My Personal Travel Ban

I plan to avoid any and all travel to the USA for the foreseeable future due to the complete mess unfolding there with Trump’s executive orders banning immigration from some Muslim-majority countries, related protests, illegal detainment, etc. etc. (the list goes on, and I expect it to get longer).

It’s not that I’m from one of the blacklist countries, and I’m not a Muslim. I’m even white. But I no longer consider travel to the USA safe (especially bearing in mind my ridiculous beard and long hair), and even if I did, I’d want to stand in solidarity with the people who are currently being screwed. The notion of banning entire groups of people based on a single shared trait (in this case, probable adherence to a particular religion) is abhorrent; it demonizes our fellow humans, divides us and builds walls – whether metaphorical or physical – between our various communities. The fact that this immigration ban will impact refugees and asylum seekers just makes matters worse. I am deeply ashamed by Australia’s record on that front too, and concerned that our government will not do much better.

So I won’t be putting in any talks for Cephalocon – which is a damn shame, as I’m working on Ceph – or for any other US-based tech conference unless and until the situation over there changes.

I realise this post may not make much difference in the grander scheme of things, but one more voice is one more voice.

A Reasonable Baseline

I went and saw Peter Singer’s keynote for The Tasmanian Writers’ Festival last night. Perhaps unsurprisingly he spoke on ethics and three big problems affecting the world now (extreme poverty, animal welfare and climate change) and how these things relate to, and perhaps exacerbate each other.

Two things in particular stuck with me, and I thought it worth noting them here.

1) Professor Singer is in a field known as Applied Ethics. At some time in the past there was only Ethics. My inference is that the latter group are talking about – and thinking about – ethics, but not actually behaving any differently as a result of their cogitations. I find this notion simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.

2) At one point while speaking about living ethically, Professor Singer said that if you look back at the end of each day and say to yourself “well, I didn’t lie, cheat or steal, and I didn’t maim anybody”, you’re setting the bar too low. It would be better, he suggested, to look back and say “what did I do to improve the world today, or to help someone else in some way?” This seems like a pretty good approach to me.