Philip Hunt was born in London in 1964. He works as a computer programmer and lives in Edinburgh. He's currently working on Includipedia, an inclusionist fork of Wikipedia. A blogger since 2003, Phil blogs at Amused Cynicism.
Why do you blog? > I've got things I want to say that others might be interested in.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Back in 2005 before Kiva became well known I blogged about it on my old blog and on The Sharpener. The message got taken up elsewhere, leading to all Kiva's loans being fully subscribed.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write about what interests you. Comment on other people's blogs to get attention and build traffic to yours.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Isaac Newton for inventing modern science; Charles Darwin for inventing modern biology; George Orwell for his honesty and ability to cut through bullshit; Alan Kay for inventing modern computing.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Definitive Guide to Django (a book about web development).
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Probably 1984. Lord of the Rings is quite good too.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Ozymandias' by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Animal rights. I used to be for it, then against it. Since I became a cat owner, I'm now veering more in the direction of favouring animal rights, but only for cute animals like pussycats. And I still like eating meat.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That liberty means the ability to do anything you like as long as you don't harm others.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Religion in particular, and irrationality generally.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. A book about maths, music, patterns, computing, and the nature of intelligence.
Who are your political heroes? > Not really a political hero as such yet, but I do think Barack Obama has the potential to be a great president. He has a difficult task ahead of him, because in China the West is facing the most serious challenge it's faced in 500 years – a competitor capable of beating it at its own game.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > I agree with Bernard Ingham that cock-ups are more common than conspiracies.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > To end the government's war on civil liberties. This would require policy changes but also a change in the attitudes of the government and a significant proportion of the electorate. Unless we are careful, we will walk into a ubiquitous surveillance society that will be unbearable.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Me! I'd make an excellent choice because I actually care whether policies work as opposed to merely looking like they work.
What would you do with the UN? > The biggest criticism of the UN, that it doesn't get things done, that it's useless, is false because it's committing a category error. The UN isn't an actor on its own behalf in world affairs, it is merely a forum through which actual actors (countries and the like) can co-operate if they choose to do so. So I'd leave the UN alone. It may be that there's a case for making a new club that only democratic countries can join. (But who counts as democratic?)
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Religious nutters starting a major war. If this happens in an international environment where countries have lots of mutual defence obligations to each other (like Europe before 1914) then we get a global re-fight of World War I with nukes.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > It's yet to come. Provided we don't blow ourselves up in the next century or two, we (or more likely AIs or uploaded minds) will colonize the solar system, then the galaxy.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Decide what you want and go for it.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Very unlikely.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Intelligence; after all, it's what distinguishes us from animals.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Dishonesty, bullshit, hypocrisy.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > I see that most people have answered this question by giving instances where lying benefits others rather than themselves: e.g. they would lie to protect a friend. That's bullshit; most people lie when and because it's in their own interests to do so. So I will lie and say that I'll only lie to benefit others, and not for self-interest.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'If it's complicated, it's too complicated.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > I don't watch TV. Having said that, if someone enjoys something, it's not a waste of time for them.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > If Edinburgh was moved about 1000 miles south, that would be ideal.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > My current startup, Includipedia, to be a success.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > There's three to four technology ideas that I would form businesses around.
What animal would you most like to be? > A cat.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]