? What makes you think it even uses the same kind of logic we do? Does it care about humans or just see them as a by-product of the universe? What is this force made of, and is it measurable? You may think inventing an invisible guiding force answers your question, but in fact it only tacks on another layer of mysteries that Occam's razor is quick to tear to shreds. From what you said earlier I can infer that you believe in a version of an afterlife. How does that relate to anything you believe?
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Is our destiny to be one world with one language?
Yes, I did judge you from that concept I thought you had brought forward, but given the circumstances, would you rather I judge you for your opinions and actions or for the way you look like? The fact that concepts aren't immune to criticism is the one thing that allows us to have meaningful conversations. About instant communication: you're still only evaluating what people use the internet for right now. You're forgetting that there's a brand new generation of humans growing up with the internet as a normal thing right now. Just because not everybody uses the internet for instant messaging doesn't mean there's some intrinsic lack of quality in the way people communicate over the internet. Whether you call what you believe in a religion or spirituality doesn't matter to me. Most people will tiptoe around that and say "Oh, if it isn't a *religion* I guess it's fine.". There's a lot of people who condemn religion because of the bloodshed you've mentioned, and considering what other faiths have collectively done, Buddhism is a peaceful faith. But what I'm railing against is the very concept of believing in something just because you find it comforting, or because you want it to be true, even if there is no evidence whatsoever in your position. The teachings of your mentors might well stand firm as a mountain, but you must remember that no one is infallible, and that it's your responsibility as an intelligent human being to question your own beliefs as much as you question other's. I too believe that there's a force governing every particle in the universe. I believe these are the physical laws we've been refining our knowledge of for the last thousand years or so. I don't see any reason to invite mysticism into my belief system, and see no way how one can do so and still have a completely consistent opinion. As soon as you allow one irrational thing into your mind, the consistency of it as a system is broken. You run into paradoxes.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Is our destiny to be one world with one language?
I've heard pretty much every argument in favor of religion/god/faith people usually come up with at least twice. Like I said, I'm rather passionate about that topic, so I welcome you to open up that discussion via email. I'll answer most recent question of yours with a definite "no". Of course, religion will find its way there - religion is very good with hiding in holes - but ultimately, religion is based on lack of knowledge, and science is the very act of destroying the holes in our knowledge where religion can take shelter. New approaches in quantum mechanics and its intricacies are welcoming to many spiritual pseudoscientific interpretations, but in the end I think that religion will die out.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Is our destiny to be one world with one language?
I'm sorry to have misread that. My opinion is that the anonymity of the internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to this. It's really quite interesting: first off, the ability to converse instantaneously in text-form, without tone of voice, face, skin color, mood or gender to get in the way is a great thing in my opinion. There's no way one can have a prejudice against a genderless, faceless being one knows only as a disembodied opinion. As a visual species, we make a lot of our judgment based on looks - we can't help it, it's the way we evolved. Eliminating the concept of nationality and background enables two people from completely different places in society to talk on the same level, with opinion and intelligence being the only two things that really matter - just the way it should be when exchanging opinions and ideas. Of course, there's also the "youtube comment effect". While this removal of face from argument greatly fosters intellectual discussion, it also makes it easy to see the other as some anonymous voice, with one's own actions not having any consequences. This has the effect that places where many people comment on the same things (in this example, youtube) are places filled with hateful comments filled with bigotry and bile. However, I think that this is just a temporary cultural phenomenon. Technology will improve, and the internet is still new and shiny. We still have a lot to learn about how to properly use it. The fact that it can take you hours to communicate with me is just an implementation detail - an instant messenger provides just that: instant messaging, if need be even through video. Make no mistake - usually I take every excuse I get to talk with people about religion (I think it's one of the next big issues our society will tackle. In fact, it *is* tackling it right now), and I'm not the kind of person who ever runs away from a debate. I just think we should keep it out of this thread, as it has nothing to do with the topic.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Is the universe finite or infinte.
I'm not really seeing the logic point you're trying to make by saying a universe in which the natural numbers exist can't be finite. Consider this: The universe doesn't contain an instance of every natural number. It can merely contain the natural numbers as a concept in the same way an ideal Turing Machine can theoretically enumerate every single natural number with only a finite amount of internal states (finite intelligence, infinite conceptual numbers) Another way of putting this: just because we can think of infinite numbers doesn't mean there's infinitely many *things* in the universe.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Do you think mankind has stopped evolution?
Who are you to judge? By the time this kind of technology will come around, the current consensus of what is right and what is morally wrong will have changed, and all those who are too slow to adapt to the currents of time will be nothing but an anachronism. I'm not saying you're wrong, but please consider that with change in technology and society, morals change. Usually for the better.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
Do you think mankind has stopped evolution?
There's still genetic engineering. As long as we manage to survive long enough for that technology to be used reliably on arbitrary genes (or combinations thereof), we can just *fix* most genetic diseases. It'll be our duty.
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Max Wagner
Posted about 3 years ago
If your teen is in crisis, struggling yet intelligent, would u remove them from school & send them to a character building boarding school?
Most people today have (had) a phase in their life that they would now call "being on the wrong track" - isolating a child from its environment and taking away its possibility to find its own way out will most probably turn out to have been a bad decision. Every human has to find his own way through life, your child included. The fact that the child still performs well academically is a very strong sign that it's dedicated to not letting its life go to waste. My tip: do not interfere - you might prevent your child from having the empowering experience of finding out what his track in life will be. (As a side point, you probably don't want to send your child to a conservative boarding school in these times - there will be a lot of society that'll change for the better, and a conservative approach is never a good approach in that light.)